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  • Talking back to the Times. Earlier this year, Ian Underwood had his fifteen minutes of fame … well, actually, a few months of fame … when he successfully (albeit temporarily) got the $1.7 million school budget in Croydon, New Hampshire, cut to $800,000 in the March town meeting.

    And a couple weeks back, he made the New York Times, as a poster boy for the Free State Menace. An article titled "What Croydon, a ‘Live Free or Die’ Town, Learned About Democracy", dubbed the story a "cautionary tale". Sample:

    In pamphlets he brought to the meeting, Mr. Underwood asserted that sports, music instruction and other typical school activities were not necessary to participate intelligently in a free government, and that using taxes to pay for them “crosses the boundary between public benefit and private charity.”

    The pamphlet did not note that its author was a 1979 graduate of the public high school in Chesterton, Ind., where he starred on the tennis team, ran track, played intramural sports and joined extracurricular activities in math, creative writing, radio and student government. Also: National Honor Society member, National Merit finalist and valedictorian.

    Feel the snark, people. The implied rule: once you take advantage of government goodies, you are forbidden from ever criticizing government again.

    I recommend Underwood's Letter to the Times, published at Granite Grok, where he's a contributor. And (as he notes) it's unlikely that you'll read it in the New York Times.

    Dear Editor,

    Since the publication of your article by Dan Barry about the budget drama in Croydon, NH, my wife and I have been the recipients of anonymous emails and telephone calls from people who are eager to tell us what horrible people we are, how terrible our parents must have been, and how awful our views on education are.

    The problem is, they don’t know anything about us, or about our views on education. They know only what they’ve read in the article, which are caricatures.

    Anyone who takes a moment to look at the things I’ve been writing for years (on the GraniteGrok website) will see that my primary concern was, and continues to be, getting a better education for the kids of Croydon (and every other town in New Hampshire).  The following is just a small sampling:




    Here is the pamphlet that I handed out at our annual town meeting:


    As I point out in the pamphlet, and as I stated at the meeting, decades of data show that we can’t improve education by spending more money.  We can only do it by spending less, because that will require us to consider seriously the justification for public education laid out by our state supreme court 20 years ago. That in turn requires asking some fundamental questions that have been ignored for too long, and requires making some serious decisions about what to prioritize.

    Underwood is righteously pissed by the slant of the NYT, which is, roughly: Eternal vigilance is the price of ensuring continued lousy government schooling.

  • USPS delenda est. Scott Johnson of Power Line looks at the musical/political stylings of Comrade Pete Seeger. If I had a hammer & sickle.

    It is somehow fitting in the Age of Biden that Seeger is to be honored with a stamp issued by the United States Postal Service. While the true authors and heroes of American liberty are defamed and dishonored, the likes of Seeger are to be celebrated. This is our history, Postal Service style:

    “He was not only a champion of traditional American music, he was also celebrated as a unifying power by promoting a variety of causes, such as civil rights, workers’ rights, social justice, the peace movement and protecting the environment,” said Tom Foti, the postal service’s product solutions vice president.

    There is a lesson there somewhere, but not the one that the USPS draws. And the linked AP story from which I am quoting only goes so far as to mention Seeger’s “Communist affiliations.” Seeger was a member of the Communist Party in the heyday of American Communism. That was his principal Communist affiliation.

    Seeger's on-a-dime turn in the 1940s from peacenik to warhawk, mirroring the state of Stalin/Hitler relations, is recounted. According to City Journal's Howard Husock, in an article linked at Power Line, Seeger was "America’s Most Successful Communist". Fitting that he should be honored by the USPS.

    Not that it matters, but I'm a little pissed that there's an Ursula K. Le Guin stamp, but nothing for Robert Heinlein.

  • Might as well face it, you're addicted to… well, probably more than you think. Ronald W. Dworkin looks at the concept of "addiction" and the oddball policy responses of government: The New Prohibition.

    Addiction is defined as using a substance or engaging in behaviors in a compulsive manner despite harmful consequences. Opioid and alcohol addiction are classic examples. Over the years, the definition of addiction has expanded to include activities such as shopping and golf. But when one thinks about it, we all have compulsive behaviors that border on the harmful. Such behaviors are even central to our identities. We know people by what they love and what they hate, typically expressed in a sentence that begins with the word “I,” as in “I love this and I don’t love that.” This “I” of ours—including its peculiar property of loving one thing and not another with varying degrees of intensity, be it ice cream, work, or sexual partners—is how we distinguish one person from another in our minds.

    The notion of addiction as a spectrum is not new. Shakespeare used the word addiction when referring to a “strong inclination” toward useless activities. But the notion has particular relevance today. Nicotine—once inhaled only through smoking, but now available in safer form through vaping—has thrown a monkey wrench into our understanding of what constitutes an addiction worth policing. When confined to adults, nicotine is less harmful than opioid or alcohol abuse, shopping to the point of bankruptcy, or golfing to the point of divorce. Yet government regulators spend an inordinate amount of time trying to regulate nicotine, while public health authorities hold sway on the issue by spreading anxiety among the public and arousing a consciousness of guilt.

    If vaping nicotine sits on the safer end of the addiction spectrum, why does government pay so much attention to it? Indeed, the FDA recently proposed banning all JUUL vaping devices, pulling back only in response to public pressure. The answer is that regulators are using a half-century old model for policing addiction that has gone too far.

    Agreed. Although I'm still enough of a Puritan to recommend that you not get hooked on any Substance. And I'm not sure if the FDA's JUUL's pullback was entirely due to "public pressure". I think a Federal Appeals Court ruling might have had more to do with it.

  • If Bob Dylan can get the Nobel Prize, the WHO should certainly get one. <voice imitation="emily_litella">What? Oh, that's quite different! Never mind!</voice>

    John Tierney informs us: The WHO Doesn’t Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.

    The frontrunner for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, according to the bets placed with British bookmakers, is the World Health Organization. It’s hard to imagine a worse choice. (Okay, Vladimir Putin.) The bettors’ theory is that the Nobel committee will honor the WHO for its efforts in fighting Covid-19—but it would be absurd to reward an organization that began the pandemic by spreading deadly misinformation, went on to promote disastrous policies, and now seeks new powers to do even more damage next time.

    The Nobel jurors in Norway should be honoring the pandemic’s true heroes, starting with an obvious candidate across their border: Anders Tegnell, the state epidemiologist of Sweden. While the WHO and the rest of the world panicked, he kept calm. While leaders elsewhere crippled their societies, he kept Sweden free and open. While public-health officials ignored their own pre-Covid plans for a pandemic—and the reams of reports warning that lockdowns, school closures, and masks would accomplish little or nothing—Tegnell actually stuck to the plan and heeded the scientific evidence.

    Looking at the local angle:

    Sweden has fared especially well by comparison with the United States, which has suffered 206 excess deaths per 100,000. That’s more than triple the rate in Sweden, and there’s another glaring difference: the death toll among the young and middle-aged. Even during 2020, Sweden’s worst year of the pandemic, no excess mortality occurred among Swedes under 70, but the rate soared among younger Americans. The CDC reported that the excess mortality rate rose more sharply among Americans aged 25 to 44 than in any other age group. When researchers analyzed excess deaths among Americans aged 15 to 54, they found that the majority died from causes other than Covid. Many were presumably casualties of the lockdowns’ disruptions: the canceled medical and mental-health treatments, the enforced isolation and inactivity, the surge in unemployment, the steep increases in rates of depression and anxiety disorders, obesity and diabetes, and abuse of alcohol and drugs.

    Fat, drunk, depressed, anxious, high, and diabetic is no way to go through life, America.

Last Modified 2024-02-08 7:59 AM EDT