URLs du Jour

April Fools' Day 2021

[Amazon Link]

Be careful about your web-reading today, because things might be more dishonest than they are on the other 364 days of the year.

But Google is apparently playing it straight for the second year in a row. Spoilsports.

  • Foolish Times. David Lewis Schaefer writes on Andy Ngo Unmasks the Real Threat to American Freedom. As bad as January 6 was (and it was pretty bad) it wasn't the first effort to undermine the system with mob tactics. It was just done by the Wrong People.

    More recently, a thoroughly anti-constitutional precedent was set by then-minority leader Chuck Schumer only last March, when he led a posse of about 75 members up the steps of the Supreme Court to warn recently appointed justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh that they had “released the whirlwind,” would “pay a price,” and would “not know what hit” them if they voted the “wrong” way on an abortion case. (Schumer’s act won a rare rebuke from the normally reserved Chief Justice Roberts, who denounced Schumer’s comments as “inappropriate” and “dangerous,” stressing, that “all members of the court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter.” In a proto-Trumpian response, Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman explained that his boss’s words didn’t mean what they sounded like, and denied that. Schumer was threatening or encouraging violence.)

    A decade ago, an even more direct and threatening, though ultimately (mostly) nonviolent, challenge to constitutional government was offered by Wisconsin public employee unions who invaded that state’s Capitol to protest and attempt to block Governor Scott Walker’s program of reforming public-employee contracts so as to balance the state budget without raising taxes, and also liberate public school administrations from rigid tenure rules (closely paralleled in school districts throughout the country) that prevented them from hiring teachers based on merit and adjusting their pay based on performance. Walker’s reforms even went so far as to require public employees to contribute to their health-insurance and pension costs—while still paying less for those benefits than the average Wisconsin citizen. (See Walker’s retrospective view of the “Capitol Siege,” with over 100,000 occupying the building and its surrounding square). Although nobody died in the Wisconsin protests, several legislators, both Republicans and Democrats, reported receiving death threats at the time. And one woman who emailed death threats to Republican lawmakers also pleaded guilty to making a bomb threat. Yet it would be difficult to find criticism of either Schumer’s warnings or the Wisconsin unions’ attempt to intimidate their state’s public institutions in most of the “mainstream” media.

    Our foolish times are made even more foolish by the asymmetrical treatment of issues by the media.


  • WHO's Foolin' Who? The NR editors give reason for skepticism, and cynicism: WHO Investigation into COVID-19 Origins Compromised.

    The World Health Organization’s investigation into the origins of COVID is an international scandal. The global health body has released a joint report with the Chinese government on its findings about the disease, following a WHO mission to China in February, and it only confirms the grave doubts harbored by outside observers regarding the panel’s impartiality.

    The 17 WHO-appointed investigators and 17 Chinese experts who authored the study dismiss out of hand as “extremely unlikely” the lab theory of COVID’s origin — the idea, specifically, that it leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is the highest-level-security lab in China (biosafety level four) and one known to have experimented with coronaviruses carried by bats. They instead assert that the virus most likely reached humans either directly from bats or from bats via other small mammals.

    The truth is that each of these theories is just that — a theory, unsupported yet by direct, material evidence. But the lab theory can’t be blithely dismissed, even though, incredibly enough, the WHO study treats more seriously a debunked theory pushed by the Chinese government stating that the disease originated in China when it arrived on foreign frozen-food packaging.

    You believed WHO? You fool, you.


  • Foolish Wastefulness. Eric Boehm previews the coming catastrophe: It’s Infrastructure Week. Really..

    Citing congressional sources briefed on the plan Tuesday, The New York Times reports that Biden will propose $625 billion in federal spending on traditional infrastructure items like roads, bridges, mass transit, railroads, and ports. Additional spending will be earmarked for upgrading utilities, improving power grids, and expanding rural broadband internet service. There will also be funding for some items that seem to have little to do with infrastructure, including $400 billion for "home care for the elderly and disabled," $300 billion to "revive U.S. manufacturing," and another $300 billion to provide for more affordable housing, according to The Washington Post.

    The infrastructure package will also be tied to the White House's plans for tackling climate change, including the goal of putting America on course for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. To that end, Biden will reportedly propose electrifying the entire federal government vehicle fleet.

    To pay for all this, the White House will propose raising the corporate income tax from 21 percent to 28 percent. That would generate an estimated $2.1 trillion over 10 years, but it would also reduce America's future economic growth and likely cost hundreds of thousands of jobs. When you include state-level corporate income taxes, a federal rate of 28 percent would mean American businesses would incur the highest tax rates in the developed world.

    And of course, Biden's obsession with choo-choo trains will drop (by which I mean: waste) billions on Amtrak and commuter rail.


  • Pure Foolishness. Alan Jacobs has a good, brief comparison that's not as unlikely as it sounds: Left Purity Culture.

    Like many other people, I’m not happy with the terms “woke” and “wokeness,” but I haven’t been sure what a good alternative is. Then, just the other day, as I was reading a few of the thousands of op-eds that have recently been written about Christian “purity culture,” I realized that what people typically call “woke” culture is really a different sort of purity culture, one for the secular left. Just as the messages of Christian purity culture are that you must be eternally vigilant in maintaining your purity; you must sign up to pledges of purity; you must denounce those who are impure; if you lose your purity you can never get it back, your defilement marks you forever; so — well, the parallels make themselves, don’t they. So instead of “wokeness” I will from now on refer to Left Purity Culture (LPC). I’ve altered the relevant tags for this blog accordingly. 

    It makes a lot of sense. Only downside is that few people are acquainted with Christian purity culture, so applying it to the left doesn't sting as much as it should.


  • And, Finally, Foolish Fairness. The Daily Wire caught Lester Holt saying something truly foolish. NBC News Anchor: ‘Fairness Is Overrated’.

    NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt says “fairness is overrated” and the news media no longer needs to present both sides of a given story.

    Holt, who was this week awarded the Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism from Washington State University, waxed poetic on the news media, at one point declaring that “it’s become clearer that fairness is over-rated.”

    “Before you run off and tweet that headline, let me explain a bit,” he said. “The idea that we should always give two sides equal weight and merit does not reflect the world we find ourselves in. That the sun sets in the west is a fact. Any contrary view does not deserve our time or attention.”

    I'm pretty sure if NBC News told me the sun sets in the west, I'd want to see some independent verification. Just picking at random, here's an example of NBC News "facts": Chuck Todd: The Michigan Supreme Court Did Not “Cite Any Law” In Ruling Whitmer’s Actions Unconstitutional

This Is How You Lose the Time War

[Amazon Link]

Well, gee. Nuts. Yet another "wish I liked it better" book. Yet another "it's probably me, not the book" book. Because it won both Hugo and Nebula Awards for "best novella". (See the Amazon page for other encomia.) And (in theory, even better) it won a rave from Katherine Mangu-Ward on a Reason podcast back in 2019.

And I didn't care for it at all. Couldn't get interested in the characters or their stupid problems. Didn't like the obfuscatory "look. ma, I'm writing" prose.

But here is (as far as I understand it) the story: it's the story of two shape-shifting time-travelers, agents "Red" and "Blue", who are trying to alter the various time strands so their side winds up to dominate the eventual future. This involves a lot of gory slaughter. Red and Blue leave cleverly hidden notes to each other as their paths through spacetime cross. At first, they are taunting. Then admiring. And eventually, they fall head over heels in love.

They both use "she/her" pronouns for themselves, so it would be easy to call this yet another lesbian sci-fi story. (It would be my third recent one in a row; apparently it's a required theme to get attention of influential critics?) But that's problematic, because it's not clear that Red and Blue are even human. (I didn't get a handle on that.)

To repeat: you could very well like this book very much. But I think I'm going back to the old reliables for the foreseeable future: Heinlein, Herbert, Stephenson.