URLs du Jour


  • Surprise! I've started reading the substack of physicist Lawrence M. Krauss. He seems to be comfortably on the moderate left, but also seems to be able to deal fairly with those of a different bent, and that shows up in his interview of Matt Ridley, whose latest book, Viral, is described as " a masterpiece of science writing and detective work, exploring the origins of Covid-19." Something that rang a bell with me:

    There are numerous surprises. One of the most remarkable was the realization that much of the important detective work uncovering the possible origin of the pandemic came from self-trained internet sleuths who were able to uncover masters theses, as well as online registries that had either not been referenced in the professional literature, or incorrectly referenced.

    One comes away from the discussion with the realization that we still do not know for certain the origin of Covid-19, in spite of claims to the contrary. Recent, highly publicized scientific articles suggesting the Wuhan Seafood Market as the origin still have to deal with the fact that no direct evidence of the virus has yet to be uncovered from any of the animals at the market. At the same time, there is clear evidence that the Wuhan Virology Institute was working on Covid viruses, including viruses from bats that had caused Covid-like symptoms coming from a cave located far away in China.

    These "self-trained internet sleuths" run up against a lot of disdain, but…

  • The times they are a-changin'. The Krauss/Ridley article above made me recall Jeffrey A. Singer's article in the recent print Reason, now out of paywall purgatory: Against Scientific Gatekeeping. It's a good discussion of how heterodox scientific views have been suppressed for centuries, concentrating on the Covid Controversies. Discussing the lab-leak hypothesis:

    Perhaps the most egregious example of digital media doing the dirty work for the priesthood is the suppression of talk about the potentially embarrassing source of the COVID-19 virus. Efforts to suggest the source was a leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were dismissed as a "conspiracy theory" by pundits and suppressed by social media gatekeepers. After The Wall Street Journal reported in May 2021 that intelligence sources believed a lab leak is a plausible explanation that deserves further investigation, Facebook lifted its ban on posts that mentioned the theory. Twitter, on the other hand, refused to commit to what it would censor on the subject. By summer 2021, a consensus emerged among scientists in the academy and the media that the lab leak theory was at least plausible and should be explored.

    Politicized science quickly becomes… just politics, no science.

  • Gosh, it's almost as if politicians are unprincipled phonies! James Freeman's Best of the Web column makes a point about hypocrisy about deductability of state and local taxes.

    […] consider the latest Democratic attempts to raise taxes across the economy—but provide a tax cut for wealthy people who live in blue states with high tax rates. NJ.com’s Jonathan Salant reports:

    President Joe Biden’s top economic adviser said Wednesday that restoring the federal deduction for state and local taxes could be part of the final tax bill even though the White House left the provision out of its 2022-23 budget proposal.

    Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council, said the president’s proposal contained his priorities, and would support other provisions like the state and local tax deduction if Congress insisted on including them.

    In fact, federal tax filers can already deduct up to $10,000 in state and local taxes. Last year in the House Democrats voted to lift the cap to $80,000, the benefits of which would overwhelmingly flow to the richest residents of states governed by Democrats. How many low- or middle-income workers do you know who have state tax bills reaching $80,000? Yet Democrats are even considering removing the limit entirely for at least some filers.

    In effect, the SALT deduction forces people in lower-tax states to subsidize those in higher-tax states. Not very equitable!

  • 11. Move the company to New Hampshire. Writing in the WSJ free-speech fan Bradley A. Smith lists 10 Things for Elon Musk to Do at Twitter.

    I wouldn’t dream of telling Elon Musk, who recently became Twitter’s top shareholder, how to turn a profit. But I do know something about free speech. If Mr. Musk is serious about making the social-media behemoth a force for free speech, here are 10 things he can do:

    1. Leave more content up. Twitter has rules about posts, and the bulk of enforcement is done through artificial intelligence. The algorithms err on the side of taking down material that might violate Twitter rules. Instead, they should err on the side of leaving questionable material up until there has been human review.

    The other nine are good ideas as well.