URLs du Jour

2021-12-31

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • So long to the 2021 dumpster fire. But, as Kevin D. Williamson notes (in an NRPlus article), Things Could Be Worse. And he starts off with some good advice I think I'll follow:

    This year, I will celebrate New Year’s Eve by keeping an earlier New Year’s resolution and going to bed at 9 p.m. I recommend it.

    New Year’s Eve is the worst, anyway — even worse than Valentine’s Day when it comes to people desperately pretending to be having a good time. Spare yourself. I’m not saying you have to be a fuddy-duddy on the level I am (if you ever need a quick explainer on how to read lute tablature, I can help) — in fact, I’m not saying you have to do anything — but most of you will be happier if you skip the $1,000 table at the Hilton in Chicago, even if it does come with Red Bull as well as champagne. You can get a pretty good bottle of champagne for $100, have a glass at 8 p.m., and then — here is the important part — go to bed.

    There are personal benefits to this, of course, but also a related political aspect. I don’t know about you, but most of the worst decisions of my life have been made after 9 p.m. Even if you are living that Eisenhower-era life and starting in with Canadian Club whiskey sours at 5:00, you probably aren’t going to get into too much trouble before 9:00. And as it goes for the citizen, so goes it for the nation. You know who liked to stay up all night dreaming of terrible policy ideas? Barack Obama. And, before him, Bill Clinton was famous for treating the presidency as though he were a college kid cramming for an exam, with all-night sessions powered by fast food and soda. Lyndon Johnson was a night owl.

    As to that last bit: Tevi Troy reminds us "Bill Clinton had a tryst with Monica Lewinsky on New Year’s Eve 1995". 9pm? I might turn in even earlier.


  • Yet another retrospective. This one from Bari Weiss, using the royal pronoun: Our Favorite Essays of 2021. I can't say I've read them all, but here's a longish sample from Alana Newhouse at Tablet: Everything Is Broken.

    Let’s say you believe the above to be hyperbolic. You never fell through the cracks of the medical system; as far as you understand it, there are plenty of ways for a resourceful person to buy a home in America these days; you easily met a mate and got married and had as many children as you wanted, at the age you wanted to have them; your child had a terrific time at college, where she experienced nothing at all oppressive or bizarre, got a first-class education that you could easily afford and which landed her a great job after graduation; you actually like the fact that you haven’t encountered one book or movie or piece of art that’s haunted you for months after; you enjoy druggily floating through one millennial pink space after another; it gives you pleasure to interact only with people who agree with you politically, and you feel filled with meaning and purpose after a day spent sending each other hysteria-inducing links; maybe you’ve heard that some kids are cosplaying Communism but that’s only because everyone is radical when they’re young, and Trump voters are just a bunch of racist troglodytes pining for the past, and it’s not at all that neither group can see their way to a future that looks remotely hopeful ... If this is you, congratulations. There’s no need to reach out and tell me any of this, because all you will be doing is revealing how insulated you are from the world inhabited by nearly everyone I know.

    If, on the other hand, the idea of mass brokenness seems both excruciatingly correct and also paralyzing, come sit with me. Being on a ship nearly 4 million square miles in area along with 330 million other people and realizing the entire hull is pockmarked with holes is terrifying.

    But being afraid to face this reality won’t make it less true. And this is the reality.

    I hope she's wrong, I fear she's correct. Sorry to be such a downer, but if you see another "dumpster fire" picture here for December 31, 2022…


  • Or we could get off our lazy butts, … and take some advice from Veronique de Rugy: A Call To Fight Rising Authoritarianism, in 2022 and Beyond.

    At the eve of a new year, it's traditional to make a resolution or two. I have no such list for myself or others, but I do have a wish. For 2022 and beyond, I wish that all of us who still cherish liberal values will band together to oppose the worrisome rise of authoritarianism around the world.

    For decades, those inclined toward free markets have focused on authoritarianism coming from the political left. We have spared no energy denouncing and opposing it. We've rightfully been concerned about the push to centralize more power in the hands of federal governments and to increase the scope and size of all government. We have warned that these policies, pursued consistently, pave what the great F.A. Hayek called "the road to serfdom."

    This fight should continue. However, it's time to be equally harsh toward those on the Right who want to use state power to control individuals' choices and destroy those with whom they disagree. In America, this illiberalism was visible in many of the policies pushed by former President Donald Trump, including industrial policies riddled with favoritism and hostility to foreign workers and immigrants. It peaked during the last months of his presidency with claims of stolen elections and other conspiracy theories.

    It should have been unsurprising that when a bunch of conservatives adopted Alinskyite tactics, the Alinskyite goals would soon follow.


  • But let's have some good news too. Barry Brownstein (professor emeritus of economics and leadership at the University of Baltimore) says some nice things about my state: The Live Free or Die State Points the Way to Low Taxes and Freedom.

    Once again, in the 2021 Cato Institute rankings of personal and economic freedom, Freedom in the 50 States, New Hampshire is ranked as the freest of the United States. Canada’s Fraser Institute gives New Hampshire the same freest state ranking. The state’s famous motto, “Live Free or Die,” is prominently imprinted on residents’ license plates. 

    When I share that New Hampshire has neither a sales tax nor income tax, I am often met with incredulous looks, a pregnant pause, and then the inevitable question: “But, how does the State get its money?” For some, it is self-evident that a large government is necessary to run a modern and prosperous society. New Hampshire should give pause to those who believe the big-government-is-necessary argument.

    What about services in NH? A WalletHub survey rated state and local taxes with 30 metrics measuring education, health, safety, the economy, infrastructure, pollution and more. Once again, New Hampshire gave taxpayers their largest return for their tax dollars. New Hampshire residents “pay the second-lowest taxes in the country, roughly $2,700,” while benefiting from “one of the best” school systems, the lowest crime rate in the nation, very low health insurance premiums, as well as having the lowest in the nation “share of residents living in poverty, 7.6%, and the best work at home environment.”   

    Professor Brownstein notes one of our secrets: our low-paid, huge, House of Representatives ("the third-largest parliamentary body in the English-speaking world"). He recommends a radical strategy: enact the Congressional Apportionment Amendment, which would expand the US House of Representatives to more than 6000.

    New Hampshire ratified this amendment in 1790. What's everyone else waiting for?


  • In our "Things That Could Have Been Brought To Voters' Attention Earlier" Department… Matt Welch at Reason sets a low bar: Joe Biden Would Be a Better President if He Stopped Saying Things That Aren't True.

    "When I took office," President Joe Biden tweeted Monday, "our economy was on the brink of collapse."

    This statement is false. As the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis reported one week after Biden was sworn into office, real Gross Domestic Product in the United States, after increasing by 33.4 percent in the third quarter of 2020, showed a preliminary increase of 4 percent for the last quarter of Donald Trump's presidency. "After a year in which a pandemic and politics posed challenges unlike the U.S. has seen in generations," CNBC reported, "the economy closed 2020 in fairly good shape."

    […]

    By fabricating a then-imminent economic calamity, Biden could attempt to claim credit for averting it. Neat! But it's also the kind of political deception you would think that professional journalism, particularly in this age of heightened "moral clarity," would be sensitively attuned to detect and criticize.

    Well, you would be wrong. A Google News search on the phrases "Biden," "economy," and "brink of collapse," produces zero mainstream news articles. There was a similar lack of evident interest when the president made another "brink of collapse" claim this May in Ohio.

    Trump's battles with truth and reality were an ongoing media story for years. They're not interested in treating Biden the same.


  • Cranky libertarians say: welcome to the party, Bloomberg! The Bloomberg editors weigh in with good advice: Don’t Add to Amtrak’s Boondoggles.

    For train enthusiasts, these are hopeful days. The infrastructure bill Congress passed in November allots $66 billion to rail, or about $4,000 for every passenger that Amtrak carried last year. Not coincidentally, the government-owned colossus recently unveiled a vast new expansion plan that would add 39 new routes and bring service to 160 new communities.

    Encouraging as this may sound, it’s actually throwing good money after bad. Amtrak has been reliably bleeding cash since 1971. It requires some $2 billion in federal support each year. Even the relatively profitable Northeast Corridor line necessitates a government subsidy to cover capital costs, while most other routes are simply nonviable economically. In particular, long-distance trips account for 15% of Amtrak’s total ridership and 80% of its financial losses.

    It’s hard to see how adding dozens of stops — to such modish locales as Rockland, Maine — will improve matters. All those new routes will need maintenance and repairs in perpetuity. Most will need more personnel (“an estimated 26,000 permanent jobs,” Amtrak says). All of them will likely require subsidies. The people of Rockland may welcome the train coming to town. Yet Congress could buy every local household an electric car for about $98 million, a comparative steal.

    Ah, that last paragraph talks about the Downeaster line, that runs through my little town. (If I'm walking the dog on Main Street when it goes by, I can usually get the driver to toot his horn by waving.)

    Still, it's a waste.

All the Devils Are Here

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

This book was on Tom Nolan's WSJ list of the best mysteries of 2020. It was a number one NYT bestseller. You can read a lot more huzzahs at the Amazon page.

And I … didn't care for it all that much. Go figure. Don't take this as a disrecommendation: your mileage might definitely vary. Mrs. Salad, for example, read it last year and she liked it a lot.

But I did manage to claim one last book for my read-in-2021 list. So there's that.

Montreal homicide detective Armand Gamache and his wife Reine-Marie are off to Paris to visit the kids, Annie and Daniel. And also to connect with billionaire Stephen Horowitz, Armand's beloved godfather. Unfortunately, soon after a nice dinner, Steven is run over by a van. Armand strongly suspects it was intentional. Worse, when Armand and the Mrs. check out Stephen's apartment, they discover a freshly-dead corpse, shot (we are assured) commando-style.

Armand doesn't have any jurisdiction in France, of course. But—this time it's personal—he's all over the case anyway. And, over the course of (it says on Amazon) 458 pages, things are eventually figured out. There's a lot of conspiracy, family dysfunction, betrayal, seeming enemies that turn out to be allies, seeming good guys that turn out bad. Double crosses and maybe even triple crosses (I lost track).

My irritants, major and minor, in no particular order:

French words and phrases are dropped into the dialog every few pages. Why? They're in France, they're from Quebec, I assume everybody's speaking French exclusively. So the book translates everything except for those few words and phrases?

This is book 16 in a series. There's a lot of reference to events and characters in previous books. Probably considerably more interesting to fans who've read books 1-15.

It's also heavy in coincidence and cheap clues. A reference to "AFP" on a calendar! What could it mean? Ah, it turns out there are folks with those initials. And also a company! And a mysterious scent left at a crime scene. Coins stuck together!

Small spoiler: the conspiracy mentioned above is massive. Also unbelievable, involving years-long nastiness of corruption, greed, and murder. (I'm not surprised that Louise Penny's latest co-author, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is famous for belief in another vast right-wing conspiracy.)

Somewhat larger spoiler: the thrilling climax, confused as it is, depends on a Rube Goldberg sequence of events that had to work exactly right. C'mon.

URLs du Jour

2021-12-30

  • Mr. Ramirez has the Right Stuff. But not Wheezy Joe.

    [The Wrong Stuff]

    Jen Psaki (by the way) has claimed this "no federal solution" thing is missing context.

    You know what? I don't care. More on Covid below.


  • What, another retrospective? Sure, but it's George F. Will, who bids Farewell, 2021, year of weird speaking.

    At the end of 2021, a year of weird speaking, Americans learned from Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) that “student debt is policy violence.” Previously, Americans were lectured that “silence is violence” — that not voicing support for this or that supposedly oppressed group is violence against it. The proliferation of new forms of violence raises a question: Are old forms — say, a flash mob looting a Louis Vuitton store — still violence? Or is this just the vigorous articulation of intersectional consciousness against consumer culture’s commodification of everything, including commodities?

    Normal people, who might want to toss anvils to progressives drowning in their jargon, should modify George Orwell’s axiom that “the great enemy of clear language is insincerity.” Today, the enemy of clarity is the scary sincerity of progressives who are politically inflamed about everything.

    Numerous examples are provided, and it's your call whether to be disgusted or amused.


  • Ah, but is it the light at the end of the tunnel? The WSJ editorialists cheer, because The CDC Sees a Great Covid Light.

    ‘Tis the season for epiphanies, even at the White House. President Biden on Monday said there’s no “federal solution” to the pandemic, and now his Administration is acknowledging that protecting public health requires balancing social and economic considerations.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week even revised its isolation guidelines. Praise be. Airlines have cancelled thousands of flights because so many workers were having to self-isolate after testing positive or being exposed to someone who had. As the Omicron variant spreads, businesses are struggling to operate.

    Epiphany is January 6, so you still have some time to schedule yours.

    The CDC action "revising isolation guidelines" should be a wake-up call for those who have been claiming that all this involves "following the science". The "science" didn't change that much in one day. The big mainframe computers in the CDC data center didn't crunch the data yesterday and spit out "Thou shalt isolate ten days… no, wait, five days" on its stone tablets.

    They're just guessing, and they're feeling pressure from, well, the real world.


  • The Goldberg Variation. The Goldberg Dispatch variation, to be specific. Scott Lincicome confesses: 2021 (Unfortunately) Comes Full Circle—And Radicalizes Me in the Process.

    I’d originally planned to do a “clip show” version of Capitolism this week, in which I—still technically on vacation—lazily listed some of my favorite or most popular/relevant columns (and charts!) from 2021. But the last couple weeks of holiday- and Omicron-related COVID-19 news have me thinking a lot about the question I asked back in January 2021: Would free(r) markets—i.e., minimal government regulation and subsidization, market pricing, free trade, etc.—have handled vaccine production, distribution, and uptake, and thus the pandemic, better than the U.S. government? As you’ll recall, even a hardcore free marketer like me was somewhat skeptical of a “pure” market approach, even noting some of the theoretical reasons why a top-down alternative may have been preferable. However, the last 12 months of U.S. public health bureaucracy boondoggles have increasingly radicalized (ha) me; now it seems clearer that a system with far (far) less government involvement, while surely messy and chaotic at times, would’ve produced far better results than what we’re experiencing today (which is, by the way, also quite messy and chaotic!).

    Fine, but Lincicome is euphemizing. When he says "less government involvement […] would’ve produced far better results", he should have said: "would've killed far fewer people."


  • If you liked Part One… You'll swoon for How We Changed Our Minds in 2021 (Part Two), Bari Weiss's compendium of rational rethinking. Here's Jordan Peterson:

    Over the last few years, I have had a number of discussions with famous atheists, Sam Harris foremost among them. We spoke together twice on his podcast, and also in Vancouver, Dublin, and London. Although these conversations were very well-attended—nearly 10,000 people attended the Dublin and London shows—I always felt that I had not conducted myself optimally. They had an argumentative quality that I did not regard as entirely positive.

    I had already learned, years ago, that the sessions I conducted as a clinical psychologist were much more effective if I just listened and tried to clarify rather than ever attempt to lead or convince. It wasn’t up to me as a professional to decide what direction my clients should go, or not go. It was up to me to pay close attention and understand. 

    What I had been doing with Sam Harris—and in a number of other public conversations—was not what I had done as a psychologist. I was trying too hard to make my point. I was using instrumental tactics, trying to justify my own beliefs and to undermine the stance of my opponents, rather than being open to hearing them.

    I realized my mistake, and when Sam and I spoke again in October 2021 all I did was ask him questions—and real questions, too (not those that only led in a direction that I wanted to go; not those that somehow made my point). I stopped trying to demonstrate to Sam and to potential listeners that I was right. Instead, I simply tried to understand his points of departure more clearly. We had the best conversation we ever had.

    This November, on a trip to Oxford, I had a discussion with Richard Dawkins. We had stepped rather tentatively around each other in the email exchanges leading to our meeting, but they became increasingly good-humored. When we met, I tried to remember my clinical experience and my last discussion with Sam. I did my best not to be right or to win or to make my point. I asked him real questions. He did the same. Our conversation, which lasted several hours, was still too short, and left many issues unresolved, but it went very well.

    What did I learn (again) this year? Don’t treat people as instrumental means to my predetermined end. This is particularly true of people with whom I may think I disagree. It’s highly probable that I don’t understand where they are coming from, what they mean, or anything about the particulars of our disagreement. If I listen, instead of winning, I learn. And that’s better than winning.

    A New Year resolution candidate: be more like Jordan Peterson.


  • Senator Karen, Hedgehog. As Jeff Jacoby notes, she knows just one big thing. Elizabeth Warren's one-trick inflation pony.

    PRICES IN the United States are rising faster than they have in decades. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this month that inflation was up 6.8 percent over the past year, the steepest annual increase in consumer prices since 1982. There is no mystery about why inflation is exploding: Prices spike when too many dollars are chasing too few goods. The federal government has massively increased spending over the past two years in the name of economic stimulus and COVID-19 relief: too many dollars. At the same time, the pandemic's upheaval has led to a global labor shortage and snarled supply chains, preventing commodities of every description from being produced or from reaching vendors: too few goods.

    The result is straight out of Economics 101: Everything is more expensive.

    But Senator Elizabeth Warren has a different theory. She insists prices are being pushed up not by anything as impersonal as supply and demand, but by greedy business executives.

    "Prices at the pump have gone up," she told an MSNBC interviewer last month. "Why? Because giant oil companies like Chevon and ExxonMobil enjoy doubling their profits. This isn't about inflation. This is about price gouging."

    She's wrong (and dangerously wrong) at the top her lungs.

URLs du Jour

2021-12-29

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • I'm unclear on the concept. And I have been for a long time, but fortunately Arnold Kling seems to be thinking about it: Data Ownership.

    Who owns my DNA? You can say that since it is my body, I must own it. But if you think of my DNA as represented in data, things get murky. I do not have the ability to represent my DNA as data—I need a lab to do that for me. I do not have the know-how to draw any inferences from this data representation—I need an expert to do that for me.

    Maybe I have, or should have, rights to control the use of the data representation of my DNA. Perhaps those rights are what we mean by ownership. The right that I think that I want is the right to decide who gets to connect my DNA representation with my personal identity. If you want to build a database to correlate DNA data representations of many people with their disease profiles and other characteristics, while keeping my identity anonymous, you don’t need my permission. But if you want to do anything with my DNA data representation that involves describing it as Arnold Kling’s DNA, then you do need my permission.

    I'm pretty sure I own the data on my hard drive. Everything else gets fuzzy pretty fast.


  • Probably I didn't change mine enough. Bari Weiss hosts a number of guest writers that explain How We Changed Our Minds in 2021. First up is Enes Kantor Freedom, center for the Boston Celtics. Who are, as I type, 16-18, but…

    The first time I came to America, in 2009, one of my teammates at Stoneridge Prep, in Simi Valley, California, was criticizing the president. I was scared for him, because I thought he was going to be jailed. Then he sat down and talked to me about freedom of speech, religion and the press. “Wait,” I said, “you’re telling me a TV channel or a newspaper is not going to be shut down because they are criticizing the regime?” He told me that's not how it works here. I was shocked.

    The thing about freedom is, once you taste it, you want everyone else to taste it, too. That’s why I marched for Black Lives Matter and spoke out for democracy in Hong Kong. It’s why I advocate for Tibetan freedom and safety for Taiwan. It’s why I continue to call out the corporations that talk about social justice but ignore China’s Uyghur genocide. And it’s why, a few months ago, I changed my name. I’m now Enes Kanter Freedom.

    I could start watching Celtics games again.


  • Let's quit. Jerry Coyne looks at a current United Nations exercise: UN launches unprecedented open-ended investigation of Israel.

    The General Assembly of the United Nations has just passed, by an overwhelming majority, a resolution to investigate Israeli war crimes, including those during the last battle with Hamas and Gaza. There will be no investigation of the Palestinian Territories, which is a nonvoting member of the UN, but it too could have been investigated as well for war crimes since they started the last skirmish by firing 4,260 rockets at civilians in Israel, not to mention the ongoing terrorism of and war crimes of Hamas (using human shields, firing rockets from civilian areas to prompt Israeli retaliation that would kill some civilians, etc.)

    The most invidious aspect of this investigation is that it not only singles out Israel (which the UN does repeatedly), but is an open-ended investigationthe first such investigation in the history of the United Nations. You probably haven’t heard about it except in Israeli media, because most of the big media in the U.S. are anti-Israel. There was an article in the NYT in May […]

    But of course time after time the UN issues resolutions against Israel while ignoring countries that have much worse human rights and war-crimes records: North Korea, Syria, Yemen, Iran, Belarus, China, and Saudi Arabia, to name a few.  The obsessive single-minded assault by most of the UN on Israel bespeaks to me widespread anti-Semitism. (Dissent if you want, but keep in mind the countries I’ve just named).

    I'm far from a foreign policy whiz, but I've never seen a convincing explanation of how belonging to the United Nations benefits us.


  • It's that time of year… when there are retrospectives. Some people, like Jacob Sullum, can't wait for the year to actually be over. But anyway, here are The Year’s Highlights in Blame Shifting. Trump, of course, but also:

    A disease that causes fiscal incontinence. Congress and President Biden continued a debt-financed federal spending spree that began during the Trump administration. Although supporters of the $2 trillion American Rescue Plan Act blamed the coronavirus, most of that law's provisions were only tenuously related to the pandemic.

    Rising prices trigger excuses. Economists warned that spending trillions of dollars on "relief," "stimulus," and "infrastructure" would feed inflation, which by November had reached 6.8 percent, the highest rate since 1982. Biden blamed "profiteering" and said the solution was more spending.

    And more at the link, of course. I'm pretty sure none of that was my fault.

The Bishop's Wife

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

Mrs. Salad and I watched this 1947 free-to-me streamer on Amazon Prime on Christmas evening. If you've already seen It's a Wonderful Life 459 times, it's a good choice. It was nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture; it won "Best Sound Recording".

The Bishop's wife, Julia, is played by Loretta Young, married to the Bishop, Henry, played by David Niven. Unfortunately, the Bishop is obsessed with his work, specifically, the construction of a new massive cathedral, which involves a massive amount of time kowtowing to rich benefactors for donations. He neglects his family, he's stressed out, so he does what comes naturally to one in his position, prays for assistance.

And that prayer is answered in the form of Dudley (Cary Grant), an angel. Yes, a literal one. We can tell because he shows up knowing everyone's name, situation, innermost secrets, … and he can perform minor miracles. (The cute special effects are pretty good for 1947.) And it's Cary Grant, so he's utterly charming and witty. So his task is straightforward, and he nudges everyone onto a "better" path. Except… well, I don't know how theologically sound this is, but he gets pretty involved with Julia. To the point that he spends a lot more time hanging out with her than solving Henry's problem. Will he become a fallen angel? (Spoiler: that's not the way to bet.)

URLs du Jour

2021-12-28

  • Give me liberty or … get me off Instagram? Interesting claim in a tweet.

    It is apparently a non-bogus quote from Paine. (Third sentence of the first paragraph in this essay.) So that's not the problem.

    Further down in the twitter thread, it's claimed that Facebook treated the image similarly. Living dangerously, I posted it myself. And, as near as I can tell, it's still up. So perhaps saner heads prevailed.


  • Not even considering that whole "killing people with bureaucratic delay" thing. David R. Henderson and Charles L. Hooper take to the WSJ to argue (convincingly) that Coercion Made the Pandemic Worse.

    The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “anti-vaxxer” as “a person who opposes the use of vaccines or regulations mandating vaccination.” Where does that leave us? We both strongly favor vaccination against Covid-19; one of us (Mr. Hooper) has spent years working and consulting for vaccine manufacturers. But we strongly oppose government vaccine mandates. If you’re crazy about Hondas but don’t think the government should force everyone to buy a Honda, are you “anti-Honda”?

    The people at Merriam-Webster are blurring the distinction between choice and coercion, and that’s not merely semantics. If we accept that the difference between choice and coercion is insignificant, we will be led easily to advocate policies that require a large amount of coercion. Coercive solutions deprive us of freedom and the responsibility that goes with it. Freedom is intrinsically valuable; it is also the central component of the best problem-solving system ever devised.

    Free choice relies on persuasion. It recognizes that you are an important participant with key information, problem-solving abilities and rights. Any solution that is adopted, therefore, must be designed to help you and others. Coercion is used when persuasion has failed or is teetering in that direction—or when you are raw material for someone else’s grand plans, however ill-conceived.

    It's kind of a lonely position, but I share it: pro-vaccine (especially Moderna) and anti-mandate. (And, if you're interested, a pre-Covid story about the FDA killing people here.)


  • We hardly knew ye. Also, we didn't really believe ye. Matt Welch writes an obit for a stupid slogan: RIP, 'Pandemic of the Unvaccinated'

    If you spend too much time observing the way politicians speak, you'll pick up an almost perceptibly mechanical gear-shift in their heads when the brain-groove reminds them to reproduce an anecdote or talking point they have formulated so many times before. Occasionally the subconscious rebels against the alienating monotony with apologetic prefix clauses like, "That's why I like to say," or "I always tell the story that," but the pre-sets mostly override such human twitches to deliver the desired political result.

    So it was for President Joe Biden's counterproductive "pandemic of the unvaccinated" slogan, which the White House COVID-19 Response Team introduced in mid-July, and which the president was still regurgitating inaccurately as late as December 14.

    In a local TV interview with News Center 7 in Dayton, Ohio, the president was asked about whether his administration would continue fighting his contested employer vaccine mandates in court. The politician-brain quickly whirred into gear.

    "This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. The unvaccinated. Not the vaccinated, the unvaccinated," Biden emphasized, on the same day that the omicron variant produced a one-day positive-case increase of 16 percent in highly vaccinated New York City. "That's the problem. And so everybody talks about 'freedom,' and not to have a shot or have a test. Well guess what? How about patriotism? How about making sure that you're vaccinated, so you do not spread the disease to anybody else? What about that?"

    How about you kiss my vaccinated keister, Joe?


  • I detect possible headline sarcasm. Jim Geraghty asks us: Americans, Are You Enjoying All of That ‘Immediate Relief’ from High Gas Prices? (Quick check on Betteridge's law of headlines… Yup.)

    On November 24, one day after President Biden announced the release of 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was $3.39.

    Biden characterized the the release from the reserve as “a tool matched to today’s specific economic environment, where markets expect future oil prices to be lower than they are today, and helps provide relief to Americans immediately and bridge to that period of expected lower oil prices.”

    This morning, more than a month after the announcement of the SPR release, the national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $3.28, according to the American Automobile Association. Eleven cents saved per gallon! That’s almost as much as the 16 cents the Biden administration saved Americans at their Independence Day cookouts.

    That's… a 3.2% decrease. See keister suggestion above, Joe.


  • WIRED makes its articles harder to read. I came across this in my dead trees issue: At the End of the World, It’s Hyperobjects All the Way Down. It's about Timothy Morton, who… well here you go:

    You might think, in this time of profound human and climate trauma, that the world is coming to an end. Timothy Morton disagrees: It has already ended, and not a moment too soon. Not because doomsday has arrived, Morton clarifies, but because what we call “the world”—a place that revolves around human beings and is defined by what we can see and feel—is simply too small to cope with reality anymore. Faced with massive forces whose impacts defy our physical perceptions, from global warming and extinction events to the Covid-19 pandemic, our parochial idea of the world falls away like the set of a movie being torn down.

    Morton, a kind-faced, 53-year-old professor and author with uncannily penetrating blue eyes, has spent the past nine years teaching in the English department at Rice University in Houston, Texas. But they are known less for their contributions to Romantic scholarship—which are many and insightful—and […]

    Whoa. Wait a minute. His eyes are known for their contributions to Romantic scholarship?

    No, of course not, "They" is (apparently) Professor Tim's preferred pronoun. But for (I assume) most readers it's a speedbump, where one has to go back, pick up the mental bumper, and try again.

    Here is Professor Tim's faculty page at Rice. Scary picture; "kind-faced" is not the adjective that leaps to mind. And, interestingly, the department has no problem using "he" as the pronoun in the bio.

URLs du Jour

2021-12-27

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • And it's the most tedious war ever. Kevin D. Williamson has the news not appearing in your local paper: The Snoot Party Goes to War. And it's war against Senator Manchin, and his state of West Virginia.

    Senator Manchin’s willingness to break with his party makes him, for the moment, the most powerful man in Washington after the maître d’ at le Diplomate. (Somewhere in the Senate, there must be at least one Republican who is smart enough to realize that he could be the most powerful man in Washington, after the maître d’ at le Diplomate, if he were willing to do the same.) It also makes him the man Democrats hate most — at the moment, anyway; Democratic hatred is an urgent and plastic thing.

    But like the unhappy worker who cannot face off against his overbearing boss and so instead goes home to yell at his wife and kick the dog (as Sigmund Freud once had it), progressives from Hollywood to Washington to whatever abandoned gopher hole Robert Reich calls home have decided to lay into the people of West Virginia. As Isaac Schorr already has reported here, the noted political philosopher Bette Midler and her friends at Occupy Democrats denounced West Virginians as illiterates (the Mountain State has a higher literacy rate than New York, California, or New Jersey), Ilhan Omar suggested that Senator Manchin’s vote is the result of corruption — a serious charge for which she should be made to answer — and Reich offered this indictment: “Let me remind you that a full quarter of West Virginians 65 and older have no natural teeth.” Toothless hillbillies — who doesn’t love a classic? In fact, the share of West Virginians over 65 without any remaining teeth is not far off from the national average; the state’s slightly elevated rate of geriatric toothlessness is almost certainly due to the fact that it has a large population of people over 75 (who have a very high rate of total tooth loss), being the nation’s third-most-elderly state. But facts don’t matter much when you’ve worked up a good head of hate-steam.

    I know as well as anybody that poor, rural, white America has its problems. But I do not believe for one hot second that Ilhan Omar or Robert Reich knows one damned thing about them, or cares to learn. Why would they? Senator Manchin is about as far to the political left as today’s West Virginia is going to go. Owsley County, Ky., home of the poorest white people in America, is overwhelmingly Republican, and Donald Trump got eight times as many votes as Joe Biden did there in 2020 — Trump did slightly better in San Francisco than Biden did in Owsley County. There’s a little factoid to meditate upon.

    It's an NRPLUS article, so fair use, etc. You really should subscribe; KDW's reporting alone is worth the price.


  • As Buck Murdock once said… irony can be … pretty ironic sometimes, and I like how this is playing out, according to the Daily Wire. Elon Musk Slams Senator Warren Over Taxes: ‘If You Could Die By Irony, She Would Be Dead’

    Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk slammed Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) during an interview with The Babylon Bee last week following his recent Twitter spat with her over taxes.

    “She struck first,” Musk said. “Obviously. She called me a freeloader and a grifter who doesn’t pay taxes, basically. And I’m literally paying the most tax that any individual in history has ever paid this year, ever.”

    “And she doesn’t pay taxes, basically at all. And her salary is paid for by the taxpayer, like me,” Musk continued. “If you could die by irony, she would be dead. If irony could kill.”

    I assume the FBI is already investigating Musk for this "death threat."


  • Betteridge's Law of Headlines… applies to Eric Boehm's article at Reason: Does Joe Biden Know Why Delaware Is Home to So Many Corporations?

    As Biden put it [last month] in Baltimore, Build Back Better was intended to "build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out…where everybody is better off."

    "You know, I'm tired of this trickle-down economy stuff," the president continued. "I come from Delaware—just across the line up here—and, you know, we have more corporations in Delaware than every other state in the nation combined. And so, I understand big business."

    There's just one tiny bit of context missing from Biden's argument: Delaware, which is home to more than half the businesses in the Fortune 500, didn't become America's top destination for corporate headquarters by raising taxes on the businesses that operate there. The state is famous for its favorable tax laws, including no sales tax, no corporate income tax on revenue earned outside of Delaware, and no corporate income tax on investment earnings. (It's not all about taxes; the state also has a unique legal system that confers some advantages on businesses headquartered there.)

    Letting private people make their own decisions on how to handle their money and property is uniformly derided by progressives as "trickle down" economics.

    But wouldn't giving more money to the government in the hope that some of that cash filters down to hoi polloi… isn't that trickle-down?


Last Modified 2021-12-28 6:44 AM EST

Escaping Paternalism

Rationality, Behavioral Economics, and Public Policy

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I think I put this book on my get-at-library list thanks to a post by Ilya Somin at the Volokh Conspiracy blog hosted by Reason.

It's a good book, I'm sure. Only problem is that it was way above my senior dilettante level at many spots in the discussion. Example (page 92, leading off a section titled "Intertemporal Trade-Offs and Time-Discounting Inconsistencies"):

The standard neoclassical model of time discounting is exponential. This means that an outcome at time t is evaluated now (t = 0) as δtu(x), where δ is a constant discount factor and u(x) is an undated utility function defined on outcomes.

Now I almost get that, because I see the t up there in the exponent. But pretty much I have to nod and read on.

So caveat lector, this is a very high-level academic discussion. I swear, I looked at every page.

The authors, Mario Rizzo and Glen Whitman, have undertaken to refute the underpinnings and conclusions of economists and psychologists who wish to influence public policy to encourage the citizenry into better behavior. You know, like your parents did. Specifically, your dad, hence "paternalism". Sometimes it's even dubbed "libertarian paternalism", in order to imply that such policies are "not really" coercive: they're simply designed to encourage you to make better choices, according to your own values and goals. Sin taxes, making retirement saving vehicles opt-out instead of opt-in, government warnings on potentially unhealthy products, are just three examples.

The leading book in this field is the best-selling Nudge by Thaler and Sunstein. (Which I really should read to get at least some of the other side of this discussion.) The authors disdain the marketspeak of "nudge". Why not "push" or "shove"? Or an entirely different metaphor (see the cover): puppet and puppeteer?

The authors note paternalism's underpinnings in neoclassical choice theory, whose mathematical axioms were posited in the 1940s by John von Neumann. They note that those axioms, while plausible, were primarily developed to allow well-behaved "utility functions", which go on to be useful in heavy economic theories. But they were also seized upon to give a rigorous definition of "rationality". Which gave rise to a regular cottage industry of psychologists revealing how people, in various ways, departed from that definition, and were hence labeled as "irrational".

And obviously those "irrational" folks need help from the rational. For their own good.

The authors point out that rationality is much fuzzier in practice than in theory. The thought processes deemed "biased" by the shrinks can often make sense outside the artificial von Neumann axioms. So there may be more holes in the foundations of paternalism than its advocates would admit.

There are a number of other pitfalls: paternalistic public policies are designed by human beings, not von Neumann machines; they are subject to the same biases and fallacies as the folks they want to "nudge". Worse, they have little skin in the game; they have minimal incentives to design optimal policies even if they could.

And they probably can't, for reasons popularized by F. Hayek decades ago: they lack the requisite knowledge, which is highly dynamic, scattered and tacit throughout society.

And finally, there are slippery-slope issues: suppose"libertarian" nudge A "works" (for some criteria of "working"). Won't that encourage policy makers to get even better results via slightly less libertarian nudge B?

Or suppose nudge A does not "work". Given what you know about bureaucrats, do they just give up at that point? Or do they say, "well, the actual problem was that we were too libertarian"?

As I type, I see failures all around of paternalistic policies. Most notably COVID-related ones: a large fraction of citizens aren't vaccinated, despite being incessantly "nudged" to do so. And there's the whole drug prohibition thing… You'd think all those smart nudgers whould have figured out how to get better success by now.

All in all, a fine book which (unfortunately) won't sell as well as Nudge. I can't do justice to all its arguments here.

URLs du Jour

2021-12-26

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  • Great minds think alike. Unfortunately… George F. Will notes that not-so-great minds also think alike. National conservatives and racial identitarians have a common enemy: Individualism. His column notes an 1961 essay by Michael Oakeshott, “The Masses in Representative Democracy”

    Oakeshott understood in 1961 that modernity’s emancipation of the individual from the “warmth of communal pressures” did not exhilarate everyone. Indeed, in 2021, U.S. “national conservatives,” who are collectivists on the right, recoil against modernity in the name of communitarian values, strongly tinged with a nativist nationalism and with a trace of the European blood-and-soil right.

    These “national conservatives” have an unacknowledged kinship with their collectivist cousins on the left, the race identitarians. Their critical race theory subsumes individualism, dissolving it in a group membership — racial solidarity, which supposedly has been forged in the furnace of racist oppression.

    Today’s progressives, who fancy themselves the vanguard of modernity, are actually modernity’s enemies. In progressivism’s jargon, History is a proper noun designating something autonomous. People “on the right side of history” propel History toward a knowable destination. It is known by theorists whose special insight makes them society’s rightful rulers.

    Their supposed insight is that all of life is a power struggle between History’s helpers and History’s hinderers. In the previous two centuries, progressives expected that the proletariat, purged of false consciousness and infused with revolutionary consciousness by instruction in true theories, would wage the class struggle. This would be History’s propellant. Individual identity would mean nothing; class membership would mean everything.

    Resist demands that you sign up with either Team Scylla or Team Charybdis.


  • The airing of grievances commences in 3…2…1. Seantor Rand Paul has released his 2021 ‘Festivus’ Report. From the intro:

    Happy Festivus! How can 2021 already be coming to a close? What a year it’s been. It seems like just yesterday when the national debt was $20 trillion, but now the U.S. has managed to breeze past $28 trillion! And, it’s safe to say that some big changes have occurred since last year’s Festivus Report. Mask mandates, travel restrictions and lock-downs were lifted across many parts of the country. President Biden was inaugurated. Inflation has skyrocketed. The Kardashians finally ended their TV show after 14 years. “Dad bod” was officially added to Webster’s Dictionary. And how about the Federal government? Well, unsurprisingly, it managed to keep spending money we don’t have on things we don’t need.

    Readers of the Platinum Pig Awards may recall my Penny Plan Balanced Budget. Only a few years ago, we could have balanced the budget by cutting only one penny off every dollar spent by the Federal government - now, we need to cut 5. 2021 began with Congress spending even more money and approving a $3.5 trillion Budget Resolution. I attempted to lessen the blow by introducing a series of 48 amendments, including my Five Penny Plan, which unfortunately did not pass. The speed in which our debt is growing means we need ever more vigorous solutions to solve this growing problem.

    You’d almost think the government’s annual New Year Resolution is to spend more and more money. Well, it is! Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects more than $1.2 trillion in deficits for Fiscal Year 2022. In fact, CBO states Congress spent $6.8 trillion in Fiscal Year 2021, $266 billion more than FY2020. Why continue to recklessly spend taxpayers’ money when debt held by the public is already at 103% of GDP?

    This year, I am highlighting a whopping $52,598,515,585 of waste, including a study of pigeons gambling on slot machines, giving kids junk food, and telling citizens of Vietnam not to burn their trash. No matter how much money’s already been wasted, politicians keep demanding even more. But don’t worry, I will continue to fight against government waste. So, before we get to the Feats of Strength, it’s time for my Airing of (spending) Grievances!

    I have a lot of problems with federal spending, and now you’re gonna hear all about them!

    Should you need it: the Wikipedia page about Festivus.


  • I fervently hope this is the last stupid Slashdot story for 2021. It mainly quotes from Politico: Potential DOJ Suits Against Apple and Google Delayed Amid Budget Woes.

    The Justice Department is still months away from deciding whether to sue Apple or file a new suit against Google over antitrust concerns, POLITICO reported Thursday, citing two people familiar with the discussions -- a question facing new financial complications after the collapse of President Joe Biden's social spending bill. From a report:

    DOJ antitrust prosecutors had earlier aimed to wrap up their probes of the two tech giants by Dec. 31, culminating years of scrutiny by the department into Apple's App Store and Google's command of the online ad market. But now the decision on going to court is likely to come in March or later because of continued discussions about where to file and who will make the call, the two people told POLITICO. They spoke anonymously to discuss internal DOJ deliberations. Another major concern for the department is the likely expense of a court battle with the two companies, each of which has a market value exceeding $1 trillion. That issue became more fraught this week when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) torpedoed Democrats' Build Back Better package, which would have given DOJ a $500 million boost for antitrust enforcement.

    Yes, friends: if only the DOJ had gotten its hands on that extra $500 million, they could have ushered us into a glorious age of trust-free economy, where we'd all be safe from the capitalist depredations of Apple and Google!

    According to this document, the entire budget request for the DOJ's Antitrust Division for FY2021 was $188.5 million. And that was a 13.1% increase from FY2020.

    Obviously, an extra $500 million would put a lot of nicer cars in the DOJ parking lot.

    I don't want to get into a discussion of the folly of antitrust. But how much money do you need to spend to point to the clearly stated law that says doing X is illegal, then find some clear and convincing evidence that shows Apple/Google did in fact do X?

    Obviously, that's not something you can do in antitrust land.

    But the stupid Slashdot story also put me in mind of past tales of government fiscal woes planted by beneficiaries of government spending.

    Hey, anyone out there remember the "sequester"? Back in 2013? Good times, man. Back then, I noted a CBS News story that was in full-bemoaning mode: Sequester threatens health research projects.

    Professor Laura Niedernhofer at the Scripps Research Institute in Florida believes her team of 40 scientists can find a drug to diminish the impact of old age. The drug won't keep you young, she says, it would make the old less frail.

    "My hypotheses would be that there would actually be drugs that would simultaneously dampen osteoporosis, dementia, maybe some fatigue and muscle wasting all at the same time," she said.

    But her funding is in trouble because of automatic budget cuts. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has warned that despite the promise of her research, new grant money won't be approved.

    I still kind of like my comment from back then:

    OH MY GOD. Professor Laura was RIGHT ON THE VERGE of discovering a MIRACLE DRUG that would SAVE US GEEZERS from ALL SORTS OF INFIRMITIES. And all she needed was A BIT MORE GOVERNMENT MONEY, and it would have pushed her RIGHT OVER THE GOAL LINE and SAVED US ALL.

    But now that MIRACLE DRUG will be LOST FOREVER. It's HOPELESS, thanks to the SEQUESTER.

    And from later in the CBS News article, a guy who's been in the news a bit lately is quoted:

    Dr. Francis Collins is the director of the NIH. He calls the budget cuts "sand in the engine" in the search for medical discoveries in every area -- cancer, aging, Alzheimers, diabetes.

    To reach $1.6 billion in cuts, Collins says the NIH will turn down one thousand of the best new research proposals from the nation's leading labs and medical schools.

    "Medical research in America will be slowed by this, advances that could have happened sooner will happen later or perhaps not at all ... And this is what wakes me up in the middle of the night," Collins said.

    The cuts will impact Collins directly. He's still a research scientist on diabetes and aging, and he said his personal experiment will be cut.

    "We're part of the NIH, so the sequester will hit this laboratory with a 5 percent cut."

    Dr. Collins calls cuts to medical research shortsighted. Here's an example: Collins says the NIH is close to finding a universal flu vaccine that could stop every flu strain and last for 3 years. That kind of vaccine could save the economy tens of billions, but might be delayed as the NIH saves 1.6 billion.

    And here we are, nearly 9 years later. That stop-every-strain "universal" flu vaccine was LOST FOREVER thanks to that 5.5% NIH budget cut back in 2013.

URLs du Jour

Christmas 2021

  • Leading off with an oldie from Mr. Ramirez:

    [Merry Christmas]


  • And the darkness has not overcome it. Kevin D. Williamson goes with John 1:5: The Light Shines in the Darkness.

    Oh, but the darkness keeps trying. And so we celebrate Christmas with light: lights on the trees, lights on our houses, lights on the tables, candles in the church, fire in the fireplace. We look to the happiness of the children. Of course it still is the case that, for too many, there’s no room at the inn, no home, no family, no friends. It is never enough, of course, never sufficient — not considering the Gift we have been given — but I will allow myself the indulgence of being a little proud of my family and my friends, my church, our community, the good-hearted people of our country, the quiet, gracious people who quietly do what can be done (or at least some of what can be done), who share their wealth and their time, who have in them the kindness and the generosity that never have come easily to me, who do not forget, and who by their modest example share the immeasurably greater promise that there is room at our Father’s table and in our Father’s house for all of us, that it doesn’t have to be as cold as it sometimes seems it is, that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

    As I've said in the past, I'm not very religious. But KDW's mini-sermon moved me.


  • But on to the wackiness. Chelsea Follett goes all contrarian on a holidy classic. Crashing Through the Snow: The Grim Sarcasm Behind ‘Jingle Bells’

    It's the holiday season, and Christmas carols are everywhere, including the ubiquitous "Jingle Bells," first published in 1857. Many take the refrain, "Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh!" at face value. But an underappreciated aspect of the lyrics is that they are actually rather cynical about sleigh rides. Part of the song goes:

    The horse was lean and lank
    Misfortune seemed his lot
    He got into a drifted bank
    And then we got upsot.

    In the next verse, which is often skipped, the narrator relates being thrown out of the sleigh onto his back and getting laughed at by a romantic rival. His misfortune was relatively minor, but being thrown from a sleigh or carriage was not always a laughing matter.

    During the time of horse-drawn vehicles, accidents frequently caused not only delays and inconveniences but also injuries and deaths. The British historian Paul Hair called the horse "one of man's most dangerous tools," arguing that "it is likely that per unit of travel the horse was more dangerous than the motor vehicle."

    Chelsea (her bio states) "is a policy analyst in the Cato Institute's Center for Global Liberty & Prosperity and managing editor of HumanProgress.org." So I assume she has the facts on her side. For extra amusement, imagine the article being read aloud by John Malkovich.


  • 'Tis the season. Although a wee bit early, you'll want to check it out: Dave Barry's 2021 Year in Review. I subscribe to his take on January…

    ...which dawns with all eyes on Washington, D.C., where President Donald Trump, as chief executive of the most powerful nation on Earth, is trying to get somebody to answer the intercom. This is difficult because pretty much everybody in his administration except Melania has bailed. The only people still in contact with Trump are the members of his inner circle of trusted wackjobs, who are counseling the president in his ongoing effort to prove that the presidential election was RIGGED in a massive conspiracy that — although too complex and sophisticated for the so-called “courts of law” to understand — is transparently obvious to the My Pillow guy.

    On Jan. 6, Congress meets to certify the votes of the so-called “Electoral College.” Meanwhile, Trump gives a lengthy speech to a Stop the Steal rally, declaring repeatedly that the election was a fraud and somebody needs to do something about it. He concludes by telling the fired-up crowd to “walk down Pennsylvania Avenue and get violent.”

    OK, he didn’t say those last words out loud. But soon afterward the Capitol is invaded by thousands of people who are fiercely loyal to Trump and determined to ensure that his enduring legacy, as president, will be that he inspired a tragic, futile and utterly stupid riot at the U.S. Capitol.

    OK, that wasn’t their goal. But it is what they accomplished.

    The Capitol riot is widely condemned, with much of the blame falling on Trump. He swiftly receives the harshest punishment allowed under the Constitution: He is permanently banned from Twitter, the first sitting president to suffer this fate since Chester A. Arthur. Also he is impeached again. Two weeks later Trump leaves the White House for good, with only quick action by the Secret Service preventing him from being hit by the screen door on his way out.

    Read Dave, and be of good cheer.

URLs du Jour

2021-12-24

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  • Add university administrators, government bureaucrats, and I'm in. George F. Will is hopeful, because The Supreme Court has a fresh chance to rein in police lawlessness.

    When Hamdi Mohamud was a child, she was whisked away from Somalia’s violence and corruption to Minnesota. There, however, she endured prolonged incarceration because of corrupt behavior by Heather Weyker, a St. Paul police officer who had been deputized by a federal task force.

    In 2011, Mohamud, then 16, was a bystander at a fight involving a knife-wielding girl who was a witness in Weyker’s “investigation” of a nonexistent Somali immigrant crime ring. Judicial proceedings have found that Weyker “exaggerated or fabricated” and “misstated facts,” to have been caught “lying to the grand jury” and lying “during a detention hearing.” Also, when providing compensation for a witness. And when “endorsing the validity” of a forged document.

    Weyker got Mohamud arrested on suspicion of witness tampering, then filed a criminal complaint that included fabricated facts and excluded exculpatory evidence. Mohamud spent almost 25 months in federal custody. When Mohamud sued for violations of her constitutional rights, the district court denied Weyker’s claim of qualified immunity. But last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled that because Weyker acted as a federal officer, she could not be sued at all.

    GFW provides another egregious example, and the judicial history, at the link. The Institute for Justice's page page on Hamdi Mohamud is here.


  • Coulda put a period after 'Remember'. Jim Geraghty notes a specific example of a general problem: Biden Can’t Remember What He Promised on Covid-19 Testin.

    As he did during the Afghanistan-withdrawal debacle, President Biden has turned to ABC News for a formal sit-down interview to do damage control. And while the president did not indignantly bark, “That was four or five days ago, man!” he didn’t exactly put on a command performance, either:

    “Three days before Christmas, if you look out across the country, you see it everywhere, these long lines, people waiting for hours outside in the cold, just to get tested, to be reassured before they spend time with their family,” Muir said. “If you go to the pharmacy, we hear this over and over again, empty shelves, no test kits. Is that a failure?”

    “I don’t think it’s a failure,” Biden replied. “I think it’s — you could argue that we should have known a year ago, six months ago, two months ago, a month ago.”

    “I wish I had thought about ordering” 500 million at-home tests “two months ago,” he told Muir.

    That statement isn’t just the usual presidential excuse-making; it’s another sign that Biden does not remember what he said, promised, pledged, or announced earlier. Recall that Biden’s vaccine mandate gave companies the option of testing employees once a week — which was going to dramatically increase the need for Covid-19 tests. Back in his big announcement of a vaccine mandate for employers in September, Biden pledged that Americans would find Covid-19 tests plentiful and cheap, if not free[.]

    Geraghty, indispensable as always, provides quotes and links to the empty promises Biden made on September 9 and December 2. The ABC news doofus, David Muir, apparently didn't bring up those inconvenient facts.


  • Another way he's killing Americans. OK, so Albert Einstein probably didn't say the "definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." But the quote's bogosity doesn't make it untrue. Jacob Sullum reports that Biden Doubles Down on a Lethal Anti-Drug Strategy.

    For more than a century, the U.S. government has failed to prevent Americans from consuming politically disfavored intoxicants. Worse, it has systematically made drug use more dangerous by forcing consumers to rely on black-market products of unknown composition and by pushing traffickers toward increasingly potent substances that are easier to smuggle.

    The ongoing "opioid crisis," which has driven drug-related deaths to record levels, illustrates both of those phenomena. But instead of recognizing the lethal effects of prohibition, President Joe Biden is doubling down on a strategy that has never worked as intended.

    Last week, Biden signed two executive orders aimed at combating the "transnational criminal organizations" that "contribute directly to tens of thousands of drug-overdose deaths in the United States each year." One order replaces the federal government's Threat Mitigation Working Group with a brand-new U.S. Council on Transnational Organized Crime; the other authorizes sanctions against "foreign persons involved in the global illicit drug trade."

    As with his Covid promises, Biden's main goal is to be seen as "doing something". And hope that nobody checks on whether "something" accomplishes anything worthwhile.


  • He's OK when he's not accusing Chris Sununu of being a Chinese Communist sympathizer. Don Bulduc has a remarkably sane take at NH Journal: Hassan Is No Joe Manchin, And That's Bad for NH.

    All the hullaballoo over West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s steadfast opposition to the Democrats’ so-called “Build Back Better” spending bill distracted from a broader point with more far-reaching implications: it never had to get this far.

    Because the U.S. Senate is evenly divided 50-50, any one of the Democratic senators in Washington could have put the brakes on this disastrous spending boondoggle at any point in time, including New Hampshire’s own Maggie Hassan.

    Make no mistake, this is all political. Maggie Hassan doesn’t have the will to stand up to the left-wing progressives in her party like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Granite Staters will be left holding the bag, again.

    Bolduc goes on to note (as we've done here) that Senator Maggie votes 100% of the time in line with Biden's position. She's a rubber stamp.

    That “Chinese Communist sympathizer” thing here.

URLs du Jour

2021-12-23

For the record: back in 2016, I noticed that I was getting kind of lackadaisical about blogging. So I made an early New Year's resolution to blog daily. For better or worse (your mileage may vary), it worked. Today completes the fifth year of daily Pun Salad posts. This is my 1826th post in that streak. (Fortunately, I know how to get my computer to count those up.) I have no plans to stop.

  • Or any other Greek letter. From the reliably wonderful Mr. Ramirez [Delta, Omicron]

    "Didn't see that coming" will be a recurring theme over the next few years, I fear.


  • Well, that wasn't a true story. But someone did make it up. It's becoming a dog-bites-man story. Ed Morrissey of Hot Air reports: White House "clarification": Biden's story about Manchin admitting "misleading" him was false. Details at the link, but here's the more interesting part:

    It’s not as if the fact-check industry would have questioned Biden’s claim. With the exception of Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler (in 2020 for similar claims), none of the professionals of this guild have thus far bothered to even look at Biden’s absurd claim last week to have spent his young adulthood having “desegregated restaurants and movie theaters” during the Civil Rights movement. Not PolitiFact. Not FactCheck.org. Not Snopes either. It has been largely memory-holed as I predicted it would be, the same way most of Biden’s self-serving and bald-faced lies are, and the opposite of how the fact-check guild obsessed over Donald Trump’s self-serving presidential lies for four years.

    Which brings us to…


  • Yeah, well, you know, that's just like, uh, your opinion, man. A longtime New Hampshire blogger points out the Open letter from The British Medical Journal to Mark Zuckerberg. Key bits:

    In September, a former employee of Ventavia, a contract research company helping carry out the main Pfizer covid-19 vaccine trial, began providing The BMJ with dozens of internal company documents, photos, audio recordings, and emails. These materials revealed a host of poor clinical trial research practices occurring at Ventavia that could impact data integrity and patient safety. We also discovered that, despite receiving a direct complaint about these problems over a year ago, the FDA did not inspect Ventavia’s trial sites.

    The BMJ commissioned an investigative reporter to write up the story for our journal. The article was published on 2 November, following legal review, external peer review and subject to The BMJ’s usual high level editorial oversight and review.

    But from November 10, readers began reporting a variety of problems when trying to share our article. Some reported being unable to share it. Many others reported having their posts flagged with a warning about “Missing context … Independent fact-checkers say this information could mislead people.” Those trying to post the article were informed by Facebook that people who repeatedly share “false information” might have their posts moved lower in Facebook’s News Feed. Group administrators where the article was shared received messages from Facebook informing them that such posts were “partly false.”

    Readers were directed to a “fact check” performed by a Facebook contractor named Lead Stories.

    We find the “fact check” performed by Lead Stories to be inaccurate, incompetent and irresponsible.

    For the record, the "Lead Stories" folks respond here.

    And, of course: Classical reference in headline.


  • Can't be. We're not all dead. Kevin D. Williamson notes that The Long Run Is [finally] Here.

    Joe Biden and congressional Democrats are doing their best to make inflation worse by spending vast sums of money to reward key political supporters and to try to buy themselves some love before the midterms, currently looking like they will be a slaughter for their party. (The Republican polling advantage today is stronger than it has been in 40 years — Democrats should think about how much people must hate them to vote for the party of Marjorie Taylor Greene and Ivermectin junkies.) But the way you end inflation — the thing you end up doing once all the painless options have been tried and failed — is raising interest rates. You might remember that back in 2008, we raised interest rates a smidgen, which caused ridiculously inflated housing prices to come a little closer back to Earth — and sparked a worldwide economic emergency. Raising interest rates is going to play havoc on the cheap-credit model of selling houses, cars, and college educations, along with much else. And it could be very hard for the biggest debtor of all: the U.S. government, which already spends more than half a trillion dollars a year just on interest payments. We spent $522,767,299,265.34 on interest payments in 2020, with interest rates that were low by historical standards. If interest rates start to move back toward their historic average, that number could easily double or treble — or much worse.

    This is the predictable stuff. Nobody saw Covid-19 coming (though I suppose there is a reason we’ve had all those zombie movies and zombie television series for so many years — a kind of folk intuition, perhaps), but, this stuff, we see it coming. You can dick around with different economic models and debate sticky prices and the velocity of money and all that stuff, but that’s just Wile E. Coyote out there in the Arizona desert insisting that the anvil that’s about to fall on his head weighs only 100 pounds instead of 200 pounds. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders may insist that there is no anvil, but sensible people can foresee that the big heavy 50c-Rockwell anvil-shaped hunk of steel with “Acme Anvil Corp.” engraved on the side and hurtling toward our delicate little American skulls is probably — wild guess! — an anvil.

    Gold and silver prices have been pretty flat over the past year, so I'm not quite as pessimistic on inflation as is KDW. But I'm just guessing; he could be right.


  • "But waste was of the essence of the scheme." Robert Frost called it before Joe Lancaster: Biden To Spend $7.5 Billion on Chargers That Electric Car Owners Likely Won't Use.

    As part of its recently passed infrastructure bill, the Biden administration plans to spend $7.5 billion building 500,000 chargers for electric vehicles. But will drivers actually want to use those chargers?

    The two biggest impediments to the widespread adoption of electric vehicles are the vehicles' range and their upfront cost. Right now there are only five varieties of electric vehicles with a range of more than 350 miles per charge, and none of them retail for a base price of less than $47,000. And while the Build Back Better Act passed by the House last month contains tax rebates for new electric vehicle purchases, none of the five qualify for the full amount. For comparison, a base model Ford Focus costs considerably less and can go further on a full tank of gas.

    Hey, does anyone remember the good old USSR and its Five-year plans? Joe Biden does!

URLs du Jour

2021-12-22

  • Not much today, sorry. But I wanted to share the cute Christmas card I got from the Reason Foundation. [Click thereon for a glorious full size version, should you need to enhance the fine print on Santa's list.]

    [Ho Ho Ho]

    Aw, they shouldn't have.


  • Gee, Gerard, don't hold back. Tell us what you really think. Gerard Baker kind of let loose on President Wheezy in his print WSJ column yesterday: Biden Emerges as Progressive Government’s Mr. Bad Example. Key paragraph:

    It’s not too harsh a judgment to say that this is a man who has risen to the top of American public life without a trace of accomplishment. When you’ve been in national politics for almost 50 years, you ought to have achieved something, if only by accident. But this journeyman politician, when he wasn’t getting almost all the big issues wrong, was largely a bystander. He is now a husk of a leader, a dangerously debilitated figure, who oscillates between displays of vacuous incoherence and weird, angry outbursts, like a confused old man at the wrong bus stop.

    Whoa. Whoa. And it goes on:

    Meanwhile, a heartbeat and a spine-chilling cackle away from the presidency, is another living rebuke to the idea that government is virtuous and wise. Vice President Kamala Harris has demonstrated, evidently to the alarm of much of her own staff, that she is simply another of Mr. Biden’s many mistakes—perhaps the biggest one yet. It is a dismaying state of affairs that we must all pray nightly for the continued health of an inept president to avert the calamity of a worse one.

    All so true, of course. But I was still kind of surprised to see it so bluntly expressed in the WSJ.

The Grandmother Plot

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I read Caroline B. Cooney's Before She Was Helen a few months back and liked it quite a bit. (It was nominated for an Edgar Award, after all.) I said that Ms. Cooney "has a real knack for suspense and humor", and this book confirms that. I like her style, she seems like (to a first approximation) a female Elmore Leonard.

Two protagonists here, Freddy and Laura. They both have relatives in Middletown Memory Care, described on page one as "an institution that was not in fact caring for memories." Instead, it's caring for Alzheimer's patients; Freddy's grandmother is one, and Laura's aunt is another.

Freddy, as it happens, is a pothead, and an artist working in glass. He loves to make beads and bongs. He's also gotten roped into a money-laundering scheme with a guy nicknamed "The Leper", who threatens bodily harm unless Freddy maintains his part. Freddy can't go to the cops due to other relatively minor illegalities he's into, most notably, Social Security fraud; he's living mostly off his late mother's checks. At some point he acquires a dog named "Snaps" (see cover), so-named due to his love of biting people.

In comparison, Laura's relatively normal: just her proclivity toward hoarding large musical instruments. She has an odd proclivity for "smashed brass": bugles, tubas, what have you, "looking as if an elephant had stepped on it."

An additional complication crops up: somebody's murdered one of the more helpless patients at Middletown Memory Care. There are a lot of suspects, and any likely witnesses are in the throes of dementia.

Ms. Cooney does a great job with an intricate plot, and draws her characters with depth and sympathy. I'm a sucker for books that draw you in, keeping you interested in what happens. This has that quality in spades.

URLs du Jour

2021-12-21

  • That's some impressive nudging. I'm currently reading a good book, Escaping Paternalism, a rebuttal to those arguing for government efforts to "nudge" the citizenry toward making better choices. Since <sarcasm>I am now an expert in that field</sarcasm>, I can definitively say that the White House's Christmas message ain't the way to go:

    Merry Christmas to you too, wh.gov.

    Adding in a perceptive comment from Allahpundit at the above link:

    Biden and [White House COVID czar Jeff] Zients may have been less politic about it but in substance they’re saying nothing different from Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who earned applause on the right recently for refusing to order a new mask mandate in his state. The emergency phase of the pandemic ended once vaccines became widely available, Polis argued. If you’re too stubborn or ignorant to get one and save yourself, he’s not going to try to save you. “You don’t tell people to wear a jacket when they go out in winter and force them to [wear it]. If they get frostbite, it’s their own darn fault,” he explained. “If you haven’t been vaccinated, that’s your choice. I respect that. But it’s your fault when you’re in the hospital with COVID.”

    "When a dog bites a man, that is not news. But when a Democratic governor tells the cold sober truth, that is news."


  • Faucism? I missed this new word. But Google says I have nobody to blame but myself. (You'll have to reassure Google that you really did mean to search for that word, despite it resulting in 99,400 hits.)

    Anyway, Robby Soave declares himself Against Faucism. And so should we all.

    Last week, the CEOs of American Airlines and Southwest Airlines told Congress that they do not think mask requirements make much sense on airplanes, where the air filtration systems are superior to what is typically found in an intensive care unit.

    "I think the case is very strong that masks don't add much, if anything, in the air cabin environment," said Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest. "It is very safe and very high quality compared to any other indoor setting."

    Unwilling to let anyone undermine the case for keeping a government mandate in place, White House coronavirus advisor Anthony Fauci threw cold water on the idea.

    "You have to be wearing a mask on a plane," he said bluntly on television Sunday.

    Fauci shows he's taken the politician's syllogism to heart:

    1. We must do something.
    2. This is something.
    3. Therefore, we must do this.

    Adding the corollary: "4. And we gotta keep doing it, no matter how pointless or stupid."


  • For the record: "pivot" means to twirl about without actually going anywhere. Which makes perfect sense in the context of this Federalist story: Democrats Pivot Back To Radical Election Bill That Would Ban Voter ID.

    President Joe Biden recently delivered remarks to donors and party officials and stated, “The struggle is no longer just who gets to vote or make it easy for eligible people to vote. It’s about who gets to count the vote; whether your vote counts at all.”

    Biden was speaking about proposed changes to U.S. elections by congressional Democrats who are now ditching their stalled multi-trillion dollar Build Back Better bill and pivoting back to radical election legislation. Democrats often frighten their base by framing election issues in racial terms — they falsely assert Republicans are trying to dilute the minority vote and return to an era of Jim Crow laws — and market election bills as “protecting voting rights,” which is a complete misnomer, considering everything this bill does would exponentially degrade election security and catastrophically raise the potential for fraud.

    The legislation increases the likelihood of a disputed election and should be rejected outright, especially considering the chaos this country endured after the 2020 election. The United States already has the knowledge, resources, and technological acumen to design and deploy secure election architecture that minimizes the potential for fraud and inspires confidence in election results. The policies currently being put forth would make things worse, not better.

    Which brings us to…


  • Something she never noticed in her four years as governor. NHJournal notes the latest doom-and-gloom from our state's junior senator: Maggie Hassan Says NH Voters 'Sliding Toward Authoritarianism'

    When Sen. Maggie Hassan says she flipped on the filibuster to “protect the wonderful elections that we have in New Hampshire,” the obvious question is, “Protect them from whom?”

    Hassan made the comment to WMUR in an interview the day after her surprise announcement from the floor of the U.S. Senate that she was doing a 180 on the filibuster. The interview was part of an all-hands-on-deck effort by New Hampshire Democrats to beat back some of the political fires her sudden reversal had sparked. Republicans had a field day pointing out that not only did Hassan write a letter in 2017 pleading with then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to keep the filibuster in place, she participated in more than 300 of them during the last year of the Trump presidency.

    For the record, both our senators have (so far) a perfect "Biden score" at FiveThirtyEight, only 16 other senators can say the same. On the House side, our representatives Pappas and Kuster are similarly "independent" minded.


  • It's not as if our electoral system couldn't use some help. Specifically, as described by the NR editors, Republicans Should Help Reform the Electoral Count Act.

    The 2020 presidential election concluded with a political and constitutional crisis unmatched in the United States since the 1876 election. Congress should respond, as it did after 1876, by shoring up and clarifying the process for resolving presidential elections with disputed outcomes. That will require the votes of Senate Republicans, who should support reforming the Electoral Count Act as a matter of both good policy and political self-interest.

    Article II of the Constitution, together with the Twelfth Amendment, sets forth a basic division of labor in electing the president. Congress picks the date for states to choose electors and must set a uniform date for the electors to cast their votes in their own states. State legislatures have plenary power to decide how the electors are selected; the legislature itself may choose the electors, but since 1876, all states have instead held a popular vote. The electoral votes are opened by the president of the Senate (the vice president, if one is in office) in the presence of the House and Senate, “and the votes shall then be counted.” But the Constitution leaves many questions unanswered.

    They should be able to get this done without larding it up with politics.


  • Yes, we live in the future. Slashdot headline, with no further comment: Philadelphia Woman Gives Birth in Front Seat of Tesla on Autopilot.

    OK, not a comment, but a query: does that come off Tesla upholstery easily?

URLs du Jour

2021-12-20

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Our Amazon Product du Jour features a great Thomas Jefferson quote … which is unfortunately bogus. That doesn't make it untrue, though.

  • Mister, we could use a man like Frédéric Bastiat again. Because he said stuff like this. (in French, but I assume the translation is accurate):

    When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.

    Which was brought to mind by an NRPlus article by Jerry Bowyer: Against the Thiel Tax.

    ‘Build Back Better,” the federal spending plan recently passed by the House, has a provision in it that is clearly a piece of political theater. Among other things, the bill sets out to change the rules surrounding Roth IRAs, including a strong retrospective element, which seems to have been inspired by one particular person for whom the Left has — how to put it — very little affection: Peter Thiel.

    […]

    Earlier this year, private IRS tax information on some of the nation’s billionaires — think Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and Peter Thiel — was leaked to the liberal news site ProPublica. According to the reports, Thiel had the foresight to put roughly $1,700 worth of his early ownership shares in PayPal into his Roth IRA in 1999. At the time, the shares were valued at pennies — if that. Later, PayPal exploded in value. Thiel then did something similar with other early-stage stocks such as Palantir and Facebook. The extremely high returns on those high-risk and eventual high-reward investments left him with a Roth worth billions.

    Of course, the whole thing was audited by the IRS. That’s how there was so much information to leak to a politically hostile media outlet. According to ProPublica, this audit happened during the Obama administration, which wasn’t known for having a politically balanced IRS. (Remember all those Tea Party groups with charitable-status applications caught in bureaucratic purgatory until after the election?) And yet, after the audit, Thiel was apparently not found to owe any additional taxes.

    That’s because what he did was legal. There were no limits under the rules governing Roth accounts as to how successful an investor was allowed to be. It didn’t matter if Thiel had succeeded beyond the wildest nightmares of the tax takers, because it’s the law that matters, not whether an individual taxpayer outplays the IRS on the IRS’s own rules. No taxpayer is obligated to pay more than the law requires, whether the government likes it or not.

    It's outrageous, is what it is. Fortunately, BBB seems dead for now.


  • Mister, as long as I'm wishing, we could also use a man like Freddie Hayek again. Particularly relevant to the above, Barry Brownstein wonders (in a two-part article): Are We Near the End of the Road to Serfdom? Part 1 and Part 2. I'm not quite as pessimistic as Barry; we're far freer, both in the US and worldwide, than we were in the 1940s when Hayek wrote TRtS. But the road is always there, and there will always be the folks who want to take us down it.

    “Nothing,” Hayek explains, “distinguishes more clearly conditions in a free country from those in a country under arbitrary government than the observance in the former of the great principles known as the Rule of Law.”

    Individuals are free to pursue their personal goals when the coercive power of government is restricted under the Rule of Law. Hayek explains:

    Stripped of all technicalities, this means that government in all its actions is bound by rules fixed and announced beforehand—rules which make it possible to foresee with fair certainty how the authority will use its coercive powers in given circumstances and to plan one’s individual affairs on the basis of this knowledge. Though this ideal can never be perfectly achieved, since legislators as well as those to whom the administration of the law is entrusted are fallible men, the essential point, that the discretion left to the executive organs wielding coercive power should be reduced as much as possible, is clear enough. While every law restricts individual freedom to some extent by altering the means which people may use in the pursuit of their aims, under the Rule of Law the government is prevented from stultifying individual efforts by ad hoc action. Within the known rules of the game the individual is free to pursue his personal ends and desires, certain that the powers of government will not be used deliberately to frustrate his efforts. [emphasis added]

    Widespread respect for the Rule of Law among citizens is easier to strengthen and store during prosperous times. The metaphor of storing or eating our seed corn is applicable not only to physical assets and money, but also to ideas. During economic downturns or difficult times, the level of fear goes up. Demands for expedient responses put pressure on the Rule of Law; respect for this vital principle of a free and prosperous society dwindles. The frightened want what they claim they are entitled to, and some politicians are all too willing to pander those claims. 

    The "Thiel Tax" is certainly an example of what Hayek was talking about.

    But also…


  • "Comrade Lysenko, I have Anthony Fauci on line 2." Phillip W. Magness and James R. Harrigan write on recent history: Fauci, Emails, and Some Alleged Science.

    From October 2-4, 2020, the American Institute for Economic Research hosted a small conference for scientists to discuss the Covid-19 lockdowns. Just four days later, Dr. Francis Collins, the retiring Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), would call the three of the scientists in attendance “fringe epidemiologists,” in a directive he sent to Anthony Fauci and other senior staff of his agency. They were “fringe epidemiologists” because they had the temerity to ask whether the lockdowns of 2020 were effective. Those three, Martin Kulldorff of Harvard, Sunetra Gupta of Oxford, and Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford were simply doing what any good scientist would do: They were following the evidence.

    They wrote the Great Barrington Declaration [GBD] as they parted company at AIER, posting it for all to see.

    So why was Dr. Collins so intent on impugning these three scientists? It’s hard to know exactly, mostly because any scientist worth his salt should have been happy to see further research being done. That is, after all, how ignorance is replaced by knowledge. But Collins was clearly in no mood to replace his own possible ignorance with any kind of knowledge. He was pretty sure he knew all he had to know; and this is one of the most dangerous positions a scientist can take.

    The GBD had to be rebuked, and instead of countering it with data, they turned to publications in their ideological line: the Nation and WIRED.

    I admit, I was skeptical, but not nearly skeptical enough of Fauci et. al. back in 2020.


  • Let 'em in. Jeff Jacoby has a radical notion: Restore the original immigration policy: an open door. I'm not quite there yet, but I like his argument:

    THE FRAMERS of the Constitution gave the federal government no authority to restrict peaceful immigration. For the first century or so of US history, most foreigners wishing to move to the United States were legally free to do so. The Constitution delegates many specific powers to the federal government, but a general right to bar or expel immigrants is conspicuously not among them. During the national debate over the notorious Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 — which (among other provisions) allowed President John Adams to unilaterally deport immigrants he deemed dangerous — James Madison and the Virginia General Assembly denounced the laws for investing the president with "a power nowhere delegated to the federal government."

    Not until 1882 was there a significant federal law curbing immigration: the unabashedly racist Chinese Exclusion Act, which effectively slammed the door on immigration from China. Instead of striking down the law as unconstitutional, the Supreme Court upheld it on the grounds that the right to exclude foreigners for any reason was an "incident of sovereignty belonging to the government of the United States." That decision — by the same court that a few years later endorsed racial segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson — erased a core human right that the authors of the Constitution had never intended to curtail: freedom of immigration.

    I have to admit, it would be pretty cool if the Supremes started knocking down stuff the government does because it's not explicitly authorized in the Constitution.


  • Nobody reads syllabi. An amusing NYT article: Professor Put Clues to a Cash Prize in His Syllabus. No One Noticed.

    Kenyon Wilson, a professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, wanted to test whether any of his students fully read the syllabus for his music seminar.

    Of the more than 70 students enrolled in the class, none apparently did.

    Professor Wilson said he knows this because on the second page of the three-page syllabus he included the location and combination to a locker, inside of which was a $50 cash prize.

    “Free to the first who claims; locker one hundred forty-seven; combination fifteen, twenty-five, thirty-five,” read the passage in the syllabus. But when the semester ended on Dec. 8, students went home and the cash was unclaimed.

    Among the college profs with whom I'm acquainted, it's a common complaint that their students don't read the course materials. Professor Wilson literally put his money on it. Impressive.

The Wreckage of My Presence

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

The HarperCollins page for this book says: "Laugh-out-loud, deeply insightful, and emotion-filled essays from multi-talented actress, comedian, podcaster, and writer Casey Wilson." Sounds good! I had dim memories of her stint on Saturday Night Live (two seasons, 2008-2009). Plus which, it was a Reason Roundtable Recommendation back in August from Pun Salad fave Katherine Mangu-Ward. So I stuck it on the get-at-library list, and…

Well, it didn't work out for me. Laugh-out-loud? In a 288-page book, I laughed once. And I am famous for being easily amused.

To be fair, the "emotion-filled" part of the HarperCollins description is right. Casey is intensely devoted to family, and her relationship with her late mother, Kathy, is a recurring theme throughout these essays. The story of the health problems with her son (eventually diagnosed with celiac disease) is also striking.

But my major take-away from the book: gee, Casey is kind of high-maintenance. Her friends, co-workers, therapists, and many of her family members can be even higher-maintenance. There are a couple episodes of wince-inducing oversharing. ("I didn't need, nor want, to know that" reactions outnumbered the funny bits two-to-one.) Overuse of caps-lock and exclamation points are another minus.

And none of this was particularly interesting (sorry) or insightful (sorry, again).


Last Modified 2021-12-20 10:31 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2021-12-19

  • Gee, Officer Krupke. Mr. Ramirez provides this morning's eye candy:

    [West Wing Story]


  • And also stupid. Kevin D. Williamson points out: Loyalty to Political Leaders or Movements over Constitution Dangerous.

    We are in a pre-revolutionary situation because the regime — by which I mean not the Biden administration but the American constitutional order itself and the principal institutions associated with it — is being made to compete for the loyalty of Americans against individual politicians (Donald Trump), particular political organizations and movements (BLM), and less well-defined political tendencies (right-wing identity and left-wing identity). There has always been partisan fanaticism, and there have always been demagogues. When loyalty to a political leader or a political movement supplants loyalty to the regime, the nation grows dangerously close to revolution in proportion to the degree to which such tendencies are general and widespread.

    When some significant share of citizens feel themselves more closely identified with a particular politician than with the constitutional order per se, then you have the conditions for a coup d’état and a caudillo; when some significant share of citizens feel themselves more closely identified with a party or a movement than with the constitutional order per se, then you have the conditions for a more broad-based revolution. The first gets you an Augusto Pinochet or a Francisco Franco, and the second gets you a Russian Revolution or a French Revolution — both of which eventually produced caudillos of their own, meaning that they ended up in much the same place.

    As far as the events of January 6 go, the “stolen election” fiction was a moral-permission slip for acting on loyalties (and the social demands associated with such loyalties) that long preceded the 2020 election and will long outlast it. Some of these revolutionists invaded the Capitol, but the more important ones work there. And what they hope to do is to achieve what Lenin wanted: “unrestricted power based on force, not law.” The legal pretexts feverishly dreamt up by such ghoulish amoralists as Rudy Giuliani were exercises in publicity, not exercises in law. The lawyers are the marketing department of the revolution.

    Fun fact, derived from KDW's article: Ronald Radosh claims that Steve Bannon called himself a "Leninist" back in 2013, when he was in charge of Breitbart.com following Andrew Breitbart's death. (I gave up on reading Breitbart.com when it hitched itself to Trump in 2016, and have only rarely linked to them since.)


  • Just like Old Man River. George F. Will lets us know that the malicious, historically illiterate 1619 Project keeps rolling on.

    The 1619 Project, which might already be embedded in school curricula near you, reinforces the racial monomania of those progressives who argue that the nation was founded on, and remains saturated by, “systemic racism.” This racial obsession is instrumental; it serves a radical agenda that sweeps beyond racial matters. It is the agenda of clearing away all impediments, intellectual and institutional, to — in progressivism’s vocabulary — the “transformation” of the nation. The United States will be built back better when it has been instructed to be ashamed of itself and is eager to discard its disreputable heritage.

    The 1619 Project aims to erase (in [historian Gordon S.] Wood’s words) “the Revolution and the principles that it articulated – liberty, equality and the well-being of ordinary people.” These ideas are, as Wood says, the adhesives that bind our exceptional nation whose people have shared principles, not a shared ancestry.

    The Times says “nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional” flows from “slavery and the anti-black racism it required.” So, the 1619 Project’s historical illiteracy is not innocent ignorance. Rather, it is maliciousness in the service of progressivism’s agenda, which is to construct a thoroughly different nation on the deconstructed rubble of what progressives hope will be the nation’s thoroughly discredited past.

    Critical Race Theorists in schools, when confronted, will often claim that they're "just teaching history". It's worth investigating if that history begins and ends with the 1619 Project's viewpoint.


  • My yard sign says "Junk Science is Real". Robby Soave examines the CDC's credibility and finds it wanting: The Study That Convinced the CDC To Support Mask Mandates in Schools Is Junk Science.

    On September 28, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky shared the results of a new study that appeared to confirm the need for mask mandates in schools. The study was conducted in Arizona over the summer, and published by the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: It found that schools in counties without mask mandates had 3.5 times more outbreaks than schools in counties with mask mandates.

    The significance of that finding should have raised eyebrows, according to The Atlantic's David Zweig. "A number of the experts interviewed for this article said the size of the effect should have caused everyone involved in preparing, publishing, and publicizing the paper to tap the brakes," he wrote in a new article that explores the study's significant flaws. "Instead, they hit the gas."

    Zweig's article here.


  • What should we talk about? Jonah Goldberg has a suggestion: Let’s Talk About Privilege.

    We hear a lot about privilege these days, particularly “white privilege.” Now, I think white privilege is a thing. My problem with the concept isn’t that it’s fake, but that it’s not nearly as explanatory as those who denounce it think it is. Like systemic racism, it’s an important factor for some things, a minor factor for things, and utterly irrelevant to a whole bunch of things. For instance, If you think “white privilege” explains everything, your essay on the causes of American slavery might make a lot of worthwhile points. But your essay on the causes of World War I is gonna need work.

    Anyway, I googled “examples of white privilege” and one of the first results was this article, “10 Examples That Prove White Privilege Exists in Every Aspect Imaginable.” Now, I think the headline is sophomoric click-baity garbage and the whole thing is written with a lot of indefensible hyperbole. But some of the examples have merit. The first is that white people, broadly speaking, are more likely to have a positive relationship with the police. Again, there are all manner of caveats one can raise, but sure, fair enough. Another is that white people can “learn about my race in school” (the author, Jon Greenberg, is writing in that popular first-person confess-my-white-sins mode so popular today among those obsessed with the souls of woke folks). I can raise so many more caveats, but I get the point.

    Interesting history on the concept of "privilege", and a note that it's not just white cis males that enjoy it.


Last Modified 2021-12-19 12:16 PM EST

URLs du Jour

2021-12-18

  • Getting pretty tired of the Maggie ads on TV. Here's my snarky tweet du jour.

    For fun contrast, count the number of times "bipartisan" appears on this page on Maggie's campaign website. (I can't find the video ad where she touted her "bipartisanship" in passing some R&D tax credit scheme, but trust me, it was irritating.)


  • When the GOP takes the Senate in 2023, they'll thank Maggie. But Fred Bauer won't: Removing the Filibuster Would Destabilize American Democracy, Not Save It.

    In a speech last night announcing her about-face on the filibuster (from supporting it while in the minority to opposing it while in the majority), New Hampshire senator Maggie Hassan proclaimed that “we must pass legislation to protect American democracy.” She warned that “if the partisans who are attacking our democracy have their way . . . we’ll see an Election Day that is a charade, just like in countries where democracy doesn’t exist.” This is a common argument used to rationalize obliterating regular order in the Senate: Democracy itself is at stake, so the filibuster must be nuked to preserve it.

    However, this is also an argument that grows weaker the more seriously you take its premises. Removing the filibuster dramatically expands the ability of a temporary partisan majority to meddle in elections. For example, a party controlling the presidency and the Congress could set national standards for elections in a way it thinks will be to its own partisan advantage.

    It could be this simple, I suppose: Maggie's concluded that her best hope for re-election is to throw red meat to the hard-left activist base of her party. We'll see if that works out.


  • Asked and answered. J.D. Tuccille at Reason: What Will ‘Build Back Better’ Buy? Inflation.

    Plans by congressional Democrats for trillions of dollars in taxes and spending hikes appear to be faltering in the face of opposition by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Publicly and loudly concerned about the so-called "Build Back Better" bill's near-certain escalation of already worrisome federal debt and inflation, he has remained resolute in his demands for reductions in proposed spending increases as prices have risen across the board for Americans. Economic sense is on his side, since the ambitious bill threatens to further strain Americans' budgets.

    "Throughout the last three months, I have been straightforward about my concerns that I will not support a reconciliation package that expands social programs and irresponsibly adds to our nearly $29 trillion in national debt that no one else seems to care about," Manchin warned in November of the measures dubbed "Build Back Better." "I, for one, also won't support a multitrillion-dollar bill without greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects inflation and debt have on our economy and existing government programs."

    J.D. notes that Fed chair Powell has admitted that it's "probably a good time to retire" the word "transitory" when talking about inflation.


  • A half cheer for Matthew Yglesias, as he makes The case against "creating jobs".

    Emphasis on jobs reflects the fact that government spending money on infrastructure projects entails hiring people to do work. But it’s not actually true that “in order to create jobs” is the reason to build infrastructure. And this is not unique to the infrastructure issue. Across a whole range of issues, emphasizing the job creation aspect of public expenditures is a staple of progressive rhetoric — in part just because it sounds good to people, and I can’t begrudge politicians for doing politics. But in part, it’s a reaction to a very prolonged labor market slump that we had in the 21st century which made “creating jobs” seem like priority number one at all times.

    In the real world, though, this is not why we want to promote clean energy, expand health and dental coverage, or bolster the availability of early childhood education. Those things are all virtuous and important in and of themselves. The job creation sales pitch was a reaction to 20 years of catastrophic macroeconomic mismanagement. But you want to power people’s homes, reduce pollution, and clean their teeth. And now that we have an economy where it’s much easier to find a job than it was at any time during the 20 pre-pandemic years, it’s time to adjust our thinking.

    It's Yglesias, so there's a lot of claptrap too. But his core point is on target.

    Here is my favorite story about "job creation":

    While traveling by car during one of his many overseas travels, Professor Milton Friedman spotted scores of road builders moving earth with shovels instead of modern machinery. When he asked why powerful equipment wasn’t used instead of so many laborers, his host told him it was to keep employment high in the construction industry. If they used tractors or modern road building equipment, fewer people would have jobs was his host’s logic.

    “Then instead of shovels, why don’t you give them spoons and create even more jobs?” Friedman inquired.

    I wonder if Yglesias has heard that one?


  • [Insert barely-muffled guffaw here.] Andrew Stiles distills what he Learned From Hillary Clinton’s Master Class on ‘The Power of Resilience’.

    You almost have to feel sorry for Hillary Clinton. Not really, but for the sake of argument. As recently as 2016, she was a multimillionaire feminist icon on the verge of making history. Now she's just an irrelevant failure and "toxic white liberal" who is despised or ignored by everyone outside the Acela corridor cocktail circuit. Her days of charging $225,500 to give a speech at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries are long gone, yet she is either unable or unwilling to bow out gracefully. The Master Class gig seems like another step in Hillary's inevitable evolution from failed politician to moderately successful self-help guru to extremely successful multilevel marketing executive to federal inmate.

    Part of what makes Hillary Clinton so resilient, according to the Master Class instructor, is her values. She urges her students to "think about things that are fundamentally important to you," to "write it all down" and continuously revise it. For example, Hillary cares deeply about "so many different issues and concerns" that she simply "can't be involved in everything," so it's often necessary to "choose what it is you're going to stake as important to you and where you're going to put your energy."

    What, exactly, does Hillary Clinton care about? Well, since her humiliating loss to Donald Trump in 2016, she has chosen to put most of her energy into talking about herself. She wrote a memoir about why she lost (James Comey, Vladimir Putin, and sexism), took part in a Hulu documentary about her life, and coauthored a thriller based on her time as secretary of state, in which the protagonist uncovers a "vast right-wing conspiracy" plotting to set off nuclear bombs across the country because they "hate America's diversity."

    Somehow the book mentioned in that last item has failed to make my to-be-read list.


  • Seasonal Tidings. P. J. O'Rourke provides Useless Christmas Trivia (That You May Find Pretty Useful) Specifically, Peej notes, you might want to divert dinnertime conversation away from fraught topics:

    “We call St. Nick ‘Santa Claus’ because we get many of our Christmas traditions from the New Amsterdam Dutch. The way the Dutch pronounce ‘St. Nicholas’ is Sinterklass. And speaking of Rudolph’s red nose, this is how some people at this table are beginning to pronounce their words. I spiked the eggnog with Everclear, in the hope that at least a few of you would pass out face-first in your plates. Santa’s helpers are standing by at EMS.”

    “Sinterklass has a helper called Zwarte Piet who wears blackface and carries bad children away in a sack. The Dutch claim this isn’t racist. I’ve invited Megyn Kelly to come over this evening and discuss the subject. She’ll be bringing her own sack.”

    I managed to avoid the Norwegian custom of… well, you can click over there.


Last Modified 2021-12-19 5:43 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2021-12-17

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  • I think we're turning Japanese, I really think so. The 2021 edition of the Human Freedom Index is out, and (for many reasons) our country is underperforming.

    The countries that took the top 10 places, in order, were Switzerland, New Zealand, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Canada and Finland (tied at 6), Australia, Sweden, and Luxembourg. Selected jurisdictions rank as follows: United Kingdom (14), Germany, Japan, and the United States (tied at 15), Taiwan (19), Chile (28), Hong Kong (30), South Korea (31), France (34), Argentina (74), South Africa (77), Brazil (78), Mexico (93), India (119), Nigeria (123), Russia (126), Turkey (139), China (150), Saudi Arabia (155), Iran (160), Venezuela (164), and Syria (165).

    (Bold added.) This is one of those studies that assign numeric scores on a multitude of categories, weighted to compute an overall number. So your own preferences might jiggle the rankings to get a different result.

    Still: outscored by Canada?!


  • Hey kids, what time is it? Well if you're Senator Karen… Elizabeth Warren Says It's Time to Destroy the Supreme Court. Charles C. W. Cooke rumbles:

    In the Boston Globe, Elizabeth Warren writes that she now supports destroying the Supreme Court:

    To restore balance and integrity to a broken institution, Congress must expand the Supreme Court by four or more seats.

    Some oppose the idea of court expansion. They have argued that expansion is “court-packing,” that it would start a never-ending cycle of adding justices to the bench, and that it would undermine the court’s integrity.

    They are wrong. And their concerns do not reflect the gravity of the Republican hijacking of the Supreme Court.

    Why “four or more”? Because Elizabeth Warren likes three of the current justices and dislikes six of the current justices (one of whom has been there for more than thirty years; two of whom have been there for more than 15 years), and because adding four or more new justices would ensure that the people she likes would have a majority.

    That’s it. That’s the case.

    Good grief, she's a menace.

    I would expect her enthusiasm for court packing will evaporate within a few nanoseconds following the 2022 elections.


  • Reminder: the FDA kills people. Reason's Ronald Bailey pleads: The FDA Should Immediately Approve Pfizer's Anti-COVID-19 Pill Paxlovid.

    Considering how fast the omicron variant is spreading through various European countries, it looks likely that the U.S. will experience a winter surge of COVID-19 infections. Vaccinations, especially booster shots, remain an effective first line of defense against the new variant. However, the bureaucrats at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been dilatory about approving a second line of defense in the form of a new antiviral pill developed by Pfizer.

    The drugmaker is reporting today that clinical trials find that its Paxlovid pill "reduced risk of hospitalization or death by 89% (within three days of symptom onset) and 88% (within five days of symptom onset) compared to placebo; no deaths compared to placebo in non-hospitalized, high-risk adults with COVID-19." Paxlovid is a combination of the ritonavir protease HIV inhibitor and a new protease inhibitor that targets a specific enzyme that the coronavirus, including the omicron variant, needs to replicate and grow.

    Bailey reminds us that Covid deaths are running around 1200 per day. But the FDA bureaucrats apparently haven't done their Christmas shopping yet, so … "the agency has apparently not yet scheduled a meeting of its advisory committee to review Pfizer's EUA application."


  • I have no evidence disconfirming this assertion. Astral Codex Ten has a linguistic bone to pick: The Phrase "No Evidence" Is A Red Flag For Bad Science Communication. He compares news stories containing headline language like (from February 2020):

    No evidence of airborne coronavirus transmission - WHO official

    with ones like this from September 2021:

    There is no evidence 45,000 people died from vaccine-related complications

    and goes on to observe:

    You can see the problem. Science communicators are using the same term - “no evidence” - to mean:

    1. This thing is super plausible, and honestly very likely true, but we haven’t checked yet, so we can’t be sure.

    2. We have hard-and-fast evidence that this is false, stop repeating this easily debunked lie.

    This is utterly corrosive to anybody trusting science journalism. Imagine you are John Q. Public. You read “no evidence of human-to-human transmission of coronavirus”, and then a month later it turns out such transmission is common. You read “no evidence linking COVID to indoor dining”, and a month later your governor has to shut down indoor dining because of all the COVID it causes. You read “no hard evidence new COVID strain is more transmissible”, and a month later everything is in panic mode because it was more transmissible after all. And then you read “no evidence that 45,000 people died of vaccine-related complications”. Doesn’t sound very reassuring, does it?

    It's not just science communication. Exercise for the reader: Search Google News for "no evidence" and classify the stories you find according to the different usages described above.


Last Modified 2021-12-18 6:31 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2021-12-16

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Works better, maybe. Robby Soave is managing the Reason Roundup, and his lead item is: 4 Years After the FCC Repealed Net Neutrality, the Internet Is Better Than Ever.

    Exactly four years ago, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed the internet regulation known as net neutrality, which had forced internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all content identically in terms of download and streaming speeds, for instance. Since the popular policy had come into existence during the Obama administration, and was gutted during President Donald Trump's term, its demise was treated as the end of the internet as we know it by panic-stricken #resistance liberals. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) predictably said the Republican attack on net neutrality was an attack on democracy itself. (What isn't?)

    The term net neutrality was coined by law professor Tim Wu in 2006; his big idea was that the government needed the power to restrict ISPs' ability to offer different levels of service to different customers. "Throughout the '00s and into the late Obama years, Wu cautioned that without rules requiring internet service providers to treat all traffic and content equally, the internet as we had come to know it would cease to exist," wrote Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown, summarizing Wu's position. "Big corporations would create a digital fast lane for rich users and content providers, while average people would suffer through slow service and throttled access."

    The fact that the internet had operated for years with minimal government intervention, never producing such a two-tiered system, did not deter Wu, and the Obama administration eventually codified net neutrality under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. (Wu now serves as an adviser on technology policy for the Biden administration). When then–FCC Chairman Ajit Pai undid the policy on December 14, 2017, Democratic policy makers and pundits widely anticipated that the end was nigh.

    Spoiler: the end was not nigh.

    Note that the stuff that appears on your screen might not be "better than ever". You'll have to figure out how to deal with that yourself; don't expect the government to wade in and make that better.


  • No, George F. Will did not misspell "anus". But that's how I, like many Americans, read the headline on first glance: Build Back Better would make Biden’s annus horribilis even worse.

    At the end of his year of Old Testament afflictions — the political equivalent of Job losing his camels and acquiring boils — President Biden might be muttering: Job was at least spared Sens. Joe Manchin III and Kyrsten Sinema. These Democrats, however, stand between him and the potentially worst of his self-inflicted wounds, the Build Back Better bill.

    It is a sow’s ear made from the silk purse of his election, which was the nation’s plea for temperateness. The everything-including-the-kitchen-sink process that has produced BBB has completed the collapse of Biden’s credibility, and his party’s. The process has resembled Winston Churchill’s description of an intragovernmental negotiation: Britain’s Admiralty favored building six battleships, and the economists favored four, so they compromised on eight.

    BBB treats all Democratic constituencies like baby birds with their beaks wide open. Including journalists: There is a $1.7 billion payroll tax credit of up to $25,000 for each local journalist an organization employs in the first year and $15,000 for the next four — with the usual make-believe that this dependency of media on government will then end. The media will always proclaim their independence, but progressives’ politics is always about multiplying dependent constituencies.

    As I type this Thursday morn, BBB seems to be dead, at least for this year. (Lindsay Graham says it's "dead forever", certainly that would be nice.)


  • Magic money appears from nowhere. Michael Graham reports on Secretary of Transportation Buttigieg's visit to New Hampshire. And noticed Mayor Pete's Missing Math on Manchester Rail Project.

    What Mayor Pete didn’t tell anyone — and apparently nobody in the media asked — is how much this new rail service will actually cost. What’s the price tag for the project Buttigieg and the state’s entire federal delegation spent more than an hour discussing?

    If you attended the presser or watched every interview or read every news article from yesterday, you’d have no idea.

    Yes, the delegation talked a great deal about the approximately $1.2 trillion of spending in the bipartisan infrastructure bill. And they hyped the $1.4 billion New Hampshire will reportedly get for roads and bridges. Plus there’s $126 million for Granite State public transportation, too.

    By the way, $1.4 billion is 0.12% of $1.2 trillion.

    And $126 million is just 9% of that.

    Good luck finding where everything else is going.


  • I have no idea how this would work in practice, but… Robert Zubrin's National Review article, Gerrymandering: How to Stop It proposes a wonderfully geeky solution.

    I suggest it be done as follows. Let’s let the majority party in the state legislature take the first shot at proposing a redistricting plan. The sum of the perimeters of all the proposed districts can then be added up to create a score for the majority plan. The minority party can then be given 30 days to come up with an alternative plan. If they can come up with a design whose total perimeter is less than the majority plan’s, then the minority plan is adopted. If not, then the majority plan remains in place.

    Creating districting boundaries in this way will not prevent the creation of safe districts for one party or another in all cases. But it will leave the matter to fair chance and geography, rather than the arbitrary actions of political cabals.

    At least here in NH, there would be the extra detail that you wouldn't want to run district lines through a community. Would that mess things up?

Sunset Express

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Another book down on the "Reread Crais" project. It's the sixth Elvis Cole novel, and the author, Robert Crais, is really hitting his stride here.

But (alas) I have a consumer note: it's also in the tradition of Crais titles having absolutely nothing to do with the book contents. As near as I can tell. Maybe there's some obscure symbolism I'm missing?

But it begins with the discovery of a woman's corpse off Mulholland Drive (where, it seerms, most Los Angeles-based crimes occur). It's the wife of Teddy Martin, and when the cops track down Teddy, he claims his wife's been kidnapped, he paid the ransom, and ohmigod, are you telling me she's dead?

Unfortunately for Teddy, the cops turn up the murder weapon, a gory hammer, nearby on the lawn. Book 'im, Danno.

Cut to Elvis, weeks later: he's visited by famed celebrity lawyer Jonathan Green, who's handling Teddy Martin's defense. Elvis is hired to check out reports that one of the arresting cops, Angela Rossi, has planted evidence in the past, and may be doing so again. Did she really find that hammer at Martin's house, or did she take it from the body-dump site, and claim to have discovered it in its incriminating position?

Elvis is on the case. He quickly finds evidence that the past claims against Rossi are bogus. Assigned to follow up tips, his outstanding detective work digs up indications that it might have been a kidnap plot after all. Good news for Teddy and Green!

But that's on page 136 of a 392-page book. By page 194, Elvis is wondering "What in hell is going on here?" So things aren't as simple as they seem.

There's also a subplot where Lucy, the love of Elvis's life (at least for another book or two) is visiting from Louisiana, with her son Ben. Since (sssh, spoiler) I know this romance is doomed, this part didn't hold a lot of interest.

URLs du Jour

2021-12-15

  • I'm tired of Senator Karen too, Elon. John Sexton is one among many who noticed: Elon Musk spars with 'Senator Karen' on Twitter. He was triggered by this:

    Here's my favorite:

    Sexton points out that Musk will probably pay around $15 billion-with-a-b in federal taxes for 2021.

    Back in March, Senator Karen made the news for tweet-threatening Amazon, saying she'd 'fight to break up Big Tech so you’re not powerful enough to heckle senators with snotty tweets.' Can you imagine what this narcissistic thug wants to (legislatively, I'm sure) do to Elon?

    And it was only the day before yesterday we linked to a City Journal article that observed why democracy needs the rich:

    The rich can stand up more easily than others to overweening officials and mobs, forming a bulwark against arbitrary or tyrannical rule.

    I didn't expect to see such a clear example of that so soon.


  • Casting about for other scapegoats… Senator Karen (yes, I'm sticking with that) also made a guest appearance in Eric Boehm's article: Biden's Stimulus Bill Subsidized Meat Producers. Now, the White House Blames 'Corporate Greed' for High Meat Prices.

    White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has a theory about why Americans are paying higher prices these days at the grocery store.

    "The president [and] the secretary of agriculture have both spoken to what we've seen as the greed of meat conglomerates," Psaki told reporters at the White House's daily briefing on Tuesday. "The prices are higher. That is, in his view and in the view of our secretary of agriculture, because of—you could call it corporate greed, sure. You could call it jacking up prices during a pandemic."

    Alas, Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D–Mass.) debunked and widely mocked claims about corporate greed being the cause of inflation have apparently made their way into the White House's official talking points.

    The whole idea is patently absurd on its face. Psaki wants Americans to believe that these shadowy "meat conglomerates" were simply not very greedy for the past 30 years—during which time inflation has been relatively low—but now have suddenly become very, very greedy in the past six months.

    Also making the bogus charge is … you guessed it.


  • Some folks are unfamiliar with the good advice in Psalm 146:3. Kevin D. Williamson writes on the American State Cult.

    But there are millions of Americans, tens of millions and maybe more than 100 million, who grieve, lament, and despair when they believe that the wrong man has become president of these United States. Just at the moment, many of those many grieving millions are people who believe themselves to be devout Christians. You’d think that these Bible-reading people would know a golden calf when they see one.

    Here is an example of the sort of thing I am talking about, from Dr. Mehmet Oz, the celebrity physician who is going to run for a Senate seat from Pennsylvania, a state with which he has only the lightest of connections. The good doctor spells out his political agenda thus: “I’m here to promise you one thing: I am going to help reignite the divine spark inside every American and empower us to live better lives.”

    Set aside the comical notion of this ridiculous dork taking over for Pat Toomey — what in hell does that gibberish even hope to mean?

    You should click over and read the rest. You should especially click over if you've been looking for a readable explanation of Swedenborgianism. (And if you need a reminder, here's Psalm 146:3.)


  • When Harvard Econ Prof Mankiw says it's ugly, he's being diplomatic. On BBB's Ugly Fine Print:

    I have long favored a carbon tax to deal with global climate change. But I understand that if our leaders lack the political courage to propose one, targeted subsidies, such an electric vehicle tax credit, can be a substitute, albeit an imperfect one. In today's paper, I learned that, unfortunately, the design of this credit in the so-called Build Back Better bill aims not only at addressing climate change but also at reducing competition in the labor market and impeding international trade:

    The credit is $8,000 if the vehicle is made at a non-union U.S. plant, but rises to $12,500 if it’s made in a union-organized plant. The credit drops $500 if the car’s battery isn’t made in America, and after 2026 only cars assembled in the U.S. would qualify for the basic $7,500 credit.

    So the bill neglects the obvious first-best policy, starts with a second-best policy, and adds various extraneous provisos to make it worse.

    Usually I just post excerpts, but that's the whole thing. Unlike Professor Mankiw, I have next to zero faith that Uncle Stupid could impose a carbon tax that wouldn't make matters worse.


  • Shameless plug. I rarely shell out cash to read websites, even the ones who shamelessly beg me to. I made an exception for the exceptional Jim Treacher; he's funny and insightful. From yesterday's article:

    So there’s more news about what the previous president was doing during the 1/6 riot, and now we’re learning about all the people who tried to convince him to speak up and appeal to his supporters for calm. I’m just exhausted with the whole thing and I don’t care what happens to him. Throw him in jail, elect him again, ignore him and hope he goes away, whatever. It’s all fine with me.

    As for Ashli Babbitt: No, she wasn’t a terrorist. And, also, in addition to that, she shouldn’t have been crawling through a broken window into the House chamber in the middle of a riot. I’m sorry she had to learn that lesson the hard way, but that’s why the building is filled with armed guards.

    If you want to find a reason to be angry with me about it, go ahead, I guess. I will continue to say what I believe.

    Treacher's substack is a bargain, I think. Check it out.

URLs du Jour

2021-12-14

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] I am not making this up: as I type, our Amazon Product du Jour is the "#1 Best Seller in Cat Care & Health". And well deserved.

  • Greg Lukianoff has a long, and accurate, memory. He notes that we're living in The Second Great Age of Political Correctness.

    The derisive term "P.C." had referred to a genuine and powerful force on campus for the previous decade. But by the mid-1990s, it had become the butt of jokes from across the political spectrum. The production of a mainstream movie mocking political correctness showed that its cultural moment had passed.

    At the same time, punitive campus speech codes were being struck down. Among the most prominent cases was Stanford Law School, which boasted a notorious speech code banning "speech or other expression…intended to insult or stigmatize" an individual on the basis of membership in a protected class arguably including every living human. You don't have to be a lawyer to see how a ban on anything that "insults" would be abused: Even showing PCU itself, which makes fun of campus activists, feminists, and vegetarians, could potentially get you in trouble under such a broad and vague rule. The 1995 court defeat of the Stanford speech code marked the end of the First Great Age of Political Correctness.

    Some assumed this meant political correctness was a fad that was gone forever. On the contrary, it gathered strength over the next two decades, rooting itself in university hiring practices and speech policing, until it became what people now refer to as "wokeness" or the much-abused term "cancel culture."

    The PCU reference is to a 1994 movie previously described in the article.

    I fondly remember getting chided by a lefty for pointing out "political correctness" back in my USENET days.


  • Want to see what arrogant privilege looks like? Ed Morrissey at Hot Air checks it out. Biden Cabinet spouse: "LOL no thank you" to paying back student loans.

    If anyone should “check his privilege,” shouldn’t it be the spouse of a Joe Biden Cabinet Secretary? Chasten Buttigieg decided to share his feelings on social media about a notice that his student loan payments would have to resume after the first of the year. Oddly, the man whose husband earned almost a million dollars (or more!) the past couple of years before becoming Biden’s Transportation Secretary thinks he shouldn’t have to repay his loans (via Twitchy):

    The husband of U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg appears less than enthusiastic about having to repay his student loans.

    Chasten Buttigieg, who recently became a father to newborn twins with the transportation secretary, posted a screenshot on Instagram Saturday of a notification that his student loan relief from the COVID-19 pandemic will expire on January 31, 2022.

    “Chasten, your student loan payments restart after January 31, 2022,” the notice read, according to a screenshot tweeted by Politico’s Michael Stratford. “You’ll soon receive a bill from your student loan servicer.”

    “LOL no thank you Merry Christmas next,” Chasten captioned the post.

    Well, that's impressive. Mayor Pete probably told Chasten not to worry, taxpayers would eventually get him off the hook.


  • It's just a coincidence. This fine article from Matthew D. Mitchell describes The Five Fingers of the Invisible Hand.

    Earlier this fall, Declan Leary wrote an essay in the American Conservative upbraiding the late Leonard Read, author of the famed essay, “I, Pencil.” According to Leary, Read displays a quasi-religious, unquestioning faith in the invisible hand of the market:

    “I, Pencil” treats supply chains in the language of religion. They are miracles in which we must have faith. They are the product of some inscrutable but benevolent superhuman intelligence. The precision alone of the Invisible Hand demands from us reverence and wonder.

    But there is a difference between awed wonder and unquestioning religious faith. Consider Richard Dawkins’s paean to science in “Unweaving the Rainbow”:

    The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable. It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music and poetry can deliver. It is truly one of the things that makes life worth living.

    There can be no doubt that Dawkins has reverence and wonder for the natural world. But no one could rightly accuse the famous atheist of having inscrutable faith in the benevolence of natural processes, no matter how wonderous he finds them.

    As I'm pretty sure I heard a famous conservative economist say, somewhat exasperated, on an interview show years back: "I don't have faith in the market. I have facts about the market."

    For the record, Mitchell's five "fingers" are:

    1. ‘Price Gravitates Toward Marginal Cost’
    2. We Gain From Exchange
    3. We Are More Productive When We Specialize
    4. Markets Communicate Dispersed Knowledge
    5. Dynamic Competition Solves Problems

    Pretty good summary.


  • Good advice. Stanley Kurtz has some wise words at the NR Corner: Don’t Ban Woke School-Library Books, Balance Them.

    I can’t think of a more encouraging development than the national movement of parents pushing back against woke education. Nothing can beat parents organized to halt the erosion of core American ideals like freedom of expression or equality before the law. Thankfully, a record of early successes is rapidly building a larger movement to take back our schools.

    Yet a crusade on the rise always risks overreach. Lately, some parents and public officials fighting woke education have considered pulling books from the shelves of public-school libraries. That isn’t always inappropriate, even for strong defenders of free speech. Libraries serving K-12 students legitimately take criteria like age-appropriateness and community standards into account when it comes to explicit sexual material. Because those lines are notoriously difficult to draw, battles over sexually explicit school library books are sure to play out for years.

    Bracketing the issue of age-appropriateness and explicit sexual content, however, I want to suggest that the best way to deal with woke school library books is not to ban them, but to balance them. If Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist is on your school-library shelf, don’t ban it. Have your library buy a copy of John McWhorter’s Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America, instead. If your school library has a copy of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, have it order a copy of Heather MacDonald’s The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe. And so on.

    My current bête noires of wokeness, the University Near Here and the Portsmouth (NH) Public Library actually do a pretty good job of obtaining books on all sides of controversial matters. When it comes to what they recommend, however…


  • How about cutting their budget until they behave? The IRS hopes you have a short memory. Fortunately we have the the WSJ editorialists to remind us about The Internal Revenue Leak Service.

    Democrats want to give $80 billion to the Internal Revenue Service to audit millions of Americans each year. Yet six months after the progressive website ProPublica first published the secret tax information of rich Americans, the tax agency still can’t explain what happened. Senate Republicans led by Iowa’s Chuck Grassley are demanding answers.

    In a Dec. 1 letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, all 14 GOP Members of the Senate Finance Committee express frustration at how little the agency has discovered or reported on the ProPublica leak. Mr. Rettig promised when the leak occurred in June to find out what happened, but in September he told Senators, “We do not yet have any information concerning the source.” Since then it’s been crickets.

    The scale alone should make investigating the breach a priority for the IRS. ProPublica claims to have thousands of individuals’ tax information, and it has continued publishing confidential details since its first report. Neither the publication nor federal authorities have said they know who leaked the records. No one seems to know, or least admit, how it was done, or how many more taxpayer files might have been stolen.

    The people who seem to gripe most about "privacy" and "protecting your data" don't seem to pay much attention to the IRS.

URLs du Jour

2021-12-13

  • Wishful thinking? Mr. Ramirez pictures the state of one of the current major political parties:

    [Rerouting...]

    I would have made it a clown car, but probably that would have been too busy.


  • I'm not sure whether this is amusing, sad, or what. I've had a certain amount of fun with the University Near Here's yearly celebration of Martin Luther King's birthday. Examples: 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020. (I skipped reporting the 2008 and 2016 events, because they were boring. And nothing much happened in 2021, thanks to Covid.)

    One major event in 2020 was the MLK Summit 2020, a closed event to which people needed to apply to attend. The big news for next year is, apparenty, a name change: it's the Audre Lorde Summit 2022!

    If you're like me, you have one question: Who is Audre Lord? Checking Wikipedia:

    Audre Lorde (/ˈɔːdri lɔːrd/; born Audrey Geraldine Lorde; February 18, 1934 – November 17, 1992) was an American writer, feminist, womanist, librarian, and civil rights activist. She was a self-described "black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet," who "dedicated both her life and her creative talent to confronting and addressing injustices of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia."

    Ah. Well, I guess she checked a lot more boxes than Martin did. She has a famous quote, "The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house", kind of a woke slogan. And probably MLK would never have gone here:

    In "A Poem For Women in Rage", Lorde imagines a Black woman intending to kill a white woman waiting for her lesbian lover. Through fury and rage, Lorde confronts the issues between white and Black women and how, "I am weeping to learn the name of those streets my feet have worn thin with running and why they will never serve me". As a Black, lesbian, feminist, Lorde dealt with inequalities between how white and Black lesbians were treated in public spaces. She takes out this rage on this hypothetical person in the poem to exhibit her anger over such inequalities.

    Interesting! You can check out the first page of the Summit's application at the above link, but the subsequent pages depend on you filling out the first page. I couldn't bring myself to do that.

    It's interesting to speculate on what caused the Summit's name change.


  • And not just as handy scapegoats. John O. McGinnis writes in City Journal to tell us Why Democracy Needs the Rich.

    The rich are in bad odor. The Left has made the “1 percent” a target of sustained moral and political criticism. But what exactly is wrong with the wealthy?

    Liberals often insist on the need for economic fairness. Some argue that the wealthy could pay more taxes without substantially harming the economy, though they should be grateful when taxpayers provide money to advance progressive goals. Others object to the very existence of large fortunes and seek to erode them via taxation. But the substantial majority of the very rich are self-made—two-thirds of the Forbes 400 built their own businesses, a proportion that is growing—and they add far more to the welfare of consumers than they retain in wealth.

    McGinnis has an interesting take: "The rich can stand up more easily than others to overweening officials and mobs, forming a bulwark against arbitrary or tyrannical rule." I.e., exactly the opposite of what progressive "reformers" claim.


  • Confucius would approve. Jeff Jacoby says Biden didn't go far enough: No genocide Olympics.

    AS THE People's Republic of China prepares to host the 2022 Winter Olympics in February, its record of brutal human rights abuses is not being ignored by the Biden administration. White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced on Monday that "given the PRC's ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity," the United States would not be sending a delegation of government officials to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. To be sure, American participation in the games themselves will not be affected. "The athletes on Team USA have our full support," Psaki stressed. "We will be behind them 100 percent as we cheer them on from home." But there won't be any American dignitaries cheering in the stands.

    Chinese ruler Xi Jinping must be devastated.

    This so-called diplomatic boycott is the equivalent of coming in fourth in an Olympic event: It is an achievement that impresses no one, leaves no impact, and is soon forgotten. As international snubs go, it could scarcely be more trivial. Few if any viewers will notice the absence of American diplomats and politicians among the spectators; even fewer will care. Xi and his communist regime will revel in the propaganda triumph of hosting the world's foremost sporting event, even as their "ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity" continue.

    Jacoby details China's ongoing thuggery against its own inhabitants and threats against other countries. I assume the 2022 Winter Olympics will someday go down in history in comparison with 1936's in Berlin.


  • Truth accidentally allowed to escape from the White House, is quickly apprehended. As reported at the Hill: White House cut Taiwanese official's video feed over map.

    After a Taiwanese minister showed a map that labeled Taiwan in a different color than China during President Biden's Summit for Democracy last week, the video of her presentation was reportedly cut by the White House over diplomatic concerns.

    Taiwanese Digital Minister Audrey Tang's map was shown for about a minute on Friday before the video feed of her presentation was removed, people familiar with the situation told Reuters.

    The video was replaced with an audio-only feed at the White House's request, the news wire reported. The presentation showed a color-coded map that ranked global openness to civil rights. Taiwan was labeled as green or "open," while other countries in Asia were marked as "closed," "repressed," "obstructed" or "narrowed.

    Can't have that getting out!

Beloved

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I started a new reading project, inspired by the New York Times shortlist of the 25 books on which they're asking their readers to pick "the best book of the past 125 years". (Which I noticed via Ann Althouse.)

Of those 25 books, I'd read 11. And one more was iffy: James Joyce's Ulysses. Assigned by my English prof, Jenijoy La Belle (who has her own Wikipedia page, good for her). I didn't come close to getting it. I may have looked at every page.

So: 14 books go on the TBR list, and the first up is Beloved.

It's not a pleasant read. Set mainly in the outskirts of 1870s Cincinnati, revolving around the story of Sethe, a onetime escaped slave. Sethe's life is a nonstop horror show, from the reality of slavery in Kentucky, a perilous botched escape, and eventual settlement into "124", a onetime refuge house for escapees. Unfortunately, 124 is haunted by a nasty poltergeist, the vengeful spirit of Sethe's daughter "Beloved". (We eventually learn how Beloved died. It wasn't pleasant.) Another ex-slave, Paul D, shows up and manages to send the ghost packing. But (oh oh) the spirit takes possession of another body, shows up at 124, and proceeds to form complex relationships with Sethe, her (living) daughter Denver, and Paul D.

That's the bare bones of the plot. Toni Morrison's prose is arty and not particularly accessible. There are multiple points of view, and a lot of skipping back and forth in time. I can see how people can find it to be important literature. It won a bunch of prizes, including the Pulitzer.

Fun fact (from the book's Wikipedia page):

In Virginia, Beloved was considered for removal from the Fairfax County senior English reading list due to a parent's 2017 complaint that "the book includes scenes of violent sex, including a gang rape, and was too graphic and extreme for teenagers". Parental concern about Beloved's content inspired the Beloved Bill, legislation that would have required Virginia public schools to notify parents of any "sexually explicit content" and provide an alternative assignment if requested. The bill was vetoed by Governor Terry McAuliffe. When McAuliffe ran again for the governor's office in 2021, a major event in the election was his statement during a debate that, "Yeah, I stopped the bill that—I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach."
I can understand why teachers assign the book, I can understand why parents would object. And I can understand why McAuliffe lost on that comment alone.

URLs du Jour

2021-12-12

  • Confirmation bias on parade. And the clown car participants are accumulated by @libsoftiktok:

    I don't see the word "alleged" in there anywhere, do you?

    Just a refresher:

    Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one's prior beliefs or values.

    Exercise for the reader: What "prior beliefs or values" do these people share?


  • So this is maybe the best question of the year. From Ronald Bailey, a Reason article out from behind the paywall: Why Is It So Hard To Admit When You're Wrong?

    Today, if you are a member of one of the two major American political parties, you are statistically likely to dislike and distrust members of the other party. While your affection for your own party has not grown in recent years, your distaste for the other party has intensified. You distrust news sources preferred by the other side.  Its supporters seem increasingly alien to you: different not just in partisan affiliation but in social, cultural, economic, and even racial characteristics. You may even consider them subhuman in some respects.

    You're also likely to be wrong about the characteristics of members of the other party, about what they actually believe, and even about their views of you. But you are trapped in a partisan prison by the psychological effects of confirmation bias. Being confronted with factual information that contradicts your previously held views does not change them, and it may even reinforce them. Vilification of the other party perversely leads partisans to behave in precisely the norm-violating and game-rigging ways they fear their opponents will. It's a classic vicious cycle, and it's accelerating.

    Will things get better in 2022? I confidently claim they will not, and (guess what?) I'll meet you back here in January 2023, and either gloat or (gulp) admit I was wrong.

    But I won't be wrong.


  • You can pledge allegiance to a team. Or you can be free. Former lefty Liel Leibovitz took The Turn. We can only hope that more people follow.

    And then came The Turn. If you’ve lived through it yourself, you know that The Turn doesn’t happen overnight, that it isn’t easily distilled into one dramatic breakdown moment, that it happens hazily and over time—first a twitch, then a few more, stretching into a gnawing discomfort and then, eventually, a sense of panic.

    You may be among the increasing numbers of people going through The Turn right now. Having lived through the turmoil of the last half decade—through the years of MAGA and antifa and rampant identity politics and, most dramatically, the global turmoil caused by COVID-19—more and more of us feel absolutely and irreparably politically homeless. Instinctively, we looked to the Democratic Party, the only home we and our parents and their parents before them had ever known or seriously considered. But what we saw there—and in the newspapers we used to read, and in the schools whose admission letters once made us so proud—was terrifying. However we tried to explain what was happening on “the left,” it was hard to convince ourselves that it was right, or that it was something we still truly believed in. That is what The Turn is about.

    You might be living through The Turn if you ever found yourself feeling like free speech should stay free even if it offended some group or individual but now can’t admit it at dinner with friends because you are afraid of being thought a bigot. You are living through The Turn if you have questions about public health policies—including the effects of lockdowns and school closures on the poor and most vulnerable in our society—but can’t ask them out loud because you know you’ll be labeled an anti-vaxxer. You are living through The Turn if you think that burning down towns and looting stores isn’t the best way to promote social justice, but feel you can’t say so because you know you’ll be called a white supremacist. You are living through The Turn if you seethed watching a terrorist organization attack the world’s only Jewish state, but seethed silently because your colleagues were all on Twitter and Facebook sharing celebrity memes about ending Israeli apartheid while having little interest in American kids dying on the streets because of failed policies. If you’ve felt yourself unable to speak your mind, if you have a queasy feeling that your friends might disown you if you shared your most intimately held concerns, if you are feeling a bit breathless and a bit hopeless and entirely unsure what on earth is going on, I am sorry to inform you that The Turn is upon you.

    An interesting and moving essay. I encourage your perusal of the entire document.


  • The ACLU has passed its sell-by date. Jacob Sullum says that it's (at least) time for a name change; The ACLU's Push To 'Cancel' Student Debt Shows How Far It Has Strayed From Defending Civil Liberties.

    Is forgiving student debt, 92 percent of which is held by the federal government, a good idea? Although I don't think that policy would be fair or sensible, I recognize that reasonable people of good faith disagree. But one thing is beyond serious dispute: The Constitution does not guarantee a right to a debt-free college education. To put it another way, continuing to collect payments on student loans violates no one's civil liberties.

    So why is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which ostensibly exists to defend constitutional rights, collecting signatures for a petition urging the Biden administration to "cancel up to $50,000 in student debt per borrower by the end of 2021"? This initiative is yet another sign that the venerable organization has strayed so far from its historic mission that it is becoming indistinguishable from myriad progressive advocacy groups. That's a shame, since a consistent defense of civil liberties is the ACLU's raison d'être and the singular reason why its work deserves wide support.

    Not to mention: Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, both of them earning $174K/year in salary, demanding that taxpayers pony up to pay off their student loans. If they weren't so antisemitic, I'm pretty sure they would have recognized the similarity to the classic definition of chutzpah.


  • You never go full moral panic. But they did, according to Mike Masnick at Techdirt: CNN Goes Full Moral Panic About Kids And Social Media.

    CNN, the news organization that, until recently, employed Chris Cuomo, and still employs Jeffrey Toobin, and is (for the moment at least) owned by AT&T which funded an entire extremist propaganda TV network just to appease President Trump (not to mention being absolutely terrible on privacy issues), wants you to hate social media. There may be reasons to hate on social media, but it's difficult to take CNN seriously when it presents itself (1) as some unbiased party in this discussion, and (2) puts forth an article that is nothing more than blatant moral panic propaganda about kids and social media.

    Are there dangers to kids on social media? Maybe! Are there benefits for kids on social media? Maybe! Does the article only present one side full of anecdotes without any actual data? You bet. The article presents a couple of anecdotes about teens with depression, and then just insists that it's because of social media. Apparently it may surprise CNN's reporters to learn this, but teenagers (and adults) have been dealing with depression for a long, long time, including before social media existed. Again, it's entirely possible that social media creates image problems for teens, but the article repeatedly just insists its true without evidence. It opens with a pure anecdote that is designed to pull at the emotional heart strings.

    And if you want to see if CNN can pull at your emotional heartstrings, click over. (Classic allusion in headline.)

URLs du Jour

2021-12-11

  • Full Employment for Frisco Bureaucrats. Illustrated via a Tweet.

    Iowahawk is a national treasure. Conor Friedersdorf is coming up fast in the ranks. We'll upgrade Ezra Klein to provisional status.


  • You have to ask: what are students so scared of? The College Fix details the latest snowflake meltdown: Conservative journalist’s Princeton talk given in secret location as students protest, denounce event.

    Journalist Abigail Shrier spoke to Princeton University students at a private event on Wednesday, discussing everything from free speech and academic freedom to gender ideology and parental rights.

    The talk was held at an off-campus venue, the location of which was revealed solely to RSVP’d guests just a few hours before the event due to “threats and harassment” organizers said were leveled against Shrier and student groups co-hosting the lecture.

    Overreaction? Well, click through to read some of the vile hate-filled stuff aimed at Shrier and the event organizers. Not much of a stretch to imagine what might have happened.


  • Neverthess, she persisted. Abigail Shrier has a substack, and you can read for yourself what some Princetonians wanted to prevent other Princetionians from hearing: What I told the students of Princeton. Since one of my interests is the nature (or even existence) of free will, this popped out:

    If you’re here, you no doubt are familiar with at least some of the unpleasantness you encounter whenever you deviate from the approved script. So, again, what’s it like to be the target of so much hate? It’s freeing. That’s what I’d like to talk about tonight.

    As an undergraduate studying philosophy, I spent an inordinate amount of time wondering whether my will was free. This is the metaphysical question of whether anyone can be said to have acted ‘freely.’ And most of the philosophers seemed to agree that our will wasn’t all that free. The hard determinists painted a world in which every human action was ultimately explicable by the wave function of elementary particles, ultimately leading neurons to fire—setting off of axonal conduction well beyond our control and none of which we directed.

    Even if you weren’t a hard determinist, you struggled with the obvious problem that human decisions – and the reasons behind them – are structured by one’s upbringing, experience or even inborn personality traits, all of which shape our motivations. Compatibilists claimed that, at most, one could hope to live according to one’s own motives and preferences. That is, motives and preferences that were largely determined by things like personality.

    “The Actions of man are never free,” 18th Century determinist Baron Holbach once wrote. “They are always the necessary consequence of his temperament, of the received ideas, and of the notions, either true or false, which he has formed to himself of happiness, of his opinions, strengthened by example, by education, and by daily experience.”

    I remember reading those lines as an undergraduate, tugged by the worry that Holbach was right: maybe our motivations were determined by our personalities and upbringing and received ideas. Today, I read them and think: if only.

    Long, but I like the setup and punchline.


  • Mister, we could use a man like Ronald Reagan again. Adam Thierer outlines The Classical Liberal Approach to Digital Media Free Speech Issues. Seemingly a rare approach these days.

    In my new Hill essay and others [sic] articles (all of which are listed down below), I argue there is a principled classical liberal approach to these issues that was nicely outlined by President Ronald Reagan in his 1987 veto of Fairness Doctrine legislation, when he said:

    History has shown that the dangers of an overly timid or biased press cannot be averted through bureaucratic regulation, but only through the freedom and compe­tition that the First Amendment sought to guarantee.

    Let’s break that line down. Reagan admits that media bias can be a real thing. Of course it is! Journalists, editors, and even the companies they work for all have specific views. They all favor or disfavor certain types of content. But, at least in the United States, the editorial decisions made by these private actors are protected by the First Amendment. Section 230 is really quite secondary to this debate, even though some Trumpian conservatives wrongly suggest that it’s the real problem here. In reality, national conservatives would need to find a way to work around well-established First Amendment protections if they wanted to impose new restrictions on the editorial rights of private parties.

    But why would they want to do that? Returning to the Reagan veto statement, we should remember how he noted that, even if the First Amendment did not protect the editorial discretion of private media platforms, bureaucratic regulation was not the right answer to the problem of “bias.” Competition and choice were the superior answer. This is the heart and soul of the classical liberal perspective: more innovation is always superior to more regulation.

    As noted in the excerpt, there are plenty of links to Adam's other writings on the subject.


  • Could have added "obviously" to the headline. Veronique de Rugy points out the nose on your face: The 'Build Back Better' Bill Will Spend a Lot of Money To Make Our Problems Worse.

    Should we ignore the costs of the "Build Back Better" bill and simply focus on the benefits? Wouldn't that be nice? Unfortunately, the most constructive criticisms of the legislation reveal why the magical thinking behind this monstrously expensive spending package will not improve American society.

    In urging us to focus less on costs, economist Alan Blinder asserts: "The House bill includes several real winners. Do you oppose universal pre-K education? You shouldn't; it works. Are you against more-affordable child care? Not many Americans are. Do you think we should ignore global climate change? If so, think again."

    But these assertions are weak. You can support pre-K education and affordable child care and worry about climate change without believing that heavy-handed government is the best answer. A compelling case can be made that the most effective policy lawmakers could follow to achieve these goals is simply to get out of the way. Indeed, it's likely that a great deal of the BBB legislation will obstruct progress.

    In the wake of the CBO's "gimmick-free" scoring of BBB's cost, you really have to ask your nearest Democrat (quoting Jazz Shaw): Is this really the time to be setting another $5 trillion in magical money on fire?


  • If you look around and can't spot the sucker at the poker table, it's you. Damien Fisher writes on proposals to extend "commuter rail" up to the LFOD state. It won't be a free lunch: NH Commuter Rail Scheme Would Leave Property Taxpayers On the Hook.

    U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas hopes New Hampshire gets a new commuter rail service connecting Nashua and Manchester to Boston. Critics note how few Granite Staters use available rail now and don’t think local property taxpayers want to pick up the estimated $11 million tab to subsidize the trains.

    Commuter rail is part of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure spending package pushed by President Joe Biden and supported by all the members of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation. Biden signed the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which includes $66 billion for rail, in November.

    “This is a project that continues to bubble from the bottom up here in New Hampshire,” Pappas told Manchester’s InkLink last summer about the Capitol Corridor rail project. “I hear about it everywhere I go, residents who are looking for an opportunity to get to work, businesses that are looking to attract the kind of talent they need, and from local leaders who understand this can be an economic engine for New Hampshire.”

    To make an obvious point: Pappas is hearing mainly from people looking to be on the receiving end of a choo-choo heavily subsidized by others.

URLs du Jour

2021-12-10

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Sadly, Trump Derangement Syndrome claims another victim. I'm kind of a Steven Pinker fanboy, so I bought and read his latest book, Rationality. And it was pretty good, especially if you're at the Harvard undergrad level. (It's based on a course he taught there.) My report is here, over in the bookblog area.

    But…

    Right at the beginning of Chapter 10 ("What's Wrong With People?") his target of choice is Donald J. Trump. Let me snip out a couple sentences:

    Trump himself […] raised further doubts throughout his presidency on our collective capacity for reason. He predicted in February 2020 that Covid-19 would disappear "like a miracle," and endorsed quack cures like malaria drugs, bleach injections, and light probes.

    Trump did say that miracle thing, apparently numerous times. Wrong.

    And he pushed the malaria drug (hydroxychloroquine), even apparently taking it himself. Also wrong.

    But, sorry Steve, everything else you say here is wrong.

    Bleach? Even the left-leaning Politifact rated then-candidate Biden's claim that Trump advocated bleach-taking as "Mostly False". Which, given Politifact's bias, basically means "Hot Garbage".

    And (apparently) the "light probe" thing is far from the "quack cure" Pinker claims. Megan Fox at PJMedia asks: Was Trump Right? UV Light Therapy Shows Promise in COVID Patients.

    You’re not going to believe this, but you now have more ammunition against the idiots running around saying Trump told people to inject themselves with bleach. He never did that. What he did do was inartfully try to describe a new technology that relies on UV light to be injected through a catheter into parts of the body (like the lungs) where the light can act as a “disinfectant” and kill viruses.

    More info at the link, of course. But it's not a "quack cure" if medical people are really trying it successfully.

    Pinker's criticism of Trump's uneasy relationship with reality is warranted, as long as he sticks to what Trump actually said. Which, truly, is often bad enough.

    Unfortunately, when you start relying on what others claim Trump said, you're in very murky water, and setting yourself up for a Confirmation Bias award. Which I award to Steven Pinker this week.


  • Longest article ever? Dan McLaughlin writes about What David Brooks Is Most Wrong About. Specifically, this paragraph from Brooks's recent Atlantic article, "What Happened to American Conservatism?":

    I’m content, as my hero Isaiah Berlin put it, to plant myself instead on the rightward edge of the leftward tendency—in the more promising soil of the moderate wing of the Democratic Party. If its progressive wing sometimes seems to have learned nothing from the failures of government and to promote cultural stances that divide Americans, at least the party as a whole knows what year it is.

    Dan's takedown:

    I understand why, if you get all your news about American conservatives from watching cable news, perusing Twitter, and reading The Atlantic and the New York Times, you might be ready to despair at how little influence remains for fusionism, classical liberalism, libertarianism, and Reaganism within the Republican Party and the conservative movement. Certainly the illiberal and even brutish strands of the Right have grown in prominence and influence in the past six years. Examples of them are not hard to find, and if you choose to place them at the center of your daily news diet, they can seem overwhelming. But any reasonable and informed observer of the American political scene must see that the “moderate wing of the Democratic Party” has by far less influence within that party than the remaining Reaganites have within the GOP. It is only because Democrats have such tiny margins in Congress that the small number of surviving moderates are able to exercise any restraint upon the party. The progressives have been driving the media and cultural narratives, and the party’s behavior, on a vast number of fronts for some time now. If Brooks can’t or won’t see that, the problem is not with conservatism, but with its obituarist.

    I am pretty sure Dan's right about Democatic Party "moderates": they are meekly going along with the crazies.

    I hope he's right about the Republicans.


  • State-capacity libertarianism has got some work to do. The NYPost reports: A dozen US cities set annual murder records with three weeks left in 2021.

    At least 12 major US cities have already set historical murder records in 2021, even as three weeks remain in the year.

    Philadelphia, the nation’s sixth largest city, recorded 523 murders as of Dec. 7, surpassing its formal grim milestone of 500 murders, which was set in 1990, police data showed.

    And (get this) Chicago is not on that list of 12. Because it's "only" had 756 homicides this year, and that's (so far) below the total of 796 in 1996.


  • Well, at least we're not Turkey. Yet. Pierre Lemieux writes at Econlib on Erdogan and Countervailing Institutions.

    The inflationary policies of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirm two standard economic predictions. First, increasing the money supply, other things being equal, causes inflation. Second, the weakening of independent countervailing institutions by a dictator or would-be dictator will lead to policies entirely focused on the latter’s self-interest.

    Erdogan’s central bank has been buying assets with newly created money in order to push interest rates down. (Other policy instruments may also have been used.) Erdogan wants low interests because, like Trump, he believes that they boost the economy and, thus, his popularity with voters. He apparently also wants to signal his Islamic colors by following this religion’s prohibition of usury. Not surprisingly, annual inflation runs at between 21% and, according to Professor Steve Hanke of John Hopkins University, 83% per year (see Steve Hanke, “A Way for Turkey’s Erdogan to Have His Cake and Eat It Too,” National Review, December 1, 2021—I don’t like the title much as it obscures the fact that Erdogan is eating the people’s cake).

    And (of course) Trump was a fan.


  • Sick Transit, Inglorious Monday. (That was an actual headline once. Using it even though it's Friday.) Randal O’Toole at Cato is hoping it's terminal (get it?): Dying Transit Industry Grasps for Solutions.

    Your industry gets government subsidies equal to two‐​thirds of its operating costs and all of its capital costs, and still most people refuse to use your services. Do you:

    1. Increase operating subsidies so you can give away your services for free?
    2. Spend more on capital improvements that haven’t attracted more customers in the past?
    3. Penalize American who aren’t using your services?
    4. Redefine your mission so that you appear relevant even if almost no one uses your service?

    How about e. All of the above? That appears to be the transit industry’s solution to the fact that, except in New York City, almost no one rides transit anymore. Data released by the Department of Transportation early this week, for example, reveals that October transit ridership was barely more than half of pre‐pandemic levels even as driving has returned to nearly 100 percent, flying is 80 percent, and Amtrak is 72 percent. Even in New York, transit ridership remained less than 57 percent of pre‐pandemic levels.

    It's time to pull the plug, folks.

Rationality

What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

It's by Steven Pinker, acclaimed Harvard smart guy. I'm a fan, and his books get an automatic buy from me.

This one is on a huge topic, see the title: rationality. He mentions that it's based out of a course he gave for Harvard undergrads. In fact, at a number of points where Pinker makes some quip in the middle of a chapter, I found myself thinking: that probably got a few chuckles in the lecture hall.

What is rationality? For Pinker, it's a bundle of methods that are effective in moving us toward our worthy goals, most notably truth, progress, and prosperity. It's avoiding fallacies and biases. (There are a lot of those, and for your convenience, there's a separate index of them, about four pages worth.) But it's also avoiding silly (but common) mistakes; there's a long discussion of the so-called Monty Hall Problem, where a lot of Very Smart People got caught not thinking things through.

A lot of different topics are breezed through: basic logic; von Neumann's "choice theory" axioms; game theory; multiple regression; Bayes' Theorem; causation vs. correlation; statistical significance; … well, you get the idea. It's a real Cook's tour.

Simply by coincidence, I read this concurrently with another book, Escaping Paternalism by Mario J. Rizzo and Glen Whitman, that covered a lot of similar ground from a much different angle. A report will be forthcoming on that someday. And (for some reason) I seem to have been reading a lot of others in this ballpark in the past few years: The WEIRDest People in the World; Consciousness Explained; The Scout Mindset; Priceless; The Hidden Half; The Mind Club; The Origins of Virtue; Science Fictions; How to Think; and of course the biggie: Daniel Kahnemann's Thinking Fast and Slow, way back when.

So there's (kind of) the bad news: there wasn't a lot new, at least for me, in Pinker's book. And the last couple chapters break off from the science and move toward sermonizing, with a hefty dose of one-sided political animosity. Hey, I didn't like Trump either, but Pinker almost made me want to defend him.

And I was somewhat disappointed that Robert Nozick, another smart guy who was also at Harvard, didn't get a reference. He wrote a whole book titled The Nature of Rationality back in 1993. (Guilty confession: It's on my bookshelf, where it's been sitting unread for about 28 years.)

And kind of a wince-inducing assertion at the beginning of Chapter Ten, labeling the idea that Covid-19 "was a bioweapon engineered in a Chinese lab" as one of the "cockamamie conspiracy theories" surrounding the disease. To be fair, this is listed among a number of other conspiracy theories that really are cockamamie. And I don't think Covid-19 was intentionally designed and released as a "bioweapon". But I don't think the "lab leak" theory is even close to cockamamie, and a coverup conspiracy isn't unlikely at all.

URLs du Jour

2021-12-09

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Well, that and the inappropriate laughter. Jonah Goldberg stumbles across the answer: Kamala Harris’ Big Problem? She Was a Bad Pick in the First Place.

    Harris was a bad pick from the start. Her failed presidential campaign seemed to be based on the assumption that Twitter and TikTok likes would win delegates in the Democratic primary. Whatever personal charm she has—or skills she had as a prosecutor or a senator—hasn’t translated for a national audience.

    But she was the inevitable pick once Biden decided he needed to select a black woman as his running mate. Her keenest supporters—a very thin slice of Very Online Democratic activists—are trying to cast her travails through the prisms of racism and sexism.

    Such defenses strike me as evidence they don’t know how to do any other kind of politics—only the kind where every setback looks racist and sexist.

    This racist and sexist blogger is strongly considering voting for Nikki Haley in 2024.


  • Or how about "Reciting Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, backwards, on Ellen." Vodkapundit relates the veep's dismal record so far (border crisis, France, running her own office) and has suggestions for what else President Wheezy could assign her: Top Ten Other Kamala Harris Make-Work Jobs.

    1. Spearhead effort for reducing hyperactivity in aging tree sloths
    2. Negotiate a trade deal with Antarctica
    3. “Waffle Cones vs. Sugar Cones: A Six-Hour Powerpoint Presentation for President Joe Biden (Eyes Only)”
    4. Undercover investigation of Chicago South Side gang areas

    … and six more. Hey, how about "warm-up act for Mike Birbiglia"?


  • Euphemism watch. Mark Jamison reveals: Net neutrality is about control, not consumers. After reviewing the near-total lack of necessity for "neutrality":

    With so much scholarly research showing that net neutrality regulations are harmful, why do so many in Congress and the Biden administration push for them? Perhaps Sohn let the answer slip during her confirmation hearing:

    The net neutrality debate, which I have been [in] now for 20 years, is really more about whether there is going to be oversight. . . . It’s really much broader than the no blocking and throttling. . . . We cannot leave an essential service such as broadband without oversight.

    There are at least two problems with Sohn’s statement. First, it’s a non sequitur: It doesn’t follow that everything important should be under government control. In fact, given the political and bureaucratic incentives inherent in regulation, an argument could be made that the opposite is often true. Second, Sohn’s unstated premise — that absent the FCC imposing net neutrality regulations, there is no regulatory oversight — is false. The Federal Trade Commission provides consumer protection oversight along with privacy and competition regulations for broadband. Moreover, states also have consumer protection regulations, and the FCC maintains light-handed oversight under the rules established during Chairman Pai’s tenure.

    As P. J. O'Rourke famously said: "Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys." There's nothing wrong with the Internet that the FCC can't make much worse.


  • I never meta-level I didn't like. Bryan Caplan explains why we shy away from the obvious. It's The Default of Fear. His inspriation is the Wikipedia article on Gender bias on Wikipedia. (See, we're already getting meta.) Why are there so few female Wikipedia editors? A former director made a list of possible reasons:

    1. A lack of user-friendliness in the editing interface.
    2. Not having enough free time.
    3. A lack of self-confidence.
    4. Aversion to conflict and an unwillingness to participate in lengthy edit wars.
    5. Belief that their contributions are too likely to be reverted or deleted.
    6. Some find its overall atmosphere misogynistic.
    7. Wikipedia culture is sexual in ways they find off-putting.
    8. Being addressed as male is off-putting to women whose primary language has grammatical gender.
    9. Fewer opportunities for social relationships and a welcoming tone compared to other sites.

    Well, all righty then. Bryan comments:

    Conspicuously absent from the list of possible causes is the default explanation, also known as the “obvious explanation” and the “common-sense explanation.” Namely: On average, men enjoy editing Wikipedia much more than women do. While the vast majority of both genders would find editing Wikipedia boring, the small minority of males who like creating and correcting articles on technical topics for free vastly outnumbers the even smaller minority of women who like creating and correcting articles on technical topics for free.

    The only time the article even mentions the default explanation is not in the Causes sections, but way down in “Reactions,” when it allows Heather Mac Donald to state the default explanation without further commentary:

    The most straightforward explanation for the differing rates of participation in Wikipedia—and the one that conforms to everyday experience—is that, on average, males and females have different interests and preferred ways of spending their free time.

    What makes all this fascinating at the meta-level? Well, riddle me this: When you’re writing an encyclopedia article on X, why on Earth would you virtually fail to even mention the default explanation for X? Even if the default explanation happens to be wrong, you would expect authors to clearly state, “The default explanation, surprisingly, turns out to be wrong. Here’s why.”

    So what’s going on? Getting meta, there is a default explanation for the failure to mention something’s default explanation. Namely: Fear. Since the default explanation is what immediately comes to mind, people naturally blurt it out. Unless, of course, they bite their tongues lest they get their heads bitten off.

    Well, that's a huge excerpt. I'll also stick in this pearl: "[I]f we don’t default to the default, that’s strong evidence in favor of the default."


  • Just correcting the record. Saule Omarova was Biden's doomed nominee to be Comptroller of the Currency. She finally withdrew her name from consideration when some Senate Democrats got cold feet. But what was the real reason? David Harsanyi says nay to the MSM narrative: Omarova's Soviet Birth Is Not What Sunk Her Nomination.

    Republicans could do absolutely nothing to stop Joe Biden’s nominee other than highlight her extremism and hope that public pressure would do the trick.

    It did. Now, you wouldn’t know any of this if you were simply perusing the news this morning. NPR claimed in a tweet that Omarova withdrew her nomination “after facing personal attacks about being born in the former Soviet Union.” The New York Times says that “lobbyists and Republicans painted her as a communist because she was born in the Soviet Union.”

    These are lies. And neither outlet provides a single quote to back the assertion that Senate Republicans had personally attacked the Cornell professor over being “born in the Soviet Union.” Perhaps some of this confusion hinges on the fact that many in the media have tried to create the impression that Omarova is some kind of political refugee who escaped Soviet tyranny to come to the United States. That too was untrue, as it was happenstance that the exchange student found herself stranded in Wisconsin when the Soviet Union fell. She never defected.

    Fun Fact: Saule's sole movie credit is appearing as herself in a documentary titled Assholes: A Theory. I'm sure a little research could reveal whether she's one of the title's referents. But I have not done that research.


Last Modified 2021-12-09 7:19 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2021-12-08

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • We're not in Oz any more, Toto. In his "The Tuesday" column, Kevin D. Williamson urges his readers to Reject Magical Thinking on Abortion.

    To believe the story the abortion-rights advocates tell you, you have to believe in magic.

    There’s no magic required on the pro-life side.

    That’s the real source of our long disagreement.

    In its most basic version, the pro-life position is easy to understand, requiring no special intellectual training, no religious commitment, no mysticism, and nothing you’d really even call a philosophy. What we believe is that you don’t kill children who haven’t been born for the same reason you don’t kill children who have been born. That’s it. There isn’t some magical event that happens at some point during the pregnancy that transforms the unborn child from a meaningless lump of cells to a meaningful lump of cells. Modern, literate people don’t need the medieval doctrines of “quickening” or “ensoulment” (or some half-assed, modern, secular repackaging of those ancient superstitions) to know that the unborn child is an unborn child — we have biology, genetics, and, for those who need to see with their own eyes, imaging technology for that. The human organism that you hold in your arms six months after birth is the same organism it was six months before birth. It isn’t a different organism — it is only a little older. It is true that the child six months after conception isn’t fully developed — and neither is a 19-year-old. We have a natural, predictable, reasonably well-understood process of individual development. There is no magic moment, no mystical transformation, and the people who tell you that there is are peddling superstition and pseudoscience.

    I listened to the Reason editors' podcast yesterday, and Katherine Mangu-Ward put forth her pro-abortion side. I wonder what would happen in a debate between KDW and KMW? Would they simply talk past each other? Maybe, but they're both serious people, so maybe not.


  • I think Katherine's consistent on this point, though. Betsy McCaughey notes an oddity in the prevailing progressive narrative: 'My body, my choice'? Only for abortion as left pushes vaccine mandates. For example, outgoing NYC mayor Bill de Blasio, who still has a few more weeks to impose statist mischief.

    A mayor who professes to defend bodily autonomy is doing the opposite, forcing everyone to take the shots, regardless of personal qualms. This is the same de Blasio who warned at a recent Brooklyn pro-choice rally that “you cannot have your government attempt to take away your right to control your body. It cannot happen in America.”

    The progressives mouth pious libertarianism as long as you're not doing stuff they disapprove of. Or saying stuff they disapprove of. Or thinking stuff they disapprove of.

    Then they'll tell you you're a menace to (a very broadly defined) "public health."


  • In another few months, look forward to hand-wringing about declining trust in media outlets. Ed Morrissey reports Great news: CNN reports media outlets engaging in "productive" talks with White House to shape Biden coverage.

    Hey, nothing to see here, only the Fourth Estate institutions collaborating with the power that they are pledged to hold accountable. CNN reported in its daily newsletter yesterday that the White House has held “productive” meetings with reporters, anchors, and producers from media outlets hoping to get them to stop covering Joe Biden’s incompetency. With inflation raging and job growth relatively anemic to the potential in the workforce, media outlets are apparently eager to hear the “me or your lyin’ eyes” argument about the economy — and who knows what else:

    White House quietly tries to reshape economic coverage

    The White House, not happy with the news media’s coverage of the supply chain and economy, has been working behind the scenes trying to reshape coverage in its favor. Senior White House and admin officials — including NEC Deputy Directors David Kamin and Bharat Ramamurti, along with Ports Envoy John Porcari — have been briefing major newsrooms over the past week, a source tells me.

    The officials have been discussing with newsrooms trends pertaining to job creation, economic growth, supply chains, and more. The basic argument that has been made: That the country’s economy is in much better shape than it was last year. I’m told the conversations have been productive, with anchors and reporters and producers getting to talk with the officials

    Imagine what the rest of the media would have said had the Trump White House held a star-chamber meeting with conservative media to shape their news coverage. In that sense, the word “quietly” does some heavy lifting here.

    But in the interest of equal time…


  • Also, there's that "Doddering Old Fool" problem. At National Review, Jim Geraghty isn't that worked up about Biden Administration/Media collusion: Biden Doesn’t Have a Perception Problem, He Has a Reality Problem.

    The thing is, all kinds of institutions and organizations arrange off-the-record or on-background briefings and meetings for reporters. There’s nothing inherently unethical or manipulative about them. The sources from the institutions effectively say, “here’s how we see things,” and usually some variation of, “and we don’t think this has been covered enough.” The reporters usually get to ask questions – if there isn’t a chance to ask questions, it makes one wonder what the point of the briefing is.

    How this meeting affects subsequent coverage is up to the reporter. Maybe the reporter thought the briefer had a fair complaint or made a good point. Or maybe the briefing shared new information that the reporter thought was newsworthy. Maybe the reporter thinks the briefing was unconvincing spin and a lot of whining. Or maybe the reporter wasn’t persuaded much one way or another. It only becomes unethical or manipulative when the official says, “you should be covering the story this way,” and the reporter effectively answers, “yes, sir.” That’s the only scenario where the complaints of “state-run media” have merit.

    Well, we'll see. If the MSM turns even more toward a "Baghdad Bob" stance toward reporting reality, maybe Geraghty will change his tune.


  • If you need amusement… Kyle Smith wonders: Who can believe one word Jussie Smollett says? (Yes, I know we had a link to Kyle's NR article about the Smollett trial yesterday. But this is the NYPost.)

    Not since Rumpelstiltskin has a mischievous troll spent so much time and energy spinning as Jussie Smollett did on the stand the last couple of days. But instead of spinning straw into gold, Smollett spent eight hours trying to churn what the New York Times used to call a barnyard epithet into a Frappuccino. We’ll see if the jury is interested in drinking what Smollett is putting out.

    Rumpelsmollett claims that there were these two guys he used to chill with, one of whom took him to a gay bathhouse for a stimulating exchange or two, who just two days after partaking of some dope smoking in Smollett’s Mercedes decided to enact the world’s most overdetermined hate crime against him, using not just the N-word and the F-word but also carrying a symbolic bottle of bleach and a symbolic noose.

    Black guys do this to other black guys all the time. Gay guys do this to other gay guys all the time. But at the same time? At 2 a.m.? On a frigid night?

    Nope, not buyin' it. Note (as does Kevin D. Williamson) that perjury is also a crime. In additon to the crime on which he's being tried. You'd think Jussie would have more sense. But he's apparently in his own reality.

American Happiness and Discontents

The Unruly Torrent, 2008-2020

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

A collection of short pieces by the incomparable, indispensable George F. Will, mainly his syndicated column. It's big, slightly under 500 pages, which means there are a lot of those pieces, and they cover a lot of disparate topics. You don't want to overdose; I spread out my reading over the three weeks allowed by the folks at the Portsmouth Public Library. (Yes, they're ultrawoke, it's Portsmouth after all, but they do a pretty good job of buying books by conservative/libertarian authors.)

I thought the best way to "review" the book would be to provide a sampling of paragraphs here and there that made me smile/nod/wince. Limiting myself to a "fair use" ten.

Here's something I didn't know about a famous photograph:

Eddie Adams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Saigon’s police chief shooting a Viet Cong in the head during the 1968 Tet Offensive seemed to validate some Americans’ sympathies for enemy. Hastings casts a cold eye, noting that the Viet Cong was in civilian clothes and had just cut the throats of a South Vietnamese officer, his wife, their six children and the officer’s 80 year-old mother.

On President Trump:

This unraveling presidency began with the Crybaby-in-Chief banging his spoon on his highchair tray to protest a photograph — a photograph — showing that his inauguration crowd the day before had been smaller than the one four years previous. Since then, this weak person’s idea of a strong person, this chest-pounding advertisement of his own gnawing insecurities, this low-rent Lear raging on his Twitter-heath has proven that the phrase malignant buffoon is not an oxymoron.

On a court case that sought to stop the Greece, NY Board of Supervisors from opening their meetings with a prayer:

Taking offense has become America’s national pastime; being theatrically offended supposedly signifies the exquisitely refined moral delicacy of people who feel entitled to pass through life without encountering ideas or practices that annoy them. As the number of nonbelievers grows — about 20 percent of Americans are religiously unaffiliated, as are one-third of adults under the age of 30 — so does the itch to litigate believers into submission to secular sensibilities.

Physics 101, and the prospects for nuclear fusion:

As in today’s coal-fired power plants, the ultimate object is heat — to turn water into steam that drives generators. Fusion, however, produces no greenhouse gases, no long-lived nuclear waste and no risk of the sort of runaway reaction that occurred at Fukushima. Fusion research here and elsewhere is supported by nations with half the world’s population — China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the European Union. The current domestic spending pace would cost $2.5 billion over 10 years — about one-thirtieth of what may be squandered in California on a 19th-century technology (a train). By one estimate, to bring about a working fusion reactor in 20 years would cost $30 billion — approximately the cost of one week of U.S. energy consumption.

Mr. Will and I are both fans of Virginia Postrel:

America now is divided between those who find this social churning unnerving and those who find it exhilarating. What Virginia Postrel postulated in 1998 in The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise and Progress - the best book for rescuing the country from a ruinous itch for tidiness - is even more true now. Today's primary political and cultural conflict is, Postrel says, between people, mislabeled "progressives," who crave social stasis, and those, paradoxically called conservatives, who welcome the perpetual churning of society by dynamism.

On free-range parenting:

Today's saturating media tug children beyond childhood prematurely, but not to maturity. Children are cosseted by intensive parenting that encourages passivity and dependency, and stunts their abilities to improvise, adapt and weigh risks. Mark Hemingway, writing at The Federalist, asks: "You know what it's called when kids make mistakes without adult supervision and have to wrestle with the resulting consequences? Growing up."

On the very large target of current insanities at institutions of higher education:

As "bias-response teams" fanned out across campuses, an incident report was filed about a University of Northern Colorado student who wrote "free speech matters" on one of 680 "#languagematters" posters that cautioned against politically incorrect speech. Catholic DePaul University denounced as "bigotry" a poster proclaiming "Unborn Lives Matter." Bowdoin College provided counseling to students traumatized by the cultural appropriation committed by a sombrero-and-tequila party. Oberlin College students said they were suffering breakdowns because schoolwork was interfering with their political activism. Cal State University, Los Angeles established "healing" spaces for students to cope with the pain caused by a political speech delivered three months earlier. Indiana University experienced social-media panic ("Please PLEASE PLEASE be careful out there tonight") because a priest in a white robe, with a rope-like belt and rosary beads was identified as someone "in a KKK outfit holding a whip."

On the silver lining in the rage for "sustainability":

There is a social benefit from the sustainability mania: the further marginalization of academia. It prevents colleges and universities from trading on what they are rapidly forfeiting, their reputations for seriousness.

On abortion:

A New York Times editorial (Dec. 28, 2018) opposing the idea that “a fetus in the womb has the same rights as a fully formed person” spoke of these living fetuses — that they are living is an elementary biological fact, not an abstruse theological deduction — as “clusters of cells that have not yet developed into viable human beings.” Now, delete the obfuscating and constitutionally irrelevant adjective “viable,” and look at a sonogram of a ten-week fetus. Note the eyes and lips, the moving fingers and, yes, the beating heart. Is this most suitably described as a “cluster of cells” or as a baby? The cluster-of-cells contingent resembles Chico Marx in the movie “Duck Soup”: “Who ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”

On a lighter note, the Beach Boys:

Boomers must be served, so Mick Jagger, who long ago said, “I’d rather be dead than sing ‘Satisfaction’ when I’m 45,” is singing it at 68. In 1966, the 31-year-old Elvis Presley asked the Beach Boys for advice about touring; he has been dead for nearly 35 years, but they play on, all of them approaching or past 70, singing “When I Grow Up (to Be a Man)” without a trace of irony. Southern California in their formative years was not zoned for irony.

URLs du Jour

2021-12-07

  • Too soon? Well, it's been 80 years. Mr. Ramirez makes an apt comparison.

    [Accounting Tricks]


  • Today's argument for cutting the Defense budget. John Lucas of the Federalist looks at a recent article from "researchers affiliated with the Army Cyber Institute at West Point." And they argue: To Combat 'Disinformation,' Gov't Should Control Speech. That article is written “is written in response to the Capitol insurrection.”

    The Cyber Center authors’ thesis is that the “insurrection” at the Capitol building on Jan. 6 was a mortal danger to the country that was caused by disinformation, namely the idea that the 2020 presidential election was rigged or stolen. The “insurrection” spawned by this alleged disinformation then becomes the justification for the authors’ proposed government censorship (although they eschew the term) of free speech.

    The article suffers from a number of flaws. One of the most notable – and dangerous – is that the authors wade deeper into the political wars by advocating more government control over speech that they regard as outside the mainstream or, as they put it, contrary to a desired “shared reality.”

    Lucas goes on to note that "insurrection" is an actual crime, with a legal definition. And nobody involved in the January 6 has been charged with that.

    Jack Reacher would not have made this mistake.


  • Looking at our feudalist future… is Joel Kotkin at Quillette, asking the musical question: Work or Welfare?

    Throughout history, work has been the common lot of humanity—at least, outside of the idle rich and those who could not find any. It was celebrated by the Calvinist capitalists described in Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism as a means for people to achieve their “own salvation.” Labor for its own sake was embraced by the Marxist canon as well—work, wrote Friedrich Engels, “is the prime basic condition for all human existence, and this to such an extent that, in a sense, we have to say that labor created man himself.”

    Yet today’s baffling shortage of workers in high-income countries may presage something different: a post-work society, in which only a select few labor. For most, economic maintenance would come from some form of universal basic income (UBI). This notion has been tried as part of the COVID-19 relief program and in President Biden’s proposed Build Back Better initiative, which allows benefits for those who could join the workforce but don’t care to.

    I don't think a future where large numbers of citizens live idly on the dole would be stable or pleasant. Hope we don't have to find out.


  • I knew that. At the American Council on Science and Health, Josh Bloom has lost patience with those who mislabel: It's the Fentanyl Epidemic, Stupid.

    It's time to update our language, something that is routinely done to ensure accuracy and minimize antiquated, bigoted, and offensive terms. Think about some of the changes we've seen in the past few decades. You don't need me to tell you that terms for people of different races, ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations have changed. And it's not just that. There are no longer stewardesses, only flight attendants. Go into CVS and ask where the rubbers are. Note the look that the pharmacist will give you. Try referring to someone with a learning disability as "retarded" or an unmarried woman as a "spinster." See how well that is received.

    Likewise, it is time to stop calling the overdose deaths of 100,000 people an opioid crisis. The term is outdated and inaccurate. And, in my opinion, it is being intentionally misused by various groups and individuals (you know who they are) to push their own agendas and perhaps to benefit financially. What's the harm in using an inaccurate name? Plenty. More on that later.

    This language obfuscation only helps those looking for a payday from "Big Pharma".


  • But there's amusement available in the news. Found by Kyle Smith (NRplus, sorry). Jussie Smollett: Funniest Trial Ever.

    Spare a thought for Jussie Smollett’s lawyers. Think of them being much like infantrymen who walk through fire on the way to glory, except they’ve been slogging through a mire of bulls*** on their way to absurdity. While wearing flip-flops. Their field commander is an insistently moronic fraud. The Iwo Jima flag they struggle to raise is the reputation of a dim actor who thought he would raise his profile by telling the world that he was attacked by the world’s least likely lynch mob — a duo of black MAGA-heads who just happened to have bleach and a noose on them in case Jussie Smollett should walk by. At two o’clock in the morning. On an exceptionally cold Chicago night. Then walked away after 30 seconds without robbing their victim or doing him more than superficial harm.

    The man Dave Chappelle dubbed Juicy Smollé may not have been much of an entertainer when that was his profession — admit it, you’d never heard of him before January 29, 2019, and that’s part of the reason he needed Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Buff to stage a fake beating. (Get a gander at these guys, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo: If they were inclined to beat you up, your injuries would be something other than scratches. Smollett’s face would have looked like Cubist portraiture if they had really attacked him. Ten seconds of actual punching and they’d have Picasso’d this guy.) Yet Smollett should be dubbed American Reality Entertainer of the Year for the hilarity he has brought us all in Chicago for the last week as he has steered his lawyers to argue outright fiction.

    Kyle goes on to note a valuable lesson: how gullible people (Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Donald Trump) can be when you yell “racism.”


  • Next up on ABC's Wide World of Sports. The WSJ had a great story about snow sports in an unexpected place: Hawaii Blizzard Means Volcano Skiing—and It’s as Tricky as It Sounds. The Big Island got lots of snow on Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. But:

    Hawaiian skiing isn’t for the faint of heart, though. Sharp lava rock abounds beneath layers of snow that some skiers find surprisingly thin because of the wind and sun, resulting in numerous injuries.

    I confess that it hurt just to read that.

URLs du Jour

2021-12-06

  • George F. Will remembers… The goodness of Bob Dole.

    If he had won the Republicans’ 1988 nomination, he almost certainly would have won the White House because Americans then wanted something more like a third Ronald Reagan term than a first Michael Dukakis term. Dole probably would have won that nomination if he had won New Hampshire’s primary. And he could have, if he had campaigned as what he really wasn’t — a fervent conservative. He might have won anti-tax New Hampshire if he had made a “no new taxes” pledge, the making of which later helped his opponent, George H.W. Bush, win the presidency, and the breaking of which helped Bush lose it.

    I'm pretty sure I voted for Jack Kemp in the 1988 primary. Another fond memory:

    In one of his three campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination, an earnest grade school pupil asked him a question about acid rain. Dole’s full answer was: “That bill’s in markup.”

    Also for your edification: Bob Dole Enjoyed Norm Macdonald’s Saturday Night Live Impression. (Obligitory: "Back when SNL was funny.")


  • Also kill the FCC, the FDA, the FCC, … Basically, any agency with a three-letter acronym that starts with "F". Bryan Caplan proposes, immodestly, A Package of Populist Deregulation. There are an even dozen, and here are the first three:

    1. An immediate end to all Covid rules.  No more mask mandates – not in schools, not in airports, not on planes.  No more distancing.  No more Covid tests.  No more travel restrictions on anyone.  (The “anyone” phrasing is how you free foreigners, as well as natives, without calling attention to the fact).
    2. An immediate end to all government Covid propaganda.  No more looping audio warnings at airports.   No more signs or stickers.  Indeed, a national campaign to tear down all the propaganda that’s been uglifying the country for almost two years.
    3. A radical and immediate reduction in airport security theater.   End the rules that require the removal of shoes, jackets, and belts.  End the rules that require you to remove electronic devices from your bags for extra screening.  End the rules against travelling with liquids.  Switch back to old-fashioned metal detectors instead of body scanners.

    They're all good.


  • However, the "China is Asshole" theory remains undenied. Glenn Greenwald notes something that it's very important for some people to do. To Deny the "Lab Leak" COVID Theory, the NYT and WPost Use Dubious and Conflicted Sources.

    That COVID-19 infected humanity due to a zoonotic leap from a "wet market” in Wuhan — rather than a leak from a lab in the same Chinese city — was declared unquestionable truth at the start of the pandemic. For a full year, anyone dissenting from this narrative was deemed so irresponsible that they were banned from large social media platforms, accused of spreading "disinformation.” No debate about COVID's origins was permitted. It had been settled by The Science™. Every rational person who believed in science, by definition, immediately accepted at the start of the pandemic that COVID made a natural leap from bats or pangolins; that it may have escaped from a lab in Wuhan which just so happens to gather, study and manipulate novel coronaviruses in bats was officially declared a deranged conspiracy theory.

    The reason this consensus was so quickly consecrated was that a group of more than two dozen scientists published a letter in the prestigious science journal Lancet in February, 2020 — while very little was known about SARS-CoV-2 — didactically declaring “that this coronavirus originated in wildlife.” The possibility that COVID leaked from the Wuhan lab was dismissed as a "conspiracy theory,” the by-product of “rumours and misinformation” which, they strongly implied, was an unfair and possibly racist attack on “the science and health professionals of China.”

    Some of the Greenwald post is subscriber-only, but enough was available to this freeloader to nudge the lab-leak theory up a few notches in credibility.


  • My new novel will be titled A Confederacy of Doddering Old Fools. Matt Taibbi rebuts a yarn that some influencers are trying to promote into Convential Wisdom: Biden's Troubles Aren't Bernie's Fault, or a Media Mirage. He examines a recent Dana Milbank column in the WaPo

    […] apparently not intended as satire, entitled, “The media treats Biden as badly as — or worse than — Trump. Here’s proof.” After listing headlines like “Does the WH owe Larry Summers an apology?” and “No BIF bump for Biden” as anecdotal evidence of this savagery, Milbank turned to the hard “proof”: data from a company called “FiscalNote.” The firm did a “sentiment analysis” of 200,000 articles and apparently found that “Biden’s press for the past four months has been as bad as — and for a time worse than — the coverage Trump received for the same four months of 2020.”

    I struggle to conceive of the brain that would believe such a thing to be true, but that’s a separate matter. Milbank believed it, and concluded, “My colleagues in the media are serving as accessories to the murder of democracy.”

    Pretty soon, the WaPo will need to take down it's "Democracy dies in darkness" motto, and replace it with "Democracy dies when media reports on stuff like the Afghanistan debacle, inflation, COVID bumbling,…"


  • That's something I ask Alexa every day. Daniel Drezner asks the pungent query at Reason: Where’s My Stuff? It's a good overview of "supply chain" woes, and looks at a number of fallacious proposed "solutions".

    Journalists aren't the only folks freaking out. Less than six weeks into his term, President Joe Biden issued an executive order mandating that eight cabinet departments examine the resilience of U.S. supply chains, warning that "pandemics and other biological threats, cyber-attacks, climate shocks and extreme weather events, terrorist attacks, geopolitical and economic competition, and other conditions can reduce critical manufacturing capacity and the availability and integrity of critical goods, products, and services." More recently, Biden has floated multiple policy responses, including using the National Guard to untangle snarled supply chains.

    The administration's concern about global supply chains fits in with the political elite's larger ideological pivot away from trade liberalization and toward a more mercantilist posture. Indeed, this is the area where the Biden and Trump administrations sound the most similar. Biden's U.S. trade representative, Katherine Tai, stated in a congressional hearing that trade liberalization and tariff reductions were no longer her office's principal goals. In June, Biden's National Economic Council director, Brian Deese, declared that "resilient supply chains must be at the center of a 21st century industrial strategy." One of Biden's senior directors at the National Security Council has told me that "the U.S. is not a trade-dependent nation." Another administration official questioned to me whether the notion of comparative advantage in trade still exists. Never one to be outdone in policy freakouts, Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.) has introduced a bill requiring more than half the value-added of any critical good to be domestically sourced.

    Protectionist policies are a major part of the problem. So the statist strategy is the usual: more protectionism!


  • Well, maybe not ever. The future is unknown. Nevertheless, Steven Hayward has a proposal for the Stupidest Climate Change Headline Ever. And that BBC headline is:

    What would we do without studies? Or the BBC to point them out?

    Think about the poor albatross chicks, victims of broken homes!

    Also, apparently, victims of their single moms feeding them plastic.


Last Modified 2021-12-06 9:17 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2021-12-05

  • Evergreen headline… … at National Review, from Kyle Smith (NRPlus): Biden and Democrats Waste Massive Amounts of Money.

    Quick thought experiment for our friends on the left who spent November crowing about an infrastructure bill: Suppose you took a nap and woke up in ten or 15 years. Is Amtrak going to be run any better than it is today?

    Thanks to the new law, Amtrak has another $66 billion to spend. In an age when trillions of dollars get slung around this way and that, your eyes glaze over. Is $66 billion a lot? No, it’s more than a lot. It is a colossal, gigantic, Brobdingnagian sum for a service that has previously burned through (only!) about $2 billion a year in federal subsidies. (Reminder that Amtrak is a for-profit corporation. Let’s hear it for the government pumping more money into private industry!) Amtrak has just been given the equivalent of a third of a century’s worth of funding on top of its usual budget.

    And what will we get out of this? Amtrak is guaranteed to waste most of that money, given that it is promising to do so. It plans to extend rail lines out West to places where nobody needs or wants them (we have this other ingenious, safe, cheap method of traversing large distances called flying that is vastly preferable, and for manageable distances, people enjoy using these things they already have called cars). Amtrak is also going to spend money to “fight climate change,” whatever that means, and (oh yeah, if it gets around to it) generally improve the shoddy service of the train lines people actually use. In 2026, do you think Americans are going to be wowed by the quality of Amtrak, or still grumbling about it as we always have? Is it management or funding that’s the problem here?

    `

    New Hampshire Democratic Congresscritters all voted in favor for this waste. And our local GOP pols are mostly griping that New Hampshire didn't get enough of the money to waste.


  • But we're not just wasting money on choo-choo trains. Robby Soave notes where else some of that printing-press cash is going: School Districts Using COVID Relief on Vape Detectors, Tennis Courts.

    Earlier this year, schools around the country received more than a hundred billion dollars from the federal government—American taxpayers, in truth—in order to recover from the pandemic and finally get back to the task of teaching kids.

    The feds stipulated that 20 percent of that money be put toward addressing learning losses during the pandemic, but the bulk of it can be spent at schools' discretion. Which means, of course, that many schools are using this sudden injection of cash to make improvements that have nothing to do with keeping COVID-19 at bay.

    "Some districts are investing big money in initiatives that don't appear at first glance strictly COVID-related," notes Education Week. "Miami-Dade schools plan to spend $30 million, or $86 per student, on cybersecurity. Raleigh County schools in West Virginia lists a $9 million effort—more than $800 per student—to expand an elementary school, adding nine classrooms, upgrading the library, expanding the kitchen, and separating the cafeteria and the gym. The Newport News school district in Virginia is spending $840,000 for a new student information system to help teachers catalog students' academic progress."

    An unnamed school district will use some of its COVID-19 relief funds to install vape detection devices, purchase new student ID cards, and build a tennis court.

    Alert parents should take a break from asking about Critical Race Theory, and ask (1) how much money their school got from the Feds; (2) what was it spent on?

    (It could be a twofer: "We used the money to buy copies of Ibram X. Kendi's Stamped (For Kids)!")


  • Good advice. David French alternates between "outstanding" and "dreadful" these days, but here's an example of "outstanding": Don’t Denigrate Adoption to Defend Roe.

    From the moment I listened to the oral argument in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, I had a sinking feeling that we were about to have a cultural argument about adoption. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who’s an adoptive mother herself, asked Julie Rikelman, the attorney for Jackson Women’s Health, about so-called “safe haven laws”—state laws that permit women to safely surrender custody of their newborn child to the state without fear of punishment or prosecution.

    French looks at the context of Barrett's queries, and the unhinged, context-ignoring response from people who should know better.


  • I threaten my own legitimacy, thank you very much. Kevin D. Williamson looks at Democrats’ Legitimacy Gambit.

    Democratic partisans ranging from Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor to Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) have proclaimed that if the Supreme Court does not take the Planned Parenthood line in the Dobbs abortion case, then the Court will have forfeited its legitimacy. (I have kept an off-and-on record of this here at National Review under the header “Supreme Court Legitimacy Watch,” though I am afraid my effort is woefully incomplete.) This happens all the time: If the Supreme Court doesn’t impose ACLU preferences on Florida school policy, then its legitimacy is at stake, at least according to Democratic partisans and (not that I expect this is in fact a distinction) Adam Richardson of Slate. South Carolina’s courts fail to take the butchers’ line on when to permit an abortion? Risking its legitimacy, according to Mary Zeigler of the Florida State law school and the New York Times. You can find dozens of examples of the same thing yourselves.

    Representative Ocasio-Cortez, as if trying to live up to her reputation for dopiness, argues that Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh should be excluded from the case because he has been, in her words, “credibly accused of sexual assault” (the word credibly there is a positive lie), which, hocus-pocus, necessitates that he cannot rule on constitutional questions related to — dreadful marketing, this terminology — “forced birth.” Representative Ocasio-Cortez does not use the word legitimacy in this particular attack — it is, after all, five syllables — but her project is as much one of delegitimization as anything Donald Trump or Steve Bannon ever cooked up.

    An NRPlus article again, sorry. You really should subscribe. And National Review should really be paying me for all these NRPlus article plugs.


  • As usual, Betteridge's Law of Headlines applies. Reason's Ronald Bailey looks at (yet another) bad GOP candidate for high office, and asks: Is Dr. Oz Fit To Join the U.S. Senate?

    Oz's "Why I'm Running" statement leans heavily on the disarray and discord provoked by COVID-19. "The urgency of my decision crystalized during the pandemic," it says. "At least half a million American people have died from the virus, a devastating toll for families and communities. What also hurts is that many of those deaths were preventable." He adds, "In this emergency, we needed capable leaders ready to act—and we didn't get that. The entire situation angered me."

    Oz specifically inveighs against "elite thinkers who controlled the means of communication" and the "arrogant, close-minded people" who "closed our schools, shut down our businesses and took away our freedom." He adds: "America should have been the world leader on how to beat the pandemic. Instead, we were not."

    A lot of "elite thinkers" in the media are responding by calling Oz a quack. "Just What the Quack Ordered: Dr. Oz Expected to Announce Pennsylvania Senate Run," proclaims Vanity Fair. "Quack TV Doctor Thinks He Deserves to Be a Senator, Because That's Where We Are Now," headlines Rolling Stone. "Dr. Oz Quacks the Code of Republican Party," quips The Bulwark. MSNBC piles on with "Dr. Oz is the TV quack candidate Republicans deserve."

    Well, all that's just mean. I put a lot of trust in Bailey's take, though. And his bottom line, in measured, non-snarky language: "His extensive history of credulously promoting dubious nostrums makes me question his fitness for office."

URLs du Jour

2021-12-04

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • It's as if nobody expected it to actually work. A question more people should be asking, from Matt Weidinger: Where are the millions of jobs Democrats promised their $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan would create?

    President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats proudly promised that their $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan would create millions of new jobs this year.

    For example, on February 3, White House economists issued their take on the American Rescue Plan, stating: “Moody’s Analytics projects that the President’s Plan will bring the economy to full employment a full year earlier than a baseline without additional fiscal stimulus. This is significant because it’s a difference of 4 million jobs in 2021.” Congressional Democrats followed suit, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi stating on February 26 during House debate on the legislation that “if we do not enact this package, the results could be catastrophic,” including “4 million fewer jobs.” And the day after he signed the plan into law, on March 12 President Biden dialed up the job creation claims, suggesting that “by the end of this year, this law alone will create 7 million new jobs. (Applause.) Seven million.”

    Weidinger notes that the CBO estimated that 6.2 million jobs would have been "created" without passage of the "American Rescue Plan". And so far we haven't got that.

    And of course, we're also promised millions of new jobs by the next spendapalooza, Build Back Better.


  • Let me count the ways. Veronique de Rugy describes Why Federal Paid Leave Program Would Be a Bad Deal for Many Workers.

    The nonsensical coverage of the debate over paid leave continues. Apparently, opposing a federal paid leave program is the equivalent of being anti-family or pro-suffering, or so we're told. We rarely get information about the full consequences of such a policy.

    What kinds of employment leave options do workers use the most? Who exactly doesn't have paid leave currently? Are there legitimate reasons for an employer not to provide it? Or, would a government program target only those workers who do not currently have employer-provided paid leave? These are some of the questions that are rarely asked by those who insist that our government impose a sweeping new program.

    Let me try. On average, 15 percent of workers will take paid family or medical leave annually. As the Heritage Foundation's Rachel Greszler noted in congressional testimony, "Surveys show that virtually all workers who have a need for leave take it, and nearly three out of every four who take leave receive full or partial pay."

    And more at the link. An honest accounting of costs and benefits would be poisonous to this legislation.


  • They work hard to earn your distrust. Glenn Greenwald hosts Leighton Woodhouse, who describes How the Corporate Media Launched a Disinformation Campaign to Protect Fauci.

    By now you’ve surely heard about Anthony Fauci and his laboratory beagles, but in case you haven’t, it goes like this: For forty years, Fauci, as the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), has funded gruesome experiments on animals. Beagles in particular are one of the favored species for these experiments, because of their docile and people-pleasing nature, which makes for less hassle for the humans who subject them to pain and suffering. In one of these NIAID-funded experiments, in Tunisia, sedated beagles’ heads were put into mesh bags with swarms of starved sand flies, who fed on the live dogs.

    The other thing you may have heard is that the story is just another right-wing conspiracy theory. You may have heard this from The Washington Post, from any of a number of self-proclaimed “fact checkers,” or maybe even from the globally renowned Beacon of Honesty David Frum of The Atlantic.

    I’ve been reporting on this story for the past few weeks. In fact, I’ve been reporting it as closely as anyone, if not more so. It’s been an extremely educational experience for me, but not because I was unfamiliar with the industry of animal experimentation, or NIAID’s leading role within it. What’s been educational is seeing up close and first-hand how the mainstream media constructs and deploys a brazen misinformation campaign.

    Woodhouse covers this story on his own substack too. It would be nice to see this story evaluated by folks who weren't in the reflexively pro-Fauci media.


  • You keep using that word… I don't think it means what you think it means. Nate Hochman looks at the recent blithering from Stephen Colbert, who asserts Overturning Roe Shows ‘We Don’t Live in a Democracy’

    On Thursday, The Late Show’s Stephen Colbert launched a diatribe against Roe v. Wade’s potentially imminent demise at the hands of the Supreme Court. Pointing to statistics showing that Americans oppose overturning Roe, Colbert said: “So if it is this unpopular, why is everyone saying it’s gonna happen? Well, I don’t want to get too technical, but . . . what’s the word . . . we don’t live in a democracy.”

    “We don’t live in a democracy.” Huh.

    Let’s get this straight. Nine unelected judges overturning abortion laws in almost every state in the Union is “democracy,” but the same judicial institution handing decision-making power on the issue back to the democratically elected legislatures in said states is anti-democratic.

    Hochman goes through the uncontroversial history of Roe, and concludes:

    It’s beginning to seem like “democracy” just means “progressives getting what they want.”

    I'd only quibble about the "beginning" bit.


  • Betteridge's Law of Headlines seems to apply. At UnHerd, Tom Chivers wonders: Should Big Pharma be destroyed? They are not above doing some underhanded stuff:

    But pharma bad behaviour is not new. For example: there’s a thing in patent law called “evergreening”. It’s most famously used by big pharma companies who don’t want their expensive drugs to reach the end of their 20-year patent and become available as a generic, so they develop a very slightly different version of the same drug and get a new patent on that.

    Venlafaxine is an antidepressant, marketed as Effexor. As it neared the end of its patent, the manufacturer developed a new version – desvenlafaxine, marketed as Pristiq. Desvenlafaxine is what the body naturally breaks venlafaxine down into; your liver takes the venlafaxine and metabolises it into desvenlafaxine. It is also either less effective or no more effective than the original.

    The patent for Effexor expired in December 2008; Pristiq entered the market in early 2009. By 2014, Pristiq was the second most prescribed antidepressant in the US, despite being “a slightly worse version of an older antidepressant with no proven advantages that also costs fifteen times as much”. (A month’s supply of Effexor at the time cost $20; a month’s supply of Pristiq cost $300.)

    More antics at the link, but (spoiler alert) Chivers says Big Pharma should not be destroyed. But we should really look into dinking the intellectual property laws that they use for the dirtiest tricks.

    And I note that my monthly antidepressant medication expenses (mostly Franzia and Sam Adams) typically run more than Effexor, but a lot less than Pristiq.

URLs du Jour

2021-12-03

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • It's the most wonderful time of the year. Specifically, it's the time to read Dave Barry Holiday Gift Guide for Christmas 2021 at the Miami Herald (which insists that you allow their stupid ads, but whatever). You'll want to RTWT, of course, but I'll excerpt Dave's description of our Amazon Product du Jour, the … well, I'll let Dave tell you:

    There was a time when an anti-flatulence device would not have been considered an appropriate holiday gift. Fortunately, that time has passed, which is why we are excited to include the Fart Vac in this year’s Gift Guide.

    This is a quality item, made from 100 percent materials, which is based on a proven scientific principle that scientists call “suction.” You stick a rubber tube down your pants, and when a flatulence incident occurs, you squeeze a handheld bulb, which causes the suction to draw the odors into what the manufacturer describes as “an activated carbon filter,” which sounds very scientific.

    The Fart Vac is extremely discreet. People will never know you’re using it, unless they happen to notice the bulb in your hand connected to the tube going into your pants. That’s why this is the only anti-flatulence device endorsed by both Warren Buffett and the U.S. Supreme Court.

    And there are, of course, more items at the link, many the product of American innovation and utter delusion.


  • Because Biden lies, that's why. But for more detail than that, read Eric Boehm at Reason: Biden's Build Back Better Act Will Likely Cost Twice as Much as the CBO Projects. Here's Why.

    President Joe Biden's Build Back Better Act is likely to end up costing taxpayers about double what the official price tag suggests, and much of that hidden cost will end up being added to the national debt.

    That's the conclusion from two independent analyses of the proposal released in recent weeks. Both rely on a key assumption that did not figure into the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) analysis of the bill: that the Build Back Better plan's various policies will be in place for at least the next 10 years.

    "The Build Back Better Act relies on a number of arbitrary sunsets and expirations to lower the official cost of the bill," explains the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), a nonprofit that advocates for balanced budgets. The group's newly updated analysis of the Build Back Better plan finds that the package will cost an estimated $4.8 trillion over 10 years if all provisions are made permanent—double the price tag applied by the CBO last month.

    It's awful. Equally awful is the fact that our state's Congressional delegation, including the "moderate" Senators Shaheen and Hassan, are almost certainly going to vote in favor. So we have to hope that Senators Manchin and Sinema will continue to have spines.


  • Is it okay to wonder about Biden's mental state? I'm glad you asked, because Kevin D. Williamson has the answer: It’s Okay to Wonder about Biden’s Mental State. And has the most recent example of Joe's fantasies:

    Biden also has a rich fantasy life, which is not limited to his mythical truck-driving days. There is cloak-and-dagger stuff, too. On Wednesday, he told an audience that during the Six-Day War, he had acted as a liaison between Israeli prime minister Golda Meir and the Egyptian government. The Six-Day War occurred in 1967, when Levi Eshkol was the prime minister of Israel and Biden was plagiarizing his way toward finishing No. 76 of 85 in law school. Nobody had ever heard of such a thing as a Joe Biden back then. (And nobody was asking for one.) He was years away from beginning his Senate career. This is another fantasy, one that Biden keeps repeating. Is it an ordinary lie, or is it a delusion?

    (Biden did later meet Golda Meir. The Israelis were not impressed with the young senator, and certainly were not asking him to be their back-channel to Egypt.)

    A certain kind of Republican takes a lurid and celebratory view of Biden’s mental fugues. But you do not have to be a bitter partisan to be concerned about the fact that the president of the United States of America has become a sort of Walter Mitty, so deep into his fantasies that he muses in public about events that — let’s go ahead and emphasize this once more — never happened.

    I used to wonder about Kamala Harris reciting the Section 4 of the 25th Amendment in her sleep, backwards. I'm thinking that might actually be prudent.


  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Heh. She said "balls". Bari Weiss, that is: Women's Tennis Has Balls. Does Wall Street?

    Having disappeared doctors and scientists who tried to blow the whistle on Covid-19, the Chinese Communist Party has now targeted Peng Shuai, a tennis star who accused a former top Chinese government official of sexual assault. “Even if it is like an egg hitting a rock, or if I am like a moth drawn to the flame, inviting self-destruction, I will tell the truth about you,” she wrote on the social media platform Weibo. Then her message disappeared. And so did she.

    These are facts discoverable to any American with an internet connection, which the hedge fund investor Ray Dalio surely has in his Greenwich, Connecticut, mansion. 

    Smart guy, one imagines, to be trusted with managing $150 billion of other people’s money, as his company Bridgewater does. But when Dalio was asked yesterday on CNBC about China’s human rights record, and how he thinks about it with regard to his investments, he feigned ignorance.

    “I can’t be an expert in those types of things,” he told interviewer Andrew Ross Sorkin. “I really have no idea.” He went on to compare China’s government to that of a strict parent, and offered some mush of moral relativism about how the United States does bad things, too. This from a man who wrote a book called “Principles.”

    He did! Amazon link at your right!

    What Dalio did not say, but should have: "These are my principles! If you don’t like them I have others!"

    (Probably Groucho didn't say that either.)


  • What do you think deterrence deters? Bryan Caplan has thoughts about that: U-Shaped Deterrence.

    “The death penalty deters murder.”  A classic right-wing idea.  So classic, in fact, that it’s tempting to think that the idea of deterrence itself is right-wing.

    Yet on reflection, that’s absurd. 

    The left strongly believes in deterrence for discrimination.  If you said, “Let’s cap discrimination damages at $1000,” they would predict a massive increase in discrimination.  

    The left strongly believes in deterrence for pollution.  If you said, “We should let first-time pollution lawbreakers off with a warning,” they would predict a large increase in pollution.

    The left strongly believes in deterrence for tax evasion.  If you said, “Let’s end jail time for tax offenses,” they would predict a large reduction in tax collection.

    What’s the common thread?  The straightforward answer is: “Everyone strongly believes in deterrence for behavior they abhor.”  The right abhors violent crime, so they think that “lock-’em-up-and-throw-away-the-key” will sharply reduce violent crime.  The left abhors discrimination, pollution, and tax evasion, so they think that harsh penalties – including jailtime – will sharply reduce discrimination, pollution, and tax evasion.  The left will almost surely never embrace rehabilitation for billionaire tax cheats.

    We've seen no end of politicians and organizations advocating legislation to [Google search] "end gun violence". I'm pretty sure that a few law-abiding people might be deterred from owning guns as a result. But how many likely perpetrators would be deterred?

URLs du Jour

2021-12-02

  • Just a reminder: Elizabeth Warren is awful. But only because she exemplifies a more general truth, as described by Bryan Caplan: Politics is Cruelty. He notes the emotional theory asserted by cartoonist Scott McCloud:

    Anatomically speaking, there really are exactly six primary emotions: anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise.

    Each illustrated by its unique facial expression. Everything else is some combination of the six primaries, in various degrees of intensity. It's interesting! But here's the one on which Bryan discourses:

    [Cruelty]

    … one of the more unpleasant combos. And Bryan finds a textual expression from the recent past:

    [Liz is cruel]

    That bottom "WARREN" is the Verlag typeface. I've always found that to be disturbingly totalitarian. But Bryan is more grounded than I:

    The top slogan evokes joy: “Dream Big.” The bottom slogan evokes anger: “Fight Hard.” Quintessential politics.

    […]

    Cruelty is the main emotion that politicians pander to. And cruelty is what every politician strives to deliver. They don’t want to make everyone happy. They want to make their friends happy by making their enemies suffer. Which requires them to not only identify enemies, but create an endless queue of enemies lest they run out.

    Something to watch for in politicians of any party. And then back away slowly; don't, for God's sake, ever turn your back on them.


  • Yay! We're number one again! After a brief dip to second place behind Florida, New Hampshire is ranked as the freest state in the USA by William Ruger and Jason Sorens in Freedom in the 50 States 2021.

    In the fifth edition of the index, Florida had overtaken New Hampshire as the freest state. This time, New Hampshire has regained the crown as the freest state in the Union. In the more distant past, New Hampshire had a huge lead over the rest of the country on fiscal policy, a lead that partly dissipated between 2000 and 2008 because of big increases in local property taxes, which were in turn driven by growth in education spending. It has rebounded quite a bit in absolute terms but has been eclipsed by Florida and Tennessee on the fiscal front. New Hampshire grabs the top spot overall because it does well in both economic freedom (third) and personal freedom (second), something that is also true of Florida but is not the case for Tennessee. It could be a challenge for rivals to catch New Hampshire next time because of policy changes in 2021 in a pro-freedom direction, including tax cuts and the passage of the education freedom accounts program. The “New Hampshire Advantage” could get even stronger within New England. The three states of northern New England pose a stark contrast in economic policies and, for most of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, economic outcomes.

    I'll grant you that other states have better football teams at their flagship universities.


  • If at first you don't succeed… … get some tame government agency to demand another try. Eric Boehm at Reason: NLRB Overturns Amazon Workers' Decision Not To Unionize, Orders New Election.

    Though the election had a clear winner, a small but vocal contingent from the losing faction has spent months pushing wild theories with little supporting evidence about a scheme to fix the outcome. The only solution, they say, is to have a new election where the true winner will emerge victorious.

    And, this time, it seems to have worked.

    The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ordered a do-over of a high-profile unionization election at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) lost that election decisively in April—by a margin greater than two-to-one—but the NLRB is giving the union a second chance after a dispute that centers on the mailboxes used to collect workers' ballots.

    Why didn't Donald Trump think of getting the NRLB on his side?


  • Meanwhile in Old Blighty… Theodore Darlymple worries about Society Without a Chest.

    That power corrupts is an adage known by all—though how far it is the corrupt in the first place who seek power is an open question. Does the opportunity make the crook, or does the crook make the opportunity? Until a double-blind trial in real life conditions be performed, there is probably no definitive answer to this question; and such a trial will never be performed until the powerful are chosen at random.

    The possession and exercise of power not only corrupts: more fundamentally, it addles the judgment. Sooner or later, the powerful, perhaps believing themselves immune from the normal constraints of human existence, take decisions that almost everyone of merely average capacity can see are mistaken or worse than mistaken. The powerful cease to be able even to act in their own self-interest.

    His examples are from the United Kingdom, but you'll be able to connect the dots to a country nearer you.

    And his title? What's all that about chests? I'm pretty sure it's a shout-out to another Brit, C. S. Lewis, and his essay "Men Without Chests" in his The Abolition of Man. Key quote:

    We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.

    I really need to reread that.


  • I would have said even worse, but… At Bari Weiss's substack, Mike Solana tells us the bad news: Twitter Is About to Get Way Worse.

    For anyone who cares about free speech, Jack Dorsey was the villain. But I wonder if this was mostly a matter of aesthetics. Let’s be honest, the guy just always kind of looked like someone who wanted to censor you.

    It was that “#staywoke” shirt he used to run around in, I think. It was the nose ring, probably. Then, I guess it also could have been the last five years of partisan Twitter policy culminating in the deplatforming of a sitting president—I mean honestly who knows. But my sense is, despite appearances, Jack is actually at odds with his company’s drift into authoritarianism, and he’s been quietly protecting many of the values he’s often attacked for debasing. 

    Alas, Monday, he stepped down as CEO of Twitter. Today, what’s left of our open internet is already less safe. 

    Click through, and Mike will remind you about what Twitter did to the New York Post last October. And argues that Dorsey was (kind of) on the side of the good guys back then.

    But now his libertarian influence is gone, and the new CEO doesn't have fond words for free speech. So…


  • I reject David Frum, and all his works, and all his pomps. Looking back at his previous appearances at Pun Salad, I used to like him too. But Charles C. W. Cooke makes a convinving argument that we should Reject David Frum’s False Choice on Trump. (NRPlus, sorry. Subscribe, already.)

    Well, first you might want to read the article that spurs Charlie's reaction: Frum is talking about Russiagate, The Steele Dossier and the New Trump-Russia Denialists.

    Outright pro-Trump people remain deeply invested in those lies. But Trump’s media effort has often relied heavily on people who are not pro-him, but anti-anti-him. And the secret to successful anti-anti-Trumping has always been to fasten onto side issues and “whatabouts.”

    Yes, anti-anti. Here's Charlie:

    In a particularly hilarious passage, Frum clucks that “the secret to successful anti-anti-Trumping has always been to fasten onto side issues and ‘whatabouts,’” before engaging in precisely this behavior himself. “Anti-anti-Trump journalists want to use the Steele controversy to score points off politicians and media institutions that they dislike,” he writes. “But as media malpractice goes, credulous reliance upon the Steele dossier is just a speck compared with — for example — the willingness of the top-rated shows on Fox News to promote the fantasy that the Democratic Party hacked itself, then murdered a staffer named Seth Rich to cover up the self-hack.” Got that? If you are irritated by the mainstream media’s having wasted two breathless years on a phantom, you’re a whataboutist! And, by the way, enough about Russiagate, whatabout that Seth Rich story, amirite?

    Frum’s is a cramped, totalitarian, anti-intellectual way of looking at the world, in which evidence is subordinate to consequence, one’s loyalty to one’s team is absolute, and each and every observer of the scene is encouraged to plot himself on a graph that features our 45th president at its center, and nothing else besides. There is one circumstance — and one circumstance only — in which it makes sense for a person to define himself as uniformly “anti-” or “pro-” a political candidate, and that within the context of elections. Outside of that, it’s creepy as hell. When Donald Trump was president, his most fervent supporters would ask me, “Are you on the Trump train yet?” And I would wonder, “What does that even mean?” My job is to say what I think; it is not to take adamantine loyalty oaths to whomever my political “side” presently considers strategically useful. There is a word for people who commit to praising or criticizing certain public figures, irrespective of the topic, context, or detail, but it sure as hell is not “writer.”

    I imagine, theoretically, someday, I could disagree with CCWC on some issue, but today is not that day.

URLs du Jour

2021-12-01

  • I'm a RINO. Literally. So I got no problem with sharing the latest from Mr. Ramirez:

    [I am with stupid]

    But if you prefer text about the GOP's latest, here's Politico, only too glad to pass the popcorn: Mace and Greene keep feuding, despite McCarthy’s effort to intervene. Referring to Representatives Nancy Mace (R-SC) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), see pic above. Skipping to the good part:

    After speaking with the GOP leader, Greene said she told McCarthy that she would quit attacking Mace. But as she was leaving the meeting, Greene suggested to CNN that she was interested in seeing Mace get a Republican primary challenger, something former President Donald Trump has called for.

    Mace, after meeting with McCarthy, also didn’t back down after being asked about Greene’s primary challenger comments.

    “All I can say about Marjorie Taylor Greene is bless her fucking heart,” Mace told reporters.

    You can mouse-highlight the text between the 'f' and 'g' up there if you're a curious adult. I didn't think Southern Republican women talked like that, but I'm behind the times, I guess.


  • Inspired by the Beatles song? Tevi Troy maps The Long and Winding Road to Campus Illiberalism.

    Free speech is so devalued on campuses today that there is little cost to those seeking to squelch unfashionable views. When MIT recently canceled a speech by University of Chicago geophysicist Dorian Abbot because he had questioned non-merit-based hiring, the left saw nothing wrong with MIT’s illiberal action. In a widely noted comment in an article about the incident, The New York Times quoted Williams College geoscience professor Phoebe Cohen as saying, “This idea of intellectual debate and rigor as the pinnacle of intellectualism comes from a world in which white men dominated.”

    To dismiss the tradition of intellectual debate as some kind of vestige of a white male era seemed to many a nail in the coffin of the very concept of free speech and open inquiry. Unfortunately, this recent episode is only the latest of many similar incidents.

    Troy continues with a number of egregious recent examples. See if you missed any; collect the whole set!


  • Including the University Near Here, I'm pretty sure. James D. Paul and Robert Maranto author an AEI report on another example of campus illiberalism: requiring faculty job applicants to include "diversity statements" in their submitted materials. Resulting in faculty hiring on grounds other than merit. Their "Key Points":

    • Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) statement requirements for job applicants seeking university faculty posts seem increasingly common.
    • Proponents claim these requirements create a more inclusive academy. Critics claim they amount to political correctness loyalty oaths. Yet, until now, no one has conducted an empirical investigation of their prevalence or how these requirements vary across academic disciplines, geographic regions, type of faculty position, and university prestige.
    • Prestigious universities are significantly more likely to have DEI requirements than nonprestigious universities. Perhaps surprisingly, these statements are as prevalent in STEM fields as in the humanities and social sciences, once controls are accounted for.
    • Regular faculty posts are more likely to require DEI statements than adjunct and postdoc positions. Relative to other regions, jobs in the West are most likely to require DEI statements.

    Note that a "diversity statement" isn't necessarily the same as a "diversity pledge". So this College Fix headline, "Nearly 20 percent of faculty jobs require diversity pledge: report" isn't as precise as it could be.

    But as for the University Near Here, you can check for yourself how many faculty positions require them.


  • Yippee Ki-Yay… At least that's the phrase I imagine Kevin D. Williamson toyed with writing, in his "The Tuesday" column: Left Learns Dangers of Ideological Conformity. But guess what he does write:

    Welcome to the party, pal!

    Cancel culture, soft censorship, the stampeding herd of independent thinkers demanding absolute conformism in the name of tolerance and absolute obedience in the name of diversity — none of these is ever a problem until it happens to a progressive.

    Today’s example is Andrew Solomon, who tells his tale in the New York Times under the headline: “My book was censored in China. Now it’s blacklisted — in Texas.”

    Solomon’s book is not — you won’t be surprised to learn — blacklisted in Texas. All that has happened is that a state representative, Matt Krause, has asked Texas school districts about a list of books — 850 of them — wanting to know if they have them, how many copies, where they are, what they paid for them, etc. “Most of the books on the list deal with race, sexual orientation, abortion or gender identity,” Solomon writes. “Krause is one of several candidates hoping to unseat the incumbent Republican attorney general” — he isn’t, but he was — “and this bit of extremist theater is a maneuver to raise his profile among the ardent Trumpists and social conservatives likely to be G.O.P. primary voters.”

    KDW goes on to note:

    Matt Krause is a nobody. Jeff Bezos has real power. When Amazon bans a book, that doesn’t just take it off Amazon — it sends a message to publishers around the world that failing to toe the party line means that their financial futures will be put in jeopardy by one of the world’s most powerful businesses. But when Amazon yanks a book by Ryan Anderson, nice liberals such as Andrew Solomon generally don’t have a goddamned word to say about it — and if they do say something, more often than not it is to encourage the suppression of books they dislike and the marginalization of nonconformist authors.

    You tell him, Kevin.


  • Good gracious, I just might become a Boston Celtics fan. The Federalist reports on their center: Enes Kanter Becomes U.S. Citizen, Changes Last Name To 'Freedom'

    NBA star Enes Kanter is now an American citizen and has legally changed his name to Enes Kanter Freedom.

    The Boston Celtics center, who frequently speaks out against oppressive governments such as China and Turkey, passed his citizenship test and was sworn in as an official citizen of the United States on Nov. 29.

    And, yes: "His new last name will appear on the back of his jersey beginning this week."


  • Two words that often go together: "FDA" and "Screw-up" . Ron Bailey says it's business as usual, even though hundreds of Americans are dying daily: FDA's At-Home Testing Screw-Up Is Undermining Promising New COVID Treatments.

    Let's skip down to the local LFOD reference:

    A quick internet check finds that most COVID-19 self-tests are still not widely available and those that are available cost more than $20. Of course, speedier FDA approval of COVID-19 self-tests would have spurred competition between brands that would have made them more widely available and lowered their prices to consumers.

    Interestingly, New Hampshire public health officials began offering to send free (tax-paid) at-home COVID-19 tests to any of the state's residents on Monday. In less than 24-hours, 100,000 households had requested them, exhausting the "Live Free or Die" state government's supplies. (I brought home 28 COVID-19 self-tests that were being given away by public health functionaries on the streets of Glasgow, Scotland, while I was there covering the U.N. climate change conference.)

    I got in under the wire. If you need a test, let me know.