Modern American English: A Usage Note From Melissa Chen

Thanks to Melissa for this usage note. Speaking of notes…

Also of note:

  • I have had it with my CongressCritters. Especially when they tweet things like this:

    Yes, finally we're "cracking down". We're "doing something". Picture Chris Pappas slapping his forehead, saying "It's so simple! All we need to do is crack down!".

    And then read Jacob Sullum, who will remind all of us: Prohibition Gave Us Tranq-Laced Fentanyl

    The emergence of the animal tranquilizer xylazine as a fentanyl adulterant has prompted law enforcement officials to agitate for new legal restrictions and criminal penalties. That response is fundamentally misguided, because the threat it aims to address is a familiar consequence of prohibition, which creates a black market in which drug composition is highly variable and unpredictable.

    Sullum points out the folly of drug warriors like Pappas: "As usual, they think the solution to a problem created by prohibition is more prohibition."

  • "As clear as mud" would actually be an improvement. James Freeman nominates Another Biden Speech in Need of Clarification. Specifically, the one he gave in Arizona setting up a large national monument.

    The confusion lies in the fact that the president is locking up nearly a million acres and the principal result is to limit potential uranium mining in the region. Uranium fuels nuclear power, a rare technology that can efficiently generate lots of energy while generating zero greenhouse-gas emissions. With this designation he’s just made it harder to meet his climate goals but seems to be under the impression that he’s done the opposite.

    Don't worry, I'm sure we can get all the uranium we'll be needing from Russia.

  • One comparable to the 2023 Boston Red Sox. David Harsanyi pitches a bad movie idea: 'Bidenomics' Has Been A Disaster

    After 40 years of “trickle-down economics,” Joe Biden says, “Bidenomics is just another way of saying restoring the American Dream.”

    It’s not often that a politician openly pledges to bring the country back to a time of crippling inflation, high energy prices, and stifling interest rates. But this president is doing his best to keep that promise.

    Unsurprisingly, “Bidenomics” is failing to gain traction among voters. This has caused consternation in the media. One thing to remember, though, is that “Bidenomics” isn’t really a thing. Unlike, say, “Reaganomics,” which helped bring about the largest expansion of the middle class in world history, the president does not subscribe to any coherent or tangible set of economic theories or principles. The White House defines its economic policy as being “rooted in the recognition that the best way to grow the economy is from the middle out and the bottom up,” which is just platitudinous gibberish.

    Someone needs to point out that there's nothing more "trickle-down" than:

    1. Joe Taxpayer sending cash to Washington.
    2. Washington, after taking its cut, spending it on stuff it likes.
    3. Washington trying to tell Joe that it's done him a great favor.

    (Yes, the Red Sox are back in the AL East cellar once more. It was tough dislodging the Yankees, but they managed.)

  • A good question. WaPo writer Andrew Van Dam did some research, finding The average doctor in the U.S. makes $350,000 a year. Why?

    By accounting for all streams of income, they revealed that doctors make more than anyone thought — and more than any other occupation we’ve measured. In the prime earning years of 40 to 55, the average physician made $405,000 in 2017 — almost all of it (94 percent) from wages. Doctors in the top 10 percent averaged $1.3 million. And those in the top 1 percent averaged an astounding $4 million, though most of that (85 percent) came from business income or capital gains.

    Much, much more at the link.

    I'm not one to begrudge people making a lot of money. But we've heard ad nauseam how American health care is—gee whiz—so darn expensive, and American health outcomes are relatively mediocre.

    This is a big reason why. Occupational licensure, restriction of supply, a pricing system opaque to the customers… all conspire to drive up prices with no improvement in quality. Read the article, and have your blood pressure meds handy.

  • RIP… Wait a minute, is "RIP" a vim command? Reader, every single post on this blog, going back to 2005, was entered through the Linux text editor vim. As was the blog software itself. And… well, you get the idea. Vim has been my go-to editor since I started using Linux (sometime in the mid 90s). And before that, Bill Joy's vi.

    So some sad news: Rest in peace Bram Moolenaar, author of Vim and hero of many developers

    Computing as we know it today was built in no small part by individuals who have written open source software—often for little to no personal financial gain—as well as by developers who use those tools. Few tools like that are as legendary and impactful as the Vim open source code editor, the first version of which was written and released by Dutch engineer Bram Moolenaar in 1991.

    According to a note published by his family to Google Groups this week, Moolenaar passed away on August 3 at the age of 62. The post did not share his cause of death, stating only that he had been suffering from a medical condition for a few weeks.

    I will try to think a little about Moolenaar every time I successfully insert an obscure Unicode character into a text file.

Recently on the book blog:

Recently on the movie blog:


Last Modified 2024-01-11 2:56 PM EST

White House Down

[3 stars] [IMDB Link]

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

What can I say? I was in the mood for a Big Dumb Movie and this one from 2013 fit the bill nicely. It's Die Hard with the White House instead of Nakatomi Plaza. And a much bigger body count. And free-to-me on Netflix.

Channing Tatum plays John Cale, a big lunkhead Capitol policeman. He's divorced, with a daughter who disrespects him. (Fair enough: he missed her talent show performance). But she worships the current President (Jamie Foxx), the Presidency generally, and knows everything about the White House. Which works out well, because Cale has aspirations to join the Secret Service. He's wangled a job interview, which he combines with a White House tour for his daughter.

Unforunately, Cale's aspirations are shot down by a college acquaintance (ex-girlfriend?) Carol, who happens to head up the Secret Service now. And very unfortunately, the tour is marred by an invasion of the White House by a deadly gang of … terrorists? Extortionists? What is their motive exactly? Well, it's complicated. It seems to be one thing, then quickly turns out to be another.

And it doesn't matter, really, because it's an excuse to have lots of gunplay, explosions, fisticuffs, snarling bad guys threatening the innocent, continually frustrated by John McCane's Cale's efforts to thwart their schemes and save the day. And the President. And his daughter. Not necessarily in that order.

I should add that paying attention to the plot only reveals the screenwriter's biases. The actual motive behind the attack is your standard left-wing fever dream.


Last Modified 2024-01-11 2:55 PM EST

Don't Be a Feminist

Essays on Genuine Justice

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

I guess I'm a Bryan Caplan fanboy. I purchased this book (on dead trees) mostly just to show my support, because I've read nearly all its content over the years on the EconLog blog. He has since moved on to his own Substack, Bet On It. But most of the stuff here seems timeless.

("We are living in the future" aside: I ordered the book from on September 12 of last year, and the back page informs me the book was printed on September 12. Very cool.)

The lead essay here, "Don't Be a Feminist", is apparently new, though. It's an open letter to Caplan's daughter, Valeria. He takes on (for example) the male/female "wage gap" shibboleth, with the standard observation: if you control for relevant variables, most of the "gap" vanishes. Other examples of how women are treated unfairly because of sexism are discussed and debunked. Provocative!

Other than the initial essay, the articles collected here are mostly short and (seemingly) translated mechanically from the original blog posts. Links have been converted to footnotes. At one point (page 211) we're instructed to "prove me wrong in the comments". I noticed a missing-word typo on page 143 ("If you wisely try to get out Dodge…") which was in the original blog post. (Amusingly, it was quoted verbatim by Ilya Somin at the Washington Post, Reason magazine, and the Foundation for Economic Education.) If I notice one, I assume there are more.

Typos are inevitable on a blog. I assume I have accumulated hundreds over the years. I keep noticing them anyway. But… come on, it's a book. That I spent money for.

Caplan's viewpoints are firmly in the libertarian camp. I'm (therefore) very sympathetic. I remain not totally convinced by some of his opinions. He's a fervent backer of open borders; I'm dubious. He is a thoroughgoing pacifist; I suspect that pacifism is an impractical course for a country that doesn't want its citizenry to be dominated and oppressed by less-pacifistic aggressors. On a related matter, he's an ardent anti-nationalist; which is fine in theory, but not much use in navigating the world as it is.

Or I could be wrong. Because I realize that Caplan's arguments are pretty good even when I disagree.

I reported on Caplan's previous blog dumps here and here. His books are also very good; see here, here, and here.


Last Modified 2024-01-11 2:55 PM EST