URLs du Jour

2021-04-30

[Amazon Link]
Happy birthday to Willie Nelson, who some say was born on this date in 1933. (Some others say April 29, but I'm going with today.)

  • Also From The Thirties are President Wheezy's efforts to ape FDR. Eric Boehm notes: Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Would Redefine ‘Broadband’ To Justify Spending $100 Billion on Government-run Internet.

    As part of a $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal, President Joe Biden is pushing Congress to spend $100 billion fixing a problem that mostly doesn't exist: widespread lack of access to broadband internet.

    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates that there were about 14.5 million Americans, living in an estimated 4.3 million households, that lacked access to broadband internet at the end of 2019. That's a serious but narrow problem that's already being addressed by a combination of private and public efforts. New technologies like SpaceX's low-orbit satellites can beam broadband internet to homes even in far-flung rural places, and the FCC has already budgeted more than $9 billion over the next 10 years as part of what the agency says is the "biggest single step ever…toward closing the rural digital divide." The number of Americans without broadband access fell by 20 percent in 2019, according to an FCC report published in January, and it's likely that the total is significantly less today than at the end of 2019.

    But Biden's infrastructure plan suggests a major change to what counts as "broadband" internet. As a result, as many as 64 million American households could suddenly appear to lack adequate online speed—even though nothing about their current services would change.

    Hm, didn't know about the goalpost-moving bit. Our local pols are telling tales of kids in some dark, snowy Coos county parking lot, grabbing wi-fi from the library in order to get their homework done. Don't worry, kid! Joe's gonna bring fiber right to your house!

    For the record, the speed test Google provides clocks Pun Salad Manor at 75-80 Mbs down/6 Mbps up. That's via Comcast, pretty good.


  • It's Just Politicianese For 'Gimme More Money'. Harvard economist and overall smart guy is (like me) puzzled about how Biden uses the term: Fair Share. (I suspect (like me) he's not actually puzzled.)

    Yesterday, President Biden said, "I will not impose any tax increase on people making less than $400,000. But it’s time for corporate America and the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans to just begin to pay their fair share....But I will not add a tax burden, additional tax burden on the middle class of this country. They’re already paying enough."

    According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the middle class (defined here as the middle quintile of the income distribution) now pays about 13 percent of its income in federal taxes. The top 1 percent pays about 30 percent of its income in federal taxes.

    I wonder: What constitutes a "fair share" in President Biden's eyes? On what basis does he conclude that the current distribution of the tax burden is not fair?

    We'd both like to know. Or, we'd both like to be amused by Biden's attempt to fumblemouth up an answer to such simple questions.


  • I'm Pretty Sure I Didn't Build That. I Would Have Painted It A Different Color. Kevin D. Williamson apparently braved watching Biden's speech. His reaction: Oh, Good — More ‘You Didn’t Build That’-ism!.

    Joe Biden says: “Wall Street didn’t build this country. The middle class built this country. And unions built the middle class.”

    Like so much that comes out of President Biden’s mouth, this is part dishonesty and part stupidity. If you think investment didn’t build this country — and many cases, literally build it — then you are . . . very possibly a doddering old goofus who was never very bright to begin with.

    KDW doesn't find the bit about "unions built the middle class" to be that supportable either.


  • Nanny Statism Is Back, Baby! Veronique de Rugy notes the skids are being greased: The FDA's Slippery Slope Toward Mandating Raw Broccoli for Breakfast.

    If it doesn't look like avocado toast, you can't have it. That's the message I get loud and clear from Uncle Sam when I read story after story about the Food and Drug Administration's latest foray into stopping ordinary Americans from doing what ordinary Americans like to do.

    Take the latest news that the FDA is thinking about requiring tobacco companies to lower the nicotine in all cigarettes sold in the United States. Its goal is to fight nicotine addiction. The paternalists at the FDA are also considering whether this proposal should be paired with a ban on menthol products.

    This comes from the agency that has badly botched the COVID-19 response by delaying test and vaccine authorizations that could have saved countless lives. Now it has the nerve to tell Americans, most of whom are stressed out of their minds after a year of the pandemic and lockdowns, what they can or can't inhale.

    I'm not stressed, and I've never smoked anything. But I'm with Katherine Mangu-Ward: Abolish the FDA.


  • Being Woke Or Being Rational. Choose Exactly One. At City Journal, Lee Siegel looks at Simon and Schuster Petition’s Woke Contradictions.

    A few days ago, 216 employees of Simon and Schuster, along with several thousand people from outside the trade publishing house, sent a petition to top executives of the company demanding that they stop publishing anyone who had anything to do with the Trump administration. Their rationale for making such a demand was that Trump’s presidency was a dangerous historical aberration. According to the Wall Street Journal, the letter insists that Simon and Schuster not treat “the Trump administration as a ‘normal’ chapter in American history.”

    Before I sat down to write this essay, I had to ask myself several questions. Will the opinions I express jeopardize my position at the liberal university where I teach? Will they endanger my relationship with my liberal publisher? Will they roil my relations with my neighbors in the ultraprogressive New Jersey suburb where I live?

    That I had to ask is not “normal.”

    One of the advantages of writing a blog that nobody reads is I don't have to worry about that. Also, being retired helps.

IQ

[Amazon Link]

The WSJ's Tom Nolan put the fourth novel in Joe Ide's "IQ" series on his Best Mysteries of 2020 list. But you know how it is with series: entry number N can contain references to entries N-1, N-2, …, 1. So I decided to start with number one instead of diving into 4.

Fortunately, Amazon had a sale on the Kindle version: a mere $1.99. A very good deal, no longer available!

An excellent deal, in fact. And it worked: definitely going to read more Joe Ide.

The narrative is a little tricky: two timelines, one in 2005-6, the second in 2013. The earlier is essentially the "origin story" of Isaiah Quintabe (IQ). His life is knocked off course by unspeakable tragedy, but also reveals his undeniable talents for observation and Sherlockian deductive reasoning. (The book claims it's really "inductive" reasoning.)

Unfortunately, IQ's circumstances lead him to partner up with drug-dealing Dodson, and (eventually) to a life of major burglary. This doesn't turn out well; horrifically in fact. But…

In the 2013 timeline, IQ and Dodson have gone straight, doing odd detective-type jobs (unlicensed) for folks in the hood. That doesn't pay as well as they'd like. But IQ's talents become known to a famous rapper, Cal. Someone's trying to kill Cal, and the initial attempt was unique: a giant pit bull sent to his estate to rip him to shreds. Who's behind this nefarious scheme?

The book is hilarious in parts, moving and somber in others. Pulse-pounding action at times. It's a super button-pusher (Kindlese for "page turner").

And a hook for the next book in the series right at the end. I was in already, Joe!


Last Modified 2021-04-30 6:29 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-04-29

  • Why, No, I Did Not Watch Biden's Speech. At my cranky age, I have to avoid watching anything that might make me throw things at the TV. But Michael Ramirez encapsulates my view:

    [Other People's Money]


  • But If You Prefer Text… Eric Boehm has some, but it's the same story: Joe Biden Just Outlined the Most Expensive Agenda in Modern History. Progressives Want More..

    In a joint address to Congress on Wednesday night, President Joe Biden outlined what can accurately be described as the most expensive and expansive agenda in modern American history.

    Biden has proposed $6 trillion in new spending since taking office and has already signed $1.9 trillion in emergency spending related (loosely) to the COVID-19 pandemic. He wants to follow that with a huge infrastructure bill, a $15 national minimum wage, Buy American rules that offer protectionism for unions, and new entitlement programs—including a new child subsidy program for parents and a permanent expansion of Obamacare health insurance subsidies. He promised to raise taxes on the wealthy and to sic the IRS on rich people who don't pay "their fair share."

    Yeah, it was a good idea for me to miss that "fair share" thing. Looking at the transcript, there were three occurrences of "fair share". I assume that plays well in the sticks, but nobody who prattles on about "fair shares" shows their work on how they determined that.

    I assume this Heritage article is accurate; it says the "top 1%" earned a 21% share of income and paid 40% of all federal income taxes.

    So here are the questions you never get straight answers to: (1) Is that "fair"?; (2) What would those numbers be instead to make them "fair"?

    And don't hold your breath. When Biden and his ilk say they want some people to pay their "fair share", they mean nothing more or less than "more".


  • Jimmy Carter Said It Was A Disgrace To The Human Race. Biden also promised the IRS would "crack down on millionaires and billionaires who cheat on their taxes."

    Of course, he will throw more money at the IRS to get them to do their jobs. That always works.

    Kevin D. Williamson throws some cold water on that notion (in an NRPLUS article: The Trouble with the Tax Code Is the Tax Code.

    If you are reading this, President Biden, I’d like to make a bet with you: If the IRS does get that $80 billion bump in its enforcement budget you’re asking for, I’ll wager that the agency still won’t manage to collect that $700 billion in illegally dodged taxes you promise it will. The main change would be a much nicer charcuterie tray at the next IRS senior-staff retreat.

    But even if the IRS hits that number, it won’t amount to much — which is a truly weird thing to write about $700 billion.

    In one sense, spending $80 billion to collect $700 billion worth of taxes due looks like a good investment. But as the Wall Street Journal reports, that $700 billion — over a decade — would represent just a 10 percent reduction in the officially estimated “tax gap,” the difference between what the IRS actually collects and what it believes it is legally entitled to collect. Which is to say, Biden’s proposal would mean — at best — a 10 percent improvement in exchange for a funding increase of more than 50 percent. Spending 50 percent more to get 10 percent better performance is fine if you’re building race cars, but not great if you’re running an agency in an already-bloated federal government.

    The "disgrace to the human race", something accurately observed nearly 45 years ago, is still pretty disgraceful,


  • A Conveniently Vague Concept Wielded As A Weapon To Gain Power. Bari Weiss hosts a diverse set of replies to a burning question: What Is Systemic Racism?. Let's skip down to the answer from a Pun Salad fave, John McWhorter:

    Systemic racism — or its alternate term, institutional racism — became common coin as a designation in the late 1960s, just as the expression of overt personal prejudice was increasingly proscribed and such prejudice itself waned ever more, leaving behind subtler kinds of bias less easily addressed. The idea behind the phrase is that inequities between whites and blacks on the societal level, such as in scholastic achievement, wages, wealth, quality of housing and health outcomes, are due to racist bias of some kind, exercising its influence in abstract but decisive ways. As such, the existence of these inequities represent a sort of “racism” that must be battled with the same urgency and even indignation that personal “prejudice” requires.

    '

    The problem is that sociology and social history are more complex than this interpretation of “systemic racism” allows. All race-based inequities are not due to “prejudice.” Moreover, all race-based inequities do not lend themselves to the kind of solutions that eliminating “prejudice” do. For example, to attribute black students’ lesser performance on standardized tests to “racism” is an extremely fragile proposition. To simply eliminate the tests as “racist” because black students underperform on them is an anti-intellectual and even destructive idea.

    I find the term “systemic racism” to be the most nettlesome term in the English language at present.

    Two big thumbs way up for that. But you might want to see what other folks think.

    I was interested enough to check Google Ngram Viewer; it shows a (relative) trickle of usages, and very slow growth, between 1960 and 1985; a faster rate of increase 1985-2012; and a much faster increase 2012-2019.

    I don't know what that means. Intellectual fad or useful meaningful concept? I know which way I'd bet.


  • I Thought He Was Gonna Say 'Circular Firing Squad'. On that topic, Ben Shapiro writes: The Circular Logic of Systemic Racism. Seen through the lens of the George Floyd/Derek Chauvin trauma:

    Multiple studies, from Harvard’s Roland Fryer to professor Peter Moskos of John Jay College of Criminal Justice at City University of New York, show that police officers are less likely to kill black Americans than white Americans in similar circumstances.

    But to ask for evidence of systemic racism beyond mere inequality of outcome is to be complicit in systemic racism, according to the circular logic of systemic racism. Any incident of white cop-on-black suspect violence must be chalked up to the racist system; the evidence of the racist system is the presence of such violence in the first place; to deny that race lies at the root of such incidents makes you a cog in the racist system.

    The circular logic, protected by an enormous so-called Kafka trap—in which protestations of innocence are treated as proof of guilt—means that systemic racism is subject to no falsification.

    And that’s precisely the point. Systemic racism is a fundamentalist religious belief. It posits original sin; it posits saints and prophets; it posits its own malevolent god of the gaps.

    Most of all, it persecutes heretics in the name of a supposedly higher good. To be saved is to declare fealty to radical racial polarization; to be damned is to deny such fealty.


  • [Amazon Link]
    I Did Not Expect This. The University Near Here apparently owns a bot which scoops up mentions of its name on "news" sites and dumps links to them on the UNH Today page.

    Which is how I got to an article from December 2020 titled: Introduction to The New York Times’ 1619 Project and the Racialist Falsification of History.

    And the source is wsws.org, the World Socialist Web Site. Hm.

    It is the introduction to the titled book (Amazon link at right), written by David North ("presently the chairperson of the International Editorial Board of the World Socialist Web Site and the national chairperson of the Socialist Equality Party (United States)")

    Trotsky fans, I think. Hope there are no ice axes in their future.

    Anyway:

    As a business venture the 1619 Project clambers on, but as an effort at historical revision it has been, to a great extent, discredited. This outcome is owed in large measure to the intervention of the World Socialist Web Site, with the support of a number of distinguished and courageous historians, which exposed the 1619 Project for what it is: a combination of shoddy journalism, careless and dishonest research, and a false, politically-motivated narrative that makes racism and racial conflict the central driving forces of American history.

    In support of its claim that American history can be understood only when viewed through the prism of racial conflict, the 1619 Project sought to discredit American history’s two foundational events: The Revolution of 1775–83, and the Civil War of 1861–65. This could only be achieved by a series of distortions, omissions, half-truths, and false statements—deceptions that are catalogued and refuted in this book.

    Well, good for them. I'm pretty sure there were some non-socialists pointing this out too. But UNH comes in further down (footnotes elided):

    Academic journals covering virtually every field of study are exploding with ignorant rubbish of this sort. Even physics has not escaped the onslaught of racial theorizing. In a recent essay, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, assistant physics professor at the University of New Hampshire, proclaims that “race and ethnicity impact epistemic outcomes in physics,” and introduces the concept of “white empiricism” (italics in the original), which “comes to dominate empirical discourse in physics because whiteness powerfully shapes the predominant arbiters of who is a valid observer of physical and social phenomena.”

    Prescod-Weinstein asserts that “knowledge production in physics is contingent on the ascribed identities of the physicists,” the racial and gender background of scientists affects the way scientific research is conducted, and, therefore, the observations and experiments conducted by African-American and female physicists will produce results different than those conducted by white males. Prescod-Weinstein identifies with the contingentists who “challenge any assumption that scientific decision making is purely objective.”

    A lengthy, and well-deserved, takedown of Professor Prescod-Weinstein's views follow.

    So the amusing bottom line here is: UNH sent me to an article that reveals the inexcusably sloppy thinking of one of its faculty members. ("She doesn't even make sense to socialists!")

URLs du Jour

2021-04-28

  • Not Great Expectations. Alan Jacobs has a modest proposal for organizations that wear their politics on their collective sleeves. He'd like to know their expectations. Specifically:

    A few times over the past several years I have written to organizations of various sorts to ask them not to politicize their public presence, or at least to tone the politics down. (Some of these companies have been right-leaning, more of them left-leaning.) These have been products or services or institutions that have no intrinsic political slant, but their owners have insisted in bolting on their politics to everything they do. I have asked them not to do that, because the 24/7 politicization of culture gets really wearying. And in every single case their reply to me has been the same, in only slightly varying words: “If you don’t agree not only with our politics but with the emphasis we place on our politics, then we don’t want your business.” To which my first thought has always been: Wow, you guys must be really making bank.

    But my second thought has been: Maybe you should have the integrity to make public, right on your website, your expectations for your customers: What political positions do you demand that people take before you’ll condescend to accept their money?

    [That wasn't an excerpt. That's the whole thing.]

    The first organization I'd like to come clean on that front: the University Near Here. Thinking about studying or working there? Maybe you should ask some questions:

    1. "I noticed your Racial Justice Resources page is devoted exclusively to "woke" advocacy. Are people with different opinions on such matters welcome at UNH, or should they seek other options?"
    2. "The UNH Lecturers United site currently hosts an open letter saying that UNH must "actively oppose any political position structured around inequality", calling such positions (or perhaps the people that hold them) "reprehensible." That's pretty vague. Exactly what opinions are out of bounds at UNH? And what actions, specifically, do the UNH faculty take to "actively oppose" such opinions?"
    3. "This site says that UNH's "undergraduate enrollment fell about 9% between 2015 and 2020." Do you see any cause and effect here?"

    I'm sure more will come to mind. But the general question applies.


  • Tiptoeing, But Not Through the Tulips. Andrew Egger at the Dispatch has a what-could-go-wrong article: White House Tiptoes Into 'Anti-Racism' Culture War.

    The American History and Civics Education programs, through which the Department of Education distributes a handful of grants per year for teachers and high school students to learn more about their country and its history, are a tiny backwater of the sprawling $74 billion department. But thanks to a new proposed rule, the longstanding program stands to become a culture-war flashpoint as the Biden administration’s first foray into the world of “anti-racist” education.

    The rule, a draft of which was entered into the Federal Register last week, would prioritize “projects that incorporate racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse perspectives into teaching and learning.”

    To qualify for a grant under this priority, an applicant “must describe how its proposed project incorporates teaching and learning practices that take into account systemic marginalization, biases, inequities, and discriminatory policy and practice in American history.”

    Translation: "No Irish Unwoke Need Apply."


  • Incoherence? Biden Aspires To Incoherence. Kevin D. Williamson's "The Tuesday" offering is kind of a gem, the subject being Joe Biden’s Executive Incoherence.

    That the Biden administration should be incoherent is the least surprising development so far of 2021 — Joe Biden himself is generally incoherent on a personal level. Biden’s incoherence is not (contra the popular right-wing talking point) mainly the result of his advanced age or the state of his mental acuity — he has been a little bit dim and a little bit all over the place for the entirety of his very, very long career in public office, since he was a young man, because he is a creature of pure self-serving opportunism without a moral center or real principles.

    It would be easy to call him a weathervane, but a weathervane is anchored on something and centered. President Biden is more like that plastic bag blowing around in American Beauty — empty, lightweight, subject to the moment’s prevailing wind.

    Because of this debility, President Biden cannot manage a “team of rivals” the way more serious figures such as Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Roosevelt did in their respective times. This is a particularly troublesome shortcoming in a president for whom FDR and his administration are the guiding lights, even if the guidance derived from that quarter is almost exclusively a matter of rhetoric and nostalgia.

    Bonus quote: "But from Joe Biden’s vantage point, John Kerry is a promising young man."


  • Or Less. Sean Higgins explains the Wheezy vocabulary: When Joe Biden Talks About Worker Choice, He Means Only 1 Choice.

    President Joe Biden believes joining a union isn't merely a right that workers have but something the federal government has an obligation to promote. He repeated this on April 26 as he announced the creation of a special Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment. "Since 1935, when the National Labor Relations Act [NLRA] was enacted, the policy of the federal government has been to encourage worker organizing and collective bargaining, not to merely allow or tolerate them," Biden claimed. (Emphasis his.)

    Unfortunately for workers, Biden's stance is a misreading of federal law, and it signals four years of aggressive sales tactics from this administration on behalf of its union allies.

    Sen. Robert F. Wagner (D–N.Y.), the primary author of the NLRA, also known as the Wagner Act, thought the government was neutral on the issue. "The malicious falsehood has been widely circulated that the measure was designed to force men into unions, although the text provides in simple English prose that workers shall be absolutely free to belong or to refrain from belonging to any organization," Wagner said in a 1935 radio address.

    But it's living legislation, which for Biden means: let's make it say something different than it does.

URLs du Jour

2021-04-27

  • Mr. Ramirez on Creating Division in America.

    [Creating Division in America]

    He's an extremely gifted artist, but here he doesn't need it to make his point.


  • Also, A Lot of Them Chafe At Pigeonholing. On a related note, Chris Stirewalt notes Americans Color Outside the Lines. He provides some history of the consternation of racial purity (um) "advocates" and their freakouts when people refused to go along.

    Indeed, the violence and hatred at the end of Jim Crow is best understood as the death spasm of that old way of thinking. The bigots who warned that desegregation would lead to the mixing of races and the end of their understanding of whiteness were quite right. The problem for them was that in the span of just a generation or two, folks just didn’t seem to care. Gregory Williams was born to parents whose marriage would have been illegal in the Virginia of his youth. He didn’t care, and neither did his white wife—his high school sweetheart from Muncie. Her parents disowned her for race mixing, but that didn’t stop them from having four mixed-race children over a marriage spanning decades. But still today, bigots and the progressive proponents of race science hold fast to the idea of fixed, measurable race and ethnicity.

    Demographer Richard Alba explores the phenomenon of mixing in his new book, The Great Demographic Illusion: Majority, Minority and the Expanding American Mainstream. Alba explains how the efforts to slice America into thinner and thinner demographic slices has missed the real story: Americans are intermarrying and producing multi-ethnic children at greater and greater rates. While the Census Bureau and professors of critical race theory are trying to salvage ideas about race from a century ago, Americans are going about their business. That means loving whomever they choose. One in five marriages are now between different racial groups. The children of mixed-race marriages take increasingly flexible views on their own racial identity. The results of the 2020 census will surely reveal that the trend is only accelerating. What else would you expect from a country where the first non-white president was half white?

    We'll see about the census thing. For the record, the Census Bureau is pretty loosey-goosey about your response:

    We understand you might have had questions about providing this [racial] information. Here were some of the guidelines for responding:

    • Your answer to this question should be based on how you identify. Each person can decide how to answer.
    • You are free to choose where to report your identity and which boxes to mark, or not to mark.
    • You are not required to mark a checkbox category in order to enter a response in one of the write-in areas. You may respond by entering your specific identity or identities in any of the write-in response areas on the race question.

    Bottom line: you can just do what you want there. I like Ramirez's answer above.


  • Other Than That, Though, It's Peachy. Peter J. Wallison has spied a couple tiny problems with Critical Race Theory. Specifically: Critical Race Theory Rejects Rational Inquiry & Objective Truth.

    On September 22, 2020, President Trump issued Executive Order 13950, “Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping.” The order contained the kind of emotionally charged language about critical race theory that is seldom seen in these legalistic documents: “This ideology is rooted in the pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country; that some people, simply on account of their race or sex, are oppressors; and that racial and sexual identities are more important than our common status as human beings and Americans.”

    The order quoted from training materials being used by government agencies and from statements of the agencies themselves, such as this from the Treasury Department: “Virtually all White people, regardless of how ‘woke’ they are, contribute to racism.” The department, according to the order, “instructed small group leaders to encourage employees to avoid ‘narratives’ that Americans should ‘be more color-blind’ or ‘let people’s skills and personalities be what differentiates them.’” Trump’s order was revoked by President Biden on his first day in office.

    I usually don't like claiming that people are "scared". That can be a juvenile debate tactic.

    But I can't help but observe the Woke/SJWs/CRTists really are afraid of any naysaying to their dogma.


  • Also On The Fear Front… Pierre Lemieux notes today's bluenoses: Mrs. Grundy Against Ryan Anderson’s Book.

    I used to say, half-jokingly, that the ACLU reduced life and freedom to what happened between the waist and the knees. It is true, though, that the venerable association was defending free speech, so I should have said “between the upper lip and the knees.” They were also defending the 4th and 5th Amendments. That kept me a due-paying member for a number of years. The woke movement and its LGBTQ+ wing, which are in many ways the successors of the ACLU,  reduce life to what happens between the chest and the knees (due account being taken of the skin color).

    The delisting by Amazon of Ryan Anderson’s book When Harry Became Sally (Encounter Books, 2018) is revealing. As a private company, of course, Amazon has and should have the right to refuse to bake Anderson’s cake. Fortunately, more enlightened bookstores continue to sell the book. Anderson’s book is about the transgender ideology. It argues that gender is the social manifestation of sex, that drugs and surgery cannot change one’s biological sex, and that to encourage “transitioning” including among teenagers is an error paid by those who later regret it and try to “detransition.”

    That link goes to Barnes and Noble, of course. A company unafraid that their customers won't get mental cooties from a book.

    Amazon, on the other hand, continues to hold its customers in contempt. ("We can't sell them this book! Those stupid people might be convinced by its arguments!")


  • John McWhorter Gets Near-Automatic Links From Pun Salad. He wonders: Do Black People Enjoy Being Told They Are Weak And Dumb? The Elect Hope So.

    On what we need to push back against, we must first drop in on, for example, one Tom Taylor. He’s the head of the upper school at Riverdale Country Day school, and has penned an article where he serenely lays out his educational philosophy. You know the drill from the title alone: “Independent School Rhetoric and its Role in the Neoliberal Construction of Whiteness.” Some choice passages from Mr. Taylor’s opus:

    In light of the deeply embedded and largely unexamined neoliberal ideologies in the foundation of NAIS [National Association of Independent Schools] (and thus in independent schools as a broadly constructed segment of the education landscape), it would appear that such schools are fundamentally problematic spaces.

    In light of the deeply embedded and largely unexamined neoliberal ideologies in the foundation of NAIS [National Association of Independent Schools] (and thus in independent schools as a broadly constructed segment of the education landscape), it would appear that such schools are fundamentally problematic spaces.

    Get ready, though: to people like this, problematic means blasphemous, and blasphemy requires desperate, and even hostile changes of procedure.

    Neoliberalism and its attendant beliefs about the market, individual control, and meritocracy are existential elements of independent schools and, thus, any attempt at constructing an inclusive space or decolonizing community will face immediate challenges.

    That is, the problems people like Taylor have with what they call neoliberalism justify deriding the idea of anyone having control over their fate (who isn’t white), and the things we consider it a positive trait to excel in – i.e. “meritocracy.”

    Mr Taylor is (of course) one of the persons of pallor in the "leadership" tier at Riverdale Country School in the Bronx.

Thunder Force

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Thunder Force]

There are probably a lot of better movies available to me, but (never mind the details) I was in no mood to find them among a plethora of options. So I picked this Netflix streamer off their front page.

Emily and Lydia become buddies in school, where brash and combative Lydia defends shy, studious Emily from the insults and bullying from their fellow classmates. But they have a falling out, and Lydia grows up to be a dockworker (and be played by Melissa McCarthy). Emily (Octavia Spencer) has become a scientist, specializing in…

Well, never mind that, because there's a problem: One of those freaky radioactive space storms has unleashed a wave of mutations upon Earth, giving rise to the "Miscreants", super-powered bad guys. And one of them (for no apparent reason) murdered a bunch of people on a Chicago commuter train, including Emily's parents.

OK, so Emily's out for revenge. Her research leads her to develop the power of invisibility. And through a merry mixup, Lydia gets super-strength and invulnerability. And they are off to fight crime.

This is played mostly for laughs. Bobby Cannavale plays "The King", the evil head of the Miscreants gang, and Jason Bateman is one of his underlings, "The Crab". I'm fuzzy about what superpowers the Crab was supposed to have, but he does have crab claws instead of lower arms. And in one of their early battles, it becomes apparent that he and Lydia might have feelings for each other, and his heart is not entirely black.

There are a lot of goofy lines, some of which work. I can't recommend it, but you might like it if you're in the mood.


Last Modified 2021-04-27 11:19 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-04-26

[Amazon Link]

  • We's Good People. Better'n You, Anyways. Jerry Coyne encounters one of Those Signs, like our Amazon Product du Jour. And wonders: What is this sign really saying?

    As I’ve said, I’m trying to be charitable towards those who don’t agree with me (but this person is also clearly a liberal), but I’m also peevish today. And I’m trying to figure out why someone put this sign in front of their house.  There are several possible reasons:

    1. To warn those coming into the house about the ideology of the inhabitants.
    2. To protect the house from being damaged during possible demonstrations (this would hold only for the “Black Lives Matter” slogan).
    3. To change people’s minds by broadcasting your political views to the public.
    4. To show everyone that you’re a good, right-thinking human being
    5. A combination of the above.

    You can probably guess my answer.

    Consumer note: Jerry's sign is from MoveOn.org (apparently still moving on). It has an extra seventh slogan, "Water is Life". That may offend Jerry, since he's a biologist, and knows perfectly well that water is not life.


  • There is no such thing as a Lost Cause, because there is no such thing as a Gained Cause. T. S. Eliot said that.

    Unfortunately, there's a direct corollary: bad ideas never die. Elizabeth Nolan Brown espies an example in Reason's May issue: ‘See Something, Say Something’ Returns.

    The popular post-9/11 slogan "See Something, Say Something" is getting a digital makeover in Congress. A bill introduced by Sens. Joe Manchin (D–W. Va.) and John Cornyn (R–Texas) would repurpose the war on terror's pro-snitching mantra by requiring that tech companies monitor their customers more closely and share user data with the federal government. The bill, dubbed the See Something, Say Something Online Act, also would let people report "suspicious" social media posts and any other content they don't like directly to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

    A new DOJ office would handle these "suspicious transmission activity reports" (STARs). The tips would be exempt from Freedom of Information Act requests, and tech companies would not be allowed to publicly acknowledge or discuss the information reported.

    ENB goes on to note (1) that this applies to all online entities, not just the despised "Big Tech"; (2) the bill is vague about what would need to be reported.


  • USPS Delenda Est. Yahoo News reports: The Postal Service is running a running a 'covert operations program' that monitors Americans' social media posts.

    The law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service has been quietly running a program that tracks and collects Americans’ social media posts, including those about planned protests, according to a document obtained by Yahoo News.

    The details of the surveillance effort, known as iCOP, or Internet Covert Operations Program, have not previously been made public. The work involves having analysts trawl through social media sites to look for what the document describes as “inflammatory” postings and then sharing that information across government agencies.

    The article notes that iCOP's most recent effort was to warn of the massive riots on March 20… which didn't actually happen.

    Obvious: the USPS doesn't do its own job economically or effectively. Why would they think they'd be any good at ferreting out domestic terrorists? That seems as if it would be harder.


  • My Ancestors Used To Fight Your Ancestors. Kevin D. Williamson (NRPLUS) wonders Whither the WASP?

    So much for the abortive “America First Caucus” and the associated Republican rally for “unique Anglo-Saxon traditions.”

    I am almost sad to see the project go, because I am damned curious which “unique Anglo-Saxon traditions” Tweedledum and Tweedledeeffinstupid had in mind. Thatched roofs, maybe?

    The great traditions I can think of at the nexus of Anglo-Saxon people and the Republican Party mostly involve penny loafers and badminton rackets, martini shakers and quiet desperation. Granted, that all came rather late in the Anglo-Saxon chronicle, around the time that great scholar of the American country-club set Digby Baltzell popularized the acronym WASP — “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant” — as a shorthand for the ruling caste of his time.

    To explain my bold bit above: my ancestors are (I'm pretty sure) all from Norway, which makes 'em the guys who tried to take over Britain from the Anglo-Saxons. About 400 years after the Anglo-Saxons tried to take over from the original Britons.

    But let me trot out an old movie quote to answer KDW's headline question: "The only real answer to the question … is "hither". Some misguided people think that the answer is "thither", they're wrong, those theories are passé."


  • Envious Resentment Explains A Lot. Lawrence Lindsay explores the latest stupid idea (WSJ, probably paywalled): Biden Taxes for Punishment’s Sake.

    The Biden administration last week proposed to increase the capital-gains tax rate—currently 20% for most assets held for at least a year—to 39.6% for people making more than $1 million. Since capital gains are also subject to the 3.8% Medicare tax, the new capital-gains rate would be 43.4%.

    What makes this unusual is that 43.4% is well above the rate that would generate the most revenue for the government. Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, which does the official scoring and is no den of supply siders, puts the revenue-maximizing rate at 28%. My work several decades ago puts it about 10 points lower than that. That means President Biden is willing to accept lower revenue as the price of higher tax rates. The implications for his administration’s economic thinking are mind-boggling.

    And Lindsay notes that, even aside from revenue-maximization arguments, the capital gains tax punishes behavior that should be encouraged.

    What are these people thinking? Is it really just as simple as "We want to hurt these guys"?


  • Because Of Course They Did. It was a pretty simple issue, and my state's senators went along with the rest of the Democrats. Andrew Mahaleris: Hassan, Shaheen Vote Down Ban on Discrimination Against Asian Students.

    New Hampshire Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen voted down an amendment to the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act that would have defunded colleges and universities that discriminate against Asian American applicants.

    The amendment, proposed by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and John Kennedy (R-La.) was just one sentence long. It said no college “may receive any Federal funding if the institution has a policy in place or engages in a practice that discriminates against Asian Americans in recruitment, applicant review, or admissions.”

    Both of New Hampshire’s Democrats voted no.

    “Despite their calls to end racism, it is clear Democrats are only paying lip service to fighting discrimination against Asian Americans and will allow targeted discrimination against them to continue at America’s universities and colleges,” Cruz and Kennedy said in a statement.

    I kind of wish the Cruz/Kennedy amendment was even shorter. Specifically, change

    Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no institution of higher education (as defined in section 102 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1002)) may receive any Federal funding if the institution has a policy in place or engages in a practice that discriminates against Asian Americans in recruitment, applicant review, or admissions.

    to:

    Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no institution of higher education (as defined in section 102 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1002)) may receive any Federal funding.

    "There, I fixed it."

URLs du Jour

2021-04-25

  • But Know What? In his new article, No More Tests: We Should Measure Black Kids On Their "Desire To Know." (St. Ibram, 2019), John McWhorter recalls the poster promoted by the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture last year (It's long, keep scrolling, click for a big version if desired):

    [Aspects and Assumptions]

    (They took it down. But the museum still has a page that natters on about "Whiteness".)

    Professor McWhorter:

    Yes, this was real – from people who surely bemoan the stereotype of black people as dumb and lazy! Again, only a mental override could explain why the people responsible for this display would allow that emblazonment of precisely the stereotypes lobbed at black people for centuries. Tarring whites as imposers of alien values felt more important than considering that the poster depicted black people as gorillas – and was created by a white woman!

    And because this was enshrined at America’s flagship museum of black history, we can’t say that this sort of thing is just “woo-woo” sidebar nonsense. The museum yanked it down when the media got a sniff, but they had made a highly indicative statement in having hung it in the first place. Namely, they subordinated logic – that black people should not embrace being semiliterate, unanalytical and tardy – to the religious score of identifying racism regardless of logic (as in, here, the racism of whites expecting blacks to in any way be “like them”). Let us pray.

    He goes on to take apart "St. Ibram's" (Ibram Kendi's) queries in How to Be an Antiracist: “What if we measured intelligence by how knowledgeable individuals are about their own environments? What if we measured intellect by an individual’s desire to know?”

    Well, Ibram, that would kind of suck.

    McWhorter also points out what should be obvious: "Any white person who embraces the idea that precision is “white” is, quite simply, a bigot." Extend that observation to a lot of other items on that dreadful poster.

    Also, it's about the same amount of awfulness when Black people embrace that idea.


  • [Amazon Link]
    Nuclear Families Need Nuclear Power. Interesting Book Review from Robert Zubrin (Amazon link to book at right, Kindle version a mere $9.99, I get a cut.)

    ‘Climate changes everything,” says radical green writer Naomi Klein — everything except, of course, the vehement opposition of her tribe to the only proven, reliable, and scalable source of non-carbon energy on earth. This fanaticism has confirmed many observers in their judgment that the green movement’s hatred of nuclear energy is rooted less in concerns about radiation than in fear of the possibility that it could solve a problem they need to have. That said, in recent years there has emerged a center-left movement of climate-crisis true believers who appear willing to entertain nuclear power. This movement has produced a blossoming literature nominally supporting nuclear energy as part of their solution for global warming. Most of these works have been technically illiterate or dishonest, with authors claiming that they are all for nuclear power, but only once nonexistent futuristic types of nuclear systems that would supposedly be much safer and more economical than the pressurized-water reactors (PWRs) and related designs in use today are brought to the market.

    But the book under review is "a noteworthy exception" according to Zubrin.

    Being a whiz-bang kinda guy, I'm sort of disappointed to see Zubrin imply the cheaper/safer nuke plants we've been promised are just around the corner seem to be forever around the corner, and we're stuck with the PWR design of the 1950s for now.

    But I don't have a flying car to take me to the spaceport for my lunar vacation either.


  • You Can't Spell "Fukushmia" Without … At the American Council of Science and Health, Andrew Karam puts a news story in context: Tritiated Water From Fukushima To Be Discharged Into Pacific. Yes, people freaked. But wait a minute:

    We need to start with the amount of radioactivity that’s to be released.  Radioactivity is measured by the rate at which it decays. One Becquerel or Bq is that amount of any radioactive material that will undergo one radioactive decay every second. According to a report developed in 2016 looking specifically at tritiated water from Fukushima, there are about 820,000 cubic meters of water (328 Olympic-sized swimming pools ) containing about 760 trillion Becquerels (760 TBq) of tritium.

    The Pacific Ocean is fairly large – the North Pacific, the location of this discharge, holds 331 million cubic km of water. This is 400 billion times as voluminous as the water being held at Fukushima. If we mix the 760 TBq of tritium into 331 million billion cubic meters [1] of water, we end up with a tritium concentration of 0.0023 Bq of tritium per cubic meter of water. This is not enough to hurt anybody – or any creature living in the water. 

    […]

    However the mechanism, nature accounts for the formation of about 1000 times as much tritium as is in the tanks at Fukushima. Natural tritium in the waters of the Earth is present at concentrations of about 185-925 Bq per cubic meter of water. This is thousands of times more tritium per cubic meter than the 0.0023 Bq per cubic meter that we calculated above. To put it another way, discharging the water at Fukushima into the ocean is like adding a few grains of sugar to a pitcher of the sugary fruit punch I used to drink as a kid.

    Karam goes on to point out that tritium decays to (stable) 3He via emission of an unusually low-energy (5.7 Kev) electron (and, I looked it up, also an antineutrino).

    The hoopla is so scientifically ignorant, I can't help but think there are other motives beyond public health.


  • Also Among the Anti-Science Demagogues‥ David Harsanyi notes Wheezy Joe Biden's Climate Denialism.

    The Malthusian fanaticism that’s been normalized in our political rhetoric is also denialism. “Science,” as the media and political class now practice it, has become little more than a means of generating apprehension and fear about progress. It is the denial of the modern technology and competitive markets that continue to allow human beings to adapt to organic and anthropogenic changes in the environment.

    Even people who mimic doomsday rhetoric seem to understand this intuitively. The average American says they are willing to spend up to $177 a year to avoid climate change, not the approximately $177,000,000 per person it would cost to set arbitrary dates to get rid of a carbon energy economy.

    I wish folks who claim to bleepin' love science would also bleepin' love progress.


  • However, Some Folks Just Bleepin' Love Statism. Drew Cline isn't one of them: Vaccinations killed the mask mandate, and now show the way forward.

    Gov. Chris Sununu lifted the state’s mask mandate on April 16, and much hand-wringing ensued. And scolding. And partisan attacks.

    New Hampshire Public Radio noted, with apparent worry, that the hospitalization rate was higher than it was when the mandate was issued last November.

    State Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley tweeted, “When Republicans get elected, people die.”

    A University of New Hampshire poll released April 21 found that 43% of Granite Staters supported lifting the mandate, while 48% opposed.

    But the data support the governor’s decision.

    Well, of course. If anything, it was way too late in coming.

URLs du Jour

2021-04-24

[Amazon Link]

  • Not Just Friendly Advice. Good Advice. Alan Jacobs provides a bit of friendly advice. And I'll post the whole thing, not the usual excerpt:

    Here’s my suggestion: Assume that everything everyone says on social media in the first 72 hours after a news event is the product of temporary insanity or is a side-effect of a psychotropic drug. Write it off. Pretend it never happened. Only pay attention to what they say when three days have passed since the precipitating event. 

    Although he probably could easily have cast his "write-it-off" net even wider.


  • Socialism Isn't The Future. It's The Past. I saw this in dead-trees National Review, but the author, Marian L. Tupy, also has it on his website: Stone Age Anti-Capitalism.

    To understand capitalism — let alone to appreciate its benefits — requires all of us to distinguish between the personal and the impersonal, between the simple and the complex, and between the limited and the extended. Or, as the ever-insightful Friedrich Hayek put it:

    Part of our present difficulty is that we must constantly adjust our lives, our thoughts and our emotions, in order to live simultaneously within different kinds of orders according to different rules. If we were to apply the unmodified, uncurbed rules of the micro-cosmos (i.e., of the small band or troop, or of, say, our families) to the macro-cosmos (our wider civilization), as our instincts and sentimental yearnings often make us wish to do, we would destroy it. Yet if we were always to apply the rules of the extended order to our more intimate groupings, we would crush them. So we must learn to live in two sorts of world at once.

    Striking a balance between those two sets of rules is a difficult task, and we often fail to do so. When we do fail — as, most recently, in Venezuela — the results can be catastrophic. The predictable collapse of Venezuela’s “21st-century socialism” should provide a warning to future generations; given our inability to learn from the very similar socialist failures of the 20th century, though, it’s unlikely that it will be heeded. I suspect that the defense of free markets will remain, thanks to the predispositions of the Stone Age mind, a never-ending struggle.

    I thought we'd permanently learned this lesson. But I think Marian must be right about the "never-ending struggle."


  • You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Charles C. W. Cooke (NRPLUS article) notes a recent skirmish on the Woke front: Richard Dawkins Gets Canceled by the ‘Freethinkers’.

    Demonstrating adroitly that nobody is safe from our current bout of gladiatorial Calvinball, the American Humanist Association has decided to retroactively cancel Richard Dawkins on the grounds that he is insufficiently devoted to transgenderism’s creed.

    Dawkins’s crime was to have suggested on Twitter that transgender people are not, in a scientific sense, members of the sex with which they identify. “In 2015,” Dawkins wrote recently, “Rachel Dolezal, a white chapter president of NAACP, was vilified for identifying as Black. Some men choose to identify as women, and some women choose to identify as men. You will be vilified if you deny that they literally are what they identify as.” In response, the AHA said that Dawkins was “making statements that use the guise of scientific discourse to demean marginalised groups, an approach antithetical to humanist values,” and took away an award that it had given Dawkins in 1996, thereby confirming his initial hypothesis.

    Notes:

    • Richard Dawkins is not to be confused with the late Richard Dawson, the smoochy guy from Family Feud.
    • Based solely on the title of his book The God Delusion, I had written him off as another asshole atheist.
    • The "atheist" bit is true. But it turns out he self-identifies as a "cultural Christian", which may degrade the "asshole" adjective a bit. Or let's be generous: a lot.
    • But when I thought about identifying myself as a "cultural Christian", I ran into this RationalWiki article which… well, it turns out to have negative connotations for a lot of people. So maybe I won't do that.

    Update on this, probably, after I finish Rod Dreher's new book, Live Not By Lies.


  • I've Never Had A Problem With The Death Penalty. But when the deeply-respected Paul Graham writes The Real Reason to End the Death Penalty, it's a good reason to pay attention.

    Far from being rare, wrongful murder convictions are very common. Police are under pressure to solve a crime that has gotten a lot of attention. When they find a suspect, they want to believe he's guilty, and ignore or even destroy evidence suggesting otherwise. District attorneys want to be seen as effective and tough on crime, and in order to win convictions are willing to manipulate witnesses and withhold evidence. Court-appointed defense attorneys are overworked and often incompetent. There's a ready supply of criminals willing to give false testimony in return for a lighter sentence, suggestible witnesses who can be made to say whatever police want, and bogus "experts" eager to claim that science proves the defendant is guilty. And juries want to believe them, since otherwise some terrible crime remains unsolved.

    This circus of incompetence and dishonesty is the real issue with the death penalty. We don't even reach the point where theoretical questions about the moral justification or effectiveness of capital punishment start to matter, because so many of the people sentenced to death are actually innocent. Whatever it means in theory, in practice capital punishment means killing innocent people.

    Unfortunately, I keep coming back to questions like: what about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? Timothy McVeigh? Or even Osama bin Laden? Not much doubt there.

    But…


  • Where There's A Will... Let's also hear from George, writing in the WaPo (drop your cookies before clicking): Why capital punishment is finally coming to an end.

    The power to dispense death cloaks government with dangerous majesty. (In “Hitler’s First Hundred Days,” Peter Fritzsche reports sudden German enthusiasm for capital punishment by hand-held ax because its “swift, direct action” emphasized the “superiority of the state.”) Because government-inflicted death cannot later be reconsidered on the basis of new evidence, it must be administered with extraordinary competence, but do not count on this: Capital punishment is a government program. The labyrinthine legal protections surrounding the death penalty guarantee that it will be too infrequent to serve the penological purpose of deterrence. And the argument that there are especially heinous crimes for which death is the morally proportionate punishment collides with the disproportionate drain — millions of dollars — on communities’ and states’ resources.

    So yeah. maybe. I'm not as big a fan as I used to be. Still happy about Osama and Tim. I wouldn't be sad to push the plunger on Dzhokhar myself.


  • The Church Hierarchy Is Often Suspiciously Well Dressed. Sean Cooper writes in Tablet about: Getting Rich in the Diversity Marketplace. (Sigh, probably too late in life for me to pursue this lucrative career.)

    So, yes, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion folks are well-paid. But for me, the interesting bit is:

    Despite a growing body of unflattering evaluations of the effectiveness of ethnic studies in the classroom, its rapid implementation across the country continues. Virginia, Minnesota, and Texas all have ethnic studies legislation in the works. Indiana has enacted its own recently passed ethnic studies requirement, as did New Jersey legislators. Last month, Oregon satisfied legislators’ new ethnic studies requirement by completing a curriculum guide that instructs teachers to teach first graders to “examine social construction as it relates” not only to race and ethnicity, heady topics for 6-year-olds, but also their “sexual orientation.”

    Workplace DEI practices, on the other hand, have been studied by a variety of researchers, who have found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that employees who spend their mornings in a conference room calling each other racist and oppressive often struggle to return to work as colleagues.

    Indeed, rather than reducing bias, improving morale, increasing opportunity for minority groups, or boosting productivity and workplace satisfaction, DEI training initiatives are frequently ineffective and, despite intentions, counterproductive. A growing body of quantitative research has shown that DEI training can make workplaces more biased, atomized, discriminatory, and hostile, even or especially for the very minority groups it’s intended to help.

    That's heresy, of course, and anyone who brings it up is a racist.


  • And the Washingon Examiner examines earth-shattering kabooms in my own state: 'Large explosion' caused by 80 pounds of tannerite in New Hampshire gender reveal party, police say.

    In yet another example of a gender reveal gone wrong, a Kingston, New Hampshire, celebration caused a "large explosion" using 80 pounds of tannerite, according to local police.

    Law enforcement responded to reports of an explosion on Tuesday and confirmed in a press release that it was due to "an over-the-counter, explosive target used for firearms practice [and] sold in kit form" that was set off at a quarry.

    The people who were involved told law enforcement they felt like it was the safest place to set it off, according to local reports.

    The Examiner should be commended for not gratuitously including the NH motto "Live Free or Die" in their story. I thought that was de rigueur for oddball NH stories reported by out-of-staters.

    But also: Hm. Where can I buy 80 pounds of tannerite?

    But also: some homeowners reported their foundations were cracked. Not cool, man.

URLs du Jour

2021-04-23

[Amazon Link]

Well, I got that Gateway Pundit thing off my chest. Some links I've picked up in the past few days:

  • People Say Believe Half Of What You See, Son, And None Of What You Hear. And as Glenn Greenwald points out, you should certainly take anything you read in the "media" with a political slant with a massive grain of salt: The Media Lied Repeatedly About Officer Brian Sicknick's Death. And They Just Got Caught..

    It was crucial for liberal sectors of the media to invent and disseminate a harrowing lie about how Officer Brian Sicknick died. That is because he is the only one they could claim was killed by pro-Trump protesters at the January 6 riot at the Capitol.

    So The New York Times on January 8 published an emotionally gut-wrenching but complete fiction that never had any evidence — that Officer Sicknick's skull was savagely bashed in with a fire extinguisher by a pro-Trump mob until he died — and, just like the now-discredited Russian bounty story also unveiled by that same paper, cable outlets and other media platforms repeated this lie over and over in the most emotionally manipulative way possible. Just watch a part of what they did and how: [video at link]

    As I detailed over and over when examining this story, there were so many reasons to doubt this storyline from the start. Nobody on the record claimed it happened. The autopsy found no blunt trauma to the head. Sicknick's own family kept urging the press to stop spreading this story because he called them the night of January 6 and told them he was fine — obviously inconsistent with the media's claim that he died by having his skull bashed in — and his own mother kept saying that she believed he died of a stroke.

    I've mentioned before that there's an implicit "read the whole thing if you're interested" on most of these UdJ post items. Let me make that explicit here. Google finds seven mentions of Brian Sicknick in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat:

    • January 9, 2021 op-ed: "Preston: America and her government still stand": One insurgent hit a Capitol Police Officer in the head with a fire extinguisher and killed him. Officer Brian D. Sicknick: say his name. Four rioters ..."
    • January 9, 2021 op-ed: "Kerr: Ultimately, justice wins out in America": "Her death is reportedly under investigation, as is the murder of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who twice served overseas with the Air ..."
    • January 11, 2021 news story, "Capitol assault a more sinister attack than first appeared": "But Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who was wounded in the chaos, died the next night; officials say he had been hit in the head with a fire ..."
    • February 6, 2021 op-ed, "Azzi: NFL and truth-telling: White people don't know enough": " ... acts of heroism like that of murdered US Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick - minimal federal resistance - which is exactly what happened."
    • February 7, 2021 LTE, "Republican senators who support Trump are gutless hypocrites": "Now you know Capital Officer Brian Sicknick did not “pass away”, he was brutally murdered by Trump's lascivious mob, angered by Trump's ..."
    • A continuously-updated USA Today story on arrests related to the January 6 riot: George Tanios is one of two suspects charged with assault related to the death of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick. The FBI alleges Tanios and his friend ..."

    But (of course) nothing about the DC Medical Examiner's conclusion that Sicknick died of natural causes. (The report came out on April 19, four days ago as I type, so they've had enough time.)

    For the record, I hope George Tanios and sidekick Julian Elie Khater get fair trials and for their accused bear-spraying of Capitol cops, apparently including Sicknick. But their cowardly actions apparently had nothing to do with Sicknick's death.

    But if media malfeasance were a crime… Er, which, as a libertarian, I don't think it should be. But if it were…


  • It's A Good Way To Reward Cronies, Though. Eric Boehm at Reason: Biden’s Infrastructure Bill Is a Foolish Way To Fight China. (You mean someone was actually claiming it was?)

    For President Joe Biden, a proposed $2.25 trillion infrastructure spending package is about more than rebuilding bridges and fixing up America's water and sewer systems. It's about more, even, than the overpriced high-speed rail boondoogles that Biden loves so much.

    In Biden's telling, the infrastructure bill might very well be the last stand of liberal democracy in the world.

    "I truly believe we're in a moment where history is going to look back on this time as a fundamental choice that had to be made between democracies and autocracies," Biden said last month as he rolled out his infrastructure proposal in a speech from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. "There's a lot of autocrats in the world who think the reason why they're going to win is democracies can't reach consensus any longer."

    Later in the speech, Biden refined that point.

    "That's what competition between America and China and the rest of the world is all about," Biden said. "It's a basic question: Can democracies still deliver for their people?"

    Good Lord, he is such a dimwit.

    Boehm makes the point that the GOP could be (but isn't) making, ever since Hayek we should have known: "Biden's infrastructure plan—and the associated attempt to redefine everything as infrastructure—is a gift to central planners. Because infrastructure is, almost by definition, something that must be centrally planned."


  • For A Case In Point… California was ahead of the "infrastructure" game. They were Biden before Biden. Randal O’Toole looks at the ongoing train crash out there: Quadruple the Cost, 11 Years Late.

    The California high‐​speed rail project was originally projected to cost $25 billion and is now projected to cost $100 billion. It was originally expected to be complete by 2020; now they are saying some time in the 2030s. Since they don’t have the money to complete it, it may never get done, and the part that will be finished serves the least‐​populated part of the route.

    Hawaii has its own rail debacle that sounds like California’s system on a smaller scale. Honolulu decided to build a rail transit line that was originally projected to cost less than $3 billion. The latest estimates are that it will cost $12 billion including finance charges. The line was supposed to open in 2020; now they are saying 2031. But that date may be irrelevant because the transit agency building the project is $3 billion short of what is needed to finish it, and the part that will be finished serves the least‐​populated part of the route.

    OK, one more excerpt:

    This makes it particularly frightening that the Biden infrastructure plan calls for spending $85 billion more on transit. Transit carries only 1 percent of passenger travel in the United States and zero percent of freight, yet under Biden’s plan it would get nearly as much money as highways, which carry more than 85 percent of passenger travel and nearly 40 percent of the nation’s freight.

    That's gonna leave a mark.


  • Senisble Voices Need Amplification. So you might want to recommend Glenn C. Loury: An African-American professor on the case for black patriotism.

    There is a fashionable standoffishness characteristic of much elite thinking about blacks’ relationship to America — as exemplified, for instance, by The New York Times’s 1619 Project. Does this posture serve the interests, rightly understood, of black Americans? I think that it does not.

    Indeed, a case can be made that the correct narrative to adopt today is one of unabashed black patriotism — a forthright embrace of American nationalism by black people. Black Americans’ birthright citizenship in what is arguably history’s greatest republic is an inheritance of immense value. My answer for black Americans to Frederick Douglass’ famous question — “Whose Fourth of July?” — is, “Ours!”

    If Frederick Douglass were alive today… well, I think he'd sound a lot like Glenn C. Loury. And he'd listen to the CRTs and SJWs and wonder: Are you kidding me?


  • I Love Me Some Billionaires. Mainly because they make us rich too. But Kevin D. Williamson (in his Tuesday column, that's how much catch-up I have to do) writes on: The Strange Cares of Billionaires .

    First, some caveats: I don’t like the way “elite” is used as a term of abuse; I think it is enormously destructive that right-wing populists have decided that our best institutions of higher education should be regarded as class enemies to be defeated rather than important institutions in need of reform; I think it is unseemly when people sneer that this or that billionaire is still really, really rich — a billionaire, in fact! — even after making a big charitable donation; it is a sign of our national soul-sickness that in certain quarters, philanthropy as such is derided as the new Medici indulgence or scorned as an analgesic helping to put off the more fundamental structural economic changes dreamt of by such would-be revolutionaries as Senator Bernie Sanders. And of all the Democrats and crypto-Democrats who were running in 2020, Michael Bloomberg would have been my first choice.

    That being stipulated, I will confess that reading about the new Emma Bloomberg Center for Access and Opportunity at Princeton University caused my eyes to roll so hard you’d have thought I was auditioning for a role in The Exorcist XVII: The Devil Goes Down to Muleshoe.

    Princeton, like practically every other similar institution in the country, believes that it has a diversity problem. I myself am not convinced that it does, but Princeton is of course entitled to decide for itself. Princeton reports that about a quarter of its student body is made up of “underrepresented minorities,” which is lower than the combined black and Latino share of high-school graduates in the United States but not radically so. (And Princeton, with fewer than 9,000 students and one of the country’s most selective institutions, offers a relatively small data set. Nationally, African Americans make up about 13 percent of college students, roughly proportional to their share of the population.) More interesting than the racial-ethnic breakdown is the fact that a fifth of Princeton’s students come from households reporting less than $50,000 a year, to me a surprisingly high figure. I see little to criticize in these figures.

    KDW notes that the "diverse" kids likely to get into Princeton aren't really "the problem" that needs to be solved: it's "black high-school dropouts, and, indeed, high-school dropouts of all races. They are addicts and people with mental-health problems, felons attempting to reenter society and find decent work, etc."

    In related news from Monday: Chicago weekend shootings: 27 shot, 5 fatally, since Friday night. Including a 7-year-old girl with her father in a McDonald's drive-thru.

The System of the World

[Amazon Link]

So, another book down on the reread-Stephenson project! It was pretty massive (892 pages). My take on my first read (slightly over 14 years ago) here.

OK, it's been 14 years, but I was surprised at how little I remembered of the plot. In addition to a mix of Phant'sy, history-mixed-with-fiction, detailed geography, cartography, lexicography, … there's a lot of humor and fun; action-packed duels (with a cello, Eliza?) (with cannons, Dappa?); scams, heists, jailbreaks, and escapes from certain death.

Next up, probably later this year: Anathem!

Gateway Pundit is Garbage

[Amazon Link]

I once read Gateway Pundit sporadically. I find 7 links to their site here between 2005 and 2012, all non-critical.

Then they went nuts, apparently. Nothing worth citing, even second-hand.

Late last year, I indirectly cited them due to this Jacob Sullum Reason article: Trump Promotes the Outlandish Claim That COVID-19 Has Killed a ‘Minuscule’ Number of Americans; Jacob referenced a Joe Hoft GP article (SHOCK REPORT: This Week CDC Quietly Updated COVID-19 Numbers) claiming that as of 8/22/2020, only 9210 Americans died solely of COVID-19. Nutty, ably debunked by Jacob. But then-President Trump's attorney, Jenna Ellis, cited the article on Twitter, and Trump retweeted the nonsense. And gave millions of sane voters one more reason to vote for someone else.

But a (usually sane) local blogger cited an April 18 post from GP: Dominion Advisor Met With John Podesta Offering 'Anything' That Would Help Defeat Trump, According to Email Released by WikiLeaks. (It's from GP contributor Cassandra Fairbanks, and it's a repost of a December 5, 2020 post.) I'll quote a bit:

An email previously released by WikiLeaks reveals that a Dominion Voting advisor met with John Podesta during Hillary Clinton’s campaign to discuss ways that they could help to defeat Donald Trump.

In 2018, Dominion Voting announced that it had been acquired by its management team and Staple Street Capital, a New York-based private equity firm, who was being advised by Kirkland & Ellis LLP.

During Clinton’s campaign, according to an email chain released by WikiLeaks, Kirkland & Ellis LLP partner Kamran S. Bajwa met with John Podesta while offering “anything” to help defeat Donald Trump.

OK, that's enough. But I'll summarize the damning chain of causation here:

  • In late 2015/early 2016, Bajwa sent emails to Podesta offering to help the Clinton campaign. Not to "help defeat Donald Trump"; at the time, there hadn't been a single caucus or primary, and (as I recall) Trump was seen as a ludicrous long shot.

  • Hillary at the time was seen as a clear favorite to be Our Next President; so it's safe to assume that Bajwa was aiming at an eventual cushy appointed job in the Clinton Administration. But, well, we know what happened because he's still at Kirkland & Ellis.

  • Where he is one of approximately 2,900 lawyers.
  • And over two years later Dominion Voting Systems was acquired by its Management Team and Staple Street Capital. Kirkland & Ellis was an advisor to Staple Street Capital in that transaction, not Dominion.

  • And there's no indication that Bajwa had any connection to that.

  • And there's no indication that Kirkland & Ellis (let alone Bajwa) had anything more to do with Dominion past 2018.

  • But Dominion was accused of being behind massive election fraud over two years later in 2020. So obviously

No I can't. This is truly tinfoil-hat, yards-of-red-string-connecting-newspaper-clippings-on-a-bulletin-board conspiracy theorizing. There's nothing there. And GP thought it was damning enough to repost from December.

I find it hard to believe that people are taking this crap seriously. I really thought it was over when Sidney Powell admitted that 'Reasonable people' wouldn't believe her election fraud claims.

But no.

URLs du Jour

2021-04-21

  • Eye Candy du Jour from Michael Ramirez

    [Raaacist, I say!]

    … which brings us to …


  • Stupid Politicians. But I Repeat Myself. JVW guest-posts at Patterico: Stupid Washington Politicians Can’t Stop Themselves from Commenting on the Chauvin Trial. And it's not just Maxine Waters, but Wheezy himself:

    Having seen the brouhaha from Congresswoman Waters’ comments, it would seem that any half-sentient federally elected office-holder would steer way clear of commenting on this case until after a verdict is rendered. So it should come as no surprise that President Joe Biden failed to keep his mouth shut and earlier today weighed in on the matter as only his disorganized and frail mind could manage. Being his usual too-cute-by-half self, the President rendered a verdict without letting us know his ruling, declaring “I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict. The evidence is overwhelming in my view.”

    Even granting that the President’s addled mind might not quite recall from moment to moment whether the prosecution or defense should carry the day and precisely upon what charge, it’s impossible to believe that this Administration isn’t staffed almost uniformly by people who believe that Derek Chauvin is guilty of one or more crimes, and I would venture to guess that a significant number of them believe him guilty of murder. Jen Psaki, who when not being mostly frivolous is a notorious fibber and dissembler from way back, predictably denied that what her boss was doing could be construed as rendering a verdict on a trial before the jury has their say. As Philip Klein points out, Ms. Psaki has been very busy in recent days convincing the White House Press Corps, who have thus far followed this Administration with a sense of bemused forbearance for incompetence and a willingness to allow the Biden team to set the bar for accomplishment extraordinarily low, that President Biden didn’t really say what everyone heard him say.

    We're currently watching Anderson Cooper guest-host Jeopardy! We've seen Katie Couric. Upcoming: more Democrat flacks, like George Stephanopoulos and Robin Roberts. (But also, fingers crossed, Mayim Bialik!)

    I assume most of these folks will return to their usual jobs of sycophancy.


  • OK, One More Bit of Eye Candy. Click to embiggen, if necessary, GeekPress's Calebresi's Fable.

    [Calebresi's Fable]

    A point I've been hammering here of late, but not so well. But that brings us to…


  • GeekPress's retelling of Calebresi's Fable was inspired by a David Leonhardt column in the NYT (which also described it). Which inspired Kylee Zempel at the Federalist to respond wisely: Americans Are Irrationally Afraid Of COVID Because Elites Demonize Risk.

    Leonhardt concludes in the Times that we accept the cost of automobile fatalities because it has always been an aspect of our lives. A world without cars and thus the risks they carry is a world we really just can’t imagine for ourselves. Our comfortability with vehicles, Leonhardt says, is an example of human irrationality when calculating risks. While people tend to focus on minuscule risks such as airplane crashes or shark attacks, we gloss over much riskier activities such as driving.

    “One way for a risk to become salient is for it to be new,” Leonhardt says, likening the salient risk of Calabresi’s fable to COVID-19. “That’s a core idea behind Calabresi’s fable. He asks students to consider whether they would accept the cost of vehicle travel if it did not already exist. That they say no underscores the very different ways we treat new risks and enduring ones.”

    Kylee says nay: we as Americans have become "orders of magnitude more risk-averse than our predecessors." And a lot of that risk-aversion is due to fear-mongering by news outlets, like, well, the New York Times. Click over for her take.

    Probably we'll need to make changes to the National Anthem: "O'er the land of the free controlled, and the home of the brave fearful?"


  • The Neanderthal Dog Didn't Bark. Jacob Sullum on The COVID-19 Disaster That Did Not Happen in Texas.

    When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, lifted his statewide face mask mandate and his limits on business occupancy in early March, Democrats warned that he was inviting a public health disaster. Yet a month and a half later, newly identified coronavirus cases in Texas have fallen by more than 50 percent, and daily deaths have dropped even more.

    Meanwhile, states with stricter COVID-19 regulations have seen spikes in daily new cases. This is not the pattern you would expect to see if government-imposed restrictions played a crucial role in curtailing the pandemic, as advocates of those policies assume.

    Abbott's critics did not mince words. President Joe Biden said the governor's decision reflected "Neanderthal thinking." Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, said it was "extraordinarily dangerous" and "will kill Texans."

    … but it didn't. Treating Texans as rational adults works better than treating Michiganders as irresponsible children.


  • Betteridge's Law Of Headlines May Not Apply! Jeffrey A. Singler wonders Are Prohibitionists About to Revisit the Law of Unintended Consequences--This Time With Tobacco?.

    The Wall Street Journal reports this afternoon that the Biden administration is considering ordering cigarette makers to lower nicotine to non‐addictive levels in tobacco cigarettes. It is also considering banning menthol cigarettes, which are popular among young people and are particularly popular with African American smokers. What could possibly go wrong?

    First, there is reason to fear that cigarette smokers will increase the number of cigarettes they consume to compensate for the decrease in the desired effects of nicotine. Cutting the nicotine yield might have the unintended consequence of smokers taking more puffs, inhaling more deeply, and holding the smoke in longer. While nicotine is addictive, the tars in tobacco smoke are what do all of the damage to health. Reducing nicotine content might paradoxically make smoking more dangerous.

    I've never smoked anything, 'cause it's yucky. But bureaucrats gotta bureaucrat. See item above about treating adults like irresponsible children.


Last Modified 2021-04-22 7:23 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-04-20

[Amazon Link]

  • And When Was The Last Time He Drove, Anyway? Jim Geraghty points out Joe Biden Faces a Wall of Blinking Red Lights. Foreign stuff, domestic stuff, but here's the bit near the end I appreciated:

    Just 100 days to mask, not forever. One hundred days,” Biden said in December, repeating the request to Americans, and the encouragement to governors and mayors to keep state and local mask requirements in place.

    Biden’s 100th day in office is next Friday, April 30. Do you think he’ll say, “Okay, the 100 days are over. It’s okay to take your masks off now”? Or do you think he’ll backtrack and say Americans need to wear their masks for another period of time? Until Memorial Day? Until Independence Day? Until Labor Day?

    In a related note, James Fieseher ("MD") inveterate letter-writer to my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat has a submission today, taking issue with the recent mandate-relaxations at the state level. His bottom line:

    Now is not the time to take our foot off the gas when it comes to protecting our state from further Covid infections and deaths.

    Governor Sununu and our legislators: keep physical distancing, the mask mandate and the aggressive, coordinated vaccination programs going. Don’t take a victory lap until after we cross the finish line.

    A labored analogy based on the mass inoculations at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.

    Dr. F. says "we are nowhere near the 80% “herd immunity” needed to resume safe socializing."

    But you know what, Doc? We have long since passed the time when the state can start treating us like rational adults, provide us with science-based information, and let us make up our own damn minds about what levels of risk we're willing to accept.


  • Political Science. But Not In A Good Way. Robby Soave has some advice for the three or four Democrats that read the Reason website: Team Blue Should End Its Unhealthy Obsession With COVID-19 Panic Porn.

    A month and a half ago, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) lifted all statewide COVID-19 restrictions, prompting widespread panic from many Democrats—including President Joe Biden—as well as unofficial members of Team Blue within the mainstream media and public health establishment. Liberals confidently predicted that the masks were coming off way too soon, and COVID-19 would swiftly make a comeback in the Lone Star State.

    Well, nope: COVID-19 deaths and cases continue to fall in Texas, even without a mask mandate or capacity restrictions on businesses. The same is broadly true of Florida, which relaxed its restrictions all the way back in September and has managed to weather the pandemic more successfully than super locked down states like New York and California.

    Governor Sununu isn't quite as "Neanderthal" as the governors of Texas and Florida, unfortunately, but I'd rather he'd follow their lead rather than the hopeless statism of "Team Blue".


  • I Seem To Be Obsessed Today. More on mask-mandating from Power Line: Take the Damn Mask Off!. Reacting to a David Leonhardt column:

    [Leonhardt] begins with the fact that most people are terrible at objectively assessing risk. That is both true and unfortunate, but not exactly news. It does apply to covid vaccination:

    The vaccines have nearly eliminated death, hospitalization and other serious Covid illness among people who have received shots.
    ***
    If you’re vaccinated, Covid presents a minuscule risk to you, and you present a minuscule Covid risk to anyone else. A car trip is a bigger threat, to you and others. About 100 Americans are likely to die in car crashes today. The new federal data suggests that either zero or one vaccinated person will die today from Covid.

    Nevertheless, Leonhardt endorses post-vaccine mask wearing, basically as a concession to irrationality:

    It’s true that experts believe vaccinated people should still sometimes wear a mask, partly because it’s a modest inconvenience that further reduces a tiny risk — and mostly because it contributes to a culture of mask wearing.

    But if you’ve been vaccinated (and in my opinion, even if you haven’t), the “culture of mask wearing” is stupid and harmful.

    It is the decent thing to do when most people still aren’t vaccinated.

    Why is it “decent” to do something that is entirely pointless, potentially damaging to one’s health, and contributes to the irrational fears that Leonhardt has already described?

    If you’re vaccinated, a mask is more of a symbol of solidarity than anything else.

    Solidarity with whom? Dr. Fauci? The perennially masked, although vaccinated, Joe Biden? In reality, wearing a mask post-vaccine is a symbol of submission to irrational state power.

    That's a long excerpt, but it was tough to know where to stop, sorry.

    And I speak as someone who wears a mask just to avoid hassle from Team Blue. (They're everywhere!)


  • Even Though He's Panicked About Covid… President Wheezy seems determined to launch an even more deadly virus. As Stanley Kurtz says: Joe Biden Set to Push Critical Race Theory on U.S. Schools.

    The woke revolution in the classroom is about to go federal. In an early but revelatory move, President Biden’s Department of Education has signaled its intent to impose the most radical forms of Critical Race Theory on America’s schools, very much including the 1619 Project and the so-called anti-racism of Ibram X. Kendi. (Kendi’s “anti-racism” — which advocates a massive and indefinite expansion of reverse discrimination — is more like neo-racism.) Biden is obviously co-opting conservatives’ interest in reviving traditional U.S. history and civics to deliver its perfect opposite — federal imposition of the very ideas conservatives aim to combat.

    Biden’s Department of Education has just released the text of a proposed new rule establishing priorities for grants in American History and Civics Education programs. That rule gives priority to grant “projects that incorporate racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse perspectives.” The rule goes on to cite and praise the New York Times’ “landmark” 1619 Project, as well as the work of Critical Race Theorist Kendi, as leading examples of the sort of ideas the Biden administration wants to spread.

    My guess is this wasn't Joe's call; he's pretty much tossed the car keys to the dozens (hundreds?) of activists in his Administration. He just wanted to be President, he got that, let the kids play.


  • In Our 'Of Course They Did' Department. WIRED brings the hilarious (to me, not them) news: Union Says Amazon Violated Labor Law in the Alabama Election.

    The union outlined a whopping 23 objections to Amazon’s conduct, arguing that the company “prevented a free and uncoerced exercise of choice by the employees.” Eight of the objections concern the collection box Amazon installed in the warehouse parking lot to collect ballots for the election. A sign instructing employees, “Speak for yourself! Mail your ballot here,” hung from a tent encircling the box, which vanished after the election.

    In its objections, the RWDSU argues that the collection box violated the procedural rules the NLRB spelled out in January. The board never authorized the box and had denied Amazon’s request for one inside the warehouse. The collection box, the union says, created the impression that Amazon, not the NLRB, had control over the election and constituted improper voter surveillance, since security cameras watched the tent. The union claims the company repeatedly instructed employees to vote on-site, calling this “a form of ballot solicitation,” in defiance of NLRB rules. The RWDSU also claims that the campaign slogan on the tent violated bans on electioneering.

    Boo hoo. We're only a few months past the time when the lefties were arguing that USPS mailbox removal was an unconscionable assault against democracy, degrading the right to vote of people who can't figure out mail.

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction

[Amazon Link]

Back in 2018, I enjoyed Alan Jacob's book How to Think. When I noticed he had a new book out, I checked Portsmouth Public Library… argh, no dice. (And my backup plan, ILL via UNH, is not an option until the librarians get off their desks on which they've been standing, shrieking "Eeek! A mouse! Also Covid!" for the past year.)

But PPL did have this slim volume from 2011. And it turned out to be a win.

The author is "Distinguished Professor of Humanities in the Honors Program at Baylor University, and a Senior Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia." But don't let that scare you away. Professor Jacobs writes with minimal jargon, essential humility, insight, and considerable wit, for the layperson.

Reading the book is much like getting advice from a (very) learned, experienced friend on how to pursue your hobby/pastime/diversion of reading. At 150 pages of main text, it's more of a lengthy essay. Stretching it out over two weeks, my default reading period for library books, turned out to be a good idea: those 150 pages are dense, filled with ideas and observations that are worth mulling over, not gobbling.

Professor Jacobs is not a fan of what he calls the "eat-your-vegetables" approach to reading, where some authoritative sage provides a list of "must-read" books. (True confession: I actually have one of those books on my shelf: The Lifetime Reading Plan by Clifton Fadiman. I gave up on Recommended Author #2: Herodotus.) Instead, he suggests relying more on what he calls "whim". Suggesting you'll do better by following your own preferences instead of some guru. (He generally declines that role himself: whenever people ask him for book recommendations, he declines.) (But he won me over by intimating that he enjoyed reading Anathem, by Neal Stephenson. Hey, me too!)

You (probably) don't want to spend your life reading pap. But what do you want to do? What are you trying to accomplish with your reading habit? Professor Jacobs teases out possible answers: knowledge, insight, joy, appreciation, character development. You can tame your "whim" by being more aware of your goals, of course.

In addition to the high-minded stuff, there's a lot of practical advice; if you're someone who like to annotate texts as you go along, for example, there are suggestions. Reading aloud versus silently? Reading books you've read before? How about poetry? Reading on a Kindle instead of a weighty tome? How to develop habits of concentration when your environment is full of "distractions"? (That's in the title, after all.)

Bottom line: if you like to read, but you have a vague feeling you'd like to read "better", Professor Jacobs is highly recommended.

URLs du Jour

2021-04-19

  • Guess What My First Thought Was after seeing the Tweet du Jour at Ann Althouse's blog.

    If you guessed something like If New Hampshire is gonna have Democrat senators, why can't they be more like Kyrsten Sinema?: congratulations, you are at the right blog.

    Instead we got Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan. Sigh.


  • But It's Patriots' Day! And to celebrate, Gary M. Galles is Remembering The Patriot With The Most Thorough Understanding Of Liberty.

    Today is patriot’s day [sic], marking the Revolutionary War’s opening shots at Lexington and Concord. An excellent way to commemorate it is by remembering Samuel Adams, who Murray Rothbard called “the premier leader of the revolutionary movement,” as far more than a name on a beer bottle.

    Samuel Adams’ most important contribution to America’s cause, however, was that, in his cousin John Adams’ words, he had “the most thorough understanding of liberty,” which was the central spark in America’s creation. The threats liberty faces today, including a host of government actions that treat the trampling of liberty as non-issues, make recalling his ideas particularly important. 

    Click through to read a good quote from Sam.

    True fact for punctuation pedants: in most states that celebrate it, it is "Patriots' Day". But in Maine it is (according to statute) "Patriot's Day".

    And in New Hampshire, it's nothing, except an early start to the Red Sox game on NESN. And maybe crack open a bottle of Sam Adams? Naw, I guess not.


  • Also: "Physician-Assisted Suicide" Elle Reynolds at the Federalist submits for your approval: 10 Politically Correct But Factually False Words To Stop Using Now. Here's number one:

    1. ‘Mainstream Media’

    The public communication cartel headed by The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, CBS, and MSNBC does not represent mainstream Americans. Earlier this year, Axios (another culprit of heavy-handed political spin) reported that 56 percent of Americans believe “Journalists and reporters are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations.”

    Big Media has engaged in deception through false and misleading “reporting” on Georgia’s election laws, the trespass and unrest at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, and more. Embracing “Russiagate” and the allegations of the Steele dossier against President Trump was one indicator of crumbling credibility. The cover-up of the Hunter Biden laptop story just before the 2020 presidential election was another.

    Even more recently, CBS’s “60 Minutes” invented a scandal about Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, while giving minuscule coverage to New York Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s cover-up of COVID-19 nursing home deaths his policies caused.

    Leftist propaganda outlets who are running cover for Democrats and spreading inaccurate opposition research on conservatives don’t deserve to be called mainstream. Instead, use “Big Media,” “corporate media,” or — as DeSantis says — “smear merchants.”

    I take her criticism, but I don't care for her proposed substitutes. Something to work on.


  • Cronyism Comes Before Compassion in Joe's Dictionary. Scott Shackford notes Biden Chooses Cronyism Over Letting Puerto Rico Rebuild.

    Not long after taking office, President Joe Biden released an executive order to fight climate change and called for evaluating the impact of environmental policies on the poor. Yet in a separate executive order, Biden affirmed his support for the 1920 Jones Act, a maritime law that harms both the environment and disadvantaged communities. It seems the residents of Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Alaska are no match for an entrenched industry and union cronyism.

    The Jones Act—technically the Merchant Marine Act of 1920—shields the American shipping industry from foreign competition by requiring that ships engaging in trade between multiple U.S. ports be made in America and owned and crewed by American citizens. Supporters say the Jones Act is necessary for national security, but research from the Cato Institute has shown the law's biggest impact is driving up consumer prices for many Americans by forcing isolated states and territories to import necessities from other countries.

    Shackford's bottom line: "Biden's embrace of this archaic law undercuts his economic, environmental, and transportation policy goals." Which avoids the real problem that his highest goal is preserving advantages and handouts to unions and other well-connected interests.


  • I Can't Believe We're Debating This. Capitalism vs. Socialism, that is. And neither can Kevin D. Williamson, but he reports (in an NRPLUS article) on the predictable result of a recent debate: Socialism Loses, Again.

    Professor Richard Wolff of UMass–Amherst seems to be a courteous man, so I will put this question as courteously as I can: Rounded off to the nearest 100 million, how many people have to be put to death under socialism before the world’s most murderous school of economics runs out of second chances?

    Last week, Professor Wolff debated Arthur Brooks, formerly the president of the American Enterprise Institute and now a professor at Harvard, on the resolution: “Socialism is preferable to capitalism as an economic system that promotes freedom, equality, and prosperity.” The debate was hosted by the Abigail Adams Institute, which is “dedicated to providing supplementary humanistic education to the Harvard intellectual community.” Here, that worthy mission was not accomplished. I do not deny that socialism is an important subject for the consideration of students at Harvard and elsewhere, but to put “socialism or no?” forward as a contest between two propositions on equal intellectual footing is akin to hosting an earnest debate on whether the Earth is flat.

    I've been an Arthur C. Brooks fan for years.


  • It Doesn't Mean Staying Awake During a Trig Lecture. Katya Rapoport Sedgwick writes on Woke Math And The Intentional Destruction Of Free, Independent Thought.

    There are features of American wokeness that make me gasp that socialism in the U.S. is going to be worse than the USSR where I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s. The ongoing effort to transform mathematics education into a crypto-Marxist indoctrination vehicle seems like the sign of things to come.

    The California Department of Education recently drafted “Equitable Math” framework that, if implemented, will destroy what’s left of mathematics education in the Golden State. Along with the directive to privilege students on the basis of sex and skin color, the proposal essentially calls for the end of math. Fox News explains, “Another document calls for centering ‘ethnomathematics,’ designing a ‘culturally sustainable math space,’ and supporting students  ’to reclaim their mathematical ancestry.'”

    The only possible upside: the destruction of government schools, when people realize they ain't doing education there.


Last Modified 2021-04-20 4:03 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-04-18

[Newspaper Fail]

  • Zombie Stats Ate My Brain. My Sunday paper, Seacoast Online, gave an honored spot to a column by Tanna Clews ("CEO of the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation") and Rob Werner ("New Hampshire State Director for the League of Conservation Voters"): Celebrating Earth Day with a gender justice lens. (Link goes to New Hampshire Business Review, which also published the column.)

    With a title like that, how bad could it be? Very, very bad:

    As we look towards Earth Day 2021, we’re paying special attention to the intersection of climate and gender justice. We believe that there is no gender justice without climate justice, and there is no climate justice without gender justice — yet not all feminists and environmentalists are aware of how interconnected our fights for justice are.

    Across the board, women are disproportionately affected by climate change. Women make up 70% of the global population living in poverty.[…]

    Wait, what? That can't be true, can it?

    Well, apparently nobody at Seacoast Online or New Hampshire Business Review asked that question. About five seconds into a Google search, I found a Politifact article referring to the 70% figure as "the 'zombie stat' that just won't die." Their original debunking was in response to Carly Fiorina's citing the number (and, yes, it's safe to presume that Politifact is wired to preferentially debunk Republican talking points). But:

    With those simple words -- "70 percent of the people living in abject poverty are women" -- Fiorina joined a line of people stretching nearly two decades to cite this powerful statistic. Hillary Clinton said it when she was first lady. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew used it twice in the past few months. Walmart included it in a 2012 report on corporate responsibility.

    It would be more telling if it were true.

    The deck is stacked against women in other ways, but the fact is, 70 percent of the people living in poverty are not women. Yet the statistic gets repeated and repeated -- so much that people call it the "zombie stat."

    It just won’t die.

    Here's the even more shocking bit: Politifact's orginal Fiorina-debunking was in January 2014.

    Yes, that's (… um … let me get my calculator …) over seven years ago. And back then it had already been staggering along for "nearly two decades".

    "Zombie stat", indeed.

    The very next sentence in the Clews/Werner column:

    Through rising sea levels and extreme weather events, global warming places millions of people at risk of displacement — a staggering 80 percent of whom are women.

    Yeah, I don't believe that either. Googling finds a lot of assertions about this; actual research is hard to find. My guess is that it's extrapolation from the (probably accurate) estimate that "between seventy-five and eighty percent of the world’s 50 million refugees and internally displaced persons are women and their dependent children." But that's from all causes, not "climate change".

    The column continues with the usual climate-doomsaying. I'm relatively immune, But when you lead off with bogus statistics, how seriously can I take it? A couple of remedial reading suggestions here and here. Clews and Werner are firmly in the alarmist bubble, impervious to dissent.


  • An Actually Inconvenient Truth. Brought to us by John McWhorter: The Victorians had to accept Darwin. We need to accept that cops kill white people as easily as they kill black people..

    Whenever the national media reports on a black person killed by cops, we must ask ourselves “Would a white cop not have done that if the person were white?”

    […]

    Here is why we need that mental exercise. Tony Timpa was quite white and was killed quite in the way that Floyd was, including it being recorded.

    AND white people have been killed when cops mistook their guns for tasers. I wonder why no one ever heard about this one beyond one day in Philadelphia? (Wait – there will be objection that the shot didn’t actually kill this guy. But that’s random – it could have, easily.) There are many others -- there has been media coverage this week of cases where cops made the mistake that Officer Potter did towards Daunte Wright (where the person shot died). You can be quite sure that if their authors had found that the mistake only happened when the victims were black, we’d know by now.

    This is a dog that didn’t bark and for a reason – that this week’s headlines have not been about how cops only mistake their guns for tasers when they are dealing with a black man is because … wait for it … they don’t! I suggest you take a little time and do a quick search on the cases listed by media articles like this. When the victim is black, it’s noted – big surprise – and quite often, the victim simply is not. By that I mean that often the victim was white. The journalists seeking to show that cops only mistake guns for tasers when they are confronted with a black person couldn’t find it and thus just write that officers have sometimes been “confused” while studiously leaving race out of it. Their head editors have made sure they did.

    Newsflash: Cops are human, and like all humans are prone to making horrific mistakes when in stressful, split-second situations. People who cry "racism" when the colors are properly aligned are more interested in pushing their political agenda, grabbing the spotlight, than in meaningful discussion about how to minimize tragedy.


  • Resulting in A Different Set of Inmates Running the Asylum. P. J. O'Rourke writes on America's New Pastime: The Politicization of Everything.

    Politics are dangerous to everybody. This is true if you’re scraping spray-painted obscenities off your Trump/Pence yard sign and wearing your MAGA cap at half-mast in mourning. And this is also true if you think AOC and the Green New Dealers have just dealt you a straight flush. (Flush twice – it’s a long way from Congress to your lunch bucket.)

    Of course, politics have always been dangerous. Politics are how it’s decided who controls government… Whoever controls government controls the force of the law… And the force of the law is a lethal force.

    Fail to pay a parking ticket and you’ll be fined. Refuse to pay the fine and you’ll be jailed. Try to escape from jail and you’ll be shot. Every law, every government rule and regulation, no matter how trivial or picayune, is obeyed at the point of a gun.

    That gun is called politics. And what makes politics so dangerous right now is that Americans – Left, Right, and Center (if there even is a Center anymore) – have come to believe that the answer to every question is political.

    I despair that enough Americans have the will to stuff this particular demon back into the box clearly labeled 'Necessary Evil — Do Not Release'.


  • In Our "Shouldn't This Be Obvious" Department Joel Zinberg tells us The CDC Shouldn’t Treat Racism as a Public-Health Crisis.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was founded in 1946 as the Communicable Disease Center, with a simple goal: prevent the spread of malaria. The mission soon expanded to all communicable diseases and, more recently, to areas — such as domestic violence, gun control, and vaping — that, while related to health, seem far afield from the agency’s primary purpose. Today the CDC describes its mission as protecting the nation from health threats both foreign and domestic. Now the agency appears to have expanded its mandate into progressive politics.

    In a recent statement, CDC director Rochelle Walensky asserts that there have been disproportionate numbers of COVD-19 cases and deaths in communities of color. She claims that the disparities were the result not of COVID-19 but rather of racism, which she labels a public-health crisis. Her statement echoes an American Medical Association policy recognizing racism as a public-health threat and similar declarations from 194 state and local government entities.

    But the director’s statement is inconsistent with the CDC’s current data that show little or no increased incidence of black COVID-19 deaths. At best it reflects outdated data documenting disparities that no longer exist. At worst, it reflects a political agenda in search of a justification. Whichever it is, it suggests that public-health officials, in this case the CDC, have become distracted from their core job.

    And it's not as if they've been doing that well at "their core job".


  • When Joy Reid Says You're Irrational, Just Say "So is Pi, Baby." Robby Soave details the latest from the MSNBC swamp: Joy Reid Said Vaccinated People Who Refuse To Wear Masks Are ‘Irrational.’ Fauci Didn’t Correct Her..

    On her show Friday night, MSNBC host Joy Reid interviewed Anthony Fauci, the White House's top COVID-19 adviser. Reid made the following comment.

    "I am one of the fully vaccinated," she said. "I'm fully Fauci'd. The question I have is are we really going to get to the end of it? Because, Dr. Fauci, at this point it's political. There are people who are paranoid about you. They've decided they don't trust you, they think you're trying to have the government take over their lives or put nanobots in them and Bill Gates is going to physically control them if they get the vaccine. It isn't just hesitancy, it's paranoia. You have Tucker Carlson basically saying that you're not telling the truth, if you're vaccinated there's no reason to wear a mask anymore. You have people screaming at store clerks because they don't want to wear masks. This is not rational at this point, Dr. Fauci. So I wonder, what do we do about the irrational resistance to doing the basics, getting vaccinated and wearing masks."

    And Fauci went along, "largely echoing her concerns". Robby says nay:

    The available evidence suggests that people who are fully vaccinated are essentially immune from suffering serious disease or death from COVID-19. They are also extremely unlikely to contract the virus at all, which means their odds of infecting someone else are very low. Mass vaccination is the ticket to ending the pandemic, and all advocacy efforts should be directed toward encouraging people to get vaccinated. Scaring the vaccinated back into a lockdown mindset is unnecessary and unscientific.

    Some people only follow the science that leads them where they want to go.


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert leads us to a pretty good article: Artistic License. It's about the transformation of license plates from staid indicators of legal vehicle registration to little billboards. Which of course leads to… Mel Thomson:

    Thomson was a titan of New Hampshire politics in the 1970s. He served three terms as governor and he was a conservative firebrand who hated democrats. Thomson had a lot of unorthodox ideas (including wanting to arm the New Hampshire national guard with nuclear weapons) and he was obsessed with the idea of “freedom.”

    Live Free or Die,” of course, is New Hampshire’s fiery state motto. It was coined by a Revolutionary War vet, and Thomson loved it so much that, before he became governor, he worked with allies in the state legislature to get it slapped on every car in the state. In 1971, the slogan on the state’s license plate changed from Scenic New Hampshire, to Live Free or Die.

    Not everyone embraced the “Live Free or Die” slogan. At 88 years old, George Maynard still gets heated about the New Hampshire license plate. Maynard and his family joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and in 1972 they moved to Claremont, New Hampshire. That’s where the trouble started.

    And you probably know the rest of the story, but it's entertainingly told. Never mind the author's sneer quotes around "freedom".

One Fatal Flaw

[Amazon Link]

Yet another entry in the "Wish I'd Liked It Better" Department. I've been hitting a lot of those lately, usually because I trusted "recommendations" from a reliable source. In this case, Tom Nolan's compilation of 2020's "best" mysteries. Really, Tom?

It's the third entry in Anne Perry's series of novels featuring young earnest lawyer Daniel Pitt; he's the son of Thomas Pitt, who has a 32-book series! There are numerous references to occurrences (I assume) in those previous books, but that's par for the course, and didn't bother me that much.

It's set in 1910 England, and Daniel is wheedled by a young woman into defending her petty criminal boyfriend against a murder charge; the forensic evidence seems to say that he bashed in the skull of another criminal while robbing a warehouse, then set a fire to cover things up.

This sounds dubious, but Daniel enlists the daughter of his firm's head, Miriam, to importune a well-known forensic scientist to testify that the damage to the victim's skull could have been caused by the extreme heat of the fire; skull bones have been known to crack in such conflagrations. Reasonable doubt is established, the boyfriend goes free…

Only to wind up dead in exactly the same way. And this time, the girlfriend is accused of the crime. And demands that Daniel defend her.

And this is when Daniel smells a rat. About time.

I found Anne Perry's style in this book irritating and repetitious. Mostly it's people talking to each other. Which is fine, but interspersed between the dialog lines are lengthy descriptions of mental states: Why did they say that? What do they think about what they just heard? What did they look like when they said it? How should they respond? This way? No, that wouldn't be proper, how about this?

And then the next bit of speech is uttered. C'mon, Anne. Just tell me what they said.

I also found the plotting to be sloppy and not particularly believable. (Perhaps I'm cranky, because I came up with a theory of what was "really going on"; which turned out to be totally wrong.)

Anne Perry is a best-selling novelist with legions of fans. So your mileage may differ. She's not my cup of tea.

(Oh, yeah, did I mention the tea? I swear, there are more words devoted to tea in this book than to crime-solving.)

URLs du Jour

2021-04-17

[Amazon Link]

  • My Remote Needs a 'Skip Over Fake News' Button. David Harsanyi's (NRPLUS) article says Fake News Is Real.

    Both Dan McLaughlin and Michael Brendan Dougherty have already weighed in on the media’s embarrassing “Russian bounties” story. In June, the New York Times reported that United States intelligence officials “have concluded that a Russian military-intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan.” No doubt you remember the hysteria.

    Now that Donald Trump is gone, and new president Joe Biden needs to garner public support for his Afghanistan withdrawal, NBC News informs us: “Remember those Russian bounties for dead U.S. troops? Biden admin says the CIA intel is not conclusive.” You know, in the old days — like, maybe six years ago — reporters would generally hold off publishing stories that accused the sitting president of engaging in seditious behavior or a dangerous nuclear adversary of targeting American soldiers until after officials had investigated those claims. Modern journalism is a bit different.

    Thomas Joscelyn has more on the story, which he deems "murky". But the point is that the media don't hype every "murky" story in which "intelligence officials" have "low to moderate confidence". That hype is selectively deployed against Orange Man and his friends.


  • Republicans Pounce, While Conservatives Embrace. Steven Greenhut remembers the good old days when conservatives defended free speech. Some have discovered the joys of cancel culture: Conservatives Embrace Their Own ‘Wokeness’ With Attacks on Private Businesses.

    Last week's political news centered on Georgia, where the GOP governor signed a package of election "reforms" that some mainstream media outlets depict as "Jim Crow 2.0". Those narratives do a disservice to the African Americans that Jim Crow laws actually victimized, but the legislation—a mix of good, bad, and awful—emanates from Donald Trump's baseless allegations that election fraud robbed him of a second term.

    A number of private executives, in the tech sector and old-line industries, criticized the new law. For instance, Major League Baseball responded by moving the All-Star Game out of Atlanta. Atlanta-based Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola criticized the legislation. Coke's CEO, for instance, told CNBC that the law "does not promote principles we have stood for in Georgia around broad access to voting, around voter convenience, about ensuring election integrity."

    Republican officials, who have created a cottage industry out of blasting progressives for their cancel-culture habit of boycotting and shaming people who say and do things they don't like, went into full cancel-culture mode and railed against corporations. The former president championed a boycott of Coca-Cola in zany press releases. One GOP lawmaker introduced a bill to strip Major League Baseball of its antitrust exemption, which is the type of thing one would expect from Warren.

    Nevertheless, they persisted.


  • A Modest Proposal … from P. J. O'Rourke: We Need More Cancel Culture.

    Cancel culture needs to go beyond words. Words are simply one way to express ideas, but other modes of expression exist. Ideas can be expressed with mathematics. Cancel culture needs to start canceling numbers.

    I suggest beginning with the number 9.

    Personally, it’s the number that I dislike the most. This is because, in 4th grade, it was the “9-times” part of the multiplication table that tripped me up. I was fine all the way through 8 X 10 = 80. But when I got to the 9s I fell apart. To this day when I see 9 X 9 I want the result to be 99, and I suffer a feeling of exclusion and powerlessness and a need to go to a safe place when I’m told by the people who hold power in our society that the answer is otherwise.

    Nine-times was easy for me when I realized that the digits in the result had to add up to nine.

    My big stumbling blocks were (honest, I still remember) 6×7, 6×8, and 7×8. I'm OK with them now, though.


  • I Don't Want To Belong To Any Tribe That Would Accept Me As A Member. Arnold Kling has a Substack! And he kicks things off with a query: Who is in my tribe?.

    I am alarmed by the political tribalism that we see in the United States today. So “my tribe” consists of people who share that concern—folks like Jonathan Haidt, Andrew Sullivan, and Bari Weiss.

    I want to encourage a non-tribal intellectual style. I am eager to read Julia Galef’s The Scout Mindset. Based on the reviews, I would agree with her praise for what she calls the scout mindset and also with her disparagement of what she calls the soldier mindset.

    I have gone so far as to devise a scoring system for op-ed pieces, podcasts, long blog posts and essays written by public intellectuals. This system awards points for:

    … and what follows are various aspects of intellectual honesty, open-mindness, curiosity, and the like. Arnold recommends some folks he admires.

    But Andrew Sullivan? Eh, not for me, not since he got all obsessed with Sarah Palin's uterus.


  • If I Were Picking an Intellectual Baseball Team, However, I'd Want George Will as Catcher. In his Friday WaPo column (clear their cookies first) he observes Our notions of patriotism are mistaken.

    The philosopher’s task is to facilitate clear thinking by making clarifying distinctions. People are not always grateful for this service, as Socrates discovered. The political philosopher’s task is to clarify contested concepts, such as patriotism. Regarding this, Steven B. Smith has drawn intelligent distinctions that might have some on the right and left competing for the pleasure of serving him a cup of hemlock.

    Patriotism is a species of loyalty and a form of love. In “Reclaiming Patriotism in an Age of Extremes,” Smith, a Yale philosopher, argues that many on the right profess to love the United States but misunderstand — or, worse, reject — the essence of what makes this creedal nation distinctive. And, Smith says, the patriotism that many on the left profess — on those occasions when they warily, gingerly embrace the idea — is a cold, watery affection for an abstraction. It is loyalty to a hypothetical United States that might be worthy of their love-as-loyalty.

    Sigh. Smith's book isn't at Portsmouth Public Library (they've probably blown their budget on woke titles); I've queued it up for whenever the University Near Here decides to let vaccinated ex-staff with borrowing privs back into Dimond Library.

    Until then, I have Mr. Will's summary.

URLs du Jour

2021-04-16

[Amazon Link]

  • I Knew That, But It's Good To Be Reminded. David Harsanyi observes: Unions Need Coercion to Survive.

    It was heartening, though not particularly surprising, to see workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., decisively reject unionization efforts last week. When employees are afforded a choice, they usually snub organized labor. In fact, without coercive policies and interference from the National Labor Relations Board, any substantive union membership in this country would have evaporated long ago.

    That certainly goes for public-sector unions, tax-funded monopolies that compel workers to pay dues that are then used to fund more political advocacy to perpetuate their monopoly. In any other sphere of American life, this is called “racketeering.” Janus v. AFSCME — a case in which Mark Janus, a non-union child-support specialist in Illinois, argued that his First Amendment rights were violated because he was forced to pay “agency fees” to a public-sector union — was supposed to put an end to this kind of coercion, but many unions simply ignore the law.

    Our fair state is considering a "right to work" law; the group New Hampshire Families for Freedom [sic] is well-funded enough to pay for a TV ad running on our local news show (and I assume other places too) urging opposition.

    The ad (viewable at the link) has an earnest veteran claim that "some Concord politicians are trying to get between us and our paychecks."

    I expected him to follow with: "… that's the union's job!" But no.


  • We'll Let You Know Afterwards. At Persuasion, David Bernstein wonders: Who Decides What's Racist?.

    Growing out of the Critical Race Theory (CRT) movement, a culture of censorship has taken root in many of our institutions.

    CRT makes two basic observations: First, that bias and prejudice exist not just in the hearts and minds of individuals, but also in society’s social structures and systems. And second, that bias embedded in systems is frequently invisible to the dominant class but perfectly perceptible to its victims. “Minority status,” explain Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, the authors of Critical Race Theory, “brings with it a presumed competence to speak about race and racism.”

    Both of these observations are true at least some of the time. The problem is that the second—sometimes referred to as “standpoint epistemology”—contends that only minorities have standing to articulate a view on race and racism. In her book What Does It Mean to Be White?, Robin DiAngelo puts it this way: “Sometimes I am asked, ‘But what if the person of color is wrong and what they think is racism isn’t racism at all?’ To this I say that people of color are much more qualified than we are to make this determination. My not being able to see racism is unrelated to its reality.” Anyone who proffers an alternative perspective can be accused of “privilege.” In addition to being stifling and punitive, this demand for adherence will almost certainly make it more difficult to overcome the racial divide.

    CRT advocates uniformly resist "objectivity". Which allows them to evade defining "racism" objectively.


  • It's a Pre-Existing Condition. George Will draws a useful distinction: Technologies give velocity to stupidity, but they don't make people stupid. There's some good history there (unsurprising from Mr. Will) but let's skip to the bottom line:

    Today, the Internet and social media enable instantaneous dissemination of stupidity, thereby creating the sense that there is an increasing quantity of stupidity relative to the population’s size. This might be true, but blame it on animate, hence blameworthy, things — blowhards with big megaphones, incompetent educators, etc. — not technologies. Technologies are giving velocity to stupidity, but are not making people stupid. On Jan. 6, the Capitol was stormed by primitives wielding smartphones that, with social media, facilitated the assembling and exciting of the mob. But mobs predate mankind’s mastery of electricity.

    Humanity is perpetually belabored by theories that human agency is, if not a chimera, substantially attenuated by the bombardment of individuals by promptings from culture, government propaganda and other forces supposedly capable of conscripting the public’s consciousnesses. A new version of such theorizing is today’s postulate that digital technologies are uniquely autonomous forces in need of supervision or even rearrangement by government because they rewire the brains of their users.

    Like railroads and the telegraph, today’s technologies have consequences about how and what we think. They do not relieve anyone of responsibility for either.

    I keep coming back to that dictionary definition of fetish: "a material object regarded with superstitious or extravagant trust or reverence".

    I'd add: "or fear."

    Exhibit B: the Internet. (Exhibit A: guns.)


  • In Fact, It's Safer To Bet The Other Way. Veronique de Rugy advises, wisely: Just Because It's Said by Joe Doesn't Make It So.

    While President Joe Biden's administration doesn't seem to need an excuse to spend money, two recurring arguments for his gigantic $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal are that our roads and bridges are "crumbling" and that modernization would generate economic growth and jobs — hence its name, the American Jobs Plan. But none of this clever marketing makes any of these claims true.

    Let me start by pointing out that, to the extent that people think about roads and bridges when they hear the word "infrastructure," they should know that only $621 billion of the $2.3 trillion is for transportation — and of that sum, only $115 billion is for repairing roads and bridges. The rest of the bill is mostly a handout to private companies that already invest heavily in infrastructure. These subsidies will come with federal red tape and regulation and hinder job creation, not bolster it.

    Joe's got a literal bridge he wants to sell you.


  • Sometimes It Seems Like A Suicide Pact With The GOP. Charles C. W. Cooke trumpets what sounds like good news: The Democrats Are Flirting with Suicide in the Midterms.

    Had Joe Biden been what he pretended to be during last year’s presidential election, he could have represented a real threat to the GOP. If he wanted to, Biden could have pocketed the Democrats’ gains among the affluent, picked off some of the working-class voters that Donald Trump attracted, and tamped down the activist energy that tends to hurt presidents in the midterms.

    But he and his party have not done this. Yes, yes, yes, Biden is currently doing fine in opinion polls. And yes, he’s managed to get away with pretending that his expensive progressive wish-list was “COVID relief.” But that won’t last forever, and, even if it does, the Democratic Party is assiduously building up precisely the sort of brief that Republicans need to make the case against unified control — irrespective of the president’s popularity.

    In the space of a month, the Democrats have proposed blowing up the Supreme Court, sloppily federalizing the entire election system, passing a slavery reparations bill, resuscitating the Green New Deal, and prioritizing strict gun control — all while the crisis on the border worsens and the president’s approval rating on that high-salience question hits disaster levels. Not only is this likely to prove toxic to the party next time people get to vote — the most likely outcome of the call to pack the Supreme Court will be to pack the House with Republicans — it’s also likely to hurt its capacity to get anything substantial done.

    Interesting factoid about that slavery reparations bill: the House version has 180 cosponsors, including Annie Kuster of New Hampshire. But my Congresscritier, Chris Pappas, is absent.

    I think this means he realizes he could be in trouble.

    (Neither of New Hampshire's senators are cosponsors on the Senate version.)


  • And Finally… You probably saw some version of this story. Here's the headline I noticed first: Police try to identify driver accused of jumping Daytona Beach drawbridge.

    And my first thought was: Why? To give him a medal?


Last Modified 2021-04-17 4:50 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-04-15

[Amazon Link]

  • My Guess: Because It Springs From Socialist Premises. But let's see what Andrea O'Sullivan has to say about Why Biden’s Broadband Bonanza Is Likely to Fail anyway. First some facts:

    You can look at connectivity from a few different angles: speeds, prices, and access. The FCC tracks internet speeds across OECD countries; its most recent report finds that the U.S. ranked 10th among developed nations in 2016. New America has some handy international data on average internet costs; the U.S. falls a bit higher in monthly costs than the international average, but it's far from the most expensive. The FCC has tracked the digital divide in its annual "Broadband Deployment Report" for several years; its most recent publication finds that the number of Americans living without access to acceptable internet has dropped to around 14.5 million in 2019—a fall of about 4 million from the previous year.

    So if we want to improve America's digital infrastructure, closing the digital gap in terms of access should be a top priority. You would think you could easily do that with $100 billion on the table. Unfortunately, the broadband funds will almost certainly not be wisely spent. From the looks of it, the Biden-Harris administration's plans to expand broadband access will be a big waste. The reason is that the massive spending plan mostly doubles down on policies that have already failed in the past.

    One of the biggest problems is that the plan "prioritizes support for broadband networks owned, operated by, or affiliated with local governments, non-profits, and co-operatives"—a long way to say "funds government-run internet." The plan fact sheet claims that these providers have "less pressure to turn profits" and therefore more of a "commitment to [serve] entire communities."

    More at the link, but a good summary is the line we've used before: When Uncle Stupid makes it rain, there will be no shortage of well-connected folks waiting around with buckets.


  • But It's Not Just Wasteful Spending on Broadband. In fact, as Iain Murray describes, the entire bill is shot though with it.

    Then there’s the cost. President Biden boastfully claimed that the bill would create 19 million jobs “that pay well.” That could possibly represent value for money at $118,000 a job. However, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had to contradict his boss, recognizing that this figure included over 16 million jobs that would be created anyway. As Reason’s Eric Boehm calculated, that puts the dollar figure per job created at over $800,000. It’s not quite the $2 million per job created by Los Angeles after the Obama stimulus act, but it’s getting there, and on a much bigger scale.

    Part of the reason is that the bill doesn’t help make the building of real infrastructure projects quicker or more affordable. In fact, it doubles down on policies such as project labor agreements and “Buy American” requirements, while failing to do anything about the plague of permits. Perhaps the president’s old boss could remind him how those affected his stimulus bill’s supposedly shovel-ready projects.

    Of course, it's not "waste" if you're one of the folks getting the money. For the rest of us, well…

    Not for the first time, I quote Robert Frost ( "Pod of the Milkweed"):

    But waste was of the essence of the scheme.


  • Love goes out the door when money comes innuendo. Matt Taibbi notes the rush to judgment based on anonymous sources and innuendo. Which decent folks should, but don't, avoid when the accused is a political enemy: Due Process Is Good, He Said Controversially.

    With Gaetz, the Republican congressman from Florida, you’re not voting for the guy or raising money for his re-election campaign by asking for more to go on than an anonymously sourced New York Times report. The paper cites “three people with knowledge of the encounters” in claiming Gaetz “had sex” with “multiple women,” while also claiming officials are examining “whether” he had sex with a 17-year-old and “whether” she was compensated for it. That means the possibilities run from Gaetz having consensual encounters with adults to consensual encounters with sex workers to, possibly, an encounter with a 17-year-old.

    I don’t like stories like this because the Times gets to use a report of one kind of encounter to sell the possibility of another kind, for which they have less evidence. This is the same device that led to all sorts of problems in the story of Democratic congressional candidate Alex Morse, whose consensual adult encounters were spun into allegations of abuse and predation, and calls for his resignation. The Gaetz case is different in multiple ways, not the least being that his friend Joel Greenberg has already been federally indicted on 33 serious offenses, but from a reporting standpoint there’s almost nothing concrete in view yet with Gaetz himself.

    Gaetz is (probably) a sleaze, but let's by all means rout all the sleazes from Congress. Then with the 52 remaining members…


  • Safe Bet. Jennifer Huddleston is not a hipster: A Return of the Trustbusters Could Harm Consumers.

    The original trustbusters of the late 19th and early 20th century created a system that was not always clear and could be abused by regulators subjectively determining what was and was not anti-competitive behavior. The result was that, in this earlier era, businesses and consumers could never be certain what behaviors would be considered violations.

    The shift to the consumer welfare standard helped fixed that problem by providing an objective framework using economic analysis to weigh the risk and benefits of behavior and judging it based on its impact on consumers and not specific competitors. Unfortunately, these new proposals would shift away from this objective focus and return to a presumption that big is bad. This shift would be bad news not only for big business but for smaller businesses and consumers as well. Small businesses would lose an important exit strategy option with the presumptive ban on mergers with large companies, and consumers would miss out on benefits such as price reductions, improvements, and innovations that these mergers could bring.

    Never mind Big Tech. If Major League Baseball's antitrust exemption were repealed, would "consumer welfare" be helped?


  • Mister, We Could Use A Man Like Calvin Coolidge Again. Campus Reform has the latest news about Professor Aaron Kindsvatter of the University of The State To Our Left. (Previous Pun Salad posts on him here and here.)

    After a University of Vermont professor criticized the notion of “whiteness,” administrators denounced his comments and students called for his resignation. The professor refuses to resign.

    In a YouTube video entitled “Racism and the Secular Religion at the University of Vermont,” education professor Aaron Kindsvatter said that “whiteness falls under the umbrella… of critical social justice, and the thinking that informs it is so crude and so lacking in falsifiability.”

    The article notes that a petition demanding Kindsvatter's resignation has 3,400 signatures.

    And there's a rival petition asking that that Kindsvatter assume control of all diversity measures at the University of Vermont. Which has 4,400 signatures.

URLs du Jour

2021-04-14

[Amazon Link]

  • News You Can Use. Paul Graham tells us How People Get Rich Now.

    Every year since 1982, Forbes magazine has published a list of the richest Americans. If we compare the 100 richest people in 1982 to the 100 richest in 2020, we notice some big differences.

    In 1982 the most common source of wealth was inheritance. Of the 100 richest people, 60 inherited from an ancestor. There were 10 du Pont heirs alone. By 2020 the number of heirs had been cut in half, accounting for only 27 of the biggest 100 fortunes.

    Why would the percentage of heirs decrease? Not because inheritance taxes increased. In fact, they decreased significantly during this period. The reason the percentage of heirs has decreased is not that fewer people are inheriting great fortunes, but that more people are making them.

    How are people making these new fortunes? Roughly 3/4 by starting companies and 1/4 by investing. Of the 73 new fortunes in 2020, 56 derive from founders' or early employees' equity (52 founders, 2 early employees, and 2 wives of founders), and 17 from managing investment funds.

    Mr. Graham does a good job of cutting through a lot of ideological cant. You may not agree with his interpretations, but his facts are pretty solid.


  • An Actual Profile in Courage. Provided by Bari Weiss, who hosts an article by Paul Rossi on her substack: I Refuse to Stand By While My Students Are Indoctrinated.

    I am a teacher at Grace Church High School in Manhattan. Ten years ago, I changed careers when I discovered how rewarding it is to help young people explore the truth and beauty of mathematics. I love my work.

    As a teacher, my first obligation is to my students. But right now, my school is asking me to embrace “antiracism” training and pedagogy that I believe is deeply harmful to them and to any person who seeks to nurture the virtues of curiosity, empathy and understanding.

    “Antiracist” training sounds righteous, but it is the opposite of truth in advertising. It requires teachers like myself to treat students differently on the basis of race. Furthermore, in order to maintain a united front for our students, teachers at Grace are directed to confine our doubts about this pedagogical framework to conversations with an in-house “Office of Community Engagement” for whom every significant objection leads to a foregone conclusion. Any doubting students are likewise “challenged” to reframe their views to conform to this orthodoxy.

    RTWT, if your blood pressure is under control.

    Many articles about Rossi are sympathetic and outraged. And point out that the school's yearly tuition is $57,300.


  • Someone Will Probably Observe That Hysteria is Sexist. But you know who doesn't care about such observations? Kevin D. Williamson: Hysteria is not a Program.

    A number of right-leaning readers wrote in, occasionally spitting with rage, to protest my suggestion that the time is ripe for a bipartisan deal on gun policy. The refrain was, for the most part: “No compromise!” Some of the less verbal among the critics sent cartoons of Lucy van Pelt pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. The usual right-wing social-media accounts desperate to draft off of NR’s traffic did the sort of thing they usually do, in the usual sad-clown fashion. And to think: It was only a few years ago these folks were talking up The Art of the Deal.

    Here’s some negotiating advice: When the other side offers you something you want, take it.

    Of particular interest to me was former Brady Campaign director Dan Gross’s column in the New York Times, in which he forthrightly conceded that if our goal is reducing the level of criminal violence in these United States in a meaningful fashion, then focusing on mass-shooting events (which claim fewer lives every year than do firearms accidents) and pressing for policies such as a ban on so-called assault weapons is not the way to go. Gross suggested several possible courses of action, including doing more to investigate and prosecute gun-trafficking operations. So, if you are keeping score: Gross supports an assault-weapons ban in principle, writing, “I believe there is no place in civilized society for guns that are made for the express purpose of killing people,” which is a case against the Second Amendment per se — the right enshrined therein isn’t about pheasant hunting. I, along with most other gun-rights advocates, would oppose such a ban. But the action item here isn’t what we disagree about — it’s what we agree about. If there are more like Gross, willing to put the “assault weapons” issue on the back burner (I don’t expect them to set it aside entirely) and instead work with conservatives on trafficking and straw buyers — something many Second Amendment advocates have been seeking for years — then why on God’s green earth should we pass up the chance to take “Yes” for an answer?

    One problem with cracking down on "trafficking and straw buyers": doing so will put a disproportionate number of "people of color" in jail. And I can't imagine lefties going along with that; they'd prefer to make new criminals out of previously law-abiding citizens.


  • But That's SOP for the FDA. Ronald Bailey spells it out: The FDA’s Decision To Pause J&J Vaccination Will Kill People.

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement today "recommending a pause in the use" of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine. The agencies took this step "out of an abundance of caution" based on six cases of a rare blood clot disorder in people who had been inoculated with the one-dose vaccine. There have been six cases out of 6.8 million people who have already been inoculated with the vaccine. The blood clot incidents all occurred in women between the ages of 18 and 48. Those odds amount to one in 1.13 million, which is comparable to your annual chances of being struck by lightning (1 in 1.22 million).

    For comparison, a November 2020 meta-analysis in The Lancet found that more than one in five very ill hospitalized and post-mortem* COVID-19 patients experienced venous thromboembolism—that is, blood clots in their veins. A 2010 study in the Journal of American Preventive Medicine reported that the annual incidence of thromboembolism between the ages of 15 and 44 was about 1.5 cases per 1,000 people. In addition, the risk of blood clots from taking oral contraceptives is about 1 in 1,000 annually.

    A March 2021 study in Science reports that more than 70 percent of new COVID-19 infections have been driven by Americans between the ages of 20 and 49. The faster that people in that age group get vaccinated, the less likely it is that other Americans who remain unvaccinated or immunocompromised will become infected.

    How can I say this diplomatically? The incentives for FDA bureaucrats are not to save lives; instead, they are incentivized to err on the side of a flawed conception of "safety."

    Even when that means killing people.


  • Shoulda Stuck to Writing Books. I liked J. D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy a lot. But as Patrick Hedger demonstrates, that talent doesn't translate into being right: J.D. Vance Shows How the Populist Right Adopted the Logic of 'You Didn't Build That'.

    While running for reelection in 2012, then-President Barack Obama defended the progressive economic agenda of greater wealth redistribution with the now infamous line, “If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Republicans correctly skewered him for that proclamation because it was a deeply insulting remark to the countless entrepreneurs and critical institutions that protect private citizens and their property and have helped make America the most prosperous nation in history. That wasn’t a one-off gaffe from Obama, either, but a genuine reflection of his worldview. Remember the Life of Julia video, also from 2012? It told the story of a woman’s life entirely through the lens of her reliance on government programs. Conservatives recoiled in horror.

    Yet, not even a decade later, in a troubling sign of growing authoritarian tendencies in the Republican Party, many on the political right are embracing the exact same logic toward a far more dangerous end.

    Last week, best-selling author, and all-but-declared Republican candidate for the Senate from Ohio J.D. Vance was interviewed by Tucker Carlson. When discussing regulating companies and the First Amendment, Carlson asked Vance how he responds to the argument that Google, as a stand-in for Silicon Valley broadly, is a private company. Vance responded stunningly: “I just don’t care.”

    Yeesh.

URLs du Jour

2021-04-13

[Amazon Link]

  • Desperately Looking For Reasons For Amusement Rather Than Disgust. Eric Boehm brings the goods: Stop the Steal? Organized Labor Can’t Accept Loss in Amazon Unionization Election. Losers always sound the same:

    It was a high-stakes election with big political implications for the country, one that came at the end of a bruising campaign that attracted a lot of media attention. When all the votes were counted, there was a clear winner. But the losing side refused to concede, alleging that their defeat was the result of unfair or even illegal conduct by the winner—and calling for government officials to review and perhaps even overturn the results.

    I'm describing, of course, last week's union certification election at an Amazon distribution center in Alabama.

    Workers at the Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse voted by a margin greater than two-to-one against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). It was a sound rejection of the weeks-long campaign to establish the first-ever unionized workforce at an Amazon facility.

    Even before all the votes had been counted, the head of the union was calling the election unfair.

    Gems from the article: the union president saying "the system is broken" and complaints—yes, complaints—to the NLRB that a USPS mailbox was placed near the Amazon facility to make it easier for workers to drop in their completed ballots.


  • Come Out From Under Your Bed and Get Vaccinated. Then Go Back Under Your Bed. Kylee Zempel notes mixed messaging from the same guy on the same day: Americans Won't Vaccinate If Fauci Keeps Telling Them It's Pointless. About his weekend appearance on MSNBC:

    “What is the message to vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans as to what they should and should not be doing right now? For example, eating and drinking indoors in restaurants and bars — is that OK now?” asked host Mehdi Hasan.

    “No, it’s still not OK for the simple reason that the level of infection, the dynamics of infection in the community are still really disturbingly high,” Fauci replied. “Like just yesterday, there were close to 80,000 new infections, and we’ve been hanging around 60,000, 70,000, 75,000.”

    I'm tired of seeing Fauci soundbites on the news. So are the NR editors; they say: Anthony Fauci Has Worn Out His Welcome.


  • Because He Thinks Big. Also, Delusionally. Randal O'Toole wonders: Why Is Biden Talking about High-Speed Trains and Supersonic Planes When His Infrastructure Plan Doesn't Include Either One?.

    “The Interstate Highway System transformed the way we traveled, lived, worked, and developed,” said President Biden in the March 31 speech introducing his American Jobs Plan. “Imagine what we can do, what’s within our reach, when we modernize those highways,” he continued. “You and your family could travel coast to coast without a single tank of gas onboard a high‐speed train.”

    When I read this, I had to wonder: is Biden’s speechwriter simply ignorant when it comes to transportation? Or did Biden depart from the speech and allow his mind to drift to a total non‐sequitur? I wondered this because, in case you weren’t aware, high‐speed trains will not go on even modernized interstate highways. Although many people talk about building rail lines in the median strips of interstate highways, that’s just a fantasy: trains cannot handle the grades and high‐speed trains cannot handle the curves found on interstate freeways. More pertinently, Biden’s infrastructure plan doesn’t even include any money for high‐speed trains.

    It would be even worse if it did, of course.


  • In Our Refurbished and Expanded "Even Worse Than You Think" Department. Byron York is down in Mission, Texas. And he says The border is even worse than you think.

    Anyone paying attention to the news knows the situation on the U.S.-Mexico border is terrible. Anyone who actually visits the border discovers it is worse than that.

    Here is what is most striking about the government's response to the unprecedented surge of illegal border crossers: It is entirely improvised. Jury-rigged. Thrown together in a scramble to accommodate thousands of migrants who were not coming just months ago. And the reason it is being improvised is that during his first days in office, President Joe Biden blew up the foundation of the government's handling of migrants. With a series of executive actions, Biden threw out key policies with nothing ready to replace them. And he did it using rhetoric that invited migrants to rush to the border — more than 172,000 in March alone, including nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children.

    It's a mess. Democrats used to pretend they cared, but only inasmuch as they could use the issue as an anti-Trump cudgel.


  • And Finally… John McWhorter posts a long excerpt from his upcoming book The Elect. A mere snippet:

    [Critical Race Theory's] current grip on America as a whole starts with developments among a certain group of legal scholars a few decades ago. No one was chanting their names in protests about George Floyd, or while deep-sixing someone for tenure in an academic department, or while suspending someone from a newspaper, or while excommunicating someone for “problematic” – i.e. blasphemous – views. But the difference between good old-fashioned left and modern Elect starts with, for example, legal scholar Richard Delgado teaching nonwhites to base their complaints about injustice not on something so “rigid” as objective truth, but upon the “broad story of dashed hopes and centuries-long mistreatment that afflicts an entire people and forms the historical and cultural background of your complaint.”

    This kind of argument was the source for the one now so familiar, that if a brown person says they have encountered racism, then it is automatically indisputable that they did, and if you don’t agree it makes you “problematic.” Or, the left of 1980 transmogrified into the left of 2020 on the basis of ideas such as this one by legal scholar Regina Austin, urging:

    a new politics of identification, fueled by critically confronting the question of the positive significance of black lawbreaking, might restore some vitality to what has become a mere figure of speech … drawing on lawbreaker culture would add a bit of toughness, resilience, bluntness, and defiance to contemporary mainstream black political discourse, which evidences a marked preoccupation with civility, respectability, sentimentality, and decorum.

    In other words, politics needs a jolt of some gott-damned street!! Yes, this was from a scholar of jurisprudence, and its like was the fount of the idea that for brown people, the old rules don’t matter. Forget (fuck?) civility or even logic (see Delgado above) – it’s all about how you feel, and specifically about how you hate the reigning order. Critical Race Theory tells you that everything is about hierarchy, power, their abuses, and how to not be Caucasian in America is to be akin to the captive oarsman slave straining belowdecks in chains.

    I'm on the lookout for the book to show up on Amazon. Assuming Amazon won't deplatform it.


Last Modified 2021-04-13 1:35 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-04-12

  • Eye Candy du Jour from Michael Ramirez.

    [Divison vs. Unity]

    I've been puzzling over the Woke strategy, and Mr. R illuminates the problem well: nonstop accusations of implacable racism are supposed to make us all get along with each other someday?


  • But That Ain't the Only Way to Divide Americans. J. D. Tuccille notes that Wheezy Joe has hit on an old favorite: Biden’s Gun-Limitation Schemes Make a Mockery of His ‘Unity’ Message.

    Just months into President Joe Biden's tenure, his early calls for "unity" look not only insincere—something we expect of any politician—but positively laughable. Last week, he threatened executive action to tighten restrictions on privately owned firearms in a move bound to infuriate gun owners, including millions of people who purchased tools for self-defense for the first time amid the chaos of the past year. Much of the country is certain to ignore his dictates, including state and local governments who have already vowed that they won't enforce such rules. Forget unity—the president has found an effective means of deepening the country's divisions.

    Just months into President Joe Biden's tenure, his early calls for "unity" look not only insincere—something we expect of any politician—but positively laughable. Last week, he threatened executive action to tighten restrictions on privately owned firearms in a move bound to infuriate gun owners, including millions of people who purchased tools for self-defense for the first time amid the chaos of the past year. Much of the country is certain to ignore his dictates, including state and local governments who have already vowed that they won't enforce such rules. Forget unity—the president has found an effective means of deepening the country's divisions.

    "I asked the Attorney General and his team to identify for me immediate, concrete actions I could can take now without having to go through the Congress," the president huffed from the White House on April 8. "And today, I'm announcing several initial steps my administration is taking to curb this epidemic of gun violence."

    J. D. makes the obvious observation: if there were a set of unifying proposals to curb "gun violence", they would sweep though Congress easily. Biden's not interested in "unity" on this issue; he's interested in finding ways to push people around, and (probably) make criminals out of existing gun owners.


  • Hey, You Know That Failed Policy We Tried Thirty Years Ago? Chris Stirewalt claims, plausibly, that Biden’s Reboot of 1990s Gun Restrictions Is a Predictable Flop.

    The debate over gun control has been so pointless for so long that even to make note of its futility has become pointless itself. It’s like art-house cinema: nonsensical but annoyingly derivative and going nowhere fast. That’s what happens when people don’t want to get to the point—which President Biden and most of his fellow Democrats certainly do not want to do.

    We’ve been on repeat for nearly 30 years now, with Biden’s new suite of firearms proposals just the latest remix. The president knows. He was there when the template was set in 1994 with the federal weapons restrictions he helped pass as a senator. The legislation was part of an enormous crime bill approved with bipartisan support—the same legislation Biden spent much of 2020 atoning for because of its increased federal prison sentences for drug offenders.

    The “assault-style weapons ban” component was passed in response to a series of mass murders, particularly the 1991 massacre that left 23 dead at a Luby’s Cafeteria in Central Texas. But what advocates believed was strong public demand for federal restrictions on semiautomatic weapons and ammunition capacity was a mirage. While voters were indeed alarmed about the crime wave of the era—New York City had 2,245 murders in 1990 compared with 462 last year—the weapons limits immediately turned into a political liability for their proponents. This was the beginning of the two-decade heyday of the National Rifle Association and, as it was with many issues at the time, a sharp turn toward partisan orthodoxy.

    Stirewalt notes that the "patronizing proposals are a reflection of Democrats’ desires to please base voters without further jeopardizing paper-thin majorities in both houses of Congress." And he wishes (forlornly) that they'd just explicitly propose what they implicitly desire: repeal of the Second Amendment.


  • It's Like Nominating Carrie Nation to be Chief of the Liquor Commission. Michael Graham notes there's a local angle to the gun-grabbing effort: Biden's ATF Pick Backs Gun Bans, Debunked Waco Conspiracy. Will Hassan Back Him?.

    Few Granite Staters have ever heard of David Chipman, President Joe Biden’s pick to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. But if his nomination makes it to the floor of the Senate, he’s likely to become a local celebrity.

    That’s because Chipman’s going to need the vote of Sen. Maggie Hassan, a solidly-blue Democrat in a purple state with one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the nation and fewest restrictions on legal gun ownership. Hassan’s up for re-election next year, so Republicans and Second Amendment groups will make sure Granite State gun owners know all about Mr. Chipman before she casts that vote.

    Chipman, a 25-year veteran of the ATF, has hardly been subtle about his support for gun control. He’s a former lobbyist on behalf of not one, but two anti-Second-Amendment organizations: the Mike Bloomberg-backed Everytown group and Giffords.org. Not surprisingly, gun-control advocates hailed his nomination. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) celebrated Chipman’s pick as “exactly what A.T.F. needs.” CNN calls him “a fierce advocate for gun control.”

    Michael details Chipman's expressed opinions over the past years, which range from extreme to wacko (about Waco). And speculates that our state's Senator Hassan might not want to irk NH gun owners by voting to confirm him.


  • Zero Is Not an Acceptable Option. Andrew A. Michta (in an NRPlUS article, sorry) touches on an issue about which I've thought a lot about over the years: The Zero-Risk Western Society.

    A year of the COVID pandemic has transformed some of the freest and most affluent societies in the history of the West beyond recognition and in ways perhaps never imagined. Not even amid the last century’s two world wars did we experience anything similar to the past twelve months, whereby the economies and lives of entire nations were stopped on a dime by executive fiat, when normal human interactions were forcibly halted to save us from a pathogen that, according to many a pundit — at least initially — would have otherwise killed millions. During this past year “lockdowns” gained widespread currency: a term eerily connoting the idea of incarceration, only this time it was to be effected by the citizens themselves, urged to accept a de facto self-imprisonment mandated by pro publico bono and based on the mantra of “trust the science” repeated by government officials and media outlets. As a result, Europe and North America of a year ago and today look like two different worlds.

    I offered my take as a comment, inspired by Bjørn Lomberg's recent book: It's funny how this works. 30K-40K people in the US die every year from traffic accidents. It would certainly be possible to "save" a lot of those lives by draconian restrictions on driving. But such restrictions are not on the table; even in these sensitive times, as a society we've (more or less) collectively decided that those dead people are "the price we pay" for having a transportation system we like. But as Michta notes, that decision making doesn't easily translate to other areas.


  • Twitter Doesn't Like the Truth. The Federalist notes its latest censorship: Twitter Hides BLM Founder Buying $1.4 Million Home In Mostly White Area.

    Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors purchased a $1.4 million home last month in Topanga Canyon, a secluded area of Los Angeles whose population is reportedly less than 2 percent black. The self-described Marxist is now facing criticism for the extravagant purchase, including from Jason Whitlock, an African-American sports journalist.

    Whitlock tweeted about the controversy last week, writing, “Black Lives Matter Founder buys $1.4 million home in Topanga, which has a black population of 1.4%. She’s with her people!” He added a link to the story on the celebrity property blog The Dirt. Twitter quickly deleted his post and locked his account for “violating our rules against posting private information.”

    I suppose the argument is that someone could figure out the location of Patrisse's new digs from the Dirt article. But it's the same sort of stuff you see in the WSJ's "Mansion" section on Fridays. So I suspect the real problem is that it exposes the BLM organization as a pack of grifters.

URLs du Jour

2021-04-11

[Amazon Link]

  • Just Two? Matt Taibbi reveals The Two Faces of Joe Biden.

    On April Fool’s Day, CNN ran an “analysis” of Joe Biden’s presidency:

    Will JRB take his place alongside FDR and LBJ?

    CNN explained “JRB” had just unveiled a $2 trillion infrastructure plan “to boost ordinary working Americans rather than the wealthy,” a program that together with his $1.9 trillion Covid rescue doubles “as a bid to lift millions of Americans out of poverty.”

    The news is like high school. One day, one kid comes in wearing Dior sneakers and Nike X Ambush pants, and two days later, that’s all you see in the halls. The “Biden-as-FDR” stories raced around News High, with headlines like “With nods to FDR, JFK and LBJ, Biden goes big on infrastructure plan” (Yahoo!) and “Can Biden achieve an FDR-style presidency? A historian sees surprising parallels” (Washington Post). Even the New Yorker’s naysayingtake, “Is Biden Really the Second Coming of F.D.R. and L.B.J.?” read at first glance like an affirmation.

    Now Taibbi is a lefty, so he wishes Joe was an AOC-emulating bringer of Social Justice. But the rest of us don't need to adopt that viewpoint to shake our heads in wonder at the silly sycophancy of CNN et al.


  • Also Crumbling: His Grasp on Reality. Chris Edwards notes the herd of independent minds discoursing on Biden’s Crumbling Bridges.

    Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says America’s roads and bridges are “crumbling.” The administration’s infrastructure plan says, “After decades of disinvestment, our roads, bridges, and water systems are crumbling,” and it notes that 45,000 bridges are in “poor condition.”

    The Washington Post says, “President Biden aims to tackle some of the nation’s most pressing problems—from climate change to decaying water systems to the nation’s crumbling infrastructure,” and it claims that “the nation’s infrastructure woes … have been growing for decades.”

    Rolling Stone says Biden’s plan “promises to revitalize 20,000 miles of roads and fix 10,000 crumbling bridges.” A 2018 NBC report was titled, “More than 50,000 American bridges are falling apart,” and pointed to 54,259 bridges that are “structurally deficient.”

    Nobody wants to drive on a "crumbling bridge". Or under one, for that matter. But (as the article details) bridge quality statistics have shown improvement for decades.

    Biden will (of course) take credit for improvements that would have happened anyway.

    But bridge-uncrumbling is popular. So even though that makes up a mere sliver of his massive "infrastruture bill", it can be used as a smokescreen to hide the billions handed out for less popular items.


  • I Strongly Suggest the Answer Is: Stop Using It, If You're So Damned Concerned. Bari Weiss wonders: What Should Be Done to Curb Big Tech?. And, good news, her article is more nuanced than its question-begging headline implies. Good point here:

    So why is so much of the writing about tech so confusing? One of the reasons it confuses, I think, is that the loudest “progressive” and “conservative” arguments are the opposite of what you’d imagine.

    Progressives are supposed to be against corporate power. And yet on this subject, they are the ones pushing for more of it. They are enraged that these companies don’t crack down harder on “disinformation,” arguing that the Zuckerbergs and Dorseys of the world put profit above principle when they allow groups like QAnon to run wild on their platforms. Sure, President Trump was banned, but only after he lost the election. Why didn’t it happen earlier? Private companies are not hamstrung by the First Amendment, so why do they hesitate to ban dangerous people whose online words lead to real-world violence?

    Conservatives are supposed to be for small government and allergic to sweeping intervention. And yet some of the country’s most prominent Republicans find themselves arguing against free enterprise. The crux of their argument, pushed most passionately by Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, goes like this: The law is handing Big Tech companies a ridiculous and unfair advantage. Section 230 grants companies like Twitter protection from the kind of legal liability that makes a traditional publisher, like a newspaper, vulnerable. Why should tech companies have that privilege, given that they obviously make editorial decisions? Fairness would begin with a repeal of Section 230.

    I'm knee-jerk libertarian on the issue: there's nothing wrong with Big Tech that government-imposed "solutions" won't make worse. But Bari (I call her Bari) notes some pushback on that from Richard Epstein and Clarence Thomas, who make alternate arguments without statist bias.


  • Nothing Says 'We Have Had No New Ideas Since the 1930s' Like… Jonah Goldberg writes his G-File on The Newest Deal. It's an interesting look at the programs and philosophy behind Progressive Statism. But let's go right to pungently-observed bottom line:

    Joe Biden’s trillion-here, trillion-there approach is as ad hoc as FDR’s in many ways. You look at some of the outlays in his proposals—a hundred billion for this, a hundred billion for that—and it becomes clear that the important thing is just to spend a hundred billion, or $2.4 trillion; what the money actually goes to is an afterthought.

    Similarly, his conception of “infrastructure” is very New Deal-y. “So many people said, ‘Oh, the $400 billion that are being proposed for the home care workers or the home care sector, that’s not really infrastructure,’” White House economist Cecelia Rouse argues. “Well, I beg to differ. I can’t go to work, if I don’t have someone who’s taking care of my parents or my children.”

    I can’t go to work without pants either, that doesn’t mean the government should launch a pants-buying program.

    I have problems with a lot of the people on both sides of the aisle who throw around the term “socialism” without knowing what socialism is—and isn’t. But at some point, if everything is “infrastructure”—which Biden basically defines as anything that makes your life easier—than we’re going to stumble into precisely that. It may still be “democratic,” but the range of stuff you’ll be allowed to vote for will be quite Deweyan. That was Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s hope. In 1947, he wrote in Partisan Review, “There seems no inherent obstacle to the gradual advance of socialism in the United States through a series of New Deals.” All it would take is the empowerment of the “politician-manager-intellectual type—the New Dealer,” to make it happen.

    We’re on our way.

    I keep looking for a pony in here somewhere.


  • Gullible Virtue-Signalling Donors Also Matter. The UK Daily Mail has a provocative article: BLM founder is branded a FRAUD after buying a $1.4 million home.

    A Black Lives Matter co-founder and self-professed 'trained Marxist' has raised eyebrows by purchasing a $1.4 million Los Angeles home, in a largely white district.

    Patrisse Cullors, a 37-year-old 'artist, organizer, and freedom fighter', has bought a three bedroom, three bathroom house in Topanga Canyon, complete with a separate guest house and expansive back yard, reports

    The home is described in the real estate listing as having 'a vast great room with vaulted and beamed ceilings'.

    It's a nice house. Pictures at the link. The folks who bought swag at the Black Lives Matter Official Store ("Proceeds help fund the Movement.") should especially click over.

    I keep thinking about Patrisse's claim to be a "trained Marxist". Is there an Obedience School you can attend, you know, like my dog?

URLs du Jour

2021-04-10

[Amazon Link]

  • Send The Bill To My Kids. And Their Kids. And… Christian Britschgi has good news for those rooting for American decline: Biden’s $1.5 Trillion Budget Request Would Fund All Nails Needed for the Coffin of Fiscal Restraint.

    Despite the record amounts of money the federal government has spent over the last year responding to the pandemic—and the record deficits it's racked up in the process—the Biden administration continues to ask for trillions more.

    Today, the White House released its first budget request. It has asked Congress to approve a $1.52 trillion budget, including $769 billion in non-defense discretionary spending (a 16 percent increase over fiscal year 2021) and $753 billion in defense spending (a 1.7 percent increase).

    That would represent an overall 8.4 percent increase in federal spending from last year, when excluding the recent $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill that Biden signed in March, reports Bloomberg. Today's budget request also comes in addition to the $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan that Biden unveiled last week.

    I think someone on the Reason Podcast made this observation recently:

    • A million seconds is about 11½ days.
    • A billion seconds is about 31.7 years.
    • A trillion seconds is about 31,710 years.

    Biden et al. rely on the public not understanding the difference between "a lot of money", "an exorbitant lot of money", and "an insanely exorbitant amount of money".

    I'm no economist, but I can't see how this ends well.


  • Good Luck on That Advice. Ramesh suggests Fauci and CDC's Walensky Should Be Candid About Vaccines Now.

    On March 29, Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control, shared “the recurring feeling I have of impending doom.” Later that day, she gave MSNBC viewers some good news: “Our data from the CDC today suggests, you know, that vaccinated people do not carry the virus, don’t get sick.”

    Three days later, a spokesman for the CDC took it back: “Dr. Walensky spoke broadly during this interview. It’s possible that some people who are fully vaccinated could get Covid-19. The evidence isn’t clear whether they can spread the virus to others. We are continuing to evaluate the evidence.”

    When I heard that "feeling of impending dooom" thing, I thought: Lady, maybe you shouldn't be blabbing about your psychological problems to a nationwide audience.

    But never mind that. Ramesh notes that both the NIH (Fauci) and CDC have been confusing and inconsistent in their pronouncements. To the point of dishonesty: crafting their messaging so it doesn't "elicit undesirable behaviors from the public."

    Ramesh further notes that (sensibly enough) as a result, many people stop trusting government health advice.

    That's not the mark of a healthy relationship.

    I should add that, back on March 3, Biden derided the Texas and Mississippi decisions to stop mandating masks as 'Neanderthal thinking'.

    Nearly 40 days later: both Texas and Mississippi are classified as states where "new cases are lower and staying low" on the NYT Coronavirus summary page.

    New Hampshire, where mandates remain in place? It's been stuck in the (much larger) category of states where "new cases are higher and staying high".

    Why it's almost as if treating your citizens as adults and able to make rational decisions about their risks works well.


  • A Much Bigger Heath Threat: Misinformation From Government Officials. We ain't quite done with Dr. Rochelle yet. Jim Treacher looks at her recent pronunciamento: 'Racism Is a Serious Public Health Threat'.

    The last time I paid any attention to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, she was moaning about her “recurring feeling… of impending doom” about COVID-19. She used her public platform to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt, and the libs all loved her for it. If you thought that was pathetic and insane, check out Walensky’s latest “Director’s Commentary” from the CDC website:

    The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the death of over 500,000 Americans. Tens of millions have been infected. And across this country people are suffering. Importantly, these painful experiences and the impact of COVID-19 is felt, most severely, in communities of color—communities that have experienced disproportionate case counts and deaths, and where the social impact of the pandemic has been most extreme.

    Yet, the disparities seen over the past year were not a result of COVID-19. Instead, the pandemic illuminated inequities that have existed for generations and revealed for all of America a known, but often unaddressed, epidemic impacting public health: racism.

    What we know is this: racism is a serious public health threat that directly affects the well-being of millions of Americans.

    Isn’t racism the real virus, when you don’t think about it?

    It's probably wrong of me, but whenever I see Dr. Rochelle on TV: (a) she looks very low-res, like Max Headroom; (b) I can't help but think of Rochelle, Rochelle, the running-gag fictional movie on Seinfeld. Described as "a young girl's strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk".

    And then to the CDC.


  • When Uncle Stupid Makes It Rain… there will be no shortage of well-connected folks waiting around with buckets. Connor Harris in the New York Post: Amtrak Joe's rail line will blow your cash on pricey repairs.

    President Biden’s lavish infrastructure plan promises to give $80 billion to improving long-distance rail, almost all of it going to Amtrak — the mode of transport beloved by, well, “Amtrak Joe.” Amtrak released a plan for what it wants to do with the money: A fact sheet that the rail service posted on its Web site, for a project called Amtrak Connects US, shows several new or improved routes crisscrossing the nation.

    Amtrak’s route expansion plans are at once strikingly unambitious and dogged by its famous inefficiencies.

    Amtrak plans to add routes connecting nearby cities with trips that would take only a few hours: for instance, Dallas to Houston and Cleveland to Cincinnati. This may seem prudent, but one has to wonder how much ridership these lines will get: Amtrak generally runs low-quality equipment with average speeds slower than freeways, and Amtrak’s new routes parallel major highways, most of them with preexisting bus service.

    My main gripe with Connor's column is that it speculates how Amtrak could work in an alternate universe with sensible construction costs. I'm positive there's no way to get to that alternate universe, and even if there were, the result would still be plagued with declining ridership, lousy service, and perpetual subsidies.


  • Things I Didn't Know (A Recurring Series). Patterico drops a truth bomb on a 50-year-old song that's been one of my favorites for… pretty much that entire time. “Layla” Outro: Stolen. Summarized in a tweet:

    The victim is Rita Coolidge (not very "obscure" to us baby boomers) who was Gordon's lady friend at the time. Gordon, as Patterico notes, went on to murder his mom,

URLs du Jour

2021-04-09

[Amazon Link]
I'll probably find out that the Amazon Product du Jour is pushed by an American Nazi group or something.

Still, it accurately reflects my mindset.

  • Of Course It Will. Campus Reform posts on the latest from the University Near Here: New course will teach UNH students about 'racism in science'.

    Declaring that science is not necessarily “culturally neutral,” academics at the University of New Hampshire are offering a new course about anti-racism in STEM.

    Natural resources professor Serita Frey and graduate student Emily Whalen are teaching “Anti-Racism in Science: Promoting an Inclusive and Equitable STEM Community” in the spring 2021 semester.

    Yeesh. UNH Today has more, and it's pretty predictable. Sample from instructor Serita Frey:

    “Racism in science is like racism in all other aspects of our society. As we say in the course syllabus, science is often viewed as ‘culturally neutral,’ and scientific information is often presented as objective and unbiased. However, science, like every other human endeavor is subject to the biases of its practitioners,” Frey says.

    “All of us in the U.S. were raised with a 400-year history of racism and thus we all hold biases, implicit or otherwise, and these translate into treating people differently based on the color of their skin and also has led to policies and practices that make it difficult for Black, indigenous people and people of color ( BIPOC) to enter and fully participate in STEM disciplines,” she says.

     That truth is reflected in the lower number of BIPOC people who work in the sciences.

    "We all hold biases", states Prof Frey, but I wish she'd examine her own before she flatly holds out her dubious assertions as "truth".


  • Contrary Opinions are a Threat. My guess is that the Frey course would be a likely breeding ground for this sort of litigious fun, as reported by Robby Soave at Reason: A Medical Student Questioned Microaggressions. UVA Branded Him a Threat and Banished Him from Campus..

    Kieran Bhattacharya is a student at the University of Virginia (UVA) School of Medicine. On October 25, 2018, he attended a panel discussion on the subject of microaggressions. Dissatisfied with the definition of a microaggression offered by the presenter—Beverly Cowell Adams, an assistant dean—Bhattacharya raised his hand.

    Within a few weeks, as a result of the fallout from Bhattacharya's question about microagressions, the administration had branded him a threat to the university and banned him from campus. He is now suing UVA for violating his First Amendment rights, and a judge recently ruled that his suit should proceed.

    That's the University of Virginia. As in "Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia".

    No word on the RPMs recorded in TJ's grave.


  • Joe's Lips Moved. The Results Were Predictable. David Harsanyi on Joe Biden’s Amazing Second Amendment Whopper (which sounds like a bad takeoff on Tom Swift and His Polar-Ray Dynasphere, but never mind):

    Here is how the president of the United States, Joe Biden, proud graduate of Syracuse University Law school, opened his remarks on his new gun control efforts:

    “Nothing I’m about to recommend in any way impinges on the Second Amendment,” Biden said. “They’re phony arguments suggesting that these are Second Amendment rights in what we’re talking about.”

    Biden added that “no amendment to the Constitution is absolute. You can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded movie theater and call it freedom of speech. From the very beginning, you couldn’t own any weapon you wanted to own. From the very beginning of the Second Amendment existed, certain people weren’t allowed to have weapons.”

    Every part of his statement is utterly absurd.

    Click through for David's three-part takedown, but also see Charles C. W. Cooke's comments: The Bill of Rights Doesn’t Have to Be ‘Absolute’ to Have Teeth

    David is right, of course. But what annoys me the most about this claim is that it is totally irrelevant to the question of whether Biden’s plans are legitimate. Invariably, people who say that a “right isn’t absolute” are not trying to determine the proper scope of the right so much as they are trying to skip a step by implying that if some regulation is permissible then all regulation is permissible.

    Which it’s not.

    As Charles notes, this type of argument is also often deployed against First Amendment rights. It's tedious to deal with people who deploy it as if it were somehow profound.


  • Nevertheless, He Persisted. In lying, that is. Elizabeth Nolan Brown noted another brain-dribble: Contrary to What Biden Says, Gun Show Sales Aren’t Exempt From Background Checks.

    In announcing new gun control plans yesterday, President Joe Biden commented on alleged loopholes in gun background checks. "Most people don't know, you walk into a store and you buy a gun, you have a background check. But you go to a gun show, you can buy whatever you want and no background check," according to Biden.

    Multiple fact-checkers have taken issue with this claim.

    Because it is utter garbage. Even Politifact rates it "mostly false", which, given their bias, means "made-up crapola".

    But you have to admire Biden beginning it with "Most people don't know…". Joe, people don't know that because they live in reality.


  • Pun Salad is a Sucker for any Column Using 'Dragoon' in the Headline. George Will looks at an objectionable feature of Biden's/Democrats' latest spendapalooza: Congress dragoons the states.

    The essence of progressivism’s agenda is to create a government-centered society by increasing government’s control of society’s resources, then distributing those resources in ways that increase the dependency of individuals and social groups on government. Hence this stipulation in Congress’s just-enacted $1.9 trillion money shower: None of the $350 billion allocated for state governments can be used to finance tax cuts.

    So, the federal government is using the allocation of society’s financial resources to state governments to coerce them into maintaining their existing claims on such resources. This illustrates how progressives try to implement a leftward-clicking ratchet. The Supreme Court, whose duties in supervising democracy include reminding a forgetful Congress about federalism, should find the following provision unconstitutional.

    They probably will, but I have a modest proposal: the folks who wrote that provison, voted for it, and the guy who signed it into law should resign for violating their pledge to support the Constitution.


  • Speaking Of Unconstitutional Legislation… The effort to sell the "For The People" act caused a snarky tweet du jour.

    Joke explanation, if necesssary, here.


Last Modified 2021-04-10 6:46 AM EDT

Hamilton

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Hamilton]

With our shiny new Disney+ subscription, we watched Hamilton. (I know, Gina Carano. Sorry.) I also know it's a stage play. Still, it was movie-length, so I'm counting it as a "watched movie". It's an impressive effort, watchable all the way through. And I don't really like hip-hop. But as it turned out the songs are less hiphoppy than I feared; the Wikipedia page, the songs also draw from "R&B, pop, soul, and traditional-style show tunes."

It's based on Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton, briefly describing his impoverished early life on Nevis, and really gets going with his move to Manhattan in the auspicious year of 1776. (Update: well, that turns out to be off by three years. My bad for believing everything Lin-Manuel Miranda put in his play. See Wikipedia for that quibble and more, some less quibbly.) He gets education, gets acquainted with the local revolutionary firebrands (including Aaron Burr), eventually joins up with George Washington in the Revolutionary War.

His success there jumpstarts his political career; it also sows the seeds of resentment and jealousy among his counterparts. He turns into a Constitutional madman, writing many Federalist Papers in defense of the new plan of government. When the dust settles, he's named the first Secretary of the Treasury, and eventually draws even more ire from Jefferson and (oops) his former friend Aaron Burr. We all know how that turns out.

There are a number of other plot threads involving romance and family, mostly tragic in nature. Comic relief is provided by actors portraying George III, Lafayette, and Jefferson.

The show caused me to try to put Chernow's biography on my get-at-library list. Ack, Portsmouth Public Library seems to lack a copy. What's up with that? Well, if they ever let me back into the UNH Library… .


Last Modified 2021-04-25 10:51 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-04-08

Our Eye Candy du Jour:

[LFOD]

That's from an article from a site called "Artsy", entitled 8 Artists Who Had Breakout Moments at March Auctions. It was brought to my attention by the Google LFOD News Alert, and, yes, the painting's title is "Live Free or Die". The artist is Pieter Schoolwerth, and it is reported that the 2002 painting sold for $22,680. (It "failed to sell in its previous auction appearance, back in 2010.")

So, good for Pieter. <understatement>There's certainly a lot going on there</understatement>. I especially like that the man sitting on the steps has the exact same expression as the head-vase(?) on the table.

  • James Freeman has interesting thoughts on Ron DeSantis and ‘Resistance Journalism’.

    It’s hard to find silver linings in this era of expanding government authority and contracting individual opportunity for free expression. But at least the media establishment can no longer pretend that its abandonment of journalistic standards was necessitated by the unique character of Donald Trump. “Resistance journalism” is now industry standard, judging by a story on Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis by the formerly prestigious television newsmagazine “60 Minutes.”

    Resistance journalism is the term coined by media maven Ben Smith, who was also one of the genre’s most successful practitioners. The idea was to create compelling anti-Trump narratives unbound by the traditional obligations of fact-checking.

    The Trump administration began with news organizations flogging false collusion claims from anonymous sources. It ended recently with news organizations flogging a false story from a single anonymous source who did not even witness the relevant event—and was then protected until she granted her permission to acknowledge she was the source of the bogus report.

    Freeman goes on to note that the "60 Minutes" went "one step beyond simply advancing the hidden agendas of people unwilling to go on the record." Instead: "Sunday night’s attack on Gov. DeSantis didn’t even include key facts presented by witnesses who have been speaking on the record."

    I think you can still trust CBS News to report some things correctly. For example, the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Maybe the Red Sox score from last night's game.

    Anything that involves politics, nah.


  • Also, A Lot of Stuff They're Calling 'Infrastructure' That Isn't Infrastructure. Veronique de Rugy looks at an infestation: Biden’s $2.3 Trillion Infrastructure Plan Is Teeming With Cronyism.

    "A crony anti-infrastructure plan" is, sadly, the best description of the Biden administration's proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan. It's insanely expensive and unnecessary, especially coming, as it does, on top of last year's fiscal insanity.

    Over the past year, our leaders have spent $6 trillion in bailout and COVID-19 relief funds. They've driven local, state, and federal government spending up to 43.5 percent of GDP, meaning that we're already in financial trouble. Now they want to top it off with trillions more of wasteful spending, describing it as "infrastructure" spending, which arguably everyone likes. But once you look at what's in the bill, you realize that the label is mere marketing for more handouts to politicians' friends and payments for pet projects.

    I rarely tweet, but Senator Kirsten Gillibrand offered up an Orwellian definition of "infrastructure" that I couldn't resist sniping at:

    I'm waiting, Senator!


  • Without State Sponsorship of Critical Race Theory, Nobody Will Learn About Harriet Tubman! Boy, it's been a long time since I looked at Breitbart, let alone linked to it. But they have an NH-relevant story that dinged the Google News Alert: New Hampshire Businesses Fight Bill Banning Critical Race Theory.

    About 80 New Hampshire businesses and other organizations are seeking to block a bill that would ban public schools and other entities from teaching that America is a fundamentally racist nation, warning the measure would be bad for business in the state.

    The coalition sent a letter to Gov. Chris Sununu (R) and lawmakers, stating the bill would “have a chilling impact on our workplaces and on the business climate in New Hampshire,” reported New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR), which further noted the letter warned the measure, “would not only harm the ability of New Hampshire businesses to be competitive, it would severely harm the state’s image as business-friendly, since it stifles the ability of organizations who do business with the state to foster diverse workforces as they see fit.”

    But LFOD is… ah, here:

    Dan Weeks, a director at ReVision Energy, wrote at NH Business Review Tuesday the bill would continue the “whitewash” of New Hampshire and U.S. history.

    Weeks observed slavery existed in 1645 before the “Live Free or Die” state was even an independent colony.

    I'm pretty sure that nothing in the bill prevents accurate history teaching.

    Let me link (once again) to James Lindsay: A Letter Supporting a Bill to Ban Critical Race Theory. I think he does a good job refuting objections to the bill.


  • Betteridge's Law of Headlines Applies. Joel Zinberg asks the musical question at City Journal: Will We Even Need Vaccine Passports?.

    Countries worldwide have announced plans to implement vaccine passports—electronic or paper credentials that show a person has immunity to Covid-19 through either vaccination or recovery from the disease. U.S. states and private businesses seem ready to follow suit. New York State has launched the Excelsior Pass for New Yorkers to prove immunity with a machine-readable QR (“quick response”) code. Walmart will provide an app letting customers vaccinated at the store share their status. At least 17 private initiatives to provide vaccine credentials are in development.

    The goal of a passport system is to allow immunized individuals to resume business, normal activities, and travel, replacing the current restrictions imposed on everyone, regardless of infection risk. Many are concerned that passports could exacerbate existing inequities for poor people who cannot afford smartphones—or create privacy headaches for those who can. Some complain that granting special privileges to those lucky enough to gain access to vaccination is morally questionable. Though U.S. public opinion is divided on the idea, Israeli researchers believe that the country’s digital “green pass” program induced people to be vaccinated so that they can resume normal activities and that public use of the passes has helped reassure hesitant people that the shot is safe.

    The good news: the evolving vaccine rollout and imminent attainment of herd immunity may render the whole idea moot. To achieve herd immunity from Covid-19, roughly 70 percent to 75 percent of the population must be immune, whether because of past infection or vaccination. Given current numbers in both categories, we are already close to that mark.

    The whole passport idea sounds like yet another bureaucrat following the politician's syllogism: "Something must be done; this is something; therefore, this must be done."


  • Nice Guys May Finish Last, But It's Still Better To Be A Nice Guy. So, I'm a diligent Jeopardy! watcher. And after watching three episodes with Aaron Rodgers at the host podium, my take is: a very classy guy who doesn't have the spark to be a long-term replacement for Alex Trebek.

    But in case you missed it, Aaron got a good-natured zing from one of the contestants in Final Jeopardy. Karen Townsend has the story:

    A little palate cleanser of a story at the end of a long day. On Monday Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers began a two-week stint as guest host on Jeopardy!. A little fun was had at his expense during the Final round question. The two-day returning champ, Scott Shewfelt, took a not-subtle-at-all jab at Packers coach Matt LaFleur. LaFleur’s decision-making was called into question by Shewfelt, specifically in January’s NFC championship game.

    The Final round question was about Emmy lifetime achievement winner Fred Rogers. (Different spelling than the host’s last name.) Shewfelt didn’t know the answer and instead of guessing, he wrote, “Who decided to kick that field goal?” Rodgers good-naturedly played along. He chuckled and said, “That is a great question. It should be correct, but for this game today, that’s incorrect.”

    Even though he despises people like me, I have to say the best replacement host so far has been Ken Jennings.


Last Modified 2021-04-09 5:29 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-04-07

[Amazon Link]

Our Amazon Product du Jour is for those readers who need one more damned thing to worry about. Otherwise, go ahead and wreck your Iodine-deficient life!

Of course, your Iodine Crisis fears may be assuaged by that big canister of iodized salt in your pantry. The author says: Don't be! It's a scam!

Disclaimer: I have no idea whether the author, Lynne Farrow, is a quack or not.

  • Not Content With Damaging American Prosperity… the Biden Administration has global prosperity in its green-eyeshade sights. Ryan Young reviews the current battle: Janet Yellen & Corporate Taxes.

    A mammoth infrastructure bill is on the way from Congress, and policy-makers are touting a corporate-tax-rate hike to help pay for it. Treasury secretary Janet Yellen even proposed a global minimum corporate-tax rate this week. These are both bad ideas for three reasons.

    First, corporations do not pay any corporate tax — individuals do. That is because companies pass on their costs. Some of the tax is paid by consumers, who pay higher prices. Company employees pay some of the tax through lower wages. And investors’ retirement accounts pay some of the tax through lower returns.

    And to summarize the other two reasons: (2) Yellen's proposed "minimum" corporate tax rate would remove competitive pressure on high-corporate tax countries (e.g., the US, if Biden/Yellen get their way); and (3) it also provides a powerful incentives for companies to lobby for higher rates in other countries to handicap competition there.

    But Ryan's real point is: the government should tax people directly, rather than hiding an indirect tax that gets passed on opaquely to consumers, workers, and shareholders.


  • "Shoddy and Dishonest" is an Understatement. Andrew Wilford examines The Misleading Push for Corporate Tax Hikes.

    President Joe Biden's plan to spend $2 trillion on infrastructure was noteworthy not for proposing trillions of dollars in new spending—that's now par for the course in Washington—but for proposing commensurate tax hikes as well. The corporate taxes that Biden laid out are likely to be popular among Americans constantly bombarded by stories about large businesses with low tax burdens. But the increases will do real damage to the economy.

    Whenever a new story comes out about "profitable" corporations not paying taxes, it almost invariably can be traced back to the Institution on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). This is the advocacy group that launched that round of articles about Amazon paying zero federal income taxes a couple years back, and it just put out a report declaring that 55 large American corporations with "pre-tax profits" are getting away with paying no federal income tax.

    Andrew exposes the fallacies in ITEP's analysis. For a more freewheeling discussion, see Dan Mitchell, who looks at the Dishonest Tax Analysis from the New York Times based on ITEP's "shoddy and dishonest report".


  • Also Probably Causes Iodine Deficiency. Randal O'Toole looks at the environmental impact of a futuristic boondoggle: Maglev to Destroy Habitat, Climate. ("Other than that, though, it's fine!")

    A proposed maglev line between Washington and Baltimore will disrupt 1,000 acres of “parks, recreational facilities and wetlands,” according to a recently released draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the project. That’s a lot of land considering that all but nine miles of the project would be underground. While 180 acres are for a maintenance facility, the remaining acres represent a right‐of‐way that is an average of 750 feet wide.

    This potential disruption has raised the ire of the local chapter of the Audubon Society, which is opposing the plan. As I recently noted, such land disruptions will be an issue for all high‐speed rail lines, and in that analysis I was clearly being conservative in assuming a mere 80‐foot right‐of‐way. By contrast, airlines don’t need any right‐of‐way once they leave the airports.

    If you don't bemoan the birdies, you might be impressed by the dollars involved:

    The project is economically dubious as well. It is currently projected to cost $13.8 billion to $16.8 billion, or $345 million to $420 million per mile. Of course, the actual cost will probably be somewhere between $20 and $30 billion. What do we get for that?

    Currently, Amtrak’s Acela covers the route in 29 minutes at fares ranging from $19 to $44. Amtrak’s conventional trains take 37 minutes at fares ranging from $8 to $25. Buses take as little as 40 minutes at fares ranging from $2.50 to $20.

    Maglev backers promise their line will take just 15 minutes and that fares will range from $27 to $80, with an average of $60. In other words, it will cost $8 to $36 to save 14 minutes, $19 to $55 to save 22 minutes, or $25 to $60 to save 25 minutes.

    Randal speculates that maglev customers will be "bureaucrats and lobbyists" travelling on someone else's dime. Probably yours.


  • Heresy From Williamson. Kevin D asks the provocative question, going against the implicit narrative behind all the "voting rights" stories: Why Not Fewer Voters?.

    There would be more voters if we made it easier to vote, and there would be more doctors if we didn’t require a license to practice medicine. The fact that we believe unqualified doctors to be a public menace but act as though unqualified voters were just stars in the splendid constellation of democracy indicates how little real esteem we actually have for the vote, in spite of our public pieties.

    There are tradeoffs in voting, as there are in all things. Democrats prefer to minimize attention paid to voting fraud and eligibility enforcement, but even a little bit of fraud or improper voting is something that should be discouraged and, if possible, prevented. It is — spare me your sob stories — something that should be prosecuted in most cases. It is a fact that many of the things that would be useful in discouraging and preventing voting fraud would also tend to make voting somewhat more difficult for at least some part of the population. Republicans generally think that tradeoff is worth it, and Democrats generally don’t. Is there motivated reasoning at work there? Of course. But the mere presence of political self-interest does not tell us whether a policy is a good one or a bad one.

    One argument for encouraging bigger turnout is that if more eligible voters go to the polls then the outcome will more closely reflect what the average American voter wants. That sounds like a wonderful thing . . . if you haven’t met the average American voter.

    [Amazon Link]
    [Amazon Link]
    If you are getting mad at this argument, it could be you haven't read Bryan D. Caplan's The Myth of the Rational Voter and/or 10% Less Democracy by Garett Jones. Amazon links at right.


  • Maybe Brains Would Work Better For This, But… The HTML of Joy Pullmann's Federalist article has the title: If Left Will Cry 'Racist' No Matter What, Republicans Should Grow A Pair.

    The headline, however, is a little more mild: "If Democrats Will Cry ‘Racist’ No Matter What, Republicans Should Pass Much Stronger Laws."

    In March, Georgia Republicans amended their state’s election laws in a weak attempt to assuage voters disgusted with their enabling of the 2020 election circus. To punish their political opponents for requiring voter ID and creating an election season of a month long or more Democrats called up their character assassination squads.

    Democrats have been throwing every bit of pressure they can at Georgia elected officials to get their way without winning power legitimately through elections. This has included pressure from Democrats’ current and last U.S. presidents, Joe Biden and Barack Obama.

    Joy suggests, of course, that the GOP should (er) man up, ignore the lies, and wait for Democrats to start negotiating in good faith.

    She also notes Mike Lee wondering if it's time to repeal MLB's antitrust exemption. What say you, Elizabeth Warren and all you other antitrust hipsters?

    The go-to article on voting reform is (still, unfortunately) behind the National Review paywall. But check it out if you can: How to Secure Elections by the Baseball Crank himself, Dan McLaughlin.

URLs du Jour

2021-04-06

It's Infrastructure Day at Pun Salad! Please don't run over construction personnel.

  • Or. More Accurately, 'Gargantuan'. Brian Reidl at the Dispatch: Biden's Infrastructure Proposal Is a Giant Boondoggle.

    President Biden has unveiled a $2.2 trillion grab bag of liberal spending projects creatively branded as an “infrastructure” initiative. The words “invest” and “investment” may appear 160 times in the American Jobs Plan, yet its largest proposal is $400 billion for long-term care for the elderly and disabled, which—whatever its merits—has nothing to do with infrastructure. Same with the proposed billions to support community violence prevention programs, a $10 billion “Civilian Climate Corps” (duties include “advancing environmental justice”), and a proposal to eviscerate state right-to-work laws. Highways, roads, and bridges would receive just $115 billion, or 5 percent of all spending. 

    Unfortunately there's no "investment" in support of individual cranky bloggers.


  • Also, Since We're Doing Titles: a Road to Perdition. Robert Krol makes a kind-of pun, so he's in: Biden’s Infrastructure Package is a Bridge Too Far.

    The American Jobs Plan” proposed last week by the Biden administration is a very large ($2.3 trillion over eight years), ambitious and complex proposal. Much of it is also misguided and unnecessary.

    To begin with, the emphasis on job creation is odd. Doesn’t the administration remember that the unemployment rate was only 3.6% right before the pandemic? The country had experienced continued employment growth since 2010. This was even true for the manufacturing sector. In addition, wage growth among lower-wage earners had accelerated and was increasing faster than growth among high-wage earners. The U.S. labor market was not the basket case implied by the plan.

    Another flaw in the plan involves its considerable confidence in the government’s ability to control large swaths of the economy. Simply increasing funding to government agencies and programs often fails to produce the desired outcomes. Is there the manpower and technology available to implement the policies? History shows that in a large, geographically heterogeneous country the central management of big, complex programs is often very difficult.

    Especially that last paragraph. I was struck by how much the sales pitches sounded like the Five-Year Plans put out by the bad old Soviet Union. For example

    The President’s plan will create a more resilient grid, lower energy bills for middle class Americans, improve air quality and public health outcomes, and create good jobs, with a choice to join a union, on the path to achieving 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035.

    Da, comrade. You can't make a carbon-free omelet without breaking some free market eggs, понимать?


  • It's Not Arrant Corruption, Because They're Unions. Graham Piro notes that Biden's Infrastructure Plan a Boon for Unions. No foolin'.

    President Joe Biden's multitrillion-dollar infrastructure proposal includes a major union handout that would overhaul labor law in the United States.

    The White House released a fact sheet Wednesday detailing Biden's proposed $2 trillion infrastructure package that includes a call to pass the PRO Act, which is currently languishing in the Senate after passing the House. The law would overturn right-to-work laws in 27 states and expand the ability of the National Labor Relations Board to fine employers that violate employees' organizing rights.

    New Hampshire is possibly going to pass right-to-work legislation this year. Biden would overrule that.


  • Did You Notice Their Lips Were Moving? That Means… Robby Soave notes a rare surrender to truth at the White House: Biden Administration Retracts Claim That $2.25 Trillion Infrastructure Plan Would Create 19 Million Jobs.

    In pitching his $2.25 trillion infrastructure spending proposal, President Joe Biden said last week that if the plan was passed, "the economy will create 19 million jobs—good jobs, blue collar jobs, jobs that pay well" over the next 10 years.

    That's a technically accurate description of an analysis of the American Jobs Plan published by Moody's Analytics, an economic forecasting firm. But it leaves out a major caveat: Without the passage of the American Jobs Act, Moody's projects that the economy will create 16.3 million jobs in the next decade.

    Politicians try to take credit for things that would have happened anyway. It's an evergreen story.

URLs du Jour

2021-04-05

[Amazon Link]

  • Surprisingly, None Mentioning China. Mollie Hemingway offers Questions The Media Should Ask President Biden On Georgia Voting Law. Here's one:

    Q: Seeing that over the past year, almost 50 percent of small, black-owned business in America have closed for good and seeing how African Americans make up 55 percent of Atlanta, 54 percent of Savannah, and 55 percent of Augusta (where The Masters is played), does President Biden still think calling for an economic boycott and punishment by private companies on all Georgia citizens is a good idea? And will he now call for boycotts of The Masters, the Atlanta Braves, the Atlanta Falcons, and the Atlanta Hawks along with UGA & GA Tech. football? Why or why not?

    Gotcha questions, all. Perhaps Joe could take some pointers from the next item…


  • How To Bedazzle with Bullshit. At the (probably paywalled) WSJ, Andy Kessler points with admiration to the rhetorical stylings of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella: How to Answer the ‘Trap Question’. An interviewer asked the "responsibility of the corporations" on matters of "racial justice".

    Mr. Nadella isn’t CEO of a trillion-dollar company for nothing. Coolly and calmly, he explained that “the social purpose of a company is to find profitable solutions to the challenges of people and planet,” crediting Oxford economist Colin Mayer for the definition. “Driving broad economic growth is perhaps the biggest thing that a company can do,” Mr. Nadella added. “In order to have the pie distributed evenly, the pie should first grow.” Left unsaid is the pie should never stop growing.

    Mr. Nadella’s comeback was the best misdirect to the trap question I’ve ever heard. Every CEO should pay attention. Mr. Mayer’s definition of corporate purpose as finding “profitable solutions” is—shh, don’t give it away—basically the same as Milton Friedman’s “the social responsibility of business is to increase profits,” except with the crowd-pleasing word “planet” tacked on. The definition was even part of the agenda of the World Economic Forum, making it suitable for John Kerryish globalists everywhere. Write it with a Sharpie inside every CEO’s eyelids for future reference. The answer is brilliant.

    Fortunately for capitalism, I was never on the corporate executive path.


  • Frankenstein Also Criticized His Monster. Kevin D. Williamson gets a chuckle out of politicians pretending to not know what they've done in the past. Corporate Tax Breaks: Democrats Criticize Policies They Created.

    Here is a tragicomedy in three parts:

    1. Politicians enact tax credit that benefits Corporation X.
    2. Corporation X accepts tax credit.
    3. Politicians are scandalized by Corporation X’s tax filings.

    The New York Times is inviting its readers to be shocked and appalled by the fact that dozens of big companies have paid no federal business-income tax over the past three years in spite of taking in lots of money. At the top of its naughty list is Duke Energy, which made just under $8 billion over the past three years and had an effective corporate income-tax rate of . . . negative 15.5 percent. One big reason for that is green-energy subsidies of the kind proposed by the very same progressives who complain about the tax bills of companies such as Duke. Duke benefited from “bonus depreciation” arrangements that reward green-energy investments. As Duke points out in the Times report, that doesn’t actually eliminate Duke’s tax liability, but only defers it, leaving Duke with some $9 billion on its tax tab that will have to be paid at some point in the future.

    It should come as no surprise that when Uncle Stupid starts turning on the money gusher, there will be plenty of folks waiting with big buckets to catch as much as they can, by fair means or foul.


  • But Those Are Our Loopholes. George F. Will pleads for a dietary restriction: Democrats, don't pass the SALT. It's actually about Biden's bad proposal to increase the corporate income tax. And what might it take to get that to happen?

    [… I]n order to get enough House Democrats to support the foolishness of increased corporate taxation, the Biden administration might have to endorse repealing something intelligent from 2017. Republicans then imposed a $10,000 cap on deductions of state and local taxes (SALT) by individuals filing their federal income taxes. An uncapped SALT deduction would almost entirely benefit very wealthy taxpayers in high-tax states and cities, and subsidize the growth of state and local governments by somewhat reducing resistance to their taxes.

    For 90 years, the Democratic Party has been devoted to government growth, and is increasingly the party of the wealthy. Repeal of the SALT deduction cap would give those in the bottom half of income distribution a tax cut of, on average, at most $1, but an average tax cut of $23,500 for the top 1%, and $145,000 for the top 0.1%. The average middle-class family would get about $27.

    Democrats bemoan previous GOP-favored tax cuts as "giveaways to the rich" sometimes in the same breath as demanding SALT cap repeal. That's pretty amazing; this publication from the Congressional Research Service estimates that 71% of the "SALT benefit" went to taxpayers with over $200K Adjusted Gross Income in 2017.

    I assume (however) that what blue-state pols really resent is that it inhibits their ability to raise state and local taxes, since after a certain point their own taxpayers have to bear the entire burden, rather than shuffling it off to the other states.

URLs du Jour

2021-04-04

  • Happy Easter. A truly wonderful combination of beauty, cuteness, humor and (oh oh) impending bad news from Michael Ramirez.

    [Happy Easter, Kid. Also: sorry.]

    Happy Easter, kid. Also: sorry.


  • Could I Be Surprised by Joy? I'm a LINO (Lutheran in Name Only), still I was impressed with Joseph Loconte's telling of How C. S. Lewis Accepted Christianity.

    Shortly before he was admitted to Oxford University in 1916 to study English literature, C. S. Lewis, a recent convert to atheism, got into an argument with a friend about Christianity and its supernatural elements. His letters on the topic during this period reveal the spirit of the age: a disposition against religious belief. It has found many allies over the last century.

    Lewis chided his friend for not accepting “the recognized scientific account of the growth of religions.” The miraculous stories of the life of Jesus were “on exactly the same footing” as that of Adonis, Dionysius, Isis, and Loki. All religion, he wrote, was an attempt by primitive man to cope with the terrors of the natural world. Just so with Christianity: The story of the resurrection was a sublime retelling of ancient pagan myths about gods and goddesses who, by initiating the cycle of the seasons, represented the pattern of death and rebirth.

    And how's this for clickbait: you'll never guess who the friend was. And you'll never guess what happened next. Well, maybe you will. Or maybe you know already. Still, it's a pretty good story. And maybe I should start a C. S. Lewis reading project, for the benefit of my immortal soul.


  • Need Optimism? Ron Bailey's article from dead-trees Reason is out from behind the paywall: The Last Pandemic.

    "This will not be the last pandemic, nor the last global health emergency," declared WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a September 2020 report. A World in Disorder estimated that the world's governments had already spent $11 trillion (of often borrowed money) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has so far resulted in 115 million diagnosed cases and 2.6 million deaths.

    But take heart: There are good reasons to believe that the WHO director-general is wrong. The greatly speeded-up biomedical innovation provoked by the current global scourge has provided future generations with tools to keep subsequent viral invasions at bay. These include fast new vaccine production platforms, the development of better diagnostic and disease surveillance monitoring, and progress in the rapid design of therapeutics.

    Ron gives a suitable-for-laymen description of what happened vaccine-wise. And what might happen in the future. And isn't afraid to point fingers and name names at people (including himself) who got stuff wrong.

    If audio is more your thing, here is Ron's interview with Nick Gillespie.


  • You'd Think This Would Be a Given. Alden Abbott and Tracy C. Miller describe why Antitrust Law Should Focus on Consumer Welfare.

    Politicians and policy analysts have expressed concern about the growing size and impact of large digital-platform companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple. Some are advocating more aggressive antitrust enforcement or major changes to the law. Although competition policy can be improved, promoting consumer welfare should continue to guide antitrust enforcement in the United States.

    Critics claim that antitrust law, which is intended to condemn business practices that undermine competition or maintain monopolies, is being neglected as competition weakens across the economy. They claim that the failure to enforce antitrust law allows unchecked abuses — not just by digital platforms, but by powerful firms in other market segments as well.

    The problem seems to be that antitrust law is written vaguely enough so that large companies find themselves with no clear notion of what business decisions may or may not turn out to be illegal. That determination is made, often years later, because of the whims and prejudices of whatever political faction is on top in D. C.

    But if we are going to have antitrust law, the "consumer welfare" standard is probably the best practical one. Abbott and Miller argue that it "has served consumers well". Certainly, whatever the likes of Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren cook up will be worse.


  • Pun Salad Will Link to Just About Anything With 'Gutless' in the Headline. Bari Weiss's substack hosts a guest essay by Peter Savodnik: America's True Believers and Their Gutless Enablers.

    The mountain of witches is piling up. At the top of the heap is Sharon Osbourne, the Captain Underpants guy, the Bachelor host, or whatever C-list celebrity failed to condemn “Gone with the Wind” on Instagram with sufficient fervor. But by the time you read this they’ll surely be eclipsed by another faux-outrage pieced together by the microaggression-hunters poring over old text messages or yellowing screen-shots of Halloween parties past.

    Most of these disappearances won’t matter much, because the disappeared are already known. Even if their contract isn’t renewed or their agent indignantly — and very publicly — cuts ties with them, they’ll be fine. They’ll resurface.

    The people who won’t are the countless, less visible who have lost jobs, lost businesses, lost reputations, lost friends. The schlubs. The cautionary tales. Those who have been cautioned, made to comply, squeezed into the Procrustean Bed of identitarian absolutism.

    The "True Believers" in Savodnik's essay are "the children of Park Slope and Echo Park with their graphic tattoos and nut allergies and an odd inability to form complete sentences." Bad as they are, they are children, in an emotional if not chronological sense.

    The "Enablers" are worse. The adults in the room who just want them to shut up and leave them alone. Will firing this assistant professor make them go away? Fine. So the true-believing mob gets appeased.

    Until next time.


  • While We're At It, Abolish Every Government Agency Beginning with 'F'. Katherine Mangu-Ward advocates that we Abolish the FDA.

    Last year, hashtag activists were ready to #AbolishICE, in part over the deaths of about 20 immigrants in custody in 2020. Protesters called on the government to "defund the police" over more than 1,000 killings by law enforcement during the same period. Those deaths are tragic, and many could have been prevented with better policy. But they pale in comparison to the blood on the hands of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the last 12 months.

    Faced with the challenge of COVID-19, the FDA screwed up on nearly every level. When the agency did do something right, it was almost always by making exceptions to its normal policies and procedures.

    How many people does the FDA have to kill before it goes away?

False Alarm

How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet

[Amazon Link]

I know the front cover says the author's name is "Bjorn Lomborg". I'm going with Bjørn, because my knowledge of how to deal with funny characters was hard-won. And still imperfect; so I need to practice when I can.

Lomborg has been lumped in with climate-change "skeptics". That's not really accurate; he thinks climate-change is real, due to our greenhouse gas emission, and likely to cause problems in the future. He has long been off the "alarmist" train, however (as long as we're slinging simplistic, semi-invidious labels around). He updates and extends his argument in this book.

I think he clarifies the argument quite a bit with an analogy in the introduction:

Imagine a similar discussion on traffic deaths. In the United States, forty thousand people die each year in car crashes. If politicians asked scientists how to limit the number of deaths to an almost impossible target of zero, one good answer would be to set the national speed limit to three miles per hour. Nobody would die. But science is not telling us that we must have a speed limit of three miles per hour—it only informs us that if we want zero dead, one simple way to achieve that is through a nationwide, heavily enforced three-mile-per-hour speed limit. Yet, it is a political decision for all of us, to make the trade-offs between low speed limits and a connected society.

That's an important, and very generalizable, observation about social risk management. The collective "we" have decided that 30K-40K annual deaths are worth it, in order to have a convenient, flexible, vehicle-based transportation system. Sounds more than a little cold-blooded when you put it that way, doesn't it? Yet it's true.

I think this applies a lot more generally, illuminating a number of public issues: the COVID-19 response, gun control, the war on drugs, and more. But Lomborg is talking about climate change, and we'll stick to that from here on out.

Lomborg argues that holding humanity to unrealistic climate goals is equally wrong-headed, even dangerous on net. Despite the doom-saying hoopla, of which there is no shortage, most actual scientific evidence says that climate change will be managable. Not without problems aplenty, mind you. But we would be far better off to have a richer world to deal with those issues. Instead of giving in to panic, totally shutting down the fossil-fuel economy, making us all poorer.

I said "making us all poorer" above, but that's not really accurate. Yes, most of us would be worse off, but in rich countries, we'd probably muddle through. But a successful fossil-fuel shutdown would really sock it to the poorer parts of the world, dooming them to (almost certainly) eternal deprivation and early death.

All the more reason why we need to come up with a panic-free realistic approach. Lomborg first advocates a carbon tax, one set optimally. Set too high, it will wreck the overall economy. Set too low, and it won't get much carbon reduction. Set juuust right, it will discourage low-hanging-fruit emissions and incentivize shifts to renewables while letting high-value fossil-fuel uses continue. That's why we have green-eyeshade economists: to play Goldilocks.

Realistically, the whole world won't go along. Lomborg realizes this, and discusses how that changes things.

In addition to a carbon tax, Lomborg recommends directed R&D on further innovation. That's tough, because innovation is notoriously unpredictable. But energy storage is a pretty vital thing we could (in theory) get a lot better at. (So we could save up the solar/wind energy abundant on sunny/windy days, and release it as needed.) Also: nuclear energy. And if there were some way to suck CO2 out of the air economically at scale, that would be pretty neat too.

But we should also bring thoughts to bear on adaptation. If we forget about chasing unattainable temperature-increase "goals", then we'll have a richer would in order to implement various methods of dealing with increased warmth. It's likely (for example) that flooding will increase; but flood control already works in rich countries, avoiding death and mitigating economic damage. It's not cheap, but probably worth it.

And then there's geoengineering: manipulating the environment on a macro scale to increase overall albedo. Lomborg examines the various schemes, and recommends that we keep those in our back pocket in case things get really bad.

But finally, Lomberg returns to the best tool for dealing with climate change: prosperity. We need to encourage worldwide economic growth through free trade (and, I'd add, free-market capitalism). That's the magic dust that will allow us to deal with climate problems as they occuur, and provide a cleaner environment overall.

If I had a quibble, it would be with Lomborg's (relative) optimism. I get that he's advocating a path forward, but it relies on many governments doing the "right" thing. Something they've so far shown minimal interest in doing on this issue. But maybe if enough movers and shakers read this book…

URLs du Jour

2021-04-03

  • Doubling Down on Stupid. Randal O'Toole is your go-to guy to look at the choo-choo fraction of President Biden's "Let's Waste A Whole Lotta Money" proposal: Amtrak's Money-Losing Vision.

    Amtrak responded to Biden’s “American Jobs Plan,” which would give Amtrak $80 billion (presumably over several years), with a “vision to grow rail service and connect new city pairs across America.” As shown in the map below, some of those city pairs might seem to make sense, such as Dallas‐​Houston and Los Angeles‐​Las Vegas.

    [Amtraks Big Plans]

    But a lot of the cities being added to the map are so small — places like Rockland, Maine (7,500 people), Christiansburg, Virginia (25,000), and Cheyenne (76,000) — that even Amtrak lovers are skeptical. Matthew Yglesias, for example, says “Amtrak’s big idea of what to do with extra funding is to create new low‐performing extensions to places with very low demand.”

    I note that they really want to extend commuter rail up to Concord/Manchester (as does our local CongressCritter, Chris Pappas). It's a safe bet that this (and, I assume, the other "New/Enhanced" services on the map) would cost more than advertised, have less ridership than promised, and be a drain on taxpayers for years to come.


  • Joe's Lips Moved, So It's a Safe Bet… Veronique de Rugy exposes the obvious: Biden Said His Tax Hikes Would Only Affect the Rich. He Can’t Keep That Promise. She covers the shift from the campaign's "Joe Biden will not raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000. Period." to "Oops, sorry, we meant any family."

    But not only that:

    Here's another reason why Biden was never going to be able to keep his promise: He already announced his intention to increase the corporate income tax from the current 21 percent to 28 percent. The reality here is that the corporations that he says are going to send bigger checks to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) after the tax hike aren't the ones who actually shoulder this heavier tax burden.

    The best explanation I've seen on this comes from a 2004 quote by economist Stephen Entin, who wrote, "The economic burden of a tax frequently does not rest with the person or business who has the statutory liability for paying the tax to the government." That's because taxes are ultimately only paid by people.

    In this case, the burden of Biden's corporate tax-rate hike will inevitably fall on corporations' workers and shareholders (which includes almost everyone with a retirement plan), many of whom earn much less than $400,000 a year. Workers might not personally be sending more or bigger checks to the IRS, but they will still suffer higher taxation in the form of lower wages, as well as higher prices for consumer goods and services.

    The last word in Vero's column is "bunk." Probably that could go at the end of a lot of columns.


  • Wouldn't Be a Circus Without One. Madeline Osburn of the Federalist reports on the latest antics of one of the 2020 losers. Clown Show: Buttigieg 'Bikes' To Work After SUVs Drive Him Partway.

    If you ever wondered what would happen if that white, upper-class student body president, you know the one who used your student activity fees to pay for bike lanes on campus, were actually in charge of a federal bureaucracy, look no further than our Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

    CNN reporter DJ Judd shared a video that appears to show a team of Secret Service agents unloading Buttigieg’s bike from the back of an SUV, then at least two SUVs following him as he mounts the bike and rides to the White House.

    I'm sure Mayor Secretary Pete has a good excuse for this performative phoniness.


  • Speaking of phoniness, the People's Republic on our state's western border is (as Monty Python once said) not only proud about that, it's also smug about it. Hans Bader at Liberty Unyielding: Vermont limits access to COVID vaccine based on race, which is unconstitutional.

    Vermont is giving racial minorities and their families a preference in access to the COVID-19 vaccine. As the state’s governor explained on Twitter, “If you or anyone in your household identifies as Black, Indigenous, or a person of color (BIPOC), including anyone with Abenaki or other First Nations heritage, all household members who are 16 years or older can sign up to get a vaccine!”

    This is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has ruled that preferences for racial minorities are presumptively unconstitutional, and that even if minority groups have faced “societal discrimination,” that is not a reason to give them a preference. (See Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co. (1989)).

    Fun fact: According to the Census Bureau, Vermont is 94.2% white. Which is even whiter than NH.


  • New Hampshire Public Radio Looks at Vermont, and Says "Hold My Beer." Granite Grok's Steve MacDonald looks at the latest activism-posing-as-journalism from Commie Radio: Is NH's Vaccine Plan Racist?.

    New Hampshire Public Radio has yet another published piece fishing for racial division in a vacuum. But did it suck up NH Senators Shaheen and Hassan and Congresswoman Ann Kuster along the way?

    In a piece titled “Racial Disparities Persist in N.H.’s Vaccine Rollout, According to New Data,” the race pimps at NHPR drag the canal for bodies they can present as proof that the system is rigged against people of color.

    Taken in a vacuum, the data shows that people of color have received fewer doses as a percentage of their demographic representation. Using the same vacuum, this makes Democrats Jeanne Shaheen, Maggi Hassan, and Ann Kuster racists.

    Kuster got her shot in December; the Marx Sisters took the jab in January, and they are all technically members of the vulnerable age group who should have received the vaccine if they want it. But given their access to “affordable health care” why didn’t they take a hard pass so some people of color could have theirs? Talk about a PR win for team race-baiter.

    Hah. "The Marx Sisters". I love that.

    The NHPR article that Steve is going off on is her: Racial Disparities Persist in N.H.'s Vaccine Rollout, According to New Data.

    New Hampshire continues to see persistent racial disparities in its COVID-19 vaccine rollout, according to the latest data from the state health department.

    As of March 28, only about 10 percent of New Hampshire’s Black and Latino residents have received their first dose of the vaccine, compared to about 22 percent of white residents. The coverage rate for Asian American residents falls in between, at about 15 percent.

    There's also a "disparity" by sex, with women more likely to have been vaccinated (27.9% with at least one shot) than men (19.8%).

    That's way down in the article, the last three paragraphs. It doesn't fit NHPR's implicit narrative of "disparites always reveal systemic injustice."

URLs du Jour

2021-04-02

  • Eye Candy du Jour. And on Good Friday, an appropriate religious theme from Michael P. Ramirez: Satan Shoes.

    [Satan Shoes]

    [Amazon Link]
    I have no strong feelings about Lil Nas X. I don't think I've ever listened to "Old Town Road". And I have no idea if this contretemps is related in any way to "Satan's Shoes", on the Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes 2006 album "Messin' With The Blues". (Amazon link at right). The song tells the story of a young loser who takes the devil's footwear offer and has "all kinds of illicit fun". For a while. Final verse:

    Ah, people, now
    We come to the sad part of the story
    They found him face down
    In the mayor's wife's morning glories
    Yeah, he had a good time
    But it didn't last too long
    Now he's somewhere singing
    That old mournful song...

    Here endeth the Lesson.


  • Feds With Too Much Time On Their Hands. At the Federalist, Ilya Shapiro brings equal parts outrage and amusement in reporting the latest: Bureaucrats Keep Legally Harassing The Federalist Over A Twitter Joke.

    In June 2019, around the time staffers at Vox Media unionized, Ben Domenech, the publisher of this website, jokingly tweeted from his personal Twitter account: “FYI @fdrlst first one of you tries to unionize I swear I’ll send you back to the salt mine.”

    And before you could say "you don't need to make a federal case out of this", lo and behold, someone did make a federal case out of this.

    A Twitter troll named Joel Fleming, who has no connection to The Federalist, filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NRLB), claiming Ben’s tweet amounted to a violation of labor law by parent company FDRLST Media: threatening reprisal against those wishing to form a union.

    And the case is still hanging on.

    But if there's a silver lining in this foul-smelling cloud of bad behavior, it's that the Cato Institute has submitted an amicus brief on the Federalist's side. Among the credited authors are P. J. O'Rourke, Penn & Teller. Excerpt:

    This case can be resolved on the basis of one fact: Domenech’s tweet was a joke, not a threat. We know this because Domenech sent it out to more than 80,000 followers—and anyone else who might find it through retweets or other shares. That’s not the typical modus operandi for breaking federal labor law. If Domenech really wanted to punish employees of FDRLST Media, he would have done it in an email—and if he really really wanted to punish them, he would have done it in a proverbial meeting (now via Zoom?) that could have been an email.

    Why, it's almost as if the NLRB can't take a joke. Or understand a joke. Or (probably most likely) see an obvious joke as an opportunity to harass a conservative media outlet.


  • Or, as Biden Would Say, a 'Big F***ing Deal.' Kevin D. Williamson investigates (in an NRPLUS article) Biden’s ‘Infrastructure’ Scam.

    President Joe Biden is proposing a multi-trillion-dollar “infrastructure” plan that actually isn’t all that focused on infrastructure — because bullsh** is the common currency of this realm — and one of the things high on his agenda is subsidizing broadband Internet connections for areas that don’t have them. By industry estimates, about 93 percent of Americans have access to a broadband connection, and those who don’t mostly live in remote and rural areas. There are many more Americans who have access to a broadband connection but choose not to pay for one. The Biden administration complains that high-speed connections are “overpriced,” based on . . . the careful thinking and analysis that one naturally associates with Joe Biden.

    Lack of broadband connections is not, in reality, much of a national problem for the United States, and it is becoming less of a problem every year as Americans gravitate toward the metropolitan areas where the jobs and the capital are, along with the good broadband connections. But this kind of project presses all sorts of New Deal, TVA, rural-electrification buttons in Democrats of Joe Biden’s generation. Hence the slogan, “Broadband is the new electricity.” These are not super-imaginative people.

    KDW notes that bringing wider broadband coverage to (say) Coos county won't do much for the poor and unemployed there; they'll be poor and unemployed with a faster Internet connection. But it will bring the faster speeds to the "affluent, educated professionals" from Boston spending a week in their comfy Coos country homes.


  • Or, as Biden Would (Also) Say, 'So, What's Your Point?' Chris Edwards at Cato notes Biden Proposes Massive Corporate Welfare. To corporations that know how to curry favor, anyway.

    President Biden is introducing an infrastructure plan today costing $2 trillion. The plan is a combination of subsidies for corporations and subsidies for state and local governments. Both types of subsidies are unneeded and wasteful.

    Biden wants $135 billion for highways and bridges, $111 billion for water supply, $100 billion for schools, $85 billion for transit, $25 billion for airports, $17 billion for waterways and seaports, and much else. State and local governments own these assets and can fund them with their own taxes and user fees. There is no economic reason for federal subsidies for any of these assets. Indeed, federal subsidies for state and local infrastructure creates unneeded bureaucracy and misallocates resources. Obama‐era subsidies, for example, induced California to waste billions on a boondoggle high‐speed rail project.

    Even more troubling is Biden’s proposed money gusher for private‐sector infrastructure. He wants $300 billion for manufacturing, $100 billion for broadband, $100 billion for electric utilities, $174 billion for electric vehicles, $180 billion for research, and much else. Much of this spending would subsidize big corporations.

    Other than that, though, it's fine.


  • We All Live In Orwell's World Now. Charles C. W. Cooke suggests Why AOC’s Border Newspeak Should Be Ditched.

    Dimly aware that the border crisis is taking a toll on its popularity, the Democratic Party has finally resolved to do something concrete: It is going to burn the dictionary.

    Wands outstretched and shouting incantations, prominent Democrats have begun to curse our language. In a livestream performed last night, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attempted to change the meaning of the word “surge” in the hope that she might be able to magic away the news from the border. “They wanna say, ‘But what about the surge?’” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Well, first of all, just gut check, stop. Anyone who’s using the term ‘surge’ around you consciously is trying to invoke a militaristic frame.”

    I believe AOC consciously is trying to make my eyes roll clear out of my head. She came close there.


  • And I'm gonna just snip one sentence from this Instapundit post from Stephen Green, recounting another MSM COVID story trying to gin up brow-wrinkling and elevated heartrates among credulous readers.

    Listen, if we’re going to let facts stand in the way of perfectly reasonable panicmongering, then eventually people are going to stop being needlessly afraid.

    To expand on what Lester Holt said the other day ("fairness is over-rated"); the MSM also seems to think accuracy, objectivity, and accountability are over-rated.

URLs du Jour

April Fools' Day 2021

[Amazon Link]

Be careful about your web-reading today, because things might be more dishonest than they are on the other 364 days of the year.

But Google is apparently playing it straight for the second year in a row. Spoilsports.

  • Foolish Times. David Lewis Schaefer writes on Andy Ngo Unmasks the Real Threat to American Freedom. As bad as January 6 was (and it was pretty bad) it wasn't the first effort to undermine the system with mob tactics. It was just done by the Wrong People.

    More recently, a thoroughly anti-constitutional precedent was set by then-minority leader Chuck Schumer only last March, when he led a posse of about 75 members up the steps of the Supreme Court to warn recently appointed justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh that they had “released the whirlwind,” would “pay a price,” and would “not know what hit” them if they voted the “wrong” way on an abortion case. (Schumer’s act won a rare rebuke from the normally reserved Chief Justice Roberts, who denounced Schumer’s comments as “inappropriate” and “dangerous,” stressing, that “all members of the court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter.” In a proto-Trumpian response, Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman explained that his boss’s words didn’t mean what they sounded like, and denied that. Schumer was threatening or encouraging violence.)

    A decade ago, an even more direct and threatening, though ultimately (mostly) nonviolent, challenge to constitutional government was offered by Wisconsin public employee unions who invaded that state’s Capitol to protest and attempt to block Governor Scott Walker’s program of reforming public-employee contracts so as to balance the state budget without raising taxes, and also liberate public school administrations from rigid tenure rules (closely paralleled in school districts throughout the country) that prevented them from hiring teachers based on merit and adjusting their pay based on performance. Walker’s reforms even went so far as to require public employees to contribute to their health-insurance and pension costs—while still paying less for those benefits than the average Wisconsin citizen. (See Walker’s retrospective view of the “Capitol Siege,” with over 100,000 occupying the building and its surrounding square). Although nobody died in the Wisconsin protests, several legislators, both Republicans and Democrats, reported receiving death threats at the time. And one woman who emailed death threats to Republican lawmakers also pleaded guilty to making a bomb threat. Yet it would be difficult to find criticism of either Schumer’s warnings or the Wisconsin unions’ attempt to intimidate their state’s public institutions in most of the “mainstream” media.

    Our foolish times are made even more foolish by the asymmetrical treatment of issues by the media.


  • WHO's Foolin' Who? The NR editors give reason for skepticism, and cynicism: WHO Investigation into COVID-19 Origins Compromised.

    The World Health Organization’s investigation into the origins of COVID is an international scandal. The global health body has released a joint report with the Chinese government on its findings about the disease, following a WHO mission to China in February, and it only confirms the grave doubts harbored by outside observers regarding the panel’s impartiality.

    The 17 WHO-appointed investigators and 17 Chinese experts who authored the study dismiss out of hand as “extremely unlikely” the lab theory of COVID’s origin — the idea, specifically, that it leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is the highest-level-security lab in China (biosafety level four) and one known to have experimented with coronaviruses carried by bats. They instead assert that the virus most likely reached humans either directly from bats or from bats via other small mammals.

    The truth is that each of these theories is just that — a theory, unsupported yet by direct, material evidence. But the lab theory can’t be blithely dismissed, even though, incredibly enough, the WHO study treats more seriously a debunked theory pushed by the Chinese government stating that the disease originated in China when it arrived on foreign frozen-food packaging.

    You believed WHO? You fool, you.


  • Foolish Wastefulness. Eric Boehm previews the coming catastrophe: It’s Infrastructure Week. Really..

    Citing congressional sources briefed on the plan Tuesday, The New York Times reports that Biden will propose $625 billion in federal spending on traditional infrastructure items like roads, bridges, mass transit, railroads, and ports. Additional spending will be earmarked for upgrading utilities, improving power grids, and expanding rural broadband internet service. There will also be funding for some items that seem to have little to do with infrastructure, including $400 billion for "home care for the elderly and disabled," $300 billion to "revive U.S. manufacturing," and another $300 billion to provide for more affordable housing, according to The Washington Post.

    The infrastructure package will also be tied to the White House's plans for tackling climate change, including the goal of putting America on course for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. To that end, Biden will reportedly propose electrifying the entire federal government vehicle fleet.

    To pay for all this, the White House will propose raising the corporate income tax from 21 percent to 28 percent. That would generate an estimated $2.1 trillion over 10 years, but it would also reduce America's future economic growth and likely cost hundreds of thousands of jobs. When you include state-level corporate income taxes, a federal rate of 28 percent would mean American businesses would incur the highest tax rates in the developed world.

    And of course, Biden's obsession with choo-choo trains will drop (by which I mean: waste) billions on Amtrak and commuter rail.


  • Pure Foolishness. Alan Jacobs has a good, brief comparison that's not as unlikely as it sounds: Left Purity Culture.

    Like many other people, I’m not happy with the terms “woke” and “wokeness,” but I haven’t been sure what a good alternative is. Then, just the other day, as I was reading a few of the thousands of op-eds that have recently been written about Christian “purity culture,” I realized that what people typically call “woke” culture is really a different sort of purity culture, one for the secular left. Just as the messages of Christian purity culture are that you must be eternally vigilant in maintaining your purity; you must sign up to pledges of purity; you must denounce those who are impure; if you lose your purity you can never get it back, your defilement marks you forever; so — well, the parallels make themselves, don’t they. So instead of “wokeness” I will from now on refer to Left Purity Culture (LPC). I’ve altered the relevant tags for this blog accordingly. 

    It makes a lot of sense. Only downside is that few people are acquainted with Christian purity culture, so applying it to the left doesn't sting as much as it should.


  • And, Finally, Foolish Fairness. The Daily Wire caught Lester Holt saying something truly foolish. NBC News Anchor: ‘Fairness Is Overrated’.

    NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt says “fairness is overrated” and the news media no longer needs to present both sides of a given story.

    Holt, who was this week awarded the Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism from Washington State University, waxed poetic on the news media, at one point declaring that “it’s become clearer that fairness is over-rated.”

    “Before you run off and tweet that headline, let me explain a bit,” he said. “The idea that we should always give two sides equal weight and merit does not reflect the world we find ourselves in. That the sun sets in the west is a fact. Any contrary view does not deserve our time or attention.”

    I'm pretty sure if NBC News told me the sun sets in the west, I'd want to see some independent verification. Just picking at random, here's an example of NBC News "facts": Chuck Todd: The Michigan Supreme Court Did Not “Cite Any Law” In Ruling Whitmer’s Actions Unconstitutional

This Is How You Lose the Time War

[Amazon Link]

Well, gee. Nuts. Yet another "wish I liked it better" book. Yet another "it's probably me, not the book" book. Because it won both Hugo and Nebula Awards for "best novella". (See the Amazon page for other encomia.) And (in theory, even better) it won a rave from Katherine Mangu-Ward on a Reason podcast back in 2019.

And I didn't care for it at all. Couldn't get interested in the characters or their stupid problems. Didn't like the obfuscatory "look. ma, I'm writing" prose.

But here is (as far as I understand it) the story: it's the story of two shape-shifting time-travelers, agents "Red" and "Blue", who are trying to alter the various time strands so their side winds up to dominate the eventual future. This involves a lot of gory slaughter. Red and Blue leave cleverly hidden notes to each other as their paths through spacetime cross. At first, they are taunting. Then admiring. And eventually, they fall head over heels in love.

They both use "she/her" pronouns for themselves, so it would be easy to call this yet another lesbian sci-fi story. (It would be my third recent one in a row; apparently it's a required theme to get attention of influential critics?) But that's problematic, because it's not clear that Red and Blue are even human. (I didn't get a handle on that.)

To repeat: you could very well like this book very much. But I think I'm going back to the old reliables for the foreseeable future: Heinlein, Herbert, Stephenson.