URLs du Jour

2020-06-30

[Amazon Link]

Late start today, sorry.

  • Mark J. Perry wishes Thomas Sowell a happy 90th birthday (today!) with a collection of quotes and videos. Here's the Good Doctor on the D-word:

    If there is any place in the Guinness Book of World Records for words repeated the most often, over the most years, without one speck of evidence, “diversity” should be a prime candidate. Is diversity our strength? Or anybody’s strength, anywhere in the world? Does Japan’s homogeneous population cause the Japanese to suffer? Have the Balkans been blessed by their heterogeneity — or does the very word “Balkanization” remind us of centuries of strife, bloodshed and unspeakable atrocities, extending into our own times? Has Europe become a safer place after importing vast numbers of people from the Middle East, with cultures hostile to the fundamental values of Western civilization?

    “When in Rome do as the Romans do” was once a common saying. Today, after generations in the West have been indoctrinated with the rhetoric of multiculturalism, the borders of Western nations on both sides of the Atlantic have been thrown open to people who think it is their prerogative to come as refugees and tell the Romans what to do — and to assault those who don’t knuckle under to foreign religious standards.

    It has not been our diversity, but our ability to overcome the problems inherent in diversity, and to act together as Americans, that has been our strength.

    Our Amazon Product du Jour is his latest book, out this month. You know what to do.


  • A useful (NRPLUS, sorry) article from Itxu Díaz: Leftist Insults: How to Survive Them without Losing Your Sense of Humor

    To be a conservative is to wake up every morning to a new insult. It makes life more fun. I never know exactly what I am until I open up Twitter every morning. I can be a reactionary vermin, an ignorant caveman, an ultra-Catholic primate, or a neoliberal scorpion. It’s fascinating how far the language reaches on the left when it comes to labeling the Right. Today we conservatives are racist for not wanting to kneel before anything but God, just as yesterday we were fascists for defending law and order, the only way to guarantee freedom — incidentally, one of many words that has gone from being associated with the Left in the 1970s to being the provenance of the Right in our day. Today, Snow White is “sexist,” Gone with the Wind is “racist,” Scrooge McDuck is “ultraliberal,” and Tarzan . . . Oh my God! It’s all happening at once!

    The other day, without going any further, a guy told me with contempt that Benedict XVI was “an ultra-Catholic.” Apparently, he meant it as an insult. I shrugged my shoulders, guessing that part of the Left must really expect the pope of the Catholic Church to be “moderately Catholic.” Perhaps they are right. At least if we consider that Marx, for example, was a bit ultra-Marxist.

    I'm obscure enough so nobody bothers to insult me any more. (But back in USENET days, whoa boy.)

    Unless you count insulting my intelligence. Geez, that's hard to avoid.


  • At Reason, John McWhorter notes the new religion: Kneeling in the Church of Social Justice

    Over the past several years, a social justice philosophy has arisen that is less a political program than a religion in all but name. Where Christianity calls for people to display their moral worth through faith in Jesus, modern Third-Wave Antiracism (henceforth TWA) calls for people to display their moral worth through opposition to racism. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, this vision has increasingly been expressed through procedures, routines, and phraseology directly patterned on Abrahamic religion.

    America certainly has work to do on race. For one, while racism does not explain why cops kill more black than white people—poverty makes all people more likely to be killed by the cops, hundreds of poor whites are killed annually, but more black people are poor—they harass and abuse black people more than white people, and the real-life impact of this is in its way just as pernicious as the disparity in killings would be. If the tension between black people and the cops were resolved, America's race problem would quickly begin dissolving faster than it ever has. But making this happen will require work, as will ending the war on drugs, improving educational opportunities for all disadvantaged black children, and other efforts such as steering more black teenagers to vocational programs training them for solid careers without four years of college. 

    That would be real. It would also be hard work. Isn't it so much easier to demand (for example) demand that Robert Millkan's name be expunged from Caltech?


  • At the Dispatch, Avi Woolf has suggestions: How Conservatives Should Respond to the Great Awokening. Continuing with the McWhorter theme:

    Reason and logic don’t drive this movement, so it cannot be reasoned with. Rather, as professor Alan Jacobs describes, it is the visceral, instinctive aversion to certain kinds of identifiable secularized “sin” and “impurity.” Adherents demand safety not only for their physical well-being but also their psychological health, and one might even say their spiritual health. 

    No one who knows anything about this kind of popular religious thinking—personally or indirectly—can dismiss the power and the danger of this kind of cultural crusading.

     As I noted in an essay years ago, culture wars may sometimes end in Congress or the Supreme Court, but they don’t start there and are certainly not won or lost there. This is why fulsome anger at the Republican Party establishment, however justified on the merits, is misplaced. Every Republican leader and figure could condemn this movement in tones that would make Sohrab Ahmari blush, and it would make little to no difference on elite opinion. The Democratic Party might be able to do more, but it has no political incentive to do so, as most of its members are on board to one degree or another.

    Click through for Avi's ideas. Might work.


  • Power Line offers the Orwellian Phrase of the Day:

    My nomination for the most Orwellian phrase of the moment is, “We need to have a conversation about X [race, class, gender, policing, inequality—fill in the blank].” What “we need a conversation” means in practice is, “You shut up and agree with the left.”

    I said something similar yesterday. PL also provides this ill-fated (and now deleted) tweet from the great minds of State College, PA:

    [PSU]

    If I were a "conservative student", I'm not sure I'd be reassured. I think I'd lean more toward feeling that I was being condescended to.

    And what about the broad categories not specifically mentioned? Christians? Dudes? Communists? Native Americans? Disabled? Do they feel left out? Erased?

    And what about the libertarians? Dear God, will someone please think about the libertarians?

    Well, the upshot was about what you'd expect: people were really pissed about that third item. And, as noted, the tweet was yanked. And I would guess that some people were made to apologize abjectly, and sent to the re-education camps over in Altoona.


  • In our "Why Are People Thinking This Stupid Idea Is Even A Possibility" Department, Steve Moore and Kevin Roberts write at the Federalist: No, Congress Shouldn't Add A State Bailout To Americans' Coronavirus Tab

    Writing for FiveThirtyEight.com, Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux has a dire warning for Congress if it fails to bail out the states. “Without a lifeline from the federal government,” she writes, “states would have no choice but to start slashing budgets and raising taxes.”

    Meanwhile, governors like Gavin Newsom of California are threatening to shut down first responders, hospitals, and police services if they don’t get a big check from Washington. This is called hostage-taking, and Republicans in Congress would be foolish to pay the ransom.

    Behind this reasonable-sounding statement is a slew of flawed presumptions. One is that the federal government has some large pot of money to give to states. The federal government can only give states money by taking it from their residents in the first place. Moreover, Uncle Sam is already on tap to borrow at least $4 trillion — so it is in even worse fiscal shape than the states.

    On Wikipedia's List of U.S. states and territories by median household income, California is ranked number 7. It's demanding that (mostly) states further down the list send it money, via Uncle Stupid as a middleman.

    Sorry. I meant "middleperson".


Last Modified 2020-07-01 5:26 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2020-06-29

[Amazon Link]

  • Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone, and is a doctrinaire leftist… well, except when he strays off the plantation to notice some leftist intellectual rot. His latest screed at his personal Substack blog concerns our Amazon Product du Jour: On “White Fragility”

    A core principle of the academic movement that shot through elite schools in America since the early nineties was the view that individual rights, humanism, and the democratic process are all just stalking-horses for white supremacy. The concept, as articulated in books like former corporate consultant Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility (Amazon’s #1 seller!) reduces everything, even the smallest and most innocent human interactions, to racial power contests.

    It’s been mind-boggling to watch White Fragility celebrated in recent weeks. When it surged past a Hunger Games book on bestseller lists, USA Today cheered, “American readers are more interested in combatting racism than in literary escapism.” When DiAngelo appeared on The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon gushed, “I know… everyone wants to talk to you right now!” White Fragility has been pitched as an uncontroversial road-map for fighting racism, at a time when after the murder of George Floyd Americans are suddenly (and appropriately) interested in doing just that. Except this isn’t a straightforward book about examining one’s own prejudices. Have the people hyping this impressively crazy book actually read it?

    DiAngelo isn’t the first person to make a buck pushing tricked-up pseudo-intellectual horseshit as corporate wisdom, but she might be the first to do it selling Hitlerian race theory. White Fragility has a simple message: there is no such thing as a universal human experience, and we are defined not by our individual personalities or moral choices, but only by our racial category.

    Well, I'll stop excerpting there, but Taibbi's article rates about a nine on the RTWT meter. Unsurprisingly, DiAngelo's book is prominently featured on the "Racial Justice Resources" list offered by the University Near Here. Someone should hack the website to insert Taibbi's summary: "[M]ay be the dumbest book ever written. It makes The Art of the Deal read like Anna Karenina." It's unlikely that such contrary opinions can pierce the ideological force field around UNH otherwise.

    I can't recommend that you buy the book, but if you do, using the Pun Salad link would be appreciated! (As I type: $9.96 for the paperback, $9.95 for Kindle.)

    I'm irritated—I seem to be irritated a lot these days—by the book's subtitle, "Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism". It's a common rhetorical device, and it always seems to boil down to: "Why It's So Hard to Get White People to Shut Up About Their Own Opinions, Listen to Me, and Repeat What I Say".


  • I mentioned the "rank punditry" section of Jonah Goldberg's latest G-File yesterday, but he also discussed The Maoist Nature of the New War on Wrongthink. Noting, specifically, the "scandal" of past blackface appearances by celebrities:

    There is something vaguely Maoist about the mood out there. During the Cultural Revolution the young firebrands attacked and humiliated older Communist leaders for the sin of not being sufficiently imbued with the spirit of revolution, or something. The “Black Line” theory of artistic interpretation—which led to the deaths and imprisonment of countless artists and intellectuals —basically held that if you once wrote or painted something “wrong” by the current revolutionary standard, you should be forcibly reeducated, even though what you wrote or painted wasn’t wrong when you painted it. Indeed, most of the victims of the Black Line were Communists in good standing who simply got screwed when the revolutionary game of musical chairs changed its tune. 

    I've always avoided Nietzsche, but one of his pet concepts springs to mind: "Will to power." I.e., that nasty little proclivity to push other people around and wreck their lives. Fred might have been onto something there.


  • At National Review (NRPLUS, sorry), David Harsanyi writes on the main event: 2020 vs. Civilization

    The other night, a Black Lives Matter leader named Hawk Newsome went on Fox News and said: “If U.S. doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down this system and replace it.” This is a statement of insurgency and violence, not of legitimate protest. If a Tea Party leader had made comparable threats, CNN reporters would have sprinted to track down every GOP House member for a comment.

    Now, I doubt Newsome speaks for most of the Black Lives Matter movement, but virtually every business organization in the country has already bequeathed the cause with a ringing endorsement. We’ve created a situation where some people can take over six blocks of a major city for weeks or vandalize sculptures that offend their sensibilities without repercussions, while other people will lose their jobs if they say “all lives matter.”

    Click through and read on for David's take on a recent Quillette piece by Eric Kaufmann. Kaufmann polled self-described "liberals" on whether they agreed with a list of 16 possible culture-deconstructing "reforms" to America. In (roughly) increasing order of deranged Maoism, here's number 16:

    Begin changing the layout of our cities, towns, and highways, moving away from the grid system to follow the more natural trails originally used by Native people.

    Grids! They're so Cartesian. Who was white!

    Of the people Kaufman polled, 23% of the "liberal" respondents and 37% of the "very liberal" respondents agreed with this.


  • A good article from Walter Olson at Reason on the perils of political line-drawing: Buddymandering. The title refers to the practice of rewarding (or punishing) the politicians who "go along" (or don't) with party leaders with favorable (or unfavorable) new district boundaries.

    When you serve on a redistricting commission, as I have now done in Maryland twice, that's one of the most common questions you get: Why can't we turn the whole thing over to a computer algorithm? At its simplest, this can take the form of proposing that the state simply be divided into districts of equal population (as the courts require) by some brute method. Thus a state might be divided among the proper number of congressional districts by drawing vertical lines dividing it into strips of varying widths.

    To spend a few minutes with such a map is to grasp its flaws. Even in a conveniently rectangular state like Colorado, districts would end up comprising unrelated communities separated from each other by mountains and long distances. Coherent communities would be split, perhaps multiple ways, to no good purpose. Before long, you will have rediscovered some of the basic keys to good districting, namely: compactness, with districts looking more like turtles than snakes or octopuses; practical contiguity, meaning that all sections of a district are accessible by road connections without having to leave the district; and congruence with the boundaries of other political subdivisions, such as counties and cities.

    For fun, please note New Hampshire Executive Council District 2, my very own, where I'm "represented" by Comrade Andru Volinsky. It stretches from the southeast corner of the state, up through Concord, then over to our neck of the woods: Durham, Madbury, Dover, Rollinsford, Somersworth. Eh, why not?

    I'm not sure whether randomly selecting a patchwork of towns would be any more arbitrary. Or maybe just go by alphabetical order?


  • Virginia Postrel makes a lot of sense in her Bloomberg column: Promote Covid-19 Masks Without Mandates or Shaming. Her insight: masks are clothing. And…

    In short, people hate being told what they must or cannot wear. That’s as true for masks as it is for other garments. Mandates were bound to spark resistance. Ramping up enforcement will only intensify the pushback, and local police are wise not to make it a priority. Stopping mask scofflaws is just the sort of petty law enforcement that can lead to racially fraught harassment and abuse. When Joe Biden says he’d make mask wearing compulsory, he isn’t thinking about what that means on the street.

    The good news is that people don’t wear clothes because it’s illegal not to (even though it is). They wear clothes to meet social expectations, express who they are, and add beauty, comfort and style to their everyday lives. To encourage mask-wearing, we need to tap into those instincts.

    Up to now, the primary weapon aside from legal requirements (and fear of Covid-19) has been shame. But, as epidemiologist Julia Marcus writes in the Atlantic, “trying to shame people into wearing condoms didn’t work — and it won’t work for masks either.” Lecturing people about their clothing choices just makes them mad. Instead, Los Angeles Times writer Adam Tschorn suggests humorous public service ads featuring “Darth Vader, Bane from ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and a cadre of Lucha Libre wrestlers playing it tough while urging guys to put on their own masks.”

    Until baseball starts up again, we can always enjoy Virginia knocking one out of the park.

The Phony Campaign

2020-06-28 Update

Our Eye Candy du Jour: phony voters!

[Harvesting]

Nobody seems to be making the connection between stories like this:

The Internal Revenue Service paid nearly $1.4 billion in stimulus checks to dead people, according to a Government Accountability Office report that provides the first tally of such payments.

… and the likelihood that nobody's gonna be very careful about sending out absentee ballots to equally incapacitated voters.

Wheezy Joe continues to run up his probability on the betting markets, but Bone Spurs Don maintains his firm phony grip on Google hits:

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
6/21
Phony
Results
Change
Since
6/21
Donald Trump 38.1% -2.8% 1,700,000 -270,000
Joe Biden 56.8% +2.1% 504,000 -135,000

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • At PJMedia, which seems to have sold its soul to the Donald, Rick Moran alleges: Democratic 'Dirty Tricks' Sabotage Trump Tulsa Rally

    Tik-Tok and K-Pop users are claiming they reserved hundreds of tickets for Donald Trump’s Tulsa rally, never having any intention of showing up. The result was a half-empty arena in Tulsa for the president’s post-coronavirus restart of his campaign.

    Trending on Twitter this morning is #EveryoneLaughingAtYouDonald and #TrumpRallyFail.

    True? The NYT story seems ambiguous, but largely celebratory. "Dirty tricks" are admirable when played on Republicans.


  • At the NR Corner, Dmitri Solzhenitsyn wonders: What Can We Expect from Biden in the Debates?

    On Monday, Jen O’Malley Dillon, the campaign manager for Joe Biden’s presidential bid, confirmed in a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) that Biden intends to participate this fall in three CPD-commissioned debates. Within the letter, Dillon labels Donald Trump’s outlandish proposal for an additional, fourth debate an effort to avoid facing off against Biden on even ground: “The Trump campaign proposal for elaborate negotiations is merely an effort to dodge fair, even-handed debates.”

    Despite Dillon’s assertion, it is likely Biden who would benefit least from debates held by neutral moderators. If anyone is less equipped to speak articulately and inspiringly in front of the nation than the buffoonish Trump, it is the muddled Scranton native (more on this below). To be sure, a candidate’s debate performances have not much altered his chance to win the presidency in the past, as political scientists Robert S. Erikson and Christopher Wlezien find in The Timeline of Presidential Elections. Still, Joe Biden’s potential to astonish the nation with his diminishing mental capacity throws all convention out the window. Skeptical? Consider these slip-ups:

    … and it goes from there. Dmitri believes the debates "are sure to be entertaining nights." But I can see myself muttering over and over: One of these idiots is going to win.

    I can't for sure tell whether Dmitri's any relation to Alexandr, but he seems to be from Vermont, so I'd guess yes.


  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File talks on a number of things, but here's a relevant bit:

    […] there’s one argument from Trump spinners and pro-Trump pundits that I think is just wishful thinking. I constantly hear that what Trump needs to do is make the election a choice between him and Biden rather than a referendum on Trump. Once Biden comes out of the basement, Trump will be able to define him, and define him in a way that makes voting for Trump more attractive than voting for Biden.  

    There are many problems with this theory. First, as I write today, Trump seems clueless about how to define Biden. Second, it assumes that once he figures it out, he’ll succeed. Third, Biden isn’t Hillary Clinton. Trump benefited from decades of pent-up dislike for Clinton and a vast armory of anti-Clinton ammo he and his surrogates could take off the shelf. Biden is much more likeable than Clinton and while some of the ammo against Biden has merit, it only has real purchase among people who are going to vote for Trump already. 

    But these are all secondary. The primary problem for Trump is that he wants the election to be a referendum on him. “Want” may be the wrong word here. Maybe “he needs to make it about him” works better. Or maybe it’s simply that he’s incapable of not making it about him.

    Jonah goes on to relate Sean Hannity's slo-mo softball query to Trump about his proposed second-term agenda. Trump's answer was … well, "pathetic" seems inadequate, but it's the best I can do right now.


  • At the WaPo, Megan McArdle

    The quality of our leadership might not matter much in the initial “headless chicken” phase of a crisis when no one knows what they are doing, and many of the efforts will turn out to be useless or counterproductive. But, over time, luck matters less and management matters more. We expect leadership to get better, to learn what works and what does not, to understand the risks and progressively fine-tune their response. That is what European nations have done, and it is precisely what Trump has not. Months in, the president is still playing down the threat, still encouraging people to go out and gather in large groups, still hostile toward the wearing of masks.

    Our government officials, including Trump, have botched things in multiple ways. Not that their replacements will be better.

A Kiss Before Dying

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

The IMDB puts it in the "film noir" category, which seem contestable to me. But it's OK anyway. This is the 1956 version, and it's star-studded: Robert Wagner, Jeffrey Hunter, Joanne Woodward, and, whoa, Mary Astor. You'd think she'd make it noir by her mere presence, but unfortunately, her role is pretty minor.

Adding to Mrs. Salad's travails: I couldn't help but blurting out "It's Captain Pike!" every time Jeffrey Hunter popped up onscreen.

Anyway, the plot: Robert Wagner is romancing heiress Joanne Woodward, and (in the opening scene) she announces her pregnancy. The fact that Wagner is a devious lying weasel is obvious to all except her. Unfortunately, he's also demanded that she keep their relationship super-secret. Which will make it easier to… well, you know pretty much what the deal is.

The movie is decently twisty and suspenseful, but you kind of have to put up with 1950's-style over-acting. Jeffrey Hunter's character keeps an unlit pipe clenched between his teeth pretty much 24x7.

According to IMDB trivia, Joanne Woodward once stated that she not only considers this the worst of her movies, but the worst Hollywood movie ever made. Come on, Ms. Woodward, it's not that bad.

Also, Mrs. Salad now believes that Robert Wagner killed Natalie Wood. No argument here.

URLs du Jour

2020-06-27

  • Your Tweet du Jour:

    Need a hint about that? Probably not, but check our Getty Image in any case.


  • What's with the folks who call themselves "Progressive" whose worldviews don't seem much newer than the 1930s? Here's a real progressive, James Pethokoukis, at AEI: To make the future we want, we need to understand how progress happens

    Making predictions is hard, especially about the future. But it can be both fascinating and fun to speculate on what might happen down the road. For most of history, however, tomorrow was a lot like today. And while things changed, the pace was so slow that it was often hard to notice during a human lifetime. That changed during the Industrial Revolution and Great Enrichment. The acceleration of growth and progress led to a lot more speculation about the future, especially in books and film.

    Thinking hard about the future took a serious turn following World War II, given the global convulsions of that conflict, the new risk of nuclear war, and what seemed like neverending, breakneck technological change. Futurism or futurology — the academic and systematic thinking about the future — became a respected input for policymakers, and many futurists such as Alvin Toffler and Paul Ehrlich became widely known to the general public. The whole effort was also buoyed by the increased postwar confidence in government planning.

    James points to the online program Progress Studies for Aspiring Young Scholars, which looks neat. Expensive, but free stuff is supposed to show up later this summer. I've signed up for the mailing list.


  • At the Federalist, Tom Lindsay explains why China's Propaganda Centers On U.S. Campuses Must Be Shut Down. AKA, the Confucius Institutes, which I've written about some.

    Professor Jonathan Lipman of Mount Holyoke College explains, “By peddling a product we want, namely Chinese language study, the Confucius Institutes bring the Chinese government into the American academy in powerful ways. The general pattern is very clear. They can say, ‘We’ll give you this money, you’ll have a Chinese program, and nobody will talk about Tibet.’” Tibet is one of the three “T-words” (Tibet, Taiwan, and Tiananmen) that cannot be discussed at the institutes, in violation of academic freedom and free speech.

    Confucius Institute funding is tied to China Politburo member Liu Yandong, who formerly led the United Front Work Department. Steven Mosher of the Population Research Institute testified before Congress that the United Front Work Department’s purpose is “to subvert, coopt, and ultimately control Western academic discourse on matters pertaining to China.”

    The University Near Here is in pretty dire financial straits, so I suppose free money from a thuggish dictatorship is welcome. Still…


  • I've been reflexively in favor of yanking qualified immunity from cops, in response to the George Kirby incident. But Patterico says WaitJustADamnedMinute on that. Qualified Immunity Reform: The Cure Is Worse than the Disease

    Everybody hates the cops these days, and everybody wants to do away with qualified immunity. I think the currently proposed cures are worse than the disease.

    Let me begin by acknowledging that there is an issue with qualified immunity. You may have been led to believe that it is virtually absolute immunity for cops, but (at least in theory) it’s not — hence the word “qualified.” The doctrine in theory allows law enforcement to be liable only when they have violated “clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). It thus “provides ample protection to all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violated the law.” Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 341 (1986).

    The problem we have is that courts have interpreted the concept of a “clearly established right” to mean that there is a case on point in the relevant jurisdiction that found liability to absurd levels of specificity. To me the absurd levels of specificity are the issue. If a cop beats someone excessively, some court will come along and say “well, sure, there is precedent saying you can be held liable for excessive force, but in that case the cops beat the suspect with flashlights. This cop beat the suspect excessively with a baton, so that’s totally different and there’s no way he could have known that was unlawful!”

    Worth reading if you're a "wanna hear both sides" person. Like I really should be more often.


  • Robert J. Delahunty and John Yoo have an interesting proposal at City Journal: Congress Should Push Back Against Cancel Culture

    This deteriorating environment may justify calling on Congress to protect explicitly every person’s right to hold his own beliefs, on a par with his right to be free from discrimination based on race, gender, or religion. Indeed, the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, holding that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects against employment discrimination based on homosexuality or transgender identity, may point the way to a further, and necessary, extension of the Act that would protect political speech and activity.

    Cases of ideological discrimination on our nation’s campuses continue to emerge. Cornell faculty and alumni are waging a campaign to fire law professor William Jacobson, founder of the Legal Insurrection blog, because he questioned the motives of the Black Lives Matter movement. UCLA business school fired a lecturer, Gordon Klein, for refusing to grant more time to, or change his grading system for, black students during the Floyd protests, though he apparently was following the school’s own rules. Professor Walter Block, a libertarian who serves as the Chair of the Economics Department at Loyola University in New Orleans, is facing student demands for his ouster over claims that he made racist comments published six years ago in the New York Times—though the Times settled the defamation suit he had brought against it for misconstruing his remarks. Berkeley’s public policy school summarily fired lecturer Steven Hayward, objecting to his allegedly racist and homophobic statements on the Powerline blog, among other conservative outlets.

    Interesting idea, although there's plenty to worry about it backfiring. I can't imagine (say) Reason magazine not firing an editor that suddenly turned socialist. Would that be illegal?

    My guess is that we'd be better off without government interference in hiring/firing decisions, whether done for good reasons, bad reasons, or no reason at all. I think I read that somewhere.


  • And the Josiah Bartlett Center's Drew Cline: Impose $200 million in PFAS cleanup costs with no idea what the benefits are? Whatever. (I think you have to imagine a Millennial shrug/eye-roll on that last word. There's a picture at the link.)

    The state Senate recently bundled into House Bill 1246 a bunch of PFAS-related bills for rapid passage in the coronavirus-shortened legislative session. We’ll focus on just one section of this bill: the part that writes PFAS maximum contamination levels (MCLs) into law.

    The bill adopts the MCLs issued by the state Department of Environmental Services last year. These standards are, to be diplomatic, of questionable scientific legitimacy. 

    The allowed parts per trillion (yes, trillion) are many times lower than the Environmental Protection Agency’s guideline levels and are based on animal tests and a questionable model adopted by one state (Minnesota).

    Moreover, the costs are enormous and the benefits unknown — despite the fact that the department was required by law to conduct a cost-benefit analysis. 

    What could go wrong?

    It's serious stuff, but I liked this parenthetical comment: "(But this is politics. If you want prudence, buy The White Album.)" In what age range do you have to be to get that? Unfortunately, mine.

URLs du Jour

2020-06-26

Via Weekend Pundit: A Reminder. It's far from new, but:

[Reminder]

I should probably print that out, and tack it up somewhere near my computer screen. Maybe read it out loud to myself before every post.

  • Jillian Kay Melchior at the WSJ reports on Yet Another Cancellation: A Twitter Mob Takes Down an Administrator at Michigan State

    ‘We are scientists, seeking truth,” Michigan State University physicist Stephen Hsu wrote in a 2018 blog post. “We are not slaves to ideological conformity.” That might have been too optimistic. Last week MSU’s president, Samuel L. Stanley Jr., yielded to a pressure campaign, based in part on that post, and asked Mr. Hsu to resign as senior vice president for research and innovation.

    The trouble began June 10, when MSU’s Graduate Employees Union composed a lengthy Twitter thread denouncing Mr. Hsu as, among other things, “a vocal scientific racist and eugenicist.” The union claimed Mr. Hsu believes “in innate biological differences between human populations, especially regarding intelligence.”

    Mr. Hsu says these accusations “were made in bad faith.” Take that 2018 blog post, which responded to New York Times articles that, in his words, linked “genetic science to racism and white supremacy.” In it, he wrote: “All good people abhor racism. I believe that each person should be treated as an individual, independent of ancestry or ethnic background. . . . However, this ethical position is not predicated on the absence of average differences between groups. I believe that basic human rights and human dignity derive from our shared humanity, not from uniformity in ability or genetic makeup.” Mr. Hsu doesn’t work in this field but rejects the idea that scientists should categorically exclude the possibility of average genetic differences among groups.

    Dr. Hsu and I share an alma mater, undergraduate major, and college dorm, apparently. He's about nine times smarter than I, though.

    But guess what I knew that he didn't? There are things you can't say and expect to keep your university job. Because spineless administrators will wilt when the mob comes for you.


  • At Patterico's Pontifications, JVW writes on Stalin’s Revenge. Five case studies, here's one from Massachusetts Bay Colony Institute of Technologickal Arts:

    Example 2
    In the aftermath of the George Floyd killing, MIT’s Tech Catholic Community chaplain Father Daniel Moloney (disclosure: my alma mater, and I spent a bit of time with TCC during my undergrad days and donate money to them annually as an alumnus) sent out a rather ill-advised email message to TCC members which reminded the community that Mr. Floyd “had not lived a virtuous life” (this is largely true, if perhaps a harsh thing to say as the body cools in the morgue) and asserted that we could not yet say definitively that his death was an act of police racism or that police departments have an inherent problem with racism. Fr. Moloney did point out that nothing Mr. Floyd may have done was enough to justify taking his life, and reminded TCC members of Church teachings on the evil of racism and the need for solidarity with our fellow man. Once upon a time in an academic setting like MIT we might have expected Fr. Moloney’s controversial message to have spurred a great and vigorous debate across students, faculty & staff, alumni, and the greater campus community, but here in 2020 agitated parties cried out about the pain and fear that a Catholic priest’s email message had engendered within them, and prevailed upon the historically incompetent Archdiocese of Boston (with a significant assist from the cowardly MIT administration) to remove him as chaplain. Fr. Moloney resigned his position a few days later, almost certainly at the behest of the Archbishop.

    "Largely true" ain't a defense against the mob, Father.


  • Legal analysis at Law & Liberty from John O. McGinnis on a couple of recent SCOTUS cases; John finds Errors of Will and of Judgment.

    The law can be marred by both results-oriented decisions and honest, intellectual mistakes. Both kinds of distortions were on display at the Supreme Court last week. An example of the first kind of error was Homeland Security v. Regents of California. That case held that the Trump administration’s rescission of the Obama administration’s policy of not deporting certain young aliens here illegally and permitting them to join our labor force was “arbitrary and capricious.” The majority opinion contains self-contradictory reasoning and seems a transparent effort to avoid an unpopular ruling on the legality of Obama’s relief to a sympathetic group of young people, now routinely referred to as the “dreamers.” The opinion does not prevent the Trump administration from trying to rescind the Obama program again with different reasoning, but undoubtedly any such effort will be held up by the review of lower courts until after the election.

    Bostock v. Clayton County exemplifies the second kind of error. That case held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act made employment discrimination against homosexual and transgender individuals illegal. This decision embraces a desiccated literalism over a common-sense understanding of a text’s public meaning. Its author, Justice Neil Gorsuch, is sincerely mistaken because he has shown some such tendencies before. Bostock is just a particularly extreme example.

    The Judicial Branch is an unreliable defender of the Constitution.


  • As is the Legislative Branch. The Federal ‘Anti-Lynching’ Bill Sacrifices Justice for Symbolism

    A few days ago, someone spray-painted "BHAZ" (for "Black House Autonomous Zone") on the pillars of St. John's Episcopal Church, the site of President Donald Trump's notorious June 1 photo op during protests against police brutality in Washington, D.C. Under the D.C. Code, that act of vandalism, assuming the damage costs less than $1,000, is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to six months in jail. But under an "anti-lynching" bill that is part of the police reform packages backed by House Democrats and Senate Republicans, the same act could qualify as a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

    Unsurprisingly, legislation proposed in times of irrational panic, distrust, and showboating is poorly thought out.

    And how about the Executive Branch? Don't get me started. We'll leave trashing it for another day.


  • But on to more serious matters. Granite Geek notes a new study that finds our fair state to be Fast and furiously deadly!

    A higher percentage of traffic fatalities in New Hampshire involved speeding than was the case in any other state in recent years and the state’s death rate from speeding-related accidents was 50% higher than the national average, according to a new report.

    The analysis by CoPilot, a firm that creates analytic software for the automotive industry, said that 52% of road fatalities in New Hampshire from 2014 to 2018 involved speeding, more than any other state. In Massachusetts, 28% of crash fatalities were speeding-related; in Vermont, 40% and in Maine, 32%.

    The study may be found here. How do they tell if a fatality is "speeding-related"?

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) considers a crash to be speeding-related if one of the drivers is cited for a speeding-related offense or if an officer determines that driving too fast for conditions, racing, or exceeding the speed limit was a contributing factor in the crash.

    That cracks the door open slightly to the possibility that the fatality difference could be due to different standards for reporting.

    The Geek notes that this doesn't mean that we're more dangerous (or endangered) when we're on the road; compared to other states, our fatality rate is in the middle of the pack. His recommendation is (predictably) statist: "cracking down on speeders".

URLs du Jour

2020-06-25

Michael Ramirez has a comment about a recent Senate vote. (And, boy, he does these things fast.)

[Police Reform]

  • Need a hint about what Mr. Ramirez is talking about? (I don't blame you for not following the news, it's depressing and awful.) The Federalist has a biased article but (guess what) it's absolutely true: Democrats Blocked Police Reform Because Suffering Helps Them

    After Democrats blocked a vote on his policing reform bill, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) accused them of wanting to keep policing and racial issues unresolved  at Americans’ expense for Democrats’ political benefit.

    “Today we lost, I lost, the vote on a piece of legislation that would’ve led to systemic change in the relationship between the communities of color and the law enforcement community. We would’ve broken this concept in this nation that somehow, some way you have to either be for law enforcement or for communities of color. That is a binary choice. It’s just not true,” Scott said.

    NH: I looked and (predictably) our state's senators followed most other Democrats in making sure there would be no progress in producing a bipartisan reform bill that Trump might sign. (You can check to see how your hacks voted here.)


  • At Reason, Matt Welch points out that Journalists Abandoning ‘Objectivity’ for ‘Moral Clarity’ Really Just Want To Call People Immoral. (Gosh, isn't that why we have social media?) After citing a number of examples of such "journalists":

    For non-journalists, understanding this rapidly spreading sentiment (and the repetitive, in-group jargon that comes with it) is a key to basic media literacy. The institutional stuff you read, watch, and listen to will increasingly be shaped by people whose moral warning systems are on ever-higher alert to make sure valued "platforms" remain unsullied—and unmanipulated—by barbarians.

    "Cotton's views should be known, but not amplified and normalized within the prized real estate that is the op-ed page of the New York Times," wrote influential Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan earlier this month. "What if we framed coverage with this question at the forefront: What journalism best serves the real interests of American citizens? Make decisions with that in mind, and at least some of the knotty problems get smoothed out."

    There is an obvious paradox at the heart of this project, one that is all the more glaring for passing undetected under the noses of its most prominent practitioners. In replacing their decidedly strawman version of the "objectivity" ideal with a more courageous "moral clarity," journalists are trading the unattainable for the unknowable, and consciously elevating narrative "truths" over verified facts.

    I really hope the WSJ hangs on to those old-fashioned verified facts in its coverage.


  • At National Review, Jack Butler has advice concerning the Emancipation Memorial: Don’t Tear It Down. It's about halfway between the Capitol and old RFK Stadium.

    In a quiet, tree-lined area about a mile from the U.S. Capitol building, a statue has stood since 1876. Unveiled eleven years after Abraham Lincoln’s death, it depicts the 16th president holding the Emancipation Proclamation as a freed slave kneels below, his bonds being severed. Congress originally named the site of the statue, called the Freedman’s Memorial on the plaque affixed to it, Lincoln Square, making it “the first site to bear the name of the martyred president,” according to the National Park Service. It is also known as the Emancipation Memorial.

    Lincoln Park’s typical quiet was broken on Tuesday by an increasingly familiar sight: a crowd seeking a statue to tear down. The more such groups deviate further from anything resembling legitimate protest against the unjust death of George Floyd, the more one questions their historical literacy. Indeed, it seems clear at this point that any old-looking statue will do: Figures of everyone from the Union general and racially progressive president Ulysses S. Grant to the abolitionist Hans Christian Heg have gotten the treatment. But if the protesters knew anything about the history and a character of the Emancipation Memorial, they would abandon their stated promise to tear the statue down.

    Jack (I call him Jack, feel I got to know him from his days on Jonah Goldberg's podcast) illuminates some history for the illiterate activists. Which they won't read.


  • And finally, our LFOD Google News Alert rang for a Mashed article: The states that drink the most spirits in the U.S.

    This latest survey shows the amount of hard liquor each state is drinking. While the numbers compiled by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism don't reflect the most current trends, as they only track alcohol consumption up through 2018, it's nonetheless always "fun" to see how your state stacks up, isn't it? Well, if you're dying to know the top booze-consuming state in the union, we won't keep you in suspense any longer. Drumroll please... and the award goes to the hard-drinking, "live free or die" state of New Hampshire!

    Well, I'd like to boast of course. But follow that link to the NIAAA site. The document there is (I am not making this up) "Surveillance Report #115".

    Surveillance? Great Orwellian title. Are they peeking in your windows to see what you're tippling? Going through your trash hunting for empties? Naw.

    [The Alcohol Epidemiologic Data System (AEDS)] makes every effort to obtain alcoholic beverage sales data from all States and the District of Columbia. AEDS prefers sales data to production and shipments data from beverage industry sources because sales data more accurately reflect actual alcoholic beverage consumption levels.

    Oh. They're not looking at consumption directly. They look at sales.

    And any Granite Stater that's happened into the state liquor outlet parking lots (uh, for some reason), especially the ones on major highways, and bothered to look at the license plates knows the issue. A lot of people from other states buy booze here.

    No sales tax, baby. (Although the state gets its cut, don't worry.)

URLs du Jour

2020-06-24

  • Matthew Fraser writes at Quillete about Marie Antoinette: Figure of Myth, Magnet for Lies. The way things are going, it might be utterly relevant to America's future.

    “Let them eat cake.”

    It’s one of the most famous remarks in history—an instantly recognizable catchphrase to convey haughty indifference to the misfortune of others. And we all know who said it and why: It was Marie Antoinette (1755–1793), the queen whose life was claimed by the French Revolution, dismissing news that the peasants were starving due to the high price of bread.

    In the original French, the Queen allegedly said, Qu’ils mangent de la brioche!, which doesn’t quite translate to “let them eat cake.” Brioche is sweet, eggy bread that tastes only vaguely like cake. The translated English word “cake” made Marie Antoinette seem even haughtier than in French. But it’s beside the point, since Marie Antoinette never uttered “let them eat cake” in any language. There is no historical evidence that she ever uttered that phrase. The story is pure invention. It’s a historical legend that rivals the myth of Nero “fiddling” while Rome burned. And yet this outlandish fabrication has shaped our image of Marie Antoinette for more than two centuries.

    [Amazon Link]

    Mr. Fraser does a good job, both of tracing this slander to its origins and outlining Marie's fate. It's an excerpt from his recent book, Amazon link at right, which I've put on my get-at-library list.

    Our Eye Candy du Jour is not Marie herself, but just something that pops up when you search for "Marie Antoinette" on Getty Images. It's "fashion pose of a woman in a marie antoniette look". Good enough for me.


  • Our own "let them eat cake" incidents are flying thick and fast, the most recent being the noose that NASCAR said was hanging in the stall being used by black driver Bubba Wallace. The upshot (we'll go with Power Line for the link): No Noose

    And let me add to that: "… is Good Noose."

    When a major crime is committed like a rope found lying around in a garage stall, the FBI is on it in a matter of hours. The FBI has now completed its investigation. It turns out that the “noose” was a garage door pull rope that had been in the stall since at least last year, long before it was occupied by the team to which Bubba Wallace belongs.

    Unfortunately, Bubba wants to retain his victimhood, don't confuse him with the facts.

    And it doesn't matter if Marie never said "Let them eat cake". It's something she might have said. Or she might have been thinking about saying it. Or she might have retweeted something from someone who said it a decade earlier. Perhaps in blackface.


  • And decades of racial progress have brought us to the point where news like this fails to shock: Oregon County Issues Coronavirus Mask Mandate, But Only For White People

    Lincoln County, Oregon health officials issued a mandatory mask directive last week that exempts non-white people from wearing face coverings in an effort to avoid racial profiling.

    Lincoln County (I looked it up) is (surprisingly) a Covid-19 hotspot with 584 cases per 100K population, the second-highest rate in Oregon. Given that people of non-pallor are supposed to be most at-risk, this seems puzzling.

    But trying to make sense of our panicky times is a fool's errand. I'll try to avoid doing that.


  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum looks at Breonna Taylor and the Moral Bankruptcy of Drug Prohibition

    Last Friday, three months after Louisville, Kentucky, police officers gunned down a 26-year-old EMT and aspiring nurse named Breonna Taylor during a fruitless drug raid, acting Police Chief Robert Schroeder initiated the termination of Detective Brett Hankison, who he said had "displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life" when he "wantonly and blindly fired 10 rounds" into Taylor's apartment. But Hankison's recklessness is just one element of the circumstances that led to Taylor's senseless death, which never would have happened if politicians did not insist on using violence to enforce their pharmacological prejudices.

    The March 13 shooting, which has figured prominently in recent protests against police brutality, followed a sadly familiar pattern. Hankison and two other plainclothes officers broke into Taylor's home around 12:40 a.m., awakening her and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who mistook the armed invaders for robbers.

    Breonna was black, the cops were white. That shouldn't matter.


  • And good news from WalletHub, which has provided us with 2020’s Most Patriotic States in America.

    In order to determine where Americans have the most red, white and blue pride, WalletHub compared the states across 13 key indicators of patriotism. Our data set ranges from the state’s military enlistees and veterans to the share of adults who voted in the 2016 presidential election to AmeriCorps volunteers per capita.

    You'll never guess which state wound up in first place!

    OK, so maybe you will.

    Yes, it's New Hampshire. You can't argue with science, friends. Followed by Wyoming, Idaho, and Alaska?

    Which reminds me of a joke: "If Mrs. Sippi and Miss Ouri each wore a brand New Jersey, then what did Della wear? Idaho, Alaska." Haw!

    Least patriotic, from the bottom up: New Jersey, New York, California, and … Texas?! Texas, what the hell?

The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini

[Amazon Link]

I put this on my get-at-library list after hearing Russ Roberts interview the author, Joe Posnanski, on the Econtalk podcast last year. Russ's opening comments called the book "very strange and delightful", and I concur. And I'm not much of a magic fan.

(Although I did watch that Tony Curtis movie when I was a young 'un. Posnanski debunks that pretty thoroughly.)

Although Posnanski did tons of research, lots of interviews, it's not really a scholarly tome, or a biography. It's a very personal exploration of the Houdini phenomenon, and why, of all magicians past and present, Houdini still grips our imagination today. We do get most of the details of his life along the way, roughly in chronological order. But (for example), Posnanski finds Houdini's late-career interest in debunking spiritualism boring, and zips over it in a single chapter. A "real" biographer wouldn't do that, but that's OK.

An interesting and recurring theme is the tension between other magicians and Houdini, which continues today. Strictly as traditional magic goes, Houdini was not that great. Plenty of others, then and since, out-illusioned and out-tricked him. But his fame relied on his specialty: escaping from handcuffs, straitjackets, sealed cans and boxes. That seemed to catch the public's imagination and catapulted him to his fame.

We also get a picture of Houdini's milieu, the popular entertainment of his era. I made Mrs. Salad laugh by reading some of the acts Houdini performed with. Texas Ben, the phenomical cowboy pianist who never took a lesson but can play any classical piece after hearing it only once. Leah the Whittler. John Rauth, the man with the longest head. Thardo, defier of snakes.

It was an interesting time. And Houdini was an interesting guy. But Posnanski is also very good at exploring Houdini fandom. Probably the most famous one is David Copperfield, who is probably the closest to Houdini in terms of fame; Posnanski hangs out with him quite a bit, and that's interesting too. (Over the years, Copperfield has bought and squirreled away a lot of Houdini paraphernalia, and he takes Posnanski on a tour.)

And there's a lot of interesting stuff that has nothing to do with Houdini. The actor Patrick Culliton is an obsessive Houdini fan, but he told Posnanski a pretty funny story about Robert Preston's reaction on hearing about the death of Yul Brynner. No spoilers here!

Hangover Square

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

It's billed as a film noir, and it has a lot of the trappings: black and white, tricky lighting, a black-hearted dame bringing misery to our protagonist.

Although the protagonist is pretty miserable all by himself. He's George Harvey Bone, played by a slimmed-down Laird Cregar, a composer of music. He's supposed to be working on a concerto, serious stuff. But he makes the mistake of getting tied up with the devious Netta, a sleazy nightclub singer. George writes her a song, and she immediately figures out that if she can get him to write more songs, she'll be able to sing her way to fame and fortune.

But here's the funny thing: George also has this funny mental problem: when he hears loud discordant noises, he goes a little crazy. No, make that a lot crazy, as in homicidal maniac-crazy. Eventually he snaps out of it, but y'know, not until after he's done some pretty bad shit.

For some reason, as near as I can tell, this malady is not cataloged in DSM–5.

Anyway, things lumber along to a grandiose noirish finish. The acting is over the top, especially when George gets all bug-eyed as he slips into one of his murderous states.

Trivia: did I mention Laird Cregar's loss of weight? This was his last movie. He died in his early thirties, and most people seem to blame his untimely death on his absurdly unhealthy efforts to slim down. He apparently wanted to avoid being typecast as an obese villain. I.e., a heavy. Too bad.

All the Light We Cannot See

[Amazon Link]

This went on my get-at-library list quite a while ago, based on a recommendation of which I have only a dim recollection. Someone at National Review, maybe? I can't find it now.

It also won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Does that mean it's insufferably arty and politically correct? A book where nothing much happens, but there are a bunch of insufferable self-obsessed angsty characters?

No, it's pretty good, honest. A page-turner, actually.

Set around the horrors of World War II, there are two protagonists: Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a blind French girl who's been evacuated from Paris to the "safety" of Saint-Malo. And German orphan Werner Pfennig, whose talent for fixing radios brings him to the attention of the Wehrmacht. These two crazy kids are set on a collision course: Marie-Laure's relatives become associated with the Resistance, and an old radio is used to broadcast information about Nazi activities to the Allies. And Werner finds himself on a small team of soldiers using sophisticated (for the time) triangulation methods to track down and (violently) silence such clandestine broadcasts. Uh oh.

And there's a lot of other stuff going on. Marie-Laure's father is a museum worker, skilled at woodworking, and he builds scale models of their Paris and Saint-Malo neighborhoods to help her visualize her environment. But he's also entrusted to keep an incredibly valuable diamond out of Nazi hands. That makes him (and his family) also a target of von Rumpel, a German agent tasked with looting the riches of occupied Europe.

Anthony Doerr's writing is pretty good, going right up to, but never crossing over into that too-arty territory. I believe (but I may have gotten this wrong) the title refers to the minor miracle that our perception of the light-filled world is entirely within the brain, which is locked inside the total and eternal darkness of the skull. Funny that.

Trivia: page 83, Werner performs one of his genius acts, bringing a Philco owned by an upper-level Nazi back to life. The lady of the house exclaims: "He fixed it just by thinking!"

Wait a damn minute. That's a Richard Feynman story! From America, no Nazis involved.

I was about to accuse Anthony Doerr of ripping off this story, but as it turns out, Doerr gracefully acknowledges the Feynman source in the end matter. Good for him.

American Assassin

[2.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

We were in the mood for a movie! And we had three Netflix DVDs sitting right there!

And I couldn't get the disc tray on my cheapo Panasonic player to open. Argh.

The next day I detached the player from the TV, brought it downstairs, took the cover off, and… I don't know why, but it worked fine once I took the cover off. And it continued to work after I put the cover back on.

I'm thinking of making a YouTube video with this helpful DIY advice. "Just take the cover off." There, saved you a trip to the Best Buy Geek Squad.

Anyway. I searched around for a streamable movie from Netflix. And this one popped up. It's not that good, although Michael Keaton's in it, and he's good in everything.

The main protagonist is Mitch Rapp, played by Dylan O'Brien. As the movie opens, he's proposing to his sweetie Charlotte, who has approximately two minutes and forty-three seconds left to live, Because, darn the luck, this proposal happens at an Ibiza beach resort targeted by terrorists for mass murder.

Mitch swears revenge, and devotes himself to tracking down the bad guys and wiping them out. And in the process he makes himself enough of a bother to the CIA for them to offer him a job: doing that sort of thing full-time, under the command of very tough boss Stan Hurley (there's Michael Keaton!). And then they're off on a desperate mission to thwart "Ghost", who has an obsession of his own: swipe some weapons-grade plutonium from Russia in league with some Iranian hardliners, assemble a bomb, and use it… for what exactly?

Special effects, baby.

Anyway, there's a lot of violence along the way. ("Rated R for strong violence throughout, some torture, language and [all too] brief nudity.")

URLs du Jour

2020-06-23

Your Eye Candy du Jour is a video from Reason: Citizen vs. Government (Vol. 2).

You might not be a libertarian if… your reaction is "Yeah, so?"


  • Max Eden at the NY Post writes on The ‘anti-racist’ drive to turn schools into woke propaganda mills.

    School will be a very different place next academic year. Classes will be less full; desks, rigorously sterilized. And if the education establishment has its way, teachers will be aggressively woke.

    “We are living at a time of obscene inequities, and merely trying to compensate is not enough,” the American Association of School Administrators recently announced. It called on members to “become actively anti-racist” and “ensure that cultural responsiveness permeates all levels.”

    Max's column concentrates on K-12 schools, but the indoctrination won't stop there! At least not if the Action Plan announced by the President of the University Near Here is any indication. We've linked to it before, but here's the relevant part from the "Take Action" section. (Warning: rated "E" for explicit educratese content.)

    In August, we will begin taking actions that will have the most impact based on what we have learned. We will engage external expertise to ensure that we are sufficiently bold and strategic in our actions. We will also monitor the impact of what we have done and take corrective action where necessary. We will share the work we have done and its impact with all of you.

    One specific area we will explore, and have already spoken about with the faculty senate leadership, is our undergraduate curriculum and the Discovery program. How can we ensure that our graduates are exposed to the elements of U.S. history most important to understanding our current situation with regard to race?

    Demonstrations of "understanding" will involve parroting back the clichés, slogans, and fetid scholarship of the racial hustlers. Any dissent may endanger your sheepskin.

    As long as we're here, let me quote the opening of today's lead WSJ editorial:

    Anger at the killing of George Floyd has spurred useful reflection about race and perhaps some important police reform. But the political and cultural forces have transformed in recent weeks into something far less healthy—a ferocious campaign of political conformity sweeping across American artistic, educational, business and entertainment institutions.

    This coercive cultural turn threatens to devour what remains of America’s civic comity and push durable social progress on race and politics out of reach.

    Last I checked, free copies of the WSJ were available to students wandering through UNH's Memorial Union Building, and the library had a subscription. Such is the state of things, I can only wonder at how long that can last?


  • Kevin D. Williamson (NRPLUS, sorry) notes some good news on the free speech front. Unfortunately, it's in a country that talks funny:

    In France, the Constitutional Council (something like our Supreme Court) has struck down a new set of regulations put forward by the government of President Emmanuel Macron that would have imposed heavy fines on technology companies if they were insufficiently energetic in taking down certain “hateful” content. Under the Macron rules, companies such as Facebook would have been legally responsible for doing that policing on their own initiative (as opposed to being directed to remove illegal content by a judge), and would have been given as little as one hour to act in some cases. It was an absurd proposal, though not quite as absurd as the German approach upon which it was based and which is standing law in that country.

    The French court cited the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen: “The free communication of thoughts and opinions is one of the rights the most precious of man: Any citizen can therefore speak, write, print freely, except to answer for the abuse of this freedom in cases determined by law.” The new rules would have inhibited speech in a way that was not “suitable, necessary, and proportionate,” (“adaptées, nécessaires et proportionnées”), the court said. The first two of those three criteria would, if properly evaluated, set a very high bar for limiting speech in any case, because there are so few cases in which doing so is genuinely necessary and suitable. But the French view of free speech, like the Western European view more generally, is much less liberal than the traditional (and rapidly being eviscerated) American consensus, with the French holding that censorship is appropriate in the case of speech that would “undermine public order and the rights of third parties,” as the Constitutional Council puts it. That is vague, and vague government powers are constant dangers.

    KDW's final comment: " Twenty years ago, it might have made sense to argue for pushing Western Europe in a more American direction. In 2020, we’d be lucky to push America in a more American direction. Vive la liberté."


  • Real Clear Politics provides an article by KC Johnson & Stuart Taylor Jr., rebutting a recent effort by the ACLU to, um, clarify its position on the undoing of the Obama-era "Dear Colleague" efforts to degrade due process for college kids charged with sexual wrongdoing: The ACLU's 'Death Star' Client in Its Title IX Lawsuit. The Death Star is the organization called "Know Your IX", which is kind of a piece of woke work:

    The Know Your IX website proclaims that “sexual and dating violence are manifestations of systemic gender oppression, which cannot be separated from all other forms of oppression, including but not limited to imperialism, racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism.” Its Twitter feed is similarly filled with paeans to the latest trends in intersectionality-based talking points.

    While linking Title IX tribunals to imperialism seems like a stretch, misogyny remains a powerful force in American society. But the data makes university undergraduate populations — the focus of Know Your IX’s efforts — an unusual example for demonstrating “systemic gender oppression.” Women comprise about 56% of student bodies. Many universities feature female-only scholarships, programs, student and faculty awards, STEM camps, gym hours, and other opportunities that are off-limits to males. (These might, or might not, be welcome programs, but their existence surely cuts against a “systemic gender oppression” interpretation of college life.) And while any amount of sexual violence on campus is deplorable, the most comprehensive data suggests that about one in 40 women is sexually assaulted in college, not the one in five suggested by various dubious surveys.

    As Ronald Reagan once said: facts are stupid things.


  • Could it be that America's dysfunctional zeitgeist results in queries like (at Reason) Lenore Skenazy's: Why Are Bad Jokes ‘Dad Jokes’?

    Now we're supposed to hear a joke like "I was addicted to soap but now I'm clean" and think first and foremost of fathers?

    "As a dad myself, the term 'dad joke' dawned on me during Halloween," recalls Eugene Romberg, a real estate investor at webuyhousesinbayarea. (I think you can guess where in California he lives.) "I told my wife, 'There's only one thing I'm afraid of during Halloween.' She replied, 'Which is?' And I said, 'Exactly.' It was a joke I saw on Reddit." Said wife glared at Mr. Romberg for a bit and then muttered that he had just made his first "dad joke." He had to go and look it up.

    Wikipedia says that dad jokes are a short joke or pun, sometimes deliberately unfunny or overly simplistic. But didn't dad used to be a font of fatherly wisdom? How did he morph into the designated doofus?

    Well, speaking as a Dad myself, "doofus" is part of the job description. Not the whole part, not the major part, but definitely there. Haven't we been told that by every sitcom in the past 50 years?


Last Modified 2020-06-24 7:04 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2020-06-22

Michael Ramirez detects birds of a feather:

[Forgetting History]

  • At American Consequences, P. J. O'Rourke suggests we Ignore the Signal and listen to the noise:

    The protesters, while rebelling against government, aren’t intent on overthrowing it. Yes, they’d like to be rid of some of the people who govern us (and who wouldn’t?), but only – it seems – to replace them with people they like better. And, at least at a city and state level, who protesters would like better isn’t clear, either.

    The meaning of widespread protests in a democratic nation is different from the meaning of widespread protests in an authoritarian state. Under dictatorship, people are protesting against a system forcefully imposed on them by a self-selected elite. Under democracy, we the people form the system, determine how and with what degree of force the system will be imposed upon us, and elect our own elite to do the imposing. Widespread protests in a democratic nation mean that we’re mad at ourselves.

    As well we should be…

    Peej is usually amused, and hence amusing. Not this time.


  • Writing at the Daily Signal, David Harsanyi bids us Welcome to America's Cultural Revolution.

    We’re in the dawn of a high-tech, bloodless cultural revolution, one that relies on intimidation, public shaming, and economic ruin to dictate what words and ideas are permissible in the public square.

    “Words are violence” has always been an illiberal notion meant to stifle speech and open discourse. Popularized by a generation of coddled and brittle college students, it now guides policy on editorial pages at newspapers such as The Philadelphia Inquirer, The New York Times, and most major news outlets.

    The Times can claim that a harsh tone and a small factual error in Sen. Tom Cotton’s recent op-ed was the reason the entire paper had a meltdown, but the staffers who revolted initially claimed that Cotton’s argument for bringing the National Guard into cities put black lives in “danger.”

    None of the Times’ editors, all of whom are apparently comfortable with running fabulist histories or odes to communist tyrannies, pushed back against the caustic notion that engaging in debate was an act of violence. They bowed to the internal mob and pleaded for forgiveness.

    Maybe the subject of Michael Ramirez's next cartoon. Assuming he's not canceled before then.


  • Over the years, I've linked to the New Republic only a handful of times. Er, two handfuls, I guess. Assuming one of your hands has an extra finger. And this article by Ari Schulman is definitely written from the left: The Coronavirus and the Right’s Scientific Counterrevolution. Still, he's getting at something here:

    This is a problem with a long and troubled history in infectious disease outbreaks, including Ebola and SARS. The risk communications researcher Peter Sandman describes this mode as “don’t scare the children.” Princeton scholar Laura H. Kahn, in her instructive book Who’s in Charge?, argues that political and intellectual leaders who draw on the authority of scientific expertise are perennially tempted to treat adult citizens in the contagion zone as heedless children. The perverse result of passing a political judgment off as a neutral interpretation of expertise is that it actually undermines the legitimacy of the judgment and damages the credibility of the experts.

    The problem is not limited just to disease outbreaks, but pervades our discourse about science. On a remarkably broad array of issues—nuclear power, genetically modified foods, vaccines, climate change, education, the ethical implications of emerging biotechnology—the public has been offered a narrative that depicts scientific expertise as capable of adjudicating the most difficult political questions. This was the thrust of the unfortunate “March for Science,” of President Obama’s promise to place science above politics. Is it any wonder that public trust in scientific expertise has declined?

    Long, but worth a read, especially if you've been wondering why "leaders" and "experts" seem to be talking down to you. It's intentional.


  • John McWhorter at Quillette on: Racist Police Violence Reconsidered

    Tony Timpa was 32 years old when he died at the hands of the Dallas police in August 2016. He suffered from mental health difficulties and was unarmed. He wasn’t resisting arrest. He had called the cops from a parking lot while intoxicated because he thought he might be a danger to himself. By the time law enforcement arrived, he had already been handcuffed by the security guards of a store nearby. Even so, the police officers made him lie face down on the grass, and one of them pressed a knee into his back. He remained in this position for 13 minutes until he suffocated. During the harrowing recording of his final moments, he can be heard pleading for his life. A grand jury indictment of the officers involved was overturned.

    Not many people have seen this video, however, and that may have something to do with the fact that Timpa was white. During the protests and agonizing discussions about police brutality that have followed the death of George Floyd under remarkably similar circumstances, it is too seldom acknowledged that white men are regularly killed by the cops as well, and that occasionally the cops responsible are black (as it happens, one of the Dallas police officers at the scene of Timpa’s death was an African American). There seems to be a widespread assumption that, under similar circumstances, white cops kill black people but not white people, and that this disparity is either the product of naked racism or underlying racist bias that emerges under pressure. Plenty of evidence indicates, however, that racism is less important to understanding police behavior than is commonly supposed.

    Here's the video:

    Further suggested reading is Jacob Sullum at Reason: 7 Race-Neutral Solutions to Racially Skewed Law Enforcement.


  • And Power Line's Steven Hayward describes "How I Ran Afoul of Campus Cancel Culture" at Commentary:

    Way back in the pre-Trump era of 2015, an anonymous academic published an article on the Vox website entitled “I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me.” He wrote: “I wish there were a less blunt way to put this, but my students sometimes scare me—particularly the liberal ones. … I once saw an adjunct not get his contract renewed after students complained that he exposed them to ‘offensive’ texts written by Edward Said and Mark Twain. His response, that the texts were meant to be a little upsetting, only fueled the students’ ire and sealed his fate.”

    Variations of this story are spreading rapidly in the academy. The deepening of campus dogmatism is having a chilling effect on students and faculty across the board. As Vicky Wilkins, the dean of American University’s School of Public Affairs, told the Washington Post recently, “Something that we’ve noticed with our students, especially over the past five years that I’ve been there, is this reluctance to get into tough conversations. … They would rather walk away from hard topics than to actually engage.”

    Hayward's story is pretty sad, especially as it turns out his dean was unexpectedly spineless.

The Phony Campaign

2020-06-21 Update

Our Eye Candy du Jour has nothing to do with anything herein, I just thought it was kind of neat.

The political market bettors continue to throw their money toward Wheezy Joe, and he improves his advantage over President Bone Spurs this week. The Wheez also picked up a lot of phony Google hits, but not enough to overcome the President's overwhelming advantage on that score.

Tweets like this helped a lot:

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
6/14
Phony
Results
Change
Since
6/14
Donald Trump 40.9% -2.3% 1,970,000 -20,000
Joe Biden 54.7% +3.1% 639,000 +133,000

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • We open with breaking phony news: Trump Nominates Himself To The Supreme Court

    WASHINGTON, D.C.—Amid outcry from conservatives demanding Trump tip the balance of Supreme Court, Trump has nominated himself for a seat on the highest court in the land.

    "Sometimes, you just gotta do a job yourself," Trump said. "These other judges don't know the law like I do. I actually know all the laws. I know all the best laws, and some of the bad ones too. At least some people say they're bad. I think they might be right. We should stop listening to the bad laws. We shouldn't even have them, really. I will make all the best decisions as a judge. Some loser judges are taking advantage of this country and it's a total disgrace. I will make it all better, way better." 

    That's the Babylon Bee, which manages to find truth in satire.


  • [Amazon Link]
    Jonah Goldberg's G-File makes a point about John Bolton's Trump-trashing memoir:

    Peter Navarro, the author of If It's Raining in Brazil, Buy Starbucks, whose grasp of economics was once described as “nuttier than Batman’s basement” is terrific sycophant for a trade economist.  

    There’s no need to dwell on him, but he did offer an interesting critique of John Bolton. He described Bolton’s book as “deep swamp revenge porn.”

    […] I shall refrain from checking Pornhub.com to see if that is an actual category of porn. Though Rule 34 suggests there should be scads of videos of vindictive sex in the Everglades.

    Now, I know that revenge porn is a thing. Mr. Pedia (Wiki to his friends) defines it as “the distribution of sexually explicit images or video of individuals without their consent.” Typically, it involves immoral men videotaping their sexual exploits and then putting them on the web. It’s a grotesque and shabby thing to do. And, if you’re a Trump lickspittle, the analogy has some merit.

    But here’s the problem. In most cases of revenge porn, the images in question are, you know, real.

    But Navarro, like most of the administration’s spinners, wants it both ways (another common leitmotif in porn, I’m told).

    After getting the revenge porn line out a couple times, he told Fox News “I do think the 'Big Lie Bolton' moniker does suffice.”

    So, which is it? Is it “revenge porn” or a “Big Lie?” It can’t be both.

    Well, maybe it's Revenge Porn on even pages, Big Lie on odds. Or the other way 'round.

    I haven't paid much attention, don't plan on even shelling out $19.42 for the book (Amazon's current pricing, link up there on the right). But I'm betting against the "Big Lie" thesis.


  • Speaking of memoirs, Power Line publishes a story from Stephen Silbiger, once a lobbyist for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). He recounts his 1982 interaction with at-the-time-Senator Joe. Who had sponsored a Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment. Which AFSCME opposed. And (Silberger alleges) at the time, Biden was of the opinion that The American people are stupid

    Once I sat down, Biden got up and started to yell at me. He bellowed “you are going to lose this issue. You are going to lose this issue because the Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment sounds good and the American people are stupid and will support anything that sounds good.”

    [Amazon Link]
    As someone who's read, and largely agreed with Bryan Caplan's classic book, The Myth of the Rational Voter, link at right, I'm pretty sympathetic with Biden's (alleged) opinion. I'm also relatively unshocked that he was cynically offering his legislation as "boob bait for bubbas".

    On the other hand, if you had a higher opinion of Wheezy Joe, I hope (for your sake) this takes it down a significant number of pegs.


  • At the NY Post, John Podhoretz offers some unsolicited advice: Joe Biden needs a vice president who won't try to steal his job

    Joe Biden is 112 years old and can barely speak a coherent sentence. So it matters greatly whom he picks to be his running mate. The chances that his veep selection might end up becoming president during his term can’t be discounted.

    Democrats have spent the Trump years talking about the virtues of the 25th Amendment. It lays out a process inside the executive branch that would temporarily and, if necessary, permanently replace a living president deemed by his Cabinet to be too infirm to serve as the most powerful man in the world.

    Some podcast I listened to months back said that too many Americans viewed Washington shenanigans as a movie plot, with good guys and bad. But I have to say that Biden's cabinet pulling a 25th Amendment move on Joe would be an awesome movie plot.


  • And the Cambridge chapter of America's Red Guard successfully executed a re-education campaign on Lawrence Tribe, as reported at Campus Reform: Harvard prof apologizes for saying Biden VP pick should center on their 'results'

    Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe faced backlash and has apologized for his comments about presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s running mate choice, saying that when Biden picks his running mate, he should do it based on each contender's qualifications and reputation, not skin color. 

    Tribe was among the signers of a letter addressed to Biden, urging the vice president to choose Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as his running mate. While America currently faces “lawless authoritarianism,” Warren would help rid the country of “the two twin pathogens of Trump and Trumpism.”

    What was I saying about the 25th Amendment movie plot? I have an easier time imagining Kamala orchestrating that scheme than Liz.


  • Andrew Malcolm pleads with advises any readers persuaded that the election is a done deal: Don’t count Trump out

    We have 20 weeks until Election Day. Twenty weeks ago, more than 40 million people now receiving unemployment had jobs. Twenty weeks ago, Trump had been acquitted of impeachment (remember that?) and was cruising to reelection atop an amazingly rapid economic recovery from all those “shovel-ready jobs” that Biden promised were just around the corner in 2010 but never arrived. And many of us thought a pandemic was a special at IHOP or Olive Garden.

    The next dictionary edition should have a MAGA hat by the definition of “loyal.” Nothing can dissuade them from election confidence. Never mind factual evidence. They’ve stuck with Trump through thin and thinner. And still do because “he’s a fighter,” because “the media is biased” and because “polls are always wrong.”

    True, they often are wrong if you read them as predictions. Exactly four years ago this week, someone named Hillary Clinton surged to an enlarged 12-point lead over Trump, who was mouthing off again about a biased judge. Even more ominous though, 55% in that Bloomberg poll said they would never ever vote for the billionaire.

    I'm guessing Trump is toast, but if you want to see how good a prognosticator I am, just look at my 2016 archives.


  • And let's not forget this blast from the 1988 New York Times: Dukakis Lead Widens, According to New Poll

    Fifty-five percent of the 948 registered voters interviewed in the poll said they preferred to see Mr. Dukakis win the 1988 Presidential election, while 38 percent said they preferred to see Mr. Bush win. The poll had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.

    Ah, President Dukakis. I remember him well.

The Monkey's Raincoat

[Amazon Link]

I started a new reading project: the novels of Robert Crais. Back in the day, I read his early stuff via Dover (NH) Public Library, then switched over to buying them as they came out. About time for a retrospective. I grabbed the Mass Market Paperback edition, and…

It's the first (1987) outing for wise-cracking L. A. private eye Elvis Cole and his taciturn partner Joe Pike. He's hired by Ellen Lang, who is missing her husband and young son. Hubby is a struggling Hollywood agent, and he could be mixed up with some nasty types. A sordid tale of drugs, gangsters, and violence unfolds. It's an excellent page-turner, and it's interesting to contrast Early Elvis with Modern Elvis. Early Elvis is funnier, and arguably less ethical. But that's OK.

It occurred to me that if an Aspiring Young Writer wants a free lesson in how to build suspense with a violent climax: study chapters 34-37.

Consumer note: there were a few glaring typos in this 2019 edition. Example, page 266, where Elvis is considering options for an assault on enemy territory: "It was through the door or across the fawn." I think you mean "lawn", Elvis. (This error doesn't appear in the pirated Russian version. Just sayin'.

Or is this some kind of publisher's gimmick? Where they can search for this mistake on the web to nab the intellectual property thieves?

Second consumer note: I don't get the title. It's from a haiku by the Japanese poet Basho (1644–1694), but … no monkeys, no raincoats. I suppose I'm dense.

URLs du Jour

2020-06-20

Sigh. And then they came for my Eskimo Pie. What's next, my Igloo Cooler?

  • I know it's juvenile pedantry, but whenever I hear on the news that some business has "lost" umpty-million dollars, I think (and sometimes say) "Well, maybe it fell behind the sofa. Check there."

    So I was very amused by the story in yesterday's WSJ, headlined "Billions Go Missing at Fintech Firm".

    Shares in troubled payments company Wirecard AG crashed Thursday after auditors said they couldn’t locate €1.9 billion ($2.1 billion) of the company’s cash.

    "Yes, I did check my other pants! Not there either!"

    Unfortunately, it appears that they didn't really "lose" $2.1 billion. They simply lied about having it in the first place.


  • And you may have heard: Vatican calls on Catholics to divest from fossil fuels

    The Vatican on Thursday urged Catholics to divest from fossil fuels, a call made in church documents warning against the dangers of climate change.

    The 225-page encyclical, which is sent to all bishops within the church, also encouraged divesting from arms and monitoring sectors like mining to ensure they are not damaging the environment.

    Of course, when a Good Catholic sells his 100 shares of ExxonMobil, it simply gets transferred to someone else. Presumably some heathen. Net effect on "Climate change": zero.

    But you know what would impress me? If the Pope demanded that his worldwide flock stop using fossil fuels. No driving those nasty gas-powered cars! No flying anywhere!

    And if any of your electricity comes from natural gas or coal? Well just turn off the lights. And your TV. And your fridge. And… Clean clothes? For that, I'm afraid you'll have to go down to the river and beat them against the rocks.

    And stop buying stuff that might have been brought to market by fossil fuels! Like everything in your local supermarket. Once something's been touched by the hand of Satanic Exxon it's forever damned!


  • Our state got a mention in the Daily Signal, thanks to the condescending attitude of …

    High school-educated, working-class parents aren’t capable of overseeing their own child’s education, a state lawmaker said last week.

    New Hampshire state Sen. Jeanne Dietsch, D-Peterborough, made the comment at a committee hearing last Tuesday while promoting a bill that would stop the state Board of Education from creating a new way of allocating high school graduation credits.

    “This idea of parental choice, that’s great if the parent is well-educated. There are some families that’s perfect for. But to make it available to everyone? No. I think you’re asking for a huge amount of trouble,” Dietsch said.

    Is it possible that parents might make poor choices for their kids' education? Sure.

    But that's not the way to bet.

    Take it away, Jonah Goldberg:

    It’s almost obligatory to mention the Phil Gramm story here. Roughly, it goes like this: Phil Gramm was talking to a group of voters. He was asked what his educational policies were. He replied, “My educational policies are based on the fact that I care more about my children than you do.”

    A woman interrupted and said something like, “No, you don’t. I love your kids too.”

    Gramm replied, “Okay: What are their names?”

    I'll also point out what should be obvious: when the State presumes that parents don't make good educational choices for their kids, it encourages parents to not make good educational choices for their kids.

    Or, more generally: when the State treats adults as irresponsible children, you get a lot of adults acting as irresponsible children.


  • At Reason, Nick Gillespie notes the latest from the folks who once claimed to be "reality-based": Oakland ‘Nooses’ Turn Out To Be Exercise Swings; Mayor Wants To Investigate Them As a Hate Crime Anyway

    The Associated Press reports that the city's (white) mayor, Libby Schaaf, has opened a hate-crime investigation after five ropes hanging from trees in a city park were discovered. Schaaf and other officials say that the ropes seem to symbolize nooses, and she told the press that the police must "start with the assumption that these are hate crimes."

    But she knows that the ropes, sometimes described as straps or swings, were not intended to be nooses, because the (black) man who hung them has made that clear:

    Victor Sengbe, who is black, told KGO-TV that the ropes were part of a rigging that he and his friends used as part of a larger swing system. He also shared video of the swing in use.

    "Out of the dozen and hundreds and thousands of people that walked by, no one has thought that it looked anywhere close to a noose. Folks have used it for exercise. It was really a fun addition to the park that we tried to create," Sengbe said.

    "It's unfortunate that a genuine gesture of just wanting to have a good time got misinterpreted into something so heinous," he told the station.

    Schaaf is undeterred by such an explanation:

    "Intentions don't matter when it comes to terrorizing the public," Schaaf said. "It is incumbent on all of us to know the actual history of racial violence, of terrorism, that a noose represents and that we as a city must remove these terrorizing symbols from the public view."

    When will our ongoing moral panic end? Because it's stopped being funny.


  • And the University Near Here has issued its latest statement in support of its Official Racial Ideology: Black Lives Matter. Our Action Plan. President James "Don't Call Me Jimmy" Dean held forth:

    Dear Wildcat Community –

    This past Sunday, I attended the student-organized Black Lives Matter rally on T-Hall lawn. I listened to seven brave and eloquent students share their stories and experiences at UNH and beyond. It was clear that we have a lot of work to do to address systemic racism in a way that facilitates their sense of belonging and well-being. While we have made some progress, there is still more work to be done.

    Racism is a systemic and longstanding problem across America and in our institutions of higher education. While the killing of black citizens represents the worst outcome of racism, it also influences the everyday experience of our fellow citizens and neighbors in a profound and troubling way—as the student speakers made clear on Sunday. People across the country, around the world and here in New Hampshire are mobilizing and coming together in hopes that this can finally change. We are presented with a moment in our country’s history to create structural and institutional change. All institutions, especially anchor public institutions like UNH, have to be part of this change. We need to determine, methodically and efficiently, what are the most important steps we can take to be part of the solution. The President’s Leadership Council (PLC) will collectively be responsible for determining what actions we need to take and to oversee their implementation. We will ensure that there are both men and women of color on the PLC.

    Part one of Jimmy's two-step "plan" is "listen and learn". He links to a list of "Racial Justice Resources". Which is uniformly woke. You won't see any Thomas Sowell books in there.

    Woe betide any University student, facule, or employee who expresses dissent, or fails to adequately genuflect.


  • At National Review, Dan McLaughlin has a long and insightful essay: The Perils of Data-Driven Politics. NRPLUS, sorry, but it's one of those articles that you might want to shell out for. Sample:

    1. “Competence, Not Ideology”: The Mirage of Politics Driven by Data
    The first reason why voters are, and should be, skeptical of data-driven politicians and political arguments is that there is a very long history of people in politics — especially politicians of a statist bent and center-left or left ideology — masquerading their ideological commitments under the neutral banner of data. The pervasive habit of using data as a drunk uses a lamppost — for support, rather than illumination — calls to mind Mark Twain’s epigram:

    Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

    If we’re honest with ourselves, we know that most people do not use data at all objectively. Arguments about data are often just arguments about ideology dressed up with numbers. Almost nobody who supports or opposes legal abortion or same-sex marriage is likely to be persuaded to a different view by any amount of data; those issues are almost universally viewed as matters of principle. Junk data that feels right, such as oft-debunked gender/pay statistics, can prove unkillable. Ironically, most political-science studies of voter behavior confirm this: “The data” literally show that the data don’t matter all that much.

    That's reason number one out of fifteen. All good.

URLs du Jour

2020-06-19

[Amazon Link]

… and then they came for the Cream of Wheat guy. That's an Amazon "art" product over there on the right, and who knows how long they'll continue to sell such items?

The CoW package character dates from 1893, and was originally named (I am not making this up) "Rastus". As the relevant Wikipedia article notes, some of the advertising was wince-inducing.

I'm pretty sure there is no actual cream in Cream of Wheat. You have to add that yourself. While they're getting rid of "Rastus", they might think of fixing that too.

  • At the Public Discourse, Ryan T. Anderson makes some points on The Supreme Court’s Mistaken and Misguided Sex Discrimination Ruling, and describes the potential mischief.

    Justice Neil Gorsuch’s majority opinion claims to apply a simple and straightforward test: “An employer violates Title VII when it intentionally fires an individual employee based in part on sex.” But he refuses to consider what applying this simple—in reality, simplistic—test actually requires—and not just under Title VII, but under every nondiscrimination law that includes “sex” as a protected category, notably including Title IX. After all, Gorsuch’s argument is an argument about the logic of sex discrimination. Alas, he got that logic wrong. And had he considered what applying it to other cases would require, he might have been forced to reconsider his misguided theory. This mistaken theory of sex discrimination will have far-reaching negative consequences down the road.

    Anderson's article, I think, shows that we can look forward to more litigation and polarization, thanks to Gorsuchian glibness.


  • Kevin D. Williamson in National Review writes that The Revolution Is Business Class vs. First class.

    The class war in our country is business class vs. first class; in automotive terms, it’s E-Class vs. S-Class. Everybody’s comfortable. And that produces some odd outcomes: Nobody’s going to do one goddamned thing about how they conduct business in Philadelphia or Chicago or any other corrupt, Democrat-dominated city, but there are going to be some “new representation and inclusion standards for Oscars eligibility,” and we are going to be treated to — joy of joys! — a deep national discussion on whether some Broadway stars don’t have it quite as good as other Broadway stars. The bloody-snouted hyenas have looked up from the kill just long enough to announce the creation of the Goldman Sachs Fund for Racial Equity.

    It’s always the same thing: Our newspapers are full of intense interest in Harvard’s admissions standards but have very little to say about New York City’s dropout rate. People can’t help being fascinated with themselves and their peers. If you want to know what is on the minds of the leaders of the American ruling class, it’s no secret. They’ll tell you, if you ask — and if you don’t.

    It's not an "NRPLUS" article, so get on over there and RTWT.


  • I was disappointed by an AEI article by Mark J. Perry, which purports to tell The shocking story behind Nixon’s declaration of a ‘War on Drugs’ on this day in 1971 that targeted blacks and anti-war activists. Although this image is pretty sobering:

    [Nixon Drug War]

    … I'm pretty sure you know that Post hoc ergo propter hoc is a fallacy, right?

    Anyway, it's not that it's all Nixon's fault, it's his alleged motives:

    But as John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s counsel and Assistant for Domestic Affairs, revealed in 1994, the real public enemy in 1971 wasn’t really drugs or drug abuse. Rather the real enemies of the Nixon administration were the anti-war left and blacks, and the War on Drugs was designed as an evil, deceptive and sinister policy to wage a war on those two groups. In an article in the April 2016 issue of The Atlantic (“Legalize It All: How to win the war on drugs“) author and reporter Dan Baum explains how “John Ehrlichman, the Watergate co-conspirator, unlocked for me one of the great mysteries of modern American history: How did the United States entangle itself in a policy of drug prohibition that has yielded so much misery and so few good results?” As Baum discovered, here’s the dirty and disgusting secret to that great mystery of what must be the most expensive, shameful, and reprehensible failed government policy in US history.

    Americans have been criminalizing psychoactive substances since San Francisco’s anti-opium law of 1875, but it was Ehrlichman’s boss, Richard Nixon, who declared the first “War on Drugs” in 1971 and set the country on the wildly punitive and counterproductive path it still pursues. I’d tracked Ehrlichman, who had been Nixon’s domestic-policy adviser, to an engineering firm in Atlanta, where he was working on minority recruitment. At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away.

    “You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

    Nixon’s invention of the War on Drugs as a political tool was cynical, but every president since — Democrat and Republican alike — has found it equally useful for one reason or another. Meanwhile, the growing cost of the Drug War is now impossible to ignore: billions of dollars wasted, bloodshed in Latin America and on the streets of our own cities, and millions of lives destroyed by draconian punishment that doesn’t end at the prison gate; one of every eight black men has been disenfranchised because of a felony conviction.

    If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know I have no sympathy for drug prohibition. But I have numerous problems with the above:

    1. A trivial one: Baum's article appeared in Harper's, not the Atlantic.
    2. There's every reason to be skeptical of the thesis offered, as summarized by a section of Wikipedia's page on Ehrlichman:
      1. Baum says he got this from Ehrlichman in 1994, in an interview for his book on the drug war. But the book (published in 1996) doesn't include the quote.
      2. Ehrlichman died in 1999.
      3. Finally, Baum produces the quote for his 2016 Harper's article.
      4. Ehrlichman's family challenged the quote's veracity.
      5. A writer at the young-adult website Vox didn't challenge the veracity of the quote, but thought that, even if Ehrlichman did say that, he was either lying or mistaken. A drug policy historian is quoted: "It's certainly true that Nixon didn't like blacks and didn't like hippies, but to assign his entire drug policy to his dislike of these two groups is just ridiculous."

    I left a short version of this as a comment on the article.


  • Wired looks at The Trouble With Counting Aliens, a response to/analysis of the Astrophysical Journal article that guessed at … um, let's say three dozen intelligent species in our galaxy.

    Skipping to the bit I found interesting:

    That is … not a lot, obviously, and it has some depressing implications.

    Depressing?

    I find that to be a damned odd word to use. Feel free to disagree with an article's argument or methods, fine. But if you admit being depressed about it, you're simply revealing your own wishful thinking. Which is not the way to approach science.

    But it explains a lot about Wired, which tends to use science! as a cudgel to advocate for its policy views.


  • Last week, we looked at an LTE in the Conway Daily Sun, bemoaning some local yahoos with a sign in their rear car window: "If your license plate does not say Live Free or Die, turn around and get the ‘expletive’ back home.” Analysis continued in followup LTE from Nicole Nordlund, asking the musical question: Are the 'Go Home' signs and gestures symbols of fear or hate?

    My neighbor was flipped off on the road because he had Massachusetts license plate. Windows were broken in vehicles bearing out-of-state plates. A sign demanding a property homeowner “Go Home” was displayed on their vehicle with out-of-state plates, while they were out on a stroll. A large sign was erected in my own town [Madison, NH], telling those from away to Go Home.

    At what point do these incidents become examples of hate? One could argue that they are examples of concern; however, those living with fears have the choice to stay inside, stay home themselves. Therefore, I question if they are actually fearful, or simply hateful.

    Fear or hate? That's slicing it pretty fine when you're trying to figure out a jerk's motivation for being a jerk.

    Nicole seems to be saying that "fear" (or "concern") might be an acceptable reason for being a jerk. Certainly we've had lots of recent examples of that, seemingly more every day. But if your motive slides off into "hate": oops, unacceptable.

    Maybe we should just call out jerkiness when we encounter it, without agonizing over whatever deep psychological issues the jerk might be having. That works for me.


  • And the List answers the question you didn't know you had: This is the time the at-home worker starts drinking. It's a state-by-state summary of an alcohol.org survey:

    The state with the earliest start time appears to be West Virginia, where happy hour begins at 3:24 p.m. Next come Delaware, Idaho, Michigan, and Montana, all starting at 3:36 p.m. Oddly enough, Delaware also ranks among the states having the lowest overall number of day drinkers with Alcohol.org reporting that only 15 percent of Delawareans imbibing while working from home. And Arkansas, the state with the lowest number of day drinkers (just 8 percent), also gets an early start with their first drinks of the day at 4 p.m.

    On the other end of the spectrum is Hawaii, where residents start drinking the latest at 7:30 p.m., but come in first place for day (or early evening) drinking with 67 percent joining in the festivities. And the state with the second-latest drinking time of 7:18 p.m. is also the one with the second-highest rate of workers who drink (or drinkers who work). That's you, New Hampshire, where 50 percent of "Live Free or Die" staters exercise their freedom to enjoy adult libations from their home offices.

    So (on average) we start drinking about when Pat Sajak announces "Final Spin" on "Wheel of Fortune". Understandable, right?

URLs du Jour

2020-06-18

Well, after disposing of Aunt Jemima, the tumbrels have come for … Uncle Ben's is canceled: Now is the right time to "evolve" our brand, says company. Hot Air's Jazz Shaw reports and comments:

Mars has long been aware that “Uncle Ben” isn’t a progressive mascot, shall we say, to the point where they gave him an image makeover around 15 years ago. The character originally was based on a waiter at the restaurant where the two (white) founders of the company came up with the product in the 1940s; the name “Uncle Ben” came from a Texas farmer whose rice was well-regarded at the time. NBC notes that the term “Uncle” was often used by whites during Jim Crow to refer to older blacks so as to deny them the respect of addressing them as “Mister.” Thus, while Uncle Ben isn’t a house slave, he’s not a fully dignified character either.

Mars tried to change that in 2007 by refashioning him as the symbolic chairman of the company. Why, that’s not the bowtie of a servant that he’s wearing in the logo, it’s the bowtie of a business tycoon! But his Jim Crow origins remained, and having a “symbolic” black chairman isn’t a great look for a company that’s actually run by whites. He’s never even been given a surname, just plain ol’ Ben despite his supposed esteemed status.

Fine. Maybe Ben and Jemima will find a nice little retirement-community condo in Boca Raton.


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson analyzes the recent work of the Supremes and finds it wanting. Bostock v. Clayton County: Magical Thinking Replaces Jurisprudence at Supreme Court.

    If some conservative critic had said in 1964 that the civil-rights bill then under consideration would outlaw discrimination against men who wish to undergo voluntary genital amputation in service of a persistent fantasy that they are in some transcendent sense female, Lyndon Johnson would have looked at him a little funny. Even Barry Goldwater did not think such a thing. There is not a word about sexuality, homosexuality, or the contemporary phenomenon politely known as transgenderism in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    The law does forbid discrimination based on “sex.” From that modest material, a Supreme Court majority, led by Justice Gorsuch, has constructed a vast new edifice of civil-rights law under which a man’s desire to wear a dress (I am not being snarky — the issue in R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. EEOC was an employer’s maintenance of separate dress codes for male and female employees) is protected by the same law, to the same extent, and under the same principles as African Americans seeking to maintain their political and economic rights after centuries of chattel slavery and ruthless official repression.

    KDW observes that, way back when, Phyllis Schlafly might have had a point about the Equal Rights Amendment. Given the new "discovered" interpretation of a 56-year-old law, who knows what the activists could have done with a Constitutional amendment in their legal toolkit?


  • We've tended to pooh-pooh the various statistics trotted out on this subject, but Jacob Sullum claims that careful analysis shows… Racially Skewed Policing Is Not a Statistical Mirage

    Many conservatives condemn the excessive force that killed George Floyd but reject the notion that such abuses reflect a broader problem of racial bias. "I don't think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist," says Attorney General William Barr, whose boss argues that the crimes of a few "bad apples" do not justify "falsely labeling tens of millions of decent Americans as racist."

    Fair enough. But it is a serious mistake to dismiss stark, widely documented racial disparities in policing as a statistical mirage with no implications for equality under the law.

    It's a complex issue, but I'm open to the argument that police may be acting under a dysfunctional incentive structure. How about we try:

    1. Giving up on drug prohibition;
    2. Ending qualified immunity;
    3. Getting rid of unions for public safety employees.

    This wouldn't be an overnight fix. But it makes a lot more sense than sending Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima to the re-education camps.


  • Speaking of being sent to the re-education camps, I continue to be fascinated by the story out of Mount Ascutney, Vermont, where ex-Principal Tiffany Riley was a recent unhappy and involuntary camper. Jonathan Turley is too: Vermont Principal Put On Leave For Not Agreeing With Black Lives Matters. His bottom line:

    Teachers in Chicago can go to Venezuela to support a dictator who has arrested and murdered scores of people, including suppressing free speech and the free press. They were not punished or declared “tone deaf.” Boards like Mount Ascutney School Board engage in open content-based regulation of speech of teachers in the private lives of teachers.  They will be applauded for such action against free speech as people ignore the implications of such punitive measures.

    This is not about BLM. It is about free speech. Of course, the Board is not being “tone deaf.” Mount Ascutney School Board has guaranteed that there will be no sound at all, at least no dissenting voices heard among its teachers.

    I also read through the VTDigger article that I think originally broke this story: Windsor principal on leave after Black Lives Matter comments stir controversy. I was struck by the language Tiffany Riley's detractors used:

    • "…embarrassed and appalled at such an expression of ignorance and hate…"
    • "…parents said they didn’t feel safe with their children [at the school]…"
    • "…showed no assurances to African American families … that they are cherished and loved…"
    • "…so insensitive…"
    • "… ignorance, prejudice, and lack of judgement …"

    I call bullshit. Ex-Principal Riley's real crime was daring to express minor dissent from the BLM sloganeering. That cannot be tolerated.


  • The LFOD Google News Alert has been returning a bumper crop of late. In the Cape May (NJ) County Herald, one Collin Hall has diagnosed it as the source of the country's problems: Individualistic Freedom Is Tearing Us Apart

    Phrases like “Live free or die” are deeply woven into the American ethos; Americans so often see themselves as residents of, perhaps above all else, a land of freedom. Even if they have been taken out of context, there is a reason that quotes like Franklin’s, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety,” sit heavy on the American soul. 

    It's pretty hard to claim that LFOD has been "taken out of context". But people have claimed that about the Franklin quote for years. Example: Ben Wittes at Lawfare back in 2011: What Ben Franklin Really Said.

    Franklin said this more than once. Apparently originally in a 1755 letter to the Pennsylvania Assembly concerning funding for defense of settlers in the French and Indian War. Wittes argues that the Franklin quote "does not mean what it seems to say." "Liberty", argues Wittes, referred to the "liberty" of the legislature to tax the land holdings of the Penn family, which would have preferred to donate cash for such defense "voluntarily", in exchange for their lands remaining untaxed.

    Well, that's the argument, anyway. When I read the letter itself, I find the "context" to be far from clear,

    But a subsequent use (from 1775) is documented here, part of the discussions between Britain and the American colonists leading up to the Revolution. There, it seems to more clearly reflect the more common reading: yeah, sure, Americans could give up on some negotiating points with Britain, and get some "safety". But at the cost of their liberty.

URLs du Jour

2020-06-17

<voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone!</voice>. As NBC News reports: Aunt Jemima brand to change name, remove image that Quaker says is 'based on a racial stereotype'

The Aunt Jemima brand of syrup and pancake mix will get a new name and image, Quaker Oats announced Wednesday, saying the company recognizes that "Aunt Jemima's origins are based on a racial stereotype."

The 130-year-old brand features a Black woman named Aunt Jemima, who was originally dressed as a minstrel character.

Thank goodness we've finally tracked down the source of the country's racial strife. Clear sailing from here on out, I guess.

Woops! What about … Mrs. Butterworth? Although she's a spring chicken compared to Aunt J., allegedly the model for her original bottle was Thelma “Butterfly” McQueen. Famed for uttering the immortal words: "Lawzy, we got to have a doctor. I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies." (Her followup line, "… but would you care for some pancakes?" was apparently left on the cutting room floor.)

Anyway, that's very problematic and once Aunt J is memory-holed, Mrs. B may still stand in the way of further healing.


  • At the College Fix, Dave Huber reports on further racial healing in the state to our immediate west: Vermont principal put on leave after ‘insanely tone-deaf’ Black Lives Matter comments

    A school principal in Vermont has been placed on leave, and likely will not be brought back, due to making allegedly “insanely tone-deaf” comments on Facebook about Black Lives Matter.

    On Friday, the Mount Ascutney School District Board voted unanimously to suspend (with pay) Tiffany Riley, according to VTDigger. Board Chair Elizabeth Burrows said “We do not intend to hire her back […] we wanted to make sure we acted as quickly as we possibly could.”

    Insanely? Meaning Principal Riley is suffering from some sort of mental illness? I'm pretty sure that's grounds for a lawsuit: discrimination against the mentally ill is illegal in Vermont, isn't it? If I were on the Mount Ascutney School District Board, I'd hire a lawyer to be sure we weren't in violation of Tiffany's rights.


  • Kevin D. Williamson takes to the NYPost to observe: Social justice warriors are waging a 'Cancel Cultural Revolution'

    In the course of a week, three editors went down: James Bennett of the Times was canceled for publishing an opinion on the opinion page, Senator Tom Cotton’s defense of the Insurrection Act, which permits the use of federal troops to quell riots; Claudia Eller was pushed out at Variety (suspended, formally, but not expected to return to her position) after penning a white-privilege mea culpa that was found to be unconvincing; Adam Rapoport of Bon Appétit was canned for much the same reason, his offense aggravated by a turn-of-the-century photograph of him dressed as a stereotypical Puerto Rican at a Halloween party.

    But racial outrages are far from the only thing that can cost someone a job in these stupid times, and it isn’t only public figures who are targeted. Fender, a guitar maker, exiled a master guitar-builder after he tweeted an ugly joke (a blood-covered Jeep over the caption “What protesters on the freeway?”) at the expense of the recent demonstrations. But better manners won’t save you: A data analyst and veteran of the Obama reelection campaign was fired by Civis Analytics for tweeting a link to a paper written by a well-regarded (and, worth noting, biracial) Princeton professor of African-American studies finding that riots are bad for black communities. No criticism, however respectful or intelligent, is to be permitted.

    Bonus quote: "Today’s social-justice warriors are relying on the same strategy that once kept openly gay actors out of the movies and black musicians off the radio, an irony that is lost on our progressive friends."


  • Gizmodo has some harsh words for a former public health rock star: Dr. Fauci Made the Coronavirus Pandemic Worse By Lying About Masks

    Dr. Anthony Fauci has been hailed as a hero during the coronavirus pandemic, delivering thoughtful health advice while most members of the Trump regime have spread misinformation about covid-19. But there’s one area where Fauci let America down, hindering the public health response and giving the U.S. both the highest coronavirus case count and the worst recorded death toll in the world. Simply put, Fauci lied about whether masks were helpful in slowing the spread of the virus.

    Fauci was asked yesterday by financial news outlet The Street why the U.S. government didn’t promote masks early on during the pandemic. Fauci, who sits on the Trump regime’s zombie-like coronavirus task force, hinted that he knew masks worked, he just wanted any available masks to be saved for health care workers.

    The problem being that anyone can ask, quite reasonably: "Hey, they were lying to us then. What are they lying about now?"

    Nothing important, I'm sure.

    Right?


  • Veronique de Rugy rips a beloved federal agency a new one: Disaster Relief for Small Businesses Is a Disaster All Its Own

    There's an old saying: When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. For Congress, that hammer is the Small Business Administration (SBA). And every economic crisis is a nail.

    Whenever the country is hit by a hurricane, an earthquake, or a terrorist attack, the government instructs the owners of small businesses that have been hurt to turn to the SBA for help. The agency was originally conceived in 1953 to provide guidance and aid to small businesses. Today, its mission statement also includes efforts "to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation." But in recent decades, it has become the federal government's all-purpose tool for promoting economic recovery.

    Unfortunately, the agency has a long history of responding to crises chiefly with a mix of ineptitude, bureaucratic sloth, and cronyism—most spectacularly in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The current crisis is no exception.

    The SBA should be abolished. Near the top of a long list.


  • And what would we do without scientists, specifically the ones who have done the math and determined There are three dozen other intelligent civilizations in our galaxy.

    Looking at the title, I would imagine the first question most of you have is… how do they know? Did someone accidentally dial into a massive Zoom call between the White House and all of these civilizations where they were planning which humans to abduct next? Nothing quite so flashy or definitive, I’m afraid. A recent article at Forbes is describing the findings in a report published in The Astrophysical Journal where a group of scientists has run the numbers and concluded that there are probably 36 different Communicating Extra-Terrestrial Intelligent (CETI) civilizations in our galaxy. And if conditions can be expected to be the same everywhere, given the staggering number of galaxies we’ve found in the universe so far, intelligent, technologically advanced civilizations are more common than hair lice in a kindergarten class.

    Not for the first time, nor probably the last, I'll express my profound skepticism. "Life" may be out there somewhere, even somewhat prolific. But will it even look like ours? Evolution is one long chain of random accidents and (mostly) failed experiments in survival. There's no reason to expect that. "Intelligent" life is an even longer shot: out of millions of species, over hundreds of millions of years, Earth has generated just one "intelligent" one.

    Well, as far as we know.

The Hunt

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

I liked it OK. Not proud of that, but I look favorably upon any movie I manage to stay awake through these days. No problems on that score here.

It takes until the end of the movie to reveal what's really going on, but the superficial take will do: a group of wealthy Trump-hating woke progressives drug and kidnap a dozen MAGA types from across the country, whisking them off in a private jet to a remote location where they're used as target practice. Thereby confirming right-wing speculation that the lefties really buy into their eliminationist rhetoric.

When it comes to Crystal, one of the designated victims, though: it seems she's a little more qualified in violent self-defense tactics.

There's some plot twistiness along the way, involving how the victims were selected, and the deadly game's origins. And (should you decide to watch it) you might want to brush up on Orwell's Animal Farm ahead of time, there are some pretentious references to that work.

Some stuff just didn't make any sense to me. The victims are initially fitted with locked collars and gags, then provided with the keys. Why? When we first see Crystal, she's magnetizing a needle to use as a makeshift compass. What good would that possibly do her?

Trivia note: the Pride of Lincoln, Nebraska, Hillary Swank, has won two Best Actress Oscars. And now she's in schlock like this. She's good, but… If you're in show biz, you take the roles you can get, I suppose.

Friday

[Amazon Link]

Continuing on the Rereading Heinlein project. (Just 23 to go!)

The Amazon link picture isn't the copy I have. I have (ahem) a 1982 first printing. Assuming I paid list price (I don't remember), it set me back $14.95. Ah, the days before I was a senior citizen on a fixed income and felt flush enough to splurge that way.

Although if Heinlein were still alive and cranking out books, I might…

The eponymous heroine is an Artificial Person, grown in a lab with a genome granting her enhanced strength, speed, and sensory acuity. There's widespread bigotry toward APs, so she doesn't advertise her origins. She has a job as a courier for a secretive organization, run by an old guy Friday calls "The Boss". In this scenario, interplanetary travel is a given, interstellar travel is just getting started. But traditional governments have broken up and become balkanized, and corporations have stepped into the power vacuum; it's kind of a mess.

Friday has a dangerous job in a dangerous time and place. She feels she has to, and does, kill a guy on page one, paragraph one. But she's captured by a gang of bad guys on page 7, Raped by page 9. But (spoiler) eventually rescued. (Her lackadaisical attitude toward this attack drew some feminist ire back in the 80s, I recall.)

And things proceed from there. There's not much of a plot; it's basically stuff that she does, and what happens to her. But for me, it kept the pages turning. Friday's first-person narration is Heinleinesque, take it or leave it. Lots of observations and opinions on society, politics, and sex.

URLs du Jour

2020-06-16

  • National Review's Jay Nordlinger has always struck me as a decent guy, I really should link to him more often. I'll start with his recent "Impromptus" (NRPLUS): J.K. Rowling, Real Writing, and More

    J.K. Rowling, the bestselling author in the history of the world, has expressed politically incorrect opinions about sex and transgenderism. As a result, much of the world — including former admirers and associates — has dumped on her. To read about this matter, go here. I have linked to a piece by my National Review colleague Madeleine Kearns.

    Another piece, published in The Daily Beast, begins this way: “Could someone please, for the love of God, teach J.K. Rowling how to read the room?”

    There are writers who read the room. They are practically human thermometers. And they give the room what it wants. But if you write for the room — with the room in mind; with audience reaction in mind — you can hardly be a real writer.

    I'd probably disagree with Ms. Rowling on a lot of stuff. But I admire her courage. (Of course, it's easier to have courage if you have Harry Potter money.)


  • To its (slight) credit, the NYT is permitting its op-ed writers to write on its craven capitulation to wokeness in unprinting the Tom Cotton op-ed. Taking his swings at the punching bag recently is Bret Stephens:

    Last week’s decision by this newspaper to disavow an Op-Ed by Senator Tom Cotton is a gift to the enemies of a free press — free in the sense of one that doesn’t quiver and cave in the face of an outrage mob. It is a violation of the principles that are supposed to sustain the profession, particularly our obligation to give readers a picture of the world as it really is.

    And, as the paper dismisses distinguished journalists along with controversial opinions, it’s an invitation to intellectual cowardice.

    […]

    Many critics of the piece’s publication think otherwise. The paper’s editors’ note said the senator’s Op-Ed didn’t meet The Times’s editorial standards. To which one might ask: Would the paper have stood by the article if Cotton had made a better case for sending in troops, with stronger legal arguments and a nicer tone? Or were the piece’s supposed flaws a pretext for achieving the politically desired result by a paper that lost its nerve in the face of a staff revolt?

    I'd bet on "pretext", there, Bret.


  • So the Supreme Court decided… something yesterday. Philip Greenspun summarizes Supreme Court spreads a big rainbow flag over the word “sex”. A contrarian opinion:

    Personally, I think that any law like this actually reduces employment opportunities for the category of people whom such a law purports to help. The law highlights to employers the inferior nature of workers in this category and that, if the employer is unwise enough to hire someone from this category, a lawsuit is an ever-present possibility. Absent a substantial discount, therefore, a rational employer, even one who is completely without prejudice, should thus do everything possible to avoid hiring someone who might fit into the protected category.

    Note that now you don't get to call this an "unforeseen outcome", because it was totally foreseen.


  • But we're cool with extending equal time on this issue. Here's Walter Olson at Cato With Nod To Scalia, Surprise Plain Meaning Carries Day for LGBT Plaintiffs.

    Today the Supreme Court held that the 1964 Civil Rights Act, by barring discrimination on the basis of sex, also forbids discrimination against gay and transgender employees. “When the express terms of a statute give us one answer and extratextual considerations suggest another, it’s no contest,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for a 6–3 majority that included Chief Justice John Roberts as well as the four liberals. “Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit.”

    So that sounds good. But it's Cato, so:

    As a policy matter, extending anti‐discrimination law further into private employment decisions invades further the realm of private choice and individual liberty. As Alito notes in his dissent, it is especially hazardous to do so without the sort of conscious legislative back‐and‐forth that might result in the negotiation of thresholds and exemptions so as to handle controversial or burdensome cases. In the longer run, when Congress revisits this area in legislation, it will have a chance to rethink these points.

    Yeah, that will be a fun thing to watch.


  • For another dissent, let's pop over to National Review's Dan MacLaughlin: SCOTUS Decides Who Is a Woman. Interesting point here:

    Justice Gorsuch’s reasoning goes back, over and over, to the same logical syllogism: If a man and a woman do the same thing and only one of them would get fired for it, that’s discrimination on the basis of sex. So, for example, if a woman and a man both bring a male spouse to the office Christmas party, and only the man gets fired, that’s sex discrimination.

    But Gorsuch completely ignores the central issue in the transgender-discrimination case, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. EEOC, that was actually before the Court — and in a way that makes nonsense of his effort to use that syllogism to resolve the statutory question. In Harris, a funeral home had separate dress codes for men and women; a biological male (Stephens) began “living as a woman” and was fired for dressing as a woman. Under Gorsuch’s reasoning, this would qualify as sex discrimination because a woman would not be fired for dressing as a woman. But that assumes that the Court has decided whether Stephens is a woman, which of course is the entire question in debate in arguments about the legal and social status of transgenderism. In fact, Stephens contends that Stephens is not a man. The Harris Funeral Home enforced its dress code against Stephens not to discriminate against women dressing as women, but because it believed that Stephens was a man. The Court’s decision assumes that this is a decision that can be punished — an assumption that would have made no sense at the time the statutory term “sex” was written, in 1964.

    Have you ever been so in love with a cute logical syllogism that you fail to recognize that it misses an important issue? I know I have.


  • But Dan's not done. In a different article, he observes Trolling Is Terrible Way to Write Laws. Specifically, the word "sex" was added into the 1964 law by a Dixiecrat opponent of the bill, Howard Smith of Virginia. And certainly few legislators back in the day thought it meant that, fifty-six years later, the language would be wangled to extend protected status to the gay and transgendered.

    But yesterday's decision says: never mind that. We have to go by the law as written! No matter what they "really meant".

    Fine, but…

    Relatedly, the Court reiterated once again by its silence today that it does not regard its 2015 decision in King v. Burwell as law. King refused to read a provision of the Affordable Care Act to mean what it obviously said: that Obamacare subsidies went to exchanges established by states. In fact, it upheld an IRS regulation that explicitly applied such subsidies to exchanges “regardless of” whether they’d been established by states. The language in question, as in Bostock, undoubtedly caused a court fight because Congress had failed to do its job properly. The whole point of Chief Justice Roberts’s opinion in King was that the literal language of the statute had to give way to an understanding of the statutory purposes. As I noted in 2018, the Court, when presented with almost exactly the same issue in a less-controversial area of the law, unanimously refused to even so much as cite King as a precedent (even when lower courts in the case had followed it), and reached a directly opposite conclusion. The same happened today: Roberts and the Court’s four liberals (all of whom were in the King majority) signed onto an opinion pronouncing:

    Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result. Likely, they weren’t thinking about many of the Act’s consequences that have become apparent over the years, including its prohibition against discrimination on the basis of motherhood or its ban on the sexual harassment of male employees. But the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands. When the express terms of a statute give us one answer and extratextual considerations suggest another, it’s no contest. Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit.

    King was never mentioned, reflecting the tacit agreement among the justices who joined it that it shall not be spoken of again. In fact, Gorsuch’s opinion specifically argues — again, in sharp contrast to King — that the Court should confine itself to examining the statutory language rather than considering the results of reading the language that way:

    Rather than suggesting that the statutory language bears some other meaning, the employers and dissents merely suggest that, because few in 1964 expected today’s result, we should not dare to admit that it follows ineluctably from the statutory text. When a new application emerges that is both unexpected and important, they would seemingly have us merely point out the question, refer the subject back to Congress, and decline to enforce the plain terms of the law in the meantime. That is exactly the sort of reasoning this Court has long rejected.

    In other words, none of the justices who signed onto the King decision actually believed in it.

    It's apparently too much to ask for the Supremes to reluctantly be consistent in these matters.


Last Modified 2020-06-17 4:20 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2020-06-15

Our Eye Candy du Jour is entitled "The Pushers" an entry in the JoyOfTech web comic.

[The Pushers]

I'm putting it in because I want to say: it's disappointingly dumb. It condones bad behavior with a soothing excuse: It's not your fault! You're just the victim of forces beyond your control!

My friend, if you're dysfunctionally "addicted" to Facebook or Twitter, just stop. Or ruthlessly cull your feed.

(On Facebook, I've pretty much bailed on "friends" who think I need to be shown their tendentious political memes daily or more often. Much better now.)

  • At the Daily Signal, David Harsanyi outlines The Problem With 'Pick a Knee'. And if you don't know to what that refers:

    Previously discussed here, but Harsanyi has some additional worthwhile thoughts on S. E.'s "ugly false choice":

    I find the abuse of black civilians—or, though this is apparently a provocation, any civilians—by the police abhorrent. More than any other group in American life, cops, empowered by the state to use force, have a special responsibility to protect life and adhere to the law.

    But I am no more liable for the actions of Derek Chauvin than is S. E. Cupp or Al Sharpton. I have nothing to confess. The color of my skin is not an indictment of my morality, nor does it strip me of my agency.

    On the Read the Whole Thing scale, David's column is up around 8.5.


  • But ugly false choices aren't restricted to CNN talking heads. Note this Yoram Hazony Tweet:

    Yorem Harzony is supposed to be a smart guy but this is idiotic not up to the intellectual standards you might expect from him.

    A third choice:

    [Amazon Link]

    1. Don't submit. Don't ally with people with whom you have fundamental disagreements. Buy Arthur C. Brooks' book and love your enemies, link at right.

    You might not win. That's not the worst thing in the world.


  • Making a lot of sense about the New York Times' craven unpublishing of Senator Tom Cotton's op-ed column… is New York Times op-ed columnist Ross Douthat:

    The force transforming Western liberalism has many hashtags, many slogans, many admiring and pejorative descriptions, but no single name that everyone can recognize as a singular description of the thing itself. #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, social justice and intersectionality, anti-racism and the “great awokening.” “Cultural Marxism” and “SJWs” and “identity politics.” Political correctness, of course, and more obscurely “left modernism” and “hyper-liberalism.” Like the blind men feeling different portions of the elephant, the words all capture something, but the form of the animal remains a bit fuzzy, with a generally familiar shape but tusks and trunks where you don’t necessarily expect them.

    One particularly useful phrase belongs to the cultural critic Wesley Yang, who calls the transformational force “the successor ideology” — meaning that it represents a possible successor to liberalism, like Marxism in the last century, but also that it’s inchoate and half-formed and sometimes internally contradictory, defined more by its departures from older liberal ideas than by a unified worldview.

    Douthat sees a recurring theme in the "successor ideology": trying to achieve worthy liberal goals while embracing illiberal tactics and ignoring inconvenient liberal precepts. I'm pretty sure that's fundamentally incoherent, counterproductive, and ultimately destructive, but what do I know?


  • Were it not for Ann Althouse, I would be unaware of this effort: UNH Franklin Pierce Law School May Drop Name Of 14th U.S. President (1853-57) Because He Did Not End Slavery. From a Boston Globe article:

    A New Hampshire law school bearing the name of the state’s only president, Franklin Pierce, is thinking about removing him from its title as part of the national conversation about systemic racism because he opposed taking steps to stop slavery.

    Pierce, the country’s 14th president, served from 1853 to 1857. He was an accomplished attorney and brigadier general in the U.S. Army. He never owned slaves and expressed moral opposition to slavery, but he was concerned with keeping the nation unified.

    Pierce was (so far) New Hampshire's only contribution to the Presidency. By most rankings he was significantly below average.

    The law school should not be confused with Franklin Pierce University, which (by at least one account) is a "lower quality college at an expensive price".

    The law school only added on the Franklin Pierce monicker last year (for reasons I don't know), so at least they're not dismantling a long tradition. But the name-dropping rationale seems weak.


  • Jonah Goldberg looks at The Growing CHAZm in Seattle:

    I love CHAZ. That’s the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, a six-square block Wokeistan in the middle of Seattle, though I fear that they’ll change the name to something more euphoniously transgressive any minute now. And, while I feel bad for the businesses and homeowners in the area who are watching their property values plummet like one of those applause-o-meter dials at a focus group for Sean Spicer’s new one-man song-and-dance show at Branson, CHAZ is just too perfect not to talk about.  

    For starters, we’ve been hearing for years that borders are terrible. Some wokevolk talk about borders the way you talk to a dog that craps on your new white rug: “Bad borders! Bad!”

    But what’s the first thing the Chaztopians establish? Borders, baby. The chief of police explained that, in a generous act of appeasement, she ordered the removal of police barricades at the request of protesters who said they wanted to march “because we really wanted to establish trust. Instead of marching, the protesters … established their own barricades. So the streets we wanted to be clear are now no longer clear.”

    We never do that crazy stuff around here. I suppose I'm glad about that.


  • I'm not as big a science fiction guy as I was in my youth, but this Quillette article was nevertheless interesting: The Libertarian History of Science Fiction

    When mainstream authors like Eric Flint complain that the science fiction establishment, and its gatekeeper the Hugo Awards, has “drift[ed] away from the opinions and tastes of… mass audience[s],” prioritizing progressive messaging over plot development, the response from the Left is uniform: Science fiction is by its very nature progressive. It’s baked into the cake, they say. This is a superficially plausible claim. With its focus on the future, its embrace of the unfamiliar and other-worldly, and its openness to alternative ways of living, it is hard to see how the genre could be anything but progressive. In fact, studies indicate that interest in SF books and movies is strongly correlated with a Big Five personality trait called openness to experience, which psychologists say is highly predictive of liberal values.

    But openness to experience also correlates with libertarianism and libertarian themes and ideas have exercised far greater influence than progressivism over SF since the genre’s inception. From conservatarian voices like Robert Heinlein, Larry Niven, Vernor Vinge, Poul Anderson, and F. Paul Wilson to those of a more flexible classical liberal bent like Ray Bradbury, David Brin, Charles Stross, Ken McLeod, and Terry Pratchett, libertarian-leaning authors have had an outsized, lasting influence on the field. So much so that The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has deemed “Libertarian SF” its own stand alone “branch,” admitting that “many of libertarianism’s most influential texts have been by SF writers.”

    If you're despairing about the craptacular novels that the woke brigades have been pushing, you'll get a lot of suggestions.


Last Modified 2020-06-16 8:50 AM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2020-06-14 Update

Man, I miss Calvin and Hobbes, don't you?

[Cubist Calvin]

Any relation to our nation's current debates is probably due to Bill Watterson's time machine.

The betting markets continue to look favorably (or, since Betfair is in the UK, "favourably") upon Wheezy Joe and bet against Four More Orange Years. But Trump still maintains his solid lead in the only poll that really counts:

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
6/7
Phony
Results
Change
Since
6/7
Donald Trump 43.2% -1.9% 1,990,000 +170,000
Joe Biden 51.6% +2.0% 506,000 +24,000

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • Daniel J. Mitchell sounds a warning about Joe: he's An Incrementalist Version of Bernie Sanders. (A significant portion of American voters don't see that as a warning, however.)

    His post is a useful collection of sources from left and right saying that leftists will probably be pretty happy in a Biden administration.

    Fun fact: as a legislator, Biden's lifetime score on economic matters from the Club for Growth is a goose egg: zero, nil, nada. That's less than Obama (who got 4, on a 0-100 scale), Teddy Kennedy (4), Hillary Clinton (3), and even Bernie Sanders (who wangled a 9!).

    Dan's bottom line:

    That being said, my two cents on this topic is that Biden is a statist, but not overly ideological.

    His support for bigger government is largely a strategy of catering to the various interest groups that dominate the Democratic Party.

    The good news is that he’s an incrementalist and won’t aggressively push for a horrifying FDR-style agenda if he gets to the White House.

    The bad news is that he will probably allow Nancy Pelosi and other statist ideologues to dictate that kind of agenda if he wins the presidency.

    I view that last bit as really bad news, as Biden's fading mental faculties may make him essentially a figurehead; the people really running the show will be no "incrementalists".


  • Ah, but President Bone Spurs goosed his phony lead this week by reacting poorly to signs that his popularity (the only thing he really cares about) is fading. As reported by Firstpost (an Indian news site, I think): Donald Trump demands CNN retract 'phony' poll that shows him trailing Joe Biden by 14 percentage points

    On Wednesday, the president’s team added a new wrinkle to its media intimidation tactics: Demanding that a TV network retract a poll it did not like.

    In an unusual cease-and-desist letter, the Trump campaign called on CNN to retract and apologise for a national poll this week that showed the president trailing his Democratic opponent, former vice-president Joe Biden, by 14 percentage points among registered voters.

    Trump’s aides called the poll “phony” and “a stunt,” accusing CNN without evidence of trying to “stifle momentum and enthusiasm for the president and present a false view generally of the actual support across America for the president.”

    And of course there was a p-word tweet:

    Here's a tweet with the text of the "cease and desist" letter:

    I have no idea whether this meets the legal standard for "cease and desist", but it's certainly arrogant, demanding, and shows no decent respect for CNN's First Amendment right to publish/broadcast any poll it damn well pleases.

    For the record, as I type, RealClearPolitics does show the CNN poll as an outlier, its 14-point Biden lead significantly more than the "RCP average" of an 8.1 point Biden lead.


  • How far in the tank is the New York Times for Biden? Just toe-dipping, or full plunge? Wesley J. Smith provides a data point indicating the latter, looking at a recent op-ed, allowed by the paper's Red Guard: Ezekiel Emanuel Warns Trump Could Rush Vaccine as ‘October Surprise’

    In a co-authored New York Times opinion piece, Ezekiel Emanuel warns that the president may announce the successful development of a COVID vaccine as an “October surprise” to win the election in November. From, “Could Trump Turn a Vaccine into a Campaign Stunt:”

    An emergency authorization would allow Mr. Trump to hold his news conference and declare victory. But like President George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” proclamation, it has the potential to be a travesty. Millions of vaccines could be distributed without proof that the vaccine can prevent disease or transmission.

    What is the saying these days, a charge “based on no direct evidence”? Good grief.

    Wesley goes on to note that the NYT did not disclose Emanuel's position in the Biden campaign. At least as I type, he and his co-author are mere "professors at the University of Pennsylvania." Specifically, Emanuel is said to be "professor of medical ethics". Apparently "ethics" allows him to make baseless vile smears.


  • As a second example, cast your eyes at the worshipful tongue-bath the NYT provides Joe Biden, Emissary of Grief. And, to echo Wesley J. Smith above: Good Grief. The opening of the news article (pretty clearly spoonfed to the reporters by Biden and his flacks) gives the flavor:

    An overstuffed binder sat in Joe Biden’s Senate office, holding the raw materials of his grief.

    It was a master collection, aides recalled, with remarks, notes and drafts of eulogies Mr. Biden had given through 2008 — for childhood friends, prominent senators, his own father. The table of contents was long enough to use every letter of the alphabet. It included a section of favored passages, often deployed in his remembrances, labeled “Quotable Quotes: Death.”

    “Death is part of this life,” one such axiom read, “and not of the next.”

    Biden's a known plagiarist, so I guessed that this quote (unattributed in the article, and I assume also unattributed by Biden) might be pretty easy to track down.

    Yup. It's Elizabeth Bibesco (1897-1945).

    No doubt Biden's eulogical skills propelled him to the vice-presidency. The Times article quotes his "allies" saying—and I am not making this up—"that makes him uniquely capable of leading a nation grappling with death."

    That's how phony things are these days.

URLs du Jour

2020-06-13

We have a more coherent than usual theme running through today. I bet you can find it.

  • Jonah Goldberg wrote Liberal Fascism all the way back in 2009; it seems he'll need to write a second, expanded edition to deal with recent events. Today's first example is from David Harsany, writing at National Review: Leftists Cancel Professor for Criticizing BLM.

    The long march through the institutions ends in the university economics department. The digital mob, led by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and Michigan professor Justin Wolfers, has arrived at the University of Chicago, where it is pressuring the school to remove Professor Harald Uhlig from his position as editor of Journal of Political Economy, after he criticized Black Lives Matter.

    The left-wing economists were triggered (or, more likely, are pretending to be triggered) by an Uhlig tweet contending that BLM “just torpedoed itself” by supporting “defund the police.” Uhlig went on to argue that it was time “for sensible adults to enter back into the room and have serious, earnest, respectful conversations about it all.”

    Imagined dialog:

    "But," he sputtered, "I thought you wanted a conversation! That's what you said!"

    "Idiot," came the response. "What we mean is what we always meant by 'conversation': we talk, you shut up, listen, occasionally nod."


  • At Reason, Robby Soave detects The 1793 Project Unmasked. Robby mentions Uhlig, but leads with…

    Anyone who still doubts that woke progressives can pose a material threat to the pursuit of truth should consider the case of David Shor. A week ago, as protests over the unjust police killing of George Floyd took place in major cities across the country, Shor—a 28-year-old political scientist at the Democratic consulting firm Civic Analytics—tweeted some observations about the successes and failures of various movements. He shared research by Princeton University's Omar Wasow, who has found that violent protests often backfire whereas nonviolent protests are far more likely to succeed. The impulse behind Shor's tweet was a perfectly liberal one: He feels progressive reforms are more palatable to the public when protesters eschew violence.

    But many progressive activists on social media didn't care whether the impulse was liberal, or even whether it reflected reality. They denounced Shor as a racist for daring to scrutinize the protesters, even if his aim was to make them more effective. One activist accused Shor of using his "anxiety and 'intellect' as a vehicle for anti-blackness." Then she tagged Civis Analytics, and invited the company to "come get your boy."

    Get him, they did. Civis Analytics promptly fired Shor.

    An NR piece to which I linked yesterday contained the French aphorism "l’appétit vient en mangeant." Which (in the proud tradition of the magazine's founder) they left untranslated. "Look it up, peon."

    So I did. The rough translation is "Appetite comes with eating." The point being, in this case, obvious. And examples keep coming…


  • As noticed even by eyes-open leftist Matt Taibbi, who says The American Press Is Destroying Itself. ("And that's a bad thing?" Yeah, probably.)

    Taibbi mentions David Shor, but then moves on to…

    Probably the most disturbing story involved Intercept writer Lee Fang, one of a fast-shrinking number of young reporters actually skilled in investigative journalism. Fang’s work in the area of campaign finance especially has led to concrete impact, including a record fine to a conservative Super PAC: few young reporters have done more to combat corruption.

    Yet Fang found himself denounced online as a racist, then hauled before H.R. His crime? During protests, he tweeted this interview with an African-American man named Maximum Fr, who described having two cousins murdered in the East Oakland neighborhood where he grew up. Saying his aunt is still not over those killings, Max asked:

    I always question, why does a Black life matter only when a white man takes it?... Like, if a white man takes my life tonight, it’s going to be national news, but if a Black man takes my life, it might not even be spoken of… It’s stuff just like that that I just want in the mix.

    Shortly after, a co-worker of Fang’s, Akela Lacy, wrote, “Tired of being made to deal continually with my co-worker @lhfang continuing to push black on black crime narratives after being repeatedly asked not to. This isn’t about me and him, it’s about institutional racism and using free speech to couch anti-blackness. I am so fucking tired.” She followed with, “Stop being racist Lee.”

    The public apology was demanded and was delivered to the American chapter of the Red Guard, now firmly ensconced in, and encouraged by, Twitter.


  • At Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux looks at the landscape and sees Scary Signs.

    Underway now is something far more extreme than a mere loss of nuance. The world is now painted exclusively in the darkest black and brightest white. (Please, do not interpret my use of “black and white” as referring to anything other than the traditionally used example of the starkest of distinctions.) Failure to blame all problems suffered by minorities on racism – failure to denounce loudly and angrily American bourgeois society’s allegedly inherent bigotry, greed, and rapaciousness – failure to acknowledge that America today is a brutal and cruel place for all but the elite, and hellish especially for blacks, women, and gay, bi, and transgender people – is frequently interpreted as sympathy for dark-ages-like superstition and prejudices.

    Equally bad, in the eyes of the Virtuous, are attempts at offering historical perspective. Even if accompanied by a sincere and express acknowledgement that serious problems remain, the mere suggestion that at least some of these problems were more widespread and worse in the past – the slightest hint that over time there’s been some real improvement for anyone but white, heterosexual, high-income Christian males – is treated as evidence of blindness or malignant bias.

    Don concludes: "Seldom have I been as distraught as I am now." I'll add: never have I been so grateful to have escaped my employment by the University Near Here without getting into some sort of imbroglio myself.


  • We try to avoid psychoanalyzing our opponents here at Pun Salad. There's been way too much of that going on for decades, most of it aimed at (roughly) our side. But it's difficult to disagree with this NR Corner post from Kevin D. Williamson, where he looks at efforts to cancel Tucker Carlson:

    There are plenty of valid criticisms to make of Tucker Carlson as a practitioner of the forensic arts. But if Tucker had always behaved with perfect intellectual probity and had treated his opponents and their arguments with absolutely perfect charity, the same people would be trying to destroy him, using the same tactics and the same arguments, for the same two reasons: The minor reason is that they think that this will help them to hold political power, and the major reason is that they enjoy hurting people and will take any opportunity to do so.

    To be clear: They do not desire to hurt people because they hate them — they hate them because they desire to hurt people. What we call “cancel culture” is very little more than free-floating sadism in search of a target. Nobody gets up in the morning hating Justine Sacco or some obscure data analyst nobody’s ever heard of. Sadists get up in the morning wanting to hurt people as a form of recreation, and they find targets, and construct reasons to hate those targets, retrofitting the moral justification onto the sadism, because sadism with self-righteousness is much more enjoyable than sadism on its own — it’s bacon and eggs. These are people who don’t get enough of a kick out of pulling the wings off of flies but who don’t have the stomach to torture stray cats or cannibalize hitchhikers or whatever it is that more ambitious sadists did before there was Twitter.

    You think he's wrong? Prove it.

URLs du Jour

2020-06-12

Michael Ramirez provides the Eye Candy du Jour, concerning HBO's decision to yank Gone With the Wind from its new streaming service, HBO Max:

[Gone Baby Gone]

Background on the controversy from David Harsanyi here. He's not a fan of the move.

Although if you use Google to research the topic, you'll find very little naysaying on the first few pages of search results. Instead, most "respectable" sources follow the example: of the tediously predictable, albeit Orwellian, prose stylings of Wired, which reassures us that its "Removal From HBO Max Isn't Censorship".

Yeah. Someday GWtW will be back, from re-education camp, with whatever commentary and excisions our local Red Guard deem adequate to insure no viewer come away actually entertained.

  • And you'll note that MPR's cartoon also mentions Paw Patrol. On that topic, a suggestion from the National Review editors about Cancel Culture: Cancel It.

    The vanguard of the revolution has set its beady-eyed gaze on . . . Paw Patrol.

    Paw Patrol, a children’s cartoon about doggie do-gooders, has as one of its principal characters a German shepherd called Chase, who is a police officer. (A police officer in an imaginary universe in which dogs have full-time jobs, drive cars, and wear jaunty caps.) According to the New York Times, which just fired its opinion editor for publishing opinions, Paw Patrol has run afoul of the new commandment: Thou shalt not make sympathetic depictions of police officers, including police officers whose beat is an imaginary universe in which dogs have full-time jobs, drive cars, and wear jaunty caps.

    Paw Patrol seems harmless enough,” writes Amanda Hess, “and that’s the point.” Oh, is that the point? “The movement rests on understanding that cops do plenty of harm.”

    I suggest you buy Paw Patrol and Gone With the Wind on physical media, while you still can.


  • Speaking of Cancel Culture, The University Near Here is pretty empty these days, not much going on, except… Huzzah! For some reason, they've renamed the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs! It's now The Beauregard Center.

    No, they did not name it after the Confederate general. It's named after the late UNH student Aulbani J. Beauregard. (But, like General Beauregard, she was also from Louisiana.)

    And apparently the full name (according to this article in our local paper) is "The Beauregard Center for Equity and Liberation". Nice! Although I suspect no actual liberation will be involved.

    The new head of the BCfEaL is Caché Owens-Velasquez. She seems nice. She has her own website where you can buy her, um, art. She states that she took up art "as an outlet for stress relief and as a component of treating my mental health challenges."

    It's good to know that UNH does not discriminate in its hiring due to mental health challenges.

    At the time of that writing, Caché was at UNC-Charlotte where her study was "community organizing and spatial justice."

    Spatial Justice? Yes, that is an actual thing.

    Don't, by the way, get any funny ideas about appropriating "Temporal Justice". That has already been taken.


  • Because all government problems have been solved, the New York Times reports: Biden Prepares Attack on Facebook’s Speech Policies

    The Biden presidential campaign, emboldened by a recent surge in support, is going after a new target: Facebook.

    After months of privately battling the tech giant over President Trump’s free rein on its social network, the campaign will begin urging its millions of supporters to demand that Facebook strengthen its rules against misinformation and to hold politicians accountable for harmful comments.

    "Misinformation" and "harmful comments" will, of course, be judged by guess who? Nothing could go wrong there.


  • Veronique de Rugy reports the utterly unexpected news that Trump Is Still Losing His Own Trade War

    Regardless of whether any of the president's complaints about trade are legitimate, one of the reasons trade economists warned him against raising tariffs unilaterally was precisely that other governments would retaliate with their own tariffs on American exports. Sure enough, that's what happened. But while many industries were caught in the crosshairs of this trade war, the lobster industry took an especially serious hit.

    Despite Trump's apparent belief that politicians in other countries are either irrational or scaredy-cats, many of them have proven to be astute in the art of retaliation by targeting those U.S. exports they knew would inflict the most harm on Americans. China, for instance, which used to be the top foreign purchaser of Maine lobsters, imposed a 25 percent tariff on the American delicacy in response to the second wave of American tariffs against Chinese goods. Adding to Americans' pain, Beijing then reduced its tariffs on non-American lobster suppliers. This includes Canadian lobstermen, which, until the trade war started, were the American lobster industry's fiercest competitor.

    Well… more for us, I suppose.


  • Virginia Postrel is always an island of sanity. She suggests Cops' Fears Should Face More Scrutiny. After recounting some well-known cases of police overreaction:

    It’s an all-too-familiar pattern. Someone does something minor that someone else finds threatening. The alarmed party overreacts and summons the full force of authority to suppress the threat. The offender becomes a victim. Essential rights are infringed. The damage is both personal and social.

    To understand the problem, consider a less dangerous setting where a similar scenario occurs: college campuses.

    When a man working his way through college as a janitor reads a book called “Notre Dame vs. the Klan” in the break room, he is charged with racial harassment. When a literature instructor asks in a faculty training session how the school’s sexual harassment policy applies to false or ridiculous allegations, he is fired. When a student starts a Facebook group mocking a student government candidate as “a jerk and a fool,” he is found to have committed “personal abuse.” When a literature professor quotes the defiant black author James Baldwin using a racial slur, contrasting its use with the bowdlerized version in the title of a recent documentary, and when a law professor uses the same epithet while discussing systemic racism, both are accused of discrimination.

    Are cops snowflakes? Except with badges and guns?


  • And finally, a Heterodox Academy reminder from Hyrum Lewis: The Political Spectrum Does Not Exist.

    One of the real tragedies of contemporary politics is that our most bitter disagreements are about something that doesn’t even exist—the political spectrum. Left and right are entirely tribal designations and have no unifying philosophy or principle behind them that can be represented on a unidimensional spectrum.

    This may sound like an absurd claim, but before rejecting out of hand, consider that the political spectrum rests on an essentialist theory of ideology that has been soundly falsified. The essentialist theory says that, although it may seem that there are many distinct political issues in politics, there is actually just one big issue—an underlying essence that ties them all together (e.g., change vs. preservation, equality vs. freedom, order vs. liberty, realism vs. idealism, etc.). If politics is unidimensional (about one essential issue), then a unidimensional political spectrum is adequate to represent politics.

    Yeah. Back in the post-9/11 world, Democrats freaked that Dubya might find out what books you had checked out at the library. Today, well… you better not have checked out that DVD of Gone With the Wind, racist.


Last Modified 2020-06-13 7:39 AM EDT

The Origins of Virtue

Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation

[Amazon Link]

I bought this 1996 book from Matt Ridley awhile back, but it got shuffled off deep into the TBR non-fiction stack. Thanks mostly to the closure of the two libraries I borrow from, I've been checking out such moldy oldies. And this is pretty good.

It is a polymathic assault on the problem of (roughly) why we humans act as decently toward each other as we do, given that evolutionary "selfish gene" theory demands that our behavior should be entirely governed toward the goal of sending our DNA into the future via our biological offspring.

(You know how that works, right? I don't need to explain it? Good.)

Matt draws his discussion from an impressively large number of fields. Genetics (of course), anthropology, economics, game theory (especially Prisoner's Dillema scenarios), history, theology, psychology, animal behavior, …. Really heavy on that last one: under B in the index we have baboons, beavers, bees, birds, bison, blue tits, blue whale, bonnet macaques, bonobos, bottlenose dolphins, and bumblebees. Something to learn from everyone. And you'll be guaranteed to learn something you don't already know.

Ridley is no Pollyanna: he knows that evolution has also encouraged the (literally!) beastly behavior we too often exhibit. I wish (however) he'd been a little more clear about how we (when at our best) are pretty good at recognizing virtue and differentiating it from vice. Although, as current events are never far from demonstrating, we're too seldom at our best in that regard.

URLs du Jour

2020-06-11

[Amazon Link]

  • At the Federalist, Tristan Justice notes The False Dichotomy On Race Is Tearing The Nation Apart.

    CNN’s S.E. Cupp on Sunday reckoned it’s time for Americans to “pick a knee,” declaring which side of the latest culture war they’re on. “The one that knelt on the neck or the one that knelt to try to prevent it.”

    In other words, you’re a racist operating to oppress black people, or you’re a repentant sinner bowing to collective groupthink to seek desperate exoneration for the inherent crime of being white.

    Cupp’s binary choice is emblematic of the kind of thinking that has long existed within fringe, left-wing movements but has now permeated throughout mainstream American institutions, on full display in the cultural civil war following the outbreak of domestic terrorism sweeping the nation.

    False choices don't have to be binary. There's the old trinary chestnut "Lead, follow, or get out of the way"; its origins are murky, but it's pretty odious when used by politicians.


  • Kevin D. Williamson's summary of the Great Battle of the NYT op-ed page: The Mob Wins.

    The case for firing New York Times opinion editor James Bennet was the almost unrelieved mediocrity of his pages. Instead, they fired him for cooties.

    The Times’s opinion pages have long been the worst thing in a very good (by no means perfect) newspaper, America’s RDA-exceeding daily dose of insipid liberal conventional wisdom. It is where you go to watch Charles Blow’s long, slow slide into a journalism of exclamation points (“Stop Airing Trump’s Briefings!” “No More Lynching!”), though the Times’s style guide presumably will prevent his descending into the all-caps Facebook Dad mode of very very angry typing. From the intellect of Paul Krugman, who is famously in possession of a Nobel prize in economics, the Times has managed to extract only the shallowest and lamest kind of barstool partisanship (“Republicans Don’t Want to Save Jobs,” “Good People Can’t Be Good Republicans”). Jamelle Bouie? Elizabeth Bruenig? I like avocado toast as much as the next guy, but that’s an awful lot of the stuff.

    The Bayesian probability that any given NYT op-ed will be thought-provoking or interesting has significantly dropped over the past few days. Not that I was in the habit of evading their paywall enough to find out.


  • Samantha Harris has a Modest Proposal at Reason, given the increased interest in getting rid of qualified immunity for cops: It’s Time to End Qualified Immunity for College Administrators, Too. And she knows whereof she speaks:

    As an attorney defending students and faculty whose free speech and due process rights have been violated by public university administrators, I can attest to the fact that qualified immunity is a huge barrier that limits accountability even in the case of seemingly obvious constitutional violations. Just a few days ago, for example, a federal court in Connecticut dismissed, on qualified immunity grounds, the First Amendment claim of Noriana Radwan, a former University of Connecticut soccer player who lost her scholarship after she was captured giving the finger on national television. In one sentence, the court captured everything that is wrong with qualified immunity, and why it is an albatross around the neck of every lawyer fighting against the abuse of power by state officials:

    "While Ms. Radwan does have a viable First Amendment claim, because of qualified immunity, the Defendants' motion for summary judgment on this claim will be granted."

    In Radwan v. University of Connecticut, the district court held that it is conceivably possible that the administrators' conduct could have been justified by Bethel Sch. Dist. No. 403 v. Fraser, a Supreme Court decision allowing K-12 schools to regulate "vulgar or offensive" speech among schoolchildren. The court acknowledged that "university students, largely over the age of eighteen, are no longer children," and that the Supreme Court has explicitly stated that there is no reason "First Amendment protections should apply with less force on college campuses than in the community at large." The court even acknowledged that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, of which Connecticut is a part, has "expressed skepticism that universities and colleges have as much latitude to regulate student speech as K-12 schools do." But because the 2nd Circuit has never explicitly held that Fraser does not apply to universities, the court dismissed Radwan's "viable First Amendment claim." 

    We can only hope for additional incentives for public university employees to behave more like decent human beings instead of petty tyrants enforcing arbitrary and vague codes of conduct.


  • Jonah Goldberg writes on The Left’s Strange New Respect for Mitt Romney.

    What you see is what you get with Romney, if you don’t have partisan blinders on. He’s a transparently decent man who is also a transparently conventional, if a bit stiff, Republican politician. He’s not immune to the charge of flip-flopping on issues like abortion or healthcare, but that hardly makes him unique. What he isn’t—and wasn’t in 2012—is a racist, a sexist or a cold-hearted monster. And yet, that is how he was routinely depicted by his opponents, including commentators across the mainstream media, with precious little pushback from mainstream reporters.

    Put aside for a moment that New York Times columnist Gail Collins mentioned a trivial incident with Romney’s dog in more than 70 columns to make him sound like an abuser of animals (ignoring the equally trivial fact that Barack Obama ate dog while living in Indonesia as a child). Recall instead the time when Romney explained how, when he was elected governor of Massachusetts, he bent over backward to work with women’s groups to get names of qualified women to staff his administration. He said he got so many recommendations—which he used!—that he needed binders to hold all the resumes. In other words, a Republican governor did exactly what feminist groups want elected officials to do, but the internet exploded with condemnation and liberal commentators reacted to his phrase “binders full of women” like he was a character from A Handmaid’s Tale.

    Then Daily Beast columnist Michael Tomasky called Romney a “race-mongering pyromaniac.” Why? Because he referred to Obamacare as—wait for it—“Obamacare” in a speech to the NAACP.

    Ah, those golden days of the previous decade, when political debate was undergirded by mutual respect and the understanding that you and your opponents shared a large swath of common values! We don't even pretend to do that any more.


  • Our LFOD Google News Alert rang for an LTE in the Conway Daily Sun from resident Lori Mills:

    On Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, our son was on his way to Center Conway from Rhode Island with his girlfriend to check on us and help out. He had not been up here in a while due to the virus. They stopped at the Dunkin Donuts in Ossipee and went through the drive-thru. On the back window of a car two cars in front of our son was a sign that said “If your license plate does not say Live Free or Die, turn around and get the ‘expletive’ back home.”

    Like most places, Ossipee has its share of stupid people panicked about the invading infected hordes from elsewhere, and are not reluctant to express their fears via obscene signs. But as I type, the entirety of Carroll County (which contains Ossipee) has had a total of 49 Covid-19 cases and zero deaths. Ossipee itself records 1-4 cases. (The state doesn't reveal finer-grained counts for that range of cases.)

    But that's a fact-based gripe. I'd suggest that signmaker was also too stupid to note the contradiction between LFOD and demanding that other people behave the way he wants them to.

    The remainder of Ms. Mills' letter contains a heartwarming story, bringing a ray of optimistic sunshine: the Dunkin' customers in Ossipee aren't all obscenity-scrawling troglodytes.

URLs du Jour

2020-06-10

[Amazon Link]
One of my good-hearted, but relentlessly progressive, Facebook friends posted the slogan shown on our Amazon Product du Jour on her timeline. It's a pretty good slogan. Because it's near-irrefutable.

As would be any mutation. "All Lives Can't Matter Until       Lives Matter". Just fill in the blank with your desired subset of humanity. Hispanic? Female? Sure. Trivially true.

Better not say "White" or "Blue", though. Even though it's equally (and tautologically) true. That would draw a hectoring lecture about what the slogan "really means".

When you need to explain what a slogan "really means", though, maybe it's not that great a slogan. I came across an online article from (I am not making this up) Parents magazine which is entitled (I am not making this up either) "6 Reasons 'All Lives Matter' Doesn't Work—in Terms Simple Enough for a Child".

Somehow I think they really mean "in Terms Simple Enough Even for You, Dumbass."

  • In contrast to the Deep Thinkers at Parents, the WSJ had a really good op-ed from Nestride Yumga: Violence Threatens Black Lives

    If the only black lives that matter to the Black Lives Matter movement are those taken by rogue police officers, then let it be clear: Not all black lives matter to them.

    It tears my soul as an African-American resident of Washington that 30 young black men and women in the District of Columbia lost their lives to violent crime in the first three months of 2020. The police didn’t kill them, but that doesn’t mean their lives mattered less.

    A related tweet seen at Power Line:

    Why it's almost as if the only Black Lives that Matter are the ones that can be used to political advantage.


  • At Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen invites us, in language befitting a wonk, to Solve for the journalistic equilibrium. By juxtaposing two quotes from the same NYT story:

    In a company memo, the chief executive of the politics news site said he supported staff members’ right to march, adding that the publisher would cover bail for any employee who is arrested…

    According to several people with knowledge of recent discussions at Axios, Mr. VandeHei said he did not intend his note to actively encourage marching in protests. He has also reminded the staff that the company’s reporters still need sources to open up to them, and that appearing to take one side could jeopardize their position.

    and:

    Ethics guidelines at The Times — similar to many other newsrooms across the country — say the company’s journalists “may not march or rally in support of public causes or movements” or publicly take positions on public issues. It adds, “doing so might reasonably raise doubts about their ability or The Times’s ability to function as neutral observers in covering the news.”

    Anyone not harboring such doubts at this stage of the game is welcome to e-mail me for details on this incredible deal I can offer you on the Brooklyn Bridge.


  • At the NR Corner, Stanley Kurtz has a question about Wheezy Joe Biden: Can He Withstand the Left's Pull From the Center?

    The resignation of the editorial page editor of the New York Times for publishing an op-ed by Senator Tom Cotton calling for the military to quell the riots marks the completion of the long, slow transformation of the Democratic Party. Whatever face the Democrats present to the world, their woke left fringe is now in charge. That fringe has not only abandoned core American principles like freedom of speech and due process, it has reimagined American history as a story of “systemic” oppression and demanded radical transformation along identitarian–socialist lines. If the New York Times can’t stand up to Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of its odious and just-plain-false 1619 Project, how will Joe Biden stand up to a woke New York Times?

    Past his prime, without a policy compass to speak of, Biden would be long gone if he hadn’t been the Democratic establishment’s last best hope of blocking Bernie Sanders. Biden is supposed to give the party a moderate face that will appeal to centrist voters. Increasingly, however, the bases of the two parties are becoming the real contestants in this election, while the candidates are just along for the ride. True, Trump is larger than life and a constant media obsession. Yet Trump appeals to Republicans — whether they like his style or not — chiefly because he protects them from the illiberalism and cultural overreach people such as Hannah-Jones. Trump’s larger-than-life personality matters less than it seems because he’s all about the base.

    Joe wants to be President, badly. And I expect that's how he'll govern: badly.


  • Let's see who else we can dump on today. Ah, here's Betsy McCaughey at the NYPost with a suspect class: Public-health ‘professionals’ keep showing how unprofessional they really are.

    Three months ago, America was told to trust the public health experts. Never again. Most are left-wing ideologues cloaked in the mantle of science. On their advice, states slammed their economies shut, put 40 million people out of work, sent school kids home and pushed businesses into bankruptcy.

    These experts hardly blinked at the economic losses. They and their media allies raged at anyone who questioned them for putting dollars ahead of lives. Now these same experts are doing a 180-degree turn, saying the threat of the virus is less important than big marches against racial injustice. This, even though they admit the marches will lead to more infections. Hypocrites.

    Well, yeah. I note our local "professional", Rich DiPentima, is running for the NH House. Which meant that he had to give up his weekly column in our local newspaper, where he self-identified as an epidemiologist. I especially enjoyed his March 2 column where he consistenly referred to "COVIT 19".


  • And Michael Graham at NH Journal finds an unsurprising mental illness in the governing class: NH Pols Suffer From Protest Politics Hypocrisy

    Sen. Jeanne Shaheen wants New Hampshire voters to know that she supports the Black Lives Matter protests across the state, from “Portsmouth, Manchester, Wolfeboro, Concord and beyond,” she tweeted on Saturday. “Granite Staters have come together this week to stand up for justice and equity, and to affirm that Black lives matter. I stand with all of you.”

    But just a few weeks ago, Shaheen had a very different take: “Stay Home. Save Lives.” She tweeted out several messages urging Granite Staters to “heed” Gov. Chris Sununu’s instructions for fighting the spread of COVID-19, including “Don’t gather in large groups or get together with friends.”

    It's incurable.


Last Modified 2020-06-12 7:42 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2020-06-09

Our eye candy du jour from Reason: Citizen vs. Government.

I agree that jet fighter flyovers are pretty cool. But…


  • At the Dispatch, David French offers an article from his personal experience. American Racism: We’ve Got So Very Far to Go.

    We each like to think we’re not unduly influenced by our immediate environment and culture. That’s a phenomenon that affects other people, we believe. I’m the kind of person who has carefully considered both sides and has arrived at my positions through the force of reason and logic. Sure, I’ve got biases, but that only matters at the edges. The core of my beliefs are rooted in reason, conviction, and faith.

    Maybe that describes you, but I now realize it didn’t describe me. I freely confess that to some extent where I stood on American racial issues was dictated by where I sat my entire life. I always deplored racism—those values were instilled in me from birth—but I was also someone who recoiled at words like “systemic racism.” I looked at the strides we’d made since slavery and Jim Crow and said, “Look how far we’ve come.” I was less apt to say, “and look how much farther we have to go.” 

    Then, where I sit changed, dramatically. I just didn’t know it at the time. I went from being the father of two white, blonde-haired, blue-eyed kids to the father of three kids—one of them a beautiful little girl from Ethiopia. When Naomi arrived, our experiences changed. Strange incidents started to happen.

    Strongly recommend that you read the whole thing. (If you can. I'm not sure if it's behind the paywall or not.)

    We've got a long way to go, but which way? We've been trying to deal with this (literally) my entire life. Progress is undeniable, but when you see people saying the same things today that people were saying decades ago, it's pretty easy to despair.


  • Speaking of despair, Beth Scaer, a sharp-eyed Granite Grok contributor noticed: ACLU-NH Trans Justice Organizer: Burn Books, Throw People out of Protests.

    The ACLU-NH Trans Justice Organizer Palana Belken is furious that JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, is standing up for the truth that men can’t be women and women can’t be men. He is so furious that he removed all his Harry Potter books from his bookshelf and threatens to burn them.

    Palana also threatened to have JK Rowling thrown out of a protest, if he encountered her at one. Since the ACLU-NH is big on protecting the right to protest, I find it curious he would take that stance. I would think his co-workers would be the first ones to come to the aid of anyone who was denied the right to protest. However, one of his ACLU-NH co-workers, Emily Kilheeney, liked Palana’s tweet threatening JK Rowling while she also tweeted about the right to protest. My head was spinning after scrolling through both their tweets.

    Beth's a little in-your-face by going out of her way by using the "he" pronoun to refer to Palana. "She" would prefer otherwise. But here's a comment I left there:

    Makes me wish I'd given ACLU-NH money, so that I could demand a refund. I note the national organization still has a book banning page (they're still against it). And they have a leadoff quote from Fahrenheit 451:

    There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running around with lit matches.

    Someone should read that to Palana. Slowly, and repeat until she gets it.

    Added: Palana is from my neck of the woods, a councilor in Rochester, NH, and an assistant manager at Teatotaller Cafe in Somersworth, a local ultra-woke joint.


  • "Cockburn" asks at Spectator USA: Why isn’t Andrew Sullivan allowed to write his column?

    What has happened to New York media? Just as the New York Times was experiencing its own Inner Mongolia Moment over the now notorious Sen. Tom Cotton ‘Send in the Troops’ op-ed, the Maoists at New York magazine were going after their best columnist, Andrew Sullivan.

    Sullivan revealed on Twitter yesterday that his column wouldn’t be appearing. The reason? His editors are not allowing him to write about the riots.

    This is, as near as I can tell, both uncontradicted and under-reported. I'm not a big fan of Sullivan, dropped him around the time he was Trig-truthing. But (as numerous folks have observed) this is what happens when media gets populated by college graduates indoctrinated with safe-space ideology that says a vaguely defined area of "hate speech" must be suppressed.


  • At City Journal, John Tierney observes: Political Leaders Use Science to Duck Responsibility For Decisions. With respect to "experts", he makes a point that I've been trying to express myself:

    However scientific they try to be, they’re swayed by some of the same irrational biases and perverse incentives that afflict politicians and journalists. In creating their models and presenting their data, they’re rewarded for skewing negative, because scary predictions will bring them more attention, more funding, and more power. Their worst-case scenario may be utterly implausible, but it’s newsworthy, and it guarantees that no one will blame them for not anticipating every possible death from the virus.

    I'm pretty sure that application of public choice theory to the scientific establishment would reveal some really inconvenient truths. But who would fund such research? Um…


  • And Kevin D. Williamson at National Review (NRPLUS) sees: Democratic Politicians Avoid Accountability

    Who is responsible for the mess in Minneapolis? The answer to that question is not unknowable — but it is, in many political quarters, unspeakable.

    Minneapolis’s municipal government, its institutions, and its police department are what they are not because of the abstract Hegelian forces of capital-H History, but because of decisions that have been made by people. Who these people are is a matter of public record. We know their names: Jacob Frey, Betsy Hodges, R. T. Rybak, Sharon Sayles Belton, Medaria Arradondo, Janeé Harteau, Tim Walz, Mark Dayton . . . the rogues’ gallery is practically inexhaustible.

    But, oh, the transmuting magic of partisanship! Minneapolis is a Democratic city, with a Democratic mayor and a Democratic city council (0.0 Republicans on that body), in a state with a Democratic governor and a Democratic state house; these are the people who hire police chiefs and organize police departments, who specify their procedures and priorities, who write the laws that the police are tasked with enforcing — Democrats and progressives practically to a man. (Not every member of the Minneapolis city council is a Democrat — there’s a Green, too.) That’s a lot of lefty power, hardly anything except lefty power — but, somehow, the bad guy in this story must be Donald Trump.

    This "speaking truth to power" thing only goes so far.

Exit Strategy

[Amazon Link]

This is a sequel to The Second Life of Nick Mason, by Steve Hamilton. That previous book described how Nick was coerced into being the "samurai" (aka, hitman) for imprisoned Chicago crime boss Lucius Cole. Nick is a hitman with scruples, however. He only goes after his designated targets, taking pains to use only non-lethal force on others.

Nick really wants out of this situation. (See the book title.) But until he figures out a way to do that, he has to go along with Cole's current scheme to get out of prison. Which involves (corruptly) forcing a retrial, and having Nick murder the witnesses that testified against him in the original trial. Some returning characters from the previous book, a couple new ones, notably a sociopathic Irish killer who was the previous holder of Nick's current position. And he's pissed at just about everyone.

There's an awful amount of ludicrously-staged mayhem (seemingly written for eventual transition to the big screen) and bad language. Despite the glowing blurbs on the dust jacket, I thought it was pretty perfunctory, but a decent page-turner. Does Nick succeed in his quest to get out from under Cole's thumb and resume a semi-normal life? No spoilers here, but if you look at Steve Hamilton's book list, you'll probably figure that out for yourself.

True Believer

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

We saw this movie back when it first came out on VHS, 1990 or so. And for some reason, I got the urge to watch it again, so into the Netflix DVD queue it went. Some movies don't hold up on rewatching, but I enjoyed it again.

James Woods plays Eddie Dodd, New York lawyer operating out of a shabby office near Chinatown. Once a famous left-wing advocate for the poor and downtrodden, champion of trendy social causes, he's become cynical, specializing in defending (uniformly guilty) drug dealers. He suppresses his sadness with copious amounts of marijuana.

But Eddie acquires an idealistic young assistant, played by Robert Downey, Jr. Who browbeats him into taking a case brought in over the transom by a tearful Chinese mom: her son's in Sing Sing, being prosecuted for killing a would-be Nazi assassin in self-defense. That's easy enough to fix, but the son's in the slammer for allegedly killing a gang leader in Chinatown eight years back. Eddie decides to go for a retrial on that charge.

Which involves unravelling what happened back then. Which (as you might expect) troubles the very powerful D. A. who tries to dissuade Eddie from the retrial. Which only makes Eddie more dogged in his pursuit of the truth.

Truth be told, the movie's plot is kind of generic. But I thought (and still think) James Woods was just fantastic in it. He usually plays bad or squirrelly guys. But his performance here is actually heroic.

Brief aside on that "squirrelly": he played "Aldo" in another 80's movie, Eyewitness. And one of the cop characters (Steven Hill) describes him thus: "When he was a kid, Aldo must have wanted to be a suspect when he grew up."

The Invisible Man

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

I'm sure that people out there have commented that this movie really should be called "Mrs. Invisible Man". Or "Bride of the Invisible Man". Because, truth be told, the movie's really about her. She's in nearly every scene. In fact, we don't see the Invisible Man much at all!

Hah, see what I did there?

Anyway, Elisabeth Moss plays Cecilia, wife of the title character. Her husband, Adrian, has become a tad abusive, demanding that she produce offspring, keeping her a virtual prisoner in their palatial San Francisco mansion. Yeah, he's got a pile of money from his career in inventing optical stuff.

Cecilia escapes from his clutches in the opening scenes, starts to make a better life for herself. And Adrian allegedly commits suicide. Only problem is, odd things start happening to Cecilia. She gets the feeling she's being watched. She goes to a job interview with an architectural firm, only to discover that the portfolio she lovingly brought along has gone missing! Wha…?

Well, just like H. G. Wells' original, Adrian (who faked his suicide) finally turns to violence and murder. And Cecilia must rely on her wits to battle him. This part is pretty good, but it takes way too long for the movie to get there.

URLs du Jour

2020-06-08

A recent bit of genius from Mr. Ramirez:

[Bird Brain]

  • Michael Huemer is on our radical wavelength: Licensing Is Bullshit.

    Most people are against special interest laws — laws that are designed to benefit a special interest group at the expense of society — in the abstract. But they love special interest laws in the concrete, that is, most particular special interest laws are popular. That’s because voters don’t recognize them for what they are, mostly because average voters are so gullible (see https://fakenous.net/?p=1604) as to swallow whatever BS the special interest group feeds them.

    Case in point: licensing laws. These are laws restricting who may legally sell a good or service. You could be denied permission to sell on the grounds that you are not good enough (not educated enough, etc.), or that your community does not ‘need’ another provider. The standards are set by ‘the experts’ — who happen to be current industry insiders. Coincidentally, these experts tend to be strongly in favor of licensing restrictions, and they tend to have a very conservative view of how many providers society needs. If you don’t see any problem with this, you should probably look up “conflict of interests” in the dictionary, because you must not have ever heard of this concept.

    Prof Huemer's tutorial is must-reading, especially if you're a squish (sorry) that thinks licensing is silly for (say) hair braiders, but should be maintained for "important" professions like doctoring and lawyering. Nay, say we.


  • Many columnists write best when deeply irritated, and Jonah Goldberg is deeply irritated by The Treason of Epidemiologists.

    We spent the last couple of months being hectored by public health experts and earnestly righteous media personalities who insisted that easing lockdown policies was immoral, that refusing to social distance or wear masks was nigh upon murderous. They even suggested that protests were somehow profane. But now that the George Floyd protests are serving as some kind of Great Awokening, many of the same are saying “never mind” about all of that. Protests aren’t profane, they’re glorious and essential—if they agree with what you’re protesting about.

    Jonah's example is from a former head of the CDC:

    Jonah's further comment:

    Frieden, the former head of the CDC, is very concerned about public trust. Me too. But you know what erodes public trust in people like Frieden? When they say that you’re a fool or monster who will get people killed for wanting to go to church or keep your business open but you’re a hero when you join a protest they approve of.

    Also see Karen Towsend at Hot Air.

    I'm especially struck by the folks who blather about the "First Amendment" right to protest in order to wave away pandemic objections.

    When they expressed no misgivings whatsoever about government restrictions on religious observances.

    It's like their eyes skip over the religious bits of the 1A.


  • At City Journal, Glenn C. Loury provides a Rebuttal to Brown Univ.’s Letter Decrying Pervasive Racism in U.S.. (Loury is an econ prof at Brown. For now.)

    In response to the standard pap:

    I wondered why such a proclamation was necessary. Either it affirmed platitudes to which we can all subscribe, or, more menacingly, it asserted controversial and arguable positions as though they were axiomatic certainties. It trafficked in the social-justice warriors’ pedantic language and sophomoric nostrums. It invoked “race” gratuitously and unreflectively at every turn. It often presumed what remains to be established. It often elided pertinent differences between the many instances cited. It read in part like a loyalty oath. It declares in every paragraph: “We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident.”

    And just what truths are these? The main one: that racial domination and “white supremacy” define our national existence even now, a century and a half after the end of slavery.

    I deeply resented the letter. First of all, what makes an administrator (even a highly paid one, with an exalted title) a “leader” of this university? We, the faculty, are the only “leaders” worthy of mention when it comes to the realm of ideas. Who cares what some paper-pushing apparatchik thinks? It’s all a bit creepy and unsettling. Why must this university’s senior administration declare, on behalf of the institution as a whole and with one voice, that they unanimously—without any subtle differences of emphasis or nuance—interpret contentious current events through a single lens?

    When the nation is going unquietly insane, voices like Professor Loury's are welcome islets of sense.


  • But there are bad examples, too. And some of them have caused my Google News Alert to go bong bong bong. Here's Art News: Adam Pendleton Addresses Protests Across America

    I woke up this morning and realized I live in a country where police mow down civilians with SUVs and storm protesters with batons, rubber bullets, teargas, and live rounds. I realized you can lose your life for standing up for life. I realized that I am not safe, and this country is not kind. I realized we are living through a health crisis, an economic crisis, a cultural crisis, and a social crisis while the country is being led by a man who fuels all flames of dumb violence and division. I realized I was tired of being asked “Are you OK?” by friends and colleagues. I realized I was tired of being asked to respond, yet heartened that people care. I realized I was angry that I was heartened that people care—because you better care. You are the person standing next to you: If I fail, you fail. If you fail, I fail.

    I realized we have lost our collective sense of compassion and intelligence—and then that we probably never had it to lose. I realized that, after this moment quells, people will go back to their lives, and my life as well as those of my brothers and sisters—trans, cis, the we in all of us—will still be on the line. I woke up in the calm of the early morning light next to the man I love and thought, “Live free or die.” I wondered if I should, if I would, give my own life for this urgent abstraction of Black life, of mattering. I wondered if I would die. I realized I am surrounded by contradictions, dysfunctions, and distractions. I realized I had better things to do than mourn for this country while thinking of Toni Morrison: “The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend 20 years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”

    Fearless prediction: Adam Pendleton will not die. He will keep producing crappy overpriced art for the foreseeable future.


  • And in local LFOD news, Free Keene has a ray of sunshine: “Nobody” Files First in NH Republican Gubernatorial Primary

    It’s official. New Hampshire voters will for the first time be able to cast a vote for Nobody for governor. Sick of Sununu and his insanely destructive “stay at home” lockdown where he tries to micromanage everyone’s businesses? Do you wish New Hampshire was actually a live-free-or-die place instead of an insane authoritarian medical state? Nobody should be your candidate of choice during the September primary.

    And here's the accompanying video:

    I'm probably too conventional to vote for Nobody, but his beard alone should win some votes.

The Phony Campaign

2020-06-07 Update

Well, that was quick. Just like that, Wheezy Joe Biden has bumped President Orange out of the lead in the betting markets. (A 6.7% net swing in a single week!)

Probably had something to do with Trump's dismal polling in battleground states. I stand by my fearless prediction: come November, the American people will half-heartedly vote for the "Awful, but At Least Different" candidate.

Four years ago, I was equally as confident about President Hillary, so discount the above as heavily as you'd like.

The President retains his strong lead in phony hits, however:

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
5/31
Phony
Results
Change
Since
5/31
Donald Trump 45.1% -2.6% 1,820,000 +190,000
Joe Biden 49.6% +4.1% 482,000 +18,000

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • At Hot Air, Taylor Millard conducts an interview with the Libertarian Party's candidate, Jo Jorgensen. Excerpt:

    Millard: During the Libertarian Primary, you were accused of being too pragmatic. I think it had to do with comments made on social security and paying back seniors what they paid in. Is that pragmatism or just good policy to eventually reach the Libertarian Party’s goal of a smaller, weaker government.

    Jo Jorgensen: Well, not only do I think it’s good policy, I think it’s morally correct because you’ve got someone who, for 50 years, was required to pay into the Social Security system against their will. They had absolutely no choice, in fact the money was taken out before they even received their paycheck. So for 50 years, their money was taken away. I think it’s only right to give that money back to them. And so, we can do that, not through the Ponzi scheme that we have right now, where we take from other earners, from younger earners, but by selling national assets…assets belonging to the federal government. Because, after all, that’s what their money was spent on. Their money was not put in a lockbox, their money was spent on these assets, so I look at it that they are part owners, and let’s give them their money back.

    That's not a bad answer, but the details matter. Will President Jo "give" me the nominal value of my "contributions" over my working career? Or will she adjust for inflation? Or will she give me the (theoretical) present value of the money the state took, assuming I had invested it wisely over the years?

    Or, given that there's no way the legislatures are suddenly going to turn libertarian, maybe just wait until the system goes to partial payments, then figure out what to do?


  • Jim Geraghty is understandably glum about a Democratic Party takeover. Because it's A Socially Cocooned Nepotistic Aristocracy.

    The end result is a political party that wants a sweeping overhaul of American society and the status quo, and that cannot bring itself to criticize any other faction that claims to act in the name of progress, regardless of what the consequences of their actions are. We now see it in some progressives’ response to the violence that followed George Floyd protests. The hosts of the Slate podcast What Next argued that “non-violence is an important tool for protests, but so is violence.” As even Vox writer Matthew Yglesias concedes, some circles on the Left cannot bring themselves to denounce vandalism, looting, or theft as unacceptable. Some on the Left cannot or will not conceive that unacceptable and unjust actions could taint a cause they support. They cannot draw distinctions and seek to lead society to enact a worldview in which there are no distinctions.

    The Democratic nominee’s recommendation for reforming the police is to train them to “shoot them in the leg instead of the heart.” His previous advice on home security in the face of threats was “Jill, if there’s ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony here, walk out and put that double-barrel shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house.” If Joe Biden were not Joe Biden, he would be widely denounced in Democratic circles as just another privileged, out-of-touch older white male who has no idea what he’s talking about, and whose ill-considered advice could get someone killed. But because so many Democrats want to see Biden as a wise oracle — or they hope other people can be fooled into believing he’s a wise oracle — they look at the ceiling or floor and pretend they didn’t hear it. (They’re not alone in this habit; keep reading.)

    On the other hand…

    But there’s another side to the coin, of course. It can be fairly argued that the modern Republican Party doesn’t stand for much, or perhaps really anything, beyond a nebulous, childish urge to “own the libs.” The GOP sure doesn’t worry about the debt, deficits, or runaway spending anymore. The relentless blanket excuse-making for Trump’s treatment of people — and in particular, women — indicate that many Christian conservatives no longer mean what they say about “family values.” Republicans who claimed they stood for a strong defense have largely nodded as this administration abandoned longtime battlefield allies, praised authoritarian rulers, and discussed withdrawing from NATO entirely. Even on the administration’s signature issue of border security, progress has been small and slow, but few in the GOP ranks would ever publicly criticize the president over it. Most rank-and-file Republicans begin with the conclusion that the president is right about whatever is being discussed at that moment and work backwards from there.

    About the only shred of good news I can pull out of this: Jim Geraghty exists.


  • Not only are the parties dreadful, but also blue-check Twitter, as exemplified by the tweet from Ed O'Keefe, political correspondent from CBS News, covering a recent emittage from Wheezy Joe:

    Only problem is…


  • Betteridge's law of headlines applies to this fact-check from Dispatch Media: Did Trump Say He Hoped George Floyd, Looking Down From Heaven, Is Happy About Job Numbers?

    Reporting on President Trump’s press conference Friday, several journalists and news outlets claimed the president said he hoped George Floyd is looking down from heaven and is happy about improving job numbers. A number of news outlets including ABC News, Business Insider, the  Independent, and the  New York Daily News also made the claim in news stories they published about the press conference.

    And, well, Trump is bad, but this yarn is totally made up:

    It is true that Trump made the comments at a press conference in which he touted better-than-expected job numbers. But Trump was not referring to those jobs numbers when he mentioned George Floyd. The comments in question came immediately after Trump discussed the role of the National Guard in limiting the damage caused by riots and looting, contrasting places like Minnesota, where the National Guard was active, with New York.

    Congratulations, MSM. You've reduced your credibility below zero.


  • And of course, that wasn't all, as reported by Power Line: Washington Post Dismayed By Great Economic News, Here's a tweet showing the whiplash:

    Power Line: "At first glance, it might seem shocking the the Post writes its story to fit a preconception before it knows the facts, but on reflection, that is pretty much what it does all day, every day."


  • And an amusing tweet:

    And dang if that's not an accurate transcription of what he said. Our next President. And that pencil's not gonna get any sharper, folks.


  • And an amusing two-pinocchio analysis from the WaPo on Joe Biden’s sometimes fuzzy concept of time. With many examples, here's just one:

    April 1, El Show De Piolin: “The president was very, very slow out of the gate. I argued a month ago he should invoke what they call the Defense Production Act, but we didn’t have enough ventilators to go out and say this, under the law, the president can become the commander in chief as in wartime, and dictate that companies produce things that are badly needed."

    […]

    The reality: The earliest we can find that Biden called for invoking the DPA was March 18, in a news release: “Prioritize and immediately increase domestic production of any critical medical equipment required to respond to this crisis — such as the production of ventilators and associated training to operate — by invoking the Defense Production Act, delegating authority to HHS and FEMA.”

    Biden’s statement came just minutes after Trump first said he would invoke the DPA.

    You can call it a "fuzzy concept of time". Or you can call it a lie.

URLs du Jour

2020-06-06

[Amazon Link]

  • At AIER, Robert E. Wright speculates that we have become A Nation of True Believers.

    After the Great War, the Great Depression, and the Holocaust, many thinkers tried to figure out what was wrong with the world. I’ve discussed some of their work in earlier posts, especially “The Idiocracy Experiment,” but have been saving The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements for when the uprisings, which I predicted in the middle of March, began. It’s not clear these widespread agitations will coalesce into broader rebellion or civil war but in any event, The True Believer is worth considering.

    This little book, first published in 1951, made a big splash by taking an interdisciplinary look at the root causes of fascism and communism. Its author, Eric Hoffer (1898-1983), was a longshoreman and autodidact. Between unloading and loading ships and frequenting brothels, he eventually managed to write enough books to teach at Berkeley, albeit “only” as an adjunct.

    Our Amazon Product du Jour is … you know what. You know, I really ought to read that.


  • I usually dislike when people argue that their ideological opponents are "scared" of some aspect of the future. (Hey, remember when Jimmy Carter disparaged Americans' inordinate feer of Communism?)

    It boils down to: "Those people are fearful, hence irrational, hence we don't have to listen to them."

    However, I'll make an exception for Matt Welch's take on a recent controversy: New York Times Journalists Scared To Have an Op-Ed Page

    Last night, The New York Times, which has long maintained the pretentions of being the serious journalistic institution in the United States, published an article about how its own employees were scared—not just irritated, or "deeply ashamed," but terrified—that the publication in its pages of an op-ed from a sitting U.S. senator would threaten their very lives.

    The purportedly dangerous piece, by the reliably authoritarian Sen. Tom Cotton (R–Ark.), called for President Donald Trump to send military personnel, using the Insurrection Act of 1807, to help put down the rioting that has sometimes broken out at demonstrations against abusing policing.

    "His message undermines the journalistic work of our members, puts our Black staff members in danger, promotes hate, and is likely to encourage further violence," alleges the News Guild of New York, the union that represents Times staffers. "Invariably, invoking state violence disproportionately hurts Black and brown people. It also jeopardizes our journalists' ability to work in the field safely and effectively."

    Why, yes, these "journalists" are, by their own admission, fearful of what mere words can do.

    They don't seem to consider how seriously this line of argument negates the case for a free press. I guess they think this could never be turned around to bite them in the ass.


  • David R. Henderson, writing from the Hoover Institution, encourages us to Just Say No To State & Local Bailouts.

    In May, the House of Representatives passed the $3.2 trillion HEROES [Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions] Act by a vote of 208 to 199. Fourteen Democrats and one Independent voted against and only one Republican in favor. The Act would give $1.077 trillion to state and local governments. To put that number in perspective, total state tax revenue in Fiscal Year 2019 was $1.08 trillion. In short, the proposed subsidy to state governments is huge.

    The most vocal advocates of the subsidy are members of Congress and/or governors of states with big budget deficits, such as California, Illinois and New York. Their budgets are in shambles. Do they have an argument beyond “we need it” and “it's a moral obligation”? California’s governor Gavin Newsom, for one, doesn’t.

    I'd like to say our state is immune, but … no, as this self-promoting press release from My Own CongressCritter shows: Pappas Delivers Over $1.3 Billion for NH in House Transportation and Infrastructure Package.

    New Hampshire is a rich state. (For example, on this list of States and territories ranked by per capita income, it's number 6.)

    We have no right to (essentially) demand that the states lower on that list pay for our roads and bridges.

    Of course, it's silly to make that argument, because we live in the reality-denying world that pretends we can all get rich by picking each others' pockets.


  • At the Josiah Bartlett Center, Drew Cline has a good idea. (Which stands out from all the bad ones flying around.) Police accountability starts with fixing 'qualified immunity'.

    Sometimes, answers to local municipal issues are found not in our communities, but in bad law handed down in Washington, D.C. When it comes to police accountability, many improvements can and must be made at the state and local levels. But the first and most obvious step is to correct a U.S. Supreme Court decision that granted officers broad immunity from civil lawsuits. 

    New Hampshire’s congressional delegation can play a vital role in this necessary effort by supporting reform of court-invented ‘qualified immunity’ for government officials who violate Americans’ civil rights.

    I'm generally dismayed by our overly litigious society. On the other hand, the courts are a traditional tool for redress of rights violations. So (at least today) I'm with Drew: go for it.


  • And in case you were wondering if your peanut butter label was kosher, here's a handy link to the relevant section of the Code of Federal Regulations

    (d) If peanut butter is prepared from unblanched peanuts as specified in paragraph (b)(2) of this section, the name shall show that fact by some such statement as “prepared from unblanched peanuts (skins left on).” Such statement shall appear prominently and conspicuously and shall be in type of the same style and not less than half of the point size of that used for the words “peanut butter.” This statement shall immediately precede or follow the words “peanut butter,” without intervening written, printed, or graphic matter.

    So there. Thank goodness we have well-paid bureaucrats in Washington who are well paid to write such pellucid prose, shepherd it through the approval process, place it lovingly into "Title 21 → Chapter I → Subchapter B → Part 164 → Subpart B → §164.150".

    I mean, if there were intervening written, printed, or graphic matter" between "peanut butter" and “prepared from unblanched peanuts (skins left on)”, then whatever would we do?


Last Modified 2020-06-06 1:38 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2020-06-05

[Amazon Link]

  • There's no baseball, but censorship season is in full swing! Reports the Federalist: Amazon Bans Coronavirus Skeptic's Book But Still Sells Books By Hitler, The Unabomber.

    Et tu, Amazon?

    Amazon first refused to publish a book skeptical of the mainstream narrative on the novel Wuhan coronavirus while still continuing to promote works by anarchists and Adolf Hitler.

    Alex Berenson, a former reporter at the New York Times who has written extensively debunking fearmongering claims related to the lockdowns wrote on Twitter Thursday that the tech giant to benefit the most from pandemic stay-home orders is refused to sell his latest book.

    Good news: Amazon eventually relented, after Elon Musk called for breaking up the company. I have no idea whether that was causal.

    I also have no idea whether Alex Berenson is full of crap, or not. He's semi-famous for writing an anti-pot book Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence. Which Amazon had no problem with selling.

    Amazon has every right to decide what they want to sell, or not sell. And they have every right to make those decisions as transparent or opaque as they want. But, as a loyal customer since 1995, I'd hope they'd keep themselves as an open marketplace of ideas, no matter how loony or evil those ideas are.


  • John Hirschauer offers some welcome contrast to the prevailing rhetoric: Police Shooting “Epidemic” of Unarmed Black Men Is Fiction.

    It is true that there are injustices in the United States. It is true that there is tension and distrust between the police and racial minorities, and that this has terrible human costs, George Floyd’s death prominent among them. But the rioters and looters and their apologists are advancing a more specific claim still: that Floyd’s death is not just an individual tragedy worthy of particular outrage, but part of an epidemic of lethal violence perpetrated against unarmed black men by police officers. That such tragedies happen with startling frequency. That black men cannot leave the house without getting shot by racist cops. “It’s important to be here today because we’re dying,” one protester told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “It’s an epidemic.”

    This is not supported by the data. Last year, according to the Washington Post’s database of police-involved shootings, nine unarmed black people were shot and killed by the police, compared to 19 unarmed white people. Assuming that the use of lethal force was unjustified in each of those nine cases — not always a safe assumption — the resulting deaths are no less tragic for being so statistically improbable. We rightly fear the specter of Islamic terror, even as it has claimed relatively few domestic victims in the post-9/11 epoch. But this problem — the use of lethal force by police against unarmed black suspects — is not nearly of the scope that the rioters and their enablers would have us believe.

    All the leftist lip service to "science" and "truth" goes out the window when it comes to American racial issues.


  • George F. Will has a demand: Trump must be removed. So must his congressional enablers. And his opening paragraphs are scathing:

    This unraveling presidency began with the Crybaby-in-Chief banging his spoon on his highchair tray to protest a photograph — a photograph — showing that his inauguration crowd the day before had been smaller than the one four years previous. Since then, this weak person’s idea of a strong person, this chest-pounding advertisement of his own gnawing insecurities, this low-rent Lear raging on his Twitter-heath has proven that the phrase malignant buffoon is not an oxymoron.

    Presidents, exploiting modern communications technologies and abetted today by journalists preening as the “resistance” — like members of the French Resistance 1940-1944, minus the bravery — can set the tone of American society, which is regrettably soft wax on which presidents leave their marks. The president’s provocations — his coarsening of public discourse that lowers the threshold for acting out by people as mentally crippled as he — do not excuse the violent few. They must be punished. He must be removed.

    Resorting to an overused cliché: Tell us what you really think, George.

    My current operating theory:

    In 2016, anyone paying attention knew that Trump was awful.

    But enough people were tired enough of Democrat awfulness that they were willing to vote for a different kind of awful.

    So I would imagine that this year "enough people" will embrace Biden, even though his awfulness is manifest.

    He's a different kind of awful.


  • With the trillions of dollars flying out of Washington, to be supplied by future taxpayers, it's pretty easy to swipe a mere $150 billion. Mark J. Perry writes about it in the Washington Examiner: Electric vehicle advocates want to exploit pandemic to swindle $150B from taxpayers

    As industries grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, the new normal it brings, and a slow-but-steady reopening of business, there is no shortage of proposals in Washington for how the federal government can provide assistance to businesses and industries most harmed. Some of these proposals are smart and may be necessary in the weeks and months ahead. Others appear opportunistic and more intended to advance a special-interest agenda than solve a problem.

    A proposal put forth by the Transportation Electrification Partnership (a collection of foreign automakers and Tesla, utilities, electric vehicle proponents, and even the California Air Resources Board, brought together by the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator) has all the makings of one such opportunistic, rent-seeking proposal. The group recently wrote to Congress, urging lawmakers to use the pandemic as a platform to transition the transportation sector to electric vehicles.

    Mark is measured, as befits an AEI scholar. But saying this "appears opportunistic" is like saying that a scammer taking advantage of the pandemic to bilk gullible old people "appears opportunistic".


  • And finally, our Google LFOD News Alert rang for an LTE to the (Tacoma Washington) News Tribune from one David Hopkins:

    At some point the US is going to start brandishing its “Live Free or Die” perk.

    Women’s marchers were “brave.” Antifa were “defiant.” But lockdown protesters, who go to these rallies knowing they may catch their own death, are labeled as:

    • “Idiots” for wanting to get on with the duty of living.
    • “Fools” for putting their principles before their own lives.
    • “Irresponsible” for knowing that, bug or no bug, people aren’t meant to live in cages, gilded as they may be, pets to a governing body that demands they come out when its says come out and play when it says play and be kept dependent on its “charity” to survive.

    We know who is at most risk. We can protect them while my generation and the generations not at risk below me fight this bug in defense of the elderly, the weak and the young.

    If all I need to do to preserve what generations before me did is to get on with my life, then yup, forward I will go.

    It may kill me, but at this stage in the crisis, I’d rather be alive than survive.

    Bless you, Mr. Hopkins. It gladdens me in these trying times to know that there are still small pockets of liberty-minded folks, even in Washington state.

Murder Most Foul

I was intrigued by Paul Mirengoff's Power Line post, Interracial violence in America, by the numbers. He quotes Heather Mac Donald:

Between 2012 and 2015, blacks committed 85.5 percent of all black-white interracial violent victimizations (excluding interracial homicide, which is also disproportionately black-on-white). That works out to 540,360 felonious assaults on whites. Whites committed 14.4 percent of all interracial violent victimization, or 91,470 felonious assaults on blacks.

And Paul adds his own statistical contribution:

Blacks commit around 70 percent of black-white interracial homicides. I take it that, as a statistical matter, the “expected” number is 50 percent for all forms of black-white interracial violent crime.

That "expected" bit kind of tweaked my old brain. Is that really true? I mean, there are more white people than black, right? So…

Well, it depends on what you expect, I suppose. I did some math. Simple math, because that's all I'm up to these days.

Paul links to 2016 data. Fine, but more recent data is available, let's look at the equivalent table for 2018: the FBI's Expanded Homicide Data Table 6.

We'll snip out the bits of the table that deal with the race of offender and victim:

Race of victim Total Race of offender
White Black or
African
American
Other Unknown
White 3,315 2,677 514 61 63
Black or African American 2,925 234 2,600 17 74
Other race 220 54 39 122 5
Unknown race 110 46 24 7 33

One thing is immediately clear: White people mostly kill other White people, and Black/African American people mostly kill other Black/African American people. (I hear you saying: "duh".)

And (wince) there are slightly more White than Black/African American homicide victims, there are slightly more Black/African American than White offenders.

Let's simplify things a bit by throwing out the "Unknown" edges (although thumbs up to the law enforcers who neglect/refuse to pigeonhole victims and perpetrators by race, which is a mere social construct). And put everything in percentage terms:

Race of victim Total Race of offender
White Black or
African
American
Other
White 51.32% 42.37% 8.14% 0.97%
Black or African American 45.28% 3.70% 41.15% 0.27%
Other race 3.41% 0.85% 0.62% 1.93%

On to my mathematical contribution. Assume:

  • A mythical country with three population groups we'll call W, B, and O.
  • W's make up 76.5% of this country's population, B's are 13.4%, and O's are 10.1%. (Any resemblance to an actual country is entirely intentional.)
  • And let's assume that homicide perpetrators are equally likely to come from any group, and are "blind" to the group their victims are in.
What can we "expect" in that situation? Well, imagine we're picking balls from an urn, with a W, B, or O printed on each, in the above percentages. First we pick an "offender" ball, then a "victim" ball. (And assume a lot of balls in the urn so picking the first ball doesn't affect the probability of picking the second.)

Under those assumptions, the probability that a W offender kills a B victim is 76.5% times 13.4%, or 10.3%.

And the probability that a B offender kills a W victim is 13.4% times 76.5%, or… 10.3%. So, yes, under "blind" assumptions, Paul's correct that you would "expect" the same fraction of W-B homicide as B-W homicide.

The complete table for our mythical country:

Race of victim Total Race of offender
W B O
W 76.5% 58.5% 10.3% 7.7%
B 13.4% 10.3% 1.8% 1.6%
O 10.1% 7.7% 1.6% 1.0%

Yes, our actual numbers are wildly out of whack with the ideal country where everyone's equally likely to be a killer or their victim. But (oddly enough) our actual black-on-white homicide fraction is slightly less than you'd expect from a color-blind country.

On the other hand, the black-on-black homicide fraction is nearly 23 times what you'd expect from that "ideal" country.

You can play the same game with sex, by the way: see the second set of numbers in the FBI table linked above. Using another imaginary urn, this time sex-blind to pick offenders and victims would give (approximately) 25% of each "type" of homicide. Instead:

  • 62.6% male offender/male victim
  • 26.6% male offender/female victim
  • 8.0% female offender/male victim
  • 2,8% female offender/female victim

Again, very lopsided. Guys, this is why we should have ratified the Equal Rights Amendment.

But what this really shows is that the good-hearted folks who decry racial disproportionality in law enforcement need to take into account the disproportion among criminals. Example: Jacob Sullum in Reason: George Floyd’s Horrifying Death Highlights Stark Racial Disparities in the Use of Police Force. While I'm not excusing what happened to Floyd, Sullum says things like:

Whenever a Minneapolis officer draws his gun, deploys a dog, or grabs, shoves, slaps, punches, kicks, tackles, pins, strangles, tases, or pepper-sprays someone, he is supposed to report that use of force. Blacks, who account for a fifth of the city's population, were on the receiving end of such violence nearly three-fifths of the time during the last five years, according to official records analyzed by The New York Times. Whites, who account for more than three-fifths of Minneapolis residents, were involved in less than a quarter of those incidents.

The relevant question being: yes, that three-fifths number is out of whack with Minneapolis's population, but is it out of whack with the fraction of offenders? Jacob doesn't look at that data, nor (as near as I can tell) does the New York Times report he's relying on.

I bet there's also a disproportionate amount of force used against males compared to females. So?

There might be a problem. If so, I'd like to see it documented with non-sloppy statistics.


Last Modified 2020-06-04 2:01 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2020-06-03

  • Remember when Trump said "very fine people" in reference to Charlottesville? Dan McLaughlin has a careful, long review: The 'Very Fine People' Trap and How to Avoid It Today.

    Violent, racially charged disorder in our nation’s cities, and the involvement of Antifa, evokes memories of the lowest moment of Donald Trump’s presidency: the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., that erupted in violence that left one protestor dead and many more injured. Joe Biden even made President Trump’s “very fine people” line after Charlottesville the centerpiece of Biden’s presidential announcement. The shadow of Trump’s response still hangs over his communications on the George Floyd riots. And not only over Trump: Leading Minnesota Democrats tried over the weekend to play the “both sides” game to blame the Floyd riots on white supremacists, apparently into the teeth of evidence to the contrary.

    It is worth revisiting now what happened then, and what it tells us about presidential and political communication in this sort of crisis. Trump’s critics have frequently misrepresented what the president actually said. But Trump’s defenders also missed the bigger picture of why his response was both morally and politically tone-deaf. The very skill that has been Trump’s greatest political asset — his ability to blast his chosen theme like a foghorn over the din of the media and his critics — deserted him then. He is still struggling with the same problem today, as well as with the legacy of “very fine people.”

    Let's skip down to the end:

    Whether he did so in good faith or not, Donald Trump told the nation what it needed to hear from him after Charlottesville: He denounced white nationalists and violence and never called Nazis “very fine people.” But he also stepped on his own lines, telling a story disconnected from reality and totally inapt to the moment, and feeding the worst fears of what a Trump presidency represents. No amount of apologetics, more than two years later, can fix that. Presidents don’t get moments like that back.

    I won't be sad if Trump loses. Unfortunately, I'll be sad if Biden wins. As many people (including me) have said before: isn't there some way they could both lose?

    Speaking of a controversy where both sides deserve to lose…


  • Jacob Sullum at Reason observes that It’s Hard To Take Either Side in Trump’s Twitter Spat Seriously.

    Last Thursday the president of the United States threw a temper tantrum disguised as an executive order, threatening to punish Twitter for daring to annotate two of his comments about voting by mail. Twitter retaliated the next day, slapping a warning label on a presidential tweet about the protests triggered by George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

    President Donald Trump's order was legally meaningless, aiming to increase the civil liability of disfavored social media platforms in ways that are beyond his powers and that would encourage more, not less, scrutiny of online speech. But Twitter's sudden interest in policing the president's claims and rhetoric was equally hard to take seriously, promising a kind of dispassionate and consistent oversight it cannot possibly achieve with Trump, let alone every public official on Earth.

    Trump has challenged his opponents to a "who can be dumber" game. It's a fierce competition.


  • Tyler Cowen's column says Americans Unified Only in Outrage.

    If I have learned one thing over the last few weeks, it is that the psychology of the American public is weirder — and perhaps more flexible — than I ever would have thought.

    Consider, as just one example among many, the issue of nursing homes. According to some estimates, about 40% of the deaths associated with Covid-19 have occurred in nursing homes, with more almost certain to come.

    You might think that those 40,000-plus deaths would be a major national scandal. But so far the response has been subdued. Yes, there has been ample news coverage, but there are no riots in response, no social movement to “clean up the nursing homes,” no Ralph Nader-like crusader who has made this his or her political cause.

    That's just one example.


  • And our Google LFOD News Alert rang for an Atlantic article by Kellie Carter Jackson ("assistant professor of Africana studies at Wellesley College"): Riots Are the American Way: On the George Floyd Protests.

    Since the beginning of this country, riots and violent rhetoric have been markers of patriotism. When our Founding Fathers fought for independence, violence was the clarion call. Phrases such as “Live free or die,” “Give me liberty or give me death,” and “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God” echoed throughout the nation, and continue today. Force and violence have always been used as weapons to defend liberty, because—as John Adams once said in reference to the colonists’ treatment by the British—“We won’t be their Negroes.”

    [Did John Adams really say that? Yes he did, under a pseudonym in 1765.]

    Quibble: LFOD was actually General Stark's 1809 translation of a French Revolution slogan; I'm pretty sure it wasn't being slung about by the Founders before that.

    Professor Kellie is basically giving a big thumb's up for riots and violence.

    I have to point out that the results of the American Revolution and the current violence are likely to be much different.

    Hey, remember when Kevin D. Williamson was fired from his brief Atlantic gig for saying something beyond the pale about abortion? Good times.

Open Borders

The Science and Ethics of Immigration

[Amazon Link]

I've been a Bryan Caplan fan for awhile now. I enjoyed his take on why we can't trust voters to generate rational public policy and his look at "why the education system is a waste of time and money".

But, on those topics, Bryan was "confirming my priors"; I was kinda leaning his way before I opened the books. But in this book, he sets out to recommend his titular policy: open borders. Next to no restrictions on foreigners making their way into this country to work. I'm, like, really?

But (spoiler alert) he pretty much convinced me that's the way to go. The moral and economic cases are pretty clear for a libertarian: you have people who want to work, other people who want to employ them, how dare you step between them and ban this capitalist act between consenting adults? And (no question) this is a positive-sum transaction, making both parties better off.

Bryan also handles the (numerous) objections: expanded immigration is not a drag on the welfare state, the cultural differences between Us and Them fade out after a generation, etc.

I should mention the biggie: it's a comic book. The illustrating is done by Zach Weinersmith, the force behind the Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal web comic. (Recommended, if you're into that sort of thing.) This works pretty well, too. And I got more than a couple chuckles along the way. (There's a "Notes" section at the end if you want more words than pictures on a certain topic.)

[Amazon Link]
And I should also mention that immigration is one of those topics on which I'm easily persuaded by the last thing I read. See (for example) my take on Reihan Salam's book opposing open borders. By which I was also persuaded. But that was last year.

I am a tall stalk of grass, destined to bend in whichever direction blows the wind…

Ad Astra

[1.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Wow, I was really surprised at how much I disliked this movie. A big budget. A couple stars I like, Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones. Pretty good reviews from the professionals. But I kept nodding off…

It's set in the near future where travel within the inner solar system is an everyday thing. Brad plays Roy McBride, an astronaut famous for keeping his cool head in a crisis. But his dad (Mr. Jones) set off to Neptune years back on an extraterrestrial intelligence hunt, disappeared, and is presumed dead.

Except the inner solar system is now being bombarded with weird emanations seemingly coming from the Neptunian area, wreaking havoc with power supplies and communications. Can't have that! So (this is complicated), Roy gets drafted into communicating a message to his dad. Which must be sent from Mars. Which involves first stopping on the Moon. And Roy has abandonment issues with Dad. And there's a lot of secrecy involved in the mission. And Roy's marriage to Liv Tyler is rocky because of his emotional distance or something. (Isn't she shy of getting involved with space guys from Armageddon?)

Roy also endures a fall from a huge antenna sticking from the earth's surface into space; encounters with moon pirates with lunar dune buggies; face-eating space monkeys. None of that has much of anything to do with the main plot.

And (oh yeah) Roy's laser-borne message from Mars to his dad on Neptune: everyone acts like they expect an immediate response. I looked this up: at best, Neptune is about 4 light-hours from Mars. Even an "immediate" response wouldn't show up until at least 8 hours later. For a purportedly-hard SF movie, this is unforgivable.

The Secret Place

[Amazon Link]

This is the 2014 entry in Tana French's series of novels about murder most foul, as investigated by the Dublin police murder squad. As always, a couple of the detectives here were supporting players in a previous French book.

It's about the reopening of a cold murder case, set mainly at a prestigious boarding school for girls. Which is (as is usually the case) right next to an equally prestigious one for boys. One night last year, one of the rich, good-looking boys got his head stove in with a hoe on the schoolgrounds.

What suddenly causes the case to come alive: someone's posted a pic of the vic in the school's "Secret Place", where the girls are encouraged to post things they wouldn't disclose out loud. And added the caption: "I know who killed him."

The cold-case detective, Stephen Moran, brings the picture to one of the original detectives, Antoinette Conway. Stephen's ambitious and sees this as a possible path to promotion. Conway is hard-as-nails and cynical, but agrees. And they're off to the school to see if they can shake anything loose. (And, eventually, they do.)

The narration alternates between first-person Steve chapters focusing on the newly opened investigation, and third-person chapters describing the events leading up to the murder. Suspicion boils down to two groups: four "Mean Girls", and their antagonists, four "Weird Girls". (Holly is one of the weirdos.) We're obviously supposed to root for the underdogs, but… nope, things aren't that simple.

Leave Her to Heaven

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

I'm not sure to whom "her" in the title refers. If it's Gene Tierney, as pictured on the DVD box, well, no. Maybe they couldn't get away with a title like Leave Her to Hell in the 1950s.

It's the old story: Richard (Cornell Wilde) meets Ellen (Ms. Tierney) on a train. They are immediately smitten, but Richard fails to pick up on some signs that Ellen's brain is operating several sigma outside the mean. So Ellen breaks off her engagement to Vincent Price (honest!) and they get hitched as fast as possible. But it soon becomes apparent that Ellen gets (literally) insanely jealous at anyone with whom she might have to share Richard's attention.

Problem number one: Richard is devoted to his sickly brother, Danny. And I don't want to spoil anything, but Danny soon leaves the picture. Next up, Ellen gets pregnant, but… geez… won't Richard have to pay attention to the baby? Oh oh.

Eventually, Richard catches onto Ellen's thing. But she's got one more trick up her sleeve.

URLs du Jour

2020-06-02

[Amazon Link]

  • Kevin D. Williamson, writing at National Review (warning: NRPLUS), provides a rare exception to Betteridge's law of headlines. Specifically, he asks whether we are Tired of ‘Winning’ Yet?

    He examines the notion that "we" (the good guys) have to act like rat bastards because "they" (the bad guys) act that way.

    Republicans used to be the freedom people: free speech, free trade, free enterprise, free markets, freedom of religion, freedom of association, free to keep and bear arms. Trump and his partisans too often are the opposite of that: the neo-mercantilism people, the wildly expansive government power people, the Orbán toady people, the “total authority” people, the people who complain about abuses of presidential power on Monday and think up implausible excuses for them on Tuesday, the people who conflate corporatism with patriotism, the slanderers, the conspiracy goofs, the shut-down-Twitter-if-Twitter-doesn’t-do-what-we-want people.

    Our friends on talk radio insist that we are one election away from “losing America.” If the president can shut down media he doesn’t like on a whim, then we already have lost it. All that talk of “winning” assumes a prize worth having and champions who deserve it.

    That kind of winning looks a lot like losing.

    I am a lousy predictor, but it's hard to see how things will get better without them getting a whole lot worse first.


  • Bryan Caplan tells us What [He's] Thinking. It's almost certainly better than what I'm thinking. Here's a bit from the middle:

    1. I was convinced that coronavirus was a dire threat by early March, but I opposed the lockdown from day 1.
    2. Why?  Because per Huemer’s The Problem of Political Authority, I accept a strong presumption in favor of human liberty.  You cannot rightfully shut businesses and order people to “stay at home” out of an “abundance of caution.”  Instead, the burden is on the advocates of these policies to demonstrate that their benefits drastically exceed their costs – by at least 5:1.  Almost no one even tried to discharge this burden.
    3. Telling government to “err on the side of caution” is a recipe for severe oppression.  Individuals, in contrast, have every right to personally “err on the side of caution.”  In early weeks of the crisis when risk information was scarce, erring on the side of caution was reasonable.

    Note how easy advocates of "caution" (e.g., mandatory mask edicts) have it: if they don't get their way, they can blame any subsequent deaths on failure to follow their advice.

    And in places where their advice is followed, they can always claim that things would have been a lot worse.

    No proof is necessary in either case.


  • At AIER, Doug Bandow points out that as far as economic destruction goes, The Real Looters are the Politicians.

    In Portland, Oregon, “rioters have broken into Portland’s main mall in downtown and began looting the Louis Vuitton. Youths ran out with designer bags. They shouted about expropriation,” as Andy Ngo tweeted. But that state suffered far more from Gov. Kate Brown’s edict that banned residents from leaving their homes except for essential work, buying food, and other narrow exemptions, and also banned all recreational travel, even though much of the state had few if any COVID cases. Almost 400,000 Oregonians have lost their jobs after Brown’s shutdown. 

    In Grand Rapids, Michigan, looters pillaged a shoe store and many other businesses. But the damage they inflicted was not even pocket change compared to the wreckage produced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. She prohibited anyone from leaving their home to visit family or friends. Whitmer severely restricted what stores could sell; she prohibited purchasing seeds for spring planting in stores after she decreed that a “nonessential” activity (unlike buying state lottery tickets). Though COVID infections were concentrated in the Detroit metropolitan area, Whitmer shut down the entire state – including northern counties with near-zero infections and zero fatalities, boosting unemployment to 24% statewide

    At least they've arrested some of the freelance looters. I think. The looters working under the imprimatur of government will go scot-free.


  • At Politico, Rich Lowry notes the amusing libertarian conversion of a former "common good" populist:

    The intellectual fashion among populists and religious traditionalists has been to attempt to forge a post-liberty or “post-liberal” agenda to forge a deeper foundation for the new Republican Party. Instead of obsessing over freedom and rights, conservatives would look to government to protect the common good.

    This project, though, has been rocked by its first real-life encounter with governments acting to protect, as they see it, the common good.

    One of its architects, the editor of the religious journal First Things, R.R. Reno, has sounded like one of the libertarians he so scorns during the crisis. First, he complained he might get shamed if he were to host a dinner party during the height of the pandemic, although delaying a party would seem a small price to pay for someone so intensely committed to the common good.

    More recently, he went on a tirade against wearing masks. Reno is apparently fine with a much stronger government, as long as it never issues public-health guidance not to his liking. Then, it’s to the barricades for liberty, damn it.

    Mr. Reno will probably snap back to populist statism once the pandemic restrictions are lifted, and resume his slander classical liberals.

    As someone says: "A libertarian is a conservative who's been …" Oh, well, let's hand the mic over to Proudhon:

    To be GOVERNED is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so. To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.


  • I am an occasional commenter at Granite Grok, usually just one-offs, but I got into a mini-debate in comments to this article with a guy who claimed "by nearly every indicator, living standards in this country have declined for the vast majority since 1980."

    Since 1980? I assume he dated America's long slog into the cesspool from the election of President Reagan.

    Anyway, I think his claim was ludicrous, and that I got the better of the ensuing argument. But I wish I'd had this article by "gwern" at hand: My Ordinary Life: Improvements Since the 1990s. Not quite 1980, but the list would be longer in that case.

    It's difficult to excerpt, and he doesn't even go into raw economic indicators (inflation, income, employment, …). But bookmark it, and if you ever find yourself nostalgic for the Good Old Days, click over to be cured.


Last Modified 2020-06-02 11:11 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2020-06-01

Happy June, everyone! Gotta be better than May, right?

Our eye candy du jour is provided by Mark J. Perry of AEI, and it's kind of grim, sorry, but as visualizations go, it seems to be topnotch: Selected global causes of deaths vs. COVID-19 in 2020.

  • Viking Pundit made the mistake of watching TV yesterday, and provides us with Things I learned on the Sunday morning shows.

    1. The actions of a handful of looters should not be used to paint a broad brush to condemn the legitimate protesters who are angry over the George Floyd tragedy.
    2. The actions of a single cop in Minneapolis indicates systematic failure of the entire American police force and it must undergo sweeping institutional reform.

    I've learned a couple related things:

    1. We should obey the edicts of various government officials on mask-wearing, social distancing, and business restrictions.
    2. We should ignore curfews imposed by government officials in order to riot, loot, and burn "protest".

    The state turned from "Benevolent and Wise Protector of Public Health" into "Fascistic Oppressor of the Downtrodden" just like that.


  • At National Review, Kyle Smith provides advice that should be unnecessary: Don't Excuse, Defend, or Encourage Rioters.

    Why do they keep doing it? Decade after decade, generation after generation, progressives keep making the same, elemental mistake: They downplay, excuse, and in extreme cases even encourage urban rioters.

    We’ve been down this road before, and it’s a straight stretch of highway with no twists whatsoever. It would take a moral moron to get lost on it, and yet somehow progressives keep managing to do so. This isn’t hard. The people of Minneapolis are right to be angry about the savage death of George Floyd, but rioting will not bring him back or honor his memory, and the riots will make everything even worse. The Democrats and the media should be shouting as loudly as they can: Stop what you’re doing, you’re hurting your cause.

    Also condoning the riots as "rebellion" is fat filmmaker Michael Moore. Which brings us to:


  • Matt Taibbi is a dedicated lefty, but he's principled enough to notice that we're turning into a very bad movie, titled Planet of the Censoring Humans. His Exhibit A is what happened to fellow-lefty Michael Moore's recent documentary, directed by Jeff Gibbs.

    Moore and Gibbs challenged the idea that both the planet and humankind’s current patterns of industrial production can be saved through the magic bullet of “renewable energy.” The film shows lurid examples of various deceptions, like the oft-used trick of replacing coal plants with new natural gas plants, which are then called “clean” or “green,” or the hideous trend of describing the burning of trees as a “renewable” energy source.

    Environmentalists denounced the film as riddled with “lies” and “misinformation,” claiming among other things that Moore used old data to discredit green technology. A campaign to remove the film from circulation immediately took shape.

    It's amusing (in a grim way) to see environmentalists finally notice that Moore's documentary style is propagandistic and totally unfair to its targets. I've been saying that for decades.

    But (of course) censorship is a really bad response, and that's only Taibbi's first example of that. His bottom line: "[T]hese new suppression tactics are infinitely more dangerous than one movie ever could be, and progressives seem to have lost the ability to care."

    I would disagree that progressives ever consistently cared about censorship as long as it was directed against targets they despised. Read some history, Matt.


  • Also being pilloried by progressives is Mark Zuckerberg. (Example) Why? Well, because (according to Alexandra DeSanctis at National Review): Mark Zuckerberg Says Social Media Isn’t the ‘Arbiter of Truth’.

    “I don’t think Facebook or internet platforms in general should be arbiters of truth,” Zuckerberg said in an interview with CNBC. “I think that’s kind of a dangerous line to get to in terms of deciding what is true and what isn’t.”

    His comments came on the heels of the recent back-and-forth between Donald Trump and Twitter, after the social-media platform began appending fact-check–style disclaimers to some of the president’s tweets, and Trump shot back with an executive order taking ineffectual aim at Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Twitter’s move to censure the president was a response to pressure from progressives incensed by Trump’s repeated tweets pushing conspiracy theories alleging that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough was involved in a murder and coverup.

    Alexandra provides an example of an incensed progressive:

    Massachusetts senator and failed presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren, meanwhile, was even harsher, sounding more than a bit like Trump in her zeal: “Zuckerberg went on Fox News—a hate-for-profit machine that gives a megaphone to racists and conspiracy theorists—to talk about how social media platforms should essentially allow politicians to lie without consequences. This is eroding our democracy.”

    Like Woodrow Wilson, Elizabeth Warren wants to "make the world safe for democracy". By destroying freedom of speech.


  • And these things seem to run in the same way, don't they? At the Federalist, Tristan Justice notes: Instagram Blocks GOP Senator's Children's Book From Being Promoted.

    Instagram is blocking a new children’s book from Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn and her daughter, Mary Morgan Ketchel, from being promoted on the platform citing the potential that it might “influence the outcome of an election.”

    The book titled, “Camilla Can Vote: Celebrating the Centennial of Women’s Right to Vote,” is about a little girl’s trip to a museum where she is transported back to 1920 when Tennessee became the last state to ratify the 19th Amendment passing women’s suffrage. The project came to be Ketchel said, because she wanted to connect little girls to history to celebrate the upcoming centennial of women’s right to vote, highlighting Tennessee’s role in the process along the way.

    Facebook owns Instagram. I guess they didn't get Zuck's memo about his devotion to free expression.