URLs du Jour

2020-11-28

  • Howie Carr on Twitter provides the rhetorical stylings of our (sorry, conspiracy theorists) President-Elect:

    At Liberty Unyielding, Ben Bowles speculates on mispronunciation:

    The word he substitutes, palmist, is especially unfortunate since it is a term for some one who engages in palmistry, or telling one’s fortune by reading his palm — a practice pretty far removed from organized religion. Then again, like that other devout Catholic on the Democratic side, Nancy Pelosi, Biden tends to be a Sunday Christian, if that. In seeking the Democratic nomination, he renounced his career-long support for the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except to save the life of the woman or if the pregnancy arises from incest or rape. Talk about your deals with the devil!

    I'm pretty sure Kamala Harris can recite Section 4 of the 25th Amendment in her sleep, backwards.


  • At City Journal, Theodore Darlymple muses on a simple, underused, four-letter word: The Age of Cant. No apostrophe. He thinks "hypocrisy", a near-but-not-quite synonym has a bad rap in comparison.

    Cant is more destructive than hypocrisy because it is harder to expose and because a humbug deceives himself as well as others, while a mere hypocrite retains some awareness; he is a rogue rather than a villain. Cant is the vehement public expression of concern for others, or of anger at an opinion casting doubt on some moral orthodoxy that is not, and cannot be, genuinely felt, its vehemence being a shield for insincerity and lack of confidence in the orthodox opinion. Doctor Johnson defined cant as “a whining pretension to goodness, in formal and affected terms.” Cant is contagious, and, when widespread, it creates an atmosphere in which people are afraid to call it by its name. Arguments then go by default; and if arguments go by default, ludicrous, bad, or even wicked policies result.

    I think that we live in an era of cant. I do not say that it is the only such age. But it has never been, at least in my lifetime, as important as it is now to hold the right opinions and to express none of the wrong ones, if one wants to avoid vilification and to remain socially frequentable. Worse still, and even more totalitarian, is the demand for public assent to patently false or exaggerated propositions; refusal to kowtow in such circumstances becomes almost as bad a sin as uttering a forbidden view. One must join in the universal cant—or else.

    I'll try to do better.


  • The newish "CapitalMatters" section of National Review brings us Andrew Stuttaford on the Davos Great Reset: The Culmination of Corporatism. He notes that it even has its own website, which seems to be (and I hope I'm getting this right) exactly the sort of thing Theodore Darlymple is talking about. "Partners" in the Great Reset include "Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, IBM, IKEA, Lockheed Martin, Ericsson and Deloitte."

    Not a partner: me. Probably you neither.

    Recently, one expression of corporatism, “stakeholder capitalism,” has won strong support on both sides of the Atlantic. This might be expected in Europe, but that it has been taken up by the Business Roundtable and many leading firms in the U.S. — allegedly a bastion of both free enterprise and democracy — is depressing. Looked at optimistically, the BRT and its C-suite cheerleaders are useful idiots. Looked at realistically, they are part of a managerial class grubbing for the power that flows from other people’s money.

    Stakeholder capitalism rests on the notion that a company’s management owes a duty to more than its shareholders. It’s something that Klaus Schwab, the WEF’s founder and executive chairman, has been advocating for a long time. A key feature of the Great Reset is the idea that stakeholder capitalism should, one way or another, be adopted.

    I just hope the folks handling my portfolio are nimble enough to ride this seemingly inevitable wave instead of getting pulled under.


  • Also at NR, Kevin D. Williamson writes on more down-to-earth econ: Shopping Superstitions.

    It’s the boss-bossiest time of the year, when Americans getting ready to open up their wallets to buy Christmas presents are lectured by illiterate halfwits about where and how to spend their money. The usual demands: Buy local, or buy from small businesses.

    This is pure nonsense, and you should feel free to ignore it.

    The “buy local” people insist that if you choose, say, your locally owned coffee shop over Starbucks, then the money you spend there will somehow stay in the community, hanging around and providing additional economic benefits. But that isn’t how money works: Most businesses spend most of what they take in and then put the rest in the bank, where it becomes global capital.

    And local businesses do not generally spend their money locally — they can’t. I like my local coffee shop, and I am pretty sure that it does not buy its coffee locally, because I do not live in Colombia or Brazil or Vietnam, and it doesn’t buy its to-go cups from a local maker, since it is not in the shadow of a paper-goods factory, etc. Its lease is probably held by an out-of-town entity, along with its loans. Its espresso machine probably came from Italy or Germany, maybe Hong Kong.

    Fully of insight, as usual, and he avoids the term "comparative advantage". Bonus quip: "The people who want you to believe otherwise are the same ones who want you to give up Bordeaux for wine made in Missouri or Oregon or Illinois — i.e., people who are not to be trusted."

    Fortunately, I'm good with my plonk, Kevin.


  • Apparently my CD shelf is fuller of libertarian artists than I previously expected. The Washington Times reports: Eric Clapton joins Van Morrison's anti-lockdown campaign with new song, 'Stand and Deliver'.

    Music legend Eric Clapton is joining Van Morrison’s efforts to reopen the live music industry amid the coronavirus pandemic by releasing a new anti-lockdown song called, “Stand and Deliver.”

    The song, which was written by Mr. Morrison and performed by Mr. Clapton, will debut Dec. 4 and the proceeds will go toward Mr. Morrison’s Lockdown Financial Hardship Fund, which supports U.K. musicians who are facing financial hardship because of widespread government restrictions on live music, Variety reported.

    “There are many of us who support Van and his endeavors to save live music; he is an inspiration,” Mr. Clapton told Variety. “We must stand up and be counted because we need to find a way out of this mess. The alternative is not worth thinking about. Live music might never recover.”

    Lads, let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-27

Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. We did Zoom Feast with old people upstairs, kids downstairs. It worked out.

  • Daniel Mitchell wishes us a Happy Thanksgiving from America’s Hypocritical Politicians. Example (from NBC News):

    Denver’s mayor is explaining himself and offering an apology after he traveled to Mississippi for Thanksgiving, though he had urged others to stay home if possible because of the coronavirus pandemic. …The mayor’s trip comes as officials in Colorado have warned about a steep increase in Covid-19 cases that threatens to stress the hospital system, and after warnings from the governor and others to keep Thanksgiving gatherings small and safe. …The station reported he traveled to Houston for the Mississippi trip, and that his account tweeted the guidance to stay home about 30 minutes before his flight.

    Conclusion:

    They genuinely think that they should be exempt from all the nonsensical policies that they impose on everyone else.

    "Indeed." I'd add that the politicians' perceptions of risk may well be accurate and appropriate for their own cases. It's just they don't trust their subjects to exercise the same judgment.


  • Jeff Jacoby observes: The coronavirus curfews make no sense.

    Did you know that the coronavirus, like vampires and werewolves, is deadliest after dark? I didn't either, but it must be true. What other justification can there be for the imposition of curfews on residents and businesses in Massachusetts, Ohio, New York, and elsewhere by governors who claim their purpose is to control the spread of COVID-19?

    In Massachusetts earlier this month, Governor Charlie Baker issued his 53rd "emergency" order , requiring 16 categories of facilities — from restaurants, arcades, golf courses, and drive-in theaters to gyms, zoos, flight schools, and museums — to close their doors to the public by 9:30 each night. Though the order is 5½ single-spaced pages long, it contains not a single sentence explaining how Massachusetts will be better protected from the coronavirus if residents who are permitted to go out for pizza or to work out at 7:45 pm are barred from doing so at 9:45 pm. Neither does the accompanying "advisory ," which counsels all residents of the state to stay home between 10 pm and 5 am.

    I don't know how Governor Baker spent his Thanksgiving, so we'll let him off the "hypocrisy" charge.

    But it seems clear that he (like even some pols up here in New Hampshire) has succumbed to the "do something" mantra. He needs to be seen as "doing something", even if it's stupid.

    And, to be overly fair to Charlie, that's probably what a significant fraction of the Massachusetts citizenry demands.


  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum notes a downside: Senseless Restrictions on Outdoor Activities Undermine the Goal of Curbing COVID-19. After reciting numerous (and when I say "numerous", I mean a lot of) examples of such restrictions:

    There are several problems with these restrictions on outdoor activities. First, many of them are inconsistent and scientifically dubious. Second, foreclosing opportunities for people to recreate or gather outside is apt to increase the risk of virus transmission indoors, especially in private settings where the authorities have no idea what is happening, even if they are notionally imposing limits there. Third, arbitrary COVID-19 edicts that make life more inconvenient and less enjoyable for no rational reason foster resentment and defiance, which make compliance with reasonable safeguards less likely. In their determination to seem like they are doing something to slow the spread of COVID-19, many politicians are actively undermining that goal.

    One of the nanny-state guidelines from the Left Coast: "Californians should not travel significant distances for recreation." What's "significant"? They seem to say it involves driving 2-3 hours. Is that one way or round trip? And what if there's a traffic jam? I understand they have those in California.


  • The current statist mindset seems to be: Hey, as long as we're doing Covid mandates, we might as well mandate some other stuff too. I was surprised to learn from David Harsanyi at National Review of the growing demands for mandatory voting.

    We encourage American to vote as if it is the only rite of a citizen, without any corresponding expectations. And as if that constant cultural haranguing to vote weren’t annoying enough, after every election, no matter how many people participate, there is a campaign to force everyone to do it.

    “America Needs Compulsory Voting,” writes a professor in Foreign Affairs. “A Little Coercion Can Do a Lot for Democracy.” “1 In 3 Americans Didn’t Vote. Should We Force Them To Next Time?” asks BuzzFeed.

    Ideally, in a free nation, the answer to “should we force them?” is almost always “no.” But for the folks at places such as the Brookings Institution and Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, the answer is almost always “yes.” In July, these think tanks laid out their case for mandatory voting in a report titled “Lift Every Voice: The Urgency of Universal Civic Duty Voting.” I wish I could whip up an equally anodyne euphemism for “ugly authoritarian instinct,” but none immediately comes to mind.

    Also ugly: the reaction to people who point out ugly authoritarian instincts.

URLs du Jour

Thanksgiving 2020

Among the things I'm thankful for today is the continuing brilliance of Mr. Michael Ramirez. [Happy Thanksgiving]

And there's that whole "being alive and (mostly) healthy and wealthy in 21st Century America". As much as I gripe, it beats the hell out of whatever's in second place.

  • If you haven't heard the story, get it from Drew Cline at the Josiah Bartlett Center: How private property saved the Pilgrims from socialist misery.

    The 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing in the New World is a time to reflect on important lessons we want our children to remember about America’s founding. One of the most critical is that hippie communes don’t work.

    Yes, the Pilgrims who arrived in Massachusetts in 1620 promptly tried to create a socialist workers paradise.

    Like all other socialist paradises, it left a failed legacy of starvation and death.

    Next year will be the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving. Hope you and I will both be around for that.


  • Scoring 9.998 on Pun Salad's ReadTheWholeThing Scale is Kevin D. Williamson at National Review: On Being Grateful for Our Gifts and Blessings. Really. It's insightful and moving all the way through. I almost hate to excerpt, but:

    Christians take a distinctly radical view: that suffering is neither an evil to be evaded nor a punishment handed out routinely, like some kind of divine speeding ticket, but something to be entered into willingly in order to become not godlike but more fully and more perfectly human. We learn to be grateful not only for the alleviation of suffering but for the suffering itself — that, too, is a gift. We discover ultimate gratitude when we discover the Ultimate Object of our gratitude. Learning that ultimate gratitude does not necessarily mean wandering around the desert in a supernatural daze, though that has worked for many great men in the past. Some of them even sought out such a wild place as Massachusetts, landing there in the winter in rickety boats, like madmen. They went ashore and gave thanks to God.

    We need not go so far, and, besides, we have business to attend to here at home, to which our attention is likely to be enforced for a few more months. Gratitude may not make us saints, but it should leave us cheerful, useful, modest, and patient, and ever mindful of those gifts and blessings that we could not possibly hope to deserve.

    Whether I can be considered a Christian is a matter of opinion, but that's one Christian view I can buy into.


  • On to the stuff we're not thankful for. Specifically, another cancellation, as reported by Jerry Coyne at Why Evolution is True: A respected journalist is bullied out of the Guardian. That journalist is Suzanne Moore, who dared pen a column that "trans women" differ from biological women in some … um … important respects. From Ms. Moore's farewell:

    The censorship continues and I cannot abide it. Every day another woman loses her job and a witch-burning occurs on Twitter. My fear is not about trans people but an ideology that means the erasure of women — not just the word, but of our ability to name and describe our experience. We are now cervix-havers, birthing parents, people who menstruate. On Amnesty’s latest posters to support the women’s strike in Poland, the literal translation from Polish for the thousands of women who were protesting the awful tightening of abortion laws was: “I stand with people in Poland”. Which people? Women forced to give birth on a plastic sheet to a dead baby with foetal defects? Say it.

    Things are getting more Orwellian by the day, it seems.


  • At the Volokh Conspiracy, the founding conspirator, Eugene, describes the state of play at the University of Maryland: UMD Public Policy School Mandating Ideological Statements on Syllabus, Requiring That Class “Materials” and “Discussions” “Respect All Forms of Diversity”. Here's (apparently) the text:

    Diversity Inclusion and Belonging in the School of Public Policy

    Commitment to an Inclusive Classroom

    It is my intent, as well as the stated policy of the School, that students from all backgrounds and perspectives will be well-served by this course. The diversity the students bring to this class will be seen and treated as a resource, strength and benefit. Materials, discussions, and activities will respect all forms of diversity. All students are expected to promote this aim through their words, actions, and suggestions. If something is said or done in this course, either by myself, students, or guests, that is troubling or causes offense, please let me know right away. The impact of what happens in this course is important and deserving of attention. If you ever do not feel comfortable discussing the issue directly with me, I encourage you to bring the issue to an advisor, administrator or the School of Public Policy Equity Officer.

    Pronouns and Self Identification

    We invite you, if you wish, to tell us how you want to be referred to, both in terms of your name and your pronouns (she/her, he/him, they/them, etc.). The pronouns someone indicates are not necessarily indicative of their gender identity. Visit trans.umd.edu to learn more.

    Land Acknowledgement

    We acknowledge that we are gathered on the stolen land of the Piscataway Conoy people and were founded upon the erasures and exploitation of many non-European peoples. You can find more information about the Piscataway Conoy Tribe at http://www.piscatawayconoytribe.com. For more information about the University of Maryland's project for a richer understanding of generations of racialized trauma rooted in the institution visit https://go.umd.edu/SNW.

    Suggested placements: We suggest this statement should be placed just prior to or after the learning outcomes in the syllabus as well as prominent within your ELMS site. Faculty should vocally review these statements within class as well.

    Eugene notes the creepiness of the school mandating that the syllabus language be "set forth in the professor's voice", obfuscating its origins.


  • And, boy, it's been a long time since I saw anything interesting on a certain site I used to frequent all the time. At Tablet magazine, Armin Rosen wonders: Who Really Runs The Drudge Report?.

    It was the kind of story that would once have had Matt Drudge deploying font sizes that newspapers used to reserve for declarations of war. On Oct. 14, Twitter and Facebook blocked users from spreading a New York Post article alleging that Hunter Biden had brokered meetings between his father, then the vice president of the United States, and executives at a Ukrainian energy firm where the younger Biden held an $80,000-a-month sinecure. The Post’s article included photos of what appeared to be an exhausted and intoxicated-looking Biden in various states of undress.

    Yet the controversy over tech companies restricting the spread of a story unflattering to the Democratic presidential contender was nowhere to be seen in the upper half of The Drudge Report—once the most coveted and agenda-setting real estate in right-of-center media. “RECORD TURNOUT ALARMS REPUBLICANS... BIDEN +7 GA,” screamed the top headlines on Oct. 15.

    Drudge—the real guy—may not be that involved any more.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-25

Arlo and Janis on clickbait:

[Clickbait Sucks]

I guess clickbait ads must work or they'd die a well-deserved death. I don't care much about Don Knotts, but I admit I have been sorely tempted by "Lily from AT&T Finally Confirms the Rumors". I've learned to keep my mouse away from such things.

  • At the Volokh Conspiracy, Josh Blackman wonders: What exactly is a vaccine mandate?.

    Before the current pandemic, I had never read the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's opinion in Commonwealth v. Jacobson. That case observed, "[i]f a person should deem it important that vaccination should not be performed in his case, and the authorities should think otherwise, it is not in their power to vaccinate him by force, and the worst that could happen to him under the statute would be the payment of the penalty of $5." I was struck by that sentence.

    I had long assumed that Jacobson upheld the state's power to forcibly vaccinate someone. For example, states routinely force people into quarantines. Why couldn't states take the antecedent step of inoculating people, even against their wishes, to avoid the need to quarantine? In Buck v. Bell, Justice Holmes analogized the forcible sterilization of Carrie Buck to the forcible vaccination of Henning Jacobson. But my assumption was wrong. And I suspect I am not alone. Most lawyers never actually read Jacobson, let alone the lower court opinion. The case does not appear in any casebook I have reviewed. And, I doubt most judges who have cited Jacobson in the past 6 months have bothered to read both opinions. Rather, I suspect most lawyers and judges are familiar with Buck v. Bell, and rely on Holmes's characterization.

    Buck v. Bell is the famous eugenics case where Justice Holmes wrote "Three generations of imbeciles are enough."

    Blackman gives an interesting take on "mandates".


  • In a National Review ["NRPLUS"] article, Robert VerBruggen analyzes Biden's "gun safety" plan and concludes: Plan Failure Likely.

    Joe Biden’s gun-control plans have about zero chance of getting through Congress, especially if Republicans win at least one of the Georgia runoffs. That’s good, because his bright idea for restricting “assault weapons” would force America’s gun owners to choose between (a) giving up millions of their firearms and magazines to a federal “buyback” and (b) registering those guns with the federal government, paying billions of dollars in taxes for the privilege.

    Any guesses as to how that would play out in this country?

    As many readers may be old enough to remember, America had a ban on assault weapons for ten years, from 1994 to 2004, and it didn’t start a civil war. That’s because the folks who drafted that law were smarter than whoever is handling gun policy for Biden. The law applied mainly to businesses: It became illegal to sell brand-new semiautomatic guns with certain combinations of tactical features (think folding stocks, flash suppressors, etc.), as well as new magazines that held more than ten rounds at a time. Individual Americans who’d previously purchased the banned items were left alone, and they were even allowed to sell the items on the secondary market.

    Two theories of the policy, neither particularly flattering to Biden: (1) it was a "boob bait for bubbas" proposal, floated knowing it would never be put into practice; (2) it's an accurate indication of Biden's knee-jerk totalitarian instincts.


  • The coveted Pun Salad "Least Surprising Headline of the Week" award has a front-runner, from Randal O'Toole at Cato: Amtrak Continues to Lie.

    Amtrak is maintaining the twin fictions that subsidies from state taxpayers are “passenger revenues” and that depreciation isn’t a real cost even though its accountants list it as an operating cost on its consolidated financial statements. Based on these fictions, Amtrak claimed that it was “on track to break even financially for the first time in its history” in 2020.

    The pandemic derailed that fantasy, so now Amtrak claims that it lost $801 million in fiscal year 2020 (which for Amtrak ended on September 30). Yet a close look at its unaudited end‐​of‐year report reveals that the actual operating losses were well over $2 billion.

    Amtrak wants a bailout. The amount is about 10 times smaller than what the airlines are requesting, but (as Randal notes) Amtrak's passenger traffic is more than 100 times smaller than the airlines'. Republicans should prove that they're good for something and Just Say No.


  • As previously stated, conspiracy theorizing about the 2020 Presidential election is hot garbage; whatever misbehavior that existed was nowhere near large enough to swing things from Biden to Trump.

    I expect this kind of nonsense from Trump; I'm saddened to see some bloggers buying into it.

    One real danger is that easily-debunked tales of election fraud might hide smaller (but important) stories of actual fraud. We shouldn't go into the 2022 election thinking "everything's fine" when it's not.

    John Hinderaker seems to have gone agnostic on fraud, but he notes: There’s More Than One Way to Steal an Election.

    The jury is still out on whether the Biden campaign stole the 2020 election through voter fraud, but that isn’t the only way elections get stolen. The evidence is strong that the Democratic Party press swung this year’s election to Biden by its selective non-coverage of critically important news stories that reflected well on President Trump or poorly on Biden.

    The Media Research Center has conducted extensive polling in seven key swing states. The MRC asked Biden voters whether they were aware of certain facts or news stories, and if they were not, whether awareness of those facts or issues would have caused them to change their vote away from Biden. The data are striking.

    I can't find the survey itself, but Hinderaker provides some slides. Example: over half of swing-state Biden voters were unaware that the US achieved "energy independence under President Trump". MRC says that a significan fraction of those voters (now) say that if they'd known about some of those issues, they wouldn't have voted for Biden. And that theoretically would have swung things Trump's way.

    Well, maybe. It would be nice if voters were well-informed on all sides of various issues. Hinderaker blames the media for not giving them that. I'd tend to blame media consumers for not demanding that.


  • And Reason's Christian Britschgi has a libertarian take on the latest story: Giant Metal Monolith Discovered In Utah Desert Possibly Extraterrestrial, Definitely a Code Violation.

    A new installation is out of character with the surrounding neighborhood and might have to be removed.

    On Monday, the Utah Department of Public Safety announced that members of its Aero Bureau—while performing a count of big horn sheep in Red Rock Desert in the southeastern portion of the state last week—came across a large metal monolith in the remote region.

    There's a pic of the monolith at the link, with a befuddled Utahn looking for all the world as if he's re-enacting a scene from 2001. All we need is Ligeti background music.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-24

  • I think Biden won, I think conspiracy theorizing is entirely bogus and counterproductive, but that's old news. So I'm ready to look ahead to our near future and so is Michael Ramirez:

    [Speaking of Natural Disasters]


  • But that's not all the bad news. Via Slashdot, a Reuters report of what they probably think is good news: Biden's top tech adviser makes regulation more likely.

    President-elect Joe Biden’s top technology adviser helped craft California’s landmark online privacy law and recently condemned a controversial federal statute that protects internet companies from liability, indicators of how the Biden administration may come down on two key tech policy issues.

    Bruce Reed, a former Biden chief of staff who is expected to take a major role in the new administration, helped negotiate with the tech industry and legislators on behalf of backers of a ballot initiative that led to the 2018 California Consumer Privacy Act. Privacy advocates see that law as a possible model for a national law.

    Reed also co-authored a chapter in a book published last month denouncing the federal law known as Section 230, which makes it impossible to sue internet companies over the content of user postings. Both Republicans and Democrats have called for reforming or abolishing 230, which critics say has allowed abuse to flourish on social media.

    Get ready for "regulation" making your online life more tedious. Specifically, the "abuse" will still be allowed to flourish on social media, as long as it's directed against the correct targets.


  • And that's still not all the bad news. Betteridge's law of headlines probably does not apply to David Boaz's post at Cato: Will Biden Turn the Education Department over to the Teachers Unions?

    President‐elect Biden is rumored to be considering a teachers union head to be his secretary of education. Since the Education Department was essentially created by the National Education Association, this is basically just confirming their control. It’s understandable that Biden would promise to name a teacher for this post. After all, who knows education better than teachers? It no doubt sounds good to voters. But imagine a candidate promising to name a defense contractor as secretary of defense, an oil company CEO as secretary of energy, or a real estate developer as HUD secretary. For each of those the candidate could plausibly raise the same argument, that few others would know more about the subject. But there would be a lot more public skepticism about naming a provider of the service to run the federal department in those cases.

    The near future will be dedicated to shovelling more money into the educrat wallets. And disappointed head-shaking at the continuing mediocre results of government schooling.


  • This WSJ article is probably paywalled, but I found it interesting enough to comment upon: Chocolate Makers Are Having a Hard Time Cutting Down on Sugar.

    LONDON—A longstanding push to slash sugar in chocolate has stalled, leaving confectionery makers in a sticky situation amid the threat of regulation that could hit sales.

    In the U.K.—where people eat more chocolate per head than anywhere but Russia—a government report shows the industry has made little progress toward a 2020 deadline to cut sugar. That has prompted health campaigners to call for a tax on chocolate similar to a levy on sugary soft drinks, which in several countries has reduced consumption or propelled reformulation.

    I didn't know that about Russia, dollink. I thought their unhealthy habits were limited to vodka and cigarettes.

    But the bottom line is that regulators are dedicated to making chocolate taste worse, so you'll eat less of it. How long will it take for them to crack down on homebrew chocolate? Chocolate speakeasies?


  • A good podcast from Reason where Nick Gillespie interviews Virginia Postrel about her new book: The History of Fabric Is the History of Civilization. Promo video:

    Virginia (I call her Virginia) did a great job of uncovering why fabric is a taken-for-granted miracle. I've queued up her book at the library.


  • And Kevin D. Williamson's Tuesday column has a great bit on Household Words.

    Household is part of a set of old English formulations (smallholding, freehold, householder, etc.) that survive into modern English in legal usages and certain dusty and slightly archaic-sounding expressions, and in names such as Smallhold Farms, a Brooklyn-based operation that provides exotic mushroom to New York City restaurants. The first attested use of household in English is the 14th-century Bible translation undertaken by John Wycliffe (not to be confused with Wyclef Jean) and similar expressions have been around for a long time in Scots (houshald), Dutch (huishouden), German (Huushollen), Norwegian (husholdning), etc. Shakespeare tried really, really hard to make household happen in English — he used it in a dozen plays, from Anthony and Cleopatra to The Taming of the Shrew and practically all of the Henrys — but it did not become a common English expression — a household word — until Charles Dickens started a magazine called Household Words.

    Household word has two meanings in English that are distinct but related: common or famous. “Clint Eastwood is such a big movie star that his name is a household word,” or “Google and Xerox do not want to end up like ‘aspirin,’ a formerly capitalized name that comes into such common use that it ceases to be a proper noun and ends up a household word.” Household word’s meaning of famous is of course an application of its meaning of common: Everybody knows what a doorknob is, and everybody knows who Alec Baldwin is. (If you don’t, the answer is: a doorknob.) But a person whose name is a household word isn’t common at all — that’s a very uncommon thing. English is funny that way.

    I'm reading KDW's new book, one or two articles per day. It's great.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-23

My Political Opinions Funny Yard Sign

Our Product du Jour (not an Amazon link) is another yard sign I lack the courage to buy myself.

  • At the otherwise obnoxious Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby notes: A student debt bailout would be unjust.

    During the presidential primary campaign last winter, as Democratic candidates were promoting various plans to cancel federal student loan debt, one Iowa father’s encounter with Elizabeth Warren captured the raw unfairness of the idea.

    “My daughter’s getting out of school. I saved all my money [so] she doesn’t have any student loans,” the man said. “Am I going to get my money back?”

    “Of course not,” Warren answered.

    “So you’re going to pay for people who didn’t save any money, and those of us who did the right thing get screwed,” said the father, visibly upset. “My buddy had fun, bought a car, went on vacations. I saved my money. He made more than I did, but I worked a double shift, worked extra. My daughter’s worked since she was 10.”

    That exchange vividly illustrates the injustice of student-debt proposals that would, in effect, punish those who saved and worked more to pay for college, those who deferred higher education until they could afford it, and those who responsibly repaid their loans — by forcing them to pay for those who didn’t. Even more outrageous, it would compel the two-thirds of Americans who didn’t earn a college degree to help pick up the tab for many of those who did.

    Mrs. Salad and I did much the same as the Iowa dad; Pun Son and Daughter got out of school with no debt.

    David Henderson provides an excerpt from Milton and Rose Friedman's memoir about how there's "no government program that so clearly transferred income from low- to high-income people as government subsidization of higher education." You might expect progressives to be against that. Instead, they look to make the transfer even worse.


  • Lawprof Jonathan Turley notes that on Sunday morn's episode of "Meet the Press", Chuck Todd and Gretchen Whitmer were an excellent source of lies.

    Chuck Todd interviewed Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this morning and turned to the recent decision of the Michigan Supreme Court that ruled that she had violated the Michigan Constitution in her extended pandemic orders. Todd did not challenge Whitmer stating falsely that the opinion was a “partisan” decision. It was not. The “Democrat justices” agreed that Whitmer violated the Constitution. They only disagreed on the remedy.  However, that untruth was quickly lost in what was a flagrantly untrue statement by Todd himself. He told NBC viewers that the justices did not cite any law to support their decision against Whitmer. Todd stated as fact that the Court did not “cite any Michigan law, they didn’t cite any law in deciding that you didn’t have this power.” The roughly 50 page opinion contains over 60 cases discussed in support of the decision. It does not seem to matter anymore at Meet The Press or NBC.  NBC is not alone. I previously noted how the Washington Post also has failed to correct openly false accounts of cases.  Not only is there no apparent inclination to be accurate but even less expectation to do so.

    A detailed takedown follows. Professor Turley's conclusion:

    For academics who have called for an end to objectivity in journalism, Meet the Press.


  • One of Reason's podcasts is the "Soho Forum Debate", and the most recent one was between Richard Epstein and Lawrence Lessig. The topic was The Electoral College: Keep or Replace?. Lessig is a well-known "modern" liberal, Epstein a "classical" liberal. Epstein defended the Electoral College, Lessig argued against.

    And here's a surprise: I found myself leaning toward Lessig's side of the argument, despite my stick-in-the-mud conservatism and my reverence for the Founders.

    If only Lessig had been this persuasive when he was arguing Eldred v. Ashcroft before SCOTUS.


  • Crypto/security expert Bruce Schneier signed a letter recently attesting that "no credible evidence" exists that the election was compromised.

    Schneier's political opinions are tediously liberal, but I think he's honest enough to play this straight. I'm pretty tired of the conspiracy theories.

    But he also provides a link to his Guardian article from a couple years back: American elections are too easy to hack. We must take action now.

    Elections serve two purposes. The first, and obvious, purpose is to accurately choose the winner. But the second is equally important: to convince the loser. To the extent that an election system is not transparently and auditably accurate, it fails in that second purpose. Our election systems are failing, and we need to fix them.

    Today, we conduct our elections on computers. Our registration lists are in computer databases. We vote on computerized voting machines. And our tabulation and reporting is done on computers. We do this for a lot of good reasons, but a side effect is that elections now have all the insecurities inherent in computers. The only way to reliably protect elections from both malice and accident is to use something that is not hackable or unreliable at scale; the best way to do that is to back up as much of the system as possible with paper.

    Recently, there have been two graphic demonstrations of how bad our computerized voting system is. In 2007, the states of California and Ohio conducted audits of their electronic voting machines. Expert review teams found exploitable vulnerabilities in almost every component they examined. The researchers were able to undetectably alter vote tallies, erase audit logs, and load malware on to the systems. Some of their attacks could be implemented by a single individual with no greater access than a normal poll worker; others could be done remotely.

    One of the serious problems with all the current easily-debunked conspiricism is that it feeds into the (false) narrative that everything is hunky-dory. It's not.


  • And a final amusing item from the Free Beacon: Antiracism Icon Robin DiAngelo Paid More Than Black Woman for Same Job.

    The prominent diversity consultant Robin DiAngelo raked in $12,750 for a speaking gig last month at the University of Wisconsin—70 percent more than the other keynote speaker, black female author Austin Channing Brown.

    The University of Wisconsin-Madison's Division of Diversity, Equity, and Educational Achievement paid Channing Brown just $7,500 for her keynote address at its annual Diversity Forum, receipts obtained by the Washington Free Beacon show. The payments were negotiated with the Harry Walker Agency, a New York-based speakers bureau that represents both women.

    The "woke" position is that racial disparities prove racial discrimination. So…?

URLs du Jour

2020-11-22

Michael Ramirez goes a little PG-13 but… [View From Behind]

  • We don't care awfully much about the jerks who voters in a faraway state have chosen to impose upon themselves, but Joel Kotkin does: Governor Preen.

    If Hollywood were to cast a governor and future president, and if a straight white male were still politically acceptable, he would look like California’s Gavin Newsom. The 53-year-old governor, a former mayor of San Francisco, Newsom handsomely epitomizes the preening politics of the California elite class that has nurtured and financed his career from the beginning.

    Like aristocrats of the past, Newsom seems oblivious to the realities felt by constituents among the lower orders. In the face of massive wildfires, he postures on climate change, conflating fires with an angry mother Earth—as opposed to poor land management—and uses the conflagration to justify a radical policy of switching to all-electric power over the next decade, with the elimination of gas-powered cars by 2035. In the midst of a near economic free-fall, he favors raising taxes and works to tighten pandemic lockdowns; and, with the state losing its ability to train workers, he backs an education system where almost three out of five California high schoolers graduate unprepared for either college or a career.

    A good summary of what (I hope) the rest of the country can manage to avoid.


  • At the WaPo, Megan McArdle dreams of an alternate timeline, one in which We Could Have Done Better. It's about the latest Grim Milestone.

    Do you even know what 250,000 people looks like? Because I don’t. I have been trying to imagine it, andfailing [sic].

    The closest I can get is imagining something I have seen: Yankee Stadium, filled to capacity with a World Series crowd — multiplied by five. Then comes the hard part: I imagine all of them locked into the stadium and dying, mostly alone and terrified, of heart attacks or strokes or kidney failure or slow suffocation, while their families wait weeping in the parking lot.

    And then I imagine that happening on a live stream so the country can witness the horror. That’s what it would look like if you could see all the Americans who have died of covid-19 since last March.

    But…


  • … at the WSJ, Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. is the anti-McArdle: Media Banality Is a Covid Comorbidity. Probably paywalled, but really, this is why you should subscribe.

    National Public Radio host: “We have said the words grim milestone so many times over the past eight months on this program, and yet here we are once more. The number this time—250,000. . . . Each digit in that number, a life now gone, their loved ones now grieving. The collective loss is hard to measure.”

    NPR reporter: “You know, Rachel, each of these terrible new milestones is so big they can start to feel incomprehensible. So I’ve been struggling to find a way to put such a terrible tragedy into some kind of context. It’s hard. But 250,000 deaths is about five times the number of U.S. troops killed in combat in Vietnam. It’s nearly five times the number of Americans who died in combat in World War I.”

    These words (and I’ve spared you the full version) were spoken with the dramatic intonation that NPR apparently now requires of its on-air performers, indicating not informational content but somebody’s idea of the appropriate emotional response to be extorted from listeners. And yet the question that started this discussion could have been answered in another way more befitting a news organization: 250,000 is 9% more than the estimated U.S. death toll from the 1957 flu, adjusted for population; it’s 34% larger than the 1968 flu’s death toll; it’s about one-fifth the 1918 pandemic’s.

    At least our reporter didn’t tell us that laying the victims end to end would reach from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.

    Wouldn't it be nice if journalists avoided sensationalism and heartstring-tugging emotion, and simply reported facts?


  • Another stupid article from Wired, this one from Zachary Karabell lecturing on What the EU Gets Right—and the US Gets Wrong—About Antitrust.

    Over time, US law has come to view antitrust through a single lens: harm to the consumer. That’s a problem for critics of Big Tech, because the companies give away many of their products for free and can argue that in other cases they lower prices. The US antitrust framework simply isn’t well-suited to the unique structure and scope of these 21st-century behemoths.

    In the words of Lina Khan, an attorney who served on the staff of the House antitrust subcommittee that issued a highly critical report of the tech giants in October, “the current framework in antitrust—specifically its pegging competition to consumer welfare, defined as short-term price effects—is unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy.” The report says tech’s Big Four have gone from being “scrappy, underdog startups” to the “kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons” and that have acquired too much power that they have then exploited. Khan favors changing the law to look more broadly at the ill effects of monopolies.

    I believe a good translation is: "Big tech is not causing consumer harm, which is our usual rationale for invoking anti-trust remedies. So we'll make up a different story, one they weren't expecting! Bwah hah hah!"

    It was nice when progressives pretended to believe in "norms". Such as that good old "rule of law".

    Which, if it means anything at all, means having clear, bright lines that (for example) corporations have solid knowledge ahead of time about what kind of behavior they need to avoid.

    The kind of anti-trust Karabell is advocating is the opposite of that.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-21

[Amazon Link]
I like the Amazon Product du Jour a lot. You can (if you are far braver than I) get the yard sign at Etsy.

  • P. J. O'Rourke at American Consequences tells us about Beautiful Losers.

    Voter turnout was huge. But almost everybody was voting against a candidate – because they were hugely opposed to him (or him + her). And every voter was right. The vote was a great big “No thank you” to Trump and Biden.

    I’m glad to see the back of Donald Trump. (Although I’m already sick of looking at the front Biden puts up.) It’s not that I disagree with Trump’s policies. I mostly don’t, except for his stupid Wall and the xenophobic crap that went with it.

    I’ve traveled the entire border, from Brownsville/Matamoros to San Ysidro/Tijuana, on both sides of the boundary. The Wall is about as conceivable as a hiking trail across the Atlantic. The only sane reaction to the idea is, “Go long on the Mexican ladder industry.”

    Closing quote: "Partisan politics is a minor team sport – somewhere in importance between beach volleyball and curling."


  • Jonah Goldberg was never a Trump fan, and his disgust has, if anything, ratcheted up a few notches in the past couple weeks: This Was Always the Plan.

    The thing is, I am very angry.

    The president of the United States is trying to steal an election he clearly and unequivocally lost.

    Even liberals frame this fact wrong. They keep saying that Trump is undermining the legitimacy of the election. He is certainly doing that. But the undermining isn’t the end he most desires—it’s the means to that end. The man is literally trying to steal an election.

    I'm not angry, because I'm too old for that. But it's difficult not to be disgusted. And saddened to see people I generally like being taken in by the con.


  • Back in Realityville, Reason provides Steven Greenhut with the good news: Voters Wisely Chose Divided Federal Government.

    At some point when his bruised ego allows it, President Donald Trump will quit acting like the spurned dictator of Belarus and curtail his civically destructive effort to overturn a legitimate election. At that point, we can embrace a satisfying reality, regardless of our presidential preference: America will have a bitterly divided government that won't accomplish very much.

    Being libertarian, I rarely enjoy election night. It's like watching a football game between the Patriots and the Raiders. Is it possible for both teams to lose badly? Fortunately, that result is entirely possible in our political system—and is what took place on Tuesday. Democrats had hoped for a blue-wave election that would throw Trump to the curb, provide a Senate majority and expand their numbers in the House.

    I'm of the cautious opinion that the GOP might have an excellent election night in 2022. If they can manage to avoid doing stupid things between now and… oh, shit, what am I thinking?


  • Drew Cline at the Josiah Bartlett Center does a little home state boosterism: Economic freedom has made New Hampshire an international marvel.

    New Hampshire is a small, remote, mountainous state with no major port or trade hub. Considering only natural economic resources, it has more liabilities than assets. Yet its economy is legendary. Its economic growth has been the envy of New England for decades.

    How did this happen?

    The simple answer is that New Hampshire unleashed the power of human ingenuity by systematically pursuing economic freedom for its people. The human mind being the greatest economic asset, New Hampshire leaders freed it from unnecessary constraints. Tremendous prosperity followed.

    What we call “The New Hampshire Advantage” is not merely the absence of a broad-based sales or income tax. It is the result of a consistent, decades-long strategy of leaving individuals and businesses largely free to trade with each other as they see fit.

    In short, the state’s economic strategy is to not have an economic strategy, other than to leave people and businesses free. It has worked beautifully.

    Statistics at the link. Now if we could just do reforms of occupational licensure and onerous land use/zoning regulations…


  • Robert Graboyes and Charles Blahous write at Discourse magazine on The Rattler’s Tail and Snakebit Pollsters.

    There are countless, conflicting interpretations of 2020’s election results, but one fact is indisputable: across the board, polls failed miserably. Several reasons have been offered for this failure, but one explanation is especially compelling and worthy of further attention, namely, the fraying of social trust in America. It is not possible to produce accurate public opinion surveys where there isn’t tolerance of opposing viewpoints—even those we detest.

    In 2020, poll after poll foretold a “blue wave,” with Democrats easily recapturing the White House, toppling several Republican incumbents to retake the Senate and swelling their majority in the House of Representatives. Instead, Republicans may retain their Senate majority, holding at least 50 and possibly as many as 52 seats. Republicans may also end up only a few seats short of a majority in the House.

    The "shy Trump voter" thesis is mentioned, and debunked: it doesn't explain why every poll showed Senator Susan Collins losing in Maine, only to win handily on Election Day.

    My thesis: Democrats/progressives/leftists are only too willing to yak to anyone who will listen about their political opinions. Including pollsters. The rest of us are (increasingly) saying: why should I tell you anything?


  • David Henderson (Library of Economics and Liberty) provides a Great Line from T.S. Eliot. Which I will do as well:

    Eliot could not have found a kinder, or more effective, way of putting me at ease. As we sat down, he said, “Tell me, as one editor to another, do you have much author trouble?” I could not help laughing, he laughed in return–he had a booming laugh–and that was the beginning of our friendship. His most memorable remark of the day occurred when I asked him if he agreed with the definition that most editors are failed writers, and he replied: “Perhaps, but so are most writers.”

    And maybe we could add bloggers to that.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-20

  • Geraghty's Morning Jolt takes what should be an uncontroversial stand: Americans Deserve the Truth, Even If It’s Unpleasant. After some extensive quoting:

    If you put your faith in President Trump’s claim of a presidential election stolen through massive alteration of votes through the use of voting software, and in the legal skills of Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, I am sorry to tell you that you have been conned. Whether or not Rudy Giuliani wants $20,000 per day as the New York Times reported, it is safe to conclude he expects to be well compensated for his work for the Trump campaign. He has a financial interest in dragging out proceedings for as long as possible.

    I am saddened by the otherwise sensible folks, often on my side, who are convinced by the Trump/Giuliani/Powell smoke and mirrors.


  • So yesterday I shared an item (on LFOD grounds) from Religion Dispatches by John Stoehr, In Order to Move Forward We Must Believe the Unbelievable: Some Choose Death Over Democracy. Who, with the Christian charity typical of the progressive left, found "millions" of Trump voters "favor or tolerate organic homegrown fascism."

    I didn't quote the "evidence" that prompted this screed:

    There’s probably no better illustration of this than Jodi Doering’s interview on CNN this morning. Doering is a nurse in South Dakota. These days, she sees a lot of death. She said nearly all of her small town is now dead from the new coronavirus. She sees patients denying the reality of Covid-19 even as they’re immobile and dying from it.

    No silliness from Nurse Doering about patient confidentiality! And of course she got on CNN via "viral" tweets that just happened to fit a certain narrative. And of course she "proves" to people like Stoehr that Trump voters are a bunch of reality-denying fascists.

    But some are saying waitaminnit. For example, Ryan Mills at National Review: Nurse Goes Viral Claiming Dying Patients Deny COVID.

    Kim Rieger, a spokeswoman for the Huron Regional Medical Center, one of the hospitals where Doering works, said that after Doering’s claims went viral she did an informal poll of about a half dozen other nurses who work at the hospital to see if they had similar experiences.

    “No one else has gotten that statement back from a patient, specifically,” Rieger said about COVID denial. “Nor have they heard of that happening here. Not to call her a liar, because she provides care here as well as other hospitals, so it could have happened at another hospital.”

    Rieger said that after reading Doering’s tweets, she felt horrible.

    “I read these tweets, and, I think she was at her end,” Rieger said. “It might have been a better conversation for her girlfriends than Twitter.”

    OK, well what would you expect from a far-right rag like NR?

    Well, how about Wired? David Zweig brings an ounce of skepticism to the story, asking: Are Covid Patients Gasping ‘It Isn’t Real’ As They Die?.

    Doering’s statement that she’s watched “so many” people die from the disease even as they deny its very existence, endlessly repeated on social media and presented by news outlets without corroboration, would seem to represent a broader phenomenon.

    But other nurses who work in similar settings say they’ve seen nothing of the kind.

    I called a number of hospitals in the same part of South Dakota to ask emergency room nurses if they’d noticed the same, disturbing phenomenon. At Avera Weskota Memorial Hospital, about 20 minutes from Doering’s hometown of Woonsocket, an ER nurse told me, “I have not had that experience here.” At my request, Kim Rieger, the VP for communications and marketing at Huron Regional Medical Center, one of the four medical facilities where Doering works, spoke with several nurses at Huron to get their reactions to the CNN interview. None said they’d interacted with Covid patients who denied having the disease. “Most patients are grateful, and thankful for our help,” one told her. “I have not experienced this, nor have I been told of this experience, ever,” another said.

    Zweig is amazed at the "journalists" who simply repeated Doering's assertions without investigation. But, you know, it serves the we're-all-gonna-die-and-it's-Trump's-fault narrative. Too good to check!


  • At Liberty Unyielding, Hans Bader wonders: Did claims about rigged elections backfire on Trump and some Democrats?.

    Why did Donald Trump narrowly lose in Georgia? Perhaps because he encouraged voters not to vote by mail. That resulted in fewer Republicans casting ballots at all, because some wouldn’t — or couldn’t — vote in person. Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State says that 24,000 Republicans who voted absentee in the primary election did not vote in the general election. He says Donald Trump cost himself the election by sowing distrust in voting by mail, and whether states would count mailed ballots fairly: “He would have won by 10 thousand votes he actually suppressed, depressed his own voting base.”

    You know, that actually makes more sense to me than anything Trump/Giuliani/Powell are saying.


  • Kids these days with their hep jargon! Like Peter Suderman at Reason: The Conservative Antitrust Case Against Big Tech Is a Giant Self-Own.

    Few prominent political arguments have been so nakedly self-refuting as the conservative case for antitrust action against big tech.

    The argument typically goes something like this: Big tech has too much power, and social media companies like Facebook use that power to shape and stifle political debates, censoring conservatives and conservative speech in ways that are both visible and invisible. They are not neutral actors but partisan boosters, and their sheer size means they must be reined in.

    As Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.) put it on Fox News last night, following yet another congressional hearing featuring Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter chief Jack Dorsey, "These are the most powerful companies we've seen in American history. They're the most powerful companies in the world. And it's time we took them on." Hawley, the right's foremost critic of big tech, has repeatedly called for taking antitrust action against Facebook, arguing that it represents a monopoly. Facebook, he said in October, "is a lot like a supermarket…except there's only ONE supermarket in town, and they decide who can and can't shop."

    Facebook, in Hawley's telling, is the only online venue for political speech. There are no other options. There's no place else to go to share your political views, especially if you're a conservative.

    He explained all this, of course, on Twitter.

    I foresee me not voting for Hawley in the 2024 New Hampshire Presidential Primary.


  • And (more generally) any Republican who gripes about "market fundamentalists" is essentially telling me "vote for someone else". Ryan Bourne and Oliver Wiseman ask at the Dispatch: What Policies Are Really in the Interests of the Working Class?. They look at Hawley, and also Marco Rubio, who have been trying to claim the "just as good as Trump" label.

    The upshot of all this is that the Trump administration delivered prosperity with free-market policies and then undercut those gains with a dose of economic populism. Yet to listen to Rubio and Hawley, as well as policy wonks like Oren Cass, it is now in workers’ interests to build on Trump’s destructive protectionism with new industrial strategies and "pro-worker" labor laws. It is a strange paradox of the debate in Washington today that the most vocal supporters of the policies that helped deliver the Trump boom are the ones most widely derided as being on the wrong side of economic history. 

    In the coming debate about the future of the GOP, those serious about building a working-class party should be honest about which policies actually help American workers, as opposed to just "appealing" to them. And those typecast as “free market fundamentalists” should not be shy about the fact that it was their preferred policies that helped generate greater prosperity for working class Americans. 

    I'd like to think that "working-class" folks are smart enough to understand an argument about economic prosperity.


  • And at Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux would like to extend the skepticism the FDA brings to medicine to all policy proposals. Are they Safe and Effective?

    New drugs and medical devices cannot be made available to the general public, even through prescriptions by physicians, until these are proven – to the satisfaction of FDA bureaucrats – to be both safe and effective. Americans are denied access to any drug or medical device that isn’t certified to have such proof. Can’t be too safe, dontchaknow!

    Why does no one demand that any proposed Covid restriction be proven to meet the same standard before governors, mayors, public-health bureaucrats, and other pooh-bahs are allowed to prescribe it as treatment for the general public? (Actually, “prescribe” is not really the correct word; a more accurate one is “impose.” But we’ll here leave this nicety aside.)

    Heck, not just Covid! What about "Medicare for all"?

URLs du Jour

2020-11-19

  • At the WSJ, James P. Freeman has a longer memory than I do, and I thank him: About Those Trump Vaccine Predictions.

    Back in August, Jane C. Timm and Jane Weaver of NBC News reported on the President’s Republican convention speech:

    Fact check: No evidence for Trump’s COVID-19 vaccine claim

    “In recent months, our nation, and the entire planet, has been struck by a new and powerful invisible enemy. Like those brave Americans before us, we are meeting this challenge. We are delivering lifesaving therapies, and will produce a vaccine before the end of the year, or maybe even sooner!” Trump claimed on Thursday night.

    This is largely false... The president boasts of lifesaving therapies, but critics argue there isn’t enough evidence to back up this claim... There is also no evidence that an effective vaccine will be delivered by the end of the year.

    And, gosh. Trump turned out to be more accurate than the "fact checkers".

    I know: that almost never happens. And certainly Trump made a lot of claims about the pandemic that were hot garbage.

    But maybe the media should tone down its mania for "fact checking". At least: if you're checking a prediction, maybe wait until it definitely fails to pan out.


  • Paul Ford provides fodder for our "Stupid Wired Story" category: Love the USPS? Join the Infrastructure Appreciation Society!.

    Oh, so there's a pandemic and suddenly you all want to protect the Post Office that brings you medicine and socks? Suddenly you're America's number one Census fan and think public health is really cool? Well, welcome to the Infrastructure Appreciation Society. Seriously, my God, welcome! I cannot tell you how happy I am you're here. Membership has been falling for decades. Please visit our website.

    One of the oddest outcomes of our long global disaster has been an emergent appreciation for big, shared, legacy institutions and the infrastructure they support. I see it on Twitter, I hear it in conversations, I read it in the news. People care about mail sorting. They want Stars and Stripes to keep publishing. They want people with medical degrees, not politicians, to run our pandemic response. I guess being indoors a lot while the world crumbles will make you more sensitive to the fact that you exist as a single human node within a lattice of overlapping networks.

    OK, so Ford's tongue is at least a little bit in his cheek. But what you'll notice under all the semi-cleverness is the asymmetric treatment of government and non-governmental "institutions and the infrastructures they support". The former are lionized and cheered. The latter are mostly ignored.

    You won't see a "Free Market Appreciation Society" being cheered by Wired any time soon.

    One exception: Ford declares himself a fan of, among other things, "AT&T from 1920 to '84". But is that really an exception? During that era, AT&T was (more or less) a government-granted monopoly.


  • But also in Wired is an actually half-decent article: The Senate's Section 230 Discourse Somehow Keeps Getting Dumber.

    At the risk of imposing more coherence than there really was, the main line of attack on Section 230 from Senate Republicans today was that Twitter and Facebook are no longer mere neutral platforms, but rather act as publishers, making editorial decisions about what content to allow and when to add their own content. The idea is that the law is unfairly giving platforms extra protections that ordinary publishers and news organizations don’t get. In one illustrative exchange, Senator Ted Cruz badgered Dorsey about Twitter’s decision to add labels pushing back against claims of voter fraud. “You’re a publisher when you’re doing that,” he barked. “You’re entitled to take a policy position, but you don’t get to pretend you’re not a publisher and get a special benefit under Section 230 as a result.”

    Cruz is simply mischaracterizing how Section 230 works. The law protects any interactive website from being sued over content posted by users, whether it’s Facebook posts or comments at the bottom of a Washington Post article. It doesn’t matter whether the company is a “publisher” or not. The reason Twitter can get away with labeling a tweet false is not Section 230; it’s the fact that even absent the law, such an action would not raise any sort of legal liability. If it did, it would be impossible to run any kind of news organization: The essence of publishing is deciding what’s true and what’s false, what is and isn’t fit to print. These judgments would be impossible if they routinely put publishers into legal jeopardy. (This is why the First Amendment makes it very hard for public figures to sue for defamation. Even without Section 230, lawmakers would have very little recourse when it comes to mean tweets.)

    Cruz is a smart guy, and you would think he'd know better.

    Bonus for Wired: they at least mention the typical Democrat demand: that the platforms "prohibit even more content".


  • [Amazon Link]
    I may be pimping Kevin D. Williamson's new book even more than he is. (One more time: Amazon link at right.) If you haven't bought your copy yet (or copies, I'm sure it would freak out the folks on your Christmas list), National Review provides a Big White Ghetto Book Excerpt.

    Owsley County, Ky.—There are lots of diversions in the Big White Ghetto, the vast moribund matrix of Wonder Bread–hued Appalachian towns and villages stretching from northern Mississippi to southern New York. It’s a slowly dissipating nebula of poverty and misery with its heart in eastern Kentucky, the last redoubt of the Scots-Irish working class that picked up where African slave labor left off, mining and cropping and sawing the raw materials for a modern American economy that would soon run out of profitable uses for the class of people who 500 years ago would have been known, without any derogation intended, as peasants. Thinking about the future here, with its bleak prospects, is not much fun at all. So instead of too much black-minded introspection you have the pills and the dope, the morning beers, the endless scratch-off lotto cards, the healing meetings up on the hill, the federally funded ritual of trading cases of food-stamp Pepsi for packs of Kentucky’s Best cigarettes and good old hard currency, tall piles of gas-station nachos, the occasional blast of meth, Narcotics Anonymous meetings, petty crime, The Draw, the recreational making and surgical unmaking of teenaged mothers, and death: Life expectancies are short; the typical man here dies well over a decade earlier than a man in Fairfax County, Va. And they are getting shorter, women’s life expectancy having declined by nearly 1.1 percent from 1987 to 2007.

    It's grim and colorful. Observation: Kevin talks some about his upbringing, and some of it makes J. D. Vance's (in Hillbilly Elegy) look like Chelsea Clinton's in comparison.


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang for an article by one John Stoehr at a site called Religion Dispatches, with the audacious title In Order to Move Forward We Must Believe the Unbelievable: Some Choose Death Over Democracy.

    Religion asks us to believe the unbelievable all the time, so I don't see what the big deal is there. But:

    I get why some people don’t get why 72 million Americans voted for Donald Trump. The Covid-19 pandemic has killed nearly a quarter of a million people in this country; it’s brought the U.S. economy to the brink of collapse; and the president is a lying, thieving, philandering sadist. How could so many Americans say: “Yeah, I’m good with that?”

    I get why that’s hard to believe, but the thing we have to do, if we hope to move our country forward, is get over this disbelief. It’s time to believe millions favor or tolerate organic homegrown fascism. It’s time to believe millions voted against their material self-interests. It’s time to believe they will kill themselves before admitting a mistake. America is no more exceptional than any other nation. We can and will eat ourselves. I don’t mean to sound hopeless. I mean that we can’t solve the problem till we see it clearly.

    So Stoehr's not a fan of the folks Hillary called "a basket of deplorables". But she only put half of Trump's supporters in that class. Stoehr—what the hell not—puts 'em all in that basket.

    So much for Christian charity. It only goes so far.

    But what of LFOD? Ah, here it is, and it's a symptom:

    We have to rethink our political thinking, too. It’s often presumed Americans resist wearing face masks and other pandemic precautions due to the depth of their faith in individual liberty. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem gave voice to this when she said recently, “My people are happy, and they’re happy, because they’re free.” Our heritage is rife with heroes choosing death over tyranny. “Live free or die,” for instance. See also: “Don’t tread on me.” But nowhere is there a hero choosing death over democracy.

    Stoehr isn't particularly coherent. But to be fair, it's tough to be coherent when you're full of spittle-flecked rage at 73 million of uour fellow countrymen for voting for fascism.