URLs du Jour

2022-02-16

  • Well, darn it. P.J. O’Rourke has died. If you browse the conservative/libertarian sites, you'll find any number of remembrances, uniform in their depiction of Peej as a funny, smart, and profoundly decent guy.

    His books take up (I just measured) sixteen inches of shelf space at Pun Salad Manor. I've been a fan since the 70s, when I started reading his National Lampoon stuff in college. (Occasionally filthy, always funny, sometimes unexpectedly sweet.)

    Here's an excerpt from the NYT obit linked above:

    Becoming more libertarian than liberal, he went to New York in 1972 and there started writing for National Lampoon, which was founded in 1970. Among his more infamous articles for the magazine was one in 1979 titled “How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink.”

    He was a co-writer of Lampoon newspaper and yearbook parodies and helped promote the careers of John Belushi, Chevy Chase and Christopher Guest. From 1978 to 1980 he was the magazine’s editor in chief.

    “As the boss, I had the people skills of Luca Brasi in ‘The Godfather’ and the business acumen of the fellows who were managing New York’s finances in the 1970s,” he wrote in The Hollywood Reporter in 2015, in an article that carried the headline “How I Killed ‘National Lampoon.’”

    Certainly one our guiding mottos at Pun Salad is from his Parliament of Whores:

    Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.

    I've gathered a few links to appreciations, in no particular order:

    And, well, you get the idea. He will be profoundly missed, and his passing leaves a hole in our hearts.


  • Commentary on the Prime Minister of America's Hat:


  • They wish. Kevin D. Williamson (in one of his rare appearances outside the NR paywall) writes of The Forever Emergency.

    Some of us, it seems, are positively going to miss the Covid-19 epidemic.

    If there is a sense of impending post-pandemic lamentation from some of our progressive friends, it is because they believe that, contrary to the advice of bottom-feeding Chicago demagogue Rahm Emanuel, they have let a good crisis go to waste.

    The other Emanuel brother prominent in our public life, former Obama administration adviser Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel of the University of Pennsylvania, seems ready to let the Covid crisis go. In a conversation hosted by the Journal of the American Medical Association in January, he argued that while there remained work to be done in reducing Covid incidence and transmission, the emergency is coming to a close. “Covid should begin looking like a flu,” he said. “You get it, and you stay home so you don’t infect other people. When you’re feeling better, you can go into work, probably wearing a mask for a few days to reduce the chance of infection. We’re simply going to get back to the life that we’ve known, with some modifications.”

    Cynical me suspects that President Wheezy will announce victory over Covid in his State of the Union speech on March 1.

    That's what he means when he deems ending mask mandates "premature": it's not March 1 yet.


  • Or maybe we'll have to wait until November 8. Eric Boehm suspects The Midterms Will End the Pandemic.

    It takes a lot to make a libertarian look forward to the next election.

    Like, say, two years of miserable government mandates ignored by some of the very people imposing them. Like watching over 70,000 maskless adults (and many celebrities) partying at a major sporting event in a city where children are required to wear medical-grade masks to school and keep them on while playing sports. Like imposing border controls on immigration and travel meant to stop the spread of COVID-19, and then keeping them in place (with no off-ramp) long after the virus is spreading here.

    For once, we can be thankful that another election season is already upon us since politics is the last realm where the pandemic is dominating decision-making. The economy emerged from the omicron wave in better shape than expected. Sunday's Super Bowl was the latest signal that lots of Americans are done with the health theatrics of the past two years. But even the political class' commitment to COVID policy is wavering. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and President Joe Biden might be refusing to offer much hope that COVID-related mandates should be lifted soon, but they are increasingly being undone by rank-and-file Democrats who are looking at favorability ratings that are falling nearly as fast as COVID case counts.

    Eric could be right, but I'm still betting on March 1.


  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

    Bryan Caplan really tried to be a diligent scholar. But, he says, No One Cared About My Spreadsheets.

    The most painful part of writing The Case Against Education was calculating the return to education. I spent fifteen months working on the spreadsheets. I came up with the baseline case, did scores of “variations on a theme,” noticed a small mistake or blind alley, then started over. Several programmer friends advised me to learn a new programming language like Python to do everything automatically, but I’m 98% sure that would have taken even longer – and introduced numerous additional errors into the results. I did plenty of programming in my youth, and I know my limitations.

    I took quality control very seriously.  About half a dozen friends gave up whole days of their lives to sit next to me while I gave them a guided tour of the reasoning behind my number-crunching.  Four years before the book’s publication, I publicly released the spreadsheets, and asked the world to “embarrass me now” by finding errors in my work.  If memory serves, one EconLog reader did find a minor mistake.  When the book finally came out, I published final versions of all the spreadsheets underlying the book’s return to education calculations.  A one-to-one correspondence between what’s in the book and what I shared with the world.  Full transparency.

    Now guess what? Since the 2018 publication of The Case Against Education, precisely zero people have emailed me about those spreadsheets. The book enjoyed massive media attention. My results were ultra-contrarian: my preferred estimate of the Social Return to Education is negative for almost every demographic. I loudly used these results to call for massive cuts in education spending. Yet since the book’s publication, no one has bothered to challenge my math. Not publicly. Not privately. No one cared about my spreadsheets.

    My guess is that his readers were either (a) people like me, who just assumed he'd done things correctly; or (b) people who didn't like his thesis, but were too afraid that attempting to rebut his calculations would be fruitless.