URLs du Jour


  • Mister, we could use a man like Ronnie Reagan again. Eye candy du jour is a tweet from an account named I Love History.

    Context: June 12, 1987 in West Berlin, during the same trip as the "tear down this wall" speech.

  • Well, that's sad. Kat Rosenfield provides somber news: Publishing will never be fair. Her article is (sort of) in response to Joyce Carol Oates' tweet (see yesterday's post) that claimed "a friend who is a literary agent told me that he cannot even get editors to read first novels by young white male writers, no matter how good; they are just not interested. this is heartbreaking for writers who may, in fact, be brilliant, & critical of their own 'privilege.'" Ms. Rosenfield:

    The outpouring of replies were split between people who argued that Oates’s assertion was false and people who argued that it was true but not heartbreaking, and in fact a real and unmitigated good. And then there were the people who argued both of these things simultaneously, sometimes even within the same breath. For whatever reason, this type of self-refuting argument is particularly ubiquitous on Twitter; the fallacy, which some have termed The Law of Salutary Contradiction, is best summed up as: “this isn’t happening, and also it’s good that it’s happening”. One representative reply read: “I am a literary agent. This is not so. And why ever would we invest our hopes in the continued success of white men in an industry which persists in shutting out queer and BIPOC authors?!”

    Is it happening? With more than one extremely high-profile person flat-out accusing Oates of lying, it’s worth surveying the statistics. This is only an informal snapshot of the data, but one that still tells a story: of the 100 most recent debut book deals listed on Publisher’s Marketplace, 83 went to women. Of the remaining 17, 12 went to white men — ten of whom appear to be under the age of 40, and thus young by literary standards. It’s not a total shutout, of course, but it’s also not parity. And the same trend can be observed in terms of not just who’s published, but who’s celebrated; for instance, of the 13 books on the Booker longlist, released this week, three are by white men, none of whom are under 45 (one is the oldest ever recipient of a Booker nomination).

    If you're a white male, and your name is not "Steven King", your chances of breaking into the fiction market seem poor. But there's always self-publishing.

    (As I've mentioned before: I'm currently reading Ms. Rosenfield's latest book, No One Will Miss Her. A very nasty and extremely well-written crime novel.)

  • Open the pod bay doors, Hal. Adam Thierer describes How Science Fiction Dystopianism Shapes the Debate over AI & Robotics.

    George Jetson will be born this year. We don’t know the exact date of this fictional cartoon character’s birth, but thanks to some skillful Hanna-Barbera hermeneutics the consensus seems to be sometime in 2022.

    In the same episode that we learn George’s approximate age, we’re also told the good news that his life expectancy in the future is 150 years old. It was one of the many ways The Jestons [sic], though a cartoon for children, depicted a better future for humanity thanks to exciting innovations. Another was a helpful robot named Rosie, along with a host of other automated technologies—including a flying car—that made George and his family’s life easier.

    Most fictional portrayals of technology today are not as optimistic as The Jetsons, however. Indeed, public and political conceptions about artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics in particular are being strongly shaped by the relentless dystopianism of modern science fiction novels, movies and television shows. And we are worse off for it.

    Thierer argues that there's "no possibility of machines gaining human-equivalent knowledge any time soon—or perhaps ever."

    Fine. I wouldn't expect "human-equivalent". But look: arguably we humans are "smart" due to the fantastically complex interactions of a few pounds worth of nerve cells. What happens when computer circuitry approaches that complexity? A possible answer: something completely unexpected. And maybe unrecognizable as "intelligence". ("It's life, Jim. But not as we know it.")

  • Williamson on Krugman. And he provides Perspective on Perspective.

    Paul Krugman writes:

    In New York City, homicides so far this year are running a bit below their 2021 level, and in 2021 they were 78 percent lower than they were in 1990 and a quarter lower than they were in 2001.

    That’s true, but I don’t think “New York City has fewer murders today than it did in the year when it had more murders than at any other point in its entire history” is as compelling an argument as Professor Krugman seems to think.

    KDW goes on to muse on the extraordinarily violent country we live in.

    Obligatory stat: in 2020, New Hampshire had the lowest intentional homicide rate among the 50 states+Puerto Rico+D.C. (You can look at other years at the link.)

    As Damien Fisher points out, however, we've had 17 homicides so far in 2022, compared to an average of 18 since 2017. "And it’s still July."

  • Another perennial headline template: "Chuck Schumer Learned Nothing From           ". And filling in today's blank is Jacob Sullum: Chuck Schumer Learned Nothing From the Failure of Pot Legalization in California.

    During the next year, California officials said last week, the state expects to seize "more than $1 billion worth of illegal cannabis products." That announcement came a few weeks after the U.S. Justice Department bragged about guilty pleas by 11 unlicensed California marijuana merchants who had been nabbed with help from state and local law enforcement agencies.

    Six years after California voters approved recreational marijuana, unauthorized suppliers still account for somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of sales. A recent report from the Reason Foundation (my employer) highlights one major reason why licensed businesses have had so much trouble competing with illegal suppliers: Taxes are too high.

    Schumer's legislation was a major topic on this week's Reason Roundup podcast. They were even less impressed than Jacob Sullum is.

  • Oh swell. Eric Boehm has some very bad news: Schumer, Manchin Strike Deal To Raise Taxes, Cut the Deficit, Spend Billions on Climate Change.

    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) has reportedly brokered a deal with Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.) to pass a slimmed-down version of President Joe Biden's spending plan—now to be marketed as an attempt to curb inflation.

    In a statement on Wednesday evening, Manchin announced The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, a bill that the swing-vote senator says will be built around "paying down our national debt, lowering energy costs and lowering healthcare costs."

    Though Manchin's statement is light on specifics about the bill, subsequent reporting by Politico and other outlets quickly fleshed out the proposal. The bill will include $370 billion in new spending on climate change initiatives and green energy projects—a linchpin of Biden's Build Back Better plan through its many, many interactions over the past year—and would dedicate about $300 billion of revenue toward reducing the deficit, which has been Manchin's top priority.

    To belabor the obvious: Manchin is an idiot. "$300 billion of revenue toward reducing the deficit" won't wipe out the deficit (Latest CBO estimate for FY2022 $514 billion). (Update, added 2022-07-29": I should have stressed that $300 billion is over 10 years. So, roughly $30 billion per year. Not even a significant fraction of the yearly deficit.) Hence, will not be "paying down our national debt."

    And if you lard on additional spending, it certainly won't.

    And those additional taxes on businesses will certainly be passed on in part to consumers. Calling it an "Inflation Reduction Act" is Orwellian Ministry of Truth stuff.

Last Modified 2022-07-29 1:10 PM EDT