Quote of the Day: Neil Armstrong


I recently saw the excellent new film Armstrong. Here’s a couple of quotes from it:

Post Apollo 11 Press Conference


Chill Out!


As a police officer, I often encountered people who were in crisis. In the police academy and elsewhere, we were given a wide array of tools and training to protect ourselves. Verbal de-escalation of people in crisis, not so much. Our mandate was “command presence,” to take charge of every situation we encountered. This, of course, resulted in all sorts of wacky hijinks.

Eventually, the PD brass realized that we needed to be a little more versatile in our approach to the people we were serving. The result was a block on police-community relations in our annual training. Officers disparagingly called these blocks “the flavor of the year,” since they seemed to change every time. One year it was something called “Signature Service.” One year it was “Verbal Judo,” which was pretty good but never had any followup or refresher training. One year, the first thing we were assigned to do was write down all of the derogatory names we could think of for people of different races, cultures, genders, etc. I turned in a blank sheet of paper. The lieutenant teaching the course got on me for that and I told her I would never put my name on a document containing such language; besides, I never used those words myself. I never got the point of this particular class.


Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens Dies at 99


Retired Justice John Paul StevensJohn Paul Stevens was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Gerald Ford, a Republican. Justice Stevens became a leader of the left wing of the court, and did not retire until a suitably leftist president could name his successor. In 2010, Stevens retired, allowing President Obama to select his replacement, Elena Kagan. Age 90 at his retirement, Stevens enjoyed nine years of retirement before his passing on Tuesday, July 16, 2019.

The New York Times is praising Stevens in its obituary, written entirely positively by Linda Greenhouse. Writing on the Supreme Court for 40 years, until retiring in 2008, she was credited with shifting Republican appointees left by her writing at the paper, created what has been called “the Greenhouse Effect.” She praises this Republican appointee for going all the way her way. Read her article and you will glimpse what an unaccountable official in black robes can do over a lifetime.


‘God Emperor of Dune’ Embodies the Greatness (and Strangeness) of the ‘Dune’ Universe


This December, the last Star Wars movie (probably) featuring any of the original series’ cast members will come out. Good riddance. Because in November 2020, the god-emperor of science fiction will reign supreme once more, as a new adaptation of Dune by Frank Herbert will come to theaters.

And I’ll be there, even though I’m a relatively new convert to Dune’s greatness. As a sci-fi- inhaling youngster, I was told that the two sci-fi books I had to read were Dune and Neuromancer by William Gibson. I bought them both at a Half-Price Books more than a decade ago…and did nothing with either of them until July 2016, when I finally made my way through Dune.* I liked what I read, and have been gradually working through the series since.


ACF #25: Hitchcock, I Confess


More summer viewings? Here’s my podcast with Eric Cook on Hitchcock’s Catholic movie, I Confess, about the conflict between justice and faith, public and private, secular law and holy men, police investigation and the seal of secrecy in confession.


Ilhan Omar Hates America. Why Doesn’t She Leave?


The national media, both the liberal and squishy NeverTrump varieties, are all aghast that President Trump tweeted recently that if certain unnamed Progressive Democrat Congresswomen dislike America so much then why don’t they leave. And then he said they should come back and tell us how to fix America, if they’re such experts. But most people are ignoring that part of the tweet because it doesn’t match their prejudices. No, instead, all we hear about is how racist Donald Trump. Racist, racist, racist. Blah, blah, blah.

I’m an immigrant to my small, rural town in New Hampshire. That is, I was born about 90 miles away, in Maine. (This is just how things are in New England. I’ll always be “from away.”) A couple of years ago I attended a hearing held by the town zoning board on whether to allow a self-storage facility to be built on a property previously zoned residential. The particulars aren’t important, but I spoke out against the special exception to the zoning ordinance that the property owner was seeking. During a break, the property owner’s brother-in-law approached me and loudly informed me that I “should wait until [I’d] lived here longer before opening [my] [expletive] mouth.”


Planned Parenthood President Terminated


Yesterday came the news that the President of Planned Parenthood, Dr. Leana Wen, was terminated after secret, closed-door conversations about the future of the organization, and how Wen’s perspective and advocacy factored into that vision:


David French on Native-Born Ingrates


David French has a new article on immigrants.

Immigrant citizens don’t owe a special debt of gratitude of to this nation — a debt over and above the gratitude that native-born citizens should feel for their home country. To be crystal clear, I believe Ilhan Omar and every citizen immigrant should be grateful for their place in this country. What I reject is the notion that native-born citizens like myself can demand a level of gratitude from immigrants beyond what we demand from native-born citizens.


Quote of the Day: Empowering the Poor


“Creating a separate set of moral standards according to socio-economic status is not an act of mercy. It is a crime against the poor. It is an abdication of our social duty to hold one another accountable. It is shameful that our self-styled elites are so afraid to preach the very secrets to success they so readily practice in their own lives.” — Arthur C. Brooks, Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America

It is a travesty that the Progressives, and some misguided on the Right, have conditioned those who are poor to believe their false doctrine. The poor learn from them that they are hostages of the culture, that they have little to no power to grow and improve themselves, that the white majority (substitute white supremacy) culture is determined to keep them down and impoverish them. I simply can’t reconcile the calls for compassion from the Left, with their arrogance about the ability of others to thrive in this great country. Their beliefs are so devastating to the soul.


For Sons Losing a Father


Reading Mr. Lileks’s Strib tribute to his father and hearing him on the Flagship pod, I was reminded of my own father’s passing. Grief that comes from the loss of a family member is always hard, but the separation of father and son is unique, at least in my experience.

My father died 29 years ago, and a number of friends offered wise advice that helped me through my grief. Here is the general advice I usually offer others whose fathers have died, not that Mr. Lileks needs any, but prompted by his experience:


Facebook, Google, and Amazon, Oh My!


I have a confession. I love Amazon, Google, and Facebook. I know they are supposed to annoy, perhaps even alarm, true-blue conservatives like me, with their monster presence on the web, their lefty owners, and their “spying” on us night and day. But I can’t help myself. I love ‘em.

In fact, I’m not overstating the case when I say that they have changed my life for the better. I kid you not. For the better. Oh, they haven’t cured my insomnia or improved my wife’s disposition — but better in most other ways.


Drug Pricing Made Easy


President Trump was both lucky and smart this week in his approach to the thorny issue prescription drug pricing. Lucky, because a district court threw out on First Amendment grounds his executive order that drug companies supply list prices for all the drugs that they produce. Smart, because at the eleventh hour he decided against issuing an executive order that would have required pharmaceutical companies to offer a system of “most-favored-nation” pricing, which would cap the prices that drug companies could charge in the United States to the lowest price charged for that drug in any country outside the United States. Eliminating poor price signals is a modest benefit. But the implementation of the executive order would have slashed revenues, putting pharmaceutical companies at serious financial risk and perhaps ruin.

The basic flaw behind both proposals is that they assume that there is a unique “price” at which pharmaceutical drugs sell. That assumption often works in competitive markets in which the costs of development are low relative to the marginal (i.e. additional) cost of production for each unit. But so-called marginal cost pricing does not work for new pharmaceutical drugs whose development costs are already high and getting ever higher. Companies are constantly researching and trying to develop new drugs with strong therapeutic properties and tolerable side effects. They also face huge costs in shepherding promising drugs through three stages of clinical trials, each one more complicated than the last. Many promising new drugs wash out in these clinical trials, which means that a pharmaceutical company can remain solvent only if its blockbuster drugs yield enough revenue to offset the costs of its duds. And finally, companies incur huge financing costs as they bring drugs to market. Development and clinical trials take years to complete, and drug companies have to find ways to finance expenditures made in year one with revenues that will only start, typically, some eight to 10 years later.


Ice After Fire: The Outpost Tavern


In the 1960s there was no hotter job in Texas than that of astronaut. If you were one of that elite crew, you were conquering space, getting there by riding a column of fire. With a job that hot, you needed to cool down after the workday was over. Fortunately, the astronauts were based in Houston and did most of their work there. They could take advantage of a Texas tradition: the ice house.

For those of you from more benighted regions, a Texas ice house is not just a place where you buy blocks of ice or which manufactures or stores ice. That is what folks mean when they talk about an ice house in some parts of America.


Salt Lake City Meetup and Associated Adventures


A handful of us went to SpikeCon, a large science fiction convention in Layton, UT, and had a Ricochet Meetup after the convention. But there was a lot more to the trip than that. Since @katiekoppelman lives near us, she rode along with my wife (Sarah) and me. We caught up with others along the way. The first day was just straight driving from Fargo, ND, to Sheridan, WY. When we went to supper, we saw that Sheridan has a lot of western- and wildlife-themed sculptures along the downtown sidewalks. Since it was raining a little after we got out of the restaurant, we decided to take some time to tour the sculpture scene the next morning before hitting the road.


The Constitution is Not a Straight-Jacket


This is just a quick hit post. I saw a headline on yet another court action to stop the Trump administration from doing something that most people assume is within his administrative power to do. And the thought occurred to me that while the Constitution is famously not a “suicide pact” neither is it supposed to be a “straight-jacket” to limit what most people consider fairly common sense and typical government activity.

I am a limited-government proponent, so a court action stopping government action is not per se offensive to my constitutional sensibilities. But the form of law-fare that we have seen over the last two-plus years by progressives both on and off the bench is beyond frustrating. I have had it, and I hope the electorate will emphatically disapprove of this sort of obstruction by progressives in the next election cycle.


A Slip Twixt the Cup and the Lip? [Updated]


dumpster fire tweetsThis is not good at all. President Trump unleashed a series of tweets that have cut short the story about Democrats self-destructing, making him and us the targets now. I don’t know how he’s going to dig himself out of his false claim that any of the “’Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen,” other than Ilhan Omar, came from another country.


Hungary Knows How to Stop Illegal Immigration


The Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, has been condemned as an autocrat-in-the making. Since taking power in 2010, he has begun to restrict freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Nevertheless, while he was here on an official visit with President Trump, our President praised him:

‘Viktor Orbán has done a tremendous job in so many different ways,’ Trump said before a private meeting with him in the Oval Office. ‘Probably, like me, a little bit controversial, but that’s okay … You’ve done a good job and you’ve kept your country safe.’


Have Fun Stormin’ the Air Force Base

Greeting the aliens, from the 1997 film, Contact.

The word has gone out (through a joke Facebook post) to swarm around Area 51 in the Nevada desert on September 20 and storm the gates of this no-longer-very-secret but still highly-classified US Air Force base. Several thousand respondents to the Facebook post may be taking the joke seriously because close to 1 million of these future Darwin Award recipients have pledged to show up. They want to finally see for themselves that the government has, for many years now, been harboring or preserving deceased extraterrestrial beings and their interstellar or intergalactic spacecraft, and also discover how the Air Force has learned how to build incredible new aircraft based on alien technology. Which is why we also have flying cars, Teflon, Velcro, Super Glue, and Mark Zuckerberg.

Surrounding any military base in the United States and storming its gates with the stated objective of overrunning it and invading it, is not a good idea. Military personnel have a duty to protect any military installation from being taken over. They do this by using deadly force, meaning that they point weapons that fire bullets at would-be invaders that will penetrate the bodies of said-invaders and kill them.


US Economy Might Be Growing Faster Than We Think


The economics team at Goldman Sachs has made another run at trying to determine whether official statistics are undermeasuring America’s rapidly evolving digital economy. The bank now believes even more strongly that “technological change is not fully reflected in the real output statistics.”

From a bottom-up perspective, there’s all that missing growth from free digital goods. From a top-down perspective, Goldman economists note that the “growth of domestically generated profits and incomes (GDI) is outpacing that of GDP, a departure from earlier decades” and that “US profits generated in tax havens totaled over $300bn in 2018, some of which represents unmeasured domestic production.”


Draining the Swamp: BLM HQ Leaving DC for Colorado


One reason DC is so swampy is that so many federal agencies are located there. A mid-level bureaucrat can move from HUD to State to Agriculture, spreading bureaucratic groupthink and red-tape-induced sclerosis as they go. A great way to break this paper-pushing cartel is to spread agencies around the nation, preferably closer to the citizens they claim to serve.

On Monday, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) announced a positive development on that front. The Bureau of Land Management will relocate its headquarters to Grand Junction, CO.


Technical Update


Many of you will have noticed that the site has been acting oddly since Friday. We’ve been having problems with our server configuration and unfortunately there has been some down time when the site was unavailable. I’m working on it and I apologize for the inconvenience.


You Are My Teachers


On a whim, I checked the number of posts I’ve made: 736! I’ve also made 16,236 comments. But the number that moves me the most is the number of posts promoted to the Main Feed: 400.

That last number suggests that I reflect on its significance. It means that I wrote many posts that many of you decided deserved extra attention. (Yes, it also means you might really like me! At least you might like my writing enough to read my post!)


You Are at War


Dear America,

The Pax Americana that has sheltered you from wars on your own soil has made you mind-numbingly stupid. So stupid, you are at war and don’t even know it.


Beware of Liberals Matching Action with Rhetoric


For months, liberals have been comparing the immigration situation at the border with the Holocaust. Just last week actress Alyssa Milano tweeted this image comparing Vice President Pence to Heinrich Himmler,


Why Capitalism?


Before we exchange the proven benefits of free markets for the Democrats’ promises of socialist utopia, it might be worth considering the things we’ll be giving up. My list follows. With what do you disagree? What would you add?

  • Free markets have pulled billions of people out of extreme poverty. In just the last few decades, the lives of hundreds of millions of Asians – mostly in China and India – were significantly improved when their countries free up their economies.
  • The environment in the capitalist west has improved significantly. Air and water quality are higher, and millions of acres of land have been reforested. The profit motive provides a strong incentive to use scarce resources to their best effect. Inefficiency is waste and waste is pollution.
  • Water and sewage treatment technology, largely invented in the west, has significantly extended people’s lives – not just in the west but globally.
  • Western medical breakthroughs, such as antibiotics, have also extended human lifespans globally.
  • The Green Revolution – heavily backed by the Ford and Rockefeller foundations and led by American agronomist Norman Borlaug – eliminated food shortages throughout the world. Today, famines are no longer caused by natural disasters but are almost exclusively man-made (see, for example, North Korea and Venezuela).
  • Foreign trade has eliminated any excuse for imperialism. As Adam Smith observed in The Wealth of Nations, conquering and maintaining control over foreign territory cost far more than can ever be extracted from that territory. During Japan’s conquest of Southeast Asia, for example, the Japanese found that they received fewer goods from the conquered areas than they had previously gotten through trade. People don’t produce as much at the point of a bayonet as they do when they benefit by their production.
  • Capitalism has raised women’s status to that of equality with men. In capitalist societies, brains are far more important than brawn, and women are more than capable of competing with men in that realm.
  • Capitalism has largely eliminated the need for child labor. Child labor was a fact of life throughout most of human history. One man using a stick for a plow simply couldn’t produce enough food to feed a family. Children worked or they, and perhaps their families, starved. In the west, laws against child labor were passed only after the practice had all but ended.
  • Children were exploited terribly in countries that tried to outlaw child labor before their people were productive enough to support so many idle hands (and mouths). Children still had to work to eat, but they had to do so surreptitiously without any protection from the law.
  • Free markets have so increased human productivity that, in western countries, mere day-to-day survival is no longer the central focus of life.
  • Innovation sparked by the profit motive has placed the world’s knowledge at our fingertips.