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 itís 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 GoldbergUPDATE: 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.
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
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.
April 27, 2017
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
Slate on Science
The stopped-clock of Slate nails it with
The Problem With the March for ScienceA superb article -- I almost wished I had not opened with such a mean statement about Slate. Almost.
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.
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."
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.
April 23, 2017
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 :
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.
All Hail Freeman
The "Metaphor Alert" was my least favorite recurring feature of the Taranto Best of the Web franchise. Perhaps it's because I am a dug-in, line fighter who is willing to staunch the bleeding to the core for mixed metaphors, but I do not get overly offended.
But, I'll give James a few points for this one today -- it's a gem.
April 19, 2017
All Hail Freeman
In Venezuela, resisting the socialist government takes a bit more courage than simply knitting a hat. Ms. [Anastasia] O'Grady wrote on Monday:So far this month pro-government militias or the police have allegedly killed three protesters in and around Barquisimeto, the capital city of Lara state. A demonstrator was fatally shot in Valencia--the third largest city in the country--and the governor of Carabobo state has admitted that the police were responsible. Another young protester was killed in a satellite city of Caracas, and an 87-year-old Caracas woman died when tear gas inundated her home.Ms. O'Grady added that roving "bands of government-sponsored militias terrorize civil society."
Freeman is suggesting that Democratic leaders should be cautious about elevating Sen. Bernie Sanders's (El Jefé -- VT) position in the party.
But James Freeman needs to know my brother. My brother will wring his hands and roll his eyes and say "For the hundredth time, let me explain: Bernie wants Democratic Socialism."
I suppose the people in Hayek's "Road to Serfdom" never look like one's friends.
Quote of the Day
Now that tax day has passed, I must thank you, my fellow federal taxpayers. You all are the wind beneath my solar panels.
Pompous Ass Alert
Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is getting the capital-S Science crowd into an excited molecular state for the big march! "This is Science! It's not something to toy with!" He shouts at 2:45 of his new four-minute video. I cannot embed, but you should oughtta watch it. It's archetypal Tyson.
But -- am I wrong? -- he's a property rights denier! That's not a bon mot attempt on my part, the video opens with the question "How did America rise up from a backwoods country to become one of the greatest nations the world has ever known?"
I expected Deirdre McCloskey to come out and explain Bourgeois Dignity in her scratchy voice. But no, Tyson's dulcet tones continued . . . it is . . . wait for it . . . you're not going to believe this . . . it is because of Science! All these amazing industries we invented! Because we used to believe in science, I mean Science!
So, Doctor Tyson, Dr. McCloskey would ask you, as a proponent of Popperesque epistemology, "why did this scientific miracle happened here?" We believed in Science better than the Danes? Britain started to doubt that F= dP/dt and lost her empire to the colonists? In a word -- and I know you love direct talk -- Bullshit! (Okay, I just added the "Rant" category.)
By the same token, are we failing in the 21st Century because we've ceased to believe everything that you and Bill Nye say? Or are we slipping because we're abandoning bourgeois dignity?
He says that once we all agree on the obvious science (of climate change), only then we can make the informed political choices between [~3:05] carbon credits, taxes, do we put a tariff, do we subsidize? He did not list any free-market options, but, hey, it's only a four minute film. No doubt time was tight.
When you stop denying the benefits of property rights, Dr. Tyson, then and only them will we be able to have the political conversation about solving the problems of our day. This is economics! It's not something to toy with!
Clearly, the problem is with their knit hats
POLITICO: "Democrats begin to wonder: When do we win?"
For all the anger, energy, and money swirling at the grassroots level, Democrats didnít manage to pick off the first two Republican-held congressional seats they contended for in the Trump era, and the prospects arenít markedly better in the next few House races coming up: the Montana race at the end of May, and the South Carolina contest on June 20.
I'm going to turn my favorite joke on its head. Yes, the GOP has several substantive challenges in the midterms. But "I hear they're going to let us run against the Democrats this year!" Like Jon Caldara, I see the weaknesses of my registered party vividly. But -- holy bovine! -- all they have is incompetent anger. They're elevating the Sanders-Warren wing, and now Rep. Maxine Waters is speaking for the party as a whole.
An amazing opportunity? You bet. But I see no evidence they will exploit it.
UPDATE: Jim Geraghty agrees, and adds this gem in his "Morning Jolt" newsletter:
Ossoff also had a huge fundraising advantage that he's not likely to enjoy again, and that few candidates anywhere ever get to enjoy: more than $8 million, quadruple the next-closest contender. Not many Democratic House candidates get Samuel L. Jackson making radio ads for them, either, declaring, "We have to channel the great vengeance and furious anger we have for this administration into votes at the ballot box." That's nice. Democrats kind-of, sort-of did. But... Hillary Clinton won 47 percent in this district on Election Day 2016, and Ossoff won 48 percent.
Even for "The Nation" I'm impressed
The Other Poison Gas Killing Syrians: Carbon Dioxide Emissions If Trump and his cronies really cared about children killed by noxious gases, they wouldn't be trying to spew ever more CO2 into the atmosphere.
Which is more frightening? That Juan Cole actually believes this nonsense or that they are so tone-deaf and reality-resistant that they publish it anyway?
April 18, 2017
Y'all might be proud of me. I let most of the nonsense about recycling and sustainability and such drivel pass on the Erie Facebook page. But this was too far:
UPDATE: Good old Weld County! Three of the next four are pro-energy, including:
Erie students are entitled to a school that has light, heat, and a/c, powered by clean, green natural gas energy from fracking. Hopefully, some scientifically literate teachers too, please.
April 17, 2017
Calling the Market Top
I saw the future once. I did not act, but I bet it was a good stock pick.
It was clear to me in the early 00's that Hyundai Motor Corp was poised to climb a tier and become a serious competitor. I was rather impressed with their design, and the sequence of models they were rolling out seemed well-considered. Their extended warranty addressed uncertainty customers may have held about quality and reliability. "These guys have got it together," thought 2003 me. The 2007 price was 56.70 and it is 120 today. That's not bad but not Facebook.
I'm calling "hold" or "sell" today, though:
YONGIN, South Korea -- Hyundai Motor Group's plans for green cars are a costly array of hybrids, plug-ins, pure electrics and fuel-cell vehicles for both the Hyundai and Kia brands.
I fear they are over-committing to the eco-sector. At the risk of preaching to the choir, I'm rather impressed by the muscle sector. Those who've bet on abundance have beat those who bet on scarcity.
It could change. But I am not loading up on eco-car manufacturers.
Quote of the Day
And Mr. Perez is backing up his radical rhetoric by touring with Sen. Sanders, an avowed socialist who seems to be finding a permanent home in the Democratic Party--at least when he's not staying in one of his other homes. -- James Freeman BOTW
For those poor souls denied my stellar wit on Facebook:
Otequay of the Ayday
An extended QOTD today.
"Washington is built to destroy Republican presidents and right now the road to victory runs right through Steve Bannon's office.
-Chris Buskirk at American Greatness.
April 16, 2017
As month after month of the overseas deployment wore on, I used my previous failure as motivation to outwork, outhustle, and outperform everyone in the platoon. I sometimes fell short of being the best, but I never fell short of giving it my best. In time, I regained the respect of my men. Several years later I was selected to command a SEAL Team of my own. Eventually I would go on to command all the SEALs on the West Coast.Admiral William H. McRaven has ten pieces of advice for you. You can add to the ten million views of his University of Texas Commencement address on YouTube. Or you can read -- in about the same amount of time -- the book it inspired: Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...And Maybe the World.
The book is a best seller, and has generated a lot of buzz in a diverse range of media outlets. Each of his "lessons" opens with a challenging story from his SEAL training off Coronado in San Diego (I optimistically project that I would have made it about three minutes in SEAL training). Each lesson concludes with a real-word application of that knowledge, generally in combat or other serious moment.
The last "self-help" book I read was Dr. Wayne Dyer in 1977. And, no, I didn't help. This belongs, perhaps, in that genre, but if so it redeems it. The Admiral didn't receive any participation trophies and is not handing them out. Curiously, he is currently serving as Chancellor of the University of Texas System, providing one more bit of hope for the Lone Star State.
But McRaven's advice is real-world. It is applicable outside the military, but realistic and substantive enough for life-or-death leadership.
Over the course of the next three years, John Kelly and I became close friends. He was a remarkable officer, a strong husband to his wife, Karen, and a loving father to his daughter, Kate, and oldest son, Marine Major John Kelly. But more than that, without ever knowing it, John Kelly gave all those around him hope. Hope that in the very worst of times we could rise above the pain, the disappointment, and the agony and be strong. That we each had within us the ability to carry on and not only to survive but also to inspire others.
No, I'm not providing the background for this quote. Buy and enjoy this short but powerful book. Five stars.
April 14, 2017
Ethanol and Mohair
You'd think the left and right might come together to oppose ethanol subsidies. You'd -- of course -- be wrong, but you'd think...
Ethanol per se is not the problem, however; Washington's lack of common sense is the problem.
Well, if we're going to have multi-decadal global depression because of tariffs, we might as well have a Dust Bowl too.
A Buck Fiddy for Legitimate Government
My buddy Russ gives me permission to reprint his sad commentary:
My favorite part of this chart is that the only Constitutional and proper role of Federal Government is Justice, and it only costs a buck-fiddy out of each $100 in tax receipts.
Even giving his rabid, statist neocon opponents (of which I am probably one) their due, defense is third,. Things envisioned in the Declaration and allowed in the Constitution are less than 20% of the government we have.
April 13, 2017
A group of 17 Colorado state politicians have outed themselves as science deniers, in writing. No amount of empirical scientific data, regarding a pollution concern, seems good enough if it does not further their political agenda.
jk Changes his mind
Bernie 2020! No, no, no. But I am going to abandon my tepid support for "mincome" or Basic Guaranteed Income.
I recommend the entire interview. There is some very fair support for and criticism of President Trump, a legitimate concern that Facebook is Pareto-positive but might prevent the next Led Zeppelin (~1:10:00), a serious and jk affirming evaluation of the longevity of two party system in America (1:26:30). And he is asked about the guaranteed income. Two times.
Cowen -- like me -- is captivated by the economic efficiency of the guaranteed income. But he tells a tale of the dark days of 2008. The best thing for the country, says Cowen, would have been to pay down people's mortgages. "All Economists knew this." And yet it was politically unfeasible. Because the neighbor who was paying his mortgage would not sit tight while the neighbor who was more prodigal ("The recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all" -- Homer) was bailed out. People may have hated bailing out the banks, but that was politically superior to bailing out foolish consumers.
Cowen says it might be a great idea in Canada or New Zealand. But the welfare/relief policy is "an advertisement for the immigrants we are recruiting." And we "need to hang out the sign that says 'Life is Hard.'" That dynamism is more important to our future than avoiding distortions in markets or foolish marginal incentives.
I don't think I was ever an enthusiastic supporter, but the efficiency, transparency, and lack of distortion intrigued me. This is a devastating blow that aligns with the freedom and rights-based arguments I received from my sagacious blog brothers and sisters.
State Charging Stations for 'Lectriccars
Firstly, every Centennial Stater should follow Laurie Bratten on Facebook. She provides a daily rundown of the shenanigans going on in the State Capitol, ranked for frugality and liberty.
And I'll give her quote of the day for her droll opening:
April 11, 2017
That was a big word when I was a kid. It's still a big word; but it was popular in late 1960s. The WSJ Ed Page doesn't dredge up this polysyllabic chestnut, but they do pen a paean to the Establishment today.
No, that is not news; they could change their tagline to "The GOP Eastern Pointy-headed Establishment's Official Organ." Even your blog pragmatist has rolled his eyes at some of their extreme moderation. But today's topic is the newly minted Justice Gorsuch and the "Establishment's" role in his replacing Justice Scalia.
Don't tell Mark Levin, but Judge Gorsuch is a card-carrying member of America's elite. He attended Columbia, Harvard and Oxford. He clerked at the Supreme Court, worked at a prestigious law firm, and spent a decade on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. These are the credentials of an accomplished legal mind, and they and the judge's first-rate temperament are the reasons that Democrats couldn't defeat him, try though they did. Now he can apply that experience and intellect to advance conservative legal principles for a generation or more.
Why was the seat open? It was thanks to Sen. Mitch McConnell (Establishment - KY)
The Majority Leader was able to maintain the unity of his variegated conference last year to deny a vote or hearing to President Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland. Does anyone think Senators Ted Cruz or Mike Lee could have pulled that off?
I have huzzahed the President's successes and listed my disagreements. But the foundation of the future GOP is being laid down -- and I confess I do not trust the Establishment to create it. But nor do I trust the "never-ending insurgency."
The tragedy of the current conservative movement is that too many of its leading voices seem to believe in never-ending insurgency that casts anyone in power as a sellout. They profit from raging at the failure that they promote.
Told you I liked it!
April 10, 2017
It Would Make a Great Date night!
Hey, speaking of Justin Longo, mark your calendars for July 24, 2017!
Liberty on the Rocks -- Flatirons will host a panel discussion. Our loyal and brave home team will extol the values of Constitutional Minarchy; the Visitors from Liberty on the Rocks -- Denver will hawk anarchy. The lineup is Me and Dave Walden for #TeamNozick and Justin Longo and Professor Michael Huemer [Review Corner] for #TeamHermannHoppe.
There will be tears.
April 9, 2017
Where the Columbines Grow
Regular readers of this column know that about a year and a half ago, the Independence Institute published my paper telling the story of the Colorado state song. The paper was called Reclaiming the Centennial State's Centennial Song: The Facts About "Where the Columbines Grow."
Then Tros, Alastor's son, crawled to Achilles' kneesThis Achilles fellow is a difficult man to reason with. From the introductory stanza "Murderous, doomed, the cost of Achaea's countless losses." A very complex and frequently unheroic character.
You talk of food?Whole libraries have been filled with intelligent commentary on The Iliad. I presume no original insights. But I have a few suggestions for the modern reader. The first: read it; it's a bit of work, but it is enjoyable work and Homer "sings for our own time, too."*
So the immortals spun our lives that we, we wretched menSecondly, get the Robert Fagles translation. As mentioned in The Odyssey's Review Corner, Fagles's is worth the trade of Kindle® convenience and public domain economy. Like the re-mastered version of the Stones' "Exile on Main Street," it has a clarity and life to it that make you think you're hearing it for the first time. Bernard Knox's introductions are alone worth the upgrade. The Harvard Classicist offers many keen insights.
The true hero, the true subject, the center of the Iliad, is force. Force as man's instrument, force as man's master, force before which human flesh shrinks back. The human soul, in this poem, is shown always in its relation to force: swept away, blinded by the force it thinks it can direct, bent under the pressure of the force to which it is subjected. Those who had dreamed that force, thanks to progress, now belonged to the past, have seen the poem as a historic document; those who can see that force, today as in the past, is at the center of all human history, find in the Iliad its most beautiful, its purest mirror.It is a grisly work. Brioze has a deleterious effect on many of the epic poem's characters. There are a lot of livers and bowels strewn out over the battlefield. Yet (and I am borrowing generously from Knox here) there is a curious symmetry to pastoral elements of ancient life: like a shepherd would shield the newborn spring lamb, so Bigfatticus, son of Obesseus did turn his horse and chariot to save his young companion before Hector's arrow extracted his bloody spleen onto the dusty earth....
In a war over a woman (Hector's brother Paris has brought fair Helen from Sparta to Ilium and war has raged for ten years), it seems our prickly hero misses almost half the fighting because he is chafed at Agamemnon for stealing his slave-girl, Briseis. So he and his men brood about the ships while the "long haired Achaeans" are routed. It seems many brave warriors' souls would not have been hurled to the House of Death had people gone to match.com or used the Tinder App.
His friends try to broker a deal. Agamemnon will swear he never did lie with her in the natural way that men and women do, and he offers a lengthy enumerated list of great gifts -- if Peleus's son will return to the fight. Achilles declines, in dactylic hexameter:
His friend, Patroclus, gives in before Achilles, dons Achilles's armor and fights. When Hector kills him, Achilles finally has had enough, killing enough people to clog the river -- then fighting the river god when she complains. [Spoiler Alert:] He kills Hector and keeps his body around for a week because he delights in dragging it for a few laps around Patroclus's funeral pyre behind his chariot. It cheers him up a little.
The rest is a negotiation for the return of Hector's corpse and rapprochement between Achilles and Agamemnon.
I am not responsible for any bad grades if a student uses this Review Corner in lieu of CLiffs Notes or a full read through this masterpiece. Flippant comments and anachronisms aside, it is a blast to read. Fagles's prose sings.
But "sing for our time too."* The story and characters were well known to the Founders, to Locke, to Hobbes, to T.S. Eliot. And to Joss Whedon. Some lit-crit asserts that Buffy's three boyfriends are based on Odysseus (Spike), Aeneas (Riley), and Achilles (Angel). There is much to be mined there. Rereading all three after, I find much to support that.
Five stars (Homer has finally made it -- two five star Review Corners!) Read it and read the Fagles translation
April 8, 2017
War on Choo Choos
More nuanced thinking on my Facebook feed:
The poster says "A proposed budget devastating the core of hard working Americans who voted for the president-electoral-college."
April 7, 2017
Happy Opening Day!
The Denver Post is right (cf, broken clock) it truly is a holiday. Half my group is out.
1-0 good guys in the bottom of the third!
UPDATE: Rox win 2-1.
One of these things is not like the other
I was not going to read Naomi Schaefer Riley's "An Anti-Koch Meltdown at Wake Forest" on the WSJ Page today. One more example of the child abuse that is sending your child to a school that doesn't rhyme with "Bill's Kale." But it's Friday, so I indulged. It's worse than I thought.
About two years ago, Wake Forest professor James Otteson came to the administration with an idea: a new center devoted to the study of happiness. Such programs are all the rage in psychology departments, but Mr. Otteson, a scholar of classical philosophy who has written books on Adam Smith, offered a unique interdisciplinary approach. Planning began for a center that draws scholars from across the university to study the political, economic, moral and cultural institutions that encourage human happiness. It was named the Eudaimonia Institute, after Aristotle's term for flourishing.
So far so good. But chaos ensues when the Koch's $3,700,000 donation to the project is discovered. Mercy! Vapors!
The long lugubrious tale is worth a read in full. But this paragraph caught my eye:
The controversies over Koch cash--stoked in many cases by the George Soros-funded campus organization UnKoch My Campus--are not new. Faculty at the Catholic University of America complained last year that a $10 million donation from the Charles Koch Foundation would undermine the school's religious teachings. The United Negro College Fund was roundly criticized after it took $25 million of Koch money in 2014.
Now, I do not have the benefit of a Wake Forest education (a school built on tobacco money) so I may be behind the curve. But George Soros is giving money to schools to make them return donations by the Kochs?
April 6, 2017
Who Says There's No Good News?
My little town, I had almost given up!
April 5, 2017
Hackers Guarding the Hen House
We older folk tend to hold the United States government intelligence community in high esteem, and rightly so for the most part. But retired CIA Station Chief Scott Uehlinger says that this isn't your father's CIA. The folks in charge now don't have the same sense of unscrupulous objectivity that their forbears held so dear. Instead they are more idealistic and, his words not mine, "politically correct."
I am here to tell you, having served in the CIA and the Naval Reserve, that the Deep State does indeed exist. And it's not a bunch of centrally controlled drones in black robes meeting at midnight. The Deep State is made up of thousands of similarly credentialed, remarkably "un-diverse" civil servants and political appointees who saw themselves promoted rapidly during the eight years of the Obama administration. The appointees have left, but make no mistake - the progressive civil servants remain.
Let us hope that somehow, someway, our intel agencies can re-learn how to act professionally. One way would be to hold very public trials for everyone involved, top to bottom, followed by prison time for everyone found to be guilty. And I mean right up to the highest levels. If that doesn't happen then the disaster we're watching unfold day by day now will pale in comparison to the size and scope of future abuses of power.
All Hail Freeman
James Freeman has done a masterful job of keeping the James Taranto signature elements to please a grouchy legacy base. Here's a purdy good one I think is legitimately his:
Wisdom from Shawn
Former Statehouse Rep. Shawn Mitchell takes to Facebook and describes what perplexes me. I wonder if it resonates with others:
Not sure what to make of it, but Trump is driving a swath of Republicans/conservatives insane. I'm referring to opposite camps, the incorrigible never Trumpers and the canine always Trumpers. They both have taken leave of their senses.
UPDATE: Point of order. I have blanket permission from Rep. Mitchell to share anything he posts on Facebook. I would not repost from other forums without permission or obfuscation. What you post on FB is between you and the NSA.
April 3, 2017
The political bogeyman du jour is called "alt-right." Supposedly it is an uber nationalist and racist movement that propelled Donald Trump to his otherwise "inexplicable" victory in the presidential election. But what about the left? On the other side of the political divide, says VDH, the alt has become the majority.
What are its tenets other than the obvious of addressing man-caused climate change by radically restructuring the American economy, favoring a lead-from-behind stature abroad, and seeing "you didn't build that" capitalism as parasitic rather than nourishing of American democracy?
So we can see why attacks on the left's "unreason" or "hypocrisy" are powerless. Their morality has nothing whatsoever to do with reason or consistency. Reality has little standing in the world of the new left, thus explaining how its adherents can support LGBT and Islam at the same time, often in the same breath.
Read the whole thing. It's a very enlightening description of the modern American Democratic party, and how the real "alt-left" consists of enfeebled voices like those of James Webb or Joe Manchin.
Fighting for Hundreths of a Degree
Holman Jenkins says "The Climate Yawns" as Washington fights over President Trump's climate actions.
Even so, many climate activists felt the need to walk back Ms. [Gina] McCarthy's concession by insisting Obama policies would have a measurable effect--on the amount of CO 2 released. Yes, the relative decrease would be tiny but measurable, though the climate effect would be zip. This is akin to medical researchers claiming a drug a success because it's detectable in the bloodstream, not because it improves health.
EPA Chief Scott Pruitt was on FOX News Sunday yesterday (or, YesterNewsDay). He was enduring some withering criticism from host Chris Wallace, who was credibly pitching some nonsensical but officially-fabricated stats on lost lives, work days, and lung capacity if the Clean Power Plan was rolled back.
I suspect I am not the only one who coaches politicians by speaking loudly toward the TV. Pruitt did fine, but what I think is needed is to bifurcate between "Carbon Pollution" which is not pollution, and SOx, NOx, and particulates which are. Pruitt was sketching the difference but failed to say it explicitly.
It's actually a pretty good political point to say that we'll divert resources to real pollution which causes real health problems, and has a real Congressional foundation in enforcing the Clean Air Act.
April 2, 2017
"Violence helped ensure safety of students"
I've long been a huge fan of Jonathan Haidt. He and his "The Righteous Mind" score 19 mentions in the Review Corner archive, but not a complete Review Corner to which I can link. Curses!
Bari Weiss, sortof Dow Jones's imitation of Review Corner, interviews Professor Haidt on his new "Heterodox Academy" which pushes for intellectual diversity on college campuses.
Having studied religions across cultures and classes, Mr. Haidt says it is entirely natural for humans to create "quasireligious" experiences out of seemingly secular activities. Take sports. We wear particular colors, gather as a tribe, and cheer for our team. Even atheists sometimes pray for the Steelers to beat the Patriots.
UPDATE: If you have paywall trouble, might I recommend an uncharacteristicly lengthy Insty post?
Hitler had not originally wanted to host the games at all. Almost everything about the idea, in fact, had offended him. The year before, he had damned the games as the invention of "Jews and Freemasons." The very heart of the Olympic ideal -- that athletes of all nations and all races should commingle and compete on equal terms -- was antithetical to his National Socialist Party's core belief: that the Aryan people were manifestly superior to all others. And he was filled with revulsion by the notion that Jews, Negroes, and other vagabond races from around the world would come traipsing through Germany. But in the eight months since he had come to power in January, Hitler had begun to change his mind.Blog friend SugarChuck recommended Daniel James Brown's The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. And I have mentioned that his recommendations tend to be worth following up on. This was no exception.
What is it about? Well, it is about the boat. But you cannot know what "the boat" means without reading the entire book. So let us simplify: it is about the depression, and true love, and Hitler, and propaganda, and American geography, and athleticism, and the delicate balance between teamwork and the individual. Oh, and boat racing. Rowing.
Rowing makes me think of Bullwinkle cartoons and poncy Harvard lads out on the St. Charles. But collegiate rowing was the March Madness and BCS of its day in the 20's and 30's. Newspapers sent reporters to spy on practices and try to pry publishable quotes out of taciturn coaches.
He detected the strength of the gossamer threads of affection that sometimes grew between a pair of young men or among a boatload of them striving honestly to do their best . And he came to understand how those almost mystical bonds of trust and affection, if nurtured correctly, might lift a crew above the ordinary sphere, transport it to a place where nine boys somehow became one thing -- a thing that could not quite be defined, a thing that was so in tune with the water and the earth and the sky above that, as they rowed, effort was replaced by ecstasy. It was a rare thing, a sacred thing
So, what's it about? Well, it is about a guy who joins the University of Washington rowing team. He is from difficult circumstances, having exactly one sweater to train in every day in the Seattle winter. He sees rowing as a ticket to a better life: not so much Olympic Gold, but the way successful jocks get a good job after graduation.
Each evening, Joe Rantz noted with mounting satisfaction, there were fewer boys making the climb. And he noted something else. The first to drop out had been the boys with impeccably creased trousers and freshly polished oxfords. At a time when images of successful oarsmen appeared on the covers of Life and the Saturday Evening Post, varsity crew had seemed to many of them to be a way to build up their social status, to become big men on campus . But they had not reckoned on the sport's extreme physical and psychological demands.
The group he joins, however, is rather special, and -- spoiler alert -- do win the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, sullying the brilliant Nazi filmmaking of Leni Riefenstahl. I knew Riefenstahl by name and who she was, but this book fleshes out her background and position in the party, replete with intrigue, internecine strife and reverse-sexual-harassment.
None of this should be any problem, Goebbels had calmly assured his audience of dumbstruck journalists that day: "I don't see why you should have the slightest difficulty in adjusting the trend of what you write to the interests of the State. It is possible that the Government may sometimes be mistaken -- as to individual measures -- but it is absurd to suggest that anything superior to the Government might take its place. What is the use, therefore, of editorial skepticism? It can only make people uneasy."
The book presents a deep look into 1930s America and pre-war Germany. Just as you know the outcome of most of the races, there is a poignancy to knowing the forthcoming start and finish of the war.
But, it's about boat racing.
But watching the varsity race drove the lesson home for Joe. To defeat an adversary who was your equal, maybe even your superior, it wasn't necessarily enough just to give your all from start to finish. You had to master your opponent mentally. When the critical moment in a close race was upon you, you had to know something he did not -- that down in your core you still had something in reserve, something you had not yet shown, something that once revealed would make him doubt himself, make him falter just when it counted the most. Like so much in life, crew was partly about confidence, partly about knowing your own heart.
It's about a guy who was kicked out of the house as a young teenager by his stepmother, while his father silently acquiesced. About this young man finding love and seeking rapprochement with his birth family. About getting by in the depression working 12 hour days jackhammering the face of a cliff.
And it's about boat racing.
There is a thing that sometimes happens in rowing that is hard to achieve and hard to define . Many crews, even winning crews, never really find it. Others find it but can't sustain it. It's called "swing." It only happens when all eight oarsmen are rowing in such perfect unison that no single action by any one is out of synch with those of all the others. It's not just that the oars enter and leave the water at precisely the same instant. Sixteen arms must begin to pull, sixteen knees must begin to fold and unfold, eight bodies must begin to slide forward and backward, eight backs must bend and straighten all at once. Each minute action -- each subtle turning of wrists -- must be mirrored exactly by each oarsman, from one end of the boat to the other. Only then will the boat continue to run, unchecked, fluidly and gracefully between pulls of the oars. Only then will it feel as if the boat is a part of each of them, moving as if on its own. Only then does pain entirely give way to exultation. Rowing then becomes a kind of perfect language. Poetry, that's what a good swing feels like.
A masterpiece. Five Stars.