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.