URLs du Jour


  • A New York Times article gets an amused look from Jim Geraghty at National Review: Rich New Yorkers Roughing It in Their Second Homes.

    Whatever else you think of the New York Times newspaper, there’s a particular deliciousness to the newspaper’s insanely insular lifestyle coverage of the city’s wealthy, entitled, and self-absorbed. This weekend’s Real Estate section brought a fascinating and inadvertently hilarious in-depth portrait of the struggles of Manhattanites trying to ride out the pandemic from their second homes in the Hamptons, the luxurious communities on the eastern end of Long Island.

    While living full-time in places that usually get much less wear and tear, these homeowners share many of the same difficulties as anyone dealing with the coronavirus lockdown — working in communal spaces where their children now are present 24/7, discovering items in their homes that need updating, and then renovating a home while they are living in it. In addition, these homeowners must adjust to living in relatively unfamiliar towns, often far from friends, family, or creature comforts such as a favorite bagel shop or longtime barber.

    You may be sick, you may have buried a loved one, you may be laid off or have lost your business, you may have put off hip surgery, you may be facing eviction, your kids haven’t been to school since March and won’t be back anytime soon, and your governor may have killed your elderly relatives in nursing homes through reckless policies, but please, take a moment to think of the publicists and “boutique wealth-management company” executives who haven’t been to their favorite bagel joint in weeks! (The article features a cameo by the “director for cultural engagement at Everytown for Gun Safety.”)

    Snif! Obligatory Commie Radio (aka NHPR) story from April: Locals Bristle As Out-of-Towners Fleeing Virus Hunker Down In New Hampshire Homes. There's a pic of two Manhattanites strolling through Wolfeboro with their designer doggies, identified as Lauren Gaudette and Garrett Neff.

    Lauren and Garrett are actually semi-famous. For example, our Getty image du jour is of the attractive couple (unfortunately without pups). Garrett is a "model and swimwear designer" who keeps getting deemed a real-life Zoolander. (Lauren is identified as a "fashion executive" in the linked article.)

    Well, I hope they're well in Wolfeboro, and I hope the locals have stopped bristling.

  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] I was reminded of the old Southside Johnny song, "All I Want is Everything" by the headline on a Reason article by Eric Boehm: Teachers Unions Want Wealth Taxes, Charter School Bans, and Medicaid-for-all Before Schools Can Reopen. Specifically, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA):

    That union represents more than 35,000 teachers in the nation's second-largest school district. Earlier this month, UTLA published a paper calling for schools to remain closed until the district could ensure adequate supplies of protective gear for teachers and students. UTLA also demanded the reconfiguring of classrooms to allow for social distancing.

    But that wasn't it. UTLA also stated that the pandemic requires an immediate moratorium on new charter schools in Los Angeles. How does that protect student or teacher safety? It doesn't, of course. If anything, the pandemic has revealed the necessity of additional educational options for parents and students.

    UTLA didn't stop there. It is also demanding things that the officials in charge of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) don't have the power to grant, such as the passage of Medicare-for-all, new state-level wealth taxes in California, and a federal bailout of the LAUSD—which is struggling to meet pension obligations for retired teachers and staff.*

    We'll give them points for chutzpah. One of the only possibly-good outcomes of the pandemic is a needed, and deserved, kick in the pants to the education system.

  • Randal O'Toole is an expert at casting a cold eye on passenger trains. His latest at Cato: Last Century's Transportation Ten Years from Now.

    With a presidential candidate known as Amtrak Joe, a House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee proposal to triple funding for intercity passenger trains, and a proposal before Congress to spend $205 billion on high‐​speed trains, it is likely that increased subsidies to Amtrak and faster trains will be promoted in the near future. That makes it worthwhile to look at how the last major push to spend money on passenger trains worked out.

    In 2009 and 2010, President Obama persuaded Congress to spend $10.1 billion on “high‐​speed intercity passenger rail” projects. Obama used other federal funds to bring this up to $11.5 billion, all of which was partially matched by at least $7 billion in state and local funding. After ten years, at least some of those projects must be working, right?

    Short answer: no, of course not.

    One bit of very local interest: $116 million was spent on the Downeaster line, which runs through (but doesn't stop in) my town of Rollinsford NH. Amtrak expanded service to Freeport (LL Bean!) and Brunswick Maine. An average of 127 daily passengers make use of those stops, so: slightly less than $1 million per daily passenger.

    And service? It went from 5 trains/day in 2009 to… 5 trains/day in 2019.

    The fastest Downeaster train averaged 46.4 miles/hr in 2009. And in 2019 that number was… 45.8 miles/hr.

  • Rob Pegoraro in Forbes looks at Trump’s Plan To Regulate Social Media.

    President Trump is still mad at Twitter, and now his Commerce Department has asked the Federal Communications Commission to write rules to stop social-media platforms from being mean to him.

    The 55-page proposal released Monday night by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a Commerce agency, would have the FCC rewrite Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act

    Via Slashdot, where the submitter there says "Expect some of the people who denounced net-neutrality regulations to cheer it on."

    Rest easy, Slashdotter. There are a lot of us who think both Net Neutrality and Section 230 butchery are lousy ideas.

  • Bad news for me in the NYPost: People over 6 feet tall are more likely to contract coronavirus.

    People over six feet tall are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with the coronavirus, the results of a new survey reveal.

    The global team of researchers, including experts from the University of Manchester and Open University, surveyed 2,000 people in the country, as well as the US, to determine whether their personal attributes, work and living practices might play a role in transmission, The Telegraph reported.

    "How's the air up there?"


    I will resort to my confirmation-bias bag o' tricks, and point out that the researchers and some of the surveyed are Brits, so what did we fight that war for anyway, if not to ignore what those guys say?

  • And good news (via a question) from Michael Graham: Did A Judge Just Give Sununu A Third-Party Problem in November?

    A federal judge liberated the New Hampshire Libertarian Party (LPNH) from the state’s ballot access requirements Tuesday in a 50-page decision that overruled the Sununu administration’s attempts to keep the third-party’s candidates off the ballot.

    “The state’s attorney wasn’t particularly prepared for the case. He apparently thought we were bluffing,” LPNH spokesperson Richard Manzo told NHJournal. “The judge [wasn’t] happy to be hearing the case, either. I think he believed, as we did, this issue should have been resolved out of court.”

    Bad news for Governor Chris, but I'm happy that I'll have folks on the ballot that I'd be (marginally) happier to vote for.

Last Modified 2022-10-16 6:17 AM EDT


[Amazon Link]

This is another book off WSJ reviewer Tom Nolan's Best Mystery Books of 2019 list. Eight down, and… we'll get to those last two eventually, I'm sure.

The first-person narrator is Anna McDonald, Scottish wife and mother. Except not really "Anna". That's a name she adopted, because she's in hiding from a past life, sort of a DIY witness protection program. And she's having a bad day. A true-crime podcast she listens to concerns the sinking of the yacht Dana. Which contains a surprising revelation: an old acquaintance, Leon Parker, and many of his family perished in the sinking. And the person held responsible, and jailed, was probably framed.

Probably framed, that is, by Leon's fabulously wealthy wife, Gretchen Tiegler. Who (it turns out) is also a major reason Anna felt forced to adopt her new identity.

And did I mention that Anna's having a bad day? Yes: by coincidence, her husband also announces that he's dumping her, and running off on vacation with Anna's best friend Estelle. Bummer!

Eventually, Estelle's soon-to-be-ex husband, Fin Cohen, shows up on Anna's doorstep. He is a famous musician, and also anorexic. Anna decides to take off on her own investigation of the Dana's sinking. Sort of a Jessica Fletcher deal, if Tom Bosley accompanied her. There's a lot of travel, perilous situations, revelations about Anna's past life, and (eventually) a grisly murder.

It's a page-turner, but the plot is ludicrous, the protagonist isn't particularly likeable. (Although she's had some bad breaks, admittedly.)

Last Modified 2022-10-02 6:38 AM EDT

Space Cadet

[Amazon Link]

Another Heinlein novel read! This one's from 1948. It was his second juvenile, after Rocket Ship Galileo. I hadn't read it in a very long time, and I was surprised by what I remembered. Almost nothing about the plot, but I did remember "pie with a fork". (I'm sorry, not gonna explain that, you'll have to read it yourself.)

It is set in an alternate future, and (as it turns out) an alternate universe, one in which Venus is inhabitable, and has intelligent native life. Interplanetary travel is common, and humans have presence on the inner planets, Ganymede, and the moon. And Space Patrol is a "peacekeeping" force, accomplished by its monopoly on atomic weaponry, to be dropped from orbit on any sufficiently troublesome provinces.

The protagonist is Matt Dodson, and we follow his Space Patrol career: applicant, lowly plebe, trainee, and, eventually, a participant in critical missions. Things wind up with a life-threatening rescue operation on Venus, where surprising things are revealed about the native culture.

Practically no women. At least not human women. Matt's mom (who's kind of a ditz) shows up on a few pages, and his girlfriend is talked about.

You can see faint premonitions of Starship Troopers, as the operations and structure of Space Patrol get explained didactically.

Sadly, the Clifford Geary illustrations I remember from my youthful reading aren't in the Kindle edition I bought.

Last Modified 2022-10-02 6:38 AM EDT