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Gus Van Horn blog

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  1. Notable Commentary "Notice there is not one grievance against the king for not providing for the 'needs of the people.'" -- Talbot Manvel, in "Declaration of Independence Joined Morality and Law" at The Capital Gazette. "f you want a condensed version of events ..." -- Paul Hsieh, in "Charlie Gard Case, Summarized in 30 Words" at Forbes. "n Pennsylvania[,] a bill being considered in the state legislature seeks to force insurance companies to pay for [unproven and ineffective] therapies [for post-Lyme disease syndrome] -- against [their] scientific and business judgement." -- Amesh Adalja, in "Will Pennsylvania Proposal Sanction Improper Treatment of Lyme Disease?" (June) at Contagion Live. "Key behaviors of investors today show eerie parallels: a desire to bid on dollars with their assets, a refusal to support the gold standard, and even a belief that the dollar is money." -- Keith Weiner, in "Stockholm Syndrome -- Precious Metals Supply and Demand" at SNB & CHF. "Beyond these similarities between patents and estate interests, there are other doctrines that define the boundaries of an estate without reference to either fences or the physical invasion that constitutes a trespass." -- Adam Mossoff, in "The Trespass Fallacy in Patent Law" (PDF, 2012) in The Florida Law Review, vol. 65, no. 6. -- CAV Link to Original
  2. From a recent reading of Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication comes the following amusing lesson about using positive language to make requests (be they of others or oneself). The author, disappointed in himself for failing to use his own communication techniques during a televised debate, had vowed never to repeat his mistakes again: A chance to redeem myself came the very next week when I was invited to continue the debate on the same program. All the way to the studio, I repeated to myself all the things I didn't want to do. As soon as the program started, the man launched off in exactly the same way he had a week earlier. For about ten seconds after he'd finished talking, I managed not to communicate in the ways I had been reminding myself. In fact, I said nothing. I just sat there. As soon as I opened my mouth, however, I found words tumbling out in all the ways I had been so determined to avoid! It was a painful lesson about what can happen when I only identify what I don't want to do, without clarifying what I do want to do. (loc. 1468)This reminded me of advice I received early in my stint in the Navy: When filling out your preferences for Permanent Change of Station Orders, only list where you'd prefer to go. Why? Because if you said where you didn't want to go, whatever that place was, is what would be in the mind of whoever later processed the form. Rosenberg's anecdote, amusing and instructive on its own merits, is so in another way, but unintentionally: The author clearly failed to follow his own advice when naming his book. I blame his altruistic moral philosophy for that oversight, along with many other shortcomings of his nevertheless valuable book. The influence of altruism on Rosenberg's thinking was so pervasive that at every level, it was often necessary to think carefully about what made a given point good or bad. This is on top of the fact that the author never defines what he regards as "violent": The closest he ever got was, towards the end of the book, was when he referred to the way most people communicate as, "life-alienating communication" (loc. 3646). So communication is supposed to further "life", but since Rosenberg is an altruist, he skirts around lots of points that would really hit home if expressed in egoistic terms. (Instead, he either misses or evades lots of connections that someone familiar with Ayn Rand's ideas will often make without much effort.) It is somewhat fitting, then, that the author also misses out on a positive title, which might have been something like, Mutually Beneficial Communication. -- CAV P.S. For anyone familiar with Nonviolent Communication or interested in Marshall Rosenberg's work, I am passing along, with permission, the following announcement from the Thinking Directions Weekly newsletter: II. Free Webinar Rationally Connected Conversations Sunday, July 23, 2017 3:00 - 4:00 p.m. Eastern (12 noon PT, 1:00 p.m. MT, 2:00 p.m. CT) Defensiveness on either side of a conversation kills the connection and dooms communication. In this talk, Jean Moroney will introduce a method for unilaterally eliminating defensiveness from both sides of a conversation. The method is egoistic interpretation of the work of Marshall Rosenberg. When one person uses it, it brings out the rational best in both people. Register here: https://www.mcssl.com/WebForms/WebForm.aspx?wid=0293f3c6-88ad-4cb9-9b8b-796fe2c04bf7 Do note the even more egoistic title than I came up with in the post above. I first heard about Nonviolent Communication from someone who had learned about it from the Thinking Directions site. After benefiting from other books I'd heard about there, I knew it would be worthwhile and am glad to have read it. This should be an interesting and valuable webinar.Link to Original
  3. The Los Angeles Times carries a storyabout why Best Buy, which looked like it would succumb to Amazon only a few years ago, has returned to profitability. The strategy looks like an interesting mix of (1) better exploiting any advantages they already had over Amazon, (2) eliminating any advantage Amazon had that they could do something about, (3) learning new ways to serve customers from Amazon, and (4) devising new ways to outdo Amazon. One of the first moves by Hubert Joly, appointed CEO in 2012, was to match Amazon's pricing. This both eliminated one of Amazon's advantages and turned "showrooming" into an advantage for electronics customers: They could look at potential purchases and even get advice from a human being -- and then not have to wait for delivery. But Joly very wisely didn't stop there: "We don't see ourselves as a brick-and-mortar retailer, we're a multichannel retailer" that combines the stores, Best Buy's website and its phone app to boost sales, Joly said in an interview. And he's planning to expand Best Buy's services, including its Geek Squad support arm, to generate more product sales.Joly makes Amazon sound one-dimensional to me, here, and it is clear that I'm hardly the only one to have noticed. The article later mentions something I'd already been hearing about off and on lately: Amazon's forays into brick-and-mortar stores and customer service. Like Sears before it, Amazon is hardly killing retail: It and its successful competitors are revolutionizing it. -- CAV Link to Original
  4. A Wall Street Journal story about an estimated "subsidy" of $1.46 per Amazon box delivered by the U.S. Postal Service brings up the common conservative lament about the government "picking winners and losers" when it meddles in the economy: I do not know which stores in my neighborhood will be gone five years from now, but I am certain my household will continue to receive numerous boxes from Amazon. I also believe that society would be better off if competing retailers, online or brick-and-mortar, continue to thrive. Congress should demand the enforcement of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, and the Postal Service needs to stop picking winners and losers in the retail world. The federal government has had its thumb on the competitive scale for far too long. [bold added]I agree that the government should stop "picking winners and losers," but simply enforcing a rule about the operation of an agency that shouldn't even exist isn't the way to do this. Why? Because anything the government does outside its proper purpose of protecting individual rights constitutes "picking winners and losers." When the government, in violation of the right to contract, establishes a monopoly in some enterprise, the principle that adults should be free to exercise their best judgment loses. Consequently, those who might innovate in that industry are impeded or thwarted along with their potential customers -- and those who fear competition on merit win. When government subsidizes an enterprise (like the post office), it compounds the same sins with theft at the expense of the productive -- leaving the unproductive as winners. Do note that, due to the nature of principles, there are always more losers than meet the eye (and, thanks to precedent and the fact that controls breed controls, vast potential for more losers). This pool of losers often includes the "winners," whose gains may be illusory and, in any event, are not protected by the now-violated principles. Furthermore, any material gains are wholly dependent on the continued prosperity of those now hobbled by legal parasitism. For example, I can't help but wonder, in this story, about whether this "gift card from Uncle Sam" even begins to make up for all the taxes Amazon, the "winner" in this story, is paying. (Clearly, if the author gets his wish, even that wouldn't be for long.) It does not matter whether Amazon lobbied in some way to continue getting this "gift card" or it is simply taking advantage of a dumb state of affairs not of its own making: Anyone truly serious about the government getting out of the business of "picking winners and losers" should question the whole premise of the government entanglement with the economy. The problem isn't that (at worst) a company that would get along fine without a "subsidy" is getting one, it's that we are being ordered around, and having our pockets picked for the privilege. Those subsidies come from somewhere, and, since money doesn't grow on trees, that means they come from someone. I'd happily pay a little more for the convenience of shopping at Amazon, but I suspect that shipping might actually be a lot cheaper without (for example) the government forcing us to support the Post Office or strangling new technologies, such as commercial drones, with the uncertainty of bureaucratic regulatory whim. -- CAV P.S.: For yet another equally ridiculous conservative effort to "level the playing field", please refer to my old column on "efairness". Oddly enough, Amazon is the persecuted minority there, too. Link to Original
  5. In a book review of Russell Redenbaugh's Shift the Narrative, John Tamny notes that its author, blinded during high school, might not have had much of a chance to prosper had the Americans with Disabilities Act been law shortly after his graduation: arriers to Redenbaugh's self-reliant, working narrative continued to reveal themselves. While his fellow classmates were inundated with suitors during year two, Redenbaugh "had forty-nine job interviews and not a single offer." Finally Cooke & Bieler, a then small investment counseling firm in Philadelphia made him a Wharton-style hard pitch: they offered him a job while telling Redenbaugh that "if it doesn't work you'll have to leave." By the 1970s, Wharton's first blind MBA was the firm's chief investment officer, partner, and its biggest revenue producer. Interesting here is that Redenbaugh notes how the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) would have rendered illegal Cooke & Bieler's conditional offer. Despite that, he laments the ADA's passage. Redenbaugh believes a principal driver of rising unemployment for the disabled springs from firms being reluctant to take risks on them in the first place. It's difficult to hire those whom it's similarly difficult to fire. Like countless unskilled workers who are willing to compete on price and are shut out of the labor market by minimum wage laws, disabled Americans (and their potential employers) are being robbed of opportunity by being legally barred from making themselves more competitive. That the government feels the need to stick its nose into any contractual agreement between consenting adults (that doesn't violate individual rights) is bad enough. The fact that it does so in the name of "helping" someone with a disadvantage -- and makes things worse than they already are -- is an outrage. -- CAV P.S. In the name of even-handedness, I must acknowledge the following:[T]he architectural standardization brought on by ADA requirements, he mentioned, which tend to put things like door handles (easier to manipulate than knobs) in rote places, were a boon for unauthorized entry. So, to be fair, the ADA actually does create opportunities for some people. Link to Original
  6. Four Things 1. Awhile back, I hit upon a (probably temporary) solution to variants of "Are we there, yet?" Most days, I pick up my four-year-old son from daycare before my daughter, who, by that time, is working on her reading with the aid of an iPad app. This means I'm in a small waiting area having to entertain him for an eternity of five to ten minutes' duration while Pumpkin finishes up. Needless to say, he started repeatedly asking me if she was done yet. Fortunately, in only a couple of repetitions, I realized I could help him answer the question himself and put him to work for me. I explained to him how he could tell for himself: As long as his sister was sitting down in front of an iPad, she wasn't done. Then, I had him check for me. Now, he takes a look every few minutes and updates me on her status, which is cute, rather than annoying. Sometimes, when we get there, I'll ask him if she's done yet to set the tone. 2. Here's a clever idea I hadn't thought of myself: [E]very time I make an appliance purchase -- vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, car -- I go to a repair shop [for advice]. They're always excited to talk to someone who will listen. They may even have a used model that will last you for years. [bold added]And if they don't have a used one, they tell the author which models are durable enough to be worth repairing. Preceding this paragraph in the whole post is the insight that will make sense of the advice, and so make it stick. 3. The following, from an A. V. Club article on Pilsner, makes me think of the explosion in popularity of "big" craft beers in the United States over the past couple of decades: Pilsner was invented by accident. The beer-obsessed Czech Republic town of Pilsen built a new state-of-the-art brewery during the industrial revolution. In the 1840s, a man named Martin Stelzer oversaw the construction, drawing inspiration from the latest innovations of Bavarian breweries. He also recruited a Bavarian brewer named Josef Groll to the project. Legend has it the town expected Groll to brew a brown Bavarian lager, but the first batch came out golden and effervescent, with a creamy head of snow-white foam. In a time of thick, turbid beers, this refreshing brew from Pilsen was a revelation. [bold added]Similarly, the advent of craft brewing came against a backdrop of "lawnmower beers." (HT: Snedcat) 4. I'll end with the following inspirational quote: "If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you're not sure you can do it, say yes -- then learn how to do it later!" -- Richard BransonThis comes by way of a Forbes articletitled, "9 Simple Ways to Make More Money in Your Current Job." -- CAV Link to Original
  7. Two writers (one of whom is an academic) at Fast Company take Nancy Pelosi's misleading description of our mixed economy as "capitalism" and run with it in an article titled, "Are You Ready To Consider That Capitalism Is The Real Problem?" As an advocate of capitalism, let me first concede that I might -- if I also accepted this assertion as my idea of "capitalism." But my scholarship -- hell, my mental hygiene -- is better than that. (Do note that this description comes from the same woman who urged us to pass ObamaCare unread so we could "find out what is in it.") I am not going to waste my time on a point-by point rebuttal of this smear piece, which, for example, uses a deadly fire -- in a government-operatedhousing block -- in London as part of its fact-free indictment. (Oddly enough, the article at the link repeatedly cites the higher-than-government fire safety standards of an American organization funded in large part by insurance companies strangely interested in not having to pay out fire claims. To read the Fast Company article, you'd think those fat cats would fry their customers after collecting their premiums, if only they could get away with it.) That said, what Jason Hickel and Martin Kirk take as the "prime directive" of capitalism is simply ridiculous: [T]here's something fundamentally flawed about a system that has a prime directive to churn nature and humans into capital, and do it more and more each year, regardless of the costs to human well-being and to the environment we depend on. Because let's be clear: That's what capitalism is, at its root. That is the sum total of the plan. We can see this embodied in the imperative to grow GDP, everywhere, year on year, at a compound rate, even though we know that GDP growth, on its own, does nothing to reduce poverty or to make people happier or healthier. Global GDP has grown 630% since 1980, and in that same time, by some measures, inequality, poverty, and hunger have all risen. [links omitted]Really. This might describe the end-result of the less-capitalistic aspects of Pelosi's status quo, but that's not what I got from Ayn Rand's Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, which at least offersa definition of the term: Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.She and others argue at length why a system that protects individual rights is actually the best protection against people being taken advantage of (as alluded to above) or being made into cogs of some sort of GDP machine. But it was the mention of GDP that triggered my memory of another excellent book on capitalism, by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins of the Ayn Rand Institute. Within that book, Brook and Watkins demolish what they call the "argument from greed," an attack on the ethical base of capitalism that implicitly motivates much of the Fast Company piece. Towards the end of Free Market Revolution, they note: The attack on selfishness is an attack on the pursuit of happiness, and it is over the pursuit of happiness that the battle for America's future will be waged. We need to fight for economic freedom not on the grounds that it promotes GDP, or the "public interest," or any other collectivist ideal. We need to fight for it on the grounds that your life belongs to you: Each of us has an inalienable right to act on our own judgment, to produce and trade free from force, for the sole purpose of making our own lives as successful and joyous as they can possibly be. We have to be unequivocal in rejecting the notion that we are a means to the ends of others -- or that others are a means to our ends. [bold added]Hickel and Kirk pose as defenders of the individual, but it is against a tired, old caricature of capitalism. Whether or not they know or care, or most of their reader notice, they drop such a pretence as soon as they start advocating massive theft of private property. See the bolded sentence above, and imagine someone taking something from you on the basis of someone else not having it. But they are right about a single aspect of their proposed solution, which they intimate wouldn't look like every other socialist cesspit in history despite their egalitarian/confiscatory rhetoric: "None of this is actually radical." Yep. It's the same old altruism-collectivism that pervades our culture, hold the facts, and add a dash of wishful thinking. Hence the title of Brook and Watkins book. Try reading that if you share my disgust with the status quo, need inspiration, and want leads towards a real, radical, and effective solution. -- CAV Link to Original
  8. Francis Menton, aka the Manhattan Contrarian, takes a look at a Wall Street Journal articleabout a recent blackout in Adelaide, Australia. Part of Menton's criticism focuses on the print headline: "The Energy Shortage No One Saw Coming," but the internet headline ("How Energy-Rich Australia Exported Its Way Into an Energy Crisis") bears mention, too, and for similar reasons. As a reading of Menton's post will show, the real cause of the shortage was central planning guided by an emphasis on the kind of "renewable" energy sources fossil fuel advocate Alex Epstein has more accurately described as "unreliables": ... Has environmental religion penetrated even the Wall Street Journal's news pages to such an extent that they can't give an honest account of what is going on? Sure the gas plant's unavailability that day was the immediate precipitating cause of the particular problem. But what goes unmentioned is that the South Australians have painted themselves into a corner where one after another of such situations is inevitable, and if they didn't see it coming they are really blinded by their environmental faith. First they increased renewable capacity, particularly wind, to the point of getting over 50% of their power from wind when it blows. Then they forced closure of all coal capacity. Then they prioritized the power from wind in the dispatch scheme, leaving the few remaining natural gas plants sitting idle much of the time and having no clue when they might be required to crank up at a moment's notice -- a regime under which the gas plant operators can't make money. And finally, they claim to be "surprised" when the wind suddenly stops blowing and the gas plant operators can't or won't come on at a few minutes' notice. Why should the gas plant operators contract to buy gas that they may never need at prices that they can't recoup? [emphasis in original, minor format edits]In other words, this shortage was quite predictable, and exporting natural gas was hardly to blame. Menton quite ably nails that point to the wall. But there is another theme that bears mention, even if it lies outside the scope of Menton's analysis, and it is this: The religion of central planning has so penetrated Western culture for so long that its role in this mess may entirely escape notice. I don't blame Menton for missing this (if he did), because relatively early in the evolution of electric utilities, central planning snuffed out once-vigorous free market competition. In his book, The Innovator Versus the Collective , Brian Phillips notes the following from a study in 1938: Six electric light companies were organized in the one year of 1887 in New York City. Forty-five electric light enterprises had the legal right to operate in Chicago in 1907. Prior to 1895, Duluth, Minnesota, was served by five electric lighting companies, and Scranton, Pennsylvania, had four in 1906. ... During the latter part of the 19th century, competition was the usual situation in the gas industry in this country. Before 1884, six competing companies were operating in New York City ... competition was common and especially persistent in the telephone industry ... Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis, among the larger cities, had at least two telephone services in 1905. (p.54)Phillips, who notes that, "Clearly, entrepreneurs and businessmen across the country thought that they could make a profit in utilities," then notes the effects of an alliance between "businessmen" who wanted government protection from competition and power-hungry "progressives": In America's Electric Utilities: Past, Present, and Future, economist Leonard S. Hyman notes that standard texts assume that utilities became regulated because they were monopolies. But he questions this assumption, citing a study that concluded that "the concept of state regulation was both compatible with the ideas and political needs of progressives [who were calling for more government regulation of businesses] and expedient for safeguarding the material interests of the utilities. From 1907 to 1913, philosophical compatibility and commercial expediency combined to produce a political necessity."[48] The political goals of progressives -- government control -- served the financial interests of the electric utility companies -- guaranteed profits through a prohibition on competition. (p. 55)Consider for a moment what might have happened in an Adelaide powered in a free market. Among the possibilities would have been several companies competing on merit at once or a small number that rose to the top on merit. I have a hard time imagining a company that has to compete for customers, in part by maintaining a reputation for reliability, making the kind of mistake we saw here. (And if it did, customers could and would jump ship, an option they don't have here.) In any event, nothing would stop a company from investing in wind power, if it could be made sufficiently profitable, and nothing could force an entire city to "rely" on it, either. Adelaide's blackout wasn't at all a result of Australia's exporting of natural gas, nor was it simply because it has incompetent central planners who imagine "unreliables" can be trusted to power a modern grid: It would have been nearly impossible in a free market. -- CAV P.S. Economist George Reisman has some choice words for anyone who imagines that central planners can even be competent. Link to Original
  9. In the past few days, a couple of stories over at Free Range Kids have highlighted how difficult it can be for parents to foster independence in their children these days. In one case, a mother was arrested for permitting her toddler to play in a sandbox with other children while she watched from afar. In another case, the mother of a ten-year-old was also arrested for letting her son shop in a Lego Store in one part of a mall while (gasp!) she shopped in another store. It is disturbing, to say the least, that people seemed so eager to call the police in each case. This reflects a cultural trend I have already commented on here. Lenore Skenazy's commentary about the Lego case indicates another factor which may be contributing to the rash of parents being arrested while using common sense: Busybodies are getting a big assist from the perception (accurate or not) of a legal system that makes lawsuits easy and attractive: The Lego corporate press office has not responded to my request for comment. The manager of the Eastview Mall Lego store, Dan Prouty, told me that he could not comment on whether or not someone at his store called the cops. But Prouty did acknowledge that there's a sign in his store's window that says, in his words, "children under the age of 12 are not allowed to be unattended in the store -- that's paraphrased a little bit."Skenazy soon after quotes the following, from the admission rules of Legoland in Toronto: Please note: Children 17 and under must be accompanied by an adult supervisor 18 years of age or older. Adults (18+) will not be admitted without a child, with the exception of Adult Only Nights.Skenazy calls Lego "obsessed with age liability," and she is probably right -- but I suspect that that is due at least in part to another problem, which is that insurance companies, fearful of having to cover large payouts from extremely rare (but always well-publicized) lawsuits, are pressing companies like Lego to have and enforce such policies. (An attorney quoted at the last link suggests self-insurance as a way to fight back, but I think this needs to be a tool in part of a larger campaign to push back against pervasive meddling.) This, of course, trickles down to low-level employees who get to decide whether (1) they'll turn a blind eye to occasional violations of such policies; (2) send kids out of their stores and into the mall, where legend has it they'll be abducted instantly; or (3) throw the problem (and the responsibility) at law enforcement. And then, of course, parents get to worry at every corner about running afoul of some policy or other that defies common sense, as if the real challenges of parenthood aren't enough. Please refer to the second quote, by Tara Smith, here. -- CAV Link to Original
  10. A while back, Unclutterer took a new term as its point of departure for a collection of tips for a subset of office workers. As if the popularity of the open office weren't bad enough, some businesses are now telling their employees to hot desk. (The term correctly reminds me of the submarine slang term, hot racking.) This struck me as a great way, from an employee's point of view, to combine the worst of the two worlds of working in an office and working remotely -- and the mention of Febreze from a commenter there told me how right I was. In any event, since I always have an ear out for advice on working remotely, I took a gander and found it worthwhile -- although the following reminded me of another relatively new term: In some hot desk offices, employees may have lockers where they can store their computers and a few personal belongings. If you do not have a locker, you should invest in a durable briefcase that is easy to carry around, holds all of your items, and can be locked when needed. [bold added, link omitted]The idea that you might need to be able to lock a briefcase reminded me of the term, office creeper, which Word Spy defines as, "A person who sneaks into an office building during business hours to steal personal items and equipment." Such people would, I am sure, have a field day in a hot-desking office. Perhaps, if you need to bring a lockable suitcase for such an arrangement, a bicycle lock would also be a good idea. -- CAV Link to Original
  11. It's an old essay, but quite thought-provoking. Venture capitalist Paul Graham considers why it is that "nerds" are so unpopular in middle school and high school. The below excerpt, from about midway through, gives an indication of what to expect, but the whole thing deserves a read. Because I didn't fit into this world, I thought that something must be wrong with me. I didn't realize that the reason we nerds didn't fit in was that in some ways we were a step ahead. We were already thinking about the kind of things that matter in the real world, instead of spending all our time playing an exacting but mostly pointless game like the others. We were a bit like an adult would be if he were thrust back into middle school. He wouldn't know the right clothes to wear, the right music to like, the right slang to use. He'd seem to the kids a complete alien. The thing is, he'd know enough not to care what they thought. We had no such confidence. A lot of people seem to think it's good for smart kids to be thrown together with "normal" kids at this stage of their lives. Perhaps. But in at least some cases the reason the nerds don't fit in really is that everyone else is crazy. I remember sitting in the audience at a "pep rally" at my high school, watching as the cheerleaders threw an effigy of an opposing player into the audience to be torn to pieces. I felt like an explorer witnessing some bizarre tribal ritual. [bold added]Much of this will remind anyone familiar with Ayn Rand of her concept of second-handers, and rightfully so. And many of these might be tempted, as I was at first, to indict the state of our culture and government schools for this entirely. (It's not entirely to blame, but as Graham indicates, it deserves the lion's share.) That said, I think some aspects of the phenomenon stem from the transition any child has to make from dependence on his parents to independent adulthood. As a parent, I am glad to have encountered this piece again, and will keep it in mind, now that I am a parent. -- CAV Link to Original
  12. Four Things 1. Here's an amusing and instructive example of no-holds-barred brainstorming:For example, if you needed to advertise your home business but you had no budget for advertising, someone might say, "Call the local news and tell them you're going to burn your house down if you don't get some business soon." Where's the merit in that idea? The free publicity. Now you have to find a better way to get it. (p. 309)This comes from Barbara Sher's I Could Do Anything if Only I Knew What It Was. I second the original recommendation. 2. Kindle owners rejoice! Amazon has recently improved the format of its cloud-accessible "Notes and Highlights" feature. My favorite improvement is that page and location numbers are shown, saving me from having to search for the highlighted quote in order to refer back for more context or to cite it properly. 3. A man automates his own job. Should he tell his boss?... I've been doing it for about 18 months and in that time, I've basically figured out all the traps to the point where I've actually written a program which for the past 6 months has been just doing the whole thing for me. So what used to take the last guy like a month, now takes maybe 10 minutes to clean the spreadsheet and run it through the program.Read herefor more context and the discussion. 4. Around since the time of the dinosaurs, the horseshoe crab also graces many an aquarium petting tank. But did you know it is also of major medical importance?When she's done with the show and tell, [Meghan] Owings squirts the contents of the syringe back into the tank. I gasp. "That's thousands of dollars!" I exclaim, and can't help but think of the scene in Annie Hall when Woody Allen is trying cocaine for the first time and accidentally sneezes, blowing the coke everywhere.I'm not crazy for my concern. The cost of crab blood has been quoted as high as $14,000 per quart. [link in original] Keep reading to learn what that blue blood is being used for. -- CAV Link to Original
  13. Although I was glad to see President Trump decide to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, I have regard the decision as an example of breathing room for freedom, rather than the kind of fundamental change we really need. That assessment is partly because Trump does not have a coherent political philosophy (much less the kind such a change would require), and because our culture is not conducive to such a change, anyway. Similar to the withdrawal is Scott Pruitt's decision to launch a program to "critique" climate science. This is well-intentioned, but will also not go far enough. The program will use "red team, blue team" exercises to conduct an "at-length evaluation of U.S. climate science," the official said, referring to a concept developed by the military to identify vulnerabilities in field operations. "The administrator believes that we will be able to recruit the best in the fields which study climate and will organize a specific process in which these individuals ... provide back-and-forth critique of specific new reports on climate science," the source said.The good news about this is the same as part of the bad news: a combination of law and court decisions requires the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. The good of this, such as it is, is that I am confident that science does not support the doomsday scenarios used to justify the severe rationing of the fossil fuels our economy requires. The bad news is that the law straitjackets the government into doing this when rationing fuel isn't at all one of its proper purposes. Stand by for this discussion to dominate the news and countless bull sessions among non-experts on both sides of the discussion -- and just wait for warmists to nitpick every point or dismiss findings they don't like altogether.) This will be a shame since the conversation we really need should move beyond this circumscribed question in two important ways: (1) Regarding the question of fossil fuels, we should, as energy activist Alex Epstein has pointed out, discuss all of the positives of continuing to use fossil fuels and all of the negatives of reducing their use. (Likewise for alternative fuels.) Note that positives of fossil fuels and negatives of alternatives are strangely absent or downplayed in most discussions. (2) We should also be having a discussion about the proper role of government. This is scarcely happening at all, with everyone on both sides of this debate assuming that the government ought to do something or not just on the basis of the scientific question -- and without regard to the proper purpose of the government or the larger context of the rest of our knowledge about energy. Until and unless our conversation about the EPA is only about how we will abolish it, we are nowhere near winning this war on industrial civilization disguised as a scientific debate. -- CAV Link to Original
  14. Editor's Note: I'm taking Monday and Tuesday off from blogging. Happy Independence Day! Notable Commentary "t is one thing to grant an exception in response to an out-of-the-ordinary situation on a one-time-only basis -- for reasons rooted in the government's authorizing mission -- and it is another to issue wholesale permissions for large swaths of the population to defy law on an ongoing basis when that basis does not stem from the government's function." -- Tara Smith, in "Religious Liberty or Religious License? Legal Schizophrenia and the Case against Exemptions" (PDF, 2016) at The Journal of Law and Politics, Vol. 32. "What the Lockeans glimpsed and what Rand appreciates more fully is that without freedom, a person would not be able to use his rational faculty as the rational faculty. " -- Tara Smith, in "What Good Is Religious Freedom? Locke, Rand, and the Non-Religious Case for Respecting It" (PDF, 2016) at The Arkansas Law Review, vol. 69. "Rather, [bombing Syria was against our interests] because of the standard by which Trump chose to justify the use of force." -- Peter Schwartz, in "Trump's Bombing of Syria: What's The Principle?" (April) at The Huffington Post. "As long as our political and economic systems allow humans to freely think, experiment, and innovate, we can continue to find new ways to improve the quality of health care and the quality of human life." -- Paul Hsieh, in "Three Novel Health Care Innovations" at Forbes. My Two Cents Although the complementary Smith pieces listed above appear in academic journals, they are clearly-written and quite accessible to laymen. They are also very interesting and, most important, highly relevant to understanding current debates about the relationship between church and state. They are both long, but I highly recommend them. -- CAV Link to Original
  15. Jason Riley of the Wall Street Journal asks a probing question of the Black Lives Matter movement (not to mention those who want to inflate the minimum wage again), after noting that it seems headed towards the same fate as other "black power" movements: A new National Bureau of Economic Research report looked at the consequences of Seattle's decision to raise its minimum wage to $13 last year from $9.47 in 2015. The researchers concluded that the increase "reduced hours worked in low-wage jobs by around 9 percent, while hourly wages in such jobs increased by around 3 percent. Consequently, total payroll fell for such jobs, implying that the minimum wage ordinance lowered low-wage employees' earnings by an average of $125 per month in 2016." When are BLM activists going to take the Democrats to task for promoting policies that harm minority workers disproportionately? When the unemployment rate for black teens reaches 100%? Or course, improving educational and employment prospects for the black underclass would lower black crime rates and thus go a long way toward reducing encounters with police, the goal that is so near and dear to the Black Lives Matter movement. It's a win-win, but first the activists have to decide whether the real goal is to help black people or help themselves.[link omitted, bold added]The cultural headlock of altruism, even among many who genuinely wish to help the black underclass, necessitates that I quibble with the wording, but not the sentiment here: The goals of helping oneself and helping the black underclass are not only not mutually exclusive, they both entail greater freedom for everyone to help themselves -- in the form of stronger property rights and fewer government dictates for all. Altruism causes too many people to imagine that self-interest and taking advantage of other people are one and the same. Its short-range, myopic focus on how much one person has compared to another fosters both covetousness and poor self-confidence so thoroughly that many (if not most) people today see material wealth as being of a fixed quantity and life as being a zero-sum game. Helping the black underclass is a win-win, but what BLM has been promoting isn't help. Furthermore, the short-term prestige of its leaders is a sorry pyschological substitute for the happiness that would come from the genuine heroism such change would require. Having put in my two cents, I thank this columnist for raising a long overdue question. -- CAV Link to Original
  16. "The wisest man in the world, with the purest integrity, cannot find a criterion for the just, equitable, rational application of an unjust, inequitable, irrational principle." -- Ayn Rand Regulators in California have just decided to libel one of the most productive companies in the world, by listing the active ingredient in Monsanto's RoundUp weed killer as a carcinogen. This ruling comes only a week and a half after Reuters broke a story about a scientist at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concealing his own results to the contrary at a meeting by that agency. Until California's ruling, WHO's IARC was only major agency to assert that glyphosate was "probably" carcinogenic. According to a storyin Mother Jones (of all places):So why on Earth would a scientist fail to mention his own work -- and blithely let a powerful agency come to a conclusion that his own data suggested was wrong? IARC told Reuters it's because [Aaron] Blair's data wasn't published yet, and the agency has a policy against taking unpublished data into consideration. For his part, Blair told Reuters that the data wasn't published in advance of the IARC's decision because there was too much of it to fit in one paper. (Reuters asked two outside experts to weigh in, and neither could understand the decision not to publish the data.) And how about the rule against taking unpublished data into consideration? I called Michael Eisen, a professor of genetics, genomics, and development at the University of California-Berkeley. Eisen is the founder of the Public Library of Science and an outspoken advocate of transparency in science. He told me that in this particular case, he found IARC's rule "silly." "This is a board of people whose job it is to assess evidence, so they should be able to do that before it's published," he said. "The broader issue is that they seem eager to have reached the conclusion that they reached." He pointed out that in this case, peer review seems a little unnecessary -- the review panel itself was made up of experts, so they would have had no trouble evaluating the quality of the data. [bold added]It is interesting to consider the question of why anyone would be eager to reach such a conclusion in light of glyphosate's long track record of safety and benefit, as outlinedby John Hinderaker of Power Line:... The development of glyphosate tolerant crops (soybeans, corn, cotton, eventually others) was a marvel: farmers could apply RoundUp over the top of crops, killing weeds while the crop was unaffected. The result was cheaper food and clothing. As a bonus, glyphosate was remarkably benign from an environmental standpoint. In general, insecticides are toxic to humans because humans are quite a bit like bugs. Herbicides, on the other hand, are generally not very toxic to humans, because we aren't a lot like plants. But even in this context, glyphosate stood out as a harmless chemical. It targets an enzyme that is found in plants, but not in humans or animals. Moreover, glyphosate breaks down easily and does not persist in the environment. It is pretty much the perfect herbicide (until resistance starts to develop, but that's another story). [bold added]That's a good question, and the answer lies in part in the fact that the whole idea of the "public interest" is a fiction. I recommend reading everything at that last link, lest anyone who happens by get the wrong lesson from this obvious abuse of government power: It isn't that the power to act "in the public interest" can be used dishonestly -- It has. -- but that, as Ayn Rand notes, "it cannot be used honestly." Much of the call for the government to regulate practically every aspect of our economy comes from suspicion of selfish interest, especially that of the profit motive for business. (It's as if the folks at Monsanto would reap great profits -- or have anywhere to spend the money -- by poisoning practically everyone in the developed world...) It would be a great cultural improvement were people to view with even half as much suspicion the motives of those who -- although they don't even know us -- claim to act on our own behalf and have the force of government coercion at their disposal. -- CAV Link to Original
  17. In a piece at Inc., Suzanne Lucas discusseshow to avoid decision fatigue." Although I think there is merit in considering the issues the term (and Lucas) bring up, I would have to think long and hard about whether I agree it is valid. (I think the best aspect of the idea is related to what Objectivists refer to as the crow epistemology. That is, it names an aspect of the fact that we have limited cognitive resources, and that we do better by respecting those limits.) That said, I will risk sounding like I'm slapping my own back here, and say that I already use lots of the strategies Lucas advocates, which she broadly characterizes as delegation. What she has done for me is cause me to consider applying them more broadly, and not just when I find a particular type of decision taxing. One favorite of mine -- which I could probably use in more contexts -- clocks in at number four on her list as "Outsourcing Makes Life Easier": No, you can't outsource your own job, but you can outsource parts of it. If you're the CEO, stop being the CEO that interviews every job applicant and needs every decision to cross her desk. Hire people you can trust and then let them make decisions. Only make the decision when you're the only person who can make it. If it's something complex, let your staff do the studying to narrow down the choices. [bold added]This reminds me of the time before my wedding, when choices for all manner of wedding gifts for our registry kept popping up. Although I have strong opinions about the relevant factors, such as utility and aesthetics, I quickly found having to think about all these things very annoying. Fortunately, I realized that (1) my wife and I had similar-enough opinions about these things, and (2) she enjoyed poring through the web sites and catalogs with all the choices. So I asked her to find the top three candidates for dining-ware, linens, eating utensils, and so forth, and then ask for my input. That was one of the best ideas I had during our engagement, if I say so myself. What Lucas has helped me do is realize that the fact I find shopping exhausting is no reason not to apply it to other areas that, while I may not object to (or even enjoy) them, are perhaps not the best uses of my time or cognitive resources. Lucas calls her column, "5 Reasons You Should Let Others Make Your Decisions," but don't be fooled. Just as you remain the ultimate arbiter when you follow her strategies, some of the delegation isn't actually to other people. To see what I mean by that, and for other valuable ideas, read the whole thing. -- CAV Link to Original
  18. Over at The Outline is a lengthy piece about the pseudoscience of chiropractic. Even if, like myself, you have always dismissed chiropractic out of hand, you will probably have an even lower opinion of it afterwards. (e.g., A séance was important in its founding during a period rife with quackery.) And, if you don't have a strong opinion of it, or didn't realize that there are efforts underway to allow athletic physicals by chiropractors to suffice for physical requirements in school athletics, you should take a look. Oh, and chiropractors are, unsurprisingly, on the anti-vaccination bandwagon: "Freedom of medical choice" has become a popular way to phrase anti-vaccination views in the chiropractic community. The American Chiropractic Association's public policy on vaccinations states that "since the scientific community acknowledges that the use of vaccines is not without risk,(...)The ACA is supportive of a conscience clause or waiver in compulsory vaccination laws thereby maintaining an individual's right to freedom of choice in health care matters and providing an alternative elective course of action regarding vaccination." The World Chiropractic Alliance cloaks its anti-vaccine stance under "freedom of choice" as well, saying that medical practitioners should inform patients of all risks associated with vaccinating. That doesn't seem too unfair until you consider that chiropractors are not asked to tell patients the risks associated with polio, whooping cough, measles, or chiropractic care itself. Fun experiment if you ever go to a chiropractor: ask them what the proper back-cracking procedure is to immunize oneself to zika or malaria. Bring your pet mosquito.Although I oppose licensing laws and compulsory vaccination, I recognize that we are far off from the time that abolition will be seriously considered. Given that fact, we should, in the meantime, insist that the standards such laws are supposed to enforce be based as much as possible on actual science. In a free society, if someone wants to make stupid health decisions, he won't have anyone to blame but himself. But in our mixed economy, he could potentially have the government there to mislead him/help him pretend he is making a wise choice by setting corrupt official standards. -- CAV Link to Original
  19. (And Related Thoughts) At the start of a collectionof eyewitness accounts from Chernobyl comes the following quote: Everyone who thinks the EPA is not necessary and the regulations on power plants are there to stifle growth and profit should read every comment here...Although I don't think the government should regulate the power industry, this individual is no mind reader. I appreciate that, while many regulations do"stifle growth and profit," they are not necessarily created with that in mind. Indeed, some accomplish what industry engineering standards, watchdog groups, or other non-government efforts would and should otherwise accomplish. That said, let's accept his challenge for a moment and look at another quote: Fruits and vegetables from the contaminated areas were sold feely [sic] at Moscow markets. In fact, that summer there was quite an incredible abundance of produce and the prices were low. The levels of radiation in produce from certain areas were very high. Some of our friends who used Geiger counters to check produce at Moscow Central Market had the counters confiscated then and there.Soviet Russia and the EPA are both examples -- the one more consistent than the other -- of central planning. Chernobyl and its aftermath happened in a centrally planned economy. The above instance shows just how well that "EPA for everything" worked, at least to achieve the goal of the protection of individual rights. (I am not by any means asserting that that was the goal, but it's the most benevolent interpretation I can muster of the notion that we "need" the EPA.) I won't, without further evidence, attribute hatred of the individual to the author of the first quote. However, I will say that facts alone are insufficient to settle the implicit question he raises, which is, "Should we have central planning?" For starters, I bet if I made a painstaking case -- which I am not, here -- that Chernobyl is exactly what happens under central planning, many people would shrug it off as an anomaly or even dismiss my factual statements as "propaganda." And many would, sadly, dismiss out of hand the idea that the purpose of the government is to protect individual rights. (Other possibilities exist: Some of these people might be persuaded to change their minds about these objections, but only with much more effort. Also, I could make such a poor case for the idea that Chernobyl exemplifies how "well" totalitarian regimes respect individuals that I'd rightly be dismissed.) The bottom line is that, when one wants to pitch an intellectual argument, he must set limits that account for some potential audience members being too far away from his position to engage -- anytime soon (because of fundamental differences, despite a basic level of intellectual honesty) or at all (because of a lack of intellectual honesty or for other reasons). The fact that there are people who are unreachable by rational argument in no way lessens the value of rational argument -- when directed at the right audience. Never let their seeming ubiquity demoralize you: They are unwittingly helping you with the task of prioritizing your time by honing in on the audience one can most profitably engage with. I do not accuse the author of the first quote of being the type of person I am discussing, but his remark caused me to think of the kind of reaction I might get if I engaged him personally about it, and of past reactions I have observed from others after similar conversations. Those reactions are more useful that I once thought. -- CAV Link to Original
  20. Four Things 1. The Supreme Court's unanimous decision to uphold freedom of speech in a recent trademark case is great news: Ruling against the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's determination that the name Slants had violated its "disparagement clause," Justice Samuel Alito's decision for the court was written with the rare clarity of a declarative sentence in the active voice: "This provision violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. It offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend." This is hardly the end of a war currently being waged against freedom of speech, but it is a most welcome victory. 2. As both an appreciative Linux user and someone interested in unorthodox career paths, I admire Linus Torvalds, who created and maintains the open-source operating system. Here is an excerpt from an article on how his hobby-career still surprises and motivates him after 25 years: ... a prime principle was that you should be able to fork and go off on your own and do something on your own. If you have forks that are friendly -- the type that prove me wrong and do something interesting that improves the kernel -- in that situation, someone can come back and say they actually improved the kernel and there are no bad feelings. I'll take your improved code and merge it back. That's why you should encourage forks. You also want to make it easy to take back the good ones.It is refreshing to see someone with this attitude towards differences in professional opinion. I look forward to learning more from the entire, thirty-minute source interview. 3. Hooray for technology, part eleventy-squintillion: Watching the kids during a big game doesn't mean you miss seeing excellence. I checked my soccer app shortly after the recent U.S.-Mexico game started at Azteca Stadium. Lo, and behold, we were in the lead on a goal scored by midfielder Michael Bradley at something like five minutes in. It was around their bedtime, so I'd have to see the game later, which I did, of course. Let me say that I could loop this video clip of that goal all day. (As a bonus, it reminds me of my own favorite goal, which I scored from about the same position after I'd noticed the opposing goalkeeper insulting my team by sitting down next to his goal post.) 4. A dining critic reviews Nutraloaf, the meal fed to misbehaving prisoners: [T]he funny thing about Nutraloaf is the taste. It's not awful, nor is it especially good. I kept trying to detect any individual element -- carrot? egg? -- and failing. Nutraloaf tastes blank, as though someone physically removed all hints of flavor. "That's the goal," says Mike Anderson, Aramark's district manager. "Not to make it taste bad but to make it taste neutral." By those standards, Nutraloaf is a culinary triumph; any recipe that renders all 13 of its ingredients completely mute is some kind of miracle.I'll take his word for it. -- CAV Link to Original
  21. What would the child of Frédéric Bastiat's Fallacy of the Broken Window and Ayn Rand's essay on "The Property Status of Airwaves" look like? A recent articleat the Foundation for Economic Education gives us the answer: A world that got cell phone service forty years earlier than we did, because the Federal Communications Commission wasn't there to thwart the technology. Let's start with an excerpt from Rand's 1964 essay, as anthologized in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal: The history of the collectivization of radio and television demonstrates, in condensed form, in a kind of microcosm, the process and the causes of capitalism's destruction. It is an eloquent illustration of the fact that capitalism is perishing by the philosophical default of its alleged defenders. Collectivists frequently cite the early years of radio as an example of the failure of free enterprise. In those years, when broadcasters had no property rights in radio, no legal protection or recourse, the airways were a chaotic no man's land where anyone could use any frequency he pleased and jam anyone else. Some professional broadcasters tried to divide their frequencies by private agreements, which they could not enforce on others; nor could they fight the interference of stray, maliciously mischievous amateurs. This state of affairs was used, then and now, to urge and justify government control of radio. This is an instance of capitalism taking the blame for the evils of its enemies. The chaos of the airways was an example, not of free enterprise, but of anarchy. It was caused, not by private property rights, but by their absence. It demonstrated why capitalism is incompatible with anarchism, why men do need a government and what is a government's proper function. What was needed was legality, not controls. [bold added] (Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 125)Cell phones are, as the FEE piece indicates, an idea that had been around since just after World War II! The FEE piece and Rand's piece combined will make it clear to any layman that private property rights would have made implementing that idea extremely easy. Let me urge you to read both pieces, with the last paragraph of the FEE piece as its teaser: It was a Motorola vice president, Marty Cooper, who placed the first cellular call with a mobile handset in 1973. It might as well have been a pocket-dial. Motorola's lawyers were placing calls of their own, lobbying FCC bureaucrats to keep cellular networks from being built. (Motorola misjudged its own interests: It would become a leading beneficiary of the new marketplace. By 2006 it was the world's second-largest vendor of cellphones, selling more than 200 million units per year.)Consider what a revolution cell phones have proved to be, even without their added functionality as portable computers. (Even then, there were hints of this, which were missed or ignored by Motorola and AT&T.) Motorola may have benefited from the new market, but how much greater might it have been had it not thwarted itself along with everyone else through privilege-seeking(more commonly and mistakenly called "rent-seeking" or "regulatory capture")? Apart from Motorola getting partial justice in the form of stunting itself, the silver lining of this tale, such as it is, is that advocates of capitalism now have a powerful example of regulation greatly lowering the standard of living of countless individuals on a personal level. That said, as a case of What Might Have Been, it requires more intelligence and imagination to deploy (and to grasp) than the usual indictments of capitalism -- lent surface credibility by perceptual-level events -- served up by the panic-mongerers of the left. But then again, anything worthwhile takes effort. -- CAV Link to Original
  22. A grant-writing firm regardsPresident Trump's interest in "boosting" apprenticeships as "rare good political news," but is it? Compared to higher education, it may seem so, and many will find it tempting to hope so, based on what Jake Selinger notes: For The Story's Story [sic], I wrote about Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton's Paying for the Party. The book is too complex and interesting to summarize briefly, but one of its main points concerns the way colleges have evolved party tracks that require little studying -- but undergrads with successful outcomes on that track tend to be wealthy and socially connected. Many undergrads wander onto that trackwithout their peers' financial and social resources, only to fail to graduate or to graduate with weak degrees that don't produce much income. Given this situation, policy change is warranted. If college was once a panacea, growing college costshave eliminated that situation... [bold added]Unfortunately, everything in bold above is a direct result of the government "boosting" higher education with easy money for decades, predictablycausing all of the problems bolded in the above passage. (And we haven't even started talking about the regulatory strings attached that have, among other things, turned so many colleges into multiculturalist hothouses.) The government actively "boosting" any sector of the economy mis-allocates resources, both unjustly depriving the productive of what they have earned and enabling the waste of that money by others. (To be clear, I do applaud the proposed removal of regulations that keep companies from taking on apprentices if they desire, but that's not a "boost" so much as a getting-out-of-the-way. If that's what Trump meant, I'd be all for it.) The government has already boosted higher education to hell. Let's hope it doesn't start doing the same with commercial training programs. -- CAV Link to Original
  23. Within an article about work-family conflicts are a couple of paragraphs that ought to be front and center, from what I can tell of my nearly six years of fatherhood: That might be the case, but there are other problems men face that are left unmentioned in the 1843 article. One is the unquestioned assumption that children in the modern era need constant attention. Nathan says that he is responsible for "helping" with the kids, which is different from spending quality time with them. Kids and teenagers were once expected to entertain themselves for large parts of the day, whether it was riding bikes, reading, cooking their own meals, or playing board games. Now, with extracurricular activities that require organization, drop-offs and pick-ups, mom and dad can no longer rest and recuperate on evenings and weekends. Furthermore, in the digital age, parents' work often follows them home, further eroding private time. This leaves no room for adult fun, which our parents and grandparents used to enjoy by going out dancing or to dinner or on vacations without the kids. Too many adults have also lost the practice of contemplation, a vital function of human flourishing that was more available in previous eras and that helped keep men ... feeling more balanced and sane. Contemplation is often described as a religious practice, which it can be, but it is also a way of quietly reconnecting with the universe. Contemplation can take the form of a long walk in the evening, a rainy day spent in solitude, or immersion in a brilliant novel or work of music that transports you to another world. [bold added]I am glad to see further evidence of a pushback against the common mania for cramming as much as possible into every waking hour as if that were an end in itself. Until this point, I have primarily seen such outlets as Free Range Kidspoint out how bad this can be for children. (A biggie for me is this: How will they get a chance to figure out what they want for themselves without having chunks of free time to explore on their own?) What I like about this article is that it can remind us to spare a thought for ourselves and any (other) parents we know. Often we have a adageslike the one the title alludes to for good reason. More positively, we could borrow a page from Steven Johnson and argue that, human beings need to play even beyond the sense of recharging after hard work. Current cultural norms unfortunately make it necessary to be more active about making sure there is down time and play time for everyone in the family. -- CAV P.S. The mention of "transport[] ... to another world" really hit home for me, having just finished reading, Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass. Not too long ago, I realized I hadn't read a book for pure fun in a long time, when I saw the hardcover (from my pre-fatherhood days!) sitting on a shelf. Having liked the movie and wondering whether it might be a good one to introduce to the kids in a few years, I decided to read it. I really enjoyed it and look forward to the rest of the trilogy. I highly recommend it to any science fiction or fantasy fans who might happen by. Link to Original
  24. Four Things 1. The man who invented the chicken nugget, which anecdotal evidence suggests to me is the only thing some kids will eat, also left his mark on the outdoor gathering customs of upstate New York: Cornell Chicken Barbecue Sauce, though, was his first great triumph, and what he is best known for in upstate New York. All summer, every summer, Cornell Barbecue Chicken features at backyard parties and family get-togethers. Younger generations of Finger Lake residents don't even recognize this as a regional specialty so much as the default way to cook chicken outdoors. "Every fund-raising event, every fire department cookout, every little league barbecue, must serve this recipe or nobody would come," writes barbecue expert Meathead Goldwyn.It's a simple recipe, and I intend to try it over the weekend. Yes. Finally, cookout season has arrived in Maryland! 2. Someone at Hacker News raised the question, "How do I dress better?" Someone who replied explained something that has always baffled me, because it runs counter to what I learned ages ago -- i.e., Don't. -- about wearing short sleeves in an office: Of course the reasoning for short sleeves is that graphite dust would stain long sleeves. Likewise for a black tie. Since drafting using pencils is pretty much nonexistent these days the need for the style is gone. Now it's just used to project an image of competent professional engineering.Ah! Dilbert's wardrobe: explained. 3. I'd heard that the recently-deceased Adam West had an off-beat sense of humor. Mosey on over to a recent tribute to the original Batman for a good example. 4. If you're a parent near the Baltimore area and want a good day trip on a week day, let me recommend the bakery tour of Snyder's of Hanover, about an hour north of town. I took my daughter there and to an excellent local park last week, and she loved it. I intend to try a few others from this list of "7 Factories and Businesses That Give Great Tours," too. -- CAV Link to Original
  25. Anyone concerned about the costand intrusivenessof the regulatory state will doubtless be interested in reading a recent reporton Trump's first six months, by Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Crews compares Trump to each of the presidents over the past twenty years and concludes that, "Trump is so far the least regulatory president of all." This good news, and, in addition to backing up his contention, he adds the following note of caution: Trump's mode so far is regulating bureaucrats rather than regulating the private sector, with rules to limit their rules. Even more importantly, more unswervingly than any other, the administration has incorporated regulatory dark matter into reforming the administrative state in both his freeze and the two-out requirement. This material consists of all the memoranda, guidance, notices, bulletins and other proclamations (including threats and bad publicity) with which bureaucrats create or influence policy, but that escape the (already inadequate) discipline of the 1946 Administrative Procedure Act. All this seems significant in terms of history of the regulatory state. The drop between Clinton and Bush was dramatic, but otherwise last time we saw anything comparable to today's reduction was when both regulations and Federal Register page counts dropped over a third under Reagan. But that didn't last. Similarly, the longevity of a Trump rule-making hiatus will depend upon Congress passing legislation such as the bipartisan 2017 Regulatory Accountability Act to codify the best elements of the past few decades of regulatory oversight executive orders, as well as enhance congressional accountability for what agencies do. [links in original]This is true, but more important, there will be no permanent reduction in number or scope of intrusive laws until a more fundamental cultural change occurs: The people who elect our lawmakers once again come to regard government's sole purpose as protector of individual rights. Without principled opposition to the government pushing people around (even including when it tells us to do reasonable things), any controls left in place will, with the precedent that the government is a substitute brain left unchallenged, ultimately breed more controls. -- CAV Link to Original