URLs du Jour

2021-03-31

  • Indeed.

    … but on the other hand, there are alternate explanations such as "mental illness, such as mania, hypomania or schizophrenia."


  • I, For One, Will Never Scarf a Hot Dog Again Without First Reviewing the Entirety of US History. John McWhorter posts another excerpt from his upcoming book The Elect. Specifically, discussing the ongoing insistence that America's history of slavery is generally ignored.

    Ta-Nehisi Coates urges “the end of scarfing hot dogs on the Fourth of July while denying the facts of our heritage.” But this is the divorcé who can’t stand seeing his ex have a good time. To tar today’s America as insufficiently aware of slavery is more about smugness and noble victimhood than forging something new and needed.

    To wit: is there any degree of saturation that slavery could reach into the American consciousness that would satisfy The Elect, such that they would allow that a battle had been won?

    To hope that every American – white everyman in South Dakota, Indian-American Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Korean immigrant grandma, American-born Latina hospice care supervisor, daughter of Bosnian immigrants working on her social work degree, Republican councilwoman in Texas – will be wincing thinking about plantations while biting into their Independence Day weenie, even in a metaphorical sense, is utterly pointless. Pointless in that it will never happen, and pointless in that it doesn’t need to.

    It's long, but you'll want to stick with it. Don't miss "Why People Who Like Brie and NPR Also Like the Segregationist’s One-Drop Rule".


  • Things Will Be Fine, Until They Aren't. Cato's Chris Edwards writes on Federal Budget Deficits: Path of Fiscal Doom.

    President Trump approved $900 billion in stimulus spending in December and President Biden approved another $1.9 trillion in March. Biden is set to propose a further $3 trillion on infrastructure, and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is exploring ways to bend Senate rules to keep the spending flowing.

    This gusher of spending is greatly damaging. This is not monopoly money, but rather it represents real resources that will be confiscated from people when the bills come due. Even without an infrastructure package, the federal government will spend $6.8 trillion this year, or double the $3.4 trillion the government will collect in tax revenues. That means the politicians are putting us another $3.4 trillion in debt just this year. That is like a family earning $34,000 and then spending $68,000 with $34,000 on credit cards.

    On a related matter, Don Boudreaux picks a 2015 quote from Walter Williams:

    Progressives’ agenda calls for not only excuse-making but also dependency….

    This is all a part of the progressive agenda to hook Americans, particularly black Americans, on government handouts. In future elections, they will be able to claim that anyone who campaigns on cutting taxing and spending is a racist.

    Every dollar the government spends is a dollar Americans can't spend.


  • And Another Thing I Wasn't Aware I Was Guilty Of. Sara Li thinks Violence Against Asian Women Won’t End Until You Stop Fetishizing Us.

    America loves Asian women as products—things to be viewed as entertainment, items that can be easily tossed away once the consumer is through.

    And in this day and age of extreme Asian American Pacific Islander bloodshed, “tossed away” is a generous phrase. While attacks on the AAPI community have always been pervasive in America, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has only put folks of Asian descent in more peril. There have been at least 3,795 hate incidents against AAPI people since the pandemic began, according to Stop AAPI Hate. As this week’s horrific mass shooting showed, there’s no sign of the hate crimes slowing down.

    OK, first: Sara Li is writing in Cosmopolitan. So I'm puzzled by the "you" in the headline, the demand that "you stop fetishizing us". Sara, who do you think your Cosmo audience is?

    And I have to say that it's difficult for me to type her name without prefacing it with "Nobody doesn't like". I know that's wrong.


  • "Fetishization" Strikes In NYC. Bari Weiss tells a grim story in Do Not Look Away From Evil. Based on:

    There are two kinds of evil captured in this clip. One is the evil of the alleged attacker[…]

    The other is the evil of the bystanders.

    The second kind makes even sicker. The apathy, the indifference, the nonchalance, the passivity in the face of human suffering — as if such an attack is a casual occurrence; as if she is a figure in a video game and not a real human being shoved and kicked and stomped on— says something very disturbing about what’s happening in our culture.

    Bari notes "the media and the political class are contorting themselves to find a way to blame white supremacy or the legacy of Trumpism." Or, if you're Sara Li, "fetishization". That's unlikely to be helpful. To put it mildly.


  • But It's Fetishization Confession Time. As far as Sara Li's "fetishization" goes, I have to utter at least a minor mea culpa. Specifically, at the end of 2020, I was enraptured by the young woman appearing for a total of about four seconds in this Buick commercial (at the beginning and 13 seconds in):

    Also, as long as I'm confessing. I pay way too much attention to the sportscasting talent of Naoko Funayama, and I try not to miss any movie with Michelle Yeoh.

    I will only offer partial mitigating evidence. I think plenty of non-Asian women are kind of hot too. Melissa Villaseñor. Tina Fey. Aisha Tyler. Jenna Fischer. Mary Lynn Rajskub. And… well, that's enough. Don't tell Mrs. Salad, OK?


Last Modified 2021-03-31 9:47 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-03-30

[Amazon Link]

  • Really, Who's the Fetishist Here? So this morning's local paper contained an LTE from one Eric Kane: More fiction from the gun fetishists. In its entirety:

    In his civil war fantasy, Michael Dow wrote, "In Maine, any law abiding citizen can legally carry a concealed firearm and Maine is also rated as the safest state in the union, just edging out Vermont where no permit is required to carry a concealed firearm either. How can that be?"

    How can that be? It isn't. Mr. Dow appears to be firing blanks.

    According to the CDC, in 2019 Maine was 17th in fewest gun deaths per thousand population. Maine has the highest gun mortality rate in New England. The lowest firearm death rates nationally are in New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey. And maybe we have a different understanding of Maine "edging out Vermont," as Vermont was 10th in mortality rate.

    And Kane provides a link to the CDC's Firearm Mortality by State page.

    You can click on the quoted link to see Michael Dow's letter.

    The thing is: Michael Dow is pretty much on target with his assertion about Maine.

    This Statista page (based on FBI data) ranks Maine last in "violent crime rate" for 2019. This USNews article, taking a few more factors into account ranks Maine "first in the nation for public safety."

    So what's causing the discrepancy Eric Kane cites? Easy: The CDC data includes firearm suicides. According to this page, suicides made up 88% of the "gun deaths" in Maine. Kane doesn't mention that, although he thought it was important to snipe about Dow's "fantasy", and that he's "firing blanks".

    With respect to the "fetishist" label, I think it applies more accurately to Eric Kane and his ilk. They apparently "blame the gun" for both suicides and homicides. This goes well with a Google definition of "fetish": "an inanimate object worshiped for its supposed magical powers or because it is considered to be inhabited by a spirit."


  • Government: the Cause of, and Solution to, All of Life's Problems. The (probably paywalled) WSJ had a fine column by Andy Kessler: Inequality by Way of Government.

    Forget all the great things that capitalism has done, the smartphones we carry, the broadband we use to stream movies, the drugs and vaccines that extend lives. Forget those who hold back consumption to fund or invent stuff that brings the masses out of poverty. Because Jeff Bezos had the audacity to get rich for his efforts, he gets pushback. All that technology and red-meat capitalism comes at a great societal cost, critics say. People with smartphones are living below the poverty line. Capitalism is broken and needs to be reformed. We need a new, fairer system.

    Oh, we’re getting one, good and hard. (See: stimulus, $1.9 trillion plus another $3 trillion coming up.) John Cochrane, an economist and senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, tells me inequality is raised frequently as a nasty symptom of some alleged disease of capitalism. “Not so fast,” he warns. “Are capitalism and free markets the reasons for income inequality? Or are misguided government interventions to blame?” He quickly rattles off poor schools, occupational licensing, land-use rules, and disincentives to work as examples of things that keep people down—an “opportunity gap.” Let’s call them the Four Progressive Horsemen of Inequality.

    That's just a teaser here, Andy goes into detail on each of the four.

    And (of course) people who moan most about inequality only look to "solutions" that just by coincidence hand more money and power to the state. Why, it's almost as if they care more about the money and power than they do about inequality.


  • As We Used to Say: 'Fish, Barrel, Smoking Gun'. Kevin D. Williamson's The Tuesday column: Elizabeth Warren Is a Ridiculous, Power-Hungry Crackpot.

    Elizabeth Warren — the ridiculous hustling flatbilly grifter from Massachusetts from Oklahoma who snookered the academic establishment by pretending to be a Native American while writing dopey self-help books that are so sloppy and intellectually dishonest that it’s a surprise skeezy old Joe Biden hasn’t plagiarized them yet, a political grotesque who prides herself on being in the first generation of her family to attend college but rage-tweets as though she were in the first generation in her family with opposable thumbs, as ghastly and deceitful and god-awful a sniveling and self-serving a creature as the United States Congress has to offer — is, in spite of the genuine facts of her sorry case, getting a little full of herself, and believes that as a senator, she should be above the petty “heckling” of the little people

    You know, peons. Like you.

    Sometimes, they mess up and tell you what they are thinking. And what Senator Warren is thinking is: “Shut up, or I’ll use the power of my office to shut you up.”

    At issue is the senator’s recent social-media spat with Amazon. Because Senator Warren is as dreadfully predictable as a chlamydia outbreak in West Roxbury, you can imagine the insipidity of her complaint: “Blah blah blah, fair share, higher taxes on everybody except important hometown business interests and rich liberals in Cambridge, blah blah blah, Amazon.” Etc.

    It's tough to stop quoting KDW. But you can head over there and RTWT.


  • Afflict the Comfortable, and … Everyone Else Too. Glenn Greenwald engages in media criticism. The kind the media won't do themselves: Journalists Attack the Powerless, Then Self-Victimize to Bar Criticisms of Themselves.

    The daily newspaper USA Today is the second-most circulated print newspaper in the United States — more than The New York Times and more than double The Washington Post. Only The Wall Street Journal has higher circulation numbers.

    On Sunday, the paper published and heavily promoted a repellent article complaining that “defendants accused in the Capitol riot Jan. 6 crowdfund their legal fees online, using popular payment processors and an expanding network of fundraising platforms, despite a crackdown by tech companies.” It provided a road map for snitching on how these private citizens — who are charged with serious felonies by the U.S. Justice Department but as of yet convicted of nothing — are engaged in “a game of cat-and-mouse as they spring from one fundraising tool to another” in order to avoid bans on their ability to raise desperately needed funds to pay their criminal lawyers to mount a vigorous defense.

    In other words, the only purpose of the article — headlined: “Insurrection fundraiser: Capitol riot extremists, Trump supporters raise money for lawyer bills online” — was to pressure and shame tech companies to do more to block these criminal defendants from being able to raise funds for their legal fees, and to tattle to tech companies by showing them what techniques these indigent defendants are using to raise money online.

    I was as disgusted by the January 6 riot as anyone. But I'm even more disgusted by USA Today trying to shut down private citizens getting legal counsel.


  • The Google LFOD News Alert brought us to this Union Leader news article: NH film and television producers say it's time to benefit from action in Mass.. It centers around Portsmouth residents Chris Stinson and Amy Greene:

    Stinson and Greene run Live Free Or Die Films, an independent feature film production company with offices in Portsmouth, Boston and Los Angeles.

    “Massachusetts is one of the busiest places in the country for movies right now,” Stinson said. “I’m from New Hampshire. I’m proud of New Hampshire. I want to put New Hampshire films on the map.”

    Uh, okay. I like that name. But what does putting "New Hampshire films on the map" involve exactly? Well, we gotta skip down a bit:

    Nicole Galovski, founding partner and head of production at Culture House in New York City, lives in Portsmouth and said it is a shame that New Hampshire isn’t financially benefitting from the movie-making action in Massachusetts.

    “To be next to the state that’s one of the busiest in production and to not get any of that seems like a total waste,” Galovski said. “Film and TV crews spend so much money; we should really try to get that money for our residents.”

    Instead, she said, elected officials in Concord are considering a budget that would eliminate the New Hampshire Film and Television Office’s $123,000 annual budget.

    Ah.

    Reason's collection of articles with the "Film Subsidies" tag is recommended reading, if you are even slightly persuaded by the special-interest pleading. Sample, from Why the Heck Are Taxpayers Bankrolling Episodes of The Bachelorette?

    How would you feel if your government paid more than half a million dollars to help cover the costs of production for a really lame reality television show?

    Ask the people of Virginia. The state's tourism agency paid $536,000 to bring an episode of The Bachelorette to Richmond, of all places, in exchange for some promotion of the state's "Virginia is for Lovers" tourism motto.

    New Hampshire might be able to compete with that. It shouldn't.

URLs du Jour

2021-03-29

[Amazon Link]

  • How To Wreck a Government Agency. I'm a small-government guy with a semi-soft spot for NASA. James B. Meigs at City Journal looks at the latest news on that front and it ain't good: Bill Nelson, Biden’s NASA Pick, Has Checkered Space-Policy History.

    In 1986, Bill Nelson got the extraordinary opportunity to fly on the Columbia space shuttle. As a congressman representing Florida’s Space Coast—and one who just happened to sit on the House committee overseeing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration budget—Nelson had a significant leg up on other contenders for the honor. Many NASA insiders felt that he had essentially strong-armed his way onto the flight. Nelson’s official title on the mission was “payload specialist,” but other members of the seven-person crew gave him a less flattering nickname: “Ballast.”

    Nelson was assigned to operate some of the hardware used to conduct the mission’s scientific experiments, but the earthbound scientists who’d designed those experiments didn’t want him “anywhere near their equipment,” astronaut Mike Mullane later revealed in a memoir. The researchers had spent months teaching the NASA astronauts how to run their experiments, Mullane recalled. They “had no desire to have a nontechnical politician step in at the last moment and screw things up.” For longtime NASA staffers, this is an all-too-familiar story. They’ve all had the experience of watching politicians step in to screw things up—and Bill Nelson has made a career of doing just that.

    Meigs describes Nelson's history of influencing NASA for the worse. He has an impressive history of being disastrously wrong about space.

    Fun fact: Nelson was born September 29, 1942. Which makes him older than Joe Biden, who was born November 20, 1942. Is that the guy you want as Chief Rocket Scientist?


  • White Guys: Not Quite As Dangerous As You've Heard. Megan McArdle works to combat a common slur: The numbers undercut myths about mass shootings and White men.

    Shortly after news broke of the mass shooting underway in Boulder, Colo., a familiar sequence began playing out on social media: condemning the White male entitlement assumed to fuel the majority of such attacks.

    “Extremely tired of people’s lives depending on whether a white man with an AR-15 is having a bad day,” tweeted Julie DiCaro of Deadspin.

    “It’s always an angry white man. Always,” wrote Hemal Jhaveri of USA Today. When the alleged perpetrator was apprehended, crime fiction author Don Winslow offered a mordant epigram:

    Description: ‘Police have taken him into custody’. Translation: He was white.

    Many tweets were deleted after it emerged that the suspect was Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, a 21-year old immigrant from Syria. (And Jhaveri was fired by USA Today on Friday.) This was not the first time that left-leaning Twitter prematurely blamed another sort of White man — you know, white supremacist, entitled, conservative, marinated in gun culture — for a massacre committed, in fact, by a different type of person.

    I like Don Winslow as a writer, but I thought his recent book The Border was wrecked by this sort of racial politics.

    Megan does a dive into the data, which I recommend. But to summarize: the brain-snakes that cause guys to go out and shoot a bunch of people they don't know are not disproportionately present in white guys. She concludes, wisely:

    We won’t advance the cause of racial justice by propagating false stereotypes about any group — even the majority. And we certainly won’t make much progress on mass shootings if we wrongly convince ourselves that an all-too-common national failing, afflicting Americans of all colors and creeds, is mostly the peculiar pathology of a single privileged class.

    "Indeed".


  • Not Even, Somewhat Surprisingly, at USA Today. Megan mentions Hemal Jhaveri. Paul Mirengoff says good riddance: Even wokeism isn’t an absolute defense for stupidity.

    You have to be pretty stupid to opine publicly about the race/ethnicity of a mass shooter before his race/ethnicity is known. You have to be very stupid to base such an opinion on the obviously false claim that mass shooters are “always” of a particular race/ethnicity. And you have to be world-class stupid to risk your professional career on such an assertion.

    But that’s what Hemal Jhaveri, then the “diversity and inclusion editor at USA Today Sports,” did following last week’s mass shooting in Colorado. She tweeted, “It’s always an angry white man [who does this]. Always.”

    As noted, she got fired. Mirengoff links to her response to that. Sample:

    I wish I were more surprised by it, but I’m not. Some part of me has been waiting for this to happen because I can’t do the work I do and write the columns I write without invoking the ire and anger of alt-right Twitter. There is always the threat that tweets which challenge white supremacy will be weaponized by bad faith actors. I had always hoped that when that moment inevitably came, USA TODAY would stand by me and my track record of speaking the truth about systemic racism.

    Man, how many racial-justice tropes can you invoke in a single paragraph? (And how easy is it to blame all criticism on alt-right white supremacists?)


  • [Amazon Link]
    Mine. I Think. That's What I've Heard, Anyway. At Cato's Regulation, David R. Henderson wonders: Whose Body Is It Anyway?. He's reviewing a 2019 book about tobacco regulation by Jacob Grier. (Amazon link at right.) Sample of the governmental hijinks:

    Although Grier is not an economist, he uses the public choice framework to explain why some cigar bars in Oregon (where he lives) are allowed and others are not. To be allowed to exist, cigar bars must document that they sold tobacco before 2006, don’t have more than 40 seats, must be licensed to sell liquor (not just beer and wine), and must have a humidor present. These rules, he notes, accomplish three goals: keep wealthier (and presumably more politically powerful) cigar smokers happy, allow a few businesses to stay in existence, and protect those businesses from other competition.

    Grier also tells the story of a hypocritical Washington, DC city councilman named Jack Evans, who voted in favor of the city’s smoking ban but pushed through an exception that accommodates a cigar dinner held by the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick, a charitable and social organization to which Evans belongs. Evans’s razor‐​sharp logic for the exception? “To eliminate cigars would be ludicrous.”

    Libertarian critics of tough regulations often argue that they put us on a slippery slope to even more extreme regulations. Grier points out that the more extreme proponents of smoking regulations are doing this. He quotes one Vox writer’s proposal that indoor smoking be banned “everywhere — inside bars, restaurants, your home. Full stop” (italics in original). Grier responds, “The writers at Vox deserve a perverse sort of credit for gliding down the slippery slope that smoking ban opponents have long warned against.”

    I've never smoked or vaped, I'd prefer to avoid tobacco smoke, but I'm disgusted by the nanny-statism.


  • I'm Not A Virologist. But… Robert Redfield, who ran the CDC from 2018-2021 is. At the Federalist, Jordan Davidson notes what happens when Redfield went skeptical about the Bat Origin Theory of COVID-19: Corporate Factcheckers Help CCP Suppress Talk Of Wuhan Lab, COVID.

    Corporate media outlets are misconstruing former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield’s theories about the origins of COVID-19 after he said he doesn’t believe the virus outbreak began with transmission from a bat.

    “I am of the point of view that I still think the most likely etiology of this pathogen in Wuhan was from a laboratory, you know, escaped,” Redfield told CNN in an interview. “Now, other people don’t believe that, that’s fine. Science will eventually figure it out. It’s not unusual for respiratory pathogens that are being worked on in the laboratory to infect the laboratory worker.”

    The Chinese Communist Party has worked strenuously to suppress discussion of and investigation into this possibility. Corporate media outlets assisted that effort by taking issue with Redfield’s comments and issuing misdirected “fact checks” of a Wuhan lab theory separate from the virologist’s initial suggestion.

    A lot of media can't seem (or don't want to) distinguish between the claim that (a) China produced COVID-19 intentionally as a bioweapon and (b) COVID-19 was accidentally released from a Chinese lab in Wuhan.

    I think (a) has been debunked. But (b) doesn't seem that unlikely, and all the furor that results when that possibility is floated doesn't make it less likely.


Last Modified 2021-06-22 7:32 AM EDT

Soul

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

Pixar's latest, brought to us via our shiny new Disney+ subscription. (Yes, I know: Gina Carano.)

After the movie, Mrs. Salad echoed what I was thinking: Gee, this really isn't a kid's movie. The protagonist is an adult, confronting subtle adult issues. The meaning of life, for example. It's madly entertaining, full of visual treats and gags, but I can imagine a 12-year-old puzzled by what's going on underneath all that.

Joe is a middle-school music teacher, confronted every day with indifferent talent-free kids. Out of the blue, he gets a chance to divert his life onto its dream path: an audition playing piano with a famed jazz combo. He aces the audition, is on his way home in oblivious ecstasy, when…

He falls into a manhole and (apparently) dies. Whoa.

But then it's off to the afterlife. Which is much less heavenly than I've been led to expect. It's more like a university, with bureaucrats and well-meaning counselors. Joe's reluctance to follow the newly-expired crowd accidently finds him in the pre-life area, where souls are awaiting download into newborns down on Earth. There, he runs into "22", a soul who's actively resisting the normal flow there. She's OK with never moving into a human. Joe hatches a scheme to hitch onto her credentials in order to reanimate his (as it turns out) mostly dead body.

And there's a lot of merry mixups following that. But also some Lessons Learned. Which (I was kind of surprised by this) are not actually stupidly sentimental.


Last Modified 2021-03-29 7:01 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-03-28

[Amazon Link]

  • Specifically, She Persisted in Demonstrating What a Menace She Is To America. Robby Soave reports the unsurprising news: be "snotty" to Elizabeth Warren at your peril. Because Elizabeth Warren Wants To Break Up Amazon So It’s ‘Not Powerful Enough To Heckle Senators With Snotty Tweets’.

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) accused Amazon of not paying its fair share in taxes during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Thursday, which prompted the company to respond that it merely follows the tax laws created by Congress.

    "If you don't like the laws you've created, by all means, change them," reads a tweet from Amazon's account.

    Warren did not appreciate the remark:

    This is a classic example of saying the quiet part out loud. Warren inadvertently revealed that her crusade to hurt major tech companies is partly driven by personal animus: She wants to reduce the power of corporations so that they are no longer "powerful enough to heckle senators."

    A "loophole", in Warrenese, is any feature of the law that allows people and businesses to keep more of their own money and make their own decisions. Because $3.9 trillion sent to Uncle Stupid (FY 2021) just isn't enough.


  • The Guy Who Wrote Liberal Fascism, Jonah Goldberg, apparently can't find a more recent historical example. Elizabeth Warren: Senator From Massachusetts—or the Roman Empire?

    A U.S. senator says she wants to break up Amazon so that it won’t be “powerful enough to heckle senators with snotty tweets.”

    That would require a lot of breaking up. Amazon could still heckle Warren at half its size—even at one-100th its size. Jeff Bezos could give away all his shares and open a frozen banana stand and he could still heckle Elizabeth Warren. You see, as Milton Berle never said, size doesn’t matter.

    Pretty much anyone can heckle senators on Twitter—and in person! It happens, like, 10,000 times a day. Businesses can heckle them too, and not just big ones. The owners of the Love Muffin Café or Four Seasons Landscaping are welcome to get involved.

    The interesting—and disturbing—thing about Warren’s far snottier rejoinder is that she seems to think this shouldn’t be the case. Indeed, she seems to think mere disagreement amounts to heckling. Still worse, she thinks businesses—nay, whole sectors—should be broken up so that they won’t have the temerity to disagree with a bloviating and demagogic senator. I wonder if Warren is offended when NARAL “heckles” Ted Cruz. I’m kidding of course, I don’t wonder about that at all.

    Well, Jonah's been watching Rome on HBO, so I guess that's what came to mind. Still.


  • But the Real Problem Is … pointed out by Patterico at his Substack presence: Elizabeth Warren Violates the First Amendment with a Tweet. Yes, the tweet is narcissistic and thuggish. But:

    It disturbs me for another reason: Warren’s tweet itself is a violation of the First Amendment. It is an abuse of power, all on its own — and as such is reminiscent of similar actions by Donald Trump.

    Before I get into the Twitter controversy that has arisen as a result of my criticism of Warren, I want to explain how Warren’s tweet alone — even if unaccompanied by any further action — is itself a violation of the First Amendment. I explained the general concept underlying this conclusion in detail at my blog when Donald Trump did the same thing last year, so I will borrow generously from the post I wrote then: Trump Violates First Amendment with a Tweet. It started when Twitter did a fact check of Trump comments, and Trump responded by threatening government action:

    Twitter has now shown that everything we have been saying about them (and their other compatriots) is correct. Big action to follow! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

    Needless to say, a large number of folks who were horrified by Trump's tweet are cheering Warren's. This calls for a Mark J. Perry Venn Diagram! I'll keep my eyes open.


  • Biden's Lips Moved. So of course brazen lies were emitted. Jim Geraghty wonders: What Happened to the Disinformation Police?.

    Yet yesterday, President Joe Biden stood before the American public and insisted that “nothing has changed,” and that everything we were seeing — to the extent the Biden administration is allowing the public to see it — was normal: “Truth of the matter is nothing has changed. As many people came, 28 percent increase in children to the border in my administration. 31 percent in the last year of — in 2019, before the pandemic, in the Trump administration. It happens every single solitary year. There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March.”

    Biden went on to say that the “vast majority, the overwhelming majority of people coming to the border and crossing are being sent back.” That’s not true at all. “Just 13 percent of nearly 13,000 family members attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border were returned to Mexico between March 14 and March 21 using the public health order.

    Much more at the link, of course. Geraghty points out that we're on track to catch 16,000 unaccompanied kids this month, which is 45% higher than the previous high in May 2019.

    In other Orwellian news: Associated Press won't use 'crisis' to describe migrant surge at border. Following the White House lead, apparently.


  • When An Investigation Will Reveal Facts Not Supporting the Narrative. Haley Byrd Wilt reports: January 6 Investigations Stall.

    When Senate Democrats decided not to seek witness testimony during former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, they said important unanswered questions surrounding the Capitol attack could be investigated later by congressional committees or an independent commission. 

    Nearly three months after the January 6 mobbing of the building, and a month after the Senate voted to acquit Trump of inciting insurrection, the congressional effort to learn more about the circumstances leading up to and during that day has been lackluster at best. Senate committees have held a couple of hearings, but with mixed success. And in the House, negotiations for a bipartisan commission have come to a standstill.

    We still don't know exactly how Officer Sicknick died.


  • Our Google LFOD News Alert led us to a tweet from intrepid Sgt Steve Koopman of the Kingston Ontario Police. Whose sharp eyes detected something non-kosher:

    Impressive! In related news, The Ultimate List of Canada Driving Statistics for 2021 contains this tidbit:

    It is estimated that in Canada, motorcyclists are 15 times as likely to be involved in a crash as car drivers are. Motorcyclists are 13.5 times as likely to be killed in a crash as car drivers are.

    So you can "live fre" and die.

URLs du Jour

2021-03-27

  • The Election Ain't Over Till…

    [... the Sidney Powell Sings]

    …at least according to Michael Ramirez.

    I got into a comment spat with some local bloggers late last year about Dominion. I won't gloat, but they've been pretty quiet since Dominion got all litigious.

    Mr. Ramirez (I'm not comfortable yet with calling him "Mike") has more info at the link. And if you don't get the underlying joke, Wikipedia will explain it to you.


  • But Not Beyond My Belief. Charles C. W. Cooke finds that Biden’s Lies about the Filibuster Are Brazen Beyond Belief.

    Joe Biden’s lies about his position on the legislative filibuster are so audacious, so brazen, so extraordinarily disingenuous that it is hard to know where to begin. Having supported the provision for nearly five decades, Biden now says that he considers it a “relic of Jim Crow,” that he was forced to reconsider its utility by the abuse that took place “last year” and “in the last 20 years,” and that he has no “expertise, in what the parliamentary rules and how to get there are.” No journalist who can look themselves in the mirror should repeat this without laughter, derision, or disbelief.

    Charles goes on to quote Biden extensively on his past defense of the filibuster.

    How can you tell Biden is lying?

    [Well, I bet you know the answer to that one.]


  • Because That's the Default Slur These Days. It Doesn't Have to Make Sense. Jonah Goldberg wonders: Why Is the Filibuster Only ‘Racist’ When Republicans Use It?.

    I get the idea of curses or bad karma. The house where a triple murder took place is going to sell for less than the one next door no matter how much you scrub the stains. I wouldn’t want to use Hannibal Lecter’s dishware no matter how much you cleaned it (and assuming he was a real person). That’s just some bad juju. 

    But what I don’t get is how something can be cursed, or evil, or otherwise tainted with eldritch energy—but only when certain people use it. 

    And yet, that’s precisely how Democrats talk about the Senate’s legislative filibuster.

    How can you tell when a politician is being hypocritical?

    [Gee, you're pretty good at these questions.]


  • True Fact: Grotesque Originally Referred To Cave Paintings. But, according to Glenn Greenwald, the Neanderthals at CNN are doing their own paintings on air. CNN's Defense of Chris Cuomo's Special COVID Privileges is Grotesque. There have been plenty of examples over the past year of politically-connected folks jumping the line for Covid services, but…

    But those pale in comparison to the abuse of power by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) and his brother, CNN host Chris Cuomo, as reported on Wednesday by The Albany-Times Union and The Washington Post. “High-level members of the state Department of Health were directed last year by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to conduct prioritized coronavirus testing on the governor's relatives as well as influential people with ties to the administration,” reported the Times-Union. “Members of Cuomo's family including his brother, his mother and at least one of his sisters were also tested by top health department officials — some several times,” it added.

    In particular, Gov. Cuomo abused state resources to ensure that his then-49-year-old brother, Chris, received fast COVID testing at a time when tests were very scarce. “The CNN anchor was swabbed by a top New York Department of Health doctor, who visited his Hamptons home to collect samples from him and his family,” The Post reported. The article also contains these damning details:

    The same doctor who tested Chris Cuomo, Eleanor Adams, now a top adviser to the state health commissioner, also was enlisted to test multiple other Cuomo family members….The coronavirus test specimens were then rushed — at times driven by state police troopers — to the Wadsworth Center, a state public health lab in Albany, where they were processed immediately, the people said. At times, employees in the state health laboratory were kept past their shifts until late into the night to process results of those close to Cuomo, two people said.

    Our own governor has gotten some flack for his Covid decrees, but he seems to have steered well clear of this sort of behavior.


  • More Disparate Treatment. Alan Charles Kors is discussing the legacy of the Weather Underground, and he is not talking about these guys. Kors looks at the Demons at Work.

    The Weather Underground’s revolutionary effort to slaughter young non-commissioned officers and their dates at a military dance failed. The explosives that were to be placed in bombs went off prematurely, before the nails meant to rip and maim those young bodies were packed into them. The terrorists had succeeded in killing three of their own and sending two into hiding (supported by a network of sympathizers and admirers). They failed in their plan to blow up the Columbia University administration building and only partially succeeded with their bombs at the Pentagon. They did succeed in armed robbery, however, taking $1.6 million in loot from a Brink’s truck and murdering three working-class guards and police officers. They advocated and dementedly attempted to spark the violent overthrow of the United States government.

    If they had worn white hoods or the insignia of right-wing militia, they would still be in prison. They were left-wing butchers and would-be butchers, however, so the fates have been kinder to them. Susan Rosenberg, part of the Brink’s heist with its consequent murder of innocents, was pardoned by Bill Clinton and wrote her memoirs; Kathy Boudin was paroled, got a Doctor of Education Degree from Columbia University Teachers College, became an adjunct professor of Social Work at Columbia University and co-founder and co-director of the Columbia University Center for Justice; Cathy Wilkerson taught high school and published her self-promoting memoir; Bill Ayers became a professor of education at the University of Illinois, Chicago and helped launch Barack Obama’s Illinois political career; Bernardine Dohrn, who found the knife in Sharon Tate’s stomach “groovy,” went on to teach at Northwestern University’s School of Law.

    And let's not forget Angela Davis.


  • Compare and Contrast With Trump. Ann Althouse is Reading the Washington Post coverage of Biden's press conference.. Speaking of this article:

    In person, Biden didn't get much — or even any — push back from the press corps, and this article follows that mellow, forgiving approach. It's so absurdly different from the way the press treated Trump. There's not even the slightest pretense of making journalism seem like the same sort of thing we saw before. We're just supposed to glide along with them, greased by the mainly accurate understanding that Biden is a very different sort of person than Trump was. 

    Our local TV news was (if anything) worse. They excerpted Biden's press conference, showing without comment, let alone rebuttal, his lies about (1) Trump turning away kids at the border to let them starve in the desert; and (2) that his administration "is sending back the vast majority of the families that are coming" and that they are "not getting across the border."


Last Modified 2021-03-29 7:08 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-03-26

[Amazon Link]

  • It's Bad Idea Day at Pun Salad. And despite our Amazon Product du Jour, we do not advocate acting upon them. Kevin D. Williamson too. When it comes to banning scary-looking guns, he says Don’t Waste Our Time.

    Our politicians often exhibit too much creativity, inventing new problems to be solved by highly paid staff administering big budgets instead of figuring out how to get government to do the ordinary boring things with a reasonable degree of competence. But sometimes they do not exhibit enough imagination, as with Democratic demands for gun-control measures, renewed in the aftermath of two horrible massacres only a few days apart.

    The firearms used in these crimes were, as far as the evidence indicates, legally acquired from federally licensed and regulated firearms dealers. That means that the killers passed background checks. The demand that other people pass background checks in other circumstances (for example, if you give someone a firearm as a gift) is completely irrelevant to these crimes. It is not even entirely clear that the federal government has the constitutional authority to regulate private transfers that take place within a single state and therefore do not constitute interstate commerce. But even if it did, such measures would not prevent crimes such as the ones in Atlanta and Denver, nor would they do much to prevent other kinds of crimes, because criminals most often come by their weapons by means of straw purchasers (people with clean criminal records who buy guns on behalf of felons who cannot pass a background check), by buying stolen guns, or by stealing the guns themselves.

    If you only had an NRPLUS subscription, you could click over and learn what a lousy job Federal, State, and local authorities are already doing in enforcing existing laws against illegal gun buys.


  • But He Has a Pretty Good Shot at Being a Woodrow Wilson. Charles C. W. Cooke provides President Wheezy some bad news: Joe Biden, you're no FDR or LBJ.

    Axios reports that President Biden has been consulting with historians in his quest to figure out who he is — and that, right on cue, those historians have suggested that Biden is a Great Man who has been sent to completely overhaul the United States.

    Among the ideas with which the president’s consultants apparently agreed are that now is the time for Biden to “jam through once-in-a-lifetime historic changes to America,” that he must “go even bigger and faster than anyone expected,” and that it would be a good idea for him to “jam through what could amount to a $5 trillion overhaul of America, and vast changes to voting, immigration and inequality.”

    Evidently, the Biden years are set to involve a lot of “jamming.”

    Let us mince no words: This advice is deranged. FDR and LBJ, to whom the historians apparently have compared Biden, were both swept into office in landslide victories, alongside large congressional majorities — often large supermajorities — that were on board with their agenda. Joe Biden, by contrast, won the Electoral College by 45,000 votes, enjoys no majority in the Senate, and has a House majority so thin that the Democratic Party is trying to steal a House seat in Iowa that has already been certified for the GOP.

    It's been almost two years since Wheezy started his campaign promising a return to normalcy, Shame on those who believed him. Your penance is to repeat this as many times as necessary:


  • Our next terrible idea is excoriated by Veronique de Rugy: Elizabeth Warren’s and Bernie Sanders’ ‘Wealth Tax’ Would Be Terrible for Low-Income Workers.

    With Democrats now in control of the House, Senate, and White House, many of the most significant policy battles of the next two years will be determined by intraparty fights within the Democratic Party's various factions.

    Although not a moderate in any meaningful sense, President Joe Biden has always positioned himself strategically at the center of his party. Nevertheless, his defeat of the party's left wing in the last presidential primary won't be the end of a populist insurgence. Sadly, one fight will be between those, such as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who want to raise taxes significantly, and those who, like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.), want to raise taxes even more significantly.

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) would prefer the latter and has reintroduced her proposal for destructive wealth taxation. Her tax would impose a 2 percent annual levy on wealth over $50 million, going up to 3 percent for wealth over $1 billion. This purely class-warfare scheme is advertised as a way to close the U.S. wealth gap.

    Vero notes this terrible idea has been tried elsewhere, and mostly abandoned. More on that (and the other foreseeable repercussions) at the Tax Foundation.


  • Hipsters Making a Comeback? Also a Terrible Idea. Ryan Bourne and Erin Partin at Cato note: New Brandeis "Hipster" Antitrust Comes to Washington.

    Two of the Biden administration’s recent nominees – Lina Khan, tapped to serve as a member of the Federal Trade Commission and Timothy Wu, awaiting appointment to the National Economic Council as a special assistant on technology and competition policy – signal a troubling shift towards the adoption of retrograde and economically‐damaging approaches to antitrust.

    Khan came to prominence in 2017 with the publication of “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” which argued that antitrust’s narrow focus on “consumer welfare” led to a permissive attitude to anticompetitive behaviors by companies such as Amazon. Features of modern platform’s business models, she said, incentivized these companies to prioritize growth over profits, making “predatory pricing” rational. Meanwhile, the fact that Amazon acted both as a seller and the provider of what she deemed “essential” infrastructure meant the company was able to “exploit” product information for anticompetitive ends.

    Guess what happens when a "narrow focus on consumer welfare" is abandoned? That's right: consumers wind up worse off.

    Bourne and Partin also point to a Hipster advocate's 2018 article in the Yale Law Journal. The author derides the "apolitical" character of the consumer welfare standard. and proclaims: "the goals of antitrust are unavoidably political."

    If that sounds ominous to you: congratulations, you're at the right blog.


  • Making Asian Americans Into a Victim Class is also a terrible idea. Heather Mac Donald writes at Quillette on Race and False Hate Crime Narratives.

    The reaction to the mass shootings in Boulder, Colorado, and Atlanta, Georgia, over the last week has revealed how invested the Democratic establishment is in one all-powerful narrative. Both shootings produced an immediate response from the media, Democratic politicians, and activists—that the slaughters were the result of white supremacy and that white Americans are the biggest threat facing the US. That interpretation was reached, in the case of the Boulder shooting, on the slimmest of evidence, and in the case of the Atlanta shooting, in the face of contradictory facts.

    After the Boulder supermarket attacks, social media lit up with gloating pronouncements that the shooter was a violent white male and part of what Vice President Kamala Harris’s niece declared (in a since-deleted tweet) to be the “greatest terrorist threat to our country.” (Video of the handcuffed shooter being led away by the police appeared to show a white male.) Now that the shooter’s identity has been revealed as Syrian-American and his tirades against the “Islamophobia industry” unearthed, that line of thought has been quietly retired and replaced with the stand-by Democratic response to mass shootings—demands for gun control.

    But the false narrative about the Atlanta spa shootings still has legs. It represents a double lie—first, that the massacre was the product of Trump-inspired xenophobic hatred, and second, that whites are the biggest perpetrators of violence against Asians. The most striking aspect of these untruths is the fact that they were fabricated in plain sight and in open defiance of reality. Given the enduring hold of the Atlanta story on mainstream discourse, it is worth examining in some detail.

    Conveniently neglected is an area where Asians (including Asian Americans) are arguably victimized: admissions to elite schools.

URLs du Jour

2021-03-25

  • Kind of a theme today, kicked off my Hannah Cox on Twitter.

    An impressive list. Could have been longer, but Twitter. Additional misfeatures left as an exercise for the reader.

    (I'd only quibble about Democrats being responsible for the "War on Drugs". Clearly bipartisan.)


  • Also, Let's Kinda Hope So. David Harsanyi asks and answers: Is It Easier to Buy a Gun Than Vote? Let's Find Out.

    Barack Obama used to claim, absurdly, that it was easier for a kid to buy a “Glock than get his hands on a computer, or even a book.” Contemporary liberals have updated this talking point with more recent legislative obsessions.

    “Activists have pointed out that in Georgia, for instance, it’s easier to buy a gun than to register to vote,” one reporter noted, without a hint of journalistic skepticism, yesterday. “This says a lot about where America is headed in 2021.”

    “In a majority of states, new voters are able to obtain a rifle quicker than they’re able to cast their first ballot,” argued California’s Senator Padilla. “It seems to me we have our priorities entirely backwards when it comes to this — when we make it easier to buy a gun than we do to cast a ballot.”

    These are not only category errors, they are highly misleading. Then again, even if they weren’t, this wouldn’t be as jarring an assertion as many people imagine. First, a citizen’s ability to exercise his Second Amendment rights should require as few impediments as voting — if not fewer. And second, despite the fantastical assertion of many Democrats, voting is already extraordinarily easy — it takes minutes to register and you can do it online — whereas buying a “Glock” in places such as New York, Maryland, California, or Washington D.C., is rendered prohibitively difficult as part of a deliberate effort to dissuade and, indeed, suppress law-abiding Americans from using their rights.

    Even Politifact (back in 2016) thought Obama was "mostly false" on this. It hasn't gotten any truer since, but good luck getting the MSM to debunk "activists" and politicians who keep trotting out this talking point.


  • Another Good Question. Asked by Michael Graham: If Guns Cause Crime, Why Is New Hampshire So Safe?.

    New Hampshire has among the highest rates of gun ownership in the country– the second-highest number of guns per capita according to one survey.

    It’s also a relatively easy place to buy and own guns. While seven states have bans on so-called “assault weapons” — including nearby Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York — New Hampshire is the only New England state in the top 25 rankings for gun rights. Guns and Ammo ranks the Granite State number 17 on their Best States for Gun Owners list, ahead of Alabama, South Carolina, and Florida.

    The one area where New Hampshire lags when it comes to guns? Crime.

    In five of the nine years between 2010-2019, New Hampshire had the lowest murder rate in the nation. (The 2020 numbers haven’t been released.)  According to U.S. News & World Report, in 2020 New Hampshire had the second-lowest rates of property crimes and violent crime in the country, trailing only Maine.

    Of course, we have our own gun-grabbers in New Hampshire. So far, ineffectual.


  • Moral Panics Make People (More) Stupid. Kevin D Williamson (in an NRPLUS article, sorry, but subscribe already) looks at Mass Shootings & Logical Fallacies: How the Left Views Voter Fraud & Gun Violence. Hilarity from the get-go:

    If you have ever had a conversation with a Democrat friend about election fraud, you know how it goes:

    Caitlyn Moonbeam-D’Vegan: “There isn’t any election fraud.”

    Scrooge McJudgy: “Of course there is. A Philadelphia judge of elections just went to jail for rigging an election in exchange for a bribe of $300, which isn’t very much money, even in Philadelphia.”

    Caitlyn Moonbeam-D’Vegan: “I never said there wasn’t any election fraud.”

    Scrooge McJudgy: “. . .”

    Caitlyn Moonbeam-D’Vegan: “But it isn’t widespread.”

    Scrooge McJudgy: “Well, it fits the most common definition of ‘widespread,’ inasmuch as it has happened in a lot of elections in a lot of different jurisdictions. We’ve had convictions from Maine to Hawaii — more than 1,000 of them, in fact. And that’s just the ones that result in criminal convictions. So, I think ‘widespread’ is fair.”

    Caitlyn Moonbeam-D’Vegan: “I never said it wasn’t widespread.”

    Scrooge McJudgy: “. . .”

    Caitlyn Moonbeam-D’Vegan: “But it hasn’t actually changed the results of any elections.”

    Scrooge McJudgy: “I assume that those Philadelphia Democrats were bribing the judge of elections to stuff ballot boxes because they wanted to change outcomes, rather than simply inflate their margins. And we’ve seen cases where fraud has unquestionably changed outcomes. We’ve seen elections thrown out by courts because of fraud. Al Franken probably won his first Senate election on the strength of illicit votes.”

    Caitlyn Moonbeam-D’Vegan: “I never said it hasn’t changed the results of any elections.”

    Scrooge McJudgy: “. . .”

    Caitlyn Moonbeam-D’Vegan: “It hasn’t changed the results of a presidential race.”

    Scrooge McJudgy: “Probably not. Maybe in 1960, but, probably not. Still, wouldn’t you feel better if there were more reliable oversight in place?”

    Caitlyn Moonbeam-D’Vegan: “Sedition! Sedition! Sedition!”

    I'm sorry, that was a very long excerpt, but where was I going to stop?

    And then KDW plays the gun-control script. Did I mention you should do the right thing and subscribe?


  • And Now For Something Completely Different… At the WSJ, Phil Gramm and John Early need a microscope to find the Incredible Shrinking Income Inequality.

    The refrain is all too familiar: Widening income inequality is a fatal flaw in capitalism and an “existential” threat to democracy. From 1967 to 2017, income inequality in the U.S. spiked 21.4%, and everyone from U.S. senators to the pope says it’s an urgent problem. Yet the data upon which claims about income inequality are based are profoundly flawed.

    We have shown on these pages that Census Bureau income data fail to count two-thirds of all government transfer payments—including Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and some 100 other government transfer payments—as income to the recipients. Furthermore, census data fail to count taxes paid as income lost to the taxpayer. When official government data are used to correct these deficiencies—when income is defined the way people actually define it—“income inequality” is reduced dramatically.

    Gramm and Early show their work, and the bottom line is: "income inequality is lower than it was 50 years ago." Graphically:

    [Corrected Gini]

    [The actual graphic at the WSJ is more dynamic. You should subscribe.]

    As measured by the Gini coefficient, anyway. I've never been convinced that is something to be concerned about. Is there a "right" Gini coefficient? Is there some argument that says it shouldn't get above X? (Or below Y?)


Last Modified 2021-03-26 6:28 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-03-24

[Amazon Link]

  • So it's Wednesday, which must mean… it's time for us to link to Kevin D. Williamson's The Tuesday column. His headline is How Federalism Thwarts Dystopia, which is good and true, but let's skip down a bit for our excerpt:

    All systems based on definite rules can be manipulated, and all political systems include rules that are arbitrary. But our arbitrary rules serve a necessary purpose — or two: The first is giving people the means to put up roadblocks in front of nonsense, and the second is providing a means of escape when those roadblocks fail. If you would like to know more about the practical realities of living in a society with no means of internal exit, some of your immigrant neighbors might be able to fill you in.

    The worst effects of leftish/progressive government in these United States can still be avoided by moving to a state with different practices. And people unhappy with the Republican dominance of Texas or Utah can always move to a Democrat-dominated state — there is more room in those states every day. The power of exit puts real pressure on dopes and miscreants and charlatans and fools such as Andrew Cuomo and, you know, every single sad-faced clown holding office in the extra-long stretch-limo clown car that is California. When the people pack up and go, so does the tax base, and politics is no fun at all without easy access to other people’s money, and lots of it.

    Progressives prefer a world in which you cannot leave California even if you leave California, in which the Golden State really is a Hotel California from which you can check out but never escape. There’s a reason Senator Elizabeth Warren has proposed a confiscatory tax on the assets of Americans who renounce their citizenship and move to another country.

    KDW also has a pointer to a fun site, "Redraw the States", which asks the musical question "How few counties can you move to make Donald Trump win the 2020 election?" Spoiler: not very many.


  • He'll Fit Right In With the Biden Appointees With Troubling Views On the Rest of the Constitution. Matt Taibbi looks at A Biden Appointee's Troubling Views On The First Amendment. Specifically, Tim Wu.

    Wu’s appointment may presage tougher enforcement of tech firms. However, he has other passions that got less ink. Specifically, Wu — who introduced the concept of “net neutrality” and once explained it to Stephen Colbert on a roller coaster — is among the intellectual leaders of a growing movement in Democratic circles to scale back the First Amendment. He wrote an influential September, 2017 article called “Is the First Amendment Obsolete?” that argues traditional speech freedoms need to be rethought in the Internet/Trump era. He outlined the same ideas in a 2018 Aspen Ideas Festival speech:

    [Video at link]

    Listening to Wu, who has not responded to requests for an interview, is confusing. He calls himself a “devotee” of the great Louis Brandeis, speaking with reverence about his ideas and those of other famed judicial speech champions like Learned Hand and Oliver Wendell Holmes. In the Aspen speech above, he went so far as to say about First Amendment protections that “these old opinions are so great, it’s like watching The Godfather, you can’t imagine anything could be better.”

    If you hear a “but…” coming in his rhetoric, you guessed right.

    There's always a "but" with these guys.


  • Someone Hurt My Feelings! That's a thing you can get in trouble for at Duke, as reported at the College Fix: Duke launches investigation after George Floyd’s toxicology report posted on bulletin board.

    Duke University has launched an investigation after a student found a copy of George Floyd’s toxicology report posted on a bulletin board commemorating Black History Month.

    “A printout of George Floyd’s toxicology report was hung beside a photo of his face on a Black History Month-themed bulletin board on the third floor of Brown dorm” on March 20, the student newspaper The Chronicle said.

    “A printout of George Floyd’s toxicology report was hung beside a photo of his face on a Black History Month-themed bulletin board on the third floor of Brown dorm” on March 20, the student newspaper The Chronicle said.

    The link goes to the student newspaper, which conveniently labels the toxicology report "racist". (They may be referring to the semi-literate added commentary, but who knows.)

    The report is easy enough to find. Although it's much easier to find sites that say: "pay no attention to all the fentanyl".


  • "A New Religion that Harms Black People in Countless Ways". John McWhorter posts more from his new book The Elect.

    One response to a book like this might be to own that Electism is a religion. You might consider it a better one than, say, believing that God’s son died for our sins and was reborn, waiting to envelope you in his eternal grace if you believe in him. This new religion is about countering racism. Who could be against that?

    But we must ask whether the Elect approach actually shows signs of making any difference in the lives of black people, other than making educated white people infantilize them. While purportedly “dismantling racist structures,” the Elect religion is actually harming the people living in those structures. It is a terrifyingly damaging business.

    It's hard to imagine otherwise.


  • Welcome to Joe Biden Government. Elizabeth Nolan Brown's news roundup for Reason is headlined Most Americans Have Not Put on Pandemic Weight, Actually. Good news, but we'll skip down (again) for our excerpt:

    The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is about to get even worse. "Postmaster General Louis DeJoy will unveil the largest rollback of consumer mail services in a generation as part of his 10-year plan for the U.S. Postal Service" The Washington Post reports. The plan is to further cut post office hours, raise postage prices, and allow longer delivery times for first class mail.

    "Does it make a difference if it's an extra day to get a letter?" DeJoy asked the House Oversight and Reform Committee in February. "Because something has to change. We cannot keep doing the same thing we're doing."

    Battered by people turning to USPS alternatives, DeJoy somehow expects that making government mail service even worse will solve the Postal Service's problems. It's… a take, but probably not a good one.

    The WSJ also had a reported-with-a-straight-face story on this today. Even Mrs. Salad was taken aback. "They want to raise prices and promise worse service?"

    Yes, honey, that's about the size of it.

    One can only hope that this will push Congress into throwing up its hands and start looking at privatization schemes.

URLs du Jour

2021-03-23

[Amazon Link]

  • Everybody Hates Brad. Raffensperger, that is. In National Review the Georgia Secretary of State shows he's OK with it by revealing the Stacey Abrams Playbook: Cry ‘Stolen Election’.

    To many people, President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn an election may have seemed unprecedented. Many members of the media have cast Trump’s efforts as unheard of. But sitting in Georgia, it was impossible to watch the events after November 3 without seeing the unmistakable signs of the Stacey Abrams playbook: Don’t concede. Say you were cheated. Allege voter irregularities. File lawsuits. Get witness testimony. Raise money. Repeat.

    The parallels in their statements alone are compelling enough. After losing by 55,000 votes in November 2018, Abrams said: “This is not a speech of concession. Concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true or proper. . . . I cannot concede.” After losing by a slimmer 12,000 votes, President Trump told the crowd gathered in Washington, D.C., on January 6 that “we will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.”

    On January 6, President Trump said his supporters should “fight like hell” and that “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” Abrams said just a few weeks ago about elections legislation in Georgia that “we are at war, fighting to protect our democracy from domestic enemies at this moment.”

    Of course, there were differences. As Raffensperger points out, Trump's bogus claims were fact-checked and debunked out the wazoo. In contrast, Abrams' equally bogus claims were mostly echoed by the MSM.


  • What's Wrong With Me? I'm growing to like leftists who are willing to speak the truth to their own side. Like Thomas Frank: Liberals want to blame rightwing 'misinformation' for our problems. Get real.

    Let me confess: every time I read one of these stories calling on us to get over free speech or calling on Mark Zuckerberg to press that big red “mute” button on our political opponents, I feel a wave of incredulity sweep over me. Liberals believe in liberty, I tell myself. This can’t really be happening here in the USA.

    But, folks, it is happening. And the folly of it all is beyond belief. To say that this will give the right an issue to campaign on is almost too obvious. To point out that it will play straight into the right’s class-based grievance-fantasies requires only a little more sophistication. To say that it is a betrayal of everything we were taught liberalism stood for – a betrayal that we will spend years living down – may be too complex a thought for our punditburo to consider, but it is nevertheless true.

    Tough to excerpt, but that's his bottom line.

    I would only observe that actual liberals seem to be a dying breed. There's a reason more and more Democrats are self-labelling as "Progressives": contra Frank, they are no longer big fans of liberty.


  • Then They Came For the Substackers. And… Megan McArdle on The Substack controversy’s bigger story.

    In recent weeks, the new editor of Teen Vogue resigned before she even started over racist tweets written when she was 17 (and had already publicly apologized for in 2019); the host of next season’s “The Bachelorette” was replaced after he failed to condemn a former contestant’s college behavior; and online activists began pressuring a self-publishing service called Substack to deplatform some of its most successful writers.

    Individually, these may seem like small incidents, even unrelated, but they are manifestations of an increasingly merciless “cancel culture” that tolerates no violations of progressive norms, even those committed long ago or inadvertently. That culture has become powerful in media, academia, entertainment and corporate America, which means it affects everyone. The Substack fight in particular might prove an augury of where free expression is headed.

    It's been almost 30 years since John Gilmore observed that "The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it." Substack is one of those routes. Wish it continued health against the woke mob.


  • Infrastructure! Just Not Infrastructure We Actually Need. Randal O'Toole imagines Reinventing the Jet Airliner.

    Suppose I told you that I have reinvented the jet airliners that carried Americans more than 750 billion passenger miles–about 10 percent of all passenger travel–in 2019. My reinvented jet will go less than half as fast as existing jets. It will cost six times as much to operate, per passenger mile, as existing jets. Unlike existing jets, which can go anywhere there is air, the reinvented jet will only be able to go on a limited number of fixed routes.

    This wondrous invention will become a reality if the federal government spends a mere one, two, or possibly three or four trillion dollars. Does that sound like a good deal? No? Yet that is exactly what high‐​speed rail advocates are proposing. Some proposals, such as the Green New Deal, even call for almost completely replacing low‐​cost, fast jet airliners with high‐​cost, relatively slow trains.

    Randal's in rare form here, rebutting a True Believer in "high-speed" passenger rail.


  • Before We Move On To Fitting the New Mass Shooting Into Our Preferred Narrative… we still have to make sure the previous one is safely pigeonholed. Jerry Coyne looks at the NYT's headline: "Pressure grows to label Atlanta shootings as a 'hate crime'."

    In the case of Robert Aaron Long, who has apparently confessed to eight murders (six of them Asian women), the extra years in jail for a hate crime will hardly matter: if found guilty, which is likely, he’s either going to be executed or spend the rest of his life in jail.

    But that’s not the point for those people agitating (“outraged people” as the NBC News said last night) for Long’s crime to be labeled a hate crime.  There are reasons for labeling a crime a “hate crime”, one of which appears to be to penalize someone for targeting a special group that might be terrorized, something that’s presumed not to happen with “nonhate” crimes. Regardless of how you feel about a difference between murders and “hate murders”, the law is the law.

    The problem, of course, is that although Long shot six Asian women, there’s no evidence yet that he was targeting Asians. Rather, as he told police, he was trying to get vengeance on spa workers who presumably gave him sex, and happened to be Asians, who make up a large percentage of spa workers. And his motivation was to get rid of the temptation of extramarital sex, which his church (which has now expelled him) forbids. Of course, Long could be lying, and it’s early days. That’s why it’s premature to try to get his crime labeled as a “hate crime”. We must wait.

    The killer had snakes in his head. Do you really care what the snakes were labelled?


  • And I previously mentioned Matt Taibbi's Brief List Of Official Russia Claims That Proved To Be Bogus. He's turning it into a dynamic article, adding new entries as his time allows. He's up to twelve, as I type.

The WEIRDest People in the World

How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous

[Amazon Link]

Whoa, big book. 680 pages in all, but fortunately "only" 489 of them are the main text. Lots of notes.

To get it out of the way: the WEIRD in Joseph Henrich's title stands for "Western, Industrialized, Educated, Rich, Democratic". In other words, us. (Well, me, anyway. Probably you.)

Henrich believes that our brains work significantly different from the rest of the world, and this difference has been accumulating over the past couple thousand years. (He is properly scornful of psychology researchers who try to pass off their experimental results as broadly applicable, but only really apply to their research guinea pigs, typically American college undergrads.) He supports this thesis with a raft of data drawn from his own work (he's chair of the Human Evolutionary Biology Department at Harvard) and disparate social sciences: history, economics, anthropology, sociology, etc.

What happened to make us this way? Christianity, mostly, specifically the Catholic Church. Their efforts over centuries to impose their "Marriage and Family Program" (Henrich acronymizes this to "MFP") turned the flock away from mankind's usual tribalism. Other things happened too, of course, but Henrich finds this to be the biggie. It's plausible: the MFP reverberates thoughout Western society, causing culture to evolve in unexpected and unintended ways. But mostly it changed our brains in a WEIRD way…

Fortunately, there's a diagram:

[The Big Picture]

[That's, um, borrowed from this site; if you're interested in a much more detailed summary of the book, click over.]

While reading, I kept wondering "What would Deirdre McCloskey think about all this?" One of the primary themes here is the development of modern capitalism, after all, right in Deirdre's wheelhouse. There is but a single footnote to one of Deirdre's books here. Surprising!

Henrich's style is mostly dry, but not without occasional flashes of humor. Example: on page 273 he's discussing how the MFP's encouragement of monogamy affects testosterone levels in men. "Here, you're seeing how the Church, through the institution of monogamous marriage, reached down and grabbed men by the testicles." Ha! (Although I think I crossed my legs when reading that.) I suspect this and other zingers are a crossover from Henrich's undergraduate lectures at Harvard; even those bright kids can get their attention perked by a good joke.

Guys and Dolls

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

(In honor of Damon Runyon, I am not using contractions in this post.)

Amazon Prime's "Content Advisory" for this 1955 movie warns of "Drug use, foul language, sexual content".

Maybe Amazon should have a Content Advisory Advisory: "Do not take our Content Advisory seriously".

Although I was a little surprised by the big dance numbers featuring the "Goldwyn Girls". For 1955, they were pretty risqué. (I had previously only seen a production of Guys and Dolls given by a local company outside in Prescott Park (Portsmouth NH) years ago. Not quite the same as the flick.)

It is set in the seamy/glitzy world of NYC gambling, based on a couple of Damon Runyon stories from the 1930s. Frank Sinatra plays Nathan Detroit, who is looking to set up a locale for a crap game that will not be detected by the city cops. He is also trying to avoid marriage to 14-year fiancée Miss Adelaide. All he needs for the former goal is a thousand bucks to nail down a venue, which he lacks. But he spots Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando!), a known sucker for unsafe bets. Nathan wagers Sky that he will not be able to take Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons) down to old Havana on a date. Sarah is the earnest missionary to the sinful at the "Save a Soul Mission" (think Salvation Army), so that is indeed a challenge.

Things proceed predictably, pretty much. The Runyonesque stilted dialog is amusing, at least for a while.

It was nice to see Marlon Brando in a comedic/musical role. But I see Gene Kelly wanted the Masterson role, and I have to think he would have been a far better choice.

URLs du Jour

2021-03-22

[Amazon Link]

  • Let's Start With Something Morose. Specifically, John Tierney on Death and Lockdowns.

    Now that the 2020 figures have been properly tallied, there’s still no convincing evidence that strict lockdowns reduced the death toll from Covid-19. But one effect is clear: more deaths from other causes, especially among the young and middle-aged, minorities, and the less affluent.

    The best gauge of the pandemic’s impact is what statisticians call “excess mortality,” which compares the overall number of deaths with the total in previous years. That measure rose among older Americans because of Covid-19, but it rose at an even sharper rate among people aged 15 to 54, and most of those excess deaths were not attributed to the virus.

    My meager thoughts: living in society means a continuing reality check for your brain. Cutting off your social ties makes you live in your own head to a greater extent, and that can result in a toxic, dysfunctional buildup tough for some to handle.

    That's not science, just speculation. But plausible, don't you think?


  • From the 'Indisputably True' Department. Nick Gillespie says Government Censorship Is the Worst Cancel Culture of All.

    Almost a year to the day that Louisville police officers killed Breonna Taylor during a no-knock raid, the Kentucky Senate passed a bill which makes it a crime to insult and taunt cops. If S.B. 211 becomes law, you could get up to three months in jail and a $250 fine if you flip off the fuzz in a way "that would have a direct tendency to provoke a violent response from the perspective of a reasonable and prudent person."

    It's just one example of a slew of proposed new laws that are chilling free speech. While freethinkers are rightly worried that private online platforms such as Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook are increasingly—and often arbitrarily—cracking down on speech for political reasons, the much graver threat comes from governments at all levels seeking to ban or compel speech.

    Let's avoid the idea that Big Government can save us from the Woke. We have to save ourselves.


  • Or… We Could Pass a Law Making This Illegal. Fox Business reports Monopoly getting 'long overdue' socially conscious makeover, Hasbro says.

    The board game “Monopoly” will be the next classic entertainment brand to receive a socially conscious makeover, publisher Hasbro announced this week.

    Hasbro will change all 16 of Monopoly’s “community chest” cards to remove outdated concepts. The company said the classic versions of the cards, which included prompts referencing beauty contests and holiday funds, were “long overdue for a refresh.”

    You can go here to vote on your preferred new cards. For example, you can choose between "You pass out umbrellas to people standing at a bus stop on a rainy Monday morning" or "You organize a block party so people on your street can get to know each other."

    Either choice will net you 10 Monopoly bucks. What ever happened to virtue being its own reward?

    And is all this supposed to make you forget that the friggin' point of Monopoly is to grind your opponents into penury? Before they do the same to you?

    Sure, I guess you can given them an umbrella at your block party — funded with the cash you extracted from them via your extortionist rents!


  • A Brief Visit to Optimism… James Lindsay outlines The Values of a Post-Woke World.

    The fight against the ideology called Wokeness is gaining ground for the first time in a decade, if not decades. People increasingly understand what it is and why it is a terrible, inhuman, and inhumane ideology that has no place governing our societies. They also increasingly and rightly see it as a puritanical religious movement built upon a perverse faith, which they are starting to reject. They also increasingly understand it to be a takeover ideology with profound roots in totalitarian, racist, and communist thought that should not be empowered and must be fought. Certainly, we have a great deal of work still to do, especially practically, to fight this ideology and its remarkable bid to take over our society and culture, but people are waking up. Though I may look a bit far down the road in saying so, now we need somewhere to go.

    If we continue fighting back—for pushing back is no longer enough—intelligently and firmly against the ideology of Critical Social Justice and the Woke movement it has spawned, we will find ourselves on the road to a post-Woke world, and it is not yet clear what that might look like. It is therefore necessary now, even this early in this ideological war, to set the values that should guide us into a post-Woke era so that we might enter a new era of flourishing and prosperity after this diabolical attempt to snuff out the light of Western civilization and human freedom. These values must be comprehended and asserted starting now as we begin the next phase in the fight to leave Woke ideology behind us, hopefully in the dustbin of history. Here, I offer four cardinal values to orient ourselves toward for the establishment of a post-Woke world that’s full of promise and prosperity. These are truth, beauty, liberty, and merit.

    Lindsay discourses on each value. Worthwhile.


  • They Don't Call Him 'Uncle Stupid' For Nothing. Brad Polumbo of the Foundation for Economic Education claims: Federal Government Lost 5x More to COVID Stimulus Fraud Than It Spent on Vaccine Development, New Report Reveals.

    Whenever the government spends money, a significant portion is lost to bureaucracy, waste, and fraud. But the sheer speed, haste, and unprecedented scope of federal spending in response to the COVID-19 pandemic—an astounding $6 trillion total—has led to truly unthinkable levels of fraud. Indeed, a new report shows that the feds potentially lost $200 billion in unemployment fraud alone.

    “More than $200 billion of unemployment benefits distributed in the pandemic may have been pocketed by thieves, according to ID.me, a computer security service that 19 states — accounting for 75% of the national population — use to verify worker identities,” Yahoo Money reports. “That's more than triple the official government estimate of $63 billion based on the 10% pre-pandemic fraud rate.”

    In contrast, Uncle spent a "mere" $37 billion on vaccine and treatment development.


  • And my Google LFOD News Alert rang for an article from the (Madison WI) Capital Times by Dave Zweifel, claiming Wisconsin's progressive income tax lessened COVID-19 financial blow. Specifically, it lessened the damage to the state government's cash flow. I'm sure that will cheer up the (as I type) 7,241 dead Wisconsinites.

    Zeifel is leaning heavily on this article by Harold Meyerson (one we mentioned here last month). Which (in turn) leans heavily on this WaPo story.

    Got all that? So let's skip down to the LFOD bit. Zweifel is scornful of "those states that proudly point to the fact that they don't have income taxes — a selling point they use to convince people to move there to 'escape' high taxes."

    In fact, according to Meyerson, Texas and its Republican-controlled legislative cousins in Florida have seen their revenues drop by 10% this past year. New Hampshire, of "Live Free or Die" fame — another of the no income tax states — has had to lay off 26% of its public workers because revenues have plunged so drastically.

    Well, that last bit is simply untrue. NH state government revenues didn't plunge. The WaPo article itself says that they dipped by 1% over the time period in question.

    As I said last month: I don't know whether that reported 26% drop in state government employment is factual, or some statistical/reporting glitch. But it wasn't caused by "plunging revenues".

    In fact recent news shows the budget picture as pretty healthy.

URLs du Jour

2021-03-21

Our Eye Candy du Jour from Reason TV: Libertarian PBS.

If you're like me, your reaction was: "Ha. I wish."

  • Because P.J. O'Rourke is Always Right About Everything. At American Consequences, he considers The Price of Freedom: What COVID Has Cost Us. Well, mostly it's about the Freedom House rankings, and it's pretty interesting.

    Subjectively, the enterprise favors the small, tidy, homogeneous, socially conformist freedom of the Scandinavian type. Only Norway, Sweden, and Finland score 100. (Don’t worry, the guy in the Viking hat seated in Mike Pence’s chair during the invasion of the Capitol Building wasn’t a real Viking.)

    The enterprise does not favor the kind of rancorous, raucous “Hold my beer an’ watch this!” freedom that America has.

    The U.S., although rated “Free” – damn right! – receives a Freedom in the World total score of just 83. That’s the same score as Romania.

    I visited Romania back when I was on the Freedom House Board of Trustees. I interviewed the Minister of the Interior and asked him, “What is the most serious problem you face in Romania?” He thought for a minute and said, “Packs of wild dogs.” (And, let me tell you – getting back to my hotel from the Ministry of the Interior in Bucharest after dark – he wasn’t kidding.) Romania, indeed!

    Even though we (and Peej) might quibble with Freedom House, their algorithm is rigorous and objective enough to allow him to pull out some useful and insightful comparisons.


  • What Can UNH Learn From Boise State? The College Fix has some good news (for once) from out west. University abruptly suspends diversity classes: ‘students have been humiliated and degraded’.

    Amid rumors of a video that shows a student being targeted during a diversity lesson at Boise State University, administrators have abruptly suspended all of the school’s general education classes called “University Foundations 200: Foundations of Ethics and Diversity.”

    “We have been made aware of a series of concerns, culminating in allegations that a student or students have been humiliated and degraded in class on our campus for their beliefs and values,” states a March 16 memo from President Marlene Tromp to the campus community.

    “This is never acceptable; it is not what Boise State stands for; and we will not tolerate this behavior,” Tromp stated. “…Given the weight of cumulative concerns, we have determined that, effective immediately, we must suspend UF 200.”

    Whoa!

    It's not too much of a stretch to note that only a couple months ago "UNH Lecturers United" were more or less demanding permission from the UNH Administration to humiliate and degrade their students for their beliefs and values. Or, to use their language: to "actively oppose any political position structured around inequality."

    Any political position.


  • He Has Yet to Advocate Throwing Babies Off Buildings For Luck. Kylee Zempel notes the wacky beliefs of a CNN talking head: 5 Times Don Lemon Preached Garbage Theology From The TV Pulpit. My favorite:

    “If you are a person of faith in this country … a good way of starting is to present the true identity of Jesus and that is as a black or a brown person,” Lemon told the women of “The View” this week. “I think we should start with a true depiction of what Jesus looked like, and put that in your home — either a black Jesus or a brown Jesus, because we know Jesus looked more like a Muslim or someone who was dark rather than someone who was a blond-looking carpenter.”

    As was tirelessly drilled into me in two years of Saturday confirmation classes: Jesus was Jewish. And we didn't have a single picture of a blond Jesus.


  • "Shut Up", They Explained. Charles C.W. Cooke writes (NRPLUS article) on The Hand-Wringing Media Freak-Out over Substack.

    The first rule of Monopoly Club is that nobody else is allowed to be in Monopoly Club.

    How else to understand the growing resistance to Substack — an online service that permits writers to bypass the traditional media and distribute newsletters and articles directly to subscribers — than as white-hot antipathy toward an upstart rival? Over the last few weeks, the eyes of the establishment have been focused on the platform and its renegade users, and, boy, have those eyes found it wanting. Summing up the opprobrium, Dr. Sarah Roberts of UCLA described Substack as “a dangerous threat to traditional news media,” “a threat to journalism,” and “incredibly dangerous and damaging to the fourth estate (journalism),” which she suggested is “one of the few failsafes against anti-democratic maneuvers.” “Please,” Roberts demanded, “do not write for or pay for Substack. I have to say it. I believe it’s dangerous.”

    And why is it dangerous? That depends. In Brian Stelter’s “Reliable Sources” newsletter, CNN’s Kerry Flynn proposed recently that Substack is a problem because it provides a living for figures who “attack journalists, or stoke fears about transgender people,” and do so without the type of editorial oversight she’d prefer. In an article from last year, the Columbia Journalism Review complained that Substack’s users are too white, male, and conservative to need such an outlet, because they have already “been well-served by existing media power structure.” And, in a piece published on Substack itself, the baseball writer Craig Calcaterra groused that some of the site’s other users — but not him, of course — are “engaged in some pretty objectionable discourse.”

    Why, I'm old enough to remember when this sort of thing was dismissed as a "guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing what he thinks."

    For the record, I usually do this in my basement.


  • Karma's a Bitch, Man. Jordan Davidson reports: After Mocking Trump’s Walk, Biden Just Got Owned By A Set Of Stairs.

    President Joe Biden fell three times climbing up the stairs into Air Force One on Friday morning.

    Biden, the oldest president of the United States at 78 years old, stood up from the multiple stumbles after a few seconds on the ground to offer a salute in front of television cameras at the top of the staircase as he prepared to fly to Atlanta to discuss the recent shooting that left eight dead.

    Davidson recalls the wall-to-wall media coverage of Trump's unsteadiness last June at West Point. And it wasn't only the media jackals that went after him:

    As someone of hip-breaking age myself, I can totally relate to all this.


Last Modified 2021-03-22 5:22 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-03-20

[Amazon Link]

  • Lying Journalists. But I Repeat Myself. So yesterday I linked to a WaPo article headlined Georgia shootings could test state’s new hate-crimes law as debate rages over suspect’s motive. I concentrated on the dumbness of Daniel Dae Kim's remarks to a Congressional panel. But I noticed this bit:

    A sheriff’s office spokesman had said that the suspect was having “a bad day” and indicated that “sex addiction,” not race, was probably the driving factor.

    … and I said, whoa, that was pretty dumb too. Not as dumb as Daniel Dae Kim, but still.

    But, as Robby Soave notes at Reason The Media Got It Wrong: Police Captain Didn’t Say the Atlanta Spa Killer Was Having a ‘Bad Day’.

    The comment [by Jay Baker, sheriff's office spokesman] struck many people as overly sympathetic toward ["suspect" Robert Aaron] Long, as if Baker was making excuses for someone who stands accused of killing eight Asian-American women in cold blood. A 20-second video clip of Baker's statement was shared on Twitter by Vox journalist Aaron Rupar and swiftly went viral, earning widespread condemnation. Many saw it as evidence that cops are desperate to discount the culpability of white male criminals. For instance, Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor and inventor of the term "intersectionality," described Baker's comments as "bone-chilling," and castigated him for refusing to acknowledge "the misogynistic dimensions of anti-Asian racism."

    A police officer excusing Long's actions as merely the result of him having a "bad day" would indeed be contemptible. But that's not what Baker did. In fact, many of the people so infuriated about the quote were misled by Rupar's edit of the video.

    The full video (the relevant section starts at about 13:50) makes clear that Baker was not providing his own commentary, but rather summarizing what Long had told the investigators. The "bad day" line was proceeded by a clarification that this was Long's own explanation, as related to the police. Baker did not endorse it.

    Morals: don't trust agenda-pushing "journalists" from the Washington Post or Vox. And don't trust anyone who uses (let alone "invented") the term "intersectionality".

    And if you think Twitter is doing a good job of combatting "misinformation": Rupar's tweet is still up. So is Crenshaw's. Twitter loved to stick disclaimers on Trump tweets; they are silent here.


  • What Could Go Wrong? Jonah Goldberg has mixed feelings: Earmarks Are Back. The GOP’s Enthusiasm Is Worrying..

    A decade ago, one of the first things Republicans did after taking back the House of Representatives was get rid of earmarks. For those of you who don’t recall, “earmark” is the term of art for when members of Congress bring home the bacon to their district. The GOP was in a Tea Party-ish mood back then, and getting rid of “bridges to nowhere,” etc., was all the rage. 

    At the time, I thought the earmark ban was an encouraging sign of reform. But in recent years, I’ve changed my mind somewhat. Yes, the practice had gotten out of control, and it drove some corrupt practices. But if the issue was runaway spending and debt, getting rid of earmarks was always more symbolic than serious. The main drivers of our national debt have always been entitlements, not road projects or ice skating rinks. 

    If the price of getting Congress to implement serious entitlement reforms was a gold-plated monorail in every congressional district, it would be well worth it. Besides, who’s to say that a politician in constant contact with his district’s voters and civic leaders won’t have a better understanding of what his or her community needs than some bureaucrat a thousand miles away?

    But the GOP's current "logic" is: looks like the Democrats are going to do it, so we want in.

    That's bad. But Jonah ignores the real problem with earmarks. They are relatively minor noise in terms of the overall budget, true. But they are often corrupt funnelling of cash to politically well-connected constituents.


  • Mean Girls Graduate From High School, Get Meaner at Teen Vogue. Emily Jashinsky at the Federalist observes the latest brouhaha: Merciless Teen Vogue Staffers Are Not An Outlier, They're The Future Of Newsrooms.

    Make no mistake, the journalists at Teen Vogue will soon be in charge of every legacy newsroom. The shortsighted media establishment haplessly fueled its own destruction and there’s little recourse.

    This week, Alexi McCammond lost her job as editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue because the outlet’s staff couldn’t get over tweets she sent as a teenager which, as the New York Times put it, “included comments on the appearance of Asian features, derogatory stereotypes about Asians and slurs for gay people.” McCammond apologized for the tweets in 2019 and went on to cover the 2020 election for Axios, earning acclaim from her peers.

    Well, maybe she'll get a Substack. Like Matt Taibbi, who is busy…


  • Showing That Government Officials Lie Too. Taibbi's recent document dump: Aaugh! A Brief List Of Official Russia Claims That Proved To Be Bogus.

    The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has released a much-hyped, much-cited new report on “Foreign Threats to the 2020 Elections.” The key conclusion:

    We assess that Russian President Putin authorized, and a range of Russian government organizations conducted, influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, [and] undermining public confidence in the electoral process…

    The report added Ukrainian legislator Andrey Derkach, described as having “ties” to “Russia’s intelligence services,” and Konstantin Kilimnik, a “Russian influence agent” (whatever that means), used “prominent U.S. persons” and “media conduits” to “launder their narratives” to American audiences. The “narratives” included “misleading or unsubstantiated allegations against President Biden” (note they didn’t use the word “false”). They added a small caveat at the end: “Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.”

    Taibbi goes on to provide the "brief" (ten-item) list of "official takes" widely reported in the media that (a) just happened to reflect poorly on Trump and his administration; and (b) turned out to be false, to much less hoopla.


  • Since We Can't Go To Actual Theaters, This Will Have To Do. John Hinderaker reports on Mask Theater In the Senate. Starring Rand Paul and Anthony Fauci:

    In a Senate hearing earlier today, Rand Paul took Dr. Fauci to task for wearing a mask (or two) in public when he has already been vaccinated. Paul, who has been a stalwart throughout the covid fiasco, pointed out that there is virtually no chance of a person who has been vaccinated getting the Wuhan bug, so why the mask? Further, if people have to continue wearing masks for years after being vaccinated, as Fauci yearns for, what is the incentive to be vaccinated? The exchange is brief but telling:

    … and available in a recent Tweet:

    Fauci wants to treat Americans as children who can't handle the truth. That is, as I've been saying for years, a self-fulfilling policy: treat 'em that way, you'll get an ever-increasing fraction acting that way.

URLs du Jour

2021-03-19

[Amazon Link]

  • In our 'If My Grandmother Had Wheels' Department: I kind of liked Daniel Dae Kim in Lost and Hawaii Five-O. But get him out of his acting wheelhouse, start him talking about hate crimes and it's bad news. He gets the pick for the dumbest thing said in a House panel hearing on anti-Asian American discrimination yesterday. In reference to the shooting of (mostly) Korean-descent young women at Atlanta massage parlors:

    “These were places associated with Asian people,” Kim said. “If this was a synagogue or a Black church, and someone shot up those places, would we really be asking whether this was a hate crime or not?”

    Aye. And if my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a wagon.

    Of course, this is all politically motivated, very belated, Trump-bashing, and an effort to get in on the politically useful "hate crime" biz.

    I'm sure I've said this before, but not for a while. Efforts to look inside a perpetrator's head and finding "hate" as his criminal motivation is (at best) simplistic. (It doesn't get called simplistic, though, because it's generally a left-wing phenomenon. Lefties are never accused of being simplistic.)

    And who cares? Is a murderer deserving of harsher punishment because it's determined that his actions were based in bigotry? As opposed to what? Greed? Jealousy? Those aren't admirable motives, even in a relative sense.


  • Drop the Rosary, Teacher, and Come Out With Your Hands Up. George F. Will looks at an upcoming SCOTUS case where the justices may be asked to make sense of the unsensible:

    Decades ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment’s prohibition of “establishment” of religion was violated if the government supplied maps to religious schools, but not if it supplied books. So, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) mischievously wondered: What about atlases, which are books of maps?

    Now comes another occasion for jurisprudential hairsplitting about contacts between the government and religious schools. At the court’s conference on April 1, the nine judicial brows will be furrowed as they consider whether to hear a case from Maine that poses this question: Is it constitutional for that state to say that parents can use state aid to pay tuition at religious schools if the schools are not too religious. If, that is, they are not excessively serious about religion, with excess to be determined by government officials measuring such things with some unspecified theological micrometer.

    Mencken once defined Puritanism as "The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy." Progressivism seems to be the haunting fear that a kid may be getting a religious education.


  • How Can You Tell When Journalists are Lying? Glenn Greenwald might help you answer that question: Journalists, Illustrating How They Operate, Yesterday Spread a Significant Lie All Over Twitter.

    Journalists with the largest and most influential media outlets disseminated an outright and quite significant lie on Tuesday to hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions, on Twitter. While some of them were shamed into acknowledging the falsity of their claim, many refused to, causing it to continue to spread up until this very moment. It is well worth examining how they function because this is how they deceive the public again and again, and it is why public trust in their pronouncements has justifiably plummeted.

    The lie they told involved claims of Russian involvement in the procurement of Hunter Biden’s laptop. In the weeks leading up to the 2020 election, The New York Post obtained that laptop and published a series of articles about the Biden family’s business dealings in Ukraine, China and elsewhere. In response, Twitter banned the posting of any links to that reporting and locked The Post out of its Twitter account for close to two weeks, while Facebook, through a long-time Democratic operative, announced that it would algorithmically suppress the reporting.

    Do journalists need an automatic warning label slapped on their tweets? ("NOTE: Poster has misrepresented the truth N times in the past year.") Although I'm generally libertarian, it's a very tempting.


  • Rebranding. Is There Anything It Can't Do? The Washington Free Beacon reports: China-Backed Confucius Institute Rebrands to Avoid Scrutiny.

    The China-backed Confucius Institute is rebranding to avoid public scrutiny into its work disseminating propaganda to thousands of American students.

    United States government oversight and faculty pushback have curtailed the influence of the Confucius Institute, which has dwindled from 103 college branches in 2017 to just 51 today. But the propaganda program is not going away without a fight. Experts say that after host institutions shutter Confucius Institutes, some of the programs continue to operate by adopting new names.

    The National Association of Scholars maintains a list of Confucius Institutes. They report that the CI at the University Near Here is scheduled to close on July 30. (Something I only noticed yesterday.)

    Still no notice in local news about it, though. Today, I wrote to NHPR about it, since they've covered thi issue in the past.


  • Trade Wars Are [Not] Good and [Not] Easy to Win. If you have any doubt about that, get yourself an NRPLUS subscription if necessary, and check out Kevin D. Williamson's latest: Missing the Forest for the Trees.

    It is mystifying that free trade remains a policy without a constituency, when there are so many natural constituencies for it — people who live in houses for example.

    People who live in apartments, too.

    Join me for a trip down memory lane back to the heady days of 2017, when, under the very best thinking brought to you by the crackpots and game-show hosts of the Trump administration, our government decided that one of the biggest and more urgent problems facing Americans was a splendid supply of inexpensive lumber — specifically, that those wily, inscrutable, nefarious . . . Canadians were selling the stuff too cheap in U.S. markets, thereby undercutting the critical economic position of — oh, I don’t know, Paul Bunyan, I guess.

    The underlying issue was an esoteric dispute about something called stumpage: Most U.S. timber is harvested on private lands, while most Canadian timber is harvested on public lands (“Crown lands,” as our monarchist neighbors to the north call them), with Ottawa charging a fee that is, in the estimate of the Trump administration, too low. That’s trade protectionism in a nutshell: It’s more expensive and more difficult to do certain kinds of business in the United States than it is in Canada, and the obvious solution for that is to make it more expensive and more difficult to do business in Canada and pass on those prices to American consumers. Ingenious!

    If you get enough clowns together, a circus is bound to break out.

    Bottom line: "The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reports that rising wood prices have added some $24,000 to the construction price of a typical home and about $9,000 in additional expenses per apartment unit build."

    Instead of belated Trump-bashing about his "China virus" rhetoric, how about undoing some of his stupid and actually harmful policies?


Last Modified 2021-03-20 6:05 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-03-18

[Amazon Link]

  • Your Tiny House Big Dreams Are No Match For… New Hampshire town officials. Christian Britschgi has the story: New Hampshire Towns Turn Out Tiny-Home Dwellers.

    For 12 years, the 25 residents of a "tiny house" community known as Walden EcoVillage managed to live in peace with both nature and local zoning officials in the town of Peterborough, New Hampshire.

    That peace ended on December 15, when the city ordered the eviction of all the community's residents, whose diminutive dwellings, many of which were less than 400 square feet, offered an inexpensive but technically illegal housing option. An application from the village's owner to add more units to the property had alerted planning officials to the fact that its cottages and casitas were not permitted as full-time residences. A site visit also discovered a host of building code violations, including supposedly dangerous wiring.

    Does LFOD make an ironic appearance? You bet it does:

    Tiny houses offer an attractive, affordable option for many residents of the "Live Free or Die" state by cutting down on the floor space and frills that make standard homes so expensive. But that economizing often does not sit well with local zoning boards, which commonly require that rental properties come with costly amenities. For too many tiny-house residents, the regulatory pursuit of quality housing means they end up with no housing.

    Folks interested in the issue might want to check out Granite Geek: When is a tiny house not a tiny house? When it's a cottage home!


  • I Think It Has Something To Do With Shamelessness. Glenn Greenwald wonders How Do Big Media Outlets So Often "Independently Confirm" Each Other's Falsehoods?. He reviews the dreadful history of the MSM's credulousness belief in the "Russiagate" narrative and their corrupt concept of "independent" verification. The latest example, of course, is the WaPo alleging made-up quotes to then-President Trump in his call to a Georgia election investigator. RTWT, and be prepared to be disgusted all over again. GG's bottom line:

    But all of this highlights the real crisis in journalism, the reason public faith and trust in media institutions is in free fall. With liberal media outlets deliberately embracing a profit model of speaking overwhelmingly to partisan Democrats who use them as their primary source of news, there is zero cost to publishing false claims about people and groups hated by that liberal audience.

    That audience does not care if these media outlets publish false stories as long as it is done for the Greater Good of harming their political enemies, and this ethos has contaminated newsrooms as well. Given human fallibility, reporting errors are normal and inevitable, but when they are all geared toward advancing one political agenda or faction and undermining the other, they cease to be errors and become a deliberate strategy or, at best, systemic recklessness.

    But whatever else is true, it is vital to understand what news outlets mean when they claim they have “independently verified” the uncorroborated reports of other similar outlets. It means nothing of consequence. In many if not most cases — enough to make this formulation totally unreliable — it signifies nothing more than their willingness to serve as stenographers for the same anonymous political operatives who fed their competitors similar propaganda.

    Advice to MSM consumers: you need to stock up on grains of salt.


  • Who's Next? Ryan T. Anderson himself writes in the WSJ, probably paywalled: Amazon Won’t Let You Read My Book. Asking an innocent question: "Can we talk about [transgender issues] in the U.S.?"

    Not if Jeff Bezos ’ companies get their way. The Washington Post has allowed its writers to spread falsehoods about me and my work, and Amazon is using its outsize market power to prevent readers from accessing one side of this debate.

    Three years ago the Post ran a hit piece titled “ Ryan Anderson’s book calling transgender people mentally ill is creating an uproar.” The second sentence read: “In the 264-page book, ‘When Harry Became Sally,’ Anderson makes an inflammatory claim—that transgender people are mentally ill.”

    My book made no such claim. I contacted the Post asking them to quote a single sentence from the book supporting their contention that I had called transgender people mentally ill. They couldn’t, because it doesn’t exist. Within a day, the newspaper had entirely rewritten the story, removing the falsehoods and changing the headline.

    I'd like Amazon to reveal what other books it has removed from its shelves. Apparently they've decided not to yank The Vision of the Anointed by Thomas Sowell.


  • From Our "Unintentionally Amusing" Department: The Hill quotes CNN's Don Lemon. Who has apparently started moonlighting as a theologian:

    Um. Take it away, David Harsanyi:

    But God is the Judge . . .” Psalm 75:7

    For God Himself is judge. . . .” Psalm 50:6

    For the Lord is our judge . . .” Isaiah 33:22

    “The Lord arises to contend, And stands to judge the people . . .” Isaiah 3:13

    . . . and to God, the Judge of all . . .” Hebrews 12:23

    And a heck of a lot more.

    Lemon is more or less making up his own religion to justify his own behavior. Which is fine, this is America.


  • I Bet Some College Profs Are Assigning This As Homework. From the College Fix: Claiming MSU sits on ‘stolen land,’ student leaders pass resolution to rename Morrill building.

    The student government at Michigan State University recently passed a resolution to rename the college’s Justin S. Morrill Hall of Agriculture, citing the belief that the university sits on “stolen land.”

    Morrill, an abolitionist who represented Vermont in the U.S. Senate, was the author of the 1862 Land-Grant College Act, which donated federal lands to many different states for the purpose of creating agricultural and mechanical arts colleges, one of which was MSU.

    The article notes that lots of schools have something or other named after Justin Morrill. Including (you guessed it) the University Near Here. (In fact, Mrs. Salad's office was there back in the day.)


  • So I wondered if there was a move to rename Morrill Hall. I didn't find any indication of that, but I did happen across the Faculty Senate Minutes for their February 8 meeting. Gadzooks, amuse yourself as needed. But here's the bit I found interesting:

    A COLA senator asked about the recent decision to close the Confucius Institute.

    What?

    This has been, as near as I can tell, completely unreported. I've been kind of following the issue since 2014, when I noticed that both National Review and the Nation managed to agree on something: Confucius Institutes are a lousy match for American universities.

    I've asked the NH Journal folks if they'd be interested in giving this move more publicity.

The Blue Gardenia

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

A free-to-me Amazon Prime streamer from 1953. I was expecting something a bit grim (IMDB genres: "Crime, Drama, Film Noir", directed by Fritz Lang) but it starts out almost as a screwball comedy: three young ladies sharing an LA apartment in 1953. Norah (Anne Baxter) is a phone operator awaiting her boyfriend's return from dodging Commie bullets in Korea. Her roomies are Sally (Jeff Donnell), a ditz who loves reading lurid crime novels by "Mickey Mallet"; and Crystal (Ann Sothern), kind of a slut, who gives out their phone number indiscriminately. For example, to Harry Prebble (Raymond Burr!) a painter who's kind of a cad and a Lothario. Wisecracks are exchanged.

One fateful night, Norah celebrates her birthday by getting dolled up and setting her candlelit dining table for two. A picture of her absent boyfriend props up his latest correspondence, and she eagerly opens it… to find a Dear Jane letter! ("Dear Baby, Welcome to Dumpsville. Population: You.")

Despondent, she's easy pickings for Harry, who calls for Crystal. They meet at (finally!) The Blue Gardenia a swanky Polynesian club. (How swanky? Nat King Cole is the piano player/singer.) Norah consumes way too many Polynesian Pearl Divers with Harry's encouragement. Then it's off to his swinging bachelor pad, where he… well, you can guess. Norah resists, everything gets hazy, and the next morning, Harry's dead on the floor.

I think I've just described about half the movie. It takes its sweet time getting there. It falls to newspaper reporter Casey Mayo (Richard Conte) to track down Norah and get to the bottom of what really happened.

So eventually there's some seamy behavior and tricky cinematography. And George Reeves shows up as a detective with a pencil-thin mustache. Nearly worth the price of admission right there.

Clean Hands

[Amazon Link]

This book made Tom Nolan's Best Mysteries list at the WSJ. Not my cup of tea, sorry Tom. Wish I liked it better.

It's not awful, just OK. It starts out with an everyday pickpocketing in a New York subway station. A lowly lawyer at a prestigious corporate law firm has his iPhone grabbed. Unfortunately, it contained critical evidence in upcoming multi-million dollar litigation. Elizabeth, the lowly lawyer's supervisor, calls in Valencia, an ex-CIA operative to retrieve the phone and secure the documents. But the firm's own investigator looks at the video of the theft and it looks a little sketchy to him. Could it have been prearranged? The book follows the twisty trail of the iPhone, a bewildering array of characters good and bad.

Wait, did I say "good"? Well, there aren't very many "good" people here. Everyone's morally compromised. The closest "good" character is Valencia, and mainly because she's so dogged and ruthless in tracking down the perps and the phone. She's not picky about breaking laws to accomplish her mission. Or apologetic, either.

At a certain point I realized I didn't care about these tedious people, and I didn't care how they resolved their problems. Page turning was not motivated by "Gee, I wonder what happens next", but instead "Let's get to the end so I can move on with my life".

It doesn't help, frankly, that a key development relies on Valencia and her crew never having seen Speed.


Last Modified 2021-03-19 7:39 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-03-17

[Amazon Link]

  • We Knew That, But It's Good To Be Reminded: Jacob Sullum in Reason says Congress Uses COVID-19 As a Cover for an Epidemic of Fiscal Recklessness.

    The "recovery rebates" that Americans began receiving this week supposedly have something to do with the economic damage caused by COVID-19 and the control measures it inspired. But like most of the so-called American Rescue Plan Act, these payments, which account for more than a fifth of the bill's $1.9 trillion price tag, are only tenuously related to the pandemic.

    The Democrats who championed the law hope those bribes will buy them votes in the midterm elections. But you really should be thanking your children and grandchildren, because they will ultimately pick up the tab for this package and the rest of the $5 trillion spending binge that Congress claimed was justified by a public health emergency.

    You should thank your children and grandchildren. Or, more honestly, apologize to them if you voted for Democrats.


  • More Automatic Than a Patellar Reflex. John Sexton has the latest from the University of North Korea Vermont: Professor criticized Critical Race Theory at University of Vermont, now students want him fired.

    Last week a professor at the University of Vermont uploaded a video criticizing what he dubbed the “secular religion” of race at the school. Professor Aaron Kindsvatter said he was afraid to make his comments because he doesn’t want his current or former students to think he is dismissing genuine complaints of discrimination they might have faced. But he said that on campus there is now a new form of discrimination taking place.

    “This discrimination is against whiteness, it is today,” he said. He continued, “So whiteness falls under the umbrella, in the derogatory meaning of the word, falls under the umbrella of critical social justice…The thinking that informs it is so crude and so lacking in falsifiability.”

    And you'll never guess what happened next! Well, you probably will.


  • What's That Smell? The WSJ's James Freeman wonders: Is Something Dying in Darkness at the Washington Post? Assuming you know the basics:

    To review, the Post ran with bogus quotations attributed to President Donald Trump supplied by one anonymous source who was not even on the call. Two months later, when a Journal report revealed the quotations to be false, the Post only revealed the identity of the anonymous bearer of false information after she granted her permission.

    How kind of the Post and how generous of Ms. Fuchs to finally let readers in on the full story. We live in an age of cancel culture, but it seems that people who fabricate negative stories about Mr. Trump can expect eternal media forgiveness.

    This is perhaps the perfect ending to the story of Trump-era press coverage and helps explain why media outlets never punished the anonymous sources of bogus Russia collusion stories by outing them. The bearers of false witness never gave their permission! Will this odd media courtesy be extended to anonymous sources who supply false claims about President Joe Biden?

    Your guess is as good as mine. That is, assuming your guess is the same as mine: "no way".


  • What is "Any Disconfirming Evidence", Alex? Tim Harford's interesting insights into What Conspiracy Theorists Don’t Believe.

    Some people believe the most extraordinary things. Earth is flat, and airplane GPS is rigged to fool pilots into thinking otherwise. COVID-19 vaccines are a pretext to inject thought-controlling microchips into us all. The true president of the United States is Donald Trump; his inauguration will happen on January 20, make that March 4, make that a date to be arranged very soon.

    The question “How could anybody believe this stuff?” comes naturally enough. That may not be the most helpful question, however. Conspiracy theorists believe strange ideas, yes. But these outlandish beliefs rest on a solid foundation of disbelief.

    To think that Trump is actually still the president, as some in the QAnon movement do, you first have to doubt. You have to doubt the journalism practiced by any mainstream media outlet of any political persuasion; you have to doubt all the experts and the political elites; you have to doubt the judiciary, the military, and every other American institution. Once you have thoroughly disbelieved all of them, only then can you start to believe in Trump’s ascension being just around the corner—or in lizard overlords or alien prophets.

    In flat earth news a couple months back: Wisconsin pharmacist Steven Brandenburg who destroyed more than 500 doses of covid vaccine is a flat-Earther

    A few months back I engaged in a series of small comment spats with election truthers. I know exactly what Harford is referring to.


  • Let's Be Very Careful and Kill a Few Thousand More People. Jim Geraghty has the latest on Europe's vaccine bungling, specifically its AstraZeneca freakout. Blood clots?

    Last week, we received an update on that Baltimore warehouse with “tens of millions of doses” of the AstraZeneca vaccine ready to go, with word that another 30 million doses are currently bottled at AstraZeneca’s facility in West Chester, Ohio. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told Reuters yesterday that independent monitors are reviewing the results of AstraZeneca’s ongoing U.S. COVID-19 vaccine trial, and emergency authorization could come in about a month.

    But a lot of European countries suspended using the AstraZeneca vaccine this week, and while I try not to get over my skis and remain humble about my ability to make sweeping conclusions about medical topics, it appears the leaders of these countries have lost their minds.

    Based upon the available data, an individual person’s odds of developing blood clots after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine are one in 459,459; for perspective, the U.S. CDC says that your odds of being struck by lightning are one in 500,000.

    Geraghty: "Really, can we please bury the stereotype or trope that Europeans are sophisticated modern cognoscenti and we’re just a bunch of Bible-thumping backwater hicks?"


  • Hey, did you watch the Grammys? Neither did I. Jim Treacher has the data: Grammys Ratings Drop Lower Than Cardi B's IQ.

    Ah, music. Remember that stuff? Long, long ago in the Before Times, when nobody knew what coronaviruses or Faucis were, people would gather together with special tools called “instruments” and make various sounds that could be pleasing to the ear and mind. We called these groups of people “bands,” and some of them were pretty good! Not usually, but every once in a while. A few of them figured out how to assemble those sounds into artifacts called “songs,” and the ability to craft these artifacts was highly prized in our society. An entire industry was built around this process, and it was capable of producing songs of great power and beauty. It wasn’t perfect, because nothing ever is, but it was alive. It inspired and moved people. Mankind sang light into the darkness, and our children grew up knowing that we small, fragile creatures could transcend our mortal bodies and touch the hand of eternity.

    One of my Jeopardy! categorical weak spots: any popular music post-2004 or so. I just sit on the sofa, vacant look on my face, understanding neither the clues nor the responses.


Last Modified 2021-03-18 7:22 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-03-16

[The Censorious Mind]

  • I stole took the liberty of scanning the Eye Candy du Jour from the current issue of Reason. It illustrates Matt Welch's prophetic article, now out from behind the paywall: The War on Free Speech Is About To Get a Lot Uglier.

    One week after being trapped inside the United States Capitol as thousands of pro–Donald Trump marauders attempted to forcibly "stop the steal" of the presidential election, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) suggested one possible federal government response: convening a national commission on media literacy.

    "We're going to have to figure out how we rein in our media environment so that you can't just spew disinformation and misinformation," Ocasio-Cortez told her followers in a video message. "It's one thing to have differing opinions, but it's another thing entirely to just say things that are false."

    AOC worrying about people saying things that are false. Hm.

    Not that it matters, but even the left-leaning Politifact's scorecard for AOC has judged ten statements of hers. Out of those, five are ranked "False" and one is "Pants on Fire". (From 2018: "Unemployment is low because everyone has two jobs. Unemployment is low because people are working 60, 70, 80 hours a week and can barely feed their family.")

    Alex, I recommend studying Matthew 7:5. For as long as it takes for you to get it.

    But Matt's correct of course. Even since I got the mag in the mail on March 3, things have gotten a lot uglier.


  • At the James G. Martin Center, Jay Schalin looks at our Orwellian reality: The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Movement: Tyranny Through Subverting Language

    One of the left’s most successful tactics is the manipulation of language. The meaning of words is gradually but deliberately changed to alter perceptions and to enable large policy and cultural changes to occur without much notice.

    Academia is especially vulnerable to such linguistic subterfuge, and in the past year, many universities have greatly advanced the radical agenda through “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” (DEI) policies. To most people who still understand those three words according to their traditional meanings, such policies sound benign or enlightening; many would be open to basing guidelines on them.

    However, in the lexicon of today’s left-leaning academic bureaucracies, those words—taken individually or together—have new, specific meanings with a sinister bent.

    The traditional definition of “diversity” generally means some sort of variation within a population. But it has undergone several transitions in recent times. First, it has been given a normative spin with connotations of goodness—“diversity is our strength,” for example—that Americans have largely accepted. But more recently, a second twist has occurred: The word “diversity” is now used as a descriptor for preferred demographic groups. An all-black gathering is considered to be diverse, while an all-white gathering is not. “Diverse” can even be used to describe an individual if they belong to the right demographic, a meaning that is completely incongruous and seems to be a contradiction of the word’s original definition.

    The University Near Here is (of course) all in on the language corruption. The relevant Office is named Community, Equity and Diversity. ("We are committed to supporting and sustaining an educational community that is inclusive, diverse and equitable. The values of diversity, inclusion and equity are inextricably linked to our mission…")

    Schalin's point about the D word is also ably illustrated by NASDAQ President Nelson Grigg's LTE in a recent WSJ:

    We propose that [NASDAQ listed] companies have at least two diverse directors…

    … and he goes on to clarify that by "diverse", he means "not white guys".


  • I'm not a huge Conor Friedersdorf fan, but he didn't like what they're teachin' the kiddos. Illustrated in a tweet:

    That's part of a long thread. Conor's lengthy thoughts are in his recent Atlantic article: What Happens When a Slogan Becomes the Curriculum. He concentrates on said curriculum in Evanston, Illinois. He's far more sympathetic than I, but he can't ignore that what's happening isn't education, but indoctrination.

    More heavy-handed is a lesson called “Empathy, Loving Engagement, and Restorative Justice,” included in a slide deck from Evanston’s third-grade curriculum. The lesson begins with a “teaching point” that states, “Today I’m going to teach you about what the Black Lives Matter movement is and why it’s necessary.” Later slides show photographs of local Black Lives Matter protests. A leading question near the end of the lesson asks students, “Why is it important to learn about Black Lives Matter in school?” In most circumstances, public schools should help students understand significant protest movements that are shaping their world, and Black Lives Matter easily crosses that threshold. But flatly describing the movement as “necessary” is a value judgment.

    Americans pursue racial justice through a variety of political ideologies, policy agendas, and tactics. Kids should know that a “correct” approach cannot be identified objectively. One might agree that Black lives matter and that Black people have been unfairly harmed by historical racism without also endorsing, say, “Black villages” or other distinct ideas embraced by activists. The Evanston curriculum elides that distinction. The only critique of the Black Lives Matter approach to social-justice activism that students get is literally a caricature. In the first panel of a cartoon included in the lesson materials, a person says, “Well I think that all lives matter.” In panel two, while holding a fire hose, he says, “We should care exactly equally at all times about everything.” In panel three, he stands in front of two houses, one that’s burning, one that isn’t, and sprays water on the house that isn't on fire. “All houses matter,” he says.

    I'm most gobsmacked by the "Satan" thing. They aren't even trying to pretend that they're not evangelizing a religion.


  • And, oh yes, the "respectable" media deserves all the scorn it currently gets and more. John Sexton notes the latest. Washington Post: Hey, sorry these headline-grabbing quotes by President Trump were made up.

    Back in December President Trump made a call to Georgia’s chief elections investigator urging her to look into fraud in Fulton County. The Washington Post and other outlets reported on the call in early January, highlight two specific quotes from the call. One quote that appeared in several headlines claimed that President Trump had asked the investigator to “find the fraud.” In addition, some headline quoted Trump as saying the investigator would be a “national hero” if they did find it. For instance, a Jan 10 story at the Guardian headlined “‘Find the fraud’: details emerge of another Trump call to Georgia officials” opened with both claims:

    That example, and many others follow. And now it seems those words in quotes were not actually uttered.

    If "Democracy Dies in Darkness", WaPo, what dies when you publish anonymously sourced made-up quotes? I think it's your credibility.

URLs du Jour

2021-03-15

Michael Ramirez has our Eye Candy du Jour:

[Just print more money]

  • My local (Sunday) paper, Seacoast Sunday, paints the free money falling from the sky as if it came from finding a very rich leprechaun's pot o' gold. On the front page, Kyle Stucker's article is headlined Monthly checks will aid most NH, Maine parents. First para:

    Local advocates, social service providers and elected officials say the new monthly child tax credit checks coming to New Hampshire and Maine parents under the new $1.9 trillion federal COVID-19 relief plan President Joe Biden signed Thursday will have profound impacts on struggling families.

    Quoted are the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; Deb Anthony, executive director at Gather, the Seacoast’s largest hunger relief organization, who chirps "I think it’s a great idea"; Senator Shaheen (D-NH); Representative Pingree (D-ME); Representative Pappas (D-NH); … and, well, you get the idea. It's a free lunch! The bill will never arrive! Not a single voice even intimating hey, you think there might be a problem here?

    It's not the first "news" article in my paper that could have been written by the Democratic National Committee. And I doubt it will be the last.


  • Cato's James A. Dorn is relatively sober about it: Congress Should Not Expect a Miracle from Monetary Stimulus.

    Monetary policy can only do so much: it cannot permanently increase the wealth of a nation. That is the lesson from economic history. In the short run, the Fed can affect real variables like output and employment by expansionary monetary policy, but trying to use monetary stimulus as the primary vehicle to move the economy forward is an invitation for price inflation in the longer run.

    In enacting President Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief bill, Congress should not expect a miracle. The risk is that as the Fed buys a larger share of the federal debt, inflation could increase—if there is an excess supply of money. Although policymakers are focused on the near term, it would be irresponsible to assume that most of the impact of the monetary stimulus will show up in real economic growth rather than higher inflation.

    That last link goes to (Democrat) Larry Summers, who's more than a little alarmed at the volume of the money printers going brrrr.


  • Ah, but unrestrained spending isn't the Democrats' only bad idea. Jacob Sullum has an entry for our overflowing "Unsurprising" pigeonhole. Dianne Feinstein’s Latest ‘Assault Weapon’ Bill Is Just As Illogical As All the Previous Ones.

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D–Calif.) yesterday introduced an "updated" version of her proposed ban on "military-style assault weapons," invoking "domestic terrorism" as a justification. "We're now seeing a rise in domestic terrorism," she says, "and military-style assault weapons are increasingly becoming the guns of choice for these dangerous groups." Yet her bill, which so far has attracted 34 cosponsors in the Senate, makes no more sense as a response to terrorism than it does as a response to mass shootings.

    The Assault Weapons Ban of 2021, like the Feinstein-sponsored 1994 ban that expired in 2004, would prohibit the manufacture and sale of numerous arbitrarily defined firearms, including some of the most popular rifles sold in the United States. It lists "205 military-style assault weapons" by name and also covers other guns with features Feinstein does not like. It would ban any semiautomatic rifle that accepts a detachable magazine and has "a pistol grip," "a forward grip," a folding or telescoping stock, "a grenade launcher," "a barrel shroud," or "a threaded barrel."

    As usual: there's pointless concentration on cosmetic features that have no relation to a weapon's deadliness.

    Both my state's senators, Shaheen and Hassan, are listed as cosponsors of this stupid bill.


  • Another one for our "Unsurprising" category: Kevin D. Williamson (in an NRPLUS article, sorry) detects Free Speech in a Bind. He notes that Germany has a policy of abridging free speech on the grounds of streitbare Demokratie ("militant democracy"); other countries do similar things.

    In the United States, we have a First Amendment that is supposed to prevent that sort of thing, and it works most of the time. But not all of the time: The Obama administration assassinated a U.S. citizen it labeled “the Osama bin Laden of Facebook,” and then after the fact cooked up a preposterous rationale for its actions. Left-wing activists have raised the possibility of prosecuting or banning Fox News on the grounds that it incited the January 6 assault on the Capitol. Democrats in elected office have pressured cable companies to dump Fox News and other right-wing content. Kamala Harris and Xavier Becerra made mincemeat of the First Amendment in California, as Andrew Cuomo and his minions did in New York. And though the main actors in the United States are generally corporate rather than governmental, we now routinely disappear books, websites, and other kinds of speech, usually political, on public-safety grounds.

    I wrote a book about the intersection of streitbare Demokratie-type thinking with mob politics, in which I argue that the public-safety rationale, to the modest extent that it is ever legitimate, will always be abused. The temptation to simply define one’s political opponents out of the political bounds is too great. On Monday, public safety demands the prohibition of Mein Kampf, and on Tuesday it demands the prohibition of books that take a dissenting line on transgender issues.

    KDW notes that Amazon's banning of Ryan Anderson's book is probably beneficial to Anderson; he estimates the publicity caused by the ban has caused "thousands more copies" of the three-year-old book to be sold.

    But it's that old "seen/unseen" thing. What we won't see are the publishers who decline to bring out "politically risky" books. Which may have been the intent all along: get those heretics to STFU.


  • So enough pessimism for today. Virginia Postrel points out that Women's Liberation Started With Job-Killing Inventions.

    As the many mothers who’ve left their jobs to cope with pandemic remote schooling can testify, “free” household labor isn’t really free. It always entails the opportunity cost of what you could otherwise be doing.

    But women’s domestic tasks get short shrift in the history of labor-saving technology because historically much of that work received no direct monetary compensation. “We are all familiar with our grandmothers’ adage, ‘A woman’s time is nothing,’” wrote an essayist in 1870, lamenting how little inventive effort was going toward easing women’s domestic burdens. Whether by unpaid housewives or poorly paid servants, the work still had to be done.

    Virginia notes the history and effect of unglamorous, liberating inventions: the grist mill, the spinning mill, the rotary presses, the sewing machine, the washing machine, synthetic fibers. As is always the case with her, unexpectedly interesting.


Last Modified 2021-03-16 5:11 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-03-14

FoxTrot reminds us it's Pi Day. Check it out if you enjoy Jason's nerd humor. We'll post a nice animated GIF we dug out of Wikipedia years back:

[Pi Unrolled]

  • But by coincidence it's also the Day You Forgot to Set Your Clocks Ahead. If that's put you in a bad mood, I suggest Jeff Jacoby, who demands that we Heed the science and abolish daylight saving time. DST was sold as an energy-saving gimmick (coercively applied, of course). Jeff points out that rationale proved to be bogus, but like most legislated bad ideas, that didn't cause repeal.

    But it's worse than "not working":

    But daylight saving time doesn't just fail to deliver the single most important benefit expected of it. It also generates a slew of harms. In the days following the onset of daylight time each March, there is a measurable increase in suicides, atrial fibrillation, strokes, and heart attacks. Workplace injuries climb. So do fatal car crashes and emergency room visits. There is even evidence that judges hand down harsher sentences.

    All of which helps explain the growing chorus of scientists calling for an end to daylight saving time.

    The public-health problems stem not just from the loss of an hour of sleep once a year but from the ongoing disruption to the human circadian clock. The body's internal rhythm "is supposed to gradually adjust over the course of a season, with sleep and wake times slowly changing in response to the changing length and intensity of sunlight," wrote Dr. Shelby Harris, a specialist in sleep disorders, in a 2014 essay. When we "spring forward," we shift our internal clocks faster than nature intended. "One hour may not seem extreme, but we can't reset our circadian rhythms as easily as we change the time on the microwave. . . . [I]t's clear that the human body does not readily or easily adapt to jarring changes in the alarm clock."

    But is that enough? At National Review, Steve Hanke and Christopher Arena say, sure, It’s Time to Dump Daylight Saving. But what we should really do is…

    It’s time for a complete overhaul of how we keep track of time — a practical solution that saves time and money and is good for our health, too.

    We should scrap our current system of time zones and daylight savings in favor of worldwide adoption of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), also known as Greenwich Mean Time. This would mean that everyone’s watches around the world would be set at exactly the same time. The only difference they would notice, depending on where they are located, would be where the sun is in the sky at a particular hour. Thus midday would be as it is today in all parts of the world, when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky. What would be different under UTC is the time on your watch. In New York, midday would no longer be 12:00 p.m., but rather 5:00 p.m. (17:00 UTC).

    A number of commenters freak out about using UTC. The sun high in the sky at 1700 UTC? Madness! They seem to be inordinately attached to numbers based on an arbitrary, and not particularly sensible, standard.

    I'd only slightly disagree with the Hanke/Arena wording. You would, of course, be able to set your watch to whatever wacky hour you want. (I am basically a libertarian.) But if you want to (for example) set up a Zoom meeting with people scattered around the country, or the world world, it would be so much easier to say "Let's have it at 14:30" and everyone would know what that means without having to do math.

    I've been on this hopeless crusade for a long time. See my 2013 post The Right Number of Time Zones is Zero.


  • Mary Chastain notes that the World's Largest Bookseller has (sort of) responded to queries about its removal of When Harry Became Sally from its virtual shelves: Amazon Won’t ‘Sell Books That Frame LGBTQ+ Identity as a Mental Illness’. She links to a letter that Amazon sent in response to queries from Senators Rubio, Hawley, Braun, and Lee. They make an unexceptional general rule:

    That said, we reserve the right not to sell certain content. All retailers make decisions about what selection they choose to offer, as do we.

    Fine. And (they claim) one of the specific rules they have in making such decisions: thumbs down on "books that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness."

    I've come to the belief that "mental illness" is a pretty slippery concept. And certainly there's an existence proof that one can switch one's gender ID and still remain mentally functional otherwise: Deirdre, used to be Donald, McCloskey.

    Does When Harry Became Sally deal adequately with When Donald Became Deirdre? I don't know. And (as far as Amazon is concerned) I shouldn't even be able to find out.

    And (of course) Amazon's rules allow selling books (e.g., Mein Kampf, Sayings of Chairman Mao) by some of the greatest mass murderers in history. And they're worried about the writings of Ryan T. Anderson as a uniquely dangerous threat?

    Please.

    I don't think Amazon will be able to apply its newfound rules with any logical consistency, let alone fairness. I think they'll simply cave to the loudest mob. Which is sad, and doesn't provide much reason for optimism for the future of free expression in America.


  • Kevin D. Williamson (NRPLUS article, sorry) looks at Farhad Manjoo’s Climate-Change Theology: Secular Moral Panic. Manjoo recently took to the NYT to flail himself for his travel habits.

    Manjoo, who sheepishly (but not really sheepishly — the kids call it a “humblebrag,” I believe) admits to having jetted from San Francisco to London for a one-hour book talk and from San Francisco to Hong Kong to Singapore for two trivial lunch meetings, has had a change of heart, a come-to-carbon-neutral-substitute-Jesus moment, and he wants to build a world with less international jet-setting and more stay-at-home ass-sitting, more Zooming and less sonic-booming. (I know, but maybe they’ll bring back the Concorde.) Like its cousin misery, asceticism loves company, and so Manjoo proposes to begin his campaign of moral improvement with . . . you peons, of course.

    “Do you really need to fly?” the headline asks. Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe you need to mind your own goddamned business.

    But, why not play the game? Do you really need a tomato? You can live a perfectly happy life without one. The tomato, too, was once regarded as sinful: Europeans once thought of it as excessively voluptuous, associating it with the forbidden fruit of the Bible, believing alternately that it was poisonous or an aphrodisiac. Tomatoes apparently used to be sexy, which probably is why “tomato” used to be slang for an attractive woman.

    Nobody needs a tomato.

    Nobody needs fine Au Lit sheets or a Tesla. Nobody needs to go to the moon. Nobody needs more than one pair of shoes. Nobody needs another self-righteous New York Times columnist.

    How about another book? How about an Internet connection? Do you really need . . . to be a blue-nosed busybody?

    That's a longish excerpt, but I even had a hard time stopping there.


  • Hey, kids, what time is it? As noted above the answer today may be: "an hour later than you think". But Steven Greenhut has an alternate answer for us: it's Time for Conservatives To Rethink Their Priorities.

    A recent column on a pro-Trump website argued that libertarians such as myself ought to stop supporting third-party candidates and join their side in an effort to stand up to the Left—something of urgency now that Democrats control the presidency, the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. It's an argument I've often heard.

    "This is an existential battle," wrote Edward Ring in American Greatness. "Siphoning off voters from the side that's fighting the hardest to preserve individual liberty and economic freedom is not principled. It is nihilism." Years ago, that position was at least tenable—back when Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan and Thomas Sowell energized the conservative movement.

    I've seen arguments like that too. Like Greenhut, I'm not persuaded. It might be too much to ask of GOP pols, after years of supporting/worshipping President Bone Spurs, to snap back to supporting fiscal sanity, federalism, free trade, and free markets.

    But at least making lip service to libertarian principles would be a good idea. I, for one, am a sucker for such sweet talk, and it might sway my vote.

Coming 2 America

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A long-awaited (OK, probably not that long-awaited) sequel to Eddie Murphy's 1988 Coming To America. Whoa, it's been that long? Over thirty years?

But he's still funny. As host, he provided Saturday Night Live with its best episode last season. (And managed to remind everyone that SNL isn't really that funny any more.)

The premise is that King Akeem (Eddie) discovers he has a biological son, caused by a one-nighter with Mary Junson (Leslie Jones!) back on his previous visit to Queens. And it just so happens that Akeem's needs a male heir. (His marriage to Lisa having only provided daughters. Lovely, smart, funny daughters, but still.) There's a tribal rival, General Izzi (Wesley Snipes), who poses a threat to Akeem's peaceful and prosperous kingdom otherwise.

So (see the title) it's back to Queens to retrieve the young man. Who's OK with all the fabulous riches and power, but not so much with fitting into the royal expectations.

It's all silly fluff, drags a bit in the middle, but overall a lot of fun. Arsenio Hall is also back as Akeem's buddy Semmi. And, like the previous movie, they don a lot of makeup to play hilarious other roles. Besides Eddie and Arsenio, there are a lot of additional returnees from the 1988 movie: Shari Headley, James Earl Jones, … IMDB lists 25 overlaps between the two.

Also: Morgan Freeman. Gladys Knight. Tracy Morgan. John Amos. How can you say no?

The Rhythm Section

[1.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Yeesh. Didn't care for it at all. Should have believed the mediocre IMDB rating.

Blake Lively plays Stephanie, who loses all her family in a plane crash which turns out to have been a terrorist bombing. That turns her into a drug-abusing whore. When it's revealed to her that the bomber is alive, she tries to shoot him, but loses her nerve. And that brings her to Jude Law, who recruits her to assume the identity of a dead female assassin…

Oh well, it gets pretty convoluted. It's all dark and gritty, and manages to make the beautiful Blake Lively unattractive nearly all the way through. It's another entry in the crowded "thriller with a deadly female protagonist" sub-genre. And it was a box-office bomb. Maybe this will signal the movie-making moguls that replacing James Bond with a girl is a mistake? (In fairness, Barbara Broccoli has seemed to say there's no danger of that.)

URLs du Jour

2021-03-13

[Amazon Link]

  • Peter Suderman contributes to our "Unsurprising News" Department: Biden’s Coronavirus Relief Plan Will Probably Cost a Lot More Than $1.9 Trillion.

    Looked at one way, the American Rescue Plan, President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion economic intervention, is just another pricey COVID-19 bill in a series of them—another one-time injection of funds into an economy in crisis. Biden has repeatedly agreed that the plan is fundamentally about quick, emergency relief, an in-the-moment, temporary measure to beat back the pandemic and get the economy going.

    Over the long term, however, it's likely to be much more than that—more expensive and more permanent than the headline figures make it sound. And it portends an even greater expansion of federal power to come.

    Click over for the deets. But the bottom line is that the main point of "relief" is to make an ever-increasing share of citizens dependent on Uncle Stupid. Efforts to derail even the "temporary" subsidies will be resisted by Democrats down the road. ("How dare you take away peoples' health care!")


  • And the bad legislation just keeps coming. The NR editors describe the PRO Act: Democrats’ Labor Union Giveaway Bill An Anti Worker Nightmare.

    The Biden administration is committed to applying the freshest thinking of the 1930s to contemporary challenges, while congressional Democrats are keen on mandating that all 50 states adopt what is worst and most destructive in California practice. These two tendencies come together in the PRO Act.

    The PRO Act, which already has been passed by the House, is being sold as a measure to make it easier for American workers to join labor unions. What it is, in fact, is a measure that would make it much harder for workers to stay out of unions when they want to, by overriding state right-to-work laws and adopting California’s so-called ABC test to treat certain independent contractors as employees.

    Both New Hampshire Congresscritters voted in favor of the PRO act because of course they did. (All but one House Democrat voted aye.)


  • Jonah Goldberg asks the important question: Is It Really Too Hard for Comedians to Joke About Joe Biden?.

    There’s a difference between saying something can’t be done and recognizing that you can’t do it. For instance, I can’t run a marathon—at least not without some profound lifestyle changes. But that doesn’t mean marathons can’t be run. Happens all the time, just not by me.

    Likewise, when you hear people say it’s impossible to make fun of Joe Biden, what they’re really saying is that they can’t (or won’t) do it, or that they don’t want anyone else to try.

    Until recently, people mocked “ol’ Joe” routinely, including yours truly. In the Senate, an institution famous for its long-winded blowhards, Sen. Biden stood out from the crowd. His mouth was like a car with iffy brakes and a detached steering wheel. He’d start asking a question, and 15 minutes later he’d be in a treetop wondering how he got there. He abused the word “literally” so much, if there was a lexicological equivalent of child services, it would revoke custody.

    Jonah leaves little doubt that the lack of Biden-mockery is a simple double standard.

    The only silver lining is that Saturday Night Live may actually get funnier, on net. Their anti-Trump "humor" was never that funny.

    Supplemental reading: Christian Toto's Big Tech Censors Conservative Comedians.


  • Matt Taibbi notes The Sovietization of the American Press. That doesn't sound good.

    Reality in Soviet news was 100% binary, with all people either heroes or villains, and the villains all in league with one another (an SR was no better than a fascist or a “Right-Trotskyite Bandit,” a kind of proto-horseshoe theory). Other ideas were not represented, except to be attacked and deconstructed. Also, since anything good was all good, politicians were not described as people at all but paragons of limitless virtue — 95% of most issues of Pravda or Izvestia were just names of party leaders surrounded by lists of applause-words, like “glittering,” “full-hearted,” “wise,” “mighty,” “courageous,” “in complete moral-political union with the people,” etc.

    Some of the headlines in the U.S. press lately sound suspiciously like this kind of work:

    — Biden stimulus showers money on Americans, sharply cutting poverty

    — Champion of the middle class comes to the aid of the poor

    — Biden's historic victory for America

    I googled all those: they're owned by the WaPo, the New York Times, and CNN. At least the CNN one is marked as "Opinion". Not so the first two.

    Maybe Jonah's article above could have been titled "The Sovietization of American Comedy".


  • The WIRED headline on Steven Levy's article made me wince: Tim Wu and Lina Khan Can Finally Put Their Antitrust Theories to Work.

    When I attended a 2019 Facebook policy workshop designed to gauge attitudes as it built its oversight board, I was surprised to see Tim Wu among the participants. I understood that Facebook wanted to draw from a range of people for this outside focus group of academics, lawyers, nonprofit execs, and journalists, including those who were not necessarily Mark Zuckerberg fans. But Wu was a super foe. A law professor and attorney who consulted for the FTC about a decade ago—and reportedly pushed the agency for action against dominant businesses—Wu has been a prominent voice urging us to regard big tech companies like Facebook as monopolies, and to curb them. Almost as if to prove that Facebook had welcomed a fox in this wonky henhouse, Wu took me aside after the event and asked if I could share any juicy details I’d found about how the company had acquired Instagram and WhatsApp. (I told him to wait for the book.) Some weeks later, I visited him at his apartment, where he showed me the slide show he was using to convince federal and state attorneys to charge Facebook with illegal monopolization. Indeed, last December, 47 states and the Federal Trade Commission filed the lawsuit.

    Lina Khan, nominated for an FTC commissioner position, is also a dedicated foe of "Big Four" Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google. Levy points out (unintentionally) how political this is:

    Maybe at one time, the Big Four would have been able to wield enough clout to block these two appointments. But for the past few years, the quartet’s lobbyists have increasingly tilted right. I can’t count the times I’ve chatted with communications and policy people at Facebook and learned that they worked with Romney or McCain or Bush or some random Republican congress critter. That strategy doesn’t seem so brilliant now that the White House, the FTC, the DOJ, and both houses of Congress are controlled by Democrats. “A lot of companies built their Washington offices around Trump in 2017, and they will need to make personnel adjustments for Democratic control in 2021,” says Nu Wexler, a policy consultant who has worked for Facebook and Google.

    This is, of course, the opposite of how the rule of law is supposed to work: having clear and unambiguous lines drawn so that firms know ahead of time how to avoid breaking the rules.

    See above: I don't see "Big Tech" as sin-free. But I strongly suspect that whatever results from application of the Wu/Khan "antitrust theories" will be worse.

URLs du Jour

2021-03-12

[Amazon Link]

  • Smith College is about 111 crow-files miles southwest from here, and the University of Vermont is 145 miles to the northwest. But they are both too close for comfort. Jerry Coyne has the latest about-to-be-victim. “Dear University of Vermont”: a Jodi Shaw equivalent at a different school.

    It's about Professor Aaron Kindsvatter; there's a tweet and video at the link, but here's Jerry's summary of the story:

    Kindsvatter’s plaint mirrors that of [Jodi Shaw's about Smith College]: he’s calling out “discrimination against whiteness” at the University of Vermont, a stance adopted by some “desperate persons who need a group to hate.”  He’s worried that this ideology will find its way to hate groups, who will adopt its methods. I’m not sure what methods he’s referring to, however.

    At any rate, Kindsvatter finds it hard to see how it became possible for people to denigrate anybody by their race “on such a progressive campus.” This was, he says, instantiated by a recent teach-in on “whiteness” in which “a number of social ills were associated in a causal way with people of a particular race” (he means white people).

    He also learned that pushing back against anti-whiteness was “not okay”, and has learned that his University is instituting policies that will chill dissent, like adopting the official definitions of racism and antiracism from Ibram X. Kendi. He concludes that he would be considered a “racist” according to those definitions, which makes it difficult to dissent from University policy.

    I only hope that the backlash makes people at the University Near Here think twice before giving a UNH dissident/heretic ground for making similar complaints.


  • And the WaPo breaks the latest news from down there: Georgetown terminates law Professor Sandra Sellers after statements about Black students.

    A Georgetown law professor was terminated and a second was placed on leave after a video clip showed a conversation between the pair that included what an official called “reprehensible” statements about Black students, officials said Thursday.

    "Reprehensible". But are those statements…


  • Hans Bader asks and answers the important followup question ignored by the WaPo: Georgetown law professor fired for telling the truth.

    A law professor at Georgetown University has been fired for pointing out that black students got lower grades in her classes. This was not due to racism. Black students get lower grades at selective colleges because they are admitted with lower grades and test scores than their non-black classmates, due to racial preferences in admissions at schools like Georgetown.

    Democracy dies in darkness, WaPo.


  • Veronique de Rugy has some advice for policy makers: Stop Trying To Create a Zero-Risk Society.

    A lot has been said about the harm to people resulting from government lockdowns imposed in the name of fighting COVID-19. However, lockdowns aren't the only misguided policies that we've had and continue to endure because of this pandemic. In fact, we will suffer many tragic effects from the pandemic-induced changes long after lockdowns are lifted and the coronavirus is endemic.

    The case against lockdowns is pretty well established. In fact, contrary to accusations issued by lockdown advocates, one doesn't have to believe that COVID-19 isn't a serious disease to oppose lockdowns. Nor does one have to make the claim that doing nothing would have worked wonders in controlling this nasty virus. All you have to show is that lockdowns do not control the spread of the virus any better than less-draconian alternatives. In fact, when all costs are considered, such as the short- and long-term health, educational and psychological harms the lockdowns caused, their costs far exceed their benefits.

    Here's a shocking proposal: government should provide citizens with accurate information about risk and uncertainty. And then let people, businesses, and local governments make their own decisions about whether to stay at home, whether open or close their doors, whether to require patrons to mask up, etc.

    In short, treat people as rational adults.

    This is the kind of policy that President Wheezy deems "Neanderthal".


  • Hans von Spakovsky saith: H.R. 1 Is a Threat to American Democracy. Period.. Period? How about exclamation point!

    There are many vulnerabilities in the American election system. These vulnerabilities need to be fixed. Unfortunately, H.R. 1—the “For the People Act of 2021,” which recently passed in the House without a single Republican vote, and is now before the Senate—is not the way to do it. Indeed, H.R. 1 would make things much worse, usurping the role of the states, wiping out basic safety protocols, and mandating a set of rules that would severely damage the integrity of the election process.

    "Other than that, though, it's fine!"

    I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I don't think fraud tilted the November election to Biden.

    But fraud exists, and weakening protections against fraud ain't moving things in the right direction.


  • Finally, Glenn Greenwald notes that some erstwhile defenders of a free press shed their principles pretty readily when their oxen are being gored: Journalists Start Demanding Substack Censor its Writers: to Bar Critiques of Journalists.

    On Wednesday, I wrote about how corporate journalists, realizing that the public’s increasing contempt for what they do is causing people to turn away in droves, are desperately inventing new tactics to maintain their stranglehold over the dissemination of information and generate captive audiences. That is why journalists have bizarrely transformed from their traditional role as leading free expression defenders into the the most vocal censorship advocates, using their platforms to demand that tech monopolies ban and silence others.

    That same motive of self-preservation is driving them to equate any criticisms of their work with “harassment,” “abuse” and “violence” — so that it is not just culturally stigmatized but a banning offense, perhaps even literally criminal, to critique their journalism on the ground that any criticism of them places them “in danger.” Under this rubric they want to construct, they can malign anyone they want, ruin people’s reputations, and unite to generate hatred against their chosen targets, but nobody can even criticize them.

    Greenwald is an unabashed lefty, but he's honest enough to recognize a dangerous trend.

Someone to Watch Over Me

[Amazon Link]

Definitely a book in the "Wish I Liked It Better" category. I go in knowing that this is yet another cold-eyed scheme to shake loose a bunch of money from people (like me) who were devoted fans of Robert B. Parker and his indefatigable private eye, Spenser. That's a given, and has been a given for a number of years.

But maybe things are a little too formulaic here? A paint-by-numbers picture rather than an actual work of art aping a master? Or maybe I was just spoiled by the previous book I read by Harry Dolan, which I thought was great.

Mattie Sullivan first appeared as a 14-year-old Southie brat in Lullaby, Atkins' first Spenser book, demanding that Spenser find the guy who killed her mom. She's gotten a couple of mentions in subsequent novels, but now she's back in a major way. She's an aspiring investigator, but still with a big, brash, R-rated mouth. She's bringing Spenser a seemingly not-so-big case: a young girl has been enticed to an exclusive Boston club, where she's expected to, erm, "massage" a rich client. Things proceed pervertedly, and the girl escapes, but neglects to retrieve her My Little Pony backpack.

(No, I made that "My Little Pony" thing up. But it could be true.)

The baddies here turn out to be fictionalized versions of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. They're in the biz of procuring young talent for themselves and for their "friends". This has somehow made them rich, and seemingly immune from legal remedies, dispensing bribes and threats with abandon.

That's not likely to deter Spenser from bringing them down. And he gets major help from his buddy Hawk. But an unpleasant surprise crops up: a bad guy from (small spoiler for true fans) Small Vices reappears in faux-Epstein's employ. That shifts the odds a bit, and sets things up for a slam-bang finish.

Getting to that slam-bang finish is kind of a slog, though. Atkins really overdoes Spenser's habit of dropping lines from old movies, songs, and associated literary works. Is too much of a good thing wonderful? (See what I did there?) Not always.

A Letter I Sent to the Governor

[Amazon Link]

I was alerted to an interview my state's governor gave to Commie New Hampshire Public Radio recently. A lot of issues covered, but this raised my hackles:

Question: Several listeners have asked about HB 544, which would prevent educators from teaching about systemic racism and sexism in public schools and state funded programs.  Molly in North Conway asks: Governor, if this bill passes the House and Senate, will you veto it?

Sununu: "Probably, yeah. I don't support it. Look, that bill, as I've read it to date, it really limits free speech. We might not like, you know, agree with certain things that may be said in a public setting or school or whatever it is. But that's the beauty of local control, that's working with your teachers, your school administrators, as a parent, on what's going on in the classroom, having that connectivity. But you don't control that by having a big government law that says you can't say certain things. I'm shocked.  I hate that concept. So, yeah, my guess is if it didn't change, I'd probably very likely veto it."

OK, well, that's hot garbage. The Governor should know better.

But I was somewhat more polite in my e-mail:


Dear Governor Sununu --

I was very disappointed to see in your comments about HB 544 in your recent NHPR interview. I hope you'll consider the favorable take on the bill written by James Lindsay, who's devoted much of his recent career to analyzing and criticizing "Critical Race Theory" and its cousin ideologies.: https://newdiscourses.com/2021/03/letter-supporting-bill-ban-critical-race-theory/

(I also recommend Lindsay's recent book-length treatment, Cynical Theories, written with Helen Pluckrose. But I realize you're a busy man.)

With respect to your free speech concerns, he's pretty clear:

It should also be noted that this bill has First Amendment relevance as well, and not in the way its opponents would explain. The essence of the First Amendment is that people have freedom of conscience, particularly with regard to matters of spiritual belief, and freedom of speech, such that the state can neither compel nor restrict speech. Opponents of this bill will say that the bill seeks to restrict speech, but this is not true. It explicitly leaves provision for workplace trainings and education that don’t teach these already-illegal tenets as uncontested fact. Moreover, the situation is quite the opposite to that portrayed by the opponents to the bill who oppose it on free-speech grounds. These workplace trainings and educational programs violate for very many people both freedom of conscience and freedom of speech. Their freedom of speech is violated by compelling them to admit to complicity in racism and sexism, among other social violations that are unlikely to be true. It also compels them to adopt a particular approach to anti-racism and anti-sexism that is very narrow and to speak on its behalf. This latter example, then, not only violates freedom of speech but also the freedom of conscience implied by both the free-exercise and establishment clauses of the First Amendment. It is not the state’s place to be dictating (or funding the dictators of) how one is to feel about the issue of racism and sexism. Citizens, the overwhelming majority of whom firmly reject racism and sexism, should be granted the freedom of conscience to oppose those on terms they find recognizable, which in a free, liberal country like the United States will mostly likely be rooted in equality, colorblindness, individualism, and universal humanity, which are solidly American values. They may also do so from Judeo-Christian principles, for example the famous injunction from Paul that in Christianity there is “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free,” etc. They should not be compelled to do so in the terms most often employed by so-called “anti-racist,” “diversity,” “racial sensitivity,” and “culturally responsive” programs today, which are a specific ideology known as Critical Theory, which explicitly rejects virtually all of these values for others, sometimes termed “liberationist” and at other times rightly labeled “neo-Marxist,” including in the words of the activists pushings these programs themselves. While the law may not bear out today that these trainings and pedagogical pursuits violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as existing Civil Rights legislation, it is likely that they will eventually. It is therefore better to get on the right side of this issue now and take proactive steps to strengthen a legal architecture that is failing citizens in their most fundamental rights.

That says it better than I could. I have no objection to people holding any kind of wackadoodle views they want, and trying to convince others of their worth. That's not what the bill is opposing: it's the attempt to present these "woke" views as uncontested spherical-earth fact, in publicly-funded environments where people are coerced into echoing those views back.

Thanks for your attention. Best wishes.


I'd like to think this will persuade the Gov to rethink and remove his veto threat. I know, that's hopelessly optimistic.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

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

A western from the Coen brothers. Why did I wait so long to watch?

It's a collection of six stories, even down to the visual aid of the stories being contained in a old-fashioned book, pages turned to captioned color plates. (I'm old enough to remember those. I guess the Coens are too.) Each yarn involves death, in one way or another. In some the take is darkly humorous. In others, tragic.

And the last one is metaphoric, with five travelers in a stagecoach hurtling toward Fort Morgan. With a corpse up top, it turns out. Their dialog turns contentious, philosophical, generally loopy. And somewhat riveting. And as it turns out… (Oh, yeah, one of the passengers is Mary Beth Lacey herself, Tyne Daly. It's great to see her.)

If you watch it, you might want to brush up on the cast list ahead of time. I didn't recognize Stephen Root, for example, underneath a massive amount of facial hair.

[Consumer note: I usually put up an Amazon link to the DVD or streaming video up there on the right. There's no DVD yet, and Amazon isn't gonna link to a Netflix streamer, of course. The link will take you to a book containing the screenplay.]

URLs du Jour

2021-03-11

  • Our Eye Candy du Jour is a Titania tweet:

    The link goes to her article in the (UK) Critic:

    For decades, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has fought for free speech. Finally, the organisation has realised that “free speech” is a racist dog whistle. I have been saying this for a long time now: the only way to prevent the rise of fascism is to empower the state to arrest people for what they say and think.

    Recently the ACLU issued a stunning series of myth-busting facts about trans people in sports. Like all important activism, this was achieved via Twitter.

    Titania is outspoken on the power of the word "FACT" written in capital letters.


  • If you were wondering whether the lunacy of conspiracists needed to be matched with the affront of permanent Capitol fencing… well, sir, Mr. George Will has you covered: The lunacy of conspiracists need not be matched with the affront of permanent Capitol fencing.

    Regarding contemporary American foolishness, there really is no such thing as rock bottom. Nine weeks after the assault on the Capitol, today’s president still will not say, “Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Schumer, tear down this fence!”

    In normal life, when there is no penalty for failure, failures proliferate. In government, failure, far from being penalized, is often rewarded. Those whose bad judgments botched the Capitol’s security on Jan. 6 now are granted seemingly unlimited deference regarding their judgments about needed security measures. Hence their infuriating project currently scarring the epicenter of American democracy: more than three miles of seven-foot-tall fencing that is topped by razor wire and patrolled by soldiers. This seals off from a phantom menace the Capitol, the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress, symbols of liberty under law, and the reign of intelligence.

    Visitors to Washington will take away an all-too-accurate message: the Federal Government is scared to death of its subjects.


  • John McWhorter writes on the Threat to a Progressive America From Anti-Black Antiracists. I am pretty much against "Progressive America", but let's see what he has to say. Addressing the reader who is being driven crazy by the woke gospel:

    You see Third-Wave antiracism telling you are morally bound to conceive of ordinary statements like “I don’t see color” as racist that once were thought of as progressive. That if you are white you are to despise yourself as tainted permanently by “white privilege” in everything you do. That you must accept even claims of racism from black people that make no real sense, or if you are black, must pretend that such claims are sacrosanct because the essence of your life is oppression. Whatever color you are, in the name of acknowledging “power” you are to divide people into racial classes, in exactly the way that First- and Second-Wave antiracism taught you not to, including watching your kids and grandkids taught the same, despite that progress on racism has been so resplendent over the past 50 years that an old-school segregationist brought alive to walk through modern America even in the deepest South would find it hard not to turn to the side of the road and retch at what he saw.

    So, yeah. Linguist that he is, by "progressive" McWhorter actually means "progress", specifically racial progress. Undeniable, unless you're out to gain money, power and respect by denying it.


  • If President Wheezy has anything to say about it, Academic Star Chambers are back, baby. David Harsanyi: Biden Prepares to Strip College Students of Due-Process Rights.

    It’s always worth reminding people that if President Joe Biden were compelled to live by the standards he intends to institute for college students accused of sexual misconduct, he would be presumed guilty of rape, denied any legitimate opportunity to refute Tara Reade’s charges, and tossed from office in disgrace.

    The New York Times reports today that Biden’s Kafkaesque “White House Gender Policy Council” is “beginning his promised effort to dismantle Trump-era rules on sexual misconduct that afforded greater protections to students accused of assault.” The subhead informs us that, “The Biden administration will examine regulations by Betsy DeVos that gave the force of law to rules that granted more due-process rights to students accused of sexual assault.”

    Well, lads, your best bet is to avoid girls until you're safely graduated.


  • As a one-time physics major, my ears pricked up at one bit of Bari Weiss's The Miseducation of America's Elites. One of the little features at the Fieldston School in New York City:

    The science program at Fieldston would make any parent swoon. The electives for 11th- and 12th-graders, according to the school’s website, include immunology, astronomy, neuroscience, and pharmacology.

    But physics looks different these days. “We don’t call them Newton’s laws anymore,” an upperclassman at the school informs me. “We call them the three fundamental laws of physics. They say we need to ‘decenter whiteness,’ and we need to acknowledge that there’s more than just Newton in physics.”

    Tuition at "Ethical Culture Fieldston School" is $55,510. Miseducation doesn't come cheap!


  • And the Google LFOD alert rang for Dana MacLeod's LTE: Santa says it's spring and time to take down Christmas decorations.

    Santa here. Ho, ho, ho. As we approach St. Patrick’s Day we need to discuss.

    I delivered billions of presents around the world and especially love the Mount Washington Valley.

    But we have a rule at the North Pole: No Christmas decorations past Valentine’s Day. Maine has a law, but you all are “Live Free or Die.”

    Get out there and get with spring, neighbors. Wreathes and lights in March are tacky. No one wants coal in their stockings, so please take them down.

    Eye roll. Dana, don't you have anything better to do than hector your neighbors?

    But Maine has a law demanding that Christmas decorations be taken down by some date?

    [Googling…]

    Well, I wouldn't put it past the People's Republic of Maine to have such a law, but… they don't.

URLs du Jour

2021-03-10

[Amazon Link]

  • Ever get the feeling that the world is busy adding couplets to that Martin Niemöller poem? I'm pretty sure John McWhorter feels that way: And then they came for ON BEYOND ZEBRA!.

    Last week I learned that the copy of Dr. Seuss’ On Beyond Zebra that I and my daughters have so enjoyed for years is now officially a collector’s item. The Seuss estate has decided to no longer publish it and five other Seuss books because of their racist imagery.

    I get that we might not want to be showing kids some of the images in the other books, where the only black people depicted are exotic, subservient “natives,” or the only East Asian is a Chinese person who “eats with sticks” in To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street.

    However, I was at first perplexed as to just what was now offensive in On Beyond Zebra and had to page through it carefully. I assume that the problem is with one, or perhaps two, pictures in it that could be interpreted as “Orientalist.”

    A careful look at a classic. And McWhorter brings a linguist's insights to how the Seussian language works its magic.

    Our Amazon Product du Jour, by the way, … yes, it's technically still available there … only has "collectible" editions on sale from third parties. And (as I type) asking prices starting from $400 hardcover and $349 paperback.

    That can't last. Can it?


  • But about McWhorter's contention that "we might not be showing kids" some of the Seuss pics: Kevin D. Williamson says that's malarkey: Mere words and images in Dr. Seuss books can't harm kids.

    The idea that children are harmed by mere exposure to words and images — rather than educated by such exposure — is pure superstition, but regnant superstition. Hence, even self-consciously anti-racist works such as “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” have been suppressed by school boards and libraries for the crime of accurately portraying the world they were written about. “Of Mice and Men” has come under similar pressure, as have dozens of other works by authors from Shakespeare to Maya Angelou. 

    And this is not only about verboten words and images: Part of the complaint against “Mulberry Street” was its “centering white childhood,” a social-justice no-no. As quoted in the Los Angeles Times, a parent looking to spare their children the indignity of reading “Huckleberry Finn” — arguably the greatest American novel — complained about its storytelling: “There’s no counter-narrative to this black person dealing with racism and a white person saving them.” This is not about George Carlin’s seven words you can’t say on television — this is about the elimination of ideas and points of view, narratives, and entire bodies of literature.

    It's also been a hallmark of the complainers to use language to obscure rather than illuminate. See above: "Centering white childhood". What does that mean? Why does it apply to Dr. Seuss's kids, and not to Ramona Quimby?

    Oh oh. Ramona Quimby, you're next!


  • On that topic, Ann Althouse notices a strange inconsistency in the legions of the woke: Why isn't there a vibrant anti-pornography movement within the present-day cancel culture?.

    I wondered. I remember the big anti-pornography movement of the 1980s — and how it was squelched — and I thought it is due for a comeback. We're censoring Dr. Seuss books for minor racial improprieties, but the monumental misogyny problems of pornography are ignored. 

    It could be, I suppose, that the <voice imitation="horatio_caine">cancellers are going up against what they perceive as …

        (•_•)
        ( •_•)>⌐■-■
        (⌐■_■)
        
    … softer targets</voice>.

    YEEEAAAHHHH.


  • Back to KDW@NR, the latest installment of his weekly series The Tuesday. And this week it's unsurprising: Democrats Abuse Coronavirus Crisis to Bail Out Union Pension Funds.

    The so-called American Rescue Plan, which would be more accurately called the Democrats Looting the National Fisc to Pay Off Demanding Constituencies and Grease Every Squeaky Wheel to the Left of Mitt Romney (DLNFPODCGESWLMR) Act, contains a few nickels and dimes for coronavirus vaccinations and billions upon billions of dollars to bail sundry labor bosses and financial managers out of the most recent episode of financial trouble associated with union pension plans, a decades-long parade of organized crime and disorganized incompetence brought to you by the Teamsters, the mafia, Wall Street, and the most ruthless mob of them all: the U.S. government.

    This is straight-up piracy, but it is also more than that. Like their public-sector counterparts, these union-run multi-employer plans are in trouble not because of the coronavirus epidemic or some other unforeseeable circumstance but simply because they have promised extraordinarily generous benefits and failed to put aside money to pay for them. Under pressure from previous underfunding, the managers of these pensions (a committee that has over the years included everyone from Goldman Sachs to Labor Department regulators) have sought out riskier and riskier investments, hoping to achieve higher returns and help them close the gap. That has — contain your jactitations of shock and alarm! — not always worked out as intended. (The thing about risk is, it’s risky.) In effect, they took their money to the casino, came up short, and now are using their political clout with the Biden administration and congressional Democrats to demand that somebody else — you taxpaying suckers — make good on their losses.

    Yes, he said "jactitations". He went there.


  • I should have mentioned that the previous item belongs in the "In a Saner Country, People Would Be Outraged" Department. But so does this, from Jacob Sullum: These Nonprofit ‘Disclosure’ Requirements Are an Assault on the First Amendment.

    California Attorney General Xavier Becerra says he wants to prevent charitable fraud, while the House Democrats who approved the "For the People Act" last week say they want to fortify democracy, fight corruption, and block foreign interference in U.S. elections. But the methods they have chosen pose a serious threat to freedom of speech and freedom of association.

    Under a policy at the center of a First Amendment case the Supreme Court will hear this term, Becerra requires that all 115,000 nonprofit organizations operating in California report information about their major donors. That information is supposed to be confidential, but in practice it is not, because California has a history of accidentally posting it online and making it easily available to anyone with rudimentary hacking skills.

    If it's passed, one would hope we don't have to wait too long before the Supreme Court eviscerates it. But while we're relying on hope, why don't we hope for Democrats to suddenly take their oath to support the Constitution seriously?

URLs du Jour

2021-03-09

  • Mrs. Salad and I got our second shots of Moderna last week, so we're almost out of the woods. We paid attention when the CDC brought out its Official Guidance for folks like us. Fortunately we also have Our Eye Candy du Jour from xkcd: Vaccine Guidance:

    [Vaccine Guidance]

    Mouseover: "I can't wait until I'm fully vaccinated and can safely send chat messages in all caps again."


  • But I'm also looking at Jacob Sullum essentially saying the CDC is all wet: Contrary to What the CDC’s New COVID-19 Advice Implies, There Is Strong Evidence That Vaccination Curtails Virus Transmission.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today issued new guidance for people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19. The agency says fully vaccinated people should feel free to forgo face masks and physical distancing while mingling indoors with each other or with people from "a single household" who are at low risk from COVID-19. But it says vaccinated people should continue wearing masks and practicing physical distancing in public places or when visiting unvaccinated people in high-risk groups.

    The CDC notes "the rapidly evolving science on COVID-19 vaccines." While there is ample evidence from clinical trials that vaccination dramatically reduces the odds of serious disease, hospitalization, and death, there are still some questions about the extent to which it prevents infection and transmission. Yet several studies provide strong evidence that vaccination protects not only people who receive shots but also unvaccinated people in their vicinity.

    I believe the bottom line is: (1) I don't have it; (2) I'm not going to get it; (3) I'm not going to infect anyone with it.

    I'll wear the mask, but I'm not going to pretend I'm doing it for any scientific reason.


  • This would be a good idea though, as reported by Ron Bailey: Researchers Call for ‘Full and Unrestricted’ Investigation Into COVID-19 Origins.

    The Chinese government has not been forthright about the origins of the novel coronavirus that sparked the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic. On January 5, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued an emergency preparedness notification reporting that Chinese officials had alerted the agency to an outbreak of pneumonia of unknown cause in the city of Wuhan. The alert noted that "some patients were operating dealers or vendors in the Huanan Seafood market." The dominant narrative was that the virus most likely jumped from bats to humans (possibly via an intermediary species) at a wet market in Wuhan.

    Doubts about the market being the initial source of the outbreak soon surfaced. Some articles in late January 2020 cited the possibility that the virus might have escaped by infecting a worker associated with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), a laboratory known to conduct research on coronaviruses. In April, the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a statement declaring that "the Intelligence Community (IC) also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified." However, in January 2021, the U.S. Department of State released a fact sheet that suggested, among other things, that the outbreak could have been "the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan, China."

    I'm buying the accidental lab release story.


  • Kevin D. Williamson notes something interesting: Civil War is the Dominant Political Fantasy in America.

    The Q cultists — and a great many mainstream Republicans — will never be able to admit their defeat in 2020, because doing so would force them to tacitly acknowledge that they got hornswoggled by a low-rent con artist and have nothing to show for it except a closet shelf of dopey red caps. And so there was Trump at CPAC, claiming he’d actually won the election, and belittling those Republicans who in reality, back here on Earth, did win their most recent races — Ben Sasse, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Pat Toomey, Mitt Romney, etc. — as though he had not just gone down in ignominious and humiliating defeat to a fried-baloney sandwich and a pair of discount-rack Ray-Bans. Trump did his act, and Republicans clapped like demented seals, made Tusken raider noises, and then paid obeisance to a golden idol.

    Losing is hard, and it is harder still if you sold your soul and pawned your self-respect for a mess of “so much winning!” pottage.

    But the Q kooks aren’t the only ones on the lookout for flying saucers, because Q is only one side in a dialogue. Those who see themselves as the heroic protagonists and Q as their dastardly antagonists need Q there as an emotional foil, because they are deep into a feverish role-playing game of their own. Consider these reader comments at the end of an unremarkable account of the most recent Q shenanigans published in Newsweek, which still exists. (Comments sections are moral and intellectual sewers because they offer a genuinely representative sample of what a certain class of Americans believes.) In the comments, you will see Americans fantasizing about the government’s slaughtering other Americans (“mow them down”), you will see people who no doubt think of themselves as nice progressives indulging in racist (“Tyrone”) fantasies about their cultural enemies being subjected to prison rape and sundry fantasy violence of all other kinds. This isn’t the Slack channel at Mother Jones or an MSNBC staff retreat; these are the readers of Newsweek, who sway in the wind like a field of moronic corn.

    The "Flight 93" syndrome is alive and well on both sides. The survival of America is at stake because the other side are a bunch of terrorists, so we gotta storm the cabin.


  • Okay, one more Covid article, from Tim Rice: F. A. Hayek’s Covid-19 Lessons. (Yes, to Pun Salad, that's irresistible clickbait, baby!)

    Free-market advocates have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic relatively quietly. They should speak up. The pandemic and its fallout show the virtues of market forces while revealing the dangers of relying on bureaucratic central planners and shortsighted regulations.

    An opposition to central planning grounded in the understanding that we can’t predict the future, a healthy skepticism of bureaucrats and experts who fancy themselves philosopher-kings, an awareness of the dangers of outdated and unnecessary regulations: these are the tenets of free-market thinking as espoused by the patron saint of libertarians, Friedrich Hayek. America’s response to Covid-19 reinforces their wisdom, and conservatives should take note.

    Maybe it's time to reread The Road to Serfdom. The cheap punchline, sorry: "… because politicians are using it as a how-to manual."


  • The headline makes it sound as if they're talking about Covid, but no, it's about something else. John Daniel Davidson: Big Tech Thinks You’re An Idiot Child Who Can’t Govern Yourself.

    Last week, YouTube removed videos of former President Donald Trump’s speech at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference, citing violations of its rules about “misleading election claims” under its “presidential election integrity” policy.

    Also last week, Ebay blocked all sales and purchases of the half-dozen Dr. Seuss books recently deemed unfit for children because they allegedly “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.” Amazon blocked access to a documentary about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

    Twitter suspended the account of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Facebook continued its purge of QAnon-linked accounts, which began back in October. And the cable network TCM announced a program to reframe classic films like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “The Searchers,” and “My Fair Lady,” which it considers “problematic” and “troubling.”

    It goes without saying that left-wingers won't be affected by this, they'll be perfectly free to babble their claptrap.


  • And now for something completely different, from the Google LFOD New Alert: ART IN THE OPEN Memorial To The Maquis, Glieres Plateau. (And, reader beware, the link goes to the UK's Morning Star Online whose motto appears to be "For Peace and Socialism".)

    OUT of the snow-covered landscape, an outstretched hand catches the circular setting sun in a constructivist concrete sculpture at the centre of the Glieres Plateau.

    North-east of Annecy, it commemorates a memorable battle fought here by the Maquis in March 1944 against German and French fascists.

    The largely communist Maquis numbered around 300 and were led by the legendary Tom Morel. They were pinned down by 2,000 Vichy police and militia and 4,000 regulars of the infamously murderous Ordnungspolizei (Orpo), commanded by the SS.`

    And LFOD comes up here:

    There is a secluded chamber inside the V designed to offer respite and invite reflection. The motto “Vivre libre ou mourir” (Live free or die) of the Bataillon des Glieres, given to it by Morel, is set in its concrete walls.

    I'm getting a little cognitive dissonance hearing about a "largely communist" resistance adopting the LFOD motto. Maybe it loses a little in translation?

    Still, if you're in southeast France, might be worth checking out.


Last Modified 2021-03-11 4:44 AM EDT

Answers in the Form of Questions

A Definitive History and Insider's Guide to Jeopardy!

[Amazon Link]

In my old age, I've become a Jeopardy! addict. I was a casual viewer since the Art Fleming days. But it eventually grew into a must-watch thing. And since we got a TiVo, we've hardly missed any episodes; only the ones where WBZ decides to preempt or move it to another time (typically 2:37am).

I even got into doing the yearly online quiz, hoping to impress the contestant search team with my smarts. One year, I got an invite to an in-person test/audition down in Boston; it was fun, but the awaited call beckoning me to Sony Studios never came.

So this book called to me. And I found out a couple reasons why that call didn't come: only about 400 of the 2500 or so auditioners get one. So the odds aren't great.

But even worse, they are looking for interesting contestants. Reader, I know this may be hard for you to believe, but I would probably be a very boring Jeopardy! contestant. ("I have a dog, Alex. Oh, and a cat.") Even as I was filling out the audition questionnaire, I was getting writer's block trying to dredge up something, anything that a nationwide audience might find of note. ("I sat next to Richard Feynman at dinner. Asked him a stupid physics question, which he answered without the condescension or scorn it deserved.")

Oh, well, back to the book. It's really good, an illuminating look at the various factors that go into the show. A lot of funny stories, including those about Alex and many of the show's great contestants, and some not-so-great. A look at the nation's trivia subculture. Maybe more than you want to know about the infamous buzzer. Almost certainly more than you want to know about betting strategy on Final Jeopardy and Daily Doubles. (One contestant had the strategy: just bet $4000. That worked for her, until it didn't.)

The timing of the book was such that it includes information about Alex Trebek's battle with pancreatic cancer, but nothing about his death. That's fortunate, I think.

Bad Things Happen

[Amazon Link]

I read Harry Dolan's The Good Killer last year on the recommendation of Tom Nolan, the WSJ's mystery reviewer. Which caused me to add Dolan's other novels onto my library list. This one is from 2009, and is the first book in a (so-far) trilogy featuring protagonist David Loogan.

One of the semi-clever aphorisms floating around the Internet of my youth: "Friends help you move. Real friends help you move bodies." By that standard, Loogan is a real friend to Tom Kristoll; Tom calls him one night to assist him in dealing with a corpse in his study.

By other standards, Loogan isn't that great a friend: he's messing around with Kristoll's wife.

Kristoll is the boss of Gray Streets, a mystery magazine based out of Ann Arbor, MI; Loogan happened into a gig as an editor there. It's only a few pages before Kristoll is dead too, in a plummet from the top floor of a building containing the Gray Streets office. Jumped, pushed, or fell? Need you ask?

Soon we are introduced to a large array of suspicious characters. They are mostly mystery writers in the Gray Streets orbit, each with his quirks and secrets. There's also Elizabeth Waishkey, detective with the Ann Arbor cops, who's not quite sure whether to treat Loogan as an ally or a suspect. (She has a precocious teenage daughter, Sarah, who provides a vocabulary lesson for the word "defenestration". Kid, I like you.)

It doesn't help that nearly nobody is telling the truth. Often over multiple attempts.

Eventually we get to the truth, though. It's a devilishly complex plot with startling revelations along the way and desperate situations near the end. A lot of deadpan-humorous dialog. All in all, a very entertaining read, and I'm looking forward to more.


Last Modified 2021-03-09 10:19 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-03-08

[Amazon Link]

  • Ethan Yang asks an important and troubling question: Do We Still Have the Will To Continue as a Free Society?.

    Today, America and Europe find themselves under brutal lockdown measures that, in addition to not actually stopping the virus, have completely subdued our societies economically, socially, culturally, and spiritually. Although many people support lockdowns because they believe they will help control the virus, others genuinely see them as a means to fundamentally change American society out of spite for our individualistic values. Look no further than the common narrative that selfish Americans won’t wear their masks and that’s why the virus is spreading. Not only are masks ineffective at stopping Covid-19 in the way they are advertised, but the United States actually has some of the highest reported mask wearing rates in North America and Europe. An article published by Forbes warned against “doing your own research” when it comes to Covid-19 and parroted the tired “listen to the experts line.” Not only is this an attack on the very notion of the scientific method as well as an informed citizenry, but such a strategy would have clearly led us down the road to technocracy, and a misinformed one at that.

    I've mentioned that I have a Google News Alert set for "Live Free or Die". One of the sadder things it has turned up over the last year were the people using it scornfully, referring to the people chafing under mandates to "those live-free-or-die types".

    A lot of people don't want liberty. They want mandates, regulations, handouts, and (above all) increased dependence on government.


  • G. Patrick Lynch looks at the broader lessons we can learn from Colin Kaepernick: Sundae Justice Warrior. Specifically, Kaepernick's lucrative deal with Ben&Jerry's to produce a non-dairy flavor. Lynch draws contrasting lessons from Milton Friedman's 1970 essay "The Social Responsibility Of Business Is to Increase Its Profits".

    Which takes us back to Ben and Jerry’s, the ice cream that charges consumers a gigantic premium over regular ice cream for a higher quality product that is aligned with various causes of the left, including opposing jet travel for carbon emissions, supporting Occupy Wall Street, opposing drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, and a new podcast discussing the history of racism. Kaepernick, the personification of the Black Lives Matter protest movement, would seem to be a perfect fit for the little hippie ice cream company from liberal Vermont.

    And yet pull back the curtain and the Wizard of Social Justice and Responsibility, Ben and Jerry’s, is actually part of the British multinational food company Unilever. Yes, Ben and Jerry’s founders who support Bernie Sanders and oppose gross forms of capitalism cashed out a number of years ago. And Unilever has its own lengthy list of causes it supports including sustainability, empowerment, health and nutrition, and various other high-minded vaguely titled initiatives it fosters in various countries throughout the world.

    About the only Unilever brand I buy is Suave (body wash and shampoo). Because it's cheap and functional. But if they start marketing Kaepernick-brand body wash, I'm outta there.


  • David Harsanyi contributes to our "Of Course It Is" Department with: Pelosi’s H.R. 1 Is an Authoritarian Outrage.

    Democrats like to accuse anyone who doesn’t embrace every one of their brand-new, rapidly evolving, Constitution-corroding positions of being “authoritarians.” It’s often an impressive feat of projection. For a pristine example of the genre, take Jonathan Chait’s recent New York magazine piece alleging that former vice president Mike Pence is laying the “blueprint” for a fascistic GOP state in his new Heritage Foundation op-ed.

    What “authoritarian” diktats does Herr Pence have in store for our fragile American democracy? For starters, the former vice president argues that states, as they always have, should conduct their own elections rather than permit a narrow partisan majority led by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to unilaterally nationalize and dictate the rules for every locality in perpetuity — as they did with a House vote on a sweeping measure known as H.R. 1.

    To be more precise, Pence writes that he opposes empowering the federal government to:

    • compel states to count mail-in votes that arrive up to ten days after Election Day.
    • compel states to allow ballot harvesting.
    • compel states to ban voter ID laws.
    • compel states to allow bureaucrats to redraw congressional districts.
    • compel states to allow felons to vote.
    • compel states to undermine free-speech rights by imposing “onerous legal and administrative burdens on candidates, civic groups, unions, nonprofit organizations.”

    Somedays I swear I'm glad to be old so I won't have to witness what's coming down the road.


  • [Amazon Link]
    Abigail Shrier has a Substack site, and here's her latest, about Book Banning in an Age of Amazon.

    If you wanted to eliminate disfavored ideas from a society, you’d begin by aggregating most of the world’s books onto a single platform. You’d hope to create a global network of gargantuan warehouses, automated to allow next-day fulfillment of customer desires. If you were wildly successful, your company might one day control five sixths of U.S. book sales and generate a market capitalization that rivals the GDP of Canada.

    If you also delivered groceries, clothing, and hardware during a pandemic, and hosted businesses’ websites, too—you might become so integral to people’s lives, they would be hard-pressed to quit you. Customers spoiled by the miracle of having milk and toilet paper delivered same-day to their door would be disinclined to protest as you began eliminating books, especially if it was just a few at a time. You’d have become the hand that feeds them; they’d be smart enough not to bite.

    Writers themselves might object. But their agents would fall silent; they’d have other clients to think of. Publishers—whose continued viability depends on this central pipeline—would be loath to offer more than token resistance. A momentary stifling of conscience would seem small sacrifice to ensure their other books were spared. Forget the “firemen” from Fahrenheit 451: You needn’t burn forbidden books if people can’t buy them in the first place.

    We know about When Harry Became Sally, but folks have noticed that the Kindle version of Thomas Sowell's 2008 book The Vision of the Anointed (link on the right above) is unavailable and "under review".

    I can't think of a more apt title for our time.


  • I never was a Josh Hawley fan, and Peter Suderman made me even more certain about that. Because of Josh Hawley’s Toxic Populism.

    Not only toxic, but also phony:

    If there's one thing to know about Hawley's politics, it's that they're rooted in opposition to contemporary elites. In speech after speech, Hawley has decried the progressive overlords who hold the commanding heights of American politics, tech, academia, and culture, who he says have joined together to rule over a vast Middle American public that does not share their values.

    "Elites distrust patriotism," he said in a 2019 speech at a conference on conservative nationalism, "and dislike the common culture left to us by our forbearers." They "look down on the common affections that once bound this nation together: things like place and national feeling and religious faith."

    America's Founders "built a new republic governed not by a select elite, as in the days of old, but by the common man and woman, grounded on the premise that it is the common man and woman who are the noblest of citizens," Hawley explained. But today, America is ruled by a "cosmopolitan consensus" that prioritizes "social change over tradition, career over community, and achievement and merit and progress" and global integration over family and national loyalties. The looming threat, he warned in a separate speech that year, is "government by unelected elites who are confident they know better than the American people, that they know better than the Constitution, that they should be in control."

    Hawley takes this outlook personally. "I'm not happy that people in Washington, D.C.—and, let's be honest, New York, on Wall Street, in Hollywood—look down on the kind of upbringing I had," he told The New York Times in 2018.

    That's more than a little bit ironic, given that Hawley is, by almost any definition, an elite himself. A graduate of both Stanford University and Yale Law School, he went on to be a Supreme Court clerk for Chief Justice John Roberts before his 30th birthday. From there, he worked as a lawyer in private practice, a teacher at the prestigious St. Paul's School in London, and an associate professor at the University of Missouri School of Law. Along the way, he wrote articles for the conservative policy journal National Affairs and a scholarly book, based on his graduate thesis, on the life of President Theodore Roosevelt, published by Yale University Press.

    I know that some conservatives think Hawley's an heir to Trumpism. Which would be bad enough, but he's really just a weathervane, positioning himself for whatever political benefit he can derive.


  • And really, I just want to mention Ann Althouse's headline: The NYT had multiple reporters doing minute-by-minute commentary on Oprah's 2-hour interview with Meghan and Harry..

    Really? Gee, I hope they didn't have to pull anyone off the woke-cop beat. There are still people out there with careers that need to be destroyed!

URLs du Jour

2021-03-07

[Amazon Link]

  • Warning: this probably shows that I am not the nicest person.

    I recently came across a letter-to-the-editor on the collective online site for a group of local surviving newspapers. It's from one Eric Kane of Exeter NH, and is in response to a previous letter (linked in the excerpt): Conservative writer lives in fictional universe.

    Mark Brighton apparently lives in a fictional universe where Colin Kaepernick did get an NFL job after his age 29 season after kneeling to protest police violence and where Muhammad Ali did not go to prison in the prime of his career for protesting the Vietnam War.

    Ah, Eric. The universe in which Muhammad Ali went to jail is pretty fictional itself. Do you live there?

    True enough, he was in a spot of legal trouble in the late 1960s. And even that wasn't for "protesting": it was for violating the Selective Service laws for refusing to be drafted.

    Moral: if you're in a public debate, and you accuse your opponent of living in a fictional universe, you better make sure you're not making stuff up yourself.


  • Well that legislation falsely labeled as "Covid-19 Relief" seems to have passed. Peter Suderman has a criticism: In the Name of Pandemic Relief, Biden Would Expand Obamacare Subsidies to Households Making $350,000 a Year.

    It's increasingly clear that President Joe Biden's so-called coronavirus recovery plan is best understood not as a coronavirus relief bill, designed to solve the specific health and economic problems that have emerged as a result of the pandemic, but as a catchall boondoggle for longstanding Democratic policy priorities that have little if anything to do with COVID-19.

    It's increasingly clear that President Joe Biden's so-called coronavirus recovery plan is best understood not as a coronavirus relief bill, designed to solve the specific health and economic problems that have emerged as a result of the pandemic, but as a catchall boondoggle for longstanding Democratic policy priorities that have little if anything to do with COVID-19.

    Biden's plan would funnel an additional $34 billion into the law over the next two years, boosting spending on subsidies for private insurance by about 29 percent. The boosted spending would move about 1.7 million people onto subsidized coverage sold through the health law's regulated marketplaces; about 1.3 million of them would be previously uninsured, according to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate. A substantial chunk of the effect, in other words, will be to move about four hundred thousand people who are already insured into subsidized coverage. That alone is a reason for skepticism.

    When the crisis is over any attempt to repeal this giveaway will be described by Democrats as "trying to take away people's health care."


  • Dan McLaughline reports: Cancelers Get eBay to Purge Dr. Seuss Books. Dan's NR Corner post in its entirety:

    “Don’t worry,” people were telling us as recently as this morning, “taking six Dr. Seuss books out of print is just a business decision, you can still get them, they just won’t be published anymore.” I guess that apologia for cancel culture has now been rendered inoperative, as eBay has announced that it will purge all listings for the books from its site:

    Online marketplace eBay Inc. said it is working to prevent the resale of six Dr. Seuss books that were pulled earlier this week by the company in charge of the late author’s works because they contain offensive imagery. “EBay is currently sweeping our marketplace to remove these items,” a spokeswoman for the company said in an email. Hundreds of listings for the six books could be found on the platform as of Thursday morning, though the number appeared to be lower than it was on Wednesday evening. The eBay spokeswoman said it would take some time to review seller listings and that the company was monitoring newly published listings.

    This is particularly absurd given that several of the books contain “offensive imagery” only in the most extenuated sense of irritating left-wing zealots. You can still find plenty of listings on eBay for bongs, sex toys, provocative semi-nude photos of porn stars, old issues of Penthouse, framed covers of Hustler, handguns, rifles, swords, machetes, even copies of Mein Kampf, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and The Anarchist Cookbook. Tintin in the Congo is still for sale, and so is Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book. But apparently, On Beyond Zebra is beyond the pale.

    A newsworthy story, you would think. One where the media might be interested in getting the executives at relevant companies (Amazon, eBay, etc) to try to justify their actions without tying themselves up in rhetorical knots.


  • Matt Taibbi lists The Top 10 "Controversial" Books Still On Sale On eBay.

    The Doctrine of Fascism, by Benito Mussolini, $11.38. Co-written by Giovanni Gentile, this moving work describes the ideology of collective sacrifice above self, and issues an eloquent warning against the scourge of individualism. “The Fascist conception of life,” the authors write, “stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with those of the State.”

    It sounds as if The Doctrine of Fascism would be pretty useful. A how-to manual for the Woke; for the rest of us, what we have to look forward to.


  • And Glenn Greenwald points out: As the Insurrection Narrative Crumbles, Democrats Cling to it More Desperately Than Ever.

    Twice in the last six weeks, warnings were issued about imminent, grave threats to public safety posed by the same type of right-wing extremists who rioted at the Capitol on January 6. And both times, these warnings ushered in severe security measures only to prove utterly baseless.

    First we had the hysteria over the violence we were told was likely to occur at numerous state capitols on Inauguration Day. “Law enforcement and state officials are on high alert for potentially violent protests in the lead-up to Inauguration Day, with some state capitols boarded up and others temporarily closed ahead of Wednesday's ceremony,” announced CNN. In an even scarier formulation, NPR intoned that “the FBI is warning of protests and potential violence in all 50 state capitals ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.”

    The resulting clampdowns were as extreme as the dire warnings. Washington, D.C. was militarized more than at any point since the 9/11 attack. The military was highly visible on the streets. And, described The Washington Post, “state capitols nationwide locked down, with windows boarded up, National Guard troops deployed and states of emergency preemptively declared as authorities braced for potential violence Sunday mimicking the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of pro-Trump rioters.” All of this, said the paper, “reflected the anxious state of the country ahead of planned demonstrations.” 

    But none of that happened — not even close.

    And (as you may remember) there were dire predictions of a March 4 doomsday. Again what actually happened was: nothing.

    Here's Glenn's conclusion:

    Ultimately, if this “armed insurrection” and threat of domestic terrorism are so grave, why do media figures and politicians in both parties — from Adam Schiff to Liz Cheney — keep lying about it and peddling fictions? Politicians and media figures do that only when they know that the threat, in reality, is not nearly as menacing as they need it to be to fulfill their objectives of political gain and coercive power.

    Awww, Liz Cheney? I kind of liked her.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

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

I'm pretty sure The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is on every list of "Movies Guys Should See". Deservedly. I've seen it before, I think as a teenager. When I noticed it was Amazon Prime-available, I put it on.

US Senator Ransom Stoddard (Jimmy Stewart) and his wife Hallie (Vera Miles) are headed back to a small town for the funeral of Tom Doniphon (John Wayne). Everybody's surprised at that, because Tom was a poor nobody. But Stoddard decides to come clean about the events of many years ago… flashback time!

Back to the days when the town was a barely-civilized oasis in an essentially lawless territory. Stoddard is incoming as the town's new lawyer, but the stage he's on is waylaid by a vicious psychopathic trio of villains, let by (guess who) Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). Stoddard stands up to the thieves when they threaten an old lady, but he's savagely beaten and left for dead.

But he's not dead, and is in fact rescued by Doniphon, taken to town where he makes a semi-miraculous recovery thanks to nursemaiding by a young Hallie.

The problems soon become obvious. The town is successfully terrorized by Valance and his thugs. Stoddard is an idealist, thinking that the rule of law must be brought to the territory. Doniphon is a cynic, scorning Stoddard's pacifism, but (on the other hand) grudgingly respecting him for his bravery. Complicating things quite a bit: Doniphon sees Hallie as his girl, and he's fixin' to propose once he gets his ranch house fixed up. But Hallie is increasingly drawn to Stoddard … It's a neatly choreographed conflict.

A large number of fine supporting actors show up. Andy Devine as the town's cowardly ineffective lawman; Edmond O'Brien as the drunkard editor of the town's newspaper; Woody Strode as Doniphon's buddy/partner; Lee Van Cleef and Strother Martin as Valance's assistant thugs.

Lullaby Town

[Amazon Link]

The third book in my "Reread Robert Crais" project. To my eye, I think he finds his stride here.

The World's Greatest Detective, Elvis Cole's new gig seems simple enough at first: famous movie director Peter Alan Nelson had a wife (Karen) and a son (Tobey) in his pre-fame life. He dumped them both on his way to the top. And now, years later, he wants Elvis to find them again.

Since Peter Alan Nelson is "the third most successful director in the history of film" (behind Spielberg and Lucas) he is naturally a childish jerk, used to having his whims satisfied and his ego massaged. Elvis is having none of that, but he takes the job. About fifty pages of diligent detective work later, he tracks Karen and Tobey to a small town in Connecticut, just outside New York. And as it turns out, Karen wants nothing to do with her ex. In fact, she totally denies the connection.

So Elvis suspects there's something else going on. And there is, involving some pretty nasty characters. Elvis could shrug, say "not my problem", take the money and run back to LA. But no: he is a man of honor who is not himself mean, going down the mean streets. And he (with major assistance from his taciturn buddy Joe Pike) puts himself in mortal danger to find out what's going on, and concocts an against-all-odds scheme to save the day and get Karen (and her cute kid) out of a nasty jam.

Not everything goes as planned. And when I say "not everything", I mean "nothing". I hope he was paid well.

Consumer note: If you don't get the relevance of the title, you should have been paying more attention to the John Irving Diller poem at the front of the book. Then if you still don't get the relevance of the title, you're a Philistine like me.

URLs du Jour

2021-03-06

The Pic du Jour is from 2012. Yes, gasoline prices really were that high back then. Any guesses about where they're going in our green future?

  • Drew Cline (at the Josiah Bartlett Center) writes on Merrimack Station, coal power and moral responsibility. Making a general point from a specific example:

    A recent New Hampshire Public Radio story about New Hampshire’s last remaining coal-fired power plant offers a great example of how left-wing activists enjoy an unwarranted ability to frame journalistic narratives, particularly on energy issues.

    “New Hampshire’s coal-fired power plant, the last of its kind in New England not set to retire, will now remain online through at least 2025, despite calls from climate change activists for it to close,” NHPR reported.

    To see how this framing elevates the activists’ position, just apply it to other stories involving non-leftist protesters.  Imagine public radio stories written this way…

    • “New Hampshire’s remaining abortion clinics remain open despite calls from anti-abortion activists for them to close.”
    • “Democrats raise taxes despite calls from anti-tax activists for tax cuts.”
    • Schools remain closed for in-person instruction despite calls from parents, pediatricians, and epidemiologists that they open.”

    Activists on the political left are treated by the media as morally and factually correct by default. Their complaints, protests and demands are accepted as morally serious and intellectually rigorous without question.

    Yes. It's very much the water we swim in these days, and it's been going on so long that we no longer notice that we're all wet.


  • In case you haven't noticed, Eric Boehm points it out: The ‘COVID Relief Bill’ Is Mostly an Expensive Bundle of Politically Motivated Giveaways.

    As the Senate prepares to take a final vote on President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, it's time to be honest about one thing.

    This isn't a COVID-19 relief bill. We should stop calling it that.

    It's true this bill is moving through Congress at the same time that COVID-19 relief is sweeping the country. With the number of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths falling all across the country while vaccination totals soar, it feels like the end of the pandemic could be right around the corner. Biden said this week that vaccine supply will be sufficient to cover all adult Americans who want a shot by the end of May. Some states are lifting economic lockdowns and behavior restrictions. Sweet, sweet relief is coming.

    But let's be very clear about this: It is not coming from Congress.

    … but don't worry. If you have a Democrat CongressCritter (as I do) they'll be happy to take credit for the coming relief.

    $4/gal gasoline, not so much.


  • Andrew Stuttaford chronicles yet another front opened in the War on Success: Warren’s Wealth Tax & the Return of Feudalism.

    Once the principle of a wealth tax is conceded, and the tax has been introduced, Warren’s thresholds will probably be cut, and will certainly be eroded by inflation. They will also be copied at the state level. That will add to the burden paid by the very rich, but, I suspect that in the states that introduce wealth taxes (or near equivalents, such as the suicidal unrealized capital-gains tax being proposed by some in New York) the thresholds will be much lower. In addition, it should be remembered that all homeowners already pay real estate taxes, which are a form of wealth tax, even if only levied on a relatively small portion of (for the rich) their assets.

    What’s more, many of those who do not have to pay the wealth tax(es) will be subjected to intrusive paperwork requirements to prove that they have not crossed the threshold where the tax becomes due.

    As I wrote last year (on the topic of a possible wealth tax in California):

    A tax on wealth is also an attack on privacy. To start with, all those subject to the levy will have to list everything they own. More than that, I suspect that those who might be liable might, if only as a precautionary measure, feel compelled to furnish the state with a schedule of their assets, a process that we can be sure will, in due course, be repeated further and further down the rich list.

    If there is one constituency that will appreciate the introduction of a wealth tax, it is made up of fans of the panopticon state.

    Note that Your Federal Government already demands every little financial detail that might apply to your income tax liability. A massive intrusion on privacy, but (again) that's the water we swim in, we don't noticed we are (and are being) soaked.


  • Daniel Mitchell has Five Notable Takeaways from the 2021 Index of Economic Freedom. (The Index itself is here, and you'll want to check that out too.

    Spoiler: the US is number 20. Behind a whole bunch of countries you wouldn't expect we'd be behind. Behind a whole bunch of countries the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave should not be behind.

    Anyway: Dan's number five takeaway:

    5. Donald Trump did not deliver more economic liberty. When I point out Trump’s mixed performance, some people accuse me of being a curmudgeonly libertarian who unrealistically demands perfection.

    Well, I am curmudgeonly and I am a libertarian, but I’m not alone in noticing Trump’s shortcomings. As you can see from the Heritage Foundation’s data for the United States, we have less economic liberty now than when Trump took office.

    [graphic elided]

    The bottom line is that Trump was no Ronald Reagan. On economic issues, he wasn’t even a Bill Clinton.

    A shame, really.

URLs du Jour

2021-03-05

A prescient Calvin and Hobbes:

[Math is Religion]

Now I'm not saying that the present-day gripers about "racism" in math education are about as hilariously ridiculous as Calvin, but… wait a minute, I guess I am saying exactly that.

  • James Lindsay wrote A Letter Supporting a Bill to Ban Critical Race Theory. And guess what? It's about my fair state:

    The state of New Hampshire is trying to advance a bill in its state house of representatives (HB544) that mirrors the executive order President Trump issued “against Critical Race Theory,” which is to say against the divisive (and racist/neoracist) tenets at the heart of Critical Race Theory and so-called “diversity” training sessions based upon it. After testifying in support of the bill in a legislative committee meeting on February 18 (in which sitting state representative Kris Schultz slandered me), I have followed up with the legislative committee this week by sending the following letter urging positive endorsement and support for the bill as it hopefully makes its way to the New Hampshire House floor. Because I think it might be instructive for other people to see what I wrote, the letter I sent is reproduced below (correcting a typo or two from the original). I encourage other people to follow suit in their own states, urging similar legislation or executive action and then showing up to testify and sending letters of support and encouragement.

    It's true about the slander: Kristen Schultz did indeed try to fling the "white supremacist" slur at Lindsay. Lindsay points out the Catch-22 of Critical Race Theory: one of its fundamental tenets is that anyone who criticizes it must be a white supremacist.

    I looked at James Lindsay's book (written with Helen Pluckrose) here.


  • Inu Manak and Scott Lincicome are lonely voices crying for a bit more trade sanity: National Security Should No Longer Be a Defense for Protectionism.

    While President Trump is no longer in office, his trade policy legacy lingers in Washington. His tariffs’ continued presence has not only been a disappointment to our allies who thought that a change in administration would usher in a new, less zero-sum view of trade, but also a continuous economic burden on the American people, who are still struggling amidst a global pandemic. Indeed, as we noted here a few weeks ago, Trump’s steel tariffs are threatening the nascent U.S. manufacturing recovery.

    Though Trump imposed and championed the tariffs, responsibility also falls on the U.S. laws that let him get away with it. The biggest offender in this regard is Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which authorizes the president to take actions, such as imposing tariffs, against imports deemed to be a threat to “national security.” In 2017, the Trump administration imposed 25 percent tariffs on steel and 10 percent tariffs on aluminum—mostly on our closest trading partners. The results were disastrous—higher prices, job losses, and rampant cronyism.

    Yet they sadly remain in place today, continuing to do the voodoo that tariffs do so well.

    In good news for high-income drunkards, however, the US has suspended tariffs on single malt Scotch whisky.


  • Jim Geraghty asks an important question: Why Is the CDC Delaying Its Vaccine Guidelines?. Quoting a news story:

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will not be releasing its guidance for vaccinated Americans on Thursday as originally planned, according to two senior administration officials with knowledge of the situation.

    After a series of meetings and calls with senior officials on the White House’s Covid-19 task force and the Department of Health and Human Services over the last two days, the CDC was told to “hold off on releasing” the recommendations, one of those sources said. The reason is still unclear but one senior administration official said the guidelines were still being finalized . . .

    There is no evidence to suggest that the Biden White House is trying to suppress the CDC guidelines or override the judgement of CDC scientists.

    Geraghty's comment:

    Okay, we’ll take them on their word on that. But does it seem a little ridiculous for the CDC to not have guidelines for vaccinated Americans, eleven weeks into vaccinations? More than 80 million shots have been jabbed into arms, 8 percent of U.S. adults have both shots, and another 8 percent have one shot. We’re finally averaging more than 2 million shots per day. A lot of people out there really want to know how much they can go back to normal, fellas!

    Well, I'm not taking "their word on that". President Wheezy blasted Texas Gov. Abbott for his "Neanderthal" elimination of mask mandates just the other day. I strongly suspect (without evidence, although I bet this was carefully designed to not leave evidence) that the White House "senior officials" want to suppress any CDC science that might be used to support the relaxation of mandates.


  • Eric Peterson restates the basics: Government, Not Big Tech, Is the Biggest Threat to Free Speech. ("Although big tech is certainly trying to compete in that area.")

    The most recent threat to free speech to emerge from Congress is H.R. 1, a colossal 900-page bill. It passed in a 220-210 vote on Wednesday, with one Democrat joining all Republicans to vote against. The legislation tackles a host of questions involving campaign finance, political speech, and online speech, and its effects would all but silence citizens' abilities to speak about and criticize politicians and their policies. In fact, the 40 pages of the bill borrowed from the "Honest Ads Act" would censor more online political speech than anything those working in Big Tech have dreamed up.

    Among the host of new requirements contained in the legislation is government-compelled speech on paid political content or content created by paid employees. Essentially, traditional online ads, or even memes, would require lengthy text disclosing what organization created the ad. These disclosures would have to include the sponsor's name and give a means for the viewer to find the sponsor's street address, telephone number, and website URL, and say that the ad is not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

    Of course my own CongressCritter, being a Democrat, voted for this monstrosity.


  • And finally, Ryan Cleckner provides the Top 9 Reasons Democrats’ Latest Gun Control Bill Is A Terrible Idea. Here's number one: "Demands For New Gun Control Are An Admission That Gun Control Doesn’t Work".

    Background checks are used to ensure that a potential firearm possessor is not one of a class of “prohibited persons” who are prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition under federal law. This class includes felons, fugitives, those subject to certain restraining orders, those convicted of crimes of domestic violence, and more.

    This means current gun control laws already make it illegal for these people to possess a firearm. Requiring more background checks is an admission that the current law prohibiting these people from possessing firearms is not enough to prevent their possession. This is true for all gun-control laws, because if we know one thing about criminals, it’s this: they do not care if they break the law.

    If the current proposal passes, it will only be a matter of time before:

    "Hey, people are still getting shot! Your bill didn't work!"

    "No, it's working. Things would have been worse without it."

    "How do you know that?"

    "It's common sense! But obviously, we need more laws!"


Last Modified 2021-06-22 7:31 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-03-04

I knew Michael Ramirez would step up with a pictorial comment on Dr. Seuss:

[Dr. Seuss is Canceled]

  • Ah, but that's not all. Kevin D. Williamson shows off his versifying talents in Mulberry Street Exit: Dr. Seuss Is Cancelled.

    When I sit down to read a book,
    Some idjit says to me,
    “Oppressor, check your privilege —
    We’ll decide what you can see!”
    And if I dare to contravene
    Or decline to heed his quarantine,
    Some philistine on Twitter sternly says,
    “That literature’s obscene!
    “You must do as we dictate,
    “And we shall de-platform that hate!”

    Who knew that KDW had such skills with doggerel?


  • But let's stay at National Review for Kyle Smith's take: Dr. Seuss Gets Blindsided by a Moral Minority.

    If, in 1987, the editorial boards of the major newspapers learned that a fanatical cult of angry moral scolds, representing a small sliver of the population, was successfully campaigning to remove books from the public eye with the not-so-subtle encouragement of the president and his political allies, they would have been outraged. In fact, liberal pundits were outraged — by far-less disturbing developments than these — and in the Nineties, they were re-enraged by suggestions that even the most deliberately offensive art should not enjoy a public subsidy, nor scarce space among museum displays.

    So, what changed? The Left used to be against banishing books, banning books, burning books. Now, scarcely a week goes by without some breathtaking new advance in its campaign to bury this or that book in order that the public might never be infected with its ideas. Just six years ago, when Barack Obama was publicly praising Dr. Seuss on March 2, Read Across America Day — a day specifically chosen by the National Education Association to honor Theodor Geisel’s birthday — you would have called me a paranoid wingnut if I had told you that books such as On Beyond Zebra! would soon be yanked from bookshelves across America at the behest of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Yesterday, that’s exactly what happened.

    As Kyle notes: "No one who acquires immense power ever says, 'I’ve had enough of control now.'" So look forward to more of the same. Say, before they are memory-holed, maybe it's time to stock up on…


  • … well, someone's already had that good idea. Like gun control proposals are followed by a wave of gun-buying, Allahpundit reports: Sales of Dr. Seuss books skyrocket on Amazon. In response to a tweet claiming that "Thirty-three of the top 50 books on Amazon are Dr. Seuss right now":

    When I checked Amazon’s bestseller list at 6:30 ET, I found that it was (basically) correct. Seuss books weren’t 33 of the top 50 sellers at that hour — but they were 27 of 50. An outright majority.

    Well, I try to not give myself any journalistic airs, but I can count. As I type (7am on March 4), the Doc has 9 titles in the top 10; 14 of the top 20; 20 of the top 30; 24 of the top 40; 25 of the top 50. Not bad!

    There are also a couple books by Tish Rabe in her authorized "Cat in the Hat's Learning Library" series, so I'd guess the Geisel estate gets a cut of the royalties there too.


  • Texas Governor Gregg Abbott caused people to freak out on Tuesday. Jim Treacher has analysis of some of the reaction, specifically: Alamo Drafthouse Still Requires Masks and Wants You to Know About It.

    Here’s a fun thing that liberals do literally every day: They call you a fascist if you want the government to leave you alone. They say you’re a Nazi if you insist you can run your own life without some bureaucrat telling you what to do. If you think a problem, old or new, can be solved with anything short of a federal agent pointing a gun at your head, you’re the worst person in the world and you need to be #canceled. Libs always get it exactly backwards, and then they congratulate themselves for being so smart.

    That’s why our moral, ethical, and intellectual betters are falling all over each other to applaud the Alamo Drafthouse theater chain for bravely requiring masks, after Texas Governor Greg Abbott just lifted the state’s mask mandate:

    It could only have been improved by adding on the Monty Python quote: "We're not only proud of that, we're smug about it."

    In other, totally unrelated news, Alamo Drafthouse went Chapter 11 yesterday.


  • And you would have to have a heart of stone not to laugh. From Andrew Stiles in the Free Beacon: Democrats Add Bill Clinton's Wife to Women's History Month Collage After Critics Complain.

    March is Women's History Month, and Democrats are celebrating. In related news, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D., N.Y.) is facing pressure to resign after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment. The "Love Gov" recently hired the criminal defense attorney who represented Harvey Weinstein and Woody Allen.

    The celebration got off to a rough start on Monday, when the official Twitter account of Senate Democrats posted a collage of women "who have paved the way for future generations," including Kamala Harris, Michelle Obama, Stacey Abrams, Dr. Jill Biden (Ed.D.), and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

    Some critics immediately complained that there weren't enough rich white women represented in the photo. Specifically, former aides to Hillary Clinton, the twice-failed presidential candidate and nominal wife of legendary sex pest Bill Clinton, were upset that she was not included.

    This is marked "satire", but (yes) the Senate Democrats really did leave her off their first draft of their tweet.

    I can't help but wonder if the Senate Democrats will get around to honoring the first female US ambassador to the United Nations.


Last Modified 2021-03-05 4:36 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-03-03

  • Kevin D. Williamson's "Tuesday" column speaks out Against Presidential Idolatry. (The eye candy du jour was an obvious pick.)

    As you may know, I have an interest in the American presidency as a cult and in the president as an object of idolatry. I am writing a book about the subject. So I was amused when Donald Trump’s perfervid votaries at that ghastly clown show down in Orlando actually went so far as to set up a golden idol of the man for public veneration — I’m starting to feel like they are trolling me personally, but it’ll be a funny footnote in the book.

    Of course, the Trump idol was fake gold, and it was made in Mexico — which is to say, it was only four bankruptcy proceedings away from being the Trumpiest thing imaginable. When the alien archeologists sift through the ruins of our civilization at some time in the future, I hope they discover the golden Trump idol, which may help them to understand where we went wrong as a species.

    (Maybe the chimpanzees or some other cousins will have stepped up by then.)

    Trump presents himself as an outsider, but, in truth, he always fit in pretty well in Washington, D.C., a city that is packed to the rafters with elderly mediocrities who had rich parents. Trump’s godlike conception of the presidency is bipartisan Washington orthodoxy, and his nationalist/neo-mercantilist views are a lot more like Joe Biden’s than anybody in either camp would care to admit.

    I hope Senator Sasse wasn't too optimistic when he asserted that "Most Nebraskans don't think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude." I hope that's true of Americans of either party.


  • Bret Stephens seems to be trying to get fired from his gig at the New York Times His latest: Smith College and the Failing Liberal Bargain. He lays out the sad history of false career-wrecking accusations of "racism" at Smith. This resulted in mandatory "anti-bias" training for staff and (honest) racially segregated dorms for BIPOC students. But:

    As for the anti-bias training, Powell reports that cafeteria and grounds workers “found themselves being asked by consultants hired by Smith about their childhood and family assumptions about race, which many viewed as psychologically intrusive.” One courageous school administrator, Jodi Shaw, resigned from Smith in February on the grounds that it had become a “racially hostile environment.”

    Some of us who have undergone increasingly fashionable “unconscious bias” training sessions understand what Shaw means: In their sugary tone and invidious assumptions, they can feel like a Cultural Revolution struggle session led by a preschool teacher.

    I don't usually like psychologizing on what makes people act the way they do. It seems unavoidable here.


  • I was never much of a Dr. Seuss fan. (As I recall, I mostly taught myself to read and went straight to Heinlein.) But the straight white male is safely dead, and as Robby Soave reports: Dr. Seuss Is Canceled.

    The cancel culture bells have tolled for Dr. Seuss, the beloved author of children's books like Green Eggs and Ham, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Oh, the Places You'll Go.

    President Biden declined to mention Dr. Seuss, the pen name of Theodor Seuss Geisel, in his kickoff speech for Read Across America Day, a national event that promotes literacy and is historically connected with Dr. Seuss. (It even takes place on the author's birthday.)

    While the Biden administration got the #DrSeussIsOverParty started, it's Seuss' own publisher who's really taking things to the next level. Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced that it would cease printing six books that contain vaguely racist imagery: And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, McElligot's Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, If I Ran the Zoo, Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat's Quizzer.

    And perhaps one of the more predictable sentences Robby will write this year:

    The books are currently unavailable on Amazon.


  • Where can we go for sanity, and an amused look at the wacky wokefulness that goes along with another cancellation? Ah, James Lileks.

    Anyway. Seuss. The responses went along the usual lines: "lol at conservatives who hate books and love capitalism getting mad about a private company deciding something." This is the stance of someone who values ferreting out what they perceive to be hypocrisy above all other issues, because it is necessary for the person who believes in nothing to insist that no one else does either. They just lie for gain. Most of the comments came from people who, in a previous decade, would have been passionate about Speech and the Press and constraining unpopular ideas, and now have aligned themselves to worship a new star.

    Some might even have straddled the old era and the new. I wonder if they feel additionally virtuous because the old concerns were tired and nebulous, and the new ones are exciting and specific. It was difficult to muster a lot of energy to oppose Tipper Gore's Anti-Fun Music crusade. Mostly people cast snark. This, though - this is different. It's transformative! It's easy to get on the right side of history here; just denounce what the proper people are denouncing. And with a little work you, too might find a statue worth pulling down.

    James's "Wednesday Review of Modern Thought" is a regular feature. Just coincidence that so much Modern Thought was around for him to analyze today.


  • But if you're up for a challenge, the Babylon Bee has constructed one: Can You Find All 17 Instances Of Racism On This Page From A Dr. Seuss Book?. Spoilerish hint:

    14. The name of the book is Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!, which implies that thinking for yourself about race is good. First, kids will be reading Dr. Seuss books, the next thing you know, they'll be watching Jordan Peterson videos.

    I am hopeful that Michael Ramirez will get a great cartoon out of this. It will be an automatic Eye Candy.

URLs du Jour

2021-03-02

  • Tal Fortgang applies the fusionist policy developed (way back when) by Frank Meyer to the current situation: Fracture or Fusion?.

    Those who have paid attention in recent years to the inner workings of the American right may have noticed some shifts in the way many conservatives explain their beliefs. Among these: A reclamation of the mantle of nationalism; increased trust in the state, even the federal government, and a corresponding comfort with using the levers of power for conservative ends; and a renewed assertion that government is instituted among men primarily to advance the common good.

    These New Conservatives—more communitarian and socially conservative in disposition—have adopted a noble intellectual tradition that has competed with “movement” conservatism for decades. Many of the criticisms that animate New Conservatives’ separation from movement conservatism had been largely dormant until the rise of nationalist-populist sentiment that accompanied the ascent of Donald Trump. But they were once the subject of intense debate during the era of conservatism’s political ascent, especially embodied in the arguments between Frank S. Meyer of National Review and Russell Kirk of Modern Age.

    For me, when you hear a self-described "conservative" gripe about "market fundamentalism", that's a pretty clear signal to withhold your support.


  • Bari Weiss hosts Princeton math professor Sergiu Klainerman on her Substack. He makes an argument that's (unfortunately) necessary to make these days: There Is No Such Thing as "White" Math.

    In my position as a professor of mathematics at Princeton, I have witnessed the decline of universities and cultural institutions as they have embraced political ideology at the expense of rigorous scholarship. Until recently — this past summer, really — I had naively thought that the STEM disciplines would be spared from this ideological takeover.

    I was wrong. Attempts to “deconstruct” mathematics, deny its objectivity, accuse it of racial bias, and infuse it with political ideology have become more and more common — perhaps, even, at your child’s elementary school.

    A powerful assertion made along the way: "When it comes to education, I believe the woke ideology is even more harmful than old-fashioned communism."

    At least the commie education system turned out some pretty decent scientists and mathematicians. A "woke" education system won't do that.


  • [Amazon Link]
    I'm newly following Alan Jacobs' blog. He is a humanities prof at Baylor. I read his book How to Think back in 2018 and was favorably impressed.

    He recently made a good point while discussing Amazon's decision to remove Ryan T. Anderson’s book When Harry Became Sally from its offerings: Damnatio memoriae.

    But to me, the most interesting point for reflection is this: The censors at Amazon clearly believe there is only one reason to read a book. You read a book because you agree with it and want it to confirm what you already believe. Imagine, for instance, a transgender activist who wants to understand the position held by Ryan Anderson and people like him in order better to refute it. That person can’t get a copy of the book through Amazon any more than a sympathetic reader like me can.

    But another, deeper belief lies beneath that one: It’s that ideas like Anderson’s are not to be refuted but rather, insofar as it lies within Amazon’s vast power, erased — subjected to Damnatio memoriae. And the interesting thing about that practice is that it is simultaneously an assertion of power and a confession of weakness. Amazon is flexing its muscles, but muscles are all it has. Its censors don’t want anyone to read Anderson’s book because they know that they can’t refute it. They have no thoughts, no knowledge — only reflexes. And reflexes will serve their cause. For now.

    I confess that I needed to bounce over to the damnatio memoriae link.


  • I grew to like The Band a lot at the tail end of the group's life. At City Journal, Ian Penman looks at their Elusive Harmony. (It's a review of a new Levon Helm biography.)

    The Band was one of those 1970s outfits that combined impeccable technique with a smelling-salt whiff of rock-and-roll brimstone, soaked in rhythm-and-blues know-how but equally able to riff and scowl. This was “Americana” before the consumer demographic existed: a thick gumbo of country, barroom blues, and educated chords. What set them apart from near-contemporaries like Little Feat and Steely Dan was the prevalent idea that The Band was somehow more than a band, something more symbolic: a proud embodiment of small c conservative values and core democratic principles—a collective enterprise putting aside personal ego to achieve an authentically American harmony, wider and deeper than the five individuals involved. This was all the more notable, given that four out of those five individuals were Canadian, with singer/drummer Helm the only one born in the USA.

    If you liked The Band, you'll learn something.


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang for an article in … whoa … The Jerusalem Post. Which is a humorous look at that burning questions: Why are Jews attracted to Florida?. Going down the letters: F, L, O, R, …

    I is for Independence. I’m convinced that if the state could, it would secede from the union. Anything goes, and no one is gonna tell a Floridian – or their chosen leaders – what to do. The license plates here only say “Sunshine State” because “Live Free or Die” was already taken by New Hampshire.

    Well, it turns out it's a little more complicated than that.

    • LFOD is, of course, New Hampshire's official motto, but only since 1945.
    • Florida's official motto is not "The Sunshine State", it's "In God We Trust". It was adopted in 2006.
    • But as far as NH license plates go, LFOD has been there since 1971. (Replacing "Scenic".)
    • Florida has placed "Sunshine State" on license plates since 1994. But it's just one option. Most Florida counties allow you to have the county name, or "In God We Trust" instead; arguably, an even more freedom-loving arrangement than New Hampshire.

Tenet

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

It's all Christopher Nolan, folks. Director, Producer, Writer. It's famously incomprehensible, and I'm at that age where I don't comprehend the incomprehensible easily.

I got it, though. Mostly. I'd probably get it entirely after rewatching it five or six times, and reading a bunch of explanatory know-it-alls on the web.

Here's the deal (and stop reading if you don't want things spoiled): bad guys from the future are looking to destroy our world, so they've provided time-travel tech to a present-day bad guy, Sator. Who is, in return, attempting to reassemble … something nasty, an algorithm that will aid in humanity's destruction.

The gimmick with the time-travel thing: going back in time works, but you continue moving backward in time when you disembark. (There's a handwave to Feynman's wacky idea that a positron is just an electron moving backward in time.) And of course, the rest of the world appears to be moving backward to you. This gives rise to some pretty neat special effects.

All this is (eventually) revealed to the protagonist, helpfully named "Protagonist". His goal is to defeat Sator's scheme, and hopefully also save Sator's beautiful wife and cute son in the process.

So that's it. Now to look for some websites to tell me how mistaken I am in my analysis.

URLs du Jour

2021-03-01

[Amazon Link]

  • John McWhorter wonders Is it racist to expect black kids to do math for real?. And, yes, Betteridge's law of headlines applies.

    There is a document getting around called Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction, a guide put together by a group of educators. It has a black boy on the cover.

    The idea is to show us how our racial reckoning of late ought change how we expose black kids to math. I suppose the counsel is also intended for kids of other types of melanin, but this is in essence a document that could be called “Math For Black Kids.”

    The latest is that state-level policy makers in Oregon are especially intrigued by this document. There is all reason to suppose that its influence will spread more widely.

    And this is to resisted, as this lovely pamphlet is teaching us that it is racist to expect black kids to master the precision of math. To wit – its message, penned by people who consider themselves some of the most morally advanced souls in the history of the human species, is one that Strom Thurmond would have happily taken a swig of whiskey to.

    We've mentioned that "Equitable Math" document before, and you may have seen it elsewhere, but Professor McWhorter shows how it fits in with his wokism-is-secular-religion insights.


  • You may have noticed that that "Betteridge's law of headlines" link above goes to Wikipedia's entry about that term. Wikipedia is great for things like that.

    But it's not great for everything. In short, you might have to go elsewhere for anything where contentious political beliefs are involved. Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger (yes, that's a Wikipedia link) is a longtime skeptic, and Just the News reports the latest: Citing Wikipedia's capture by the left, site's co-founder launching free-speech-friendly competitor.

    Last May, Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger wrote an op-ed on his personal website titled "Wikipedia is Badly Biased" claiming that Wikipedia's neutrality policy — known as "NPOV," or neutral point of view — "is dead."

    Now, when schoolchildren visit the Wikipedia website to look up answers to questions about the meaning of socialism, "they're going to find an explanation that completely ignores any conservative, libertarian, or critical treatment of the subject," Sanger told "Just the News AM" television program. "And that's really problematic. That's not education. That's propaganda."

    Sanger referred to a Fox News report last week by Maxim Lott, which noted, "The two main pages for 'Socialism' and 'Communism' span a massive 28,000 words, and yet they contain no discussion of the genocides committed by socialist and communist regimes, in which tens of millions of people were murdered and starved."

    Sanger's new project is Encyclosphere, and it's not ready yet. Hopefully soon.


  • It has been six years since George Will observed that colleges had made "victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges". Outrage ensued, but can there be any doubt that subsequent events had proved Will not only to be correct, but also somewhat prescient?

    At Quillette Cory Clark looks at The Evolutionary Advantages of Playing Victim.

    Victimhood is defined in negative terms: “the condition of having been hurt, damaged, or made to suffer.” Yet humans have evolved to empathize with the suffering of others, and to provide assistance so as to eliminate or compensate for that suffering. Consequently, signaling suffering to others can be an effective strategy for attaining resources. Victims may receive attention, sympathy, and social status, as well as financial support and other benefits. And being a victim can generate certain kinds of power: It can justify the seeking of retribution, provide a sense of legitimacy or psychological standing to speak on certain issues, and may even confer moral impunity by minimizing blame for victims’ own wrongdoings.

    Presumably, most victims would eagerly forego such benefits if they were able to free themselves of their plight. But when victimhood yields benefits, it incentivizes people to signal their victimhood to others or to exaggerate or even fake victimhood entirely. This is especially true in contexts that involve alleged psychic harms, and where appeals are made to third-parties, with the claimed damage often being invisible, unverifiable, and based exclusively on self-reports. Such circumstances allow unscrupulous people to take advantage of the kindness and sympathy of others by co-opting victim status for personal gain. And so, people do.

    My local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat often features an editorial column by Robert Azzi. His work from yesterday could be used as an illustration of the kind of thing Clark and Will discuss.


  • So have you heard about Amazon's removal of Ryan T. Atkinson's book When Harry Became Sally from its virtual shelves?

    Well, not if you get your news exclusively from the Washington Post. Information about that dies in darkness.

    The Washington Free Beacon points it out, however: Bezos's Post Silent on Amazon Fiasco.

    The Post covered Anderson's book extensively when it came out in 2018. The piece, headlined "Ryan Anderson's book on transgender people is creating an uproar," originally contained several misstatements of Anderson's positions. The original version said, "Anderson makes an inflammatory claim—that transgender people are mentally ill." It also claimed Anderson had championed "conversion therapy." When critics pointed out the falsehoods, the Post amended the piece to say, "Anderson makes what some feel is an inflammatory case against transgender people."

    Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, bought the Washington Post in 2013. Post editors say they have never experienced editorial pressure from Bezos on stories. Shani George, director of communications for the Post, told the Free Beacon, "We do not discuss our internal coverage plans, and all editorial decisions are made independent of the interests of any outside party or company."

    Look, I think Amazon should be free to sell what it wants.

    But (as near as I can tell) its decision here is unprecedented. And it's certainly newsworthy. What other books has it decided that are too hot to handle? Are its decisions objective and fair, or just some woke staffer deciding "I know bad stuff when I see it"?

    You need news organizations to find this stuff out. If they ignore it, they aren't doing their job.


  • I remember at some point in the past I gave up on Amnesty International for its leftish tilt. Looks like that hasn't changed. David Harsanyi writes: Amnesty International’s Position on Navalny Is Unconscionable.

    Amnesty International has stripped jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny of his “prisoner of conscience” status after the organization was “bombarded” with complaints highlighting some of his unseemly rhetoric from the past.

    Navalny was nearly murdered by a nerve-agent attack last year, almost surely perpetrated by the Putin regime. His life was saved only after he was airlifted to Germany. Determined to return to Russia, Navalny flew back in January, at the same time releasing an investigation into the opulent lifestyles of Putin and other corrupt Russian oligarchs. Navalny was promptly arrested for violating the terms of his parole on an earlier sentence (for a trumped-up embezzlement conviction) by not checking in with a parole officer — from his German hospital bed, where he spent weeks in a coma. Initially held in a Moscow prison, he was recently moved to what is reportedly a “penal colony.”

    Sorry, Alexei. No Amnesty for you.