URLs du Jour

2019-09-11

[Amazon Link]

  • No jokes or snarkiness up front today. Our Amazon Product du Jour is the new book from Garrett M. Graff. He has an article about the book at the Atlantic: On September 11, Blind Luck Decided Who Lived or Died. Which starts:

    Joseph Lott, a sales representative for Compaq computers, survived one of the deadliest days in modern American history because he had a penchant for “art ties,” neckties featuring famous masterpieces. “It began many years earlier, in the ’90s,” he said in an oral history with StoryCorps. “I love Impressionist paintings, and I use them as a way to make points with my kids. I’d put on an art tie, and then I would ask my kids—I have three daughters—I would say, ‘Artist identification?’ And they would have to tell me whether it was a van Gogh or a Monet, and we would have a little conversation about the artist.”

    On the morning of September 11, 2001, he had put on a green shirt before meeting colleagues at the Marriott hotel sandwiched between the Twin Towers, in advance of speaking at a conference that day at the restaurant Windows on the World. Over breakfast, his co-worker Elaine Greenberg, who had been on vacation the week before in Massachusetts, presented him with a tie she’d spotted on her trip that featured a Monet.

    “It was red and blue, primarily. I was very touched that she had done this,” Lott explained. “I said, ‘This is such a nice gesture. I think I am going to put this on and wear it as I speak.’ She said, ‘Well, not with that shirt. You’re not going to put on a red-and-blue tie with a green shirt.’” So when breakfast was done, his colleagues headed up to Windows on the World, located on the 104th floor of the North Tower, and Lott went back to his hotel room to change shirts. He ironed a white one, put it on, and then headed back down toward the hotel lobby. “As I was waiting to go from the seventh floor back down to the lobby and over to the bank of elevators that would take me to the top, I felt a sudden movement in the building,” he recalled.

    Graff notes the role of random chance and seemed-inconsequential-at-the-time decisions that can knock one's life in a new and unalterable direction. Or end it.

    Something to think about when you're having trouble sleeping. It won't help you sleep.

    A quote I saw years ago from an old Roman playwright, Plautus, has stuck with me ever since:

    The gods play games with men as balls.

    He said it in Latin, of course. I have no idea what sort of games the ancient Romans played with balls. But here's what I imagine: you, a happy little ball, just sitting in the grass, living your bally life.

    Unfortunately, the gods are playing some sort of polo. And you hear distant hoofbeats, growing louder, deafening… And suddenly, whack, the mallet finds you, you're speeding off in some unknown direction, perhaps to oblivion.

    Well, that's life.


  • In other news, Mark J. Perry has updated his classic graphic, based on the latest report on incomes and poverty from the Census Bureau.

    Will trends continue? If my math is right, a straight-line extrapolation says the middle-income segment will disappear in… about 176 years.

    The Low-income group? Even quicker: they're gone in about 153 years.

    Everybody will be high-income then. But Bernie Sanders will still find something to gripe about.


  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum extracts a probably-unintended lesson: Congressional Report on ‘Deaths of Despair’ Highlights the Hazards of Drug Prohibition. Bottom line:

    The upward trend in opioid-related deaths not only continued but accelerated after the government succeeded in reducing opioid prescriptions, pushing nonmedical users toward black-market substitutes. It's not hard to see why: Legally produced opioids come in uniform, predictable doses, while illegal opioids vary widely in potency, making fatal mistakes more likely. The emergence of fentanyl and its analogs as heroin boosters and replacements has only magnified that hazard. Based on mortality data published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, combined with drug use estimates from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the RAND Corporation, heroin is roughly eight times as deadly as prescription opioids.

    Just as prohibition made drinking more dangerous, it has made drug use more dangerous, both by favoring more-potent products and by creating a black market where consumers do not know what they are buying. After considering the broader puzzle posed by "deaths of despair," the report concludes that "we clearly remain in the grip of a national opioid crisis that requires the attention of policymakers." But depending on the form that attention takes, it can easily make matters worse rather than better.

    The government: killing people in the name of "compassion".


  • David French, at National Review notes something that shouldn't surprise us: Elizabeth Warren’s Plans Consistently Unconstitutional. The latest example (well, the latest as of September 6):

    Yep, she’s going to ban fracking. When I read the tweet, I flashed back in my mind to Ronald Reagan’s famous retort to Jimmy Carter in a 1980 presidential debate — “There you go again.” Here the “again” isn’t just proposing a bad plan (it would have extraordinary negative effects on domestic energy production and would likely increase dependence on more “dirty” fuels to generate power), it’s proposing an illegal policy. She simply can’t ban fracking on her own.

    In fact, the executive branch’s authority over fracking is rather profoundly limited by statute. Beginning in 2012, the Obama attempted to introduce “additional regulatory effort and oversight” of fracking by introducing new regulations through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In 2015, the states of Wyoming and Colorado filed petitions for judicial review of the Obama regulations, and on June 21, 2016, federal district court judge Scott Skavdahl (an Obama appointee) held that the fracking rule was “unlawful.”

    She doesn't want to be President. She wants to be Queen. The old-style kind, that could issue unquestionable decrees and behead people.


  • At the Technology Liberation Front, Adam Thierer asks: should we Socialize Journalism in Order to Save It?. Adam looks at Bernie Sanders' proposals and also one from a group at the University of Chicago.

    “The Sanders scheme would add layers of regulatory supervision to the news business,” notes media critic Jack Shafer. Sanders promises to prevent or rollback media mergers, increase regulations on who can own what kinds of platforms, flex antitrust muscles against online distributors, and extend privileges to those employed by media outlets. The academics who penned the University of Chicago report recommend public funding for journalism, regulations that “ensure necessary transparency regarding information flows and algorithms,” and rolling back liability protections for platforms afforded through Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

    Both plans feature government subsidies, too. Sen. Sanders proposes “taxing targeted ads and using the revenue to fund nonprofit civic-minded media” as part of a broader effort “to substantially increase funding for programs that support public media’s news-gathering operations at the local level.” The Chicago plan proposed a taxpayer-funded $50 media voucher that each citizen will then be able to spend on an eligible media operation of their choice. Such ideas have been floated before and the problems are still numerous. Apparently, “saving journalism” requires that media be placed on the public dole and become a ward of the state. Socializing media in order to save it seems like a bad plan in a country that cherishes the First Amendment.

    Suggested Bernie slogan: "Awful ideas on innumerable levels."