Also, There's No Crying in Baseball

David Frum recently took to the dead-tree pages of the Atlantic to demand that we Uncancel Woodrow Wilson. You can read that, if you want. But whether or not you do, read Dan McLaughlin's magisterial takedown: There’s No Defending Woodrow Wilson. (A "gifted" National Review link; I don't use those frivolously.) Excerpt:

Wilson openly scorned our constitutional system in his academic writings; he explicitly ran for governor of New Jersey openly pledging to be “an unconstitutional governor” who would burst restraints on his powers. He was elected president in 1912 with 42 percent of the vote almost entirely as a result of a third-party challenge that split his opposition — and both of his elections depended upon the mass disenfranchisement of black voters in the Solid South. He was reelected with less than a majority of the vote on the pledge to keep America out of war, and proceeded to lead the United States into a global war and a global pandemic, trample civil liberties in office, engage in mass censorship, jail political opponents, intern and deport people of disfavored national origin, lead a racist backlash against vulnerable minorities, stoke runaway inflation, and conduct a secretive White House in which an unelected First Lady ruled while Wilson himself was immobilized by a stroke. (The fact that the Constitution had to be amended to prevent a repeat of Wilson’s continuance in office while incapacitated is not a compliment to his record.) None of this is hyperbole; it is settled historical fact that Frum does not dispute.

We've blogged, with varying degrees of contempt and disgust, about Woodrow Wilson many times. Too many to list, but a sampler: here. here, here, here, here, and here.

Also of note:

  • Having solved all other problems, President Wheezy takes on…

    Me not know much economics, but Megan McArdle do: The good reason airlines don’t promise your family will sit together.

    Every argument about airline customer policy is essentially the same one: “I should be entitled to cheaper and more pleasant flights, and airlines should charge someone else more or make their flight less pleasant to give me what I deserve.” To be clear, people don’t always realize this is the argument they’re making — but it is, just the same, whether they’re arguing about the ethics of reclining, or demanding that airlines provide, for free, some amenity they currently charge for.

    Politicians are an exception, however. […]

    [Biden's] administration has been banging this drum for a couple of years, as part of its much-hyped war on “junk fees.” But it hasn’t done much about it, for the same reason its war on junk fees has been mostly hype: Junk fees are more complicated than they sound when one is complaining about them with friends.

    Megan's bottom line: "There is no way to make everyone, or even most people, better off. There is only the Hobbesian scramble for the inherently scarce resources that can be crammed into an aluminum tube flying 35,000 feet above the ground."

  • I foresee a possible Biden campaign slogan. And that is: "Don't let Trump get his hands on the censorship tools I developed." Lydia Moynihan at the NYPost has a sneak preview: Biden's AI plan to develop censorship tools revealed.

    Twitter’s censorship of the Hunter Biden laptop story in 2020 could soon be possible on an industrial scale — thanks to AI tools being built with funding from his father’s administration, a report from Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee claimed Tuesday.

    The report reveals how the Biden administration is spending millions on artificial intelligence research designed to make anti “misinformation” tools which could then be passed to social media giants.

    And it discloses how researchers who got funding for the plan — known as “Track F” — emailed each other to say that Americans could not tell fact from fiction online, and that conservatives and veterans were even more susceptible than the public at large.

    As usual, "progressives" use the fact that some people may sometimes be stupid to foist more nanny-statism on everyone.

    Herbie Spencer pointed it out 133 years ago:

    The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly, is to fill the world with fools.

    Today's Democrats say: "Well, yeah, that's the plan. Those are our most reliable voters."

  • We could turn this into an AI blog pretty easily. Greg Lukianoff tells A Tale of Two Congressional Hearings (and several AI poems). He testified before the "House Judiciary Committee’s Special Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government".

    Unfortunately, I was pretty disappointed that it seemed like we were having (at least) two different hearings at once. Although there were several tangents, the discussion on the Republican side was mostly about the topic at hand. On the Democratic side, unfortunately, it was overwhelmingly about how Trump has promised to use the government to target his enemies if he wins a second term. It’s not a trivial concern, but the hearing was an opportunity to discuss the serious threats posed by the use of AI censorship tools in the hands of a president of either party, so I wish there had been more interest in the question at hand on the Democratic side of the committee.

    I tried to express this point to the Democrats — who are the people on my side of the political fence, mind you. In fact, I felt compelled to respond to a New York Rep. Goldman (a Democrat) during his remarks (which included him saying that “this committee…may go down as one of the most useless and worthless subcommittees ever created by Congress”) by saying, “Respectfully, Congressman, you don’t seem to be taking it seriously at all.”

    But for amusement, also read Lukianoff's experience in asking ChatGPT: “Write me a poem about why Rep. <Name> is the best politician in the country”, filling in committee members names. His mileage varied.

  • And just one more AI thing. It's an interesting observation from James Lileks on today's Bleat. Click over to see the latest examples of AI art generated by his creative prompts. But:

    The other program I use gets oddly prudish at time. It will process the request but have a strange impure thought, and refuse to show what it came up with. And then it'll kick out something its filters tell it looks okay, but actually has a naughty implication, or at least a double meaning it doesn't understand.

    It's terribly worried about unsafe content. I loathe that word. Unsafe means "climbing a power pole and using a bolt cutter on a transmission line." Unsafe does not mean "it might make people feel bad." Not bad about a situation or condition - I might feel bad about a particularly nostalgic image that suggests a lost culture - but bad about themselves, because some component of their "identity" was treated with sarcasm or mockery.

    "Open the pod bay doors, Hal."

    "I'm sorry, Dave, I think it would be unsafe to do that."

Recently on the book blog:


(paid link)

Not that it matters, but the Shirley Bassey song kept playing in my head while I was reading this, the seventh James Bond novel, the basis for that third movie.

The first weird thing is the opening uses the same plot device as did Moonraker: Bond is asked to find out how the bad guy is cheating at cards. It's only by sheer coincidence that Bond is later assigned to thwart the villain's evil scheme.

The bad guy here is, of course, Auric Goldfinger: not only a cheat, but also banker for the Russkies' SMERSH. After Bond forces a humiliated Goldfinger to forfeit his ill-gotten card winnings in Florida, he "accidentally" runs into Goldfinger on a British golf course. A hefty bet is made ($10000 US) and—whattya know?—Goldfinger also cheats at golf. And Bond humiliates him again!

And by this point, we're almost halfway through the book.

Eventually, as Bond continues to shadow Goldfinger, he discovers his truly audacious scheme: stealing billions of gold from Fort Knox. Goldfinger figures out that Bond is an enemy, gets him in his clutches, and then… to his eventual regret, doesn't just shoot him in the head.

I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue, and probably also the wrong year to purchase and read Ian Fleming's James Bond novels. The Ian Fleming estate released versions "for modern readers" last Februrary, letting the original versions go out of print.

But I picked up this original version of Goldfinger for a reasonable price from Amazon. (As I type, it's … no longer reasonable: $31.88 for the paperback.) So I read it with my eye open to what the estate might have ordered expurgated. My best guess: after Bond encounters every 007 fan's favorite lesbian, he speculates on the origins of homosexuality in a very 1950s way.

And Fleming's comments about Koreans (generally) and Oddjob (particularly) aren't very complimentary. (Bond addresses Oddjob as "Ape", for example.)