URLs du Jour

2019-08-06

[Amazon Link]

  • At the WSJ (which I'm told may be paywalled), Joseph Epstein wonders: What Would We Do Without the Word ‘Racism’?.

    If the country had a National Language Commission, and I were appointed commissioner, the first word I would put in cold storage—filed permanently away beside the N-word, the C-word, the K-word and other prohibited words—would be “racism.” In our day the word has been used imprecisely, promiscuously, perniciously and well beyond abundantly. If you are politically on the left, racism is what you accuse people of who don’t agree with you. If you are on the right, you can accuse them, I suppose, of socialism, but it doesn’t carry anything like the same resonance in moral opprobrium or self-awarded virtue as does racism.

    The racist, if we can use the dictionary definition, believes that all members of a particular race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, which distinguish it as superior or inferior to other races. The true racist of course feels his own race is superior, and thereby he hasn’t any difficulty in discriminating or otherwise ill-treating members of other races, sometimes through government policy—as formerly under apartheid in South Africa or during the strict segregation once pervasive in the American South—or sometimes through ugly personal actions.

    Our Amazon Product du Jour can help, although if you wear it I'm afraid you'll get lectured about "panda privilege".


  • I suppose someday we'll stop slagging Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) for his stupid ideas. But today is not that day. David French writes at National Review Against the Republican Daddy State.

    On Tuesday, Senator Josh Hawley introduced his second proposed regulation of social media in as many months. In June, he introduced a bill to regulate political speech on large social-media platforms. In July, he followed it up with the “SMART Act,” a bill designed to curb allegedly addictive features contained in popular applications such as Twitter, Snapchat, and YouTube.

    I fully agree that social-media platforms should reform their speech policies. I also agree that too many Americans spend too much time on their phones. But there is a dramatic difference between declaring that something is a problem and believing that government should act to solve that problem. In fact, the very determination that government should act — rather than relying on a free citizenry to exercise its liberty responsibly — can be harmful to a nation and to a culture.

    The SMART Act is a remarkable attempt at micromanaging the design of popular online products. It would ban, for example, “infinite scroll” (the feature that allows you to thumb rapidly through a Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter feed), the “autoplay” of a new video after the user finishes the one he initially selected (on sites like YouTube, but not on the ultimate autoplay device in American homes, your television), and certain gaming features on social-media apps, such as Snapchat’s “streaks” (which record how many consecutive days you’ve communicated with friends).

    Welcome to the Republican Daddy state. It responds to a social challenge with a blunt instrument that hurts responsible users of popular applications — which is to say, the overwhelming majority of all users — while not providing any concrete evidence that it will cure the extraordinarily complicated underlying problem it’s attempting to address: the rise of anxiety, depression, and polarization that correlates with the rise of social media and the smartphone but is caused by a multiplicity of factors.

    Hawley, I suppose, is better than the senator he replaced. (Claire McCaskill, right?) But still disappointing for those who think that government is doing a lousy enough job on its core tasks that it really shouldn't go into back-seat website design.


  • Jacob Sullum, at Reason wonders: Does 'Common Sense Gun Safety Legislation' Make Sense As a Response to the El Paso and Dayton Shootings?. Hint: Betteridge's law of headlines is fully armed and operational.

    Hours after a gunman killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso on Sunday, Rep. Veronica Escobar (D–Texas), whose district includes that city, implored "all of us who have the power to end this horror" to "come together" and "once and for all address the gun violence epidemic that plagues our nation." Other prominent Democrats, including several presidential contenders, likewise reacted to the attack in El Paso and a mass shooting that killed nine people in Dayton, Ohio, early the following morning by calling for "urgent action" to approve "common sense gun safety legislation."

    The elements of that legislation are mostly window dressing that would do little or nothing to prevent attacks like these. The most frequently mentioned policy, "universal background checks," is plainly irrelevant to these particular crimes, since both the El Paso shooter and the Dayton shooter purchased their weapons legally, meaning they did not have disqualifying criminal or psychiatric records. Nor do the vast majority of mass shooters, who either passed background checks or could have. Neither requiring background checks for private transfers nor creating "strong background checks," as President Donald Trump has proposed (perhaps referring to the same policy), would make a difference in such cases.

    It's tedious to endure the onslaught of gun-grabbers saying the exact same things after every horror. As well as the "thoughts and prayers" folks, although I don't find them as offensive.


  • At the Federalist, Jonathan S. Tobin dares to criticize the earnest Swedish teenager who some of my lefty Facebook friends adore: Greta Thunberg Has No Patience For Democracy Or Your Lifestyle.

    The heroine of the environmental movement is on her way. Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish celebrity protester, has finally figured out a way to bring her extremist message to the New World.

    Thunberg, who has been the focus of adulatory coverage throughout Europe and in mainstream American outlets such as CNN, the New York Times, and a cover story in Time magazine, is a teenage sensation leading a movement of angry European children. Thunberg and her fans are demanding that their country’s governments act to stop global warming. What’s more, they are denouncing as sellouts even those who agree with their goal but are reluctant to adopt the extremist measures such as those Thunberg’s ally Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) put forward in the Green New Deal.

    This bit of Tobin's article rang a bell:

    Thunberg and her movement operate with some clear advantages. Since they are a children’s crusade, they are credited with the best possible motives and not asked to fully or coherently explain their goals or how they might be achieved without doing more harm than good. […] As for journalists who point out the flaws in these young people’s arguments, the inconsistency in their behavior, or ponder whether children should be skipping school to pursue a political agenda, progressives denounce them as bullies picking on nice kids.

    This (at least sometimes) works at the other end of the spectrum, too. A few years back we had Doris "Granny D" Haddock, also fond of publicity stunts. At age 88, she walked across the country in support of "campaign finance reform" (i.e.: increased government regulation of political advocacy). She approached secular sainthood in our local media.

    [Comment also left on the Federalist article.]


  • And at the Atlantic, straight shooter Sally Satel provides The Truth About Painkiller Addiction. She references a HuffPost article from Brooke Feldman, a onetime pill addict. Some facts:

    Among people who are prescribed opioids, addiction is relatively uncommon. The percentage of patients who become addicted after taking opioids for chronic pain is measured in the single digits; studies show an incidence from less than 1 percent to 8 percent. Most of the estimates are skewed toward the low end of this range, when those at risk (due to a history of substance abuse or, to a lesser but meaningful extent, a concurrent mental illness) are removed from the sample. In Feldman’s case, the nature of the risk was constant anguish. When she was 4 years old, her heroin-addicted mother left the family and died of an overdose before she was 12. “For so much of my childhood, I felt abandoned, worthless, unlovable, and confused,” she told me. Her first Percocet came from a girlfriend. “Being numb helped,” she said. Before Percocet, though, she had achieved “escape” with marijuana, alcohol, PCP, benzodiazepines, and cocaine.

    Sally's article is a good debunking of a lot of drug-warrior hype, especially the "blame the eeevil drug companies" sort.