URLs du Jour

2018-11-30

[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.