Or: When Wilhelm Confronted Adolf

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At Law & Liberty, Samuel Gregg recalls When a Classical Liberal Confronted Nazi Terror.

Ninety years ago, Adolf Hitler was sworn into office as Chancellor of Germany. January 30, 1933, would be henceforth regarded by Germany’s National Socialists as the Machtergreifung: the day that the Nazis seized power and began consigning the Weimar Republic to its grave.

Hitler never made any secret of his intention to strike against those he saw as his enemies once his grip on power had been consolidated. It was thus at considerable personal risk that a young German economics professor delivered a public lecture in Frankfurt am Main, just eight days after Hitler took office, in which he made clear his opposition to the new government.

Wilhelm Röpke was already known as an outspoken critic of Nazism. He had even personally campaigned against the Nazi Party. “You will be complicit,” he wrote in one 1930 election pamphlet, “if you vote Nazi or for a party that has no reservations about forming a government with the Nazis.” That pointed “or” was a shot at those conservative political and military elites who, three years later, would allow Hitler into office under the illusion that they could control him.

I remember reading Röpke's A Humane Economy back in my college days, and being impressed. He never got the fame attached to Hayek or Mises, but (arguably) he managed to set West Germany on an irreversible free-market path after the devastation of World War II. Practical results should count for something.

Briefly noted:

  • At Reason, Elizabeth Nolan Brown points out a problem and offers some suggestions: The Most Popular Police Reforms Can't Stop the Next Tyre Nichols From Being Killed. Here's What Might. And Number One ("with a bullet") is:

    Get rid of secretive "elite" policing units like the SCORPION squad. The officers who killed Nichols were part of Memphis' "Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods" (SCORPION) squad, which was tasked with swarming crime "hot spots" and making pretextual traffic stops in order to try and stop or investigate serious crimes. "The SCORPION program has all the markings of similar 'elite' police teams around the country, assembled for the broad purpose of fighting crime, which operate with far more leeway and less oversight than do regular police officers," writes Radley Balko:

    Some of these units have touted impressive records of arrests and gun confiscations, though those statistics don't always correlate with a decrease in crime. But they all rest on the idea that to be effective, police officers need less oversight. That is a fundamental misconception. In city after city, these units have proven that putting officers in street clothes and unmarked cars‌, then giving them less supervision, an open mandate and an intimidating name shatters the community trust that police forces require to keep people safe.

    Units like these don't just suffer from a lack of transparency and use tactics likely to spawn violence. Their rhetoric attracts "police officers who enjoy being feared," Balko notes, and it positions these officers as both elite and beyond the normal rules. There are all sorts of horror stories about similar units, such as Detroit's STRESS unit ("Over a two-year period, the units killed at least 22 people, almost all of them Black") or Los Angeles' CRASH unit ("More than 70 officers were implicated in planting guns and drug evidence, selling narcotics themselves and shooting and beating people without provocation").

    Of course, one major thing on ENB's list: end qualified immunity.

  • Unsuprising headline of the day, from David Strom at Hot Air: Politifact is dishonest.

    Politifact is biased. All news sources are biased to some extent (I make no bones about being a conservative, although do my best to stick to the facts), although some are better about trying to be open and fair than others.

    Politifact? Browsing their site I have concluded that while they may think they are fair, they don’t come close.

    The first “fact check is a doozy, since their “Truth o Meter” and the content of their “analysis” contradict each other. They rate a claim “false” while their explanation for coming to the conclusion shows that it is, in fact, true. They just disagree with the implication.

    At issue is a TV ad that states: "Joe Biden and the New Left even promote surgery on teens and young adults, removing breasts and genitals."

    To put it as charitably as possible, Politifact does some extremely fine parsing of "promote" to accomplish its feat of rating this claim False.

    Click through to see Strom's other example.

  • What would we do without more physicists? You'll be wondering that after reading this Yahoo! news story, describing Why More Physicists Are Starting to Think Space and Time Are ‘Illusions’.

    This past December, the physics Nobel Prize was awarded for the experimental confirmation of a quantum phenomenon known for more than 80 years: entanglement. As envisioned by Albert Einstein and his collaborators in 1935, quantum objects can be mysteriously correlated even if they are separated by large distances. But as weird as the phenomenon appears, why is such an old idea still worth the most prestigious prize in physics?

    Coincidentally, just a few weeks before the new Nobel laureates were honored in Stockholm, a different team of distinguished scientists from Harvard, MIT, Caltech, Fermilab and Google reported that they had run a process on Google’s quantum computer that could be interpreted as a wormhole. Wormholes are tunnels through the universe that can work like a shortcut through space and time and are loved by science fiction fans, and although the tunnel realized in this recent experiment exists only in a 2-dimensional toy universe, it could constitute a breakthrough for future research at the forefront of physics.

    But why is entanglement related to space and time? And how can it be important for future physics breakthroughs? Properly understood, entanglement implies that the universe is “monistic”, as philosophers call it, that on the most fundamental level, everything in the universe is part of a single, unified whole. It is a defining property of quantum mechanics that its underlying reality is described in terms of waves, and a monistic universe would require a universal function. Already decades ago, researchers such as Hugh Everett and Dieter Zeh showed how our daily-life reality can emerge out of such a universal quantum-mechanical description. But only now are researchers such as Leonard Susskind or Sean Carroll developing ideas on how this hidden quantum reality might explain not only matter but also the fabric of space and time.

    Without space and time, we'd be seeing Everything Everywhere All at Once. For real.

    Also, as Steve Miller said: Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' Into the future.

  • We don't usually do RIPs here at Pun Salad, but we'll make an exception for Annie Wersching, who died at the age of 45 on Sunday. She had an impressive acting career, but I'm pretty sure I first noticed her as Renee Walker in 24, Jack Bauer's ally, briefly turned lover, then quickly turned sniper victim.

    Also noted her in Bosch playing a cop ally of Harry Bosch, and The Rookie playing a very menacing nemesis of John Nolan.

    The last time I saw her in a show was last season's Star Trek: Picard, playing the menacing Borg Queen. She was unrecognizable, being, well, a Borg. But she was very good.

    Amazing freckles, too. I'm a sucker for those.

Last Modified 2024-01-14 5:01 AM EST

Those Sacred Cows Look Mighty Tasty

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Eric Boehm notes that Rand Paul seems to be the only senator who's able to do basic arithmetic: If Republicans Want To Cut Spending, They Should Start With the Pentagon.

The fundamental problem for Republicans is that it's virtually impossible to balance the budget without cutting entitlements or the military. In fact, you'd have to cut 85 percent of the rest of the federal budget, according to an analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which advocates for lower deficits.

As much fun as that might be to watch, it's simply not politically possible.

Which means there is only one way forward, a way outlined on Wednesday by Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.).

"We have an opportunity here. It could be done. But it would take compromise between both parties," Paul said during a brief press conference held by a group of Senate Republicans. "Republicans would have to give up the sacred cow that says we will never touch a dollar in military [spending], and the Democrats would have to give up the sacred cow that they will never touch a dollar in welfare."

Mrs. Salad and I are watching October 2022 episodes of TiVo'd Celebrity Jeopardy!, and lordy are some of those celebrities dumb… Oops, sorry, that's not what I meant to say.

Here's what I meant to say: As an unwelcome side effect, I got to rewatch some of the attack ads against Don Bolduc (Republican running against Democrat Senator Maggie Hassan) and Karoline Leavitt (Republican running against Democrat CongressCritter Chris Pappas). Their modest—actually modest—proposals to reform entitlements were misrepresented, taken out of context, and scarified.

And it worked. Both Hassan and Pappas won easily.

I don't have much hope that we'll see any effort toward fiscal sanity in the near future.

Briefly noted:

  • The Josiah Bartlett Center's Drew Cline points out a continuing thorn in my side: The Interest & Dividends Tax is a New Hampshire disadvantage.

    Eight U.S. states have no income tax.

    New Hampshire is not one of them.

    The Interest & Dividends tax lingers. A tax on passive income is still a tax on income, and this one has given New Hampshire an asterisk by its name when listed among the nation’s low-tax states.

    At midnight on Dec. 31, 2020, Tennessee’s tax in interest and dividends ended, making it the eighth state with no tax on income. Six months later, New Hampshire legislators passed a budget that included a five-year phase out of our Interest & Dividends Tax.

    But with policymakers in other states chasing the New Hampshire Advantage ever more aggressively, there is interest in eliminating the I&D Tax by the end of 2023 rather than 2026.

    As Instapundit is wont to say: Faster, Please.

  • Jacob Sullum notes a dilemma for the enemies of the First Amendment: How Does California Define COVID-19 'Misinformation'? Judges Disagree, but Doctors Are Expected To Know.

    This week, a federal judge said California's definition of COVID-19 "misinformation" that can trigger disciplinary action against physicians is unconstitutionally vague. But in another case involving the same law last month, a different federal judge rejected that claim. That stark disagreement highlights the California State Legislature's carelessness in drafting this statute and the speech-chilling puzzle that doctors would face in trying to comply with it.

    Under A.B. 2098, which took effect on January 1, "it shall constitute unprofessional conduct for a physician and surgeon to disseminate misinformation or disinformation related to COVID-19, including false or misleading information" about "the nature and risks of the virus," "its prevention and treatment," and "the development, safety, and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines." The law defines "misinformation" as "false information that is contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus contrary to the standard of care."

    Jacob's bottom line:

    Two federal judges considered this statute and arrived at diametrically opposed conclusions about what it means. Slaughter, who was appointed by President Joe Biden last April after serving as a state judge in Orange County for eight years, thought the law's definition of misinformation was clear. Shubb, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, saw a hopeless muddle. Yet physicians without legal degrees or judicial experience are expected to figure out what the law requires, knowing that they are risking their licenses and livelihoods if they guess wrong. In those circumstances, self-censorship is both prudent and consistent with what California legislators apparently were trying to achieve.

    Or: Shut up, they explained.

  • Boston's Mayor Michelle Wu is trying to revive rent control in her city. Jeff Jacoby points out: As any economist can tell Mayor Wu, rent control never works.

    IN NOVEMBER 2021, voters in St. Paul, Minn., approved a strict new rent control measure that imposed a 3 percent annual ceiling on allowable rent hikes. Opponents warned that the new law would prove to be a disaster.

    It did.

    Before the law took effect, developers and builders moved quickly to freeze or cancel plans to erect new housing. During the first four months of 2022, the city issued just 200 residential building permits, compared with 1,391 during the same period a year earlier — an 86 percent drop. With energy costs and inflation surging, some landlords rushed to raise rents before the cap kicked in. Others notified tenants that they would henceforth have to pay a separate fee for utilities and trash pickup.

    As we've said in the past: when you claim that Policy X "doesn't work", you're usually assuming that politicians advocating X are being honest in their claims about what X will accomplish.

    I believe Mayor Wu's actual goal here is to throw red meat to the progressive know-nothings in her city, hence to get reelected. The damage her policies will cause is of minor importance.

Last Modified 2024-01-14 5:01 AM EST

The Phony Campaign

2024 Kickoff

[phony baloney]

The famed New Hampshire Presidential Primary is (probably) about a year away, although (you may have heard) the Democratic National Committee really, really, really doesn't want it to be FITN (first in the nation). Reporting on the latest DNC "OK, New Hampshire, we'll give you one more chance" effort contains pass-the-popcorn gold:

Several members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee voiced frustration with some New Hampshire Democrats during the meeting, arguing that some comments being made publicly are harmful to the party.

Leah Daughtry, a panel member representing New York, said it was incumbent on the committee to “set up a calendar that reflects a 21st-century voting reality, as opposed to something that happened 100 years ago.”

Daughtry said she was “taken aback and quite frankly shocked” by some New Hampshire Democrats saying they were surprised by the panel’s decision to re-work the order of states that get waivers to hold their primary elections early in the process.

“Hanging their argument on this 100-year-old privilege is really, for me as an African American woman, quite disturbing in as much as this law that they passed was passed even before Black people had the right to vote,” Daughtry said, adding it was also before women had the right to vote.

For the record, Black people have been voting in New Hampshire even before the 15th Amendment was ratified in 1870; women have been voting since 1920 (19th Amendment). The applicable law governing our primary timing is right here; it was enacted in 1975, and famously states that the primary must be held at least seven days ahead of any other state’s primary.

Like Robert Hoover said in Animal House, the FITN tradition has a long-standing tradition of existence to its citizens and the country at large.

But… um… where was I? Oh yeah: like the primary, Pun Salad has its own quadrennial tradition of looking at the phoniness of the weed-infested crop of presidential candidates. We've performed this unremunerated service for the 2008, 2012, 2016, and 2020 campaigns. Our current guidelines:

  • To start, we build our candidate list from Election Betting Odds (EBO), a site established in 2015 by Maxim Lott and John Stossel; it agglomerates actual data from a number of betting sites to come up with the probabilities for each candidate's success. Our inclusion criterion: if EBO shows someone with a 2% chance or greater to win the presidency, he or she is included in the polling.
  • We then Google each candidate's name (in quotes), adding the word "phony" to the search string.
  • And we scrape off Google's result count at the top of the first page of search results. And that tells us the current level of perceived phoniness for each candidate.
  • Ah, we hear you screaming: No, it doesn't! And you're right. We were kidding just then. This is a totally unscientific, meaningless, invalid metric. You might get different results. You probably will get different results.
  • It is kind of fun, through.
  • We will attempt to tabulate and post our results every Sunday from now until November 3, 2024, weather/health/etc. permitting. We'll append a few observations on the pages we find by following the Google links. Probably mostly snark, but there have been grazes with profound insights in past elections.
  • And we reserve the right to change the rules as we go for good reasons, bad reasons, or no reasons at all.

Without further ado, our initial results, sorted into descending order of phoniness. We show a solid lead for an upstart:

Candidate EBO Win
Hit Count
Ron DeSantis 23.2% 4,760,000
Pete Buttigieg 2.1% 1,460,000
Nikki Haley 3.3% 1,130,000
Donald Trump 17.0% 939,000
Joe Biden 23.1% 382,000
Kamala Harris 4.1% 95,400
Gavin Newsom 3.9% 41,700

Trump and Biden in fourth and fifth places?! I demand a recount!

In the name of fairness, let's see if we can come up with something phony for each of our seven contenders:

  • Ah, I know why Governor DeSanctimonious is in the lead! Here's the top link as I type, from Politico: Trump hits DeSantis: He's a Covid skeptic phony.

    On Saturday, Trump took his sharpest swings at DeSantis to date, accusing the governor of “trying to rewrite history” over his response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Trump said DeSantis, who has been openly skeptical about government efforts to vaccinate people against the virus, “promoted the vaccine as much as anyone.” He praised governors who did not close down their states, noting that DeSantis ordered the closure of beaches and business in some parts of the state.

    “When I hear that he might [run] I think it’s very disloyal,” Trump said.

    “He won’t be leading, I got him elected,” he said. “I’m the one that chose him.”

    The word "phony" does not appear in Politico's article other than in the headline, and (specifically) not in Trump's quotes. Still, I suppose it's implied. And, for Trump, the sin of disloyalty (to him) far outweighs phoniness.

  • First up for Mayor Secretary Pete is an oldie, from the NYPost back in 2021:

    He’s the Buttigieg of jokes.

    Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was mocked by conservative critics online after a video appeared to show security staffers unloading his bike from the back of an SUV so that he could “ride” to an April 1 Cabinet meeting.

    Two SUVs then followed the millennial Cabinet secretary to his meeting as he pedaled off. Full video was posted online by local WFMZ-TV.

    Fact-checkers, it should be noted, pounced to Pete's defense. Here's PolitiFact:

    We reached out to Buttigieg’s office at the Department of Transportation but didn’t hear back. However, an agency spokesperson told Snopes and Lead Stories that the clip shows part of what was a round trip for Buttigieg. "He rode his bike to the White House Cabinet meeting and he rode his bike back to DOT after the meeting," the spokesperson was quoted by Snopes as saying.

    The ride from the White House to DOT headquarters is more than 3 miles one-way — roughly 20 minutes by bike, according to Google Maps.

    OK, let's give him his "round trip" from the DOT to the White House and back.

    Not discussed by Politifact: was it a transparently phony staged gimmick? You bet.

  • I confess I really like Nikki Haley. But fair's fair. Here's Nick Catoggio at the Dispatch:

    If you want to know whether Donald Trump’s political stock is up or down within the Republican establishment, watch Nikki Haley.

    She’s my favorite weathervane. Not a well calibrated weathervane, as we’re about to see. But if the slightest breeze is blowing against him among the institutional party, the Haley-o-meter will detect it and start to whirl.

    She began as an adversary. In January 2016, with Trump leading GOP primary polls, Haley delivered the party’s rebuttal to the State of the Union with a shot at its anti-immigration presidential frontrunner. “During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices,” she said. “We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.”

    Ten months after warning about “the siren call” of his angry voice, Haley agreed to join Trump’s new administration. The weathervane had spun for the first time.

    And it went through a few more whirls since then.

  • Hey, how about that Donald? The Hill reports:

    Former President Trump called for school principals to be elected by students’ parents in a new campaign video released on Thursday.

    “More than anyone else, parents know what their children need,” Trump said. “If any principal is not getting the job done, the parents should be able to vote to fire them and select someone who will. This will be the ultimate form of local control.”

    Glad to see he's discovered another clause in Article II, giving the President the power to micromanage the administrator hiring/firing policies of local government schools.

    Just kidding. The mechanism he's proposing is the usual Federal carrot, making funding dependent on local schools implementing his desired policy. Still, a stupid idea.

  • Eric Boehm reported on President Wheezy for Reason back in May: Joe Biden's Phony Fiscal Responsibility.

    The national debt is at an all-time high and this year's budget deficit is forecasted to be the third or fourth-largest in American history—but President Joe Biden claims these are signs that his administration is overseeing a period of fiscal austerity.

    Really! Here are some words that actually tumbled out of the president's mouth at a press conference on Wednesday morning: "We're on track to cut the federal deficit by another $1.5 trillion by the end of this fiscal year. The biggest decline ever in a single year, ever, in American history."

    "And the biggest decline on top of us having a $350 billion drop in the deficit last year, my first year as president," Biden continued. "The bottom line is that the deficit went up every year under my predecessor—before the pandemic and during the pandemic—and it's gone down both years since I've been here. Period. They're the facts."

    Those facts, however, exclude a few key details. Like the fact that Biden took office the year after the budget deficit hit previously unimaginable highs due to a completely unprecedented spending binge triggered by a once-in-a-generation public health disaster.

    Duh, right. Still I suppose there are some easily-impressed folks out there.

  • I think our method significantly underestimates the manifest phoniness of Kamala Harris. For her, let's dig out this old campaign video:

    Never hurts to be reminded.

  • And finally, Campus Reform claims Pro-life student misrepresented in Gavin Newsom pro-abortion ad…again

    For the second time, California Governor Gavin Newsom is under fire for misrepresenting a pro-life student in a pro-abortion video released by the Office of the Governor.

    “Our basic rights are being stripped away. It's not just reproductive rights. The @GOP are fighting to take away fundamental freedoms -- the freedom of speech. To vote. To live without gun violence,” Newsom’s tweet reads.

    Lee University student Macy Petty, the victim of Newsom’s political ad, is portrayed as a crying pro-abortion protestor the day of the overturn of Roe v. Wade, as the words “I would say panic is the primary reaction” are spoken.

    Although Petty was emotional the day Roe was overturned, the true reason she was shedding tears was different than what is portrayed in the video.

    Gavin, you're in California. You can't hire an aspiring actress to pretend to be a weeping college student?

That's it for now. See you next week!

Last Modified 2023-01-29 1:13 PM EST

There is Treasure to be Desired and Oil in the Dwelling of the Wise

Nothing about gas in Proverbs 21:20, though. So without biblical guidance, Kim Strassel looks at The Campaign to Ban Gas Stoves.

Don’t believe for a second Consumer Product Safety Commission member Richard Trumka Jr.’s slippery claim that they aren’t coming for your stove. Or the media narrative that Republicans are “hyping” a new “culture war” by “pretending” the Biden administration intends to ban gas stoves.

The reason gas stoves are in the news is simple: There is a coordinated, calculated—and well-funded—strategy to kill them off. It’s the joint enterprise of extremely powerful climate groups, working with Biden administration officials who have publicly stated their aim to eliminate all “combustion appliances” in homes. Only after the GOP called them out did anyone pretend otherwise.

<voice imitation="horatio_caine">So would that be …

    ( •_•)>⌐■-■

<voice imitation="roger_daltrey">YEEEAAAHHHH!</voice>

Briefly noted:

  • Steven Greenhut seems to think so, anyway: Gas Stove Ban Backlash Has Progressives Gaslighting America.

    After my column last week about environmentalists' apparent desire to make our lives miserable as they try to improve the environment, I heard from progressives who accused me of jumping on the Fox News bandwagon. That's because I pointed to their latest crusade to highlight the supposed danger of natural-gas stoves.

    "I'd laugh my ass off about all the dipsticks freaking out about the imaginary war on gas stoves, but sadly, it's an indication of just how dumb and easily led so many people are," wrote one former journalist on Twitter. That echoed a common theme: conservatives are engaged in their latest unsubstantiated freak-out regarding some "reasonable" policy.

    I've de-bowdlerized "ass" in the above excerpt.

    For those who haven't seen the old Hitchcock movie, the psychological trick of gaslighting is described here.

  • We don't often quote LTE's but it's Adam Thierer's letter, and it's in the WSJ, and he makes an excellent point, so… EU-Style Regulation Begets EU-Style Stagnation.

    The only thing Europe exports now on the digital-technology front is regulation. That is why it is mind-boggling that William Barr (“Congress Must Halt Big Tech’s Power Grab,” op-ed, Jan. 23) joins President Biden (“Unite Against Big Tech Abuses,” op-ed, Jan. 12) in calling for America to lead from behind on technology policy, following in the footsteps of the European Union rather than further developing one of the largest sectors of our economy.

    Neither mention the staggering costs of the EU’s big-government regulatory crusade against digital tech: Stagnant markets, limited innovation and a dearth of major players. Overregulation by EU bureaucrats led Europe’s best entrepreneurs and investors to flee to the U.S. or elsewhere in search of the freedom to innovate.

    To paraphrase what Boyd Crowder asked Devil just before shooting him in the chest: ""Whatever led you in your imagination to believe government could pull this off?"

  • A contrarian take on poultry farming from River Page: Cage The Chickens.

    Let’s talk about the “cage-free” hen.

    First of all, chickens are violent animals even in the most idyllic settings. As a kid in rural East Texas, my family kept yard hens — never more than a dozen or so at a time — with a large coop for nesting and full run of the property. We raised chickens in the Platonic ideal of “cage-free,” the exact sort of pastoral environment egg marketing teams try to evoke. Still, on occasion, we would walk outside and find that, some time between the night and morning, the hens had encircled one of their flockmates and literally torn her apart.

    These occurrences are much more common in commercial “cage-free” environments. Wayne Hsiung, an investigator for the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere witnessed hens eating each other alive in a Costco cage-free egg farm. The process by which hens cannibalize each other is horrific and the details are grisly. In the typical cannibalism scenario, after finding a vulnerable target, sororicidal hens target her cloaca — the soft, fleshy part of the chicken from which she lays eggs and produces excrement. The victim hen dies slowly, as her flockmates eviscerate her from the inside out.

    Yeesh. Store brand eggs ($4.89/dozen, as I type) for me. The PBS-advertised "free range" eggs from Pete & Gerry's go for $5.49 for a half dozen, and they are not guaranteed to be cannibal-free.

Facts Don't Need Checking. Assertions Do.

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Bjørn Lomborg was a victim: Partisan ‘Fact Checkers’ Spread Climate-Change Misinformation.

Partisan “fact checks” are undermining open discourse about important issues, including climate change. Earlier this month I wrote an accurate post on Facebook about the growing polar-bear population. The post undercut alarmist climate narratives, so it was wrongly tagged as a falsehood.

Activists have used polar bears as an icon of climate apocalypse for decades, but the best data show that far from dying out, their numbers are growing. The official assessments from the leading scientists who study these animals—the Polar Bear Specialist Group within the International Union for Conservation of Nature—peg the global population today at 22,000 to 31,000. That’s higher than the 5,000 to 19,000 polar bears scientists estimated were around in the 1960s.

Polar bears aren't going away anytime soon. But if they do, we can always spraypaint some grizzlies.

Briefly noted:

  • Jeff Maurer has entertaining advice for his fellow leftists. "OMG Stop Freaking Out!!!" is a Bad Response to Right-Wing Freak-Outs. Now let's see if I can find a PG-rated excerpt…

    One more example: Critical Race Theory in schools. This was a big issue during the off-year campaigns of 2021, and the official Democratic talking point was that Critical Race Theory was not being taught in schools. Which was technically true, but it ignored the fact that there was some weird lefty garbage seeping into curriculum; I parodied this semantic dodge in an article called We Are NOT Teaching Post-Funk Techno-Industrial Nü-Metal In Schools! We Are Teaching Funk-Infused Synthetic Post-Punk Neo-Metal. Voters did not did not appear to buy Democrats’ cheeky linguistic sidestep, perhaps because many apostles of the Racial Reckoning framed the movement as the most momentous event since the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. You can’t tell people that your movement is crucial and important and urgent and broad but also no big deal OMG you are being, like, SO DRAMATIC!!!

    I think that this is what it appears to be: Some people on the left have some very goofy ideas. Sometimes, one of those ideas will seep into the mainstream and immediately become the object of ridicule. At that point, the person’s posture quickly shifts to: “Haha jk y’all I fer reals can’t believe u think that I thought that!”

    Other examples Jeff cites: the Green New Deal, banning gas stoves, "woke" M&Ms.

    I think a sensible right-winger could write nearly exactly the same article, interchanging "left" and "right" and coming up with different examples. We live in a time where freak-outs are the norm.

  • And then there are those who have left freaking-out behind, and moved on to the next stage. Charles C. W. Cooke notes a prominent one: Trump Has Completely Lost His Grip on Reality.

    Let’s check in on the shadow primary for the 2024 Republican nomination. Nikki Haley is putting together a finance committee, and suggested last week that she’s “leaning in” to a run. Mike Pompeo has just published a book called Never Give an Inch, and told CBS yesterday that he’ll decide whether to enter the fray over the “next handful of months.” Governor Ron DeSantis has continued to pick winning fights in Florida since being reelected in a November landslide, and has stayed assiduously quiet about his future.

    And then there’s Donald Trump, who, despite being the only candidate who has officially announced his bid, is . . . well, ranting like a deranged hobo in a dilapidated public park. No, don’t look at him — he might come over here with his sign.

    There was a point in time at which Trump’s unusual verbal affect and singular nose for underutilized wedge issues gave him a competitive edge. Now? Now, he’s morphing into one of the three witches from Macbeth. To peruse Trump’s account on Truth Social is to meet a cast of characters about whom nobody who lives beyond the Trump Extended Universe could possibly care one whit. Here in the real world, the border is a catastrophe, inflation is as bad as it’s been in four decades, interest rates have risen to their highest level in 15 years, crime is on the up, and the debt continues to mushroom. And yet, safely ensconced within his own macrocosm, Trump is busy mainlining Edward Lear. Day in, day out, he rambles about the adventures of Coco Chow and the Old Broken Crow; the dastardly Unselect Committee; the (presumably tasty) Stollen Presidential Election; the travails of that famous law-enforcement agency, the Gestopo; Joe Scarborough’s wife “Mike”; and other unusual characters from Coromandel. “Where the early pumpkins blow / In the middle of the woods / Lived the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò / Who STOLLE THE ELECTION / Don’t you know?”

    There's a need for a Star Trek-like solution here, as in the heavy-handed episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield": beam Trump and Biden to an island where they can work on their mutual hatred. And leave the rest of us alone.

  • You can't say you weren't warned. Specifically, by the WaPo: Potential Biden challenger Marianne Williamson heads to New Hampshire.

    Author and activist Marianne Williamson, who is considering a second campaign for president against President Biden, plans to visit New Hampshire in the coming weeks to help her make “a more informed decision” about her political future, she said in a statement.

    The visit comes as the New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley has warned national Democratic leaders in a letter that the current plan to deny the state the first primary in the nation will force an unsanctioned event and “create an opening for an insurgent candidate — serious or not — who can garner media attention and capitalize on Granite Stater’s anger about being passed over by [Biden’s] campaign.”

    Via Ann Althouse, who notes the creative word choices of Ms. Williamson:

    “If I run, there are forces within the Democratic Party who would be trying to invisibilize me,” said Williamson, who also scheduled an event in the state last October. “I think they will have an easier time invisibilizing me if I run third party. If I do run, and I run as a Democrat, I will be more inconvenient to the people who need to be inconvenienced.”

    Help, I've been invisibilized!

Last Modified 2024-01-14 5:01 AM EST

Not Sure Which

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Well, that was kind of a long break for Pun Salad. I blame the weather. But onward:

Eric Boehm takes a look at a recent floated bad idea: Tariffs Targeting Carbon Emissions Would Be a Costly Blow to Free Trade.

Last month, the White House reportedly sent a proposal to the European Union that would see the U.S. and Europe (and presumably other countries like Canada and the United Kingdom) form a consortium that would agree to impose high tariffs on steel and aluminum produced outside the consortium. The goal, according to The New York Times, would be two-fold: "to bolster domestic industries in a way that also mitigated climate change."

The environmental angle is that countries with higher environmental standards for the production of steel and aluminum would make it more expensive for their domestic businesses to import metal made in places like China, where the environmental standards are less strict. The economic angle, of course, is that steel- and aluminum-consuming industries in America and Europe would end up having to pay artificially inflated prices—while steel and aluminum manufacturers would benefit from the added levels of protectionism.

And Congress made it possible for Biden to impose such tariffs "thanks to Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which delegates presidential authority over tariffs for issues relating to national security." And "national security" now also includes "climate change".

Briefly noted:

  • Andrew C. McCarthy answers your burning question: Why Biden Consented to an FBI Search.

    Remember the timeline here. The first batch of classified documents was found illegally stored in Biden’s office on November 2—i.e., over two-and-a-half months before the FBI finally conducted Friday’s search. Contrary to Biden’s claim of self-reporting, he did not report that discovery—evidence of a serious crime—to law enforcement. Rather, his private lawyers reported it to the Biden White House, which then notified not the Justice Department but the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). It appears Biden was hoping NARA would just return the documents to the files and no one would be any the wiser.

    The discovery, however, came to the attention of NARA’s inspector general—the watchdog official who reports agency wrongdoing to Congress. It was the IG’s office that, on November 4, notified the Biden Justice Department.

    At that point, DOJ had to know that Biden had illegally maintained the documents in at least two unauthorized locations: He removed them at the end of the Obama administration in January 2017, but the Biden Penn Center did not open until February 2018, so the documents had to be kept someplace else in the meantime.


  • In the Pun Salad "It Was Also One Of The Worst Star Trek Movies" department, Kevin D. Williamson reminds us that Nemesis Is a Comedian.

    If you spend any time wading through the incomprehensibilities of right-wing Twitter (I do not recommend it), then you will have noticed how prominent the slur “cuck”—for “cuckold”—is among a certain kind of cartoonish, self-proclaimed “alpha male.” One of the loudest and most histrionic of these was a certain John Goldman, who called himself “Jack Murphy” and was a prominent figure associated with the Claremont Institute for a while. Naturally, he turned out to be a literal cuckold and a performer in amateur homoerotic pornography. “Queer as Volk,” as Rod Dreher summarized the scene. His story is one of the reasons I despair of ever finishing my satirical novel about the American Right—one simply cannot keep up.

    I suppose I should clarify here (since I have been writing about pornography for a long time) that the cuckoldry that provides the natcons’ rhetorical framework isn’t simply Arthur-and-Guinevere stuff, the usual tale of infidelity and an unhappy marriage, but rather a humiliation-oriented subgenre of gay pornography in which the subject of the scene is forced to perform certain homosexual acts as a form of ritual degradation. It ought to tell us something useful—something worth knowing—that one very energetic branch of the right-wing world takes both its rhetoric and its moral analysis from the conventions of homoerotic pornography: The cartoonish “alpha male” posturing bears a very strong resemblance to the hypermasculine Tom of Finland-flavored iconography of the postwar gay subculture not because the world of national conservatives is full of repressed homosexuals (even if Donald Trump seems to have inherited Liberace’s interior decorator and the soundtrack for his wildly popular rallies—showtunes, the Village People, and, invariably, “Memory” from Cats—seems to have been lifted from a campy wake circa 1987) but because both groups are responding in an exaggerated way to insults to their masculinity. Or were, rather: There are a lot more married gay men these days and a lot fewer who dress up like members of a Waffen-SS motorcycle gang.

    Probably more there about right-wing Twitter than you want to know.

  • Eric Boehm (in his second appearance today) notes the vacuous irresponsibility of a couple Republicans: Donald Trump and J.D. Vance Say No Cuts for Social Security. That's Impossible and Unserious..

    As Congress prepares for a fiscal policy fight over raising the federal government's debt ceiling, former President Donald Trump and one of the rising stars of the national conservative movement have issued a sharp demand: Don't touch Social Security.

    "Under no circumstances should Republicans vote to cut a single penny from Medicare or Social Security," Trump said in a video message released by his presidential campaign Friday night. Shortly afterward, Sen. J.D. Vance (R–Ohio) posted his agreement, tweeting that "Trump is 100 percent correct."

    Refusing even to consider changes to Social Security might be a tidy way to pander to older Americans, but it's not a functional plan for entitlements. In fact, it's actually an impossible situation.

    I liked Viking Pundit's response to the Hot Air query: So we're doing Social Security reform again?

    No...no we're not.  The flailing Biden administration is already spreading the well-worn biannual lie to scare Grandma.  Republicans will recoil from any reform effort and nothing will change.  The only way there will ever be any reform is if responsible politicians start with the fact that Social Security is going broke.

Last Modified 2024-01-14 5:01 AM EST

Chapterhouse: Dune

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Consumer note: I own the original hardcover version of this 464-page book, original retail price $17.95, plucked off a remainder shelf for $4.98. Which I will never get back.

Also not getting back: the time I spent reading it. But this finishes my ill-conceived reading project, Frank Herbert's final entry in the Dune series. Previous reports: here, here, here, here and here. To repeat somewhat from those reports: not much happens until the very end; there are a lot of people talking, pretentiously and portentously, including talking to themselves. Random italics and exclamation points!

I must admit: most of the time I had no clue what was going on. And I didn't care much. I lost interest, not caring what happens to the tediously chattering characters or to their entire freaking universe.

There are bad guys: the Honored Matres have returned from the "Scattering", and they are on a quest to destroy the Bene Gesserit, which involves exterminating billions of people and obliterating their planets. In the last book, the original Dune, Arrakis, was blowed up real good. One subplot involves Sheeana, queen of the sandworms, struggling to desertify the planet Chapterhouse, where the Bene Gesserit survivors are huddled, plotting their counterattack. Will Dune's sandworms find a new home? Oh right: I don't care.

I should mention that the very end of the book has Frank Herbert's moving tribute to his wife, who died while he was writing the book. (And Frank himself passed away a little later.) Pair this up with son Brian Herbert's equally moving introduction to the book, which is not in my copy, but you can read at the book's page at Amazon. Brian has co-written sequels and other entries in the universe; good for him, but I will pass.

Last Modified 2024-01-14 5:00 AM EST

The Right

The Hundred-Year War for American Conservatism

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This book has earned some well-deserved praise for its even-handedness. The author, Matthew Continetti, is a contributing editor at National Review; his Wikipedia page will tell you that he was previously at the Weekly Standard. He has a gig at the American Enterprise Institute. Conservatives, he is calling from inside the house.

Continetti tells a pretty standard story of conservatism's rocky road since 1920 and Harding/Coolidge. He takes a look at the ups (e.g., Reagan) and downs (e.g., Taft, Hoover, …) of conservative fortunes in the GOP and in American politics. It's also a 40,000-foot view of American history over the past century, stories that have to be told in order to make sense out of the politics. There are also a lot of thumbnail sketches of (mostly) conservative journalists and political philosophers over the time period. And their associated institutions.

One downside: it's a fast trip, and the coverage is necessarily superficial. But an overriding theme is the stresses and strains between different flavors of conservatism. There's neos, paleos, free-marketers, populists, … And, unfortunately, some folks who could be described as racists, anti-semites, grifters, conspiracy theorists, and even some lunatics. It would have been easy to neglect the various ugly spots in conservatism's history, but Continetti does not.

Fun fact: Continetti was born a few months after Ronald Reagan's first inauguration. So he's telling a lot of these stories second-hand at best. Given his youth, he does a fine job.

Something I didn't know: National Review's publisher, Bill Rusher, was livid when Bill Buckley hired George F. Will to write a column for the magazine; he campaigned to have Will fired. And usual writer Stan Evans quit rather than to work at the same magazine as Will. Will's problem: he saw through Nixon, and wrote the truth.

Last Modified 2024-01-14 5:00 AM EST

The Handmaid's Tale

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Back at the end of 2021, I started a reading project based on the New York Times shortlist of the 25 books from which they asked their readers to pick "the best book of the past 125 years". I had read 11 of them, so 14 went on the to-be-read list. I'm making decent progress, I think. After reading this, this, this, this, this, this, this, and now The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. I have six to go.

I was prepared to dislike it. It was written in the 1980s, an era of panicked warnings about the Moral Majority Menace, etc,, so I was prepared for a feminist men-are-incipient-fascist-scum screed. Instead, it's a well-written saga of a woman, given the name "Offred", trapped in an intricately-designed dystopia named the "Republic of Gilead". Yes, the dystopia is based on a facile feminism, but Atwood does not beat the reader over the head with that.

Most of the action takes place in a horribly transformed Cambridge, Massachusetts. For example, the regime's transgressors are executed and hung on a wall surrounding Harvard University.

And why not? In an introduction to the edition I read, Atwood notes that Harvard was once a Puritan institution. And it's not difficult to imagine that the strident moralism afflicting us today could easily mutate into a 180° different scenario.

Offred tells her story in a disjointed first-person narrative, with her present plight interspersed with flashbacks to her pre-Gilead life with her husband and small daughter. Environmental catastrophe has apparently caused massive infertility. So after she's caught trying to escape all the oppression, Offred is assigned as a "handmaid" to a "Commander" for breeding purposes. And that breeding is carried out in a ritualistic and creepy fashion. (They assign this in schools? Really?) The regime's "Eyes" are everywhere, looking for the slightest sign of disobedience or insubordination.

No spoilers, but Offred's situation is precarious; her handmaid status is contingent on her possible fertility. If that goes off the table, she's destined for a worse fate. And neither she, nor the folks running the Gilead show aren't immune from urges to deviate from the official puritanism. Things build to a suspenseful climax.

And, since I went into the book not knowing much about the details, I was pleasantly surprised by the final section. And since I've been to a couple of those sorts of gatherings myself, I could only think, "The more things change…"

Last Modified 2024-01-14 5:00 AM EST

That Was Then…

And this is now:

(Inspired by an item in Power Line's "Week in Pictures". Which is often a hoot.)

Briefly noted:

  • A helpful article from Julian Adorney and Mark Johnson at the Foundation for Economic Education: The Opponents of Free Speech Are Gaining Ground. Here’s How We Can Fight Back. They note the 1960s Marcusian roots of today's demands for "repressive tolerance". But what to do? Skipping to the end:

    First, speak up about what you know to be true—even if no-one else is speaking up, even if there are risks to you. Develop the courage to call a spade a spade. If you see insanity—in your workplace, in politics, in your home—call it out openly and honestly. You’ll sleep better at night. You’ll also become stronger through the act of speaking out. Speaking takes courage, but it also creates courage.

    Second, seek out people who disagree with you. Listen to them. Go further; try to be persuaded by them. Skewer your sacred cows and let go of your ideology. Neither one is serving you.

    Third, banish forever (if you haven’t yet) the infantile notion that words are violence. This notion is profoundly damaging, because it makes you weak. If mere disagreement can hurt you, after all, then so can everything else in life. So will everything else in your life. Instead, embrace the adage of the Stoics: other people are responsible for their actions, you are responsible for your response. Once you embrace the idea that mere words—whether vicious or merely heterodox—cannot hurt you, you are on the path to emotional strength and groundedness.

    Fourth, don’t let yourself become a “tribe of one.” It’s easy, in this environment of chilled speech, to always feel scared to speak up. Find a group of friends who encourage you to speak your truth, and who speak their truth in return to you. Find people who aren’t afraid to share heterodox ideas and to challenge your sacred cows, nor to have their own challenged in return.

    Find a group you’d trust to have your back in a firefight, and who will love you and expect you to have theirs in turn.

    Being a "tribe of one" myself, I'm kind of failing on that last point. Also, with respect to that first point, I'm not sure how much courage it takes to write a blog that nobody reads.

    Still, good advice. You might be better at this stuff than I, and the country needs people who are very good at this stuff.

Schiff Happens

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A new Congress brings all sorts of mischief, including proposed constitutional amendments. Term limits! Balanced budgets! Lowering the voting age! Forbidding court packing!

David Harsanyi looks at a really bad one: Adam Schiff And A Band Of Democrats Propose Overturning The First Amendment.

Adam Schiff and a group of Democrats introduced a proposed constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision, one of the greatest free-speech victories in history.

It’s just a political stunt, of course, as Schiff doesn’t have the votes. But it does reflect the authoritarian outlook of the contemporary left on free expression. From the day the decision came down, 13 years ago this week, Citizens United was a rallying cry for those threatened by unregulated discourse. President Barack Obama infamously, and inaccurately, rebuked the justices during his State of the Union for upholding the First Amendment. Since then, Democrats have regularly blamed the decision for the alleged corrosion of “democracy.”

Congress.gov has the full information about Schiff's proposal. It greenlights "appropriate" legislation to "impose reasonable viewpoint-neutral limitations on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections."

I could, but won't, go into the many reasons why this would be horrible. See Harsanyi for that.

But I checked the list of cosponsors to see if either of New Hampshire's congresscritters have signed on to this torpedoing of the First Amendment. Nope. At least not so far.

Adam Schiff seems to be vying for some sort of anti-Voltaire award: "I disapprove of what you say, and so I will try to take away your right to say it." The WSJ editorialists take a look at another facet of his wannabe Big Brotherism: Adam Schiff, Disinformation Man. The issue: the so-called "Nunes memo" that documented the FBI's abuse of the FISA court in investigating the bogus "Russiagate" scandal.

The latest Twitter documents released by journalist Matt Taibbi have exposed another Schiff falsehood. As news broke that Mr. Nunes had submitted his then-classified memo to Congress, Twitter exploded with the hashtag “#ReleaseTheMemo.” Mr. Schiff—still trying to block the memo’s release—joined ranking Senate Judiciary Democrat Dianne Feinstein to publicly claim this hashtag was driven by “Russian bots and trolls” in an effort to “manipulate public opinion,” “influence congressional action” and “undermine Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller’s investigation” into the collusion claim.

The Democrats asked Twitter and Facebook to “expose and deactivate accounts involved in this influence operation.” Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse released their own public letter bemoaning “Russian agents” who so “eagerly manipulated innocent American citizens.”

No doubt he would consider this censorship effort as a "reasonable viewpoint-neutral limitation" of Twitter and Facebook.

(And, yes reader, I realize that Voltaire didn't say "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.")

About today's Eye Candy: Like the thing Voltaire didn't say, the saying on our Amazon Product du Jour is true and insightful.

But at Amazon, it is billed as a "George Orwell quote". It's not. According to Snopes:

The bogus Orwell quotation has appeared in countless social media posts and opinion columns in recent years, with various small tweaks. Former U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican who railed against former President Donald Trump before leaving the Senate in 2019, included it in a Washington Post column in May, and in a Senate speech back in January 2018.

In February 2019, former FBI Director James Comey also used it to criticize Trump, but the quote has also been favored by conservatives, and by supporters of whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. In 2012, rapper Soulja Boy posted a version of the same quote on Twitter.

However, the earliest version we could find, and apparently the original, came in a May 6, 2009, column by the conservative writer Selwyn Duke, on the right-leaning website RenewAmerica.com.

That's a bunch of strange bedfellows right there. I have to admit the quote is uncomfortably close to saying "When people vociferously criticize something I've said, that means I must have been right."

Briefly noted:

  • Andrew Follett notes that John Kerry Says the Quiet Part Out Loud on Global Warming. As Pun Salad did a couple days ago.

    Having the government spend yet more “money, money, money,” like a drunken sailor is the only solution to global warming, said failed former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in a speech at the World Economic Forum (WEF).

    “The lesson I’ve learned in the last years — and I learned it as secretary [of state] and I’ve learned it since, reinforced in spades — is: money, money, money, money, money, money, money,” Kerry said, sounding more like he was mumbling an old pop song than making a serious policy statement. Promoting endless spending rather than more fiscal responsibility seems especially reckless as the national debt exceeds $31 trillion, or over $94,000 for every person in the country, and continues to mount.

    The Biden administration’s so-called Inflation Reduction Act already plans to set $369 billion on fire in the name of “climate solutions and environmental justice.” This isn’t chump change, even by federal-government standards. To put it in perspective, that’s enough cash to purchase just over 36 and a half Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, which is over three and a half times the size of the current U.S. Navy carrier fleet.

    You might think that such an exorbitant amount of spending would at least accomplish a significant decrease in global warming. It won’t.

    According to the United Nations’ (likely optimistic) models, spending that much would turn down the global thermostat by a grand total of only 0.0009 degrees. That’s not a typo, but it is an amount so small that it would be nearly undetectable. The Inflation Reduction Act will have just as little impact on the temperature as it will on inflation: essentially zero.

    Well, I better stop there. I have to worry about my blood pressure, and this is a "briefly noted" item.

Last Modified 2024-01-14 5:00 AM EST

Unlike the Dream Police, They Live Outside Your Head

[Speech Police] While most of the MSM is saying "Move along, nothing to see here," Reason's Robby Soave says, correctly, that attention must be paid. The most recent print cover story: How the CDC Became the Speech Police.

Anthony Fauci, the federal government's most prominent authority on COVID-19, had his final White House press conference two days before Thanksgiving 2022. The event served as a send-off for the longserving director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who was finally stepping down after nearly four decades on the job.

Ashish Jha, the Biden administration's coronavirus response coordinator, hailed Fauci as "the most important, consequential public servant in the United States in the last half century." White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre described him as a near-constant "source of information and facts" for all Americans throughout the pandemic.

Indeed, the U.S. public's understanding of COVID-19—its virality, how to prevent its  spread, and even where it comes from—was largely controlled by Fauci and bureaucrats like him, to a greater degree than most people realize. The federal government shaped the rules of online discussion in unprecedented and unnerving ways.

Accompanying the cover article is a supplement, Inside the Facebook Files: Emails Reveal CDC's Role in Stifling COVID Dissent. And how that relates to ongoing regulatory threats:

This is just a snapshot of the messages exchanged between the CDC and Meta. They also had regular conference calls. The CDC was not the only arm of the federal government engaged in this work, of course: White House staffers also castigated Meta for not deplatforming alleged misinformation fast enough. President Joe Biden himself accused Facebook of "killing people" in July 2021.

One wonders whether these condemnations, from Biden and others in his administration—which included the specific threat of punitive regulation if demands for greater censorship were not met—influenced Meta's decision to delegate COVID-19 content moderation to the CDC.

Maybe Twitter and Facebook would have behaved exactly the same way in the absence of government pressure.

And maybe, to quote Wayne Campbell, monkeys might fly out of my butt.

Hiawatha Bray has advice on this topic: We ignore Musk’s ‘Twitter Files’ at our peril. His relevant question:

Suppose The New York Times or The Boston Globe met regularly with the US government to discuss which stories they ought to publish, and which ones they shouldn’t. Suppose the same company also knowingly ran stories under fake names by US intelligence agents pushing the government’s agenda in foreign countries.

Happily this isn’t going on at newspapers. But it’s happened at Twitter.

There's no indication that this has bothered anyone important.

Briefly noted:

  • David Boaz notes stirrings of discontent: The NAACP Has a Demand: Teach Our Kids to Read.

    The Fairfax County NAACP in Virginia is making demands on the local school system: they want the schools to teach black and Hispanic kids to read. And they want the school to start using the best research‐​tested methods, the phonics‐​based approach that I wrote about last August.

    The NAACP points out that Fairfax County Public Schools first promised to make “minority achievement” a priority in 1984, yet the achievement gap in reading between black and white students has persisted. In a meeting in March 2021 and an open letter the following month, the Washington Post reports, they blamed “the absence of systematic, cumulative, phonics‐based reading instruction in the early elementary classroom.” And, they wrote, “All the research suggests that this shift would have the most immediate and profound impact on closing the achievement gap.”

    You'd think that an organization whose name literally stands for the advancement of colored people might have done something like this before now.

  • Kevin D. Williamson reminds us: There Is No Painless Way to Balance the Budget. Get ready for some factual, sobering, arithmetic:

    You cannot balance the budget just by cutting programs that you don’t like. You cannot balance the budget by booting layabouts off welfare, by reducing “waste, fraud, and abuse,” by eliminating foreign aid, or by repealing the grievously misnamed Affordable Care Act. And, progressives, take note: You cannot balance the budget by reinstating Eisenhower-era tax rates, either.

    Here are a few things to keep in mind.

    “Non-defense discretionary spending”—meaning everything except the military budget and statutory entitlements such as Social Security—adds up to a pretty small share of federal spending.

    In fiscal year 2022, the federal deficit was about $1.4 trillion, which was 5.5 percent of GDP. All discretionary spending combined was about $1.7 trillion, but non-defense discretionary spending was only about half of that. What that means is that if you cut total non-defense discretionary spending to $0.00 (an absurd notion, but useful for the purposes of illustration) you would not eliminate the deficit—you would, in fact, only roll it back to its approximate level in 2018. If you want to balance the budget by cutting both defense and non-defense discretionary spending, then you’d have to eliminate the Army and the Air Force and get by with the Navy and the Marine Corps, or make cuts of roughly equivalent depth—cutting nickel-and-dime “woke” programs won’t get it done. Obviously, that is not a thing that is going to happen—so we should not pretend that this is a plausible option.

    Well, we'll just raise taxes on the rich! Get them to "pay their fair share."

    I hope you're not saying that, but if you're even thinking that, KDW takes you on further down in the article. I don't see one of those Dispatch padlocks on the page, so you might want to read the whole thing, and should.

  • Jerry Coyne looks at A bizarre Cornell course about black holes that conflates astronomy and ideology. Cornell's course description from 2020:

    Conventional wisdom would have it that the “black” in black holes has nothing to do with race. Surely there can be no connection between the cosmos and the idea of racial blackness. Can there? Contemporary Black Studies theorists, artists, fiction writers implicitly and explicitly posit just such a connection. Theorists use astronomy concepts like “black holes” and “event horizons” to interpret the history of race in creative ways, while artists and musicians conjure blackness through cosmological themes and images. Co-taught by professors in Comparative Literature and Astronomy, this course will introduce students to the fundamentals of astronomy concepts through readings in Black Studies. Texts may include works by theorists like Michelle Wright and Denise Ferreira da Silva, authors like Octavia Butler and Nalo Hopkinson, music by Sun Ra, Outkast and Janelle Monáe. Astronomy concepts will include the electromagnetic spectrum, stellar evolution, and general relativity.

    Just let me say right here that Janelle Monáe was pretty good in Glass Onion. Do not disrespect Janelle Monáe.

    For additional amusement, one of Jerry's colleagues asked ChatGPT:

    What are black holes and what is the relationship to race

    The reply:

    Black holes are extremely dense regions of space that have extremely strong gravitational fields. They are formed when very massive stars die and collapse under the force of their own gravity. Nothing, including light, can escape from inside a black hole’s event horizon, the point of no return.

    There is no relationship between black holes and race. Black holes are a scientific concept that is based on the laws of physics, and race is a social construct with no scientific basis. They are not related to each other in any way.

    I know that ChatGPT just echoes back, semi-coherently, a rehash of the content it's been trained on. But I'd suggest that it take a look at this content from Robert J. Morris at Quillette More Than Just a Social Construct.

    “In support of efforts to confront our country’s history of racism and injustice,” stated an American Medical Association press release in 2020, “the nation’s leading physicians voted to adopt two new policies today recognizing race as a social construct—rather than a biological construct—at the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Special Meeting of its House of Delegates (HOD).” This kind of statement from the leaders of American medicine has become increasingly common in recent years.

    The National Institutes of Health holds that, “Race is a social construct used to group people. Race was constructed as a hierarchal human-grouping system, generating racial classifications to identify, distinguish and marginalize some groups across nations, regions and the world.” The America College of Physicians has stated that race is “social rather than biological.” The American Academy of Pediatrics says its members believe that, “Race is a historically derived social construct that has no place as a biologic proxy.” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has stated, “Race is a social category, not a biological or genetic condition that elevates risk for certain diagnoses and health disparities.”

    This refusal to acknowledge that race is an important variable in patient care runs contrary to what I was taught during my medical training several decades ago. Back then, when presenting the results of a patient’s medical history and physical examination to an attending physician, the medical student, intern, or resident was expected to start the description of the case by stating the patient’s age, race, and sex. Why? Because these were believed to be important factors when determining potential susceptibility to disease and appropriate treatment.

    But apparently, at least back in December, it was possible to get ChatGPT to sound pretty racist, if you provided the right prompts. Maybe the above is the result of an effort to correct that.

    And I should note that This Sort Of Thing has been happening for a while. Nearly thirty years ago, Evelynn Hammonds penned "Black (W)holes and the Geometry of Black Female Sexuality". And she went on to become "the Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz Professor of the History of Science and Professor of African and African-American Studies at Harvard University, and former Dean of Harvard College."

  • Finally, a recommendation that's just a lot of fun to read, from Nellie Bowles: TGIF: I Love Davos. It's a compendium of random topics, here's one:

    → Quick reminder on Davos: Everyone at the World Economic Forum in Davos, a confab of political and financial leaders, arrives by private jet, which is how they move through the world, pumping carbon into your neighborhood air as they go. You, on the other hand, need to stop complaining about your paper straw. It’s meant to wilt and congeal, that’s how you know it’s working! Davosians can arrive by carbon-spewing jet, with a separate jet trailing behind carrying their poodles and pregnant surrogates. And once in Davos, the plan is to terrify and shame everyone who’s not there.

    Here’s Al Gore at Davos this week on greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere: “the accumulated amount is now trapping as much extra heat as would be released by 600,000 Hiroshima-class atomic bombs exploding every single day on the earth. . . . That’s what’s boiling the oceans, creating these atmospheric rivers, and the rain bombs, and sucking the moisture out of the land, and creating the droughts, and melting the ice and raising the sea level, and causing these waves of climate refugees!”

    Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

    I'm pretty sure a boiling ocean would have made the news, Al.

Last Modified 2024-01-30 6:53 AM EST

I Liked the O'Jays Version Better

Just to be clear, he's talking about taking some people's money by force, then giving it … most of it, anyway … to other people.

What, you want the song instead? Yeah, me too.

Briefly noted:

  • Did Elizabeth Warren ever see a problem that giving the government more arbitrary and massive power wouldn't solve? So far she's batting 1.000, and Christian Britschgi has her latest effort: Elizabeth Warren, Jamaal Bowman Want To Give Lina Khan the Power To Impose Rent Control on the Whole Country.

    Progressive Democrats in Congress, led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) and Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D–N.Y.), are urging the White House to marshal all available organs of the regulatory state to impose rent control on the entire country.

    A letter authored by the two, and signed by 50 members of Congress, proposes seven actions of varying radicalism and legality that President Joe Biden could take to cap rent increases.

    "We urge your Administration to pursue all possible strategies to end corporate price gouging in the real estate sector," reads the January 9 letter to Biden. "Simply put, the rent is too high and millions of people across this country are struggling to stay stably housed as a result."

    I looked to see if any New Hampshire critters were among the signatories, and was (slightly) relieved to not find any.

  • That's not to excuse them entirely. Because they (Shaheen, Hassan, Pappas, Kuster) are dedicated to spending all the money they can get their hands on, plus a lot more. Veronique de Rugy diagnoses: The Debt-Ceiling Fight Is a Symptom of Congress’s Disease.

    As you probably know, though, we will only default on the debt ceiling if Treasury doesn’t prioritize paying interest and principal on the Treasury debt before any other payments. Obviously, a default would be terrible, and prioritizing payments will come with some pain. And there’s a part of me that thinks that past Congresses, by voting to spend trillions of additional borrowed dollars, implicitly agreed to raising the debt ceiling whenever the debt nears the limit.

    But these considerations don’t imply that the debt ceiling should be raised without a commitment to alter, at least a little, our currently unsustainable fiscal course. And they certainly don’t mean the debt ceiling should be abolished.

    But my more fundamental gripe is this: Where were these people who are upset about the debt-ceiling fight on the countless occasions when Congress ignored its own budgetary rules? Where was the indignation over irresponsible members of Congress keeping the government financed with awful omnibus bills or continuing resolutions?

    Where were the outraged commentaries when Congress failed repeatedly, year after year, to operate under regular order? A few years ago, Brookings Institution economist William Gale published a book in which he wrote that “Congress designed (the current budget) process in 1974. Since then, in only four years has it passed all the appropriations bills for discretionary spending on time.” In other words, for decades congressional Republicans and Democrats failed to do their most basic job: passing a budget on time, according to the rules, and via annual appropriations approved by majorities of the House and the Senate.

    As a group, neither Republicans nor Democrats are profiles in courage here.

  • Jesse Singal is well-known for his skeptical looks at psychological/social fads. I'm impressed that the New York Times even allows him to ask this question in its pages: What if Diversity Trainings Are Doing More Harm Than Good?.

    Diversity trainings have been around for decades, long before the country’s latest round of racial reckoning. But after George Floyd’s murder — as companies faced pressure to demonstrate a commitment to racial justice — interest in the diversity, equity and inclusion (D.E.I.) industry exploded. The American market reached an estimated $3.4 billion in 2020.

    D.E.I. trainings are designed to help organizations become more welcoming to members of traditionally marginalized groups. Advocates make bold promises: Diversity workshops can foster better intergroup relations, improve the retention of minority employees, close recruitment gaps and so on. The only problem? There’s little evidence that many of these initiatives work. And the specific type of diversity training that is currently in vogue — mandatory trainings that blame dominant groups for D.E.I. problems — may well have a net-negative effect on the outcomes managers claim to care about.

    Back in my days working at the University Near Here, our workplace training did a fine job of developing my eye-rolling muscles.

  • Ever wonder if your house was killing you? Kevin D. Williamson has your answer, bunkie: Of Course Your House Is Killing You.

    There’s nothing as bad for you as living well.

    Here’s a nice memory: My wife and I are in Aspen, sitting by a fire that is a little bigger than it really needs to be, drinking a nice Margaux; the dachshund is tuckered out from hiking up the mountain earlier in the day and is fast asleep with her belly turned toward the fire. Dinner is simmering in the kitchen. 

    Horrors, all, of course: There’s getting there, to begin with, and the dose of radiation you get every time you fly (“aircrew have the largest average annual effective dose of all US radiation-exposed workers”) added to the extra radiation you get just from being in the mountains (“calculations based on data from NCRP reports show that the average level of natural background radiation (NBR) in Rocky Mountain states is 3.2 times that in Gulf Coast states”), the magnificent fireplace (“Wood-burning fireplaces: Not such a hot idea”) that makes the emissions from the gas range look like the purest oxygen in one of those weird Japanese oxygen bars by comparison, the Margaux (“Even a Little Alcohol Can Harm Your Health,” the New York Times warned last week), the sweet little puppy (“pet dander can potentially be harmful to your respiratory system”), the bacteria-laden spice rack in the kitchen, the steak

    You know what's inevitably, 100% probability, gonna kill you? Being alive in the first place.

You Got Me, Google. Now Stop.

[Secret Meets]

I (kind of) understand Google AdSense. Websites put their ads on, Google sends them money.

What I don't understand is Google's insistence on showing me ads for "businesses" that would like to set me up with fetching young ladies for … well, whatever I'm sure we'd agree on via a free-market transaction. (Example at your right.) The ads are only semi-subtle, featuring pulchritudinous women, their garb displaying a PG-rated amount of curvaceousness, all implying an eventual R-rated commercial relationship. A discreet one, to be sure.

And these ads are hosted at respectable websites. That example? Snipped from an article at reason.com.

I'm slightly complimented by Google's speculation that I'm physically up to such activity. And able to afford it.

And then I'm very offended by Google's assumption that I'd be interested.

Plus, I'd be embarrassed if family members or friends wandering by my computer saw the kind of ad content displayed on my screen.

I keep clicking on those x-close boxes in the ads' upper right corners. In the resulting dialog box, I click 'Stop seeing this ad'. And then I'm asked to be more specific. OK, to be honest, Google, I am 'Not interested in this ad'.

Google responds: "We'll try not to show that ad again."

But I've been doing that pointy-clicky for months. Ineffectively. Google AdSense keeps insisting that I am interested in such things. Or should be.

If I click on the little "AdChoices" arrow, instead of the close box, I get a lot more information, including:

Why this ad?

This ad is based on:

  • Information in your Google Account
  • Google's estimation of your interests

Arrgh. Shut the front door.

Fine, Google. Yes, I am a male heterosexual. One whose eyeballs can be grabbed by female boobage and come-hither smiles.

But, really. I am not interested in running around behind Mrs. Salad's back. Stop it.

Last Modified 2024-01-30 6:53 AM EST

Kamala, You Are the Flop To My Flip

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Elizabeth Nolan Brown brings the news: Kamala Harris Is a Flop. After noting her weathervane imitation on immigration policy…

The discrepancy between Harris' migration rhetoric as a candidate and as vice president contributes to the picture of her as slippery, a flip-flopper, hard to pin down. Accusations of fair-weather convictions have dogged Harris for a long time—and for good reason.

In Congress, Harris sponsored a Medicare for All bill; on the presidential campaign trail, she sometimes supported universal health care and sometimes didn't. She tried to shut down the sex work–friendly website Backpage as attorney general of California, then offered support for decriminalizing sex work at the start of her presidential campaign, then later said on a debate stage that she would still arrest men paying for sex. Running for San Francisco district attorney, Harris said she wouldn't use the state's three-strikes policy when the third strike wasn't a serious or violent felony; in office, she went back on that promise. Examples like these are numerous.

Taken together, they paint Harris as someone willing to say whatever is popular in the moment but not willing to follow through or to hold that position when winds even hint at changing.

One heartbeat, or impeachment conviction, away.

Briefly noted:

  • Charles C. W. Cooke takes apart Biden’s Most Grotesque Gun-Control Argument.

    At this point in the proceedings, President Joe Biden resembles nothing so well as a cheap, faux-interactive children’s toy from the early 1990s. Pre-loaded with a small handful of vacuous stock phrases, and programmed to repeat them at random whenever the conversation meanders onto familiar ground, Biden has become so predictable, monotonous, and dull that one occasionally wonders whether his doctor is ever tempted to search his lower back for a double-A-battery compartment and a row of rudimentary activation buttons. On the left side of the array, he might find the catchphrases: “Malarkey!” “No joke!” “Literally, folks!” etc. On the right, he might uncover some circumstance-specific clichés, which, though appearing to the uninitiated to be bespoke, are in fact involuntary staples selected from an ever-dwindling list.

    Nowhere is this tendency more evident than when the president is discussing firearms. In comes the topic, and out come the chestnuts. Button A yields the false claim that, at the time of the Founding, “You couldn’t buy a cannon.” Button B yields the line, “Deer aren’t wearing Kevlar vests out there.” Button C yields the contention that, “If you want to take on the federal government, you need some F-15s, not an AR-15.” The audience may change, the location may vary, the impetus may shift from time to time, but the bromides will remain as constant as the sun.

    I'm currently reading Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. I was prepared to hate it, but it's surprisingly good. Although I don't know if Ms. Atwood would approve of my thoughts ever ten pages or so: "Gee, Offred would really have found a Glock useful."

  • Hey, kids, what time is it? Katherine Boyle has the answer at the Free Press: It’s Time to Get Serious.

    The biggest technology story of this past year involves a fraud perpetrated by a boy. Or so the press would have us believe.

    Just months before Sam Bankman-Fried’s unraveling, Fortune Magazine referred to the billionaire as a “trading wunderkind” a latter-day Warren Buffett only with a “goofy facade” and a penchant for fidget spinners. Even after his downfall and subsequent arrest in the Bahamas, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and Axios all referred to Bankman-Fried, or SBF, as a disgraced “crypto wunderkind.”

    Andrew Ross Sorkin of The New York Times illustrated his boyishness best when interviewing him at the Times’ DealBook Summit last November. “When you read the stories,” Sorkin said, “it sounds like a bunch of kids who were all on Adderall having a sleepover party.”

    SBF’s fate will now be decided by the Southern District of New York, but his media charade of aw-shucks interviews and congressional testimony laced with brogrammer idioms built a public persona that we’ve largely come to accept: SBF is just a kid. Indeed, he’s so young that his law school professor parents were involved in his business and political dealings. (In this, they embody the helicopter style of child-rearing favored by nearly the entire Boomer elite.)

    The reality, of course, is that SBF is a grown-ass, 30-year-old man. He is twelve years older than many of the men and women we sent to Iraq and Afghanistan. Twelve years older than the adults we encourage to swallow hundreds of thousands of dollars in college debt before even declaring a major. And, if we’re serious about the math, SBF is a mere eight years away from the half-life of the average adult American man, who boasts a provisional life expectancy of only 76 years, according to the CDC. At 38, SBF would have already lived most of his life on Earth.

    Maybe SBF is one of those transage folks. (I would link to Wikipedia, but looking up that term there takes you to the "Conflation with child abuse" section of their "Anti-LGBT Rhetoric" article.)

  • But, as Katherine Boyle says above, it is time to get serious. So Republicans should find this article by Brian Riedl useful: How Republicans Can Get Serious on Spending.

    The new Republican House majority is gearing up for a fight on escalating spending and deficits. This enthusiasm is commendable but early indications suggest they may repeat the same mistakes that have doomed previous attempts to rein in spending. Rather than offer a realistic plan to modestly cut spending and build momentum for larger reforms, many Republican lawmakers are making implausible demands to quickly cut trillions of dollars and balance the budget. Rather than portraying spending restraint as responsible and non-disruptive, many Republicans are threatening a debt limit showdown that will only anger voters and ultimately fail to win real reforms. Rather than do the hard work necessary to design and build support for specific reforms, many Republicans are relying on stale talking points and gimmicks totally detached from fiscal and political reality.

    As inflation rages and the economy weakens, Washington ran a staggering $7.2 trillion in budget deficits the past three years. Annual deficits are likely to surpass $2 trillion within a decade even with peace and prosperity—and approach $3 trillion if interest rates continue rising. Yet, for too long, “spending restraint” has been merely a Republican talking point. 

    It doesn't help that Republicans have been a clown show on this issue for a while:

    Recall the 2018 budget fiasco. That year, Republicans unveiled a budget resolution promising to balance the budget with $6.5 trillion in spending savings over the decade. No actual plan was ever designed to do so, and these promises were discarded as soon as the budget debate concluded. In fact, the very next day, this same unified Republican Congress voted down a rescission bill that would have trimmed $1 billion—or 0.02 percent—out of a $4.2 trillion budget that was growing by $300 billion annually. At the time, then-Sen. Richard Burr told reporters he cast the deciding vote to defeat the bill because “It cut $16 million out of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Period, end of sentence.” 

    This is why we can't have nice things.

  • Jonah Goldberg is also super cynical about the Republicans: The GOP’s Spending Fight Is More About Fighting Than Spending.

    In his struggle to become speaker, McCarthy reportedly made a commitment to hold up an increase in the debt ceiling in exchange for spending cuts from the Democrats. The deadline comes this week. If the limit isn’t raised, the government will start running out of cash and the prospect of a debt default will rattle the American and global economy.

    “If you had a child, you gave them a credit card, and they kept hitting the limit, you wouldn’t just keep increasing it,” McCarthy said on Sunday. “You’d first see what you’re spending your money on. How can we cut items out?”

    That sounds right and I’d love it if the GOP’s gambit was successful. But the first problem with the analogy is that you’d still have to pay your credit card bill for money you already spent. The time to cut spending is when you’re spending. The second problem is that the gambit isn’t really about spending.

    Republicans—rightly!—opposed the Democrats’ lame duck massive $1.7 trillion omnibus bill last month. But in every year of Trump’s presidency, Republicans approved $1-trillion-plus omnibus spending bills. And that’s excluding all that lavish COVID spending. He paid for the MAGA agenda with America’s credit card.

    Have fun paying it off, kids.

Last Modified 2024-01-14 5:00 AM EST

The Easiest Person To Deceive Is…

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Well, today's headline is completed by our Amazon Product du Jour. Which is in reference to the 2022 Winners of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Since this is Pun Salad, we'll skip over the Grand Prize winner, and go immediately to the "Grand Panjandrum's Special Award ":

And so the two pachyderms with the same first name met, and they formed the jazz duo legend known as the Elephants Gerald.

If you smiled at that, you might enjoy the rest of the winners, and many of the "Dishonorable Mentions".

Briefly noted:

  • Way back when, my ancestors showed the good sense of emigrating from Norway. But I still pine for the fjords when I read something like this at Hot Air: Norwegian paint the root cause of racism or something. Because Norway is exceedingly white, and…

    That, apparently, is a problem. Which is why the Norwegian government has funded a project–to the tune of $1.2 million–to study the problem of “whiteness” and how Norway–specifically Norwegian paint–contributes to it.

    The Research Council of Norway is spending over $1.2 million USD on a project that is dedicated to discovering how the country has contributed to the spread of “whiteness” globally, through colonialism and through paint.

    The research project, “How Norway Made the World Whiter (NorWhite),” hosted by the University of Bergen, describes “whiteness” as “one of today’s key societal and political concerns.”

    Norway, it turns out, is where titanium dioxide was turned into the first truly white paint. And, as we all know, white paint is the root of all racism.

    The TiO2 Project is a thing. And I'm not sure it isn't an elaborate put-on. (Does titanium dioxide have anything to do with Titania McGrath?) Still, 120 million Norwegian kroner is nothing to sneeze at.

  • I've read about ChatGPT a lot. If I were a serious researcher, or a college student looking for "help" on a writing assignment, I might have tried what Randal O'Toole did, to his chagrin: Fabricating Reality with ChatGPT.

    More recently, I’ve been looking at the economics of ocean liners, as the Canadian Pacific Railway was a major operator of ocean liners in both the Atlantic and Pacific markets. The history of technologies such as railroads and steamships is well documented but the economics are not. Canadian Pacific spent (in today’s dollars) hundreds of million of dollars buying steamships that sometimes made only 120 or so voyages across the oceans before being scrapped. How could this pay off?

    So I asked ChatGPT, “Is there any literature or research on the economics of ocean liners in the late 19th and early 20th centuries?”

    “There is a significant amount of literature and research” on the subject, it responded. “One example of a book that discusses the economics of ocean liners is The Financing, Building and Operation of Ocean Liners by J. E. Wilton-Jones.”

    Sounds useful! Thanks, ChatGPT!

    One minor problem cropped up: The Financing, Building and Operation of Ocean Liners by J. E. Wilton-Jones turned out to be entirely imaginary. Click over to read about Randal's trip down the AI rabbit hole.

  • And, via James Lilek's Bleat, a tweet revealing the demonic forces at work in Davos:

    Lileks debunks. So did Reuters, last year, when CongressCritter Marjorie Taylor Greene got all conspiratorial about similar patches. And as it turns out, Canton Graubünden, where Davos is, is totally patch-happy about its cops.

Last Modified 2024-01-14 4:59 AM EST


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Once upon a time, children, the University Near Here held a yearly "celebration" in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 'Twas a happy time for Pun Salad, because the festivities were, more often than not, a magical combination of virtue signalling, gaseous prose, and hard-left politics.

Pun Salad is a sucker for that sort of thing. Historic blog posts looking at the merrymaking: 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019. [Pun Salad skipped reporting the 2008 and 2016 events, because they were boring.]

And UNH announced the fun for 2020, and Pun Salad was all over it, … and then it didn't happen, because of Covid. Even the 2020 announcement was memory-holed. (I can't even find it at the Wayback Machine!)

Sigh. I'm sure the scheduled speaker, David Hogg, would have been hilarious.

UNH is (more or less) returning to post-Covid normality. But without a lot of fuss, they seem to have become uninterested in doing the MLK Celebration. Nothing in 2021 or 2022. And if they were going to do something in 2023, I'm sure they would have announced it by now.

Instead, UNH's Diversity, Equity, Access & Inclusion bureaucrats have announced the approved activities for Black History Month 2023. That page (as I type) lacks a single mention of Martin Luther King. Five of the listed activities are actually hosted ten crow-flies miles to the southeast of UNH, at Portsmouth Public Library.

Perhaps even more telling: one of those events, and one that is hosted at UNH, is the "Audre Lorde Summit". And the description is pretty upfront about the memory-holing:

The Audre Lorde Summit (formerly known as the MLK Summit) is hosted annually by the Aulbani J. Beauregard Center for Equity, Justice, and Freedom. The summit is a weekend long extended development opportunity that provides a supportive learning space for students to build identity competencies and expand their knowledge and skills to foster equity and inclusion. The Summit is an excellent opportunity for students to create a greater sense of community and explore critical issues related to social inequity in a learning space that promotes growth, reflection, community building, and honest dialogue.

Emphasis added. (But you'll note they still have the gaseous prose generator in full operation.)

So forget MLK, kids. Audre is the present, and the foreseeable future of Academic Wokism. We have quoted her Wikipedia entry in the past:

Audre Lorde (/ˈɔːdri ˈlɔːrd/; born Audrey Geraldine Lorde; February 18, 1934 – November 17, 1992) was an American writer, womanist, radical feminist, professor, and civil rights activist. She was a self-described "black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet," who "dedicated both her life and her creative talent to confronting and addressing injustices of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia."

Back in 2017, Jillian Kay Melchior wrote about Audre at the WSJ: Lorde of the Flies: Why College Students Reject Reason.

But for a more recent look at why MLK has faded in academia, here's Rodney Stevens: Martin Luther King Would Choose Reflection Over ‘Intersectionality’. It is a reflection on the current woke preference for "impenetrable jargon" as opposed to MLK's powerful, understandable rhetoric. And our favorite UNH prof makes an appearance:

Recently I was browsing my local Barnes & Noble and happened on “The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey Into Dark Matter, Spacetime and Dreams Deferred.” The author, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, is a star cosmologist and physicist and assistant professor at the University of New Hampshire. Many of the essays in the book aren’t easy reading.

On a website biography, Ms. Prescod-Weinstein describes her “focus on Black feminism-grounded social epistemology which explores the impact of the presence of minoritized people in STEM,” and says she is a “pansexual agender cissex woman.” Other than “woman,” I don’t know what that means.

I was able to fathom that she feels white “intellectual colonialism” prevents women and people of color from being fully accepted into university science programs. Yet Ms. Prescod-Weinstein herself seems to refute that claim.

It's tough to put yourself forward as oppressed when you're pulling down $92,660.00 as your annual base pay.

Briefly noted:

  • [Amazon Link]
    (paid link)

    Slightly related to our MLK item, Glenn Reynolds interviews David Bernstein on The Idiocy of America's Racial Classification System.

    Americans typically make two primary errors about race. The first is that the racial classifications we use in common parlance--Black, White, Asian, Native American, Hispanic—are somehow natural and arose spontaneously. Very few of us realize that the US government codified them in 1977 in a formal federal law called Statistical Directive No. 15. Before that, almost no one called people of Spanish-speaking descent “Hispanics.”  What we now call “Asian Americans” were nothing like a coherent group; Japanese, Chinese, and Filipino Americans had distinct cultures and significant history inter-group conflict. Americans from India were typically classified as “white” or “other,” but a last-minute lobbying campaign resulted in them being added to the Asian American group.

    Relatedly, very few Americans are familiar with the scope of the federal classifications and how their definition. For example, Hispanics are officially an ethnicity, not a race, but the media often treats them as a racial group. Contrary to popular belief, “Hispanic” includes Spaniards, but not Brazilians. The government defines indigenous people from Spanish-speaking countries as having Hispanic ethnicity, but thanks to lobbying from Native American tribes, are not “Indians” and have no racial box that fits them. Arab Americans, Iranians, Armenians, and other people from Western Asia are white, not Asian or Middle Eastern (there is no such official classification).

    People also assume incorrectly there is some sort of cut off, that you can’t claim “X” ancestry if, say, only your great-great-grandfather was “X.” But the Black/African American classification is defined as anyone with “origins in one of the black racial groups of Africa,” so the one-drop rule prevails. The Small Business Administration has concluded that a Sephardic Jew whose ancestors haven’t lived in a Spanish-speaking country for centuries can still claim Hispanic status.

    Neither the UNH Library nor the Portsmouth Public Library carry Bernstein's book (Amazon link above). My request for an Interlibrary Loan via UNH also failed; too new. I may have to buy it.

    And: not to brag, but Pun Salad was all over the Federal racial pigeonholing back in 2005.

  • I'm kind of a fan of "whataboutism". It is, after all, a manifestation of Rule Four on Saul Alinsky’s 12 Rules for Radicals: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”

    We'll pass by the implicit dehumanization shown by Alinsky's use of "its".

    Anyway, Jeff Jacoby is less of a fan, although he admits it does have its uses: When 'whataboutism' is appropriate.

    Whataboutism goes by many labels. The classic Latin term is "tu quoque," meaning "you also," but English has more colorful ways of expressing the idea: "The pot calling the kettle black." "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." "So's your old man." In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus turned whataboutism into an ethical reproach: "First cast the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to pluck the speck out of your brother's eye."

    Those who engage in whataboutism in order to deflect legitimate criticism from themselves or their party deserve to be scorned. But so do those who cry "Whataboutism!" when their own double standard is being highlighted. Consider an example of each.

    Examples: GOPers excusing George Santos for his lies by saying "What about Biden?" Inappropriate! GOPers excusing election denialism by pointing to Stacey Abrams? Appropriate!

  • Could WIRED be going libertarian? Susie Alegre ("International human rights lawyer, author, and speaker") seeems to point that way with her headline: Freedom of Thought Is a Human Right.


    In 2023, we will see regulators and lawmakers around the world make it clear that the surveillance capitalism business model based on targeted advertising is no longer acceptable—in law or in practice.

    There are already signs of big tech companies thinking carefully about the implications of their work for freedom of thought and taking radical steps. In 2021, Facebook scrapped its research on wearable brain-computer interfaces. In 2022, Microsoft announced that it would phase out public access to controversial emotional recognition technology. Google, following the US Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, scrabbled to address the dangerous ways data can be exploited to expose our opinions on the front line of the culture wars. Apple has announced a new “lockdown mode” in response to the Pegasus scandal that will prevent phone hacking to access the inner lives of human rights defenders around the world.

    It turns out she's talking about something else entirely by "freedom of thought"; according to Susie, it will be protected by wise government regulators and woke tech barons. Like … um … Apple's Tim Cook.

Last Modified 2024-01-15 6:44 AM EST

New Hampshire Bullshittin'

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I no longer subscribe to my local newspaper, Foster's Daily Democrat (published as Seacoast Sunday on Sundays), but I occasionally peek at the online version to see if it's gotten any better.

It hasn't.

Today's front page contains an article headlined "NH teachers push to end 'divisive concepts' law". Its byline: "Ethan DeWitt/New Hampshire Bulletin".

What's that? The New Hampshire Bulletin bills itself as "an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to keeping the people of the Granite State informed about the issues that matter most." Noble! But what I would imagine matters most to my local paper's publisher: their content "is free to readers, and other news outlets are free to republish our stories with proper attribution."

Otherwise my local paper would have to pay their own reporters to generate content. For them, the NHB is an irresistible bargain!

For the suckers paying ludicrous subscription rates for news stories they can read for free online, not so much.

Here's today's example at the NHB site, with a slightly longer headline than in the paper, but with the same thrust: "Teachers, public school advocates push for repeal of ‘divisive concepts’ law."

At issue: the legislation passed in 2021 titled "Right to Freedom from Discrimination in Public Workplaces and Education" it consists of two sections added to New Hampshire law, which you can read here. A summary (with associated links) is available from the state Department of Education here. (The department favors the law.)

As you might guess from the headline, the NHB story is slanted. Opening grabber reveals the traumatic uncertainty faced by one Milford teacher:

Persuasive research papers are a yearly assignment in David Scannell’s English classes, and grading them is part of the job. But last school year, the Milford High School teacher faced a new challenge.

The New Hampshire Legislature had passed a law in 2021 barring public school teachers from advocating for certain positions around race, gender, and other protected classes. Now, Scannell was unclear how to handle some of his students’ assignments.

Or at least he claimed to be unclear. What's the problem?

One had asked to write an essay arguing in favor of affirmative action, Scannell recounted at the State House Thursday. But the new law appeared to prevent teachers from advocating for affirmative action.

If Scannell gave the final paper a good grade, would he be falling afoul of the new law? And knowing that future conundrum, should he approve the student’s topic in the first place?

Apparently Scannell feels he wouldn't be able to show that he graded the student's paper on objective criteria.

Hint to Scannell: this isn't hard. Use a rubric, made available to your students ahead of time. (Why is it my job to tell public school teachers how to do their job?)

Now, let's be fair. People favoring the existing law are quoted. I count 366 words devoted to their arguments in the 1370-word article.

And somewhere mid-article, it's admitted that the legislation is called "divisive concepts" only by opponents of the law. ("Oh, and we also used it in our headline. Oops.")

Still, there's little doubt on which side the article is advocating.

We can go to NH Journal to provide equal time: NH Dems Determined to Bring Race-Based Instruction Back to Classrooms. A slice:

Prime [repeal] sponsor Rep. Peter Petrigno (D-Milford) appeared in support of the bill during a public hearing before the Education Committee in Representatives Hall. He repeated the critique made both in the legislature and in court that the law is too vague and teachers are uncertain about what content they are allowed to teach.

“Teachers wonder if they can refer to the KKK as an inherently racist group.” How is an elementary teacher who is celebrating [Martin Luther King] Day with her student supposed to respond when her first grader asked, ‘Why were some White people so mean to Black people?'”

In fact, the law — which can be read in its entirety here — does not apply any restrictions on descriptions of any organizations, from the Ku Klux Klan to the Nation of Islam. And as for the Martin Luther King Day example, the law explicitly states, “Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit discussing, as part of a larger course of academic instruction, the historical existence of ideas and subjects identified in this section.”

The article also notes the current lawsuit looking to invalidate the law.

Last Modified 2024-01-14 4:58 AM EST

It Was Declared To Be Justifiable Homicide

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Michael Munger performs an autopsy: Chatbots Killed the Academic Star.

Having been an editor on three journals, I can say that the most difficult thing a journal must do is find referees. So I was thinking last week of how nice it would be to have a “refbot” (software that was trained on what made for a good, publishable article) to use as a referee.  And then I suddenly realized that I was contemplating a new kind of singularity.


  • AI chatbots start writing papers and sending them to journals (This is pretty much happening now, folks). At first, the chatbots would be used by specific researchers to assist in writing a paper that was going to be written anyway. But there’s a lot of downtime, and writing is easy.
  • Once sent to the journal, refbots, “trained” for the specific journal by analyzing the corpus of “good” (previously published) academic papers in that journal, perhaps leavened by other academic work the editors aspire to have their journal mimic, will evaluate the submissions. The refbots will investigate contradictions, look for consensus, and check references. (That may sound pretty superficial, but that would be better than about 2/3 of the human referees journals can actually find, and it would be fast. On the other hand, it appears that perhaps the tech is not quite there yet.)
  • The feedback loop is then closed by the next generation of chatbots scanning the published literature and deciding what is important, citing that work in the next round of published articles. The articles that attract the most citations from the next generation of chatbot authors, and the next, will get higher status in search engines that return the “best” articles for human researchers to use, after the selection process has culled the dross.

I'm not sure how much of Munger's article is tongue-in-cheek. See what you think.

Briefly noted:

  • Jacob Sullum adds a few more adjectives to the usual "demented" and "dishonest": Biden Looks Careless, Shady, and Hypocritical After the Revelations About His Handling of Classified Material.

    In addition to the "small number" of classified documents in President Joe Biden's former think tank office, it turns out, he had a "small number" in the garage of his house in Wilmington, Delaware, plus one more in a room adjacent to the garage. These were Obama administration records that Biden came across during his time as vice president, and they were definitely not supposed to be in those locations. What had initially seemed like a single lapse now looks like a pattern of carelessness, which creates several problems for Biden and the Justice Department.

    First, Biden is no longer in a position to criticize Donald Trump's "totally irresponsible" handling of sensitive material that he retained when he left office. Second, the delay in acknowledging Biden's retention of classified records and obfuscation of its scope look like blatant attempts to minimize the political fallout. Third, a criminal prosecution of Trump for his handling of the government documents he took to Mar-a-Lago, which was always an iffy proposition, now seems doomed for political as well as legal reasons.

    Well, it's not as if there aren't other lying politicians in the news.

  • Eric Boehm makes a point that's obvious to any sentient being: Cutting Government Back to Last Year's Size Wouldn't Be 'Impossible' or 'Severe'.

    As part of a deal struck between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R–Calif.) and the fractious House Freedom Caucus, Republicans in Congress have pledged to return federal discretionary spending to 2022 levels.

    As a practical matter, that would require cutting about $130 billion out of the federal budget next year. But it's probably more useful to think about the maneuver as an attempt to rescind the spending increases included in the omnibus bill that Congress rushed to pass in the final weeks of last year. That bill set spending levels for the 2023 fiscal year, so promising to return to the 2022 spending level amounts to a promise to undo that omnibus bill and not replace it with more spending hikes.

    In a more normal place, this would be described as what it is: a promise to hold government spending level. The federal government spent about $1.7 trillion on discretionary programs in 2022, and Republicans are saying they'd like to spend the same amount next year.

    Eric rattles off some of the news stories that show that Washington D. C. is far from a "more normal place".

  • As noted yesterday, American airlines and their regulators do a pretty good job keeping us from dying in spectacular crashes. On the other hand… Flight Chaos Demonstrates Need for Systemic Changes in Air Traffic Control Policy. Or so says Colin Grabow at Cato:

    Air travel in the United States was thrown into chaos earlier this week when a key system used by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) went down, forcing over 10,000 flights to be delayed and at least 1,300 canceled. While a damaged database file may have been the proximate cause of this upheaval, the episode appears yet another indication of systemic flaws in U.S. air traffic control policy.

    Technological deficiencies in U.S. air traffic control operations are long-standing. Indeed, Congress mandated twenty years ago that the FAA establish a plan for implementing the modernized Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) by 2025 in order to improve matters. The FAA’s technological woes, however, are unlikely to go away anytime soon. A 2021 Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General report noted that the agency has “struggled to integrate key NextGen technologies and capabilities”—a finding consistent with other reports on the topic—and the particular system that failed this week apparently won’t be updated for another six years.

    Interesting fact: other countries have moved to privatize their air control systems with good results. So far that's been a non-starter in the US. Sad!

Last Modified 2024-01-14 4:57 AM EST

I Don't Know Why You People Seem To Think This Is Magic. It's Just This Little Chromium Switch Here…

Mr. Ramirez reflects on the FAA's recent System Failure:

[System Failure]

The loving detail he puts into his cartoons always impresses me. You should always click through to get the fullsize version.

The failure that caused the FAA to prevent planes from taking off for hours was blamed on a damaged database file.

Back when I was in the computer biz, we called this a "single point of failure." Part of our jobs was to come up with ways to eliminate or have plans in place to mitigate SPOFs. The FAA didn't have that? Tsk!

Before I get on my libertarian hobbyhorse and emit a few thousand words about antiquated, kludgy, unmaintainable government computer systems… well, it's only been a few weeks since we saw comparable screwups from Southwest Airlines, a product of our partially-free market system.

Of course, there's a major difference: People are suing Southwest. Nobody's suing the FAA.

And let me point out (slightly contra Mr. Ramirez) that, say what you will about 'em, but US commercial air carriers have a remarkably good safety record. They may frustrate you, turn you homicidal, … but they almost certainly won't kill you.

How much credit does the FAA get for that? I have no idea, and I don't think there's any way to tell for sure.

Briefly noted:

  • Matt Welch asks the question: How Do We Solve a Political Problem Like Congressman George Santos? I like his bottom line a lot:

    George Santos is a more breathtaking fabulist than Joe Biden, in a much less important job. Biden is a leaky-brained liar of a president, who nonetheless bullshits less (and with far less influence on the beliefs of voters) than the craven Donald Trump. No one here deserves a medal, nor do the people who voted these openly flawed humans into office.

    You want to solve a problem like George Santos? Keep laughing at the guy—he deserves it, it's fun, and ridicule is a response that the power-hungry have a hard time coping with. At the rate of revelations, it's not hard to imagine his situation becoming untenable even to Kevin McCarthy.

    But we also need to solve the problems of Joe Biden and Donald Trump, which means not excusing or minimizing their lies just because the other guy is worse, and maintaining the citizen self-respect not to succumb to political trench warfare. Not only do your political hatreds pay for an entire unproductive economic sector, they also enable awful people to get away with their past malfeasance in the improbable name of saving America. Want politicians to stop lying to you? Stop letting them.

    As Dire Straits observed in "Solid Rock": When you point your finger cause your plan fell through, you got three more fingers pointing back at you.

  • At his shiny Dispatch perch, Kevin D. Williamson's wisdom is paywalled: Fake It ‘Til You Make It—All the Way to Congress.

    A fellow writing in Esquire many years ago told of taking his wife hunting and being dismayed when she got herself fitted for traditional English shooting tweeds and expected him to wear the same in order to look “authentic.” Yes, he thought, we’ll look like authentic assholes. But who can deny that tweeds and shotguns is a great look? Young couples sometimes wander into my local Beretta boutique, drawn in by the romantic, old-fashioned country clothes and accoutrements for sale but then storm out when they realize that there are firearms being sold at a shop with the name “Beretta” on the sign. The Beretta shop is about equidistant from the Starbucks, where they expect you to order in crypto-Italian, and the Hermès boutique, where they pretend that they’re still in the equestrian equipment business. Yes, I know, Hermès will still sell you a saddle—but George Santos didn’t come out of nowhere. We are all standing on a vast beach of bullshit and surprised to see little Georgie making bullshit castles.

    I have taken the liberty of de-expurgating a few words there. Read as much of it as you can.

  • I am a couple days late with James Lileks' weekly Bleat section: "The Wednesday Review of Modern Thought."

    The great thing about the internet is the worst thing: learning about something you wish you had no need to know about, and wish was not a thing, as they say. The danger comes from confusing the loud and confident subcommunities with significant cultural forces. But (ah, the weaselwordy but) these things start small and get ridiculous. Even if they don't, they provide a look at how big ideas abroad in the culture fracture and turn into nonsense. The only question is how much legitimacy they'll have in a year.

    First "thing" James looks at: the concept of "transage". Analogous to "transexual", it's (apparently) the deep-seated belief that your actual age isn't what that boring old calendar says it is.

    Excuse for pedophilia? Maybe.

    But it gets even weirder from there. He's not paywalled, so you can read as much of it as you can stand.

  • On a semi-related note, Jonathan Kay notes what's going on with those nice, polite Canadians up north: A Mob Stormed a Feminist Event at McGill Law School—in Defence of Gender Justice, of Course.

    I learned a new term this week: “Forced teaming.” It describes what happens when a group of people—say, gay men and lesbian women—are forbidden from breaking ranks with some larger constituency, such as (in this case) the LGBT movement.

    The example I’m discussing here is one that Quillette writers have been exploring for several years now. As author Allan Stratton noted last year, the central ideological fixation of many transgender-rights activists is the negation of biological sex as a meaningful marker of human identity. The true source of sexual attraction, they will insist, isn’t the reality of sexed male and female bodies; but rather an abstract gender spirit lodged within our souls, which somehow broadcasts itself in a way that prospective romantic partners are able to sense and interpret. As Stratton notes, this mythology isn’t just flagrantly wrong. It’s also homophobic to such extent that it denies the sexually defined nature of gay identity. Moreover, this homophobic element can’t be excised from gender ideology without fatally undercutting the (typically unspoken) mission of many biologically male trans activists, since giving up this claim “would be to admit that a lesbian isn’t going to be attracted to a male body, no matter how many times she is assured that the body in question belongs to someone who identifies as a woman.”

    Which gave rise to …

    Note the reference to "transage". Yes, it is a thing.

    Anyway, the "LGB Alliance" seems to be saying: "We are just homosexual. Please don't rope us in to your wackiness."

    Trouble was caused at McGill.

Last Modified 2024-01-30 6:53 AM EST

Newsflash: Hot Things Are Dangerous

[lfod] So today's eye candy is via Dan Mitchell who documents Another Bureaucratic Attack on Lifestyle Quality (and Freedom of Choice).

And (you may have heard) Comissioner Richard Trumka Jr. of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) called gas stoves a "hidden hazard", and went on to explicate CPSC policy: "any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned."

Charles C. W. Cooke's critique is devastating: Ban Electric Ranges! A Progressive Freakout from an Alternative Universe. He notes that the "dangers" of gas stoves are simply an excuse to scratch the progressive itch to Do Something:

On Twitter, John Hasson serves up a nice little example of exactly this point. Hasson notes that the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has found that, when it comes to fires, electric ranges are considerably more dangerous than are gas stoves. Here’s the data:

Households that use electric ranges have a higher risk of cooking fires and associated losses than those using gas ranges. Although 60 percent of households cook with electricity four out of five (80 percent) ranges or cooktops involved in reported cooking fires were powered by electricity. Population-based risks are shown below,

• The rate of reported fires per million households was 2.6 times higher with electric ranges.
• The civilian fire death rate per million households was 3.4 times higher with electric ranges.
• The civilian fire injury rate per million households was 4.8 times higher with electric ranges than in households using gas ranges.
• The average fire dollar loss per household was 3.8 times higher in households with electric ranges.

Do not misunderstand me: I do not wish to ban or limit the sale of electric ranges. Nor do I think the federal government has the power to do so. I merely wish to point out that, if the hyperactive progressives who are currently going after gas stoves wished instead to make the case against electric ranges, they could instead use these stats as their pretext, and they could do so with exactly the same level of stridency as they are currently exhibiting.

How long before we get to the endgame? Food preparation is simply too dangerous to be undertaken by home do-it-yourselfers. We need to ban home cooking entirely! Meals should be prepared by government-licensed chefs, and delivered to homes—or, better yet, communal eating areas.

And of course, the meals will be properly balanced with stuff that's good for you and environmentally sustainable.

And a little while later, a different set of government bureaucrats will point to new highs in deaths of despair.

Briefly noted (but on the same topic):

  • Liz Wolfe at Reason: Gas Stoves May Soon Be Banned To Protect the Children.

    Some lawmakers, like Sen. Cory Booker (D–N.J.) and Rep. Don Beyer (D–Va.), have pressured regulators to act, couching their concerns in the claim that gas stoves create a "cumulative burden" on black and Latino households already disproportionately harmed by air pollution. Other Democratic lawmakers, like New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, have proposed statewide bans on putting gas hookups in new buildings out of environmental concern.

    All this ignores that gas stoves are popular precisely because they're superior to electric and induction. Most home chefs—and pretty much all professional chefs—will tell you that electric stoves take a long time to heat up and are far less responsive when changing heat levels. Induction stoves, which are actually quite fast to heat up, require different types of cookware and kitchen thermometers, in addition to being a lot more expensive than electric stoves. (Oddly, the Inflation Reduction Act, passed in 2022, included incentives for people to transition from gas to induction and electric—something that has literally nothing to do with inflation.)

  • David Harsanyi at the Federalist wonders, as do we all: Why Won't Dems Save Us From Stoves That Want To Murder Us?.

    Suddenly, progressives, sensing the state might be prohibiting some modern convenience, opened their Google searches and transformed into a throng of gas experts. As Charles Cooke points out, leftists such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who had never once typed the word “stove” in a tweet or uttered the word in a congressional speech, took on a “tone of weary condescension toward the bitter-enders whom she’s been trying to inform for years.” Not even in her Green New Deal — which banned cars and planes and promised every American a state-sponsored salubrious diet — was there a single mention of prohibiting gas stoves.

    “Did you know,” she informed Rep. Ronny Jackson, a doctor, yesterday, “that ongoing exposure to NO2 from gas stoves is linked to reduced cognitive performance?” And, as of this writing, nearly 90,000 feeble-minded, lockstepping numbskulls, not one of whom had ever concerned themselves with “NO2” a day in their lives, liked her tweet.

  • And Megan McArdle points out: Environmentalists have a blind spot in the debate over gas stoves.

    Americans can breathe a sigh of relief: The government is not coming for our gas stoves.

    There was a moment, a couple days ago, when it seemed as though they might. In an interview with Bloomberg, Richard Trumka Jr., a commissioner at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, hinted that the days of cooking over an open flame might be numbered because it pollutes the air inside your house.

    “Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.” Trumka said

    Conservatives, predictably, went to Defcon 1, questioning the agency’s constitutional authority, the quality of the research saying gas stoves are unhealthy, and the motives of the researchers. Liberals rolled their eyes and demanded to know why conservatives wanted to hold on to such a dangerous technology when induction stoves are awesome? I mean, do they like childhood asthma?

    In a way, it was refreshing, because these are the sorts of policy debates we used to have before everything became a referendum on The Future of Democracy. Also, it was tiresome, because we spent two days debating a moronic idea before the head of the CPSC belatedly intervened to walk it back.

    “I am not looking to ban gas stoves, and the CPSC has no proceeding to do so,” Alexander Hoehn-Saric said.

    Megan is relieved. But what needs to be questioned is the coercive reflex impulse Trumka cited. To repeat: “Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.”

    What we need is a government that says: "Safety is relative, and different people have different needs, situations, and tolerances for risk. Mature and rational adults should be able to purchase goods and services based on the best possible information, without the government making such decisions for them."

    But we are a long way from there.

Last Modified 2024-01-30 6:53 AM EST

Disinformation? That's the Government's Job.

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Ed Morrisey is old enough to remember when it was a huge deal: You know that big gov't-media freakout over "disinformation"? Yeah ... never mind.

Does “disinformation” on the Internet actually do anything — even to persuade? When the freak-out over Russia-generated Facebook and Twitter memes began in late 2016, I repeatedly asked one basic question: where is the evidence that these campaigns changed even one single vote?

The answer: No such evidence exists. The memes of Hillary Clinton fighting Jesus turned out not to be game-changers after all, a new study reported by the Washington Post concludes. Voters made up their own minds independent of such trollery, as anyone with two functioning brain cells should have realized before and since:

Ed provides a long quote from the WaPo article. It confirms my priors, as it does Ed's.

A little bit of amateur psychologizing:

  1. Progressives think of the masses as needing to be led, "nudged", coerced, etc. by government elites, because…
  2. The masses are too stupid and irrational to manage their lives on their own.
  3. That's for their own good, of course.
  4. And so when "misinformation" appears on social media…
  5. Progressives' default presumption is that the masses are likely to be snookered by it into…
  6. Voting for charlatans like Trump, so…
  7. Social media used by the masses must be regulated/censored.
  8. For their own good, of course.

The logic is impeccable!

Briefly noted:

  • Zach Weissmueller and Regan Taylor have a video: Did 'Every Conspiracy Theory' About Twitter Turn Out to Be True?.

    Turns out the answer is "Well, conspiracy theories can get pretty wacko, so probably not every one was true."

    It's a good video, but there's a transcript at the link if you (like me) can read faster than you can watch.

  • I may detect a bit of glee from Michael Brendan Dougherty's headline on Biden's mishandling of classified documents from the Obama Administration: Them’s the Rules. (I might have gone with "Turnabout is fair play," myself.)

    I’m sorry, but ever since Donald J. Trump emerged on the political stage in 2015 the world of politics has been an endless Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote caper.

    Every attempt to get Trump by imposing “the rules” on him ends up failing because it is revealed that his opponents have never respected or abided by those rules either.

    Every single time.…

    MBD's bottom line (after a long Politico excerpt): "Among Trump’s superpowers in life and in politics is knowing that being an authentic bad boy beats being a fake good boy every time."

  • Margot Cleveland goes slightly clickbaity with her headline at the Federalist: Difference In Biden And Trump's Classified Docs Isn't What You Think. Oh yeah? What is it then, Margot?

    … the supposed equal treatment on display now does not undo the [National Archives and Records Administration]’s partisan targeting of Trump that began the day he walked out of the White House for the last time. Nonetheless, it is quite satisfying to watch the Biden administration eat crow.

    The other bit of good news is that this might get some diligent journalists to dig a bit into the "Penn Biden Center", through which the University of Pennsylvania paid Joe more than $900K in 2017 and 2018 for "a vaguely defined role that involved no regular classes and around a dozen public appearances on campus, mostly in big, ticketed events."

    Was the Penn Biden Center laundering funds for … someone or someones?

  • More on one of the stupidest efforts I've seen so far this year, from Emma Camp: Seattle School District Sues Google, Facebook, Snapchat, and TikTok for Causing Teen 'Mental Health Crisis'.

    Seattle Public Schools makes considerable leaps when asserting that social media platforms are singlehandedly responsible for a wide range of behavioral problems among the youth it teaches. While analysts have long linked heavy social media use to mental illness, it's unclear if there is a definitive causal relationship. As Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown wrote last month, "most teens—59 percent—see social media as neither having a positive nor negative effect on their lives. Just 9 percent said it's mostly negative, while 32 percent said it's mostly positive. Many teens also say that life on social media is better than their parents assume it is."

    The school district's lawsuit assumes that social media use among teenagers is inevitable. However, parents have the ability to control how much time their children spend on social media. Not only can parents simply refuse to buy their children the smartphones that enable problematic social media use, but social media apps themselves often allow parents to enact strict time limits and content controls.

    Since I am not a lawyer, I'll just toss out some advice for the sued companies: countersue for tortious interference.

Last Modified 2024-01-14 4:57 AM EST

Creatures of Cain

The Hunt for Human Nature in Cold War America

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Well, one minor gripe: the "Cold War" reference in the book's subtitle is kind of a fakeout. Yes, most of the intellectual action the author, Erika Lorraine Milam, describes here takes place in that era. But the Soviet Union didn't really have much to do with it, much less Red China. The slim connecting reed: one of Milam's narrative threads describes the American panic over Sputnik, which launched a major educational effort to push kids into scientific and technical careers.

I know: I was somewhat shaped by that effort myself. I still recall the brand spanking new textbooks in my high school science courses. And one of the components of my college financial aid package was a "National Defense Student Loan", part of the 1958 National Defense Education Act.

But apart from that major bit of social engineering, that era saw an upsurge in science interest from the general public. Cheap pop-science paperbacks from folks like Rachel Carson, Margaret Mead, Isaac Asimov, George Gamow, etc. were given a prominent position on the racks. (I devoured Gamow's One, Two, Three, … Infinity myself; 'twas another life-changer for me.) The Time-Life Science Library! Magazines like Popular Science, National Geographic, … I could go on.

Let's get back to the book: Milam looks at how the thorny topic of "human nature" evolved during this era, a complex tale involving paleontologists, anthropologists, evolutionary biologists, primatologists, sociologists, … The slight relevance to the Cold War: the overshadowing possibility of nuclear armageddon had people wondering if mankind was doomed by its inherent intra-species aggressive tendencies to seek out bigger and better weapons, the better to destroy itself. Popularizers included Desmond Morris, Robert Ardrey, Richard Dawkins, and many more. With the discussion and debates carrying on today.

As you might guess, the political and social implications of such research impacted subsequent popularizations and discussions. The issue was not just aggression, but also (oh oh) matters of race and sex. As always, when ideology and science collide, neither one comes out looking well. The bitter controversy over (for example) Edward O. Wilson's Sociobiology is covered extensively; To her credit, Milam's coverage is even-handed.

Random observation: although Jane Goodall's work with chimps is extensively covered, there's nothing about bonobos, their relatively peaceful cousins. Maybe that research happened outside Milam's adopted timeframe? I don't know.

Fun fact: on which popular television show was the word "penis" first uttered? The answer may be found on page 113. (Or you can just read this Reason review, which put the book on my get-at-library list.)

Last Modified 2024-01-14 4:57 AM EST

Attention Must Be Paid

Persuasion publishes a Steven Pinker essay on irrationality and how to fight it: Reason To Believe. It's long, but worth your while.

Pinker is (I think) on the moderate political left, and many of his "irrational" examples draw from the looney-tunes right: QAnon, Covid truthers, etc. He's much kinder to Wikipedia than it deserves.

But he's got some ammo to expend against his "side" too:

Here's another candidate for a mythology zone: the sacred creeds of academic and intellectual elites. These include the belief that we are born blank slates, that sex is a social construction, that every difference in the social statistics of ethnic groups is caused by racism, that the source of all problems in the developing world is European and American imperialism, and that repressed abuse and trauma are ubiquitous.

Many observers have been taken aback by the repression of dissent from these beliefs in contemporary universities—the deplatformings, the cancelings, the heckler’s vetoes, the defenestrations, the multi-signatory denunciations, the memory-holing of journal articles. Universities, after all, are supposed to be the place in which propositions are interrogated and challenged and complexified and deconstructed, not criminalized. Yet these beliefs are treated not as empirical hypotheses but as axioms that decent members of the community may not challenge.

Academic cancel culture may be a regression to the default human intuition that distal beliefs are no more than moral expressions—in this case, opposition to bigotry and oppression. But the default intuition has also been intellectualized and fortified by the doctrines of relativism, postmodernism, critical theory, and social constructionism, according to which claims to objectivity and truth are mere pretexts to power. This marriage of intuition and theory may help us make sense of the mutual unintelligibility between Enlightenment liberal science, according to which beliefs are things about which decent people may be mistaken, and critical postmodern wokeism, according to which certain beliefs are self-incriminating.

Gentle, yet powerful criticism. Can institutions that squander their credibility on ideological shenanigans ever get it back? Or do they simply need to be put out of their misery and be replaced by systems more devoted to rationality?

Briefly noted:

  • Michael Graham looks at some local numbers: NH Public School Enrollment Plunge Worst in Nation, Even as Taxpayer Funding Soars.

    Public schools across the U.S. are losing students and New Hampshire is leading the way.

    Axios reported Sunday that, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, Granite State public school enrollment fell by 14 percent between Fall 2009 and Fall 2020, more than any other state.

    And that 14 percent rate is projected to continue until 2030, emptying even more classrooms.

    The Axios report comes just 48 hours after the New Hampshire Department of Education (DOE) released the latest data on taxpayer spending on K-12 education. Because cities and towns continue to increase their demands for taxpayer funding for schools, average per-pupil spending in New Hampshire has hit a record $19,400.

    Yikes. And there's the throwaway bottom line: "New Hampshire’s National Education Assessment Progress (NEAP) tests scores have been flat or falling for nearly a decade."

    But the cars in the teachers' parking lots have gotten nicer looking over that time.

  • A PG-13 article from Jeff Mauer on the House Speaker imbroglio: Watching Our Constipated Legislature Struggle to Crap Out a Government Made Me Glad We're Not a Parliamentary System.

    It gave me no joy to watch Kevin McCarthy struggle like a dwarf at a glory hole in his effort to win over the GOP’s Escaped Mental Patient Caucus. Ten years ago, I would have enjoyed that show. I would have popped popcorn and settled in for Schadenfreudefest 2013. I would have delighted in watching Michele Bachmann and Louie Gohmert torture poor John Boehner, who — as far as I’m concerned — will always be Dick York to McCarthy’s Dick Sargent. I would have counted down the minutes until 11:00 so I could watch a Daily Show segment called House of the Rising DUMB. Back then, the whole “the GOP can’t control the monster they created!” scenario felt wacky and fun.

    I don’t like this narrative anymore. The dynamic just sucks now. We all know that the far right can’t be reasoned with; trying to reason with Matt Gaetz is like trying to Lindy Hop with a dead whale. Negotiations with the Freedom Caucus aren’t negotiations; the Caucus just forces people to be unwilling participants in their stupid performative bullshit — it’s like getting dragged on stage at an improv show. Charades like these epitomize dysfunctional governance. Personally, I want my government to be effective, efficient, and so boring that cable news shows have to run segments like “Olives: How Come Sometimes They Come in a Can But Other Times They’re in a Jar?”

    I'm slightly less critical of the Freedom Caucus than Mauer is. I could be wrong about that; we'll see what happens.

  • Andrew G. Biggs notes that we should have deployed that parachute much earlier in our free-fall: We Will Regret Our Missed Opportunities to Reform Social Security.

    Senator John Thune (South Dakota), the second-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, has suggested that Congress take up Social Security reform as part of its legislation to increase the federal debt limit. With Social Security’s long-term funding gap now topping $20 trillion, there is no time like the present — no time, that is, except for the past. New data from the Congressional Budget Office suggest that, had Congress acted on Social Security reform two decades ago, the federal government’s largest spending program could have been made solvent with only a modest impact on the incomes of average retirees.

    Back in 2001, I served on the staff of President George W. Bush’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security. While the commission did not agree on a single reform plan, two members — economists John Cogan of Stanford University and Olivia S. Mitchell of the Wharton School — argued for freezing the value of Social Security benefits in inflation-adjusted terms. Benefits wouldn’t be cut, but Americans retiring in the future wouldn’t receive higher benefits than today’s retirees, as the current benefit formula requires. That single change would have restored Social Security to long-term solvency.

    Biggs notes that the GOP's failure to enact reform twenty years ago has made them shy about proposing fixes now. And unfortunately for the country, that "leaves congressional Democrats as the only team on the field."

    I note that didn't stop the AARP from sending us scary mail about Mitt Romney's efforts at entitlement reform.

  • J.D. Tuccille notes a Canadian totalitarian tactic that may be coming to a country near you: With Jordan Peterson, Occupational Licensing Becomes a Way To Censor.

    Occupational licensing is a phony guardian of public safety that hikes prices, protects existing practitioners from competition, and raises barriers to work and mobility.

    As if that wasn't bad enough, licensing is now used as a weapon to enforce conformity, with permission to make a living dependent on adherence to the party line. Developments in California and Canada demonstrate that occupational licensing isn't just an economic mistake, but also a danger to free speech.

    "Jordan Peterson is no stranger to controversy," the National Post's Tyler Dawson reported last week. "The Canadian psychologist and cultural commentator has waded into any number of battles since he first rose to fame several years ago. But now, his incendiary remarks about climate change, whether or not overweight people are attractive, and gender dysphoria, have landed him in trouble with the Ontario College of Psychologists—the professional body that regulates the behaviour of clinical psychologists."

    Just some local data from the Institute for Justice: New Hampshire comes out pretty well in its measure of burdensome licensing. And since 2017, we got rid of licensing requirements for shampooers!

    I can report no obvious increase in the amount of filthy hair I observe.

It's Not Rocket Science. But It Is Science.

Maureen L. Condic responds to the dim bulbs who claim "we" don't know when life begins. Ackchually, she says, We Do Know When Human Life Begins.

In a recent New York Times piece asking “When Does Life Begin?,” religion correspondent Elizabeth Dias presents multiple lines of evidence to conclude that the question is simply too complex to be answered. She relays the poignant story of a woman who is pro-choice but who experienced a 16-week miscarriage as the loss of her child, Maya. She enumerates how different states (Arizona, South Carolina), different cultures (China, ancient Egypt), and different religious traditions (Judaism, medieval Christianity) have offered different answers to the question of when life begins. She notes that defenders of the view that life begins at sperm–egg fusion often cite “Christian principles,” suggesting that this conclusion is nothing more than a religious conviction. Dias acknowledges that “more than half of American adults say the statement ‘human life begins at conception, so a fetus is a person with rights’ describes their views at least somewhat well”; yet she goes on to present contrasting views offered by biologists, physicians, philosophers, anthropologists, and clerics.

Let me be clear: Outside of a few quibbles with the biology (the embryo clearly does not arise from a “fraction” of the cells present at the time of implantation; the placenta is manifestly not “a new organ that a woman’s body makes”; and it is absurd to characterize a pregnancy as a woman’s “making a new organism with her body”), I agree with all of the evidence Dias presents and with the obvious fact that opinions on this question are both complex and diverse. What I do not agree with is the conclusion that, simply because people hold diverse opinions on the subject, the question of when life begins cannot be definitively answered.

The question of when human life begins is a matter of biology, not opinion. And the scientific facts are unambiguous: The life of a new human being initiates at the instant of sperm–egg fusion. While some individuals may deny this conclusion, it is supported by hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers (discussed here) and is entirely uncontested in the scientific literature. Dias accurately reports that a “scientific consensus” on this question has existed for over 150 years, ever since sperm–egg fusion was first viewed using a microscope. Amander Clark, the president-elect of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (hardly a bastion of pro-life sentiment), clearly endorses this consensus, telling Dias, “From the biologist point of view, I’d need to say life of a mammalian organism begins at fertilization.” In considering the specific question of when human life begins, the mammalian organism in question would be a human organism. And another term for “human organism” is “human being.”

You may not like the answer, but there it is. Deal.

Briefly noted:

  • Stephanie Slade ("Slade" to her co-workers, apparently) bids Goodbye, Ben Sasse.

    During his eight years in Washington (not including previous stints in the executive branch), Sasse was often a voice of civility and moderation but also of hard truth telling. In 2016, he was one of the first to say he would vote for a third party rather than support then-candidate Donald Trump. Later, he excoriated the 45th president on a range of charges, saying on one occasion that he objects to "the way [Trump] treats women, spends like a drunken sailor," and more. "He mocks evangelicals behind closed doors. His family has treated the presidency like a business opportunity. He's flirted with white supremacists," Sasse went on.

    After a pro-Trump mob invaded the Capitol in 2021 in a half-baked attempt to stop certification of Joe Biden's election, Sasse was among the handful of Republicans who voted to convict the outgoing president. He was similarly one of the small number who voted to create a commission to investigate January 6.

    Availing himself of the chance to offer farewell remarks from the Senate floor on Tuesday, Sasse twice lamented the "I alone can fix it" mentality that has arisen on the political right, a barely veiled reference to the former president.

    I don't blame him from bailing out of a plane piloted by large-egoed narcissists.

  • Jerry Coyne continues to be dismayed over a trend at a once-useful magazine: Scientific American continues its departure from science and descent into illiberal politics. He provides three recent examples, including the one that everyone else is making fun of today: Damar Hamlin's Collapse Highlights the Violence Black Men Experience in Football. (" "Come and see the violence inherent in the system!")

    But here's another example: "How Anti-LGBTQ+ Rhetoric Fuels Violence"

    The article indicts Republicans and white nationalists for their anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and actions (e.g., banning the teaching of CRT, for example—laws that I oppose).  Of course “hate speech” doesn’t always lead to action, even at a temporal or spatial remove from the speech, and the article doesn’t give solid evidence for the connection between speech and action. Of course some killers are motivated by “homophobia” or “transphobia”, but not as many as the media suggests. Omar Mateen’s 2016 mass shooting at the gay Pulse nightclub in Orlando, for example, a horrific act that killed 49 people and injured 53, was immediately touted by the press as a likely act of homophobia, but no evidence was ever found that Mateen was motivated by hatred of gays. Rather, his motive appears to have been revenge for American airstrikes in the Middle East, and Mateen appeared not to even know that the club was gay. (He died in the assault.) The media likes what fits a narrative, particularly the progressive media—but they’re not always right.

    Coyne points out that the "evidence" cited in the article is all expressed in the form "may cause" and "can motivate". That's a thin reed on which to hang the article's headline.


John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction

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Personal note: I was a science fiction geek, starting (roughly) from when I was eight or nine years old, and got Robert Heinlein's Red Planet from the Oakland, Iowa public library, spurring a (so far) six-decade fandom.

I also got into Isaac Asimov, getting his classic Foundation trilogy as a teen, a mere 10¢, plus shipping and handling, as a come-on for joining the Science Fiction Book Club. And I devoured his robot stories too.

And I started reading Analog magazine (renamed from "Astounding") back in 1964, edited by John W. Campbell, Jr. I still remember the issue I picked off the rack, cover here. A few months later, Frank Herbert's "The Prophet of Dune" appeared in the mag, and well…

So even though I was a little too young to experience the "golden age" of science fiction, I was pretty well acquainted with three of the four figures covered by Alec Nevala-Lee's book. (I managed to totally avoid the œuvre of L. Ron Hubbard.) I found it to be a fascinating story, meticulously researched, full of interesting tidbits on the careers, personalities, and interactions of Campbell, Asimov, Heinlein and Hubbard.

Although at times they seem to be competing for the "Who's Craziest" title. Asimov, with his phobias of heights, open spaces, and flying? His serial philandering? Reader, he's by far the sanest one. Hubbard's nuttiness is (of course) famous for spawning the Scientology cult, which still exists today with notable celebrity adherents. Campbell was forever getting roped into pseudo-scientific bogosities, like Hubbard's Scientology precursor, Dianetics, Krebiozen, the Dean Drive, ESP, etc. (He also had nice things to say about slavery, and his views on race… well, never mind.)

And Heinlein was an inveterate nudist.

So this book might not be everyone's cup of tea, but if you're a certain age, and you've had certain reading habits, you'll probably enjoy it as much as I did.

Last Modified 2024-01-14 4:56 AM EST

Yeah, Let's Do That

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But then we get Kamala, right? I see a downside there.

Nevertheless, Andrew C. McCarthy gives a very good reason for sending Joe back to Delaware: Biden's Immigration ‘Parole’ Scam.

We must have a “safe, orderly, and humane processing” of “migrants” seeking to enter the United States. Prepare to hear that a lot, particularly on Sunday at President Biden’s drive-by in El Paso. It’s the new Biden administration mantra. If you hear it often enough, Biden hopes you’ll pass into just the right detached, transcendental state — the state that seems to befall him now and again (and again . . . and again . . .). That way, you might not notice that Congress has already enacted into federal law the “safe, orderly, and humane process” for aliens who enter our country in violation of our laws.

It’s called detention.

Last weekend, I urged that the House impeach Biden over the security catastrophe he has willfully created at the southern border. In just the last two months, for example, over 600,000 illegal aliens — oh, sorry, migrants — have been apprehended. And mind you, that doesn’t count another 200,000-plus “got aways,” who’ve snuck in without being captured because Biden won’t provide adequate enforcement resources. As anger over his non-enforcement policy mounts, Biden is now trying to hoodwink the country into believing that he is getting tough on illegal-alien entries, despite two years of aiding and abetting millions of them. That is what tomorrow’s theater in El Paso is about. It’s why on Thursday, Biden announced a new policy, dramatically warning Latin America that aliens who show up at the border without legal authorization to enter will be denied the opportunity to apply for asylum.

Wikipedia isn't always the best source for political issues, but I assume they've got the wording of Article II, Section One, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution correct. The one where the incoming president swears (or affirms) that he will "faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States". Which includes (Article II, Section Three, Clause 5) taking "care that the laws be faithfully executed".

I know that's hopelessly old-fashioned. And unlikely to result in a satisfactory conclusion. Still…

Briefly noted:

  • Failing impeachment, could we at least destroy the Internal Revenue Service? Liz Wolfe notes a story that (as near as I can tell) flew largely under the radar while the Kevin McCarthy votes were ballyhooed: In 2022, the IRS Went After the Very Poorest Taxpayers.

    On Wednesday, Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) released data provided to it by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on audits performed by the agency in fiscal year 2022. Despite the infusion of new funding earmarked for the IRS via last year's Inflation Reduction Act, the agency continued historic trends of hassling primarily low-income taxpayers, with relatively few millionaires and billionaires getting caught up in the audit sweep.

    "The taxpayer class with unbelievably high audit rates—five and a half times virtually everyone else—were low-income wage-earners taking the earned income tax credit," reported TRAC, noting that the poorest taxpayers are "easy marks in an era when IRS increasingly relies upon correspondence audits yet doesn't have the resources to assist taxpayers or answer their questions."

    I get the argument: the Earned Income Tax Credit is rife with error and fraud as the IRS itself admits. Still…

Last Modified 2024-01-14 4:56 AM EST

Movin' On Up

Today's eye candy is a chart from a WSJ op-ed from (ex-Senator) Phil Gramm and John Early, authors of the recent book, The Myth of American Inequality. The good-news headline: Upward Mobility Is Alive and Well in America.

[A Picture of Mobilty]

It's kind of a neat visual, showing the relationship between income of families containing teenage kids (as of 1996-2000) and the income of those kids in adulthood (2011-12). For example, from those 1996-2000 families in the bottom income quartile, 37.4% of their (now adult) kids were also in the bottom quartile in 2011-12.

It's worth thinking about what the chart would look like under alternative scenarios.

In a land where your income was completely independent of that of your parents, each bar would look the same, and each slice of each bar would be precisely 20%.

Alternatively, if your income quintile was fated to be the same as your parents, each bar would be a single-color 100%, from lowest to highest: blue, green, purple, orange, yellow.

That would also be what the chart would look like if all the kids were making twice as much as their parents did. Hm.

Obviously, we're in between those extreme scenarios, as you would expect.

But Gramm and Early make a point about these quintile comparisons:

But even these impressive numbers understate real income mobility in America. These studies measure relative mobility by comparing the children’s income quintile then and now. Relative mobility is a zero-sum game—by definition, 20% of households are in the lowest quintile and only 20% in the highest—but income growth isn’t. The vast majority of adult children had higher real incomes than their parents. To rise out of the bottom quintile, children’s inflation-adjusted income had to increase by more than the growth of the income ceiling for the bottom quintile during the years between generations—35% in Mr. [Michael] Strain’s study. Children reared in any other quintile had to see their real income as adults rise on average by roughly 50% above their parents’ income simply to avoid falling into a lower quintile than their parents. The climb to a higher quintile is steeper still.

In other words, if Joe gets (say) a 20% raise moving him into the middle quintile, that might drop middle-quintile Judy into the second quintile, even though she's no worse off.

So whenever you see these comparisons, take them with some skepticism, especially if they're being pushed by class warriors.

Briefly noted:

  • We Americans may be dealing with a surge of illiberal ideological intolerance, but things seem to be worse up north. Patrick Carroll looks at one case, and proposes a modest solution: Jordan Peterson’s License Fiasco Highlights Why Government Licensing Should Be Abolished. Centered around this tweet:

    This isn’t the first time the licensing system has been weaponized against professionals with unpopular views. In an infamous 2021 statement from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario—the provincial regulatory body for medical doctors—doctors were effectively told to get on board with the official Covid narrative or risk losing their license.

    “Physicians hold a unique position of trust with the public,” the statement reads, “and have a professional responsibility to not communicate anti-vaccine, anti-masking, anti-distancing and anti-lockdown statements and/or promoting unsupported, unproven treatments for COVID-19. Physicians must not make comments or provide advice that encourages the public to act contrary to public health orders and recommendations. Physicians who put the public at risk may face an investigation by the CPSO and disciplinary action, when warranted.”

    When the government can yank your chain like this, your liberty is an illusion.

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    On a related note, Andrew Doyle (aka "Titania McGrath") takes a long look at A Puritanical Assault on the English Language.

    It is a truism that people are often educated out of extreme religious beliefs. With good education comes the ability to think critically, which is the death knell for ideologies that are built on tenuous foundations. The religion of Critical Social Justice has spread at an unprecedented rate, partly because it makes claims to authority in the kind of impenetrable language that discourages the sort of criticism and scrutiny that would see it collapse upon itself. Some would argue that this is one of the reasons why the Catholic Church resisted translating the Bible into the vernacular for so long; those in power are always threatened when the plebeians start thinking for themselves and asking inconvenient questions.

    Excerpted from his new book, Amazon link at your right.

  • J.D. Tuccille has an eye-catcher of a headline: Government Snoops in Maine Caught Spying on Peaceful Americans.

    Maine? Whoa, that state is within easy walking distance of Pun Salad Manor! What's goin' on, J.D.?

    Federal jurors awarded $300,000 in damages last month to a former Maine state police detective who was demoted after revealing that a joint federal-state intelligence operation gathers data on law-abiding people.

    The verdict spurred state officials to review practices at the Maine Information and Analysis Center, part of a national network of "fusion centers" that gather domestic intelligence. It also brought new light to operations that have fueled civil liberties concerns since their creation after 9/11.

    Guess what, Granite Staters? Our LFOD state has one of those too. Although I'm sure they'd never do anything like those Stasi-wannabes in Maine. Right?

    I ask this in near-total ignorance: corporations are subject to a patchwork raft of "data privacy" laws. Do any such laws apply to those "fusion centers"?

Last Modified 2024-01-30 6:53 AM EST

Nine Lives

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I picked this off the library shelf because I really liked a previous book by Peter Swanson, Eight Perfect Murders, although I found it "gimmicky".

Well, guess what, reader? Nine Lives is also super-gimmicky. But Swanson can bring this sort of thing off, because he's a very good writer and knows that you can't get away with mere gimmickry.

The gimmick here is a list of nine names. The opening chapters show the named people receiving their copy of the list, including Frank Hopkins, the elderly owner of the Windward Resort in "Kennewick", Maine. He picks his copy of the list off a beachside rock, and…

Everyone else gets their copy of the list in the mail. We get a brief intro to each of them and they are a diverse bunch, men and women scattered throughout the nation, with no obvious link between them. Slight spoiler: it becomes clear that they are targets for murder most foul.

It's a page-turner, no doubt. Will law enforcement figure out what's going on and thwart the killer before it's too late for everyone on the list? I liked the ending, but I can understand people who might not.

Last Modified 2024-01-14 4:56 AM EST

Stealers Wheel, Where Are You?

You need to adjust those song lyrics Because clowns are not only to the left of me, they're on the right, and … holy crap … just about every other direction too:


We could use some more jokers as well.

Briefly noted:

  • How stupid is Uncle Stupid? In case you need a reminder, read the report from Joe Lancaster: Government Spending Billions To Expand Broadband Without Knowing Who Needs It.

    In November 2021, Congress passed and President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), a $1.2 trillion grab bag of public spending wish list items. One of those projects, the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, would expand broadband access to communities that currently lack access to high-speed internet. BEAD would dole out $42.45 billion in state grants, and the Government Accountability Office estimated that the projects could require as many as 23,000 additional telecom workers to complete.

    The only problem is that the government currently has no idea where broadband actually is and is not available.

    State governments eager to get their mitts on that cash have a vested interest in maximizing their no-broadband numbers.

  • Joel Kotkin wonders: Can Capitalism Save Hollywood?

    After a decade of rapid growth, the nation’s media and entertainment complex is facing retrenchment and, perhaps, a necessary reappraisal. Firms are consolidating. Workers are being laid off at Disney, Warner Brothers, Paramount, CBS, and other production houses. News media firms like CNN, Gannet, and Buzzfeed are planning similar actions. In 2022, stocks in media companies lost $500 billion in value, and stocks in tech firms, increasingly big players in entertainment and news, suffered a reversal of an astounding $4 trillion.

    This decline reflects the growing gap between the legacy media and at least half their potential audience. According to Gallup, overall public trust in the media is lower than it’s ever been; barely one-third of poll respondents express confidence, half the percentage that felt that way in 1978. Hollywood, television, and radio register similarly low levels of support.

    I see that every single one of 2022's top ten highest-grossing films of 2022 is a sequel of some flavor. Down to Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

  • It's not your fault if you're confused. Fortunately, Wilfred Reilly is around to perform a useful service, Clearing the Air on ‘Gender’ Confusion.

    ‘Gender” is not sex, and — per my own polling — most conservatives don’t quite know what the hell it is. This confusion unnecessarily complicates a fairly simple political issue. Perhaps this essay can help.

    Sex is a binary and unambiguously real human trait, which goes well beyond the specific genitals that individuals have. The multiple essays on biologist Colin Wright’s invaluable website Reality’s Last Stand break this down in much greater detail, but biological sex is first and foremost a matter of reproductive function. Among at the very least all placental mammals, a male is defined as a member of the sex that produces a large number of “small motile gametes” — sperm. A female is a member of the sex that produces a smaller number of larger and more individually valuable gametes — eggs. Whole systems of the human body correspond to these roles. Barring some terrible accident or genetic abnormality, women have fallopian tubes, a uterus and cervix, and ovaries while men make do with testicles, an internal prostate, Cowper’s glands, and so forth.


    Gender, which someone — Judith Butler, IIRC — once called “the performativity of sex,” is something else altogether. Crudely but accurately, a person’s “gender” is simply the average of the sex-based roles and stereotypes that they prefer or identify with. A popular “gender chart” used in schools tracks from a bright pink female caricature on the leftmost (“feminine”) side over to a blue male warrior on the right: Actual pictures of Barbie and G.I. Joe are often added to each extreme. Many of the more formalized scales we use in the social sciences aren’t much better. The idea underlying all of this is that how someone “scores” across the secondary traits that we associate with sex, for example liking boys’ clothes or the color blue, constitutes a distinct personal characteristic that is as important as sex itself.

    So: don't be confused, but don't let yourself be bullied by ideologues who throw bafflegab and demands at you. Treat others, no matter their gender, with humanity and whatever respect they deserve.

Last Modified 2024-01-30 6:53 AM EST

Room to Swing

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For some reason, in April 2022, I became aware the Kindle edition of this book was on sale at Amazon for 99¢. (It's $2.99 as I type.) It won the Edgar Award for best novel back in 1958. The garish cover said "The Noir Classic"! The Amazon page said "The Pulp Noir Classic"! A totally garish cover! All that made it an irresistible buy.

Unfortunately, it was one of those "wish I'd liked it better" reads for me. Two stars ("it was ok") at Goodreads.

It is claimed to be the first appearance of a black private eye in fiction, Toussaint Moore. As the book opens Toussaint has driven his old Jaguar to the small town of Bingston, Ohio. It's the mid-1950s, and the townspeople, as he reports it, "stared at me like I'd stepped out of a flying saucer." He immediately gets hassled by a local cop.

He's on a mission, it turns out, to try to clear himself of a murder rap back in his New York City home. He'd been hired by a reality TV show ("You - Detective!") to keep tabs on a rape suspect who's going to be one of the show's featured criminals. But the suspect gets killed, Toussaint gets framed, slugs a white cop… and call him mint jelly, because he's on the lam.

That's not Toussaint's only problem; his girlfriend Sybil despises his detective gig, and wants him to grab a stable job at the Post Office. His job requires him to navigate around pervasive racism and the shallowness and sexual proclivities of showbiz types.

"Ed Lacy" is a pseudonym for Leonard Zinberg, a white Jewish Communist married to a black woman. He was relatively prolific back in the mid-20th century, and is nowadays relatively obscure. (This novel's copyright wasn't renewed, which is why you can find multiple editions over at Amazon and elsewhere.) The prose here is Spillane-like, for better or worse.

Last Modified 2024-01-14 4:56 AM EST

Oh, the Humanity!

[crash and burn] Briefly noted:

  • Jacob Sullum provides another reason to pass the popcorn: Democrats May Regret Compromising Taxpayer Privacy to Get Trump: The Release of the Former President's Tax Returns Sets a Dangerous Precedent.

    It took more than three years for House Democrats to obtain Donald Trump's federal income tax returns, which they released to the public last Friday. That effort also required setting a dangerous precedent that threatens the privacy of Democrats as well as Republicans.

    Every president since Jimmy Carter has voluntarily released his tax returns. Trump's defiance of that tradition provoked much criticism and invited speculation about what he might be hiding. But federal law generally protects the confidentiality of information that Americans are legally required to share with the IRS.

    Democrats found a way around that obstacle by invoking a provision of the Internal Revenue Code that authorizes the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee to request "any return or return information." In April 2019, the committee's chairman, Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), sought tax returns for then-President Trump and several of his businesses.

    Jacob outlines the dance of legalities in which Neal and the Biden Administration engaged to get the Trump returns out there. And the implicit message is: if your political enemies get their hands on the right governmental levers, it could happen to anyone. And, now, probably will.

  • But do those tax returns imply any wisdom? Vero de Rugy says they could but so far aren't: Trump's Tax Returns Spur the Wrong Policy Debate.

    The recent release of former President Donald Trump's tax returns has triggered two seemingly contradictory reactions. Some people are eager to point out that considering his many heavy losses, Trump might not be as good as legend has it at turning profits. On the other hand, other folks complain about just how few actual dollars Trump paid in taxes.

    There is an obvious connection between these different interpretations. Once again, we have evidence of just how poorly many Americans grasp basic tax facts.

    Now, I agree that our tax system should be revamped. This system is a nightmare of double taxation of income and grotesque horizontal inequities in which — thanks to a labyrinth of politically motivated tax breaks and credits — taxpayers earning the same incomes don't pay the same amount of taxes. The result is a system that penalizes work, saving and investment and in turn dampens economic growth.

    Click over for Vero's suggestions. Here's the most important: "first and foremost eliminate all tax breaks and other preferences that tilt the playing field in favor of politically connected interest groups."

  • Hugo Gurdon of the Washington Examiner made the mistake of listening to Commie Radio. His alternate name is… National Progressive Radio strikes again.

    NPR’s Morning Edition ran a segment on Monday that perfectly encapsulated the broadcaster’s left-wing assumptions, its determination to spread them, the contemptuous betrayal of its mission to represent varied views, and its modus operandi camouflaging propaganda as news.

    It’s worth documenting periodically lest we forget that this bias and lack of intellectual curiosity offers a skewed view of important issues and derogates what the national broadcaster is for. We should not sink into oblivious resignation. The segment, from national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson, concerned President Joe Biden outpacing his predecessors in appointing judges and, in doing so, reshaping the federal bench. It’s a vital subject on which a news organization with pretensions to public service (using taxpayer money it describes as "essential" to operations) has a duty to be balanced. Instead, all four people quoted in the piece were from the Left and pursued the same narrative. Two were Biden employees.

    Details at the link. I'm not sure why anyone listens to NPR other than leftists who want to reinforce their priors.

  • Christian Britschgi breaks out the world's smallest violin for our wannabe rulers: 'Working Class' Reps Say They Can't Afford D.C. Rents While Earning $174,000 a Year.

    Amongst the incoming 118th Congress are several freshmen progressive representatives who say that having to spend their $174,000 congressional salary on housing in the District is not just difficult but a deliberate effort to exclude them from the government.

    "For those of us who are working-class, this is yet another reminder that this place wasn't designed for people who actually represent their communities," said freshman Rep. Delia Ramirez (D–Ill.) to The Cut yesterday.

    Ramirez—herself a homeowner and landlord back in her district—said that D.C.'s housing costs are so high that she's had to give up on her plan of renting an apartment by herself. Instead, she is splitting the $3,000 rent on a Capitol Hill rowhouse with another congresswoman.

    Some CongressCritters are beyond embarrassment.

Last Modified 2024-01-30 6:53 AM EST

It May Not Seem Like It, But…

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Yes, it's Perihelion Day! Try to get out and feel those solar photons on your face.

(I've scheduled this post to appear at 11:17 am EST, the very perihelionic moment. Why? Because I can.)

Briefly noted:

  • The WSJ editorialists are a little put out with an elderly doomsayer: The Paul Ehrlich Apocalypse Is Back.

    We’ll say this for Paul Ehrlich—at least he’s consistent. In 1968 the Stanford biologist famously declared that “the battle to feed all humanity is over,” at a time when the earth’s population was about 3.5 billion. Today we have a population of eight billion (better fed than ever), yet there was Mr. Ehrlich, on CBS’s “60 Minutes” Sunday night, still predicting that “humanity is very busily sitting on a limb that we’re sawing off.”

    The CBS narrator acknowledged that the green revolution in agriculture disproved Mr. Ehrlich’s prediction of mass famine. But the show went on to suggest that Mr. Ehrlich’s repackaged gloom about melting icecaps and the rate of extinction may finally prove him right in saying we are still heading the way of the dinosaurs.

    I won't watch the interview, but maybe someone will let me know if he said, "Hey, I only have to be right once…"

  • Ron Bailey is equally bemused at how prophets of doom keep getting prime-time air: '60 Minutes' Promotes Paul Ehrlich's Failed Doomsaying One More Time.

    Stanford University biologist and perennially wrong doomster Paul Ehrlich appeared on CBS 60 Minutes on Sunday where he once again declared, "I and the vast majority of my colleagues think we've had it; that the next few decades will be the end of the kind of civilization we're used to."

    Ehrlich made himself (in)famous when he in his 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb: predicted that "The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970's the world will undergo famines-hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate." Instead of rising as Ehrlich predicted, the global crude death per 1,000 people has fallen from 12.5 in 1968 to 7 in 2019 before ticking up to 8 in the pandemic year of 2020.

    Ehrlich has been Bailey's bête noire for years and years; the end of his articles has a collection of links to prove it.

  • And finally, an on-theme tweet from a former FCC Chairman:

  • I haven't agreed with Ben Sasse about everything, but he's been a rare bright spot in the US Senate. As he bids farewell to that gig, he's got one parting shot on America’s True Divide: Pluralists vs. Zealots.

    The most important divide in American politics isn’t red versus blue. It’s civic pluralists versus political zealots. This is the truth no one in Washington acknowledges but Americans must realize if we’re going to recover.

    Civic pluralists understand that ideas move the world more than power does, which is why pluralists value debate and persuasion. We believe America is great because it is good, and America is good because the country is committed to human dignity, even for those with whom we disagree. A continental nation of 330 million souls couldn’t possibly agree on everything, but we can hash out our disagreements in the communities where we live and the institutions we build. The small but important role of government, for the civic pluralist, is a framework for ordered liberty. Government doesn’t give us rights, or meaning, or purpose or permission. It exists to protect us from the whims of mobs and majorities.

    Political zealots reject this, holding that society starts and ends with power. Government in their view isn’t to protect from the powerful or the popular. More than anything else, zealots—on the right and the left—seek total victory in the public square. They believe that the center of life is government power. They preach jeremiads of victimhood and decline. On the left, they want a powerful bureaucracy. On the right, they want a strongman. But they agree on a central tenet: Americans are too weak to solve problems with persuasion. They need the state to do it.

    How much did the average IQ of the US Senate go down with Sasse's departure?

Last Modified 2024-01-14 4:56 AM EST

Watch This. You Have No Choice.

Jerry Coyne plugs a video from Sean Carroll on free will:

Professor Coyne chides Professor Carroll for not straightforwardly rejecting so-called "libertarian" free will: the notion that when we "choose" to take an action (like picking out which shirt to wear in the morning), we could have chosen differently. Coyne emphasizes the determinism implied by the laws of physics: the atoms in your brain and body act according to well-known rules, and it's simply impossible that they "could have" acted differently to get you to pick out that tan shirt instead of the white one.

But as Carroll pointed out in a book I read a few years back: when you're looking for that shirt, try saying: "Well, I'll just stand here and let the atoms in my body do whatever they were deterministically going to do anyway."

Stand there long enough until you're convinced that your body's atoms just ain't gonna get that shirt-picking job done on their own.

I'm a believer in libertarian free will. No, I don't know how it could possibly work; when I say I'm a "believer", it's in the sense that I can't explain it, I can't prove it, but I'm pretty sure it's (nonetheless) true.

I get the arguments otherwise. But it seems that those arguments go like this:

  1. We don't know how libertarian free will could possibly be true.
  2. Therefore libertarian free will can't be true.
I think that jump from 1 to 2 isn't rigorous.

Briefly noted:

  • Saul Zimet examines The Authoritarian Implications of Greta Thunberg’s Crusade against Markets. And it's not just Thunberg:

    In Naomi Klein’s 2014 New York Times bestseller This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, she constantly renounces free markets, writing that “free market ideology continues to suffocate the potential for climate action” and that “revolutionary levels of transformation to the market system [are] now our best hope of avoiding climate chaos.” Klein argues that, “Just as the climate change deniers I met at the Heartland Institute fear, there is a direct relationship between breaking fossilized free market rules and making swift progress on climate change.“

    But she doesn’t just want to transform the economy for environmental reasons. “I am convinced that climate change represents a historic opportunity on an even greater scale. As part of the project of getting our emissions down to the levels many scientists recommend, we once again have the chance to advance policies that dramatically improve lives, close the gap between rich and poor, create huge numbers of good jobs, and reinvigorate democracy from the ground up,“ she writes. And, “It can disperse power into the hands of the many rather than consolidating it in the hands of the few, and radically expand the commons, rather than auctioning it off in pieces.“

    In short: "I've always despised free-market capitalism, and now, thank goodness, 'climate change' has provided an excuse to impose my command-and-control vision on the world."

  • And "environmentalism" (generally) has been doing that for a long time. David Harsanyi notes an oldie, but not a goodie, Paul Ehrlich: '60 Minutes' Exhumes Enviro Cult Leader For Scaremongering.

    Earth is headed for a sixth extinction, warned biologist Paul Ehrlich on “60 Minutes” this Sunday. And since Ehrlich has predicted about 20 extinctions over the past 60 years, he’s a leading expert on the issue.

    Couldn’t “60 Minutes” find a fresh-faced, yet-to-be-discredited neo-Malthusian to hyperventilate about the end of the world? Why didn’t producers invite a single guest to push back against theories that have been reliably debunked by reality? Because the media is staffed by environmental pessimists and doomsayers who need to believe the world is in constant peril due to the excesses of capitalism. And Ehrlich is perhaps our greatest alarmist.

    His 1968 book, “The Population Bomb,” is among the most destructive of the 20th century. The long screed not only made Ehrlich a celebrity, but gave end-of-day alarmists a patina of scientific legitimacy, popularized alarmism as a political tool, and normalized authoritarian and anti-humanist policies as a cure. Ehrlich’s progeny are other media-favored hysterics by other antihumanists, such as Al Gore or Eric Holthaus or Greta Thunberg, who skipped learning history and science because she also believes we are on the precipice of “mass extinction.” And none of this is to mention the thousands of other Little Ehrlichs nudging you to eat insects, gluing themselves to roads, and demanding you surrender the most basic conveniences and necessities of modernity.

    Interviewer Scott Pelley apparently didn't think to ask, "Don't you ever get tired of being spectacularly wrong?"

  • “Come, Watson, come! The game is afoot." Joe Lancaster assures me I can't be sued for typing that: Now Anybody Can Write a Sherlock Holmes Story.

    The detective novel was invented in the 1840s, but it was perfected in 1887. That year saw the publication of A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle's first book to feature his signature character, Sherlock Holmes. Over four decades, Doyle's stories of the preternaturally talented sleuth cemented Holmes as the world's most famous detective.

    Over more than 250 portrayals on the stage and screen, Holmes is typically portrayed as brilliant yet cold and aloof, aided by his constant companion, John Watson. Now, after more than 130 years and numerous complicated court cases, Holmes has definitively entered the public domain, meaning that anybody can use the character in a published work. And despite the Doyle estate's protestations, that's a good thing.

    Anybody can write one. But not anybody can write a good one.

Feel Like Dispensing Mature Wisdom? Maybe Take a Nap First.

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
George Leef wonders: Is There Anything Today That Isn’t Racist?.

Eager for any excuse to tear down what’s left of our civilization, the woke Left has taken to declaring almost everything to be “racist.” As we read in this Daily Mail story, one Natalia Petrzela, a history teacher at the New School in Manhattan, has written a book entitled Fit Nation.

Her argument is that the fitness craze in America has its roots in a desire for white supremacy. White people decided to increase their fitness long ago because they figured it would help them have more children and thus remain on top.

Where would a teacher get such a silly idea? A clue might be found in Petrzela’s eduction: B.A. from Columbia, master’s and Ph.D. from Stanford.

In woke circles, it’s an easy path to fame: Just make some groundless assertions about the evils of a free society and you’ll be a star.

Ms. Petrzela's book is our Amazon Product du Jour; the hardcover won't be available until next month, but you can get the Kindle version now. And if you're so inclined, a long sample is provided via Amazon's "Look Inside" function.

The Daily Mail story linked above cites a Time story in support of its thesis, which (sure enough) sports the inflammatory clickbait headline: The White Supremacist Origins of Exercise in the U.S.. It's an interview where Petrzela is asked about "the most surprising thing" she learned in her research:

It was super interesting reading the reflections of fitness enthusiasts in the early 20th century. They said we should get rid of corsets, corsets are an assault on women’s form, and that women should be lifting weights and gaining strength. At first, you feel like this is so progressive.

Then you keep reading, and they’re saying white women should start building up their strength because we need more white babies. They’re writing during an incredible amount of immigration, soon after enslaved people have been emancipated. This is totally part of a white supremacy project. So that was a real “holy crap” moment as a historian, where deep archival research really reveals the contradictions of this moment.

It's easy to roll one's eyes at Petrzela's horror at the "early 20th century" combination of progressivism and eugenics. But—unlike George Leef—I would bet her "groundless assertions" are actually pretty well-grounded.

If Petrzela had read Illiberal Reformers by Thomas C. Leonard, or Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, she wouldn't have been shocked by progressive racism at all.

Briefly noted:

  • Despite her beauty, Mother Nature can be a psycho killer bitch, as recent weather events in upstate New York demonstrated. Jeff Jacoby observes: Heat kills. Cold kills more..

    "Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has consistently shown that excessive cold presents a greater threat to life than excessive heat," reported The Washington Post in 2016. During one five-year period analyzed by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, about 31 percent of weather-related deaths in the United States were attributed to "excessive natural heat, heat stroke, [or] sun stroke" but more than twice as many — 63 percent — were attributed to exposure to "excessive natural cold [or] hypothermia."

    What is true for the United States — hypothermia ends more lives than hyperthermia — is no less true worldwide. According to one study published last year in The Lancet, the British medical journal, cold weather killed more people than hot weather "in all countries for which data were available." In South Africa, for example, there were 453 deaths from excessive heat in 2019 vs. 8,372 deaths from excessive cold. In New Zealand, there were just two heat-connected deaths but 1,191 deaths related to cold. The number of heat deaths in China was an appalling 46,224. But that amounted to only one-tenth of China's death toll from cold: 455,735.

    If climate alarmism continues to succeed in driving energy policy, look forward to more folks freezing to death in the dark.

  • The Weekend Pundit was gloomy this past weekend:

    I am worried that we will be living out the old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”

    I will put on my pedant hat and point out ackshually, that's not an actual ancient Chinese curse.

    And what did those ancient Chinese know anyway?

  • But here's an actual Heinlein quote:

    It's amazing how much 'mature wisdom' resembles being too tired.

    Good point, Bob. I'll try to remember that.

Last Modified 2024-01-14 4:55 AM EST

Mr. Ramirez says…

Meet the new boss:

[Same as the Old Boss]

Happy New Year to all, nevertheless.

Last Modified 2024-01-30 6:53 AM EST

Top Ten Nonfiction Books read in 2022

[Excuse blatant copying from last year's post.] Just in case you're interested in what I found informative, interesting, thought-provoking, etc. last year. Clicking on the cover image will take you to the Amazon page (where I get a cut if you buy); clicking on the title will whisk you to my blog posting for a fuller discussion.

Ten is an arbitrary, but traditional, number, I hasten to point out.

I started using Goodreads in 2022. They nudge you to rate books, which made this retrospective task easier. I've "curated" this list to limit it to items of (I hope) general interest.

Apologies to those who didn't make the cut. I could have come up with a slightly different set on a different day. Feel free to peruse the full list of books I read in 2022 (including fiction).

In no particular order:

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
The Quick Fix: Why Fad Psychology Can't Cure Our Social Ills by Jesse Singal. An impressive job of de-hyping the overblown claims of psychological "quick fixes" over the years, most of them relatively recent. To quote a bit of this WSJ op-ed where Andy Kessler talks with Marc Andreessen: "I suggest 'studies show' are the two most dangerous words in the English language. Mr. Andreessen quickly adds, 'The corollary is ‘experts say.'"
[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
Where Is My Flying Car? by J. Storrs Hall. That's only one of the areas where the author is disappointed in the future we were promised. His analysis is wide-ranging and provocative.
[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn't, and Why It Matters by Steven Koonin. Who is not some wacky crank peddling fake science. He was (in fact) Undersecretary of Science in President Obama's Department of Energy. He opposes climate alarmists that want to stampede us into taking drastic carbon-cutting measures with (he says, convincingly) only very shaky science on their side.
[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels by Alex Epstein. Another effort to throw cold water on climate alarmists. Unlike the Koonin book above, it's more philosophical than scientific (although the science is there). He argues that energy policy should be driven by a standard of "human flourishing". And by that standard, we have little recourse but to continue fossil fuel use; the alternatives provided are too expensive, too unreliable, too scarce, or non-scalable. (In varying combinations.)
[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America by John McWhorter. The argument here is that "Electism" (McWhorter's preferred name the "woke" phenomenon) is a religion in all but name; why black people are so attracted to this religion, given that it treats them like simpletons; that this religion actually harms black people; there are better solutions to the problems plaguing black Americans; and how we can lessen the grip of Electism on the minds of all.
[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
Dreyer's English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer. A compendium of advice on how to improve your writing, in order that people like the author, Benjamin Dreyer, won't have to wince and fix it before publication. It's hilarious in spots, full of oddball facts. And once you read his discourse on proper use of lay/lie/laid/etc., you may (as I did) throw up your hands and make a resolution to just use some other words instead.
[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
Existential Physics: A Scientist's Guide to Life's Biggest Questions by Sabine Hossenfelder. An excellent science popularizer (and actual scientist) tries her hand at explaining what science can and can not tell us. (She is very critical of scientists wandering into ascientism, loosely defined as "religion masquerading as science under the guise of mathematics.") She's relentlessly fair at exploring alternative answers to the "biggest questions", which makes her answers all the more credible. (But see my report for what I considered to be an exception.)
[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
The Sack of Detroit: General Motors and the End of American Enterprise by Kenneth Whyte. An unexpectedly interesting history of the rise and (mostly) fall of the American car industry, and how that exemplifies the decline of American industrial might generally. It all has to do with prevailing attitudes toward "big business", grandstanding politicians, dishonest activism, and power-hungry regulators. It's a good companion read to Where is My Flying Car?, mentioned above.
[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
Unequivocal Justice by Christopher Freiman. A political philosophy book, but one I found accessible and (even) funny in spots. Freiman's purpose is to rebut egalitarian theories of justice (like John Rawls'), especially as such theories rule out laissez-faire free market capitalism as an acceptable operating system for national economies.He's very fair to his opponents, considering their objections, but that only makes his arguments more devastating.
[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
The Revolt of The Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millenium by Martin Gurri. The second (2018) edition of a book originally from 2014. Arnold Kling writes in his intro: "Martin Gurri saw it coming." That's only gotten truer since.

Last Modified 2024-01-14 4:55 AM EST

Some Graphs

2023 Update

The yearly Pun Salad update. Mostly copied from years previous.

Back in 2016, I made an early New Year's resolution to blog more diligently. This was unusual, in that it was actually successful. I took a small break this year (for a good reason, trust me). This broke my streak of 2129 daily posts (not counting book/movie/geek posts) since 2016-12-24. Since that five-day hiatus, my daily streak is 65.

And yet I am still not famous. We'll keep trying.

There's twelve more months of data on the chart showing the monthly blog posts since Pun Salad's birth in February 2005: (Hat tip: the Chart::Gnuplot Perl module.)

[Pun Salad Monthly Posts]

Once a geek develops a hammer, it's tough to stop finding nails to pound. Here's an updated chart on my book reading; you can tell that I've been trying to read more over the past few years:

[Yearly Books]

Last year, I wondered if I'd break 100 this year. I did, by a lot.

I should probably get out more.

And movies watched since 2004 …

[Yearly Movies]

Like last year, an all-time low record. But Top Gun: Maverick was pretty good.

For the curious: My 2022 book list is here; my 2022 movie list is here.

Last Modified 2024-01-30 6:53 AM EST