Brickbat: Robot’s Day of Rest

by Charles Oliver, Reason, May 10, 2024.


German court has ruled that the robots at the Tegut supermarket chain must be given Sundays off, just like human workers. Under German law, retail stores must close on Sundays and Christian holidays in order to give employees a day of rest. Tegut has gotten around that law by fully automating its stores, and it gets 25–30 percent of its sales on Sunday. A union that represents shop workers filed suit to force the stores to close on Sundays, saying it fears the company’s success could undermine support for the nation’s blue laws.

My comment: A good reminder of one the many ways that the United States doesn’t suck.

Free Trade with Free Nations

by Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution, May 14, 2024.


Alec Stapp points out that Canada is the only NATO country that has a free trade agreement with the United States. That’s quite remarkable if you think about it. NATO allies are bound by mutual defense commitments, support for military cooperation, and a dedication to democratic principles. Despite these shared commitments, the U.S. still enforces tariffs and quotas on our NATO allies including France, Germany, the UK, Denmark, Portugal, and Spain. This is like getting married and not having a joint checking account. If they are good enough partners to commit to their defense then surely NATO allies are good enough partners to commit to free trade? (bold added)


Biden Offers to Turn U.S. Military Personnel Into Saudi Royal Bodyguards

by Doug Bandow, The American Conservative, May 9, 2024.


Biden took office talking of his commitment to human rights and determination to turn MbS, as the crown prince is known, into a “pariah.” Now the administration is proposing to turn the U.S. military into a modern Janissary corps, a bodyguard for the thousands of royal princes who rule over their countrymen. It is well past time to stop deferring to the KSA.


For years American policymakers justified their fixation on the Mideast on the importance of protecting Israel and importing oil. Israel, however, has become a regional military superpower, threatened more by its brutal mistreatment of Palestinians and bitter internal political struggles than outside attack. The oil market has diversified, and supplies are limited mostly by American sanctions, which could be liberalized or lifted at any time. Terrorism is a problem of endless and disastrous U.S. military intervention. Growing Chinese and Russian activity in the region is a diplomatic challenge, not a threat warranting increased military commitments. Today, as my Cato Institute colleague Jon Hoffman explained, “What Washington needs from the region on” issues traditionally central to the Saudi relationship, most notably oil, stability, and terrorism, “is quite limited and simple to achieve.”

Any support for Riyadh is difficult to justify. Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s worst dictatorships. According to Freedom House, the Kingdom is more repressive than Russia, China, and Iran: “Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarchy restricts almost all political rights and civil liberties. No officials at the national level are elected. The regime relies on pervasive surveillance, the criminalization of dissent, appeals to sectarianism and ethnicity, and public spending supported by oil revenues to maintain power.” MbS’s misrule was highlighted by the gruesome murder and dismemberment of the journalistic critic Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. More than five years later, the official coverup continues.


All Is Not Quiet In the Library Catalogs

by Anonymous, Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism, May 15, 2024.


Traditional cataloging practice requires the cataloger to describe the book as objectively as possible; there are even specific guidelines reminding catalogers not to select subject headings (those hyperlinked topic descriptors in the record) based on their own values and beliefs. One of the first questions I was asked in my hiring interview was to confirm that I would agree to catalog materials that I, personally, found offensive. After all, libraries—and, by extension, catalogers—are supposed to be guardians of free speech and intellectual freedom. We do not know who will be looking for the materials and for what purpose, and so we have to be fair, accurate, and objective in order to make it  easier for the material to be found. But it seems that now the overriding duty of the cataloger is to  protect the patrons from the harm that the records (not even the materials!) may cause them.

In the discussions I mentioned above, fellow catalogers were unabashedly stating that certain marginalized groups should get to decide how a book should be labeled. If a cataloger who is a member of a marginalized social group believes the book in question is harmful or offensive, he is fully in the right to add a note in the catalog stating his beliefs. Thus we now have four books in the international catalog (used by libraries worldwide) with the label “Transphobic works”. Several books that are critical of the current gender affirmation care model now have the subject heading “Transphobia”. These books are not about transphobia, so the subject heading is likely being used as a way to warn the reader of the record (and potentially the librarian choosing which books to order for the library) that these are “bad books” and should not be read or purchased.


The ‘Heart’ of Alvin Bragg’s Case Against Trump Is Misdirection

by Jacob Sullum, Reason, May 15, 2024.


“This was a planned, coordinated, long-running conspiracy to influence the 2016 election, to help Donald Trump get elected through illegal expenditures, to silence people who had something bad to say about his behavior,” lead prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said at the beginning of Trump’s trial last month. “It was election fraud, pure and simple.”

Contrary to Colangelo’s spin, there is nothing “pure and simple” about the case against Trump. To begin with, Trump is not charged with “conspiracy” or “election fraud.” He is charged with violating a New York law against “falsifying business records” with “intent to defraud.”

The Scandalous Science Behind Nuclear Regulation

by James Broughel, Reason, May 15, 2024.


Nuclear power could be a game-changer for energy affordability, grid reliability, and carbon reduction. However, it’s been stifled for decades based on one deeply flawed scientific model: the linear no-threshold (LNT) model. The theory underlying this model suggests that any exposure to ionizing radiation, no matter how small, increases cancer risks and that risks rise in a linear way with exposure levels. It’s not true.

The roots of LNT’s dominance are more political than scientific. Its influence traces back to Hermann Muller, a geneticist and 1946 Nobel Prize winner. Muller’s research in the 1920s and ’30s claimed to show that radiation induces mutations in fruit flies, with no safe threshold. He became an ardent evangelist for the idea that even tiny radiation doses could cause hereditary defects.

However, it appears Muller may have deliberately misled his followers. For example, Muller falsely claimed in his 1946 Nobel acceptance speech that there was “no escape” from the conclusion that any radiation is harmful, despite being aware of evidence to the contrary.