URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • In an "NRPlus" article (and I still don't know what that means for non-NRPlus people), Kevin D. Williamson looks at and reacts understandably to The Bailouts at Ten: I Told You So.

    General Motors just shared some very bad news: It is closing five factories in the United States and Canada, eliminating 15 percent of its work force (and 25 percent of its executives), and getting out of the passenger-car business almost entirely to focus on SUVs and trucks. President Donald Trump threw a fit, but GM shrugged him off. The facts are the facts.

    What did U.S. taxpayers get for their $11.2 billion bailout of GM? About ten years of business-as-usual, and one very expensive lesson.

    Bailouts don’t work.

    It's a long essay, well worth your time. I also liked this, near the end:

    In the decade that has passed since the financial crisis, we haven’t learned anything. The lesson we should have learned — to let business be business and let government be government — seems to be for the moment beyond our political imagination: Left and Right alike are partly or wholly captive to the fantasies of managerial progressivism and neo-mercantilism, with the Left imagining that Washington can intelligently direct energy and labor markets and much of the Right falling in behind protectionism, “managed trade,” and corporate welfare for everybody from Boeing to Foxconn.

    If you're looking for a good Christmas gift for KDW, might I suggest our Amazon Product du Jour?

  • Among those noticing the recent drug-overdose news is Jacob Sullum at Reason: Opioid-Related Deaths Keep Rising As Pain Pill Prescriptions Fall.

    The official numbers for opioid-related deaths in 2017, released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today, demonstrate once again the folly of trying to tackle this problem by reducing access to prescription pain pills. The volume of opioids prescribed for American patients has been falling since 2010, while the upward trend in deaths involving opioids has accelerated, reaching a record number last year.

    For Granite Staters who want to know how New Hampshire is doing in killing off addicts: quite well, thank you. Our 2017 OD death rate was 37.0 per 100K, a small increase from 2016. But we were number 2 in the nation (slightly behind only West Virginia) in 2016; in 2017, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Ohio leapfrogged above us, making us number 5 last year (tied with Delaware).

    We're still number one in New England, though. So there's that.

  • Also commenting on the news is Jeffrey A. Singer at Cato: No Let Up On The Bad News About Overdose Deaths. Like Jacob Sullum, he notes the obvious fact that the "we gotta do something" crackdown on prescription opioids did nothing to curb OD deaths, but did cause a lot of people to live with their miserable pain. And:

    Portugal, in 2001, recognized that prohibition was driving the death rate. At the time it had the highest overdose rate in Western Europe. It decriminalized all drugs and redirected efforts towards treatment and harm reduction. Portugal saw its population of heroin addicts drop 75 percent, and now has the lowest overdose rate in Europe. It has been so successful that Norway is about to take the same route.

    I'm not normally a fan of the "why don't we do things like other countries" argument. But when will we start realizing that what we are doing is causing death and misery, and it might be (way past) time to look around for different approaches?

  • Google is on a truly disgusting trajectory, as noted in the Intercept (via Slashdot): Google Shut Out Privacy and Security Teams From Secret China Project.

    THE SECRECY SURROUNDING the work was unheard of at Google. It was not unusual for planned new products to be closely guarded ahead of launch. But this time was different. The objective, code-named Dragonfly, was to build a search engine for China that would censor broad categories of information about human rights, democracy, and peaceful protest.

    In February 2017, during one of the first group meetings about Dragonfly at Google’s Mountain View headquarters in California, some of those present were left stunned by what they heard. Senior executives disclosed that the search system’s infrastructure would be reliant upon a Chinese partner company with data centers likely in Beijing or Shanghai.

    Wikipedia has an article about Google's motto "Don't be evil". I think they'll have to update: "OK, be evil, but keep it quiet."

  • Pun Salad had high hopes for the (probably paywalled) WSJ article about the romaine lettuce scare: Lettuce Try Not to Panic. And the subtitle was even better: "Will a tragic overreaction topple Caesar and lead to the decline of the romaine empire?"

    Alas, it's merely a pretty good op-ed on fear-driven panic.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged before Thanksgiving that “U.S. consumers not eat any romaine lettuce, and retailers and restaurants not serve or sell any” until the current E. coli outbreak is resolved. This effectively closed down the romaine industry, producing tens of millions of dollars in losses of the highly perishable crop. The advisory remains in effect for romaine from the Central Coastal growing regions of Northern and Central California.

    The waste is worth it, right? It seems straightforward that no one should eat romaine when the lettuce is making people sick. But it isn’t so clear when you look at the numbers.

    And the numbers say that the actual Romaine risk is far less than you might guess. And when the current panic is over, the risk of eating romaine lettuce will … be about the same as before.

  • And a movie review from the Babylon Bee: Hallmark Christmas Movie Hailed As 'Trite, Predictable'.

    A new Hallmark movie, The Christmas Village, is getting rave reviews for how extremely formulaic it is, making absolutely no innovations in the genre.

    “You know exactly what’s going to happen from the very beginning,” raved TV critic Daisy Walton. “The male and female leads don't get along at first—but you know exactly where that is going. Their first kiss gets interrupted—absolutely standard. But you know how it will end: They'll kiss in front of a Christmas tree. The movie did absolutely everything expected of it and nothing more.”

    As someone who sat through A Shoe Addict's Christmas a few days ago, this gets the Pun Salad "Not just true, but near-tautological" fact check.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Meghan Murphy, another victim of Twitter's elastic code of conduct, writes at Quillette: Twitter’s Trans-Activist Decree.

    On November 15, I woke up to find my Twitter account locked, on account of what the company described as “hateful conduct.” In order to regain access, I was made to delete two tweets from October. Fair enough, you might think. Concern about the tone of discourse on social media has been widespread for years. Certainly, many have argued that Twitter officials should be doing more to discourage the vitriol and violent threats that have become commonplace on their platform.

    In this case, however, the notion that my commentary could be construed as “hateful” baffled me. One tweet read, simply, “Men aren’t women,” and the other asked “How are transwomen not men? What is the difference between a man and a transwoman?” That last question is one I’ve asked countless times, including in public speeches, and I have yet to get a persuasive answer. I ask these questions not to spread hate—because I do not hate trans-identified individuals—but rather to make sense of arguments made by activists within that community. Instead of answering such questions, however, these same activists insist that the act of simply asking them is evidence of hatred.

    It's a religion, and heretics must be denounced.

  • But (continuing that theme, sorry) Ben Shapiro writes at NR about The Real-World Consequences of Submitting to the Transgender Zeitgeist.

    Last week, a member of my Orthodox Jewish congregation approached me at synagogue to tell me a story. Many of the women in the congregation exercise at a females-only gym for modesty purposes. The gym is successful; its main constituency is religious women who don’t wish to be stared at by men, or to see men in various states of undress.

    According to the congregation member, this month, a transgender woman — a biological male who suffers from gender dysphoria — came to the gym. This man, who retains his male biological characteristics, then entered the locker room and proceeded to disrobe. When told by management that he could use a private dressing room, he refused, announcing that he was a woman and could disrobe in front of all the other women.

    The predictable result: Many of the actual biological women began cancelling their memberships. When the management asked people higher in the chain, they were simply told that to require the man to use a private dressing room or to reject his membership would subject the company to litigation and possible boycott. So the gym will simply have to lose its chief clientele because a man with a mental disorder believes he has the right to disrobe in front of women.

    This will do wonders for the "civil society" everyone's writing eulogies for.

  • The Supreme Court seems poised to rein in states' abuse of asset forfeiture, which is good news. But we had some fun along the way, too. At Reason, Eric Boehm notes: Indiana Solicitor General: It's Constitutional to Seize a Car for Driving 5 MPH Over the Speed Limit.

    Civil asset forfeiture is such a farce that it took Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer only about 100 words to twist Indiana's solicitor general into admitting that his state could have the power to seize cars over something as insubstantial as driving 5 miles-per-hour over the speed limit.

    Click through for the transcript, which is pretty funny. The transcript helpfully notes the "[Laughter.]" in the chamber.

    It's a shame this case made it to the Supremes, but…

  • A Canadian writer, Mark Richardson, tsk-tsks the notion that drivers of cars and motercycles be allowed to decide for themselves the risks they want to which they want to subject themselves: Cruising for a Bruising. He looks disparagingly across the border at … us:

    In fact, there’s only complete freedom from helmet laws in three of the states: Iowa, Illinois, and New Hampshire, where you don’t even need to wear a seatbelt in a car and you’re welcome to Live Free Or Die. In all the others that permit bare-headed riding, there’s a requirement for a minimum age – anywhere from 18 to 21 – and in a few states, only if you have medical insurance.

    I'm somewhat tired of the pretense that there's any principle involved in such finger-wagging, other than "let's ban behavior of which I don't approve."

    A relevant easy-to-understand fact from the NHTSA:

    Motorcyclist deaths occurred 28 times more frequently than fatalities in other vehicles, based on 2016 fatal crash data.

    Shouldn't that be, for the nannies, a knockdown argument for banning motorcycles altogether? I won't hold my breath waiting for them to make a logically consistent argument, however.

Last Modified 2018-11-29 10:27 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Well, here you go. Bre Payton at the Federalist reports: Without Any Explanation, Twitter Reinstates Jesse Kelly’s Account.

    Two days after Twitter permanently suspended an account belonging to Jesse Kelly, a senior contributor to The Federalist and conservative talk radio host, the social media publisher reinstated his account without any explanation.

    I'm not sure why Twitter thinks it's a good idea to be totally opaque about its bizarre whipsaw behavior in this case.

    In my case, it's an example of the Streisand Effect: I had not followed Jesse before, but I am now. My guess is that I'm not alone.

  • At the Free Beacon, Aryssa Damron is the current poor soul whose job it (apparently) is to watch CNN for boneheadedness. Her report is pretty good CNN Analyst: Eating Hamburgers for Lunch Will Kill You.

    CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd said during a Monday morning CNN discussion about climate change that eating hamburgers will kill Americans.

    "Tens of millions of Americans will wake up today and eat hamburgers for lunch; that’s going to kill them," said Mudd, the former director of the CIA Counterterrorism Center.

    Becase Burgers → Climate Change → Tens of Millions of Deaths. Duh.

    Although I should be terrified, this news just makes me want to go to Wendy's.

  • Kevin D. Williamson identifies The Snob Party.

    Some of my conservative friends are mystified by the apparently enduring appeal of Robert Francis O’Rourke, a.k.a. “Beto,” the faux-Hispanic progressive from El Paso who failed to unseat conservative stalwart Senator Ted Cruz in spite of a flood of money and a tsunami of media adulation. “He lost, didn’t he?” they ask, perplexed.

    There is an answer to this riddle: snobbery.

    The Democratic party is the political home of snobbery, a word and a concept often misunderstood. Snobbery does not refer to the cultivated preferences of those refined persons who order the ’82 Bordeaux because it is their mothers’ milk or who have an iTunes library full of Liszt because the sound of Cardi B fills them with discomfort and anxiety. The genuinely refined — particularly those cocooned by wealth — usually are not much interested in the enthusiasms or tastes of others, whereas the snob is obsessed with his own discernment relative to the low and vulgar tastes of those around him. The snob is the kind of man who sees a pair of Wranglers and sneers at the life he imagines they represent: $42,000 a year, tract house, SUV, work boots, Garth Brooks, Donald Trump. The snob isn’t a man of exacting tastes, but a poseur: The word derives from an older English word for a shoemaker’s apprentice and is intended to convey contempt for vulgar social climbers who aped the manners and tastes of the upper classes.

    I should have saved this for the weekly "phony update" on Sunday, but it was too good not to share today.

  • At Reason, Jonathan Rauch may not be entirely serious about explaining How Star Trek Explains Donald Trump.

    Sociopaths have haunted fiction since fiction began, and no wonder. Sociopathy is civilization's greatest challenge. Richard III and Iago; Raskolnikov, Kurtz, Willie Stark, and Humbert Humbert; J.R. Ewing, Frank Underwood, and even HAL 9000. How do we understand the narcissist, the demagogue, the liar, the manipulator, the person without scruples or conscience? The creative imagination can probe dark places that psychology and medicine can't reach. So I am not being cute when I say that Star Trek is a source of insight into the universe of President Donald Trump.

    Well, in a sense Star Trek explains everything, and Trump is just a subclass, so…

  • David Harsanyi debunks recent fake news emanating from the most MS of the M: The Washington Post Claims There’s A ‘Surge’ In Right-Wing Violence. There Isn’t.

    A new Washington Post “analysis” of domestic terrorism argues that attacks from white supremacists and other “far-right attackers” have been on the rise since Barack Obama’s presidency, and “surged since President [Donald] Trump took office.” It’s a familiar storyline meant to assure liberals that, yes, Trump-motivated right-wing terrorists are running wild. There are, however, a few problems with this proposition.

    For one thing, even if we accept the numbers the Post offers, the use of the word “surge” — meaning a sudden, powerful forward or upward movement — strains credibility. There’s no evidence of a “surge” either in historical context or as a matter of ideological preference. But even if we’re okay with replacing “uptick” with the word “surge,” a cynic might note that the Post’s reporters seem to filibuster their own findings to push preconceived partisan notions about the state of the nation.

    It's the usual point-with-alarm scaremongering. The sad thing is that people are taking it more seriously than, say, an effort to explain Donald Trump with Star Trek.

  • Bryan Caplan provides Wiblin's Checklist, "deeply helpful advice for coping with the vicissitudes of life." If you're the kind of person to whom vicissitudes happen…

    (Which gives me an idea for a t-shirt: "Vicissitudes Happen".)

    Anyway, a sample of things to ask yourself:

    1. Is this actually going to materially hurt me over any significant period of time? If not, maybe I shouldn’t be too upset.
    2. Is there some hidden upside I haven’t noticed yet? How could this actually end up being beneficial?

    … and more. For added entertainment, I left a comment.

  • The College Fix reports on goings on far above Cayuga's waters: Cornell art exhibit to showcase Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign shoes.

    Cornell University will feature newly-elected New York US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “campaign shoes” in an art exhibit beginning next week.

    Also featured will be US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s judicial collars and an outfit worn by former US Attorney General Janet Reno.

    I see crowds of devout Progressive believers shuffling past these displays reverently, just as believers in Siena view St. Catherine's severed head.

Last Modified 2018-11-29 7:29 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • We linked yesterday to Arthur C. Brooks' doomsaying about loneliness tearing America apart. It seems only fair, therefore, to draw attention to Adam Thierer's somewhat sunnier take on a related topic at the Technology Liberation Front: On Isolation & Inattention Panics.

    Adam resurrects this old xkcd comic


    And comments:

    The sentiments expressed by the comic […] make it clear how people often tend to romanticize past technologies or fail to remember that many people expressed the same fears about them as critics do today about newer ones. I’ve written dozens of articles about “moral panics” and “techno-panics,” most of which are cataloged here. The common theme of those essays is that, when it comes to fears about innovations, there really is nothing new under the sun. Academics, social critics, religious leaders, politicians and even average parents tend to panic over the same problems time and time again. The only thing that changes is the particular medium or technology that is the object of their collective ire.

    Ah, but is this time different? Maybe, maybe not. Adam's essay is thoughtful and insightful, highly recommended.

  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson examines immigration rhetoric (because someone has to): Welfare Chauvinism, Again. One particularly sad (but accurate) observation:

    Welfare chauvinism is the creed of the Le Pens, Matteo Salvini, and Viktor Orbán — and also of Senator Sanders, Donald Trump, and much of the unfortunately illiberal main stream of American populist politics. (Almost all American politics is populist to some degree.) That it is associated with distasteful figures such as Le Pen and Orbán should not be held as automatically discrediting: It is wider than that.

    The idea that government programs of various kinds can and should be used to take some of the rough edges off of capitalism is widely held, from the classical liberal theorist F. A. Hayek, who argued for extensive social insurance, to our modern nationalists and welfare-statists, who often are arguing for much the same kind of arrangement in ways that are less rigorously thought through or that are expressed less humanely (often because they are less humane). But degree and detail matter. As the libertarian economist Bryan Caplan has wryly observed, in the United States today we really have no classical liberal party but instead have a choice between two national-socialist parties: one a little more nationalist, the other a little more socialist.

    And differ only slightly in their "enemies lists".

  • Another article from Reason's fiftieth anniversary issue has made it out from behind the paywall, and it is a goodie. They had an interview with Thomas Sowell 38 years back, and they decided to re-interview him: Thomas Sowell Returns. Sample:

    It's fair to say you were a sharp critic of President Barack Obama and his expressed view, "You didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."

    Therefore what? You're putting a burden of proof on those who own something that you do not put on those who want to seize control of it for their own purposes. Even if you take someone who, for example, never contributed to a business that he simply inherited, the question becomes, "On what grounds are we to assume that better outcomes will result if this property that was bequeathed to him is instead used by politicians, bureaucrats, and judges for what they want to do?" They didn't build it, either, and what is there either in their prospect or in their history that would lead you to expect that it would be better off for anybody other than themselves when it's turned over to them?

    I'm pretty sure I have more Thomas Sowell books on my shelves than any other non-fiction author. Highly recommended.

  • At the Federalist, Jesse Kelly predicts that even though Twitter Banned Me For Literally No Reason, But In The End They’ll Lose.

    I try my best not to complain about the curveballs of life that come my way, but I wish people understood the tremendous burden that comes with being a clairvoyant genius who sees the future. You see, Twitter banned my account yesterday. They did not suspend it. They banned it.

    I had almost 80,000 followers and those poor people are now left aimlessly wandering the social media landscape in search of a greatness they’ll never find again. Now, I don’t really care because I’m just going to start a new account and it will be even better than my last one (if that’s possible). This isn’t about me. This is about what kind of country we have become and what kind of country we want to be.

    Jesse believes that, in the end, "America is better than Twitter." I hope so.

  • Real Clear Politics writer Steve Cortes writes on The Perfidy of Illinois' Public Payrolls. You don't have to be a wild-eyed libertarian anarchist (I hope) to realize that there's a racket here:

    I grew up in Park Forest, Ill., a working-class suburb of Chicago. In my youth, Park Forest was pleasantly middle-class -- a solid community of well-kept lawns, strong churches, and active sports. Unfortunately for my hometown, times have been tough over the years, reflected by a jobless rate about twice the national one and a poverty rate 43 percent higher than the state of Illinois average. As a consequence, Park Forest has lost almost a third of its peak population of 30,000 since the 1970s.

    But like many such struggling communities, one class of people has found a way to prosper: public employees.  Recently, Fox affiliate Channel 32 and Open the Books detailed the exorbitant pay package for part-time interim school Superintendent Joyce Carmine. She retired in 2017 making $398,000 annually, the highest-paid superintendent in Illinois, in a community where the median household income is $44,000. She will receive, courtesy of taxpayers, a pension of just under $300,000 for the rest of her life.  Adding insult to injury, the school district hired this retiree back as a consultant at the rate of $1,200 per day for a total of 100 days, bringing her pay this year to $419,000 total for part-time work.  Given the modest $75,000 median home price in Park Forest, her salary equates to 5.5 home purchases…per year.

    That's… impressive. Legal plunder.

  • The WSJ's "Best of the Web" online column used to have a "lonely lives of scientists" category. In case they still do, I've suggested the following Live Science article to the current proprietor: Scientists Wrote an Equation to Find the Funniest Word in English.

    Don't laugh, but professor Chris Westbury's newest psychology study is about farts.

    It's also about snots, chortles, wienies, heinies and bozos; things that are wriggly, jiggly, flappy and slaphappy; things that waddle, things that slobber; things that puke, cluck, squawk and dingle.

    That's because Westbury studies funny words — and, more specifically, what makes some words funny and others not.

    In case you're outraged about a possible waste of taxpayer money, Westbury is Canadian.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Twitter seems to be going on a suspension rampage. Here's a report from the Daily Wire's Frank Camp: Progressive Feminist Suspended From Twitter After Criticizing The Transgender Movement.

    Meghan Murphy, founder of the Feminist Current website and podcast, has been suspended from Twitter.

    Murphy, a self-described socialist and radical feminist, has been an outspoken critic of the transgender activist movement, claiming that it has an outsized sociopolitical influence, especially in her native Canada.

    Another recent target (noted by Robby Soave at Reason): Twitter Permanently Banned Conservative Pundit Jesse Kelly.

    Jesse Kelly, a conservative writer, radio host, and failed Republican political candidate is no longer welcome on Twitter: The social media site permanently banned him on Sunday, for reasons unknown.

    Robby notes that Kelly's banning was apparently in violation of Twitter's announced policies.

    I note that Instapundit deactivated his Twitter account last night in response.

    I'd do the same, except nobody would care.

  • Kyle Smith writes (in an "NRPLUS Member Article", I don't know what that means for you) about a recent documentary: Google, Facebook, and the ‘Creepy Line’.

    On Google, I just typed in “top races Republican,” and the word “races” got a squiggly underline suggesting I had misspelled the word. Beneath it ran Google’s helpful correction: “top racist Republican.” With “top races Democrat,” no such veering into the gutter. No squiggly line. The word “racist” did not insinuate itself into my field of vision. Oh, and before I completed the phrase, with just “top races Democra,” two lines below ran the following little hint: “best Democratic races to donate to.” Huh? Who said anything about donating? I’ve never donated to a political candidate in my life, and if I did, I wouldn’t donate to Democrats. Again, no parallel on the Republican side. No steering me to fundraisers.

    The documentary The Creepy Line takes its name from a shockingly unguarded remark by the former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. He is smiling and relaxed in a conference as he explains that Google has (had?) a nickname for excessive invasiveness. “Google policy on a lot of these things,” Schmidt says, “is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it.”

    I think some of this has since been "fixed" thanks to the negative publicity. But, yeah, don't trust those guys.

  • [Amazon Link]
    Arthur C. Brooks writes at AEI on a depressing topic: How loneliness is tearing America apart. It discusses Senator Ben Sasse's new book Them. (Link at your right.)

    America is suffering an epidemic of loneliness.

    According to a recent large-scale survey from the health care provider Cigna, most Americans suffer from strong feelings of loneliness and a lack of significance in their relationships. Nearly half say they sometimes or always feel alone or “left out.” Thirteen percent of Americans say that zero people know them well. The survey, which charts social isolation using a common measure known as the U.C.L.A. Loneliness Scale, shows that loneliness is worse in each successive generation.

    Some people don't deal with social isolation well, falling into self-destructive behaviors. Or, worse, other-destructive behaviors.

    What to do? Sorry, I got nothin'.

  • George F. Will writes on a Supreme Court case that has a chance to strike a blow against asset forfeiture abuse. Which is good because, as George notes: Lucrative law enforcement will become lawless.

    Tyson Timbs made a mistake, but not one as important as Indiana’s Supreme Court made in allowing to stand the punishment the state inflicted on him. He was a drug addict — first with opioids prescribed for a work-related injury, then heroin — when his father died. He blew the $73,000 insurance payout on drugs and a $41,558 Land Rover, which he drove when selling $225 worth of drugs — two grams of heroin — to undercover police officers. Timbs’ vehicle was seized and kept, which amounted to a fine more than 184 times larger than the sum involved in his offense. Come Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments concerning whether this violated the Eighth Amendment, which says: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

    We'll see how that works out. Mr. Timbs is being helped out in his suit by the Institute for Justice, and they have more information (from last June) here.

  • Power Line asks the musical question: When Did NASA Go to Pot?. Looking at a recent Gizmodo discussion on Mars, the deep thoughts of Chanda Prescod-Weinstein ("postdoctoral Research Associate in theoretical physics at the University of Washington, Seattle") are presented:

    I’m trying to think carefully about what our relationship to Mars should be, and whether we can avoid reproducing deeply entrenched colonial behaviors as we seek to better understand our Solar System. This includes thinking about why our language for developing understandings of environments that are new to us tends to still be colonial: “colonizing Mars” and “exploring” and “developing,” for example. These are deeply fraught terms that have traditionally referred to problematic behaviors by imperialists with those that we would call “indigenous” and “people of color” often on the receiving end of violent activities. . .

    Decolonization in the Martian context requires asking questions about who is entitled to what land. Can we be trusted to be in balance with Mars if we refuse to be in balance with Earth? Can we be trusted to be equitable in our dealings with each other in a Martian context if the U.S. and Canadian governments continue to attack indigenous sovereignty, violate indigenous lands, and engage in genocidal activities against indigenous people?

    I think the answer is no. I think we need to clean up our mess before we start making a new mess somewhere else.

    There's a website: Decolonizing Mars, apparently established in support of an "Unconference" on the topic. It's not clear what involvement NASA had with the gabfest, but it's an interesting data point

  • And We Were Amused by this Meme.

The Big Picture

On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself

[Amazon Link]

With just over a month to go, it's safe to say this book will easily make my top ten list for 2018 non-fiction. The author, Sean Carroll, is on the research physics faculty at Caltech (but don't hold that against him). When he writes about physics, you can pretty much take it to the bank: he may be dumbing it down a bit, but he's not leading you astray.

His goal here is to apply the insights of science to (see the title) the "big questions". He describes his approach as "poetic naturalism" (a philosophical realm apparently inhabited by one adherent, Sean Carroll, but that's okay). The "naturalism" part is meant to eschew philosophical explanations that appeal to anything beyond the physical world of atoms and forces, as described by what Carroll calls the "Core Theory", a mostly-complete description of how everything is made up of bosons, fermions, and the sorta-well-known interactions between them. Carroll asserts, and I don't doubt it, that our observations do not reveal anything in everyday macroscopic reality that can't be explained, at bottom, by the Core Theory. (It's known to break down in extreme situations, and may not describe possible forces or particles that might be found in the future, but Carroll explains that such caveats are irrelevant to our common experience.)

So: no supernatural beings, no eternal souls, no ESP, no magic, no no Nanette.

Except Carroll does something extraordinary here: he doesn't dismiss various forms of supernaturalism out of hand: he engages the best arguments for them, takes them seriously, argues against them fairly and convincingly, without a whiff of condescension or arrogance.

He's also extremely honest about what he (by which I mean, science) doesn't know, at least not yet. And also honestly admits that nothing is certain. For example: we can't prove that the world, and the observable universe, wasn't created 6000 years ago, with all its galaxies and fossils. Or for that matter, created fifteen minutes ago, including you and all your phony memories. Or that we aren't brains in a vat, or part of a large computer simulation, or….

But that's not the way to bet. Carroll takes a uniquely Bayesian view to such issues, calling the probabilities Bayes described as "credences": we don't hold any beliefs with 100% certainty, but we might have a 99.999…% credence. String out as many 9s as you feel comfortable with.

So that's naturalism. What's the "poetic" part? It tells us that there's "more than one way to talk about the world". Specifically (page 20):

  1. There are many ways of talking about the world.
  2. All good ways of talking must be consistent with one another and with the world.
  3. Our purposes in the moment determine the best way of talking.

A good example of Carroll's approach is found in his (again, relentlessly fair) discussion of "free will", a bugaboo of mine.

There's a sense in which you do have free will. There's also a sense in which you don't. Which sense is the "right" one is an issue you're welcome to decide for yourself (if you think you have the ability to make decisions).

Heh. Carroll can't deny that, reduced to basics, there's nothing magical going on in our bodies beyond the deterministic (or, with quantum mechanics, probabilistic) interactions between atoms, microscopically manifested as firing neurons, biochemical pathways, proteins yanking on each other, etc., everything working itself up to me typing away at this keyboard.

But, Carroll notes, that's not a lot of help when you look into your closet in the morning and try to decide which shirt to wear. Try saying: "Well, I'll just stand here and let the atoms in my body do whatever they were deterministically going to do anyway."

Wait as long as you need to before you're convinced that that the atoms in your body aren't gonna get that shirt-picking job done for you. Or go to work bare-chested. Your call.

But that's just one example, the book really is the "Big Picture", covering most of the contentious questions of existence. If at times it seems that Carroll's discussion is at the level of late night college dorm room arguments, well… that's pretty much the level beyond which many philosophical discussions have failed to progress in centuries.

Some quibbles:

  • Carroll has a chapter on the "is-ought" dichotomy, and the impossibility of jumping between them. But (see above) his poetic-naturalism tenets use ought-words like "good" and "best" without (as near as I can tell) strong justification. "Good", by what standard, and why should I buy that standard and not some other?

  • I sometimes worry about the power of language to mislead us down false paths in search of Truth. This is especially applicable in purporting to answer the Big Questions; are human-invented grunts and their squiggly representations on the page really the best tools to do that? Especially when we know languages are replete with ambiguity and imprecision?

    I mean, every logical fallacy ever committed was committed with language.

  • Probably related: Carroll assumes the universe is completely understandable by human minds. But what if it's not?

    I've said this before, but: I have a dog.

    A very smart dog.

    But I won't try to teach him calculus. It's pretty clear that would be a waste of time. He wouldn't understand.

    And (worse) my dog wouldn't even understand that he's failing to understand. He would be unaware that he's missing fundamental pieces of knowledge.

    Human brains are (generously) only about 20 times bigger than dog brains. Is that big enough to completely understand reality?

    I'm not sure about that. And I'd say "It's something to think about", except I'm not sure that we have adequate brain power to even do that.

But (all in all) I highly recommend this book if the topics seem interesting to you at all. The book is full of insight and wit, very accessible to (say) a bright high schooler or STEM-capable undergrad. (Grad-level stuff is relegated to an appendix.)

The Phony Campaign

2018-11-25 Update

[phony baloney]

Our candidate roster expands by two this week, with Paul Ryan (a returnee) and John Hickenlooper, both hitting the 3% nomination-probability threshold.

A Democrat, Hickenlooper is currently governor of Colorado. He was term-limited, so he'll be looking for a new job in January.

Neither Ryan nor Hickenlooper are showing unusual phoniness in this week's tablulation:

Candidate NomProb Change
Donald Trump 71% unch 2,420,000 -2,570,000
Beto O'Rourke 15% +1% 1,090,000 -80,000
Nikki Haley 5% -1% 1,030,000 -130,000
Hillary Clinton 4% +1% 920,000 +187,000
Kamala Harris 17% +1% 554,000 +25,000
Joe Biden 7% unch 239,000 -34,000
Bernie Sanders 7% unch 223,000 -16,000
Paul Ryan 3% --- 203,000 ---
Mike Pence 8% +1% 186,000 -148,000
Elizabeth Warren 10% -1% 179,000 -27,000
Kirsten Gillibrand 4% unch 165,000 +15,000
Sherrod Brown 3% unch 151,000 +14,000
Amy Klobuchar 4% unch 98,700 -400
Cory Booker 3% unch 66,000 -4,600
John Hickenlooper 3% --- 64,000 ---
John Kasich 4% +1% 41,200 -2,100

Standard disclaimer: Google result counts are bogus.

But let's look at the latest phony news about our candidates:

  • Is America really ready for a President Hickenlooper? If elected, he would only be the second US president with a four-syllable last name. And, frankly, "Hickenlooper" is a way goofier name than "Eisenhower". (Ref: Words With K in Them Are Funny.)

    (But, namewise, I don't see any US politician rivalling a recent president of Madagascar, Hery Rajaonarimampianina. That's a good way to keep your name out of the headlines: make it too long to fit.)

    Whew, we got off-subject there. Getting back to it, a recent Denver Post article reported: Gov. Hickenlooper jet-sets across the globe on private planes paid for by others, new ethics complaint alleges. The complaint was generated by "Public Trust Institute" (PTI), run by Frank McNulty, a former Republican legislator in Colorado.

    This will raise the eyebrows of conspiracy theorists:

    Some events, such as the Bilderberg Meetings in Turin, Italy — a gathering of high-powered corporate executives and political leaders from around the world — are so exclusive and secret that “neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s) nor of any other participant may be revealed,” according to the group’s website.

    Much of the event is paid for by its sponsors, which in 2018 included Fiat Chrysler, PTI’s complaint shows.

    PTI also alleges that Hickenlooper accepted a chauffeured Maserati limousine and other amenities at the June 2018 meetings — he was caught on camera at the airport saying he had “no official statement” about why he was there, but said he paid for the trip himself — including transportation via private jet that PTI estimates to have cost as much as $10,000.

    “Bilderberg is a luxurious, corporately paid event to discuss international affairs amongst global business and political leaders,” the complaint says. “This is precisely the type of event [Colorado ethics rule] Amendment 41 is intended to restrict.”

    Who does Hickenlooper think he is, Hillary Clinton?

  • On Monday last, CNN "Editor-at-large" Chris Cillizza captured The 42 most eye-popping lines from Donald Trump's 'Fox News Sunday' interview. Apparently he gets paid for that. The p-word appears in item 33:

    33. "The news about me is largely phony. It's false. Even sometimes they'll say, 'Sources say.' There is no source, in many cases -- in cases there is."

    Cillizza rebuts:

    Again, this is about Donald Trump not liking the news. Not about the news being "largely phony." And the idea that mainstream media organizations make up sources is beyond ridiculous.

    Yeah, probably. But how would we know? It's not as if CNN's hunger for scoops doesn't cause it to mislead its viewers.

  • At Spectator USA, Freddy Gray looks at Beto:

    Unlike Obama in 2008, however, the Beto hype of 2018 feels labored, even needy — a desperate crush for progressives who have lost faith in the democratic progress. Women and gay men compete to express their lust for him, as if he were in a boy band. After Beto posted a video of himself cooking a meal, social media went berserk. ‘Beto O’Rourke is cutting up flank steak over on Instagram in case anyone asks how it is I got pregnant,’ tweeted a man called Evan Ross Katz. Most other responses are too filthy for these pages; all seem contrived.

    O’Rourke is more than a bit phony, too — all hat and no cattle, as Texans say. Take the name Beto. It’s an Hispanic abbreviation of Robert, though O’Rourke is of Irish descent. A Ted Cruz campaign jingle mocked him for it: ‘I remember reading stories, liberal Robert wanted to fit in / So he changed his name to Beto and hid it with a grin.’ A curious irony there: Ted’s real name, Rafael, is Hispanic, but he too wanted to fit in.

    At least he isn't a Bilderberger, like Hickenlooper!

  • And I wouldn't say Democrats are getting desperate, but … Vanity Fair answers a question nobody is asking: Why Sherrod Brown May Have an Edge on Warren and Sanders.

    Brown, who is potentially looking to challenge the president directly in 2020, refuses to be typecast—or to cede blue-collar politics to Republicans. “Populism and patriotism are not racist, they are not anti-Semitic. They don’t push some people down in order to lift some people up. They don’t appeal to the darker side of human nature,” Brown tells me. “We should not yield the hallowed ground of patriotism to extremists. We see that in Columbus, and we see that especially in the White House. You don’t practice a form of phony populism where you turn people against one another.”

    Can you still call yourself a populist without railing against shadowy elites conspiring to rig the game against the little people? Can you win the nomination in today's Democratic Party without at least pretending to do that?

  • And maybe we can slide a belated Michael Ramirez Thanksgiving cartoon in here:

Last Modified 2018-12-20 7:23 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • At NR, Jonah Goldberg looks at President Trump’s Odd Definition of ‘America First’. To adapt an old debate quote: "Mr. President, I've studied the America First movement. America Firsters were not friends of mine. But Mr. President, you're no America Firster."

    President Trump’s statement is a mockery of the best sentiments of America First. His argument for why we should turn a blind eye to the Khashoggi murder, even as the Saudi regime plans to execute the men who carried out the crown prince’s orders, is that we are too entangled in our alliance with Saudi Arabia to care. They are a “great ally” because they have “agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States.” He even goes on to list the defense contractors who benefit from Saudi largesse.

    Nowhere in Trump’s statement does he offer any meaningful condemnation of Saudi behavior or suggest that there is a limit to the portion of the American soul Saudi petrodollars can buy.

    I'll readily admit that I'm sort of an ignoramus about foreign policy. Although it seems like a lot of our crises, now and in the past, are due to the folks who are allegedly foreign policy "experts".

    Maybe they're as ignorant as the rest of us? Or—let's be charitable—doing the best they can in an inherently perilous and uncertain field?

  • We mentioned this horrible crime back in May, but now the perpetrator, Richard Ned Lebow, provides his story in Quillette. Warning: Telling a Lame Joke in an Elevator can Endanger Your Career.

    I am a professor of international political theory at King’s College London and bye-fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge. I am a fellow of the British Academy and a member of the International Studies Association (ISA). Several years back the ISA voted me the “distinguished scholar of the year.” This year it censured me, not once but twice. I was guilty of saying “ladies lingerie” in a lift, and more disturbingly in their eyes, of writing a conciliatory email to the woman who had overheard me in the lift and filed a complaint. I appealed against this decision, but earlier this month was told my appeal had been rejected.

    During the second week of April 2018, the ISA had its annual meeting in San Francisco. It attracts many thousands of members from multiple disciplines who do research on international relations. The meeting consists mostly of panels at which scholarly papers are presented and discussed. I stayed in the San Francisco Hilton, the venue of the meeting. On the third afternoon, I was going up to my room in a very crowded lift when a male voice asked people to shout out their floors so he could press the relevant buttons. People named floors and I said: “Ladies Lingerie.” I confess it is an old, lame joke; my youngest son later remarked that it was not the worst joke I have ever made. Upon reflection, I think these words came to mind because I was flush up against the back wall of the lift and feeling slightly claustrophobic. It was a way of releasing tension—or so I thought.

    Unfortunately for Prof Lebow, also in the elevator was Simona Sharoni, a professor of women’s and gender studies at Merrimack College, just down the road in North Andover, MA. I'll make the same lame joke I made last May: she Was Not Amused, in fact she got her ladies lingerie in a bunch.

    Prof Lebow provides an update to the original story, detailing the Kafkaesque disciplinary procedure of the ISA, with supporting docs. Unsurprising to those who follow these sort of things. ISA is clearly working itself into an academically irrelevant (but well-funded) hotbed of faux-intellectual navel-gazing. Once the last spark of independent thought is snuffed out, will anyone on the outside pay attention any more?

  • I am just going to "excerpt" Don Boudreaux entire Yet Another Open Letter to Trump at Cafe Hayek.

    Two days ago you tweeted “Oil prices getting lower. Great! Like a big Tax Cut for America and the World. Enjoy! $54, was just $82. Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let’s go lower!”

    I write not to question your questionable expression of thanks to the Saudis but, instead, to ask some questions:

    – Because you correctly understand that we Americans are more prosperous the lower are the prices we pay on global markets for oil, why do you not understand that we Americans are more prosperous the lower are the prices we pay on global markets for other goods such as steel, aluminum, automobiles, and washing machines?

    – Because you correctly understand that a fall in the prices that we Americans pay for oil is akin to a tax cut – and because you correctly understand that such a tax cut is a boon to us Americans – why do you insist not only on raising the taxes that we pay for the likes of steel, aluminum, automobiles, and washing machines, but also on celebrating these tax hikes as sources of greater American prosperity? Is there something unique about oil – perhaps its odor, its viscosity, the way that it’s spelled – that makes a greater abundance of it beneficial whereas a greater abundance of the likes of steel, aluminum, automobiles, and washing machines is harmful?

    This isn't hard to grasp, Mr. President.

  • At Reason, the always-reasonable Matt Welch suggests: Don't Cry for Kat Timpf, Cry for America Instead.

    Let's be clear: I am not asking you to feel sorry for Kat Timpf.

    Yes, the 30-year-old television commentator and National Review writer was chased out of a Brooklyn bar a few weeks ago by a shouty woman enraged that Timpf works for Fox News Channel. Must have been unpleasant, especially considering it wasn't her first time being physically confronted by angry strangers.

    But you know what else is unpleasant? Being separated from your toddler at the U.S.-Mexico border. Watching your entire community burn to the ground. Living a life less luxe than a New York gal about town whose birthday parties make Page Six.

    So let's not talk about Kat, let's talk about you. You who pivoted before I did to the whataboutism in the paragraph above. You who were already irritated at reading yet again about a non-Democrat being inconvenienced in public. You who are saying to yourself, "Fox News is toxic. It's poisoning my dad's brain. All collaborators are fair game to be shunned."

    Here's the question for you: Do you think this ends well? Because it doesn't.

    Of course it doesn't. Is there any hope we keep the cheap displays of strident political moralism on social media, where they belong?

  • I'm a sucker for Mental Floss quizzes, even though I never do very well. But this one is actually educational: Which of These Things Is Most Dangerous to Humans?. Kind of a misnomer; it's multiple choice and (for example) you get to pick which activity "is responsible for 1600 American deaths every year."

    Playground accidents
    Staircase falls
    Shark attacks
    Elevator accidents

    The true answers are revealed after you pick. Fun, and you may decide never to go to the playground, the beach, or any building that has more than one floor.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Minnesota is famous for being Nice; there's even a Wikipedia article. And it's true! A number of my cousins live there, and they are all nice! QED!


    The not-so-nice undercurrent is a willingness to push people around to accomplish your social goals. At Reason, Christian Britschgi provides a data point: Minneapolis' Healthy Foods Mandate Screws Over Ethnic Grocers.

    Minneapolis is putting to the test the notion that people don't eat healthy foods because businesses refuse to stock them. So far, it is failing.

    In 2014, the city passed its Staple Food Ordinance which requires all grocery stores—barring a few exceptions—to keep on hand fresh produce, and other healthy foods they were not devoting enough shelf-space to.

    The Other Twin City, St. Paul, had no such ordinance, so it was relatively easy to test the effects. Unsurprising: a lot of food waste, inflexible and arbitrary stocking rules, widespread noncompliance, no measurable effects on actual public health. And, perhaps most amusing, the ethnic grocers to which the headline refers point out loudly that the rules are tilted toward what we'll call a standard Norwegian diet. Too bad, Asians and Hispanics!

    Our Amazon Product du Jour: a t-shirt featuring a phrase my dad used a lot when I was a kid, usually because of something I did.

  • At the Federalist, David Harsanyi petitions (a department of) his government for a redress of greivances: Dear TSA, Please Stop Molesting Kids At The Airport.

    The other day, after slogging through a check-in line at one of the nation’s busiest airports, dutifully removing my shoes and belt and checking my bag and pockets for other potentially dangerous items (water and loose change), I was pulled aside by a crack Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent so he could further investigate the contents of my carry-on. While waiting, I took this picture of what looked to be a ten-year-old boy being molested by a 250-pound man.

    Now, normally I would have reported this incident to the proper authorities. Inappropriate contact with a child, inside or outside his clothing, is a criminal act. But, in this case, the proper authorities were the ones feeling up the kid and the father had already protested the frisking—although, like all of us, he probably understood that no matter how vociferously he objected to this bit of state-sanctioned criminality it wasn’t going to change anything.

    David's picture at the link, but you can probably imagine. His bottom line, and mine: there has to be a better way.

  • A front-page article in yesterday's local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat had the tantalizing headline: UNH student’s arrest inspired by Ocasio-Cortez.

    Emma Chinman-Hatton, a 21-year-old University of New Hampshire student, was in Washington, D.C., last week when she decided she wanted to get arrested.

    While driving to D.C., Chinman and New Hampshire Youth Movement members decided it would be too risky to make getting arrested part of their mission to demand action on climate change in a protest at the office of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic U.S. House minority leader. Chinman’s mind was changed after hearing inspirational words from Democratic Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York during a training session a day before the Nov. 13 protest, designed to push party leaders to take immediate legislative action.

    You will not be surprised to learn that Ms. Chinman-Hatton is a younger version of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, earnest, self-righteous, and ignorant. Eh, she's young.

    There's less excuse for making this a "news" story, but it's something Foster's does these days. It is a puff piece, undisguised advocacy for the so-called "Green New Deal", something that's been rattling around progressive/Marxist circles for over a decade. It's little more than the latest scheme to use "climate change" as an excuse for dictatorial government control over the energy sector.

  • We've previously posted this evergreen tweet:

    Well, "a new study shows" that you shouldn't trust what new studies show. At the Atlantic, Ed Yong points out that Psychology’s Replication Crisis Is Running Out of Excuses.

    Over the past few years, an international team of almost 200 psychologists has been trying to repeat a set of previously published experiments from its field, to see if it can get the same results. Despite its best efforts, the project, called Many Labs 2, has only succeeded in 14 out of 28 cases. Six years ago, that might have been shocking. Now it comes as expected (if still somewhat disturbing) news.

    I don't want to encourage you to only believe "studies" that reinforce your prior beliefs. I'm only saying that I wouldn't blame you a bit.

  • [Amazon Link]
    At NR, Kyle Smith looks at a recent celebrity memoir from Eric Idle: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. No, Really.

    Eric Idle’s dad survived an especially dangerous World War II gig — tailgunner in the RAF — only to get killed in a truck accident while hitchhiking home after the war. Eric was two years old. It was Christmas Eve. Perhaps, he writes, “That’s why I wrote the song, ‘F*** Christmas.’”

    If you can muster wit for this degree of tragedy, you can muster wit for anything, and Idle did, writing the world’s jauntiest crucifixion ditty. “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” the title of that Monty Python song from The Life of Brian and of Idle’s new memoir, turns out to be a fairly helpful directive for getting by, and Idle has stuck to it these last 75 years. He calls himself a “failed pessimist.” The book is hilarious, so you need not burden yourself with the task of trying to learn from it, but Idle’s rose-tinted spectacles are available for the borrowing. He’s an existential optimist.

    Interesting tidbit: Idle's "Nudge Nudge" sketch was a favorite of Elvis Presley.

    I went through a period of reading celebrity memoirs to see if I could gain any insight into creative genius. I didn't have a lot of luck, but I might try again for Eric Idle. And maybe Roger Daltrey. And…

Last Modified 2018-12-20 7:10 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

Thanksgiving 2018

[Amazon Link]

  • Happy Thanksgiving to all, and Kevin D. Williamson of National Review has our sermon du jour: For These Gifts We Are Truly Grateful.

    Here is a truth that almost never is spoken: All of the money that ever has been saved and invested in profit-seeking productive business enterprises has done incalculably more for the poor — more by many orders of magnitude — than has all of the money that ever has been put to charitable uses, formal or informal, mainly by preventing them from ever being poor in the first place. That saving and investment, and the innovation and labor that have gone along with them, are the only thing in the history of this little blue planet that has made its inhabitants less poor. Of course we invite the hungry to our table. A hell of a lot of good it would do if we didn’t have anything to put on their plates other than nice intentions or sanctimonious sentiments.

    The Biblical commands of charity were written in eras where nearly everyone was miserably poor. And, arguably, did little overall to relieve that misery.

    So, this Thanksgiving especially, give thanks for good old free market capitalism. Or as Kevin puts it, … well, I encourage you to Read The Whole Thing. And maybe recite it as a pre-dinner prayer, if you want to risk the Wrath of God.

  • Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt have an excerpt from their new book in Reason, devoted to a parental lesson: Your Child Is More Resilient Than You Think.

    [Amazon Link]
    Taken literally, Nietzsche's famous aphorism—"What doesn't kill me makes me stronger"—is not entirely correct. Some things that don't kill you can still leave you permanently damaged and diminished.

    Yet in recent years, far too many parents, teachers, school administrators, and students themselves have become taken with the opposite idea—that what doesn't kill you makes you weaker. They have bought into a myth that students and children are inherently fragile. For the most part, this represents an understandable desire to protect children from emotional trauma. But overwhelming evidence suggests that this approach makes kids less psychologically stable. By over-sheltering kids, we end up exposing them to more serious harm.

    Excellent article, and I've moved their book up high on my things-to-read list.

  • Jonah Goldberg's column has a consumer warning: Florida is the Jaguar of vote-counting. And not in a good way.

    Florida is the Jaguar of vote-counting, and I'm not referring to the animal or the Jacksonville NFL franchise. I mean the car. For decades, part of the "charm" of having a Jaguar was how often it broke down. (That's no longer the case.) It was the kind of conspicuous consumption that economist Thorstein Veblen used to write about, with owners bragging about how much they paid for repairs.

    The spectacle of sweaty election officials poring over provisional ballots -- 18 years after the state became infamous for such things -- has now cemented election incompetence into the montage of images we associate with the Sunshine State: beaches, rocket launches, Mickey Mouse and the human menagerie of freaks, weirdos, moperers, villains and perverts that fall under the omnibus internet meme "Florida Man."

    How hard can this possibly be? OK, it's a big job, but when you have the entire apparatus of government backing you,…

    Oh, right. Florida is bad, but it makes the rest of the country look good only in comparison.

  • Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. has a (possibly paywalled) contrarian take at the WSJ on The Scapegoating of Facebook.

    Facebook is an especially inapt scapegoat for the besetting uncertainties of our age. The U.S. electorate is described as “polarized.” Closely divided, with a large number of voters shifting back and forth, would be a better description. But what divides us is harder to put a finger on—or maybe it’s truer to say anything would be apt to divide us given the problems of the post-war Western model: overflowing debt plus insufficient productivity to keep living standards universally rising, to afford promised pensions and health care, to give the next generation a better life.

    Politics is fully capable of making things worse, as we might find out thanks to Donald Trump’s trade warfare or the neo-socialist infatuations of the Democrats. But it’s also to politics that we must turn for solutions. That means changing the subject from the search for scapegoats.

    Holman's column references a new book by a group at Harvard, Network Propaganda, that analyzes the likely effect of the Russkies on the 2016 election outcome, and says eh.

    This is in contrast to a book by a UPenn prof, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Cyber-War which purports to show that the "targeted cyberattacks by hackers and trolls were decisive" in the election outcome.

    Your call, friends. That last link was to Jane Mayer in the New Yorker, so there might be a bit of bias involved there.

  • Jim Swift reviews a new board game from Hasbro in the Weekly Standard, and the executive summary is: Monopoly for Millennials is #Awesome.

    Jail still exists and Community Chest and Chance are still there. Instead of the “Get out of Jail Free” card, there's a card that reads “Your mom posts bail. She’s the best.” And instead of committing a crime, you go to jail if you draw the card that says “You literally can’t even pay your student loan bill. Go to Jail. Go Directly to Jail. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $20.”

    At this point, [Jim's co-worker] Alice asked me if Monopoly is the source of an idiom she had heard about not passing GO. She was not kidding. Her #mind was #blown.

    (The meanest card in the Chance pile says “You took a trip to find yourself. You didn’t. Lose a turn.”)

    It's also a cool sixty bucks at Amazon, so I'd appreciate it if you used the link at the head of this post to buy it.

  • And Slashdot has the story: Amazon is Teaching Alexa To Speak Like a Newscaster.

    The way newscasters speak is unmistakeable, with their exaggerated modulations and drawn-out pauses. And now, Amazon has taught Alexa, its voice assistant, to approximate the authoritative intonation

    Now: my perception of the way newscasters speak is like an old-time carny barker, desperate to rope you into paying money to see the freak show. Overlaid with tones of (a) unctuous concern; (b) barely-concealed panic; or (c) treacly sentiment, as appropriate. We'll have more on that, including ways you can avoid the holiday rush, later on in the broadcast. Just after this word.

    And, oh, I might buy an Amazon Echo if it could emulate Brian Collins, the Boom Goes the Dynamite guy.

    Otherwise, no.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum looks at the latest in government nannyism: FDA Chief Scott Gottlieb Says He Has to Restrict E-Cigarettes in Order to Save Them.

    FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb says he still believes that e-cigarettes offer "a tremendous public health opportunity" to reduce the harm caused by smoking but felt compelled to impose restrictions on them because of a surprising surge in underage vaping. Had the FDA not acted, he said in an interview with Reason today, political pressure could have led Congress to intervene, presenting "an existential threat" to the vaping industry.

    This sounds like bullshit to me. But see what you think.

  • Kevin D. Williamson (National Review, duh) doesn't think much of arguments about people "voting against their own interests". Such arguments come from left and right, but are poor whites really on The White Plantation?

    The locus classicus of the “poor conservatives vote against their own interests” analysis — the white plantation theory — is Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas?, which stands alongside Jonathan Franzen’s novel Freedom and the tragically disfigured film American History X in the annals of failed attempts to depict conservative thinking and conservative habits of mind. The journey from cliché to red flag of intellectual laziness is short: The most recent example to cause me to wince is in Monday’s New York Times, in which Alex Kotlowitz invokes the cliché — not only the same ignorant thought, but the same familiar words in the same banal order — in his review of Storm Lake, the memoir of a small-town newspaper editor recently awarded the Pulitzer Prize, writing of “white men and white women who are rabid Trump supporters” who “seem to vote against their own interests.”

    Implied in the assertion that poor whites do not understand their own interests is the assumption that affluent white progressives such as Alex Kotlowitz, a journalist and filmmaker who writes for the New York Times like his father before him, or Thomas Frank of Mission Hills — Kansas, yes, and 97 percent white and the third-wealthiest municipality in the United States — do. There is some reason to be skeptical of that proposition, in much the same way as there is to be skeptical of Republicans’ insistence that black voters would come over to the GOP if they just really gave Sean Hannity a good fair listen.

    Mea culpa, I've used the "plantation" word in the past, but in reference to the ire shown by lefties toward African Americans who dissent from progressive theology. Latest example, Kanye West, who was hailed as a genius right up until he started saying nice things about Trump; then he became a stupid and insane Uncle Tom.

  • Daniel J. Mitchell has more on the issue we touched on yesterday: Income Mobility and Middle Class Prosperity.

    I generally don’t write much about the distribution of income (most-recent example from 2017), largely because that feeds into the false notion that the economy is a fixed pie and that politicians should have the power to re-slice if they think incomes aren’t sufficiently equal.

    I think growth is far more important, especially for poor people, which is what I said (using the amazing data from China) in a recent debate at Pomona College in California.

    But some people don’t accept the growth argument.

    Or, to be more exact, they may acknowledge that there is growth but they think the rich wind up with all the gains when the economy prospers.

    That's certainly been gospel among my lefty Facebook friends. But Dan does a great job bringing together evidence to the contrary.

  • Libby Emmons ("writer and theatre maker in New York") tells how Writing for Quillette Ended My Theater Project.

    At issue was an article I’d written for Quillette, entitled “The Transhumanism Revolution,” about three undercurrents of transhumanism presently circulating beneath Western culture: bio-hacking or grinding, AI, and trans gender ideology. I’d brought the article to the attention of my theater collective when it was published in July 2018, and to everyone else I knew via my social media feeds. However, it wasn’t until two weeks prior to what would be our final meeting, in October 2018, that the article made a modest splash in the downtown indie theater community of which we were a part. When it did, I let the collective know that some people were taking issue with my views on transhumanism, and that they should let me know if they wished to discuss it. The members of the collective were confused. Transhumanism isn’t exactly a household proto-philosophical concept. Instead of knocking me down, the women I worked with tried to reassure me. I waited.

    Ms. Emmons was unapologetic, and that doomed her project.

  • The Google LFOD Alert rang for a rare bit of good election news: Winning elections and having fun: Young liberty-minded campaign volunteers want to change politics as we know it. The "fun" was organized by Young Americans for Liberty, and their volunteers knocked on doors for pro-liberty candidates.

    YAL secured the majority of its victories in the “live free or die” state of New Hampshire, gaining 25 seats for ideologically principled candidates. This represents a tremendous win for the liberty movement, with the goal of backing candidates of any party grounded in constitutional ideals.

    A listing of the candidates YAL supported is here.

  • Also on the LFOD front, the Union Leader reports: Granite Staters head south to Mass. for freedom to buy first legal recreational marijuana on East Coast. Intrepid reporter Todd Feathers followed the crowd down to Leicester, Massachusetts (just west of Worcester) to report on the first day of sales at "Cultivate", one of the dispensaries selling "recreational cannabis".

    Like the vast majority of the crowd that descended on a normally peaceful stretch of Massachusetts’ Route 9, Darren, from Rockingham County, had other ways to buy marijuana without driving for several hours only to wait in line several more. So why do it?

    “Why not?” Darren said. “It’s the first day. Everyone who’s here doesn’t need to be here.”

    It was the spectacle of the occasion that drew him, Darren said, and his belief that New Hampshire — the Live Free or Die state — is very likely to be the last New England state to legalize recreational marijuana.

    Legal note: New Hampshire residents who transport their purchases back home are at least technically breaking the law.

    I really don't know how I feel about that "recreational" adjective. To quote myself:

    Like you should at least be playing badminton or something, concurrently with consuming. Will use be regulated by towns' Recreation Departments? I swear, you don't have to be stoned to ask these questions!

  • Cartoonist Matthew Inman is an acquired taste, but his comic take on NASA's InSight Mars probe (due to land—fingers crossed!—on Monday) is very funny and informative, and even somewhat poetic. Check it out.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Charles Sykes ("The Contrarian Conservative") imagines a speech given at some future point in Nashua, NH. But it's A Speech in Search of a Candidate. Excerpt:

    Republicans must make it clear that we reject bigotry, white nationalism, xenophobia, and misogyny. The challenge is both political and moral. Politically, our party cannot survive if it continues to insult and alienate women, young people, and racial minorities. Morally, the embrace or tolerance of hate and inhumanity threatens to be an enduring stain on our character.

    We cannot be the party of character and embrace Donald Trump; we cannot be a party that values the Constitution, and sit by and watch the undermining of the rule of law; we cannot be a party that claims to be fiscally responsible, and then preside over the reckless expansion of our national debt, and we cannot be a party that values education, while joining in the dumbing down of our political dialogue.

    Good speech! It would be neat if someone would pull off a Eugene McCarthy-style ambush of Trump here in New Hampshire.

    You all remember President McCarthy, don't you? Oh, wait.

  • At Reason, Robby Soave notes recent fake news: ABC Makes Patently False Claim About New Title IX Rules. Specifically, ABC claimed that the rules defining sexual harassment "would be significantly more difficult to prove because the victim would have to prove the misconduct prevents them from returning to school."

    No. The new standard does not require victims to show that they can't return to school. Indeed, it doesn't require them to leave school in the first place. What this new standard says is that severe, pervasive, objectively offensive sexual harassment that negatively impacts a student's ability to attend class is a form of discrimination, because it denies the student's right to an education. Sexual conduct that satisfies the severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive threshold—the legal standard for workplace harassment—will be held to violate Title IX, even if the conduct did not literally cause the student to flee campus but merely makes the student's life unpleasant.

    But this mischaracterization is already being repeated uncritically. As some anonymous genius said: A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.

  • P. J. O'Rourke writes in American Consequences on Economic Collapse.

    Maybe it’s a sign of the age we live in. I used to daydream about enormous wealth – champagne and caviar. Now I find myself daydreaming about what my family and I would do if the economy collapsed.

    Or maybe it’s just a sign of my age – These days, champagne and caviar give me indigestion…

    Anyway, what would we do? I’m not so worried about us personally going broke. If we personally go broke, we’ll just mooch off other people – about half of America seems to do that already. But what if the entire economic system fails and everybody goes broke and nobody has any money and the money isn’t worth anything anyway? Then what would we do?

    I believe the answer involves a large number of cans of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee Throwback Recipe Beef Ravioli.

  • At the WaPo we know, because they keep telling us, that "Democracy Dies in Darkness". So Robert Samuelson writes on The myth of stagnant incomes.

    We aren’t stagnating, after all.

    Unless you’ve been hibernating in the Himalayas, you must know of the recent surge in economic inequality. It’s not just that the rich are getting richer. The rest of us — say politicians, pundits and scholars — are stagnating. The top 1 percent have grabbed most income gains, while average Americans are stuck in the mud.

    Well, it’s not so. That’s the message — perhaps unintended — from the Congressional Budget Office, which reports periodically on the distribution and growth of the nation’s income. It recently found that most Americans had experienced clear-cut income gains since the early 1980s.

    I'm not sure how progressives will handle this news.

    (Although the CBO analysis seems to be based on "quintiles" whose boundaries move with changing incomes. And the people in a given quintile are different people in different years. What people actually experience over the course of their lives seems to be elusive.)

  • At Law and Liberty, John Kekes muses on The Absurdity of Egalitarianism.

    Egalitarians believe that inequality is unjust and justice requires a society to move steadily toward greater equality. This is the aim of proportional taxation, equal opportunity programs, and the various anti-poverty policies of a welfare state. These policies cost money. The egalitarian approach to getting it is to tax those who have more in order to benefit those who have less. The absurdity of this is that egalitarians suppose that justice requires ignoring whether people deserve what they have and whether they are responsible for what they lack. They suppose that it is just to ignore the requirements of justice.

    Here is a consequence of egalitarianism. According to the Statistical Abstract of the United States, men’s life expectancy is on the average about seven years less than women’s. There is thus an inequality between men and women. If egalitarians really mean that it would be better if everyone enjoyed the same level of social and economic benefits, then they must find the inequality between the life expectancy of men and women unjust. Following their reasoning, it ought to be a requirement of justice to equalize the life expectancy of men and women. This can be done, for instance, by men having more and better healthcare and working shorter hours than women.

    Reductio ad absurdum of course, but it's a good example to use when someone assumes that a given statistical disparity is prima facie evidence of invidious discrimination.

  • And this xkcd is stunning, especially to geezers like me:

    [Airplanes and Spaceships]

    You can check the calendar math here.

    Days between Wright and Gagarin: 20,936.

    Days between Gagarin and today (as I type): 21,401.

    Sheesh. Back then I thought for sure interplanetary travel was going to be ho-hum by now.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • At Quillette, Uri Harris writes on The Institutionalization of Social Justice. Uri examines the slow-motion effort of activists to "suppress controversial viewpoints". Examples abound, and they will come as no surprise to folks who have been following the trend. Conclusion:

    But there’s a lot to be concerned about. The extent to which highly progressive universities have become conformist and dogmatic as they have adopted this is troubling. But we can now see why: use of analytic individualization tools to reform people of their privilege combined with a self-governing structure where people internalize the norms of social justice and continually monitor themselves and each other for violations is bound to produce a high level of conformity.

    Yet, even these concerns of conformity and suppression of dissent pale in comparison to what might happen as technology continues to develop. China, which has already instituted a system of social credit combined with wide-ranging surveillance technology, provides a glimpse of this. This could become totalitarian very rapidly, especially as governments continue to work with Google, Facebook, and other technology companies to regulate speech.

    Long, but worth your attention.

  • At the Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein writes an obituary: American Civil Liberties Union, RIP.

    In the late 1960s, the ACLU was a small but powerful liberal organization devoted to a civil libertarian agenda composed primarily of devotion to freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, and the rights of accused criminals. In the early 1970s, the ACLU's membership rose from around 70,000 to almost 300,000. Many new members were attracted by the organization's opposition to the Vietnam War and its high-profile battles with President Nixon, but such members were not committed to the ACLU's broader civil libertarian agenda. However, the organization's defense of the KKK's right to march in Skokie, Illinois, in the late 1970s weeded out some of these fair-weather supporters and attracted some new free speech devotees. But George H. W. Bush's criticisms of the ACLU during the 1988 presidential campaign again attracted many liberal members not especially devoted to civil liberties.

    It has been a slow-motion evolution, but the end result should be sad for actual civil libertarians to behold:

    Meanwhile, yesterday, the Department of Education released a proposed new Title IX regulation that provides for due process rights for accused students that had been prohibited by Obama-era guidance. Shockingly, even to those of us who have followed the ACLU's long, slow decline, the ACLU tweeted in reponse that the proposed regulation "promotes an unfair process, inappropriately favoring the accused." Even longtime ACLU critics are choking on the ACLU, of all organizations, claiming that due proess protections "inappropriately favor the accuse[d]."

    Earlier this year, Joe Lieberman also noted the ACLU's shape-shifting into just "another advocacy group on the left."

  • Power Line's John Hinderaker points out The Ultimate Fake News.

    Fake news is a serious problem in our political life. I’m not referring to a pathetically small number of Facebook ads bought by Russian provocateurs. I’m talking about the fake news that was paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee; fabricated by Democratic Party-allied consultants; propagated by the FBI and the CIA; promoted by the broadcast networks, CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Associated Press; trumpeted by pretty much every senior elected Democrat; and kept alive by the appalling Robert Mueller. The claim that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians to “steal” the 2016 presidential election is the great fake news of our time.

    The results, as revealed by a recent poll: two-thirds of Democrats think that the statement "Russia tampered with vote tallies in order to get Donald Trump elected President" is either "definitely true" or "probably true".

    An assertion for which there is zero evidence. Russia's apparent goal was to "undermine confidence" in voting; but it's clear the MSM has been far more effective than the Russians in progressing to that goal.

    Will they accept any responsibility for this? Don't hold your breath.

  • Pun Salad considers P. J. "no relation to Beto" O'Rourke to be a primary guru, so his take on the midterm election is highly recommended: Demented Politics, Lunatic Markets.

    We have two political parties in America, each worse than the other.

    One party thinks it’s in favor of business and economic growth. It’s not thinking very hard. The GOP has done nothing about the nation’s burgeoning debt and deficit. If Republicans were financial advisers, they’d take a look at your huge credit-card bills, delinquent car loan, and outsized mortgage debt and tell you to quit making loan payments and go on a spending spree.

    You’d say, “But I’ll lose the house!” And Republicans would say, “Heck, we lost the House. So what?”

    The other party is convinced that everything is free. Health care is free. College tuition is free. Parental leave is free. Not that parents need it, since daycare is also free. Democrats should go into a butcher shop and announce that beef is free… and get clocked on the head by a butcher wielding a frozen rib roast. (Except Democrats will ban meat because animals are free, too.)

    Are we in an era where all we can do is stand athwart history, yelling "Stop!"? I'd like to think not, but…

  • This being Pun Salad, we try to keep you abreast of current thought on that humorous genre. At the hoity-toity Paris Review, James Geary writes In Defense of Puns. Everyone knows that the Fall of Mankind was kicked off when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden apple. But… wait a minute, who said it was an apple?

    Apples appeared in 382 because that’s when Pope Damasus I asked Saint Jerome to translate the Old Latin Bible into the simpler Latin Vulgate, which became the definitive edition of the text for the next thousand years. In the Vulgate, the adjectival form of evilmalus, is malum, which also happens to be the word for “apple.” The similarity between malum (“evil”) and malum (“apple”) prompted Saint Jerome to pick that word to describe what Eve and Adam ate, thereby ushering sin into the world.

    The truth is, though, the apple is innocent, and this unjustly maligned fruit’s association with original sin comes down to nothing more than a pun.

    Geary's "defense" of puns only goes so far, however. Puns "about German sausage are generally considered the ." (I bet you can fill in the blank yourself.)

  • And, finally, good news from Slashdot: There Is No Link Between Insomnia and Early Death, Study Finds.

    Which allows me to make the cheap joke: that's great, because I was really losing sleep worrying about that.

The Phony Campaign

2018-11-18 Update

[phony baloney]

Welcome to our first update to our phony polling of the 2020 presidential contest. And there's lots of excitement, honest. Predictwise has wised up (or, better, the bettors at the sites Predictwise samples have wised up) and dropped the nomination probabilities of Caroline Kennedy, Michelle Obama, and Paul Ryan below our 3% criteria for inclusion. But to make up for that, they've brought in John Kasich, Bobby "Beto" O'Rourke, and (oh oh) Hillary Clinton.

Beto is especially impressive, since he has a 14% probability of grabbing the Democratic nomination, higher than any candidate besides Kamala Harris. (In contrast, our other "new" candidates, Hillary and Kasich, are just barely making our cut, each with a 3% probability.)

Our update table shows our current candidate crop, and, for each candidate, today's probability (again, from Predictwise) of getting the nomination of their parties, and the Google result count of searching for their names with "phony" appended. And, for candidates that we looked at in the previous week, the changes in both numbers.

Which (as noted before) is bogus. Look at Bernie: did over a half million pages labeling him a phony really disappear from the Web in a week? No, of course not.

And did nearly three million new web pages appear over the week calling Donald Trump a phony? Well, maybe… Um, probably not.

But we'll keep doing this, because it's fun.

Candidate NomProb Change
Donald Trump 71% -2% 4,990,000 +2,920,000
Beto O'Rourke 14% --- 1,170,000 ---
Nikki Haley 6% +1% 1,160,000 -330,000
Hillary Clinton 3% --- 733,000 ---
Kamala Harris 16% unch 529,000 +23,000
Mike Pence 7% unch 334,000 +137,000
Joe Biden 7% -2% 273,000 +67,000
Bernie Sanders 7% unch 239,000 -537,000
Elizabeth Warren 11% +1% 206,000 +27,000
Kirsten Gillibrand 4% -1% 150,000 -29,000
Sherrod Brown 3% unch 137,000 +12,000
Amy Klobuchar 4% -1% 99,100 -1,900
Cory Booker 3% -1% 70,600 +6,900
John Kasich 3% --- 43,300 ---

  • Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke probably has a high phony count due to the recent elections, when he was much in the news for losing to America's most-disliked senator, Rafael Edward "Ted" Cruz. News stories like this one from NBC are high in the Google rankings, reporting on President Trump's rally in support of Cruz:

    "Ted's opponent in this race is a stone-cold phony named Robert Francis O'Rourke, sometimes referred to as 'Beto,'" Trump told the crowd, mocking the Democrat's nickname, which he has gone by since childhood. "He pretends to be a moderate, but he's actually a radical, open borders left-winger."

    As Business Insider notes, it's only been a few years since Cruz and Trump were going at it, with Trump calling Cruz "lyin' Ted", tweeting out unflattering pictures of Heidi Cruz, etc. Cruz, for his part called Trump a "narcissist" and "serial philanderer", and there was that whole "New York values" thing.

    In all fairness, Trump is a narcissist and (at least used to be) a serial philanderer.

  • I, for one, encourage Hillary to get into the race. We all remember how shocked (shocked!) she was that Trump might not accept the results of the 2016 election. She was "appalled"! She called it "horrifying"! She called it "a direct threat to our democracy"!

    And now

    One year after losing the presidential race, 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is still questioning the “legitimacy” of President Trump’s victory, accusing Republicans of voter suppression tactics in swing states and Russians of influencing votes through a “disinformation campaign.”

    “I think that there are lots of questions about its legitimacy,” Clinton said of the election during a video interview posted online Friday by the liberal Mother Jones website.


    “I think [the Russian disinformation campaign] was one of the major contributors to the outcome,” she said. “Propaganda works. Advertising works. It’s a form of propaganda. So the Russians may have started out a little heavy-handed and clumsy about it, but they were clearly getting guided as to where to target a lot of their fraudulent claims and phony news.”

    Hillary, how can we miss you when you won't go away?

  • And President Trump got into the phony act too, complaining about a New York Times story:

    The NYT story by Maggie Haberman and Katie Rogers is here. Key allegation:

    In recent weeks, with his electoral prospects two years from now much on his mind, Mr. Trump has focused on the person who has most publicly tethered his fortunes to him. In one conversation after another he has asked aides and advisers a pointed question: Is Mike Pence loyal?

    Mr. Trump has repeated the question so many times that he has alarmed some of his advisers. The president has not openly suggested dropping Mr. Pence from the ticket and picking another running mate, but the advisers say those kinds of questions usually indicate that he has grown irritated with someone.

    Lots of entrail-reading there, based on anonymous sources ("nearly a dozen White House aides and others close to Mr. Trump"). And the story also gives the NYT a chance to resurrect …

    Mr. Trump has never completely forgotten that during the 2016 campaign Mr. Pence issued a disapproving statement the day after the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape was made public, on which the president was heard making comments boasting about grabbing women’s genitals.

    You know who else has never completely forgotten that? The New York Times.

Last Modified 2018-12-20 7:18 AM EDT


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

So, beguiled by the neat trailer, and undeterred by some mediocre reviews, Pun Son and I went to the Newington multiplex to see this. I assume the premise here is: let's make a mashup of a war picture and a horror picture. Why? Because we can.

It starts out as a war picture: a fleet of C-47s headed over France on the eve of D-Day with a bunch of paratroopers inside. Their mission is to take out a radio-jamming station just off the Normandy coast. Unfortunately, in a horrific display of special effects, German anti-aircraft guns destroy most of the planes and nearly all the soldiers. Just five guys—oops, make that four guys—make it to the ground in one piece. But their seemingly doomed mission must carry on.

As expected, they run into the local French Hot Resistance Babe, who both helps out and adds complications. But what's with the old lady hiding away in the FHRB's spare room? As it turns out, she's the victim of Evil Nazi Research, an effort to develop a serum to produce near-indestructible soldiers. But there are bad side effects out the wazoo. So the good guys aren't just fighting Nazis, they're also fighting Evil Nazi Zombies.

(Where are you going to put your Evil Nazi Research Lab? I'd suggest in the same building as your Evil Nazi Radio Jamming Station. I see synergistic results.)

So, it's OK. As I said, the special effects are very good. The plot is ludicrous and clichéd. I could have waited for the DVD.

Last Modified 2018-12-04 6:06 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Reason's Robby Soave notes the irony: The ACLU Condemns DeVos's Title IX Reforms, Says These Due Process Safeguards 'Inappropriately Favor the Accused'. (At least I think it might be irony. People tell me I am weak on that concept.)

    It's no surprise that victims' rights activists and their allies are furious about the Education Department's proposed changes to Title IX, the federal statute that deals with sex and gender discrimination on campus.

    It is surprising, however, to see the American Civil Liberties Union joining in this chorus. The ACLU has long defended the rights of accused terrorists, criminals, neo-Nazis, and the Westboro Baptist Church. The group works tirelessly to protect due process, even for the least sympathetic among us.

    It is darned odd that the ACLU seems to think that neo-Nazis have more due process rights than students accused of sexual misbehavior.

  • On a related matter, Stuart Reges, a computer science instructor at University of Washington, puts (appropriately for a computer science guy) a self-referential title on his Quillette article: Is It Sexual Harassment to Discuss this Article?.

    Jordan Peterson recently tweeted that, “The STEM fields are next on the SJW hitlist. Beware, engineers.”  I’m convinced that Peterson is correct and I feel that my ongoing case has allowed me to see a likely avenue of attack from those who support the equity agenda. They will characterize any discussion of sex differences, no matter how calm and rational, as a form of gender harassment which in turn constitutes sexual harassment. In other words, if you dare to discuss the science of sex differences—even at a university—there’s a good chance that you’ll be accused of violating US law.

    Dissenting from your employer's theology is a tough course to take, as ex-employees of Google, Facebook, etc. will attest. Reges is a brave guy.

  • Drew Cline of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy has a Thanksgiving metaphor for the Democrats now in legislative/executive council power in New Hampshire: Eat the turkey, not the goose.

    Concord is abuzz with speculation about the newly elected Democratic majority’s legislative agenda. It’s no mystery. At a panel sponsored by The DuPont Group and New England College on Friday, incoming Senate President Donna Soucy reminded the audience that Democrats campaigned on an agenda (called the Granite State Opportunity Plan), and they intend to govern by it.

    The priorities outlined in the plan are clear: Higher state spending on health and social services, education and infrastructure; increased subsidies for favored energy producers; more regulations on businesses; and higher business taxes.

    Fortunately Governor Sununu still has a working veto pen. That's not the strongest bulwark against turning New Hampshire into Maine, but it will have to do for a couple years.

  • At EconLog, Scott Sumner updates an old Goldwater quote: Extremism in the defense of subsidized liberty is a (conservative) vice. When it comes to health care…

    Our current income tax system with deductions for health insurance (contributions are both payroll and income tax free) is actually equivalent to a system with higher taxes and explicit government subsidies to buy health insurance. Thus instead of spending 8% of GDP on public health care, we are likely spending more than 10% of GDP, when tax breaks are added in. The way this distorts our behavior is a huge problem.

    When I talk to conservatives, I often feel like they are too inclined to defend our financial system and our health care system. They see the left criticize these two systems, and they rightly recoil from the socialist arguments used by the left. But just because the left is wrong in their proposed solutions, doesn’t mean that the left has not correctly identified some highly flawed policy regimes. Both regimes seem indefensible to me, not justifiable on either equity or efficiency grounds.

    It's a huge task to legislatively move people off the status quo in any direction. That's why the Obamacare "If you like it, you can keep it" lie was invented.

  • We got the sad news yesterday that William Goldman had passed away. At NR, Kyle Smith bids Farewell to a Hollywood Master.

    A frustrated musician-writer once wrote that the easiest thing in the world was to compose a passage of weird, moody background music, the kind of thing that could play against a scene of creepy suspense at the movies. The hardest thing, by contrast, is to do, even once, what Paul McCartney has done hundreds of times: compose a catchy tune or just a hook.

    So it goes in the screen trade: Coming up with a line that catches hold on the imagination and enters the language is what every screenwriter hopes to do. One who mastered it above virtually all others was William Goldman, who died Thursday at 87.

    “Follow the money.” “You crazy? The fall’ll probably kill you.” “Is that what you call giving cover?” “Who ARE those guys?” “Is it safe?” “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” “Inconceivable!” “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Even “follow the money” is Bill Goldman’s line, not WoodStein’s, and so is the most indelible line about Hollywood itself: “Nobody knows anything.”

    I was a devoted fan of Goldman's novels, too. I dearly loved the book version of The Princess Bride. For a long time, I thought less of the movie version because it didn't follow the book more closely.

    But Goldman knew what I didn't: you can't make a good movie that way.

  • A site calling itself besthealthdegrees.com has a neat, if morbid, infographic: Your Chances of Dying.

    Your Chances of Dying

    It suffers somewhat from not reporting risks using the same uniform metrics. For that, see the Wikipedia article on micromorts.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Yeesh, it snowed. Hope the snowblower starts. But first:

  • Eric Boehm reports the sad news at Reason: The Postal Service Lost $3.9 Billion Last Year.

    The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) finished fiscal year 2018 nearly $4 billion in the red—a whopping 44 percent increase in losses from the previous year, despite the fact that the post office saw revenue increase by more than $1 billion at the same time.

    In its annual fiscal report, released Wednesday, the USPS attributed more than $2 billion of the deficit to an "ongoing volume loss"—largely the result of fewer people using the government's mail system for sending letters—of 3.6 percent. The rest was the result of increasing payments for pensions and retiree health benefits.

    It's not a one-time deal, either. Increasing personnel costs are on a trajectory to continue multi-billion dollar losses as far as the eye can see.

    Privatization is the way out. It's been the way out for years, if not decades. But, as Eric notes, it's not in the cards, thanks to our craven politicians.

  • In NR, Michael Brendan Dougherty draws The Election’s Lesson for Democrats: Don’t Nominate Hillary Clinton.

    Political consultant Mark Penn wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Hillary Clinton not only will run for president again, but will prevail. He writes: “Mrs. Clinton has a 75% approval rating among Democrats, an unfinished mission to be the first female president, and a personal grievance against Mr. Trump, whose supporters pilloried her with chants of ‘Lock her up!’ This must be avenged.”

    Actually, it doesn’t. Not if Democrats want to keep winning.

    Michael notes (amusingly) Hillary's long career of blunders, lies, and uniting Republicans of all stripes against her.

    So all the Democrats need to do is avoid the Hill? I think Michael underestimates all the other ways Democrats can mess up. In the last half-century: Humphrey, McGovern, Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, Kerry. And Obama, who did OK for himself, but delivered Democrat carnage that they're only now climbing out of thanks to Trump.

  • Jonah Goldberg's column this week is on Stan Lee.

    Lee grew up professionally in this “Golden Age” of comics, but he also rebelled against it. While a member of the so-called Greatest Generation, Lee better represented the more ironic attitudes of the postwar generation. His superheroes struggled with their powers and their moral responsibilities. Spider-Man, the quintessential Marvel character (at least until the introduction of Wolverine) was a nerdy, angst-ridden teenager who only reluctantly accepted his role and the idea that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Lee’s heroes quarreled with each other, had romantic setbacks and sometimes even struggled to make the rent.

    The baby boomers, Lee’s target audience, were plagued with a great unease about living up to the legacy of their parents’ generation. “We are people of this generation,” begins the Port Huron Statement, the 1962 manifesto that largely launched the ’60s protest era, “bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit.” They believed they were special but didn’t know exactly what to do about it.

    My comic book days ended about 45 years ago. But I still like this bit, in the midst of batter:

    Dr. Doom: They don't call me the most dangerous man alive for nothing.

    Daredevil: You mean they pay you?

    (Gene Colan, I believe, but Stan was probably involved.)

  • Philip Greenspun notes: Women suing Dartmouth demanding damages sufficient to send every Dartmouth student to University of New Hampshire. (The women are suing because of alleged sexual improprieties, including rape, by Dartmouth facules.)

    There are approximately 4,300 undergraduates at Dartmouth. In-state tuition at University of New Hampshire is $18,500 per year (source). At rack rates, therefore, 4,300 students would pay $79.5 million at UNH. Assuming only a modest amount of financial aid, then, it would cost less to send all 4,300 of these undergrads to UNH than the amount of damages that was inflicted on these seven women.

    Well, yeah, but just for a year. And UNH would have no place to put them.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • At NR, George Will relates Harvard’s Admissions Policy Problem.

    In the hierarchy of pleasures, schadenfreude ranks second only to dry martinis at dusk, so conservatives are enjoying Harvard’s entanglement with two things it has not sufficiently questioned — regulatory government and progressive sentiment. The trial that recently ended in Boston — the judge’s ruling might be months away, and reach the U.S. Supreme Court — concerns whether Harvard’s admissions policy regarding Asian Americans is unjust, and whether the government should respond.

    Practically, the case pertains only to the few highly selective institutions that admit small portions of their applicants. But everyone, and especially conservatives, should think twice — or at least once — before hoping that government will minutely supervise how private institutions shape their student bodies.

    Mr. Will has a point there. Of course, Harvard (and other elite schools) were perfectly happy to support Federal dictation of higher-ed institution policies as long as they supported Progressive goals that they were supporting anyway.

    But what (indeed) is the difference between a college that discriminates against people of African descent and a college that discriminates against people of Asian descent? Does it make any sense to prohibit one and allow the other?

  • At Reason, Peter Suderman ponts out/asks: The Republican Tax Cuts Were a Political Failure. What Does That Mean for a Party That Agrees on Little Else?.

    When Republicans passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December of last year, they expected it to be the centerpiece of their midterm campaign. "This was a promise made. This is a promise kept," Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said at a news conference celebrating the bill's passage. "If we can't sell this to the American people, we ought to go into another line of work," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Judging by last week's midterm results, Republicans may need to update their résumés.

    The tax law permanently cut corporate tax rates and reduced individual income taxes through the middle of the next decade while increasing the deficit by more than $1 trillion. Republicans initially talked it up, tying it to a wave of corporate bonuses for workers. But the party quickly abandoned that argument in congressional races across the country. Polls found support dwindling, even among Republicans, while the already strong opposition increased among Democrats. A Gallup survey found that a majority of Americans said they saw no increase in their take-home pay.

    If Republicans can't make a convincing case for tax cuts, they might as well fold up their tents and go sit in a corner. They deserved to lose.

  • At Bleeding Heart Libertarians, Jacob T. Levy writes on Bombs, rhetorical and otherwise.

    Political speech inspires belief, and action.

    This shouldn’t be controversial, but it is. Assassination attempts against public figures who have been singled out for abuse by President Trump, and the massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue, have refocused attention on Trump’s incendiary rhetoric. He dismissed the idea that he might have any reason to “tone down” his language amidst the violence, suggesting that he might “tone it up” instead. And he has continued to attack some of those targeted by the mail bombs, including CNN, George Soros, and Tom Steyer. The president’s apologists have duly returned to their mantra that the president’s rhetoric is just a sideshow. Extremist political violence is written off as either radical evil or sociopathy, having no causes, and the president’s language is minimized as having no effects. He can’t possibly have made people so much worse.

    But he can have set out a horrifyingly false vision of calling them to be better.

    Yes, there's been incendiary rhetoric and violence on the other side too. And some of these guys were just ticking bombs waiting to go off anyway. Doesn't excuse Trump from making things worse.

  • Oh, hey, that was pretty somber. Sorry. But someone posted this on Facebook, and I laughed, so here you go:

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • At the WaPo, Megan McArdle asks a darn good question: How did America end up raising Generation Paranoia?.

    In an 1827 essay titled “On the Feeling of Immortality in Youth,” English author William Hazlitt noted that “no young man believes he shall ever die . . . to be young is to be as one of the immortal gods.” That glorious fearlessness is the natural inheritance of every generation of youth. Except maybe the current one.

    As Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt chronicle in their new book, “The Coddling of the American Mind,” today’s young people tend to be obsessed with safety, troubled by a pervasive sense of threat. Consequently, understandably, they’re anxious and depressed.

    Keyboards have been worn to nubs by young writers fretting that they’ll never be able to pay off student loans, buy a house or retire. And those are their minor worries. In an Atlantic article headlined “College Is Different for the School-Shooting Generation,” Ashley Fetters describes a rising generation that constantly scans rooms for exit points and games out active-shooter scenarios.

    Paranoia driven by moral panic isn't a new thing, but I wonder: Is it worse this time around? Maybe. Gotta read that Lukianoff/Haidt book, I think.

  • But, speaking of driving moral panics, David Harsanyi has some advice for your doctor (hey, there's a switch): Yes, Doctors Should ‘Stay In Their Lane’ On Gun Policy.

    What kind of ignorant troglodyte would tell a doctor to mind his own business?

    This was, in essence, the question an incredulous media was asking after the National Rifle Association disparaged the American College of Physicians (ACP) for promoting an array of gun-control regulations last week. “Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane,” the NRA tweeted. “Half of the articles in Annals of Internal Medicine are pushing for gun control. Most upsetting, however, the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves.”

    As Mrs. Salad will tell you, many doctors talk out of their hats on nutrition issues. Harsanyi's conclusion:

    Most of the “appropriate” measures ACP floats were already on the books in California when the Thousand Oaks mass shooting occurred. Yet the ACP report is teeming with long-standing, highly debatable contentions about guns that have as much to with the wounds doctors treat as their angry reaction has to do with effective gun laws. That’s fine as a matter of activism, but there’s nothing rational or unique about this kind of positioning. And the NRA has every right to push back against groups that use science to conceal their political arguments.

    Hey, whatever happened to all those people who yelled that they bleeping loved science? I kind of miss them.

  • Although maybe some medical so-called "professionals" should get out of the lane they've claimed for themselves. According to Bruce Bawer at PJMedia: After Thousand Oaks, It's Time to Dethrone the Mental-Health 'Experts'. He takes particular note that the Thousand Oaks killer was examined by those "experts" who judged that he was "of no danger to himself or others."

    The bottom line here is that all of this so-called mental health expertise is, with a very few exceptions, a scam. The ranks of psychiatrists and psychologists are filled with incompetents who have no business deciding whether or not a mentally ill person should be hospitalized – or, once that person is hospitalized, have no business deciding whether to send him home. Topping off their incompetence is, in all too many instances, an overweening arrogance. You might think that if everyone who is closest to a person thinks he needs help, that fact would carry some weight with the psych professionals. On the contrary, one often gets the impression that these practitioners enjoy, and even pride themselves on, dismissing the pleas of a potential patient's loved ones. Perhaps they resent the idea of family members playing doctor or making diagnoses.

    I'm all for getting charlatans out of the decision-making loop. Bawer seems to think this will tilt the scales in favor of "protecting public safety" at the expense of "patient freedom". I'm uncomfortable with that bit.

  • Kevin D. Williamson recounts (in an "NRPlus Member article", don't know what that means) Florida’s Shame, and Ours.

    Conspiracy theories are bad for civic life.

    So are conspiracies.

    I wonder if there is one mentally normal adult walking these fruited plains — even the most craven, abject, brain-dead partisan Democrat — who believes that what has been going on in Broward County, Fla., is anything other than a brazen attempt to reverse the Republican victories in the state’s Senate, gubernatorial, and (not to be overlooked) agriculture commissioner’s races. I cannot imagine that there is, but it is really quite something to see partisan Democrats — the same people who pretend to believe that the 2016 presidential election was invalid because Boris and Natasha posted something on Facebook — watch not only utterly contented but with joy in their hearts as the rolling crime wave that is Broward County elections supervisor Brenda Snipes and her coconspirators try to actually steal an election or three.

    And it gets worse. I haven't been paying enough attention to judge the conspiracy charge; I suspect, however, that a lot of the people demanding ironclad smoking-gun evidence are being intentionally obtuse.

  • Michelle Obama has a book out! Fortunately, some folks are paid to read it, like Joe Setyon of Reason. Here's something he noticed: Michelle Obama Felt 'the Shadow of Affirmative Action' as Princeton Undergrad.

    Michelle Obama felt "the shadow of affirmative action" as an undergraduate student at Princeton University, the former first lady writes in her new book, Becoming.

    Obama, who graduated in 1985, says she sometimes wondered why she had been accepted into Princeton, a majority-white school, in the first place. "It was impossible to be a black kid at a mostly white school and not feel the shadow of affirmative action," Obama writes. "You could almost read the scrutiny in the gaze of certain students and even some professors, as if they wanted to say, 'I know why you're here.'" This was often "demoralizing," Obama says, while acknowledging she "was just imagining some of it."

    My guess is that Michelle probably would have gotten into Princeton on color-blind criteria.

  • I'm a longtime Jeopardy! fan, so this Mental Floss article was like catnip: Alex Trebek Knows He Sometimes Sounds Like a 'Disappointed Dad' on Jeopardy.

       If longtime Jeopardy host Alex Trebek seems disappointed any time a contestant misses a seemingly simple clue, it's because he is. Or at the very least, coming off as stern and perhaps a little smug is part of his television persona.

    As The Ringer once put it, "Trebek has two settings: mildly, politely impressed and Disappointed Dad." Now, in a recent interview with Vulture, Trebek has addressed the perception that he not-so-secretly judges contestants with an air of paternal reproach. As it turns out, he knows exactly what he's doing. "I know that 'You've disappointed daddy' is a tone I'm striking," he said. "It's also, "How can you not get this? This is not rocket science."

    Alex is … Alex, sui generis. Criticizing him for the way he acts? You might as well criticize water for being wet.

The Death of Stalin

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

It's billed at IMDB as "Comedy , Drama , History". But prospective viewer be warned: it's very dark humor. And as that Stalin t-shirt proclaims: dark humor is like food; not everyone gets it.

But I pretty much got it, I think. It is a based-on-fact movie about the events in 1953, beginning shortly before the Boss's demise, continuing until shortly after his funeral, and the inevitable power struggle is resolved. It is a only slightly sped-up good-parts version of actual events.

It is a satirical picture of a society powered largely by terror. Violence is rarely pictured directly; the movie's R rating is based mostly on its language. If people running afoul of Stalin are lucky, it's off to the Gulag; otherwise it's a bullet in the head. No less fearful are those ostensibly in power directly underneath the Beloved Leader and Teacher of Progressive Mankind. But neither are they bound by any silly rules; when it's clear that there will need to be a new ruler, the competition quickly becomes feral, as former "comrades" realize it's betray-or-be-betrayed.

You ask: how can that be funny? It's hard to explain. Certainly because of all the absurdity involved, and knowing that we're watching this from our comfy couches, and not as a participant or victim.

Acting is first-rate. According to IMDB's trivia page, the director decided to not even try for Russian accents. So Steve Buscemi as Nikita Khrushchev sounds… just like Steve Buscemi.

And Michael Palin plays Molotov as the totally craven toady that he was; a Monty Python parody without mercy.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • A week after the election, I think it's safe to evaluate the predictions I made.

    As previously noted, I thought that the UNH Survey Center's Granite State Poll was too Democrat-lening on the three races it reported. I was right.

    I also thought Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight website was too Democrat-leaning; when I typed, the average of their models predicted a GOP Senate pickup of 0.5 seats; it appears they'll get at least 2, probably 3.

    FiveThirtyEight was pretty close on the House side. Although, in the early AM of Election Day, their average model predicted a gain of 39 House seats for the Democrats. I didn't think they'd do that well. And, although there are a number of races still to be called, the Democrats are +32 at Real Clear Politics, so I'm claiming victory here too.

    So, five for five. Bottom line: you can bet on Republicans to beat the spread, even if they don't win.

  • I really liked this article by Matt Welch in the current print Reason: Mad Genius. It's about the late Lanny Friedlander, who cranked out the first issue of Reason fifty years ago.

    (And when I say "cranked", I mean that literally. On a mimeograph. Youngsters may need to look that technology up.)

    Anyway, Lanny had psychological problems. After selling Reason to Robert Poole, Tibor Machan, and Manuel Klausner, he wound up institutionalized, on and off his anti-schizophrenic medication, losing touch with (a) the magazine he founded and (b> to a certain extent, reality.

    Do you find this as touching as I do?

    Yet so complete was Friedlander's break from his Reason-founding past that even [late-in-life attorney and fiduciary George] Murphy did not believe his friend's account of his own biography. "Lanny was telling me that he was this great graphic artist and he started a magazine and everything, and of course I'm thinking that this was the psychosis, you know. I was all incredulous."

    Interesting throughout.

  • How unprincipled is Donald Trump? Specifically, Thomas Firey of EconLib wonders: Will Trump Join the "Fight for $15?".

    As is now well understood, Trump has few policy interests beyond managing trade and suppressing immigration. Further, he’s an economic populist who has championed plenty of left-wing causes in the past. So he’d have little compunction about abandoning a Republican economic policy and embracing a Democratic one that has blue-collar appeal—and one that would impose hardship on immigrants and minorities to boot.

    That’s why I believe Trump will become a loud proponent of increasing the minimum wage—perhaps all the way to the political left’s ideal of $15 an hour.

    A horrible idea, but as the tariff thing shows, Trump is no friend of free markets.

  • Daniel J. Mitchell writes a longish article with many links describing The Harmful Campaign Against Vaping and E-Cigarettes.

    In an ideal world, the discussion and debate about how (or if) to tax e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn, and other tobacco harm-reduction products would be guided by science. …In the real world, however, politicians are guided by other factors. There are two things to understand… First, this is a battle over tax revenue. Politicians are concerned that they will lose tax revenue if a substantial number of smokers switch to options such as vaping. …Second, this is a quasi-ideological fight. Not about capitalism versus socialism, or big government versus small government. It’s basically a fight over paternalism, or a battle over goals. For all intents and purposes, the question is whether lawmakers should seek to simultaneously discourage both tobacco use and vaping because both carry some risk (and perhaps because both are considered vices for the lower classes)? Or should they welcome vaping since it leads to harm reduction as smokers shift to a dramatically safer way of consuming nicotine?

    I don't vape or smoke anything, but as previously noted, my default position is that the state should not be in the business of telling people what they can and can't imbibe, ingest, inject, or inhale. Unfortunately, that's a very minority position.

  • I still watch Saturday Night Live, mainly out of habit, and it's still funny in spots. The TiVo makes it easy to skip commercials and the (usually not-my-cup-of-tea) musical guests. But last Saturday's was kind of special. At NR, David French The Dan Crenshaw Moment.

    Given the spirit of our times, things could have gone so differently. On November 3, when Saturday Night Live comic Pete Davidson mocked Texas Republican Dan Crenshaw’s eye patch, saying he looked like a “hit man in a porno movie” — then adding, “I know he lost his eye in war or whatever” — it was a gift from the partisan gods.

    A liberal comic had gone too far. He had mocked a man who was maimed in a horrific IED attack, an attack that had taken the life of his interpreter and nearly blinded him for life. He mocked a courageous man’s pain. And thus Crenshaw had attained the rarest position for a Republican politician: aggrieved-victim status. He was free to swing away.

    But that's not what happened. You can click through for David's description, which I recommend. Here's the clip, though:

    I was moved. Honest.

  • An interesting post at the Volokh Conspiracy, by the head Volokh, Eugene, looking at the recent addition to our state's constitution: N.H. Constitution Now Protects "Right to Live Free from Governmental Intrusion in Private or Personal Information". He asks:

    My question: What do you think this means?

    1. That all governmental searches of private or personal information (and all subpoenas of such information) are now unconstitutional, so that the government can't, for instance, get your e-mail records even with probable cause and a warrant?
    2. That such searches and subpoena require a probable cause and a warrant (language that the provision does not contain, though section 19 of the New Hampshire bill of rights, the existing search and seizure provision, does)?
    3. That such intrusions may be allowed, but only if they are narrowly tailored to a compelling government interest, to borrow a test that has sometimes been used for other facially categorical rights?
    4. That traditionally accepted intrusions are grandfathered in as legitimate, but that ones introduced after the amendment is enacted are not?
    5. That the public is essentially delegating to courts the responsibility and authority to turn this into some meaningful test that accommodates both privacy rights and the need to gather information in order to enforce the laws?
    6. Something else?

    My only observation (as a comment on the post): this is an add-on to the NH Constitution's existing Article 2, in place since 1784: "All men have certain natural, essential, and inherent rights among which are, the enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing, and protecting, property; and, in a word, of seeking and obtaining happiness."

    I'm very much not a lawyer, but I can do arithmetic: The state has somehow managed to muddle through 234 years with this "natural, essential, and inherent" language. I don't know how many times Article 2 has been invoked in court decisions, but the new language shouldn't be any more difficult to interpret than the previous language.

  • Elliot Kaufman writes at the (maybe paywalled) WSJ: Even the Libertarians Get Luckey Sometimes.

    What do you call a Silicon Valley Republican who wants to have friends? A libertarian.

    Ask virtual-reality pioneer Palmer Luckey. Oculus, the company he founded, was acquired by Facebook in 2014. Last year Facebook fired Mr. Luckey amid fallout from his $10,000 donation to a pro-Trump group founded by internet trolls and extremists. The Journal reports that before Mr. Luckey’s firing, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hatched a plan to rehabilitate him. Internal emails show Mr. Zuckerberg personally drafted a public statement and pressured Mr. Luckey to use it. The crux was a denial that Mr. Luckey supported Donald Trump. Instead, he was to say he’d be “voting for Gary”—Johnson, the Libertarian nominee.

    I was employed for a long time by the University Near Here, which was about as friendly to dissenting political views as you might expect. Still, it was nowhere near as hostile as the Silicon Valley biggies.

Last Modified 2018-11-14 11:35 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson muses on the folks who have nothing better to do than … um … let's say "engage in group activism": The Lonely Mob.

    The age of easy and instantaneous connectivity, globalization, and related phenomena have created a new kind of “lonely crowd,” full of people who feel isolated, inadequate, insignificant — and resentful of being made to feel that way. There are many ways to assuage that loneliness, but many of them — family life, religion — have fallen out of fashion. Ordinary politics provides insufficient drama, as anybody who has observed the real business of government in action knows. Fantasy politics — I’m fighting the Nazis! — offers a lot more emotional oomph.

    It’s a sad spectacle. It’s also a dangerous one.

    I feel isolated, inadequate, and insignificant all the time, but I'm cool with it.

  • At Reason, Nick Gillespie has a good idea for Veterans Day (Observed): Instead of Making Today About Trump, Let's Remember the Dead of World War I.

    And take some time to read Rudyard Kipling's Epitaphs of the War, penned between 1914 and 1918. Kipling, who carries a whole hell of a lot of baggage of his own, was originally in favor of the war and helped his son get a commission despite eyesight so poor it was disqualifying. His son was killed, the body never recovered. Kipling wasn't a pacifist by any stretch and he didn't necessarily think World War I was avoidable so much as insanely and incompetently prosecuted. Whatever his thinking, he penned lines that still burn with anger and resentment, including these:

    If any question why we died,
    Tell them, because our fathers lied.

    Every leader should read Epitaphs before considering military action.

    … but they probably won't.

  • We've been pointing out a few articles pointing to the New Hampshire's GOP funding disadvantage in the last election. Jon DiPietro dissents at GraniteGrok: Money Is Not the Problem for NH GOP.

    Here is the key question as far as I’m concerned: Did Democrats persuade more people because they spent more money or did Democrats raise more money because they persuaded more people?

    I believe that blaming the spending gap is a dangerous misdiagnosis for Republicans. If the party believes that the answer is simply to figure out a way to raise more money, they will be treating the symptom instead of the disease.

    Jon's column argues, persuasively, that the NH GOP (and probably the GOP nationwide, I'd guess) has failed to adapt sufficiently to a heavily networked world.

  • At EconLog, Bryan Caplan urges us to resist The Siren of Democratic Fundamentalism.

    Almost all economists, regardless of ideology, would scoff at the following argument: “Market decisions are voluntary, so we should respect market outcomes.” But say, “Political decisions are democratic, so we should respect political outcomes,” and even economists salute.

    Every economics textbook explain how market outcomes can go wrong. Externalities. Monopoly. Asymmetric information. Irrationality. Democratic outcomes can easily go wrong for all the same reasons.

    Can, and do. (And I'd argue, far more likely to.)

  • At Power Line, Paul Mirengoff notes a problem at that college on the other side of the state: Another Dartmouth Disgrace. Specifically, David Horowitz was treated shabbily in an October appearance there; his open letter to Phil Hanlon, Dartmouth's prez:

    On October 23, I spoke at your college. I was invited by members of College Republicans and Students Supporting Israel. They probably wanted to hear what I had to say because I am one of the most prominent conservative intellectuals in America, having published over twenty books, three of which were New York Times best-sellers and one of which was nominated for a National Book Award.

    Despite my credentials, and even though these conservative students pay the same tuition – $75,000 per year – as your leftwing students, I was forced to raise the money to underwrite my visit and lecture. This was particularly galling to the Dartmouth conservatives who invited me, because the previous spring Dartmouth’s “Office of Pluralism and Leadership” sponsored a visit by notorious anti-Semite and terrorist supporter Linda Sarsour – who has no academic credentials to speak of – underwriting her expenses and paying her a reported $10,000 honorarium for her talk.

    Of course, a mob of "progressive" Dartmouth students invaded and disrupted the event; campus "security" officers did nothing. And the student newspaper joined in on the slagging.

The Phony Campaign

2020 Kickoff

[phony baloney]

With the 2020 New Hampshire Presidential Primary only (approximately) 450 days away, we once again fire up our quadrennial analysis of the relative authenticity of the crop of candidates for the office of President of the United States.

Or: how phony are these people, anyway?

Our guidelines:

  • To start, we build our candidate list from PredictWise, David Rothschild's site that aggregates data from betting markets. (Currently it appears he's only looking at Betfair.) Our inclusion criterion: if Predictwise shows someone with a 3% chance or greater to win their party's nomination, they are included in the polling.

  • We then Google each candidate's name (in quotes), adding the word "phony" to the search string.

  • And we scrape off Google's result count at the top of the first page of search results. And that tells us the current level of perceived phoniness for each candidate.

  • We hear you screaming: No, it doesn't! And you're right. We were kidding just then. This is a totally unscientific, meaningless, invalid metric. You might get different results. You probably will get different results.

  • It is kind of fun, through.

  • We will attempt to tabulate and post our results every Sunday from now until November 1, 2020. We'll append a few observations on the pages we find by following the Google links. Probably mostly snark, but there have been grazes with profound insights in past elections.

Without further ado, our initial results, fourteen(!) candidates, sorted in order of decreasing phoniness:

Candidate Nomination
Result Count
Donald Trump 73% 2,070,000
Nikki Haley 5% 1,490,000
Bernie Sanders 7% 776,000
Caroline Kennedy 13% 633,000
Kamala Harris 16% 506,000
Michelle Obama 3% 242,000
Joe Biden 9% 206,000
Paul Ryan 3% 202,000
Mike Pence 7% 197,000
Elizabeth Warren 10% 179,000
Kirsten Gillibrand 5% 179,000
Sherrod Brown 3% 125,000
Amy Klobuchar 5% 101,000
Cory Booker 4% 63,700

  • Okay, first: Caroline Kennedy?! A 13% shot at the Democratic nomination?! Are you kidding?

    I think things are a little hinky there. A delusional bettor at Betfair, maybe.

  • Donald Trump is, of course, the undisputed phony leader. A lot of the recent phony news also involves Senator-elect Mitt Romney. Example, from the New York Post:

    Romney during the 2016 presidential campaign called Trump “a phony, a fraud,” but appeared to moderate his view after Trump became president.

    “President Trump was not the person I wanted to become the nominee of our party, but he’s president now. The policies he’s promoted have been pretty effective. And I support a lot of those policies,” he said during an October Republican rally in Arizona, adding that he would disagree when he felt there was a need.

    Mitt is not (yet) on our candidate list, but I'll dust off (one more time) Jonah Goldberg's quip about what Mitt Romney seems to be saying if you hit the mute button while watching him on TV: What do I have to do to put you in this BMW today?

  • We have a Kamala/Spartacus phony twofer from Matt Lewis at the Daily Beast: Liberals Are Now in Love With Cory Booker and Kamala Harris? That’s What’s Wrong With Liberalism. Matt was unimpressed with their performances at the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings:

    They’re both auditioning of course, but are they auditioning well? In attempting to learn the lessons of Trump’s victory, Democrats are missing some key ingredients. Trump’s appeal wasn’t (solely) about his status as a fighter. It also had to do with the fact that he was (a) authentic and (b) an outsider. Harris and Booker, conversely, are demonstrating the exact opposite attributes. Simply put, they look like phony politicians. (Another thing about Trump is that he is utterly shameless. You can’t fake that, either.)

    When Donald Trump looks more authentic than you, Senators, you've got a phony problem.

  • In second place, Nikki Haley scores … higher than Biden? Higher than Warren? Come on, people. But she recently got a phony bump from the New York Times: Nikki Haley Pokes Fun at Trump, and Herself, at Al Smith Dinner. And here's a good one:

    When the president first learned of her Indian heritage, she said, “He asked me if I was from the same tribe as Elizabeth Warren,” the Democratic senator from Massachusetts who may challenge Mr. Trump in 2020. He has ridiculed Ms. Warren’s claims of Native American ancestry.

    And (remember this is an article from the NYT):

    Ms. Haley also chided The New York Times for an article last month that left the misimpression that the Trump administration had spent more than $52,000 on curtains for her diplomatic residence. The curtains had been ordered by the Obama administration. (The Times corrected the article to make that clear.)

    But Ms. Haley wasn’t satisfied. She joked that the newspaper had merely “changed the headline to ‘Obama Creates High-Paying Jobs in the Curtain Industry.”

    Ms. Haley also complained about other fake headlines, including one that said the rapper Kanye West had been sworn in as her replacement. “Oh wait, that could really happen,” she said.

    I confess I love Nikki Haley. And when I say "love", I mean in a way that's completely inappropriate, given our age difference, our respective marital statuses, our incompatible social circles, geographical separation, and a host of additional irreconcilable differences.

  • I am also unsure that Senator Bernie (who would be 79 on Inauguration Day, 2021) is a viable candidate, but Betsy McCaughey does a phony number on his "Medicare for All" legislation, deeming it a prescription for failure:

    Sen. Bernie Sanders says that because Medicare is “the most popular, successful and cost-effective health insurance in the country,” everyone should have it, regardless of age.

    But watch out for the bait-and-switch. Truth is, Sanders’ “Medicare for All” legislation actually abolishes Medicare and Medicare Advantage, as well as employer-provided coverage, union plans and plans people buy for themselves. Every person, whether they want to or not, would be forced into a government-run system with the phony name “Medicare for All.” The quality of your medical care would plummet.

    Wait, let me finish my thought… our so-far oldest president, Ronald Reagan, was 77 when he left office. Bernie starting when he's 79? I don't think so.

Veterans Day 2018

Veterans Day 2018

… thank a vet near you.

Hail, Caesar!

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

A fun movie from the Coen brothers. Really took too long for me to get around to watching it.

It's the tale of a few days in the life of the Hollywood studio of Capitol Pictures, which is in the business of churning out all kinds of early-50's movies: religious epics, musicals, dramas, comedies, you name it. Overseeing it all is Eddie Mannix, played by Josh Brolin; he's got his eye on everything, moves his stars around movies like pieces on a chessboard, and is always ready to quash some scandal before it can erupt in the gossip rags. Eddie is considering a job offer from Lockheed, and you can see it's tempting to jump out of his world of high-pressure in service of frivolity.

Specifically: one of the stars of the religious epic Hail, Caesar!, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), has been kidnapped by a group of Communist screenwriters. The studio is also trying to transition cowboy-movie star Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) into a more serious flick; the problem being that he's got no idea how to act, or how to lose the oater accent. He's a nice guy, sure, but his new director, Laurence Laurentz, is flummoxed about how to deal with him.

And DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson), an Esther Williams-type star of swimming musicals, has a bun in the oven, another potential scandal. Also, she's finding it extremely difficult to fit into her mermaid-tail costume.

Alden Ehrenreich, in case you forgot, and who could blame you if you had, played the young Han in Solo this year. He's much better in this movie.

Also, if you watch it, keep an eye out for Frances McDormand in a brief but hilarious scene. I didn't recognize her until I looked her up at IMDB.

I think there's a underlying religious theme here, but I didn't feel like thinking too hard about it.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson notes the latest in the ongoing struggle: Democrats vs. the Constitution. (It's billed as a "NRPlus Member Article", but I have no idea what that means to non-NRPlus peons.)

    Having taken control of the House of Representatives, the Democrats face an enormous and perhaps insurmountable political barrier to achieving their agenda. It’s not the Republicans. It’s the Constitution.

    “Kill the Constitution” would not be a winning campaign slogan for the Democrats, and you will rarely hear an American politician running against the Constitution as such. But it is the Constitution and the American constitutional order — not Senator McConnell — that currently vexes them.

    When your goal is power over as many people as possibile, you can't let a little thing like Federalism stand in your way.

  • Jonah Goldberg's column (via AEI) concerns Jeff Sessions and Trump’s strange definition of loyalty. Bottom line:

    This is all one piece of the broader tapestry of what Trumpism always boils down to when put to the test: a cult of personality. Support of the man is more important than support of anything else, including Trump’s own agenda. I disagree with Sessions on quite a few things, but the notion that he isn’t a conservative is silly. More importantly, the idea that he’s not a conservative — or a man of integrity — simply because he wouldn’t display blind loyalty to the president is grotesquely unconservative.

    Sessions resigned from the Senate to become attorney general because he thought he could accomplish important things. Trump had him fired (he refused to even talk to Sessions personally) because at the end of the day, the only truly important thing in Trump world is Trump.

    I should note, like a good sometimes-libertarian, that Sessions made us sometimes-mad. Reason's Jacob Sullum lists 8 Ways in Which Jeff Sessions Sucked. What, only 8?

  • The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) notes a slight problem for professors at state universities who irk a sufficiently litigious community: UC Davis law professor subjected to open records request over criticism of financial groups.

    As with many of these incidents, this story begins with an outspoken professor’s criticism of a powerful industry group. This time, it’s University of California, Davis School of Law professor Dennis J. Ventry Jr.’s opposition to a free tax filing service offered by financial services companies such as Intuit and H&R Block. He argues that these services scam low-income taxpayers, and that Congress should reject company lobbying efforts to make the service a permanent Internal Revenue Service program.

    Ventry’s writings earned him an open records request from the companies’ trade coalition “seeking everything Mr. Ventry had written or said about the companies this year, including emails, text messages, voice mail messages and hand-jotted notes,” according to the Times. UC Davis “estimated that it spent 80 to 100 hours complying with the request,” which “generated 1,189 pages of documents.”

    Looking for a silver lining, there's the Streisand Effect: going after Ventry makes the Intuit/Block ripoff more widely known.

  • Via Marginal Revolution, an article in "Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review" by Robert Laszewski (the title of which might lead you to think: Longest Article Ever): What Neither the Republicans Nor the Democrats Understand About Obamacare.

    Republicans have seemingly never understood that Obamacare has worked well for low-income people who get the biggest premium and out-of-pocket subsidies. It has worked well for those eligible for Medicaid in the states that have expanded it. And, it has been critically important for those with preexisting conditions. And, that three deep red states--Nebraska, Utah, and Idaho--voted last week to expand Medicaid clearly says that even in the reddest states what people want is health insurance security not only for themselves but for their neighbors.

    But what Democrats have never been willing to admit is that the program has been devastating for the middle class--those who get no subsidy, or a relatively small subsidy--for the way it has wrecked their individual health insurance market.

    But, dumb as they are, the Democrats were able to figure out how to make the pre-existing condition thing a workable campaign issue.

  • For Granite Staters, Michael Graham of NH Journal has The Midterm Numbers You Need to Know. Well, you may not actually need to know them. But he brought out this interesting factoid from my very own Congressional District:

    “The Democrats did an unbelievable job of drilling down into the lower-tier GOTV universes,” Greg Moore, Executive Director of Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire, told NHJournal. “Net-net, they brought out 320,000 of their folks and the conservatives brought out 260,000.

    “To put that into perspective, [Republican] Eddie Edwards in the NH-01 race got 6,000 more votes than Republican Frank Guinta did in 2014–and Guinta won by 9,000 votes. Edwards lost by 24,000.”

    I have considered myself only nominally Republican for a number of years, but I'm registered that way. And (as an anecdotal data point) I got a lot of mail asking me to vote for the Democrat, Chris Pappas. (I might have got a GOTV phone call, but I'm not sure about that; I hardly ever answer the phone unless caller ID is clearly someone I want to talk to.)

  • And Drew Cline of the Josiah Bartlett Center has more facts, these concentrating on spending: The New Hampshire Democratic Party’s financial advantage over the GOP is enormous. Just one I liked:

    Campaign finance reports filed with the Secretary of State’s office through October 31 (the last report filed before the election) show that the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s three statewide political action committees — the New Hampshire Democratic Committee, the Senate Democratic Caucus, and the Committee to Elect House Democrats — outspent their Republican counterparts by $3 million. The Democratic PACs spent $4.09 million. Their Republican counterparts — the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, the Senate Republican Majority PAC, and the Committee to Elect House Republicans — spent just $1.1 million.

    Pretty sad. But (as Steve MacDonald points out at GraniteGrok) when Republican "leaders" are sounding just as economically stupid as Democrats, it's tough to work up a lot of sympathy.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Bryan Caplan speaks out Against Veneration:

    I have close friends who venerate Adam Smith, John Rawls, Friedrich Hayek, James Buchanan, John Maynard Keynes, Ayn Rand, John Stuart Mill, Ludwig von Mises, Paul Samuelson, Deirdre McCloskey, Elinor Ostrom, Hannah Arendt, Alexis de Tocqueville, David Hume, Murray Rothbard, Paul Krugman, or Thomas Jefferson.

    “Venerate.” I choose the word with care. “Venerates X” means far more than “Admires X’s intellectual achievements.” It means, rather, than you (a) ascribe superlative and wide-ranging intellectual insight to X, and (b) energetically lobby to get X ample credit for their supposedly remarkable intellectual contributions. Thus, people who venerate Hayek don’t merely say, “Hayek made several fruitful points.” People who venerate Hayek maintain that Hayek’s work is packed with wisdom – and persistently advertise Hayek’s genius to the world.

    Read on for Bryan's argument that veneration is a misguided take.

    I see a lot of names I like on Bryan's list, although I don't think any of them reach the veneration threshold. McCloskey and Hayek come pretty close, though.

    People who read this blog know that I am a dedicated fanboy of a few current writers. Does that imply veneration? I'll try to watch out for that.

  • Except for Chris Sununu, it was a pretty bad election for Republicans in New Hampshire. Michael Graham notes the inevitable sour grapes: "The Party Let Us Down,” NH Republicans Complain. But Will They Pay Up to Solve the Problem?.

    New Hampshire Republican candidates, activists and soon-to-be-former legislators are bemoaning their party’s devastating losses in the midterm elections, and they’re putting at least part of the blame on the leadership–or lack thereof– of the NHGOP.

    Republicans attending a midterm post-mortem event hosted by NHJournal on Wednesday repeatedly brought up the fact that the GOP state organization–which is underfunded and relies heavily on volunteers– is unable to compete with the Democrats and their paid, full-time staff.

    For all Democrats' griping about "big money" in politics, they seem to snap it up pretty fast. Here in my Congressional district, at last report, the D guy raised about 1.9 times more cash than the R guy.

  • Our Google LFOD alert rang for a heartwarming story in the Brattleboro Reformer: Chroma celebrates 'bright future'. In Vermont. Chroma Technology's president, Paul Millman, was a tad in-your-face:

    Millman joked that comparing the New Hampshire state motto of "Live Free or Die" to Vermont's "Freedom and Unity" made it an easy decision to stay in Vermont. "Where's the choice?" he said.

    This was at a meeting celebrating an expansion of Chroma's workplace, allowing it to add 25 employees to its current 113. We can pick up certain clues from the article. In attendance: US Senator Patrick Leahy (Democrat) and Governor Phil Scott (Republican). And:

    Leahy and Scott both were instrumental in helping to fund the expansion. The project took advantage of federal New Market tax credits, community development block grants, the Vermont Employment Growth Incentive, the Windham County Economic Development Program funded by Entergy Nuclear, as well as other state and federal programs. The company worked closely with the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp., as well as the town of Rockingham, on its needed expansion plan.

    So Chroma is a Classic Creature of Crony Capitalism, with obvious carefully-tended "bipartisan" political connections. How many of those jobs, I wonder, are dedicated to tending the governmental funding spigots, and looking out for more federal/state/local teats on which to suck?

  • LFOD also appears in Michael Moffett's Concord Monitor open letter to DJT: Now is a good time to retire, Mr. President. Michael's closing argument:

    Freed from having to put all that time, energy, emotion and wherewithal into a re-election campaign, you could focus on consolidating and expanding upon achievements that, ironically, would more likely be preserved under a president other than yourself. You could be an extraordinary president emeritus.

    And you could remain the brawler who’ll fight back when needed – in New Hampshire and elsewhere. Combine your strengths with a new ticket as part of a winning team in 2020 for the sake of the country.

    Let your final decision reflect courage and wisdom – not ego and hubris.

    Straight talk indeed.

    Live Free or Die.

    Fine. Good idea, in fact. But asking Trump to forgo ego and hubris is like asking Bill Clinton to waive his book advance. Not gonna happen.

  • [Amazon Link]

    And Matt Simon op-eds in the Union Leader on the upcoming report of the study commission on marijuana. It looks good!

    Now that two-thirds of Granite Staters and two-thirds of Americans believe cannabis should be legal for use by adults, it has become apparent that legalization is no longer a question of “if” — it’s a question of “when and how.” The commission’s report goes a long way toward answering the question of “how,” but only the Legislature and governor can decide “when.”

    While considering that question, New Hampshire policymakers should remember a fact that is not included in the commission’s report: cannabis is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and most residents of the “Live Free or Die” state are ready to see it treated that way.

    The LFOD state should have been out in front on this issue, but (hey, I have an idea) let's get rid of all state laws that try to tell adults what they can and can't imbibe, ingest, inject, or inhale.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Jonah Goldberg writes on The Hollowing Out of American Political Parties.

    It is perhaps the central irony of our politics today: We live in an incredibly polarized and partisan moment, but our political parties have never been weaker.

    As odd as it sounds, political parties in democracies have an important anti-democratic function. Traditionally, the parties shaped the choices put to voters. Long before voters decided anything in the primary or general elections, party bosses worked to groom good candidates, weed out bad ones, organize interests, and frame issues.

    OK, the good old days had their problems. But, as Jonah notes, political power that used to reside with people in that business has now been farmed out to corruptible amateurs. And, as just two examples: "This is why every Academy Awards ceremony is peppered with asinine political jeremiads, and why late-night-comedy hosts serve as de facto Democratic-party organizers."

    (Also see Joy Behar, below.)

  • Andrew Marzoni, "a writer, editor and musician in Brooklyn", tells the truth in the Washington Post: Academia is a cult. And he knows whereof he speaks:

    As a teenager growing up in the Living Word Fellowship, an international Christian organization widely regarded as a cult, I aspired to be a writer. Instead, I spent seven days a week at church: It was where I worshiped, socialized, ate, volunteered and even went to school. One summer, at the fellowship’s “School of Prophets” camp in rural Iowa, a senior pastor took his turn at the pulpit to encourage the youth of the congregation to skip college, work for the church and live in one of its communal homes in Hawaii or Brazil, which many in my graduating class went on to do. My parents, who joined the cult as graduate students in the 1970s but have recently left, were an educated anomaly in a culture that valued faith over reason. I’m grateful for my father, who in passing later that day told the pastor in seriousness disguised as joviality, “Stay away from my kids.”

    So Andrew went to college. And started an academic career, But eventually came to realize…

    Looking back, the evidence was everywhere: I’d seen needless tears in the eyes of classmates, harangued in office hours for having the gall to request a letter of recommendation from an adviser. Others’ lives were put on hold for months or sometimes years by dissertation committee members’ refusal to schedule an exam or respond to an email. I met the wives and girlfriends of senior faculty members, often former and sometimes current advisees, and heard rumors of famed scholars whisked abroad to sister institutions in the wake of grad student affairs gone awry. I’d first come in contact with such unchecked power dynamics as a child, in the context of church. In adulthood, as both a student and an employee of a university, I found myself subject to them once again.

    It's not surprising that, in a country that (rightly) prides itself on "separation of church and state", that some other secular institution worms its way into a similar niche in the social ecosystem. With the hearty support, financial and otherwise, of the state. And develop the same misfeatures.

  • David Harsanyi notes that Democrats Aren’t Losing Faith In Our Constitutional System. They Just Don’t Like It.

    In the liberal imagination there are only four ways to lose elections — and none have to do with their increasingly leftist turn, their hysterics, or their one-dimensional identity politics. Democrats lose because of “gerrymandering,” “voter suppression” (sometimes known as “asking for ID”), Russian mind-control rays deployed by social media, and our antiquated and unfair Constitution.

    The final one of these excuses is becoming increasingly popular among liberal pundits who continue to invent new crises to freak out about.

    Sometimes it gets pretty silly, as with Joy Behar on The View complaining that Democrats lost US Senate races "because of gerrymandering".

  • In her column, Veronique de Rugy draws our attention to Another Republican Capitulation on Health Care.

    Republicans have established a clear pattern on health care. First, they rail against whatever big-government scheme Democrats propose. Then, after a half-hearted and incompetent effort to convince the public of the benefits of a market-oriented system, they abandon their principles and adopt the big-government idea as their own in order to win or hold power.

    The spectacle of Republican candidates tripping over themselves to announce their commitment to preserving requirements for coverage of pre-existing conditions, a key component of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the mandate most responsible for making insurance unaffordable for average Americans, is one example.

    Also, as Veronique points out, the recent announcement from the Trump administration to base Medicare Part B reimbursements on international drug prices, a significant step toward price controls.

  • And, ladies and gentlemen, in our occasional "I'm a Sucker For This Kind of Thing" department: These Are The 10 Most Stressed Out States In America.

    Which states sentence you to a life of long commutes, high unemployment, ridiculous rent prices, and grueling work hours?

    Yes, it's junk statistics, but it's fun. New Hampshire is in the middle, position #29. The least-stressed states are unsurprising: Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North and South Dakota.

    Compare and contrast with the rankings made by "Mental Health America". Here, Minnesota is the sanest state, Nevada the nuttiest. NH comes in at #10, not too shabby for a state WHERE MOST OF THE PEOPLE ARE SECRETLY LIZARDS I TELL YOU.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • So (as usual) I think everyone I voted for lost. Which (also as usual) means invoking my post-election mantra: "Oh well. I guess I'll just have to be satisfied with being right about everything, all the time."

    However, the two NH Constitutional amendments on the ballot won. And I liked those.

    On that matter, is Amazon's Product du Jour a little too … something? Self-backpatting, maybe? Well, yeah, I wouldn't buy it myself, but if it fits you (in more ways than one), go for it.

  • I can report at least partial success on my election predictions. I thought that the GOP candidates would do better than the UNH Survey Center's Granite State Poll (GSP) predicted.

    • The GSP showed a 49%-49% tie between Republican Chris Sununu and Democrat Molly Kelly. Sununu won (as I, and most everyone else, predicted), with current (partial) results showing him up 52%-46%.

    • IN NH-1, the GSP had Democrat Chris Pappas over Republican Eddie Edwards 54%-43%, an 11-point spread. I thought Eddie would do better than that, and he did, although still losing, 53%-45%. (92% of precincts reporting).

    • And in NH-2, the GSP had Democrat Annie Kuster over Republican Steve Negron 60%-37%, a 23-point spread. Again, I thought the GSP was overoptimistic on the D side, and it was: current results have Annie "only" up by 16 points, 57%-41%.

    This ain't good for the UNH Survey Center. Who would pay them to do political polling, when they consistently err in favor of Democrats? (They showed the same systematic bias in 2016.)

    So, three for three so far. My other two predictions were that the GOP would do better than the "average" FiveThirtyEight modeling showed for House and Senate. Final results are not in, but I'm confident here too.

  • Cafe Hayek's Bonus Quotation of the Day is from Robert Higgs, dedicated non-voter:

    Of course, aggregates of voters may swing an election by voting one way or the other or by not voting. But you, amigo, are not an aggregate of voters; you have only one vote. And how you cast that one vote will almost certainly fail to swing any large election. Why this simple reality flies over so many people’s heads is a bit of a mystery (various explanations may be offered), but if you don’t understand it, you really need to stop and think harder about the matter. Saying that “your vote doesn’t matter” is not the same as saying that “voting doesn’t matter,” although the latter may also be true in a different sense (e.g., elections are only rituals, and the deeper system will persist regardless of electoral outcomes).

    Although I voted myself, I was annoyed by all the hectoring to do so. The cafe's proprietor, Don Boudreaux, goes on to report an airport encounter with an earnest young lady that bordered on harassment. (As in: if it happened (a) on a college campus, and was (b) about sex instead of voting, and (c) the sexes were reversed, and (d) it had been reported to authorities, then someone would have been in big trouble.)

  • But I think Kevin D. Williamson is also perceptive in his late-Election-Day musing: Unserious Voters, Decent Citizens — in America, They’re the Same People.

    The value of voting is that it is the easiest nonviolent means of ensuring a minimum level of accountability among lawmakers and high officials. If we do not like the principal figures in our governments, we can change them. Voting is a practical measure, not an affirmation of every ignorant sentiment and selfish demand from every Larry, Caitlyn, and Avery across the fruited plain. If there were an easier and more reliable method for ensuring accountability than asking 50 percent plus 1 of the people what they think about things they don’t know very much about (there’s no shame in rational ignorance; it is rational, after all), the world would be a better place, at least a better-governed place. But there isn’t. So we vote.

    Voting is not the highest expression of citizenship: It’s the bargain-basement expression of citizenship, an almost entirely cost-free opportunity to step into a private place and say: “This is what I want.” There isn’t anything particularly noble or elevated about “I want.” Every screaming toddler on every airplane in the sky is saying “I want,” and it doesn’t impress us all that much. Every crusty bum on the streets of San Francisco with his hand out is saying “I want,” as is every shrieking women’s-studies major in Portland and every talk-radio caller in Plano. It’s not that this isn’t important: It is difficult to ensure accountability to the governed without asking the governed what they want. But there’s a hell of a lot more to citizenship than that.

    That's just two paragraphs of eleven or so, but (even more than usual) I encourage you to Read The Whole Thing.

  • You will want to go Incognito for this Washington Post article from Megan McArdle: Both Democrats and Republicans are losing this culture war.

    Republicans should be asking themselves how, with unemployment low and the economy booming, they managed to lose control of the House of Representatives. Yes, the president’s party usually loses some seats during midterm elections. Yes, Republicans were suffering from a lot of retirements, which left races open that would have been locked up with an incumbent in the seat.

    But the losses they suffered were out of proportion to the underlying fundamentals. And the wave of retiring incumbents was not a random disaster visited upon them by the capricious political gods; it was a direct result of the president making life miserable for his fellow Republicans.

    Later on, Megan notes the bad news for Democrats.

  • At Reason, Matt Welch reports on disappointing news from the Live Free or Die state (that's us): Party-Switching N.H. State Rep. Brandon Phinney Gets Slaughtered as a Libertarian.

    Not literally slaughtered. That would be much bigger news.

    Until tonight, Brandon Phinney was a model for one genre of elected Libertarian: The party-switcher.

    The New Hampshire state representative, elected to the 400-member body in 2016 as a Republican, switched to Libertarian in June 2017 after watching the machinery of allegedly small-government Republicanism up close. "I saw how they wanted to spend all of our money," he recalled to me in an interview this summer, "and that immediately set off every red flag imaginable." He targeted archaic laws to be stricken from the books, helped effectively legalize visiting bands drinking beer on stage, and prepped for his first election wearing the "L" right there on his sweater.

    For the other two R-to-L party switchers Matt mentions:

    • Here in NH, Caleb Q. Dyer from Hillsborough District 37 also got shellacked, finishing behind all Republicans and Democrats.

    • Out in Nebraska, State Sen. Laura Ebke also got beat by a "moderate" Republican.

    All in all, the Libertarian Party candidate motto is "Live Free and Get Beat Soundly in Elections"

  • And finally, our Tweet du Jour:

    What would we do without CNN Election Experts?

Last Modified 2018-12-20 7:18 AM EDT

Sign of Chaos

[Amazon Link]

As I'm sure I may have previously mentioned: I own the one-volume compendium of Roger Zelazny's ten Amber novels, The Great Book of Amber. It's nice to have one big doorstop of a book instead of having to keep track of ten various hardcovers and paperbacks, but I keep getting reminded of how slapdash the "Great" book was.

Case in point, on the back cover, the eighth book's title is "Signs of Chaos." Guys, that's wrong. It's just one sign.

As the book opens, our second-half protagonist, Merlin, has been lured by sorta-antagonist Luke into a Lewis Carroll situation, with Humpty, the Cheshire Cat, a Bandersnatch (variety: frumious), etc. It's a trap, but (eventually) Merlin escapes, leaving Luke behind, on to work out the ongoing mystery of who's threatening to do what to the merry land of Amber.

And he does that for a while, about 135 pages in fact. That's the problem with reading these books so far apart, especially at my age: one tends to forget who's who and what's going on. ("Vielle? Who is Vielle, again?") Anyway, there's a stunning revelation about the true identity of Merlin's antagonist "Mask", and a cliffhanger for the next book.

Anyway: now only two left to go.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Hey, hey, it's Election Day! And it's a good thing, too, because I got pretty sick of seeing the same stupid intelligence-insulting commercials over and over again. (They're done for a while, right? I can go back to being irritated by commercials for Eliquis, Symbicort…?)

    I'm also sick of people demanding that I get out there and vote. Here's what I say, potential voter: if you need to be hectored into voting, maybe you shouldn't.

    And I know I've linked this article before, but In Case You Missed It: Katherine Mangu-Ward says It's OK Not to Vote. I feel like adding this link this as a comment to every one of those GOTV Facebook/Twitter/Blog posts. But that would just piss people off, I suppose. I do enough of that as it is.

  • But it also seems like a lot of people are making predictions! Should I do that? I'm not quite sure why. Que sera, sera! And I was humbled enough two years ago, when I believed, backed by every reputable political prognosticator and pollster, that Donald Trump was toast.

    On the other hand, why not? I'll go this far: I'm thinking the reputable political prognosticators and pollsters have not learned their 2016 lessons. I am guessing that they are still underestimating GOP votes. So:

    • Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight website shows a range of possible outcomes based on their modeling. As I type, the site's "average" over all possible outcomes predicts GOP pickup of 0.5 Senate seats. Pun Salad prediction: the GOP will pick up one or more Senate seats.

    • Similarly (and, again, as I type), FiveThirtyEight predicts that the Democrats will "on average" pick up 39 House seats. So Pun Salad's prediction is: Democrats will pick up fewer than 39 House seats.

    • The Survey Center at the University Near Here runs its Granite State Poll (GSP). Their pre-election polling, released on Sunday, showed at 49%-49% tie between Republican Chris Sununu and Democrat Molly Kelly.

      Pun Salad prediction: Sununu will win.

    • In NH-1 (my district) the GSP has Democrat Chris Pappas over Republican Eddie Edwards 54%-43%.

      Pun Salad prediction: Pappas's percentage minus Edwards' percentage will be less than 11.

    • And finally, in the other Congressional district, the GSP poll has Democrat Annie Kuster over Republican Steve Negron 60%-37%.

      Pun Salad prediction: Kuster's percentage minus Negron's percentage will be less than 23.

    So we'll see how we do.

  • At Cato, Chris Edwards forwards the news about Paul LePage, getting the heck out of that state across the Salmon Falls River: Top-Scoring Governor Moving to Florida. "Top-Scoring" refer's to LePage's record of relative spending restraint, which won him an "A" in Cato's "Fiscal Policy Report Card".

    Anyway, LePage is term-limited out, he's moving to Florida, and his reason for doing that is quoted:

    I’ll tell you very, very simply: I have a house in Florida. I will pay no income tax and the house in Florida’s property taxes are $2,000 less than we were paying in Boothbay … At my age, why wouldn’t you conserve your resources and spend it on family (rather) than spend it on taxes?

    A Democrat, Janet Mills, is considered likely to win the Maine Governorship today.

  • The Reason headline pretty much tells Christian Britschgi's tale: Same D.C. City Council Members Who Want to Lower the Voting Age to 16 Also Voted to Raise City's Smoking Age to 21.

    The Washington, D.C., City Council is rapidly advancing a measure that would lower the voting age to 16. On Thursday, the council's Judiciary and Public Safety Committee unanimously passed the Youth Vote Amendment Act, which would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in all elections, from local races to the presidency.

    And yes, some of the same people who think 16 and 17 year olds are old enough to make weighty voting decisions about the future of D.C. and America… also don't think they can be trusted to buy a pack of smokes.

    Commenter "Cato the Chipper" sez: "This makes perfect sense. Who you vote for is trivial. Deciding to become a nicotine addict is an important decision."

  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File is on The Tribal Appeal of Conspiracy Theories.

    I’ll be honest: I am far more annoyed by conservatives who traffic in conspiracy theories than liberals who do so. My reasons are twofold. As a practical matter, it bothers me because they make conservatives look bad, and I consider myself more invested in protecting my “side” from making an ass of itself. More generally, it bothers me because conservatives are supposed to understand, as a matter of philosophy, the limits of planning.

    For instance, it’s one thing for liberals to claim simultaneously that George W. Bush was an idiot and that this idiot nonetheless managed to orchestrate a massive conspiracy to attack the United States on 9/11. It’s another for conservatives, presumably trained in the laws of unintended consequences, the limits of reason, and the fatal conceit of planning, to argue that the hijackers were just a bunch of patsies for an operation that would have involved hundreds or thousands of American agents — without a single whistleblower among them. This can best be visually represented by someone turning Occam’s Razor into a heavy spoon or soup ladle and beating Friedrich Hayek about the head and neck with it. But that’s what happened to people such as Morgan Reynolds and Paul Craig Roberts. Worse, these people have to believe their colleagues and ideological comrades — whom they knew and for whom they often worked — were in fact brilliant mass murderers.

    A point we've seen before. To quote Bill Whittle: "How much hate for your own society do you have to carry in order to live in such a desolate and ridiculous mental hell? What psychoses must a mind be riddled with in order to negate what was perfectly obvious and instead believe a theory of such monumental fantasy? How much pure constant hatred does that take?"

  • Some good news from Andy Kessler in the (possibly paywalled) WSJ: Big Brother Isn’t Watching You.

    Hardly a week goes by that I don’t run into people who, when I ask how they are doing, tell me they’re worried about authoritarianism. Living in California, my impulse is to ask if they’re worried about the state’s one-party rule. But before I can get that out, the complaints begin: Trump, Facebook, Google, police state. Uh boy. Pot-dispensary paranoia?

    This fascist-behind-every-tree thinking isn’t helped by the tech industry. Apple CEO Tim Cook told privacy commissioners in Brussels last month that personal information “is being weaponized against us with military efficiency. Today, that trade has exploded into a data-industrial complex.” Mr. Cook was poking at Facebook and Google and calling for more regulation.

    Andy goes on to point out that there's little evidence to support the paranoia. Unless you live in China, which just happens to be the country that Apple and Google are helping to keep track of their citizenry.

  • And finally a cool video showing the top ten countries' GDPs 1960-2017. It's kind of mesmerizing to watch (most of) the countries rise and fall.

Central Intelligence

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

Netflix thought I would like this slightly better than I actually did. But overall, not a bad way to waste an evening.

A twenty-year high school flashback sets things up: student Bob Weirdicht (Dwayne Johnson) is a fat, friendless loser; Calvin Joyner is the generally acknowledged star of the senior class. A cruel prank (near Carrie level) is played on Bob; alone among his classmates, Calvin shows him a random act of kindness.

In the current day, Calvin's life trajectory has not turned out the way anyone expected: he's a midlevel accountant. Although he does have a hot wife, his high-school sweetheart. Out of nowhere, Bob, now calling himself "Bob Stone", shows up, looking like… well, Dwayne Johnson. He is ebullient, ingratiating, pushy, hilarious; Calvin has little choice but to go along on the ride. But it soon develops that Bob's on the run from his employer, the CIA, and needs to go rogue, because he's been set up to take the fall over the theft of critical US secrets.

That's his story anyhow.

Hey, does anyone remember The In-Laws, a 1979 movie with Alan Arkin and Peter Falk? It's a lot like that. Uncredited, as far as I can see.

Anyway, it's rated PG-13 for (I assume up to the PG-13 limit) "crude and suggestive humor, some nudity, action violence and brief strong language." The Johnson/Hart chemistry works OK, Johnson has some strong comic chops, but not enough to support a whole darn movie.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Zach Weissmueller's outstanding/infuriating article from the November issue of Reason has been released to non-subscribing peons. And he asks the musical question: Has America's Obsession With Manufacturing Jobs Gone Too Far? (Strongly implying the correct answer.) Start:

    In 2009, Kim and Jim Mahoney bought a one-acre parcel of land in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, and began designing a home from scratch. A rural village in the southeast corner of the state, the location offered the Mahoneys the chance to enjoy a slice of country living. Jim would have the space to practice target shooting with his bow and arrow, while Kim could view magnificent sunsets from the front yard every night.

    But (can you see this coming?) the town of Mount Pleasant wants to take the Mahoneys' property via eminent domain, via the simple process of unilaterally declaring the area "blighted".

    To build a highway, or something equally governmenty? No, to give the land to Foxconn, a Taiwanese electronic manufacturing company, for a factory. The whole deal being enthusiastically embraced by Republican Wisconsin Governor (and up for re-election) Scott Walker, the Mahoneys' Republican Congressman and current Speaker of the House (not up for re-election) Paul Ryan, and Republican President Donald Trump.

    Many more details in Weissmueller's article, all enraging. For more detail, see the Verge story we indirectly linked last week: Wisconsin’s $4.1 billion Foxconn boondoggle.

    I kinda vaguely liked Scott Walker; now I hope he loses.

  • George F. Will recounts The Madness Of College Basketball Goes Well Beyond March.

    Until last week it seemed that the Division 1 college basketball industry could produce nothing more risible than its pieties about cherishing the amateurism of the "student-athletes" who generate, but get mere crumbs of, the industry's billions. Last week, however, a New York jury, which perhaps had a sense of humor, embraced this novel argument by the federal government: Basketball factories such as Kansas, Louisville and North Carolina State are actually victims of the operatives — representatives of shoe companies, and actual or aspiring agents — who use unsavory methods to direct "blue chip" recruits to the schools' lucrative basketball programs.

    The three men convicted of fraud and conspiracy in the first of at least three similar trials face imprisonment because of this supposed crime: The three schools mentioned above gave athletic scholarships to five elite recruits whose families had received — presumably, but perhaps not really, unbeknownst to the schools — through the three men (one of them a former consultant for Adidas shoe company) payments, one of $90,000, to purchase their help in directing their sons to those schools, which receive much larger payments to advertise, by wearing, Adidas gear. (Nike and Under Armour also compete in the auction for schools' allegiances.)

    Whyever did institutions of "higher education" get the idea that big-time, big-money athletics was a desirable, even necessary, part of their mission? Reference: Taylor Branch, the October 2011 Atlantic, The Shame of College Sports. He describes a bad situation, and I'm not sure it's gotten any better. Schools should walk away from the NCAA, but they won't.

  • A hilarious (but long-titled) post from Ann Althouse: "'I bear a very heavy burden of responsibility,' [Gary] Hart says, picking at a 'game plate' of elk, buffalo and quail at The Fort restaurant outside of Denver." From a Maureen Dowd column, she picks this quote from non-President Hart:

    "If all that stuff had not happened and if I had been elected, there would have been no gulf war. H.W. wouldn’t have been president. W. wouldn’t have been president. Everything would have changed. I don’t say that to aggrandize myself. It’s just, history changed. And that has haunted me for thirty years. I had only one talent and it wasn’t traditional politics — I could see farther ahead than anybody."

    I dearly love Prof Althouse's reaction:

    And what a gasbag! "I could see farther ahead than anybody." You couldn't see far enough ahead to the part where the newsfolk you told to follow you around actually followed you around and discovered the tacky sex you were enjoying in contravention of your upstanding family-man image.

    Too true.

  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson writes on Prosperity, in the Present.

    From where I’m standing, it looks like Michael Tomasky has a terrible sense of timing.

    Writing in the New York Times, Tomasky argues that Democrats are in dire need of those two magical commodities — “spin,” as the headline puts it, and “narrative” — to best the Republicans on the economic debate.

    Where I am standing is in the parking lot of a Chick-fil-A in Midland, Texas, where I have stopped to take a photo of the big sign out front, which doesn’t say anything about specials on chicken sandwiches: It says “$13 an hour,” which is the starting wage at many fast-food establishments here. They have a tough time filling those jobs, because working in the oil business, even in a semi-skilled capacity, pays a heck of a lot more than that: One company right now is offering new drivers with Class-A commercial drivers’ licenses $20,000 bonuses. Other companies will take anybody with a clean driving record and train him to get a CDL.

    Chick-fil-A? Thanks, Kevin. Now I'm hungry.

    KDW's article rambles a bit, but in a good way. Noting that neither Republicans nor Democrats are telling a true story about the economy, taxation, and entitlements.

  • And the Google LFOD News Alert Siren went off for an article in my own local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat: Seacoast nonprofit offers voter guide app. It's a plug for Citizens Count, "a nonpartisan Hampton-based nonprofit organization." The voter guide app is available via this page. Seems legit! (And if you dread installing Yet Another App, I'm pretty sure you can just root around their site for the same info.)

    But what about LFOD? Ah, here it is:

    The organization changed its name from Live Free or Die Alliance a few years ago to avoid being associated with libertarian organizations.

    Well, fine. Can't have that. Completely understandable. Best to have a completely blah, inoffensive name like "Citizens Count".

    Except I keep hearing in my head" "Citizens count? What, up to ten?"

Last Modified 2018-11-05 7:03 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Samuel J. Abrams is a "Politics" prof at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY; a couple weeks back he wrote a New York Times op-ed: Think Professors Are Liberal? Try School Administrators.

    I received a disconcerting email this year from a senior staff member in the Office of Diversity and Campus Engagement at Sarah Lawrence College, where I teach. The email was soliciting ideas from the Sarah Lawrence community for a conference, open to all of us, titled “Our Liberation Summit.” The conference would touch on such progressive topics as liberation spaces on campus, Black Lives Matter and justice for women as well as for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and allied people.

    As a conservative-leaning professor who has long promoted a diversity of viewpoints among my (very liberal) faculty colleagues and in my classes, I was taken aback by the college’s sponsorship of such a politically lopsided event. The email also piqued my interest in what sorts of other nonacademic events were being organized by the school’s administrative staff members.

    What Prof Abrams' research into the issue revealed will shock you! Or, if you're acquainted with an institution of higher learning, probably will not shock you: departments tasked with interfacing with students are self-appointed proselytizers for the Progressive gospel.

    Our own University Near Here, for example, hosts the "Office of Multicultural Student Affairs" (OMSA), which stakes out broad categories as "Our Mission":

    OMSA creates opportunities for people to participate in an inclusive community and to explore and understand diversity, social justice, inclusion, and equity via educational presentations, workshops, professional development and leadership opportunities, retreats, brown-bag discussions, etc. We serve all members of the UNH community through these various opportunities and beyond.

    Our work is grounded in an understanding of diversity that includes people of all abilities, ages, ethnicities, genders, nationalities, races, religions, spiritual traditions, socio-economic classes, and sexual orientations.

    Providing support, advising, advocacy, and student development for African American/Black/African/Caribbean, Hispanic/Latino/a, Asian/Asian American/Pacific Islanders, Native American/Indigenous/First Nations, Arab/Middle Eastern/Middle Eastern American, Biracial/Multiracial students, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning students, and First Generation College Students, as well as Ally students is at the heart of our work.

    There's a lot to roll your eyes at here. I'll just note that it's interesting how the multi-dimensional "inclusiveness" implied in the first two paragraphs gets sharply limited in the third. If I were "oppressed" because of my age, disability, religion (or "spiritual tradition"), or socio-economic class, I'd be kind of put out that they forgot to mention me in paragraph three.

    OMSA, if you are going to relentlessly chop up and pigeonhole people "intersectionally" on multiple categories of possible oppression, is it too much to ask that you maintain those categories intact throughout your mission statement?

  • But back to Samuel Abrams: Reason's Robby Soave notes what happened to him after his op-ed: Sarah Lawrence Professor's Office Door Vandalized After He Criticized Leftist Bias.

    After penning an op-ed for The New York Times decrying the ideological homogeneity of his campus administration, a conservative-leaning professor at Sarah Lawrence College discovered intimidating messages—including demands that he quit his job—on the door of his office. The perpetrators had torn down the door's decorations, which had included pictures of the professor's family.

    In the two weeks since the incident, Samuel Abrams, a tenured professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence, has repeatedly asked the college's president, Cristle Collins Judd, to condemn the perpetrators' actions and reiterate her support for free speech. But after sending a tepid campus-wide email that mentioned the importance of free expression, but mostly stressed her "commitment to diversity and inclusive excellence," Judd spoke with Abrams over the phone; according to him, she accused him of "attacking" members of the community.

    At many schools, all the prattle about "inclusion", "diversity", and "equity", doesn't apply to how you think. On that score, you better toe the line.

  • Did you remember to fall back? Are you sure you got all the clocks? You might be primed to read Zuri Davis's plea at Reason: Let Daylight Saving Time Die Already.

    Everyone not named Franklin D. Roosevelt hates Daylight Saving Time. The constant back and forth is confusing, especially for those who have an early Sunday morning commitment. The Standard Time Act of 1918 gave the federal government power to oversee national time zones. That power was extended with the passage of the Uniform Time Act of 1966, which allows the Department of Transportation (DOT) to set Daylight Saving Time for the entire country. Why DOT? Because "time standards are important for many modes of transportation," or something like that. Despite decades of observance, however, more and more Americans are rebelling against the pointless concept.

    I'm considerably more radical than Reason even dares to be. My five-year-old screed on the issue: The Right Number of Time Zones is Zero.

    It Is No Accident that Federally-Mandated timezones and DST arose in the eras of crony capitalism and liberal fascism, respectively. (Yes, that's kind of rantish, sorry.)

  • Bryan Caplan muses on Socialists Without a Plan.

    Don’t get me wrong; most of the socialists I’ve met seem like nice people. But they radiate incompetence. I doubt their families would trust them to plan a simple trip to Sea World. So what on Earth convinces these socialists that people like themselves should run not only the government, but the economy as well?

    I’d like to offer a charitable resolution of this puzzle, but have none to offer. The socialists of today aren’t experienced logisticians who fail to see the disanalogies between running an organization and running a whole society. They’re dreamers who want to lead before they learn to follow. So while I’d gladly give a socialist general a lecture on the economics of socialism, today’s typical socialist needs to hear a simpler message: They should learn to make solid mundane plans for their own lives before they think about imposing grandiose plans on the rest of the world.

    Related, I think: my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat is full of editorial pontifications about how to run the government. But they can't seem to figure out how to get their own newspaper delivered reliably to my box in the morning.

    Yeah, maybe I'm grumpy this morning. I blame Woodrow Wilson's DST.

  • Finally, at City Journal, Harry Stein has a sports note: Curt Schilling has been Bloodied Again.

    All but unremarked upon in the wake of the Boston Red Sox’s demolition of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the recent World Series was a move by Boston’s ownership that, even in this moment when everything is political, should prompt outrage on all sides: the exclusion of 2004 World Series hero Curt Schilling from the on-field celebration commemorating that landmark event, for the sin of being an outspoken conservative.

    For all my Red Sox fanhood, I am disgusted by their memory-holing.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Drew Cline, at the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, looks at the proposed NH Constitutional amendments on the Tuesday ballot. Mark him down as "Si" for both. Questions 1 and 2: Adding toppings to the Taco of Liberty.

    If passed, these constitutional amendments would make government more accountable to the people and further protect the people from government intrusion into their private affairs. Those are pretty important protections.

    Though they probably aren’t quite as important to the average person on a daily basis as, say, the Doritos locos taco, they’re still up there.

    Taco Bell got everyone to think about the Doritos Loco taco by creating a World Series promotion for free tacos. But they got the words turned around. Free tacos are great, but Taco Freedom is where it’s at.

    Comment: I don't think it's actually possible to eat a hard-shell taco without making a slight mess. Also like liberty: you have to put up with a certain amount of disorder.

  • Does the 14th Amendment make birthright citizenship a Constitutional slam-dunk? At his blog, Freespace, Timothy Sandefur replies to those who think so: No, Birthright Citizenship is NOT an Easy Case.

    I’m heartily sick of the smug self-righteousness masquerading as constitutional debate over the question of birthright citizenship. It’s not a simple case—on the contrary, the arguments on both sides balance each other out quite effectively, resulting in something like the Quinian Crossword, which can be filled out two different ways, both of them right. Instead of getting serious discussion, though, we’re getting a lot of puffery about how the Trump Administration’s argument is obviously silly and stupid. It’s not. Those opposed to the Administration’s position have good arguments at their disposal. They need to start using them.

    I'm undecided on this issue, and (not being a lawyer, let alone a Constitutional one) I'm likely to stay that way. But can't we all agree that, like Timothy, we're heartily sick of smug self-righteousness?

  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum adds to our "Irony Can Be Pretty Ironic Sometimes" Department: Condemning Extreme Rhetoric, NYT Columnist Says Conservative Pundits Incite Murder.

    Donald Trump calls journalists who fail to fawn over him "the enemy of the people." New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg calls right-wing commentators who say things that offend him "the Incitement Industry." While the president's critics hear echoes of Stalin and Mao in his rhetoric, I hear echoes of Brandenburg v. Ohio in Rutenberg's.

    Brandenburg is the 1969 case in which the Supreme Court held that it's unconstitutional to punish people for advocating illegal activity or the use of force "except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action." Rutenberg seems to be implying that hyperbolic, outlandish, and inaccurate statements by conservative provocateurs such as Jeanine Pirro, Dinesh D'Souza, and Ann Coulter meet that test, meaning that they could be punished or censored without violating the First Amendment.

    Disclaimer: I'm never sure that I'm using "irony" correctly.

  • At AEI, Thomas P. Miller bemoans the current state of the debate: Rip Van health policy.

    The latest probes past the recent trench lines of ACA No Man’s Land (e.g., new rules for short-term limited duration plans, association health plans, Health reimbursement arrangements, and Medicaid work requirements; plus changing the names of plaintiffs and defendants in court cases) are symptoms of what happens when you combine a partial disequilibrium model of health care policy with the bounded irrationality of US politics. Across longer time intervals, the competing forces of centripetal and centrifugal action bring us back roughly to earlier places, but also leave us even more dissatisfied and disoriented. The thinnest consensus appears to remain that we should not reduce the ongoing flow of health care-denominated dollars in our mixed public/private system, but insist on believing that someone else should and will keep paying for more of them

    Democrats, bless them, have managed to make the concept of "pre-existing condition" a scare tactic.

    Do you have one? Or more? You probably do! Or at least, you'll be getting one soon! And then you'll be stuck at the hospital door, unable to get health care! You'll die a horrible death out there on the curb! And the people inside will laugh at you! Because they're on powerful drugs you can't afford!

  • A goodly part of my formative years (circa 1961-1969) were spent in the great state of Nebraska, probably the best place to live out the sixties. But Nebraska has never been known for the perspicacity of its politicians. Ben Sasse being a remarkable modern exception.

    Jeff Fortenberry, Congresscritter from Nebraska, seems OK with continuing the tradition, as described by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE): Congressman’s office pressures U. of Nebraska to punish professor who liked ‘Fartenberry’ Facebook photo.

    Lincoln Journal Star reporter Nancy Hicks described what happened to a campaign sign for Nebraska Rep. Jeff Fortenberry late last month as “[p]olitical vandalism … [with] a touch of humor.” Whoever defaced the poster opted for the “sophomoric” version of dissent — adding cartoonish googly eyes to Fortenberry’s face along with a few pieces of strategically placed tape that transformed his name to “Fartenberry.”

    … and a University of Nebraska prof "liked" a picture of the vandalized sign on Facebook.

    … and then Fortenberry's office got all up in the University's grill for having a prof that "liked" vandalism!


    I (sort of) sympathize with Congresscritter Jeff. I would imagine that he's been hearing the "Fartenberry" thing ever since grade school. Kids can be mean!

    On the other hand, he is now a grown-ass Congressman, and he should suck it up.

  • Don't forget what you have to do tonight! Mr. Lileks has a primer: Everything (and more) about daylight saving time.

    Q: Do I have to?

    A: No, not at all. Feel free to be an hour early for everything. But when you make a reservation at a restaurant for 7 and say, “By the way, I don’t observe DST,” they will suspect that you also want water without fluoride and will try to pay with “sovereign dollars” you printed at home.

    Q: Oh, come on, really? When did we become sheep that set back the clocks because the government said we have to?

    A: Have you ever seen a sheep attempt to set a clock? They lack the manual dexterity and give up quite quickly.

    Make sure you hang in for the final query: "Why do we willingly submit to the darkness?" Don't we all want to know the answer to that?

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • It has been few days since the atrocity in Pittsburgh. Are we ready for NR's Kevin D. Williamson to talk about Priorities? It's a long article, but a perceptive one, and here's a long excerpt:

    One of the ironies of the English language is the relationship between the words humanity and inhumanity, human and inhuman, humane and inhumane. We witness acts of horror, or we read about them in the news, and we say: “That’s not human.” We talk about “humanizing” history’s great villains, or the dangers of “humanizing” contemporary malefactors. One can imagine the easy-to-mock headline in some fuzzy-headed magazine: “The Human Side of Osama bin Laden.” (His successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in fact eulogized him in just such terms.) But we saw the human side of Osama bin Laden — that his atrocities were somehow “inhuman” is a bedtime story we tell ourselves so that we can sleep at night. The emergence of murderous tyrants is as predictable as the seasons, as is the emergence of murderous non-tyrants. This isn’t something that is subject to control through public policy. There’s a fair-minded and honest debate to be had about firearms regulation (the problem is a shortage of fair-minded and honest debaters), but Americans — not weird cultists overseas, but Americans, us — were carrying out school massacres a generation before Eugene Stoner and Mikhail Kalashnikov made their contributions to the history of engineering. The hideous blots on our history — slavery, all those massacres from Napituca to Wounded Knee — were not the result of anything inhuman. That’s what humans do, God forgive us.

    There are not any lessons to be drawn from the massacre in Pittsburgh. There isn’t any political lesson, no public-policy takeaway. There is only unthinkable pain and loss, suffering that must be something close to unendurable, and revulsion for the 21st-century American man who did this. That revulsion weighs on us — and it is suffocating — not because his crimes are alien or unfamiliar, but because they are ordinary and familiar, not because they are unexpected but because they are expected, not because they are unimaginable but because the absence of them is unimaginable. The killer isn’t an alien visitor or an atavistic throwback — he is one of us. That is a truth that is prior to politics. And that he is one of us is the problem that all of our schemes and plans and mere politics must confront, the blast of interstellar cold jolting us awake from our “dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.”

  • In the "Irony Can Be Pretty Ironic Sometimes" Department, we offer Eric Boehm at Reason: Elizabeth Warren Challenges Trump's Protectionist Tariffs for Not Being Protectionist Enough.

    Artificially hiking the price of steel and aluminum is bad enough, but one of the really galling parts of the Trump administration's tariff policy is the Commerce Department's process for determining which businesses are exempt from paying these import taxes. As I've written before, the so-called "tariff exclusion process" is opaque, confusing, completely lacking in due process, and infested with cronyism.

    It's good to see some members of Congress calling out the administration for this mess. That's what Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) does in a letter sent Wednesday to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the guy who is supposed to be overseeing the tariff exemptions.

    Unfortunately, a significant part of Warren's letter makes the argument that what's needed is more protectionism, not less.

    Oops, I'm sorry, that's not actually irony. That's stupidity. Apologies.

    But when the best serious argument Democrats have against protectionism is "We would do it better. By which we mean, worse.", we're in deep, deep trouble.

  • New Jersey ain't exactly Libertopia, but at NJBIZ, Jarrett Dieterle and Shoshana Weissmann (follow her on Twitter, she's a hoot) warn about an effort to nudge it even further away: New Jersey trying to make dietary advice illegal.

    New Jersey has long been recognized as one of the healthiest states in the country. It has relatively few smokers, low numbers of diabetics and low rates of adult obesity. Not coincidentally, New Jersey is also in the top 10 states (it sits at No. 3) when it comes to job openings for personal trainers and dietitians.

    While New Jersey has much to be proud of with its healthiness ratings and robust personal-fitness industry, a recent bill gaining steam in the state Legislature threatens to upend its legal regime when it comes to health and nutrition.

    A committee in the Legislature recently advanced a proposal that would significantly restrict who can provide dietary advice in New Jersey. The bill would require a state-issued license for anyone who attempts to offer nutritional advice, counseling or education to clients.

    This is a mistake New Hampshire has already made (although you can still call yourself a "nutritionist" without a license). Thanks, I must admit, partly due to the efforts of Mrs. Salad. (I love her very much, but…)

  • At the Washington Examiner, Ryan Ellis notices: Trump surrenders to the socialists on drug price controls.

    Late last week, President Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced a plan to deal with the high cost of prescription drugs in the U.S. relative to the price of the same drugs in other developed countries. The reason for this disparity is well-known: Other countries impose socialized medicine price controls on prescription medicines, while here in the U.S. the price charged is closer to the true market price of the product.

    Unfortunately, rather than fighting the socialists, the president has decided to become one with them — at least when it comes to prescription drugs. After spending most of this year rightly condemning governments in Europe and elsewhere for ripping off Americans by imposing below-market price controls on drugs, Trump and Azar basically surrendered to the price controls and announced we would be adopting them ourselves.

    RTWT for a description of what we have to look forward to. But I suspect it will be a classic Bastiat seen/unseen problem: We won't see the lives that would have been saved or improved by a healthy drug marketplace.

  • As Election Day approaches, the Google LFOD News Alert has been buzzing. Today's crop:

    • The Keene Sentinel on one of the proposed amendments to the NH Constitution on the ballot:

      Supporters of a proposed amendment to the state constitution argue that “Live Free or Die” is merely a license plate slogan if Granite Staters cannot sue their own government over public spending. […]

    • The Rapid City (South Dakota) Journal on a local's efforts to keep the state's nose out of his septic system:

      I’m starting to wonder what George Ferebee has stashed in his septic tank that he’s trying so desperately and obsessively to keep from having it inspected. The county government decision that septic tanks should be inspected is not a “don’t tread on me; live free or die” moment.

    • My own local newspaper, Foster's Daily Democrat, an LTE advocating for Eddie Edwards, who wants to represent us in the US Congress:

      We have seen the results of intimidation in pursuit of political power practiced by Bolsheviks in Russia, the Fascists in Italy, the Nazis in Germany, the Castros in Cuba and Chavez in Venezuela. Left-wing policies produce disasters for their people. Our New Hampshire “live free or die” heritage encourages dialog and rejects harassment of political opponents.

    • The Washington Times, on the legal turmoil around recently-enacted NH voting laws:

      “Where the law threatens to disenfranchise an individual’s right to vote, the only viable remedy is to enjoin its enforcement,” wrote Presiding Superior Justice Kenneth C. Brown. Who knew the minor inconvenience of handing over a utility bill containing a home address would flummox the descendants of New Hampshire patriots who vowed to “Live free or die”?

    • And finally, an article at the (United Kingdom's) The Spectator with the provocative title "In New Hampshire, smoking saved my life".

      The day before all this happened my wife was buying a drink for our daughter and made the terrible mistake of requesting a straw. You’d have thought she’d demanded the stringing up of all black folk from the filthy look on the little SJW barmaid’s face. ‘We are in the process of banning straws from this state for the environmental damage they cause,’ she instructed, with all the refulgent sanctimony and humorlessness of a holy imbecile. I think New Hampshire — which is indeed lovely — should perhaps change its motto from ‘Live Free Or Die’ to ‘Don’t Do Anything At All, You Fascist’. But it was in the end cheering to have one’s life saved by a cigarette.

      You'll have to click through to find out how the author's life was saved by a cigarette. And (for the record) most of the restaurants around here are more relaxed about straws, either (1) providing them unasked; (2) asking if you want them; (3) cheerfully providing them if asked.

      In case (3), I never ask. I am a grown-ass man who doesn't need a straw.

    And finally, Mr. Michael Ramirez.

    I'm actually OK with the "Space Force" thing, but I love that cartoon.

Last Modified 2018-12-25 7:16 AM EDT

Glory Road

[Amazon Link]

I read this back in the 1960s, on my initial round of Heinlein-devouring. That was a school library book, and I remember being kind of shocked that the Omaha Public Schools would think this sort of filth was suitable for young eyes. (Didn't stop me from reading it though.)

The pic/Amazon product link over there on the right is the same edition I now own. Apparently set me back a cool $2.50 back in 1984 or so; it has languished unread on my paperback shelves until now. One of the reasons for my Heinlein-rereading project, now with a mere 31 books remaining.

The narrator is Evelyn Cyril "Oscar" Gordon; as the book opens, he is rattling around Europe after an unpleasant hitch fighting an unnamed war for the US Army. While on a clothing-very-optional island off the French Riviera, he gapes at a stunning unclothed woman, who tells him he's beautiful.

Intrigued by a classified ad that promises adventure, he's surprised that the offer is made by the very same woman! He signs up for a perilous, complicated quest for the "Egg of the Phoenix". They, with her grumpy assistant Rufo, set out on their universe-hopping exploits.

What follows: magic, swordplay, fisticuffs, culture clashes, all incredibly dangerous. Plenty of PG-13 talk about sex, where 20th Century American mores are derided as hopelessly out of step with the rest of the universe. There are a lot of winking references to other fantasies: Tolkien, Carroll, Baum, and probably many others I didn't pick up.

This is literally fantasy, both in the usual sense, and also in the adolescent wish-fulfillment sense. What male American teenager doesn't want to take off on a wacky adventure with a gorgeous babe who routinely sheds her clothes?

That said, there are a few pages here, where Oscar is in battle with the guardian of the Egg of the Phoenix, I think are among the best passages of Heinlein I've read.

Here's an odd thing: once the Egg is retrieved, you've still got about 30% of the book left to go. This is filled with… not a lot of things actually happening. A lot of dialogue, a lot of monologue. It's not awful—it's Heinlein, after all—but I'm not sure that was a good call. Nobody asked me.

Last Modified 2019-01-16 4:53 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • At Reason, Katherine Mangu-Ward reassures those discouraged by the mathematical unlikelihood that bringing your wisdom to the polling place will make a whit of difference in the outcome: It's OK Not to Vote.

    You're probably a good person, or at least you try to be. You want to do the right thing. But are you having trouble shaking the sense the you might have better things to do next Tuesday than voting?

    Instead of trying to motivate yourself and others to do a thing that feels pointless, why not stop to consider the possibility it actually is pointless? And not in an "all of human endeavor is pointless" kind of way. In a highly specific way that can actually be dealt with productively.

    She's probably correct. Still, I'll be voting on Tuesday. And KMW gives me a dispensation, sort of, further on in her article: "And listen, if you're in it for the warm fuzzies and the people-watching, that's fine. Maybe your own pleasure in the act of voting is the best you can do with your time to make the world a better place. That's OK."

    I resemble that remark. Probably more than I should.

  • Everybody seems to be referring to this, so why should I be an exception: CNN Anchor Don Lemon: Stop Demonizing People, And Also White Men Are Terrorists.

    CNN’s Don Lemon called for Americans to stop demonizing any one group of people on Monday, before immediately saying that white men are terrorists.

    People say I should watch things "outside my bubble", but I think watching CNN would have unhealthy effects on my blood pressure.

  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson recounts the tale of Green Floyd: Roger Waters and the Great Green Chevron Scam.

    The slow unraveling of the case against Chevron has been eye-opening, not least for the glimpse it offers into the way money moves through the progressive activist world.

    The background: Chevron was accused of inflicting horrible suffering on the people of Ecuador through mismanagement of drilling operations there, contaminating the groundwater and exposing thousands of people, mostly in nearby indigenous communities, to a stew of toxic sludge. The most obvious problem with the case was that Chevron had never drilled for oil in Ecuador; it acquired Texaco, which had done so years before, in partnership with the Ecuadoran state oil company. At the conclusion of its operations, Texaco received a formal certification from the government of Ecuador that it had cleaned up after itself (at a cost of about $40 million) and that it was released from further liability for the operations, which were continued by the state oil company. Like many state oil companies, Ecuador’s had at times been something less than scrupulous in its observance of environmental standards. Its operations are likely the source of the pollution in Ecuador.

    What about Roger Waters? Well, he apparently stands to make millions in the (fortunately unlikely) event that Chevron has to pay out billions to its corrupt legal antagonists. Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash, Rog.

  • At AEI, Jonah Goldberg notes the obvious: The Pittsburgh massacre wasn’t Trump’s fault, but he’s not helping.

    The debate over whether or not President Trump encouraged the man who set out to slaughter Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh really isn’t a debate at all. It’s a shouting match.

    “Yes, he did!”

    “No, he didn’t!”

    And it will likely only make things worse, as each side grows increasingly deaf to its own heated rhetoric and ever more furious at the other’s.

    Here’s a better question: Is Trump helping?

    The answer is obviously no — and that’s bad enough.

    We have all heard of "whataboutism". Is there such a thing as "of-coursism"? The feeling that nearly everyone is so addled by tribalism, you need to state completely obvious facts, prefacing them condescendingly with "Of course,"?

    Of course, very few Trump fans are dangerous bigots.

    Of course, there's something about Trump that attracts dangerous bigots.

  • And the Google LFOD alert rang for the [Brockton MA] Enterprise News story: More squirrels, more roadkill in Massachusetts.

    An uptick in squirrel population this year is translating into more roadkill across Massachusetts, challenging an ongoing state effort to protect wildlife and reduce car crashes.

    Massachusetts residents -- especially those living in suburban and urban areas -- may have already noticed a large number of squirrels scampering around backyards and along fences, which state scientists say is the result of more food being available in recent years.

    “The last couple of years have had high acorn and nut production,” explained Dave Paulson, endangered species review biologists [sic] at the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

    Here too, although I'd guess New Hampshire doesn't have an official Endangered Species Review Biologist to weigh in on this completely obvious matter.

    (And why is an "Endangered Species Review Biologist" talking about squirrels? Shouldn't he leave that for the UnEndangered Species Review Biologists? I'm sure the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has some of those too.

    And where's LFOD? Um… ah, here 'tis:

    Good for a chuckle, Vicki, but I'm not sure that's what General Stark had in mind.

Last Modified 2018-12-20 7:18 AM EDT