URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Nick Gillespie and I are on the same page. (Except that his page is at Reason and mine is, um, here.) The Last Few Days Exemplify Why I’m Libertarian (and Why You Should Be Too).

    Things are getting uglier by the second in American politics and the sheer awfulness of the current moment perfectly illustrates why I'm libertarian. Do you really want to live in a world where you're constantly living inside either Donald Trump's mind or that of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D–N.Y.) democratic socialist "squad"?

    Our lives are too short, too fleeting, too important to spend all of our waking hours engaged in the systematic organization of hatreds, which is as good a working definition of politics as there is. There's ultimately not a lot of wiggle room between Trumpian conservatism, which demands complete reverence for the Donald and includes bolder and bolder threats to stifle free speech along with free trade, and Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Dealism, which explicitly uses the totalist regimentation of all aspects of American life during World War II as its model. If I wanted to deal with politics all the time, I'd move to a totalitarian country already.

    If the definition of politics as "the systematic organization of hatreds" is unfamiliar, it's from Henry Brooks Adams (1838–1918). Great-grandpappy was John, grandpa John Quincy.

  • At the Library of Economics and Liberty, Scott Sumner explains Why both liberals and conservatives will lose on health care (in the short run). And makes a point that neither side will straightforwardly make:

    The basic problem for both liberals and conservatives is that their proposed reforms would imply a huge fall in income to the health care industry, and that’s not politically feasible for the following two reasons:

    1. Liberals favor European style health care, which typical costs about 10% of GDP. It’s not politically feasible to raise enough revenue to pay for a Medicare program costing 17% of GDP. Indeed that sum is greater than the total amount of revenue currently raised by the federal government. Socialized medicine in America can only be achieved by slashing the incomes of doctors, nurses, administrators, support staff, and other medical industry personnel to much lower levels.

    2. Conservatives favor a more market-oriented approach, as in Singapore. But Singapore spends only 5% of GDP on health care, a sum that would be completely unacceptable to America’s health care industry.

    Liberals believe their opponents on health care are heartless conservatives. Conservatives believe their opponent are starry-eyed liberals. Both are wrong; it is the health care industry itself that blocks all meaningful reforms.

    Our only hope is… naahh, it's hopeless.

  • I am also on the same page as Andrew C. McCarthy: Donald Trump's Tweets: Not Racist, but Stupid.

    What does “racist” even mean anymore?

    Racism is the headline on President Trump’s Sunday tweets — the media-Democrat complex assiduously describes them as “racist tweets” as if that were a fact rather than a trope. I don’t think they were racist; I think they were abjectly stupid.

    Like many Americans, I am tired of being lectured about racism by racists and racialists, individuals whose full-field explanation for all life’s issues is this matter of genetic happenstance that should be increasingly irrelevant in a pluralistic society.

    Is it “racist” to tell people who have contempt for the country — who abhor the common culture that makes us American — that they ought to go back to where they came from? It has nativist and reactionary overtones, but I don’t think it is racist. I’ll grant this much, though: It is closer to actual racism than the Left’s usual demagogic claim: I am a racist if I extend to a non-white nincompoop like Ilhan Omar the courtesy of taking her seriously as an individual and a public official, as if it were her race rather than the idiocy of what she says that moves me to dissent.

    I stand by my scatological description from yesterday.

  • In my personal celebration of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, I watched the new documentary last night. At Cato, Chris Edwards has thoughts on it too. Apollo 11: A Rare Federal Success.

    If the mission were pursued today, the president would be tweeting undignified comments and hogging the spotlight. The launch would be years behind schedule and the computers would jam like during the Obamacare launch. Environmental lawsuits would shut down the launchpad. Labor regulations would slow astronaut training. NASA executives would be indicted for graft. Federal budget squabbling would close the federal government and mission control, leaving the astronauts to find their own way home from the moon. It would be a mess.

    Afraid so. Governments are good at (1) killing millions of people and (2) throwing tons of money at technical projects to bring off a gimmicky (albeit glorious) feat with little follow-through. And the US is getting worse at the latter.

  • In our "From the Daily Wire, so who knows if it's true" department: REPORT: Facebook Censors Peaceful Saint Augustine Quote As ‘Hate Speech’.

    A Massachusetts pro-life Catholic man claims that Facebook censored a peaceful quote from the theologian St. Augustine of Hippo as "hate speech."

    According to LifeSiteNews, Dominic Bettinelli published the St. Augustine quote on his Facebook page after two priests with whom he was friendly were allegedly censored by the social media platform for publishing the same words, arguing they violated "community standards on hate speech."

    The quote, which originates from one of the saint's homilies, essentially repeats Jesus Christ's command in Matthew 7:3 for people to focus on their own sins instead of focusing upon the sins of others.

    I gotta say that Matthew 7:3 ("Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?") is entirely out of whack with modern sensibilities.

The Second World Wars

How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won

[Amazon Link]

Irrelevant personal details: Mrs. Salad and I decided to get a non-resident "family" card at the Portsmouth (NH) Public Library. It's a beautiful facility, the card is (probably) a steal at $95/year, and their selection is great.

Specifically, they had this book readily available on their shelves. The University Near Here has it as well, but some grabby faculty member has had it on extended loan for a couple years now. (Current due date 4/11/2020, and who knows if it won't be renewed then?)

Sigh. End of rant.

The author, Victor Davis Hanson, will be well known to anyone who's been reading in the dextrosphere for the past few years. He's at the Hoover Institution, and is professionally a historian, primarily a military one. Mostly, until now, concentrating on ancients: Rome, Greece, those guys.

But he does a good job with something more modern here. The title is a little attention-grabbing: the Second World Wars? Reflecting the fact that, as implied by the subtitle, the 1939-1945 conflagration was really the first conflict fought around the globe, in a dizzying array of venues. Each had its special qualities.

The book is not chronological; instead, each section/chapter focuses on a different theme/subtheme and how it played out in differing countries. It looks at the "wise and foolish" choices the combatants made in deciding to enter the conflict, and in waging their parts thereof.

For example, there's a chapter devoted to siegecraft, with examples of Leningrad, Stalingrad, Sevastopol, Tobruk, Singapore, Some successful for the siegers, some disastrous. Some puzzling, like the Japanese (essentially) walking into Singapore without a lot of fuss.

The point that keeps resonating is the macabre efficiency of modern states in slaughtering not only their military opponents, but also their civilian opponents. And, often, their own military and civilians. VDH puts the body count north of 60 million, a nearly unimaginable number. (About 80% of this inflicted by the Axis powers; it was an unusual war in that the side that killed the most people lost.)

VDH is also quite good at describing the herculean efforts in the design and production of military hardware. He is rhapsodic about the Soviet T-34 tank, and the American B-29 bomber. I previously lacked sufficient appreciation at how much bigger the B-29 was in comparison with the B-17 and B-24. And how Curtis LeMay ignored the B-29's ostensible mission goal, high-altitude strategic bombing, and turned it to low-altitude incendiary bombing.

Finally, VDH gives a good picture of how stupid decisions doomed the Axis. Example bad ideas: Japan bombing Pearl Harbor; Germany declaring war on the US; Germany invading the USSR. And many more.

Apollo 11

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Fortuitously, this DVD arrived from Netflix so we could watch it amidst all the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the event. It's a bare-bones documentary, using a considerable amount of recently-unearthed 70mm footage, never before seen. The movie was released in IMAX theaters earlier this year, and watching it off a DVD at home is a definite second-best. But it's still good.

All the footage is contemporaneous. There are no after-the-fact interviews, no what-does-it-all-mean chin pulling, and only a little effort to drag in contemporaneous events. (There's one reference to Teddy Kennedy's Chappaquiddick accident, one report of the Vietnam War being relatively quiet.) The sonorous voice of Walter Cronkite is occasionally heard. Also Richard Nixon.

So there's not a lot that's new for those of us who obsessively followed the mission 50 years ago. But (hey) I didn't know that the astronauts played John Stewart's "Mother Country" on their tiny tape player on the way home. In a brilliant moving moment, the filmmakers replace replace the tinny playback with the high-fi version. This might be the most patriotic movie moment I'll experience all year. "Oh, mother country, I do love you…".

This movie also shows the picture of Neil Armstrong in First Man to be (at best) misleading. First Man's Armstrong was a closed-off introvert; but the real Armstrong here is affable and upbeat, occasionally funny.