Super! A Bun Dance!

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I typed "abundance" into Amazon's search box, and holy cow! I was unaware of how that simple word has worked its way into so many niches of the national consciousness. Hey, try it yourself.

I'm very tempted by Reclaiming The Power Of Hoodoo: A Beginner's Guide To African American Folk Magic to Cultivate Peace & Abundance Within Your Life Through Rootwork & Conjure. A mere $5.99 for the Kindle version.

Our actual Amazon Product du Jour seems good, too. I plan on reading it at some point.

But the so-called "Abundance Agenda" seems to be a concept kicked off by Derek Thompson in an Atlantic article from last year: A Simple Plan to Solve All of America’s Problems.

In the past few months, I’ve become obsessed with a policy agenda that is focused on solving our national problem of scarcity. This agenda would try to take the best from several ideologies. It would harness the left’s emphasis on human welfare, but it would encourage the progressive movement to “take innovation as seriously as it takes affordability,” as Ezra Klein wrote. It would tap into libertarians’ obsession with regulation to identify places where bad rules are getting in the way of the common good. It would channel the right’s fixation with national greatness to grow the things that actually make a nation great—such as clean and safe spaces, excellent government services, fantastic living conditions, and broadly shared wealth.

This is the abundance agenda.

Small observation on Thompson's language: libertarians have an "obsession"; the right has a "fixation". The left merely has an "emphasis".

Christian Britschgi (however) detects The Problem With the 'Abundance Agenda'. First, the good news: folks on the left (like Thompson) are realizing a major reason that We Can't Have Nice Things is government policy:

[Noah] Smith thunders against "the country's broken system of permitting, land use, and development." Liberal blogger Matt Yglesias wants to significantly pare back the environmental review requirements in the National Environmental Policy Act and liberalize immigration until we have "one billion Americans." The Atlantic's Jerusalem Demsas decries America's "permission-slip culture" created by occupational licensing. The New York Times liberal columnist Ezra Klein says plainly that "regulators make it hard to increase supply" of everything from health care technologies to new workers. Everyone hates zoning.

Britschgi says these folks are kidding themselves:

While they see the flaws of the American state as she exists, these abundance agenda evangelists are still hopelessly chained to the idea that they can change her for the better.

The criticisms of the Biden administration's implementation of CHIPS Act subsidies are a useful illustration of the limits of this worldview.

Supply-side progressives are raising hell over the ways regulatory roadblocks are undermining one of the largest expansions of federal corporate welfare in a generation. But investing huge sums of taxpayer money into semiconductor production is inherently a bad, wasteful idea, child care mandates and union work rules notwithstanding.

By all means, get rid of the "regulatory roadblocks". But (at the same time) drop your delusion that government has the wisdom to micromanage innovation and entrepreneurship. Using other peoples' money, naturally.

Briefly noted:

  • Jerry Coyne finds much to cheer when The Atlantic unpacks (and criticizes) woke language. That article, by George Packer, is here: The Moral Case Against Equity Language.

    Packer notes the secular religiosity involved:

    Mastering equity language is a discipline that requires effort and reflection, like learning a sacred foreign tongue—ancient Hebrew or Sanskrit. The Sierra Club urges its staff “to take the space and time you need to implement these recommendations in your own work thoughtfully.” “Sometimes, you will get it wrong or forget and that’s OK,” the National Recreation and Park Association guide tells readers. “Take a moment, acknowledge it, and commit to doing better next time.”

    The liturgy changes without public discussion, and with a suddenness and frequency that keep the novitiate off-balance, forever trying to catch up, and feeling vaguely impious. A ban that seemed ludicrous yesterday will be unquestionable by tomorrow. The guides themselves can’t always stay current. People of color becomes standard usage until the day it is demoted, by the American Heart Association and others, for being too general. The American Cancer Society prefers marginalized to the more “victimizing” underresourced or underserved—but in the National Recreation and Park Association’s guide, marginalized now acquires “negative connotations when used in a broad way. However, it may be necessary and appropriate in context. If you do use it, avoid ‘the marginalized,’ and don’t use marginalized as an adjective.” Historically marginalized is sometimes okay; marginalized people is not. The most devoted student of the National Recreation and Park Association guide can’t possibly know when and when not to say marginalized; the instructions seem designed to make users so anxious that they can barely speak. But this confused guidance is inevitable, because with repeated use, the taint of negative meaning rubs off on even the most anodyne language, until it has to be scrubbed clean. The erasures will continue indefinitely, because the thing itself—injustice—will always exist.

    Coyne notes that Packer's essay is reminiscent of George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language".

  • Andrew C. McCarthy gripes, with much justification: Biden DOJ Discards the Law to Get Trump.

    As is reliably the case when confronted with a choice between law and politics, the Biden Justice Department under Attorney General Merrick Garland has chosen politics.

    The Justice Department has told a federal appeals court that a civil lawsuit brought against former president Donald Trump, alleging damages based on the Capitol riot, should be permitted to go forward. According to prosecutors, if you squint hard enough, Trump’s January 6 Ellipse speech maybe, possibly, conceivably could have been an “incitement of private violence” and, therefore, falls outside the broad immunity afforded to “public communications” by presidents.

    The Justice Department has never charged Trump with incitement, much as it would love to, because it knows such a case would be laughed out of court. Of course, if Merrick Garland’s prosecutors were to concede the truth that Trump did not commit incitement, and that his remarks — though vile and impeachable — were constitutionally protected, there would have been mutiny in the Democratic base that President Biden desperately needs to turn out if he is to have a prayer of being reelected.

    McCarthy notes that "rabid Democratic partisans" are wont to assert that Trump "incited insurrection" on January 6, 2021. Which is problematic, because insurrection is an actual crime, and none of the January 6 participants have been charged with that, over two years later.

  • Jacob Sullum suggests we look beyond yet another instance of our Buffoon-in-Chief being a buffoon: The Flap Over Biden's Comment About 2 Fentanyl Deaths Obscures Prohibition's Role in Causing Them.

    Those two deaths were (indeed) bad: young men taking fentanyl-laced pills that they thought were Percocet. Their mother, Rebecca Kiessling, testifed, tear-jerkingly, to a House committee about that, and linked those pills to a lack of security at the southern border.

    After the hearing, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R–Ga.) took that implied criticism of the Biden administration a step further. "Listen to this mother, who lost two children to fentanyl poisoning, tell the truth about both of her son's [sic] murders because of the Biden administrations [sic] refusal to secure our border and stop the Cartel's [sic] from murdering Americans everyday by Chinese fentanyl," Greene wrote on Twitter.

    The problem being:

    Since Caleb and Kyler Kiessling died six months before Biden took office, of course, it is logically impossible that his border policies had anything to do with their deaths. That's the point Biden was making when he addressed a meeting of House Democrats in Baltimore on Wednesday night.

    Greene "was very specific recently, saying that a mom, a poor mother who lost two kids to fentanyl, that I killed her sons," Biden said. "Well, the interesting thing: That fentanyl they took came during the last administration." Then he laughed.

    Biden's laughter offended Kiessling. "This is how you speak about the death of my sons?" she said in a Facebook video. "Because a congresswoman misspoke? You mock the loss of my sons? How dare you? What is the matter with you? Almost every Democrat on the committee offered condolences. They at least had the decency to do that. You can't even do that? You have to mock my pain?"

    Sullum notes, rightly enough, that driving this into a partisan narrative obscures the actual problem. Which is the bipartisan "war on drugs".

  • Boy, Mr. Dilbert, Scott Adams, really stepped in it, didn't he? A real pointy-haired boss move there, Scott. Wilfred Reilly has thoughts on The ‘Honest Conversation about Race’ That We Never Have.

    In the specific case of Adams, as rightist commentator Ben Shapiro pointed out, the man very likely would have been offered a prestigious mainstream media job were he a witty black cartoonist who said exactly what he did with the races reversed: Polls indicate that many or most American whites are at least a bit racist, black folks thus have no choice but to view whites as dangerous, and the wise move is to get the hell away from these “mayo monsters” right now! Shapiro’s scenario of a black Scott Adams hired by the New York Times is not fanciful. Over the last 10 or 15 years, one of the fastest-growing sub-genres of hip journalism has been hit pieces accusing whites en bloc of being violent threats or (here with a bit more evidence) complete lunatics.

    In 2017, the New York Times, in fact, ran an op-ed literally titled “Can My Children Be Friends with White People?” From my quick but open-minded read-through, I gleaned that the author’s answer was “not really.” Over in the wilds of Medium, Sundiata Soon-Jahta wrote a popular piece a year ago that sounds almost verbatim like Scott Adams but in reverse. His title? “Why I Walked Away from White People.” And that’s just one example. Anyone curious about whether I am exaggerating for effect can simply search on a phrase such as “the problem with white women” and spend an edifying 15 minutes perusing the results.

    Adams is not stupid, but he does seem to be enmeshed in his own idiosyncratic worldview; that can result in expressing thoughts without regard to their likely impact.

Last Modified 2024-01-14 4:26 AM EDT

American By Day

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Caveat lector: this 2018 book by Derek B. Miller is a sequel to 2012's Norwegian By Night. I recommend you read that before you read this. (It's also set in the same universe as Miller's How to Find Your Way in the Dark, but you have my permission to read that one anytime you want.)

The protagonist here is Norwegian police detective Sigrid Ødegård. She's sort of troubled by her actions in that preceding book, although she's been exonerated from any wrongdoing by an official investigation. She is tasked by her father to go track down her estranged brother, Marcus, who has been living in America for years. And is now missing. She's reluctant, but the ticket has been purchased, and her dad insists, so…

Sigrid's investigation takes her to upstate New York, where she meets the unconventional sheriff Irving Wylie. And she finds out there might be a very good reason why Marcus is absent: the police really want to question him in the death of his girlfriend, Lydia. It turns out to matter that Lydia was black, and distraught over the police shooting of her nephew, Jeffrey. A child who was playing with a cap pistol. This has caused considerable racial tensions in the community.

And, as it turns out, sad events from Sigrid's and Marcus's childhood might be key to figuring out Marcus's current behavior.

This all sounds pretty grim, and it is, but Derek Miller brings (as usual) a considerable amount of humor. Sigrid's odd-couple interactions with Irving are particularly funny. (At least I think so, but my Norwegian-American genes might predispose me that way.) Such a mix is difficult to bring off, but Miller does a topnotch job.

It's one of the books I found myself imagining the cast of the FX miniseries. Let's see… Steven Root for Sheriff Wylie… except younger. Hollly Hunter for Sigrid… except younger. And Sigourney Weaver playing Sigourney Weaver, except youn… no, you know what? Current-day Sigourney would be just great.

Last Modified 2024-01-14 4:26 AM EDT