URLs du Jour

2020-10-13

  • I loved this Katherine Mangu-Ward editorial when I read it in print Reason, and it's now out from behind the subscriber wall for all you deadbeats: Why Can’t They Both Lose?

    They say if you don't vote you can't complain. They're wrong. Complaining is prior to voting. It is deeper and more powerful than voting. It is the original act of politics. Before there was democracy, there was sitting around the campfire complaining about the way the headman allocated the shares of mastodon meat. Bellyaching about the boss is more than a political right. It is a human right.

    And so, in Reason's 2020 election issue, we are here to complain. The candidates from the major parties are subpar. They display troubling authoritarian tendencies. Their records in office—one long, one short—are underwhelming and frequently self-contradictory. Their actions consistently fail to match their rhetoric. If they agree on one thing, it is that they have the right, and perhaps even the obligation, to tell you what to do in the bedroom and in the boardroom, in the streets and in the sheets. If they agree on a second thing, it is the necessity of spending ever-larger sums of taxed and borrowed money in pursuit of ever-vaguer goals. They helm parties that are similarly compromised and hypocritical.

    I, for one, plan to both vote and complain.

    Reason has no dog in this fight. They also have no interest or intention of telling you what to do, votewise. Which makes them relatively trustworthy in their analyses.


  • P. J. O'Rourke at American Consequences urges: Keep IN the vote. It's about America's lackluster voter turnout. One theory:

    Or maybe Americans are self-selecting… 50% of people are below average intelligence – a mathematical fact. But, as Forrest Gump said, “Stupid is as stupid does.” Or, in this case, as stupid doesn’t, like by not voting.

    I’m not saying that stupid people shouldn’t have a say in how the country is run. A lot of what the government does is stupid… So we need stupid input. However, there’s such a thing as a wise fool. And some of us stupid people are going, “I’m dumb as a box of rocks. I don’t know how much a whole mess of nines are. Maybe I’d better stay home and watch SpongeBob SquarePants and let the eggheads and the brainiacs figure out if Squidward or Patrick the Starfish oughta be in the White House.”

    This is a noble sacrifice on the part of the stupid and we should be recognized for it. Smart people are often too smart for their own good. And never more so than in their failure to propose a vote of gratitude to voters who don’t vote… thereby letting the smart alecks elect the president. (And over the past 100 years, we’ve had a number of presidents that prove smart people are too smart for their own good. I’ll let the readers name those presidents’ names.) Anyway, stupid non-voters should be rewarded, given maybe $50 or at least a six-pack.

    Intelligence correlates poorly with intelligent voting.


  • At AIER, Joakim Book has general thoughts about The Obsession with Funders, brought on by some of the reactions to the Great Barrington Declaration urging big adjustments to lockdown policies.

    One of many flaws in today’s scientific and political discussion is the emphasis of money. Campaign donations in politics, funding declarations for scientists in academia, concern about from where an NGO receives its donations. It’s as if money rules the roost, that “money makes the world go ‘round.’”

    It doesn’t in politics, it doesn’t in career choices, and it doesn’t in academia. It’s widely believed that politicians and scientists are up for sale, that waving a stack of money before their incredulous eyes can have them produce whatever policy, opinion, or scientific result required.

    One of the first objections raised when we’re presented with factual claims we don’t like is to dispute the source. It’s not a “reputable” publication, we say, not a “serious” scientist – and (s)he’s anyway in the pocket of some rich, evil, anti-human person or industry we disapprove of. 

    'Struth. Now, sometimes questioning the source is the right thing to do. For example, if someone cites a report from Russia Today, … well, they at least should be asked if they can get the same information from somewhere more reputable. But if it's your go-to move by default, you might want to readjust your filters.


  • Heavily excerpting Book's article is Cafe Hayek's Don Boudreaux: The Absurdity of Ad Hominem. He has additional thoughts:

    One especially comical feature of the accusation that AIER’s opposition to covid lockdowns springs from a 2018 contribution that AIER received from the Koch Foundation is that Tyler Cowen and the Mercatus Center this past Spring awarded funds to Imperial College modeler Neil Ferguson. The reason for this grant of funds was Tyler’s admiration of the fact that Dr. Ferguson’s model served as the spark for massive lockdowns in the U.K. and the U.S. But here’s the thing: Until last year, Charles Koch served on the board of Mercatus and has been, and continues to be, a contributor. Clearly, if the Koch Foundation is buying opposition to covid lockdowns, it’s doing a poor job!

    For some reason the Kochtopus keeps failing to send big checks to Pun Salad. Folks, if you need my address…


  • Cato gives my state some attention: New Hampshire’s Fiscal Advantages.

    New Hampshire has one of the most restrained governments in the nation. The state’s relatively small government is unique in the Northeast.

    Less government means more freedom for New Hampshire residents. In Cato’s Freedom in the 50 States report, which assesses economic and social freedoms, New Hampshire is ranked #2, while Massachusetts is #23, Maine is #39, Vermont is #46, and New York is #50.

    New Hampshire has the fifth lowest state and local tax burden in the nation as a percent of income. By this measure, New Hampshire taxes are 14 percent lower than Massachusetts, 27 percent lower than Maine, 28 percent lower than Vermont, and 40 percent lower than New York.

    Do New Hampshire’s low taxes result in poor public services? Not at all. U.S. News ranks New Hampshire public schools third best in the nation and the state second on overall quality of life. Besides, poor public services would repel residents, yet New Hampshire enjoys net in‐​migration from other states, while all nearby states except Maine suffer out‐​migration.

    It's easy to be pessimistic at times, but Cato does a good job of reminding me that it could be worse.


  • [Amazon Link]
    Another stupid article in Wired, this one about Cory Doctorow: His Writing Radicalized Young Hackers. Now He Wants to Redeem Them.

    Set the first and last books in Cory Doctorow’s epic, three-book Little Brother cypherpunk saga side by side, and they read a bit like a creative writing master class on telling two starkly opposite stories from the same prompt. The common premise: Islamist terrorists bomb the Bay Bridge. Thousands die. The Department of Homeland [sic] responds by turning San Francisco into a fascist, total-surveillance police state. The protagonist, a digitally gifted, troublemaking teen, must decide how to respond.

    In the first Little Brother installment, which Doctorow published in 2008, the answer seemed righteously inevitable: The hero uses his hacker skills to fight back. Specifically, he and his plucky hacker friends figure out how to jailbreak their Xboxes and channel the video game consoles’ encrypted comms over the Tor network to create Xnet, a cheap, anonymous, surveillance-proof system for organizing protest and foiling the panopticon cops by injecting false data into their totalitarian schemes.

    I read Little Brother back in 2010, and thought it was awful. The true villains weren't the terrorist murderers of thousands; it was the DHS, full of cartoonish sadists and the top bad guy is "Kurt Rooney", the "President's chief strategist". Whose initials just happened to be the same as Karl Rove's. Unsubtle and dumb all the way through.

    So I won't be reading Attack Surface. But hey, maybe you'd like it. The Amazon link is at your command, and I'd get a cut. While I'm waiting for that fat check from Charles Koch.