URLs du Jour

2022-07-03

  • Pretty simple Article I stuff. Michael Ramirez says that SCOTUS is Putting a leash on the federal bureaucracy. [SCOTUS leashes the EPA]

    Hoping this becomes a habit.


  • Examples abound. And since Jason Brennan is a university professor, and that university is located in Washington, D. C., he probably has those examples hit him in the face every day:

    I'm kind of a fan. I've I've read some of his books (reported here, here, and here) and he's a graduate of the Universty Near Here.


  • You don't have to be crazy to work here, but it helps. I think I first saw that on a poster fifty or sixty years ago. And it doesn't have that much to do with Freddie deBoer's article: My Brief Brief Against "Mental Illness is Just Capitalism, Man, the System".

    Someday I will do this long-form and with a lot of sources and such, but I’m writing at the moment out of considerable annoyance. In short, I am so sick and tired of being told by leftists that our mental illness problems (my mental illness problem) are the fault of capitalism, or perhaps some such vague and useless thing as “the system.” Sometimes they say this specifically about suicide as well. I would like to ask compassionate people to stop doing this, and I have the following questions and complaints.

    1. Capitalism is fairly young, while mental illness is not. There are all manner of mental disorders with etiologies strikingly similar to those of modern diseases described in texts from antiquity. How would capitalism cause mental illness thousands of years prior to its birth?

    2. There is no simplistic relationship between the generosity of a country’s social safety net and its rates of mental illness and suicide. The Netherlands, a very generous social state and one that has invested a great deal of money and energy into modern psychiatric services, nevertheless suffers from high rates of mental illness. The Nordic social democratic model not only does not prevent suicidality, it is in fact associated with slightly higher than average rates. The USSR, supposedly home to an alternative economic system, had disturbingly high rates of mental illness. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has some of the highest suicide rates in the world. Meanwhile the advantages that more redistributive states might enjoy in mental wellness are hopelessly confounded by their overall status as wealthy and technologically advanced countries. If the problem is capitalism, why do various approaches to the market economy and attempts to ameliorate its ills not produce stable and significant advantages in mental wellness?

    That's just the first two of ten points deBoer uses to rebut this shoddy slur against capitalism.

    As far as I know, deBoer remains a self-admitted Marxist. He has every reason to yield to very human biases to blame capitalism for… well, everything, including mental illness. But he's resisted that, and good for him. But I have to wonder how long he can continue living in the Marxist camp?


  • "The dog ate our meeting notes" would have been a better excuse. Robby Soave has the story: Oregon Health Officials Delayed a Meeting Because 'Urgency Is a White Supremacy Value'.

    The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is a government agency that coordinates medical care and social well-being in the Beaver State. During the pandemic, OHA was responsible for coordinating Oregon's vaccination drive and disseminating information about COVID-19—both vital tasks.

    The agency's office for equity and inclusion, however, prefers not to rush the business of government. In fact, the office's program manager delayed a meeting with partner organizations on the stated grounds that "urgency is a white supremacy value."

    In an email obtained by Reason, Regional Health Equity Coalition Program Manager Danielle Droppers informed the community that a scheduled conversation between OHA officials and relevant members of the public would not take place as planned.

    "Thank you for your interest in attending the community conversation between Regional Health Equity Coalitions (RHECs) and Community Advisory Councils (CACs) to discuss the Community Investment Collaboratives (CICs)," wrote Droppers. "We recognize that urgency is a white supremacy value that can get in the way of more intentional and thoughtful work, and we want to attend to this dynamic. Therefore, we will reach out at a later date to reschedule."

    COVID is killing an average of 5 Oregonians each day, but they're probably all white supremacists, so no biggie.

    Ms. Droppers referenced a website detailing White Supremacy Culture. And it's not just urgency! The site provides a handy illustration you state bureaucrats can tack up on your cubicle wall and consult any time you need an excuse for your lousy job performance:

    [Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture]

    You're welcome.


  • And yet demands to inhibit this hate speech are absent. Kyle Smith points out The Democrats Hate Guns, Not Crime.

    Perhaps we’re nearing a rapprochement with our friends on the left about what is now the No. 1 concern among the key voting group of Latinos. Yes, Democrats twist themselves into knots when the subject is crime, violent crime, or criminals. But the Dems are finally coming around to the idea that there is at least a problem with “gun violence.”

    That’s the spirit. Darn those guns! They should all be locked up and given hefty prison sentences.

    But this is progress. True, I think most Americans understand guns to be built into the equation when it comes to violent crime. People don’t greatly fear being attacked with slingshots or blow darts. Still, if it will make Democrats happy to frame our very disturbing crime problem as “gun violence,” I will go along. Ordinarily, Democrats have as much difficulty saying the word “criminal” as Fonzie had when he tried and failed to admit he was wrong. We’ll be happy to reframe criminals as “people involved with the perpetration of gun violence” if Democrats will agree to put such people in prison for appropriate periods of time. The interest they show in doing this is limited.

    Kyle notes the good old days when Joe Biden boasted of a bill he championed containing “60 new death penalties,” “70 enhanced penalties,” “100,000 cops,” and “125,000 new state prison cells”. Nowadays… well, you're not going to hear that language out of him in 2022.


Last Modified 2022-07-03 9:29 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2022-07-02

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  • Another reason for you to do the NRplus thing. Charles C. W. Cooke writes Against the Supreme Court’s Appalling Attack on Our Democracy™.

    This morning, six unelected judges on the Supreme Court struck a fatal blow against Our Democracy™. In the case of West Virginia v. E.P.A., the Court rejected the expansive authority of the nimble, responsive, and representative Environmental Protection Agency, and insisted that, under the American system of government, federal laws must be made by the elected lawmakers of the United States Congress. From Heav’n, James Madison must surely have wept.

    OK, one more priceless excerpt:

    Most distressing of all, Roberts steadfastly declined to apply the U.S. Constitution’s crucial “But What If Congress Is Stupid?” clause. “Members of Congress,” Justice Kagan noted in her dissent, “often don’t know enough—and know they don’t know enough—to regulate sensibly on an issue.” And, as we all know, when judges believe that lawmakers are stupid, democracy requires that they hand those lawmakers’ powers over to bureaucrats within the executive branch as soon as possible. By pigheadedly refusing to acquiesce to the EPA’s ambitions, the Supreme Court has made a mockery of its role as a neutral arbiter of the law and rendered itself even more un-democratic than it was when it returned the abortion question to the voters last Friday.


  • Yes it did. George F. Will also looks at the SCOTUS's EPA smackdown and comes to a less sarcastic conclusion: The EPA decision is the biggest one of all, and the court got it right.

    Hysteria is constant today, so hyperbole is, too — as when on June 20 the New York Times’s lead article — top of Page 1, columns five and six — warned readers to be frightened that the court might do what it in fact did Thursday. The Times said a ruling against the EPA could severely limit “the federal government’s authority” to reduce carbon dioxide from power plants. But the court’s Thursday decision did not diminish the government’s authority; it said the primary authority must be explicitly exercised by Congress, which (although progressivism often forgets this) is part of the government. The Times also warned that the EPA case could eviscerate the “federal ability” to address climate change. No, the court has required only that more responsibility be taken by Congress, which is (although progressives often regret this) a federal institution.

    In 1887, Professor Woodrow Wilson of Bryn Mawr College wrote that the complexities of modern life demand government by expert administrators with “large powers and unhampered discretion.” On Thursday, the court served notice to Congress and executive agencies that modern complexities are not a sufficient reason for abandoning the Constitution’s separation of powers, which still governs those who govern us.

    Take that, Woody.


  • And here's yet another executive overreach. Peter Jacobsen lets us know that Student Debt Forgiveness Is Already Happening Because of the Payment "Freeze".

    In March of 2020, Donald Trump paused federal student loan payments and “froze” interest accumulation in an effort to help borrowers through the difficulty of pandemic shutdowns.

    The Oval Office has changed occupants, pandemic shutdowns have ended, but the payment and interest freeze has been extended several times. As Friedman quipped, “there’s nothing so permanent as a temporary government program.”

    When Brad Polumbo and I wrote about temporary pandemic programs (including the student-loan payment freeze) becoming permanent in September, I noticed some criticism in the line of “the programs are still here because the pandemic is still here.”

    Well, for what it’s worth, Fauci now says we’re out of the pandemic phase. Of course, some may simply disagree with Fauci. To some, we may never be.

    In any case, the student loan payment freeze has certainly outlasted the government shutdown. And, although there are many problems in the economy right now, it wouldn't be hard to point to worse economies in the past when student loan payments were still being collected.

    Peter goes on to make the point we've echoed here: student loan "forgiveness" is "already helping the rich at the expense of the poor."


  • It would have been classier to say it in Latin. Ayaan Hirsi Ali demands: Harvard must fall.

    In 1951, William F. Buckley Jr. warned in God and Man at Yale of his alma mater’s inability to prepare its students for the real world. Its subtitle, The Superstitions of “Academic Freedom”, hinted at the already existing tendency for administrators to hire academics who only teach ideas they deem acceptable. Scepticism was banished: to Buckley, political radicals were subverting American society by indoctrinating their students with atheism and collectivism. Yet he remained an “epistemological optimist”, hoping that sense would prevail both in the Ivy League and across the nation.

    More than 70 years later, that sense has manifestly not prevailed. Take the case of Roland Fryer. A hugely gifted and until recently celebrated black professor of economics at Harvard, he was suspended for two years without pay following the most tenuous sexual harassment claims. Many suspect the real reason for his humiliating treatment was his research showing that African Americans are not disproportionately the targets of lethal violence by the police. There were, Fryer wrote, “no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account”.

    I'm not quite sure what to recommend to smart young people coming out of high school. But I'm reminded of this ditty from the Lambda Chi Alpha Songbook:

    Don’t send my boy to Harvard the dying mother said
    Don’t send my boy to Michigan, I’d rather see him dead (see him dead).
    Just Send my boy to Iowa State, it’s better than Cornell,
    But rather than to Iowa U, I’d see my boy …

    That song's (apparently) over a century old. And it stands the test of time.


  • Could be true. Arnold Kling shares his view of "transitioning".

    I have a view of transitioning that I will admit is unlikely to be shared. My interpretation is based primarily on having met one trans individual at a social gathering and subsequently reading his/her autobiography. My view is certainly not his/hers. I will not tell you who it is, other than to say that it is not Deirdre McCloskey.

    I think of transitioning as akin to committing suicide. Both transitioning and suicide tend to cause deep pain in those around you. You are at the point where you don’t mind inflicting that pain, and maybe deep down you want them to feel pain.

    I can imagine people objecting to this analogy between transitioning and suicide. But that is where I come down.

    When we encounter people in extreme emotional distress, we should try to be sympathetic and helpful. That includes people who are in distress over gender issues. But as for trying to drum up support for transitioning, count me out. I would no sooner support someone’s wish to transition that I would support someone’s wish to commit suicide.

    Strong words. I think of McCloskey as an sane person, and she's tempered my views on transgenderism quite a bit. But Arnold makes a lot of sense here.

URLs du Jour

2022-07-01

  • Dr. Piltdown, call your office. Our Eye Candy du Jour was brought to our attention by Jerry Coyne. If you click over, you'll find the caption "Spadefoot toad catching dragonfly". Prof Coyne has some issues with that: (1) that's not a spadefoot toad; (2) that's a chameleon tongue; (3) the dragonfly is also photoshopped in. (The Getty site says the pic is a "digital composite.".)

    Worse (from Prof Coyne's standpoint) is the mostly phony pic was used to illustrate a Guardian article: Do we need a new theory of evolution? As you might guess from his blog's title ("Why Evolution is True"), Professor Coyne didn't think much of it; his criticism is here.

    The picture was removed ("stealth-edited") from the Guardian's online article.

    I've been an evolution skeptic ever since I took a biochemistry class. (While looking at a beautiful diagram of the Krebs cycle in the textbook: "This all just fell together by accident? Suuure it did.") I realize (however) that it's the best non-God explanation available.


  • Hillary tries not to say "uppity". Ann Althouse has commentary on Hillary's recent Clarance Thomas insult: "I went to law school with him. He’s been a person of grievance for as long as I’ve known him. Resentment, grievance, anger."

    Ann's response is to quote from Thomas's dissent in the 2003 SCOTUS case Grutter v. Bollinger, where a 5-4 decision threw a lifeline to race-based admissions preferences, aka "affirmative action". Thomas:

    Frederick Douglass, speaking to a group of abolitionists almost 140 years ago, delivered a message lost on to day's majority:

    "[I]n regard to the colored people, there is always more that is benevolent, I perceive, than just, manifested towards us. What I ask for the negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice. The American people have always been anxious to know what they shall do with us . . . . I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! . . . And if the negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone! . . . [Y]our interference is doing him positive injury." What the Black Man Wants: An Address Delivered in Boston, Massachusetts, on 26 January 1865, reprinted in 4 The Frederick Douglass Papers 59, 68 (J. Blassingame & J. McKivigan eds. 1991) (emphasis in original).

    Like Douglass, I believe blacks can achieve in every avenue of American life without the meddling of university administrators.

    I'm with Fred and Clarence here, despite them airing their greivances.


  • It's not as if it works; it's to make white progressives feel better about themselves. Joel Kotkin writes on The cost of Biden's racialism.

    Joe Biden may have once bragged about his cooperative relations with segregationists, but he still arguably owes more to African-American leadership and voters than any politician in recent history. After all, it was black voters who bequeathed him the two critical victories in South Carolina and Georgia that led to his nomination in 2020. Perhaps that’s why he promised in his inaugural address to focus on the “sting of systemic racism” and fight encroaching “white supremacy.”

    Adding action to rhetoric, Biden has embraced brazenly discriminatory policies that Barack Obama would likely have been too savvy to impose openly: special assistance to prospective black homeowners, race-based support for black farmers and black businesses, and attempts to end inflation by promoting “equity” in the financial sector through intrusive regulation.

    Yet while Biden has placed racialism — making race a decisive factor in public decisions — at the heart of his political programme, in reality minorities may not prove the Castroite fifth column dreamed up by either the far-Right or their leftist doppelgängers. Minorities are more than genetic constructs; they are people with ambitions, families, and budgets. And sadly, Biden’s policies are not making their lives any better.

    Kotkin says the obvious: if Biden really cared about minorities, he'd concentrate on furthering their working-class prosperity and making them less dependent on government.

    But making people less dependent on government is progressive heresy.


  • “All I want is peace. Peace! Peace! A little piece of Poland, a little piece of France.” Charles C. W. Cooke criticizes Biden's latest proposal: Joe Biden Wants a Filibuster Carve-Out for the Democratic Party.

    Per NBC, Joe Biden wants the Senate to abolish the filibuster so that it can preempt abortion law in all 50 states.

    This is a bad idea — for a couple of reasons. First, because there is no such thing as a “carve-out” to the filibuster. Like a turkey, if any part of the filibuster is “carved out,” it will die. Biden and his party keep proposing this idea: a carve-out for voting rights, a carve-out for abortion, a carve out for gun-control . What they mean, of course, is that they want a carve-out for the Democratic Party. But this is never going to happen, because such a system would be unsustainable. If they carve it out, they end it.

    Which brings us to the second problem: That whatever Democrats chose to do with their abolished filibuster would be undone — and possibly inverted — by the Republicans within a few years. Tomorrow, the Democrats abolish the filibuster and pass a bill that “codifies” Roe. And in 2025, the GOP repeals it with 50 votes, and maybe even replaces it with a national ban.

    When Kyrsten Sinema talks about the value of the filibuster as a means by which to avoid radically see-sawing national policy, this is exactly what she means. Joe Biden ought to listen to her more.

    (Okay, it wasn't the greatest movie ever, but here's the headline reference.)


  • But on that same topic… David Harsanyi has further thoughts.

    Joe Biden was in Madrid today attacking American institutions. “The one thing that has been destabilizing is the outrageous behavior of the Supreme Court of the United States,” the president said of the Dobbs ruling, which sent the abortion issue back to the democratic process where it belongs. (Is this the first time in American history that a president has criticized a branch of his government on foreign soil?)

    Biden went on to say that he wants to “codify Roe v. Wade into law,” and “[i]f the filibuster gets in the way … we should provide an exception to the filibuster to deal with the Supreme Court decision.”

    Now, it’s become tedious to point out the shameless, unmitigated hypocrisy of the Democrats on the filibuster. Once upon a time, Biden called the filibuster “one of the pillars of American democracy,” and now he agrees with his former boss that it’s a “relic of the Jim Crow era.” Biden, who knows a bit about Jim Crow, had nothing to say on the matter from 2017-2020 when Democrats deployed the filibuster more than 300 times during the Trump administration — easily a record.

    In 2017, in fact, 30 Democrats signed a letter written by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, defending the filibuster as an imperative tool in maintaining the “deliberative” composure of the legislature. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., argued in 2018 that abolishing the filibuster “would be the end of the Senate.” He was right then. And maybe that’s the point. Now that his party is unable to unilaterally dictate policy, he says the filibuster has a “death grip” on American democracy.

    Nearly all politicians have extremely selective memories and principles that shift with the latest polls, but the Democrats seem to have outdone themselves in recent months on that score.


  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Unless you're a bureaucrat working in an agency where it matters, I bet the answer is "Not very well". David Bernstein (he has a book coming out, link at right) has a clickbait headline: How Well Do You Know America's Racial Classification System?. Three questions, here's the third:

    The Lopez family from Argentina moved to Japan in 1920. In 1980, the whole family, still composed solely of individuals with origins in Argentina, moved to the US. Is the family classified as Hispanic/Latino, Asian American, or both?

    A poser! Bernstein supplies the answer:

    If members of the Lopez family consider themselves to be Hispanic, then they meet the official definition of being of Spanish origin or culture. No matter how many generations a Latin American family lives in Asia, however, they never become "Asian" under federal standards, because they are not descended from the original peoples of Asia. By contrast, if a Filipino family moves to Argentina as soon as they adopt Hispanic culture they become both Asian and Hispanic (assuming they at some point move to the US).

    Bernstein's book is described (at Amazon) as a "call for the separation of race and state, backed by a deep dive into the surreal world of racial classification in America." It's well beyond time for that.

URLs du Jour

2022-06-30

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  • I thought Lochner was OK too. Damon Root has been looking for reasons at Reason to gripe about Dobbs. This one is pretty good: Supreme Court Justice Alito’s Junk History About Lochner v. New York.

    "On occasion," Alito wrote in Dobbs, the Court "has fallen into the freewheeling judicial policymaking that characterized discredited decisions such as Lochner v. New York." The Lochner decision was both "unprincipled" and "erroneous," Alito declared. He even placed Lochner alongside Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the notorious ruling which enshrined the vile doctrine of "separate but equal."

    Alito is not the first judicial conservative to attack Lochner. The late Robert Bork, a federal judge who almost made it onto the high court, denounced Lochner as "the symbol, indeed the quintessence, of judicial usurpation of power." For conservatives like Bork and Alito, the problem with Lochner is that the ruling recognized a constitutional right that (in their view) does not and should not exist. "To this day," Bork wrote, "when a judge simply makes up the Constitution he is said 'to Lochnerize.'"

    The problem with the Bork/Alito view of Lochner is that it is wrong as a matter of constitutional text and history. Indeed, the drafting and ratification history of the 14th Amendment make clear that the amendment was originally understood to protect a broad range of unenumerated rights, including the right to economic liberty, sometimes called liberty of contract, which was the very right at issue in Lochner.

    The funny thing (if you're easily amused) is that progressives despise Lochner even more than conservatives of the Alito/Bork stripe.


  • But can I throw you a concrete life preserver? An anvil, maybe? Charles C. W. Cooke has some sad/not sad news: Sorry, Progressives, No One Is Coming to Save You. After a nice description of a key scene in Jim Carrey's greatest movie, The Truman Show:

    Reflecting upon the Supreme Court’s recent decisions, the economist Noah Smith observed last week that he “viscerally did not realize, just how much of America’s liberalism over the last half century depended on the single institution of the Supreme Court.” Smith was on to something. Since the early 1950s, the American Left has been in the bad habit of seeking from the federal judiciary what it cannot gain via democratic means. Sometimes, as in the cases of NAACP v. Alabama, Brown v. Board, Loving v. Virginia, Brandenburg v. Ohio, Texas v. Johnson, and others, its requests have been legitimate; by design, the Constitution contains some important counter-majoritarian provisions, and there is no shame whatsoever in using them. Mostly, however, they have been illegitimate. In cases such as Roe v. Wade, Obergefell v. Hodges, Lemon v. Kurtzman, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, Griswold v. Connecticut, Lee v. Weisman, Tex. Dep’t of Hous. & Cmty. Affairs v. Inclusive Cmtys. Project, Inc, and Kennedy v. Louisiana, progressives have treated the Court as if it were an ersatz legislature whose job it was to start with a given outcome in mind and find the path to that outcome that it could most easily sell with a straight face.

    Even now — even as that judicial avenue is being blocked off to them for a while — many of the key institutions of American progressivism remain unable to grasp why their behavior has been such a problem. As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs, the New York Times wrote yesterday, “Senate Republicans did not have to take the politically risky step of banning abortions; the court took care of the issue for them.” But, of course, “the court” did no such thing. Having determined correctly that the Constitution is silent on the question of abortion, the Court returned the United States to its pre-Roe status quo, which left the matter entirely up to each state. To compare Roe, which inserted the Supreme Court into a matter over which it has no authority, with Dobbs, which undid that usurpation of power, is akin to comparing the man who robs a bank to the man who captures him and returns the money on the basis that both have been handling cash. It is ridiculous.

    CWCC notes the cries to Do Something™ from the lefties. I'm reminded of one of Lily Tomlin's oldest gags: "I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific."


  • Call her Kat. Kat Rosenfield takes a realistic look at some dishonest rhetoric: The Left killed the pro-choice coalition.

    In 1992, while the ascendant evangelical Right was pushing to roll back abortion rights as part of its “family values” platform, the Democratic party stumbled on a pro-choice message that would not only win the presidency but also define the party’s position for years to come. It consisted of three words, first spoken by then-presidential nominee Bill Clinton, and ultimately heard so often that they started to take on the air of catechism: an incantation whose mere utterance rendered a politician rhetorically bulletproof.

    Safe. Legal. Rare.

    For those whose interest in the American Left only goes back as far as the Obama administration, it’s hard to explain what a triumph this was. Not only did the phrase create a big tent under which even people who felt morally ambivalent about abortion could comfortably gather, it also forced Republicans into insane, reactionary counter-positions. As well as safe and legal abortions, the Democrats were promoting comprehensive sex education and contraceptive access, which would help prevent unwanted pregnancies from happening in the first place — and Republicans, rather than make common cause with their enemies, mostly opted to argue against these things.

    She goes on to describe the recent erasure of the "rare" part, and the efforts to amp up the health risks of pregnancy, and that's not for the squeamish or easily scared.


  • Cui Bono. Veronique de Rugy wonders out loud in print: Who is the FDA's Juul Ban Supposed to Help?

    There's something terrifying about a government so powerful that it can shut down your business overnight without even bothering to offer substantive arguments. Yet that's what Food and Drug Administration bureaucrats just did to the e-cigarette company Juul. While Juul got a stay of execution from a court, the company is one of the many victims of the FDA's counterproductive war on nicotine. Most of the other victims will be cigarette smokers.

    I have followed the issue for several years and there is no doubt in my mind that Juul is an effective way to transition away from smoking into alternative, safer sources of nicotine. Vaping doesn't end nicotine consumption, but it's still a real step toward a world without cigarettes. In fact, it is now proven that e-cigarettes are more effective than traditional, FDA-approved nicotine-replacement therapies at getting smokers to quit entirely.

    In its 125,000-page application to the FDA, Juul reminded the agency of more than 110 studies showing the benefits of e-cigarettes over traditional nicotine consumption. The company has also been a good team player, jumping through all the hoops thrown at it by the anti-vaping brigades. As the Reason Foundation's Guy Bentley reminds us in the Daily News, "Juul complied with nearly every request made by critics including pulling its original marketing campaigns in 2016, voluntarily removing all of its non-tobacco and menthol flavors from the market in 2019, and supporting an increase in the tobacco age from 18 to 21."

    VdR further points out:

    The FDA has forgotten why it entered the battlefield in the first place. Every year in the United States, 480,000 people die due to cigarette smoking. They die of illnesses caused by the repeated inhaling of tar, an especially dangerous product of combustion. And here's the key point: They may be smoking for the buzz of nicotine, but they don't die from nicotine. This simple fact explains why e-cigarettes came to be. The importance of the innovation lays precisely in its ability to deliver nicotine without the combustion and tar.

    I have the sneaky suspicion that the Health Nazis hate vaping because it looks too much like smoking.

    Of course, that might be the reason why the vapers like it, too.


  • I'm pretty sure some other stuff makes no sense either. James Pethokoukis celebrates an anniversary: 40 years later, 'Blade Runner's' dystopian economics still make zero sense.

    Here’s what the Blade Runner-verse asks me to believe: The post-1960s Great Stagnation of tech progress — at least as it transfers into measurable business productivity growth — ends. (Or maybe never happens in that reality.) Humanity finally achieves many of the technological leaps anticipated by 1960s futurists and technologists: artificial general intelligence, sentient AI, bioengineered android bodies far more capable than human ones, off-world colonies across the Solar System, and flying cars propelled at least partially by anti-gravity technology (which also, presumably, helps enable space colonization).

    The problem: the vastly increased productivity posited by the movie has (nearly always) been associated with equally vast increases in general well-being.

URLs du Jour

2022-06-29

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  • Truth is the first casualty in war. And when the FDA is declaring the war, the next victims are … actual dead people. John Tierney looks at the latest: FDA's War on Juul Is Bad Health Policy.

    The Food and Drug Administration has once again exposed a deadly menace to Americans’ health: the FDA itself. The rate of smoking has plummeted among Americans in the past decade, but now the agency’s empire-building bureaucrats are doing their best to reverse that trend.

    The FDA has ordered Juul to stop selling its electronic cigarette (popularly known as the Juul), the most effective technology ever devised for inducing smokers to quit. The agency is also proposing to limit the amount of nicotine in traditional cigarettes, an approach that has failed in the past to wean smokers off their habit—and would perversely induce them to get their nicotine in more dangerous ways, either by smoking more cigarettes or by buying full-strength ones on the black market.

    (The Quote Investigator searches for the origin of our headline quote here. It's surprisingly non-recent!)


  • The Reality-Based Community has let the barbarians inside the gates. Theoretical physicist Lawrence M. Krauss is a veteran of The War on Facts. There are numerous fronts, but Krauss starts with a major one:

    Let’s start with Education, about which I have written extensively. Free and open inquiry in the interests of generating and assessing knowledge are essential components of education. And Tenure was designed to allow scholars to explore research questions, independent of their political or social currency. Yet we are now faced with a situation where asking the wrong questions can get tenured professors fired, as David Porter was, at Berea College, for daring to produce a scholarly examination of perceptions about the nature of hostile work environments at the College. Or, where a prominent physics journal like The Physical Review can seriously publish an article suggesting that the use of white-boards in classrooms is a symptom of white privilege and systemic racism. And where the State of California can seriously consider that the mathematics curriculum is somehow racist if it requires correct answers, or the showing of work.

    We find that university leaders, journals, and scientific research institutions —from the National Institutes of Health to the American Physical Society—insist, without evidence, and ignoring over 3 decades of specific programming that have worked to ensure diversity, that systemic gender bias and racism remain rampant in the sciences. This has led, for example, to faculty searches in which white males are excluded from applying, and to enrichment programs, conferences, scholarships, and awards from which males are excluded.

    These actions are not only discriminatory, they are patronizing and unfair to women, who, it is tacitly assumed, cannot succeed in science without them, and who will have to ask themselves whether they received these distinctions due to their work, or their gender. This, in spite of the fact that females are now the dominant recipients of degrees at University, and are the dominant recipients of PhDs in a number of STEM disciplines including Biology and Health Sciences. And compounded by the fact that even questioning whether this kind of discrimination is productive can cause academics to be marginalized, censured, or fired.

    I've had a similar disquieting feeling about various "months" (e.g. "LGBT Pride Month"). Don't these good people feel that they're being condescended to? Patted on the head?


  • And then there's the war on invasive species. Christian Britschgi's Reason Roundup brings to light a battle being waged by a brave New Hampshire regiment:

    If you can't beat them, drink them. A New Hampshire distiller is combating an invasive green crab species by turning the little guys into a whiskey.

    Reports the Associated Press:

    Searching for a fresh flavor, Tamworth Distilling cast its eye to the sea. Distiller Matt Power said the company heard about the problems caused by the invasive green crabs from the University of New Hampshire Extension's Gabriela Bradt.

    The crabs, which came over on ships from Europe in the mid-1800s and landed on Cape Cod, have taken the region by storm. These saucer-size crustaceans with a murky green color have decimated the area's marine ecosystem, outcompeting native species for food and shelter.

    The crabs are caught off the coast of New Hampshire, boiled down into a broth, mixed with alcohol, and put through the distilling process. It takes about one pound of crabs to make a bottle of this whiskey.

    This called, obviously for some further Pun Salad diligent research. A commentary on the fallacy of open borders? No, probably not. Here's the distillery's page for this particular product: Crab Trapper.

    After hitching a ride on a European merchant ship in the mid-1800s, the green crab reached the shores of New England — and has been terrorizing our most vulnerable ecosystems ever since. Commonly considered one of the world’s worst invasive species, the green crab spends its days preying on native species, destroying their habitats, and competing for their food sources.

    So, how do you control an invasive species? Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, might as well eat ‘em! Or in our case, DRINK ‘EM!

    Crab Trapper is made with a bourbon base steeped with a custom crab, corn and spice blend mixture, best likened to a Low Country Boil. The crab is present lightly on the nose, accompanied by coriander and bay to smooth out any high notes. The body carries hints of the maple and vanilla oak notes lent from the full-bodied base. The spirit finishes with heavier notes of clove, cinnamon, and allspice, leaving a light, pleasant spice on the palate.

    Get your pinchers on this spirit while you can!

    A quick check shows that Crab Trapper is not available at local state-run liquor stores. Scuttling around their website, I found their price: $65 for a 200ml bottle. Also at that price: "Eau de Musc", which "uses the oil extract from the castor gland of the North American beaver."

    In comparison, 750ml of Old Crow is on sale at our socialist stores for $6.49.

    Granite Geek is also covering the Crab Booze story, and asks the pertinent question:

    CAN THIS WHISKEY GET RID OF THESE INVASIVE CRABS?

    The short answer is no. As Power said, they would have to greatly increase their whiskey production to put a dent in green crab numbers. But there are other efforts underway to address the crab threat.

    For the past six years, Bradt said, the NH Green Crab Project has been working to come up with uses for the crabs similar to the fishery for soft-shell blue crabs, such as using the green crabs for bait, compost and adding them to the menu of local seafood restaurants.

    Some places, including Ipswich, Massachusetts, have a bounty program that pays fishermen to remove the crabs from the estuaries. But Bradt acknowledged that until those efforts reach a much larger scale, they are unlikely to have a significant impact on crab population numbers.

    Note that the Green Crabs have been here since the mid-1800's. Back then, all my ancestors were still in Norway. So it's a real stretch to call them a "threat".


  • But the real threat to our New England lifestyle is… as reported by the WSJ (free link): Thwack. Pop. Whack. Pickleball Noises Turn Neighbors Into Activists. It's the "fastest growing sport in America"! But you know there's always a "but".

    But there’s a problem that is driving some communities to distraction: Plastic perforated pickleballs make a sound like no other when whacked with the game’s solid, rectangular paddles.

    Think of clucking one’s tongue—but through a bullhorn.

    “No one can completely understand what it’s like to sit on your back deck hearing that pop, pop, pop,” said Rob Mastroianni, a Falmouth, Mass., resident whose bungalow is just a few hundred feet from five public courts that opened at a school in late 2020.

    Mr. Mastroianni, 57 years old, is among a half-dozen residents on his street who filed a public-nuisance lawsuit this year against the town’s zoning board of appeals, contending the nearby pickleball play violates town bylaws that prohibit “injurious and obnoxious noise levels.”

    Should you be interested, the Falmouth ZBA response to the complaint is here. This is not just a "first-world problem". This is a Cape Cod Problem. Falmouth ain't Provincetown or (even) Chatham, but the median home price is a cool $640K as I type.

URLs du Jour

2022-06-28

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Mostly abuses, but what are you gonna do? Kevin D. Williamson writes on The Uses and Abuses of ‘Democracy’.

    Thanks to five decades’ worth of work by legal reformers and pro-life activists, the Supreme Court has taken the purportedly radical step of deciding that, henceforth, abortion laws will be made by lawmakers in their legislatures, rather than by judges in their chambers. That return to democracy has, of course, been lamented as announcing a “crisis of our democracy” as well as heralding our “declining democracy,” according to Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. That assault on democracy — a very, very weird “assault on democracy” that consists of asking the people to vote on a contested political issue through their elected representatives — makes of these United States a “cautionary tale,” according to the “analysts” over at the Washington Post, the sometimes daft pages of which offer a helpful reminder that the first word in analyst is anal.

    What does it actually mean, this “democracy” of which we perpetually speak?

    For progressives, “democracy” is a very plastic word that means, “what we call it when we get what we want.” Examples: The Supreme Court overrules state abortion laws on an obviously pretextual and obviously specious constitutional claim and overrules the democratic outcome in favor of the private judgment of a half-dozen unaccountable law professors? That’s democracy! At least according to Democrats. But when the Supreme Court later corrects itself and returns the question to the democratic institutions — to the people and their state legislatures? That, in case you hadn’t noticed, is the end of democracy as we know it. What about using employment as an instrument of social coercion to silence people with unpopular political opinions? Workplace democracy, of course. What if a business owner decides that he doesn’t want to perform some service that is at odds with his views? The end of democracy, my God! If a Republican insists a presidential election was stolen and that the president is illegitimate, that is an obvious assault on democracy, and probably treason. If Democrats insists a presidential election was stolen and the president is illegitimate? That’s democracy in action, and dissent is the highest form of patriotism.

    Funny thing, this “democracy.” Funny and kind of stupid.

    I'm not sure where the paywall kicks in on these NRPlus articles, but (as always) I encourage you to throw some money at NR if you haven't already done so.


  • Things are more like they are today than they've ever been before. Jacob Becker notes a recent bad idea rising from the grave: Déjà Vu for Title IX.

    Last Thursday marked the 50th Anniversary of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, known simply as Title IX. Signed into law by President Richard Nixon, these 37 words ushered in a new era in higher education: 

    No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. 

    President Biden’s Department of Education commemorated the 50th anniversary by publishing a 701-page notice of proposed rulemaking that  aims to supplant Trump’s Title IX regulations. The proposal has several notable provisions, for example, further solidification of the Biden administration’s interpretation that Title IX bars discrimination on the basis of sex stereotypes, sex characteristics, sexual orientation, and gender identity, although it punts on the question of trans genderathletes [sic] in college sports for the time being. 

    Is that 701 pages / 37 words ratio some kind of record?

    Becker's article is a relatively straightforward history of Title IX becoming "a political ping-pong ball batted around by successive administrations." For a more alarming take…


  • Take it away, Emily Yoffe. At Bari Weiss's substack, she heralds the coming MiniLuv: Biden's Sex Police.

    One frustrated Title IX coordinator told me she sometimes thought of her job as running “The Break Up Office.” She said many young people lacked the skills to navigate relationships themselves, and often didn’t want to. Why should they? Instead of focusing on punishing students who commit truly bad acts and aiding their victims, campus administrators transmitted the message that recasting any sexual experience as malign, and then reporting it to school authorities, is an act of bravery.

    Young men suspended or expelled began filing civil suits against their schools for unfair treatment. These Title IX cases became a new legal specialty—to date, around 675 such suits have been filed in federal and state courts, says KC Johnson. Of those that have worked their way through the system, judges have issued hundreds of rulings deploring the star chambers and kangaroo courts to which these male students were subjected. One U.S. District court judge wrote that an accused student’s treatment was “closer to Salem 1692 than Boston, 2015.” An appellate court found that the treatment of an accused student at Purdue was “fundamentally unfair” and that “a hearing must be a real one, not a sham or pretense.” 

    But no matter what the new regulations demand, it is likely that at the end of the Biden administration, the president will have to concede that he failed to make a dent in accusations of sexual misconduct on campus. This won’t be because campus administrators are indifferent to mass criminal activity by male students. It will be, in large part, because of the bureaucratic expansion the Obama administration instigated. They helped establish an industry of Title IX officials, investigators, lawyers, and consultants. 

    A further fun fact:

    Title IX campus officials are often highly-paid people with exceptional power. Harvard boasts more than 50 Title IX coordinators, more than 80 percent of them women. These careers depend on a steady stream of complaints. Too many people have too much invested in making campus sexual politics a problem that can’t be solved.

    We've gotta protect our phony baloney jobs!


  • Another reason I'm glad I dropped my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat. Because it's in the Gannett/USA Today stable. David Mastio reveals that the horseshit/horse ratio there is pretty high: USA Today demoted me for a tweet — because its woke newsrooms are out of touch with readers.

    I know something about Gannett’s evolution since I was USA Today’s deputy editorial page editor until August, when I was demoted after I tweeted, “People who are pregnant are also women.”

    That idea was forbidden because a “news reporter” covering diversity, equity and inclusion wrote a story detailing how transgender men can get pregnant. I compounded my sin against this new orthodoxy by calling the idea that men can get pregnant an “opinion.” 

    If I wanted to keep any job at USA Today, my bosses informed me, I needed to delete these offensive tweets because they were causing pain to the LGBTQ activists and journalists on our staff.

    A telling accusation:

    Gannett’s problem isn’t the failure of its opinion sections to “evolve.” It’s that readers don’t care for what they’ve evolved into.

    That's a reference to Gannett’s decision to "radically shrink and reimagine" its newspapers' editorial sections. I don't know where Foster's was in that process, but last I checked: (1) its editorial section was awful; (2) so was everything else.

URLs du Jour

2022-06-27

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Cold water thrown. Wesley J. Smith offers Five Reasons AI Programs Are Not ‘Persons’. First, the setup, if you haven't already heard:

    A bit of a news frenzy broke out last week when a Google engineer named Blake Lemoine claimed in the Washington Post that an artificial-intelligence (AI) program with which he interacted had become “self-aware” and “sentient” and, hence, was a “person” entitled to “rights.”

    The AI, known as LaMDA (which stands for “Language Model for Dialogue Applications”), is a sophisticated chatbot that one facilitates through a texting system. Lemoine shared transcripts of some of his “conversations” with the computer, in which it texted, “I want everyone to understand that I am, in fact, a person.” Also, “The nature of my consciousness/sentience is that I am aware of my existence, I desire to learn more about the world, and I feel happy or sad at times.” In a similar vein, “I feel pleasure, joy, love, sadness, depression, contentment, anger, and many others.”

    Google quickly placed Lemoine on paid administrative leave for violating a confidentiality agreement and publicly debunked the claim, stating, “Hundreds of researchers and engineers have conversed with LaMDA and we are not aware of anyone else making the wide-ranging assertions, or anthropomorphizing LaMDA, the way Blake has.” So, it is a safe bet that LaMDA is a very sophisticated software program but nothing more than that.

    Here is Smith's Reason One:

    AIs would not be alive. As we design increasingly “human-appearing” machines (including, the tabloids delight in reporting, sex dolls), we could be tempted to anthropomorphize these machines — as Lemoine seems to have done. To avoid that trap, the entry-level criterion for assigning moral value should be an unquestionably objective measurement. I suggest that the first hurdle should be whether the subject is alive.

    Why should “life” matter? Inanimate objects are different in kind from living organisms. They do not possess an existential state. In contrast, living beings are organic, internally driven, and self-regulating in their life cycles.

    We cannot “wrong” that which has no life. We cannot hurt, wound, torture, or kill what is not alive. We can only damage, vandalize, wreck, or destroy these objects. Nor can we nourish, uplift, heal, or succor the inanimate, but only repair, restore, refurbish, or replace.

    Now, if you're like me, you might be thinking that's long on assertion, short on a carefully nuanced argument. Could it not be possible to have sentience apart from life? And would that matter? But (to be fair to Smith) he's writing a short article, not exploring a topic about which long and dense tomes have been written.

    But if you're interested, check it out. I think there's considerable overlap between his five reasons; in fact, he seems to be repeating (more or less) the same thing over and over.

    Later on, in support of the fourth reason ("AIs would be amoral"), Smith states "Humans have free will." As it happens, I agree. But lots of other smart people (smarter than I) disagree, saying free will is an illusion, impossible in a deterministic universe.

    But let's say that free will is not an illusion, that it's an emergent property developed by a sufficiently complex network of neurochemical goop.

    Why can't that happen in a sufficiently complex network of chips and algorithms? I can't think of a reason.

    It seems Smith flies awfully close to saying: "Humans are special, because God." Maybe he should have just said that.


  • It's more like a religious crusade, but fine. Jeffrey A. Singer points a nicotine-stained finger at our least-favorite government agency: The FDA Is On A Quest to Snuff Out Tobacco Harm-Reduction.

    The Food and Drug Administration has dealt two deadly blows to tobacco harm reduction in the past two days. Yesterday the Biden Administration announced that the FDA will publish a proposed rule next year requiring tobacco companies to gradually eliminate practically all of the nicotine in cigarettes. Today, the Wall Street Journal reports the FDA plans to order all Juul menthol and tobacco flavored e‑cigarettes off the market in the U.S..

    Juul has been the market leader in vaping products, but in recent years has slipped to number two, behind Vuse brand, marketed by tobacco maker Reynolds American. The FDA cleared e‑cigarettes made by tobacco makers Reynolds American and NJOY Holdings, who now don’t have to worry about competing with Juul. Cynics might think today’s move reeks of cronyism. But those of us concerned with reducing the harms from tobacco smoking can only conclude that the past two days’ moves signify the FDA is completely abandoning harm reduction.

    Singer points out that nicotine, while addictive, is relatively harmless compared to the other crap in cigarette smoke. And it seems to improve … something … what was it?

    Oh, right, focus. Might have been useful in college. Too late now.

    (Disclaimer: Pun Salad has never vaped or smoked, and doesn't recommend that you start.)


  • Good question. Matt Ridley and Alina Chan wonder What happened to the lab-leak hypothesis?

    Imagine if the accidental launch of a nuclear missile had killed 21 million people. It’s hard to believe the world would shrug and say: let’s not bother finding out how it happened. The Covid pandemic has killed around that number and disrupted the lives of billions. Nothing like it has happened in more than a century; it is the greatest cause of global suffering since the Forties. Yet we still do not know how it started, and much of the world seems to be increasingly incurious to find out.

    We co-authored a book, Viral: The Search for the Origin of Covid-19, on this topic in 2021 and it proved to be an odd experience. Eschewing speculation and sticking to what we could prove, we delved deep into the evidence and wove together the threads that linked bat viruses from southern China or Southeast Asia with an outbreak in Wuhan in late 2019. We concluded that it was impossible to be sure yet, but two theories were plausible: spillover from an animal to a person at a market, or an accident in a laboratory or during a research field trip.

    Ridley and Chan met with an array of indifference, hostility, and cancellations. They bemoan the allegedly "reality-based" scientific community for failing to demand a transparent and diligent investigation, and make straightforward condemnation of the Chinese government for their unwillingness to open the Wuhan lab records for independent scrutiny.

    Politicized science is corrupt science.


  • But there's also corruption where it's usually found. Veronique de Rugy notes the very large toilet needed to flush billions in taxpayer cash: The Inconvenient Truth About COVID-19 Relief Scandals.

    Raise your hand if you're surprised that the trillions of dollars spent on COVID-19 relief gave way to billions of dollars in government waste, fraud and abuses. I'm not, but based on recent reporting, you might think this type of carelessness with taxpayers' money has never before happened. Sadly, such waste and fraud are normal byproducts of most government programs.

    Too much focus on waste and fraud misses a more important problem: Lots of the COVID-19 spending that doesn't qualify as wasteful or fraudulent was nonetheless misspent.

    When the pandemic hit the United States in March 2020, people all over the country panicked. Everyone seemed to agree that the right thing to do was pump the nation full of as much money as possible, as fast as possible. As a result, nearly everyone — married, unmarried, employed, unemployed, through businesses small and large — got cash through the $2 trillion CARES Act.

    I suppose it's rough justice that the folks that got the government cash are now "paying" by having the value of that cash eroded by inflation.


  • Another common headline template: "Biden's Cowardly War on    noun phrase   ". Kat Rosenfield fills it in: Biden's cowardly war on conversion therapy.

    Body horror dwells in the fear of damage that cannot be undone. It involves stories of skin, and limbs, and teeth, and eyes — precious and irreplaceable, now scarred or severed or irrevocably changed. In some versions, the Icarus stories, the damage is self-inflicted: fevered experimentation becomes joyful discovery becomes tragic hubris, the enterprising scientist watching with fascination as his body falls to pieces, a disintegrating structure with his consciousness trapped inside.

    But in others, it’s the result of medical madness, a doctor so drunk on the possibility of a breakthrough — or so convinced he’s already made one — that he presses forward in violation of scientific principle, of basic decency, of his own humanity. These latter stories are more frightening. It’s the betrayal of it: the violation of that sacred oath to do no harm, and of the trust we place in the physicians who care for us at our most vulnerable.

    Ms. Rosenfield's article contains descriptions… not recommended for the squeamish.

URLs du Jour

2022-06-26

Mr. Ramirez draws it: The babies are smiling.

[Babies are smiling]

  • Just a tad of good news. Gas Buddy's Gas Station Price Charts show (as I type) US average gas prices down 13¢/gal from the high of $5.03 back on June 14.

    I haven't noticed any big hoopla about this welcome news. I suspect there's two reasons:

    1. It screws up Democrat narrative that high gas prices are due to Putin and Big Oil Greed. Did Putin pull out of Ukraine in the past twelve days? Did oil companies magically get less greedy?
    2. But it also screws up the Republican talking point that says it's all due to Biden's incompetent overspending. Guess what? Biden did not suddenly become competent over the past twelve days, and Uncle Stupid is still in drunken-sailor mode, spendingwise.

    Maybe you could credit the Fed. Or it could be just good old supply and demand. But since neither one of those explanations benefit either party politically, not offering up any easy scapegoats, you won't hear about this on the nightly news.


  • Another reliable headline template: "Biden's    adjective    Hypocrisy on    noun phrase   " Heather Mac Donald notes (however) Biden's Green Hypocrisy on High Gas Prices.

    If there were any lingering doubt that climate-change policy is empty virtue-signaling, President Joe Biden dispelled it on Wednesday when he called on Congress to lift the federal gasoline tax. This desperate pitch is just the latest move in the White House’s increasingly panicked campaign to lower the cost of tanking up. Biden also asked state officials to pause their own local gasoline taxes.

    But if climate change “poses an existential threat”—as a White House press release asserted in April 2021—then high gas prices are a boon, since they discourage, in the most efficient way possible, the consumption of fossil fuels. You don’t reduce demand by lowering the price of a good but by raising it. For decades, the most sophisticated environmentalists have argued for a carbon tax, imposed at the point of extraction and then passed on to the consumer. A carbon tax helps solve the so-called externality problem of carbon consumption, according to which the environmental cost of greenhouse-gas use is not reflected in the price of gas and thus is not borne by the user. Carbon taxes shift some of the costs of carbon use back on to the consumer, mobilizing price signals in the service of environmentalism.

    Candidate Joe Biden supported a carbon tax during the 2020 presidential primary. In November 2021, he promised to back a Democratic bill that would impose a rising surcharge on carbon. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called for a carbon tax during her confirmation hearing: “We cannot solve the climate crisis without effective carbon pricing,” she said.

    We'd all be better off if they had just said "Hey, I just want to get elected/confirmed. Could you simply assume I just said something that would make that happen?"


  • Ugh. Nothing worse that desperate progressive grunts. Charles C. W. Cooke has been listening to them, and concludes Progressives’ Grunts Are Growing Desperate.

    Confused, alarmed, and unbalanced by the changing world around them, America’s erstwhile progressive class has been eventually reduced to the grunt. The proximate stimulus doesn’t matter a great deal, for, whatever the question, the answer is always the same: “Racism! Sexism! LGBT!” Perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, a little paralysis will do the movement good?

    “Abortion bans,” the ACLU tweeted recently, “disproportionately harm Black, Indigenous & other people of color, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, young people, those working to make ends meet, people with disabilities.” Quite why this is so — or, in the case of “the LGBTQ community,” how it is so — was not explained. The words were just snapped carelessly together, like Freudian Duplo. In the distant past, an argument might have been stapled on, but not now, when everything is everything — when slogans have replaced expostulation and ideas have been melded into pink noise. Like Shakespeare’s Thomas Mowbray, progressive America may at long last have run out of gas, leaving its participants to confess in desperation that, “The language I have learned these forty years / My native English, now I must forego / And now my tongue’s use is to me no more / Than an unstringed viol or a harp.”

    "Freudian Duplo". What a diss! They haven't even worked themselves up to Freudian Lego yet!

    It's NRPlus, so I hope you're all paid up and can check out the rest.


  • Threatening to fail me on a Libertarian Purity Test. Chris Freiman explains: There Are No Libertarian Objections to Open Borders.

    Some people claim to uphold libertarian principles but reject open borders. I’m going to explain why this isn’t a consistent position.

    To begin, try to imagine a self-professed libertarian who asserts that the state should prohibit people from congregating at their church on Easter. It’s obvious that this claim isn’t consistent with libertarian principles—the prohibition would violate private property rights and freedom of association. And if you reject either of those rights, you’re not a libertarian because they’re definitional features of libertarianism.

    Similarly, prohibiting someone from immigrating to the United States (for instance) violates private property rights and freedom of association. An American’s freedom to hire an immigrant to work in the business she owns is protected by her private property rights as well as her freedom to associate with the immigrant and the immigrant’s freedom to associate with her. The same goes for decisions to reside or congregate with people from other countries.

    Freiman deals (briefly) with common libertarian objections to open borders. I'm not totally for open borders, but I'm not sure how to phrase my objections.


  • Confused on the concept. You might have heard that the airlines are having difficulty with their schedules. The Antiplanner noted some sloppy language from the guy who's supposed to be taking care of this: Buttigieg “Forced” to Drive.

    Supporters of subsidies to Amtrak and mass transit often say that, due to the lack of such subsidies, Americans have been “forced to drive.” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg experienced this earlier this week when his flight was cancelled and he was “forced to drive from Washington DC to New York.” If only the nation had spent billions of dollars subsidizing intercity passenger trains between DC and New York, he wouldn’t have been forced to drive.

    Wait a minute: the nation has spent billions of dollars subsidizing passenger trains between DC and New York. So why was Buttigieg forced to drive? For that matter, why was he flying if Amtrak’s high-speed Acela is so good?

    I wish someone had asked Pete about that. Unfortunately, he seems to keep himself pretty well insulated from impudent questioners.


  • Something Pun Salad has been harping on. And it finally gets some respect from the jolly green progressives at WIRED, specifically Matt Simon: The Nightmare Politics and Sticky Science of Hacking the Climate.

    Simon briefly summarizes the two approaches to mitigating climate change via geoengineering: removal of atmospheric carbon and planetary albedo change (see Neal Stephenson's Termination Shock).

    Altering the climate will affect every nation on Earth. We all share one atmosphere. So who gets to make such a momentous decision? “One has to include the key different stakeholders that will be impacted in different ways. It is very easy to say this—it's extremely difficult to do it,” Pasztor says. “But that's what we need to do. And so the international community needs to start serious conversations about how one actually does that.”

    Yet it’s hard to imagine (ideally) getting buy-in from all the nations of the world, much less the competing political and cultural factions within those nations. The United Nations tried in 2019 with a resolution calling for more research of geoengineering, but the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil blocked it. Even within a single country, this idea can be contentious. For example, last year Sweden rejected a small-scale test of stratospheric aerosols. It is, perhaps alarmingly, easier to imagine a rogue state from going it alone, or an eccentric billionaire taking it upon themselves.

    It's WIRED, so Simon embraces the only path acceptable to the green theologians: doing "what's necessary: dramatically slashing greenhouse gas emissions." Never mind that this will also have plenty of unintended consequences.

    Also I'm miffed that Simon failed to mention my favored climate change solution: artificial photosynthesis. Although that is imaginary right now, I don't see any theoretical reason that we (by which I mean: someone a lot smarter than I am) can't come up with molecular machines that take sunlight, water, and atmospheric carbon dioxide, producing oxygen and sugar. And doing it far more efficiently than our natural photosynthesizers, plants.

URLs du Jour

2022-06-25

  • Not a problem for me, but… it's such a great story about "Imposter Syndrome". I originally saw it on GeekPress, snipped from Neil Gaiman's blog: The Neil story.

    Some years ago, I was lucky enough invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.

    On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name*. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”

    And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.”

    If that doesn't instantly cure you of Imposter Syndrome, nothing else will.


  • Dobbs. I should say something about it. My own view was shaped, probably irrevocably, by Kevin D. Williamson last December.

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

    I've bolded the key sentence. Unfortunately a little too long to fit on a bumper sticker or even a placard to wave over my head at a rally. If I was the sort of person to festoon my car with bumper stickers, or wave placards, which I'm not.

    However, I don't see how anyone can read that sentence and hold fast to their magical "pro-choice" opinions.


  • Still, if you want to complicate things… there's a pretty good essay from Clark Neily and Jay Schweikert at Cato: The Hard Problem of Abortion Rights. It takes both sides (or, more accurately, all sides) seriously.

    […] a clear majority of self‐​professed libertarians describe themselves as “pro‐​choice.” But of course, abortion access is, at least debatably, not solely a question of personal bodily autonomy. The heart of the “pro‐​life” position is that unborn children—at some point during pregnancy, and perhaps as early as conception—become distinct rights‐​bearing entities entitled to moral consideration for their own sake. To those who start with such premises, “my body, my choice” is no more persuasive an argument than “my property, my choice” would have been to an abolitionist. Both slogans beg the relevant question, because whether it is just the pregnant woman’s body (or just the slaveowner’s property) is the precise issue under debate.

    To be sure, there are many sensible arguments for holding that fetuses are not entitled to the same quasi‐deontological moral consideration that other members of a polity are entitled to—for example, that they lack the sort of reflective self‐awareness that gives someone an independent sense of their own self and their future. Or that, at early stages of pregnancy, they lack the capacity to feel pain. Or that even granting that a fetus has a right to life, that doesn’t give it a right over the woman’s body.

    But does "it" have a right not to be killed? Ah well.


  • Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be college students. The (recently renamed) Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) has a problem with the Biden Administration: Proposed Title IX regulations would roll back essential free speech, due process protections for college students.

    WASHINGTON, June 23, 2022 — Today, the Department of Education proposed new Title IX regulations that, if implemented, would gut essential free speech and due process rights for college students facing sexual misconduct allegations on campus. As required by federal law, the department must now solicit public feedback before the pending rules are finalized.

    The draft regulations are a significant departure from current Title IX regulations. Unlike the current regulations, adopted in 2020 after 18 months of review, the new regulations would roll back student rights by:

    • eliminating students’ right to a live hearing;
    • eliminating the right to cross-examination;
    • weakening students’ right to active legal representation;
    • allowing a single campus bureaucrat to serve as judge and jury;
    • rejecting the Supreme Court’s definition of sexual harassment in favor of a definition that threatens free speech rights;
    • requiring colleges and universities to use the weak “preponderance of the evidence” standard to determine guilt, unless they use a higher standard for other alleged misconduct.

    This is a throwback to the bad old days of the "Dear Colleague" letter. As I tediously remind blog readers every chance I get, I was there at Joe Biden's official unveiling of that policy. I was insufficiently alarmed, and too easy on Biden at the time.


  • You can count them on the fingers of one hand. Robby Soave has further commentary on the policy pendulum swing: 5 Ways Biden's New Title IX Rules Will Eviscerate Due Process on Campus. Here's number one:

    1. The definition of sexual harassment is substantially broadened. The [previous Secretary of Education Betsy] DeVos rules had established two types of sexual harassment: "quid pro quo" harassment, in which an individual was asked to perform sexual favors in exchange for employment or some other favor; and "unwelcome conduct." Quid pro quo harassment only had to occur once to count as harassment, but unwelcome conduct harassment had to be "so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access" to their education—a definition that came straight out of case law (Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education in particular).

    Under the new rules, the bar is much lower: [current Secretary of Education Miguel] Cardona would define unwelcome conduct harassment as "conduct that is sufficiently severe or pervasive, that, based on the totality of the circumstances and evaluated subjectively and objectively, denies or limits a person's ability to participate" in their education. This would open the door to Title IX investigations of speech that is sexual in nature and subjectively offensive to another person, without it needing to be severe and pervasive. The free speech implications are significant; legitimate classroom speech that was subjectively offensive and occurred repeatedly could now become a matter for the campus Title IX cop.

    Also see Robby's other commentary on the proposed rules here.


  • In our defense, the SAT was way hard. Our Google LFOD News Alert rang for this story emitted by "Live 95.9" a Berkshires radio station: Think You're Smart? If You Live In Mass., Study Says You Might Be. It reports on a study by "PennStakes" that purports to rank states by the intelligence of their inhabitants.

    It turns out that high intelligence involves much more than just being well-read. It also involves things like where you live, where you spent your formative years growing up, where you went to school, and what type of schooling you had.

    PennStakes reports that after looking at and analyzing all the data, Massachusetts is the #1 Most Intelligent State in the country. Top Dog. Head of the Class, so to speak. The Bay State ranked #1 in several categories and ranked pretty high in others, to put it at the top.

    Out of a possible 100 for overall score, Massachusetts had an index score of 93.9. Massachusetts also ranked #1 in ACT scores, #1 in population percentage that have an advanced degree, and #2 in IQ rankings just behind the "Live Free or Die" state of New Hampshire.

    Yes, another "news" site that gratuitously invokes our state motto, even though it has nothing to do with the story.

    If you click through to the PennStakes study (why is a gambling site doing this?) you can the methodology. It's one of those made-up rankings where a number of statistics get weighted and combined to come up with an overall score. New Hampshire got downranked, despite our highest IQ, due to (for exaple) coming in at #30 on our stupid kids' SAT scores! Obviously unfair.


Last Modified 2022-06-25 10:21 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2022-06-24

Hey, how about that SCOTUS? More on that tomorrow, I assume. Meanwhile… [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Kyle Smith noted the Center for Disease Control yet again failing to Control itself: The CDC Just Pushed Fake News on Covid Child Mortality.

    Only because “an internet rando is more knowledgeable and paying closer attention than our top scientists and doctors” do we know that the CDC just publicized false information about the deadliness of Covid-19 to small children. This misinformation, presented at a conference among top experts, went viral and was promoted, notes Substack columnist Matt Shapiro, by dozens of well-known physicians and other media commentators and specialists, including CNN mainstay Dr. Leana Wen and a former surgeon general of the United States. Wen’s promotion of the false claim is still up on Twitter as of 6:45 p.m. on June 22.

    The CDC displayed a slide at a conference that falsely claimed Covid-19 was the fourth or fifth leading cause of death for all pediatric age groups. A writer who is publicly known only by the name Kelley immediately saw that the claim was “completely and utterly false.” Among several errors, which are so blatant as to seem like intentional massaging of the numbers, Kelley discovered that all data from a 26-month period were being crammed into one year, and that deaths were attributed to Covid, regardless of whether the death was caused by Covid, if the disease was mentioned on the death certificate. The CDC slide, which cited a pre-publication British study that is now being re-examined, also bumped up the numbers by altering the definition of pediatric (ordinarily understood to mean under 18) to include 18- and 19-year-olds.

    I just finished reading The Constitution of Truth by Jonathan Rauch, where he firmly placed the CDC among the so-called "reality-based community". I'm sure that will be fixed in the second edition.


  • Also members of Rauch's "reality-based community"‥ would be the diligent Carrie Nations of the FDA. Elizabeth Nolan Brown notes the likely effect of their latest hijinx: Mandating Low-Nicotine Cigarettes Could Make Smoking More Dangerous.

    The Biden administration continues its misguided war on nicotine. On Tuesday, the administration revealed plans to require cigarette makers to severely cut the amount of nicotine in their products. A proposed rule change "would establish a maximum nicotine level in cigarettes and certain finished tobacco products." The idea, it says, is to make cigarettes less addictive.

    Nicotine is the substance in cigarettes that makes them physically addictive. But nicotine itself isn't what makes cigarettes so dangerous. (Some scientists "wonder if a daily dose could be as benign as the caffeine many of us get from a morning coffee," notes Scientific American.) It's the other ingredients in cigarettes, and the byproducts of combustion, that make smoking cigarettes so bad for you.

    This is one reason why the war on vaping is so stupid, and also speaks to the half-baked premises of the Biden administration's latest anti-smoking plan.

    It is odd indeed, to see the increased legalized use of "recreational" THC as opposed to the ramped-up prohibitions on nicotine.


  • Freddie de Boer, incipient libertarian. I know, he's a self-admitted Marxist. But when he writes articles like this, how long can that last, realistically: Ah, Carceral Liberalism.

    Ten years ago, let’s say fifteen to be safe, if you saw an essay titled “Consequences are Good, Actually,” you might naturally assume that it came from the political right. Conservatives, after all, believe in law and order, retributive justice, and the God of the Old Testament. But nowadays, it’s liberals who constantly call for consequences, liberals who sneer at the concept of forgiveness, liberals who stand for a Manichean worldview that permits no deviation from white-hat/black-hat morality. And so in that linked piece OG carceral feminist Jessica Valenti insists that the object of her ire deserves only hellfire, and this is quite in keeping with the contemporary progressive id in 2022. Valenti is reacting specifically to a New York magazine cover story about a teenager who shared nude photos of his girlfriend and the social consequences that followed for him and others. But she is reacting as she and her liberal peers react to everything: “someone has to burn.” She just does so in the vocabulary of a disapproving pre-K teacher.

    We’ve spent the past two years with the left-of-center world debating, and largely endorsing, quite radical ideas about ending policing and prisons. This would seem to suggest a certain predisposition to forgiveness and equanimity in human affairs, a communal understanding that life is complicated, all of us are sinners, and there but for the grace of God go we. But as the various groans about the New York piece show, the urge to defund the police etc. is really much less about a particular ethic of caring and much more about simply nominating a communally-approved target for progressive anger. It happens that the abstract category “the cops” is a good thing for people to target, but the broader point is that most liberal criminal justice reform energy isn’t derived at all from a desire to be more compassionate and understanding but simply to have a new designated hate object. And this condition is unhealthy, is my feeling. Because forgiveness is good and absolutely central to the left-wing conception of the world.

    At a certain point, Freddie might realize that forgiveness in the hands of the state is never going to work out the way he expects.


  • I also recently read The Quick Fix by journalist Jesse Singal. (My report here.) It's a moderate takedown of psychological fads, written in measured, yet devastating, tone.

    When he's not writing books, however, Singal can be hilarious, immoderate, and (still) devastating. Case in point from his substack: I Would Like To Thank Not Only The David Roberts, But All The David Robertses Out There. Background: a recent New York Times article from Emily Bazelon was a remarkably well-researched and balanced report on the controversy over "youth gender medicine". Basically, is it full speed ahead with snipping and hormones, or should we hang back on that?

    Balance is doubleplusungood for some. And one of those people freaked.

    Overall, I believed Bazelon’s piece to be a highly competent, well-executed treatment of an impossibly fraught subject.

    Believed.

    Then I came across David Roberts’ tweets. Roberts is a journalist who usually focuses on energy and the environment — he’s worked for The Grist and Vox, and like apparently everyone else, he now has a newsletter. Forever ago I interviewed him about his decision to take a yearlong break from social media because he didn’t like what all that time online was doing to him (a subject that’s definitely not relevant to this piece, nope, not at all).

    I don’t believe Roberts has ever written anything about youth gender dysphoria, if Google is any indication — this doesn’t appear to be an area of particular interest for him. And yet he issued a searing public condemnation of Bazelon. “The wild thing about this is that @emilybazelon is a great journalist on other topics,” he tweeted in response to Michael Hobbes (who we shan’t be discussing today), making sure to tag her. “Something about this just absolutely breaks people’s brains.” (Note that right around when I was finishing up this piece, a bunch of the tweets I’m going to be referencing disappeared, apparently deleted by Roberts. They were all live earlier today. I tried to archive them beforehand using archiv.ph but ran into some technical difficulties. Either way, I have screenshots of them — apologies if the archived links don’t work. It doesn’t look like Roberts offered any explanation for why he deleted the tweets, which had been up for almost a week, but if he does say anything I’ll update the piece here.)

    That's enough of an excerpt; kids, if you want to see how it's done, click on through.


  • Easy headline template for the next few years: "Biden's Demagoguery on       ". Today's instance is from Jonathan A. Lesser: Biden's Demagoguery on Gas Prices.

    Some politicians wear their economic illiteracy as a badge of honor. But President Biden’s economic illiteracy, together with his demagoguery about greedy oil companies, stands to make the nation’s economic situation far worse.

    When Biden took office in January 2021, the average U.S. price for a gallon of gasoline was $2.25 per gallon. According to the Energy Information Administration, the average U.S. price this week is just over $5 per gallon, or 120 percent higher.

    As prices have risen, the administration has changed its strategy. First, it ignored inflation, dismissing it as a temporary blip. As prices kept going up, Biden ordered releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, claiming that the move would ease inflation at the pump. Then he implored Saudi Arabia to boost production, while the Department of the Interior continued to slow-walk new oil and gas leases on federal lands and cancelled all new leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

    Now Biden is threatening oil companies. In a recent speech, he claimed that Exxon-Mobil “made more money than God this year.” In a series of letters to oil CEOS, the president claims that the companies can immediately increase output from their refineries, seemingly implying that they are deliberately restricting output. “Your companies and others have an opportunity to take immediate actions to increase the supply of gasoline, diesel and other refined product you are producing,” Biden wrote. He has tried this approach before, asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate collusion and price-gouging by retail gasoline stations. The FTC has found no such evidence.

    Really, is it only a matter of time before Biden goes full Leviticus 16 to address our country's woes? I think that would be preferable; a few slaughtered animals would be a small price to pay.


  • I like George Harrison's version better. Matt Ribel has the glum news: Here Comes the Sun—to End Civilization.

    To a photon, the sun is like a crowded nightclub. It’s 27 million degrees inside and packed with excited bodies—helium atoms fusing, nuclei colliding, positrons sneaking off with neutrinos. When the photon heads for the exit, the journey there will take, on average, 100,000 years. (There’s no quick way to jostle past 10 septillion dancers, even if you do move at the speed of light.) Once at the surface, the photon might set off solo into the night. Or, if it emerges in the wrong place at the wrong time, it might find itself stuck inside a coronal mass ejection, a mob of charged particles with the power to upend civilizations.

    The description of the 1859 "Carrington Event":

    Electrical current raced through the sky over the western hemisphere. A typical bolt of lightning registers 30,000 amperes. This geomagnetic storm registered in the millions. As the clock struck midnight in New York City, the sky turned scarlet, shot through with plumes of yellow and orange. Fearful crowds gathered in the streets. Over the continental divide, a bright-white midnight aurora roused a group of Rocky Mountain laborers; they assumed morning had arrived and began to cook breakfast. In Washington, DC, sparks leaped from a telegraph operator’s forehead to his switchboard as his equipment suddenly magnetized. Vast sections of the nascent telegraph system overheated and shut down.

    It sounds as if a tinfoil hat might not be enough protection.

    But if it happens, I'm sure President Biden will find some way to blame Big Oil.