Best of the End of April

1.Yale grad students go on a hunger strike. After earlier efforts to get Yale to start collective bargaining proved unsuccessful, eight hardy souls took the brave step of going on a hunger strike. But this isn’t just a regular hunger strike — it’s a “symbolic” hunger strike! Do you know what that means, outside of the cloistered walls of Yale?

It means that they can eat. Yes, they’re on a hunger strike that doesn’t actually involve getting hungry. Because they can freaking eat! During a hunger strike!!

In a slick video – it’s in black and white, and is underlaid with a poignant piano accompaniment, so you know that these noble folks are SERIOUS – one English major (can you believe it?) named Lukas Moe says, “I hope that the fast will convey the urgency of the situation.” Oh, I’m sure it will, Moe. (And feel free to insert your own Curly and Larry jokes here.) Because nothing conveys earth-shaking urgency like near martyrs standing up for what they believe in, By Any Means Necessary… until they get slightly peckish.

I know that we live in a cynical age, but my hat’s off to those Ivy League Nelson Mandelas; they’ve learned that simply by sticking the word “symbolic” in front of another word, you can accrue all of the moral rewards with absolutely no sacrifice. I picture a bunch of undergrads on the quad, one-upping each other:

“I’ve taken a vow of symbolic poverty, you know.”
“But don’t you have a trust fund?”
“Yes, I’m rolling in dough. But I’m symbolically poor.”

“Did I mention that I’ve take a vow of symbolic chastity?”
“You’ve really sworn off women?”
“What? No! I mean, most women won’t have anything to do with me, because I’ve got less testosterone than a post-surgery Caitlyn Jenner. But whenever I can find one who isn’t totally repulsed by the sight of me, I’m all over her like a cheap suit.”
“But you’re still symbolically chaste, right? Sweet!”

“Guys, did I mention I’m a symbolic vegetarian?”
“Isn’t that barbecue sauce on your chin?”
“Yes it is. Why?”

It’s true what they say: those Yale kids are smart!
But you know who’s even smarter? That’s right: me.

Because I am a free market capitalist, and all of this has given me a brilliant idea for a new business. I’m going to buy a fleet of food trucks, and I’m going to dispatch them from Stately Simpson Manor to every Ivy League campus in the nation, where they’ll earn me millions of dollars… wait for it… catering all-you-can-eat hunger strikes!

I’ve already got my corporate logo: it’s a raised fist, holding a hot dog, over the motto, “Have a little relish with your Resistance!”

2. Speaking of precious, morally preening goofballs, you’ve probably read that ex-President Obama – and oh, the joy that that tiny prefix “ex-“ gives me – is going to take $400K to give a speech. Now some might accuse the famous class warrior of hypocrisy, citing his off-teleprompter gaffe (i.e. a time when he accidentally told the truth about his world view), “I mean, I do think at a certain point, you’ve made enough money.” But to be fair to him, he did say that at some point YOU’VE made enough money – he didn’t say that HE’S made enough money. Because he obviously hasn’t, yet.

But let’s give the guy a break. I mean, if he wants to take a ton of cash for speaking to some morally admirable group, like the Shriners, or St. Jude’s, or–

What’s that, you say? He’s not speaking to one of those groups, but to a Wall Street group?

Well, that must be one of those selfless, non-profit Wall Street groups that funds old folks’ homes and orphanages, right?

What? Cantor Fitzgerald? Huh. I’ll bet he’s really going to give those fat cats hell. And then he’s going to hammer than $400K check. He’s symbolically morally consistent, isn’t he?

3. The feel-good story of the spring, which CO in his wisdom has
already linked to: murderous ISIS scumbags are preparing to ambush more innocent people. For their hiding place, they’ve chosen a reedy area in Iraq. Also sharing that reedy area: a small herd of wild boars.

Now apparently the word had gotten around in the porcine community about how jihadis believe that all pigs and pig-adjacent animals are filthy, unclean creatures. Anyway, the smelly animals are surprised by the stampeding wild boars (HA!), who kill 3 jihadis and badly injure 5 others.

Would you think less of me if I admitted that I like to imagine the boars catching the jihadis from behind in a full gallop, their sharp tusks leading the way into what I like to call a “Mesopotamian Deliverance” move? (In the video, which I imagine in black and white, a lonesome banjo begins to play in the distance, as Uday and Qusay look back over their shoulders, then at each other in confusion, and then terror.)

4. In a bid for “Worst Broadcast Presentation Ever” – move over, Amy Schumer’s“Let Me Tell You How Physically Repulsive I Am” comedy special, and Rachel Maddow’s “Donald Trump’s Non-Scandalous Tax Returns” comedy special — Bill Nye, the alleged science guy, inexplicably has a new series on Netflix. And that series is gouge-your-eyes-out awful.

Is it rude of me to point out that Bill Nye is not actually a scientist? He got a BA in mechanical engineering decades ago, and he wore a lab coat and handled beakers on a kid’s show. So that makes him a scientist.

By comparison, I don’t like to brag, but I took eighth grade science twice, and thus I can go on and on about how nanoplankton and phytoplankton are mortal enemies. And if you’ll look at the second page of my CV, you’ll see that I spent a lot of lab time in high school working on inventing either an invisibility formula or X-ray glasses. And yet no one ever called me “Martin, the Science Guy.” They just said, “Get away from the girls’ locker room, you Clinton-esque creep.”

Anyway, if you can watch just one segment of Bill Nye’s horrible program – and believe me, if you value your sanity, that is the MOST you can watch of it – google a little ditty called, “My Sex Junk.” And prepare to be dazzled by what we can only pray is meant to be funny.

The “song” starts out with the immortal line, “This one goes out to all my bipeds who identify as ladies,” and then – in a feat of lyrical gymnastics that I would not have believed possible – goes downhill from there.

You’ve got to see it to believe it, because no description can do it justice. Would it help if I told you that it has an Asian lady dressed like a seahorse playing keyboards? Or lyrics that mention French dirigible Gerard Depardieu? Or suggestive imagery that will make you want to Caitlyn yourself? It’s all of that and more. But don’t say that you weren’t warned.

On the other hand, for those of you who remember when rap music was all “n” words and misogyny, this video will make you pine for those golden days of yore.

And on behalf of modern Western culture, let me address the emperors of Rome’s late decadent period: You remember when we used to condemn you for your decadence – for the drunken orgies, and having relations with your siblings, and making your horse the Pope? Never mind.

5. Finally, new DNC head Tom Perez is turning out to be quite the little slice of sweetness and light, isn’t he? Winning his position mostly because his main competition was a Farrakhan-loving anti-semite loon, getting booed by those who should be his base in favor of a 128-year old socialist, constantly swearing in public.

Then comes his latest “big tent” masterstroke of telling all pro-life Democrats that they’re not welcome in the party.

Because nothing will help the Dems reach out to those God-fearing blue collar types in the middle of the country – where Hillary got stomped like a fat guy at Altamonte (hat tip to Dennis Miller) – like excommunicating everyone who’s not down with the Gosnell approach to population control.

The best thing he has going for him is that almost no one in the country other than politics geeks know who he is. So I would like to be the first to make a contribution to the “Perez for Prez in 2020” campaign. Sure, it’s going to be a symbolic contribution – you know, the kind that doesn’t involve giving him any actual money. But I will humbly offer him two potential slogans, both of which are definitely better than “I’m with Her!”:

“We hate you, rest of the Country.” Or “Vote for us, you deplorable bigots!”

Best of Mid-April

1.I always appreciate a lampooning of someone who deserves it, and this month I read just such a written mauling. The author was someone called T.A. Frank, the article was, “Please God, Stop Chelsea Clinton from Whatever She is Doing,” and the publication was (mirabile dictu) Vanity Fair. If you like good snark, well delivered, you should read that article.

I can only add a few other thoughts:

First, I generally like to blame Chelsea for nothing, because she had a horrible childhood at the hands of absolutely terrible parents. But she’s 37 now, so c’mon.

Second, how bad must Chelsea be, to drive a leftist writer in Vanity Fair to openly invoke the Deity in the title of an article about her? I know that it’s used ironically, but still.

Third, Mr. Frank, you’ve got to cut out the T.A thing, and just use your name. You must not have heard of Simpson’s Law of Initials (which I am just now making up), which states that people who use their initials usually have terrible names.

Great writer C.S. Lewis’s parents stuck him with “Clive Staples.” The Cummings family – not satisfied with the surname that their son was already going to suffer with – nailed him with “Edward Estlin.” (He was so badly beaten up throughout grade school that even as an adult, he never regained the ability to use capital letters. True story.) I knew an old guy who went by A.M, and that made perfect sense when I later learned that his name was Ambrose Marvin. Ouch.

On the other side of the ledger: Oklahoma quarterback and later GOP politician J.C. Watts? Julius (freaking) Caesar – I am not making that up. He should have never used those initials, because nothing could be cooler than answering your kindergarten roll call with a hearty “Here!” when your teacher called out a Roman emperor’s name. If my parents had blessed me with “Marcus Aurelius Simpson,” do you think I would be going by M.A.? I would not.

Anyway, T.A., if you use those initials, you are risking that we’re all distracted, imagining terrible names that are probably worse than your real name. Like Theodore Aloysius.

Ugh! I couldn’t help myself, and I tried to Google his name, and can’t find it anywhere. Now I’m going to obsess over it. Tenuous Alvin? Thelonius Asperger? (Although “Thelonius” is now eternally cool, since Monk.)

Anyway, Thaddeus Acclimate writes a hell of an article, and you should read it.

My favorite part was a small bit from Chelsea’s book It’s Your World, in which she is quoted thusly: “My mom wouldn’t let me have sugary cereal growing up (more on that later)…” Have you ever read a less enticing use of parentheses? Can you picture anyone reading that line and screaming in frustration, “Later? How can I wait?! You don’t just toss out a tease like that and then leave us hanging!”

On the other hand, if she had said, “My mom wouldn’t let me have my girlfriends over for slumber parties when dad was in town (more on that later)…?” Now I’m hooked. I’m flipping through pages in a blur like the meth just kicked in, scanning random pages before I desperately tear into the appendix, looking for “slumber party.”

2. Laughable MSM bias, exhibit # 11 million. When a racist terrorist murders three random bystanders in Fresno CA, the AP story quoted him as shouting “God is great,” before the killings. But he didn’t say that. What he said was, “Allahu akbar.” Can you detect the subtle difference there? No? Then you might have the makings of a MSM reporter.

Obligatory caveat: I know that most Muslims are fine people, and very few of them go on killing sprees in the name of their religion. But does anyone think we are doing anybody any long-term good by pretending to not notice which group has a killing spree problem?

If I were in charge of students in J-school and at the police academy – and I think we can all agree that I should be – I’d make a condition of graduation taking a one-question common sense quiz:

You get a call to a violent attack in your town. The attacker is said to have driven a truck into pedestrians, or used a pipe bomb or an AK 47 or a machete in his attack, and early reports are that he was screaming something at the top of his lungs while he did so. Is it more likely that he was screaming:

A. Jesus loves me, THIS I KNOW!
B. Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I MADE IT OUT OF CLAY!
C. That government is best which GOVERNS LEAST!

Anybody who ponders the question for more than 2 seconds fails. (And takes an executive position with the AP, sadly.)

3. Speaking of the media, a Washington Post/ABC poll shows that if the last presidential election were held today, Trump would beat Hillary, including in the popular vote. I’m not sure how much stock to put in such a poll – it’s a hypothetical, and election losers always lose support in the aftermath – but it certainly undercuts the MSM narrative that Trump is plummeting in the polls, he’s disappointed his base, his defeat in 2020 is a foregone conclusion, etc.

But I love the poll just because it makes me think about all of those lefties sitting around the Post, realizing that they’d commissioned this poll, and they were going to have to publish it. If ever a situation cried out for the Hitler-screaming-at-his-generals from Downfall meme, this one is it!

4. Ossoff doesn’t quite win. Pajama Boy is all grown up – or as grown up as he’s going to get, anyway — and he’s running for congress. The Dems pony up over $8 million, a bunch of celebrities throw in their support – because that always works! – but the empty suit wunderkind comes up short of the majority he needed, which means that he’ll likely lose to the GOP nominee in June.

The best part of the story? When Ossoff talked to the press, he called his almost-not-losing – and I am not making this quote up – “A victory for the ages!”

Call me crazy, but that phrase makes me think of many events — Cannae (Hannibal vs. the Romans), Austerlitz (Napoleon versus everybody else), Vienna (Christian Europe v. Muslim Ottomans), or Gettysburg (Lincoln’s Republicans vs. slaveholding Democrats).

You know what battle I DON’T think of? Unknown metrosexual vs. a dozen unknown Republicans that results in a run-off for a Georgia House seat. But I guess the Dems need to take their victories where they can get them. Which is somewhere other than Georgia, apparently. Cue the sad trombone.

5. The UN votes Saudi Arabia onto the Women’s Rights Commission. Ugh. I think we all know what should happen next, right? Nikki Haley marches into their chambers, her stilettos echoing on the marble floors, cracking a whip over her head as her dark eyes flash angrily… Um, that is what we were all thinking, right? No? It’s just me? Fine.

So let’s just get straight to The Simpson Method of Determining Membership on a Women’s Rights Commission (copyright now, by me) which involves asking the applicants three wickedly subtle questions:

1. Are the women in your country not allowed to drive a car?
2. Are gay women in your country stoned to death?
3. Are women who are raped in your country then stoned to death?

Anyone who answers “yes” to any of those questions does NOT get onto the Women’s Rights Commission. Problem solved, and you’re welcome.

6. When it comes to Trump’s Wall, I thought I’d heard every possible leftist objection: it’s racist, it’s Not Who We Are, it’s expensive, it’s not gluten free, etc.

But this month, some “scientists” pointed out a new problem, which the MSM then picked up with gusto: it will harm various migratory animal species. I have to admit that I hadn’t thought about that, and at first blush it certainly seemed plausible, and as an animal lover, that bothered me. Until I read that those soon-to-be-devastated creatures included “108 species of migratory birds.”

Now it’s been a long time since I won that Nobel Prize in Ornithology – bilingual ornithology, if I can be allowed to toot my own horn — and I haven’t kept up on recent developments in the field. But if I remember correctly, many birds can fly.

Sure, a few can’t. You’ve got your chickens, your ostriches, your emi. (Not many non-ornithologists know that the proper Latin plural of “emu” is “emi.” Again, you’re welcome.)

But are those leftist Chicken Littles (HA!) really expecting us to believe that there are hundreds of bird species out there who migrate ON FOOT?

They will stop at nothing to tug at our heartstrings, and I’ve got to admit that that PSA almost writes itself: Sarah McLaughlin sings softly in the background, while endless hordes of bedraggled birds trudge along through scorching sand, wincing at every step, until they bonk into a big black wall that looks like Sauron built it. Then they stack up like cordwood at the base, quacking and bleating and making whatever other sounds they make (I didn’t really get a Nobel in Ornithology), while Trump and Ryan laugh from atop the wall as they start to tip over huge cauldrons of boiling oil onto the hapless birds.

And not for the first time do I wish that Sam Kinison was still with us, because you know that he’d bust into the middle of that PSA and start berating the birds: “Have you been WALKING across this freaking desert? Really?! Your feet have either tiny claws or webs on them – doesn’t that tell you something? I’ve got an idea: how about you USE YOUR WINGS!! They’re right there on your backs. FLAP THEM! OH! OOOHHHH!”

We miss you, Sam. We don’t miss Harry Reid, or Obama, or Hillary. But we miss you.

First 3 Months of Trump

It’s traditional by now to make a big deal out of a new president’s first 100 days. To get a 10 day jump on those other pundits, I’m going to pick an equally arbitrary number – today marks his first 3 months in office – to give Trump an early grade.

I’m breaking down my take to the Good, the Bad and the Ugly (copyright 50 years ago, by Sergio Leone). (And if you haven’t seen that movie, what’s wrong with you? Men a-bed in America tonight should hold their manhoods cheap if they haven’t seen that Eastwood gem. In fact, you could do worse – manhood-wise – than to spend a chunk of your life immersed in all things Shakespeare and Eastwood, with some Walter Payton and Johnny Cash thrown in.)

Where was I? Oh yeah. In reverse order:

Trump: the Ugly

Put aside the obvious jokes about the hair – that’s beneath us all.

One of the two main things about Trump that continually grate on me involves his style: his unserious, immature vulgarity and semi-vulgarity. The Access Hollywood interview is probably the archetypal example, but others are sadly easy to find, on an almost daily basis.

The latest example: when he recounted his decision to fire the missiles at Syria, he described how he was having dinner with Chinese leader Xi (and by the way, China, nice going with the names. You do realize you’ve chosen the Roman numeral for “eleven” as your top guy, right?), he spent more time on how great the chocolate cake was (It was beautiful, the best chocolate cake ever, believe me.) than on the fact that he ordered a missile strike.

At least once a week he says something that’s crudely phrased enough that I face palm myself; at this pace, if he wins a second term, I’m going to finish 2024 looking like I just lost a cage match.

The Bad
The second Trump quality that bothers me is that he’s not a conservative, and that was the main reason I didn’t vote for him in the primary. He is a lifelong Democrat who joined the GOP 10 minutes before his presidential run, and the malleability of his political convictions is a constant source of concern.

While some of his positions are conservative – he knows that high taxes hurt the economy, he knows the MSM are corrupt leftists, he loves America and is no globalist – others are leftist — he doesn’t seem to see any problems with protectionism, and doesn’t hesitate to bully companies or others with whom he disagrees – while others are just idiosyncratic and ego-driven: he likes people who like him and doesn’t like those who don’t.

The low point of his first three months was watching him push a first attempt at health care “reform” that enshrined most of the disastrous big-government controls of Obamacare, and then to be most incensed at the principled conservatives in the Freedom Caucus for opposing that mess.

The Good
All of that being said, I’m still pretty happy with the first three months, for a lot of reasons:


2. Trump’s vulgar style strikes me as a venial sin rather than a mortal one, and is counter-balanced by his willingness to fight back. While most people think of me as a sophisticated polymathic high-brow gentleman (stop laughing), I’ve got a vulgar streak of my own, and appreciate crudity when it is aimed at a deserving target. My favorite debate moment was when Hillary finished bloviating about how she is glad that someone like Trump was not in the Oval Office, and he got in a verbal rib-kick: “Because you’d be in jail.”

One of my other favorite moments was when he defended himself against false charges that he’d paid Russian hookers to urinate on him by saying, “I’m also very much of a germaphobe, by the way. Believe me.” (First item on the list “Things Mitt Romney would Never Say in a Million Years”: “Probably the most convincing reason to believe that I’ve never paid foreign prostitutes to pee on me is that that is just gross.”) The Fake News chant is sophomoric. But it’s mostly true.

The bottom line is that after a string of GOP players who saw it as beneath them to fight the Left (Bushes 41 and 43, McCain, Romney), Trump is willing to throw a punch, and for me, that covers a multitude of his sins.

3. I’d rather have a president acting on consistent ideological principles, rather than changeable instincts. But his instincts are often better than many of us expected: illegal immigrants are a problem, America is exceptional, the problem in the Middle East is not Israel, you don’t give Iran nukes.

These should not be tough issues, but our last president couldn’t grasp such subtleties.

4. His appointments have been surprisingly good: T-Rex at state, Mad Dog Mattis, Sessions is giving the right people hell, Mnuchin knows a bit about the economy, a physician (Price) in charge of Health, Nikki “joy of man’s desiring” Haley at the UN. Education sec De Vos is no genius, but she knows enough to push educational choice and resist public ed unions, and EPA head Pruitt knows that the EPA has wildly over-reached.

Of course there have been a few mis-steps (I’m looking at you, Flynn), as there always are.

But consider this: dopey Trump picked the Murderer’s Row listed above, and put Gorzilla on the Supreme Court. Who did world-renowned Nobel Peace Prize Winner Sophocles Obama appoint?

Whitey-haters like Van Jones and Eric Holder, “tax cheat Timmy” Geithner (at Treasury!), Oklahoma strong safety Janet Napolitano at Homeland Security (after which she went to Berkley, which tells you all you need to know), “Lurch” Kerry and Hillary as SecState (quick, name an accomplishment, other than “Most Miles Traveled,” which is the equivalent of a participation trophy).

And that’s not mentioning the aptly named Loretta Lynch! (How bad does your judgment have to be when Eric Holder is arguably NOT your worst Attorney General pick?!)

5. In what is probably the most back-handed compliment possible, I’m happier with Trump because the other options are so much worse.

The Dems are beyond awful, in so many ways that no argument is necessary beyond listing their recent accomplishments: almost doubling 230+ years of national debt in 8 years, you can keep your plan and doctor, Benghazi, Harry Reid, “tell Vlad I’ll have more flexibility after this election,” Lois Lerner, private server, “you have to pass the bill to learn what’s in it,” creepy Chuck Schumer, creepier Jonathan Gruber, one 128-year-old socialist candidate who’s never done an honest day’s work in his life, another who enabled her hideous husband’s repeated sexual assaults and who couldn’t beat Donald Trump in an election, et freaking cetera.

But the GOP establishment is no prize either: they promise for 7 years to repeal and replace Obamacare and then shrink from it; they promise to cut taxes and then shrink from it; they gain power in Congress because of their conservative base and then attack that base far more vociferously than they ever attacked the far left jerks who have fought dirty against them for decades.

Even on issues where the public is solidly behind them – stop illegal immigration! – they have to be dragged into taking action against their will.

If I had to grade Trump on his first 3 months:
For style and words: C –
For substance and actions: high B.

If I’m grading on a curve, and the other class members are Obama, Hillary, Congressional Dems, GOP establishment: easy A.

A Meditation on How Lucky We Are to Live in the 21st Century

One overarching sign that life today is better than ever is that — for those living in America, at least — to a greater extent than ever before in human history, today you have to volunteer for bad things to happen to you.

Throughout the long march of human history, you only had to do one thing to flirt with disaster: be born. In fact, even managing to be born in the first place meant that you had already overcome dozens of potential dangers that struck a great number of your fetal peers. If you managed to enter the world without you or your mother dying in the process, you were looking at a crucial first five or seven years during which the odds of surviving were against you.

Global life expectancy of 30-some years didn’t happen because lots of 35 year olds were dying, but because those who made it into their 60s were more than counterbalanced by all of the dead children littering the landscape.

But say you make it out of adolescence. Now you’re cool, right? You’re eating organic, pesticide-free foods, working out in the fresh air with docile, non-internal- combustion-engine-equipped animals, blissfully unaffected by polluting industries and micro-aggressions and Kardashians.

Actually, no. You faced an everyday existence fraught with peril.

Plague struck randomly. You got diseases from your animals, or floods washed your animals into your house, and then your animals and your house away. When floods weren’t drowning you, fires were roasting you alive. If you read the average big city newspaper from the 19th or early 20th century, you read about fire after fire, with only an epidemic or two to break the monotony.

And the fires weren’t modern little, “By the time firefighters got the blaze under control Joe lost his garage and part of the living room” mini-blazes; they were entire-block conflagrations, as rows of wooden buildings went up together, stopped only by a wide street at the end of the block. Today in the aftermath of a routine fire, one family has smoke and water damage to the kitchen and an adjoining bedroom.

In the 19th century, we lost Chicago.

The worst thing about all of this was our helplessness in the face of calamity. Say plague strikes your village. Do you pray and try to make a deal with God to spare your family? Move to the next village over? Cover yourself with leeches and hope for the best? It was all a big crap shoot, and everyone had similar lousy chances at surviving.

The contrast with our modern life is nowhere clearer than in statistics surrounding mortality. Look at what killed people a hundred years ago: fever, small pox, polio, the flu. Today you treat fevers with something over the counter. Small pox is gone, and so is polio. Unless you are very, very old, or have an already seriously compromised immune system, the flu just means a missed week of work.

Today’s big killers are all signs of our civilization’s extraordinary success. The leading causes of death are related to either very old age (in which case you already beat the odds and had a full run) or voluntarily stupid and/or self-destructive behavior (smoking, alcohol or drug abuse, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle or horrible diet).

Look at the list again. If you smoke in the 21st century, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself. The dominant motif on the packaging is a skull and bones, and by the time most of us hit puberty we’ve seen more anti-smoking PSAs than we have witless sitcoms. Ditto for alcohol and drugs. And obesity? It’s epidemic, we’re told.

C’mon. The Black Death – THAT was an epidemic. Ebola, okay. Hemorragic fever, malaria, I’m with you.

But obesity? I remind you of an old Sam Kinison bit, when he heard someone mourning Karen Carpenter’s death from anorexia and saying that there’s no cure: “No cure? No cure! Karen, have a sandwich!! You’re cured.”

We’ve got it so good that we could prevent thousands of deaths by a simple first graders’ lunch swap: the anorexics trade their bag lunches (two carrots and a celery stick) for the richly laden trays of the obese folks, and we’ve cured two birds with one dietary stone, as it were.

It’s not just deaths from health problems, either.  Read a week’s worth of stories recounting traffic fatalities in your local paper and add up the death toll.

Now subtract the deaths of those who were drunk or high at the time. Next subtract those who were speeding at least 20 miles over posted limits. Check off the motorcyclist who decided to ride without a helmet. Note the 4’6” 94 year old peering from underneath the steering wheel with 20/1000 vision who never saw what hit her. Finally, look for that “the deceased was not wearing a seatbelt” tag line.

In the final analysis, about the only non-voluntary way you die in a traffic accident today is by having the bad luck to be hit by a speeding drunk driver, or by a flying, unbelted passenger ejected from that jackass’ car.

Of course I’m not saying that someone who rides without a seat belt deserves to die, or that a speeder’s death isn’t tragic. But they are essentially voluntary. If you can’t take 30 seconds to buckle up, or you choose to ride a motorcycle with only your eggshell-fragile skull to protect your brain, you can’t be shocked at the unfairness of the universe when the entirely predictable happens.

Similarly, my heart breaks for people who are stricken with leukemia, or multiple sclerosis, or mysterious tumors. But 30-year smokers with lung cancer, or 40-year drinkers with cirrhosis of the liver? Still sad, and a great loss to their loved ones. But an unfair tragedy? Not so much.

Finally, it’s not just health-related problems or mortality that we can usually voluntarily avoid. We can also avoid the vast majority of economic hardships. (Okay, there is one huge caveat here: the assumption that you’ve got the great good fortune to be living in a semi-free market, capitalist economy.) Leaving aside the fact that living in “poverty” in America is still living in relative luxury by world and/or historical standards, many people are firmly convinced that poverty is a real possibility — almost a default trajectory — for much if not most of the population.

To the contrary, lots of demographic research suggests that voluntary behaviors are far and away the biggest factors in determining economic destiny. In fact, if you manage to do three things in your life, you have only a tiny chance of ever living below the poverty line as an adult: 1. Graduate high school, 2. Don’t get married or have kids until you are 21 years old, 3. Get a full-time job. (See this piece from Brookings Institution for one among many sources on this issue:…/three-simple-rules-poor-teens-…/)

These are not exactly accomplishments that come along with extra points for high difficulty.

Yes, I know, many readers are probably objecting right now, because they know that poverty is convincingly correlated with non-voluntary factors such as geographic location (there is more poverty in the south), race (minorities are harder hit) and gender (so are women), etc. But let’s consider these objections one at a time.

It’s true that geographic location is a factor, which I well know, having come from the Midwestern rust belt, where many good-paying manufacturing jobs were lost between my parent’s generation and mine. But location is finally voluntary, too. People leave depressed areas for jobs in thriving areas all the time, and it is no longer a Joad-like tramp from one economic dust bowl to another.

It’s true that some individuals have urgent reasons to stay in a depressed area – usually family ties or emotional connections – but those motivations are not coercion. Such people are choosing to pay an economic price to satisfy an emotional need, and who’s to say that they are wrong?

But race and gender are clearly not voluntary, and a mountain of studies demonstrate statistical connections between race, gender and poverty, right?

Well, no. Look at such studies carefully, and you always find faulty (and often intentionally misleading) use of statistics. For example, we all “know” that “women earn 75% (or 63% or 82%) of what men do,” or that “minorities are much more likely to be poor than are whites.” In fact, these kind of claims can be easily disproven by correcting for other causal factors.

The gender claims are meant to give the impression that equally experienced and qualified men and women working side-by-side in identical jobs are being differently paid because of their gender. But once you correct for voluntary factors – women choose lower paying fields, and are much more likely to take long sabbaticals from work for child-raising, etc. – pay differentials disappear.

Of course, I just skipped over some huge political arguments that deal with the biological differences and societal pressures that “push” women toward leaving the workplace to raise children, and toward certain “helping” professions fields that pay less well. And for the sake of argument I’ll grant that: biology imposes different child care imperatives on the sexes, and for centuries and more, society has added to such disparities by gender-coding much lower-paying work as “feminine.”

But the fact remains that for the last 40 years and more, huge numbers of women have resisted such societal pressures, and carved out places for themselves in every profession and at all levels of prestige and income. It’s relatively unusual for women to pursue engineering, or accounting or computer science. But when they do, they earn the same money as their equally experienced, qualified and experienced male counterparts. When you control for such obviously relevant factors, gender-based salary disparities disappear, in socially coded “female” and “male” work fields alike.

The same principle applies to racial and ethnic differences. When we control for the voluntary choices that individuals make (to drop out of high school, to bear children out of wedlock, to commit crimes), racial differences in economic outcome virtually disappear.

That’s not to say that historical racism didn’t exist, or that many people don’t hold ethnic prejudices today. But those ugly factors don’t determine your destiny, and the evidence for that is everywhere: blacks and Hispanics who graduate high school, get married at 25 and postpone having children until they are married are as economically successful as their white counterparts, just as whites who drop out and have out of wedlock children are as economically unsuccessful as their minority counterparts. Regardless of the admitted disparities attached to racial and gender discrimination, the determinative factor isn’t race or gender, but behavior.

And therein lies an uncomfortable but ultimately liberating truth.

While it may be psychologically comforting in the short run to see yourself as a victim of forces beyond your control, you are deceiving yourself, and selling yourself short. Even if you’ve gotten yourself into a jam now, the glass is still half full. If you want to avoid most health-related and economic problems, the answer is deceptively simple: do your best to avoid volunteering for them.

Best of April 1-8 2017

I don’t usually write a “Best of the Month” column until the end of a month. (Go figure.) But April has gotten off to such an amazing start that I cannot wait. So I give you, “The Best of the first 8 Days of April.”

1.Stanford admits future colossal pain-in-the-butt minority Muslim kid whose application essay consisted of “#BlackLivesMatter” written 100 times. You can google the story for the details, but you can also probably predict the broad outlines without doing so: entitled little jerk, posts picture of himself with duct tape over his mouth to symbolize how oppressed he is, lots of vacuous statements to the effect that America is horribly racist and Islamophobic, etc.

Somehow, in only 18 years this kid has turned himself into almost everything that’s obnoxious in our culture right now. (The only trope he misses: doesn’t “identify as” another gender. So he’s got that going for him.) But the crucial question is not what’s wrong with this kid — it’s what’s wrong with Stanford!

I grew up with guys who might make jokes like this on a homework assignment: the directions on an Algebra quiz say, “Find X…” and we circle the X in the formula and draw an arrow to it, writing, “Here it is.” But that was on a math quiz. That counted for less than a tiny percentage of a high school grade. In a midwestern farm community high school where we weren’t particularly concerned with our high school GPA during high school, let alone afterwards. Not on an application for admission into one of America’s formerly great institutions of higher learning!

On a more serious note, I can’t help but think of the thousands of kids across the country who spend many hours writing and re-writing their application essays, sweating over the details as they try to anticipate what to include and exactly how to phrase every sentence. And this little creep spends 28 seconds copy-and-pasting the most hackneyed, idiotic phrase you can think of, and he gets a spot at Stanford.

Note to the Stanford admissions committee: Please watch the “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” scene from The Shining. Do you see the look of growing horror in Shelly Duvall’s eyes as she realizes what her husband has been writing? THAT’S how you’re supposed to react when you receive a document made up of mindlessly repeated, banal scrawling.

You DON’T give Jack Nicholson’s character an endowed professorship! (Quick cut to mid August, in a dorm at Stanford. Some kid with a genius IQ who spent 3 weeks agonizing over his application essay is unpacking his stuff, when the door bursts open and a wild-eyed snowflake bounds through screaming, “Heeeeeerrrreee’s Ahmed!!”) Great job, Stanford!

2. Nikki Haley being a boss at the UN. Not since I first saw an early 1980s Nena (and if you’re just joining us, drop everything and watch the Germanic adorableness that is the 99 Luft Balloons video on Youtube right this minute), have I been as smitten as I am by 2017 Nikki Haley giving speeches at the UN.

In her first months on the job, she’s already lambasted the daily knee-jerk condemnations of Israel while overlooking human rights abuses everywhere else, slapped down Bolivia’s attempt to discuss Syria’s child-gassing behind closed doors (“Any country that chooses to defend the atrocities of the Syrian regime will have to do so in full public view, for all the world to hear.”), among many other rhetorical “drop the mike” moments.

Almost all coverage of her, even by our reflexively hostile leftist press, has noted that she minces no words. And after two terms of the Obama administration and their 8 consecutive gold medals in Greco-Roman Word Mincing, she’s a breath of fresh air, to say the least.

In fact, I’m not sure whether I now consider Nikki Haley more of a brilliant Indian-American Nena, or if I consider 1983 Nena as more of an irresistibly cute German Nikki Haley. The point is, I can’t get enough Nikki Haley. The only way I think her next speech could be better than her last several would be if she came out in skinny jeans and a black leather jacket, kicking red balloons out into the annoyed faces of the wretched hive of scum and villainy that make up the human-rights-trampling kleptocrats of the UN.

3. Elizabeth Warren screws her female staffers on pay. Several media outlets revealed – oh, the delicious combination of irony and hypocrisy – that Faux-cohantas Warren (the judges would also have accepted “Lie-awatha”) pays her female staffers between 29-31% less than their male counterparts, depending on how you count. (Details here, among other places:…/elizabeth-warrens-office-…/)

Even sweeter than the scandal is the immediate leftist response throughout the media, which in addition to ad hominem attacks and quibbling over various ways to slice and dice the data, point out that we must go apples-to-apples: it’s not fair to compare the salaries of part-time or less-experienced or low-level employees to the salaries of the more experienced and highly skilled.

What?! You mean to say that it is wrong to lump all females and all males into two groups, and simplistically compare their pay without considering the glaring differences among them — males overwhelmingly take the most dangerous jobs, work more hours over more years with less time out of the workforce, etc.? Why, wouldn’t doing that completely eviscerate the infuriatingly persistent myth that women are paid less than men for the same work?

Yes. Yes it would. It would do exactly that. So put that in your peace pipe and smoke it, Senator Speaks-with-Forked-Tongue.

4. Heather MacDonald shouted down by mob of campus idiots. MacDonald, a cogent and persuasive thinker – if you don’t read City Journal, to which she regularly contributes, you should – quixotically decided to give a thoughtful talk on a modern college campus. Dealing with the harsh realities of policing in our BLM-infested society (if you haven’t read her 2016 book The War on Cops, you should), her talk was received with respectful attention, followed by a spirited but reasonable back-and-forth dialogue. A few protestors outside also expressed themselves, delighting a large audience with thought-provoking poetic chants that evoked the wry wit of Shakespeare and Keats.

HA! Of course, I kid. In fact, the drooling mob of infantile Philistines prevented students who wanted to hear MacDonald from getting in. When she decided to live stream her talk from an empty room, and started early to thwart some of the idiots outside, she was soon drowned out by screams of “Shut it down!” Cowardly campus officials caved, and gave her a police escort to leave the campus. All the while, tolerant leftist social justice warriors roughed up and harassed reporters and reasonable students outside, while chanting doggerel like, “From Oakland to Greece, f*** the police.” (When contacted for comment, the people of Greece said, “Whoa, whoa, leave us out of this, you childish morons.”)

One of the most telling indictments of the left is the state of intolerance and hostility to intellectual challenge that they’ve established on the campuses over which they have almost total control. Fortunately, these chanting goofballs reliably serve as an apt warning of the disasters that will befall us if we give them similar power over society at large.

5. The nuclear option is invoked, and the Gorsuch-ian kraken is released! I want to write more later about how the Gorsuch nomination struggle was the latest object lesson in how the Dems and the GOP treat their respective political bases. But for now, suffice it to say that the Dems could not have done a more perfect job of snatching a monumental defeat out of the jaws of what might have been just a regular old defeat by essentially forcing the GOP to exercise the nuclear option.

Gorsuch looked great, the Dems made themselves look small, stubborn and delusional, and because the 60-vote supermajority has been done away with, it’s going to be much easier to replace either Kennedy or the next octogenarian leftist SC judge with (hopefully) another Scalia-like originalist. I never thought I’d say this, but, “Thank you, Harry Reid!”

Cue the happiness montage, featuring Jimmy Stewart at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life — “Yeaaahhh! Merry Christmas, movie house! Merry Christmas constitution lovers! Yyyeeeaaahhhh!”