URLs du Jour

2019-01-23

[Amazon Link]

  • At AEI, James Pethokoukis makes: The case for growth.

    Gordon Gekko missed the mark with his famous Wall Street monologue about American capitalism. It is not greed but economic growth that is, for lack of a better word, good. Growth is right. Growth works. Growth clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Growth has marked the upward surge of mankind. And growth—you mark my words—will save that malfunctioning corporation called the USA.

    This is probably pretty obvious to most Americans. Strong economic growth means more jobs and higher wages. Just take a look at the current expansion. It has only been moderate as goes the pace of growth, but it has been sustained. And month after month of a growing economy has brought down the unemployment rate to its lowest level since 1969, even as real wages continue to grow for all income levels. That’s especially true for working-class Americans. The 3.5-percent unemployment rate for Americans with only a high school diploma is the lowest since 2000. Indeed, despite all the debate about income inequality, earnings have been growing faster for those at the bottom than at the top.

    Mr. Pethokoukis writes in response to those on the right, like Oren Cass, who have departed from the free market faith. Repent, Oren!


  • At NR, David French makes the case between last year's nonsense and this year's (latest) nonsense: Covington School Is the Terrible Sequel to the Kavanaugh Case.

    In the Kavanaugh case, conservative men and women looked at decades-old, uncorroborated allegations, the unquestioning acceptance of those claims, and the furious effort to destroy a man’s reputation and career – even by passing along the wildest and most implausible claims – and thought, “That could be me” or “that could be my husband.”

    Now, these same people look at the reaction to the Covington Catholic kids and think, “That could be my son.”

    Indeed. But actually, I did some pretty stupid things in high school. If Trump offers to nominate me to the Supreme Court, I'd probably decline, because who wants that stuff on the news?

    Although it would be nice to see Gayle again.


  • Greg Mankiw asks the musical question: Who is the prototypical rich person?.

    I recommend this op-ed by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman. . Not because I agree with its recommendation of super high tax rates on the rich, but because it makes clear the perspectives and motives of the Left.

    In the standard economic approach to optimal redistribution (such as Okun and Mirrlees), the case for progressive taxation is based on diminishing marginal utility. But that is not the essence of the matter, according to Saez and Zucman. They view rich people as fundamentally undermining democracy. It is more a political argument than an economic one.

    Prof Mankiw's link will take you to the op-ed. It is remarkable for its lack of sophistication. Pretty much: hey we used to have high taxes on the rich, it was an "American tradition" for a few decades, undone by that rascally Ronnie Reagan.

    But now we've had (relatively) low marginal rates on the "rich" for almost the same amount of time. Disaster? No, they just don't like the esthetics.


  • And breaking news on the fact-checking front from the Babylon Bee: Snopes Introduces New 'Factually Inaccurate But Morally Right' Fact Check Result.

    Popular fact-checking site Snopes.com confirmed Wednesday they are debuting a new "Factually inaccurate but morally right" fact check result for claims they don't want to debunk because they coincide with Snopes editors' worldview.

    The fact-checking website will now label inaccurate claims that they deem "morally right" with the new label, giving public figures whose hearts are in the right place a pass.

    "We were often running into situations were a truth claim was absolutely absurd, but it supported progressive causes," said one Snopes editor. "So sometimes we just called it a 'Mixture,' but then people might get the idea that our favorite politicians are being slightly dishonest sometimes."

    It's nice that Snopes is finally coming clean on this. (Even though they aren't.)

URLs du Jour

2019-01-22

[Amazon Link]

Anyone know an emoji that represents: "OK, my first instinct was disgust and outrage, but then I kind of thought it was funny, and then I realized it was yet another symptom of the frivolous irresponsibility and vicious tribalism of our times"?

The closest thing I can find is the "eyeroll" emoji, which you can get on a t-shirt as our Amazon Product du Jour. Suggestions for anything closer are welcome.

  • William McGurn writes in the WSJ today on The Shaming of Karen Pence. Her sin is to teach art part-time at Immanuel Christian School, whose employment contract specifies employees must agree with the traditional definition of "marriage": one guy, one gal, makin' appropriate amounts of baby-generating whoopee.

    Today’s militant secularists ironically resemble the worst caricatures of religious intolerance of early America. Where the Puritans humiliated sinners with the stocks, the modern intolerant have Twitter. Where the Amish shunned those who lived contrary to their beliefs, today’s violators find themselves driven off the public square. And whereas in Hawthorne’s novel Hester Prynne was forced to wear a scarlet “A”—for adulterer—today we have folks such as Jimmy Kimmel using their popular platforms to paint the scarlet “H”—for hater—on people such as Mrs. Pence.

    Why it's almost as if the disease of intolerance is playing Whac-A-Mole with us. Defeated and defanged one place, it pops up elsewhere. Unexpectedly!

    (Except, as McGurn notes, Justice Sam Aliito did expect it in his Obergefell dissent.)


  • One of my New Years Resolutions: pay closer attention to Arthur C. Brooks. He writes in the WaPo: Failed your resolution already? Here’s how to make change that lasts.. Key finding:

    But maybe you think that going on a diet and exercising will make you more self-confident and attractive, thus improving your marriage or romantic prospects. Then you’ll be happy, right?

    The data don’t support this. According to the 2014 General Social Survey , the average body mass index for people who classify themselves as “very happy” is 27.4, which is about halfway between overweight and obese. The average BMI for those who are “pretty happy” is 28.1 and “not too happy” is 29. The measurement is clearly not a meaningful indicator of happiness. The average BMI for people who say they have “very happy” marriages is 28, which once again is indistinguishable from that for those with pretty-happy and not-so-happy marriages. Simply put, if your life lacks love, skipping those cherished potato chips won’t solve your biggest problem.

    Spoiler: Mr. Brooks' suggestions are (1) look at the true sources of happiness ("faith, family, friends and meaningful work that serves others") instead of the barriers you perceive to happiness; (2) Make process resolutions instead of outcome resolutions. Good advice, probably.


  • What's wrong with single-payer medicine, currently dishonestly dubbed "Medicare for all"? Kevin D. Williamson says it mathematically: Public-Sector Monopolies = Rule by Bureaucrats.

    The case against a single-payer health-care system is not only, or principally, its cost. It is that government-enforced monopolies are undesirable for other reasons, from their propensity to abuse their monopoly positions to the fact that they cultivate an attitude of dependency — which also can be exploited for political purposes. Just as workers have more power in an economy with a large number of employers competing for their labor, would-be college students and health-care consumers are better off when they have a great range of choices offered in an environment of strong competition. (The best indictment of the U.S. health-care system, pre- and post-ACA, is that it does not actually produce or encourage such a consumer-empowering environment.) Monopolies in the public and semi-public sector are no more desirable than monopolies in the private sector.

    The "cost" arguments are good enough, but it would be nice if we lived in a time where Kevin's argument was dispositive all by its lonesome.


  • At the Federalist, Ariana Welsh is kind of put out with the an exhibit at her college, Appalachian State, which heaped undeserved praise on an unlikely group: The Black Panthers Were Murderous Thugs Who Don't Deserve Accolades.

    Hosted, rather ironically, by the school’s Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies, the photos, according to the front board, “reveal the humanity of the groups’ members rather than their invented personae.” Black Panther members “are real people, with real stories, who are your next door neighbors. They don’t fit the profile of rabid, anti-white, cop-hating terrorists…”

    Ericka Huggins is one of the smiling old ladies in the exhibit. She helped torture young Alex Rackley with other Black Panther members, boiling the water they used to pour over his chest and commanding him to be quiet when he pleaded for mercy. Now she’s a lecturing professor. Rackley is dead. After falsely admitting he was an informant in hopes of stopping the hours of torture, Black Panthers killed him and dumped his body in a river.

    Actually (according to the link above) Rackley lived for a number of hours after being dumped in the river.


  • The Power Line title might indicate "Longest Article Ever", but it's just one example Why Scientists Are Distrusted.

    The latest issue of Nature magazine has a fascinating article that goes some of the way in vindicating Ronald Reagan’s infamous “gaffe” about how trees cause air pollution (because they do), but offers much much more about the problems of politicized and supposedly “settled” climate science. The article is called “How Much Can Forests Fight Climate Change?“, and it walks through just how unsettled this question is. The subhed to the story offers a good summary: “Trees are supposed to slow global warming, but growing evidence suggests they might not always be climate saviours.”

    And, yes, the Nature article does contain a quote from an actual scientist, Christopher Williams at Clark University in Worcester, MA: “I have heard scientists say that if we found forest loss cooled the planet, we wouldn’t publish it.”


  • At the Beacon (a blog at the Independent Institute), Robert Higgs notes a suspicious rule: Many Different “Problems,” Identical “Solution” in Every Case.

    • Terrible working conditions
    • Lots of poor people
    • Industrial and financial instability
    • Economic depressions that won’t self-correct
    • Inadequate supplies of “affordable” housing
    • Widening economic inequality
    • Racial and ethnic discrimination
    • “Market failures” of many kinds
    • Environmental degradation
    • Threatened or disappearing species of animals and plants
    • Global cooling
    • Global warming
    • Climate change

    These are among the many problems that people have perceived as plaguing economically advanced societies during the past century or so. They differ greatly and involve different causes, mechanisms, and consequences.

    Yet in every case the solution has been widely seen as the same: vastly enlarging the power of government. It’s almost enough to make a skeptic wonder whether each perceived or proclaimed problem has been intended from the start to serve as a pretext for a government power grab—especially when one appreciates that somehow the problems that enhanced government power is supposed to solve never get solved to the satisfaction of those who sought the power, but only cry out in their view for even greater augmentation of government power.

    Mr. Higgs missed a few, of course. Opioid overdoses! Suicide! Divorce! All easily fixable by just tossing more control and money to the state.


Last Modified 2019-01-23 8:00 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2019-01-21

[Amazon Link]

Happy MLKJr day to all!

  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File (from last week) concerns National Solidarity: An Old & Dangerous Idea.

    In my eons on the internet, one lesson I have tried to take to heart — not always successfully — is that in the long run, it’s best to stand on the sidelines of the great race to be wrong first.

    To that end, I’ll just say that I don’t know if the BuzzFeed story alleging that Donald Trump ordered Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, and other nefarious doings, is true. One of the main reporters may or may not be trustworthy. All of the sources are anonymous. The story claims that there are documents supporting the charge, but the reporters may not have seen them, so if the sources are lying about the major facts, why wouldn’t they lie about the corroborating facts as well? As Brit Hume often likes to note, exclusive bombshells don’t stay exclusive for very long. If we go much longer without another news outlet corroborating the story, it’s likely because it can’t be corroborated for a reason.

    But are the charges believable?

    Trump defenders are right that we’ve been here before. Blockbuster allegations are reported. A few days later, the story either falls apart or deflates significantly. But here’s the interesting thing. Between the time of the initial report and the correction, one rarely hears the professional defenders say, “This story is unbelievable and false.” It’s only when the correction comes that they are suddenly overcome with indignation that anyone would suggest such a thing. Only after they have a factual backstop do they shriek, “you had to be suffering from Trump derangement syndrome to have believed the report in the first place!” These rhetorical lacunae are revealing, because I think it shows that the praetorians believe the charges are possibly true. (Also revealing: The tendency to stop shouting “Fake News” whenever MSM reporting is beneficial to the White House.)

    Well, that's not actually about "national solidarity". That comes later in the text, and it's good too.

    Trump is fortunate in having completely unhinged and irresponsible adversaries in the "respectable" press.


  • My lefty Facebook friends went apeshit over the confrontation between a saintly Native American and a wise-ass Catholic kid at the National Right to Life March in DC. I remember thinking: this looks bad, and it might be, but something about the narrative smells a little too perfect.

    Taking Jonah's advice above, I decided not to enter "the great race to be wrong first." Fortunately. Because, as Robby Soave writes at Reason: The Media Wildly Mischaracterized That Video of Covington Catholic Students Confronting a Native American Veteran.

    Partial video footage of students from a Catholic high school allegedly harassing a Native American veteran after the anti-abortion March for Life rally in Washington, D.C., over the weekend quickly went viral, provoking widespread condemnation of the kids on social media. Various media figures and Twitter users called for them to be doxed, shamed, or otherwise punished, and school administrators said they would consider expulsion.

    But the rest of the video—nearly two hours of additional footage showing what happened before and after the encounter—adds important context that strongly contradicts the media's narrative.

    It's especially a good idea to decline membership in an Outrage Mob. (I hope Amusement Mobs are OK. Despair Mobs probably, too.)


  • Interesting story from the College Fix about opacity in higher ed: University demands student pay $500 for public records on its Chinese propaganda institute.

    Under scrutiny from lawmakers of both parties and academic groups, universities have been closing their Chinese government-run centers at a brisk pace.

    The University of Kansas has not publicly moved to shutter its Confucius Institute, however, and a KU student wanted to know if administrators had discussed the possibility. He filed a public records request a month ago.

    The taxpayer-funded university gave him an answer Thursday: $506.50.

    Back when I worked at the University Near Here, we used to get "public records requests" (also subpoenas) that demanded we search through mailboxes for matching messages. This required expenditures of employee time that could have been spent doing something else, of course. (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook,…)

    But $506.25 isn't outrageous, especially if it involves redacting non-relevant bits of matching messages. I doubt that it implies that the University of Kansas has something it wants to hide.

    (Although they might have something they want to hide.)

    Anyway, GoFundMe was invoked, the $506.25 was raised, and we'll see what happens next.

    The University Near Here still has its Confucius Institute; in fact, next week it will be holding the "China National Intangible Cultural Heritage Tung Oil Paper Umbrella Exhibition" in Huddleston. Can't wait!


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang for a Concord Monitor editorial with an especially tendentious title: Confronting the myths of the free market.

    Nowhere in America is belief in the merits of free markets stronger than in New Hampshire. Last year, for the third time in a row, two groups, the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Canada’s Fraser Institute, declared that “New Hampshire, the Live Free or Die state, has the highest level of economic freedom among all U.S. states.” On its website, the Concord-based Josiah Bartlett Center proudly declares itself to be a “free-market think tank.” The platform of the state’s Libertarian Party declares that the only economic system “compatible with the protection of individual rights is the free market.”

    Free markets are the supposed solution to lower costs for energy, health care and all manner of things, and they supposedly work better when taxes are low. But the market has failed to deliver. American life expectancy is growing shorter. Even two-income families feel they can’t get ahead. Government, in the midst of the longest shutdown in U.S. history, is broken.

    To adapt something I'm pretty sure I heard Thomas Sowell say once: Listen up, Concord Monitor: I don't have a "belief" in free markets. I have facts about free markets.

    The Concord Monitor, on the other hand, seems to have a childlike faith in the state. Even though it's "broken". All we need to do is IncreaseTaxesOnTheRich! This will unbreak government! Families will feel like they can get ahead! Life expectancy will increase! Magic!


  • And a Dr. William Hall of Whitesboro, NY writes a LTE to the Utica Observer-Dispatch: There’s silver lining to our nation’s cloud.

    In our anger with the political party in power we don’t always see the silver linings. Nothing happens without a reason and I see a positive trend emerging since the 2016 election.

    Democrats outnumber the Republicans 2 to 1 and being shocked out of complacency / apathy a number of great things started happening. The Blue Wave happened and is continuing to spread. The urgency in this grassroots movement has increased to a “live-free-or-die” level regarding the president behaving as a Russian agent and becoming more autocratic as the Mueller investigation intensifies.

    Dr. Hall sees the "blue wave" as a harbinger of LFOD? I beg to differ. As would the Concord Monitor.


  • And down in Connecticut, at Greenwich Time, David Rafferty demonstrates the flexibility of the topics to which LFOD can apply: No excuse for dog poop incivility.

    As a nearly everyday walker at [Tod's] Point, I’ve been witness to many instances of dog owners flaunting the rules sometimes innocently, but often deliberately when it comes to excrement. Being a live-free-or-die libertarian Yankee is no excuse for dog poop incivility. No excuse for walking your dog over to a shady spot and watching him defecate without picking it up and sneering at me when I give you the stink eye. Encouraging your dog to run into the bushes to relieve himself…out of sight, out of mind. No excuse for not paying attention to your pup laying a trail of droppings as he walks like the elephant in the parade. No excuse for kicking sand over your dog’s dung, not 25 feet away from the supply of poop bags the town puts out for you to use.

    Hey, I'm (arguably) a live-free-or-die libertarian Yankee, and I religiously bag up my dog's poop on our walks. And I don't mean just on Sundays.

    And, like Dave, I really don't get the people who don't.

The Phony Campaign

2019-01-20 Update

[Amazon Link]

Yes, that's a phony (pardon me, "Faux") rock, available for a mere $51.69 at Amazon. No idea how much of that price is due to the hoity-toity "Faux" descriptor.

In nomination-odds news this week, both Hillary and Julian Castro have dipped below our 3% Predictwise criterion for inclusion, as bettors thought better.

In our phony standings, Kamala has taken the lead with a (almost certainly illusory) 4.9 million increase in her Google hits over last week. Beto has come crashing back down (losing 11.5 million hits) and so has Nikki Haley (down 1.7 million).

Candidate NomProb Change
Since
1/13
Phony
Results
Change
Since
1/13
Kamala Harris 19% unch 5,750,000 +4,915,000
Donald Trump 64% -1% 2,220,000 +130,000
Beto O'Rourke 19% unch 1,090,000 -11,510,000
Nikki Haley 6% -2% 793,000 -1,727,000
Sherrod Brown 5% +1% 411,000 -513,000
Kirsten Gillibrand 5% +1% 315,000 +155,000
Mitt Romney 4% +1% 211,000 -11,000
Bernie Sanders 6% +1% 203,000 -16,000
Joe Biden 12% -1% 181,000 +12,000
Elizabeth Warren 6% unch 164,000 +18,000
Mike Pence 5% -2% 131,000 -22,000
Amy Klobuchar 5% -1% 95,500 -14,500
Cory Booker 5% +2% 48,500 0
John Kasich 3% -2% 43,900 -3,900

Standard disclaimer: Google result counts are bogus.

And there was no shortage of phony news this week. I hope this is the cream of the crop:

  • George F. Will does not care for the cut of the presidential jib, nosirree. His recent column is a mixture of contempt and pity: The shabbiest U.S. president ever is an inexpressibly sad specimen.

    Dislike of him should be tempered by this consideration: He is an almost inexpressibly sad specimen. It must be misery to awaken to another day of being Donald Trump. He seems to have as many friends as his pluperfect self-centeredness allows, and as he has earned in an entirely transactional life. His historical ignorance deprives him of the satisfaction of working in a house where much magnificent history has been made. His childlike ignorance — preserved by a lifetime of single-minded self-promotion — concerning governance and economics guarantees that whenever he must interact with experienced and accomplished people, he is as bewildered as a kindergartener at a seminar on string theory.

    Which is why this fountain of self-refuting boasts (“I have a very good brain”) lies so much. He does so less to deceive anyone than to reassure himself. And as balm for his base, which remains oblivious to his likely contempt for them as sheep who can be effortlessly gulled by preposterous fictions. The tungsten strength of his supporters’ loyalty is as impressive as his indifference to expanding their numbers.

    Just brutal. And accurate.


  • Via Power Line (Welcome to the Class Struggle Primaries), Brit researcher David Klemperer provides Progressive Yanks with the only rating that matters. (For the rest of us, it's a measure of how screwed we'll be, should any of them win.)

    I assume the "1793" suffix on David's Twitter handle refers to the French Revolution's "Year I", back when Louis XVI went to the guillotine. Good times!

    Comments Paul Mirengoff:

    It’s a safe bet that Kirsten Gillibrand had a lower “class struggle” rating when she represented a less than out-and-out liberal congressional district, rather than the entire state of New York. She’s a phony.

    I wonder how much her phoniness can be expected to degrade her class warriorship?


  • But as long as we're talking Kirsten, she announced her candidacy this week. And, according to the Washington Examiner, It looks like Kirsten Gillibrand was lying about running for president the entire time. From her October 25, 2018 debate with whoever her opponent for the NY Senate seat was:

    Moderator: Can you tell New Yorkers, who plan to vote for you on November 6, that you will, if re-elected, serve out your six-year Senate term?

    Gillibrand: I will.

    Moderator: Just want to make this clear, you’re saying that you will not get out of the race and you will not run for president? You will serve your six years?

    Gillibrand: I will serve my six-year term.

    Well, congrats to Kirsten. Dishonesty on that level shows her to be a worthy competitor for Donald Trump. An impressive display of New York values!


  • But Kirsten is a target-rich environment, phonywise. At NR, Alexandra DeSanctis looks at The Opportunism of Kirsten Gillibrand. She details the needle-threading history of her public pronouncements on Al Franken's wandering hands.

    It wasn’t until December 6, 20 days after the first claim had surfaced, that Gillibrand leapt out ahead of her fellow Democrats to call for Franken’s resignation. Her statement was followed, within minutes, by similar calls from other Democratic senators.

    To join the Democratic donor class in blaming Gillibrand for Franken’s demise, then, is wholly unfair. But so too is it unfair to celebrate her as a #MeToo hero who put her popularity on the line for the greater good. She was merely holding up a finger in the wind and drifting wherever the ethos of the moment dictated.

    This tendency has defined her career. Consider just one example: When she ran for the Senate in 2010, she held an A rating from the NRA. That rating was immediately downgraded to an F after she won the election and, following her party’s trend, completely reversed her stance on the Second Amendment.

    She will probably distinguish herself in the Democratic field by being the candidate most likely to say whatever she thinks … will help her get the necessary votes.


  • A twofer from Jim Geraghty this week, the first about the guy who is trying to catch up with Beto and Kamala. Yes, I'm talkin' Uncle Joe Biden: 20 Things You Probably Didn't Know. Let's take a gander at number…

    12. Biden publicly stated that, at the moment of decision about the raid that would ultimately kill Osama bin Laden, he had believed the mission was not worth the risk and told Obama, “Mr. President, my suggestion is don’t go.” But in a 2018 interview, he said he had publicly overstated his doubts to ensure Obama got more credit for making the decision to launch the raid. Unnamed Biden aides also claimed that Hillary Clinton had falsely claimed she had completely supported the decision to launch the raid, calling her account of the raid decision the “a**-covering, opportunistic version.”

    A debate for the ages: who's phonier, Joe or Hillary? They each have their special qualities.


  • Well, how about Kamala Harris: 20 Things You Didn’t Know? Again, there's a wealth of information to choose from, but:

    15. For nearly ninety years, California state law prohibited images of handguns from being used in signs for gun stores. In 2014, after Harris’s office cited several gun shops, they sued, arguing that the law violated the First Amendment. Harris’s office argued that the law was needed to prevent handgun-related crime and suicide. Last year a federal judge ruled “the government has provided no evidence directly linking [the law] to reduced handgun suicide or crime,” concluded that the law was a “highly paternalistic approach to limiting speech,” and declared it “unconstitutional on its face.”

    That was when Kamala was California's Attorney General. I'm sure you're wondering: didn't she have to take an oath to support and defend the Constitution in order to land that gig?

    Answer: yes she did.

    Any chance Kamala would take the US presidential oath of office more seriously? I would bet against.


  • And Beto O'Rourke, should he decide to run, has a different phony approach to the issues: O'Rourke Not Sure How to Address Illegal Immigration: 'I Trust the Wisdom of the People'.

    Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D., Texas) opposes the White House's desired southern border wall, but he deferred to the "wisdom of the people" on a range of other immigration questions in a new interview.

    O'Rourke, one of dozens of potential Democratic 2020 White House contenders, wasn't sure what to do about visa overstays—"I don't know"—and told the Washington Post that the answers to other questions surrounding illegal immigration will come through open debates […]

    Noted above: Kirsten Gillibrand will take whatever position necessary to get people to vote for her. Beto, on the other hand, will avoid taking positions, lest those positions cause people to not vote for him.

    A bold strategy! By which I mean: cowardly and phony.


  • And he even is unable to take a strong stand on what should be a slam dunk. Beto O'Rourke Not Sure the Constitution Still Works. (Kyle Smith at National Review, looking at the same WaPo interview as the item above.)

    Most of the WaPo interview on Beto O’Rourke is a nonprescription sleep aid. O’Rourke thinks he maybe has something to say about immigration and the border but apart from opposing the wall he isn’t too sure what. He says things like “I don’t know” and “worth debating.” He equivocates on what to do about border security, about withdrawing troops from Syria, about the Green New Deal. He says “I don’t know what to do” in so many ways that you wonder why he bothered to give an interview. Apparently it went on for two hours. How many espressos reporter Jenna Johnson needed to ward off somnolence is unknown.

    […]

    O’Rourke blathers on. It takes a moment for it to sink in that he isn’t sure the Constitution still works. “I’m hesitant to answer it because I really feel like it deserves its due, and I don’t want to give you a — actually, just selfishly, I don’t want a sound bite of it reported, but, yeah, I think that’s the question of the moment: Does this still work? Can an empire like ours with military presence in over 170 countries around the globe, with trading relationships…and security arrangements in every continent, can it still be managed by the same principles that were set down 230-plus years ago?” (Emphasis mine.)

    Beto, like Kamala, will have to swear (or affirm) to "preserve, protect and defend" the Constitution if he wins, a tough call if he doesn't think it "works" any more. I hope someone asks him about that.


URLs du Jour

2019-01-19

[Amazon Link]

  • At American Consequences, P.J. O'Rourke writes on Trade Routes.

    Trade itself may be a happy activity, but trade means transport, and transport means trade routes, and trade routes are where people are brought together… not always in a happy way.

    When we trace the globe’s ancient trade routes, it is unpleasant to see what contentious regions they traverse and what grievous political fault lines they follow. Even worse is to note that most of these antique grudges are still evident on modern maps.

    Check it out as Peej guides you "past the IEDs of Sinai terrorists, through the Gaza kill zone, past trigger-happy Israeli checkpoints, across the chaos of Lebanon, into Syria where ISIS is no less murderous just because it’s “almost defeated,” only to wind up in Baghdad."


  • At NR David French belabors what should be obvious, but isn't: Karen Pence & Christian Sexual Morality: Love Is Not Hate. It's those triggered by Mrs. Pence teaching at a school that has old-fashioned (i.e., what used to be "conventional") ideas about sex.

    […] When I see critics respond to a Christian by telling them that they’re a bigot because of their loving beliefs, they’re telling that Christian he’s a liar. They’re telling that Christian he’s insincere in the origin and purpose of his deepest convictions. Every Christian can and should be prepared for questions about his faith. In fact, it’s a biblical imperative that Christians “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

    The claim of bigotry, however, is wrong. When it is used to attempt to drive Christians out of the public square, to block them from public offices, or to shame them out of even their own ministries, it’s an instrument of injustice. It’s intolerance in the name of tolerance — and, yes, sometimes it’s even hate in the name of love.

    It's tempting to speculate that people who carelessly attribute bigotry to others are simply projecting: "You must hate me… because I hate you."

    I'm old enough to remember the good old Moral Majority. As our Amazon Product du Jour, its stridency hasn't gone away, it's just popped up on the other side.


  • Amelia Irvine writes at the Federalist: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Setting Women Back Light Years In Politics. Is this a case of using "light year" as a unit of time instead of distance? Who knows? The term doesn't appear in the article. Still:

    “I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right,” Ocasio-Cortez told Cooper after he asked about her careless and incorrect analysis of the defense budget. In one sentence, Ocasio-Cortez portrayed herself as a woman who is ready to subordinate facts to her moral convictions, confirming achingly anti-female stereotypes. She may as well have driven erratically down the highway or failed to catch a gently thrown ball. Of course, she later admitted that being factually correct is “absolutely important.” She just doesn’t seem to care much about facts and numbers when she’s tweeting.

    Or, for that matter, when she’s speaking. In discussing with Cooper her proposal for a “Green New Deal,” which would use the full force of the government in an attempt to convert the United States to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, she could not offer an actual answer for how such an enormous transformation would be possible. “It’s going to require a lot of rapid change that we don’t even conceive as possible right now,” was all she could say.

    Said it before, but: I'm old enough to remember how the MSM treated the occasional verbal blunders of Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin. There's a real difference with AOC.


  • We looked at a debunking story the other day, but Slashdot finds a respectable Harvard astronomer who's willing to Go There: Have Aliens Found Us? A Harvard Astronomer on the Mysterious Interstellar Object 'Oumuamua.

    On October 19, 2017, astronomers at the University of Hawaii spotted a strange object travelling through our solar system, which they later described as "a red and extremely elongated asteroid." It was the first interstellar object to be detected within our solar system; the scientists named it 'Oumuamua, the Hawaiian word for a scout or messenger. The following October, Avi Loeb, the chair of Harvard's astronomy department, co-wrote a paper (with a Harvard postdoctoral fellow, Shmuel Bialy) that examined 'Oumuamua's "peculiar acceleration" and suggested that the object "may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth's vicinity by an alien civilization." Loeb has long been interested in the search for extraterrestrial life, and he recently made further headlines by suggesting that we might communicate with the civilization that sent the probe.

    There are links in the article to an interview with Loeb in the New Yorker and Loeb's article about 'Oumuamua in Scientific American.

    I can't help but think if Heinlein were still alive we'd be firing up a torch ship to go out and catch up to the sumbitch.


  • Granite Grok's Steve MacDonald brings the good news to Granite State lovers of Asian cuisine and liberty: City of Keene Caves - "Pho Keene Great" Sign "Approved".

    Over at Free Keene (check out their modified banner it’s Free Keene Great) where we first picked up the story, things sound a bit more like what typically goes on in Keene. The city was stupid. It expected the restaurant to roll over. It didn’t. A court case based on the first amendment seemed likely if they kept pushing. So, Keene decided not to push their luck.

    "Depend upon it, sir, when a town knows it is to be the object of nationwide derision, it concentrates its mind wonderfully."


  • The student newspaper of the College Not Near Here covers another bit of legislation: NH Democrats introduce firearms ban in school zones.

    On Jan. 2, House Bill 101 — which would allow school districts to regulate firearms in school zones — was introduced by seven Democrats in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

    Since 2011, the state of New Hampshire has had authority over the sale, ownership, use, possession and permitting of all firearms in the state. However, this new bill would redistribute some of that power to individual school districts and allow them to enforce gun-free zones.

    The leaders of both the College Republicans (anti) and the College Democrats (pro, of course) are quoted. The latter caused the LFOD news alert:

    “This bill comes at a pertinent time in the question of the tension between common sense gun regulation and personal gun ownership, especially in a state like New Hampshire where the culture is ‘Live Free or Die,’” [College Democrats president Gigi] Gunderson said. “We continue to support policies that make our schools and New Hampshire residents safer.”

    Gigi at least gets the four words of the state motto correct, although I suspect she'd prefer it to be "Live Safe and Obey".

    Obligatory reference: 97.8% of mass public shootings occur in gun-free zones. (Note: There is a lot of definitional quibbling involved here.)


  • And the Smoking Gun reports on local shenanigans: Live Free or Die Trying.

    While stopped at a red light Tuesday afternoon, a New Hampshire motorist was living his best life, smoking crack cocaine and being fellated by a woman in the passenger seat, police report.

    As Dave Barry would observe: soon we will have no rights left at all.

URLs du Jour

2019-01-18

[Amazon Link]

  • At the WSJ, James Freeman takes a stroll down memory lane: Remember When Politicians Promised to Make College Affordable?.

    Expanding federal grants and loans to finance higher education has predictably given colleges the ability to raise prices, which in turn requires students to take on even more debt to pay the new higher prices. It’s not a new story. In 1965 Washington launched a program to make college “affordable” by offering a taxpayer guarantee on student loans. By an amazing coincidence college costs have been rising much faster than inflation ever since.

    James quotes from coverage of the June 2008 Detroit campaign stop of then-candidate Obama. A "tearful" young lady noted that she was "about $1500 short" of paying for her dental hygeine studies at Wayne County Community College.

    In response, Obama promised “I will make college affordable for every American. Period.”

    It's unknown whether the student somehow managed to get her schooling, but certainly that's a broken promise.

    As a Pun Salad value-added, I was able to find a spreadsheet showing the historical tuition rates for Michigan community colleges, including Wayne County. Since the 2008 event, it appears that their per-credit hour tuition has gone up about 6.6% annually. About double the CPI increase since then.

    Bottom line: when politicians promise to make things "affordable", run away.


  • At Quillette, Jonathan Kay fits that woke Gillette ad into the long history of advertising bullshit: Gillette's Progressive Politics: 'Corinthian Leather' for the Progressive Soul.

    Being a metallurgical engineer (as I, too, would later become), my father was especially irritated by ads for razors. In one well-known spot for the Vintage Stainless Steel Doubled-Edged Blade (this was before my time, but he often talked about it), an actor would be asked to compare a “Personna Stainless, seven shaves old” with another “well-known blade, brand new”—shaving half his face with each. The actor, of course, identifies the Personna as being the more comfortable of the pair. The announcer then hammers home the fact that the Personna prevailed despite being seven shaves old. But that fact was meaningless, my father would tell me (and others), because the main cause of shaving-blade degradation isn’t contact with skin. It’s the gradual oxidation that takes place when the blade dries off, over hours or days, after it’s been used—a phenomenon that wouldn’t apply to a blade that (as in this case) presumably had been used seven times in rapid succession.

    It’s an example my dad would bring up repeatedly whenever a dumb commercial would come on TV, since the same general principle applies to most ad campaigns for mass-market products. Coca-Cola doesn’t make you smile. The “Rich Corinthian Leather” that Chrysler used to upholster car seats wasn’t actually from Corinth. And smoking Virginia Slims doesn’t actually mean “You’ve come a long way, baby.” It probably just means you’re going to die of lung cancer.

    I'm tempted to oversimplify: there are two kinds of people in the world, those who actually like politically-correct virtue-signalling, others who find it obnoxiously off-putting. These groups will never understand each other.


  • At American Consequences, P.J. O'Rourke writes on The Bet. Specifically, the one between the late Julian Simon and Paul Ehrlich. You might have heard about that, and know how it came out. If not, click through and RTWT. But the underlying debate rages. Some more current data:

    In a paper released at the end of last year, Cato scholar and Human Progress Founder Marian Tupy and Brigham Young University economist Gale Pooley describe what they call “The Simon Abundance Index.” Tupy and Pooley created the index by expanding the original wager made by Simon and Ehrlich to include a basket of 50 “foundational commodities” – energy, food, materials, and metals – and by using price data from 1980 to 2017.

    Even though the population of the world increased by 69.3% during those 37 years, the price of the 50 commodities declined by 36.3%.

    Tupy and Pooley’s conclusion: “Every additional human being born on our planet appears to make resources proportionately more plentiful for the rest of us.”

    Make your bets in the commodity market any way you want, but never bet against people.

    A good thing to read when you're feeling pessimistic. But remember: "people" elected our politicians.


  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson has a good suggestion to which nobody in power will listen: No-Deal Brexit Solution: Unilateral Free Trade. (NRPlus, sorry.)

    The born-again mercantilists and daft neo-nationalists fundamentally misunderstand trade: The benefits of trade are the imports; the exports are the cost. Contemporary trade skeptics — and American nationalist-populists in the Donald Trump mode are not least among them — get it backward. They hear about “trade deficits” and, misunderstanding that term — it is an intentionally misleading one, after all — believe that our trading partners are somehow getting over on us. Difficult as it is to believe in the particular — that you’ve been victimized by your new Mercedes — it somehow feels plausible as an abstraction: They get $50 billion, and we get only $30 billion. Of course, they get only $30 billion worth of actual goods and services, while we get $50 billion worth.

    Unilateral free trade may sound like a radical idea, but other countries have had pretty good luck with it, including one that may be of interest to the English: England. When the English rescinded the Corn Laws in the middle of the 19th century, they did not do so as part of a broad and reciprocal agreement with their grain-producing trade partners, some of whom — the French — they didn’t particularly like. They did it because the sensible English finally came to the sensibly English conclusion that English people would be better off as a whole if there were more food coming from more sources at better prices, even if that diminished the earnings of the relatively small cartel of big landowners who had benefited the most from anti-trade measures. Great Britain in fact grew vastly wealthy while maintaining trade arrangements that paid relatively little attention to reciprocity even in principle. British territories, notably Hong Kong, grew wealthy while following much the same model.

    Make Britain Great Again!


  • I've been a Virginia Postrel fanboy for decades, ever since she edited Reason magazine. She sat for an interview at the Writers on Writing website. Part of her answer to a softball "role of the sane writer in insane times" query:

    While I understand the market forces that push writers to feed outrage in order to get traffic, I also feel a civic responsibility to keep my cool, not to attribute motives to people that they wouldn’t themselves recognize, and to think about what might actually persuade people who disagree with me. I don’t always live up to those standards—we all get outraged sometimes—but the older I get and the more history I read, the easier it is to do.

    It also helps that, unlike many, perhaps most, female writers, I have never felt either market pressure nor a personal desire to write about my personal experiences and emotions. What interests me is learning and writing about the world.

    We need many more writers and thinkers like Ms. Postrel.


  • And a mini-rant:

    I go to the Mental Floss website, since it's supposed to be aimed at the smarties, and I like to imagine I'm one of them.

    And yet, it seems that way too often I get offered articles like the one headlined…

    The Real Reason Harry Potter Named His Son After Severus Snape.

    I would normally post an excerpt followed by a (theoretically) pungent comment, but I'm not even gonna bother with the excerpt.

    Because Harry is a fictitious character. So is Snape. And so is Harry's son. They had no "real reasons" to do anything, because they are not real themselves.

    If you find this painfully obvious, congratulations: you may be too smart to read Mental Floss.

URLs du Jour

2019-01-17

[Amazon Link]

  • Kevin D. Williamson notes the odd political inversion (probably) in progress: Democrats & Republicans: Trading Socioeconomic Places.

    The Democrats have become the party of snobbery. Consider those endless fights over the treatment of evolution in high-school textbooks. Nobody seriously believes that if a high-school science teacher in Muleshoe, Texas, is legally permitted to mention heterodox views of evolution, in 20 years’ time Stanford and MIT will be intellectual backwaters. Those fights aren’t about science — do you hear progressives hounding the Washington Post about its horoscopes or lamenting Obamacare’s blessing of sundry New Age quackeries? — they’re about the loathing of those people. You know the ones: They care a great deal about football and eat at McDonald’s, love guns and Jesus, and probably voted for Trump.

    The Republicans have embraced a kind of militant inverted snobbery: “Were you born in a barn?” isn’t a question your Republican mother asks you when you’re behaving poorly — it’s a question the Republican National Committee asks, hopefully, when it is thinking about backing you for Congress.

    Things change in politics, and more quickly than you’d think. In 1984, Ronald Reagan won 49 states; Richard Nixon had done the same thing twelve years before him. (Minnesota held out against Reagan, Massachusetts against Nixon.) It is difficult to imagine a Republican doing that today. I blame Rudy Giuliani.

    Well, things change. They may change back, but I doubt they'll do so quickly enough so I'll be around to see it.


  • President Trump had yet another disgraceful "Good Lord, when will he ever just shut up" moment last week, and the disgrace was compounded by how little it was noticed. But Jeff Jacoby noticed: In extolling 'honorable' tyrants, Trump shames America.

    DONALD TRUMP is a compulsive insulter. When faced with any criticism or opposition, he resorts instinctively to taunts and put-downs. His smears and invective are so unremitting that they no longer shock. It's simply a given: If you spar with Trump, you'll be slandered by Trump.

    For all that, the president's jeers still sometimes manage to set a new low for indecency.

    Last Thursday, taking questions from reporters on the White House lawn, Trump was touting his administration's economic record.

    "We have the best job numbers in at least 50 years," he claimed. "The economy is incredible. We're negotiating and having tremendous success with China."

    Then he abruptly pivoted to his budget dispute with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

    "I find China, frankly, in many ways, to be far more honorable than Cryin' Chuck and Nancy. I really do," he said. "I think that China is actually much easier to deal with than the opposition party."

    I am, of course, no fan of either Chuck or Nancy. But to describe murderous Chinese dictators as far more honorable than US politicians is utterly brain-damaged. People who voted for him should be ashamed. Again.


  • Peter Suderman commemorates an ignominious anniversary: The 100th Anniversary of the Ratification of the Amendment That Led to Prohibition Is a Reminder of the Lasting Damage Bad Policy Can Do.

    One hundred years ago [January 16, 1919], Nebraska became the 36th state to ratify the 18th amendment, which set Prohibition in motion a year later. Prohibition is widely, and rightly, remembered as one of the 20th century's greatest policy mistakes, and it contains more than a few lessons that remain relevant today.

    The decision by the states and the federal government to outlaw the manufacture, sale, and transportation of most alcohol in the United States was born of racism, nativism, government paternalism, and moralizing religiosity.

    Yeah, it was bad. But at least back then, the government felt it needed an amendment to the Constitution in order to tell people what substances they could not legally imbibe.


  • At Law & Liberty, Alex J. Pollock has thoughts about financial blind spots. And he's not optimistic, because nearly by definition In Finance, the Blind Spots Will Always Be With You.

    The first reason is that all finance is intertwined with politics. Banking scholar Charles Calomiris concludes that every banking system is a deal between the politicians and the bankers. This is so true. As far as banking and finance go, the 19th century had a better name for what we call “economics”—they called it “political economy.”

    There will always be political bind spots—risk issues too politically sensitive to address, or which conflict with the desire of politicians to direct credit to favored borrowers. This is notably the case with housing finance and sovereign debt.

    The fatal flaw of the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) is that being part of the government, lodged right here in the Treasury Department, it is unable to address the risks and systemic risks created by the government itself—and the government, including its central bank—is a huge creator of systemic financial risk.

    For example, consider “Systemically Important Financial Institutions” or SIFIs. It is obvious to anyone who thinks about it for at least a minute that the government mortgage institutions Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are SIFIs. If they are not SIFIs, then no one in the world is a SIFI. Yet FSOC has not designated them as such. Why not? Of course the answer is contained in one word: politics.

    I'm old enough to remember when it was "obvious" than Fannie and Freddie were leftover New Dealisms that deserved to die. Sigh. Good times.


  • And finally a pungent Facebook observation from Robert Higgs.


Last Modified 2019-01-18 6:21 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2019-01-16

[Amazon Link]

  • Let's do some equal time. A what's-the-big-deal query from Robby Soave at Reason: The Gillette Ad Tells Men Not to Hurt People. Why Is This Offensive?.

    Gillette, the shaving company, debuted a new commercial this week that assails "toxic masculinity" and challenges men to behave better toward women and each other. But since modern cultural discourse involves two constantly outraged tribes careening wildly from one controversy to the next, this perfectly inoffensive message has somehow been rendered bad by team red.

    Well, Robby, it's annoying to be preached to by corporations that presume to be morally superior.

    Also: presuming that an entire group bears the stigma of a subset of bad apples is invidious stereotyping, a gateway to bigotry.


  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson reads the lefty mags (so we don't have to) and makes an interesting observation: Left Wing Pro-Russians Scoff at Collusion.

    The Nation, in particular, seems to have shed a few dozen IQ points since November 2016; its voice today is a good deal less Victor Navasky and a good deal more Joan Walsh, which is a good deal for no one. (Not even for Joan Walsh, really.) But The Nation is a bit less predictable than the median hysterical lefty in one interesting way: the skepticism of its writers regarding Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election.

    In fact, The Nation is broadly defensive of Russia. From Jan. 11, 2019: “Proponents of the Trump–Russia collusion theory wildly overstate their case, again.” From January 9: “What Trump’s Syrian Withdrawal Really Reveals: A wise decision is greeted by denunciations, obstructionism, imperial thinking, and more Russia-bashing.” From Dec. 28, 2018: “New Studies Show Pundits Are Wrong About Russian Social-Media Involvement in U.S. Politics: Far from being a sophisticated propaganda campaign, it was small, amateurish, and mostly unrelated to the 2016 election.”

    The Nation used to be hilariously pro-Soviet; if you can dig up P. J. O'Rourke's tale of his 1980s trip to the Soviet Union under the magazine's auspices, do so.


  • The Google LFOD alert rang for an article in Ammoland by Jared J Yanis: Red Flag Bill Submitted in New Hampshire. Oh oh.

    An Extreme Risk Protection Order Bill (ERPO) has been submitted in the gun friendly State of New Hampshire…the “Live Free or Die” state.

    Jared argues, plausibly, that such bills, which allow judges to "suspend" (via confiscation) an individual's access to guns, "have only one intended goal: to circumvent the 2nd Amendment and confiscate guns from people who are then considered guilty until proven innocent."


  • And at Cato, Matthew Larosiere notes another tactic used by the controllers: The ATF Attempts to Deny Non-Binary and Trans Americans Guns.

    At the end of January, someone at the National Shooting Sports Federation asked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) about non-binary people purchasing firearms. The ATF responded that, despite gender non-binary licenses being acceptable identification, the individual must still select either “male” or “female” on the standard firearm transfer form 4473.

    The ATF’s rigid, unreasoned response makes it clear there’s a huge disconnect between the purpose of the form, and the ATF’s interpretation. Form 4473, which everyone must fill out when they purchase a firearm from a federally licensed dealer, is intended to identify the purchaser of the firearm, have them confirm they are legally eligible to receive the firearm, and give enough identifying information to run a background check.

    That poses a dilemma for Progressives: do you side with the LGBTQ people wanting weaponry, or the bureaucrats?


  • At Wired Adam Rogers writes on a recent visitor to our solar system, currently headed out of town: Is ’Oumuamua an Alien Spaceship? Sure! Except, No.

    Is it possible that ‘Oumuamua, the nominally cigar-shaped, somewhat mysterious visitor that a Hawaiian telescope spotted leaving our solar system in 2017, might be neither comet nor asteroid but an alien spacecraft? Not a rock whirling through the uncaring void but the fossilized wreck of a magnificent, light-powered starship?

    Well … it’s possible. A little bit. Is it likely? Hah. No.

    Fun to speculate, though. Assuming it's just an odd-shaped rock, its mere occurrence means that such objects must be vastly more common than previously thought.

The Ashtray

(Or the Man Who Denied Reality)

[Amazon Link]

Back in the day, specifically my college days, I read The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn. In fact, it's one of the few books from that era that I still have on my shelves (I just looked: yeah, there it is).

You see, Caltech insisted that even us physics geeks had to take one course per term in non-stem fields: history, English, econ, … or philosophy. And even though I didn't (still don't) have the type of brain suited to deep thinking about questions that people have been thinking about for millennia without getting answers, I said: sure, I'll take that philosophy of science course.

So I read Kuhn, and I was far more impressed by his argument than I should have been.

Which was, loosely speaking: during normal, non-revolutionary periods, scientists operate within the dominant paradigm relevant to their research field. For example, Ptolemaic astronomers observed the heavens and hammered their findings into the Ptolemaic geocentric cosmos. With difficulty, of course, but, hey, science is not easy.

But along comes a revolutionary theory with a new paradigm, like Copernicus's, that does a better job of describing reality. (Although the theories, Kuhn said, were 'incommensurable'; you couldn't really refute or support one via appeals to the other.) Then we have a paradigm shift, adherents to the old theory either adapt or die, and the new paradigm establishes its dominance, usually without literal trips to the guillotine.

About the same time I was inordinately impressed by Kuhn, a grad student named Errol Morris was at Princeton, enrolled in the Program in the History and Philosophy of Science, which Kuhn headed. They did not get on. According to Morris, Kuhn was a petty chain-smoking tyrant, forbidding him from attending lectures from other competing philosophers. And things culminated in Kuhn (allegedly) throwing this book's butt-filled titular object at Morris's head during a particularly heated "philosophical" discussion.

So Morris went on to become a famous documentary filmmaker instead of an obscure philosopher. But he still retained an interest, and (I think it's fair to say) kind of a grudge, and this book, safely published two decades after Kuhn's death.

It's a full-throated attack on the Kuhnian viewpoint, which Morris contends is a hopeless denial of human ability to apprehend reality and truth, crushed as we are by the weight of our dominant paradigms, only on occasion to escape, just to be recrushed by the next paradigm we just shifted to. Morris makes his philosophical case for (instead) the pursuit of truth "through reason, through observation, through investigation, through thought, through science".

Morris is a political leftie, and his book is kind of interesting also as a sidelight onto just how radically left academia was back then. He interviews the late Hilary Putnam, once a proud member of the Maoist Progressive Labor Party while a Harvard prof. And Noam Chomsky. And he tells of his arrest while blocking the entrances to the Institute for Defense Analysis near Princeton back in 1972. Et cetera.

If that were all, this book would be pretty grim and tedious. But there's a lot of humor too, some pop culture references. Since he's a filmmaker, Morris knows his flicks: there are long asides discussing particular aspects of Citizen Kane and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence. Numerous footnotes, not quite at the volume preferred by David Foster Wallace, but close. (One of the footnotes mentions Morris's fondness for, yes, David Foster Wallace.) And there are lots of offbeat illustrations, about one per page. My personal favorite:

Jean Léon Gerome 1896 La Vérité sortant du puits.JPG

By Jean-Léon Gérôme - Sergey Prokopenko, Public Domain, Link

We don't often do naked ladies here at Pun Salad, but it's art, so it's OK. That's "Truth Coming Out of Her Well". She's pissed.

I've seen a number of reviews that suggest Morris may be overstating his case in his eagerness to trash all things Kuhnian. I am (see what I said about my brain up there) not one to judge. But this is a relentlessly entertaining book, especially if you skim over all the philosophical navel-gazing.

URLs du Jour

2019-01-15

[Amazon Link]

  • Jonah Goldberg writes last week's G-File on Kamala Harris & Tucker Carlson: Common Clichés.

    About 20 minutes ago (my time), I caught some of Senator Kamala Harris’s road show on Morning Joe. If there were a platitude-eating fungus that rapidly reproduced, by the end of the segment, everyone would have died from the crushing weight of the world’s largest mushroom.

    I don’t really take offense at the platitudes, given that we are talking about a politician and also a U.S. senator running for president. What did bug me quite a bit, though, was how she oozed the sense that she was just nailing it. And no, this isn’t a sexist thing. I know we’re in the phase of the asinine conversation when we’re supposed to believe that finding a specific liberal woman annoying or unlikable proves that you hate all women.

    I reject all of this and all attempts to bully me into compliance. I belong to the school that says women are human beings, and that means they are distributed up and down the likability scale, just like men. I find Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez likable, but not as likable as Amy Klobuchar, and more likable than Elizabeth Warren. And, just to establish a baseline,  compared to, say, the late Helen Thomas (the Stygian goblin who used to roost in the White House press gallery, her scaly talons glistening under the camera lights), they’re all so likable I’d join their cross-country Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants if it meant not sitting next to Thomas on a short flight.

    Anyway, former senator Bill Bradley had the same quality as Harris. He’d say something like “Elections are vital to democracy” and then stop talking, as if the audience needed time to absorb the shockwave of a truth bomb of such magnitude. I read somewhere that Bradley didn’t like to hear applause at the end of his speeches because he interpreted silence as a sign of the audience’s awe at his wisdom.

    Harris wasn’t that bad, but it was close.

    That's a long excerpt, sorry. Didn't know where to stop clipping. Or start.

    But Jonah's point about the similarity between Kamala's rhetoric and that of Tucker Carlson is spot on: they both embrace the all-too-convenient notion that "once good-intentioned nationalists control the knobs and buttons of the state, we’ll fix all of the problems with our culture." Uh-uh.


  • At the Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby asks the musical question: Would MLK honor Angela Davis?. It's in response to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute's yearly honorary award, typically going to people like Vernon Jordan. But…

    This year, the institute blundered badly. It announced in December that the 2019 Shuttlesworth Award would go to Angela Davis, a Birmingham native and longtime political activist. The institute hailed Davis as a “civil rights icon” and claimed that she “has been deeply involved in movements for social justice around the world.”

    In reality, Davis is an extremist, an anti-Semite, and a communist stalwart. She was involved in violence, praised terrorists responsible for the murder of innocent victims, and defended some of the cruelest and most repressive regimes on Earth. To bestow upon Davis an award named for Shuttlesworth — a man who was targeted for assassination yet never abandoned his commitment to nonviolence — struck many of Birmingham’s civic leaders as scandalous.

    Read through for Jacoby's documentation of those charges. (I was equally outraged when the University Near Here saw fit to invite Davis for its MLK festivities ten years ago, but Jacoby's indictment is more complete than the one I made back then.)


  • [Amazon Link]
    On the occasion of the paperback release of Enlightenment Now (Amazon link at right, a very good deal at $12.19 as I type, you have simply no excuse for not buying it), Steven Pinker responds to his critics at Quillette: Enlightenment Wars: Some Reflections on 'Enlightenment Now,' One Year Later.

    You wouldn’t think that a defense of reason, science, and humanism would be particularly controversial in an era in which those ideals would seem to need all the help they can get. But in the words of a colleague, “You’ve made people’s heads explode!” Many people who have written to me about my 2018 book Enlightenment Now say they’ve been taken aback by the irate attacks from critics on both the right and the left. Far from embracing the beleaguered ideals of the Enlightenment, critics have blamed it for racism, imperialism, existential threats, and epidemics of loneliness, depression, and suicide.  They have insisted that human progress can only be an illusion of cherry-picked data. They have proclaimed, with barely concealed schadenfreude, that the Enlightenment is an idea whose time has passed, soon to be killed off by authoritarian populism, social media, or artificial intelligence.

    Never fear, says Steve: I was, and still am, right about everything. (You might find this sort of attitude to be arrogant and off-putting, I kind of find it charming.)

    Locals can go see Prof Pinker and his famous hair January 30 at the Music Hall in Portsmouth. Each 1-2 tickets include a (mandatory) voucher for the book, so that's actually a disincentive for people who already own the book, like me.

    Finally: You'd think the high-class site Quillette would have high-class commenters. You'd be wrong about that.


  • The irrepressible Jim Treacher analyzes the latest effort of a big company to show that it is woke: Gillette Tells Men They're Repulsive Creeps. Now Give Them Your Money, You Piece of Garbage.

    Are you a man? That is to say, are you a genetic male who also happens to identify as a "man," for some increasingly antiquated reason? If so, are you under the mistaken impression that you're not a rapist?

    Our society has come a long way in shaming men for behaving in any way that anybody anywhere doesn't like, and reminding men that we're all complicit even if we don't behave that way. But it's not nearly enough. The mere fact of maleness is shameful and problematic. Men and boys everywhere need to be reminded that we're evil. We must learn to hate ourselves as much as everyone else hates us. The patriarchy must be castrated.

    And who better to do it than a company that makes razors?

    I'm tempted to boycott, except I've got about a six-month supply of disposable Mach 3 razors in my bathroom cupboard. And a can of Foamy that lasts about that long too. Even if they could detect my boycott, it wouldn't have any effect until this summer. By which time this whole thing will have blown over, I hope.

    Or maybe I could just grow a beard. Another thing the heirs of King wouldn't notice.

    And wny stop at Gillette? Shouldn't I really boycott the entire P&G family? Toss my Oral-B toothbrush? My Crest toothpaste? My Tide pods? Mr. Clean Magic Erasers? All the Swiffers?

    Sorry, impractical. I'll have to signal my disgust some other way. Oh, right, I just did that.


  • As a Columbia prof, John McWhorter has had it with a certain ex-student's prose: What Trump's Typos Reveal.

    The president of the United States has many faults, but let’s not ignore this one: He cannot write sentences. If a tree falls in a forrest and no one is there to hear it … wait: Pretty much all of you noticed that mistake, right? Yet Wednesday morning, the president did not; he released a tweet referring to “forrest fires” twice, as if these fires were set by Mr. Gump. Trump’s serial misuse of public language is one of many shortcomings that betray his lack of fitness for the presidency.

    I subscribed to the late Richard Mitchell's Underground Grammarian newsletter for years. He liked quoting Ben Jonson:

    Neither can his mind be thought to be in tune, whose words do jar; nor his reason in frame whose sentence is preposterous; nor his elocution clear and perfect, whose utterance breaks itself into fragments and uncertainties.

    Ah, well, you can't say we didn't know what we'd be getting.

Toss Your Cookies

[Amazon Link]

Some sites (like the Boston Globe) are pretty nasty about letting you have access to a severely limited number of "free" pages. They do this by leaving web cookies on your computer so they can recognize your browser when it returns for more content.

You can try opening such sites in Incognito mode (or whatever the equivalent is in non-Chrome browsers), but they can detect that and give you a nastypage instead of the desired content.

For the same reason, extensions that allow you to reject cookies from selected sites also produce chiding messages: you must accept cookies to see our stuff!

You can probably search out and destroy these sites' cookies once they're on your computer by following the instructions for your browser. Here's what you do in Chrome, for example. Works, but there's a lot of tedious pointy-clicky.

My current workaround is (so far) working pretty well for me, a one-click solution: a Chrome extension called RemoveCookiesForSite. It simply displays a broken cookie, probably to the right of the title bar. Once you're viewing a site that insists on dropping cookies on you, just click on that. Voila, cookies gone without any fuss, and the site is none the wiser.

This may screw up the revenue models of some sites. Sorry! I'mRetiredOnAFixedIncome!

URLs du Jour

2019-01-14

[Amazon Link]

  • Just one more thing on the Tucker Carlson monologue. A key paragraph:

    […] Republican leaders will have to acknowledge that market capitalism is not a religion. Market capitalism is a tool, like a staple gun or a toaster. You’d have to be a fool to worship it. Our system was created by human beings for the benefit of human beings. We do not exist to serve markets. Just the opposite. Any economic system that weakens and destroys families is not worth having. A system like that is the enemy of a healthy society.

    Emphasis added. There has not been enough pushback by Tucker's fellow conservatives on this claim. But Jonah Goldberg saves the day: The Free Market Is Not Just a Tool.

    This is simultaneously obviously true from one perspective and glaringly and outrageously false from another. And it dismays me that so many conservatives haven’t bothered to defend the free market more vigorously in the responses to this debate.

    Look at it this way: Guns are tools. This is literally far more true about firearms than it is about the free market, because while both are to a certain extent artificial things, guns are actual physical devices bought and sold in the market. And yet, who among us, including Carlson, would deny that the right to self-defense is more than merely a tool?

    Jonah went into more detail in his recent podcast with Michael Strain, recommended.

    Yes, you can shoehorn the concept of "market capitalism", very awkwardly, into the "tool" category. But it's also, more importantly, a fundamental part of individual liberty. People deserve, within very broad limits, the freedom to engage in non-fraudulent mutually voluntary exchange. Any limits on this freedom should need strong justification.

    And (by the way) if you're looking to aim your rhetorical weaponry at what "weakens and destroys families", there are more obvious targets than the economic system.


  • The Concord Monitor is extremely unsatisfied with the new rule in the New Hampshire House banning members from bringing weaponry into the chambers, the cloakroom, and the gallery. And it rang our LFOD Google Alert: Give House gun ban more teeth.

    Violating the weapons ban can result in ejection from the House or arrest on disorderly conduct charges, but the rule enacted by the Democratic majority set the stage for confusion and conflict because it forbids House security officers from stopping and searching members believed to be armed. That was a mistake. Even in the Live Free or Die state, the State House, a landmark visited regularly by schoolchildren, like a courthouse or airport, is no place for amateurs carrying concealed weapons.

    For the love of God, I beg you to think about the [visiting school]children!

    The Monitor lives up to its “Pravda on the Merrimack” nickname with its "solution": make violation of the rule a felony.


  • At City Journal, Joel Kotkin writes on Today’s Cultural Engineers.

    Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin once labeled writers and other creative people “engineers of the soul.” In his passion to control what people saw and read, Stalin both coddled artists and enforced unanimity through the instruments of a police state. Today, fortunately, we don’t face such overt forms of cultural control, but the trends in American and to some extent European mass culture are beginning to look almost Stalinesque in their uniformity. This becomes painfully obvious during awards season, when the tastes and political exigencies of the entertainment industry frequently overpower any sense of popular preferences, or even artistic merit.

    Joel notes the happy result: ratings for the Oscars at their lowest ever; a 25-year low in movie attendance.

    And only one movie out now that I even have the slightest inclination toward seeing: (The Mule). And, even for that one, I'll probably wait for Netflix to cough up the DVD.


  • Caltech physics dude Sean Carroll summarizes True Facts About Cosmology. And this is not some Deepak Chopra bullshit, you can take Sean's "true facts" to the bank. They are cutting edge, state of the art, best of breed. And a few more clichés I can't think of right now.

    And for me, the most eye-opening facts are the facts we don't know. Facts 4 and 5 of 19 total:

    1. The Big Bang might have been the beginning of the universe. Or it might not have been; there could have been space and time before the Big Bang. We don’t really know.
    2. Even if the BB was the beginning, the universe didn’t “pop into existence.” You can’t “pop” before time itself exists. It’s better to simply say “the Big Bang was the first moment of time.” (If it was, which we don’t know for sure.)

    Somewhat comforting to know that there's still stuff even the most advanced researchers don't know about the universe. Is it stuff we can never know?


  • Has it really been twenty years? Entertainment Weekly brings together cast and crew for an oral history: Office Space 20th anniversary: Behind the scenes of the cult classic. My co-workers and I were slinging Office Space quotes at each other up until the day I retired, and I assume they're still doing so. My personal favorite:

    And from the article, a revelation from Jennifer Aniston:

    To this day, if I’m at a certain type of restaurant, people will ask, “How do you like my flair?”

    Fifteen is the minimum, okay?

The Phony Campaign

2019-01-13 Update

[Amazon Link]

So what happened in the past week? Julian Castro and Hillary Clinton (again) have broken onto our Phony Campaign leader board. Julian has a 5% nomination probability according to Predictwise, well over our 3% criterion. In addition to Julian, Hillary Clinton edges back into our table this week. Gone for now are Tim Kaine and Paul Ryan.

A double Google glitch has leapfrogged Beto O'Rourke and Nikki Haley over Donald Trump in phony Google hits. This will not last.

Candidate NomProb Change
Since
1/6
Phony
Results
Change
Since
1/6
Beto O'Rourke 19% +2% 12,600,000 +11,680,000
Nikki Haley 8% +1% 2,520,000 +1,730,000
Donald Trump 65% +4% 2,090,000 +350,000
Sherrod Brown 4% unch 924,000 +132,000
Kamala Harris 19% +1% 835,000 +269,000
Hillary Clinton 3% --- 821,000 ---
Julian Castro 5% --- 355,000 ---
Mitt Romney 3% -1% 222,000 -12,000
Bernie Sanders 5% -1% 219,000 +11,000
Joe Biden 13% +2% 169,000 -7,000
Kirsten Gillibrand 4% -1% 160,000 -1,000
Mike Pence 7% unch 153,000 -10,000
Elizabeth Warren 6% -1% 146,000 -30,000
Amy Klobuchar 6% +1% 110,000 -10,000
Cory Booker 3% -1% 48,500 -6,800
John Kasich 5% unch 47,800 +1,800

Standard disclaimer: Google result counts are bogus.

  • Paul Mirengoff at Power Line notes: Two obscure Dems enter presidential race. One is the previously mention Julian Castro, dismissed as a "standard issue left-wing Democrat." (From what I saw on the news: leaning heavily on his ethnicity.)

    But Tulsi is a tad more interesting:

    Gabbard is a bit unorthodox for a Democrat. Her American Conservative Union ratings usually flirt with double digits, which is unusual for a congressional Dem. Her Hawaii colleagues Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz struggle to exceed zero. Conservative Review once gave Gabbard a rating of 20 percent, the same number it gave Lisa Murkowski.

    Unfortunately (as Paul further notes), she's also been a "stooge" in the recent past for Bashar al Assad. (Co-stooging with Dennis Kucinich.)


  • So what about Julian other than being a standard issue left-wing Democrat? Cameron Cawthorne of the Free Beacon noted some problems, even compared to other standard issue left-wing Democrats: Julian Castro Struggles to Provide Specifics on What Qualifies Him to Be President.

    Julian's previous elective offices: mayor of San Antonio (2009-2014); San Antonio City Councilman (2001-2005). And he was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (2014-2017). That's a pretty thin résumé. Anyway he was fed a softball query from George Stephanopoulos:

    Anchor George Stephanopoulos, noting Castro's lack foreign policy experience, asked him what he believes is the "greatest national threat" and what qualifies him to tackle the issue.

    "Well, I believe that today, the greatest threat to our national security is the fact that this president, as one of your previous guests has said, is damaging the relationships that we’ve had in place in the post-World War II era, whether it's NATO or other alliances with individual countries that have kept us safer," Castro said. "The first thing that I would do if I were president with regard to our relationships around the world is to strengthen them, because those alliances have helped keep us safe."

    Stephanopoulos pressed Castro on what makes him qualified to be the next commander in chief.

    "Well, I—as I said earlier, I think that being mayor of a large city and serving in the president's cabinet certainly qualifies one to be commander in chief, and I'm going to go out there and make the case," Castro said.

    Okay, Julian. If you say so. I have to admit, that might be a better answer than Trump had four years ago.


  • Jim Geraghty is back with 15 Things You Didn’t Know, this week's subject being Elizabeth Warren. All 15 are interesting (but I knew some of them), here's an interesting tidbit:

    4) In his autobiography Stress Test, President Obama’s first treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, portrays Warren as an empty suit, full of criticism but short on serious alternative proposals. Her “oversight hearings often felt more like made-for-YouTube inquisitions than serious inquiries,” he writes. “She was worried about the right things but she was better at impugning our choices — as well as our intentions and our competence — than identifying any feasible alternatives.”

    Geithner describes a meeting with Warren in which he said, “At some point, you should tell me what you propose we do,” and she admitted she hadn’t really thought about what specifically should change in the administration’s approach.

    Of course, other Obama-administration officials have contended that Geithner “hated her,” for both personal and ideological reasons.

    The link above goes to a very pro-Warren 2011 article at Vanity Fair.


  • But is she likeable? I'm not one to say. I have a sterling record of liking presidential candidates that everyone else thinks are unlikeable: Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Fred Thompson,…

    But Matt Lewis at the Daily Beast bravely opines: I’ll Say It: Elizabeth Warren Isn’t Likeable.

    I’m a conservative, so I don’t really worry about whether I’ve offended liberal feminists. I don’t have a problem saying that Warren is unlikeable. She seems preachy and angry to me. Actually, she’s a combination of some of the horrible math teachers I endured in middle school, and a friend’s overly emotional mom.

    This might sound pretty specific, but we’ve all met people like Warren. She’s an archetype of a genre that I’m pretty sure would turn off a lot of voters. What is more, she increasingly looks like a phony—a problem she is reinforcing by trying to copy Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s Instagram game.

    This is not an indictment of powerful women, but of Elizabeth Warren. I’m a fan of Nikki Haley. And though I’m no more ideologically simpatico to Nancy Pelosi, Krysten Sinema, or AOC than I am to Warren, the aforementioned progressive women seem kind of charming to me.

    Pelosi? Ooooh Kaaaay, Matt.


  • At Reason, Christian Britschgi analyzes Kamala's latest legislative proposal: Kamala Harris' Proposed 'Tax Cut' for the Middle Class Manages to Cost Both Money and Jobs.

    The government may still be shut down, but Congress is finally back in session, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D–Calif.) has seized the opportunity to introduce her latest legislative reform, the awkwardly named Livable Incomes for Families Today (LIFT) the Middle Class Act.

    The bill, in brief, would offer all families earning less than $100,000 as much as $6,000 in refundable tax credits.

    The problems being: (1) it seriously impacts the deficit (a "10-year price tag of $2.7 trillion"); (2) although Kamala has said she wants to make it revenue-neutral (meaning huge tax increases on other people; (3) the details of the tax credit phase-out would subject people to a huge marginal tax rate, with accompanying work disincentive; (4) it is needlessly duplicative of the existing Earned Income Tax Credit; while (5) adding more complication to an already too-complex tax code.

    In other words: it seems more like campaign boob-bait than a serious policy proposal.


  • Ann Althouse is relentlessly analytical on WaPo's embarrassing indulgence in hyperbole describing the attendance at Democratic candidates rallies..

    For years we've seen gigantic crowds at Trump rallies downplayed in the mainstream press, and that's the baseline against which I judge "Iowa Democrats fill events to the rafters with 13 months left before the 2020 caucuses."

    Even before reading the article, I'm thinking: 1. So everybody got into the room (no overflow room, no people left outside in the parking lot), 2. What size was the room (unless it was a big arena, what's the big deal about filling a room)? 3. Filling "to the rafters" is a metaphor, visualizing people piled on top of each other, but of course that didn't happen, so how densely packed was the room? 4. Of course, there's a fire code, so they couldn't pack a room all that much, 5. WaPo sounds silly saying "fill events to the rafters," when I think all they mean is that some people are showing up for events.

    The WaPo employs Democrat shills as reporters, and has lazy editors who can't shear their copy of what Ann calls "old-time adman language".


URLs du Jour

2019-01-12

[Amazon Link]

I'm under the weather, thanks (I think) to the pneumonia shot I got at the doctor's yesterday. So, a low-volume day.

  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum analyzes the latest proposed legislation from California's senior senator: Dianne Feinstein Wants to Ban Parts That Make 'Assault Weapons' Legal Again.

    This week Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) announced the latest version of her "assault weapon" ban. "Americans across the nation are asking Congress to reinstate the federal ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines," she claims. "If we're going to put a stop to mass shootings and protect our children, we need to get these weapons of war off our streets."

    Feinstein has not posted the text of her bill yet, but it sounds a lot like the 2017 version. The 2019 bill, like the previous one, bans "205 military-style assault weapons by name," along with any firearm that "accepts a detachable ammunition magazine and has one or more military characteristics," such as "a pistol grip, a forward grip, a barrel shroud, a threaded barrel or a folding or telescoping stock." It also "exempts by name more than 2,200 guns for hunting, household defense or recreational purposes," which is supposed to show us how generous Feinstein is being. But this list, which consumed nearly 100 pages of the 2017 bill, is completely gratuitous, since any gun that's not banned by name and does not fit the general definition would remain legal regardless of whether the bill said so explicitly.

    It's not really, by the rules of ordinary English usage, a "ban", since current owners of the scary weaponry would be able to keep them.

    For now. That's the understood context.


  • I am pretty sure I would be considered a "right wing extremist", advocating, as I do, drastically limited government, fiscal sanity, traditional morality, …

    And at least, the government should stop subsidizing abortion.

    At NR, Kevin D. Williamson describes the current usage rules: Jill Filipovic Calls Knights of Columbus ‘Right-Wing Extremist’ Group.

    >We have been hearing for some years now how domestic political pressure has hamstrung needful actions against “far-right extremist groups,” which, we are also told, represent a larger and more serious terrorism threat than do the various jihadist groups with which we have become too familiar over the past — can you believe it has been that long? — 18 years.

    Inevitably, this invites the question: “What’s a right-wing extremist group?” From lawyer Jill Filipovic, a fellow at the New America Foundation, we have an answer: the Knights of Columbus. That the Knights of Columbus is a right-wing extremist group is not an idea from the fringe: Filipovic’s New America colleagues include Anne-Marie Slaughter and David Brooks, which is not to say that she speaks for them, but she isn’t some person wandering the street with a sandwich board, either. In the Senate, Kamala Harris and Mazie Hirono have proceeded in accord with Filipovic’s view, suggesting that a federal judiciary nominee should be disqualified from the bench because of his membership in the Catholic philanthropic group.

    Crazy, right? Someone with cross-examination skills at least on a par with Senators Kamala/Mazie should demand a straight answer to the question: Shoud membership in the Knights of Columbus be a red-flag disqualification for Federal judicial appointments?


  • I do not know how credible the "insider" source is, but the details seem all too credible: Insider Describes How Google 'Screwed Over' James Damore. (Article at PJMedia by Debra Heine.)

    A Reddit user who claims to be a Google insider involved in firing former Google engineer James Damore on Tuesday spilled his guts about the internal decisions that led to Damore's termination.

    Damore was let go in August 2017 after internally publishing a memo criticizing the company's "ideological echo chamber" and outlining his views on how gender differences affect females in STEM fields.

    Damore says (and I quote): "Whoah, this would explain a lot." The alleged insider seems to have a lot of knowledge you would expect an insider to have.

URLs du Jour

2019-01-11

[Amazon Link]

  • You may be wondering: can Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 70 percent tax finance socialism? At NR, Brian Reidl answers that burning question: No, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 70 Percent Tax Cannot Finance Socialism. Brian looks at both the proposed spending and revenue side. The spending side is scary:

    While details of Ocasio-Cortez’s energy proposal are unavailable, former Green-party presidential candidate Jill Stein has proposed a “Green New Deal” costing between $700 billion and $1 trillion per year for public jobs and clean energy initiatives. That is roughly 4 percent of GDP.

    And when assessing the needed tax revenues, a green-energy initiative costing $7–$10 trillion over the decade should be examined in the context of $42 trillion in additional Democratic-socialist proposals that include single-payer health care ($32 trillion), a federal jobs guarantee ($6.8 trillion), student-loan forgiveness ($1.4 trillion), free public college ($800 billion), infrastructure ($1 trillion), family leave ($270 billion), and Social Security expansion ($188 billion).

    That 21 percent of GDP cost would double federal spending. And that does not even account for a baseline budget deficit rising to 7 percent of GDP over the decade — bringing the total budget gap to 28 percent of GDP.

    The revenue-raising proposals made by AOC are totally inadequate to fund any of that. Of course. As Brian notes, the proposals are mostly hot air meant to fire up their I-was-told-there-would-be-no-math supporters. Providing anything more concrete would end the discussion. "If the numbers added up, the Left would have produced them."


  • But are we beating up on AOC because she's a woman? Of course that's what she thinks. But at the WaPo, Megan McArdle begs to differ: No, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The fact is, it’s not because you’re a woman..

    Ocasio-Cortez’s problem isn’t that she’s stupid, or that she’s a compulsive liar; she just got famous before she got wise. But neither is she being oppressed by the power structure — subjected to heightened scrutiny because she’s a woman, or browbeaten by ignorant slaves to neoliberalism who ought to study up on Modern Monetary Theory so they can grasp the revolutionary brilliance of her fiscal ideas.

    Intellectually, this is about on par with … well, with believing the United States spends more than $2 trillion a year on defense. Some of her critics are female, after all, and we’re not all victims of patriarchal false consciousness. Rather, we have some familiarity with the federal budget, and with monetary economics, and after careful consideration, have concluded that the parts of the Modern Monetary Theory that are true aren’t interesting, while the bits that are interesting aren’t true. And thus, that Ocasio-Cortez’s fiscal prescriptions are reckless bunkum.

    Megan seems to think that AOC will eventually move on to firmer ground tnan (for example) her July assertion that "unemployment is low because everyone has two jobs." Maybe, but that prediction seems very similar to the hopeful belief that President Trump would reel in his shoot-from-the-lip style. In both cases, we can ask: when's that supposed to happen?


  • At the Federalist, Hans Fiene notes a religious revival: Progressives Turn Their Public Shaming Into Formal Religious Ceremony. It's provided at the "Cathedral of Blessed Wokery", a "a 55,000-square-foot Malibu mansion normally reserved for climate change fundraisers and Lamborghini jousting."

    And they provide, for the transgressor ("you made an offensive joke about bisexual Muppets in 1997") the Rite of Perpetual Confession.

    "Create in me a clean heart, O Mob, and renew a leftist spirit within me. Cast me not away from employment, and take not your Holy Oscar from me. Restore to me the joy of activism and uphold me with thy progressivism."

    Further liturgical stylings at the link. "In the name of the Ruth, the Bader, and the Ginsburg."


  • At Power Line, John Hinderaker links to a Daily Mail article referring to The Great Issue of Our Time…. Specifically, the (long) headline reads: "Putting the Pi in pies: Twitter user stuns the internet with math that proves one 18-inch pizza has more in it than TWO 12-inch helpings".

    Yes. As John notes, if the pizza diameters are in a (18/12) = 1.5 ratio, the ratio of the total areas is 1.52 = 2.25. So a single 18-inch pizza has 12.5% more area than two 12-inchers.

    This is, at best, high school math. Yet, people are stunned, or at least claim to be. Including, perhaps, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Somebody should ask her.


  • And our Google LFOD alert rang for a Boston Herald plug for an upcoming Manchester NH event: N.H. Wine Week overflows with tastings, events and more.

    Famed winemakers Gina Gallo and Jean-Charles Boisset, a married couple with twin 7-year-old daughters who seldom have time to travel to such events together, will be there in tandem this year (a treat for anyone who knows wine). French-born Boisset says New Hampshire speaks to his passions.

    “New Hampshire represents freedom,” he said. “Look at the state motto: Live Free or Die. It’s so fun to be able to believe in this — that sense of where everything is vivacious and daring, where you truly are free.”

    My taste in wine is non-existent, I'm fine with anything that's even slightly better than plonk. And I've been cutting way back, just to lose some weight. Still, Gina and Jean-Charles might convince me to splurge with their nice words about LFOD…

Stubborn Attachments

A Vision for a Society of Free, Prosperous, and Responsible Individuals

[Amazon Link]

A short book, a mere $9.99 for the Kindle version at Amazon, and there's a nice feature: the author, Tyler Cowen, pledges to donate the receipts from the book to "Yonas", an Ethiopian tour guide he befriended during a visit. That was enough for me to cough up for the Kindle version instead of raiding the UNH library.

Tyler's pitch is for making economic growth, constrained by a healthy respect for individual liberty, our primary social goal. There are a few asterisks on that: he's really talking about the growth of "Wealth Plus", which factors in the values of sustainability, environmental quality, and leisure. Given that, though, he notes that the difference between (say) sustained 1% annual growth vs. 3% may seem trivial over the course of a year: $100 becomes $101 instead of $103. But after 100 years, it's $270 vs. $1921. (Assuming I can still do the math correctly.) Can you really deny your ancestors the benefit of that additional wealth?

Well, maybe. There's a possible counterargument: would you rather have $100 today or $100 next year? Obviously, today, amirite? Time value of money. So future-money is worth less than today-money. Doesn't that say we should be optimizing the here-and-now rather than the hazy future? Tyler makes a meticulous argument that it's not relevant; carrying things to their logical conclusions quickly run afoul of common-sense morality. (Similar arguments apply to running the thought experiments backwards in time; a $100 wrong done to someone in the past rapidly grows to vast sums today. Again, common-sense morality rejects the conclusion.)

Finally, how do we incorporate uncertainty into the mix? How can we take any actions today that will (almost certainly) have unforeseen consequences in the near or far future?

Tyler's book is a fine example of mixing philosophical and economic arguments. I was probably not as skeptical as I should have been; when it comes to arguments for prosperity, responsibility, and rights, those arguments are pretty much pushing on an open door.

URLs du Jour

2019-01-10

[Amazon Link]

  • I suppose we should talk about Tucker Carlson's Fox news monologue from last week, which itself was a response to Mitt Romney's Trump-trashing op-ed in the WaPo. A random excerpt:

    At some point, Donald Trump will be gone. The rest of us will be gone, too. The country will remain. What kind of country will be it be then? How do we want our grandchildren to live? These are the only questions that matter.

    The answer used to be obvious. The overriding goal for America is more prosperity, meaning cheaper consumer goods. But is that still true? Does anyone still believe that cheaper iPhones, or more Amazon deliveries of plastic garbage from China are going to make us happy? They haven’t so far. A lot of Americans are drowning in stuff. And yet drug addiction and suicide are depopulating large parts of the country. Anyone who thinks the health of a nation can be summed up in GDP is an idiot.

    The goal for America is both simpler and more elusive than mere prosperity. It’s happiness. There are a lot of ingredients in being happy: Dignity. Purpose. Self-control. Independence. Above all, deep relationships with other people. Those are the things that you want for your children. They’re what our leaders should want for us, and would want if they cared.

    But our leaders don’t care. We are ruled by mercenaries who feel no long-term obligation to the people they rule. They’re day traders. Substitute teachers. They’re just passing through. They have no skin in this game, and it shows. They can’t solve our problems. They don’t even bother to understand our problems.

    [Amazon Link]

    As someone who looks forward to getting the occasional Amazon box containing plastic garbage from China, I don't entirely agree.

    On the other hand: I agree that happiness is a worthy social goal. That isn't, or at least shouldn't be, a disputed fact in a country whose founding document contended that the pursuit of happiness was one of the big three inalienable rights of individuals.

    For more on that, see Charles Murray, at right.


  • So (basically) Tucker's commentary had something for everyone to either adore or despise. On balance, though, Kevin D. Williamson was negative about Tucker Carlson’s Vacuous Populism.

    Tucker Carlson says that conservatives are operating with blinders, that “the idea that families are being crushed by market forces never seems to occur to them.” Perhaps it is the case that the possibility has occurred to them, and that the proposition has been examined and found to be untrue. Carlson mocks the idea that lower prices for consumer goods — “plastic garbage from China,” in the popular banal formulation — are in the interests of Americans of more modest means; I would like to suggest, in all charity and friendship, that those Americans who are literally counting their pennies could do with hearing a good deal less about the triviality of low prices from a born-rich multimillionaire who never had to literally count pennies. If you have ever known a family who — and this is a real-life example — used to dread receiving Christmas presents because they could not afford the postage to send a thank-you note, then you know what lower prices can mean to real people.

    KDW's article is longish, and refers to other participants in the discussion at NR and elsewhere.


  • Patterico pontificates: Why This Wall Fight Now? Good Question!. Working off this tweet:

    A WaPo article is quoted claiming that Trump could have had $25 billion for the wall last year.

    You don’t hear much about that these days. One gets the sense that if Schumer offered the same deal today — $25 billion for legislative DACA — Trump would jump at it.

    Instead, Mr. Art of the Deal let the moment pass. And here we are, with Democrats in control of the House, in a far worse negotiating position.

    So he chooses to make a stand now?

    Remember when Republicans passed legislation to repeal ObamaCare when Obama was in office, he refused to pass the same legislation when Trump was in office?

    This is what Republicans do. They fake support for things. That’s what this shutdown is about. Convincing you they care, when they don’t.

    I don't disagree.


  • So the shutdown continues. At Reason, J.D. Tuccille has a good suggestion: Please, TSA Workers, Don’t Come Back. (Some are calling in with "blue flu".)

    Along those lines, it's nearly ideal that the federal sick-out has begun among TSA employees, since their agency is so astoundingly incompetent and abusive at its assigned tasks and is skilled only at angering travelers of all political persuasions. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) may be more explicitly malevolent, but their fans and detractors tend to break down along ideological lines. Even the Internal Revenue Service can find boosters among whoever it is who keeps weeping over those regurgitated press releases about how hard it is to be a tax collector. But sharing vicious comments about the TSA clowns squeezing people's junk is a game we can all play while suffering in line at the airport.

    Not that there's any point to all of that groping beyond the purely recreational aspect. Undercover investigators were able to smuggle weapons and explosives past TSA agents 95 percent of the time, according to a 2015 Homeland Security Investigator General report. Maybe that's because agents are relying on dowsing rods or Spidey sense—they're certainly not depending on the expensive equipment they make travelers and baggage file through.

    Unfortunately, they probably will be back.


  • And the Babylon Bee has a good summary of the state of play: With Government Shut Down, Citizens Forced To Interfere In Their Own Lives.

    With the government shutdown in effect, life has felt incomplete for many Americans. “Everything is just too easy—it’s boring,” said restaurant owner Gloria Morgan, “and I realized it’s because we’re missing an essential challenge in life: soulless bureaucrats posing arbitrary rules on us.”

    One of the primary functions of the government is to ignorantly muck around in the business of others, but the shutdown has hampered that. Thus citizens have been forced to try to fill that void themselves. “Today I just suddenly decided large sodas weren’t allowed,” said Morgan. “It was an annoying, pointless obstacle the whole day—it was like the government was still around.”

    Fortunately, New Hampshire legislator Judith Spang is available to fill the breach, still being paid ($400/year) to force people to behave the way she thinks they should.


  • And Cathy Young writes at Quillette on The Posthumous #MeToo-ing of J. D. Salinger, and the changing attitudes toward Durham native Joyce Maynard's (also changing) memories of their tumultuous relationship.

    Maynard, who had an ill-fated romance with Salinger in 1972 when he was 53 and she was nineteen, first told her story in the scandalous 1999 memoir, At Home in the World; it earned her both notoriety and opprobrium for invading the reclusive writer’s privacy. The book certainly painted Salinger in a mostly unflattering light—as a self-centered domineering crank, albeit capable of “sweetness and tenderness.” The 2018 essay went much further. This time, Maynard—who expressed disappointment that the #MeToo movement had not led to a re-examination of her story—depicted her experience with Salinger as not just a bad relationship but essentially a violation. She also charged that the criticism she faced twenty years ago was a grotesquely sexist backlash in defense of a famous abuser.

    I've never been able to fathom why people find Joyce Maynard interesting, but that's me. Clearly, J. D. did, for a while anyway.

URLs du Jour

2019-01-09

[Amazon Link]

  • In her column at The Week (or should that be the Week?), Shikha Dalmia urges us to Remember the Kurds.

    Americans are understandably war weary. Therefore, contrary to the claims of foreign policy hawks, President Trump's decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria wasn't too soon — but not soon enough.

    But that doesn't mean that America can simply walk away, leaving the Syrian Kurds, who aided our efforts against ISIS, more vulnerable than when it intervened. The best way of arranging their security is by letting all those who want to flee come to America.

    Shikha recounts the long sorry history of United States' (and, generally, the West's) foreign policy screwing over the Kurds, "the group most used and abused."


  • Will high tax rates work in today's economy? At Cato, Chris Edwards provides us the answer to that burning question: High Tax Rates Won’t Work in Today’s Economy.

    Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is making headlines calling for raising the top individual income tax rate to 70 percent to fund a Green New Deal. Sympathetic commentators are saying that such a high rate on the wealthy is no big deal because the top tax rate used to be 70 percent and above. Noah Smith at Bloomberg says the congresswomen’s plan would be “a return to the 20th century norm.”

    The problem is that globalization has dramatically changed the economy over recent decades. High tax rates were not a good idea back then, but they would be disastrous now.

    Advocates for high tax rates make a big deal about the marginal utility of income: an additional dollar is worth less to a millionaire than it is to a poorer person.

    But they never seem to apply that lesson at the other end. The WaPo's analysis of AOC's proposal estimates it would at most generate $72 billion of increased government revenue per year. The FY2019 estimate for total government revenue is $3422 billion. In other words: we're talking a 2% effect (again, at most). What's the marginal utility of that?

    But, as Chris Edwards points out, it wouldn't work even by the left wing's own standards.


  • The Competitive Enterprise Institute has a plan. Specifically: CEI Offers Plan for Congress to Reform Regulations, Help America Prosper.

    Today the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) offered a set of ambitious, achievable regulatory reform goals for the 116th Congress. The report, Free to Prosper, identifies ways for Congress to clear away federal regulations that needlessly interfere in American lives and livelihoods, making it harder for consumers to get the best products and services and harder for American businesses to succeed and compete in a global economy.

    There are a lot of them, and they deserve the serious consideration that they probably won't get. Example:

    Congress should:


    1. Repeal Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.
    2. Repeal Sections 201 and 301 of the Trade Act of 1974.

    Yes. Do that.


  • David Harsanyi's column helpfully pictures the map on the wall of new Congresscritter Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) with a post-it indicating where she thinks "Palestine" should be. (Somewhere around Cairo, apparently, but my guess is that she really wants it a few hundred miles ENE of there.) For the rest of us, David points out: Yes, Anti-Zionism Is The Same As Anti-Semitism.

    In a recent New York Times op-ed titled “Anti-Zionism isn’t the same as Anti-Semitism,” columnist Michelle Goldberg defended Ilhan Omar, a newly elected House representative who has claimed that Jews have hypnotized the world for their evil works. A person can oppose “Jewish ethno-nationalism without being a bigot,” Goldberg explained. “Indeed,” she went on, “it’s increasingly absurd to treat the Israeli state as a stand-in for Jews writ large, given the way the current Israeli government has aligned itself with far-right European movements that have anti-Semitic roots.”

    It’s true, of course, that anti-Zionism isn’t “the same” as common anti-Semitism. Anti-Zionism is the most significant and consequential form of anti-Semitism that exists in the world today. Anti-Zionism has done more to undermine Jewish safety than all the ugly tweets, dog whistles, and white nationalist marches combined. It is the predominant justification for violence, murder, and hatred against Jews in Europe and the Middle East. And it’s now infiltrating American politics.

    As has been observed before: there are a lot of countries in the world, many with (to put it mildly) checkered pasts, and quite a few with current horrors. But "Anti-Zionists" aim their ire exclusively at the country that just happens to be Jewish. Geez, what a coincidence!


  • At NR Kevin D. Williamson cheerfully points out that when it comes to Federal Government crises, we ain't seen nothing yet: Government Shutdown: Small Compared to Coming Crisis.

    Around 2038, less than 20 years out, total spending on the major entitlements — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid — plus interest on the debt will exceed all federal tax revenue. Put another way, come 2038, if we put every dollar Uncle Stupid collects in taxes toward Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and interest on the debt, all of that money combined will not cover those expenses.

    Fiscal Armageddon is coming.

    Which is to say: If the federal government does not do something to reform its long-term finances, then a fiscal crisis of some sort is inevitable. No one knows exactly what it will look like, and no one knows what the consequences will be when a country responsible for about a quarter of the human race’s total economic output becomes insolvent. Hard to say, really, how that will shake out. Safe to say it will be ugly.

    KDW suggests we not "sit around waiting for the bomb to go off." Unfortunately, nearly all members of the political class find it in their interests to … sit around waiting for the bomb to go off.


  • Oh, well, let's look at some good news instead. Ronald Bailey has something you might not have noticed: U.S. Cancer Incidence and Death Rates Fall to a 25-Year Low.

    "The overall cancer death rate dropped continuously from 1991 to 2016 by a total of 27 percent, translating into approximately 2,629,200 fewer cancer deaths than would have been expected if death rates had remained at their peak," notes the American Cancer Society (ACS) in its latest annual update of cancer mortality and incidence statistics. In 1991, the cancer death rate stood at 215 per 100,000 people and has fallen in 2016 to 156 per 100,000 people. The report also notes that the cancer death rate between 2007 and 2016 for both women and men declined annually by 1.4 and 1.8 percent, respectively.

    Neat! I may live long enough to see the fiscal armageddon! Or not:

    The report notes that the disparity between men and women is possibily associated with sex differences in immune function and response. Adult height is also positively associated with cancer incidence and mortality in both men and women, and has been estimated to account for one-third of the sex disparity.
    I am, unfortunately, six foot three. Been nice knowing ya.


  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript editorializes in a way that rings the LFOD alarm: Live free but don’t get high?.

    Live free or die, but don’t get high’ seems to be the new state motto now that Granite Staters have found themselves surrounded by fellow New England states – Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts – as well as the country of Canada, which are all now much more lenient than New Hampshire when it comes to marijuana.

    You can participate in a poll on the topic, but it seems that you need to register.


  • Megan McArdle asks the musical question: What if we paid people to donate their kidneys to strangers?.

    What if a simple policy could save tens of thousands of people every year from a deeply unpleasant treatment followed by early death? A policy that would disproportionately help the most disadvantaged? While actually saving taxpayer money?

    That’s a pretty rare combination; presumably you’d be pretty excited. But what if the policy involved paying people to donate one of their kidneys to a stranger?

    Possibly you are now less excited. Possibly you are now picturing a sci-fi dystopia where the poor serve as organ farms for the wealthy. Which is what such people as Gabriel Danovitch worry about.

    Danovitch is medical director of the Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, and he's very much opposed to people profiting from organ donation. Megan rebuts his concerns, effectively in my view.

URLs du Jour

2019-01-08

[Amazon Link]

  • Arnold Kling has Advice for the Republican Party. But he also has advice for fellow advice-giver Brink Lindsey:

    Brink has some nasty things to say about President Trump and some snide things to say about libertarians. That tells me who he’s prepared to subtract from the Republican Party, so that he can feel better about supporting it. But whatever this might achieve in terms of crawling out of the hole intellectually, I don’t see how it can do anything other than put Republicans deeper in the hole electorally.

    Brink's advice may be read here. Read that if you'd like, but I feel he's underestimating the difficulty of competing with Democrats by offering shiny free goodies to the citizenry. If you offer 16, the Democrats will counter with 32.


  • They're coming for your plastic bags, and this time it's personal. Michael Graham asks the question Will Facts Matter in Debate on Granite State Bag Ban? (Obvious answer: no, of course not, it's all about the feelz.) But this little vignette was telling:

    Rep. Judith Spang isn’t afraid to tell you what she thinks about all those terrible plastic shopping bags you’re using at the grocery store—even if you’re a total stranger.

    “I was walking out of the grocery store and I saw a woman with so many plastic bags in her cart it looked like it was about to take flight,” Rep. Spang told NHJournal. “She appeared to be an upscale person, so I approached her, held up my [reusable] bag and said ‘Hey—how about trying one of these?’”

    Yes, Judith Spang is the kind of person who wants to tell you how to run your life to her satisfaction. And to channel Monty Python: she's not only proud of that, she's downright smug about it.


  • And, in case you had any doubts whatsoever, Ilya Somin of the Volokh Conspiracy runs down Trump's Terrible Record on Property Rights.

    President Trump's recent threat to use "the military version of eminent domain" to seize property for his border wall highlights the ways in which building the wall would harm the property rights of Americans. Less widely recognized is the fact that the wall policy is just part of a larger pattern of administration policy initiatives and legal positions that threaten property rights on multiple fronts.

    Though federal law allows the federal government to use eminent domain for purposes of building military facilities, including "fortifications," there is no special "military version" of eminent domain, as such. But whether Trump tries to use this law or some other one to seize property for the wall, the fact remains that less than one third of the land he would need is currently owned by the federal government. The rest would have to be seized from private owners, Native American tribes, and state governments. That would require the forcible displacement of hundreds or even thousands of homes, businesses, and other private facilities. It would be the largest such use of eminent domain in many years. Moreover, the record of previous condemnations for border barriers shows that the Department of Homeland Security has a notorious history of violating procedural rights and shortchanging property owners on the compensation they are due under the Constitution. The same sorts of abuses are likely to recur on a larger scale if Trump gets the money to build his much more extensive wall.

    Immigration is one issue where my inner Schrödinger's Cat puts me more on the conservative side of the conservative/libertarian split. But the wall is stupid, and not just for its potential for eminent domain abuse..

    But RTWT for the story on other issues impacting property rights as well.


  • John Fund, at NR argues that Trump should drop the eminent domain issues, and simply use his C-in-C authority: Trump Should Order Pentagon to Start Building Border Wall.

    If President Trump begins to imitate Barack Obama in issuing dubious executive orders and trampling on private-property rights, he could find himself in trouble even with portions of his base.

    Changing tactics would be the best way for Trump to end the stalemate that has shut down one-fourth of the government for more than two weeks. He should brand Congress as irresponsible on the issue of border security and say he’s been forced to direct the Defense Department to use some of its unallocated funds for border construction projects.

    Doing it that way, the president would probably score points on the political argument and ensure that, come the 2020 election, he will have actually built something along the border rather than just talking about it.

    Also would have the desirable side effect of making Democrats sputter incoherently. Not that they are having trouble with that currently.


  • Investor's Business Daily has a puckish observation on the policy proposals of Congress's dancing fool: Ocasio-Cortez Accidentally Endorses Social Security Privatization, Killing The Minimum Wage, Corporate Tax Cuts.

    During an interview on "60 Minutes," Anderson Cooper put this question to Ocasio-Cortez: "When people hear the word socialism, they think Soviet Union, Cuba, Venezuela. Is that what you have in mind?"

    Her response: "Of course not. What we have in mind — and what of my — and my policies most closely resemble what we see in the U.K., in Norway, in Finland, in Sweden."

    IBD notes, yes, that many policies in those countries are actually more capitalist than the US's status quo. While the US ranks #6 on Cato's/Fraser's Economic Freedom of the World, the UK is number 9, Norway is 25, Finland 22, Sweden 43.


  • Something I'm a sucker for: state rankings! The United Health Foundation presents: Healthy State Rankings.

    Hawaii regains the title of healthiest state this year, after dropping to No. 2 in 2017. This is Hawaii’s ninth year in the No. 1 spot since 1990 when the health rankings were first published. The state has been No 1. four of the past five years. Massachusetts is No. 2, Connecticut No. 3, Vermont No. 4 and Utah No. 5. These same states ranked in the top five in 2017.

    … and New Hampshire makes the number 6 spot. Despite all the opioid overdosing. (But beware, the methodology used has a number of factors that at best only indirectly reflect actual health.)


  • And finally, a small sweet WSJ column (possibly paywalled) from Christopher J. Scalia brings back Memories of Music’s Prime Time.

    The man behind two of the most memorable American songs of the past half-century died last month. Norman Gimbel composed lyrics for “The Girl From Ipanema” and “Killing Me Softly.” But if you grew up in the 1970s and ’80s, you may be more familiar with his less prestigious songs: the themes to “Happy Days” and “Laverne & Shirley.”

    If you are of a Certain Age, Mr. Scalia will almost certainly jog some pleasant memories for you. For me it was Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams singing the Family Ties theme: "Show me that smile again…". Sigh.

URLs du Jour

2019-01-07

[Amazon Link]

  • At Reason, Baylen Linnekin asks the question: Will ‘Frenzied Hectoring’ by British Food Nannies Never End?.

    In December, England's chief medical officer, Sally Davies, urged the nation to adopt still more "taxes on unhealthy food high in sugar and salt." This was just months after England's soda tax took hold.

    "Those sectors that damage health must pay for their harm or subsidise healthier choices," Davies says in a report that suggests the tax money should be used to underwrite purchases of fruits and vegetables.

    Davies's argument came just days after details of a draft British government proposal to institute byzantine calorie restrictions on a variety of foods.

    Blimey! And this is under a Tory government? Winston Churchill must be rolling in his grave, then asking for a cigar and a whisky.


  • Michael Shermer writes at Quillette on a serious topic: Genes, Environment, and Luck: What We Can and Cannot Control. Those of us who are (at least moderately) successful, and also honest with ourselves, know that a lot of that success was unearned.

    On the other hand, we can also honestly point out that if we had made different choices, things could have turned out a lot worse. Don't we deserve credit for our good choices, and deserve the resulting outcome? Sure.

    Anyway, Shermer's article examines the concept up and down. His bottom line:

    In the end, if the cosmic dice rolled in your favor, how should you feel? Modest pride in one’s hard work is no vice, but boastful arrogance at one’s good fortune is no virtue. Cultivate gratitude. What if you’ve been unlucky in life? There is consolation in the fact that studies show in the long run what’s important is not success so much as living a meaningful life, which is the result of having family and friends, setting long-range goals, meeting challenges with courage and conviction and, as Polonius advised (Hamlet Act 1, scene 3): “this above all: to thine own self be true.”

    I find very little to disagree with there.


  • A did-I-just-blow-your-mind article from Natilie Wolchover at Wired: Space and Time Could Be a Quantum Error-Correcting Code.

    That year—2014—three young quantum gravity researchers came to an astonishing realization. They were working in physicists’ theoretical playground of choice: a toy universe called “anti-de Sitter space” that works like a hologram. The bendy fabric of space-time in the interior of the universe is a projection that emerges from entangled quantum particles living on its outer boundary. Ahmed Almheiri, Xi Dong and Daniel Harlow did calculations suggesting that this holographic “emergence” of space-time works just like a quantum error-correcting code. They conjectured in the Journal of High Energy Physics that space-time itself is a code—in anti-de Sitter (AdS) universes, at least. The paper has triggered a wave of activity in the quantum gravity community, and new quantum error-correcting codes have been discovered that capture more properties of space-time,

    For better or worse, we don't live in an anti-De Sitter universe. Ours is plain old de Sitter, where expansion will go on forever, and things will eventually get very boring. Fortunately, we're living in more interesting times.


  • If you've already cheated on your New Year diet resolutions, Mr. Lileks can help: Eight new diets you can fail to use successfully. Sample:

    Diet No. 3: Atkins. This was popular for a while, and some people still swear by it, which is to say they shout "$*#(@#SON OF A #(@# I want a French fry!" You can't have carbs. That means very little bread, sugar, potatoes or any of the other things that give life meaning.

    Downside: you will actually find yourself uttering strange things, like, "I am so incredibly sick of bacon." It seems unlikely anyone could utter those words in seriousness, but there you are, staring at another plate of bacon, and you realize you would pay $9 for a frozen Eggo, even though you suspect they are made out of wood pulp. You want bread so bad you go to the garage with a bag of croutons and huff the crumbs.

    I did Atkins for a year and lost so much weight you could see my ribs. Mostly because I was always carrying around a plate of ribs, because that's what I ate: meat. Important lesson: it's one thing to lose so much weight your clothes hang loose, but when you shed so much that your socks don't stay up, it's time to hit the Häagen-Dazs.

    I'll be going back on my diet once I finish these Christmas cookies…


  • The Keene Sentinel writes, wistfully: On heels of Keene ordinance, proposed bill would raise state tobacco age to 21. Yes, of course, LFOD shows up:

    [Keene City Councilor Margaret M.] Rice said New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die” mantra, coupled with people’s personal attachments in the debate — ranging from family members who have died from smoking-related diseases to those adamant they could not have quit without vaping — makes raising the tobacco age a much more intense issue than other business facing the council.

    “I think people really care because they see people being affected by this in their life, and that matters a lot to them,” she said. “And on the other side, there are people who really feel strongly that, (with the) Live Free or Die mentality, that they want their government to be making smart decisions and not necessarily ones that impede their daily activities in a way that they don’t see as being fair.”

    Such is the subtle editorializing: LFOD is a "mantra" or a "mentality". Not really anything to take seriously, just a brain-glitch that people adopt without much thought.


  • The other recent bit of LFOD-related news is reviewed at Two Buttons Deep: Keene, N.H. Business “Pho Keene Great” Forced To Remove Sign Because The World Is Pho Keene Dumb.

    First of all, I was today years old when I found out pho is pronounced “fuh.” I was also today years old when I found out New Hampshire’s state motto “Live Free Or Die” is just some letters of their license plate. We were just discussing at our latest 2BD meeting about how ridiculously PC this world is. How do we have Trump as our leader but Pho Keene is what gets shut down? Blows my mind. This play on words is not only great for business, but a running joke that has been around since my elementary school bus. Remember the Sofa King?

    Yes, he of the motto "Our prices are Sofa King low."

    The "2BD" author calls New Hampshire the "Alabama of the north." Ouch.

The Phony Campaign

2019-01-06 Update

[Amazon Link]

Our first phony update of the new year, and the big news is that Elizabeth Warren has officially launched her "exploratory" campaign. The betting markets reacted by sending her nomination probability (as summarized by Predictwise) rocketing from 5% to … 7%. Still, that's better than nothing. Also better than Bernie, Amy Klobuchar, Tim Kaine (a new face on our list this week), Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, and Sherrod Brown. And better than Hillary Clinton and John Hickenlooper (who both dropped below our 3% inclusion criterion this week).

Also: the 3.2 million phony Google hits Kamala gained last week really were ephemeral, vanishing this week. She'll just have to try harder. Or at least pretend she's trying harder.

This week's results, which return Donald Trump to his rightful leading phony status:

Candidate NomProb Change
Since
12/30
Phony
Results
Change
Since
12/30
Donald Trump 61% +2% 1,740,000 -420,000
Beto O'Rourke 17% unch 920,000 -120,000
Sherrod Brown 4% +1% 792,000 -84,000
Nikki Haley 7% unch 790,000 -116,000
Kamala Harris 18% unch 566,000 -3,244,000
Mitt Romney 4% +1% 234,000 +28,000
Bernie Sanders 6% -1% 208,000 -17,000
Tim Kaine 5% --- 206,000 ---
Paul Ryan 3% -1% 185,000 +15,000
Joe Biden 11% +1% 176,000 -13,000
Elizabeth Warren 7% +2% 176,000 +30,000
Mike Pence 7% unch 163,000 +10,000
Kirsten Gillibrand 5% unch 161,000 -18,000
Amy Klobuchar 5% unch 120,000 +11,000
Cory Booker 4% -1% 55,300 +2,700
John Kasich 5% -1% 46,000 -6,700

Standard disclaimer: Google result counts are bogus.

  • Elizabeth Warren's announcement came as no surprise to Viking Pundit, who writes: Knock me over with a little feather. He shares the observation of Legal Insurrection: "If elected, she would be the first person who has committed an ethnic fraud to hold the presidency." He adds his own (it's short, so reproduced in full):

    When it was advantageous for Warren to be a Republican, she was a Republican.

    When it was advantageous for Warren to be a "minority," she was a minority.

    When it was advantageous for Warren to be a Massachusetts liberal, she was a Massachusetts liberal.

    Warren 2020: "What principles do you want?  I got 'em."  Bookmark: ElizabethWarrenWiki.

    I hope the Wiki maintainers are able to keep up with reality. That's always a challenge.


  • At Power Line, Paul Mirengoff describes Warren’s woes in appealing to African-American voters (linking to a Washington Post story on that topic):

    The Post cites several factors that could explain Warren’s lack of appeal to African-Americans. Her economic populism places too much blame for poverty on capitalism (in effect) and not enough on racism. Two of her rivals are African-American and a third served as vice president to a black president. Her home state is very “white.” Her DNA test revealed she was lying about her ethnicity (the Post puts it more politely).

    Each of these factors may be at work. The DNA test may not count for much in itself, but it does suggest an inauthenticity that could work against her.

    The bigger problem, though, is that there’s little in Warren’s persona that is likely to fire up African-Americans. Warren is an academic. She lacks the common touch. She can scold, but she can’t preach.

    Like Woodrow Wilson with a skirt?


  • And I try to avoid linking the same website twice in one post, but Scott Johnson has an additional useful perspective on Warren’s kitchen cabinet. Scott works off the "cringe-worthy" Instagram live video where she announced her campaign, accompanied by pounding back a Michelob Ultra.

    “Fight” is the motif of her remarks. She wants to duke it out for us, the little people. Indeed, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, she is one of us. She cracks open a beer to prove it. She can “fight” while guzzling it down. Like the Okies out of Grapes of Wrath, she recalls mama and daddy. She makes no mention of Indian ancestry.

    Warren disapproves of pharmaceutical companies making “ginormous profits.” (What about technology companies like Amazon and Apple? I hear they are somewhat profitable too.) Warren also disapproves of for-profit colleges. The common factor is profits; we can extrapolate Warren’s bogeymen to free enterprise generally. She favors consumption over production, so long as she has a hand in distribution.

    Incidentally, while we are on the subject of the pharmaceutical companies, perhaps we should note that their products save lives. The only thing Elizabeth Warren has ever produced is bogus scholarship.

    But about that Michelob Ultra. Shameless "I'm a regular Josephine" pandering aside, apparently she later characterized her preferred brand of suds as the "club soda of beers". At the Takeout, Allison Shoemaker wonders what she means by that:

    I can find no references to Anheuser-Busch’s Michelob Ultra as a particularly effective stain remover, so that’s not why it’s the club soda of beers. I cannot imagine it would serve well as a mixer for vodka, gin, or Scotch, so it’s perhaps safe to assume that that’s not why it’s the club soda of beers. Nor is it non-alcoholic. It does not come in tiny clear bottles. It is not easily confused with tonic. This American light lager cannot be consumed on its own with lime in a highball glass, a presentation that makes it seem as if the drinker is drinking a cocktail while eating all the free food at the happy hour when in reality she has not actually paid for anything.

    Oh, so close in that last sentence. But Allison quotes a beer reviewer who hits the target:

    A barely noticeable yellow, barely noticeable grainy smell, and no taste. This, considering its price point, was rather disappointing, and maybe even depressing. I have friends who swear by this, but I don't see the appeal. If you want to get wrecked drink a wine, if you want a beer, there's so many more out there. What is the point of this? To act drunk at a fancy party? Ugh...

    Off-color, slightly smelly, zero taste, high price point, seemingly designed to appeal to phonies? A perfect choice for Senator Warren.


  • Language Log analyzes the linguistic folksiness of the senator's "I'm gonna get me a beer": The dagnabbit effect strikes again. Technically, this is known as the "personal dative". And she seems to be channelling a different Massachusetts pol:

    We're back in John Kerry country again, when the *obviously* elitist Kerry was mocked for his own Personal Dative.  Here's the (right-wing) Washington Times shortly after the event:

    Mr. Kerry's Ohio hunting adventure started last Saturday, when the senator, campaign entourage in tow, went into a grocery store and asked the owner: "Can I get me a hunting license here?" Even the phraseology sounded staged. Mr. Kerry ordinarily doesn't talk this way, and his language sounded fake and patronizing — as if he was pretending to talk like someone from rural Ohio. [WT, Oct. 22, 2004]

    Kerry was subsequently savaged in numerous gleeful right-wing blogs and columns for his inauthentic modeling of "uneducated redneckese", "hick" or "ignorant" speech, or "dumbed-down grammar". Commentators wondered rhetorically, "Is poor grammar something that amounts to reaching out to them-there dumb, gun-loving right-wing rednecks?"  Kerry was widely portrayed at the time as having asked "Can I get me a huntin' license here?" (and note the comment to this effect in Warner Todd Huston's tweet in Twitterstorm), actual recordings of Kerry's query at the time clearly confirm that he used the upper register velar nasal. In any case, two weeks later Kerry barely lost Ohio to George W. Bush and with it the election.  At least Warren is getting her PD out of the way early, for better or worse.

    Maybe she really talks like that at Harvard faculty soirees. Upper register velar nasal and all. Who knows?


  • National Review doesn't usually go for the clickbait headline style, so I assume Jim Geraghty is doing that for chuckles: Bernie Sanders: Twenty Things You Didn’t Know About Him. Let's go with number …:

    19) In 2016 and 2017, Sanders made more than $1 million, mostly from book advances and royalties. He received a half-million-dollar advance for this year’s book, Where We Go from Here. (Ironically, back in 1974, Sanders told the Burlington Free Press, “Nobody should earn more than $1 million.”) When the senator received some grief during the 2016 campaign for not releasing his tax returns, he said his wife does the couple’s taxes. Days later, he released his 2014 returns, showing adjusted gross income of $205,271. Despite Sanders’s 1981 statement that he didn’t believe in charities, he and his wife donated $8,350 to charity, according to the return.

    How would Bernie put it? "I'm grabbing a beer. No, not Coors Light. Not Sam Adams. Not Budweiser… Come to think of it, where did you put the Stolichnaya?"


  • The NYT looked at the True Man of the People, Uncle Joe: How Biden Has Paved the Way for a Possible Presidential Run.

    When officials at the University of Utah invited Joseph R. Biden Jr. to speak there in December, Mr. Biden’s representatives listed a number of requirements for the appearance. His booking firm, Creative Artists Agency, said the school would need to fly Mr. Biden and his aides to Salt Lake City by private plane. It would buy 1,000 copies of his recent memoir from a designated vendor. There would be no insertion of the word “former” before “vice president” in social media promotions. And the speaking fee would be $100,000 — “a reduced rate,” it was explained, for colleges and universities.

    Spoiler: He wound up relenting on the $100 K.


  • Oh, yeah: Mitt Romney (4% nomination probability, up 1% from last week) penned a Trump-trashing op-ed in the WaPo. Reason's Robby Soave says: Senator-Elect Mitt Romney, Welcome to the Resistance.

    Reactions to the op-ed have been mixed. Some have branded Romney a hypocrite for accepting Trump's endorsement in the Utah Senate race and then turning on the president after he was safely elected. Fox News talking head Dan Bongino called him a sell-out, a fraud, a phony, and a fake.

    Nobody with memories of the 2012 election will be shocked by people calling Mitt names. But that last link is pretty classic:

    [Romney] is a sell-out. He is a fraud. He is a phony. He is a fake. This is the kind of guy who has absolutely decimated the Republican Party. You know, Brian, when there is a museum left to the remnant of the swamp GOP. And we’re all walking through this museum in 20 or 30 years when there used to be the GOP, exhibit 1 will be Mitt Romney followed closely by Jeff Flake. You know, Jeff Flake had to pass the baton of GOP sell-outs. And the race isn’t even over yet. Romney doesn’t even swear in, I believe, until Thursday. They couldn’t even wait to pass the baton. What’s even more disgraceful about this Romney op-ed — and, listen, I spoke positively about Mitt Romney for a very long time. We ran in the same election cycle. This is a disgusting move. This is the same guy who went up to Bedminster, Donald Trump gave him a chance even after Romney shellacked him, unnecessarily so. Trump gave him a chance. He gave him another chance having dinner with him in Manhattan, the President, that is, and interviewed him for jobs. And do you know what? He endorsed Romney, the president. You want to talk about character? You big phony fraud fake. You know what? You should have never taken that endorsement if this is how you felt. This guy is a disgrace. He's an embarrassment. I’m embarrassed for him, the people of Utah and anyone who supported this fraud. What a fake.

    But how do you really feel, Dan?


URLs du Jour

2019-01-05

  • Via a Week in Pictures post at Power Line. I thought it too good to be true, but I tried it myself, and…

    [Academia is]


  • Dark totalitarian humor from the New York Times: Learning China’s Forbidden History, So They Can Censor It.

    Li Chengzhi had a lot to learn when he first got a job as a professional censor.

    Like many young people in China, the 24-year-old recent college graduate knew little about the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. He had never heard of China’s most famous dissident, Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who died in custody two years ago.

    Now, after training, he knows what to look for — and what to block. He spends his hours scanning online content on behalf of Chinese media companies looking for anything that will provoke the government’s wrath. He knows how to spot code words that obliquely refer to Chinese leaders and scandals, or the memes that touch on subjects the Chinese government doesn’t want people to read about.

    I'm sure Google will be eager to provide helpful tools for poor Li Chengzhi, for the right price.


  • Although his column is aimed at American companies struggling with their stupid users, Tyler Cowen has some advice for China: Why Internet Censorship Doesn’t Work and Never Will.

    One view, which may appear cynical, is that the platforms are worth having, so they should appease us by at least trying to regulate effectively, even though both of us know they won’t really succeed. Circa 2019, I don’t see a better solution. Another view is that we’d be better off with how things were a few years ago, when platform regulation of speech was not such a big issue. After all, we Americans don’t flip out when we learn that Amazon sells copies of “Mein Kampf.”

    The problem is that once you learn about what you can’t have — speech regulation that is scalable, consistent and hostile to bad agents — it is hard to get used to that fact. Going forward, we’re likely to see platform companies trying harder and harder, and their critics getting louder and louder.

    If you want to censor, it helps to be a government.


  • At NR, Jibran Khan says Elizabeth Warren’s Generic-Drug Proposal Is Not Serious. Well, it's serious in the sense that she seriously thinks it will help her be elected president. But…

    Elizabeth Warren is grasping. Having failed in her gambit to establish minority status, the 2020 presidential contender is now following the path of her competition.

    As Kamala Harris did with the housing crisis, Warren has picked a very real issue — the expense of generic drugs — and decided to address it with a bill that is unlikely to achieve much except gain her personal accolades for “doing something.” And should it pass, it could inhibit efforts to actually resolve the problem, because “something has been done.”

    Jibran's article is a good description of the problem, and an excellent analysis of why Warren's proposals are bad.

    Progressives like Warren find it difficult to admit government intrusions and regulations cause the problems they want to "solve". Because that would implicitly argue against their "solutions", which are invariably… more government intrusions and regulations.


  • You might want to know: what's first on Nancy Pelosi's agenda? David Harsanyi knows that… First on Nancy Pelosi's Agenda: Attacking Free Expression.

    I have zero interest in financially supporting any politician, much less ones I find morally unpalatable. Yet Democrats want to force me—and every other American taxpayer—to contribute, as a matter of public policy, to the campaigns of candidates we disagree with. Believe it or not, this might be an even more dangerous assault on free expression than unpleasant tweets directed at CNN anchors.

    One of Nancy Pelosi's first projects as the new speaker of the House will be passing a government overhaul of campaign finance and ethics rules that would, among other things, "expand voting rights." One of the new bills—specifics are still cloudy—reportedly would allocate a pool of taxpayer money to match small-dollar donations 6-to-1, as a way of encouraging "grass-roots campaigning," according to The Wall Street Journal.

    Politicians of all stripes love the idea of getting "free" taxpayer money for their campaigns. Note the euphemisms they use to disguise what they're doing.


  • Don Boudreaux writes at TribLive on something we knew, but it doesn't hurt to be reminded: Progressives are unrealistic.

    Progressives take pride in their reliance on science. They insist that society should be governed according to objectively discovered facts rather than ruled by superstitions, dogmas and baseless fears and fantasies.

    I believe that progressives are correct — which is why I’m no progressive. Progressives’ agenda is inconsistent with their boast of being “reality-based.” Progressives unwittingly promote government according superstition, romantic delusions and a tremendous detachment from facts.

    And also hubris, Don. You forgot hubris.

    [Yes, I'm judging from my Facebook friends, who have endless suggestions about how private companies—Walmart is a favorite Target [heh]—should run their enterprises.]


  • And we've noted the Der Spiegel writer who made up stuff about American communities being hotbeds of ugly bigotry, like Fergus Falls, Minnesota. What we need here in America is someone to go over to Germany and check out the magazine. Someone like James Lileks: Insult Fergus Falls? Take that, German magazine!.

    On behalf of everyone in Fergus Falls who was embarrassed by a fake Der Spiegel magazine story about their beloved town, I thought it would be fair to visit the offices of Der Spiegel, which is German for “The Spiegel,” and see what they were like.

    The offices are located high in the Alps, in a castle. A sign reading “Anyone not wearing lederhosen, turn back now!” was stuck by the side of the road, but my driver, a dimwitted lad named Horst, explained that it wasn’t meant to be taken seriously.

    “It’s not like we judge people using stereotypes based on their appearance,” he said. Then he offered to sell me his Alpine hat so I’d “fit in.”

    Read on for his encounters with Ilsa Shewolff and Adolph B. Beethoven.


  • And I sent my first tweet to my new Congresscritter.

    I assume he won't respond. Vote breakdown here.


Last Modified 2019-01-06 6:20 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2019-01-04

[Amazon Link]

  • Chris Edwards introduces an interesting new study at Cato: Which States Provide High Quality Schools at Low Cost?

    If you pay state and local taxes or have kids in public schools, you will want to check out this recent Cato study on education spending and education results. Looking across the states, the study by Stan Liebowitz and Matthew Kelly found no significant relationship between per-pupil spending and student performance when you adjust for state cost of living.

    Spoiler: when you correct for cost of living and demographics, New Hampshire does, at best, a mediocre job of educating its students. We can console ourselves (somewhat) by looking across the Salmon Falls River. The Cato authors have a much different result than was obtained by the rose-spectacled U.S. News:

    There are substantial differences between our quality rankings and the U.S. News rankings. For example, Maine drops from 6th in the U.S. News ranking to 49th in the quality ranking. Florida, which ranks 40th in U.S. News’, jumps to 3rd in our quality ranking

    Maine apparently does very well in the nonlearning components of U.S. News’ rankings; its aggregated NAEP scores would put it in 24th place, 18 positions lower than its U.S. News rank. But the aggregated NAEP scores overstate what its students have learned; Maine’s quality ranking is a full 25 positions below that. On the 10 achievement tests reported for Maine, its rankings on those tests are 46th, 45th, 48th, 37th, 41st, 40th, 34th, 40th, 41st, and 23rd. It is astounding that U.S. News could rank Maine as high as 6th, given the deficient performance of both its black and white students (the only two groups reported for Maine) relative to black and white students in other states. But since Maine’s student population is about 90 percent white, the aggregated scores bias the results upward.

    In comparison, U.S. News unfairly slagged Florida, which does a pretty good job by Cato's lights.


  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson writes [NRPlus, sorry] on the complacency of American tech companies toward totalitarian regimes. The latest example: Repressive Cosmopolitanism.

    Netflix is at the moment being criticized for suppressing an episode of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, which was critical of Saudi crown prince and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman. The decision came after complaints from the Saudi government, a monarchy that proposes to continue taking itself seriously. Netflix took the usual corporate weasel route, issuing a statement reading: “We strongly support artistic freedom and removed this episode only in Saudi Arabia after we had received a valid legal request — and to comply with local law.” The statement is false on its face: A company that “strongly supports artistic freedom” would have done something in defense of that freedom.

    I think the episode has just been taken down in Saudi Arabia, still visible in these parts. Still, I wish Netflix were a little more aggressive in standing up for the rights of willing customers to watch content critical of their polities.


  • A belated LFOD item from Christian Britschgi at Reason: America's Insane Patchwork of Fireworks Regulations Can Crimp Your New Year's Eve Celebrations.

    Millions of Americas will say goodbye to 2018 by setting off a few dozen of their favorite fireworks. What kind of fireworks they'll be able to use, how old they had to be to buy them, and whether they had to smuggle them across state lines are all highly contingent on where they live.

    Take age limits, which vary widely across the country. In "Live Free or Die" New Hampshire, you must be 21 before buying fireworks, while South Carolina law considers 16-year-olds capable of both buying and selling these mini-explosives.

    Interesting: NH is an island of prohibition for "recreational" marijuana in New England, but is fine with letting you buy stuff that will blow your fingers off. Massachusetts, on the other hand, is fine with pot, but bans fireworks for even adults.

    Does that make any sense? No.


  • Commie Radio has the story: City of Keene in Dispute with Local Restaurant Owner Over 'Pho Keene Great' Name. Explaining the joke:

    The City of Keene is asking a Vietnamese restaurant slated to open this spring to change its name.

    The restaurant has a lease with the city to operate out of the same building as City Hall.

    But its proposed name, Pho Keene Great, has prompted complaints, said City Manager Elizabeth Dragon.

    Pho, pronounced “fuh,” is a kind of Vietnamese soup. “Pho Keene” is intended to sound like a profanity, Dragon said.

    Maybe someone with a name like "Dragon" shouldn't point fingers at other peoples' choice of names.

    Where's "Free Keene" when you need them? Oh, never mind! They are all over the story, good for them.

    [Amazon Link]

    Longtime readers of Free Keene will remember Isabelle Rose who made headlines when her Vietnamese food truck began accepting cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. For more than a year, Rose has been working hard on transitioning from food truck to full-service restaurant in downtown Keene! Unfortunately, the people calling themselves the “City of Keene” have decided to make Rose’s life much more difficult.

    On Christmas Eve, Rose received a call from the new city manager, Elizabeth Dragon, who in a bid to apparently look more ridiculous than her predecessors, demanded Rose take down the recently-placed sign in the windows of her new location announcing her restaurant was coming soon… right next to city hall.

    They have t-shirts too. Amazon link at right, and if you buy one I'm sure some of the money will wind up with Isabelle Rose..


  • We're still clearing the hopper of New Year items. Like Veronique de Rugy's latest column: Here's to Making 2019 a Year for D.C. to Remember. Number one on her wish list is fixing fiscal insanity:

    I want to believe that many Republicans and Democrats are aware of our fiscal condition and that, deep down, they know that they must start to legislate responsibly. It would be amazing if they could, for a change, speak up and take the first steps toward finding a solution. Sadly, the incentives of politics are so biased toward fiscal irresponsibility and big government that meaningful reform will be difficult, borderline miraculous. However, I still have a little of that Christmas spirit left in me, so I'll allow myself to dream for the span of one column.

    Hey, I have a new Congresscritter, Chris Pappas. Maybe I'll work up the gumption to ask him what he's going to do about fiscal irresponsibility.

URLs du Jour

2019-01-03

[Amazon Link]

  • Jacob Sullum makes a lot of sense at Reason: Trump's Right About ‘Ridiculous’ Misuse of U.S. Troops. Among his telling points:

    It's ridiculous that the United States has 26,000 military personnel in South Korea 65 years after the Korean War, 54,000 in Japan 73 years after World War II, and 64,000 in a dozen European countries 27 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    These countries are perfectly capable of defending themselves. South Korea's economy is around 50 times as big as North Korea's, while Japan and Germany have the world's third and fourth highest GDPs, respectively.

    Now if Trump would only make analogous decisions about trade and drug prohibition and…


  • As previously mentioned, I got a dog. And (you may have noticed) I'm interested in politics. So I'm a sucker for Jonah Goldberg's column at NR: Dogs Have Their Day in Our Politicized Society.

    Dogs — and animals generally — are among the few things that bridge the partisan divide. Tragedies are a partisan affair. If someone dies in a hurricane or shooting, there’s a mad rush to score political points. Last week, a lovely young woman, Bre Payton, died from a sudden illness, and a bunch of ghouls mocked or celebrated her demise because she was a conservative.

    Even babies can be controversial, since babies can touch various nerves, from abortion politics to the apparent scourge of “misgendering” newborns.

    But dogs are largely immune to political ugliness. The angriest complaints I get about my dog tweets — from people on both the left and the right — are that I’m wasting apparently scarce resources on dogs when I could be expressing my anger about whatever outrage the complainers demand I be outraged about.

    I can't imagine complaining to Jonah about anything, other than perhaps not being prolific enough.


  • Another sensible person, David Harsanyi, writes at the Federalist about Mitt Romney's recent (and much-discussed) WaPo op-ed: Romney Wasn't Wrong To Criticize Trump, He's Just Wrong About Why.

    Now, Romney’s central grievances about Trump’s character are fair enough. But for some of us, the beatification of the presidency—always a problem, but a particularly unhealthy one since 2008—is off-putting, as well.

    “To a great degree,” Romney writes, “a presidency shapes the public character of the nation. A president should unite us and inspire us to follow ‘our better angels.’” Personal morality matters because it reflects the temperament and choices of the people running government. The president isn’t our Pope, however. And political “unity” has always been a vacuous and destructive concept. Elected officials don’t define our national, much less personal, character. And if you’re searching for enlightenment in politics, you should probably find a better religion.

    David's solid point: try not to let criticizing Trump's character make you buy into left-wing criticism of his policies.


  • Or you could subscribe to the Babylon Bee's take Follower Of Joseph Smith Urges Nation To Reject Morally Flawed Leaders.

    Mitt Romney, incoming senator for Utah and follower of Joseph Smith, lectured the nation in an op-ed Tuesday on the need to reject morally flawed leaders.

    The man who has devoted his life to the teachings of a con artist encouraged the nation to examine its leaders to see whether they are worthy of our devotion and respect.

    "A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect," wrote the man who follows Joseph Smith, a false prophet, notorious polygamist, and scam artist. He pointed out that the president hasn't shown himself to be honest or forthcoming in his dealings with opponents and other countries, while Joseph Smith's own prophecies failed to come true over and over again, and while the Mormon Church continues to deceive its members by covering up its past.

    That's … pretty hard-hitting.


  • Perhaps you remember the founding of "603 and Me" last year?

    Yeah, me neither. But AP reports that 603 and Me Celebrates Significant Milestones. That would be their first anniversary. Their proclaimed goal is "to let others outside of our state recognize that New Hampshire is a terrific place to enjoy life throughout one’s career, both living and working in a pleasant environment."

    Ah, but why are we seeing this news?

    Going forward, 603 and Me will also work with local legislators to have the State adopt the slogan, “New Hampshire – America’s Best-Kept Secret”. In doing so, 603 and Me aims to not replace the State’s popular “Live Free or Die” motto, but instead highlighting to others that New Hampshire is the place to be.

    Yeah, that's what we need, a slogan.


  • At Forbes, Michael del Castillo looks at Bitcoin’s Last Gunslinger. That would be Erik Voorhees, who has managed to avoid jail. It's an interesting story, and…

    To more seriously pursue his ever-strengthening beliefs that government—and banking—power should be limited, Voorhees picked up stakes and moved to New Hampshire, the Live Free or Die state. There he worked with the Free State Project, a long-term effort to build a society with as little government meddling as possible, and met Keith Ammon, a rising local politician. In May 2011 Ammon introduced Voorhees to bitcoin, which unlike the pine cones of his youth was limited in supply and unlike the U.S. dollar was not minted by a government.

    I don't know if Erik still lives in New Hampshire, but good luck to him wherever he is.


Last Modified 2019-01-03 12:34 PM EST

MLK@UNH 2019

[Amazon Link]

It's that time of year when we look at what the University Near Here has planned for Martin Luther King Day.

Well, not the actual day, January 21. The campus is closed that day, Spring Semester doesn't begin until January 22. Instead, the festivities start on January 30, and continue through (I am not making this up) through April. We'll look at some of them.

Sometimes I wonder if the folks in charge have a bingo cage with buzzwords and hackneyed phrases written on the balls. Every year, they pick five or six balls at random and attempt to use them all while filling in the blank: "This year's tribute to MLK will focus on _____."

This year gives us:

This year's tribute to MLK will focus on the use of dialogue to help us engage in a culture of compassion and awaken us to solidarity and liberation

Check. It's the usual gaseous, vague, essentially meaningless prose. The balls go back in the cage for next year.

But what's actually happening?

  • The first speaker is… not bad, actually. C.L. Lindsay III, on "Freedom of Speech".

    Attorney C.L. Lindsay III left his law practice in 1998 and founded the Coalition for Student & Academic Rights (CO-STAR), a non-profit that assists students with their legal problems, free-of-charge. Lindsay is a nationally recognized expert and leader in the field of student rights and academic freedom. He received his J.D. from the Univ of Michigan and continues to teach Law and Literature at the Univ. of Pennsylvania.

    Somewhat surprisingly, a white guy. The CO-STAR site is here; Lindsay's personal site is here. Apparently, his lectures are pretty funny, using "trademark action figure pictures to illustrate his points".

    And his booking agency describes his "Campus Free Speech" talk here. It looks interesting.

    • The basics of First amendment law including the myriad exceptions
    • Professors and Free Speech including Semi-Affiliated Accounts (unofficial social media accounts maintained by professors)
    • Students and individual free speech rights with an emphasis in online speech
    • Invited outside speakers and balancing free speech with safety and other institutional concerns
    • Public forum speech and profanity rules and time place and manner restrictions
    • Free Speech vs. Free From Consequences

    I have quibbles!

    • Are there really "myriad" exceptions to protected speech? According to current jurisprudence, not really. More like a handful.

    • The "balancing free speech with safety" issue is (indeed) hot right now, but only because universities have used it as an excuse to charge onerous "security fees" on "controversial" speakers (i.e., likely to arouse the ire of violent left-wingers). That didn't work out well for the University of Washington, which tried to play this game with the College Republicans, only to wind up paying $122,500 in legal fees.

    • And with respect to "Free Speech vs. Free From Consequences": that can be problematic too. Nobody argues that speech can be, or even should be, free from "consequences". If you use your freedom of speech to proclaim the wisdom of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, there will be at least one consequence. Namely, that I will consider you to be an idiot.

      So "Free Speech vs. Free From Consequences" isn't really the issue. Pretending that it is borders on fatuity.

    Another (slight) warning flag: the CO-STAR site's "Links" page has … no link to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). That's a curious omission.

  • On February 9, there's the "MLK Annual Day of Service", billed as "a great way to show those in need that you care."

    I'm kind of tired of people throwing the "virtue-signalling" label at others, but I can't come up with a better description in this case. Your important goal is not simply to help out the needy, but to show them that you care.

  • And then on February 15: A Cappella performances! It's time again to spin the bingo cage of catchphrases:

    Several A Cappella groups have organized a special "Spring Inclusion" event with a wide variety of songs that will hopefully widen our circles and invite our minds to reflect on new ways to view our community and the people around us.

    Hm. If you widen a circle, don't you get an ellipse? Even if you do so "hopefully"?

    And I wonder what it means to view both "our community" and "the people around us". A thoughtless redundancy, or a meaningful distinction? I fear we shall never know for sure.

  • February 21-23 brings us a movie, The Hate U Give.

    Based on the best selling book, this is the story of Starr Carter who lives in two worlds, a poor black neighborhood and a predominantly white prep school. The uneasy balance is thrown when her friend is killed by a police officer.

    Trivia: The title is (allegedly) based on the rap artist Tupac Shakur who had a "THUG LIFE" tattoo, which he alleged was an acronym for "The Hate U Give Little Infants F***s Everything". The rating is PG-13, so they don't play up that last part.

    The movie was overwhelmingly well-reviewed. "Even" Kyle Smith in National Review:

    As The Hate U Give reached its climax, I had to reach down to the floor. There it was, right down there with the soda residue and the spilled popcorn: My jaw. Did I really just see a Black Lives Matter movie, in which an unarmed black youth is shot and killed by a white cop, build up to a scene in which a black cop explains what goes through the mind of a police officer in such a situation, when a suspect repeatedly disobeys lawful commands, and explains that he would have shot the guy too? This film is going to make Sheriff David Clarke jump out of his seat and cheer.

    That's an "NRPlus" article. If you're nonNRplussed, you'll have to take my word for it. But it seems a surprisingly good choice for UNH.

  • The main speaker shows up on February 26, Leah Penniman:

    Leah Penniman, founding co-director of Soul Fire Farm, is author of the book "Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm's Practical Guide to Liberation of the Land" is the scheduled speaker for this year's MLK Tribute.  Leah has been farming since 1996 and teaching since 2002.  The work of Leah and Soul Fire Farm has been recognized by Omega Sustainability Leadership Award, Presidential Award for Science Teaching, and others.  Soul Fire Farm, is committed to ending racism and injustice within our food system.  Penniman is part of a global network of farmers working to increase farmland stewardship by people of color, and ending food apartheid.   More about the book

    Food apartheid? Ooh! Sounds like tendentious bullshit! Gustavo Arellano wrote in Reason a couple years back about the movement:

    The contemporary progressive food philosophy, best epitomized on the national level by Michelle Obama's Let's Move! program, is based on the notion that the country's fat, diabetic, unhealthy working classes are simply too derelict to make informed food choices. That decades of corporate greed have led to so-called "food deserts" and "food apartheid," in which chain restaurants and liquor stores are blighting neighborhoods and serving up what ["fusion taco artist" Roy] Choi described as "corrosive chemical waste." That salvation lies only in going back to the land—putting farmers markets in low-income neighborhoods and promoting organic, sustainable foodways from elementary school through adulthood.

    I wouldn't say that Leah is a food nazi, but I'd have to attend her talk to find out and… I'm not gonna.

  • From the tendentious to the weird/tedious, March 2 brings "The Human Library" (to the local high school, not UNH):

    The Human Library Project is a one-day event offering the opportunity for face-to-face conversations that challenge sterotyping and prejudice. Its a place where real people are "books", as they "loan" their stories and experiences to listeners. Difficult questions are expected, appreciated and answered in the moment. Come and sit with your "book" and discover paths to a more peaceful world.

    Um, fine. The Human Library website is here.

  • On March 5: "The UNH Experience for Students with Disabilities".

    Listen to UNH students tell their stories and share their experiences as they navigate the transition and terrain from high school to college and onward to internships, graduate studies and careers.

    Fine, but note the (as always) inflated language, using 31 words to say something that could equally have been done with 7: "UNH students with disabilities tell their stories."

  • From January 24 to March 31, there's an exhibit at the UNH Art Gallery:

    Yoav Horesh's Aftermath is a selection of photographs made in suicide bombing sites in Israel after the places have been hastily repaired and the destruction has been erased not only from the landscape, but also from the collective memory. In an increasingly desensitized environment of war imagery, we are hardly ever challenged to think about the aftermath.

    I'd guess that Israelis probably don't need any extra reminders of suicide bombings, but that's just a guess.

  • And another extended event, April 1-22: the "21 Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge".

    The 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge  was originally developed by Dr. Eddie  Moore, Jr. and Debby Irving and has been adapted by Food Solutions New England with support from the Interaction Institute for Social Change. The challenge consists of daily email prompts with resources. It is designed to create dedicated time and space to build more effective social justice habits, particularly those dealing with issues of race, power, privilege, and leadership.

    It creates time and space. A fuller description can be found at the "Food Solutions New England" website here; it has the "Strident Earnestness" dial turned up to 11:

    The origins of our current industrial food system can be found, not just in the pursuit of food security and feeding of the world, but also in the consolidation and inequitable distribution of economic and political power, land, and resources, going back centuries: a legacy that includes stolen land, lives, and labor. And it is present today here and across the country, in our federal policies, and in the astonishing consolidation of money, power and control over the very things that give us life – our soil, our water, our labor, the food we eat every day.

    Uh huh. Or, if you live in Venezuela, the food you don't eat every day. Somehow I doubt if the "Food Solutions" people have a firm grasp on what feeds the world and what doesn't.

All in all, a mixed bag. But it's been worse. [Past Pun Salad MLK@UNH coverage: 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018. We skipped reporting the 2008 and 2016 events, because they were boring.]

Some Graphs

2019 Update

I did this last year, the scripts I used are still around, so…

Back in 2016, I made an early New Year's resolution to blog more diligently. This was unusual, in that it was actually successful. Since December 2016, I've managed to blog for 738 consecutive days. Woo! I'll try to keep going in 2019.

There's twelve more months of data on the chart showing the monthly blog posts since Pun Salad's birth in February 2005: (Hat tip: the Chart::Gnuplot Perl module)

[Monthly Posts]

Once a geek develops a hammer, it's tough to stop finding nails to pound. Here's an updated chart on my book reading; you can tell that I've been trying to read more over the past few years:

[Yearly Books]

And movies watched since 2004…

[Yearly Movies]

For the curious: My 2018 book list is here; my 2018 movie list is here.

URLs du Jour

2019-01-01

[Amazon Link]

  • Happy New Year! Two things I noticed when watching the ABC 'Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve' last night:

    1. It seems to get lamer each year. (Or maybe I'm just a year older and allegedly wiser.)
    2. When comparing the DCNYRE countdown clock to my WWVB-synchronized Casio watch, it appears that they were about 6-8 seconds behind reality.

    Hmph.

    I suppose that's prudent, in case of a terrorist strike or Jenny McCarthy deciding to get naked on the spur of the moment, but it's a little discomfiting to watch them pretend to be "live".


  • At LessWrong, Phil Goetz makes an interesting point: shouldn't we consider Stupidity as a mental illness?

    It's great to make people more aware of bad mental habits and encourage better ones, as many people have done on LessWrong.  The way we deal with weak thinking is, however, like how people dealt with depression before the development of effective anti-depressants:

    • Clinical depression was only marginally treatable.
    • It was seen as a crippling character flaw, weakness, or sin.
    • Admitting you had it could result in losing your job and/or friends.
    • Treatment was not covered by insurance.
    • Therapy was usually analytic or behavioral and not very effective.
    • People thus went to great mental effort not to admit, even to themselves, having depression or any other mental illness.

    I've been having (mostly inchoate) thoughts in the same vein for a while: consider the population distribution of measures of human mental behavior: there will always be people several sigma away from (above or below) the mean on each measure.

    Yet we label some of those indicators as mental illness, and hence absolve the holder of responsibility for them.

    Conversely, we treat other of those indicators as "character flaws" something people are "responsible" for, and shower them with praise or blame, as appropriate.

    Deciding which is which? Largely up to the folks that write the DSM. In other words, politics.

    That seems inapt. But I have a difficult time coming up with anything better.


  • At the Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby gloats: A year after net neutrality’s repeal, the Internet is alive and well — and faster than ever.

    HERE’S A PIECE of news you may have missed: The internet is getting faster. The technology news website Recode reported this month that “US internet speeds rose nearly 40 percent this year,” with broadband download velocity now averaging as much as 159 megabits per second in some cities. The United States currently ranks seventh worldwide in broadband internet speed. That’s up from 12th a year ago.

    Perhaps this strikes you as something less than a stop-the-presses revelation. The internet, after all, has been expanding and accelerating for the past 25 years. Why should 2018 have been any different?

    Yet last year, when the Federal Communications Commission moved to repeal the Obama administration’s “Net Neutrality” rule, much of the liberal establishment went berserk. Many in the media were sure the change would mean the “end of the internet as we know it.” A lavish online campaign backed by dozens of organizations issued a “Red Alert,” warning that if the FCC under Chairman Ajit Pai overturned the Obama regulations, it would “give the big cable companies control over what we see and do online” and “allow widespread throttling, blocking, censorship, and extra fees.” A New York Times business journalist bewailed the coming demise of the internet — undoing net neutrality, he wrote, “would be the final pillow in its face.” Other tech analysts were even more caustic. Nilay Patel, the editor of The Verge, proclaimed that with net neutrality gone, the internet was doomed. (“Doomed” wasn’t the word he used.)

    You can click over to find out the word he used, but I bet you can guess.

    "Disaster continues to fail to strike" isn't the most gripping headline, but is it too much to ask to be reminded that the doomsayers, with their itchy regulatory trigger fingers, were wrong?


  • At Cato, Jeffrey Miron notes how Fentanyl Test Strips exemplify how drug prohibition makes Your Federal Government do some bizarre things. Briefly, the test strips can save lives, but … guess what, the government opposes their distribution. Miron outlines the "logic" involved:

    The government’s position, therefore, is that

    1. we have to outlaw drugs because people are not rational enough to use them safely;
    2. if prohibition makes it difficult for users to determine potency and quality, that is unfortunate;
    3. but if users respond to this uncertainty by taking steps that reduce the risks, we cannot trust them to do that since they might not get it exactly right.

    And people wonder why we have an opioid epidemic.

    Fearless 2019 prediction: sanity will not break out.


  • And the Google LFOD alert buzzed for Calvin Hughes' article at Civilized about local news: New Hampshire House Speaker Vows to Legalize Cannabis Despite Governor Sununu's Threat to Veto Any Legalization Bill.

    As New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu (R) continues to obstruct marijuana reform, cannabis advocates have begun to scoff at the Granite State's 'Live Free or Die' motto.

    "The only thing libertarian about our state is the motto," Greg Raymond, 30, a ski resort server in Whitefield told The Boston Globe. "Now it’s become an embarrassing motto: 'Live free or die, but don't touch that plant.'"

    Yes, that's the same Globe article I linked to yesterday; unfortunately I'd missed the LFOD wisdom of Greg Raymond, 30, ski resort server.

    His heart is in the right place, but I can't help but think that heavy pot use in your teens and twenties will put you firmly on the "ski resort server" career path when you hit your thirties.