How Many Roads Must a Serf Walk Down?

Via Power Line, a season-appropriate ditty: The Twelve Steps to Serfdom:

Being crypto-bored, I had to look up CBDC.

Briefly noted:

  • I think this kid Dominic Pino shows real writing talent coupled with a sharp eye for absurd statism. Recent example is from that dammed stupid Omnibus bill: Welfare for Bees Is a Textbook Example of Lawmakers’ Hive Mentality. (Get it?)

    On page 1,634 of this year’s 4,155-page, $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill, there’s a welfare program for bees.

    The section on highway-infrastructure programs in Division L, Title I of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 says, “$3,000,000 shall be to carry out the Pollinator-Friendly Practices on Roadsides and Highway Rights-of-Way Program under section 332 of title 23, United States Code.”

    Three million dollars isn’t going to break the bank. The concern here is less about fiscal profligacy than it is about showing how left-wing activism can morph into a government program.

    “Save the Bees.” It has been an environmentalist slogan for years. Greenpeace’s website asks you to “be the solution to help protect bees in crisis.” says the 54 percent decline in the U.S. managed-bee population since 1947 is “a threat to global food security.” The culprit is supposedly pesticides. The first solution listed on, conveniently, is donating money through

    Fascinating facts about honeybees follow, and you won't be a bit surprised that Greenpeace is engaging in a bit of eco-hysteric grift.

  • Hey, kids, what time is it? Well, according to WIRED It’s Time to Focus on Reproductive Longevity Research. (But if we focus on reproductive longevity research, who will save the bees?)

    You can read the article if you want, I assume it's Very Important Stuff You Should Know, but I just want to point out the wokeness. Starting with the subhed, bold added:

    Sidelined for too long, research into this vital aspect of health for people with ovaries will pick up pace in 2023—and it could see some big breakthroughs.

    Yes, "people with ovaries". The Sex Formerly Known as "Women".

    Ah, but it gets better. While the W-word is successfully expurgated from the subhed, "woman"/"women" actually appears 23 times in the short article! WTF, WIRED?

    Ah, but a footnote explains:

    The words “woman” and “women” here refer to anyone who has ovaries. We want to be respectful and inclusive of people who are not woman-identified, including trans and nonbinary people.

    Translation: "It would have been unbelievably clunky if we'd not used the W-word. Sorry for your hurt feelz, but, geez, are you seriously giving us grief for using a simple word that reflects biological reality?"

    Just so happens that Jonah Goldberg writes a (paywalled, sorry) G-File this week on that topic:

    I’d be remiss, given the topic, if I didn’t mention that has declared that its “Word of the Year” is “woman.” Now, if I told you this even a few years ago, you’d assume it was a feminist triumph of some kind, like “Year of the Woman.” But not today. Woman is the word of the year because the same crowd has put the meaning of the word in play. From’s announcement:

    It’s one of the oldest words in the English language. One that’s fundamental not just to our vocabulary but to who we are as humans. And yet it’s a word that continues to be a source of intense personal importance and societal debate. It’s a word that’s inseparable from the story of 2022.

    I have no doubt it’s one of the oldest words in the English language, but that kind of hides the ball. It’s one of the oldest words in the English language because it’s undoubtedly one of the oldest words in language. Why? Because it’s one of the oldest concepts there is. I mean, you know we’re dealing with Lovecraftian time increments when you can say a concept is way, way older than “fire” or “knife” and about the same age as “tree” or “sky.”

    Just say "woman", please.

  • At APM Reports, Emily Hanford describes How a flawed idea is teaching millions of kids to be poor readers. Abstract:

    For decades, schools have taught children the strategies of struggling readers, using a theory about reading that cognitive scientists have repeatedly debunked. And many teachers and parents don't know there's anything wrong with it.

    American schooling does a lousy (but expensive) job of teaching kids how to read. Which outrageously cripples their future prospects. Hanford describes a 55-year-old teaching method, "three cueing" theory, which is (still) very popular, despite not working well. Schools and teachers are resistant, when they aren't simply ignorant of the research.

    It's been 67 years since Rudolf Flesch wrote a popular book Why Johnny Can't Read. The lesson then as now: just use phonics, OK?

    Unfortunately not for sale at Amazon: that great bumper sticker that said: "Illiterate? Write today for free help!"

  • Good news from Virginia Postrel: Routine Writing Is About to Be Free.

    I know two kinds of people: those who have been obsessively playing with and discussing ChatGPT and those who have at best a hazy notion that it exists. I’m in the obsessive group, as you already know if you read the Tennyson experiment I posted earlier.

    For those in the hazy group, ChatGPT is a system that uses massive amounts of text to create a predictive model that enables it to mimic human writing. The shorthand is that it’s an AI chatbot, or autofill on steroids. You type in a request and it spits out an answer. This CNET column provides a solid backgrounder:

    For example, you can ask it encyclopedia questions like, “Explaining Newton’s laws of motion.” You can tell it, “Write me a poem,” and when it does, say, “Now make it more exciting.” You ask it to write a computer program that'll show you all the different ways you can arrange the letters of a word.

    Here’s the catch: ChatGPT doesn’t exactly know anything. It’s an AI that’s trained to recognize patterns in vast swaths of text harvested from the internet, then further trained with human assistance to deliver more useful, better dialog. The answers you get may sound plausible and even authoritative, but they might well be entirely wrong, as OpenAI warns.

    Even in its current, relatively primitive form ChatGPT portends both huge productivity increases and major disruptions in any enterprise in which writing matters. Instead of writing boilerplate corporate memos, managers will soon assign them to bots. The run-of-the-mill college grads who get paid to flood my mailbox with press releases and promotional emails should start thinking about careers as nail techs or phlebotomists—something in the physical world. Insight and beauty are still rare, but serviceable prose isn’t.

    Does that mean that illiteracy won't matter? AI will do all the reading and writing for us!

  • I slag on the University Near Here a lot. So it's nice to recommend a recent article by a UNH philosophy prof, Timm Triplett, that's quite thought provoking: You’re astonishing!.

    Family lore has it that my grandfather, having spent some time doing business in England and about to return to the United States, received an invitation to seek additional sales opportunities in Scotland. At the last minute, he cancelled the passage he had booked on the Titanic. If the story is true, then, but for a chance communication from a Scottish businessman, I would never have come into existence. And what led to that businessman learning about my grandfather? Perhaps it was a mere afterthought as someone was leaving a meeting in the purchasing office of a Glasgow manufacturer. Surely somewhere along the line there was something – many things – equally happenstance, without which the invitation to my grandfather would never have been made – without which, that is to say, I would never have been born.

    Without getting into the icky details: if one tiny spermatozoa were just a wee bit faster swimmer back in the summer of 1950, I wouldn't be here. I'd be nowhere. Astonishment is the proper reaction. (At least for a while. You can't walk around in asontishment all your waking hours.)