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Gus Van Horn blog

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  1. At Spiked!, Brendan O'Neill considers the recent finding that Australia's Great Barrier Reef is the healthiest that it has ever been since measurements began decades ago. His title -- "Why Eco-Alarmists Are Wrong About Almost Everything" -- isn't quite right, but that does not make this piece any less worthwhile. The whole thing merits a read, and is short enough to keep in mind as something you could point out to a persuadable person. Two excerpts should make that case. First, O'Neill reminds us of the fact that our wonderment and affection for the reef have been used against us as a cudgel for quite a long time:Image by Gökhan Tolun, via Wikimedia Commons, license.We should remind ourselves just how important reports of the reef's death were to the climate-change narrative. There were endless fear-stirring headlines about the lethal threat posed by industrious mankind to Earth's largest coral reef system. Images of the sick white coral were used to boost the eco-sermonising of the elites, to add weight to their narrative about the human impact on the natural world being a wicked and murderous thing. Greenpeace even held an underwater protest in the reef, with a banner saying 'Coal is killing the reef'. Really? Coal production in Queensland has steadily risen -- Queensland produces millions of tonnes of coal every year -- and yet the reef's health has improved. Fake news, Greenpeace? [link omitted, bold added]Second, O'Neill reminds us -- as have the likes of Alex Epstein, Michael Shellenberger, and Bjorn Lomborg -- of the importance of our great mastery (his term) over nature:Eco-alarmists aren't only wrong about the death of Earth -- they're wrong about life on Earth right now. The message they constantly send is that everything is dire. The big, disgusting 'human footprint' on poor Mother Earth is causing heatwaves and storms and death on an unprecedented scale, they say. It is all so overblown. We are actually safer from nature's violent whims than we have ever been. The number of people dying in natural calamities fell from around 500,000 a year in the 1920s to 14,000 in 2020. That's a 96 per cent drop. The percentage of human beings living in poverty fell from more than 80 per cent at the start of the 19th century to less than 20 per cent in the 2010s. Deaths from disease and war have also declined dramatically in the modern era. Child labour, too. Life expectancy, meanwhile, has shot up. In Europe, it went from 34 years to 79 years between 1770 and 2019. That is, at the exact time that mankind was having industrial revolutions and allegedly being a plague on the planet, the health and prospects of humanity improved in a way our ancestors could only have dreamed of. It's almost as if modernity is good for us. We must never let the anti-industrial rage of the elites blind us to how brilliant our impact on the planet has been. We haven't destroyed Earth -- we have tamed it and civilised it; we have unlocked its secrets; we have transformed this wild and unpredictable ball in space into a planet that can happily host eight billion people, and more besides. Occasionally bleached coral is a very small price to pay for the liberation of humanity from death and drudgery, wouldn't you say? [links omitted, bold added]I have heard others say words to the effect that if someone thinks there is a "climate crisis" caused by carbon dioxide emissions, but opposes nuclear power, that person shouldn't be taken seriously. I agree. Perhaps another quick way to gauge whether someone is serious or thoughtful about this issue is how they react to good news like this. Are they at least relieved? Do they do what O'Neill does and reconsider the numerous doomsday predictions that it calls into question? If a mother fears for her child's life and gets a good (and solid) prognosis, would she not react with delight and relief? And what would it mean if she ignored the news or insisted on continuing treating her child as if he had six months left to live? I don't know, either, but it is akin to the silence and indifference greeting this good news from climate catastrophists. This is good news, and in the greater context that O'Neill provides, it means lots of us can and should stop worrying and get on with our lives. -- CAVLink to Original
  2. At the Genetic Literacy Project, Cameron English rightly calls out "anti-GMO 'rock star' Vandana Shiva" among others for their role in causing Sri Lanka's agricultural crisis:Sri Lanka ran an evil experiment on its citizens last year. Under the sway of nitwit organic-food activists, the government banned imports of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers as part of an effort to transition the country to all-organic agriculture, leaving the vast majority of farmers without access to the vital tools they use to grow the crops their country depends on. Polls taken at the time showed that most growers didn't know how to farm organically.English goes on to recapitulate the events that preceded and followed from the ban, calling them "predictable and tragic." He also reminds us that the country's leadership ignored the advice of its agricultural scientists while it devised its plan. At the same time, the story notes that organic apologists are deflecting blame. Regarding a recent statement about the crisis by the Soil Association (which frequently collaborates with Shiva), Cameron hits the nail on the head:If you recover, they'll tell you to step on it right, the next time. (Image by Albert Cahalan, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.)You see, they didn't do it right. Had Sri Lanka only taken a decade to retrain its farmers in organic production and primed its citizens for the massive yield drops that come with abandoning modern agriculture, then they'd be on their way to a green paradise. Please. This is a foolish, face-saving narrative. Take 10 years or take 100 years; it doesn't matter. The problem is not the transition period, but the production methods farmers are supposed to utilize. We know that organic farming alone cannot produce the amount of food we need to feed the globe. The research has been done, the evidence is in. This was all known long before the events in Sri Lanka unfolded. Agricultural scientists in the country knew it, and they were ignored. [links omitted, bold added]Central planners take this tack so often about the results of people attempting to implement their policies that the Babylon Bee once memorably parodied it under the headline, "Socialist Steps On Another Rake Insisting That 79 Previous Attempts Weren't REAL Stepping On A Rake." My thanks to Cameron English for calling this what it is, evil, and holding these modern Luddites to account with his well-documented piece. Sri Lanka will, sadly, not be the last time green meddlers wage war on modern agriculture. But with this article, at least the next target will have been warned on how the scheme will be put into motion, the results they can expect, and what the perpetrators will say when their policies are tested against reality. -- CAVLink to Original
  3. Whether you sometimes had to do without meat during the height of the pandemic -- or found yourself going to the store at ridiculous hours like I did -- you might want to mosey on over to one of John Stossel's recent pieces. Within, he explains how this happened in a wealthy nation in which it is impossible to drive through the countryside without seeing cattle. And yes, if you suspected it is due to regulations in one way or another, you were correct to do so. In this particular example, meat inspection -- which for decades involved a technique that could spread disease -- is the major culprit:Image by Kurseong Carl, via Wikimedia Commons, license.Today, USDA inspectors do a better job. They test for bacteria. But the inspection process is so cumbersome and expensive, many small companies can't afford it. The result, complained President Joe Biden recently, is too much market concentration: "Four big corporations control more than half the markets in beef, pork, and poultry!" His remedy, sadly, is to give your tax money to some smaller meatpackers. Of course, such subsidies and regulations increase market concentration.Stossel's suggested remedy -- of allowing small packers to sell after state inspections -- does not go as far as I would, but it would make the supply chain less brittle. That said, it is as needless for the government to require this common-sense measure as it is wrong for it to issue rights-violating orders to individuals in the form of preventative law. I would have been happier had Stossel noted that no rancher or meat processor wants a reputation for sickening or killing customers: There are ample selfish, profit-seeking motives to support an entire competitive and profitable private industry in food safety inspection and certification. (Underwiters Laboratories is an example from a different sector.) And such an industry probably wouldn't have taken almost a century to get past the ridiculous "poke and sniff" method the government foisted on us in the name of saving us from ourselves and "greedy" businessmen who somehow don't understand that dead, dying, and sick customers are bad for repeat business. -- CAVLink to Original
  4. Over at Hot Air, Allahpundit does a fine job of answering Donald Trump's threatening question to the Attorney General regarding how his followers -- Trump's term! -- might react to the Mar-a-Lago raid. What I like about the list is that it lays out for all just how ridiculous Trump's behavior has been on the matter of the classified documents every step of the way. I'll simply duplicate the list below:Trump knows good and well how to turn his hand in the opposite direction. (Image by Kwon Junho, via Unsplash, license.)He could have returned all of the documents the first time the National Archives asked for them back.He could have returned them later when the DOJ subpoenaed them.Having failed to return them, he could have kept the search of Mar-a-Lago a secret. Remember, it wasn't the feds who announced it. Trump announced it on Truth Social because he recognized that the incident would benefit him politically. The FBI even carried out the search dressed in civilian clothing so as not to alert bystanders as to what was happening. Trump alerted the country because he wanted to raise "the heat."He could now call on his followers to chill out before one of them kills someone, as nearly happened a few days ago in Cincinnati.He could, at the very, very least, refrain from further inflaming the situation... [links omitted]This man's half-calculated, half-erratic behavior before, during, and after the 2020 election should alarm people across the political spectrum. It is a disgrace that the Republican Party seems content to remain his lapdogs. Furthermore, if the current administration has legal grounds to bar Trump from running for office and fails to pursue them, it will be at least equally wrong. On that last score, I am afraid they will be tempted to stop short of doing so, as I have explained before. The fact that the Democrats specialize in inciting riots does not mean that the proper response is to do the same thing. Not, at least, for anyone who values the freedom and prosperity that come with law, order, and government protection of individual rights. -- CAVLink to Original
  5. Blog Roundup 1. Over at Thinking Directions, Jean Moroney discusses mental blankness, why it occurs, and what to do and not to do about it. The last is common enough that what she says about it should motivate the reader to find out what to do instead:Image by Mike Tinnion, via Unsplash, license.Sometimes people criticize themselves for not knowing the answer right away. Maybe they are embarrassed that it takes themselves a minute to collect their thoughts. Or they call themselves "dumb" for not remembering right away. Or they jump to the conclusion that they're ignorant -- and leave that first "I don't know" as their only answer. They never realize that they do know or that, given half a chance, they could figure it out. Self-criticism is both unfair and impractical. Instead of warming up relevant information, it distracts you from the topic by triggering self-doubt.There is a better way, and Moroney draws on Rudyard Kipling to make that way memorable. 2. Jason Crawford comments on the cautionary tale about what Wired called "the longest-running vaporware story in the history of the computer industry." His parting thoughts:[T]he deepest lesson, I think, is to value real-world results. [Ted] Nelson and [Mark] Miller didn't fail to notice the Web, they failed to care about its success or even to recognize it as a success. Its epic, world-changing status in the history of technology is meaningless to them beside the fantasy system they had dreamed up. In the end, despite the title of the WIRED article, Xanadu was not, in fact, cursed. It achieved exactly what its originators wanted: theoretical perfection in a Platonic realm of forms so idealized that it can never quite be brought to Earth.I think Crawford is absolutely correct and, although the WIRED piece clocks in at about 20,000 words, it makes for an interesting and instructive read. 3. At How to be Profitable and Moral, Jaana Woiceshyn reviews and briefly debunks "Confusions About Capitalism." I think the following is a good, succinct explanation for why such tired old tropes enjoy such wide currency:People's own experiences are not of capitalism but of a mixed economy, where significant cronyism can and does exist, exploitation can go unpunished, and the state interventions -- such as making energy deals with authoritarian regimes (Germany) or banning fertilizers (Sri Lanka) -- lead to human suffering. This makes us prone to believe claims that physical force initiated in a mixed economy is a feature of capitalism. Because today's dominant morality prescribes self-sacrifice for the sake of others and condemns self-interest as immoral, we believe the distortion that exploiting others is in one's self-interest and that therefore the capitalist pursuit of self-interest is immoral.In her next paragraph, she does something many who have debunked such misconceptions fail to do: Explain to the reader why he should seek the truth. 4. At Value for Value, philosopher Harry Binswanger outlines "A New Proposal on Gun Danger after first explaining how his thinking on the issue has evolved to see the issue as one of "preventative vs. proper law." Here's a novel suggestion. Assume that a certain object really shouldn't be sold to a certain kind of buyer. E.g., assume that the regulations you want to write would have illegalized selling the AR-15 used in Uvalde to the shooter, Ramos. Assume that the wrongness of this 18-year-old boy getting such a weapon is obvious. Okay, then the parents could sue the gun dealer who sold it to [Salvador] Ramos. Don't illegalize the object. Don't even illegalize the sale of the gun to a kid... Just let the seller know that he will be held liable for any wrongful use of the weapon, provided it is shown in court that he was negligent to have made that sale.Rather than making objects illegal, we should make acts illegal. -- CAVLink to Original
  6. IT professional Rachel Kroll once stumbled upon an indicator inherent to some projects that can indicate when a team of collaborators isn't holding up their end of the deal:Image by Kaikara Dharma, via Unsplash, license.I call it a "Canary MacGuffin". (or Canary McGuffin, if you prefer.) In tech circles (and the original hole-in-the-ground mining context), a canary is something that you have which tells you when something else is happening. It's typically used to give you advance notice of something potentially harmful, like the site going down, or a mine filling with gas. It goes off before things go too far, in other words. A M[a]cGuffin, then, is from screenwriting and refers to a plot element that may drive the story forward. It has to be satisfied for things to progress. You get it out of the way and then you can get on with what you were really there to do. The quest wasn't "get a crystal key". It was "get this item I need". The crystal key just happens to be a complication that shows up along the way. Likewise, the software request wasn't to "copy this one file into this one place", it was to "make a dashboard". It just happened to require that one-time file copy event. Hence, it's a Canary MacGuffin. [bold added]Way back in my Navy days, when I learned about standard operating procedures, part of that learning was to make sure the initial conditions for any given procedure were in effect at the outset. Kroll's story reminds me a little bit of that. In any case, although Kroll stumbled on her concept by introspection when a project wasn't going anywhere -- and not every project will have initial conditions that obviously lend themselves to service as an indicator there might be a problem -- I agree that it might be helpful to think a little bit about the requirements of a project to determine if there is such an indicator any time one embarks on a collaboration. Kroll's story is well-told and her catchy term should make this memorable for anyone who has been burned by another team dropping the ball before. -- CAVLink to Original
  7. The Republican Party has just made an attack so stupid it's receiving pushback from conservative bloggers, such as John Sexton of Hot Air. Nancy Pelosi, who ruffled feathers worldwide by visiting Taiwan, recently misspoke, saying, "China is one of the freest societies in the world..." So the "RNC Research" Twitter account posted it. Contra RNC Research, it is good for one's credibility and one's cause to acknowledge when an opponent gets something right. Naturally, the likes of Donald Trump, Jr. showed up to milk this for all they think it's worth. Quoth Trump Jr.:Pelosi thinks that the Communist Dictatorship in China is "one of the freest societies in the world," which may explain why the Democrats are now emulating the same authoritarian tactics here at home, that the Chinese Communist Party uses against their political opposition!Sexton does a nice job of elaborating on why the whole attack is poppycock, although doing so borders on gilding the lily: You'd have to be near-insensate to fail to realize that she just visited Taiwan. I'm no fan of Pelosi, but I'm somewhere between stunned and incredulous about this. I could see this as a mild joke at Pelosi's expense, but this isn't just some wiseacre's personal account. I'm a bit at a loss as to who the intended audience would be, too. Pelosi's constituents? People who repeatedly vote for someone this corrupt and unpopular are a lost cause: Our best hope is for them to keep electing her well into a dotage that would perhaps render her relatively harmless. Independents and persuadable Democrats? Nope. Such people by their nature enmesh data, such as they might hope the research arm of a major political party to provide, within the greater context of what they already know -- like that visit that's been all over the news. Indeed, such an institution should be exceedingly cautious about what it puts out precisely because its credibility is at stake. Its own party? This isn't even good "red meat." And it isn't as if any reasonable people left there post-Trump would run with it or that the rest need an excuse or any help at all to cook up conspiracy theories and nutty accusations. On her character and political positions alone -- with the possible exception of the one thing (Taiwan!) that she's on the right side about! -- Pelosi has a big, juicy attack surface. This is a dumb attack for a dumb reason that looks like a cheap shot at an elderly person -- on someone who should be easy pickings for opposition research. On top of that, the Taiwan trip was arguably a good time to say something good about Pelosi, even if only to couch it in terms of how rare something like that is. -- CAVLink to Original
  8. A couple of conservative news outlets report on the damage caused by leftist institutions due to poor Covid reporting by left-mainstream media and poor pandemic policy by the left, specifically in New York state. 'Left-mainstream' media, you say, Gus? Yes. It's not the main point of my post, but I have thought for some time that we now have two mainstream media, one catering to each of the two dominant political tribes of the country. Both of these part-report news and part-spin it to promote its side's political agenda/maintain an audience. To get (actual) news, one must: (1) Read between the lines. (2) Ignore insults. (3) Consult other sources. (4) Actively apply one's mind, knowledge, and experience to any claims of knowledge. Before providing an example of the last, let me say that, although I don't agree with everything either piece says, they both make points worth thinking about. The first piece, at Issues and Inights, calls out media alarmism about Covid, this time about the latest wave of an allegedly supercontagious variant that was supposed to get everyone sick, vaccinated or not. The second rightly makes a case that mandate-crazy governments are undermining rule of law. Both are valuable points, but I have a bone or two to pick with Issues and Insights, following the formula I recommend for getting actual news from partisan media. Consider the following:Why are we still acting like everyone is at equal risk from COVID, when out of more than 1 million COVID deaths recorded in the United States, only 538 involve children under age 4, and just 1,195 are between ages 5 and 18, according to the CDC? Why isn't the public being told that those over 65, who make up less than 17% of the population, constitute 75% of the reported COVID deaths? [bold added]These are worthy questions, and I agree with the story's earlier observation to the effect that case underreporting can only improve the already good news about low case fatality rates in this apparently fizzling and hardly catastrophic "wave." Covid is getting closer to a health concern more on the level of colds or the flu: But if lefties want to keep treating it like it's the plague, the righty media can't seem to help attacking expertise as such:Good news: The vaccines will reduce your risk of death from Covid if you're over 65! (Image from via Our World in Data, license -- more info.)Almost nothing uttered by "experts" over the past two years has turned out to be true. Mask mandates were ineffective. Lockdowns were massively expensive failures. The vaccinated and boosted keep getting COVID -- including President Joe Biden, who not long ago was issuing blistering attacks against the unvaccinated, saying "your refusal has cost all of us." [bold added]Really? The left oversold the vaccines from the start and the right has variously claimed they're dangerous and/or "don't work" from the start. The truth is that the vaccines are safe and, while they don't provide sterilizing immunity, they have greatly reduced the risk of hospitalization and death from the virus. So, sure, if by "works" you insist that the vaccines don't keep us from catching Covid at all, then they don't. But if by "works," you mean they lessen the severity of infection, they do. Either of these propositions can have implications for those of us who follow news in order to find out what's going on. So let's get to the bottom of this. Let's follow the lead of Issues and Insights, and take a closer look at the good news on case fatalities for the risk group that they themselves admit is high-risk: Those over 65. And let's ask if "the experts" were wrong about vaccines. Oops! Perhaps this variant is less-deadly to begin with, but it sure looks like "the experts" were right about vaccines reducing serious risks. But I guess someone was too pissed off about Fauci to think straight. That's a shame, because just eyeballing this graph shows that even a single shot reduces one's likelihood of dying from Covid by at least 75%. (And I personally can feel less bothered that I'm still on the fence about boosters: It would seem that they might help me from catching Covid at all if I get them over and over again, but don't matter all that much in terms of absolute risk as far as what I'm concerned about.) If vaccines "work" (and they do in terms of lowering risk of serious disease and death), conservatives should quit saying they don't and leftists should quit trying to stir up panic every time there's a new variant -- in a virus everyone (except apparently journalists) has known from the beginning would mutate frequently. I see good news -- and two sides so invested in saying gotcha! to each other that they can't be bothered to know about it. -- CAVLink to Original
  9. If you are suspicious of glyphosate (aka Roundup) because it seems to keep popping up in the news, let me recommend the most recent debunking of the most recent smear-piece in that particular Luddite campaign to sow ignorance and panic. Writing for the Genetic Literacy Project, a great resource for this kind of thing, horticulturalist Kevin Folta performs a lengthy and thorough debunking of the Guardian piece, which headlined "'Disturbing:' Weedkiller Ingredient Tied to Cancer Found in 80% of US Urine Samples." For those pressed for time, let's highlight Folta's quick review of two very important missing pieces of context. First, the safety of glyphosate is very well-established. On this point, Folta lauds the conciseness of a recent reevaluation of glyphosate by Canada's health department: Glyphosate is not genotoxic and is unlikely to pose a human cancer risk... No pesticide regulatory authority in the world currently considers glyphosate to be a cancer risk to humans at the levels at which humans are currently exposed.Second, there is the small matter of how much of this chemical has been detected and what that might mean."[A]nalytical chemists can [detect] glyphosate at a level comparable to ... about three minutes in 32,000 years." (Image by Billy Williams, via Unsplash, license.)... What is the high level found in the CDC report? We don't know. The CDC assessment did not measure how much was there, it only noted if it was detected above an analytical threshold. Present/absent, 1/0, yes/no. Not how much. The author sets up the paragraph talking about high levels when there are no quantitative data. Deception again. Note that no other agency and no other review of glyphosate has found levels of glyphosate in urine or blood anywhere near those suggesting health risk. So, the sleight-of-hand here serves only to promote uncertainty and fear. What level would pose a danger? What is a "detection"? Analytical chemists have devised amazingly sensitive protocols to detect glyphosate in aqueous solutions like urine. In this case, they can detect 0.2 nanograms per milliliter. That's 200 parts per trillion. What does that mean? That means analytical chemists can confidently say that they detected glyphosate at a level comparable to 200 seconds in one trillion seconds -- or about three minutes in 32,000 years. Amazing! [bold added]For the curious -- or anyone in need of a real exposé -- Folta gives a bird's-eye view of the past reporting of the activist hack now posing as a journalist at the Guardian. -- CAVLink to Original
  10. Four Things 1. Preventing Multiple Sclerosis? As a result of a conversation with my mother, I recalled recent work strongly suggesting that infection with the Epstein-Barr virus is the leading cause of multiple sclerosis. I also recalled that the authors of the study suggested that vaccination could end or greatly reduce the incidence of that scourge. Not knowing even if there was such a vaccine in the works, I learned that one is in early trials:EBV is a member of the herpes virus family and one of the most common human viruses. It is spread through bodily fluids, primarily saliva. An estimated 125,000 cases of infectious mononucleosis occur each year in the United States; roughly 10% of those persons develop fatigue lasting six months or longer. Approximately 1% of all EBV-infected individuals develop serious complications, including hepatitis, neurologic problems, or severe blood abnormalities. EBV also is associated with several malignancies, including stomach and nasopharyngeal cancers and Hodgkin and Burkitt lymphomas, as well as autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus and multiple sclerosis. "A vaccine that could prevent or reduce the severity of infection with the Epstein-Barr virus could reduce the incidence of infectious mononucleosis and might also reduce the incidence of EBV-associated malignancies and autoimmune diseases," said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.I hope they are right and that this effort pays off. I lost my father to MS and would never wish that illness on anyone. 2. Google Maps for the Roman Empire The Reconstruction page explains:OmnesViae.org offers a reconstruction of the Tabula Peutingeriana with internet technology. The Tabula Peutingeriana, also known as the Peutinger map, is a medieval copy of a Roman roadmap from about the year 300 CE. [link added]The modern map includes a route planner. 3. Exemplary Circumlocution Among the comments about a handbook on North Korean tactics at Hacker News was the following gem:One might say that the apparently excessive overuse of nominalization and the remarkably high prevalence of redundant, duplicative, or otherwise unnecessary adjectives and adverbs serve as needless, pointless hindrances to the all-important readability of this critical document.To be fair, the handbook is not so turgid as to defy a merely curious reader, but the commenter has a point. Image by Sincerely Media, via Unsplash, license.4. "What useful unknown website do you wish more people knew about?" This is a great question and there is a rabbit-hole at Reddit dedicated to the question: You should spend some time there for the sake of some concentrated serendipity. I say this because I did this a year or so ago and remembered that the thread listed a website that helps users find adhesives for unusual situations. Fast forward several months and after a decorative clay bowl of ours got broken, and I was able to find the right adhesive to fix it. Of course, there were several other sites I learned about that I immediately bookmarked or started using, too. -- CAVLink to Original
  11. The appearance of a pink bubble burst his hopes for an intelligent conversation... (Image by Karsten Winegeart, via Unsplash, license.)Some on the left are all atwitter (Sorry.) about reports that Truth Social, Donald Trump's Twitter knock-off, might be removing certain content or shadow-banning users whose views don't align with those of the ex-President. Credit them for not whining Censorship! I give them only one cheer, though because that might only be since they haven't thought of it yet: I am not sure the left knows or cares about what actual censorship or property rights are any more than Trump does. I'll clarify by noting that my reaction to this news is the same as it was when I learned that Twitter, Facebook, et al. do the same thing, usually with a leftward bias: None of these entities are governments, so what they are doing is not censorship any more than you showing the door to someone who won't shut up about a topic you don't want discussed in your own living room is. I may not like the fact that they do this and it may be bad for their business -- or at least for real give-and-take -- but it's their platform, and their rules. Although I am mildly disappointed (but not surprised) to hear that Truth Social has a Trump-leaning content policy, I do welcome the news. First, potential users will know what to expect when considering Truth Social. Second, and as this post should indicate, Trump's past whining and the present actions of his surrogates offer us the opportunity to clarify the vital issues of what censorship is and is not, and to remind Americans about property rights. The proper response to a social media platform having biased moderation policies isn't to effectively bring back the Fairness Doctrine, as Trump himself and an alarming number of conservatives have suggested. It's to start, support, or use a competitor -- or to try to persuade the platform to change its policy. So one cheer to Truth Social for imperfectly exemplifying this response, and for making it more easy to ask conservatives if they really think it would be a good idea for the government to step in and tell Truth Social (or Twitter, or anyone else) how to moderate its content. -- CAVLink to Original
  12. Red Kansas decisively rebuked theocrats yesterday by soundly defeating the first post-Roe anti-abortion ballot measure yesterday:Both parties have become excellent cherry-pickers and poor defenders of individual rights. (Image by Roma Kaiuk, via Unsplash, license.)While it was just one state, the heavy turnout for an August primary that typically favors Republicans was a major victory for abortion rights advocates. With most of the vote counted, they were prevailing by roughly 20 percentage points, with the turnout approaching what's typical for a fall election for governor. The vote also provided a dash of hope for Democrats nationwide grasping for a game-changer during an election year otherwise filled with dark omens for their prospects in November. [bold added]The story notes high turnout for an August election, indicating that Democrats showed up (despite tending not to in August in recent history) and stating outright that "tens of thousands of unaffiliated voters cast ballots." The question I use in my title is partly rhetorical, as remarks by a campaigner for the meaure would indicate, and as I have suspected almost since the text of the draft Dobbs ruling was leaked: Republicans have been cherry-picking poll results to support their contention that most Americans oppose abortion -- and explaining away polling to the contrary -- the whole time. This doesn't mean the Democrats are any less tone-deaf. The article, written by a mainstream journalist and as bolded above, practically cheerleads for the Democrats. Yes, abortion may help Democrats a lot in November. That's a shame, because this is the party whose irrational energy policy could turn the lights out. We have already seen -- with Biden's resounding election victory squeaking through because Trump annoyed enough voters and subsequent far-left policies -- that the Democrats will use any victory as an excuse to try to foist its entire agenda on America. Abortion might help them in November, but Most Americans support a woman's right to an abortion is not the same thing as Most Americans want to eat "the rich," "leave it in the ground," or start each and every conversation with their "pronouns" (i.e., sex and politics). Likewise, Most Americans would like inexpensive gas, does not mean Most Americans want to ban abortion, Most Americans want the government to "take on" "big tech", or hand over tax money to fund schools that will preach religion to their children. I am happy with the good news, but pessimistic about how much good it can do in the medium term when both major parties are so zeroed in on their respective anti-freedom, anti-American agendas. -- CAVLink to Original
  13. Over at his Psychology Today blog, criminologist Stanton Samenow argues that efforts to prevent mass shootings by making psychology-based predictions are doomed for a variety of reasons:Some mental health professionals and policymakers think that, if identified early as dangerous, these individuals can be treated for their "mental health" issues. However, it has long been acknowledged that most perpetrators of mass violence are not seriously mentally ill. Since that is the case, what would mental health professionals treat? Furthermore, if one were able to identify a potentially dangerous person and compel him to attend therapy, what outcome could reasonably be expected? These are not people who see much wrong with themselves. Their intense anger, often disguised, is at other people who slight them or do not corroborate their inflated view of themselves. Not accustomed to confiding in anyone, even priding themselves on secrecy, such individuals would be unlikely to reveal themselves to a stranger whom they were compelled to see. [footnote removed, bold added]On top of mental illness not necessarily being a factor in mass shootings, psychology has poor predictive value and some of the laws might actually backfire:Image by Nik Shuliahin, via SOURCE, license.A significant drawback to some red flag laws is that a person cannot prove a negative, namely that he is not a danger to himself or others. Whereas past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, psychologists and psychiatrists are still not usually able to predict with great accuracy whether a person constitutes an imminent danger. One commentary on the effectiveness of red flag laws stated they might lead to an increase in homicides because people would be less likely to disclose their thoughts out of fear their weapons would be confiscated. [bold added]Samenow has little to say in the vein of positive recommendations for addressing this problem, but I think his opinion on red flag laws is worth keeping in mind. -- CAV P.S. I recommend the beginning of a recent podcast by Harry Binswanger for his comments on a solution (gun freedom) to and cause (progressive education) of the problem of mass shootings, particularly at schools. His discussion very interestingly follows from the observation that school shootings occur in America, but not Europe.Link to Original
  14. Via Fox News, it would seem that anti-abortionist conservatives are hardly the only ones interested in violating the individual rights of women:Image by Sigmund, via Unsplash, license.The Department of Education claims that Title IX's prohibition on sex discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The proposed rule claims to respect existing law that allows colleges to maintain sex-segregated housing facilities, but there's a catch: The proposed rule redefines "sex" to include gender identity. If the word "sex" is robbed of its meaning, so is the word "sex-segregated." In short, colleges could have nominally male and female dorms, but the definition of male and female would be identity-based [sic], not biology-based. ... It would be hard to conceive of a more efficient way to make college women less safe than by potentially forcing some of them to sleep just a few feet away from biological men, behind closed doors, without their knowledge or consent... [bold added]Those of us who support individual rights consistently might need time to recover from the cognitive whiplash of seeing a conservative (and presumably anti-abortion) news outlet warning us of developments that could ruin the lives of family or loved ones. But we will consider any possible news that somehow manages to dribble out from either of America's theocratic or "progressive" cloud cuckoo media lands. If this outlet's interpretation of the proposed change to housing assignments is accurate, such a change must be stopped. The article mentions that the time for public comment on the proposed regulatory changes lasts until mid-September and lists a couple of organizations trying to solicit such comments. I do not know enough about either group to comment, but it is not necessary to use either of them specifically to comment on proposed changes to federal regulations. That can be done directly. -- CAVLink to Original
  15. Four Things 1. Thanks to Hacker News and The Verge I had a trip down memory lane in the form of their look back at Asus Eee PC-branded netbooks:There were two products that arrived in 2007 that fundamentally changed computing: one, of course, was the iPhone. The second, obviously more important product was the $399 Eee PC 701. It originally ran a custom Linux operating system that reviewers loved (Laptop Mag's Mark Spoonauer said it was "ten times simpler to use than any Windows notebook") and was generally heralded as a new kind of computer with tremendous mass appeal. Spoonauer: "Pound for pound, the best value-priced notebook on the planet." [link omitted]I bought one of these and and loved it. The Verge piece argues that the netbook paved the way for the iPad, which is probably true in that most people used them to consume media. But I found the form factor so useful for traveling -- and the iPad so not useful for so many of the things that I ended up using my netbook for -- that I would eventually buy a second netbook. And, when that bit the dust -- and that segment of the market had died -- I bought a Chromebook and installed Linux on it, with an assist from the wish-granting genie that is the internet. (I use an encrypted Micro SD card to have a decent amount of storage.) It's five years old now and I use it far more often than the iPad I also own. 2. Illegible Work isn't just something an elementary teacher might write in red on a schoolboy's homework:Asemic "writing" is beyond illegible! (Image by Marco Giovenale, via Wikimedia Commons, license.)When James Scott uses the word legible, he doesn't refer to handwriting that is clear enough to read. He uses the word more broadly to mean something that is easy to classify, something that is bureaucrat-friendly. A thing is illegible if it is hard to pigeonhole. I first heard the term from Venkatesh Rao's essay "A Big Little Idea Called Legibility." [link omitted]Cook, a consultant, goes on to note that much of his work is illegible. He follows on with a crack about trying to search for his type of work on Google -- with terms that one wonders might cause more potential customers to land on his site. 3. The next time you want an electronic version of a classic that has passed into the public domain, know that Project Gutenberg is hardly the only game in town. A volunteer-driven, "low-profit LLC" project called Standard Ebooks is worth considering:Standard Ebooks is a volunteer-driven effort to produce a collection of high quality, carefully formatted, accessible, open source, and free public domain ebooks that meet or exceed the quality of commercially produced ebooks. The text and cover art in our ebooks is already believed to be in the U.S. public domain, and Standard Ebooks dedicates its own work to the public domain, thus releasing the entirety of each ebook file into the public domain. All the ebooks we produce are distributed free of cost and free of U.S. copyright restrictions.The landing page explains what makes them stand apart from other similar projects, including: modern typography, proofing and corrections, rich metadata, and support for some popular e-reader features (e.g., popup footnotes). 4. It's an oldy but a goody, and I found it one day when I was puzzled by a practice I see now and then and asked Why? The title just about says it all: Why do people (people) put numbers (numbers) in parentheses? A sample:I was reading an application for a grant program at our local library recently when I encountered a series of phrases that were couched in terminology that just set me afire with curiosity. The author, who is a colleague of mine, had put Arabic numerals in parentheses after each mention of a number. For example: The application shall be completed in three (3) parts, and with three (3) copies to be turned in by June 30, 2012. I have always been irritated by this style of writing because it seems so insulting. Does the author think I'm stupid? Or do they think that I don't know my numbers?I can't say, If you ever wanted to know where this came from, wonder no more, but I can still recommend the post for a good laugh. -- CAVLink to Original
  16. The time isn't right for a caucus (nor is one necessary), but ad hoc coalitions could improve things. *** Over at Reason, Matt Welch proposes what he calls a "transpartisan repeal caucus," which would repeal horrible federal legislation that most Americans would want off the books anyway. He cites many examples, of which his first is the criminalization of marijuana:We're not even talking about a constitutional amendment here... (Image by Judge Magazine, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain due to publication date.)The federal government's decadeslong war on marijuana, one of the most life-mangling policies ever enacted, could be ended with a single sentence: The Controlled Substances Act shall not apply to marijuana. Put it in a bill, vote on the bill, pass the bill, sign the bill, done. Much of the federal government's drug war law enforcement machinery would grind to a halt. No legislative horse-trading, no Christmas tree -- style gifts to favored constituencies, no giving old bureaucracies new responsibilities. Just the simple and urgent removal of the legal justification for grievous government harm. [links omitted, bold added]There is much to be said for this idea, pro and con, and it sounds just feasible enough that I think it's worth looking at both. Let's get con out of the way first, so we can better understand the merits: There is no current basis for anything like a permanent coalition -- as I take Welch's term caucus to imply. First, there is no widespread movement in favor of political freedom on which to base such a caucus. We see this most easily in the list of measures Welch come up with. Can you imagine the same group of legislators voting for (or a President from either party signing) all of these? If that were possible, we'd have the basis we need for a political realignment of that group of legislators into a roughly pro-freedom party. Second, the idea as Welch proposes it is unprincipled, as we can tell from Welch's own description of these laws as "anachronistic" -- a term I am pretty sure I have heard applied recently to the First and Second Amendments, and even to the Constitution as a whole. Yes, the laws Welch enumerates inflict injustice, and should be repealed. But while they might have enjoyed support in the past, they were never a good idea because they violate individual rights. It is one thing to make a broad appeal to get one law or the other off the books: It is quite another to try to do this absent a unifying principle for a collection of laws as a whole. That sort of unprincipled approach is a slippery slope to just holding a finger in the wind and voting with the majority on everything. Or to such an effort petering out in the same way (and for the same reasons) that efforts to curtail "fraud, waste, and abuse" in inherently fraudulent and abusive programs always do. And this problem extends to the repeals themselves: Take that one-line "fix" Welch proposes for the Controlled Substances Act. Yes, it will greatly blunt the effects of that improper law, but it will leave it on the books. Worse, in the long run, this alone would leave unchallenged the idea that our government should be regulating what we put into our own bodies. There is no "fixing" a fundamentally bad law. (But read on: I'll come back to this later.) So if the time is too early for a Repeal Caucus, or a coherent repeal agenda, or the complete abolition of some very bad law, what germs of a pro-freedom political strategy might there be in Welch's proposal? First, Welch outlines something close to a way forward to get some blatantly horrible legislation off the books via more ad hoc coalitions of legislators, perhaps timed for a President more likely not to veto a given measure. I would have no problem, for example, with getting marijuana de-listed as a controlled substance, so long as someone important in that effort made a strong case against the whole law, and framed that smaller "repeal" as a small step on the road to an actual repeal. (The lack of horse-trading would make it a lot easier, too.) That could pass a divided Congress and get signed by a Democrat President. Second, I like the possibility that several of these efforts, if successful, could get the words repeal and abolish back into the political vocabulary of ordinary Americans. It is alarming how many people either (a) expect the government to control everything or (b) seem to regard bad laws as impossible to change. Perhaps, if actual pro-freedom advocates get involved, the phrase individual rights could become mainstream again. This might be a way to shift the Overton Window over time in addition to making our government less abusive. Third, if some of these measures were passed, there would be real improvements in the lives of Americans, as there always are when there is more freedom. That would be the best short-term effect, but I like the first two better. Long-term improvement of our political situation requires cultural change, and these political tactics cannot alone do much good. But they can buy time for that by loosening the noose of improper government a bit, and they can aid cultural change on the margins as I explained above. -- CAVLink to Original
  17. Over at Illumination 2.0, horticulturalist Kevin Folta passes along an entertaining war story from his sideline as a science advocate. Encountering a troll on Twitter (of all places!) Folta asked him "why someone would listen to aggressive hate groups" rather than a scientist in the field on the topic at hand. Rather than merely assert his expertise, he also provided a link to his C.V. so the troll could judge for himself whether he was qualified to speak about the subject at hand. He got the following rare and very succinct admission:I don't need to look at your "record" to know who you areIf ever there was an answer that relieved someone of the courtesy of excusing himself from a conversation, this was it! Folta ends with the following advice:They're not always this obvious! (Image by Mark König, via Unsplash, license.)When people do not accept evidence and instead trash others based on what they [already] think, they don't deserve your time and attention... Spend your time influencing others that are willing to learn, and at least consider evidence before making decisions.This is great advice. It's your life, and if you find it worthwhile to try to move the needle of our culture in the direction of improvement, keep your eyes on the prize. Not everyone like this troll will do you the favor of letting you know so quickly and clearly that they're wasting your time, but this example boils the issue down very nicely. Many things can make it difficult to bear this in mind: the heat of the moment, a desire on one's part to respect etiquette, a generous desire to help others understand an issue better. Don't let such things cause you to forget what you're trying to do or the value of your time. -- CAVLink to Original
  18. Usually, when leftists throw around terms like racist or Nazi, it is usually an ignorant smear of someone merely for disagreement. These terms have become all-purpose expressions of displeasure and admissions of ignorance, when they should be fighting words and should be reserved for people who actually deserve them. And so it is that when I hear someone shout either term these days, it tells me a lot more about that person than about anything or anyone else. Yesterday was different: I noticed that SheIsaNazi was trending on Twitter. Expecting merely the latest of many reasons to roll my eyes, I indulged my mild curiosity and instead found the following story, picked up by Yahoo! News from The Huffington Post: "Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene Says GOP 'Should Be Christian Nationalists' Party." Strictly speaking, of course Greene isn't an actual Nazi, but the level of revulsion such a term warrants is well-deserved, because she is taking a bold stride towards that false alternative to socialism along the way to theocracy:Image by United States Congress, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain."We need to be the party of nationalism and I'm a Christian, and I say it proudly, we should be Christian nationalists," she said in an interview with the conservative Next News Network while attending the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit in Florida. Greene, who is known for her vocal religious beliefs and for imposing them on others, said the Republican Party should conform to Christianity to make it easier to identify with and sway Christian voters. "When Republicans learn to represent most of the people that vote for them, then we will be the party that continues to grow without having to chase down certain identities or chase down certain segments of people," she said. "We just need to represent Americans and most Americans, no matter how they vote, really care about the same things and I want to see Republicans actually do their job." Greene has made similar comments before, saying of Christian nationalism on a podcast last week: "I think that's an identity that we need to embrace, because those are the policies that serve every single American, no matter how they vote." [links omitted, bold added]First, it's too bad that Greene doesn't understand or care what do their job -- i.e., preserve our freedom -- actually means in government. Second, let that last bolded quote sink in for a moment and ask yourself if it sounds any different in substance from the various left-wing paternalist "health" or "climate" mandates they try to foist on us allegedly for our own good. Pardon my French, but it is not the government's god damned job to tell me or you what to do. This pro-freedom, patriotic atheist takes cold comfort in the fact that Greene has managed to offend even the people she fundamentally agrees with, such as by invoking Satan! -- the religious right's mirror image of Racism! -- when some Catholics did something she claims was against god's will:Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, called Greene "a disgrace," saying that "she slandered the entire Catholic Church." "Satan is controlling the Catholic Church? She needs to apologize to Catholics immediately," Donohue said in the statement... Donohue's remarks are in reaction to an interview Greene gave with the Church Militant, a Christian news organization, last week, first reported on by Salon's Kathryn Joyce. James J. Martin SJ, a priest and the editor-at-large of the Jesuit magazine America, also condemned the freshman lawmaker. "Marjorie Taylor Greene thinks the Catholic Church is controlled by Satan. She also believes that caring for the stranger is 'perverting the Gospel,'" Martin tweeted. "Jesus disagrees, saying that caring for the stranger is the Gospel (Mt 25). I'll side with Jesus." [links omitted, bold added]A saying about murderers winning over pickpockets comes to mind: Greene remains in the Republican Party, and the Church is too weak to have her tried and condemned for heresy. But her intemperate words have invited a priest to correct her in her own moral terms, while her real sin, of working to subject Americans to the whims of religious leaders, goes unnoticed under such camouflage. This is anything but a "win" for America. Greene is too blinded by power lust to know or care who stands to gain the most by introducing religion into politics. Hint from a very long period of history: Not Americans, not her, and not a supernatural being. I have noticed since the latest poor rulings on religion by the Supreme Court -- against the right to an abortion, permitting faculty-led prayer at government schools, and giving tax money to religious schools -- that the worst theocratic elements in American politics have been emboldened. Going forward, we can expect them to be just as strident as the far-left woke "Squad" and just as tone-deaf to what actual Americans really care about. -- CAV Link to Original
  19. A recent Kansas City Star editorial from a libertarian/conservative think tank argues that the locale will likely not profit overall from hosting games from the 2026 World Cup, which the three largest nations in North America will be co-hosting. Let me quickly get this out of the way: As a soccer fan and a patriot, it was great to see commentary on the World Cup that was neither (a) tribalistically against soccer on the grounds that it wasn't invented in the good ole U. S. of A., nor (b) tribalistically fanatical about fútbol for exactly the same reason. Onward... The piece makes what many fiscal conservatives and libertarians will take to be a good economic case against hosting such events, based on Frédéric Bastiat's Broken Window parable, which the piece briefly summarizes. Writer Peter Jacobsen goes on to liken the tax funding for the stadium to money paid to fix said broken window:Image by Pawel Czerwinski, via Unsplash, license.The same problem exists with the World Cup. Cities must use resources obtained from taxpayers to win the bid for a World Cup. U.S. Soccer's aforementioned report estimates the cost per city in the hundreds of millions, though Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas claims the current cost is $50 million dollars in renovations to Arrowhead Stadium. But if history is anything to go by, this could be a big underestimation. What Kansas City taxpayers would have used their money for is not something we can easily know. But it's easy to see how hotels, for example, may benefit from the World Cup. [link omitted]While it is true that the money diverted towards this effort could have been spent on other things, that is not the fundamental issue this piece should have addressed. After all, we all have expenses pop up or even make choices about spending our money or time or attention that others might not. Taxation, as a species of improper government coercion, is the real issue here, because it removes our control over our own money. There is nothing wrong with a piece showing how Bastiat's fallacy applies to major events, but this argument applies to anything funded by taxation. Perhaps some readers, getting the hint from the book mentioned early on, will see that the same argument applies more generally to events like the Olympics or to "public" works projects like stadiums. Maybe a few might generalize even further. But I think this was overall an opportunity lost to point out that such efforts empty the pockets of some to enrich others (or for other purposes not our own). In addition, and more interestingly, because the propriety of taxation is never challenged even in passing, the reader's imagination is taken up by this interesting analogy. The piece fails to either (a) rouse righteous indignation at the injustice of the funding scheme or (b) allow most people the space to imagine a better way of funding such events. Perhaps large businesses could put together plans to fund such events profitably to themselves and partners without looting anyone. Indeed, under capitalism, whatever scheme to fund a World Cup, an Olympics, or a World Series would be entirely voluntary and the only people who would take a bath if it were unprofitable would be the people who decided to invest in making it happen. Bastiat's parable applies not just to the money in your pocket, but also to what you spend your time and attention on. -- CAVLink to Original
  20. Blog Roundup 1. I found a recent post at Roots of Progress to be on the long side, but well worth the time. The post is primarily a collection of excerpts from the memoir of Vannevar Bush, head of U.S. military research during World War II. Here is one of my favorites, which comes from the first section, "On Invention:"Vannevar Bush (Image by OEM Defense, via Wikimedia, public domain as a work of the United States Government.)An invention has some of the characteristics of a poem. Standing alone, by itself, it has no value; that is, no value of a financial sort. This does not mean that inventions -- or poems -- have no value. It is said that a poet may derive real joy out of making a poem, even if it is never published, even if he does not recite it to his friends, even if it is not a very good poem. No doubt one has to be a poet to understand this. In the same way an inventor can derive real satisfaction out of making an invention, even if he never expects to make a nickel out of it, even if he knows it is a bit foolish, provided he feels it involves ingenuity and insight. An inventor invents because he cannot help it, and also because he gets quiet fun out of doing so. Sometimes he even makes money at it, but not by himself. One has to be an inventor to understand this.Incredibly, the above quote does not do justice to the post. Bush -- as one might expect from someone who integrated the work of countless inventors and teams of engineers, while (circum)navigating bureaucracy during a war -- has equally penetrating insights or shows qualities worth pondering in many other areas, as the groupings of the excerpts would indicate:On InventionOn Leadership and ManagementHis Communication StyleOn Society, War, and PoliticsOn the Spirit We NeedThere are also a couple of interesting vignettes from his career. But the best part of the post is that it is no mere teaser for an out-of-print, hard-to-get book. Jason Crawford notes that the book is once again widely available, and provides the obligatory Amazon link. 2. At Value for Value, Harry Binswanger discusses "What People Don't Understand About Inflation," starting with the misconception that people are unhappy to pay higher prices. Along the way to proving his point are some worthwhile connections, among them:One causal factor can counteract another. And that has been the story, I believe, for the last 20 years: technology's expansion of production has kept pace with the government's expansion of the fiat money. The result has been: little price inflation -- but with several other bad consequences, including a lower rate of progress. Recently, however, the harm done by trillions showered down as "Covid relief" plus the decline in output due to shutdowns have overwhelmed technology's advance. Despite the shutdown's interruption of production, the main cause of price inflation today is government's monetary expansion. The money supply has maybe doubled (it's nearly impossible to find any exact data), and the decline in production has been bad but not that bad. Remember, the U.S. government sent out thousands in the mail to virtually everyone. Plus there's the Fed's expansion through the banking system -- which has been required to keep interest rates near zero for years and years.One tentative conclusion I draw from the post is that the price inflation we have suffered after the Trump-Biden monetary inflation might indeed be temporary -- if governments overall can resist further massive cash infusions. (But don't ask me to predict how long it might take for prices to stop rising.) Watch for politicians who know nothing, have learned nothing, and certainly won't deserve praise -- to take credit if that happens. 3. At New Ideal, Elan Journo of the Ayn Rand Institute takes a much-needed look at the surprisingly widespread, but ridiculous belief that Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are "charismatic and capable":While Donald Trump was in office, he was one of Putin's superfans and apologists. Trump has described the Ukraine invasion as "genius," later praising Putin for having "taken over a country for $2 worth of sanctions." This is a severe misreading, and the most obvious evidence can be seen in the battlefields of Ukraine. The reputedly formidable Russian military has struggled against courageous Ukrainians fighting in self-defense. It can also be seen in the extraordinary scale and extent of international sanctions imposed on Russia. But this misreading goes deeper than a strategy that backfired. [links in original]Notably, there is an outstanding quote by pianist Evgeny Kissin regarding how Putin's War (and likely years of his misrule) could have been avoided simply by the West having done what it's doing now in Ukraine at any number of earlier, very similar points. 4. Brian Phillps of the Texas Institute for Property Rights comments on conservative attacks on freedom of speech being made in the name of freedom of speech:Ironically, conservatives fought for repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, which forced broadcasters to air both sides of an issue. The repeal of that regulation allowed Rush Limbaugh, as well as other conservatives, to express his views without sharing his microphone with those he disagreed with. Today, conservatives are fighting to apply their version of the Fairness Doctrine to social media companies. They want to force social media companies to allow ideas with which they disagree. The Fairness Doctrine was wrong when it was applied to broadcasters, and it will be equally wrong if it is applied to social media companies.Almost as ironic, the Republican party has often been happy to pose as defenders of property rights, which they are also attacking when they go after "censorship" (which it isn't) by "big media." -- CAVLink to Original
  21. At The Hill, Bill Press argues that Donald Trump will likely announce his 2024 presidential campaign in September, just ahead of the midterm congressional elections. Press, who acknowledges that Biden won the last election on the basis of Not Being Trump, sees this, as an early Christmas present to the unpopular Democrat:Donald Trump plans to make a splash this September. (Image by Shawn Lea, via Wikimedia Commons, license.)Biden himself admitted that to The New York Times, as Mark Leibovich reports in his rollicking new book, Thank You for Your Servitude. Asked by Leibovich early in the 2020 primary why he was running again, Biden didn't list his own qualifications for office. Instead, he said simply: "I think it's really, really, really important that Donald Trump not be reelected." Now Biden and every Democratic candidate can make that argument all over again. They don't even have to wait till 2024. They can make it now, starting in 2022. Before anything else, every Republican candidate will have to answer one question: Will you support Donald Trump in 2024? Once he announces, the midterms will become a national referendum on Trump. That's the last thing Republicans want, but it's great news for Biden. [bold added]Press isn't off his rocker here, but he's ignoring the small matter of how the 2020 election went down-ticket: Despite Trump's national rebuke, the Republicans gained 14 seats in the House, and might have ended up with a majority in the Senate had Georgia not elected two Democrats thanks in part to Trump's bellyaching there after his loss and the weak candidate he backed in David Perdue. (More on weak, Trump-backed Senate candidates later.) In other words, voters were rejecting Trump, and not necessarily his party. And the 2020 election was certainly anything but an enthusiastic buy-in by voters to the far-left agenda Biden has tried to govern on ever since. Indeed, the fact that everyone, Press included, is talking about a wave election in 2022 is due to this agenda, whose consequences voters will have felt not just when Trump announces, but every time they have bought gas or paid bills for months before. And, barring a remarkable change on Biden's part -- I'm not holding my breath. -- they will keep feeling those consequences all day, every day until November. I think it's safe to say that the election will remain largely a referendum on the Democrats' tone-deaf and destructive "climate" (read: anti-energy) and fiscal policies. I don't see even abortion rights mattering as much as they should, because I cannot see the Democrats campaigning effectively on that issue -- which, frankly, should have been Christmas in June for the Democrats. So I don't think Trump's announcement will help the Democrats, although I think lots of them will imagine it to, and take the excuse to avoid reconsidering their priorities on merit or even popularity. But has Trump already given the Democrats a 2020-like assist with the Senate? I have lately seen several pieces like this one regarding about a handful of terrible GOP Senate candidates, which include three Trump-backed oddities and another MAGA type Republican. These four are already weak enough in my view that they might not need Trump's hovering around to lose. With Trump around to remind everyone what his brand of dumpster fire is like, they might become easy pickings. My verdict on a September Trump announcement is that it probably won't help the Democrats that much in the House, but it could stop the GOP from taking the Senate. That said, I find this news very unwelcome for a number of reasons, but here are two this piece brings up for me. First, the Democrats will feel like they have a Get Out of Jail Free card (as noted above), so no soul-searching by them. Second, many Republicans will indulge in the same kind of wishful thinking in reverse: They'll win despite Trump, and whatever waning of his toxic influence over that party there has been will end for the time being. So Trump probably won't affect electoral results much more than he already has by announcing, but he will stop a lot of much-overdue rethinking by both parties. -- CAVLink to Original
  22. For at least the second time (that I know of) since the start of the "hot" phase of Putin's War, Germany is "reconsidering" its foolish decision to shutter its nuclear plants. This comes about after Russia used a transparently false declaration of force majeure to excuse itself from honoring its agreements to supply natural gas to Germany, which it started breaking a month ago. John Sexton of Hot Air notes a peculiar mirror-image excuse by Green apologists in Germany for why nuclear wasn't adopted the first time:[T]he pushback to this view is that Germany's problem isn't a lack of electricity it's a lack of heat. Even if you kept the nuclear plants operating all winter, unless every German home has electric space heaters to replace the gas they usually rely on for heat, it's not going to matter.Image modified from work by Louis Bombled of La Petite Journal, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain due to publication date.All you need to know is that the same people making that argument are the ones who pretend that replacing gasoline in cars and trucks is a simple matter of switching all of them to electricity -- while at the same time trying to put generation sources for said electricity that are actually reliable, cheap, and plentiful off-limits -- and while also complaining that windmills kill birds and solar panels ruin views. Greens are at best catastrophically unserious people. Sexton is not unaware of the irony:In the end it's almost a mirror image of Russia claiming there's a technical problem when really there's a political problem using a technical problem as a fig leaf.Indeed. On top of that, while an unprofitable infrastructure would have to be built to support electric cars, space heaters -- the technology to alleviate the gas deficit -- can be readily supplied by even Germany's semicapitalist economy. Anyone with a grain of sense can tell that Russia -- with the aid and comfort of the environmental movement -- is using Germany's energy dependence as a weapon, diabolically reassigning General Winter from his erstwhile defensive duties. Germany may have time to step back from the brink of a winter catastrophe, but I am no expert on resurrecting mothballed or retired power plants. Either way, Germany will learn that Green energy policy is deadly. Whether that is a lesson learned just in time or too late at at the expense of German lives remains to be seen. I hope they change their minds and that they still have time to act. -- CAVLink to Original
  23. The New Yorker has run a piece attacking Herschel Walker, who is running as the Republican challenger to Senator Raphael Warnock. As a liberty-loving American, I see that race as lose-lose: Both candidates are horrendous and come with plenty of personal baggage. Even judging who is worse is so difficult that I'd consider sitting that election out if I were a Georgian. And that would be true even if Walker weren't basically a theocrat. Consider the first paragraph:Trump's post-electoral antics helped elect Walker's opponent, Raphael Warnock (above). (Image by Rebecca Hammel (U.S. Senate Photographic Studio), via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.)A week ago, the Republican Party's nominee for the United States Senate from Georgia explained his opposition to the Green New Deal. Given the decades of Republican denials, obfuscations, and outright falsehoods on the subject of climate change, it would be difficult for nearly any G.O.P. candidate's erroneous comments to stand out. It was a challenge Herschel Walker, a former N.F.L. star, was ready to meet. He explained, "Since we don't control the air, our good air decided to float over to China's bad air, so when China gets our good air, their bad air got to move. So it moves over to our good air space. Then, now, we got to clean that back up." [link omitted]Lord. If anything can make an arguably genocidal prescription for poverty like the Green New Deal sound like it deserves serious consideration, it's opposition like that. (In Walker's defense, this isn't much worse than the timidity and evasion many other Republicans have offered in the face of the green anti-energy agenda.) Walker might vote the way I'd like on that issue, but the last thing we need is a know-nothing like this as face of the side of technological progress in this life-and-death issue. As we saw through an entire term of Donald Trump, such rambling is worse than merely squandering a chance to make a pro-freedom, pro-prosperity, pro-human flourishing case for the continued use of fossil fuels and nuclear power: It gives people like the author of this New Yorker piece fodder to smear their opponents. Perhaps the lone saving grace is that Walker, unlike Trump, doesn't seem to go out of his way to antagonize anyone. As with his backing of the tele-quack Mehmet Oz in the Pennsylvania Senate race, Trump has shown his contempt for appealing to the intelligence of the voter, as well as his contempt for expertise as such all at once. This might win elections in the short term, but it will cost minds in the long term, and that's what America ultimately need to change course -- as her founding pamphleteers showed so eloquently in the years leading up to our Revolution. And this brings me to the end of the last paragraph of this piece:No one in the G.O.P. leadership can possibly believe that Walker is fit to hold a Senate seat, but the hope -- as dangerous as it is cynical -- is that he may be able to win one. And that joke would most certainly be on us. [bold added]Get a load of this, coming from someone who is holding himself out as thoughtful and on the right side of history, as it were. His description of the inarticulate Walker and the cynicism behind the GOP backing him reminds me of nothing so much as the Democratic nomination of the senile and no less inarticulate Joe Biden for the Presidency. It's true that Trump despises rational political debate, but it is clear to me that the Democrats also do. Both "sides" at this point simply want power and are nakedly grasping for it -- as witness the strange, short-range willingness of each side to support candidates that are basically gifts to the other side. Unless one party improves or is replaced by a better one, it is America that will keep losing in every election. -- CAVLink to Original
  24. Andrew Sullivan writes one of the best assessments of Ron DeSantis as presidential material I have read so far. Regulars know that I regard him as probably the most viable Republican candidate for President in 2024, but that I have deep misgivings about him, particularly on freedom of expression and economic freedom. Sullivan would seem to agree with me overall, but is less inclined to view DeSantis as fascistic and -- although he sees DeSantis's environmental record as a virtue -- he in fact highlights another reason to be cautious about Florida's Governor. Regarding Sullivan's assessment of whether DeSantis is a "fascist," he has a more left-tinged notion of the term than I, and he is comparing DeSantis to contemporary figures, most of whom have fascist tendencies. For example:More generally, look at the broader context. The imposition of woke dogma throughout corporate America, the government, the nonprofit sector and our educational institutions has been a deeply authoritarian movement, brooking no dissent. The Democrats have embraced this putsch, with Biden among the most strident, deploying federal government power to advance far-left ideas. None of his underlings can define what a woman is. All seem to view America as a form of "white supremacy" -- and want to teach this as fact to kids. Do Democrats really believe that all this is simply government-as-usual, and any attempt to balance this out on the right is inherently some kind of authoritarianism? I don't. At some point, we really do have to fight back and defend a liberal society. The Dems are attacking it. Trump can't do it -- he merely empowers and legitimizes the woke. DeSantis has shown he can actually beat them -- at their own game. A conservative seeking some swing of the cultural pendulum back to the center is not a fascist.I don't agree with all of this, but Sullivan has a point, and I think significant numbers of people will see things this way. And here's something Sullivan likes and will make DeSantis more viable with greenish voters:This prospect bothers me, but not as much as a Green New Deal. (Image by a cartoonist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.)Trump believes climate change is a Chinese hoax, and, given the chance, would cover our national parks with condos and oil rigs. DeSantis is a governor in a state where rising sea levels and floods are real, so Trumpian insanity is a non-starter. "I will fulfill promises from the campaign trail," DeSantis said shortly after taking office... This year he followed through -- with more than $400 million in funds for containing rising sea levels... So far, DeSantis is not that far from the "Teddy Roosevelt conservationist" he claimed to be. Yes, he's mainly focused on responding to, rather than preventing, climate change -- "Resilient Florida" is the slogan. And he's allergic to green uplift or catastrophism. But another Trump? Nope. This recalls a quote I recall to the effect that he planned to fight global warming without "doing any left-wing stuff." "Teddy Roosevelt" concerns me, but I will grant that he may be the best we can expect on environmental/energy issues in today's context. This is another factor about the man to consider. Sullivan also notes other things: We don't really know where DeSantis stands on abortion, Putin's War, or the January 6 riots. Sullivan calls him a coward at least on that last. I think this article is a must-read because I agree that DeSantis is the most viable alternative so far to a second term of either Joe Biden (who will beat Trump head-to-head if 2024 is a rematch) or Donald Trump (who will defeat any other Democrat as things stand now). We need better and can get different. The big question is whether DeSantis is both of these. -- CAVLink to Original
  25. Four Things 1. I am in the process of replacing my laptop and will need to be able to use Windows from time to time. Almost by accident, I learned that I might be able to install Windows 11 without additional payment by using a Windows 7 Pro license I bought eons ago. I'm leaning towards dual boot, rather than virtualization. 2. As with almost anything that reaches fad status, might it be time to forget about "checklist productivity?" It's certainly easy to find articles that deride the whole idea or think pieces about the blind spots of its major proponents. I have yet to find a productivity system that has everything figured out and I adopt things that actually help. When Getting Things Done had its day in the sun, I adopted lots of it, but not all. And I kept only parts of that, often modifying those. Case in point: On a recent bit of traveling, my evolving checklist for travel saved me from (1) forgetting swim gear, (2) being without soap during my very early morning routine, and (3) forgetting to tell my wife to put the trash out the day before my "garbage day" return. It also helped me remember which exit number to take for the best pit stop in Tallahassee and it will help me remember a handy alternate route I found in a town I often visit the next time I'm there. Checklists don't solve every problem, but it is just as ridiculous to dismiss them as it is to expect them to be a panacea. Image by me. Feel free to use it yourself. Attribution appreciated.3. There's nothing like making what I regard as my signature dish (scroll down for recipe) at a family gathering and see practically everyone go for seconds. I do not solicit compliments for my cooking, but one of my brothers called this crawish etouffee a "home run." I don't make this at home very often because my wife, a super taster, very easily gets put off by shellfish that are off in any small way. (I have, over the years, had this happen with crawfish and shrimp, and never noticed a problem myself.) I made double the recipe at the link for a group of twelve and, despite the seconds, there were lots of leftovers. The recipe reflects my background as a geek and as a Southerner: I dumped the commonalities of over a dozen recipes into a spreadsheet so I could "average" them and I picked a few distinctive touches in the process of making my own recipe. 4. For comic relief, see if you can guess the answer to this question at Stack Exchange: "Why do people not notice our enormous, prominent, clear and contrasting purple banner?" There is even a term for it, as you might guess. As a bonus, the questioner includes a screen shot with the ineffective signpost circled in red. Yep. I'd have missed it, too! -- CAV Link to Original
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