Another Helicopter Money Drop

Kim Strassel is disgusted with Washington’s Welfare Uniparty, and I find it hard to disagree:

Four months after decapitating their own speaker for a supposed lack of conservative principle, House Republicans this week celebrated by collaborating with Democrats to pass a welfare blowout. Kevin McCarthy, we hardly knew ye.

Proving again that Congress is incapable of anything beyond redistributing other people’s money, 357 representatives passed another $78 billion spending bill. Add it to the pantheon of Nancy Pelosi-era bipartisan binges—the “infrastructure” bill, the semiconductor-welfare transfer, the $1,400 Covid checks. New GOP leadership, same debt-fueled status quo.

Don’t go looking for “reform” or “spending discipline” or any of the usual GOP catchwords in this blob. The beating heart of Wednesday’s package is two longtime Democratic priorities—increasing the size of the child tax credit and its availability to parents who don’t pay income tax. The left accomplished both during Covid and have worked fervently to resurrect them since they expired in 2021. Republicans granted their wish.

Only 70 CongressCritters voted Nay, 47 Rs, 23 Ds. You can see the tally here.

Also of note:

  • Where do I go to get an education around here? I can imagine a confused college student asking that. George Will notes the current state of higher education play: Rigor? No. Merit? You must be joking. Elite? Oh, so much elite..

    College admissions officers often made quite an impression on Doug Lemov’s children when, as prospective matriculants, they visited campuses. Lemov writes that often the first thing admissions staff said was: “[Fill in the name of elite college here] is not a school for people who want to spend their time in the library.” One admissions representative urged prospective enrollees not to worry about the requirement to take a “quantitative” class. “Really it’s easy to get around. Almost anything can count as a quantitative class.”

    The evidence abounds: Supposedly elite institutions — like most of today’s so-called elites — are nothing of the sort (see above). Lemov explains why.

    Lemov, an educator and writer about schooling, has published in Education Next a scalding essay (“Your Neighborhood School Is a National Security Risk”) about the crisis in the nation’s most important supply chain. It supplies knowledge, understanding and shared principles, such as the merits of meritocracy.

    Not to be xenophobic, but you can bet the Chinese are getting a chuckle out of that.

  • "Could you do my job for me, please?" Jacob Sullum is shaking his head at the latest demand from people you may have helped elect: 12 Senators Urge the DEA to Legalize Marijuana, Which Only Congress Can Do. After noting that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is considering reclassifying marijuana from a Schedule I ("high potential for abuse") substance to Schedule III…

    For good reason, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.), Sen. John Fetterman (D–Pa.), and 10 of their colleagues, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.), think that change does not go far enough. Rescheduling marijuana, they say in a letter they sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland and DEA Administrator Anne Milgram on Monday, "would mark a significant step forward" but "would not resolve the worst harms of the current system." They urge the DEA to "deschedule marijuana altogether," noting that its prohibition "has had a devastating impact on our communities and is increasingly out of step with state law and public opinion."

    Sullum details the legal argument, but the bottom line is the DEA can't do that. It's time for all those Senators who (undoubtedly) claim to believe in "Democracy" to do something small-d democratic: "repeal the federal ban on marijuana".

  • [Amazon Link]
    (paid link)
    Probably. Mostly. I'm currently reading Insanity: The Idea and Its Consequences by Thomas Szasz. He makes a strong case that mental illness is a metaphor, differing in important ways from physical illness. To load up on contrary opinions, I read Astral Codex Ten, who says: It's Fair To Describe Schizophrenia As Probably Mostly Genetic. But the argument seems to be more about language than science:

    For example, we commonly use language like “smoking causes lung cancer”. So when I ask “do genes cause schizophrenia?”, I’m not asking whether this is so perfectly and platonically true that no philosopher could ever nitpick any of its implications. I mean - do genes cause schizophrenia in the normal sense of causation that smoking causes lung cancer?

    Unlike AC10, I wince when I see people say "smoking causes lung cancer". I know it seems pedantic, but I'd prefer to phrase it in terms of risk: "Smoking increases your risk of lung cancer".

    The "cause" language seems pretty absolute: you do X, and Y is the result. It's the language we use talking to children: "If you play in the street, you'll get hit by a car."

    Risk (on the other hand) can be quantified, and rational adults can make their own decisions based on their risk tolerance. See the Wikipedia article on Micromorts for an example.

  • It's such a good idea, it will never be implemented. Bruce Schneier calls attention to A Self-Enforcing Protocol to Solve Gerrymandering.

    In 2009, I wrote:

    There are several ways two people can divide a piece of cake in half. One way is to find someone impartial to do it for them. This works, but it requires another person. Another way is for one person to divide the piece, and the other person to complain (to the police, a judge, or his parents) if he doesn’t think it’s fair. This also works, but still requires another person—­at least to resolve disputes. A third way is for one person to do the dividing, and for the other person to choose the half he wants.

    The point is that unlike protocols that require a neutral third party to complete (arbitrated), or protocols that require that neutral third party to resolve disputes (adjudicated), self-enforcing protocols just work. Cut-and-choose works because neither side can cheat. And while the math can get really complicated, the idea generalizes to multiple people.

    Well, someone just solved gerrymandering in this way. Prior solutions required either a bipartisan commission to create fair voting districts (arbitrated), or require a judge to approve district boundaries (adjudicated), their solution is self-enforcing.

    And it’s trivial to explain:

    And (um…) I didn't get his explanation, I had to click over to the paper to understand what was going on. Essentially, I think this is it

    Assumptions: a two-party state (Rs and Ds) with population P; to be divided into N voting districts. So each district should have P/N residents.

    1. One party draws a map with 2D areas of equal population, P/2N.
    2. And the other party draws the final map, making voting districts by pairing up adjacent areas.

    And that's it! There's math at the link.

Recently on the movie blog:


Last Modified 2024-02-04 4:25 AM EST

Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One

[3.5 stars] [IMDB Link]

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

At two hours and 43 minutes, this really could have used some tightening up. The gunfights, fistfights, knife fights, chase scenes, etc. just seem to go on and on. And there's a lot of Tom Cruise running. Impressive endurance and speed for a guy his age, but …

Guilty confession: it took me three tries to watch this all the way through; I kept falling asleep. I assume (like Top Gun Maverick) that it would have been better to watch in a movie theater, but I just didn't make it.

The plot seems to be an afterthought, not particularly coherent, just an excuse for all the running around, but as I understand it: there's an evil sentient AI afoot, dubbed the "Entity". The opening scene has it compelling a Russian submarine to (essentially) commit suicide. There's a key involved, which has two parts that must be fitted together. It does something important, something to do with "source code", but the Entity seems to operate just fine without the key in the ignition. The Entity has a human accomplice, Gabriel, who, years back, killed a lady Ethan Hunt was fond of. Captain America's girlfriend, Hayley Atwell, manages to snag one part of the key, which gets her involved. Two blond ladies of dubious morals. A desert shootout. A traitorous higher-up, see if you can pick him, or her, out.

All of that's fine, but I kind of miss the somewhat more laid-back TV show.

Another gripe: long, intense scenes where a group of people sit around and do plot exposition, each actor dropping a line in turn about what has happened, or needs to happen next. You get the feeling everyone's telling everyone else what they already know.

And yet, sure, I'm on board for Part Two. Probably in the theater.