URLs du Jour

2022-06-08

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  • "Middle School" is a generous characterization. Bari Weiss explains why she's so happy to have gotten out of the MSM biz: The Washington Post’s Descent Into Middle School Antics.

    Let me tell you a story about the middle-school antics currently playing out at a once-great newspaper. It goes a long way toward explaining why we started [her substack] Common Sense and why we think it’s so essential.

    It began with a joke. Actually, it was a retweet of a joke. The Washington Post’s politics reporter David Weigel retweeted the following joke this past Friday: “Every girl is bi. You just have to figure out if it’s polar or sexual.” I know what you’re thinking: Call the police on this man immediately.  

    I smirked when I read it. Not a full laugh, but a chuckle. Weigel apologized for the “offensive joke” later the same day: “I apologize and did not mean to cause any harm,” he said.

    But it was already too late. 

    Weigel was suspended for a month without pay.

    Weigel used to be at Reason, but (judging by my past mentions of him) when he moved to more "respectable" organizations like the WaPo, he got a lot less interesting.


  • We already Did Something™ and it didn't work. So let's do it again? Jon Miltimore looks at some easily forgettable history: The Federal Government’s Own Study Concluded Its Ban on 'Assault Weapons' Didn't Reduce Gun Violence.

    Do something.

    This is a response—and perhaps a natural one—to a human tragedy or crisis. We saw this response in the wake of 9-11. We saw it during the Covid-19 pandemic. And we’re seeing it again following three mass shootings—in Buffalo, New York, Uvalde, Texas, and Tulsa Oklahoma—that claimed the lives of more than 30 innocent people, including small children.

    In this case, the “something” is gun control. In Canada—where no attack even occurred—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the introduction of legislation that would freeze handgun ownership across the country.

    I note that my own state (New Hampshire, for newbies) has (a) gun laws that rate an F from the pro-control Giffords Law Center; (b) the lowest murder rate among the 50 states (plus D. C. and Puerto Rico).

    We do have a lot of people who kill themselves with guns, which drags us up a lot on the "gun violence" scale.


  • Admitting you have a problem is the first step. Eric Boehm notes a possible new member of Overregulators Anonymous: Tariffs Are Adding to Inflation. Biden's Commerce Secretary Says Repealing Some 'May Make Sense.'.

    Tariffs raise prices. That is literally the thing they do.

    Politicians often try to obscure that basic fact by talking about tariffs' second-order effects. They say that applying taxes to imported goods will help protect domestic manufacturers—by raising prices on foreign-made goods, making them less competitive. Or, as former President Donald Trump frequently did, they might say that tariffs can promote national security—by making foreign goods more expensive, encouraging investment in domestic industries.

    The extent to which any of those second-order effects actually happen is subject to debate, and the past few years suggest that the trade-offs involved are not worth it. But if you leave aside that political debate, there's still a basic, inescapable fact: Tariffs, by design, raise prices.

    After nearly 16 months in office, facing historically high price increases, the Biden administration seems to have finally discovered how tariffs work.

    Well, Gina Raimondo might have discovered that. Maybe.

    But the guy at the top? See yesterday's news: Joe Biden's Solar Panel Tariffs Are a National Security Threat, Says Joe Biden.


  • This is the year I might pull the plug on voting. And here's what might convince me, from Chris Freiman: A Quick Argument Against Voting. And I'll make his quick argument even quicker: there are better ways to spend your time and effort. Skipping to the bottom:

    Now, I know what you’re thinking—“what if no one voted? Wouldn’t that be bad?” Sure! But that doesn’t imply that you, the marginal individual, should vote. By analogy, it would be bad if no one filled cavities, but you, the marginal individual, aren’t obligated to become a dentist. Indeed, it’s much better to have a division of labor. A world where some practice dentistry and others sell toothpaste is a better world for your teeth than one in which everyone practices dentistry. Similarly, a world where some cast informed and unbiased votes and others earn to donate to effective charities is a happier and more prosperous world than one in which everyone is a voter.

    In the past, I've liked this quote from Lazarus Long/Robert Heinlein enough to get me to the polls:

    If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for ... but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. In case of doubt, vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong.

    When the choice is between Trump-idolizing Republicans, Pelosi-clone Democrats, and the ever-wackier Libertarians? I'd like to vote against them all. And I can do that by staying home.


  • Welcome to Severodvinsk, American. You're under arrest. Karen Townsend mentions another way to tell Russia that business isn't as usual: Zelensky slams U.S. mayors for not ending sister-city relationships with Russia.

    President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine spoke via video to the United States Conference of Mayors in Reno, Nevada last Friday. During his speech he called out several American cities for failing to end their sister-city relationships with Russian cities. Some cities have suspended their relationships with sister-cities in Russia but that isn’t good enough. Zelensky wants the mayors to sever their relationships altogether.

    Mr. Zelensky, who spoke to the gathering of mayors just after Vice President Kamala Harris, criticized Chicago; Jacksonville, Fla.; Portland, Ore.; San Diego and San Jose, Calif., for maintaining sister-city ties in Russia. He said those relationships should be severed.

    “What do those ties give to you? Probably nothing,” Mr. Zelensky said. “But they allow Russia to say that it is not isolated.”

    The natural instinct is to check the official list… and (as it turns out) there's only one such relationship in New Hampshire. Portsmouth's sister city is Severodvinsk, since 1995.

    From the Wikipedia:

    Severodvinsk (Russian: Северодвинск, IPA: [sʲɪvʲɪrɐdˈvʲinsk]) is a city in the north of Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russia, located in the delta of the Northern Dvina River, 35 kilometers (22 mi) west of Arkhangelsk, the administrative center of the oblast. As of the 2010 Census, the population was 192,353. Due to the presence of important military shipyards (specialising in submarines since the Soviet period), Severodvinsk is an access-restricted town for foreign citizens. A special permit is required.

    So Portsmouth has a sister city that ordinary citizens are prohibited from visiting. Swell.

    For fairness, I should point out that a lot of New Hampshire was forbidden to Soviets in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The Bramble and the Rose

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Another book in the "Wish I'd Liked It Better" class. The mystery reviewer in the WSJ, Tom Nolan, really liked it, putting it on his Best Mysteries of 2020 list. So your take could be different from mine. (And, as I keep pointing out, the Goodreads folks encourage me to provide my subjective views. Did I like it? Not that much.)

It's the third book in Tom Bouman's series with narrator Henry Farrell. He's the one-man police force in semi-rural Wild Thyme, Pennsylvania, an area (seemingly) filled with boozers, drug abusers, and sad losers. Henry's pretty morose, too, even though he's getting married to his pregnant girlfriend. What sets things off here is the discovery of a much-abused body in the woods, a private investigator who's been murdered, decapitated, and left for Purina Bear Chow. (Where's his head? Ah, over here in this hollow tree!)

Eventually, Henry finds himself in peril: from that bear who's acquired a taste for people; from people threatening to reveal his past illicit affairs to his new bride; and then there's the folks who just want to kill him, framing him for another murder.

I will repeat things I said about his previous books in the series: there are a lot of characters to keep track of. Bouman often breaks into some very nice, evocative, prose in describing people, places, and things. Just wish I cared a little more about what happened.

A Visit from the Goon Squad

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An impulsive pickup from our local library. I'd heard good things, even though it took me a while to get around to reading it. (It won the Pulitzer for fiction. Back in 2011.) I almost certainly have nothing new to say about it.

It seems to be, more or less, an interlinked collection of short stories, told from multiple points of view, jumping around in time. (For example: The final chapter is set in the future, where Manhattan is protected from flooding by massive dikes, trees bloom in January, and "adjustments" to Earth's orbit (!) have sunset occurring at 4:23.)

Minor characters in one chapter can become the main characters in the next. One chapter is a collection of PowerPoint slides; you can view the color version here.

I was initially put off: Oh, it's gonna be one of those books where unpleasant, not particularly interesting people obsess over their psychological quirks. But I was eventually taken in, because the author makes them interesting. There's tragedy and comedy. Maybe (I never thought I'd write something like this) the funniest story about an attempted rape I've ever read.