URLs du Jour

2021-06-13

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  • Boy, Does Amazon Offer a Lot Of Anti-Gun Merch. There have to be hundreds of different "Ban Assault Weapons" garments. Fortunately, after enough searching, I found the Amazon Product du Jour.

    But there are major problems with that slogan, and Jacob Sullum tells us the primary one: Here’s Why California’s ‘Assault Weapon’ Ban Is Unconstitutional.

    When California legislators enacted the country's first ban on military-style rifles in 1989, they gave no weight to the fundamental right of armed self-defense guaranteed by the Second Amendment—a right the U.S. Supreme Court did not explicitly acknowledge until nearly two decades later. But as U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez observed in his ruling against California's "assault weapon" ban last Friday, it should now be clear that the outright prohibition of such firearms cannot pass constitutional muster.

    California's Assault Weapons Control Act (AWCA), which is similar to laws enforced by a handful of other states, originally applied to a list of more than 50 specific brands and models. In 1999 the law was amended to cover any semi-automatic, centerfire rifle that accepts a detachable magazine and has any of these features: a pistol grip that "protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon," a forward pistol grip, a thumbhole stock, a folding or telescoping stock, a flash suppressor, or a grenade/flare launcher.

    I think "Ban Assault Weapons" t-shirts should have text on the back too: "I don't know what those are."


  • Scurrilous. Andrew Stuttaford looks at the ProPublica article, considering it to be A Low Road to Higher Taxes.

    However much some on the left might like to deny it, there is a legitimate distinction between capital appreciation and income, and however much some of them might understand it, failing to account properly for that distinction presents too good a propaganda opportunity to be passed up.

    And so when ProPublica, “an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism with moral force” “obtained” and then, in an article by Jesse Eisinger, Jeff Ernsthausen, and Paul Kiel, publicized some of the details of “a vast cache of IRS information showing how billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Warren Buffett pay little in income tax compared to their massive wealth — sometimes, even nothing,” much of the secondhand reporting of their story, not to speak of the ProPublica article itself, followed an all too predictable narrative.

    Andrew quotes the ProPublica authors extensively, debunking as he goes. His bottom line:

    In reality, […] this article is just another salvo in the attempt by one section of the elite to wrestle power (and what flows from it) from another. That the result would result in severe damage to the economy and to the aspirations of millions is, it seems, beside the point.


  • Hey, Remember When People Were Upset About Dubya Snooping Your Library Checkouts? Matt Welch notes the latest proposal to violate your right to privacy: Biden Won’t Close the ‘Tax Gap,’ but He Will Snoop on Your Bank Records.

    Biden's American Families Plan Tax Compliance Agenda seeks to build on the model of [the Foreign Account Tax Compliant Act's] intrusive third-party reporting requirements, constructing a "comprehensive financial account reporting regime" that would force a wider grouping of financial institutions and platforms (PayPal, settlement companies, "crypto asset exchanges," etc.) to "report gross inflows and outflows on all business and personal accounts…including bank, loan, and investment accounts."

    But there's no need to worry if you've got nothing to hide.

    "For already compliant taxpayers, the only effect of this regime is to provide easy access to summary information on financial accounts and to decrease the likelihood of costly 'no fault' examinations once the IRS is able to better target its enforcement efforts," Treasury reassures us. "For noncompliant taxpayers, this regime would encourage voluntary compliance as evaders realize that the risk of evasion being detected has risen noticeably."

    Matt notes that past efforts to boost "compliance" have been unimpressive in terms of revenue.


  • I Could Talk About This Forever, And Will. David Harsanyi derides The Democrats' Filibuster Con.

    When Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., closed the door on eliminating the legislative filibuster this week, promising not to “weaken or eliminate” the 60-vote threshold, he “dashed” the “dreams” of Democrats, according to The New York Times.

    Hypocrisy is nothing new in Washington, but it takes a preternatural shamelessness to have participated in over 300 filibusters, as Democrats did in the past few years, and then one day turn around and treat the procedure as an odious racist relic that threatens “democracy.”

    But this is an emergency, norm-breakers will tell you. Isn’t it always? Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., after a quick reversal of position, told The Washington Post that she would nuke the procedure only “in the case of protecting democracy.” Of course, if we adopted the Democrats’ evolving standard of “voting rights,” then we’d be forced to treat every election before 2020’s free-for-all as illegitimate.

    At last report, our state's Senators Are Skeptical Of Killing The Filibuster

    New Hampshire Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen do not endorse completely eliminating the procedure, CNN reported Thursday. They join Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin in their opposition to the move.

    “I don’t think getting rid of [the filibuster] is the best approach,” Shaheen said, although “I think we should look at ways to reform the filibuster.”

    Hassan also has “concerns about eliminating the filibuster,” but would be open to some reforms, according to a spokesman. Neither senator explained what those reforms would be.

    Unspecified "reforms"? I bet that went over well in focus groups.

The Mitchells vs the Machines

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [The Mitchells vs the Machines]

We've been watching a lot of baseball of late. And, thanks to my Disney+ subscription and Roku, I've been re-watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. (Rewatched movies don't get blogged.) But the mood to watch something different took me, and I heard good things about this, so…

It's OK. Very funny in spots, draggy in others. The heroine is young Katie Mitchell, who is headed off to college to major in some sort of movie-making. She's bounding with energetic creativeness, and views her family with increasing disdain. Especially Dad, who's increasingly frantic about Katie's independence. So he hatches a desperate scheme: cancel Katie's plane tickets, load the family into the car for one last road trip. Cross-country to Katie's college. To bond.

Things are complicated by a robotic/AI apocalypse.

How does that happen? Well, a Zuckerbergian character in charge of a Facebook/Apple-like company introduces his new product: an army of "helpful" faceless robots. Unfortunately, he snubs his previous product, an AI who takes offense. Who proceeds to wreak havoc on the entire world. That'll teach them! The Mitchells turn out to be humanity's last hope for salvation.

Oh, yeah, Katie's apparently a lesbian. Presented as no big deal. Kids these days.


Last Modified 2021-06-18 10:39 AM EDT

Breaking Bread with the Dead

A Reader's Guide to a More Tranquil Mind

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My first book in over a year from the ILL folks at the University Near Here. They got it from the Greenwich (CT) Library. I wasn't allowed to go into Dimond Library for a pickup, it's still forbidden territory for people not in UNH's "testing protocol". So they sent it to Pun Salad Manor via UPS.

Well, that's enough about my life's minor irritations.

This short book (with small pages and wide margins) is from Professor Alan Jacobs, and I'm used to his engaging style by now. He doesn't beat you over the head with his deep understanding of millennia's worth of literature (although it's apparent); instead, he's providing friendly advice, take it or leave it.

The specific advice here is: read old books. "Breaking bread with the dead" is a phrase from W. H. Auden, advocating turning our mind to art from yesteryear. The goal is to tune out today's constant clamor for our attention, and instead increase our bandwidth to the past. The subtitle claims this is a path to "a more tranquil mind". OK, maybe. My mind was already pretty tranquil. But the point is to view our reading as an opportunity to chow down with the greats of the past.

That's not without peril. The wrong way to do it is encountered early on with an anecdote about a student (someone else's student) who started to read Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth. And literally threw the book out, due to Wharton's apparent antisemitism. What's wrong? The student viewed Wharton as an invited guest into his literary salon, and when she behaved badly, she was tossed out.

A better way to view it: you're a guest in Wharton's world. You might see things you despise, but you might better approach them with understanding (without acceptance). Learn to deal with difference.

Later in the book, there's a good example: Frederick Douglass, specifically his 1852 speech "What, To The Slave, Is The Fourth Of July". Douglass considers the Declaration's signers to be "brave men", "great men". But the blessings of liberty they brought were not for folks like Douglass. So he was forced to say "The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn."

Douglass regarded the Declaration with clear eyes, and helps us see it through his.

Anyway: plenty of other examples, some hilarious. There's extended quoting from Rosseau's epistolary novel Julie, which (it's claimed) was the biggest best-seller of the 18th century. And is totally obscure today. (When you read the excerpts, you might add: "with good reason".) Still, Jacobs draws an interesting lesson from the characters' musings on their states.

I don't think I've done a good job of summary here. Jacobs' discussion is deep and dense. I don't know if I can follow his path, but he definitely had me considering adding more old stuff to my to-be-read stacks.


Last Modified 2021-06-13 7:21 AM EDT