The Simpsons on the Reformation

The Yellow Tape of Disapproval

In Canada, an object lesson in how to do things better has been taped off as 'unsafe' and will likely be demolished.
A Toronto man who spent $550 building a set of stairs in his community park says he has no regrets, despite the city’s insistence that he should have waited for a $65,000 city project to handle the problem. The city is now threatening to tear down the stairs because they were not built to regulation standards.

Retired mechanic Adi Astl says he took it upon himself to build the stairs after several neighbours fell down the steep path to a community garden in Tom Riley Park, in Etobicoke, Ont. Astl says his neighbours chipped in on the project, which only ended up costing $550 – a far cry from the $65,000-$150,000 price tag the city had estimated for the job....

Astl says he hired a homeless person to help him and built the eight steps in a matter of hours.
"Regulation standards" apparently means "we need to get paid bigtime."

Give a homeless guy a job, do the job at 1.3% of the minimum estimated cost, and all it gets you is your stairs torn down at taxpayer expense so they can build the expensive stairs they wanted. I guess he's lucky he's not being thrown in jail for interfering with an exercise of government power.

Different Types of Veterans

Language warning, as usual with the vet videos. That last one is a sympathetic character.

In the Senate, Disasters Follow Disasters

The Republicans' health care bill had few good points, but it would have broken us free from the idea that Democrats had to save Obamacare. Whatever problems it created could be fixed because we wouldn't have this great white elephant to protect.

The far better plan, to repeal and not replace Obamacare with anything whatsoever, died because of three Senators -- both Vox and Vice think it's very amusing that they're all women -- who simply refused to consider that an option. Every single Republican ran on repealing Obamacare, but when it comes time to do it, these three have decided that it can only be done if we have some other form of Federalized control of the market to offer instead.

If Republican Senators have internalized the idea that we must force coverage of pre-existing conditions at non-market rates, there's no possibility of a better solution on health care. We will have only worse solutions.

One Jane Orient, M.D., wants you to know that this is really just about control. The more the government controls your health care, the more it can force you to live the way it wants.

She's right.

In Britain, home of the highest rated health care service in the world -- rated, of course, by advocates of socialized medicine -- the NHS announced last September that it would deny routine surgery to the obese and smokers in "almost all cases." That plan was put on hold, but appears to be back this year.

Obesity is a pre-existing condition, isn't it? But there are shortages, you see, because everyone's entitled and there isn't enough to go around. Since the market can't be allowed to settle that -- pre-existing conditions shouldn't cost more! -- instead the solution will be rationing by government bureaucrats who judge your worth as a person based on how much they agree with your lifestyle and fitness choices.

These people aren't going to solve the problem that not all care can be afforded. They're just going to take control over who gets care. That will be used to punish, of course.

The Net Neutrality Campaign

I thought I might write about this, but Robert Tracinski has saved me the trouble.

Mozilla and a bunch of other internet-dependent companies like Netflix and Amazon have been campaigning to get the FCC to keep the "net neutrality" regulations implemented under Obama, warning that without it big companies may restrict "free speech" on the internet. (This from the company that burned Brendan Eich at the stake for having the "wrong" views on marriage.)

Wikipedia explains the basic claim of these companies:

Proponents of net neutrality, in particular those in favor of reclassification of broadband to "common carrier", have many concerns about the potential for discriminatory service on the part of providers such as Comcast. Common-carriage principles require network operators to serve the public regardless of geographical location, district income levels, or usage. Telecommunications companies are required to provide services, such as phone access, to all consumers on the premise that it is a necessity that should be available to all people equally. If the FCC's ability to regulate this aspect is removed, providers could cease to offer services to low income neighborhoods or rural environments. Those in favor of net neutrality often cite that the internet is now an educational necessity, and as such should not be doled out at the discrimination of private companies, whose profit-oriented models cause a conflict of interest.

Tracinski explains what he believes is the real conflict over "net neutrality":

... The Federal Communications Commission’s attempt to turn Internet service providers into regulated utilities ... was never about stopping them from controlling content. It’s actually about money. It’s about who pays for all of that bandwidth we’re using. To be more specific, it’s about trying to make certain unpopular companies (like Comcast) pay for it, so that other, more popular companies (like Netflix) don’t have to.

The signature case cited as the reason we need net neutrality was the accusation that several big service providers were slowing down people’s Netflix downloads. And you don’t mess with the Netflix download speeds of this nation’s cultural elite.

But if they did this, the ISPs didn’t do it to show their disapproval of “House of Cards.” The real issue was a dispute between Netflix’s service provider, Cogent, and bigger ISPs like Comcast and Verizon, whom Cogent accused of “refus[ing] to upgrade the equipment that handles ISP traffic across the country.” Translation: everyone suddenly wanting to download all their television viewing off the Internet means the ISPs need to spend a lot of money on upgrades, and the big ISPs were asking Cogent and Netflix to foot part of the bill. This is a dispute over who should bear the cost of the Web’s considerable infrastructure, and net neutrality was the government coming in to put a thumb on the scales and dictate the winners and losers.

NYT: Germany's Newest Intellectual Anti-Hero

According to Christopher Caldwell in the New York Times, Rolf Peter Sieferle was a highly respected German historian before his death last September. After his death, a collection of his observations on Germany called "Finis Germania" was published and he seems to have become a pariah in intellectual circles. However, his book has become a best-seller in Germany.

Sieferle sounds like an interesting man:

A socialist in his youth like most German intellectuals of the 1968 generation, Mr. Sieferle was drifting out of sync with that tradition by the 1990s. He came increasingly to aim his sarcasm at naïve idealists. At the height of Germany’s refugee crisis two summers ago, he wrote, “A society that can no longer distinguish between itself and the forces that would dissolve it is living morally beyond its means.” The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung described him as “embittered, humorless, ever more isolated.” 
On the other hand, “Finis Germaniae” (“the end of Germany”) is a familiar and resonant phrase. (Why Mr. Sieferle chose to drop the final “e” in his title has been much discussed.) The phrase captures a fear, or paranoia, about national decline that has been widespread in German history — and explains much about that history. Prosperous though Germany is, one can see reasons such fears might be reviving. Germany is senescent, with a median age of about 46. It is helping construct a European Union meant to supplant the German government in many of its traditional competencies. Germans appear to want to disappear. This, in fact, is the thesis that drives Mr. Sieferle’s passionate book on migration. 
After World War II, the Allied occupiers, as Mr. Sieferle sees it, saddled Germans with a false idea of their own history — the idea that there was something premodern about Germany, a fundamental difference between it and the West. That may describe Russia, but not Germany, and Germany’s modernity is painful for Westerners to face. “If Germany belonged to the most progressive, civilized, cultivated countries,” he writes, “then ‘Auschwitz’ means that, at any moment, the human ‘progress’ of modernity can go into reverse.” 
Mr. Sieferle neither denies nor minimizes the Holocaust. ... But Mr. Sieferle is critical of Germany’s postwar culture of Holocaust memory, which he argues has taken on the traits of a religion. The country’s sins are held to be unique and absolute, beyond either redemption or comparison. “The First Commandment,” he writes, “is ‘Thou shalt have no Holocausts before me.’ ” Hitler, in retrospect, turns out to have done a paradoxical thing: He bound Germans and Jews together in a narrative for all time. In an otherwise relativistic and disenchanted world, Mr. Sieferle writes, Germans appear in this narrative as the absolute enemies of our common humanity, as a scapegoat people. The role is hereditary. There are Germans whose grandparents were not born when the war ended, yet they, too, must take on the role. 
Mr. Sieferle’s is a complex argument. It is linked to his concern, in “Das Migrationsproblem,” with the challenges of mass migration. He believed that Germany’s self-demonization had left it unable to say anything but yes to a million or so migrants seeking entry to Europe in 2015 and that such a welcome was unsustainable. Whether he was right or wrong, this was a concern shared by many Germans, and not necessarily an idle expression of animus.

I am always wary of commenting on intellectual works from other cultures published in languages I can't read, so please take my comments as tentative.

First, I had not heard the idea that there was something premodern about Germany, but it would make sense that Progressives would claim that. But Germany was instrumental in shaping modernity; if anything, it has been one of the most modern of nations.

I think Japan, too, suffers from the way it handles the memory and history of WWII, and they, too, seem to have a desire to disappear. Japan and Germany both seem to have developed a sense that their nations have done uniquely evil things. However, that seems to be SOP for Progressives: I feel they want us to believe that about the US as well. I think it's part of destroying the soul of the nation so they can take over the body.

I think it would be healthy for both Germany and Japan to develop a new sense of patriotism. I can't say nationalism, because for both nationalism is tied to a "blood and soil" idea of the nation that I believe leads to racism. But a love and appreciation for all of the good things their nation has done would be a good thing, I think, along with a desire to see their nations continue. That's healthy, whereas ongoing, generations-long self-flagellation is not.

Snopes: The Lies of Donald Trump's Critics

Snopes has an article up examining the issue of anti-Trump lies headlined "The Lies of Donald Trump, and How They Shape His Many Personas: An in-depth analysis of the false allegations and misleading claims made against the 45th president since his inauguration."

The article begins:

Broadly speaking, most of the falsehoods levelled against Trump fall into one or more of four categories, each of them drawing from and feeding into four public personas inhabited by the President.
They are:
  • Donald Trump: International Embarrassment
  • Trump the Tyrant
  • Donald Trump: Bully baby
  • Trump the Buffoon.

Some of these claims are downright fake, entirely fabricated by unreliable or dubious web sites and presented as satire, or otherwise blatantly false. But the rest — some of which have gained significant traction and credibility from otherwise serious people and organizations — provide a fascinating insight into the tactics and preoccupations of the broad anti-Trump movement known as “the Resistance,” whether they were created by critics of the President or merely shared by them.
Generally speaking, we discovered that they are characterized and driven by four types of errors of thought:
  • Alarmism
  • A lack of historical context or awareness
  • Cherry-picking of evidence (especially visual evidence)
  • A failure to adhere to Occam’s Razor — the common-sense understanding that the simplest explanation for an event or behavior is the most likely.

Infused throughout almost all these claims, behind their successful dissemination, is confirmation bias: the fuel that drives the spread of all propaganda and false or misleading claims among otherwise sensible and skeptical people. Confirmation bias is the tendency to look for, find, remember and share information that confirms the beliefs we already have, and the tendency to dismiss, ignore and forget information that contradicts those beliefs. It is one of the keys to why clever people, on all sides of every disagreement, sometimes believe stupid things that aren’t true.

The analysis is organized by the four "personas" Trump's enemies have created for him and seems good to me.