URLs du Jour


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  • The road to serfdom is mostly potholes. Elizabeth Nolan Brown looks at the latest dreadful legislation, the "America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing Pre-Eminence in Technology and Economic Strength" bill. And she judges If This Is How America COMPETES, We’re Going to Lose.

    The America COMPETES Act of 2022 is a sprawling mess of spending and nonsense. House Democrats are rallying behind a 2,912-page bill that's allegedly concerned with addressing supply chain issues and keeping U.S. manufacturing and technology competitive. But like anything Democrats do these days, the bill can't simply address one main issue or a few critical needs. Instead, it tries to insert the government into every aspect of all sorts of industries and markets and pretend that bureaucrats can solve complex social and cultural issues.

    For instance, this bill addresses everything from "combating sexual harassment in science" to seeing that more science grants go to people with caregiving responsibilities; retention and advancement of women and minorities in science and tech careers; subverting censorship in China; and supporting collective bargaining agreements and union organizing efforts.

    It aims to tackle Chinese fentanyl production, e-commerce platform liability, misinformation in foreign media, global wildlife trafficking, legal conventions in Pacific Island nations, Arctic mammal rescue capabilities, coral research, and the origins of the COVID-19 virus.

    … and more. Much more. ENB does a great job of exposing the sheer scattershot randomness of the bill, almost certainly larded up to win the support of selected Congresscritters. Over at the Technology Liberation Front, Adam Thierer detects an overriding theme: it's The Most Corporatist & Wasteful Industrial Policy Ever. (And that's saying something.)

    As far as industrial policy measures go, the COMPETES Act is one of the most ambitious and expensive central planning efforts in American history. It represents the triumph of top-down, corporatist, techno-mercantilist thinking over a more sensible innovation policy rooted in bottom-up competition, entrepreneurialism, private investment, and free trade.

    It's all very reminiscent of the Soviet Union's Five Year Plans. More from Theirer:

    Some advocates of the COMPETES Act label it a “competitiveness bill” or an “innovation initiative.” It takes a great deal of hubris to pretend that that the economy is just a giant machine to be manipulated and that policymakers can easily “dial in” the desired innovation results through massive bills and expanded bureaucracy.

    Lawmakers and bureaucrats are not going to allocate capital more efficiently than private innovators and investors. Nor are they going to be able to “shore up supply chains” or create tech hubs in every city just by sprinkling a little magical industrial policy pixie dust thinly across the entire nation.

    We should not try to compete with China by becoming China. Nor do we need to. Markets and supply chains recover from setbacks faster than governments can. This week, the White House reiterated its support for industrial policy efforts to strengthen supply chains and extend subsidies to the semiconductors industry. But, assuming the COMPETES Act passes, it’ll take years to get all the planning and spending going. When government spins those proverbial dials, it does so very slowly and extremely inefficiently. Meanwhile, the same day the White House was making these announcements, it was also touting that $80 billion in private investment has been announced by the US semiconductor industry recently. Just last week, Intel announced it plans to invest at least $20 billion in two new chip-making facilities in Ohio. Scott Lincicome and Ilana Blumsack have documented the many other private initiatives underway by the semiconductor industry to expand domestic manufacturing capacity, as well as efforts by foreign firms like Samsung to invest here to take advantage of our skilled workforce and vibrant capital market. This is all happening despite the fact that Congress is still debating an industrial policy measure that may end up being too bloated to even achieve successful passage this session.

    Hayek is spinning in his grave, I assume.

  • More people noticing thuggery's easy victory. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education: Dartmouth forced Andy Ngo’s event to go online only

    In a letter to Dartmouth College’s administration today, FIRE demanded to know why administrators unilaterally canceled an in-person appearance by conservative journalist Andy Ngo and activist Gabriel Nadales. The college required the event to be held online-only, citing “information” from law enforcement after apparent threats of violence. But it’s unclear what “information” justified the change (the college has said there was no “bomb threat” and that law enforcement sweeps of the venue weren’t in response to “specific information”) or why security would not have been able to handle anticipated protests — especially given that those protesters never appeared.

    And John Hinderaker at Power Line (who's a Dartmouth alum, as are his co-bloggers, although I don't hold that against them) weighs in: Antifa Wins at Dartmouth

    It was a big win for Antifa. One of the ironies is that it was predictable that no fascists would actually show up to try to shut down the event; or, at most, a bare handful. In fact, “There was no visible presence of protestors Thursday night.” So all it took was a few tweets with empty threats of violence to nullify Dartmouth students’ right to hear Andy Ngo talk–ironically–about political extremism.

    Dartmouth administration should admit it screwed up; apologize to the event organizers and Andy Ngo; offer to reschedule the event at Dartmouth's expense; maybe fire the folks responsible for the kowtow to threatened thuggery.

    That probably won't happen, but it's nice to dream.

  • Longest column ever? James Freeman has some thoughts on The Folly of Commie Radio The Absurdity of National Public Radio

    In an age of media abundance, U.S. taxpayers are for some reason being forced to fund a news outlet that’s at least as irresponsible as its private competitors. National Public Radio has spent much of the last week trying to overturn traditional standards of journalism in the service of a politically correct narrative. For the purpose of smearing a conservative Supreme Court Justice, the state-sponsored broadcaster now maintains that anonymous sources trump the subjects of a story speaking on the record—even when the anonymous sources don’t even appear to have witnessed any relevant events.

    What follows is the attempted Nina Totenberg smearing of Justice Neil Gorsuch, who obviously wants to kill Justice Sonia Sotomayor via Covid cooties.

  • And this just in… Mike Gonzalez (in an NRPlus article) has a modest suggestion: Fire Public Broadcasting.

    Public broadcasting ceased long ago to reflect the views of the American public. Today, in fact, it serves coastal elites who disdain the public. Its most recent controversy is but the latest reminder of its insufferable toadyism toward Acela-corridor views — and why it should finally be weaned from the taxpayer’s dime.

    Yes, I know that NPR and PBS claim that the percentage of their budget that is borne by the taxpayer — grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and “federal agencies and departments” — is in the single digits. That is misleading, as it fails to account for local radio affiliates that get gobs of taxpayer money. But let’s take them at their word. In that case, it shouldn’t be hit so hard if we tell public broadcasting to just rely on its membership model and sponsors.

    Asking conservative Americans to contribute to public broadcasting’s coffers is, on the other hand, a form of despotism. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, “to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.” The dead white man from Virginia may no longer be quoted by the public broadcasters, but he still wrote the Declaration of Independence.

    If the GOP takes control of Congress next year, defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be a worthy goal.

    Mike mentions that "local [NPR] radio affiliates … get gobs of taxpayer money". Just as a data point, New Hampshire Public Radio claims that it "does not receive any regular direct funding from local, state or federal governments." Which makes me wonder how much is concealed by those adjectives "regular" and "direct", but that's cynical me.

Last Modified 2024-01-17 4:24 PM EDT

God Emperor of Dune

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Number four down on my "Reread/read Frank Herbert's Dune series" project. And it's a mark of my particular psychological quirk that makes me go on, because it's no fun at all for me.

One excuse: it's been sitting on various bookshelves of mine since I got it (from Science Fiction Book Club) back in 1981 or so. I bought it, I really should read it.

So far this has outweighed the obvious counterarguments: (1) That is a literal sunk cost fallacy. Also literally: (2) life's too short.

But anyway.

It's set on Arrakis, about 3500 years after the previous book. The planet has been largely terraformed with open water and lush vegetation. Sandworms are pretty much extinct. Except for Leto II; his hideous transformation (begun in the previous book) has made him into a human/sandworm/sandtrout mixture. Not very big as sandworms go: a mere seven meters long, two meters in diameter, massing about six tons. With a "Atreides face", hands and arms "still quite recognizable as human", but legs and feet atrophied into flippers. And he gets around the planet in his "Royal Cart". He's set himself up not just as Emperor of the known universe, but also as a god. (Really. The title is not kidding.)

Like his father, Paul, Leto II has the gift/burden of precognition, combined with the collective consciousness of his ancestors bubbling around his nervous system. His plan is to set mankind on the "Golden Path", avoiding its otherwise inevitable self-destruction. This involves a certain amount of ruthlessness and spouting of oracular bullshit. And (as in the previous books) a string of Duncan Idaho "gholas", manufactured from the original genetic material by the Tleilaxu. (Leto II keeps killing off the Duncans when they get too obstreperous.)

As in the series' previous entries, there are long stretches of text where characters yak pretentiously/portentously at each other. ("You dread the imperialism of consciousness, and you are right to fear it," Leto II says to his majordomo at one point. Really? And there's page after page of stuff like that.)

But occasionally things actually happen, including some apocalyptic ultraviolence at the very end. It's a page-turner, but not in the "what happens next?" sense; more like the "gotta trudge through this" sense.

Last Modified 2024-01-17 4:24 PM EDT