URLs du Jour


Michael Ramirez has a little list:

[Traitors List]

Click for a glorious full-size version on Mr. Ramirez's website.

  • I believe James Bovard speaks for a lot of people when he bemoans Pandemic Security Theater.

    After the start of the Covid pandemic, my local Harris Teeter grocery store in Montgomery County, Maryland made extensive changes, including placing eight-foot high plexiglass screens between every one of its nine self-service checkout stations. However, a few months ago, one panicky customer complained to the local health department that he felt unsafe at the store. A health inspector swooped in and threatened to shut down the grocery store unless they blocked access to a third of their self-service checkouts. As a result, the store now sometimes has long lines of people waiting to check out and presumably increasing their exposure to Covid while tarrying.

    The inspector also forced the store to designate one of its two eight-foot wide entrances, each with a sequence of two automatic opening doors, as an “exit only.” The store initially taped a few little “exit only” signs to the exterior. A few weeks later, a county inspector returned to the scene (maybe sparked by another local resident who forgot to take their Xanax before shopping?) and issued new commands to the store. The result: now the doors are plastered with at least four “exit signs” as well as a three-foot high folding “exit” sign close enough to trip people who weren’t paying attention.

    This is pure Pandemic Security Theater. If people could catch the virus from passing momentarily in a wide doorway, then all the grocery store clerks as well as most subway and bus passengers would have been struck down by Covid long ago. 

    Worse than Covid, we have a pandemic of people who need to Do Something.

  • The LFOD Google News Alert rang for Ms. Jean Stimmell… No, sorry, that's apparently Mr. Jean Stimmell, a " person-centered, empathic therapist, skilled in solution-oriented therapy, combining Mindfulness with a relational, narrative approach." Anyway, Jean took to the pages of the New Hampshire Gazette to observe: Covid shows, once more, who’s excluded from the American Dream. And LFOD is right up front:

    The media and disease experts tell us we must take personal responsibility to avoid Covid-19! Gov. Sununu, to no one’s surprise, has taken the same hands-off approach, choosing to treat the pandemic like we do other social ills, like poverty or homelessness, exemplifying our state motto: “Live Free or Die.”

    And I wouldn't mention it otherwise, except that …

  • Ed Mosca has a slightly different view. Writing at Granite Grok, Ed sees No End in Sight to the Tyranny.

    Sununu’s mask-mandate has been totally ineffectual as the following chart from the New York Times shows. He initially ordered a 60-day mask-mandate on November 19, 2020 (see second chart). Since then cases have exploded.

    I'm probably more in tune with Ed than I am with Jean. In the sense that I'm closer to the Moon than I am the Sun. But I think it's just amazing how people generate their own reality: Jean says the Gov is "hands-off", Ed sees a tyrant. Funny old world.

    (And no, I'm not saying "the truth is somewhere in between". That's a fallacy, friends.)

  • Bjorn Lomborg provides the bad news: Joe Biden's climate-change plans will burn billions.

    Joe Biden will rejoin the Paris climate agreement soon after being inaugurated as president of the United States. Climate change, according to Biden, is “an existential threat” to the nation, and to combat it, he proposes to spend $500 billion each year on climate policies — the equivalent of $1,500 per person.

    Let’s get real. Climate is a man-made problem. But Biden’s climate alarmism is almost entirely wrong. Asking people to spend $1,500 every year is unsustainable when surveys show a majority is unwilling to spend even $24 per year on climate. And policies like Paris will fix little at a high cost. Biden is right to highlight the problem, but he needs a smarter way forward.

    But leave it to…

  • Clive Thompson at Wired to draw the wrong (but convenient) conclusion from current events: Climate Change Needs an Operation Warp Speed. With even dumber subhed: "If the Covid vaccine push has proved anything, it’s that big government works."

    Note that the vaccines were provided by private companies (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca).

    Delays and bungles, however, were brought to us by Big Government.

    Clive doesn't notice:

    The White House and Congress created Operation Warp Speed and started plowing some $18 billion into it. The feds authorized huge, multibillion-dollar preorders for vaccines, and with such a large guaranteed market, pharmaceuticals moved into high gear. The government also threw its logistical know-how at the hellish challenge of distributing the vaccines. Scientifically, of course, we were prepared and lucky. Genetic sequencing was advanced and speedy, and scientists cooperated globally. But it was the critical push from governments (the US and others) that propelled the fastest vaccine mobilization in history.

    It’s also an object lesson for our troubled time: When you’re facing a world-threatening crisis, there’s no substitute for government leadership.

    This is worth reflecting on, because we’re surrounded by existential threats. Principally, climate change. The scale of the problem is massive.

    So is the answer: Operation Warp Speed for climate.

    Sigh. It's not as if we haven't heard this argument before. Starting with people saying over a half-century ago: If we can put a man on the moon…

    Clive just gets worse from there.

The Gentlemen

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

Produced by Guy Ritchie. Written by Guy Ritchie. Directed by Guy Ritchie. Good job, Guy.

It's a complex, intricately plotted story of the British marijuana trade. Since pot is still illegal in Great Britain, the folks in charge are criminals. Very rich criminals, but still.

The narrative is framed by sleazy private eye Fletcher (Hugh Grant) blackmailing Ray (Charlie Hunnam); Ray is the consigliare to the big boss, Michael (Matthew McConaughey). (Fletcher was hired by even-sleazier tabloid magnate "Big Dave" (Eddie Marsan) to expose Michael, in revenge for a social slight, but Fletcher figures he can do better for himself via his blackmail scheme.)

Michael is trying to put together a nine-figure deal (where those figures are in British pounds) to sell off his empire to Matthew (Jeremy Strong); his goal is to retire and kick back with his lovely wife Rosalind (Lady Mary herself, Michelle Dockery). But there's no honor among thieves, and a lot of effort is put into pushing the deal off the rails. Violently.

Well, that's just the tip of the iceberg. There are a few more major characters, and a bunch more minor ones. And there's not a lot of downtime, no strolling by the river to ponder the meaning of it all. The also movie jumps back and forth in time a bit, too. You have to pay attention!

There's also a considerable amount of absurdity and humor amidst all the mayhem. Good stuff.

The Fabric of Civilization

How Textiles Made the World

[Amazon Link]

Virginia Postrel spent the last few years immersing herself in All Things Fabric, and this book is the result: stuff she found out along the way. It's organized into components, chapter by chapter: Fiber, Thread, Cloth, Dye, Traders, Consumers, Innovators. Each explores history, technology, innovation, stories about those involved. (And in the last chapter, a look at the possible future.) It's very readable and interesting.

Interesting?, you ask. Yup. Ms. Postrel notes we're biased by today's easy availability of a wide variety of easily-affordable fabric, put to a dizzying array of uses. She inverts Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law (“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”): for fabrics, it's "Any sufficiently familiar technology is indistinguishable from nature." We take fabrics for granted. She does her best to undo that complacency. (If you were dumped naked into… let's say a cotton field, to give you every advantage … could you come close to clothing yourself? Didn't think so.)

I found myself reading passages out loud to Mrs. Salad. The book is full of grabby anecdotes. Example: back in the fourteenth century or so, the fabric trade was so complex (prices, interest, profits), it became necessary to (more or less) invent mathematical techniques to handle the commercial transactions. There are some cute examples of the "word problems" students were expected to handle in order to consider themselves educated. They look a lot like the word problems students moan over even today.

Basically, it's a story of how innovation, trade, and consumerism interact in a specific market; Adam Smith's good old Invisible Hand, bringing us cheap and high-quality stuff, unappreciated.

I recommend this book, if only to break yourself out of your fabric complacency. (If only for a bit. I went back to taking t-shirts for granted pretty quickly.)