URLs du Jour


  • At National Review, David Harsanyi has had it with "armchair quarterbacks" who are trying to rewrite history. Because Nobody Predicted COVID-19.

    This morning [April 1], MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough claimed that, unlike the Trump administration, “Everybody saw this coming in early January.”

    If Scarborough knew that a deadly, once-in-a-century pandemic was about to descend on the nation in early January — I assume he considers himself part of “everyone” — why on God’s earth didn’t he warn his susceptible viewers that they should begin social distancing? Why didn’t his producers book a single expert who could beseech his viewers to start wearing masks, to shutter their non-essential businesses, and to avoid church and sporting events? Why didn’t he mention coronavirus at all? Even in late January, nearly a full month after “everyone knew,” Scarborough’s show was dominated by the Donald Trump impeachment trial.

    As far as I can tell, in the entire month of January, Morning Joe didn’t reference the coronavirus once to his 2.6 million followers on Twitter. Imagine the thousands of lives Scarborough could have saved if he had only shared his insight.

    This shouldn't be taken as a refutation of Trump's early Pollyanism, of course. But Joe Scarborough is a lying piece of garbage. Just wanted to mention that.

  • Veronique de Rugy, her Intrepidness, observes: Coronavirus Puts Counterproductive Regulations Into Perspective.

    Governments in the United States are restricting freedoms to unprecedented degrees in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. As dangerous as this expansion of power is, in some ways, federal, state and local governments are also reducing their intrusions into our lives by cutting many regulations.

    This deregulation falls into three categories: help people deal with the virus (including those who are confined to their homes with children who need to be home-schooled); help businesses stay open and cater to their consumers under these unusual circumstances; and free the private health care sector to better respond to the virus.

    Veronique lists the relaxed rules, many of which are meant to prop up inflexible special interests. Which reminds me of a picture I noticed in the WSJ a couple days ago:

    [Katie Lapham, an ESL teacher in Brooklyn, N.Y., records a video for one of her students with some help from her daughter Norah]

    The sticker on the laptop is cropped out of the online version, but it reads "#WeChoose Education Equity, Not the Illusion of 'School Choice'". Ooh, sick burn on the choicers, WSJ!

    A little searching on Twitter reveals that #WeChoose is an Orwellian hashtag favored by the teacher's unions. But I also noted some folks appending an accuracy-improving phrase: "#WeChoose, Not You".

  • At Reason, Nick Gillespie chuckles when Anti-Trump Democrats Learn That Internet Censorship Blocks Them Too.

    Last fall, the most-enlightened folks among us praised the move by some tech giants to police and even censor political ads. Sure, back in the day, Barack Obama had used Facebook and micro-targeting to good effect. Indeed, his campaign's embrace of new ways of reaching young people (including using data from "unknowing users") showed how liberals generally were so much more tech-savvy and forward-looking than old-school campaigns run by the likes of John McCain and Mitt Romney, who might as well have been wearing spats and sporting pocket watches. Then 2016 happened and it turned out that Donald Trump was a master of social media and Hillary Clinton was revealed as the hapless grandma who couldn't even work her Jitterbug phone.  The super-retro real-estate mogul from Queens—who doesn't even use email, fer chrissakes!—connected tremendously with all the mouth-breathers out there on Facebook, Twitter, Pornhub, whatever, and squeaked into the White House. Trump's digital-media guy, Brad Parscale (Brad!) was the genius, while Clinton's Robby Mook, once-always described as a guru, was the chump, a digital-era Joe Shlabotnik.

    To the technoscenti, the obvious answer to such a turn of affairs was to ban or restrict political advertising online, often in the name of saving the Republic. Jack Dorsey of Twitter paused from taking meditation retreats in genocide-scarred Myanmar long enough to announce that he was banning political ads from his microblogging site, and people who only belatedly realized that non-liberals could be savvy at making memes breathed a sigh of relief. The same people lost their shit when Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he would continue to allow ads and he wasn't even going to fact check them, either. Hadn't this alien lifeform done enough damage to America already? When Google, the 800-lb. gorilla of online advertising, announced plans to restrict various forms of targeting and to police "false claims," there was much rejoicing. As Kara Swisher, the founder of the great Recode platform who now writes for The New York Times, put it, Google's decision to heavily restrict meant that Parscale "will now have one less weapon in his digital arsenal to wage his scorched-earth re-election campaign."

    That's what happens when you don't trust people to look at their screens with a skeptical, critical eye.

  • David Marcus makes an observation I've made myself: In Isolation We Rediscover Our Dusty Bookshevles.

    Over the centuries bookshelves have served two basic purposes. The first is to hold the books we have collected over the years with all of their knowledge and power, and the second is to look nice. If the latter seems somewhat shallow, it shouldn’t. There are few aesthetic accouterments for the home that can match the beauty of a tall bookshelf, even messy ones like mine. As our home entertainment options have exploded these past decades, for many of us that beauty has become our bookshelves’ primary purpose.

    But in the age of virus the bookshelves’ other purpose, its more intellectual one is making a comeback. With so much time at home day after day there comes a point when the screens get boring, there’s only so much to stream. In those moments, and I am sure I’m not alone in this, the eye wanders to those ponderous spines lined up like soldiers in a phalanx and slowly we walk up and peruse them.

    It's a fine essay, inviting you to get "lost in the magic" of remembering why and how you managed each particular volume. Takes me back to (for example) twirling the paperback displays at the Brandeis department store in Downtown Omaha.

  • And the Babylon Bee has belatedly exposed one of my professional secrets: Nation's Programmers Admit They're Actually Just Really Good At Googling Things.

    At a press conference Thursday, a spokesperson for the National Programmer's Association apologized that coders have long pretended they know what they are doing when really they just search the internet for how to do stuff.

    "We're sorry for those we've misled," he said. "We've pretended our job is a tough profession to learn, but that was just gatekeeping. The real secret is we know how to code just as much as you do. It's just that we know the kinds of search terms to use to find solutions."

    Ditto for system administration. You not only stand on the shoulders of giants, you can look over their shoulders while they're typing.