What the Doctor Orders

[Amazon Link]

A recent op-ed in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat was headlined When enforced, firearms regulations work.

Oh yeah?

It's by Dr. James Fieseher, a regular on the editorial pages for years. He mostly writes advocacy for single-payer health care. But sometimes branches out to other topics, taking predictable stances.

This column has a unique take, though. And I was irritated enough to once again break out the fisking template. His column is reproduced on the left with a lovely #EEFFFF background color; my remarks are on the right.

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” ~ Second Amendment to the Constitution 1791.

Dr. F starts out pretty well with a mostly-accurate quote of the Second Amendment. I believe the official version doesn't hyphenate "well regulated". That quibble aside, things go downhill quickly from here.

The insurrection on Jan. 6 could have been much worse.

On that day, insurrectionists were invited to Washington, DC by “the former guy” [in the White House] and they acted on what they thought were his instructions. They planted pipe bombs at both the Democratic and Republican headquarters, perhaps as a diversion tactic. They brought in Molotov cocktails, zip ties, bullet-proof vests, baseball bats, metal pipes and constructed several gallows in an attempt to overthrow the 2020 election and kidnap and kill the Vice President and members of Congress.

As we'll see, when Dr. F says "could have been", he's essentially constructing an alternate imaginary universe where things were worse. Fine, as long as we remember that this universe is built entirely inside his own head.

But even his description of what actually happened needs work.

  • The FBI says those pipe bombs were planted the night before.
  • "Perhaps as a diversionary tactic"? Baseless speculation.
  • Glenn Greenwald has demolished the claim about the rioters bringing zip ties to the Capitol.
  • One (1) guy apparently brought one (1) baseball bat.
  • One (1) guy brought "components for the construction of" eleven "Molotov cocktails" to DC, but (apparently) left them in his truck.
  • I don't know about "several gallows" either. There seems to have been just one. A couple more (apparently impromptu) nooses were noticed, though.
  • There's zero evidence that the mob had any sort of unified purpose whatsoever, outside of a small number of dangerous lunatics. Let alone kidnapping and murder.

Things were horrible enough without inflating the horror.

Some brought in guns, but most of the guns were stashed outside the District of Columbia because of firearms restriction laws.

As near as I can tell, this assertion is evidence-free. And it doesn't really make sense. The folks that Dr. F thinks are bringing bats, Molotov cocktails, planning murder and kidnapping: he thinks they're suddenly scrupulously law-abiding about bringing guns into the District?

In fact, both the Molotov cocktail guy and the Zip Tie guy brought weaponry inside the District. (But not inside the Capitol.)

Without those firearms restrictions, the events of Jan. 6 could have been quite different. We could have lost our Vice President, half of the US Congress and our Democracy itself.

The insurrectionists thought they were patriots. The “former guy” called them patriots.

They believed they were the “good guys with a gun.” If more of them had carried guns during the insurrection, there would have been many more injuries and deaths. The death toll on Jan. 6 was far less than at Sandy Hook, Parkland or Las Vegas. In short, firearms regulations save lives.

We are now back in Dr. F's imagined universe.

It's true that DC gun laws "rank amongst some of the most restrictive in the United States". Do those laws "save lives"?

Unfortunately for Dr. F's argument, those laws don't prevent folks from getting shot in DC. This WaPo editorial notes that DC racked up over 200 homicides in 2020, mostly via firearm. Overall, there were 883 gunshot victims. All this despite "some of the most stringent gun laws in the country". This site puts DC at number 8 in its sorted list of 2019 murder rates. (23.5 homicides per 100K population, far above the 9.6 rate for all US cities with over 250K population.)

Dr. F would no doubt like to think that things would be worse if DC did not have "ome of the most stringent gun laws in the country". There's no reason to believe that.

The Second Amendment calls for “well-regulated militias,” not simply militias. The militias that attacked the Capitol on January 6 were not “well-regulated,” or even “regulated.” They were formed to impose their view of government and society on everyone else, even if it meant destroying the Republic and the Constitution that guides it.

In 1791, the framers of the second amendment wanted to protect our fledgling republic from tyranny. There was no standing Army or National Guard to ensure domestic tranquility or protect us from an invasion from a European monarchy. They needed the militias supplied by the thirteen independent states: the second amendment.

Assigning all-importance to the "well regulated militia" prefatory clause of the Second Amendment is SOP for the gun-grabbers. A good (and, to my mind, convincing) refutation of this argument was made by Brian Doherty in Reason back in 2019: What Is a ‘Well Regulated Militia,’ Anyway? It's long, unsuitable for excerpting, but the bottom line is clear: "The Second Amendment […] guarantees an individual right to the people, no matter how the federal government chooses to regulate the organized militia."

Today, there are literally millions of “militias” in the US as the conservative judges on the Supreme Court have overlooked the “well-regulated militias” portion of the Second Amendment and have allowed each American to be a militia of one if he or she so desires.

I assume Dr. F is referring to the SCOTUS decision in District of Columbia v. Heller. It is simply false that the prefatory clause was ignored in (for example) Antonin Scalia's majority opinion in that case. Read it for yourself.

Today’s guns rights group have adopted the vigilante phrase: “the only thing to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” But January 6 showed us that the concepts of “bad” and “good” are in the eyes of the beholder. Vigilantes see “good” and “bad” in the hands of the gun holder.

Vigilantism aside, it's tough to see how bad guys with guns get stopped without opposing them with equivalent or superior weaponry. Doesn't matter if that's wielded by law enforcement or by a civilian.

Dr. F's attempted "clever" play on words in the last two sentences are so self-evidently stupid that I find it difficult to comment on them.

The firearms regulations in Washington DC limited the tragedy of January 6. When enforced, firearms regulations do work

As noted up there, this is false. Mindless repetition does not make it truer.

For almost 200 years, the Supreme Court interpreted the Second Amendment in the context of well-regulated state militias. It is only in the last 50 years that the concept of state militias has be [sic] reinterpreted by the Supreme Court to mean any individual who wants a gun.

And now Dr. F is back to the Supreme Court. Again, this is a simply false picture of what SCOTUS held in Heller: for example, the decision specifically allowed restrictions on gun ownership by felons and the mentally ill.

Can we enforce the Second Amendment by insisting on well-regulated state militias? Probably not and certainly not with the present composition of the Court.

"Enforcing the Second Amendment" in Dr. F's mind means ignoring that whole "right of the people" clause.

Our only other option is to promote common sense firearms regulations to protect the life and liberty of our citizens. Victims of gun violence lose all freedoms, including their right to bear arms.

We can find ways of preserving the right of gun ownership and still reduce gun violence in the US. If every person is a militia, then common sense firearms laws adhere to the Second Amendment’s call for being “well-regulated.”

Jan. 6 has shown us that to do otherwise would mean the loss of life, Congress, our Republic and the Constitution itself.

Doc, you know what "common sense" tells me? It's that people who claim to favor "common sense" regulations are begging the question. Your argument only works if you start out by assuming that gun control laws are efficacious; then, when high levels of gun violence happen anyway, you can fall back on claiming "well, it would have been worse without those laws."

And probably go on to say: "This shows that we need more laws."

Congratulations, you've convinced yourself.

In the wake of horrific events, it's pretty common for people to make opportunistic arguments. "This shows that the policies I've always been in favor of need to be enacted now." Dr. F is no exception, but trying to shoehorn a gun control argument into the January 6 riot is ludicrous.

It would have been worse, except for DC's gun laws? The DC gun laws are the ones that rioters were afraid to run afoul of?

Please.

URLs du Jour

2021-02-27

[Amazon Link]

  • Scott Alexander has A Modest Proposal For Republicans: Use The Word "Class".

    Dear Republican Party:

    I hear you're having a post-Trump identity crisis. Your old platform of capitalism and liberty and whatever no longer excites people. Trump managed to excite people, but you don't know how to turn his personal appeal into a new platform. Most of what he said was offensive, blatantly false, or alienated more people than it won; absent his personal magic it seems like a losing combination. You seem to have picked up a few minority voters here and there, but you're not sure why, and you don't know how to build on this success.

    I hear you're having a post-Trump identity crisis. Your old platform of capitalism and liberty and whatever no longer excites people. Trump managed to excite people, but you don't know how to turn his personal appeal into a new platform. Most of what he said was offensive, blatantly false, or alienated more people than it won; absent his personal magic it seems like a losing combination. You seem to have picked up a few minority voters here and there, but you're not sure why, and you don't know how to build on this success.

    I hate you and you hate me. But maybe I would hate you less if you didn't suck. Also, the more confused you are, the more you flail around sabotaging everything. All else being equal, I'd rather you have a coherent interesting message, and make Democrats shape up to compete with you.

    It's not tough love ("I hate you and you hate me.") but still. Here's something that had me cheering:

    1. War On College: As it currently exists, college is a scheme for laundering and perpetuating class advantage. You need to make the case that bogus degree requirements (eg someone without a college degree can't be a sales manager at X big company, but somebody with any degree, even Art History or Literature, can) are blatantly classist. Your stretch goal should be to ban discrimination based on college degree status. Professions may continue to accept professional school degrees (eg hospitals can continue to require doctors have a medical school degree), and any company may test their employees' knowledge (eg mining companies can make their geologists pass a geology test) but the thing where you have to get into a good college, give them $100,000, flatter your professors a bit, and end up with a History degree before you can be a firefighter or whatever is illegal. If you can't actually make degree discrimination illegal, just make all government offices and companies that do business with the government ban degree discrimination.

    Stop the thing where high schools refuse to let people graduate until they promise to go to college. End draft deferment for people who go to college - hopefully there won't be a draft, but do it anyway, as a sign that studying at college isn't any more important than the many other jobs people do that don't confer draft exemptions. Make universities no longer tax-exempt - why should institutions serving primarily rich people, providing them with regattas and musical theater, and raking in billions of dollars a year, not have to pay taxes? Make the bill that does this very clearly earmark the extra tax money for things that help working-class people, like infrastructure or vocational schools or whatever.

    Click over for more, I highly recommend it. (Wokeness? It's "a made-up mystery religion that college-educated people invented so they could feel superior to you.")


  • Kevin D. Williamson disparages President Wheezy's invocation of the c-word: Joe Biden's ‘Foreign Policy for the Middle Class' a Cynical Political Ploy.

    The middle class has held domestic politics hostage for generations, which is why the federal government’s main activity is transferring money to the middle class, which is the principal beneficiary of the major entitlement programs that account for the largest share of federal spending — and of much of the so-called discretionary spending, too. And now Joe Biden has taken foreign policy hostage on behalf of the middle class as well, promising a “foreign policy for the middle class,” which is how you say “America First!” without sounding like the Tangerine Nightmare.

    President Biden, who in the past has resorted to plagiarism in order to compensate for the fact that he never has had an original thought or produced an interesting sentence, is a plodding vote-counter who ought to be retiring from the Wilmington Zoning Commission rather than getting started in the White House. But Americans are politically unserious people, and Biden won the gold in the Clown Olympics in November, so, here we are.

    It's an "NRPLUS" article, which should only go to demonstrate once again that you should be an NRPLUS subscriber.


  • A reminder from Cato about a perennial bad idea: Mandatory E-Verify Would Subsidize Identity Theft and Increase Corruption.

    E‐Verify is systematically unable to enforce workplace immigration laws. E‐Verify, which is an online government program that allows employers to check the work authorization of their new hires to supposedly exclude illegal immigrant workers, “was promised as the silver bullet to immigration problems” according to former Arizona Republican state senator Rich Crandall. “E‐Verify was going to solve our challenges with immigration,” Crandall said. Or at least, that’s what the advocates told him. Now advocates and U.S. Senators like Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) have introduced a national E‐Verify mandate that would force all businesses to use the system when making a new hire.

    As it often turns out, the advocates and the politicians they influence are wrong. E‐Verify doesn’t work because it is a very easy‐to‐fool system – to say nothing of its errors in falsely identifying illegal immigrants and the huge regulatory cost that it imposes. Businesses take the risk of getting around E‐Verify by not using it in states where it is legally mandated. They also look the other way when the documents are questionable – often for good legal reasons. The government cannot expect every business to become specialized at identifying whether particular documents are actually owned by the applicant holding them.

    The War on Illegal Immigration is looking in many ways to be as bad as the War on Drugs.


  • Amazon continues to step on rakes. The Federalist describes the latest: Amazon Strips Clarence Thomas Documentary From Streaming Service. During, ahem, Black History Month.

    Amazon appeared to drop the PBS title, “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words,” while still promoting a wide array of feature films under the category of Black History Month such as “All In: The Fight For Democracy,” with Stacey Abrams and two movies on Anita Hill, Thomas’ accuser of sexual misconduct who attempted to derail his confirmation. All come free to stream with a Prime membership.

    I don't know if this is related to Amazon's recent decision to stop accepting documentaries (and other genres) via "Amazon Prime Direct". Doesn't seem to be, though.


  • And the Miami Herald notes a brief shining moment: La Plaza de La Revolución gets a new name.

    For a few hours, Cuba’s storied Revolutionary Square, where Fidel Castro once gave hours-long speeches to the masses, had a different name on Google Maps this week: Freedom Plaza.

    A group of Cubans on the island and in the diaspora launched a campaign to change the name of the Plaza de la Revolución in Havana to the Plaza de la Libertad — and succeeded, though only temporarily.

    Google submitted to the “authoritative sources” in reverting the name, i.e., the Communist dictatorship.

Dead Man Running

[Amazon Link]

This is billed as a "reboot" of Steve Hamilton's series of Alex McKnight novels. Alex is an ex-ballplayer, ex-cop, ex-private eye; all he really wants to do is live a quiet life in the Michigan Upper Peninsula, managing his small camping-cabin business, going to his favorite bar to drink Canadian Molson some nights.

But trouble keeps finding Alex. This trouble is particularly nasty: an extremely perverse serial killer has been captured out in Arizona, says that his latest victim isn't quite dead yet, but will only reveal her location to Alex. The cops in charge have little option but to immediately get Alex flown down to Arizona. Alex has absolutely no idea why the killer has singled him out, but he's game if it can save an innocent life.

Slight spoiler: the innocent's life is not saved. Instead, the tables are turned in a dreadful bloodbath. The killer goes on the loose, and things quickly turn into a cross-country violence-filled cat-and-mouse game. Unfortunately, Alex finds himself dancing to the killer's whims.

And that's sorta the problem. Alex doesn't use his detecting skills much at all. Again, slight spoiler as an example: the killer plants a GPS tracker on Alex's rental car midbook. Eventually, it's revealed to Alex that the killer knows exactly where he is! And it doesn't occur to Alex to ponder this for three seconds: Gee, I wonder how the killer knew exactly where I was?

This made me wonder whether Steve Hamilton initially meant this to be an Alex McKnight novel at all. It's a page turner, sure. And it's good, if you can stand the considerable amount of perverse, explicit violence. But there's not a lot of detecting going on.

A Memory Called Empire

[Amazon Link]

It's a perfect opportunity to mention that I don't consider these book posts to be "reviews". Book reviews are professionally done, ideally by people with a deep grounding in the subject or genre. They are, or should be, at least a semi-objective indication of a book's quality, fitting it into the overall galaxy of other works.

In contrast, I consider these posts to be "book reports". You know, like the ones we used to do back in school. (Do kids still do book reports?) They are simply my subjective take on the book. Basically, whether I enjoyed the read or not. A little bit about what happens (fiction) or the topic (non-fiction). Our motto here: Your Mileage May Vary.

And I'm willing to admit that could be the case here. A Memory Called Empire won the Hugo Award last year for best SF novel. See the Amazon page for other huzzahs and honors; there are a lot of 'em. But I didn't care for it at all, totally not my cup of tea. I'm probably wrong. If you're thinking about reading it, go ahead.

The book follows the journey of a young female ambassador, Mahit Dzmare, as she takes over the job of representing the interests of Lsel Station to the seat of the massive galactic empire, Teixcalaan. She's a replacement for the 20-year veteran in the position, who was (oh oh) apparently murdered. And Teixcalaan is making overtures toward a forced annexation of Lsel. And there's aliens. And civil unrest. And nasty high-stakes intrigue about the successor to the ailing emperor.

So there's a lot going on. Mahit picks up Teixcalaan allies, most notably spunky liaison Three Seagrass. (All the Teixcalaanlitzim have Number Noun names like that.) And (in theory) she's got a neural implant bearing the memories and personality of her dead predecessor. Unfortunately it's fifteen years old and (worse) it goes kerflooey early on in the proceedings, causing consternation and other psychic travail.

And all this I found completely uninteresting. Didn't care about Mahit, any of the supporting characters, or what happens to them. I thought the writing was overwrought, the authorial subtext being Whee! Look at me! I'm writing!. I note that the author, Arkady Martine, is a lesbian (book flap: "… lives in Baltimore with her wife …") and the minimal amount of sex in the book is same-sex. I can't help but wonder if the Hugo voters are rewarding Ms. Martine more for her pigeonhole than for the quality of her writing.

No, I'm probably wrong. Go read it, see what you think.

URLs du Jour

2021-02-26

Michael Ramirez comments on the "Equality Act":

[Equality Act]

  • … as do the National Review editors: Against the Equality Act.

    The Equality Act, which passed the House in 2019 then stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate, is set to pass in the House today. It is a misnomer and a travesty.

    The bill would add to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of “sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity,” each of which is categorically distinct from one another and each of which is, more to the point, radically different in origin, nature, and prevalence to the historic problem of racism in the United States.

    The Equality Act would redefine sex to include “gender identity,” thus forcing every federally funded entity — most notably schools and colleges — to treat males who declare transgender status as if they were females. It would stamp out religious exemptions by regulating religious nonprofits and even goes so far as to block the Religious Freedom Restoration Act from applying to its provisions. And it would, as National Review’s John McCormack has explained, greatly expand “the number of businesses that count as ‘public accommodations’ under the Civil Rights Act.”

    The Equality Act did, as predicted, pass yesterday on a near-party-line vote. (Three Republicans voting in favor, perhaps due to inebriation.) Of course that means that both New Hampshire Congresscritters voted Aye.


  • John McWhorter ventures outside his Substack to argue that To Be Sensible About Race is Not "Blaming the Victim".

    For all of the attention that modern English speakers’ usage of the word like as a hedging term attracts, all languages have a way of hedging in that way. The only question is what word or expression they use. In Mandarin, one hedges by saying “that, that, that …” as if grasping for what the thing or concept is called. It happens that the words for that in Mandarin are pronounced “na-ge, na-ge,” or pronounced alternately and just as much, “nay-ge,” “nay-ge.”

    Here and there black Americans have purported a certain worry as to just what Chinese people are saying with “na-ge,” but this has always been a kind of joke. Yet one just knew that one of these days somebody was going to decide it wasn’t a joke anymore, and it is no accident that it finally happened in 2020.

    Professor Greg Patton was teaching a class on business communication to business students at the University of Southern California, and was discussing hedging terms in different languages. He in passing mentioned that in Mandarin people say “na-ge, na-ge, na-ge.” This offended a group of black students in the class, who reported Patton to the dean of the business school claiming that “We were made to feel less than.” The students claimed “We are burdened to fight with our existence in society, in the workplace, and in America. We should not be made to fight for our sense of peace and mental well-being at Marshall.”

    And you won't believe what happened next. Or you probably will.


  • As a Boomer in good standing, I am definitely gonna read Boomers.
    [Amazon Link]
    A review by Michael Morris at the Federalist: How Baby Boomers Ushered In Our Narcissistic Age.

    On Nov. 4, 2019, the radio host Bob Lonsberry of WHAM1180 took to Twitter to air his grievances. The host was fed up with the prevalence of “OK Boomer” memes on Twitter.

    Just short of the season of Festivus, he conflated the memes with hate speech: “Boomer’ is the n-word of ageism. Being hip and flip does not make bigotry ok, nor is a derisive epithet acceptable because it is new.” Lonsberry was done listening to the internet-fueled ageism on steroids. After years of cultivating “snowflake” and “Peter Pan” as practical analogs of the word “millennial,” the baby boomers were not about to lay down and take it in return.

    Then again, anyone who has survived the COVID-19 apocalypse thus far should only be surprised at the vainglory. Only a generation who has been dictating the past 50 years of cultural trends could happily raise children and grandchildren who demanded worldwide lockdowns and wave it off as the price of living in society. The Baby Boomers ushered in this narcissistic age, and the millennials will have to wrest it from their cold, dead hands.

    Well, good luck with that, Millennials.


  • And the least surprising op-ed headline of the day, probably the month, is from Betsy McCaughey of the NYPost: Biden's COVID relief bill is chock full of anti-white reverse racism.

    Polls show most Americans support the federal COVID-19 relief bill. But if they knew what’s in it, they might feel differently. The bill is an affront to the American ideal of equal treatment under law — and a slap in the face for people who want everyone helped fairly.   

    Section 1005 of the bill offers “socially disadvantaged” farm owners total debt forgiveness of up to hundreds of thousands of no-strings dollars per farmer. But white men needn’t apply. The bill’s definition of “socially disadvantaged,” drawn from elsewhere in federal law, limits aid to racial groups who faced historic discrimination.

    It's been over 13 years since SCOTUS Justice Roberts said "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discrimination on the basis of race." We're still waiting for that to happen.

The Coming of Neo-Feudalism

A Warning to the Global Middle Class

[Amazon Link]

Back when I was much younger, I was very impressed by works of American gloom and doom. One of my earliest memories of National Review was a late-1960s article drawing earnest attention to the similarities between America (of that time) and Weimar Germany. I still have Charlotte Twight's America's Emerging Fascist Economy (1975) on my bookshelf; also present is The Ominious Parallels by Leonard Peikoff (1982); Lost Rights by James Bovard (1995);… well, you get the idea. I also devoured a number of how-to-survive-economic-doomsday tomes, of which there were piles in the 70s.

You'll note that we're still here. Bad as things can get, and have been, it's far from Nazi/Commie totalitarianism presiding over an economic system in rubble.

So I've learned to be skeptical of that general genre. And I hadn't read any good catastrophe-around-the-corner books recently. Until now: this one, by Joel Kotkin is pretty good. Particularly impressive is the "Notes" section, 91 pages out of a 273-page book. For those keeping score: exactly a third of the book is footnotes.

Kotkin's neo-feudalism thesis is wide-ranging and alarming. Basically: things have been getting worse for ordinary working/middle-class schmoes. And they're probably going to continue to get worse. Not just in ordinary economic terms, but in cultural trends too. He notes that the well-off are pulling away from the rest of us in every sense, and they have the political and economic power to (excuse me while I go into Sanders/Warren mode) "rig the system" to ensure that those trends continue.

Also: not just America. It's a worldwide phenomenon.

In support of this thesis, Kotkin draws on (I swear) every last bit of recent gloomy news/analysis/data from anyone and everyone, left and right. Robert Reich and Charles Murray! Glenn Reynolds and Bernie Sanders!

A lot of stuff I agree with. A lot of stuff I don't. Good news first: Kotkin is appropriately brutal about Progressive schemes like the "Green New Deal", designed by (and for) the folks who wing off to Davos on their private jets to come up with schemes to raise the price of energy and products that depend on energy use (I.e., everything else). He notes the unaffordability of housing has all sorts of bad effects, most notably on class mobility and family stability. It's not crazy to worry about the issues Kotkin highlights. Charles Murray has pointed to many of the same issues in books like Coming Apart.

But on to the bad: Kotkin can come off as a neo-Luddite. He points with alarm to "our dependency on machine interfaces, as opposed to genuine human interactions." My eyes roll, and imagine an early-20th century version of Kotkin griping about our growing dependency on those new-fangled automobiles, as opposed to having a more natural organic relationship with horses.

There's a lot of loaded language. The bad guys in Kotkin's eyes: the "elites"; the "clerisy"; the "oligarchs". (No kulaks, though. That's good.)

I wish he'd provided a more balanced economic picture. Last year I read The American Dream Is Not Dead by Michael R. Strain. Which is a much more nuanced and quantitative look at the American situation, in contrast to Kotkin's doom-and-gloom approach. And ultimately more convincing.

I mentioned those voluminous notes. I chased down one, and the results were not encouraging. Page 122:

Some conservative intellectuals have even thought that hardworking [immigrant] newcomers should replace the "lazy" elements of the working class.

Whoa. Really?

The footnote goes to a 2017 Daily Caller article: Bill Kristol Says ‘Lazy’ White Working Class Should Be Replaced By ‘New Americans’.

So we note right away that what Kotkin calls "some conservative intellectuals" really means "Bill Kristol". The reference is to an AEI discussion between Kristol and (again) Charles Murray. (Video at the link, the relevant bits are about 50 minutes in.)

“You can make a case that America has been great because every — I think John Adams said this — basically if you are in free society, a capitalist society, after two or three generations of hard work everyone becomes kind of decadent, lazy, spoiled — whatever,” Kristol said.

“Then, luckily, you have these waves of people coming in from Italy, Ireland, Russia, and now Mexico, who really want to work hard and really want to succeed and really want their kids to live better lives than them and aren’t sort of clipping coupons or hoping that they can hang on and meanwhile grew up as spoiled kids and so forth. In that respect, I don’t know how this moment is that different from the early 20th century,” he added.

It should be noted that Kristol's comments were (1) kind of a pushback against Murray's mild desire to limit low-skilled immigration; and (2) an argument that third-generation native populations lack desire for low-skilled work. I don't know if that's true, but it's arguable. I see it mostly as an argument that their ancestors have handed them down enough capital so they don't have to dig ditches.

Overall, Kotkin is weak on answering Sowell's primary question: Compared to what? Yes, a dynamic, innovative society will have its problems. They will be made worse by trying to stifle that dynamism.

But who knows? After decades of books missing the mark on the coming dystopian nightmare, this one could be correct. Never hurts to be prepared.


Last Modified 2021-02-27 7:31 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-02-25

[Amazon Link]

  • Ed Morrissey on the censorious Democrats: All that Republican pouncing might interfere with House Dems' attempts at blocking conservative media outlets, or something.

    Just a couple of months ago, having a press secretary sneer at reporters constituted an attack on the First Amendment and qualified journalists for hazard pay. When House Democrats attempt to take news channels off of cable and satellite systems through intimidation, suddenly the story becomes — wait for it — “Republicans pounce!”

    In Politico’s case, it’s that the GOP outrage over the letter from Anna Eshloo and Jerry McNerney might “sidetrack” Congress’ look at misinformation during the election. Their report even accuses Republicans of “tarring” Eshloo and McNerney over their intimidation campaign[…]

    Extensive Politico quoting at the link. Not only "pouncing" content, but also rampant whataboutism. ("Republicans were just last year blasted as wannabe “speech police” when seeking to have the FCC narrow social media’s Section 230 liability protections.")

    Coverage in the "Democracy Dies in Darkness" paper? Well, there's an Eric Wemple column headlined Hey, Democrats: Hands off Fox News’s cable carriers. Which is about 90% Fox News-bashing, but let's take what we can get.


  • Veronique de Rugy writes on the latest oppressors of the poor: The Minimum Wage Is Terrible for America’s Most Vulnerable Workers.

    The latest illustration is an attempt to jack up the minimum wage to $15 per hour as part of another COVID-19 relief bill. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., recently declared on CNN's "Inside Politics" that small businesses wouldn't struggle under a federal mandate to pay employees $15 an hour, even during a recession. To support his claim, he pointed out that Target and Amazon, two of the greatest beneficiaries of the lockdown, raised their lowest hourly wage to $15 voluntarily. He later asserted that he doesn't want small businesses that are underpaying workers and that $15 is very reasonable. How he knows this is a mystery, but this arrogance demonstrates an ignorance of basic economics.

    Arrogance and ignorance: a combination the Washington D. C. metro area will never lack.


  • The NR editors opine on selective memory-holing: Amazon Kneels before the Mob.

    Most critics of Amazon and other world-bestriding technology companies focus on their size and market share, but another problem is their opacity: We still do not know, and may indeed never know, why Amazon has decided to ban Ryan Anderson’s book on the transgender controversy. Inquiries from National Review and from Anderson’s publisher, Encounter Books, have been met with Bourbon haughtiness: Le marché, c’est moi, says Jeff Bezos.

    The book, published in 2018, recently has been removed from Amazon, as well as from Amazon subsidiaries Kindle, Audible, and AbeBooks. Amazon maintains, in theory, a policy of contacting publishers and discussing the removal of controversial books before acting, but Amazon has not followed that policy in this case. At least the traditional sort of book-burners felt the need to explain themselves.

    At least you can still get our Amazon Product du Jour, Pounce, Also the book by probably the greatest mass-murderer in history: Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung.


  • Our Google LFOD News Alert brings us the latest news from Louisiana:

    “Union, Justice and Confidence” has been Louisiana’s motto for more than a century. But that would change if a state lawmaker gets his way.

    A bill from state Rep. Richard Nelson (R-Mandeville) would change the state motto to “We live and die for those we love.”

    Uh, fine. But where's LFOD? Ah, here:

    Nelson — who holds a law license and spotted the engraving upon taking office in 2020 — likened the sacrifices made during the COVID-19 pandemic and recent hurricanes to what Louisiana’s state flag portrays: a mother pelican feeding her chicks her own blood.

    “This last year has really called people to do something greater, and what I’m proposing as the new motto really speaks to that,” he said. “Everybody in the country knows New Hampshire’s motto: ‘Live free or die.’ I think we can be on that same tier.”

    Well, I appreciate the aspiration, but … whoa, that mama pelican on the state flag is pretty awesome. I'm pretty sure they have NH beat on the flag.


  • And the Daily Wire has the news that really matters. ‘A World Of Ubiquitous Racism’: New Attack On Game Of Monopoly.

    Now the efforts to inject a discussion of racism into every aspect of American life have reached a game that most Americans have cherished for decades: Monopoly.

    In a piece for The Atlantic titled, “The Prices on Your Monopoly Board Hold a Dark Secret,” and subheaded, “The property values of the popular game reflect a legacy of racism and inequality,” author Mary Pilon writes that a 1930s New Jersey realtor named Jesse Raiford “affixed prices to the properties on his board to reflect the actual real-estate hierarchy at the time. And in Atlantic City, as in so much of the rest of the United States, that hierarchy reflects a bitter legacy of racism and residential segregation.”

    I'm not sure the Atlantic article counts as an "attack" on the game itself.

    But I hope I can continue to play it without being called a white supremacist. (Or, more accurately: giving the wokesters yet another reason to call me a white supremacist.)

URLs du Jour

2021-02-24

If I were a parent of government-schooled kids, I'd probably be disgusted. Instead I'm amused and admiring Michael Ramirez's art: Sacrificing kids.

[Sacrificing Kids]

Let's try to outsource our outrage today:

  • For one, Glenn Greenwald supplies plenty of it. House Democrats, Targeting Right-Wing Cable Outlets, Are Assaulting Core Press Freedoms.

    Not even two months into their reign as the majority party that controls the White House and both houses of Congress, key Democrats have made clear that one of their top priorities is censorship of divergent voices. On Saturday, I detailed how their escalating official campaign to coerce and threaten social media companies into more aggressively censoring views that they dislike — including by summoning social media CEOs to appear before them for the third time in less than five months — is implicating, if not already violating, core First Amendment rights of free speech.

    Now they are going further — much further. The same Democratic House Committee that is demanding greater online censorship from social media companies now has its sights set on the removal of conservative cable outlets, including Fox News, from the airwaves.

    Glenn goes on to excerpt the Eshoo/McNerney letter to cable providers, handily highlighting the naughty bits. (I mean the Constitutionally naughty bits.) His conclusion is pretty brutal:

    But corporate media outlets and Democrats (excuse the redundancy) who spent the last four years posturing as virulent defenders of press freedoms never meant it. Like so much of what they claimed to believe, it was fraudulent. The proof is that they are now mute, if not supportive, as Democrats use their status as majority party to launch an assault against press freedoms far more egregious than anything Trump got close to doing.

    Indeed. And there's also…


  • Matt Taibbi's headline: Even By Democratic Party Standards, Censoring Fox News Is An Insanely Stupid Idea.

    Two and a half years ago, when Alex Jones of Infowars was kicked off a series of tech platforms in a clearly coordinated decision, I knew this was not going to be an isolated thing.

    Given that people like Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy were saying the ouster of Jones was just a “good first step,” it seemed obvious the tactic was not going to be confined to a few actors. But corporate media critics insisted the precedent would not be applied more broadly.

    “I don't think we are going to be seeing big tech take action against Fox News… any time soon,” commented CNN’s Oliver Darcy.

    Darcy was wrong. Just a few years later, calls to ban Fox are not only common, they’re intensifying, with media voices from Brian Stelter on CNN to MSNBC analyst Anand Giridharadas to former Media Matters critic Eric Boehlert to Washington Post columnists Max Boot and Margaret Sullivan all on board.

    So good for Greenwald and Taibbi. Most progressive outlets are stuck bemoaning that censorship isn't going far enough. For example, as Taibbi notes, Alex Jones got bumped off Facebook, yay! But a recent article at Buzzfeed's bemoans: How Facebook Went Easy On Alex Jones And Other Right-Wing Figures. How? Well, Zuck failed to also throw out Jones' "legions of followers" who remained free to "share his lies".

    Well, obviously that won't do.


  • At the WSJ (may be paywalled), James Freeman looks at The ‘Experts’ Cited by the New Censors. Specifically, Eshoo and McNerney, who (in case you hadn't noticed) are only looking asymmetrically:

    But it’s clear that they only want to discipline one side. The Democrats claim, “Experts have noted that the right-wing media ecosystem is “much more susceptible...to disinformation, lies, and half-truths.”

    The “experts” quoted are three Harvard academics, and the lead author is law professor Yochai Benkler. His take on “right-wing” media is perhaps not surprising given that according to the OpenSecrets website he donates exclusively to left-wing politicians, especially Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.).

    Oh, hey! I know those guys, I read their book back in 2019, Network Propaganda, and I wasn't that impressed.


  • At the Dispatch, Nancy Rommelmann writes about yet another source of disinformation. Words as Weapons: How Activist Journalists are Changing the New York Times. Long, it goes into detail on some collateral damage resulting from the NYT's firing of Donald McNeil for use of the n-word. Well worth reading, but this stuck out, where Ms. Rommelmann contrasts the NYT coverage of last summer's Portland Oregon protests, with her own experiences as a reporter for Reason:

    Nearly every piece in the Times about the protests denied that Antifa was causing the mayhem. But I knew they were. I saw them with my own eyes. Antifa members told me they were. Instead, Times coverage skated past Antifa’s culpability; sometimes, it blamed far-right groups for the violence. In the dozens of nights I was on the ground, this was not the case. Far-right groups made appearances, to be sure, but they were not the people setting fires and breaking windows, starting in May and continuing even now. And thus the question becomes: If I cannot trust the paper to accurately report what I know to be true, how do I trust it at all?

    Good question, Nancy.


  • You know what they used to say about immigrants: they do the job Americans won't do.

    I don't think Louise will actually have to immigrate to do this job, but still.


Last Modified 2021-02-24 4:00 PM EDT

Dune Messiah

[Amazon Link]

To be sung to the tune of "This Old Man":

Kwisatz Haderach
Give a worm a bone
Paul Muad'dib is going home

So anyway: two down on my Dune reading project. (Frank Herbert novels only.)

This installment is pretty grim. Paul defeated the evil Harkonnens in the first book, but now it's twelve years later. He's become the emperor of the known galaxy, but this has only caused him grief. Jihadists operating under his name have killed about sixty billion folks; he is not consoled by the (apparent) fact that his visions say that this is probably the best outcome that could have been expected.

Worse, he's opposed by a coalition of enemies: the spice-addicted Spacing Guild, the shape-shifting Tleilaxu, the Bene Gesserit (represented by the crone Gaius Helen Mohiam, who caused Paul a lot of grief in the first book), and Princess Irulan, Paul's loveless wife. The key is a ghola of the dead mentat Duncan Idaho, reanimated and reprogrammed for an evil purpose.

Paul's allies are only semi-reliable: consort Chani (who'd like to bear his child, but is being fed contraceptives secretly by Irulan) and sister Alia (who's even wackier than Paul).

So there's a lot going on, and (if anything) Herbert's portentious, gassy prose from the first book is even more pronounced here. Still, it's short.

URLs du Jour

2021-02-23

[Amazon Link]

  • Our Amazon Product du Jour is in honor of Obnoxious Amazon. Michael Brendan Dougherty:

    A great deal of life in a self-governing nation is well governed by conventions rather than law. Which is precisely what makes Amazon’s decision to no longer sell Ryan Anderson’s book When Harry Became Sally: Answers for Our Transgender Moment so obnoxious.

    We trust publishing houses to decide what gets published, and to give those books their imprimatur and prestige. Those who pay close attention to these things know that Regnery is known for big best-selling conservative books. Or they know the prestige of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

    Booksellers choose what gets displayed and stocked in their stores. That’s an important role. But, aside from dedicated specialty stores, all of the larger and general-audience booksellers will sell you any book that they can reasonably obtain, even if it is not regularly stocked on their shelves. They will sell you Nazi propaganda books. Or Calvinist theology. Or instructional books on making firearms at home. They don’t typically inquire why you want the books you want.

    My respect for Amazon just went down a couple of notches.

    Not that this makes any sense whatsoever. You can get (as I type) Mein Kampf at Amazon. You can get The Communist Manifesto at Amazon. But not When Harry Became Sally? That's (somehow) something people need to be prevented from buying?

    As I find myself saying a lot these days: what am I missing here?


  • The First Amendment prevents Congress from decreeing that news channels they dislike be removed from cable. But (as I've noticed before) some Congressional Democrats would like to pressure private companies into doing just that. Robby Soave at Reason has the story. Lawmakers to Cable Providers: Why Are You Letting News Channels Say These Things?.

    Today two Democratic members of Congress sent letters to the presidents of Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, Cox, Dish, and other cable and satellite companies implying that they should either stop carrying Fox News, One America News Network, and Newsmax or pressure them to change their coverage. According to the lawmakers, these conservative channels are responsible for promoting misinformation and political violence.

    "To our knowledge, the cable, satellite, and over-the-top companies that disseminate these media outlets to American viewers have done nothing in response to the misinformation aired by these outlets," wrote Reps. Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney, both of California.

    Eshoo and McNerney should (1) peruse the oath of office they took a few weeks back to support the Constitution; then (2) resign in shame.


  • John McWhorter writes more on the Elect. Like many people (me included) Professor McWhorter has noticed the important thing about Wokism: it's a religion.

    It must be clear that I do not mean religion as a comparison. I genuinely mean that we are witnessing the birth of a new religion, just as Romans witnessed the birth of Christianity.

    I found his section on evangelicism very telling:

    “Why don’t they allow people to have different opinions?”

    “How dare they call me a racist and then tell me I’m a racist for denying it!”

    You’re missing the point. The Elect can seem truly baffling – until we see that they are a religion. Specifically, an evangelical one.

    To wit: do we wonder why the fundamentalist Christian does not see their beliefs as just one of many valid opinions? They see themselves as bearers of a Good News which, if all people would simply open up and see it, would create a perfect world. That most of the world does not fall in with them is something they learn to bear with toleration, with a hope that in the future things will turn their way. We see a certain coherence in Christians who see the rest of us as “heathen.” We may disagree, but can easily imagine someone under the impression that their worldview – if it includes unreachable belief in things we never see or feel which they insist are real nevertheless -- is Truth while ours is an error. Christianity (or another Abrahamic religion) is something we often grow up around, or at least know of, from an early age. It feels normal. Because it is.

    I keep going back to that letter sent out from UNH Lecturers United, which pictured their job as "fostering belief" in the tenets of "Anti-Racism". Which they saw as unassailable Truth, with any dissenters similar to flat-earthers. McWhorter has their number pretty well.


  • Kevin D. Williamson notes and wonders: Mystery Economy Succeeding and Struggling. What's Next?.

    Some of it is bewildering. I recently went car shopping, and, like any middle-aged Texan with reasonably good credit and a rich fantasy life based on immoderate boyhood viewings of Red Dawn, I took a look at some wonderful customized trucks, mostly from the Rocky Ridge gang. I had no real intention of buying any such thing (the roads are paved where I live — badly paved, nonetheless paved) but I was almost offended at the prices. Cool fender flares or no, there’s no way I’m paying a hundred grand (in the imaginary world in which I’m in the market for a $100,000 car) for a jacked-up Ram pickup. But they don’t need to sell one to me: They can’t keep them on the lot. High-end Jeeps, Toyota trucks, Range Rovers, Corvettes, the Mercedes S-Class, and other rolling emblems of mid-American ostentation are going as fast as they can unload them.

    New-car prices are strong because of production interruptions that have taken the slack out of the inventory, but business is booming in everything from flower shops to bicycle builders to guitar luthiers. Some luxury-goods sellers have been hit by the lack of tourists visiting their boutiques on vacation, but even unwieldy global conglomerates such as LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton are holding up pretty well — the firm just announced that it has acquired a 50-percent stake in Jay-Z’s Armand de Brignac line of Champagne in a deal said to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The wine shops are doing an astonishing trade in $750 bottles of Chateau Margaux, and if you want to buy a new Rolls-Royce or Lamborghini, you’ll be lucky to take delivery sometime toward the end of 2022 — and they’ll act like they’re doing you a favor. Even for a fun-loving capitalist running dog such as myself, this looks like madness.

    But even with all that bananas spending going on, the savings rate is soaring.

    Aren’t we supposed to be in some kind of national crisis?

    Like me, KDW is no economist, but he sees plenty of reasons to be worried about what's coming up in a few months or years.


  • And, my friends, We Need To Have A National Conversation About Offensive Muppets. And Kylee Zempel is the person to lead that conversation:

    “The Muppets” was anything but diverse, inclusive, and inspirational.

    Take Kermit the Frog, for starters. The straight male protagonist’s prejudice shows every time he opens his little amphibian mouth. Kermit’s statement in his hit “The Rainbow Connections,” that rainbows are “only illusions,” is clearly a direct attack on the LGBT community. According to an unnamed source, Kermit’s lyrics are actually a frogwhistle to Pepe and his ilk to literally erase trans people.

    And how about his constant gripes about his skin color? “It’s not that easy bein’ green”? Kermit’s attempts to brand himself as a frog of color is offensive to the BIPOC community.

    Kylee notes that the Swedish Chef's speech patterns are pretty clearly Norwegian. What else is he trying to hide?


Last Modified 2021-02-24 5:23 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-02-22

[Amazon Link]

  • Fabio Rojas writes at Heterodox Academy: Arguments for and Against Capitalism in Black Intellectual Tradition.

    There is a popular view arguing that racial repression and other American institutions are so enmeshed with each other that it is impossible to separate them. Our politics, our economy – everything – is complicit in perpetuating the subjugation of African Americans. In the popular media, this view was best expressed in Ibram X. Kendi’s best seller How to be an Antiracist, which bluntly stated that anti-racism and anti-capitalism are really the same thing. On page 161, Kendi writes, “To love capitalism is to love racism.” Among academic writers, this view is often associated with intersectional theorists, who often argue that racial inequality is “co-constituted” with economic inequality and capitalist repression.

    Just a reminder: the University Near Here puts Kendi's book on its official list of "Racial Justice Resources". It's also one of the recommended works pushed by Portsmouth (NH) Public Library as part of its Read Woke Reading Challenge.

    Were I in a position to do so, I'd ask the folks in charge of these lists:

    1. Do you agree with Ibram X. Kendi's assertion that "To love capitalism is to love racism"?
    2. If not, do you recommend any books that provide an alternate view?

    Just askin'.


  • And this is amusing. From the Daily Wire: Disney Slaps ‘Offensive Content’ Label On The Muppet Show.

    Disney has decided that “The Muppet Show” — featuring Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear and Miss Piggy — contains “offensive content” and can now be seen only on an adult account.

    When viewers open the streaming service, which made five series available last Friday, viewers are greeted with the disclaimer: “This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now,” the Daily Mail reported.

    “Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together. Disney is committed to creating stories with inspirational and aspirational themes that reflect the rich diversity of the human experience around the globe,” the statement says.

    Good golly Miss Molly, what utter pap.

    As Ann Althouse observes, they're probably not talking about the Swedish Chef.


  • [Amazon Link]
    So the current dead-trees version of WIRED was entirely devoted to 2034: A Novel of the Next World War, coming out next month, Amazon link on your right.

    It's the story of how the Chinese pwns the US armed forces, and America's infrastructure generally by advanced cybernetic takeovers of networks and computers. I can't recommend it. Let me excerpt a single sentence from a paragraph explaining why an Indian-American diplomat words things a certain way when talking to his mother:

    The cause of their estrangement was an arranged marriage between a teenage Lakshmi and a young naval officer—a friend of her older brother's—that ended in an affair, a marriage-for-love to Chowdhury's father, who had been a medical student with plans to study at Columbia University, which led to Lakshmi's departure for the United States while the family honor—at least according to her elder brother—was left in tatters.

    Man, I lost interest in tracking that story about five words in. How did you do?

    Tom Clancy, whatever his stylistic sins, would not have written that sentence.

URLs du Jour

2021-02-21

[Amazon Link]

I try to live by Elvis Costello's sage advice: "I used to be disgusted; now I try to be amused." Hence our Amazon Product du Jour.

Unfortunately, I only find one of my three items today to be amusing.

  • We mentioned Jodi Shaw back in January. At the time, Ms. Shaw was on "paid leave" from Smith College. Her offense was to speak out against Smith's "anti-racism" theology, publicly and cogently.

    Well, that can't be tolerated. Bari Weiss has the next chapter in Ms. Shaw's story: Whistleblower at Smith College Resigns Over Racism. Here are a couple paragraphs from her resignation letter to Smith's president, shared with Bari Weiss (and, hence, the world).

    I can no longer continue to work in an environment where I am constantly subjected to additional scrutiny because of my skin color. I can no longer work in an environment where I am told, publicly, that my personal feelings of discomfort under such scrutiny are not legitimate but instead are a manifestation of white supremacy. Perhaps most importantly, I can no longer work in an environment where I am expected to apply similar race-based stereotypes and assumptions to others, and where I am told — when I complain about having to engage in what I believe to be discriminatory practices — that there are “legitimate reasons for asking employees to consider race” in order to achieve the college’s “social justice objectives.”

    What passes for “progressive” today at Smith and at so many other institutions is regressive. It taps into humanity’s worst instincts to break down into warring factions, and I fear this is rapidly leading us to a very twisted place. It terrifies me that others don’t seem to see that racial segregation and demonization are wrong and dangerous no matter what its victims look like. Being told that any disagreement or feelings of discomfort somehow upholds “white supremacy” is not just morally wrong. It is psychologically abusive.

    But, really, Read The Whole Thing. And wonder if it's Coming Soon to A Campus Near You.

    Or maybe it already has.

    Ms. Shaw says she was offered a "settlement" in exchange for her silence, which she declined. She's a divorced mother of two.

    Bari Weiss includes a link to Ms. Shaw's GoFundMe page.


  • Glenn Greenwald has more head-shaking news: Congress Escalates Pressure on Tech Giants to Censor More, Threatening the First Amendment.

    For the third time in less than five months, the U.S. Congress has summoned the CEOs of social media companies to appear before them, with the explicit intent to pressure and coerce them to censor more content from their platforms. On March 25, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will interrogate Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, Facebooks’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai at a hearing which the Committee announced will focus “on misinformation and disinformation plaguing online platforms.”

    The Committee’s Chair, Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and the two Chairs of the Subcommittees holding the hearings, Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), said in a joint statement that the impetus was “falsehoods about the COVID-19 vaccine” and “debunked claims of election fraud.” They argued that “these online platforms have allowed misinformation to spread, intensifying national crises with real-life, grim consequences for public health and safety,” adding: “This hearing will continue the Committee’s work of holding online platforms accountable for the growing rise of misinformation and disinformation.”

    House Democrats have made no secret of their ultimate goal with this hearing: to exert control over the content on these online platforms. “Industry self-regulation has failed,” they said, and therefore “we must begin the work of changing incentives driving social media companies to allow and even promote misinformation and disinformation.” In other words, they intend to use state power to influence and coerce these companies to change which content they do and do not allow to be published.

    Glenn notes that it would be obviously unconstitutional for Congress to directly censor Internet speech. How is it any more Constitutional for Congress to coerce a company (via "regulation") to do the censoring on its behalf?

    My Congresscritter is not on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but the other NH representative, Annie Kuster, is. If you're so inclined to write…


  • Boy, if there ever was a news kerfuffle that deserved a "Democrats Pounce" headline, it would be Ted Cruz's Cancun Connection. Kyle Smith finds the Media Coverage Excessive.

    As usual though, our guardians of the truth are embarrassing themselves and making themselves look at least as punchable as Cruz in the childish glee with which they are “covering” — meaning amplifying, commenting on, and generally exploding in spasms of ecstasy about this story. I count seven pieces on this in the New York Times, 17 pieces on CNN, and a mind-boggling 27 pieces in the Washington Post (so far), many of them clickbait meta-stories commenting on the fact that others are commenting on it:  “How Cartoonists are roasting Ted Cruz’s Texas-to-Cancun getaway,” etc. The WaPo has also been kind enough to proffer such advice such as “Why Ted Cruz should’ve known this was a bad idea.” I kinda think people already had that one figured out.

    The media is doing its level best to torpedo any and all GOP national figures, well in advance of 2024.


Last Modified 2021-02-21 11:01 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-02-20

[Amazon Link]

  • P. J. O'Rourke on America's Populism Problem. What say you, Peej?

    One big, honking populist has just been shooed out of the White House. And his replacement – while more of an old political hack and Washington establishmentarian than a populist per se – is coming in trailing strong fumes of populism from his own political party.

    Populism isn’t a Right-wing or Left-wing ideology. Populism isn’t an ideology at all… It’s about feelings, not ideas. Populism isn’t conservative or liberal, Republican or Democratic. But it is both MAGA and BLM, both QAnon and Antifa – AOC in a Boogaloo Boys Hawaiian shirt.

    He's not a fan.

    In our populist moment, everyone "knows" that they're a victim. They're oppressed! By … well, pick your oppressor.

    Back in 2014, George F. Will's column was spiked by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for daring to observe that "when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate." This has only gotten truer since, and it's a game anyone can play.


  • Kevin D. Williamson looks with amusement at Senator Ted Cruz's cruise to Cancun: Vacation Unseemly, Not Wrong.

    If the world is mad at Senator Cruz, it is not because he has done anything that hurt anybody. What he has done is judged to be something else: unseemly. The democratic religion in the United States holds, for reasons of pure superstition, that there must be a radical identification between political leaders and the people they represent, which is why Senator Cruz of Princeton and Harvard Law sometimes does that ridiculous good-ol’-boy shtick of his. If the people of Houston are going to suffer — and they are suffering — then Senator Cruz is expected to stay and suffer alongside them, even if he need not do so, and even if prudence would recommend his not doing so.

    Would his staying make anybody in Texas better off? No. If anything, it might make them worse off: Suppose Senator Cruz and a neighbor three houses down both have an emergency and dial 911 at the same moment — does anybody think that a senator is going to the end of the line, even if he doesn’t ask for or desire special treatment? If it were necessary to evacuate people, does anybody think that a senator would not have a seat on the bus, even if that meant someone else losing one?

    The Fox News headline is pretty good: ABC 'World News Tonight' gives Cruz Cancun fiasco four times more coverage than Cuomo nursing home scandal. You know, the scandal that actually killed gramps and grandma.


  • David Henderson's pretty good on The Opportunity-Killing Minimum Wage.

    Among non-economists and politicians, the minimum wage is one of the most misunderstood issues in economic policy. President Biden and almost all Democrats and some Republicans in the US Congress advocate increasing the federal minimum wage from its current level of $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour over four years. They argue that many of the workers earning between $7.25 and $15 will get a raise in hourly wage. That’s true. But what they don’t tell you, and what many of them probably don’t know, is that many workers in that wage range will suffer a huge drop in wages—from whatever they’re earning down to zero. Other low-wage workers will stay employed but will work fewer hours a week. Many low-wage workers will find that their non-wage benefits will fall and that employers will work them harder. Why all those effects? Because an increase in the minimum wage doesn’t magically make workers more productive. A minimum wage of $15 an hour will exceed the productivity of many low-wage workers.

    Henderson laments the good old days when the New York Times (!) could officially editorialize: The Right Minimum Wage: $0.00. No, not 1893; it was 1987!


  • Things aren't much better across the pond: Brendan O'Neil writes at Spiked: It’s time to get real about freedom of speech.

    I’m glad sections of the left find the free-speech crisis so funny. Or ‘free-speech crisis’, as they always put it, those sarky quote marks signalling their scepticism towards the idea that there’s a censorship problem on campus and elsewhere in society. ‘Freeze peach!’, they cry at anyone who thinks it is a bad thing that people can be No Platformed, threatened with death or sacked from their jobs for expressing the ‘wrong’ opinion. Hilarious, isn’t it?

    It’s hilarious when activists piss on the door of a feminist academic’s office because they don’t like her criticisms of gender self-ID. It’s hilarious when a disabled working-class grandfather is sacked from his job at Asda because he posted a Billy Connolly skit on social media that made fun of Islam. It’s hilarious when a Labour shadow minister loses her job because she dared to raise concerns about the grooming and rape of working-class girls in various parts of England. It’s hilarious when JK Rowling is bombarded with messages saying ‘fuck you bitch’, ‘bitch I’ll kill you’ and ‘choke on my cock’ because she wrote an entirely non-prejudiced essay on trans issues. It’s all so funny. ‘FREEZE PEACH’ lol.

    Make no mistake: when the cultural and media elites mock the idea of a free-speech crisis, when they insist cancel culture doesn’t exist, this is the reality they are denying. This is the abuse, demonisation and, yes, censorship that they claim is not real. Actually, it’s worse than that. These censorship deniers do not merely question the reality of these grim assaults on people’s free expression – after all, we can all see the tweets calling JK Rowling a ‘cunt’ and a ‘whore’, and we all know what urine splashed on someone’s door looks and smells like, so we know this stuff is real. No, they also implicitly justify these chilling crusades against open discussion. By refusing to describe these attacks as attacks on freedom of speech, they normalise them, they green-light them.

    Well, that language is a little more R-rated than we usually have at Pun Salad, even for quoted excerpts. But Brendan's pissed (in the American sense of that word), and he deserves to be.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Encouraged by a review I saw somewhere, and not wanting to watch another episode of the increasingly dour Blacklist, I switched to the new Roku, and watched this on Amazon Prime. Even better than I expected! It's smart, funny, moving, well-acted, … that's fine by me.

It wouldn't hurt if you've seen Groundhog Day. (I've watched it probably a dozen times.) Because we come in where our hero, Mark, has been dropped into one of those temporal loops, he's already figured it out, and he's gotten to the point where Bill Murray was about 80% of the way through his movie: choreographing his day down to the second. Doing good deeds, trying to put the moves on a pretty girl, stuff like that. Until midnight, when he's transported back to his bedroom for another trip through the same day.

But one day he meets Margaret, who's also aware that she's temporally trapped. (This is something that never happened to Bill Murray.) They travel through their town, looking for amazing moments (aka, "Tiny Perfect Things"): an eagle grabbing a fish from a lake, an impromptu concert from a music store's after-hours custodian, …

But Margaret has a secret, preventing her from Taking Things To The Next Level with Mark. Mark, being a gentleman, takes that about as well he can. But he starts trying to find ways to break out of the loop. An ambition Margaret doesn't share.

If you're looking to fill a 1 hour and 36 minute hole in your life, and you have Amazon Prime, this is a pretty good choice.

URLs du Jour

2021-02-19

  • This is … CNN: Fact check: Biden makes at least four false statistical claims at CNN town hall.

    Yes, however mildly and forgivingly, they did point out that President Wheezy had a bad case of Malarkeyism:

    We're still looking into some of the claims Biden made, so this article is not comprehensive. But we can tell you now that he made at least four false claims -- all of them involving statistics -- about the minimum wage, undocumented immigrants, China's economy and Covid-19 vaccinations.

    Well, statistics! That's a hard subject! Who could expect a geezer like Joe to have statistics right?


  • Ann Althouse takes the WaPo "fact checker", Glenn Kessler, to school:

    Biden is making a lot of misstatements of fact. The WaPo fact checker, Glenn Kessler, writes:

    During his recent town hall on CNN, President Biden made a number of mistaken claims and assertions. He suggested racehorse owners receive tax breaks worth $9 billion, almost enough to pay for free attendance at community college — a claim that left tax experts scratching their heads. He said that the $7.25 minimum wage set in 2009 would be worth $20 if indexed for inflation, a statement that only makes sense if you are measuring from 1968. He wrongly stated that “vast majority” of undocumented immigrants were not Hispanic.

    No Pinocchios assigned for any of that. It's all so obviously wrong that maybe it's not worth bothering to investigate. But Kessler's approach in these columns is, I think, to isolate one thing and figure out where it stands on the continuum from utter truth to bald-faced lie. Here, he's chosen the 17,000 with Xi Jingping assertion. 

    Ann detects a Kesslerian Double Standard between Trump's treatment and Biden's. As befitting a retired professor, she observes: "Biden gets graded on a curve."


  • And the least surprising headline of the day comes from Axios and ace reporter Felix Salmon: Trust in media hits new low.

    Of course. But what's the remedy? Well…

    Media outlets can continue to report reliable facts, but that won't turn the trend around on its own. What's needed is for trusted institutions to visibly embrace the news media.

    Emphasis added.

    In other words: "media outlets" are doing just fine! Just keep on reporting "reliable facts", like you've been doing all along, media outlets!

    Instead, we need "trusted institutions" to start propagandizing on behalf of the media.

    Salmon specifically mentions CEOs as one of those "trusted institutions".

    Felix, you know the easiest way for a "trusted institution" to lose that trust? Start telling me things I know aren't true.


  • Jeff Jacoby advises both sides: Don't get hooked on executive orders. He details the whipsaw nature of EOs between Obama → Trump → Biden.

    This has become the norm in American politics, and it should disturb anyone who values representative government and constitutional order — regardless of partisan loyalty. Americans who condemned Obama for bypassing Congress and unilaterally changing policy should have been just as unhappy when Trump later did the same thing. If a president's moves to govern by diktat were alarming under Trump, they should be no less worrisome under Biden. Yet too many pundits and politicos condemn executive imperiousness only when it comes from presidents they don't like. When they support the occupant of the White House, their response is more like that of Paul Begala, one of Bill Clinton's political advisers, who in 1998 summarized the appeal of presidential reliance on executive orders.

    "Stroke of the pen, law of the land," Begala told the New York Times. "Kind of cool."

    It's not cool, man.

    Biden should put down the duckie pen. And Congress should start doing its job of legislating.


  • Patterico has a Substack presence. Unfortunately (but understandably) unfree. But he plugs it on his blog, and includes an excerpt on income inequality that's very good. Working off the story of Dr. Gokal (the Houston was fired for "stealing" COVID vaccines, i.e. vaccinating people with shots that would have otherwise been thrown out) and the CDC's decision for race-based vaccination guidelines:

    So we have now seen two stories — the story of Dr. Gokal and the story of the CDC’s prioritization of vaccines — where officials came to the conclusion that the pursuit of “equality” may be worth sacrificing lives. (Only certain lives can be sacrificed, of course. When you’re seeking equality, some are more equal than others!) Which leads me to my final topic: that of “income inequality.”

    Is there any stupider phrase in the English language?

    Let me be clear: income inequality is never a real problem. If it were, there would be an easy solution: pick the person with the lowest income, and then make everyone else “equal” to that person. If everyone is equally poor, they are still “equal” — and there is no longer any income inequality.

    There will be crushing poverty, but that’s OK, right?

    A point I've made myself, but not so well.


  • Veronique de Rugy notes the coming corporate welfare: Never Let a Good Manufactured Crisis Go to Waste.

    A seemingly effective way for politicians to justify our need for their services is to fabricate or exaggerate a problem, promise to fix said problem with a new program or lots of spending and then claim victory in the form of public acclaim and reelection.

    A good example of this behavior is President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan, which reflects a tweet by then-candidate Biden that he does "not buy for one second that the vitality of American manufacturing is a thing of the past."

    His plan asks for $400 billion to purchase American-made equipment, along with $300 billion in government spending on research and development. Hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of additional subsidies will be used to encourage the production and sale of other domestically manufactured products.

    Joe, the easiest way to ensure the non-viability of American manufacturing is to make it dependent on billions in unsustainable government spending.

UNH COVID False Positives? Probably Not. Unreasonable Panic? Maybe.

[I've broken this out into a separate article because I slag my former employer for so many other reasons. And it's one of those rare occasions where I've come closer to Actual Journalism than my usual arrogant opinionizing.]

I was intrigued by this Greg Piper article at the College Fix: False-positive COVID scandal rocks Harvard, but student paper doesn’t ask for ‘positive’ threshold. Here's the problem:

The PCR tests most commonly used to test for the novel coronavirus are idiotically sensitive, to the point where they can catch dead virus or otherwise insignificant viral loads. This means even a “positive” test indicates a non-infectious person – someone who shouldn’t be forced to quarantine, much less wear a mask. (Reminder that people without symptoms are extremely unlikely to transmit virus even in the same home.)

I winced a little at Greg's "much less wear a mask" wording, implying that masking is a more drastic measure than quarantining. But I get the point: a low viral load means you're probably not going to infect someone, and there's a good chance you're immune yourself. At least for a while.

Greg points to this New York Times article (from August): Your Coronavirus Test Is Positive. Maybe It Shouldn’t Be. It details how the PCR test can, depending on the "cycle threshold" used, generate a positive result for very small, probably negligible, viral loads. See above: there's no need to panic in such cases. But (since only a yes/no result is returned), people panic anyway.

And then Greg points to a February 12 Harvard Crimson article: Updated Lab Protocols Invalidate Positive Covid-19 Test Results for More Than Two Dozen Harvard Affiliates. Indicating that the smart folks at Harvard may have made the exact blunder the New York Times detailed back in August.

So that's Harvard. But the University Near Here recently got its students back on campus. And near-immediately detected a spike in COVID cases, i.e., positive test results. Causing a shift to online classes only.

Which caused me to wonder if UNH was making the same mistake as Harvard. Hm.

UNH has an address for people to ask COVID questions. Even though I'm no longer affiliated other than my (now useless) employee-emeritus library card, I took a chance:

After reading a recent New York Times article (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/29/health/coronavirus-testing.html) I was wondering if UNH uses the PCR test for Covid, and if so, what "cycle threshold" is used to determine a positive result?

I didn't have a lot of hope on getting a response. But near-immediately:

The UNH Durham lab does use PCR testing. There are actually several different CT thresholds we use in a complicated method, so there isn't a single CT value.

OK… well, nice try. I thanked my correspondent for his answer:

Thanks very much for the response. As a retired UNH employee, I should have known it wouldn't be simple.

If there's publicly-available documentation for the complicated method, I wouldn't mind a pointer, but if there's not, no worries.

Best wishes!

And I really didn't expect a response after that. But I got one anyway:

I don't think there's anything publicly available, but I was able to find some more details for you:

The design of the UNH's testing strategy is unique in that a positive result is analyzed multiple times so false positives are very rare, included a pooled and unpooled test. In addition, if a positive is detected using our surveillance testing, that person is then called into to Health Services to get another swab, this time under CLIA regulations, specifically that the specimen is collected by a trained professional. That CLIA-certified swab is never pooled.

In summary this testing strategy of doing 3 different PCR runs for each positive and the fact that it relies on two separate swabs of a person results in a much lower false positive rate than most labs. Regarding Ct values, the lab analyzes both control and multiple regions of the viral genome. The Ct value is a relative measure of the concentration of target in the PCR reaction. The Ct value is not a lab specific number, nor is it absolute. The COVID method is qualitative (yes/no for presence of virus) not quantitively. So, since the experiment is not designed to be quantitative, Ct values are not clinically relevant and are not reported.

So, good news and bad: UNH understandably worries about people bungling their self-test in a way that causes false positives. But they don't seem too worried about the false positive concern expressed in the NYT article.

Good on UNH for being open about this. They seem confident that they're not getting false positives. Whether they are unnecessarily labelling people with negligible COVID viral loads as dangerous? I don't know.

There's also the possibility that UNH's assertion that "Ct values are not clinically relevant" is totally correct, according to current best practice, and the August NYT article is totally misguided.

I'll keep my non-virologist eyes open.


Last Modified 2021-02-19 7:39 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-02-18

Our Eye Candy du Jour is from xkcd: Animal Songs:

[Animal Songs]

Mouseover: "Dr. Fauci is not permitted to have a cat, because as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, his petting one would be considered giving aid and comfort to an allergen."

  • On a less cheerful note: I can't say much about Rush Limbaugh. I never had much of an opportunity (and not a lot of inclination, for that matter) to listen to the radio during the day.

    And on those rare occasions when I happened upon his show while driving, it always seemed I had a passenger in the car who demanded a station change ASAP.

    Still, rest in peace, Mr. Limbaugh.


  • In our "There's not a bad idea that GOP senators can't make worse" Department, Alex Nowrasteh brings us the latest: Sens. Romney and Cotton Propose Universal E-Verify and $15 Minimum Wage.

    Senators Romney (R-UT) and Cotton (R-AR) announced that they intend to introduce a bill to raise the national minimum wage to $15 an hour and mandate E‐Verify for all new hires in the United States. Immigration restrictionists have tried to use minimum wages to reduce immigration for more than a century. Combining a high minimum wage with E‐Verify is not as surprising as it first seems. Restrictionists assume that higher minimum wages will increase unemployment for lower‐skilled workers, which it will, and that will mostly force lower skilled immigrant workers out of the country entirely.

    Why it's almost as if Romney and Cotton were trying to revivify The Racist History of Minimum Wage Laws.


  • But you don't have to be a Republican to have stupid ideas. David Harsanyi takes a look at Bill Gates’s Climate Hysteria.

    This past Sunday, Bill Gates (net worth, $133 billion) and Anderson Cooper ($110 million) got together on 60 Minutes to discuss the numerous sacrifices Americans will be expected to make to avert an imminent climate catastrophe.

    First, we should refrain from referring to these sorts of conversations as “journalism,” since Cooper never challenges any of Gates’s wild predictions nor displays even a hint of professional skepticism regarding the subject matter. Cooper simply cues up the next talking point like a host of an in-house corporate video.

    Gates, who has a new book out called “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster,” told Cooper that he believes that climate change “is the toughest challenge humanity has ever faced,” and wealthy nations — not China or India, one assumes — must get to zero carbon emissions by 2050 or the world is basically kaput. Not 40 percent. Not five. Zero. Elsewhere in the interview, Gates called for a nationalistic “all-out effort, you know, like a world war, but it’s us against greenhouse gases.”

    Now Bill Gates is not stupid. But (as Harsanyi notes) he's got fearmongering as his main weapon, not rationality.


  • Which reminds me (from the Free Beacon): Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Behind 'Anti-Racist' Math Push.

    A radical new push to purge math curricula of allegedly racist practices like showing your work and finding the correct answer is bankrolled by one of the nation's most prominent nonprofits: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

    The Gates Foundation is the only donor mentioned on the homepage of A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction, a group of 25 education organizations whose curriculum states that asking students to show their work and find the right answer is an inherently racist practice.

    I can't believe Bill Gates really wants a math-illiterate crop of students coming out of the K-12 system. But it would make them a lot easier to control by technocratic elites.


  • Glenn Greenwald calls out The False and Exaggerated Claims Still Being Spread About the Capitol Riot.

    What took place at the Capitol on January 6 was undoubtedly a politically motivated riot. As such, it should not be controversial to regard it as a dangerous episode. Any time force or violence is introduced into what ought to be the peaceful resolution of political conflicts, it should be lamented and condemned.

    But none of that justifies lying about what happened that day, especially by the news media. Condemning that riot does not allow, let alone require, echoing false claims in order to render the event more menacing and serious than it actually was. There is no circumstance or motive that justifies the dissemination of false claims by journalists. The more consequential the event, the less justified, and more harmful, serial journalistic falsehoods are.

    Which reminds me: on Tuesday, my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, published a column headlined "Misinformation abounds regarding events of Jan. 6".

    Which itself contained (at least) two bits of misinformation: (1) "the Capitol MAGA mob killed one policeman with blows to the head with a fire extinguisher"; (2) the mob "brought zip ties" into the Capitol building with (apparent) intent to "take prisoners".

    Thanks to Greenwald's reporting, I'm almost certain neither of these things is true. I wrote an LTE to Foster's on this, see if they publish it.


  • Twitchy gives us the latest self-reveal from California: Oakley, CA school board members caught trashing parents.

    I wasn't sure where Oakley was, so I looked it up. It turns out the answer is: "not far enough away from San Francisco."

    As has been made eminently clear during the last few months: the government schoolers do not even pretend any more that the purpose of their system is to benefit students.


  • And finally, the Google LFOD News Alert points to an article by Harold Meyerson: What Having No Income Tax Gets a State During a Pandemic. Which contains:

    The states with the most progressive income taxes, it turns out, have been able to ride out the pandemic with little if any fiscal disruption. California, perpetually derided by right-wingers for having the most progressive income tax, actually saw no reduction in revenues between 2019 and 2020, as the wealthy have been doing just fine financially during the plague and paying their regular share of taxes. Likewise New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, which saw revenues dip by just 3 percent. Florida and Texas, by contrast, are by far the largest states that have no income taxes, and they saw their revenues decline by 10 percent. As for reduction in public-sector jobs, good old “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire—another state with no income tax—saw its state workforce shrink by a mind-boggling 26 percent, a full nine percentage points more than the second-ranked state.

    Harold says this like it's a bad thing. I'd point out that the state seems to be running perfectly well with one out of every four state employees gone. Are you sure we needed them in the first place, Harold?

    But it's even stranger: Harold's article is based on this Washington Post story, and it points out something inconvenient to Harold's thesis: New Hampshire's "tax shortfall" between 2019 and 2020 is only 1%.

    How does a 1% drop in revenue cause a 26% drop in state workforce employment?

    I don't know. Maybe someone will figure it out, but I'm betting it won't be Harold.

The Night Fire

[Amazon Link]

While I was reading this, I had a meta-thought run through my head: There's nobody better than Michael Connelly at getting me to turn book pages. (C. J. Box comes pretty close, maybe a tie.)

I'm still a skinflint, though: I bought my hardcover copy for $7.63, a very well-treated book originally purchased by the library in Bellevue, Nebraska. (Which is, not that it matters, under 13 crow-flies miles from the house where I used to live.) Congratulations, Bellevue Library patrons for your gentle book manners!

Anyway, there's a lot going on here. It is a collaboration between old retired police detective Harry Bosch and young active LAPD detective Renée Ballard. Case 1 develops when Harry's old mentor on the force passes away; at the post-funeral gathering, the widow bequeaths Harry with a stolen "murder book" her husband has (illegally) squirreled away in his study for years. Leaving Harry with two puzzles: who killed the drug-addicted ex-con young man in a Hollywood alleyway thirty years ago, and why did Harry's mentor abscond with the murder book?

Meanwhile, Renée is looking at the burned corpse of a homeless man, who has perished when a kerosene heater was knocked over and set fire to his tent and sleeping bag. Accident? Or … well, come on. It's only a matter of time until Renée figures out that it's foul play.

But wait, there's more. Harry's also called in by his half-brother, Mickey Haller. Who is defending a seemingly hopeless case: the schizophrenic defendant confessed to knifing a judge in a public park, and his DNA was found on the judges post-mortem fingernails. Mickey's just interested in getting his client off the hook, but Harry's wondering: if not the schizo, whodunnit?

It all winds up pretty neatly, with a few plot threads available for the next installment. Note to evildoers: if Bosch and Ballard get on your case, just confess. It will save everyone a lot of hassle (unfortunately it wouldn't make a great book).

URLs du Jour

2021-02-17

[Amazon Link]

  • Good news from Jeffrey A. Singer: Senators Portman, Whitehouse, and Klobuchar Think They Know Better Than The CDC About How To Treat Acute Pain.

    On December 18, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that drug overdose deaths, already accelerating in number after a brief pause in 2018, have been increasing at an alarming rate. There were more than 81,000 overdose deaths during the 12 months ending in May 2020—a new record. There were just over 71,000 deaths reported for the 12 months ending in December 2019. But the most important feature of the report from the CDC is the fact that illicit fentanyl, made in clandestine labs in Asia and Mexico, was responsible for roughly 57 percent of all overdose deaths. Cocaine was found in roughly 22 percent of overdoses. And methamphetamines were found in 23 percent of all overdose deaths. By 2017, the top four killers were, in order, fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. Oxycodone was in sixth place and hydrocodone was ninth. Benadryl, which can be purchased over the counter, was in tenth place.

    Wow, Benadryl? No wonder it's hard to find at Walmart.

    The senators, of course, pride themselves on "doing something". Despite decades of high-body-count failure at "doing something".


  • Jacob Sullum reports on another pol who feels the need to "do something". Specifically, Wheezy Joe: Biden’s ‘Commonsense’ Gun Controls Make Little Sense.

    This week President Joe Biden marked the three-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, by urging Congress to "enact commonsense gun law reforms." The implication was that the gun controls Biden favors would prevent crimes like the Parkland massacre.

    There is little reason to think that's true. The bills Biden is eager to sign would instead arbitrarily limit Second Amendment rights and threaten the viability of the industry that makes it possible to exercise them.

    Biden wants to prohibit production and sale of "assault weapons" and require that current owners either surrender their firearms to the government or follow the same tax and registration requirements that apply to machine guns. Yet he concedes that the 1994 federal "assault weapon" ban, which expired in 2004, had no impact on the lethality of legal firearms.

    That first link in the third paragraph goes to Biden campaign website with the headline "THE BIDEN PLAN TO END OUR GUN VIOLENCE EPIDEMIC".

    Not decrease or alleviate, mind you. END!

    Is he lying or delusional? Could be a bit of both, I suppose.


  • Kyle Smith is OK with blacklists. Because Blacklists Are Not the Problem. (NRPLUS, sorry).

    Blacklists are fine. Does anyone seriously dispute this?

    That the Walt Disney Co. fired The Mandalorian star Gina Carano for her political views would not be regrettable if those views were genuinely extreme and abhorrent. If it turned out that Carano was a current member of the American Nazi Party, and Disney had just found out about this, it would have been fine to fire her. There might be some companies out there that have no concerns whatsoever about the political views of their employees. But the employees of media and entertainment companies are, to a certain extent, the public faces of those companies. Neither Disney nor Warner Bros. nor the Washington Post nor NBC nor any other such company would want to be associated with vile political views.

    So no, it doesn’t bother me that the major Hollywood studios decided, in the 1950s, to blacklist ten Communists, because Communism is about as vile as political views get. The congressional investigations into Communism in Hollywood were detestable in their combination of hysteria and grandstanding. Joe McCarthy and his henchmen, such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr., were not attacking a real problem so much as they were seeking political advantage by targeting an unpopular group. But no one should shed a tear because a few fiercely committed apostles for an evil, anti-American cause were denied chances to work (to say nothing of the fact that the most talented among them remained employed anonymously under a wink-and-nudge system anyway).

    I'm not quite as copacetic as Kyle about blacklists. The big problem is not the concept; it's the people in charge of blacklisting. And the notion that blacklisters can somehow objectively deduce from a bunch of social media posts how "vile" someone is.


  • Here's a goodie from Greg Lukianoff, who introduces J. S. Mill's "Trident": An argument every fan (or opponent) of free speech must know.

    I have been working on a comic book about free speech for years now, and I wanted a way to represent key free speech arguments in a visual way. “Mill’s Trident” refers to a three-part argument that John Stuart Mill made in favor of free speech in his 1859 masterpiece “On Liberty.” Mill recognizes that there are only three possibilities in any given argument: 

    1. You are wrong, in which case freedom of speech is essential to allow people to correct you.
    2. You are partially correct, in which case you need free speech and contrary viewpoints to help you get a more precise understanding of what the truth really is.
    3. You are 100% correct, in the unlikely event that you are 100% correct, you still need people to argue with you, to try to contradict you, and to try to prove you wrong. Why? Because if you never have to defend your points of view, there is a very good chance you don’t really understand them, and that you hold them the same way you would hold a prejudice or superstition. It’s only through arguing with contrary viewpoints that you come to understand why what you believe is true. 

    I find this near-irrefutable.

URLs du Jour

2021-02-16

  • Arnold Kling is writing a series on "Academic Corruption". Part one is about government money.

    In 1975, I heard second-hand about an informal session where Robert Solow spoke with a group of MIT economics grad students. One of the students, apparently feeling guilty about his fellowship from the National Science Foundation, asked, “Why does society pay me to go to graduate school in economics, given all the benefit that I get from having the degree?” Solow, known for his caustic wit, shot back, “Society doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing.”

    Government money has played a role in the decline of quality in academia. Programs like the GI bill and student loan programs have swelled the ranks of college students. Programs like the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities have dumped huge amounts of money into higher education. The net effect has been harmful.

    Very contrarian, and probably correct. (Ignoring for the time being that my professional life would have had to take a totally different path if not for society not knowing what the hell it was doing.)


  • Scott Alexander writes Contra Weyl On Technocracy. This initial part is pretty observant:

    I am not defending technocracy.

    Nobody ever defends technocracy. It's like "elitism" or "statism". There is no Statist Party. Nobody holds rallies demanding more statism. There is no Citizens for Statism Facebook page with thousands of likes and followers. Yet for some reason libertarians don't win every single national election. Strange, isn't it?

    Maybe it’s one of those Russell conjugations - "I am firm, you are obstinate". I support rule of law, you're a statist. I want checks and balances on mob rule, you're an elitist. I like evidence-based policy, you're a technocrat.

    As someone who slings the "statist" slur around a lot… I should probably stop slinging the "statist" slur around quite so much.


  • At her substack, Bari Weiss actually reaches out to talk to a recent blacklistee: Gina Carano and Crowd-Sourced McCarthyism.

    Things have gotten so ridiculous so quickly — Bon Appetit is currently going back and editing insufficiently sensitive recipes in what they call (I kid you not) an “archive repair effort” — that my baseline assumption is that 99 percent of cancellations are unwarranted. In other words, people are losing their jobs and their reputations not for violating genuine taboos but for simple mistakes, minor sins or absolute nonsense. 

    It’s impossible to overstate the bystander effect of these public humiliations. Normal people are functioning like we live under a new kind of McCarthyism — and for good reason. Our McCarthyism is crowd-sourced, but not necessarily less vicious or ruinous.  

    All of which is why, when I saw late last week that an actor named Gina Carano had been fired from a role on a Star Wars show because she doesn’t have the kind of politics required to avoid the modern Hollywood blacklist, I leapt to her defense.

    While Gina posted/retrweeted some silly stuff, Bari's convinced (by, again, actually talking to her) that she's no anti-Semite. Bari also notes the obvious double standards for career destruction, with numerous examples.


  • We talked about this yesterday, but Twitchy publicizes a Twitter thread from James Lindsay: Here are more ways that white supremacy culture shows up in math classrooms. He jumps all over the one I also excerpted:

    It's a thread, with Lindsay excavating even more nonsense from the "Equitable Math" hucksters. Read as much as you can stomach.


  • In a Corner post (Useful Idiots for the Woke Craze) Charles C. W. Cooke takes on this tweet:

    Oh really?

    In practice, “wokeness” involves a lot of extremely destructive habits that deserve widespread resistance. It involves the hunting down of anyone who disagrees with axioms that a handful of self-appointed arbiters decided were inviolable just yesterday; it involves the on-the-fly invention of malleable standards that are, by design, unequally applied; it involves the rank infantilization of everyone who is not both white and male; it involves the picking and choosing of who counts as “real” representatives of the very groups its adherents believe they are helping — based, of course, on their ideological leanings; and, eventually, it demands the wholesale destruction of classical liberal ideas within our institutions. If “wokeness” really did mean “being decent to people who are not like you,” the vast majority of the people who have recently been victimized by it would have been left alone in the first instance, and there would be no meaningful opposition to the creed that put the target on their backs.

    That is just about a perfect paragraph.

URLs du Jour

2021-02-15

[Amazon Link]
Happy President's Day! Our Amazon Product du Jour is inspired by Senator Ben Sasse's remark that "Politics isn’t about the weird worship of one dude".

Well, it shouldn't be, but it sometimes is. And that's a bipartisan affliction.

  • For more on that topic, we have Billy Binion's suggestion: On This Presidents Day, Stop Worshiping the Imperial Presidency. (Or, for that matter, stop worshiping whatever Imperial President suits your preference.)

    Ah, Presidents Day: a much-needed moment to slow down and commemorate presidents past and present, because we definitely don't have enough of that in this country.

    I jest!

    Walking around Los Angeles, you'd be hard-pressed not to pass someone sporting BIDEN-HARRIS merchandise—a shirt, a bumper sticker, a sweatshirt, a mask. Back where I grew up in Virginia, the same is true, though they have a different hero: For years, "MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN" adorned the lawns, cars, and hats of those who wanted you to know they stood, and perhaps still stand, with former President Donald Trump.

    That's not news. Public displays of affection for the U.S. president have become standard in everyday American life, extending well past election cycles and rock-concert-esque inaugurations, as if who you voted for is a personality trait. That's the conventional wisdom, it seems. So, on this fair Presidents Day, a reminder: Presidents aren't saints. They aren't monarchs. They aren't celebrities. And they aren't your friends! The executive leader is an employee of the country—someone whose job was, and still should be, limited in size and scope.

    Like Calvin Coolidge!

    (Not that I worship Calvin Coolidge!)


  • But at the NYPost, Miranda Devine points out an Ugly truth about ‘Honest Joe’.

    Starting with the obvious, Hunter Biden is still in business with the Chinese Communist Party. 

    White House press secretary Jen Psaki admitted a little over a week ago that the president’s wayward 51-year-old son still owns 10 percent of Chinese equity firm BHR Partners. 

    So much for Joe’s promise that “no one in my family will . . . have any business relationship with anyone that relates to a foreign corporation or a foreign country. Period. Period. End of story.” 

    But that was B.E., before the election. Everything’s changed now. 

    Back in the day, President Obama had a magic incantation: "Every Dime". As in (when discussing his new spending proposals) : "I pay for every dime of it." It was a reliable indicator that he was bullshitting.

    Given Biden's less-than-Obamistic oratorical gifts, I wonder if we can speculate that when he says "Period. Period. End of story." it really signifies "I just told a lie."


  • Power Line explains it for you slow learners: Why Math Is Racist.

    This is actually a claim that is being made often these days: the sciences in general, and math in particular, are racist. The latest comes from Oregon:

    The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) recently encouraged teachers to register for training that encourages “ethnomathematics” and argues, among other things, that White supremacy manifests itself in the focus on finding the right answer.

    An ODE newsletter sent last week advertises a Feb. 21 “Pathway to Math Equity Micro-Course,” which is designed for middle school teachers to make use of a toolkit for “dismantling racism in mathematics.”

    Now really? That link goes to a Fox News story, and so maybe they're yanking innocuous things out of context to enrage their audience?

    Well, no. It is very bad out there in Oregon. From the very slick, very woke equitablemath.org website:

    White supremacy culture shows up in math classrooms when...

    The focus is on getting the “right” answer.

    The concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false, and teaching it is even much less so. Upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers perpetuate objectivity as well as fear of open conflict.

    Oh, dear Lord. What could that possibly mean?

    But please note: even in that short excerpt, they say "much less so" when they certainly mean "much more so". (Even though that's not much better.) It's a hallmark of anti-racism to be very sloppy about your language.

    I despair for any poor kid who winds up being taught "Equitable Math".


  • Megan McArdle has some pretty good advice: "Stop stressing so much about who’s getting vaccinated. Just vaccinate people — quickly." And she leads off with a pretty horrific story:

    On Dec. 29, 2020, around 6:45 p.m., a nurse in Humble, Tex., slid a needle into a vial of the Moderna vaccine and administered what would be the last shot of the night at a vaccination event the county health department had organized for emergency workers and other eligible people. With the event winding down, it was unlikely anyone else would show up. In six hours, 10 precious doses of vaccine would expire.

    Hassan Gokal, the medical director of the county’s covid-19 response, says he was determined they would not go to waste. After offering the vaccine to everyone on site — all of whom had either already been vaccinated or declined — and to the eligible relatives of a senior colleague, he put the vaccine in his car and began driving home, making phone calls as he went. By midnight, he had dispensed nine of the 10 remaining doses to the sort of patients who need them: seniors with health problems. Caregivers for those seniors. A worker at a health clinic. A mother whose child was on a ventilator. With one dose left, and no more takers, Gokal gave the last dose to his wife, who suffers from severe respiratory disease.

    In recognition of his heroic efforts to ensure that not a drop of vaccine was wasted, Gokal has been fired from his job and faces possible prosecution by the local district attorney.

    You'd think Texas would be … more Texas than that.

    (According to this story, Gokal doesn't seem to be in legal danger any more. But as near as I can tell, he's still fired, and Harris County DA Kim Ogg still has her job.)


  • Kenneth R. Pike writes at Quillette on Scott Alexander, Philosopher King of the Weird People.

    If you (like me) spend an unhealthy amount of time reading about morality and politics online, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Scott Alexander’s Slate Star Codex. In the best of all possible worlds, this would be because someone pointed you toward his pun-laden kabbalistic theodicy or his highly accessible musings on psychotropics or his remarkable essay on coordination problems. Alas, Google Trends suggests that search interest in Slate Star Codex spiked dramatically in June of 2020, when its author announced that he was closing the blog to discourage the New York Times from “doxing” him, publicizing his identity in a way that invited negative consequences for his psychiatry career (and his patients).

    The news media’s response varied—the New Yorker essentially scooped the story, while National Review simply took the Gray Lady to task—but perhaps the most interesting response was the eclectic variety of signatures appearing on an open letter to the Times. Readers of Slate Star Codex may be predominantly childless, educated white men working in the tech industry, but the diversity of well-regarded academics, doctors, and journalists also speaking up for Alexander seems like evidence for Venkatesh Rao’s self-deprecating assertion that “actually enlightened elite blog readers read Tyler Cowen and Slatestarcodex.”

    Scott is now publishing his thoughts at Astral Codex Ten, to which I've subscribed. We'll see how it goes.

The Last Policeman

[Amazon Link]

I can't quite remember what caused me to put Ben H. Winters' "Last Policeman" trilogy into my things-to-read system, but I'm glad I did. This first book in the series was really, surprisingly, good.

Better still: it's set in New Hampshire, mostly Concord.

The narrator is Henry Palace, a newly-minted detective with the Concord Police. The book opens on a grim scene, an apparent suicide in a McDonalds restroom. The victim is a drab actuary with a local insurance office. But he's a little bruised up, and Palace is suspicious.

Although every other cop on the force is dismissive. Suicides are common. As is drug abuse, vandalism, economic disruption, … all the stuff that signals large-scale societal fracturing. Because overshadowing all this is the imminent arrival of the massive asteroid Maia, on a certain collision course with Earth in a few months.

Palace is driven and diligent, and he's up against seemingly insurmountable barriers. Everybody's lying to him, for one thing. His superiors want him to move on to more pressing matters, for another. And there's also the whole imminent end of the world as we know it. That blows up your societal norms real good.

Only one glitch, near the end, when Palace visits New Castle, on the seacoast. I don't get there often, but it seems the description is totally wrong; visitors in the non-fictional world will not find the described quarter-mile boardwalk, souvenir shops, beach dunes, …

The good (and very well-off) citizens of New Castle would freak at a large influx of hoi polloi tourists those things tend to attract.

Palace also reports that he rides his bike back to Concord after visiting New Castle, taking "highway 90", riding "down the middle of I-90 ... right along the double yellow lines".

Ben, I-90 goes through Massachusetts. And it doesn't have double yellow lines, it's a normal divided Interstate. Probably Palace is taking US-4.

This mild divergence from reality didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book. The remaining two volumes are in the TTR system.

URLs du Jour

2021-02-14

[Amazon Link]

  • Well, we might as well talk about impeachment and acquittal. Most of the sane commentary is at National Review. Before the Senate voted yesterday, Andrew McCarthy pointed out a minor problem: Democrats Squander Their Impeachment-Trial Moment.

    If you figure the fate of Donald Trump and the future course of constitutional governance in the United States hinge on how Justin Trudeau feels about the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill, you would have loved being in the Senate chamber watching Democratic House managers’ prosecution of the impeachment case.

    On the other hand, if you were wondering what happened to Brian Sicknick, the Capitol police officer who died after the siege, and whom the Democrats formally allege was brutalized by rioters at then-President Trump’s urging, you’d have come to the wrong place.

    After more years in the trial biz than I care to count, this was a first for me. In every trial I have ever prosecuted, supervised, or analyzed, if a killing was alleged, then the killing became the central focus of the prosecution’s case. If it was an especially egregious homicide — and Democrats allege that Officer Sicknick was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher by the mob of Trumpies — prosecutors always took their time: opening the case with it, closing the case with it, and in between proving it up in chilling detail.

    It could have been a carefully constructed legal case. Instead the Democrats went for partisan advantage.

    Yet…


  • they still got seven Republicans to vote to convict. For (I think) the best argument to ignore the technical badness of the legal case, see (unsurprisingly): Sen. Ben Sasse on Voting to Convict Trump.

    “An impeachment trial is a public declaration of what a president’s oath of office means and what behavior that oath demands of presidents in the future. But here’s the sad reality: If we were talking about a Democratic president, most Republicans and most Democrats would simply swap sides. Tribalism is a hell of a drug, but our oath to the Constitution means we’re constrained to the facts. Here are the three key points to this debate:

    “First, President Trump lied that he ‘won the election by a landslide.’ He lied about widespread voter fraud, spreading conspiracy theories despite losing 60 straight court challenges, many of his losses handed down by great judges he nominated. He tried to intimidate the Georgia secretary of state to ‘find votes’ and overturn that state’s election. He publicly and falsely declared that Vice President Pence could break his constitutional oath and simply declare a different outcome. The president repeated these lies when summoning his crowd — parts of which were widely known to be violent — to Capitol Hill to intimidate Vice President Pence and Congress into not fulfilling our constitutional duties. Those lies had consequences, endangering the life of the vice president and bringing us dangerously close to a bloody constitutional crisis. Each of these actions are violations of a president’s oath of office.

    Click over for Key Points Two and Three. Gutsy move by Sasse, because a lot of folks back in Nebraska (and here in New Hampshire too) are more devoted to "the weird worship of one dude" instead of any sort of conservative or Constitutional principles.

    For more from Senator Sasse, see the article by Charles C. W. Cooke.


  • On a semi-related matter, Glenn Greenwald writes: The Lincoln Project, Facing Multiple Scandals, is Accused by its Own Co-Founder of Likely Criminality.

    The group of life-long Republican Party consultants who, under the name “The Lincoln Project,” got very rich in 2020 with anti-Trump online messaging has spent weeks responding to numerous scandals on multiple fronts. Despite the gravity of those scandals, its conduct on Thursday night was in a whole new category of sleaze. It not only infuriated their long-time allies, but also constituted the abuse of Twitter’s platform to commit likely illegal acts.

    That the primary effect of the Lincoln Project was to personally enrich its key operatives by cynically exploiting the fears of U.S. liberals has long been obvious. Reporting throughout 2020 conclusively demonstrated that the vast majority of the tens of millions of dollars raised by the group was going to firms controlled by its founders. One of its most prominent founders — GOP consultant Rick Wilson — personally collected $65,000 from liberals through GoFundMe for an anti-Trump film he kept promising but which never came; to this date, he refuses to explain what he did with that money.

    The illegal stuff seems to be accessing and publishing the private Twitter account and messages of New Hampshire's own Jennifer Horn, now an apostate from both the GOP and whatever's left of the Lincoln Project. Apparently whatever the LP posted was unflattering, but still.


  • An exception to Betteridge's Law of Headlines comes from Scott Lincicome: Will Biden Repeat Trump's Automotive Mistakes?. Answer: yeah, probably. Or arguably, worse.

    The New York Times yesterday provided an in-depth look at the Biden White House's plans to "transform the economy" through "dramatic interventions to revive U.S. manufacturing" - heavy on economic nationalism, industrial planning, and manufacturing jobs. If that approach sounds familiar, it should: it's essentially the same gameplan that Biden's predecessor used, with the only major difference being Biden's emphasis on "green" industries like wind turbines, as compared to Trump's love of steel and other heavy industry.

    Both presidents, however, seem to share a soft spot for the automotive industry and U.S. autoworkers. Trump sought to boost automotive jobs through both tariff threats (on dubious "national security" grounds) and restrictive "rules of origin" provisions in his NAFTA replacement, the USMCA. Biden is reportedly looking to boost those same jobs through increased domestic production of electric vehicles and "critical parts like batteries." According to the Times, Biden's team was strongly influenced in this regard by a 2018 United Automobile Workers (UAW) report advocating "huge" government "investments" (subsidies) in the U.S. auto industry, and arguing that "advanced vehicle technology should be treated as a strategic sector to be protected and built in the U.S." Judging from this report and various Biden administration statements to the Times, Biden's plans appear to be a cut-and-paste job from the Trump era, with a little green tinting.

    Unfortunate, and also not surprising.


  • Glenn Loury speaks the Unspeakable Truths about Racial Inequality in America at Quillette. Excerpt from the middle:

    Or, consider the educational achievement gap. Anti-racism advocates, in effect, are daring you to notice that some groups send their children to elite colleges and universities in outsized numbers compared to other groups due to the fact that their academic preparation is magnitudes higher and better and finer. They are daring you to declare such excellence to be an admirable achievement. One isn’t born knowing these things. One acquires such intellectual mastery through effort. Why are some youngsters acquiring these skills and others not? That is a very deep and interesting question, one which I am quite prepared to entertain. But the simple retort, “racism”, is laughable—as if such disparities have nothing to do with behavior, with cultural patterns, with what peer groups value, with how people spend their time, with what they identify as being critical to their own self-respect. Anyone actually believing such nonsense is a fool, I maintain.

    Asians are said, sardonically, according to the politically correct script, to be a “model minority.” Well, as a matter of fact, a pretty compelling case can be made that “culture” is critical to their success. Read Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou’s book, The Asian American Achievement Paradox. They have interviewed Asian families in Southern California, trying to learn how these kids get into Dartmouth and Columbia and Cornell with such high rates. They find that these families exhibit cultural patterns, embrace values, adopt practices, engage in behavior, and follow disciplines that orient them in such a way as to facilitate the achievements of their children. It defies common sense, as well as the evidence, to assert that they do not or, conversely, to assert that the paucity of African Americans performing near the top of the intellectual spectrum—I am talking here about academic excellence, and about the low relative numbers of blacks who exhibit it—has nothing to do with the behavior of black people; that this outcome is due to institutional forces alone. That, quite frankly, is an absurdity. No serious person could believe it.

    The whole essay is a solid ten on the RTWT Meter.

URLs du Jour

2021-02-13

[Amazon Link]

  • John McWhorter continues to knock it out of the park, today with a common refrain: If I like it, it's data; if I don't like it, it's "anecdata."

    The people I call The Elect have a common way of dealing with criticism. When confronted with transparently egregious behavior committed in their name, they claim that the episode is a mere anecdote. It is supposedly unrepresentative of a larger reality in which what we really need to be talking about is that many of the people who stormed the Capitol are racists, and that if they had been black the Capitol police would have mowed them down in cold blood, and other empirical observations that apparently serve so directly to improve the lives of black people who need help. (To use a term The Elect like, I suppose these observations function to help black people …)

    But the problem is that the same people treat a few episodes of, for example, cops killing black people as representative of a national phenomenon, no questions asked. And – let’s say that it is, although I find that analysis oversimplified. I would still not say that it is wrong to hear several stories from across the nation and start to generalize, to see a pattern.

    However, the same must apply to episodes of Electness breaching common sense and morality. Multiple episodes cannot be dismissed as mere “anecdata,” as one sees it put. Especially when the episodes are as multiple as they are. There is a pattern, and it’s scary.

    Professor McW is especially good in his dissection of three mere sentences by an anonymous essayist in honor of Black History Month. (OK, it's a New York Times op-ed by Jonathan Holloway, President of Rutgers University.)


  • The New York Post is pretty good at clickbait for conservatives. I mean, a headline like this: Read the column the New York Times didn't want you to read.

    It's by NYT regular columnist Bret Stephens, who took issue with the firing of William McNeil:

    Every serious moral philosophy, every decent legal system and every ethical organization cares deeply about intention.

    It is the difference between murder and manslaughter. It is an aggravating or extenuating factor in judicial settings. It is a cardinal consideration in pardons (or at least it was until Donald Trump got in on the act). It’s an elementary aspect of parenting, friendship, courtship and marriage.

    A hallmark of injustice is indifference to intention. Most of what is cruel, intolerant, stupid and misjudged in life stems from that indifference. Read accounts about life in repressive societies — I’d recommend Vaclav Havel’s “Power of the Powerless” and Nien Cheng’s “Life and Death in Shanghai” — and what strikes you first is how deeply the regimes care about outward conformity, and how little for personal intention.

    I’ve been thinking about these questions in an unexpected connection. Late last week, Donald G. McNeil Jr., a veteran science reporter for The Times, abruptly departed from his job following the revelation that he had uttered a racial slur while on a New York Times trip to Peru for high school students. In the course of a dinner discussion, he was asked by a student whether a 12-year-old should have been suspended by her school for making a video in which she had used a racial slur.

    Well, if you're interested in such things, you probably know the story. It's anecdata!

    The quality of the Deep Thoughts at the NYT is exemplified by Executive Editor Dean Baquet. Reason reported last Saturday:

    "We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent," Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet and Managing Editor Joe Kahn explained bluntly in a memo Friday.

    And as reported in the WaPo on Thursday:

    New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet on Thursday rolled back a controversial standard regarding the use of racial epithets at the newspaper. In a staff meeting, Baquet retracted the guidance that the paper does not “tolerate racist language regardless of intent.” He explained that the memo with the standard was written on “deadline” and that critics “rightly saw this as a threat to our journalism,” said sources present at the meeting.

    McNeil is still canned, though. So the actual message is clear enough, even though Baquet denies it: "If the woke mob makes my life miserable, you're outta here."


  • In other anecdata, Charles C. W. Cooke reports: Gina Carano’s Firing Is the Product of Yet More Calvinball.

    Gina Carano, the actress who plays Cara Dune on Disney+’s The Mandalorian, has been fired by Lucasfilm for her social media posts. As has become typical, the justification for the firing is not only slippery as hell, it is reflective of a glaring double-standard that its architects are not even attempting to hide:

    Here’s what Carano wrote:

    Because history is edited, most people today don’t realize that to get to the point where Nazi soldiers could easily round up thousands of Jews, the government first made their own neighbors hate them simply for being Jews. How is that any different than hating someone for their political views?

    This is fairly stupid, as are most things said on the Internet. But, stupid or not, it has no obvious connection to the explanation that Lucasfilm gave, which was that Carano’s

    social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities are abhorrent and unacceptable.

    But “denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities” is simply not what Carano did. Instead, she said that the Holocaust happened because the government made people hate their neighbors for their religion and identity, and suggested that political hatreds could end up the same way. I don’t agree with Carano on that, and I don’t like Holocaust comparisons anyhow. But her argument here is not “denigrating” anyone, so much as it is asking for an extension of tolerance into the political, as well as the religious, realm.

    CCWC goes on to note that if Lucasfilm is going to fire actors for making Inapt Nazi Analogies it would have to dump… Pedro Pascal, the Mandalorian his own self.

    Once I "cancel" my Netflix DVD plan (yes I still have it) I'm strongly considering subscribing to Disney+. Would that send the wrong message?


  • And one more bit of Anecdata…

    As we discussed last Friday the "UNH Lecturers United" sent a letter to UNH Administration demanding that the University "stand with us" if the instructors (somehow) "staunchly and confrontationally" acted to oppose the Dread Fascist Menace always (apparently) cropping up in their classrooms.

    One can't help but think they want UNH Administration to have their back if something like this happens: Indigenous professor doxxes ‘racist’ students after they transfer out of her class.

    A University of British Columbia education professor recently took to Twitter to dox a “dirty dozen” students who had transferred out of her class.

    According to the National Post, Amie Wolf, who’s of mixed Native American and Polish descent, was upset the twelve had accused her of “unprofessional” and “hostile” conduct in the Education 440 course, viewing it as a “racist attack.”

    The course is mandatory for all education students.

    Wolf wrote the same narrative in each student’s interim report, noting their transfers were indicative of “unconscious and unacceptable biases, the reinforcement of white supremacy and/or Indigenous specific racism.” Oh, and “an intolerance for ‘otherness.‘”

    Geez, I always thought Canadians were supposed to be polite.


  • Voice of Sanity™ Jacob Sullum is interested enough to opine: Leaving Aside Trump’s Role in Provoking the Capitol Riot, His Reaction to It Was Enough To Justify Impeachment.

    After last month's assault on the U.S. Capitol began, CNN's Kaitlan Collins reported, "White House officials were shaken by Trump's reaction." She said they described him as "borderline enthusiastic because it meant the certification [of Joe Biden's election] was being derailed." Sen. Ben Sasse (R–Neb.), in an interview two days after the riot with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, likewise said "senior White House officials" had told him Trump was "walking around the White House confused about why other people on his team weren't as excited as he was as you had rioters pushing against Capitol Police trying to get into the building." Sasse described Trump as "delighted" by the violence.

    You may not credit these second- and third-hand accounts of Trump's mood as his followers, outraged by his fantasy of a stolen election, stormed the Capitol to stop Congress from certifying Biden's victory. CNN is not exactly friendly toward Trump, and Sasse is a longtime critic. Their reports were based on information from unnamed officials who cannot be asked to confirm or deny making the comments attributed to them. Yet as the House members who are prosecuting Trump for inciting the Capitol riot emphasize, these accounts are consistent with Trump's public behavior after the protest he convened to "stop the steal" turned violent.

    If you're going to tell me that the Democrats are pursuing this more for partisan political advantage than legitimate patriotic concern, I won't disagree.

    If you're going to tell me that the specific "incitement" language in the impeachment resolution is legally problematic, I'll agree you have a point.

    If you're tired of hearing about unproven accusations about the death of Brian Sicknick: me too.

    But Trump deserves every ounce of opprobrium people are flinging at him over his behavior on January 6. Avoid being distracted from that.

The Beginning of Infinity

Explanations That Transform the World

[Amazon Link]

Executive summary: a big, deep, dense book that I almost certainly didn't spend enough time on to appreciate fully. My excuse: I got it from the Portsmouth Public Library, and only allowed myself two weeks to read it. In an ideal world, I'd probably have to spend much more time working through it. This report will be unfocused and choppy, apologies in advance.

It's by David Deutsch, a well-known physicist, and I kind of expected the book would be about (y'know) physics. Well, there is a lot of physics, but there's even more philosophy and speculation. And additional topics, like AI, government, and the nature of beauty. He never says "Did I just blow your mind, reader?" But he could have.

Among the things I did not expect: a long chapter with a scripted discussion about knowledge between Socrates, the Greek god Hermes, with a late appearance by the flawed scribe Plato.

Back in my University days, I studied (superficially) the philosophy of science: Kuhn, Popper, Lakatos, Feyerabend, et. al. I really wish I'd had this book then.

Deutsch is a fan of the Enlightenment (properly understood). In that, he's the physics-side version of Deirdre McCloskey, observing that the new Enlightened attitude toward science (specifically) and knowledge and creativity (generally) has opened up an unbounded possible future for humanity. (Worried that we'll run out of calcium, or something? Pshaw! We'll figure out how to transmute the vast quantities of intergalactic hydrogen eventually into whatever we want.)

He's a fan of the quantum multiverse, and his explication is (as near as I can tell) unique. He's scornful of the "shut up and calculate" Copenhagen-interpretation folks. (Although, admittedly, they get the right answers.)

He's also highly critical of neo-Malthusians and their concepts of "sustainability" (e.g., Jared Diamond). In my case, he's pushing on an unlocked door.

But he's not always pushing on an unlocked door. I have (in the past) expressed worries about the finite intellectual powers of humans setting an impenetrable ceiling on knowledge and progress. Deutsch is the only author I've seen who deals with this straightforwardly, and he debunks my notion pretty convincingly. I will re-evaluate my position! And not be so glib about it in the future.

URLs du Jour

2021-02-12

[Amazon Link]

With respect to our Amazon Product du Jour, I hasten to point out that I'm actually a pretty good speller. But also, unfortunately, a poor tpyist.

  • GeekPress recalls a good old Newsweek story from 2017, not that long ago: Bitcoin Mining on Track to Consume All of the World's Energy by 2020

    A network that underpins the virtual currency bitcoin is projected to require all of the world's current energy production in order to support itself within three years, according to estimates.

    Oh no!

    So take this Slashdot story with a grain of (Himalayan Pink) salt: Bitcoin Consumes 'More Electricity Than Argentina'.

    Bitcoin uses more electricity annually than the whole of Argentina, analysis by Cambridge University suggests. 'Mining' for the cryptocurrency is power-hungry, involving heavy computer calculations to verify transactions. Cambridge researchers say it consumes around 121.36 terawatt-hours (TWh) a year -- and is unlikely to fall unless the value of the currency slumps. Critics say electric-car firm Tesla's decision to invest heavily in Bitcoin undermines its environmental image.

    Well, that's kind of a comedown from "all the world's energy" to "well, more than Argentina, anyway."

    Fortunately, all those electrons are completely recyclable.


  • But speaking of science, Bjorn Lomborg notes a (totally unsurprising) problem with President Wheezy's climate fix: Biden's climate 'fix' is fantastically expensive and perfectly useless.

    Across the world, politicians are going out of their way to promise fantastically expensive climate policies. President Biden has promised to spend $500 billion each year on climate — about 13 percent of the entire federal revenue. The European Union will spend 25 percent of its budget on climate.

    Most rich countries now promise to go carbon-neutral by mid-century. Shockingly, only one country has made a serious, independent estimate of the cost: New Zealand found it would optimistically cost 16 percent of its GDP by then, equivalent to the entire current New Zealand budget.

    The equivalent cost for the US and the EU would be more than $5 trillion. Each and every year. That is more than the entire US federal budget, or more than the EU governments spend across all budgets for education, recreation, housing, environment, economic affairs, police, courts, defense and health.

    It's difficult to believe Joe and Josephine Voter will put up with this, once it becomes obvious what the bill is. Ah, if only the GOP hadn't destroyed itself.


  • Our local conspiracy theorists noted the recent story in Time magazine, and said "See? We told you! Stolen Election!!". Dan McLaughlin is (as usual) a voice of sanity: Time Magazine 2020 Election Story Needlessly Provocative and Unsupported.

    Writing a column in Time magazine entitled, “The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That Saved the 2020 Election,” Molly Ball would like to convince you that, if you’re worried about a conspiracy run by a wealthy, invisible cabal to rig the election against Donald Trump, you’re right. But the facts in her own story don’t entirely support her own breathless rhetoric. Are she and her editors at Time withholding more evidence? Letting overeager sources hang themselves in their headlong rush to burnish their reputations and fundraising lists? Or just being completely reckless and irresponsible in feeding the conspiracy-theory machine for clicks? Ball’s article raises some legitimate concerns, but it is written in a needlessly provocative style.

    Time magazine is barely more credible than QAnon. But it appeals to the right people, so quote it on Twitter and Facebook if you want, you won't get censored by the "fact checkers".


  • Veronique de Rugy outlines The Trouble With Mitt Romney’s Family Security Act.

    Sen. Mitt Romney (R–Utah) recently introduced a universal child allowance in an effort to reform federal welfare programs. That goal is worthy, but his means would be counterproductive.

    For all intents and purposes, he's proposing a kid-centric version of entrepreneur and aspiring politician Andrew Yang's "basic income." According to Romney's summary of his own plan, "The Family Security Act would provide a monthly cash benefit for families, amounting to $350 a month for each young child, and $250 a month for each school-aged child."

    To his credit, the senator's new proposed entitlement wouldn't be unfunded. Romney would "pay for" the new child allowance plan by eliminating the state and local tax deduction, a tax break that mostly benefits higher-income taxpayers. He would also get rid of the head-of-household filing status and eliminate the Dependent Care Tax Credit, along with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Additionally, Romney's plan would reform the Earned Income Tax Credit and reduce that program's spending from $71 billion to $24.5 billion. The EITC has mixed incentives on work, suffers from large improper payments, and is mainly a spending program, thus financed by taxes on other people.

    It's a bit of "conservative" social engineering, trying to tilt the playing field toward having kids, paid for on net by people without kids. How about getting government out of that habit entirely?


  • Goodness knows I was no Trump fan, but I got real tired of the Bulwark and (especially) the Lincoln Project. Twitchy notes that the latter may be in a heap of trouble, boy. Because: Glenn Greenwald turns his attention to the Lincoln Project. Local poster girl Jennifer Horn makes an appearance:

    Malfeasers used to swoon when 60 Minutes came calling. That's been over for years, but Greenwald has stepped up.

The Cuckoo's Calling

[Amazon Link]

So everybody knows that "Robert Galbraith" is the pseudonym of J. K. Harry Potter Rowling. That was revealed, like, a decade ago, and it's even admitted on the back flyleaf of this book.

That being said, I'm totally amazed at how easily J. K. moved from the "magical fantasy wizard kids" genre into the "semi-hard boiled private eye" genre. I wouldn't have expected that skill to translate well.

The private eye is "Cormoran Strike", kind of a silly name. He's back in London from Afghanistan, minus one lower leg. He's just been dumped by his beautiful girlfriend Charlotte; as Charlotte storms out, she encounters Robin, a young woman coming to fill in temporarily as Strike's secretary. He's also been hired by John Bristow to investigate the death of his adopted sister, wealthy/beautiful supermodel Lula Landry. Lula died by falling from the balcony of her luxury flat, but the question is (as usual) did she jump, or was she pushed?

The cops think she jumped, and they initially seem to have the evidence on their side. But Strike's in arrears, so he takes the case. This is one of those mysteries with plenty of characters, mostly hiding dark secrets, with troubled family/romantic relationships, all with complex histories going back decades. This includes Strike.

Cormoran is an excellent detective, however. Robin also is revealed to have buried talents, not just secretarial, but also improvisational investigative techniques.

Current volumes in the Strike series picture (I assume) the stars of the TV show based on the books. Consumer note: the guy playing Strike on the tube is kind of a hunk, while the book's version has him as not that attractive. (His nickname in school: "Pubehead".)

So, not bad. I'll be putting the Strike novels on the get-at-library list.

URLs du Jour

2021-02-11

  • Via Jerry Coyne, our Eye Candy du Jour is THE CHURCH OF WOKE.

    A few days back I noted the (um) interesting language in UNH Lecturers United's open letter where they implied their job (and that of the University generally) was to "foster belief" in Anti-Racism. And pointed out that was not the language of acquiring knowledge. It's the language of evangelicals looking to recruit you into a cult.

    Ryan Long said it funnier, though.


  • Legal Insurrection is one among many sites calling attention to the latest blacklistee: The Mandalorian Star Gina Carano Fired, Dropped by Talent Agency for Social Media Posts.

    The mob has gone after Gina Carano, who plated Cara Dune in The Mandalorian, for months over her social media posts. They won after she compared being a Republican today to Jews during the Holocaust.

    Lucasfilm said Carano is “not currently employed” by them, “and there are no plans for her to be in the future.”

    “Nevertheless, her social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities are abhorrent and unacceptable,” concluded the production company.

    Let's get one thing out of the way: comparing Nazi Germany to 21st century America on Twitter is gonna (at best) lack nuance.

    Still, if you're going to fire actors for stupid tweets, you're going to need to get started and keep at it. That's a huge undertaking.

    Legal Insurrection notes that Disney (which owns Lucasfilm) was pretty much OK with filming Mulan just a stone's throw from the camps where Muslim Uighurs are being, um, concentrated.

    I detect ideological asymmetry.


  • David Boaz has a riddle: How Is Biden's Covid Relief Bill like the Patriot Act?. (No, the answer is not "Neither one can whistle.")

    President Biden seems determined to pass his “American Rescue Plan” without any Republican votes. It’s $1.9 trillion or bust, he says, on top of the unprecedented $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill from March and another $900 billion in December, some of which still hasn’t been spent. In fact, Republicans don’t have the clout to stop the bill. But the plan is also drawing some sharp criticism from non‐Republican sources. Two big articles in the Washington Post Thursday and Friday urged that the plan be pared back to presumably necessary measures, with other components to be considered through the normal non‐emergency congressional process of hearings and floor debate.

    On Friday Lawrence Summers, secretary of the Treasury for President Clinton and director of President Obama’s National Economic Council, weighed in. Summers said that “safety‐​net measures for those suffering and investments in vaccination and testing” need to be implemented immediately. But he warned that the total size of the package “is at least three times the size of the output shortfall” and thus six times the relative size of Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill — which itself was dubbed “Porkulus.” He warned that the massive injection of borrowed money into the economy might well spur inflation and would surely crowd out further Democratic wish‐​list programs. Questioning the administration’s first big bill is unpopular with many Democrats, and Politico reported that the article was “being circulated on the left like samizdat.”

    When your only tool is a hammer, everything gets treated like a nail. For a politician, your only tool is spending other peoples' money.


  • [Amazon Link]
    For folks interested in the history of National Review conservatism, Stephanie Slade has an excellent article in Reason now out from behind the paywall: Is There a Future for Fusionism?.

    There's a well-worn tale about modern American conservatism: It says that the movement as we know it came into being during the mid–20th century as a "fusionist" coalition of economic libertarians and religious traditionalists. These groups, whose goals and priorities differed from the start, were held together mainly by two things: the sheer charisma of National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr., and the shared enemy of global communism.

    As long as the Cold War endured, the story goes, each wing was willing to cede some ground to the other. In light of the threat posed by a rampaging Soviet Union—as militantly atheistic as it was militantly anti-capitalist—the differences between the libertarians and the traditionalists did not seem so great. Their interests, at least, were aligned.

    But the fall of the USSR meant the collapse of the common foe that had sustained the fusionist partnership. It was able to trundle on for a while, powered by a reservoir of goodwill, but it has long been running on fumes. In the last few years, the alliance's inherent tensions have come to a head. It's increasingly common to hear that, whatever value there may have been in cooperation during the '50s, '60s, '70s, and '80s, the era of good conservative feelings is over.

    The high priest of Fusionism at NR was Frank Meyer, and I was a member of that church; he made a lot more sense to me than did (say) Russell Kirk or Murray Rothbard. Slade does a good job of explicating his thoughts and the (unfortunately iffy) prospects for the future.


  • John McWhorter has an excerpt from his upcoming book The Elect.

    The point of this book is to delineate a certain modern way of thinking as less progressive than peculiar, as something we must learn to step around and resist rather than let pass as a kind of higher wisdom. A cohesive and forward-looking society must treat this kind of thought like a virus, a regrettable though perhaps inevitable result of modern social history, which nevertheless must be ongoingly corralled. We should hope for its eventual disappearance, but if this is impossible – and it likely is – it must be kept on the margins of our existence just as smallpox is.

    Third Wave Antiracism’s claims and demands, from a distance, seem like an eccentric performance from people wishing they hadn’t missed the late 1960s, dismayed that so much of the basic work is done already. Seeking the same righteous fury and heartwarming sense of purpose and belonging, their exaggerations and even mendacities become inevitable, because actual circumstances simply do not justify the attitudes and strategies of 1967.

    In an alternate universe these people would be about as important as the Yippies were back in the day, with marijuana on their “flag,” applying to levitate the Pentagon, and smacking pies in people’s faces. They were a fringe movement good for a peek, and occasionally heightened awareness a tad. But they were unimportant in the grand scheme of things, and justifiably so. What makes the difference is that today’s Third Wave Antiracists have a particular weapon in their arsenal that lends them outsized power, much more impactful than a cream pie.

    Not available at Amazon as I type, unfortunately. I think it's going to be a auto-buy for me.

URLs du Jour

2021-02-10

  • Our Eye Candy du Jour from the video geniuses at Reason: Great Moments in Unintended Consequences (Vol. 2).

    Unintended, but not unexpected, at least among those who've learned to expect such things.


  • But there's also textual goodness at Reason, specifically Ronald Bailey doing the math: What Would It Take To Reach Biden’s Carbon-Free Electric Power Goal by 2035?.

    President Joe Biden pledged on January 27 to conjure "a carbon pollution–free electricity sector" into existence "no later than 2035." What would that involve?

    According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the U.S. electric power sector generated 4,127 terawatt-hours of electricity in 2019. Of that, 38.4 percent was produced from natural gas, 23.4 percent from coal, 19.6 percent from nuclear, 7.1 percent from wind, 7.0 percent from hydropower, 1.7 percent from solar power, and 2.8 percent from miscellaneous sources.

    How many power generation units does it take to generate that electricity? The country has 668 coal-fired units (producing 20.8 percent of America's summer capacity), 6,020 gas-fired units (43.4 percent of summer capacity), 96 nuclear units (8.9 percent of summer capacity), 4,014 hydropower units (7.3 percent of summer capacity), and 1,345 wind power units (9.5 percent of summer capacity), and around 2,500 utility-scale solar power production systems. Small and utility-scale solar photovoltaic generation combined amounts to 5.6 percent of summer capacity.

    It's possible that the cost of wind and solar power could drop dramatically over the next few years. (It's also possible that the overall cost of energy could behave like just about every other sector in which government has decided to micromanage.


  • We've previously bemoaned the unceremonious sacking of NYT science reported Donald McNeil. OK, we've been moaning, but Jeffrey A. Tucker warns us: Don’t Cry for Donald McNeil.

    To my own amazement, none of the coverage of his career shift addressed the most salient point about McNeil’s career over the last year. He was the first reporter from a major media venue to stir up virus panic and advocate for extreme lockdown measures. It was late February, a time when Slate, Psychology Today, and the New England Journal of Medicine were all urging calm. He fundamentally changed the national conversation and contributed mightily to the political and cultural panic that ended up shattering our lives. 

    The initial blast from McNeil came in a shocking interview in the Daily podcast of the New York Times, from February 27. He started guns ablazing. He said that this pandemic “reminds” him of the Spanish flu of 1918. The show’s host Michael Barbaro, who surely knew ahead of time what McNeil would say, affected alarm: “I thought you were here to bring calm, Donald.”

    McNeil responded: 

    I’m trying to bring a sense that if things don’t change, a lot of us might die. If you have 300 relatively close friends and acquaintances, six of them would die in a 2.5 percent mortality situation.

    So, I guess the moral is: live by panicked hysteria on one topic, die by panicked hysteria on some other topic.


  • Campus Reform has an interesting statistic:

    Over the past five years, nearly 1,200 Michigan State University students and staff members reported racial discrimination incidents. Only eight instances, however, truly violated the school’s bias and discrimination policies.

    According to data provided to the Lansing State Journal by Michigan State’s Office of Institutional Equity, affiliates reported 1,187 instances of race-based bias and discrimination between 2015 and September 2020. Of those instances, 76 revealed issues with conduct, and of those 76 issues, eight instances — less than 1 percent of all reported — constituted violations of the school’s policies.

    Some enterprising local reporter should get the University Near Here to provide similar statistics.

    But I'm not sure there are any enterprising local reporters. These days, the news media seem content to regurgitate press releases from the administration.


  • And Kevin D. Williamson tells the story of Operation Pancake involving …

    I have seen some weirdness and sometimes been neck-deep in it.

    But picking up a new dachshund puppy was a new one for me: It is the only transaction in which I ever have been involved that required both an envelope full of $100 bills and a letter from my pastor attesting to my good character. (Good enough for a dachshund, anyway.) Normally, it’s a bag of cash or a testament from a clergyman — never both.

    But we live in strange times, just now. Buying a puppy in the plague years is like buying drugs was in the 1990s — yes, you could go down to a seedy strip mall across town or visit some weird dude working out of his basement and take whatever goods are on offer, but, if you want something particular, something special, then you’ve got to know a guy who knows a guy, get checked out, get on the list, and wait for a phone call, which will give you last-minute instructions about where to go and what to do. When John Bolton described Rudy Giuliani’s Ukraine shenanigans as a “drug deal,” I knew exactly what he meant. And so I spent some months living a Velvet Underground song, waiting for my man, albeit with way more than $26 in my hand. “First thing you learn is that you always got to wait,” the song says, and Lou Reed wasn’t lying.

    I've lived a far less, um, colorful life than KDW has.

    But (even though it's been a few decades) I think that adopting my (human) kids involved less folderol that Kevin's puppy acquisition.

    Pictures at the link, in case you have a need today to say Awwwww…


Last Modified 2021-02-10 11:13 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-02-09

  • Another leftist who's getting disgusted with the Church of Woke is Glenn Greenwald, and he lets fly on his Substack: The Journalistic Tattletale and Censorship Industry Suffers Several Well-Deserved Blows.

    A new and rapidly growing journalistic “beat” has arisen over the last several years that can best be described as an unholy mix of junior high hall-monitor tattling and Stasi-like citizen surveillance. It is half adolescent and half malevolent. Its primary objectives are control, censorship, and the destruction of reputations for fun and power. Though its epicenter is the largest corporate media outlets, it is the very antithesis of journalism.

    I’ve written before about one particularly toxic strain of this authoritarian “reporting.” Teams of journalists at three of the most influential corporate media outlets — CNN’s “media reporters” (Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy), NBC’s “disinformation space unit” (Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny), and the tech reporters of The New York Times (Mike Isaac, Kevin Roose, Sheera Frenkel) — devote the bulk of their “journalism” to searching for online spaces where they believe speech and conduct rules are being violated, flagging them, and then pleading that punitive action be taken (banning, censorship, content regulation, after-school detention). These hall-monitor reporters are a major factor explaining why tech monopolies, which (for reasons of self-interest and ideology) never wanted the responsibility to censor, now do so with abandon and seemingly arbitrary blunt force: they are shamed by the world’s loudest media companies when they do not.

    Greenwald's current target is NYT tech reporter Taylor Lorenz, who spied on an ostensibly private Internet chat, and falsely accused Marc Andreessen of using the "r-word" ("retarded"). And it gets worse from there.

    The "Reasons You Can't Trust the New York Times" Department is getting overflowed.


  • John McWhorter writes at Persuasion on The Neoracists. It's an excerpt from his new book, which is not yet available at Amazon, why not?

    It's about "Third Wave Antiracism" which "teaches that racism is baked into the structure of society, so whites’ “complicity” in living within it constitutes racism itself, while for black people, grappling with the racism surrounding them is the totality of experience and must condition exquisite sensitivity toward them, including a suspension of standards of achievement and conduct." And contains the following tenets:

    1. When black people say you have insulted them, apologize with profound sincerity and guilt. But don’t put black people in a position where you expect them to forgive you. They have dealt with too much to be expected to.

    2. Black people are a conglomeration of disparate individuals. “Black culture” is code for “pathological, primitive ghetto people.” But don’t expect black people to assimilate to “white” social norms because black people have a culture of their own.

    3. Silence about racism is violence. But elevate the voices of the oppressed over your own.

    4. You must strive eternally to understand the experiences of black people. But you can never understand what it is to be black, and if you think you do you’re a racist.

    5. Show interest in multiculturalism. But do not culturally appropriate. What is not your culture is not for you, and you may not try it or do it. But—if you aren’t nevertheless interested in it, you are a racist.

    6. Support black people in creating their own spaces and stay out of them. But seek to have black friends. If you don’t have any, you’re a racist. And if you claim any, they’d better be good friends—in their private spaces, you aren’t allowed in.

    7. When whites move away from black neighborhoods, it’s white flight. But when whites move into black neighborhoods, it’s gentrification, even when they pay black residents generously for their houses.

    8. If you’re white and only date white people, you’re a racist. But if you’re white and date a black person you are, if only deep down, exotifying an “other.”

    9. Black people cannot be held accountable for everything every black person does. But all whites must acknowledge their personal complicity in the perfidy throughout history of “whiteness.”

    10. Black students must be admitted to schools via adjusted grade and test score standards to ensure a representative number of them and foster a diversity of views in classrooms. But it is racist to assume a black student was admitted to a school via racial preferences, and racist to expect them to represent the “diverse” view in classroom discussions.

    This is in stark (and very welcome) contrast to the Official Encyclicals recently issued from the Portsmouth Public Library and UNH Lecturers United.


  • Robby Soave highlights the unsurprising defense of an incompetent hack: San Francisco School Board President Says Critics of School Renaming Are Undermining Anti-Racist Work. I'm not sure if she said "How dare you!", but it's strongly implied…

    In Following the Equator, an 1897 book of social commentary, Mark Twain wrote: "In the first place, God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made school boards."

    He certainly could have been talking about San Francisco's current school board, which is now lashing out at critics of its idiosyncratic push to purge the schools of historical names deemed problematic: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Dianne Feinstein, and 40 others. (Indeed, if there were any public schools in San Francisco named for Twain, the renaming committee might very well have jettisoned the acclaimed American author—an ardent champion of anti-slavery and anti-imperialist causes—because characters in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are historically accurate and use the N-word in a pejorative way.)

    Robby also mentions the SF board's vice-principal, who's quoted as saying that "merit" (i.e., trying to measure scholastic achievement) is a "racist system".


  • Well, let's turn to less loaded subjects. Randal O'Toole looks at the Biden Administration's promised goals to make the US A Global Leader in Obsolete Technology.

    Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg wants to make the United States the “global leader” in high-speed rail. That’s like wanting to be the world leader in electric typewriters, rotary telephones, or steam locomotives, all technologies that were once revolutionary but are functionally obsolete today. High-speed trains, in particular, were rendered obsolete in 1958, when Boeing introduced the 707 jetliner, which was twice as fast as the fastest trains today.

    Aside from speed, what makes high-speed rail obsolete is its high cost. Unlike airlines, which don’t require much infrastructure other than landing fields, high-speed trains require huge amounts of infrastructure that must be built and maintained to extremely precise standards. That’s why airfares averaged just 14 cents per passenger-mile in 2019, whereas fares on Amtrak’s high-speed Acela averaged more than 90 cents per passenger-mile.

    Wheezy Joe dearly loves the choo-choos, though. And he loves wasting taxpayer money. The combination will probably be as irresistible as trying to stop the Downeaster with a tractor-trailer.


  • But in our "What Could Possibly Go Wrong" Department, the Washington Examiner reports: Biden pick for unemployment program lost $600M to Nigerian scammers.

    President Biden faces growing questions about the appointment of a Democratic donor to oversee billions of dollars in unemployment benefits despite her role at a state agency that lost hundreds of millions in coronavirus relief funds to Nigerian scammers.

    Suzi LeVine departed Washington state’s Employment Security Department last month, leaving behind a trail of audits and questions about how $600 million of unemployment funds could be siphoned off by cybercriminals.

    Suzi will fit right in.


Last Modified 2021-02-14 4:42 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-02-08

[Amazon Link]

  • Our Amazon Product du Jour, The Ministry of Truth contains a very relevant quote, brought to us by Ann Althouse.

    Like Stalin’s regime during the Great Terror, the Party doesn’t fear heretics; it needs them, because its power is renewed by crushing them.

    I don't want to be accused of a "far-right" version of Reductio ad Hitlerum where s/Hitler/Stalin/. Still, there's something going on…


  • … and one of the latest instantiations is described by Charles C. W. Cooke, (who may be wondering "I became an American citizen for this?") Donald McNeil: New York Times Reporter Fired for Absurd Reason.

    CCWC reproduces a message from "Dean and Joe", New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet and Managing Editor Joe Kahn, sent to NYT employees, explaining why reporter Donald McNeil Jr., who had been employed there for 45 years. was leaving the paper.

    And it includes McNeil's statement in response.

    Bottom line: back in 2019, on a New York Times trip to Peru for high school students, McNeil used the "N-word". The context was understandable. But under the new rules, unacceptable.

    And McNeil's apology is abject. But not abject enough, he's still out on his ass, after 45 years in the saddle.

    CCWC's comment:

    Andrew Sullivan suggests that this reads like “a confession procured by the Khmer Rouge,” which is correct but understates the case. In order to extract its “confessions,” the Khmer Rouge used grotesque instruments of torture and hung the ever-present threat of the killing fields over those they were trying to control. The New York Times, by contrast, has . . . what? In Cambodia, the fact that the apologies were extracted under duress made the willingness of the targeted to acquiesce understandable, and, by extension, made it less likely that anyone watching would believe that the tortured really meant what they said. And in Manhattan . . . ? At one level, I am disinclined to blame the victim here. At another, though, I am absolutely appalled by McNeil’s failure to stand up for the truth, and for himself. At some level, at least, he must know that he is dealing with witch-hunting lunatics who, having entered themselves into a never-ending frenzy of self-righteousness, have lost their capacity to reason. At some level, he must know that there is a profound difference between using a racial epithet in the course of a discussion about that racial epithet’s use, and using a racial epithet to diminish or to wound someone. At some level, he must know that it is not only acceptable to ask in what context a word was used, but that if one wishes to comprehend what happened during a given incident, it is imperative. Or, put another way: At some level, the 67-year-old Donald G. McNeil Jr. must know that he has done absolutely nothing wrong.

    Also weighing in…


  • Matt Welch at Reason is also appalled. It’s Official: Linguistic Intent No Longer Matters at The New York Times.

    Scores of professional journalists have asserted publicly as a matter of plain fact that Donald McNeil is a "racist," one of the most grave accusations in contemporary life. This is the extent of his bosses' generosity toward his career, after their abrupt, pressure-induced reversal of disciplinary policy: "Donald joined The Times in 1976 and has done much good reporting over four decades. But we feel that this is the next right step."

    I have almost never used the N-word in my private life, let alone in my public work. (It is not hard to find video of me on television wincing at its mention.) I do not seethe with even one drop of resentment that it would probably be frowned upon if I walked down the street shouting N.W.A. lyrics. But on those few occasions that I have written the word, it was not to "use a racial slur," it was to highlight the too-common evil of racism in my childhood environment, and to attempt to have an honest conversation about where we are today.

    It is gratifying to work for a publication that not only values free speech, but considers the subject a core coverage area. What's truly regretful, even alarming, is that that approach has become the exception, not the rule, in modern journalism.

    We're lucky to have publications like National Review and Reason. However imperfect, they're far more likely to report on racial matters honestly than is the New York Times.


  • Also on the job is John McWhorter, The N-word as slur vs. the N-word as a sequence of sounds.

    Inevitably, in response to outcry over how needlessly punitive this is, his inquisitors and defenders will note that he is documented to have said some other things that suggest that he is not completely on board with what a certain educated orthodoxy considers the proper positions on race, and that he was reputed to have treated some staffers in a discriminatory way. However, if the complaints were only these, it is reasonable to suppose that he would still have his job. It was the N-word thing that pushed things over the edge, and is the focus of the letter signed by 150 staffers demanding, in effect, his head on a pole.

    That is, for people like this, the N-word has gone from being a slur to having, in its mere shape and sound, a totemic taboo status directly akin to how Harry Potter characters process the name Voldemort and theatre people maintain a pox on saying “Macbeth” inside a theatre. The letter roasts McNeil for “us[ing] language that is offensive and unacceptable,” implying a string of language, a whole point or series thereof, something like a stream, a stretch – “language.” But no: they are referring to his referring to a single word.

    The kinds of people who got McNeil fired think of this new obsessive policing of the N-word as a kind of strength. Their idea is “We are offended by this word, we demand that you don’t use it, and if you do use it, we are going to make sure you lose your job.” But the analogy is off here. This would be strength if the issue were the vote, or employment. Here, people are demanding the right to exhibit performative delicacy, and being abetted in it by non-black fellow travellers.

    McWhorter's bottom line: "to get McNeil fired for using the N-word to refer to it makes black people look dumb." Were I black, I hope I'd feel the same way, and be brave enough to say so.

Methuselah's Children

[Amazon Link]

Yes, I actually own this Signet paperback, Second Printing, September 1962. (Although the cover price is 50¢ instead of the pictured 35¢.) Clicking on the image will take you to the Amazon page where (as I type) you can grab this edition for $33.30! Advertised in "Acceptable" condition. (I assume this means it's pretty beat up, but has all its pages, and is still technically legible. Like mine.)

So anyway: it's another book down on the "Reread Heinlein" project; only 19 to go! The Wikipedia page tells us that its origins are from a three-part serialization in Astounding in 1941. (And there are links that will take you to that version!) It was pasted up into its novel form in 1958.

The main character is Lazarus Long, member of the long-lived Howard Families. Who are the product of selective breeding for longevity. Most of their members are masqueraded from society at large, inventing new identities as needed to hide their eternal youth. But some are out of the closet, and "society at large" has become convinced that they are hiding their actual secret. And the clamps are about to come down! Extermination of the Howards seems likely.

But Lazarus and his comrades come up with an audacious scheme: to swipe a convenient starship, load the Howards into it, and take off for a likely G2 star. Assisting is a fellow Howard, Andrew Jackson Libby. Who's had an interesting idea for a near-lightspeed space drive…

That's about the first 60% of the book; the remainder describes the Howards' wanderings to a couple planets, both inhabited by (seemingly) friendly, intelligent species. But each has its drawbacks.

Not too shabby for an 80-year-old yarn.

URLs du Jour

2021-02-07

  • Michael Ramirez makes it two cartoons in a row about Marjorie.

    [Equal Standards]

    To be clear, I'm not in favor of disciplining CongressCritters for wacky ideas. It was a bad idea for MTG. The voters spoke. People who claim to value "democracy" shouldn't overrule the results of democratic elections.

    On the other hand, I would be in favor of mandatory exams on civics given to CongressCritters every year, with the results made public. They've sworn to both "support and defend" and "bear true faith and allegiance" to the Constitution; how well do they know it?

    Then maybe make committee assignments based on that.


  • In our "Disappointing, Not Surprising" Department: The Portsmouth (NH) Public Library is offering a Anti-Racism Zine. Literally hand-drawn. For free. Except that it's involuntarily funded by Portsmouth taxpayers, and (sigh) voluntarily by people like me who pay a yearly non-resident fee for our cards.

    You can read it for yourself. Or you can trust me: it's the usual woke propaganda. Complete with self-flagellation:

    [PPL Anti-Racism Sample]

    In the library's (slight) defense, their shelves are decently ideologically diverse. There's someone there who isn't averse to getting books by George F. Will, Thomas Sowell, etc.

    I'd like to say that it's not the library's job to advocate a narrow racial ideology. (Nor is it the job of a University.)

    But that ship has apparently sailed, at least in the short term.


  • Philip Carl Salzman notes the prevailing campus culture: We Love Diversity, But Hate Differences.

    Every institution in the United States and in Canada has endorsed diversity as a fundamental value and goal, and has formally committed to sex, race, sexuality, and ethnic diversity in its personnel. This is seen at every level, from national governments to universities to primary schools, from international corporations to the media to street corner stores, and from the military to political rioters. Diversity is alleged to be valuable in and of itself, a broadening and enriching of knowledge and experience.

    While sex, race, sexuality, and ethnic diversity are the objects of the highest approbation, any consideration of differences between sexes, races, sexualities, and ethnic groups is condemned and strictly forbidden. Any statement indicating differences is assumed to be invidious, praising one and demeaning the other. Even where differences do imply value judgements, such as in academic performance or crime rates, it is now forbidden to mention them. In other words, we love diversity, but hate differences.

    As we saw the other day, we especially hate differences of opinion.


  • Jack Fowler grasps the darkness of Dark-Money. It's in his review of House Resolution 1, which is the latest Democrat attempt to ensure their permanent majority.

    About that “dark money” — it’s a reality. But in political parlance, translated by a compliant media, it has always been understood to mean undue influence of high-dollar conservative donors. Which may be why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is the principal co-sponsor of H.R. 1, while Majority Leader Chuck Schumer grandstands likewise on behalf of the Senate sibling, lending it prestige. Or, it may not: Both Democratic leaders are champions of raising, directing, orchestrating, associating with, relying on, and spending dark money. Per the Washington Free Beacon, the duo quarterbacked the funneling of millions in dark cash into the 2020 congressional elections. In fact, the amount that a Schumer-related group pulled in and spent in 2020 was a massive increase over the 2016 and 2018 election cycles:

    Majority Forward, a nonprofit with ties to Schumer’s Senate Majority PAC, pushed $57.4 million into super PACs that helped Democrats regain the majority in Congress’s upper chamber. The vast sum far eclipses the $6.2 million it funneled into election activity in the 2016 and 2018 cycles combined. The nonprofit does not disclose its donors, making it difficult to identify who provided the funding to back Schumer’s efforts.

    Majority Forward’s election cash spike was made possible by a record-breaking fundraising haul from mid-2018 to mid-2019, when the group received $76 million in anonymous donations. That same year, it passed tens of millions to other left-wing nonprofits for its primary purpose of bankrolling voter engagement. Its largest donation was $14.8 million to America Votes, which later found itself under investigation in Georgia for allegedly sending ballot applications to non-residents.

    And they say the right-wing conspiracy is vast!

    Or (ahem) half-vast.


  • "Wired's politics writer" Gilad Edelman breathes a sigh of relief: Finally, an Interesting Proposal for Section 230 Reform.

    By the end of last year, there were few better symbols of bad-faith politics than Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the law that gives online platforms legal immunity for user-generated content. After a fairly sleepy existence since its passage in 1996, Section 230 turned into an unlikely rallying cry for a subset of Republican politicians who disingenuously blamed it for letting social media platforms discriminate against conservatives. (In fact, the law has nothing to do with partisan balance, and if anything allows platforms to keep more right-wing content up than they otherwise would.) Down the home stretch of his reelection campaign, Donald Trump began dropping Section 230 references into his stump speeches. The whole thing culminated with a pair of depressing Senate hearings that, while nominally about Section 230, were little more than PR stunts designed for Ted Cruz to get clips of himself berating Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Senate Democrats didn’t quite cover themselves in glory either.

    So it’s a bit of a surprise to see a legislative proposal on Section 230 that thoughtfully, if imperfectly, addresses some of the most glaring problems with the law. The SAFE TECH Act, a bill announced on Friday morning by Democratic senators Mark Warner, Mazie Hirono, and Amy Klobuchar, is an encouraging sign that members of Congress are paying attention to the smartest critiques of Section 230 and trying to craft appropriate solutions.

    It's always nice when writers claim "the smartest critiques" are the ones they happen to agree with.

    But I only linked to the WIRED article so that you could compare and contrast this counterpoint…


  • … from Cathy Gellis at Techdirt: Senators Warner, Hirono, And Klobuchar Demand The End Of The Internet Economy.

    Just because Senators Warner, Hirono, and Klobuchar are apparently oblivious to how their SAFE TECH bill would destroy the Internet doesn't mean everyone else should ignore how it does. These are Senators drafting legislation, and they should understand the effect the words they employ will have.

    Mike [Masnick, Techdirt editor] has already summarized much of the awfulness they propose, and why it is so awful, but it's worth taking a closer look at some of the individually odious provisions. This post focuses in particular on how their bill obliterates the entire Internet economy.

    I trust Techdirt over WIRED. But see what you think.


  • On a totally unrelated matter, Randal O'Toole looks to our electric-car future. Vehicle-Mile Fees: A Good Idea If Done Right. What would it mean to "do it right"?

    However, it is critical that such fees be dedicated to highways, roads, and streets, and not diverted to build obsolete light‐rail lines or subsidize other archaic infrastructure. Currently, about 20 percent of federal and state gas taxes are diverted to transit and other non‐​highway programs and the result is an incredible amount of waste and inequity.

    Calculations based on 2019 Department of Transportation data show that it cost five times as much to move someone a passenger mile by public transit as by the average automobile. An Oregon transit agency is currently spending $108 a rider subsidizing one rail transit line.

    This is particularly inequitable because transit commuters have the highest median incomes of any commuters in the country. Just 5 percent of people who earn less than $25,000 a year took transit to work in 2019 while nearly 7 percent of people who earn more than $75,000 a year commuted by transit. This means that 95 percent of low‐​income workers disproportionately pay through gasoline and other taxes for transit rides taken by high‐​income workers.

    I, for one, hope the Portsmouth Public Library does a zine denouncing the inequity of ordinary-schmoe gas-taxpayers subsidizing high-income public transit users.

URLs du Jour

2021-02-06

  • Michael Ramirez has a pictorial take on Marjorie Taylor Greene:

    [Way Out There]

    But basic old-fashioned gallantry requires me to provide a less graphic take, from the NR editors: Democrats Will Regret Their Move against Marjorie Taylor Greene.

    At least Marjorie Taylor Greene won’t have to spend time sitting at the end of the dais during long committee hearings.

    House Democrats voted to boot her from her committee assignments in an act that they will surely come to regret, perhaps as soon as January 2023.

    If the majority can keep members of the opposition party off of committees based on incendiary comments, it’s not clear why the GOP ever let, say, Maxine Waters serve on any committees when it had control of the chamber, or why it ever will again.

    The media will be more than happy to cooperate with Democrats in making Marjorie the face of the post-Trump GOP.


  • I don't have an obsession with MTG or anything, but she shows up in David Boaz's post: Who Are "The People"?. Specifically, he responds to a tweet:

    David:

    But of course “the people” of the United States are not all that enamored of the former president, either now or at any point. He got 45.9 percent of the vote in 2016, 46.8 percent in 2020. He got 3 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton and 7 million fewer than Joe Biden. He’s the first president ever whose approval rating in the Gallup Poll never reached 50 percent, and as he left office his average poll rating was 38 percent. So it doesn’t really seem that the American people are “absolutely 100% loyal” to him. Yet on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere you can find constant affirmations that the elites may not like Trump but “the people” support him. Who are these people?

    Claiming the mantle of “the people” is a common theme of populists, of course, from William Jennings Bryan, who asked “Shall the People Rule?” but lost three presidential races, to Hugo Chavez, who denounced his opponents as homosexual, Zionist, and tools of “the bourgeoisie” and the Americans. Political scientists Daniele Albertazzi and Duncan McDonnell described populism as an ideology that “pits a virtuous and homogeneous people against a set of elites and dangerous ‘others’ who are together depicted as depriving (or attempting to deprive) the sovereign people of their rights, values, prosperity, identity, and voice.” Populists typically claim to speak for “the people” against some set of elites and/​or against groups who are not elite but are in some way “other” — foreigners, immigrants, Jews, racial or sexual minorities, etc.


  • Also at NR: Ben Sasse Responds to Nebraska GOP Censure. There's video of Sasse's remarks to the Nebraska GOP State Central Committee at that link, but also a "rough transcript". Excerpt:

    January 6th is gonna leave a scar. For 220 years, one of the most beautiful things about America has been our peaceful transfer of power. But what Americans saw three weeks ago was ugly – shameful mob violence to disrupt a constitutionally mandated meeting of Congress to affirm that peaceful transfer of power.

    It happened because the president lied to you. He lied about the election results for 60 days, despite losing 60 straight court challenges – many handed down by wonderful Trump-appointed judges.

    He lied by saying that the vice president could violate his constitutional oath and just declare a new winner.

    He then riled a mob that attacked the Capitol – many chanting “Hang Pence.”

    If that president were a Democrat, we both know how you’d respond.

    But, because he had “Republican” behind his name, you’re defending him.

    Something has definitely changed over the last four years…but it’s not me:

    -Personality cults aren’t conservative.

    -Conspiracy theories aren’t conservative.

    -Lying that an election has been stolen isn’t conservative.

    -Acting like politics is a religion isn’t conservative.

    I love Nebraska (lived there 1961-1969). Nebraska should thank its lucky stars to have Senator Sasse.


  • David Henderson writes on Margins and the 2020 Presidential Election. In response to an article from John Goodman blaming Trump's loss on "health care". Yes, but that's not all…

    I think John is right. But one could also say that if he hadn’t been so incredibly rude and nasty in the first debate, he would have won also. (Although we now know in retrospect that Trump was probably awfully sick with COVID-19 during that first debate. When you’re sick, you tend to let out your inner self. And Trump’s inner self is nasty.)

    […]

    Imagine what would have happened if Trump had been neutral, not nice but simply neutral, to the memory of John McCain. He probably would have won Arizona. (Of course, that’s like asking what would have happened if Trump hadn’t been Trump.) What if he had pointed out the record growth in median incomes for various minority groups? He might have won Georgia. What if had actually run a campaign based on his accomplishments up to the end of 2019? He might have won Wisconsin. Etc.

    If only Trump… hadn't been Trump.

    But let's not take our eyes off the real culprits: the people who voted for him in 2016.


  • Philip Greenspun takes up a theme we've mentioned before: Save lives by limiting cars to 35 mph?.

    Following up on Why do we care about COVID-19 deaths more than driving-related deaths? (March 26, 2020) … by shutting down for a year we’ve spent way more per life-year in our attempt to reduce coronaplague deaths than I ever could have imagined. If we infer from this how much saving a life-year is worth to us, it would be rational to limit cars and tracks, nearly all of which are electronically controlled, to 35 mph. Consider that most people who die in car accidents had many decades of life expectancy in front of them, unlike the typical 82-year-old victim of COVID-19.

    An SUV-driving suburban Bostonite who runs his own law practice (representing workers’ compensation plaintiffs who aren’t typically expert computer users and who therefore prefer to meet in person): “I go to work every day at 80 miles per hour.”

    Obviously setting the speed limit to 35 mph and relying on police enforcement wouldn’t work. For one thing, our heroic law enforcement officers don’t want to interact with potential COVID carriers (all who want to be vaccinated have been vaccinated, but many refused the experimental (“investigational”) vaccines and it is unknown whether the vaccines work against variants).

    Phil's modest proposal is to update vehicle firmware at inspection time, making it impossible to breach 35 mph. Unless you drive off a cliff or something.

    My comment: "Please also consider mandatory helmets for all drivers and passengers. And a thick outer layer of bubble wrap. For the vehicle and its occupants."


  • At the single Tea Party event I attended in Manchester back in 2009, I was favorably impressed with Jennifer Horn. Yes, I admit it!

    Since then, she's drawn the ire of many a New Hampshire conservative, becoming one of the founders of the anti-Trump "Lincoln Project". Until yesterday, apparently. The Daily Caller reports: Lincoln Project Co-Founder Resigns Following John Weaver’s ‘Sickening’ Behavior, Cites Diverging Views.

    Jennifer Horn, a co-founder of the Lincoln Project, has resigned from the group following revelations that John Weaver, another co-founder, had sexually propositioned men and boys on social media, The New York Times reported Friday.

    “John Weaver’s grotesque and inappropriate behavior, coupled with his longstanding deceptions concerning that behavior, are sickening. It is clear at this point that my views about how the Lincoln Project’s efforts are managed, and the best way to move the Lincoln Project forward into the future in the wake of these awful events, have diverged.’’

    For its part, whoever is left at the Lincoln Project, fired back:

    Me-ow!

    Did I mention that Jennifer Horn isn't particularly popular among NH conservatives? Here's Steve MacDonald at Granite Grok: Lincoln Project Lets "The Door" Hit Jen Horn In the "Ass".

    After wearing out her welcome in the New Hampshire State Republican Party, she latched on to the Log Cabin Republicans. She might tell you it was to advocate for their interests, but it was because she needed the money and thought hating Trump was the ticket.

    When the Log Cabin endorsed Trump, she quit and landed with the Trump-Hating Lincoln Project. I have no clue what value she brought to that organization, but she thought highly of that value, and clearly, they did not.

    And there’s plenty of money. The Lincoln Project is rolling in it; they didn’t want to give any of it, Jennifer.

    Well, I'm sorry things didn't work out for her. I'm sure she had heartfelt opinions, but politics ain't beanbag.


Last Modified 2021-02-07 6:50 AM EDT

UNH Lecturers & Cancel Culture

They Want In On It

As promised/threatened yesterday, here's my take on a recent letter emitted by the Executive Committee of "UNH Lecturers United", the union bargaining unit of non-tenure-track faculty at the University Near Here. Currently available on their website, saved for posterity on my Google Drive:

[UNH Lecturers Mail]

I was sufficiently irritated to (1) download this PNG; (2) install and use Tesseract to OCR it into text; and (3) break out the old fisking template to comment on it as it goes along. The letter's text is on the (appropriate) left, with a lovely #EEFFFF background color; my remarks are on the right.

I do this with some reluctance and regret, because I know and like a number of people on the Executive Committee. But, as the kids say these days, silence is violence. So…

The University of New Hampshire has recently adopted the language of Anti-Racism, […]

Sadly true. Although it ignores a larger truth: UNH has been heavily invested in progressive/leftist trends in racial/sexual/identity/etc. politics for years. For example,

  • It proudly invited "ex"-Communist Angela Davis to speak at its yearly Martin Luther King celebration back in 2009.
  • In 2011, when the Obama Administration tried to use Title IX to bypass due process for college students accused of sexual misbehavior, they sent Joe Biden to UNH for the big announcement, where he was warmly welcomed.
  • And UNH was widely mocked back in 2015 when people noticed its "Bias-Free Language Guide" which attempted to police usage of "problematic" words and phrases like "American", “homosexual,” “overweight,” “rich,” …

But, yes, "recently" UNH has gone all-in on the "anti-racism" fad, making it the school's Official Racial Ideology, featuring its advocates on its website, running the spectrum from left to hard-left, without a single contrary opinion appearing.

So what more could the Lecturers want? Well, as it turns out…

[…] but it is impossible to foster such a belief unless the University’s position is also staunchly and confrontationally Anti-Fascist. Racism, classism, religious intolerance, and sexism are integral to the logic of the far-right. If we truly value diversity, then we must actively oppose any political position structured around inequality.

It's not enough. It's never enough.

Note the implicit assumption that it's UNH's job to "foster belief" in Anti-Racism. That's entirely appropriate language for evangelicals looking to recruit you into a religious cult. For a University, not so much.

But never mind that; apparently UNH's current efforts at evangelism are inadequate to counter the Dread Fascist Menace.

Which the Lecturers apparently equate with the "far-right".

Which the Lecturers apparently equate with "any political position structured around inequality".

It's pretty clear the Lecturers' goal here is to cast a broad and fuzzy net around any political opinion with which they could potentially disagree. Round 'em up, condemn them, either get them to shut up or (preferably) toss them out.

Since the election of Donald Trump, faculty have been encouraged on multiple occasions to respect and tolerate the political positions of students that they may find reprehensible.

Apparently no English teachers were involved in the drafting of this letter; "reprehensible" is a dangling modifier, making it ambiguous whether the faculty find the political positions reprehensible, or the students themselves.

Hey, maybe both. But they should clarify.

It's also unclear what the election of Donald Trump has to do with causing faculty to be encouraged to be more respectful and tolerant. Shouldn't that be a given? A default attitude? No matter who's in the Oval Office?

Nah. My guess: Trump's election caused (some) faculty to be increasingly disrespectful of, and stridently intolerant toward, Trump-sympathizers. Which (I assume) caused enough complaining so that administration urged them to take it down a notch or two. Understandable and plausible.

To our knowledge. no similar statement has been issued to the students, […]

In fact, UNH's handbook of Students Rights, Rules and Responsibilities refers to "our collective commitment to respect the rights, dignity, and worth of all community members" right up front. I'm pretty sure that's been the boilerplate for years. There's no asterisk detailing an exception for reprehensibility.

[…] and the university has hosted hateful and dangerous individuals and organizations on campus.

Dangerous? Once again, remember that UNH once hosted Angela Freaking Davis on campus. Who, back in 70s, owned a shotgun used to blow the head off a judge who'd been taken hostage in an attempted jailbreak.

So we're left to wonder what "dangerous individuals and organizations" the Lecturers are referring to. I can only remember a couple of events, both from the not-particularly-dangerous Turning Point USA (in May 2018, see Eric the Viking for his take; and October 2019, which I attended, my report here). You can plausibly call TPUSA unnecessarily provocative, but deeming them "hateful and dangerous" is way over the top.

So never mind, we're off to…

Faculty have experienced repeated harassment and slander online, and they have been intimidated in the classroom and pilloried in the evaluations that are used to determine promotion and reappointment. This has created chilling effect across the campus that has become an obstacle to the exercise of the academic freedom needed to deliver honest and accurate content.

Stipulated: some students say stupid and malevolent things. (E.g., "I hate you and I hope you die".)

As a one-time UNH Instructor, I agree that student evaluations are hot garbage.

Harassment, slander, and intimidation can and should be dealt with by the normal student conduct process.

But maybe students perceive that they and their opinions are being disrespected in the classroom ("reprehensible", remember?) and decide to reciprocate. Given the instructor/student power imbalance, that might not be prudent, but they deserve points for chutzpah.

President Dean has stated that “we must commit to a sincere search for truth” and that "we must continue our efforts to help people understand the importance of Democracy, the rule of law and how to critically examine information to reach a valid conclusion.” In order to do this the faculty needs encouragement from the administration to combat these elements as they arise and assurances that we will be supported for doing it.

Can we all just get behind reasoned discussion of political differences?

I'd suggest that will not happen when faculty characterize it as part of their job to "confrontationally" "combat" anyone expressing "dangerous"/"hateful"/"reprehensible" ideas. Or (for that matter) anything they see as "structured around inequality".

We are not talking about simple differences of opinion. In the same way that one would assume it is unacceptable to argue that the Earth is flat or only 2000 years old in a Geology class, all faculty must feel secure in saying "No, Fascism and its adjacent attitudes are abhorrent to a diverse and democratic society, and they have no place here.”

This is probably too obvious to point out, but:

Asserting that "woke" anti-racist ideology should be considered to have the same certitude as a spheroidal, 4.543 billion-year-old Earth is utter nonsense.

That said, a decent prof in the sciences should be able to deal with flat-earth students without losing his cool. Or claiming that their views are "abhorrent"; they are simply wacky.

But note that appendage the Lecturers have added to "Fascism": "and its adjacent attitudes". Again we see the vague and potentially sweeping dissenting views the Lecturers want the leeway to ban as having "no place here".

Nothing to worry about there, National Review-reading students. I'm sure they'll come for you last.

As the philosopher Karl Popper has famously articulated, there is a “paradox of tolerance.” In the desire for its own self-preservation, a tolerant society cannot and must not be open-minded toward those that would seek to destroy it is precisely our tolerance and permissiveness that the far-right has exploited in order to disseminate the false information that has led to a deadly Insurrection at the Capitol and to the out-of-control spread of Covid-19.

Taking the low-hanging fruit first: it's certainly a misreading of Popper to claim that he was in favor of suppressing views that might be categorized as intolerant. (Especially by those eager to suppress opposing views.) The Lecturers should read Popper more carefully: "… I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise."

I think the Lecturers' views are more akin to Marcuse's than Popper's. But see what you think.

I'm as outraged by the 1/6 Capitol Riot as anyone. Will following the Lecturers' recommendations help circumvent future riots? Doubtful.

And of course, the Covid pandemic is a worldwide phenomenon. Is the "far-right" disinformation really so powerful as to cause its spread from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe?

No, I don't think so either.

But we're on to the grand finale, folks:

UNH Lecturers United hopes that the administration will join us in our commitment to equity, equality, and justice by condemning the poisonous ideologies that have been allowed to fester on our campus and in our nation. We ask that the administration make it clear to the entire campus community what behaviors cannot be tolerated. Faculty should always teach respectfully but with ultimate fealty to the truth. If doing so brings them into conflict with groups or individuals who harbor other beliefs they will have the full support of the UNHLU-AAUP, and we hope the administration will stand with us by publicly asserting its commitment to its core beliefs and its willingness to defend them as necessary.

Why, it's almost as if they imagined this last paragraph be accompanied by rousing inspirational music, perhaps The Internationale.

It's clear that UNHLU-AAUP wants to set itself up as the Ministry of Truth at UNH, deciding what "poisonous ideologies" should be "condemned". And advocating that a broader (but vague) array of "behaviors" should now be grounds for expulsion or perhaps a stint in the re-education camps.


Last Modified 2021-02-23 12:42 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-02-04

  • Ladies and Gentlemen Comrades, via Ann Althouse, a small preview of your future: Wokezilla.

    Which brings us to…


  • Legal Insurrection has launched a new website, Critical Race Training, dedicated to illuminating/exposing the new indoctrination.

    I immediately checked out their page for the University Near Here.

    The news is not great.

    We already knew about UNH President Jimmy Dean's promise last year to "ensure that our graduates are exposed to the elements of U.S. history most important to understanding our current situation with regard to race".

    "Exposure to the elements" is not something you want in the dead of winter, but anyway. It doesn't take a lot of effort to translate that into normal English: require students to be indoctrinated in Critical Race Theory.

    Even more ominous and more recent is the letter emitted a couple weeks back by the Executive Committee of "UNH Lecturers United", the union bargaining unit of non-tenure-track faculty.

    Read it and weep. I was going to comment on it here, but I think I'll devote an entire post to that when I get the chance.


  • We're a couple days late with Veronique de Rugy's plus ça change column: It's Groundhog Day All Over Again in Washington.

    One of the recurring themes after the election of Joe Biden to the presidency has been that it would bring a radical change from Donald Trump's presidency. To be sure, these men have very different backgrounds and personalities. However, when it comes to public policy, in many areas, Biden is decisively following in Trump's footsteps.

    I'm not the only one to notice. The Babylon Bee, a satirical newspaper, joked, "In a stunning repudiation of Trump's COVID plan, Biden has announced he will throw out masking, vaccinations, and travel bans and replace them with masking, vaccinations, and travel bans." To be fair, the federal government thankfully has only limited room to act in a centralized and national way to respond to the pandemic, which means that adjustments will only be made at the margin.

    Yet take the Biden administration's self-proclaimed "ambitious goal" to administer 100 million vaccine doses by the end of its first 100 days. That target, my friends, is no more and no less than the trajectory the Trump administration was already headed toward on its way out. Also, while the Biden administration wants to spend large amounts of cash to speed up the distribution, there is evidence that this will do nothing to help — and may even slow down the process — if the money comes with mandates or other strings attached.

    Also on Veronique's list of "the same, only different": end-running Congress via executive orders; protectionism; China policy; Export-Import cronyism.


  • The venerable Foundation for Economic Education notes another Califoulup: Local Kroger Stores Close as California ‘Hero Pay’ Ordinance Backfires.

    A new “Hero Pay” mandate in Long Beach, California has inadvertently cost some frontline grocery workers their jobs.

    “Ralphs and Food 4 Less, both owned by the parent company Kroger, announced Monday that they will be closing 25% of their stores in Long Beach after the city council passed an ordinance requiring companies with over 300 employees nationwide to pay employees an extra $4 per hour,” local news outlet Fox 11 reports. Two stores in the area will be shut down.

    A company spokesperson directly cited the city council’s ordinance mandating higher wages as the reason they are closing down.

    Coming soon to an unemployment office near you: the $15/hr minimum wage.


  • And Drew Cline has pretty much had it with state songs: Picking a 'state song' is just another way to stoke the culture wars.

    A bill in the Legislature (SB 105) would establish “My 603” by Candia country musician Nicole Knox Murphy as the official New Hampshire state song. By law.

    Don’t like the song? Too bad. Think another song better represents New Hampshire? Too bad. Legislators would decree that this song is the best of all possible New Hampshire songs, and no other is worthy of the title of New Hampshire State Song.

    Don't get Drew started on the proposed state spider.


Last Modified 2021-02-05 6:13 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-02-03

  • Like a monkey in one of those cocaine addiction studies, I keep hitting the button to check out Becker's Hospital Review's list of States ranked by percentage of COVID-19 vaccines administered.

    How are we doing? Number 36! As I type. (59.86% of distributed doses administered).

    We were number 37 in their February 1 list (59.1%). So, progress. But I've sent mail to Governor Sununu urging him to get vaccine distribution tips from Gov. Kristi Noem of North Dakota. Which is #1 with 81.93%.

    Gov, even getting that number up to 65% would put us in 22nd place.


  • To quote Buck Murdock: Irony can be … pretty ironic sometimes. Current case in point reported by Robby Soave: Newsmax Censors My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell During Segment About Twitter’s Censorship of Mike Lindell.

    My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, an ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump who wrongly believes the 2020 presidential election was stolen, appeared on Newsmax Wednesday to discuss his suspension from Twitter.

    The topic of the segment was supposed to be Big Tech's censorious efforts to silence Lindell. But the businessman immediately veered off-topic and into conspiracy theory territory, forcing producers to abruptly cancel the interview—and inadvertently making an important point about Section 230, the federal law that protects social media companies from liability and has undeservedly become an object of conservative ire.

    Robby makes a simple point: if social media platforms become legally responsible for every brain-damaged thing their users say, they'll become far more censorious than they are today. Of course, speech stiflers like Joe Biden and Liz Warren are in favor of that. Why anyone of a conservative/libertarian bent should agree is mystifying.


  • Kevin D. Williamson makes a related point: Populist Right and Populist Left Policy Preferences Overlap. Long, but here's a sample:

    One would think that Lenin’s superstition — that the ready-made solutions are all there waiting to be implemented, requiring only pure hearts and some political will — would have been dispelled in both parties by their experiences in power. Barack Obama came into office with his party controlling both houses of Congress, but his promise to fundamentally transform the United States came to very little — and exactly the same thing was true of Donald Trump. But, of course, the partisans have an answer for that: “The traitors have infiltrated our operations! Saboteurs and wreckers!”

    Thus the We the People vs. the Establishment rhetoric that so completely dominates our politics on both sides of the aisle.

    I do not expect the American Left to question the premise that “human action no longer encounters obstacles or limits, only adversaries,” because the American Left is, always has been, and always will be both utopian and juvenile. But an American Right that consistently fails to grapple with reality, as in the case of so many contemporary Republican elected officials and prominent right-wing media voices, is incoherent. It is no longer conservative in any meaningful sense, but, as expressed in the rhetoric of so much of the Right today, self-consciously revolutionary.

    Utopianism-in-arms does not have an especially admirable historical record.

    Trump said a lot of bad things. But one of the worst was "I alone can fix it."

    It's a shame that so many took that seriously.


  • From the daily news roundup at the Dispatch, Sarah Isgur and Audrey Fahlberg observe the latest example of a general rule, namely Actions Have Consequences.

    According to the Associated Press, “nearly 5,000 Arizona voters dropped their GOP voter registration in nine days after the Capitol attack.” And in the days following January 6, 4,600 voters dropped off the Republican rolls in Colorado, 6,000 in North Carolina, and 10,000 in Pennsylvania. NPR, who reported the data, noted that this was specific to the GOP: “there was no comparable effect with any other party.” This isn’t just bad news for Republicans on the ballot in 2022—it’s bad news for the future of the party, because it may signal that more moderate Republican voters have simply given up on fighting against the fringes over the direction of the party. 

    I'm sorely tempted myself. It's difficult to be registered with a party that's trying to throw out Liz Cheney while embracing Marjorie Taylor Greene.


  • If you need a lesson in true bravery, I suggest reading the statement by Alexei Navalny in front of the Russian court that had just sentenced him to 2½ years in prison. Putin is a “Thieving Little Man”.

    The explanation is one man’s hatred and fear—one man hiding in a bunker. I mortally offended him by surviving. I survived thanks to good people, thanks to pilots and doctors. And then I committed an even more serious offense: I didn’t run and hide. Then something truly terrifying happened: I participated in the investigation of my own poisoning, and we proved, in fact, that Putin, using Russia’s Federal Security Service, was responsible for this attempted murder. And that’s driving this thieving little man in his bunker out of his mind. He’s simply going insane as a result….

    It turns out that dealing with a political opponent who has no access to television and no political party merely requires trying to kill him with a chemical weapon. So, of course, he’s losing his mind over this. Because everyone was convinced that he’s just a bureaucrat who was accidentally appointed to his position. He’s never participated in any debates or campaigned in an election. Murder is the only way he knows how to fight. He’ll go down in history as nothing but a poisoner. We all remember Alexander the Liberator [Alexander II] and Yaroslav the Wise [Yaroslav I]. Well, now we’ll have Vladimir the Underpants Poisoner…

    How many of us could measure up to Navalny's courage?


  • Kin Hubbard once said, memorably:

    When a fellow says, 'It ain't the money but the principle of the thing,' it's the money.

    Which brings us to the latest entry in our occasional "Stupid Wired Article" Department. By Malkia Devich-Cyril: Banning White Supremacy Isn’t Censorship, It’s Accountability.

    Earlier this month, in the wake of the fatal incursion of an angry, mostly white and male mob into the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, Facebook and Twitter blocked Donald Trump’s accounts. YouTube followed with a temporary ban, which it has continued to extend in the weeks since. According to these platforms, Trump’s dangerous pattern of behavior violated their content management rules. Shortly after, Amazon Web Services ended its hosting support for the neo-Nazi online haven Parler. Parler countered with a lawsuit alleging that Amazon’s decision was an antitrust violation motivated by political animus, which the courts readily rejected. In the coming days, Facebook’s Oversight Board is expected to issue a final decision on whether to allow the former president back on its platform. 

    The collective sigh of relief that rippled through the digital spaces occupied by Black, indigenous and other people of color following the wave of deplatformings was visceral, and the impact was almost immediate. A study conducted by research firm Zignal Labs found that online disinformation, particularly about election fraud, fell by an incredible 73 percent in the week after Twitter’s suspension of Trump’s social media account. Online forums for Trump supporters are now fractured and weakened.

    Uh huh. Well, it gets worse from there. Ms. Devich-Cyril pretends that "white supremacy" is a neat, nasty, little category that you can easily detect and banish. Also "hate speech".

    I'm not sure she believes that herself. Obviously, she thinks she can reliably be given the power to make that call. And there's nothing particularly objective about it: if it offends me, ban it.

    Wired should know better.

    But to adapt the Hubbard quote: when someone says "It's not censorship, it's accountability" -- it's censorship.

The Sentinel

[Amazon Link]

So the big news here is that Lee Child (real name James Grant) has taken on a co-author for this book: Andrew Child (real name Andrew Grant, James' brother). And apparently the next book too, Better Off Dead, out in October, but available for pre-order at Amazon.

I'm sure the explanation is out there somewhere. I'm not that interested in finding out. The relevant question is: are there any noticeble changes to the tried-and-true formula?

Nothing major I could detect. Maybe Reacher is a little more verbal in his exchanges with friends and foes. Especially foes: Reacher is given to explaining to his opponents exactly why they should just give up instead of pushing Reacher into beating the snot of them. I'm not sure that would work well in a real-life situation. Why would a bad guy patiently wait for Reacher to finish his speech?

Anyway, Reacher (yet again) is just wandering around when he notices trouble a'brewing for an apparent innocent victim, Rusty Rutherford, who's being set up for a kidnapping by a team of four agents. They are, of course, no match for Reacher. After the rescue, Rusty seems clueless about why anyone would want to snatch him. He was, until recently, the IT guy for the local town government. Despite his best efforts, the town fell victim to a nasty ransomware hack. Rusty was fired and vilified. Still, kidnapping seems a little extreme.

Of course, Reacher suggests that Rusty simply leave town. That turns out to not be in the cards. So Reacher sticks around, investigating the hack, the kidnappers, and other mysterious goings on. And (as usual) there's a lot of violence, chicanery, and conspiracy. And (dude) even I picked up on the symbolism of the double-sided portrait at the end of the book. It's pretty heavy-handed.

Sudden Fear

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

An early run of the Adjective Noun movie title algorithm generator. Fatal Instinct, Endless Love, Indecent Proposal, Blazing Saddles, … was this the first?

Also, it's a big eyebrow fight between Joan Crawford and Gloria Grahame. Has any subsequent actress ever approached these two icons?

Well, anyway: Joan plays Myra Hudson, a very rich playwright. As the movie opens, she's arranging to have Lester (Jack Palance!) fired from a leading role in her new play. Turns out to be a good move because the play's a hit, making Myra even richer. She hops a train back home to San Francisco, but who should show up on the same train, but … Lester!

Love unexpectedly blooms, because Lester's a charmer. But is there more going on? You bet, and it becomes explicit when Irene (Gloria Grahame) shows up unexpectedly; it turns out she and Lester had a previous relationship. They conspire! Will Myra survive?

For a 1952 movie, it's pretty racy. And there's lots of 1950s San Francisco scenery. Joan Crawford and Jack Palance got Oscar nominations. Neither won, but if they'd had a category for Overacting, I think Joan would have easily won that.

Trivia: In the credits is a guy named "Touch Connors". When he eventually shows up: "Hey, that's Mannix!"

Even more trivial: the credits devote an entire screen to the folks behind Joan Crawford's dresses, hats, furs, hair, and makeup. It takes a village.

URLs du Jour

2021-02-02

Mr. Michael Ramirez with another brilliant and beautiful commentary on Our Government swooping in with life-saving pharmaceuticals:

[Warp Speed]

Like all sensible seniors, Mrs. Salad and I got appointments for Covid shots at our first opportunity. The appointment-scheduling process on the web was a little Rube Goldberg-y, but I've seen worse. First shot scheduled for today, February 2.

Oh oh. Big snowstorm also scheduled for 2/2. Well, that's why I have a snowblower…

But we got an unexpected call from the state on Sunday (1/31). The state was rescheduling February 2 shot appointments for … and here I waited to be told of a date weeks or months in the future … February 1! W00t! No problem!

So Mrs. Salad and I got our first shots of the Moderna vaccine yesterday at the currently-unused C&J Bus Terminal in Dover NH. I have no major complaints. We showed up, stayed in our car, waited in line, went here, there, got poked, parked and waited for (non-existent) reactions, and left. About an hour overall.

Could it have been more efficient? Maybe.

But even though I'm grateful, and have no personal complaints, I'll point out that our state really should be doing better than it is. Becker's Hospital Review ranks states by percentage of COVID-19 vaccines administered; New Hampshire ranks a dismal 37th place with 59.1%. (Distributed doses: 217,100; Administered: 128,313). In New England, we're only beating the famously dysfunctional Rhode Island.

C'mon Governor. Get some smarter people on this.

  • Bari Weiss asks us, not unreasonably, to Stand Up to the Woke Lies. Tough to excerpt, good all the way through, but …

    How much does it cost me to log on to Twitter and accuse you, right now, of an -ism? America is fast developing its own informal social credit system, as the writer Rod Dreher has noted, in which people with the wrong politics or online persona are banned from social-media sites and online financial networks.

    When everything is recorded for eternity, when making mistakes and taking risks are transformed into capital offenses, when things that were common sense until two seconds ago become unsayable, people make the understandable decision to simply shut up.

    Do not nod along when you hear the following: That Abraham Lincoln’s name on a public school or his likeness on a statue is white supremacy. (It is not; he is a hero.) That separating people into racial affinity groups is progressive. (It is a form of segregation.) That looting has no victims (untrue) and that small-business owners can cope anyway because they have insurance (nonsense). That any disparity of outcome is evidence of systemic oppression (false). That America is evil. (It is the last hope on Earth.)

    Ms Weiss suggests ten points of action, which I'll list, click over for the explanations:

    1. Remind yourself, right now, of the following truth: You are free.
    2. Be honest.
    3. Stick to your principles.
    4. Set an example for your kids and your community.
    5. If you don’t like it, leave it.
    6. Become more self-reliant.
    7. Worship God more than Yale.
    8. Make like-minded friends.
    9. Trust your own eyes and ears.
    10. Use your capital to build original, interesting and generative things right now.

    She's looking for a job.


  • Emily Benedek tells us California Is Cleansing Jews From History.

    Well, that's a signpost on the road to Hell, isn't it?

    It's the story of Elina Kaplan, who initially approved of the state's 2016 mandate to include "Ethnic Studies" in the high school curriculum. But things worked out much worse than she expected.

    But three years later, when the first draft of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) was released, Kaplan couldn’t believe what she was reading. In one sample lesson, she saw that a list of historic U.S. social movements—ones like Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, Criminal Justice Reform—also included the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement for Palestine (BDS), described as a “global social movement that currently aims to establish freedom for Palestinians living under apartheid conditions.” Kaplan wondered why a foreign movement, whose target was another country, would be mischaracterized as a domestic social movement, and she was shocked that in a curriculum that would be taught to millions of students, BDS’s primary goal—the elimination of Israel—was not mentioned. Kaplan also saw that the 1948 Israel War of Independence was only referred to as the “Nakba”—“catastrophe” in Arabic—and Arabic verses included in the sample lessons were insulting and provocative to Jews.

    Kaplan, 53, a Bay Area mother of two grown children who describes herself as a lifelong Democrat, was further surprised to discover that a list of 154 influential people of color did not include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, or Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, though it included many violent revolutionaries. There was even a flattering description of Pol Pot, the communist leader of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge, who was responsible for the murder of a quarter of the Cambodian population during the 1970s.

    Kaplan began calling friends. “Have you read this?” she asked, urging them to plow through the 600-page document. The language was bewildering. “Ethnic Studies is about people whose cultures, hxrstories, and social positionalities are forever changing and evolving. Thus, Ethnic Studies also examines borders, borderlands, mixtures, hybridities, nepantlas, double consciousness, and reconfigured articulations. …” This was the telltale jargon of critical race theory, a radical doctrine that has swept through academic disciplines during the last few decades.

    It will be, um, interesting to see just how bad an example California can set for the rest of the country.


  • Or you can just check out what California high school students are currently getting fed, which is bad enough. Ms. Ingrid Seyer-Ochi ("a former UC Berkeley and Mills College professor, ex-Oakland Unified School District principal and current San Francisco Unified School District high school teacher.") proudly used Bernie Sanders' Inauguration costume as a Teaching Moment. Bernie's mittens: A lesson for S.F. high school students in subtle white privilege.

    Three weeks ago I processed the Capitol insurrection with my high school students. Rallying our inquiry skills, we analyzed the images of that historic day, images of white men storming through the Capitol, fearless and with no forces to stop them. “This,” I said, “is white supremacy, this is white privilege. It can be hard to pinpoint, but when we see, it, we know it.”

    Across our Zoom screen, they affirmed, with nods, thumbs-ups, and emojis of anger and frustration. Fast-forward two weeks as we analyzed images from the inauguration, asking again, “What do we see?” We saw diversity, creativity and humanity, and a nation embracing all of this and more. On the day of the inauguration, Bernie Sanders was barely on our radar. The next day, he was everywhere.

    “What do we see?” I asked again. We’ve been studying diversity and discrimination in the United States; my students were ready. What did they see? They saw a white man in a puffy jacket and huge mittens, distant not only in his social distancing, but in his demeanor and attire.

    God help California.


  • Kevin D. Williamson provides a Lizard People Update.

    One of the lunatics who was arrested for threatening to murder prominent Democrats was a Trump guy who had been an Occupy Wall Street guy, and also an “Audit the Fed!” moonbat who read dark meanings into the design of the dollar bill. “Talk about a one-eighty,” the New York Daily News said of him, but the angle describing the turn on the journey from Occupy kook to “New World Order” kook to QAnon kook who thinks there are secret mind-control microchips in COVID-19 vaccines is a lot less than 180 degrees — more like 12 degrees or 15 degrees.

    You can read about the guy here. Friends, don't be that guy.


  • And finally, from the guy who in a saner world would have been President, Mitch Daniels. What's coming, Mitch?

    Like most people, I really hate to admit defeat. Okay, some take it a little further than others, but it’s among the most common of human traits. On a matter in which I’ve invested no small amount of time and worries, I’m throwing in the towel: Regarding our national fiscal future, as the man said, you’ve got to know when to fold ’em.

    In a variety of public employments and from various posts in private life, I’ve been among those urging that we take greater care with our public finances, to ward off serious, permanent damage to the economy and, just as important, to the safety net on which so many vulnerable Americans rely.

    Until recently, I’ve held on tightly to two beliefs essential to long-term fiscal survival.

    The first, grounded in actuarial reality, was that, if we began acting now, we could keep the promises of Social Security, Medicare and the other so-called entitlement programs.

    The second, always as much a matter of faith as of proven fact, was that the American people could engage in an adult conversation about the subject and support the needed changes, before it was too late. Surely someone eventually would appeal successfully to our reason and to our concern for our children, grandchildren and the country’s future.

    Daniels points out that we've had two presidents who saw it as their job to lie about this. We've got another one now.


Last Modified 2021-02-02 2:24 PM EDT

Red Sparrow

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

The MPAA has a long list of reasons for Red Sparrow's R rating: "strong violence, torture, sexual content, language and some graphic nudity". That last bit being, I think, that you see a guy's wiener. And there's lots of cigarettes.

Dominika (Jennifer Lawrence) is a dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet, but her career is cut short by a gruesome on-stage collision. (An accident! Or is it?) Not only her career, but also getting cut off is her nice apartment and her ailing mom's health care. Fortunately, she has an uncle who's a bigwig in the Служба внешней разведки Российской Федерации. (Or the "SVR", a KGB-successor organization).

Wait, did I say "fortunately"? No, that's wrong. Because she gets sent to Sparrow School, where comely Russian lasses are taught to use their wiles to seduce SVR targets. Pretty soon Dominika is probably wishing she'd gone to work at the borscht cannery instead. She's given the assignment of seducing American spy Nate, trying to uncover the identity of the mole Nate is running inside the SVR. And most of her superiors in the SVR seem to think she should get a bullet in the back of the head sooner or later, preferably sooner. She's got a very narrow path to walk to survive. And that involves, well, see above: lots of sex and violence, perpetrated by and against all involved.

It's way too long. JLaw keeps losing her Russian accent. (Should have watched more Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons, dollink.) And her character is sympathetic, but not that sympathetic.

This is another DVD Netflix sent me instead of the disk at the top of my queue, Tenet. And hence another reason I'm dropping my Netflix DVD subscription. After I get Tenet.

URLs du Jour

2021-02-01

  • William Jacobsen has the sad story: U. Central Florida Fires Dissident Prof. Charles Negy After 8-Month Retaliatory Investigation.

    Defenders of academic freedom and freedom of speech throughout academia should be rallying to the defense of University of Central Florida Professor Charles Negy after egregious retaliation against him for expressing constitutionally protected views on Twitter.

    The American Association of University Professors, the premier faculty organization defending academic freedom, should be marshalling its substantial resources and committees behind Prof. Negy, as it has done for other professors over the decades. Public interest lawyers and law professors across the land should be volunteering their services.

    Instead, Negy stands almost alone against the administrative and legal weight of the massive publicly-funded UCF.

    Executive summary: Negy's real crime was two tweets, which UCF admits were constitutionally protected speech. But they questioned the prevailing orthodoxy of race. (You can see them at the link.)

    What followed was an multiple-month inquisition where anything Negy had done or said pver a 22-year campus career was microscopically examined, as UCF tried to find excuses to fire him.

    Sounds like… oh, right, a Kafka novel.


  • Also covering the case is the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE): UCF is killing academic freedom to punish tweets it didn’t like.

    The University of Central Florida is trying to fire tenured professor Charles Negy for his speech, and if they succeed, it will undermine the concept of academic freedom. No UCF professor — and, if a court permits this termination, no professor in that jurisdiction — will be able to rely on it. 

    To be clear, UCF does not want you to think Negy is being punished for his speech. They’ve written a 244-page report, which involved interviewing over 300 people over seven months about incidents covering more than 15 years, to convince you otherwise. 

    But this is all either theater or self-delusion by UCF administrators who want to think they aren’t motivated by a desire to censor a controversial professor. The entire process of preparing this report was motivated by complaints about Negy’s tweets. Nobody interviews 300 people over seven months about incidents covering 15 years unless they’re desperate to find something, anything, to use against their target. UCF’s lack of sincerity in their investigation of Negy’s tweets — which, technically, was what they were investigating, based on the spurious allegation that Negy’s offensive tweets were required reading in his classes — is reflected in their decision to investigate allegations as far back as 2005, the year before Twitter was founded. 

    UCF isn't alone in attempting to squeeze out heretics and dissidents to its Wokism. It does seem to have been particularly ham-handed about it, though. Most institutions are far more indirect and delicate in their jihads.


  • Jerry Coyne has a rundown on a different altercation, specifically John McWhorter vs. Ibram X. Kendi on whether American schools are structurally racist.

    Truly, I don’t understand why author John McWhorter, professor of linguistics at Columbia University, hasn’t yet been the subject of a social-justice campaign to demonize and erase him. While he’s black, he’s also strongly opposed to what he sees as the “religion” of anti-racism promulgated by people like Ibram X. Kendi, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Robin DiAngelo, and McWhorter speaks plainly and passionately. The first piece below is an example of his strong and uncompromising views and language.

    I suppose McWhorter is still afloat because his arguments against the more extreme forms of anti-racism, as evinced in the following two pieces, are both clear and hard to refute. He’s fiercely smart and writes really well, and if you come up against him with ammunition consisting solely of offense and outrage, you’re not going to fare well. This week, McWhorter published two pieces worth reading, one on his Substack site and the other at The Atlantic, where he’s a contributing writer.  Ibram X. Kendi struck back at the second piece on Twitter, accusing McWhorter of distortion and confusion. I’ll maintain that Kendi didn’t read McWhorter very carefully.

    Coyne's long piece is worth an explicit RTWT, detailing the back-and-forth between McWhorter and Kendi. The Substack essay Coyne mentions is here. And it opens with another tale of heresy at another public university, the University of Illinois in Chicago:

    Law professor Jason Kilborn cited the N-word (and the B-word) on an exam thusly: n****, b****. It was in a question about an employment discrimination case. He has done so for years previously to no comment – as all reading this but a sliver would expect.

    But this year, a group of black students initiated a protest against him for harming them in exposing them to this expurgated rendition of the N-word. That is, in a class training them in litigation in the real world.

    One black student claimed that they experienced heart palpitations upon reading the words. During an hours-long Zoom talk with a black student representing the protesters, Kilborn made a flippant remark to the effect that the law school dean may suppose that he is some kind of “homicidal maniac” – upon which the student reported to the dean that Kilborn indeed may be one. Kilborn is no longer teaching the class, is relieved of his administrative duties, and because of the possible physical threat he poses to black students because of the Hyde-like tendency he referred to, he is barred from campus.

    McWhorter says what needs to be said: "If a black student is traumatized to such a degree by seeing “n*****” on a piece of paper, then that student needs psychological counseling."

    I've added Prof. McWhorter's substack to my subscription list. Which is way too long, but what are ya gonna do?


  • Steven Horwitz's article from last month's Reason is out from behind the paywall: Political Problems Are Policy Problems.

    A king wanted to audition a new court singer, so his underlings crossed the land, listening to everyone who wanted the job. Finally, they brought two finalists to perform for the king. When the first finished, his majesty said "That's the worst singing I've ever heard" and immediately gave the job to the second singer.

    What was his mistake?

    He hired someone who might be even worse.

    There's an economic lesson here. The market's failure to produce an ideal outcome cannot alone justify activist policy, because governments can, and usually do, also fail to produce the ideal. Since perfection isn't possible, in market processes or in political processes, we need to ask which approach is likely to be better. The case for government intervention must always be comparative.

    Thomas Sowell often listed "three questions that would destroy most of the arguments on the left."

    The first one: ‘Compared to what?’

    … and you can click over for the other two.


  • When it comes to Uncle Stupid's finances and expenditures, Kevin D. Williamson suggests that we Follow the Money. And since tax season is now upon us:

    The money the federal government raises from the federal income tax is about $28,000 per household — meaning that that is the figure you’d arrive at if you divided the total federal income-tax take evenly among every U.S. household. Because federal income taxes are borne disproportionately by the wealthy — disproportionate not only to their total numbers but to their share of income — the amount that the median family in the middle income quintile pays in federal income tax is a lot less than that, about $9,000. Add in state and local taxes and it’s about $16,000 — you can buy a new Nissan for less money.

    But the federal income tax is not the only federal tax you pay. You also pay the payroll tax, which is an income tax that sometimes in the past has pretended to be an insurance premium or a “contribution” to Social Security. (When men with guns come to collect the money, it is not a “contribution.”) The payroll tax adds about another $10,000 in expense per year per household. That’s a little less than a year’s rent on the average apartment in cheap and sunny Las Vegas or Fresno — or Columbus, Ohio, or Arlington, Texas.

    You may think you don’t pay the corporate income tax, but you do — you pay it in the form of lower wages and higher prices, and in other indirect ways. It is a relatively light burden compared to the income tax and payroll tax, only $1,870 per household per year.

    Other federal taxes (excise taxes, estate taxes, etc.) come to about $2,300 per household per year.

    Altogether — and not counting state and local taxes — that comes to about $42,000 and change per household per year. That’s the basic cost of maintaining the federal government as is — not counting public-health emergency measures or the Brobdingnagian expansion of the federal government dreamt of by Joe Biden et al.

    KDW's bottom line: "I'd rather have the Nissan." Agreement here, although I'd go for a Hyundai, if that's OK.


  • Andrea Widburg's American Thinker piece is excerpted at Liberty Unyielding: Of public officials and modeling contracts. Looking specifically at the fashion media swoon over Ella Emhoff, who happens to be the Vice-Stepdaughter.

    Emhoff isn’t an ugly young woman. Her features are decent. What strikes me is that, in so many pictures, she’s such an angry, unhappy – indeed, scary – looking young woman. …. In only a few pictures do you see her with a smile, and then she looks, again, like a nice, but ordinary, young woman (and there’s nothing wrong with that) …

    I left a comment there, which I'll share here:

    Angry/Unhappy/Scary is the thing these days. One of the perks of subscribing to the Wall Street Journal is getting their glossy magazine every month. Both the articles and the ads are totally outside my demographic, interests, and tastes. Also: disposable income.

    But I have a game: page through the magazine until I find a picture in an advertisement of someone who actually looks happy, instead of a junkie desperate to get paid for the photo shoot so they can afford their next fix. I have to go pretty deep at times.