URLs du Jour

2021-07-06

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I can't agree totally with the opinion offered on the Amazon Product du Jour. Taxes are not theft.

I believe a more accurate description would be "extortion".

  • Defund, Then Delete. William McGurn has a modest (too modest) proposal: Defund Joe Biden’s IRS.

    Joe Biden may be mistaken about many things, but he’s right about the Internal Revenue Service. If the IRS is to become the agency he wants it to become, it needs the $80 billion in extra funding he is now proposing.

    It comes down to the tax gap. This is the difference between what people owe the IRS and what it actually manages to collect. Though Commissioner Charles Rettig told the Senate Finance Committee in April that the IRS is leaving $1 trillion on the table each year, a more recent Treasury Department analysis put the gap at roughly $600 billion for 2019, which it said “is on pace to total $7 trillion over the course of the next decade.”

    There are two schools of thought here. The first—call it the Joe Biden School—holds that the answer is to give the IRS the authority, funding and manpower it needs to go out and bring in that missing revenue. Accordingly, an $80 billion IRS infusion will more than pay for itself by generating an additional $700 billion in tax revenue over the next decade. It’s a bargain at the price.

    The other school—let’s call it the Milton Friedman School—holds that the best tax collection system comes from a tax code that keeps taxes low, fair and simple. In either case, the kind of IRS you believe you need is more or less dictated by the tax code you prefer.

    I'd guess you know which school I attend. But anyone who looks at the recent politically-motivated leak of rich-folk tax returns, or remembers Lois Lerner might think twice about awarding the IRS more money.


  • Message Received. William Jacobsen takes a look at a well-funded effort: Union-Linked Coalition Scripts ‘Messaging’ To Counter Parental Pushback Against Critical Race Theory. The coalition is the Partnership for the Future of Learning, it's backed by numerous groups, including the National Education Association. And it gives the lie to assertions that "Critical Race Theory" is just some obscure field of study restricted to legal scholars. Its "Top 5 Messages"

    1. Truth in our classrooms propels young people towards a more united, inclusive, and just future.
    2. Trust students to talk about what’s happening in the world around them.
    3. Coordinated efforts to control curriculum come from aggressive right-wing instigators who want to stop educators and districts from working toward racial equity.
    4. When educators teach the truth, students start to see themselves as part of a bigger story.
    5. Banning conversations about racism in schools is a form of censorship. A shared, honest understanding of the past bridges divides.

    It's us (on the side of "truth" and "trust" and "racial equity" and "understanding") against them ("aggressive right-wing instigators" who favor "censorship").

    It gets "better" (by which I mean "worse") from there. They are very locked in and dedicated to indoctrination.


  • Not That Nice. I hope Jarrett Stepman was well-paid to Read Robin DiAngelo’s New Book on ‘Nice Racism.’ Here Are 3 Takeaways..

    But DiAngelo’s books aren’t really about deep societal analysis and policy, or really about helping people live in a better, freer, more prosperous society.

    They certainly aren’t aimed at a broader audience or conservatives who are assumedly nothing but a basket of deplorables beyond redemption.

    Opponents of the grand plan are little more than an absurd caricature.

    “I am writing this book at a time when white nationalism—the desire for a white ethnostate by and for whites—is on the rise both in the United States and globally,” DiAngelo writes in the first chapter with little explanation or evidence.

    No, DiAngelo’s books are miserable self-help guides for upper-middle-class, white, deeply committed progressives who are desperately searching for a way to not be racist in a world where denying your racism is an example of racism.

    I'm afraid I'm already classified as a hopeless advocate of a white ethnostate. Robin, all I ask is that you try to find one single bit of evidence of that from my 16 years of blogging.

    (There. That should keep her busy for a while.)


  • Which Reminds Me. I recently read The Disordered Cosmos by University Near Here Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy and a Core Faculty Member in Women's and Gender Studies Chanda Prescod-Weinstein. I wasn't that impressed, but if you want to read my take, it's in my book feed here.


  • Which Also Reminds me. Via Robin DeAngelo link above, I was led to the contribution of Ibram X. Kendi to a Politico collection on How To Fix Inequality: Pass an Anti-Racist Constitutional Amendment. In its entirety:

    To fix the original sin of racism, Americans should pass an anti-racist amendment to the U.S. Constitution that enshrines two guiding anti-racist principals [sic]: Racial inequity is evidence of racist policy and the different racial groups are equals. The amendment would make unconstitutional racial inequity over a certain threshold, as well as racist ideas by public officials (with “racist ideas” and “public official” clearly defined). It would establish and permanently fund the Department of Anti-racism (DOA) comprised of formally trained experts on racism and no political appointees. The DOA would be responsible for preclearing all local, state and federal public policies to ensure they won’t yield racial inequity, monitor those policies, investigate private racist policies when racial inequity surfaces, and monitor public officials for expressions of racist ideas. The DOA would be empowered with disciplinary tools to wield over and against policymakers and public officials who do not voluntarily change their racist policy and ideas.

    "Yeah, that'll 'fix' it."

    Seriously, the Chanda Prescod-Weinstein book discussed above uses the word "totalitarian" a lot. But I'm not sure a proposal could be more totalitarian than the one above. "Change your ideas, racist, or submit to our disciplinary tools!"


  • Those Crazy Mainers. Nathan Bernard tells a belated Independence Day tale at the Intercept: A Nation Conceived in Liberty Confronts Its Queasiness With the “MILF Mobile”.

    Brittney Glidden drives Maine’s most beloved vehicle. It’s a 2013 teal Chrysler Town & Country minivan. An enormous custom-made “MILF Mobile” logo is plastered on its rear windshield.

    “Everyone loves my van, except for Karens,” Glidden said, referring to a pejorative term for entitled white women. “Karens hate it.”

    Glidden’s ride also sports “Kids in this bitch, honk if one falls out,” “If you’re gonna ride my ass, at least pull my hair,” and “Condoms prevent minivans” stickers. A “TITSOUT” vanity plate is latched to the MILF Mobile’s bumper.

    “The plate references the fact that I exclusively breastfed all four of my children,” Glidden said. “And that I frequently drive topless. Maine is in fact a topless state.”

    I hear you: "She should move to New Hampshire!" Unfortunately, one of the vanity plate rules in the Live Free or Die state is no references to “intimate body parts or genitals", and I think Brittney's plate would qualify there.

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I put this book on my get-at-library list thanks to its nomination for a "Best Novel" Edgar award. And (in April) it won! So: good for the author, Deepa Anappara.

The novel's setting is a poverty-wracked slum tacked onto an unnamed Indian city. The "Purple Line" in the title is the commuter train that runs under the slum. And the Djinn Patrol? Well…

The narrator (for most of the book) is Jai, a nine-year-old boy. He's very observant and insightful for his age. And he takes for granted a life that we Americans would find horrific: grinding poverty, pittance wages for shitty jobs, communal bathrooms, open garbage dumps, choking air pollution, lousy schools, Hindu/Muslim bigotry, corrupt and lazy cops. And the ever-present threat that your entire community's housing could be wiped out in minutes without warning if the powers-that-be decided to bring out the bulldozers.

But things get worse, because kids start going missing from the slum. Did I mention the corrupt and lazy cops? Yeah: they're willing to take hefty bribes from distraught parents. In exchange for not doing anything.

But plucky Jai does watch TV, enraptured by crime shows. Inspired by the fictional detectives, he decides to investigate the disappearances on his own. He teams up with his school friends: Pari (a girl who's significantly smarter) and Faiz (a Muslim boy). Their efforts are largely unappreciated, but their story illuminates much of the city's social ecology. And Jai entertains the idea that the missing kids might have been kidnapped by an evil djinn; hence the "Djinn Patrol" of the title.

It's very well-written, and (surprisingly) it's not without humor amidst all the bleakness. I didn't care for the ending. No spoilers, and your mileage my vary if your tastes in crime fiction run a certain way, but… no, I didn't care for the ending at all.

The Disordered Cosmos

A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I have my Master's Degree in Physics from the University Near Here. Although I eventually decided (way too late in life) that the field was not for me, I still kind of keep tabs on it, mostly by reading "for the layman" physics books. Recently, my old department added Chanda Prescod-Weinstein (CPW) to its faculty, and she pretty quickly made herself, um, known. (I don't think I could name another current faculty member.) She has appeared at Pun Salad occasionally since 2018: here (pre-UNH), here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

When I noticed that the Portsmouth Public Library owned her recent book, I decided to grab it. From my previous encounters, I knew it would be outside my comfort zone, but you need to go there every so often, right? So…

Well, the good things first. She likes Star Trek. Hey, so do I! And (in the first chapters) she describes the wonders of modern particle physics and cosmology with a lively voice and obvious enthusiasm.

But even there, it's clear her real topics are (a) race and (b) herself. And once she's done with the physics, those drive the rest of the book. It's occasionally interesting, but mostly not. She hammers science, history, and philosophy into a 100% "woke" hard-left perspective, all wrapped up in the tedious and tired jargon that implies. On her bumpy journey, she indicts: capitalism, colonialism, the proposed Mauna Kea Thirty Meter Telescope, sexism, misgendering, global warming, … and so much more. Any valid points she might have made are drowned out by her obvious confirmation bias. Except for (I hope) her physics research, she's not looking for truth; she's looking for ammo. This approach leads her into making ridiculous overstatements.

Example (pp 241-2): "In this [American] system's sphere of influence, Black children cannot safely rest on the couch without being murdered in their sleep by police. Black children cannot go to the store and buy candy without being murdered on the street by vigilantes who are operating as part of a surveillance structure encouraged by the state. Black children cannot listen to music in a car without being murdered by vigilantes who believe the state gives them permission to shoot loud Black children. American white supremacy is a total authoritarian structure that shapes every aspect of Black lives."

Meanwhile, in the real world, the Chicago Sun-Times counts 99 people shot over last weekend, 17 fatally. The wounded include 11 children. The article doesn't classify by race, but it's safe to assume that both shooters and victims were mostly Black, and the shooters were neither police nor "vigilantes".

[Update: apparently the Sun-Times revised its count: 104 shot, 19 killed, 13 kids wounded ("at least").]

Analogies are strained far beyond their breaking point to bring the discussion around to the Real Topics. Example (pp 119-120): "I tend to think of [weak gravitational lensing] as being a lot like systemic racism. You look at any one incident, say when someone comments on my hair and asks me if it's real, and some person who hasn't experienced racism might say, 'Oh, that's not racism. That person was just curious.' The hair incident, which happened to me while I was grabbing lunch at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center is a classic example of an individual manifestation of systemic racism. But in order to understand it as such, one has to have an awareness of systemic racism or a lifetime of experience with its various patterns. If you're experienced, it's easy to identify. I didn't need anyone to tell me that the white man who asked me if my hair was a wig was doing something that Black folks might call 'super white', and it academic parlance is a microaggression—an almost mundane expression of racism."

CPW doesn't show the slightest awareness that her "lifetime of experience" causes her to see racism everywhere, even in an innocent, probably clumsy, effort to engage her in conversation.

CPW points with pride (p.235) to an article she co-wrote a couple weeks after Donald Trump was inaugurated: "We Are The Scientists Against A Fascist Government", her protest against the relatively moderate "March for Science" which (unsuccessfully in my view) strove for big-tent non-partisanship. Nope. Unless you view Trump's rule as a "totalitarian catastrophe", exercising "total authoritarian power over communities of people", and didn't admit that it all showed a "fascist, totalitarian pulse" in "America's political foundation" you ain't on Team CPW.

Geez. I didn't like Trump either, but that seems overblown.

Well, I've yammered long enough. Bottom line: America's sins of racism are real, of course. CPW thinks they're the whole story. They aren't. She thinks hard-leftism is a valuable lens for analysis. It isn't.


Last Modified 2021-07-07 7:39 AM EDT