URLs du Jour


  • You say you want a revolution? Adam Sexton tweets the threat issued by our state's senior senator:

    Threatening revolution in response to a court ruling? I'm pretty sure that's at least as bad as anything Donald J. Trump said on January 6.

    But (sure) it's OK when a Democrat does it.

    My ears pricked up a bit when I heard that on the local news last night. The WMUR report only managed to air the opinions of our pro-abortion representatives, and a Planned Parenthood ghoul.

  • Another take on abortion. Here's an NR article from Kevin D. Williamson: 'Roe' v. Me.

    Too often, we cannot or will not face the truth about abortion, because the truth is too horrifying — and because acknowledging that truth would morally oblige us to a course of political and social action that would be, to say the least, uncomfortable.

    And so we retreat into lies — and into facile similes, which are as good as lies. We know what an abortion does, and we know what is violently put to death in an abortion. About that, there is no serious question. In response, those who seek to keep the current abortion regime in place work to analogize away the human organism: “Sure, those are human cells, but we throw away human cells all the time — every time someone gets an appendectomy or a haircut.” Garry Wills, the noted Catholic writer, made precisely this argument in the New York Times, insisting that “my clipped fingernails or trimmed hairs are human life,” as though he were ignorant of the distinction between human cells and a human organism. Or: “Think of it as a parasite.” No, because “it” isn’t a parasite, or a tumor, or a failing organ or a gangrenous limb. “What about the 13th Amendment? Forcing a woman to provide labor for the fetus against her will!” No, pregnancy is not slavery.

    Pregnancy is pregnancy. And a human being is what it is, and it is that exactly, nothing else.

    I really want to go on quoting, but I don't want to test the "fair use" limits. KDW's article is very compassionate and insightful. And he doesn't mince words.

    (It's a good argument for why NR should release these articles from behind its paywall at some point. But it's an equally good argument for you to subscribe, if you don't.)

  • No jokes, please, we're Chinese. Jordan Boyd of the Federalist reports the latest corporate cowardice: Disney Caves To China, Drops 'Simpsons' Episode With Tiananmen Joke.

    Disney+ reportedly scrubbed an episode of “The Simpsons” from its launch in Hong Kong to appease Communist China’s censorship of pro-democracy content.

    The episode in question, “Goo Goo Gai Pan,” depicts Homer Simpson and his family traveling to China to adopt a baby for his sister-in-law and visiting various tourist sites in the country, including the remains of Mao Zedong. At one point, the family not only strolls past a row of tanks similar to those stared down by a pro-democracy protester in 1989 in China’s infamous Tiananmen Square, but one character reads a sign that mocks the communist regime’s censorship of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

    “Tien An Men Square: On this site, in 1989, nothing happened,” the sign states.

    Is this ironic? Censoring a cartoon episode that mocks censorship? ("Irony can be … pretty ironic sometimes" -- Buck Murdock)

    At the Washington Free Beacon, Chuck Ross piles on:

    Disney came under fire last year for filming parts of Mulan in Xinjiang, where the Chinese government carries out human-rights abuses against Muslim Uyghurs. Credits for the film included special thanks to several Chinese Communist Party propaganda agencies. In 2016, Disney replaced a Tibetan monk character with a Celtic mystic in its film Doctor Strange in order to avoid controversy over the Tibetan sovereignty debate.

    While Disney has kowtowed to China, it has not shied away from social activism at home. Disney donated $5 million to social justice groups last year in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd. Its subsidiaries ABC and ESPN endorsed the "Black Lives Matter" movement.

    Well, thanks to that $5 million, at least there's no more racial injustice here in the US.

  • But Disney is not the only bad joke. There's JPMorgan Chase, as exemplified by its CEO. Gerard Baker at the WSJ: Jamie Dimon’s China Joke Is on JPMorgan’s ‘Stakeholders’

    In the reign of China’s Ming dynasty, the full kowtow involved “three kneelings and nine prostrations.” Perhaps it’s a sign of progress that the Ming emperors’ modern successor seems to be satisfied with two.

    That’s the tentative conclusion we can draw from the self-abasement last week of Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, before the Chinese Communist Party. Mr. Dimon found himself in potential trouble with the current executors of the Mandate of Heaven when he repeated a joke he said he had told in Hong Kong earlier: “The Communist Party is celebrating its hundredth year. So is JPMorgan. I’d make you a bet we last longer.”

    A day later, evidently alarmed about the potential damage this might do to his bank in China, Mr. Dimon was on his knees. “I regret and should not have made that comment,” he said in a statement. A bank spokesman added: “Dimon acknowledges that he should never speak lightly or disrespectfully about another country or its leadership.” The Chinese government graciously accepted the double-grovel.

    Baker's musings about Dimon's crow-eating are interesting. Certainly this helped Chase maintain its business in China, and hence benefited its shareholders. And aren't businesses all about taking care of their shareholders?

    Maybe we can make an exception to that general rule in our dealings with ruthless dictators? Just asking.

  • I might have said "cesspool" instead of "ocean", but… Matt Taibbi looks at Jack Dorsey's resignation as Twitter CEO and wonders: Will Twitter Become an Ocean of Suck? (Note his implicit assumption that it's not already an ocean of suck.)

    Jack Dorsey, the extend-o-bearded CEO who co-founded Twitter and whose fame grew with that of his increasingly powerful platform during the Trump years, resigned today. His departure is the latest plot point in a long-developing Internet tragicomedy, which has seen what was supposed to be a historically democratizing technological tool transformed into a dystopian force for censorship and control. The departure of Dorsey, the rare CEO who not only has a conscience but appears to consult it more than once every few years, is bad news for those who already had complaints about the company, which during his tenure came to occupy a central role in what’s left of American intellectual culture.

    Yeah, that's why I have a blog. And that's why Taibbi et. al. have substacks.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Oh no! Even less safe? My local newspaper recently gave column space to a fear-mongering state representative, Katherine Rogers of Concord. She writes on a proposed legislation: Kyle's law would make the people of NH less safe.

    Her opening is unpromising:

    Despite rising public pressure to decrease gun violence and institute smart, common-sense reforms around ownership, the last several years have seen a relaxation of regulations regarding guns in our society. It is a right and a privilege, but we can all agree that it carries with it clear responsibilities as well. Bottom line is this: none of us wants to live in a country where we should worry about being victims of random gunfire in public places like grocery stores, malls and movie theaters.

    Yet, that’s exactly where we are today.

    Yes, she utters the usual question-begging adjectives ("smart" and "common-sense") about "reforms" she advocates. Because, as we know, would-be criminals are very scrupulous about obeying gun laws.

    Never mind that, though: she claims we "should worry about being victims of random gunfire in public places like grocery stores, malls and movie theaters."

    Almost needless to say: such worries are totally out of touch with reality. Especially in New Hampshire, which has the second-lowest rate of violent crime in the US.

    And I am pretty sure actual worries are negligible. I find it difficult to believe that Katherine Rogers herself worries about being the "victim of random gunfire" as she claims we "should".

    But anyway: her column is not to argue in favor of more gun law, but to argue against proposed legislation popularly called "Kyle's Law", after Kyle Rittenhouse.

    If this proposal were to become law in New Hampshire, it would effectively ensure that anyone claiming self-defense will have a protective barrier around them against anyone questioning whether, in fact, the claim is valid.

    Would it though? Or would it require a prosecutor to prove that? For more on that…

  • Counterpoint. It's provided by Andrew Branca writing at Legal Insurrection: How To Stop Abusive Politically-Motivated Prosecutions In Self-Defense Cases. Here's his case:

    It’s time to compel prosecutors to have skin in the game, to have something to lose if they bring a laughably weak, yet horribly destructive, felony prosecution in a clear case of self-defense, like happened to Kyle Rittenhouse.

    We’ve seen this happen in the George Zimmerman trial in Florida a decade ago, in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial just completed in Kenosha WI, and in plenty of cases in between.

    These are cases where there is little or no evidence inconsistent with self-defense, such that there can be no good-faith reason for a prosecutor to drag that defender to trial. The only motivation of the prosecutor is personal aggrandizement and political capital.

    The real problem here is that these trials are a win-win for these rogue, politically motivated prosecutors. If the trial ends in a conviction, they won the legal case.

    And he responds directly to Rep. Rogers' allegation above:

    Kyle’s Law would not prevent anybody from questioning anyone about any use-of-force event. Indeed, I would encourage prosecutors to investigate any use-of-force event involving deadly force of any type.

    All Kyle’s Law says is that before a prosecutor drags a person with an arguable claim of self-defense into a trial where they’ll be required to disprove self-defense beyond any reasonable doubt, they ought first be confident that they can at least show disproof of self-defense by at least a preponderance of the evidence.

    Any prosecutor not confident that he has 51% proof in hand has no business dragging someone into a costly and dangerous trial where the standard for guilt is more like 90%. That’s rather the whole point.

    Much much more at the link. I think Branca has the better argument here. (Although I'm not sure how many politically-motivated prosecutions of self-defenders there are in NH. )

  • My Canadian girlfriend du jour is… called out amusingly by Jazz Shaw at Hot Air: The Canadian Elizabeth Warren?

    If you thought this was a uniquely American phenomenon, you may want to think again. Most of the social media chatter about Elizabeth Warren’s false claims to indigenous heritage eventually died down, but now a fresh and potentially more egregious example comes to us from Canada. Carrie Bourassa is a medical researcher with the University of Toronto and someone who became known as a “top voice on indigenous health issues.” She also has a government position with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health. Actually, I should have used the past tense for both of those titles because she was recently ousted from both of her positions at the university and with the government. That happened when it was discovered the celebrated First People’s scientist was not of indigenous heritage at all. In fact, she was about as European as one can be. (NY Post)

    Fun fact: "She gave a TEDx talk in 2019 where she dressed in 'full tribal regalia,' complete with a feather in her partially braided hair." That is some massive bravado.

  • And he probably thought he was woke enough for the students. Foster's Daily Democrat had the story on its front page this morn: UNH President Dean seeks apology from students fighting sex assault.

    The student-run Sexual Violence Action Committee is missing one important player: the school president.

    UNH President James W. Dean Jr. wants students in the group, formed in response to sex assault allegations on campus, to apologize for the way they treated him and other administrators at a protest last month. And he won't meet with them until they apologize, according to two school officials.

    President Dean attended a protest outside his on-campus home Oct. 25, held amid mounting frustration among students who felt UNH wasn't doing enough in response to alleged sexual violence.

    At issue is the University's handling of a sexual assault case involving a Male Athletic Person of Color. The "respectable" media (including this blog) aren't publishing his name, but anyone with a little Googling skill (including this blogger) can figure it out pretty quickly.

    I like that one of the issues President Dean encountered was "ridicule of his name". I bet they called him "Jimmy".

  • How many times do we have to say it? Chris Stirewalt on what should be a no-brainer: Don’t Subsidize Local News.

    One of the missing ingredients that’s keeping the American system from functioning well is sufficient local news consumption. This is no revelation to anyone who has watched with even passing interest as the American news media consolidated and nationalized over the past two decades. The deficiency is indeed so obvious there is growing bipartisan agreement on the existence of the problem and a raft of proposals in Congress to address it. But it certainly bears reminding ourselves of the reasons why we need Americans to be better informed on local issues.

    We live in a union of states, not a monolithic nation state. Our system is designed for disputes to be resolved and policies to be introduced at the most local level possible. If the town council can’t handle it, the county commission may have to come in. The state may eventually have to get involved if the costs or consequences become too great. Only the biggest or most confounding problems, though, should make it to the federal government. But that’s not what one would discern from looking at Americans’ media consumption. It is very easy to get national news—almost impossible to avoid, really—and very hard to find robust local news. The clear message to Americans is that the remote national capital is more important to their lives than their statehouse or city hall, when the opposite is—or at least should be—true.

    Our local paper does a pretty lousy job of covering news. Subsidies won't improve it.

Red Notice

[4.0 stars] [IMDB Link] [Red Notice]

I went into this Netflix free-to-me streamer with low expectations. My attitude: "No matter how bad it is, at least Gal Gadot is in it." I was pleasantly surprised.

It's the story of an expert art thief Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds) and his (apparent) FBI nemesis John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson). As the movie opens, Hartley is teaming up with Interpol cop Urvashi Das (Ritu Arya) to thwart Booth's expected filching of one of Cleopatra's three eggs, priceless antiquities from Egypt. As it turns out, Booth has already grabbed the egg before Booth and Das arrive on the scene, but he's still hanging around, which sets off a fanciful action-packed chase scene.

And things just get more manic from there. It turns out there's a buyer willing to may an exorbitant sum for all three eggs. This brings "The Bishop" (Ms. Gadot) into the plot as well, trying to outwit and outmaneuver Booth, while Hartley wants (apparently) to put both in jail.

It's a half-comedy, playing off Reynolds' unmatched skills at banter. The Rock does a pretty good job as straight man. And Ms. Gadot is pretty good too, getting off some zingers on her own.

It seems remarkably high-budget for a Netflix flick. It was released in theaters a week before it showed up for streaming. According to the Wikipedia page, it had a $200 million budget and made "well north" of $2 million in theaters. Wikipedia also claims it got "generally unfavorable reviews", but don't listen to those guys.

Last Modified 2021-11-30 6:58 AM EST

URLs du Jour


  • Eye Candy du Jour from Mr. Michael P. Ramirez, who reports: It’s dangerous out there.

    [If I had a hammer...]

    Need context? For those of us in New Hampshire, Chesa Boudin is comfortably far away, at least in a geographical sense. Michael Shellenberger, writing in the WSJ, provides background:

    When Chesa Boudin ran for San Francisco district attorney in 2019, he said crime was caused by poverty, wealth inequality and inadequate government spending on social programs. He called prostitution, open drug use and drug dealing “victimless crimes” and promised not to prosecute them. The result has been an increase in crime so sharp that San Francisco’s liberal residents are now paying for private security guards, taking self-defense classes, and supporting a recall of Mr. Boudin, with a vote set for June 2022. Retailers like Walgreens and Target are closing stores in the city, citing rampant shoplifting. Last week, a shockingly organized mob of looters ransacked a downtown Louis Vuitton store.

    When they got Louis Vuitton that was enough for Chesa to tweet: “Standby for felony charges.”

    The hammer, of course, is the implement of choice for smash-and-grabbers. Ex-LAPD cop Timothy T. Williams Jr., advised: “Businesses need to invest in displays that are shatterproof. That will be a deterrent. They can’t go in and do smash-and-grab because nothing is smashing for them to grab.”

    He did not add, but could have: "Don't bother waiting for law enforcement to do anything about this. Forget it, Jake, it's California, dude."

  • The Answering of Rittenhouse. Glenn Greenwald describes The Cynical and Dangerous Weaponization of the "White Supremacist" Label.

    Within hours of the August 25, 2020, shootings in Kenosha, Wisconsin — not days, but hours — it was decreed as unquestioned fact in mainstream political and media circles that the shooter, Kyle Rittenhouse, was a "white supremacist.” Over the next fifteen months, up to and including his acquittal by a jury of his peers on all charges, this label was applied to him more times than one can count by corporate media outlets as though it were proven fact. Indeed, that Rittenhouse was a "white supremacist” was deemed so unquestionably true that questioning it was cast as evidence of one's own racist inclinations (defending a white supremacist).

    Yet all along, there was never any substantial evidence, let alone convincing proof, that it was true. This fact is, or at least should be, an extraordinary, even scandalous, event: a 17-year-old was widely vilified as being a white supremacist by a union of national media and major politicians despite there being no evidence to support the accusation. Yet it took his acquittal by a jury who heard all the evidence and testimony for parts of the corporate press to finally summon the courage to point out that what had been Gospel about Rittenhouse for the last fifteen months was, in fact, utterly baseless.

    Click to read the sad story. I was reminded of this bit I've blogged before, but not recently: the Underground Grammarian essay titled "The Answering of Kautski", which (in turn) quoted Lenin:

    Why should we bother to reply to Kautski? He would reply to us, and we would have to reply to his reply. There's no end to that. It will be quite enough for us to announce that Kautski is a traitor to the working class, and everyone will understand everything.

    It's pretty clear that the movers and shakers in "mainstream political and media circles" are adapting Lenin's tactic: "Why should we bother to provide evidence about our Rittenhouse slurs? We'd have to deal with countering evidence, and we would reply to counter. There's no end to that. It will be quite enough for us to announce that Rittenhouse is a white supremacist, and everyone will understand everything."

  • Why I'll be walking right by the red kettles this year. The Salvation Army Wants White Donors To Offer ‘Sincere Apology’ For Their Racism.

    The charity is asking its white donors to do more than just drop some coins into the kettle when they go shopping this holiday season. Leaders of the Army want whites to apologize for being racist.

    “The desire is that Salvationists achieve the following,” the Army says in an online “resource” titled “Let’s Talk About Racism,” listing several goals including  to “lament, repent and apologize for biases or racist ideologies held and actions committed.”

    The resource claims Christianity is inherently racist and calls for white Christians to repent and offer “a sincere apology” to blacks for being “antagonistic… to black people or the culture, values and interests of the black community.”

    The news that Christianity is inherently racist would have come as a shock to Martin Luther King Jr.

  • Are you becoming racist as well as transphobic, Paula? Ilana Redstone, an actual, and very brave, faculty member at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She views America by Gaslight.

    Systemic (also sometimes referred to as structural or institutional) racism is often discussed as though it is the settled and unquestioned explanation for differences in educational attainment or wealth, among other things. Questioning or debating this causal relationship is often considered—in both public discourse and by some scholars—as a form of that same racism. However, labeling the act of investigating the role of systemic racism as itself racism requires a high level of confidence that we have all the relevant information we need to understand the complex causes of inequality. In other words, it requires that this be a settled question.

    Tarring someone with a label like transphobia or racism is among the most effective ways to damage reputations in our society. In many ways, the fact that those terms carry so much weight is a good thing: We need them to pack a punch to keep people from doing things that are widely considered oppressive or unjust. However, when the terms are used in combination with the settled-question fallacy, it belies the reality of the state of our knowledge on certain controversial and sensitive topics and, predictably, it creates resentment.

    Someone really should remake that movie and set it in academia. [Classical reference in headline.]

Children of Dune

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Personal trivia: I apparently got this when I was still a member of the Science Fiction Book Club. ("Book Club Edition" on the dust cover flap.) It's still holding together, though. I don't remember reading it back then, I think I just bounced off it.

The front cover of this edition says, breathlessly: "The Climax of the Dune Trilogy". Promises, promises. Frank Herbert followed up this 1976 novel with three more, in 1981, 1984, and 1987. For some reason I bought them, and they've been sitting on my shelves uncracked for years. Someday, I hope. They're in my TBR system, anyway.

Frank Herbert's son Brian has collaborated with Kevin J. Anderson on approximately 786 sequels and prequels since then. Not purchased, not gonna read 'em. Life is literally too short.

Anyway, this book: Paul "Muad'Dib" Atreides has gone AWOL, wandered off blindly into the Arrakis desert, presumed dead. But his twin kids, Leto II and Ghanima, are around, and they're both wise beyond their (nine) years. Unfortunately, they are the target of a convoluted assassination plot, involving genetically manipulated killer tigers.

Paul's sister, Alia, has sadly succumbed to the Dark Side, allowing a past (dead) villain to shape her nefarious activities. And there are big changes on Arrakis, thanks to large-scale ecological engineering: water is plentiful in some areas, the area controlled by sandworms is shrinking, and this (of course) has impact on the production of Melange, the vital spice allowing interstellar travel. Also appearing: Paul's mom, Lady Jessica; the Duncan Idaho ghola; Gurney Halleck; Stilgar. And some new folks, including "The Preacher". (Who just happens to be a blind guy from the desert. Hm.) And sandworms, always nice to see them again.

So things happen. A number of people die along the way. But there's a constant drumbeat of pseudo-profound balderdash and mystical bullshit permeating the book. In dialog, inner monologue, or just exposition. You have to wade through it in case something relevant to plot or character is revealed, but that almost never happens. Example: At one point The Preacher yells at Alia in a "rolling stentorian shout": "Abandon certainty! That's life's deepest command. That's what life's all about. We're a probe into the unknown, into the uncertain."

For the record, Alia does not respond: "So what? Unhand me. You're a crazy bad brother." That would have been good.

Last Modified 2021-11-28 11:27 AM EST

URLs du Jour


  • You think government dependence is a good thing? Maybe you should reconsider that. Glenn Reynolds notes the obvious in the NYPost. Common thread in Waukesha tragedy, Kenosha shootings: Government failure.

    When is a racial hate crime not a racial hate crime? When it doesn’t advance the left’s, and the Democrats’, narrative.

    When white teenager Kyle Rittenhouse shot three white men who were violently assaulting him, it somehow got treated by the press and politicians as a racial hate crime. President Joe Biden (falsely) called Rittenhouse a white supremacist, and the discussion of his case was so focused on racial issues that many Americans mistakenly thought that the three men Rittenhouse shot were black.

    But when a black man, Darrell Brooks, with a long history of posting hateful anti-white rhetoric on social media drove a car into a mostly white Christmas parade, killing six people and injuring dozens, the press was eager to wish the story away. (The New York Times buried it on page A22.) Even when a Black Lives Matter activist connected it to the Rittenhouse verdict, observing “it sounds like the revolution has started,” the media generally downplayed it.

    As numerous people have pointed out: Darrell Brooks was a Hitler fan. But (as I type) Googling shows you'll only learn about this if you watch Fox News or read the NYPost. The "respectable" media don't consider that newsworthy.

  • Also in our "Government Failure" Department… Jacob Sullum asks a question with an obvious answer: Should We Blame Pharmacies or the Government for Opioid-Related Deaths?

    A federal jury in Cleveland yesterday concluded that three major pharmacy chains had contributed to a "public nuisance" in two Ohio counties caused by an oversupply of prescription opioids. The verdict, which represents the first time that retailers have been held legally liable for the "opioid crisis," followed two recent rulings in which a California judge and the Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected similar claims against drug manufacturers.

    These cases, along with thousands of other lawsuits by state and local governments that blame legal drug suppliers for opioid-related addiction and deaths, ask courts to focus on one link in a long causal chain. That chain includes decisions by state and federal regulators as well as actions by manufacturers, distributors, doctors, pharmacists, patients, black-market dealers who sell diverted pills, and nonmedical users who consume them.

    In the Ohio case, Lake and Trumbull counties argued that the defendants—CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart—had ignored "red flags" indicating that some of the prescriptions they filled were medically inappropriate. The defendants argued that they had done nothing but fill seemingly legitimate prescriptions for legally approved medication written by licensed and regulated doctors. They emphasized the crucial roles that government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Administration played in overseeing the distribution of prescription opioids, making them complicit in the supposed public nuisance described by the plaintiffs.

    Cynicism gets you (I think) the right answer in this case: lawyers and demagogic politicians are attracted to deep pockets, actual culpability be damned. Meanwhile, opioid deaths are soaring, and going after CVS et. al. will do nothing to bring them back to earth.

  • LFOD is wonderfully malleable. Granite Geek David Brooks invokes it to support "Right to Repair": Live Free or Die – unless you want to fix something, that is

    New Hampshire lawmakers have always been selective about adhering to our license plate slogan but they’ve rarely strayed farther from “Live Free or Die” than in their dismissal of the right-to-repair movement.

    That loose coalition has been struggling for years against the increasing corporate practice of making it hard or impossible for individuals and independent shops to work on the objects we buy, forcing us to either pay them for repairs or just junk things and buy new ones.

    Repair manuals and required software codes are kept secret, most notoriously by John Deere’s farm-equipment arm; special tools are required for no reason; and devices are designed entirely to interfere with repairs, such as Apple’s outrageous change to the latest iPhone that broke FaceTime if a non-licensed shop replaces a cracked screen.

    LFOD 101: if you have a Willing Buyer and a Willing Seller of a product, government should not prohibit the transaction. It's what Robert Nozick called a "capitalist act between consenting adults."

    But prohibiting certain disapproved products from being bought and sold is what "right to repair" legislation does. It looks over and says, in certain cases: "Tsk tsk. Thou shalt not."

    It's (um) interesting how Brooks (and he, of course, is not alone) tries to hammer LFOD into meaning its opposite.

  • Apologies are not forthcoming. Andrew Sullivan looks back on Russiagate, and the current effort to move the goalposts: It Wasn't A Hoax. It Was Media Overkill.

    There is no question that Trump had countless conflicts of interest in Russia, with his Moscow hotel plans high among them, and had been money laundering for Russian oligarchs for years. No question that he was absolutely willing to accept Russia’s — or any country’s — illicit support, and no doubt he actually asked for it. I saw him do it, on national television, in the campaign. We all did.

    The Russians also tried to corrupt the election through online shenanigans; and Manafort’s delivery of polling data to Moscow was deeply shifty. And everyone lied about almost everything. There’s equally no doubt that Trump obstructed justice in trying to stymie the Russia investigation. Again, he told us so on television. More pertinently, people have been prosecuted and gone to jail for their misdeeds in this whole miasma of near-treasonous sleaze.

    But this was not what the MSM tried to sell us from the get-go. What they and the Democrats argued — with endless, breathless, high-drama reporting — was that there was some kind of plot between Trump and Russia to rig the election and it had succeeded. Investigating this was hugely important because it could expose near-treason and instantly remove Trump from power via impeachment. This was the dream to cope with the nightmare.

    Sullivan notes, plausibly, that the Putin/Trump mythology sprang up for psychological reasons: it allowed blame-shifting for the actual reason Trump won in 2016: his opponent, Hillary.

  • What would we do without consensus? Conor Friedersdorf writes about the latest academic antics: Universities Try to Force a Consensus About the Kyle Rittenhouse Verdict. Instead of using the incident and its outcome as discussion fodder, a potentially valuable exercise…

    More than 2,000 miles away, administrators at UC Santa Cruz felt otherwise. Chancellor Cynthia Larive and Interim Chief Diversity Officer Judith Estrada issued a statement that began like this:

    We are disheartened and dismayed by this morning’s not guilty verdict on all charges in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse … We join in solidarity with all who are outraged by this failure of accountability.

    UC Santa Cruz is a public institution with roughly 19,000 students and 1,000 instructors who, one can safely say, do not all share the same viewpoints. But Larive and Estrada emphasized their personal feelings and openly pledged solidarity (meaning “unity or agreement of feeling or action,” by one definition) with others based on whether they too feel angry. This is posturing, not engagement with a campus community. I wrote to Larive and asked her to clarify why the jury should have found Rittenhouse guilty, if that’s what she meant by “failure of accountability.” A university spokesperson, Scott Hernandez-Jason, responded, “The campus message speaks for itself.”

    That "statement" is really something else. Students at UCSC (and those at other institutions called out in Friedersdorf's article) who don't wholly subscribe to the Official Theology should probably keep their heads down and move to the back of the ideological bus.

    Good news, though: the University Near Here has not issued any proclamations about Rittenhouse as near as I can tell.

Dear Daughter

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I read Elizabeth Little's most recent book, Pretty as a Picture, earlier this year, and enjoyed it quite a bit. This one is her debut novel, and wasn't quite as enjoyable. But that's me, not her.

It's narrated by Janie Jenkins, and she's just out of the slammer after ten long years. She was convicted of gruesomely murdering her mother, but got released on a technical issue. (The lab tasked with processing the crime scene DNA evidence messed up badly.) Hers was a spectacular trial, because Janie and her mother were rich and famous. (As near as I can tell, they were "famous for being famous".) Her release is also spectacular, because she, with some help from her lawyer, immediately drops off the grid, adopts a new identity, and sheds the media hordes desperate to find out what she's up to.

What she's up to: finding out what really happened the night of her mother's murder. She's not 100% certain she didn't do it (and neither are we). But she remembers a few words from a loud overheard argument. And they send her off on a long journey to an unexpected, unglamorous location. Where, she hopes, the truth about her mother's past, and her own, can be deduced.

Janie is funny and smart. That's the good news. The bad news is, she's a bitch on 18 wheels, a semi-tractor-trailer truck of sociopathy. She lies, cheats, and steals. And she's only pleasant to people if she thinks that's the best way to dupe them into doing what she wants. I'm not usually sympathetic to such characters, but the "funny and smart" part tilted things her way. (For a fictional character. If I met someone like her in real life, I hope I'd have the good sense to back away slowly.)

The other problem is that it's one of those books where a whole bunch of suspects are dropped into the narrative all at once. I have a problem with keeping things straight when that happens. (I'd add "at my age", but I'm pretty sure I was never good at that.)

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Caveat emptor: our Amazon product du jour features a spurious Thomas Jefferson quote.

Which doesn't make the quote untrue of course. Just misattributed. Ayn Rand wrote something closer.

  • A slow disaster using obsolete technology, mind you. But still. Randal O’Toole, as usual, is the go-to guy in Cato's Government Failure Department, Choo-Choo Division. His most recent report is The Midwest Rail Plan: A Disaster Waiting to Happen. The "plan" is to spend $116-162 billion on the tracks and trains, for the hordes of Omahans desperate to get to Kalamazoo without getting off the ground. Click over to see the map. But:

    Midwestern state transportation agencies have a lot of nerve writing this plan considering that they’ve already clearly demonstrated their incompetence in building such projects. Since 2009, using a combination of Obama high‐speed rail funds, other federal funds, and state funds, Illinois, Michigan, and other midwestern states spent more than $3.5 billion to increase speeds and frequencies of passenger trains on routes between Chicago and St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit, Chicago and Omaha, and others.

    Now, 12 years later, one of those routes–Chicago-Quincy–knocked 2 minutes off its schedule, increasing average speeds by 0.4 miles per hour. Otherwise, despite spending nearly $2 billion in the Chicago‐St. Louis corridor and the better part of a billion in the Chicago‐Detroit corridor, none of the Midwest routes saw any increases in either frequencies or speeds.

    Federal funds also included $370 million to buy 88 passenger cars and 21 locomotives. So far, only four cars and one locomotive have been delivered. Basically, the states wasted $3.5 billion.

    Well, all that money wound up in somebody's pockets. Wonder whose?

  • Some people, of course, want the debate clouded. Jacob Sullum notes: Legally Irrelevant Considerations Cloud the Debate About Kyle Rittenhouse’s Acquittal. And our current President managed to cloud things in his own mind.

    "I stand by what the jury has concluded," President Joe Biden told reporters on Friday after Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all the charges he faced for shooting three people, two fatally, during an August 2020 protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. "The jury system works, and we have to abide by it."

    Later that day, by contrast, Biden said the verdict left him "feeling angry and concerned." The president's confusing attempt to straddle anger and acceptance reflected a sharp division of opinion about the outcome of Rittenhouse's trial—a clash that was based mainly on legally irrelevant considerations.

    Also taken to task: the ACLU (they should probably change their name); Kamala; Cori Bush; Jerry Nadler; and (of course) anyone who breathlessly announced that Rittenhouse had "crossed state lines".

    I occasionally cross state lines walking my dog. Hope nobody busts me for that.

  • I'm not sure how many Moscow State University grads could get a job in Russia these days. Axios claims a Scoop: Centrist Dems sink Biden’s nominee for top bank regulator

    Five Democratic senators have told the White House they won't support Saule Omarova to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, effectively killing her nomination for the powerful bank-regulator position.

    Good news. The five are Tester (MT); Warner (VA); Sinema (AZ); Hickenlooper (CO); and Kelly (AZ).

    Not on this list of "moderates": Shaheen (NH) and Hassan (NH).

  • Unsurprising news. We've previously identified the "Build Back Better" legislation's SALT cap increase as an unjustified giveaway to (mostly) rich people in (mostly) Blue states. But wait, that's not all. According to the WSJ editorialists, there's also A Tax Break for Union Dues.

    Democrats have agonized for months over where to find money for their blowout tax and spending bill, so it’s worth paying attention to the revenues they explicitly forgo. The bill offers tax breaks for key progressive constituencies, and one that has received little attention is a big gift to Big Labor.

    The bill the House passed would allow union members to deduct up to $250 of dues from their tax bills. The deduction is “above the line,” meaning filers can exclude the cost of dues from their gross income. In other words, union dues would get the same treatment now reserved for things like insurance premiums and retirement contributions. The deduction would last through 2025. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates its cost at $1.8 billion.

    At last count, union membership was desperately unpopular in the private sector, with only 6.3% of employees belonging. Not shocking at all: it's more popular in the "public" sector, with 34.8% of employees belonging.

    The "tax break" is a naked effort to boost those numbers. Unions can't make the case for membership themselves, so they need a handout from Uncle Stupid.

  • Past performance is actually a pretty good way to judge future behavior. Eric Boehm notes another feature of "Build Back Better": Biden Wants To Empower the IRS Despite Its Track Record of Trampling Rights and Undermining Privacy.

    President Joe Biden's plan to beef up IRS enforcement and snoop on Americans' bank accounts will require hiring more than 80,000 additional tax cops—expanding a federal bureaucracy with a long track record of flouting due process and undermining privacy.

    As part of Biden's "Build Back Better" plan, the IRS would get $80 billion in additional funding over the next 10 years. The bulk of those new funds, nearly $45 billion, would be directed toward enforcement actions with the goal of doubling the number of annual audits of small businesses. By comparison, the bill spends a relatively meager $1.93 billion on improving taxpayer services, including education and filing assistance.

    In short, for every new dollar the IRS will spend helping Americans understand the endlessly complicated federal tax code, the agency will spend roughly $23 new dollars on enforcing those same rules.

    As P. J. O'Rourke said: "Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys."

    Giving (more) money and power to the IRS is like giving them that, plus crystal meth and high powered weapons…

Last Modified 2021-11-27 5:29 AM EST

URLs du Jour


Wishing y'all a Happy Thanksgiving…

  • I wouldn't work for a TV news network that would have me as an employee. But that's me. Jonah Goldberg recently announced his departure in disgust from Fox News. Kevin D. Williamson has thoughts on that: The Fox Fix.

    Understandably, people care a great deal more about Jonah Goldberg’s exit from Fox News. You can tell that Tucker Carlson and others care about it by how much, how loudly, and how bitterly they are talking about how much they don’t care. That’s familiar stuff, too: Every sub-Fox News nobody over at AR15RedStateJesus.com has written 500 blog posts and tweets about how “irrelevant” National Review is, and they’ll write 500 more this year. As the philosopher said, “Ob-la-di, ob-la-da.”

    “This is war,” they tell us. It isn’t, of course, not by a damned sight, and thank God for it. But if you want to think of our recent national convulsions as war, then you should think of the cable-news gang as war profiteers. They have convinced millions of Americans that they are part of a great crusade, without quite disclosing that they are part of a great crusade to make sure that Sean Hannity never has to fly commercial and that Rachel Maddow can afford sustainably grown cedar planks for her weekend retreat in Massachusetts. And don’t think for a second that Hannity and Maddow aren’t in the same business and on the same team — if you believe otherwise, you are a sucker and a mark.

    I don’t blame people for wanting to make money — I do my best to make some, too — but there are times when I think I might respect these entrepreneurs a little more if they just sold heroin.

    That's just a small excerpt, and (as always) I recommend you RTWT. Jonah's own words on the topic here.

    I think my last sustained viewing of any TV news network was the Blue Origin launch of William Shatner. Other than that, it's our local news station for about a half-hour, which is all I can stand.

  • Come on, man. James Freeman, in his Best of the Web column at the WSJ writes on President Biden and American Gratitude. He could have added, but did not: "and Dereliction of Duty".

    “We have nothing to announce at this time,” says White House National Security Council assistant press secretary Patrick Evans via email today on the potential scheduling of a Medal of Honor ceremony for American hero Alwyn Cashe. This Thanksgiving week President Joe Biden should express the thanks of a grateful nation and honor the memory of the courageous Cashe.

    A year ago this column noted the amazing sacrifices Cashe made for his fellow soldiers while sustaining fatal burns in Iraq in 2005. Even while on fire, he pulled his wounded comrades out of a Bradley fighting vehicle under furious attack.

    It's not as if he has anything better to do… Oh, wait.

  • He had to do this instead. Scott Shackford takes a look at what's eating up Wheezy's time: Thousands Beg President Joe Biden for Mercy as He Pardons a Couple of Turkeys.

    On Friday, President Joe Biden continued the meaningless tradition of "pardoning" two turkeys prior to Thanksgiving. The two birds, named Peanut Butter and Jelly, were presented before Biden, who said "instead of getting basted, these two turkeys are getting boosted."

    At The New York Times, Katie Rogers notes that there was no talk of Biden's domestic agenda, though that apparently wasn't for lack of trying by reporters at the event. Steven Nelson of the New York Post asked the president if he would be pardoning any actual people. Biden played it off as a joke, asking Nelson if he needed one. Nelson subsequently asked the same question of White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who essentially shrugged it off: She had no updates about any potential mercy for actual human beings.

    Every year, the turkey pardon highlights the absurd gap between presidential performance and actual policy. Despite campaign trail promises that he would roll back some of the harsh laws he was responsible for helping pass in the first place, Biden has done little in this arena during his first year as president. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.), Ed Markey (D–Mass.), and Jeff Merkley (D–Ore.) sent a letter to Biden earlier in November asking him to use executive authority to mass pardon any federal prisoners with non-violent marijuana convictions, but thus far nothing has come of it.

    Yeah, fine. Lame jokes and cheap symbolism. Maybe you could fit Alwyn Cashe in there too?

  • That "(ish)" carries a lot of weight, unfortunately. David French invites his fellow citizens: Come On in America, the Libertarian(ish) Water Is Fine.

    When people press me to identify my ideology, the answer depends on the sophistication of the audience. When I’m casually talking to someone I just met, and they ask me about where I stand politically, I’m not going to say, “I’m a libertarian-leaning pro-life classical liberal.” The best-case response is someone thinking, “Nerd!” Worst-case, you’ll come across as some sort of pretentious ass. So I just say “conservative” and see where things go. 

    But I really am a libertarian-leaning pro-life classical liberal, and the stories above help illustrate why. As I explained at length in a recent Sunday newsletter, I’m drawn to classical liberalism by its respect for the dignity of the individual. I am pushed more toward libertarianism by the relentless failures of central planning and the disproportionate impact of those failures on vulnerable communities. 

    Uh fine. But it's only been a little over a week since French was inveighing against "open carry" of weaponry, advocating that states "tightly restrict" such.

    As I've said before: such laws would be literally unprecedented in New Hampshire, which has never had prohibitions or major restrictions on open carry. As far as I can tell, we ain't quaking in fear about that.

    So I fear that French's "libertarian(ish)" bent is: "libertarian, unless you're doing something that offends me or creeps me out".

  • Apologizing for numbers. PowerLine (and many others) noted this tweet:


    What is most striking to me, apart from the sheer stupidity of this tweet, is the low opinion that liberals seem to have of other liberals. The Women’s March people evidently assume that their fellow liberals are so fragile that they will be emotionally wounded by the mention of $14.92. Hence the need for an apology. I don’t know, maybe they are right. Maybe liberals really are that pathetic. But I think if I were a liberal, I would be offended.

    Just wait until their average donation is $19.84.

Last Modified 2021-11-26 7:38 AM EST

URLs du Jour


  • Maybe the funniest thing you'll see today. Or this month. Or this year. From Twitter:

    This meme theme has been around since at least 2015 if not longer. I posted a few myself. It's rough, but also hilarious, that poor Salma's getting called out for misandry.

  • <voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone!</voice> The Library at the University Near Here has released its Officially Approved List of Gender Identity Awareness Resources! It's in support of "UNH Gender Identity Awareness [GIA] Week". Which was last week, sorry you missed it.

    GIA is a week of events dedicated to promoting an understanding of transgender, transsexual and gender queer issues at UNH and beyond. Started in 2010 and principally sponsored by Transgender-UNH, the week features film screenings, workshops, speakers, open mikes, and other events to bring together UNH students, faculty, and staff and community members to have substantive discussions about gender identity/expression, gender diversity, social justice and cultural transformation. In addition to fostering dialogue and providing education, GIA hopes to stimulate positive changes on campus and in the community, promote activism and provide fun and social opportunities for Trans and allied people. All are welcome and all events are free and open to the public.

    For those interested in "substantive discussion" or "fostering dialogue"… well, you can click through and try to find any "resource" at the site that might provide the slightest hint that there's anything to discuss about Gender Identity at all. Ryan Anderson's When Harry Became Sally? Nope. Abigail Shrier's Irreversible Damage? Fuggedaboutit!

    Not even Deirdre McCloskey's Crossing, which the UNH Library actually owns. What, Deirdre's unacceptably supportive of free markets?

    Anyway, look for yourself, and please let me know if there's anything in the UNH list that even hints at controversy on this topic. Ditto for the equally one-sided UNH Officially Approved List of Racial Justice Resources.

  • A hedgehog knows one big thing. That's what some ancient Greek said, and 'twas popularized by Isaiah Berlin. And it's what leapt to mind when I read Eric Boehm's headline at Reason: Elizabeth Warren Is Trying To Blame Inflation on 'Price Gouging.' Don't Buy It.

    Looking for someone to blame for high and rising prices at the pump, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) has found a familiar villain: big corporations.

    During an appearance on MSNBC's The ReidOut on Thursday, Warren said price gouging is to blame for the pain that Americans are feeling at the gas pump these days. Amid rising inflation, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline sits at $3.40 nationally, up from about $2.11 at this same time last year and higher than at any time since 2014. This, Warren argued, is great news for oil companies and their shareholders.

    Eric points out that both ExxonMobil and Chevron have been underperforming the broad market of late.

    Someone a few days ago pointed out MSM's habit of appending the phrase "without evidence" to Donald Trump's occasional assertions. (Even the ones that turned out to be true, see the link.)

    Maybe it's time to demand that your favorite news source stick that on the pronouncements of Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, AOC, …

  • Our Governor makes Hot Air! Specifically, makes it into an Allahpundit article, and here 'tis. GOP Gov. Sununu: Telling a private business that they can't fire unvaccinated workers is pure communism.

    Pure, mind you. (That apparently happened last month.)

    Here’s another reason why Trump shouldn’t run in 2024. It would clear the way for Chris Sununu to stand on a presidential primary debate stage and call Greg Abbott a communist to his face.

    Seriously, though, watching this gives you an insight into why, despite being arguably the GOP’s top Senate recruit for 2022, Sununu ultimately decided to pass. As governor of a small New England state, he can get away with saying stuff like this. As a senator, he’d be a national figure expected to do battle for his party in the great vaccine mandate culture war. And his party, unfortunately, has concluded that a business owner’s right to run his shop as he sees fit must bend to a worker’s right to maximize his or her risk from COVID. That’s what happens when your base decides that anti-vaxxism is the exciting new frontier in populism.

    Apparently, Governor Chris was not using the Communist label as an attempt to curry favor with the local progressives.

  • I think the right amount of socialism is zero. But I'm willing to change my mind, if a smart guy like Joel Kotkin makes a convincing argument. Here's his take on The socialism America needs.

    Clobbered from all sides by the pandemic, climate change and disruptions in virtually every industry by the rise of artificial intelligence, the capitalist dream is dying — and a new, mutant form of socialism is growing in its place. In the US, perhaps it’s no surprise that most Democrats have a better opinion of socialism than capitalism. Far more startling is the fact that they are not alone: the Republican party and the corporate establishment, which once paid lip service to competitive capitalism, are both starting to embrace the importance of massive deficit spending and state support.

    But unlike the social democracy movements that followed World War Two, the New Socialism focusses not on material aspirations but on climate change, gender, and race. While the old socialism sought to represent the ordinary labourer, many on the Left today seem to have little more than contempt for old working-class base and its often less than genteel views on issues such as Critical Race Theory.

    His bottom line: the "socialism we need" is "rooted in the needs of the working and middle classes — not one that seeks to keep them in their place."

    My translation: it would look a lot like free market capitalism, growth-oriented, and shorn of cronyism.

    "Socialists" will be unlikely to take Kotkin's advice.

  • News you can use. Edouard Mathieu and Max Roser at Our World in Data look at the burning question: How do death rates from COVID-19 differ between people who are vaccinated and those who are not? They explain their methodology, but here's their pretty picture for the past few months in the US:

    [Get Modernaed, OK?]

    I am pretty sure this speaks for itself. If you'd like, bounce over to the OWiD site to play with the data; it allows you to look at the age-range you might find most relevant.

Last Modified 2021-11-25 6:29 AM EST

URLs du Jour


  • The lies are pretty blatant. In case you missed it, NHJournal has the story: Kuster, Pappas Back Biden 'Build Back' Plan Adding Billions in Debt, Benefits for Illegals.

    U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas says the Biden’ Build Back Better” plan he voted for last Friday “is fully paid for and will reduce the deficit by $112 billion.”

    Rep. Annie Kuster also says the bill “is fully paid for” by “making super-wealthy corporations and the top one percent pay their fair share.”

    But nearly every economic review of the legislation, including the Congressional Budget Office analysis they both claim to rely on, says the bill will add billions in new debt. And the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) projects the actual cost of the bill is closer to $5 trillion.

    Let's not forget the "fair share" lie: The decrease of the state and local taxes (SALT) cap benefits (mostly) the rich in (mostly) NY, CA, NJ, and IL.

  • And (going out on a limb here) so is Pun Salad. Jacob Sullum provides a First Amendment refresher course: The New York Times Is Protected by Freedom of the Press. So Is James O'Keefe. He explores the NYT's efforts to distinguish what it does from what O'Keefe's "Project Veritas" does.

    As UCLA law professor and First Amendment scholar Eugene Volokh has shown, the idea that freedom of the press is a privilege enjoyed only by bona fide journalists, however that category is defined, is ahistorical and fundamentally mistaken. It is clear from the historical record that "freedom of the press" refers to a technology of mass communication, not to a particular profession.

    In a 2012 University of Pennsylvania Law Review article, Volokh carefully considered how freedom of the press was understood when the Constitution was written, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when the 14th Amendment (which extended First Amendment limits to the states) was ratified, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and in Supreme Court decisions since the 1930s. The evidence clearly shows that the provision protects anyone who uses the printed word—and, by extension, media such as TV, radio, and the internet—to communicate with the public.

    The Times is nevertheless obsessed with policing the line between real journalism (what it does) and fake journalism (what Project Veritas does). "Project Veritas has long occupied a gray area between investigative journalism and political spying," Times reporters Adam Goldman and  say in the story that prompted Wood's order. The organization's "sting operations," they explain, "typically diverge from standard journalistic practice by employing people who mask their real identities or create fake ones to infiltrate target organizations."

    I hope we don't have to add another couplet to that Martin Niemöller poem:

    Then they came for Project Veritas and James O'Keefe, and I did not speak out—
    Because screw those guys.

  • In the same vein… Charles Glasser writes a long article (surprisingly long for Instapundit). As the Blogfather saith: read the whole thing. But here's the bottom line:

    If corporate media wants to survive into the next administration — and the ones after that — they will have to step up to the plate and pressure the Biden Administration to rethink this new effort at “disqualifying” outlets because of either their views, or their investigative techniques when properly executed. American government simply does not have the right to “license” or “define” journalism. In Turkey, CNN famously avoided broadcasting images of ongoing anti-Erdogan demonstrations and instead broadcast a documentary about penguins. Penguins.

    Perhaps major media, who have already cut their investigative reporting to the bone, are planning as we speak on making exclusive deals with the San Diego Zoo. Because footage of penguins may be all that news outlets are allowed to publish.


  • Attempts to rewrite history fail… thanks to David Harsanyi: Al Gore Wasn't 'A Man' about Losing

    Federal senior district judge Reggie Walton contends that Al Gore, unlike Donald Trump, was “a man” and “walked away” from the 2000 presidential election after losing. That’s not how I remember it. I remember Gore setting a destructive precedent, attacking the integrity of the system and then dragging the country through an unnecessarily divisive legal battle. Gore “walked away” only after the Supreme Court deprived him of any other legal path to try to claim Florida.

    Like Trump and Hillary Clinton, Gore has never, as far as I can tell, definitively accepted his loss. The well-worn myth that the 2000 election was “stolen” from Gore is, in fact, still quite popular among conspiracy theorists on the left. When confronted with his past comments on the topic, Terry McAuliffe (who thought the 2004 election also was stolen) says that he wished “the United States Supreme Court had let them finish counting the votes” in 2000.

    “They” did finish counting the votes. Bush won, and then Gore demanded selective recounts in the most heavily Democratic counties — without offering any genuine cause for the recount other than its being close. Democrats soon settled on the “hanging or dimpled chad” hysteria, and the media went about uncovering confused voters who made contentions that could never be verified. Gore’s lawyer Mark Herron also instructed Democratic recount observers to challenge Republican-heavy military overseas absentee ballots. (Democrats would later pretend this memo was overblown. But Ron Klain, the Gore campaign’s general counsel, led the charge in trying to exclude military votes. “The idea that people were going to vote after the election and have those votes count,” he said, “that’s a pretty irregular idea.”)

    Ah, yes, I remember it well. Dubya wasn't the greatest president, but he was significantly better than Gore would have been.

  • Also laughter. Kyle Smith writes wisely at the NYPost: Thanksgiving is a holiday dedicated to gratitude and tolerance — so the woke have their knives out for it,

    You there, fellow American! Were you under the impression that Thanksgiving is the uniquely American holiday that celebrates how English settlers and Native Americans peacefully crossed linguistic, cultural and racial barriers to share a meal together and create a model for gratitude and tolerance that would be the envy of the world?

    Wrong! says Woke America. Thanksgiving is about murder, plunder and hate. Invite your relatives over to spread love and gravy? No, if you really want to honor the spirit of Thanksgiving, you should whip yourself with barbed wire all day.

    In a Nov. 20 MSNBC segment, “The Thanksgiving history you’ve never heard,” Gyasi Ross screams at his audience in a tone of voice suggesting an Oberlin sophomore from the Militant Vegans’ Brigade: “The truth is that pilgrims did not bring turkey, sweet potato pie or cranberries to Thanksgiving. They could not. They were broke! They were broken! Their hands were out! They were begging! They brought nothing of value. But they got fed! They got schooled!

    “Instead of bringing stuffing and biscuits, those settlers brought genocide and violence. That genocide and violence is still on the menu! And state sponsored violence against Native and black Americans is commonplace!”

    One of the things I'm thankful for: Kyle Smith watching MSNBC so I don't have to. I'm pretty sure I'd have an aneurysm.

URLs du Jour


  • We seee you, Maggie. Our state's junior Senator features prominently in this recent column by Kimberly Strassel in the WSJ: On Reconciliation Bill, Senate Moderates Hide Behind Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Let's see:

    The Beltway press corps continues to hound Sen. Joe Manchin for every-other-minute updates on his thinking about the Democrats’ proposed $1.75 trillion spending bill. Sen. Maggie Hassan has never had it so lucky.

    Ms. Hassan, believe it or not, has far more riding on the outcome of this reconciliation bill than the senator from West Virginia. She’s the one up for re-election next year, and her New Hampshire seat will be one of the toughest for Democrats to hold. Yet good luck finding evidence Ms. Hassan has made any real demands about the contours of the legislation. Good luck finding Ms. Hassan speaking much about the partisan bill at all.

    It’s not as if she can’t drive a bargain—or is shy about taking credit. She was among the core negotiators of the recently signed infrastructure bill, and this week she proudly accompanied President Biden to his first event touting that legislation, on a bridge in Woodstock, N.H. The president gave her the first shout-out of his speech, praising her for corralling “bipartisan support” for the bill. His talk was notably light on references to his bigger budget blowout. No doubt Ms. Hassan preferred it that way. (Ms. Hassan’s office didn’t reply to an email asking how she views the bill’s effect on inflation or its partisan nature.)

    On our local TV news, Maggie's been running re-election ads praising her own "bipartisanship". Fine, but the "independent" League of Conservation Voters has been praising her not-yet-cast vote for "Build Back Better".

    [Both NH CongressCritters, Pappas and Kuster, voted for BBB. Only one Democrat voted against, Jared Golden of Maine.]

  • Looking forward to freezing in the dark this winter… Eric Boehm notes one part of the lie that BBB is "paid for" by getting the fat cats to pay their "fair share": House-Passed 'Build Back Better' Plan Aims To Curb Methane Emissions by Hiking Heating Prices

    Buried inside the "Build Back Better" plan that cleared the House of Representatives on Friday morning is a new tax on natural gas production that will likely translate into higher heating bills for American households.

    The new tax is aimed at curbing methane emissions and will apply fees to companies that produce, process, transmit or store oil and natural gas starting in 2023. The specific fees will depend on where the natural gas is produced and will vary depending on how much methane is released into the atmosphere during the process. Overall, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the new "methane fee" will generate about $8 billion over the next 10 years.

    Note: that's just one itty-bitty lie. More to come.

  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

    Jonah's headline speaks the truth. And I will unexpurgate it: The Road to Serfdom is Paved with Bullshit.

    [Ever since I read Harry Frankfurt's On Bullshit back in 2005, I've thought that the word was way too useful to be obfuscated. It describes something real, and there's no good substitute.]

    Anyway, Jonah:

    A few weeks ago, I saw a rave review in the American Conservative of a new book, The Reactionary Mind: Why “Conservative” Isn't Enough. Judging by the review and what I know of the reviewer, I fully expected to hate it.

    I got the book, picked it up, and … I loved it. It’s written in brisk, inviting, oddly unpretentious prose. The author, Michael Warren Davis, is a knowledgeable, confident writer, who writes of cobwebby things with remarkable clarity and verve. It’s fun, informative, thoroughly quirky in a good way, and full of things—mostly of secondary or tangential relevance to his thesis—that I agree with to one extent or another.

    And now that I’ve gotten the sure-to-be-unexpected, blurbable praise out of the way, I should get to my primary criticism: It’s [bullshit].

    The review is non-paywalled, and recommended. Davis romanticizes—really!—the good old days of feudalism. Jonah does a useful reality check on that.

  • "Save us from seeing weapons, Democrats!" … said, I'm pretty sure, nobody. And yet, as Liberty Block reports: Democrat Bill Would Ban Open Carry In New Hampshire

    Legislation introduced by eight Democrats in the New Hampshire House seems at first glance to be a reasonable solution to a particular form of tragedy. Last year, Kyle Rittenhouse shot three attackers in self-defense with his AR-15 at a BLM riot in Kenosha, Wisconsin, killing two of the attackers and wounding the third. Since the polarizing incident, some concerned citizens have begun to wonder why a person was allowed to carry a firearm at a protest in the first place. Some have even gone so far as claiming that he ‘was asking for it’, and violence came his way as a result of his own actions. This legislation will surely be justified by its sponsors as a solution to this issue. It’s simple; prohibit citizens from openly carrying deadly weapons at high-intensity protests. 

    One of the local sponsors is Durham's own Timothy Horrigan. You can click through to see the others.

    Fun fact: According to this 2013 Commie Radio NHPR story:

    People have been free to carry a loaded gun openly in NH since statehood. That is to say, there’s never been a law that prohibits or regulates it.

    The article notes exceptions: courthouses, schools. But the proposed legislation would be overbroad and unnecessary.

  • Oh good. WIRED is totally serious about their headline: The Future of Digital Assistants Is Queer

    This November, the Smithsonian’s FUTURES festival, featuring innovations that are set to change the world, will include a familiar face. Or, rather, voice: Q, introduced in 2019 as the first “genderless AI voice,” is a human voice for use in digital assistants specifically created to be gender-ambiguous.

    “Q was designed to start a conversation around why we gender technology when technology has no gender to begin with,” says Ryan Sherman, one of Q’s co-creators. To design the voice, a team of linguists, sound engineers, and creatives collaborated with nonbinary individuals and sampled different voices to land on a sound range they felt had the potential to disrupt the status quo and represent nonbinary people in the world of AI.

    Our Silicon Valley betters are here to make sure we don't assume our bots' genders. I'm going to the living room to discuss this with Alexa right now.

URLs du Jour


  • It's a tough competition for Worst Republican Senator. But George F. Will makes a strong case for one here: Progressives have a Republican soulmate in the Senate. His name is Josh Hawley.

    Never have so many in Washington been so eager to expand government’s responsibilities in so many ways. No federal official, however, has an agenda of government enlargement as ambitious and comprehensive as that of Missouri’s freshman Republican senator. Josh Hawley’s bipartisanship invites progressives to share the fun of making government greater than ever.

    Regarding current supply chain difficulties, Hawley says (as former presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren was wont to say) that he has a plan for that. Writing last month in the New York Times, which finds such thinking congenial, Hawley said the federal government should permanently micromanage U.S. trade. Mimicking progressives, who advocate “transformative” policies for this and that, Hawley wants Washington to “fundamentally restructure” trade policy, which he apparently considers dangerously friendly to freedom.

    Have I mentioned how to evade the some paywalls, for example the WaPo's? Just go to the article, and if the site starts getting stuffy about you not paying them, hit control-S to save the page; then click on the downloaded document.

  • Enes Kanter for President. He's too brave for the NBA. Here's his latest, from the WSJ: Move the Olympics for Peng Shuai’s Sake

    Tennis champion Peng Shuai took to social media earlier this month to accuse a former top-ranking official in the Chinese Communist Party of sexually assaulting her. Within 30 minutes the post was scrubbed from the internet in China. She disappeared and no one has heard directly from her since.

    For decades, Western athletes, celebrities and corporations have diligently kept silent in the face of Chinese human-rights violations. International hotel chains, airlines, apparel brands, sports leagues and Hollywood studios have steered away from “sensitive topics” such as Tibet’s independence, the Uyghur genocide, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement and Taiwan’s sovereignty.

    The sports community must wake up—and speak up. We need to realize that the authoritarian Chinese government isn’t our friend. The Communist Party is a brutal dictatorship that has weaponized economic power to achieve ideological and political compliance.

    We've seen way too much craven capitulation to China from professional sports, both individuals and organizations.

  • Give me that new-time religion. Michael Shermer used to write a column for Scientific American. He was "given [his] walking papers" after his editor demanded a major rewrite of his November 2018 column, and outright rejected his December 2018 column on ideological grounds. You can read the irritating story at his substack: Scientific American Goes Woke.

    It also contains examples of Scientific American's current output. Here's one:

    The most bizarre example of Scientific American’s woke turn toward social justice is an article published September 23, 2021 titled “Why the Term ‘JEDI’ is Problematic for Describing Programs that Promote Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.” Apparently, some social justice activists have embraced the Star Wars-themed acronym JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) as a martial reference to their commitment, and is now employed by some prominent institutions and organizations such as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The JEDI acronym is clearly meant to be uplifting and positive. It isn’t, opine the authors of this piece that is clearly not in the satirical spirit of The Onion or Babylon Bee. Make of this what you will:

    Although they’re ostensibly heroes within the Star Wars universe, the Jedi are inappropriate symbols for justice work. They are a religious order of intergalactic police-monks, prone to (white) saviorism and toxically masculine approaches to conflict resolution (violent duels with phallic lightsabers, gaslighting by means of “Jedi mind tricks,” etc.). The Jedi are also an exclusionary cult, membership to which is partly predicated on the possession of heightened psychic and physical abilities (or “Force-sensitivity”). Strikingly, Force-wielding talents are narratively explained in Star Wars not merely in spiritual terms but also in ableist and eugenic ones: These supernatural powers are naturalized as biological, hereditary attributes.

    One may be forgiven for thinking that anyone who sees in a lightsaber duel clashing penises has perhaps been reading too much Freud…or watching too much three-way porn. Nevertheless, the authors grouse about “Slave Leia’s costume”, Darth Vader’s “ableist trope”, alien “racist stereotypes when depicting nonhuman species,” and too many white men in the galaxy, no matter how far away or long ago they are. Worst of all, the authors propose, is that the Star Wars franchise is owned by a for-profit company. “How ready are we to prioritize the cultural dreamscape of the Jedi over the real-world project of social justice? Investing in the term JEDI positions us to apologize for, or explain away, the stereotypes and politics associated with Star Wars and Disney.”

    To quote one Jar Jar Binks: "Well, dat smells stinkowiff."

  • It's not even close to time for our famous "Phony Campaign" series. But there's plenty of phony fodder out there. For example, according to Kevin D. Williamson, there's President Wheezy's Phony Investigation into gasoline prices.

    Joe Biden claims that gasoline producers are illegally colluding to rip off Americans, that there is “mounting evidence of anti-consumer behavior by oil-and-gas companies.”

    There isn’t any such evidence, of course. That doesn’t matter. As an oil executive once told me in a different context: “We’re an oil company. You can say anything you want about us.”

    That’s true.

    More to the point, Joe Biden isn’t Donald Trump.

    If you go back through the news clippings of the Trump years, you’ll find about 453,681 examples of sentences such as “President Trump today asserted without evidence,” or “Trump claims, contrary to the evidence,” that sort of thing. Some of these were tendentious, but often they were true. “Donald Trump claimed without evidence” is almost a redundancy. Trump didn’t care about evidence even on those rare occasions when the evidence was on his side.

    Biden, who resembles Trump much more closely than partisans on either side are ready to admit, is big on making assertions that are contrary to the evidence, too, e.g., his longstanding false claim that his wife and daughter were killed by a drunk driver. Biden peddles outrageous lies for political purposes and has for the whole of his very long career. Remember his claim that Mitt Romney intended to put African Americans “back in chains”? That’s typical Joe Biden poison.

    [It's NRPlus. You should subscribe.]

  • More unhappy belated birthday wishes. The Reason folks are piling on a helpless government agency. (I assume the entire staff is on the "strip search on sight" list.) Anyway, as J.D. Tuccille says, After 20 Years of Failure, Kill the TSA

    The TSA launched with the passage of the Aviation and Transportation and Security Act on November 19, 2001. The new law nationalized passenger screening, which previously had been the responsibility of airlines. It's not clear why anybody saw a need for the TSA, since it's unlikely that a federal agency would have been any more successful than private contractors at predicting terrorists' unprecedented use of aircraft as kamikaze weapons. It's especially unlikely that the federal agency we actually got would have successfully diverted itself from confiscating play-doh to thwarting homicidal fanatics.

    Click through for outrage. I'm trying to avoid outrage myself, but if your doctor says it's OK, go for it.

URLs du Jour


  • Tom Nichols is a guy I follow on Twitter. I mostly liked his book on expertise. He was on Jeopardy! But his retweet-with-comment, erm:

    I cant help but wonder about further details of the counterfactual universe generated inside the heads of Nichols and O'Brien. OK, say the shooter is a black guy. I want to ask:

    Do you also change the races of the three shooting victims from white to black?

    Is this in the midst of a riot by mostly white guys?

    Is the riot generated by the shooting of a white guy by a black cop?

    And here's the thing about your answers: I don't care what your answers are.

    Because your counterfactual universe is (once again) inside your own head. No doubt it's a place where your fantasies and fears play out according to your priors. But it is evidence-free, and it has nothing to with reality or the law.

    And … bing! … make that "Tom Nichols is a guy I used to follow on Twitter."

  • A belated unhappy birthday to… Robby Soave tells us why The TSA's 20th Birthday Should Be Its Last.

    Exactly 20 years ago today, President George W. Bush signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act into law and created the Transportation Security Administration, better known as the TSA. A response to the 9/11 attacks, the TSA was thought to be a necessary tool for confronting the new reality of terror in the skies.

    Two decades later, the TSA has more than 54,000 employees, a budget of $8 billion dollars, and a long track record of harassing passengers for no good reason. Far from contributing to actual safety, the TSA is a stunning example of government failure: Its absurd travel restrictions make air travel no safer, deprive passengers of their civil liberties, and make the process of flying much more costly, time-consuming, inconvenient, and unenjoyable. The agency should never have been created, and its 20th birthday is as good a time as any to abolish it.

    While you're at it, Uncle Stupid, repeal the RealID requirement. The long delay proves it isn't necessary for security.

  • More on Christopher DeMuth's "National Conservatism" WSJ piece. A no vote from Jonah Goldberg: Mugged by Fallacy. (Which is a reference to Christoper DeMuth's notion that national conservatives are conservatives who have been "mugged by reality".

    When Irving Kristol said neoconservatives were liberals mugged by reality, he had in mind the realization that the unconstrained vision of progressivism led to folly. The laws of unintended consequences, the limits of reform, and what Friedrich Hayek called “the knowledge problem” were too powerful to overcome (at least predictably and reliably) with even the most well-intentioned planning from above. This is why he considered the American Revolution a “successful revolution”—because it took human nature into account.  

    DeMuth makes it sound like conservatives embraced market-based policies only because the left wasn’t all that bad. But that’s not how it worked. They embraced market-based policies partly out of principled conviction, but also because they thought the left’s approach, based in technocratic arrogance and the blunt use of political force, was both wrong and dangerous (particularly in the context of the Cold War). In short, they were realists. DeMuth’s “mugging” inverts Kristol’s. The “NatCon” realists are now mugged by nationalism, and fantasies of total and permanent victories for the “highest good” defined entirely on their terms. They forget that Hayek’s warnings against planning were universal in application. Conservative planners don’t skirt the knowledge problem because their intentions are “better.”

    It's at the Dispatch, it's not paywalled as near as I can tell, so check it out.

  • I wonder about this too. Paul Mirengoff writes a Betteridge's Law-confirming headline: Will the Times and the Post Return Their 2018 Pulitzers?

    The Washington Post is doing a little house cleaning in the form of correcting two stories, one from 2017 and the other from 2019, that peddled false allegations against then-President Trump regarding the fabricated Steele dossier. The New York Times may follow suit.

    But Roger Simon poses this excellent question: When will the Post and the Times return their 2018 Pulitzer prizes for their reporting of the false Russia collusion story?

    Roger now works at the Epoch Times, and that's where that last link goes. He's a wonderful guy, but that site is pretty intrusive about demanding information from visitors before they let you read anything. But Mirengoff's excerpts are pretty inclusive.

  • Good advice for FBI idolaters. Scott Shackford suggests: Don't Worship an FBI That Took the Steele Dossier Seriously

    New York Times columnist Bret Stephens now says he was wrong to defend James Comey when then-President Donald Trump fired Comey as director of the FBI amid the federal investigation into alleged Russian influence on Trump's 2020 presidential campaign.

    In 2017, when Trump fired Comey, Stephens saw it as proof that the president was trying to obstruct the investigation against him. "When the president calls news 'fake' or a story 'phony,'" Stephen wrote, "you know the truth quotient is likely to be high. And, again, you know he knows you know it."

    But revelations about the FBI's poor handling of the investigation, as well as a new federal arrest related to the sourcing of the unsubstantiated Steele Dossier, have Stephens rethinking what he thought he knew.

    It used to be that J. Edgar Hoover's FBI was seen by lefties as the Gestapo, while we righties thought every agent was Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. Shoes have switched feet since.

  • And fuel is way to expensive to waste on that. Veronique de Rugy notes that we're Pouring Fuel on the Spending Fire.

    President Joe Biden has united the American people — in disapproving of his performance, with 70% of Americans disliking the direction the economy is going and over 6 in 10 blaming him for it. The impact of inflation on people's pocketbooks and concerns over the expanding role of government are important in explaining those low approval numbers. A good time to change course is now.

    A recent Washington Post-ABC poll asked, "How concerned are you, if at all, that Biden will do too much to increase the size and role of government in U.S. society?" Some 59% said they were "very" or "somewhat" concerned, while 38% said they were "not so" or "not at all" concerned. I, for one, am glad Americans are noticing the Democrats' power grab.

    Government's expansion didn't start with this administration, of course. Both parties are responsible for the continued growth of the size and scope of the federal government that began long before 2020. These parties also joined forces to spend as much as they could on everything related (or not related) to COVID-19 throughout the last year. But today's Democrats are ambitiously pushing the envelope by further enabling the federal takeover of child care, paid leave, energy and more.

    I note my "moderate" CongressCritter, Chris Pappas, voted for the monstrous "Build Back Better" bill yesterday. I guess he's pretty much resigned to losing next year.

  • What are humanity's long-term chances? When it comes to Controlling Super-Intelligent AIs it seems (according to an article cited by GeekPress), the answer is "poor".

    The idea of artificial intelligence overthrowing humankind has been talked about for many decades, and in January 2021, scientists delivered their verdict on whether we'd be able to control a high-level computer super-intelligence. The answer? Almost definitely not.

    The catch is that controlling a super-intelligence far beyond human comprehension would require a simulation of that super-intelligence which we can analyze. But if we're unable to comprehend it, it's impossible to create such a simulation.

    Rules such as 'cause no harm to humans' can't be set if we don't understand the kind of scenarios that an AI is going to come up with, suggest the authors of the 2021 paper. Once a computer system is working on a level above the scope of our programmers, we can no longer set limits.

    I'd suggest getting Captain James T. Kirk to weigh in on this. I seem to recall he was very good at getting AIs to tie themselves in self-contradicting knots.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • I am not a Steve Bannon fanboy. Just the opposite, in fact. I used to read Breitbart all the time, but he turned it into a Trump-worshipping rag.

    It's safe to say that National Review doesn't have a lot of love for Bannon either. But Andy McCarthy knows what the DOJ's indictment of Bannon is: Politicized Prosecution.

    Attorney General Merrick Garland waxed self-reverential after indicting Trump confidant Steve Bannon last week. “Since my first day in office,” he droned, “I have promised Justice Department employees that together we would show the American people, by word and deed, that the Department adheres to the rule of law, follows the facts and the law, and pursues equal justice under the law. Today’s charges reflect the Department’s steadfast commitment to these principles.”

    No, they don’t. Last Friday’s indictment of Bannon for refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena is a sop to the Democrats’ Trump-deranged base.

    The criminal-contempt charges, on which Bannon surrendered on Monday, stem from a House January 6 Committee subpoena directing him to testify and produce documents. The Justice Department has rarely brought such an indictment in American history and hasn’t tried to do so in nearly 40 years. Nor has it escaped notice that DOJ has shown no interest in prosecuting government officials who, for example, misled the FISA Court on Russiagate or refused to cooperate in Congress’s probe of such Obama-era scandals as the IRS’s harassment of conservative groups and the ATF’s “gun-walking” debacle.

    It's an NRPlus article, sorry. But it's a long and interesting discussion of the legal issues swirling around the toilet bowl of the January 6 Committee's investigation media circus/show trial.

  • Consider my shit flipped. Liz Wolfe analyzes the claim by a media star: New York Times Writer Sarah Jeong Says Inflation in the News Is Just 'Rich People Flipping Their Shit'. In a tweet:

    I had to look it up, so you don't have to: "jmt" stands for "just my thoughts". Not, as I first suspected, "jejune mediocre tweet". But let's hear Liz's take:

    This is patently false for a few notable reasons: Inflation is most definitely not a manufactured media narrative, but rather a real, agreed-upon thing that is happening (though the Biden administration irresponsibly insists it's transitory). The consumer price index indicates that, from last September to this September, Americans have seen beef prices rise by 18 percent; gas prices by 42 percent; furniture prices by 11 percent; electricity prices by 5 percent; and used car prices by 24 percent. Consumer prices for October, the most recent month for which is there is data, jumped by 6.2 percent compared to what they were a year prior—the highest year-over-year jump we've seen in three decades!

    It is not ginned-up outrage spurred along by rich people either. In fact, wealthy people who have invested heavily in the stock market are, by and large, doing quite well right now, contra Jeong's claim. (Bitcoin, too, has seen extraordinary growth over the last year, but is down this week.) Homeowners, rich and less rich alike, might even stand to benefit from inflation; those who have secured low-interest fixed-rate loans from the bank are the real potential winners, given that they're insulated from landlords raising rents on them while being locked into the amount they have to pay back to the bank. Though their asset keeps rising in value, their monthly payments stay the same over time.

    Jeong's "parasitic" crack has a long and nasty (but "bipartisan") history.

  • What they don't think you should see. Slashdot features a Reuters story with alarming news: During COP26, Facebook Served Ads With Climate Falsehoods, Skepticism. Oh no!

    Facebook advertisers promoted false and misleading claims about climate change on the platform in recent weeks, just as the COP26 conference was getting under way.

    Days after Facebook's vice president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, touted the company's efforts to combat climate misinformation in a blog as the Glasgow summit began, conservative media network Newsmax ran an ad on Facebook (FB.O) that called man-made global warming a "hoax."

    The ad, which had multiple versions, garnered more than 200,000 views. In another, conservative commentator Candace Owens said, "apparently we're just supposed to trust our new authoritarian government" on climate science, while a U.S. libertarian think-tank ran an ad on how "modern doomsayers" had been wrongly predicting climate crises for decades.

    Sigh. I can't find anything at the Newsmax site that claims man-made global warming is a hoax, but here is a poll asking whether it is. (With perhaps a significant push toward "yes".) Fair enough. But, Reuters, could we see the problematic ad so we can judge for ourselves?

    And I can't find the original Candace Owens quote anywhere. I'd like to see it in context. I can find plenty of articles echoing the Reuters claim. Maybe you'll have better luck than I.

    But I have no problem whatsoever with a general skepticism about allegedly-authoritative pronouncements from Uncle Stupid.

    A likely candidate for the "libertarian think-tank" Reuters mentions isn't hard to find, though. I'm presuming it's the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which could be pointing to this 2019 article: Wrong Again: 50 Years of Failed Eco-pocalyptic Predictions. Their summary:

    Modern doomsayers have been predicting climate and environmental disaster since the 1960s. They continue to do so today.

    None of the apocalyptic predictions with due dates as of today have come true.

    What follows is a collection of notably wild predictions from notable people in government and science.

    More than merely spotlighting the failed predictions, this collection shows that the makers of failed apocalyptic predictions often are individuals holding respected positions in government and science.

    While such predictions have been and continue to be enthusiastically reported by a media eager for sensational headlines, the failures are typically not revisited.

    I can't find anything wrong with this factual article. "Modern doomsayers" have been wrongly predicting climate crises for decades.

    What Reuters is doing is firing yet another salvo in the effort to get Facebook to (further) censor conservative/libertarian voices. And Slashdot is adding its clout to the war.

  • My answer to the headline question is "yes". At Hot Air, Easy Ed Morrissey notes the Washington Post's analysis of the "Build Back Better" legislation, and asks: You know who scores the most from the House's BBB bill, right?

    The drift of the Democratic Party from working-class heros to elite Neros has gotten so obvious that even the Washington Post can’t help but notice. We already know who scores the benefit of Joe Biden’s proposal to lift the cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions; 80% of those benefits accrue to the already wealthy. The Post walked its readers back through that calculation again yesterday:

    It’s the second-most expensive item in the legislation over the next five years, more costly than establishing a paid family and medical leave program, and nearly twice as expensive as funding home-medical services for the elderly and disabled, according to an analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. …

    Over the next five years, raising the SALT cap would provide a tax cut only to those who itemize their taxes and pay more than $10,000 in state and local taxes — a group overwhelmingly made up of the wealthy. A recent analysis from the Tax Policy Center says the tax cut will benefit primarily the top 10 percent of income earners, with almost nothing flowing to middle- and lower-income families.

    New Hampshire has (I'm told) insane reliance on property taxes for funding state and local government. So you'd think at least some of our citizenry would make out… Nope, according the the American Enterprise Institute's analysis: "Over 50 percent of this reduction would accrue to taxpayers in just four states: California (25.1 percent), New York (16.8 percent), New Jersey (6.4 percent), and Illinois (4.2 percent)." New Hampshire's taxpayers are down in the noise.

  • Wokeism is bad, but even for one adherent, there are limits. Jerry Coyne has a lot of excerpts from a Regina Reni article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, headlined "Why I’m Tired of Hearing About ‘Wokeism’".

    That article is paywalled, but Jerry notes Reni is A woke person opposed to diversity statements.

    Perhaps the worst effect of the anti-Wokeist rhetoric invading academe is that it drowns out more careful critiques of so-called “Woke” policies. Take, for example, the diversity statements that some colleges and universities now require from faculty job candidates. I think these are a bad idea for at least two reasons having nothing to do with scary stories about Wokeism.

    First, requiring diversity statements in job materials places responsibility for correcting entrenched historical injustice in exactly the wrong place: on disempowered applicants (often themselves members of marginalized groups), rather than on the top-of-the-hierarchy administrators who can actually make systemic change. Second, requiring these statements as part of the hiring process encourages candidates to think about diversity as just another marketable skill, something to puff up and cynically stage like everything else in one’s portfolio.

    The University Near Here (of course) requires a diversity statement from applicants for faculty positions. Particularly amusing (I hope you're amused, anyway) is their Official Guidance for underlings writing a "position announcement". One of the wording suggestions: demand your applicant have a

    Demonstrated commitment to diversity and social justice

    Anyone who cannot pass this ideological litmus test (or at least lie convincingly about it) need not apply.

  • Where do I line up? GeekPress has an Alzheimer's Vaccine Update, linking to a Boston TV news story.

    Brigham and Women’s Hospital is going to test a nasal vaccine for Alzheimer’s Disease.

    The hospital announced the launch of a clinical trial Tuesday to test the safety and efficacy of the medicine, which has been researched for nearly 20 years.

    According to the Brigham, the nasal vaccine is “intended to prevent and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.”

    I guess I'm glad I don't qualify for the study. You need to have "early, symptomatic Alzheimer’s". Which, as far as I can tell, I don't.

    (But if it's a vaccine, shouldn't they be testing it on people who don't have Alzheimer's yet?)

Last Modified 2021-11-20 6:38 AM EST

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

[4.0 stars] [IMDB Link] [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

This movie dropped into free-to-me territory on Disney+, Mrs. Salad and I spent an enjoyable evening with it. She usually doesn't like superhero movies. "Too much fighting." But she liked this one more than average.

I love superhero movies. And I loved it more than average.

In the prologue, we're told of how Shang-Chi's mom and dad met: Dad having acquired the titular Ten Rings, has used their power to ruthlessly conquer some large area of … China, I guess. But a village out in the boondocks has resisted his forces. When Dad comes to see the problem first hand, he's confronted by Mom, they fight to (more or less) a draw, and fall in love. Awww! Just like in real life.

Years later, Mom's dead, Dad returns to his arrogant and murderous ways, and the kids (Shang-Chi and Sister) are estranged. But they keep the mysterious green pendants Mom has given them.

And years after that, Shang-Chi has changed his name to "Shaun", moved to San Francisco, and nabbed a sweet job as a valet parking cars at a posh hotel. He's acquired a best friend, Katy, played by the always-wonderful Awkwafina. Unfortunately, but also predictably, trouble arises when a gang of kung-fu thieves attempt to steal the aforementioned pendant from Shawn's neck, not caring overmuch if they have to remove his head to get it. To Katy's amazement, an epic battle follows, mostly on an articulated city bus. Shaun and Katy survive, but the pendant gets swiped. And Shaun decides to travel to Macau, where his sister is, to inform her she's probably in danger too. Katy tags along.

Well, that's enough plot. It's a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, and there are plenty of cameos from previous entries. (And since I avoided reading spoilers, I squealed with delight at one from Iron Man 3.)

And the ageless, luminous, Michelle Yeoh eventually appears. Worth the price of admission right there.

URLs du Jour


  • In Maggie's dictionary "safety" comes after "selfie". Via the Washington Free Beacon:

    Yes, that's our state's junior Senator at the lower left. The article notes DC's rule requiring masking on "public transport." The WFB writer comments:

    [Minnesota Senator Tina] Smith's selfie clearly shows Sens. Maggie Hassan (D., N.H.), Angus King (I., Maine), John Hickenlooper (D., Colo.), Jacky Rosen (D., Nev.), and Mark Kelly (D., Ariz.) refusing to abide by the rules. Perhaps they assumed that because they are white and powerful, they shouldn't have to follow the same rules that govern the lives of hardworking Americans, including the millions who rely on public transit for their livelihoods.

    It would make a good visual aid for a 2022 debate between Hassan and her opponent. "Senator, did you think masking rules were just for the peasants? Did you think there was a 'taking my picture' exception to the rules?"

  • Mister, we could use a man like Milton Friedman again. The other day, I noticed William McGurn resurrecting an April 2020 quote from a Joe Biden interview in Politico headlined (I am not making this up): Biden wants a new stimulus 'a hell of a lot bigger' than $2 trillion.

    “I think there’s going to be a willingness to fix some of the institutional inequities that have existed for a long time,” Biden said. “Milton Friedman isn’t running the show anymore.”

    Well, you can't say he didn't warn us. Milton Friedman died in 2006, but he apparently still haunts Biden's dreams.

    Basically nobody who thought inflation just might be a problem is running the show anymore. But, as Jeff Jacoby tells us: The inflation hawks have been right all along,

    FOR THE better part of a year, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers has been warning that pumping trillions of dollars into the economy in the name of pandemic relief and economic stimulus was likely to have a dangerous side effect: reawakening the sleeping dragon of inflation.

    In a February column for The Washington Post, for example, Summers expressed concern about the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which was then making its way through Congress and would soon be signed into law by President Biden. The measure authorized hundreds of billions of dollars in aid to state and local governments and provided 85 percent of American households with direct payments of $1,400 per person. That much stimulus, wrote Summers, was apt to "set off inflationary pressures of a kind we have not seen in a generation."

    A month later, Summers warned again that Democrats were "taking substantial risks" by injecting such massive amounts of money into the economy.

    "I know the bathtub has been too empty," he said, "but ... think about what the capacity of the bathtub is and how much water we're trying to flow into it."

    Jeff goes on to describe how Biden's economic advisor, Jared Bernstein, and hack Paul Krugman pooh-poohed Summers' warning.

    And so here we are. Having fun yet?

  • And just a few decades later than Orwell predicted. Gerard Baker notes the nascent Ministry of Truth: Left-Leaning Media Seek a Misinformation Monopoly

    Kyle Rittenhouse is a domestic terrorist. Brett Kavanaugh is a rapist. Donald Trump won in 2016 only because he colluded with the Kremlin. Nick Sandmann, the boy from Covington Catholic High School on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, was an entitled white bigot. Mr. Trump said the neo-Nazis at Charlottesville were “good people.” Last year’s riots were mostly peaceful. Unarmed black men are routinely shot in huge numbers by police officers. The discovery of Hunter Biden’s laptop was a Russian plot.

    Which of these have you heard in the last five years? I doubt there’s an American with even the faintest interest in public events who wasn’t made aware of every one of these stories, didn’t have them repeatedly drummed into his head in the amplifying loop that connects agenda-driving traditional news organizations, culture-shaping digital sites, knowledge-delimiting search engines, and information-controlling social media platforms.

    It's only a short step to…

  • Princlples? We don't need no stinking principles! Glenn Greenwald, usually on the other side of the spectrum from the WSJ is similarly put out: Kyle Rittenhouse, Project Veritas, and the Inability to Think in Terms of Principles

    The FBI has executed a string of search warrants targeting the homes and cell phones of Project Veritas founder James O'Keefe and several others associated with that organization. It should require no effort to understand why it is a cause for concern that a Democratic administration is using the FBI to aggressively target an organization devoted to obtaining and reporting incriminating information about Democratic Party leaders and their liberal allies.

    That does not mean the FBI investigation is inherently improper. Journalists are no more entitled than any other citizen to commit crimes. If there is reasonable cause to believe O'Keefe and his associates committed federal crimes, then an FBI investigation is warranted as it is for any other case. But there has been no evidence presented that O'Keefe or Project Veritas employees have done anything of the sort, nor any explanation provided to justify these invasive searches. That we should want and need that is self-evident: if the Trump-era FBI had executed search warrants inside the newsrooms of The New York Times and NBC News, we would be demanding evidence to prove it was legally justified. Yet virtually nothing has been provided to justify the FBI's targeting of O'Keefe and his colleagues, and the little that has been disclosed by way of justifying this makes no sense.

    Greenwald makes an important point against those (like Dianne Feinstein) First Amendment press protections don't apply to people who "aren't real journalists". When any idiot can get their stories published where anyone in the Whole Wide World can see (and I'm living proof of that), the journalist/normal-person distinction is essentially defunct.

  • More on media malpractice… … from Bari Weiss, who dissects The Media's Verdict on Kyle Rittenhouse.

    Here is what I thought was true about Kyle Rittenhouse during the last days of August 2020 based on mainstream media accounts: The 17-year-old was a racist vigilante. I thought he drove across state lines, to Kenosha, Wisc., with an illegally acquired semi-automatic rifle to a town to which he had no connection. I thought he went there because he knew there were Black Lives Matter protests and he wanted to start a fight. And I thought that by the end of the evening of August 25, 2020, he had done just that, killing two peaceful protestors and injuring a third.

    It turns out that account was mostly wrong.

    Unless you’re a regular reader of independent reporting — Jacob Siegel of Tablet Magazine and Jesse Singal stand out for being ahead of the pack (and pilloried, like clockwork, for not going along with the herd) — you would have been served a pack of lies about what happened during those terrible days in Kenosha. And you would have been shocked over the past two weeks as the trial unfolded in Wisconsin as every core claim was undermined by the evidence of what actually happened that night.

    As I type, the Rittenhouse jury is out. I don't think he's a hero, I think he showed plenty of bad judgment, but illegal? I got reasonable doubt about that. But I didn't see what the jury saw.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • What would Bastiat say? He would know exactly what's going on here, as reported by the WSJ editorialists: Ganging Up on Moderna.

    Barack Obama captured the view of modern progressives with his famous line about successful businesses: “You didn’t build that.” Now Democrats are claiming that Moderna didn’t invent its enormously successful Covid vaccine—the National Institutes of Health (NIH) did.

    Several media outlets reported last week that Moderna is refusing to give NIH researchers credit for patents that were supposedly key to its Covid vaccine. The charge is that Moderna is profiting from government innovation. This misinformation is being used to promote the narrative that drug makers owe their success to the government.

    Click through (it is allegedly a free link) for the sad story.

    In related news: got my Moderna booster on Sunday. (I am solidly in the "65+" age group.) I wasn't worth 2¢ for most of Monday, due to "flu-like symptoms". But was OK again on Tuesday. Relax, libertarians, I'm pro-vaccine, but anti-mandate. And anti-government bullying of a company that has saved, is probably saving, and will save, millions of lives.

  • Climb off your partisan ledges. Kevin D. Williamson tells you the story, so you can knock off your whining: Gerrymandering Is Normal.

    When I was young and ignorant, I had the same dumb opinion about gerrymandering as almost everybody else does: I was shocked by it. The process was politicized, and I was scandalized. As a veteran state legislator in Texas explained it to me, redistricting isn’t politicized — it is political per se, “the most political thing a legislature does,” as he put it. It does not have to be politicized because it is political by nature, and to “depoliticize” it, as some self-serving Democrats and a few callow idealists suggest, would be to change its nature and its character. The Democrats who lecture us about the will of the people would, in this matter, deprive the people’s elected representatives of one of their natural powers.

    The gerrymander — like the filibuster, the earmark, the debt ceiling, and other procedural instruments of power — is something that people complain about only when it is being used against them. The Democrats were perfectly happy with gerrymandering for the better part of 200 years, understanding it to be an utterly normal part of the political process. They began to object to it when Republicans got good at it. And, in a refreshing bit of candor, their argument against partisan redistricting is that Republicans are too good at it.

    As previously noted, the GOP redistricting proposal in New Hampshire puts me in the state's Second Congressional District, and most say that would make it (more) safely Democratic. Which might cause a few more moans from me in the future.

  • What's wrong with Yale Law? First they try to bully a student into apologizing for wording a party invitation in a way some disliked. Now, as reported in the Yale Daily News: Two students sue Yale Law administrators for alleged retaliation in Amy Chua case.

    Two unnamed Yale Law School students filed a complaint Monday against three Law School administrators and the University for allegedly “blackball[ing]” them from job opportunities after they refused to endorse a statement in the ongoing investigation against law professor Amy Chua.

    The students, referred to as Jane and John Doe throughout the lawsuit, are suing the University and Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken, Law School Associate Dean Ellen Cosgrove and Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Yaseen Eldik on the grounds of breach of contract, intentional interference with prospective business relationships and defamation, among others. The complaint — a copy of which was obtained by the News — was filed in the United States District Court of Connecticut. The plaintiffs requested punitive damages of at least $75,000 and compensatory damages of at least $75,000, among other monetary rewards.

    “Two Yale Law School deans, along with Yale Law School’s Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, worked together in an attempt to blackball two students of color from job opportunities as retaliation for refusing to lie to support the University’s investigation into a professor of color,” the complaint reads.

    Amy Chua is the kinda famous "Tiger Mom" from a few years back. I wonder how much professional jealousy was involved in the "investigation" into her..

  • Gee, that's too bad. Eric Boehm reports at Reason: Kamala Harris Was Unpopular Before She Became Vice President. Nothing Seems To Have Changed. Some news outlets have reported animosity between Biden camps and Harris camps, with both sides leaking their grievances.

    The palace intrigue should hardly be surprising. Pretty much all presidents and vice presidents have rocky moments in their relationships. Given the results of this month's elections in Virginia and elsewhere, coupled with ongoing economic inflation and polls showing Republicans gaining a huge lead in the early phases of next year's midterms, Democrats' fuses are understandably growing short. Like a baseball team mired in a losing streak, the White House needs someone to blame for the recent run of misfortune and the finger-pointing in the clubhouse is now spilling into the media.

    Harris' biggest problem, however, isn't that some anonymous staffers in the White House are snarking about her to reporters. It's that polls show the vice president to be deeply unpopular with voters—even less popular than Biden, whose approval numbers have been underwater since August. A recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll found just 28 percent of voters approve of Harris. As Politico notes, even famously despised former Vice President Dick Cheney never saw his approval ratings tumble so low.

    But Eric only hints at…

  • Kamala's real problem, which is… Kyle Smith points out the obvious: Kamala Harris is a very weird person. OK, most politicians seem to be several sigma off the mean on some personality traits, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. But.

    When Kamala Harris considers movie titles that make people think of her, she probably goes straight to “Wonder Woman.” I have news for her: Every time she opens her mouth, people are wondering, “What Planet Are You From?”

    It’s pretty clear everyone in the White House hates her and is blame-leaking to every reporter around in hopes of emerging from this explosion in the stink-bomb factory without carrying any failure fragrance.

    All politicians blather, but Harrisblather is like an air salad with vapor croutons and nullity dressing. She went all the way to France to offer insights like, “We must together. Work together. To see where we are. Where we are headed, where we are going and our vision for where we should be. But also see it as a moment to, yes. Together, address the challenges and to work on the opportunities that are presented by this moment.”

    And, yes, the inappropriate grating cackle is mentioned.

  • I guess it's dunk on the Democrats day. The Washington Free Beacon does a fact check on one of the "Squad" members. No, another one: Ferguson Police Say They Have No Idea What Cori Bush Is Talking About

    Local police said they have no records that corroborate "Squad" member Cori Bush's claim that "white supremacists" shot at protesters in Ferguson, Mo., following the death of Michael Brown.

    Bush, a Democratic Missouri congresswoman and defund-the-police activist, on Monday said, "When we marched in Ferguson, white supremacists would hide behind a hill near where Michael Brown Jr. was murdered and shoot at us," adding the alleged shooters "never faced consequences." According to Ferguson police chief Frank McCall, however, there is no record of such an incident.

    "Not that I'm aware of," McCall, the city's fourth black police chief, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Bush, who did not return a request for comment, defended her claim, with her campaign telling the Post-Dispatch, "While on the frontlines of the Ferguson Uprising, Congresswoman Bush and other activists were shot at by white supremacist vigilantes."

    I note the Wikipedia entry for Marjorie Taylor Greene calls her a "far-right conspiracy theorist". True enough, but doesn't Cori Bush deserve equal treatment?

Last Modified 2021-11-18 6:36 AM EST

URLs du Jour


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  • Lest we forget. Although some people are already forgetting. Cathy Young reminds us of the reality of the Soviet Union: Yes, It Was An 'Evil Empire'

    It was the summer of 1983, and I, a Soviet émigré and an American in the making, was chatting with the pleasant middle-aged woman sitting next to me on a bus from Asbury Park, New Jersey, to Cherry Hill. Eventually our conversation got to the fact that I was from the Soviet Union, having arrived in the U.S. with my family three years earlier at age 17. "Oh, really?" said my seatmate. "You must have been pretty offended when our president called the Soviet Union an 'evil empire'! Wasn't that ridiculous?" But her merriment at the supposed absurdity of President Ronald Reagan's recent speech was cut short when I somewhat sheepishly informed her that I thought he was entirely on point.

    Cathy's article is a debunking of past Soviet apologists, and current-day Soviet nostalgia. (Yes, that's a thing, both here and abroad.) Highly recommended.

  • Astounding. I've been wary of the segment of conservatism and the GOP that seem to have embraced the worst tactics of the Left, and also started griping about 'free-market fundamentalism'. (A slur once only leftists made.)

    It's often called "national conservatism". And I've griped about it now and again: here, here, here, and here. Writing in the WSJ last week, Christopher DeMuth makes about the best case for it: Why America Needs National Conservatism

    Proponents of communism often say it’s never really been tried. Progressivism can no longer make that excuse. Its doctrines are being widely implemented by earnest practitioners with wide establishment support. The results have come in with astonishing speed. Mayhem and misery at an open national border. Riot and murder in lawless city neighborhoods. Political indoctrination of schoolchildren. Government by executive ukase. Shortages throughout the world’s richest economy. Suppression of religion and private association. Regulation of everyday language—complete with contrived redefinitions of familiar words and ritual recantations for offenders.

    This makes an easy case for national conservatism. Natcons are conservatives who have been mugged by reality. We have come away with a sense of how to recover from the horrors taking America down.

    See if you like his argument. I'm pretty much saying: "If only all the NatCons were so reasonable, I'd have less of a problem with it."

  • But also read… Tyler Cowen on the DeMuth article: Christopher DeMuth on national conservatism. He has a number of rebuttal points, all well-taken. Summary:

    So I liked the piece, but I say it is a rearguard action, destined to fail.  We need a more positive, more dynamic approach to a free society of responsible individuals, and that is probably going to mean an ongoing expansion of globalization and also a fairly new and indeed somewhat unsettled understanding of what the nation is going to consist of.  What DeMuth calls “empirical libertarianism,” as he associates with Adam Smith, I still take as a better starting point.

    For me, the key question is: how do you win a war of ideas? Obviously, by having better ones. That's step one. ("Out-insulting the other guy" is pretty far down the list.)

  • Another bit of advice: don't let your opponents tell you what you can't say. Dan McLaughlin is bemused (in an NRPlus article): Since When Can’t You Say ‘Woke’?

    Language has power because words have meaning. The ability to communicate meaning from one person to another is the purpose of language; more than anything else, it is what separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom. In politics, communicating meaning is essential to persuasion, to the building of coalitions, and to the defeat of error and wickedness.

    One of the most effective ways to prevent criticism of an idea is to deprive people of the language in which to name it. Political propagandists understand this, which is why they are now objecting so loudly to terms such as “Critical Race Theory,” “woke,” “identity politics,” and “cancel culture.” The point is not that these terms are imprecise in what they mean — they can be, as are many other terms in common use in American political discourse. The point is precisely that they are understood to have a distinct meaning. The propagandists of wokeness want to prevent that meaning from being communicated among ordinary citizens who have long lacked the words in which to express things they see and know to be wrong.

    Dan's essay (with examples of what he's talking about) is long and insightful. A telling observation at the end: " A movement that fears any name at all for what it proposes to do is, ultimately, trying to smother any sort of democratic debate of its goals, like the darkness itself throwing a blanket over a candle."

    (And I've heard that democracy dies in darkness. Do they still say that?)

  • We're still number one, barely. Drew Cline reports at the Josiah Bartlett Center on the latest Fraser Institute report, Economic Freedom of North America 2021. And the news is pretty good for us: New Hampshire again rated most economically free state, but the gap is closing

    New Hampshire has once again retained its status as the most economically-free state in North America in this year’s Economic Freedom in North America report published by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think tank.

    In both the continental and in-country rankings, New Hampshire finished first. Within the United States, Tennessee leapt past Florida to pull within a fraction of a point of the Granite State, showing how vulnerable New Hampshire’s position has become.

    This is one competition I think our state should be trying harder to win.

  • In related news… The founder of "Funspot", allegedly the largest arcade in the world, has passed away. Bob Lawton was 90 years young, and by all accounts was a fun guy. But his most important contribution to our culture was perhaps…

    Bob was a veteran, and he served in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

    "He put in a bill that put the state motto, 'Live Free or Die,' on the license plates," [his son] David said.

    It never fails to give me a warm feeling when I realize we have the most kick-ass license plate slogan in America.

The Silkworm

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Robert Galbraith's silly-named detective, Cormoran Strike, is back for a second installment. A pretty unpleasant and gory one.

Thanks to his well-publicized solution of the previous book's crime, Cormoran's private-eye business is picking up. So he's busy, he doesn't have to take every case offered him, but there's something about Leonara Quine that grabs him. Leonara is married to Owen, a barely-successful writer. And Owen's gone missing for the past ten days.

Cormoran finds him, of course. On page 124 of this 455-page book. And… I suppose this is a spoiler, but it's also on the back cover of the paperback I got from the Portsmouth Public Library … he's been totally murdered, in a most shocking and disgusting manner!

Which makes it a police matter, but they quickly consider Leonara, Cormoran's client, to be the most likely suspect. She's got no alibi, she's got motive (huge insurance policy, and Owen was a serial philanderer), and she does a lousy job of interacting with the cops. So Cormoran takes it on himself to find the real killer.

Things revolve around Owen's latest novel, Bombyx Mori, an allegorical fantasy filled with perversion and otherwise unpleasant characters. And those characters are thinly-disguised equivalents to actual people in Owen's circle. And (as it turns out) Owen's death is gruesomely similar to one described in the novel. So the suspect list is pretty much restricted to those who have read it.

Get all that? Wonderful. Along the way, there's a lot of personal complications. Cormoran's longtime, (but now ex-) girlfriend, Charlotte, is getting married, causing some angst. He has a bumpy relationship with his secretary/assistant, Robin; she's engaged to a guy who doesn't like her working for Cormoran. And she's insecure about her duties; she wants to be an investigator, not just a secretary. And Cormoran's missing lower leg is causing problems thoughout, too.


Ten Keys to Reality

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Another book about physics for the layperson. It's not bad. The author, Frank Wilczek, is a Nobel Prize winner in physics, so I'm relatively sure his explication of science here is solid.

His mission here is broad, and somewhat daunting: an overview of the "fundamental lessons we can learn from the study of the physical world." So in a relatively short book, it's a whirlwind tour of cosmology, particle physics, relativity, etc.

Books like this (I've noticed) tend to shy away from math. It's apparently an ironclad law in the publishing world that each equation in a book decreases the readership by some non-trivial amount. Also, no graphs. (Well, there's one here on page 3: World GDP per capita, from 1500-2000.) And no diagrams, just a few basic tables.

Instead, there's a lot (a lot) of what I call "poetic language". (In fact, there's an actual poem in the book's dedication, to his wife Betsy.) Sometimes this can be beautifully illuminating. Example from page 106: "Atoms sing songs that bare their souls, in light." Which is a neat way of expressing the more pedestrian fact that electrons jumping between energy levels in an atom emit photons of characteristic energy revealing the atom's structural nature.

Wilczek does as good a job as I've seen trying to explain particle/field duality. E.g., how sometimes it makes sense to think of light as a wiggling electomagnetic field, as described by Maxwell's equations. But other times it makes sense to think of light as quantized particles (again, photons), little shiny balls moving fast on their geodesics. Both views are true, but it's very difficult to hold both in your head simultaneously.

URLs du Jour


  • Eye Candy du Jour from Henry Payne:

    [Old vs New]

    It's been making the rounds since its original publication in September. We usually go with Michael Ramirez for pirated editorial cartoons, but this was pretty good.

  • And why would anyone assume differently? Stephen Greenhut is the latest Reason writer to unload on the wannabe censors: Government Regulation of Social Media Won't Protect Free Speech

    Is it me or does the Facebook whistleblower's "bombshell" revelations seem like much ado about very little? The company's former product manager, Frances Haugen, has given the Securities and Exchange Commission and The Wall Street Journal thousands of internal documents that say more about the state of American culture than they do about the social-media company.

    "No one at Facebook is malevolent, but the incentives are misaligned, right?" Haugen told CBS News. "Like, Facebook makes more money when you consume more content. People enjoy engaging with things that elicit an emotional reaction. And the more anger that they get exposed to, the more they interact and the more they consume."

    If that's the issue, then one can just as easily blame newspapers, TV news shows, talk radio, and political parties—all of which benefit by stirring the pot. For some reason, people prefer conflict to happy thoughts about puppies (although there are plenty of those posted on Facebook). Do we blame the medium or the human condition?

    The real problem seems to be…

  • Free speech is subverted by its former champions. Ann Althouse is bemused by a newspaper headline. Specifically: This NYT headline displays an unabashed belief that censorship is desirable and expected, as if the tradition of freedom of speech has evaporated.

    The NYT headline is:

    On Podcasts and Radio, Misleading Covid-19 Talk Goes Unchecked

    And the subhed amps up the panic:

    False statements about vaccines have spread on the “Wild West” of media, even as some hosts die of virus complications.

    Ann's take begins:

    Talk goes unchecked!

    Freedom of speech is an artifact of the "Wild West," not the foundation of our republic!

    Well, the New York Times is free to print such things, misleading though they are. The NYT is trying to induce private companies to undertake censorship.

    Ann seems surprised, but she shouldn't be. It's been nearly twelve years since the progressive freakout over Citizens United v. FEC. How can we let political speech go unregulated?! Think of the children!

    The NYT article is simply the latest little nudge to its readership's psyches: thinking of speech regulation as the default position.

  • And the most reliable correspondent from Glasgow is… Kevin D. Williamson, of course, whose dispatch is headlined with a quote from a protest sign: ‘Trans Nonbinary Liberation Is Eco-Justice!’

    It is mostly campus-level stuff. There are limp choruses of “What do we want? Gender justice! When do we want it? Now!” half-chanted, half-whimpered by a little gaggle of people in matching derby hats, giving the scene a slightly Clockwork Orange feel. (Why derby hats? No one is able to explain that to me. Maybe they don’t know.) One fellow, standing outside the room where Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is offering one of her whatever-is-vaguer-than-vague homilies, wears a shirt emblazoned with the satire-proof message: “Trans Nonbinary Liberation Is Eco-Justice!


    There’s a very nice young woman from a place she doesn’t like to call “Canada” outside, banging a drum and singing a “warrior song” and engaging in something that sounds to my ear very close to racial-essentialist rhetoric (“We will outlive you, we will outlive your system, because we are of the Earth!” as though the relative newcomers to the country were of Mars), insisting that all of this is foundational to climate work. If climate reform means signing on to the proposition that “the place some people call Canada” needs to be abolished, because its mere existence is tantamount to genocide, then climate reform is not going to go anywhere.

    It's a sad state of affairs when the most interesting stuff coming out of a self-important climate change conference is the lunacy of the associated protesters.

    Who pays for these kids to show up in Glasgow, anyway? You know if it were some right-wing thing, the press would be all over that investigation.

  • Sell Bitcoin, buy… er, gold, I guess. And c|net's Stephen Shankland brings some sobering news: Cryptocurrency faces a quantum computing problem

    Cryptocurrencies hold the potential to change finance, eliminating middlemen and bringing accounts to millions of unbanked people around the world. Quantum computers could upend the way pharmaceuticals and materials are designed by bringing their extraordinary power to the process.

    Here's the problem: The blockchain accounting technology that powers cryptocurrencies could be vulnerable to sophisticated attacks and forged transactions if quantum computing matures faster than efforts to future-proof digital money.

    You don't want to wake up some morning with your Bitcoin balance filched by Xi Jinping, do you?

URLs du Jour


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  • Spot the redundancy. Scott Shackford has a good idea: Let's Not Have a Bunch of Posturing Politicians Decide How Online Algorithms Should Work.

    A handful of lawmakers are pushing a bill that would make it harder for online search algorithms to give you what you want—yet another example of why it's bad to give politicians power over tech policy.

    A bipartisan pack of senators and congressmen led by Sen. John Thune (R–S.D.) have introduced what they're calling the Filter Bubble Transparency Act. The legislation essentially aims to stop major platforms and search engines from algorithmically determining what they show you based on information you did not purposefully give them. It refers to these as "opaque algorithms," because you as a user may not know exactly what factors are contributing to these search results or information displays. The theory is that platforms are secretly manipulating what you see in order to sell you things, conceal controversial content, and give priority to certain goods or services or sources of information.

    Scott links to the TechDirt article on the legislation we blogged previously.

    [Congratulations if you spotted the redundancy in "Posturing Politicians".]

  • An inflammatory, yet accurate, headline. David Bernstein wonders How Many People Did NIH Director Francis Collins Kill? He excerpts an NPR interview where Collins admits he "requested" Moderna "diversify" its trials of their Covid vaccine. Which put off eventual approval "by a week or two".

    How many people died because Collins delayed Moderna's vaccine "just by a week or two?" I don't know, but how ever many it is, Dr. Collins bears responsibility for their deaths--a "request" from the director of NIH in this context is really a command. And this "modest effect" is certainly nothing to laugh about.

    Let's be clear on several things: (1) There was (and is) no scientific reason to think that the Modern vaccine would act differently on people of different genetic backgrounds; (2) Even if there was reason to think it would, the categories the NIH requires researchers to use--African American, Asian American, Hispanic, Native American, and White--are extremely internally genetically diverse.* Asian Americans, for example, can be Austronesians, Caucasians, or East Asians, and there is much internal diversity within those subcategories. Hispanics can be any mixture of European, Indigenous, African, and Asian. And so on. There is no *scientific* reason to use these categories as proxies for genetic diversity; and (3) If Americans wouldn't "trust" a vaccine that didn't have "enough diversity," that's largely because government authorities like the NIH insist that vaccines aren't trustworthy unless they have been tested on a "diverse" population. If the NIH and other authorities consistently said that socially and legally constructed racial and ethnic categories are not scientific in nature and have no bearing on vaccine efficacy, then the public would be much more likely to believe it.

    Not that it matters, but I'm going for my Moderna booster today. I'm in that unfortunate 65+ group.

  • "It’s not a lie. It’s a gift for fiction." David Mamet takes to Unherd with his strategy to maintain peace during a family cross-country trip by car. Use the Designated Criminal trick.

    On setting out the family must establish a rotation. Each car member, then, on his appointed day, will be The Designated Criminal. On his lucky day, everything that goes wrong in the car is his fault. The affronted family are happily then leagued against the diabolical offender in their midst.

    It works like a charm.

    But The Designated Criminal may also be practised as oppression. For there are families and other organisms which employ the technique not as a means of maintaining esprit-de-corps, but of exercising control. Here the criminal is designated once and for all time, and will live and die in his chains.

    Mamet explores mostly those "other organisms" as the essay continues.

    [Classical quote in headline, from the movie State and Main, written and directed by Mr. Mamet.]

Farnham's Freehold

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

A little history: I got this book sometime in the mid-sixties, a cheapie edition from the Science Fiction Book Club. I still have some of those old SFBC books, but not Farnham's Freehold. It might have simply fallen apart; I know that's what happened to the first book I got (a ten-cent come-on): Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, all three books in one flimsy volume.

Anyway: read once, way back then. And not reread until it came up in the Great Reread-Heinlein Project.

So I got the Kindle version from Amazon for $7. A few typos caused, I assume, by scanning. For example, three occurences of "modern" are spelled "modem" on the Kindle.

The book begins with a scenario we managed to avoid (at least for now): an all-out nuclear holocaust between the US and USSR. The protagonist, Hugh Farnham is prepped with a fallout shelter. He and his companions manage to survive a couple nearby detonations, but then a really big bomb makes a direct hit…

But instead of radioactive oblivion, the shelter and its occupants get transported to, um, somewhere else. Sort of. (Trying to avoid spoilers for a 57-year-old book.) And we get a tale of survivalism: Hugh didn't expect to have to recreate hunter/gatherer society on his own. He would have packed differently!

He is accompanied by his shrewish, alcoholic wife, Grace. His mama's boy son, Duke. Daughter Karen, and her friend Barbara. And black servant Joseph. There's some tedious (but standard Heinlein) folderol about how things should be run in this new world; although he'll listen to advice, Hugh insists on his command decisions being obeyed. Duke attempts to resist, but it's futile. Joseph also has qualms.

But they muddle through, until… oops, turns out they're not alone.

So I read this book as a (relatively) straitlaced Omaha teen, and—whoa!—there's a pretty explicit sex scene right there at location 613, I think I was shocked.

OK, a small spoiler: you may detect Racial Overtones in the book. The N-word appears ten, count 'em, ten times. And there's shoe-on-the-other-foot speculation about a society where… Well, Heinlein's descriptions have come in for some rough treatment. There are certain kinds of dystopia you can't describe.

URLs du Jour


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  • Get it? Point? The Pun Salad fave Eric Boehm noticed: Joe Biden Invoked 'I, Pencil' To Explain Supply Chains, but He Seems To Have Missed the Point.

    Midway through an otherwise pretty unremarkable speech from the port of Baltimore on Wednesday evening, President Joe Biden uttered a few words that will make any libertarian's ears perk up.

    "Even products as simple as a pencil," Biden said, "have to use wood from Brazil and graphite from India before it comes together at a factory in the United States to get a pencil. It sounds silly, but that's exactly how it happens."

    Yes, it appears the president (or one of his speechwriters) has at least a passing familiarity with "I, Pencil" the 1958 essay by Leonard Read that offers a first-person perspective—that of a simple pencil—into the incredible supply chains that make even the most common household products readily available. It remains probably the greatest (and certainly the most concise) defense of the merits of free markets and free trade.

    The last paragraph above contains a link to Read's essay, so go read Read if you haven't. I'll wait…

    Oh, good, you're back. Now for the people hoping that Biden had suddenly started appreciating global capitalism, there's some bad news…

    But—and you knew there had to be a "but" coming—it took Biden less than five minutes to toss all that aside and begin promoting his "Buy American" agenda. That "won't just be a promise but an ironclad reality," he promised.

    What happened to the wood from Brazil and the graphite from India being used to make pencils here, one might wonder.

    The simplicity of the pencil-making metaphor destroys the performative politics of Biden's "Buy American" rules, which will accomplish little besides forcing taxpayers to pay higher prices for just about everything the government purchases. Those rules also mean that Biden's just-passed $1 trillion infrastructure spending plan—Wednesday's speech was a victory lap moment for the president—will be less significant than it otherwise would be.

    And it means that Biden didn't really digest the meaning of "I, Pencil."

    Frankly, I did not expect he would.

  • Leave it to Josh. Robert Tracinski looks at Senator Hawley's TV Land Economics.

    “a fully refundable tax credit of $12,000 for married parents”—a “fully refundable tax credit” is the new trick for disguising a welfare check as a tax cut—but only “$6,000 for single parents.”

    Tracinski comments:

    This crusade is rooted in nostalgia for an imagined ideal of the 1950s and the traditional family—the whole Ward and June Cleaver setup: a dad who works and a mom who stays home with the kids in a leafy suburban neighborhood.

    Obviously, this is false nostalgia, fed by taking glossy advertisements and old TV shows as representative of how everyone actually lived—as if people looking back at the 1990s were to assume that the notorious apartment from “Friends” was normal and angrily ask why today’s 20-somethings can’t afford 1,500 square feet with a terrace in the West Village. Similarly, it seems that a generation of conservatives grew up watching old television shows on Nick at Nite or TV Land and use this as the baseline for their social and economic expectations.

    Ironically, that 1950s life depicted on TV may actually be more attainable now, but it also may not be what most families actually prefer. But rather than face up to that fact, conservatives are latching onto solutions that accomplish nothing except to feed their culture war obsessions.

    Social engineering via tax policy is tons of fun for all pols. Just say no.

  • More sober semi-sense from Yglesias. I've been catching up with Matthew Yglesias's substack, and found this from earlier this month: Energy innovation needs more than R&D. He's got something interesting to say about my "Geez, just build nuclear plants" stance.

    A company called Oklo is currently midway through the licensing process at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to try to get approval for a tiny 1.5-megawatt nuclear reactor that can be built in a factory and then run for 20 years without refueling or staff.

    The Aurora, if it gets approved, would still be a high-cost electricity option that probably appeals mostly to people in unusual situations (an Air Force base in Alaska) or institutions with particular PR needs (a bitcoin mining company that wants to say it’s carbon-free or a tech company that wants zero-carbon server farms). But the theory is that since you’re building small reactors in factories rather than doing custom jobs on-site, you exhibit falling costs as you increase the scale of your output — both because of learning-by-doing, but also just because of the nature of mass production: if you use your facilities more intensively, your per-item costs drop.

    But beyond the specifics of Oklo, this is the first significant test of the NRC’s mandate from Congress to develop a regulatory approach suitable to new reactor designs. Part of Oklo’s application is a proposed regulatory methodology — a way they think the safety of these reactors ought to be assessed — which, if accepted, could be used by other startups in this space.

    Yglesias notes an interesting glitch about "regulation", as it comes to nominations to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission: "Good names keep getting floated for these jobs, but they keep getting spiked by the Nevada delegation because basically anyone you can find who is pro-nuclear has, at some point, said there is no technical problem with the Yucca Mountain waste storage concept."

  • It's a growth industry, unfortunately. George F. Will reports Progressives ruined San Francisco, but at least ‘advocacy’ is thriving. For their bit of social engineering (see above), a new book by Michael Shellenberger is cited:

    Meanwhile, Shellenberger says, “drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for non-elderly San Franciscans, accounting for 29 percent of deaths of residents under sixty-five in 2019.” Last year, about one-third as many San Franciscans died of covid-19 as died of drug overdoses.

    An “advocate” says: “We can’t end overdoses until we end poverty, until we end racism.” So, in 2020, the city put up two billboards promoting the safe use of hard drugs (heroin, fentanyl): “Change it up. Injecting drugs has the highest risk of overdose, so consider snorting or smoking instead.” “Try not to use alone. Do it with friends. Use with people and take turns.” Last year, however, San Francisco did ban smoking in apartments.

    As GFW says: If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair … "but watch your step as you hopscotch around the excrement."

  • Health tip: don't get old. Or fat. Philip Greenspun quotes two NYT commenters, "Ben" and "Jeff" who go Full Totalitarian: Wear a mask and get a vaccine so that SARS-CoV-2 can attack you when you’re older and fatter. I'll just snip some of the stuff Phil emphasizes:

    [Ben:] We ban the unvaccinated from work but don’t ban obesity which is a higher risk? I am over covid and want to live my remaining years in peace without masks.

    [Jeff:] If half the money/effort spent of COVID related stimulus/prevention were given to improving the daily health of our country, we would save exponentially more lives than COVID itself will ever claim.

    Style tip: instead of saying “many”, say “exponentially”, because it makes you sound more sciencey.

    [Also left as a comment on Phil's blog.]

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] There are a disturbing number of "Silly Walks" clocks at Amazon. Our Product du Jour is just one of them.

  • Hey kids, what time is it? According to Steven E, Koonin, It’s time to cancel the climate crisis.

    After two weeks of continuously pressing the panic button in Glasgow, the climate-alarmed departed the 26th UN climate conference (better known as COP26), despondent at missing the latest “last best chance” to save the planet.

    While the apocalyptic rhetoric used by politicians and activists to describe the changing climate has outpaced reality, there is some good news: First, science tells us that there is no crisis and we have ample time to respond to a changing climate. Second, terms such as “existential threat,” “climate catastrophe,” or “climate disaster” aren’t found anywhere in the most recent UN assessment of the science. The phrase “climate crisis” does appear, once — not as scientific finding, but as a description of how the media have increased the alarm.

    Don't panic. Build more nuclear plants. Open up Yucca Mountain.

  • Things that should be easy are getting hard, things that should be hard are getting soft. Scott Lincicome writes at the Dispatch on American Sclerosis. Unfortunately subscriber-only, but here's an excerpt to (perhaps) suck you in to shelling out to Jonah Goldberg and his merry gang:

    As you’ll recall, back in September I explained that, while pandemic-related supply and demand factors were the superficial cause of the current supply chain mess, various trade, labor, and other policies were exacerbating the situation by limiting system-wide efficiency and flexibility. Since then, we’ve discovered that other policies are also playing a role. At the federal level, for example, the “worker shortage” that experts in the field have routinely cited as hurting U.S. trucking, warehouse, and related industries has been amplified by two federal policies

    • First, continued restrictions on immigration have removed at least 1 million potential (and lawful) workers from the U.S. labor market, putting acute pressure on labor-intensive industries like warehousing. (And backed-up warehouses make it more difficult to clear containers that are stacked up at various ports.) 

    • Second, the United States has effectively barred Mexican trucking companies from operating on U.S. roads, thus keeping “the largest and closest supply of potential US truck drivers” out of the country and reducing the number of American trucks available for inland work because they’re picking up cargo at the border from Mexican truckers who have to drop it there. (In case you’re wondering, multiple U.S. government pilot programs have found the few Mexican trucks that were allowed to operate here to be safe and clean, in part because they all have to comply with U.S. regulations.) These restrictions have long violated our commitments under the North American Free Trade Agreement, yet President Trump actually tightened them in his NAFTA update, the USMCA.

    Adding insult to injury, we learn from the same report that Canada has national and provincial initiatives to help foreigners immigrate and work in its trucking industry, alleviating some of the pressure there. (They’re always sticking it to us on immigration!)

    Those Mexican truckers aren't gonna go on welfare up here, folks. (They will piss off Teamsters, though.)

  • "Follow the science" became "Lie about the science" pretty quickly at the CDC. Jacob Sullum has more on the misinformation from "Rochelle, Rochelle" Walensky: The CDC's Director Implies That Face Masks Are More Effective Than Vaccines at Preventing COVID-19 Infection

    "The evidence is clear," Walensky says in the 37-second video, which she posted on Twitter last Friday. "Masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by reducing your chance of infection by more than 80 percent, whether it's an infection from the flu, from the coronavirus, or even just the common cold. In combination with other steps like getting your vaccination, hand washing, and keeping physical distance, wearing your mask is an important step you can take to keep us all healthy."

    If wearing a mask reduced your risk of infection by "more than 80 percent," as Walensky seems to be saying, that safeguard would be amazingly effective. Such a risk reduction would be higher than the effectiveness rates found in several real-world studies of mRNA vaccines. In six studies conducted when the delta variant was dominant, vaccination was associated with infection reductions ranging from 54 percent to 85 percent. The effectiveness rate was 80 percent or less in five of those studies, although the reductions in symptomatic cases, severe disease, and hospitalization were bigger (an important point to keep in mind when assessing the benefits of vaccination).

    Jacob asked the CDC for the source of Rochelle's claim, and received a belated response "that did not cite any specific research".

    I'll note the weaselly wording of the claim. Rochelle could plead, "I didn't say it would reduce your infection risk by more than 80%! I said it would help!"

  • Least surprising news du jour. Philip Klein notes debunking Biden Breaks Tax Pledge, Analysis Shows.

    President Biden has repeatedly claimed that his plans would not raise taxes on anybody making under $400,000 a year. But a new analysis from the Tax Policy Center — hardly a conservative source — finds that his signature Build Back Better plan would do just that.

    “Taking into account all major tax provisions, roughly 20 percent to 30 percent of middle-income households would pay more in taxes in 2022,” according to the analysis. True, the analysis finds that the increases would be relatively small. “Among those with a tax increase, low- and middle-income households would pay an additional $100 or less on average. Those making $200,000-$500,000 would pay an average of about $230 more,” it reads.

    Also from the study (as described by John McCormack): in its current formulation, the legislation "would provide Americans earning between $500,000 and $1 million an average tax cut of about $6,000" by raising the "SALT cap".

    "Just kidding about making the rich pay their 'fair share', suckers!"

  • As promised, here's Matthew Yglesisas's "Critical Race Theory" and actual education policy, part two. The usual disclaimer: Yglesisas is a lefty, and (as a result) there's a lot of claptrap therein. But:

    Even though it’s true, as Democrats say, that teachers are not “teaching Critical Race Theory in school,” it’s also true that Critical Race Theory has become influential in graduate schools of education and in left-wing thinking on education policy. Ishimaru, for example, frequently draws on CRT concepts or directly invokes them in her work. And as I learned when I read Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic’s primer “Critical Race Theory: An Introduction,” CRT scholars are very critical of test-best measurements of student learning, questioning the validity of the SAT, LSAT, and other tests.

    And again if you read these scholars — or more popular writers like Ibram Kendi — they are not making narrow critiques of the sort you hear all the time from normal people like “I wish they didn’t do so much testing in my daughter’s school” or “high-stakes testing narrows the curriculum.” They are making the extremely strong claim that the whole enterprise is invalid. And that to me is antithetical to the important policy goal of making schools better in general and, in particular, of making them more effective at serving marginalized students.

    Kendi, et. al., simply do not want to hear anything that might contradict their narrative.

  • And now for something completely different. You hear a lot of negative stuff about Hungary's Viktor Orban. It's all true, probably! Astral Codex Ten makes some points you don't hear about: Highlights From The Comments On Orban

    The arguments about Orban cheating in elections might be totally true. I dunno. But that's sort of irrelevant. Neutral opinion polls nobody disputes show he would have gotten 2/3 under almost any system.

    And then goes on to a more general observation:

    This gets at the problem with "democracy" as a concept. Hungary is undeniably Democratic: there is widespread public support for the regime, which is selected by elections, the results of which are a decent approximation of trustworthy and neutral opinion polls. But I think it's still possibly reasonable to call Orban a dictator. He wields enormous *personal* power, there are few checks on his power, and he uses power to create a *personal* clique of supporters to perpetuate that power and enfeeble the competition.

    But this is the point: Democracy and dictatorship aren't opposites. In fact, they are natural companions! So much so that before the 20th century, "democracy" was often used *literally as a synonym* for "authoritarian and demagogic rule"! Orban is a great example of why the word "democracy" came into ill repute in the past: because it was widely understood that "the people" (often pejoratively "the mob") will often vote for a strongman to stomp his boot on the face of disliked others. That's not so much a disagreement with @slatestarcodex as just a comment where I think the modern western liberal mindset obscures understanding the phenomenon of populist leadership.

    Bold added. That's the kind of thing that would freak out the "Democracy dies in darkness" crowd.

URLs du Jour

Veterans Day 2021

[Veterans Day]

Thank one near you.

  • Me too. And yet I keep blogging about it. P. J. O'Rourke tells us: Why I Hate Politics. After plugging the American Consequences publisher, Stansberry Research:

    Politicians are always trying to tempt us to give more power to politics. Power of any kind is dangerous… Political power is particularly dangerous. Politics is a Rottweiler ready to be unleashed on your problems. And you’ve stuffed raw meat down the front of your pants.

    Politicians work themselves into a lather arguing in favor of the benefits of government power. Using that kind of “politician logic” I can prove… Anything

    Here, I can prove that shooting convenience-store clerks stimulates the economy… Jobs are created in the high-paying domestic manufacturing sector at gun and ammunition factories. Additional emergency medical technicians, security guards, health care providers, and morticians are hired. The unemployment rate is lowered as jobseekers fill new openings on convenience store night shifts. And money stolen from convenience-store cash registers stimulates the economy where stimulus is most needed: in low-income neighborhoods where the people who shoot convenience store clerks go to buy their crack.

    Considering all the good it does, I am simply flabbergasted that everyone in the House and Senate isn’t smoking crack and shooting convenience-store clerks this very minute… (instead of just smoking crack).

    Do read the whole thing, because Peej goes on to explain "the real problem isn’t politicians, the real problem is politics."

    Maybe. I'm reminded (however) of Heinlein's adage (Podkayne of Mars, you can look it up.): "Politics is just an name for the way we get things done … without fighting."

  • Do we blame this on "politics" or "politicians"? At Techdirt, Mike Masnick shakes his head at recent proposed legislation: The Latest Version Of Congress's Anti-Algorithm Bill Is Based On Two Separate Debunked Myths & A Misunderstanding Of How Things Work

    It's kind of crazy how many regulatory proposals we see appear to be based on myths and moral panics. The latest, just introduced is the House version of the Filter Bubble Transparency Act, which is the companion bill to the Senate bill of the same name. Both bills are "bipartisan," which makes it worse, not better. The Senate version was introduced by Senator John Thune, and co-sponsored by a bevy of anti-tech grandstanding Senators: Richard Blumenthal, Jerry Moran, Marsha Blackburn, Brian Schatz, and Mark Warner. The House version was introduced by Ken Buck, and co-sponsored by David Cicilline, Lori Trahan, and Burgess Owens.

    Click through for the deets; it's another data point in support of the general thesis: there's nothing wrong with social media that the government can't make much worse.

  • Because it's a giveaway to … guess who? Eric Boehm reminds us: America's Ports Need More Robots, but the $1 Trillion Infrastructure Bill Won't Fund Automation.

    Yes, the subsidies doled out as part of President Joe Biden's bipartisan infrastructure deal are expressly forbidden from being used to automate operations at American ports. Instead, taxpayers will spend billions to upgrade existing cranes with lower-emissions alternatives that won't actually work any faster or cheaper. It's a major missed opportunity.

    Why? Biden's close ties to labor unions probably have something to do with it. Along with the cost, unions are the biggest reason why American ports don't have more robots. When an automated terminal was introduced at the Port of Los Angeles a few years ago, the politically powerful longshoreman's union that represents dockworkers threw a fit.

    But the automated terminals were a hit with truck drivers who work at the port. The Los Angeles Times reported in 2019 that drivers, who are paid by the delivery, were thrilled to have more reliable loading schedules, instead of having to wait around for hours to pick up a container. One truck driver told the paper that automation meant no longer having to "wait hours and hours in long lines" because the dockworkers decided to "leave early to go to lunch and come back late."

    The hours that drivers wait in line count against their "on duty" time limit, which means they can spend less time doing useful work, like getting PlayStations to your local Best Buy.

  • When he's right… We've had our quibbles with David French, but he's on target at the Dispatch (unfortunately subscriber-only): An Airing of Grievances Against Diversity Training. He posts this example, observing that "if this […] isn't stereotyping, I don't know what is."


    Is this slide actually transforming hearts and minds in the real world? Sure, some people might be persuaded, just as other people counter that effect through negative backlash, but the vast majority do not walk away thinking, “I had no idea that private ownership of my car is a product of white individualism.” 

    So what’s the appeal of training like this? Or of more benign but equally ineffective diversity training measures implemented in other contexts? While there are of course some employers who are ideologically committed not just to the existence of diversity training but also to the specific content of that training, I think a better answer is summed up in two words—pain avoidance.

    I retired from my job before any of this really hit. The worst I got was an online pointy-clicky course about sexual harassment. Kind of a how-to. But as long as you kept hitting the right buttons, you were fine.

  • Everything is seemingly spinning out of control. Because I've added Matthew Yglesias's substack to my reading list. He's a lefty who occasionally gets mugged by reality. A recent example: "Critical Race Theory" and actual education policy, part one. We'll look at part two another day, maybe, but here are his main points:

    1. Extended closures of schools that hurt students’ measured learning outcomes and widened the racial gap in measured learning outcomes

    2. The adoption of racial equity initiatives with little demonstrated efficacy in improving outcomes

    3. The stigmatization of the kinds of tests that are our main tool for assessing whether or not children are learning

    None of that is very controversial in righty-land, but it's heretical among the anointed.

  • Don't look at me. Local lad Michael Graham looks at the near-term NH political landscape: If Not Sununu, Then Who?

    On Tuesday, Gov. Chris Sununu shocked many political observers—and broke even more D.C. GOP hearts—by announcing he will not be challenging Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan next year. And while there are no guarantees in politics, the popular, three-term incumbent was as close to a lock as a GOP candidate in New England can get. Last year Sununu got more votes in New Hampshire than either Donald Trump or Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

    I thought Chris Sununu's brother, John E., was a pretty good senator (one-term, 2002-2008). But I suspect his brotherly advice was: don't.

    Graham goes through the list of potential candidates, notes the ones who have disclaimed an interest in running, and the remaining ones seem pretty weak to me.

  • And then there's General Dan Bolduc. Who is running, and claims …

    During a conspiracy-spinning interview with radio host Jack Heath Tuesday retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc called fellow Republican Chris Sununu a “Chinese Communist sympathizer” whose family business “supports terrorism,” and claimed he drove the governor from the U.S. Senate race.

    Bottom line from Michael Graham's NHJournal article:

    “He was a lousy candidate when he was sane,” one NHGOP insider told NHJournal. “Running as a lunatic isn’t much of an improvement.”

    Last year, when he was running for the NH-01 House seat, I noted his campaign platform had one huge, deal-breaking, red flag for me: he supported a Constitutional amendment to "overturn the Citizens United decision".

    I.e., allow politicians to control "acceptable" political discourse about elections.

    I'm told he walked that back at some point. Sorry, General, too late.

URLs du Jour


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  • Asking the important questions. That's Ann Althouse's job today: Where is Jake Tapper's bullshit detector? At issue is this tweet:

    And Tapper's BS-susceptibility was in his "like". OK, fine. Ann:

    It's one thing to have to see junk like this on Facebook, where I encounter various nice people I know who unthinkingly pass along inspirational "quotes" that would cause an educated sensible person to question whether that celebrity could have said that. 

    It's quite another thing to get that kind of crap on Twitter, where I'm only following people I think might say something sharp and intelligent!

    Anyone who cares what Hemingway said ought to know he's unlikely to have said "We are all broken — that's how the light gets in." And annoyed as I am to have been spammed because Tapper "liked" that, I'd be more alarmed to learn that Hemingway actually did say that. 

    She manages to pull out a silver lining among the nonsense, as she examines the (fake) quote's provenance. If you're interested (as I am) in where profound-sounding quotes come from and how they get famous peoples' names attached to them, check it out.

  • The Not-So-Mysterious Unexpected Consequence. Illuminated by the wonderful Virginia Postrel: How Dodd-Frank Locks Out the Least Affluent Homebuyers

    About one in five U.S. homes are valued at $100,000 or less. And despite their low prices, they’ve gotten extremely hard to sell. When they move at all, these small-dollar properties tend to go for cash. Lenders increasingly won’t write mortgages for them.

    “Over the last decade, origination for mortgage loans between $10,000 and $70,000 and between $70,000 and $150,000 has dropped by 38 percent and 26 percent, respectively, while origination for loans exceeding $150,000 rose by a staggering 65 percent,” reports a new study on small-dollar mortgages from the Center for the Study of Economic Mobility at Winston-Salem State University and the Future of Land and Housing program at the New America think tank. The study is scheduled for release on Tuesday

    The culprits behind the disappearance of small-dollar mortgages are lending restrictions enacted with good intentions and warped by economic blind spots. Designed to protect borrowers and the financial system, the Dodd-Frank Act regulations passed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis “increased the fixed costs and the per-loan costs of extending a mortgage,” says the study. The regulation-imposed costs made small-dollar mortgages a lousy proposition for lenders.

    Also "helping": Elizabeth Warren's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Which really deserves sneer-quotes around "Protection" here, but…

  • I hope my NR subscription renewal paid for whatever he was drinking on the flight over. Kevin D. Williamson infiltrated the U.N. climate-change conference, and was on hand for a visit from a secular saint: Barack Obama Graces Glasgow

    Like almost everyone else here in Glasgow, Obama spoke about “ambition” and an “ambitious” climate program. Ambition is taken as a good in and of itself here at the commanding heights of global do-goodery, and it is easy to appreciate the attraction for the politician — ambition isn’t subject to hard-and-fast measurement, it doesn’t actually impose any actual obligations, and it doesn’t come with any meaningful deliverables. Obama still believes in “ambition” even as he noted, rightly, that a lot of “ambitious” promises were solemnly exchanged at an earlier COP in Paris, with basically nobody making good on those stated ambitions.

    He might as well have said: “Go forth and sin no more.”

    And there is no better example of the hollowness of such “ambition” than Barack Obama himself. He signed on to the Paris agreement but did not have the ambition — or, in spite of his considerable political skill, the juice — to actually commit the United States to it by means of a Senate-ratified treaty. Of course, in order to be ratified by the Senate, any climate treaty would have had to have been a good deal less ambitious than the Paris agreement — and so we got an unratified commitment to the more ambitious deal instead of a ratified commitment to a less ambitious deal, which, of course, went right out the window as soon as there was a change in administration. All that unilateral executive-action stuff that seems so sexy in the moment gets changed with the drapes every time there’s a new president.

    As long as we looked at a bogus Hemingway quote, my headline above reminds me of a quote Abe Lincoln might have actually said when some bluenoses griped to him about General U. S. Grant's affinity for booze, something like: "I will send a barrel of this wonderful whiskey to every general in the army.”

    So: Find out what KDW drinks, and send it to all writers at National Review, Reason, …

  • Sadly, he didn't mention the potato famine. Also on the Obama watch is young Jack Butler, who noticed Obama's Latest Blunder in his speech (transcript)

    Since we’re in the Emerald Isles here, let me quote the bard, William Shakespeare, “What wound,” he writes, “did ever heal but by degrees.”

    Observes Jack (revealing his knowledge of basic literature, history, and geography, as well as SF geekery):

    “The Emerald Isle” (singular) refers to Ireland, not to Scotland. And at any rate, the Bard was from neither place.

    This mix-up reminds me of two classics from the Obama years. First, his reference to a “Jedi mind meld” (inadvertently combining the telepathic suggestive powers of a ‘Jedi mind trick’ from Star Wars with the consciousness sharing ‘mind meld’ by Vulcans in Star Trek). And second, his failed attempt to refer to the Falklands Islands by their Spanish name, the Malvinas. This would have been a controversial designation to Brits, who just a few decades ago fought a war over their overseas possession off the Atlantic coast in South America. But Obama instead referenced the “Maldives,” which are thousands of miles away in the Pacific.

    Ackshually, the Maldives are in the Indian Ocean, even further from the Falklands. Not generally considered to be emerald isles, either.

  • And a reminder from Reason's Ronald Bailey (also in Glasgow): Free Markets Are the Best and Fastest Way to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Sample:

    Markets are already playing a clear role in cleaning up the environment. And, generally speaking, the more free market a country is, the cleaner its environment is. A freer market also means that a country's carbon emissions are already falling. C3 Solutions' Director of Public Policy Nick Loris made this clear in his report, "Free Economies are Clean Economies."

    Loris used data from the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom that ranks 180 countries on a 100-point scale evaluating measures such as how well they protect property rights, government size, regulatory efficiency, and openness of their markets. Based on these calculations, the Index labels countries as repressed, mostly unfree, moderately free, mostly free, and free. Loris then compared these economic freedom rankings with Yale University's Environmental Performance Index, which ranks 180 countries on a 100-point scale, judging their performance with respect to air and water pollution, biodiversity, agriculture, and climate change.

    Loris found that the correlation between economic freedom and cleaner natural environments is robust.

    … which is unsurprising.

URLs du Jour


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  • I would quibble with "simple". At the WSJ, R. R. Reno suggests A Simple First Step for Youngkin to Stop Leftist Tyranny.

    Glenn Youngkin was elected Virginia’s governor in large part because of the uproar over extremist ideologies that promote racial division under the guise of “antiracism.” But what can he do about the problem? The first step is simple: Prohibit the use of “diversity, equity and inclusion” statements in any state government or government-funded agency.

    The anger about critical race theory in schools reflects a larger frustration. In the past two years, the diversity regime has hardened. Its proponents have adopted more-strident rhetoric. Some speak openly of quotas. The range of permitted opinion has narrowed.

    Anyone who works in a large bureaucracy knows that DEI has become a powerful tool for cultural radicals. In the hiring process, DEI statements serve as ideological litmus tests. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said that we should judge others by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. Imagine someone applying for the job of Fairfax County Schools Superintendent and featuring King’s exhortation prominently in his DEI statement. It would almost certainly be considered disqualifying. Today’s radicalism regards colorblind justice as a tool of white supremacy.

    That would certainly freak people out. As I type, a search for "diversity equity inclusion" at the University Near Here produces "about" 5,370 results. Prohibiting would be a big job. But worthwhile.

    Fun link: the Official "Anti-Racist Book Share" of UNH's College of Life Sciences and Agriculture. Dean Anthony Davis finds Kendi's How to be an Anti-Racist and DeAngelo's White Fragility quite persuasive! And informs us: "And then with each progressive book that’s read, you take the journey a little bit deeper."

    I think anyone on COLSA faculty up for promotion/tenure would receive the message. But as an amusing thought experiment, I can't help but imagine what would happen to someone asking for John McWhorter's Woke Racism to be put in the "Book Share".

  • In related news… Freddie deBoer is out of patience, and pretty demanding: Please Just […] Tell Me What Term I Am Allowed to Use for the Sweeping Social and Political Changes You Demand. (I've elided his gratuitous f-bomb.) It's in response to (specifically) this bit of disingenuousness:

    You know personally I’ve been achingly specific about my critiques of social justice politics, but fine - no woke, it’s a “dogwhistle” for racism. (The term “dogwhistle” is a way for people to simply impute attitudes you don’t hold onto you, to make it easier to dismiss criticism, for the record.) But the same people say there’s no such thing as political correctness, and they also say identity politics is a bigoted term. So I’m kind of at a loss. Also, they propose sweeping changes to K-12 curricula, but you can’t call it CRT, even though the curricular documents specifically reference CRT, and if you do you’re an idiot and also you’re a racist cryptofascist. Also nobody (nobody!) ever advocated for defunding the police, and if they did it didn’t actually mean defunding the police. Seems to be a real resistance to simple, comprehensible terms around here. Serwer is a guy who constantly demands that he and his allies be allowed to do politics on easy mode, but he’s just part of a broader communal rejection of basic self-definition and comprehensible terms for this political tendency. Also if you say things they don’t like they might try to beat you up. Emphasis on try.

    If you ask these people, are you part of a social revolution?, they’ll loudly tell you yes! Yes they are! They’re going to shake society at its very foundations. Well, OK then -what do I call your movement? You reject every name that organically develops! I’ll use the name you pick, but you have to actually pick one. You can’t just bitch on Twitter every time someone tries to describe your political cohort, which again you yourself say intends to change the world. Name yourself or you will be named.

    Freddie is a self-described Marxist, but he's obviously fed up with the wide-eyed feigned sincerity of folks like Serwer.

  • But of course. Robby Soave looks at a particularly nasty bit of Congressional sausage-making: Amy Klobuchar and Tom Cotton's Big Tech Anti-Monopoly Bill Exempts Their Preferred Firms.

    But there's one odiously crooked provision of the Platform Competition and Opportunity Act that deserves special mention. The law would only apply to companies of a certain size—i.e., firms that have a "net annual sales of $600,000,000,000 in the prior calendar year or with a market capitalization of greater than $600,000,000,000." Facebook and Amazon, for instance, both have market caps well over $600 billion, so the law would apply to them.

    Note, however, the bill stipulates that it only covers firms that are over the $600 billion line "as of the date of enactment." In other words, if a company has a market cap under $600 billion on the day the bill becomes law, then that company is permanently exempt—even if it later crosses the threshold.

    Two companies that are currently under the $600 billion line and thus exempt from the bill are mega-retailers Target and Walmart. These companies are both worth hundreds of billions of dollars, and their e-commerce platforms are growing at a faster rate than Amazon's. But under the Klobuchar/Cotton law, it wouldn't matter if Target and Walmart overtake Amazon—they would be immune from this new antitrust action, as long as they are small enough on the day the bill is signed.

    Readers may be interested to note that Target is headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Walmart is headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas. Isn't that interesting? It's probably just a coincidence that the $600-billion-at-date-of-enactment provision would shield the two most important companies in Klobuchar and Cotton's home states.

    Klobuchar and Cotton: always looking out for the Little Guys, like Walmart and Target.

  • Milk came out of Andy McCarthy's nose when… he read the latest from President Bone Spurs: Trump Blasts Infrastructure Blowout? That’s a Good One . . .

    Trump is singularly responsible for the Democrats’ Senate majority and hence their ability to push legislation through. [The "Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill"], moreover, is the kind of heedless deficit-spending he championed as president.

    Just to recap, the major long-term threat facing the United States is so-called entitlement spending. Trump refused to address it. His insouciance in this regard has shred the credibility of current GOP demands for fiscal restraint, with congressional Republicans having gone mum while Trump ran up the credit card.

    Andy recounts the sad history of Trump's fiscal profligacy, how he dragged the GOP with him, and how he essentially handed the Senate to Democrat control.

  • And finally, the good bad business-as-usual news. Randal O'Toole informs us that Billions and Billions to Be Wasted.

    The infrastructure bill is really two bills in one: first, a reauthorization of existing federal spending on highways and transit; and second, brand‐​new spending on highways, transit, Amtrak, electric vehicles, airports, ports, clean water, clean energy, and broadband. This entirely new spending is almost entirely unnecessary as the infrastructure crisis was mostly fabricated in order to get Congress do what it always does, which is throw money at problems that are perceived to exist, whether they are real or not.

    About half of the transportation dollars in the bill are dedicated to Amtrak and urban transit, modes of transportation that carry less than 1 percent of passenger travel and no freight. While the other half appears to be dedicated to highways, much of that will be spent on projects that will reduce, not maintain or increase, roadway capacities.

    Our local CongressCritters are telling our local media how wonderful it all is, and our local media is uncritically passing along their bilge.


[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Another book down on my reread-Neal project. My previous take is from 2008 here. (Or, for those of you reading this on Goodreads, above.)

I don't have much to add, except to note that this is probably the least "accessible" of Stephenson's novels so far. There's nothing wrong with that, Stephenson has long earned the right to write whatever and however he wants. I'm pretty sure, even on rereading, that I missed a lot.

And about that: back in 2008, I noted that I "put it back in the pile to be read again someday." I shouldn't have waited 13 years to do that. Probably having something to do with my age, I found that I'd forgotten maybe 85% of the plot, 90% of the characters (there are a lot of characters), and 95% of the supporting detail.

And things would have been much easier with more maps, blueprints, schematics,… I'm sure Stephenson has these in some back closet. Uh, maybe he's posted them on the web. I haven't checked.

Looking forward to his latest novel, Termination Shock, due to arrive in about a week.

URLs du Jour


  • Rochelle, Rochelle! Vinay Prasad (Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California San Francisco) wonders out loud: For Whom Do the Covid “Fact Checkers” Really Work? He is not a fan of this tweet:

    In case you missed it, that's Rochelle the CDC Director. Dr. Prasad comments:

    I don’t know how to put this politely, but it is a lie, and a truly unbelievable one at that.

    First, of all, if it were true, it would mean that masking was more effective that the J&J vaccine (implausible). Second of all, we have actual cluster RCT data from Bangladesh showing a 11% (relative risk reduction). This occurred in a massive trial where masks were provided for free and encouraged. Even here, only surgical masks worked, and cloth did not, and had no where near this effect size. The idea that masks could reduce the chance of infection by 80% is simply untrue, implausible, and cannot be supported by any reliable data.

    Click the video if desired, but Dr. Walensky doesn't provide any evidence for her claim; it's just a 37-second repetition of the assertion.

    At this point in the pandemic, do we really need the CDC Director to further erode her credibility?

    (Not to mention that her low-res uncanny valley videos always remind me of Max Headroom.)

    (Via Cafe Hayek, a one-stop shop for distrusting government on Covid; classical reference in headline.)

  • Why my local paper sucks, a continuing series. The Sunday edition of my local paper had the sad story on page A8: Climate anxiety has many feeling hopeless.

    The online version's headline is even more dire: "Climate anxiety: Feeling hopeless, not wanting to have kids. What can you do about it?" It's truly a bizarre article.

    Sixteen-year-old Ben Doyle often feels "pervasive guilt." It creeps up when he leaves the water running a little too long while brushing his teeth, or when he drinks from a single-use plastic bottle.

    In those moments, he says, "I really feel like I’m only hurting myself and acting against my interests and the interests of everybody around me."

    Doyle, a student at Portsmouth High School in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, said he experienced "hopelessness" when the U.S. withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement in 2020.

    Oh, good grief. My summary of the article: "After being inundated by 24/7 climate alarmist propaganda for their entire lives, kids are freaking out. Or at least that's what they say."

    Read on, and you'll learn of Kelsey Hudson, "a climate-aware therapist who works at Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders". She "runs a private practice specifically dedicated to young people and adults with climate distress." And (I assume) business is good, dealing with psychic traumas she helps create.

    Also reported in this "news" article:

    On a spring morning in 2014, Kate Schapira, a poet who teaches at Brown University, set up a table and stool in a downtown Providence, Rhode Island park and put a hand-painted sign out in front. It read: “CLIMATE ANXIETY COUNSELING 5¢. THE DOCTOR IS IN”.

    Part public art installation and part serious effort to stimulate conversation around a subject that was consuming her, Schapira’s act, with its tongue-incheek nod to Lucy’s psychiatric booth in the Peanuts comic strip, drew international media attention.

    Yes, breaking news from 2014. Don't worry, we are reassured: "Schapira is not a trained therapist." As noted, she's on the faculty at (where else) Brown University. And she's tweeting stuff like:

    All in all, the article could well be the basis for new chapter in The Coddling of the American Mind ("How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure").

    I still get the Sunday paper for its two crossword puzzles, and the occasional money-saving coupon. Advocacy pieces pretending to be "news" are occasionally entertaining, like this one, but maybe not enough to make the subscription worthwhile.

  • Aieee! Where's my therapist for this? Via Slashdot, the folks at MIT diverted momentarily from cancelling lectures from unwoke heretics to report: Hackers are stealing data today so quantum computers can crack it in a decade

    While they wrestle with the immediate danger posed by hackers today, US government officials are preparing for another, longer-term threat: attackers who are collecting sensitive, encrypted data now in the hope that they’ll be able to unlock it at some point in the future. 

    The threat comes from quantum computers, which work very differently from the classical computers we use today. Instead of the traditional bits made of 1s and 0s, they use quantum bits that can represent different values at the same time. The complexity of quantum computers could make them much faster at certain tasks, allowing them to solve problems that remain practically impossible for modern machines—including breaking many of the encryption algorithms currently used to protect sensitive data such as personal, trade, and state secrets.

    While quantum computers are still in their infancy, incredibly expensive and fraught with problems, officials say efforts to protect the country from this long-term danger need to begin right now. 

    OK, maybe this is "we have to protect our phony-baloney jobs here" hoopla, but maybe not.

  • At the Volokh Conspiracy, Stuart Baker provides an xkcd takeoff: Cybertoonz 3!


    Heh! Original here.

  • Doe normaal. That's Danish, Kevin D. Williamson claims, for "Just be normal." But (in an NRPlus article) he reports: For Democratic Party, No New Normal

    When Donald Trump was elected, Democrats howled that it was the end of the country — and Democrats from Joe Biden to Hillary Rodham Clinton, let us not forget, rejected his election as “illegitimate.” But even those of us who opposed Trump also remember that Democrats had said much the same thing about every Republican president since Dwight Eisenhower: George W. Bush was going to usher in the dark forces of American fascism (remember Kingdom Coming in 2007 and American Fascists in 2008?), George H. W. Bush was a tool of the “New World Order,” Ronald Reagan a warmongering madman, etc. We had left-wing kooks trying to assassinate Gerald Ford, for goodness’s sake. Our friends on the left have been promising us either a corporate dystopia or a Christian Taliban courtesy of the GOP for decades. So far, neither has materialized.

    But it’s not just losing elections. Everything is the end of the world for Democrats. Climate change? End of the world. Economy? End of the world. Caitlyn the social-media intern has to pay back her student loans after Oberlin? End of the whole damned world. Inflation? You can bet your ass that rising prices for groceries and energy would be the end of the world if Ted Cruz were president — but inflation is, apparently, the new homelessness: It’s only an issue when it might hurt a Republican.

    When you are addicted to crisis, you cannot doe normaal — normal is the enemy. Twenty years ago, we might have worked out a reasonable cap-and-trade approach to greenhouse-gas emissions. Milton Friedman had proposed cap-and-trade systems for conventional air pollution, the George H. W. Bush administration had implemented a successful cap-and-trade program for acid-rain reduction, and in 2007 National Review published Jim Manzi’s “Conservative Strategy on Global Warming,” making the case for a cap-and-trade approach there. But in our time, the so-called Green New Dealers propose remaking essentially every aspect of our national economy and the world economy, from transportation and manufacturing to labor markets and trade policy, subjecting the entirety of the global marketplace to political regimentation — going far beyond anything that might plausibly be understood to be a climate program. The result: angst and wailing, buckets of hysteria, and . . . no real climate policy. In fact, the Chicken Little stuff has made achieving a bipartisan, consensus-oriented climate policy an even more remote possibility today than it was in the 1990s or at the turn of the century.

    That's probably an unfair-use excerpt, but it's hard to know where to stop with KDW.

  • Correction course. I approvingly cited a David French essay ("The Threat From the Anti-Woke Right") a few days back. In the interests of equal time, let me point out some criticism from Patrick Frey, aka "Patterico": David French Once Again Misrepresents a Law Addressing "Critical Race Theory".

    It's a detailed and important criticism. And it's painful, because Patterico obviously agrees with French on many issues, and much of what he has to say in the essay in question.

    I’ve just quoted a lot of language, so let’s break it down in a simple, easy-to-digest manner:

    • French says “the complaint is complaining about photographs and descriptions that depict what life was actually like for black Americans living in the Jim Crow South.”

    • French tells his readers that this complaint is made possible because the state law “bans any ‘concept’ that  ‘promot[es] division between, or resentment of, a race, sex, religion, creed, nonviolent political affiliation, social class, or class of people.’”

    • French neglects to tell readers that the law he cites explicitly allows schools to present “[t]he impartial instruction on the historical oppression of a particular group of people based on race.” That language would allow the schools to use the very photographs and depictions that French claims the law bans.

    This, my friends, is a misleading summary of the law by French.

    No question, there are problems with "anti-CRT" legislation going too far in attempting to shut down valid lessons in American race relations. But I'm convinced that French let his enthusiasm in making that point go too far, veering into misrepresentation.

    Or maybe not. Maybe French has a good rebuttal. If he does, I suppose I'll have to link to it.

URLs du Jour


  • Do these people have any self-awareness whatsoever? Titania McGrath tweets:

    That's from … Microsoft. (More ludicrous commentary and examples here.) The company that still hasn't figured out how to make accurate progress meters, or display consistent information on when Windows last checked for system update availability in the "Settings" window.

    (And apparently the guy on your left, Nic Fillingham, talked about his beard in his intro, but left his silly culturally-appropriated haircut unremarked.)

  • A too-modest reform. Scott Lincicome hashtags his idea: #EndDST. (Originally published last week.)

    In the coming days, tens of millions of Americans and their children will participate in a silly, unhealthy annual ritual rooted in mysticism and superstition. And they’ll also celebrate Halloween.

    The silly ritual to which I’m referring, of course, is our semiannual tradition of changing the clocks to accommodate daylight saving time (DST)—an onerous state time mandate detrimental to public health and safety, manipulated by corporatists, supported by a handful of childless insomniac socialites, and based on so-called “science” debunked decades ago. Indeed, even the name “daylight saving time” is a lie: The ritual merely shifts time; it doesn’t save anything—except, perhaps, a few jobs on K Street and in the Florida leisure industry.

    And so, my friends, it’s time I provided a full-throated explanation of why DST should be eliminated, before it’s too late.

    Summary: it doesn't save energy (as it originally promised to do); it makes us sicker and less safe; it messes up family life and the economy. (And Scott provides some interesting maps showing how "unreasonable" all the timeshifting can be.)

  • Another too-modest reform… … advocated by another small-thinking politician: Rubio Pushes for Year-Round Daylight Saving Time

    Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) is pushing for year-round Daylight Saving Time, saying twice-a-year clock changes are "stupid."

    "We're about to once again do this annual craziness of changing the clock, falling back, springing forward. We need to stop doing it. There is no justification for it. Let's go to permanent Daylight Saving Time," Rubio said in a video message Wednesday. "The overwhelming majority of members of Congress approve and support it. Let's get it done. Let's get it passed so that we never have to do this stupid change again."

    Rubio in March introduced the bipartisan Sunshine Protection Act, which would make Daylight Saving Time permanent, and the House and Senate versions of the bill are in committee. The bill is based on a 2018 Florida law that mandates year-round Daylight Saving Time. Eighteen other states have enacted similar measures. The state laws, however, cannot go into effect without an act of Congress—the 1966 Uniform Time Act prohibits states from observing permanent Daylight Saving Time, which begins in most states in March and ends in November.

    This article claims the opposite of what Lincicome alleges above: that DST "saves energy, decreases traffic accidents, and reduces crime".

  • But surely those enlightened, sophisticated Europeans have this figured out, right? Nope. Instead (via Slashdot): Debate over daylight saving time drags on in Europe

    This week could have been the first time that Europe did not have to observe the seasonal time change since it came into law across the region nearly two decades ago.

    Daylight saving time, the practice of setting clocks an hour ahead for the summer and an hour back for winter, has long been justified as a way of saving energy. During World War I, the United Kingdom and Germany implemented the clock change in hopes of conserving coal. The measure was abolished in most countries after the war ended, but it returned in the 1980s during the global oil crisis.

    Today, explanations for daylight saving time often focus on farmers and children needing sunlight in the early morning hours while working or going to school. Since 2002, the European Union has ordered all member states to adjust their clocks on the last Sunday in March and October. Iceland, however, is exempt.

    Click through for a description of the mess. It's probably making them cranky, although probably not cranky enough to start yet another world war. I hope.

    Any reasonably detached observer would, I hope, realize that politicians can't be trusted with the power to dictate how our clocks should be set. They should stop doing that. Let people figure out their own optimal schedules for sleep, work, etc. Stop government fiddling with time zones and 25/23-hour days. We should have a separation of time and state.

    If that happy event occurred, there would (eventually) be clock conventions widely (and voluntarily) shared across large areas. People would still gripe, but that's OK.

    I'd advocate planet-wide UTC to minimize confusion, but I'm a geek. Even non-geeks might find it nice to have a New Year's celebration simultaneously around the world. (Pay no attention to the fact that would occur well before my normal bedtime.)

    OK, that's enough DST-ranting…

  • In case you missed it. Eric Boehm reports the bad (albeit probably inevitable) news: Congress Finally Passed Biden's Inefficient, Deficit-Hiking Infrastructure Bill.

    Start right at the top of the $1.2 trillion package. The CBO projects that the bill will add about $256 billion to the federal budget deficit over 10 years. Actually, that number is likely to be closer to $400 billion because the infrastructure package includes a number of dubious offsets, particularly in how it proposes to reallocate unused funds appropriated in various COVID-19 emergency spending bills.

    The bill is also larded up with provisions that will make infrastructure projects more costly for taxpayers. That matters, of course, because if you inflate the cost of building a bridge and you have a fixed amount of money to spend on new bridges, you'll get fewer bridges.

    For example, the bill's "Buy American" provision is nothing more than performative patriotism and a handout to politically powerful unions. By mandating that materials used in road, bridge, and rail projects come primarily from the United States, Congress will effectively hike prices and engage in arbitrary protectionism. Just ask the currently hobbled Washington, D.C., metro system how well those laws work.

    These are not the people you want to control your clocks! (Sorry, did I say I was done ranting about DST? I guess I lied.)

URLs du Jour


  • Hey, kinda looks like the Old Man! Or Elvis! Commie Radio invites us to See the N.H. GOP's proposed state congressional map. But here it is:

    [NH Redistricted]

    You can click over to read the news story. For me, the relevant bit is that it puts my town (Rollinsford) in NH-02, judged to be Safe Democratic. Thanks to that new green tentacle running down the eastern border.

    Moan. Just what I need, to be represented by Annie Kuster, who would have no reason whatsoever to appeal to conservatives/libertarians. At least my current CongressCritter, Chris Pappas, occasionally makes noises that way.

  • What's that smell? At Patterico's Pontifications, JVW looks at garbage. Specifically…

    Another shining moment for “the adults in the room.” At the end of last week, reports from the Wall Street Journal and New York Times declared that the Biden Administration was considering a plan to pay up to $450,000 per child to illegal immigrant families who were detained at the border and separated from their children during the previous administration, with some families with multiple children receiving as much as one million dollars. Naturally, Republicans responded with utter dismay (Oops! I guess the word I am supposed to use is “pounced”). Luckily for the President, he had by then jetted off to Rome (4,500 mile trip) on Air Force One where he made use of an 85-vehicle motorcade en route to The Vatican to share a laugh with the Pope before then swinging up to Glasgow (1,560 mile trip) to join with 30,000 other attendees who had traveled (mostly via airplane) to Scotland to watch the U.S. President nap through a series of speeches demanding that we peons who don’t work for the almighty government drastically reduce our carbon footprint, and thus did not have to immediately answer questions about the proposed payouts to illegal immigrants scheme.

    At least, that is, until he returned home yesterday (3425 mile trip). In his first press conference back, Fox News (naturally) reporter Peter Doocey asked the President if the proposed payouts might incentivize more foreigners to attempt an illegal border crossing, and was met with this reply: “If you guys keep sending that garbage out, yeah. But it’s not true.”

    When Mr. Doocey followed-up by asking the President if he does believe this is a “garbage report,” the President replied, “Yeah. Four-hundred and fifty thousand dollars per person, is that what you are saying?” When Mr. Doocey responded in the affirmative, the President retorted emphatically, “That’s not gonna happen.”

    The report is “garbage”? Well, not according to the ACLU who has apparently been working with members of the administration on this very issue. The original article in the WSJ quoted Lee Gelernt from the ACLU’s immigrant-rights division saying, “President Biden has agreed that the family separation policy is a historic moral stain on our nation that must be fully remedied. That remedy must include not only meaningful monetary compensation, but a pathway to remain in the country.”

    And later "clarifications" from the White House Deputy Press Secretary indicate that the "garbage" Biden said was "not gonna happen" probably is gonna happen.

  • Obfuscation is their best defense. John Daniel Davidson asks a question to which I'm pretty sure he knows the answer: Why Won’t The Left Admit Schools Teach Critical Theory And Defend It On The Merits?

    By now, most Americans know that critical race theory is real and that it’s being taught widely in public schools.

    This isn’t a semantics debate. Students are being taught racial hierarchies, along with the idea that the United States was founded on white supremacy, and that the U.S. Constitution, our legal system, and American ideals like freedom and equality all work to perpetuate and sustain systemic racism.

    There are mountains of evidence of this. The work of Christopher Rufo and others has exposed critical race theory’s many manifestations, not just in public schools but inside major corporations and even the U.S. military.

    Yet the left has refused to debate critical race theory on the merits. Instead, the corporate press, Hollywood, and woke Twitter bluechecks keep insisting that it doesn’t even exist, it’s just a fantasy conjured up by racist Trumpers trying to scare white voters into electing Republicans.

    I briefly watched MSNBC last Tuesday night. It took about 15 seconds for one of their talking heads to assure her listeners that CRT didn't exist.

    But for more on that…

  • Or their intelligence. Jonah Goldberg has advice that won't be listened to: Don’t Insult the Customer (by calling them racists). And (as a bonus):

    I agree entirely with defenders of critical race theory that most people have, at best, a vague understanding of it. Where I part company is on the question of how relevant that is. What a lot of the people object to is the general approach to talking about race today. If you want to call it anti-racism, or woke-ism, or some other label, it has no bearing on the thing people object to, because words aren’t things. And the things people object to can’t be fixed by changing the labels we use for them. The progressive response to anti-CRT rhetoric is one of the great examples of motte-and-bailey argumentation in public life in my lifetime. In front of friendly audiences, it’s all systemic racism, white supremacy, and the like. When people push back, it’s because “they don’t want to talk about slavery and Jim Crow!”

    I’m getting tired of saying this, but schools have been teaching about slavery a lot for the last 60 years at least. If progressives were just saying, “Schools need to teach about slavery and Jim Crow,” it would be no different than saying, “Schools need to teach math!” because that’s already happening. But most normal people understand that there is something new going on, and that’s the thing they’re objecting to.

    So anyway…

  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

    I do not want one. Jonah also linked to this CNET article with the text "Suicide of the West": Fisher-Price made a working Chatter phone for adults because we're all broken inside.

    Baby's first "mobile" phone is now an actual mobile phone. The iconic Fisher-Price Chatter Telephone pull toy has been made into a working Bluetooth-connected handset for grownups. It still has a rainbow-colored rotary dial. It's got eyes that wobble when the wheels roll. But now, 60 years since it first was introduced, you can take your business calls through the big, red plastic handset.

    The link at right goes to the kid's toy, sorry.

Last Modified 2021-11-07 6:11 AM EST

The Mind Club

Who Thinks, What Feels, and Why It Matters

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Grabbed via UNH Interlibrary Loan from Colorado State. Go Rams! Recommended heartily by Arnold Kling. I'm not as enthusiastic as Arnold.

The authors for this 2016 book are listed as Daniel M. Wegner and Kurt Gray. Wegner, professor of psychology at Harvard, died of ALS in 2013. As explained in the book's moving preface, this left Gray, his graduate student, to finish up. The book is informal, accessible, and (unexpectedly, given the somber preface) often very funny.

The authors approach the concept of "mind" from an interesting perspective: not how minds work, but instead how we perceive minds in various circumstances. Their model is two-dimensional; we see minds having different levels of "experience" and "agency". And they supply a map showing how various entities fall out on those scales (clipped from a 2007 Science article by the authors and Hannah Gray):

[Mind Club Map]

"Experience" here refers to the ability to feel (high for you and me, low for robots). "Agency" for the ability for "thinking and doing" (again high for you and me, low for frogs and fetuses).

Chapter by chapter, the book explores our attitudes toward the "minds" of different groups: animals, machines, patients (typically helpless, some irretrievably brain-damaged), enemies, the silent, groups, the dead, God, and (finally) your own self. Interesting observations are made, and a considerable amount of research is described. As usual, researchers love to put their test subjects into manipulated situations designed to fool their brains. (It's tons of fun, and often profitable!)

I particularly liked the study reported on p. 252 (hardcover). Researchers "had people read an essay supporting open immigration either on a normal city sidewalk or in front of a funeral home." They speculated that "reminders of death would lead people to identify strongly with their nationality—Go America!—and therefore see foreigners as threatening."

And that's exactly what they found!

The final chapter, "The Self", contains an argument against free will. Again, the argument is about perception: you may perceive yourself as having free will, but that's (they argue) an illusion. You may weigh their argument, find it persuasive, and choose to accept it… Oops!

I didn't. You'd think by now the anti-free will proselytizers would come up with an argument that I had no choice other than to accept.

URLs du Jour


  • Heh, indeed. Via Instapundit (and, arguably, a Pun):

    [Winsome, indeed]

  • Sweatshops where you least expect them. Michael Lind has a damning indictment of Academia: Why Ending Tenure Is Only a Start.

    The contemporary American university is an enormous Kafkaesque bureaucracy teetering on top of a small Dickensian sweatshop. If we don’t count the sports teams and the research institutes, the university consists of preindustrial artisans, the instructors, divided between a small and shrinking group of elite tenured artisans and a huge and growing number of impoverished apprentices with no hope of decent jobs—with all of the artisans, affluent and poor, crushed beneath the weight of thickening layers of middle managers.

    Apart from useful research, most of which could be done just as well in independent institutes, the product of all but the most prestigious American universities consists of diplomas which are rendered progressively more worthless each year thanks to credential inflation. According to the Federal Reserve of New York, the underemployment rate for recent college grads—that is, the percentage working in jobs that do not require a college diploma—was 40% at the end of March 2021. True, workers with college diplomas tend to make more than those without them—but at least some of the premium comes from Starbucks baristas with B.A.s pushing high school graduates into even worse jobs.

    It's pretty blistering. For additional information, see Bryan Caplan's The Case Against Education.

  • Can I just cast my 2024 vote for her now? Jimmy Quinn reports on my current presidential preference: Nikki Haley To Hit ‘Totally Un-American’ Talking Points On China & Capitalism.

    When former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley addresses the Heritage Foundation this morning to give the group’s annual Margaret Thatcher Freedom Lecture, she’s expected to deliver a full-throated defense of capitalism that mixes boilerplate conservative arguments with a salvo against “the silliest argument of all” — the idea that “capitalism is bad for America but good for Communist China.”

    Haley’s speech reprises the theme of a Wall Street Journal op-ed she authored in February, in which she wrote that the “hyphenated capitalist” solutions put forward by conservative critics of the free market “differ from socialism only in degree.”

    Nikki, you had me at "Margaret Thatcher".

  • Shut up, they (repeatedly) explained. Kevin D. Williamson realizes it, and so should you: Facebook's fight is really about silencing right-wing voices.

    The “Facebook Papers” campaign that currently is being fought on every front from The Associated Press to Congress is not just about online safety or social justice — it is about beating Facebook into submission before the next election in order to push the platform into behaving more like Twitter or YouTube, i.e., to take Facebook from a place that is mildly hostile to conservatives to one that is extremely hostile to conservatives.

    Facebook has a split personality. Right-leaning entertainers such as Dan Bongino may thrive on the platform, but when something comes along that actually threatens Democratic interests — say, a New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s financial shenanigans — then Facebook goes to extraordinary lengths to quash that content.

    Facebook is especially sensitive around Election Day. And that is because the war on Facebook is a direct outgrowth of the angst and wailing and denial that followed Donald Trump’s electoral win in 2016 — an outcome that was blamed, preposterously, on your elderly aunt’s favorite social-media platform.

    Just checking my own data point… my beloved (and only surviving) Aunt Marilyn joined FB in June 2015. Made two posts on that day. And nothing since. Not sayin' Kevin's wrong, but maybe he's aiming his analysis at a younger demographic than mine.

  • The slowest moving emergency ever. The Babylon Bee is great, but 90% of their humor is in their headlines. And similarly with Jim Geraghty's NR Corner post: After Two Months of Waiting, Joe Biden's Emergency Vaccine Mandate Will Take Effect in Another Two Months. But I'll excerpt anyway:

    On September 9, President Biden announced a directive to the Labor Department to develop a temporary emergency rule for businesses with 100 or more employees that would require workers to be fully vaccinated or be tested at least once a week. Biden declared that, “We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers. We’re going to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by increasing the share of the workforce that is vaccinated in businesses all across America.”

    This morning, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced that starting on January 4 — 60 days from today’s publication — new vaccination-or-test requirements for businesses with more than 100 workers will go into effect, as well as a vaccine mandate for health-care workers at facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid.

    OSHA is issuing the vaccine mandate under an “emergency temporary standard,” which means the regular public-comment period was skipped. Emergency temporary standards are applied when “workers are in grave danger due to exposure to toxic substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or to new hazards and that an emergency standard is needed to protect them.”

    Jim's not a lawyer—I don't think so anyway—so for an overview of the legal challenges the mandate is already facing, check out the Volokh Conspiracy, for example: Jonathan H. Adler's Could the OSHA Vaccine-or-Test ETS Fall Prey to the Congressional Review Act? (which has links to other posts covering lawsuits, etc.).

    Maybe they should have tried treating people as responsible adults instead, open to rational argument and persuasion. But that's not the first instinct of the statist.

  • Oops. Christian Britschgi seems more than a little outraged: The Defense Department Shrugs Off Drone Strike That Killed 7 Children as 'Honest Mistake' (To quote someone else: "Wait a minute. That's not better. That's worse!")

    Pentagon investigators have rendered their judgment on a U.S. drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan, that killed 10 people, including an aid worker and seven children: It was a regrettable goof that violated no law.

    The August strike came a few days after a suicide bombing conducted by ISIS-K, the Afghanistan branch of the terrorist group ISIS. The attack killed 13 U.S. servicemembers and 170 Afghan civilians. Military leaders initially claimed that the strike took out ISIS personnel who were preparing another bombing.

    I realize the counterargument: in a hot war zone, erring on the side of caution for preventative strikes can get American soldiers killed. I don't know what the answer is to that.

The Last Dead Girl

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Culture-crudity landmark: a laudatory blurb on the back of a dust jacket can contain an f-bomb if said blurb is from Stephen King. (Apparently Steve was out of adjectives that day.)

This book is billed as a prequel in Harry Dolan's "David Loogan" series, based in Ann Arbor, MI, which I read and enjoyed. David's going by the name "David Moore" here, and it's set in a semi-fictional Rome, NY. I don't think the transition is explained, but it's understandable. NY David has the same deadpan delivery as I remember MI David having. The opening chapter has him under police interrogation:

“Why’d you kill the girl?” he said.

His tone was mild, bored, bureaucratic. I studied his face. He had dark hair cut short, a heavy brow, a long, fleshy nose. His skin was olive and he had gone too long without a shave. He must have been around fifty years old. His eyes looked tired.

“Seriously?” I said.

“Yes. Seriously.”

“Does that ever work for you?”

He tipped his head to the side. “Sometimes.”

“A cold open like that—‘Why’d you kill the girl?’—and then they just confess?”

“You’d be surprised what works.”

David's 10-day girlfriend, Jana, has been brutally murdered. Both the police and David are in the dark for either suspects or motive. But (thanks to Dolan's tricky narrative technique) we know the perpetrator is a sicko, who spied on Jana and David from afar. David becomes obsessed with tracking down the killer, making himself very unpopular with the cop above. And it puts even more of a strain on his relationship with his already-estranged fiancée. (Yes: a girlfriend and a fiancée. David's life is a complex one.)

Jana was a pre-law student, and (as it turns out) was working on an "Innocence Project" with one of her professors, examining the possible railroading of a husband for the murder of his wife. Is there a connection there? No spoilers, but come on, what do you think?

I mentioned the tricky narrative technique: it's mostly first-person from David's POV, but there are long stretches of third person from other characters' POV. And that occasionally includes flashbacks to years past.

I usually don't do this, but I said "Whoa" out loud, right at the top of page 170 (hardcover version). And thought: I really didn't see that coming. As in his other books, Dolan is fond of intricate plotting and seemingly-unimportant characters who turn out to be very important.

And, of course, a peril-filled climax. Definitely a page turner there.

URLs du Jour


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  • Mostly, it says we run a joke into the ground. Jonah Goldberg explains What ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ Says About Our Discourse. Assuming you know the basics:

    Indeed, one of the things fueling the “Let’s go Brandon” stuff is liberal hypocrisy. When Trump was president, there was no shortage of mockery and expletives hurled his way. Robert De Niro got a standing ovation for saying “F--- Trump” at the Tony Awards. Rep. Rashida Tlaib used similar salty language, without liberals taking to their fainting couches.

    I get that some might think Trump’s a special case, given how much he soiled the presidency and the discourse. I don’t remember anyone trying to cancel Eminem for the F-bomb in his anti-Bush track “Mosh,” released just before the 2004 election.

    But as is so often the case when liberals use a double standard, conservatives suddenly discover it, too. Partisans on the right were often outraged by crude attacks on Republican presidents. They condemned such epithets as offensive and disrespectful. Now they think they’re great. If the left should lighten up, the right should grow up.

    Might not be a bad idea. Not holding my breath for either thing to happen.

  • I, for one, welcome our new human-operated zero‐emission port equipment. Scott Lincicome and Ilana Blumsack say we should Build Back Slower.

    As discussed in a previous blog post, proposed spending on U.S. ports in the bipartisan infrastructure bill is not only unnecessary but might actually slow down needed upgrades in the our port system, which ranks as one of the more expensive and least efficient systems in the world. Buried in the latest version of congressional Democrats’ reconciliation bill is more bad news: the $2.65 billion in additional federal spending on ports (to reduce air pollution) appears to exclude investment in automation – the lack thereof being one the key reasons that U.S. ports are currently so inefficient.

    In particular, the bill provides grants for U.S. ports to purchase and install “zero‐emission port equipment or technology” at their facilities. However, the bill’s new definition (at pp. 307–308) of eligible projects reads as follows (emphasis ours):

    The term ‘zero‐emission port equipment or technology’ means human‐operated equipment or human‐maintained technology that (A) produces zero emissions of [relevant air pollutants]; or (B) captures 100 percent of the emissions described in subparagraph (A) that are produced by an ocean‐going vessel at berth.

    Robots therefore need not apply.

    Goes without saying: those humans will be union members.

  • It's Thursday… so it must be time to link to Kevin D. Williamson's 'The Tuesday' column. In which he discusses Vax, Quacks, and ‘Respectability Politics’. It's long, and I marvel (as usual) at KDW's ability to churn out paragraph after paragraph of insightful and informative prose. See if this grabs you:

    A request from the vast, endless digital peanut gallery: “I’d love to see a National Review contributor try to explain why it is that for 15 years the stereotypical anti-vaxxer was a progressive suburban mom in an ultra-blue district but at no point did any major Democratic politician try to court their support the way Republicans have.”

    That’s a fair question, and the answer, in a word, is: respectability.

    The Democrats have won it and weaponized it, and the Republicans have consequently rejected it.

    The Democrats have successfully aligned themselves with the most prestigious and powerful social institutions — Silicon Valley, Wall Street, the Ivy League, the New York Times — and they have, in turn, aligned these institutions with themselves and their ambitions. Republicans, for their part, have largely rejected these elite institutions (you can smell the sour grapes from here) along with the entire notion that such elite institutions should enjoy any special status or deference, adopting instead a countercultural politics that is, in spite of its right-wing character, a great deal like the left-wing countercultural politics of the 1960s. The student radicals who occupied the university administration offices would have loved to have done what that rabble did on January 6, but they did not have sufficient strength to occupy the Capitol — only the Lincoln Memorial, where they were visited by a solicitous Richard Nixon.

    The hippies and their political allies were neck-deep in filth and dysfunction, high on radicalism, and up to their eyeballs in various kinds of antiscientific quackery. The Democratic Party, at the time, made some considerable room for this, having no other practical choice.

    But that was then. The Democratic Party is well on the other side of its “Sistah Souljah moment.”

    The Dems are still full of quacks, but they are respectable quacks. According to all the best sources.

  • Anti-woke right: Threat or Menace? David French, guesting at Bari Weiss's substack, goes with the former: The Threat From the Anti-Woke Right.

    The most prominent example of right-wing illiberalism comes from the series of so-called “anti-CRT” bills being passed in legislatures across the country.

    According to a Heritage Foundation tracker, the bills have been introduced in more than 20 states and passed in seven. They promise to protect children from a divisive and hateful ideology, but they’re largely a mess. They’re vague and poorly drafted, and they leave teachers utterly confused.

    What can they teach? What can they not teach? What’s going to trigger a bunch of angry parents and lead to some state investigation or clamp-down?

    Let’s deal with the confusion first. The most notorious example of this came two weeks ago in Southlake, Texas, when a school administrator told teachers that, if they include a “book on the Holocaust” in their syllabi, then they also have to include one with “opposing perspectives.”

    As I think a Dickens character said: "If the law says that, then the law is an ass."

    A good start for legislators (if it's not too late) would be to read James Copland's How to Regulate Critical Race Theory in Schools: A Primer and Model Legislation at the Manhattan Institute site.

  • Another bad idea whose time has come. Veronique de Rugy warns us: Here Comes the Hypocritical Global Minimum Tax

    There is a certain irony to a group of rich countries pushing for policies that will disadvantage poorer countries. Yet this is exactly what the leaders of the world's biggest economies did by endorsing a global minimum tax rate of 15% on the profits of large businesses, a deal that has since gained momentum and pledges from leaders in 136 countries.

    The deal's objectives are simple. It creates a tax cartel, and high-tax nations believe this will limit competition from countries with lower and simpler taxes. It also benefits wealthier, higher-tax nations by shifting revenues from countries where companies are headquartered to countries where companies make their sales. At the heart of these two objectives is the need to feed wealthy nations' enormous budgets.

    Bookkeeping details follow, but at bottom it's the usual story: politicians trying to squeeze money from the private economy under the dubious assumption that they'll spend it more wisely than the original owners would.

URLs du Jour


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  • Do unto others. Kyle Smith thinks we should Give Alec Baldwin a Break

    Baldwin and I don’t agree on much in the political realm, but I’d be ashamed of myself if I took any joy in his plight or made jokes about it. Which brings up a larger issue: our increasing inability to see our neighbors on the other side of the political divide as human beings. The growing self-segregation by political disposition is having some of the same effects that racial segregation once did; it becomes temptingly easy to ascribe character flaws to a group of people you avoid and don’t really know. When you keep an out-group at arm’s length long enough, it’s easy to stereotype its members: “They’re all like that.” “Serves ’em right, they get what they deserve.” “They wouldn’t break a sweat defending me if the situation were reversed.”

    Many on the left had themselves a grand old time mocking Dick Cheney when he accidentally shot a friend on a hunting trip. Dana Milbank, who was then ostensibly a nonpartisan reporter for the Washington Post, thought it was so hilarious that a 78-year-old man was hit by shotgun fire and suffered a heart attack and a collapsed lung that he appeared on MSNBC in a ridiculous Elmer Fudd costume.

    Agreed. I'm not much of a Christian, but here's what I'm pretty sure the Golden Rule does not say: "Do unto others as the worst "others" would do to you if they had the chance."

  • And 'fair share' means 'more'. Gerard Baker details an entry in the Alinsky Dictionary: For Privileged Progressives, ‘We’ Means ‘You’

    If there’s a defining feature of modern progressives’ self-image, it’s the idea that—by dint of their supposedly superior education, their association with like-minded members of global elites and their immersion in the various rites of the contemporary secular religion—they are more knowledgeable and virtuous than you, the inferior classes.

    Democratic leaders, and the academic, corporate and media people who sustain them, nurture their luxury beliefs, comfortable in the conviction of their own moral supremacy.

    We shouldn’t be surprised. There’s been a social revolution in this country and the wider West in the past 50 years in which, by a remarkable inversion, the left—which used to represent the interests of the outsiders, the disadvantaged—is in almost total control of the institutions of the establishment.

    They are the masters now. And like masters through most of history—from tribal chiefs to Roman patricians, absolutist monarchs and totalitarian tyrants—their superiority is such that the rules they make don’t apply to them. They apply only to you, the unenlightened.

    Baker provides examples, including President Wheezy's '85-car motorcade' in Rome to chat with the Pope about climate change.

  • But 'fair share' sometimes means 'less'. Eric Boehm notes the latest Democratic spaghetti-throwing: A Tax Break for the Rich Could End up Being the Largest Part of the 'Build Back Better' Plan

    President Joe Biden's "Build Back Better" plan was pitched as a once-in-a-generation rebalancing of America's socioeconomic scales. Democrats were going to "Tax The Rich" and use the proceeds to fund a massive expansion of government benefits for everyone else.

    Now, the package appears likely to deliver an overall tax cut for America's wealthiest citizens.

    In large part, that's because Democrats now plan to fully repeal a cap on the state and local tax (SALT) deduction. The cap, imposed as part of the 2017 federal tax reform law, allows Americans to deduct up to $10,000 in state and local tax payments from their federal taxes. That cap is high enough that it covers the vast majority of Americans, but the changes made in 2017 meant that wealthy Americans could no longer take advantage of a sort of backdoor subsidy that eased the burden of living in a high-tax state or locality.

    It's difficult to imagine this increasingly shambolic legislation will make it to the finish line. "Moderate" Democrats should be nervous (given yesterday's election results). And "progressive" Democrats (if they believe their own rhetoric) should be outraged at the SALT stuff. It would be nice to see everything crash and burn, but I'm not getting my hopes up.

  • I might have gone with 'poop' there. James Lileks writes today's Bleat from a Minneapolis that soundly defeated a "defund the police" referendum. So he won't be moving to Edina. Yet. And I liked this:

    I voted in person on the day of election, as God and George Washington intended, and afterwards was invited to take a sticker that said I VOTED! I declined, because they always seem a tad precious. Yeah that’s great but for what and for whom? Being proud of voting is like wearing a sticker that said I DID NOT DEFECATE ON A PUBLIC SIDEWALK, which is also something you shouldn’t get applause for proclaiming. It’s the bare minimum.

    Tempted to flaunt your civic virtue? Resist.

URLs du Jour


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  • An unremarkable lie in the WSJ. In an otherwise unremarkable news story headlined: Biden’s Glasgow Challenge Is to Convince World That U.S. Can Lead on Climate. So, good luck with that, Joe. I'm sure you're up to that challenge.


    India’s Foreign Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, whose country is the third-largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, is among those who say the commitment by the U.S. and other wealthy countries to raise $100 billion a year to help poorer countries to transition to cleaner energy isn’t enough.

    “One-hundred-billion dollars is less than the money [that the] NFL is making from media rights,” Mr. Jaishankar recently said

    That NFL thing sounds fishy. And it is. Subrahmanyam wants $100 billion per year, each and every year, for the indefinite future. The NFL deal, on the other hand (as reported last March) is estimated to cost media companies around $100 billion total—but that's spread over more than a decade, and also spread over five outlets (ViacomCBS, Fox, Comcast/NBC, Disney/ESPN/ABC, and Amazon). And a lot of that depends on the NFL's continued popularity over that period.

    So Subrahmanyam is playing an innumerate game. The WSJ lets that pass, though.

  • At least Fonzie was cool once. We looked at the American Medical Association's new guidelines/demands for "equitable" language yesterday. Jerry Coyne has more on that, worth reading: The AMA jumps the Woke Shark, introduces Medspeak. But a good observation, credited to "GCM", appears at the end, because GCM's eyes did not glaze over at the sheer volume of bilge:

    The AMA brochure is even nuttier than it appears on first view. It says not to use the words vulnerable, marginalized, and high-risk, but then uses the words repeatedly in its preferred usages!! It’s as though the approved and disapproved sections were written by two different people!

    Or it was written by people who were more concerned about appearances than clarity and coherence. And (as also noted yesterday), it's likely they are addicted to the endorphin rush they get from pushing other people around. Belittling ordinary language, demanding your moral inferiors "speak right"—what better way to get your jollies.

  • What would you say you do here? Perhaps they have people skills. Jim Geraghty looks Inside the Intel Community’s Infuriating COVID-Origins Report and it's not a pretty picture, Emily.

    Earlier this year, the U.S. public and the world were provided with a two-page summary of the investigation’s findings, declaring that the U.S. intelligence community could not determine the origins of COVID-19 and could not add anything to what was already known.

    For months people such as myself asked what the point of the U.S. intelligence community was if 18 separate government agencies with amazing technology, enormous resources, and thousands upon thousands of smart and highly trained people couldn’t provide policymakers and the public with clearer answers about life-and-death issues involving the secretive actions of hostile foreign countries.

    It is as if the U.S. intelligence community heard our complaints and answered them . . . with an 18-page report declaring that it could not determine the origins of COVID-19 and could add very little to what was already known. Keep in mind, the U.S. intelligence community was appropriated $62 billion in 2020, and $60 billion in 2021.

    Hey, let's go easy on the US intelligence community, Jim! At least they warned Biden about the rapid collapse of Kabul to the Taliban!

    Oh, wait.

    No, they didn't.

  • And vice versa. Batya Ungar-Sargon (surprisingly, deputy opinion editor at Newsweek) is a guest at Bari Weiss's substack, explaining How Journalism Abandoned the Working Class

    For a long time, the notion that America is an unrepentant white-supremacist state—one that confers power and privilege to white people and systematically denies them to people of color—was the province of far-left activists and academics. But over the past decade, it’s found its way into the mainstream, largely through liberal media outlets like the New York Times, NPR, MSNBC, the Washington Post, Vox, CNN, the New Republic, and the Atlantic.

    What changed? Most obviously: white liberals. Their enthusiasm for wokeness created a feedback loop with the media outlets to which they are paying subscribers. And the impact has been monumental: Once distinct publications and news channels are now staggeringly uniform. A moral panic around race is everywhere: In television segments […] and articles like “Is the White Church Inherently Racist?” and “The Housewives of White Supremacy” and “When Black People Are in Pain, White People Just Join Book Clubs” and “How White Women Use Themselves as Instruments of Terror,” which have become the bread and butter of the New York Times and the Washington Post. 

    I am not sharing an article “How White Women Use Themselves as Instruments of Terror" with either Mrs. Salad or Pun Daughter.

Black Widow

[4.0 stars] [IMDB Link] [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Huh. At Amazon, the DVD is more expensive than the Blu-ray. Well, it showed up for no (extra) fee at Disney+, and I have no interest in a Red Sox-free World Series, so…

It's the origin story of Natasha Romanoff. (I'm not sure if the Marvel movies have ever explicitly called her the "Black Widow" before.) It's pretty dark: girls plucked off the streets or taken from their parents by Soviet Union baddie, Dreykov. Only the ablest survive to go on missions of espionage/sabotage/assassination. A pre-teen Natasha gets implanted in Ohio with her phony "family": dad Alexei, who (somehow) got the super-soldier serum to become the "Red Guardian"; mom Melania, the brains of the cell, and little sister Yelena, (who thinks the"family" is real. Sorry, kid.

After completing the mission, their cover is blown, and they make a harrowing escape to Cuba, reality is revealed to little Yelena, just as she's whisked off for spy training and girl-parts removal. Flash forward to a point in the MCU timeline just around the time of Captain America: Civil War; Natasha is on the run for being on the wrong side. But she gets word that that old baddie Dreykov is still around; way back in pre-Iron Man 2 days, she thought she had killed him in order to win the favor of SHIELD.

So she teams up (after some sisterly-but-really-not fighting) with now-grown Yelena to track down the still-dangerous Dreykov and his deadly army of mind-controlled Widows. Again, involving explosions and lots of CGI.

It's all pretty neat, and the post-credit scene makes me want to see what happens next.

URLs du Jour


  • Eye Candy du Jour is… A tweet from Jesse Singal. It's not pretty, unfortunately:

    It's just one example in the continuing wokification of the AMA. Legal Insurrection's William A. Jacobson has a longer article with more examples: American Medical Association Language Guide Demands Focus On Racial “Equity” And Micromanages Terminology. Among the Orwellian "suggestions" is to 'Avoid saying “target,” “tackle,” “combat” or other terms with violent connotation when referring to people, groups or communities.' For example, instead of saying "Combat (disease)" you're now supposed to say "Eliminate (disease)"

    Because that will somehow fix everything.

    Jacobsen comments:

    It would be easy to dismiss this as just woke posturing. Except look how far it has gone in a short period. While the AMA does not run the health care system, it is hugely influential. This language policing will soon be the basis for policing licensing and used as a threat much as the JAMA editor was forced out. It will follow the path we saw with speech policing that migrated from campus to the culture.

    Can I speculate that it won't be long before Politics and the English Language will be banned as hate speech?

  • Orwell's remains currently at 8200 RPM and increasing… John Hinderaker has the latest guidance from the Ministry of Truth. CRT: It Doesn’t Exist…And It’s Awesome!

    Critical Race Theory has become the number one political issue in the U.S. So, needless to say, it is the top issue in school board elections that are taking place across the country. Thus, in one of Minnesota’s largest school districts, the administration emailed talking points to school board members, telling them how to answer questions about CRT from concerned parents. No doubt many other districts have done the same. Remarkably, this particular email included no fewer than six attachments with talking points on CRT.

    These six pro-CRT missives are pretty much interchangeable, although they come from a variety of sources: the school district itself; Education Minnesota, the teachers’ union (this one includes an attack on American Experiment); the Minnesota School Boards Association; the University of Minnesota; the Minnesota Association of School Administrators; and the Council of the Great City Schools.

    Examples are like a stupid-person parody of our local New Hampshire Listens efforts. "I'm going to pretend I'm paying attention to your concerns, while ignoring them." What are you gonna say to a parent who asks:

    Why are you teaching children that all white people are racist?

    The rhetorical jiu-jitsu:

    First off, I’m thrilled you’re taking such a deep interest in how and what our kids are taught, a conversation that I feel is long overdue. What I know most Americans believe is that we expect our students - whatever their color or background - to be able to learn hard truths and handle honest history and civics. I believe in children’s potential to meet new challenges and have an honest reckoning, and when we try to edit and distort our history, we are doing them, and our future a disservice. My loyalty is to children and who and what they can become.

    Yeesh. Thanks much, educrat, for implying that I'm in favor of distorting history, and that I'm disloyal to my kids. As an indication of how much actual respect is involved, this is from a section in the document titled "Responding to Nonsense".

  • Least surprising headline of the day comes from Andrew Wilford of the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, writing at Reason: Democrats Have a Lot of Bad Ideas for Tax Reform

    Passing an enormous, (theoretically) paid-for spending bill that pleases all the various factions within the Democratic Party was never going to be easy. But the current framework that Democrats have unveiled—where party leaders determine what revenue raisers to use by throwing them at a wall like spaghetti and seeing what sticks—is downright disastrous.

    This slapdash approach is par for the course nowadays for Congress. Passage of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) was marred by last-second additions and changes, as well as funky accounting to pass muster by reconciliation rules. Even before this year, Congress was not exactly known for fostering the development of careful, thoughtful policy making.

    The "careful, thoughtful policy making" seems to be "how can we best fool the people that someone else is going to pay for this?"

  • Find your favorite. At the WSJ, Andy Kessler provides us with Nine Theories of Progressive Power.

    Go ahead, try to tax the unrealized stock gains of billionaires, a wealth tax of questionable constitutionality. Or wear a “Tax the Rich” dress with the same font as a Chick-fil-A takeout bag to a gala for millionaires and billionaires. Or expand the idea of “infrastructure” to include social giveaways—free stuff for all. But what do progressives get out of it?

    They must know that massive wealth redistribution and public spending crush the economy if they have ever studied the failures of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society or Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Progressives often invoke Europe as an economic model knowing full well that the U.S. outstrips almost all European countries in economic output per capita—15% higher than Germany’s, 43% higher than France’s.

    Surely former law professor Elizabeth Warren has studied enough history—I mean, Harvard, right?—to understand the fallacy of her socialist leanings. Her government-controls-everything policies usually lead to Venezuela-style ruin. Why pursue these policies? What is the end game? Here are nine answers.

    Here's mine:

    Add the “Lord of the Rings” theory: Power is addictive. Imagine different congressmen as Gollum. It often fits.

    Pushing people around gives them an endorphin rush. Can't we find some way to addict them to something else instead? Video games? Porn? Composing snarky tweets? Writing a blog that nobody reads?

Last Modified 2021-11-01 10:41 AM EST