URLs du Jour

2021-10-14

[Golden Bull]

  • Excellent Advice. Econlib contributors Leonid Sirota and Akshaya Kamalnath urge us to Make Spaceships, Not Slogans.

    The accelerating and increasingly successful effort of private enterprise to bring humans to space are often derisively described as a “billionaires’ space race”. News of Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos’ flights demonstrating the capabilities of their respective spacecraft triggered much discussion about (i) tax-avoiding practices of the rich; (ii) how money should be spent on charity instead; (iii) whether private space flight was ethical in the face of inequality, climate crisis, etc; and (iv) whether we should even care.

    Contrast this with the excitement and fascination with which, say, the Met Gala, at which the rich and famous fundraise for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, is routinely met. Such events are, as Megan McArdle has rightly pointed out, one of those tax-avoidance practices, of course. We doubt, moreover, that the Costume Institute—to which we mean no slight—is quite the sort of charitable endeavour that the critics of the spacefaring billionaires have in mind as an appropriate recipient of the 1%’s largesse.

    Tne authors go on to point out that I have a far better chance of going into space (especially if I live as long as William Shatner) than I have of being invited to the Met Gala.


  • Apparently a Perennial Question. Wilfred Reilly asks at the City Journal: What Is Critical Race Theory, Really? (What, Christopher Rufo is on vacation?)

    It’s all CRT these days.

    I’m teasing a bit here, but only a bit. As the debate over the teaching of various critical theories in U.S. public schools has heated up, major papers have published wave after wave of articles denying that critical race theory is taught much at all outside law schools, while other writers have drawn the most technical of distinctions between “CRT” and other academic specialties like critical theory, whiteness studies, critical pedagogy, intersectionality, white fragility, white privilege theory, and so on.

    This debate over semantics might provide an interesting basis for a panel at a scholarly conference, but it’s of little use or interest for parents concerned that their children are being taught partisan nonsense. While technical differences exist between the various critical paradigms, virtually all of them share three baseline assumptions: that racism is “everywhere,” and supposedly neutral systems, such as policing or standardized tests, are set up to oppress minorities; that to prove the existence of this oppression one need only note that large groups perform at different levels; and that the solution to this problem is equity—or proportional representation of all groups across all endeavors.

    Not bad for a one-paragraph summary. I continue to recommend Cathy Young's recent article on "Wokeness" for more detail.


  • Although she is, sadly, done with the Internet. Bari Weiss hosts author Kat Rosenfield who has something interesting to say about a recent homicide victim you may have heard about: The Internet Isn't Done With Gabby Petito.

    She’s dancing on a gulf shore beach, toeing the place where the surf meets the sand.

    She’s smiling with one foot forward, a 1990s throwback in Vans and a t-shirt, framed by a mural of angel's wings on a wall the color of cotton candy.

    She’s laughing into the camera, backlit and blonde and beautiful without makeup, stuck inside a tent whose sides are threatening to cave in from the rain.

    So relatable. So authentic. So real that you could be her, or at least be friends with her. The screen on which she appears isn't a barrier but a window, one she's opened wide to invite you in. You could reach right through and touch her, you could climb bodily into her wild, inspirational life.

    And then you remember: she’s dead.

    I didn't know she was an "influencer", sorta famous even previous. But now…

    There’s a macabre joke to be made about how many influencers would die to reach the million-follower benchmark, but this is quite literally what happened with Petito. Of the 1.3 million people who now follow her account, fully 1.2 million of them didn't show up until she was already gone. All of them, all of us, gawking at her digital remains like rubberneckers slowing down to peer into the twisted wreckage of a crashed car, squinting to see if there's any blood left behind.


  • Katie Couric is an unusually honest journalist. Although you wouldn't know it from David Harsanyi's headline: RBG Criticized National-Anthem Protests, and Katie Couric Covered It Up.

    In her newly released memoir, Going There, Katie Couric writes that she edited out comments from Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in which the Supreme Court justice accused those who kneel during the national anthem of showing “contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life.” Couric, the Daily Mail reports, claims that she believed the 83-year-old justice was “elderly and probably didn’t fully understand the question.” Couric, who fashions herself an intrepid journalist, says she was “protecting” the “Notorious RGB” — a woman who until her last days was offering decisions on the most important legal questions in the nation and celebrated widely by the Left — from political backlash.

    Interviews are often edited for length and clarity, of course, but in this case, there’s no excuse for leaving out the interaction. If RBG was genuinely unable to answer a simple question regarding flag protests, as her friend New York Times columnist David Brooks suggested to Couric, any genuine journalist would have immediately sensed the interaction as newsworthy. If RBG understood the question — which it seems to me is the case as she offers a completely coherent and normal answer about spoiled athletes disrespecting the American flag — it would also have been newsworthy. This was the year Colin Kaepernick began his protests. Couric included RGB’s describing the protests as “dumb and disrespectful” because, in our warped discourse, it is far less incendiary than pointing out protesters are bequeathed “decent lives” by their nation.

    Katie's unusually honest. Or stupid. Or both. Because she admitted what she did, albeit a few years late. I would wager that for every incident of the media "protecting" one of their "heroes" that comes to our attention, there's a hundred that do not.

    And, sorry, to point out the obvious: if Katie (et. al.) managed to get a non-"hero" to utter an impolitic remark, it would be trumpeted from the skies.


  • Thus has it always been, thus shall it ever be. Joe Lancaster notes a high-tech company taking a page from an old playbook: Facebook Welcomes Regulations, Specifically Those That Hurt Its Competition.

    Nick Clegg, Facebook's head of global affairs and communications, appeared on CNN's State of the Union Sunday after a harrowing week for the company. Last week a whistleblower, Frances Haugen, testified before the Senate on a number of topics relating to Facebook's lack of transparency and the potentially deleterious effects on its users. However, Clegg's answer to a question about Section 230, the clause within the Communications Decency Act which generally shields platforms from liability for user-generated content posted to their sites, was perplexing.

    When asked by host Dana Bash if he supported "amending Section 230" in order to "hold companies like [Facebook] liable" for certain posts made on their sites, Clegg responded that he did, and recommended "mak[ing] that protection…contingent on them applying…their policies as they're supposed to, and if they fail to do that, they would then have that liability protection removed."

    Unsurprisingly.