URLs du Jour

2021-02-15

[Amazon Link]
Happy President's Day! Our Amazon Product du Jour is inspired by Senator Ben Sasse's remark that "Politics isn’t about the weird worship of one dude".

Well, it shouldn't be, but it sometimes is. And that's a bipartisan affliction.

  • For more on that topic, we have Billy Binion's suggestion: On This Presidents Day, Stop Worshiping the Imperial Presidency. (Or, for that matter, stop worshiping whatever Imperial President suits your preference.)

    Ah, Presidents Day: a much-needed moment to slow down and commemorate presidents past and present, because we definitely don't have enough of that in this country.

    I jest!

    Walking around Los Angeles, you'd be hard-pressed not to pass someone sporting BIDEN-HARRIS merchandise—a shirt, a bumper sticker, a sweatshirt, a mask. Back where I grew up in Virginia, the same is true, though they have a different hero: For years, "MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN" adorned the lawns, cars, and hats of those who wanted you to know they stood, and perhaps still stand, with former President Donald Trump.

    That's not news. Public displays of affection for the U.S. president have become standard in everyday American life, extending well past election cycles and rock-concert-esque inaugurations, as if who you voted for is a personality trait. That's the conventional wisdom, it seems. So, on this fair Presidents Day, a reminder: Presidents aren't saints. They aren't monarchs. They aren't celebrities. And they aren't your friends! The executive leader is an employee of the country—someone whose job was, and still should be, limited in size and scope.

    Like Calvin Coolidge!

    (Not that I worship Calvin Coolidge!)


  • But at the NYPost, Miranda Devine points out an Ugly truth about ‘Honest Joe’.

    Starting with the obvious, Hunter Biden is still in business with the Chinese Communist Party. 

    White House press secretary Jen Psaki admitted a little over a week ago that the president’s wayward 51-year-old son still owns 10 percent of Chinese equity firm BHR Partners. 

    So much for Joe’s promise that “no one in my family will . . . have any business relationship with anyone that relates to a foreign corporation or a foreign country. Period. Period. End of story.” 

    But that was B.E., before the election. Everything’s changed now. 

    Back in the day, President Obama had a magic incantation: "Every Dime". As in (when discussing his new spending proposals) : "I pay for every dime of it." It was a reliable indicator that he was bullshitting.

    Given Biden's less-than-Obamistic oratorical gifts, I wonder if we can speculate that when he says "Period. Period. End of story." it really signifies "I just told a lie."


  • Power Line explains it for you slow learners: Why Math Is Racist.

    This is actually a claim that is being made often these days: the sciences in general, and math in particular, are racist. The latest comes from Oregon:

    The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) recently encouraged teachers to register for training that encourages “ethnomathematics” and argues, among other things, that White supremacy manifests itself in the focus on finding the right answer.

    An ODE newsletter sent last week advertises a Feb. 21 “Pathway to Math Equity Micro-Course,” which is designed for middle school teachers to make use of a toolkit for “dismantling racism in mathematics.”

    Now really? That link goes to a Fox News story, and so maybe they're yanking innocuous things out of context to enrage their audience?

    Well, no. It is very bad out there in Oregon. From the very slick, very woke equitablemath.org website:

    White supremacy culture shows up in math classrooms when...

    The focus is on getting the “right” answer.

    The concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false, and teaching it is even much less so. Upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers perpetuate objectivity as well as fear of open conflict.

    Oh, dear Lord. What could that possibly mean?

    But please note: even in that short excerpt, they say "much less so" when they certainly mean "much more so". (Even though that's not much better.) It's a hallmark of anti-racism to be very sloppy about your language.

    I despair for any poor kid who winds up being taught "Equitable Math".


  • Megan McArdle has some pretty good advice: "Stop stressing so much about who’s getting vaccinated. Just vaccinate people — quickly." And she leads off with a pretty horrific story:

    On Dec. 29, 2020, around 6:45 p.m., a nurse in Humble, Tex., slid a needle into a vial of the Moderna vaccine and administered what would be the last shot of the night at a vaccination event the county health department had organized for emergency workers and other eligible people. With the event winding down, it was unlikely anyone else would show up. In six hours, 10 precious doses of vaccine would expire.

    Hassan Gokal, the medical director of the county’s covid-19 response, says he was determined they would not go to waste. After offering the vaccine to everyone on site — all of whom had either already been vaccinated or declined — and to the eligible relatives of a senior colleague, he put the vaccine in his car and began driving home, making phone calls as he went. By midnight, he had dispensed nine of the 10 remaining doses to the sort of patients who need them: seniors with health problems. Caregivers for those seniors. A worker at a health clinic. A mother whose child was on a ventilator. With one dose left, and no more takers, Gokal gave the last dose to his wife, who suffers from severe respiratory disease.

    In recognition of his heroic efforts to ensure that not a drop of vaccine was wasted, Gokal has been fired from his job and faces possible prosecution by the local district attorney.

    You'd think Texas would be … more Texas than that.

    (According to this story, Gokal doesn't seem to be in legal danger any more. But as near as I can tell, he's still fired, and Harris County DA Kim Ogg still has her job.)


  • Kenneth R. Pike writes at Quillette on Scott Alexander, Philosopher King of the Weird People.

    If you (like me) spend an unhealthy amount of time reading about morality and politics online, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Scott Alexander’s Slate Star Codex. In the best of all possible worlds, this would be because someone pointed you toward his pun-laden kabbalistic theodicy or his highly accessible musings on psychotropics or his remarkable essay on coordination problems. Alas, Google Trends suggests that search interest in Slate Star Codex spiked dramatically in June of 2020, when its author announced that he was closing the blog to discourage the New York Times from “doxing” him, publicizing his identity in a way that invited negative consequences for his psychiatry career (and his patients).

    The news media’s response varied—the New Yorker essentially scooped the story, while National Review simply took the Gray Lady to task—but perhaps the most interesting response was the eclectic variety of signatures appearing on an open letter to the Times. Readers of Slate Star Codex may be predominantly childless, educated white men working in the tech industry, but the diversity of well-regarded academics, doctors, and journalists also speaking up for Alexander seems like evidence for Venkatesh Rao’s self-deprecating assertion that “actually enlightened elite blog readers read Tyler Cowen and Slatestarcodex.”

    Scott is now publishing his thoughts at Astral Codex Ten, to which I've subscribed. We'll see how it goes.

The Last Policeman

[Amazon Link]

I can't quite remember what caused me to put Ben H. Winters' "Last Policeman" trilogy into my things-to-read system, but I'm glad I did. This first book in the series was really, surprisingly, good.

Better still: it's set in New Hampshire, mostly Concord.

The narrator is Henry Palace, a newly-minted detective with the Concord Police. The book opens on a grim scene, an apparent suicide in a McDonalds restroom. The victim is a drab actuary with a local insurance office. But he's a little bruised up, and Palace is suspicious.

Although every other cop on the force is dismissive. Suicides are common. As is drug abuse, vandalism, economic disruption, … all the stuff that signals large-scale societal fracturing. Because overshadowing all this is the imminent arrival of the massive asteroid Maia, on a certain collision course with Earth in a few months.

Palace is driven and diligent, and he's up against seemingly insurmountable barriers. Everybody's lying to him, for one thing. His superiors want him to move on to more pressing matters, for another. And there's also the whole imminent end of the world as we know it. That blows up your societal norms real good.

Only one glitch, near the end, when Palace visits New Castle, on the seacoast. I don't get there often, but it seems the description is totally wrong; visitors in the non-fictional world will not find the described quarter-mile boardwalk, souvenir shops, beach dunes, …

The good (and very well-off) citizens of New Castle would freak at a large influx of hoi polloi tourists those things tend to attract.

Palace also reports that he rides his bike back to Concord after visiting New Castle, taking "highway 90", riding "down the middle of I-90 ... right along the double yellow lines".

Ben, I-90 goes through Massachusetts. And it doesn't have double yellow lines, it's a normal divided Interstate. Probably Palace is taking US-4.

This mild divergence from reality didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book. The remaining two volumes are in the TTR system.