URLs du Jour

2022-01-31

  • Despite the best efforts of some. In case you were wondering whether America was on the brink of a civil war, Musa al-Gharbi offers an answer for you: No, America is not on the brink of a civil war.

    According to a number of polls and surveys, significant majorities of Republican-aligned voters seem to believe the big lie that Trump was the rightful winner of the 2020 US presidential election and, consequently, the Biden administration is illegitimate.

    Taking these data at face value, a growing chorus insists that we’re living in a “post-truth” era, where members of one political party, the Republican party, can no longer tell facts from falsehood. As a result of the Republican party becoming unmoored from reality, the narratives typically continue, America is drifting headlong into a fascist takeover or a civil war.

    Fortunately for all of us, these dire predictions are almost certainly overblown. We are not living in a “post-truth” world. We are not on the brink of a civil war. The perception that we are is almost purely an artifact of people taking poll and survey data at face value despite overwhelming evidence that we probably shouldn’t.

    Al-Gharbi accumulates some evidence backing up something I've suspected for a while: a certain fraction of people enjoy lying to pollsters, and jerking them around. And sometimes media outlets don't tell the complex story of what pollsters asked, what the available answers were, etc. So we wind up with headlines like "Only Two-Thirds Of American Millennials Believe The Earth Is Round."


  • Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends. As relayed by Philip Klein: Trump’s Continuing Disgrace.

    President Trump has already inflicted more than enough damage on the country simply because his fragile ego prevented him from acknowledging that he lost the 2020 election. But the January 6 Capitol riot, which followed months of him whipping supporters into a frenzy with his stolen election claims, did not teach him to be more responsible with his rhetoric. So he spent this past weekend making one reckless statement after another — consequences be damned.

    During a Saturday rally in Texas, Trump said of prosecutors investigating him and his business practices that, “If these radical, vicious, racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal, I hope we are going to have in this country the biggest protest we have ever had in Washington D.C., in New York, in Atlanta and elsewhere because our country and our elections are corrupt.”

    But that's not all.


  • Kevin, you're just trying to cheer me up. Just kidding. Because Kevin D. Williamson contends There Are No Easy Cures for What Ails Our Body Politic.

    It is likely that what will mostly powerfully shape the U.S. government 100 years from now — if there is a U.S. government 100 years from now — is the vague and unwieldy matter of the internal institutional culture of Congress: not how one representative or senator behaves but the behavior of Congress as a whole. If Congress continues its slide into self-imposed subordination to the executive, then the presidency will continue to grow more imperial, more invasive, more self-aggrandizing, and, as an almost inevitable result, more autocratic as the decades pass — irrespective of which party controls the office most often. A country with an autocratic, strong-man government will have autocratic, strong-man politics, because the campaigning aspect of politics is only instrumental, fitted to whatever facts it finds, its shape and strategies almost always determined by immediate social realities rather than by any long-term philosophical or ideological program. As Barry Goldwater put it, politicians “hunt where the ducks are.”

    That raises a second and related question, that of the character of the political parties. Like Congress, these, too, are slowly sinking into irrelevance. This is partly by design, the work of well-intentioned “reformers” who broke up the power of the parties in an effort to “democratize” them without understanding that this would effectively destroy them as functioning institutions. The parties also are diminished by the partisan media (both flavors) that make war on them (the “establishment”), both because they are power competitors and because doing so makes for a compelling storyline: We the People vs. the wicked elites is the theme on MSNBC as much as it is on Fox News and right-wing talk radio. Without parties and other mediating institutions, naked demagoguery almost inevitably becomes the dominant mode of politics.

    And that explains a lot about our level of uncivil discourse.


  • Hey, kids, what time is it? John McWhorter has an answer in (of all places) the New York Times: It’s Time to End Race-Based Affirmative Action. And he discusses how he doesn't want his daughters to be treated by colleges they apply to:

    I shudder at the thought of someone on a college admissions committee, in the not-too-distant future, reading their dossiers and finding their being biracial (in their case, half Black and half white, or “mixed,” as we might have said in my day) — and thus, officially “diverse” and even, according to our strange retention of the retrogressive “one-drop rule,” officially “African American” — the most interesting thing about them. Or even, frankly, interesting at all.

    I don’t want an admissions officer to consider the obstacles my children have faced, because in 2022, as opposed to in 1972, they really face no more or less than their white peers do.

    I don’t want that admissions officer to consider that, perhaps here and there, someone, somewhere, underestimated them because both of their parents aren’t white. In the 2020s, that will have happened so seldom to them, as upper-middle-class persons living amid America’s most racially enlightened Blue American white people, that I’m quite sure it will not imprint them existentially any more than it did me, coming of age in the 1970s and 1980s.

    I don’t want the admissions officer to consider my children’s “diversity.” For one thing, their diversity from the other kids in their neighborhoods, classrooms and lives is something of an abstraction. They wear clothes from Old Navy, watch (and rewatch) “Frozen” and “Encanto,” and play a lot of Roblox, just like their peers. And I will never forget a line from a guidebook that Black students at Harvard wrote two decades ago: “We are not here to provide diversity training for Kate and Timmy.” Yep — and if we salute the enterprising undergrads who wrote that, we must question the general thrust of the sundry amicus briefs that will be offered in the Harvard and U.N.C. cases, about how kids of color are vital to a campus because of their diversity, echoing the statement of Harvard’s president, just this week, that “Considering race as one factor among many in admissions decisions produces a more diverse student body which strengthens the learning environment for all.”

    Bingo.

    [And, not that I'm encouraging you to do this, but: my current method for reading NYT articles: (1) go to the article; (2) control-S to save the page on your computer; (3) control-O to open the downloaded article.]


  • Not to be confused with the Gell-Mann effect. Michael Shermer writes his substack article on The Joe Rogan Effect. Assuming you know the details about demands that Spotify deplatform Joe Rogan:

    To be clear, this is not a First Amendment free speech issue. The government has nothing to say in the matter. Spotify can do what it wants, and aging rockers can protest by withdrawing their products if they want. But is such censorious protesting productive? No. Why?

    1. It’s another form of the bigotry of low expectations: the content consuming public is so dumb, so gullible, so irrational that they are unable to think critically about important issues, so we will do it for them. Why should some team of censors (or computer algorithms) dictate what I can and cannot consume? I’ll do my own thinking, thank you.

    2. Such protests add oxygen to the fire: Rogan has a huge audience, but the Associated Press, the BBC, NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, and all the other MSM outlets do not normally cover episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience unless they become newsworthy. So millions of downloads are now tens of millions or more.

    3. Forbidden fruit: a natural response many people have to being told that they can’t have something is to want it even more. It’s the oldest story in the Bible, which I recounted in The Moral Arc this way, in asking why a jealous and vengeful God named Yahweh decided to punish women for all eternity with the often intolerable pain of childbirth, and further condemned them to be little more than beasts of burden and sex slaves for the victorious warlords: “It was all for that one terrible sin, the first crime ever recorded in the history of humanity—a thought crime no less—when that audacious autodidact Eve dared to educate herself by partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Worse she inveigled the first man—the unsuspecting Adam—to join her in choosing knowledge over ignorance.”

    4. Censorship fuels fringe claims: I’ve devoted a career to studying fringe groups and marginalized beliefs, and I can tell you that they thrive on censorship—literally: membership rolls expand and donations swell whenever their peripheral claims are censored, because “they” don’t want you to know what we’ve discovered.

    As an interviewee, Shermer has some insight into what Rogan tick. Interesting. (I've never listened to Rogan at all.)


  • But for more on that… also see Glenn Greenwald. The Pressure Campaign on Spotify to Remove Joe Rogan Reveals the Religion of Liberals: Censorship.

    American liberals are obsessed with finding ways to silence and censor their adversaries. Every week, if not every day, they have new targets they want de-platformed, banned, silenced, and otherwise prevented from speaking or being heard (by "liberals,” I mean the term of self-description used by the dominant wing of the Democratic Party).

    [That clarification is much appreciated, Glenn -- ps]

    For years, their preferred censorship tactic was to expand and distort the concept of "hate speech” to mean "views that make us uncomfortable,” and then demand that such “hateful” views be prohibited on that basis. For that reason, it is now common to hear Democrats assert, falsely, that the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech does not protect “hate speech." Their political culture has long inculcated them to believe that they can comfortably silence whatever views they arbitrarily place into this category without being guilty of censorship.

    Oddly enough, some of the same "liberals" are the ones who moan the loudest when "Banned Books Week" rolls around. Funny old world.

Ingredients

The Strange Chemistry of What We Put in Us and on Us

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Another instance where I can't remember why I put this book on my get-at-library list. Never mind, it's pretty good.

The author, George Zaidan, is described as a "science communicator, television and web host, and producer" on the dust jacket flap. He also has an Airplane!-style of writing: throw a lot of jokes at the reader, and enough of them are funny to get a laugh.

The language would definitely rate a PG-13, though. [Checks page 273.] Or maybe an R.

It is a relatively solid look at mostly nutritional epidemiology. Although he also looks at smoking and—see the subtitle—sunscreen. For the latter, it's a comparison of what's riskier: (a) skin cancer thanks to sun exposure, or (b) some other kind of cancer due to the chemicals in the goop we slather on our skin to avoid skin cancer?

But it's mostly food and drink. Zaidan delves into the science, concentrating on so-called "ultra-processed" foods, like (see the cover) Cheetos. And he doesn't even get into Flamin' Hot Cheetos, let alone CHEETOS® Crunchy XXTRA FLAMIN' HOT® Cheese Flavored Snacks. Which contain (as I type):

Enriched Corn Meal (Corn Meal, Ferrous Sulfate, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Vegetable Oil (Corn, Canola, and/or Sunflower Oil), Xxtra FLAMIN' HOT® Seasoning (Salt, Maltodextrin [Made From Corn], Sugar, Yeast Extract, Monosodium Glutamate, Citric Acid, Artificial Color [Red 40 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 6, Yellow 5], Sunflower Oil, Hydrolyzed Corn Protein, Cheddar Cheese [Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes], Onion Powder, Whey, Natural Flavor, Garlic Powder, Whey Protein Concentrate, Buttermilk, Corn Syrup Solids, Sodium Diacetate), and Salt. CONTAINS MILK INGREDIENTS.

Well, you can't say you weren't warned. Or enticed. Yes, now I'm hungry.

Early parts of the book had me saying "Wait a minute. What about…?" a lot. But (good news) Zaidan does a decent job of answering those implicit questions as the book progresses. Specifically, he describes the "potholes" medical research in general and (specifically) research into risky dietary habits must encounter and avoid. P-hacking is described. John Ioannidis's work on the "reproducibility crisis" is described, as are Ioannidis's arguments with Harvard nutrition researcher Walter Willett.

And he doesn't mention food noodge Mark Bittman at all. High marks there.

One quirk: although Zaidan isn't too shy about describing chemical reactions, even showing some structural formulas, he seems averse to biting the bullet on writing numbers in scientific notation. So we get a lot of stuff like "Our eyes can detect photons within a very narrow energy range; from 0.00000000000000000028 to 0.00000000000000000056 joules". Come on, George. say "2.8 x 10-19 to 5.6x10-19 Joules". Even better—since you're simply describing a Joule as "a unit of energy" in a footnote, use a better unit: "1.7 to 3.5 electron volts".

More serious: in a book about risky food, Zaidan should really have described how risky trans fats are. And (generally) delved into the controversies surrounding fats, carbohydrates, etc. It would have also been nice to have seen some context comparing dietary risk to other risks. How (for example) does a daily bag of CHEETOS® Crunchy XXTRA FLAMIN' HOT® Cheese Flavored Snacks compare to a daily 20-mile commute, riskwise? I think the oldie-but-goodie The Norm Chronicles is the layman's go-to text here.


Last Modified 2022-02-21 7:13 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2022-01-30

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • The first three words of the headline guarantee that what follows will be nonsense. And that headline is: Pete Buttigieg Thinks He Can Eliminate Traffic Deaths. It's from Dominic Pino:

    The Department of Transportation has unveiled a “zero-fatality road safety strategy.” According to transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg, “We cannot tolerate the continuing crisis of roadway deaths in America. . . . These deaths are preventable, and that’s why we’re launching the National Roadway Safety Strategy today — a bold, comprehensive plan, with significant new funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”

    Strictly speaking, Buttigieg is correct. All roadway deaths are preventable, but you don’t need a comprehensive strategy to eliminate them. Just put governors in the engine of every car that prevent the speed from exceeding five miles per hour. Economist Gordon Tullock facetiously suggested installing a spike in the center of every steering wheel as a way to solve reckless driving. If everyone knew they’d be impaled for braking too hard, everyone would drive very carefully, and deaths would plummet.

    Dominic doesn't mention my zero-fatality strategy, which is (1) ban motorcycles; (2) require drivers and passengers to wear motorcycle helmets and wearing several layers of bubble wrap (our Amazon Product du Jour).

    Utopian statists have no concept of trade-offs. Specifically: driving, like practically any activity, is risky. If anything, people in cars probably overestimate the risk. And yet they choose to drive.

    Buttigieg trying to impose his own risk preferences on others… well, it's kind of a thing these days, isn't it? Mayor Pete probably just figured he'd get in on the game.


  • At least so far. Dan Mitchell is deservedly Dunking on Oxfam: 2022’s Tweet of the Year

    The hack leftists at Oxfam have a new report with the laughable title of “Inequality Kills.” As part of the report, they grouse about “the recent 40-year period of neoliberalism” that supposedly helped only rich elitists.

    And here's his nominee for TotY:

    Need further details? Click away.


  • Nobody does anything about Rogaine ads contributing to the negative self-perception of us bald guys. Elizabeth Nolan Brown notes the latest front opened in the Obesity Wars: Instagram Bans Healthy Eating Ads for Promoting 'Negative Self-Perception'

    Social media companies pull ADHD ads by mental health startup Cerebral. The latest ad ban by Instagram and TikTok highlights the slippery slope of "misinformation" purges as well as the warped way some folks have come to view food and healthy eating in 2022.

    Instagram and TikTok are both pulling ads from the mental health company Cerebral for supposedly violating policies related to eating disorders and to misinformation.

    The ads suggested people with attention deficit problems may fall victim to impulse eating. They note a link between ADHD and obesity. And they suggest that getting ADHD treatment through Cerebral could help people to "stop overeating."

    Stephanie Chan, a spokesperson for Instagram parent company Meta, said the ads were pulled because the company doesn't allow "content that promotes misleading health claims" or attempts "to generate negative self-perception in order to promote health-related products. We remove ads that break these rules."

    But research has indeed linked ADHD to obesity, and ADHD forums often discuss impulsive or disordered eating habits among people with the disorder.

    TikTok too?


  • Explains a lot. Tim Carney looks at the controversy surrounding Ilya Shapiro who (everyone seems to agree) made a poorly worded tweet about Biden's pledge for his SCOTUS nominee that was an easy target for Woke Outrage: 'Who cares ... call them racists': Explaining the dishonest attacks on legal scholar Ilya Shapiro.

    A hundred different liberal tweeters will have a hundred different reasons for behaving the way they did, and I can’t read anyone’s mind. But we know for a fact that there is, on the Left, a common practice of baselessly accusing conservatives and libertarians for its political advantage.

    During the 2008 election cycle, liberal journalist Spencer Ackerman spelled out this tactic in an email to other liberal journalists. “Take one of them — Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists,” wrote Ackerman. He was trying to devise a way to help distract from tough questions Barack Obama began facing about his extremist, anti-American, and racist pastor Jeremiah Wright. “Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country? What lurks behind those problems? This makes *them* sputter with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction.”

    Ackerman didn't suggest this because he thought the people in question were racists or because he wanted to battle racism. Rather, Ackerman explained his motivation for this tactic: “What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear.”

    Let me (once again) quote from the Underground Grammarian essay titled "The Answering of Kautski", which (in turn) quoted Lenin on dealing with his political opponent Karl Kautski:

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

    Substitute appropriately for "Kautski" and "traitor to the working class" and voila


  • The evolution of clickbait ads. As revealed in LILEKS (James) Bleat for Friday last.

    It's been a while since we did some Internet Detritus. No, I don't know what that means. Perhaps "curious things, noted" as well as things that have irritated me to the point of irrational rage. But first: ha ha someone didn't proof the ad

    No further excerpt, just click over. I've been continually amazed at the otherwise respectable sites where I get subjected to ads saying…

    • "Beach Day Fails You Can't Unsee- Use Discretion"
    • "33 Funny Airport Photos That Will Make You Laugh"
    • "Leave Your Girlfriend Speechless" (useful when she threatens to tell your wife about your infidelity, I suppose)
    • "Look At These Absurd Teachers"
    • "4 Things You Can Spend Money On That Will Actually Make You Richer"
    • "25 Unhealthiest American Groceries (No One Expects No. 3)" (Spanish Inquisition Rice?)
    • "Toenail Fungus Gone if You Do This (Simple!)"
    • "If the Ringing in the Ears Get [sic] Worse at Night Do This Immediately" (turn off the alarm, I bet.)

    But I don't mind the "Children's books with values" ads. Best wishes on those.

`

Last Modified 2022-01-30 2:13 PM EDT

Spider-Man: No Way Home

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

I went to see this in an actual physical theater with Pun Son. I had a great time.

Do I really need to provide a plot summary? Given that anyone interested has probably already seen it? And everyone else doesn't care? Well, I always do, so here 'tis;

At the close of the previous movie, the dying revenge of the villainous Mysterio was to provide J. Jonah Jameson (shown here as an Alex Jones-style babbler) with Spider-Man's secret identity, Peter Parker. A cliff-hanger indeed!

This (of course) proves problematic for Peter. (Tony Stark, being a gazillionaire, could get away with revealing his Iron Man identity; Peter doesn't have the finances to bring it off.) It's also tough on his pals, MJ and Ned. Specifically, all three fail to get into MIT, due to the controversy.

Like anyone wants to go to MIT. Shoulda tried Caltech.

Peter turns to his acquaintance from the Avengers movies, Doctor Strange. After some (pretty funny) back-and-forth, the Doc weaves a worldwide mass-amnesia spell. Which, thanks to Peter's meddling, goes very badly, opening up portals to alternate timelines. Which (in turn) summons all sorts of bad guys from those timelines. And if you're at all familiar with the Spiderverse, and look at the DVD box over there on the right (or if you've seen the trailer), you know one of them already.

Fortunately, it's not just the bad guys that show up. But not in time to save our hero from a certain amount of heartbreak.

URLs du Jour

2022-01-29

Our Eye Candy du Jour is from 1943, when the University Near Here actually taught some useful skills. The caption at Getty Inages:

Dianas. This year the University of New Hampshire has made archery one of the sports included in the physical education program. The belles and their bows are lined up here on Memorial Field, something like the warriors of old must have lined up at Hastin

Well, that's where it ends. Appears to be a 256-byte limit at Getty Images. How 20th century of them!

But I assume they're talking about the 1066 Battle of Hastings, not previously noted for its gender diversity.

"Belles and their bows." Heh.

  • But UNH is in the news! And (as usual) not in a good way! Steve MacDonald at Granite Grok broke the news, at least this is where I read it first: UNH is Giving Class Credit to Students for Being Assh*le Progressive Activists. (Grawlix in original.) Publicized in a tweet:

    Were I a student in this class, I'd need to ask for clarification: "Prof, are we supposed to 'call in' this behavior or 'call out'? I see both here. Is there a difference?"

    With respect to that orthographically-bleeped word in the GG headline. I read a WSJ article yesterday in preparation for today's weather ("A Jerk-Free Guide to Snowblowing") and the author describes her dad as "a fourth-generation Swamp Yankee Masshole." I think the word is rapidly moving into mainstream acceptability.

    But never mind that, let's return to the story.


  • What could go wrong? At NHJournal, Damien Fisher reports more details: Progressive UNH Prof Gives Course Credit for Accusations of Racism. The instructor is identified as Edward Reynolds (and his position is "Lecturer", which any denizen of higher education will tell you is a distinct species from "professor"). He's in the "Communications" department, which… well, it ain't Physics.

    The potential problems are self-evident: People targeted by Reynolds’ students may object to being called racist or bigots. They might object to being recorded. There’s even the risk of a physical confrontation.

    Reynolds claims in the course description that the recordings and the names of the people “called out/called in” will not be made public. But neither Reynolds nor anyone from UNH answered New Hampshire Journal’s questions about how that anonymity will be guaranteed.

    Reynolds declined to respond to multiple requests for comments, as did the UNH media relations team. Representatives for the University System of New Hampshire declined to answer questions about Reynolds’ coursework as well.

    And who could blame them? Certainly if I were on the "media relations team", I'd be hiding under my desk, ignoring my e-mail Inbox, fervently wishing the phone would stop ringing.


  • Let me just say that you mean well, and are a good person. Except for your ablelism/racism/homophobia which I'm gonna report to my course instructor. Campus Reform has (apparently) a complete three-page assignment from Summer 2021. (The excerpt above is apparently from a different iteration.)

    Students in the "Introduction to Language and Social Interaction" course were told to "Call in someone on their ableist racist or homophobic use of language, for micro aggressions (or an act of racism) towards a person of color, homophobia against LGBTQI+ or ableism against a disabled person."

    The assignment for the course, specifies that students must also record the interaction "in order to get credit," while clarifying to get permission before doing so.

    "Remember to say you know they mean well and are a good person," reads the assignment.

    Students are instructed to give their target "an alternate way of expressing themselves that doesn't marginalise [sic] or oppress," and warned to "Research your proposed alternative to make certain its [sic] not oppressive itself!!" because "You will fail if you tell someone to say something racist or sexist or homophobic."

    From the assignment itself:

    Do not be sexist, racist, or homophobic or any other ism in what you say your example [sic]. If you are you will receive 0 for this assignment and you will not be allowed a reset.

    The call in must be REAL. Recall week 2 on naturalism. Scripted or fake call ins will be treated as intentional plagiarism (because it [sic] is academic dishonesty)

    I have a slight amount of pity for the hapless Communications students wandering around campus looking for someone to be ableist/racist/homophobic for them without goading them into it.


  • I can't help but think there's a more accurate word than 'folly'. But that's the one Matt Taibbi used: The Folly of Pandemic Censorship. He discusses the latest campaign, targeting Substack, but I'd like to excerpt further down:

    To me, the story most illustrative of the problem inherent in policing “Covid misinformation” involves a town hall by Joe Biden from July 21 of last year. In it, the president said bluntly, “You’re not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations,” pretty much the definition of Covid misinformation:

    It was bad enough when, a month later, the CDC released figures showing 25% of a sample of 43,000 Covid cases involved fully vaccinated people. Far worse was a fact-check by PolitiFact, which judged Biden’s clearly wrong statement “half true.”

    “It is rare for people who are fully vaccinated to contract COVID-19, but it does happen,” the site wrote. They then cited CDC data as backup. “The data that the CDC collected before May 1 show that, of 101 million people vaccinated in the U.S., 10,262 (0.01%) experienced breakthrough cases.” PolitiFact’s “bottom line”: Biden “exaggerated,” but “cases are rare.”

    Anyone paying attention to that story will now distrust the president, the CDC, and “reputable” mainstream fact-checkers like the Pew Center’s PolitiFact. These are the exact sort of authorities whose guidance sites like the Center for Countering Digital Hate will rely upon when trying to pressure companies like Substack to remove certain voices.

    I checked the link and PolitiFact (as I type) still rates Biden's statement "Half True".

    About the only good thing about PolitiFact is this: when they call out a Democrat's statement as being Mostly False/False/Pants on Fire, that means it's really egregious bullshit.


  • At least not without first reading Matthew 7:1-5. David Harsanyi puts it too mildly for my taste: It's Not Government's Job to 'Root Out' Misinformation

    After being asked by MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski about the alleged misinformation spread by the popular “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast and Facebook users, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy responded with a homily about how “we” must “root out” misleading speech.

    “We” don’t have to do any such thing.

    Government officials have no role in dictating appropriate speech or lecturing us on what we can or can’t say. In fact, they have a duty not to.

    Murthy’s comments wouldn’t be as grating if it weren’t so obvious that the Biden administration has been pressuring Big Tech companies, who oversee huge swaths of our daily digital interactions, to limit speech and set acceptable standards.

    You might remember that last summer, White House press secretary Jen Psaki casually informed the press that the White House was “flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation.” Can you imagine the explosive reaction from the establishment media if they had learned that the Trump White House was keeping a list of speech crimes?

    It should be the shame of (for example) the Washington "Democracy Dies in Darkness" Post that they treat with kid gloves some powerful government officials who urge that private companies shut down speech they don't like.


  • I'm pretty old so I chuckled at the City Journal headline. Which is: Heart of Scold. By Zaid Jilani, who takes a look at Neil Young's jihad against Joe Rogan. Assuming you know the details:

    This brings us to perhaps the most surprising detail about this episode: since when did Young become the sort of person to advocate for shutting up his ideological opponents? The rock and folk artist made his name as a countercultural figure in the 1960s, raging against the cultural and political establishment, working with Crosby, Stills, & Nash to release “Ohio,” a powerful protest song released after the killing of student protesters at Kent State University in 1970. The song became an anthem for the anti-Vietnam War movement. Some mainstream AM radio stations, sensitive to lyrics referring to “soldiers gunning us down,” banned it, but underground radio helped make it a hit anyway. Young continued to be a mainstay of the counterculture in the decades to come. In 2006, he reunited with Crosby, Stills, & Nash to barnstorm the country singing anti-Iraq War and anti-George W. Bush songs. They called it the “Freedom of Speech Tour” and kicked it off in Philadelphia, birthplace of the Constitution.

    Young’s transformation from countercultural champion of freedom of speech to corporate censorship advocate and defender of the public-health bureaucracy didn’t occur in a vacuum. Progressives have become increasingly censorious over the past few years. A majority of Democrats now believe that both private tech companies and the U.S. government should “take steps to restrict false info online.”

    Play it again, Neil:

    I'm sorry for
    the things I've done,
    I've shamed myself with lies,
    But soon these things
    are overcome
    And can't be recognized.


Last Modified 2022-05-11 7:10 AM EDT

Five Decembers

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

The cover of this book (like many published by Hard Case Crime) brings back fond memories of haunting the paperback racks as a kid. I was more into science fiction back then, but the mystery section enticed young male eyes … well, Google "lurid paperback covers" to get an idea of the kind of art that was designed to snag the browser. And it wasn't just mysteries; check out this Mental Floss article to see how they sold 1984, Heart of Darkness, and—whoa—Madame Bovary.

So the cover promises some hard-boiled gratuitous sex and violence, while maybe skimping on … well … quality. But this book was mentioned in the New York Times' Best Mystery Novels of 2021, and it's really quite good. Don't judge a book by its cover.

Oh yeah, there's violence, and some sex. But none of it is really gratuitous. And hard-boiled? Well, you would break your teeth trying to eat an egg this hard-boiled.

Our protagonist, Joe McGrady, is a detective on the Honolulu police force. He's called to the scene of a gruesome double murder, involving torture and rape. Soon enough there's some fighting and gunplay, Joe prevails, the bad guy is killed, and … case closed?

No. One of the victims is the nephew of a Navy admiral. Joe makes a convincing case that there's still a shadowy perpetrator on the loose. Backed by Kimmel, Joe stays on the case, and after some impressive detective work he's following the killer's trail to the Far East,

I didn't mention that all this takes place in November and early December 1941. And the admiral is the real-life Admiral Kimmel, commander of the US fleet, based in Pearl Harbor. So history intrudes. Things go bad for Joe's investigation. And then things go very bad for Joe's investigation. The plot develops totally unexpected twists and turns, dovetailing with actual history.

So it's not just a mystery. It's also a love story, war story, kind of epic in scale. The (pseudonymous) author, James Kestrel, obviously did an impressive amount of research, getting the details of history, environment, and culture of the era just right. (Joe takes the legendary Pan Am Clipper out of Honolulu, lovingly described.)

I've seen an interview with the author where his somewhat strident and tedious political opinions are revealed. Fortunately, they're not on display on this book; I hope he doesn't succumb to what I think of as "Don Winslow Disease" in future work.

URLs du Jour

2022-01-28

  • Only a matter of time before I start saying "I'm too old to remember…" But I'm not there yet, and neither are Ann Althouse nor Instapundit: I'm old enough to remember....

    And (of course) here's the standard libertarian needle-threading: It's fine for corporations (like Spotify) to decide whether or not to provide a platform for various people (like Joe Rogan). But it should be a firing offense for powerful government officials to demand or even suggest that corporations censor them.

    I assume the Sturgeon General took this oath on assuming office, promising to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" and also to "bear true faith and allegiance to the same".

    That includes the First Amendment, General. If you can't "bear true faith and allegiance" to that, it's time to resign and go home.


  • And that term is not "kinda hot". Jeff Jacoby speaks truly: There's a term for senators like Kyrsten Sinema. After noting the slings and arrows directed at her for her consistent support of the Senate filibuster:

    In other words, Democrats and progressives are furious not because Sinema shamelessly flip-flopped or put her career ahead of her convictions, but because she wouldn't do so. In the teeth of cruel mockery, open harassment, and the loss of financial and political support, Sinema declined to betray her principles. John F. Kennedy had a term for senators like her. He called them "profiles in courage."

    In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book of that title, JFK told the story of eight senators who exemplified what he called "the most admirable of human virtues — courage." The men he profiled — John Quincy Adams and Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, Sam Houston of Texas, Edmund G. Ross of Kansas, Lucius Lamar of Mississippi, George Norris of Nebraska, and Robert Taft of Ohio — demonstrated their courage in wholly dissimilar ways. Some did so by breaking with their party, others by refusing to switch parties. For some, courage took the form of advocating compromise; others showed their mettle in refusing to yield.

    To pundits and politicos on the left who regard Sinema as public enemy number one, the notion that she should be praised for her courage is absurd and offensive. Yet many of them had no trouble extolling Senator Mitt Romney when the Utah Republican voted in 2020 to convict Trump of abuse of power, becoming the first senator in history to support the removal of a president of his own party. For his vote, Romney was condemned and despised by countless Republicans, who showered him with as much rage as is now being hurled at Sinema from Democrats. Last year, the John F. Kennedy Library bestowed a Profile in Courage Award on Romney for his integrity and backbone. It ought to do the same for Sinema.

    That would cause a lot of spit takes in Cambridge. Probably won't happen.

    Needless to say, my state's Senators, Hassan and Shaheen, certainly deserve to appear in the next edition of Profiles in Cowardly Partisan Hackery.


  • Nudge nudge wink wink. Veronique de Rugy has some advice for those who nudge. To Politicians: We Don't Need Your Help Making Good Decisions

    Does anyone truly believe that our government — which consistently creates monopoly privileges for companies with its own cronyism — can be trusted to ensure that private markets remain competitive? Apparently so. Consider the resurgence of antitrust efforts against "Big Tech." If history is our guide, going after disfavored companies will result in less competition, not more, along with fewer choices and higher prices for you and me.

    Take the American Innovation and Choice Online Act recently approved by a Senate panel. This bill would block a handful of tech companies like Amazon and Apple from favoring their own products and services over those of competitors who also use these platforms. For instance, independent merchants who sell on Amazon claim to be punished if they sell their products for less on their own websites or on other sites like Walmart's or Target's.

    I recently ordered an Arduino Starter Kit from Amazon. It came next day.

    (Yes, an old man thinking about pursuing a new hobby. Laugh it up, kids.)

    But your "public servants" are thinking about screwing up the company that provides that kind of service? Just show me where I can vote against them.

    [Classical headline reference explained here if necessary.]


  • About time someone started asking such questions. David French asks the unaskable: What if Civil Rights Laws Mean What They Say? A lengthy but worthwhile excerpt:

    I want to start by doing something that might seem boring, but it’s important. I’m going to quote statutes and a constitutional provision. Here is Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964:

    No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. (Emphasis added.)

    Here’s the relevant portion of 42 U.S.C. Section 1983:

    Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress. (Emphasis added.)

    I know that I have a lot of lawyer readers, but even the non-lawyers can understand plain English. Beginning shortly after the Civil War and extending to the statutes that dealt a decisive blow to Jim Crow and legalized southern segregation, American law has attempted to codify principles that are vital to the functioning of a free, pluralistic, multiethnic society—citizens enjoy legal equality, including on the basis of race, and the law should provide substantial and effective mechanisms for enforcing those principles of equality and nondiscrimination. 

    Yet for generations American courts have looked at those statutes, pondered them, and responded with a resounding, “Nope!” 

    "Nope" insofar as civil rights law barring "affirmative action" policies. David does a fantastic job of demolishing the pro-AA arguments to be argued in front of SCOTUS. He also includes a graphic tweet that really illuminates:

    … and I don't mind at all that it shows my alma mater in a favorable light. Caltech was anti-racist before it was cool.


  • Giving a needed label to a powerful concept. Astral Codex Ten makes the case for Bounded Distrust

    Suppose you're a liberal who doesn't trust FOX News. One day you're at the airport, waiting for a plane, ambiently watching the TV at the gate. It's FOX News, and they're saying that a mass shooter just shot twenty people in Yankee Stadium. There’s live footage from the stadium with lots of people running and screaming.

    Do you believe this?

    I'm a liberal who doesn't trust FOX News, and sure, I believe it. The level on which FOX News is bad isn't the level where they invent mass shootings that never happened. They wouldn't use deepfakes or staged actors to fake something and then call it "live footage". That would go way beyond anything FOX had done before. Liberals might say things like "You can't trust FOX News on anything, they are 100% total liars", but realistically we still trust them quite a lot on stuff like this.

    Myself, I don't accept the label "liberal" unless prefixed by the adjective "classical". But AC10 makes the point that even the most biased news source can be trusted some of the time, on some matters. It's worth adjusting your own internal bullshit detectors on multidimensional criteria.

    But click through and RTWT, to see AC10 applying this insight the thorny questions of whether Abe Lincoln was into Marxism, whether immigrants commit disproportionate amounts of Swedish crime, and whether Ivermectin works.


  • School choice week is winding up… and my state gets some proper respect from Cato: New Choices for New Hampshire

    Although the Granite State is 46th in square miles and 40th in population, its residents enjoy an outsized amount of overall freedom as evidenced by two decades of consistently being ranked either number 1 or number 2 on Cato’s annual Freedom in the 50 States Index. Last year, New Hampshire continued that legacy of freedom with creation of the Education Freedom Account Program.

    New Hampshire’s new education savings account (ESA) program allows families to receive education funds that would otherwise be spent on public schools. These funds can then be used flexibly for education‐related expenses such as tuition, books, and tutoring. The amount averages to around $4,600 per child, with eligibility limited to families earning less than or equal to 300% of the federal poverty line, or $83,250 for a family of four.

    Cato looks at the state of play and the (somewhat cloudy) legislative future.


  • And finally, imagine a picture of me punching the air here.

    Wordle 223 3/6
    
    ⬜⬜⬜🟨🟨
    🟨🟩⬜⬜⬜
    🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩
    


Last Modified 2022-02-22 4:22 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2022-01-27

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • The road to serfdom is mostly potholes. Elizabeth Nolan Brown looks at the latest dreadful legislation, the "America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing Pre-Eminence in Technology and Economic Strength" bill. And she judges If This Is How America COMPETES, We’re Going to Lose.

    The America COMPETES Act of 2022 is a sprawling mess of spending and nonsense. House Democrats are rallying behind a 2,912-page bill that's allegedly concerned with addressing supply chain issues and keeping U.S. manufacturing and technology competitive. But like anything Democrats do these days, the bill can't simply address one main issue or a few critical needs. Instead, it tries to insert the government into every aspect of all sorts of industries and markets and pretend that bureaucrats can solve complex social and cultural issues.

    For instance, this bill addresses everything from "combating sexual harassment in science" to seeing that more science grants go to people with caregiving responsibilities; retention and advancement of women and minorities in science and tech careers; subverting censorship in China; and supporting collective bargaining agreements and union organizing efforts.

    It aims to tackle Chinese fentanyl production, e-commerce platform liability, misinformation in foreign media, global wildlife trafficking, legal conventions in Pacific Island nations, Arctic mammal rescue capabilities, coral research, and the origins of the COVID-19 virus.

    … and more. Much more. ENB does a great job of exposing the sheer scattershot randomness of the bill, almost certainly larded up to win the support of selected Congresscritters. Over at the Technology Liberation Front, Adam Thierer detects an overriding theme: it's The Most Corporatist & Wasteful Industrial Policy Ever. (And that's saying something.)

    As far as industrial policy measures go, the COMPETES Act is one of the most ambitious and expensive central planning efforts in American history. It represents the triumph of top-down, corporatist, techno-mercantilist thinking over a more sensible innovation policy rooted in bottom-up competition, entrepreneurialism, private investment, and free trade.

    It's all very reminiscent of the Soviet Union's Five Year Plans. More from Theirer:

    Some advocates of the COMPETES Act label it a “competitiveness bill” or an “innovation initiative.” It takes a great deal of hubris to pretend that that the economy is just a giant machine to be manipulated and that policymakers can easily “dial in” the desired innovation results through massive bills and expanded bureaucracy.

    Lawmakers and bureaucrats are not going to allocate capital more efficiently than private innovators and investors. Nor are they going to be able to “shore up supply chains” or create tech hubs in every city just by sprinkling a little magical industrial policy pixie dust thinly across the entire nation.

    We should not try to compete with China by becoming China. Nor do we need to. Markets and supply chains recover from setbacks faster than governments can. This week, the White House reiterated its support for industrial policy efforts to strengthen supply chains and extend subsidies to the semiconductors industry. But, assuming the COMPETES Act passes, it’ll take years to get all the planning and spending going. When government spins those proverbial dials, it does so very slowly and extremely inefficiently. Meanwhile, the same day the White House was making these announcements, it was also touting that $80 billion in private investment has been announced by the US semiconductor industry recently. Just last week, Intel announced it plans to invest at least $20 billion in two new chip-making facilities in Ohio. Scott Lincicome and Ilana Blumsack have documented the many other private initiatives underway by the semiconductor industry to expand domestic manufacturing capacity, as well as efforts by foreign firms like Samsung to invest here to take advantage of our skilled workforce and vibrant capital market. This is all happening despite the fact that Congress is still debating an industrial policy measure that may end up being too bloated to even achieve successful passage this session.

    Hayek is spinning in his grave, I assume.


  • More people noticing thuggery's easy victory. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education: Dartmouth forced Andy Ngo’s event to go online only

    In a letter to Dartmouth College’s administration today, FIRE demanded to know why administrators unilaterally canceled an in-person appearance by conservative journalist Andy Ngo and activist Gabriel Nadales. The college required the event to be held online-only, citing “information” from law enforcement after apparent threats of violence. But it’s unclear what “information” justified the change (the college has said there was no “bomb threat” and that law enforcement sweeps of the venue weren’t in response to “specific information”) or why security would not have been able to handle anticipated protests — especially given that those protesters never appeared.

    And John Hinderaker at Power Line (who's a Dartmouth alum, as are his co-bloggers, although I don't hold that against them) weighs in: Antifa Wins at Dartmouth

    It was a big win for Antifa. One of the ironies is that it was predictable that no fascists would actually show up to try to shut down the event; or, at most, a bare handful. In fact, “There was no visible presence of protestors Thursday night.” So all it took was a few tweets with empty threats of violence to nullify Dartmouth students’ right to hear Andy Ngo talk–ironically–about political extremism.

    Dartmouth administration should admit it screwed up; apologize to the event organizers and Andy Ngo; offer to reschedule the event at Dartmouth's expense; maybe fire the folks responsible for the kowtow to threatened thuggery.

    That probably won't happen, but it's nice to dream.


  • Longest column ever? James Freeman has some thoughts on The Folly of Commie Radio The Absurdity of National Public Radio

    In an age of media abundance, U.S. taxpayers are for some reason being forced to fund a news outlet that’s at least as irresponsible as its private competitors. National Public Radio has spent much of the last week trying to overturn traditional standards of journalism in the service of a politically correct narrative. For the purpose of smearing a conservative Supreme Court Justice, the state-sponsored broadcaster now maintains that anonymous sources trump the subjects of a story speaking on the record—even when the anonymous sources don’t even appear to have witnessed any relevant events.

    What follows is the attempted Nina Totenberg smearing of Justice Neil Gorsuch, who obviously wants to kill Justice Sonia Sotomayor via Covid cooties.


  • And this just in… Mike Gonzalez (in an NRPlus article) has a modest suggestion: Fire Public Broadcasting.

    Public broadcasting ceased long ago to reflect the views of the American public. Today, in fact, it serves coastal elites who disdain the public. Its most recent controversy is but the latest reminder of its insufferable toadyism toward Acela-corridor views — and why it should finally be weaned from the taxpayer’s dime.

    Yes, I know that NPR and PBS claim that the percentage of their budget that is borne by the taxpayer — grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and “federal agencies and departments” — is in the single digits. That is misleading, as it fails to account for local radio affiliates that get gobs of taxpayer money. But let’s take them at their word. In that case, it shouldn’t be hit so hard if we tell public broadcasting to just rely on its membership model and sponsors.

    Asking conservative Americans to contribute to public broadcasting’s coffers is, on the other hand, a form of despotism. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, “to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.” The dead white man from Virginia may no longer be quoted by the public broadcasters, but he still wrote the Declaration of Independence.

    If the GOP takes control of Congress next year, defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be a worthy goal.

    Mike mentions that "local [NPR] radio affiliates … get gobs of taxpayer money". Just as a data point, New Hampshire Public Radio claims that it "does not receive any regular direct funding from local, state or federal governments." Which makes me wonder how much is concealed by those adjectives "regular" and "direct", but that's cynical me.

God Emperor of Dune

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Number four down on my "Reread/read Frank Herbert's Dune series" project. And it's a mark of my particular psychological quirk that makes me go on, because it's no fun at all for me.

One excuse: it's been sitting on various bookshelves of mine since I got it (from Science Fiction Book Club) back in 1981 or so. I bought it, I really should read it.

So far this has outweighed the obvious counterarguments: (1) That is a literal sunk cost fallacy. Also literally: (2) life's too short.

But anyway.

It's set on Arrakis, about 3500 years after the previous book. The planet has been largely terraformed with open water and lush vegetation. Sandworms are pretty much extinct. Except for Leto II; his hideous transformation (begun in the previous book) has made him into a human/sandworm/sandtrout mixture. Not very big as sandworms go: a mere seven meters long, two meters in diameter, massing about six tons. With a "Atreides face", hands and arms "still quite recognizable as human", but legs and feet atrophied into flippers. And he gets around the planet in his "Royal Cart". He's set himself up not just as Emperor of the known universe, but also as a god. (Really. The title is not kidding.)

Like his father, Paul, Leto II has the gift/burden of precognition, combined with the collective consciousness of his ancestors bubbling around his nervous system. His plan is to set mankind on the "Golden Path", avoiding its otherwise inevitable self-destruction. This involves a certain amount of ruthlessness and spouting of oracular bullshit. And (as in the previous books) a string of Duncan Idaho "gholas", manufactured from the original genetic material by the Tleilaxu. (Leto II keeps killing off the Duncans when they get too obstreperous.)

As in the series' previous entries, there are long stretches of text where characters yak pretentiously/portentously at each other. ("You dread the imperialism of consciousness, and you are right to fear it," Leto II says to his majordomo at one point. Really? And there's page after page of stuff like that.)

But occasionally things actually happen, including some apocalyptic ultraviolence at the very end. It's a page-turner, but not in the "what happens next?" sense; more like the "gotta trudge through this" sense.

URLs du Jour

2022-01-26

  • Pretend I have a regifting joke here. A funny one. Mr. Ramirez draws it: A fruitcake fell from the tree.

    [Plop]

    Background, if necessary, here. RFKJr has since apologized for the Anne Frank thing, but not for being a fruitcake.


  • It's not just for fruitcakes any more. Specifically, wondering if there could be A Covid Origin Conspiracy? That's from Nicholas Wade, onetime science writer for the New York Times, Science, and Nature, now persona non grata for heretical views. This is in City Journal:

    From almost the moment the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in the city of Wuhan, the medical-research establishment in Washington and London insisted that the virus had emerged naturally. Only conspiracy theorists, they said, would give credence to the idea that the virus had escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

    Now a string of unearthed emails—the most recent being a batch viewed by the House Oversight and Reform Committee and referred to in its January 11, 2022 letter—is making it seem increasingly likely that there was, in fact, a conspiracy, its aim being to suppress the notion that the virus had emerged from research funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), headed by Anthony Fauci. The latest emails don’t prove such a conspiracy, but they make it more plausible, for two reasons: because the expert virologists therein present such a strong case for thinking that the virus had lab-made features and because of the wholly political reaction to this bombshell on the part of Francis Collins, then-director of the National Institutes of Health.

    I have no dog in this fight. I don't even have a bat in this fight. But the lack of transparency and organized vituperative pushback on the lab-leak scenario from politicized scientists really smells bad.

    (I was going to add "like spoiled fruitcake", but I'm not sure fruitcake can spoil.)


  • It's not the worst possible plan, but… Rachel Bovard is pretty disgusted, and rightly so: Republicans Plan To Win Back The Senate, Then Do Nothing, Per Usual.

    The 2022 agenda for House Republicans may be out of touch with the current political moment, but at least they can say they’re trying. Over on the other side of the Capitol, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the leader of the Senate’s Republican conference, has announced he’s not even putting out an agenda for 2022.

    According to reporting by Axios last month, McConnell told a room full of donors, lobbyists, and in-cycle senators that he would not be putting forward an agenda outlining the priorities for his conference should Senate Republicans regain a majority in 2022. When asked by CNN last week what the GOP agenda would be in a potential majority, McConnell responded, “That is a very good question and I’ll let you know when we take it back.” He went on, “This midterm election will be a report card on the performance of this entire Democratic government, the president, the House, and the Senate.”

    Ms. Bovard does a pretty good job of describing McConnell's probable reasoning, summed up the adage “Never interfere with an enemy when he’s in the process of destroying himself."

    Also, any concrete proposals would give Democrats something to lie about. More than they already do. For example, any effort to bring fiscal sanity to entitlement programs would be an excuse for wall-to-wall TV commercials showing McConnell pushing grandma off a cliff in her wheelchair.

    And finally, Biden (or Kamala, if it comes to that) would just veto everything anyway.


  • Scapegoating is the next-to-last refuge of a scoundrel. The nearly-as-indispensible-as-Geraghty Elizabeth Nolan Brown notes something we should have seen coming about a year ago: Biden Blames Government's Economic Failures on Big Business

    Biden continues to scapegoat American businesses for government-created problems. On Monday, President Joe Biden gave a public address during a meeting with his Competition Council, discussing an executive order he issued last July. Why now? Because inflation keeps getting worse, and the Biden administration needs somewhere to lay the blame.

    Inflation has been hitting its highest levels in decades. In late December, for instance, gas prices were up 51 percent, beef prices up 20 percent, and furniture prices up 11 percent. Food prices are up. Clothing prices are up. Energy prices are up. Used car prices are up. Booze prices are up. And the list goes on.

    As ENB notes, the Washington Post got some Democrats to (anonymously) say the quiet part out loud:

    In November and December, at least four Democratic polling experts told senior White House officials that they needed to find a new approach as public frustration over price hikes became widespread and highly damaging to Biden's popularity, according to three people with knowledge of the private conversations.

    "What we said is, 'You need a villain or an explanation for this. If you don't provide one, voters will fill one in. The right is providing an explanation, which is that you're spending too much,'" one Democratic pollster who, like the others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to reflect private conversations, told The Washington Post. "That point finally became convincing to people in the White House."

    Emphasis added, as if I needed to.


  • Distractions are good for juicing your poll numbers too. And Mr. Putin seems to want to provide one. A big one. But Matt Taibbi suggests: Let’s Not Have a War. (Amazingly, "neocon" is absent from the article.)

    Joe Biden last week said the American response in Ukraine would be proportional to Vladimir Putin’s actions. “It depends,” the president posited, thoughts drifting like blobs in a lava lamp. “It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion…”

    Alarms sounded all over Washington. The rip in the national political illusion was so severe, Republicans and Democrats were forced to come out agreeing, leaping into each other’s arms in panic. Secretary of State Tony Blinken, who increasingly looks like a man about to miss a historically important free throw, said of a potential Russian invasion, “We can make crystal clear the stark consequences of that choice.” Republican Senator Ted Cruz said Biden “shocked the world by giving Putin a green light to invade Ukraine.” The National Security Council issued a statement through Jen Psaki that any Russian move into Ukraine would be “met with a swift, severe, and united response.”

    In a later press conference, Biden explained he had to cut things short because, “You guys will ask me all about Russia.” He appears days from pulling his pants down to show reporters the electrodes White House chief of staff Ron Klain has probably attached to his testicles by now.

    You might think that Taibbi's knee-jerk antiwar attitude is misguided. But apply Obama's insight about President Wheezy; is he really the guy you want making the call about sending American soldiers into peril?

Art!

While walking the dog at the University Near Here, I was impressed enough with the decorated elevator shaft at Paul Arts to pull out my phone and take a picture:

[whoa]

Click for the full-res version on Google Drive!

That is an impressive amount of symbolism. I especially like the Department of Homeland Security logo surrounded by the Amazon smileys.

Apparently the work has been there a few months, but it was new to me. (I don't get to UNH as much as I used to.) I was really hoping this was a student project, but (sigh) no, it's the product of professional artist Michael Menchaca. So I assume UNH shoveled a bunch of cash in his direction. More Mechaca info (and video) here (Trigger warning: tedious political content may spoil your enjoyment of the mural.)


Last Modified 2022-01-26 10:11 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2022-01-25

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Saying no to Ngo. Andy Ngo writes on the latest defeat for free expression in the NYPost: Antifa win again as Dartmouth cancels my event on far-left violence. Excerpt:

    About a week prior to the scheduled event, the group Northeast Antifa published a disturbing flyer featuring a photograph of my bloodied face from when an Antifa mob beat me in 2019 in Portland, Ore. I was hospitalized for a brain hemorrhage from that assault and robbery.

    “Anti-fascists from all over New England will be mobilizing January 20th, 2022 at Dartmouth College to disrupt and prevent fascist propagandists like Andy Ngo from normalizing their reactionary beliefs on college campuses in the Northeast,” tweeted the group. It instructed fellow comrades to “wear black” to hide their identities and avoid future prosecution.

    On Instagram, the group threatened me directly. “This is to Andy Ngo himself: when you f–k with us you are not f–king with college students,” it wrote. “When you enter our home you start playing by our rules, not yours. New England is anti-fascist, and we will hold that line until death.”

    Hiding behind a wall of bureaucratic bafflegab, Dartmouth kowtowed to the "antifa" mob's threats.

    And as near as Google can tell, the Post is the only media outlet outside New Hampshire where this disgraceful incident is mentioned.


  • And for more on that… Chloe Ezzo, Vice President of the Dartmouth College Republicans writes at the College Fix: Dartmouth shut down my campus event featuring Andy Ngo — then blamed me for it.

    Last Thursday, Dartmouth College administrators shut down an event I was co-hosting featuring journalist Andy Ngo, and then turned around and blamed me for it.

    Oddly, nowhere in the administrators’ list of excuses for effectively canceling the “Extremism in America” panel discussion two hours before it was slated to begin is blame for those who threatened violence against our event.

    Instead, campus leaders said that me and my co-organizer had poor communication skills which, coupled with safety concerns, forced them to call it off.

    Dartmouth administrators used bogus criticisms of College Republicans' efforts in trying to bring off the event, but (again, as near as I can tell) had no criticism whatsoever of the thugs threatening violence.


  • A novel legislative concept: fixing something that is broken. Joe Lancaster writes about that at Reason: The Democrats' Voting Bill Is Dead, but Electoral Reform Isn't

    Lawmakers in both the House and the Senate are considering modifications to the Electoral Count Act, an 1887 law that details when and how Congress counts and certifies the votes cast by presidential electors. The act dictates that the president of the Senate (the U.S. vice president) reads out the votes from each state, which Congress then counts before certifying the winner. While the vice president's role seems largely ceremonial, with no ability to alter an election's outcome, the act does not say so explicitly. Former President Donald Trump and his acolytes seized upon this vagueness when they tried to pressure then–Vice President Mike Pence to either decline to certify the results, or else simply pick a different slate of electors in enough swing states to tip the election to Trump.

    Now, lawmakers from both parties are considering reforms to the Electoral Count Act in both the Senate and the House. CNN reports that six Republican senators are planning talks on the law "with the aim of clarifying the process for counting electoral votes." Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.), a moderate whose opposition helped sink the filibuster reform, told CNN that reforms to the Electoral Count Act could help reduce the type of confusion that ultimately led, in part, to the false hopes that prompted hundreds of Trump supporters to violently storm the Capitol on the day of the election certification vote.

    My deep cynicism causes me to wonder how badly could Congress screw this up? But, hey, maybe not.


  • Which is why educrats hate it so. Drew Cline of the Josiah Bartlett Center explains Why school choice is the most powerful education reform. Starting off with a comparison that should have people rethinking their priors:

    As School Choice Week kicks off, it’s worth considering why there’s no such thing as Grocery Choice Week. Or Clothing Choice Week. Or Home Choice Week.

    When it comes to the basic necessities of life — food, clothing and shelter — Americans have the freedom to choose from among whatever options the market provides. (Government limits housing choices, but not as much as it limits K-12 education choices.)

    Education is a service provided by state and local governments, so of course it’s more limited, one might argue. But why is it provided by government, as opposed to funded by government?

    Government finances or subsidizes some goods and services — food (through food stamps), medical care (through Medicaid and Medicare), higher education (through Pell Grants & other aid) — without providing the service itself. It’s perfectly feasible to do the same with K-12 education. 

    It's been interesting to see the school choice debate over the years. Years back, apologists for government schools were wont to proclaim their devotion to "our children". That's become untenable, due to their manifest overall lousiness in educating "our children", and these days you're much more likely to hear them demand "support" (i.e., tax money) for "our public schools" (i.e., government schools). It's all about propping up the institution, rather than helping (or even pretending to help) the kids.

    I'm all over the spectrum on many issues, but I confess to pure libertarian radicalism on education. Similar to the wall of separation between church and state (and for similar reasons), we should demand the separation of school and state. Yeah, I've pretty much gone full John Taylor Gatto.


  • Just one problem? Matt Lutz at Persuasion writes on The Problem With “Systemic Racism”.

    In “The Imaginary Invalid,” a play written by the French satirist Molière, a doctor is asked why opium makes people fall asleep. The doctor replies that “there is a dormitive virtue in it, whose nature it is to make the senses drowsy.” In other words, opium makes people fall asleep because it has the power to make people fall asleep. That joke has since become a favorite among philosophers and historians of science because it is a wonderful example of an explanation that doesn’t explain. Rather than provide an understanding of why opium causes sleepiness, it’s a tautology dressed up in jargon.

    These days, in discussions of race, the term “systemic racism” is everywhere. In the bad old days, the theory goes, racism was personal, a matter of individual racial animus. Personal racism was easy to identify and, thus, easy to stamp out, or at least to drive underground. Why, then, do racial inequalities persist? Believers in systemic racism would say that disparities today are not primarily caused by the racism of people, but by the racism of systems. We have a society that is racist, even if the people in it are not personally racist.

    But what is systemic racism? NAACP President Derrick Johnson defines it as “systems and structures that have procedures or processes that disadvantages [sic] African Americans.” Other definitions are similar: systemic racism is the collective structural features of society that give rise to racial inequalities. But the claim that racial disparities are caused by systemic racism is another tautology dressed up in jargon. What is it about society that creates racial disadvantages? There’s systemic racism in it, whose nature is to make society racially unequal. It’s an explanation that only Molière’s doctor could love.

    Lutz argues that "systemic racism" as a concept is fundamentally counterproductive to actually revealing the causes of racial disparities. And I buy that.


  • The WSJ goes out of its way to avoid saying "crap" in big type. I know this because the URL of Andy Kessler's op-ed contains those four letters, but the online headline is "90% of Everything Is . . . Take a Guess".

    (The print edition headline is simply "90% of Everything Is . . .")

    But anyway, Andy's column applies Sturgeon's Law to venture capital. Arising in Andy's discussion with Marc Andreessen:

    Mr. Andreessen starts with the replication crisis in scientific studies, especially in psychology—over half of studies can’t be replicated. I suggest “studies show” are the two most dangerous words in the English language. Mr. Andreessen quickly adds, “The corollary is ‘experts say.’ ”

    Mr. Andreessen’s friend in the scientific research world told him about a historical study of heart and lung drugs that were approved but were not effective. Mr. Andreessen learned that “one of the things you do to counter a replication crisis is a ‘preregistration of hypothesis’—instead of pretending after the fact that you have a hypothesis, that you’re cherry-picking data to prove.” The result of this preregistration? There were fewer new drugs approved because researchers could no longer fudge the data. “Of course, what this implies is that most drugs that are already on the market today probably don’t work.” His friend agreed and said forget 50%, it’s 90% of research that is bad to begin with.

    Then Mr. Andreessen says, “I had heard of this, aha, Sturgeon’s law!” Theodore Sturgeon (1918-85) was a science-fiction author annoyed that people were saying all sci-fi was bad and wanted to stand up for the 10% that was good, saying, “90% of everything is crap.” Mr. Andreessen says “90% of music is crap.” The same is true of “paintings, writing, TV shows and movies.” I would add ideas, stocks, opinions, politicians—the list goes on.

    Yes, the WSJ will let you say "crap" in the body of your article, just not the headline.

    Right now, I'm really feeling my brain trying to avoid applying Sturgeon's Law to this blog.

URLs du Jour

2022-01-24

  • If it weren't for double standards… An I-have-the-screenshots tweet about the increasingly worthless ACLU. (See yesterday's post.)

    Send your suggestions for ACLU-NH name changes to … whoa, what I was about to type is an actual valid address. Seriously, don't bother Karen with smart-assery.


  • Brain ironing and folding services provided at taxpayer expense. Conn Carroll writes at the Washington Examiner about stuff that isn't being taught in the schools, and if it is, we'll just yank that evidence off the web: Twenty-one days to brainwash your child.

    The parents of Farmington Hills, Michigan (a suburb 25 miles outside of downtown Detroit), were none too pleased to discover recently that their school board was forcing students to take a “21-Day Equity Challenge” as part of the district’s "diversity, equity, and inclusion" curriculum.

    Parents brought their concerns to a public school board meeting last week, but the school board members were not responsive to their objections.

    "At some point, we have to say enough is enough and stop the indoctrination and actually let kids learn the things they are meant to learn," one unidentified protester said at the meeting.

    The school board has since removed the 21-Day Equity Challenge curriculum from its website, but school board members said they would continue using the program.

    Apparently (at least, apparent from a few seconds of Googling) the "21-Day Equity Challenge" is a creature of United Way. It was removed from the web in Farmington Hills, but you can get the general idea (and even sign up to get brainwashed yourself!) at the Central Iowa branch here.


  • For the record, Pun Salad is strongly against poet murder. Kevin D. Williamson (NRPLUS) writes on last year's poetry presentation at the Biden inauguration from Amanda Gorman:

    I have some good news for Amanda Gorman: Americans don’t murder our poets.

    Gorman, who embarked on her splendid career as a poet of the oppressed while studying at a $50,000-a-year private school in Santa Monica, Calif., and then carried the work on to Harvard with the financial support of the Milken Family Foundation, was named the nation’s first “youth poet laureate,” and read a poem, “The Hill We Climb,” at Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration.

    It is not a very good poem, but Americans are not a very poetic people.

    Gorman writes in the New York Times (as all the downtrodden do) that she almost declined the invitation to recite her work at the inauguration, fearing for her physical safety. Friends advised her to buy a bulletproof vest. “My mom had us crouch in our living room so that she could practice shielding my body from bullets,” she writes. “A loved one warned me to ‘be ready to die.’”

    In the event, nothing happened.

    That’s how it usually goes.

    KDW goes through the (surprisingly brief) history of inaugural poetry, assassination attempts, And (as a bonus) quotes from T. S. Eliot's poem "The Difficulties of a Statesman":

    O mother
    What shall I cry?
    We demand a committee, a representative committee, a committee of investigation
    RESIGN RESIGN RESIGN

    I recommend that be read at the next inauguration. (I also recommend you become an NRPLUS subscriber.)


  • Mundo paparazzi mi amore chicka ferdy parasol. The kids at Granite Grok like calling our Governor "Sun King". Ed Mosca looks at a Washington Examiner interview with the Guv, where he explains his reasoning for not running for the US Senate seat currently occupied by Maggie Hassan: Sununu Was Both Right And Wrong About Mitch And The Senate-GOP. From the interview:

    […] Sununu was “bothered” by Republicans’ seeming inability to answer this question: “I said, ‘OK, so if we’re going to get stuff done if we win the White House back, why didn’t you do it in 2017 and 2018?’” How did the Republicans Sununu spoke with answer his challenge? “Crickets. Yeah, crickets,” the governor said. “They had no answer.”

    Ed's explanation:

    The answer, OF COURSE, is that Paul Ryan, Mitch and their ilk did NOT support Trump’s America-First agenda. That is why virtually nothing got done by Congress except … wait for it, wait for it … BUSINESS TAX CUTS … during Trump’s first two years.

    There's (of course) SCOTUS justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett.

    Tip: Don't try to translate our classical headline reference.


  • Don't join cults. David French has an interesting take on this tweet:

    David looks at The Cult of Ideology vs. The Cult of Personality

    […] Hamilton’s tweet captures something that Drum’s chart doesn’t—the nature of radicalization on the right. Any fair reading of the right’s ideology would include the phrase “deeply confused.” After all, where does disproportionate resistance to vaccines come from? That wasn’t even on the right-wing radar before 2020, and to the extent that conservatives cared, they mainly saw it as a product of the crunchy, green weird left, not the populist right. 

    Right-wing ideology is so up for grabs that it’s hard to know “the right’s” position on everything from the size and role of government, the First Amendment (for example, it’s somewhat fashionable now for Republican governors to sign obviously unconstitutional bills regulating corporate speech), and foreign policy. After all, the right’s top cable host is now openly echoing the Kremlin’s line in its looming conflict with Ukraine.

    The right’s cult is different. Hamilton calls it a cult of personality. That can imply “Trump,” but I think it’s deeper (and Hamilton notes that it’s deeper). It’s a cult of a certain type of personality, one that is relentlessly, personally, and often punitively aggressive. The aggression is mandatory. The ideology is malleable.

    … explaining a lot about what's happened (see above item) to a number of Granite Grok posters.

URLs du Jour

2022-01-23

  • Funny money. Mr. Ramirez has little patience with delusional nonsense from either side:

    [Not legal tender either]


  • Dartmouth lies. Specifically, in the first full sentence of their "Policy Statement" on Freedom of Expression and Dissent.

    Freedom of expression and dissent is protected by Dartmouth regulations.

    Nope.

    Continuing the thread from yesterday, Granite Grok Skip has posted three more items (maybe more by the time you read this):

    From that last post, a quote from Mackey's statement:

    For Dartmouth to claim that they “protected” free speech is absurd. In reality, they allowed the Dartmouth Anarchists and other outside ANTIFA groups to make threats of violence and get exactly what they wanted. By forcing us to go virtual on such short notice (with only one laptop in the entire building to use), they seriously disrupted our event, embarrassed our organization, and created a roadmap for derailing our future activities. The Dartmouth administration capitulated to threats from domestic terrorists, and it is shameful.

    Skip reproduces some, um, material from "Dartmouth Anarchists" and "Northeast Antifa", and it's as bad as you might imagine. Sample, in response to someone who took exception to threats of violence:

    [I]f you think being racist, sexist, bootlicking, sacks of garbage is a valid "view" then absolutely. If you're smart enough to believe otherwise, this is just trash being dealt with.

    Dehumanizing rhetoric is SOP for totalitarians.

    Note: Other than the Boston Herald reproducing the NHJournal article we linked to yesterday, I can't find any coverage of this disgraceful incident in any mainstream media outlet at all.


  • ACLU now stands for "Americans Can't Look at Us". As noted by Ann Althouse, a quote from the ACLU's objection to legislative efforts to find out what's being taught in government schools: "Curriculum transparency bills are just thinly veiled attempts at chilling teachers and students from learning and talking about race and gender in schools.".

    She's quoting from an article in Inquire by Zaid Jilani: The ACLU Suddenly Reverses Its Support For Transparency. Yes, the national ACLU is coming out against proposed state legislation that "would require more transparency in school curricula and materials."

    Jilani notes that the legislation proposals target "taxpayer-backed government entities that we are compelled by law to send our kids to, with few alternatives". And the ACLU drops its usual skepticism toward government secrecy because…?

    My guess is that it's not really a reversal, it's probably just ideology-driven hypocrisy. For example, Jilani notes that, back in 2018, the ACLU's Kentucky branch demanded that local schools in that state cough up "policies and curriculum for 'Bible Literacy' courses." To make sure nothing unconstitutional was going on.

    Bottom paragraph in Jilani's article:

    In arguing against transparency in the public school system, the ACLU is departing from its traditional mission. As has been written about elsewhere, the ACLU is increasingly becoming more of an activist progressive organization. Among activist progressives, sensitivities about race and gender have often brought them to take positions that are in tension with classical liberal values like freedom of speech, transparency, and equal treatment under the law. Those same sensitivities appear to be trouncing the ACLU’s longstanding principles in this case.

    I encourage the ACLU to embrace its Terry McAuliffe-style arrogance (“I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach”) loudly and consistently.


  • When Uncle Stupid starts dropping cash from helicopters, there will be plenty of people out with buckets. Kyle Smith tells the latest story: Fraudsters cash in as Dems shovel out billions and billions in COVID relief

    If a few billion dollars get carted off by bandits, or chewed into confetti by squirrels, or blown into the nearest river, after a brief chastened look, the Democrats always come back with: “Hey, we think we have a new solution: Spend more money again!” Their latest idea is to upchuck $1.9 trillion (not $2 trillion — they’re not crazy or anything) on yet another COVID relief package.

    They’ve already appropriated some $6 trillion in fighting COVID, though. That’s more than we spent fighting WWII, which cost about $4.1 trillion in inflation-adjusted dollars. Unlike in the ’40s, though, we’ve pretty clearly lost World War C. COVID has killed way more people than Hitler and Hirohito did, and unlike the Third Reich, it’s never going to go away. So while we’re getting used to the Forever Virus, we might as well pause for a sec and wonder: What the heck did all that spending buy us? 

    So far, $100 billion of it has been straight-up stolen, “resulting in the arrest of more than 100 suspects who span the spectrum from individuals to organized groups,” according to a CNBC report. Don’t worry, though, the feds are on the case, and so far they’ve recovered … $2.3 billion. 

    That $100 billion is an Official Government Estimate. Which means that's what they noticed after not looking particularly hard.


  • Blasphemy against the Gospel According to Roger Rabbit! Gary M. Galles has an anticlimactic denouement to a long-running mystery that was never very mysterious: What Killed the Red Cars Is Still Killing Transit.

    In “Who killed L.A.’s streetcars? We all did,” (Los Angeles Times, 11/2/21) Patt Morrison rehearsed a famous question about an iconic Angelino transit institution stretching back more than a century—“Who killed the Red Cars?”

    Amid lengthy movie and conspiracy theory references, the most important point for understanding modern as well as historical transit developments was that “The victim was already dying, losing passengers.” Morrison then cites Martha Bianco’s conclusion that the enemy was “the consumer.” However, she erroneously attributed that fact to “our besotted fondness for our cars.” In fact, our fondness for our cars is based on cold, hard facts that continue to make an overwhelming case for automobiles over mass transit, and show why all the attempts to rescue transit by making it “work better” for Angelinos are doomed.

    Headline reference above explained here. It's still a fun movie.


  • Leaving the obvious for last. Matthew Continetti reveals one more thing Joe Biden doesn't know: Joe Biden Doesn’t Know What You’re Talking About

    President Biden begins his second year in office with a 42 percent average job-approval rating. Republicans hold a one-point lead over Democrats in the congressional generic ballot (and the generic-ballot question often underestimates GOP support). The Gallup organization reports that in the final quarter of 2021 Republicans took a five-point lead in party identification for the first time since 1995. As of this writing, 28 House Democrats have announced their retirements, with more expected to follow. Biden’s agenda is stalled in Congress, the Supreme Court blocked his employer vaccine mandate, the coronavirus pandemic continues, and inflation is higher than at any point in the last 39 years. The country — not to mention the president — could use a reset.

    We’re not getting one. Instead, on January 19, we got Biden’s combative, discursive, and delusional mess of a one-hour-and-51-minute press conference. Among the reasons the occasion was notable — and notorious — was that it forced the White House to clarify later Biden’s comments on not one but two issues: Biden’s ambiguity over America’s response if Russia launches a “minor incursion” into Ukraine, and Biden’s repeated assertion that the Senate’s failure to pass his election-takeover bills throws the legitimacy of the midterm elections into doubt. To watch Biden at the lectern was to experience shock and dismay interspersed with moments of alarm and dark humor. No wonder he hides from the media. It was the worst presidential press conference since Donald Trump stood next to Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in 2018.

    Here's what's going to be amusing between now and November: how many Democrats in close local races will invite President Wheezy (or Vice President Cackles) to campaign for them?

URLs du Jour

2022-01-22

  • Because nothing says "anti-fascist" like shutting down a speaker with threats of violence. A lot of news from that college at the other side of the state. NHJournal told the story on Thursday night (January 20): Dartmouth Cancels Ngo Event in Face of Antifa Threats.

    Dartmouth College administrators canceled an on-campus appearance by conservative journalist Andy Ngo’s Thursday night after a deluge of online threats from Antifa members.

    Ngo, who has built a national reputation covering violent, far-Left protests often given little attention by the mainstream media, was set to appear at an event hosted by the Dartmouth College Republicans and the conservative activists of Turning Point USA.

    New Hampshire Journal was turned away at the door of Moore Hall by Dartmouth security on Thursday evening. The college security officer said the event was changed to be an online appearance, but he would not say why the change was made.

    And a followup yesterday: Free Speech Org to Investigate Dartmouth Cancellation of Ngo Appearance.

    The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) tells NHJournal it has launched an investigation into Dartmouth College’s decision to shut down an appearance by conservative journalist Andy Ngo in the face of threats of violence from Antifa.

    “Threats of violence are never an appropriate response to speech you oppose and must not dictate who may speak, or what may be said, on a college campus. Universities should not reward those who threaten violence by canceling controversial speakers,” said FIRE Program Officer Zach Greenberg.

    The ACLU of New Hampshire, however, is choosing to remain silent.

    Yeah. Looking at the ACLU-NH home page, it seems they're not much concerned with free expression any more. Unless you're a public school teacher lecturing your captive students about their oppressor status.

    Skip at Granite Grok made a disappointing trek up to Hanover to attend the event. Relevant articles there, in chronological order:

    It's not difficult to hold a Turning Point USA event at a University. The University Near Here managed to do it back in 2019; is UNH smarter than Dartmouth?


  • Send in the …. Ah, don't bother, they're here. The NR editors weigh in on The Democrats’ Election-Law Circus.

    The Democrats spent the past two weeks holding a circus. The theme of that circus was that American elections would be illegitimate and reimpose “Jim Crow 2.0” unless Congress passed a radical overhaul changing how elections have been held in this country since the Founding. People who ought to know better, including President Joe Biden and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, argued that American elections are a “rigged game” (Schumer’s term) or “easily could . . . be illegitimate” (Biden’s words) if their proposals did not pass Congress. The next day, after having had time to consider the uproar caused by the president’s remarks, House majority whip Jim Clyburn said he was “absolutely concerned” that without the passage of the proposals, the 2022 elections would not be legitimate. In other words, this was not a one-off statement by Biden during an extended press conference. Rather, there is a deliberate effort under way by Democrats to preemptively sow doubts about the legitimacy of midterm elections they are widely expected to lose.

    These rhetorical assaults on the legitimacy of American democracy are playing with fire. They are only words, but then, Donald Trump’s ongoing attacks on the 2020 election are now only words, too. Given the long history of street mobs and riots on the left, it is dangerous to encourage the belief that the 2022 midterm elections and the 2024 presidential elections, if conducted under state laws and in line with pre-pandemic American election procedures, represent an oppressive theft of democracy justifying radical action in response.

    Democrats deserve to lose big. Unfortunate that I can't say that Republicans deserve to win.


  • Could we have a 'Truth in Labeling' act for proposed legislation? Joe Lancaster takes a look at the latest statist stinkbomb: Bipartisan 'Innovation and Choice Online Act' Would Harm Innovation and Choice

    Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to consider the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA). The bill, sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D–Minn.) and Chuck Grassley (R–Iowa), seeks to criminalize "certain discriminatory conduct" by some online platforms. But in practice, the bill would harm consumers and make simple services more difficult to use.

    The AICOA would make it unlawful for any internet service to "materially restrict or impede the capacity of a business user to access or interoperate…in a manner that would materially harm competition" on the service. Under the legislation, not only would Google searches not automatically display Google Maps results, but iPhones could not come with Apple programs pre-installed. Amazon would not be able to offer free two-day Prime shipping, or even sell its popular, lower-cost AmazonBasics brand of consumer goods.

    The bill is unlikely to have the intended effects on innovation and choice, and is exceedingly likely to do the exact opposite. In a statement released this week, the center-left Progressive Policy Institute argued that the AICOA "could do irreparable harm to the services and products millions of Americans rely on every day." Further, the bill would lead to "reduced innovation" as companies are forced to "obtain regulatory pre-approval with every new product."

    It's truly horrible legislation that will make my online life worse. Yours too.


  • The crony-capitalist Export-Import Bank is searching for more cronies. Veronique de Rugy looks at the latest antics of her bête noire: Ex-Im is Wasteful Enough Abroad

    For years now, the U.S. Export-Import Bank — an under-the-radar agency that provides subsidized loans to foreign firms willing to buy American products — has tried to remain relevant. After a semi-hiatus alongside criticism for functioning as the "Bank of Boeing," Ex-Im convinced the Trump and Biden administrations that it may be a tremendous weapon to fight Chinese influence. While it can do no such thing, Ex-Im is now moving on to something else: extending its domestic influence.

    Ex-Im's grandiose claims shouldn't distract us from its mediocrity. In 2019, Congress handed the agency a seven-year reauthorization and restored a quorum on its board of directors. This allowed Ex-Im to resume work on what it claimed was a $40-billion backlog of U.S. projects. The argument was that during the four prior years, when Ex-Im was mostly dormant, U.S. exporters lost billions of dollars because foreign clients couldn't access preferential loan rates and terms (all backed by American taxpayers). These exports, the tale continued, were ready to roll as soon as the agency was revived.

    Vero goes on to show that by Ex-Im's own numbers it's becoming increasingly unimportant and irrelevant to American companies' international trading. It's not successfully spurring competition with China. Its support for "small business" and "women- and minority-owned businesses" is actually fading.

    It would be nice to have Washington put it on a glide path to extinction (again).


  • Like Pearl Harbor, except with clown cars instead of Japanese Zeros. Jacob Sullum looks at the latest DOJ effort to inflate January 6: The Sedition Indictment Against 11 Oath Keepers Describes a Plot That Was Pitifully Inept and Ineffectual. After noting the relatively minor charges leveled against the vast majority of participants, he looks at the insidious plotting that went on:

    Exactly how prepared they actually were is open to question. Four days before the riot, the Oath Keepers were still trying to figure out what they would do if the bridges across the Potomac River were closed. When Kelly Meggs, head of the group's Florida chapter, posed the question in a Signal chat, the indictment says, "the North Carolina QRF team leader wrote, 'My sources DC working on procuring Boat transportation as we speak.'" Thomas Caldwell, a Virginia Oath Keeper, sent this message to "his contacts":

    Can't believe I just thought of this: how many people either in the militia or not
    (who are still supportive of our efforts to save the Republic) have a boat on a trailer that [could] handle a Potomac crossing? If we had someone standing by at a dock ramp (one near the Pentagon for sure) we could have our Quick Response Team with the heavy weapons standing by, quickly load them and ferry them across the river to our waiting arms.

    The indictment does not say what, if anything, came of that plan. In any event, the "QRF teams" remained at the Comfort Inn in Ballston. The Oath Keepers who went to the Capitol on January 6 evidently did not bring any firearms, although they did have "hard-knuckle tactical gloves, tactical vests, ballistic goggles, radios, chemical sprays, a paracord attachment, fatigues, goggles, scissors, a large stick," and a German Shepherd named Warrior.

    A large stick! Was it a sharp stick?


  • Blowing hot air into a leaky balloon. Glenn Greenwald notes the latest non-separation of powers: Congress's 1/6 Committee Claims Absolute Power as it Investigates Citizens With No Judicial Limits

    In its ongoing attempt to investigate and gather information about private U.S. citizens, the Congressional 1/6 Committee is claiming virtually absolute powers that not even the FBI or other law enforcement agencies enjoy. Indeed, lawyers for the committee have been explicitly arguing that nothing proscribes or limits their authority to obtain data regarding whichever citizens they target and, even more radically, that the checks imposed on the FBI (such as the requirement to obtain judicial authorization for secret subpoenas) do not apply to the committee.

    As we have previously reported and as civil liberties groups have warned, there are serious constitutional doubts about the existence of the committee itself. Under the Constitution and McCarthy-era Supreme Court cases interpreting it, the power to investigate crimes lies with the executive branch, supervised by the judiciary, and not with Congress. Congress does have the power to conduct investigations, but that power is limited to two narrow categories: 1) when doing so is designed to assist in its law-making duties (e.g., directing executives of oil companies to testify when considering new environmental laws) and 2) in order to exert oversight over the executive branch.

    Making a guest appearance in Greenwald's article: Loretta Lynch, most famous for her secret tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton when she was Attorney General, and her department was investigating Hillary's e-mail shenanigans.

URLs du Jour

2022-01-21

[Mandate, Segregate, Subjugate] As promised, the final poster in the D. C. Street Art series. Good job, whoever you are.

  • If the poster seems a little overwrought to you… maybe you should check out the recent polling cited in the Elizabeth Nolan Brown piece we linked to yesterday; it's from Rasmussen: Democratic Voters Support Harsh Measures Against Unvaccinated. A couple of amazing results:

    – Nearly half (48%) of Democratic voters think federal and state governments should be able to fine or imprison individuals who publicly question the efficacy of the existing COVID-19 vaccines on social media, television, radio, or in online or digital publications. Only 27% of all voters – including just 14% of Republicans and 18% of unaffiliated voters – favor criminal punishment of vaccine critics.

    – Forty-five percent (45%) of Democrats would favor governments requiring citizens to temporarily live in designated facilities or locations if they refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Such a policy would be opposed by a strong majority (71%) of all voters, with 78% of Republicans and 64% of unaffiliated voters saying they would Strongly Oppose putting the unvaccinated in “designated facilities.”

    This is the sort of thing ENB means when she notes creeping fascism an "illiberal value shift" in this country and worldwide.


  • And fails to accept responsibility for things he should. Speaking of Elizabeth Nolan Brown, her "roundup" for yesterday reveals: Biden Takes Credit for Things He Shouldn’t at Marathon Wednesday Press Conference

    Dubious claims from President Joe Biden's press conference. In a televised press conference yesterday, the president talked about a wide-ranging set of issues, from the failure of Democrats' voting bill to America's withdrawal from Afghanistan to his own mental fitness. Over the course of the nearly two-hour event (which you can watch in full here, if you're a masochist), Biden spewed a lot of his typical half-truths and exaggerations. Fact-checkers have taken Biden to task for comments he made about the pandemic, economic growth, and other subjects.

    For instance, Biden made the dubious claims that his "Build Back Better" plan wouldn't "raise a single penny in taxes on people making under $400,000 a year"—a proposition that folks at the Tax Foundation dispute—and that it would cut the deficit. However, the Congressional Budget Office says the version passed by the House of Representatives would actually raise the deficit by $158 billion over 10 years.

    ENB is even-handed; she likes the Afghanistan withdrawal a lot better than I; it was a poorly-managed debacle that sent a message that America is a fickle ally.


  • "Normalcy." You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Historian Tevi Troy takes to the Discourse site to look at another broken promise: Presidential Rhetoric and the Return to Normalcy

    President Joe Biden recently used surprisingly incendiary language in advocating for his voting bill, asking, “Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?” This language generated a great deal of blowback, with even mainstream media figures and prominent Democrats typically loath to criticize Biden wondering if he went too far.

    It is certainly true that Biden’s comparison of racist historical figures with his current opponents was outrageous and offensive. But the primary reason Biden’s statement was so surprising was that it was by far the most flagrant example of the president breaking his “return to normalcy” promise.

    Throughout his campaign, and in the early stages of his presidency, Biden sold himself as a unifier who could bring Americans together after the elevated partisan discord of the last few years. In his inaugural address, for example, he said, “We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature. For without unity there is no peace, only bitterness and fury. No progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward.” In that same address, Biden promised to “be a president for all Americans. I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.” Calling people with whom you disagree “Bull Connor” and “Jefferson Davis” seems contrary to the concept of fighting hard for those who did not support you.

    Of course, it could be that Biden—I think I've said this before—will simply read anything that his speechwriters throw up on his teleprompter.


  • Worried about your plane falling out of the sky because somebody used a 5G phone to call Grandma from the airport? You probably should worry about other things instead, like whether that TSA agent is gonna get way too handsy. Karl Bode writes at Techdirt: Airline CEOs Freak Out Over 5G Despite Limited Evidence Of Real World Harm

    We'd already noted that the FAA had been pushing to impose limits on 5G deployments in certain bands due to safety concerns. The problem: the FCC, the agency with the expertise in spectrum interference, has repeatedly stated those concerns are unfounded based on the FCC's own research. The whole feud has been fairly bizarre, with the FAA refusing to transparently "show its math" at several points, but taking the time to leak its scary claims to select press outlets.

    More specifically: the FAA (and a big chunk of the airline industry) claims that deploying 5G in the 3.7 to 3.98 GHz "C-Band" will cause interference with certain radio altimeters. But the FCC has shown that more than 40 countries have deployed 5G in this band with no evidence of harm if you implement some fairly basic safety precautions (like limiting deployments immediately around airports, and utilizing a 220 MHz guard band that will remain unused as a buffer to prevent this theoretical interference).

    Bode does a good job of convincing me that "the real problem is FAA procrastination, hubris and incompetence."

    I continue to recommend Pun Salad Reform Proposal #43: terminate any Federal agency that has a three-letter acronym starting with "F".


  • So were a lot of us, Matt. I wonder how many public health bureaucrats are muttering under their breath what Otter said to Flounder in Animal House. Anyway, Matt Ridley channels his inner Flounder: I was duped by the Covid lab leak deniers

    Inch by painful inch, the truth is being dragged out about how this pandemic started. It is just about understandable, if not forgivable, that Chinese scientists have obfuscated vital information about early cases and their work with similar viruses in Wuhan’s laboratories: they were subject to fierce edicts from a ruthless, totalitarian regime.

    It is more shocking to discover in emails released this week that some western scientists were also saying different things in public from what they thought in private. The emails were exchanged over the first weekend of February 2020 between senior virologists on both sides of the Atlantic following a meeting arranged by Sir Jeremy Farrar, head of the Wellcome Trust, with America’s two top biologists, Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, and Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

    Some enterprising journalist should get Biden on the record about this.


  • Your heartworming story du jour. Via Dave Barry: Stranded dog saved from rising tide after rescuers attach sausage to drone

    As the tide rose, it began to look perilous for Millie the jack russell-whippet cross, who had defied the efforts of police, firefighters and coastguards to pluck her from treacherous mudflats.

    So the rescuers had to think imaginatively, and came up with the idea of attaching a sausage to a drone and hoping the scent of the treat would tempt Millie to safety. It worked gloriously and Millie has been reunited with her grateful owner after following the dangling sausage to higher, safer ground.

    Chris Taylor, the chair of the Denmead Drone Search and Rescue team, is quoted: "I think they were from Aldi." The sausages, that is.

Encanto

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

A free-to-me streamer on Disney+, I was pushed into it by the funny reactions to it on this week's Reason Roundtable and yesterday's story in the WSJ about How ‘Encanto’s’ ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ Became Bigger Than ‘Let It Go’. (There's a video at that link that shows the movie song being performed in 21 different languages, and the movie has been dubbed into 46(!) languages.)

As Matt Welch said on the podcast, it seems likely that the guy who did the movie songs has a real future ahead in musical theatre.

The movie is notable for how quickly it sets up its premise: in Columbia, a few decades back, a young family is trying to escape a murderous gang. The brave sacrifice of the father enables the rest of the family to escape to a magical valley, where a magical candle enables them to build a magical house, and all the family members and their offspring obtain a magical "gift" superpower at some point: super-strength, healing, climate control, animal control,… It's pretty much paradise.

And all that is related (musically of course) in something like the first three or four minutes.

But there's young Mirabel (voiced by the wonderful Stephanie Beatriz), who (for some reason) doesn't receive a superpower. She puts up a brave front, but she's kind of sad about it. Plus, she has visions of impending doom for the magic house and the village generally.

And there's the mystery of her Uncle Bruno (see above): what happened to him, what's his gift, and can we finally talk about him? (He's voiced by the great John Leguizamo.)

Bottom line: it's a lot of fun, cleverly scripted and well-acted, a (cliché alert) a feast for the eyes.

URLs du Jour

2022-01-20

  • Only one year? Seems lots longer. I know I promised another D. C. street art poster today, but it's the one-year anniversary of President Wheezy's inauguration, and Mr. Ramirez is wondering: Three more years of this?

    [Only One Year]

    Well, "we" asked for it.


  • What did you expect, honestly? Water is wet, space is deep, and as Peter Suderman notes: Joe Biden’s Presidency Is Failing Just About Everyone. He notes the essential split personalities at work: Biden the Healing Moderate vs. Biden the Captive of the Increasingly Radical Democratic Party.

    This explains the Biden administration's unwillingness, so far, to meaningfully prioritize among the component parts of his spending bill, preferring to give a little bit to each of the party's issue activists. It helps explain his quixotic support for both a doomed voting rights bill and divisive Senate procedural reforms that won't take effect. And it also helps explain why under Biden, Democrats have consistently acted as if they have a commanding majority, and a mandate for radical change, despite their incredibly slim, almost-didn't-happen holds on the House and the Senate, and why Democratic defections from the party line have sometimes been treated as acts of defiance against a majority, as if Republicans simply didn't exist. Biden views himself as a moderate, period, but he is better understood as a moderate within the Democratic Party, and his lifelong inability to distinguish between the party and the country means that he is mostly focused on trying to unite the party—but not the country as a whole.

    And this, in turn, sheds light on why Biden has so far been unable to serve the voters who went for him in 2020 because they wanted a return to normalcy and all that entailed—primarily a tolerable economy and a pandemic that no longer disrupted everyday life, but also less apocalypticism in Washington and less political rancor.

    Those less partisan, less engaged voters—the kind who supported Biden mostly because he wasn't Trump—are the sort of voters who, by and large, determine the success or failure of a presidency. And for them, Biden the president is failing to deliver on the promises of Biden the candidate. Ironically, Biden is also failing to deliver the sort of big-ticket policy change demanded by the progressive base. On its current trajectory, it won't be long before Biden's presidency moves from "is failing" to "has failed."

    Suderman's article gives an air of inevitability to what happened to Wheezy. Matt Welch's characterization of him as a "rusty weathervane" explains a lot.


  • And in other "Water is Wet" news… Brian Reidl catches some usual unsurprising antics: Mainstream Media Boost Dishonest Anti-billionaire Screed

    Being a left-wing institution certainly comes with privileges. Because such organizations’ research often serves the mainstream media’s preferred narratives, their new studies and reports can become news events in ways that comparable right-wing research wouldn’t. And for the same reason, media outlets often don’t bother to check their work before making it news.

    So it is that in the past few days, CNN, CBS News, ABC News, Yahoo, and others have run breathless articles highlighting a new Oxfam report on inequality that claims that “since the start of the pandemic . . . billionaires have seen their wealth increase by $5 trillion.” Unsurprisingly, these “news” articles read like fawning press releases and did not cite a single critic of the Oxfam report or of the general argument that the existence of billionaires is harmful.

    Yet five minutes of research would expose the $5 trillion figure as flatly false. Oxfam’s report measured billionaire wealth in large part by rising stock values. But instead of measuring the change in stock values from the beginning of the pandemic, they simply ignored the initial 28 percent stock-market decline and measured from the bottom of the trough to the present.

    Oxfam (of course) favors plunder: “A 99% one-off windfall tax on the COVID-19 wealth gains of the 10 richest men alone.”


  • You don't want money from this guy. Michael Graham searches the FEC database and finds the totally-expected news: NBA Billionaire Who Dissed Uyghur Genocide is NH Dem Donor

    Tech billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya, in the headlines for dismissing China’s ongoing genocide against their Uyghur Muslim population as not worth caring about, is also a donor to the New Hampshire Democratic Party (NHDP).

    Palihapitiya, a part-owner of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, sparked outrage during a podcast interview last weekend by saying he didn’t care about the Communist Chinese government’s treatment of its Uyghur minority.

    “Nobody cares about it. Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs,” Palihapitiya said. “I’m telling you a very hard, ugly truth, okay? Of all the things that I care about, yes, it is below my line, okay?”

    I'd bet that the NHDP will do something like what the Wisconsin Democratic Party did: give $10K to a Uighur-supporting charity.

    Over at HotAir, Allahpundit has an analysis of Palihapitiya's "apology": Warriors co-owner who doesn't care about Uighurs: I should have pretended to care.


  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Could we have a crisis vacay? Please? Tal Fortgang writes on Rahm Emanuel's single greatest contribution to political philosophy: not Letting Crisis Go to Waste.

    Many progressives tend to see moments of disorder—sudden, dramatic breaks from life as we knew it—as opportunities for positive change. The crowning achievement of American progressivism, the establishment of the American welfare state by FDR’s New Deal, would have been impossible without the Great Depression. Decades later, in the aftermath of the Great Recession, Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel famously repeated his mantra that Democrats should “never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” Most recently, the Biden Administration has adopted a mantra of its own, appended to the title of its enormous post-pandemic spending proposal: Build Back Better. The implicit message is clear: the pandemic has exposed our country’s weaknesses—in physical and digital infrastructure, disaster preparedness, and so on—and laid bare those areas Americans cannot afford to leave unchanged.  

    Such thinking is perfectly logical within a progressive mind frame. Because progressives generally think that society’s usual order entrenches power at the top and prevents the upward mobility of those with fewer resources, it follows that disorder should break the habit of routine quiescence and help rally the masses towards realizing their group interests. Citizens may be newly amenable to taking stock of the political shortcomings that brought them to the brink of crisis, and lawmakers, even conservative ones, likely feel pressure to do something to show they are on the case. Clear breaks from routine, from structure, from the expectation that we all go about doing what we do from 9-to-5 every day thus present the tantalizing prospect of equalizing society in various ways.

    Robert Higgs' Crisis and Leviathan was not intended to be a how-to manual! (But Amazon link is at your right.)


  • Mann oh Mann. Ann Althouse riffs on an unearthed quote from Thomas Mann: “Let me tell you the whole truth: if ever Fascism should come to America, it will come in the name of ‘freedom.’ ”

    Ooh, scare/sneer quotes around "freedom". Ann does some Googling "to see if today's anti-freedom leftists had used it against conservatives."

    Looking for Mann, I got Ronald Reagan: "If fascism ever comes to America, it will come in the name of liberalism." 

    But it would be a mistake to think Reagan nicked it from Mann and that Mann was the originator of the "if fascism comes to America" clause. In the 1935 Sinclair Lewis book, “It Can’t Happen Here,” there's: “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying the cross.” 

    You get the picture. There's a lot of If fascism ever comes to America, it will look like my opponents.

    Also appearing in Ann's research: Jonah Goldberg, George Carlin. A comment I left at Ann's site:

    "The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’." George Orwell wrote that back in 1946, and gee it hasn't gotten any less true in 75 years, has it?

    But if you really want to get worried, check out yesterday's Reason Roundup from Elizabeth Nolan Brown: Voters Around the World Are Cooling on Populists, Gravitating Toward Technocrats. The word "fascism" doesn't appear, but the more specific (and more accurate) phrase "illiberal value shift" does.


  • Daniel Lyons looks at proposals for Section 230 "reform". And there's nothing but Flawed arguments and unintended consequences as far as the eye can see. Excerpt:

    Attempts to control the flow of information online can also create unintended consequences. As students of broadcast history know, the Federal Communications Commission once enforced a Fairness Doctrine, requiring that if broadcasters presented one side of an issue, they must give equal time to speakers on the other side. The idea was to make sure public opinion was not swayed by broadcasters’ control of information. But in reality, broadcasters often steered clear of controversial, important topics entirely for fear of triggering equal-time requirements.

    Similar consequences may flow from bills that remove Section 230 protection for landmark statutes such as civil rights claims. If a platform lacks Section 230 protection for communication about or involving protected groups, it may reduce services to those groups to limit its overall liability, which would be a loss to society and particularly harmful to those the law is designed to protect.

    As I've said over and over and over and over… well, I guess one more time won't hurt: There's nothing wrong with Big Tech that Big Government can't make much worse.

URLs du Jour

2022-01-19

[Pun Salad is OSHA Compliant] Another poster from the "D. C. Street Art" series is our Eye Candy du Jour. One more to go tomorrow. I hope the samizdat artist will keep up the good work.

  • Something much on my mind. My libertarian instincts are confirmed multiple times every day when the phone rings with the Caller ID displaying some town in Montana; without answering, I know that it's some slimeball trying to extend my car warranty or "Amazon" informing me of a fraudulent charge on my account.

    This is illegal. Yet it continues. Your Federal Government, despite having trillions of taxpayer dollars to play with, is unable to stop it.

    Why should we trust Uncle Stupid to do anything more complex?

    But that's my uninformed raving. For some informed raving, check out Karl Bode at Techdirt, for his explanation of Why U.S. Robocall Hell Seemingly Never Ends.

    According to the YouMail Robocall Index, there were 3.6 billion U.S. robocalls placed last December, or 115 million robocalls placed every single day. That's 4.8 million calls placed every hour. Despite the periodic grumble, it's wholly bizarre that we've just come to accept the fact that essential communications platforms have been hijacked by conmen, salesmen, and debt collectors, and we're somehow incapable of doing anything about it.

    Every 6-12 months or so the federal government comes out with a "new plan to finally tackle robocalls," yet the efforts only frequently make a small dent in the problem. One reason why is that each time the federal government unveils a new plan, it focuses exclusively on scammers. Said plan (and therefore the entire press coverage of said plan) discusses robocalls as if it's only something velour track suit clad dudes in Florida strip malls are engaging in.

    As you can maybe tell from that excerpt, Bode's article thinks robocalls from "legitimate companies" are a major part of the problem. That's not been my experience. He thinks government's exclusive focus on scammers is a mistake; I think that would be great if it worked. But it clearly does not.

    This goes with Techdirt's usual tedious anti-corporate leftism. But there are some technical details and practical suggestions in the article you might find of interest.


  • If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever. And that future is today at your institutions of higher education! At Cato, Thomas A. Berry says Orwellian "Bias Response Teams" Stifle Free Expression.

    Virginia Tech has instituted a “bias‐related incidents” policy, under which students may be referred to a “Bias Response Team.” Under the policy, students can be referred for violating a standard as vague as “words or actions that contradict the spirit of the Principles of Community.” Students can also run afoul of the policy for “unwelcome jokes” – or even being present when jokes are made and failing to report them. Students are encouraged to report each other while speculating on the “bias” that may have motivated their peers’ opinions. The school has given itself jurisdiction over activities and speech both on and off campus, as well as on students’ social media and other digital platforms.

    Speech First sued Virginia Tech on behalf of several current Tech students, arguing that this policy chilled their freedom to express sincere but controversial views and thus violated the First Amendment. Yet a federal district court declined to enjoin the policy, holding that the students did not suffer any First Amendment injury because the bias response teams could not themselves impose formal discipline. Speech First has now appealed that decision to the Fourth Circuit, and Cato has been invited by the Liberty Justice Center to join an amicus brief supporting Speech First and the students.

    The University Near Here (whose speech code, to its credit, has a Green Light Rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) has recently revamped its all-purpose reporting process. I assume this is a partial response to recent ill-mannered protests about UNH's perceived inability to deal with "sexual violence".

    So there's a new form you can fill out. Yay. What's it for?

    This IRF is to be used for the reporting of all incidents of (1) discrimination and discriminatory harassment, (2) bias and/or hate crime, (3) retaliation, and (4) sexual harassment and/or violence that involves any member of the UNH community.

    I kind of wince that the same form is to be used for both reporting crimes and things that are not crimes. Is that really a good idea?

    I also wince at the "hate crimes" thing. Apropos of that:

    Well, that got off-topic quickly.


  • But where? The National Review editors have a demand: Fauci Must Go.

    It is past time for public-health policy to shift to acknowledging that Covid-19 is an endemic disease and, for the most part, a risk for individuals to manage. Fauci stands in the way of executing that shift and communicating it to the public.

    Fauci’s own behavior has undermined public trust in the response to the pandemic: by sitting for celebrity puff profiles and documentaries, by stifling public debate about the origins of Covid-19 and the proper response to it, by responding in lawyerly and evasive fashion to questions about NIH research dollars supporting work at the Wuhan lab. In his nasty spats with Senator Rand Paul and other officeholders, he hasn’t simply parried criticisms but tried to land political blows himself.

    Sure. But the government health bureaucracy will simply cough up someone equally as mendacious to take his place. Maybe it's better to have a known liar in that position.


  • We're not just mandating masks, but also tinfoil hats. Drew Cline points out that Impeding the expansion of new telecom technologies would hurt New Hampshire

    A House bill considered in committee this week would deny much of New Hampshire access to the most advanced telecommunications technologies.

    House Bill 1644 would require “telecommunications antennas” to be placed “at least 1,640 feet from residentially zoned areas, parks, playgrounds, hospitals, nursing homes, day care centers, and schools.”

    The bill’s stated purpose is to protect people from the “significant public health risk associated with the cumulative effects of radio frequency radiation which is growing every day with the proliferation of cell tower transmitters.”

    The weight of scientific evidence doesn't show any harm from 5G technology. However, in interest of equal time, I'll note that the legislation refers to a 2020 report from the "Commission to Study The Environmental and Health Effects of Evolving 5G Technology", which disagreed with that consensus. One of the participants was Kent Chamberlin, who's currently chairing the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University Near Here. Maybe he's become a crank, maybe not.

URLs du Jour

2022-01-18

[Trust the Scientism]

Our Eye Candy du Jour is another poster in the "D. C. Street Art" series. I've seen allegations that it was torn down soon after it was put up. That's OK, many more eyes will see it on the Internet than on the streets.

  • A constant worry that can shrink but never goes away. Bari Weiss writes movingly on Being Jewish in an Unraveling America.

    What I now see is this: In America captured by tribalism and dehumanization, in an America swept up by ideologies that pit us against one another in a zero-sum game, in an America enthralled with the poisonous idea that some groups matter more than others, not all Jews—and not all Jewish victims—are treated equally. What seems to matter most to media pundits and politicians is not the Jews themselves, but the identities of their attackers.

    And it scares me.

    The attack in Texas, the reaction to it, and the widespread willingness in our culture to judge violent acts based on their political utility, augurs a darkening reality for the six million Jews living in what the Founders insisted was a new Jerusalem. And for that new Jerusalem itself.

    I'm not Jewish. Maybe you aren't either. But read Ms. Weiss's article and see if you don't get why she's worried and angry.

    I would only quibble with her characterization of our current ideological conflict as a "zero-sum game". It is, in fact, a negative-sum game. As that computer said in War Games, the only way to win is not to play.


  • For more on that… Eddie Scarry wonders at the Federalist: Why Aren't Corporate Media Concerned About Rising Antisemitism In The Biden Era?

    Is no one in the national media concerned about the very scary brush with antisemitism that occurred on President Biden’s watch this weekend?

    I was watching MSNBC all day on Monday and didn’t see it mentioned once. Come to think of it, almost no one at MSNBC or CNN or in the administration or in the offices of Democrats in Congress seemed to think it was a big deal at all by the start of the week.

    The number of tweets that President Biden’s FBI sent out this weekend related to a Muslim extremist who held up hostages at a Texas synagogue on Saturday: zero.

    The number of tweets that Biden’s FBI sent out this weekend seeking information on random men and women photographed at the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, an incident from more than a year ago: five.

    Many people commented on the official reluctance to point to antisemitism as a possible factor in the targeting of a synagogue. Had it happened a couple years ago, there would have been many enthusiastic attempts to find some way to blame it on Trump.


  • I generally find myself on Team Cynic. But I get what Abigail Shrier is saying here: Who Will Win America: The Cynics or The Believers?

    “Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uighurs, okay?” cryptobillionaire, NBA team owner, and former Facebook executive, Chamath Palihapitiya said this weekend in an interview with The All-In Podcast. “You bring it up because you really care, and I think that’s nice that you care. The rest of us don’t care. I’m telling you a very hard, ugly truth. Of all the things that I care about, yes, it is below my line.”

    It’s a chilling statement, casually thrown off, by one of America’s richest titans: We just don’t care about the genocide occurring in China. And it represents a newly prominent voice in our political discourse: The American Cynic.

    Last week, Rep. Warren Davidson, Republican Congressman from Ohio’s Eighth District repeatedly likened vaccine passports to efforts by the Nazis to dehumanize and degrade Jews before murdering them. And Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried said to NPR on Friday, “I’m sorry, I’m a student of history too. I saw the rise of Hitler.” “Are you comparing [Governor Ron] DeSantis to Hitler?” her interviewer asked. “In a lot of ways, yes,” she said.

    In full disclosure, I'm in pretty strong agreement with whoever it was who said: "I don't believe in anything you have to believe in."

    When Ms Shrier talks about "believers", she specifically means those who are devoted to "our bedrock constitutional liberties". And I'm all in favor! But I don't believe in them. I cherish them because of their (self-evident) truth, well-grounded in fact and rational argument.

    And I'm not cynical at all about them.

    What I'm cynical about is politicians.


  • And the play was lousy too. Elle Reynolds thinks she has a smoking gun: CDC Finally Admits Cloth Masks Were Always Political Theater.

    When The Federalist ran the headline “Many Studies Find That Cloth Masks Do Not Stop Viruses Like COVID” in November 2020, Lead Stories attempted to “fact-check” the piece, slapping a red “masks work” label over a screenshot of the original article.

    The “fact-check” even cited data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the effectiveness of masks against COVID-19, where the CDC insisted, “Cloth masks not only effectively block most large droplets (i.e., 20-30 microns and larger), but they can also block the exhalation of fine droplets and particles,” and “cloth mask materials can also reduce wearers’ exposure to infectious droplets through filtration.”

    Yet the same CDC quietly admitted on Friday that the thin cloth masks the agency and its corporate media allies spent the last two years cheering actually “provide the least protection” against COVID-19. It was “the first time the C.D.C. has explicitly addressed” the relative ineffectiveness of cloth masks, according to The New York Times.

    To be clear, the CDC didn't say cloth masks were worthless; it's just that they (finally) said:

    While all masks and respirators provide some level of protection, properly fitted respirators provide the highest level of protection. Wearing a highly protective mask or respirator may be most important for certain higher risk situations, or by some people at increased risk for severe disease.

    So, not theater, probably better than nothing, but if you're really worried about it, you can up your game. Like that guy in the Eliquis commercial.

    The point being: the CDC is only just now saying this publicly. They (of course) knew it all along.


  • I have no 2022 predictions. But James Lileks provides his take in a paywalled National Review article: The Year to Come, in Retrospect

    Well, that was a heck of a year. Yessir, 2022 was one for the books. As we tie a bow around the 52-week-thick slab of events, shove it down the trash compactor, and prepare to welcome in 2023, let’s cast our eyes back to what happened.

    The Russia invaded The Ukraine. When The Russian Federation flag flew over all The Ukrainian government buildings, Rachel Maddow said, “Well, Trump finally got what he wanted.” President Biden responded by shutting down three American pipelines and pressuring allies to announce that the next time the G-8 meets, Putin would sit on a chair that wobbled slightly and get served dessert last.

    A woman was arrested for hate speech in San Francisco when she said, “Let’s go, Brandon!” The phrase had been declared “unprotected speech” in January under the city’s “Hurtful Euphemism Act,” which also prohibited making air quotes when saying “President Biden.” A challenge to the law failed in the Ninth Circuit, where the judges noted that there must be limitations on gestures. “One cannot say ‘Fire’ in sign language in a dark, crowded theater.”

    The woman who was arrested defended her actions, insisting she had actually said, “We must endeavor, Brandon, to perambulate with alacrity in a timely manner,” because a San Francisco resident was advancing on her and her son, Brandon, with a machete. A San Francisco prosecutor, who was later revealed to be one of 147 clones of George Soros grown in an Argentinian facility, noted that the rephrasing of the hate-speech expression was indefensible, as the woman was still engaged in harmful euphemistic utterances, and had a duty to rename her child to avoid such situations. Witnesses testified that the woman sometimes referred to her child as “sweetheart,” indicating that she was aware of additional options when trying to get away from the man with the machete.

    Well, that might not get me nailed for copyright infringement.

Better Off Dead

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Finally got around to reading the latest Reacher novel, Better Off Dead, not to be confused with the old John Cusack movie. Shocked at the beginning: Could this be the end of Reacher?

Small spoiler: no, it wasn't. Probably shouldn't have worried, they ain't going to kill off a predictable layer of golden eggs.

Already have the next one on order at Amazon.

Ahem. Sorry, I found myself writing Child-style there for a bit. It's been awhile since a Reacher book was first-person narrated, but that's the case here for all chapters except the first. And Reacher drops his "I"s a lot.

Most things are the same, though. Reacher continues his uncanny knack of happening on massive criminal conspiracies while simply wandering around on his aimless tour of America. Here he happens on an apparently unconscious woman in an apparently crashed Jeep. He goes to offer assistance, and… she pulls a gun on him. Hate it when that happens.

Pretty soon, we get a better idea of what's going on. The woman, Michaela Fenton, is looking to rescue her twin brother Michael, who's gotten himself involved in that massive criminal conspiracy mentioned above, involving a shadowy sadistic mastermind with the unlikely name of "Dendoncker". Her car crash was staged as part of her plan to find him. It doesn't go as planned. She's despondent, Reacher—of course—offers to assist.

And we're off on that crazy scheme described in Chapter One. That doesn't go as planned either. But it keeps the pages turning.

Unsettled

What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn't, and Why It Matters

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Personal note: the author, Steven Koonin, and I overlapped at Caltech. We were both undergrad physics majors. He was a year ahead of me… and I don't remember him at all. Our career paths diverged, to put it mildly.

He went on to become a well-known researcher, on the faculty and in the administration at Caltech. He was Undersecretary of Science in President Obama's Department of Energy. He was BP's Chief Scientist for a time. He's currently at NYU.

I did not do anything comparable.

So he's not some wacky crank peddling fake science. But he's unhappy and disappointed with the state of climate science today, especially as it pertains to influencing public policy. He distinguishes lowercase-s science from "The Science": many things claimed to be Settled Science, are—well, see the title—not settled at all, and may be off. Which wouldn't be unusual for science, of course. But (unfortunately) there are trillions of dollars and billions of lives at stake. A lot less was riding on the theory of phlogiston or the luminiferous ether.

Like all good Caltech grads, Koonin is a Feynman fanboy. And he pointedly quotes Feynman's famous 1974 commencement address on "Cargo Cult Science". His implication is pretty clear: there's way too much cargo-cultism in today's Science.

(Okay, one more personal note: Graduating in 1973, I missed Feynman's address by one year. You know who our commencement speaker was? Harold Brown. He was Caltech President at the time. And he was—sorry—so boring.)

To be clear, Koonin is not a "denialist": there's no question that the Earth is warming up, and there's no question that human activity, specifically greenhouse gas emission, has something to do with that. But much else is (heh) up in the air. It is, for example, not the fact that hurricanes have gotten worse. Sea level rise will almost certainly be manageable. Neither existing climate models nor data are solid enough to predict the likely future course of the climate, let alone act as guides to optimal policies.

And (probably worst) the media, government figures, and (even) some scientists who should know better routinely predict doom unless "something is done" right now. (Greta Thunberg has a good excuse: she's a kid. John Holdren, what's your excuse?)

The book's prose is clear, full of personal anecdotes. At times Koonin's frustration shows a little bit. For example, he once proposed a "Red Team/Blue Team" exercise, where an independent group of scientists (the Red Team) would subject a proposed document (written by the Blue Team) to a no-holds-barred critique, highlighting uncertainties, dubious analysis, unwarranted conclusions. The Blue team would defend as best it could, either solidifying its positions, or backing them off.

Good idea! Except it was considered to be wolfsbane by many. To the extent that legislation was proposed in the U. S. Senate to forbid federal funding for any activity that might "challenge the scientific consensus on climate change". And as a local note: both my state's current senators, Shaheen and Hassan, were co-sponsors.

You gotta ask: what are they afraid of?

URLs du Jour

2022-01-17

[And good kids are compliant kids] Our Eye Candy du Jour is (allegedly) street art from Washington D. C. Seen in the Conspiracy subreddit, which probably means you shouldn't click over and look around, lest you start toting your AR-15 into your local pizza joint.

  • My favorite morons are oxymorons. And here's one of the best, as Robert E. Wright reports: The Government Scientific Agency Oxymoron.

    If the Covid policy crisis has done anything, it is to make clear that “government scientific agency” is as much of an oxymoron as military intelligence, jumbo shrimp, or Marxist economist. Government bureaucracies cannot “do” science because their incentives are all wrong. Science flourishes only in a competitive environment.

    In fact, science properly understood pits against each other competing hypotheses formulated to explain as many real world observations (RWOs) as possible. Scientists worthy of the name prefer the hypothesis that gives them the best chance of predicting the future, be it the structural integrity of a new bridge design or the course of a pandemic or inflationary spiral.

    Since I have just finished reading Unsettled by Steven E. Koonin, I'd kick in "climate change" as another bit of evidence that government has perverted the scientific process.


  • For this cynical conservative/libertarian, Biden's speech is the gift that keeps on giving. David Harsanyi wrotes at the Daily Signal on Biden's Big Elections Lie.

    Biden’s argument is predicated on the idea that anyone who continues to support the legislative filibuster—a Senate rule the president defended for nearly 50 years—or voter ID laws, or time restrictions on mail-in ballots, or consistent hours for early voting, or bans on ballot harvesting, is no better than Bull Connor. “Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace?” was the false choice offered by a man who repeatedly praised Wallace, and other segregationists, early in his career.

    The president suggested that anyone opposing the Democrats’ voting rights bill was not only a bigot but a seditious “domestic” enemy of the United States—a designation that now probably includes six Democratic senators, if not more. The president pronounced the Senate a “shell of its former self,” lamenting that the GOP had used the filibuster over 100 times in the past year, skipping the inconvenient fact that Democrats had done so over 300 times the preceding four years. Biden, “the institutionalist,” then unloaded a litany of completely misleading contentions about voting laws to justify his abandonment of principle.

    And the reason Biden is compelled to lie about virtually every aspect of the Georgia voting law is that the specifics are actually quite popular and do not inhibit a citizen from casting a ballot. Most of the requirements Biden contends are now compulsory for democracy to properly function had only been instituted in the past few years — many of them only during the last election. Biden’s comparing Jim Crow to contemporary voter integrity laws is detestable. One was a violent suppression of the minority vote; the other was giving voters only 11 weeks before an election to request a ballot and declining to keep expanding voting into the weekend.

    The phrase "mendacious ravings of a demagogue" also appears, so you'll want to check that out.


  • In case you need an overall summary… Jim Geraghty has an (admittedly incomplete) list of the myriad ways that Joe Biden Is in over His Head.

    I don’t want to write versions of the same column over and over again, but every day, there is some new example of, “Wow, Joe Biden is just completely screwing this up.” There’s an off-color meme that begins, “Our expectations for you were low, but . . .”

    Just look at his wreckage, er, his record:

    • Biden promised that he was going to “shut down the virus.” But he hasn’t.
    • Biden promised that, “This winter, you’ll be able to test for free in the comfort of your home and have some peace of mind.” But you couldn’t.
    • Biden promised that he was going to make Covid treatments widely available. But he hasn’t.

    Friends, those are just the first three items on an 11-item list. And the next paragraph contains "… this isn’t even counting …". But at some point you just have to stop typing.

    To (blasphemously) adapt John 21:25: "Joe screwed up many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written."


  • A little talk.politics.theory. That's a USENET newsgroup I used to frequent. In a perfect world devoid of trolls and idiots, Jonah Goldberg's G-File would be right at home there: Rites About Rights

    It's a long (and I think pretty close to correct) discussion about where our rights come from. And since this seems to be dump-on-Joe day here at Pun Salad, Jonah quotes a recent speech…

    Biden said that “the fundamental right to vote is the right from which all other rights flow.” This is a common view, and one that Biden has subscribed to for a while. As vice president in 2015, he issued a statement on the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act: “Voting is the engine that drives all civil rights, all human rights, and all economic rights in this country. It’s the right from which all other rights flow.” Robert Kennedy said the same thing a half-century ago.

    So that's a common (but incorrect) view that Jonah goes on to demolish. But then he goes on to resurrect a snippet from a Biden speech from only a few months back:

    On May 28, he told American service members: “None of you get your rights from your government; you get your rights merely because you’re a child of God. The government is there to protect those God-given rights. No other government has been based on that notion. No one can defeat us except us.”

    Close to correct, although I'd be somewhat more secular about it.

    But the important point is: these two quotes are blatantly contradictory.

    Could there be any clearer evidence that Biden simply reads whatever is plopped up on his teleprompter? Saying whatever he—or his speechwriters—think will sway his audience? And has no deeply-held principles, other than acquiring and maintaining his own political power?


  • The country's in jeopardy! And Jeopardy! is also in jeopardy! Tom Nichols did very well as a Jeopardy! contestant a few years back. But now, he notes, the show has changed significantly, and It Might Be Time to Retire 'Jeopardy'.

    But Jeopardy has lost the spirit that made it an American institution. I am not the first to notice that the show, like other formerly amateur pursuits in America, has become professionalized and mostly closed to the casual player. It is no longer a show that celebrates the smarts of the average citizen; it is now a showcase for people who prep and practice, who enter the studio determined not to shine for a day or even a week but to beat the game itself.

    This, combined with the abolition back in 2003 of the long-standing rule that you must retire after five wins, has created long streaks where a few players over time crush the daylights out of the sacrificial lambs who have no real chance of beating the reigning champ without either a dash of luck or an unforced error.

    I'll keep watching until either the show ends or (gulp) I do. But Tom makes some excellent points, and if you didn't know about the clickers the contestants use to ring in, he'll tell you more than you may want to know.


  • This just in. KDW has a Muppet News Flash at the NR Corner, and I usually excerpt, but here's the Whole Thing:

    The Democratic Agenda May Be Dead,” reads the Slate headline.

    In other news, the pope is rumored to be Catholic (though some conservative sources dispute this), and you don’t even want to know what bears do in the woods.

    Here's hopin'.


Last Modified 2022-01-18 4:11 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2022-01-16

  • It's almost as if the DOJ said "Hey, maybe we should indict some of those January 6 guys with serious crimes." It took them over a year, but they managed to come up with something. Here's the Department of Justice press release: Leader of Oath Keepers and 10 Other Individuals Indicted in Federal Court for Seditious Conspiracy and Other Offenses Related to U.S. Capitol Breach. Excerpt:

    The seditious conspiracy indictment alleges that, following the Nov. 3, 2020, presidential election, [Oath Keepers leader Stewart] Rhodes conspired with his co-defendants and others to oppose by force the execution of the laws governing the transfer of presidential power by Jan. 20, 2021. Beginning in late December 2020, via encrypted and private communications applications, Rhodes and various co-conspirators coordinated and planned to travel to Washington, D.C., on or around Jan. 6, 2021, the date of the certification of the electoral college vote, the indictment alleges. Rhodes and several co-conspirators made plans to bring weapons to the area to support the operation. The co-conspirators then traveled across the country to the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area in early January 2021.

    According to the seditious conspiracy indictment, the defendants conspired through a variety of manners and means, including: organizing into teams that were prepared and willing to use force and to transport firearms and ammunition into Washington, D.C.; recruiting members and affiliates to participate in the conspiracy; organizing trainings to teach and learn paramilitary combat tactics; bringing and contributing paramilitary gear, weapons and supplies – including knives, batons, camouflaged combat uniforms, tactical vests with plates, helmets, eye protection and radio equipment – to the Capitol grounds; breaching and attempting to take control of the Capitol grounds and building on Jan. 6, 2021, in an effort to prevent, hinder and delay the certification of the electoral college vote; using force against law enforcement officers while inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021; continuing to plot, after Jan. 6, 2021, to oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power, and using websites, social media, text messaging and encrypted messaging applications to communicate with co-conspirators and others.

    Well, that sounds serious. Since I've mentioned in the past (accurately at the time) that nobody had been charged with sedition in connection with January 6, … well, there you go. That's no longer the case.


  • Byron York is dismissive. From his perch at the Washington Examiner, he dubs it The LARP rebellion.

    What to make of it all? First, the Oath Keepers really were a gang of idiots. What were they thinking? In what fantasy world did they, unarmed and careening in golf carts, plan to install the next President of the United States? Reading the indictment, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that it all was an elaborate bit of LARPing — that is, live-action role-playing. The indictment is filled with page after page of fantasy talk.

    But of course, the group did discuss interfering with the transfer of power. They talked about civil war. They brought guns to the Washington area, although, careful to observe local gun laws, they did not use them or even bring them into the District of Columbia. They were part of the mob that entered the Capitol, although it does not appear that any of them engaged in any violence. And now, for it all, they have been charged with seditious conspiracy.

    The indictment raises questions about whether it is correct to refer to the Capitol riot as an "insurrection" or "sedition." Obviously, the investigation has given rise to an indictment for seditious conspiracy. But can the actions of a group of 11 LARPers accurately describe the motives and actions of the hundreds of people at the Capitol, and thousands more in the area, who had no connection with the Oath Keepers? A recent poll showed that many Americans view the Capitol riot seriously, but as a protest that got out of hand. The new indictment will probably not change their minds.

    Were they a gang of idiots, or is that just a retrospective judgment of history? See this description of the 1775 Continental Army: "a drunken, canting, lying, praying, hypocritical rabble, without order, subjection, discipline, or cleanliness". Contemporaneous impressions can sometimes disagree with ultimate outcomes.


  • But for a legal take… let's go to Andy McCarthy at National Review who has experience in prosecuting bad guys. In fact, he "prosecuted the last major, successful case of this kind." And he's thinking this: Seditious Conspiracy Charge Wrong.

    Seditious conspiracy is the rare criminal offense in which motive matters. In most crimes, prosecutors need establish only knowledge and intent — meaning, the defendant did not act by mistake. If you embezzle funds from a federal agency, for example, it makes no difference that you needed money to feed your starving family; you knew the funds were not yours, and you stole them on purpose, case closed.

    Why the accused acted is, however, a core question in seditious-conspiracy prosecutions. It must be proved that force was directed at government facilities and agents because they instantiated the government’s execution of its lawful authority. Or it must be shown that the defendant was trying to wage war against the American people: The purpose of attacking civilian infrastructure, for example, must be to coerce the United States into surrendering, changing policy, or taking some other national action. To the contrary, while blowing up a building in order to collect on the insurance is a heinous act, and one who does it should face a severe sentence, it’s not seditious conspiracy.

    As I hope is obvious, I go through these legal niceties not to defend people, such as Capitol rioters, who violently stormed the seat of our government and assaulted police. They should be prosecuted aggressively and incarcerated accordingly.

    p>

    It's an NRPLUS article, which means (I assume) that non-subscribers will be unable to Read The Whole Thing. So it's (yet another) reason you should go ahead and subscribe.


  • Betteridge's Law of Headlines, surprisingly, fails to hold for Michael Huemer's question: Can Teaching the Truth Be Racist?. It's a thought experiment about the Critical Race Theory debate:

    It’s a simple point. Suppose you learned that there was a school staffed mainly by right-leaning teachers and administrators. And at this school, an oddly large number of lessons touch upon, or perhaps center on, bad things that have been done by Jews throughout history. None of the lessons are factually false – all the incidents related are things that genuinely happened and all were actually done by Jewish people. For example, murders that Jews committed, times when Jews started wars, times when Jews robbed or exploited people. (I assume that you know that it’s possible to fill up quite a lot of lessons with bad things done by members of whatever ethnic group you pick.) The lessons for some reason omit or downplay good things done by Jews, and omit bad things done by other (non-Jewish) people. What would you think about this school?

    I hope you agree with me that this is a story of a blatantly racist and shitty school. It would be fair to describe the school as promoting hatred toward Jewish people, even if none of the lessons explicitly stated that one should hate Jews. I hope you also agree that no parent or voter should tolerate a public school that operated like this.

    Now, what if the school’s right-wing defenders explained that there was actually nothing the slightest bit racist or otherwise objectionable about the school, because it was only teaching facts of history? All these things happened. You don’t want to lie or cover up the history, do you?

    I hope you agree with me that this would be a pathetic defense.

    If your CRT-defending reaction is "Well, this is different!", Huemer has that covered too. Click through.


  • I had not, actually, been wondering about this. Clayton Cramer (for some reason) has the answer, just in case: Did You Ever Wonder What Happens to neo-Nazis Discredited by Being Children of Holocaust Survivors?

    List of nearly 20 books at the link, nearly all wacky. Well, only one title seems vaguely non-wacky: Mussolini's War: Fascist Italy’s Military Struggles from Africa and Western Europe to the Mediterranean and Soviet Union 1935-45. The Amazon page shows it to be Mussolini-philic, claiming that "New York City escaped an atomic attack [from WWII Italy] by margins more narrow than previously understood." Yeah, I don't think so.

    Clayton doesn't mention what landed Collin in jail: it wasn't for being a Nazi jerk, but instead a child molester.


Last Modified 2022-02-21 7:11 AM EDT

Convenience Store Woman

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I listen to the "Reason Roundtable" podcast every week, which includes, at the end, their recommendations for things (movies, books, music) listeners might enjoy. I've (frankly) had bad luck with Katherine Mangu-Ward's recommendations; I just don't share her science fiction tastes, probably because I'm an old stodgy man, she's a young with-it woman. But she recommended this book a few months back, I finally checked it out from the Portsmouth Public Library, and (yay!) finally, a win for Katherine. I liked it a lot.

Plus which, it's multicultural! Set in modern-day Japan, originally in Japanese. It's also very short. (But it counts as an actual book read! It counts!)

It is the story of Keiko Furukura. It's clear that she's on the spectrum, as they say. She's always been an oddball, observing society, family, co-workers, and acquaintances as an extraterrestrial might, always looking at how others behave, consciously aping their speech patterns and mannerisms. That's how she's managed to fit in, as best she can.

And she's really found a relatively comfortable niche, clerking at a (see the title) convenience store in a Tokyo suburb. She's been there for eighteen years in the same part-time job. She's seen managers and co-workers come and go. She gets by with her meager salary and eating unsellable food items. (And some sound pretty tasty. Spicy cod roe noodles? Hm.) We learn that her family is concerned by, but resigned to, her eccentricity. It helps that she's totally impossible to insult. Even the most offensive things people say to her—she simply observes them, never taking anything personally.

And things might have gone on longer, were it not for Shiraha, a new employee who's a different kind of oddball: even more alienated from society, leeching off family, and someone who's not at all interested in doing his job well. Keiko (again, ET-like) is fascinated by this new behavior, and their relationship evolves into… well, it's weird to us outside observers, but it makes perfect sense to them. I found myself cheering for her, hoping she could overcome this disruption in her life.

I found it useful to imagine the characters here speaking loudly and stiffly to each other, kind of like those poorly-dubbed Japanese monster movies from my youth.

Charlotte's Web

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Charlotte's Web was on the New York Times shortlist from which they asked their readers to pick "the best book of the past 125 years". Since I hadn't read it, I put it on the TBR list. So: one more down, twelve to go!

I know: it's a kid's book. And it's very short. But it (nevertheless) counts as part of my 2022 reading! What can a 70-year-old man say about it?

Well, it's charming, of course. And E. B. White's elements of style shine throughout. Despite the title, it's the story of the pig, Wilbur. He is inauspiciously born as the runt of his mama's litter, which would usually doom him to a very short life. But young Fern implores her father to spare him, and Wilbur gets pampered instead. Shuffled off to another farm, Wilbur gets tossed in with a menangerie of beasts in a barnyard: a rat, some sheep, a goose, and (ah, there she is) a large spider named Charlotte. And they all talk to each other. (I assume this book is often read aloud, with the reader performing each voice appropriately.)

Wilbur thrives. Too well for his own good, unfortunately: his new owner has ham and bacon plans for him. Can Charlotte save him? Spoiler: yes.

Even though I hadn't read the book previously, we'd taken my kids to a play based on the book, so I kind of knew about (another spoiler) Charlotte's somewhat sad fate.

Death is an overriding theme here. So here is my 70-year-old man observation: Charlotte kills and eats a lot of flies, but they don't talk. It would have been interesting if E. B. had put that in. "Rats! I'm stuck in this web thing!… Oh, no, here comes a monstrous spider! She's wrapping me up! Save meeee…"


Last Modified 2022-02-15 7:57 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2022-01-15

  • You want snark? I got it right here. In my snarky Tweet du Jour replying to my state's junior senator:

    In Senator Maggie's modest defense, she was one of only six Democrat senators to vote to stop filibustering Ted Cruz's bill to impose sanctions on Russian pipeline company Nord Stream 2.

    But that wasn't enough; the remainder of the Democrats voted to use the "Jim Crow tactic" to thwart the bill.


  • A persistent irritant. Way back in my Usenet days, I wrote a post griping about the exact same thing Veronique de Rugy is griping about today: the overuse/abuse of the first-person plural in political debate. And she does not except herself!

    "The most dangerous pronoun discourse has nothing to do with gender identity. It's the undefined 'we' in public policy debates that's the problem." These are the words of Richard Morrison, a research fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Morrison identified "the fallacy of we," and I'm often guilty of committing it.

    I frequently say things like, "If we increase spending on this or that, it will cause some economic distortions." Who exactly is this "we"? Certainly not me or most of you. Politicians propose and vote for additional spending, and the president signs new spending bills into law.

    The problem also appears when I write things like "In 2021, we have increased the debt to $24 trillion." Yet, neither the borrowing nor the spending was done by you and me. It was done by some politicians in Congress, aided by the president, and with the assistance of some bureaucrats at the Department of the Treasury.

    Just pick up a newspaper or listen to politicians, or even to people like me, and you'll soon realize that this "we" is everywhere: "We must protect our children by keeping the schools closed (or open)!"; "We need (or don't need) a national industrial policy!"; "We must invest in infrastructure (or something else)!"

    I've been too sloppy about that too. At least I think I have; I'm too apprehensive to go back and check.


  • I'm from the government, and I'm stepping in to make this problem much worse. Kevin D. Williamson (NRPLUS) observes, correctly, that The New York Rent-Policy Debate Is Too Damn Stupid.

    There is almost no subject — not even Modern Monetary Theory! — that inspires toxic stupidity quite like the subject of rental properties.

    The New York Times has brought its subscribers a video (because some things are, in fact, too blisteringly stupid for print) about a so-called tenants’-rights bill under consideration in the state of New York, a daft little sliver of propaganda put together by Jeff Seal, “a comedian, visual journalist and member of the Lower Manhattan chapter of Democratic Socialists of America,” as the Times puts it. That description is just terrific — no Upper West Side socialists here, comrade, we only want to hear from the socialists in Tribeca and Greenwich Village! Socialist comedians must perforce work with some pretty edgy material: “A funny thing happened on the way to the gulag . . .”

    The bill would effectively impose rent control on all properties, capping rent increases at 3 percent per year or 150 percent of the increase in the Consumer Price Index, whichever is greater. It would forbid landlords from evicting tenants for most reasons other than nonpayment of rent, and would also forbid evicting tenants for nonpayment of rent in the case of a rent increase exceeding the cap. That is old-fashioned stupidity, of course, the defects of price controls being very understood in the economics literature.

    The new law also prevents owners from failing to renew leases for "reasons having to do with business". Like wanting to renovate and improve the property. Gee, can you foresee any problems there?


  • Calling people ignorant hicks is funny. Matt Taibbi notes the latest in that vein: Vaccine Aristocrats Strike Again

    Jimmy Kimmel Live, fast becoming Leonid Brezhnev’s never-realized dream of a Soviet Tonight Show, just put out a high-effort gag called “Anti-Vax Barbie.” It’s impressively on-message:

    [Taibbi's description of the bit elided. Assuming you've watched:]

    Mocking the hayseeds is always fun, but what a bonus, when you can jack off some of TV’s biggest advertisers at the same time!

    Kimmel’s riff came as Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik ran a piece entitled, “Mocking anti-vaxxers’ COVID deaths is ghoulish, yes — but may be necessary.” The priceless part about Hiltzik’s column: he makes a whole range of arguments about why mockery may be “necessary,” but never gets around to saying that laughing at dead anti-vaxxers is actually funny. These people have such shit instincts for humor, they can only embrace it as political necessity. They’re like Putinites who have to chant, “Remember the mammoths!” to get young people to have sex.

    It's a paid-subscriber-only post but there's a long segment before the paywall cuts in.


  • More on Reges. Previously discussed here. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education notes a welcome outbreak of common sense the same old crap on the Left Coast: University of Washington administrator doubles down on censorship and compelled speech in land acknowledgment debacle.

    Almost 48 hours after FIRE called out the University of Washington for its requirement that faculty syllabi include the university’s land acknowledgment on their syllabi or remain silent on this issue, the administrator who created the rule is already digging her institution a bigger First Amendment hole.

    In statements to media outlets, UW’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering Director Magdalena Balazinska claims that a “syllabus for an intro to computer programming course” is “not the appropriate place or manner for a debate about land acknowledgements” or “to express personal views unrelated to the course[.]” If that’s so, why does she require faculty to choose between silence on this topic or the university’s equally-irrelevant land acknowledgment statement?

    According to Balazinska, the university’s land acknowledgment statement is allowed on course syllabi, even though it is purportedly a political issue irrelevant to course material, solely because the university’s administration agrees with it. Professors have a choice: Toe the party line or shut up. Got it.

    Another feel-good post. Specifically an "I feel good that I'm not a university instructor any more" post.


  • And a personal note. I have succumbed:

    Wordle 210 3/6
    
    ⬜⬜⬜⬜⬜
    🟩⬜⬜🟨⬜
    🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩
    	

    I think I'm getting the hang of it!

Fateful Mornings

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Another "wish I'd liked it better" book. And it's another "it's probably not the book, it's me, and your mileage may vary" case. There are lots of rave reviews.

It's the second in a series (of, so far, three) detailing the exploits of the chief cop in (fictional) Wild Thyme, Pennsylvania, in the northeast part of the state, up near the New York border. The cop, Henry Farrell, is kind of a sad case, widowed, but canoodling surreptitiously with a married lady. And in (requited?) love with the wife of his best friend. And his beat is full of lowlifes, wife-abusers, pimps, drug dealers, and polluters (fracking is big in the area), sociopaths, and the borderline mentally ill. Into all this drops a robbed house and a missing girl.

And it takes many, many months for this combination to work itself out. A dizzying array of characters are introduced, most of them of dubious morals. A lot of geography is covered. At my age (yes, I'm using that excuse again) it's hard to keep the characters and geography straight. Bluegrass music is played, pot is smoked.

The author, Tom Bouman, occasionally breaks into some very nice, evocative, prose in describing people, places, and things. Just wish I cared a little more about what happened.

URLs du Jour

2022-01-14

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • As promised/threatened yesterday… we have more observations about Biden's speech in Georgia. Starting out with James Freeman's puckish suggestion that it's Time for Harris to Cut Biden Loose. It's funny, but what I want to excerpt is his quoting of a Senate floor speech from Mitch "Yertle the Turtle" McConnell:

    Twelve months ago, a newly-inaugurated President Biden stood on the West Front of the Capitol and said this: “My whole soul is in this: bringing America together, uniting our people, and uniting our nation.” Yesterday, the same man delivered a deliberately divisive speech that was designed to pull our country farther apart.

    Twelve months ago, this President said we should “see each other not as adversaries, but as neighbors.” Yesterday, he called millions of Americans his domestic “enemies.”

    I don't usually quote politicians approvingly; with few exceptions, they are a disreputable, dishonorable bunch with no devotion to truth. But the stopped-clock rule applies: Senator Yertle is exactly right.


  • For more About That Speech, see Jonah Goldberg. He gives President Wheezy's substantive claims withering analysis. And comes off pretty much in the same place as Senator Yertle:

    Biden’s speech yesterday, and this whole project, is shameful, dangerous, stupid, and profoundly hypocritical.

    Because the wheels are coming off his presidency, Biden has decided to divide Americans in ways he vowed he would not. Now, I don’t have any problem per se with politicians “dividing Americans.” Democracy is about disagreement, not unity. Unity is Biden’s bag and, as I pointed out at the time, I thought Biden’s unity schtick was clichéd nonsense. I’ve spent the better part of two decades ranting about the “cult of unity.”

    But I do have a problem with a president dividing Americans by casting people he disagrees with as evil racists bent on destroying democracy—particularly when it’s not true (and when Biden himself played footsie with the very segregationists he’s now associating with his political opponents). Even worse, his lies are intended to sow even more distrust in our elections purely for partisan gain.

    But that's not all…


  • Come on, Kyle, tell us what you really think. Kyle Smith (in an NRPLUS article) sums up Biden's speech in a headline: Old Man Yells at Cloud.

    “That’s not hyperbole,” Biden thundered, as he offered one ludicrous chunk of overstatement after another. “Will we choose democracy or autocracy?” he asked, as though the issue in Georgia is a czarist movement rather than an ID requirement for absentee voting. “I’m TIRED OF BEING QUIET!” he shouted, slapping the lectern, making everyone sigh who voted for him on a “maybe he’ll restore calm” theory. Reeling off names from the Civil Rights Hall of Fame, he added, “I’m so damn old, I was there as well!”

    Unless “there” means “the Sixties,” this was meaningless tosh, because he sure wasn’t among the Freedom Riders, nor at Selma. “Ya think I’m kiddin,’ man seems like yesterday, the first time I got arrested.” So our Pop-Pop of the Potomac is under the impression he was arrested more than once in civil-rights protests? Somebody should refresh him with the truth. He was AWOL from the civil-rights battles and was still bragging about earning the blessing of George Wallace as late as 1987. Good thing Biden’s reputation as a liar is one of the best-established facts in Washington, or people might have started to wonder whether maybe Joe had lost a step.

    But about that "arrested" thing: Glenn Kessler awards that Four Big Pinocchios: Biden claims yet another arrest for which there’s little evidence.


  • We'll give the last word … on this topic to (yes) another senator, Nebraska's Ben Sasse: Sasse Blasts Biden’s ‘Senile’ Demagoguery.

    Nebraska GOP senator Ben Sasse went to the Senate floor on Thursday afternoon to defend the filibuster and blast President Biden’s speech earlier this week that likened the opponents of Democratic voting legislation to George Wallace and Bull Connor.

    “The president of the United States called half the country a bunch of racist bigots,” Sasse said. “He doesn’t believe that. This was a senile comment of a man who read whatever was loaded into his teleprompter.”

    And yet, he won.


  • Time for a change of pace. Drew Cline of the Josiah Bartlett Center noticed an inconvenient fact: The case for commuter rail in N.H. got worse, not better, in the last seven years.

    The case for taxpayer-subsidized commuter rail from Manchester to Boston has grown weaker, not stronger, in the seven years since the state released its major study of the proposed Capitol Corridor project.

    The New Hampshire Department of Transportation’s December, 2014, report on the Capitol Corridor project projected that a commuter rail line from Manchester to Boston would attract 3,120 riders per weekday. It predicted also that demand for commuter rail would grow as highway traffic increased in the coming years.

    In November of 2021, the department released an updated analysis of the Capitol Corridor project. It projects a peak ridership of 2,866 passengers per weekday, which is an 8% decline from the 2014 report.

    It's worth pointing out that choo-choo enthusiasts invariably inflate predictions of ridership; even those bleak ridership numbers are likely to be optimistic. And (as Drew points out) costs and necessary subsidies are routinely lowballed.


  • And furthermore… Cato's Chris Edwards does a reasonable Randal O'Toole impression when he observes: Amtrak Slower Than Buses on Many Routes.

    My daughters have gone to college in Pittsburgh and Poughkeepsie, NY. As they will be traveling back and forth to D.C., we have compared transportation options. For Pittsburgh, the best option is Megabus. For Poughkeepsie, it is Amtrak.

    For Pittsburgh, we were surprised to find that rail is much slower than bus. Because of the mountains between D.C. and Pittsburgh, trains need to zig zag more than highways as elevation changes. Amtrak’s trip between D.C. and Pittsburgh is 7 hours 43 mins, while Greyhound’s (with a stop in Baltimore) is 6 hours 15 mins. Even better, Megabus provides 5‑hour service direct between D.C. and Pittsburgh college campuses on high‐demand days.

    `

    Which got me wondering: our next-door city, Dover NH, has both train and bus service to Boston. How do the times compare?

    There are five "Downeaster" trains on the timetable today (2022-01-14). Four are scheduled to take 93 minutes for the trip; one (leaving at 12:47pm) takes 20 minutes longer, 113 minutes.

    Five "C&J" buses are on the weekday schedule from Dover to Boston, and they take (respectively) 120 minutes, 120 minutes, 105 minutes, 105 minutes, 100 minutes.

    So it's pretty close. You have to factor in (of course) the convenience of the departure and arrival points, parking availability, schedule constraints,…

URLs du Jour

2022-01-13

  • Senator Karen is divorced. From reality. I assume she's still getting along with her husband, though. At issue is this tweet:

    Joe Lancaster analyzes at Reason: Elizabeth Warren Blames High Food Prices on Grocery Chains' 'Record' 1 Percent Profit Margins.

    But Warren could hardly have picked a worse industry to use as an example: Grocery stores consistently have among the lowest profit margins of any economic sector. According to data compiled this month by New York University finance professor Aswath Damodaran, the entire retail grocery industry currently averages barely more than 1 percent in net profit. In its most recent quarter, Kroger reported a profit margin of 0.75 percent, during a time in which Warren claims that the chain was "expanding profits" due to its "market dominance."

    In actuality, for much of the last year, grocery stores have seen enormous boosts in revenue, but not increased profitability, for the simple reason that everything has been costing more: not just products, but transportation, employee compensation, and all the extra logistical steps needed to adapt to shopping during a pandemic. Couple that with persistent inflation—which Warren also recently blamed on "price gouging"—and it is no wonder that things seem a bit out of balance.

    It's also worth pointing out that Kroger, cited by Warren, is hardly dominant. It's market share is 10.1%. That's good for second place behind Walmart (26%).

    Well, it's actually third place. "Others" is 42.9%.

    Who needs horror movies? Whenever I want to frighten myself to bits, I simply recall that Elizabeth Warren has power, and that a large number of people take her seriously.


  • As I journey on the trail of life, I wish to acknowledge… the courage of Stuart Reges, Computer Science instructor at the Univesity of Washington (UW). Who recently took a stand Against Land Acknowledgements.

    Regular readers of Quillette may recall my 2018 article “Why Women Don’t Code,” which led to another describing how I was “Demoted and Placed on Probation.” After a year of probation, I was reappointed for a three-year term, only to entangle myself in a new controversy over indigenous land acknowledgments. These are sombre declarations intended to acknowledge that land now used for some event or purpose was once inhabited by indigenous tribes (some acknowledgements add that the land was unjustly taken). They are rather like ritual acts of expiatory prayer, usually recited by rote from a standardized text. It doesn’t seem to matter much whether or not the speaker actually agrees with the sentiments expressed; what’s important is that the required words are spoken.

    Reges notes the UW diversicrats issued a "best practices" recommended an "inclusive" addition to course syllabi:

    The University of Washington acknowledges the Coast Salish peoples of this land, the land which touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Suquamish, Tulalip and Muckleshoot nations.

    Here's what Reges put in his course syllabus:

    I acknowledge that by the labor theory of property the Coast Salish people can claim historical ownership of almost none of the land currently occupied by the University of Washington.

    The reference is to John Locke. Reges himself claims to be a follower of Henry George.

    As you might expect (and there's no need to euphemize this), shit hit the fan. Read the whole thing. And here is the article from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education on the matter. Their take:

    If professors at the University of Washington want to include a statement of land acknowledgment on their syllabi, they must parrot the administration’s viewpoint or shut up.

    As I always wonder when stuff like this happens: what about the University Near Here? They (of course) have an official "Land, Water, and Life Acknowledgement":

    As we all journey on the trail of life, we wish to acknowledge the spiritual and physical connection the Pennacook, Abenaki, and Wabanaki Peoples have maintained to N’dakinna (homeland) and the aki (land), nebi (water), olakwika (flora), and awaasak (fauna) which the University of New Hampshire community is honored to steward today. We also acknowledge the hardships they continue to endure after the loss of unceded homelands and champion the university’s responsibility to foster relationships and opportunities that strengthen the well-being of the Indigenous People who carry forward the traditions of their ancestors.

    I should have put a trigger warning up there about readers' eyes rolling clean out of their heads. Sorry.

    I (however) don't see any requirement or suggestion that instructors stick this into their syllabi.

    And, in somewhat related news, there doesn't seem to be any new activity around the Durham Post Office "Controversial Mural" depicting the 1694 Oyster River Massacre.


  • As usual, Betteridge's Law of Headlines applies. Paul Mirengoff wonders: Is ensuring election integrity anti-democratic?

    Of course not. Yet Democrats and their media allies insist that it is.

    Take for example, the lead article in the Washington Post’s Sunday Outlook section. It’s by Sam Rosenfeld, an associate professor at Colgate University. Rosenfeld claims that democracy is “on the brink of disaster” in America. As evidence, he moans that “in 2021, Republican state legislatures passed new restrictions on voting access.”

    But these restrictions tend to ensure election integrity, a sine qua non of a well-functioning democracy. Rosenfeld fails to show otherwise. He doesn’t even address the measures in question.

    Mirengoff points to this Imprimis article by John Lott for a more reasonable take. Among the factoids Lott mentions: "Of the 47 countries in Europe today, 46 of them currently require government-issued photo IDs to vote." And yet, many of them are considered to be democracies.


  • Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, Biden's gotta demagogue. The National Review editors were unimpressed: Joe Biden’s Disgraceful Voting Speech.

    Joe Biden has had a long career of careless pronouncements and demagogic speeches, but he outdid himself with his cynical rant in Georgia on Tuesday afternoon.

    In a push to pass two sweeping Democratic voting bills federalizing a swath of election rules, Biden took a rhetorical sledgehammer to the legitimacy of America’s elections and identified opponents of the bills as domestic “enemies” on par with some of the most reprehensible figures in U.S. history.

    It was a disgraceful performance, witless and sloppy even by Joe Biden’s standards.

    There's a lot of commentary out there on Biden's speech, and we'll probably bring a couple of items to your attention tomorrow.


  • Note: not the "nuke-u-lar" option. Kevin D. Williamson has a long and (as usual) factual and insightful discussion of electricity generation: The Nuclear Option.

    The most important question in almost every public-policy debate is: Compared to what? And so it is with nuclear energy and, to a lesser extent, with natural gas, both of which are likely to receive more liberal regulatory and financial treatment in the European Union under a recently proposed policy change. This raises important questions for the European Union, of course, but also for the United States, India, and even China, all of which have growing power needs that come with environmental complications attached.

    One of the concepts that comes up often in the discussion of environmental policy is externalities. An externality is an effect created by some economic activity, one that is incidental to the activity itself and that has some consequence for a third party that is not accounted for in the price of the good or service. There are both positive and negative externalities, but, when it comes to regulation, we usually are worried about negative externalities. Externalities often involve damage to public goods, and the textbook case is air pollution. None of the parties involved in producing and consuming diesel pays in a direct way for the air pollution caused by diesel engines and, because in most circumstances nobody has a property right in ambient air quality, nobody has standing to sue or to demand relief, even assuming that a meaningfully responsible party could be identified. (Some very cranky libertarians will tell you that there is no such thing as an externality, only a problem of insufficiently defined property rights, which may be a valid philosophical point but one that is of very little practical use in policy-making.) We can’t say, “Let the market take care of it,” because there is no market mechanism for taking care of it (though it is possible to create market mechanisms through regulation, as in cap-and-trade schemes), we can’t let the courts sort the question out as a policy dispute, and so we turn to lawmakers and regulators to address the issue.

    Need I add: open Yucca Mountain.


  • Good news and bad. The Josiah Bartlett Center reports on N.H. business tax revenues' stunning surge.

    Since the start of the fiscal year in July, business tax revenues are $109.5 million (27.9%) above the prior fiscal year and $72.7 million (16.9%) above budget.

    Add this to the total from FY 2012-2021, and business tax revenues have come in over budget by $722.3 million since FY 2012.

    Add this to the total from FY 2012-2021, and business tax revenues have come in over budget by $722.3 million since FY 2012.

    As a libertarian crank, I don't consider it an unalloyed good to learn that the state has extracted hundreds of millions more than it budgeted for over the years. But it's nice to learn that the folks who prophesied fiscal doom because of past rate cuts (cough Maggie Hassan cough) were wrong, wrong, wrong.

URLs du Jour

2022-01-12

  • Bubbleheads interviewing bureaucrats, what could go wrong? Allahpundit has more information about the fake news you might have briefly believed: Here's what the CDC chief actually told ABC about COVID deaths and comorbidities.

    ABC is partly to blame for the confusion about this yesterday. Only partly, let me stress: Anti-vaxxers and the media ecosystem that caters to them seized on the clip in bad faith because it seemed that Rochelle Walensky had confirmed all of their suspicions about the pandemic, appearing to say that only those who were already at death’s door with four or more comorbidities are at any risk of dying from COVID. The RNC’s cut of the interview, for instance, omitted all context by not even including the question Walensky was responding to:

    [Tweet elided]

    But ABC screwed up too — and they quietly erased the evidence of that screw-up overnight by replacing the video of their interview with Walensky (which happened last Friday) with a new, updated video that now includes her entire answer. […]

    Click for the video, and see if it aligns with your reality. Also on that topic is the Dispatch Fact Checker, Alec Dent. I found his last paragraph had interesting information:

    The latest provisional data from the CDC shows that 95 percent of individuals with COVID listed on their death certificate had at least one underlying risk factor. [Kathleen Conley, a spokesperson for Walensky] did not respond to a request for information on what percent of the general and unvaccinated population who passed away had four or more comorbidities. 

    Did not respond? Don't you think that might be good to know?


  • Do you think it might be a good idea to have at-home COVID-19 tests cheaper and easier to find? If you're a libertarian, you probably saw this coming, as detailed by Elizabeth Nolan Brown: Biden's Plan To Make At-Home COVID-19 Tests More Expensive and Harder To Find

    Seriously? With a new plan for at-home COVID-19 testing, the U.S. continues to embrace the most convoluted and costly approach to health care. On Monday, the Biden administration announced that health insurance plans must cover at least eight at-home tests per member per month.

    In some countries, COVID-19 test approval has been swift and many companies have been allowed to make tests, spurring robust competition and driving down prices while ensuring there are plenty of tests to go around. Other countries have made free tests available directly from government sources—a plan not exactly desirable from a fiscal or free market standpoint, but at least theoretically capable of making sure people actually have access to tests.

    In contrast, the U.S. has chosen the worst of all worlds, in effect making COVID-19 tests both limited and expensive. While at-home rapid tests in many countries are plentiful and cost as little as a few dollars per test, here they remain hard to find and about $24 or more for a two-pack. Why? Because our government was slow, overcautious, and obscenely selective when approving tests for market, making companies jump through complicated and costly hoops to be allowed to sell tests here and thus ensuring that those allowed are expensive and scarce. The U.S. has faced serious issues with testing since the start of the pandemic and—two years in—demand for tests continues to drastically outpace supply.

    This is, of course, government's first instinct: we need to be perceived to be "doing something". Letting the market work does not accomplish that goal.


  • Finding it tough to wade through a bunch of tedious new movies looking for gems? There might be a reason for that. Bari Weiss hosts Peter Kiefer and Peter Savodnik, who detail Hollywood's New Rules.

    A few years ago, the editor-in-chief of The Hollywood Reporter pitched a story to the newsroom. He had just come back from lunch with a well-known agent, who had suggested the paper take a look at the unintended consequences of Hollywood’s efforts to diversify. Those white men who had spent decades writing scripts—which had been turned into blockbuster movies and hit television shows—were no longer getting hired. 

    The newsroom blew up. The reporters, especially the younger ones, mocked the idea that white men were on the outs. The editor-in-chief, normally self-assured, immediately backtracked. He looked rattled.

    It was a missed opportunity. The story wasn’t just about white guys not getting jobs. Nor was it really about the economics of Hollywood. It was about the stories Hollywood told and distributed and streamed on screens around the globe every day. It was about this massively lucrative industry that had been birthed by outsiders and emerged, out of lemon groves, into a glamorous, glitzy mosh pit teeming with chutzpah and broken hearts and unbelievable success stories that had made the American Dream a real, pulsating thing—for Americans and billions of other people who thought that if you could imagine something, anything, you could will it into being. It was a story about who we aspired to be.

    After the meeting, a reporter approached another editor about pursuing it. The editor told the reporter to drop it. No one, he said, at The Hollywood Reporter—one of a handful of trade publications that covers the ins and outs of the entertainment industry—was going to risk blowing up their career over this. 

    Well, there's always old Cary Grant flicks.


  • Railroaded? Arnold Kling has an interesting take on the recently convicted Elizabeth Holmes

    The WSJ reports,

    jurors in the trial of Elizabeth Holmes seized on what one juror described as two “smoking guns” that sealed the fate of the Theranos Inc. founder.

    …a report Theranos gave investors that Ms. Holmes altered to make it look like it was an endorsement from Pfizer Inc. For Ms. Stefanek, the second was a document of financial projections. . .

    The 2014 document projected $40 million in annual revenue from drug companies, though jurors had heard from government witnesses that Theranos had no such contracts at the time.

    I’ve invested in some start-ups as an angel investor. I was told much worse lies than those.

    I can’t think of a single founder who could not have been convicted of fraud by this jury’s standards. Founders always make outlandish financial projections. They always exaggerate intangible assets, such as having an “inside track” with a major potential customer.

    So maybe she was railroaded by getting caught in the media spotlight? Plausible.


  • Thanks a lot, Jim. James Freeman writes on the fifth(!) anniversary: James Comey and Our Poisoned Politics.

    This week marks the fifth anniversary of perhaps the greatest media scandal of our age. Outlets like CNN and BuzzFeed flogged a bogus dossier of salacious claims funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign, even while admitting they didn’t know whether the dossier’s allegations against Donald Trump were true or false. It wasn’t necessarily that reporters had mistaken fake news for the real stuff—they simply didn’t care or acknowledge that they had an obligation to vet anti-Trump claims before disseminating them.

    The pathetic media excuse for running with the story was that important people in the government were talking about it. And no one wanted to talk about it more than the FBI’s then-director, James Comey. He kept talking about it even after his department had failed to corroborate it, and even though the CIA viewed it as mere “Internet rumor.”

    Goodness knows, I was no Trump fan. I'm still not a Trump fan. But imagine a world where Comey and the media were more circumspect about circulating "Internet rumors". Would Trump have acted as outrageous as he did, if not being investigated based on made-up disinformation? Maybe, maybe not.

The Edge of Seventeen

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

I thought Hailee Steinfeld was great in the Hawkeye miniseries. (I don't report on miniseries here, but I liked it a lot.) And I thought she was pretty good in that True Grit remake back in 2011. So when this showed up free-to-me on Netflix, I decided to bite.

It's IMDB genre-icized as Comedy/Drama. Accurate! It's funny in spots, but it's not one of those teen movie raunchfests. Teenager Nadine (Ms. Steinfeld) is very smart, very funny, and very pretty. This should be a recipe for high school success, but she's damaged goods. She's burdened by a flibbertigibbet mother (Kyra Sedgwick), the traumatic death of her father, a can-do-no-wrong handsome jock brother.

Fortunately, she has a steadfast friend, Krista. But (oh oh) Krista gets involved with Nadine's brother, causing that friendship to self-destruct. (Nadine's dysfunctional that way.) There's also a supportive teacher (Woody Harrelson, great). And a geeky just-friends-for-now, Erwin. And bad boy Nick, who's the object of Nadine's fantasies.

Bottom line: a decent movie to watch. R-rated (for "sexual content, language and some drinking - all involving teens"), but nothing I was too embarrassed to watch with Mrs. Salad. Ms. Steinfeld, to repeat, is outstanding.

URLs du Jour

2022-01-11

  • It's all in a day's work for Confuse-A-Citizen. [Classical reference] James Freeman's reaction to the recent meandering thoughts of Rochelle, Rochelle Walensky: Now She Tells Us.

    On Sunday Dr. Walensky tweeted:

    We must protect people with comorbidities from severe #COVID19. I went into medicine – HIV specifically – and public health to protect our most at-risk. CDC is taking steps to protect those at highest risk, incl. those w/ chronic health conditions, disabilities & older adults.

    Fair enough, but this recognition that some face great risk from Covid while others face much lower risk has been obvious from the start. In response, a group of accomplished and wise scientists crafted the Great Barrington Declaration in 2020 to promote a ”focused protection” strategy—taking great care to shield those at high risk while allowing the vast majority who are at low risk to continue working, learning and doing all the things that sustain life. This sensible prioritization sounds very much like what Dr. Walensky is suggesting in her Sunday tweet.

    But that's not all! Freeman also points to this CDC report which talks about those comorbidities:

    For over 5% of these deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned on the death certificate. For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 4.0 additional conditions or causes per death.

    But before you get all hot and bothered about that:


  • That's what she didn't say. Did Rochelle, Rochelle say that 75% of all COVID deaths involved four comorbidities? Take it away, Allahpundit: No, the CDC chief didn't say that 75% of all COVID deaths involved four comorbidities.

    But Walensky wasn’t talking about all COVID deaths. She was talking about COVID deaths among the vaccinated. She was referring to this study published by the CDC on Friday, the same day she gave the interview above.

    During December 2020–October 2021, a total of 1,228,664 persons aged ≥18 years completed primary vaccination (Pfizer-BioNTech, 72.8%; Moderna, 20.0%, Janssen, 6.5%; unspecified mRNA vaccine, 0.8%) across 465 facilities in PHD-SR. Among these, 2,246 (18 per 10,000) acquired COVID-19, including 327 who were hospitalized, 189 (1.5 per 10,000) who had a severe COVID-19 outcome, and 36 (0.3 per 10,000) who had a COVID-19–related death (including nine persons discharged to hospice). Among those who acquired COVID-19 after primary vaccination, 1.6% (36) died, 1.1% (24) survived and were admitted to an ICU, and 5.7% (129) survived and received a diagnosis of acute respiratory failure or required NIV but were not admitted to an ICU…

    All persons with severe COVID-19 outcomes after primary vaccination had at least one of the eight risk factors identified as significant in the model. The frequency of having four or more risk factors increased with disease severity, ranging from 18.8% (386) among persons who had nonsevere outcomes, 56.9% (87) among survivors who had respiratory failure or were admitted to an ICU, to 77.8% (28) among persons who died.

    Out of 1.2 million vaccinated people, just 36 died. That’s .003 percent, a phenomenal survival rate. Of those 36, slightly more than three-quarters had four comorbidities. Which is to say, even if you have three comorbidities, getting vaxxed all but guarantees that you won’t die if you’re infected.

    Confused? I wouldn't blame you.

    But don't believe those who have shown themselves to be context-shearing propagandists.


  • I'm not sick, just cold. So very cold. But that's me. Jim Geraghty notes the sad state of affairs: America Is Out Sick This Week. But skip down a bit, and we eventually get to commentary on Rochelle, Rochelle:

    Speaking of squandered trust and goodwill, managing the Omicron variant is difficult enough without an administration and public-health leaders who keep saying the wrong things. This morning, Axios quoted a bunch of doctors and public-health experts who contend that the federal health agencies, particularly the CDC, may be squandering their credibility with usually receptive Americans. Dr. Leana Wen, CNN talking head and the former president of Planned Parenthood, offered the harshest assessment: “The CDC is facing a real crisis of trust. The primary problem is the policy and how insular [director Rochelle] Walensky has been in setting it. She and the others are great communicators, but no one can communicate a bad policy.”

    I’m not so sure Walensky counts as a “great communicator.” This weekend on Fox News Sunday, Bret Baier tossed her a softball, giving her multiple opportunities to rebuke and correct Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor’s otherworldly contention that, “We have over 100,000 children, which we’ve never had before, in serious condition and many on ventilators.” But it was like pulling teeth; Walensky clearly had no interest in speaking any critical word of Sotomayor, even though the justice was talking nonsense and wildly exaggerating the virus’s risk to children.

    Walensky also said that it would take several weeks to determine “how many of the 836,000 deaths in the U.S. linked to Covid are from Covid or how many are with Covid.” That’s an important distinction! How is it that the CDC doesn’t have, at minimum, a ballpark figure for that?

    If you were holding your breath waiting for clarity and diligence from government officials… well, you wouldn't be reading this, having long since passed away.


  • Don't hold your breath waiting for corporate leaders to grow spines, either. Ed Morrissey looks at Intel's missing skeletal structures: On second thought, never mind about China's genocide

    Surprised? Don’t be; Intel is hardly the first American-based firm to discover that access to Xi Jinping’s markets is its “core.” However, it’s still worth noting in the context of credibility when it comes to corporate social-justice campaigns.

    After all, what’s a little genocide between friends?

    In mid-December, Intel published a letter to its global suppliers on its website, calling on its business partners to avoid sourcing from the northwestern Chinese region, where the Chinese government has conducted a campaign of forcible assimilation against ethnic Muslim minorities.

    Within days, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company was denounced by Chinese social-media users and state-run media for cutting business dealings with the region, while one of its China brand ambassadors pulled out in protest. The chip maker apologized on Dec. 23 on its Chinese social-media accounts, adding that the letter was written to comply with U.S. law and didn’t represent its position on Xinjiang.

    A Wall Street Journal check of the same webpage and supplier letter on Jan. 10 found that the company had erased any reference to Xinjiang there. Previously, Intel had written in the letter viewed on Dec 23: “Our investors and customers have inquired whether Intel purchases goods or services from the Xinjiang region of China. Multiple governments have imposed restrictions on products sourced from the Xinjiang region. Therefore, Intel is required to ensure our supply chain does not use any labor or source goods or services from the Xinjiang region.” The Jan. 10 version didn’t carry that wording.

    Intel had already debased itself in a groveling apology to the Xi regime two days before Christmas. This amounts to an attempt at rewriting history, a practice that Intel and other US corporations will need to practice when the Xi regime collapses and the extent of their genocidal depravities become more widely known. Collaborators with the regime will have to answer for their cooperation at that point, and more.

    I'd like to imagine that someday in the not-too-distant future people will look back in disgust and loathing at Intel et alia for their mealymouthed kowtowing to the Chinese Communists.


  • I was not stimulated, either. Daniel J. Mitchell looks at Biden’s “Stimulus” Failure.

    The White House claimed this orgy of new spending would lead to four million additional jobs in 2021, on top of the six million new jobs that already were expected.

    So what happened? Matt Weidinger of the American Enterprise Institute looked at the final numbers for 2021 and discovered that employment actually fell compared to pre-stimulus baseline projection.

    The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected on February 1, 2021…a gain of 6.252 million jobs over…2021…we now know payroll employment in the fourth quarter of 2021 averaged 148.735 million — an increase of 6.116 million compared with the average of 142.619 million in the fourth quarter of 2020. That means the job growth the President praised this week has fallen 136,000 jobs short of what was expected under the policies he inherited. …President Biden and congressional Democrats promised their $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan would create millions of additional new jobs this year — on top of what White House economists called the “dire” baseline of 6.252 million new jobs reflected in CBO’s projection without that enormous legislation. …House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) repeated that claim, stating that “if we do not enact this package, the results could be catastrophic,” including “4 million fewer jobs.” Yet…not one of those four million additional jobs supposedly resulting from that $1.9 trillion spending plan has appeared, as job creation in 2021 did not even match CBO’s projection without that legislation.

    Mitchell also looks back on the failure of Obama's "stimulus".

URLs du Jour

2022-01-10

  • Ouch. Mr. Ramirez illustrates a Power grab:

    [Power Grab]

    If you'd like a relatively straightforward description of the current legislative state of play, FiveThirtyEight has you covered: What Might Democrats’ Voting Rights Bill Entail? There's no illusion there about how partisan this is.

    I like to think I have an open mind about this. I think Trump's assertions that the 2020 election was "stolen" from him are garbage that did real damage to the country, and sent many of his fans into serious episodes of Confirmation Bias, hallucinating (for example) malfeasance in Dominion voting machines.

    But I'm also persuaded by this observation on election fraud from the Heritage Foundation:

    Because of vulnerabilities that exist in state’s election laws, election fraud is relatively easy to commit and difficult to detect after the fact. Moreover, some public officials appear to be unconcerned with election fraud and fail to pursue cases that are reported to them. It is a general truism that you don’t find what you don’t look for.

    That's the intro to their "Election Fraud Database". It seems to me obvious that if you want the citizenry to trust that elections are valid, you need to have ironclad safeguards against voter fraud. Dinking the rules to make fraud detection harder works against that.


  • Like manic depression, partisan whiplash is a frustrating mess. One of the tactics advocated by the Democrats to push their agenda (this year) is to nuke the Senate's filibuster tactic. Jeff Jacoby has some thoughts on that: The filibuster has been bad, but repealing it would be worse.

    IN A "Dear Colleague" letter on Jan. 3, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a warning: If Republicans continued to block the Senate from passing two sweeping elections-related bills supported by Democrats, he wrote, then the chamber would "debate and consider changes to Senate rules on or before January 17." That was a threat, as everyone understood, to invoke the "nuclear option" and blow up the filibuster. If successful, Democrats would no longer require 60 votes to pass their controversial measures; a bare majority would suffice.

    That was on Monday. On Tuesday, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia came out against the nuclear option, saying he would find it "very, very difficult" to support any unilateral move to kill the filibuster. So did Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. During a Democratic caucus lunch, the news site Axios reported, she told her colleagues that "she will not support any effort to get rid of the 60-vote threshold."

    So much for Schumer's threat to go nuclear. The filibuster is safe for now.

    Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Arguments can be made both ways, but my view has long been that the filibuster ought to be reformed by returning to the rules that prevailed before 1970. The Senate should revive the old "talking filibuster," under which a senator or group of senators could indefinitely forestall a vote on any measure by the means Jimmy Stewart dramatized in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" — taking to the floor to speak and refusing to sit down until the majority agrees to compromise. When a filibuster was in progress, all other Senate business came to a halt.

    Jacoby goes on to describe the history, and note the flagrant (but unsurprising) hypocrisy of nearly all involved.


  • Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes. Jim Geraghty dismantles a recent argument: Washington Post Editors: We Need Vaccine Passports, and Also to Rebuild Trust

    See if you can spot the contradiction in this paragraph from the editorial board of the Washington Post, endorsing the proposals of Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel and five other doctors for a “A National Strategy for the ‘New Normal’ of Life With COVID”:

    To reach the new normal, they envision continued reliance on vaccines and vaccine mandates. They envision annual shots tailored to strains and urge accelerated efforts to develop a universal coronavirus vaccine, one shot that would hit all variants. They call for an electronic vaccine platform to replace the paper cards, and they suggest that no-cost, convenient outpatient treatments for covid be made widely available for anyone testing positive. They also point out that trust in public health institutions needs to be rebuilt after two bruising years of crisis.

    In short, everyone will be required to carry an electronic card with their vaccination records and to show them at schools, workplaces, to get on public transportation and attend indoor events, and so on. Also, this unprecedented edict will be carried about by public-health institutions that large swaths of the public no longer trust. Hey, what could go wrong?

    Before we start making new and far-reaching demands of the public, how about these health institutions rebuild trust first by leveling with the public about what they know and what they don’t know, acknowledge disagreement within their ranks, concede that sometimes the data doesn’t offer a clear picture and the right path isn’t so obvious, admit that every policy decision involves trade-offs, and stop seeing their role as dictating the rules to everyone else, and instead building consensus where possible?

    Geraghty goes on from there. And doesn't even mention the not-unlikely "lab leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology" theory of Covid's origin, another trust-eroding issue.

    But you'll note that some of the same folks who assure us they can come up with a reliable electronic ID recording the vaccination status of American citizens also state that it would be an impossible, impermissible, travesty to even try to have a reliable ID system for voting.


  • Try to understand, if not agree. Kevin D. Williamson is in nice guy mode, and advocates that we move Toward a Politics of Charity.

    The Covid-19 era is a cascade of related tragedies, and we would be adding one more item to the tragic catalogue if we were to fail to take the opportunity presented by the heightened contrasts created by the epidemic to understand our national differences a little better. An epidemic is a bit like a war in that it injects an unusual measure of intensity into public affairs, which helps both to reveal and to clarify preexisting differences. Think, for example, of how World War I drew out the militaristic, nationalistic, and centralizing tendencies in American progressivism, producing a reaction whose character was what we would now describe as libertarian. Or think of the way that the combination of the Vietnam War and the social convulsions of the 1960s brought out the anti-Americanism in the white, college-educated Left.

    Americans in our time who would like our politics reoriented toward liberty should, if only for practical reasons, try at least a little to understand the point of view of those Americans who are not oriented mainly toward liberty, who are instead oriented toward something else, such as safety, equality, nationalism, or some other competing priority. The reaction to Covid-19 offers a convenient opportunity to do so.

    It's an NRPLUS article, sorry, I wish it wasn't.


  • Stump your friends! For some reason, Dominic Pino has compiled Some Senator Birthplace Trivia. And I found it interesting, so…

    Each state gets two senators, but that doesn’t mean there are two senators who were born in each state. The Constitution only requires that senators be at least 30 years old, be U.S. citizens for at least nine years, and live in the state from which they are elected. A senator’s place of birth has no political significance, but there’s nothing wrong with a little Senate trivia, so here goes.

    Guess how many states were the birthplace of (currently) no senators?

    Spoiler: If you guessed that New Hampshire was one of them, good job. Senator Jeanne was born in Missouri, Senator Maggie in Massachusetts. (For the record the current "serious" declared GOP candidates running against Maggie in next year's election, Chuck Morse and Donald Bolduc, were both born in NH.)

URLs du Jour

2022-01-09

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Good idea, won't happen. John Hood writes at Reason: All Politicians Are Unpopular—So Strip Away Their Power.

    As we begin what will surely be another tumultuous year in politics, I'd like to congratulate our leaders in Washington for uniting our fractious country around a common proposition: We don't like you.

    President Joe Biden is unpopular. Former President Donald Trump is unpopular. Congressional leaders are unpopular. More generally, a recent Gallup survey shows that only 39 percent of Americans have either "a great deal" or "a fair amount" of trust and confidence in the federal government to handle the nation's problems. Regarding Congress in particular, most Americans describe their level of confidence as "very little" or "none."

    A healthy skepticism about the pretensions of politicians and the exercise of federal power is nothing new in American life. What we face now, though, is quite unhealthy cynicism. It's toxic. And while we have lately endured a series of especially inept and unctuous leaders, the problem is really one of institutions, not individuals.

    But here's the "won't happen" part: people don't like politicians in general, fine, sure. But they're pretty OK with their own representatives. See the Reelection Rates page at Open Secrets.

    And although there was an encouraging recent poll that said "Fifty-two percent of respondents said government is doing too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses", I'm not sure that translates into enough sentiment to dismantle any particular non-trivial program.

    But I could be wrong. I actually hope I am.


  • For more on that general topic… we have Jonah Goldberg in his weekly unpaywalled G-File: Transformers: Less Than Meets the Eye. There's a linguistic discussion (apparently) going on "about whether Democratic politicians should use the word 'transformative' or 'transformational' to describe the Build Back Better bill."

    Nope. Don't care in the slightest. It's like worrying about whether your local dumpster is "odiferous" or merely "odorous".

    But Jonah careens pinball-like into some more interesting discussion.

    In short, radically transforming society is difficult even if you think it’s desirable. Barack Obama learned this the hard way. He improved greatly on Great Society rhetoric, infusing it with a kind quasi-religious messianism—“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” and all that—but, as even a lot of lefties will now admit, he came up very short of the “fundamental transformation” he promised.

    But he did succeed in getting his opponents—including yours truly—to take all of that talk seriously. In fairness, it wasn’t hard given some of the creepier stuff people said about Obama being “The One” and a “Lightworker” and all that. Obama campaign volunteers were taught that they shouldn’t talk about the issues but instead “testify” about how they “came to Obama.” Michelle Obama insisted that her husband “is the only person in this race who understands that, that before we can work on the problems, we have to fix our souls. Our souls are broken in this nation.” Barbara Walters admitted that “we thought he was the next messiah.”

    […]

    One consequence of the creepy cult of personality surrounding Barack Obama is that Republicans were primed to get in on the act. I don’t want to venture too far into David French’s turf, but the willingness of many evangelicals—and people who play them on TV—to embrace Archangel Donald was among the most shocking features of the Trump presidency. He was a “modern day Cyrus” and a newKing David.” Trump was in his own Manichean struggle against Satan, against witchcraft, etc.

    That sort of thing makes the "shrink government" idea even less likely.


  • Sad, really, I used to like him. Charles C. W. Cooke is dissatisfied with a politician too: Ted Cruz Debases Himself for the Base.

    What an extraordinary disappointment Ted Cruz is. On paper, the man should be a star. He’s intellectually gifted, he has a remarkable memory, and, on the vast majority of public-policy questions, his political instincts are sound. But he’s a coward, and, at this level, cowardice represents an intractable flaw.

    Worse, Cruz is transparent in his cowardice. One must assume that Cruz believes himself to be a practitioner of political chess, and yet he seems oddly unaware of his tendency to prefigure each and every move through a loudspeaker. On Wednesday, as part of a mawkish paean to the Capitol Police, Cruz described the events of January 6, 2021, as “a despicable act of terrorism.” A day later, he went on Tucker Carlson’s show to explain sorrowfully that “the way I phrased things yesterday was sloppy, and it was, frankly, dumb.” What had changed in the interim? Nothing had. This wasn’t Ted Cruz carefully debating the meaning and suitability of words and making a handful of concessions in the process; this was Ted Cruz noticing that his previous position had made him unpopular with his base and finding another one on the fly. Its accuracy notwithstanding, there was nothing “sloppy” about Cruz’s use of the word “terrorism.” Indeed, he had used that word in both official statements and interviews on a number of occasions before this week, including on January 7, 2021, on January 8, 2021 (twice), on January 25, 2021, and in May 2021. The difference this time was that someone with a big platform attacked him for it, and, coward that he is, he couldn’t take the heat.

    Well, maybe Cruz is another guy I wouldn't be able to hold my nose tightly enough to vote for.


  • Protect us, Twitter! The Daily Wire reports the latest: Matt Walsh Suspended From Twitter Over Transgender Tweets. Here’s What Twitter Has Censored.

    The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh on Friday night was suspended from Twitter over tweets he posted recognizing biological realities and not so-called “gender identity.”

    “The greatest female Jeopardy champion of all time is a man,” Walsh posted to Twitter — a tweet the left-wing site has now censored. “The top female college swimmer is a man. The first female four star admiral in the Public Health Service is a man. Men have dominated female high school track and the female MMA circuit. The patriarchy wins in the end.”

    Another tweet, which has also been censored by Twitter, reads, “I am not referring to an individual person as if she is two people. Everyone else can run around sounding like maniacs if they want but I will not be participating. No thank you.”

    He's back, now though. At least for now. I know this because:

    If that disappears, you'll know what happened.

    I don't think that second "censored" tweet is actually about transgenderism, at least not primarily; it's about people who demand you use plural pronouns to refer to them. E.g., "they/them" instead of "he/him" or "she/her". The University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee has a long page about it.

    I note that the "it" pronoun is off the table, although that would be slightly less confusing in many contexts. And (hey) aren't we all just collections of atoms, like rocks, water, and air? What are you, bigoted against rocks, water, and air? Are you some kind of lifeist? Acknowledge your bio-privilege, hater!


  • If you want me, I'll be in my echo chamber. Philip Greenspun compares the SCOTUS coverage in the New York Times with that in the Washington Examiner: Supreme Court hears arguments on forced vaccination in two parallel universes. Here's a bit from the latter:

    But the worst falsehoods by far came from Sotomayor, who claimed the omicron variant is just as deadly as the delta variant was and that more than 100,000 children have been hospitalized by COVID-19, with “many” on ventilators.

    he current national pediatric COVID-19 census from the Department of Health and Human Services shows 3,342 children with COVID-19 in hospitals. And, as Anthony Fauci admitted last week, there is a huge difference between children hospitalized by COVID-19 and those hospitalized with COVID-19. The vast majority of pediatric cases are from children hospitalized with COVID-19, meaning they were hospitalized by something else first and happened to test positive at about that same time.

    Even left-leaning PolitiFact called out Justice Sotomayor, dinging her statement (cue sad trombone) "False".

    But what's really important in Philip's analysis:

    There is almost no overlap between what the NYT reported as having happened and what the Washington Examiner reported as having happened.

    Sadly, my own go-to, the WSJ. also failed to mention Sotomayor's flub.

    [Update (later that same day): Ann Althouse notes that the WaPo's Glenn Kessler gave her four Pinocchios. Good for him,]


  • Alternate title: why Pun Salad doesn't do "reviews". Hannah Long writes at the Dispatch In Defense of Elitist Film Criticism.

    Nobody likes a critic. Especially filmmakers, as recent griping attests. Don’t Look Up director Adam McKay rather priggishly observed that if critics didn’t get his movie, it’s probably because they don’t worry enough about climate change or U.S. political troubles. Twenty-five-year-old British millionaire Tom Holland admonished 79-year-old Martin Scorsese since he “doesn’t know what it’s like” to make a Marvel film. (Scorsese had written a politely critical op ed for the New York Times claiming that superhero movies “aren’t for me” and “I don’t think they’re cinema.” This has led to him becoming the studios #1 boogeyman.)

    A deceptively milder critique of critics was expressed by an animator for the Disney film Encanto who recently argued, “Film critics should talk [more] about how much taste, temperament and expectation make a viewing experience singular, not universal.” He continued at length to contend critics shouldn’t present their opinions as objective or speak with authority.

    It’s a nice sentiment, but dead wrong. First of all, subjectivity is implied by the context of a film review. We should all know that. But there’s a bigger point to be made here. The internet is full of bad film criticism—and pompous critics exist—but far more ubiquitous and corrosive than critical over-certainty is a sort of breathlessly enthusiastic headline that has become all too common: “The New Trailer for the Superboy Prequel Reboot Dropped and It’s Everything.”

    If you read my movie and book sections over there on your right, you'll notice I don't call them "reviews". I call them "reports", when I have to call them something. The sort of thing you write when you have to convince your teacher that you read a book you were assigned. (But with no word count requirement, fortuately.)

    I respect professional critics too much to imply that I'm horning in on their territory.


Last Modified 2022-05-11 7:10 AM EDT

Till the Clouds Roll By

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

Another free-to-me Amazon streamer. Summary: it's long, star-studded, only occasionally interesting. I thought it would be better.

It's the biopic of Jerome Kern (played by Robert Walker), starting off with the Broadway debut of Show Boat, to instant acclaim. Taking a cab ride to the post-show reception at the Waldorf, Kern starts reminiscing about his past life to the cabbie, and… well, we get to hear and see that.

Except (as I learned from the IMDB reviews) most of the story he relates is entirely fictional. Apparently Kern's life was even more boring than what this movie made up. Van Heflin plays a fictitious collaborator, with a fictitious daughter, who has dreams of Broadway glory outpacing her fictitious talent. When this is pointed out to her, she fictitously flees, heartbroken. Van Heflin (fictitiously) kicks the bucket, with a deathbed plea to Kern to track her down and make up, which he does.

But the fictitious plot is simply meant to string together the numerous production song-and-dance numbers. Some of these songs are great ("Ol' Man River", "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man", "I Won't Dance", "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes") and the others I thought were pretty forgettable. I did mention star-studded, right? Performers: Judy Garland, Dinah Shore, Angela Lansbury, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, June Allyson, Van Johnson. (I had no idea that Van Johnson was that good.)

Citizen of the Galaxy

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Another entry in my "Reread Heinlein" project. (15 to go!) And this one totally took me by surprise. The last time I read it was (probably) over fifty years ago (yes, I'm old). I remember liking it. But this time through… well, I really liked it. It came out in 1957, and the other novels Heinlein novels around that time (The Door into Summer, Have Space Suit—Will Travel, Time for the Stars, Starship Troopers) all seem (to me) to be Heinlein at his peak.

It's set in the far-flung future, where mankind is smart enough to have mastered interstellar travel, but is also dumb enough to have revived one of mankind's worst ideas: slavery. It's accepted practice on the planet Jubbul, where filthy, snarling human child Thorby is up for sale, after incorrigible behavior with past masters. After some dickering, he's purchased by a one-eyed, one-legged beggar, Baslim. Who brings him home to his hovel… which is surprisingly liveable, for a beggar.

But there's more to Baslim than meets the eye (heh). There's also more to Thorby than one might suspect from his near-feral behavior. No further spoilers!

Heinlein does a fine job of explicating the weird cultures humans can develop in response to environment and economics. Not just on Jubbul, but also… whoa, I said no further spoilers!

I feel like giving a copy of this book to every 13-year-old boy I know.

URLs du Jour

2022-01-08

Hey, here it is, January 8. And I'm finally getting around to making a themed post about January 6. There are some sane people out there.

  • Betteridge's Law of Headlines applies. Jacob Sullum asks: Was the Capitol Riot Really the Opening Battle of a Civil War? And answers:

    As outrageous and embarrassing as it was, the Capitol riot that happened a year ago today did not come close to stopping Joe Biden from taking office. The assault on the Capitol was haphazard and hapless, a temper tantrum rather than an incipient coup. It was a humiliating spectacle for the United States, indisputable evidence of Donald Trump's reckless self-absorption, and a fitting end to a ridiculous presidency. But in the end, the vandalism and violence merely delayed the ratification of the election results until that night.

    Former President Jimmy Carter nevertheless claims that "a violent mob, guided by unscrupulous politicians, stormed the Capitol and almost succeeded in preventing the democratic transfer of power." In a New York Times essay titled "I Fear for Our Democracy," Carter says the threat represented by that "insurrection" continues to endanger our system of government. "Our great nation now teeters on the brink of a widening abyss," he writes. "Without immediate action, we are at genuine risk of civil conflict and losing our precious democracy." The Times editorial board likewise warns that "the Republic faces an existential threat from a movement that is openly contemptuous of democracy and has shown that it is willing to use violence to achieve its ends."

    This alarming portrait of a nation on the verge of civil war supposedly is verified by polling data showing that Americans are not only more bitterly divided than ever but also increasingly inclined to resolve political disputes with violence. Carter, for example, cites a January 2021 survey in which "36 percent of Americans—almost 100 million adults across the political spectrum—agree[d] that 'the traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.'"

    I remain bitterly divided against the people who claim that we're bitterly divided.


  • Oh, I thought he said porpoises. Never mind. Glenn Greenwald points out The Histrionics and Melodrama Around 1/6 Are Laughable, but They Serve Several Key Purposes.

    The number of people killed by pro-Trump supporters at the January 6 Capitol riot is equal to the number of pro-Trump supporters who brandished guns or knives inside the Capitol. That is the same number as the total of Americans who — after a full year of a Democrat-led DOJ conducting what is heralded as “the most expansive federal law enforcement investigation in US history” — have been charged with inciting insurrection, sedition, treason or conspiracy to overthrow the government as a result of that riot one year ago. Coincidentally, it is the same number as Americans who ended up being criminally charged by the Mueller probe of conspiring with Russia over the 2016 election, and the number of wounds — grave or light — which AOC, who finally emerged at night to assure an on-edge nation that she was “okay" while waiting in an office building away from the riot at the rotunda, sustained on that solemn day.

    That number is zero. But just as these rather crucial facts do not prevent the dominant wing of the U.S. corporate media and Democratic Party leaders from continuing to insist that Donald Trump's 2016 election victory was illegitimate due to his collusion with the Kremlin, it also does not prevent January 6 from being widely described in those same circles as an Insurrection, an attempted coup, an event as traumatizing as Pearl Harbor (2,403 dead) or the 9/11 attack (2,977 dead), and as the gravest attack on American democracy since the mid-19th Century Civil War (750,000 dead). The Huffington Post's White House reporter S.V. Date said that it was wrong to compare 1/6 to 9/11, because the former — the three-hour riot at the Capitol — was “1,000 percent worse.”

    Unfortunately, it's a paid-subscriber post. So we don't get to hear Glenn's explication of the "key purposes" that the "histrionics and melodrama" serve. But I bet you can guess accurately.


  • It's a tale told by a non-idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying …something. Specificially, it's A Tale of Two Authoritarians, as told by Matt Taibbi:

    I don’t mean to understate the seriousness of January 6th, even though it’s been absurdly misreported for over a year now. No one from a country where these things actually happen could mistake 1/6 for “a coup .” In the real version, the mob doesn’t take selfies and blaze doobies after seizing the palace, and the would-be dictator doesn’t spend 187 minutes snacking and watching Fox before tweeting “go home.” Instead, he works the phones nonstop to rally precinct chiefs, generals, and airport officials to the cause, because a coup is a real attempt to seize power. Britannica says the “chief prerequisite for a coup is control of all or part of the armed forces, the police, and other military elements.” We saw none of that on January 6th, but it’s become journalistic requirement to use either “coup” or “insurrection” in describing it:

    […]

    It was no heroic storming of the Bastille. January 6th was a massive LARP that got out of hand. Trump has been around long enough for us to know his pattern as a serial line-crosser. Like a comedian, he’s always trying out new material, and if he gets the right reaction, he comes back with a bigger delivery next time. January 6th was Trump dipping a toe in the lake of strongman politics. The reason it wasn’t worse is because Trump has also been constantly mislabeled as a Hitler, Stalin, or Pinochet. The man has no attention span, no interest in planning or strategy, and most importantly, no ability to maintain relationships with the type of people who do have those qualities (like Steve Bannon). Even if he wanted to overturn “democracy itself” — I don’t believe he does, but let’s say — Trump has proven over and over he lacks the qualities a politician would need to make that happen.

    The headline promised two authoritarians, and guess what? One of 'em is Dick Cheney, who showed up for the 1/6 festivities to support daughter Liz. Man, Taibbi really hates Dick Cheney.


  • Wouldn't Evita have been a better choice? James Freeman mocks Nancy Pelosi's all-singing, all-dancing 1/6 spectacular: Capitol Riot: The Musical!

    Readers probably don’t recall a 2002 congressional effort to mark the first anniversary of 9/11 with a catchy musical number from a Broadway smash hit. And perhaps that says it all about the Democrats’ Thursday production to mark one year since the Capitol riot of 2021. Two decades ago, no one had to sell the idea that America had suffered a devastating attack. Today the political appetites of incumbent Democrats require pretending that last year’s riot was an insurrection. On Thursday the show had to go on.

    Take it away, Chloe Rabinowitz of Broadway World:

    As part of the congressional events marking the first anniversary of the January 6th attack on the Capitol, cast members from Hamilton came together virtually to perform ‘Dear Theodosia’... The groundbreaking musical sensation, Hamilton springs from the mind of Emmy, Tony, and Grammy Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda and tells the unlikely story of the ten-dollar founding father, Alexander Hamilton who was young, scrappy, and hungry and ready to mark his mark on this new nation.

    Freeman goes on to observe: "Sometimes politicians make you wonder whether you should take them seriously. Other times they remove all doubt,[…]

    We are long past wondering about that here at Pun Salad Manor.


  • What kind of name is 'Theodosia' anyway? Josh Blackman points out The Bigger Problem With The Hamilton Performance At the Capitol On January 6.

    This song, which is one of the most beautiful in the show, is performed by Aaron Burr. Of course, the Jefferson Administration charged Burr with treason. According to some accounts, Burr actually hatched a plan to conquer North America, and overthrow the American government. The history is muddy. In Trump v. Vance, Chief Roberts offered a sanitized version of this background. In any event, celebrating an accused insurrectionist is not the right symbolism for January 6.

    Yeah, we really can't take 'em seriously.


  • In our "Also Sane" Department… we have commentary from Jim Treacher.

    Biden and his nurse gave speeches about Jan. 6 on Jan. 6, which was the first Jan. 6 since the Jan. 6 that the Democrats are trying to turn into an annual thing. They really want you to believe the Capitol riot was as bad as Pearl Harbor or 9/11. They’re overplaying their hand, and it’s not going to work in November.

    Now, that’s not coming from a MAGA-head. I don’t make any excuses for what those people did. Riots are wrong, no matter who’s doing it or what reason they give. Hundreds of people have been arrested for their part in the riot, and I say throw the book at ‘em.

    But it was not an “insurrection.” It was not a “terror attack.” It was a bunch of idiots who got whipped up by a demagogue. It was bad, but it wasn’t “the end of the republic” bad. Democracy was not in peril. Anybody who tells you otherwise is lying to you, and you should never vote for them or their comrades.

    There, I’ve now thoroughly alienated everybody. Good job, me.

    Treacher is one of the few folks I actually pay money to read.


Last Modified 2022-01-09 5:05 AM EDT

Charade

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

Another Cary Grant movie, an Amazon Prime free-to-me streamer from 1963. With Audrey Hepburn as additional incentive. I watched this long ago; long enough so I only remembered the fuzziest of details.

Audrey's character is disenchanted with her husband, confessing to her friend while at a European ski resort that she's contemplating divorce. (Little does she know that her marriage is already over, her husband having been thrown off a train.) Cary Grant shows up propitiously to make witty conversation… but it's back to Paris for Audrey. Where she discovers that her apartment has been stripped to the bare walls.

Including her clothes! Oh, the humanity! She's a tad more distressed by that than her dead hubby.

This, somehow, doesn't prevent her from dressing in different Givenchy outfits throughout the rest of the movie.

And Cary Grant shows up again! Also Walter Matthau, who explains to Regina that her husband was part of a gang that ripped off a quarter-million payment to the French Resistance during WWII. And the surviving members of that gang show up too: James Coburn, George Kennedy, and Ned Glass. They're all out to find that missing loot, and are willing to resort to threats and violence.

Not that the movie takes that very seriously. (IMDB genres: "Comedy, Mystery, Romance") There's a lot of chemistry between Audrey and Clark, which has her being a lot more sexually aggressive than he.

URLs du Jour

2022-01-07

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • It's sad, really. Holy cow, yesterday seemed to be an all-hands-on-deck colorectal exam of what stupid people call the "insurrection" of last year. It would have been a great day for Putin to have invaded the Ukraine; it might have made minute 22 of a 30-minute newscast.

    But there were interesting observations amid all the rhetorical garbage. For example, Bari Weiss hosted Jonah Goldberg to write on The January 6th Republicans. It's long, but here's the bottom line:

    Just the other day, over at American Greatness, the Pravda of Trumpism, some former Trump White House intern explained that, so long as the left’s narrative about January 6 is bad, conservatives should stop condemning the rioters and embrace them as heroes: “If their aim is to make January 6 their Reichstag Fire, then we should go forward celebrating the events of that day as our Storming of the Bastille; a day where a symbol of the degeneration of our ruling class into total corruption and tyranny was challenged, and the elites were shown just what happens when millions of freedom-loving citizens finally grow sick and tired of a boot perpetually stomping on their necks.”

    Never mind that while neither story about January 6 is true—it was neither the storming of the Bastille nor the burning of the Reichstag—the author openly admits that “our” side should just pretend their story is true. Of course, this whole thing is a piñata of immoral asininity; you can bash it from any angle and yield some reward. But one additional point is worth emphasizing: The degeneration of the ruling elite most responsible for the riot has nothing to do with leftwingers, Deep Staters or globalists—never mind pedophillic bloodsuckers dreamed up by QAnon. That mob was there because they were lied to by a president with a thumbless grasp of the truth and an utterly pagan understanding of the constitutional order.

    In 2016, I wrote about how the right was succumbing to a kind of Invasion of the Body Snatchers dynamic whereby, one by one, principled conservatives would suddenly discover that blind loyalty to Trump was the essence of conservatism. For a long time, I thought I could argue my friends and fellow conservatives out of their conversion. It took me a long time to realize that as Marshall McLuhan put it, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is a hallucinating idiot . . . for he sees what no one else does: things that, to everyone else, are not there.” I do think the blind loyalty to Trump is fading at the margins. But the addiction to good-versus-evil narratives pitting the honorable and decent “us” against the villainous and sinister “them” is as strong as ever—and there is little appetite for the kind of argument and persuasion that sustains democracy.

    With apologies to the English poet Ralph Hodgson, we increasingly live in an age where some things have to be believed to be seen.

    Advice I've given before: don't sign up with either Team Scylla or Team Charybdis.


  • They didn't make the trains run on time? I try to avoid linking to the same author twice in a day, but it's an unusual day. Jonah Goldberg writes at his home base, the Dispatch, admitting: What I Got Wrong About Fascism.

    In January 2008 I published my first book, Liberal Fascism.

    It did well, reaching No. 1 on the New York Times and Amazon bestseller lists. It has been published in many languages. It was, to put it mildly, controversial and remains so to this day.

    While I would certainly write the book differently today, I still stand by much of it, proudly so in many regards. For instance, I take great satisfaction that my hammer-and-tongs attack on Woodrow Wilson’s nativism, racism, and authoritarianism, much ridiculed at the time (the headline of the New York Times review of Liberal Fascism was a mocking “Heil Woodrow!”), is now much closer to conventional wisdom on the left and right.

    But there’s one important claim that has been rendered utterly wrong. I argued that, contrary to generations of left-wing fearmongering and slander about the right’s fascist tendencies, the modern American right was simply immune to the fascist temptation chiefly because it was too dogmatically committed to the Founders, to constitutionalism, and to classical liberalism generally.

    Almost 13 years to the day after publication, Donald Trump proved me wrong.

    It shouldn't have been surprising. (Although I was surprised too.) Our common crooked-timber humanity practically guarantees that we can be goaded into unthinking mob action, independent of party registration. We can also become worshipers of power and personality. I'm not as despondent as some, because doomsayers have been consistently wrong about America since… well, 1781 or so.


  • Meanwhile, our glorious media protects us. At City Journal, Christopher F. Rufo tells the story of BLM, Reuters, and the Price of Dissent.

    Zac Kriegman had the ideal résumé for the professional-managerial class: a bachelors in economics from Michigan and a J.D. from Harvard and years of experience with high-tech startups, a white-shoe law firm, and an econometrics research consultancy. He then spent six years at Thomson Reuters Corporation, the international media conglomerate, spearheading the company’s efforts on artificial intelligence, machine learning, and advanced software engineering. By the beginning of 2020, Kriegman had assumed the title of Director of Data Science and was leading a team tasked with implementing deep learning throughout the organization.

    But within a few months, this would all collapse. A chain of events—beginning with the death of George Floyd and culminating with a statistical analysis of Black Lives Matter’s claims—would turn the 44-year-old data scientist’s life upside-down. By June 2021, Kriegman would be locked out of Reuters’s servers, denounced by his colleagues, and fired by email. Kriegman had committed an unpardonable offense: he directly criticized the Black Lives Matter movement in the company’s internal communications forum, debunked Reuters’s own biased reporting, and violated a corporate taboo. Driven by what he called a “moral obligation” to speak out, Kriegman refused to celebrate unquestioningly the BLM narrative and his company’s “diversity and inclusion” programming; to the contrary, he argued that Reuters was exhibiting significant left-wing bias in the newsroom and that the ongoing BLM protests, riots, and calls to “defund the police” would wreak havoc on minority communities. Week after week, Kriegman felt increasingly disillusioned by the Thomson Reuters line. Finally, on the first Tuesday in May 2021, he posted a long, data-intensive critique of BLM’s and his company’s hypocrisy. He was sent to Human Resources and Diversity & Inclusion for the chance to reform his thoughts.

    He refused—so they fired him.

    You can read the essay that got Zac Kriegman fired from a business that is protected by the First Amendment here.


  • Don't hold your breath… waiting for your public servants to provide clear guidance on Covid. After two years, they still can't manage to do that, as Jacob Sullum points out: Rochelle Walensky Said an Antigen Test Is a Good Tool for 'Judging Infectiousness.' Now She Says 'Its Information Will Not Be Useful.'

    When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its guidelines for Americans recovering from COVID-19 last week, reducing the recommended isolation period from 10 days to five, many critics complained that the agency said nothing about using rapid antigen tests to verify that infected people are no longer contagious. Yesterday the CDC addressed that concern, sort of, by adding this advice:

    If an individual has access to a test and wants to test, the best approach is to use an antigen test towards the end of the 5-day isolation period. Collect the test sample only if you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and your other symptoms have improved (loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation). If your test result is positive, you should continue to isolate until day 10. If your test result is negative, you can end isolation, but continue to wear a well-fitting mask around others at home and in public until day 10.

    Notably, the CDC is still not actually recommending that people leaving isolation use antigen tests before returning to work or otherwise resuming normal activities. Its advice is limited to what people should do if they can obtain a test kit and are already inclined to use it. That stance is puzzling, since a negative test result provides additional assurance that you won't infect others, while a positive result, as the CDC acknowledges, indicates that continued isolation is prudent.

    Jacob also observes: "None of this inspires confidence in an agency that Americans should be able to trust during a pandemic." True.


  • From the Pun Salad "This Should Go Without Saying" Department. Peter Franklin asks, reasonably enough, that we: Don't silence conspiracy theorists.

    The chaotic end of Trump’s presidency provided a pretext, though, for a much wider purge of anything deemed to fall under the category of conspiracy theory or misinformation. This week the Republican congresswoman, Majorie Taylor Greene, had her Twitter account permanently suspended; and Joe Rogan who has had content removed by YouTube.

    The attack on conspiracy theory — and the power of the elites to define it as such — is a dangerous one. And not just because of the threat it poses to free speech and the growing influence of big tech that it points out. It’s also because conspiracy theories are an understandable — and sometimes useful — response to a confusing world. To repress this very human instinct risks doing more harm than good.

    That’s not to say that this mode of thought is never pathological. But if the conspiracy theorist is obsessive or hateful, the problem is the obsession and the hate — vices which can apply to any belief system.

    The trouble is, many conspiracies and cover-ups do exist. And they’d never be uncovered if no one theorised about them.

    Also risking "doing more harm than good": the effort on both left and right to deal with "big tech" behavior.


  • And finally, a pithy quote. It's from Bryan Caplan's article: Radical Libertarian Economics in Search of a Title.

    Free markets are awesome because they give business incentives to do good stuff that sounds bad. Governments are awful because they give politicians incentives to do bad stuff that sounds good.

    Someone make me a t-shirt with that on it.


Last Modified 2022-01-07 10:33 AM EDT

The Myth of the Entrepreneurial State

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Anyone keeping track of my reading (but I assume that's precisely nobody) knows I'm a Deirdre McCloskey fan. See here, here, here, here, and here. So this book, available on Kindle for a mere $5, was a no-brainer. It is co-written by Alberto Mingardi, but it seems to me to be 100% McCloskey's "voice" throughout: idiosyncratic, cranky, sarcastic, hilarious. The book seems to be (more or less) a response to the works of Mariana Mazzucato, mostly (sensibly enough) The Entrepreneurial State.

As with other McCloskey works, you can "get" much of the argument by following the chapter titles. And, since I'm a lazy reporter, they are: Introducing Mazzucato; Statism and its allies; Statist intervention is not innocent; The Great Enrichment came not from the State but from liberty; "Driving" from the top is not its explanation; Bottom-up does work; Economic history rejects Mazzucato's hypothesis; There is no "linear model"; The Internet, for example, was not invented by the State; Bottom-up, then, is pretty good; One must measure the State with a sample of the economy; The State should have a role, but should not be the director; For understandable reasons, the State is bad at innovation; Most governments, after all, are demonstrably incompetent; State foresightedness is implausible; The hypothesis of significantly imperfect markets has never been tested; Stakeholder theory is defective; Mazzucato distrusts ordinary people; Keynesian mastery takes away dignity; The market accords dignity; The economic errors of lawyers and pre-1870s economists; The top-down and legacy-payment of statism are illiberal; The supply-chain fallacy underlies Mazzucato's method; The enchaining of human action reverts to a labor theory of value; What sort of economy do people want?

To me, the book's arguments are sound, and even though I've had Mazzucato's books on my get-at-library list for a while, McCloskey/Mingardi lessened my priority for them.

I highlighted the following, where the authors eloquently debunk the economy-as-machine metaphor:

To the contrary, we repeat, the economy is composed of people, and is not a machine. It is like the English language, not like an English steam engine. The people are motivated in varying proportions by prudence, temperance, courage, justice, faith, hope, and love, with the corresponding vices. By way of such principles of motion, they pursue their endlessly diverse projects, knitting and model railroading, a Beckerian "world." Let them do it, laissez faire. Such an arrangement takes people to be liberated and equal and increasingly competent adults, as against the stolid peasants or helpless proletarians of conservative or progressive theorizing since 1848.

If you like that as much as I do, I think I can recommend the book to you. It's a worthy updating and restating of the classic arguments from Hayek, Sowell, and Friedman.

URLs du Jour

2022-01-06

  • It's that time of year. It's treated in 9/11 anniversary style by the media. But there's no doubt that its a big stain on the GOP.

    [A Big Stain]

    That's not to say the other side can't use some advice too. Specifically…


  • Here's some advice that's unlikely to be taken… From Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, an actual lawyer: Stop Calling Jan. 6 an ‘Insurrection’

    These are important criminal charges that shouldn’t go unaddressed. But of the hundreds of “Capitol Breach Cases” listed at the Justice Department’s prosecution page, not one defendant is charged with insurrection under 18 U.S.C. 2383. That’s because insurrection is a legal term with specific elements. No prosecutor would dare mislabel negligent homicide or manslaughter a murder, because they are totally distinct crimes. The media has no legal or moral basis to do otherwise.

    The events of Jan. 6 also fail to meet the dictionary definition of insurrection, which Merriam-Webster defines as “an act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government.” A usage note adds that the term implies “an armed uprising that quickly fails or succeeds.” A closely related term, “insurgency,” is “a condition of revolt against a government that is less than an organized revolution and that is not recognized as a belligerency.”

    Whenever anyone calls the January 6 riot an "insurrection", you're dealing with a propagandist. Especially when they are, for example, the former dean of UNH Law and the founder of the Warren B. Rudman Center for Justice, Leadership and Public Policy, and a onetime Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court.


  • Matt Welch has a good question for President Wheezy. And it's this: If It's Really a 'Pandemic of the Unvaccinated,' Mr. President, Why Is My Vaccinated 6-Year-Old Wearing a Mask?

    President Joe Biden on Tuesday afternoon made some more public remarks about the still-spiking omicron variant of COVID-19. It wasn't pretty: [video at link]

    Of particular interest was the president's insistence on continuing to call it a "pandemic of the unvaccinated," a slogan that was unwise in July, untrue by December, and unbelievable at a time when the positive case rate in a 62 percent fully vaccinated country just reached an all-time high.

    At this stage of the game, there's little excuse for any government official, let alone the Prez, to dispense confusing and inaccurate information.

    Well, there's one excuse: Biden oscillates between displays of vacuous incoherence and weird, angry outbursts, like a confused old man at the wrong bus stop.


  • The truth: it's not just for cranky conservatives and loony libertarians any more. Jim Geraghty gives credit where it's due: The New York Times Suddenly Discovers Biden Over-Promises and Under-Delivers.

    The New York Times informs its readers that, “Biden ‘Over-Promised and Under-Delivered’ on Climate.” Yes, he tends to do that about a lot of things. Even by the standard of big-talking and naïve elected officials, Biden tends to promise wildly ambitious, difficult-to-achieve goals — “I’m going to shut down the virus” “I promise you, if I’m elected president, we’re going to cure cancer” — and then he usually either forgets about them or blames someone else for why he couldn’t keep his promise.

    Yesterday, President Biden said before a meeting on the pandemic that, “On testing, I know this remains frustrating — believe me, it’s frustrating to me — but we’re making improvements.”

    He’s frustrated, too, Americans. If only the president of the United States could have done something about the lack of tests. Of course, he did promise we wouldn’t be in this situation.

    Maybe Joe should watch old reruns of "The Apprentice" or something, and learn how to say "You're fired."


  • A good idea that might actually happen. Let's be of good cheer. Reported by Andy Craig at Cato: Bipartisan Momentum Builds for Fixing the Electoral Count Act.

    The law needs to make clear that Congress can only hear objections under narrow circumstances and with a high hurdle, by enumerating an exhaustive list of valid reasons and increasing the number of senators and representatives needed to trigger a debate. The role of the vice president should be spelled out to leave no doubt that his or her job is purely ceremonial. The finality of decisions made by the states and by the Electoral College itself must be respected, in line with the intent of the Framers and the text of the Constitution. The proper role of the courts, which are entirely absent from the ECA even though they will hear and decide most disputes long before they get to Congress, must be taken into account. The timeline of key dates could probably also use some consideration, including clarification of the “safe harbor” deadline intended to put electoral votes beyond congressional dispute.

    […]

    The ECA is a ticking time bomb at the heart of American democracy. Sooner or later, if left untouched, it will blow up in our faces. The consequences could be catastrophic. The routine clockwork of free and fair elections, the great American innovation of finite terms of office with the regular and peaceful transfer of power, can not be left hanging on a knife’s edge every four years. The Constitution and all it protects, individual rights and the rule of law, depend on getting this right. Limits on government power count for little if there isn’t even agreement on who is the real president, with the violent disputation such a scenario invites.

    Is Congress so dysfunctional that it can't muster bipartisan agreement on improving an unacceptably hazy law from the 19th century? Maybe.


  • The next time you hear the phrase "fire in a crowded theater"… It might not be a bad idea to have a copy of this article in your back pocket. So you can roll it up and swat the speaker firmly about the head and shoulders. Jeff Kosseff at the Atlantic examines: America’s Favorite Flimsy Pretext for Limiting Free Speech.

    Even people who know about the First Amendment still have trouble believing that someone can make false, irresponsible, even dangerous statements without paying any penalty. For instance, when Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, spoke with National Public Radio to promote COVID vaccinations and boosters just before Thanksgiving, he sharply criticized people who intentionally spread misinformation about the vaccine’s safety. “Isn’t this like yelling fire in a crowded theater?” he asked. “Are you really allowed to do that without some consequences?”

    In fact, you usually are allowed to do that without fear of arrest, lawsuits, or other legal consequences. Shouting “Fire” in a crowded theater, a metaphor that dates to a 1919 Supreme Court ruling by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., is widely—and wrongly—held to be a far-reaching exception to the First Amendment, which offers broad protection to free expression in the United States.

    Good legal history at the link.


  • Et tu, WIRED? I'm used to bad politics, sociology, and economics from WIRED, but I'm frankly in awe of a recent article by one Diana Rose Harper, who asks and answers How Do You Practice Responsible Astrology?

    For me, the answer is pretty simple: You can't practice astrology responsibly, because it is bullshit.

    But let's hear her out, maybe she's going to produce the same answer, but longer:

    Astrology is a predictive art. And though many astrologers twist themselves into intellectual knots in an attempt to legitimize astrology within a scientific materialist paradigm—thereby creating a boundary between astrology and less-reputable “fortune-telling,” and avoiding guilt-by-association proximity with swindling “psychics”—there is no mechanistic explanation for how it works. Empirical astrological data, while extant, fails to satisfy the craving for clearly replicable quantitative results. The massively subjective nature of astrological interpretation doesn’t help: Two astrologers can look at the same planetary configuration and come to decidedly different conclusions, and sometimes, they’re both right.

    Well, that's convenient.

    The bio tag: "Diana Rose Harper is a professional consulting & teaching astrologer currently living in southern California." Sure, where else?


Last Modified 2022-01-06 2:43 PM EDT

Being the Ricardos

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

An Amazon Prime free-to-me streamer. I think it may have a shot at one or two Oscars. (That's as far out on a limb as I'll go for 2022 predictions.)

It's the story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, mainly set around the time a 1952 episode of "I Love Lucy" titled "Fred and Ethel Fight" is performed. There are flashbacks to how Lucy and Desi met, how their career paths unfolded, etc. It takes some liberties with the timeline. Jammed up close to the episode is the "revelation" of Lucy's old Commie ties (which actually happened in 1953), and the Lucy/Desi divorce (not until 1960). But "Little Ricky" was in the oven around that time, and the movie has some fun with the conflict about how to handle Lucy's pregnancy on the show. But Lucy's passion for micro-control over the show, running roughshod over the putative director, the producer, sponsors, the network, even fellow actors is shown in detail.

The acting is superb, as you'd expect. Written (and directed) by Aaron Sorkin, so the dialog is sharp and intelligent. One of those Oscars I mentioned above should really go to whoever transformed Nicole Kidman into Lucy; it's uncanny. The actress playing Vivian Vance is even closer to the real thing, including her voice. In contrast, J.K. Simmons isn't even close to William Frawley, but who cares, he's great anyway.

Only downside: it's a tad long.

Oh, yeah: everybody smokes. The Amazon Prime content advisory: "Nudity, smoking, alcohol use, sexual content, foul language". I missed the nudity.


Last Modified 2022-01-05 4:55 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2022-01-05

  • Is there an ideology-free doctor in the house? Maybe not, if this trend reported by John D. Sailer takes off: ‘White Coats for Black Lives’ and the Transformation of Medical Schools. It's a full-spectrum infection:

    On June 25, 2021, White Coats for Black Lives (WC4BL), a national organization of medical students, published its statement of “vision and values.” The “dominant medical practice in the United States has been built on the dehumanization and exploitation of Black people,” the document read, and WC4BL exists to rid the medical system of this allegedly pervasive racism. Doing so requires not only “dismantling anti-Black racism, white supremacy, capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, and cisheteropatriarchy,” but also “dismantling fatphobia,” embracing “Black queer feminist praxis,” and “unlearning toxic medical knowledge.”

    Terminology aside, WC4BL is no fringe organization. It boasts more than 70 chapters at medical schools across the country, including at such top institutions as the University of North Carolina, the University of Michigan, and the University of Wisconsin. In 2020, when physicians around the country participated in George Floyd protests, their rallies took the organization’s name. Now the group hopes to keep the movement going by injecting the concepts of identity politics into the practice of medicine.

    WC4BL seeks to transform the U.S. medical system. White supremacy, according to the statement, “permeates every dominant American institution, including healthcare.” Part of the reason is the current credentialing system for medical doctors. “Physicians have utilized violence to oust women and femme healers” primarily through “the professionalization of the medical field,” the statement reads. “The power and prestige given to medical doctors in the U.S. today is not a direct result of scientific advancement or service to the larger community, but the intentional and often violent consolidation of power.”

    If you get a doctor who's "dismantled fatphobia", does that mean you won't get nagged about losing weight? I see potential upsides there.


  • Still on my get-at-library list is The Constitution of Truth by Jonathan Rauch. But Arnold Kling warns of some problems: Jonathan Rauch and the Knowledge Problem.

    If Rauch has a blind spot, it is that he overlooks the deterioration that has taken place within twentieth-century institutions. He is unable or unwilling to recognize institutional decay.

    As one trivial example, Rauch quotes Lisa Page in one place and Peter Strzok elsewhere to buttress minor points. Rauch refers to each only as “a former FBI agent.” In fact, they were infamously lovers who boasted to one another in text messages about their intentions to bring down the Trump Presidency. When this was revealed, their superiors felt it necessary to take punitive action. Rauch mentions none of this, not even in a footnote. For me, this is equivalent to quoting Michael Milken on financial institutions without mentioning that he served time in prison for insider trading. As a professional journalist, if you view the accusations against Page and Strzok (or Milken) as overblown, then you owe it to the reader to say so, rather than going on as if their records were unblemished.

    Arnold recommends Rauch's book on balance. And has a selection of others on the same general topic of (more or less) practical personal epistemology. I'm putting the ones I haven't read on my list (two at Portsmouth Public Library, one at the University Near Here).


  • The GOP needs a Colonel Nicholson moment. Gerard Baker has a New Year's wish: To Save America, the GOP First Has to Save Itself.

    Democrats have spent a year trying to re-engineer the U.S. economy, redraft the nation’s social compact, and remake its political and legal institutions, all on the back of an imaginary electoral mandate. They’re going to spend a good deal of time in 2022 telling us how the Republican Party poses an existential threat to America as we know it.

    We should take a moment to step back, admire the chutzpah and deride the hypocrisy. Many of us have devoted a good deal of time in the past year to pointing out the darkly illiberal direction of modern progressivism and the cant that sustains it. But if we want to find the path back to national renewal, conservatives should resolve to acknowledge that the challenges to democracy come not exclusively from one side.

    The country’s future won’t be secured by shrill appeals to partisanship or by “owning” your opponent. It’s true that, thanks to the extremism and ineptitude of the Democrats, Republicans have a historic opportunity to redeem the nation. But to convert a mere electoral victory in midterms into genuine progress toward national regeneration will require persuasion—especially of the large numbers of Americans with grave doubts about the modern Republican Party. That will require a more thorough repudiation of the illiberal tendency in their own ranks.

    It took me a while, but I've begun to notice the general theme of "democracy is doomed" porn on the left. Mainly their argument seems to be "Ignore our incompetence and arrogance, or say goodbye to democracy."

    If you didn't get the headline reference above, I have a movie suggestion.


  • Anyone remember "Love, American Style"? Well, this might make a pretty good TV series: Free Speech, America-Style. (Okay, it's Kevin D. Williamson's Tuesday column.)

    It is not the case that Canada, Western Europe, and Australia are authoritarian hellholes where illiberal rulers trample mercilessly upon the civil rights of their hapless subjects. But it is the case that American-style free-speech protections, as enshrined in the First Amendment, do not exist in these places. And that matters. It matters in those countries, and it matters in the United States, where the legal protection of free speech faces the threat of being suffocated by social pressure on both private and public actors to suppress speech that is deemed — almost always opportunistically and vindictively — dangerous.

    It is likely that, as a matter of global consensus, one set of rules is going to prevail: the American model or the European model — or, rather than “European,” the model that more closely resembles the narrower practices in most of the liberal democracies outside the United States.

    Consider the case of Australia, where courts have ruled that there is no personal right to free speech, in spite of the country’s notional protections for freedom of political communication. In one important case, a worker in the national government’s immigration agency was fired for criticizing the agency’s performance in the matter of offshore immigration-detention facilities. She used a pseudonym, did not advertise her connection to the agency, made the posts on her own time from a personal device, etc. There was no real employment issue — she was simply fired for saying what she thinks, in private life. In another high-profile case, a high-court judge described free-speech rights as “still not yet settled law.” No doubt the judge is correct — but such rights should be settled law. These are fundamental things.

    One of the things to be grateful for, Americans: even "free" countries have more ways to punish you for saying stuff than we do.


  • This is why I'm not a movie critic. Astral Codex Ten is way more perceptive and insightful than I was when he watched Don't Look Up. And it's also hilarious (with, be aware, plenty of spoilers).

    Don’t Look Up is primarily a movie about existential risk, and many great people have already reviewed it as such. I’m going to be less virtuous and use it as a springboard to talk about politics.

    But first, the plot in a nutshell: Male Scientist and Female Scientist discover a comet will hit Earth in six months. They contact the relevant authorities, Black Scientist and Asian Scientist, and go to meet the President (who, despite being a woman, is Donald Trump). The President says scientists are always doomsaying, if people get too panicked she’ll lose the midterm election, and she’ll get around to dealing with this later.

    (the Earth, at this point, has five months and however many days left)

    In desperation, Male Scientist and Female Scientist finagle their way onto a big TV show. But all the subsequent press is about how sexy Male Scientist is and how shrill Female Scientist sounds. Still in desperation, they go to the New York Times and get an article about the comet. In response, the President has Asian Scientist (who is head of NASA) announce there’s nothing to worry about, and the Times drops their story and accuses the scientists of making them look bad.

    The moviemakers have claimed it's a climate change allegory. ACT points out that the movie is an utter failure to make sense on that score.

URLs du Jour

2022-01-04

  • [Checks calendar] Yep, he's correct. Jim Geraghty reminds us: No, Not Every Day Is January 6. It's in response to a NYT editorial claiming otherwise.

    But I also think that declaring every day to be January 6, as the New York Times‘ editorial board did, is stirring fear, suspicion, and paranoia in a country that already has more than enough of all three. The Times’ editorial board contends that “The Capitol riot continues in statehouses across the country, in a bloodless, legalized form that no police officer can arrest and that no prosecutor can try in court.” There is no such thing as a bloodless, legalized riot.

    You can hate the laws that these elected officials are trying to pass, but those lawmakers are attempting to pass them under the legal constitutional order, and they’ll be subject to judicial review to ensure they don’t violate the Constitution, just like every other law. That’s not a riot. Calling it a riot is a metaphor that obscures more than it illuminates. If we want there to be a universal condemnation of political violence, we cannot argue that attempting to pass laws we oppose is just as bad as violence.

    Declaring every day to be January 6 is a bit like the familiar refrain that some particular problem, spurred by the actions of a few people, is “everyone’s fault.” It’s a cop-out, a blurring of the lines, an attempt to spread the emotional horror stirred by specific actions, sights, and outrages in a place and time and spread it across a much broader area.

    This must be a growing meme on the left. Just yesterday I responded to an op-ed in my local Sunday newspaper that breathlessly claimed "Republicans in Congress and in Republican-controlled legislatures across the country are actively working to grind our democratic process to a halt and replace it with autocratic rule."

    "Autocratic rule" means, I think, insisting on Voter ID.


  • Another point made yesterday… in our op-ed fisking was that there was "creeping illiberalism on both left. and right. wings, reflected (regrettably) in both parties." TechDirt's Mike Masnick provides an example of the sort of thing I'm talking about: NY Senator Proposes Ridiculously Unconstitutional Social Media Law That Is The Mirror Opposite Of Equally Unconstitutional Laws In Florida & Texas.

    We've joked in the past about how Republicans hate Section 230 for letting websites moderate too much content, while Democrats hate it for letting websites not moderate enough content. Of course, the reality is they both are mad about content moderation (at different extremes) because they both want to control the internet in a manner that helps "their team." But both approaches involve unconstitutional desires to interfere with 1st Amendment rights. For Republicans, it's often the compelled hosting of speech, and for Democrats, it's often the compelled deletion of speech. Both of those are unconstitutional.

    On the Republican side, we've already seen states like Florida and Texas sign into law content moderation bills -- and both have been blocked for being wholly unconstitutional.

    We've already heard that some other Republican-controlled states have shelved plans for similar bills, realizing that all they'd be doing was setting taxpayer money on fire.

    Unfortunately, it looks like the message has not made its way to Democratic-controlled states. California has been toying with unconstitutional content moderation bills, and now NY has one as well. Senator Brad Hoylman -- who got his law degree from Harvard, where presumably they teach about the 1st Amendment -- has proudly introduced a hellishly unconstitutional social media bill. Hoylman announces in his press release that the bill will "hold tech companies accountable for promoting vaccine misinformation and hate speech."

    Masnick goes on to point out the obvious problem: " Whether we like it or not, the 1st Amendment protects both vaccine misinformation and hate speech."

    I would guess (almost certainly) state legislators take an oath to preserve/protect/defend the Constitution. Obvious efforts to pass unconstitutional legislation should have some sort of consequences for them. Like removal from office. But who'd be left?


  • Pun Salad fact check: True. Jeff Jacoby mulls on wisdom from the late great William Goldman: Nobody knows anything.

    In “Adventures in the Screen Trade,” his 1983 memoir about life in Hollywood, the late William Goldman summarized the movie industry in three words: “Nobody knows anything.” A two-time winner of the Academy Award for best screenplay, Goldman wrote some of the big screen’s biggest hits, including “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “All the President’s Men.” If anybody was an expert on successful movies, he was. But experts, he wrote, are as clueless as everyone else about the future.

    “NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING,” Goldman repeated, putting the words in all caps. Why, he asked, did every single studio in Hollywood except Paramount turn down the chance to make “Raiders of the Lost Ark”? Why did Universal decide it wasn’t interested in “Star Wars”? Why did Columbia, after spending a small fortune to develop “E.T.,” eventually drop the project?

    Goldman’s answer: “Because nobody, nobody — not now, not ever — knows the least goddam thing about what is or isn’t going to work at the box office.”

    What is true of Hollywood is true of just about every field: When experts say something is going to happen, the odds are generally even that it won’t. As the odometer turns to 2022 and self-assured savants and insiders begin another 12 months of confidently forecasting what the future will bring, remember: Nobody knows anything.

    That's why you won't find any confident predictions on this blog. And why I snicker when I read them elsewhere.


  • Credit where credit is due. Matthew Yglesias notes The vanishing case for student loan forgiveness. And even his usual foes should give him credit for changing his mind:

    Student loan forgiveness is back in the news since the Biden administration decided to again extend the repayment holiday.

    This is a topic where I think the facts have changed considerably since Slow Boring’s debut in mid-November of 2020, and as a result I have changed my mind. Back then, I thought loan forgiveness would be a good way to assist a depressed economy and that objections were being made on nonsensical grounds by fussy technocrats who weren’t paying attention to the actual situation. But today the situation is different. The economy is not depressed, and instead the Federal Reserve is pivoting to fight inflation. That means student loan forgiveness in 2022 is a purely distributive issue — one that will shift resources from the majority of Americans with no student loan debt to the minority of Americans who have it.

    Both the debtors and the non-debtors are highly heterogeneous groups, but it’s pretty clear that the non-debtors are both more numerous and poorer on average.

    So while there are certainly lots of individual cases where debt relief sounds like an appealing idea, under the current circumstances the case for broad debt relief has become extremely weak. There’s basically no other situation in which progressives would talk themselves into this kind of idea, which is currently being propped up with some very odd math about the racial wealth gap.

    I'm not sure where Yglesias stands on getting rid of the SALT cap in the Federal tax code, but it seems to me that a similar argument applies.


  • Especially not the mail. Pierre Lemieux explains Why Government Should Not “Deliver”.

    To counter “disillusionment with the government,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D. Conn) expressed a widespread but invalid or seriously misleading idea: it is the idea that governments should “deliver” or, in other words, be efficient (“Americans Diverge on Perils and Lessons of the Jan. 6 Capital Attack,” Wall Street Journal, December 30, 2021):

    Listen, I do think people are actively considering giving up on democracy in this country. And that does explain part of the reason why people marched on us, why people tried to overthrow the government. We’ve got to show people that government can deliver for them.

    The idea that government should “deliver” is seriously misleading because it depends on what exactly it delivers. The WSJ reports that Mr. Murphy was “arguing for passage of Mr. Biden’s stalled economic agenda.” For anybody who disagrees with this trillion-dollar agenda—and about half of American voters do—the government should not “deliver.” It is an invalid idea if one assumes that it is incorrect to tax all the people in a country or even just a selected group of scapegoats (like “the rich”) in order to finance the benefits that others want.

    I think, according to the Constitution, that Uncle Stupid's job is "to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." Nothing in there about taking money from one group of people and giving it to others.

Doom

The Politics of Catastrophe

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

An alternate subtitle for this book might have been "A Bunch of Stuff Niall Ferguson Felt Like Writing About". It's very wide ranging. But the theme is right up there on the book flap in big type: "All disasters are at some level man-made." One chilling comparison:

Politics explained why World War II killed twenty-five times as many Germans as Americans. Politics explains why COVID-19 has thus far killed eighteen times as many Americans as Germans

[Currently, the US/Germany cumulative death ratio looks to be about 7.3. And the death rates are currently about equal. But point taken.]

There's a lot of (what I'd call) "theoretical history", where he attempts to tease out laws (or at least widely-applicable lessons) from worldwide events spanning millennia. (E.g., How often are empires born, and how long do they last? Even more relevant to present-day: how often do devastating plagues occur?) There's discussion of probability distributions. (E.g., Are catastrophes better described by a normal, Poisson, or power-law distribution?) And networks are relied upon for their explanatory power. (E.g., and very relevantly, how do viruses spread from one region to another?)

But there's quite a bit of normal history too, and it's centered around the book's title, Doom. Plagues and epidemics, primarily, since they're on everyone's mind. But other natural and unnatural disasters are discussed: Chernobyl, the space shuttle Challenger, earthquakes, volcanoes, wars, famine, …

There's also speculation on foreign policy, and (in conclusion) an overview of various science fiction predicted futures; which is likely to be most accurate? (Unfortunately, it's not The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.)

Ferguson finished the book in August 2020, more or less in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. (More accurately, as I type, I hope it was the middle.) That was pre-Moderna, also pre-variant. His takes on various failures in various countries are slightly heterodox, not totally wacky. Also, unfortunately, not very interesting, if you've seen dozens of analyses and commentaries on the same theme over the last couple years.

John Broderick vs. the Deplorables

A Fisking

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I still subscribe to the local newspaper on Sunday. It has coupons, and I have high hopes that by careful planning, I might save enough money using them to cover the cost of the subscription. It also carries crossword puzzles from the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. I do them in ink, in honor of … well, never mind.

I also scan through the editorial section, which occasionally provides something to write about. Hence I read this op-ed column by John T. Broderick (" the former dean of UNH Law and the founder of the Warren B. Rudman Center for Justice, Leadership and Public Policy"), published in the January 2 newspaper. Yesterday, I dismissed it as an "incoherent hate-filled rant." I stand by that description. But it kind of stuck in my craw, even after getting that off my chest, and I'm unfortunately still irritated enough to break out the old fisking template.

So what follows is my lengthy response. Broderick's column is reproduced on the left with a lovely #EEFFFF background color; my remarks are on the right.

Make no mistake. America is broken. Listen John, I'm old enough to remember the 1960s and 1970s. Riots, assassinations, scandals, stagflation, pointless war, realistic threats of nuclear annihilation, … Things are worse now? I don't think so, but let's hear what else you have to say.
The entire idea behind democratic rule is subverted every day by a minority of our population […] I am breaking up a very long sentence. It (and what follows, see below) is essentially an inflated version of Hillary Clinton's famous "basket of deplorables" line, into which she put "half of Trump's supporters", characterizing them as "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic – you name it."

And I'm not kidding about "inflated". Hillary was, at least, pithier than Broderick. Note the gassy prose. Not just democracy is being "subverted", but "the idea behind democratic rule." No, wait, it's but "the entire idea behind democratic rule". And it's not simply being "subverted" but "subverted every day".

"Hey, Cletus, have you subverted the entire idea behind democratic rule yet today?"

"No, man, been shoveling the driveway."

"Well, get to it, dude. And don't forget to subvert the entire idea. We ain't gonna half-ass this."

So who's doing all this subverting? Well, Broderick has a number of litmus tests. There are those…

[…] who distrust any government they don’t control, […] Issues of control aside, I'm in with the deplorables here. And with George F. Will, who back in 2005, noted the "timeless truth" that "no matter how deeply you distrust the government's judgment, you are too trusting."

I think the evidence here is on my side.

[…] ignore science they don’t understand yet don’t like while callously putting others at risk, […] Appears to be a COVID reference. Broderick is apparently pointing to Andrew Cuomo here.

Ha, just kidding! Seriously, I'm vaccinated, boosted, and masked where required. I'm fine with science. I'm not OK with the "science" that suddenly shortens a post-COVID isolation period of 10 days to 5 days. That's bureaucratic admission that they are making it up as they go.

[…] disparage and restrict voters of a color different than their own […] I'm pretty sure I've never done that.

I'm also pretty sure it's an invidious reference to people (like me) who want increased safeguards against voting fraud.

[…] and despise immigrants striving to be free. And this is an invidious reference to people who'd like beefed up security on the southern border. (I'm on the fence myself.)

But wait, Broderick's not done. He's not close to done.

Their view of our Constitution is most often fanciful, contradictory and uninformed and their idea of freedom is twisted and self-absorbed. They live in a self-interested, imaginary world with no social compact and no reciprocal responsibilities. They disgrace the service and sacrifice of so many Americans who unselfishly gave so much to protect rights they neither understand nor honor. Well, when you're demeaning a bunch of people, it's convenient to think that they're ignorant, irrational, irresponsible, selfish, delusional, and ungrateful. And to assert that without example or evidence.

Or it could just be a cheap insult. Hard to tell.

They support the Big Lie with zero proof; a Lie that any rational American would reject. Every federal judge found no evidence because there was none. It is the same Big Lie that even President Trump’s hand-picked Attorney General William Barr disowned. Incredibly, according to some recent polls, sixty percent of Republicans still believe that the election was stolen, too. They have zero proof as well. Yeah, that's bad. Trump's a delusional narcissist (not only about the election), and so are a lot of people who worship him.

Had Broderick restricted his criticism to those folks, I wouldn't have much to disagree with. But his "deplorable" pigeonhole includes many more.

Do facts matter anymore? Is truth too inconvenient to be honored? For an increasing number of Americans, facts don’t exist or at least facts that don’t serve their ends. Yes, John, confirmation bias is a well-known issue. ("Fortunately, everything I've seen says I'm immune.")

It's bad, but it's nothing new. And in fact…

Too many Americans live in a conspiracy-laden echo chamber of their own creation and embrace the American flag while supporting those who used that same flag as a spear to attack Capitol police in an effort to subvert our democratic election. These are the same people who allegedly support the police 100 percent. Many of those people presented with clear and graphic proof that misguided Trump supporters attacked our government on January 6th have concocted the bizarre notion that the FBI or Antifa were behind the insurrection. They have zero proof of that as well yet they hold to it senselessly even as the Proud Boys and others are being prosecuted or plead guilty. I'm not a fan of the pathetic losers who did 1/6. But note my bolding over to the left. I think Glenn Greenwald (back in October) had a good point when he compared overheated rhetoric to legal reality: "It must be infuriating and baffling to a large sector of the population to have been convinced that what happened on January 6 was an unprecedentedly dangerous insurrection perpetrated by an organized group of seditious traitors who had plotted to kidnap and murder elected officials, only for the Biden DOJ to have charged exactly nobody with any criminal charges remotely suggesting any of those melodramatic claims."

John, if you're complaining about others' "conspiracy-laden echo chamber", it's a good idea to check first to make sure you're not living in one of your own. As a lawyer/judge/ex-law school dean, you should know that insurrection is a crime with a legal definition. And a year later nobody's been charged with that crime in relation to 1/6.

Could that be a sign of ignoring facts that don't serve your ends, John?

How far have we fallen? How dangerous is our descent? How much destructive nonsense, ill-will and subversive conduct can we tolerate and still sustain democratic rule in America? Free speech is protected and cherished under our Constitution but not efforts in plain sight to subvert or destroy our country. Actions speak louder than words. "Actions speak louder than words"? This is not, to put it mildly, sophisticated legal analysis.
The Republicans in Congress and in Republican-controlled legislatures across the country are actively working to grind our democratic process to a halt and replace it with autocratic rule. Where are the Republican voices with the courage to speak up? Why are so many good Republicans remaining silent or objecting only in whispers or among a small circle of safe friends? Where are they? Wow, he got pretty partisan there. Would have been a lot more credible had he acknowledged the creeping illiberalism on both left. and right. wings, reflected (regrettably) in both parties.
Conservative Republicans cheer Kyle Rittenhouse, who, whatever the verdict, took two lives with an automatic weapon. Cheering seems tone deaf and classless to me. I have never heard a police officer cheer if he/she takes another life in self-defense. I’ll bet you haven’t either. For someone who wonders if "facts matter anymore", Broderick is kind of sloppy with them. Rittenhouse's weapon was an AR15-style semiautomatic, not (of course) an automatic weapon.

And there was no cheering here for Rittenhouse, just relief that he wasn't railroaded, and disgust for the misinformation promulgated by the media.

Where have all the statesmen gone? When did truth die? When was finding out who organized and funded the January 6th assault on our free elections a petty partisan exercise to be disparaged by virtually every elected Congressional Republican? Unless things change, America will continue its sorry decline from being a democratic beacon to a world yearning to be free to just a sad example of a noble yet failed experiment in self-government. I take nothing for granted. In current circumstances silence is dangerous. Rapidly approaching full incoherence…
Putin must be smiling in Moscow. … with cheap demagoguery at the finish. But, to be fair, I'd guess that Putin is smiling even more broadly when he remembers that the USA is in the hands of (according to Gerard Baker) 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."

OK, so I'm all better now.

URLs du Jour

2022-01-02

  • There's a simple explanation here. The entire dextrosphere is amused by a recent tweet. Rich Lowry's NR headline is AOC: Conservatives Hate Me Because They’re So Sexually Frustrated. The tweet being:

    Hm. OK, I admit I've always thought she's kind of hot. But she seems to be kind of a mean drunk, so no thanks on the date.


  • Mistake made. In my Sunday morning paper, a 500-word op-ed screed appears, written by John Broderick ("former dean of UNH Law and the founder of the Warren B. Rudman Center for Justice, Leadership and Public Policy"). Headline: Make no mistake. America is broken. As far as incoherent hate-filled rants go, it's pretty impressive. First paragraph:

    Make no mistake. America is broken. The entire idea behind democratic rule is subverted every day by a minority of our population who distrust any government they don’t control, ignore science they don’t understand yet don’t like while callously putting others at risk, disparage and restrict voters of a color different than their own and despise immigrants striving to be free. Their view of our Constitution is most often fanciful, contradictory and uninformed and their idea of freedom is twisted and self-absorbed. They live in a self-interested, imaginary world with no social compact and no reciprocal responsibilities. They disgrace the service and sacrifice of so many Americans who unselfishly gave so much to protect rights they neither understand nor honor. They support the Big Lie with zero proof; a Lie that any rational American would reject. Every federal judge found no evidence because there was none. It is the same Big Lie that even President Trump’s hand-picked Attorney General William Barr disowned. Incredibly, according to some recent polls, sixty percent of Republicans still believe that the election was stolen, too. They have zero proof as well. Do facts matter anymore? Is truth too inconvenient to be honored? For an increasing number of Americans, facts don’t exist or at least facts that don’t serve their ends.

    Uh huh. Certainly an airing of grievances there. Lesson taken from both Broderick and AOC above: neither tweet nor write for publication while drunk or high. (At least Broderick didn't speculate on the imagined sexual frustrations of his targets.)


  • Another pretty good performance. TaxProf discusses the TaxFoundation's recent study: New State Business Tax Climate Index: Blue States Are Worst, Red States Are Best.

    Following up on Thursday's post, New U.S. Census Data: Major Migration From Blue States To Red States, which noted that 9 of the 10 states with the largest population losses voted for Joe Biden in 2020, and 8 of the 10 states with the largest population gains voted for Donald Trump: Tax Foundation, 2022 State Business Tax Climate Index (interactive map tool):

    New Hampshire, in the number 6 spot, is a lonely outlier in the Northeast; the closest top-ten states to NH are Indiana (#9), Tennessee (#8), and Florida (#4). Other New England states are dismal: Connecticut is #47, Maine #33, Massachusetts #34, Rhode Island #40, and Vermont #43.


  • Just one more retrospective, mmmmkay? Well, actually a linked pair. AEI's Marc A. Thiessen helpfully lists The 10 best things Biden did in 2021 and The 10 worst things Biden did in 2021. We'll take number one on each list. The best?

    1. He signed a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill into law. Biden campaigned on a promise to usher in a new era of bipartisan cooperation. Sadly, this was the only major piece of legislation to deliver on that promise. It will provide non-inflationary, long-term investments in roads, bridges, ports and waterways. Its passage also saved the filibuster, by delivering for Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) — the two lonely Democrats standing in the way of filibuster elimination — and vindicating their effort to reach across the aisle.

    Gee, I don't think that was good at all. But (I assume) Thiessen is making the best possible case for it. How about worst?

    1. His withdrawal from Afghanistan was the most shameful foreign policy calamity in my lifetime. Biden left hundreds of US citizens and as many as 62,000 of our Afghan allies behind enemy lines, and forced NATO allies to abandon their citizens and allies as well. He put the safety of US service members at the Kabul airport in the hands of the Taliban and Haqqani network, a decision that led to the deaths of 13 Americans in a suicide attack. His “over the horizon” drone strike killed no terrorists but took the lives of 10 innocent people. And he repeatedly lied about the unfolding disaster — declaring that al-Qaeda was “gone” from Afghanistan; that no Americans were having trouble getting to the airport; that no allies were questioning the United States’ credibility; that none of his military advisers had recommended leaving a residual force; and that his Afghan debacle was an “extraordinary success.”

    Oh, right. The other nine items on Thiessen's "worst" list are also pretty bad, and he admits it's "shameful" and "only scratches the surface."

    Keystone XL cancellation doesn't appear on either list.


  • And we would have gotten away with it, too, if not for… Abigail Shrier discusses reaction to her Substack reporting in the SF Chronicle: The Chronicle Cries for Activist Teachers.

    When confronted with the shady tactics of activist teachers, the mainstream press typically tacks between silence and damage control. On Tuesday, the San Francisco Chronicle opted for the latter in a Twitter-trending piece entitled: “Two California teachers were secretly recorded speaking about LGBTQ outreach. Now they’re fighting for their jobs.

    The article is a follow-up to my reporting on an October conference of California’s largest teacher’s union, California Teachers Association (CTA). At that conference, two middle school teachers from Spreckels, California instructed educators statewide on how to establish middle school LGBTQ clubs, recruit students, and hold meetings, all while concealing these clubs and their membership from the students’ parents. The teachers even told their audience that they had monitored students’ Google searches and chat histories to determine which students might be receptive to in-person invitations to join their LGBTQ clubs.

    Yes, "Spreckels" is an actual place in California.

    Ms. Shrier notes the loaded language: "secretly recorded" intimates that there was some expectation of privacy in what was actually a presentation attended by dozens at a state-wide conference. The real outrage is how surreptitious the Spreckels teachers were, and the plausible suspicion that this was only brought to light because they were careless. How is this behavior duplicated throughout the school system in California and elsewhere?


  • I'll be turning the blog over to GPT-3 later this week. A WaPo story at MSN on the artificial intelligence utopica: Maybe 2022 should be the year we turn over decision-making to the AI.

    This time of year always brings thoughts of how badly we messed up the past 12 months and how much better we’ll definitely make the next dozen.

    For the many of us who have not spent 2021 at the gym calling our mothers while planning our weekly soup-kitchen volunteer schedule, we know the insectoid life span such New Year’s resolutions can have.

    So the Smithsonian has another idea for 2022: What if instead of relying on our own resolutions we asked an AI what it thinks we should do? Starting this weekend, the “Futures” exhibit both online and at its Arts and Industries Building offers a “Resolutions Generator,” an AI that makes suggestions on what commitments we should undertake for 2022. (Enforcement is...loose.)

    Amusement at the link. My generated resolution at the Smithsonian site: "I will plant one seed every day for a month." OK!

The Man Who Died Twice

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

This book got picked by both the WSJ and the NYT reviewers for their "best of 2021" lists. And I read Richard Osman's The Thursday Murder Club last year and loved it. Loved this too.

Recommendations: (1) Read The Thursday Murder Club before you read this one. (2) Keep in mind the character introduced at this book's very beginning, as the book's final chapter may not make sense otherwise.

The "club" members at the elderly care facility of Coopers Chase are Joyce, Rob, Ibrahim, and Elizabeth, and they're almost back to normal operations after their previous adventure. But an unexpected guest appears from Elizabeth's black-ops past appears, introduced by a cryptic letter slipped under her door.

But that's not all: a group of young thugs viciously attack Ibrahim, leaving him with injuries both physical and mental. Donna and Chris, the oft-befuddled cops from the previous book are here trying to take down Connie, a nasty local drug kingpin. And a grand-living international criminal with the misfortune to have been in the care of diamonds worth £20,000,000; technically belonging to the American mafia. Now missing.

And it somehow gets tied together at the end.

Osman writes with a great blend of humor, sympathy, and suspense. If you think that a book revolving around four British elderly people might be too cozy for your taste, worry not: Philip Marlowe would give an admiring, albeit cynical, thumbs up to this crew.


Last Modified 2022-01-02 10:48 AM EDT

Don't Look Up

[3 stars] [IMDB Link] [Don't Look Up]

The first movie of 2022, a free-to-me Netflix streamer. I decided to watch after reading Kevin D. Williamson's (positive) take at the NR blog, which was a response to Kyle Smith's NRPlus (very negative) review. Hey, I'll split the difference; they both make good points.

Michigan State astronomy grad student Kate (Jennifer Lawrence) discovers an incoming comet on her photos of distant stars. She dutifully reports her discovery to her advisor Randall (Leonardo DiCaprio), who does some orbital calculations, and… oh, oh, it's on a direct collision course with our lovely planet in a few months.

So they report this to NASA, which cobbles up a heroic mission to divert the comet at the last minute, and…

Nah. What actually happens is that they get plunked into the dysfunctional (that's gonna be my go-to word for 2022, and perhaps beyond) operations of the US government (personified by President Meryl Streep), hubristic Big Tech (personified by creepy Mark Rylance), air-headed/amoral newscasters (Tyler Perry and Cate Blanchett), and American society (portrayed by nearly everyone else). Honest, earnest Kate is quickly chewed up and spit out by this powerful coalition of corruption, stupidity, and greed. Randall goes along to "work within the system" and is soon seduced (figuratively and literally) by it all.

Will humanity triumph and save our planet? Well…

It's way too long, and (as Kyle Smith points out) the writer/director Adam McKay "could not be more ham-fisted if he got 'Hormel' tattooed across his knuckles." But the acting is decent (look at all those Oscar winners and nominees), the special effects are impressive, and the occasional dumb joke got me to laugh.

URLs du Jour

2022-01-01

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Just one last retrospective, 'kay? Some of my unusual posts from 2021:


  • Speaking as a Cheap Wine Libertarian… I'm with Jason Brennan and Christopher Freiman in their broadside Against Champagne Socialists.

    It's been a bad year in public relations for Champagne socialists—or if you prefer, Neiman Marxists. The socialist Twitch streamer and Young Turks host Hasan Piker bought a $2.7 million house in Beverly Hills, complete with a swimming pool and an outdoor widescreen perfect for entertaining. Millionaire Aurora James designed Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's show-stealing "Tax the Rich" dress, which she wore to the $35,000-per-ticket Met Gala.

    The phenomenon of egalitarians living in luxury while denouncing the evils of inequality is not new. In 2018, socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders paid an effective tax rate of 26 percent despite campaigning on a platform that would require him to pay more than 40 percent. After taxes and donations, Sanders remains within the top 1 percent of U.S. earners and the top .02 percent worldwide. Curious observers may question why Sanders, a tireless critic of the 1 percent, doesn't sell his $575,000 vacation home and give the proceeds to charity or offer them as a general donation to the U.S. government via pay.gov. The same goes for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a longtime progressive who has a net worth of over $10 million and yet donated a mere $50,128 in 2018.

    Consider this an exercise in applied philosophy. They suspect some non-admirable psychology is going on here:

    The reality is that for many people, publicly expressing ideology is not about trying to say what's right and wrong; it's about trying to look good to others. It's moral masturbation, not moral theory. Rather than helping others—which might cost them something!—they advocate helping others. Rather than ameliorating some of the bad effects of injustice—which might cost them something!—they advocate for justice. They then consume the warm glow of cheap altruism and earn the admiration of like-minded peers, all while living a self-centered luxury lifestyle.

    It sounds all too plausible.


  • "You've changed, man. It used to be about the science!" Jerry Coyne is very very disappointed in a once-venerated magazine, now committed to a self-destruct sequence: Scientific American does an asinine hit job on E. O. Wilson, calling him a racist.

    It is written by someone who apparently has no training in evolutionary biology, though she says she “intimately familiarized [herself] with Wilson’s work and his dangerous ideas on what factors influence human behavior.” I usually don’t question someone because of their credentials, but this piece is so stupid, so arrantly ignorant of Wilson’s work, that I can attribute its content only to a combination of ignorance (perhaps deliberate) or a woke desire to take down someone as a racist who wasn’t a racist. Or both.

    […]

    I could rant forever about the ignorance of this woman, but will try to refrain. Note the links above that say “discrimination” and “racism”. But nowhere in the article does she give one iota of evidence that Wilson was a racist. Yes, he was a biological determinist—and not a pure biological determinist, for he wrote books about the influence of culture and genetics—but I never heard him say or write anything to indicate that he was biased against members of other groups. (The author, Monica R. McLemore, is black.) Not all people who claim that genes have a role in human behavior are racists, you know. And if you claim that genes don’t have any influence in modern behavior, which was Wilson’s point in writing the last chapter of Sociobiology, then you’re ignorant and wrong. .

    Professor Coyne's long post has reactions from other scientists eulogizing a once-good magazine.

    (Classic quote slightly adapted for the headline.)


  • In University Near Here-related news… The College Fix details the latest (apparently failed) crusade against the name of the James Webb Space Telescope: ‘Queer agender’ feminist physicist wants NASA’s new telescope named after Harriet Tubman.

    NASA’s advanced replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope was launched on Christmas Day, but a “queer agender” black feminist physicist — who believes her field is “deeply inflected by pro-white biases” — is unhappy with the new telescope’s moniker.

    The University of New Hampshire’s Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, along with three other scientists, penned a Scientific American article earlier this year demanding the James Webb Space Telescope be renamed due to the namesake “acquiesc[ing] to homophobic government policies during the 1950s and 1960s.”

    Yes, that's Scientific American again. I don't think there's actually any new news in the article.

    NASA, for all its faults, has a very cool page, Where Is Webb?. As I type, slightly over halfway to its L2 Lagrangian orbit, 470,000 miles away from Chanda Prescod-Weinstein.


  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Call them Neanderthal knuckle-draggers. That'll work. Tom Chivers was unimpressed with a recent book (Amazon link at your right), and his review is headlined How not to talk to a science denier.

    Imagine you bought a book with the title How to Talk to A Contemptible Idiot Who Is Kind of Evil. You open the book, and read the author earnestly telling you how important it is that you listen, and show empathy, and acknowledge why the people you’re talking to might believe the things they believe. If you want to persuade them, he says, you need to treat them with respect! But all the way through the book, the author continues to refer to the people he wants to persuade as “contemptible idiots who are kind of evil”.

    At one stage he even says: “When speaking to a contemptible idiot who is kind of evil, don’t call them a contemptible idiot who is kind of evil! Many contemptible idiots find that language insulting.” But he continues to do it, and frequently segues into lengthy digressions about how stupid and harmful the idiots’ beliefs are. Presumably you would not feel that the author had really taken his own advice on board

    This is very much how I feel about How to Talk to A Science Denier, by the Harvard philosopher Lee McIntyre.

    I'm not a science denier. I'm a Scientific American denier.

Top Ten Nonfiction Books read in 2021

[Excuse blatant copying from last year's post.] Just in case you're interested in what I found informative, interesting, thought-provoking, etc. last year. Clicking on the cover image will take you to the Amazon page (where I get a cut if you buy); clicking on the title will whisk you to my blog posting for a fuller discussion.

Ten is an arbitrary, but traditional, number, I hasten to point out.

I started using Goodreads in 2021. They nudge you to rate books, which made this retrospective task easier. The below includes nine books I rated five-star, and one rated four-star. Apologies to those who didn't make the cut. I could have come up with a slightly different set on a different day. Feel free to peruse the full list of books I read in 2021 (including fiction).

In order read:

[Amazon Img] The Fabric of CivilizationHow Textiles Made the World by Virginia Postrel. Reading anything by Virginia Postrel is obligatory for me, but I worried that I wouldn't be that interested in a book about fabric. Wrong! She managed to make this a fascinating story of innovation and technology.
[Amazon Img] False AlarmHow Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet by Bjørn Lomborg. A plea for sanity against the climate change alarmists, who continue to insist on unrealistic public policies that fail any moral calculus.
[Amazon Img] The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs. This book made me think a bit deeper into my reading habit. It's like getting advice from a (very) learned, experienced friend on how to pursue your hobby/pastime/diversion of reading. And there's also a lot of practical advice.
[Amazon Img] BeyondThe Astonishing Story of the First Human to Leave Our Planet and Journey into Space by Stephen Walker. Why yes, it really was an astonishing story. I was a space fanboy as a kid, so I devoured news stories, magazine articles, books,… But there was a lot we didn't know back then, especially about the USSR space program, but some stuff kept under wraps by our side. Walker did a great job with his research, and tells a suspenseful story, even though we know how it turns out.
[Amazon Img] The Scout MindsetWhy Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don't by Julia Galef. She distinguishes between the "scout" and "soldier" mindset when dealing with contentious issues. She recommends… well, you see the title there. She offers many tips for improving your thinking. You probably won't win any popularity contests with the folks who are dedicated soldiers, but why would you want to do that anyway?
[Amazon Img] The Hidden HalfThe Unseen Forces that Influence Everything by Michael Blastland. Lively and accessible prose examining why research into thorny issues of economics, public health, sociology, psychology is so difficult. And why so much of it is hot garbage. Recommend you get a copy you can throw at anyone who says "Recent studies show…"
[Amazon Img] Facing RealityTwo Truths about Race in America by Charles Murray. And those truths are: "The first is that American Whites, Blacks, Latinos, and Asians, as groups, have different means and distributions of cognitive ability The second is that American Whites, Blacks, Latinos, and Asians, as groups, have different rates of violent crime." What to do? I like Murray's recommendations, which unfortunately seem unlikely to be taken up in today's poisonous atmosphere.
[Amazon Img] MaverickA Biography of Thomas Sowell by Jason L. Riley. A mostly intellectual biography, to be specific. Jason Riley is a Sowell fanboy, and so am I. A onetime Marxist, Sowell's unflinching dedication to facts and data brought him around. If you don't want to wade through Sowell's voluminous oeuvre, this is a great intro.
[Amazon Img] Schrödinger's Killer AppRace to Build the World's First Quantum Computer by (the late) Jonathan P. Dowling. Unexpectedly hilarious look at quantum physics, both theoretical and practical. Very opinionated. And an interesting look at where quantum computing stood in 2013. (I'm not sure what's happened of importance since then.) I have Dowling's second (and unfortunately last) book on my get-at-library list.
[Amazon Img] And finally, American Happiness and DiscontentsThe Unruly Torrent, 2008-2020 by George F. Will. Mostly a collection of his syndicated WaPo column, organized into broad categories. My report at the link has ten paragraph-size quotes, and they are luminescent.

Some Graphs

2022 Update

The yearly Pun Salad update. Mostly copied from years previous.

Back in 2016, I made an early New Year's resolution to blog more diligently. This was unusual, in that it was actually successful. Through 2021, there have been 1834 consecutive days of Pun Salad posts (not counting book/movie/geek posts) since 2016-12-24. And yet I am still not famous.

I suppose this can't go on forever, but we'll keep trying.

There's twelve more months of data on the chart showing the monthly blog posts since Pun Salad's birth in February 2005: (Hat tip: the Chart::Gnuplot Perl module.)

[Pun Salad Montly Posts]

Once a geek develops a hammer, it's tough to stop finding nails to pound. Here's an updated chart on my book reading; you can tell that I've been trying to read more over the past few years:

[Yearly Books]

Aha, a record for 2021! At least since I've been keeping track. I blame Covid. Will I break 100 in 2022? Stay tuned, maybe.

And movies watched since 2004 …

[Yearly Movies]

Whoa, an all-time low record. I suppose we're looking at a couple things: (1) unlike 2020, the 2021 Red Sox were actually worth watching; (2) I rewatched a lot of movies, which doesn't count in the above compilation.

I don't know what will happen with my movie watching in 2022.

For the curious: My 2021 book list is here; my 2021 movie list is here.