URLs du Jour


[LFOD by Richard Herd] Hope everyone had a happy Christmas! We put our celebration off until today, because I'm sure Dr. Fauci was only nagging us about Christmas get-togethers. We should be much safer now.

  • As I've mentioned numerous times before: I have a Google News Alert set for occurrences of our state motto, "Live Free or Die". Lately, it's been bad. Because for months, it's been people talking about Covid stuff, mostly masks. Recent examples, if you want, here and here.

    Trust me, once you've seen dozens of those LFOD invocations, you've seen them all.

    So let me tell you about an unexpected and gratifying use of LFOD, found at BedfordNOW, a news site (apparently) serving Monroe County, Michigan: Actors who took a final bow in 2020. (Translation: "took a final bow" means"died".) The writer, Nick Thomas, takes special note of Richard Herd, who passed away in May at age 87.

    If you watched any TV at all in the past few decades, you'll recognize Richard Herd. But here's Thomas's recollection:

    During his 2-day trip to our campus, we stopped at my office for a break on one occasion and he commented on some colorful photographs on my wall - photos I had taken of crystals of chemical compounds under a microscope. I was flattered that an artist would praise them. So during our drive back to the airport next day, I presented him with one of the framed photos. Several weeks later, a print of his patriotic “Live Free or Die” abstract depiction of the American flag arrived in my mailbox.

    I was able to find an image of Herd's "Live Free or Die", and it's our Eye Candy du Jour. A belated RIP for Richard Herd. (Who, to me, will always be the Klingon warrior L'Kor in Star Trek: The Next Generation.)

  • Cato's transportation guru Randal O'Toole is particularly steamed: Transit Gets $14 Billion in Relief.

    The transit industry will get $14 billion of the $900 billion coronavirus relief package passed by Congress on Tuesday. That’s less than half of what transit agencies wanted but enough to tide them over for five months or so by which time (the agencies hope) the next Congress will have a chance to pass another and even bigger relief bill. The $14 billion is on top of the $13 billion that Congress gave to transit as a part of its normal annual funding bill.


    [U]rban transit, which doesn’t even carry 1 percent of passenger travel in the United States and whose fare revenues represented less than 0.08 percent of the economy in 2019, gets more than 1.5 percent of the money that is supposed to help the entire economy. This is testimony to transit’s successful effort to portray itself as essential to urban living even though, outside of New York, it is actually pretty irrelevant. It is also testimony to the fact that transit, like someone whose job has been outmoded by automation and who refuses to learn new skills, is pathetically depended on public relief in order to survive.

    Randal notes that ridership isn't likely to recover after the pandemic. Which makes our next item even more infuriating…

  • Drew Cline at the Josiah Bartlett Center reports: N.H. wasting $5.4 million to design obsolete commuter rail line.

    Amid a historic collapse in transit ridership, the Executive Council has approved a $5.4 million contract to design a commuter rail line from New Hampshire to Boston. The contract is financed entirely with federal money, so New Hampshire taxpayers could choose to take some comfort in knowing that the state is throwing away what is mostly other people’s money. Nonetheless, it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars.

    Americans have in the past year avoided mass transit like the plague, largely because of, well, a plague of sorts. But the trends before the rise of the coronavirus show a longer decline in ridership. 

    Key quote from later in the article: "Rail is a 19th century technology that is ill-suited to solving 21st century transportation and environmental issues." A line I've used myself. Independently, I swear.

    It's particularly galling to note that the proposed line will be run by Massachusetts' MBTA. Which is much like partnering with the White Star Line in 1913 for passenger ship service.

  • The WSJ notes A Lone Star Speech Victory.

    Political speech is under attack these days from Beijing to Berkeley, so we’ll take victories where we can get them. One arrived Tuesday when the University of Texas at Austin agreed to disband its PC police and end policies that suppress speech on campus.

    Credit the nonprofit Speech First, which sued on behalf of student members in 2018. The group claimed UT and its officials had “created an elaborate investigatory and disciplinary apparatus to suppress, punish, and deter speech that other students deem ‘offensive,’ ‘biased,’ ‘uncivil,’ or ‘rude.’”

    Students could anonymously report their professors and peers for “bias incidents” to the Campus Climate Response Team, which would investigate and threaten disciplinary referrals and “restorative justice” meetings with administrators. The university gave several examples of what constitutes an act of bias, including “faculty commentary in the classroom perceived as derogatory and insensitive,” and other behavior open to highly subjective judgments about what is offensive.

    Which reminds me (too much) of the still-alive "reportit!" site where people can "report and learn about incidents of bias or hate, discrimination and/or harassment" at the University Near Here.

    Will UNH take the Texas decision as a warning sign and disband "reportit!"? That would be nice, but I'd wager they'll have to be legally threatened first.

  • Wired provides us with our share of stupid articles, but it also brings us stuff we're interested in. Here's an example: The Year of Driving Less—but More Dangerously by Aarian Marshall.

    In theory, bringing society to a screeching halt should curtail traffic deaths. No one’s going to bars and then driving home; few are commuting to work; the occasional trip to the grocery store does not demand excessive speed.

    So when swaths of the country ground to a halt this year amid the Covid-19 pandemic, it was easy to predict the results. Heeding public health officials, plenty of people stopped traveling. So yes, traffic deaths did decline, at least in the first half of the year, according to the most recent government data available. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which tracks traffic fatalities, says 16,650 people died on US roads from January through June, compared with 16,988 in the same period a year earlier, a 2 percent dip.

    But the volume of traffic fell much more. As a result, more people died per mile traveled—1.25 per 100 million miles in the first half of the year, compared with 1.06 in the same period in 2019, and the highest rate since 2008. From April through June, the figures were even more dire: Deaths per mile traveled jumped by 31 percent compared with 2019, a figure that usually staid government researchers called “striking.”

    Of course there are stupid elements to the Wired story: a lot of chin pulling by would-be social engineers, saying in effect: "Gee, we didn't expect that."

    Those of us with a certain ideological bent reply: "Of course you didn't. You never do."

  • And (back at Cato) Jeffrey A. Singer's article has a widely-applicable headline: Going After Scapegoats Is Easier Than Confronting The Truth. But it concentrates on a specific recent example:

    Yesterday the Department of Justice filed suit against the giant retailer Walmart, accusing it of fueling the opioid crisis by encouraging its pharmacists to fill prescriptions–legally written by health care practitioners licensed by the Drug Enforcement Administration–they should have suspected of being inappropriately prescribed.

    The Justice Department seems uninterested in the fact that there is no correlation between the number of opioid prescriptions and the non‐​medical use of prescription pain reliever or the development of opioid use disorder. And while the number of opioid prescriptions has dropped 57.5 percent since 2010, the overdose rate has continued to climb, soaring to record high levels in the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    As Singer observes, the DOJ is letting the real murderer get away: drug prohibition.