"During my long journey through the world of evil, I had discovered three sources of power: the power of an individual's inner freedom, the power of a free society, and the power of the solidarity of the free world."-- Natan Sharansky, "The Case for Democracy"

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April 28, 2017

All Hail Jonah

There's nothing wrong with a newly elected president trying to translate his mandate into legislation or otherwise spending his political capital when its at its highest. Nevertheless, there is an unpleasant cult of action implicit in the First 100 Days that I've never liked. After all, that was why FDR proposed it in the first place. He wanted to tell everyone to back off and let him have a free hand in his "bold, persistent experimentation." That's not really how our system is supposed to work. Presidents shouldn't be able to say, "Hold my beer while I fundamentally transform America on my own." -- Jonah Goldberg
UPDATE: Honorable mention:
In short, he's doing better than I thought he would. But this is a remarkably low bar. It's not quite like saying that Greta is the "sexiest East German weightlifter alive" or "this is the most exciting show on C-SPAN" but it's not that far off. Still, I hope there are many more pleasant surprises in the days to come. We only have one president at a time, and so there's really no choice but to hope he continues to learn on the job and that his team of Sherpas can help him with the climb.
Can't argue with a word of that.

A Cruel "I Told you So"

I was harsh, way back in 2013, reviewing John Mackey's "Conscious Capitalism.

Yet at the end of the day, I see Conscious Capitalism as an out. Well, me missed our quarter, but the new Thursday all-day Yoga sessions are really going to help us connect with our feelings.
A couple of years ago, we saw a billboard for CareerBuilder.com at a bus shelter in New York City. The sign read, "If your company cared, it would be in the caring business." This is a sad but largely true statement; too many companies do not care and are not designed to care about anything other than their own prosperity.

Huh? What? With heavy heart, I apportion only 2.5 stars.

UPDATE: I'm being defensive before anybody even offers criticism, but I suggest John Allison performed the same task with philosophical purity. His [Unadjectived] Capitalism is no less empowering than Mackey's CC: workers are happy and management practices integrity. Yet Allison recognizes that capital is a scarce resource and proper allocation requires conventional scorekeeping.

Reading it today, I was surprised at the low score if not the tone, though I remembered why. Mackey's company has fallen on some seriously hard times. Their stock got a bounce this week on news that Albertson's might buy Whole Foods. Back in '13, Mackey no doubt expected to buy Albertson's and bring his holistic supply chain to the entire industry.

It's tough for me to kick somebody when they're down [insert Firefly reference here...], especially one who has tried to explain the virtues of capitalism to dirty hippies. But, as a wise and stunningly handsome fellow wrote four years ago, "If the book is 33% defense of Capitalism, it is undermined by the next 33%. This is 'Conscious' Capitalism. And like President George W. Bush's 'Compassionate' Conservatism, the modifier negates the noun."

Mackey has created a lot of value in a difficult industry. It's churlish to suggest his philosophy undermined his business. But it did. Whole Foods earned the sobriquet "Whole Paycheck" because its customers were expected to overpay for food to support the Conscious side of Mackey's Capitalism. And some remain.

But competitors found it easy to undercut their prices with similar offerings. I bristle at the Organic, GMO-free, All Natural, Super Healthy, YaddaYadda food offerings on Walmart* and King Soopers (Colorado's Kroeger). But they're adjusting to market demand. And since it is all bullshit anyway (oops, this post just became "a rant"), the big guys can do it at a much lower premium.

Sad. But kids, if you get your capitalism from Milton Friedman, and build a business that seeks to optimize asset value, you'll find yourself on much sounder footing.

The WSJ Ed Page Salutes the President

I think it fair to say that the WSJ Editorial Page has not been President Trump's biggest cheerleader -- they have been tough where he conflicts with their "free people, free markets" philosophy. But they've given plaudits as well. Today's has a solid defense of his Privatization and Disneyfication review of National Monuments.

Yet, the 'Yuge One' is Kim Strassel's paean to his tax plan: Trump's Greatest Moment (So Far).

Start with the fact that this proposal is substantive. It didn't have to be. In the wake of the health-care meltdown, Republicans on Capitol Hill began debating whether they ought to throw out messy, complicated tax "reform" in favor of easy, straightforward tax "cuts." That wasn't what they campaigned on; they had promised to slay the tax-code beast. Moreover, targeted rate cuts wouldn't deliver for the economy. But this crew argued to the White House that a slimmed-down approach would at least deliver a quick, symbolic legislative victory.

Mr. Trump's plan rejects that retreat. Instead of going weaker, it goes stronger, compiling into one document all the tax-reform ideas that most inspire conservative movers and shakers. Simplify the brackets? Check. Lower rates? Check. Harmonize rates between corporations and small businesses? Check. Move to a territorial corporate-tax system? Check. Kill off the estate tax, the alternative minimum tax, itemized deductions, and corporate loopholes? Check. This is the sort of stuff that think tanks, congressional reformers and business groups have been salivating over for years.

April 27, 2017

Molto bene

This has been a pretty big deal in Colorado for a long time. Denver has long held a Columbus Day parade, and the activist Russell Means and his ilk have had decent success shutting it down.

In the last weeks of the legislature, the really really important bills all come out:


Okay, the Democrats can show their sensitivity and raise some funds. Advancing Colorado can show their devotion to tradition. And raise some funds. I get it. Have fun storming the castle kids!

I know several people for whom this is important. I'm a bit of a squish but there are two principles here. For the State of Colorado or the United States of America to recognize a holiday for old Chris is wrong. We are not our geography, we are our ideas and ideals. France is her geography. Lovely though the French countryside be, what we call American Exceptionalism is about the dissevering of a nation from its geography and race.

Ergo, bollocks on a holiday for a fifteenth century sailor. Let's have one for John Locke instead.

But. The Italian-American community of Colorado is quite proud. And -- outside of an American College campus, or the State of California -- we have rights to speech and assembly. It cheeses me off deeply that indigenous people's advocates and progressives in general use violence and intimidation to shut down the parade. We let Illinois Nazis march in Skokie, good people, we can let Colorado's Italians have a parade.

The final score: no to gub'mint sponsorship, yes to free speech and assembly, capisce?

April 26, 2017

Well, I got an answer.

Do the Capital-S Science marchers accept overwhelming evidence on energy production safety?


One of the best consolation prizes about our Democratic Governor, John Hickenlooper, is that he is a trained geologist and has run interference on fracking. In the linked video, he is taken to task for his moderation.

The second best, I suppose, is the potential for clever rhymes with his polysyllabic sobriquet. "Hicken - Loop -Er, don't Frack our Fyoo - Ture!" Not bad for third graders..

Quote of the Day

Mr. Perez of course is all about 2018. And if he wants his party to get back in power perhaps he could seek advice from Bernie Sanders on adopting more moderate views. -- James Freeman (all hail!)

April 25, 2017

Quote of the Day

Immigration restrictions also threaten the liberty and property rights of Americans. Most obviously, they curtail American citizens' freedom to associate with immigrants. Jim Crow segregation laws restricted the freedom of association of whites as well as African-Americans. Similarly, immigration restrictions curtail the freedom of natives as well as immigrants. In both cases, laws that classify people based on conditions of birth dictate where they are allowed to live and work and who they can interact with... -- Ilya Somin
But johngalt thinks:

Woo hoo, no more visas!

Posted by: johngalt at April 25, 2017 6:59 PM

Slate on Science

The stopped-clock of Slate nails it with

The Problem With the March for Science
Our culture's understanding of science is very, very broken, and on Saturday, it was impossible to ignore.
But there is very little indication that what happened on Saturday will counter these misconceptions. Instead, the march revealed the glaring dissonance of opposing that trough of ignorance by instead accepting a cringe-worthy hive-mind mentality that celebrates Science as a vague but wonderful entity, what Richard Feynman called "cargo cult science." There was an uncomfortable dronelike fealty to the concept--an oxymoronic faith that information presented and packaged to us as Science need not be further scrutinized before being smugly celebrated en masse. That is not intellectually rigorous thought--instead, it's another kind of religion, and it is perhaps as terrifying as the thing it is trying to fight.
A superb article -- I almost wished I had not opened with such a mean statement about Slate. Almost.
But johngalt thinks:

It is a great article. I plan to share it with my FB peeps as "the first and possibly last article in Slate I completely agree with."

Here's a better excerpt though, IMO:

"Indeed much of the sentiment of the March for Science seemed to fall firmly in the camp of people espousing a gee-whiz attitude in which science is just great and beyond reproach. They feel that way because, so often, the science they’re exposed to is cherry-picked. Cherry-picking scientific findings that support an already cherished and firmly held belief (while often ignoring equally if not more compelling data that contradicts it) is epidemic - in scientific journals and in the media.

Having just now finished reading the entire article I find that I was not effusive enough. This is perhaps the single most important article I've read in twenty years. If not longer.


Posted by: johngalt at April 25, 2017 7:23 PM

The pros and cons of carbon dioxide

Pros? Well then, now that I've "outed" myself as "anti-science"...

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (read: self-interested government bureaucracy) has concluded that carbon dioxide (CO2) is an atmospheric "pollutant" that is subject to regulation - by them - under the Clean Air Act. Their power grab has been deified by a SCOTUS ruling that such a policy is, somehow, not Unconstitutional. As a result of that, not to mention a relentless campaign to vilify CO2 and the "fossil" fuel consumption that emits it, the approval rating of this little molecule is in the toilet. Which is surprising because the biological process of photosynthesis is one of the few components of a classical education that has not been eliminated from our schools. Somehow a public perception exists that while plants are good, the primary contributor to plant life is bad. Recent congressional testimony sought to put a dent in this "science-based" belief:

There are many other byproducts of combustion that really are pollutants, in that they have measureable harms to many forms of life, from plants to humans. But those have been regulated nearly out of existence - a fact I am not sorry to acknowledge. But let's not ignore that CO2 is the opposite of a pollutant - it is an essential compound for cellular growth of plants, and therefore animals, and therefore all mankind.

But jk thinks:

"our Luke-warming home planet [~0:40]"

Posted by: jk at April 25, 2017 4:27 PM

Quote of the Day

Just how harmful is ill-informed talking-head blather on television? I can't help but wonder if it adds to public skepticism and distrust of "elites" or scoffing about "so-called experts." Of course, actual experts are indeed actual experts. But our country has a lot of people who aren't experts, but who play them on TV. -- Jim Geraghty [subscribe]

A Better Critique of Tyson's Video

I don't know. Mine had barnyard vulgarity and a certain emotional panaché, 'tis true. But Jonathan Newman at the Mises institute exceeds me with a more comprehensive and better grounded approach in "Neil Ty, the Scientism Guy."

We agree on style:

There is an inherent contradiction and arrogance in Tyson's video. In one breath he is praising science and the way the scientific method works: "I get a result. A rival of mine double checks it, because they think I might be wrong." But in the next breath, he declares to the doubter who also thinks some scientific conclusion might be wrong: "You don't have that option! When you have an established, scientific emergent truth, it is true whether or not you believe in it."

So the rival scientist is allowed to question the conclusions of other scientists because the conclusions might not be true, but nobody else is. We may not all be equipped with a laboratory, but we are all equipped with reason, experience, preferences, common sense (some more than others), gut instincts, some ideas about what is morally right and what is morally wrong, and our own areas of expertise. Surely these are not meaningless when it comes to judging the claims of a politically-connected technocratic elite and their policy recommendations.

But Newman articulates what I could not: the danger of Scientism and reliance on elite experts. And the end goal is always -- surprise! -- a larger and more intrusive government.
Telling people not to question their government or a politically-connected scientist-class is dangerous. It's throwing the baby out with the bath water, and it seems to run against his own values. Indeed, Neil deGrasse Tyson is frequently featured on a popular YouTube channel called "Question Everything", We should encourage a healthy skepticism, especially when the government is involved.

Thing whole the read.

April 24, 2017

An Idea for next year's march

Instead of marching for science, how about y'all read a gorram book?

I humbly recommend "Getting Risk Right: Understanding the Science of Elusive Health Risks, by Geoffrey C. Kabat." I'll join you, as I have not yet read it. But Ronald Bailey's review -- on the day of the march -- seems germane:

Eating bacon and ham four times a week could make asthma symptoms worse. Drinking hot coffee and tea may cause cancer of the esophagus. South Africa's minister of health warns that doggy-style sex is a major cause of stroke and cancer in men. And those claims come from the health headlines of just one December week.

The media inundate us daily with studies that seem to show that modern life is increasingly risky. Most of those stories must be false, given that life expectancy for American men and women, respectively, has risen from 71.8 and 78.8 years in 1990 to 76.3 and 81.1 years now. Apparently, we are suffering through an epidemic of bad epidemiology.

But jk thinks:

My sortof friends on Facebook in the pro-GMO and science groups were enthusiastic participants, though I'd be unsurprised were they outnumbered.

My lovely bride also inquired about fracking. That's an excellent question.

An honest interlocutor told me he could narrow it down:

1. GMOs are good
2. Vaccines do not cause autism
3. Evolution is true
4. Climate Change is real.

He says he searches for friends who believe all four and makes a reasonable argument that one who accepts scientific methods should accept all. And that one who denies one or more needs to answer up or not claim the mantel of science. That is fair.

And, yes, many other friends went and marched in their pussyhats "because, science!" But Karl Popper suggests we take on our opposition's arguments at their strongest.

Posted by: jk at April 24, 2017 5:11 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Climate change is real.
Catastrophic man-caused climate change is a politically-motivated myth.

One who believes the national economy should be crippled in the name of 0.015 C less warming by 2050 needs to answer up or not claim the mantel of a liberal world view.

Posted by: johngalt at April 24, 2017 6:12 PM
But johngalt thinks:

On a tangent - No wonder dogs have such short life spans!

Posted by: johngalt at April 24, 2017 6:14 PM
But jk thinks:

I'm processing the dog comment. I'll get back to you.

I'm putting you down as a believer. If you think drastic reductions in energy use could reduce future temps fifteen-thousandths, then you are a believer: welcome to the 97%, brother!

You and I probably agree on the correct solutions to climate change. "Nothing" is a favorite of mine -- certainly nothing costly or economically distortionary. But I think accepting the Boolean "true" allows the dialog to continue.

Yes, it seems likely to me that we get 1.3°C every time we double CO2: what of it?

Posted by: jk at April 24, 2017 6:49 PM
But johngalt thinks:

It was a "If you disagree with us, shut up!" march.

"Nobody expects the Science Inquisition!"

Posted by: johngalt at April 24, 2017 6:50 PM
But jk thinks:

Zero disagreement there.

Posted by: jk at April 24, 2017 6:54 PM
But johngalt thinks:

What is the label for a "believer" who says "manmade climate change is a hoax?"

Posted by: johngalt at April 24, 2017 9:52 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I'm not saying I think Obama's Clean Power Plan could reduce future temperatures by 15 thousandths of a degree. I'm saying the warmists believe it, because the hoaxers pronounce it. I merely stiplated the claim for the purposes of the debate, and mutually arrived at your, "What of it?" Or as I like to say, "Big f'n deal."

Posted by: johngalt at April 24, 2017 9:57 PM
But jk thinks:

That's why this is one of our more amusing disagreements. We take different paths to the same end.

I'll admit -- before you level the scurrilous charge -- that I changed rhetoric more than belief. Ceteris Paribus, you get 1.3°C when you double CO2. Homo sapiens are adding CO2. Ergo, I can check the "believer" box.

I believe that to be advantageous. As soon as you use the h-o-a-x word, you're dismissed as not accepting the two points I listed, both of which are factual and reproducible.

It's too bad that the sides have drawn such lines that it matters. But conceding the actual scientific points does matter.

Posted by: jk at April 25, 2017 10:29 AM
But johngalt thinks:

I suggest that while you accept their premise, I don't. What is the premise? My internal formulation goes something like, "Because of the lifestyle choices made by modern man, CO2 is added to the atmosphere and the entire world becomes warmer than it otherwise would have been (which is clearly the ideal global temperature because... "nature") so therefore a set of measures must be taken, from reducing CO2 emissions to extracting wealth from its emitters and their beneficiaries that is to be spent on "mitigation" of the "harms" of CO2 and global warming."

I won't deign to predict your formulation of the warmists' entire premise but what I see you advocating here is to agree with its foundational element - that the overall warming of the Earth can be measured with precision and that a material amount of that warming can be directly linked to atmospheric CO2 concentrations. There's a world of scientific dispute with both of those assertions. They are not proved, beyond dispute, by the scientific method. They are only proved by the ad hominem method.

I share your desire to find and celebrate common ground as a first step toward mutual understanding. The problem I see is that the average moonbat niece has neither the patience nor the understanding to consider the multiple, fully scientific, forks in the road that lead to an opposite conclusion than the one so effectively promoted by the egalitarian neo-Malthusians who insist that the non-human global temperature is the only one - not a tenth degree warmer nor a tenth degree cooler - that can avoid catastrophe.

"So you're not a science denier, but you're still wrong. Now give me your wallet and get back on your solar-powered government-subsidized bicycle."

Posted by: johngalt at April 25, 2017 3:47 PM

April 23, 2017

Review Corner

During the 1990s Gates wrote a syndicated newspaper column in which he answered questions from the public. When asked in 1996 about the saying, he replied: "I've said some stupid things and some wrong things, but not that. No one involved in computers would ever say that a certain amount of memory is enough for all time."
Hemingway Didn't Say That we'd never need more than 640K ram in a computer (well,, as far as we know...) and neither did Microsoft Chief Bill Gates.

Garson O'Toole debunks a pile of these misattributed or false quotations on his Quote Investigator website. But he has published a collection as Hemingway Didn't Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar Quotations. I got the Kindle version and enjoyed it very much.

O'Toole is a diligent researcher and the QI site is something of a Snopes for quotes. I think the comparison favors the less diligent Snopes.com better than QI, but you get the idea. Users can request research, but "QI maintains more than two thousand open files representing partial investigations many of which are ongoing. New requests arrive every day."

I'll be bookmarking the site, but the book is a pretty entertaining read. Whether you know the quote or not, the pedigrees are interesting. O'Toole goes back and traces similar thoughts, plus possible sources for ambiguity.

In conclusion , the quotation is from a character named Socrates who was a gas station attendant in a book published in the 1980s by Dan Millman. The quote is not from the renowned Greek philosopher .

Simple mistake -- it could happen to anybody. (The quote in question: "The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.")

The mangled quotes and missteps along the way are often as inspirational -- and frequently more amusing -- than the actual quote. A Charles Farrar Browne, writing under the pseudonym Artemus Ward, invented a fake letter writer called "O. Abe," and generated a false quote attributed to Abe Lincoln. Along the way, we get a glimpse of "Artemus Ward's" style:

This note satirized the pseudo - endorsements presented by charlatans selling ineffectual patent medicines :
Artemus Ward : Respected Sir -- My wife was afflicted with the pipsywipsy in the head for nearly eight years . The doctors all gave her up . But in a fortunate moment she went to one of your lectures , and commenced recovering very rapidly . She is now in perfect health . We like your lectures very much . Please send me a box of them . They are purely vegetable. Send me another five dollar bill and I'll write you another certificate twice as long as this. Yours, &c., Amos Pilkins

Mistaken identity is just one cause. But the backstory is always entertaining. And each ends with an informed conclusion as to who should claim proper attribution. "With great power comes great responsibility" Voltaire? Churchill? Spider-man?
Prominent world leaders such as Lord Melbourne, Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin D. Roosevelt made similar statements in later years, prior to Spider-Man

I got a few wrong, and there were many I had not heard. One startled me. "If your only tool is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail." Attributed to Mark Twain.

"Codswallop!" says I. That's Abraham Maslow -- and a favorite of mine (both Maslow and the quote). I read with sweaty palms afflicting the capacitance required for the Kindle's touch screen. Have I been propagating falsehood for decades?

Nope, this was one I got. O'Toole comes to attribute Maslow but finds a handful of interesting antecedents:

In conclusion, by 1962 Abraham Kaplan had formulated a version of the saying featuring a boy that expressed the central idea. However, Kaplan did not use the important word "nail." In 1963 Silvan S. Tomkins wrote a version with the word "nail," but it differed from popular modern instances. In 1966 Abraham Maslow wrote a version that is similar to popular expressions circulating today.

Pretty fun book you can go cover to cover, look for quotes that interest you, or just take a random flip through. Four stars.

April 21, 2017

It Always Happens

Man, I liked Earth Day before it got all commercialized.


April 20, 2017

OMG -- they're acting like GOP!

So, the Democrats and Hollywood glitterati pony up "more than $8 million, quadruple the next-closest contender" according to Jim Geraghty. And Senator Ice Cream from Vermont cannot play along?

Over the last few days, Sanders's [sic, it's only the WaPo] has at times offered some odd comments for a guy pushing for Democratic unity.


But johngalt thinks:

Hopefully it's contagious.

Posted by: johngalt at April 20, 2017 5:18 PM

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