URLs du Jour


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  • At American Consequences, P.J. O'Rourke writes on Trade Routes.

    Trade itself may be a happy activity, but trade means transport, and transport means trade routes, and trade routes are where people are brought together… not always in a happy way.

    When we trace the globe’s ancient trade routes, it is unpleasant to see what contentious regions they traverse and what grievous political fault lines they follow. Even worse is to note that most of these antique grudges are still evident on modern maps.

    Check it out as Peej guides you "past the IEDs of Sinai terrorists, through the Gaza kill zone, past trigger-happy Israeli checkpoints, across the chaos of Lebanon, into Syria where ISIS is no less murderous just because it’s “almost defeated,” only to wind up in Baghdad."

  • At NR David French belabors what should be obvious, but isn't: Karen Pence & Christian Sexual Morality: Love Is Not Hate. It's those triggered by Mrs. Pence teaching at a school that has old-fashioned (i.e., what used to be "conventional") ideas about sex.

    […] When I see critics respond to a Christian by telling them that they’re a bigot because of their loving beliefs, they’re telling that Christian he’s a liar. They’re telling that Christian he’s insincere in the origin and purpose of his deepest convictions. Every Christian can and should be prepared for questions about his faith. In fact, it’s a biblical imperative that Christians “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

    The claim of bigotry, however, is wrong. When it is used to attempt to drive Christians out of the public square, to block them from public offices, or to shame them out of even their own ministries, it’s an instrument of injustice. It’s intolerance in the name of tolerance — and, yes, sometimes it’s even hate in the name of love.

    It's tempting to speculate that people who carelessly attribute bigotry to others are simply projecting: "You must hate me… because I hate you."

    I'm old enough to remember the good old Moral Majority. As our Amazon Product du Jour, its stridency hasn't gone away, it's just popped up on the other side.

  • Amelia Irvine writes at the Federalist: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Setting Women Back Light Years In Politics. Is this a case of using "light year" as a unit of time instead of distance? Who knows? The term doesn't appear in the article. Still:

    “I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right,” Ocasio-Cortez told Cooper after he asked about her careless and incorrect analysis of the defense budget. In one sentence, Ocasio-Cortez portrayed herself as a woman who is ready to subordinate facts to her moral convictions, confirming achingly anti-female stereotypes. She may as well have driven erratically down the highway or failed to catch a gently thrown ball. Of course, she later admitted that being factually correct is “absolutely important.” She just doesn’t seem to care much about facts and numbers when she’s tweeting.

    Or, for that matter, when she’s speaking. In discussing with Cooper her proposal for a “Green New Deal,” which would use the full force of the government in an attempt to convert the United States to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, she could not offer an actual answer for how such an enormous transformation would be possible. “It’s going to require a lot of rapid change that we don’t even conceive as possible right now,” was all she could say.

    Said it before, but: I'm old enough to remember how the MSM treated the occasional verbal blunders of Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin. There's a real difference with AOC.

  • We looked at a debunking story the other day, but Slashdot finds a respectable Harvard astronomer who's willing to Go There: Have Aliens Found Us? A Harvard Astronomer on the Mysterious Interstellar Object 'Oumuamua.

    On October 19, 2017, astronomers at the University of Hawaii spotted a strange object travelling through our solar system, which they later described as "a red and extremely elongated asteroid." It was the first interstellar object to be detected within our solar system; the scientists named it 'Oumuamua, the Hawaiian word for a scout or messenger. The following October, Avi Loeb, the chair of Harvard's astronomy department, co-wrote a paper (with a Harvard postdoctoral fellow, Shmuel Bialy) that examined 'Oumuamua's "peculiar acceleration" and suggested that the object "may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth's vicinity by an alien civilization." Loeb has long been interested in the search for extraterrestrial life, and he recently made further headlines by suggesting that we might communicate with the civilization that sent the probe.

    There are links in the article to an interview with Loeb in the New Yorker and Loeb's article about 'Oumuamua in Scientific American.

    I can't help but think if Heinlein were still alive we'd be firing up a torch ship to go out and catch up to the sumbitch.

  • Granite Grok's Steve MacDonald brings the good news to Granite State lovers of Asian cuisine and liberty: City of Keene Caves - "Pho Keene Great" Sign "Approved".

    Over at Free Keene (check out their modified banner it’s Free Keene Great) where we first picked up the story, things sound a bit more like what typically goes on in Keene. The city was stupid. It expected the restaurant to roll over. It didn’t. A court case based on the first amendment seemed likely if they kept pushing. So, Keene decided not to push their luck.

    "Depend upon it, sir, when a town knows it is to be the object of nationwide derision, it concentrates its mind wonderfully."

  • The student newspaper of the College Not Near Here covers another bit of legislation: NH Democrats introduce firearms ban in school zones.

    On Jan. 2, House Bill 101 — which would allow school districts to regulate firearms in school zones — was introduced by seven Democrats in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

    Since 2011, the state of New Hampshire has had authority over the sale, ownership, use, possession and permitting of all firearms in the state. However, this new bill would redistribute some of that power to individual school districts and allow them to enforce gun-free zones.

    The leaders of both the College Republicans (anti) and the College Democrats (pro, of course) are quoted. The latter caused the LFOD news alert:

    “This bill comes at a pertinent time in the question of the tension between common sense gun regulation and personal gun ownership, especially in a state like New Hampshire where the culture is ‘Live Free or Die,’” [College Democrats president Gigi] Gunderson said. “We continue to support policies that make our schools and New Hampshire residents safer.”

    Gigi at least gets the four words of the state motto correct, although I suspect she'd prefer it to be "Live Safe and Obey".

    Obligatory reference: 97.8% of mass public shootings occur in gun-free zones. (Note: There is a lot of definitional quibbling involved here.)

  • And the Smoking Gun reports on local shenanigans: Live Free or Die Trying.

    While stopped at a red light Tuesday afternoon, a New Hampshire motorist was living his best life, smoking crack cocaine and being fellated by a woman in the passenger seat, police report.

    As Dave Barry would observe: soon we will have no rights left at all.

URLs du Jour


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  • At the WSJ, James Freeman takes a stroll down memory lane: Remember When Politicians Promised to Make College Affordable?.

    Expanding federal grants and loans to finance higher education has predictably given colleges the ability to raise prices, which in turn requires students to take on even more debt to pay the new higher prices. It’s not a new story. In 1965 Washington launched a program to make college “affordable” by offering a taxpayer guarantee on student loans. By an amazing coincidence college costs have been rising much faster than inflation ever since.

    James quotes from coverage of the June 2008 Detroit campaign stop of then-candidate Obama. A "tearful" young lady noted that she was "about $1500 short" of paying for her dental hygeine studies at Wayne County Community College.

    In response, Obama promised “I will make college affordable for every American. Period.”

    It's unknown whether the student somehow managed to get her schooling, but certainly that's a broken promise.

    As a Pun Salad value-added, I was able to find a spreadsheet showing the historical tuition rates for Michigan community colleges, including Wayne County. Since the 2008 event, it appears that their per-credit hour tuition has gone up about 6.6% annually. About double the CPI increase since then.

    Bottom line: when politicians promise to make things "affordable", run away.

  • At Quillette, Jonathan Kay fits that woke Gillette ad into the long history of advertising bullshit: Gillette's Progressive Politics: 'Corinthian Leather' for the Progressive Soul.

    Being a metallurgical engineer (as I, too, would later become), my father was especially irritated by ads for razors. In one well-known spot for the Vintage Stainless Steel Doubled-Edged Blade (this was before my time, but he often talked about it), an actor would be asked to compare a “Personna Stainless, seven shaves old” with another “well-known blade, brand new”—shaving half his face with each. The actor, of course, identifies the Personna as being the more comfortable of the pair. The announcer then hammers home the fact that the Personna prevailed despite being seven shaves old. But that fact was meaningless, my father would tell me (and others), because the main cause of shaving-blade degradation isn’t contact with skin. It’s the gradual oxidation that takes place when the blade dries off, over hours or days, after it’s been used—a phenomenon that wouldn’t apply to a blade that (as in this case) presumably had been used seven times in rapid succession.

    It’s an example my dad would bring up repeatedly whenever a dumb commercial would come on TV, since the same general principle applies to most ad campaigns for mass-market products. Coca-Cola doesn’t make you smile. The “Rich Corinthian Leather” that Chrysler used to upholster car seats wasn’t actually from Corinth. And smoking Virginia Slims doesn’t actually mean “You’ve come a long way, baby.” It probably just means you’re going to die of lung cancer.

    I'm tempted to oversimplify: there are two kinds of people in the world, those who actually like politically-correct virtue-signalling, others who find it obnoxiously off-putting. These groups will never understand each other.

  • At American Consequences, P.J. O'Rourke writes on The Bet. Specifically, the one between the late Julian Simon and Paul Ehrlich. You might have heard about that, and know how it came out. If not, click through and RTWT. But the underlying debate rages. Some more current data:

    In a paper released at the end of last year, Cato scholar and Human Progress Founder Marian Tupy and Brigham Young University economist Gale Pooley describe what they call “The Simon Abundance Index.” Tupy and Pooley created the index by expanding the original wager made by Simon and Ehrlich to include a basket of 50 “foundational commodities” – energy, food, materials, and metals – and by using price data from 1980 to 2017.

    Even though the population of the world increased by 69.3% during those 37 years, the price of the 50 commodities declined by 36.3%.

    Tupy and Pooley’s conclusion: “Every additional human being born on our planet appears to make resources proportionately more plentiful for the rest of us.”

    Make your bets in the commodity market any way you want, but never bet against people.

    A good thing to read when you're feeling pessimistic. But remember: "people" elected our politicians.

  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson has a good suggestion to which nobody in power will listen: No-Deal Brexit Solution: Unilateral Free Trade. (NRPlus, sorry.)

    The born-again mercantilists and daft neo-nationalists fundamentally misunderstand trade: The benefits of trade are the imports; the exports are the cost. Contemporary trade skeptics — and American nationalist-populists in the Donald Trump mode are not least among them — get it backward. They hear about “trade deficits” and, misunderstanding that term — it is an intentionally misleading one, after all — believe that our trading partners are somehow getting over on us. Difficult as it is to believe in the particular — that you’ve been victimized by your new Mercedes — it somehow feels plausible as an abstraction: They get $50 billion, and we get only $30 billion. Of course, they get only $30 billion worth of actual goods and services, while we get $50 billion worth.

    Unilateral free trade may sound like a radical idea, but other countries have had pretty good luck with it, including one that may be of interest to the English: England. When the English rescinded the Corn Laws in the middle of the 19th century, they did not do so as part of a broad and reciprocal agreement with their grain-producing trade partners, some of whom — the French — they didn’t particularly like. They did it because the sensible English finally came to the sensibly English conclusion that English people would be better off as a whole if there were more food coming from more sources at better prices, even if that diminished the earnings of the relatively small cartel of big landowners who had benefited the most from anti-trade measures. Great Britain in fact grew vastly wealthy while maintaining trade arrangements that paid relatively little attention to reciprocity even in principle. British territories, notably Hong Kong, grew wealthy while following much the same model.

    Make Britain Great Again!

  • I've been a Virginia Postrel fanboy for decades, ever since she edited Reason magazine. She sat for an interview at the Writers on Writing website. Part of her answer to a softball "role of the sane writer in insane times" query:

    While I understand the market forces that push writers to feed outrage in order to get traffic, I also feel a civic responsibility to keep my cool, not to attribute motives to people that they wouldn’t themselves recognize, and to think about what might actually persuade people who disagree with me. I don’t always live up to those standards—we all get outraged sometimes—but the older I get and the more history I read, the easier it is to do.

    It also helps that, unlike many, perhaps most, female writers, I have never felt either market pressure nor a personal desire to write about my personal experiences and emotions. What interests me is learning and writing about the world.

    We need many more writers and thinkers like Ms. Postrel.

  • And a mini-rant:

    I go to the Mental Floss website, since it's supposed to be aimed at the smarties, and I like to imagine I'm one of them.

    And yet, it seems that way too often I get offered articles like the one headlined…

    The Real Reason Harry Potter Named His Son After Severus Snape.

    I would normally post an excerpt followed by a (theoretically) pungent comment, but I'm not even gonna bother with the excerpt.

    Because Harry is a fictitious character. So is Snape. And so is Harry's son. They had no "real reasons" to do anything, because they are not real themselves.

    If you find this painfully obvious, congratulations: you may be too smart to read Mental Floss.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Kevin D. Williamson notes the odd political inversion (probably) in progress: Democrats & Republicans: Trading Socioeconomic Places.

    The Democrats have become the party of snobbery. Consider those endless fights over the treatment of evolution in high-school textbooks. Nobody seriously believes that if a high-school science teacher in Muleshoe, Texas, is legally permitted to mention heterodox views of evolution, in 20 years’ time Stanford and MIT will be intellectual backwaters. Those fights aren’t about science — do you hear progressives hounding the Washington Post about its horoscopes or lamenting Obamacare’s blessing of sundry New Age quackeries? — they’re about the loathing of those people. You know the ones: They care a great deal about football and eat at McDonald’s, love guns and Jesus, and probably voted for Trump.

    The Republicans have embraced a kind of militant inverted snobbery: “Were you born in a barn?” isn’t a question your Republican mother asks you when you’re behaving poorly — it’s a question the Republican National Committee asks, hopefully, when it is thinking about backing you for Congress.

    Things change in politics, and more quickly than you’d think. In 1984, Ronald Reagan won 49 states; Richard Nixon had done the same thing twelve years before him. (Minnesota held out against Reagan, Massachusetts against Nixon.) It is difficult to imagine a Republican doing that today. I blame Rudy Giuliani.

    Well, things change. They may change back, but I doubt they'll do so quickly enough so I'll be around to see it.

  • President Trump had yet another disgraceful "Good Lord, when will he ever just shut up" moment last week, and the disgrace was compounded by how little it was noticed. But Jeff Jacoby noticed: In extolling 'honorable' tyrants, Trump shames America.

    DONALD TRUMP is a compulsive insulter. When faced with any criticism or opposition, he resorts instinctively to taunts and put-downs. His smears and invective are so unremitting that they no longer shock. It's simply a given: If you spar with Trump, you'll be slandered by Trump.

    For all that, the president's jeers still sometimes manage to set a new low for indecency.

    Last Thursday, taking questions from reporters on the White House lawn, Trump was touting his administration's economic record.

    "We have the best job numbers in at least 50 years," he claimed. "The economy is incredible. We're negotiating and having tremendous success with China."

    Then he abruptly pivoted to his budget dispute with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

    "I find China, frankly, in many ways, to be far more honorable than Cryin' Chuck and Nancy. I really do," he said. "I think that China is actually much easier to deal with than the opposition party."

    I am, of course, no fan of either Chuck or Nancy. But to describe murderous Chinese dictators as far more honorable than US politicians is utterly brain-damaged. People who voted for him should be ashamed. Again.

  • Peter Suderman commemorates an ignominious anniversary: The 100th Anniversary of the Ratification of the Amendment That Led to Prohibition Is a Reminder of the Lasting Damage Bad Policy Can Do.

    One hundred years ago [January 16, 1919], Nebraska became the 36th state to ratify the 18th amendment, which set Prohibition in motion a year later. Prohibition is widely, and rightly, remembered as one of the 20th century's greatest policy mistakes, and it contains more than a few lessons that remain relevant today.

    The decision by the states and the federal government to outlaw the manufacture, sale, and transportation of most alcohol in the United States was born of racism, nativism, government paternalism, and moralizing religiosity.

    Yeah, it was bad. But at least back then, the government felt it needed an amendment to the Constitution in order to tell people what substances they could not legally imbibe.

  • At Law & Liberty, Alex J. Pollock has thoughts about financial blind spots. And he's not optimistic, because nearly by definition In Finance, the Blind Spots Will Always Be With You.

    The first reason is that all finance is intertwined with politics. Banking scholar Charles Calomiris concludes that every banking system is a deal between the politicians and the bankers. This is so true. As far as banking and finance go, the 19th century had a better name for what we call “economics”—they called it “political economy.”

    There will always be political bind spots—risk issues too politically sensitive to address, or which conflict with the desire of politicians to direct credit to favored borrowers. This is notably the case with housing finance and sovereign debt.

    The fatal flaw of the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) is that being part of the government, lodged right here in the Treasury Department, it is unable to address the risks and systemic risks created by the government itself—and the government, including its central bank—is a huge creator of systemic financial risk.

    For example, consider “Systemically Important Financial Institutions” or SIFIs. It is obvious to anyone who thinks about it for at least a minute that the government mortgage institutions Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are SIFIs. If they are not SIFIs, then no one in the world is a SIFI. Yet FSOC has not designated them as such. Why not? Of course the answer is contained in one word: politics.

    I'm old enough to remember when it was "obvious" than Fannie and Freddie were leftover New Dealisms that deserved to die. Sigh. Good times.

  • And finally a pungent Facebook observation from Robert Higgs.

Last Modified 2019-01-18 6:21 AM EST

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Let's do some equal time. A what's-the-big-deal query from Robby Soave at Reason: The Gillette Ad Tells Men Not to Hurt People. Why Is This Offensive?.

    Gillette, the shaving company, debuted a new commercial this week that assails "toxic masculinity" and challenges men to behave better toward women and each other. But since modern cultural discourse involves two constantly outraged tribes careening wildly from one controversy to the next, this perfectly inoffensive message has somehow been rendered bad by team red.

    Well, Robby, it's annoying to be preached to by corporations that presume to be morally superior.

    Also: presuming that an entire group bears the stigma of a subset of bad apples is invidious stereotyping, a gateway to bigotry.

  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson reads the lefty mags (so we don't have to) and makes an interesting observation: Left Wing Pro-Russians Scoff at Collusion.

    The Nation, in particular, seems to have shed a few dozen IQ points since November 2016; its voice today is a good deal less Victor Navasky and a good deal more Joan Walsh, which is a good deal for no one. (Not even for Joan Walsh, really.) But The Nation is a bit less predictable than the median hysterical lefty in one interesting way: the skepticism of its writers regarding Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election.

    In fact, The Nation is broadly defensive of Russia. From Jan. 11, 2019: “Proponents of the Trump–Russia collusion theory wildly overstate their case, again.” From January 9: “What Trump’s Syrian Withdrawal Really Reveals: A wise decision is greeted by denunciations, obstructionism, imperial thinking, and more Russia-bashing.” From Dec. 28, 2018: “New Studies Show Pundits Are Wrong About Russian Social-Media Involvement in U.S. Politics: Far from being a sophisticated propaganda campaign, it was small, amateurish, and mostly unrelated to the 2016 election.”

    The Nation used to be hilariously pro-Soviet; if you can dig up P. J. O'Rourke's tale of his 1980s trip to the Soviet Union under the magazine's auspices, do so.

  • The Google LFOD alert rang for an article in Ammoland by Jared J Yanis: Red Flag Bill Submitted in New Hampshire. Oh oh.

    An Extreme Risk Protection Order Bill (ERPO) has been submitted in the gun friendly State of New Hampshire…the “Live Free or Die” state.

    Jared argues, plausibly, that such bills, which allow judges to "suspend" (via confiscation) an individual's access to guns, "have only one intended goal: to circumvent the 2nd Amendment and confiscate guns from people who are then considered guilty until proven innocent."

  • And at Cato, Matthew Larosiere notes another tactic used by the controllers: The ATF Attempts to Deny Non-Binary and Trans Americans Guns.

    At the end of January, someone at the National Shooting Sports Federation asked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) about non-binary people purchasing firearms. The ATF responded that, despite gender non-binary licenses being acceptable identification, the individual must still select either “male” or “female” on the standard firearm transfer form 4473.

    The ATF’s rigid, unreasoned response makes it clear there’s a huge disconnect between the purpose of the form, and the ATF’s interpretation. Form 4473, which everyone must fill out when they purchase a firearm from a federally licensed dealer, is intended to identify the purchaser of the firearm, have them confirm they are legally eligible to receive the firearm, and give enough identifying information to run a background check.

    That poses a dilemma for Progressives: do you side with the LGBTQ people wanting weaponry, or the bureaucrats?

  • At Wired Adam Rogers writes on a recent visitor to our solar system, currently headed out of town: Is ’Oumuamua an Alien Spaceship? Sure! Except, No.

    Is it possible that ‘Oumuamua, the nominally cigar-shaped, somewhat mysterious visitor that a Hawaiian telescope spotted leaving our solar system in 2017, might be neither comet nor asteroid but an alien spacecraft? Not a rock whirling through the uncaring void but the fossilized wreck of a magnificent, light-powered starship?

    Well … it’s possible. A little bit. Is it likely? Hah. No.

    Fun to speculate, though. Assuming it's just an odd-shaped rock, its mere occurrence means that such objects must be vastly more common than previously thought.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Jonah Goldberg writes last week's G-File on Kamala Harris & Tucker Carlson: Common Clichés.

    About 20 minutes ago (my time), I caught some of Senator Kamala Harris’s road show on Morning Joe. If there were a platitude-eating fungus that rapidly reproduced, by the end of the segment, everyone would have died from the crushing weight of the world’s largest mushroom.

    I don’t really take offense at the platitudes, given that we are talking about a politician and also a U.S. senator running for president. What did bug me quite a bit, though, was how she oozed the sense that she was just nailing it. And no, this isn’t a sexist thing. I know we’re in the phase of the asinine conversation when we’re supposed to believe that finding a specific liberal woman annoying or unlikable proves that you hate all women.

    I reject all of this and all attempts to bully me into compliance. I belong to the school that says women are human beings, and that means they are distributed up and down the likability scale, just like men. I find Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez likable, but not as likable as Amy Klobuchar, and more likable than Elizabeth Warren. And, just to establish a baseline,  compared to, say, the late Helen Thomas (the Stygian goblin who used to roost in the White House press gallery, her scaly talons glistening under the camera lights), they’re all so likable I’d join their cross-country Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants if it meant not sitting next to Thomas on a short flight.

    Anyway, former senator Bill Bradley had the same quality as Harris. He’d say something like “Elections are vital to democracy” and then stop talking, as if the audience needed time to absorb the shockwave of a truth bomb of such magnitude. I read somewhere that Bradley didn’t like to hear applause at the end of his speeches because he interpreted silence as a sign of the audience’s awe at his wisdom.

    Harris wasn’t that bad, but it was close.

    That's a long excerpt, sorry. Didn't know where to stop clipping. Or start.

    But Jonah's point about the similarity between Kamala's rhetoric and that of Tucker Carlson is spot on: they both embrace the all-too-convenient notion that "once good-intentioned nationalists control the knobs and buttons of the state, we’ll fix all of the problems with our culture." Uh-uh.

  • At the Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby asks the musical question: Would MLK honor Angela Davis?. It's in response to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute's yearly honorary award, typically going to people like Vernon Jordan. But…

    This year, the institute blundered badly. It announced in December that the 2019 Shuttlesworth Award would go to Angela Davis, a Birmingham native and longtime political activist. The institute hailed Davis as a “civil rights icon” and claimed that she “has been deeply involved in movements for social justice around the world.”

    In reality, Davis is an extremist, an anti-Semite, and a communist stalwart. She was involved in violence, praised terrorists responsible for the murder of innocent victims, and defended some of the cruelest and most repressive regimes on Earth. To bestow upon Davis an award named for Shuttlesworth — a man who was targeted for assassination yet never abandoned his commitment to nonviolence — struck many of Birmingham’s civic leaders as scandalous.

    Read through for Jacoby's documentation of those charges. (I was equally outraged when the University Near Here saw fit to invite Davis for its MLK festivities ten years ago, but Jacoby's indictment is more complete than the one I made back then.)

  • [Amazon Link]
    On the occasion of the paperback release of Enlightenment Now (Amazon link at right, a very good deal at $12.19 as I type, you have simply no excuse for not buying it), Steven Pinker responds to his critics at Quillette: Enlightenment Wars: Some Reflections on 'Enlightenment Now,' One Year Later.

    You wouldn’t think that a defense of reason, science, and humanism would be particularly controversial in an era in which those ideals would seem to need all the help they can get. But in the words of a colleague, “You’ve made people’s heads explode!” Many people who have written to me about my 2018 book Enlightenment Now say they’ve been taken aback by the irate attacks from critics on both the right and the left. Far from embracing the beleaguered ideals of the Enlightenment, critics have blamed it for racism, imperialism, existential threats, and epidemics of loneliness, depression, and suicide.  They have insisted that human progress can only be an illusion of cherry-picked data. They have proclaimed, with barely concealed schadenfreude, that the Enlightenment is an idea whose time has passed, soon to be killed off by authoritarian populism, social media, or artificial intelligence.

    Never fear, says Steve: I was, and still am, right about everything. (You might find this sort of attitude to be arrogant and off-putting, I kind of find it charming.)

    Locals can go see Prof Pinker and his famous hair January 30 at the Music Hall in Portsmouth. Each 1-2 tickets include a (mandatory) voucher for the book, so that's actually a disincentive for people who already own the book, like me.

    Finally: You'd think the high-class site Quillette would have high-class commenters. You'd be wrong about that.

  • The irrepressible Jim Treacher analyzes the latest effort of a big company to show that it is woke: Gillette Tells Men They're Repulsive Creeps. Now Give Them Your Money, You Piece of Garbage.

    Are you a man? That is to say, are you a genetic male who also happens to identify as a "man," for some increasingly antiquated reason? If so, are you under the mistaken impression that you're not a rapist?

    Our society has come a long way in shaming men for behaving in any way that anybody anywhere doesn't like, and reminding men that we're all complicit even if we don't behave that way. But it's not nearly enough. The mere fact of maleness is shameful and problematic. Men and boys everywhere need to be reminded that we're evil. We must learn to hate ourselves as much as everyone else hates us. The patriarchy must be castrated.

    And who better to do it than a company that makes razors?

    I'm tempted to boycott, except I've got about a six-month supply of disposable Mach 3 razors in my bathroom cupboard. And a can of Foamy that lasts about that long too. Even if they could detect my boycott, it wouldn't have any effect until this summer. By which time this whole thing will have blown over, I hope.

    Or maybe I could just grow a beard. Another thing the heirs of King wouldn't notice.

    And wny stop at Gillette? Shouldn't I really boycott the entire P&G family? Toss my Oral-B toothbrush? My Crest toothpaste? My Tide pods? Mr. Clean Magic Erasers? All the Swiffers?

    Sorry, impractical. I'll have to signal my disgust some other way. Oh, right, I just did that.

  • As a Columbia prof, John McWhorter has had it with a certain ex-student's prose: What Trump's Typos Reveal.

    The president of the United States has many faults, but let’s not ignore this one: He cannot write sentences. If a tree falls in a forrest and no one is there to hear it … wait: Pretty much all of you noticed that mistake, right? Yet Wednesday morning, the president did not; he released a tweet referring to “forrest fires” twice, as if these fires were set by Mr. Gump. Trump’s serial misuse of public language is one of many shortcomings that betray his lack of fitness for the presidency.

    I subscribed to the late Richard Mitchell's Underground Grammarian newsletter for years. He liked quoting Ben Jonson:

    Neither can his mind be thought to be in tune, whose words do jar; nor his reason in frame whose sentence is preposterous; nor his elocution clear and perfect, whose utterance breaks itself into fragments and uncertainties.

    Ah, well, you can't say we didn't know what we'd be getting.

URLs du Jour


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  • Just one more thing on the Tucker Carlson monologue. A key paragraph:

    […] Republican leaders will have to acknowledge that market capitalism is not a religion. Market capitalism is a tool, like a staple gun or a toaster. You’d have to be a fool to worship it. Our system was created by human beings for the benefit of human beings. We do not exist to serve markets. Just the opposite. Any economic system that weakens and destroys families is not worth having. A system like that is the enemy of a healthy society.

    Emphasis added. There has not been enough pushback by Tucker's fellow conservatives on this claim. But Jonah Goldberg saves the day: The Free Market Is Not Just a Tool.

    This is simultaneously obviously true from one perspective and glaringly and outrageously false from another. And it dismays me that so many conservatives haven’t bothered to defend the free market more vigorously in the responses to this debate.

    Look at it this way: Guns are tools. This is literally far more true about firearms than it is about the free market, because while both are to a certain extent artificial things, guns are actual physical devices bought and sold in the market. And yet, who among us, including Carlson, would deny that the right to self-defense is more than merely a tool?

    Jonah went into more detail in his recent podcast with Michael Strain, recommended.

    Yes, you can shoehorn the concept of "market capitalism", very awkwardly, into the "tool" category. But it's also, more importantly, a fundamental part of individual liberty. People deserve, within very broad limits, the freedom to engage in non-fraudulent mutually voluntary exchange. Any limits on this freedom should need strong justification.

    And (by the way) if you're looking to aim your rhetorical weaponry at what "weakens and destroys families", there are more obvious targets than the economic system.

  • The Concord Monitor is extremely unsatisfied with the new rule in the New Hampshire House banning members from bringing weaponry into the chambers, the cloakroom, and the gallery. And it rang our LFOD Google Alert: Give House gun ban more teeth.

    Violating the weapons ban can result in ejection from the House or arrest on disorderly conduct charges, but the rule enacted by the Democratic majority set the stage for confusion and conflict because it forbids House security officers from stopping and searching members believed to be armed. That was a mistake. Even in the Live Free or Die state, the State House, a landmark visited regularly by schoolchildren, like a courthouse or airport, is no place for amateurs carrying concealed weapons.

    For the love of God, I beg you to think about the [visiting school]children!

    The Monitor lives up to its “Pravda on the Merrimack” nickname with its "solution": make violation of the rule a felony.

  • At City Journal, Joel Kotkin writes on Today’s Cultural Engineers.

    Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin once labeled writers and other creative people “engineers of the soul.” In his passion to control what people saw and read, Stalin both coddled artists and enforced unanimity through the instruments of a police state. Today, fortunately, we don’t face such overt forms of cultural control, but the trends in American and to some extent European mass culture are beginning to look almost Stalinesque in their uniformity. This becomes painfully obvious during awards season, when the tastes and political exigencies of the entertainment industry frequently overpower any sense of popular preferences, or even artistic merit.

    Joel notes the happy result: ratings for the Oscars at their lowest ever; a 25-year low in movie attendance.

    And only one movie out now that I even have the slightest inclination toward seeing: (The Mule). And, even for that one, I'll probably wait for Netflix to cough up the DVD.

  • Caltech physics dude Sean Carroll summarizes True Facts About Cosmology. And this is not some Deepak Chopra bullshit, you can take Sean's "true facts" to the bank. They are cutting edge, state of the art, best of breed. And a few more clichés I can't think of right now.

    And for me, the most eye-opening facts are the facts we don't know. Facts 4 and 5 of 19 total:

    1. The Big Bang might have been the beginning of the universe. Or it might not have been; there could have been space and time before the Big Bang. We don’t really know.
    2. Even if the BB was the beginning, the universe didn’t “pop into existence.” You can’t “pop” before time itself exists. It’s better to simply say “the Big Bang was the first moment of time.” (If it was, which we don’t know for sure.)

    Somewhat comforting to know that there's still stuff even the most advanced researchers don't know about the universe. Is it stuff we can never know?

  • Has it really been twenty years? Entertainment Weekly brings together cast and crew for an oral history: Office Space 20th anniversary: Behind the scenes of the cult classic. My co-workers and I were slinging Office Space quotes at each other up until the day I retired, and I assume they're still doing so. My personal favorite:

    And from the article, a revelation from Jennifer Aniston:

    To this day, if I’m at a certain type of restaurant, people will ask, “How do you like my flair?”

    Fifteen is the minimum, okay?

The Phony Campaign

2019-01-13 Update

[Amazon Link]

So what happened in the past week? Julian Castro and Hillary Clinton (again) have broken onto our Phony Campaign leader board. Julian has a 5% nomination probability according to Predictwise, well over our 3% criterion. In addition to Julian, Hillary Clinton edges back into our table this week. Gone for now are Tim Kaine and Paul Ryan.

A double Google glitch has leapfrogged Beto O'Rourke and Nikki Haley over Donald Trump in phony Google hits. This will not last.

Candidate NomProb Change
Beto O'Rourke 19% +2% 12,600,000 +11,680,000
Nikki Haley 8% +1% 2,520,000 +1,730,000
Donald Trump 65% +4% 2,090,000 +350,000
Sherrod Brown 4% unch 924,000 +132,000
Kamala Harris 19% +1% 835,000 +269,000
Hillary Clinton 3% --- 821,000 ---
Julian Castro 5% --- 355,000 ---
Mitt Romney 3% -1% 222,000 -12,000
Bernie Sanders 5% -1% 219,000 +11,000
Joe Biden 13% +2% 169,000 -7,000
Kirsten Gillibrand 4% -1% 160,000 -1,000
Mike Pence 7% unch 153,000 -10,000
Elizabeth Warren 6% -1% 146,000 -30,000
Amy Klobuchar 6% +1% 110,000 -10,000
Cory Booker 3% -1% 48,500 -6,800
John Kasich 5% unch 47,800 +1,800

Standard disclaimer: Google result counts are bogus.

  • Paul Mirengoff at Power Line notes: Two obscure Dems enter presidential race. One is the previously mention Julian Castro, dismissed as a "standard issue left-wing Democrat." (From what I saw on the news: leaning heavily on his ethnicity.)

    But Tulsi is a tad more interesting:

    Gabbard is a bit unorthodox for a Democrat. Her American Conservative Union ratings usually flirt with double digits, which is unusual for a congressional Dem. Her Hawaii colleagues Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz struggle to exceed zero. Conservative Review once gave Gabbard a rating of 20 percent, the same number it gave Lisa Murkowski.

    Unfortunately (as Paul further notes), she's also been a "stooge" in the recent past for Bashar al Assad. (Co-stooging with Dennis Kucinich.)

  • So what about Julian other than being a standard issue left-wing Democrat? Cameron Cawthorne of the Free Beacon noted some problems, even compared to other standard issue left-wing Democrats: Julian Castro Struggles to Provide Specifics on What Qualifies Him to Be President.

    Julian's previous elective offices: mayor of San Antonio (2009-2014); San Antonio City Councilman (2001-2005). And he was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (2014-2017). That's a pretty thin résumé. Anyway he was fed a softball query from George Stephanopoulos:

    Anchor George Stephanopoulos, noting Castro's lack foreign policy experience, asked him what he believes is the "greatest national threat" and what qualifies him to tackle the issue.

    "Well, I believe that today, the greatest threat to our national security is the fact that this president, as one of your previous guests has said, is damaging the relationships that we’ve had in place in the post-World War II era, whether it's NATO or other alliances with individual countries that have kept us safer," Castro said. "The first thing that I would do if I were president with regard to our relationships around the world is to strengthen them, because those alliances have helped keep us safe."

    Stephanopoulos pressed Castro on what makes him qualified to be the next commander in chief.

    "Well, I—as I said earlier, I think that being mayor of a large city and serving in the president's cabinet certainly qualifies one to be commander in chief, and I'm going to go out there and make the case," Castro said.

    Okay, Julian. If you say so. I have to admit, that might be a better answer than Trump had four years ago.

  • Jim Geraghty is back with 15 Things You Didn’t Know, this week's subject being Elizabeth Warren. All 15 are interesting (but I knew some of them), here's an interesting tidbit:

    4) In his autobiography Stress Test, President Obama’s first treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, portrays Warren as an empty suit, full of criticism but short on serious alternative proposals. Her “oversight hearings often felt more like made-for-YouTube inquisitions than serious inquiries,” he writes. “She was worried about the right things but she was better at impugning our choices — as well as our intentions and our competence — than identifying any feasible alternatives.”

    Geithner describes a meeting with Warren in which he said, “At some point, you should tell me what you propose we do,” and she admitted she hadn’t really thought about what specifically should change in the administration’s approach.

    Of course, other Obama-administration officials have contended that Geithner “hated her,” for both personal and ideological reasons.

    The link above goes to a very pro-Warren 2011 article at Vanity Fair.

  • But is she likeable? I'm not one to say. I have a sterling record of liking presidential candidates that everyone else thinks are unlikeable: Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Fred Thompson,…

    But Matt Lewis at the Daily Beast bravely opines: I’ll Say It: Elizabeth Warren Isn’t Likeable.

    I’m a conservative, so I don’t really worry about whether I’ve offended liberal feminists. I don’t have a problem saying that Warren is unlikeable. She seems preachy and angry to me. Actually, she’s a combination of some of the horrible math teachers I endured in middle school, and a friend’s overly emotional mom.

    This might sound pretty specific, but we’ve all met people like Warren. She’s an archetype of a genre that I’m pretty sure would turn off a lot of voters. What is more, she increasingly looks like a phony—a problem she is reinforcing by trying to copy Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s Instagram game.

    This is not an indictment of powerful women, but of Elizabeth Warren. I’m a fan of Nikki Haley. And though I’m no more ideologically simpatico to Nancy Pelosi, Krysten Sinema, or AOC than I am to Warren, the aforementioned progressive women seem kind of charming to me.

    Pelosi? Ooooh Kaaaay, Matt.

  • At Reason, Christian Britschgi analyzes Kamala's latest legislative proposal: Kamala Harris' Proposed 'Tax Cut' for the Middle Class Manages to Cost Both Money and Jobs.

    The government may still be shut down, but Congress is finally back in session, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D–Calif.) has seized the opportunity to introduce her latest legislative reform, the awkwardly named Livable Incomes for Families Today (LIFT) the Middle Class Act.

    The bill, in brief, would offer all families earning less than $100,000 as much as $6,000 in refundable tax credits.

    The problems being: (1) it seriously impacts the deficit (a "10-year price tag of $2.7 trillion"); (2) although Kamala has said she wants to make it revenue-neutral (meaning huge tax increases on other people; (3) the details of the tax credit phase-out would subject people to a huge marginal tax rate, with accompanying work disincentive; (4) it is needlessly duplicative of the existing Earned Income Tax Credit; while (5) adding more complication to an already too-complex tax code.

    In other words: it seems more like campaign boob-bait than a serious policy proposal.

  • Ann Althouse is relentlessly analytical on WaPo's embarrassing indulgence in hyperbole describing the attendance at Democratic candidates rallies..

    For years we've seen gigantic crowds at Trump rallies downplayed in the mainstream press, and that's the baseline against which I judge "Iowa Democrats fill events to the rafters with 13 months left before the 2020 caucuses."

    Even before reading the article, I'm thinking: 1. So everybody got into the room (no overflow room, no people left outside in the parking lot), 2. What size was the room (unless it was a big arena, what's the big deal about filling a room)? 3. Filling "to the rafters" is a metaphor, visualizing people piled on top of each other, but of course that didn't happen, so how densely packed was the room? 4. Of course, there's a fire code, so they couldn't pack a room all that much, 5. WaPo sounds silly saying "fill events to the rafters," when I think all they mean is that some people are showing up for events.

    The WaPo employs Democrat shills as reporters, and has lazy editors who can't shear their copy of what Ann calls "old-time adman language".

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

I'm under the weather, thanks (I think) to the pneumonia shot I got at the doctor's yesterday. So, a low-volume day.

  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum analyzes the latest proposed legislation from California's senior senator: Dianne Feinstein Wants to Ban Parts That Make 'Assault Weapons' Legal Again.

    This week Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) announced the latest version of her "assault weapon" ban. "Americans across the nation are asking Congress to reinstate the federal ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines," she claims. "If we're going to put a stop to mass shootings and protect our children, we need to get these weapons of war off our streets."

    Feinstein has not posted the text of her bill yet, but it sounds a lot like the 2017 version. The 2019 bill, like the previous one, bans "205 military-style assault weapons by name," along with any firearm that "accepts a detachable ammunition magazine and has one or more military characteristics," such as "a pistol grip, a forward grip, a barrel shroud, a threaded barrel or a folding or telescoping stock." It also "exempts by name more than 2,200 guns for hunting, household defense or recreational purposes," which is supposed to show us how generous Feinstein is being. But this list, which consumed nearly 100 pages of the 2017 bill, is completely gratuitous, since any gun that's not banned by name and does not fit the general definition would remain legal regardless of whether the bill said so explicitly.

    It's not really, by the rules of ordinary English usage, a "ban", since current owners of the scary weaponry would be able to keep them.

    For now. That's the understood context.

  • I am pretty sure I would be considered a "right wing extremist", advocating, as I do, drastically limited government, fiscal sanity, traditional morality, …

    And at least, the government should stop subsidizing abortion.

    At NR, Kevin D. Williamson describes the current usage rules: Jill Filipovic Calls Knights of Columbus ‘Right-Wing Extremist’ Group.

    >We have been hearing for some years now how domestic political pressure has hamstrung needful actions against “far-right extremist groups,” which, we are also told, represent a larger and more serious terrorism threat than do the various jihadist groups with which we have become too familiar over the past — can you believe it has been that long? — 18 years.

    Inevitably, this invites the question: “What’s a right-wing extremist group?” From lawyer Jill Filipovic, a fellow at the New America Foundation, we have an answer: the Knights of Columbus. That the Knights of Columbus is a right-wing extremist group is not an idea from the fringe: Filipovic’s New America colleagues include Anne-Marie Slaughter and David Brooks, which is not to say that she speaks for them, but she isn’t some person wandering the street with a sandwich board, either. In the Senate, Kamala Harris and Mazie Hirono have proceeded in accord with Filipovic’s view, suggesting that a federal judiciary nominee should be disqualified from the bench because of his membership in the Catholic philanthropic group.

    Crazy, right? Someone with cross-examination skills at least on a par with Senators Kamala/Mazie should demand a straight answer to the question: Shoud membership in the Knights of Columbus be a red-flag disqualification for Federal judicial appointments?

  • I do not know how credible the "insider" source is, but the details seem all too credible: Insider Describes How Google 'Screwed Over' James Damore. (Article at PJMedia by Debra Heine.)

    A Reddit user who claims to be a Google insider involved in firing former Google engineer James Damore on Tuesday spilled his guts about the internal decisions that led to Damore's termination.

    Damore was let go in August 2017 after internally publishing a memo criticizing the company's "ideological echo chamber" and outlining his views on how gender differences affect females in STEM fields.

    Damore says (and I quote): "Whoah, this would explain a lot." The alleged insider seems to have a lot of knowledge you would expect an insider to have.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • You may be wondering: can Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 70 percent tax finance socialism? At NR, Brian Reidl answers that burning question: No, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 70 Percent Tax Cannot Finance Socialism. Brian looks at both the proposed spending and revenue side. The spending side is scary:

    While details of Ocasio-Cortez’s energy proposal are unavailable, former Green-party presidential candidate Jill Stein has proposed a “Green New Deal” costing between $700 billion and $1 trillion per year for public jobs and clean energy initiatives. That is roughly 4 percent of GDP.

    And when assessing the needed tax revenues, a green-energy initiative costing $7–$10 trillion over the decade should be examined in the context of $42 trillion in additional Democratic-socialist proposals that include single-payer health care ($32 trillion), a federal jobs guarantee ($6.8 trillion), student-loan forgiveness ($1.4 trillion), free public college ($800 billion), infrastructure ($1 trillion), family leave ($270 billion), and Social Security expansion ($188 billion).

    That 21 percent of GDP cost would double federal spending. And that does not even account for a baseline budget deficit rising to 7 percent of GDP over the decade — bringing the total budget gap to 28 percent of GDP.

    The revenue-raising proposals made by AOC are totally inadequate to fund any of that. Of course. As Brian notes, the proposals are mostly hot air meant to fire up their I-was-told-there-would-be-no-math supporters. Providing anything more concrete would end the discussion. "If the numbers added up, the Left would have produced them."

  • But are we beating up on AOC because she's a woman? Of course that's what she thinks. But at the WaPo, Megan McArdle begs to differ: No, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The fact is, it’s not because you’re a woman..

    Ocasio-Cortez’s problem isn’t that she’s stupid, or that she’s a compulsive liar; she just got famous before she got wise. But neither is she being oppressed by the power structure — subjected to heightened scrutiny because she’s a woman, or browbeaten by ignorant slaves to neoliberalism who ought to study up on Modern Monetary Theory so they can grasp the revolutionary brilliance of her fiscal ideas.

    Intellectually, this is about on par with … well, with believing the United States spends more than $2 trillion a year on defense. Some of her critics are female, after all, and we’re not all victims of patriarchal false consciousness. Rather, we have some familiarity with the federal budget, and with monetary economics, and after careful consideration, have concluded that the parts of the Modern Monetary Theory that are true aren’t interesting, while the bits that are interesting aren’t true. And thus, that Ocasio-Cortez’s fiscal prescriptions are reckless bunkum.

    Megan seems to think that AOC will eventually move on to firmer ground tnan (for example) her July assertion that "unemployment is low because everyone has two jobs." Maybe, but that prediction seems very similar to the hopeful belief that President Trump would reel in his shoot-from-the-lip style. In both cases, we can ask: when's that supposed to happen?

  • At the Federalist, Hans Fiene notes a religious revival: Progressives Turn Their Public Shaming Into Formal Religious Ceremony. It's provided at the "Cathedral of Blessed Wokery", a "a 55,000-square-foot Malibu mansion normally reserved for climate change fundraisers and Lamborghini jousting."

    And they provide, for the transgressor ("you made an offensive joke about bisexual Muppets in 1997") the Rite of Perpetual Confession.

    "Create in me a clean heart, O Mob, and renew a leftist spirit within me. Cast me not away from employment, and take not your Holy Oscar from me. Restore to me the joy of activism and uphold me with thy progressivism."

    Further liturgical stylings at the link. "In the name of the Ruth, the Bader, and the Ginsburg."

  • At Power Line, John Hinderaker links to a Daily Mail article referring to The Great Issue of Our Time…. Specifically, the (long) headline reads: "Putting the Pi in pies: Twitter user stuns the internet with math that proves one 18-inch pizza has more in it than TWO 12-inch helpings".

    Yes. As John notes, if the pizza diameters are in a (18/12) = 1.5 ratio, the ratio of the total areas is 1.52 = 2.25. So a single 18-inch pizza has 12.5% more area than two 12-inchers.

    This is, at best, high school math. Yet, people are stunned, or at least claim to be. Including, perhaps, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Somebody should ask her.

  • And our Google LFOD alert rang for a Boston Herald plug for an upcoming Manchester NH event: N.H. Wine Week overflows with tastings, events and more.

    Famed winemakers Gina Gallo and Jean-Charles Boisset, a married couple with twin 7-year-old daughters who seldom have time to travel to such events together, will be there in tandem this year (a treat for anyone who knows wine). French-born Boisset says New Hampshire speaks to his passions.

    “New Hampshire represents freedom,” he said. “Look at the state motto: Live Free or Die. It’s so fun to be able to believe in this — that sense of where everything is vivacious and daring, where you truly are free.”

    My taste in wine is non-existent, I'm fine with anything that's even slightly better than plonk. And I've been cutting way back, just to lose some weight. Still, Gina and Jean-Charles might convince me to splurge with their nice words about LFOD…

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • I suppose we should talk about Tucker Carlson's Fox news monologue from last week, which itself was a response to Mitt Romney's Trump-trashing op-ed in the WaPo. A random excerpt:

    At some point, Donald Trump will be gone. The rest of us will be gone, too. The country will remain. What kind of country will be it be then? How do we want our grandchildren to live? These are the only questions that matter.

    The answer used to be obvious. The overriding goal for America is more prosperity, meaning cheaper consumer goods. But is that still true? Does anyone still believe that cheaper iPhones, or more Amazon deliveries of plastic garbage from China are going to make us happy? They haven’t so far. A lot of Americans are drowning in stuff. And yet drug addiction and suicide are depopulating large parts of the country. Anyone who thinks the health of a nation can be summed up in GDP is an idiot.

    The goal for America is both simpler and more elusive than mere prosperity. It’s happiness. There are a lot of ingredients in being happy: Dignity. Purpose. Self-control. Independence. Above all, deep relationships with other people. Those are the things that you want for your children. They’re what our leaders should want for us, and would want if they cared.

    But our leaders don’t care. We are ruled by mercenaries who feel no long-term obligation to the people they rule. They’re day traders. Substitute teachers. They’re just passing through. They have no skin in this game, and it shows. They can’t solve our problems. They don’t even bother to understand our problems.

    [Amazon Link]

    As someone who looks forward to getting the occasional Amazon box containing plastic garbage from China, I don't entirely agree.

    On the other hand: I agree that happiness is a worthy social goal. That isn't, or at least shouldn't be, a disputed fact in a country whose founding document contended that the pursuit of happiness was one of the big three inalienable rights of individuals.

    For more on that, see Charles Murray, at right.

  • So (basically) Tucker's commentary had something for everyone to either adore or despise. On balance, though, Kevin D. Williamson was negative about Tucker Carlson’s Vacuous Populism.

    Tucker Carlson says that conservatives are operating with blinders, that “the idea that families are being crushed by market forces never seems to occur to them.” Perhaps it is the case that the possibility has occurred to them, and that the proposition has been examined and found to be untrue. Carlson mocks the idea that lower prices for consumer goods — “plastic garbage from China,” in the popular banal formulation — are in the interests of Americans of more modest means; I would like to suggest, in all charity and friendship, that those Americans who are literally counting their pennies could do with hearing a good deal less about the triviality of low prices from a born-rich multimillionaire who never had to literally count pennies. If you have ever known a family who — and this is a real-life example — used to dread receiving Christmas presents because they could not afford the postage to send a thank-you note, then you know what lower prices can mean to real people.

    KDW's article is longish, and refers to other participants in the discussion at NR and elsewhere.

  • Patterico pontificates: Why This Wall Fight Now? Good Question!. Working off this tweet:

    A WaPo article is quoted claiming that Trump could have had $25 billion for the wall last year.

    You don’t hear much about that these days. One gets the sense that if Schumer offered the same deal today — $25 billion for legislative DACA — Trump would jump at it.

    Instead, Mr. Art of the Deal let the moment pass. And here we are, with Democrats in control of the House, in a far worse negotiating position.

    So he chooses to make a stand now?

    Remember when Republicans passed legislation to repeal ObamaCare when Obama was in office, he refused to pass the same legislation when Trump was in office?

    This is what Republicans do. They fake support for things. That’s what this shutdown is about. Convincing you they care, when they don’t.

    I don't disagree.

  • So the shutdown continues. At Reason, J.D. Tuccille has a good suggestion: Please, TSA Workers, Don’t Come Back. (Some are calling in with "blue flu".)

    Along those lines, it's nearly ideal that the federal sick-out has begun among TSA employees, since their agency is so astoundingly incompetent and abusive at its assigned tasks and is skilled only at angering travelers of all political persuasions. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) may be more explicitly malevolent, but their fans and detractors tend to break down along ideological lines. Even the Internal Revenue Service can find boosters among whoever it is who keeps weeping over those regurgitated press releases about how hard it is to be a tax collector. But sharing vicious comments about the TSA clowns squeezing people's junk is a game we can all play while suffering in line at the airport.

    Not that there's any point to all of that groping beyond the purely recreational aspect. Undercover investigators were able to smuggle weapons and explosives past TSA agents 95 percent of the time, according to a 2015 Homeland Security Investigator General report. Maybe that's because agents are relying on dowsing rods or Spidey sense—they're certainly not depending on the expensive equipment they make travelers and baggage file through.

    Unfortunately, they probably will be back.

  • And the Babylon Bee has a good summary of the state of play: With Government Shut Down, Citizens Forced To Interfere In Their Own Lives.

    With the government shutdown in effect, life has felt incomplete for many Americans. “Everything is just too easy—it’s boring,” said restaurant owner Gloria Morgan, “and I realized it’s because we’re missing an essential challenge in life: soulless bureaucrats posing arbitrary rules on us.”

    One of the primary functions of the government is to ignorantly muck around in the business of others, but the shutdown has hampered that. Thus citizens have been forced to try to fill that void themselves. “Today I just suddenly decided large sodas weren’t allowed,” said Morgan. “It was an annoying, pointless obstacle the whole day—it was like the government was still around.”

    Fortunately, New Hampshire legislator Judith Spang is available to fill the breach, still being paid ($400/year) to force people to behave the way she thinks they should.

  • And Cathy Young writes at Quillette on The Posthumous #MeToo-ing of J. D. Salinger, and the changing attitudes toward Durham native Joyce Maynard's (also changing) memories of their tumultuous relationship.

    Maynard, who had an ill-fated romance with Salinger in 1972 when he was 53 and she was nineteen, first told her story in the scandalous 1999 memoir, At Home in the World; it earned her both notoriety and opprobrium for invading the reclusive writer’s privacy. The book certainly painted Salinger in a mostly unflattering light—as a self-centered domineering crank, albeit capable of “sweetness and tenderness.” The 2018 essay went much further. This time, Maynard—who expressed disappointment that the #MeToo movement had not led to a re-examination of her story—depicted her experience with Salinger as not just a bad relationship but essentially a violation. She also charged that the criticism she faced twenty years ago was a grotesquely sexist backlash in defense of a famous abuser.

    I've never been able to fathom why people find Joyce Maynard interesting, but that's me. Clearly, J. D. did, for a while anyway.