18 Oct 2019

Why I Now Support Trump

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Guys like George Will and Bill Kristol ought to read this USAToday article and wake up.

All Andy Johnson wanted to do was build a pond.

Andy, a welder, and his wife, Katie, have four girls and a small farm in Wyoming, and they needed a place for their horses and cattle to drink and graze.

Working with state engineers, Andy and Katie spent hours, as well as most of their savings, constructing the pond, filling it with filtered water, providing a habitat for trout, ducks, herons, moose and bald eagles.

Approximately two years later, the project came to a screeching halt when bureaucrats from the Environmental Protection Agency knocked on Johnson’s door, informing him that, by building a pond on his own property without their permission, he had violated the Clean Water Act.

And so began a years-long back and forth between Johnson and the EPA, with Johnson presenting documentation from the state showing that his stock pond was exempt from the Clean Water Act and studies that showed his pond provided positive environmental benefits. The EPA, however, claimed that the rocks, sand and concrete Johnson used to create the dam and spillway were pollutants.

And the EPA — an agency in possession of armed enforcement — was not about to let Johnson live peacefully with his pond. He had 90 days to rip out the pond and fill it in or be subject to $16 million in fines.

Though he likely didn’t know it, Johnson was in good company.

In 2007, Mike and Chantell Sackett were threatened by the EPA with $75,000 a day in fines for trying to build a house on their own property, across the road and 500 feet away from Priest Lake in Idaho.

Charles Johnson, a Massachusetts cranberry farmer, spent millions of dollars fighting the agency for 22 years for the right to farm his own land. He finally settled in 2012, at the age of 80.

Kevin Lunny lost his family’s oyster company in California when the Department of the Interior granted itself limitless discretion to reissue the required permit and argued that Lunny didn’t have the right to sue.

In Alaska, the Army Corps of Engineers denied Richard Schok the ability to expand his pipe fabrication business when they claimed that permafrost — the subsurface layer of soil that remains frozen throughout the year — was actually a wetland.

All of these cases share a common feature: They arose from unelected bureaucrats making completely selective decisions about how a law should be interpreted and enforced, without the oversight or input of Congress or the public.

In bureaucrat-speak, these decisions are often referred to as “guidance documents” or “advisory opinions” and represent an agency’s way of “interpreting” regulations and statutes.

But unlike formal regulations, guidance documents simply arise from an agency’s whim. There is no transparent process with statutory requirements for ample legal justifications, cost benefit analysis and a process for public comment and assessment.

Rather, agency bureaucrats simply decide that a policy will exist, and then will it to life. They are then free to enforce it on unsuspecting Americans, who often have little clue that such a document or policy even exists.

The subjective, secretive nature of the process has led one critic to deem it “regulatory dark matter.”

This “government by memo” is how the Obama administration effectively mandated that colleges lower the burden of proof in sexual assault tribunals on their campuses in 2011.

Two years later, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued a bulletin informing that auto lenders would be liable for racial discrimination based on the makeup of their lending portfolios.

In 2015, the Department of Labor upended the entire labor market with a blog post announcing it was now classifying some independent contractors as full-time employees.

This type of murky, unclear, bureaucrat-driven style of regulating is exactly what Americans fear from the administrative state. It is, essentially, bullying by the government. Indeed, in the Sackett case, the EPA claimed the couple did not even have the right to challenge the agency’s finding in court. (The Supreme Court unanimously reversed the agency in 2012.)

The Trump administration is taking welcome steps to stop the bureaucratic bullying. With the signing of two executive orders last week, the administration is requiring that these guidance documents be subject to transparent formulation and notice before enforcement. Critically, these orders also make sure ordinary Americans have the ability to challenge the government’s determination against them.

RTWT

18 Oct 2019

Interview with Lee Child

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Crime Reads interviews Lee Child on sequels and ghost writer successors.

I knew it was serious when he offered to pour me a mug of black coffee. We wandered into the kitchen and he refilled the coffee machine.

‘For the first time, I’m actually worried.’

‘About?’

‘Sales, obviously. We’ve got the new Stieg and the new Franzen coming out at the same time. It’s going to be tough.’

Lee had written a very fair and balanced review of The Girl in the Spider’s Web (by David Lagercrantz)—the Stieg Larsson sequel—for the New York Times (and kindly sent me a preview). Thoughtful. Shrewd. Pros and cons. ‘I thought your review was very fair and balanced,’ I said.

‘What I really wanted to do was to kill it. Stomp on it. Like a cockroach. It’s competition. I had to grit my teeth not to trash it totally.’

I sort of wondered what he thought of Jonathan Franzen. His name came up from time to time but I realized I didn’t know what he thought of his writing as opposed to the myth and the hype. And I wasn’t about to find out either.

RTWT

I suspect Lee Child does not read Jonathan Franzen.

Blue Moon, the next Reacher novel comes out October 29th.

I read the Reacher books. They’re obviously not great art. I’d say they are not even really great thrillers. The plotting is often creaky. The conspiracies are not terribly plausible. And Reacher’s “I-want-to-wander-the-land-owning-nothing” shtick is absurd. But the fights are good, Reacher is a satisfying action hero, and they mostly satisfactorily entertain. I’m the kind of person who will read just about everything, and I find Lee Child’s books worth picking up.

Better Lee Child than that pretentious ass Franzen.

18 Oct 2019

Hellbender with Water Snake

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BBC: A Hellbender salamander holds a northern water snake in its jaws in this photo taken in Tennessee’s Tellico River. David Herasimtschuk says the snake eventually managed to escape after wrestling with North America’s largest aquatic salamander.

17 Oct 2019

The Oubliette in Leap Castle

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Leap Castle, Coolderry, County Offaly, Ireland

Any well-equiped caste ought to have among its conveniences an oubliette.

An oubliette (etymology: French, from oublier, “to forget”) is a small bottle-shaped dungeon, usually concealed under a trap-door. The traditional oubliette has a round bottom and is too small for a prisoner either to stand or lie down with comfort. With the trap-door closed, the oubliette is also sound-proof.

One merely arranges for one’s unwanted guests to walk over the unlocked and ready trap-door, and voilà! the inconvenience may be forgotten.

The oubliette is the sort of colorful medieval artifact that strikes the modern reader as a good story, but probably just a story.

However, it turns out that at least one oubliette was only too real, the one in Ireland’s Leap Castle, home of the wicked O’Carrolls.

Wikipedia:

During renovation of the castle in the 1900’s, workers found an oubliette behind a wall in the chapel. At the bottom of the shaft were many human skeletons amassed on wooden spikes. When cleaned out, it took three cartloads to remove the bones. Today, the dungeon is now covered over in order to keep people away from it. It is believed that the O’Carrolls would drop guests through the trap door to be impaled on the spikes 8 feet below. A pocket watch found at the same time, dating from the mid 1800’s, shows how recently the oubliette may have been used.

BWW Books:

They emptied out the oubliette at Leap Castle in Ireland in the 1920s and discovered remains from over 150 people.

Photo of Leap Castle Oubliette here

17 Oct 2019

Harvard Band Members Walk Out Following an Alumn’s Joke

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The Crimson won’t even tell us what he actually said.

Understandably. All those little millennial snowflakes melt whenever any old, white male says something transgressive and un-PC.

But, cheer up, the alumnus did grovel and confess his Speech Crime in the end. I guess he’ll just get a bit of political reeducation, they won’t have to harvest his organs after all.

More than 70 members of the Harvard Band walked out of a banquet celebrating the group’s centennial Saturday after an alumnus joked about the group’s decision to implement a sexual harassment policy.

At the banquet, former band member Richard “Rich” D. Horn ’72 began his speech with a joke about the group’s decision to implement the policy, which undergraduates distributed to alumni ahead of the reunion. As Horn continued to speak, roughly 75 attendees left the room, according to an emailed statement by the band’s senior staff. Many of those who walked out did not return for the remainder of the event.

Horn wrote in an email that he regrets that others interpreted his remarks as a criticism of the policy, which provides band members with a formal disclosure system to report incidences of sexual misconduct, according to a copy of the policy obtained by The Crimson.

“I sympathize with the frustration of decades of Band women in dealing with sexism both in the Band and elsewhere. I strongly support the Band’s sexual harassment policy and did not mean to imply otherwise,” he wrote. “I deeply regret any implication to the contrary. This is an issue on which emotions understandably and rightly run high, and I ought to have known better. Hopefully, I will do better in any future occasion.”

A separate speaker had also joked about the sexual harassment policy before Horn, according to the band’s staff. That speaker later apologized for his remarks, the band wrote in its statement.
After some attendees left the room, Harvard Band Foundation president Camaron “Cammie” S. O’Connor Wynn ’94 made an impromptu speech apologizing for the disruption, according to the band. O’Connor Wynn wrote in an email that band leadership, including both undergraduates and alumni, sought to address concerns about Horn’s comments both during and after the banquet.

“Attempts at humor by two brief (not primary) alumni speakers at our 100th reunion banquet touched on the Band’s sexual misconduct policy as a policy — in the sense of the necessity of censoring one’s own speech to fit with the new policy,” O’Connor Wynn wrote.
The Band’s senior staff wrote in an emailed statement that the sexual harassment policy previously caused controversy in the band’s alumni Facebook group when some alumni questioned the need for such a policy. The staff wrote that some alumni had written in the chat that the policy was “in contrast to the spirit of the band that they had known in their time.”

Band manager Lucaian Al-Tariq ’20 sent the emailed statement to The Crimson. Drill master Reese Garcia ’21, student conductor Marcos B. Cecchini ’21, drum major and Crimson multimedia editor Mariah E. D. Dimalaluan ’20, social chair Selket R. Jewett ’21, reunion manager Jessica D. Bishai ’20, and assistant reunion manager Jessica A. Boutchie ’21 also signed the statement.

“[M]uch has changed even within the past decade,” they wrote. “The jokes that were made may express discomfort in confronting this change; older alumni may have been surprised to see just how much the structure and nature of the Band have changed over time.”
“Both their discomfort and the reactions of the undergrads exemplify how deeply all generations of bandies care for this organization, despite its changes,” they added.

17 Oct 2019

4-meter (13-foot) King Cobra Captured in Thai Sewer

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BBC

16 Oct 2019

Millennial Snowflakes Puzzled and Bummed Out Over Unequal Treatment of People Without Money

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Harvard has a traditional Fall Clean-Up, in which freshman student employees arrive early to make a few bucks tiding up Harvard’s residential houses in preparation for the arrival of the entire undergraduate student body.

Although cleaning dormitory rooms and bathrooms is work, Harvard tries to put an element of fun into it as well.

What is Fall Clean-Up?

For more than sixty years, Dorm Crew has welcomed Harvard first-years to campus for our annual Fall Clean-Up (FCU). Created in 1951, Dorm Crew is a student employment and leadership program that is entirely managed and operated by Harvard undergraduates. Today, Dorm Crew offers employment opportunities, leadership development, advising resources, and pre-orientation programing to more than 800 students annually. Each year, 300 incoming first-years join FCU to have fun and work hard while cleaning and preparing the dorms for student move-in. Throughout the week, students will have the opportunity to explore and engage with Harvard’s campus and community through various planned events. …

Year after year, students have found Fall Clean-Up to be a rewarding experience that offers a great community of friends and provides an unrivaled introduction to the diversity of the Harvard community, the aged beauty of Harvard’s student residences, and the vibrant life of Harvard Square. Under the guidance of our upperclassman captains, we aim to deliver a Fall Clean-Up experience that truly orients students to what life at Harvard is all about.

Some alumni report that they enjoyed the experience:

As I reflect back on my life, that first week or two of freshman year, with the bonding with my fellow freshman Dorm Crew members, was an extraordinary stress reliever as we found out about each other and that we were all scared to death that Harvard had made a mistake admitting each one of us! I will never forget those initial few weeks in Cambridge.” —Ray Peters ’69

“I loved FCU because I met some of my best friends at Harvard and found a community that has been really important to me throughout my time in college.”
—Sarah E. Lagan ‘19

—————————

But the Harvard Crimson staff stroked its collective chin, and decided there was a PROBLEM here.

Oh, migod! Who would have imagined? Not everyone at Harvard is rich, some people are there on scholarship and need to take jobs in order to earn money. Everyone is not the same. It just isn’t fair!

Bedford felt out of place, just as the sight of trash in Murdock’s sink left him feeling neglected by the University. From the beginning, Bedford and Murdock felt that the University deemed them different from their peers.

It took Bedford some time to pinpoint exactly why he felt alienated. Amidst meeting other students and recovering from jetlag, he did not look around and think, “Oh, we’re all here because we’re poor and we need money.” At the time, he says he “had no conception of the” — here, his voice lowers in emphasis — “disparity that is present on this campus between rich and poor.” But shortly into his time at Harvard, he began to reconsider the way Fall Clean-Up functions: It distinguishes between the students who need to earn quick money for school supplies and those who do not.

Many of the students who end up participating in FCU would have liked to do other programs. “What turned me off about FUP at the time wasn’t what it was, but what it wasn’t. And it wasn’t a program that paid me,” Ibrahim says. “Fall Clean-Up gave me dollars, and I needed that.”

During pre-orientation, some students can afford to do what they love. Others don’t have that luxury.

I’ve noticed the exact same problem in life after college. If you want something, if you want a home with electricity, heat, and in-door plumbing, you actually have to get a job and work to pay for all of it.

16 Oct 2019

“Yikes!”

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Picture taken in China’s Qilian Mountains by Yongqing Bao has earned him the top prize in the 2019 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

I’m afraid the marmot did not make it. BBC

15 Oct 2019

PG&E Warned Customers That It Would Cut Power to Nearly 2 Million People Across Northern California,

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15 Oct 2019

Harold Bloom, 11 July 1930 — 14 October 2019

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Harold Bloom, Yale Sterling Professor of English, author of 40 books, and defender of the Western canon died yesterday at age 89.

Some Twitter comments on his death:

Michael Kimmerman:

Armed with a photographic memory, Professor Bloom could recite acres of poetry by heart — by his account, the whole of Shakespeare, Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” all of William Blake, the Hebraic Bible and Edmund Spenser’s monumental “The Fairie Queen.”

———————

Alexandra Brodsky:

Never speak ill of the dead, like Harold Bloom, who told my American lit seminar that we should feel free to report his sexism and homophobia to the university president who, Bloom explained, would rather hide under his desk than fire him.

———————

Anne Applebaum:

Harold Bloom was once asked why he was writing a multi-volume history of literary theory. “I can’t sleep anyway,” he said.

———————

In 1999, Emmy Chang of the Yale Free Press interviewed Professor Bloom, and got a good sample of Bloom talk.

YFP. In the Shakespeare book you mention that since Shakespeare, we’ve taken more after Iago than Othello’we’ve learned more from Iago. And I wanted to ask you if you thought that was Shakespeare’s fault or if it was our fault.

HB. That question’s unanswerable because we have been so formed by Shakespeare. That I think is the irony of [the Tenure Action Coalition]’the words they use are frequently words that he invented, that weren’t in the language until he coined them. I think that it was Owen Barfield who said that it can be positively humiliating for us to realize that what we want to call our emotions, turn out to be Shakespeare’s thoughts. Shakespeare is the Canon because Shakespeare is ourselves, and the answer therefore to the question of, Is the way in which we’ve imitated Iago our fault or Shakespeare’s fault, is both. I’m not sure that until you have the representation you call Hamlet, that you have anywhere, (in any language I’m able to read anyway), someone who changes every time he or she speaks, and who does it by this weird thing of overhearing oneself, which I can’t find before Shakespeare. But if you’re really going to talk about Shakespeare’s culpability’so far as I can tell, Shakespeare invented what Nietzsche, and Dostoevsky, and others afterwards started to call nihilism. It’s a pure Shakespearean invention.

YFP. [I wondered] whether you think the people who say that Shakespeare has nothing to say to them’whether it’s just a question of their being unwilling to listen, or if it’s actually possible that they can’t hear.

HB. Let me tell you an anecdote. As part of the early manifestation of [the Cornell Revolution of ‘68-‘69], the black students of the university were instructed by their leadership to go into the library stacks and bring out as many books as they could carry and just dump them on the front circulation desk with the dramatic statement, ‘These books are irrelevant to me as a black student.’ And it so happened [that] I was trying to check out a book at just that moment, when a young lady dumped a huge armful of books right next to me and shouted, ‘These books are irrelevant to me as a black student.’ And one slid over to me’it was the Oxford edition of the Collected Poems of John Keats. And I said to the young lady, who scowled at me, ‘Are you quite sure that the poetry of John Keats is irrelevant to you? Have you read any of the poems of Keats?’ And she looked at me angrily and repeated, ‘These books are irrelevant to me as a black student,’ and off she marched. So. But what can I possibly say to that? That’s ideological, isn’t it? To arrive here and say that it’s your function to obliterate the best that has been read, the best that has been thought and said, in thirty centuries. They should go somewhere else. If they really think Shakespeare is irrelevant to them, why do they want to go to a university anyway? To get a union card of some kind?

YFP. You said before that we read to learn to talk to ourselves.

HB. I am not, as you know, a Shakespeare scholar, just an enthusiast…I assume that reading Shakespeare with the whole intensity of your being and with your awakened mind, with all of you, it’s bound to be a kind of training in consciousness. I assume that that is as good a way of awakening that [inner] spark, of lighting it up, or of making that pneuma, that breath, come faster, and stronger, than any other. [It] doesn’t necessarily make you a better person, [but it] certainly [makes] you a more capacious soul than you were already. I really feel that I can teach a more or less receptive and sensitive Yale undergraduate how enormous a work Shakespeare’s Hamlet is… You can teach people’you can open them to wonder. To more wonder. Which is what Shakespeare is for. I talked [in Shakespeare] about awe as being the proper response. Maybe the really proper response is wonder.

HT: John Brewer.

15 Oct 2019

ANTIFA Picks on the Wrong Senior Citizen

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A commenter says:

“[The old man] is a good friend of mine. He is a disabled Vietnam veteran and confined to a wheelchair. The audio was taken from a video from the Berkeley free speech protests. Despite being in a wheelchair, he stood up to a bunch of young agitators that tried to push him around and pour bottles of water and called him unamerican.”

14 Oct 2019

Left Freaking Out Over 2018 Parody Video

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The entire media Left is clutching its pearls and shrieking with outrage over this sill “Kingsman” parody video showing Trump slaughtering his media enemies. I thought it was kind of fun in a pleasantly transgressive way myself.

Hey, libs, isn’t “transgressive-ness” one of the absolutely best artistic values? If it is important that we fund putting the crucifix in a bottle of the artist’s urine and making a statue of the Virgin Mary out of elephant dung, doesn’t that mean the makers of this video deserve a huge grant from the National Endowment for the Arts?

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