URLs du Jour


  • At Cato, Alan Reynolds asks the musical question: Will Congress Repeat the Worst Blunder of the First "Stimulus" Bill?.

    A bipartisan Congressional group is eager to borrow and spend another $900 billion on a new COVID-19 bill. Yet they appear determined to repeat the most wasteful political stunt of the last “stimulus bill.”

    On December 17, The Wall Street Journal reported that “the package includes another round of direct payments to households,” which was recently added back into the mix after “The Trump administration [via Treasury Secretary Mnuchin] … proposed sending $600 checks.”

    Borrowing money to send everyone a little check may sound clever to myopic politicians. But it is morally indefensible because it does nothing address to the problem of helping those injured by the pandemic itself or by related state‐​mandated business restrictions and stay‐​at‐​home orders Congress should focus on targeted COVID relief, not scattershot direct payments – the overwhelming bulk of which would go to employed people who were not economically injured by the pandemic.

    This seems to be one of those rarities where Betteridge's law of headlines fails.

  • At Why Evolution is True, Jerry Coyne brings some disappointing news: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar calls for censorship on the Internet: of celebrities whose opinions he dislikes.

    Former basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has taken up a new career as a writer and activist, and he’s pretty good at it. Well, what I mean is that I often agree with what he says, like decrying the failure to call out anti-Semitism in sports. (“Calling out”, though, means just that; it doesn’t mean censorship.)  And yet he’s also defended the violence accompanying this summer’s racial protests.

    And yes, Abdul-Jabbar is also a bit woke, which isn’t too bad so long as he’s not calling for censorship or other authoritarian actions. Sadly, in his new column at The Hollywood Reporter, where he writes regularly, that’s exactly what he does. He thinks that social media companies should “slap warnings” not just on posts with false claims, but also on posts that “incite violence or are harmful to society.” Who, though, gets to decide what’s violent or harmful? Guess!

    Lefties like Coyne are too rare these days.

  • Paul Sperry of RealClearInvestigations has Georgia on his mind: With U.S. Senate Runoffs Near, Georgia's Not Prosecuting Its Unprecedented Number of Double Voters.

    More than 1,700 Georgians were singled out for illegally casting two ballots in 2020 elections — including last month’s hotly contested presidential race -- but their fraudulent votes weren't canceled out, according to state election officials. And so far, none of the cheaters has been prosecuted, raising concerns about continued fraud as Georgia prepares to vote again in twin U.S. Senate runoff elections next month.

    What the heck is wrong with Georgia?

  • And if you can stand yet another "Dr. Jill" post, here's Kyle Smith with the second part of his exposé on Jill Biden's Weak Dissertation.

    To call Jill Biden’s dissertation thin gruel is an insult to gruel. Whatever meager substance puddled in Bob Cratchit’s miserable bowl at mealtime was a bountiful feast compared with this paper. I wrote yesterday about the problems with this capstone project, the foundation of her Ed.D. degree and of the insistence of so many in recent days that we must call her “Dr.”

    Mrs. Biden’s only original research consists of interviews with two — that’s right, two — ex-students and a few colleagues at Delaware Technical Community College, where she used to teach, plus the results of a vacuous questionnaire she wrote that was returned by about 150 people who worked or studied there. Oh, and she also called two nearby community colleges seeking interviews about their retention rates. One of them wouldn’t answer the question; the other wouldn’t assign anyone to speak to her at all. Telling us about this misadventure serves no academic purpose, though it does fill up four pages of her generously spaced paper. The transcripts of her group chats with campus figures and colleagues take up nearly 30 pages out of 129. The questionnaires eat up another 18 pages.

    I've seen some folks gripe about how mean and awful Kyle is being to Dr. Jill. Apparently that "speak truth to power" thing only applies to White Male Republicans.

Last Modified 2023-05-16 6:41 AM EDT

Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself

A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

To straighten out the timeline: this 2010 book is (more or less) the transcript of a multi-day inteview the author, David Lipsky, carried out with David Foster Wallace (DFW) in 1996 during the end of DFW's book tour in support of his big novel, Infinite Jest. Lipsky was working under the aegis of Rolling Stone magazine, but (apparently) the article that was supposed to result didn't make it into print until after DFW's suicide in 2008 at the age of 46.

The book was made into a 2015 movie, The End of the Tour which I watched earlier this year. I guess I liked the movie well enough, and was enough of a DFW fan, to get this book from the Portsmouth Public Library.

DFW is, well, complex. (I can see how this might have gone disastrously, but he and Lipsky seem to have taken to each other.) He's both reclusive and revealing, depending on the subject. His tastes are varied; he is, of course, up to speed on his writing peers, knowledgable about literary theory, able to rattle off paragraphs about it. On the other hand his current reading is an (unnamed) novel by Robert Heinlein. And he's most fond of movies "with things that blow up". (He and Lipsky take time out to go see Broken Arrow at the Mall of America.)

Along the way: a considerable amount of biography, musings about fame, drugs, dogs, old TV shows, women, and more. Some insightful comments. (And other asides that sound a lot more profound than they are: see the book title.) There's remarkably little politics: I was somewhat surprised to see DFW mention Hayek's The Road to Serfdom (I think) favorably. But he's fashionably down on actual conservative politicians, referring, e.g., to the "Reagan spasm".

Oh, yeah: prodigous amounts of tobacco are consumed over the course of the book. (For DFW, both cigarettes and chaw.)

Last Modified 2024-06-03 5:59 AM EDT

The River

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

The third book on my Edgar Award Nominees reading project.

It's a harrowing tale of two Dartmouth College chums, Jack and Wynn, who decide to canoe the remote Maskwa River in northern Canada. (Semi-fictional apparently, but a little Googling says that it's based on the Winisk River,) "Remote" means: no authorities or facilities until you make it to the Cree Indian village of Wapahk on the shores of Hudson Bay.

The lads are well-prepared, but things start going wrong. For one thing, a forest fire is bearing down on the river. And although it's remote, they run into people. First, a couple of asshole Texan men; then, they overhear a dreadful argument between a man and a woman. Jack and Wynn are as well-prepared as the very best Boy Scouts, but nobody could be prepared for the subsequent dreadful events.

The author, Peter Heller, is both a canoeist and a poet. His descriptions of the trip are meticulously detailed, down to a precise list of the provisions and equipment the boys are carrying. The style is unusual for a thriller, showing the author's poetic streak: lots of unexpected, interesting descriptions with unusual vividness.

Last Modified 2024-01-23 2:06 PM EDT