URLs du Jour

2020-10-21

  • Celebrity worship is a good thing to avoid. Also celebrity demonization, when they take some stand that differs from yours. The latter happened to Chris Pratt. Which prompted a response from none other than Robert Downey Jr..

    Should you want to be brought up to speed on this brouhaha, see the Federalist. But suffice to say that Downey and Pratt are now both mensches in my book.


  • Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit (but you knew that), apparently had his USA Today column spiked. Read The Whole Thing here to find out what the Gannet bigwigs are scared you might read. Excerpt:

    In my 2019 book, The Social Media Upheaval, I warned that the Big Tech companies — especially social media giants like Facebook and Twitter — had grown into powerful monopolists, who were using their power over the national conversation to not only sell ads, but also to promote a political agenda. That was pretty obvious last year, but it was even more obvious last week, when Facebook and Twitter tried to black out the New York Post’s blockbuster report about emails found on a laptop abandoned by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter.

    The emails, some of which have been confirmed as genuine with their recipients, show substantial evidence that Hunter Biden used his position as Vice President Joe Biden’s son to extract substantial payments from “clients” in other countries. There are also photos of Hunter with a crack pipe, and engaging in various other unsavory activities. And they demolished the elder Biden’s claim that he never discussed business with his son.

    I disagree with Insty's position on breaking up big tech, but I'll admit to a certain amount of schadenfreude about their largely self-inflicted woes. Still, I bet whatever comes out the other end of the antitrust sausage factory won't be an improvement.


  • Here's an anti-antitrust argument from George L. Priest in the WSJ: Suing Google Won’t Help Consumers.

    The U.S. Justice Department and 11 states filed an antitrust claim against Google Tuesday alleging illegal monopolization. The lawsuit follows the release earlier this month of a voluminous report by the House Judiciary Committee arguing that the four major U.S. internet platforms—Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook —are monopolies and ought to be broken up. The suit against Google is the first of what will likely be many antitrust attacks on these dominant platforms.

    The basic argument of the lawsuit is that Google possesses a monopoly over search engines and search advertising, which it maintains by entering agreements to make its search engine the default on many devices. This resembles one of the claims made 20 years ago against Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Yet the argument rests on a misconception about the creation and operation of network industries, which will condemn this case—and future ones like it—to failure under sensible interpretations of U.S. antitrust laws.

    Paywalled, sorry. But a good argument why you should subscribe to the WSJ.


  • Donald J. Boudreaux advocates for thinking, a certain way: The Economic Way of Thinking Brings Clarity. It's excellent all the way through. But I especially enjoyed…

    Or consider this report by Peggy Noonan on a recent exchange between the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer; the subject was yet another proposed covid-19 “stimulus” bill:

    He [Blitzer] said it’s not about him but people in food lines. Mrs. Pelosi: “And we represent them. And we represent them. And we represent them. And we represent them. We know them. We represent them and we know them. We know them. We represent them.” “Thank you for your sensitivity to our constituents’ needs.”

    “I am sensitive to them because I see them on the street begging for food,” Mr. Blitzer said.

    Mrs. Pelosi: “Have you fed them? We feed them.”

    Nancy Pelosi presides over a chamber of politicians who vote on taxing and spending bills that transfer money from some Americans to other Americans – a fact that (inexplicably!) propels Ms. Pelosi to boast that she and her colleagues, not taxpayers such as Mr. Blitzer, feed poor Americans. On top of this appalling pretension, Ms. Pelosi expects CNN’s audience to believe that she and her Congressional colleagues “know” poor Americans in a way that non-politicians don’t.

    As Peggy Noonan wrote about this interview, “It was bonkers.”

    I can't claim to be anything other than a dilettante when it comes to thinking "economically". Fortunately, you just need a modicum of sense to see through politicians' self-serving claptrap.

    Unfortunately, we keep electing them.


  • And the Federalist reports the latest effort to desting the Bee: Facebook Demonetizes Satire Site Babylon Bee, Claims Monty Python Spoof 'Incites Violence'.

    Facebook is demonetizing the Christian, political satire page “The Babylon Bee” after they published an article satirizing Sen. Mazie Hirono’s comments during the Amy Coney Barrett hearings in a fictional depiction.

    The Bee’s CEO Seth Dillon announced the demonetization on Tuesday in a tweet, claiming that the big tech company pulled down the article based on a “regurgitated joke from a Monty Python movie.”

    Here's a tweet from Dillon:

    The Bee's thoughtcrime is manifest.


  • Kevin D. Williamson does some writing about America’s Public-Hate Ritual. It's about celebrity wanker, Jeffrey Toobin. See if you can avoid chuckling:

    Oh, Jeffrey Toobin — let him among us with a free hand cast the first stone.

    Toobin, a writer for The New Yorker and fixture on CNN, was participating in a role-playing exercise on a Zoom call with his magazine colleagues, wargaming election-night scenarios. Toobin was standing in for the courts when he suddenly felt compelled to badger the witness and accidentally caused his colleagues to witness the badger.

    He believed — wrongly — that he had turned his camera off, and his private game of pickup five-on-one was broadcast, or Zoomcasted, or whatever, to his shocked and perplexed colleagues.

    KDW actually has a serious point to make, and I recommend it, of course. But if your mind wants to wallow in … darn, I've already used schadenfreude today … the Free Beacon offers: Jeffrey Toobin Dick Slip Scandal, Explained in New Yorker Cartoons and CNN Chyrons.


Last Modified 2020-10-22 5:30 AM EST

Dune

[Amazon Link]

I embark on yet another reading project, Frank Herbert's Dune series. I bought them all at one point or another over the years, but (I think) I've only read the first two. (I'm sure I had reasons for that.) Just doing the six Frank-written books; there are currently more than a dozen others written by his son and a co-author, with more coming.

This is a re-read, but I'm not sure how many times I've read it before; my guess is twice, but not anytime in the past four decades. Fun fact: it's one of the older books on my shelves, a Science Fiction Book Club edition from the 1960s! That's the John Schoenherr cover over there on your right. And clicking on it will take you to Amazon, where someone is offering a similar first-printing edition for $2300.

I think I'd part with my copy for … oh, say, $2200.

Thirteen-year-old me had previously read the heavily abridged serialization of the last half of the book in Analog magazine in 1965. I'd only just started reading Analog in July of 1964 (because I loved the cover for the serialization of Sleeping Planet by William R. Burkett, Jr.) So I missed the first part of the book. Ah well.

Enough nostalgia. In Herbert's far-flung future, the known galaxy is ruled by an Emperor, his rule supported by a shaky set of alliances between various noble houses, each with its own planetary systems. Thanks to the evil machinations of Baron Harkkonen, the rival House Atreides is forced off their (very nice) planet of Caledan, onto the bleak desert world of Arrakis. Arrakis's only virtue is that it's the only known source of melange, or "spice", which members of the Spacing Guild require to guide their ships between stars. Melange also endows its consumers with weird psychic powers, including a sorta-precognition.

But soon enough the Harkkonens hatch part II of their dastardly plot: an infiltrator in House Atreides will fatally betray Duke Leto, and set up Arrakis for a Harkkonen takeover. Barely escaping with their lives are the Duke's 15-year-old son, Paul and his mother Jessica. They take up with a tribe of roving desert nomads, the Fremen. We follow (mostly) Paul as his plan for revenge unfolds.

Fans of the book know I am leaving out a lot of stuff: religion, political intrigue, supporting characters, knife fights, giant worms, pregnancies. And a vocabulary that (I'd guess) involved dumping out Arabic Scrabble tiles onto a large table, arranging tastefully, and transliterating into our own character set. Herbert did a masterful job of universe-building and this book nabbed both Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novel. He truly transports the reader to a world of wonder. (And at least some of that wonder involves thinking: I wonder what drugs Herbert was taking while he wrote this?)


Last Modified 2020-10-21 2:12 PM EST