URLs du Jour

2021-08-31

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  • Sasse straight talk. Senator Ben Sasse's release, duplicated at the NR Corner: Dishonor Was the President’s Choice.

    This national disgrace is the direct result of President Biden’s cowardice and incompetence. The President made the decision to trust the Taliban. The President made the decision to set an arbitrary August 31st deadline. The President made the decision to abandon Bagram Air Base. The President made the decision not to expand the perimeter around Karzai International Airport. The President made the decision to undermine our NATO allies. The President made the decision to break our word to our Afghan partners. The President made the decision to tell one lie after another as the crisis unfolded. The President made the morally indefensible decision to leave Americans behind. Dishonor was the President’s choice. May history never forget this cowardice.

    If Sasse appears on my ballot in November 2024, I might break my usual rule and vote for him instead of the Libertarian.


  • The answer to Freeman's question is "Nothing". OK, so President Wheezy has forgotten about those stranded Americans in Afghanistan. James Freeman tells us of People Biden Didn’t Forget.

    People could write books detailing all the operational issues President Joe Biden neglected in the course of his chaotic exit from Afghanistan, and no doubt many will. But while poor souls who helped America and even some U.S citizens may be left to the horrors of Kabul, the President hasn’t forgotten to make Washington a happier place.

    In a Friday letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Vice President Kamala Harris in her capacity as President of the Senate, Mr. Biden announced that he was invoking his legal authority under “national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare” to increase salaries for roughly two million members of the federal civilian workforce. Yes, after creating the veritable model of incompetent governance recently witnessed by horrified Americans and allies around the world, Mr. Biden has decided this is the moment to declare a swamp-wide pay raise. What on earth does this latest raid on taxpayers have to do with addressing national emergencies?

    Among other employees, this cash will shower down upon…


  • The CDC, whose mistakes and lies killed thousands. Jacob Sullum notes the CDC has found a different way to kill Americans: The CDC’s Framing of Homicide and Suicide As ‘Public Health’ Issues Provides Cover for Biden’s Gun Control Agenda.

    As director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rochelle Walensky has a lot on her plate right now—perhaps too much, given her history of misrepresenting COVID-19 research, promoting dangerously mixed messages about vaccination, issuing confusing and scientifically dubious advice, and laying claim to vast powers that Congress never gave her. But Walensky's pandemic-related duties did not deter her from publicly switching focus to a highly contentious subject that has always spelled trouble for the CDC: gun violence.

    "Something has to be done about this," Walensky told CNN last week. "Now is the time. It's pedal-to-the-metal time."

    Although that metaphor suggests hasty action, Walensky emphasized that she is not calling for new gun controls. "I'm not here about gun control," she said. "I'm here about preventing gun violence and gun death."

    As Jacob shows, the CDC's record on guns has been less about scientific research, more about promoting a political agenda.

    Given that "public health" has been waved as a talisman to allow the government all sorts of extraordinary powers over the citizenry, this will not proceed well.

    As I've observed before: one dictionary.com definition of "fetish" is "an object regarded with awe as being the embodiment or habitation of a potent spirit or as having magical potency." When Rochelle Walensky and her ilk babble about "gun violence", ignoring the people behind the guns, that's a perfect example of their (unfortunately common) fetish.


  • The vast libertarian conspiracy to take over the government and leave you alone. The Free State Project tweets:

    Marjorie refers to this NHBR article by Michael Kitch. Which begins:

    Shortly after the 2020 election when the GOP regained its majority in the Legislature, Jason Osborne, vice chair of the Committee to Elect House Republicans, was already looking a year ahead. He told the NH Journal, “It will again be my great pleasure to show what can be achieved by Republicans who stand united and to break even more records in the 2022 campaign season.”

    As House majority leader, Osborne leads the faction of the GOP whose values and votes closely align with those of the NH Liberty Alliance, the political arm of the Free State Project founded in 2003.

    As connecting-the-dots conspiracy-theorizing goes, this is pretty weak. Especially since the Wikipedia page for the NH Liberty Alliance says "The Liberty Alliance is not part of the Free State Project." (Wikipedia could be wrong, of course. I've asked the editor of NHBR to check on this.)

    But that reminds me, I should check on my state legislators' Liberty Rating as recently released by NHLA.

    • Catt Sandler: Grade Incomplete (only voted on 50.9% of the scored bills.)
    • Gerri D. Cannon: rated Constitutional Threat (6.3%)
    • Wendy Chase: rated Constitutional Threat (5.4%)
    • Cecilia Rich: rated Constitutional Threat (7.1%)
    • David Watters: rated Constitutional Threat (20.8%)

    Marjorie (unsurprisingly) also rated Constitutional Threat, although she's gotten a couple of Fs in previous years.

    And despite Marjorie's overheated claim, While some FSP people favor secession, I don't think it's an official FSP position. (I'm pretty sure the FSP doesn't insist its members adhere to any specific position on any issue. That wouldn't be very libertarian, would it?)


Last Modified 2021-09-01 6:11 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-08-30

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  • You f'd up. You trusted me. Charles C. W. Cooke notes the emerging consensus. Right on Cue, the President's Mistakes Are Our Fault Again.

    You can tell a Democrat is president, because we’re starting to see pieces blaming “us” for his mistakes. In The Atlantic a couple of weeks ago, Tom Nichols wrote that “Afghanistan Is Your Fault.” “American citizens,” Nichols suggested, “will separate into their usual camps and identify all of the obvious causes and culprits except for one: themselves.” Today, Max Boot makes the same argument in the Post. “Who’s to blame for the deaths of 13 service members in Kabul?” he asks. Answer: “We all are.”

    This is of a piece with the tendency of journalists and historians to start muttering about how the presidency is “too big for one man” when the bad president in question is a Democrat. Under these terms, Republicans just aren’t up to the job, while Democrats are the victims of design or modernity or of the public being feckless. Last year, coronavirus was Trump’s fault. Now, it’s the fault of Republican governors and the unvaccinated (well, only some of the unvaccinated).

    And for that matter, who killed the Kennedys? After all, it was you and me.

    But for more on that general topic…


  • Prague, you say? Sounds legit. Fellow Granite State blogger Tom Bowler provides a quote at Libertarian Leanings that's pretty much on the nose:

    The danger to America is not Joe Biden, but a citizenry capable of entrusting a man like him with the presidency. It will be easier to limit and undo the follies of a Biden presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgment to a depraved electorate willing to have such a man for their president. The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr. Biden, who is a mere symptom of what ails America. Blaming the prince of fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince. The republic can survive a Biden who is after all merely a fool. It is less likely to survive a multitude of fools such as those who made him their president.

    I'm much in agreement. Except for sacred-cow slayers like H. L. Mencken, the voters tend to escape responsibility.

    Probably unlike Tom, I'd extend this to Trump too. And, well, as it turns out…

    It's claimed this "extraordinarily accurate analysis" comes from "a Prague newspaper", now translated into English. Approximately three seconds of Googling finds this from Reuters in December 2020. Fact check: Fake ‘Prague newspaper’ article repurposed to attack Biden supporters.

    I'd say it's more insult than attack, but:

    Users on social media are sharing a text, allegedly an extract of an editorial piece by a Czech newspaper translated into English, which claims the United States is endangered by the people who have elected Joe Biden as president. Reuters found no evidence to support this translation comes from an actual article. Virtually the same text has been circulating since at least 2010, targeting Barack Obama.

    Examples are visible here , and here , here , here .

    [Their third link isn't working for me.]

    So despite the underlying truth, the source is bogus. I have to wonder why the originator thought that attributing it to a "Prague newspaper" would lend it more credibility. Are Czechs supposed to have superior political wisdom?

    At least they didn't claim it came from Abe Lincoln.

    But for yet another mutation, here's a twitter thread from February. Key element:

    Those darn Czechs say that about all the liberals.


  • That Big L makes a difference. New Hampshire Business Review looks at ‘Liberty Republicans’ and an evolving GOP. And, as befitting a modern journalistic site, I came away from the article knowing less than I did going in.

    In a taped interview in June, Gov. Chris Sununu addressed what he called at the time “squabbles” within the New Hampshire Republican Party arising from the growing presence of libertarians within the caucus in the New Hampshire House.

    “The Libertarians are not Republicans,” Sununu said flatly. “They have their own party, their own place. Libertarians are not Republicans. Okay? I know a lot of them like to sign up as Republicans and pass themselves off as Republicans,” he continued. “But, they’re not. Not even remotely.”

    Call them what he will, they are the very same lawmakers who control the House Republican caucus and played a strong hand in the state budget Sununu has called “transformational,” “historic” and “a win for every citizen and family in this state.”

    In modern parlance, a big-L Libertarian is a member of the Libertarian Party. Whoever transcribed the Guv's interview apparently thought he should capitalize, but was that a mistake?

    Guv, there's no purity test for being a Republican. If you register that way, you are a Republican. Maybe "in name only", but that's the only thing that matters.

    And in these days when the New Hampshire Libertarian Party is a raging dumpster fire, more and more people will be changing to "Liberty Republicans".



Last Modified 2021-08-31 5:22 AM EDT

The Distant Dead

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This finishes up another mini-project: read all the 2021 Edgar Award "Best Novel" nominees. Overall, a pretty decent group.

This one is dark and gritty, but it starts out with an unexpected scene, set "long ago": a young Native American lad crawls into a remote cave and has an unfortunate accident. We'll see him again near the end…

In the present day, we're in one of the least glamorous places in Nevada: a stretch of desolation just off I-80 between Lovelock and Winnemucca. A horrific murder occurs; the victim is Adam Merkel, a grade-school math teacher bound and immolated in a remote acacia grove. The body is reported by young Sal Prentiss, who's pretty shaken up. But (as it turns out) he knows a lot more than he's telling.

The story jumps around a lot, both in time (before and after the teacher's death) and between characters. (Third-person limited omniscient, according to the Masterclass folks.) There's Sal: an imaginative and quiet kid living "off the grid" with his uncles after his mom died. There's Jake, a volunteer firefighter to whom Sal reports the body. And Nora, another teacher who is compelled to turn amateur detective in trying to figure out what happened.

As the novel develops, we get a lot of revealed dysfunctional details, many sordid. A lot of guilt and resentment, built up over years. Infidelity, jealousy, revenge, fantasy, anthropology. And (whoa) lots of substance abuse, some alcohol, but mostly OxyContin and heroin. (A lot of sad people in physical/psychological pain in this stretch of Nevada.) Especially stricken is Adam, the victim, who is shown to be a truly tragic figure; he can be lyrical in his explanations of math and science. And yet tormented by his past and inner demons.

And, oh yeah, a diligent effort to prove the Riemann hypothesis. Didn't see that coming either.

The Law of Innocence

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Kind of a milestone: I've been playing catchup with Michael Connelly books for at least twenty years. (I think; I started this project before I was diligent about logging my book-reading.) And this one is his most recent, the next one not coming out until November. So I'm caught up, yay!

The protagonist/narrator is Mickey Haller, ace defense lawyer. And he's in trouble from the get-go. He's pulled over by a cop one night for a missing license plate. When the cop notices apparently bodily fluids dripping from the car's trunk, the lid is popped, and, hey, it's a murder victim. And Mickey quickly gets sent to the slammer to await trial.

It's a frame-up, of course. But it's a very elaborate one. The victim is one of Mickey's old clients, a scam artist who didn't pay his legal fees. And physical evidence indicates that the murder occurred in Mickey's own garage.

It looks grim, but Mickey is fortunate to have Harry Bosch on his side. (Harry's just a supporting character here, but it's good to see him.) He pulls out an obscure clue, overlooked by police detectives in their rush to sew up their case against Mickey. Eventually, the outline of the conspiracy against Mickey gets revealed.

A very decent page-turner (or, since I read the Kindle version mostly on an iPad, screen-swiper). Connelly is as good at lawyer procedurals as he is with police procedurals. It's set amidst the beginning of the Covid pandemic, which forms a backdrop to Mickey's efforts to prove his innocence. And that's the deal: with his normal clients, he's satisfied with a "not guilty" verdict. But his goal here is total exoneration, a higher bar to clear, dictating his strategy at a number of points.

URLs du Jour

2021-08-29

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  • But next time there's a riot … Jonathan Turley takes to the Hill to opine on the latest information, as seen on TV: Justified shooting or fair game? Shooter of Ashli Babbitt makes shocking admission.

    "That's my job." Those three words summed up a controversial interview this week with the long-unnamed officer who shot and killed Ashli Babbitt on Jan. 6. Shortly after being cleared by the Capitol Police in the shooting, Lt. Michael Byrd went public in an NBC interview, insisting that he "saved countless lives" by shooting the unarmed protester.

    I have long expressed doubt over the Babbitt shooting, which directly contradicted standards on the use of lethal force by law enforcement. But what was breathtaking about Byrd’s interview was that he confirmed the worst suspicions about the shooting and raised serious questions over the incident reviews by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and, most recently, the Capitol Police.

    Babbitt, 35, was an Air Force veteran and ardent supporter of former President Trump. She came to Washington to protest the certification of the presidential Electoral College results and stormed into the Capitol when security lines collapsed. She had no criminal record but clearly engaged in criminal conduct that day by entering Capitol and disobeying police commands. The question, however, has been why this unarmed trespasser deserved to die.

    She didn't deserve to die. (Obligatory movie quote: "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it.") But disobeying a panicked policeman with (1) a gun and (2) poor judgment is risky business.


  • … Well, you best stay out of sight. To finish up our Beach Boys retrospective, let's check out Paul Mirengoff at Power Line: Capitol police officer defends his shooting of Babbitt.

    What did Byrd know about Babbitt and her intentions? He says “I could not fully see her hands or what was in the backpack or what the intentions are, but they [the mob] had shown violence leading up to that point.” Byrd adds that he was a aware of reports (erroneous as it turned out) of gunfire by protesters.

    If Byrd’s rendition of the facts is true, it seems to me that he was justified in shooting Babbitt. In police shootings of lawbreakers who threaten officer safety or the safety of others, it is always my position that the officer has the right to shoot. He need not wait to be certain that lives are in danger. It’s enough that the victim breaks the law, ignores police warnings, and surges forward towards the officer or those he’s charged with protecting.

    In Byrd’s account, all of these conditions are met.

    It's possible to believe that (1) Byrd shouldn't be legally punished; (2) he's had a lot of time to work on coming up with a story justifying his behavior; (3) it's easy to imagine a different situation (left-wing "protest", white cop, black victim) where the upshot would be nuclear.


  • Good question from Eric Boehm at Reason: How Many Union Members Does It Take To Operate a Train?.

    President Joe Biden's proposed $2.25 trillion infrastructure spending bill is more than just a huge barrel of federal cash for road, bridge, and rail projects. It is also a vehicle for reauthorizing America's surface transportation laws, providing an opportunity for special interests to write new rules and mandates into federal policy.

    While most of those niche fights are unremarkable, the one shaping up between the railroad industry and its labor unions presents an interesting conundrum for the Biden administration, and it could have significant ramifications for the economy and even for efforts to reduce carbon emissions. At issue: How many people does it take to drive a train?

    Labor unions such as the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers have been lobbying federal regulators to mandate that all freight trains operate with two-person crews in the cab. That's long been the standard industry practice for safety reasons. The engineer drives the train, while the rail conductor handles equipment inspections and monitors track signals. Unions worry that advanced automation will allow railroads to run safely without a second person in the engine—and they want the government to step in to protect those jobs.

    Eric reveals that Amtrak got rid of the two-person requirement back in the 1980s.


  • A puzzling headline, at the Thrillist site: America's Most Overlooked National Park Is in the Last Place You'd Expect.

    Um, actually, I would expect the most overlooked national park to be in the last place I'd expect.


Last Modified 2021-08-30 7:14 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-08-28

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  • Have I mentioned that fear is the mind-killer? The Persuasion site is reposting some classic articles from its early months. Including one by Emily Yoffe: A Taxonomy of Fear. (Which I linked to last year, but I'm linking again today Sue me.) Anyway, a quote:

    We live in a time of personal timorousness and collective mercilessness.

    There might seem to be a contradiction between being fearful and fearless, between weighing every word you say and attacking others with abandon. But as more and more topics become too risky to discuss outside of the prevailing orthodoxies, it makes sense to constantly self-censor, feeling unbound only when part of a denunciatory pack.

    Institutions that are supposed to be guardians of free expression—academia and journalism in particular—are becoming enforcers of conformity. Campuses have bureaucracies that routinely undermine free speech and due process. Now, these practices are breaching the ivy wall. They are coming to a high school or corporate HR office near you.

    The cultural rules around hot button issues are ever-expanding. It’s as if a daily script went out describing what’s acceptable, and those who flub a line—or don’t even know a script exists—are rarely given the benefit of the doubt, no matter how benign their intent. Naturally, people are deciding the best course is to shut up. It makes sense to be part of the silenced majority when the price you pay for an errant tweet or remark can be the end of your livelihood.

    Perusing that last-year post (by the way) reminded me of Symone D. Sanders, author of the feisty-titled book that is our Amazon Product du Jour. Symone typifies the bullying behavior of today's woke. And allegedly her devotion to free expression is being put to use as "Deputy Assistant to President Joe Biden and the Senior Advisor and Chief Spokesperson to Vice President Kamala Harris."


  • Colorful writing alert. Thanks to Holman W. Jenkins Jr in today's WSJ Let a Biden Reappraisal Include Antitrust.

    “Young people always want radical solutions.” I won’t mention what person on what Laurence Olivier-narrated documentary series said these words sheepishly accounting for his youthful political affiliations.

    Maybe one day Joe Biden’s Federal Trade Commission head Lina Khan will offer a similar concession in her dotage. Ms. Khan, now 32, made her name with a 2017 law-student article arguing that Amazon should be broken up because it should be broken up. Now she’s getting to put her urges to work, first with Facebook, and we can already anticipate the results:

    Unless a judge puts the case out of its misery, it will drag on for a decade; the technological and commercial issues will quickly become moot; only fixerdom will derive any real benefit, in the form of billings. And Ms. Khan will long since have departed to become a leading ornament of Washington’s antitrust bar, its least productive interest group. When you see a volunteer in yellow vest picking up trash by the roadside, think: That person is doing more for the commonweal than all the antitrust lawyers put together.

    Pun Salad value-added: The print version of the Jenkins column is link-free, of course, so I had no idea who he was talking about in the first paragraph. But with the links, it's someone talking about his membership in Hitler Youth. My guess is Helmut Schmidt.


  • What would we do without radioactive rat snakes? WIRED has some good news: Radioactive Rat Snakes Could Help Monitor Fukushima Fallout.

    When a massive earthquake followed by a tsunami hit Japan a decade ago, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant experienced a catastrophic meltdown. Humans fled a wide area around the plant that today is known as the Fukushima Exclusion Zone, while animals and plants remained. Now, scientists have enlisted the help of snakes in the zone to make sense of the disaster’s impact on the environment. Their findings, reported in an Ichthyology and Herpetology paper, indicate that Fukushima’s native rat snakes, like canaries in a coal mine, may act as living monitors of radiation levels in the region.

    “Because snakes don’t move that much, and they spend their time in one particular local area, the level of radiation and contaminants in the environment is reflected by the level of contaminants in the snake itself,” Hannah Gerke, a lead author on the study, said.

    (Might be a non-paywalled version here.)

    This doesn't sound as if determining a snake's "level of contaminants" will be that much fun for the snake.

URLs du Jour

2021-08-27

  • Eye Candy du Jour. Presented without comment, from Mr. Ramirez: The Biden Memorial. [The Biden Memorial]


  • Fear is the mind-killer. Glenn Greenwald makes a point that we've made here before, about The Bizarre Refusal to Apply Cost-Benefit Analysis to COVID Debates.

    In virtually every realm of public policy, Americans embrace policies which they know will kill people, sometimes large numbers of people. They do so not because they are psychopaths but because they are rational: they assess that those deaths that will inevitably result from the policies they support are worth it in exchange for the benefits those policies provide. This rational cost-benefit analysis, even when not expressed in such explicit or crude terms, is foundational to public policy debates — except when it comes to COVID, where it has been bizarrely declared off-limits.

    The quickest and most guaranteed way to save hundreds of thousands of lives with policy changes would be to ban the use of automobiles, or severely restrict their usage to those authorized by the state on the ground of essential need (e.g., ambulances or food-delivery vehicles), or at least lower the nationwide speed limit to 25 mph. Any of those policies would immediately prevent huge numbers of human beings from dying. Each year, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “1.35 million people are killed on roadways around the world,” while “crashes are a leading cause of death in the United States for people aged 1–54.” Even with seat belts and airbags, a tragic number of life-years are lost given how many young people die or are left permanently and severely disabled by car accidents. Studies over the course of decades have demonstrated that even small reductions in speed limits save many lives, while radical reductions — supported by almost nobody — would eliminate most if not all deaths from car crashes.

    But I should add that it's not that easy to apply "rational cost-benefit analysis"; simplistic analysis might suggest that we should ban tobacco (more than 480,000 US deaths/yr) and alcohol (approximately 95,000 US deaths/yr). "Benefits" of such bans would be obvious. "Costs" become known too late; see Prohibition and the War on Drugs.


  • Fear is the mind-killer (again). An (unfortunately paywalled) article by Scott Lincicome at the Dispatch reveals America’s Math Problem.

    The most prominent recent examples of these difficulties arise in the case of the pandemic and public health policy. Over the last 18 months or so, we’ve been bombarded daily—by reporters, experts (real and imagined), colleagues, friends, and family (especially family)—by context-free figures that are often objectively worthless and, even worse, likely to elicit in many Americans precisely the wrong subjective reaction. And a few bits of recent vaccine-related news underscore just how rough the current situation is. For starters, NBC News reported back in July that the United States had experienced more than 100,000 breakthrough cases (i.e., vaccinated Americans who test positive for COVID-19)—a stat that was then amplified by numerous news outlets and shared by concerned folks around the country (and those with, ahem, less altruistic motives). But what many people failed to do—at least not in headlines or ledes—is explain just how tiny a percentage of total cases this really is:

    This type of reporting and commentary is depressingly common—I seriously cannot tell you how many times over the last year I’ve said the word “denominator”—and it’s a failure of both the people reporting the figures and news consumers who don’t recognize the problem and demand the reporting be more informative.

    Scott says "denominator" a lot, I've been saying "comparing apples to oranges" way too often.


  • Color me unsurprised too. Megan McArdle is restrained and moderate in her language, as befits her perch at the Washington Post: The FDA’s slow road to full vaccine approval will matter in the long run.

    Warren Buffett famously remarked that “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” Of course, Buffett was talking about his industry — the quacks and frauds who surf the surging boom market, only to get beached when the waves of easy money recede. But his adage could easily be applied to the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whose bureaucratic procedures looked fine right up to the point when the pandemic showed them to be disastrous.

    By now, most people paying attention to the agencies seem to have conceded there is something very wrong with the CDC — recall the early coronavirus testing debacles, its slowness in embracing masks or acknowledging airborne transmission, the apparent politicization of guidance surrounding schools, the decision to stop tracking breakthrough covid cases, the inability to provide real-time data on infections.

    Yet, in the long run, the FDA issues are probably more consequential. While we don’t expect a pandemic to hit every year, most of us might eventually get some life-threatening illness that we’d really rather cure. And the covid-19 pandemic has made clear how FDA procedure can hamper the United States’ progress in the fight against disease.

    I'd be far more direct: FDA/CDC/NIH botches, and their attachment to business-as-usual bureaucratic mediocrity have killed people. And there's no indication that this will change in the future.

    But that's why I don't write at the WaPo.


  • Old and tired: commies under the bed. New hotness: capitalists under the bed! Phillip W. Magness looks at yet another academic attempt to paint Free Enterprise as Conspiracy.

    Lawrence Glickman’s Free Enterprise: An American History offers the latest contribution to this booming yet peculiar subfield. Styled as an intellectual history of the concept, his thesis holds that “free enterprise” is essentially a constructed mythology that arose from political opposition to the New Deal. Over the course of the 20th century, this version of “free enterprise” recast economic interventionism as an aberration from an artificially constructed history of the pre-Roosevelt American economy. The New Deal accordingly represented a break from an earlier time in which business and government occupied separate spheres, the latter constrained in its powers and proscribed from meddling in the affairs of the former. Glickman essentially sees the “free enterprise” concept as an attempt to retrofit a factitious historical barrier to what he perceives as routine and necessary progressive policy responses to the Great Depression. In his telling, the myth’s expositors—mostly a group of business interests and associated free-market intellectuals—set out to morally “delegitimize” the New Deal order and with it “the most basic functions of government,” namely taxation, regulation, and public expenditures.

    Magness notes that Glickman (as with many other "historians" writing in this genre) "conspiracizes the mundane—a practice of treating routine historical records from disliked conservative, libertarian, or free-market sources as if they were evidence of a collective will to politically transform the mechanism of history in ways that disrupt a specific course of progressive political development desired by the author."

    It's kind of like a left-wing version of the John Birch Society, unfortunately far more academically "respectable".


  • Wait, I thought Double Jeopardy was unconstitutional. Nevertheless, Jack Butler discusses The Jeopardy of Jeopardy!. After a summary of the Mike Richards on-again/off-again host debacle:

    But for these comments to come to light at the precise moment Richards was set to assume one of the most prominent hosting gigs in modern popular culture seems awfully convenient. Surely any number of the guest hosts and others vying for the position would have a large interest in seeing to it that negative information about Richards emerges now. In the political realm, this is known as “leaking oppo”; it would not be surprising to see the same behavior appear in another realm of elite status competition, though it would still, of course, be vexing. And even if it were a genuinely spontaneous impulse that led The Ringer to examine Richards’s past for problematic material, either origin would classify this incident as yet another instance of “cancel culture”: the attempt to use some offensive statement to gin up online outrage against a selected target to weaken or, ideally, remove it in the public sphere.

    Examples of this phenomenon are so common nowadays that it’s not hard to find a comparable instance. In 2018, shortly after he was named as host of the next Academy Awards ceremony, Kevin Hart stepped down from the prospective role. Tweets had emerged that offended modern sensibilities. Hart’s career, however, did not end, raising questions once again about the nature and intent of this particular instance of attempted cancelation. Yet the episode did succeed in essentially blowing up the modern Oscars ceremony; since Hart’s removal, there hasn’t been a single individual designated as Oscars host at all. A similar fate may await Jeopardy! Mayim Bialik, an actress known for her role on The Big Bang Theory, has already been named a permanent guest host for show specials. But she, too, has opinions some (though not I) could easily deem problematic, being notably pro-Israel for a Hollywood personality. Her past comments on vaccines also drew criticism of late, but she’s clarified she’s not an anti-vaxxer and has received the COVID-19 vaccine. If hosting Jeopardy!, like hosting the Oscars, simply becomes a war of all against all, it is possible that, eventually, no one will win — except maybe Watson, a supercomputer contestant who has defeated the best human competitors on Jeopardy! and lacks a history of controversial tweets or podcasts.

    I, for one, would like to see Mayim don an IDF uniform for her first show, with appropriate weaponry. And insist all contestant responses must be grammatically-correct questions in Hebrew.

URLs du Jour

2021-08-26

  • OK, so I tweeted.

    So, yeah, I once read a poem.

    The person I was responding to, Sean Dempsey, is a pretty thoughtful guy, but I thought his "in this new era" phrase was overblown. People have been saying this sort of thing since… well, since Yeats. There's nothing new under the sun.

    Sigh, yes, I've also read the Bible. The good parts, anyway.


  • But maybe I should just walk away, Renee. Specifically, walk away from social media. David French looks at The Cancel Culture Paradox.

    Who speaks? Those with thicker skins or those who possess a sufficient sense of rage or urgency that enables them to push through the pain of blowback.

    Who doesn’t speak? Those with softer hearts or those who are unwilling to risk personal and/or professional relationships over politics or to fight the culture war. 

    I’ll give you an example, taken from one of countless conversations I’ve had since the rise of cancel culture. A conservative doctor recently told me that after January 6th he “unplugged.” He stopped watching cable news. He stopped listening to talk radio. And lest he be tempted to engage in political arguments online, he deleted social media apps from his phone. He described the change as wholly positive for his life. He was happier, and his blood pressure was lower.

    I had two immediate thoughts. Good for him. Bad for us. Here’s a good man who has good things to say who simply decided, “It’s not worth it.” No, not because anyone could cancel him. (He has a thriving independent practice). But because speaking his mind carried with it an unacceptable emotional cost. 

    I've got my own free-expression strategy: (1) Write a blog that nobody reads. (2) Avoid political bullshit on Twitter/Facebook. (3) Comment too much on other sites.

    I'm still wondering if that last bit could use some work.


  • Gaseous obfuscation rarely does. George F. Will makes a plea for linguistic clarity: The Biden administration’s gaseous obfuscation on Afghanistan isn’t helping.

    Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, a retired rear admiral, recently said that during the long U.S. undertaking in Afghanistan “the goals did migrate over time.” Did the goals themselves have agency — minds of their own? Why do so many people, particularly in government, engage in such gaseous talk? Because it envelops in abstract, obfuscating vocabularies things that are awkward to defend. And because we are decades into the “leakage of reality” from American life.

    President Biden says the Taliban is “going through sort of an existential crisis about do they want to be recognized by the international community as being a legitimate government.” Which is worse, if he means this, or if he doesn’t? The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, says “we expect the Taliban to respect women’s rights” and “to be respectful of humanitarian law.” No sentient person expects anything of the sort.

    Secretary of State Antony Blinken proclaims three musts: “Afghans and international citizens” who wish to leave Afghanistan “must” be allowed to. Roads, airports and border crossings “must remain open.” “Calm must be maintained.” “Must,” lest nice people frown? State Department spokesman Ned Price is pleased that the U.N. Security Council has asked the Taliban to create a government that is “united, inclusive, and representative, including with the full and meaningful participation of women.” If this were even remotely possible, why were 20 years and $2 trillion devoted to resisting the Taliban?

    Mr. Will could have, but doesn't, quote George Orwell's Politics and the English Language: "In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible."


  • A continuing Pun Salad theme: it depends on what you mean by "works", researchers. Speaking of Orwell, Jacob Sullum notes that the "experts" are getting impatient with the government's failure to establish a Ministry of Truth: Since Platform-by-Platform Censorship Doesn’t Work, These Researchers Think, the Government Should Help ‘Halt the Spread of Misinformation’.

    Before Twitter banned then–President Donald Trump in response to the January 6 Capitol riot, the platform tried to police his false claims about election fraud by attaching warning labels or blocking engagement with them. A new study suggests those efforts were ineffective at preventing the spread of Trump's claims and may even have backfired by drawing additional attention to messages that Twitter deemed problematic.

    Those findings highlight the limits of content moderation policies aimed at controlling misinformation and, more generally, the futility of responding to lies by trying to suppress them. But the researchers think their results demonstrate the need to control online speech "at an ecosystem level," with an assist from the federal government.

    The study, published today in Harvard's Misinformation Review, looked at Trump tweets posted from November 1, 2020, through January 8, 2021, that Twitter flagged for violating its policy against election-related misinformation. Zeve Sanderson and four other New York University social media researchers found that tweets with warning labels "spread further and longer than unlabeled tweets." And while blocking engagement with messages was effective at limiting their spread on Twitter, those messages "were posted more often and received more visibility on other popular platforms than messages that were labeled by Twitter or that received no intervention at all."

    In other words, an eminently predictable delta-variant of the Streisand Effect. What would we do without researchers?


  • That's not funny, Gene. David Harsanyi tells the tale: The Washington Post is so woke it just corrected a JOKE.

    Earlier this month, Washington Post humor columnist Gene Weingarten wrote a column headlined, “You can’t make me eat these foods,” about his distaste for various cuisines, products, and spices — Old Bay, balsamic vinegar, anchovies, sweet pickles, and so on. (Listen, when you have weekly deadlines, you do what you must.) Weingarten wrote his column, as humorists often do, in a self-deprecating tone, casting himself as a troglodytic contrarian.

    One of the cuisines Weingarten mocked was Indian food — praising the subcontinent for its glorious contributions to the world but joking about his distaste for curry.

    He described the food as “the only ethnic cuisine in the world insanely based entirely on one spice” and joked that whether one likes it comes down to whether one likes curry: “If you think Indian curries taste like something that could knock a vulture off a meat wagon, you do not like Indian food.”

    The outcome was predictable. And, if you're easily amused, pretty amusing.

    Watch your ass, Dave Barry.

    (For the record, I'm only averse to beets, grapefruit, and eggplant. I should be OK, since these are not particularly ethnicity-associated. Uh, right?)

URLs du Jour

2021-08-25

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • In other news, water still wet. Charles C. W. Cooke observes that President Biden Is Still Making Things Worse in Afghanistan.

    From the moment the Afghanistan debacle began to dominate the news, President Biden has steadfastly refused to distinguish between those who are opposed to the Unites States withdrawing troops from the country per se, and those who believe that the White House has badly botched the withdrawal. “How many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight?” he asked last week.

    This question is non-responsive to the charge at hand, which is why an American public that overwhelmingly thinks we should get out is punishing Biden in the polls nevertheless. Americans want to leave, it seems. But they don’t want to leave like this. And Biden, they believe, is firmly in charge of the this.

    Has the president grasped this yet?

    Spoiler: no, he has not grasped this yet.


  • Uncle Stupid is still probably killing people. "Consumer advocates" typically love government regulation. Elizabeth Nolan Brown lacks that infatuation, and so she's free to point out: Federal Regulations Keep COVID Patients in the Dark About Which Variant They Have.

    It should be relatively easy for coronavirus patients who want to know what variant of COVID-19 they've been infected with to obtain that information. After all, at least 50 public laboratories in the U.S. are capable of testing COVID-19 samples to detect virus variants. But onerous federal regulations keep this health information out of reach.

    "The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS), which oversees the regulatory process for US labs, requires genome-sequencing tests to be federally approved before their results can be disclosed to doctors or patients," notes Insider. "These are the tests that pick up on variants, but right now, there's little incentive for the labs to do the work to validate those tests."

    That's because doing so is illegal without federal approval, and getting that approval is an involved, expensive, and uncertain procedure. It requires completing a validation process that would have to be newly undertaken for each new variant a lab wanted to test for.

    At the same time we're told to "trust science", government regulations are designed to disallow science from providing you useful information about your own health.

    It's a funny old world.


  • Ask for Demand to see the syllabus. Robert Pondiscio has a decent alternative to legislation that clever educrats might find easy to evade. Here's A commonsense alternative to critical race theory bans: Don’t change laws, change classroom practice. He provides a case study:

    Matthew Hawn, a high school contemporary issues teacher and baseball coach in Sullivan County, Tennessee, was dismissed from his school, ostensibly for assigning a politically charged essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates and a poem about white supremacy. The case made national news because it was widely assumed the teacher was the first casualty of a state CRT ban. But, in fact, Hawn was dismissed for violating Tennessee’s “Teacher Code of Ethics,” which requires teachers to provide students access to varying points of view on controversial topics — a requirement Hawn allegedly failed to follow.

    As it turns out, Hawn’s actions also violated a local-level rule: his school district’s “controversial issues” policy, which requires teachers to “ensure that differing sides of an issue are explored in order to help students develop their own critical faculties” when “the subject matter being taught involves conflicting opinions, theories, or schools of thought.” Had Hawn followed this policy, he likely never would have run afoul of the state code.

    This could perhaps be a productive approach for parents concerned about their kids getting indoctrination instead of education: find out if the school has a "controversial topics" policy? Does it have an ethical code for teachers that constrains their yammerings on contentious subjects? What syllabi are being used in the classroom?

    I keep coming back to that dreadful "UNH Lecturers United" open letter that, among its other sins, attempted to paint objections to such propaganda as the same as flat-earthism and creationism. There should be hard pushback on that point.


  • The victims were probably Republicans. On his way out the door, ex-Governor Cuomo managed to fling another turd at the country. Bob McManus on A Weatherman, his DA son and Cuomo's shameful pardon.

    Ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo not only ditched his dog on his last day in office, he also gave New York a final thumb in the eye by cracking open the prison gates for one of the bloody-handed Brink’s murderers.

    Never heard of the Brink’s murderers? That’s understandable; it happened a long time ago — Oct. 21, 1981, to be exact — and, besides, the killers themselves are much better known among leftists as the fellas and gals who merely pulled off a suburban New York armored-car “robbery.”

    There was a lot of that going on back then — pampered students mouthing radical rhetoric and teaming up with common criminals for fun and profit — and it would almost have been comical had the consequences not been so far-reaching and so deadly.

    I cannot top Instapundit's comment:

    While yammering about a made-up “insurrection” at the Capitol, the Democrats are siding with the murderous violence of their own, genuine, insurrectionists. As usual.

    True dat.


  • I'll take "Your Job" for … a lot of money, Alex. I've been slogging through what seems like months of Jeopardy! guest hosts, and…

    Whoa, that's because it has been months of guest hosts.

    But that's not important right now. What's important is that, as Robby Soave describes at Reason, Cancel Culture Is Ruining Jeopardy!.

    Longtime Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek was fond of saying he was not the star of television's foremost quiz program: That distinction belonged to the contestants. But following the beloved showman's death from cancer last year, a series of surprisingly divisive guest-host controversies are undermining Trebek's maxim.

    For the last several weeks, Jeopardy! has felt more like a reality TV contest with the permanent hosting gig as the ultimate prize. The show cycled through a seemingly unending list of guest hosts, each of whom were granted one or two weeks' worth of episodes to prove their bona fides. The quality of these would-be replacements varied wildly: Jeopardy! all-time champion Ken Jennings gave a competent performance; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was unexpectedly delightful; TV doctor (and charlatan) Mehmet Oz should not have been given the opportunity in the first place.

    Nobody mentions Buzzy Cohen, my own favorite among the guest hosts. A very minority opinion. As often happens with me.

URLs du Jour

2021-08-24

  • Who's less crazy? Liberty-loving New Hampshire folks might be interested in the recent Soho Forum Debate, held during PorcFest ("Porcupine Freedom Festival") in Lancaster a couple months back. The debate was between Angela McArdle (candidate for Libertarian Party national chair) and Jeremy Kauffman, (Board Member of the Free State Project). And the resolution under debate was "The Free State Project is a more realistic path to liberty than the Libertarian Party."

    The FSP was founded in 2001, to encourage libertarian-minded people to move to NH. In 2001, I'd been living here for 20 years. Mission accomplished! No further action necessary!

    And I usually vote for the Libertarian Party candidate on my ballot when that choice is available. Again, mission accomplished!

    The debate was cordial. Jeremy and Angela both made some interesting and valid points. But Angela made a couple of disturbing points;

    • She argued that governments tended to seek out and destroy dissenters, intimating that this could be the ultimate fate of FSPers. Her examples: Ruby Ridge, Waco, and … Fort Sumter.

      Fort Sumter. Really?

      I didn't hear any pushback on this point from either Jeremy or the Q&A at the end.

    • Angela also bemoaned what she considered to be the weak response of some LP higher-ups to Covid lockdown policies. No worries, though. "Those people are gone and they're not coming back."

      Cheering when people leave the Libertarian Party is not a recipe for success.

    I was not encouraged much to join either the FSP or the LP. Maybe I'm just lazy, but I'm also pessimistic. A necessary condition for the country to take a libertarian turn is for—duh—a large enough fraction of the citizenry to deeply value liberty. That's not the case today, and it's not likely to be in the near future.


  • We don't want your fancy-schmancy Asian tacos 'round here, Bobby. Drew Cline bemoans another defeat for Portsmouth (NH) foodies and property rights: Zoning and Portsmouth's 'cursed' gas station.

    In May, Foster’s Daily Democrat reported the exciting news that celebrity chef Bobby Marcotte planned to convert an abandoned Portsmouth gas station into a unique Asian-Spanish fusion restaurant. 

    Portsmouth has a certain cachet, cultivated by its inhabitants as well as its government. One might think that a super-fashionable, high-concept restaurant helmed by a local celebrity chef would be just the sort of thing to sail through the city’s approval process.

    One might also be unfamiliar with just how absurd local zoning restrictions can be.

    On August 17th, the restaurant concept that was met with such fanfare in May was rejected by a 4-3 vote of the Zoning Board of Adjustment. The Portsmouth Herald report can be read here.

    Congrats, Portsmouth. You're stuck with an abandoned gas station.


  • Fear sells… but who's buyin'? John Tierney strongly suspects the motives: is it as simple as Keeping Fear Alive?

    Throughout the pandemic, American political and public-health leaders have been following Rahm Emanuel’s classic dictum for power-seeking officials: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” Now they’ve adopted a corollary: you never want a crisis to end.

    So they are prolonging the national misery instead of easing it, which could be done with a few simple strategies. Explain to the public that the virus will never disappear but is no longer a mortal threat to the vast majority of Americans. Encourage the minority still at risk to get vaccinated by honestly discussing who is in jeopardy and what scientists have learned about infections. Promote treatments proven to prevent infection and speed recovery while avoiding unproven treatments and mandates that cause collateral damage and generate mistrust. Above all, make it clear to Americans that we finally have reason to celebrate: what once seemed an unprecedented danger is now just one of many pathogens that we know how to live with.

    But the nation’s crisismongers aren’t about to relinquish their hold over the public, so they’ve set new goals that are as unachievable as they are unnecessary and harmful. Making vaccines available to every American adult is no longer sufficient; now the crisis cannot end until the entire population has been vaccinated. Instead of focusing efforts on vaccinating the vulnerable, officials obsess on compelling universal obedience, even if that means squandering vaccines on people who already have acquired natural immunity or are at minimal risk of serious illness.

    I've said this before, but seemingly way too many people among the citizenry prefer to be in the crisis mentality.


  • A continuing Pun Salad theme: it depends on what you mean by "works", Apoorva. A New York Times Reporter Claims Americans Distrust the Government’s COVID-19 Advice Because They Don’t Understand How Science Works.

    New York Times health and science reporter Apoorva Mandavilli thinks she has identified the problem: Americans do not understand how the scientific process works. "To frustrated Americans unfamiliar with the circuitous and often contentious path to scientific discovery, public health officials have seemed at times to be moving the goal posts and flip-flopping, or misleading, even lying to, the country," she writes in a "news analysis."

    To the extent that government messaging can be blamed for the lack of public trust, Mandavilli argues, it is because officials have failed to clearly explain that COVID-19 science is constantly evolving, justifying changes in policy that might seem arbitrary and confusing. "Health officials have not acknowledged clearly or often enough that their recommendations may—and very probably would—change as the virus, and their knowledge of it, evolved," she says. "Is it really so surprising, then, that Americans feel bewildered and bamboozled, even enraged, by rapidly changing rules that have profound implications for their lives?"

    There is some truth to this. Emerging evidence concerning the especially contagious delta variant and the possibility that vaccine effectiveness wanes over time, for example, has given rise to lively debates about the merits of new masking guidelines and booster shots. Evidence that face masks play an important role in reducing virus transmission, which was pretty meager early in the pandemic, has been reinforced by more recent studies, although it is still not strong enough to persuade many skeptics, including some who are familiar with the scientific literature.

    Jacob is, as always, a voice for sanity and liberty. May his tribe increase.

The Most Dangerous Game

[3.0 stars] [IMDB Link] [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

An Amazon Prime free-to-me streamer, a colorized version of the 1932 movie. Very watchable, in a goofy way. They don't make 'em like this any more.

Joel McCrea plays a mighty big game hunter, Bob, who's returning home on a private yacht. The yacht's captain notices some odd placement of warning buoys, but the yacht's owner says, never mind that, power on through. And before you can say "I bet I know what happens next", the yacht runs into a nasty reef. Except for Bob, those who weren't blown up or drowned get eaten by sharks. (This is pretty explicit and scary.)

But Bob washes up on a convenient island, and his jungle wanderings bring him to an imposing fortress. It's the domain of exiled Russian Count Zaroff; he's very welcoming and hospitable. There are two other "guests", also shipwreck survivors, Eve (Fay Wray!) and her brother Martin (Robert Armstrong). At first Bob's just happy to be alive, but even he begins to notice there's something a bit off about the whole situation.

OK, I'll tell you: Zaroff is a psycho, and his whole lifestyle revolves around getting people to his island, then hunting them down for sport. But has he met his match in Bob?

The IMDB trivia page is pretty cool. Most notable: the island sets were used in the concurrent filming of King Kong, as was also, of course, Fay Wray.

URLs du Jour

2021-08-23

  • Eye Candy du Jour from Mr. Michael Ramirez.

    [Old vs. New]

    More on Afghanistan in a bit, but first…


  • UNH prof in the news again … and not in a good way. Janice Fiamengo reports on A Telescope for Social Justice: No White Men Need Apply.

    A cosmic storm is roiling the Astrophysics community. Focused on the name of a NASA space telescope, the controversy is one more in a decade-long whirlwind of accusation that has made clear to straight white men that their days of pursuing science free of guilt and obeisance are decisively over.

    As an academic field, Astrophysics became ‘woke’ years ago and is now one of the most rigidly doctrinaire of the hard sciences. It has seen numerous purity campaigns against non-believers, first against insufficiently feminist-compliant men. A blog called Women in Astronomy promotes indignant tales of female suffering, profiling young women shattered when men expressed sexual or romantic interest, or deeply hurt when researcher Matt Taylor, whose team put a space probe on a comet, appeared on television wearing an ‘inappropriate’ shirt.

    And here's the University Near Here connection:

    In one of the field’s most public spats about female victimhood, renowned Italian particle physicist Alessandro Strumia was ejected from CERN, the prestigious European center for high-energy physics research, after he presented a meticulously documented conference paper arguing that the targeted hiring of women into STEM positions was neither necessary nor wise. For this, he was denounced as a misogynist in a histrionic open letter by Particles for Justice, a posse of modern-day Puritans who hunt academic thought criminals, led by New Hampshire University physicist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, a self-described “activist for equality in science” and AI researcher Brian Nord of the University of Chicago.

    At (current) issue is a March 2021 article in Scientific American from Prof CPW and three other authors: The James Webb Space Telescope Needs to Be Renamed. (Because he "acquiesced to homophobic government policies during the 1950s and 1960s.")

    The telescope was originally scheduled to launch in 2007 and had a "modest" budget of $500 million. The latest estimate is that it might launch in November of this year, and the cost has ballooned by nearly a factor of twenty, $9.7 billion.

    I'm not sure whether sticking Webb's name on this would be an honor or not.

    Another thing I'm not sure about: with all the activism, how much time and energy does Prof CPW have for research and teaching? Not that anyone at UNH seriously cares about that.


  • Doddering old fool continues to foolishly dodder. Paul Mirengoff notes a Q&A at a recent news conference: Biden blows off cable by 23 officials at U.S. embassy in Kabul.

    At his Friday press conference, Joe Biden was asked about the cable sent by 23 officials at the U.S. embassy in Kabul warning his administration of the potential collapse of Kabul soon after the August 31 troop withdrawal deadline. Ignoring this warning, Team Biden assured America that if Kabul fell at all, it would happen at a much later date.

    Biden’s response to the question was that “we get cables all the time.” That was it.

    In interests of transparency, Biden should have added: "We don't pay attention to the ones we don't like."

    In interests of accuracy, Mirengoff doesn't have the quote right, at least according to the White House transcript:

    Q And, sir, just on that initial assessment: We’ve learned, over the last 24 hours, that there was a dissent cable from the State Department —

    THE PRESIDENT: Sure.

    Q — saying that the Taliban would come faster through Afghanistan. Can you say why, after that cable was issued, the U.S. didn’t do more to get Americans out?

    THE PRESIDENT: We’ve got all kind of cables, all kinds of advice. If you notice, it ranged from this group saying that — they didn’t say it’d fall when it would fall — when it did fall — but saying that it would fall; to others saying it wouldn’t happen for a long time and they’d be able to sustain themselves through the end of the year.

    I made the decision. The buck stops with me. I took the consensus opinion. The consensus opinion was that, in fact, it would not occur, if it occurred, until later in the year. So, it was my decision.

    So he was a little more expansive, if not more coherent. Note that he did not add "But I am firing all the people who were so badly wrong in developing that 'consensus opinion'".


  • Once again, things that could have been brought to voters' attention last year. John Fund notes a Strange New Disrespect: Privately, the Beltway Establishment Has Never Respected Biden [NRPLUS, sorry].

    There are countless stories that will come out of the Afghan tragedy. But one of the more surprising is the extent to which liberal media outlets and the foreign-policy establishment have turned on President Joe Biden.

    It’s certainly true that both groups didn’t do enough to question the wisdom of expending thousands of lives and trillions in treasure pursuing “nation-building” in Afghanistan after the Taliban were initially defeated post-9/11. But their prior investment in that position doesn’t fully explain the visceral and swift way in which they’ve attacked Biden and his aides for the moral and logistical nightmare of the U.S. withdrawal.

    What I think we are seeing in part is pent-up frustration with a Joe Biden whom the Beltway establishment has never had much confidence or faith in.

    Robert Gates, former defense secretary under Obama, famously said in his 2014 memoir that Biden has been “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” Leon Panetta, who served as CIA director and secretary of defense under President Clinton, says Biden’s decision to withdraw was rooted in the sad fact that Biden “didn’t really spend much time on the issue” and that the Biden administration was simply “crossing their fingers and hoping chaos would not result.”

    "Crossing their fingers and hoping": that was the "consensus opinion". [Movie quote reference in headline.]


  • Appropriately for bags of hot air… At the Dispatch, Chris Stirewalt notes the political upshot: Biden Deflated.

    After many months of deep anxiety, Republicans are starting to feel pretty good again. The economy is slowing, deficit spending is driving up inflation, anxiety about the Delta variant of COVID-19 is upending hopes for an autumn return to normalcy, and the withdrawal from Afghanistan is a shambolic mess. Nothing like being the party out of power to make one happy to hear bad news.

    And Republicans are all the way out of power. They are not in charge of even one house of one branch, and as they have illustrated with a refusal to vote for debt-ceiling lift for spending they themselves authorized, the congressional GOP is embracing the upside of powerlessness in our era of brain-dead partisanship: consequence-free complaining. Democrats must secretly envy their counterparts. Dems’ time out of power was unusually short, and they didn’t get the chance to really get in the groove of constantly carping without feeling obliged to offer plausible solutions. In America today, we have two minority parties, one of which is occasionally forced to try to govern against its members’ will.

    The GOP pols are salivating that the voters might at least toss them the legislative car keys in (as I type) 442 days. Hopefully they'll think of somewhere decent to go before that.

URLs du Jour

2021-08-22

  • Death of Internet predicted. Four years ago. Thomas W. Hazlett reminds us: Net Neutrality Is Far From Necessary.

    Get ready for the next stage in the never-ending tussle over "net neutrality." The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is prepping to craft yet another regime for internet service providers (ISPs)—the seventh in 13 years.

    Even by contemporary standards of partisan unpleasantness, the debate about net neutrality is acrimonious. In 2018, a man was convicted of threatening to kill then–FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's family because he didn't like Pai's approach to the issue. The hysteria does not reflect reality. The "open internet" that regulatory rules purportedly preserve emerged from a world without net neutrality rules.

    Hazlett does a fine job telling the history and recalling the dire predictions accompanying the shedding of Net-Neut regulations. The New York Times headline in 2017: "The Internet Is Dying. Repealing Net Neutrality Hastens That Death."

    We have, of course, moved on since then to different threats…


  • Breaking news from … oh, 1988 or so. Dan McLaughlin notes that Joe Biden is unfit to lead then nation. It's an NRPLUS article, sorry, but it's one of those that demonstrate why NRPLUS is a pretty good deal.

    It was possible, if you did not look too closely, to construct a case on paper over the past year and a half for Joe Biden as an appropriate person to be president of the United States, commander in chief of its armed forces, and leader of the free world. Certainly, Biden did not lack for experience in high, national public office, exposing him to everything a man would need in order to be prepared for the job. He was a senator for 36 years, dating back to the closing days of the Vietnam War. He chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee twice, including during the post–9/11 era when Congress authorized the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He served two terms as vice president. He traveled to war zones and met scores of foreign leaders. Biden was also a man who came up from humble means and was seasoned by personal tragedy. One could characterize his years in office as the record of a public servant who values important institutions, took many mainstream positions, and showed a willingness and ability to work with people across the aisle.

    Yet, longtime Biden-watchers knew better. Two sets of critiques of Biden have followed him over the course of his career, and Republicans and conservatives have hardly been the only ones to level them. First were the things people noticed about Biden before 2019. For all his time-serving in Washington, Biden was widely understood to be a lightweight, a fabulist, a plagiarist, an exaggerating braggart, a walking gaffe machine, a purveyor of malarkey who covered his inch-deep grasp of everything with his Irish charm and his ability to talk fast and at length until the listener had long since lost track of the topic. Biden rarely had ideas of his own, and when he did, they were usually the subject of mockery. His capacity for filling airtime at Senate hearings without actually saying anything was legendary. Yet, as Clarence Thomas and others warned, Biden could also be two-faced, reassuring people with promises in private and breaking them in public.

    Thanks, voters!


  • Shut up, she explained. The good folks at Granite Grok note that a helpful denizen of the University Near Here travelled down to Exeter to … well, here's the headline: "NH Listens" Moderator 'Threatens' Attendees of SAU16 DEI-J Meeting.

    "SAU16" administers the government schools in Exeter and surrounding communities. "DEI-J" is their shorthand for "Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice". Michele Holt-Shannon is in charge of "New Hampshire Listens", which is… well, a group that pretends to listen. But all that listening has never, ever, changed their mind about anything. And there's only so much listening one can do. Here's what she said in moderating that apparently contentious meeting:

    “So, what I’m going to ask is…we’re going to give people a couple of chances to please be quiet and be respectful. We really want everyone to be able to stay in the room. We’re not making the decision whether someone leaves, the police are, but we will call them in if we need to. They’re very nearby. But our hope is, our hope and desire, is that everyone is able to stay and be respectful and listen and participate.”

    Translation: "If you object to our presentation in ways we don't like, we'll get the cops to throw you out."

    (There were no cops on hand to guarantee the free speech rights of dissenters. Progressives usually refer to this as a "power differential." Except when the cops are on their side.)

    I was amused by one of the documents available at the SAU 16 DEI-J website, where one Abby Hood answers the softball query "How is the work around DEIJ growing your learning?"

    "Growing your learning." Sheesh. Anyway, her answer begins:

    The work to disrupt and dismantle systems of oppression starts with self-work.

    Darn! As I left as a comment on the GG post: when Michele Holt-Shannon threatens to call in the police on you, just say you're working "to disrupt and dismantle systems of oppression." How could she possibly object to that?


  • Jacques Ellul. Now there's a name I've not heard in a long, long time. Alan Jacobs has some interesting things to say a new theory of propaganda. Leveraging off of Orwell's concept of the "Two-Minute Hate" in 1984:

    The relevance of the Two Minutes Hate to our social-media world is so obvious that we rarely pause to notice the fundamental difference between what happens in Orwell’s novel and what we do: no one organizes our sessions of loathing.

    In Orwell’s novel, the Two Minutes Hate is a deliberate exercise created, scheduled, and enforced by the government for propagandistic purposes. It is a carefully designed strategy of negative reinforcement (loathing of Goldstein) followed immediately by positive reinforcement (love of Big Brother). But nothing like that happens in our world. We all know that Big Brother does not exist, and yet we feel his presence all around us. No centralized political force pulls our puppet-strings, and yet we feel pulled upon nonetheless. No one organizes a Two Minutes Hate, and yet Two Minutes (or Several Hours) of Hate we have, day after day after day. We affirm one another in key responses and exclude those who fail to exhibit those responses. (Note that what’s happening here is the performance of responses, not beliefs as such.) We monitor, we police the boundaries.

    I'd extend that idea well beyond social media. Certainly (for example) the sketches on Saturday Night Live with Alec Baldwin as Trump were never that funny; that didn't stop the studio audience from guffawing. And the extent to which "news" channels have become boob-bait for partisans of one stripe or the other is a similar phenomenon.

URLs du Jour

2021-08-21

  • Sure. Next question? Ben Carson takes to the Federalist to ask the musical question: Does The Definition Of 'Fascism' Apply To The Biden Administration?.

    Here is a challenge: Define fascism without reference to a historical event or proper noun.

    It’s harder than it seems. Most people associate fascism with European dictatorships of the 1920s and ’30s. That is with good reason: those were the first fascist regimes.

    The term itself originated in Italy to describe the political philosophy of Benito Mussolini, who borrowed from the Italian word fascio, literally meaning “bundle” (usually of rods or sticks). Mussolini used the term to mean a group of people who are stronger together than individually, such as how a bundle of sticks bound together is much more difficult to snap than any individual stick.

    While most fascist regimes had racial or nationalist elements, it was not racism or nationalism that defined them; there have been plenty of racist or nationalist governing structures that do not merit the label “fascism.” Rather, the necessary ingredient for fascism is the state’s total domination of all aspects of life, including economic life.

    Dr. Carson makes a pretty good summary of the concept. Our Getty Image du Jour is the good old Mercury Dime, minted in the USA with the fasces on the tailside. It was first minted in 1916, back when "progressives" like Woodrow Wilson thought the destiny of the country was “Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.”

    The country switched to the Roosevelt dime in 1945, when that sort of thinking had public relations issues.


  • Much less deserving than cops, for example. Greg Lukianoff and Adam Goldstein advocate a policy that I've mentioned favorably in the past. (I might have stolen the idea from Greg.) Administrators who violate the 1st Amendment rights do not deserve protection of qualified immunity.

    Have you ever wondered why, despite strong First Amendment protections, students and professors still get punished for exercising their free speech on American campuses? The answer is the doctrine of qualified immunity, and it is time for courts to restrain that doctrine.

    Qualified immunity was invented to protect public employees from being unfairly sued for doing their job in good faith. It was intended to be applied in situations where a government employee such as a police officer has to make a split-second decision and couldn’t be expected to know they were violating the law when they acted. In a sense, qualified immunity is the name we’ve chosen for the grace we grant public officials for unintentionally wrong decisions that otherwise would merit discipline, termination or damages paid to victims of violations of constitutional rights.

    Greg and Adam underline that "split-second decision" factor. Obviously that's often a valid point in defense of QI for policemen. It's difficult to see how it applies to (say) university employees, who generally have plenty of time to ask themselves "Am I about to violate the civil rights of this faculty member or student?" And consult with lawyers if necessary.

    If they go ahead with their rights-violation, they shouldn't be immune from legal consequences.


  • If at first you don't succeed … Mike Masnick of Techdirt gets techdirty by reading the FTC's do-over: FTC Tries Tries Again With An Antitrust Case Against Facebook. He's not impressed. RTWT, but here's a bit I liked:

    I mean, this just feels totally arbitrary. They're not establishing the actual competitive market here. They're basically defining the market as "exactly what Facebook does, and only if someone else does all Facebook does." But that's not how competition works. Competition often looks like just one feature of an existing provider, and then leverages that to grow bigger and to expand. And the FTC complaint just doesn't deal with that at all. Indeed, if you look at the way Facebook has been responding to TikTok, the idea that it's not competitive is simply laughable. I can't imagine that Facebook execs are breathing easy about TikTok's success now that the FTC insists that it's a totally different market.

    It's kind of damning (but unfortunately unsurprising) when the Federal Trade Commission is weak on the concept of "competition".


  • Can you stand another FTC-bashing? If not, you'll want to skip Ryan Bourne's look at The FTC's Absurd Attempts At Defining Facebook's Product Market. Asking the relevant question: what is Facebook's actual business?

    The meaningful market (with prices!) that Facebook competes in is for advertising revenue. But even here, the FTC has been rather arbitrary in defining the relevant market. In order to claim Facebook is overwhelmingly dominant, the FTC says "social advertising" is distinct from "display advertising," "search advertising," or "offline advertising." How convenient.

    Our new trustbusters talk a lot about major companies manipulating markets. Under new leadership, the FTC are proving masters in manipulating market definitions.

    I hope the courts treat the FTC's argument with the scorn it deserves.

    (Read the whole thing, because Ryan uses the word "daft", one of my favorites.)


  • Also a Pun Salad favorite word: "scant". Liberty Unyielding quotes a Reuters story that may stick a sharp pin in the hot-air balloon of"insurrection" rhetoric. FBI finds 'scant evidence' 1/6 riot was planned for procedural disruption of Congress.

    The FBI has found scant evidence that the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was the result of an organized plot to overturn the presidential election result, according to four current and former law enforcement officials.

    Though federal officials have arrested more than 570 alleged participants, the FBI at this point believes the violence was not centrally coordinated by far-right groups or prominent supporters of then-President Donald Trump, according to the sources, who have been either directly involved in or briefed regularly on the wide-ranging investigations.

    It was pretty obvious to most unbiased observers that the January 6 rioters would have nad problems organizing a backyard block party.

All Systems Red

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Back in May, Reason editor Katherine Mangu-Ward recommended Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells as her weekly recommendation on the magazine's podcast. It was the sixth entry in the author's "Murderbot Diaries" series.

I decided, sensibly enough, to start with book one. The Kindle version was (and, as I type, still is) cheap at Amazon. (It's relatively short, print version slightly over 150 pages, but I'm still counting it as a book.) Bottom line: it wasn't bad, but I wasn't sufficiently in love with it to adopt a new "Murderbot" reading project.

Here's the story, as far as I understood it: in the future, planets are examined for possible exploitation by survey teams under control of The Company. As this is a dangerous task, they are accompanied by "SecUnits", unholy cyborg-like melds of heavily-armed robot and human. The book is narrated by one of those, and he's dubbed himself "Murderbot", due to an unpleasant past incident that involved numerous human fatalities. He's self-hacked his operating system, evading the software updates the Company pushes down to him, and overriding his "governor module", which is supposed to prevent him from doing that multiple-homicide thing. He uses his cyber-freedom mostly to download and watch episodes of Sanctuary Moon, a future soap opera.

He (nevertheless) is reluctantly brave, and becomes attached to his survey team, throwing himself into gory peril when they are being threatened by hostile planetary fauna, or (worse) targeted for extermination by shadowy human forces. It's a near thing, but (as noted) this is book one of six, so you're pretty much assured he lives to murder another day.

Some Amazon reviewers are relatively furious about the marketing, getting readers hooked on this cheap first installment, then charging a lot more for the next books. If you're the kind of person who gets upset about such things, maybe you should avoid.

URLs du Jour

2021-08-20

  • Eye Candy du Jour from Mr. Michael P. Ramirez: Clear messages.

    [Clear Messages]

    I like doggies, but I might make an exception for that one on the left.


  • And maybe that one on the right, too. Jim Geraghty speculates that Something Is Wrong with the President. (From yesterday, August 19.)

    After making no public appearances for four days — during a major foreign crisis — President Biden read a 20-minute speech off a teleprompter on Monday afternoon and took no questions. He immediately returned to Camp David. He had no events on his schedule Tuesday. On Wednesday, he gave another 20-minute speech about vaccine boosters off a teleprompter from Camp David, and again took no questions. Also on Wednesday, the president sat for an on-camera interview with George Stephanopoulos that did not go well. According to the White House public records, Biden has had two phone conversations with foreign leaders in the past ten days — one with Boris Johnson and one with Angela Merkel.

    As of this writing, Biden has no public events on his schedule for today. He is scheduled to receive the president’s daily briefing from the intelligence community and meet with his national-security team. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, he is scheduled to return to his house in Delaware today.

    This is a highly unusual schedule for a president during a foreign-policy crisis. Yes, a president can perform his job anywhere, whether it’s Camp David or his own private residence. But Biden is barely appearing in public, not saying much of anything when he does, not answering any questions outside of his lone scheduled interview, and sounding angry when he did face questions from Stephanopoulos.

    Jim (I call him Jim) notes Biden's lies, dodges, confusions, self-contradictions, responsibility-shirking. And (perhaps worst of all) invoking his dead son, Beau, in defense of his botched bug-out.

    Conclusion: "Something is wrong with President Biden, and we are all being asked to pretend we don’t notice."


  • Or maybe there's something wrong with government. OK, Biden may be a demented old fool, but Veronique de Rugy traces the rot to a more general problem: When Government's Foolish Errands Turn Into Fiascoes.

    Another government failure, another outrage. This time the scandal is brought on by the less-than-orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and the realization that 20 years of military presence in the country achieved nothing but death and chaos. Observing another instance of large-scale mismanagement, I can't help being surprised that anyone is still surprised.

    One needn't be a foreign policy expert to recognize that something in Afghanistan went terribly wrong. While many will blame the Biden administration for a fiasco that will have horrifying humanitarian consequences for the Afghan people, the failure also belongs to those who made the decision to go and remain there for two decades. These American officials argued that a continuing U.S. military presence there was important for achieving several goals, like training the Afghan army to resist the Taliban. Yet, today, the almost-immediate collapse of the U.S.-backed Afghan government makes it clear that whatever our strategy was, it failed.

    Unfortunately, it's unlikely that those who believed in nation building in the first place will realize from this dreadful episode that it never works as well as planned, even though the tragic scenario now unfolding before our eyes isn't the first U.S. government foreign policy disaster. And it won't be the last. People never seem to learn. Making matters worse is the fact that this sad state of affairs isn't limited to foreign policy. It exists everywhere and throughout all levels of federal, state and local government.

    This never seems to occur to people who demand that government take on more complex duties; they do not seem to notice that government is not handling it's current responsibilities very well.


  • For yet another example of that… See P. J. O'Rourke on a domestic effort that's doomed to make us all worse off: Joe Gives Competition the Finger.

    Last month, President Biden issued an “Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy.” 

    Never mind that the executive order’s title itself is an implicit insult to the American spirit of stop-at-nothing rivalry. It’s as if Joe wandered into the locker room of a Texas high school football stadium on a Friday night and told the quarterback, “You should play hard.”

    Americans will compete at anything. Pickleball. I rest my case. 

    Nonetheless, Joe is worried… about something… But what? That’s not exactly clear because the executive order is 16 pages of bureaucratic bumwad seemingly written by junior underlings up all night with too much coffee and too many Yale law degrees. 

    One repeatedly raised concern is “market concentration.” The phrase is vague but seems to mean that you can take the idea that A Big Monopoly Is Bad and expand it to Just Big Is Also Bad and maybe even to Better Is Not So Good Either.

    I can't wait until Joe does to Amazon what he's done to Afghanistan.


  • I identify as Elizabeth Warren. Scott Sumner looks at an interesting factoid from the census, as noted in this tweet:

    And wonders, appropriately: Does identity change?.

    A few years ago, there was a bit of a controversy after a handful of people were discovered to have changed their racial identity from white to black. The new census suggests that changes in identity are actually quite common:

    [table shown above]

    Notice that the number of Hispanics that identify as two or more races rose from 3 million in 2010 to 20 million in 2020.  That sort of increase is much too big to be explained solely by demographic shifts, and instead implies that millions of Hispanics who identified as white in 2010 identified as mixed race in 2020.  But why?

    Scott looks at some explanations, including that the Census made a change in the wording of its nosy "race" question.

    One of the folks Scott quotes says "When people say “race is a social construct”, this is one of the things they mean."

    We're increasingly seeing that "race" in 21st Century America is increasingly a governmental construct. And that's really a road I'd prefer we not travel.

    But we are travelling on it…


  • Next up: racist embryos. Christopher F. Rufo has done excellent reporting on the bullying reality of "conversations about race". The latest example: Toddlers are racist and other insights from woke Bank of America training.

    On the program’s first day, Bank of America teaches employees that the United States is a “racialized society” that uses “race to establish and justify systems of power, privilege, disenfranchisement and oppression.”

    According to the training program, all whites — “regardless of one’s socioeconomic class background or other disadvantages” — are “living a life with white-skin privileges.” Even children are implicated in the system of white supremacy: According to the program materials, white toddlers “develop racial biases by ages 3 to 5” and “should be actively taught to recognize and reject the ‘smog’ of white privilege.”

    A later paragraph begins "In days seven through 16…" I have to think BofA is a hostile workplace for white people.

Very Bad Men

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I enjoyed Harry Dolan's The Good Killer and Bad Things Happen quite a bit. Same story here; he's got a knack for storytelling, occasional wry humor, intricate plotting, and didn't-see-that-coming twists.

It takes place after the events of Bad Things Happen (read that first). Sometimes-narrator David Loogan is still editing the mystery magazine Gray Streets and has moved in with Ann Arbor police detective Elizabeth Waishkey and her precocious daughter Sarah. He finds an anonymous submission propped up against the magazine's office door; the manuscript starts out with "I killed Henry Kormoran."

And the author, Anthony Lake, did kill Henry Kormoran. And he's on the hunt for other members of the gang that staged a botched bank robbery 17 years ago, one that left one police officer crippled, another dead. The killer is one Anthony Lake, and he's kind of messed up. He's not only a murderer, but thanks to a nasty case of synesthesia, he sees static black text on white paper animated with colors.

And he can't use adverbs.

David and Elizabeth start investigating (Elizabeth officially, David unofficially). This brings them to encounter a large array of interesting folks, including current Michigan senator John Casterbridge, who's retiring, and his daughter-in-law with whom (for unknown reasons), Lake is obsessed.

Consumer note: the hardcover's dust jacket flap copy (as well as the blurb at Amazon) describe a plot development that doesn't happen until page 220 or so. Over halfway through. More sensitive people might consider that non-kosher.

Further consumer note: at one point, a character speaks of the voting public's "black, flabby, little hearts." An author's note at the end says the character is quoting Robert Heinlein. (And a little research says he's specifically quoting Lazarus Long in Time Enough for Love.) I don't know if this means that the author is a Heinlein fan, but I'd like to think so.

And even further consumer note: seemingly minor characters pop up along the way. Don't forget them, many turn out to be unexpectedly important.

URLs du Jour

2021-08-19

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Only in the minds of the rational, unfortunately. David Harsanyi notes recent cognitive dissonance: Biden Admits Green New Deal Is a Dream.

    Last week, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ordered a “code red,” releasing a “landmark” report warning that global warming was an existential threat to humanity, “unequivocally” blaming humans for the problem, and demanding rapid action to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

    “What the IPCC told us is what President [Joe] Biden has believed all along,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted last Tuesday. “Climate change is an urgent threat that requires bold action.”

    The very next day, the Biden administration released a statement imploring the OPEC cartel to increase production of oil to help lower worldwide gas prices. “Higher gasoline costs,” the White House said, “if left unchecked, risk harming the ongoing global recovery.” The White House wants OPEC to go above the 400,000-barrels-per-day increase it already promised to implement, which doesn’t seem to jibe with the notion that we are on the precipice of the apocalypse.

    I can't help but think this will be the theme over the coming months: Biden saying one thing, saying a contradictory thing a short time later, sycophantic media ignoring the obvious dysfunction. How long will it be before folks like Harsanyi are barred from social media for being one of the few pointing this out?


  • Specifically, a whiter shade of pale. Jacob Sullum wonders Is Face Mask Skepticism Beyond the Pale?. (I think Jacob, not on Team Red or Blue, is giving it straight.)

    Like many Americans, I do not like wearing a face mask, which hurts my ears, fogs my glasses, and makes my bearded face itch. And while I think businesses should be free to require face coverings as a safeguard against COVID-19, I am skeptical of government-imposed mask mandates, especially in K-12 schools.

    At the same time, I recognize that my personal peeves and policy preferences are logically distinct from the empirical question of how effective masks are at preventing virus transmission. From the beginning, however, the Great American Mask Debate has been strongly influenced by partisan and ideological commitments, with one side exaggerating the evidence in favor of this precaution and the other side ignoring or downplaying it.

    Last September, Robert Redfield, then the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), described masks as "the most important, powerful public health tool we have," going so far as to say they provided more protection than vaccines would. In a 2020 New York Times op-ed piece, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asserted that "wearing a mask has been proven to reduce the chance of spreading Covid-19 by about 70 percent"—a claim that even the CDC said was not scientifically justified.

    As indicated, it's a complex issue layered with uncertainty, involving age, individual health factors, community transmission level, …

    Just for places I've been to the last few days, the mask policies are wildly inconsistent. Walmart is OK with me maskless; the Portsmouth Public Library (much less crowded) requires them; the UNH Library "strongly recommends" them. I'm not surprised that the attitude of many folks is "these people are just making it up as they go."


  • It depends on what you mean by "work". Another (I think) straight-shooting source is Chuck Dinerstein of the American Council on Science and Health. Do Masks work?.

    The scientific method requires us first to formulate a hypothesis, e.g., masks work, and then design a study to test that belief. But we can learn without a theory based upon real-world observations. Humankind developed the six classical machines [1] without intellectual or quantitative information on how or what mechanical advantage is.

    In that spirit, we have some very significant data on the use of non-pharmacologic interventions on influenza. They come from the NY State Department of Health that collects information on seasonal flu every year. Here is the graph that, for me, says it all—the number of patients hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza.

    [graph elided, but it's pretty amazing]

    28-fold fewer patients were hospitalized for influenza in the last year than the previous year, 2,800% less! I would argue that it was our use of NPI that made the difference. When I mentioned this in our writer’s meeting, other concerns were raised that might explain this effect.

    Dr. Dinerstein notes that it's possible other things could have caused this amazing drop in flu. But increased masking being a major factor seems to be a pretty good guess.

    But read the whole thing, and make your own call.


  • You would have to have a heart of stone not to laugh. Vice notes that irony can be pretty ironic sometimes: Socialist Publication Current Affairs Fires Staff for Doing Socialism.

    Nathan J. Robinson, editor-in-chief of the socialist magazine Current Affairs, has fired most of its staff for trying to start a worker co-op, workers wrote in a letter posted on Twitter on Wednesday morning. 

    "We, the former full and part-time staff, write to you with deep sadness and disappointment about the recent events that have occurred at Current Affairs," a letter signed by five fired staffers said.

    "On August 8th, editor-in-chief Nathan J. Robinson (author of Why You Should Be a Socialist) unilaterally fired most of the workforce to avoid an organizational restructuring that would limit his personal power. Yes, we were fired by the editor-in-chief of a socialist magazine for trying to start a worker co-op."  

    It's unclear whether anyone involved seriously questioned their prior beliefs in the face of new data.


  • Alexa Ray Joel was not reached for comment. The Atlantic, covering the important stories, reports: Amazon Killed the Name Alexa.

    Alexa used to be a name primarily given to human babies. Now it’s mainly for robots.

    Seven years ago, Amazon released Alexa, its voice assistant, and as the number of devices answering to that name has skyrocketed, its popularity with American parents has plummeted. In fact, it has suffered one of the sharpest declines of any popular name in recent years. “Alexa stands alone as a name that was steadily popular—not a one-year celebrity wonder, not a fading past favorite—that was pushed off the popularity cliff,” Laura Wattenberg, the founder of the naming-trends website Namerology, told me.

    There's a great graph at the link, and discussion of other names that have gone out of style quickly: Isis, Hillary, Osama, …

Random Thoughts

  • I'm not worried about AIs taking over the world when the best and biggest companies in the business can't make accurate progress meters.

  • I'm not a Luddite about Google, but the Google Ads I see are often clickbaity and borderline offensive. OK: so click the little close box at the ad's top right corner.

    "Send feedback"? Sure.

    And the feedback choices you get? "Ad covered content"; "Ad was inappropriate"; "Seen this ad multiple times"; and "Not interested in this ad".

    I long for at least two other choices: "Ad insulted my intelligence" and "Ad was both juvenile and prurient". Too much to ask?

  • I have a couple reflex mental tics:

    • When I hear politicians or pundits talk about "the little people", I think: "You mean the leprechauns?". (This is no doubt a psychic hangover from listening to too many Firesign Theater albums in my youth.)

    • Similarly, when those folks talk about "universal pre-K" or "universal health care", I think: "Including Klingons?" (A psychic hangover from… well, you know where.)

  • While we're discussing language gripes, I'm increasingly morose when the bare word "diversity" is used to mean "racial diversity". (Example on the front page of the August 15, 2021 Seacoast Sunday newspaper: "Census: Seacoast gains in population, diversity")

    Writers, there are all kinds of population characteristics that show differences; if you mean racial diversity, say "racial diversity".

    Things get really stupid when people start referring to "diverse indivduals". A lone individual is a single data point. Nevertheless, NASDQ tried it in their latest iteration of their "Board Diversity Rule":

    Nasdaq’s Board Diversity Rule requires companies listed on our U.S. exchange to […] Have or explain why they do not have at least two diverse directors.

    This does not mean "two people who are different from each other", of course. Because companies with five your fewer board members "can meet the diversity objective by including one diverse director."

    What they really mean by "diverse" is "not a straight white male". They should stop using the euphemism and say that.

  • Another peeve, if you can bear it: people who don't pronounce the internal "c" in "Arctic" and "Antarctic". Especially on-air weatherpeople, who should (a) know better and (b) be able to pronounce words. "There's an artic front headed our way!"

URLs du Jour

2021-08-17

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Nasdaq wants to kill my retirement. Jeff Jacoby writes on The virtue-signaling stock exchange.

    The world’s second-largest stock exchange is now officially in the quota business.

    The Securities and Exchange Commission this month approved Nasdaq’s new rule requiring the more than 3,000 companies listed on its exchange to meet specific diversity mandates in the makeup of their boards of directors. Henceforth, the companies will be required to have at least “one director who self-identifies as a female” and a second who “self-identifies” as “Black or African American, Hispanic or Latinx, Asian, Native American or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, or . . . as any of the following: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or as a member of the queer community.” Companies that fall short of the quota will not be delisted but are required to provide a public explanation for their failure to meet the new requirement.

    Nasdaq first proposed this rule last December, in an SEC filing that contained a half-dozen references to “the social justice movement” or “the racial justice movement.” The purpose of a stock exchange is to maintain an efficient marketplace for trading securities and raising capital, but Nasdaq seemed more interested in virtue signaling and identity politics.

    Google tells me the Nasdaq Composite Index is up about 32% over the past year. That's not bad. Still, their interest in the genetic makeup and sexual behavior of their listed companies seems out of their wheelhouse.


  • People needed. Only a pulse required. Apply within. Most reports on the census results for New Hampshire were rosy. ("We're more diverse!") But Drew Cline makes the downside case: Why New Hampshire's smallest population growth in a century is bad news.

    In the last decade, New Hampshire’s population grew at the slowest rate in a century, signaling that generations’ worth of astounding economic and cultural gains could be put at risk.

    New Hampshire’s population grew by 4.5% from 2010-2020, the lowest growth rate since the state had 2.9% growth from 1910-1920.

    It marked the first time since 1920 that the state’s population growth rate has fallen below 5%.

    Drew points the finger of blame at local governments, who have "successfully" made moving here more expensive by property restrictions.

    This Census.gov page has NH population growing at 4.6% between 2010-2020. That's better than Maine (2.6%), Vermont (2.8%), Connecticut (0.9%), and Rhode Island (4.3%). Amazingly, Massachusetts' population grew at 7.4%. What's up with that?


  • REAL ID requirements should just die, already. Government "programs" are famously immortal. But you'd think they might make an exception for one whose implementation has been delayed so long that its rationale was demonstrably bogus. But as Scott Shackford notes, Even COVID-19 Couldn’t Kill REAL ID.

    It has been more than 15 years since Congress passed the REAL ID Act. Presented as a national security safeguard, the law requires that American citizens and legal residents have a specific type of identification, incorporating proof of not just their identity but their citizenship, to enter federal buildings or board domestic flights.

    Implementation of REAL ID has been a real mess. The National Conference of State Legislatures initially estimated that 245 million government-issued IDs would need to be replaced at a cost of $11 billion. To get these new IDs, applicants have to provide additional proof that they are citizens or lawful U.S. residents.

    The original "deadline" was for compliance was May 2008. It's been repeatedly pushed back, and is currently at May 2023.

    You will have noticed the stunning lack of terrorism caused by people sneaking onto planes with fake IDs caused by this delay.


  • Biden seems not to know what "the buck stops here" means. We'll go with local analyst Michael Graham for the explicit juxtaposition of two themes from Biden's speech about the Afghan debacle: Biden Stops the Buck, But Passes the Blame.

    During a White House speech amid the Afghanistan evacuation fiasco, President Joe Biden looked into the camera with a cold, steely eye and said, “I am President of the United States of America, and the buck stops with me.”

    It’s a powerful line. Or rather, it would have been, if not for the 16 minutes and 39 seconds of buck-passing that preceded it.

    Biden may have been going for a Harry Truman moment, but he sounded a lot more like Bill Clinton. It all depends on what your definition of “chaos” is.

    It's also worth noting:

    When Biden said he had spent the past week “moving quickly to execute the plans we had put in place to respond to every constituency, including the rapid collapse we’re seeing now,” what were voters supposed to think? Was watching desperate Afghans fall thousands of feet to their deaths after clinging to the outside of a U.S. transport plane really “the plan we had in place?”

    He meant "contingency". And this is teleprompter-reading.


  • Assuming you had an illusion of Biden's competence and honesty… Jim Gerarghty will disabuse you, The Joe Biden Illusion Crumbles to Dust. Excerpt:

    A little more than a month after Biden assured Americans that, “The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely,” the president had the audacity to claim that, “We were clear-eyed about the risks.”

    As he made a decision that would leave almost every Afghan man, woman, and child to the tender mercies of the Taliban, and that would see public executions and forced “marriages” return, Biden had the nerve to claim that, “I have been clear that human rights must be the center of our foreign policy, not the periphery.”

    Biden denounced the Afghan army that five weeks ago he called “better trained, better equipped, more competent in terms of conducting war.” He contended that, “We paid their salaries, provided for the maintenance of their air force — something the Taliban doesn’t have. Taliban does not have an air force. We provided close air support,” when that is not the case. “In the wake of President Biden’s withdrawal decision, the U.S. pulled its air support, intelligence and contractors servicing Afghanistan’s planes and helicopters.”

    Well, I'm sure this won't have worldwide repercussions about American resolve and trustworthiness. Taiwan and Israel, watch your backs.

Countdown City

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

The second entry in Ben H. Winters' "Last Policeman" trilogy. It's kind of a downer, as described below. As the in previous entry, it's set mostly in Concord NH, with some side trips to Durham NH and Kittery, ME. More about that too. Unfortunately, the scenario in the previous book hasn't gone away either. There's an asteroid headed for Earth in a few weeks, and civilization (even in New Hampshire) is quickly falling apart. And a lot of people have acquired, or reacquired, a nasty tobacco habit.

And the hero, Henry Palace, isn't even a cop anymore. He's marking time, waiting for the apocalypse, when his old babysitter Martha implores him to look into the disappearance of her husband Brett. This seems hopeless; a lot of husbands have taken off for parts unknown, and Henry has lost his detecting resources.

But Henry's a pretty good detective after all, and following Brett's trail leads him on a tour of societal collapse, which is pretty interesting. Surprisingly, many folks have not decided to lay in a lot of cheap red wine and lurid fiction, and just wait for The End. That would be me.

Specifically, Henry's quest brings him to the University Near Here, which has (amusingly, to my eyes) been taken over by a bunch of (I think) anarcho-syndicalists. There's a certain grim humor here: they are relentlessly communal, following the "will of the people". Problem being that it's a long drawn-out process to determine exactly what that will is, and it involves a lot of people shouting "point of order!"

But what I really want to mention is Winters' literary license with UNH geography. It's pretty twisted: he namedrops some buildings that exist (Thompson Hall, Dimond Library, Woodside Apartments), but also throws in a bunch that don't (e.g., "Kingfisher Hall"). And, in reality, walking from Thompson Hall to Dimond is maybe 20 yards; in the book it's a much longer hike.

Similar things happen when Henry goes to Kittery via Portsmouth. Basically right, but in a universe where "Memorial Bridge" spans "high over the harbor". Uh, no. It's the I-95 bridge that goes high. Memorial Bridge is low (but it's a drawbridge to allow the occasional boat traffic).

Quibbles aside, it's pretty clear that this book is pretty much a set-up for the last entry in the series. Which I've already bought.

URLs du Jour

2021-08-16

  • Lots of things turning 50 these days. Including the trends shown in this Tweet.

    Lots more pungent graphage at the link. I don't want to submit willy-nilly to post hoc propter hockery, but it's an interesting take. It's capped off with a quote:

    I don’t believe we shall ever have a good money again before we take the thing out of the hands of government, that is, we can’t take it violently out of the hands of government, all we can do is by some sly roundabout way introduce something that they can’t stop.

    That's good old F. A. Hayek.


  • Dr. James Fieseher, man of science! His op-ed in my Sunday paper almost made me fire off an LTE: Dinosaurs, toy trucks and pink crayons.

    Here are some disturbing facts: In the US, the suicide rate for men (25/100,000) is over 3 times the rate for women (7.5/100,000). FBI records indicate that 98% of mass shootings are done by men (women account for only 9 of the 250 mass shootings from 2000 to 2017).

    Surprisingly, the solution to both problems may have to do with dinosaurs, toy trucks and pink crayons.

    My first thought was: ohmigod, he's not kidding. Yes, he really does blame sex-stereotyped parenting for future destructive behavior by males against both themselves and others. And, yes, he really does say we should yank the dinos and trucks away from the boys and give them pink crayons instead.

    And his evidence for this? Purely anecdotal, describing the way he raised his three daughters and the way his grandsons are being raised.

    He presents this as a new, fresh insight, rather than something people have been pushing for, literally, decades.

    I could quibble with his suicide numbers; they seem to be significantly larger than the ones I see at the CDC. But they agree that male rates are much higher than female.

    What seems not to be on Dr. Fieseher's radar at all: it just might be that men and women are biologically different, and those differences slop over significantly into behavioral differences.

    [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Fortunately, I read Human Diversity by Charles Murray last year. Sex differences are the source of robust debate, but Murray convinced me on the following points (quoted from the book):

    1. Sex differences in personality are consistent worldwide and tend to widen in more gender-egalitarian cultures.
    2. On average, females worldwide have advantages in verbal ability and social cognition while males have advantages in visuospatial abilities and the extremes of mathematical ability.
    3. On average, women worldwide are more attracted to vocations centered on people and men to vocations centered on things.
    4. Many sex differences in the brain are coordinate with sex differences in personality, abilities, and social behavior

    I'm pretty sure this has implications for violent behavior for males vs. females, considered as groups. Murray might have added: "None of those differences are alleviated by shoving pink crayons into little boys' hands."


  • If you see me getting smaller, I'm leaving. Matt Taibbi looks at The Vanishing Legacy of Barack Obama. It's pretty vicious and funny. The link will take you to a partial non-paywalled article. Excerpt:

    Obama was set up to be the greatest of American heroes, but proved to be a common swindler and one of the great political liars of all time — he fooled us all. Moreover, his remarkably vacuous post-presidency is proving true everything Trump said in 2016 about the grasping Washington politicians whose only motives are personal enrichment, and who’d do anything, even attend his wedding, for a buck. Trump’s point was that he, Trump, was already swinishly rich, while politicians have only one thing to sell to get the upper class status they crave: us.

    "Fooled us all"? Geez, Taibbi used to be at Rolling Stone; you would think someone there would have played "We Won't Get Fooled Again" for him at some point.

    Jerry Coyne has more extensive quoting from the article, if you're interested.


  • Burning question du jour: Brought to us by new-to-me New Hampshire blogger Elliot Axelman: Is Jack Dorsey of Twitter Becoming An Anarcho-Capitalist?. [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

    On August 13th, one of the most powerful leftists in the world of big tech tweeted the most antithetical post to leftist ideology imaginable: Rothbard. Since the tweet, libertarians, capitalists, voluntaryists, and many others are excitedly trying to figure out whether it could be true. Could the founder and CEO of Twitter be waking up and smelling the liberty?

    Jack Dorsey has been one of the most hated villains of the right for the past few years. The programmer has been using his $15 billion net worth to back socialist candidates like Andrew Yang and socialist policies like universal basic income for years. He also used his control over the world’s largest political social media platform to censor stories that were unfavorable towards Biden and promoted content that supported leftists and disparaged conservatives.

    As I type, the link my new best friend Jack provided isn't working for me, but you can get the Rothbard book he recommended here. (Or you can click the book image at your right to get the Amazon Kindle version for a mere $2.99. Thanks to Jack, it seems to be selling like … um something that sells really well.)


  • I got schadenfreude bad, and that ain't good. I was in Sioux Falls (well, the airport) just a few weeks ago, and somehow I missed The Big Reveal That Wasn’t. As revealed by Khaya Himmelman of the Dispatch, who went so I didn't have to.

    Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO, has been talking about his three-day “cyber forensic symposium” for months. When we last spoke, he told me it was going to be the biggest event in the world. Many, many hundreds of people from across the country would be in attendance. Secretaries of state, attorneys general, governors, cybersecurity experts, and media from across the political spectrum would fill a stadium and watch in near disbelief as he convinced all of the nonbelievers that they were wrong about the integrity of the 2020 presidential election. And finally, with his new evidence, everyone in attendance would know Donald Trump had won the election and that as soon as the morning of August 13, the result would be overturned and Trump reinstated.

    Like many of Lindell’s recent fantasies, the symposium he envisioned never materialized. The stately arena that was going to host this huge crowd was actually just a modest event space that held at most 200 people, with an adjacent gun range and a small combined lounge and bar called “Club Lobo.”

    Throughout the event—which took place last Tuesday through Thursday—Lindell, sometimes accompanied by his “experts,” sometimes alone, sat at a glass table on a makeshift stage. Attendees sat on plastic folding chairs surrounding the stage. Certain guests had special seats, with handwritten “reserved” signs taped onto the back of bar stool chairs. The audience, although smaller than expected, seemed for the most part engaged, almost riled up. At one point an attendee, apropos of nothing, asked if it was time to “bring in the military to stop the coup.”

    Depending on your attitude toward election conspiricism, things either got a lot better, or a lot worse, from there.

URLs du Jour

2021-08-15

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • By the time I get to Ogunquit… It's Jimmy Webb's 75th birthday today. Power Line has a great tribute, with many videos.

    I've been a fan for most of those 75 years. Starting somewhere around 1967, when I noticed seven of the eleven fine songs on Johnny Rivers' Rewind album were written by him.

    By no coincidence, one of my favorite albums is the Amazon Product du Jour.

    He is scheduled to show up at Jonathan’s Ogunquit on April 1, 2022. I hope we both make it there.

    (If that sounds morbid: the previous concert I had tickets to at Jonathan's was Leon Russell, scheduled for February 12, 2017. So once burned…)


  • Also, all the donuts you can eat. Tim Cushing has the sad story at Techdirt: New Hampshire PD's Recruitment Pitch Lists Qualified Immunity As A Job Perk.

    Every so often law enforcement forgets to keep the mask on. The public front is all about safety and providing a line of defense against criminal chaos. Behind the front, it's a bunch of people with the same flaws as regular humans, only with access to an incredible amount of power and an almost nonexistent amount of accountability.

    When law enforcement agencies are looking to hire, they're generally not looking for the best, most honest people. They're looking for the kind of people who desire power and disdain personal responsibility. A recent open call for applicants on Facebook -- posted by the Manchester, New Hampshire Police Department -- made the mistake of being a bit too direct.

    The Manchester Police Department is looking for reliable, motivated, and personable recruits for both entry level and certified positions. Located less than an hour from Boston, Manchester enjoys proximity to great schools and attractions, the beach, and the White Mountains. The department offers many opportunities to advance and additional unique benefits including qualified immunity. Click the link and apply now! There is no application fee and remote testing is now available. Come enjoy the high quality of life NH offers and work for a great department backed by community support!

    Profuse apologies were issued by the Manchester police chief less than 24 hours later.

    I still think that QI reform should extend to all government employees. And also to any public university employees who violate the civil rights of their students, faculty, and staff.


  • Pass the popcorn. And I don't even like popcorn. Jacob Sullum recounts the latest news on the reality-collision front: As Defamation Lawsuits Against 3 Election Conspiracy Theorists Proceed, They Will Get Another Chance To Present Their ‘Evidence’.

    A federal judge in Washington, D.C., this week allowed Dominion Voting Systems to proceed with its defamation lawsuits against Rudy Giuliani, former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell, and My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, all of whom repeatedly and publicly alleged that the company was involved in a massive criminal conspiracy that delivered a phony election victory to President Joe Biden last year. U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, a Trump appointee, rejected Powell's argument that her claims about Dominion were not actionable because they did not qualify as statements of fact. He also rejected the argument, offered by Lindell as well as Powell, that Dominion had failed to allege "actual malice."

    Although Nichols' decision is bad news for these three defendants, all of them can still ultimately prevail by proving that what they said about Dominion was true. Giuliani, Powell, and Lindell have claimed over and over again that they have the requisite evidence. They failed to produce it in post-election litigation and in the many public appearances where they accused Dominion of helping Biden steal the election. But now that Dominion is seeking $1.3 billion in compensatory and punitive damages from them, they have a pretty strong personal and financial incentive to finally reveal the facts underlying their assertion that the company switched Trump votes to Biden votes in what Lindell described as the "biggest election fraud in world history."

    Sad it came to this, but Lindell, Powell, and Giuliani deserve to be taken to the financial woodshed. Powell and Giuliani, being lawyers, should have known better. Lindell's not a lawyer, but he should have followed the advice of a good one.


  • Sorry, Afghans. You f'd up. You trusted us. I don't post much on foreign policy, because I know so little about it. Although I've observed that the "experts" in the field tend to have way more confidence in their opinions than is warranted. Stock pickers on Reddit have better prediction records. Why should I step on that rake?

    Nevertheless, David Harsanyi notes the abysmal record of one self-proclaimed expert: President Biden's Disastrous Foreign Policy.

    The unfolding disaster in Afghanistan is a bipartisan, trans-administrational failure. It is a humiliation.

    Whatever your position is on the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the fact is that after 20 years, after thousands of lives and hundreds of billions spent on the military, police, training, infrastructure and education, the country is likely to fall to radicals in less than 20 days. As of this writing, the Taliban are routing Afghan troops with seeming ease, taking Kandahar, Herat, and closing in on Kabul. The United States has been forced to send 3,000 troops to evacuate Americans to avoid another Fall of Saigon moment.

    And for the past 20 years, Joe Biden has been on every side of nearly every position on Afghanistan — usually the wrong one at the wrong time. It’s surreal that a person so uncannily incompetent, so tenaciously wrong on foreign policy, could rise to the presidency, but here we are.

    Well, we knew this when we (by which I mean: not I) elected him.


  • A PSA from KDW. Sepcifically, Kevin D. Williamson: Get Stuck, Dummy. It's an NRPLUS article, sorry, but here's a longish snippet with the take home point at the end:

    One of the vexations of American political thinking is single-serving libertarianism, encountered regularly on both the left and the right.

    Single-serving libertarianism is what you’re seeing when an abortion-rights advocate argues for “choice” on one issue and one issue only but is all too happy to advocate coercion on related issues, e.g., forcing Americans to fund abortions through tax subsidies or forcing employers to provide abortifacient coverage in their health-insurance packages. Single-serving libertarianism was part of the gay-marriage debate until it wasn’t: What goes on in the bedrooms of private citizens was their business until, by God, it was literally your business, at the command of the Supreme Court. Single-serving libertarianism is what you’re seeing when a motorcyclist argues that he should be permitted to ride without a helmet and also that any medical care for any head injuries resulting from that decision should be subsidized by his neighbors through their insurance premiums or Medicare.

    I have described my politics as libertarian for as long as I have had a political vocabulary. Thanks to a broadminded librarian (or, more likely, a generous friend of this magazine), I had National Review available to read from a young age. I went to high school at a time when a semester of basic economics was mandatory, and the required reading at my school included Milton Friedman’s Free To Choose. Buckley led to Burke and Friedman to Hayek, and there was an attractive coherence to it, distinct from the point-by-point ideological rigidity of the hacks who emphasized “consistency.” This wasn’t the sophomoric libertarianism of Ayn Rand or the weed-and-sandals libertarianism of 1990s college campuses. It was a midcentury, coat-and-tie affair, very much informed by the Cold War and by the twin totalitarianisms that clashed in World War II. This libertarianism was distinct from the atomistic, largely rhetorical libertarianism that would later come to some prominence, and, because it was grounded in experience and in the conservative sensibility, it understood that there is a social context for liberty. Which is why, to take one illustrative example, Bill Buckley favored the legalization of drugs but did not believe that legalization would be dispositive as a social question or as a matter of public policy.

    This is a long way of saying: Get vaccinated, you f***ing dopes.

    I second that advice, for what it's worth.


Last Modified 2021-08-16 6:03 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-08-14

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • As I was reminded by Marc Myers at the WSJ, today is the fiftieth anniversary of "Who's Next". The album that turned me into a lifelong Who fan.

    We'll be fighting in the streets
    With our children at our feet
    And the morals that they worship will be gone
    And the men who spurred us on
    Sit in judgement of all wrong
    They decide and the shotgun sings the song

    Been thinking about that for quite awhile. And it seems to get only more relevant. The no frills CD is a mere $9.99 at Amazon, and it's our Product du Jour.


  • Capitalism, RIP. James Freeman notes Fear and Self-Loathing at American Express.

    This has been the year of woke and weak corporate CEOs trying to signal virtue by endorsing leftist politics and attacking Republicans. But now we have a bizarre case of a business attacking itself. The Manhattan Institute’s Christopher Rufo writes this week in the New York Post about a lecture hosted by American Express . He reports that at the Amex corporate event a guest speaker argued that the system of capitalism was founded on racism and that “racist logics and forms of domination” have shaped Western society from the Industrial Revolution to the present. Mr. Rufo quotes the insufferable lecturer telling Amex employees, “You are complicit in giving privileges in one community against the other, under the pretext that we live in a meritocratic system where the market judges everyone the same.”

    Well, it’s true that the company’s advertisements have touted the privileges enjoyed by consumers who use its ubiquitous green cards. But the history of American Express is the story of a company that has thrived by offering its many services to a broader and broader clientele. The firm’s website says it has more than 100 million cards in use—accepted by millions of merchants. Sure, it has generally served a higher-income segment than Visa and Mastercard, but there are options for all kinds of consumers.

    Back in 2006 I was amused by a Salon article by Debra J. Dickerson, where she mused that Black History Month was coming up and "and no one's asked me yet to come and be black for them."

    Meant to be funny, I think.

    But today, I think it's more like "no one's asked me yet to come and accuse them of racism." That seems to be a thriving gig, and it's available twelve months out of the year.


  • Maybe you should just go to church instead. Sally Satel notes a disturbing trend: When Therapists Become Activists.

    Until roughly five years ago, people seeking mental health care could expect their therapists to keep politics out of the office. But as counselor education programs and professional organizations across the country embrace a radical social justice agenda, that bedrock principle of neutrality is crumbling. Mental health professionals—mainly counselors and therapists—are increasingly replacing evidence-driven therapeutics with ideologically motivated practice and activism. 

    The Graduate Counseling Program at the University of Vermont, for example, intends to “structurally align” itself with the Black Lives Matter movement and begin “the work of undoing systemic white supremacy.” After George Floyd’s death, the Johns Hopkins University Counseling Center advised would-be students to “consider us one of many resources in the difficult but necessary work of engaging with internalized bias, recognizing privilege, and aligning values of anti-racism and allyship with embodied and sustained practice.” 

    Nothing like that going on at the University Near Here, I'm sure. If it is, I'm sure they'd be more careful to keep it out of the public eye than were those hippies at UVM.


  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] "They all look alike," explained the booksellers. In the news, as presented by Caroline Downey at NR: American Booksellers Association Apologizes for Accidentally Promoting Candace Owens Book.

    In a statement published to the Shelf Awareness blog Monday, American Booksellers Association CEO Allison Hill apologized for an incident in which Candace Owens’s Blackout was accidentally featured in lieu of a social-justice-oriented book with the same title by Dhonielle Clayton and other authors.

    An employee subbing for the employee who is normally responsible for curating the best-seller list, Hill said, unknowingly selected the wrong cover image for the book. A second employee new to copyediting also failed to cross-check the photo and recognize the error before mailing the list out to members.

    Apologizing for the employees’ mishap, Hill wrote, “It was a terrible mistake with terrible racist implications. However, based on our investigation and the demonstrated diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) commitment of these individuals, we have no reason to believe the action was malicious in intention.”

    A merry mixup indeed. I've stuck links to both books up there so you can tell if you're more perceptive than two American Booksellers Association employees. Stirring the pot, as might be expected, was Candace Owens. As reported at the Daily Wire: Candace Owens Rips American Booksellers Association For Calling Her Book ‘Racist’.

    The Daily Wire’s Candace Owens ripped into the American Booksellers Association (ABA) and its CEO Allison Hill after the ABA apologized for accidentally promoting Owens’ book while calling it “racist.”

    Owens hit back at the ABA, calling for an apology and accusing Hill and the group of “unspeakable, explicit racism” and slander for their characterization of Owen’s book, “Blackout: How Black America Can Make Its Second Escape from the Democrat Plantation.”

    Well, actually, I think Ms. Hill was trying to own up to the charge that the ABA employees were racist for not being able to tell the difference between Candace Owens and Dhonielle Clayton. At least that's the more charitable interpretation.

    Fun fact: as I type, the Owens book (published in September of last year) is #7,720 in Amazon's Kindle Store. In contrast, the Clayton book (published in June) is #58,456 in the Kindle Store. Despite being an "Editors' pick" in the "Best Young Adult" category.


  • Alberta, Alberta, where you been so long? Colin McClelland of the Financial Post provides the amusement du jour: Joe Biden blasted by Alberta for demanding more OPEC oil after cancelling Keystone XL.

    Wounded after U.S. President Joe Biden cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline that would have shipped Alberta crude to the United States, the province snapped at the White House’s call on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries Wednesday to raise production faster than planned.

    “The Biden administration pleading with OPEC to increase oil production to rescue the United States from high fuel prices months after cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline smacks of hypocrisy,” Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage said in a statement Wednesday. “Keystone XL would have provided Americans with a stable source of energy from a trusted ally and friend.”

    Well, what do you expect from a demented old fool?

URLs du Jour

2021-08-13

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Lord, grant me chastity and continence, but not yet. The Lord seems to have granted the presidential prayer, as the NYPost editorialists point out. Biden’s energy idiocy: Kneecap US oil but beg OPEC to pump more.

    President Joe Biden’s latest policy push has us doing not just a double take but a triple take: The man who’s put roadblock after roadblock in the way of North American energy companies in pursuit of his vow to decarbonize the US economy is . . . begging OPEC to boost fossil-fuel production.

    Why? The prez complains the high price of gas is hurting the post-pandemic economic recovery. Seriously.

    Reference above from Saint Augustine of Hippo.

    I'm going to investigate changing my name legally to "Paul Sand of Hippo".


  • Doomed to repeat it. Gabe Kaminsky looks at the latest glorification of ignorance: Nike Claims Women's Basketball Tops A Man Who Conquered The World. Specifically, this tweet released about the USA's Women's Olympic basketball team winning gold:

    Nike’s video depicts a black lesbian high schooler complaining about studying history. In her view, it promotes “the patriarchy.” Instead of learning about actual dynasties of the past, she wishes to discuss the athletic “dynasty” of the women’s basketball team.

    “Today I have a presentation on dynasties,” the girl says. “But I refuse to talk about the ancient history and drama. That’s just the patriarchy. Instead, I’m going to talk about a dynasty that I actually look up to. An all-women dynasty. Women of color. Gay women. Women who fight for social justice. Women with a jump shot. A dynasty that makes your favorite men’s basketball, football, and baseball teams look like amateurs.”

    And she adds the team "makes Alexander the Great look like Alexander the OK."

    Good move, Nike. Tell young black women that they don't have to study history when they can just watch basketball on TV.


  • Orval Faubus would cheer. But Frederick M. Hess is less impressed with the latest academic trendy trend, and suggests we Say No to ‘Anti-Racist’ Racial Segregation in Schools.

    he fight over critical race theory (CRT) in America’s schools has featured woke “anti-racists” trying to justify a variety of troubling practices by insisting they’re grounded in expertise and evidence. This has been especially noticeable when it comes to the defense of “racial affinity spaces.”

    Just what are “racial affinity spaces”? Well, while President Biden likes to denounce various Republican policies as the “new Jim Crow,” affinity spaces are the old Jim Crow. Affinity spaces involve schools encouraging students or staff to separate into segregated, race-based groups. The practice usually entails one group for black participants, a second for “non-black people of color,” and a third for white participants, typically in order to discuss issues of race, “equity,” policing, and such. In all this, the “anti-racists” seem comfortable resurrecting practices clearly at odds with the 1964 Civil Rights Act — practices that would’ve been warmly cheered by segregationists of the American South or the architects of South African apartheid.

    Hess notes the "grounded in expertise and evidence" is bullshit.

    And, for that matter, somewhat contradictory to the claim that "diversity" was supposed to help students appreciate differing viewpoints and experiences. How's that going to happen when you're restricted to your racial affinity space?


  • The rent is too damn high. And also, as Jeff Jacoby points out: The census is too [damn] nosy.

    THE CENSUS BUREAU will release local demographic data from the 2020 enumeration this week, to be used in redrawing voting districts before next year's elections. But the information comes with a puzzle: Why did so many Americans leave questions unanswered?

    The Associated Press reports that a high proportion of people "did not respond to a multitude of questions about sex, race, Hispanic background, family relationships, and age" when filling out the 2020 questionnaire. Officials were startled to discover that, depending on the question and the state, "10 percent to 20 percent of questions were not answered in the 2020 census."

    Jeff suggests, wisely, that we return to the Founders' intent: enumeration of persons. And get rid of every single question that even resembles:

    [MYOB]

    Bonus 2020 URL from Reason: Tear Up Your Census Form for a Better America.

URLs du Jour

2021-08-12

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • In fact, it's a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of two mockeries of a sham. It got fawning news coverage, because "bipartisan", but as Peter Suderman points out: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Is a Sham.

    The $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill is a sham. Not only that, it's a sham that sets up a much bigger round of explicitly partisan spending later in the year.

    In a climactic vote this afternoon, 19 Senate Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.), signed onto the bill, which calls for $550 billion in new spending as part of more than $1 trillion in funding for roads, bridges, waterways, and broadband. The bill also includes essential infrastructure provisions like, er, requiring unproven new drunk-driving-prevention technology on cars, a vaping ban on Amtrak, and new reporting requirements for cryptocurrency.

    The Republicans repeatedly claimed that the spending would be fully paid for, despite plenty of reasons to suspect that it won't be. As Reason's Eric Boehm reported, the Congressional Budget Office, Congress' nonpartisan scorekeeper, estimates that the bill would add at least $256 billion to the deficit, and probably more like $400 billion. Nineteen Republicans voted for it anyway.

    [Don't recognize the reference above? Here you go. Yes, he was funny, fifty years ago.]


  • Monsieur Bastiat, please pick up the nearest white courtesy telephone. Agustin Forzani, who wins Pun Salad's coveted Cool Name du Jour Award, also weighs in on The Seen and the Unseen in the Infrastructure Plans.

    The general understanding on Capitol Hill is that America requires a massive infrastructure overhaul, as was shown on Tuesday by the approval of the $1 trillion bipartisan proposal in the Senate. Most lawmakers favored increasing public spending on infrastructure. However, neither Democrats nor Republicans seemed to recognize that these types of government plans come with extra costs beyond the proposed expenditure. As Henry Hazlitt would have said, it is not only the “seen” effects of proposals such as these that matter, but their “unseen” direct and indirect effects.

    Consider the $110 billion allocated to rebuild roads, highways, and bridges in the bipartisan infrastructure framework. That money could have been spent elsewhere if taxpayers had been allowed to hang onto it. Such a reduction in their consumption, in turn, will entail fewer cars, TVs, computers, clothes, food, and services bought, and thus manufactured or provided. And that, in its turn, will mean less private-sector investment, quite a bit of which would be located in this country.

    That’s not to deny there will be indirect benefits from the investment in public-sector infrastructure, but, as a rule, the private sector spends, whether for consumption or investment, more wisely than the state. People will see the bridges, highways, and roads built, but they will not see all the goods and services that will never be produced — a cost that is rarely factored into the calculation of whether that spending was worth it.

    This doesn't even consider the fact that when Uncle Stupid is dropping trillions from his Magic Stimulus Helicopter, there will be plenty of well-connected "activists" with large buckets to grab the cash before it trickles down to the ground.


  • Biden hates the Constitution. Geez, before I took off for Colorado, this was a thing. Jacob Sullum notes that it's still a thing: The Biden Administration Is Pushing Social Media Platforms To Expand Their Definition of Intolerable COVID-19 ‘Misinformation’.

    A New York Times story about the "rift" between Facebook and the Biden administration regarding COVID-19 "misinformation" illustrates the fuzziness of that category and the perils of suppressing it at the government's behest. While administration officials often claim they are just encouraging the social media platform to enforce its own rules, their idea of misinformation is not necessarily the same as Facebook's, and that cleavage shows that the government is imposing online censorship by proxy, pushing to expand the definition of intolerable speech.

    "We've engaged with Facebook since the transition on this issue," White House spokesman Mike Gwin tells the Times, "and we've made clear to them when they haven't lived up to our, or their own, standards and have actively elevated content on their platforms that misleads the American people." Since the Biden administration has the power to make life difficult for social media companies by pursuing litigation, writing regulations, and supporting new legislation, Facebook et al. have a strong incentive to follow the government's "standards" rather than its own.

    That's a good term to keep in mind: censorship by proxy. And the "Democracy Dies in Darkness" crowd is all too willing to give that tactics a thumbs-up.


  • Good question. Phillip W. Magness and Ethan Yang wonder: Who Fact Checks the Fact Checkers?.

    The advent of fact-checker journalism may be wearing out its welcome. Perhaps the increasing politicization of American life is a contributor to the downward spiral of the fact-checking profession that is primarily run by politically engaged reporters, not expert specialists in the subjects they assess by any sense of the imagination. Not that any one group of experts should have the authority over the truth either. Self-appointed media gatekeepers are a ticking time bomb of political censorship, waiting to be unleashed when the temptations are too great and the necessity for impartiality is even greater. With White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki calling for collusion between social media companies and the government to censor “misinformation”, this threat seems to be as close as ever.

    Although fact checkers purport to be independent guardians of accountability, recent events have exposed them as mere enforcers of fashionable political positions. This brings us to a relatively new, but powerful company known as NewsGuard, which claims a partnership with Microsoft and gleaming spotlights in major outlets. Its staff and board boast powerful connections to the government, finance, and the media. According to an Op-ed in Politico written by NewsGuards’ CEO, rather than simply being a fact-checking company that can only debunk stories after they go viral, NewsGuard rates entire websites’ trustworthiness. This new strategy is aimed at discrediting the very source that alleged misinformation or disinformation may come from. NewsGuard publishes lengthy “nutritional labels,” rating websites on various criteria of journalistic importance and outlining its reasons for giving certain ratings. Perhaps one day, these ratings may be used to filter out certain websites, which is what NewsGuard’s CEO alludes to by citing the great political scientist Francis Fukuyama’s article in Foreign Affairs.

    Fact-checkers (at least some of them) seem to see themselves as on some sort of holy crusade to guard the citizenry against Bad Screen Pixels. Their power has gone to their heads. Worse, they (again, at least some of them) seem blind to their own doubles standards and cognitive bias.

    On the other hand, I checked out Newsguard at the implicit request of Magness/Yang. Their most recent Misinformation Monitor: July 2021 concludes what I concluded back in April: Gateway Pundit is Garbage. Whatever Newsguard's other faults, they got that right.


  • An inconvenient truth about… When the Oath of Office Becomes Inconvenient from Jonah Goldberg. He runs through the latest oath-flouting from Biden, in the historical context of Trump, Obama, Dubya,…

    This is no way to run a constitutional republic.

    The president takes an oath to “faithfully execute” the laws and to “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution. Biden, Bush and Obama, by their own admission, believed their actions ran afoul of the law and/or the Constitution. But politically, it was easier to pass the trash to the Supreme Court so the court could take the political heat.

    You can be sure that when the court invalidates this new moratorium, Democrats—and probably some Republicans who’ve kept their heads down through all of this—will feign outrage at the court’s “callousness.”

    But we should all be outraged by the cowardice of elected politicians who find their jobs too difficult to do within the bounds of their oaths.

    Key phase in that last paragraph: "we should all be outraged". But "we" aren't. Which is, at base, the problem. Why should Biden be worried about keeping his oath when the citizenry, outside of a few extremist nutballs like me, are unconcerned about it?

URLs du Jour

2021-08-11

  • Eye Candy du Jour is from Michael Ramirez.

    [I Resign]

    Where's Fay Wray, though?


  • The Real Inconvenient Truth as described by Kevin D. Williamson: Progressivism, Democracy & Climate-Change Action Are Incompatible.

    Because progressives are at heart utopians, they have a difficult time acknowledging tradeoffs. On Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays, climate change is the most important consideration in the world. On Tuesday, Thursdays, and every other Saturday, the top issue is “democracy,” vaguely and inconsistently defined. In fact, Democrats care so much about democracy that they have shut down the democratic process in the democratically elected legislature in Texas in the name of “democracy.” Instead of tradeoffs, progressives embrace a practically mystical model of the unity of all virtues. And so it is practically impossible for the Left to think intelligently about the tradeoffs involved. If you doubt that, read this transcript of Ezra Klein trying to lead a discussion on the question “What If American Democracy Fails the Climate Crisis?” You’ll notice that the headline question never really even enters the conversation.

    We use the word democracy as though it signified something sacred rather than merely procedural. But it does not make democracy any less precious to forthrightly recognize that it is one value in a world of values that are sometimes complementary and sometimes rivalrous. Progressives ought to be grappling with the fact that one of the things they put forward as a nonnegotiable and absolute good — democracy — is at odds with something they insist is an existential threat to human civilization — climate change.

    Rather than deal with that honestly, progressives have fallen into a number of obvious alternatives: hysterical moralizing, in which those who do not concur with their agenda must be denounced as moral monsters, because there can be no honest disagreement; aggressive indoctrination, in which affirming various aspects of the climate fides as a precondition of participating in educational or business life, including the cynical ploy of indoctrinating children as a means to getting at their parents; “lying for justice”; and, of course, using the levers of the state to subvert inconvenient democratic realities.

    KDW notes the long worldwide history of governments pointing with alarm to imminent crisis… and then proceeding pretty much with business as usual.


  • Treating People Like Irresponsible Children… pretty much guarantees that many of them will start acting like irresponsible children. Nevertheless, some folks will still manage to figure things out on their own. Joel Zinberg notes the latest on that front: Individual Choices, Not Lockdowns.

    Lockdowns are an indiscriminate tool that can undermine more effective, particularized, private responses. Government mandates affect everyone—from high-risk individuals who would have taken precautions anyway to low-risk individuals who might not need the same level of protection. Stay-at-home orders short-circuit the discovery and implementation of innovative measures to limit workplace transmission and force workers from safer employment settings into households, where Covid transmission rates are higher.

    In short, changes in behavior are more important than mandates. Most people don’t ignore risks, and they can react more quickly than governments. Even now, as the Delta variant spreads in some regions and officials debate new lockdowns and other mandates, people are already reacting to greater risk by altering their own actions, including getting vaccinated at improved rates.

    I've given up on trying to follow the latest "guidelines" from government agencies. They're pretty much in "do something" mode; doesn't matter if "something" is worthwhile or not.


  • Because Graduation Rates Are Important For Keeping Educrats Employed. Slashdot quotes an Oregon Live article: Oregon Law Allows Students To Graduate Without Proving They Can Write Or Do Math.

    For the next five years, an Oregon high school diploma will be no guarantee that the student who earned it can read, write or do math at a high school level. Gov. Kate Brown had demurred earlier this summer regarding whether she supported the plan passed by the Legislature to drop the requirement that students demonstrate they have achieved those essential skills. But on July 14, the governor signed Senate Bill 744 into law. Through a spokesperson, the governor declined again Friday to comment on the law and why she supported suspending the proficiency requirements. Charles Boyle, the governor's deputy communications director, said the governor's staff notified legislative staff the same day the governor signed the bill.

    Boyle said in an emailed statement that suspending the reading, writing and math proficiency requirements while the state develops new graduation standards will benefit "Oregon's Black, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color." "Leaders from those communities have advocated time and again for equitable graduation standards, along with expanded learning opportunities and supports," Boyle wrote. The requirement that students demonstrate freshman- to sophomore-level skills in reading, writing and, particularly, math led many high schools to create workshop-style courses to help students strengthen their skills and create evidence of mastery. Most of those courses have been discontinued since the skills requirement was paused during the pandemic before lawmakers killed it entirely.

    Needless to say, contra Boyle, suspension of the proficiency standards will not benefit "Oregon's Black, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color." It will ensure that people generally, and potential employers specifically, will view an Oregon high school diploma as worth less than the parchment upon which it's printed.


  • I Restrain Myself From Sneer Quotes as much as possible. But see if you can't figure out the word that deserves them in this snippet from yesterday's WSJ column from Gerard Baker: Climate Change Has Consumed Journalistic Standards.

    Journalism is no longer about trying to tell us what happened; it’s about telling us what we must believe, on pain of moral peril. On every major topic—climate, Covid, race relations, electoral law—almost every story blares out at us with censorious didacticism, the journalist’s smug disdain for the unbelievers poring through the prose.

    You're correct if you guessed "journalist's".


  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Usually WIRED Provides Our Stupid Article du Jour. But today's link is only semi- stupid, because it (probably unintentionally) discusses the hubris — the fatal conceit, if you will — of urban planners: Smart Cities, Bad Metaphors, and a Better Urban Future.

    [Shannon Mattern’s new book, A City Is Not a Computer is] a collection (with revisions and updates) of some of her very smart work for Places Journal called A City Is Not a Computer: Other Urban Intelligences. In it, Mattern wrestles with the ways that particular metaphor has screwed up the design, planning, and living-in of cities in the 20th century. It happens at every scale, from surveilling individual people as if they were bits to monitoring the widescreen data necessary to keep a city functioning for the good of its inhabitants. Of all the ways information can travel through an urban network, Mattern says, it’d probably be better to have public libraries be the nodes than the panopticon-like centralized dashboards so many cities try to build. The problem is that the metrics people choose to track become targets to achieve. They become their own kind of metaphors, and they’re usually wrong.

    Yeah, sure: it's the metaphor that's at fault. The author, Adam Rogers, betrays no sign that he's read Jane Jacobs, let alone Hayek.

    I'm reminded of Donald Fagen's song I. G. Y.:

    Here at home we'll play in the city
    Powered by the sun
    Perfect weather for a streamlined world
    There'll be spandex jackets one for everyone
    	


  • A Fun Quiz highlighted by Ann Althouse: "Who Said It: Cuomo or Your Ex?". She draws special attention to Cuomo's use of the NY state motto, "Excelsior", in his resignation speech. What?

    Here's a list of the state mottoes. The best and most famous one is New Hampshire's, though don't try just tweeting it. I might get you banned. The most mystical is North Carolina's — "Esse quam videri" ("To be rather than to seem"). 

    Thanks to Ann for the shout-out to our dangerous motto. ("What's a motto?" "Nothing, what's a motto with you?")


Last Modified 2021-08-11 12:27 PM EDT

The Missing American

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I put this on my get-at-library list because it was an Edgar "Best Novel" nominee. Summary: it's not bad, but it's not great. It's by Kwei Quartey, who was born in Ghana, and now lives in Pasadena. The book is number one in a (so far) two-book series featuring Ghanaian Emma Djan, a very likeable heroine.

So this is Emma's origin story. She starts out as a cop in Accra, assigned to a department she finds boring: investigating commercial fraud. She wants to be a homicide detective like her late father. When she appeals to a higher-up for reassignment, however, things don't go well, and she's fired.

Fortunately, she lands a job with a private investigation company. And her first case is investigating the disappearance of the titular American, Gordon Tilson. Gordon travelled to Ghana with dreams of meeting Helena, a lovely widow with whom he's struck up a cyber-romance. To the extent that he's already sent her thousands of dollars for her brother's medical expenses… Oh, wait.

Yes, Gordon's been scammed. His trip turns into an investigation into tracking down the scammers, and (of course) he soon becomes The Missing American, as promised.

There's a lot of stuff going on here. Political assassinations. Deeply corrupt cops. Autistic kids. An interesting look at the sakawa culture, where young Ghanaian men are initiated by a fetish priest into a life of internet fraud. (The priest demands all sorts of disgusting trinkets as his price for membership in the criminal empire.) These details and diversions really flesh out a pretty standard crime plot.

I have an unworthy thought perusing that list of the most recent Edgar nominees: out of the six, only one is by a white male. I can't help but wonder if the nominators were going for "diversity" instead of quality.

URLs du Jour

2021-08-10

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • No Pay, No Stay. Andrew Cline says what needs to be said: On evictions, the answer is more property rights, not fewer.

    The Center for Disease Control’s plainly unconstitutional eviction moratorium, begun in the Trump administration and continued by President Biden, is much more than a presidential abandonment of the rule of law. It’s a rejection — and reversal — of the very foundation on which James Madison based all government power — private property rights.

    And the problem it’s trying to solve would be much less of a problem were it not for other government restrictions on private property.

    Government in the United States exists to protect individual rights, including the right to property. In fact, Madison believed that government itself was justified primarily for the purpose of protecting property rights.

    Drew goes on to point out the numerous restrictions imposed by local governments over decades have caused the "housing shortages" we hear so much about these days. Hence also high rents. This is Econ 101. Bottom line:

    As is often the case, a seemingly intractable problem some say can be solved only by unprecedented government intervention was in fact caused in the first place by unwise government intervention and would be largely remedied simply by removing government restrictions that created the problem in the first place.


  • It Wasn't Easy, But They Managed. In an interview with the WSJ's Tunku Varadarajan, Matt Ridley explains How Science Lost the Public’s Trust.

    “Conformity,” Mr. Ridley says, “is the enemy of scientific progress, which depends on disagreement and challenge. Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts, as [the physicist Richard] Feynman put it.” Mr. Ridley reserves his bluntest criticism for “science as a profession,” which he says has become “rather off-puttingly arrogant and political, permeated by motivated reasoning and confirmation bias.” Increasing numbers of scientists “seem to fall prey to groupthink, and the process of peer-reviewing and publishing allows dogmatic gate-keeping to get in the way of new ideas and open-minded challenge.”

    The World Health Organization is a particular offender: “We had a dozen Western scientists go to China in February and team up with a dozen Chinese scientists under the auspices of the WHO.” At a subsequent press conference they pronounced the lab-leak theory “extremely unlikely.” The organization also ignored Taiwanese cries for help with Covid-19 in January 2020. “The Taiwanese said, ‘We’re picking up signs that this is a human-to-human transmission that threatens a major epidemic. Please, will you investigate?’ And the WHO basically said, ‘You’re from Taiwan. We’re not allowed to talk to you.’ ”

    The interview also touches on climate science. More on that below.


  • Politifact is Garbage, Part CXXIV. COVID-19 Is Probably 99% Survivable for Most Age Groups, but PolitiFact Rated This False.

    A viral Instagram post claimed that COVID-19 is 99 percent survivable for most age groups—the elderly being an important exception. The post cited projections from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but was flagged as misinformation by the social media site and rated "false" by the Poynter Institute's PolitiFact.

    That's a curious verdict, since the underlying claim is likely true. While estimates of COVID-19's infection fatality rate (IFR) range from study to study, the expert consensus does indeed place the death rate at below 1 percent for most age groups.

    Unfortunately there's a lot of misinformation out there, from both sides. (The Instagram post in question managed to botch some other data.)

    But Politifact (as usual) has double standards for their rulings. They excuse "noble lies" and "exaggerations" made by folks they see as being on their side.


  • From Covid Porn to Climate Porn. My local news station told me it was time to panic yet again, reporting the latest from the UN climate cops, amid stock footage of fire, flood, and wind. Ronald Bailey is a welcome voice of reason at (heh) Reason: The Scariest Predictions in the New U.N. Climate Report Are Also the Most Unlikely.

    How much hotter will it get in the future? The IPCC report outlines five different "shared socioeconomic pathways" (SSPs) that incorporate various assumptions about economic growth, population growth, and just how much greenhouse gas humanity will emit over the rest of the century. The good news is that the two worst-case SSPs are totally implausible, so humanity is probably not looking at temperature increases of 3.5 °C to 4.5 °C by 2101. (Keep in mind that the temperature difference from the depths of the last ice age to today is around 6°C—and that change took place over millennia, not a century.)

    Why are they implausible? Consider that the worst-case pathway projects that humanity will, among other things, be burning about five times more coal and annually emitting three times more greenhouse gases than we do today. (Global coal production peaked in 2013, so that would be quite a reversal.) The second-most-dire pathway projects that humanity will annually emit more than double the amounts of greenhouses gases being emitted currently.

    Bailey, like any good scientist, has changed his position on climate change over the years as the data and modeling has improved. But too many politicians see this (like Covid) as a chance to expand their power, never mind that whole complex discussion of likelihoods and probable innovations. Since the economic case for big socialistic government has long since evaporated, hey, maybe there's a scientific argument!

    Hence: AIEEE! We're all gonna die! Unless you submit to Science!

    And way too many "scientists" are eager to help out in this quest.


  • On That Same Note. Bjorn Lomborg takes to the pages of the NYPost to urge readers: Don't buy the latest climate-change alarmism.

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just released its latest climate report, and reactions from politicians and media pundits could not have been more predictable.

    Fitting the apocalyptic narrative many have spun lately, the always-breathless Guardian literally summarized this scientific report as finding mankind “guilty as hell” of “climate crimes of humanity.” (Needless to say, the report never says any such things.)

    UN Secretary-General António Guterres called the findings a “code red for humanity,” saying we can only avert catastrophe by acting in the next couple of months. Of course, the United Nations has a long history of claiming catastrophe is right around the corner: The first UN environment director claimed half a century ago that we had just 10 years left, and the then-head of the IPCC insisted in 2007 that we had just five years left.

    Fun fact from later in the article:

    As temperatures have increased over the past two decades, that has caused an extra 116,000 heat deaths each year. This, of course, fits the narrative and is what we have heard over and again. But it turns out that because global warming has also reduced cold waves, we now see 283,000 fewer cold deaths.

    You don’t hear this, but so far climate change saves 166,000 lives each year.

    Guess what, kids? Mother Nature is a murderous bitch.

URLs du Jour

2021-08-09

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • I Forgot to mention one last thing about Heritage's latest Index of Economic Freedom.

    Yes, it has the USA in a distant 20th place among the nations.

    Yes, that's a significant drop from past years. We were in 17th place in the 2020 edition. We were #12 in the 2019 edition.

    But here's the thing: from their About page, answering the question "What is your period of study?":

    For the 2021 Index , most data covers the second half of 2019 through the first half of 2020. To the extent possible, the information considered for each factor was current as of June 30, 2020. It is important to understand that some factors are based on historical information. For example, the monetary policy factor is a 3-year weighted average rate of inflation from January 1, 2017, to December 31, 2019.

    This decline in economic freedom happened under Trump. He wasn't good on that.

    Can you imagine how bad things will be next year?


  • We Just Don't Care About That Stuff Any More. Jeff Jacoby writes at the Boston Globe on The eviction moratorium and the rule of lawlessness.

    Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, President Biden acknowledged that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s nationwide eviction moratorium, which expired on July 31, had violated the Constitution. Then he announced that the CDC would revive that unlawful moratorium and extend it until October. That was a political victory for left-wing Democrats who had been urging Biden to unilaterally extend the moratorium, regardless of the legal objections. It was also a defeat for the rule of law and a glaring violation of the president’s oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.”

    Biden conceded that the eviction ban, first instituted last September under Donald Trump, had failed the separation-of-powers smell test and been repeatedly rejected by federal judges. “Look, the courts made it clear that the existing moratorium was not constitutional,” the president said. The Supreme Court ruled in June that the eviction ban could not be extended past its July 31 expiration date; the controlling opinion by Justice Brett Kavanaugh stressed that it would take “clear and specific congressional authorization” — an actual law, not a mere CDC regulation — to extend it. Biden knew all this; he had said for days that he had no authority to unilaterally maintain the moratorium. He underscored the point on Tuesday: “The bulk of the constitutional scholarship says that it’s not likely to pass constitutional muster,” he told reporters.

    Jeff (I call him Jeff) goes into recent examples of presidential lawlessness; neither side's hands are clean, which makes this difficult for partisans to raise a stink.


  • He's Leaving / On the Midnight Train to Bankruptcy. The WSJ editorialists note yet another outrage in the "bipartisan" infrastructure bill, on its way to a train track near you: Amtrak’s $66 Billion Ticket. Choo-choo subsidies are a bad idea in general, of course, but the details are even wackier:

    The bill also pours $16 billion into Amtrak’s national network, which is a financial sinkhole. Some 4.5 million riders in 2019 took Amtrak’s long-distance routes that traverse the country—about a third as many as in the Northeast Corridor. Many of them are travelers nostalgic for the days of sleeper cars as glamorized in classic films.

    Low-trafficked routes through rural regions make it harder for Amtrak to increase intercity trains that generate a larger economic benefit. Yet the Senate bill would prohibit Amtrak from changing or reducing service on long-distance routes, no matter how few riders they draw or how much money they lose. Amtrak won’t be allowed to lay off workers on these routes.

    If all this weren’t bad enough, the Senate bill would also require Amtrak to employ at least one ticket agent at each station where there were at least an average of 40 passengers per day in 2017. Passengers nowadays can buy tickets on Amtrak’s website or at station kiosks. Employing ticket agents sucks up money that could be used improving service.

    I wave at the Downeaster heading through Rollinsford on its way to Dover and points south. The engineer usually honks in response. It's fun, but I'd forego it in a nanosecond if it brought us even one dollar closer to fiscal sanity.

URLs du Jour

2021-08-08

Low volume (but high quality) today. Still struggling to recover from vacation and a dead Dell.

  • Making the Rounds on Twitter.

    Can't argue with that. The Science is Settled, bitches.


  • Not to be a Debbie Downer, But… The Heritage folks have released their latest Index of Economic Freedom. And the news is not that great for Americans.

    The United States’ economic freedom score is 74.8, making its economy the 20th freest in the 2021 Index. Its overall score has decreased by 1.8 points, primarily because of a decline in fiscal health. The United States is ranked 3rd among 32 countries in the Americas region, and its overall score is above the regional and world averages.

    The United States received its lowest score and lowest ranking ever in the Index, although it remains “mostly free.” The major obstacles to greater economic freedom in the United States continue to be excessive government spending, unsustainable levels of debt, and intrusive regulation of the health care and financial sectors.

    If you want to get really depressed by our #20 scoring, just look at the countries that are beating us. The freakin' United Kingdom is in seventh place! Making me ask the question: just why did we do that whole American Revolution thing anyway?


  • Our Stupid Article du Jour is from (as usual) WIRED. Which is, for some reason, upset with AI that works: These Algorithms Look at X-Rays—and Somehow Detect Your Race.

    Millions of dollars are being spent to develop artificial intelligence software that reads x-rays and other medical scans in hopes it can spot things doctors look for but sometimes miss, such as lung cancers. A new study reports that these algorithms can also see something doctors don’t look for on such scans: a patient’s race.

    The study authors and other medical AI experts say the results make it more crucial than ever to check that health algorithms perform fairly on people with different racial identities. Complicating that task: The authors themselves aren’t sure what cues the algorithms they created use to predict a person’s race.

    The rap on AI algorithms in the past was that they were trained on biased samples, for example, facial recognition with too few African faces. But that's not the problem here:

    Radiologists don’t generally consider a person’s racial identity—which is not a biological category—to be visible on scans that look beneath the skin. Yet the algorithms somehow proved capable of accurately detecting it for all three racial groups, and across different views of the body.

    For most types of scan, the algorithms could correctly identify which of two images was from a Black person more than 90 percent of the time. Even the worst performing algorithm succeeded 80 percent of the time; the best was 99 percent correct. The results and associated code were posted online late last month by a group of more than 20 researchers with expertise in medicine and machine learning, but the study has not yet been peer reviewed.

    The results have spurred new concerns that AI software can amplify inequality in health care, where studies show Black patients and other marginalized racial groups often receive inferior care compared to wealthy or white people.

    The gripes, as you might expect from a totally-woke WIRED, are incoherent and highly speculative. Somehow racial bias is so ingrained in the medical community that AI accuracy can trigger disparate treatment.

    Or something. If you can pull any non-garbage lessons out of the article, let me know.

Stillwater

[3.0 stars] [IMDB Link] [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

If you're interested (and there's no reason you should be) we went to see this in what's called a "movie theater". Weird, right? Some of you older folks may still remember what those "movie theaters" are.

Seriously: the last movie I saw in a theater before this was 1917, about a year and a half ago.

And, for the record, I'd guess the next movie I see in a theater will be No Time to Die. Pun Son and I have a tradition of seeing Bond movies in theaters.

Anyway, this movie: Matt Damon takes on the challenging role of a decent human being a working-class Oklahoma dude named Bill. Who gets off his lousy-paying job one day to fly off to Marseille, France. We're not told the reason for such unexpected behavior, but it soon becomes apparent. He's visiting his lesbian daughter Allison in a French slammer, where she's been imprisoned for the stabbing murder of her roommate/lover. She claims innocence, and tells Bill the news that she's heard about a party where a guy claimed to have stabbed a girl without consequence. Bill is tasked with getting Allison's lawyer to have the investigation reopened.

Which isn't going to happen. The lawyer tells Bill that this hearsay evidence is insufficient to get the cops to reinvestigate. Bill can't bring himself to give Alison this bad news, so he decides to investigate on his own. Along the way, he gets involved with young Maya (cute kid!) and her mother Virginie.

It's very much a fish-out-of-water tale in addition to being a crime thriller and romance drama.

Consumer note: a lot of information is disclosed in dialog. Which, unfortunately, is often delivered by people in the throes of intensre emotion (fear and remorse, respectively). Listen very carefully!

Fun fact: this site purports to be "Stillwater Ending Explained!". But it's pretty obviously a bad English → French → English auto-translation, because Matt Damon's character "Bill Baker" is called "Invoice Baker".

A Private Cathedral

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Wow, I really read quite a few books in the past couple weeks. It helps when you're sitting in airports and planes for extended periods.

I've been a longtime fan of James Lee Burke's novels featuring moody heroic sometimes-cop Dave Robicheaux. So this latest one was a must-read too. And even though James Lee is getting up there (specifically, he's 84) he still does not disappoint: this is another harrowing tale of Dave, with sidekick Clete Purcel, getting into deadlhy conflict with the worst folks Louisiana has to offer. The mean streets of LA, the city, have nothing to compare to the mean bayous of LA, the state.

Something about the Amazon blurb caught my eye: "After finding himself caught up in one of Louisiana’s oldest and bloodiest family rivalries, Detective Dave Robicheaux must battle the most terrifying adversary he has ever encountered: a time-traveling superhuman assassin."

Dude, what? Are we getting into Marvel Comics territory here? Not quite. Dave has had an on-again, off-again relationship with the supernatural, going back to at least In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead (1993).

The book is unusual in that it's explicitly set in Dave's past: in terms of wives, it's post-Bootsie, and pre-Molly. This gives him some additional latitude in dealing with a couple of ladies he encounters along the way. But he keeps his hands off young Miss Isolde Balangie, who belongs to one of those families mentioned in the blurb above. One night when listening to talented musician Johnny Shondell perform—Johnny belongs to that other family—Isolde walks up to Dave, claiming that she's being delivered by Johnny to his uncle, Mark Shondell.

Dave declines to get involved, disappointing Isolde. At first. But his crusading curiosity leads him into it, and pretty soon he and Clete are up to their necks. And get associated with that time-travelling superhuman assassin. Who turns out to be a troubled soul himself.

Yes, I Can Say That

When They Come for the Comedians, We Are All in Trouble

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

This was one of Nick Gillespie's "Reason roundtable recommendations" last August. It was available at Portsmouth Public Library, so I put it on my get-list. These recommendations don't always work out.

The author, Judy Gold, is a standup comedian. My expectations were for an amusing, but full-throated defense of the venerable concept of freedom of expression.

In other words, I expected the book to be funny. My first disappointment. Perhaps Judy's humor doesn't translate well to the printed page, but I made it through the entire text without laughing once. I smiled a few times, but it was nearly always when she was quoting some other comedian. She does that a lot.

So, not funny. Worse, the book wasn't so hot on freedom of expression either. Instead, the defense, such as it was, was pretty much restricted to comedians. Judy is not to be mistaken for John Stuart Mill. Political Correctness? "I'm all for it," she states. Except for comedians. Judy says not a word about poor (unfunny) saps who lose jobs for dissenting from woke ideology.

And (despite the book's title) Judy has rules for things You Can't Say, even if you're a comedian. N-word? If you're a person of pallor, that's out. "Jokes about Jews" are OK for her to make, because she's Jewish. OK for others? "It depends on what the joke is and who's telling it."

The book is repetitive, profanity-laden (Judy's fond of the F-word), and unfocused stream-of-consciousness rambling. Unless you're fascinated by anecdotes about comedians in trouble with The Man, it will be totally uninteresting. We learn much about Judy's likes, mostly other comedians. (They've returned the favor by effusive blurbs on the cover.) We also learn about Judy's (multitudinous) hates. Trump. Ivanka. Pence. Jerry Falwell. Hecklers. Censors (but primarily comedian censors). Many insults are directed at Judy's hates. She punctures the preachy advocates of traditional morality, while being just as stridently and intolerantly moralistic herself. Her political views are shallow reactionary leftist, fine. But I can't detect any indication that she's anything other than a "free speech for me (and my peers), but not for thee" hypocrite. (One minor exception: she quotes Ira Glasser in a couple places. Glasser is a principled free-speech advocate.)

Bottom line, if you want a funny defense of liberty, I'm pretty sure you have to go to someone like P. J. O'Rourke.

Facing Reality

Two Truths about Race in America

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

This new, short, book by Charles Murray is a plea for Americans to accept a couple of uncomfortable facts. Succinctly laid out early on:

The first is that American Whites, Blacks, Latinos, and Asians, as groups, have different means and distributions of cognitive ability The second is that American Whites, Blacks, Latinos, and Asians, as groups, have different rates of violent crime.

The "as groups" caveat is vital. Group differences imply nothing about any given individual.

Murray meticulously lays out the evidence for these two truths. Convincingly, in my mind. And he doesn't speculate on the underlying causes of those racial differences; the causes simply don't matter much to his argument. He points out that the cognitive differences are not susceptible to easy fixes; they are not simply due to poor schools, or poverty, or environmental factors, or anything else held out by naysayers.

Science is real, in other words.

(The uncomfortable truth about group cognitive differences is becoming more widely accepted. See, for example, the recent book by self-admitted Marxist Fredrik deBoer, The Cult of Smart, which comes to the same conclusion. His proposed remedies are, of course, somewhat different than Murray's. Unfortunately, Murray doesn't reference deBoer here, just as deBoer ignored Murray in his book. I really think these two could have a productive discussion.)

Murray uses the "two truths" to point out the false and damaging foundations of today's "progressive" ideology as it applies to racial matters: identity politics, with its accusations of "systemic racism", "white privilege", etc. to explain racial statistical disparities. That's a dagger aimed at the heart of the American ideal of treating people as individuals. Think it's bad now? Just wait until white people discover the advantages of playing the I'm-racially-oppressed card.

Murray advocates two "solutions", one he sees politically infeasible, the other possible. The infeasible one: get rid of government-sponsored race-based preferential treatment. That's a worthy goal, but Murray is probably correct that (like walking away empty-handed on 25 Words or Less) it ain't gonna happen.

The possible solution: we should all embrace the "American creed" of treating people as individuals, rather than pigeonholing them by their genetics. And we should do that loudly and affirmatively. Repudiate the "extremists" (on both ends of the political spectrum) who claim otherwise.

Another good idea, and easy for people to do. But I'm still pulling for that impossible remedy myself.

Pretty as a Picture

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Pretty as a Picture was one of WSJ reviewer Tom Nolan's picks for his list of best 2020 mystery novels. I've had mixed success with these, but this one was a winner.

It's narrated by Marissa, a movie editor by occupation. She's a very appealing character with some minor psychological quirks, like some mild OCD involving bedtime rituals. And she has Sherlockian deduction skills, as long as those are relevant to moviemaking. She has problems establishing meaningful relationships. And she's given to hilarious observations of others and self-deprecating observations of her own foibles.

Her résumé is filled with arty films done in collaboration with her friend/roomie Amy. But (for good reason) she's looking to break away from Amy, so she goes to a mysterious interview for a new gig. Which turns out to be a sorta-true-crime movie set on a resort island off the Delaware coast, the scene of a long-ago (apparent) murder. And, yep, that's where they're making the movie. And the film's oddball director, Tony Rees, demands that Marissa be on location. (He's fired his previous editor, for mysterious reasons.)

I said "oddball director", but I repeat myself. The entire cast and crew are various flavors of oddball. As are the island inhabitants. Most notably Billy, who everyone considers the most likely suspect for that death. But that's too easy, isn't it? But also notably: Grace and Suzy, two teenage girls who are smart beyond their years, also hiliarious.

If Elizabeth Little writes more adventures featuring Marissa, I'm there.

Righteous

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Book two in the "IQ" series by Joe Ide. I'm in for the long haul.

In the sorta-cliffhanger from the previous book, IQ (Isaiah Quintabe) discovered the car used to mow down his brother Marcus years ago. He uses his prodigious powers of deduction to arrive at a disturbing revelation: Marcus wasn't a victim of a random hit-and-run driver. Instead, this was a deliberate murder. Why? Marcus was a straight arrow, seemingly without enemies. Isaiah renews his investigation, and quickly finds disturbing evidence that Marcus might have been involved in some shady dealings.

But (like the previous book) this is a two-timeline novel. In the other timeline, IQ is implored by Marcus's old girlfriend, Sarita, to track down her half-sister Janine. Which is a little outside of Isaiah's wheelhouse; he usually just does freelance investigations for his neighbors for iffy compensation. But he's smitten with Sarita, and driven by those romantic notions, he's off to Vegas.

Janine's in trouble, though, largely of her own making. She's a talented DJ, but also a gambling addict. And her boyfriend Benny is too. And he's into a local leg-breaking loanshark for a bunch of money. Fortunately (for sufficiently weird values of "fortunately") Janine's dad is involved in a very sordid business of human trafficking. So he's got plenty of money, he just needs to be persuaded to cough it up. And so Janine…

Well, that's enough detail. Pretty soon, Isaiah finds himself enmeshed in Janine's problems, which escalate to conflicts with criminals of various races and ethnicities. (As an Amazon reviewer points out, there are no cops to intrude on numerous scenes of violence. Criminals don't call the cops, fine, but…)

The Bitterroots

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Another book read in the Great C.J. Box Catchup Project. This one's from 2019. (I own the next two, and maybe I can get those read before another one comes out…) This one is an entry in what Amazon calls the "Cody Hoyt/Cassie Dewell" series, despite the fact that Cody has long since shuffled off this mortal coil. The latest season of the TV series "Big Sky" was (very) loosely based on this book.

Which finds Cassie working as a private investigator. She's still kind of a cop at heart, though, so she's kind of reluctant to take on the job she's offered by a defense lawyer: check out the evidence against accused rapist, Blake Kleinsasser, who's rotting away in a Lochsa County Montana jail awaiting trial. The case seems kind of open-and-shut, with a convincing statement from the young girl victim (who, in an extra bit of sordidness, is also a Kleinsasser). And there's DNA. But Cassie is dogged and meticulous, and a number of little details just don't check out. It turns out the Kleinsasser Klan has its corrupting influence all through Lochsa County, and there just might be very good reasons why they want Blake to be out of the picture. As Cassie digs, she finds herself in increasing amounts of peril.

Meanwhile, Cassie's young son, Ben, is left alone with Cassie's hippie mother. They don't see eye to eye on anything, including diet. And Ben's having trouble fitting in at his Bozeman high school, but he finds a new girl, Erin, to be perhaps a kindred spirit.

I wouldn't be reading these Box books if I didn't think they were consistently great. This is no exception.

"Big Sky" is kind of a disappointment in comparison, by the way; I assume C.J. took the money and let the producers do what they wanted. Apparently there's a Joe Pickett series in the offing, and maybe that will be better. I hope it winds up on some service that I can access without shelling out yet another subscription fee.

URLs du Jour

2021-08-07

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] We now return to our normal programming…

  • I Got Your Grounds For Impeachment Right Here. A number of people commented on this, but perhaps Damon Root puts it most diplomatically: Biden Admits New CDC Eviction Moratorium Runs Counter to ‘the Bulk of the Constitutional Scholarship’. Less diplomatic: "Biden flouts his oath of office. Get used to it."

    Say this for President Joe Biden: He's willing to admit that the actions of his own administration might not always pass the constitutional smell test. Speaking to reporters this week, Biden announced that a new federal eviction moratorium was coming soon from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "The bulk of the constitutional scholarship says that it's not likely to pass constitutional muster," Biden acknowledged. "But there are several key scholars who think that it may and it's worth the effort."

    A majority of the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to agree with the bulk of scholars that Biden declined to heed. On June 29, a 5–4 Supreme Court let the previous CDC nationwide eviction moratorium remain in place until it was set to expire on its own on July 31. Four justices—Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett—would have blocked the moratorium then and there. The swing vote was cast by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who voted to let the moratorium remain in place, but only because "the CDC plans to end the moratorium in only a few weeks…and because those few weeks will allow for additional and more orderly distribution of the congressionally appropriated rental assistance funds." However, Kavanaugh stressed, "in my view, clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation) would be necessary for the CDC to extend the moratorium past July 31."

    I assume Kamala is telling key members of Congress that she would never have done such a thing.


  • If I Were a Landlord Getting Stiffed on Rent… I would hope I'd be brave enough to follow Charles C. W. Cooke's advice: Americans Must Defy the Unlawful Eviction Moratorium.

    Joseph Zeballos-Roig of Business Insider reports that the new rule “carries steep criminal penalties for individual landlords who break the law”: a “potential $100k fine and 1 year in jail if eviction doesn’t result in death” and “up to $250k fine and 1 year in jail if evicted person dies.”

    Counterpoint: No, it doesn’t. Because it’s not, in fact, “the law.”

    The Constitution tells us that the federal government makes “the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby.” Typically, this means that the courts of all sorts are obliged to follow the rules that have been set or delegated by Congress. In this case, though, those courts are not obliged to follow anything, because they’re bound only by “the supreme Law of the Land,” and because the CDC moratorium, which has no constitutional or statutory basis — and which has been rejected by the highest court in the country — isn’t a law. Among those who can safely ignore the moratorium are everyone: landlords, collection agencies, the police, state legislatures, governors, the media — everyone. There are, of course, an enormous number of laws that Americans do have to follow, but this isn’t among them, because unlike those laws, this isn’t a law. It doesn’t count. It isn’t authentic. It has no force. It’s a dead letter. At best, it’s a wish; at worst it’s theater; but what it is most certainly not is — yes, that’s right — a law.

    Charlie's a recent American, and we're happy to have him.


  • Yay, Freddie! Freddie deBoer is a self-admitted Marxist. I kind of admire him for saying things that many of his lefty peers would consider heretical. He does it again at his substack: You Can't Censor Away Extremism (or Any Other Problem).

    One of the themes I’ve come back to many times in my writing is the idea that people mistake empirical claims (this is true about the world) with normative claims (this should be true about the world). Nowhere is this more clear than with “hate speech” and censorship. I think hate speech laws are politically and morally wrong, a normative claim, but more importantly they don’t work, an empirical claim - one which if true renders normative claims that hate speech laws are good irrelevant.

    The debate about whether we should censor unpopular views such as hate speech is an important one, but also a strange one. In my experience, it operates wholly independent from any consideration of the restraints of reality. People debate only on the level of the highest principle; everything is a referendum on the mores of democracy. They are all should questions - should we erode the right to free expression in the name of protecting minority groups from psychic harms? Should we prohibit the use of certain offensive terms? Should we declare some political positions out of bounds in public society? But all of these normative questions depend on the answers to empirical questions that preempt them, “cans” that come before “shoulds.” Can we actually protect minority groups from psychic harms through laws intended to limit speech? Can we actually prevent people from using offensive terms in any practical and meaningful sense? Can we actually limit political positions, given that they have a tendency to be reworded or rebranded and that trying to restrict them tends to feed them as they bubble under the surface?

    He looks at the countries who have tried it. No, their censorship didn't "work".

    I should mention that I have a problem with the question-begging involved in saying whether laws/policies "work". Because so often, the precise goals those laws/policies are meant to achieve are somewhere between unstated and obscure.

    I suspect the actual goal in just about all cases is to assuage the psyches of advocates.


  • I Have Good News and Bad News. And Jim Geraghty sums them both up in his headline: Moderna Has a Great Booster . . . That No One Will Get for a Long While.

    As noted yesterday, Moderna has a new reformulated booster that basically stops the Delta variant in its tracks. If we could get this booster out into people’s arms now, vaccinated and not yet vaccinated, we could crush this Delta wave fast.

    But we won’t be able to get this booster out into people’s arms fast. It’s in a phase-two trial, which means it still has to get through phase three. The phase-three trial for Moderna’s first vaccine began July 27, 2020, and cut off data collection on November 25, 2020; the company announced the results of the phase-three trial on December 31, 2020. That’s about four months of testing.

    Bottom line: the FDA continues to kill Americans.


Last Modified 2021-08-08 4:04 AM EDT

Peeve

I think I can return to normal operations tomorrow. But until then, please humor me and listen to my peeve.

I'm a crossword puzzle fan, doing the WSJ one Monday-Saturday, and my local paper prints the New York Times and LA Times previous-Sunday puzzles on Sunday. Fun. Lots of wordplay, which I enjoy.

But what irks me: two obscure clues that cross. It's rare, fortunately. A example from the July 31 WSJ, the lower left corner of the puzzle. I've filled out the entire grid except for one lousy, lonely square in the lower left corner:

xword

The clue for 88-down: "Poème Roumain" composer Georges. Are you kidding?

The clue for 110-across: Japan's largest active volcano. Well, how am I supposed to know that?

I could resort to the Google. That's cheating.

Or I could brute force the online puzzle by trying different letters until it succeeds. Ugly.

Or I could gripe about it bitterly on my blog. And here we are.

Sorry!

I've been on vacation since July 28. When I returned, I attempted a BIOS upgrade on my loyal Dell…

Which turned out to be not that loyal. The flash failed to flash, but did manage to wipe out the old BIOS. Which essentially bricked the computer.

BIOS recovery schemes are easy to find. They failed, I suspect for the same reason the upgrade failed: some sort of hardware problem beyond my ken.

So I splurged, and my home machine is now an HP Envy desktop. It's very nice. But restoration has been rocky, and eliminated the time for blogging.

I'll be back in a couple days, I hope. I'm gonna backdate this post so I keep my streak of 1600+ consecutive blogging days. Cheating, I know.

Pun Salad Whitesplains It All For You

[Newspaper Fail]

[Pun Salad reruns continue. I actually bothered to compose a LTE rebutting claims made by one our local paper's op-ed columnists. They didn't publish it.]

Yesterday's local paper, SeacoastSunday, contained an op-ed column by the always-irritating Robert Azzi, headlined "Clutching privilege, pearls, pistols". First paragraph (don't worry, I'm not doing the whole thing):

I am increasingly tired of white people – or nonwhites seduced by their proximity to whiteness – trying to “whitesplain” away the existence of systemic racism or Critical Race Theory (CRT) as some sort of insidious socialist / marxist / communist / wokeness / leftist / BLM conspiracy to undermine an exceptional [white] America – as alien usurpers trying to dethrone God’s chosen guardians of American “excellence” and “exceptionalism.”

Unfortunately, Azzi isn't too tired to write 1100 or so words in defense of CRT. He tars white CRT critics as racist. It's inconvenient to his thesis that there are non-white critics? Ah, never mind, they've been "seduced by their proximity to whiteness". Only CRT is true! All hail CRT! Down with the whitesplainers! And the clutchers!

It's all Standard Operating Procedure for Azzi. But there's something even more irritating further down:

We need CRT, too, to understand that Katherine Johnson, a NASA mathematician whose calculations of orbital mechanics were critical to American crewed space flights – including for Gordon Cooper’s Project Mercury-Atlas 9 spaceflight – couldn’t use the bathrooms in the building where she worked because she was African-American.

That caused me to write one of my very infrequent LTEs. Here 'tis, appropriate links added:

Dear Editor --

Robert Azzi's recent column on "Whitesplaining" attempted to rebut criticisms of "Critical Race Theory" (CRT). One of his assertions caught my eye: that CRT is needed to explain why NASA's Katherine Johnson (whose career was featured in the movie Hidden Figures) "couldn’t use the bathrooms in the building where she worked because she was African-American."

If CRT helps us "understand" that, then so much the worse for CRT. According to the Wikipedia page for Hidden Figures, Katherine Johnson was originally unaware of the segregated facilities; she went ahead and used the convenient "whites-only" restrooms. Eventually, after years, someone complained. She ignored those complaints. And when NASA was estabilished in 1958, it ended any remaining segregation policies at its workplaces.

So, according to Azzi, CRT helps us understand things that didn't actually happen.

It doesn't matter. Azzi could easily replace his 60-year-old fake historical anecdotes with more accurate, and more recent ones. It's important to know those. But CRT doesn't "explain" those, nor does it aid in "understanding" them. And it doesn't explain why, given its assumptions of "systemic racism" and overbearing "white supremacy", how Katherine Johnson overcame every obstacle to learn math, master the thorny details of orbital mechanics (rocket science!), and have her stellar career at NASA. So CRT not only explains things that didn't happen, it fails to explain things that did. It's worthless.

But it's worse than that. When thinking of Katherine Johnson and her co-workers I was reminded of the CRT-inspired "Equitable Math" website (equitablemath.org), which has a self-proclaimed goal of "dismantling white supremacy in math classrooms". What are the "characteristics of white supremacy" in math education? In their list: "Perfectionism", "Sense of Urgency", "Objectivity". They deride the focus "on getting the 'right' answer".

I can't help but think that Katherine Johnson would consider that a bunch of hooey. And she might point out that astronauts' lives depended on her perfectionism, and "getting the right answer". When it comes to learning important and useful things, CRT is more of an obstacle than is systemic racism.

I assume Azzi will dismiss all this as racist "Whitesplaining". Too bad.

That's it. I'll let you know if it's published.

Gateway Pundit is Garbage

[Amazon Link]

[Another Pun Salad rerun from April 2021. The local Konspiracy Kids seem to have backed off fantasizing about the election these days, but occasionally gripe incoherently about it. I don't think I've returned to Gateway Pundit since.]

I once read Gateway Pundit sporadically. I find 7 links to their site here between 2005 and 2012, all non-critical.

Then they went nuts, apparently. Nothing worth citing, even second-hand.

Late last year, I indirectly cited them due to this Jacob Sullum Reason article: Trump Promotes the Outlandish Claim That COVID-19 Has Killed a ‘Minuscule’ Number of Americans; Jacob referenced a Joe Hoft GP article (SHOCK REPORT: This Week CDC Quietly Updated COVID-19 Numbers) claiming that as of 8/22/2020, only 9210 Americans died solely of COVID-19. Nutty, ably debunked by Jacob. But then-President Trump's attorney, Jenna Ellis, cited the article on Twitter, and Trump retweeted the nonsense. And gave millions of sane voters one more reason to vote for someone else.

But a (usually sane) local blogger cited an April 18 post from GP: Dominion Advisor Met With John Podesta Offering 'Anything' That Would Help Defeat Trump, According to Email Released by WikiLeaks. (It's from GP contributor Cassandra Fairbanks, and it's a repost of a December 5, 2020 post.) I'll quote a bit:

An email previously released by WikiLeaks reveals that a Dominion Voting advisor met with John Podesta during Hillary Clinton’s campaign to discuss ways that they could help to defeat Donald Trump.

In 2018, Dominion Voting announced that it had been acquired by its management team and Staple Street Capital, a New York-based private equity firm, who was being advised by Kirkland & Ellis LLP.

During Clinton’s campaign, according to an email chain released by WikiLeaks, Kirkland & Ellis LLP partner Kamran S. Bajwa met with John Podesta while offering “anything” to help defeat Donald Trump.

OK, that's enough. But I'll summarize the damning chain of causation here:

  • In late 2015/early 2016, Bajwa sent emails to Podesta offering to help the Clinton campaign. Not to "help defeat Donald Trump"; at the time, there hadn't been a single caucus or primary, and (as I recall) Trump was seen as a ludicrous long shot.

  • Hillary at the time was seen as a clear favorite to be Our Next President; so it's safe to assume that Bajwa was aiming at an eventual cushy appointed job in the Clinton Administration. But, well, we know what happened because he's still at Kirkland & Ellis.

  • Where he is one of approximately 2,900 lawyers.
  • And over two years later Dominion Voting Systems was acquired by its Management Team and Staple Street Capital. Kirkland & Ellis was an advisor to Staple Street Capital in that transaction, not Dominion.

  • And there's no indication that Bajwa had any connection to that.

  • And there's no indication that Kirkland & Ellis (let alone Bajwa) had anything more to do with Dominion past 2018.

  • But Dominion was accused of being behind massive election fraud over two years later in 2020. So obviously

No I can't. This is truly tinfoil-hat, yards-of-red-string-connecting-newspaper-clippings-on-a-bulletin-board conspiracy theorizing. There's nothing there. And GP thought it was damning enough to repost from December.

I find it hard to believe that people are taking this crap seriously. I really thought it was over when Sidney Powell admitted that 'Reasonable people' wouldn't believe her election fraud claims.

But no.

What the Doctor Orders

[Amazon Link]

[Another Pun Salad rerun, originally posted February 28, 2021. And another one where I took on an amateur op-edder in my local paper.]

A recent op-ed in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat was headlined When enforced, firearms regulations work.

Oh yeah?

It's by Dr. James Fieseher, a regular on the editorial pages for years. He mostly writes advocacy for single-payer health care. But sometimes branches out to other topics, taking predictable stances.

This column has a unique take, though. And I was irritated enough to once again break out the fisking template. His column is reproduced on the left with a lovely #EEFFFF background color; my remarks are on the right.

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” ~ Second Amendment to the Constitution 1791.

Dr. F starts out pretty well with a mostly-accurate quote of the Second Amendment. I believe the official version doesn't hyphenate "well regulated". That quibble aside, things go downhill quickly from here.

The insurrection on Jan. 6 could have been much worse.

On that day, insurrectionists were invited to Washington, DC by “the former guy” [in the White House] and they acted on what they thought were his instructions. They planted pipe bombs at both the Democratic and Republican headquarters, perhaps as a diversion tactic. They brought in Molotov cocktails, zip ties, bullet-proof vests, baseball bats, metal pipes and constructed several gallows in an attempt to overthrow the 2020 election and kidnap and kill the Vice President and members of Congress.

As we'll see, when Dr. F says "could have been", he's essentially constructing an alternate imaginary universe where things were worse. Fine, as long as we remember that this universe is built entirely inside his own head.

But even his description of what actually happened needs work.

  • The FBI says those pipe bombs were planted the night before.
  • "Perhaps as a diversionary tactic"? Baseless speculation.
  • Glenn Greenwald has demolished the claim about the rioters bringing zip ties to the Capitol.
  • One (1) guy apparently brought one (1) baseball bat.
  • One (1) guy brought "components for the construction of" eleven "Molotov cocktails" to DC, but (apparently) left them in his truck.
  • I don't know about "several gallows" either. There seems to have been just one. A couple more (apparently impromptu) nooses were noticed, though.
  • There's zero evidence that the mob had any sort of unified purpose whatsoever, outside of a small number of dangerous lunatics. Let alone kidnapping and murder.

Things were horrible enough without inflating the horror.

Some brought in guns, but most of the guns were stashed outside the District of Columbia because of firearms restriction laws.

As near as I can tell, this assertion is evidence-free. And it doesn't really make sense. The folks that Dr. F thinks are bringing bats, Molotov cocktails, planning murder and kidnapping: he thinks they're suddenly scrupulously law-abiding about bringing guns into the District?

In fact, both the Molotov cocktail guy and the Zip Tie guy brought weaponry inside the District. (But not inside the Capitol.)

Without those firearms restrictions, the events of Jan. 6 could have been quite different. We could have lost our Vice President, half of the US Congress and our Democracy itself.

The insurrectionists thought they were patriots. The “former guy” called them patriots.

They believed they were the “good guys with a gun.” If more of them had carried guns during the insurrection, there would have been many more injuries and deaths. The death toll on Jan. 6 was far less than at Sandy Hook, Parkland or Las Vegas. In short, firearms regulations save lives.

We are now back in Dr. F's imagined universe.

It's true that DC gun laws "rank amongst some of the most restrictive in the United States". Do those laws "save lives"?

Unfortunately for Dr. F's argument, those laws don't prevent folks from getting shot in DC. This WaPo editorial notes that DC racked up over 200 homicides in 2020, mostly via firearm. Overall, there were 883 gunshot victims. All this despite "some of the most stringent gun laws in the country". This site puts DC at number 8 in its sorted list of 2019 murder rates. (23.5 homicides per 100K population, far above the 9.6 rate for all US cities with over 250K population.)

Dr. F would no doubt like to think that things would be worse if DC did not have "ome of the most stringent gun laws in the country". There's no reason to believe that.

The Second Amendment calls for “well-regulated militias,” not simply militias. The militias that attacked the Capitol on January 6 were not “well-regulated,” or even “regulated.” They were formed to impose their view of government and society on everyone else, even if it meant destroying the Republic and the Constitution that guides it.

In 1791, the framers of the second amendment wanted to protect our fledgling republic from tyranny. There was no standing Army or National Guard to ensure domestic tranquility or protect us from an invasion from a European monarchy. They needed the militias supplied by the thirteen independent states: the second amendment.

Assigning all-importance to the "well regulated militia" prefatory clause of the Second Amendment is SOP for the gun-grabbers. A good (and, to my mind, convincing) refutation of this argument was made by Brian Doherty in Reason back in 2019: What Is a ‘Well Regulated Militia,’ Anyway? It's long, unsuitable for excerpting, but the bottom line is clear: "The Second Amendment […] guarantees an individual right to the people, no matter how the federal government chooses to regulate the organized militia."

Today, there are literally millions of “militias” in the US as the conservative judges on the Supreme Court have overlooked the “well-regulated militias” portion of the Second Amendment and have allowed each American to be a militia of one if he or she so desires.

I assume Dr. F is referring to the SCOTUS decision in District of Columbia v. Heller. It is simply false that the prefatory clause was ignored in (for example) Antonin Scalia's majority opinion in that case. Read it for yourself.

Today’s guns rights group have adopted the vigilante phrase: “the only thing to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” But January 6 showed us that the concepts of “bad” and “good” are in the eyes of the beholder. Vigilantes see “good” and “bad” in the hands of the gun holder.

Vigilantism aside, it's tough to see how bad guys with guns get stopped without opposing them with equivalent or superior weaponry. Doesn't matter if that's wielded by law enforcement or by a civilian.

Dr. F's attempted "clever" play on words in the last two sentences are so self-evidently stupid that I find it difficult to comment on them.

The firearms regulations in Washington DC limited the tragedy of January 6. When enforced, firearms regulations do work

As noted up there, this is false. Mindless repetition does not make it truer.

For almost 200 years, the Supreme Court interpreted the Second Amendment in the context of well-regulated state militias. It is only in the last 50 years that the concept of state militias has be [sic] reinterpreted by the Supreme Court to mean any individual who wants a gun.

And now Dr. F is back to the Supreme Court. Again, this is a simply false picture of what SCOTUS held in Heller: for example, the decision specifically allowed restrictions on gun ownership by felons and the mentally ill.

Can we enforce the Second Amendment by insisting on well-regulated state militias? Probably not and certainly not with the present composition of the Court.

"Enforcing the Second Amendment" in Dr. F's mind means ignoring that whole "right of the people" clause.

Our only other option is to promote common sense firearms regulations to protect the life and liberty of our citizens. Victims of gun violence lose all freedoms, including their right to bear arms.

We can find ways of preserving the right of gun ownership and still reduce gun violence in the US. If every person is a militia, then common sense firearms laws adhere to the Second Amendment’s call for being “well-regulated.”

Jan. 6 has shown us that to do otherwise would mean the loss of life, Congress, our Republic and the Constitution itself.

Doc, you know what "common sense" tells me? It's that people who claim to favor "common sense" regulations are begging the question. Your argument only works if you start out by assuming that gun control laws are efficacious; then, when high levels of gun violence happen anyway, you can fall back on claiming "well, it would have been worse without those laws."

And probably go on to say: "This shows that we need more laws."

Congratulations, you've convinced yourself.

In the wake of horrific events, it's pretty common for people to make opportunistic arguments. "This shows that the policies I've always been in favor of need to be enacted now." Dr. F is no exception, but trying to shoehorn a gun control argument into the January 6 riot is ludicrous.

It would have been worse, except for DC's gun laws? The DC gun laws are the ones that rioters were afraid to run afoul of?

Please.

UNH Lecturers & Cancel Culture

They Want In On It

[Another Pun Salad rerun, this one from February 2021. And one where I broke my usual rule of being Amused rather than Disgusted. I've referred back to this article a number of times since February, because it encapsulates pretty well the intellectual rot that's set in at UNH.]

As promised/threatened yesterday, here's my take on a recent letter emitted by the Executive Committee of "UNH Lecturers United", the union bargaining unit of non-tenure-track faculty at the University Near Here. Currently available on their website, saved for posterity on my Google Drive:

[UNH Lecturers Mail]

I was sufficiently irritated to (1) download this PNG; (2) install and use Tesseract to OCR it into text; and (3) break out the old fisking template to comment on it as it goes along. The letter's text is on the (appropriate) left, with a lovely #EEFFFF background color; my remarks are on the right.

I do this with some reluctance and regret, because I know and like a number of people on the Executive Committee. But, as the kids say these days, silence is violence. So…

The University of New Hampshire has recently adopted the language of Anti-Racism, […]

Sadly true. Although it ignores a larger truth: UNH has been heavily invested in progressive/leftist trends in racial/sexual/identity/etc. politics for years. For example,

  • It proudly invited "ex"-Communist Angela Davis to speak at its yearly Martin Luther King celebration back in 2009.
  • In 2011, when the Obama Administration tried to use Title IX to bypass due process for college students accused of sexual misbehavior, they sent Joe Biden to UNH for the big announcement, where he was warmly welcomed.
  • And UNH was widely mocked back in 2015 when people noticed its "Bias-Free Language Guide" which attempted to police usage of "problematic" words and phrases like "American", “homosexual,” “overweight,” “rich,” …

But, yes, "recently" UNH has gone all-in on the "anti-racism" fad, making it the school's Official Racial Ideology, featuring its advocates on its website, running the spectrum from left to hard-left, without a single contrary opinion appearing.

So what more could the Lecturers want? Well, as it turns out…

[…] but it is impossible to foster such a belief unless the University’s position is also staunchly and confrontationally Anti-Fascist. Racism, classism, religious intolerance, and sexism are integral to the logic of the far-right. If we truly value diversity, then we must actively oppose any political position structured around inequality.

It's not enough. It's never enough.

Note the implicit assumption that it's UNH's job to "foster belief" in Anti-Racism. That's entirely appropriate language for evangelicals looking to recruit you into a religious cult. For a University, not so much.

But never mind that; apparently UNH's current efforts at evangelism are inadequate to counter the Dread Fascist Menace.

Which the Lecturers apparently equate with the "far-right".

Which the Lecturers apparently equate with "any political position structured around inequality".

It's pretty clear the Lecturers' goal here is to cast a broad and fuzzy net around any political opinion with which they could potentially disagree. Round 'em up, condemn them, either get them to shut up or (preferably) toss them out.

Since the election of Donald Trump, faculty have been encouraged on multiple occasions to respect and tolerate the political positions of students that they may find reprehensible.

Apparently no English teachers were involved in the drafting of this letter; "reprehensible" is a dangling modifier, making it ambiguous whether the faculty find the political positions reprehensible, or the students themselves.

Hey, maybe both. But they should clarify.

It's also unclear what the election of Donald Trump has to do with causing faculty to be encouraged to be more respectful and tolerant. Shouldn't that be a given? A default attitude? No matter who's in the Oval Office?

Nah. My guess: Trump's election caused (some) faculty to be increasingly disrespectful of, and stridently intolerant toward, Trump-sympathizers. Which (I assume) caused enough complaining so that administration urged them to take it down a notch or two. Understandable and plausible.

To our knowledge. no similar statement has been issued to the students, […]

In fact, UNH's handbook of Students Rights, Rules and Responsibilities refers to "our collective commitment to respect the rights, dignity, and worth of all community members" right up front. I'm pretty sure that's been the boilerplate for years. There's no asterisk detailing an exception for reprehensibility.

[…] and the university has hosted hateful and dangerous individuals and organizations on campus.

Dangerous? Once again, remember that UNH once hosted Angela Freaking Davis on campus. Who, back in 70s, owned a shotgun used to blow the head off a judge who'd been taken hostage in an attempted jailbreak.

So we're left to wonder what "dangerous individuals and organizations" the Lecturers are referring to. I can only remember a couple of events, both from the not-particularly-dangerous Turning Point USA (in May 2018, see Eric the Viking for his take; and October 2019, which I attended, my report here). You can plausibly call TPUSA unnecessarily provocative, but deeming them "hateful and dangerous" is way over the top.

So never mind, we're off to…

Faculty have experienced repeated harassment and slander online, and they have been intimidated in the classroom and pilloried in the evaluations that are used to determine promotion and reappointment. This has created chilling effect across the campus that has become an obstacle to the exercise of the academic freedom needed to deliver honest and accurate content.

Stipulated: some students say stupid and malevolent things. (E.g., "I hate you and I hope you die".)

As a one-time UNH Instructor, I agree that student evaluations are hot garbage.

Harassment, slander, and intimidation can and should be dealt with by the normal student conduct process.

But maybe students perceive that they and their opinions are being disrespected in the classroom ("reprehensible", remember?) and decide to reciprocate. Given the instructor/student power imbalance, that might not be prudent, but they deserve points for chutzpah.

President Dean has stated that “we must commit to a sincere search for truth” and that "we must continue our efforts to help people understand the importance of Democracy, the rule of law and how to critically examine information to reach a valid conclusion.” In order to do this the faculty needs encouragement from the administration to combat these elements as they arise and assurances that we will be supported for doing it.

Can we all just get behind reasoned discussion of political differences?

I'd suggest that will not happen when faculty characterize it as part of their job to "confrontationally" "combat" anyone expressing "dangerous"/"hateful"/"reprehensible" ideas. Or (for that matter) anything they see as "structured around inequality".

We are not talking about simple differences of opinion. In the same way that one would assume it is unacceptable to argue that the Earth is flat or only 2000 years old in a Geology class, all faculty must feel secure in saying "No, Fascism and its adjacent attitudes are abhorrent to a diverse and democratic society, and they have no place here.”

This is probably too obvious to point out, but:

Asserting that "woke" anti-racist ideology should be considered to have the same certitude as a spheroidal, 4.543 billion-year-old Earth is utter nonsense.

That said, a decent prof in the sciences should be able to deal with flat-earth students without losing his cool. Or claiming that their views are "abhorrent"; they are simply wacky.

But note that appendage the Lecturers have added to "Fascism": "and its adjacent attitudes". Again we see the vague and potentially sweeping dissenting views the Lecturers want the leeway to ban as having "no place here".

Nothing to worry about there, National Review-reading students. I'm sure they'll come for you last.

As the philosopher Karl Popper has famously articulated, there is a “paradox of tolerance.” In the desire for its own self-preservation, a tolerant society cannot and must not be open-minded toward those that would seek to destroy it is precisely our tolerance and permissiveness that the far-right has exploited in order to disseminate the false information that has led to a deadly Insurrection at the Capitol and to the out-of-control spread of Covid-19.

Taking the low-hanging fruit first: it's certainly a misreading of Popper to claim that he was in favor of suppressing views that might be categorized as intolerant. (Especially by those eager to suppress opposing views.) The Lecturers should read Popper more carefully: "… I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise."

I think the Lecturers' views are more akin to Marcuse's than Popper's. But see what you think.

I'm as outraged by the 1/6 Capitol Riot as anyone. Will following the Lecturers' recommendations help circumvent future riots? Doubtful.

And of course, the Covid pandemic is a worldwide phenomenon. Is the "far-right" disinformation really so powerful as to cause its spread from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe?

No, I don't think so either.

But we're on to the grand finale, folks:

UNH Lecturers United hopes that the administration will join us in our commitment to equity, equality, and justice by condemning the poisonous ideologies that have been allowed to fester on our campus and in our nation. We ask that the administration make it clear to the entire campus community what behaviors cannot be tolerated. Faculty should always teach respectfully but with ultimate fealty to the truth. If doing so brings them into conflict with groups or individuals who harbor other beliefs they will have the full support of the UNHLU-AAUP, and we hope the administration will stand with us by publicly asserting its commitment to its core beliefs and its willingness to defend them as necessary.

Why, it's almost as if they imagined this last paragraph be accompanied by rousing inspirational music, perhaps The Internationale.

It's clear that UNHLU-AAUP wants to set itself up as the Ministry of Truth at UNH, deciding what "poisonous ideologies" should be "condemned". And advocating that a broader (but vague) array of "behaviors" should now be grounds for expulsion or perhaps a stint in the re-education camps.