URLs du Jour


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  • In his Tuesday column at National Review, Kevin D. Williamson writes on Karma.

    In the 1980s, the belief that God was inflicting a horrible, deadly disease on people as a punishment for their sins and to make an example of them was the kind of thing trafficked in by the Reverend Jerry Falwell and other low-rent bigots of that kind. Today, it is an idea put forward by, among others, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times and the comedy writers of Saturday Night Live.

    About 700,000 people in the United States have died of AIDS since the beginning of the ongoing epidemic some 40 years ago; COVID-19, which has been with us less than one year, has killed more than 200,000 Americans, and it is not unlikely that it will outpace, perhaps even far outpace, AIDS in its body count, though it is possible that new treatments or a vaccine will prevent that. One of the people suffering from COVID-19 is a 74-year-old man who is, for the moment, president of these United States. “In a moment that feels biblical,” Dowd writes in her invariably banal New York Times column, “the implacable virus has come to his door.” Imagine having written that about, say, Michel Foucault in 1982 or Freddie Mercury in 1987.

    People will object: It's not the same thing! But it is.

  • However. It's not as if Trump is blameless. Yuval Levin and (former FDA head) Scott Gottlieb opine in the WSJ on The Trump Coronavirus Spread.

    All should hope and pray for a quick recovery for the president, his wife and the staffers, elected officials, journalists and others who seem to have been victims of a spreader event. But it didn’t have to happen. Mr. Trump and his team aren’t passive victims of bad luck and an aggressive virus. For months, some of them condoned nonchalance about the virus, mocking precautions such as wearing masks as marks of weakness and dismissing public-health concerns as overwrought.

    This attitude was reflected in policy choices that put the president and nation at risk. Even if we assume that China’s reported Covid figures—a few dozen cases a day—are a fiction, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam are seeing a combined average of fewer than 1,000 new cases a day. All of these countries combined are reporting fewer new daily Covid cases than Los Angeles.

    I would (however) add the caveat that Trump was certainly not in full control of how Los Angeles dealt with Covid-19. Federalist system, right? Last I checked?

    And also: it's a free country. Lots of people have the odd notion that they should make their own calls on risky behavior. This strongly suggests that they be informed as fully and accurately as possible about what those risks are. Unfortunately, nearly all agree the governments at all levels have failed that relatively simple task.

  • An interesting thought from Tyler Cowen in his Bloomberg column: How Much Worse Can Things Get? That Question May Be a Good Sign.

    It’s a widely shared belief that technological and scientific progress in America has slowed down since the moon landing. You hear it from Peter Thiel, Robert Gordon, Ross Douthat and other commentators. The U.S. Federal Reserve and the Congressional Budget Office now incorporate lower productivity into their forecasts, and actual productivity has been sluggish.

    The larger question is how to know when this great stagnation is ending. Counterintuitively, the answer might be when people are most upset — because that’s generally how most humans react to change, even when it proves beneficial in the longer run. These feelings arise in part from the chaos and disruption brought about by some pretty significant changes.

    One direct benefit of Covid-19: it may cause permanent good changes in the FDA drug approval process. (Why shouldn't we all get a whack at that drug cocktail the President got at Walter Reed?)

  • And Cato's Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors 2020 brings good news to us Granite Staters:

    Four governors were awarded an A on this report: Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, Kim Reynolds of Iowa, Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, and Mark Gordon of Wyoming. Seven governors were awarded an F: Ralph Northam of Virginia, Andrew Cuomo of New York, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Phil Murphy of New Jersey, J. B. Pritzker of Illinois, Kate Brown of Oregon, and Jay Inslee of Washington.

    Later details (footnotes elided):

    Chris Sununu has led New Hampshire as governor since 2017 after a career as an engineer and business owner. Sununu has defended New Hampshire’s status as a low‐tax state and kept general funding spending close to flat in recent years. While neighboring Massachusetts imposed a costly payroll tax to fund a new paid leave program, Sununu has twice vetoed such a plan in his state. He said a payroll tax is “an effective income tax,” which would “destroy the New Hampshire advantage.” Sununu also cut the rates of the state’s two main business taxes and defended the cuts from legislative efforts to undo them. The governor is proud that New Hampshire is top‐rated on economic freedom and has worked hard to keep it that way.

    Even so, I'm still voting for Darryl Parry. Sorry, Governor.

  • And our Google LFOD News Alert rang for this head-scratcher in Government Technology magazine's website: Should Government IT Be Hiring Hackers.

    About a decade ago I was sitting in a large auditorium listening to valedictorian speeches at my daughter’s high school graduation ceremony. Most of the five-minute speeches seemed too long, with predictable thank-yous to parents and teachers, hopes and dreams, future service, etc.

    But one bright young lady shocked everyone. “I’ve examined my options … visited colleges … taken my parents’ money … and have decided to buy a ship. I plan to live life as a pirate!” she declared.

    Her passionate appeal to her classmates was to break the rules. Go the wrong way on one-way streets. Don’t just reach for the stars — explore the universe. Live free or die. Don’t let others define you. Follow your heart.

    I can't recommend the article, it's full of clichés. The interesting thing to me: the valedictorian thought that LFOD fit in well with the recommendation to "Go the wrong way on one-way streets." I hope she didn't move here.

Last Modified 2024-01-21 10:36 AM EDT

The Star Beast

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Another book down on the reread-Heinlein project. (Leaving 21 to go.) This one is in his juvenile series from the 1950s. My recollection is that I read it once in my youth (sometime in the early 1960s). I bought the Ballentine/Del Rey paperback at some point in the late 1970s, can't remember if I actually reread it then, though. But (yay!) I got 'er done this time.

Teenager John Thomas Stuart IX comes from a long line of explorers and risk-takers. While on an early interstellar expedition, his great-granddad picked up a cute creature on a remote planet, brought him back to Earth, named him "Lummox". Unfortunately, that expedition was so early, they were not sure what star system they were exploring at the time, so Lummox's home planet remained unknown.

But years later, Lummox has grown to the size of a Triceratops, and is even more heavily armored. One day, bored, he goes exploring, accidentally wreaking property damage and consternation upon John's neighbors. Demands grow for Lummox's destruction.

But in the meantime, a new race has made itself known to humanity. They are demanding the return of a Very Important Entity, stolen from their planet years back. And they are threatening planetary destruction unless their Entity is returned.

It would be surprising if that were a coincidence, and it's not.

You might expect an explicitly "juvenile" book would concentrate on young John Stuart and his efforts to keep Lummox safe. But much of the book is devoted to Mr. Kiku, a career bureaucrat (today we'd call him a member of the "deep state") devoted to managing peaceful relations with a host of alien races. He takes on the thorny task of preserving Lummox from Terran xenophobes, and also avoiding that whole Earth-destruction thing. This involves very little action, but lots of talk, dealing with idiocy, bypassing ignorant superiors, and political maneuvering.

Don't get me wrong: I found that stuff good, and interesting, and actually hilarious in parts. (Heinlein had a good ear for that sort of thing.) But I'm kind of surprised that juveniles of the day would sit still for it.

I guess they did, though. I did.

Last Modified 2024-01-23 2:32 PM EDT