Red flags

I've been following with interest the controversy over Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 aircraft, without being able to make out whether the aircraft or pilot training is the biggest problem.  HotAir's Jazz Shaw published a startling piece this morning reporting that the Lion Air flight that went down last year had narrowly escaped almost exactly the same fate the day before.  They were saved by the coincidental presence in the cockpit of an off-duty co-pilot who correctly diagnosed the problem and told the crew how to disconnect the malfunctioning flight control system.

There must be strong pressures to put the cone of silence over near-misses like this. Still, how would you like to be the guy who didn't speak up, or the guy who squelched his report?

Bad Times at the El Royale

I saw this movie on the recent trip. I found it highly engaging. It is the kind of movie in which a set of secrets are buried at the beginning, and their revelation creates interference patterns with each other. It is also beautifully shot, with an ear for music.

Some of you might enjoy it.

UPDATE: It occurs to me that some might be concerned that the priest character heralds the usual abuse of Catholicism and/or Christianity in the mouth of Hollywood. Without wanting to give away any secrets, I think you may be pleasantly surprised by the handling of that matter.


A quantum experiment is said to "call into question whether or not there is objective reality."

It doesn't really do that. What it does do is suggest that objective reality may somehow contain two sets of apparently contradictory facts. If so, that is itself an objective fact about reality. It's a confusing one, to be sure; it may well reframe some of our thinking and discussions. However, it still would happen to be an objective description of reality.

"Do you really want to jump? Do you?"

Politico likes to talk about what a great idea it would be for progressives to pack the Supreme Court.  HotAir responds:
Eh, why not? All the cool kids are talking about it for 2021, according to Politico, without any apparent worry about what might happen in 2019 and 2020.
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So why wait on this terrible idea? Let’s do it now. Donald Trump should announce that he has nominated six justices to the Supreme Court to expand it to 15 seats. With a 53-seat majority in the Senate, Mitch McConnell could get them all confirmed by the end of the summer at the latest.
* * *
This is not a Swiftian Modest Proposal-esque satirical suggestion. I’d like to see Trump do it — but not to get those seats added to the Supreme Court. If Trump tries it, Congress would move heaven and earth to block him from succeeding at his court-packing plan, and that would be a bipartisan effort. We’ll have more later on the bipartisan project to curtail the National Emergencies Act after Trump’s border-wall declaration, but this would generation an outrage of an order of multitude higher. Legislation to limit the Supreme Court to nine seats might even pass on unanimous votes, or at least far more than would be needed for a veto override.

Executive emergency

Congress is finally starting to think about whether the problem is that it doesn't like this president or that president, or maybe instead that it should quit handing over its functions to the executive branch with a big red bow tied on them:
The existence of the NEA is inexplicable anyway. Winston Churchill’s observation that “bad kings make for good law” was utterly confounded in 1976 when a Democrat-controlled Congress passed this power usurpation to a Republican president. Gerald Ford had assumed the office two years earlier after Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace for having abused the power of his office in numerous ways. One would have assumed under those circumstances that the Congress elected after that fiasco would have special care in preventing further executive abuse, but perhaps only if one was entirely unfamiliar with the impulse of Congress to avoid doing any of its own work.

The Return of Grim

This time, I sought different mountains.

Wyoming is interesting country. I'll be out there more often, I think.

More toxic masculinity

HotAir observes that with this guy, the drinks are on us for the rest of his life.

Smart kids/dumb kids

A Popular Mechanics series sorts through cliches and social prejudices distorting choices in education.  Are liberal arts programs fancy-pantsy hotbeds of sophomoric socialist posturing?  Are votech programs mind-numbing economic dead ends?  Do both sorts of programs bilk unsuspecting parents, students, and taxpayers out of increasingly mountainous piles of tuition that will never be reflected in paychecks?

To judge purely from the lifetime impact on earnings, many of our preconceptions don't pan out.  None of this answers the question whether we should be focusing on more than lifetime earnings, but before families and taxpayers incur big IOUs on higher education strategies, it's at least worth looking at.  I'm no fan of federal regulations in education, but I wouldn't mind seeing schools have to show wage outcome data before they get federal funding.  Pay for your own operations, and you can experiment with whatever academic philosophy suits and your customers.

I really enjoy Popular Mechanics articles.

Communicable violence

A Quillette article about the Christchurch shootings draws a parallel between the printing press and the internet as innovations that ushered in sectarian clashes:
The disruptive nature of the internet has been compared many times to the disruption caused by the printing press. And the frightening realisation one has when making this analogy is that the printing press precipitated hundreds of years of religious warring. We do not yet know what will be the long-term impact of the internet—obviously, it will be both good and bad, and most likely the upside will vastly outweigh the downside—but we must also be prepared for a fragmenting of our societies, and continual fracturing along ideological and tribal lines.
Here at home, I continue my experiment in local politics, relying heavily on the internet for communication. At this week's public meeting the county attorney was inspired to suggest that the County Judge ask the bailiff to restrain me from speaking further. The Judge wisely ignored her and contented himself with bringing debate to a close by the usual procedures and calling a vote.

The controversy was over the "agenda packets" that are distributed to department heads and commissioners in preparation for each meeting. I had proposed that the county should resume the traditional practice of distributing the agenda packets to the press and the public as well, instead of making them file an open-records request and wait until at least two weeks after the meeting.  Even the local paper is taking an interest, which is surprising, given that the editor normally is rather a cheerleader and averse to controversy--but of course, he resents suddenly being denied access to the packets before each meeting. The voters, for the most part, would like to see more transparency, which is of course why they elected me.

I spend a lot of time answering forum comments about how all this procedure is supposed to work.  I explain why, even when I'm disappointed by not winning support for a proposal, the really important thing for me is the freedom to post an item on the agenda and debate it in open session. After that, we decide what we decide, and then the voters evaluate our performance. There's an odd perception that, when an elected official has discretion to control a policy, that means his decision is not subject to scrutiny or comment. Obviously I take a different view.

The presence of the internet makes the scrutiny and comment more immediate and widely accessible. The discussion can get heated and, like all impromptu unmediated public discussion, can veer off-course and demonstrate how disconnected and ill-informed some voters are. Still, they're what we've got. I just plug away at presenting the facts and try not to let even the most outrageous comments lead me into snippiness or sarcasm--no easy feat for me.  Flawed as internet arguments are, I prefer them to an information lockdown.


Strange lessons

A Powerline article observes that progressives wasted no time blaming the actions of a self-confessed New Zealand eco-fascist who admired communist China on the usual omnipotent villain, President Trump.  Then it draws a different lesson:
From a policy standpoint, the only lesson that can be drawn from the Christchurch massacre is reflected in the difference in the casualty totals between the two attacks. Forty-one were killed at the Dean Ave. mosque, the first one that was targeted, where the murderer had plenty of time and at one point returned to his vehicle to reload. There were only seven killed at the Linwood mosque because one of the worshippers was armed:
A second shooting happened at a mosque in the Linwood area of the city.
One Friday prayer goer returned fire with a rifle or shotgun.
Witnesses said they heard multiple gunshots around 1.45 pm.
A well known Muslim local chased the shooters and fired two shots at them as they sped off.
He was heard telling police officers he was firing in “self defence”.


With seemingly half the country flirting with Modern Monetary Theory again to explain how to finance the Green New Deal, I'm enjoying reading articles from the Mises Institute site, including this one describing the origins of the Keynesian fad.
You don't have to have an IQ above 100 to be able to torpedo Keynesianism. You just ask these questions.
1. "Where did the money come from that the government spends into circulation?"
2. If the government runs a deficit, which is what Keynesians recommend in recessions, it did not get all of its money through tax revenues. "Did the borrowed money come from private lenders or from the central bank?"
3. "If the money came from private lenders, what would the lenders have done with their money if they had not loaned it to the government?"
4. If the money did not come from private lenders, then it must have come from the central bank. "How does money created out of nothing create wealth?"
These are really two questions. (1) "What would lenders to the government have done with their money if the government had not offered the promise of guaranteed repayment?" That money would have been spent either on consumption or production. This raises a second question: (2) "Why would either of these options be worse for the economy than spending by government bureaucrats?"
Money isn't value. Money is a promise of future value.  Money has value if the promise is credible.  Value in an economic sense is what people do or make that other people want badly enough to trade something for.  Value is not the same as virtue, though virtue can influence what someone wants.

Economic vs. political crises

On the Mises site, a response to a critique of libertarianism. First, Daniel McCarthy asks:
Does a libertarian even care whether Islam displaces Christianity or China displaces America, as long as there are no tariffs on steel? You might not have freedom of religion or freedom of speech in the post-Western future, and those cheap consumer goods won’t be so cheap any more, but a libertarian will rest content knowing he fought to import as much foreign-subsidized steel as possible. This is why I consider libertarianism to be every bit as much a suicidal ideology as left-liberalism. In some ways it is even more so, as libertarians are more oblivious than left-liberals to the consequences for themselves of hewing to their ideology.
Jeff Deist answers:
Here is a classic mischaracterization of political liberty, captured so well by Frédéric Bastiat in his famous quote: "every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all." Of course libertarianism per se can't answer the civilizational questions of our day; of course economics per se can't make us moral or ethical, much less strategic. Libertarianism is a narrow legal doctrine dealing with the justified use of force in society, a doctrine that makes no exceptions for state actors. Economics is a social science which studies how human actors choose among scarce means to achieve ends.

Rahm has a point

Rahm Emmanuel on election strategy:
Earth to Democrats: Republicans are telling you something when they gleefully schedule votes on proposals like the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and a 70 percent marginal tax rate. When they’re more eager to vote on the Democratic agenda than we are, we should take a step back and ask ourselves if we’re inadvertently letting the political battle play out on their turf rather than our own. If Trump’s only hope for winning a second term turns on his ability to paint us as socialists, we shouldn’t play to type.

Unmasking the Administrative State

PowerLine has a brief review of John Marini's "Unmasking the Administrative State," with this quotation from the introduction:
In a constitutional system, the powers of government are thought to be limited; in the administrative state only resources are limited.

Want to raise your Victim Value Index? Blow something up

The Sultan of Knish explains how to trade your ability to modulate the violence of a slice of your rainbow for a seat at the political table.
Progressivism is a revolution in slow motion, and revolutions need revolutionaries. Disruption is more than just grievance, it's violence. Those who are willing to ruthlessly attack the status quo clearing the ground for revolution are the ones who go to the head of the line and the dais of honor on top. A little murder and mayhem, and progressives will trot out "moderate" versions of the murderers and mayhemists, usually linked to them, and offer to represent them and tamp down the violence in exchange for meeting their demands.
Anyone who is shocked that the left would make common cause with Islamists has forgotten the Black Panthers. From the left's point of view they are doing the same thing by bringing on board a group with some revolutionary energy and a willingness to overthrow the system. Associating with them gives the left some revolutionary cred and the supposed ability to turn the violence on and off.
* * *
September 11 and its aftermath is why Muslims have gone to the top of the Victim Value Index. The left may swear up and down that they are interested in Muslim civil rights, but if the Muslims were Sikhs, they would merit a place somewhere in the back. Before Muslims began prominently blowing things up in the United States, the left barely paid any attention to them. Once they did, they began outweighing every other group in the country because killing 3,000 people is the gold standard of revolutionary mayhem.

Why should you have to be a citizen to vote?

Seems unfair, doesn't it?  Next step:  allow absentee voting by non-citizens.  It's really hard for some of them to get here, and they encounter unconscionable delays at the border.

Six Democrats crossed the aisle to support this week's GOP-led House "motion to recommit" to clarify that non-citizens should not be allowed to vote in federal elections:
Van Drew-NJ
One Republican broke party ranks to vote against it:  Justin Amash (Michigan). Republicans not voting were Crawford (Tennessee), Dunn (Florida), Rodgers (Washington), Rogers (Alabama), and Stivers (Ohio). Democrats not voting were Clay (Missouri) and Sean Maloney (New York).

Motions to recommit are rhetorical devices. The minority party is given one last word on a bill, which typically is phrased as a "but of course we don't really mean XYZ" statement. They are often submitted at the last minute and look like a soundbite for political ads. Two of the defecting Democrats, however, told reporters they didn't mind voting for an opposition soundbite if they agree with it.

Did Amash support illegal voting, or was he opposing the gamesmanship? I take him for a libertarian-maverick type who adopts eccentric positions like opposing federal funding to address the Flint water-poisoning crisis. He probably doesn't really favor voting by non-citizens, but might easily reject a tactic that offended him.

Redactions and transparency

We're having a small dust-up in my county over redacting routine documents that traditionally have been supplied to the public in advance of commissioners court meetings.  Redaction is a tactic I remember well from my days of practicing law; in the hands of the unscrupulous it is nothing short of wholesale hiding of documents under the guise of needing infinite time to review them for privileged information that must be painstakingly protected.  I view with favor any reasonable attempt to remove genuinely confidential information before publishing a document.  I view with suspicion any redaction project that drags on endlessly and results in the withholding of potentially explosive disclosures.

In a lawsuit, the interesting point often comes when one side manages to get the sealed documents in front of a magistrate for a private review.  Counsel who have been hiding damaging facts by mischaracterizing them as privileged can be unmasked this way, and their credibility permanently damaged.

I read these articles with interest, therefore, about Devin Nunes's surprisingly successful though frustrating campaign to combat strategic redactions in the Russian collusion saga.