Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

A response to Amazon’s editors: my own suggestions for a well-read life

A few months ago, the “Amazon Book Editors” put up a list with the description “100 Books to Read in a Lifetime: A bucket list of books to create a well-read life”.

It contains some good (1984, Pride and Prejudice, The Right Stuff), some decent-but-thought-provoking (Man’s Search for Meaning), some leftist cant (Silent Spring), and a disproportionate amount of lightweight fiction, books for children, and books for young adults. I’m guessing this is a consequence of Amazon editors skewing rather young.

I think the list lacks broad perspective. It is weak on science, with only the often-purchased-but-seldom-read Brief History of Time plus an obscure book on nutrition. There’s nothing on technology, nothing on business unless you count Moneyball, nothing military (though it does have two books about the victims of WWII), and weak on history. 

Fittingly for a Seattle-based company, the list leans left. I mentioned that Silent Spring is there, which is disturbing given the damage and death caused by its inaccuracies and environmental hysteria. It also contains Fahrenheit 451, which is the soft lefty’s go-to entry when they think they just have to cite a science fiction book. I could name a hundred better science fiction books off the top of my head, but most are from authors who have a nasty habit of not leaning left.

While the list is worth browsing through, I thought the largest bookseller in the world should have done better. That started me thinking about the list I would recommend. My list would contain books that gave me some of the greatest return on investment in reading them. That might be by changing or refining my worldview. It might be simply great entertainment. Some of the very best combine both.

It would be the best books I could name from a wide variety of fields. Being easily bored, I’m more of a generalist than a specialist, and I like to read lots of different kinds of books. So I began composing a list, and extended and refined it several times over a few months.

Creating such a list involves some tough choices between certain books that cover the same territory. I have dodged that by having some of my entries be categories, in which I think a well-read person should be exposed to the category, but not necessary any single work in the category.

For some works and authors, I also included some follow-on suggestions.

I ended up with about 50 books and categories. Here, then, are the books I think ought to be a bucket list for a well-read person, in alphabetic order except that I separated out the science fiction and placed it at the bottom.

The ones that are also on Amazon’s list have an asterisk. No doubt I’ve left off some obvious works, and no doubt our sharp and excellent commenters will remind me.

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Economic Statistics for 22 May 14

Weekly initial jobless claims rose 28,000 to 326,000. The 4-week average fell 1,250 to 322,500. Continuing claims fell 13,000 to 2.653 million.

The Chicago Fed National Activity Index fell sharply from 0.20 to -0.32 in April.

The Markit PMI manufacturing index flash for May rose 1.8 points to 56.2.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell 3 points to 34.1in the latest week.

Existing home sales rose 1.3% in April to a 4.65 million annual rate. Sales are still down -6.8% on a year-ago basis, however.

The Conference Board’s index of leading indicators rose 0.4% in April.

The Kansas City Fed manufacturing index rose 3 points to 10 in May.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $9.1 billion last week, with total assets of $4.328 trillion. Total reserve bank credit rose by $2.7 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose $4.6 billion in the latest week.


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The Narcissistic Administration

America used to be famous for its men and women of action.  Now?  Now we’re governed (ruled?) by a group of narcissists who think that selfies and hashtags equal action:

In the 21st century, we have regressed to the Freudian phallic stage of development, reaching in, back in short pants with our hands all the way down them, which gives one a rather limited impression of the elephant in the room.

Slavery in Nigeria, the occupation of Ukraine, whatever: It ain’t about you, Sunshine.

The “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign, directed at the fanatical Islamist slavers in Nigeria, has inspired selfies from U.S. senators and the wife of the president of these United States, while State Department spokesman Jen Psaki, the Pippi Longstocking of the diplomatic world, took to Twitter to photograph herself with a “United for Ukraine” placard. To confront the heinous crimes of Boko Haram, a U.S. senator has many options — for example, introducing an authorization to use military force against said terrorist franchise. The U.S. State Department has many tools at its disposal for confronting the expansionist tendencies of Vladimir Putin.

The selfie is not among those tools.

But it seems to be the tool of choice with this bunch.  Well, that and deploying hashtags. How utterly useless and embarrassing is it to see our supposed leaders resorting to this sort of self-centered “action”?

Very.  Oh, it’s an action – it’s all about the PR for them.  It feeds their need to feel superior and show they “care”.  Actually do something to address the situation in question?  Yeah, that’s hard.

But that’s what we get for “leadership” from this crew:

Imagine, if you can, the abjectly juvenile state of mind necessary to contemplate the hundreds of Nigerian girls taken into slavery by a fanatical Muslim anti-education militia — whose characteristic activity beyond slave-taking is setting fire to children — and, in the face of all that horror, concluding: “You know what this situation really calls for? A cutesy picture of . . . me!” Bad enough when your cousin Caitlin at Bryn Mawr does that — but senators? State Department officials? These are men and (disproportionately, I think) women of power and influence, who have the ability to engage with the world and change it. But they are enchanted by the unique witchcraft of the age of social media, the totemic power of the digital expression of the self. It is not accidental that the only good selfie in the history of world leaders came well before the invention of Twitter from a man with an ego sufficiently robust not to require the constant reinforcement that is the psychic lifeblood of Millennials (and Washingtonians well old enough to know better), without which they find themselves paralyzed.

Can a leadership group take the reins from this group and do worse?  Oh you bet.  But with the bar set as low as the Obama administration has set it, it would take a real concerted effort to do worse.  Of course, there’s Hillary.  However the one positive thing the Obama administration has done in its seemingly endless tenure is rescue Jimmy Carter.  He is now only the 2nd worst president ever.  At least his administration was mostly peopled by adults.

~McQ

Scientists rebut Obama Administration’s “National Climate Assessment”

Yes, that’s right … scientists.  Here’s their opening.  As you’ll see, they don’t mince words nor do they show much respect for the nonsense spouted in the NCA or those who produced it.  And I don’t blame them:

The National Climate Assessment – 2014 (NCA) is a masterpiece of marketing that shows for the first time the full capabilities of the Obama Administration to spin a scientific topic as they see fit, without regard to the underlying facts. With hundreds of pages written by hundreds of captive scientists and marketing specialists, the administration presents their case for extreme climate alarm.

As independent scientists, we know that apparent evidence of “Climate Change,”however scary, is not proof of anything. Science derives its objectivity from robust logic and honest evidence repeatedly tested by all knowledgeable scientists, not just those paid to support the administration’s version of “Global Warming,” “Climate Change,” “Climate Disruption,” or whatever their marketing specialists call it today.

We are asked to believe that humans are drastically changing the earth’s climate by burning fossil fuels. The problem with their theory is very simple:

It is NOT true.

Here we address the administration’s basic thesis and the essential evidence that they claim support extreme concern.  The theory of ‘Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming’ (CAGW) is based on a string of inferences that begins with the assumptions that carbon dioxide is a ‘greenhouse gas’ and that we are slowly driving up the atmospheric concentration by burning fossil fuels. It is therefore claimed as self-evident that the Global Average Surface Temperature (GAST) has already risen significantly and will continue to do so.

Higher GAST is then presumed to lead to all sorts of negative consequences, especially Extreme Weather. They promote their ‘Climate Models’ as a reliable way to predict the future climate. But these models dramatically fail basic verification tests. Nowhere do they admit to these well-known failures. Instead, we are led to believe that their climate models are close to perfection.

This document is structured around a “fact-check,” where we quote a number of the government’s key claims in the NCA and show each to be invalid. The first three claims involve their three crucial scientific arguments (Three Lines of Evidence or 3 LoE), which, if valid, would satisfy a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for making their case. But each is easily shown to be false; and because each is crucial, their entire theory collapses. That means that all of the overblown “Climate Disruption” evidence that they mention, whether true or not, cannot be tied back to man’s burning of fossil fuels. Hence, efforts to reduce or eliminate Extreme Weather by reducing the burning of fossil fuels are completely nonsensical.

They then present a point by point rebuttal of the “3 LoE”, pointing to evidence that shows them to be demonstrably false.  And, as they point out, since those 3 LoE are the foundation of the CAGW theory, the theory collapses.

You can read it here.

~McQ

Freakin’ hilarious and so typical

What we all know about liberals is they’re big on “talking the talk”, but when it comes to “walking the walk”, yeah, not so much.

On April 10th, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) filed the forms with the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election to unionize 50 employees working for the George Soros-funded progressive media watchdog, Media Matters for America (MMFA). In response, Media Matters has hired a high priced law firm with experience combating unions to represent the company, indicating that the pro-union MMFA is fighting the action.

Oh, yeah, that’s right … union touting and supporting MMFA isn’t about to let the SEIU (who has donated to MMFA in the past) unionize their shop.  Nope.  Because, well, unions are bad?

If what the law firm they’ve hired has written about their services is any indication of MMFA’s stance on the subject, then yes, union’s are bad:

Whether directly negotiating collective bargaining agreements, developing strike contingency plans or defending unfair labor practice proceedings, Perkins Coie Labor & Employment attorneys provide employers with decades of experience managing traditional labor law issues.  We have been at the bargaining table for some of the largest union employers in the United States and regularly appear before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and in state and federal court on behalf of employers of all sizes.  Our depth of employment litigation experience contributes to cost-effective representation in arbitrations under collective bargaining agreements.

As the Obama NLRB continues to issue union-friendly decisions, we understand the attendant challenges that employers face in developing and maintaining productive employee relations and economic sustainability.

So, now that MMFA has “lawyered up” and is fighting tooth and nail against something it advocates and claims it supports elsewhere, what should we conclude about MMFA?

Yup, as with most of the left, they’re the epitome of hypocrisy.  The Dons of “do as I say, not as I do”.

Because you’re the “little people” and they’re our “betters”.  And  we should remember that the elite always know what’s best for the little people, even if they personally want no part of what they prescribe for us.

Truth Revolt lays out a nice little synopsis for us:

  • SEIU ​(a group of left-wing bullies) has donated to MMfA ​(a group of left-wing bullies) to utilize their bullying tactics against media outlets that challenge union interests
  • MMfA employees want SEIU representation to help them gain better pay and work conditions
  • MMfA is resisting the move and has forbidden open voting or “card check,” something they’ve advocated for in the past
  • SEIU is now trying to publicly shame MMfA (a tactic MMfA uses to silence their opponents) by using MoveOn.org (a group of left-wing bullies) to host a petition

You just can’t make this stuff up.

~McQ

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 18 May 14

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale talk about Ukraine, the Bundy case in Nevada, and the increasing arbitrariness of the Federal government.

The podcast can be found on Stitcher here. Please remember the feed may take a couple of hours to update after this is first posted.

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