URLs du Jour

2019-05-28

[Amazon Link]

  • At Granite Grok, Steve MacDonald tells us: You Can Stop the NH Democrat Expansion of the MBTA Money Pit into New Hampshire. The MBTA? Oh, right. The thing now demanding "at least" $10.1 billion to modernize its trains.

    The argument should not be “do trains pay for themselves,” they don’t. They lose money. A lot of money. Forever. Even in major cities with millions of people using them, trains don’t just lose money; they take it away from other priorities.

    So, the question should not be, “do we need or want a train?” It should be “does that train provide something that justifies the significant and permanent loss of revenue from other priorities, every year, forever?”

    Steve also points to an excellent (PDF) document from Dick Lemieaux that excoriates this stupid project from all possible angles.


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson says Welcome to Washington’s Silly Season. Which is now a year-round thing.

    Somebody tried to play a dirty trick on Nancy Pelosi, slowing down and editing a video of her to make it appear as though she were drunk and incoherent. That’s pretty low: Nancy Pelosi is, whatever her other flaws as a public figure, generally sober and incoherent.

    The speaker, for her part, is not exactly conducting her affairs with high seriousness of late. She argued last week that President Donald Trump’s family should stage an “intervention.” The president had briefly attended and then abruptly ended a meeting with Democratic leaders, arguing — not without some reason — that negotiating about taxes and infrastructure with people who pretend to believe that he is guilty of treason and who are seriously talking about impeaching him for . . . something . . . is not the best use of his time. Why waste time on “Chuck and Nancy,” the Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Comprehensively-Useless of American politics, when he could be watching reruns of Fox and Friends?

    It's been said (by Ben Stein's dad, I think) that "If something can't go on forever, it will stop." I have mixed feelings about that. What comes next could be worse.

    Oh well. Dow is up. At least as I type.


  • At PJMedia, Tyler O'Neil has the latest example of how "campaign finance reform" is weaponized: Is This the Next Citizens United? In Supreme Court Appeal, Freedom Foundation Challenges Ruling That Campaign Finance Law Applies to Pro Bono Legal Aid.

    In October 2015, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D-Wash.) accused the Freedom Foundation of breaking the law by not reporting its pro bono legal work as a political contribution. The Freedom Foundation helps workers opt out of union dues if they disagree with a union's political stance, and Ferguson supports unions. A superior court rightly overruled his ridiculous attack on the foundation's pro bono work, but Washington State's Supreme Court ruled against the foundation. Now the Freedom Foundation is appealing this important case to the U.S. Supreme Court, with powerful implications.

    "This case has the potential to do for state campaign finance regulations what Citizens United did for federal law," Eric Stahlfeld, the foundation's chief litigation counsel, told PJ Media this week. He was referring to Citizens United v. FEC (2010), in which the Supreme Court ruled that groups of citizens ("corporations" in legal terms) have free speech in politics and can pay to promote political messages. This limited the impact of campaign finance laws at the federal level, and prevented the government from penalizing a nonprofit (Citizens United) for publishing a video about a political candidate (Hillary Clinton).

    It's (truly) frightening when I hear people use "Citizens United" as a swear word. You know, the law that would have allowed book-banning by the government.


  • And the WSJ editorial page alerts us to the latest drivel from the American Mathematical Society's publising arm: Mathematics for Social Justice: Resources for the College Classroom.

    Mathematics for Social Justice offers a collection of resources for mathematics faculty interested in incorporating questions of social justice into their classrooms. The book begins with a series of essays from instructors experienced in integrating social justice themes into their pedagogy; these essays contain political and pedagogical motivations as well as nuts-and-bolts teaching advice. The heart of the book is a collection of fourteen classroom-tested modules featuring ready-to-use activities and investigations for the college mathematics classroom. The mathematical tools and techniques used are relevant to a wide variety of courses including college algebra, math for the liberal arts, calculus, differential equations, discrete mathematics, geometry, financial mathematics, and combinatorics. The social justice themes include human trafficking, income inequality, policing, environmental racism and justice, gerrymandering, voting methods, and access to education.

    Yes, it's just that bad. My advice: if you see a copy of this book on your kid's math teacher's desk, yank the kid from that school asap.


  • Rod Dreher, writing at The American Conservative: #MeToo Comes For Martin Luther King. New revelations about MLK's … um … sexual peccadillos have not hit the mainstream yet. They may not. But… from a commenter:

    I hope Dr. King remains celebrated; I also hope that his sexual behavior (again, assuming this story is true) is not forgotten. And in the future, when someone on the Left advocates the abolition of Columbus Day, or the taking down of monuments to Washington or Jefferson or many less well-known figures, I hope that people bring up Dr. King, NOT in the spirit of “Whataboutism”, but in order to remind them that there is no incompatibility between celebrating the achievements of people in the past and acknowledging that those people had – as we all do – major flaws.

    Good point. If this has a positive outcome, let it be the return of sanity to discussions about flawed historical figures.

Badlands

[Amazon Link]

A non-Joe Pickett entry from C. J. Box. This is the third entry in his "Highway Quartet", a series of books … well, it's hard to find an overall plot or theme. Still, it's compulsively readable. This particular novel could make a good season of the TV series Fargo, if it were weirded up a bit.

The action centers on Cassie Dewell, the heroine of the previous book in the series (The Highway). Recovering from the horrors she experienced there, she's accepted a new job as chief investigator of a North Dakota town's police force. The town is in the middle of the Bakken Formation oil boom, which in the span of a few years turned it from a dying sleepy farmburg into a boom town. With attendant problems, like drugs and gangs.

Young Kyle Westergaard is the sad victim of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. (Thanks, substance-abusing mom!) He's not stupid, though. He witnesses a fatal car crash, caused by a run-in between two gangs; he takes posession of an ejected bag full of heroin, meth, and cash.

Needless to say, the bad guys want it back. But mom has a boyfriend who's looking to make a quick score from Kyle's interception. Before you can say what an idiot, there's a lot of ruthlessness, violence, gunplay, explosions, and torture. And very cold weather. A real page-turner, in other words.

(There's also some bridging material to link in the previous book and I assume the next book. Which is already on my bookshelf.)

Love Your Enemies

How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt

[Amazon Link]

The author, Arthur C. Brooks, reveals on page 2 that this book was spurred by a conversation he had at a meeting of "a large group of conservative activists in New Hampshire". Hey, they let inactivists in as well, and I was there!

Arthur's speech that day noted that conservatives traditionally lose to leftists when people are asked whether a politician "cares about the problems of people like me". His suggestion to conservatives: frame your proposals better. Fine, but: he was accosted afterward by a woman who thought he was being too nice to liberals: "They are stupid and evil."

Whoa. Political activists have never been especially nice to their opponents, but Arthur argues that things are getting worse, threatening the very fabric of America. We have (see the subtitle) a large and growing "culture of contempt", destroying relationships and hurting the country. And not only hurting the country, hurting the individuals feeling contempt. It ain't good for you, mentally, and probably not physically.

I admit to a continual guilty feeling while reading this book. Because for a few years now, I've described my primary emotion toward politicians as "contempt". With a caveat: Arthur defines "contempt" neatly as "anger mixed with disgust". That doesn't seem quite right in my case, as I tend not to get angry, at least not as angry as I used to.

But I have one of the primary symptoms of contempt Arthur mentions: eye-rolling. Man, sometimes it feels as if they're gonna roll right out of their sockets.

Well, enough about me. Arthur's ruminations on improving one's attitudes toward political opponents are wise, insightful, occasionally funny. He conveniently summarizes his recommendations at the end:

  1. Stand up to the man. Refuse to be used by the powerful. Pols know how the culture of contempt works, and are not shy about pressing their supporters' buttons to "fire them up". Don't play that game.
  2. Escape the bubble. Go where you're not invited, and say things people don't expect. This should be easy in pre-primary New Hampshire. But am I too lazy?
  3. Say no to contempt. Treat others with love and respect, even when it's difficult. Maybe especially when it's difficult.
  4. Disagree better. Be part of a healthy competition of ideas. I will try.
  5. Tune out. Disconnect more from the unproductive debates. I've mentioned my lefty Facebook friends from time to time. Sometimes I disagree in their threads. Resolution: when I feel that I'm repeating myself, I'm probably right. If I said something once, that's enough.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has political opinions and might want to discuss them.