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.