URLs du Jour

2021-08-28

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  • Have I mentioned that fear is the mind-killer? The Persuasion site is reposting some classic articles from its early months. Including one by Emily Yoffe: A Taxonomy of Fear. (Which I linked to last year, but I'm linking again today Sue me.) Anyway, a quote:

    We live in a time of personal timorousness and collective mercilessness.

    There might seem to be a contradiction between being fearful and fearless, between weighing every word you say and attacking others with abandon. But as more and more topics become too risky to discuss outside of the prevailing orthodoxies, it makes sense to constantly self-censor, feeling unbound only when part of a denunciatory pack.

    Institutions that are supposed to be guardians of free expression—academia and journalism in particular—are becoming enforcers of conformity. Campuses have bureaucracies that routinely undermine free speech and due process. Now, these practices are breaching the ivy wall. They are coming to a high school or corporate HR office near you.

    The cultural rules around hot button issues are ever-expanding. It’s as if a daily script went out describing what’s acceptable, and those who flub a line—or don’t even know a script exists—are rarely given the benefit of the doubt, no matter how benign their intent. Naturally, people are deciding the best course is to shut up. It makes sense to be part of the silenced majority when the price you pay for an errant tweet or remark can be the end of your livelihood.

    Perusing that last-year post (by the way) reminded me of Symone D. Sanders, author of the feisty-titled book that is our Amazon Product du Jour. Symone typifies the bullying behavior of today's woke. And allegedly her devotion to free expression is being put to use as "Deputy Assistant to President Joe Biden and the Senior Advisor and Chief Spokesperson to Vice President Kamala Harris."


  • Colorful writing alert. Thanks to Holman W. Jenkins Jr in today's WSJ Let a Biden Reappraisal Include Antitrust.

    “Young people always want radical solutions.” I won’t mention what person on what Laurence Olivier-narrated documentary series said these words sheepishly accounting for his youthful political affiliations.

    Maybe one day Joe Biden’s Federal Trade Commission head Lina Khan will offer a similar concession in her dotage. Ms. Khan, now 32, made her name with a 2017 law-student article arguing that Amazon should be broken up because it should be broken up. Now she’s getting to put her urges to work, first with Facebook, and we can already anticipate the results:

    Unless a judge puts the case out of its misery, it will drag on for a decade; the technological and commercial issues will quickly become moot; only fixerdom will derive any real benefit, in the form of billings. And Ms. Khan will long since have departed to become a leading ornament of Washington’s antitrust bar, its least productive interest group. When you see a volunteer in yellow vest picking up trash by the roadside, think: That person is doing more for the commonweal than all the antitrust lawyers put together.

    Pun Salad value-added: The print version of the Jenkins column is link-free, of course, so I had no idea who he was talking about in the first paragraph. But with the links, it's someone talking about his membership in Hitler Youth. My guess is Helmut Schmidt.


  • What would we do without radioactive rat snakes? WIRED has some good news: Radioactive Rat Snakes Could Help Monitor Fukushima Fallout.

    When a massive earthquake followed by a tsunami hit Japan a decade ago, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant experienced a catastrophic meltdown. Humans fled a wide area around the plant that today is known as the Fukushima Exclusion Zone, while animals and plants remained. Now, scientists have enlisted the help of snakes in the zone to make sense of the disaster’s impact on the environment. Their findings, reported in an Ichthyology and Herpetology paper, indicate that Fukushima’s native rat snakes, like canaries in a coal mine, may act as living monitors of radiation levels in the region.

    “Because snakes don’t move that much, and they spend their time in one particular local area, the level of radiation and contaminants in the environment is reflected by the level of contaminants in the snake itself,” Hannah Gerke, a lead author on the study, said.

    (Might be a non-paywalled version here.)

    This doesn't sound as if determining a snake's "level of contaminants" will be that much fun for the snake.