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