Rikki Suggests We Lose a Number

Specifically, 2023.

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Have you noticed that mental health is getting worse? And have you wondered why? Rikki Schlott fingers a culprit for you: Year-in-review round-ups are just making mental health worse.

From international wars to the ascendancy of AI, it feels like the world is falling apart and we’re at the brink of oblivion.

As 2023 comes to a close, media outlets are pumping out “year in review” videos and articles. What they all inspire— from Vox’s 2023, in 7 minutes to the AP Year in Review and Time’s 2023 roundup — is existential dread.

This has undeniably been a chaotic year. But it’s important to gain some perspective.

Being a human with internet access — and an up-close view of all the world’s chaos delivered straight to your screen — is insanely unprecedented. And insanely stressful.

Rikki co-authored one of the best non-fiction books I read this year, The Canceling of the American Mind. So never mind that her column contains kind of a (partial) list of 2023's bad stuff, and so if you take her headline literally, you might want to stop reading right there.

We don't think you're that mentally fragile, though. So let me point you to the only year-in-review article you'll need: Humorist Dave Barry’s review of the top events of 2023.

It was a year of reckoning, a year in which humanity finally began to understand that it faces an existential threat, a threat unlike any we have ever faced before, a threat that will wreak havoc on our fragile planet if we fail to stop it — and it may already be too late.

We are referring, of course, to pickleball.

Nobody knows where it started. Some scientists believe it escaped from a laboratory in China. But whatever its origin, it has been spreading like rancid mayonnaise ever since, to the point where pickleball courts now cover 43 percent of the continental U.S. land mass, subjecting millions of Americans to the inescapable, annoying POP of the plastic ball and the even more annoying sound of Boomers in knee braces relentlessly telling you how much fun it is and demanding that you try it.

And more. Much more. Highly recommended. Sorry, Rikki.

(Fun fact: My editor, vim, knows a lot of words, but thinks "pickleball" may be a misspelling. Also "Rikki" and "Schlott".)

Also of note:

  • I'm from the government, and I'm here to help sabotage you. Judge Glock (his real name, apparently) has some end-of-year bad news: Uncle Stupid is Sabotaging Manufacturing

    The Biden administration is engaged in an unprecedented effort to boost American manufacturing. With scores of subsidies and tax credits, it hopes to revive a sector that has shed millions of jobs since a peak over 40 years ago.

    It is odd, then, that another part of the government is doing its best to hamstring industry. Biden’s environmental regulators are layering more and more requirements on factories and utilities.

    The latest example came to light on December 15, a Friday, when the government tends to release bad news. The Department of Energy (DOE) proposed a new regulation on certain small electric motors. The purported goal is to increase the efficiency of these motors and thereby save energy.

    Although small electric motors may seem, by definition, insignificant, the government estimates that the regulation would have massive costs, in this case of around $5 to $10 billion. It also estimates that the new rules would shrink the value of the industry that produces the motors by up to 13 percent.

    To justify imposing billions of dollars in new costs, the government claims that there will be tens of billions in benefits. The vast bulk of these benefits will come from energy-efficiency savings. They are not benefits for the country as a whole but rather “private benefits” of those buying the regulated products.

    Like other energy-efficiency mandates, this one faces the obvious question: If the energy savings are so great, why don’t consumers and manufacturers adopt them on their own? The government simply claims it’s smarter than most families and businesspeople whose job it is to make and save money. For some reason, business executives in particular fail to understand their self-interest and the government therefore does it for them.

    Glock provides plenty of reasons to doubt that Your Federal Government can do an accurate cost-benefit analysis. Hayek would agree.

  • Oy, again with the Fourteenth. Kevin D. Williamson writes on Defending the Ballot.

    European governments not only ban political parties but also political books, songs, tattoo designs, associations, and events. To Americans steeped in the First Amendment tradition and raised on The Crucible and Fahrenheit 451, this can be shocking and uncomfortable. At the same time, European observers may be perplexed as Americans flounder impotently for a legal means of preventing the possible reelection of Donald Trump, who attempted to stage a coup d’état when he lost reelection in 2020.

    That Donald Trump not only could be but already is prohibited from seeking reelection seems to me reasonably straightforward: Section 3 of the 14th Amendment prohibits those “engaging in” insurrection from standing for election. That there was an insurrection in January 2021 is at this point a matter of legal record, as there are prisoners currently incarcerated after being convicted on charges of seditious conspiracy, defined in statute as an attempt to “conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof.” This is the very definition of insurrection.

    I despise Trump as much as does KDW, but I'm not persuaded that Trump "engaged in insurrection". But I'm neither a Constitutional scholar, nor a Constitutional lawyer. (I did go on board the USS Constitution years ago.)

    So see what you think about KDW's argument.

  • It should just change its name to "Clown College" at this point. Alex Tabarrok writes of the intellectual rot in Cambridge: The Sullivan Signal: Harvard's Failure to Educate and the Abandonment of Principle.

    The current Harvard disaster was clearly signaled by earlier events, most notably the 2019 firing of Dean Ronald Sullivan. Sullivan is a noted criminal defense attorney; he was the director of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia and he is the Director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School, he advised President Obama on criminal justice issues, he represented the family of Michael Brown. He and his wife were the first black Faculty Deans in the history of the college.

    Controversy erupted, however, when Sullivan joined Harvey Weinstein’s legal defense team. Student protests ensued. The students argued that they couldn’t “feel safe” if a legal representative of a person accused of abusing women was also serving in a role of student support and mentorship. This is, of course, ridiculous. Defending an individual accused of murder does not imply that a criminal defense attorney condones the act of murder.

    Harvard should have educated their students. Harvard should have emphasized the crucial role of criminal defense in American law and history. They should have noted that a cornerstone of the rule of law is the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial, irrespective of public opinion.

    Harvard should have pointed proudly to John Adams, a Harvard alum, who defied popular opinion to defend hated British soldiers charged with murdering Americans at the Boston Massacre. (If you wish to take measure of the quality of our times it’s worth noting that Adams won the case and later became president—roughly equivalent to an attorney for accused al-Qaeda terrorists becoming President today.)

    Instead of educating its students, Harvard catered to ignorance, bias and hysteria…

    And current Harvard Prez Claudine Gay was one of the caterers.

  • Be careful what you wish for. I shook my head when I read the WSJ headline yesterday: New York Times Sues Microsoft and OpenAI, Alleging Copyright Infringement. Isn't it supposed to be the stick-in-the-mud conservatives who are standing athwart history, yelling "stop"?

    But Mike Masnick has a long and interesting (but mainly long) article describing why that's a bad idea: The NY Times Lawsuit Against OpenAI Would Open Up The NY Times To All Sorts Of Lawsuits Should It Win.

    Let me let you in on a little secret: if you think that generative AI can do serious journalism better than a massive organization with a huge number of reporters, then, um, you deserve to go out of business. For all the puffery about the amazing work of the NY Times, this seems to suggest that it can easily be replaced by an auto-complete machine.

    In the end, though, the crux of this lawsuit is the same as all the others. It’s a false belief that reading something (whether by human or machine) somehow implicates copyright. This is false. If the courts (or the legislature) decide otherwise, it would upset pretty much all of the history of copyright and create some significant real world problems.

    Like I said, it's long. But you could learn something if you (like me, and apparently also like NYT lawyers) "don’t much understand copyright law".

Last Modified 2024-01-09 9:09 AM EDT