URLs du Jour

2019-07-03

[Amazon Link]

  • At Patterico's Pontifications, JVW has thoughts On Nike, Kaepernick, and Doing the Right Thing for the Wrong Reasons. Specifically, a message to Colin Kaepernick:

    Thank you.

    Thank you for removing from the market an overpriced shoe which cynically tried to tie itself to American heroism and sacrifice. Thank you for confirming once and for all that your campaign is not about police violence or uplifting minority communities, it is about your myopic view of American history that has been drilled into you by hard-left demagogues. Thank you for embarrassing Nike and forcing them to eat a product that had already been manufactured and shipped. And thank you for demonstrating that Nike, a company that has always had an absolutely garbage marketing program (I started a post on this topic over a year ago and just may get around to completing it), holds the American tradition in contempt, at least when it isn’t trying to exploit it for profit. Neither Nike not Colin Kaepernick meant for this to happen, but I think this is going to be one of those situations where almost everyone comes out a winner.

    As someone who has a flag-emblazoned t-shirt somewhere, I can't get sanctimonious about flag-adorned apparel. Some object, but if it's OK with the American Legion, I guess it's on Patriotically Correct ground. (There's no "except for shoes" on that page.)


  • At the Federalist, David Harsanyi also has thoughts on Why Nike's Capitulation To Kaepernick Matters.

    Colin Kaepernick has made a fantastic living out of protesting the America flag. That’s fine. No political speech should be inhibited, not even pseudo-intellectual historical revisionism. But let’s stop pretending that kneeling during the national anthem at sporting events is really about “respecting the flag” or criminal justice reform or any fixable policy problem.

    Whatever the underlying causes for Kaepernick’s popularity—some of them certainly legitimate—these protests are acts of contempt toward an irredeemable nation created in sin. This view of our founding is an increasingly popular position on the left. And if it ever takes hold in mainstream American life, we’re in real trouble.

    As said before, I would love to boycott Nike, but I've never bought any of their celebrity-driven walking-billboard overpriced stuff. And have no plans to. So a boycott would … change nothing whatsoever.


  • The Indispensible Jim Geraghty lists 20 Things You Didn’t Know about Long-Shot Presidential Candidate. But maybe suspected. For example, her "proposal for addressing the oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon platform disaster":

    I completely understand why Republicans are donating money to keep her in the debates.

    And, not that it matters, but I've started in on Jim's new book, Between Two Scorpions, a very good deal on Kindle from Amazon, link over there on your right.


  • Reason's current issue is a clever Good News/Bad News theme. With the Good on half the magazine, the Bad on the other. And to get from one to the other, you flip the magazine over. Anyway, we had one from the Good side yesterday, and here's one from the Bad from Stephanie Slade: Bad Ideas Are Spreading Like the Plague.

    The defeat of measles in the United States was one of the great good news stories of the turn of the millennium. Prior to 1963, when a vaccine was developed, the highly contagious virus led each year to 48,000 hospitalizations and 400–500 deaths, mostly among small children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But immunization campaigns steadily eroded the disease's reach, and by 2000 it was declared eliminated from American shores.

    Today, the U.S. is grappling with the worst measles outbreak in a quarter-century. Some 981 cases were confirmed in 26 states between January 1 and May 31—a 26-fold increase from the total in 2004. The CDC anticipates one or two fatalities per 1,000 cases, so it looks like only a matter of time before the disease again starts claiming American lives.

    Other bad ideas making a comeback: socialism, toxic nationalism, protectionism, … and maybe a few more by the time your read this.


  • And LFOD turns up in some odd places, as revealed by our Google News Alert. For example, the Caracas Chronicles: Venezuelan Lives Drift Away at Sea.

    Aruba is so close to Venezuela that you can see its lights from parts of our Falcón state on clear nights, and only 70 km separate Trinidad and Tobago from the North-Eastern Venezuelan coast. Both islands are closer than Perú or Ecuador, but reaching them is a lot more dangerous: while Venezuelan caminantes have to endure a difficult journey through the Andes or the Gran Sabana on their way to the rest of South America, the toll of leaving the chavista-fabricated crisis by sea is getting higher.  

    What follows is a retelling of many Venezuelan lives lost, simply because they want to escape oppression. Bottom line:

    They say you should live free or die trying. Well, some people really die.

    Something to think about over the next day or two.

Fall

or, Dodge in Hell

[Amazon Link]

A new Neal Stephenson book is a must-buy. And here's how much of a fanboy I am: I pre-ordered the book on Amazon, got it delivered on the publication date. And then I noticed that Stephenson was coming to Portsmouth, just down the road, on his book tour. Tickets to which included a copy of his book.

Yes, so now I own two copies of Fall. But one of them is signed by the author. I'll give the unsigned one to my daughter; she also likes Stephenson, just not as rabidly as I do.

The story begins in the near-future, after the events chronicled in REAMDE. The billionaire capitalist from that book, Richard Forthrast, aka "Dodge", is a little older now. He enjoys hanging out with his grand-niece Sophia, reading her yarns of Greek and Norse mythology. But he's scheduled for a routine medical procedure. And (unfortunately) he ignores the don't-eat-before advice. And he winds up in a vegetative state.

But he, long ago, made it clear in his will that he wanted his brain to be preserved post-mortem. And there's new tech available: a (physically-destructive) brain-scan, uploading the complete "connectome" to storage in the cloud. So, yeah, his heirs say: let's do that.

Years later, little Sophia is all grown up, and she's a computer whiz. Dodge's uploaded connectome is just sitting there in cyberspace. What would happen if it were … started up?

And what would that connectome experience? If given the ability to self-modify? Build a recognizable environment, perhaps, to move around in?

And what would happen if a few other dying people decided to upload their connectomes as well, and interacted with Dodge's (who is now calling himself "Egdod") process and the environment he created?

And what if one of those uploaded souls wasn't satisfied for obtaining immortality in the cloud, but in addition had a plan to wrest control of the new "Bitworld" from Egdod and run things himself?

Well, as you can imagine, things get quite biblical/mythological. And cyber-violent. (So much so that I wondered if they got a suitably portentous narrator for the audio book. Like Alexander Scourby.)

A lot of things happen in the book's 883 pages. There's an interesting dystopic sub-story: the "fake news" problem has (essentially) destroyed America. Everyone lives in their own "bubble" of reality, constructed by the Internet inputs in which their common tribe has bought into. Well-off people hire reliable data concierges for the straight scoop; but in the rural heartland, everyone's fallen for nutty bot-generated conspiracy theories and (um) interesting religion. Sad! Could make a book in itself, but it's dropped after a few hundred pages.

I've often griped that location-intensive books lack maps. Good news: this book has maps.

When All Else Fails

The Ethics of Resistance to State Injustice

[Amazon Link]

Jason Brennan is an iconoclastic and wide-ranging scholar. According to his home page, he "specializes in politics, philosophy, and economics." (Um, that's not what most people mean by "specialize", Professor Brennan!) I read his contrarian book Against Democracy, and I liked it quite a bit. So I had the good Interlibrary Loan folks at the University Near Here wangle me a copy from Boston College. And…

Here's the issue: Generally, we know that violence against other people is wrong. So is lying and sabotage. But there's an important exception: we (again, generally) accept that it's okay to use violence, even deadly violence, not only in self-defense, but in defense of others. And it's okay to lie to an abusive husband if you're hiding his wife: "No, man, she's not here." And it's okay to disable the bank robber's getaway car.

But some people think there's an exception to that: if the evildoers are government employees, acting ex officio, they have a magic immunity against interference.

Brennan argues against that exception: his claim is that you have pretty much the same right to thwart rights-violating agents of the state as you would civilian villains. Including, if necessary, the right to use deadly violence against them. There's no reason to think they have that magic immunity.

The argument is developed with the care you would expect from a philosopher. Brennan first examines your "right" to resort to (otherwise) bad behavior in response to injustice: when does it work, when doesn't it, and what are the limits? He then makes a powerful observation with much broader implications than his limited thesis here: in thousands of years of trying, political philosophers have entirely failed to come up with good arguments establishing the rightful authority of the state against its citizenry. (This is a separate and independent argument from whether established governments are legitimate; Brennan argues against the authority of even legitimate states.)

You probably have a host of objections and worries to Brenan's thesis. A bunch occurred to me as well. But he does a pretty thorough job of anticipating and replying to them. (If you'd like a article-sized summary, here it is, from the January 2019 issue of Reason.)

Stan & Ollie

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

Why yes, it has been a long time between Netflix DVDs. I'm pretty sure we got this one in the mail back in April or so. Still we keep sending them their monthly fee…

Oh, well. We killed off our subscription to the sad Monday-Saturday Foster's Daily Democrat. (Keeping Sunday, for the coupon flyers and the crossword puzzles.) So, overall, we're ahead of the game, moneywise.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, Stan & Ollie. It's not bad, being the sorta-true story of the late career of two legendary funnymen. It opens in 1937, on the set of Way Out West. Stan Laurel attempts to wangle a raise out of the tyrannical producer Hal Roach, but he has little leverage on his own: Hardy's still under contract to Roach. And Hardy, being under constant financial pressure due to his lavish womanizing/gambling habits, doesn't want to rock the boat. So the team splits up.

And we jump forward to 1953, where Stan is trying to revive their career with a new movie. Part of the deal is a vaudeville-style tour of the British Isles, where he and Ollie perform some of their classic skits. It's not promising, as their first dates are sparsely attended. And the would-be movie producer is continually unable to take Stan's calls, never a good sign. And Ollie's health isn't the best…

Stan and Ollie are played (respectively) by Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly, and you probably couldn't do better than that. Thanks to prosthetics and makeup, the physical resemblance is very good. A few skits are reproduced and (at least to my dim memory) they seem to be on target. (Still funny? Well, they don't make them like that any more; tastes have changed.)