URLs du Jour

2022-02-25

  • Apt pictoral comment… from Mr. Ramirez

    [Good Men]

    … and for that matter, incompetent men to behave incompently, cowards to behave cowardly,… I'm no expert, but you don't have to be one to notice that.


  • Impressive. Politico's headline goes up against our PG-13 content target, but: ‘Go fuck yourself,’ Ukrainian soldiers on Snake Island tell Russian ship before being killed

    Russian forces have killed all the soldiers who were defending Zmiinyi Island, also known as Snake Island, located in the Black Sea.

    In a final display of defiance, a Ukrainian soldier told the warship that came to attack them: “Go fuck yourself.”

    I hope that courage wasn't in vain. But enough about Ukraine today; as I've repeatedly pointed out, I don't even have dilettante-level competence to comment on foreign policy or military matters.


  • Calling a spade a spade, and a tyrant… well, let's not be judgmental. Jonah Goldberg takes a look at a recent essay Yada Yada-ing Tyranny.

    Imagine I wrote a lengthy essay, with lots of footnotes, numbers, and interesting historical anecdotes, about the German economy from, say, 1932 to 1945. In it I’d make the case that German economic policies alleviated German poverty and improved infrastructure—gotta love that Autobahn!—and I’d argue Germany’s enlightened corporatist approach to industrial policy ensured full employment and real wage growth.

    It wouldn’t be hard to write such an essay. Such a case can be made, particularly if you’re not fastidious about cherry picking your data and examples.

    Now imagine you wrote that whole essay without once mentioning the Holocaust, slave labor, or Nazi expansionism. Call me crazy, but you might be open to the charge of missing the forest for the trees. Some might even accuse you of moral obtuseness—or worse.

    I bring up this hypothetical because over at American Affairs, Arnaud Bertrand, a businessman living in China, has written a lengthy essay extolling China’s economic success story, “How China Defeated Poverty.” And, frankly, I find it an atrocious whitewash.

    Details at the link, including the essay's recommendations from nationalist "conservatives" Sohrab Ahmari and Adrian Vermuele.


  • So let's have a chuckle. Eric Boehm notes the latest attempt at fiscal sanity: Hey, Nancy Pelosi: 'National Debt Should Be a Top Priority'

    Ahead of the annual congressional scramble to piece together a federal budget—a process that will begin in earnest after President Joe Biden's state of the union address next week—a bipartisan group of lawmakers are asking a question that's rarely part of the proceedings these days.

    How are we actually going to pay for all this?

    In a letter sent on Tuesday, 24 members of the House of Representatives called on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) to take some small but important steps to rein in America's out-of-control national debt. The letter highlights the fact that policies enacted during the past five years—including pandemic relief, but also "Congress' perennially broken budget process and fiscal policies"—have added $13 trillion to the projected levels of debt in 2031, at the end of the 10-year window Congress uses for budgeting.

    So I clicked over on that link to discover… Hey, one of those 24 CongressCritters was mine: Chris Pappas, NH-01!

    But the funny part is that Pappas has (so far) voted for every spendapalooza bill that's come his way since going to DC in 2019, including Build Back Better. Like many Democrat House members, his record of voting the way Biden wants is 100%.

    Having him plead for fiscal sanity now… well, it reminds me of the classic definition of chutzpah: when you murder your parents, then plead for mercy because you're an orphan.

    It looks as if he's being redistricted out of my town. It's a shame; I would have really liked to vote against him one more time..


  • "But waste was of the essence of the scheme." We looked at the (inevitable) fraud accompanying the spending which Chris Pappas enthusiastically supported yesterday. Now let's check out some waste, euphemistically described by the Cato headline: Protectionist Buy America Requirements Undermine Biden Administration’s Infrastructure Goals.

    Last November President Biden signed into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), a $1.2 trillion bill that the White House claims will produce benefits ranging from clean drinking water to enhanced broadband. What’s quickly becoming apparent, however, is that the IIJA’s ability to deliver such improvements is being undermined by protectionist measures included in the legislation.

    Buried within the IIJA—on page 866 of the 1,039-page bill—is the Build America, Buy America Act (BABA) which, as the name implies, imposes protectionist “Buy America” mandates requiring the use of U.S.-made products and materials. While such requirements have long been a costly feature of federal infrastructure spending, the BABA significantly increases their bite. Traditionally limited to transportation and water‐​related projects, the BABA expands the spectrum of public works subject to such protectionism to include projects such as dams, buildings, and electrical transmission facilities.

    [Classical headline reference.]


  • Whoa, didn't see that coming. I subscribe, expensively, to the print Wall Street Journal, because it's probably the least biased mainstream paper. And I like their editorial section. And their puzzles. But this news article in today's paper is a laugher: Inflation Threatens to Erode Impact of $1 Trillion Infrastructure Law

    Rising prices and snarled supply chains are poised to blunt the impact of the $1 trillion infrastructure law Congress passed with bipartisan support last year.

    How many roads, bridges, railways, fiber optic lines and other types of infrastructure the U.S. can build or fix under the law—a central accomplishment of President Biden’s that experts say is a generational investment—will largely hinge on the extent of increases in everything from the cost of diesel fuel to workers’ wages.

    Elevated costs for materials and labor are already pushing contractors to charge more for construction projects, government data show, increases that economists and industry officials say could reduce the number of infrastructure projects the new federal money can finance. State and local officials facing higher prices may give priority to easier, less ambitious projects, and some worry that a rush of government spending could exacerbate inflation in the industry.

    I love that citation of credulous "experts".

    But I love even more that "some worry" part at the end. You mean some people out there might realize that dumping a trillion of "free" money into "projects" might just drive up prices for scarce resources those projects require?

    I don't expect the editorial side of the paper will treat this chowderheaded article with the disrespect it deserves, but maybe we'll get a very diplomatic rebuttal.


  • Going together like chicken and waffles. The Antiplanner looks at something that seems to surprise even him: A New Level of Transit Incompetence. He discusses the ludicrously expensive efforts to expand BART out in the Santa Clara Valley, but I found this addon interesting too:

    […] the Twin Cities Metro Transit admitted that there would be huge cost overruns for the Southwest light-rail line that it is building to the wealthy suburb of Eden Prairie, and that the line could be delayed by four years. According to media reports, “original cost” for the project “was around $2 billion,” but the media has a short memory. In fact, back in 2011, the projected cost was just $1.25 billion, which means the current estimate of $2.75 billion is, after adjusting for inflation, around a 100 percent cost overrun.

    Incidentally, this is the line for which the Twin Cities’ Metropolitan Council introduced the concept of “regional transit equity.” At the same time as it proposed to spend well over a billion dollars to build a light-rail line to a wealthy suburb, it would also spend $3 million building around 200 bus shelters in poor neighborhoods in the region. $15,000 bus shelters for the poor; multi-billion-dollar trains for the rich: That’s social justice!

    Let them eat bus shelters!

    Also discussed: transit projects in Maryland and Hawaii, all examples of overpromising, under-delivering, and (above all) waste.

    Thanks to Chris Pappas, among others.


  • I can occasionally make an on-target observation. So we were finishing up watching the Amazon miniseries "Reacher", and as the bloke playing Reacher entered a diner in one of the final scenes, he avoided a gent going out. And I said the Mrs. Salad, hey, I think that was Lee Child!"

    Yay, me. According to IMDB, it was.


Last Modified 2022-03-02 6:25 AM EDT

The Spirit of Manchester

Remembrances of Life in Small Town South Dakota

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

In 1961, when I was 10 years old, my family moved to suburban Omaha, Nebraska. Soon afterward, Gary and Judy Marx moved in next door with their young son John. Their even younger son Daniel showed up a little bit later. Gary was an on-air personality at WOW radio (590AM); he had a deep confident voice perfect for radio of the day. (My own tastes were for KOIL, up at 1290 on the dial, the local top 40 station.)

They were great neighbors, deeply involved in community projects. Eventually we moved on. I went to college in California, my sister to Iowa State, and my mom moved to her old home town in Iowa after my dad died in 1972. Gary's talents and interests career took him on an American-dream path, best summed up by his Amazon author page. We remained Christmas-card acquaintances, with me reading in awe of their travels and careers.

Gary died in 2019, and this is his final book, given to my sister by Judy, passed along to me. It's the story of Gary's early life in Manchester, South Dakota, a very small town in central South Dakota, on US 14. If you were driving from Chicago to Yellowstone or the Black Hills before they built I-90, you probably went through, and may not have noticed it if you blinked.

The book includes a lot of stories about his family and upbringing, intertwining with the history of Manchester and environs. There's a lot to tell, and Gary paints a rich and detailed picture of life in the middle of South Dakota in the 1930s, 40s, and early 50s. These folks survived the Depression, the Dust Bowl, WWII, and did so with grit and humor.

There's not much left of Manchester except memories; it was fading even when the Marx family lived there. Gary was admonished to "watch out for wells and cisterns" while wandering through town, those left behind when houses and buildingss were razed. But a vicious F4 tornado in 2003 was the coup de grâce obliterating the town. Nobody was killed, but the few remaining inhabitants moved away. What's left is a monument, erected in 2017. (Pictured here, that's Gary and Judy on the left.)

How to Find Your Way in the Dark

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Another book plucked from the NYT list of The Best Mystery Novels of 2021. And, by coincidence, the third book this year set around World War II. The subject(s) listed in my library's catalog:

Murder -- Fiction | Stand-up comedy -- Fiction | Orphans -- Fiction | Antisemitism -- Fiction | Jews -- Fiction | Revenge -- Fiction | Hartford (Conn.) -- Fiction
A little out of order, but that could be a pretty good plot summary right there.

It begins in 1938, with 12-year-old Sheldon Horowitz returning with his father to their home in Massachusetts. They've been to Hartford for a memorial ceremony for Sheldon's dead mother, who perished with her sister in a movie theater fire. To add on to the dreadfulness, their truck is forced off the road by a malevolent stranger, and Sheldon's father is killed.

Orphaned Sheldon is stunned, and vows revenge. He's taken in by his widowed Uncle Nate, who has two older kids, Abe and Mirabelle. Nate works at the Colt Armory in Hartford, where he's being tasked by the manager to figure out how a few manufactured weapons are going astray. This winds up complicating Sheldon's quest quite a bit. Abe and Mirabelle have their roles to play as well, with their paths interacting with Sheldon's, and taking surprising, occasionally shocking, turns.

In fact, their stories take years to tell, going through World War II. A dizzying array of plot twists, including a sojourn to the famed Grossinger's Catskill Resort Hotel, where Sheldon and his buddy, Lenny Bernstein (but not that Lenny Bernstein) seek their futures.

That just scratches the surface. Sheldon is a tremendously likeable main character, full of guile, intelligence, and a surprising amount of wit for a kid. In fact, for a book with so much tragedy and death, there's also a considerable amount of comedy. It somehow works very well.


Last Modified 2022-02-27 4:09 AM EDT