Serenity

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

Not to be confused with the 2005 Joss Whedon space movie with Nathan Fillion et. al.. And it may not be your cup of tea, as it was not the cup of tea with IMDB raters (see above). Also with a dismal Metacritic score. (But Richard Roeper says its "one of the most entertaining thrillers in recent years", right on the DVD box. So, it may be your cup of tea.)

And there's a lot of talent involved. Oscar winners Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway, for example. And I see they were nominated for this movie too: for "Worst Actor" and "Worst Actress Razzies.

It starts out as a pretty standard film noir in fact. Lots of booze, cigarettes, and hard-boiled dialog. Baker Dill (McConaughey) is a charter fishing boat captain obsessed with catching a specific tuna. His Ahab-like behavior is putting him in dire financial straits, but out of the blue comes ex-wife Karen (Hathaway) with one of those simple propositions: my new husband is brutalizing me and your son, he'll kill us if we try to leave him, could you please murder him, I'll give you $10 million.

As I said, it starts out in that honorable tradition. But things take an odd turn. Odd enough so that I'm not even tempted to spoil them. I'll say this though: the IMDB genre classification is "Drama, Mystery, Thriller", but a more honest description would add at least one more.

[OK, if you really want to know what's going on, click here.]

And here's an interesting coincidence: actor Djimon Hounsou is in this, and he was also in the 2005 Serenity! Producers, if you want to get Djimon in your movie, you know what you have to title it.

Sometimes Always Never

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

This might be a decent movie. But the DVD has an inexcusable flaw: no subtitling.

I hate to be a cranky old fart. But my hearing is not what it used to be. And my TV's sound system is … well, there's a reason that there's a decent market for soundbars. We don't have one, though.

And it's a Brit movie, with everyone talking with an accent of varying degrees of thickness. And sometimes they are whispering. Blimey.

But what I got was not bad. It's funny in a lot of places. The main character, Alan, is played by Bill Nighy, and he's excellent. I'm sure that if I'd heard a lot more dialog…

Anyway: Alan and his son Peter are on a grim mission: a corpse has been found, and they are asked to check to see if it's Michael, Alan's "prodigal" son who ditched the family over a Scabble dispute years ago. They meet up with another couple, Arthur and Margaret, who are performing the same task (for the same body). And Alan reveals himself as a Scrabble hustler. Causing strife between Arthur and Margaret.

Well, it's not Michael. But Margaret and Alan wind up having a fling…

Margaret is played by Jenny Agutter, by the way. Any red-blooded young man who watched An American Werewolf in London has had fantasies about being taken home by a sexy nurse looking like Ms. Agutter. Minus all the gore of course.

The Phony Campaign

2020-09-20 Update

Welp, old Joe Biden opened up another 0.3 percentage points in his betting market advantage. Good for him; in comparison, back on September 25, 2016, the previous iteration of this feature, I reported:

As I type, PredictWise puts Hillary at a 70% chance of winning in November, down 2 (two) percentage points from last week. Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight puts her probability significantly lower (58.1%, 57.5%, or 56.0%, depending on which methodology you like); that's down a few percentage points from last week.

(The PredictWise link has gone stale, perhaps out of embarrassment.)

But, back here in 2020, Our President still has a commanding phony-hit lead:

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
9/13
Phony
Results
Change
Since
9/13
Donald Trump 43.6% -0.1% 2,040,000 +110,000
Joe Biden 53.7% +0.2% 732,000 0
Jo Jorgensen 0.0% unch 120,000 +1,000
Howie Hawkins 0.0% unch 24,700 +6,300

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • At American Consequences, P. J. O'Rourke muses on Trump's 2nd Term Agenda.

    When it comes to choosing between presidential campaign platforms, what should be a matter of principle can turn into a matter of taste… How do you like your lies prepared and served?

    Oops, did I say “lies”?… Excuse me, I meant “promises.” Do you want an all-you-can-eat campaign platform buffet with its promises well-done to the point where even the romaine lettuce in the salad bar is burned to a crisp? In that case, I’m sure you found the Joe Biden platform delicious and filling.

    As I described in last month’s Letter From the Editor, Biden’s platform bill of fare is 564 pages long with every entrée so over-cooked that it seems as though Joe has accidentally left his mental oven on at 450 degrees since 1988.

    Or do you prefer a “tasting menu,” with little dibs of this and dabs of that, each dished up rare, not to say as raw as pork tartar and chicken sushi? If so, you’ll smack your lips over the four-page Donald Trump campaign platform with its 54 bite-sized promises. Never mind that some of what’s on offer contains nothing that could be considered an intellectual calorie.

    What follows is P. J.'s version of fisking, quoting Trump's platform with interspersed pin-in-balloon comments.


  • The Hill reports a Kinsley Gaffe from the Donald:

    President Trump defended his assertion that the novel coronavirus would “disappear” with or without a vaccine on Tuesday, saying the United States would develop what he called “herd mentality.”

    Don't all (non-libertarian) politicians wish for the populace to develop a herd mentality? I mean, how can you be called a leader, if you don't have a docile group of followers?

    We could wish for politicians as witty as Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin, who probably didn't say:

    There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.

    ("Why are some of my best quotes apocryphal?" -- Thomas Jefferson)


  • [Amazon Link]
    The late, great, William Goldman entitled one of his memoirs (Amazon link at your right) Which Lie Did I Tell?

    I'm not sure what brought that to mind, but…

    The Free Beacon reports this as if it were some kind of record, but I bet it's not: Biden Repeats Two Falsehoods in Less Than a Minute.

    Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden repeated two falsehoods in less than one minute Thursday night, first that he would be the first president that didn't go to an Ivy League school and then that he was the first person in his family to go to college.

    Neither of the claims are true—Ronald Reagan was the most recent U.S. president who did not attend an Ivy League university, but there were many others, including Harry Truman, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington. Biden also admitted to the New York Times back in 1987 that there were members of his mother's family who had attended college before him.

    Yes, you read that right. He was caught lying about this in 1987, part of the reason his presidential campaign crashed and burned. So is that Goldman title going through his mind? Which lie did I tell?


  • NRPlus members are entitled to view David Harsanyi's essay on The Secret Life of Joe Biden. Example of Joe's Mittyesque fantasies:

    It wasn’t long ago that Biden was telling a rapt audience at Dartmouth the story of a brave Navy captain who had rappelled down a steep ravine in the mountains of Kunar province in an unsuccessful bid to rescue his comrade. An unnamed general had implored the then-vice president to fly to Afghanistan and personally pin the Silver Star on this captain.

    “And everybody got concerned a vice president going up in the middle of this,” a fearless Biden recalled, “but we can lose a vice president; we can’t lose many more of these kids, not a joke.”

    Now, don’t fret. Biden is no stranger to peril. During a presidential primary debate in 2007, he told viewers about the time he had been “shot at” during a trip to the Green Zone in Iraq.

    In any event, the naval officer in question would not let Biden pin the medal on him. “God’s truth, my word as a Biden,” the former senator said. “He stood at attention, I went to pin him, he said: ‘Sir, I don’t want the damn thing. Do not pin it on me sir, please. Do not do that. He died. He died.’”

    The only problem with this moving tale was that Biden never visited Kunar province as vice president nor did he ever pin a silver star on any Navy captain, much less one who refused to accept the honor. Nor, incidentally, had Biden ever been “shot at” by anyone.

    Joe makes Hillary look like George Washington. The Parson Weems version.


  • In our "Can't We Blame the Russians For This" Department, Slashdot says: A Bug In Joe Biden's Campaign App Gave Anyone Access To Millions of Voter Files. Quoting a TechCrunch report:

    A privacy bug in Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s official campaign app allowed anyone to look up sensitive voter information on millions of Americans, a security researcher has found.

    The campaign app, Vote Joe, allows Biden supporters to encourage friends and family members to vote in the upcoming U.S. presidential election by uploading their phone’s contact lists to see if their friends and family members are registered to vote. The app uploads and matches the user’s contacts with voter data supplied from TargetSmart, a political marketing firm that claims to have files on more than 191 million Americans.

    Nobody affiliated with the campain was quoted as saying: "Oops, we were hoping we could get away with that."


  • And if you're interested in this stuff at all, you should be reading Geraghty's Morning Jolt. Nestled near the bottom of the linked article from Thursday:

    Have you noticed that to certain media voices, whatever traits the Democratic nominee has just happen to be what the country needs that year? In 2004, John Kerry’s military service was considered a great argument in favor of his election, but by 2008, John McCain’s service was nothing special. Remember how youth and being an outsider to Washington were considered really important when Barack Obama was running, but suddenly didn’t seem so important when Hillary Clinton was nominated — and they sure as heck aren’t seen as valuable traits now?

    Janan Ganesh of the Financial Times makes an accurate but convenient point: No one is all that excited about Joe Biden, and that’s something of a relief after dealing with the Obama messiah cult and the worship of Trump by the MAGA-cap-wearing diehard fans. The headline? “The welcome lack of enthusiasm for Joe Biden.

    “The US has had two consecutive presidents with messianic followings, and it is worse off for the 12-year surge of emotion,” Ganesh writes. “No democracy is riper for a period of tepid leadership.”

    The thing is, it took a Republican president with an impassioned fanbase and a Democratic nominee who’s pretty boring and cookie-cutter to see any public defense of boring national leaders.

    Still, I think it would make for a refreshingly honest slogan: “Joe Biden 2020: He’s pretty tepid as a leader.”

    Tepid leadership from a tepid IQ!

URLs du Jour

2020-09-19

[pirate keyboard]

  • It's "Talk Like a Pirate Day, and your go-to guy is Dave Barry. I've resurrected a 2011 pic as our Eye Candy du Jour.


  • So Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away yesterday. My condolences to her friends, family, and fans. I'm not a fan, for reasons Viking Pundit points out. But apparently she was besties with Antonin Scalia, which cuts in her favor.


  • To more mundane matters, Zach Greenberg of the James G. Martin Center notes the latest battle in the War Against Certain Pixel Arrangements: Censoring a Thousand Words.

    At the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, where I work, we focus on defending student and faculty free speech rights and encouraging universities to uphold those rights, even when it is difficult and unpopular to do so. With increasing frequency, we see colleges and universities failing to adhere to their free speech obligations.

    For example, just this summer, FIRE criticized Fordham University for punishing a student over an Instagram photo memorializing the Tiananmen Square massacre which featured the student holding a firearm. For this display of political expression, Fordham found the student responsible for violating university policies on “threats/intimidation,” earning the student disciplinary probation and a ban from campus, campus athletics, and leadership roles in student organizations. Fordham also required the student to take bias training and write a letter of apology.

    Conspicuous advocacy of liberty is disallowed at Fordham. Make a note of that, college-bound kids.


  • Power Line has a question and a suggestion: Want Tax Cuts for the Rich? Vote for Biden. He's pledged to sign any legislation he gets to end the cap on the State And Local Tax (SALT) deduction. The New York Times (of all things) is quoted:

    The House of Representatives has already passed legislation removing the cap, allowing the amount of the deduction to rise. If the Senate turns blue in November, Democrats have promised to return to the issue. “I want to tell you this,” Senator Schumer said in July, “If I become majority leader, one of the first things I will do is we will eliminate” the SALT cap “forever.” It “will be dead, gone and buried.” . . .

    By pushing for repeal of the cap, Democrats are leaving themselves wide open to criticisms of hypocrisy and opportunism. As Senator Michael Bennet, one of the few Democrats opposed to removing the SALT cap, pointed out to his Senate colleagues in October 2019: “We can say we are for a progressive tax code and for fighting inequality, or we can support the SALT deduction. But it is really hard to do both.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also voted against repeal.

    The Tax Policy Center offers this picture of who used the SALT deduction and for how much:

    [SALT]

    I am not an eat-the-rich class warrior, but I'm very much opposed to ordinary folks being asked to ameliorate the impact of high blue-state taxes.


  • At the WSJ, (Harvard Professor) Harvey C. Mansfield calls out The ‘Systemic Racism’ Dodge.

    Systemic racism, also known as institutional or structural racism, is a new phrase for a new situation. We live in a society where racism is not, and cannot be, openly professed. To do so not only is frowned upon but will get you into serious trouble, if not yet jail, in America. Yet even though this is impossible to miss and known to all, “systemic racism” supposedly persists. The phrase describes a society that is so little racist that no one can respectably advocate racism, yet so much racist that every part of it is soaked with racism. We live with the paradox of a racist society without racists.

    Systemic racism is unavowed and mostly unconscious, racist despite itself. Those who use the phrase, mostly whites, are consciously accusing their unconscious selves. To get a sense of what they mean, think of African-Americans as they are, freed of slavery and segregation but still somehow consigned to an inferior social position. Everywhere they look, they see black faces on show but white faces in charge. This is true even where they generally excel and surpass whites, as in sports and entertainment, and still more in business and academia, where they are fewer. White supremacy seems to be true in effect if not in intent. Look around and you will see it.

    Professor Mansfield notes the inherent dysfunctionality of the concept: "It tells blacks that they are quite OK, and that it is entirely up to whites to change their thinking and their behavior. This means that blacks must allow whites to hold their future for them."


  • On the same topic, Andrew C. McCarthy at National Review: Make Them Prove It.

    The “institutional racism” prattle would melt if it were ever subjected to the enlightened rationalism that is supposed to be the university’s reason for being. But that is Western culture, and out leaders don’t do Western culture anymore.

    What do they do? Marxism and voodoo, mainly. When you cannot cite hard evidence for the cosmic propositions you swear by, it can only be because we’re beset by “false consciousness” that prevents us from perceiving how whiteness and West-ness have corrupted us. All we can say for sure is what “disparate impact” theory tells us: We don’t have equality of outcomes, so that must mean we don’t have equality of opportunity, right? Because, you know, every one of us is a Mozart, an Einstein, a Jane Austen, a Bobby Fischer, or a LeBron just waiting to happen, if only there were a level playing field.

    Right.

    Not to say we're without problems. But "systemic racism" inherently means that the "system" can't fix those problems. Thus a convenient excuse for inaction.

URLs du Jour

2020-09-18

[Amazon Link]

  • The WSJ has it's annual College Ranking List. The dead-trees version did not have the University Near Here listed, but the online version confirms that it's down, way down. So far down that they put it in a 100-way tie for 501st place ("501-600").

    That's in a set of "nearly 800" US colleges and universities.

    Could be worse. Another college near here, the University of Southern Maine, is just in the ">600th"-place. When will they just give up?


  • Princeton, on the other hand, is in a very respectable seventh place overall, tied with Caltech. Which makes this story (as related by Jerry Coyne at Why Evolution is True) … well, let him tell it: Princeton hoist with its own petard: Admits systemic racism, investigated for it by the Department of Education, and then denies it.

    I have to say that I find this pretty amusing. After Princeton’s President (like officials of many other colleges) wrote a letter flagellating himself and his University for systemic racism, the U.S. Department of Education has begun investigating Princeton for violating Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The charge is taking federal money for years while purporting to abide by federal nondiscrimination and equal-opportunity standards. If Princeton is indeed rife with “systemic racism” that it hasn’t addressed, then surely they have violated that agreement.  An article in the Washington Examiner (below) says that this investigation is not politically motivated—that the Department of Education has a legal obligation to investigate possible violations of federal civil rights protections, even if that violation is revealed by the University itself.

    This is amusing because I don’t believe that Princeton is systemically racist, though there may be private instances of racism. And yet the University had to admit deep-seated racism to keep in tune with the Zeitgeist. By so doing, it got itself investigated. It’ll be interesting to see how Princeton plays this one, maintaining that it has a climate of systemic racism but yet doesn’t violate federal statues. They’ve responded already (see below), but they’re taking the mustelid path of Weasel Words.

    It would be refreshing if a university president simply said: "Yeah, that stuff we said about systemic racism was bullshit, but it seemed to work to shut up our students and faculty. Win."


  • At National Review, Michael Brendan Dougherty observes that The Left Bullies Social-Media Giant to Protect Itself, Not Democracy.

    Hillary Clinton is angry. “We can have democracy—or we can have social networks that allow the spread of weaponized disinformation about our elections,” she tweeted this week, while linking to a pressure campaign meant to “demand social media platforms protect democracy.” Bloomberg Businessweek, in a long and largely misleading piece on Facebook published yesterday, attempted to bully CEO Mark Zuckerberg into more aggressively disadvantaging Donald Trump and his supporters. Zuckerberg got an outsized portion of the blame for Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016, and he’s being warned that he’s in the firing line again.

    It’s not really Facebook’s algorithms that the forces behind such efforts detest, nor is it misinformation, nor the “manipulation” undertaken by shadowy groups such as the now-infamous Cambridge Analytica. Remember, it was just a decade ago that liberals believed social networks would, almost by themselves, create progressive revolutions across the globe. It was just eight years ago that the Obama campaign’s social-media operation — far larger than anything Cambridge Analytica ever managed — was hailed as the work of digital masterminds who boldly “blew through an alarm that [Facebook] engineers hadn’t planned for or knew about.”

    No, what bothers the Left about Facebook is that it is the most powerful media company in the world and it is a place conservative people can talk, and share ideas, with relatively less manipulation and guidance from progressive editors and censors.

    Hey, remember the IRS being weaponized to go after "right wing" non-profits? This is the same idea, except the lefties want to use Facebook as a proxy. Probably more legal.


  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum has an issue with CDC Director Robert Redfield: Suggesting That Face Masks Are More Effective Than Vaccines, the CDC’s Director Exemplifies the Propaganda That Discourages People From Wearing Them. Redfield stated that the face mask he was holding up (but not wearing) "is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine."

    Let's mercifully skip over what "more guaranteed" might mean. Something is either "guaranteed" or it's not. And face masks are not. And probably a vaccine won't be either. So? I suppose the issue is: which is more likely to spare you and the people you encounter from illness?

    The honest answer is that we don't really know, since that comparison depends on how effective cloth face masks actually are and how effective vaccines prove to be. But we don't actually have to choose between those two strategies, and in practice we are pursuing both. Face masks are a tool to reduce virus transmission, especially to people who face the greatest risk from COVID-19, while we wait for vaccines that we hope will work well enough to make such precautions unnecessary.

    Government officials tend to oversimplify science, ignoring nuances and glossing over uncertainty, in the interest of sending clear public health messages aimed at encouraging behavior they believe will reduce morbidity and mortality. But that approach can backfire when officials make statements that clearly go beyond what we actually know.

    It would be nice if "government officials" were as precise and honest as possible, including about their own uncertainties. Let the mainstream media distort what you say, that's their job.


  • Hey kids, what time is it? Randal O'Toole tells us at Cato: it's Time to Shut Down the DC Metro Rail.

    Highway traffic in the Washington DC metro area returned to 80 percent of its pre‐​pandemic levels in July, but DC transit carried only 16 percent as many riders as it did in July 2019. Metro’s own surveys have found that most of its riders don’t plan to return until and unless an effective COVID vaccine is found.

    Given this, there is no better time to simply shut down the Metro rail system, thus saving taxpayers billions of dollars. Conceived with racist assumptions and faulty financial projections, the system has proved to be a financial and operational disaster. The region would do better rely more on cars and, in some places, buses.

    Advice that won't be taken, but what else is new?


  • And my go-to source for the 21st-century American Progressive mindset, Wired, has some good news: Science Journals Are Purging Racist, Sexist Work. Finally.

    One paper from 2012 linked darker skin to aggression and sexuality in humans. Another from that year claimed to show that women with endometriosis are more attractive. A third, published last December, lamented physicians who posted casual pictures of themselves online—including some in which they’re wearing bikinis—as being unprofessional.

    All three of these articles have recently been retracted after outraged readers took to social media. In the past three months, at least four other articles, too, have been called out for both their content and their lack of scientific rigor, and then either flagged or withdrawn by their science publishers.

    I'm sure there are a lot of crap papers published. But it's clear that what Wired sees as a promising trend is the effort to de-publish anything that might run afoul of current dogma on issues of race, culture, and sex. The crap papers that reinforce that religion will be unaffected.

Mr. Jones

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

Geez, about time we got even a mildly anti-Commie movie. But it's really rough on the New York Times.

Safely at the remove of 87 years or so, but we'll take what we can get.

Mr. (Gareth) Jones is played by James Norton, known in this house as the vicar in the TV show Grantchester. (Mrs. Salad, I'm pretty sure, adds the adjective "hunky" to that description.) He is a Welsh journalist, also a semi-official advisor to Prime Minister Lloyd George. As the movie opens, he's trying to raise some alarm at home about the Nazi menace—he's managed an interview with Hitler and Goebbels—to little avail. His career hanging by a thread, he decides to attempt another coup, an interview with Stalin, to find out the truth about those unlikely stories of economic success peddled by (for example) Walter Duranty in the New York Times.

When he gets to Moscow, he's unprepared for the totalitarianism of the state. But he's really unprepared for the corruption of the Western press in Moscow. The movie shows them to be a dissolute bunch, more interested in kinky partying than diligent fact-finding. And they're strangely unconcerned about a fellow journalist who got gunned down in the street a few days previous. But Jones persists, travelling to the Ukraine, where he witnesses the horrors of the Holodomor. And barely escapes with his life.

It's a grim story, and one of the backdrops is the US recognition of the USSR. This is also hinted as corrupt, pushed by Big Business looking for trade opportunities with the Commies.

A couple screens at the end show the differing fates of Jones and Duranty: Jones was murdered in 1935, probably by the NKVD, in Mongolia, where he was reporting on the Japanese occupation. Duranty, on the other hand, died in Orlando, Florida in 1957 at the age of 73, of natural causes.

URLs du Jour

2020-09-17

[Amazon Link]

Happy Constitution Day! A good day for USAmericans to thank our lucky stars for those who, 233 years ago, produced an imperfect work of genius.

  • Jonah Goldberg's paywalled G-File is on Scaling Democracy. Making an interesting point:

    Let’s say you really love democracy and think every country should be democratic. Indeed, if you take the assumptions embedded in conceptions of human rights and follow them to their logical conclusion, you should think this. Right and wrong don’t lose their meaning simply by crossing some national or international border. 

    Now, I actually do think this. I think ideally every country in the world should be democratic, in the way we describe countries like America, Britain, France, etc. as democracies. This doesn’t mean we should—or could—forcibly convert every despotic nation to democracy nor should we impose our strict definitions of democracy on anyone. But as a general rule, we should be on the side of democracy and democracies always and everywhere. But, I also think it would be insane—truly insane—to run the whole world as a single democratic polity. 

    So here’s a thought experiment: Imagine if the U.N. were really a “parliament of man.”

    As Barbie once said, “Math is hard,” but bear with me. World population is currently 7.8 billion. So if every delegate to the U.N. represented, say, 10 million people, China and India (which each have just under 1.4 billion people) would get 140 representatives apiece. The United States would get 33. France would get six or seven, and Canada three or four. 

    Who here thinks that sounds like a great idea? 

    If you do think that’d be awesome and fair? Well, then bless your heart.

    But if you think it's an awful idea (as Jonah does, and so do I) you might want to think about why it's a bad idea. And note that whatever arguments you come up with apply within a country—like ours—as well.

    And as I said, Happy Constitution Day.


  • So our Constitution is great, we're lucky to be Americans. But that's not to say that our education system shouldn't be burned to the ground. I'm inured by now to surveys showing the relative ignorance of the youngs these days, but I was nevertheless surprised by this Guardian story: Nearly two-thirds of US young adults unaware 6m Jews killed in the Holocaust.

    Almost two-thirds of young American adults do not know that 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, and more than one in 10 believe Jews caused the Holocaust, a new survey has found, revealing shocking levels of ignorance about the greatest crime of the 20th century.

    According to the study of millennial and Gen Z adults aged between 18 and 39, almost half (48%) could not name a single concentration camp or ghetto established during the second world war.

    Almost a quarter of respondents (23%) said they believed the Holocaust was a myth, or had been exaggerated, or they weren’t sure. One in eight (12%) said they had definitely not heard, or didn’t think they had heard, about the Holocaust.

    The survey was conducted by a group called "Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany" and the state-by-state report (PDF) doesn't give me the warm and fuzzies about my state. New Hampshire is in the mediocre middle overall. Although scoring high on the percentages that “Definitely Heard About the Holocaust” (83%) and " “Believe Holocaust Education Should Be Compulsory in School” (69%), we only scored 25% on knowing specific things, like the name of at least one concentration camp.

    I sometimes suspect that people who answer these surveys give intentionally stupid answers. I guess I hope that's the case.


  • On a possibly related note, the Free Beacon reports: 162 House Dems Vote Against Measure to Combat Anti-Semitism.

    Republicans offered the anti-Semitism measure as an amendment to a piece of Democrat-backed legislation promoting greater inclusivity in federal programs. The bill, dubbed the Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act, would permit the filing of private civil suits for violations of federal regulations that "prohibit discrimination on the ground of race, color, or national origin in programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance." The Republican amendment, which passed by a vote of 265 to 164, with 162 Democrats in opposition, mandates that anti-Semitism also be considered as discrimination.

    Huh. If I'm reading the Congress.gov page correctly, it looks as if Democrats voted against the anti-Semitism language 66-192. But then turned around to vote for the bill 229-0.

    While the Republicans voted for the amendment 189-1, but voted against the bill 3-187.

    So I don't know what kind of shenanigans were going on there. The Washington Examiner goes into more detail.


  • Mark J. Perry provides the Animated chart of the day, showing how the upper/middle/low-income fractions of American households have changed over time:

    So it turns out that a good rejoinder to those who say "the middle class is shrinking" is: "Yeah, they're getting rich."


  • And, finally, George F. Will on: how unchecked progressives inflict progress in California. Destined to be a cautionary tale for the other 49 states, if they pay attention.

    California, our national warning, shows how unchecked progressives inflict progress. They have placed on November ballots Proposition 16 to repeal the state constitution’s provision, enacted by referendum in 1996, forbidding racial preferences in public education, employment and contracting. Repeal, which would repudiate individual rights in favor of group entitlements, is part of a comprehensive California agenda to make everything about race, ethnicity and gender. Especially education, thereby supplanting education with its opposite.

    The 1996 ban on preferences was not intended to, and did not, end all measures to increase the participation of minorities and women in the state’s postsecondary education, or in doing business with the state government. So, Proposition 16 should be seen primarily as an act of ideological aggression, a bold assertion that racial and gender quotas — identity politics translated into a spoils system — should be forthrightly proclaimed and permanently practiced as a positive good.

    "Preferences" were originally sold as a temporary measure to untilt the playing field. Progressive logic: They didn't work, so let's make them forever.


Last Modified 2020-09-17 3:36 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2020-09-16

  • Oscar Wilde famously said about Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop: “One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing.” On that basis, see how you do with the video in this Tweet.

    I'm especially amused by the "Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!" lady.


  • Kevin D. Williamson's weekly free column mulls on Illegitimate Illegitimacy. Which is about a thorny problem, that I'm pretty much convinced has no solution, see here. But I'd rather quote (probably more than I should under fair use) KDW on a subsequent topic:

    Our friend David French has written a typically intelligent and sensitive essay about “critical race theory,” which does not require any elaboration by me except to note the borderline illiterate writing from UCLA ideologues French quotes to define critical race theory:

    CRT recognizes that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. This is the analytical lens that CRT uses in examining existing power structures. CRT identifies that these power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color. CRT also rejects the traditions of liberalism and meritocracy. Legal discourse says that the law is neutral and colorblind, however, CRT challenges this legal “truth” by examining liberalism and meritocracy as a vehicle for self-interest, power, and privilege.  CRT also recognizes that liberalism and meritocracy are often stories heard from those with wealth, power, and privilege. These stories paint a false picture of meritocracy; everyone who works hard can attain wealth, power, and privilege while ignoring the systemic inequalities that institutional racism provides.

    I take an indulgent view of slightly pretentious spelling variations (engrained vs. ingrained). But I take a less liberal view of “identifies that,” which is an illiterate pseudoscientific dressing-up of “claims that”; the agreement problem in the same sentence; “the American society” where “American society” would do; the clumsy run-on sentence that tries to make “however” do the work of an ordinary coordinating conjunction; the agreement problem in “liberalism and meritocracy as a vehicle”; etc. The logic is no better than the grammar: The false claim that liberalism asserts that “everyone who works hard can attain wealth, power, and privilege” is the dopiest straw man since Ray Bolger in The Wizard of Oz.

    There isn’t much point in my rehearsing arguments that George Orwell made more compellingly three quarters of a century ago. But it remains true that bulls*** writing is the witch’s familiar of bulls*** thinking. Understanding this kind of bulls*** for what it is — a decently paid career path for intellectual mediocrities — makes the otherwise perplexing careers of Rachel Dolezal, Jessica Krug, and Shaun King much more easily understood. Race-hustling is a pretty good gig, and Donald Trump on his best day couldn’t build a wall high enough to keep college-educated middle-class white people out of a pseudo-intellectual sinecure that sweet. The women’s-studies departments simply are not large enough to absorb the surplus in the market.

    That's a brilliant takedown, and I wish I could write that well.


  • Another Oscar Wilde moment (see above) is inspired by Philip Greenspun: Rich Californians complaining that they aren’t getting federal disaster money from Donald the Cruel.

    My Facebook feed has been alive for weeks with Californians complaining that the Great Father in Washington does not love them and therefore is not showering them with federal disaster relief cash despite their worse-than-usual fire season.

    (As with many complaints about Trump, emotions may be more important than facts. The Great Father actually declared a disaster in California and approved federal aid last month: “California Wildfires Burn Million Acres; Trump OKs Disaster Aid” (VOA, August 22))

    Suppose that Trump had not approved federal aid for the richer-than-average state. The fire are upsetting, yes, and sometimes tragic. And of course we can all sympathize with anyone who has lost a loved one or a home. However, in light of their own cherished values, third and thirdmost of which is fighting inequality (avoiding COVID-19 and BLM being #1 and #2, of course), should Californians even ask for aid? California is a rich state with 40 million people. Why does it need to be bailed out by lower-middle-class taxpayers in Arkansas, Indiana, Maine, and Kentucky? Why not use state funds to assist those who have been affected by the fires?

    Might be a different story if the money were actually going to help poor people. But, nope, it's going to the state government.


  • It's (roughly) the fiftieth anniversary of Milton Friedman's article in the New York Times: "A Friedman doctrine‐- The Social Responsibility Of Business Is to Increase Its Profits". At Reason, Brian Doherty looks at the folks who are still a little put out by that: Milton Friedman Accused of Making Corporations Greedy.

    The New York Times brings you news that's news to you: Before evil libertarian Milton Friedman came along, corporations did nothing but help the people in pursuit of "social responsibility."

    This is the implication of an overkill series of think pieces and a roundtable hooked to Friedman's essay "The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits," which the Times itself ran in 1970. The newspaper now insists, without rigorous evidence, that this article was "arguably the most consequential economic idea of the latter half of the 20th century." (It also argues that businesses are now turning against the idea that their only social responsibility is to their shareholders.)

    It would require a lot more facts and analysis than the Times chooses to present to prove that corporations decided in the past 50 years to try to make profits their main concern because of a New York Times article by an economist. People starting and running businesses have traditionally done so to make a living and to make the business do well; attributing this to Friedman's "theories on the primacy of shareholders and the priority of profits" requires more business history and social history than the paper is able to do.

    I think Uncle Milton had the better of the argument then, and continues to do so. But see what you think.


  • What is Power Line's Academic Disgrace of the Week? Competition was stiff, but the University of Chicago English Department was a clear favorite with this announcement:

    Faculty Statement (July 2020)

    The English department at the University of Chicago believes that Black Lives Matter, and that the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Rayshard Brooks matter, as do thousands of others named and unnamed who have been subject to police violence. As literary scholars, we attend to the histories, atmospheres, and scenes of anti-Black racism and racial violence in the United States and across the world. We are committed to the struggle of Black and Indigenous people, and all racialized and dispossessed people, against inequality and brutality.

    For the 2020-2021 graduate admissions cycle, the University of Chicago English Department is accepting only applicants interested in working in and with Black Studies. We understand Black Studies to be a capacious intellectual project that spans a variety of methodological approaches, fields, geographical areas, languages, and time periods. For more information on faculty and current graduate students in this area, please visit our Black Studies page.

    Well, fine. There goes my dream of a graduate degree in English from Chicago.


  • And apologetic bad news from Bjørn Lomborg in the NYPost: Sorry, solar panels won't stop California's fires. You know the story: yes, "climate change" plays a role, but (as it turns out) California's unwillingness to clear out decades of deadwood from its forests.

    One prominent study published in Nature Sustainability this year estimated that California will have to burn about 20 percent of its area to get rid of all the excess fuel. But owing to popular opposition, legal challenges and regulatory limits, California manages prescribed burns for less than one-thousandth of that.

    Instead of focusing on more prescribed burns, Newsom focuses on climate change as the overarching source of his state’s fires. He suggests that the answer is to speed up California’s transition to 100 percent renewable energy sources.

    But any realistic climate solution will achieve next to nothing. A Californian change of policy will have virtually no impact on global climates. But even if the ­entire United States were to cut all its emissions tomorrow and for the rest of the century — an ­incredibly fanciful and enormously expensive assumption — temperatures would still climb, just 0.3°F less.

    Good luck talking sense to Californians, who blame everything on (1) climate change and (2) Trump.


Last Modified 2020-09-17 8:32 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2020-09-15

[Amazon Link]

  • The Fraser Institute has produced its 2020 edition of Economic Freedom of the World. And let's let them tell you why it's important:

    Nations that are economically free out-perform non-free nations in indicators of well-being

    • Nations in the top quartile of economic freedom had an average per-capita GDP of $44,198 in 2018, compared to $5,754 for nations in the bottom quartile (PPP constant 2017, international$) (exhibit 1.5).
    • In the top quartile, the average income of the poorest 10% was $12,293, compared to $1,558 in the bottom quartile (PPP constant 2017, international$) (exhibit 1.9). Interestingly, the average income of the poorest 10% in the most economically free nations is more than twice the average per-capita income in the least free nations.
    • In the top quartile, 1.7% of the population experience extreme poverty (US$1.90 a day) compared to 31.5% in the lowest quartile (exhibit 1.10).
    • Life expectancy is 80.3 years in the top quartile compared to 65.6 years in the bottom quartile (exhibit 1.6).

    Our fine country still manages a decent showing, in fifth place behind Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, and Switzerland.

    The data is from 2018, and the authors note that Hong Kong's ranking is likely to take a dive in future reports.


  • John Tierney has been a wonderful contrarian voice to the recycling gospel, and he continues in that role in City Journal: Let’s Hold On to the Throwaway Society.

    For half a century, it’s been a term of disdain: the “throwaway society,” uttered with disgust by the environmentally enlightened. But now that their reusable tote bags are taboo at grocery stores and Starbucks is refusing to refill their ceramic mugs, they’ve had to face some unpleasant realities. Disposable products aren’t merely more convenient than the alternative; they’re also safer, particularly during a pandemic but also at any other time. And they have other virtues: the throwaway society is healthier, cleaner, more economical, less wasteful, less environmentally damaging—and yes, more “sustainable” than the green vision of utopia.

    These are not new truths, even if it took the Covid-19 pandemic to reveal them again. The throwaway age began because of public-health campaigns a century ago to control the spread of pathogens. Disposable products were celebrated for decades for promoting hygiene and saving everyone time and money. It wasn’t until the 1970s that they became symbols of decadent excess, and then only because of economic and ecological fallacies repeated so often that they became conventional wisdom.

    A bonus is Tierney's history of the Dixie Cup, once advertised with the come-on "Now’s no time to flirt with Contagion!” Maybe they'll bring that back.


  • Hollywood in Toto notes Woke, Anti-Trump MCU Stars Silent on Disney-China Ties. For the uninitiated, "MCU" == "Marvel Cinematic Universe". And the stars include those actors who have played Nick Fury, Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, … You know, the very people most qualified to tell us ticket-buying slobs how to vote.

    It’s worth noting a crush of progressive stars reportedly refused to work in Georgia last year after the state enacted strict laws regarding abortion. Disney co-CEO Bob Iger was part of that movement, saying it would be “very difficult” for the mega company to use Georgia locales following the decision.

    So, what about China, Bob?


  • Jim Geraghty notes a funny (actually not so funny) thing about ex-FBIer (and current fibber) Peter Strzok:

    Former FBI counterintelligence officer Peter Strzok, on Meet the Press yesterday: “I think it is clear, I believed at the time in 2016, and I continue to believe, that Donald Trump is compromised by the Russians. And when I say that, I mean that they hold leverage over him that makes him incapable of placing the national interests, the national security ahead of his own.”

    Gee, that sounds serious. We should probably investigate that, because if it’s true, surely there must be gobs of evidence to support that earth-shaking accusation. Hey, could we get some sort of trusted law-enforcement official to investigate this? Maybe former FBI director Robert Mueller or someone like that? Let’s give Mueller roughly two years to dig into this and see if he finds any proof.

    It's probably a good thing that we don't put people in jail for being self-serving idiots on TV.

    Probably.


  • And another look at the 21st Century American Progressive mindset, from David Chavern at Wired: Section 230 Is a Government License to Build Rage Machines.

    Facebook has been called the “ largest piece of the QAnon infrastructure.” The app has not only hosted plenty of the conspiracy group’s dark and dangerous content, it has also promoted and expanded its audience. QAnon is hardly the only beneficiary: Facebook promotes and expands the audience of militia organizers, racists, those who seek to spread disinformation to voters, and a host of other serious troublemakers. The platform’s basic business, after all, is deciding which content keeps people most engaged, even if it undermines civil society. But unlike most other businesses, Facebook’s most profitable operations benefit from a very special get-out-of-jail-free card provided by the US government.

    Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects “interactive computer services” like Facebook and Google from legal liability for the posts of their users. This is often portrayed as an incentive for good moderation. What is underappreciated is that it also provides special protection for actively bad moderation and the unsavory business practices that make the big tech platforms most of their money.

    Statist conservatives have also targeted Section 230.

    Of course, the Wired author and his ilk imagine that they'll be in charge of deciding which firms and organizations are not playing nice under (unsurprisingly) vague and (almost certainly) broad definitions of "rage machines".

    The author, David Chavern, is identified as "president and CEO of the News Media Alliance, which bills itself as an advocate of "local journalism". Meaning legacy media.

    So a cynic might see his article as an attempted hit job on the competition. I mean, it's not as if "local journalism" hasn't inspired rage… Can I sue Foster's Daily Democrat for publishing hate-filled ranting LTEs against President Trump?

    But don't worry! Chavern's organization is also demanding that government get its nose under the tent in favor of "local journalism". Note its support of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, a bevy of tax credits and subsidies to prop up your failing local paper. Awful details at the link. (NH CongressCritter Annie Kuster is a co-sponsor, Chris Pappas so far is not.)

URLs du Jour

2020-09-14

  • The Josiah Bartlett Center wants to make sure you can't say later that you weren't warned: The wrong policies could bring California's rolling blackouts to New Hampshire.

    Energy policy is often described in moral terms, with “green energy” representing the forces of good and fossil fuels representing the forces of darkness. But really it’s about math. California politicians have spent decades fighting a losing battle against math. In August, math finally won.

    The rolling blackouts that cut off power during an August heat wave were the entirely predictable — and often predicted — result of a series of energy policy decisions designed to impose politicians’ energy preferences on a market that wasn’t ready for them.

    The markets do a great job of bringing people what they want. Politics does a pretty bad job of bringing people what the politicians think they should want.


  • At National Review, David Harsanyi analyzes Woodward Revisionist History.

    Donald Trump will have to live with the political fallout from his own ham-fisted admission to Bob Woodward that he downplayed the virus as an effort to calm Americans.

    It’s an incident that amplifies two of Trump’s most glaring weaknesses. First, his narcissism. No one, after all, forced Trump to give Woodward White House access or interviews. If he deluded himself into believing he could convince Woodward to frame his presidency in a positive light, that’s on him.

    Second, his complete lack of messaging discipline. The president’s unscripted rants and maximalist rhetoric have their moments in political warfare, but they do not engender confidence when dealing with a genuine crisis. Everything is the “best” or the “worst,” nothing or everything. There was no reason for him to have been as dismissive as he was about coronavirus.

    But Harsanyi goes on to note that nobody in the early days of the pandemic was strongly advocating policies that might have done a better job of containing the outbreak.

    If we're going to imagine alternate realities and blame the President for not omnisciently doing exactly the right thing… well, let's take a look at FDR, pre-December 7, 1941.


  • At Liberty Unyielding, Hans Bader has an amusing observation about the New York Times' algorithm for racial pigeonholing: apparently Your race is based on your politics.

    Arabs become “people of color” when they are Democrats, but are considered white when they are Republicans, judging from a New York Times story. As Seffi Kogen notes, the Times recently described some government officials of Palestinian or other Arab descent as people of color, and others as white, in its story about the racial makeup of “922 of the most powerful people in America.”

    The Times bizarrely highlights” Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) as a person of color, even “while marking” as “white” both Governor Chris Sununu (R-N.H.) — who is also of Palestinian ancestry — and HHS Secretary Alex Azar, who is of Lebanese ancestry.

    Nobody claimed—or even noticed—that Chris Sununu was New Hampshire's first Governor of Color.

    Oh, right: his dad, John, was also Gov. So Chris is the second.


  • On the LFOD front, one little-noticed result from the September 8 primary was publicized by NHInsider: Transsexual Satanist Anarchist Is GOP Nominee for Cheshire County Sheriff.

    New Hampshire’s first trans, anarchist, Satanic candidate for county sheriff says she’s not getting a lot of support from the Republican Party.

    “I can’t imagine they’re happy about this,” said Aria DiMezzo.

    DiMezzo, who is running as a Republican with the campaign slogan “F*** the Police,” said Friday she hasn’t had any help or support for the county or state GOP. DiMezzo won the Republican nomination for Cheshire County Sheriff Tuesday night running unopposed in the primary. She’ll now square off with popular incumbent Democrat Eli Rivera, who is running for his fifth term.

    Well. Cheshire County is over there in the Keene corner of the state (picture me waving vaguely westward), so I wonder how Free Keene is describing this?

    [DiMezzo] previously ran for Cheshire Sheriff as a Libertarian candidate in 2018, back when the Libertarians had major party ballot access status in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, the transsexual anarchist founder of the Reformed Satanic Church only received just over 2.3% of the vote in the three-way race. However, at that point she had not yet legally changed her name, which she now has. Since the two major parties make it so hard for Libertarians and other parties to run for office, we might as well run in the two parties.

    This time around DiMezzo’s campaign attracted some attention from some haters in Rindge who mounted a sizable write-in campaign on behalf of Nelson. It is not known whether they got Nelson’s approval for this and the official republican primary results from the state show their campaign had near-zero effect outside of Rindge. However the attacks against her had a reverse effect and actually brought her new supporters who excitedly put dozens of yard signs out around Cheshire County’s roads.

    So there you have it.


  • Another excerpt from P. J. O'Rourke's latest book, peej-splaining: This is why millennials adore socialism.

    What’s the matter with kids today? Nothing new. A large portion of the brats, the squirts, the fuzz-faced, the moon calves, the sap-green, and the wet behind the ears have always been “Punks for Progressives.”

    As soon as children discover that the world isn’t nice, they want to make it nicer. And wouldn’t a world where everybody shares everything be nice? Aw … kids are so tender-hearted.

    But kids are broke — so they want to make the world nicer with your money. And kids don’t have much control over things — so they want to make the world nicer through your effort. And kids are very busy being young — so it’s your time that has to be spent making the world nicer.

    I was steered onto a different path in the early-60's, reading Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom.

The Hot Hand

The Mystery and Science of Streaks

[Amazon Link]

I got this book thanks to an interesting interview with the author on the EconTalk podcast. The host, Russ Roberts, was effusive; the author, Ben Cohen, was interesting; the book was available at Portsmouth Public Library.

Ben (I call him Ben) is a WSJ sports writer, and a lot of the book is about basketball. The "hot hand" concept comes from there, particularly an early video game, "NBA Jam". Where, if you made a difficult shot, the game made it more likely that you'd make the next shot.

But that just codified a phenomenon that "feels right" to people in many areas: when you're in the groove, you've solved a thorny problem, you've negotiated a tricky path, whatever, you feel like you could continue to operate at a supranormal level.

But is that feeling based on anything real? Back in the 1980s, that great detector of self-delusion, Amos Tversky (with two co-authors) analyzed basketball shot data and concluded that the "hot hand" was likely a misperception, due to humans ability to imagine "streaks" in actually-random occurrences. Sigh. But this countered the actual strong feelings of all those jocks (and others) who had experienced the hot hand for themselves.

So is the hot hand real or not? No spoilers here! But Ben's book takes a wild and crazy path on the way to finding out. It's not just basketball. We wander through many wonderfully interesting and colorful side streets, discussing subjects you wouldn't expect: Shakespeare, Van Gogh, Raoul Wallenberg, Apple's iPod shuffling algorithm, the movie career of Rob Reiner, American refugee policy, roulette, and more. All presented with compelling and often drily hilarious writing. A lot of fun.

And I learned about a form of sampling bias of which I was previously unaware!


Last Modified 2020-09-14 1:32 PM EDT

The End of the Tour

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

I was a mild David Foster Wallace fan, and that may have affected my interest in this movie. Specifically: I didn't fall asleep. I'm not sure how a non-fan would take it.

It's the based-on-truth story of how Rolling Stone writer David Lipsky latched onto DFW for a few days on the tail end of the book tour for Infinite Jest in 1996. (Jesse Eisenberg plays Lipsky, and "How I Met Your Mother" actor Jason Segel plays DFW. (Just so we know the sad story: the movie's first scene is Lipsky learning of DFW's 2008 suicide, and most of the remaining is a flashback.)

DFW is portrayed as … well, it's complex. He's reclusive and secretive at times, others hospitable and generous. Both reticent and revealing. Proud of his literary talent, but also aware of the pitfalls it could bring.

But Lipsky has his own baggage. His editor is hassling him to get the lowdown on DFW's alleged drug abuse; he correctly senses that probing that issue might ruin his rapport with the writer. He's (maybe) more than slightly jealous of DFW's fame and talent, while his own writing career is nowheresville.

The movie is mainly dialog between Lipsky and DFW, as they travel from DFW's Illinois home to Minneapolis for the book tour stop, and back. So a lot depends on whether you might find that inherently interesting. I did, mostly. And I put the book on which this movie is based on my TTR list, so make of that what you will.

Fun fact: according to IMDB Trivia, Lipsky's DFW article never went beyond the interview stage. Interesting, and a little sad.

The Phony Campaign

2020-09-13 Update

I detect competing narratives:

[Amazon Link] [Amazon Link]

Joe Biden had a good week in the betting markets after weeks of losing ground to President Bone Spurs; he widened his probability advantage by 3.2 percentage points. (The RealClearPolitics Betting Odds page agrees.) But let me make the completely obvious point: we still have a ways to go.

So obvious, in fact, that I'm not sure why I typed that.

And everyone save Jo Jorgensen lost phony hits this week, but Trump maintains his solid lead there:

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
9/6
Phony
Results
Change
Since
9/6
Donald Trump 43.7% -1.5% 1,930,000 -1,490,000
Joe Biden 53.5% +1.7% 732,000 -408,000
Jo Jorgensen 0.0% unch 119,000 +17,000
Howie Hawkins 0.0% unch 18,400 -61,600

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • At Law & Liberty, Richad Gunderman has useful advice for the next 50 days: Coping with Bullshit.

    One of the most unlikely philosophical bestsellers in recent decades was retired Princeton University professor Harry Frankfurt’s On Bullshit. Published in 2005, it remained on the New York Times best seller list for 27 weeks. It opens:

    One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern, or attracted much sustained inquiry. In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves.

    What is bullshit? Frankfurt distinguishes between lying and bullshitting. A liar knows that there is a difference between getting things wrong and getting them right—and opts for falsehood. A bullshitter, by contrast, believes that it is not possible to distinguish the false from the true. Yet this realization does not prevent him from making assertions about the way things are.

    Neither major candidate is mentioned in Gunderman's article, but I'm sure he was tempted. My take on Frankfurt's book (from when this blog was only a couple months old) is here.


  • The PG euphemism for bullshit is mentioned in Kyle Smith's article about Wheezy, revealing a Failed Manager. It's based on his rereading of a book about a previous campaign:

    The portrait of Joe Biden that emerges from What It Takes (1992), Richard Ben Cramer’s thousand-page New Journalism–style report on the 1988 presidential race, in which Biden ran for a few steps until he stumbled over his own shoelaces, is a familiar one. Biden is the grinning, overconfident oaf, a strutting salesman who keeps selling himself loads of bull manure even as everyone around him becomes alarmed by his obliviousness to facts. Or to cite another figure for comparison: He’s the lord of Swamp Castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail: “Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp. But I built it all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. And that one sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp . . .” The story of Joe Biden is where staggering incompetence meets irrepressible self-confidence. The more he fails, the more convinced he becomes that he’s right.

    Ladies and gentlemen, Joe Biden, managerial visionary. We turn to page 248 of Cramer’s tombstone-sized book. A couple of years into his Senate career, Biden has a dream of living grandly by buying on the cheap a former du Pont manse, together with a huge chunk of land, for $200,000. The house was boarded up and soon, probably, to be torn down. But Biden saw something in it. Sure, it needed some fixing up. Never fear, Joe is here! Joe is a can-do fellow. The first winter he and Jill spent in the house, it used up 3,000 gallons of fuel oil. It turned out the third floor was wide open, to the stars. Squirrels were living up there. Oops. The judgment on display here is not great.

    Things go downhill from there. Think of it as a metaphor for how Joe might manage the presidency.


  • Which brings us to "America's Newspaper of Record", the Babylon Bee: Libertarian Party Reminds Americans They Can Actually Choose Lesser Of Three Evils.

    As election day in America draws nearer, the Libertarian Party is reminding Americans that they don't have to choose the lesser of two evils in a corrupt two-party system. This year, thanks to Libertarian candidate Dr. Jo Jorgensen, they can now choose the least of three evils!

    "This is a game-changer for this country," said Dr. Jorgensen as she received a rabies shot due to her recent bat bite. "Americans have too long been forced into an impossible choice between two parties who are not serving or representing the people. We are proud to be adding a third choice to that mix, allowing citizens to pick between three flavors of evil rather than just two!"

    The Libertarian Party's ballot access map is here. And the Green Party's is here.


  • Since we've been using them heavily this season, I was prepared to like this Mercatus Center article from Charles Lipson: The Value of Political Markets. His bottom line (no kidding, he calls it that):

    Betting markets are more accurate and timely than even the best polling averages. But the two are complements, not substitutes. Betting markets build on political polls, as well as other information.

    Watching these markets closely has two advantages for political observers:

    1. They are timelier since the odds reflect the latest news, which may take days to show up in polls; and
    2. They are probably more accurate since the odds incorporate both polling data and other information.

    Useful as political markets are, they could be better. That will happen only if U.S. laws change so people who know more can wager more. When they can, the odds will better reflect all available information, public and private, and everyone will have a clearer understanding of where the races really stand.

    Or we could just move to a remote cabin in the White Mountains for a couple months.


  • And an amusing article from Ed Morrissey at Hot Air: Harris flip-flops. From a CNN interview:

    BASH: President Trump, Vice President Pence, they have been campaigning more and more on the issue of fracking, which is a process of oil and gas drilling. They think that this is going to help them win votes in key states like Pennsylvania. Joe Biden has said — quote — “I am not banning fracking.” During your primary campaign, you said that you supported a ban. Are you comfortable with Joe Biden’s position?

    HARRIS: Yes, because Joe is saying, listen, one, those are good- paying jobs in places like Pennsylvania, and, two, that we need to also invest and put a significant investment in the good-paying union jobs that we can create around clean energy, around renewable energy. And that is the kind of approach we need to have, but always understanding that it’s a false choice to suggest that we either take care of jobs or we take care of our environment. We can do both, and we should do both.

    Good Lord, if I hear that "good-paying jobs" again, I'll scream.

    Of course it is in candidates' interest to have voters believe that they can provide "good-paying jobs".

    I'm reminded of a couple lines from the Simpsons' Monorail Song:

    Barney Gumble: What about us brain-dead slobs?

    Lyle Langley: You'll be given cushy jobs!

    Monorail! Monorail!


Last Modified 2020-09-13 11:26 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2020-09-12

Our Eye Candy du Jour is a steal from Power Line's Week in Pictures, a weekly stop.

[But some looting is indefensible]

It seems Abbie Hoffman was a little bit more intellectually consistent in his book-titling than Vicki.

  • George Will writes on the fourth branch of government, unmentioned in the Constitution:

    Elsewhere in today’s improvisational government, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s behavior has become notably muscular. The CDC’s name denotes a specific mission that this agency cannot be entirely blamed for not having altogether mastered. Controlling diseases involves medicines, social protocols (e.g., “social distancing”) and, suddenly, a sweeping excision from property rights: The CDC has this month asserted a power to prohibit — through the end of 2020, but actually for as long as the CDC deems “necessary” — the eviction of private tenants from privately owned residences because of unpaid rent. This, even though eviction levels have been below normal during the lockdown.

    The CDC’s order protects tenants earning up to $99,000 — almost quadruple the official poverty line of $26,200 for a family of four. Or, for those filing joint tax returns, tenants earning up to $198,000, who are in the top quintile of U.S. households. Tenants must inform their landlords in writing that they have sought government assistance, that they have lost income or received substantial uncompensated medical expenses, and that eviction would render them homeless or would result in their living elsewhere “in close quarters.” Noncompliant landlords can be fined up to $100,000 and incarcerated for up to a year.

    Meanwhile, as GFW points out, the Congress can't even manage to perform its Constitutional duties of passing appropriations bills. That's a real good argument for voting against all incumbents. (Which I plan to do.)


  • Hans Bader of Liberty Unyielding claims Schools remain closed until the election for political reasons.

    Reason magazine reported last month that local officials’ decisions about whether to reopen K-12 schools were driven by “politics, not safety.” It noted that Jon Valant, a senior fellow at the liberal Brookings Institution, recently found:

    COVID-19 risk was not statistically related to school district reopening decisions. Valant’s analysis found school district reopening decisions are instead related to people’s political leanings and support for President Donald Trump. … [T]he less support Trump had in an area, the less likely that school district is to offer in-person learning right now.

    Unsurprising. The electorate must be punished until they provide the correct results!


  • Good forr Jim Geraghty, who has been reading his Ecclesiastes: there's Nothing New under the Sun.

    Bob Woodward’s latest book shows us a president away from the television cameras — but on the record, with Woodward’s tape recorder running — who says “I wanted to always play [the coronavirus] down,” who complains that he’s done a lot for the black community and that he’s not feeling any love from them, who refers to his predecessor as  “Barack Hussein,” and boasts that Kim Jong-un did not like his predecessor, and who boasted to Woodward, “I have built a nucle- a weapon, I have built a weapons system, a weapons system, that nobody’s ever had in this country before. . . . We have stuff that Putin and Xi have never heard about before.”

    In other words, Woodward reveals . . . a President Trump who isn’t that different from who we see on camera every day. For each of these comments to Woodward, the president has said something remarkably similar in public, most of which were quickly forgotten in our hypersonic news cycle.

    I suppose there's a chance that Woodward's book could knock a few Trump voters into the Biden camp, but it's really tough to believe.


  • One of my favorite Senators, Bill Sasse, urges us to Make the Senate Great Again. And he recommends a number of reforms, especially:

    Repeal the 17th Amendment. Ratified in 1913, it replaced the appointment of senators by state legislatures with direct election. Different states bring different solutions to the table, and that ought to be reflected in the Senate’s national debate. The old saying used to be that all politics is local, but today—thanks to the internet, 24/7 cable news and a cottage industry dedicated to political addiction—politics is polarized and national. That would change if state legislatures had direct control over who serves in the Senate.

    I always try to be careful in my references, saying "my Congresscritter", but "my state's Senators". Because Senators represent states, not people.


  • [Amazon Link]
    David Clemens at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal asks us to Woke Me When It’s Over. What?

    Many, perhaps most, Americans are just now waking up to the meaning of “woke.” What does “woke” have to do with looting, bricks, fires, and blood in Portland, Seattle, and Minneapolis? One asks oneself, “Am I woke (good)? Or not woke (evil)? How woke is woke, how much wokeness is enough, and who decides?”

    In short, woke implies a new state of elevated, more highly evolved moral consciousness. As such, wokeness requires a new vocabulary to express its new concepts.

    Woke language is full of terms such as “toxic” (even “catastrophic”) masculinity, “whiteness,” “white privilege,” “white fragility,” countless new pronouns and genders, “systemic racism,” “cancel culture,” “social justice,” “gaslighting,” and “de-platforming,” most of which are casually or arbitrarily defined, if at all.

    Wokespeak also includes some old chestnuts from the ‘60s and ‘70s: “white supremacy” (kind of hard to square with the election and re-election of Barack Obama), “off the pigs” (kill the police), “police brutality,” political rants against segregationists like “Bull” Connor and George Wallace, and new complaints about previously sanitized-and-approved commercial images of long-suffering “Aunt Jemima” and “Uncle Ben.”

    Moldy slogans from 1965 lend wokeness a gauzy, almost nostalgic atmosphere—but pay heed. One thing wokeness does not tolerate is humor. Another is memory.

    Clemens recommends Beyond Woke by Michael Rectenwald, Amazon link at (your) right.

Ice Cold Heart

[Amazon Link]

The latest (but not the greatest) entry in the "Monkeewrench" series by P. J. Harvey. P. J. used to be a mother-daughter writing team, but Mom died a few years back, so now it's a solo operation. And it's pretty much a paint-by-numbers lurid plot with wooden dialog and hackneyed, overstuffed, description. Here's the first paragraph of an early chapter:

When the doorbell rang, Kelly's heart started slamming against the wall of her chest. It seemed so odd, because the rest of her body felt slow and gooey and molten, like a chocolate chip in a cookie just out of the oven. It was a silly thing to think, but it somehow seemed profound, like something she should write down.

Yeesh. Where else is your heart going to slam, if not against your chest? Or the wall of your chest? Which is probably close by.

No, it's not profound, and you shouldn't write it down.

Not my cup of tea, sorry. Not even my hot cookie.

Anyway, there's psychics, abused drugs, kinky sex gone bad, cryptocurrency, hacking, war criminals, overpriced bad art, hypothermia. Not much of any reason to care about anyone involved.

URLs du Jour

2020-09-11

[Amazon Link]

  • Instapundit: 19 YEARS AGO TODAY

    … we said “never forget,” but we mostly have.

    Well some of "us". But not Dave Barry who pointed us to his "Hallowed Ground" essay, a visit to the Flight 93 crash site.

    And not Jennifer S. Bankston, writing of her memories in the WSJ: You’ve Got a Friend This Covid 9/11. Warning: Carole King content.

    The ballroom was a gathering place for loved ones of the victims. They hung photos on the walls and waited in hope of any news. A woman approached me at the hotline station, and I recognized her immediately. I walked over, touched her shoulder, and soon asked her if we could get a piano into the ballroom. As she nodded in agreement, her curly hair shook and tears dripped down her cheeks. I apologized, saying the instrument probably wouldn’t be tuned. She answered softly: “OK.”

    This was a few months before Carole King serenaded Fidel Castro with the same song. So anyway.


  • As someone said: predictions are difficult, especially about the future. But that doesn't stop Robin Hanson: Our Brave New Merged World.

    AGI [Artificial General Intelligence] isn’t coming in the next thirty years. Neither are Moon or Mars colonies, or starships. Or immortality. Or nano-assemblers or ems [human brain emulations]. Cities won’t be flooded due to CO2, a nuclear war won’t devastate civilization, aliens won’t arrive in the skies, and a religious jihad won’t remake culture. The rates of change in the economy, lifespans, fertility, automation, and non-carbon energy will stay about the same. Quantum computing, 3D printing, and crypto-commerce will grow but remain small. There won’t even be that many flying or self-driving cars. So if you are looking for science-fiction-level excitement re dramatic changes over this period, due to a big change we can foresee today, you’ll be disappointed.

    Unless maybe you look at remote work. (Yeah, its not the best name; “work from home” may be better. But I’ll stick with the US standard name here.)

    Robin is very smart and he thinks very hard about this stuff. He may be wrong, but I wouldn't bet against him.

    That's what makes his remote-work scenarios seem very plausible. Of course, politicians will still demand expensive infrastructure projects to support commuting traffic. Named after themselves.


  • An interesting "open letter" effort in defense of American institutions.

    We stand at the crossroads.

    Over the next several years, the noble sentiments and ideas that gave birth to the United States will either be repudiated or reaffirmed. The fateful choice before us will result either in the death of a grand hope or a recommitment to an extraordinary political experiment whose full flowering we have yet to realize. The choice will involve either contempt and despair or gratitude and the self-respect worthy of a free people who know long labors lie before them and who proceed with hope toward a dignified future.

    A bunch of good and thoughtful people have signed on, and it's an excellent apologia.


  • At the WSJ, Walter Olson says he's Never Trump, Now More Than Ever.

    Four years ago I was a “Never Trump” voter. Now, I’m more set than ever in that view: No Trump, doubled. That’s even though I far prefer his economic policies to those of the Democrats. I’ve written many times to defend his administration’s policies against unfair attacks from the left, and I’ve applauded his judicial appointments. But I won’t vote for him, for reasons of Constitution and character.

    No modern president has shown so little care for or grasp of how government works—for instance, what powers the president does and doesn’t have. None have found it as hard to put the nation’s well-being above his own, on matters as basic as setting aside the interests of his family business.

    I'm in deep agreement. He doesn't mention Biden, which leaves him open to…


  • … a lecture from the Issues and Insights folks who say Never-Trumpers Need A Lesson In Basic Math.

    Let’s leave aside the tenuous claim that Trump’s conduct disqualifies him. Compared to what? Bill Clinton’s Oval Office assignations with an intern? Barack Obama’s repeated attempts to bypass the Constitution to get his leftist policies enacted, or use the IRS and the FBI to hamper political opponents? And never mind about the illegal wars, mass internments, spying on political opponents, and other violations committed by past presidents.

    Let’s even concede that Olson and other never-Trumpers are right that Trump has debased the office with his mean tweets, loose grasp of facts, and inappropriate off-the-cuff remarks.

    So what?

    See if you buy their argument. Despite the title, there's not a lot of "Basic Math" involved, so don't let that deter you.

    And don't forget, as I don't: your vote doesn't matter. It won't effect the outcome of the election. There's no reason you shouldn't maximize your psychic benefit, however you measure it.


  • And the Google LFOD alert rang for an incident at the Exeter polls on Tuesday:

    When an Exeter, New Hampshire woman was told this week by election officials that she could not vote in the state's primary in the anti-Trump t-shirt she was wearing, she quickly found an easy solution. She simply voted topless.

    The state's motto is "Live free or die," after all.

    Indeed. In contrast, everyone I saw at the Rollinsford polls kept their tops on.

Woman on the Run

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

Pun Salad NoirFest 2020 continues. This is an Amazon Prime streamer, but I put the DVD as my image (on your right) because the old movie poster is much cooler.

The Woman in the title is Eleanor (Ann Sheridan), and (movie consumer alert) she's not actually on the run. Her hubby Frank is on the run, because he witnessed a cold-blooded mob-related murder while walking his doggy in the Streets of San Francisco. (This is a really good movie for checking out late-40s SF, by the way.) Frank is wary about being the next victim, so he goes underground to escape both the cops (who want a witness) and the killer. Eleanor seems outwardly indifferent, but she actually wants to find Frank. She (also) ditches the cops (numerous times) and goes on the hunt, picking up obscure clues Frank has left behind. She's assisted by devilishly handsome newspaper guy (Dennis O'Keefe) who promises her big money if he can get Frank's exclusive story.

The plot is farfetched, and some of the dialog is wooden and stupid. And the climax is clunky. But some of the other dialog, especially Ann Sheridan's, is wonderfully cynical and witty. And saves the movie from a mere two stars.

URLs du Jour

2020-09-10

[Amazon Link]
Our Amazon Product du Jour is dedicated to all those geeks who can begin a sentence with "Technically…" and not as a joke.

  • High on the list of this month's Reasonable suggestions for Fixing Things is from Peter Suderman: Bust the Police Unions.

    In 2018, as a gunman murdered 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Sgt. Brian Miller, a deputy with the Broward County Sheriff's Office, hid behind his police cruiser, waiting 10 minutes to radio for help. For his failure to act, Miller was fired. The official cause was "neglect of duty."

    In May 2020, however, Miller was reinstated and given full back pay. His 2017 salary was more than $138,000. Miller had challenged his firing, and he had done so with the full backing of his union.

    Miller's reinstatement is notable in that it relates to a high-profile case. But the essential story—an officer performs poorly, with fatal results, and the union comes to his defense—is all too common. That is what police unions do: defend the narrow interests of police as employees, often at the expense of public safety. They start from the premise that police are essentially unfireable and that taxpayers should foot the bill for their dangerous, and even deadly, negligence. And although unions are not the only pathology that affects American policing, they are a key internal influence on police culture, a locus of resistance to improvements designed to reduce police violence. To stop police abuse and remove bad cops from duty, police unions as we know them must go.

    A local instance (as reported by CNN, so maybe true):

    The Manchester Police Department in New Hampshire is at odds with an officer they fired in 2018 after a labor arbitrator ruled they must rehire him.

    The Manchester Police Department said in a statement posted on Facebook that it received a complaint against Officer Aaron Brown in January 2018. During the course of the investigation, it uncovered text messages "in which he claimed to have intentionally damaged property while executing search warrants" as well as "text messages that included extremely disturbing racist remarks," police said in the statement.

    In the weekly Reason roundtable podcast, editor Katherine Mangu-Ward noted that there's a mirror-image symmetry in the left/right attitudes toward public employee unions: the left loves teacher unions, despises police unions. While it's the inverse on the other side.


  • Another submission for the good-but-unlikely suggestion box comes from David Harsany at National Review: Questions the Media Should Ask Joe Biden. They're all good, and would be a respite from the usual softballs. Sample:

    You have promised to return to the Obama administration’s directives on Title IX, which have denied due process to college students accused of sexual misconduct, preventing them from questioning their accuser, reviewing allegations and evidence, presenting exculpatory evidence, and calling witnesses. Why don’t college students deserve the same presumption of innocence that you enjoyed after Tara Reade accused you of sexually assaulting her?

    You once promised to put Beto O’Rourke — the man who said, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your guns” — in charge of gun-control efforts in a Biden administration. Will you keep that promise? Your running mate Kamala Harris also supports confiscation of “assault weapons.” You back a ban on AR-15s and other semi-automatic rifles, but it’s unclear whether you back a retroactive ban. Where do you stand now?

    … or just anything at all that would require him to recall facts and put them into a coherent argument.


  • At Cato, Chris Edwards has some compliments for a belated effort to restrain spending: Senate Is Right to Resist State Aid.

    Another week, another news story about supposedly imploding state‐local government budgets. A New York Times headline warns, “With Washington Deadlocked on Aid, States Face Dire Fiscal Crises.”

    The story leads with, “Alaska chopped resources for public broadcasting. New York City gutted a nascent composting program that could have kept tons of food waste out of landfills. New Jersey postponed property‐​tax relief payments.” The piece is built around such anecdotes, which do not seem dire to me.

    Senate Republicans are right to resist the additional state bailouts pushed by House Democrats because the states can and should handle their own budget challenges going forward.

    The math does not support the "dire" assertion, either.


  • Veronique de Rugy looks at another pleader lining up in the "gimme more money" queue: Airlines Once Again Approach Congress With Captain's Hat in Hand.

    As the saying goes, "When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging." This advice applies to the hole Congress leapt into by bailing out the airline industry back in March through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Now these companies want even more taxpayer money. The federal government should refuse another bailout.

    Like many industries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, airlines have lost a lot of revenue. But unlike other industries, the coronavirus relief bill authorized up to $32 billion for payroll support through Sept. 30, for roughly six months. Basically, the way it worked is that every airline that got a loan could furlough its employees, but those that took both a grant and a loan couldn't. Of course, it's difficult to tell if the Treasury Department was ever serious about enforcing these requirements.

    So don't do that. And while you're at it, cut Amtrak loose from its subsidy, OK?


  • [Amazon Link]
    P. J. O'Rourke has a new book coming out, Amazon link at your right, and there's an excellent excerpt from the Bulwark, a welcome break from 1586 consecutive Trump-is-icky articles: O Beautiful for . . . Pilgrim Feet?.

    And America was founded in angry perplexity, starting with the first attempt to colonize the nation, on those Outer Banks, at the “lost colony” of Roanoke.

    The people who already lived on Roanoke Island, the Croatoan and the Dasamongueponke, were perplexed when 115 English arrived uninvited in 1587. Angry, too. Within a few days the Dasamongueponke had killed one of the English, George Howe. Within a few more days the English had killed several of the Croatoan who’d had nothing to do with Howe’s death.

    Thus a precedent was set for the way different kinds of Americans would treat each other for the next four hundred–some years and what would happen to innocent bystanders when the treatment was being handed out. (Advice to American bystanders: don’t stand by, stand back.)

    Also a lengthy analysis of "America the Beuatiful" as only Peej could provide.


  • And in the (fortunately small) Pun Salad "I Was Wrong" department. There was a guy with the legal name of "Nobody" on the New Hampshire GOP primary ballot. I thought for sure that a decent number of less-than-attentive voters might think that was an option instead of a person. But the unofficial Election Results show Nobody with a mere 0.85% of the vote.

    Looking forward to the November election, when my algorithm will probably be the usual:

    
        for each elective office
    	if (there's a Libertarian candidate)
    	    vote Libertarian
    	else if (it's a contest between Republican and Democrat)
    	    vote Republican
    	else
    	    skip to the next office
        

    I don't do write-ins or vote for unopposed candidates.

    It would have to be a really bad Republican to make me vote for a Democrat.


Last Modified 2020-09-10 1:30 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2020-09-09

  • Our tweet du jour from ousted NYT staffer Bari Weiss, who comments concisely (four words!) on Oscar's new qualification criteria for Best Picture:

    I believe there's some discussion on her feed about which past pictures would be disqualified under the new standards. Casablanca, probably? Gone With the Wind, definitely not!


  • Kevin D. Williamson enjoys the irony of class warriors going to bat for a real protected class: Nancy Pelosi & Chuck Schumer Demand Tax Cuts for their Rich Friends.

    In a very amusing New York Times column by two Brookings nerds, Richard V. Reeves and Christopher Pulliam, the question is raised:

    The election is a referendum not only on the moral failings of President Trump, Democrats argue, but on the economic fissures of the new economy. It is a fight, Mr. Biden says, on behalf of “the young people who have known only an America of rising inequity and shrinking opportunity.”

    Why on earth, then, are Democrats fighting — and fighting hard — for a $137 billion tax cut for the richest Americans? Mr. Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer don’t agree on everything, but on this specific issue they speak with one voice: the $10,000 cap on deductions for state and local tax (better known as the SALT deduction) must go.

    Limiting the deductibility of state and local taxes (SALT) amounted to a big tax increase on rich progressives in high-tax jurisdictions such as New York City and San Francisco, the political homes of Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi, respectively. For years, this provided the limousine-liberal set with a much-needed economic palliative against the pain of living under the rapacious and incompetent governments of New York, California, New Jersey, Connecticut, etc. It was a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too arrangement: The grubby little miscreants in Sacramento and Albany were happy with the jack, and the high-income constituents they milk like a particularly docile if snappily dressed herd of dairy cattle hardly felt any pain thanks to the federal tax analgesic.

    I assume the $10K deduction limit hits some New Hampshire folks too, but I haven't heard a lot of complaints about it.


  • Ronald Bailey has some good news at Reason: Steven Pinker Survives Attempted Cancellation. A group of linguists "published an open letter calling for the Linguistics Society of America (LSA) to revoke the organization's distinguished fellow status from linguist and cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker." From Bailey's interview with Pinker:

    Q: This LSA letter is an astonishing document. 

    A: I think it's part of a larger mindset that does not see the world as having complex problems that we fail to understand and ought to try to understand better to diagnose and treat, but rather as a kind of warfare between powerful elites and oppressed masses. In the classic Marxist analysis, these would be economic classes, but they've been transformed to racial and sexual classes.

    In this mindset, analysis, debate, evidence are just tools—propaganda exercised by those in power. What has to happen is not a deeper understanding of social problems, but a wresting of power from elites and redistributing it to the disenfranchised.

    Q: You've said the letter wasn't specifically about you, but it was quite targeted. 

    A: It was quite targeted, but it's part of a larger movement seeking monsters to destroy. That is, to look for prominent people and do "offense archeology," which is to troll through tweets and statements seeking to find evidence, however tortured, that there's some kind of prejudice behind them.

    Pinker's books are always must-reads for me.


  • And finally, Cafe Hayek's proprietor shares a letter he wrote to Reason about the "will-to-power" conservatives we blogged about previously. I just want to snip out his quote of H. L. Mencken.

    But the right to freedom obviously involves the right to be foolish. If what I say must be passed on for its sagacity by censors, however wise and prudent, then I have no free speech. And if what I may believe – about gall-stones, the Constitution, castor-oil, or God – is conditioned by law, then I am not a free man.

    I plan on exercising my right to be foolish as heavily in the future as I have in the past.


Last Modified 2020-09-10 3:50 AM EDT

No Man of Her Own

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

Continuing the Pun Salad Noir Festival 2020…

The movie opens with Barbara Stanwyck and John Lund looking guiltily at each other in the living room of a very large house. Barbara's voiceover mentions murder most foul. And then there's a call… the cops are on the way to … what, exactly? Well, a flashback comprising most of the rest of the movie explains it: back in the day, Barbara's in the family way, and she's tracked down the dad to where he's shacked up with a floozie. Her pounding on the door only results in a train ticket to San Francisco being shoved under the door. Get lost, Barbara, you and the kid.

It's the 1950s so nobody says "pregnant".

I'd explain the plot further, but it's ludicrous. Suffice to say that Barbara goes from desperate and miserable, to frantic, to happy, to apprehensive, to desperate again…

And let me just say it's a damn travesty that she never won an Oscar. Because no matter how implausible the plot is, she's totally believable all the way through.

And at a certain point, she goes from "hopeless anguish" to "ice-cold bitch with a plan". In about 0.4 seconds. Personally, I was chilled. I can't think of any current actress who could manage that so convincingly. Okay, maybe Sandra Bullock.

Scandal Sheet

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

OK, The Big Clock is lots better. But if you've seen The Big Clock, and you're in the mood for something similar, this is an OK choice. We spent a Netflix DVD pick on it.

For a long time—a real long time—I only thought of Broderick Crawford as Dan Matthews in Highway Patrol. But a few years back I saw Born Yesterday, which I didn't care for too much, but Mr. Crawford was good. And I've never seen him in the movie for which he won the Oscar, All the King's Men.

But anyway, he's pretty good in this B-movie. He plays Matt Chapman, the editor of a tabloid New York paper, catering to the basest reading appetites of Gothamites. This shocks the more refined tastes of the board of directors, but they can't really argue with results: he's resurrected the paper from doom. He relies on his crack team of reporters (John Derek, and a cigar-chomping Harry Morgan) to get the garish details on the latest crimes. Derek is sweet on feature writer Donna Reed, and she's also attracted, but put off by his complicity with the sleazy trajectory of the paper.

Among the paper's non-journalistic efforts is the "Lonely Hearts Club". A dance for the Hearts is held, which leads to someone out of Chapman's past recognizing him. Threats are made, someone winds up dead, a coverup is attempted, diligent reporters investigate, another someone winds up dead,… Well, it's complicated and a certain amount of fun seeing the environs of NYC in the 1950s.

Samuel Fuller wrote the novel on which this is based, so that's why it's part of the "Samuel Fuller Collection" pictured above. The DVD restoration is impeccable.

URLs du Jour

2020-09-08

As a reformed physics major, I really liked this beauty from Michael Ramirez.

[Kaboom]

Mr. Ramirez's visualization based on science journalism. But neat nevertheless.

  • At Reason, Matt Welch details The Media’s Nervous Breakdown Over Race.

    If you were alive and on social media in early June, you were almost certainly swamped by scores of media and cultural organizations putting out statements, Instagram posts, and self-critical columns expressing solidarity in the fight against systemic prejudice.

    "We recognize that there is much work to be done, and we are committed to engaging in this work to eradicate institutional racism," announced the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. "I have tried to diversify our newsroom over the past 7 years, but I HAVE NOT DONE ENOUGH," confessed the editor in chief of Variety. The women's lifestyle publication Refinery29, like many websites, changed its homepage color to black instead of its usual peppy pink.

    Within days, the heads of all those institutions were out of a job.

    I have to think this sort of thing will sputter into self-contradicting irrationality sometime soon. But not before many careers are ended.


  • John Murawski writes at RealClearInvestigations on The Deeply Pessimistic Intellectual Roots of Black Lives Matter, the '1619 Project' and Much Else in Woke America. It's all about "Critical Race Theory", a theory so idiotic…, well, let's quote Orwell: "One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool."

    The theory is

    […] a movement born in law schools in the 1970s, influenced by Marxists, French post-modernists, the Black Power cause, radical feminists and other disaffected leftist scholars. It quickly spread to throughout the humanities and social sciences, shaping a generation of students who now hold positions of influence in academia, public school systems, corporate HR departments, publishing, the media, and, of course, Black Lives Matter -- the latter prominent in current street protests against police abuses and racism.

    Initially dismissed as an academic sideshow, critical race theory’s assumptions and precepts are now espoused as self-evident, often without awareness that this uprising has a name, a history, a literature and ambitions to advance ever-new theories of discrimination and demands for reparations. The vocabulary and concepts of the theory have been disseminated through corporate diversity workshops, social media and mass media, higher education and secondary education, best-selling books and local church discussion groups. Even the conservative Southern Baptist Convention declared last year that evangelical theologians rely on critical race theory to understand American social dynamics.

    As usual, I'll point out that Critical Race Theory has become the Official Theology of the University Near Here.


  • NH Journal's Michael Graham notes how a onetime New Hampshire Governor's passing was handled by the local TV station: 'Conservative but Still Friendly' Coverage of Merrill's Death Raises Questions About WMUR's Objectivity.

    WMUR’s Sunday morning coverage of the passing of Gov. Steve Merrill contained this jarring note:

    “Despite his conservative leadership, Merrill was friendly and had a sense of humor.”

    “Despite?” What’s the connection between Merrill’s conservatism and the fact that he was known as both a compassionate and funny person, many Granite State Republicans asked. To some, it was yet another sign of WMUR’s coverage drifting toward the left.

    We usually watch as much of WMUR's 5pm news show as we can stand, and the drift is pretty obvious, mainly in the disparate coverage of Trump and Biden. They seem to like Governor Sununu, though.


  • I've been seeing an upswing in appearances of that good old Russian word nomenklatura, probably because of stories like this: San Francisco gym owners livid after discovering gyms in government buildings have been opened for months.

    Gyms within government buildings in San Francisco have been open for months, despite privately owned establishments being ordered to close due to the coronavirus.

    “It’s shocking, it’s infuriating,” Daniele Rabkin, of Crossfit Golden Gate, told a local NBC station. “Even though they’re getting exposed, there are no repercussions, no ramifications? It’s shocking.”

    Shocking? Or just what we little folk should suspect?


  • Isaac Stone Fish at the WaPo claims Mulan is a scandal. And it's hard to disagree. Disney hopped right into bed with the Chinese dictatorship.

    The most devastating part of “Mulan,” Disney’s much-anticipated live-action remake of the 1998 animated film, isn’t the story. It’s the credits. The film retells the ancient Chinese tale of Hua Mulan, a filial daughter who dresses as a man to join the army, honor her father and save the emperor. While the film engenders pride for China, it does so with a subtle touch: Besides a few mentions of defending the Silk Road, a favorite trading route of Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, little links it to the modern-day country. The New York Times called it “lightly funny and a little sad, filled with ravishing landscapes.”

    But there’s a dark side to those landscapes. Disney filmed “Mulan” in regions across China (among other locations). In the credits, Disney offers a special thanks to more than a dozen Chinese institutions that helped with the film. These include four Chinese Communist Party propaganda departments in the region of Xinjiang as well as the Public Security Bureau of the city of Turpan in the same region — organizations that are facilitating crimes against humanity. It’s sufficiently astonishing that it bears repeating: Disney has thanked four propaganda departments and a public security bureau in Xinjiang, a region in northwest China that is the site of one of the world’s worst human rights abuses happening today.

    Fish deems Mulan to be Disney's "most problematic" movie since Song of the South. Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah!

URLs du Jour

2020-09-07

  • For those of you with jobs, Happy Labor Day! Here's a timely reminder from the Josiah Bartlett Center: Without innovation, labor can't generate progress.

    The weekend has arrived when Americans play for three days while politicians give speeches and issue press releases recognizing the economic contributions of the American labor movement.

    Labor’s contributions are worth recognition. But have any politicians ever acknowledged that laboring in isolation produces nothing beyond basic subsistence? For labor to generate human progress, it has to be mixed with innovation. Yet we have no holiday for the innovators.

    The author (Drew Cline) has read his McCloskey. I left a comment suggesting further reading.


  • Glenn Greenwald, an honest leftist, notes Journalism’s New Propaganda Tool: Using “Confirmed” to Mean its Opposite. He looks at a 2017 story "broken" by CNN: "a smoking gun proving the Trump/Russia conspiracy once and for all"!

    Only problem: the story was bogus.

    Oh wait, a further problem: Multiple mainstream media members rushed to "confirm" CNN's story. How the hell do you "confirm" a story that turns out to be false?

    Well, that shameful episode has been memory-holed by CNN and the other anti-Trump propaganda outlets. But Greenwald notes they're still up to the same tricks:

    It seems the same misleading tactic is now driving the supremely dumb but all-consuming news cycle centered on whether President Trump, as first reported by the Atlantic’s editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg, made disparaging comments about The Troops. Goldberg claims that “four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day” — whom the magazine refuses to name because they fear “angry tweets” — told him that Trump made these comments. Trump, as well as former aides who were present that day (including Sarah Huckabee Sanders and John Bolton), deny that the report is accurate.

    So we have anonymous sources making claims on one side, and Trump and former aides (including Bolton, now a harsh Trump critic) insisting that the story is inaccurate. Beyond deciding whether or not to believe Goldberg’s story based on what best advances one’s political interests, how can one resolve the factual dispute? If other media outlets could confirm the original claims from Goldberg, that would obviously be a significant advancement of the story.

    Other media outlets — including Associated Press and Fox News — now claim that they did exactly that: “confirmed” the Atlantic story. But if one looks at what they actually did, at what this “confirmation” consists of, it is the opposite of what that word would mean, or should mean, in any minimally responsible sense. AP, for instance, merely claims that “a senior Defense Department official with firsthand knowledge of events and a senior U.S. Marine Corps officer who was told about Trump’s comments confirmed some of the remarks to The Associated Press,” while Fox merely said “a former senior Trump administration official who was in France traveling with the president in November 2018 did confirm other details surrounding that trip.”

    I found the Atlantic story to be plausible, because Trump says stupid offensive garbage all the time. But I think it's (nevertheless) shoddy journalism, a hit piece conveniently dumped pre-election.


  • Baylen Linnekin takes on a recent report from Uncle Stupid: Flawed Federal Dietary Report Targets Alcohol. Specifically, the every-five-years report from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) recommends halving the definition of "moderate alcohol consumption" to one drink per day for adult males.

    But…

    Last month, five Harvard Medical School faculty doctors—including three who served on one or more prior iterations of the DGAC—submitted comments that are highly critical of the 2020 DGAC report. They argue the push to slash the maximum daily alcohol consumption for men is a "limited, arbitrary, and unsystematic treatment of alcohol consumption" that is based on "limited, arbitrary, and unsystematic evidence."

    While rightly noting the dangers of binge drinking and consistent heavy alcohol consumption in their comments, the Harvard doctors note the DGAC appears to have "ignored" three decades of research, drinking patterns, and "relevant recent evidence." They also argue the recommendations demonstrate "scientific inconsistency" and an "arbitrary" and biased selection of research. "These arbitrary selections all appear intended to support claims made by members of the DGAC prior to appointment, rather than as systematic and transparent reviews of existing scientific evidence." In other words, the researchers claim anti-alcohol DGAC members focused only on research that supports arguments those members wanted to make all along.

    In celebration of Baylen's revelations, I may imbibe an immoderate amount of wine tonight.


  • [Amazon Link]
    And we've so far successfully ignored the recent book In Defense of Looting by Vicky (used to be "Willie") Osterwell. I don't plan on reading it. (But if you'd like to, Amazon link at your right!) Jonah Goldberg went at it though: The Inanity of The Defense of Looting.

    She is fluent in all the latest buzzwords and campus jargon. The “so-called” United States of America, she writes in her book, was founded in “cisheteropatriarchal racial capitalist” violence. (I’m getting my quotes from Graeme Wood’s excellent review in The Atlantic, as I have no desire to saddle Osterweil with the guilt of profiting from her work.)

    Destroying businesses is an “experience of pleasure, joy and freedom,” she writes. Osterweil also insists it’s a form of “queer birth,” and that “riots are violent, extreme and femme as f---.” Looting isn’t wrong, she claims, but rather a form of “proletarian shopping.” 

    Jonah points out that you can dress up nice, publish a book, go on NPR,… and still be, at your heart, a barbarian.

The Phony Campaign

2020-09-06 Update

Our Eye Candy du Jour is from puppeteer/ventriloquist/comedian Jeff Dunham, bringing his talents to stage a phony debate, probably much better than the ones we'll actually get:

The betting markets continued to look more favorably on Trump over the week; he managed to shrink his win-probability disadvantage by another 1.8 percentage points. If you're interested, the RealClearPolitics folks have a Betting Odds page where they track a number of different markets, compute their own average, and have a nice time series plot that shows the dramatic seesaw battle.

In phony news, President Bone Spurs lost about half his phony hits. No, they were never there in the first place. Google hit counts are bogus.

He's still comfortably in the lead, though.

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
8/30
Phony
Results
Change
Since
8/30
Donald Trump 45.2% +0.6% 3,420,000 -3,360,000
Joe Biden 51.8% -1.2% 1,140,000 -620,000
Jo Jorgensen 0.0% unch 102,000 +78,800
Howie Hawkins 0.0% unch 80,000 +61,400

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • Advice from Carrie Severino in the NYPost: Never forget Kamala Harris’ cruel lies in the Kavanaugh confirmation fight. Doesn't hurt to be reminded:

    Harris was a ringleader in the circus surrounding Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination two years ago. Remember that? She may prefer you forget.

    Two years ago today, during his initial hearing, Harris tried to steal the show with a bizarre series of “gotcha” questions asking if he’d ever had a discussion about Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump campaign with any employees of the law firm Kasowitz, Benson & Torres.

    Kavanaugh appeared to have no idea what she was talking about, but he was astute to the Democrats’ tactic of setting perjury traps that would lead him into making inconsistent statements that could later be spun as lies.

    Harris’ tactics would not have been permitted in a courtroom. As it turned out, both Kavanaugh and the law firm denied any such conversations, and Harris said nothing more on the subject. A San Francisco Chronicle headline reported: “Kamala Harris’ viral grilling of Kavanaugh ends with a thud.” But she had gotten what she was looking for — a “viral moment” for social media — even though she later would be mocked for pursuing such viral moments indiscriminately.

    Much like Kamala's attempt to paint Wheezy Joe as a racist during the campaign for the nomination, her attacks on Kavanaugh were all phony show biz, boob bait for the bubbas.


  • Not that her running mate lacks phoniness himself. Steven Hayward at Power Line: Riots and Joe Biden’s Joe Isuzu Problem.

    Anybody remember the 1980s Isuzu auto TV pitchman “Joe Isuzu”? Wikipedia recalls him as “a pathological liar who made outrageous and overinflated claims about Isuzu’s cars,” which describes a lot of Joe Biden’s boasts about himself. Beyond just Biden, I think the whole Democratic Party has a “Joe Isuzu problem” when it comes to talking sensibly about the urban disorder exploding (literally) all over the country.

    Does it seem like Democrats are deaf-mutes when it comes to speaking clearly against the rioting going on right now? It went unmentioned during the Democratic National Convention two weeks ago. But in fact Joe Biden has made statements against the riots, such as this one back in July:

    “Anyone who burns or pillages… should be arrested. They are a problem for society and they make a mockery of what the march is all about. They should be tried, arrested and put in jail.”

    Today Biden is spinning furiously to catch up with the curve, saying “Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting.” He added, “You know me. You know my heart. You know my story, my family story. Ask yourself, do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?”

    "Trust me, I have no fixed beliefs whatsoever!"


  • But remember when Joe said … oh, wait, never mind: Biden Denies He Will Ban Fracking. Ronald Bailey at Reason:

    "I am not banning fracking. Let me say that again. I am not banning fracking," declared Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in a speech in Pittsburgh yesterday. "No matter how many times Donald Trump lies about me."

    He sounded a somewhat different note during a debate back in March. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) declared that he was "talking about stopping fracking as soon as we possibly can. I'm talking about telling the fossil fuel industry that they are going to stop destroying this planet—no ifs, buts, and maybes about it." Biden responded, "So am I." He also said "no new fracking" and "No more drilling on federal lands. No more drilling, including offshore."

    After the debate that night, Biden's campaign declared that the candidate had misspoken and had actually meant to just reiterate his policy of "banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters." This would obviously stop any new fracking on those lands, as well as conventional drilling on federal lands and waters. This proposal somewhat mirrors President Barack Obama's December 2016 order banning oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic and Arctic coasts as well as selected federal onshore areas.

    A President Biden (and a complaisant/activist Congress) might not "ban" fracking, but they could well regulate and tax it out of existence.


  • Ann Althouse watches (so we don't have to) A Socially Distanced Conversation between Joe and Kamala. Well, actually…

    I watched that up for a minute and 20 seconds, clicked it off, and said, "Oh! He's interviewing her!" I'm switching to the transcript, because I don't have patience for the video version.

    Joe Biden: (03:04) I’ve heard you talk about the way you were raised and your sister and how you guys were together.
    Kamala Harris: (03:15) My mother would come home, and she’d make dinner, and she’d spend some time with us, and then we’d go to bed, and she’d sit at that kitchen table figuring out how to make it all work....

    Kitchen table figuring out how to make it all work.... Her mother was a medical researcher at prestigious institutions, and her father was an economics professor at Stanford. They didn't have any financial struggles, did they? But Harris proceeds to talk about "that thing that wakes us up in the middle of the night and wakes up so many people in the middle of the night... the things that cause people to lose sleep, because they’re worried about how they’re going to get through the end of the month, and feed their kids, and pay their rent." The implication is that she understands financial struggle because of her own family situation. That just puzzles me. She says "I was in high school when my mother was able to afford to buy our first home" and "We rented up until that point." They lived in Oakland. You can rent a nice apartment there. Is Harris saying their rented place was bad? She shouldn't be posing as lower class. But it's such a minor qualification for presiding over the economy anyway — that your family had economic hardship.

    Ann claims to be puzzled, but I'm not. It's a phony appeal to people who do struggle economically. Kamala cares, she's just like you, she's been there, or at least her mother had been there. Not like that child of slumlord privilege, Trump.


  • Back to John Hinderaker at Power Line, who listens when The Democrats Explain Their Voter Fraud Plans.

    I expect that President Trump will be re-elected in November. The Democrats apparently expect that as well. At least, the Democratic Party web site Axios does. Thus, Axios is warning the party’s faithful that President Trump is likely to win–apparently–on November 3. But never fear: weeks remain in which the Democrats can harvest fake ballots!

    A top Democratic data and analytics firm told “Axios on HBO” it’s highly likely that President Trump will appear to have won — potentially in a landslide — on election night, even if he ultimately loses when all the votes are counted.

    Why this matters: Way more Democrats will vote by mail than Republicans, due to fears of the coronavirus, and it will take days if not weeks to tally these. This means Trump, thanks to Republicans doing almost all of their voting in person, could hold big electoral college and popular vote leads on election night.

    An alternative explanation: Democrats are not that much more afraid of the mild COVID virus than Republicans. Rather, fake Democratic ballots are far more likely to come in by mail, mysteriously mailed in by persons to whom they may or may not have been addressed–millions of those people being dead, moved away, or ineligible to vote. The “vote by junk mail” regime established in a number of states by the Democrats opens the door to voter fraud to an unprecedented degree. Which was, of course, the idea.

    Massachusetts warmed up for November last week: Thousands Of Mail-In Ballots In Franklin Not Counted On Election Day. They "found" 3000 uncounted ballots that were allegedly languishing somewhere (it's not clear where) instead of being sent to counters.


  • But Patterico notes that fraud is bipartisan: President Donald J. Trump Encourages Supporters to Commit Felony Voter Fraud.

    When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. When you’re a criminal, every problem looks like something that could be solved by committing a crime:

    President Donald Trump suggested that people in North Carolina should vote twice in the November election, once by mail and once in person, escalating his attempts to cast confusion and doubt on the validity of the results.

    “So let them send it in and let them go vote, and if their system’s as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote. If it isn’t tabulated, they’ll be able to vote,” Trump said when asked whether he has confidence in the mail-in system in North Carolina, a battleground state.

    “If it’s as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote. If it isn’t tabulated, they’ll be able to vote. So that’s the way it is. And that’s what they should do,” he said.

    It is illegal to vote more than once in an election.

    But Ann Althouse says, wait a minute: Trump was not really saying to vote twice..

    There's an assumption that the state has adequate safeguards, and it will prevent anyone who has mailed in a vote from voting in person and will refuse to count a mailed-in vote if it is received after an in-person vote has been cast. If that is so or if the voter believes it is so, then the person who votes twice isn't intending to vote twice, only intending to make sure one or the other vote is counted.

    Fine. Trump is in the habit of saying things that can be, and are, interpreted uncharitably (Patterico, the MSM) or charitably (Althouse, etc.). If you're interested, you can read Patterico's followup post: Cheater in Chief: No, I Totally Did Mean You Should Vote Twice.

    I, for one, am seriously considering disconnecting the TV and Internet on November 3. Cancelling the newspapers. Throwing away the radios. Moving to Montana just to raise me up a crop of dental floss.

The Barbarian Invasions

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

Mrs. Salad has one pretty solid rule: no movies about terminal cancer. So she declined to watch this. It's French-Canadian, mostly set around Montreal. And it won the 2004 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film despite that. The IMDB genres: 'Comedy, Crime, Drama', although the comedy is people sitting around being "witty" in French, so take that with a grain of salt. It's actually a sequel to the 1986 movie The Decline of the American Empire, which sounds even less funny. (But was nominated for the Foreign movie Oscar.)

Anyway: The dying guy is Rémy, and over the years he's managed to wreck his family. His estranged son Sébastien is summoned from abroad by his estranged ex-wife to be by his side. He appears reluctantly, but eventually gets into the spirit of things. He summons the old gang back together (I assume from that previous movie) to visit Rémy in his hospital room. He arranges for a local junkie to supply Rémy with heroin. He figures out how to move Rémy to a better room in a less crowded area of the hospital. And…

Well, I should say something about that. This movie seems to be (in part) an effective argument against socialized medicine, at least as it was practiced in Quebec in 2003. Rémy's hospital care is a nightmarish hellscape, with groaning patients in the hallways, no privacy, and ineffective pain management. Theft from patients is common and the cops do nothing. Sébastien is rich enough to buy Rémy out of this. It helps that everyone involved (hospital administrators, union laborers) are easily corruptible with enough cash.

And when Sébastien thinks Rémy needs more sophisticated diagnosis, they head over the border to Burlington, Vermont—I'm pretty sure Bernie Sanders doesn't know about this—for better treatment from American capitalist health care.

It's OK. Plus an extra half-star for the libertarian message.

URLs du Jour

2020-09-05

[Amazon Link]

  • Good news for me, from AEI, about COVID-19 and walking.

    Walking has been having a moment for a while now. Books and research have been proliferating about the joys and benefits of walking, which include cultural exchange, spiritual enlightenment, and cognitive and creative benefits. Research regularly concludes that even small walks stimulate one’s imagination and enhance focus, and findings note that those who walk regularly are healthier and live longer than those who do not.

    With so many Americans quarantining with limited options for mobility and large numbers managing mental health issues because of the virus, National Geographic has called walking the “ideal pandemic activity.” But National Geographic was also quick to note that while walking is fundamentally a democratic act, “access to safe walking isn’t always guaranteed, as many in the Black and brown communities know.” So having a sense of how and if Americans are walking during the pandemic could be very useful.  

    I have a dog, which is an excellent excuse. Also Bluetooth headphones.


  • At Reason, Stephanie Slade opines on Will-to-Power Conservatism and the Great Liberalism Schism.

    In the last few years, a major fault line has opened up on the American political right: Call it the Great Liberalism Schism. On one side are those of us who remain committed to classical liberal norms and values such as due process, free trade, and religious freedom. On the other side is an increasingly restless group of writers and thinkers at places like First Things and the Claremont Institute who say America has tried classical liberalism—and it failed us.

    These "post-liberals" believe it's time for a conservative politics that stops worrying about protecting individual liberty and starts worrying about attaining the common good. Generally speaking, that means embracing "strong rule" by a government tasked, among other things, with "enforcing duties of community and solidarity in the use and distribution of resources," as the Harvard law professor Adrian Vermeule put it in a March essay for The Atlantic.

    Well, at least they're honest statists, differing from the progressive flavor only in the set of things about which they want government to shove people around about.


  • At National Review, Brian Reidl does the math (correctly) and concludes: Taxing the Wealthy Cannot Finance Socialism. (NRPLUS, sorry peons.)

    The posts are a staple of liberal social media: Attacking the greedy billionaire who could “easily” give everyone $1 million.

    Jeff Bezos could give every single American $3 million and he’d still have $188.8 billion.” “Imagine if @JeffBezos decided to give $1,000,000 to each of those 33 million out of work. It’s pocket change to him.”

    It is not just random social-media postings. In March, MSNBC’s Brian Williams went on the air and endorsed a tweet that stated: “Bloomberg spent $500 million on ads. U.S. Population, 327 million . . . He could have given each American $1 million.” His guest, New York Times editorial board member Mara Gay, concurred that “It’s an incredible way of putting it. It’s true. It’s disturbing.”

    [… a couple more examples …]

    It is tempting to dismiss these claims as random, innocent mathematical errors. In reality, they are central to the growing “Democratic Socialist” worldview, which is increasingly united around the belief that seizing the wealth of Jeff Bezos and other billionaires can finance the future they want. This belief explains the far Left’s non-stop fixation with billionaire wealth (such as the widely circulated but false claim that billionaires have added $584 billion in wealth since the pandemic began). In particular, the Left is obsessed with the world’s richest man (“Jeff Bezos has decided he will not end world hunger today” recently received 500,000 Twitter likes). Just last week, protesters built a guillotine in front of Bezos’s home.

    Just an observation: Mara Gay is still a New York Times Editorial Board member, despite being a math illiterate. Bari Weiss is still out.


  • Also at NR, but not "PLUS": Kevin D. Williamson on The Lives of the Martyrs.

    The motive principle animating the riots under way in Kenosha, Portland, etc., is less a conspiracy than it is an emergent religious phenomenon. The model for understanding what is happening in our burning cities is not the Mafia — it’s the Moonies.

    That radical movements and revolutions take on a religious character is an insight that is hardly original to me. We saw it in the early days of the United States with the apotheosis of George Washington, who became a kind of American Divus Iulius whose great personal integrity and dignity retroactively sanctified the revolution. Mao Zedong was a world-shaking character not because of any deep-seeing political philosophy but because he became a figure of national redemption for China — who was, and remains, the central figure in a cult. (Chairman Xi even dresses up like him on special occasions.) With its conversion narratives, its rites of confession, its ceremonies of excommunication, and, above all, its ritual of mass self-sanctification in communion with its celebrated martyrs, what we are seeing in the cities is essentially religious in character. Those who deride the current moral hysteria in the United States as the “Great Awokening” are not wrong to compare it to the Great Awakening of the 18th century.

    KDW thinks we shouldn't hold our breaths waiting for someone to produce proof of a grand conspiracy driving all the unrest. For better or worse, we live in a country where a small but growing fraction of folks have independently devoted their lives to fomenting chaos.


  • And good news from that state to our immediate south, namely Massachusetts: Thousands of Mail-in Ballots Found Days After the Election.

    Mail-in ballots, the scam that fails everywhere it’s tested. See also, Massachusetts fourth Congressional District.

    Days after Tuesday’s election and MA-4 is finding ballots, thousands of ballots in all kinds of fun places, including some 3,000 mail-in ballots that never made it to their respective polling locations on Election Day.

    The link is to Legal Insurrection, and the appropriate Boston Herald story is quoted extensively.

    Can't wait until November 10 or so, when some diligent folks "find" enough mail ballots to put Joe Biden over the top in a few key states.

URLs du Jour

2020-09-04

[Amazon Link]

  • At AIER, Antony Davies and James R. Harrigan write on The Covid-19 Catastrophe. Making a lot of good points, but this is more generally applicable:

    [P]oliticians invariably feel the need to “do something.” Despite volumes of evidence from disparate fields like economics, social work, ecology, and medicine, it never seems to occur to politicians that sometimes doing less, or even doing nothing, is by far the better approach. Why should it occur to them? When politicians act and their actions do more harm than good, they always say the same thing: “Imagine how bad it would have been had we not acted.”

    A point I've been occasionally trying to make myself, more or less since I started blogging in 2005. Davies and Harrigan make it more eloquently than I've been able to do.

    I'd add: politicians do this because it works. Davies and Harrigan go on to invoke "the anger of the American people" as a solution. But "anger" is unprincipled, usually misdirected, and hard to maintain.

    Plus, you find yourself audited by the IRS.


  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File explores the Eternal Sunshine of the Youthful Mind. Specifically, taking on AOC's ad for MA Senator Ed Markey's (successful) primary campaign, where it's stated "it's not your age that counts, it’s the age of your ideas."

    Which, if you know any history, is hilarious.

    […] let’s start with the ideas Ocasio-Cortez categorizes as young: Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.

    These are young ideas? By any measure—and by any label—Medicare for All is not a new idea. Whether you call it socialized medicine, universal health care, social insurance, or M4A, this idea was old not merely when Ocasio-Cortez was born but when Ed Markey was born. Bismarck’s Germany implanted compulsory sickness insurance in 1883. Scandinavian countries started subsidizing mutual benefit societies—the precursors of health insurance companies—in the 90s … the 1890s, that is. Of course, the notion of communal ownership of, well, everything, goes back either to Francois Babeuf, who many consider the first Communist, or to some prehistoric caveperson (or cavepersons) whose monosyllabic grunt of a name has been lost because no one invented writing for another couple hundred thousand years. 

    Indeed, one of the best arguments for socialized medicine is that it is, in fact, a very old idea. That’s part of Bernie Sanders’ whole shtick when he describes Scandinavian countries—often inaccurately—as free health care success stories. For the better part of a century, American progressives have been looking longingly at European health care systems like cartoon bulldogs outside a butcher shop window.

    Green New Deal: ditto. Although 'tis tempting to put sneer quotes around every word. "Green" "New" "Deal".

    But that would be annoying, and I'm already annoying enough.


  • Bad news from the intrepid Veronique de Rugy: There's No Such Thing as a Free Tax Holiday. Assuming you know Trump's proposal to "defer" payroll taxes until next year:

    For one thing, as noted, the benefit may be short-lived. According to the IRS, unless Congress decides to go ahead and forgive the tax, it will eventually need to be collected by employers and sent to Uncle Sam. This is guaranteed to become a massive headache for employers, who will ultimately have to collect the deferred taxes from their employees. As a result, some large companies such as United Parcel Service have already announced that they will continue to collect the payroll tax from their employees and send the money to the federal government as usual.

    Second, Congress could go ahead and decide to forgive the tax as part of a future coronavirus-relief package. However, short of any other adjustments, that's a bad idea. For instance, no matter how some may try to present the move, it won't stimulate the economy. Data from the Congressional Budget Office show that tax cuts geared to lower- and middle-income earners return one-third in economic growth of what they cost in lost revenue.

    That leads me to my third issue with the policy. I am all in favor of letting taxpayers keep more of their money than they used to. I like my government bill as small as it can be. But that's only if you offset the reduction in tax revenue with a reduction in spending in general, or Social Security benefits in particular. You see, the portion of the payroll tax that would be cut is collected to fund spending on Social Security benefits for current retirees. It's also part of the process for current employees to become eligible for Social Security benefits in the future.

    I'm reminded of the aphorism (of unknown provenance): "If you have been in a poker game for a while, and you still don’t know who the patsy is, you’re the patsy."


  • Kevin D. Williamson is funny and accurate about Nancy Pelosi’s Haircut "Set Up". Speaking of poker:

    Little scandals often matter more than big scandals. The Obama administration’s IRS abuses and related shenanigans, which went almost nowhere as a scandal, were in substance more corrosive than the relatively minor check-kiting scandal that rocked Congress back in the 1990s. Donald Trump may have led audiences in chanting “Lock her up!” but it is an obscure Democrat-run prosecutor’s office in Texas that has in fact corruptly indicted major political figures (Tom DeLay, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Rick Perry) on laughably trumped-up felony charges, only to see them thrown out. Back in the 1990s, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s dodgy cattle-futures profits spoke to a much more serious kind of corruption than did Bill Clinton’s intern-bothering. But most people who are not members of the Ayn Rand Society know what sex is, and nobody gets futures trading. Try explaining it to Joe Voter and see how far you get before he’s lost in Drake’s latest Instagram post. On the other hand, relatively minor scandals that are easily comprehended can be major problems. The most easily comprehended of such scandals is the scandal of hypocrisy, which is what Nancy Pelosi is guilty of.

    There are worse things than hypocrisy, and Pelosi will brazen through this. She has a pretty good poker face to go along with the first-rate hair.

    Bonus quote from KDW:

    But members of the nomenklatura are entitled to their petty privileges: Bernie Sanders has his lakeside dacha, where he retires to practice his jeremiads against economic inequality, and Nancy Pelosi has her hair appointment.


  • Christopher Bedford's article at the Federalist is labeled "Humor", but I dunno… Joe Biden Isn't Senile, That's What The Russians Want You To Think.

    Has anyone noticed a slowdown with Joe? He isn’t drooling, he isn’t muttering to himself any more than plenty of other people do, but something seems different. Or maybe rather than different, something seems deeply familiar.

    No, it isn’t the sort of cognitive decline we’ve all seen with loved ones. Rather, according to ABC’s latest nuke, the encroaching senility that has our former vice president hiding in his basement is simply… Russian propaganda.

    Don’t laugh! This is serious stuff. National security! It took four reporters, with help from a fifth to write this story. It runs nearly 1,600 words. They have a document. It’s called: “Russia Likely to Denigrate Health of US Candidates to Influence 2020 Election,” and some super-earnest bureaucrat wanted it distributed to America’s top law enforcement so they could be on the lookout for this menace. His boss wouldn’t let him, so of course, he gave it to the media.

    Also Russian propaganda: Hillary was unlikeable and corrupt.


  • And to end on a serious note, a Cato report devoted to Separating Myth from Fact About the Troubles of the Postal Service. Key points conveniently up front:

    • The US Postal Service (USPS) will not run out of money in the foreseeable future. It has more than $13 billion in cash and a new $10 billion borrowing line with the US Treasury.
    • The agency’s mail collection, sorting, and delivery network has more than sufficient aggregate capacity to handle the ballots issued and cast by mail.
    • The USPS has short-term problems with its delivery performance, its preparation for possible workforce depletions due to the coronavirus, and its public communications. The agency can and should address these matters promptly to increase Americans’ confidence going into the November 2020 election.
    • The Postal Service has long-term problems, including more than $130 billion in unfunded obligations and structural operating deficits. Congress can directly address these problems with amendments to current postal law without radically cutting service or abandoning the USPS’s self-funding model.

    I can't improve on Jerry Seinfeld's take:

    […] a dazed and confused distant branch of the Cub Scouts, bumbling around the streets in embarrassing shorts and jackets with meaningless patches and victory medals, driving 4 miles an hour 20 feet at a time on the wrong side of a mentally handicapped Jeep.

    I love how the postal system has this financial emotional meltdown every three to five years that their business model from 1630 isn’t working any more. I can’t understand how a 21st century information system based on licking, walking and a random number of pennies is struggling to compete.

    I am probably a lot more irked than I should be at our local Democrats getting all melty-eyed over USPS, demanding that nothing change except… here's a bunch more taxpayer money, you're welcome.


Last Modified 2020-09-05 5:56 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2020-09-03

[Amazon Link]

  • Cato's Walter Olson has news of the latest depredation: Citing Public Health Authority, Feds Decree Nationwide Eviction Moratorium.

    Yesterday the Trump administration published an emergency edict purporting to ban a wide range of residential evictions for nonpayment of rent nationwide through the end of the year (and well past Election Day). [AP, Reuters] Under what claimed authority, you may ask, and if so, how constitutional is that claimed authority?

    It’s one thing for the feds to attach strings regarding evictions to housing they’re involved with financially. That has already been part of the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This new measure, far broader, dispenses with that nexus.

    It's claimed the power is granted by this statute, but I'm not sure what hallucinogens you have to be taking to believe that. At National Review, David Harsanyi is blunt and accurate: Trump's 'Eviction Moratorium' Is State-Sanctioned Theft.

    It’s difficult to comprehend how this kind of intrusion could be constitutional. But let’s set aside the legal concerns. Fiscal conservatives have rightly mocked Democrats and socialists who favor magically wiping out student debt while ignoring the economic and legal repercussions. Student loans are, regrettably, backed by moral-hazardy government guarantees. Rent, though, isn’t even owed to the state or secured by a government agency. It is owed to private citizens who have entered into legal contracts with tenants. Property rights and the sanctity of those contracts are vital in a lawful society. The latter are now being torn up by government decree.

    Limited government: an idea whose time has… gone.


  • The latest issue of Reason has a bunch of good ideas on a single theme, introduced by Katherine Mangu-Ward: If You Want to Fix Policing, Listen to the Pragmatists.

    In that moment of optimism, Reason asked writers who have been on the criminal justice beat for years to lay out serious proposals for reforms with a fighting chance of being implemented in the coming months or years. The result is a robust list that includes calls to abolish qualified immunity (page 18), bust the police unions (page 22), better regulate the use of police force (page 25), rethink crisis response (page 28), end the drug war (page 32), release body cam footage (page 35), stop overpolicing (page 37), and restrict asset forfeiture (page 40). Each article begins with a quote from Reason's archives, some from issues dating all the way back to the 1960s. Reason has been carrying this torch for a long time, in preparation for the moment when mainstream political culture and elected officials were ready to hear us out.

    I'm not sure how many of those links work for non-subscribers right now, but if/when they do, they're all worth our attention and advocacy.


  • At the WSJ, Jason L. Riley has a simple request: Spare Us More of the Arrogance of ‘Expertise’.

    A troubling trend in recent decades has been the transfer of decision-making authority to expert intellectuals. Environmental regulations and health-care mandates are two obvious examples. But there’s also the more general nanny state mentality emanating from liberals who tell you that politicians, bureaucrats and academics know better than you do how to live your life and raise your children. The result is fewer decisions made through democratic processes, and more choices determined by an intelligentsia that suffers few if any consequences for being wrong.

    Experience tells us that the best way to raise children is with a mother and father in the home, and the most effective anti-poverty program in existence is getting married before having kids. Yet prominent commentators like David Brooks insist that the nuclear family is now passé and that the black underclass needs slavery reparations, not fewer fatherless households. Increases in violent crime have brought calls from the public for more policing, while professional activists call for decarceration and reduced funding for law enforcement. Low-income minorities want to choose where their children are educated, but elite organizations like the NAACP oppose charter schools.

    The co-pandemic of elite arrogance is certain to outlast Covid-19. I consider New Hampshire State Representative Judith Spang a prototypical example: taken to haranguing shoppers in the local supermarket parking lot about their overuse of plastic bags. If she were a normal citizen, that could be chalked up to cranky busybodyism. Unfortunately, she's got power, and she wants to use it.


  • Out on the Left Coast, things continue to slide downhill, as reported by the Free Beacon: Judge Rules University of California Cannot Use Standardized Tests in Admissions.

    The University of California school system is no longer allowed to use SAT and ACT test scores as part of its admissions process after a California judge ruled that the tests give an unfair advantage to non-disabled students.

    The university system has not required students to submit standardized test scores as part of their college applications since May when the university board of regents voted to phase out the test requirements. Applicants could still voluntarily submit their test scores, however, which, according to Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman's Tuesday ruling, gave some students an "inherent advantage" over others.

    Leave it to David Friedman to immediately spot the inherent disadvantage the judge's decision imposes:

    That means that they are eliminating the only way in which home schooled kids, lacking the usual high school grades and teacher recommendations, can demonstrate their academic qualifications to a university.

    Are we fast approaching a time where Vonnegut's short story "Harrison Bergeron" will seem like a documentary?


  • And I managed to give a good healthy snort to this Slashdot story: The FBI Botches Its DNC Hack Warning In 2016 -- But Says It Won't Next Time. Quoting a report from Wired:

    On April 28, 2016, an IT tech staffer for the Democratic National Committee named Yared Tamene made a sickening discovery: A notorious Russian hacker group known as Fancy Bear had penetrated a DNC server "at the heart of the network," as he would later tell the US Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence. By this point the intruders already had the ability, he said, to delete, alter, or steal data from the network at will. And somehow this breach had come as a terrible surprise -- despite an FBI agent's warning to Tamene of potential Russian hacking over a series of phone calls that had begun fully nine months earlier. The FBI agent's warnings had "never used alarming language," Tamene would tell the Senate committee, and never reached higher than the DNC's IT director, who dismissed them after a cursory search of the network for signs of foul play. That miscommunication would result in the success of the Kremlin-sponsored hack-and-leak operation that would ultimately contribute to the election of Donald Trump.

    Read that again: It's the FBI's fault that the IT Director of the Democratic National Committee dismissed its warnings.

    Because the FBI didn't use alarming language.

    I'm sure there are at least a few FBI folks who are chafing for being held even slightly responsible for the DNC's compromise.


Last Modified 2020-09-04 7:29 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2020-09-02

[Amazon Link]

  • John McWhorter writes at the Atlantic: Academics Are Really Worried About Cancel Culture. As befits a linguistics professor, he's got a succinct and accurate definition of that term:

    Our national reckoning on race has brought to the fore a loose but committed assemblage of people given to the idea that social justice must be pursued via attempts to banish from the public sphere, as much as possible, all opinions that they interpret as insufficiently opposed to power differentials. Valid intellectual and artistic endeavor must hold the battle against white supremacy front and center, white people are to identify and expunge their complicity in this white supremacy with the assumption that this task can never be completed, and statements questioning this program constitute a form of “violence” that merits shaming and expulsion.

    Skeptics have labeled this undertaking “cancel culture,” which of late has occasioned a pushback from its representatives. The goal, they suggest, is less to eliminate all signs of a person’s existence—which tends to be impractical anyway— than to supplement critique with punishment of some kind. Thus a group of linguists in July submitted to the Linguistic Society of America a petition not only to criticize the linguist and psychologist Steven Pinker for views they considered racist and sexist, but to have him stripped of his Linguistic Society of America fellow status and removed from the organization’s website listing linguist consultants available to the media. An indication of how deeply this frame of mind has penetrated many of our movers and shakers is that they tend to see this punishment clause as self-evidently just, as opposed to the novel, censorious addendum that it is.

    Prof McW goes on to share some of the correspondence he's received from academics who are a tad on edge about whether something they say (or have said in the past) might serve as grounds for the Woke Red Guard to demand their repentence, re-education, and retribution.


  • Looking at government spending, I've pretty much been an Aieee, we're all gonna die! kind of guy. Although I say that more in resignation than panic. Panic is tough to maintain at my age.

    Kevin D. Williamson looks at the issue and is more sanguine, I think. Here is Fed Inflation Target Adjustment: Manageable.

    The United States has urgent short-term problems. One of them is the current terrorist campaign of left-wing political violence intended to sway the 2020 election. Another is the loss of confidence in police and other municipal agencies in cities such as Minneapolis and Kenosha. Another is the coronavirus response. These are all problems of institutional failure, most spectacularly the failures of American cities dominated by Democratic-machine politics, but also bipartisan failures at the state and federal levels. The United States has long-term problems, too, prominent among them the imbalance between what Washington has to spend and what Washington desires to spend. That, too, represents institutional failure — one that will be, if left unreformed, catastrophic. Faced with so much institutional failure, we should guard jealously the institutions we have that are functioning reasonably well.

    There are people who want to sell you gold coins who insist that we are on the precipice of hyperinflation. They said so yesterday, and they will say so again tomorrow, irrespective of what actually happens in the real world. There are situations in which investing in gold is intelligent and prudent, and there are situations in which the case for gold is hysteria, marketing hype, and narrow financial self-interest on the part of the fearmongers. Sorting out the prudent and the intelligent from the dishonest and the hysterical is difficult at the best of times — in the marketplace, yes, but also at the ballot box.

    Well, we'll see I guess. I have not purchased any gold coins, so maybe I'm subconsciously thinking we'll muddle through somehow.


  • At Cato, Jeffrey A Singer looks at The AMA Opioid Task Force 2020 Report. And finds facts which drug warriors will ignore:

    The American Medical Association recently released it Opioid Task Force 2020 Report. The Task Force found there was a 37.1 percent decrease in opioid prescriptions between 2014 and 2019; a 64.4 percent increase in the use of state prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) in the last year (739 million queries in 2019); and hundreds of thousands of physicians accessing continuing medical education courses on opioid prescribing (now mandatory in some states). However, the report states:

    Despite these efforts, illicitly manufactured fentanyl, fentanyl analogues and stimulants (e.g. methamphetamine, cocaine) are now killing more Americans than ever. The use of these illicit drugs has surged and their overdose rate increased by 10.1% and 10.8%, respectively.

    This should come as no surprise. The government’s own data show no correlation between opioid prescription volume and past month nonmedical use of prescription opioids by persons age 12 and up. Nor does it find a correlation between prescription volume and past year diagnosis with prescription opioid use disorder in person age 12 and up.

    The War on Drugs, in its Opiate Theater, has made sufferers of chronic pain suffer more. And killed a lot of non-medical users. And the drug warriors pat themselves on the back for a job well done.


  • Slashdot provides the headline almost certain to become ubiquitous between now and November: Russians Again Targeting Americans With Disinformation, Facebook and Twitter Say. Quoting the NYT:

    The disinformation campaign by the Kremlin-backed group, known as the Internet Research Agency, is the first public evidence that the agency is trying to repeat its efforts from four years ago and push voters away from the Democratic presidential candidate, Joseph R. Biden Jr., to help President Trump. Intelligence agencies have warned for months that Russia and other countries were actively trying to disrupt the November election, and that Russian intelligence agencies were feeding conspiracy theories designed to alienate Americans by laundering them through fringe sites and social media. Now Facebook and Twitter are offering evidence of this meddling, even as the White House in recent weeks has sought to more tightly control the flow of information about foreign threats to November's election and downplay Russian interference. The Trump administration's top intelligence official as recently as Sunday has tried to suggest that China is a graver risk than Moscow. Facebook and Twitter, which were slow to react to wide-ranging disinformation campaigns on their services in 2016 and continue to face criticism -- even from their own employees -- that they are not doing enough to confront the issue, said they were warned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation about the Russian effort.

    Are Russian-sponsored pixels really more persuasive and dangerous than the misinformation that Americans generate for domestic production? I don't think so.

    For that matter, what about the misinformation in the New York Times?

URLs du Jour

2020-09-01

[Amazon Link]

  • Well, <voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone!</voice>: Kevin D. Williamson is back from vacation, and his Tuesday. column contains the bottom line on "social justice".

    Social justice is vague and infinitely plastic, which is, of course, the point. A nebulous moral mandate in the hands of people with armies and police forces at their disposal is one of the most dangerous things in the world.

    Hayek had this nailed back in 1978; see our Amazon Product du Jour.

    Lots more KDW goodness at the link, including his take on the recent revelations about Andrew Sullivan's defenestration at New York magazine. Check it out.


  • Washington Monthly tripped our LFOD Google News Alert with a book sorta-review from Elizabeth Austin: Libertarians Took Control of This Small Town. It Didn’t End Well..

    The book is A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (And Some Bears), by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling. The small town is Grafton, NH. One of those little towns over there. (I'm waving in a generally northwest direction.)

    Hongoltz-Hetling's book is (apparently) very tongue-in-cheek about the efforts of Grafton's local libertarians to make it a more laissez-faire community. (The title refers to a townsperson who fed "daily boxes of donuts to the increasingly aggressive local bears".)

    Their effort was inspired by the Free State Project, a libertarian-adjacent organization founded in 2003 with the goal of taking over New Hampshire and transforming it into a tiny-government paradise. After more than a decade of persistence, the project persuaded 20,000 like-minded revolutionaries to sign its pledge to move to New Hampshire and finally force the state to live up to its “Live Free or Die” motto. (Despite their pledged support, only about 1,300 signers actually made the move. Another 3,000 were New Hampshire residents to begin with.) The project’s political successes peaked in 2018, when 17 of the 400 members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives identified as Free Staters—although all but two were registered Republicans.

    The affiliated Free Town Project set its sights on Grafton in 2004 because of both its small size—about 1,200 residents—and its long history as a haven for tax protesters, eccentrics, and generalized curmudgeons. The Free Town Project leaders figured that they could engineer a libertarian tipping point by bringing in a few dozen new true believers and collaborating with the resident soreheads. Over the next decade or so, Free Towners managed to join forces with some of the town’s most tightfisted taxpayers to pass a 30 percent cut in the town’s $1 million budget over three years, slashing unnecessary spending on such municipal frills as streetlights, firefighting, road repairs, and bridge reconstruction. But eventually, the Free Town leadership splintered and the haphazard movement fizzled out. The municipal budget has since bounced back, to $1.55 million.

    The reviewer is dismayed—nay, distraught that Hongoltz-Hetling wasn't serious enough about revealing the Dread Libertarian Menace:

    Certainly, the author is not alone in finding cause for amusement in Grafton’s funny little basket of deplorables. For years now, reporters and pundits have chosen to focus on the style, rather than the policy substance, of the growing libertarian right. Again and again, we read stories of rural rubes clad head to toe in MAGA swag, hunched over chipped cutlery in dingy diners, wielding biscuits to wipe the last of the sausage gravy from their oversized plates while vociferously proclaiming that taxation is theft and inveighing against the nanny state. In choosing to shoot these red, white, and blue fish in a barrel, Hongoltz-Hetling is in very good company.

    But had the author not chosen snark over substance, his book could have served as a peculiarly timely cautionary tale, because the conflicting philosophical principles that drive this story are central to understanding American politics today. The differences between the libertarian stumblebums who moved to Grafton and the staff of the Koch-funded Cato Institute are mostly sartorial. And the sad outcomes of Grafton’s wacky social experiment are now being repeated in American communities every single day.

    Wake up, sheeples! The libertarians are coming. Probably under your bed right now! As their slogan says: diligently plotting to take over the world and leave you alone!

    Data point: As I type, Grafton has had zero Covid-19 cases.


  • Martin Hutchinson might get a bitter chuckle at the "news" that libertarians are taking over. At National Review, he writes some sobering news: American Economy Too Far Left for Prosperity.

    It was inevitable that Karl Marx would become a Marxist — at least according to the precepts of that ideology. He was brought up in an environment in which savings had been destroyed by inflation and a failure to keep up with the Industrial Revolution was impoverishing local people. Today we profess to live under capitalism, yet state spending represents 40 percent of GDP, while much of the rest of the economy is distorted by state-determined ultra-low interest rates and state-imposed regulations. Overall, only a modest percentage of decisions are determined by a willing buyer–willing seller price mechanism, while the rest are determined directly or indirectly by government. That may not be socialism in the most precise sense of the word, but, in some respects, it is uncomfortably close to it.

    And (on the margin) we have our two major parties whose major debate is which sectors of the economy should be brought under more government control. If you're a wannabe entrepreneur, or a budding innovator, do you look for greener pastures, or just hunker down?


  • Continuing on that theme, sort of, is Richard M. Ebeling at AIER: Trump’s “American Greatness” Also Political Paternalism.

    Mind your own business. Every one of us has thought or said words to this effect when others have told us how to live our lives. Who our friends should be, what career we should pursue, where we should live, the person we should marry, how we should spend our money, or even what clothes we should wear or how to furnish or decorate the place we live. Even when others have the best of intentions, after all, whose life is it?

    Yet, especially in presidential election years, we hang on the words of candidates who all have “plans” to tell us precisely what should be the answers to most of these matters, and many more, in our everyday lives. Not only do we often hang on every word they say, but we actually end up voting for people who are determined to use their election to political office precisely to attempt to run our lives.

    Back when I was a young'un, 1976, I opined to a late co-worker: "Everyone who wants Jimmy Carter as President should be able to have Jimmy Carter as President. And anyone who wants Gerald Ford as President should have Gerald Ford as President. And for those of us who don't want a President at all…".

    She was unimpressed with my political philosophy. Still, 44 years later, I think I had something. Geographical sovereignity seems to be a concept that's outliving its usefulness.


  • The NYPost has done the job the more respectable mass media won't, looking at our upcoming mess of an election: Mass vote-by-mail really does invite fraud.

    Voting fraud, especially via mail-in ballots, is a cinch to pull off, warns a top Democratic operative, who’s done it repeatedly. Yet voting by mail will be a huge part of the November election. Which is why officials need to plug the holes now.

    Fixing ballots “is a real thing” and plenty common, says the insider in Jon Levine’s eye-opener in Sunday’s Post. States, he pleads, need to address major security gaps to protect the November election.

    Indeed, as few as 500 or 1,000 votes can be enough “to flip” entire states, notes the source, who (as The Post confirmed) has worked in numerous legislative, mayoral and congressional races across the tri-state area. Among the scams he describes:

    • Postmen or others simply discard ballot-stuffed envelopes from areas that lean heavily toward a candidate they oppose.
    •  Operatives offer to mail completed ballots for voters, then steam open the envelopes and switch in their own ballots.
    •  Insiders “help” the elderly by filling out ballots for them. In some nursing homes, “the nurse is actually paid” to do that.
    •  Voters are flat-out bribed.

    Just what the country needs: an election where there will be substantial doubts about its legitimacy.


  • Fortunately, other countries are innovating, as reported by The Drive: Drug Cartel Now Assassinates Its Enemies With Bomb-Toting Drones.

    Mexico's drug cartels are notoriously well armed and equipped, with some possessing very heavy weaponry, including armored gun trucks sporting heavy machine guns. Now at least one of these groups appears to be increasingly making use of small quadcopter-type drones carrying small explosive devices to attack its enemies. This is just the latest example of a trend that has been growing worldwide in recent years, including among non-state actors, such as terrorists and criminals, which underscores the potential threats commercially-available unmanned systems pose on and off the battlefield.

    I see a possible scenario for Season 4 of Ozark.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls

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

A break from our film noir festival to watch this 2018 PG-rated movie. Really for kids, but it's got winks and nods to any adults who might be watching. Like us.

It's set in the 1950s in the fictional town of New Zebadee. The recently-orphaned young lad Lewis has been sent to live with his Uncle Jonathan (Jack Black!). Whose heart seems to be in the right place, but (frankly) lacks parenting skills. Help is offered by Florence (Cate Blanchett, looking her most beautiful). And (of course) they live in the titular House, which is full of magic, and but also contains dark secrets, due to its previous inhabitant, Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLachlan!)

After some initial discomfort, Lewis decides to get into the magic game himself. Hey, why not? But he's a geeky kid who's kind of desperate to fit in at school, and that brings up its own problems as he makes some ill-considered magical mistakes which nearly destroy the world. I hate it when that happens.

So it's not bad. It's based on a series of kids' books, and the director, Eli Roth, has said there could be a sequel, but that hasn't materialized.

Please Murder Me!

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Well, at least he said "Please". Although I could have done without the exclamation point.

Continuing our film noir extravaganza with this 1956 movie. Raymond Burr plays defense lawyer Craig Carlson, good practice for Perry Mason (which began in 1957). It's a mere 78 minutes in length… but feels longer.

As the movie opens, Craig taken to dictating into his office reel-to-reel tape recorder: he plans on being murdered in a short while! Why? Well, most of the flick is a flashback: it shows how Craig breaks some sad news to his wartime life-saving buddy, Joe. "Joe, I've been, um 'seeing' your wife, Myra (Angela Lansbury!). As Homer Simpson will put it in a few more decades: Welcome to Dumpsville, population: you."

But Joe quickly turns up dead, shot by Myra, who claims self-defense. There's a trial anyway, because Myra's story of the shooting is full of implausibilities, contradiction, and conflicts with forensics. And Myra stands to inherit a sizeable fortune, hundreds of thousands of dollars, back when that was a lot of money.

Fortunately for Myra, Perry Mason Craig is her defense lawyer, and how do you think that's going to turn out? You bet: acquittal! But Craig eventually realizes he may have been played for a sap.

Anyway, it's not very good except for the decent acting by old pros.