I ain't even got an oesophagus!

Last Week in Weird

Ain’t no rest for the wicked

Bumbling Bees loves you. You know that. And Bumbling Bees is good to you. Other web sites are phoning it in this time of year — wasting your time with boring retrospectives and "Best of 2016" lists, as though said lists don’t begin and end with the utter annihilation of Hillary Clinton. Well, you’ll have none of that here. We’ll be soldiering boldly onward into 2017, because the weird don’t rest, so neither do we.

And neither does Slate, which has just published the absolute worst opinion piece of the year. I know what you’re thinking: mighty bold claim for January second. Still and all, I am confident this piece will survive 363 days of challenges. It’s a piece about a big problem with self-driving cars. Now, let’s play a little game. Take a minute or so and think about what this piece could possibly be saying. What could be this big problem with self-driving cars? What mind-bogglingly stupid thing do you suppose Slate has chosen to ring in the new year? Think of the dumbest thing you can possibly imagine, and then check and see how close you were.

An estimated 94 percent of motor-vehicle accidents involve some kind of a driver error. As the number of vehicles with human operators falls, so too will the preventable fatalities. In June, Christopher A. Hart, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said, "Driverless cars could save many if not most of the 32,000 lives that are lost every year on our streets and highways." Even if self-driving cars only realize a fraction of their projected safety benefits, a decline in the number of available organs could begin as soon as the first wave of autonomous and semiautonomous vehicles hits the road—threatening to compound our nation’s already serious shortages.

Admit it: you were nowhere close. You were guessing something conventionally stupid like "evil corporations will decide who gets to work on time and who doesn’t and then we’ll have to start paying them or we’ll lose our jobs" and never, ever considered that they were honestly going to complain that self-driving cars might lead to too few traffic fatalities.

This claim, of course, is so egregiously idiotic that they immediately follow up by denying that they ever said it, which is an extremely weird thing to do. Even weirder is their proposed solution:

For one, the country could consider introducing a "presumed consent" rule. This would change state organ donation registries from affirmative opt-in systems (checking that box at the DMV that yes, you do want to be an organ donor) to an affirmative opt-out system where, unless you state otherwise, you’re presumed to consent to be on the list.

Oh, good. Presumed consent: the hallmark of civilized societies everywhere! I think we should all apply that standard to the ladies we meet at the bar, too. Slate is sure to be right there with me on that one.

As any fule kno, the actual solution to shortages caused by government price controls is [beat] to get rid of the government price controls. In a libertarian world, in fact, this problem wouldn’t even exist, since there would be no governmentally-induced artificial shortages and also there would be no roads. Slate, to what may or may not be its credit, alludes to understanding this basic, incontestable fact, but declares it impossible because it would be "unfair." So, to recap: saving lives is bad because it would provide fewer "free" body parts the government’s ghouls can scavenge, and allowing people to buy and sell body parts to alleviate the shortage is bad because it’s kind of icky and also possibly unfair. So Slate concludes that the only real option is that the government needs to encourage more death and less unfair commerce. Think I’m putting words in their mouths?

We don’t want to reduce preventable fatalities on the road only to preventively [sic] increase them for those waiting on the transplant list.

Fortunately for the rest of us, nobody actually cares what the nebbishes at Slate want. In truth, the Bard put it best many years ago, when he wrote:

Tho’ thou beest king, or be thou chimney sweeper,
Ere long cometh time thou’lt cavort with th’ reaper.

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day

A couple of weeks ago, Drexel University professor George Ciccariello tweeted out "all I want for Christmas is white genocide." If you’re waiting for a link, you’ll not get one; the tweet has long since been deleted. Your humble narrator let it pass without comment at the time; there isn’t really very much material there, and, quite frankly, "college professor says idiotic racist thing" hardly passes for news these days. Still and all, other libertarian-minded commentators seized on it, and much laughter was had by all.

Then came upon the scene Reason’s Robby Soave, who has never ever heard this joke before, and who actually managed to screw up his counterargument.

There’s a bigger issue: Drexel. According to the Associated Press, the university was not content to merely condemn the tweet. Drexel is "taking this situation very seriously" — which is a mistake — and has "contacted the professor to meet."

Drexel should not discourage a professor from expressing his mind on Twitter — if faculty members must worry that any stray thought can land them in hot water, then the university is failing to cultivate an environment of maximally free speech. Even if Ciccariello-Maher isn’t formally disciplined, the experience of being called before the administration to answer for his tweet-crimes is a form of silencing.

Quick question: as a business owner — or a director of a corporation — which one is more important to you?

  1. The success of the business
  2. Cultivating an environment of maximally free speech

If you picked choice 2: congratulations on your upcoming "going out of business" sale! According to Drexel’s own data, 53% of this year’s incoming freshmen are white. If one of my employees makes a public statement calling for the murder of more than half of my customer base, "taking this situation very seriously" ain’t the half of what I’m going to do.

Robby Soave appears to belong to the school of thought that says all of your brains must dribble out your ears when you become a libertarian. One wonders what Soave would do if the university declared it was "taking seriously" a professor who spent the entirety of every class period yelling curse words at the top of his lungs. Should libertarians defend that professor too, because, hey, we believe in rad speech to the max? Surely not. Libertarianism is not about refusing to disassociate yourself from obnoxious people. It is about non-violence, full stop. Of course, what else would we expect? Turns out Gerardo Mejía is a better spokesman for liberty than his bobbleheaded namesake.

It isn’t happening here

The Washington Post would like to remind you — once again — to be very, very afraid of those horrible Russian hackers.

A code [sic] associated with the Russian hacking operation dubbed Grizzly Steppe by the Obama administration has been detected within the system of a Vermont utility, according to U.S. officials…

"Vermonters and all Americans should be both alarmed and outraged that one of the world’s leading thugs, Vladimir Putin, has been attempting to hack our electric grid, which we rely upon to support our quality-of-life, economy, health, and safety," [governor Peter] Shumlin said in a statement. "This episode should highlight the urgent need for our federal government to vigorously pursue and put an end to this sort of Russian meddling."

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said he was briefed on the attempts to penetrate the electric grid by Vermont State Police on Friday evening. "This is beyond hackers having electronic joy rides — this is now about trying to access utilities to potentially manipulate the grid and shut it down in the middle of winter," Leahy said in a statement. "That is a direct threat to Vermont and we do not take it lightly."

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said the attack shows how rampant Russian hacking is. "It’s systemic, relentless, predatory," Welch said . [sic]"They will hack everywhere, even Vermont, in pursuit of opportunities to disrupt our country. We must remain vigilant, which is why I support President Obama’s sanctions against Russia and its attacks on our country and what it stands for."

No! Not Vermont! It was one thing when they went after Hillary, but now the Russkies are after Bernie! He is the light of the world!

Of course, there are just one or two problems with this breathless story. First would be that there’s precisely zero evidence that the Russians had anything to do with this — not that that stopped the hysteria machine before. More stoppy, however, is the fact that the "hack" consisted of one single laptop found at the site — but not connected to Burlington Electric’s network — that contained traces of code associated with software the feds claim the Russians used to STEAL OUR ELECTIONS!!(!!!). Once again, because this is important: the solitary "compromised" system was not in any way connected to any of the company’s other equipment. There was no possible way this "hack" could have impacted anything. Yet the Post forged on ahead, breathlessly writing headlines like "Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility, showing risk to U.S. electrical grid security, officials say." You know what else "officials" said?

"The question remains: Are they in other systems and what was the intent?" a U.S. official said.

That’s the one, singular question, then? Because I thought the question was something else entirely. And the answer, evidently, is no.

The hate crime to end all hate crimes

The year of the hate crime hoax went out with a bang, when Texas man Danny Williams awoke one morning to find his truck and motorcycle on fire, and the phrase "nigger lovers" spraypainted on his garage door.

‘It is considered a hate crime because of what was painted on the garage door. Yes, we are white.

‘It just so happens that we aren’t as racist as someone would like us to be,’ Mrs Williams wrote.

In an ironic twist, it turns out that’s just the opposite of the problem; Danny Williams evidently staged the crime himself, presumably because he wanted a piece of the sweet, sweet pie of racial victimhood.

I’d like to thank 2016 for providing an endless stream of utterly fake hate crimes, and precisely zero real hate crimes. Except the ones aimed at white people and Trump supporters, of course, but we all know those people don’t count anyhow. I’d also like to thank the Daily Mail for quality writing like this:

A white father-of-four has confessed to setting his own car on fire and painting a racial slur on their garage door in a staged hate crime.

Oh dear. Even the Mail should have a better grasp on pronoun usage than this syntax chowder demonstrates. Here’s my resolution for 2017: I resolve not to give up the fight. I will continue to savage other journalists until they learn how to write like grown-ups, which skill one could be forgiven for assuming is basic to the field.

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