URLs du Jour

2019-11-13

[Amazon Link]

  • Our Amazon Product du Jour is the recent book Die Behind the Wheel: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Music of Steely Dan, a collection of short stories brought to my attention via Instapundit.

    I like Steely Dan, and I like crime fiction, so it's a real possibility. Even though I have never heard of any of the authors involved.

    But what I found from perusing the table of contents at Amazon out was disturbing. One of the story titles is a line from the song Sign In Stranger:

    Do you have a dark spot on your past?

    And I realized I'd been mishearing this for appoximately 43 years. I thought it was

    Do you have a dark spot on your pants?

    Well, that's embarrassing. The actual lyric makes more sense. To the extent that Steely Dan lyrics make sense at all.


  • The war on Christmas continues with an abject surrender down the road in Durham, NH, as reported by Foster's Daily Democrat: Durham ends tree lighting, downplays Santa.

    Though the town’s holiday celebration is weeks away, Durham is already getting criticism about modifications to the event designed to remove religious overtones that non-Christians or non-religious residents could find offensive.

    Town Administrator Todd Selig said the newly named Frost Fest, scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 7 from 6 to 8 p.m., includes significant changes to the traditional holiday tree lighting at Memorial Park, including the absence of a formal tree lighting ceremony. Memorial Park, a small, town-owned traffic island on Main Street at the Mill Road intersection, where the tree that is lighted for the holidays is rooted in the ground, has traditionally been the gathering spot for the event, which headlines the holiday season.

    Yes, "significant changes to the traditional holiday tree lighting" would be not to light the tree. At least not in a "formal" way. Whatever that means. Nobody wearing a tux?

    Ah, but it turns out there will be lights on the tree, but…

    Organized by the Durham Parks & Recreation Department, it is described as the “annual welcome to winter celebration” with “cold hands, warm hearts.” The modified event will not include the traditional countdown and tree lighting, though the tree will have lights, Selig said, and Santa Claus, though he will have some presence in the celebration, will not arrive by town fire truck as he has in the past.

    Yes, there will be lights but no lighting. I guess the lights will be turned on surreptitiously, somehow. That won't offend the previously-offended.

    The reworked event is part of an effort to make Durham’s celebration more secular and inclusive, Selig said, so all residents from a variety of backgrounds and religions could feel comfortable participating.

    “Santa will be present, but not presented,” said Kitty Marple, who chairs the Winter Celebration Working Group and the Town Council.

    Present, but not presented. I love that smug Orwellian wordplay, don't you?

    “I understand why some people will be angry about the changes,” Marple said, but noted most of the activities will be the same as they’ve always been. A bonfire, s’mores, music, cookie decorating, ice sculpting demonstrations and crafts are planned.

    So note: the aim is to make more people "feel comfortable". But Kitty says she knows "some people will be angry".

    Wouldn't it have been refreshingly honest if she had added "… but we don't care about them"? Have a s'more and shut up.

    Though Marple said she personally felt neutral about Durham’s tree lighting tradition, others felt unwelcome. The small changes suggested by the working committee were designed to make the event “more ecumenical,” Marple said.

    News flash: Ms Marple doesn't know what "ecumenical" means. It would have been more accurate to say: entirely shorn of anything that even hints at a religious connection.

    Oh yeah: no wreaths on the lampposts either. Well, enough local garbage, we move on to…


  • Former restaurant CEO Andy Puzder has a go at Senator Liz in the WSJ: Warren’s ‘2 Cents’ Come at Your Expense. Much we've discussed previously, here's another example of the dishonesty involved:

    What about Ms. Warren’s catchphrase that the tax is “just 2 cents”? The line has worked as political marketing, but it’s either dishonest or mathematically illiterate. On Sunday, Ms. Warren retweeted a statement that misrepresented her wealth tax as an income tax, saying it would apply to people who earn $50 million a year. It actually applies to a much larger group—those whose net worth exceeds $50 million. The tax would be assessed against those assets every year, even if the taxpayer loses money.

    This effect is cumulative. Suppose a 40-year-old entrepreneur has a net worth of $525 million, the midpoint of Ms. Warren’s 2% wealth-tax bracket. If his net worth otherwise didn’t change, an annual wealth tax of “just” 2% would confiscate an amount equal to more than 50% of this value over the rest of a normal lifespan. After death, he would also pay a 40% tax on whatever remained above an $11 million exemption. Ms. Warren’s “just 2 cents” combined with the death tax would add up to about 70% of the value of those assets.

    Senator Liz likes to understate the losers under her plan. We should also not neglect the winners who would get their fingers on the moola confiscated from the losers.


  • There's not a better writer around than Kevin D. Williamson when he is pissed off at some pontificating statist. Today's victim is Michael Tomasky who wrote at the NYT: Bill Gates, I Implore You to Connect Some Dots. KDW rebuts at National Review: Connecting Some Dots on Taxes.

    Tomasky writes: “Multibillion-dollar fortunes are often called excessive and decadent. But here’s something they’re rarely called but ought to be: anti-democratic. These fortunes will destroy our democracy. . . . Any democracy needs a robust and thriving middle class, and we have spent the last 30 or so years transferring trillions of dollars from the middle class to the people at the very top. Just one set of numbers, from the University of California, Berkeley, economist Gabriel Zucman: The 400 richest Americans — the top .00025 percent of the population — now own more of the country’s riches than the 150 million adults in the bottom 60 percent of wealth distribution. The 400’s share has tripled since the 1980s.”

    Question: Can Tomasky or anybody else describe the actual mode of “transfer” at work here? In what sense has money been transferred from the middle class to billionaires such as Bill Gates? And who did the transferring?

    KDW's article is long and worth the read.

    I'd also add that the middle class is shrinking because they're getting richer.


  • We recently celebrated the anniversary of the Berlin Wall's demise. Yay! But Jeff Jacoby points out an Inconvenient Truth about its birth: America stood down as the Berlin Wall went up.

    Yet the heartbreaking truth, which I haven't seen mentioned in the 30th anniversary coverage, is that those long years of separation had been wholly unnecessary. If only the United States had acted at the outset to stop the wall, the wall would have been stopped. When the East German police first began putting up barbed wire to close the crossings between the Eastern (Soviet) and Western sectors of the city, US tanks could have easily and bloodlessly knocked them down. What's more, they had every legal right to do so — the Allies' post-World War II agreements covering the administration of Berlin had stipulated that there was to be free movement within the city. But President Kennedy, notwithstanding the swagger of his Inaugural Address — "we shall pay any price, bear any burden" — was afraid of provoking a military confrontation. The orders came down from the top: Do nothing.

    The bitter irony is that the orders coming down from the top on the other side were to back down if the Americans made a show of force.

    For what should be the millionth time: we and the world were damned lucky to have President Reagan.