URLs du Jour


  • 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.