URLs du Jour

2020-12-29

[Amazon Link]
You'll see numerous results when you search Amazon for "cat selfie" products, but today's Product du Jour is "Amazon's Choice", so it's obviously superior. Even though that cat looks kind of scared/pissed.

In other news, my post yesterday tweaking Netflix for labelling my DVD queue entry for Heaven Can Wait as a "Very long wait" seems to have done the trick; they're sending one out to me today!

  • Kevin D. Williamson has had it with a journalistic quirk: ‘Scary’ Monsters.

    One of the words I would abolish from our political lexicon is “scary.” It is an insipid, empty adjective with its roots in “one weird trick”–style digital gimmickry, beloved of such master click-baiters as the editors over at Vox. A recent example comes from our friends (“If a man’s character is to be abused, there’s nobody like a relation to do the business”) over at The Bulwark, which carried a headline reading: “The Scary Spectacle of Trump’s Last Month in Office.”

    (The piece, by Brian Karem, opens: “Some may think of these as ‘the last days of Pompeii.’ If that reference strikes you as too erudite to be fitting, you might prefer to think of the month ahead as ‘the last days of chaos in a blender.’” To borrow from Margaret Thatcher: If you have to tell people you’re erudite. . . . And The Last Days of Pompeii was inescapable as a miniseries on ABC — as allusions go, not exactly Finnegans Wake.)

    “Scary” used in this way is irritating for a half a dozen reasons. One of them is that it is a base-stealing stratagem, a way of suggesting, usually in a headline, that the following matter is shocking or revelatory. And what follows almost always is something that is neither shocking nor revelatory. In the Bulwark piece, the “scary” headline is undercut by the copy itself: “The final days of the Donald Trump administration are upon us, and they look much like every other day at the White House for the last four years.” To which some might reply: “Oh, but every other day at the White House for the last four years has been scary, too!”

    In which case, grow the . . . heck . . . up.

    I'm pretty sure he was itchin' to use a different word than "heck" there in the last paragraph.

    But, yeah, now I'm gonna be hypersensitive about using "scary" myself. For at least a day or two.


  • At the Federalist, David Marcus says it well: Dr. Fauci Admits He Has Treated The American People Like Children.

    This quote, which has been rightfully making the rounds, really tells the whole tale. Asked why he changed his mind about how much vaccination would result in herd immunity, Fauci said, “When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent … Then, when newer surveys said 60 percent or more would take it, I thought, ‘I can nudge this up a bit,’ so I went to 80, 85. We need to have some humility here …. We really don’t know what the real number is. I think the real range is somewhere between 70 to 90 percent. But, I’m not going to say 90 percent.”

    This is a problem. Fauci is clearly admitting that he was not simply telling the American people what he believed to be true, he was instead trying to manipulate us into behaving how he wants. And it’s not the first time. Back in March, Fauci told Americans not to wear masks. He now claims he did so largely because he feared a shortage. So, once again, instead of just giving us the unvarnished scientific truth, as he understood it, he told us only what he thought it was good for us to know.

    One of my mantras in explaining public policy is: When you treat people like children, you shouldn't be surprised when they act like children.


  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum is also all over The Fauch for a different quote Is Anthony Fauci Right That Federalism Undermined the U.S. Response to COVID-19?. (Does Betteridge's law of headlines apply here? You bet.)

    Anthony Fauci, an infectious disease expert who has played a leading role in advising the Trump administration on COVID-19, thinks federalism has undermined America's response to the pandemic. "The states are very often given a considerable amount of leeway in doing things the way they want to do it, as opposed to in response to federal mandates, which are relatively rarely given," Fauci, who has directed the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, recently told BBC Radio 4. "What we've had was a considerable disparity, with states doing things differently in a nonconsistent way….There have been a lot of factors that have led to the fact that, unfortunately for us, the United States has been the hardest-hit country in the world, but I believe that disparity among how states do things has been a major weakness in our response."

    The "leeway" that bothers Fauci is required by the Constitution, which gives states the primary responsibility for dealing with public health threats under a broad "police power" that the federal government was never given. So his beef is not simply with the way COVID-19 policy happened to play out in the United States. It is an objection to the basic structure of our constitutional design, which limits the federal government to specifically enumerated powers that do not include a general mandate to fight communicable diseases or protect public health. Although Congress has invoked its authority over interstate and international commerce to justify certain disease control measures, the power to deal with epidemics lies mainly with the states, as the Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized.

    Jacob goes on to note that Fauci is wrong both in theory and in practice.

    Theory: however imperfectly, local officials are more responsive to their constituents, more attuned to local conditions, and different policies allow us to judge their relative effectiveness.

    Practice: Your Federal Government's Covid response has been marked by "striking incompetence, bureaucratic intransigence, bewildering inconsistency, and lethal foot dragging."

    Whatever quibbles I have with the local folks, they're better than Fauci et al.


  • Not to say they're perfect. For Constitutionally-dubiousness, you can't beat the rulers in the town of Newfields, NH, as reported by NH Journal: Gov. Sununu's Hometown Bans Picketing at Residences Following Protests.

    Newfields’ Select Board passed an ordinance last week prohibiting picketing at private residences. The move follows weeks of peaceful mask protests outside the home of Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who lives in Newfields.

    “It is unlawful for any person to engage in picketing before or about the residence or dwelling of any individual in the Town of Newfields,” the signed ordinance reads. Violators will be subject to fines up to $100 for each offense. Chris Sununu’s brother, Michael, is a Select Board member in Newfields and appears on the signed ordinance.

    What do you think? Constitutional? Before you answer either way, check the relevant page at the "First Amendment Encyclopedia on Protests in Neighborhoods. I'd say it's a coin flip, but I'm not a lawyer.


  • But NHJournal quickly reported on implementation, which managed to offend even more First Amendment fans: Newfields Cops Target NHJournal Reporter Covering Protest at Governor's Home.

    Newfields police used a controversial new ordinance to ticket protesters gathered outside Gov. Chris Sununu’s home Monday night. They also ticketed an NHJournal reporter covering the event, despite being repeatedly informed that he was a journalist on the job.

    Monday morning, NHJournal broke the story of the Newfields Select Board passing an ordinance banning picketing at private residences. According to minutes of a December 8th meeting, the ordinance was a response to weeks of peaceful protests against the governor’s statewide mask mandate by opponents outside Sununu’s Newfields home.

    I think that "freedom of the press" should apply as widely as possible. For example, to bloggers. On the other hand, does it give "journalists" special rights, based on their Official Lanyards, or propeller beanies, to do things that would be illegal for ordinary citizens? Hm. Well, I guess I'm happy I'm not a lawyer.


  • Skip at GraniteGrok and his co-bloggers have been all over this, as expected. I left a comment on his article: Newfields, NH Ban on Residential Protests is Probably Illegal and Unconstitutional, referencing the Encyclopedia page linked above. And also reflecting on New Hampshire's history of First Amendment cases; I'm virtually certain it's out of proportion to other states. And maybe the Newfields Selectmen have given us another case to add to our long list.


  • On a totally different topic, Stanley Kurtz at National Review writes on a topic that sounds like a good idea, but probably won't be in practice: New Civics Mandates Will Be Woke.

    Americans dismayed by the mendacity and distortions of the 1619 Project are headed for a fall. A commendable desire to counter both civic illiteracy and the excesses of woke ideology has produced a new national movement to mandate history and civics standards. Unfortunately, that strategy will produce the very opposite of its intended effect. Far from restoring traditional understandings of American citizenship, the proposed history and civics mandates will entrench woke ideology nationally, imposing it on the reddest of red-state school-districts, and ultimately on private and religious schools as well.

    The conservative-leaning American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is considering a model bill that would have state legislatures mandate history and civics standards. Bipartisan federal legislation to fund curriculum development and teacher training in civics has also been introduced. Comprehensive proposals to create de facto national history and civics standards on the model of Common Core are in the works as well, and likely to be adopted by a Biden administration. Every one of these initiatives will undermine the very ends they appear to promote. Conservative legislators who support them will one day find themselves facing an army of angry constituents. The blowback against these ill-considered civics mandates will make the battle over Common Core look like patty-cake. By then, unfortunately, the damage will have been done.

    I keep pointing to the Officially Approved Racial Justice Resources site at the University Near Here. It's uniformly Woke, Critical, Intersectional, … basically every adjective you can apply to the Gospel According To Identity Politics. You don't want these people designing your K-12 civics curriculum.