URLs du Jour


  • Wikipedia: Just Say No. At least if you're a non-leftist considering one of their perennial appeals for your money. @echetus has a pretty devastating Tweet thread:

    If that interests you, "Read the full conversation on Twitter". As @echetus details, your money mostly isn't going to keep the disks spinning down on the server farm. It goes to the Wikimedia Foundation, which couples the noble cause of making encyclopedic information a mouseclick away with strident leftism. In response to George Floyd's death, for example:

    We see our Black colleagues, community members, readers, and supporters grieving, fearful, and feeling the weight of this week and the history of all of the weeks just like this. Today, and every day, the Wikimedia Foundation stands in support of racial justice and with the movement for Black Lives. As an employer and part of an international movement our work in every country depends on promoting and defending human rights.

    Over the past week, we have witnessed communities across the U.S. and around the world stand up for racial justice and demand an end to police brutality and extrajudicial killings. This has been met with more brutality, arrests, and even lethal force against citizens from Minneapolis to New York City, Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. In many places this policing response has been accompanied by egregious attacks on freedoms of the press and the rights to freedom of speech and assembly.

    On these issues, there is no neutral stance. To stay silent is to endorse the violence of history and power; yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It is well past time for racial justice in America and beyond.

    @echetus points out that that bolded sentence doesn't sit well with Wikipedia's pledge to have a neutral point of view.

    Maybe Wikipedia should have an alternate funding mechanism where donors can direct their contributions to operations and maintenance, with assurances that it won't fund wokism.

  • We're number two! Or, more precisely, Chris Sununu is, in Cato's Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors 2022. (He was beat by Iowa's Kim Reynolds.) Here's their take:

    Chris Sununu has led New Hampshire government since 2017. He has repeatedly cut taxes in his already low‐​tax state, and he has limited annual average general fund spending growth to 1.1 percent since entering office. Sununu has cut the rates of New Hampshire’s two major business taxes, and he signed legislation in 2021 ending the state’s 5 percent tax on interest and dividends. He has also vetoed costly tax hikes, such as a new payroll tax for a paid leave scheme. Sununu received the highest score on the 2020 Cato fiscal report and the second‐​highest score on this 2022 report.

    So, good for him, and us.

  • He didn't go boldly enough. James Pethokoukis thinks William Shatner's gloomy viral comments about space were ... unhelpful. There's some more-in-sorrow-than-anger analysis of those comments. But:

    I have no idea if Shatner intended to give aid and comfort to the space naysayers who see a zero-sum game between making life better down here and extending life further out there. (I would guess not. I would guess he still thinks space exploration is a worthy human endeavor — just don’t forget about the elephants and rain forests, gang.) But I fear he has, whatever the intent. “Even Captain Kirk thinks space is distraction!” Of course, Earth or Space is a false binary that only obtuse activist-types fail to recognize:

    • If humanity’s biggest challenge is ensuring its continued existence, then there’s a strong case for space.

    • If you think devoting 0.5 percent of GDP to space activities doesn’t seem like wild overspending, then there’s a strong case for space.

    • If you think humanity can do more than one thing at time — during the 1960s America went to space, expanded civil rights, and started cleaning up the environment — then there’s a strong case for space.

    • If you think some amazing innovations that would make life better here on Earth are possible through a vibrant orbital economy, then there’s a strong case for space.

    • If you want more abundant resources of all kinds, there’s a strong case for space.

    • If you think there’s value in adding to the stock of human knowledge about the universe we inhabit — and thus knowledge about ourselves — there’s a strong case for space.

    • If you think humanity needs a frontier to help keep its culture and institutions vibrant, then there’s a strong case for space.

    • If you find space to be merely a place of “cold, dark, black emptiness,” as Shatner writes, then there’s a case for filling it with life and thus a strong case for humanity in space.

    I'm not a fan of massive government spending, and I'm not a fan of Artemis and the sclerotic and wasteful NASA mindset that brought it forth. But Pethokoukis's case is pretty strong, and it would be nice if we had a NASA that could go about that efficiently. (But perhaps SpaceX… whoa, can we rely on a single visionary guy, who's also quite mercurial?)

  • … and I've learned a lot. Self-admitted Marxist Freddie deBoer has a winning essay on Learning From Our Limits. It takes off from the case of Maitland Jones, fired from NYU because pre-med students there found his Organic Chemistry class too hard.

    This firing over a question of educational rigor has inspired a lot of concern, including from me. Of course, as this is a culture war issue, some have taken to the ramparts to insist that the fired professor must have been a bad teacher if so many students rebelled, that the students have a right to be taught how they want given that they’re paying tens of thousands of dollars a year for college, that the “weed out” element of organic chemistry exists to perpetuate the doctor cartel

    Whatever the case, I want to suggest that the students who launched the petition were denying themselves a central element of education: figuring out what you’re not good at. Failing. Trying to learn, and failing to do so. This is an element of education as vital as learning what you’re good at, the act of self-discovery of one’s own lack of ability. All of us have limits, natural limits on what we can learn and do in academic fields. Some exceedingly rare individuals appear to be brilliant at everything, but for the rest of us, there’s a whole suite of topics and skills that we will never perform with any facility. And if colleges insist on reducing rigor to the point that learning those limits becomes impossible, something will have been lost.

    In my own time as a graduate student in the humanities and as an administrator in the City University of New York, I was dismayed by the ongoing assault on rigor, with arguments against homework, against grading, and against taking attendance. Many in academia default to any position that seems pro-student, due to a desire to be “the cool professor” or through tendentious political definitions of the purpose of higher education. But such people tend to define “pro-student” as meaning whatever students want, when of course part of the point of being an educator is to do what’s best for students that they may not want to do themselves. I believe that rigor is essential to providing students with value for their tuition dollars, as I personally have been brought closer to the level of my potential thanks to professors who made serious demands of me. I have also learned the limits of that potential thanks to those teachers, who helped me to understand what I was and was not good at.

    I found that personally touching, as I've bumped up against such failures more than once. I've worked around them so far, but…

    I'm experiencing that now, trying to figure out how to rewrite a Chrome extension that's been abandoned by its original author. It's four files, three JavaScript, one JSON. A grand total of 3428 bytes. And I'm just bouncing off of it. Cross your fingers, I need to get it working before Google starts breaking Manifest V2 extensions sometime in 2024.

  • Not only do you have to take one bad-tasting medicine, there's also this intrusive medical procedure… Veronique de Rugy and Jack Salmon claim that Winning the Battle Against Inflation Also Requires Supply-Side Reforms.

    Despite several interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve (five so far, totaling 300 basis points), inflation remains alive and well, with core inflation continuing to tilt upward. That’s because the Federal Reserve can’t fight rising prices by itself. Stopping inflation will require continued monetary tightening as well as fiscal deficit reduction. But winning the battle against inflation will also require supply-side reforms that make the economy more dynamic and more competitive.

    Before we discuss supply-side solutions, let’s remember how we got here: During the pandemic, and while the economy was closed and then later only partially reopened, government officials engaged in big money printing, big borrowing and big spending. As if that wasn’t enough, when the economy was almost back to normal, Congress and policymakers didn’t move to end the party, but instead announced that big deficit spending would continue. And it did, even as inflation began to tick up.

    Now we are in a mess. Everyone fundamentally understands why inflation is a problem: Earnings and savings buy less and less. That’s why it now tops the list of average Americans’ concerns. What is not so well understood is how much worse the problem of inflation can be during a period of high government debt. We won’t bore you with all the details, but if you must know one thing, know this: While the best way for the Federal Reserve to control inflation is to raise interest rates, the higher interest rates go (and with the 10-year Treasury rate being around 3.8%, it is already a whole 2.5 percentage points higher than it was just over a year ago), the larger the interest the federal government must pay on the debt. That can become very expensive, very quickly, since our debt is roughly 100% of GDP, and 30% of our debt is coming due within the next year.

    Vero and Jack (I call him Jack) have a "few suggestions"; read for the details: Dramatically increase the number of immigrants legally allowed into the country; Make changes to our trade policy, starting with abolishing punitive tariffs, duties and quotas; Eliminate the Jones Act, which mandates that all freight moved between U.S. ports must be handled by U.S.-built, crewed and flagged ships; Build, Baby, Build.