UNH Lecturers & Cancel Culture

They Want In On It

[Another Pun Salad rerun, this one from February 2021. And one where I broke my usual rule of being Amused rather than Disgusted. I've referred back to this article a number of times since February, because it encapsulates pretty well the intellectual rot that's set in at UNH.]

As promised/threatened yesterday, here's my take on a recent letter emitted by the Executive Committee of "UNH Lecturers United", the union bargaining unit of non-tenure-track faculty at the University Near Here. Currently available on their website, saved for posterity on my Google Drive:

[UNH Lecturers Mail]

I was sufficiently irritated to (1) download this PNG; (2) install and use Tesseract to OCR it into text; and (3) break out the old fisking template to comment on it as it goes along. The letter's text is on the (appropriate) left, with a lovely #EEFFFF background color; my remarks are on the right.

I do this with some reluctance and regret, because I know and like a number of people on the Executive Committee. But, as the kids say these days, silence is violence. So…

The University of New Hampshire has recently adopted the language of Anti-Racism, […]

Sadly true. Although it ignores a larger truth: UNH has been heavily invested in progressive/leftist trends in racial/sexual/identity/etc. politics for years. For example,

  • It proudly invited "ex"-Communist Angela Davis to speak at its yearly Martin Luther King celebration back in 2009.
  • In 2011, when the Obama Administration tried to use Title IX to bypass due process for college students accused of sexual misbehavior, they sent Joe Biden to UNH for the big announcement, where he was warmly welcomed.
  • And UNH was widely mocked back in 2015 when people noticed its "Bias-Free Language Guide" which attempted to police usage of "problematic" words and phrases like "American", “homosexual,” “overweight,” “rich,” …

But, yes, "recently" UNH has gone all-in on the "anti-racism" fad, making it the school's Official Racial Ideology, featuring its advocates on its website, running the spectrum from left to hard-left, without a single contrary opinion appearing.

So what more could the Lecturers want? Well, as it turns out…

[…] but it is impossible to foster such a belief unless the University’s position is also staunchly and confrontationally Anti-Fascist. Racism, classism, religious intolerance, and sexism are integral to the logic of the far-right. If we truly value diversity, then we must actively oppose any political position structured around inequality.

It's not enough. It's never enough.

Note the implicit assumption that it's UNH's job to "foster belief" in Anti-Racism. That's entirely appropriate language for evangelicals looking to recruit you into a religious cult. For a University, not so much.

But never mind that; apparently UNH's current efforts at evangelism are inadequate to counter the Dread Fascist Menace.

Which the Lecturers apparently equate with the "far-right".

Which the Lecturers apparently equate with "any political position structured around inequality".

It's pretty clear the Lecturers' goal here is to cast a broad and fuzzy net around any political opinion with which they could potentially disagree. Round 'em up, condemn them, either get them to shut up or (preferably) toss them out.

Since the election of Donald Trump, faculty have been encouraged on multiple occasions to respect and tolerate the political positions of students that they may find reprehensible.

Apparently no English teachers were involved in the drafting of this letter; "reprehensible" is a dangling modifier, making it ambiguous whether the faculty find the political positions reprehensible, or the students themselves.

Hey, maybe both. But they should clarify.

It's also unclear what the election of Donald Trump has to do with causing faculty to be encouraged to be more respectful and tolerant. Shouldn't that be a given? A default attitude? No matter who's in the Oval Office?

Nah. My guess: Trump's election caused (some) faculty to be increasingly disrespectful of, and stridently intolerant toward, Trump-sympathizers. Which (I assume) caused enough complaining so that administration urged them to take it down a notch or two. Understandable and plausible.

To our knowledge. no similar statement has been issued to the students, […]

In fact, UNH's handbook of Students Rights, Rules and Responsibilities refers to "our collective commitment to respect the rights, dignity, and worth of all community members" right up front. I'm pretty sure that's been the boilerplate for years. There's no asterisk detailing an exception for reprehensibility.

[…] and the university has hosted hateful and dangerous individuals and organizations on campus.

Dangerous? Once again, remember that UNH once hosted Angela Freaking Davis on campus. Who, back in 70s, owned a shotgun used to blow the head off a judge who'd been taken hostage in an attempted jailbreak.

So we're left to wonder what "dangerous individuals and organizations" the Lecturers are referring to. I can only remember a couple of events, both from the not-particularly-dangerous Turning Point USA (in May 2018, see Eric the Viking for his take; and October 2019, which I attended, my report here). You can plausibly call TPUSA unnecessarily provocative, but deeming them "hateful and dangerous" is way over the top.

So never mind, we're off to…

Faculty have experienced repeated harassment and slander online, and they have been intimidated in the classroom and pilloried in the evaluations that are used to determine promotion and reappointment. This has created chilling effect across the campus that has become an obstacle to the exercise of the academic freedom needed to deliver honest and accurate content.

Stipulated: some students say stupid and malevolent things. (E.g., "I hate you and I hope you die".)

As a one-time UNH Instructor, I agree that student evaluations are hot garbage.

Harassment, slander, and intimidation can and should be dealt with by the normal student conduct process.

But maybe students perceive that they and their opinions are being disrespected in the classroom ("reprehensible", remember?) and decide to reciprocate. Given the instructor/student power imbalance, that might not be prudent, but they deserve points for chutzpah.

President Dean has stated that “we must commit to a sincere search for truth” and that "we must continue our efforts to help people understand the importance of Democracy, the rule of law and how to critically examine information to reach a valid conclusion.” In order to do this the faculty needs encouragement from the administration to combat these elements as they arise and assurances that we will be supported for doing it.

Can we all just get behind reasoned discussion of political differences?

I'd suggest that will not happen when faculty characterize it as part of their job to "confrontationally" "combat" anyone expressing "dangerous"/"hateful"/"reprehensible" ideas. Or (for that matter) anything they see as "structured around inequality".

We are not talking about simple differences of opinion. In the same way that one would assume it is unacceptable to argue that the Earth is flat or only 2000 years old in a Geology class, all faculty must feel secure in saying "No, Fascism and its adjacent attitudes are abhorrent to a diverse and democratic society, and they have no place here.”

This is probably too obvious to point out, but:

Asserting that "woke" anti-racist ideology should be considered to have the same certitude as a spheroidal, 4.543 billion-year-old Earth is utter nonsense.

That said, a decent prof in the sciences should be able to deal with flat-earth students without losing his cool. Or claiming that their views are "abhorrent"; they are simply wacky.

But note that appendage the Lecturers have added to "Fascism": "and its adjacent attitudes". Again we see the vague and potentially sweeping dissenting views the Lecturers want the leeway to ban as having "no place here".

Nothing to worry about there, National Review-reading students. I'm sure they'll come for you last.

As the philosopher Karl Popper has famously articulated, there is a “paradox of tolerance.” In the desire for its own self-preservation, a tolerant society cannot and must not be open-minded toward those that would seek to destroy it is precisely our tolerance and permissiveness that the far-right has exploited in order to disseminate the false information that has led to a deadly Insurrection at the Capitol and to the out-of-control spread of Covid-19.

Taking the low-hanging fruit first: it's certainly a misreading of Popper to claim that he was in favor of suppressing views that might be categorized as intolerant. (Especially by those eager to suppress opposing views.) The Lecturers should read Popper more carefully: "… I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise."

I think the Lecturers' views are more akin to Marcuse's than Popper's. But see what you think.

I'm as outraged by the 1/6 Capitol Riot as anyone. Will following the Lecturers' recommendations help circumvent future riots? Doubtful.

And of course, the Covid pandemic is a worldwide phenomenon. Is the "far-right" disinformation really so powerful as to cause its spread from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe?

No, I don't think so either.

But we're on to the grand finale, folks:

UNH Lecturers United hopes that the administration will join us in our commitment to equity, equality, and justice by condemning the poisonous ideologies that have been allowed to fester on our campus and in our nation. We ask that the administration make it clear to the entire campus community what behaviors cannot be tolerated. Faculty should always teach respectfully but with ultimate fealty to the truth. If doing so brings them into conflict with groups or individuals who harbor other beliefs they will have the full support of the UNHLU-AAUP, and we hope the administration will stand with us by publicly asserting its commitment to its core beliefs and its willingness to defend them as necessary.

Why, it's almost as if they imagined this last paragraph be accompanied by rousing inspirational music, perhaps The Internationale.

It's clear that UNHLU-AAUP wants to set itself up as the Ministry of Truth at UNH, deciding what "poisonous ideologies" should be "condemned". And advocating that a broader (but vague) array of "behaviors" should now be grounds for expulsion or perhaps a stint in the re-education camps.

Magical Thinking in My Sunday Paper

[Newspaper Fail]

[Another Pun Salad rerun, another lament about our local paper, this time targeting one of their op-ed partisan hacks columnists. Maybe of special interest to our Maine readers who haven't yet moved to New Hampshire.]

A few years back, my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, implemented a massive price increase for a daily subscription. After some discussion, Mrs. Salad and I decided it wasn't even close to worth what they were asking. So we cut back to a Sunday-only subscription; we could justify that for the coupon sections and the reprinted crossword puzzles from the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. Fun, and theoretically money-saving!

The news coverage, on the other hand, is dismal: reprinted AP stories, and a lot of thinly disguised "progressive" advocacy pieces written by young journalists who can't keep from being activists.

I sometimes make the mistake of reading the opinion columns. This past Sunday brought one bad enough that I can't resist blogging about it: Maine budget must become vehicle for change by Douglas Rooks. Rooks is pretty much a straight partisan Democrat cheerleader. He was more or less apoplectic during the two-term Maine governorship of Paul LePage (2011-2019).

But today, Maine is under unified Democrat control: Governor Janet Mills, a 21-13 advantage in the Maine Senate, and an 80-66 advantage in the Maine House of Representatives. So Rooks should be pretty happy, right?

Well… no. Problem number one: Governor Mills' just-released budget proposal doesn't raise taxes! During the reign of the despised LePage, the top marginal tax rate was cut from 8.5% to 7.15%! (LePage wanted a bigger decrease but didn't get it.) Rooks bewails:

Mills has accepted much lower income tax rates, saying her budget proposals “do not change tax rates and do not create new programs.” And that’s just the problem.

With a presidentially inspired insurrection roiling the nation and the pandemic laying bare the desperate inequality experienced by ordinary Americans, this is no time to stand pat.

Senate President Troy Jackson addressed this, saying “We may have to look at our tax code.” As he put it, “A lot of people have done very well during the pandemic.”

I'm as outraged about the "presidentially inspired insurrection" as the next guy, but using it as an excuse to raise taxes is an impressive logical leap.

Rooks echoes the usual class-warfare platitudes about "having the rich pay more" and "widening economic disparities". What he doesn't say: that 7.15% tax rate is still the tenth highest among the fifty states, And it kicks in pretty quickly: you pay it starting at $52,600 for a single filer, $105,200 for joint filers.

In comparison, the People's Republic of Vermont's top rate is slightly higher (8.75%), but a single filer has to make $200,200 to pay that, joint filers $243,750.

And that's just the income tax. Overall, Maine residents endure the fourth highest tax burden among the fifty states, behind only New York, Hawaii, and Vermont. And Maine is just barely behind Vermont (10.57% vs 10.73%).

But that's not Rooks' only gripe:

On the spending side, too, Mills’s budget has disappointments. While providing modest increases in municipal revenue sharing and school funding, it “flat funds” the University of Maine System at its current $230 million.

Oh no! Flat funds!

But let's hear the argument:

This is short-sighted. If Maine is ever going to bridge its income gap with the other New England states, it will have to invest in the “knowledge economy” that provides most of the future’s good jobs.

Public universities can be engines of economic growth, and Maine has seen promising results from research in forest products and offshore wind generation, but new industries won’t come to fruition – and attract private funding – unless the state makes greater investments.

The same is true for all college, and community college, programs. At one time, state appropriations covered 70% of the university budget; now it’s just 30%.

We’ll never solve the problem of college affordability – beyond the currently trendy idea of canceling past student debt – unless the state steps up, and doesn’t continue falling back.

"Stepping up" is good! "Falling back" is bad!

Argument by cliché.

This is the magical thinking alluded to in the title of this post. What do you have to believe in order to think that shoving more taxpayer money at the UMaine system will cause Maine's "income gap" to shrink?

As opposed to, say, causing nicer cars to appear in UMaine's Faculty/Staff parking lots?

You'll see all sorts of arguments: university education is an investment in human capital; an educated workforce attracts businesses to a region; university research and development can spill over into private industry, startups, etc. Not coincidently, I suspect, a lot of these arguments are made by folks affiliated with universities.

We won't get into the weedy arguments here. But since Rooks offered increased UMaine funding as a solution to Maine's "income gap with the other New England states": According to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association:

  • New Hampshire appropriated $3,185 per full-time enrolled (FTE) student in 2019. That's a 40.9% decrease since 1980. And that's dead last among the fifty states.
  • Maine appropriated $8,013 per FTE student in 2019. and there's been 13.1% increase in that figure since 1980. That's roughly comparable to the US average ($8196); not lavish, but certainly not penurious.
  • Since 2009, Maine's FTE enrollment has dropped by 5.6%. In comparison, New Hampshire's increased by 6.0%,
  • But what about that "income gap"? Well, pre-pandemic, Maine's per capita personal income was $50,950. That is, indeed, below all other New England states. Compare (specifically) to New Hampshire:'s $63,880.

Throwing more money at public institutions of higher education is not the slam-dunk for state prosperity that Rooks claims.

If Maine really wants to get on the path to economic betterment, a good place to start is (1) ignore Douglas Rooks; (2) peruse the Freedom in the 50 States website. Key points of comparison:

  • New Hampshire is ranked #2 for overall freedom; Maine is ranked #39.
  • This is despite Maine being ranked #1 in the entire nation on issues of "personal freedom". New Hampshire is merely "pretty good" on that score: #5.
  • So where does Maine fall short, freedomwise? You guessed it: on "economic freedom" (fiscal and regulatory policy) it comes in near-last: #44. New Hampshire: #3.
  • Here are Cato's policy recommendations for Maine:

    • Fiscal: Cut spending on public welfare and housing and community development. Maine is one of the most free-spending states on public welfare in the country, and it also spends much more than average on housing and community development. Also cut individual and corporate income taxes.
    • Regulatory: Roll back exclusionary zoning, perhaps by allowing state veto of local zoning ordinances that limit housing supply.
    • Personal: Sell off the state liquor stores and replace the markup with a transparent ad valorem tax, as Washington has done. Maine will never be able to compete with New Hampshire prices anyway; perhaps it can compete on convenience.

I don't know; our stores are pretty convenient. Famously, outlets for both northbound and southbound traffic on (both) I-93 and I-95. Currently offering curbside pickup!

Duelling Headlines in Local Sunday Paper

[Pun Salad reruns continue. This one, from October 2020, is just one example of my local paper's obvious Blue bias. Things haven't gotten better since.]

After an astronomical price increase for our daily local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, we cut back to Sunday-only delivery. Two reasons:

  1. They reproduce the Sunday crossword puzzle from the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, a week late. I like doing those.
  2. And there are clippable coupons. Might be able to save some money.

But sometimes I make the mistake of looking at other parts of the paper. My eyes rolled a bit at this headline on a page one story yesterday from the AP:

[Trump Fear]

But leafing over to page A5 provides a locally-reported story about our state's gubernatorial election and the Democratic candidate, Dan Feltes, challenging Governor Sununu. And the headline spread across the top of the page was:

[Feltes fear]

In other words: "If you don't vote for me, you're gonna get sick and maybe die." Yet the paper didn't feel obligated to point out the fear-mongering inherent in that message.

Matt Mowers Insults My Intelligence

[Pun Salad reruns continue today (you're welcome), this one from August 2020. Update: Matt Mowers went on to win the GOP primary, and lost to Chris Pappas in November 2020. I didn't vote for either guy.]

So I got a slick mailer from Matt Mowers, who is running for the GOP nomination to oppose my current US CongressCritter, Chris Pappas. And (honest) this made me laugh like an idiot on the walk from my mailbox back to the house:

[Pap is ON FIRE]

[I know a lot of people black out addresses. I figure that if the Republicans know my address, you can too.]

Let's deal with what's sort of true: Chris Pappas has been photographed wearing a "Resist" T-shrt, with a clenched fist replacing the I. But in the pics I've seen, it's not black text on grey, but rainbow text on black. (Example here.) Pappas's 2019 GOP opponent, Eddie Edwards, tried to make this shirt an issue in his debate with Pappas. Unsuccessfully, as Pappas won 54%-45%. ("Don't blame me, I voted Libertarian.")

Pappas is guilty of (at most) appropriate attire for a gay guy at a gay pride event. And also a phony smile. But…

I'm mortally certain that Pappas has not set fire to a cop car during a riot. I would bet that he's never even been close to a riot, let alone smiling a phony smile in front of a riot. The mailer's photo is a fake that will only impress people who probably shouldn't be allowed to vote anyway.

Let's go back to what's (again, sort of) true: Pappas voted for the "George Floyd Justice in Policing Act". Did he vote "with the leftist mob", as the mailer alleges? Well, only if you equate "all the other Democrats in the House" with "the leftist mob". (And, frankly, that seems a little inflammatory.) It was nearly a straight party-line vote with three Republicans voting Yea. The bill would have limited "qualified immunity" for police officers, which was probably the sticking point.

This is one of the very few issues where I'm on the D side. Pre-Floyd, lawyer Joanna Schwartz took to the Volokh Conspiracy blog to argue against qualified immunity, and she was pretty convincing.

I bet, however, that Democrats would not go so far as Samantha Harris recommended at Reason: It’s Time to End Qualified Immunity for College Administrators, Too. All authority-wielding pseudo-government officials should think not once, not twice, but thrice before violating the civil rights of a citizen they've taken a dislike to.

OK, so Chris Pappas is a loyal Democrat. Does he, as the mailer alleges, vote "with Nancy Pelosi 100% of the time"?

Well, as Speaker of the House, Nancy usually does not vote herself. So, technically untrue. But is Pappas essentially a marionette with Pelosi pulling the strings? As it turns out, not quite (but almost):

Rep. Pappas has voted against a majority of House Democrats 21 times (2.4%) in the 116th Congress (2019-20). He ranks 262nd among all representatives in voting against his party. The average House Democrat votes against his or her party 2.3% of the time.

(In comparison, our state's other CongressCritter, Ann McLane Kuster, is slightly less independent, only voting against party 1.3% of the time in this Congress.)

So Pappas is a (very) typical Democrat. Which is bad enough. Mowers should stick to the facts instead of putting up incendiary (heh) fake photos and deceptive language.

Parasites

A Mini-Fisking

[Pun Salad rerun season begins today. Please enjoy last year's take on a New Hampshire hater and fireworks scrooge.]

The Google LFOD News Alert rang for this piece at a site called "GoLocalProv", by which they mean Providence, Rhode Island. It's a (very long) column by (apparently) a regular columnist, Robert Whitcomb.

I was sufficiently irritated to break out the old fisking template. I am reproducing the relevant section of Bob's op-ed here, on the (appropriate) left, with a lovely #EEFFFF background color; my comments are on the right.

Bob (I call him Bob) gets right into it after a few literary quotes that bear little relevance to this topic:

As it turns out, many perhaps most, of those fireworks that have ruined life recently for many people in Providence, Boston and other New England cities […]

Wait a minute. Fireworks ruined life for many people?

I'm not unsympathetic. Personally, I experience rapidly decreasing marginal utility for most things that explode prettily or loudly. After a dozen or so: "Eh, more of the same. Could we get to the finale, please?"

But that's pretty far from a ruined life. I suspect something about people whose lives are ruined by fireworks: That in the absence of fireworks, their lives would quickly be ruined by something else. Barking dogs, loud motorcycles, inconsiderate littering, MAGA hats, Gadsden flags, …

[OK: A Providence TV station reported on July 5 that extensive fire damage to a house in Providence may have been due to fireworks. They were able to find neighbors speculating about that, anyway. Still, kind of a stretch to "ruined life" for "many people"]

Anyway, Bob knows who to blame. He points his shaky finger roughly a hundred miles north:

[…] came from New Hampshire, that old “Live Free or Die” parasite/paradise (where I lived for four years). There, out-of-state noisemakers stock up and take the explosives back to Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, where they ignite them all over the place, with the worst impact in cities. While the fireworks are illegal in densely populated southern New England, they’re legal in the Granite State.

Parasite!? That's pretty nasty, Bob.

As Wikipedia will tell you, it's a slur with a long and sordid history. Both Commies and Nazis were fond of deploying it against broad classes of people, with predictable results. The left-wing anthem The Internationale contains a few references (e.g., "All the power to the people of labour! And away with all the parasites!") At the Library of Social Science, Richard Koenigsberg collects a few choice quotes from the remarkably similar-sounding Hitler and Lenin.

Anyway, Bob's gripes are not directed at the scofflaws in southern New England. Nor with its inability/unwillingness to enforce such laws ("No fireworks arrests made in Providence on Fourth of July").

Nope, it's those damn New Hampshire Parasites.

New Hampshire has long made money off out-of-staters coming to buy cheap (because of the state’s very tax-averse policies) booze and cigarettes. The state also has loose gun laws. Fireworks are in this tradition.

Translation: "People chafe under government-mandated high prices and arbitrary prohibitions, and New Hampshire offers bargains and (some) freedom."

That’s its right. But it could be a tad more humane toward people in adjacent states by making it clear to buyers at New Hampshire fireworks stores that the explosives they’re buying there are illegal in southern New England.

Translation: "Could you please help us enforce our stupid laws by nagging your customers?"

Because of our federal system, states that may want to control the use of dangerous products can be hard-pressed to do so because residents may find it easy to drive to a nearby state and get the stuff. Still, in compact and generally collaborative New England, it would be nice if New Hampshire, much of which is exurban and rural, would consider the challenges of heavily urbanized Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut as they seek to limit the use of fireworks, especially in cities. Granite Staters might remember that much of the state’s affluence stems from its proximity to that great wealth creator Greater Boston and show a little gratitude. (This reminds me of how Red States are heavily subsidized by Blue States, whose taxes fund much of the federal programs in the former.)

In addition to the above, a couple things are worth pointing out:

  1. New Hampshire's poverty rate is the smallest in the nation according to the latest tabulation. The "great wealth creator" to our south is number 8. Rhode Island, on the other hand, is unaccountably unaffected by its proximity to Massachusetts: it's in 28th place.
  2. The "Red States are heavily subsidized by Blue States" is tendentious garbage. Debunkings here and here.

And then it gets worse…

Ah, the federal system, one of whose flaws is painfully visible in the COVID-19 pandemic. Look at how the Red States, at the urging of the Oval Office Mobster, too quickly opened up, leading to an explosion of cases, which in turn hurts the states that had been much tougher and more responsible about imposing early controls. But yes, the federal system’s benign side includes that states can experiment with new programs and ways of governance, some of which may become national models, acting as Justice Louis Brandeis called “laboratories of democracy’’.

Yay, Federalism. Fine, me too. But I'm not sure Rhode Island has a lot to brag about, given its high position on the state ranking by COVID-19 death rate. If states are democracy labs, RI done botched its experiment.

There's more to Bob's column. He bemoans the recent SCOTUS decision on non-discriminatory aid to parents who choose to send their kids to religious schools under the heading "Church-State Walls Erode".

But amusingly, he does that just after trashing the town of Burrillville, RI, which declared itself a “First Amendment Sanctuary Town.” Burrillville's crime: daring to specifically oppose the state's "cumbersome restrictions on places of worship".

For Bob, that Church-State Wall becomes pretty porous when it comes to State imposing its will on Churches.

URLs du Jour

2021-07-27

  • Our Eye Candy du Jour from the great and glorious Remy.

    Raw milk is legal in the LFOD state. Although our local suppliers might be sketchy.


  • Not Raw Milk, But Better. The Bartlett Center folks celebrate the LFOD state getting a tad freer: New Hampshire allows beer (or wine) with your pizza delivery, at last.

    At the start of the COVID-19 shutdown last spring, restaurant customers wanted to order beer and wine with their delivery dinners. There was just one problem. That was illegal.

    New Hampshire’s alcohol laws reserved beer and wine delivery exclusively for other types of businesses. This was such an obvious financial challenge for restaurants during the shutdown that fixing it became a top priority.

    Relief came on March 18 when the governor issued Emergency Order 6, which let restaurants include beer and wine with food deliveries.

    They note that nothing bad happened as a result of this "temporary" loosening, so the ban was repealed altogether earlier this month. But (they wonder) why it was even there in the first place?


  • But Let Us Not Go Crazy With This LFOD Stuff. When Josiah Bartlett provides with good news, he taketh away with bad: New Hampshire is the only New England state not to allow cocktail delivery.

    In an unexpected twist, New Hampshire has emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic as the only New England state that does not allow delivery cocktails.

    In Boston, Bangor and Burlington, you can order a Cuba Libre with your delivery dinner. But not in Bartlett, or anywhere else in New Hampshire.

    Dozens of states — including the rest of New England — allowed restaurants to include beer, wine and cocktails in delivery orders when COVID-19 emergency orders closed restaurant dining rooms. New Hampshire allowed beer and wine, but not cocktails.

    "Unexpected twist." Ha, get it?

    I have no idea, but do cocktails actually travel well?


  • Speaking of Unexpected Twists… A letter to the editor in my local paper this morn is headlined: A nation of learned and creative citizens. Steve Little's little letter starts this way:

    Simone Biles, the gymnastics super star, was taken in and adopted by relatives and through the fickle chance of good fortune an amazing athlete was discovered. Think about that. How many super stars of undiscovered brilliance are NOT discovered because we […]

    To tell the truth, I really thought the next thing would be: "… because we kill them before they make it out of the womb?"

    Sigh. But instead:

    […] because we do not provide the educational, family or even nutritional needs of our citizens?

    Uh huh. Steve goes on to argue for more government spending on that stuff. Because that will obviously work. Spending more taxpayer money on stuff always works. And (somehow) it's never enough.


  • "False" is a Pretty Binary Thing, Right? The Dispatch fact checker asks: Do the COVID Vaccines Offer 100 Percent Protection From Infection?. Because…

    At a town hall on July 21, in Cincinnati, President Joe Biden, in stressing the importance of COVID-19 vaccines, made the following statement: “If you’re vaccinated, you’re not going to be hospitalized, you’re not going to be in an ICU unit, and you’re not going to die.”

    The statement is false.

    Although the COVID-19 vaccines are effective, no single vaccine is 100% effective at preventing infection.

    Per the Centers for Disease Control, both mRNA vaccines, Moderna and Pfizer, are over 90 percent effective at preventing COVID-19. Based on data from clinical trials, Moderna is 94.1% effective and Pfizer is 95% effective, according to the CDC. The Johnson & Johnson Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is 66.3% effective based on data from clinical trials.

    This is worthwhile information from the Dispatch, presented straight. And Biden should know better than to utter otherwise.

    Amusingly, PolitiFact ranks the same statement from Biden as … are you ready for this? … "Half True".

    President Joe Biden exaggerated when he spoke about the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine during a CNN town hall. "You're not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations," Biden said.

    It is rare for people who are fully vaccinated to contract COVID-19, but it does happen. 

    I'm pretty sure there's a significant epistemological difference between "False" and "Half True".

    Tip for Politifact: a falsehood doesn't become "half true" because it was uttered as an "exaggeration" by a demented old fool that you are (nevertheless) fond of.


  • And Once Again, the Babylon Bee Puts 90% of the Joke in the Headline. Specifically: To Defeat Delta Variant, Experts Recommend Doing All The Things That Didn't Work The First Time.

    Funny because true.

URLs du Jour

2021-07-26

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • They Turned Me Into a Newt! Peter Wood takes to the cyberpages of American Greatness to investigate Critical Witchcraft Theory. By which he means good old Critical Race Theory (CRT). After a brief synopsis of the Salem witch trials:

    CRT is based on the claim that an insidious, pervasive, but invisible force inhabits all Americans and American institutions. This invisible force exists outside the conscious experience of those who harbor it. Those purveyors of systemic racism are its hapless servants who believe in their own innocence as much as poor Sarah Good did when she got her chance to testify at the Salem trials. (“I’m no more a witch than you are a wizard, and if you take away my life God will give you blood to drink,” said Sarah when found guilty—the detail around which Nathaniel Hawthorne constructed The House of the Seven Gables.)

    Denying one’s complicity in witchcraft, of course, was expected of witches. Their denials meant nothing in the ensuing trials. But in some ways the courts in Salem were less inclined to impetuous judgments than many of the advocates of today’s critical race theory. Cotton Mather, consulted after the first wave of Salem executions (Tituba, Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Bridget Bishop) warned that “there is need of a very critical and exquisite caution, lest by too much credulity for things received only upon the Devil’s authority, there be a door opened for a long train of miserable consequences, and Satan get an advantage over us.” Cotton Mather was, however, still in favor of “the speedy and vigorous prosecution of such as have rendered themselves obnoxious.”

    His view lay not far from how Ibram X. Kendi views systemic racism: “one of the fastest-spreading and most fatal cancers humanity has ever known . . . There is nothing I see in the world today, in our history, giving me hope that one day antiracists will win the fight, that one day the flag of antiracism will fly over the world of equity.” Kendi’s perspective, consistent with Puritan theology, is that this world has been given over to the corruptions of the infernal powers.

    Do you ever wonder why people stick the "critical" adjective in front of other words? "Critical Thinking" was the rage a few decades back, but I was never quite sure how it distinguished itself from plain old "Thinking".


  • Maybe We Should Make a List Or Something. Jonathan Rauch's latest (must read) book is excerpted in Reason, out from behind the print paywall, and has a provocative headline: Who Gets To Decide the Truth?.

    Rauch identifies three "great liberal social systems": economic, political, and epistemic. All three are interdependent, and vital to a society that's healthy, wealthy, and wise.

    All three liberal constitutions organize far-flung cooperation, distribute decision making across social networks, and exploit network intelligence (where the system knows much more than its constitutive individuals), all with a minimum of centralized authority or control. They all emphasize impersonal rules over personal authority, open-ended processes over fixed outcomes, and consent over coercion. They all take as their starting point that individuals are by nature free and equal, and that freedom and equality are important and valuable. They are all extraordinarily successful, especially compared with the alternatives.

    Which is not to say they are perfect. Far from it. But they are much better than their competitors at adapting to change and at identifying mistakes and self-correcting. And they are much better at averting the destructive social conflict Hobbes believed was the only alternative to authoritarian government.

    For exactly that reason, all three liberal social systems can seem disquieting and unnatural. They allow for no ending points, no final arrival, no absolute certainty, no shelter from change. They place strains on local relationships and tribal ties. They can be harsh and unfair. They are difficult to understand and explain; indeed, they are deeply counterintuitive. They all depend on complex, intricately balanced rules, norms, institutions, and moral values, most of which did not arise organically but took centuries to construct. Acculturating people to all those rules and norms and institutions and moral values requires years of socialization and deep reservoirs of civic mutuality and trust. As a wag said: Where establishing the rule of law is concerned, the first five centuries are the hardest.

    And all three are somewhat in peril in today's USA. They've been in bad shape before, of course. But there's no guarantee that we'll muddle through this time.


  • Oh Yeah? Show Me the Organs. Matt Ridley has bad news for the gullible suckers well-meaning customers at Whole Foods and the like: Organic food isn’t better for us.

    It is mystifying to me that organic food is still widely seen as healthier, more sustainable and, most absurdly, safer than non-organic food.

    Following the publication of part two of Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy last week, the organic movement was quick to suggest that organic food and farming offer a way to achieve the strategy’s vision. ‘The recommendations of the National Food Strategy offer genuine hope that by embracing agroecological and organic farming, and adopting a healthier and more sustainable diet, we can address the climate, nature and health crises,’ said Helen Browning, chief executive of the Soil Association, Britain’s most vocal organic lobbying organisation. Browning also highlighted the strategy’s recognition of the Soil Association’s ‘Food for Life’ programme — essentially a vehicle to promote greater procurement and use of organic food in schools and hospitals.

    The trouble is that scientific evidence indicates that the food safety risks of eating organic food are considerably greater than those of eating non-organic food. This is primarily because organic crop production relies on animal faeces as a fertiliser, an obvious vector for potentially lethal pathogens such as E.coli, but also because organic crops can be prone to harmful mycotoxins as a result of inadequate control of crop pests and diseases.

    Ah, those whacky Brits, adding on an extra "me" to "program".

    Lately, I've seen amusing ads for "Coors Pure", their organic light beer. I'm sure it won't kill you. If there's E. coli in those cans, those bacteria are probably too drunk to do you any damage.

    What it will do (as I type, at my local market): set you back an additional three bucks for a 12-pack of 12 Oz. cans. Just a suggestion, but you could drop that three bucks onto the Jimmy Fund instead, and do some good.

The Dressmaker

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

A movie that's been in my Amazon Prime watchlist for quite awhile. Finally decided to get it out of there, since the Red Sox played earlier in the day, and I have zero interest in the Olympics.

Kate Winslet plays Tilly Dunnage, who (in 1951) returns after many years to her small Australian town to (a) wreak vengeance on a wrong done unto her back when she was a kid; (b) solve the mystery of what actually happened back then; (c) perhaps reconcile with Mom (Judy Davis). Who's rather unkempt, physically and mentally.

But nearly everyone in the town is mentally unkempt. Lots of secrets, resentments, perversions and frowned-upon proclivities. Tilly has picked up (see the title) dressmaking skills while she's been away, and her transformation of a town ugly duckling into a beautiful swan earns her some respectability and also cash. In addition, since she looks like Kate Winslet, she attracts the eye of Teddy (Thor's brother Liam Hensworth), perhaps the sanest person in town.

What follows is a lot of zaniness and tragedy. That particular mixture isn't my cup of tea, but you might like it. Hugo Weaving shows up in a supporting role as the town's constable, and—geez, for once—is not an unmitigated villain; he just likes to dress up occasionally.

Fair Warning

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Let me just say this about Michael Connelly. His prose is workmanlike; no danger of confusing him with (say) Tana French. His dialogue can be clunky. His characters only have enough depth to explain their actions.

But no other writer can get me turning pages like Connelly. What happens next? Tell me, Mike, I gotta know!

This is the third entry in Connelly's "Jack McAvoy" series. Jack, having helped catch serial killers "The Poet" and "The Scarecrow" is now put on the track of "The Shrike". Who is in the habit of picking up sexually adventuresome women in bars, having his way with them, then killing them via atlanto-occipital dislocation, a technique you've probably seen in some action movie. By sheer coincidence, one of his victims is a lady with whom Jack had a one night stand months previous. Which makes him a suspect, so the LAPD's non-finest come knocking. (Harry Bosch would have cleared this up faster.)

Jack's working for an online newspaper, FairWarning (which actually used to exist), a consumer watchdog. Homicide is not the paper's mission, but Jack is intrigued by the crime he's sort of connected to, and he brings his investigative skills back to life. He also ropes in ex-FBI "profiler" Rachel Walling. They uncover a sordid trail involving a shady DNA-analysis company, some pathetic misogynists, and a truly devious murderer.

I should also add one more thing about Connelly: I think he and Robert Crais have some sort of contest to see how many words they can devote to describing their characters' driving routes around LA. "The freeway entrance looped around then I was heading south on the 170. I took one of the 101 merge lanes and got the car up to sixty."

URLs du Jour

2021-07-25

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • WIRED's Statist Advocacy du Jour. Roger McNamee performs his usual duty in this recent op-ed: Biden Has to Play Hardball with Internet Platforms.

    The federal government’s campaign to reform internet platforms dramatically escalated this week. The Surgeon General cited disinformation as a public health menace. The White House press secretary called on Facebook to remove 12 accounts that may be responsible for as much as 65 percent of the Covid disinformation on the site. In reference to Facebook, President Joe Biden said, “They’re killing people,” only to walk that back a day later. Then he appointed Jonathan Kanter, architect of the EU’s antitrust case against Google, to run the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. The table may finally be set for necessary reform.

    Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter have become core communications platforms in our society, but they are collectively undermining public health, democracy, privacy, and competition, with disastrous consequences. Most Americans understand this, but don’t want to be inconvenienced by losing what they like about internet platforms. And they struggle to understand the problem’s scope. The platforms have successfully muddied the waters, using their massive wealth to co-opt huge swaths of academia, think tanks, and NGOs, as well as many politicians.

    Governments at all levels have discovered the magical words "public health" can be used to excuse any and all encroachments on civil liberties. People are saying things you don't like on Facebook? Declare those statements "misinformation" damaging to "public health" and abracadabra, you can demand that Zuck take them down!

    It's not government doing the censorship, it's Facebook. So it's constitutionally legit!

    A sampling of McNamee's WIRED op-ed heds:

    There is no event around which McNamee can't spin his demands for draconian social media regulation.


  • Meanwhile, What's Being Swept Under the Rug? Libertarian Leanings is where I noticed this tweet:

    (Clicking through to the Garland letter, I think Mollie's reference to the DOJ dropping investigations in "all states" is incorrect; the New Jersey one (apparently) started last October is sputtering along.

    Still.

    Sample criticism from Jazz Shaw at Hot Air:

    While all of the governors in question made some bad decisions, Cuomo’s were arguably the worst by far and resulted in the largest number of deaths. Barring the nursing homes from even asking about an applicant’s COVID status and threatening to suspend their licenses if they did was simply criminally incompetent. We may not have had a vaccine at the time, but it had already become obvious how quickly the virus was able to spread and the disparate impact it had on the elderly and the medically infirm. Nursing home residents generally fall into both of those categories.

    Doesn’t the fact that Andrew Cuomo was caught red-handed lying about the number of deaths suggest anything to Garland indicating that something was amiss? The fact that the CDC was already issuing guidance that was directly the opposite of Cuomo’s mandates should also strengthen the case that those actions were proof of at least massive incompetence and negligence, if not intentional malfeasance.

    Ah, but criminal? Maybe not. Maybe those geezers deserved their fate by living in a blue state and (some of them probably) voting for the executioners! Obviously suicidal tendencies were at work.

    Sigh. Let's not forget that there was plenty of misinformation, unconscionable delay, and loads of bureaucratic screwups at the Federal level (CDC, FDA, Fauci, Trump) as well. Those probably caused thousands of deaths all by themselves. I'm not sure how their body count compares to Cuomo's. It's certainly a couple orders of magnitude greater than anything you can attribute to Facebook.

    But McNamee and his ilk want to go after Facebook et. al. instead. To quote the headline at Libertarian Leanings: "If It Weren't For Double Standards..."


  • Language Evolves, Unfortunately. Daniel B. Klein provides 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Call Leftists “Liberal”. Some linguistic history:

    The word liberal first acquired a political meaning in Britain in the 1770s.

    But prior to that, over many centuries, “liberal” had two meanings. First, “liberal” signified activities becoming of a free man—the liberal arts, the liberal sciences, the liberal professions. Liber in Latin means both “free” and “book.”

    The other meaning was generous, as in “giving liberally” or “liberal supplies.” Generosity is characteristic of a free man, so this meaning relates to the first.

    Reason #1

    The two ancient meanings run deep in Western civilization. Calling leftists “liberal” evokes generosity and the blessings of the liberal arts and sciences. To call leftists “liberal” is to extol their character and purpose.

    It was not for nothing that, between 1880 and 1940, collectivists arrogated “liberal” for themselves.

    I'll point out the Google Dictionary still clings (bitterly) to the non-collectivist sense of liberal:

    1. willing to respect or accept behavior or opinions different from one's own; open to new ideas.
    2. relating to or denoting a political and social philosophy that promotes individual rights, civil liberties, democracy, and free enterprise.

    You'll find most of those attitudes pretty rare on the left these days.

    But if "liberal" means you're "open to new ideas", does that mean you're open to illiberal ideas? Hm. Cue to every Star Trek episode where Kirk defeated an AI by trapping it in contradiction.


  • George Leef takes Klein's article and doubles down: Let's Reclaim the Word 'Liberal'.

    I am with him 100 percent. My only quibble is that he suggests the term “progressive,” which is also misleading. The authoritarian ideas those people favor do not lead to progress; they lead to regress, back to earlier systems of top-down control by powerful elites and institutions.

    Let’s call them statists, authoritarians, or just control freaks.

    Maybe the best approach is to (accurately) label people's ideas without pigeonholing people themselves. After all, I'm uncomfortable with most of the tags people have tried to stick on me.