URLs du Jour

2021-01-31

[Amazon Link]

  • Jonah Goldberg doesn't want to be a member of The Running With Scissors Party. On the other hand…

    John Stuart Mill famously called conservatives “the stupid party.” When John Pakington took offense, Mill clarified what he meant. “I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid,” Mill explained. “I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative.” About a century later, Irving Kristol entered the debate. He argued that “such a judgment need not be invidious or censorious. Conservative ‘stupidity,’ properly understood, is intimately connected with sentiments that are at the root of conservative virtues—e.g., a dogged loyalty to a traditional way of life, an instinctive aversion to innovation based on mere theoretical speculation, a sense of having a fiduciary relation to the whole nation, past, present and future.” He continued:

    There is always a kind of immunity to fashionable political ideas which is associated with conservatism, and a country that does not have a goodly portion of it is incapable of stable and orderly government. No political or social system can endure without engendering, in a perfectly organic way, this kind of conservative "stupidity." It is the antibody of the body politic.

    If stupidity is defined this way, I am happy to be part of the stupid party. I like the stupidity of “don’t just do something, sit there.” I like the stupidity of Calvin Coolidge, who said, "When you see 10 troubles rolling down the road, if you don't do anything, nine of them will roll into the ditch before they get to you." I like the stupidity of Abraham Lincoln, who said, “What is conservatism? Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried?”

    Jonah, correctly in my view, points out that most "new" ideas are really bad ideas, even—maybe especally—the ones brought up by "smart" people.

    On the other hand, speculation on Jewish Space Lasers is not just stupid, it's the continuation of one of the oldest, reprehensible, and actually stupid ideas in history.

    RTWT for more.


  • Jeffrey A. Tucker brings us an article for Pun Salad's "Least Surprising Headline du Jour" Department: The Times Wants You Consumed by Fear, Isolation, and Misery. That's the New York Times of course, reacting to the (as-we-type) 50% drop in Coronavirus "new cases" since the peak in early January.

    The New York Times, which obliquely reports the case decline, is still certain that you should still live in isolation, fear, and disease panic. They offer every county in America a tool in which you can discover what you should do to protect yourself from the pathogen, as if the only way to deal with a respiratory virus is to hide. Their tool is extremely manipulative. 

    For example, they have this category called “very high risk level.” Red is in the text. Scary! But what is it? It means 11 or more people per 100,000 have generated a positive PCR test for the coronavirus. 

    Not deaths. Not hospitalizations. Not even symptomatically sick. (Yes, I know the term “sick” is old fashioned.) 

    We are talking about 11 positive PCR tests. This is an infection rate of 0.01%. Consider too that the NYT reports that these tests in the past have generated up to 90% false positives. In addition, the infection fatality ratio for those under 70 could be as low as 0.03%. 

    The amusing bit for me: the NYT recommends a host of cautions for those living in "very high risk" counties. (Avoid haircuts and manicures!)

    Well, how about "extremely high risk" counties? Basically, stockpile guns, gold, and foodstuffs, prepare for the onslaught of zombie Covid-carriers, right?

    No. The NYT recommends exactly the same precautions.

    The media remain clueless about why we don't trust them.

    For the record, as I type, my county (Strafford, NH) is one of those deadly "Extremely High Risk" counties with an average daily new-case rate of 48 per 100K. Or 0.048%.

    On the other hand, just across the Salmon Falls River: York County, ME, is merely "Very High Risk". Maybe I should move! Or just walk over the bridge.


  • J.D. Tuccille has some advice on a somewhat more credible threat than Covid: Americans Abandoning Free Speech Better Brace for the Consequences.

    In the panicked aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the powers-that-be dusted off wish lists of surveillance-state powers and began monitoring and tracking us in ways that affect our lives two decades later. The political turbulence of recent years, culminating in the Capitol riot on January 6, may similarly liberate the political class to do its worst—this time with free speech as the target. The effort will likely again enjoy support from members of the public eager to surrender their freedom.

    "We need to shut down the influencers who radicalize people and set them on the path toward violence and sedition," argued columnist Max Boot in The Washington Post. His solution? Carriers should drop Fox News and other conservative cable news outlets if they don't stop spreading "misinformation." Boot also believes that "Biden needs to reinvigorate the FCC" to impose British-style controls over the news—never mind that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) doesn't have the authority to regulate cable outlets that it has over broadcasters that use public airwaves.

    J.D. runs through the pearl-clutchers on left and right who want to toss the keys to the speech-control car to Uncle Stupid. The same organization that's employed Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, John Brennan, … well, I could go on. For quite some time.


  • In our "I Don't Care" Department, George F. Will points out that It still doesn’t make sense to impeach and convict Donald Trump.

    There are two reasons for impeaching a president, one retrospective, one prophylactic: to punish the president for gross misbehavior, or to protect the country from anticipatable future offenses by the president. Trump impeachment 2.0 is a variant of the latter. Its supposed purpose is to deter future presidents who might be as reckless as he was. For this reason, many serious scholars — see, for example, the writings of Princeton’s Keith Whittington — defend both the constitutionality and wisdom of impeaching and convicting this ex-president. Deterrence, however, presupposes rationality, and perhaps a conscience, neither of which would feature in any future iteration of the 45th president.

    Political prudence is a talent. It involves applying crystalline principles to untidy realities. The principle of holding people accountable for their actions is generally sound. But high-minded rhetoric about enforcing “accountability” on Trump ignores the fact that neither his reputation nor his future political salience hinges on the Senate impeachment trial. Besides, almost all Senate Republicans, tarting up their timidity as scrupulousness, have latched on to a principle that many scholars, including Whittington, and some past practices refute — that impeaching a person no longer in office is unconstitutional.

    Those who love Trump and those who loathe him — who today is undecided? — are all having altogether too much fun. The former are wallowing in the victimhood they think they share with him. The latter are luxuriating in a vengeance disconnected from the public good. And they are relishing the discomfort of Republican senators who will be damaged no matter whether they vote to convict or acquit. Regarding the reason for impeachment — the events of Jan. 6 — reasonable people, for whom seeing is believing, know what happened, and why. Trump supporters, for whom believing is seeing, cannot be reached by reasoning, constitutional or otherwise.

    Mr. Will (I always try to call him Mr. Will) makes some good points. My only argument in opposition is: if the Senate occupies itself with the impeachment trial, they're at least not doing something worse during those hours and days, right?


  • Matt Taibbi offers some financial advice. To wit: Suck It, Wall Street.

    In the fall of 2008, America’s wealthiest companies were in a pickle. Short-selling hedge funds, smelling blood as the global economy cratered, loaded up with bets against finance stocks, pouring downward pressure on teetering, hyper-leveraged firms like Morgan Stanley and Citigroup. The free-market purists at the banks begged the government to stop the music, and when the S.E.C. complied with a ban on financial short sales, conventional wisdom let out a cheer.

    "This will absolutely make a difference," economist Peter Cardillo told CNN. "Now, if there is any good news, shorts will have to cover.”

    At the time, poor beleaguered banks were victims, while hedge funds betting them down as the economy circled the drain were seen as antisocial monsters. “They are like looters after a hurricane,” seethed Andrew Cuomo, then-Attorney General of New York State, who “promised to intensify investigations into short selling abuses.” Senator John McCain, in the home stretch of his eventual landslide loss to Barack Obama, added that S.E.C. chairman Christopher Cox had “betrayed the public’s trust” by allowing “speculators and hedge funds” to “turn our markets into a casino.”

    Now, Matt's a lefty, so any economic lessons he draws from what people were saying and doing back in 2008 compared to what they're saying and doing now are probably bogus. But we can all agree on a non-economic lesson: a lot of people are hypocrites. But here's the really important bit, that reveals something I didn't know:

    The acting head of the SEC said the agency was “monitoring” the situation, while the former head of its office of Internet enforcement, John Stark, said, “I can’t imagine there isn’t an open investigation and probably a formal order to find out who’s on these message boards.” Georgetown finance professor James Angel lamented, “it’s going to be hard for the SEC to find blatant manipulation,” but they “owe it to look.”

    Whoa, dude. The former head of the SEC office of Internet Enforcement is John Stark.

    General, I'm ready to follow your orders.


  • I've occasionally noted here (sorta in jest, sorta not) that politicians have personality traits "several sigma away from the mean". Donald Trump being an extreme example.

    Does that make them crazy? Or, alternately, how far off-mean does someone need to be to be crazy?

    Scott Alexander, bless him, takes a very serious look at that question: Ontology Of Psychiatric Conditions. Subhed: "Is mental illness a thing? What kind of thing is it?" Impossible to excerpt, but if you're interested in that, RTWT.