URLs du Jour

2021-05-31

[Amazon Link]

  • Just Until Amazon Notices… Our Eye Candy du Jour is an actual wall calendar you can buy at Amazon for $14.99. But for how long? Jeff Jacoby mourns the Death of a message. Specifically, the 1997 decision by R. J. Reynolds to send Joe Camel to the ash tray of history.

    Whatever you think of the product he was created to sell, Joe Camel - like all advertisements and commercial symbols — was a message. He was an exercise of free speech. He was the expression of an opinion — an opinion agreeable to some, disagreeable to others, but widely held and unmistakably real. "Joe Camel" is no less filled with meaning — and no less entitled to a stall in the marketplace of ideas — than "Look for the union label" or "Heather has Two Mommies" or "I want to build a bridge to the 21st century." The fact that it is not in people's best interest to smoke is irrelevant to the question of free speech. It is not in people's best interest — many would argue — to join labor unions, live as lesbians, or vote for Bill Clinton. Should messages promoting those choices be silenced by the government, too?

    It is anchored in the bedrock of American freedom that the state does not decide which views may be heard. The Bill of Rights does not command the government to stifle erroneous messages. It commands the government to "make no law . . . abridging freedom of speech."

    When Uncle Stupid decides there's a "public health" exception to the Bill of Rights, that's a pretty big hole to rip in the Constitution. Have things gotten better since 1997, or worse?


  • You Might Want To Bookmark This. Greg Lukianoff provides Answers to 12 Bad Anti-Free Speech Arguments: Featuring That XKCD Cartoon Everyone Likes to Quote!. Here's number one:

    Assertion: Free speech was created under the false notion that words and violence are distinct, but we now know that certain speech is more akin to violence.

    Answer: Speech equals violence isn’t a new idea. It’s a very old—and very bad—idea.

    On campus, I often run into people—not only students, but professors—who seem to think they’re the first to notice that the speech/violence distinction is a social construct. They conclude that this means it’s an arbitrary distinction—and that, since it’s arbitrary, the line can be put where they please. (Conveniently, they draw the line based on their personal views: if it’s speech that they happen to hate, then it just might be violence.)

    Ironically, the whole point of freedom of speech, from its beginning, has been to enable people to sort things out without resorting to violence.

    A quotation often attributed to Sigmund Freud (which he attributed to another writer) conveys this: “The first human being who hurled an insult instead of a stone was the founder of civilization.”

    Yes, a strong distinction between the expression of opinion and violence is a social construct, but it’s one of the best social constructs for peaceful coexistence, innovation and progress that’s ever been invented. Redefining the expression of opinion as violence is a formula for a chain reaction of endless violence, repression and regression.

    RTWT to find your favorite fallacy. I was one blogger (out of many) who was appalled by "that XKCD cartoon everyone likes to quote". I was happy to see that Lukianoff echoes some of the points in my rebuttals here and here. (The second one being a discussion of the mouseover text in the comic. Pun Salad leaves no shoddy argument unrebutted.)


  • I Don't Think The GOP Had A Lot Of Good Options. Dan McLaughlin wonders What Do We Need a January 6 Commission For?.

    Senate Republicans today blocked an independent, bipartisan commission to inquire into the January 6 Capitol riot. This will not prevent Congress from conducting its own investigation, but it will be an openly partisan probe rather than one that offers the appearance — and maybe the reality, depending who you ask — of fairness and balance. It’s worth thinking through what purposes a commission would serve.

    On the one hand, we do not need a commission to publicize the events of January 6. We do not need a commission to draw conclusions about public events (such as the actions of Donald Trump that were already the subject of a Senate impeachment trial) that contributed to the riot. As I discussed yesterday with regard to an investigation of the origins of COVID-19 and what exactly the U.S. government was funding at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, there is a common misperception, particularly among media liberals, that we should design investigations for the purposes of declaring authoritative “expert” conclusions rather than unearthing facts. A bipartisan commission’s opinions may carry weight, but they are still opinions, not scientific facts.

    The partisan aims of the Democrats are obvious. Dislike of Trump is how the tepid, aged Joe Biden managed 81 million votes. The entire setting of Trump’s months-long temper tantrum over the election was a huge gift to Democrats in keeping voters in their camp who may not be sold on the actual Democratic governing agenda, and was crucial to winning them control of the Senate on January 5. Ensuring that the midterm elections are about Trump is really the only path the Democrats have to avoiding the customary midterm woes that would (even with a sub-par Republican performance) hand both houses of Congress back to Republicans. In purely partisan terms, Republicans are better off taking the hit for a few days of killing a commission than they are in empowering one.

    Only problem is that what we'll get instead is a much more partisan "investigation", drawn out as long as possible, choreographed to come to a predetermined conclusion. Which the media will soberly report as if it were "news" instead of a campaign commercial.


  • It Would Be Nice If Some GOP Pols Could Tell The Difference. Jonah Goldberg argues for the former: Conservatism, Not Populism. But here's an anecdote I liked:

    Last week, Jonathan Swan—a reporter I have a great deal of respect for—interviewed Liz Cheney. “I will never understand the resistance, for example, to voter ID,” Cheney said. “There's a big difference between that and a president of the United States who loses an election after he tried to steal the election and refuses to concede.”

    This seems like an incandescently true statement.

    Cheney added, “Everybody should want a situation and a system where people who ought to be able to vote and have the right to vote can vote, and people who, you know, don't, shouldn't.”

    Swan wasn’t having it:

    Swan: You don’t see any linkage between Donald Trump saying the election is stolen and then Republicans in all of these state legislatures rushing to put in place these restrictive voter laws?

    Cheney: Well, I think you have to look at the specifics of each one of those efforts.

    Swan: What was the big problem in Georgia that needed to be solved by a new law? What was the big problem in Texas? What was the big problem in Florida? What was the… these laws are coming all around the states and like, what are they solving for?

    Cheney: I think you`ve got to look at each individual state law. But I think what we can all agree on -

    Swan: You can`t divorce them from the context. Come on.

    Judging by the reaction to this exchange, Liz Cheney should no longer believe in voter ID laws because Trump launched a mob at the Capitol. I just don’t see why the latter requires the former. I mean how far does this magic extend? Should France abandon voter ID requirements, too? How about Germany?

    I'm with Liz. Swan's plea for "context" is a transparent effort to divert the argument from its actual merits.


  • In Our 'Because Of Course They Did' Department. Drew Cline notes the effort to turn a bunch of Granite Staters into "Never Biden" voters: Biden administration argues that states can tax non-resident telecommuters.

    Siding with Massachusetts in a lawsuit brought by New Hampshire, the Biden administration on Wednesday told the U.S. Supreme Court that states could justify taxing non-resident telecommuters. 

    New Hampshire sued Massachusetts in October over the Bay State’s effort to collect income taxes from Granite Staters who used to cross the border for work but had to switch to telecommuting during the pandemic.

    Drew reviews the argument as presented by Acting Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar which seems to justify "taxing the incomes of all people who work for a local company, regardless of where on the planet they live,"

    I'm sure most, if not all, of the Biden policy wonks think that's a great idea.


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:19 AM EDT

Beyond

The Astonishing Story of the First Human to Leave Our Planet and Journey into Space

[Amazon Link]

I really enjoyed reading this book. I was a kind of a space geek as a kid. (Still am.) I wanted to be an astronaut. (Still do, although the chances of that are about 1 Å slim.) I devoured anything about the space program I could in Life, National Geographic, etc. In 1957, like Alan Shepard and his daughter (page 50), I watched with my dad as a bright Russian satellite flew over the Oakland, Iowa football field.

So Stephen Walker goes back and revisits those days of the early US/USSR space race. He reveals a lot of stuff we didn't know back then, mostly due to Russian secrecy, but some due to NASA's happy-face public relations. Much of the Russian-side stuff only became known after the USSR's breakup, and was released without fanfare. Walker culminates his story with a detailed account of Gagarin's one-orbit flight in April 1961, with a brief epilogue describing the fate of the book's principal characters.

Random things I learned:

You did not want to be a Russian dog sent on a space mission. Poor Laika, sent up on Sputnik 2, died of either overheating or asphyxiation. Self-destruct systems on the test Vostok flights blew up some pups. (The self-destructs were to ensure that Vostoks accidentally landing outside the USSR couldn't be grabbed by the capitalists.)

American chimps had it better, but still: Ham's suborbital flight veered off its expected path thanks to its booster running too hot. The cabin lost pressure, the capsule overshot the planned landing zone by 130 miles, and almost sank before ships came to rescue.

Gagarin's flight had its share of peril too. His orbit was higher than planned, which would spell doom for him if his braking rocket failed. His capsule didn't separate from its service module as planned.

In order to secure "official" world records for Gagarin's flight, the Soviets had to claim that he rode his capsule all the way to its landing. That was a lie; Vostoks were designed to eject their cosmonauts and they would parachute to earth separately.

The US manned spaceflight program was on life support in the early 60's. JFK's science advisor, Jerome Wiesner, more or less opposed it, and JFK himself seemed uninterested. But Gagarin's flight (and the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion) spurred his administration to "do something" to get in front of the Russkies. So after Alan Shepard's flight, JFK made his famous "before this decade is out" speech, and … well, you know what happened.

And a bunch more stuff, but I've typed enough. Walker is a fine storyteller.


Last Modified 2021-06-03 7:39 AM EDT

Pretty Ugly Pictures of the Federal Budget

(FY 2022 Version)

I haven't done this since 2011, over ten years ago. But the tools are still in place, so:

President Biden's proposed Federal budget for Fiscal Year 2022 came out last week.

Here's a graph of Federal receipts and outlays since 1977, expressed as percent of GDP, folding in Biden's proposals and predictions. Post-2020 numbers are estimates:

[In and Out]

Here's what that works out to in terms of deficit spending:

[Usually More Out]

Click on the graphs for their fullsize versions. Data is here (snipped from Table 1.2 in the "Historical Tables" document) and my Gnuplot script is here. If you'd like to see the data extended back to 1930: here's the receipt/outlays graph and here's the deficit graph.

Standard disclaimer: if you're thinking this is simple-minded, you're right. In my defense, the percent-of-GDP seems appropriate for historical comparison; it seems to be (arguably) a good measure of what we can "afford"; and, if you believe deficits "damage the economy", then it's a pretty good proxy for the level of damage.

Those innocent little squiggles do not adequately portray the fiscal difficulty we're in. If it were a feature in Gnuplot, I'd animate the graphs and set them to music, something that would convey impending doom. Simply put, Wheezy Joe Biden is proposing levels of spending and taxation unseen since World War II. (And, see below, he's proposing levels of federal debt even higher than in World War II.)

Let me recycle an observation Peter Suderman made in 2011 at Reason about Obama's proposed FY2012 budget:

In his State of the Union address last month, President Obama declared that "we have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable." He was right then, and unfortunately, he's still right: The budget proposal his administration is releasing today wouldn't do much to change the facts about our country's dismal fiscal future.

Echoing the administration's line that "the easy cuts are behind us," Politico's David Rogers says Obama's 2012 budget is "long on tough choices."  That depends on how you define "tough." Jake Tapper of ABC News gives those alleged hard choices some context: "At no point in the president's 10-year projection would the U.S. government spend less than it's taking in." By the president's own definition, then, today's budget plan isn't sustainable. 

Back then, I called this dishonest and cowardly.

Biden isn't even pretending to give lip service to fiscal sustainability. So, in that sense: congratulations, Joe. You're more honest than Obama.

Let's get some more contemporary commentary. Here's Cato's Chris Edwards: President Biden’s Proposed Budget.

The Biden budget shows federal debt held by the public rising from 100 percent of GDP in 2020 to 117 percent by 2031. We are not at war, and yet that level of debt is higher than the 31 percent reached in the Civil War, 33 percent reached in World War I, and 106 percent reached in World War II.

Regarding the budget, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said, “I believe it is a fiscally responsible program.” Let’s scale the budget figures to family size to see how off‐​base that claim is. Biden proposes to spend $7.2 trillion this year relying on $3.7 trillion in borrowing, and he proposes to push up accumulated debt from $24 trillion this year to $39 trillion by 2031. That is like a family spending $72,000 this year putting $37,000 on credit cards, and then pushing up family debt from $240,000 to $390,000 as it continues spending more than it earns. Would any financial advisor tell the family that was responsible?

Well, no, not unless the family had a fiat currency printer in the basement. That would be illegal of course. Unfortunately, what Biden proposes is totally legal.

Philip Klein at NR notes: Biden's Budget Projects U.S. Debt Will Smash World War II Record This Year.

In 2021, according to the Biden budget, the U.S. debt will reach 109.7 percent of GDP, which would blow past the previous record of 106.1 percent, just as the U.S. was coming out of World War II. It will then exceed the record every year over the next decade, reaching 117 percent of GDP by 2031.

He's got an embeddable graph, so we'll go with that, too:

What could go wrong? Well, Dan Mitchell puts it pretty succinctly (in a longer post which you should read): The Most Disturbing Takeaway from Biden’s Budget Plan

In other words, we’re looking at trillions of dollars of additional money being diverted from the productive sector of the economy and being put under the control of politicians and bureaucrats.

That does not bode well for American prosperity. Even the Congressional Budget Office recognizes this means lower living standards for our nation.

So we'll see how that works out. Not well, I fear.


Last Modified 2021-05-30 10:07 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-05-29

  • Crazy Rich Asians. A tweet summarizing a recent Forbes article (via Marginal Revolution).

    That's impressive. In a sense.


  • Don't Confuse Us With Facts. Patterico donned his green eyeshade to answer a tough question: Police Shootings Are Said to Be "Disproportionate" for Certain Groups . . . But Disproportionate to What?.

    The Washington Post databasedatabase of police shootings explains that one of the core beliefs behind the creation of the database is the “fact” that police are shooting black people (and Hispanics) at a “disproportionate” rate.

    Although half of the people shot and killed by police are White, Black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. They account for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population, but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of White Americans. Hispanic Americans are also killed by police at a disproportionate rate.

    But why does the Post define what is “disproportionate” by reference to the percentage of black (or Hispanic) Americans in the population at large? Wouldn’t it make more sense to ask what percentage of the population that poses a deadly threat to police is black or Hispanic?

    Spoiler up front:

    What if I told you that roughly 34% of unarmed victims of fatal police shootings are black — but 37% of known killers of police are black? Wouldn’t you conclude that police officers are killing unarmed black folks at a slightly lower rate than is justified by the actual threat black people are posing to police officers?

    I think you would.

    And, as you may have guessed, that is the reality in which we live . . . as I am about to show you.

    Click though for his (very detailed) analysis. He seems to be very careful to avoid obvious fallacies, and I'm pretty sure there's not an ounce of racial animus in his body.


  • … But We Can't Send Him Right Now. In a post headlined We Can Send a Man to the Moon . . . Kevin D. Williamson notes a double standard:

    I know there’s a touch of “Get off my lawn!” in these posts, but there is, I think, a radical disconnect at work in a world in which 1) the people in Washington cannot figure out how to fix roads and bridges and conduct ordinary business without sending the nation into unprecedented debt and 2) scientists are using algae protein and magic goggles to partially restore the sight of blind people.

    One of these points to a model of the world that works, and the other points to one that doesn’t.

    Not necessarily in that order.


  • I Went To College To Major In Dishonest Euphemism. George F. Will points out Today’s anti-Asian racism usually disguises itself as ‘diversity’.

    In 1862, when the nation had bigger problems, a California congressman advocated a tariff on a particular rice favored by Chinese immigrants he called people of “vile habits, impossible of assimilation” who “swarm by thousands to our shores, like the frogs of Egypt.” Today’s anti-Asian racism is usually expressed in less sulfurous language — in the progressive patois of a “culture” of “diversity.”

    Thomas Jefferson High School (TJ), a selective STEM magnet school with a national reputation for excellence, has what the school board in suburban Fairfax County, Va., considers a problem: Too many Asian American students excel on the admission test. The current TJ student body is 73 percent Asian American, 17.7 percent White, 3.3 percent Hispanic or Latino, 1 percent Black and 6 percent other. So, the board has decided to eliminate the test. Admissions will be based on a “holistic” assessment of applicants, meaning whatever admissions officials want it to mean.

    And there will be limits on the number of admissions from particular middle schools. The four that usually produce a majority of TJ admissions have higher Asian American populations than most other middle schools. A complaint by some TJ parents says: “By severely limiting the number of students who can be accepted at TJ from [these four] middle schools … future TJ classes will have a radically different racial composition, by design.”

    It's not hard to guess what TJ (and the other institutions using its methods) are really interested in teaching: the most important thing about you is your race.


  • Amtrak Delenda Est. Christian Britschgi notes its efforts to keep a wheezy technology alive: Amtrak Wants $75 Billion To Create More Money-Losing Routes.

    With "Amtrak Joe" at the helm, America's premier passenger rail service is going for broke with the release of its 15-year "Corridor Vision." The company's plan, which was published yesterday, calls for service improvements along 25 existing routes, the creation of another 39, and the expansion of service to 160 new cities across the country.

    To bring this vision into reality, the for-profit Amtrak is asking for $75 billion in new federal funding and the power to enforce the prioritization of its own passenger trains' movement on tracks owned by private freight rail companies.

    "Now is the time to invest in our country's infrastructure and future," said Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn in a press release. "New and improved rail service has the ability to change how our country moves and provides cleaner air, less traffic and a more connected country."

    Note that part of the plan is to hobble rail freight, a part of American transportation infrastructure that actually works pretty well.

URLs du Jour

2021-05-28

Our Eye Candy du Jour is Michael Ramirez's take on The Hollywood Grovel.

[The Hollywood Grovel]

Note the name of the theater and the car in the movie poster. Geez, he's good.

  • I Liked 'Anything Goes' Facebook Better. Of all the "respected" institutions that dismissed skepticism about the official COVID origin story, The WSJ is particularly brutal today about one: Facebook’s Lab-Leak About-Face.

    As long as Democratic opinion sneered at the lab-leak theory, Facebook dutifully controlled it. But ideological bubbles have a way of bursting, and the circumstantial evidence—most of which has been available for months—finally permeated the insular world of progressive public health. This prompted officials like Anthony Fauci to say more investigation is needed, while the White House issued new intelligence directives reflecting lower certainty of a natural emergence.

    Facebook acted in lockstep with the government: “In light of ongoing investigations into the origin of COVID-19 and in consultation with public health experts, we will no longer remove the claim that COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured from our apps,” it said Wednesday.

    The shift is better late than never, but note the apparent implication: While a political or scientific claim is disfavored by government authorities, Facebook will limit its reach. When government reduces its hostility toward an idea, so will Facebook.

    Of course…


  • That's Why We Have The Babylon Bee. To inform us of the latest: Facebook Now Banning Anyone Who Says Virus Wasn't Created In Wuhan Lab.

    MENLO PARK, CA—Facebook has updated its community standards today, declaring that anyone who says the COVID-19 virus wasn't developed in the lab in Wuhan will be banned for sharing fake news.

    Mark Zuckerberg, may he live forever, announced the change from his royal throne today to a group of reporters gathered in his royal throne room.

    "Hear ye, hear ye!" Zuckerberg announced. "From henceforth, anyone saying the virus wasn't created in a lab shall be banned! While previously, those who said the virus was created in a lab were hanged, this royal decree hereby reverses the order, and now, those who deny the obvious truth that it was created in a lab shall be declared anathema and sentenced to die!"

    Satire! Right?


  • Magic 8 Ball Says "Outlook Not So Good". John Osterhoudt interviews Dr. Lee Gross, an advocate of "direct primary care", who describes What Free Market Health Care Would Actually Look Like.

    If you have health insurance but no primary care physician, the process for getting a physical can be a bit complicated. Whether or not you get your health insurance through an employer, you'll probably have to find a practice in your area that is in your network. Then you'll have to find out if it's accepting new patients. You may have to wait months until the office will let you come in for a physical. You'll have to figure out if you're responsible for a co-pay. Even after the visit, you may need to cover the additional cost of any blood work or other tests, and you probably can't figure out how much you'll be billed for that ahead of time. At some point, you'll also have to decide whether it's worth the trouble to set up a tax-advantaged account to cover the unpredictable costs of this visit or any future ones.

    Or you could just find a direct primary care doctor who's accepting new patients and pay a flat monthly fee that covers all your in-office services and tests. If you need an out-of-office test or a prescription, the practice may also give you access to steep discounts compared to what it would cost with insurance.

    Were I in a different life situation, I'd be tempted to check it out. The local Direct Primary Care facility is Freedom Family Medicine of NH in North Hampton. They sound nice.


  • Maybe The Last Pun Salad Post On This Subject… Lee Edwards on Confucius Institutes: China's Trojan Horse.

    When the Left and the Right agree on something in these disputatious times, the wise man will want to know what it is. And what has brought these warring factions together, however briefly? The Confucius Institutes that dot American campuses.

    The progressive New Republic magazine and the conservative National Association of Scholars (NAS) both warn that the Institutes are not the innocent cultural centers offering Chinese language instruction they pretend to be. They are, rather, a key stratagem of China’s “soft war” against America, crafted, in the words of NAS senior researcher Rachelle Peterson, to “teach political lessons that unduly favor China.”

    Writing in the New Republic, Isaac Stone Fish referred to “an epidemic of self-censorship at U.S universities” that funnels students away from “topics likely to offend the Chinese Communist Party.” Topics like the disastrous Great Leap Forward from 1958-1962 that enforced collectivization in the towns and countryside and resulted in the deaths of 30 to 50 million Chinese.

    The web page for the Confucius Institute at UNH is still up as I type, but it's supposed to (according to NHPR Commie Radio) go away on July 30: Citing Pressure, UNH Ends Contract With China-Funded Confucius Institute


  • Funny How That Works David Harsanyi notes oddness: Suddenly, Democrats Are Offended by Reductio ad Hitlerum.

    Republican Jewish-space-laser kook Marjorie Taylor Greene offered up a nonsensical Holocaust analogy the other day, comparing vaccine passports to yellow stars worn by Jews during the Holocaust. Though Greene has problems grasping historical context, she apparently possesses the ability to induce the entire left wing to pretend they are offended by dumb Nazi analogies.

    It’s a quick turnaround. The media spent four years acting like the 2017 inauguration was akin to von Hindenburg handing power to Hitler. What am I saying? They’re still doing it. This very week you can read, for example, a Chris Cillizza piece headlined, “A majority of Republicans are living in a fantasy world built around the Big Lie.” The “Big Lie” — highly popular among Democrats (and Donald Trump) — is, of course, referring to a tactic the Nazis deployed against their political enemies. No one seemed upset when President-elect Joe Biden claimed Ted Cruz was a latter-day Goebbels spreading the “Big Lie.” If challenging the legitimacy of an election is tantamount to fascistic disinformation, Democrats have been running the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda for the past five years.

    It's an NRPLUS article. You should subscribe. (But if not, here's a NYPost link.)


  • Betteridge's Law Of Headlines Applies, Example 834 Neal McCluskey asks Should You Have to Pay for Their Truth? And to find out what he means by that:

    Suppose you have an open patch of ground in your yard and you think, “I’d like some flowers. But which ones?” Suddenly a landscaper arrives and says, “Flowers? I’m a landscaper, and the truth is you need weeds.” An assistant then takes your wallet and gives the landscaper your money, telling you, “Be happy – you just got truth from an expert.”

    Would your reaction be, “He’s an expert so he can keep the money and I should be grateful”? Or, “I didn’t ask for this, I still want flowers, and I am calling the police.”

    Most people, I suspect, would go with the latter. But a response to my recent blog post looking at the Nikole Hannah‐​Jones tenure dispute at the University of North Carolina, which highlights liberty and accountability problems when academic freedom is coupled with taxpayer funding of public universities, essentially says the right response is to let the landscaper keep your money, and be thankful for the enlightenment.

    Note the applicability to New Hampshire House Bill 544.


Last Modified 2021-05-29 9:20 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-05-27

[Amazon Link]

  • Our Amazon Product Du Jour Probably Needs An Addendum: 'Usually, We Hope'. Mediaite NYT reporters on CNN so we don't have to: Maggie Haberman Blames Trump, Pompeo for Media Dismissing Wuhan Lab.

    New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman said in a Tuesday interview with CNN’s John Berman that former President Donald Trump and his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, were partially to blame for members of the media discounting the idea that Covid-19 may have originated in a Wuhan laboratory.

    […]

    This matters,” Berman told Haberman in Tuesday’s interview. “Understanding how the coronavirus and the pandemic began matters. A lot of the discussion about the lab leak, I think, was clouded early on because there was a suggestion by some that it was somehow a Chinese weapon that caused this. That’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about a lab accident. But we’ve come a long way from people dismissing this as a conspiracy theory to a lot of people taking this seriously.”

    “We have,” Haberman replied. “Look, I do think it’s important to remember that part of the issue back when this was first being reported on and discussed back … when the pandemic had begun, then-President Trump and Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, both suggested they had seen evidence this was formed in a lab, and they also suggested it was not released on purpose, but they refused to release the evidence showing what it was. And so because of that, that made this instantly political. It was example 1000 when the Trump administration learned, when you burn your own credibility over and over again, people are not going to believe you, especially in an election year. However, that does not mean it’s not worth discussing.”

    I think it's obvious that Trump's words had major issues with coherence, logic, and reality. But you know what, Maggie? That's a pretty lousy excuse for your newspaper's failure to investigate.

    It reminds me of Forrest Gump, where Jenny's boyfriend tries to excuse his abuse: "It's just this war, and that lying son of a bitch, Johnson!"


  • [Amazon Link]
    Too Many Soldiers, Not Enough Scouts. Charles C. W. Cooke writes on the same issue: When Truth Serves Prejudice. After discussing the Strange New Respect for the lab-leak hypothesis:

    On the face of it, it is odd that it took more than a year before this entirely plausible notion elicited more than scoffs, for, in spite of the vehemence with which they have engaged, almost nobody who has been involved in that discussion has had even the slightest training in any of the disciplines that would be necessary to arrive at a meaningful answer. Why, one might ask, was someone such as the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin — a woman who couldn’t tell a pangolin from a giraffe — so extraordinarily invested in the idea that the coronavirus had come from animals? Like almost all of her fellow eye-rollers, Rubin is not a virologist or an epidemiologist or a zoologist; she is a journalist, whose only real-life experience has been in enthusiastically changing her mind.

    On closer inspection, though, the reason for this investment comes clearly into view: that, like the people who openly root for a shooter to be of a particular color or political persuasion, Rubin and Co. believe that the answer to the question, “Where did the virus originate?” is much less important than the answer to the question, “What will Americans make of the answer to the question, ‘Where did the virus originate?’” Or, put another way: What has really mattered to those who have been scornful of the “lab leak” theory was not the underlying scientific question of whether it is true, but what the people they dislike might think and say as a result of its being discovered to be true.

    I'm currently reading The Scout Mindset by Julia Galef. I recommend it to anyone, but especially people like Maggie Haberman and Jennifer Rubin.


  • In Our 'Unintentionally Revealing Headlines' Department: Kevin D. Williamson reviews the New York Times Comments on Anti-Semitism.

    Recent anti-Semitic attacks are a “gift to the Right,” says the New York Times headline.

    So: Beating up Jews is bad, but beating up Jews is super-duper bad if it hurts Democrats politically.

    I gather the headline has been "fixed" at the NYT website. But you can read the original at the Seattle Times website.


  • We're Number … Wait A Damn Minute, Number What? One of those useful state-by-state comparisons sounds tailor-made for Granite Staters to gloat about: How Much Tax is Paid Over a Lifetime.

    But guess what?

    1.New Jersey$931,698
    2.Massachusetts$827,185
    3.Connecticut$805,213
    4.D.C.$789,934
    5.New Hampshire$778,837

    [And 46 more rows, but that's where I stopped reading.]

    It's our property taxes, of course. And note the "lifetime" bit. Retired oldsters in income tax states often get breaks due to their decreased/untaxed income. But property tax just keeps hitting you, year after year.

    (There are a lot of caveats to that simple explanation. I won't bore you with them.)

    That's why I don't automatically disdain "property tax relief" proposed by NH pols.

    The problem is those pols tend to be Democrats, and their idea of "relief" winds up pouring more money into Concord. No thanks.


  • We Should Apologize To … Somebody … About John Cena. Kyle Smith notes: Celebrities will lecture America, but apologize like John Cena to China.

    It’s a pitiful thing to see a strong man cry. It’s a sickening thing to see a man body-slam himself, then twist his own arm behind his back and make himself tap out.

    Wrestler turned actor John Cena may look like the Rock, but when it comes to China he’s Pee-Wee Herman. Doing an interview for his upcoming film “F9” in Taiwan, he referred to that free and thriving democratic island, which has had a separate government since 1949, as a “country” instead of as a province of China.

    When this led to an “outcry,” meaning it displeased the Communist Party of China, alleged tough guy Cena mewled and groveled and begged for forgiveness.

    I think the only John Cena movie I've watched was The Marine back in 2007. I think I had more fun writing the blog post than I did watching the movie.


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:23 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-05-26

[Amazon Link]

  • Just To Set Your Mind At Ease. You were dying to know: is refusing to teach the 1619 Project "Cancel Culture"? The easy answer from Casey Chalk: No, Refusing To Teach The 1619 Project Isn't 'Cancel Culture'.

    Left-wing pundits and legacy media on the prowl for conservative hypocrisy have been crowing that the latest example can be found in the right’s rejection of the 1619 Project and its creator, Nikole Hannah-Jones, who was refused tenure at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where she will begin working in July.

    “Hey conservatives, this is why leftists don’t believe you care about free speech,” was the title of an op-ed by Alyssa Rosenberg at the Washington Post. The Atlantic featured same-day articles entitled “Why Conservatives Want to Cancel the 1619 Project“ and “The Cancellation of Nikole Hannah-Jones.” The Philadelphia Inquirer’s headline read: “Nikole Hannah-Jones and the secret history of the real ‘cancel culture’ on U.S. campuses.”

    Chalk makes useful distinctions, which I found largely convincing. Honest historians have no problem in teaching the whole story. Making everything revolve around race is an ironclad guarantee of that not happening.


  • Memories Longer Than A Few Days Help Honest Journalism. Specifically, the journalism of Kevin D. Williamson, who is Keeping Up with Nikole Hannah-Jones. But he has a specific reply to that “Hey conservatives, this is why leftists don’t believe you care about free speech” article from Alyssa Rosenberg:

    Alyssa, don't you dare take away Blue Bloods.


  • Continuing On The Theme… John McWhorter is one of the essayists at 1776 Unites, a site constructed to reply to "1619". He writes on "1619 Project" and Dumbing Down of America. With respect to the point I made above:

    America has always been an experiment, ever imperfect, always in rehearsal. That its beginnings 400 years ago were founded in casual bondage of other humans is appalling from our viewpoint, but should surprise no one given what was ordinary in all human societies worldwide at the time. That in this nation, slavery gradually was abolished, via a movement in which white people vigorously and crucially participated, was a kind of miracle in itself. It demonstrated that the rehearsal was a progressive one, moving ever towards justice even if never achieving its quintessence.

    The 1619 adherent rolls their eyes to hear that, as if some larger and obvious point is being missed. However, they have failed to communicate any such point that stands up to basic scrutiny and, meanwhile, it is they who miss a larger point: what social history actually is. Frankly, the 1619 vision, in pretending that the roiling, complex history of the United States can be reduced to the fate of one group of people within it, abused, oppressed, and dismissed though they were for so very long, is lazy. Constitutional history matters only in that slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person. Feminism matters only in that white feminists were racists by our standards. Economic history matters only in relation to the yield from plantations. Geopolitics matters only in terms of whether the British would have abolished slavery in America. Technology matters only in terms of the cotton gin.

    If McWhorter's essay floats your boat, you might want to cruise around that website a bit.


  • An Exception To Betteridge's Law Of Headlines? At Reason? Jacob Sullum wonders Do Anti-BDS Laws Restrict Speech?.

    Two months after the journalist Abby Martin agreed to give the main address at George Southern University's 2020 International Critical Media Literacy Conference, she was disinvited because she refused to sign a state-mandated declaration that she was not "engaged in" a "boycott of Israel" and would refrain from doing so for the duration of her contract with the university. For Martin, a harsh critic of Israel who supports the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, that pledge was untrue and unacceptable.

    It was also unconstitutional, according to a federal judge who last week allowed Martin's lawsuit against university officials to proceed. The case illustrates how the anti-BDS laws and policies that most states have adopted impinge on expressive activities that the Supreme Court has said are protected by the First Amendment.

    I'm not a fan of "pledges" either. Unlike a lot of my fellow troglodytes, I don't even like the Pledge of Allegiance.


  • Damn, Biden's Lips Moved Again! Specifically, he claimed “Every single major economist out there — left, right, and center — supported [his 'American Rescue Plan']” David Boaz rates that "pants on fire" (and Betteridge's Law of Headlines does apply). Do Economists Support the Biden Plan?.

    But it just wasn’t true, as PolitiFact and I pointed out.

    And now there’s a new data point. Harvard professor Jason Furman, chairman of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, told Bloomberg this month that the American Rescue Plan was definitely “too big for the moment,” stating: “I don’t know of any economist that was recommending something the size of what was done.”

    Furman doesn’t know of “any economist” who supported the $1.9 trillion plan. To be clear, lots of economists supported the actual Covid‐related measures in the bill regarding testing, vaccination, and relief. But Furman, Obama’s treasury secretary Lawrence H. Summers, and many other economists thought that $1.9 trillion was far too much and would have negative consequences for the economy. That’s why PolitiFact rated Biden’s repeated claim “Mostly False.” And why Greg Mankiw, Olivier Blanchard, David Henderson, John Cochrane, the vast majority of business economists, Eugene Fama, and Summers criticized the plan at the time.

    It passed (with the "help" of the entire New Hampshire congressional delegation). But laws can be repealed and this one should be.


  • USPS Delenda Est. And The Nation has a bee in its bonnet. They demand that Biden Fire Louis DeJoy!.

    OK, if you're like me, you had to ask: who is Louis DeJoy?

    Postmaster General Louis DeJoy [oh, right!-ed] took charge of the United States Postal Service less than a year ago and began a process of running it into the ground. Now, he wants to accelerate that process.

    If President Biden does not take the necessary steps to begin the process of removing DeJoy from his position, the postmaster general’s austerity agenda threatens to ruin the USPS at a point in its 246-year history when the service is every bit as essential as it has ever been.

    Yes, the Nation is actually recycling the Eric Stratton argument from Animal House, USPS has a "long tradition of existence"!

    Never did I ever expect to see such reverence for tradition at the Nation

    But "every bit as essential as it has ever been"? I'm surprised that made it by any editor or fact-checker. For example.


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:19 AM EDT

Eight Perfect Murders

[Amazon Link]

I'm pretty sure I've derided mystery novels in the past for being gimmicky. Well, this one is pretty gimmicky too. So I need to adjust my reporting criteria, I guess. Gimmicks are fine if the author can carry them off, and Peter Swanson pretty clearly does that here. (The book was one of those on the WSJ's best mysteries of last year.

The book is first-person narrated by Malcolm Kershaw, co-owner of a Boston mystery bookstore. He's visited by FBI agent Gwen Mulvey, who brings her suspicions about a number of recent deaths: they seem to be following the advice in a long-ago post Malcolm wrote for the store's blog: "Eight Perfect Murders". In which he detailed a number of fiendish fictional homicides where the perps had designed their crimes to be unsolvable. (Well, nearly. One of them is Agatha Christie's The A.B.C. Murders, which Hercule Poirot figures out despite the villain's ingenuity.)

Gwen and Malcolm are an interesting detective team. But there are little clues along the way that say Malcolm might be one of those unreliable narrators. (Not much of a spoiler. He comes clean starting around page 66. But does he come entirely clean? Maybe. Maybe not. Keep reading.)

And for that matter, what about Gwen? Are we sure Malcolm checked her FBI credentials?

It's very twisty, a lot of characters to keep track of, but I found it utterly enjoyable. A bunch of mysteries are referenced (and some spoiled) and authors are name-dropped willy-nilly. The bookstore has a cat, and quirky customers. Wintertime Boston is described, down to the slush puddles.

There's one thing that made me wince a little. I'll try to be as unspecific as I can to avoid a spoiler: at a certain point in the book, a character's parentage is revealed. It's a shocking plot twist, sure. But it's also why they taught me the term "Dickensian coincidence" way back when we read A Tale of Two Cities in ninth grade.


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:19 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-05-25

[Amazon Link]

Not much today, sorry.

  • Nothing Strange About It. Michael Graham pounces: Racist Graffiti Story Highlights NHDems' Strange Silence on Anti-Semitism. It's the sad story of State Rep Manny Espitia (D-Nashua) who tweeted:

    Then things got even uglier:

    Someone claiming to represent the group responded on the social app Telegram:

    “Anyone with a name like ‘Manny Espitia’, State Rep or not, has no moral right to throw shade at any true (White) Nationalist New Hampshirite. You have no right to be here, you’re an occupier here and the days of these types trampling on New England are coming to an end.”

    That single message, likely from out of state (“New Hampshirite?” Please.), inspired a surge of media coverage from WMUR, the AP, even Newsweek. Espitia pledged not to back down to the hate, and New Hampshire politicians from both sides of the aisle condemned the threat and defended the Nashua Democrat.

    But what nobody did was reference in any way the glaring fact that the only ethnic group singled out by these haters was…the Jews.

    A probably unworthy thought: if you are a True Believer in Fundamentally Racist America, what better way to demonstrate that belief than to… post a pile of racist/antisemitic ugliness on social media.


  • It Beats Waiting Until It's Totally Broken. Brian Riedl highlights A Modest Step Toward Entitlement Reform. (As an "entitled" oldster myself, my ears perked up.)

    But not all hope is lost. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), joined by a bipartisan coalition of senators such as Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), Todd Young (R-Indiana), Mark Warner (D-Virginia), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio)—as well as a bipartisan coalition in the House—has introduced the TRUST Act (S. 1295), which would set up a bipartisan legislative process to keep the Social Security, Medicare, and highway trust funds solvent.

    It is not an overstatement to point out that Washington’s long-term solvency and nothing less than America’s economic future is at stake. Over the next 30 years, Social Security and Medicare face a combined $100 trillion cash shortfall. This staggering shortfall is simply the amount of scheduled benefits and resulting interest costs that will exceed these programs’ incoming payroll taxes, benefit taxes, and Medicare premiums. And while some fixate on the raided Social Security trust fund, that comprises just 3 percent of the $100 trillion hole.

    Brian points out that 71 senators voted (non-bindingly) in support of this approach. (Including NH's Shaheen and Hassan).


  • What, Again? Matt Taibbi takes a look at those noble truth-seekers who just keep getting it wrong: "Fact-Checking" Takes Another Beating. The sudden transformation of the COVID lab-leak theory from a "pants on fire" lie into "well, maybe" is detailed.

    Like fact-checking itself, the “on the one hand and on the other hand” format is just a defense mechanism. These people say X, these people say Y, and because the jabbering mannequins we have reading off our teleprompters actually know jack, we’ll let the passage of time sort out the difficult bits.

    The public used to appreciate the humility of that approach, but what they get from us more often now are sanctimonious speeches about how reporters are intrepid seekers of truth who sit next to God and gobble amphetamines so they can stay awake all night defending democracy from “misinformation.” But once you get past names, dates, and whether the sky that day was blue or cloudy, the worst kind of misinformation in journalism is to be too sure about anything. That’s especially when dealing with complex technical issues, and even more especially when official sources seem invested in eliminating discussion of alternative scenarios of those issues.

    I would prefer humility.


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:18 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-05-24

[Amazon Link]

  • UNH Embarrasses Itself Again. Of course, I noticed this Instapundit item:

    And that link goes to Campus Reform, which provides more info:

    The University of New Hampshire hosted a separate supplemental graduation celebration specifically for certain racial groups and religions, as well as “LGBTQIA+” individuals.

    According to the University of New Hampshire’s Beauregard Center For Equity, Freedom and Justice website, the school hosted a celebration "honoring Students of Color, LGBTQIA+ Students, Students of Diverse Religious Faiths/Cultures/Spiritualities, Students with Disabilities, and Aspiring Ally Students who will be graduating from UNH in May 2021.”

    The link confirms that this is an accurate quote.

    I'm puzzled by the "Diverse Religious Faiths" criterion. Does UNH have an official list of the faiths that are considered to be "diverse"?

    Perhaps fortunately, the registration form doesn't ask a prospective attendee which pigeonhole(s) she/he/ze/sie/zie/ey/per/they considers herself/himself/zirself/hirself/eirself/perrself/themself to be. It (of course) asks for your pronouns. And a picture. And…

    Please share a quote that is important to you [which we will share at the celebration]. We invite you to share an inspirational quote that describes what's important to you, who you are, your experiences at UNH, and/or where you are heading. This quote can be something of your own or by another person/author/artist/singer/etc. [Please include the full name of the person who said/wrote the quote]

    Here's one I bet nobody selected: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." You know who.


  • Not A Pretty Picture, Emily. John Hinderaker presents an interesting Twitter skirmish, Senator Ted Cruz vs. MSNBC's Brian Williams. You need to click over to get the Whole Thing, what touched it off, but here's how Cruz's Twitter thread response to Williams starts off:

    Woo. And it just gets better (or, if you're an MSNBCphile, worse) from there.


  • Carrie, You Ignorant… New Hampshire Journal does a small debate, reminiscent of the old Shana Alexander/James J. Kilpatrick spats on 60 Minutes. Starting off is Carrie Sheffield with Point: Americans’ Trust in Media Is Broken; Here’s How to Fix It.

    Part of the media’s value gaps can be explained by data from Pew Research, which in 2004 surveyed more than 500 reporters and editors. It found 34 percent of those in the national media identified themselves as liberal, but only 7 percent conservative. This contrasted with the 20 percent of the general public who described themselves as liberal and 33 percent as conservative. A 2014 survey by Indiana University found that only 7.1 percent of journalists called themselves Republicans, but 28.1 percent self-identified as Democrats. Are most journalists aware of this lopsided worldview among their ranks?

    Unfortunately, Carrie's solution is "ideological diversity". Affirmative action for conservatives, essentially.

    The real solution is the defeat of activist journalism. People in charge of ostensibly "straight" news outlets can and should demand that events should be covered without bias.


  • Things Can't Get Worse? Hold My Beer. Yosef Getachew and Jonathan Walter present the Counterpoint: The Path to Restoring Journalism As a Pillar of Our Democracy. Here's where I stopped reading:

    For starters, Congress can fund journalism that puts real dollars behind local media, and community, and public media of all kinds. Funds should be targeted at preserving newsrooms and reporting jobs at local commercial and nonprofit news outlets, and investments to address the civic-information needs of communities most affected by the long-term decline of local news.

    Whoa. Hard pass, Yosef and Jonathan!

    Can you imagine anything worse than "media" that depend on government funding? Why don't you just call it Pravda?


  • Probably Also: What, When, Where, Why. Chris Stirewalt has some probably-won't-be-taken advice: Republicans Should First Ask How, Not Who.

    In an era of weak parties, low entry barriers for candidates, and savage factionalism, the priority for partisan leaders should be less about picking the right person and more about picking the right process. For Republicans, that means embracing ranked-choice voting for primary elections.

    Maine has already adopted the practice for both primary and general elections. Since 2018, voters there have been able to rank the candidates in order of their preference. When no one wins a majority in races with three or more candidates, it goes like this: If your top choice finishes last in the first round, he or she is eliminated and your vote rolls over to your second choice and so on until one candidate breaches the 50-percent line. Last year, Alaskans approved ranked-choice, multiparty primary elections. Candidates from all parties will run in one primary with the top two finishers after ranking, regardless of party, advancing to the general election.

    Later in the article, Stirewalt uses South Carolina as an example of how ranked-choice might have played out in the 2016 primary there. I'll take New Hampshire: Trump won by receiving 35.3% of the vote. The next eight (!) candidates (Kasich, Cruz, Jeb!, Little Marco, Christie, Fiorina, Carson, Gilmore) got about 63%.

    It's tough to imagine that Trump would have been the second-place choice for a lot of those non-Trump voters. If ranked-choice had been in place, we could have had a different winner.

    The downside to ranked-choice is that it strains the brains of a lot of voters, discouraging turnout. Or, viewed in a certain light, that might be a plus!


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:18 AM EDT

Consciousness Explained

[Amazon Link]

Usually books like this have subtitles. Dan, where's your subtitle?

I'm interested in the "free will" debate. Some claim free will is an illusion. I'm not too sure about that, and one of my objections has been the existence of consciousness. Is that supposed to be an illusion too? Are we actually self-deluded zombies, cruising on a deterministic path, deluded that somehow "we" are in control of our choices?

Then I noticed that I had this book on my shelf. It's thirty years old, but I couldn't remember having read it. (I have a lot of books like that.) So I decided to read it.

Or maybe I should put some sneer-quotes in there: "I" "decided" to read it. Maybe I had no choice!

Anyway, Dennett provides less of an explanation than he does an argument. He's arguing against the "Cartesian Theater" view of consciousness. Which is, essentially, the "common sense" view of our own selfhood: there's an "I" in a control room, somewhere inside our heads, sitting at the controls, taking in data from the outside world, deciding to hit various levers and buttons that produce actions: speech, movement, what have you.

Dennett points out that doesn't mesh well with current neuroscience; our brain activity is decentralized, a loose (but not too loose) cooperation between various subsystems. What we experience as "consciousness" is really the brain talking to itself. Specifically, the invention of language to communicate with others was so useful, we (under the thumb of natural selection) found it advantageous to use it to communicate with ourselves (usually unvocalized). He calls his explanation the "multiple drafts" model, appropriate for an academic: it's analogous to multiple authors writing a (more or less) coherent article for publication. The revisions might take weeks or months for the article; for our brains, it takes a few milliseconds. But still, the result is a (more or less) appropriate response to sensory inputs.

Or maybe I got this totally wrong. (See the Wikipedia page for probably a more accurate version.) I almost certainly wouldn't pass a quiz on the book; it's one of those "I looked at every page" reads. I'm able to follow along with some popular science/psychology/philosophy texts just fine, but I bounced off a lot of Dennett's prose in this case.

Part of the problem is that this book is one salvo in an ongoing discussion between cognitive scientists and philosophers. The reader is (essentially) coming in at the middle of the debate, with multitudinous references to other skirmishes. So we're only getting a 30-year-old snapshot of one side.

So it wasn't the most enjoyable read, but I came away with an improved understanding of the debate. (Or at least "I" "think" so.)


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:18 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-05-23

[Amazon Link]

  • Much Like The SALT Deduction. George Will points out the … well, I'd call it hypocrisy, but hypocrisy presumes a certain standard of virtue, and I think we're beyond even paying lip service to any sort of standards. Anyway: Biden’s EV tax credits redistribute wealth … upward.

    Presidential gravitas swamped Michigan this week when Joe Biden announced that, regarding electric vehicles (EVs), the nation was at both an “inflection point” and a “crossroads.” After he remakes the automobile industry, his speechwriting shop should be next.

    Hitherto known as “Amtrak Joe,” the president told Michiganders he is “a car guy,” which was well-received by automobile executives and autoworkers pleased by his industrial policy promoting EVs. This, like all his policies, is, he says, climate policy, and serves racial “equity” (by improving urban air quality).

    What the White House calls a “fact sheet” says Biden’s administration will “support market demand” for EVs by “driving demand” with “point-of-sale incentives” to encourage “deployment” of EVs. Translation: Subsidies, including tax credits for purchasers, will fiddle the market by lowering EV prices enough to manufacture a demand sufficient to justify manufacturing the vehicles in quantities that the administration says are vital for the planet. Biden even wants $15 billion to build 500,000 EV charging stations. When U.S. automobile sales exploded from 8 million vehicles on U.S. roads in 1920 to 23 million in 1930 without tax credits, the private sector, responding to real rather than synthetic demand, built sufficient gas stations.

    Just a something-I-noticed aside: there's a Tesla charging station in Seabrook NH, with relatively easy access from I-95.

    It's approximately 4600 crow-flies feet from the Seabrook nuclear power station.

    Assuming that a lot of the electrons going into your Tesla come from the nuke: congratulations, tree-hugger, your driving is very low-carbon.

    (Before anyone writes: yeah, I know that power stations produce AC, and the electrons used just wiggle back and forth in the connecting wires. So those Tesla-charging electrons are not "from" the nuke.)


  • But When Your Theology Must Be Advanced "By Any Means Necessary"… Bjørn Lomborg suggests The courts are no place to combat climate change.

    Despite intense climate worries, electorates have been unwilling to spend the trillions needed to cut emissions dramatically. That is why climate campaigners have increasingly pursued a new strategy: forcing climate policy through courts. Across the world, the UN now counts at least 1,550 such climate cases in 38 countries and more than a thousand just in the U.S., often filed by young people invoking a fear for their future. Unfortunately, such cases undermine democracy, harm the poor and sidetrack us from smarter ways to fix the climate.

    Since the beginning of climate negotiations, it has been hard to compel governments to make large promises and deliver on them. The UN estimated just before COVID that despite immense climate focus, the world’s actual emissions were indistinguishable from a world without climate policy.

    This is because strong climate policy is enormously expensive and delivers minuscule climate benefits. President Biden has promised to spend $500 billion annually on climate policy. Yet his much-lauded pledge to double Obama’s promised reductions, even if fully delivered and maintained throughout this century, will provide little climate benefit. Run on the standard UN climate model, Biden’s new promise will at best reduce global warming by 0.07°F by the end of the century, delivering just 2% of the global climate target.

    The lawyers will do OK, though. They'll be able to buy Teslas!


  • That Helicopter Never Flies Over My House. Arnold Kling writes on The Helicopter Drop.

    When I studied economics in graduate school, we were taught a thought-experiment called the “helicopter drop.” Suppose that GDP, the value of all goods and services produced in the economy, is $1 trillion, and the government drops $100 billion in currency out of helicopter. What happens?

    The simplest answer is to note that while the helicopter drop increases paper wealth, the economy is still producing the same amount of output. So it seems likely that when everything settles prices will be 10 percent higher than they were before the Helicopter Drop.

    This Helicopter Drop thought-experiment guides my thinking today. I often read about price increases in the economy as if they were idiosyncratic events. An odd lumber shortage here, a strange jump in used car prices there. An article about inflation might go through an entire litany of examples like this without once talking about a Helicopter Drop.

    But in 2020, the U.S. Budget deficit was 17.9 percent of GDP (source here) and in 2021 it will be 9.8 percent of GDP. According to the helicopter drop model, this should raise prices by more than 25 percent.

    Arnold notes that the Helicopter Drop model doesn't always work. At least not immediately. But at the bottom of the article, he notes the easy availability of I-Bonds. Currently returning 3.54%. Unfortunately the interest earnings are subject to Federal tax. Also unfortunately, your I-Bond purcheses are limited to $10K/year.

    And you have to trust Uncle Stupid to keep his promises.


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert was triggered by an article in The Atlantic about Vermont's Republican Governor Phil Scott. It's fairly glowing, because Scott is pretty liberal, opposed Trump, gets along with Democrats. (In Vermont, you pretty much have to.)

    LFOD comes in later in the article:

    To the extent that Democrats criticize Scott’s leadership, they do so not for the decisions he made but for the credit he’s received for the success of a small, rural state with a relatively homogeneous population. “Vermonters have been social distancing since 1791,” Cummings told me, repeating a joke that’s been going around the state. “It’s not surprising that we did well.” Vermont’s liberal politics and respect for government also gave it an advantage, Garrison Nelson, a professor emeritus at the University of Vermont, told me. “Vermonters are compliant. We’re not New Hampshire, with their ‘live free or die’ bullshit,” he cracked.

    Well, damn you, Professor Nelson. The "bullshit" was inspired by retired General John Stark. Whose nickname is The Hero of Bennington.

    That's Bennington Vermont, Prof.


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:18 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-05-22

[Amazon Link]

  • USPS Delenda Est. In her Reason Roundup, Elizabeth Nolan Brown notes a story that only Yahoo News seems to be covering: USPS Uses Facial Recognition and Other High-Tech Tools To Monitor Social Media.

    Is every federal agency a surveillance unit now? With a plethora of law enforcement and intelligence agencies deputized to monitor American communications, it seems insane to think that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) would also be enlisted for this task. But indeed it has been, as Yahoo News revealed earlier this year. Now, new details have emerged about the postal service's Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP), including the fact that the agency has been using facial recognition software from Clearview AI and has a specific program to monitor people posting about protests.

    As part of the iCOP program, postal service employees have been monitoring Americans' social media posts and sharing things they deem suspicious with law enforcement agencies. "Yet the program is much broader in scope than previously known and includes analysts who assume fake identities online, use sophisticated intelligence tools and employ facial recognition software," writes Yahoo News' Jana Winter[…]

    More at the link. If Trump was still in the White House, this would be front-page at the New York Times and WaPo, and the MSNBC/CNN/etc media would be chattering about how it's yet another sign of incipient fascism.

    But it's Biden, so ho hum.

    I'll just point out the same thing I did last month: 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.

    This time I'll add (again repeating myself): repeal the USPS monopoly, and allow private companies to deliver mail to mailboxes. And, eventually, sell off USPS assets to the highest bidders.


  • But the USPS Can't Do It Alone. ENB also points out (in yesterday's Reason Roundup): Biden Wants To Spy on American Bank Accounts.

    Biden tax plan would cull financial data on masses of law-abiding, tax-compliant Americans. In the name of catching tax dodgers, the Biden administration is seeking serious snooping rights to oversee all American bank accounts and payment apps. "Instead of promising a chicken in every pot, Biden's plan promises an auditor at every kitchen table," commented Sen. Chuck Grassley (R–Iowa).

    Under President Joe Biden's proposal, 87,000 new IRS employees would be hired and everyone could expect more scrutiny of the flow of money to and from their financial accounts.

    ENB points out that those 87,000 new employees probably won't be exclusively going after "the rich".

    Rather, it's the folks who sometimes get paid "under the table" for informal gig work—babysitting, house cleaning, a stray manual labor job here and there, sex work, fixing a few cars, peddling homemade baked goods, occasional music gigs, selling things on eBay or Etsy, and so on—who probably aren't likely to have elaborate schemes for hiding a little stray income from their checking accounts and payment apps.

    It's worth pointing out that a steep barrier to starting and running a small business is the sheer complexity of the associated tax code. With all their paeans to "small business", the pols never seem to be very interested in fixing that.


  • The Government Has Plans, Peej. Sorry About Your Plans. P.J. O’Rourke nots that America's Worst-Made Plans Come Home to Roost.

    The Biden administration has a lot of plans…

    In his first 100 days in office, President Joe Biden has already proposed “The American Rescue Plan” ($1.9 trillion), “The American Jobs Plan” ($2.3 trillion), and “The American Families Plan” ($1.8 trillion). That’s $6 trillion so far.

    These plans… Do they mean families need to be rescued from jobs or your job needs to be rescued from you or you need to be rescued from your family? I can’t quite tell…

    The Biden administration has a lot of explaining to do – as the planning continues and the $6 trillion of your money gets spent.

    Six trillion dollars is about $18,000 for every person in the U.S. Hope you weren’t planning to do anything with that 18 grand…

    I was planning on buying a used pickup truck and a new roof for the chicken coop.

    But as the poet Robert Burns said…

    The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
    Gang aft a-gley.

    (“Gang aft a-gley” being Scots dialect meaning “after taxes and inflation.”)

    Good luck to Peej's wet chicks.


  • Because Too Many Jews Live There. Next Question? Victor Davis Hanson wonders: Why Does the Left Seemingly Hate Israel?.

    With more than 3,000 rockets having been fired into Israel by Hamas recently, the Democratic Party seems paralyzed over how to respond to the latest Middle East war.

    It is not just that it fears that “The Squad,” Black Lives Matter, the shock troops of Antifa, and woke institutions such as academia and the media are now unapologetically anti-Israel. It is also terrified that anti-Israelism is becoming synonymous with rank anti-Semitism. And soon, the Democratic Party will end up as disdained as the British Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn.

    A disdained Democratic Party would be good.

    But the serious answer to VDH's question, I think: As Arnold Kling pointed out long ago, the Left is devoted to viewing things on the "oppressor-oppressed axis". And they've successfully convinced themselves that the Israelis are the oppressors, the Palestinians fitting into the "oppressed" role.

    And once you start seeing things that way, facts matter less.


  • Don't Even Think About a 'Live Free Or Die' Shirt, Kemba. Hard to believe, but Gabe Kaminsky seems to have the story correct: Boston Celtics Delete Photo Of Star Player Wearing 'Don't Tread On Me' Gadsden Flag Shirt.

    The Boston Celtics posted a picture on social media of star point guard Kemba Walker sporting a “Don’t Tread On Me” Gadsden flag shirt and then quickly deleted the image after receiving backlash on Twitter.

    The Celtics’ official Twitter account shared the picture of Walker before a game against the Washington Wizards Tuesday. When Walker was asked about the shirt, he claimed he wore it because he was a fan of the colorway and the way it looked.

    NBA reporter Jared Weiss tweeted, “Kemba Walker was asked about wearing this jacket which has a flag associated with far-right politics. His answer made it pretty apparent he has no idea what it means, saying he liked the colors and the way it looked. No message meant by it.”

    Sigh. The Gadsden flag was designed in 1775. Apparently the ideal it represents is now considered "far-right".


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:18 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-05-21

  • Our Eye Candy du Jour from Mr. Michael Ramirez:

    [I Have A Dream]

    Which reminded me of our local "woke" op-ed columnist, Robert Azzi, who gets his meandering, tedious, tendentious columns published weekly in my local paper, and others across the state. In a column published last month argung against New Hampshire House Bill 544 he opened with…

    I am so tired of white supremacists and their sympathizers trying to appropriate the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – himself once targeted by the FBI as the most dangerous man in America – to justify their embrace of white supremacist theology by using select MLK quotes out of context. Seeking to justify their denial of the existence of structural racism in order to keep the Other – primarily people of color and immigrants – out of America’s Public Square, they go on ad infinitum about the content of character being more important than the color of skin, totally misappropriating King and his humanity.

    Mr. Azzi, meet Mr. Ramirez. Please demonstrate to him his white supremacy.

    But I'm honestly puzzled by Azzi's "select MLK quotes out of context" assertion. Certainly that refers to the one in the cartoon above.

    All quotes are, in a sense, out of context. But it's hard to imagine any context that would negate MLK's earnest (and, dare I say it, profoundly American) dream. Azzi doesn't offer illumination on this score.

    But I can see why he wants to handwave it away: the various manifestations of identity politics are taking us further from MLK's dream, diligently poking us into pigeonholes of not just race, but sex, ethnicity, religion, and every other imaginable way you can divide people into the oppressed/oppressor narrative.

    That's what HB544 is trying to fight. But it's how people like Azzi make their living.


  • [Amazon Link]
    Crisis and Leviathan, 2021 Edition. Jack Butler adds the latest chapter to Robert Higgs' classic: No, Kamala Harris, the COVID Crisis Is Not an ‘Opportunity’. In response to Kamala's recent speech where she claimed, thanks to COVID: "I believe that we have a unique opportunity now to shape our nation’s future…"

    To be clear, crises can expose serious problems needing redress. But it seems so often to be the case that, whatever the crisis we end up in, the solution, for the Left, seems to be the same: pass Democrats’ bills, expand government, etc. Unsurprisingly, Harris’s speech enumerates as her preferred solutions the current policy priorities of congressional Democrats.

    Rarely is there a clever or unique solution offered in such instances; to the extent it is tailored to the problem at hand, it becomes more a matter of “what part of government should become bigger?” than “what should we do differently to prevent this from happening again?” Expanding the state and maximizing political goals are the guiding lights of this mindset, not genuine adaptation or crisis prevention.

    There also comes an addiction to the crisis mindset. It is, at least theoretically, “easier” to govern in or under the pretext of a crisis. Whatever challenges a crisis might pose, it also tends to weaken procedural and institutional barriers to action. At times, this might be necessary. But it should not be the default mode of governance. And governments should be made to relinquish the powers they accumulate during such instances, lest such powers linger into and warp ordinary life, or increase the temptation to reimagine ordinary life as itself an emergency.

    The will to exert ever-increasing power over the lives of the citizenry isn't pretty. Wheezy and Kamala have it in spades.


  • Facts are facts. Until They Aren't. Especially when they're politifacts. John Sexton notes some bet-hedging at our favorite "non-partisan" site: Politifact retracts fact-check about lab leak theory.

    When this fact-check was first published in September 2020, PolitiFact’s sources included researchers who asserted the SARS-CoV-2 virus could not have been manipulated. That assertion is now more widely disputed. For that reason, we are removing this fact-check from our database pending a more thorough review. Currently, we consider the claim to be unsupported by evidence and in dispute. The original fact-check in its entirety is preserved below for transparency and archival purposes. Read our May 2021 report for more on the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19.

    Or: That lab-leak theory could have been weaponized in 2020 to help Trump get re-elected. So we (and our brethren in social media) thought it was our political duty to debunk it.

    I don't think there have been any new COVID-origin revelations since September 2020. Just people now willing to entertain a theory that they previously dubbed a scurrilous xenophobic lie.


  • Going Full Snark on Twitter. Right here.

    Style note: Pun Salad tries to avoid saying "my Senator", preferring "my state's Senator". Federalism 101 dictates this usage: Senators represent states, not people.


  • Hope I'm This With It At Ninety. The Guardian's Hadley Freeman interviews Captain Kirk. ‘Take it easy, nothing matters in the end’: William Shatner at 90, on love, loss and Leonard Nimoy. It's funny in places, touching in others. Sample:

    … who are you, strange person talking to me from my laptop? He certainly sounds like Shatner. But Shatner turned 90 in March, and the man in front of me doesn’t look more than 60, as he bounces about in his seat, twisting to show me the view around him, with the agility of a man two decades younger. Is this actually Shatner or a celebrity lookalike? You look amazing for 90, Bill, I say cautiously.

    “Ninety?! A lie! Who told you that, CNN?”

    Yes, and every single other news outlet.

    “The press has spread this ridiculous rumour. I’m 55,” he says, and he really does look like he could be.

    But you first appeared on Star Trek 55 years ago, I say, beginning to doubt myself.

    “Oh, OK. Then I’ll admit to being 90,” he grins, enjoying my discombobulation.

    His birthday is actually tomorrow (3/22), but that's a rounding error at this point.

    He should have won an Best Actor Oscar for The Wrath of Khan. Went to Robert Duvall (Tender Mercies) instead. Robert Duvall is … pretty good too, as I recall. But still. I've watched The Wrath of Khan a dozen times, Tender Mercies once.


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:18 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-05-20

[Amazon Link]

  • Spoiler: We Are, Unsurprisingly, Number One. I'm a sucker for state-vs-state comparisons from Wallethub, even more so when the winner is correct. So here's their States with the Best & Worst Taxpayer ROI.

    Tax Day can be a painful reminder of how much we have to invest in federal, state and local governments, though many of us are unaware of exactly what they give us in return. As a result, this creates a disconnect in the minds of taxpayers between the amount of money we should fork over on Tax Day (May 17 this year) – and how much we deserve in return.

    Americans have looked at taxes with especially high scrutiny during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, 74% think the government hasn’t handled their tax dollars wisely during this crisis, according to WalletHub’s Taxpayer Survey. We do know, however, that taxpayer return on investment, or ROI, varies based where one lives. Federal income-tax rates are uniform across the nation, yet some states receive far more federal funding than others. Different states have also received vastly different amounts of COVID-19 aid.

    Federal taxes and support are only part of the story, though. Different states have dramatically different tax burdens. This begs the question of whether people in high-tax states receive superior government services. Likewise, are low-tax states more efficient or do they receive low-quality services? In short, where do taxpayers get the most and least bang for their buck?

    Ok, so the Wallethub folks don't know how to use "begs the question" correctly.

    I could (further) gripe on the methodology. A number of their "ROI" metrics are only weakly tied to the efficiency of state and local government. For example, one of their "double weight" measures is "Median Annual Household Income"; there's no reason to give the state government credit for the income of its citizenry.


  • "Life of Julia" Cut Short. Peter Suderman notes that some government agencies have a negative ROI: The Pandemic Could Have Been Over Much Sooner—If Not for the FDA.

    We will be debating the effectiveness and legality of coronavirus policies for a decade or more (one possibility is that none of those policies made much difference in any direction). But the clearest lesson from this last year or so is that the COVID-19 vaccines work, and the faster you can roll them out to the public, the sooner your pandemic will be over.

    So I think it's worth imagining an alternate timeline in which the FDA had not slowed the drug rollout at critical junctures, costing lives and allowing deep social disruptions to persist for longer than necessary.

    The decline in death in the United States tracks almost perfectly with vaccination. You can see similar correlations in other countries that have widespread vaccination, such as the U.K. and Israel, which has vaccinated even more of its population than the United States. Everywhere there is broad vaccination, deaths and hospitalizations have dropped dramatically. The way to end a pandemic is with an effective vaccine that is widely available.

    Essentially, the FDA's foot-dragging killed (conservatively) thousands of Americans.

    Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted for a commission to investigate the January 6 "insurrection". During Which (generously) four people died of various causes.

    Where's the commission to investigate the FDA?


  • But It's Not Just The FDA… Jacob Sullum notes the CDC’s overcautious experts have themselves to blame for losing public trust.

    “My promise is that CDC will continue to follow the science as our guide,” Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told senators last week. While Walensky thinks the CDC already is doing that, the agency’s history of arbitrary, dubious and ever-changing advice about COVID-19 belies her boast.

    Early in the pandemic, the CDC, together with the Food and Drug Administration, disastrously bungled the rollout of virus tests, making it impossible to curtail the spread of COVID-19 through contact tracing. Its obstruction of independently produced tests was coupled with irrationally narrow guidelines that initially recommended screening only for symptomatic travelers from China and people who had been in close contact with them.

    The CDC, which at first dismissed the idea that Americans should wear face masks in public places to curtail the spread of the coronavirus, later decided such coverings were “the most important, powerful public-health tool we have.” It even insisted that people who had been vaccinated should continue wearing face masks in many indoor and outdoor settings, both public and private.

    Which reminds me: the University Near Here is Commencing this weekend. It looks to be tons of fun:

    UNH will host a series of small commencement ceremonies over three days to recognize its 2020 and 2021 graduates. Tickets are required. Every attendee must show a valid, original vaccination card showing that the bearer is at least two weeks post their final COVID-19 vaccination or a printed copy of negative COVID test results from a test taken within 72 hours of the ceremony. Wolf Blitzer, anchor of CNN’s The Situation Room, will deliver the commencement address for both classes via prerecorded video.

    Prerecorded video? Man, I remember Wolf reporting from Kuwait during a shooting war. And now he can't even show up in front of a bunch of masked students?

    Oh, yes, they'll be masked, even if vaccinated. Despite the CDC's belated realization that vaccinated people don't need masks, it's required.


  • On The Other Hand "Big Pharma" Saved Lives. So… Kevin D. Williammson has a suggestion: Don’t Strip Intellectual-Property Rights from Vaccine-Makers.

    President Joe Biden proposes to relieve U.S. pharmaceutical companies of their intellectual-property rights relating to COVID-19 vaccines. This would be a destructive policy even if it were necessary, but it is not necessary — it is not even likely to prove beneficial for the purpose at hand, which is helping to speed the pace of global vaccinations.

    The COVID-19 epidemic has provided an unexpected acid test for any number of U.S. and global institutions. Some of those institutions, notably our Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and a host of European Union agencies, have been found wanting. Others have stepped up, from Amazon and the nation’s logistics workforce to the nimble manufacturers that redirected their resources into producing personal-protective equipment, hand sanitizer, and other emergency supplies in the early days of the epidemic. But if any institutions have come out of this horrifying episode with their prestige enhanced, it is surely the pharmaceutical companies — those hated, greedy, transnational behemoths that managed, as though miraculously, to develop three reliable and effective vaccines in a remarkably short period of time and then to bring hundreds of millions of doses to market.

    Two of those vaccines, from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, employed messenger-RNA technology that had never been deployed in a vaccine in general use. It wasn’t a dramatic “let’s see if this works!” moon shot — it was a quiet, confident “We got this,” which is exactly what was needed. To the extent that life in the United States is getting back to normal, we have the pharmaceutical companies to thank. But, happily, they don’t have to settle for our thanks: They are getting paid.

    Naturally, they must be punished.

    Naturally.

    That article's in the current issue of NR, so I assume it's paywalled. You should subscribe and read the whole thing.


  • But It's Not Just Covid… There are bad policies in play all over. Veronique de Rugy skewers one of 'em: Biden's Family Leave Plan Is a Permanent Burden for a Temporary Problem.

    If you're a politician peddling big new government programs for which there is little need but hefty price tags, you need a clever marketing strategy. At the least, your sales pitch could use a decent soundbite. Such marketing is what the Biden administration with its friends in Congress and the media are doing when insisting that the drop in women's labor force participation during the pandemic requires implementing a policy of federal paid family leave.

    Don't buy it.

    First, temporary problems should never be addressed with permanent government expansions. Women have dramatically fallen out of the labor force, and unemployment rates have skyrocketed because of a once-in-a-century pandemic followed by state and local governments locking down the economy. The reality, fortunately, is that this virus will soon be in the rearview mirror, and the economy is now quickly reopening. Once labor unions agree to let K-12 public schools reopen five days a week in the fall, all should be back to normal. As such, there's no reason to use a temporary hardship to saddle taxpayers with a permanently bad deal.

    There are better and less expensive options. (Vero mentions: "Two such changes would be to eliminate occupational licensing for childcare workers and to let employees be paid in the form of additional leave time for their overtime work.")


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:18 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-05-19

[Amazon Link]

  • Least Surprising News du Jour. Robby Soave says … well, for some reason the title of an old Elton John song is stuck in my head: Catherine Lhamon, Obama’s Title IX Enforcer, Just Got Her Old Job Back.

    From 2013 to 2017, the task of enforcing Title IX—the federal statute that prohibits sex and gender-based discrimination in public education—fell to Catherine Lhamon, who served as assistant secretary for civil rights within President Barack Obama's Education Department.

    Continuing the work of her predecessors, Lhamon's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) compelled colleges and universities to adopt sexual misconduct procedures that violated the due process and free speech rights of accused students and professors. Under her authority, the federal government pressured schools to adopt the preponderance-of-the-evidence standard, discourage attorneys from becoming involved, and move toward an adjudication model that relied upon the testimony of a single campus bureaucrat vested with investigative powers. When Betsy DeVos became secretary of education under President Donald Trump, she swiftly moved to reverse the agency's Title IX guidance and restore basic fairness to these proceedings.

    Biden was one of the driving forces behind that dreadful policy, in fact he came to the University Near Here in 2011 to announce its imposition.


  • A Well-Deserved Victory Lap taken by Jim Geraghty: The Taboo On the Coronavirus Lab-Leak Theory Lifts.

    Some of us are COVID-origin hipsters, I guess; we were into the lab-leak theory before it went mainstream.

    I’m glad Donald G. McNeil Jr., the prize-winning former science reporter for the New York Times, has concluded that, “the argument that [SARS-CoV-2] could have leaked out of the Wuhan Institute of Virology or a sister lab in Wuhan has become considerably stronger than it was a year ago, when the screaming was so loud that it drowned out serious discussion.”

    I’m glad that 18 scientists have written to Science magazine that, “We must take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spillovers seriously until we have sufficient data.”

    I’m glad that the Washington Post editorial board declared yesterday, “If the laboratory leak theory is wrong, China could easily clarify the situation by being more open and transparent. Instead, it acts as if there is something to hide.”

    I’m even sort of glad that Matt Yglesias saluted New York magazine, declaring that publication “brought the lab leak hypothesis into the mainstream,” because he acknowledges “the insta-consensus on Twitter and among media fact-check columnists never reflected a real consensus among practicing scientists who seem to me to mostly just really not know.”

    The only question is why did it take so long. Hypothesis: acknowledging the lab-leak hypothesis would be seen as aiding Xenophobic Team Orange. With that factor gone,…

    Here's another bit to keep in mind when you have the urge to trust the young-adult website Vox:

    Finally, let’s observe how conventional wisdom gets stealth-edited. Back on April 6, 2020, I noticed that Vox assured us, “The emergence of the virus in the same city as China’s only level 4 biosafety lab, it turns out, is pure coincidence.”

    Sometime in the past year, that sentence was changed to “The emergence of the virus in the same city as China’s only level 4 biosafety lab, it turns out, appears to be pure coincidence.”

    Someone’s hedging their bets.

    I pinged around the Internet Wayback Machine and verified that (indeed) the language was changed without notice, probably by Winston Smith. Don't trust Vox.


  • If Not More So. John McWhorter claims Today's Elect Left Is As Anti-science As Today's Right.

    Watching the ouster of Liz Cheney, many of us marvel that so many of those serious adults in the Republican Party sincerely believe that the last Presidential election was stolen, or at least are willing to put up such a cast-iron front of pretending to.

    The mendacity, the numbness to truth, is especially appalling coming along with the denial of science in their positions on climate change and so much else. The Republicans embrace The Big Lie, and to many it’s symptomatic of their being America’s main civic problem.

    However, future historians will not see it that way. We live in an era of flabbergasting, shameless lie-mongering on both sides of the political aisle. On the left, this is especially clear in how baldly antiscientific the Elect left is, which is part of why their penchant for labelling their opponents “racists” is so dire – they make the rest of us pretend not to value science along with them.

    It isn’t always clear how antithetical to scientific reasoning this fashionable “antiracist” thinking is. Its adherents express themselves with a handy kit of 20 or so fancy words, often with very particular meanings (equity, social justice), often have PhDs, and are culturally associated with enclaves of the educated such as universities, college towns, and cafes.

    Read The Whole Thing, of course.


  • For Example. Illustrating the previous item is John Tierney at the NYPost, who describes How Facebook uses 'fact-checking' to suppress scientific truth.

    At the end of a recent 800-meter race in Oregon, a high-school runner named Maggie Williams got dizzy, passed out and landed face-first just beyond the finish line. She and her coach blamed her collapse on a deficit of oxygen due to the mask she’d been forced to wear, and state officials responded to the public outcry by easing their requirements for masks during athletic events.

    But long before the pandemic began, scientists had repeatedly found that wearing a mask could lead to oxygen deprivation. Why had this risk been ignored?

    One reason is that a new breed of censors has been stifling scientific debate about masks on social-media platforms. When Scott Atlas, a member of the Trump White House’s coronavirus task force, questioned the efficacy of masks last year, Twitter removed his tweet. When eminent scientists from Stanford and Harvard recently told Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that children should not be forced to wear masks, YouTube removed their video discussion from its platform. These acts of censorship were widely denounced, but the social-media science police remain undeterred, as I discovered when I recently wrote about the harms to children from wearing masks.

    Facebook promptly slapped a label on the article: “Partly False Information. Checked by independent fact-checkers.” City Journal appealed the ruling, a process that turned out to be both futile and revealing. Facebook refused to remove the label, which still appears whenever the article is shared, but at least we got an inside look at the tactics that social-media companies and progressive groups use to distort science and public policy.

    To repeat: I don't think the hipster antitrusters should break up Facebook into a million tiny pieces and bury them in the desert.

    On a scale of 1 to 10 of sadness, I'd be at approximately a "2" if that happened.


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:18 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-05-18

  • Be Disgusted Or Amused, Your Call. Our Eye Candy du Jour is an image from Dan Mitchell, one of the five in Statism in Five (More) Images.

    [Government Warning]

    Original seems to be from Liberty Maniacs, a place you can buy stuff. Click the image to buy the poster (12x18 or 24x36, frame option available). Or a sticker. Or a T-shirt. I do not get a cut.

    Back in 2012, I composed my own GOVERNMENT WARNING, based on the mandated one I (probably too often) see on adult beverage containers:

    (1) Government has been shown to be a significant risk to your life, liberty, property, and privacy. (2) Over-reliance on government has been determined to reduce your self-worth and self-responsibility. (3) Expecting equitable, wise, or effective behavior from government has a high probability of leading to disappointment or even depression. (4) Government can, and does, get away with doing stuff that would land you in jail. (5) Over-exposure to government employees can result in a significant loss of intelligence and can cause irrational behavior.

    Not as good as the Maniacs', but I still like it.


  • Speaking Of Warnings… Chris Edwards at Cato has a thought I've had myself about Taxes and Fair Shares.

    President Joe Biden said that the richest Americans should “start paying their fair share” of taxes and that his proposed tax increases would ensure that the “wealthiest 1% … just pay their fair share.”

    Senator Elizabeth Warren wants to make “changes to our rigged tax code so that the wealthy pay their fair share.”

    Senator Bernie Sanders wants to make sure that the “wealthiest people … begin to pay their fair share of taxes.”

    All those quotes from the past few weeks. Edwards looks at the most recent CBO data:

    The share of federal taxes paid by the top 1 percent increased from 14.1 percent in 1979 to 25.3 percent in 2017. The share paid by the overall top quintile (the 1 percent group plus the 81st to 99th percentile group) increased from 55.1 percent in 1979 to 69.2 percent in 2017. The share paid by the other four‐fifths of households has fallen substantially.

    He wonders:

    For reporters, an obvious follow‐up question when politicians say that high earners are not paying their fair share is: “How high do the top shares need to rise before they are fair?”

    I've never seen a reporter ask that question. I'd like to.

    For that matter, whenever a politician tweets something like this:

    … Twitter should automatically append a fact check: "Senator Shaheen has never specified what she would consider a 'fair share'. She has never demonstrated that she knows what the 'wealthy' currently pay in Federal taxes. Also, her use of 'contribute' falsely implies a voluntary action. She relies on your ignorance and your susceptibility to vague nice-sounding slogans."


  • Fact Check: True. David Harsanyi probably isn't gonna get an AP gig anytime soon: Associated Press, Hamas Propagandists.

    As more than 1,500 Hamas rockets were flying toward Israeli cities with the express purpose of murdering civilians, CNN could spare only around four minutes — in total — to cover the topic during an entire week of prime time. Typically, it’s only when the Jewish state begins defending itself that the story gets any real traction.

    And, needless to say, the focus got intense after Israel destroyed a twelve-story high-rise building in Gaza that housed foreign press outlets, including the Associated Press. Israel claims that al-Jalaa Tower was home to Hamas military-intelligence assets. It called ahead to warn those inside, so, fortunately, no journalist was killed.

    AP CEO Gary Pruitt said that his organization “had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building,” adding, “This is something we actively check to the best of our ability. We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk.”

    This is nonsense. Pruitt knowingly puts journalists at risk every day he sends them to places such as Gaza, where the ruling regime wages war behind civilians it uses as shields. But how did Pruitt “actively” check? Did he ask Hamas? Did he call the landlord? Did he ring everyone’s bell? And how could we trust that a media outlet that is unable to track down a single Hamas militant shooting Qassam rockets — from dense civilian areas right near its offices — would be able to figure out who was in their building, anyway?

    Hm. Probably wouldn't bother applying at CNN either, David.

    The story goes on to describe AP's history of failing to report Hamas activity, sometimes literally occurring under their reporters' noses.


  • And In Our "Least Surprising News Du Jour" Department… Robby Soave at Reason: Some Officials Want To Keep Mandating Masks, Despite the CDC Guidance.

    For the duration of the pandemic, Team Blue has obeyed a simple refrain—one reinforced ad nauseam by Democratic politicians, the mainstream media, and the country's technocratic elite: Follow the Science and Listen to the Experts.

    In liberal enclaves like Manhattan and D.C., compliance with the extremely risk-averse recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been nearly universal. Out of an abundance of caution, and in deference to people like White House coronavirus advisor Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, many left-leaning people have worn masks, even while alone outdoors.

    But last week, the CDC abruptly reversed course. While Walensky had up until recently warned of "impending doom" if people did not continue to practice aggressive masking and social distancing, the government's new position is that the vaccinated can go back to normal. People who are fully vaccinated do not need to worry about getting sick, and are extremely unlikely to contract COVID-19 and spread it to someone else. For them, the pandemic is over.

    Going to Hannaford and Portsmouth Public Library today, where (apparently) masking is still required. Sigh. I'm not sure I need anything at Walmart, but I'll probably go in there too, just so I can not wear a mask.


Last Modified 2021-05-18 9:05 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-05-17

  • Do Lutherans Count? Jesse Walker's impressive print-Reason article is now available to non-subscribers: Cult Country. And it's the source of our Eye Candy du Jour, the "The official roadmap to understanding the Great Awakening. A timeline of Hidden History from 2018 to Atlantis.":

    [Official Roadmap]

    Note: this is self-described as an official roadmap. Do not accept unofficial roadmaps! As always: click for a big version (on Reddit).

    Jesse's article is an interesting and insightful look at the history and treatment of American "cults". For example, the Shakers. I've been to Canterbury Shaker Village north of Concord, and it's all staid and proper now, but there are scurrilous rumors…


  • A Suggestion That Won't Be Taken, But… Oh yeah, "Tax Day". Out of habit, I did things for April 15, but today's official. Ross Marchand has a good suggestion: This Tax Day, Lower Rates and Simplify the Code.

    Even though April 15 has come and gone, Tax Day is finally here. And now, more than three years after the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the vast majority of Americans continue to reap the economic benefits of tax reform. Estimates suggest 90 percent of taxpayers got a break on their taxes. Reduced business tax rates resulted in increased hiring, higher wages, lower prices, and businesses relocating back to the U.S.

    However, not all the news is good for the estimated 150 million taxpayers across the country. A recent report suggests preparation and filing costs remain stubbornly high despite the simplification of the tax code and ease and generosity of the standard deduction. And high debt and reckless tax hike proposals threaten to drown taxpayers in an avalanche of liabilities. Lawmakers should reject these failed policies and commit to the increased simplification of the tax code.

    Unfortunately, the tax code is a beloved tool of social engineers on both left and right to encourage/discourage favored/disfavored behavior. Don't see that changing in my lifetime. Yours either, probably.


  • It Ain’t What You Don’t Know That Gets You Into Trouble. It’s What You Know for Sure That Just Ain’t So. Michael Huemer analyzes The Gender Pay Gap & Empirical Facts. (He leads with that quote, often falsely attributed) to Mark Twain.

    In the case of feminism, there is a factual question about how much women in U.S. society are disadvantaged due to sexism or “patriarchy”. That question turns on lots and lots of more specific questions. Feminists would cite a multitude of different ways that women are disadvantaged, allegedly due to sexism. It’s impossible to examine all of them.

    […]

    Let’s just consider one example of the patriarchy. Perhaps the most famous example of the rampant, sexist bias in our society is the gender pay gap. Everybody has heard the statistic that women in the U.S. earn 79 cents for every dollar earned by men. (https://money.cnn.com/2015/04/13/news/economy/equal-pay-day-2015/) (The figure has varied over the years, generally getting smaller.)

    As Huemer (exhaustively) points out: that just ain't so. No matter how many New Hampshire senators may claim it to be true.


  • I Don't Care What Patrick Swayze Said, Pain Hurts. Jeffrey A. Singer looks at the recent opioid OD numbers out of the People's Republic: In Massachusetts, as Elsewhere, It's The Prohibition, Not The Prescriptions.

    Earlier this month, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health released Data Brief: Opioid‐Related Overdose Deaths Among Massachusetts Residents. The report found that opioid‐related overdose deaths remained essentially unchanged at roughly 2,000 per year since 2016. From 2001 thru 2010 the annual overdose rate was relatively stable and then began to accelerate in 2011. (Figure 1 and Figure 2 of the Data Brief).

    […]

    As with other states, the opioid dispensing rate per 100 persons has come down dramatically over time. Nationally, the overall rate dropped by roughly 43 percent, to 46.7 per 100 persons in 2019, from its peak of 81.2 per 100 persons in 2012. In Massachusetts, prescription opioids dispensed per 100 persons peaked in 2009 at 68.9 per 100 persons and dropped by 49 percent to 35.4 per 100 persons in 2019. From 2014 thru 2019 alone, the rate in the Commonwealth dropped 41 percent, from 59.6 to 35.4 per 100 persons.

    For those "experts" who expected that drastic cutbacks in opioid prescriptions would bring down the OD death rate: it did not. Now what, geniuses? Anyone up for admitting that you were wrong?


  • In Our "Of Course She Does" Department… Andrew Stiles reports the least surprising news of the day: Kamala Harris Keeps Enemies List of Journalists Who Don't 'Appreciate Her Life Experience'.

    Vice President Kamala Harris keeps a list of reporters and other political types who might be racist, according to a profile published in the Atlantic on Monday.

    "The vice president and her team tend to dismiss reporters. Trying to get her to take a few questions after events is treated as an act of impish aggression," writes Edward-Isaac Dovere. "And Harris herself tracks political players and reporters whom she thinks don't fully understand her or appreciate her life experience."

    Pun Salad wants to know: can you ask to be put on that list?

Moonflower Murders

[Amazon Link]

I liked Anthony Horowitz's previous book, The Sentence is Death. It was an unconventionally tricky (the protagonist named "Anthony Horowitz") good read. This one, not so much.

Although it is tricky. The amateur detective here is Susan Ryeland, retired from her gig at a publishing house where she edited mysteries. (Which apparently ended badly, this is the second "Susan Ryeland" book Horowitz has written.) These days she manages a hotel on Crete with her boyfriend. It's a lot of work for a hotel on the edge of ruin.

So she's up for a change, and it's provided by the Trehernes, owner of a (much fancier and more expensive) hotel back in England. It was the scene of a gruesome murder, apparently committed by a Romanian immigrant ex-criminal working there. He confessed! Case closed!

Not so fast. It turns out that mystery writer Alan Conway visited the hotel after the murder. And wrote a novel afterward, Atticus Pünd Takes the Case, with loose connections to the story of the crime.

And then (stay with me here), the Treherne's daughter, Cecily read Conway's book. And was immediately convinced that the Romanian had been unjustly accused and imprisoned.

And then Cecily went missing.

Why are the Trehernes coming to see Susan? Well, Alan Conway is dead (previous book, I guess). But Susan edited the book in question, in a contentious relationship with Conway. Could she use her editorial insight and investigative skills to see if she could find the actual murderer and also determine what happened to Cecily?

What follows is a pretty standard 357-page whodunit with a large cast of potential suspects, some hostile, some obviously lying, one who tries to scare Susan off by dropping a large concrete owl on her head from a rooftop.

The tricky bit is that in the middle of that 357 pages is the complete (224 page) text of Atticus Pünd Takes the Case. Including the cover! That book is more in the style of Agatha Christie's Poirot mysteries, a brilliant immigrant (German, not Belgian) solving intricately-plotted crimes with (yes) a host of likely suspects.

And both books have the "I suppose you're wondering why I gathered you all here" scene where the characters are all assembled and the detective reveals the truth!

Not really my cup of tea, I like things a little more hard-boiled. Also the multiplicity of characters in both books seems designed to confuse. (Or maybe I'm getting too old to keep them straight.) But I was impressed with the detective work.


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:17 AM EDT

The Cult of Smart

How Our Broken Education System Perpetuates Social Injustice

[Amazon Link]

Last week on Bari Weiss's Substack I noticed:

Now, California’s Department of Education has put forward a new framework for changing the way math will be taught in the state. The proposal is more than 800 pages, but what you need to know is that it embraces a “justice-oriented perspective” and “rejects the ideas of natural gifts and talents.” It does this by doing away with gifted programs, discouraging algebra for eighth graders and calculus for high schoolers.

The bit I bolded stuck out because I was in the middle of reading The Cult of Smart by Fredrik de Boer. Who explicitly embraces the idea of "natural gifts and talents". In fact, I was wondering why he had such a bee in his bonnet about it. Well, as the CA Dept. of Ed. shows: that concept is anathema to many, if not most, in the upper reaches of progressive educational policy setters.

deBoer thinks that's a bad mistake: there's a wide distribution of cognitive talents in the population, and those talents are largely a product of the genes handed down by one's biological parents. When the educrats pretend otherwise, it can only lead to immiseration of the kids who aren't that smart. (And utter boredom for the kids who are that smart.)

On this point I needed no convincing.

There are a number of problems with deBoer's work. The first, and most glaring, was obvious right from the first few pages: he makes pretty much the same points that Charles Murray has been making for decades, ever since (at least) The Bell Curve: society is increasingly bifurcated into the "cognitive elite" (they're doing great!) and, more or less, everyone else (who aren't doing that hot).

So you'd think that deBoer would go out of his way to acknowlege, and perhaps joust with, with Murray's work in the field. Instead, he pretty much ignores Murray. Murray's only mention is in the Notes, in the title of a Vox article deBoer cites twice: "Charles Murray is once again peddling junk science about race and IQ". (And that article has come in for some justly-deserved criticism. See, for example, Richard Haier at Quillette: No Voice at VOX: Sense and Nonsense about Discussing IQ and Race.)

One is left to wonder whether deBoer is just ignorant of what Murray has said about the central thesis of the book, or (maybe) he's just unwilling/unable to deal with it adequately.

But it's not just Murray. Also MIA is any discussion of Bryan Caplan's indictment: The Case against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money; any references to John Taylor Gatto; Thomas Sowell; or any other non-Marxist critic of American education.

What to do? deBoer has one decent suggestion: dropping the compulsory-attendance age to 12. Otherwise, his proposals reflect his ideological bent; he is a self-admitted Marxist. He advocates (in the near term) the Bernie Sanders laundry list: Medicare for All, banning charter schools, student debt forgiveness, free college, Universal Basic Income, etc. He's pretty glib about the financing.

Besides—we control the world's fiat currency and own some printing presses. We can afford it.

Uh, fine. And things get really woolly at the end, where (as a Marxist, remember) he notes that "for change to be socialist, it must entail the destruction of markets" (italics in original).

At a certain point I would imagine that even readers more amenable to lefty talking points than I would be asking: Dude, has this ever worked anywhere?

I usually congratulate myself on reading books outside my comfort zone. I can't do that here in good conscience. When deBoer is on target, he's not that original.


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:17 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-05-16

[Amazon Link]

  • Maybe A Few Less Sheep. Congratulations to Tim Worstall on an irresistably catchy title: The Secret Recipe for Civilization. And as a bonus, he takes down the latest bit of non-wisdom from Food Nag Mark Bittman.

    There is one aspect of human progress that we don’t consider or appreciate: the switch that humans made from being merely a series of generations to becoming a civilization. As Douglas Adams of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy pointed out, there are those who think that the switch was a mistake. But the rest of us should ponder the issue more closely. The switch came when our forebears learned to write things down – things that we can understand without having to learn them again and again from first principles. The libraries are full of the wisdom of the ages – and, inevitably, full of the stories of the wrong turns that humanity had taken.

    It is that mistake that Mark Bittman, the food writer, makes in his new book Animal, Vegetable, Junk:

    And if you look at a chart of health care costs versus food costs, it’s perfect like this. As food costs go up, healthcare costs go down. And as food costs go down, health care costs go up. So cheap food, that’s a direct correlation. Cheap food has had a terrible impact on public health.

    Bittman’s observation is correct, and first principles are an excellent start to the process of logical deduction. But it is also an appalling place to end the process of thinking. True, we don’t all have to stand on the shoulders of giants and reach further and higher than the pebbled seashore, but those previous generations of billions did contain some bright people who did think about the problems of the human condition. Some of them even came up with interesting answers.

    Geez, don't you just love it when people commit the correlation/causation fallacy right in front of you?

    As Tim points out: as a society gets richer, its spending patterns change. Bittman will likely never like that, because those patterns don't meet with his approval.


  • Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling. Nicolaus Mills thinks he's found the best-fit model for Liz Cheney. And its in a pretty good movie: Liz Cheney at High Noon.

    In refusing to back down from her opposition to former president Donald Trump and challenging Republicans to strip her of her leadership role in the House, Liz Cheney has shown the same determination that John Kennedy admired in the eight senators he wrote about in his Pulitzer Prize-winning history Profiles in Courage.

    The best comparison for what Cheney has done is not, however, with the legislators of Profiles in Courage, but with a more dramatic figure—Marshal Will Kane, the hero of the classic 1952 western, High Noon. The link tying Kane (Gary Cooper) and Cheney together stems from the isolation they faced as a consequence of sticking to their principles.

    See what you think. And if it means you need to watch High Noon, you won't regret it. Especially if you've never seen it before. (Lloyd Bridges is such a weasel.) Mills gives the historical context of the movie, which came out in 1952, during the McCarthy era. The screenwriter, Carl Foreman, was blacklisted shortly afterwards for refusing to "name names" to HUAC.

    For an alternate less heroic take on Liz Cheney, see Glenn Greenwald: Liz Cheney Lied About Her Role in Spreading the Discredited CIA "Russian Bounty" Story.

    My lesson: Never make politicians your heroes.


  • But Who's Hank Schrader In This Analogy? How did the GOP get itself into this mess? Alan Jacobs knows: step by step. And for our second parallel to the entertainment industry…

    I think I better understand the Republican capitulation to Donald Trump when I think of their decision to nominate him as the GOP Presidential candidate in 2016 as the equivalent of Walter White’s decision to hold Krazy-8 captive in a basement.

    I mean, it seemed like a good idea at the time — it seemed like the only real option. But then, once you have him in the basement, what do you do with him? Until you decide, you are as much his prisoner as he is yours.

    So Walt sits down with a legal pad to map out the plusses and minuses of releasing Krazy-8 … and realizes that if he lets him go the end result will be the murder of Walt’s whole family. So he has to kill him. Killing Krazy-8 is basically the equivalent of electing Trump President. From that point on there seems to be no path back to a normal way of life.

    This is how the Fallacy of Wishful Thinking leads inexorably to the Fallacy of Sunk Costs, and then back to the Fallacy of Wishful Thinking again.

    So after you watch High Noon, you'll probably need to watch all 62 episodes of Breaking Bad. It's on Netflix, and also pretty good.


  • Gutsy Move, But He's Tenured. Eugene Volokh tells the story of a "professor at a prominent public research university", required to take "online training". In the course of the "training", the question was presented: How Common Are False Accusations?. (Presumably about some allegation of violation of university rules about harassment or "bias".)

    The multiple-choice options were:

    ☐ All the time.
    ☐ Sometimes
    ☐ Rarely.

    And (of course) you can't proceed in the mandatory training until you check "Rarely".

    Eugene points out the invidious vagueness of the question. But he also shares the faculty member's response "to the president, provost, dean, Faculty Senate chair, faculty academic freedom committee chair, and the director of the equal opportunity/affirmative action office." Which winds up with:

    Here, my own sincere answer is "Sometimes" or "I don't know". I understand that the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action asserts that the answer is "Rarely", but I am not being tested here on my understanding of what that office asserts. I am being required, as a condition to continue the training, to assent to an assertion to which I do not agree.

    I am a tenured faculty member at a public university in the United States, not the Soviet Union. I refuse.

    An impressive response.


  • Your Third Assignment Today: The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. At (possibly) the same university, Ray Sanchez and David Richardson seem to have intercepted the correspondence between Dr. Sovnarkom (of the "Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Decolonization" Department, aka "DIED") and Dean Arnold: The Screwed-Up Emails: Part I.

    Dear Dean Arnold,

    Thank you for communicating with me in such a timely fashion regarding the concerns of your faculty. It is par for the course that these “discipline experts” are once again worried about another campus initiative. This is no longer the mid-20th century. The sun now sets in the west, and there aren’t always two sides to every story. In that spirit, I’d like to offer you some feedback on how to approach just a few of their questions.

    I really think you opened up the conversation well by telling them that the college treasures academic freedom. It’s always best to open a discussion about antiracism and equity with a bone on which the faculty want to stand around and gnaw. Little do they know that their definition and our definition overlap like a Venn diagram, our side being filled with 21st century truth. While they believe academic freedom is about the free search for and proclamation of the truth, something we can parrot, we also believe that we need to make all voices equal—which means not having faculty teach some topics and not having students read certain literature. As you recall from the webinar we recently attended, 1619: The New Year Zero, requiring some voices to outweigh other voices based on outward appearance and geographic origin rather than quality, longevity, and influence, is absolutely necessary. We need to take a class like western civilization—archaic as it may be—and eliminate Eurocentric western perspectives. In other words, we must bring world history to western civilization and cut out literature from a western perspective. Your faculty may not understand how making a western civilization course equitable means cutting off the voices of dead, white, European males, but it does, and their shallow definition of academic freedom cannot undercut the college’s highest value of inclusion. It is your job to make them understand, or if not understand, at least not question our new status quo.

    Explains a lot, actually.


  • And America's Newspaper of Record has a story from Moscow on the Merrimack: Libertarians To Begin Wearing Masks Now That Government Says They Don't Have To.

    CONCORD, NH—Local libertarian man Bernard Paulson hasn't worn a mask the entire pandemic, saying that it's his constitutional right to go where he wants, sneeze when he wants, and lick any doorknob he so pleases.

    But now, the CDC has eased up on mask guidelines and says they aren't required for many situations. Paulson, wanting to show his rebelliousness and love for liberty, quickly bought a box of masks from his liberal neighbor and started wearing them everywhere he went.

    "What right does the government have to tell me not to wear a mask? You know what, I'm going to wear a mask forever. How about that? Whatchya gonna do now, big, bad, federal government? Are you gonna come and try to take my guns now? Huh? HUH!?" Paulson said.

    "Yeah, I don't know, man, I just work here," an uncomfortable Target employee replied. "Can I, like, help you find something, or do you want to speak to a manager or anything like that?"

    Paulson yelled something about being detained and departed, driving to his shelter to hide underground as long as possible, as he'd heard the government say it was now OK to go outside.

    I feel you, Bernard.


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:17 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-05-15

[Amazon Link]

  • Never Again. Brendan O'Neill asks: Why won’t Israelis let themselves be killed?.Don't worry, he's not advocating that. In fact:

    Two weeks ago Turkish forces launched a military assault in the Duhok region of Iraqi Kurdistan. Villagers were forced to ‘flee in terror’ from raining bombs. It was only the latest bombardment of the beleaguered Kurds by Turkey, NATO member and Western ally. It did not trend online. There were no noisy protests in London or New York. The Turks weren’t talked about in woke circles as crazed, bloodthirsty killers. Tweeters didn’t dream out loud about Turks burning in hell. The Onion didn’t do any close-to-the-bone satire about how Turkish soldiers just love killing children. No, the Duhok attack passed pretty much without comment.

    But when Israel engages in military action, that’s a different story. Always. Every time. Anti-Israel fury in the West has intensified to an extraordinary degree following an escalation of violence in the Middle East in recent days. Protests were instant and inflammatory. Israeli flags were burned on the streets of London. Social media was awash with condemnation. ‘IDF Soldier Recounts Harrowing, Heroic War Story Of Killing 8-Month-Old Child’, tweeted The Onion, to tens of thousands of likes. Israel must be boycotted, isolated, cast out of the international community, leftists cried. Western politicians, including Keir Starmer, rushed to pass judgement. ‘What’s the difference?’, said a placard at a march in Washington, DC showing the Israeli flag next to the Nazi flag. The Jews are the Nazis now, you see. Ironic, isn’t it?

    In other news: US Sending New Aid to Palestinians as Conflict Intensifies. Because they deserve to be rewarded for their behavior? Come on, man!


  • You Don't Have To Look Very Hard For Double Standards. Kevin D Williamson provides us with One Way of Thinking about Israel.

    Texas, where I live, once was part of Mexico. Many in Mexico (and elsewhere) believe Texas was stolen, that it is unjustly occupied territory. Some even dream of taking it back for Mexico. As a matter of historical fact, those claims have some merit. Mexico was greatly reduced by the self-aggrandizing ambitions of a superior power, and it is possible to sympathize with that.

    But if rockets were raining down on Brownsville from Matamoros, the United States would respond in a way that would make recent Israeli-Palestinian skirmishes look like a halfhearted game of duck-duck-goose. As, indeed, would any sensible country. This is, in most cases, understood. If the British started firing rockets into France, no one would say, “Well, what about the Pale of Calais?”

    It is only the Jewish state whose right of self-defense is denied.

    Bonus Ludwig von Mises quote at the link.


  • Hm. But What If There Were? Charles C. W. Cooke regrets to say There's No Vaccine Against the Irrational Fear of Monsters.

    Yesterday afternoon, the CDC saw fit to announce formally what people of sound mind have known for months: that Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not gain anything by slinging pieces of dirty cloth across their faces. The timing of the declaration — which was coupled with the news that the American Federation of Teachers was softening its ongoing ransom demand — suggests that The Science might be more susceptible to the influence of opinion polling than we have been led to believe.

    The CDC’s affirmation was met with celebrations from the journalistic class and the White House, and with laughter from everyone else. In New York City and Washington D.C., the news may well have felt like a liberation. In the places where the CDC has long lost its influence – namely, most of the United States of America — it felt like a bad joke. After months of incoherence, the federal government had finally arrived at where Florida, Texas, and others had been by March.

    I note that Walmart is abandoning its mask-mandate policy on Tuesday. I'll be there with an unobstructed grin on my face.


  • But Returning To A Perennial Theme… Jacob Sullum notes: The CDC’s Ever-Shifting COVID-19 Advice Shows the Agency Is Ill-Suited To Decide Which Risks Are Acceptable.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which initially said there was no need for most Americans to wear face masks as a safeguard against COVID-19, reversed that position a little more than a year ago. Beginning in April 2020, the CDC said face masks were an essential disease control tool, even for people who have been vaccinated. Yesterday the CDC modified its advice again, saying fully vaccinated Americans generally do not need to wear masks outdoors or indoors, except when required to do so by businesses or the government.

    At each turn, the CDC has said its recommendations were informed by the latest scientific evidence. While there is some truth to that claim, it is clear that other, nonscientific factors have played a role in the CDC's shifting attitude toward face coverings as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The history of that evolution provides ample reason to be skeptical of both the CDC's specific recommendations and the expectation that all Americans should conform to its notion of safety.

    Jacob hints at something I've been hammering on for a few years: People have wildly divergent notions of acceptable risk. When the government weighs in coercively with one-size-fits-all risk regulation, it's a recipe for social strife.

    As we've seen.


  • Arrr, Matey! Jonah Goldberg makes his modest proposal: The Case for Treating Hackers Like Pirates.

    Of course, pirates were also criminals, often vicious ones. But even their reputation for cruelty had a purpose. The Jolly Roger—that skull-and-crossbones flag—was a brilliant bit of marketing, according to Leeson, because it telegraphed to victims that they should surrender without a fight or face horrifying consequences. As the Dread Pirate Roberts says in The Princess Bride, “Once word leaks out that a pirate has gone soft, people begin to disobey you, and then it’s nothing but work, work, work all the time.”

    That’s the business many of these hackers are in. Pay up quickly or meet a horrible fate, in the form of economic calamity or leaked personal information.

    In the golden age of piracy, governments responded to the pirate threat in all sorts of clever ways. One response was the issuance of “letters of marque and reprisal”—mentioned in the U.S. Constitution—which granted private captains the authority to wage war on our enemies. Our 21st century enemies are doing that already. Perhaps as a great cyberfaring nation, it’s time we do likewise.

    Just as a small caveat: the relevant Wikipedia page notes that the "1856 Paris Declaration" forbade letters of marque and reprisal, and it's been American policy for the past 150 years to go along with that. But (as near as I can tell) the US didn't sign the 1856 Paris Declaration. So…


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:17 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-05-14

[Amazon Link]

  • Science Is (Finally) Real. Joel Zinberg is among the many spreading the belated news: The CDC Finally Does the Obvious.

    Calling Captain Obvious. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has now stated what has been clear to anyone following the scientific literature for the past few months: People who are two weeks past being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to wear masks indoors or outside, and need not maintain physical distance.

    While the CDC once again invoked its mantra that it is “following the science,” as recently as last night, CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky advised everyone to wear masks indoors, even if they were fully vaccinated. It is unclear what changed overnight. Most likely, it was nothing new, just the accumulated evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines are over 90 percent effective in stopping viral transmission, even for the common variants, that convinced the hyper-cautious agency that vaccinated people are protected from infection and are unlikely to transmit the virus to others.

    I'm looking forward to the time when the UNH Librarians climb down off their desks, from which they've been screaming "Eek! A mouse! And also Covid!" for the past 14 months.


  • Ha. Via Instapundit, a Tweet from Ian Miles Cheong:

    Maybe a lot of Minneapolitans aren't laughing. But (hey) it's democracy, you voted for these bozos (and bozettes).


  • You Don't Have To Be Crazy To Be A Progressive, But It Helps. Lee Siegel writes at City Journal on The Paranoid Style in Progressive Politics.

    The other day I found myself staring at this headline in the New York Times: “GOP Focuses on Polarizing Cultural Issues in Drive to Regain Power.” For a moment, I thought the article would, in a commonsense way, explore how Republicans were confronting the polarizing cultural issues that had been created by liberals. That is to say, I thought the article would be about the hardball nature of American politics.

    Instead, it presented Republican opposition to explosively controversial questions like packing the Supreme Court, defunding the police, and giving legal status to illegal immigrants as part empty cynicism, part mental imbalance. The reporter, Carl Hulse, portrayed the Republican resistance to such extreme Democratic initiatives as a determined effort to appease the “conservative base.” That’s a phrase that has become a Democratic mantra signifying chthonic forces of disorder, and it has the effect of halting in its tracks any political argument or debate.

    The "Republicans pounce" headline seems to have been retired. (Even back in 2017, the Urban Dictionary noted it.) The new hotness is "Republicans seize"!


  • It's Not Hard To Figure Out Why. Elizabeth Nolan Brown would like to point out some malpractice among politicians (expected) and the lazy/compliant media: The Gender Gap in Pandemic Job Losses Has Been Wildly Exaggerated.

    For more than a year, the U.S. has been flooded with gloomy headlines and dire predictions about women and work. "The pandemic is devastating a generation of working women," opined one Washington Post writer in February. Citing data showing that 2.5 million women dropped out of the workforce since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Vice President Kamala Harris said "the pandemic has put decades of the progress we have collectively made for women workers at risk."

    Harris called it a "national emergency"—albeit one that could be fixed by greenlighting the Biden administration's coronavirus spending plan.

    And so the narrative typically goes: women's employment prospects are in crisis; the way out is passing the Democrats' preferred economic policies. (See Matt Welch in Reason's June print issue for more on this rhetoric.)

    But the magnitude of this gender gap has never been as great as many have made it out to be. And recent data cast further doubt on the "she-cession" narrative. At the end of April 2021, the unemployment rate for women was slightly lower than the unemployment rate for men. And the women's labor force participation rate had recovered almost as much as the men's rate had.

    Exaggerating a problem to push for hasty legislation? That's pretty standard, but way too many people fall for it.


  • Speaking of Captain Obvious… Megan McArdle says Unemployment benefits are holding back the economic recovery.

    For months, economic indicators were turning green. Employment was roaring back, gross domestic product was growing at a sizzling 6.4 percent annual pace, consumer confidence had returned to pre-pandemic levels. Then, suddenly, a flashing red light: Friday’s jobs report suggested that the U.S. economy added a mere 266,000 jobs in April, well below what analysts had anticipated.

    I mean, really well below; given the pace of covid-19 vaccinations and declining caseloads, forecasts had been closer to 1 million new jobs. It was, Axios primly noted, “the biggest miss, relative to expectations, in decades.”

    The problem isn’t employers, who are raising wages in their efforts to fill a record number of openings. Anecdotally, business owners and managers tell reporters and surveys that they can’t get people to come in for interviews, much less show up for work. This might have something to do with how generous the federal government has made unemployment benefits — so generous that they exceed the value of working for about half of the unemployed.

    Also (to be fair) constant fearmongering from "experts" doesn't help either.


  • Want To Bet On That, Vero? Veronique de Rugy thinks Uncle Sam's Lack of Leadership on Debt Cannot Be Ignored. Well, maybe it can't be ignored for long. But some folks will try for as long as they can.

    I'm always amazed to hear people say that the national debt doesn't matter because interest rates are low. Yet, it's a common refrain on the left and sometimes on the right. The next step in that line of thinking is that if accumulating debt is so cheap, we shouldn't think twice about spending more today without offsetting it with additional taxes or spending cuts. That's wrong.

    Debt is the symptom of too much spending. One unfortunate aspect of talking about the problem of accumulating too much debt (as opposed to too much spending) is that it opens the door to arguments that we should raise taxes to pay down the debt. So, let me say this from the start: In my opinion, the only acceptable way to address the debt that results from too much spending is to cut the said spending. It's not only the right thing to do but also the most effective way to actually reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio, as a large body of academic literature has shown.

    If anyone wants a list of suggested spending cuts, see Vero.


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:17 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-05-13

[Amazon Link]

  • Survival Not Incentive Enough? Drew Cline examines the issue of jab-reluctant citizens: Free beer & no masks: How better vaccine incentives can help shorten the pandemic. He notes that in just the past couple weeks, New Hampshire has gone from Number One in the percentage of distributed vaccines administered to Number 23. (And, as I type, the site he references has us down another notch: #24.)

    What to do?

    A better vaccination campaign would offer a combination of fun incentives and positive messages. 

    A UCLA study found that people respond to cash and lifestyle incentives. Offering between $25-$100 raised people’s willingness to get the vaccine by between 13-19%. Cash was more effective with Democrats than Republicans.

    Telling people that they won’t have to wear a mask after they get vaccinated also was effective at changing minds. For all respondents, the percentage who said they were more likely to get a vaccine rose by 13 points, from 50% to 63%. For Republicans, the gain was 18 points, from 35% to 53%.

    Yeah, fine, but…


  • What's The Matter With Dover? Drew also points out that the Next Town Over From Us is sending mixed messages and (as I type) he is not kidding.

    The mask messaging is important. Requiring people to continue masking in public after vaccination undermines the government’s message that vaccination will make them safer and bring a return to pre-pandemic life.

    This confusing messaging is prevalent in New Hampshire. Dover, which has a public mask mandate, tells residents that they must continue masking after getting vaccinated.

    Its guidance reads:

    “WILL I BE ABLE TO STOP WEARING A MASK AND SOCIAL DISTANCING IF I GET THE VACCINE?

    “No.”

    I'm relatively sure that mask-free walking in Dover has always been safe. And (I think) legal, as long as you don't go around licking strangers. At least my dog and I have been getting away with it for (so far) the past 14 months.


  • But Are They Still A Girl's Best Friend? Virginia Postrel knows her crystallized carbon (Bloomberg): Diamonds Are Separating 'Natural' From 'Ethical'.

    Vegan silk and leather, mine-free diamonds, bioengineered perfumes: Lab-grown products with ethical appeal could be the future of luxury. Exemplified by the announcement last week that giant jeweler Pandora A/S will no longer use mined diamonds in its products, the emergence of these high-tech luxury goods represents a significant cultural shift.

    Since the first Earth Day a half-century ago, large industries have grown from the widespread conviction that “natural” foods, fibers, cosmetics and other products are better for people and the planet. It’s an attitude that dates back to the 18th- and 19th-century Romantics, who rejected industrialism in favor of sublime landscapes and rural nostalgia: What’s given is good; what’s made is suspicious, especially if it’s of recent origin.

    We're not just getting better at making diamonds from scratch: also meat, leather, silk, and perfumes. And probably more, sooner rather than later. Good news for cows, etc.


  • Depending On Who Their Enemies Are… Lefty Matt Taibbi is honest enough to remember: Reporters Once Challenged the Spy State. Now, They're Agents of It. Excerpt:

    After the Capitol riots of January 6th, the War on Terror came home, and “domestic extremists” stepped into the role enemy combatants played before. George Bush once launched an all-out campaign to pacify any safe haven for trrrsts, promising to “smoke ‘em out of their holes.” The new campaign is aimed at stamping out areas for surveillance-proof communication, which CNN security analyst and former DHS official Juliette Kayyem described as any online network “that lets [domestic extremists] talk amongst themselves.”

    Reporters pledged assistance, snooping for evidence of wrongness in digital rather than geographical “hidey holes.” We’ve seen The Guardian warning about the perils of podcasts, ProPublica arguing that Apple’s lax speech environment contributed to the January 6th riot, and reporters from The Verge and Vice and The New York Times listening in to Clubhouse chats in search of evidence of dangerous thought. In an inspired homage to the lunacy of the War on Terror years, a GQ writer even went on Twitter last week to chat with the author of George Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech about imploring the “authorities” to use the “Fire in a Crowded Theater” argument to shut down Fox News.

    I'm old enough to remember when the librarians worried frantically about the Feds looking into their patrons' suspicious reading habits. Today, they're probably sending lists of people who have checked out The Art of the Deal to Homeland Security.


  • Still Trying To Atone For Those Nasty Siamese Cats in Lady and the Tramp. Paul Mirengoff comments on another company striving for Peak Wokefulness. The Walt Disney Company: Dismayed by America, inspired by China.

    Leaked documents show that the Walt Disney Company has asked employees to complete a “white privilege checklist” and to “pivot away from “white dominant culture.” The documents, published by Christopher Rufo, state (falsely) that the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans are “part of a long history of systemic racism and transphobia.” The documents also cover such topics as “white privilege,” “white fragility,” “white saviors,” “microaggressions” and “antiracism.”

    The documents suggest that employees reflect on the diversity of their personal and professional networks. Employees should also consider how other dimensions of their identities “give (or do not give) you access and advantage.” Furthermore, workers are encouraged to “work through feelings of guilt, shame, and defensiveness to understand what is beneath them and what needs to be healed.”

    Disney also fired Gina Carano while not firing Liu Yifei. So there's that.


  • Also, China Probably Doesn't Care How Many People Its Trains Run Over. David Boaz takes on Connecticut Senator Murphy, who tweeted:

    David notes that not all is rosy, trainwise, in Disney's favorite country: China's High-Speed Debt Trap.

    First:
    “Boston to DC
    – Airline time: 1.6 hours”

    The reason high‐​speed rail never caught on in the United States is because we had jet airliners before Japan even started building its first bullet train. Why should we worry that a train from Beijing to Shanghai is faster than a train from Washington to Boston when our planes are twice as fast as the fastest trains in the world?

    David also points out (2) China's actually giving up on building some new rail lines; and (3) it's really spending a lot of money on new expressways. You know, used by those things that aren't trains.

    For additional amusement on the same topic, see also JVW@Patterico: Delusional Senator Dreams of High-Speed Rail Where It Is Least Suitable.


  • WIRED Article I Didn't Finish Reading. Humans Need to Create Interspecies Money to Save the Planet.

    No, the author is not kidding.


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:17 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-05-12

  • A Reminder Of More Credulous Times. Our Getty Image du Jour is dated March 21, 2020. Which was, as I type, 417 days ago.

    Hope you can read the fine print: just kidding!


  • More From The Dimly Remembered Past from John Tamny: Restricting Freedom Didn't Defeat Covid.

    Let’s travel back in time to March of 2020, when predictions of mass death related to the new coronavirus started to gain currency. One study, conducted by Imperial College’s Neil Ferguson, indicated that U.S. deaths alone would exceed 2 million.

    […]

    Death predictions aside, the other justification bruited in March of 2020 was that brief lockdowns (two weeks was the number often thrown around) would flatten the hospitalization curve. In this case, the taking of freedom allegedly made sense as a way of protecting hospitals from a massive inflow of sick patients that they wouldn’t have been able to handle, and that would have resulted in a public health catastrophe.

    Such a view similarly vandalizes reason. Think about it. Who needs to be forced to avoid behavior that might result in hospitalization? Better yet, who needs to be forced to avoid behavior that might result in hospitalization at a time when doctors and hospitals would be so short-staffed as to not be able to take care of admitted patients? Translated for those who need it, the dire predictions made over a year ago about the corona-horrors that awaited us don’t justify the lockdowns; rather they should remind the mildly sentient among us of how cruel and pointless they were. The common sense that we are to varying degrees born with, along with our genetic predisposition to survive, dictates that a fear of hospitalization or death would have caused Americans to take virus-avoidance precautions that would have well exceeded any rules foisted on them by politicians.

    Tamny's bottom line: "Historians will marvel at the abject stupidity of the political class in 2020."


  • Detailing All The Things Biden Can't Explain Would Make A Very Long Article. So Robby Soave just sticks to one: Biden Can’t Explain Why He’s Still Wearing a Mask.

    On Sunday, CNN's Jake Tapper quizzed White House adviser Jeffrey Zients about President Joe Biden's continued insistence on wearing a mask—even when entering a room where everyone is fully vaccinated.

    "The president is going to continue to follow the CDC guidance," said Zients. "We're going to look to the CDC. The president from day one has said we're going to rely on science and facts and that's what we'll do."

    This was only slightly more coherent than the answer given by Biden himself, who told a reporter on Friday that he was continuing to mask up "because when we're inside it's still good policy to wear the mask."

    It is in fact not necessary for the fully vaccinated to wear masks around other fully vaccinated people. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledged that there are "many situations" where the fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks: outdoors, and even inside when everyone is vaccinated, for instance. This is important, since the CDC has generally taken a wildly cautious approach with its recommendations (see: summer camp guidance). But in many ways, Biden and Zients are sticking to an approach that is even more risk-averse than what the CDC has said.

    "Hey, the Emperor is naked! Except for that stupid mask!"


  • Betteridge's Law Of Headlines Applies, Unfortunately to John McWhorter's headline query: Can We Please Ditch the Term "Systemic Racism"?.

    The Elect are direly committed to teaching us the difference between personal racism and systemic racism. It is considered the fulcrum of true wokeness to understand that racism is systemic, with the idea that to understand this is to have achieved a maximal comprehension of sorts, a kind of pure, Kantian wisdom from which we can proceed to … well, celebrating one another for having achieved it, roasting those who seem not to have, and calling that “antiracism.”

    But if the mantra is that what we need to do to solve black America’s problems is “get rid of systemic racism,” we’re in trouble. That analysis, be it explicit or tacit, is based on a third-grader’s understanding of how a society works. More importantly, that analysis does not help black people and often hurts us.

    Professor McW notes, correctly, that the folks pushing hardest on "systemic racism" have no clue about, and perhaps little desire to, actually healing racial animosity. Instead: "This usage of systemic racism is more rhetorical bludgeon than a simple term of reference."


  • As An Example Of Our Previous Item… Frederick M. Hess and J. Grant Addison explain How Anti-Racism Is Derailing Efforts to Improve Education.

    Anti-racist education has become a racialized justification for all manner of bad, long-discredited ideas. Like hippie educators of the early ’70s, anti-racists want to end grading as conventionally understood. One prominent “grading equity advocate” is Cornelius Minor. Minor has partnered with entities like Columbia Teachers College and the International Literacy Association to dismantle “pernicious” grading practices, such as requiring students to demonstrate subject-matter understanding in order to receive an A. Minor teaches that one “cannot separate grading practices” from “the history of classism, sexism, racism, and ableism in the United States.” A teacher’s inability to perceive a student’s knowledge, under this framing, is more typically evidence of a teacher’s racism than a student’s lack of knowledge.

    Bizarrely, anti-racist educators have even become enamored with the novel notion of race-based “affinity groups.” “Affinity grouping” is the tactful, contemporary term for the school-directed sorting of students and staff by race, a practice that would’ve fit neatly into the daily routine of the Jim Crow South. Typically involving one group for black participants, a second for non-black people of color, and a third for white participants, racially determined groupings are a growing presence in anti-racist training in schools and teacher preparation.

    Opponents of HB544 legislation here in New Hampshire paint it as an "effort to shut down conversations on race and gender". I think it's a worthy attempt to deal with a real, poisonous problem.


  • Your Papers, Please. Jim Harper has been an outspoken opponent of "REAL ID". And he can't help but point out that events seem to have proven him correct: The REAL ID deadline extended again.

    Last week, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that the deadline for state compliance with the REAL ID Act would be pushed back a year and a half to May 3, 2023. This time, COVID-19 is the reason why the US national ID system cannot be implemented. The new deadline, just shy of the 18th anniversary of Congress passing REAL ID, is 15 years beyond the compliance deadline Congress set in the law. If your instinct is to pound the table about government inefficiency and failure to get things done, I recommend a different tack. The upshot of REAL ID’s ever-extending deadlines is that we don’t need a national ID system at all. The law can safely be scrapped.

    We haven't gotten ours yet. At least in New Hampshire, it's daunting.


  • As Gertrude Steinway Said, A Piano Is A Piano Is A Piano. And in related news, Kevin D. Williamson says Infrastructure Is Infrastructure.

    Every now and then, the world pauses briefly to say, “Hey, dummy — pay attention.”

    Seventeen states and — oh, glorious irony! — the District of Columbia have declared states of emergency after the closure of the Colonial pipeline, which brings fuel from Gulf Coast refineries to eastern cities. Gasoline prices already are rising and are expected to rise sharply in the immediate future. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, fresh off the indignity of losing the title of world’s busiest airport to Bai Yun International in Guangzhou, is nervously watching its fuel stores, as are other airports (including Charlotte Douglas and Raleigh-Durham) served by the pipeline. The population centers of the East Coast are at risk of significant disruption to everything from deliveries to travel — because almost half the fuel used in the most densely populated part of the country travels through a single pipeline that runs from Houston to Linden, N.J., currently out of service after an apparent act of extortion through cyberterrorism.

    I got gassed up yesterday, wincing somewhat at the price.

    Then I looked at the Dow Jones Industrial Average… Oy vey!

URLs du Jour

2021-05-11

  • Glug. Another Michael Ramirez commentary on the GOP's shrinking tent:

    [Glug]

    The iceberg isn't shown, but I assume it's orange.


  • You're Gonna Need A Longer Article. If you prefer text to pictures, Chris Stirewalt describes How Republicans Could Blow Their Midterm Moment. The historical record of midterm elections is clear: based on past performance, the GOP should take back both the House and Senate. But look at Arizona:

    The state’s Republican-led Senate won a court fight to get to take possession of the 2.1 million ballots cast by the residents of Maricopa County to conduct what could charitably be described as a fishing expedition. The Senate hired a consultancy called Cyber Ninjas to conduct the kind of inquiry you would expect from a firm with a name that sounds like a brand of air fryers. They used blacklights to look for secret watermarks and, not kidding here, looked for bamboo fibers in ballots for potential Chinese tampering. Only after objections from the Justice Department did the ninjas drop their plan to visit the homes of voters whose ballots they found suspicious. Think of it: In a swing state with a crucial Senate election next year, Republicans were going to go door-to-door to remind voters about Trump’s efforts to steal the election and hassle them over their votes.

    It’s understandable that many Republicans wish Cheney would go along to get along, but they ought to remember who it is that’s busy relitigating the 2020 election in swing states from coast to coast. If they miss their chance to benefit from a midterm windfall, Republicans should first blame the cranks and charlatans intent on reminding persuadable voters that the GOP is living in a very sordid past.

    The Maricopa inquiry involves noted icon among election fraud believers Jovan Pulitzer. Here in New Hampshire, the believers want him to be involved in the Windham forensic audit. Pulitzer is a self-promoting huckster; I once sat through a half-hour video of his where he claimed to have proof of some Chinese shenanigans in the Georgia elections, but I thought it was entirely hot air, handwaving, and making a big deal out of innocuous Wi-Fi enabled devices.


  • Speaking Of Conspiracy Theories… Scott Sumner looks at that Nicholas Wade article that I linked to last Saturday. Scott thinks that Wade is unaccountably underplaying The real story.

    Wade suggests that the global community of virologists has knowingly and recklessly engaged in highly dangerous research that threatens the lives of millions (if not billions), and then covered up an accident to avoid scrutiny. To be clear, he does not make that accusation in so many words, but I see no other way to interpret his claims:

    1. Wade claims the virus was probably created in a lab in China, and then accidentally escaped.
    2. Wade claims that “gain-of-function” research is an accepted practice among virologists, and indeed the Wuhan research was actively encouraged and even financed by western scientific institutes.
    3. Wade claims that Western virologists denied that Covid-19 could have been created in a lab, even though in fact it clearly could have been created in a lab.

    The Wade article presents a picture of scientific research creating a sort of Frankenstein’s monster, the worst nightmare of any Hollywood film.

    Scott finds the implication that the worldwide virus-research community is involved in a massive coverup of what happened in Wuhan to be non-credible. I'm leaning toward Wade's view, myself. But see what you think.


  • Cognitive Bias Is The Real Pandemic. Elizabeth Nolan Brown does the weekday "Reason Roundup" and yesterday's had an interesting item: Our Moral Judgments Affect Our Perception of COVID Risk.

    Church and protests are safe, beaches and parties are not? Two new studies showcase a tendency on full display during the COVID-19 pandemic: People perceive as less risky the activities they condone or see as important and more risky those they do not, even if the logistics—and actual risk—of the two activities are similar.

    In other words, "risk judgments are sensitive to factors unrelated to the objective risks of infection," as study authors Cailin O'Connor, Daniel P. Relihan, Ashley Thomas, Peter H. Ditto, Kyle Stanford, and James O. Weatherall write in a draft paper on their research. "In particular, activities that are morally justified are perceived as safer while those that might subject people to blame, or culpability, are seen as riskier."

    Unsurprisingly, these "moral judgments" got translated into "science-based" recommendations, regulations, and practices from Federal, state, and local health officials. Worse, those recommendations (etc.) live on after the science has been updated.

    For example, the Portsmouth Public Library is still quarantining returned books for "at least 72 hours", based on long-outdated concerns about surface transmission.


  • Told You So. We came this close to shuttering the Export-Import Bank a few years back. But it survived, and Veronique de Rugy is back on the beat: The Export-Import Bank Is in the Big-Business Business.

    As the saying goes, there is nothing as permanent as a temporary government program. So no one should be surprised that, last month, Ex-Im’s board of directors voted to renew the four programs — which it had touted last year as “temporary relief measures” — for another year. Here is how the press release reads:

    Over the past year, U.S. small businesses benefited significantly from the relief measures. Since April 2020, the measures have resulted in $1 billion in EXIM working capital guarantee and supply-chain financing guarantee authorizations. In fiscal year (FY) 2021 to date, EXIM’s working capital guarantees for minority and women-owned businesses have risen to a total of $31.5 million—a 50 percent increase over the previous period in FY 2020.

    This framing would lead a casual reader to assume that small businesses received a billion dollars in benefits from Ex-Im’s pandemic-related measures. A bit of digging, however, suggests otherwise. According to another Ex-Im press release, $510 million of Ex-Im’s claimed billion dollars in pandemic relief went to just one transaction: Boeing’s purchase of aircraft engines from an affiliate of the General Electric Corporation. Thus, in one fell swoop, half of Ex-Im’s overall pandemic-related support went to the bank’s two most-beloved corporations in a favored sector. Another $450 million, across two transactions, went to U.S. Steel. Freeport LNG, which is, as I mentioned last week, a large exporter of liquefied natural gas, received $50 million. Although the amount to Freeport was small compared to the giveaways to Boeing, GE, and U.S. Steel, the loan made big waves last week when the Financial Times reported how the bank used the loan to buy the U.S. gas industry’s acquiescence to an Ex-Im gas project in Mozambique. (My post about can be read here.)

    When push came to shove, a majority of Republicans voted with all but one Democrat to revive Ex-Im. Just another reminder that we can't trust GOP politicians to follow through on their free-market rhetoric.


  • I Don't Want To Be Accused of Soliciting. So, via GeekPress, here's 99 Additional Bits of Unsolicited Advice. Just a few:

    • Assume anyone asking for your account information for any reason is guilty of scamming you, unless proven innocent. The way to prove innocence is to call them back, or login to your account using numbers or a website that you provide, not them. Don’t release any identifying information while they are contacting you via phone, message or email. You must control the channel.
    • Sustained outrage makes you stupid.
    • Be strict with yourself and forgiving of others. The reverse is hell for everyone.
    • Your best response to an insult is “You’re probably right.” Often they are.

    In the fine tradition of The Notebooks of Lazarus Long.


Last Modified 2021-05-12 5:03 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-05-10

  • On The Nose. Dan Mitchell presents Statism in Five Images, and I'm just going to steal one of them for our Eye Candy du Jour (it's long, so make sure you scroll down enough to see the ending punchline):

    [Abusive Relationships]

    Arguably, you might think there are items that don't fit the American government/citizen relationship. "Control what you read, watch and say"? Well, they've largely outsourced that function to Facebook and Twitter.


  • Is "Corporatization" The Problem? Jerry Coyne reads it so we don't have to: Chronicle of Higher Ed decries the diversity-driven corporatization of America, suggests some solutions.

    An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Amna Khalid has some information about the “diversity and inclusion racket,” and also some solutions that may help achieve real equality beyond the ubiquitous “diversity training” known to be ineffectual.

    […]

    Khalid descries the expensive expansion of deans and administratiors involved with diversity and inclusion, which have burgeoned at the expense of other administrators and faculty. It’s not that they aren’t addressing a problem, but are doing so in an expensive and largely useless way, and eating up huge amounts of cash that could go to genuinely advance equal opportunity and affirmative action. Seriously, is “yoga for women of color” a way to achieve equality?

    You can click the link in the first excerpted paragraph to go to the Chronicle article, but they urge you to sign up for their newsletter and marketing (both unsubscribable). Jerry provides extensive excerpts, however.

    Jerry's a lefty, and so is Amna, so you may disagree with a lot of their commentary and analysis, as I did. But I have to say that blaming a "corporate mind-set" for the craven capitulation of university administrators to the woke student/faculty mob may be on target. Especially when a lot of corporations these days are also kowtowing to their own woke mobs.

    But sometimes it's just a President/CEO thinking: What meaningless symbolic act do I have to perform to get these pesky yammerers to shut up and get out of my office?


  • Since When Do Politicians Have To Make Sense? But Kevin D. Williamson (NRPLUS) points out, nevertheless, that the Liz Cheney Republican Leadership Ouster Makes No Sense.

    You guys know he lost, right?

    Representative Liz Cheney (R., Wyo.) is (probably) being pushed out of her leadership position, most likely in favor of Representative Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.), because Representative Cheney is insufficiently Trump-loving and Stefanik is superabundantly Trump-loving.

    It’s that familiar Republican strategy: a purge for unity.

    House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) and other like-minded Republicans complain that it will be difficult for Cheney to do her job effectively in the current political environment, meaning the infantile emotional climate in which some number of Republicans stamp their feet and hold their breath like Veruca Salt when Cheney accurately characterizes Donald Trump’s disgraceful post-election behavior as a parade of lies marching through an avalanche of horsesh**.

    You know who loves the GOP's personality cult? Democrats.


  • Well, This Is Pun Salad. So I'm duty-bound to link to a WSJ op-ed, probably paywalled, from Stephen Moore: Biden May Make a Big Missed Steak.

    I hear you moaning. But:

    Larry Kudlow suggested the other day that the Biden administration may declare war on meat. On his Fox Business show, the former Trump economic adviser lampooned a climate-change study from the University of Michigan, which argues that to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, Americans will have to cut back severely on “red meat, poultry, fish/seafood, eggs, dairy, and animal based fats.” To which Mr. Kudlow quipped: “OK, got that? No burger on July 4. No steaks on the barbecue. I’m sure Middle America is just going to love that. Can you grill those brussels sprouts?”

    It was funny, but the climate lobby wasn’t laughing. Media “fact checkers” called it a “false story . . . another example of a closed ecosystem of information affecting public opinion,” in the Associated Press’s words. The New York Times’s Paul Krugman tweeted: “This is what right-wing politics is down to. It’s all false claims about evil liberals, which the base is expected to believe because it’s primed to believe in liberal villainy.”

    It’s true Joe Biden hasn’t stated he wants to curtail meat production or consumption. But people he listens to have. During a CNN “Climate Crisis Town Hall,” Kamala Harris was asked if she favored changing “dietary guidelines to reduce the consumption of red meat in light of the impact of the climate change.” She said yes: “The balance that we have to strike here, frankly, is about what government can and should do around creating incentives and then banning certain behaviors.”

    So enjoy those burgers produced by those farting cows while you can, eco-criminal.


  • The AP Gets One Right. What Happened? Jeff Jacoby writes on the history of an odious concept: Cancelling 'anti-Semitism'.

    IT ISN'T OFTEN that a hyphen, or the absence of one, draws attention. But when the Associated Press announced recently that it was changing the spelling of "anti-Semite" and "anti-Semitism" in its highly influential style guide to "antisemite" and "antisemitism," it made news — and drew cheers from historians and civil rights activists.

    There is a good deal of history behind that detail of punctuation, and it begins with the fact that the father of "anti-Semitism" was an antisemite.

    In 1879, a German nationalist and political agitator named Wilhelm Marr published a pamphlet in which he claimed that Jews were the mortal enemy of the German people and called for their forcible removal from German soil. His document, Der Weg zum Siege des Germanenthums über das Judenthum ("The Road to Victory for Germanness over Jewishness"), argued that Jews posed a particularly dangerous threat not simply because of their religion or behavior, but because they belonged to an alien racial group — the "Semites." Marr wanted a word that would imbue his loathing of Jews with the ring of sophistication, so rather than speak of primitive Jew-hatred (judenhass), he promoted the pseudoscientific term antisemitismus — enmity toward the Semitic race. But there was never any doubt about the meaning of his neologism. Antisemitismus — which became antisémitisme in French and antisemitismo in Spanish — meant only one thing: hatred of Jews. And when Marr founded a new political organization, the League of Antisemites (Antisemiten-Liga), it had only one purpose: to ignite anti-Jewish bigotry into a political movement.

    I was unaware of that hyphenated history Jeff describes. I'm gonna go back through the archives and clean up my language. According to grep, there are 89 occurrences with the hyphen, although some may be in quoted material, which I will leave alone.

    I know, that's kind of an Orwellian thing to do. So I'm not happy about it, but I'm less happy with leaving the hyphenated term in place when I (now) know better.

URLs du Jour

2021-05-09

  • Your Birthing Person Is So Fat, She… Well, you can fill out the rest of that yourself. Jonah Goldberg writes his G-File about Birthing Person of All Silliness. If you don't get the reference, it was kicked off my Missouri Congresscritter Cori Bush:

    I'd guess the War on Opiates might have something to do with Cori's complaint. But "birthing people"? Jonah also posts a defensive tweet from NARAL which blesses the term because it's "inclusive". ("it's not just cis-gender women that can get pregnant and give birth.") Well…

    Birthing-person-of-pearl! (Or for those of a certain faith, Holy Birthing Person of God!) This is a seamless disco ball of absurdity, radiating inanity from every angle. If one of the core tenets of the new Great Awokening is that the term “mother” is divisive or bigoted, then the Great Awokening is doomed (and deservedly so). Don’t tell me conservatives are too obsessed with silly and divisive culture war “distractions,” if in the next breath you’re going to lecture me on the need to erase the term “mother” from the English language.

    One of the most interesting divides on the left is between socialists and critical race theorists. Some of the best pushback on the execrable 1619 Project came from socialists who think making race, as opposed to class, the focal point of the progressive project is counterproductive. It’s a fresh opening of a fascinating old divide that had once been central to the left when Marxism was taken more seriously by serious people. Anything that distracts from the class struggle is a gift to what Randi Weingarten calls the “ownership class.” This argument was applied to everything from Mickey Mouse to the welfare state to slavery reparations.

    My point isn’t that mom-erasure sets back the class struggle, my point is that mom-erasure sets back the transgender cause, and virtually every other left-wing cause as well. People aren’t going to stop calling their mothers “mother” or “mom” or anything of the sort. Kids aren’t going to fall off a swing at the playground and shout, “Birthing person! I have an ouchie!” (And before you accuse me of perpetuating gender stereotypes, if dad is at the playground, they’re not going to shout, “Non-birthing person! I have an ouchie!” either.) And it’s absurd to ask them to, not just because it’s wrong on the merits, but because it’s an utterly doomed project that will invite 100 times more backlash against their cause.

    I'm pretty OK with setting back virtually every left-wing cause, Jonah.

    The amusing thing is that "Progressives" really can't help themselves when it comes to their oddball, jargon-infused, obfuscatory, euphemized language. They can't make their case using normal English.


  • Commie Radio Delenda Est. Tim Graham notes a grim milestone. NPR at 50 Years: Still a Liberal Sandbox.

    National Public Radio is celebrating its 50th anniversary this week in a classic way: asking its fans for money. A fundraising email gushes, “From covering the Vietnam War in 1971 to the COVID-19 vaccination effort today, and everything in between, NPR has delivered fact-based news and trustworthy analysis to millions.”

    Some of that “fact-based news” included “founding mother” Nina Totenberg’s attempts to ruin Douglas Ginsburg’s Supreme Court nomination (successful) and then Clarence Thomas’ nomination (unsuccessful). Years later, she did a syrupy sister act with feminist Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, hosting RBG celebrations at awards shows and film festivals.

    NPR dismissed the pre-election story about Hunter Biden’s alleged laptop as an example of “pure distractions” and then had to issue a correction to a January puff piece that had insisted the laptop story was “discredited by U.S. intelligence and independent investigations by news organizations.”

    We should no more have "National Public Radio" than we should have "National Public Newspaper".


  • "National Public Science" Has Its Downside Too. Matthew Crawford describes How science has been corrupted.

    The pandemic has brought into relief a dissonance between our idealised image of science, on the one hand, and the work “science” is called upon to do in our society, on the other. I think the dissonance can be traced to this mismatch between science as an activity of the solitary mind, and the institutional reality of it. Big science is fundamentally social in its practice, and with this comes certain entailments.

    As a practical matter, “politicised science” is the only kind there is (or rather, the only kind you are likely to hear about). But it is precisely the apolitical image of science, as disinterested arbiter of reality, that makes it such a powerful instrument of politics. This contradiction is now out in the open. The “anti-science” tendencies of populism are in significant measure a response to the gap that has opened up between the practice of science and the ideal that underwrites its authority. As a way of generating knowledge, it is the pride of science to be falsifiable (unlike religion).

    Yet what sort of authority would it be that insists its own grasp of reality is merely provisional? Presumably, the whole point of authority is to explain reality and provide certainty in an uncertain world, for the sake of social coordination, even at the price of simplification. To serve the role assigned it, science must become something more like religion.

    The chorus of complaints about a declining “faith in science” states the problem almost too frankly. The most reprobate among us are climate sceptics, unless those be the Covid deniers, who are charged with not obeying the science. If all this has a medieval sound, it ought to give us pause.

    It's a subtle point, but (I think) correct. Those folks who include "Science is Real" on their virtue-signalling yard sign mottoes are really expressing faith-based belief. An actual science motto would be (at least) a few characters longer: "Science Is Falsifiable".


  • Why Do We Even Have A 'Department of Agriculture' Any More? Well, to shell out farm subsidies, of course. But Baylen Linnekin notes they are in a spot of legal trouble: Vegan Group Sues the U.S. Department of Agriculture for Promoting Dairy Products.

    A lawsuit filed last week in federal court by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and a trio of doctors affiliated with the group claims U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) policies urging Americans to double the average consumption of dairy products has everything to do with protecting and promoting dairy farmers and little or nothing to do with nutrition.

    The suit, filed against the USDA, centers largely on 2020 federal dietary guidelines that recommend Americans consume three servings of dairy every day. These latest dietary guidelines, which are updated every five years, were adopted by the heads of the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and were based on the work of an appointed dietary guidelines advisory committee. While the dietary guidelines don't impose any dietary requirements on individual Americans, they help determine which foods the government serves to prison inmates, members of the military, schoolchildren, and others.

    Lecturing Americans on what to eat is just another job Uncle Stupid doesn't do very well, and shouldn't be doing at all.


  • First Time Appearance At Pun Salad For The Phrase 'Crap Ton Of Money'. Fellow New Hampshire boy Sean Dempsey (how come I never heard of him before?) had a tweet memorialized at Power Line.

    But if you'd like the same idea with more words, here's Veronique de Rugy: The Costs of Our Debt.

    Most studies that estimate the economic effects find that for every 10 percentage point increase in the debt ratio, future economic growth is reduced by 0.2 percentage points. Before the Covid-19 pandemic our debt-to-GDP ratio was 78%, it is now 101%–this constitutes a loss in future economic growth of almost half a percentage point. While at 78% debt we may have grown at 2.5% on average for the years to come, we now may growth at only 2% thanks to our debt addiction. Compounded over the years, this fact means that the average American will be significantly worse over time. With our debt ratio expected to hit 200% in the long-run, the economic reality of Japanese-style stagnation is something we should be cognizant of in the debate surrounding our debt trajectory.

    Milton Friedman was correct: The true measure of government’s size is found in what it spends and not in what it takes in in taxes. Because borrowing allows politicians and citizen-taxpayers to push the bill for today’s spending onto future generations, borrowing encourages too much spending today—thus irresponsibly enlarging the size of government.

    For those of us who desire to keep government small, raising debt levels means a larger and larger increase in the size and scope of government. It also suggests a lack of accountability as well as a lack of transparency. For all these reasons we need to reform entitlement spending, put both large chunks of military and domestic spending on the chopping block, and start selling off federal assets. Better to do it now than during a fire sale later.

    Vero, you had me at "Milton Friedman was correct."

URLs du Jour

2021-05-08

[Amazon Link]

  • Pessimism Is Warranted. A print-Reason article out from behind the paywall will be kind of a downer for many readers. Eric Boehm says The Era of Small Government Is Over.

    It was a full quarter-century ago when President Bill Clinton delivered one of the few quotable State of the Union addresses in American history.

    "The era of big government is over," he proclaimed on January 23, 1996. It was more of a political statement than a policy goal—indeed, Clinton proceeded to spend the next hour outlining a long list of things the federal government ought to do. But it wasn't just a bumper sticker catchphrase. "We know big government does not have all the answers. We know there's not a program for every problem," he explained. "And we have to give the American people [a government] that lives within its means."

    That succinct conception of limited government likely would, if expressed today, make any Democrat effectively unelectable—at least on the national stage. For that matter, the idea that Americans would be able to help themselves best if government got out of the way would place Clinton, circa 1996, outside the emerging mainstream consensus of today's Republican Party. Acknowledging the limits of government power to improve people's lives and worrying about the cost of a large and growing government is, it seems, so last century.

    I hope the lesson will be learned, eventually. I also hope the lesson won't be too painful, but I think the probability of that is getting pretty small.


  • Also Warranted: Skepticism. Science writer Nicholas Wade casts doubt on the Official Story about the Origin of Covid. He presents the two "plausible" theories: the official "Wuhan wet market" story, and the "Wuhan research lab leak" theory.

    Wade presents a lot of information about the molecular biology of viruses. Check it out. Here's the bit that jumped out at me,

    From early on, public and media perceptions were shaped in favor of the natural emergence scenario by strong statements from two scientific groups. These statements were not at first examined as critically as they should have been.

    “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin,” a group of virologists and others wrote in the Lancet on February 19, 2020, when it was really far too soon for anyone to be sure what had happened. Scientists “overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife,” they said, with a stirring rallying call for readers to stand with Chinese colleagues on the frontline of fighting the disease.

    Contrary to the letter writers’ assertion, the idea that the virus might have escaped from a lab invoked accident, not conspiracy. It surely needed to be explored, not rejected out of hand. A defining mark of good scientists is that they go to great pains to distinguish between what they know and what they don’t know. By this criterion, the signatories of the Lancet letter were behaving as poor scientists: they were assuring the public of facts they could not know for sure were true.

    It later turned out that the Lancet letter had been organized and drafted by Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance of New York. Dr. Daszak’s organization funded coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. If the SARS2 virus had indeed escaped from research he funded, Dr. Daszak would be potentially culpable. This acute conflict of interest was not declared to the Lancet’s readers. To the contrary, the letter concluded, “We declare no competing interests.”

    Wade notes that there's "no direct evidence" for either scenario. So it's a question of which is a better fit to the available facts. The lab leak looks pretty good on that score.


  • Also Warranted: Disbelief Of WIRED. And probably every other publication in the Condé Nast stable. TechDirt has a reliably left tilt, but Cathy Gellis doesn't let that stop her from zapping WIRED's recent misrepresentation of her views. Because Thanks To Section 230, I Can Correct Wired's Portrayal Of My Section 230 Advocacy.

    I always thought it would be a great honor to be referenced in the hallowed pages of WIRED magazine. Like Mike, I've been reading it since its beginning, as a then student studying information technology and watching the Internet take hold in the world.

    This week it finally happened, and ugh... My work was referenced in support of a terrible take on Section 230, which not only argued that Section 230 should be repealed (something that I spend a great deal of personal and professional energy trying to push back against) but masqueraded as a factual explanation of how there was no possible reasonable defense of the law and that therefore all its defenders (including me) are, essentially, pulling a fast one on the public by insisting it is important to hold onto. After all, as the title says, "Everything you've heard about Section 230 is wrong," including, it would seem, everything we've been saying about it all along.

    Such an assertion is, of course, ridiculous. But this isn't the first bad Section 230 take and unfortunately is unlikely to be the last, so if that were all it was it might be much easier to simply let it fade into history. But that wasn't all it was, because the piece didn't just make that general statement; it used my own work to do it, and in the most disingenuous way.

    I subscribe to print-WIRED, but I'm on the bubble as far as renewal goes. Probably due to Covid, they've been publishing a lot of navel-gazing articles of late. (I just plowed through "I Called Off My Wedding. The Internet Will Never Forget", a tragic tale of how the Internet is still sending Lauren reminders of her long-cancelled wedding. Eesh, talk about First World Problems.)


  • [Amazon Link]
    Facebook Gives Us Another Reason Why We Won't Be Sad If It's Destroyed. The Wall Street Journal committed the grievous sin of reviewing a book. (Link at right.) The results were Orwellian: Facebook’s Book-Banning Blueprint.

    Amazon this year started its foray into politicized book-banning, pulling a three-year-old book on transgender policy by a conservative think-tanker from its web store. Facebook doesn’t sell books, but it can suppress their distribution when they conflict with a political agenda. The social-media giant now appears to be throttling a Wall Street Journal review of a book on climate science by physicist Steven Koonin, the former top scientist at the Obama Energy Department and provost of the California Institute of Technology.

    Facebook uses so-called fact-checkers to tell it which news articles to suppress. The project has gone far beyond curbing viral hoaxes or dangerous misinformation and aims to limit scientific debate. In March Facebook flagged a Journal op-ed by Johns Hopkins surgeon Marty Makary on the pace at which Americans would develop herd immunity to Covid-19.

    The company now targets the Journal’s book review based on a gazillion-word post on a site called Climate Feedback with the headline, “Wall Street Journal article repeats multiple incorrect and misleading claims made in Steven Koonin’s new book ‘Unsettled.’”

    Amazon hasn't yanked the book yet, so click and buy while you can. (I get a cut.)


  • A Heads-Up For Us (Relative) Youngsters. George F. Will provides (I hope) a sneak preview, spoilers galore: What turning 80 teaches me.

    As Damon Runyon said, “All of life is 6 to 5 against.” So, it is a momentous social achievement that those who turn 80 this month — they are only 18 months older than the president, who is only eight months older than Mick Jagger — must wait five more years to get the satisfaction of joining a decreasingly exclusive club: By percentage, this nation’s most rapidly growing age cohort consists of those 85 and older.

    To be 80 years old in this republic is to have lived through almost exactly one-third of its life. And to have seen so many ephemeral excitements come and go that one knows how few events are memorable beyond their day. (Try to remember the things that had you in a lather during, say, the George H.W. Bush administration.) This makes an American 80-year-old’s finishing sprint especially fun, because it can be focused on this fact: To live a long life braided with the life of a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to an imperishable proposition is simply delightful.

    Not that it matters, but it was nice hearing the Red Sox NESN broadcast team talking about their memories of Willie Mays, who turned 90 the day before yesterday. Say Hey!


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:17 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-05-07

[Amazon Link]

  • Pretty Much Everyone Except Me. And also Robby Soave, who says Both the Left and the Right Are Exaggerating the Threat Posed by Facebook.

    Charged with determining whether Facebook erred in suspending former President Trump following the January 6 Capitol riots, the Facebook Oversight Board—which exists solely for the purpose of taking difficult content moderation decisions out of Mark Zuckerberg's hands—essentially shrugged and returned the decision to Facebook. The board did rule, however, that the indefinite suspension was inconsistent with the the company's policies, and Facebook should revisit the matter in the next six months.

    A conceivable outcome of this ruling is that Facebook will eventually decide, sometime later this year, that it has little choice but to un-ban Trump. Indeed, the board criticized Facebook for "applying a vague, standardless penalty." One might have expected tech-skeptical conservatives to be somewhat pleased with this ruling, since it was ultimately a rebuke of Facebook, and one that hints at the potential return of Trump.

    Instead, the right had a meltdown.

    And of course, the lefties hate Facebook because it's big and successful.

    Neither side has a coherent description of how things will be better after they destroy Facebook.


  • But Maybe Not Everyone On The Right. The NR editors opine on The Ridiculous Facebook Affair.

    Facebook’s “oversight board” has upheld the ban that the service imposed on President Trump in January of this year, while ordering the company to reconsider whether it should be made permanent. Facebook has six months to respond to the instructions. Evidently, having tried to hand responsibility for his toughest decisions over to a faceless panel, Mark Zuckerberg now finds himself back where he began.

    Every single part of this story is ridiculous. It is ridiculous that Facebook not only has an “oversight board,” but that it expects its users to consider it a meaningful source of due process, rather than as yet another way for the company to make up the rules as it goes along. It is ridiculous that, having concluded that Facebook’s initial decision lacked justification, that “oversight board” decided to uphold it anyway, and then invited Facebook to come up with a way of making it permanent. It is ridiculous that, in response to this decision, President Trump suggested that the core takeaway is that “Radical Left Lunatics are afraid of the truth,” rather than acknowledging that he has been constantly lying since he narrowly lost his re-election campaign last year, and that his lies risked material damage to our system of government. It is ridiculous that, in part to appease Trump’s rage, a host of conservatives have come to agree that private companies ought to have strict “oversight boards,” and that those boards ought in fact to be run by the federal government. It is ridiculous that Republican politicians such as Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, both of whom have been members of the “freedom caucus,” are openly musing about damaging corporations such as Facebook that happen to annoy them. And it is ridiculous that, in response to such musings, elements of the government-happy American Left have decided to talk like Milton Friedman about the sanctity of private business. This affair has brought the best out of nobody.

    I really should log onto "Rollinsford NH Happenings" on Facebook to see if that kitty ever came home. Maybe later.


  • No. See, I Just Willed Myself To Type That. But you might want to read the latest confirmation of Betteridge's law of headlines yourself: Is free will an illusion? After noting that one anti-free will philosopher received death threats:

    The difficulty in explaining the enigma of free will to those unfamiliar with the subject isn’t that it’s complex or obscure. It’s that the experience of possessing free will – the feeling that we are the authors of our choices – is so utterly basic to everyone’s existence that it can be hard to get enough mental distance to see what’s going on. Suppose you find yourself feeling moderately hungry one afternoon, so you walk to the fruit bowl in your kitchen, where you see one apple and one banana. As it happens, you choose the banana. But it seems absolutely obvious that you were free to choose the apple – or neither, or both – instead. That’s free will: were you to rewind the tape of world history, to the instant just before you made your decision, with everything in the universe exactly the same, you’d have been able to make a different one.

    Nothing could be more self-evident. And yet according to a growing chorus of philosophers and scientists, who have a variety of different reasons for their view, it also can’t possibly be the case. “This sort of free will is ruled out, simply and decisively, by the laws of physics,” says one of the most strident of the free will sceptics, the evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne. Leading psychologists such as Steven Pinker and Paul Bloom agree, as apparently did the late Stephen Hawking, along with numerous prominent neuroscientists, including VS Ramachandran, who called free will “an inherently flawed and incoherent concept” in his endorsement of Sam Harris’s bestselling 2012 book Free Will, which also makes that argument. According to the public intellectual Yuval Noah Harari, free will is an anachronistic myth – useful in the past, perhaps, as a way of motivating people to fight against tyrants or oppressive ideologies, but rendered obsolete by the power of modern data science to know us better than we know ourselves, and thus to predict and manipulate our choices.

    If you find yourself to be persuaded by the anti-free will folks quoted in the article, fine. But maybe you should be a little uncomfortable with that: because they're arguing that you really had no choice other than to be persuaded. The screen pixels hit your retinas, sent just the right sequence of electrons across your nervous system, boing, boing, boing. Causing you to say: "I don't believe in free will."

    I'm OK with you saying that. I'm just not sure you should be.

    Also: I've never observed an anti-free will advocate allow their disbelief to make them act any differently from pro-free will believers. They still make decisions, both important and trivial. They guide their kids (I assume) toward good behavior, kind of implying that the kids have a choice.


  • [Amazon Link]
    Hope Not. But Maybe. Abigail Shrier wonders: Has Censorship Become Our Baseline Expectation?.

    Want proof that our norms are shifting? Look no further than our headlines: “Amazon won’t stop selling book questioning transgender youth” noted a surprised New York Daily News on Tuesday. “Amazon overrules employees’ calls to stop selling book questioning mainstream treatment for transgender youth,” declared The Seattle Times. “Amazon Refuses to Stop Selling Anti-Trans Book,” reported an apparently disappointed Edge Media. And yesterday’s NBCNews.com: “Amazon will not remove book advocates say endangers transgender youth.

    For every one of these publications, the baseline assumption is censorship. It is Amazon that “won’t stop selling,” or “overrules employees” or “refuses to stop selling” or “will not remove”—Amazon whose actions strike today’s journalists as significant and surprising.  Amazon the intransigent bookseller, stubbornly insisting on continuing to sell books. Standing up to the calls for censorship is now what surprises us. The numberless calls for book banning no longer do.

    Abigail is involved because it's her book the folks want Amazon to virtually burn. And, at least for now, Amazon link at your right. (As I type: "#1 Best Seller in LGBTQ+ Demographic Studies". Which must be driving the wannabe censors crazy.)

    I have no good explanation for Amazon's disparate treatment of Ryan T. Anderson's When Harry Became Sally. I don't think Amazon does either. But I'm (slightly) encouraged by their refusal to slide any further down that slippery slope.


  • Dubious But Not Unusual. Heather Mac Donald describes Biden’s Dubious Pick for Energy Research.

    President Joe Biden has now taken the push for “diversity” in STEM to a new level. His candidate to head the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the largest funder of the physical sciences in the U.S., is a soil geologist at the University of California, Merced. She has no background in physics, the science of energy, or the energy sector. She has never held a position as a scientific administrator. The typical head of DOE’s Office of Science in the past has had managerial authority in the nation’s major physics labs and has been a physicist himself, Science reports. The new nominee’s only managerial experience consists of serving since 2020 as an interim associate dean of UC Merced’s graduate division.

    Asmeret Asefaw Berhe is, however, a black female who has won “accolades for her work to promote diversity in science,” as Science puts it. Berhe would be the first black woman to head the $7 billion office, and that is reason enough, according to the diversity mantra, why she should oversee X-ray synchrotrons, the development of nuclear weapons, and ongoing research on nuclear fusion. Her nomination requires Senate confirmation; if Berhe will not commit to hiring and grantmaking on the basis of scientific expertise alone, irrespective of race and sex, senators should vote her appointment down.

    On her Wikipedia page, I was amused by the buzzword-heavy title of one of her papers: "Politicizing Indiscriminate Terror: Imagining an Inclusive Framework for the Anti-Landmines Movement".


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:17 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-05-06

  • I Wouldn't Bet On Them Understanding, Though. J.D. Tuccille presents the Looming Budget Catastrophe in Pictures So Simple Even Congress Can Understand. And I'll just grab the pictures myself:

    [CBO Deficit Graph]

    [CBO Debt Graph]

    Clicking either graph will take you to a Congressional Budget Office "infographic" page where there is more catastrophic stuff. (And the graphs are interactive there.)

    J.D.'s bottom line:

    There really are limits to how much governments can spend without inflicting pain on the people suffering under their mismanagement. Not that the people elected to Congress and the White House have shown any signs of comprehension or concern.

    Given that these are people capable of running for public office without feeling any apparent sense of shame, is it possible that they're just too stupid to understand our reports? you can imagine CBO economists asking one another as they tossed around the idea for the recent infographic. Does anybody have any crayons?

    And so we end up with pretty pictures illustrating a very unattractive fiscal situation. Maybe drawings can finally deter elected officials from their outrageous spending habits where detailed reports have failed to attract their attention.

    I agree that elected officials are bad. But they are responding to incentives. Specifically, their need to get re-elected. And to do that, they need to appeal to voters who demand stuff without paying for it.


  • Is Liz Cheney Really The Problem Here? Steve Hayes says no: Kevin McCarthy's GOP is Tired of Hearing the Truth.

    In a private appearance in front of a small crowd at Mar-a-Lago in late April, former President Donald Trump pointed supporters to the phony recount taking place in Maricopa County, Arizona, and insisted once again that he won the 2020 presidential election.

    “Let’s see what they find. I wouldn’t be surprised if they find thousands and thousands and thousands of votes, so we’re going to watch that very closely. After that, we’ll watch Pennsylvania and we’ll watch Georgia, and you’re gonna watch Michigan and Wisconsin, and you’re watching New Hampshire—they found a lot of votes up in New Hampshire just now, you saw that, because this was a rigged election,” he said. “Everybody knows it.”

    The election wasn’t rigged, of course, and while Trump’s monomaniacal insistence that it was has convinced a majority of Republican voters, most congressional Republicans understand that Joe Biden is the rightfully elected president.

    I think that's probably true. And "most congressional Republicans" seem too spineless to deliver that unpleasant truth to their constituents. You get booed! Nobody likes that, especially pols whose egos crave adulation.

    Trump's New Hampshire reference is to the election audit in Windham (Commie Radio link, sorry). Trump's claim that "they found a lot of votes up in New Hampshire just now" is unsurprisingly reality-challenged: shortly after the election—six months ago—a hand recount of Windham's ballots found about 300 more votes for four Republican House candidates (each) than the machine-tabulated election night results.

    If anyone knows what happened for sure, they ain't talking. But the conspiracy theorists are pretty sure it Proves Something.


  • Stop Saying That. Both Trump and Liz Cheney have used the term "THE BIG LIE" (yes, in caps) in recent days. That's playing the Nazi card, a lazy rhetorical tactic. And (perhaps worse) not even accurate. See the Jewish Virtual Library's Joseph Goebbels On the “Big Lie”.

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

    This is an excellent definition of the “Big lie,” however, there seems to be no evidence that it was used by Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, though it is often attributed to him.

    Also see Wikipedia.


  • "The Holy Roman Empire was Neither Holy, Nor Roman, Nor an Empire. Discuss." Veronique de Rugy channels Coffee Talk's Linda Richman: Biden's Environmentally Friendly Infrastructure Plan Won't Help Infrastructure or the Environment.

    The Biden administration has made the fight against climate change a central part of its $2 trillion infrastructure plan. This legislation, if it ever sees the light of day, would shovel more than $100 billion of subsidies toward boosting the market for electric vehicles, as well as updating the country's electric grid to make it allegedly more resilient to climate disasters.

    All of these "investments" sound well and good on paper, but if you genuinely care about the environment, don't hold your breath for any real progress. For one thing, Biden's plan is mostly a giant handout to corporations that are already heavily investing in infrastructure. It's also a gift to unions, most of which will do nothing to encourage the type of activities the president claims to support, and they'll make the cost of producing infrastructure more expensive, so we'll probably see less of it.

    Vero goes on to note that a truly "green" plan would be funded by user charges that would moderate demand for carbon. Instead…


  • We're Number Five! Chris Edwards has produced one of those state ranking studies I'm such a sucker for: Best and Worst States for Entrepreneurs.

    My new Cato study examines state and local regulations that create barriers to startup businesses. It looks at occupational licensing, marijuana laws, alcohol licensing, minimum wages, rules on home‐based businesses, and much else. It ranks the 50 states based on an index of 17 variables. The table shows the overall results.

    In Edwards' rankings, New Hampshire is behind only Georgia, both Dakotas, and Colorado. (But if we legalized pot…)

    Still, when you look at the rest of New England, we come out looking like Galt's Gulch: Massachusetts is #34, Vermont is #37, Maine is #39, Rhode Island is #41, and Connecticut is in a solid last place.

    Not that it matters, but Middlesex County (NJ) has been running ads on WBZ TV (Boston) trying to entice tech business to abandon Massachusetts and come on down. (Sample).

    Entrepreneurs: Cato ranks New Jersey in forty-ninth place. Don't believe TV ads, even the ones during Jeopardy!


  • Not Quite "Greed Is Good", But Acceptable. David Harsanyi says Profit Margins Save Lives.

    The New York Times reports that “Pfizer Reaps Hundreds of Millions in Profits From Covid Vaccine.”

    When you see the word “reaps” in the headline, it usually suggests something more devious than merely “earned.” Hollywood rarely “reaps” money. Walmart “reaps.” Solar-panel makers do not “reap.” Oil companies “reap.” The more useful you are to society, it seems, the more likely you are to reap.

    And pharma giant Pfizer reaped revenues of $3.5 billion in the first three months of 2021, estimated to generate around $900 billion in profits. All the company had to do was create a safe drug that effectively alleviated the threat of the most deadly virus we’ve faced in over a century — one responsible for hundreds of thousands of American deaths and a cost of trillions in economic damage — and then manufacture and dispense hundreds of millions of doses in the shortest span of any vaccine ever created.

    So, naturally, progressives want to punish Pfizer.

    I read Atlas Shrugged back when I was 17 or so. May be time to reread.

URLs du Jour

2021-05-05

  • Mr. Ramirez is not a fan of the GOP's Death Wish.

    [How Dinosaurs Became Extinct]

    Wikipedia tells me that the (non-avian) dinosaurs lasted about 130 million years; the GOP will be lucky to last until 2030.


  • What Leaps To Mind: A Boot To The Head. Kevin D. Williamson devotes his weekly column to What the Republican Party Needs vs. What It Wants.

    Mike Wood has done harder things than running for the House of Representatives, and some of those hard things he did in Afghanistan, where he won two Purple Hearts and a Navy Commendation Medal — which made it especially irritating for him to listen to fellow Republicans describe him as a “traitor” during his recent campaign in Texas’s 6th District. Wood has a direct, unadorned way of communicating (one section of his campaign bio begins, “After getting shot . . .”), a refreshingly stoic style in our age of hysterical politics. Emotionally incontinent displays are not his thing, but there is some tension in his voice when he sets that scene.

    “Not a whole lot gets to me, but when some of these nut-jobs called me a ‘traitor,’ it got to me more than it should. I have scars on all four limbs from fighting for this country, but — because I refused to bend the knee to Donald Trump — I’m some sort of Benedict Arnold character. But that’s where our politics are right now.” Hearing about the Utah GOP’s treatment of Mitt Romney — the senator was denounced as a “traitor” and, of all things, a “communist” — Wood saw it as more of the same: “Disgusting.”

    Wood, whom I first met when he was a National Review Institute Regional Fellow in Dallas, is the sort of candidate conservatives used to dream about: under 40, a decorated veteran, articulate, educated (bachelor’s from NYU and an MBA from SMU), a business owner with a big, photogenic family, he had everything going for him with the exception of one thing: apostasy.

    Wood is one of a surprisingly large number of conservatives who opposed Trump in 2016 but supported him — voted for him, anyway, with whatever other qualifications or hesitation — in 2020. But he also has been plainspoken about the Trump movement, which he accurately describes as a “cult of personality” in thrall to loopy conspiracy theories. It was Trump’s post-election performance leading up to the events of January 6 that most troubles Wood, who calls Trump’s conduct “disqualifying.”

    Mike Wood came in ninth in the May 1 special election. The winner was Susan Wright, KDW-described as a "Trump-endorsed member of the State Republican Executive Committee (Drain that swamp!) whose main claim to the seat is that she is the widow of the man who most recently held it."


  • It's the sixtieth anniversary of (New Hampshire boy) Alan Shepard's sub-orbital Mercury flight, making him the first American in space. The Only in Your State site claims You Can Visit Alan Shepard's Grave in his birthplace of Derry. But the fine print says it's just a memorial; his ashes were scattered offshore from his home in Pebble Beach.

    But if you're in the area, the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord is a pretty decent attraction, including a life-size replica of the Redstone rocket that launched Smilin' Al into suborbit. It's surprisingly tiny, a tad over 83 feet from the bottom to the tippy-top of the escape tower.

    Here endeth my tourist boosterism for the day.


  • From Our "Probably Not Meant To Be Funny" Department, Emma Green writes in the Atlantic on The Liberals Who Can’t Quit Lockdown. Sample:

    Even as the very effective COVID-19 vaccines have become widely accessible, many progressives continue to listen to voices preaching caution over relaxation. Anthony Fauci recently said he wouldn’t travel or eat at restaurants even though he’s fully vaccinated, despite CDC guidance that these activities can be safe for vaccinated people who take precautions. California Governor Gavin Newsom refused in April to guarantee that the state’s schools would fully reopen in the fall, even though studies have demonstrated for months that modified in-person instruction is safe. Leaders in Brookline, Massachusetts, decided this week to keep a local outdoor mask mandate in place, even though the CDC recently relaxed its guidance for outdoor mask use. And scolding is still a popular pastime. “At least in San Francisco, a lot of people are glaring at each other if they don’t wear masks outside,” [Professor of medicine at UC San Francisco Monica] Gandhi said, even though the risk of outdoor transmission is very low.

    Science is real, except when we're scared.


  • [Amazon Link]
    Continuing Our Exploration Of Modern American Progressivism… WIRED's Gilad Edelman reviews a new book, and he's not a fan, the (HTML) title is "Josh Hawley’s ‘Big Tech’ Book Overthrows the Tyranny of Reality".

    The displayed headline is milder: "Josh Hawley’s Virtual Reality".

    Anyway, Amazon link on your right. But about Hawley's history:

    Where Hawley’s book departs from the standard anti-tech treatise is in his attempt to tie the current moment into a grand theory of American political history. In Hawley’s telling, people like Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos are the direct ideological descendants of the original Gilded Age robber barons. Their dominance is the culmination of what he calls “corporate liberalism,” a philosophy in which, he writes, the state and big business conspire to deny the common man his independence and self-government. According to Hawley, corporate liberalism became entrenched a century ago in both major political parties, and today, “Big Tech and Big Government seek to extend their influence over every area of American life.”

    And so Hawley spends a large portion of the book recounting these historical roots. The hero of his narrative is Theodore Roosevelt, whom Hawley views as the champion of a small-r republican tradition dating back to the nation’s founding. “He believed that liberty depended on the independence of the common man and on his capacity to share in self-government,” Hawley writes. “He believed concentrations of wealth and power threatened the people’s control and thus their freedom.” Roosevelt established those bona fides by bringing a successful antitrust case against financier J. P. Morgan in 1904. But his republican vision met its tragic demise in the election of 1912, when Roosevelt lost to Democrat Woodrow Wilson, whom Hawley calls “the nation’s first prominent corporate liberal.” Where Roosevelt championed the common man, Wilson favored government by corporate aristocratic elites. Once in office, he put an end to the anti-monopoly movement, settling instead for friendly cooperation with big business. “This was the Wilsonian settlement, the triumph of corporate liberalism that would dominate America’s politics and political economy for a century and reach its apotheosis with Big Tech,” Hawley writes.

    I wouldn't be surprised if Hawley cherry-picks his antitrust history. But I suspect Edelman's analysis more. (Essentially: "everything was cool with antitrust policy until Robert Bork cast his evil mind rays on the topic.")


  • To A First Approximation, Everything. Gus Hurwitz writes at NH Journal/Inside Sources: J&J ‘Pause’ Underscores What Government Gets Wrong About Risk.

    Just 10 days after issuing it, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted their “pause” on the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Initially sparked by six reported cases of a rare blood clot, out of more than 6.8 million doses administered, the decision also came amid a pandemic that continues to infect 50,000 more Americans every day.

    Taken together, these facts highlight that the federal government lacks a coherent or consistent approach to risk. As we continue toward a new normal after the pandemic, we must take stock of what we have learned and update our assumptions about how the government approaches risk.

    One question about the CDC and FDA’s decision was whether the agencies overreacted to a minuscule risk easily outweighed by the benefits of vaccination. Another was that pausing the vaccine would make more people hesitant to get vaccinated. Indeed, the early evidence suggests it has. A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that just 22 percent of unvaccinated Americans said they would consider getting the J&J vaccine were it to be put back in use. For their part, the CDC and FDA respond that their oversight promotes trust in vaccines.

    It seems obvious that (once again) the FDA and CDC managed to kill more than a few extra Americans at the margin. By "doing something". By "taking action".


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:17 AM EDT

Without Remorse

[1.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

The official title of this movie is apparently Tom Clancy's Without Remorse, but I can't bring myself to use that. The movie's plot bears only a vague resemblance to Clancy's novel.

And the movie is pretty bad on its own. Michael B. Jordan plays Clancy's tough-as-nails hero, John Kelly (soon to become "John Clark"); he was on hand in the Jack Ryan series to perform acts of wanton violence that Jack could not credibly carry out himself. Clancy wrote Without Remorse as his "origin story".

But it starts out in Syria, where Navy SEALS, containing Kelly, are raiding a house suspected to contain ISIS, but instead contains Russians, and a whole lot more resistance than they expected. They blame the squirrelly CIA guy accompanying them; but the actual truth is…

Well, never mind, because when the team gets back to the States, they are targeted for revenge. Kelly survives the attack on his house, but his wife and unborn daughter do not. And that's setup for the rest of the movie, as Kelly works out his revenge. But…

Oh heck, I'll toss things over to Peter Suderman at Reason, who notes the interesting conspiracy. (Spoiler, but who cares?) A Keynesian Warmonger Gets What He Deserves in the Otherwise Awful Without Remorse.

But if you do get the end (and again, spoiler alert) you'll be treated to a monologue by Guy Pearce, playing the Secretary of Defense, who explains that he's been trying to foment a war with Russia by—actually it doesn't matter, but all the nefariously convoluted stuff that happens in the movie, including a hit that resulted in the death of the hero's wife—in order to bring Americans together and pump up the economy.

"You know who won World War II?" he seethes, in one of those explain-your-evil-plan monologues that villains in bad movies often give about eight minutes before the credits roll. "It wasn't the generals or the admirals," he says. "It was the economists."

I had more fun reading Suderman's review than I did watching the movie. (And yes, I foolishly watched the movie after reading the review. Always trust Suderman.)


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:16 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-05-04

[Amazon Link]

  • So What Happened? Via Why Evolution Is True, Daniel A. Kaufman lists Twenty-Five Things Everyone Used to Understand. It's hard to pick, but…

    [8] Not discounting individual cases which may vary widely, as a general matter, no one living in the US and born after the Second World War is less “safe” or experiencing greater hardship or deprivation than those belonging to the generations behind them.

    [9] What we think of as “progress” is and always has been a mixture of steps forward and steps backward. Some things get better and some things get worse. [This in no way contradicts [8].]

    Kaufman considers these propositions to be saying "things that pretty much everyone in the United States understood until five proverbial minutes ago."


  • Our "Believe Nothing You Hear, And Only One Half That You See" Department is working Overtime. Glenn Greenwald notes more media (mis|mal)feasance: Corporate News Outlets Again "Confirm" the Same False Story, While Many Refuse to Correct it.

    On Thursday night, The Washington Post, citing anonymous sources (of course), claimed that the FBI gave a "defensive briefing” to Rudy Giuliani in 2019, before he traveled to Ukraine, that he was being targeted by a Russian disinformation campaign to hurt Joe Biden's candidacy, yet he ignored the FBI's warnings and went anyway. The Post also claimed that the right-wing news outlet OANN was similarly briefed. The claim about Giuliani not only predictably ricocheted all over social media and cable news — where, as usual, it was uncritically treated as Truth — but it was shortly thereafter “independently confirmed” by both NBC Newsde facto CIA spokesman Ken Dilanian along with The New York Times.

    What was the problem with this story? It was totally false. The FBI never briefed Giuliani on any such thing. As a result, The Washington Post had to append this "correction” — meaning a retraction — to the top of its viral story:

    Click through for the retraction's screenshot. What will it take for "Corporate Media" to admit it has a serious credibility problem?


  • Government "Doing Something" Is Overrated. Katherine Mangu-Ward notes a feature of 21st Century America: When Politics Makes It Impossible To Plan.

    To make good choices, people must have a fairly solid sense of what the consequences of those choices will be. But an ever-greater sphere of American life is subject to political risk. A lack of clarity about consequences can lead even people who want to do the right thing down dubious paths.

    For more than a decade, there has been a move away from generating lasting policy through conventional means and toward short-term wins through any mechanism available. This is reflected in everything from the disintegration of the congressional budgeting process to the increase in the use of executive orders to the vestigial involvement of the legislative branch in decisions about treaties and warmaking.

    It doesn't help when the Prez is a doddering old fool who can apparently be talked into any and every money-throwing scheme that's pitched to him.


  • [Amazon Link]
    In Our "Ships Passing In The Night" Department… Steven Koonin and I apparently overlapped in our college years, but I don't remember meeting him. But we definitely took different career paths; among other positions, he was undersecretary for science in the U.S. Department of Energy under President Obama. And (as another unexpected turn) he's written a book, Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters (Amazon link at your right). And it's excerpted at (of all places) National Review Questioning the Climate-Change Narrative .

    ‘The Science.” We’re all supposed to know what “The Science” says. “The Science,” we’re told, is settled. How many times have you heard it?

    Humans have already broken the earth’s climate. Temperatures are rising, sea level is surging, ice is disappearing, and heat waves, storms, droughts, floods, and wildfires are an ever-worsening scourge on the world. Greenhouse-gas emissions are causing all of this. And unless they’re eliminated promptly by radical changes to society and its energy systems, “The Science” says earth is doomed.

    Well . . . not quite. Yes, it’s true that the globe is warming, and that humans are exerting a warming influence upon it. But beyond that — to paraphrase the classic movie The Princess Bride: “I do not think ‘The Science’ says what you think it says.”

    It would be very difficult to dismiss Koonin as a right-wing anti-science denier. (That probably won't stop people from trying.)


  • But The Downeaster Engineer Toots His Horn When I Wave At Him. Randal O'Toole celebrates the Fiftieth Anniversary of a Loser. Some doleful stats:

    Transportation analysts know that, under Amtrak, passenger trains have lost market share of U.S. travel despite billions in subsidies. In 1970, the private railroads carried a trivial 0.29 percent of U.S. passenger travel. By cutting so many passenger trains, Amtrak immediately dropped to around 0.16 percent. By 1991, Amtrak ridership had recovered to 1970’s levels, but other modes of passenger travel also increased, so Amtrak’s share was still 0.16 percent. After that, it declined to 0.10 percent in 2005, which is about where it remained in 2019.

    Followers of the coronavirus know that Amtrak has lost more than 70 percent of its riders during the pandemic, and it may never get all of them back. Thanks to even more federal subsidies, it keeps running trains, but they are nearly empty.

    Amtrak is trying to sell itself as a solution to global climate change. How can it be a solution when it carries less than 0.1 percent of passenger travel and 0.0 percent of freight? Amtrak’s nearly empty Diesel‐​powered trains generate tons of greenhouse gases per hour without saving any anywhere else. Even before the pandemic, intercity buses emitted fewer greenhouse gases per passenger mile than Amtrak’s Diesel trains, and they aren’t getting any of Biden’s proposed transportation funds.

    And Biden wants to give it $80 billion additional funding.


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:16 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-05-03

  • I Miss Wimpy. But Mr. Ramirez puts him to good use: Moocher In Chief.

    [Moocher in Chief]

    I suppose a lot of young 'uns (by which I mean people under 70) won't get the reference, but that's OK. Wimpy info is here.


  • If You Prefer Your Bad News To Be Textual Chris Stirewalt will provide it The Era of Big Government is Here.

    The best way to gauge the success of American political movements is not by the depth to which they shape their native party, but the breadth to which they extend into the opposing side.

    By that standard, the American conservative movement hit its lowest ebb in generations last week. Its success was so towering 25 years ago that Democratic President Bill Clinton embraced smaller government, free trade, welfare reform and fiscal discipline. Conservatism’s failure now is so abject that not only has a new Democratic president repudiated those concepts in his first address to Congress, but the Republican Party that for decades made itself synonymous with the conservative movement also increasingly rejects its core tenets. The tidal shift toward big, activist, progressive government that began even before the financial crisis of 2008 has washed over both parties and left conservatism lost at sea.

    Stirewalt recalls that famous Clinton quote: "The era of big government is over." Wrong again, Bill.


  • In Our "Unfortunate Relevance" Department… I recently finished Rod Dreher's new book, Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents. It was one of those "wish I liked it better" books. I liked this essay from James Lindsay better, inspired by the same person inspiring Dreher, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: A Manifesto for the Based.

    When Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote in The Gulag Archipelago, “Let the lie come into the world. Let it even triumph. But not through me,” that was based. Not participating in transparent lies or mass delusion is based. Doing so against the madness of the following crowd is based. Nearly everything that it means to be based is either contained within or predicated upon this one trait of character.

    Solzhenitsyn wrote those words as a result of his observations living in what may have been the most brutal tyranny of human history: Stalin’s USSR. That simplest of refusals—the refusal to lie on command, or even to fit in—is, in the end, the summary of his observations of what kind of people had what it took to resist a totalitarian regime. Keeping your head down while you hope the unconscionable blows over, say, so you can keep your job but none of your dignity, is not based.

    I recommend Solzhenitsyn's essay "Live Not By Lies". I also can't resist quoting Lindsay's final paragraph:

    Freedom is ours for the taking. The lies are coming into the world, and, for the moment, they have begun to triumph. Lord, though, are they funny. Being based is little more, then, than a laughing refusal to be pushed around by the preposterous. It’s a refusal to go along with the crowd when the crowd has gone mad. While many people seem to realize that there is some problem, only the based realize not only that its safer and healthier to break away, but that it’s also hilarious. The based aren’t about to live by ridiculous lies because they’ll be too busy laughing the bottom out from under them.

    Optimistic! I hope he's right. ("It's all fun and games until someone loses their job… oh, wait.")


  • At The Knees, Or Maybe Higher. John Ellis, writing in the probably-paywalled WSJ says Sorry, Professor, We’re Cutting You Off.

    An advanced society functions by creating a series of institutions, telling them what it wants them to do, and funding them to do it. Institutions like the police, fire departments, courts and schools do the jobs society creates them to do. But one American institution—higher education—has decided to repurpose itself. It has set aside the job given to it by society and substituted a different one.

    Higher education had a cluster of related purposes in society. Everyone benefited from the new knowledge it developed and the well-informed, thoughtful citizenry it produced. Individual students benefited from the preparation they received for careers in a developed economy. Yet these days, academia has decided that its primary purpose is the promotion of a radical political ideology, to which it gives the sunny label “social justice.”

    That’s an enormous detour from the institutional mission granted to higher education by society—and a problem of grave consequence. For the purpose that academia has now given itself happens to be the only one that the founding documents of virtually all colleges and universities take care to forbid pre-emptively. The framers of those documents understood that using the campuses to promote political ideologies would destroy their institutions, because ideologies would always be rigid enough to prevent the exploration of new ideas and the free exercise of thought. They knew that the two purposes—academic and political—aren’t simply different, but polar opposites. They can’t coexist because the one erases the other.

    Professor (Emeritus) Ellis suggests withholding the bucks. Parents, send your kids to unwoke schools; governments, start cutting back on blank-check funding.


  • In Our "Good Advice" Department… Bari Weiss suggests a simple strategy. Believe Science: Get Vaccinated. Then Relax. (At Pun Salad Manor, it's mostly "mission accomplished", except for Mrs. Salad, who is constitutionally unable to relax.)

    Bari notes (with illustrative video clips): "It feels as if we are stuck between two deranged and morally confused options."

    No, you do not need to wear a mask, let alone two, when you are a vaccinated person outside jogging. As a rule of thumb, you are incredibly unlikely (it’s almost impossible) to get Covid-19 outside in open, uncrowded spaces. There are very rare exceptions, like standing in a very tight circle and singing loudly with other people for hours. Going for a solo run in a park is not among them.

    And no, you absolutely should not call the police or Child Protective Services on parents who still mask their children anymore than you would call the police or Child Protective Services on a child who is wearing elbow-pads while they are running. You might think it’s unnecessary, excessive and a sign of helicopter parenting. It probably is. Here’s what you can do instead: Mind your own business.

    Especially note Bari's last bit of advice: "You’re not crazy: the public messaging on this has been a disaster."


  • I'll Clear It Up Further. John Hinderaker says he's Glad They Cleared That Up. What? Quoting the entire article:

    The Rochester, Minnesota, school board has declared “Black Lives Matter” to be “government speech.” I always suspected something of the sort, but it is nice to see it made official:

    The Rochester Public Schools board voted unanimously Tuesday evening to make several phrases and images, including “Black Lives Matter,” government speech, meaning the school can’t be held liable for allowing those views while not allowing opposing views.

    Got that? Dissent from the “Black Lives Matter” orthodoxy will not be permitted. The government says so. Several other phrases have been declared “government speech” as well:

    [I]n Rochester schools, speech concerning “Brown lives matter,” “Indigenous lives matter, “Stop Asian hate”, as well as the pride flag, are now all declared official government speech.

    I have to say that the concept of “government speech” is a new one on me. It is quite a few years now since I studied the First Amendment, but the idea of declaring an idea to be “government speech” so as to prohibit anything counter to it seems a bit sinister.

    Well, "Government Speech" is a thing. There's even a Wikipedia article.

    And the interesting thing about that is:

    The doctrine was implied in Wooley v. Maynard in 1977, when the Supreme Court acknowledged a legitimate government interest in communicating an official, ideologically partial message to the public.

    If that case sounds familiar, it's the one where NH resident George Maynard objected to the "Live Free or Die" slogan on his state-issued license plate (there's your "government speech"), taping it over. Which was illegal at the time. (Irony alert.) In a 6-3 decision, Maynard got off.

    So, contra Hinderaker, dissent against "government speech" is permitted; if anyone disagrees, send them to the Wooley v. Maynard decision.

    It's that "government" need not air dissenting opinions itself. E.g., New Hampshire doesn't need to provide alternate-slogan plates saying (for example) "Submit to Authority, Sheeple".

    So Rochester's school board probably on solid legal ground. That doesn't make their speech less odious, it's just permitted.

The Thursday Murder Club

[Amazon Link]

The WSJ's Tom Nolan put this debut novel from Richard Osman on his Best Mysteries of 2020 list. That's been a mixed bag so far, but this was a goodie. I started casting the BBC miniseries in my head as I read: Judi Dench as Elizabeth! Penelope Wilton as Joyce! Bob Hoskins as Ron!… oh, wait, he's dead. Well, you get the idea.

The Club is set up at a comfy British retirement village Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron, and Ibrahim get together to puzzle out unsolved cold cases from the past, provided from a retired policewoman's files. But soon enough they get a more modern crime dropped (nearly literally) at their doorstep. After an argument between the village's owner and his partner (both with criminal pasts) the partner is bludgeoned to death at his home. And an old picture is left at the crime scene…

Who done it? Well, it's complicated. And there are a lot of suspects. It pays the reader to pay attention to all the characters, you never know who's going to matter later.

The book is hilarious in spots. Each club member has talents that aid in their investigation. The cops assigned to the case are (of course) opposed to civilian interference, but are more or less forced to accept the club's help; it turns out that their methods uncover relevant clues before the police can.

But it's not all hilarity. Our heroes are old, and the book doesn't flinch from confronting what that means in terms of lost loved ones and loneliness.

I see that Richard Osman has a second book coming out in September. I'm in.


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:16 AM EDT

Live Not by Lies

A Manual for Christian Dissidents

[Amazon Link]

It's really two books.

  1. The stories of how (mostly) Christians survived and resisted (mostly) Communist tyranny in Russia and Eastern Europe in the bad old days. The author, Rod Dreher, visits and interviews survivors and descendents. These are valuable stories that need to be told.

    The title of the book is taken from an essay by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, released on the occasion of his 1974 exile from the USSR to the West.

  2. Dreher's warning against the "soft totalitarianism" rising in the US and Europe as we slide toward a Brave New World dystopia. That's also a promising subject, and Dreher hits a number of deserving targets.

There are a couple of big problems, though.

First, Dreher doesn't seem to do a good job of connecting up these two books into a whole argument.

Second, Dreher's critique of our modern age is fusty and illiberal. (He might take that latter adjective as a compliment.) He's very concerned about Alexa/Siri/Cortana listening in on our conversations, reporting them back to their respective mother ships. But also about declining church attendance, family stability, faith in institutions. Rising porn, drug use, cancel culture.

Fine, those are all arguably problems. (But of widely differing importance.) But do they really point to an inevitable decline into that soft totalitarianism? One where religious liberty will be put in serious jeopardy? I am unconvinced.

But (good news) Dreher quotes (partially) Solzhenitsyn's recommendations for people who choose to resist. One can't help but note their relevance today. The person who lives not by lies:

  • Will not write, sign, nor publish in any way, a single line distorting, so far as he can see, the truth;
  • Will not utter such a line in private or in public conversation, nor read it from a crib sheet, nor speak it in the role of educator, canvasser, teacher, actor;
  • Will not in painting, sculpture, photograph, technology, or music depict, support, or broadcast a single false thought, a single distortion of the truth as he discerns it;
  • Will not cite in writing or in speech a single “guiding” quote for gratification, insurance, for his success at work, unless he fully shares the cited thought and believes that it fits the context precisely;
  • Will not be forced to a demonstration or a rally if it runs counter to his desire and his will; will not take up and raise a banner or slogan in which he does not fully believe;
  • Will not raise a hand in vote for a proposal which he does not sincerely support; will not vote openly or in secret ballot for a candidate whom he deems dubious or unworthy;
  • Will not be impelled to a meeting where a forced and distorted discussion is expected to take place;
  • Will at once walk out from a session, meeting, lecture, play, or film as soon as he hears the speaker utter a lie, ideological drivel, or shameless propaganda;
  • Will not subscribe to, nor buy in retail, a newspaper or journal that distorts or hides the underlying facts.

Readers, that's a difficult way to live. But (as Solzhenitsyn says) it's the way of the "honest man, worthy of the respect of his children and contemporaries."

And I'm pretty sure the New York Times would go out of business pretty quickly if a lot of people started following that last rule.


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:16 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-05-02

  • Always Bet Against Investment Fads. Remy offers up a catchy rap about Dog Money!.

    I don't like rap (I'm old) and would no sooner buy more than a token amount of cryptocurrency than I would buy tulip futures on margin. Still, it's funny and I wouldn't bet a lot against an upcoming currency crisis.

    Oh, wait, I am betting a lot against an upcoming currency crisis. Shoot.


  • Something You Won't Hear From The NYT Or WaPo. Or… practically any news outlet not named the Wall Street Journal or Fox. James R. Harrigan and Antony Davies translate into normal English: When Politicians Say Fair Tax, They Only Mean More Tax.

    Politicians never seem to have much trouble telling us they want to raise taxes. It seems to come as naturally to them as breathing does to the rest of us. They do their level best to keep the spotlight on “the rich,” of course, who they say must “pay their fair share.” But what do politicians hardly ever say? They hardly ever say who “the rich” are. And when they do, they usually point to multibillionaires while meaning people with considerably less. What do they also never say? They never say what a “fair share” is. It really just means “more.” Who would’ve thought.

    This leaves a problem for the class warfare class, because it is these same rich people who fund their political campaigns. And as if that weren’t bad enough, most Congressmen and Senators are rich themselves. The two who yell the loudest about taxing the rich, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, are worth $2.5 million and $12 million respectively. What are the odds that these two, and all their cronies in Congress, would bite the hands that feed them? What are the odds they would bite their own hands?

    Well, we'll see. Harrigan and Davies provide a version of this graph (I got this from Cato, click to go there):

    [Federal Tax Changes Since 1979]

    As always: show me where those lines would have to go to make everything "fair".


  • That's Their Job. Andrew C. McCarthy (NRPLUS) makes a point that seems pretty obviously true: Race Demagogues Are Poisoning Our Politics.

    Senator Tim Scott is entirely right: “America is not a racist country.” But America has a serious racial problem. Not a racism problem, a racial problem.

    We have a party in power whose strategy for remaining in power is to divide the country along racial lines. Democrats calculate that urban-centered racialist tribalism, amplified by media and pop-culture allies and underwritten by cowed corporations, can cast mainstream America as a deplorable bastion of white supremacism.

    The Republicans, the party out of power, generally lack Senator Scott’s confidence and tact in making the counter-case.

    The Department of Justice is a key to the Democrats’ strategy. The Obama-Biden administration politicized the law-enforcement and intelligence apparatus of our government, peddling with relish the progressive portrayal of an indelibly racist America. They’re ba-ack.

    `

    It's pretty toxic when politicians (and "educators") depend on fanning the flames of racial and ethnic resentment to keep their phony-baloney jobs.


  • And They Keep Making Things Worse. Coincidence? I Think Not! Matt Welch writes on the latest Newspeak "adjustment" to our language: The Equity Mess.

    Two days before the 2020 election, Kamala Harris could have picked from any number of campaign themes. The number of COVID-19 cases had doubled over the previous month. At home, violent crime was up; abroad, negotiations with the Taliban over U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan had bogged down. And ominously, Harris' opponent, Vice President Mike Pence, was refusing to state clearly whether Donald Trump would accept the results of the election.

    Instead of any of those closing arguments, Harris and her campaign team chose to emphasize, in a tweet, speech, and animated video, a single portentous word that in a remarkably short time has escaped the laboratory of academe, spread through newsrooms and human resources departments, and now lodged itself firmly inside the White House: equity.

    "There's a big difference between equality and equity," a slightly bemused, slightly exasperated-sounding Harris explained over the image of an animated young white man vaulting his way confidently through a rock-climbing course after having started out in a more advanced position than his discouraged black counterpart. "Equitable treatment means"—the two hikers, now joined in success after the disadvantaged one was given a boost up, gaze confidently at the horizon from atop the summit—"we all end up at the same place."

    But it's not just the progressive violence against the language. Matt goes on to point out:

    • The biggest hit on "equity" during the pandemic is to mothers of small kids;
    • And the biggest obstacle to their economic recover is the closure of government schools;
    • And the Biden/Harris Administration could have but didn't encourage government school reopenings.

    Similarly to Animal Farm: when it comes to teacher unions, some interest groups are more "equitable" than others.


  • This Is Supposed To Be The LFOD State, But… Drew Cline describes How N.H. hurts craft brewers.

    Allegedly, state alcohol regulations are justified by the need to protect the public. Yet many of the laws that prevent the growth and expansion of craft breweries in New Hampshire are not remotely related to public health or safety. Their one and only purpose is to protect other industries from competition.

    A bill to remove some wholly unnecessary craft brewery regulations shows how legislators intentionally handicap small businesses on behalf of more established industries.

    Senate Bill 125 would make four changes to the state laws that regulate craft breweries. In each instance, the law that would be changed exists not to protect the public, but to protect restaurants, retailers, beer distributors or large breweries.

    Drew does a great job of describing the arbitrary distinctions NH law currently makes between various types of brewers, distributors, and retailers, and how the current legal regime protects the powerful against frothy competition.

    Amusing bit from a hearing on SB125: "In Tuesday’s meeting of the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee, Rep. John Hunt, R-Ringe, assured the [New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association and the New Hampshire Grocers Association] that the bill would be amended to limit brewers to a single retail outlet."

    Please, Ringe Republicans: replace Hunt with someone less willing to do the bidding of the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association and the New Hampshire Grocers Association.


  • And the NYPost reports on my favorite game show: 'Jeopardy!' in absurd territory with dumbest controversy ever.

    It’s come to this. A white man who innocently played the iconic TV quiz show has found himself on the wrong side of the torches and pitchforks wielded by a joyless mob.

    An online tempest was unleashed against three-time “Jeopardy!” winner Kelly Donohue, a 35-year-old state bank examiner from Massachusetts. In addition to loopy messages of disgust, more than 500 people, and counting, identifying themselves as former “Jeopardy!” eggheads demanded an apology from Donohue and show producers for the alleged “white power” symbol the contestant supposedly flashed on TV — a claim that even Snopes, tracker of digital hoaxes and all manner of malfeasance, deemed “False.”

    People are … funny, I guess. Yeah, that's the right word.


Last Modified 2021-05-03 5:13 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-05-01

Happy May Day, all. Feel free to ignore the commies who might wish you a joyous International Workers' Day.

  • Privacy Advocates Strangely Silent. If you're worried how much Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. know about you, please be aware that Uncle Stupid knows more, and wants to know even more. Eric Boehm at Reason: Biden’s ‘American Families Plan’ Sends the IRS To Snoop on Bank Transactions, Venmo Accounts.

    To pay for a glut of new federal spending, President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced plans to hike taxes on businesses and wealthy Americans—and to sic the federal tax cops on everyone.

    Biden's American Families Plan calls for spending $80 billion on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to increase tax compliance in the hopes of generating $700 billion over the next 10 years to partially offset the plan's $1.8 trillion price tag. The $700 billion that will supposedly come from stepped-up tax enforcement will be the largest single funding source for the American Families Plan—the revenue from tax enforcement is six times larger than what will be produced by raising the top income tax rate back to 39.6 percent.

    Eric links to an Americans for Tax Reform article: Obama IRS Chief Thinks Biden IRS Funding is Excessive. That's John Koskinen, who was in the IRS saddle 2013-2017. And maybe he learned that throwing money at an incompetent bureaucracy isn't a good way to improve results.

    That's a lesson Biden will never learn at this stage of his life.


  • Systemic Racism, Now With Menthol. Charles C. W. Cooke (NRPLUS) considers Biden’s Toxic Menthol Ban.

    Making yet another mockery of the Constitution’s insistence that the federal government’s powers remain “few and defined,” President Biden has announced that he intends to effect a national ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes. There is nothing left in America, it seems, that can escape the executive’s whim.

    The Washington Post notes that the Biden administration is specifically targeting menthols because “African Americans have been disproportionately harmed” by them — which, once you strip out the jargon, is simply another way of saying that the Biden administration is targeting menthols because African Americans disproportionately like menthols. It can be tough nowadays to keep up with what is racist and what is not, but I’ll happily admit that I didn’t have “ban something black people like because they like it too much” on my Anti-Racist Bingo card. Time for me to say three Hail Kendis and two Our Joneses, and re-read the Revelation chapters in Robin DiAngelo’s book.

    I assume the IRS will be checking PayPal accounts for transactions indicating purchases of officially disapproved cigarette flavors. They'll need an extra billion or two for that.


  • Something To Bookmark. James Lindsay has a useful summary on Critical Race Theory: A Two-page Overview. Sample:

    Critical Race Theorists describe Critical Race Theory as a movement (which is strange for a theory of society) designed to reinvent the relationships between race, racism, and power in society. To do this, they begin with the assumption that race is socially constructed and racism is systemic. This means that  they view racial categories as social and political fictions that have been imposed by white people on people of color, especially blacks, and that the “system” upon which all of society operates on every level unjustly produces “racist” outcomes that favor whites (and minority races that adhere to “whiteness”) at the expense of people of color, especially Latinos and, even more especially, blacks. Because racism is a property of the system, which includes everything from policy to behavioral norms to manners of speech to what we consider true, racism persists even if no individual or institution acts in a racist way or holds any racist beliefs. It is the way society operates that is racist, as can be determined by the fact that there are statistical differences in average outcomes by racial category.

    Much more at the link. You'll notice an overall sense of epistemic closure in Critical Race Theory.


  • Not To Mention Epistemic Arrogance. Greg Lukianoff has been thinking about how to deal with the new Red Guards sent to proselytize among the young'uns: 10 Principles for Opposing Thought Reform in K-12. Here's one:

    Principle 3: Teachers & administrators must demonstrate epistemic humility.

    “No field of education is so thoroughly comprehended by man that new discoveries cannot yet be made. Particularly is that true in the social sciences, where few, if any, principles are accepted as absolutes…. Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise our civilization will stagnate and die.” Sweezy v. New Hampshire (1957) (Warren, C.J.) (emphasis added). This was true in 1957, and there is no reason to think that we have anything close to perfect knowledge in 2021.

    Heavy-handed ideological programs always show epistemic arrogance. To believe that students must be inculcated with specific political or ideological beliefs is to assume the infallibility of those beliefs and the omniscience of the instructors or the curriculum designers. This is not the way we educate people to become critical thinkers. Our collective knowledge is incomplete, no ideology has a monopoly on truth, and to tell young people otherwise leaves them ill-equipped to live in a society in which questions are always open, debates are always to be had, and new discoveries are always to be made.

    I liked the reference to Sweezy; he was a Marxist in trouble for refusing to answer questions about lectures he gave to the kiddos at the University Near Here back in the 1950s.

    But speaking of "epistemic humility", please note the open letter from UNH Lecturers United (to which I keep returning), which claims that classroom questioning of their "Anti-Fascist" ideology is akin to arguing "that the Earth is flat or only 2000 years old in a Geology class".

    Yeah, I think that counts as an example of epistemic arrogance.


  • But For A Different Delusion, Kevin D. Williamson describes how COVID Conspiracy Theories Part of Long American Tradition. It's long, rambling, and funny, and (best of all) it's not NRPLUS. Sample:

    The other day, I fell into one of those crazy Internet rabbit holes, in this case involving amateur day-traders who believe that the Fibonacci sequence gives them insight into the movement of stock prices. It’s pure digital bumf, of course, but one analysis found that there are more Fibonacci-aligned turning points in some highly speculative stocks than you would expect — almost certainly because the trade in the stocks in question is largely dominated by idiot day-traders all applying the same Fibonacci model. It’s like the prankers in Foucault’s Pendulum who create a conspiracy theory to amuse themselves (and make a little money) and, in doing so, accidentally bring a real-world conspiracy into existence.

    I was reading up on this because I was thinking about an Uber driver I had some time ago who was engaged, at every red light and sometimes while zooming through traffic, with something on his phone. I assumed he was texting with a friend, or maybe using a dating app. (I’d be even more likely to guess “dating app” today: Condom sales have been skyrocketing as Americans abandon social distancing in the most primal way.) But that wasn’t it at all — he was engaged in foreign-exchange trading. On his phone. While driving me to the airport.

    It wasn’t even a good phone.

    Read on for KDW's description (in contrast) Goldman Sach's "system": "an array of forex-trading offices around the world, staffed 24 hours a day by Ukrainian math Ph.D.s who have been doing nothing but think about forex trading since they were in the third grade and who are not driving for Uber in their off hours."

    The stupidest financial decision I ever made: opening up a Swiss banking account on Harry Browne's advice.

    The smartest financial decision I ever made: realizing how stupid about investing I was and tossing the keys to Fidelity.


  • Democrats With Open Eyes. All Thirty Of Them? Jim Geraghty writes his Morning Jolt headline: Ex-Obama Adviser Delivers Eye-Opening Warning to Democrats. But I'll skip down a bit:

    Apparently, President Biden intends to keep wearing his mask for the foreseeable future, even when interacting with other vaccinated people, “because the likelihood of my being able to be outside and people not come up to me is not very high. . . . If we were, in fact, sitting there talking to one another close, I’d have my mask on . . . even though we’ve both been vaccinated.”

    This stance makes no sense and inadvertently communicates to the public that vaccination does not change the risk of catching COVID-19 or suffering ill effects, which is hot garbage.

    As many of us suspected, Biden’s “Just 100 days to mask, not forever. One hundred days,” comment shortly before inauguration was meaningless.

    I don't see a lot of Big Media pointing out this broken promise either.