URLs du Jour

2019-09-19

[Amazon Link]

Permit me a small milestone announcement: Back in late 2016, I made an early New Year resolution to post to this blog daily, not counting the book/movie/geekery posts.

This is the 1000th daily post since then. Not all gems, but I'm pretty happy with them, overall.

A good time to thank you for reading.

  • I discussed yesterday the effort to override Governor Sununu's veto of the "biomass" bill. Biomass magazine (a magazine of which I was previously unaware) has the news: New Hampshire House fails to override veto of biomass bill.

    I'd imagine that Biomass is less happy than I about that outcome, but their reporting is pretty straight.

    Sununu vetoed HB 183 on Aug. 5. In his veto message, Sununu said HB 183 “creates another immense subsidy for New Hampshire’s independent biomass plants, the third such bill sent to me in as many years.” He also claimed the bill would cost state ratepayers approximately $20 million a year over the next three years, on top of the existing subsidies those plants already receive. “This bill picks winners and losers in a competitive energy market,” Sununu continued. “Furthermore, it harms our most vulnerable citizens for the benefit of a select few. I remain committed to advancing renewable energy generation and fuel diversity, but we must do so without unjustly burdening the ratepayers of New Hampshire.”

    In addition to the economic impact, a bunch of environmental groups were also in favor of sustaining the veto, due to the general filthiness of biomass-burning plants.

    I note that my letter to my state representatives was, um, ineffective at persuading a single one to vote to sustain the veto.


  • If you're not a geek, you may not have heard of Richard Stallman, aka "RMS". He's an interesting mixture of good (a major force behind the free software movement) and bad (toxic political/economic views, strident my-way-or-the-highway moralism).

    But he's also a recent victim of cancel culture, due to his (um) unconventional views of the controversies surrounding Jeffrey Epstein and MIT. Wired has the story: Richard Stallman and the Fall of the Clueless Nerd.

    Yesterday RMS resigned from MIT and the Free Software Foundation he founded. For those who have followed his free-software movement, Stallman leaving MIT is like the big dome on Massachusetts Avenue itself getting an eviction notice. But after decades of tone-deaf comportment and complaints now emerging from women about his behavior, Stallman’s time was up.

    The moment goes beyond Stallman, a MacArthur “genius” grant recipient and author of key pieces of the open source software that basically runs our world these days. MIT itself is melting down because of Epstein, the now deceased serial rapist who insinuated himself into the Media Lab with his money and what its leaders considered his charm. The lab’s director, Joi Ito (who was a contributing writer to WIRED), resigned under pressure, and now people are calling for the ouster of MIT’s president, who apparently OK'd the payments. But the Stallman affair touches on something else: a simmering resentment about the treatment of women by the scruffy brainiacs who built our digital world, as well as the Brahmins of academia and business who benefited from the hackers’ effort. With the Epstein revelations that resentment has boiled over.

    One of those links is to a Medium article by "Selam G.", who is one of the activists pushing for Stallman's ouster. I have to share this bit, even though it's incredibly geeky, and probably not understandable by readers not steeped in that culture.

    Selam:

    Long before this incident, Stallman was contributing to an uncomfortable environment for women at MIT in a very real and visceral way. Alumni from as far back as the 1980’s reached out to me and told horrifying stories, such as:
    I recall being told early in my freshman year “If RMS hits on you, just say ‘I’m a vi user’ even if it’s not true.”
    — Bachelor’s in Computer Science, ’04

    Horrifying!

    I have very little difficulty in believing that Stallman had personality issues that caused difficulties in establishing healthy relationships with women. And, also, men.

    In short: yeah, probably most normal people would see a semi-creepy jerk.

    Does that justify his ouster? I'm having a hard time agreeing with that.


  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum is a lonely voice of sanity, describing The Alarming Epidemic of Misguided Meddling With E-Cigarettes.

    Banning flavored e-cigarettes is all the rage among politicians these days. It's an alarming trend that poses a clear and present danger to public health.

    The epidemic of misguided meddling began earlier this month when Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that she planned to unilaterally criminalize the sale of e-cigarettes in flavors other than tobacco. The contagion quickly spread to the White House, where President Donald Trump said his administration plans to impose a similar ban at the federal level; New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week declared an "emergency" ban; California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom said he would copy Cuomo if it were legally feasible; and Chicago, where Mayor Lori Lightfoot called for legislation aimed at closing "the gateway" to adolescent nicotine addiction.

    Sullum notes that prohibiting vaping products that adults prefer will predictably cause an increase in smoking disease and death. In the name of "health".


  • [Amazon Link]
    I'm currently reading a book (Amazon link at right) co-written by Phillip W. Magness on the general corruption of the higher education biz. If you want to get a taste of his thoughts on a related topic, see his recent article at AIER: How Twitter is Corrupting the History Profession.

    About a week ago I began scrutinizing how the New York Times’ 1619 Project relied upon the work of the controversial “New History of Capitalism” genre of historical scholarship to advance a sweeping indictment of free markets over the historical evils of slavery. The problems with this literature are many, and prominent among them is its use of shoddy statistical work by Cornell University historian Ed Baptist to grossly exaggerate the historical effect of slave-produced cotton on American economic development. Baptist’s unusual rehabilitation of the old Confederacy-linked “King Cotton” thesis is unsupported by evidence and widely rejected by economic historians. His book The Half Has Never Been Told has nonetheless acquired a vocal following among historians and journalists, including providing the basis of a feature article in the Times series on slavery.

    Curious about the following Baptist’s work had acquired despite its clear problems, I presented several questions on Twitter for its enthusiasts in the academy.

    Were they aware that Baptist’s statistics, including his estimate of slavery’s share of the antebellum economy, arose from a documented mathematical error? Did they know his thesis had been scrutinized by leading economic historians, who found problems of misrepresented evidence and citations to documents that did not support what Baptist claimed? Had Baptist made any effort to respond to his critics? Or, more importantly, had he corrected his statistical mistakes, which continue to be cited in the press, in academic works, and even in congressional hearings on the legacy of slavery despite their inaccuracy?

    The response from academics was … unprofessional.

    I almost said "shockingly unprofessional" there, but that would have been less than honest. I'm no longer surprised, let alone shocked, by unprofessional behavior from academics.


  • At NR, Matthew Continetti chronicles a recent mugging. Specifically: George Packer Gets Mugged by Reality.

    Few journalists are as respected by, and respectable to, liberals as The Atlantic’s George Packer. The author of The Assassin’s Gate (2005), The Unwinding (2013), and a recently published biography of Richard Holbrooke, Our Man, Packer has written for bastions of liberal thought from the New York Times Magazine to The New Yorker in a distinguished, decades-long career. His latest piece for The Atlantic, “When the Culture War Comes for the Kids,” is essential reading.

    Why? Because it relates, in Packer’s haunted and sympathetic style, the experience of having a child enrolled in a New York City school system corrupted by politics. For anyone who believes in individualism, the freedoms of speech and conscience, and the equal dignity of human beings, the experience sounds like a nightmare.

    It's not a pretty picture, Emily.


  • And last year's World Series champs will … not be repeating this year. But they had a role to play in what Paul Mirengoff calls Coolest baseball story of the year.

    Mike Yastrzemski, grandson of the great Carl Yastrzemski, hit a home run in his first appearance at Fenway Park in Boston, where Carl excelled for 23 seasons. Mike was playing for the visiting San Francisco Giants.

    The elder Yastrzemski toured the field with his grandson before the game. He provided tips on how to play balls hit off of left-field wall (the Green Monster). Many say that no one played them better than Carl.

    Then, in the fourth inning, Mike hit a home run, not over the Green Monster, but to straightaway center field. It was his 20th home run of the season. The Fenway Park crowd showed its appreciation with robust applause for the opposition player.

    Mike was called up to the Giants on May 25, hitting (as I type) .266 with 20 home runs. Watching the game on TV, I noticed that "Yastrzemski" barely fit on the back of his jersey.