URLs du Jour

2020-04-28

[Amazon Link]
Our Amazon Product du Jour is $30 hardcover, but it will probably go down by it's August 4 publication date. The Kindle version is $15 and it probably won't go down.

No, I won't be buying it myself. I'm sure someone will let me know if, against all odds, he says something interesting. Like the title, though.

  • It appears a certain state needs more of the Live Free or Die spirit: Laredo pair allegedly violated coronavirus stay-at-home order with beauty businesses. That's Laredo Texas.

    "Both of the violators independently solicited customers via social media. On both cases, an undercover officer working on the COVID-19 task force enforcement detail made contact with each solicitor to set up an appointment for a cosmetic, beauty service that is prohibited under the emergency ordinance," police said in a statement.

    Et tu, Texas? Anyway, my sympathies to Ana Isabel Castro-Garcia and Brenda Stephanie Mata. Who, I'm pretty sure, will be dealt with more harshly than your average Laredo hooker or pot smoker. Their crime, trying to make a living with a mutually agreed commercial transaction, is unforgivable!


  • At National Review, Jonathan S. Tobin notes that, for the New York Times, Some Conspiracy Theories Are More Equal Than Others.

    In the United States, left-wing megadonor George Soros tends to be resented by right-wingers for his massive funding of leftist protest movements and the Democratic Party. Conservatives have launched polemics against Soros and his Open Society Foundations over what he and his admirers call “democracy building” but that they see as a radical agenda that undermines the freedoms of the liberal order. The New York Times casts such polemics in a sinister light. An October 2018 feature described a campaign of “vilification” of Soros that had moved from “the dark corners of the internet and talk radio to the very center of the political debate.” What complicates matters is that Soros has been the focus of anti-Semitic invective, especially in his native Hungary, where he has been a tenacious opponent of the Viktor Orban government.

    Some on the right have tried to link activists working to defeat Donald Trump in 2016 and to derail the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice to Soros’s billions. As the Times presents it, those efforts were inherently illegitimate, even if the activists did in fact get funding from one of Soros’s foundations. Anti-Trump and anti-Kavanaugh were simply liberal causes; questioning the funding and organizing behind such causes amounted to conspiracy-mongering rooted in hatred and hostility to democracy.

    Yet when right-wingers took to the streets in recent weeks to protest coronavirus lockdowns as a violation of their civil rights, the Times took a page out of the same anti-Soros playbook. Its coverage of the demonstrations, rather than analyzing their merits or lack thereof, was aimed at casting doubt on their legitimacy. Recalling its coverage of activists who opposed the passage of Obamacare a decade ago, the newspaper’s focus was on those who provided funding and legal support to the demonstrators. A front-page headline read, “The Quiet Hand of Conservative Groups in the Anti-Lockdown Protests”; an op-ed titled “Who’s Behind the ‘Reopen’ Protests,” by Lisa Graves, appeared the same day.

    And then there's…


  • Jacob Sullum in Reason, observing that When It Comes to Covering Trump, The New York Times Has Abandoned Any Distinction Between Reporting and Opinion.

    Two recent New York Times stories raise the question of whether the paper any longer makes a distinction between news and opinion when it comes to covering Donald Trump. One piece, identified as a "political memo," makes the case that the president is not nearly as smart as he thinks he is, while the other, presented as a content analysis of Trump's comments during COVID-19 briefings, argues that he indulges in unprecedented self-praise, self-pity, and blame shifting.

    Those portrayals will strike Trump's critics, presumably including most Times readers, as essentially accurate. But they do not belong in the news section unless the Times has abandoned any pretense that its reporting, as distinct from its opinion section, aspires to even-handedness and political neutrality. While the reality has always been quite different, the paper's bias in its news coverage has never been more blatant.

    Well, perhaps in the Walter Duranty era.


  • Pierre Lemieux examines a very old cliché about Owing the Public Debt to Ourselves.

    The Economist is far from alone in making the snaky sort of statement that appears in “After the Disease, the Debt” (April 23, 2020):

    In fact a country’s public debt is not like a household’s credit-card balance. When the national debt is owned by its citizens, a country in effect owes money to itself.

    We may agree with the first part of the statement: the government’s debt is not like a credit-card balance, for the simple reason that a country is not a household or an individual. But the second statement—we owe the public debt to ourselves—does not make much sense.

    If we owed the money to ourselves, we could simply default. We could then sue ourselves and force ourselves to pay damages to ourselves. Or we could prosecute ourselves for fraud. But what would happen if we did not pay the damages or fine due to ourselves? Could we send ourselves to debtors jail? And if we did and later escaped, would we be manhunting ourselves? There is in collectivism something of the snake eating itself.

    People who trot this out may be innocent. Or they might be trying to hide the facts about who's getting stuck with the bill.


  • And finally, Eric Raymond has a computer-geek note about a term I'd never heard until now, but is perfect: Lassie errors.

    Lassie was a fictional dog. In all her literary, film, and TV adaptations the most recurring plot device was some character getting in trouble (in the print original, two brothers lost in a snowstorm; in popular memory “Little Timmy fell in a well”, though this never actually happened in the movies or TV series) and Lassie running home to bark at other humans to get them to follow her to the rescue.

    In software, “Lassie error” is a diagnostic message that barks “error” while being comprehensively unhelpful about what is actually going on. The term seems to have first surfaced on Twitter in early 2020; there is evidence in the thread of at least two independent inventions, and I would be unsurprised to learn of others.

    I'm going back into my code, and replacing some of the error messages with "Woof! Woof! Timmy's fallen in a well!"