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.]