URLs du Jour

2021-05-11

  • Glug. Another Michael Ramirez commentary on the GOP's shrinking tent:

    [Glug]

    The iceberg isn't shown, but I assume it's orange.


  • You're Gonna Need A Longer Article. If you prefer text to pictures, Chris Stirewalt describes How Republicans Could Blow Their Midterm Moment. The historical record of midterm elections is clear: based on past performance, the GOP should take back both the House and Senate. But look at Arizona:

    The state’s Republican-led Senate won a court fight to get to take possession of the 2.1 million ballots cast by the residents of Maricopa County to conduct what could charitably be described as a fishing expedition. The Senate hired a consultancy called Cyber Ninjas to conduct the kind of inquiry you would expect from a firm with a name that sounds like a brand of air fryers. They used blacklights to look for secret watermarks and, not kidding here, looked for bamboo fibers in ballots for potential Chinese tampering. Only after objections from the Justice Department did the ninjas drop their plan to visit the homes of voters whose ballots they found suspicious. Think of it: In a swing state with a crucial Senate election next year, Republicans were going to go door-to-door to remind voters about Trump’s efforts to steal the election and hassle them over their votes.

    It’s understandable that many Republicans wish Cheney would go along to get along, but they ought to remember who it is that’s busy relitigating the 2020 election in swing states from coast to coast. If they miss their chance to benefit from a midterm windfall, Republicans should first blame the cranks and charlatans intent on reminding persuadable voters that the GOP is living in a very sordid past.

    The Maricopa inquiry involves noted icon among election fraud believers Jovan Pulitzer. Here in New Hampshire, the believers want him to be involved in the Windham forensic audit. Pulitzer is a self-promoting huckster; I once sat through a half-hour video of his where he claimed to have proof of some Chinese shenanigans in the Georgia elections, but I thought it was entirely hot air, handwaving, and making a big deal out of innocuous Wi-Fi enabled devices.


  • Speaking Of Conspiracy Theories… Scott Sumner looks at that Nicholas Wade article that I linked to last Saturday. Scott thinks that Wade is unaccountably underplaying The real story.

    Wade suggests that the global community of virologists has knowingly and recklessly engaged in highly dangerous research that threatens the lives of millions (if not billions), and then covered up an accident to avoid scrutiny. To be clear, he does not make that accusation in so many words, but I see no other way to interpret his claims:

    1. Wade claims the virus was probably created in a lab in China, and then accidentally escaped.

    2. Wade claims that “gain-of-function” research is an accepted practice among virologists, and indeed the Wuhan research was actively encouraged and even financed by western scientific institutes.

    3. Wade claims that Western virologists denied that Covid-19 could have been created in a lab, even though in fact it clearly could have been created in a lab.

    The Wade article presents a picture of scientific research creating a sort of Frankenstein’s monster, the worst nightmare of any Hollywood film.

    Scott finds the implication that the worldwide virus-research community is involved in a massive coverup of what happened in Wuhan to be non-credible. I'm leaning toward Wade's view, myself. But see what you think.


  • Cognitive Bias Is The Real Pandemic. Elizabeth Nolan Brown does the weekday "Reason Roundup" and yesterday's had an interesting item: Our Moral Judgments Affect Our Perception of COVID Risk.

    Church and protests are safe, beaches and parties are not? Two new studies showcase a tendency on full display during the COVID-19 pandemic: People perceive as less risky the activities they condone or see as important and more risky those they do not, even if the logistics—and actual risk—of the two activities are similar.

    In other words, "risk judgments are sensitive to factors unrelated to the objective risks of infection," as study authors Cailin O'Connor, Daniel P. Relihan, Ashley Thomas, Peter H. Ditto, Kyle Stanford, and James O. Weatherall write in a draft paper on their research. "In particular, activities that are morally justified are perceived as safer while those that might subject people to blame, or culpability, are seen as riskier."

    Unsurprisingly, these "moral judgments" got translated into "science-based" recommendations, regulations, and practices from Federal, state, and local health officials. Worse, those recommendations (etc.) live on after the science has been updated.

    For example, the Portsmouth Public Library is still quarantining returned books for "at least 72 hours", based on long-outdated concerns about surface transmission.


  • Told You So. We came this close to shuttering the Export-Import Bank a few years back. But it survived, and Veronique de Rugy is back on the beat: The Export-Import Bank Is in the Big-Business Business.

    As the saying goes, there is nothing as permanent as a temporary government program. So no one should be surprised that, last month, Ex-Im’s board of directors voted to renew the four programs — which it had touted last year as “temporary relief measures” — for another year. Here is how the press release reads:

    Over the past year, U.S. small businesses benefited significantly from the relief measures. Since April 2020, the measures have resulted in $1 billion in EXIM working capital guarantee and supply-chain financing guarantee authorizations. In fiscal year (FY) 2021 to date, EXIM’s working capital guarantees for minority and women-owned businesses have risen to a total of $31.5 million—a 50 percent increase over the previous period in FY 2020.

    This framing would lead a casual reader to assume that small businesses received a billion dollars in benefits from Ex-Im’s pandemic-related measures. A bit of digging, however, suggests otherwise. According to another Ex-Im press release, $510 million of Ex-Im’s claimed billion dollars in pandemic relief went to just one transaction: Boeing’s purchase of aircraft engines from an affiliate of the General Electric Corporation. Thus, in one fell swoop, half of Ex-Im’s overall pandemic-related support went to the bank’s two most-beloved corporations in a favored sector. Another $450 million, across two transactions, went to U.S. Steel. Freeport LNG, which is, as I mentioned last week, a large exporter of liquefied natural gas, received $50 million. Although the amount to Freeport was small compared to the giveaways to Boeing, GE, and U.S. Steel, the loan made big waves last week when the Financial Times reported how the bank used the loan to buy the U.S. gas industry’s acquiescence to an Ex-Im gas project in Mozambique. (My post about can be read here.)

    When push came to shove, a majority of Republicans voted with all but one Democrat to revive Ex-Im. Just another reminder that we can't trust GOP politicians to follow through on their free-market rhetoric.


  • I Don't Want To Be Accused of Soliciting. So, via GeekPress, here's 99 Additional Bits of Unsolicited Advice. Just a few:

    • Assume anyone asking for your account information for any reason is guilty of scamming you, unless proven innocent. The way to prove innocence is to call them back, or login to your account using numbers or a website that you provide, not them. Don’t release any identifying information while they are contacting you via phone, message or email. You must control the channel.
    • Sustained outrage makes you stupid.
    • Be strict with yourself and forgiving of others. The reverse is hell for everyone.
    • Your best response to an insult is “You’re probably right.” Often they are.

    In the fine tradition of The Notebooks of Lazarus Long.

URLs du Jour

2021-05-10

  • On The Nose. Dan Mitchell presents Statism in Five Images, and I'm just going to steal one of them for our Eye Candy du Jour (it's long, so make sure you scroll down enough to see the ending punchline):

    [Abusive Relationships]

    Arguably, you might think there are items that don't fit the American government/citizen relationship. "Control what you read, watch and say"? Well, they've largely outsourced that function to Facebook and Twitter.


  • Is "Corporatization" The Problem? Jerry Coyne reads it so we don't have to: Chronicle of Higher Ed decries the diversity-driven corporatization of America, suggests some solutions.

    An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Amna Khalid has some information about the “diversity and inclusion racket,” and also some solutions that may help achieve real equality beyond the ubiquitous “diversity training” known to be ineffectual.

    […]

    Khalid descries the expensive expansion of deans and administratiors involved with diversity and inclusion, which have burgeoned at the expense of other administrators and faculty. It’s not that they aren’t addressing a problem, but are doing so in an expensive and largely useless way, and eating up huge amounts of cash that could go to genuinely advance equal opportunity and affirmative action. Seriously, is “yoga for women of color” a way to achieve equality?

    You can click the link in the first excerpted paragraph to go to the Chronicle article, but they urge you to sign up for their newsletter and marketing (both unsubscribable). Jerry provides extensive excerpts, however.

    Jerry's a lefty, and so is Amna, so you may disagree with a lot of their commentary and analysis, as I did. But I have to say that blaming a "corporate mind-set" for the craven capitulation of university administrators to the woke student/faculty mob may be on target. Especially when a lot of corporations these days are also kowtowing to their own woke mobs.

    But sometimes it's just a President/CEO thinking: What meaningless symbolic act do I have to perform to get these pesky yammerers to shut up and get out of my office?


  • Since When Do Politicians Have To Make Sense? But Kevin D. Williamson (NRPLUS) points out, nevertheless, that the Liz Cheney Republican Leadership Ouster Makes No Sense.

    You guys know he lost, right?

    Representative Liz Cheney (R., Wyo.) is (probably) being pushed out of her leadership position, most likely in favor of Representative Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.), because Representative Cheney is insufficiently Trump-loving and Stefanik is superabundantly Trump-loving.

    It’s that familiar Republican strategy: a purge for unity.

    House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) and other like-minded Republicans complain that it will be difficult for Cheney to do her job effectively in the current political environment, meaning the infantile emotional climate in which some number of Republicans stamp their feet and hold their breath like Veruca Salt when Cheney accurately characterizes Donald Trump’s disgraceful post-election behavior as a parade of lies marching through an avalanche of horsesh**.

    You know who loves the GOP's personality cult? Democrats.


  • Well, This Is Pun Salad. So I'm duty-bound to link to a WSJ op-ed, probably paywalled, from Stephen Moore: Biden May Make a Big Missed Steak.

    I hear you moaning. But:

    Larry Kudlow suggested the other day that the Biden administration may declare war on meat. On his Fox Business show, the former Trump economic adviser lampooned a climate-change study from the University of Michigan, which argues that to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, Americans will have to cut back severely on “red meat, poultry, fish/seafood, eggs, dairy, and animal based fats.” To which Mr. Kudlow quipped: “OK, got that? No burger on July 4. No steaks on the barbecue. I’m sure Middle America is just going to love that. Can you grill those brussels sprouts?”

    It was funny, but the climate lobby wasn’t laughing. Media “fact checkers” called it a “false story . . . another example of a closed ecosystem of information affecting public opinion,” in the Associated Press’s words. The New York Times’s Paul Krugman tweeted: “This is what right-wing politics is down to. It’s all false claims about evil liberals, which the base is expected to believe because it’s primed to believe in liberal villainy.”

    It’s true Joe Biden hasn’t stated he wants to curtail meat production or consumption. But people he listens to have. During a CNN “Climate Crisis Town Hall,” Kamala Harris was asked if she favored changing “dietary guidelines to reduce the consumption of red meat in light of the impact of the climate change.” She said yes: “The balance that we have to strike here, frankly, is about what government can and should do around creating incentives and then banning certain behaviors.”

    So enjoy those burgers produced by those farting cows while you can, eco-criminal.


  • The AP Gets One Right. What Happened? Jeff Jacoby writes on the history of an odious concept: Cancelling 'anti-Semitism'.

    IT ISN'T OFTEN that a hyphen, or the absence of one, draws attention. But when the Associated Press announced recently that it was changing the spelling of "anti-Semite" and "anti-Semitism" in its highly influential style guide to "antisemite" and "antisemitism," it made news — and drew cheers from historians and civil rights activists.

    There is a good deal of history behind that detail of punctuation, and it begins with the fact that the father of "anti-Semitism" was an antisemite.

    In 1879, a German nationalist and political agitator named Wilhelm Marr published a pamphlet in which he claimed that Jews were the mortal enemy of the German people and called for their forcible removal from German soil. His document, Der Weg zum Siege des Germanenthums über das Judenthum ("The Road to Victory for Germanness over Jewishness"), argued that Jews posed a particularly dangerous threat not simply because of their religion or behavior, but because they belonged to an alien racial group — the "Semites." Marr wanted a word that would imbue his loathing of Jews with the ring of sophistication, so rather than speak of primitive Jew-hatred (judenhass), he promoted the pseudoscientific term antisemitismus — enmity toward the Semitic race. But there was never any doubt about the meaning of his neologism. Antisemitismus — which became antisémitisme in French and antisemitismo in Spanish — meant only one thing: hatred of Jews. And when Marr founded a new political organization, the League of Antisemites (Antisemiten-Liga), it had only one purpose: to ignite anti-Jewish bigotry into a political movement.

    I was unaware of that hyphenated history Jeff describes. I'm gonna go back through the archives and clean up my language. According to grep, there are 89 occurrences with the hyphen, although some may be in quoted material, which I will leave alone.

    I know, that's kind of an Orwellian thing to do. So I'm not happy about it, but I'm less happy with leaving the hyphenated term in place when I (now) know better.

URLs du Jour

2021-05-09

  • Your Birthing Person Is So Fat, She… Well, you can fill out the rest of that yourself. Jonah Goldberg writes his G-File about Birthing Person of All Silliness. If you don't get the reference, it was kicked off my Missouri Congresscritter Cori Bush:

    I'd guess the War on Opiates might have something to do with Cori's complaint. But "birthing people"? Jonah also posts a defensive tweet from NARAL which blesses the term because it's "inclusive". ("it's not just cis-gender women that can get pregnant and give birth.") Well…

    Birthing-person-of-pearl! (Or for those of a certain faith, Holy Birthing Person of God!) This is a seamless disco ball of absurdity, radiating inanity from every angle. If one of the core tenets of the new Great Awokening is that the term “mother” is divisive or bigoted, then the Great Awokening is doomed (and deservedly so). Don’t tell me conservatives are too obsessed with silly and divisive culture war “distractions,” if in the next breath you’re going to lecture me on the need to erase the term “mother” from the English language.

    One of the most interesting divides on the left is between socialists and critical race theorists. Some of the best pushback on the execrable 1619 Project came from socialists who think making race, as opposed to class, the focal point of the progressive project is counterproductive. It’s a fresh opening of a fascinating old divide that had once been central to the left when Marxism was taken more seriously by serious people. Anything that distracts from the class struggle is a gift to what Randi Weingarten calls the “ownership class.” This argument was applied to everything from Mickey Mouse to the welfare state to slavery reparations.

    My point isn’t that mom-erasure sets back the class struggle, my point is that mom-erasure sets back the transgender cause, and virtually every other left-wing cause as well. People aren’t going to stop calling their mothers “mother” or “mom” or anything of the sort. Kids aren’t going to fall off a swing at the playground and shout, “Birthing person! I have an ouchie!” (And before you accuse me of perpetuating gender stereotypes, if dad is at the playground, they’re not going to shout, “Non-birthing person! I have an ouchie!” either.) And it’s absurd to ask them to, not just because it’s wrong on the merits, but because it’s an utterly doomed project that will invite 100 times more backlash against their cause.

    I'm pretty OK with setting back virtually every left-wing cause, Jonah.

    The amusing thing is that "Progressives" really can't help themselves when it comes to their oddball, jargon-infused, obfuscatory, euphemized language. They can't make their case using normal English.


  • Commie Radio Delenda Est. Tim Graham notes a grim milestone. NPR at 50 Years: Still a Liberal Sandbox.

    National Public Radio is celebrating its 50th anniversary this week in a classic way: asking its fans for money. A fundraising email gushes, “From covering the Vietnam War in 1971 to the COVID-19 vaccination effort today, and everything in between, NPR has delivered fact-based news and trustworthy analysis to millions.”

    Some of that “fact-based news” included “founding mother” Nina Totenberg’s attempts to ruin Douglas Ginsburg’s Supreme Court nomination (successful) and then Clarence Thomas’ nomination (unsuccessful). Years later, she did a syrupy sister act with feminist Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, hosting RBG celebrations at awards shows and film festivals.

    NPR dismissed the pre-election story about Hunter Biden’s alleged laptop as an example of “pure distractions” and then had to issue a correction to a January puff piece that had insisted the laptop story was “discredited by U.S. intelligence and independent investigations by news organizations.”

    We should no more have "National Public Radio" than we should have "National Public Newspaper".


  • "National Public Science" Has Its Downside Too. Matthew Crawford describes How science has been corrupted.

    The pandemic has brought into relief a dissonance between our idealised image of science, on the one hand, and the work “science” is called upon to do in our society, on the other. I think the dissonance can be traced to this mismatch between science as an activity of the solitary mind, and the institutional reality of it. Big science is fundamentally social in its practice, and with this comes certain entailments.

    As a practical matter, “politicised science” is the only kind there is (or rather, the only kind you are likely to hear about). But it is precisely the apolitical image of science, as disinterested arbiter of reality, that makes it such a powerful instrument of politics. This contradiction is now out in the open. The “anti-science” tendencies of populism are in significant measure a response to the gap that has opened up between the practice of science and the ideal that underwrites its authority. As a way of generating knowledge, it is the pride of science to be falsifiable (unlike religion).

    Yet what sort of authority would it be that insists its own grasp of reality is merely provisional? Presumably, the whole point of authority is to explain reality and provide certainty in an uncertain world, for the sake of social coordination, even at the price of simplification. To serve the role assigned it, science must become something more like religion.

    The chorus of complaints about a declining “faith in science” states the problem almost too frankly. The most reprobate among us are climate sceptics, unless those be the Covid deniers, who are charged with not obeying the science. If all this has a medieval sound, it ought to give us pause.

    It's a subtle point, but (I think) correct. Those folks who include "Science is Real" on their virtue-signalling yard sign mottoes are really expressing faith-based belief. An actual science motto would be (at least) a few characters longer: "Science Is Falsifiable".


  • Why Do We Even Have A 'Department of Agriculture' Any More? Well, to shell out farm subsidies, of course. But Baylen Linnekin notes they are in a spot of legal trouble: Vegan Group Sues the U.S. Department of Agriculture for Promoting Dairy Products.

    A lawsuit filed last week in federal court by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and a trio of doctors affiliated with the group claims U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) policies urging Americans to double the average consumption of dairy products has everything to do with protecting and promoting dairy farmers and little or nothing to do with nutrition.

    The suit, filed against the USDA, centers largely on 2020 federal dietary guidelines that recommend Americans consume three servings of dairy every day. These latest dietary guidelines, which are updated every five years, were adopted by the heads of the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and were based on the work of an appointed dietary guidelines advisory committee. While the dietary guidelines don't impose any dietary requirements on individual Americans, they help determine which foods the government serves to prison inmates, members of the military, schoolchildren, and others.

    Lecturing Americans on what to eat is just another job Uncle Stupid doesn't do very well, and shouldn't be doing at all.


  • First Time Appearance At Pun Salad For The Phrase 'Crap Ton Of Money'. Fellow New Hampshire boy Sean Dempsey (how come I never heard of him before?) had a tweet memorialized at Power Line.

    But if you'd like the same idea with more words, here's Veronique de Rugy: The Costs of Our Debt.

    Most studies that estimate the economic effects find that for every 10 percentage point increase in the debt ratio, future economic growth is reduced by 0.2 percentage points. Before the Covid-19 pandemic our debt-to-GDP ratio was 78%, it is now 101%–this constitutes a loss in future economic growth of almost half a percentage point. While at 78% debt we may have grown at 2.5% on average for the years to come, we now may growth at only 2% thanks to our debt addiction. Compounded over the years, this fact means that the average American will be significantly worse over time. With our debt ratio expected to hit 200% in the long-run, the economic reality of Japanese-style stagnation is something we should be cognizant of in the debate surrounding our debt trajectory.

    Milton Friedman was correct: The true measure of government’s size is found in what it spends and not in what it takes in in taxes. Because borrowing allows politicians and citizen-taxpayers to push the bill for today’s spending onto future generations, borrowing encourages too much spending today—thus irresponsibly enlarging the size of government.

    For those of us who desire to keep government small, raising debt levels means a larger and larger increase in the size and scope of government. It also suggests a lack of accountability as well as a lack of transparency. For all these reasons we need to reform entitlement spending, put both large chunks of military and domestic spending on the chopping block, and start selling off federal assets. Better to do it now than during a fire sale later.

    Vero, you had me at "Milton Friedman was correct."

URLs du Jour

2021-05-08

[Amazon Link]

  • Pessimism Is Warranted. A print-Reason article out from behind the paywall will be kind of a downer for many readers. Eric Boehm says The Era of Small Government Is Over.

    It was a full quarter-century ago when President Bill Clinton delivered one of the few quotable State of the Union addresses in American history.

    "The era of big government is over," he proclaimed on January 23, 1996. It was more of a political statement than a policy goal—indeed, Clinton proceeded to spend the next hour outlining a long list of things the federal government ought to do. But it wasn't just a bumper sticker catchphrase. "We know big government does not have all the answers. We know there's not a program for every problem," he explained. "And we have to give the American people [a government] that lives within its means."

    That succinct conception of limited government likely would, if expressed today, make any Democrat effectively unelectable—at least on the national stage. For that matter, the idea that Americans would be able to help themselves best if government got out of the way would place Clinton, circa 1996, outside the emerging mainstream consensus of today's Republican Party. Acknowledging the limits of government power to improve people's lives and worrying about the cost of a large and growing government is, it seems, so last century.

    I hope the lesson will be learned, eventually. I also hope the lesson won't be too painful, but I think the probability of that is getting pretty small.


  • Also Warranted: Skepticism. Science writer Nicholas Wade casts doubt on the Official Story about the Origin of Covid. He presents the two "plausible" theories: the official "Wuhan wet market" story, and the "Wuhan research lab leak" theory.

    Wade presents a lot of information about the molecular biology of viruses. Check it out. Here's the bit that jumped out at me,

    From early on, public and media perceptions were shaped in favor of the natural emergence scenario by strong statements from two scientific groups. These statements were not at first examined as critically as they should have been.

    “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin,” a group of virologists and others wrote in the Lancet on February 19, 2020, when it was really far too soon for anyone to be sure what had happened. Scientists “overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife,” they said, with a stirring rallying call for readers to stand with Chinese colleagues on the frontline of fighting the disease.

    Contrary to the letter writers’ assertion, the idea that the virus might have escaped from a lab invoked accident, not conspiracy. It surely needed to be explored, not rejected out of hand. A defining mark of good scientists is that they go to great pains to distinguish between what they know and what they don’t know. By this criterion, the signatories of the Lancet letter were behaving as poor scientists: they were assuring the public of facts they could not know for sure were true.

    It later turned out that the Lancet letter had been organized and drafted by Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance of New York. Dr. Daszak’s organization funded coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. If the SARS2 virus had indeed escaped from research he funded, Dr. Daszak would be potentially culpable. This acute conflict of interest was not declared to the Lancet’s readers. To the contrary, the letter concluded, “We declare no competing interests.”

    Wade notes that there's "no direct evidence" for either scenario. So it's a question of which is a better fit to the available facts. The lab leak looks pretty good on that score.


  • Also Warranted: Disbelief Of WIRED. And probably every other publication in the Condé Nast stable. TechDirt has a reliably left tilt, but Cathy Gellis doesn't let that stop her from zapping WIRED's recent misrepresentation of her views. Because Thanks To Section 230, I Can Correct Wired's Portrayal Of My Section 230 Advocacy.

    I always thought it would be a great honor to be referenced in the hallowed pages of WIRED magazine. Like Mike, I've been reading it since its beginning, as a then student studying information technology and watching the Internet take hold in the world.

    This week it finally happened, and ugh... My work was referenced in support of a terrible take on Section 230, which not only argued that Section 230 should be repealed (something that I spend a great deal of personal and professional energy trying to push back against) but masqueraded as a factual explanation of how there was no possible reasonable defense of the law and that therefore all its defenders (including me) are, essentially, pulling a fast one on the public by insisting it is important to hold onto. After all, as the title says, "Everything you've heard about Section 230 is wrong," including, it would seem, everything we've been saying about it all along.

    Such an assertion is, of course, ridiculous. But this isn't the first bad Section 230 take and unfortunately is unlikely to be the last, so if that were all it was it might be much easier to simply let it fade into history. But that wasn't all it was, because the piece didn't just make that general statement; it used my own work to do it, and in the most disingenuous way.

    I subscribe to print-WIRED, but I'm on the bubble as far as renewal goes. Probably due to Covid, they've been publishing a lot of navel-gazing articles of late. (I just plowed through "I Called Off My Wedding. The Internet Will Never Forget", a tragic tale of how the Internet is still sending Lauren reminders of her long-cancelled wedding. Eesh, talk about First World Problems.)


  • [Amazon Link]
    Facebook Gives Us Another Reason Why We Won't Be Sad If It's Destroyed. The Wall Street Journal committed the grievous sin of reviewing a book. (Link at right.) The results were Orwellian: Facebook’s Book-Banning Blueprint.

    Amazon this year started its foray into politicized book-banning, pulling a three-year-old book on transgender policy by a conservative think-tanker from its web store. Facebook doesn’t sell books, but it can suppress their distribution when they conflict with a political agenda. The social-media giant now appears to be throttling a Wall Street Journal review of a book on climate science by physicist Steven Koonin, the former top scientist at the Obama Energy Department and provost of the California Institute of Technology.

    Facebook uses so-called fact-checkers to tell it which news articles to suppress. The project has gone far beyond curbing viral hoaxes or dangerous misinformation and aims to limit scientific debate. In March Facebook flagged a Journal op-ed by Johns Hopkins surgeon Marty Makary on the pace at which Americans would develop herd immunity to Covid-19.

    The company now targets the Journal’s book review based on a gazillion-word post on a site called Climate Feedback with the headline, “Wall Street Journal article repeats multiple incorrect and misleading claims made in Steven Koonin’s new book ‘Unsettled.’”

    Amazon hasn't yanked the book yet, so click and buy while you can. (I get a cut.)


  • A Heads-Up For Us (Relative) Youngsters. George F. Will provides (I hope) a sneak preview, spoilers galore: What turning 80 teaches me.

    As Damon Runyon said, “All of life is 6 to 5 against.” So, it is a momentous social achievement that those who turn 80 this month — they are only 18 months older than the president, who is only eight months older than Mick Jagger — must wait five more years to get the satisfaction of joining a decreasingly exclusive club: By percentage, this nation’s most rapidly growing age cohort consists of those 85 and older.

    To be 80 years old in this republic is to have lived through almost exactly one-third of its life. And to have seen so many ephemeral excitements come and go that one knows how few events are memorable beyond their day. (Try to remember the things that had you in a lather during, say, the George H.W. Bush administration.) This makes an American 80-year-old’s finishing sprint especially fun, because it can be focused on this fact: To live a long life braided with the life of a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to an imperishable proposition is simply delightful.

    Not that it matters, but it was nice hearing the Red Sox NESN broadcast team talking about their memories of Willie Mays, who turned 90 the day before yesterday. Say Hey!


Last Modified 2021-05-09 4:47 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-05-07

[Amazon Link]

  • Pretty Much Everyone Except Me. And also Robby Soave, who says Both the Left and the Right Are Exaggerating the Threat Posed by Facebook.

    Charged with determining whether Facebook erred in suspending former President Trump following the January 6 Capitol riots, the Facebook Oversight Board—which exists solely for the purpose of taking difficult content moderation decisions out of Mark Zuckerberg's hands—essentially shrugged and returned the decision to Facebook. The board did rule, however, that the indefinite suspension was inconsistent with the the company's policies, and Facebook should revisit the matter in the next six months.

    A conceivable outcome of this ruling is that Facebook will eventually decide, sometime later this year, that it has little choice but to un-ban Trump. Indeed, the board criticized Facebook for "applying a vague, standardless penalty." One might have expected tech-skeptical conservatives to be somewhat pleased with this ruling, since it was ultimately a rebuke of Facebook, and one that hints at the potential return of Trump.

    Instead, the right had a meltdown.

    And of course, the lefties hate Facebook because it's big and successful.

    Neither side has a coherent description of how things will be better after they destroy Facebook.


  • But Maybe Not Everyone On The Right. The NR editors opine on The Ridiculous Facebook Affair.

    Facebook’s “oversight board” has upheld the ban that the service imposed on President Trump in January of this year, while ordering the company to reconsider whether it should be made permanent. Facebook has six months to respond to the instructions. Evidently, having tried to hand responsibility for his toughest decisions over to a faceless panel, Mark Zuckerberg now finds himself back where he began.

    Every single part of this story is ridiculous. It is ridiculous that Facebook not only has an “oversight board,” but that it expects its users to consider it a meaningful source of due process, rather than as yet another way for the company to make up the rules as it goes along. It is ridiculous that, having concluded that Facebook’s initial decision lacked justification, that “oversight board” decided to uphold it anyway, and then invited Facebook to come up with a way of making it permanent. It is ridiculous that, in response to this decision, President Trump suggested that the core takeaway is that “Radical Left Lunatics are afraid of the truth,” rather than acknowledging that he has been constantly lying since he narrowly lost his re-election campaign last year, and that his lies risked material damage to our system of government. It is ridiculous that, in part to appease Trump’s rage, a host of conservatives have come to agree that private companies ought to have strict “oversight boards,” and that those boards ought in fact to be run by the federal government. It is ridiculous that Republican politicians such as Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, both of whom have been members of the “freedom caucus,” are openly musing about damaging corporations such as Facebook that happen to annoy them. And it is ridiculous that, in response to such musings, elements of the government-happy American Left have decided to talk like Milton Friedman about the sanctity of private business. This affair has brought the best out of nobody.

    I really should log onto "Rollinsford NH Happenings" on Facebook to see if that kitty ever came home. Maybe later.


  • No. See, I Just Willed Myself To Type That. But you might want to read the latest confirmation of Betteridge's law of headlines yourself: Is free will an illusion? After noting that one anti-free will philosopher received death threats:

    The difficulty in explaining the enigma of free will to those unfamiliar with the subject isn’t that it’s complex or obscure. It’s that the experience of possessing free will – the feeling that we are the authors of our choices – is so utterly basic to everyone’s existence that it can be hard to get enough mental distance to see what’s going on. Suppose you find yourself feeling moderately hungry one afternoon, so you walk to the fruit bowl in your kitchen, where you see one apple and one banana. As it happens, you choose the banana. But it seems absolutely obvious that you were free to choose the apple – or neither, or both – instead. That’s free will: were you to rewind the tape of world history, to the instant just before you made your decision, with everything in the universe exactly the same, you’d have been able to make a different one.

    Nothing could be more self-evident. And yet according to a growing chorus of philosophers and scientists, who have a variety of different reasons for their view, it also can’t possibly be the case. “This sort of free will is ruled out, simply and decisively, by the laws of physics,” says one of the most strident of the free will sceptics, the evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne. Leading psychologists such as Steven Pinker and Paul Bloom agree, as apparently did the late Stephen Hawking, along with numerous prominent neuroscientists, including VS Ramachandran, who called free will “an inherently flawed and incoherent concept” in his endorsement of Sam Harris’s bestselling 2012 book Free Will, which also makes that argument. According to the public intellectual Yuval Noah Harari, free will is an anachronistic myth – useful in the past, perhaps, as a way of motivating people to fight against tyrants or oppressive ideologies, but rendered obsolete by the power of modern data science to know us better than we know ourselves, and thus to predict and manipulate our choices.

    If you find yourself to be persuaded by the anti-free will folks quoted in the article, fine. But maybe you should be a little uncomfortable with that: because they're arguing that you really had no choice other than to be persuaded. The screen pixels hit your retinas, sent just the right sequence of electrons across your nervous system, boing, boing, boing. Causing you to say: "I don't believe in free will."

    I'm OK with you saying that. I'm just not sure you should be.

    Also: I've never observed an anti-free will advocate allow their disbelief to make them act any differently from pro-free will believers. They still make decisions, both important and trivial. They guide their kids (I assume) toward good behavior, kind of implying that the kids have a choice.


  • [Amazon Link]
    Hope Not. But Maybe. Abigail Shrier wonders: Has Censorship Become Our Baseline Expectation?.

    Want proof that our norms are shifting? Look no further than our headlines: “Amazon won’t stop selling book questioning transgender youth” noted a surprised New York Daily News on Tuesday. “Amazon overrules employees’ calls to stop selling book questioning mainstream treatment for transgender youth,” declared The Seattle Times. “Amazon Refuses to Stop Selling Anti-Trans Book,” reported an apparently disappointed Edge Media. And yesterday’s NBCNews.com: “Amazon will not remove book advocates say endangers transgender youth.

    For every one of these publications, the baseline assumption is censorship. It is Amazon that “won’t stop selling,” or “overrules employees” or “refuses to stop selling” or “will not remove”—Amazon whose actions strike today’s journalists as significant and surprising.  Amazon the intransigent bookseller, stubbornly insisting on continuing to sell books. Standing up to the calls for censorship is now what surprises us. The numberless calls for book banning no longer do.

    Abigail is involved because it's her book the folks want Amazon to virtually burn. And, at least for now, Amazon link at your right. (As I type: "#1 Best Seller in LGBTQ+ Demographic Studies". Which must be driving the wannabe censors crazy.)

    I have no good explanation for Amazon's disparate treatment of Ryan T. Anderson's When Harry Became Sally. I don't think Amazon does either. But I'm (slightly) encouraged by their refusal to slide any further down that slippery slope.


  • Dubious But Not Unusual. Heather Mac Donald describes Biden’s Dubious Pick for Energy Research.

    President Joe Biden has now taken the push for “diversity” in STEM to a new level. His candidate to head the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the largest funder of the physical sciences in the U.S., is a soil geologist at the University of California, Merced. She has no background in physics, the science of energy, or the energy sector. She has never held a position as a scientific administrator. The typical head of DOE’s Office of Science in the past has had managerial authority in the nation’s major physics labs and has been a physicist himself, Science reports. The new nominee’s only managerial experience consists of serving since 2020 as an interim associate dean of UC Merced’s graduate division.

    Asmeret Asefaw Berhe is, however, a black female who has won “accolades for her work to promote diversity in science,” as Science puts it. Berhe would be the first black woman to head the $7 billion office, and that is reason enough, according to the diversity mantra, why she should oversee X-ray synchrotrons, the development of nuclear weapons, and ongoing research on nuclear fusion. Her nomination requires Senate confirmation; if Berhe will not commit to hiring and grantmaking on the basis of scientific expertise alone, irrespective of race and sex, senators should vote her appointment down.

    On her Wikipedia page, I was amused by the buzzword-heavy title of one of her papers: "Politicizing Indiscriminate Terror: Imagining an Inclusive Framework for the Anti-Landmines Movement".

URLs du Jour

2021-05-06

  • I Wouldn't Bet On Them Understanding, Though. J.D. Tuccille presents the Looming Budget Catastrophe in Pictures So Simple Even Congress Can Understand. And I'll just grab the pictures myself:

    [CBO Deficit Graph]

    [CBO Debt Graph]

    Clicking either graph will take you to a Congressional Budget Office "infographic" page where there is more catastrophic stuff. (And the graphs are interactive there.)

    J.D.'s bottom line:

    There really are limits to how much governments can spend without inflicting pain on the people suffering under their mismanagement. Not that the people elected to Congress and the White House have shown any signs of comprehension or concern.

    Given that these are people capable of running for public office without feeling any apparent sense of shame, is it possible that they're just too stupid to understand our reports? you can imagine CBO economists asking one another as they tossed around the idea for the recent infographic. Does anybody have any crayons?

    And so we end up with pretty pictures illustrating a very unattractive fiscal situation. Maybe drawings can finally deter elected officials from their outrageous spending habits where detailed reports have failed to attract their attention.

    I agree that elected officials are bad. But they are responding to incentives. Specifically, their need to get re-elected. And to do that, they need to appeal to voters who demand stuff without paying for it.


  • Is Liz Cheney Really The Problem Here? Steve Hayes says no: Kevin McCarthy's GOP is Tired of Hearing the Truth.

    In a private appearance in front of a small crowd at Mar-a-Lago in late April, former President Donald Trump pointed supporters to the phony recount taking place in Maricopa County, Arizona, and insisted once again that he won the 2020 presidential election.

    “Let’s see what they find. I wouldn’t be surprised if they find thousands and thousands and thousands of votes, so we’re going to watch that very closely. After that, we’ll watch Pennsylvania and we’ll watch Georgia, and you’re gonna watch Michigan and Wisconsin, and you’re watching New Hampshire—they found a lot of votes up in New Hampshire just now, you saw that, because this was a rigged election,” he said. “Everybody knows it.”

    The election wasn’t rigged, of course, and while Trump’s monomaniacal insistence that it was has convinced a majority of Republican voters, most congressional Republicans understand that Joe Biden is the rightfully elected president.

    I think that's probably true. And "most congressional Republicans" seem too spineless to deliver that unpleasant truth to their constituents. You get booed! Nobody likes that, especially pols whose egos crave adulation.

    Trump's New Hampshire reference is to the election audit in Windham (Commie Radio link, sorry). Trump's claim that "they found a lot of votes up in New Hampshire just now" is unsurprisingly reality-challenged: shortly after the election—six months ago—a hand recount of Windham's ballots found about 300 more votes for four Republican House candidates (each) than the machine-tabulated election night results.

    If anyone knows what happened for sure, they ain't talking. But the conspiracy theorists are pretty sure it Proves Something.


  • Stop Saying That. Both Trump and Liz Cheney have used the term "THE BIG LIE" (yes, in caps) in recent days. That's playing the Nazi card, a lazy rhetorical tactic. And (perhaps worse) not even accurate. See the Jewish Virtual Library's Joseph Goebbels On the “Big Lie”.

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

    This is an excellent definition of the “Big lie,” however, there seems to be no evidence that it was used by Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, though it is often attributed to him.

    Also see Wikipedia.


  • "The Holy Roman Empire was Neither Holy, Nor Roman, Nor an Empire. Discuss." Veronique de Rugy channels Coffee Talk's Linda Richman: Biden's Environmentally Friendly Infrastructure Plan Won't Help Infrastructure or the Environment.

    The Biden administration has made the fight against climate change a central part of its $2 trillion infrastructure plan. This legislation, if it ever sees the light of day, would shovel more than $100 billion of subsidies toward boosting the market for electric vehicles, as well as updating the country's electric grid to make it allegedly more resilient to climate disasters.

    All of these "investments" sound well and good on paper, but if you genuinely care about the environment, don't hold your breath for any real progress. For one thing, Biden's plan is mostly a giant handout to corporations that are already heavily investing in infrastructure. It's also a gift to unions, most of which will do nothing to encourage the type of activities the president claims to support, and they'll make the cost of producing infrastructure more expensive, so we'll probably see less of it.

    Vero goes on to note that a truly "green" plan would be funded by user charges that would moderate demand for carbon. Instead…


  • We're Number Five! Chris Edwards has produced one of those state ranking studies I'm such a sucker for: Best and Worst States for Entrepreneurs.

    My new Cato study examines state and local regulations that create barriers to startup businesses. It looks at occupational licensing, marijuana laws, alcohol licensing, minimum wages, rules on home‐based businesses, and much else. It ranks the 50 states based on an index of 17 variables. The table shows the overall results.

    In Edwards' rankings, New Hampshire is behind only Georgia, both Dakotas, and Colorado. (But if we legalized pot…)

    Still, when you look at the rest of New England, we come out looking like Galt's Gulch: Massachusetts is #34, Vermont is #37, Maine is #39, Rhode Island is #41, and Connecticut is in a solid last place.

    Not that it matters, but Middlesex County (NJ) has been running ads on WBZ TV (Boston) trying to entice tech business to abandon Massachusetts and come on down. (Sample).

    Entrepreneurs: Cato ranks New Jersey in forty-ninth place. Don't believe TV ads, even the ones during Jeopardy!


  • Not Quite "Greed Is Good", But Acceptable. David Harsanyi says Profit Margins Save Lives.

    The New York Times reports that “Pfizer Reaps Hundreds of Millions in Profits From Covid Vaccine.”

    When you see the word “reaps” in the headline, it usually suggests something more devious than merely “earned.” Hollywood rarely “reaps” money. Walmart “reaps.” Solar-panel makers do not “reap.” Oil companies “reap.” The more useful you are to society, it seems, the more likely you are to reap.

    And pharma giant Pfizer reaped revenues of $3.5 billion in the first three months of 2021, estimated to generate around $900 billion in profits. All the company had to do was create a safe drug that effectively alleviated the threat of the most deadly virus we’ve faced in over a century — one responsible for hundreds of thousands of American deaths and a cost of trillions in economic damage — and then manufacture and dispense hundreds of millions of doses in the shortest span of any vaccine ever created.

    So, naturally, progressives want to punish Pfizer.

    I read Atlas Shrugged back when I was 17 or so. May be time to reread.

URLs du Jour

2021-05-05

  • Mr. Ramirez is not a fan of the GOP's Death Wish.

    [How Dinosaurs Became Extinct]

    Wikipedia tells me that the (non-avian) dinosaurs lasted about 130 million years; the GOP will be lucky to last until 2030.


  • What Leaps To Mind: A Boot To The Head. Kevin D. Williamson devotes his weekly column to What the Republican Party Needs vs. What It Wants.

    Mike Wood has done harder things than running for the House of Representatives, and some of those hard things he did in Afghanistan, where he won two Purple Hearts and a Navy Commendation Medal — which made it especially irritating for him to listen to fellow Republicans describe him as a “traitor” during his recent campaign in Texas’s 6th District. Wood has a direct, unadorned way of communicating (one section of his campaign bio begins, “After getting shot . . .”), a refreshingly stoic style in our age of hysterical politics. Emotionally incontinent displays are not his thing, but there is some tension in his voice when he sets that scene.

    “Not a whole lot gets to me, but when some of these nut-jobs called me a ‘traitor,’ it got to me more than it should. I have scars on all four limbs from fighting for this country, but — because I refused to bend the knee to Donald Trump — I’m some sort of Benedict Arnold character. But that’s where our politics are right now.” Hearing about the Utah GOP’s treatment of Mitt Romney — the senator was denounced as a “traitor” and, of all things, a “communist” — Wood saw it as more of the same: “Disgusting.”

    Wood, whom I first met when he was a National Review Institute Regional Fellow in Dallas, is the sort of candidate conservatives used to dream about: under 40, a decorated veteran, articulate, educated (bachelor’s from NYU and an MBA from SMU), a business owner with a big, photogenic family, he had everything going for him with the exception of one thing: apostasy.

    Wood is one of a surprisingly large number of conservatives who opposed Trump in 2016 but supported him — voted for him, anyway, with whatever other qualifications or hesitation — in 2020. But he also has been plainspoken about the Trump movement, which he accurately describes as a “cult of personality” in thrall to loopy conspiracy theories. It was Trump’s post-election performance leading up to the events of January 6 that most troubles Wood, who calls Trump’s conduct “disqualifying.”

    Mike Wood came in ninth in the May 1 special election. The winner was Susan Wright, KDW-described as a "Trump-endorsed member of the State Republican Executive Committee (Drain that swamp!) whose main claim to the seat is that she is the widow of the man who most recently held it."


  • It's the sixtieth anniversary of (New Hampshire boy) Alan Shepard's sub-orbital Mercury flight, making him the first American in space. The Only in Your State site claims You Can Visit Alan Shepard's Grave in his birthplace of Derry. But the fine print says it's just a memorial; his ashes were scattered offshore from his home in Pebble Beach.

    But if you're in the area, the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord is a pretty decent attraction, including a life-size replica of the Redstone rocket that launched Smilin' Al into suborbit. It's surprisingly tiny, a tad over 83 feet from the bottom to the tippy-top of the escape tower.

    Here endeth my tourist boosterism for the day.


  • From Our "Probably Not Meant To Be Funny" Department, Emma Green writes in the Atlantic on The Liberals Who Can’t Quit Lockdown. Sample:

    Even as the very effective COVID-19 vaccines have become widely accessible, many progressives continue to listen to voices preaching caution over relaxation. Anthony Fauci recently said he wouldn’t travel or eat at restaurants even though he’s fully vaccinated, despite CDC guidance that these activities can be safe for vaccinated people who take precautions. California Governor Gavin Newsom refused in April to guarantee that the state’s schools would fully reopen in the fall, even though studies have demonstrated for months that modified in-person instruction is safe. Leaders in Brookline, Massachusetts, decided this week to keep a local outdoor mask mandate in place, even though the CDC recently relaxed its guidance for outdoor mask use. And scolding is still a popular pastime. “At least in San Francisco, a lot of people are glaring at each other if they don’t wear masks outside,” [Professor of medicine at UC San Francisco Monica] Gandhi said, even though the risk of outdoor transmission is very low.

    Science is real, except when we're scared.


  • [Amazon Link]
    Continuing Our Exploration Of Modern American Progressivism… WIRED's Gilad Edelman reviews a new book, and he's not a fan, the (HTML) title is "Josh Hawley’s ‘Big Tech’ Book Overthrows the Tyranny of Reality".

    The displayed headline is milder: "Josh Hawley’s Virtual Reality".

    Anyway, Amazon link on your right. But about Hawley's history:

    Where Hawley’s book departs from the standard anti-tech treatise is in his attempt to tie the current moment into a grand theory of American political history. In Hawley’s telling, people like Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos are the direct ideological descendants of the original Gilded Age robber barons. Their dominance is the culmination of what he calls “corporate liberalism,” a philosophy in which, he writes, the state and big business conspire to deny the common man his independence and self-government. According to Hawley, corporate liberalism became entrenched a century ago in both major political parties, and today, “Big Tech and Big Government seek to extend their influence over every area of American life.”

    And so Hawley spends a large portion of the book recounting these historical roots. The hero of his narrative is Theodore Roosevelt, whom Hawley views as the champion of a small-r republican tradition dating back to the nation’s founding. “He believed that liberty depended on the independence of the common man and on his capacity to share in self-government,” Hawley writes. “He believed concentrations of wealth and power threatened the people’s control and thus their freedom.” Roosevelt established those bona fides by bringing a successful antitrust case against financier J. P. Morgan in 1904. But his republican vision met its tragic demise in the election of 1912, when Roosevelt lost to Democrat Woodrow Wilson, whom Hawley calls “the nation’s first prominent corporate liberal.” Where Roosevelt championed the common man, Wilson favored government by corporate aristocratic elites. Once in office, he put an end to the anti-monopoly movement, settling instead for friendly cooperation with big business. “This was the Wilsonian settlement, the triumph of corporate liberalism that would dominate America’s politics and political economy for a century and reach its apotheosis with Big Tech,” Hawley writes.

    I wouldn't be surprised if Hawley cherry-picks his antitrust history. But I suspect Edelman's analysis more. (Essentially: "everything was cool with antitrust policy until Robert Bork cast his evil mind rays on the topic.")


  • To A First Approximation, Everything. Gus Hurwitz writes at NH Journal/Inside Sources: J&J ‘Pause’ Underscores What Government Gets Wrong About Risk.

    Just 10 days after issuing it, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted their “pause” on the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Initially sparked by six reported cases of a rare blood clot, out of more than 6.8 million doses administered, the decision also came amid a pandemic that continues to infect 50,000 more Americans every day.

    Taken together, these facts highlight that the federal government lacks a coherent or consistent approach to risk. As we continue toward a new normal after the pandemic, we must take stock of what we have learned and update our assumptions about how the government approaches risk.

    One question about the CDC and FDA’s decision was whether the agencies overreacted to a minuscule risk easily outweighed by the benefits of vaccination. Another was that pausing the vaccine would make more people hesitant to get vaccinated. Indeed, the early evidence suggests it has. A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that just 22 percent of unvaccinated Americans said they would consider getting the J&J vaccine were it to be put back in use. For their part, the CDC and FDA respond that their oversight promotes trust in vaccines.

    It seems obvious that (once again) the FDA and CDC managed to kill more than a few extra Americans at the margin. By "doing something". By "taking action".

Without Remorse

[1.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

The official title of this movie is apparently Tom Clancy's Without Remorse, but I can't bring myself to use that. The movie's plot bears only a vague resemblance to Clancy's novel.

And the movie is pretty bad on its own. Michael B. Jordan plays Clancy's tough-as-nails hero, John Kelly (soon to become "John Clark"); he was on hand in the Jack Ryan series to perform acts of wanton violence that Jack could not credibly carry out himself. Clancy wrote Without Remorse as his "origin story".

But it starts out in Syria, where Navy SEALS, containing Kelly, are raiding a house suspected to contain ISIS, but instead contains Russians, and a whole lot more resistance than they expected. They blame the squirrelly CIA guy accompanying them; but the actual truth is…

Well, never mind, because when the team gets back to the States, they are targeted for revenge. Kelly survives the attack on his house, but his wife and unborn daughter do not. And that's setup for the rest of the movie, as Kelly works out his revenge. But…

Oh heck, I'll toss things over to Peter Suderman at Reason, who notes the interesting conspiracy. (Spoiler, but who cares?) A Keynesian Warmonger Gets What He Deserves in the Otherwise Awful Without Remorse.

But if you do get the end (and again, spoiler alert) you'll be treated to a monologue by Guy Pearce, playing the Secretary of Defense, who explains that he's been trying to foment a war with Russia by—actually it doesn't matter, but all the nefariously convoluted stuff that happens in the movie, including a hit that resulted in the death of the hero's wife—in order to bring Americans together and pump up the economy.

"You know who won World War II?" he seethes, in one of those explain-your-evil-plan monologues that villains in bad movies often give about eight minutes before the credits roll. "It wasn't the generals or the admirals," he says. "It was the economists."

I had more fun reading Suderman's review than I did watching the movie. (And yes, I foolishly watched the movie after reading the review. Always trust Suderman.)

URLs du Jour

2021-05-04

[Amazon Link]

  • So What Happened? Via Why Evolution Is True, Daniel A. Kaufman lists Twenty-Five Things Everyone Used to Understand. It's hard to pick, but…

    [8] Not discounting individual cases which may vary widely, as a general matter, no one living in the US and born after the Second World War is less “safe” or experiencing greater hardship or deprivation than those belonging to the generations behind them.

    [9] What we think of as “progress” is and always has been a mixture of steps forward and steps backward. Some things get better and some things get worse. [This in no way contradicts [8].]

    Kaufman considers these propositions to be saying "things that pretty much everyone in the United States understood until five proverbial minutes ago."


  • Our "Believe Nothing You Hear, And Only One Half That You See" Department is working Overtime. Glenn Greenwald notes more media (mis|mal)feasance: Corporate News Outlets Again "Confirm" the Same False Story, While Many Refuse to Correct it.

    On Thursday night, The Washington Post, citing anonymous sources (of course), claimed that the FBI gave a "defensive briefing” to Rudy Giuliani in 2019, before he traveled to Ukraine, that he was being targeted by a Russian disinformation campaign to hurt Joe Biden's candidacy, yet he ignored the FBI's warnings and went anyway. The Post also claimed that the right-wing news outlet OANN was similarly briefed. The claim about Giuliani not only predictably ricocheted all over social media and cable news — where, as usual, it was uncritically treated as Truth — but it was shortly thereafter “independently confirmed” by both NBC Newsde facto CIA spokesman Ken Dilanian along with The New York Times.

    What was the problem with this story? It was totally false. The FBI never briefed Giuliani on any such thing. As a result, The Washington Post had to append this "correction” — meaning a retraction — to the top of its viral story:

    Click through for the retraction's screenshot. What will it take for "Corporate Media" to admit it has a serious credibility problem?


  • Government "Doing Something" Is Overrated. Katherine Mangu-Ward notes a feature of 21st Century America: When Politics Makes It Impossible To Plan.

    To make good choices, people must have a fairly solid sense of what the consequences of those choices will be. But an ever-greater sphere of American life is subject to political risk. A lack of clarity about consequences can lead even people who want to do the right thing down dubious paths.

    For more than a decade, there has been a move away from generating lasting policy through conventional means and toward short-term wins through any mechanism available. This is reflected in everything from the disintegration of the congressional budgeting process to the increase in the use of executive orders to the vestigial involvement of the legislative branch in decisions about treaties and warmaking.

    It doesn't help when the Prez is a doddering old fool who can apparently be talked into any and every money-throwing scheme that's pitched to him.


  • [Amazon Link]
    In Our "Ships Passing In The Night" Department… Steven Koonin and I apparently overlapped in our college years, but I don't remember meeting him. But we definitely took different career paths; among other positions, he was undersecretary for science in the U.S. Department of Energy under President Obama. And (as another unexpected turn) he's written a book, Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters (Amazon link at your right). And it's excerpted at (of all places) National Review Questioning the Climate-Change Narrative .

    ‘The Science.” We’re all supposed to know what “The Science” says. “The Science,” we’re told, is settled. How many times have you heard it?

    Humans have already broken the earth’s climate. Temperatures are rising, sea level is surging, ice is disappearing, and heat waves, storms, droughts, floods, and wildfires are an ever-worsening scourge on the world. Greenhouse-gas emissions are causing all of this. And unless they’re eliminated promptly by radical changes to society and its energy systems, “The Science” says earth is doomed.

    Well . . . not quite. Yes, it’s true that the globe is warming, and that humans are exerting a warming influence upon it. But beyond that — to paraphrase the classic movie The Princess Bride: “I do not think ‘The Science’ says what you think it says.”

    It would be very difficult to dismiss Koonin as a right-wing anti-science denier. (That probably won't stop people from trying.)


  • But The Downeaster Engineer Toots His Horn When I Wave At Him. Randal O'Toole celebrates the Fiftieth Anniversary of a Loser. Some doleful stats:

    Transportation analysts know that, under Amtrak, passenger trains have lost market share of U.S. travel despite billions in subsidies. In 1970, the private railroads carried a trivial 0.29 percent of U.S. passenger travel. By cutting so many passenger trains, Amtrak immediately dropped to around 0.16 percent. By 1991, Amtrak ridership had recovered to 1970’s levels, but other modes of passenger travel also increased, so Amtrak’s share was still 0.16 percent. After that, it declined to 0.10 percent in 2005, which is about where it remained in 2019.

    Followers of the coronavirus know that Amtrak has lost more than 70 percent of its riders during the pandemic, and it may never get all of them back. Thanks to even more federal subsidies, it keeps running trains, but they are nearly empty.

    Amtrak is trying to sell itself as a solution to global climate change. How can it be a solution when it carries less than 0.1 percent of passenger travel and 0.0 percent of freight? Amtrak’s nearly empty Diesel‐​powered trains generate tons of greenhouse gases per hour without saving any anywhere else. Even before the pandemic, intercity buses emitted fewer greenhouse gases per passenger mile than Amtrak’s Diesel trains, and they aren’t getting any of Biden’s proposed transportation funds.

    And Biden wants to give it $80 billion additional funding.

URLs du Jour

2021-05-03

  • I Miss Wimpy. But Mr. Ramirez puts him to good use: Moocher In Chief.

    [Moocher in Chief]

    I suppose a lot of young 'uns (by which I mean people under 70) won't get the reference, but that's OK. Wimpy info is here.


  • If You Prefer Your Bad News To Be Textual Chris Stirewalt will provide it The Era of Big Government is Here.

    The best way to gauge the success of American political movements is not by the depth to which they shape their native party, but the breadth to which they extend into the opposing side.

    By that standard, the American conservative movement hit its lowest ebb in generations last week. Its success was so towering 25 years ago that Democratic President Bill Clinton embraced smaller government, free trade, welfare reform and fiscal discipline. Conservatism’s failure now is so abject that not only has a new Democratic president repudiated those concepts in his first address to Congress, but the Republican Party that for decades made itself synonymous with the conservative movement also increasingly rejects its core tenets. The tidal shift toward big, activist, progressive government that began even before the financial crisis of 2008 has washed over both parties and left conservatism lost at sea.

    Stirewalt recalls that famous Clinton quote: "The era of big government is over." Wrong again, Bill.


  • In Our "Unfortunate Relevance" Department… I recently finished Rod Dreher's new book, Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents. It was one of those "wish I liked it better" books. I liked this essay from James Lindsay better, inspired by the same person inspiring Dreher, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: A Manifesto for the Based.

    When Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote in The Gulag Archipelago, “Let the lie come into the world. Let it even triumph. But not through me,” that was based. Not participating in transparent lies or mass delusion is based. Doing so against the madness of the following crowd is based. Nearly everything that it means to be based is either contained within or predicated upon this one trait of character.

    Solzhenitsyn wrote those words as a result of his observations living in what may have been the most brutal tyranny of human history: Stalin’s USSR. That simplest of refusals—the refusal to lie on command, or even to fit in—is, in the end, the summary of his observations of what kind of people had what it took to resist a totalitarian regime. Keeping your head down while you hope the unconscionable blows over, say, so you can keep your job but none of your dignity, is not based.

    I recommend Solzhenitsyn's essay "Live Not By Lies". I also can't resist quoting Lindsay's final paragraph:

    Freedom is ours for the taking. The lies are coming into the world, and, for the moment, they have begun to triumph. Lord, though, are they funny. Being based is little more, then, than a laughing refusal to be pushed around by the preposterous. It’s a refusal to go along with the crowd when the crowd has gone mad. While many people seem to realize that there is some problem, only the based realize not only that its safer and healthier to break away, but that it’s also hilarious. The based aren’t about to live by ridiculous lies because they’ll be too busy laughing the bottom out from under them.

    Optimistic! I hope he's right. ("It's all fun and games until someone loses their job… oh, wait.")


  • At The Knees, Or Maybe Higher. John Ellis, writing in the probably-paywalled WSJ says Sorry, Professor, We’re Cutting You Off.

    An advanced society functions by creating a series of institutions, telling them what it wants them to do, and funding them to do it. Institutions like the police, fire departments, courts and schools do the jobs society creates them to do. But one American institution—higher education—has decided to repurpose itself. It has set aside the job given to it by society and substituted a different one.

    Higher education had a cluster of related purposes in society. Everyone benefited from the new knowledge it developed and the well-informed, thoughtful citizenry it produced. Individual students benefited from the preparation they received for careers in a developed economy. Yet these days, academia has decided that its primary purpose is the promotion of a radical political ideology, to which it gives the sunny label “social justice.”

    That’s an enormous detour from the institutional mission granted to higher education by society—and a problem of grave consequence. For the purpose that academia has now given itself happens to be the only one that the founding documents of virtually all colleges and universities take care to forbid pre-emptively. The framers of those documents understood that using the campuses to promote political ideologies would destroy their institutions, because ideologies would always be rigid enough to prevent the exploration of new ideas and the free exercise of thought. They knew that the two purposes—academic and political—aren’t simply different, but polar opposites. They can’t coexist because the one erases the other.

    Professor (Emeritus) Ellis suggests withholding the bucks. Parents, send your kids to unwoke schools; governments, start cutting back on blank-check funding.


  • In Our "Good Advice" Department… Bari Weiss suggests a simple strategy. Believe Science: Get Vaccinated. Then Relax. (At Pun Salad Manor, it's mostly "mission accomplished", except for Mrs. Salad, who is constitutionally unable to relax.)

    Bari notes (with illustrative video clips): "It feels as if we are stuck between two deranged and morally confused options."

    No, you do not need to wear a mask, let alone two, when you are a vaccinated person outside jogging. As a rule of thumb, you are incredibly unlikely (it’s almost impossible) to get Covid-19 outside in open, uncrowded spaces. There are very rare exceptions, like standing in a very tight circle and singing loudly with other people for hours. Going for a solo run in a park is not among them.

    And no, you absolutely should not call the police or Child Protective Services on parents who still mask their children anymore than you would call the police or Child Protective Services on a child who is wearing elbow-pads while they are running. You might think it’s unnecessary, excessive and a sign of helicopter parenting. It probably is. Here’s what you can do instead: Mind your own business.

    Especially note Bari's last bit of advice: "You’re not crazy: the public messaging on this has been a disaster."


  • I'll Clear It Up Further. John Hinderaker says he's Glad They Cleared That Up. What? Quoting the entire article:

    The Rochester, Minnesota, school board has declared “Black Lives Matter” to be “government speech.” I always suspected something of the sort, but it is nice to see it made official:

    The Rochester Public Schools board voted unanimously Tuesday evening to make several phrases and images, including “Black Lives Matter,” government speech, meaning the school can’t be held liable for allowing those views while not allowing opposing views.

    Got that? Dissent from the “Black Lives Matter” orthodoxy will not be permitted. The government says so. Several other phrases have been declared “government speech” as well:

    [I]n Rochester schools, speech concerning “Brown lives matter,” “Indigenous lives matter, “Stop Asian hate”, as well as the pride flag, are now all declared official government speech.

    I have to say that the concept of “government speech” is a new one on me. It is quite a few years now since I studied the First Amendment, but the idea of declaring an idea to be “government speech” so as to prohibit anything counter to it seems a bit sinister.

    Well, "Government Speech" is a thing. There's even a Wikipedia article.

    And the interesting thing about that is:

    The doctrine was implied in Wooley v. Maynard in 1977, when the Supreme Court acknowledged a legitimate government interest in communicating an official, ideologically partial message to the public.

    If that case sounds familiar, it's the one where NH resident George Maynard objected to the "Live Free or Die" slogan on his state-issued license plate (there's your "government speech"), taping it over. Which was illegal at the time. (Irony alert.) In a 6-3 decision, Maynard got off.

    So, contra Hinderaker, dissent against "government speech" is permitted; if anyone disagrees, send them to the Wooley v. Maynard decision.

    It's that "government" need not air dissenting opinions itself. E.g., New Hampshire doesn't need to provide alternate-slogan plates saying (for example) "Submit to Authority, Sheeple".

    So Rochester's school board probably on solid legal ground. That doesn't make their speech less odious, it's just permitted.