URLs du Jour

2019-09-20

[Amazon Link]

  • So I'm paying a little extra attention to Corey Lewandowski these days, because he probably wants to be my state's senator come January 2021. This would involve (1) winning the GOP primary sometime around September 2020; and (2) beating Jeanne Shaheen in November 2020.

    (1) maybe, but (2) seems unlikely. But what do I know? I thought Trump was toast in 2016.

    Anyway, there's stuff like this, from Jacob Sullum at Reason: Trump’s Bizarre Meeting With Corey Lewandowski Suggests a Consciousness of Guilt.

    Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski confirmed a bizarre episode described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's March report on Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election. On June 17, 2017, according to the report, Lewandowski had a one-on-one meeting with Trump in which the president dictated a message for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, asking him to publicly state that the Russia investigation was "very unfair" to Trump, who had done nothing wrong. The message also asked Sessions to tell Mueller that his investigation should focus on the threat of Russian meddling in "future elections."

    One reading of that encounter is that Trump was trying to obstruct an investigation of his own attempts at obstruction, since such allegations were part of Mueller's charge. Another interpretation—the one endorsed by Attorney General William Barr before he took office and by Lewandowski yesterday—is that there was nothing inappropriate or illegal about Trump's arm's-length overture to Sessions, since the president is ultimately in charge of the Justice Department and can tell it to start, expand, narrow, or end investigations whenever he likes. But that take on the president's powers, which Mueller explicitly rejected, is hard to reconcile with Trump's furtive behavior.

    Of course, if Trump was really and truly furtive, would he have used Lewandowski as a go-between? That isn't exactly subtle.

    Disclaimer: Our Amazon Product du Jour does not star Trump and Sessions. That's Julie Christie and Alan Bates.


  • At the Bulwark, Molly Jong-Fast has a modest proposal: Let Corey Be Corey. It's about a different part of Corey's testimony.

    Corey Lewandowski wants to beat a woman. I’m talking about incumbent New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. Why, what did you think I meant?

    Yesterday Corey Lewandowski admitted to the world that he is a liar and he did it under oath, during his congressional testimony, while hoping to use the media attention as a rollout for a Senate campaign. It was one of the trumpiest displays of Trumpism the world has ever seen.

    Molly's not exactly fair to Corey. On the other hand, she's not exactly wrong either.


  • And via the Google LFOD News Alert, the Hill reports on what Meghan McCain said on the View after Corey's testimony. Specifically, that his running against Senatory Jeanne would be "an absolutely ridiculous crap show".

    "[Lewandowski] running for Senate in New Hampshire, anyone who has been to New Hampshire, they are the most independent voters. The widest verse in the nation. Live free or die," McCain said on the ABC's "The View."

    "Get your popcorn and whiskey," she continued. "It’s going to be an absolutely ridiculous crap show. It's such a joke if he thinks he can just go and run in the state of New Hampshire."

    More anti-Corey quotes at the link. I'm wondering if popcorn and whiskey go together well. I'm not a whiskey fan, but maybe with enough popcorn…


  • And in other LFOD news, the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript covers Bill Weld in Peterborough.

    Presidential hopeful Republican Bill Weld stopped in at the Post & Beam Brewery in Peterborough Tuesday afternoon to sit down with the Jackman brothers for their Pints & Politics web show.

    Weld, when offered "any draft in the house" by the owner, opted for a "tall glass of water". (He's been accused of alcoholism by President Trump. But Trump has been known to toss out garbage accusations in the past, right?)

    Anyway, LFOD:

    “I’m fiscally conservative, I’m socially open and welcoming and tolerant and supportive whatever you want to say – for whatever minority, period,” Weld said. “I was the first out-of-the-box on the LGBT issues. First out-of-the-box on legalizing medicinal marijuana. … I was alone, for 20 years, on those issues. So people in the “Live Free or Die” state appreciate that by-and-large. I’m appealing to even Democrats. ‘Vote against Trump early,’ if you don’t buy his package, come and vote in the Republican primary against him, early.”

    OK, so… maybe.


  • Yesterday, I cheered the NH Legislature's failure to override Governor Sununu's veto of the crony-capitalist biomass bill. Today, let's give a mild thumbs up for the opposite action, as reported by (honest) the Cannabis Business Times: New Hampshire House Overrides Governor's Veto and Approves Home Cultivation Bill.

    “It’s encouraging to see the House vote so strongly in favor of HB 364. This bill is critical for patients who are successfully using cannabis to stay off opioids, but are unable to afford the high-priced products that are available from dispensaries," said Marijuana Policy Project New England Political Director Matt Simon. "Sadly, 10 senators voted against HB 364 earlier this year, putting the preferences of a few police chiefs ahead of the needs of patients and their families. Residents of the ‘Live Free or Die’ State overwhelmingly support cannabis policy reforms, so it’s clear that any senator who opposes this simple step forward is incredibly out of touch with their constituents. Patients, caregivers, and their advocates will be watching the Senate vote closely and hoping that common sense and compassion will finally prevail."

    Unfortunately, this will have to fall into our "Nice Try" department. As reported by the Keene Sentinel: NH Senate sustains governor's home-grow marijuana veto

URLs du Jour

2019-09-19

[Amazon Link]

Permit me a small milestone announcement: Back in late 2016, I made an early New Year resolution to post to this blog daily, not counting the book/movie/geekery posts.

This is the 1000th daily post since then. Not all gems, but I'm pretty happy with them, overall.

A good time to thank you for reading.

  • I discussed yesterday the effort to override Governor Sununu's veto of the "biomass" bill. Biomass magazine (a magazine of which I was previously unaware) has the news: New Hampshire House fails to override veto of biomass bill.

    I'd imagine that Biomass is less happy than I about that outcome, but their reporting is pretty straight.

    Sununu vetoed HB 183 on Aug. 5. In his veto message, Sununu said HB 183 “creates another immense subsidy for New Hampshire’s independent biomass plants, the third such bill sent to me in as many years.” He also claimed the bill would cost state ratepayers approximately $20 million a year over the next three years, on top of the existing subsidies those plants already receive. “This bill picks winners and losers in a competitive energy market,” Sununu continued. “Furthermore, it harms our most vulnerable citizens for the benefit of a select few. I remain committed to advancing renewable energy generation and fuel diversity, but we must do so without unjustly burdening the ratepayers of New Hampshire.”

    In addition to the economic impact, a bunch of environmental groups were also in favor of sustaining the veto, due to the general filthiness of biomass-burning plants.

    I note that my letter to my state representatives was, um, ineffective at persuading a single one to vote to sustain the veto.


  • If you're not a geek, you may not have heard of Richard Stallman, aka "RMS". He's an interesting mixture of good (a major force behind the free software movement) and bad (toxic political/economic views, strident my-way-or-the-highway moralism).

    But he's also a recent victim of cancel culture, due to his (um) unconventional views of the controversies surrounding Jeffrey Epstein and MIT. Wired has the story: Richard Stallman and the Fall of the Clueless Nerd.

    Yesterday RMS resigned from MIT and the Free Software Foundation he founded. For those who have followed his free-software movement, Stallman leaving MIT is like the big dome on Massachusetts Avenue itself getting an eviction notice. But after decades of tone-deaf comportment and complaints now emerging from women about his behavior, Stallman’s time was up.

    The moment goes beyond Stallman, a MacArthur “genius” grant recipient and author of key pieces of the open source software that basically runs our world these days. MIT itself is melting down because of Epstein, the now deceased serial rapist who insinuated himself into the Media Lab with his money and what its leaders considered his charm. The lab’s director, Joi Ito (who was a contributing writer to WIRED), resigned under pressure, and now people are calling for the ouster of MIT’s president, who apparently OK'd the payments. But the Stallman affair touches on something else: a simmering resentment about the treatment of women by the scruffy brainiacs who built our digital world, as well as the Brahmins of academia and business who benefited from the hackers’ effort. With the Epstein revelations that resentment has boiled over.

    One of those links is to a Medium article by "Selam G.", who is one of the activists pushing for Stallman's ouster. I have to share this bit, even though it's incredibly geeky, and probably not understandable by readers not steeped in that culture.

    Selam:

    Long before this incident, Stallman was contributing to an uncomfortable environment for women at MIT in a very real and visceral way. Alumni from as far back as the 1980’s reached out to me and told horrifying stories, such as:
    I recall being told early in my freshman year “If RMS hits on you, just say ‘I’m a vi user’ even if it’s not true.”
    — Bachelor’s in Computer Science, ’04

    Horrifying!

    I have very little difficulty in believing that Stallman had personality issues that caused difficulties in establishing healthy relationships with women. And, also, men.

    In short: yeah, probably most normal people would see a semi-creepy jerk.

    Does that justify his ouster? I'm having a hard time agreeing with that.


  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum is a lonely voice of sanity, describing The Alarming Epidemic of Misguided Meddling With E-Cigarettes.

    Banning flavored e-cigarettes is all the rage among politicians these days. It's an alarming trend that poses a clear and present danger to public health.

    The epidemic of misguided meddling began earlier this month when Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that she planned to unilaterally criminalize the sale of e-cigarettes in flavors other than tobacco. The contagion quickly spread to the White House, where President Donald Trump said his administration plans to impose a similar ban at the federal level; New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week declared an "emergency" ban; California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom said he would copy Cuomo if it were legally feasible; and Chicago, where Mayor Lori Lightfoot called for legislation aimed at closing "the gateway" to adolescent nicotine addiction.

    Sullum notes that prohibiting vaping products that adults prefer will predictably cause an increase in smoking disease and death. In the name of "health".


  • [Amazon Link]
    I'm currently reading a book (Amazon link at right) co-written by Phillip W. Magness on the general corruption of the higher education biz. If you want to get a taste of his thoughts on a related topic, see his recent article at AIER: How Twitter is Corrupting the History Profession.

    About a week ago I began scrutinizing how the New York Times’ 1619 Project relied upon the work of the controversial “New History of Capitalism” genre of historical scholarship to advance a sweeping indictment of free markets over the historical evils of slavery. The problems with this literature are many, and prominent among them is its use of shoddy statistical work by Cornell University historian Ed Baptist to grossly exaggerate the historical effect of slave-produced cotton on American economic development. Baptist’s unusual rehabilitation of the old Confederacy-linked “King Cotton” thesis is unsupported by evidence and widely rejected by economic historians. His book The Half Has Never Been Told has nonetheless acquired a vocal following among historians and journalists, including providing the basis of a feature article in the Times series on slavery.

    Curious about the following Baptist’s work had acquired despite its clear problems, I presented several questions on Twitter for its enthusiasts in the academy.

    Were they aware that Baptist’s statistics, including his estimate of slavery’s share of the antebellum economy, arose from a documented mathematical error? Did they know his thesis had been scrutinized by leading economic historians, who found problems of misrepresented evidence and citations to documents that did not support what Baptist claimed? Had Baptist made any effort to respond to his critics? Or, more importantly, had he corrected his statistical mistakes, which continue to be cited in the press, in academic works, and even in congressional hearings on the legacy of slavery despite their inaccuracy?

    The response from academics was … unprofessional.

    I almost said "shockingly unprofessional" there, but that would have been less than honest. I'm no longer surprised, let alone shocked, by unprofessional behavior from academics.


  • At NR, Matthew Continetti chronicles a recent mugging. Specifically: George Packer Gets Mugged by Reality.

    Few journalists are as respected by, and respectable to, liberals as The Atlantic’s George Packer. The author of The Assassin’s Gate (2005), The Unwinding (2013), and a recently published biography of Richard Holbrooke, Our Man, Packer has written for bastions of liberal thought from the New York Times Magazine to The New Yorker in a distinguished, decades-long career. His latest piece for The Atlantic, “When the Culture War Comes for the Kids,” is essential reading.

    Why? Because it relates, in Packer’s haunted and sympathetic style, the experience of having a child enrolled in a New York City school system corrupted by politics. For anyone who believes in individualism, the freedoms of speech and conscience, and the equal dignity of human beings, the experience sounds like a nightmare.

    It's not a pretty picture, Emily.


  • And last year's World Series champs will … not be repeating this year. But they had a role to play in what Paul Mirengoff calls Coolest baseball story of the year.

    Mike Yastrzemski, grandson of the great Carl Yastrzemski, hit a home run in his first appearance at Fenway Park in Boston, where Carl excelled for 23 seasons. Mike was playing for the visiting San Francisco Giants.

    The elder Yastrzemski toured the field with his grandson before the game. He provided tips on how to play balls hit off of left-field wall (the Green Monster). Many say that no one played them better than Carl.

    Then, in the fourth inning, Mike hit a home run, not over the Green Monster, but to straightaway center field. It was his 20th home run of the season. The Fenway Park crowd showed its appreciation with robust applause for the opposition player.

    Mike was called up to the Giants on May 25, hitting (as I type) .266 with 20 home runs. Watching the game on TV, I noticed that "Yastrzemski" barely fit on the back of his jersey.

URLs du Jour

2019-09-18

[Amazon Link]

  • Veronique de Rugy notes the Export-Import Bank is up to its old tricks: Ex-Im “Reform” Documents Look Like More of the Same Crony Capitalism.

    It has been disheartening, though not completely surprising, to watch the Republican party move from being the driving force behind terminating the crony capitalist agency known as the Export-Import Bank to a party that will do anything to not step on the toes of the president. Mr. Trump used to think Ex-Im was corporate welfare too, but he now would like to use the Bank as a national security tool to compete with China.

    What has been surprising is just how acquiescent Republican senators have been to the president’s pivot to embrace Ex-Im. Take a look, for instance, at the list of those who voted in favor of the nomination of Kimberley Reed as the new Ex-Im head. That vote effectively brought the agency back to life after a four-year hiatus. You will find the names of senators who supposedly are opposed to Ex-Im.

    Unfortunately, only 16 Senate Republicans (and Bernie Sanders) voted against Reed's nomination. That's how unpopular principled opposition to cronyism is in today's politics.


  • At the New York Post, Betsy McCaughey has easy pickings finding Democrats’ biggest health care lies. She lists four whoppers, and here is…

    Whopper 1: ObamaCare is affordable. Joe Biden’s running a television ad in Iowa pledging to stand by ObamaCare because “every American deserves affordable health care.” Iowans aren’t going to buy that. They’re not hayseeds.

    Truth: In Iowa, 90% of ObamaCare customers who paid their own way in 2014 have dropped their coverage. ObamaCare is affordable only if you qualify for a subsidy. Middle-class people who earn too much to get taxpayer-funded help can’t afford to stay enrolled.

    They “have taken it on the chin,” reports Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation. Why is the number of uninsured in America suddenly rising again? Blame ObamaCare for pricing the middle class out of insurance.

    To be fair, another good reason to drop "coverage" is that you are no longer getting fined for not having it.


  • At the Washington Free Beacon, Cameron Cawthorne added to the Pun Salad "Of Course He Did" department. Specifically, he noticed Joe Biden: Child Tax Credit Will 'Put 720 Million Women Back in the Workforce'.

    Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Tuesday made the incredible claim that his proposed child tax credit would "put 720 million women back in the workforce."

    The former vice president was speaking at the Workers’ Presidential Summit in Philadelphia when he made the remarks about his proposal for an $8,000 child tax credit. He said his words made him "sound like a wonk."

    Joe, I'm pretty sure "wonk" is not the word you were looking for there.

    But the article also made me think about the journalistic niche job of "listening carefully to every politician's speeches, remarks, and public conversations to catch gaffes, illiteracies, and general incoherence." That sounds like it could be a dreary, soul-deadening job in most cases. But if you're assigned Joe Biden? That could be entertaining.

    It also allowed me to fantasize about a couple punchlines:

    • "When asked to clarify, Biden said: 'Did I say 750 million? Sorry, I meant 750 billion.'"
    • "Asked to comment on Biden's assertion, Kamala Harris responded: 'Shit. I can't believe I'm losing to this guy.'"


  • The Democrat-controlled New Hampshire Legislature is attempting to override some of Governor Sununu's vetoes; one is of HB 183, which is generating an odd alliance of cranky libertarians (me) but also, according to Michael Graham's Inside SourcesEnvironmental Groups Urge NH Legislators to Sustain Sununu’s Veto of Biomass Bailout Bill.

    Several local, state, and national environmental groups sent a letter to New Hampshire state legislators today urging them to sustain Governor Sununu’s veto for HB 183, legislation that would require an estimated $20 million in ratepayer bailouts each year to six wood-burning biomass power plants. According to the latest EPA data (2017), four of the six biomass plants are among the top 10 air polluters in the state.

    The groups, which include the New Hampshire Sierra Club, Toxics Action Center Campaign, and Partnership for Policy Integrity, called the bill “harmful to our health, our environment, our wallets, and our climate.”

    I was unaware that in addition to the usual damage Democrats do to the operation of markets, the bill would also assist in degrading the environment. You'd think that would be a deal-breaker for Democrats, but we'll see.

    The article caused me to do something unusual: (1) look up my state representatives' e-mail addresses; (2) make a contact list; (3) send them mail asking that they vote to sustain the veto.


  • I noticed that a group of Arizona Democrats are upset with Senator Kyrsten Sinema for being occasionally independent-minded, not mindlessly anti-Trump. Not too interesting; who cares what a bunch of Arizona Democrats do? But the news article did point me to an interesting page on Nate Silver's Five Thirty Eight site: Tracking Congress In The Age Of Trump. Slick and easy to use, you can see how your state's senators and your own Congresscritter stacks up with their peers as far as supporting Trump's positions. In my case:

    • My own Congressman Chris Pappas has a "Trump Score" of 4.4%; this is near-bottom. Only 11 other Congresscritters have a lower score. Ilhan Omar has a higher score (6.7%) fer goodness' sake.

    • On the Senate side, Jeanne Shaheen clocks in with 30.5% Trump support; Maggie Hassan is at 29.2%. In comparison, Kyrsten Sinema is at 54.5%.

    You can also split things up by congressional session. I'm not sure what that means, but…

URLs du Jour

2019-09-17

[Amazon Link]

  • Jeff Jacoby gives thanks to Beto O'Rourke's gift to the GOP. Specifically, a year after claiming that his position on guns was "you own a gun, keep that gun, nobody wants to take it away from you" (while running against Ted Cruz in Texas):

    During the Democratic presidential candidates' debate last Thursday, O'Rourke dropped the pretense that he "jealously guard[s]" gun owners' Second Amendment rights. When ABC moderator David Muir asked him whether it's true that he would force owners of semiautomatic rifles — "You know that critics call this confiscation. Are you proposing taking away their guns?" — the former Texas congressman was bluntness itself:

    "Hell, yes!" he replied, as the audience of Democratic Party activists cheered. "We're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47."

    Within the hour, the O'Rourke campaign put out a fundraising tweet playing up his anti-gun stance. Under a picture of an AR-15, it proclaimed: "Beto has a ban for that." Forty-five minutes later, the campaign was marketing a new T-shirt. "HELL YES WE'RE GOING TO TAKE YOUR AR-15" it says in red, white, and blue letters. ($30; available in sizes from XS to 3XL).

    An unofficial version of the t-shirt is our Amazon Product du Jour. Wear it in safe spaces only, please.

    Jeff also links to the Washington Free Beacon video showing a host of Democratic politicians and media figures ("but I repeat myself") assuring that "nobody wants to take your guns away." Truly a herd of independent minds.


  • At the WaPo, Megan McArdle correctly tells us: A vaping ban would be hysteria masquerading as prudence.

    At this point, the best information suggests that a recent spate of deaths from a vaping-related lung disease — six at last report — had little or nothing to do with legal e-cigarettes. Rather, the deaths, and more than 300 confirmed cases of the disease in dozens of states, seem to be linked to illegal cartridges, mostly using marijuana derivatives that had been emulsified with vitamin E acetate, according to Food and Drug Administration investigators. The FDA has warned against using it for inhalation, and it isn’t used in legally manufactured e-cigarettes.

    Naturally, the government wants to ban legally manufactured e-cigarettes.

    It's stupid, bordering on insane. Also, unfortunately, typical.


  • At the Federalist, David Harsanyi: The Smearing Of Brett Kavanaugh Is An Attack On The Supreme Court.

    Sure, it’s about partisanship and peddling books and selling newspaper subscriptions, but in the end, Democrats’ smearing of Brett Kavanaugh is also about delegitimizing the Supreme Court—the only institution that will inhibit the progressive agenda no matter who wins elections.

    Conservatives justices aren’t merely wrong, they’re nefarious and racist and extremist, you see, so virtually anything Democrats do to try and stop them is now rationalized. In this world, the accused, rather than the accuser, bears the “burden of proof.” In this world hucksters like Michael Avenatti are turned into experts and major news outlets will eagerly repeat and spread slander as news.

    Hey, remember when Democrats deplored McCarthyite tactics? How old do you have to be to remember that?


  • Reason's Christian Britschgi contibutes to our "Of Course He Did" Department today: Bernie Sanders’ Housing Plan Calls for $2.5 Trillion in New Spending and Nationwide Rent Control.

    In a speech to trade union members in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Saturday, Sanders laid out his vision for tackling high housing costs, homelessness, and gentrification through a mix of nationwide rent control, increased federal spending on housing vouchers and public housing construction, and higher taxes on the wealthy.

    "I don't have to tell anyone in America that we have an affordable housing crisis in Nevada, in Vermont, and all over this country that must be addressed," Sanders said. "It is unacceptable to me that over 18 million families in America today are paying more than 50 percent of their limited incomes on housing."

    Don't bother checking your copy of the Constitution to try to find where your Federal Government is empowered to do any of that. It ain't there. And Bernie don't care.


  • At the Library of Economics and Liberty, Pierre Lemieux notes the weird and incoherent role of the kiddos in our political debates: Power to the Children and Hail to the State!.

    Specifically: think of Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old who we are supposed to take as a fountain of wisdom on climate change. Or David Hogg on guns.

    Then look at all the arguments that kids are "fragile snowflakes to be protected from alcohol, tobacco, vaping, ideas, and life in general."

    In fashionable political discourse, then, children are presented either as role models to justify future tyranny or as little parentless incompetents, depending on how exactly their exploitation is required to advance state power. Granted that some statocrats (politicians and bureaucrats) and public-health or environmental crusaders might be consumed by good intentions, but as German poet Johan Christian Hölderlin wrote (quoted in Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom),

    What has always made the state a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it his heaven.

    Mark J. Perry composed one of his famous Venn diagrams to illustrate:

    [Teenager Venn]

URLs du Jour

2019-09-16

[Amazon Link]

  • With respect to our Amazon Product du Jour goes, Kurdistan does not appear in the latest edition of the Fraser Institute's Economic Freedom of the World. Because, technically, it's not a country. Some major points:

    • Hong Kong and Singapore, as usual, occupy the top two positions. The next highest scoring nations are New Zealand, Switzerland, United States, Ireland, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Mauritius.
    • The rankings of some other major countries are Japan (17th), Germany (20th), Italy (46th), France (50th), Mexico (76th), India (79th), Russia (85th), China (113th), and Brazil (120th).
    • The 10 lowest-rated countries are: Iraq, Republic of Congo, Egypt, Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Algeria, Sudan, Libya, and, lastly, Venezuela.

    I can't recall which country Bernie thinks we should be more like, but it's not Hong Kong.


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson writes (NRPLUS article, don't know what that means): ‘Resistance’ Politics Degrades Civic Life. Interesting question: which side really has a better "resistance" argument?

    The Democrats, after all, have shown themselves to be thoroughgoing authoritarians. Many of our progressive friends spent the Obama years lecturing us that opposition to the president and his agenda was tantamount to sedition or treason. They tell us now that failing to knuckle under to their political agenda is treason. Democratic prosecutors have been conducting investigations of companies and political activists for having the wrong opinions on global warming; Democrats in California have just declared the National Rifle Association a terrorist organization because it opposes them politically, and Democrats threaten companies doing business with the NRA with governmental retaliation; Democrats have proposed to gut the First Amendment; Democrats propose to put people in prison for showing films with political content without government permission; Democrats have resurrected 19th-century Know-Nothingism in their bigoted and unconstitutional campaign to keep Catholics off of federal courts; Democrats have illegally and unethically abused the powers of the IRS and other government agencies to harass and punish political rivals. It isn’t Republicans who want to censor political speech. It isn’t Republicans employing violence against college students and visitors at Mizzou or firebombing buildings at Berkeley.

    And now Robert Francis O’Rourke has finally decided to confess what everybody already knows by openly declaring his intention to seize Americans’ firearms in direct violation of the Bill of Rights — a proposal that other leading Democrats already have endorsed.

    I'm too old for "resistance", but Democrats/Leftists should keep in mind that old "sow the wind, reap the whirlwind" adage.


  • Jeff Jacoby states, correctly: The case against fracking is based on ideology, not science.

    By unleashing vast quantities of clean-burning natural gas, fracking dramatically changed the economics of electricity production. As natural gas grew more and more affordable, fewer and fewer power plants continued to burn coal. Indeed, more than half of all US coal-fired plants have closed over the past 10 years. According to the Energy Information Administration, 35 percent of America's electricity in 2018 came from natural gas; just 27 percent was from coal. No one would have thought those percentages were possible in 2000, when half of the nation's electricity was generated by coal-fired plants and less than one-sixth came from natural gas.

    Because natural gas releases only half as much carbon dioxide as coal, the sweeping shift to gas-fueled plants has led to a dramatic reduction in America's greenhouse gas emissions. So dramatic, in fact, that no other nation matches it, as President Obama observed in his 2014 State of the Union address: "Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth."

    For anyone who worries about climate change and is intent on carbon reduction, all this should be cause for rejoicing. Fracking, which has made it possible, should be extolled as a boon to environmental progress.

    The Democrat candidates are split on the issue, with Bernie, Kamala, and Elizabeth taking the anti-science viewpoint.


  • And our Google LFOD alert rang for an opinion piece in the Buffalo (NY) News, about their state's license plate kerfuffle: Cuomo, DMV need to rethink plan to replace license plates.

    The comedian George Carlin had some observations about state license plates: “The most dramatic license plate of all has to be New Hampshire’s, which says, ‘Live free or die.’ On the other end of the spectrum is Idaho’s, which says, ‘Famous potatoes.’ It would seem to me that somewhere in-between the truth lies.”

    So it is with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s plan to mandate the replacement of older license plates in New York. Critics call it an unseemly cash grab by Albany. Cuomo says it is a necessary step to keep up with technology. We suspect the truth lies in the middle.

    Well, maybe. Apparently the proposed new NY plate uses the official motto "Excelsior", which besides being something Stan Lee said all the time, allegedly is also Latin for "Ever Upward".

    Which is an odd thing to have on a car. Because they sometimes go downhill too.

The Phony Campaign

2019-09-15 Update

We start this week with Michael Ramirez' Avengers-themed toon about Bernie's proposed eugenic scheme to fight climate change.

[Sanders is ready to snap]

Yep. On to this week's standings! The Betfair bettors smiled once again on Elizabeth Warren, frowned upon Wheezy Joe, but most notably pretty much gave up on Kamala, sending her winning probability down below that of Andrew Yang.

As far as phoniness goes: although all candidates gained some hits over the week, President Bone Spurs continued to pull away from the pack.

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
9/8
Phony
Results
Change
Since
9/8
Donald Trump 44.6% +0.5% 7,200,000 +4,970,000
Bernie Sanders 7.0% -0.5% 946,000 +73,000
Joe Biden 11.7% -1.1% 922,000 +479,000
Pete Buttigieg 2.2% -0.3% 882,000 +164,000
Elizabeth Warren 18.4% +1.6% 394,000 +186,000
Kamala Harris 3.3% -1.7% 133,000 +19,000
Andrew Yang 3.5% -0.5% 52,400 +16,700

"WinProb" calculation described here. Google result counts are bogus.

  • The great Andrew Stiles wrote earlier in the week on the then-upcoming debate on ABC: Democratic Debate Preview: Why Your Candidate Is The Worst (Part 1) and (Part 2). Lots of red meat there, but let's look at what Andrew has to say about… oh, Bernie Sanders:

    People who have spent their entire careers attacking rich people really don't like to be reminded of the fact that they are, in fact, rich. Michael Moore, for example. Bernie Sanders is no different. Earlier this year, the derelict senator who owns three houses and has railed against the prevalence of superfluous deodorant brands, snapped at a New York Times interviewer: "I wrote a best-selling book. If you write a best-selling book, you can be a millionaire, too."

    Perhaps in response to Elizabeth Warren's shadow candidacy, Sanders has been ramping up his efforts to stand out from the Democratic field. After previously proposing to extend voting rights to convicted felons, including Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Sanders recently endorsed population control as a means to combat climate change. He also praised China as the country that has "made more progress in addressing extreme poverty than any country in the history of civilization." Grandpa needs a nap.

    How can this guy be losing?


  • The President, of course, rails against news he doesn't like. E.g., polls, specifically one from the WaPo and ABC:

    From Vox: Trump is trying to discredit recent polls because he’s losing in nearly all of them.

    Wednesday, the president accused pollsters of conspiring with Democrats against him, discounted the polls, and argued respondents had been wrongly swayed by the press. He had particular animus for an ABC News-Washington Post poll that also drew his ire earlier in the week over its findings on the president’s approval rating, referring to it as a “phony suppression poll, meant to build up their Democrat partners.”

    Trump does have a point: polls can be wrong. But there's no reason to assume they're wrong on purpose.


  • Jamil Smith watched the debate and concluded for Rolling Stone: Joe Biden Should Drop Out. Now Jamil is firmly on the left, and his characterizations are accordingly wacky. But he reproduces the answer Biden gave to the question “What responsibility do you think that Americans need to take to repair the legacy of slavery in our country?”…

    Well, they have to deal with the — look, there’s institutional segregation in this country. From the time I got involved, I started dealing with that. Redlining banks, making sure we are in a position where — look, you talk about education. I propose is we take the very poor schools, triple the amount of money we spend from $15 to $45 billion a year. Give every single teacher a raise to the $60,000 level.

    Number two, make sure that we bring in to help the teachers deal with the problems that come from home. The problems that come from home, we have one school psychologist for every 1,500 kids in America today. It’s crazy. The teachers are — I’m married to a teacher, my deceased wife is a teacher. They have every problem coming to them. Make sure that every single child does, in fact, have 3, 4 and 5-year-olds go to school. Not day care, school.

    Social workers help parents deal with how to raise their children. It’s not that they don’t want to help, they don’t know what to play the radio, make sure the television — excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the — make sure that kids hear words, a kid coming from a very poor school — a very poor background will hear 4 million words fewer spoken by the time we get there.

    MODERATOR: Thank you, Mr. Vice President.

    Biden: No, I’m going to go like the rest of them do, twice over. Because here’s the deal. The deal is that we’ve got this a little backwards. By the way, in Venezuela, we should be allowing people to come here from Venezuela. I know Maduro. I’ve confronted Maduro. You talk about the need to do something in Latin America. I’m the guy that came up with $740 million, to see to it those three countries, in fact, changed their system to people don’t have to chance to leave. You’re acting like we just discovered this yesterday. Thank you very much.

    Yes. Make sure you have the record player on at night.

    Part of me hopes for a Trump/Biden debate where they compete on who can give the less coherent answers.

    Another part of me dreads that, for the good of the country.


  • But there's good news from Christian Schneider at the Bulwark: The Democrats are Blackmailing Themselves. That's about the ecology of "opposition research" firms who sell their dug-up dirt on Candidate X… to Candidate X himself!

    But these days, such firms are on the wane, thanks to candidates who are self-incriminating via Google. Example:

    The race’s denouement took place last Thursday morning, when South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg suggested that people who drink from straws or eat hamburgers are “part of the problem” in America, comparing the climate change crisis to World War II and the Great Depression. (Naturally, it took Twitter users a nanosecond to exhume photos of Buttigieg drinking from straws and flipping a full grill of meat, presumably leaving a trail of eco-death in his wake.)

    For comparison, the number of Americans who like cheeseburgers currently stands at 86 percent, slightly higher than the 4 percent of Democrats who prefer Pete Buttigieg.

    As we've seen, Bernie's come out against motherhood. Julian Castro (as well as former candidate Kirsten Gillebrand) came out against the flag, at least the Betsy Ross version. Next week in the crosshairs: apple pie whose inventor will be shown to have once read Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird.


  • Ann Althouse notes another bit of debate dreadfulness, this time with Joe on the right side: "Let's be constitutional! We've got a Constitution!" — said Joe Biden, responding to Kamala Harris, who said....

    "Well, I mean, I would just say, hey, Joe, instead of saying, no, we can't, let's say yes, we can."

    I.e.: "Yes we can subvert the Constitution! The one I took an oath to 'support and defend'. Never mind that!"

    Ann adds that "transcript cannot convey the feeling and expression" in Kamala's response. It was "awful", "lightweight", and "dismissive of constitutional law."

    And at Reason, Jacob Sullum noticed the same: Kamala Harris Does Not Understand Why the Constitution Should Get in the Way of Her Gun Control Agenda.

    Instead of explaining the legal basis for the "executive action" she has in mind, Harris made a weak joke: "Hey, Joe, instead of saying, 'No, we can't,' let's say, 'Yes, we can.'" Then she launched into a description of the casualties from mass shootings, adding, "The idea that we would wait for this Congress, which has just done nothing, to act, is just—it is overlooking the fact that every day in America, our babies are going to school to have drills, elementary, middle and high school students, where they are learning about how they have to hide in a closet or crouch in a corner if there is a mass shooter roaming the hallways of their school."

    That is not an argument in favor of any particular gun control policy, let alone an argument for the president's authority to impose it unilaterally. "Let's be constitutional," Biden said. "We've got a Constitution." To which Harris replied, in effect, "Constitution, schmonstitution. Why should that get in the way of my agenda?" Even voters who tend to agree with Harris about gun control should be troubled by her blithe dismissal of the legal limits on the powers she would exercise as president.

    Well, the voters seem to be turning against her. Unfortunately, I suspect, not for the right reasons.


  • But let us turn our phony attention to the (gulp!) Democrat front-runner. Peter Suderman, bless him, is being paid by Reason to keep track of her phoniness. For example: Elizabeth Warren Issues Misleading Claim That Three Industries Are Responsible for 70 Percent of Carbon Pollution.

    Take, for example, her claim at last week's CNN town hall on climate change that 70 percent of airborne carbon pollution comes from three industries. Warren made this argument in response to a question about whether the government should tell people which lightbulbs they have to use. 

    "This is exactly what the fossil fuel industry hopes we're all talking about," she said. "They want to be able to stir up a lot of controversy around your lightbulbs, straws, and cheeseburgers when 70% of the pollution of the carbon that we're throwing into the air comes from three industries." Because this is 2019, Warren also posted the claim on Instagram. 

    Via Politifact, the "three industries" are…

    • Transportation. (Which, Peter notes, is more of an "activity" than an "industry".)
    • Electricity production. (Ditto.) And…
    • Industry. Yes, one of the three industries that account for 70% of carbon is "industry."

    Politifact rated Warren's claim "half true". Showing, pretty much that they are totally in the bag for her.


  • But that's not all! At the (probably paywalled) WSJ, Phil Gramm and Mike Solon described Warren’s Assault on Retiree Wealth.

    As a retiree myself, I pricked up my ears at that.

    Her “Accountable Capitalism Act” would wipe out the single greatest legal protection retirees currently enjoy—the requirement that corporate executives and fund managers act as fiduciaries on investors’ behalf. To prevent union bosses, money managers or politicians from raiding pension funds, the 1974 Employee Retirement Income Security Act requires that a fiduciary shall manage a plan “solely in the interest of the participants and beneficiaries . . . for the exclusive purpose of providing benefits to participants and their beneficiaries.” The Securities and Exchange Commission imposes similar requirements on investment advisers, and state laws impose fiduciary responsibility on state-chartered corporations.

    Sen. Warren would blow up these fiduciary-duty protections by rewriting the charter for every corporation with gross receipts of more than $1 billion. Every corporation, proprietorship, partnership and limited-liability company of that size would be forced to enroll as a federal corporation under a new set of rules. Under this new Warren charter, companies currently dedicated to their shareholders’ interest would be reordered to serve the interests of numerous new “stakeholders,” including “the workforce,” “the community,” “customers,” “the local and global environment” and “community and societal factors.”

    Hm. My guess, which you should ignore: coming spike in gold prices.


  • And we've been pretty easy on Andrew Yang; Google (meaninglessly) considers him the least-phony credible candidate. But he comes in for a slap from Mark Krikorian at National Review: Do the 2020 Democratic Candidates Know Anything About Immigration Policy?.

    Yang was the most likeable of the bunch on stage last night but, like so many people, he thinks that because his dad came from the old country, he knows all he needs to know about immigration. Following Elizabeth Warren’s call to “expand legal immigration” (without offering any numbers, of course), Yang said, “I would return the level of legal immigration to the point it was under the Obama-Biden administration.”

    Unfortunately for Yang’s narrative, legal immigration is at the level it was under the Obama-Biden administration. The number of people granted lawful permanent residence (green cards), which is what we mean by “legal immigration,” averaged 1.06 million from Fiscal Year 2009 to 2016. The total for FY 2017 was 1.13 million, for 2018 was 1.1 million, and annualizing from the first quarter of FY 2019 yields a projected total of 1.03 million. Fluctuation within 100,000 is common (in 2013, the total was only 990,000), so the level is essentially unchanged. It could be that the green-card total will decline next year, because of the smaller number of refugees converting to green cards and, possibly, the new public charge rule leading to a reduction in the number of parents of adult U.S. citizens, but neither of these things has happened yet.

    I'm wishy-washy on immigration, mainly because (1) I'm generally in favor but (2) also favor enforcing the laws, even stupid ones.


Last Modified 2019-09-15 11:36 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2019-09-14

[Amazon Link]

  • Peter Suderman is devoting much of his Reason time to noticing a certain candidate's prevarications and outright lies. And this is no exception: Elizabeth Warren Doesn’t Want to Say How She’d Pay for Her Health Care Plan. She doesn't have a plan of her own, opting to support Bernie's "Medicare For All" instead. But:

    But despite endorsing Sanders' plan, Warren has repeatedly declined to say that middle-class taxes would have to go up. She dodged the question in earlier debates this year. And at the debate last night, she once again all but refused to answer the question directly.

    Instead, she offered a vague promise that "middle-class families are going to pay less" while insisting that "those at the very top—the richest individuals and the biggest corporations—are going to pay more."

    When a debate moderator pressed her specifically on the question of taxes, she still declined to offer a direct response. Families have to deal with "total cost," she said, reiterating her support for Medicare for All. "Costs are going to go up for wealthier individuals, and costs are going to go up for giant corporations. But for hard-working families across this country, costs are going to go down, and that's how it should work under Medicare for All in our health care system." The specific question—Would taxes rise for middle-class families?—remained unanswered. 

    When politicians start talking about "total cost", you know they're playing a shell game: of course your taxes will go up, and you'll get something, maybe, in exchange. Whether you consider that a good deal or not? That's irrelevant. You won't have a choice in the matter.


  • I bet you've been wondering whether more aid to education will make it more affordable. Maybe you're hoping that more aid to education will make it more affordable. Well, sorry. Veronique de Rugy and Jack Salmon, writing at the American Institute for Economic Research, have some bad (but not unexpected) news: More Aid to Education Will Not Make It More Affordable.

    In a recent study published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, we reviewed the existing literature, as well as publicly available data, to determine whether more federal aid is the correct treatment for the problem of rising tuition prices. The evidence broadly suggests that colleges respond to increased federal funding by reducing institutional aid, so that for each dollar of additional federal aid students receive, they lose between 60 cents and 83 cents of institutional aid, depending on the type of aid and institution.

    Further, by subsidizing tuition through federal student aid, the government creates artificially high demand for college degrees, driving tuition prices higher and increasing overall costs for students and taxpayers. Policymakers’ solution to the issue of increasing costs has traditionally been to increase federal funding, which results in college getting ever more expensive over time. 

    You'd think that Democrats wouldn't bother with promises about spending vastly more money on education, since the teacher unions and the higher ed establishment are already in their pocket. Are they worried these constituencies won't stay bought?


  • In the Pun Salad "Billion? Oh, good, I thought you said 'million'" Department, this report from AP: Study finds the universe might be 2 billion years younger.

    The universe is looking younger every day, it seems.

    New calculations suggest the universe could be a couple billion years younger than scientists now estimate, and even younger than suggested by two other calculations published this year that trimmed hundreds of millions of years from the age of the cosmos.

    "Why you don't look a day over 10 billion!"


  • Speaking of old things, people of a Certain Age might be interested in How Eric Clapton Created the Classic Song "Layla".

    The story of Eric Clapton and “Layla” has always bothered me because to understand it is to understand how fallible and crazed any of us can be when it comes to love. We understand that our rock gods are human, but there’s something about Clapton falling in love with the wife (Pattie Boyd) of one of his best mates (George Harrison, a freakin’ Beatle, man!) and then writing a whole album about it, that is just unsettling. Is this something tawdry writ epic? Or is this something epic that has the wafting aroma of tawdriness?

    Polyphonic takes on the behind the scenes story of this rock masterpiece and rewinds several centuries to the source of Layla’s name: “Layla and Majnun,” a romantic poem from 12th century Persian poet Niẓāmi Ganjavi based on an actual woman from the 6th Century who drove her poet paramour mad. Lord Byron called the tragic poem “The Romeo and Juliet of the East,” as unrequited love leaves both Majnun and Layla dead after the latter’s father forbids her to be with the poet.

    Originally imagined as a ballad, but then … Duane Allman happened. Also Jim Gordon.


  • And the Google LFOD alert rang for some big shoe news: Concepts x Timberland LFOD 6” Boot Drop.

    Concepts and Timberland have reunited for a new 6” Boot collaboration, this time focusing on an all-weather style that will last through the winter months. The Concepts x Timberland 6” “LFOD” boot is specifically built to withstand urban terrain and is well-prepared for inclement weather in rougher seasons.

    Featuring a textured GORE-TEX®️ black-suede upper, the boots also pay tribute to New England, the original home of both brands. The boots are decorated with bold white embroidery that reads “LIBERUM VIVERE AUT MORI” across a black corduroy collar in all caps, which loosely translates to New Hampshire’s state motto, “Live Free or Die” (LFOD). As a cherry on top of its New England inspiration, the boot also features tartan sock liners. Finally, a soft seafoam green leather patch with a purple Concepts logo completes the shoe.

    A pair will set you back $240. Tempting, but…

    Bright idea: the state should offer Latin-version plates for a modest extra fee, with "Liberum Vivere aut Mori" replacing "Live Free or Die". For people who want to add a certain highbrow seasoning to their in-your-face revolutionary attitudes.


Last Modified 2019-09-15 5:01 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2019-09-13

[Amazon Link]

  • Bryan Caplan notes that for gaining and maintaining political power, truth is overrated. Instead: Monopolize the Pretty Lies.

    Why do dictators deny people the right to speak freely? The obvious response is, “The truth hurts.” Dictators are bad, so if people can freely speak the truth, they will say bad things about the dictator. This simultaneously wounds dictators’ pride and threatens their power, so dictators declare war on the truth.

    But is this story right? Consider: If you want to bring an incumbent dictator down, do you really want to be hamstrung by the truth? It’s far easier – and more crowd-pleasing – to respond to a pack of official lies with your own pack of lies. When the dictator claims, “I’ve made this the greatest country on earth,” you could modestly respond, “Face facts: we’re only 87th.” Yet if it’s power you seek, you might as well lie back, “The dictator has destroyed our country – but this will be the greatest country on earth if we gain power.” Even more obviously, if the current dictator claims the sanction of God, the opposition doesn’t want to shrug, “Highly improbable. How do you even know God exists?” Instead, the opposition wants to roar, “No, God is on our side. Our side!”

    Freedom of speech is immensely valuable, but it's easy to attribute powers to it that it doesn't have. Politicians of all stripes know that lies and half-truths are more effective than honesty.

    Speaking of monopoly, our Amazon Product du Jour is very hard to get, with an absurdly high price to match. But you might want to click over to Amazon anyway, because the some of the questions and their answers are hilarious. ("Is the board waterproof so Progressive tears won’t ruin it?" "Its coated with VEGAN oil and comes with a brush made from the armpit hair of 200+lb female anqueefa loser.")

    (OK, I googled it: "anqueefa" is a very offensive misspelling of "Antifa". I don't recommend googling it.)


  • Richard A. Epstein writes in the latest issue of Reason on The Progressive Feeding Frenzy. After rattling off the new government spending "Progressives" demand:

    How then are these gargantuan expenditures to be funded? The first problem is that the private sector will be so debilitated that government revenues will fall even if tax rates are kept at their current rate. But taxes won't stay at their current rate, because the progressive mindset ignores incentives and treats all wealth transfers as zero-sum. They assume that no amount of taking will ever lead to less earning and that the top 1 percent of Americans, who earn about 20 percent of total income, comprise a deep well.

    But that well has already been tapped; today these same rich people also pay 40 percent of federal and state taxes. Some of that money generates return benefits in the form of government goods and services. But today, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and lesser entitlement programs consume an ever-larger fraction of public wealth. We are on the wrong side of the Laffer curve, where higher taxes will generate even smaller revenues. Foreign investors will stay away or pull up stakes and move elsewhere. Many older professionals will choose to retire rather than take a cut in after-tax income. Meanwhile, everyone else will lobby to get on the government gravy train.

    [I've said this before but:] there is not a dollar in private hands that statists don't imagine they could spend more wisely and humanely.


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson looks at The Lawfare Campaign against Gunmakers.

    It is remarkable how little our elite law-enforcement agencies and prosecutors are willing to do when it comes to policing the criminal use of firearms. The U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, whose office has responsibility for Chicago, has for years maintained a policy of refusing to prosecute most straw-buyer cases unless they are part of a larger organized-crime investigation, partly because those cases are a lot of work and partly because they tend to net a lot of sympathetic defendants, the girlfriends and grandmothers and nephews with clean records who buy firearms illegally for convicted felons. Local officials in Chicago and Illinois practically never pursue gun-trafficking cases: As ProPublica reports, between 2014 and 2017 Cook County authorities charged only twelve gunrunning cases and zero gun-trafficking cases. Chicago police made only 142 arrests for illegal gun sales over the course of a decade — and no arrests at all for gun trafficking. Of the many arrests for illegal possession of firearms, few led to prosecutions and fewer still to convictions. Similar stories play out less dramatically in jurisdictions around the country and in the federal system: Thousands of gun purchases are wrongly approved in federal background checks every year, but the ATF makes no effort at all to recover those guns.

    There are reasons for that. The people who are driving Chicago’s sustained murder problem are young and mobile. Chasing them is hard work, catching them is harder still, and convicting them brings very little in the way of headlines or glory.

    It's no surprise that law-abiding companies that make and sell guns are "a much easier target". So the hell with the rule of law.


  • Matt Weidinger of AEI brings out some Highlights of the new 2018 Census Bureau poverty data. Most notably:

    1.      Poverty fell again. The official poverty rate (now 11.8 percent) and the number of people in poverty (38.1 million) both fell again in 2018. The poverty rate is now the lowest it has been since 2001 (when it was 11.7 percent). Since peaking at 46.7 million in 2014, the number of people in poverty has fallen by over 8 million. This continued decline in poverty is what you would expect at this point in the economic cycle, given strong job growth and very low unemployment rates – recently at levels seen only at the end of the 1990s expansion, and before that, not since the late 1960s.

    I'm as unfond of clichés and adages as the next person. But "a rising tide lifts all boats".

    Also: What leftists endlessly deride as "trickle down economics" works.

    Granite Staters will immediately want to thumb through the report to see how we're doing. That's actually easier to find at the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) report. By the "official" poverty measure, NH averaged a 6.4% poverty rate between 2016-2018; that's by far the lowest rate in the country.

    The SPM takes transfer payments and the local cost of living into account; things aren't quite as rosy in our case. The 2016-2018 average SPM poverty rate in NH was 8.2%. A bunch of states, mostly in the midwest (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Wisconsin) clock in slightly lower than that.

URLs du Jour

2019-09-12

[Amazon Link]

  • Veronique de Rugy returns to an evergreen theme: Trump's Tariff and Trade Aches and Pains.

    On the campaign trail, candidate Donald Trump said that, if elected, "We're going to win so much. You're going to get tired of winning. You're going to say, 'Please Mr. President, I have a headache. Please, don't win so much.'" Unfortunately, Trump's definition of winning seems to mean flexing his presidential muscles, beating his chest and changing his mind without hesitation — all with an utter disregard for the actual impact of his policies on the economy and American workers.

    The president's profound misunderstanding of what victory looks like is particularly visible in his multifront attack on trade and globalization. All in the name of putting America first, he withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, treated our trade partners like enemies, forced a renegotiation of NAFTA with no clear idea of whether the new deal (the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement) could ever be ratified, implemented tariffs to fight imaginary national security menaces and started a trade war with China without any clearer strategy than his willingness to jack up tariffs at all costs.

    Yes, our Amazon Product du Jour is a rerun. But it's a good rerun. From the product description:

    Get this before the tariffs hit the shirt companies, because prices rise and you'll end up paying more for this exact shirt. If you don't think Donald Trump would do such a move, think again! This is the classiest tariff shirt around, believe me.

    If you believe in supporting vendors who market their wares with a sense of humor, go for it.


  • As Philip K. Dick taught us, androids dream of electric sheep. And as Kevin D. Williamson teaches us: Democrats Dream Of Nation Without Republicans.

    Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times has a dream, a dream in which about half of the American people are deprived of an effective means of political representation, a dream of one-party government in which the Democrats are the only game in town — “Dare We Dream of the End of the GOP?” her column is headlined — which also is a dream of visiting vengeance upon those who dared to vote for their own interests as they understood them and thereby schemed “to stop the New America from governing.”

    That quotation is from a new book by Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg bearing the title R.I.P. G.O.P. Greenberg himself has a new column in the Times on the same theme. “The 2020 election will be transformative like few in our history,” he writes. “It will end with the death of the Republican Party as we know it . . . [and] liberate the Democratic Party from the country’s suffocating polarization and allow it to use government to address the vast array of problems facing the nation.”

    Well, that's a darn shame. Too bad the GOP hasn't done much since 2016 to deserve our support or trust.


  • Up in the Great White North, Maclean's looks at funny old America's politics, specifically: Don’t count out Andrew Yang, the populist technocrat who wants to be president. And looks at his visit to New Hampshire, specifically Laconia and Belknap County:

    [Belknap County is] also fertile ground for Yang’s radical proposals. When he first rolled into New Hampshire in January, he preached the Freedom Dividend as a panacea. But [chair of the Laconia Democrats Carlos] Cardona convinced him to ease up on that, to pivot instead to local issues of addiction and unemployment. Belknap County suffers the second-highest rate of overdose deaths in New Hampshire, which itself is the fourth most lethal state for opioid deaths. Yang took his advice, and Cardona has watched the candidate’s crowd sizes grow with every subsequent visit. He now draws a through line from financial insecurity to anxiety, depression and addiction. Audience members nod along. They get it. Fifty of them signed up to receive Yang Gang emails after he left the stage. “Live Free or Die,” their state motto goes. To win the nomination, Yang needs voters to agree this is not rhetorical: freedom means a monthly dividend. The alternative, quite literally, is death.

    Or the "Freedom Dividend" could be used to buy more heroin. That's the way I'd bet.


  • Andrew Yang's campaign motto is "MATH". Which, allegedly, stands for "Make America Think Harder."

    I suppose that's better than "PB4WEGO".

    Elizabeth Warren. on the other hand, might go with: "But America Doesn't Merit A Trustworthy Head" → BADMATH.

    Because, as Peter Suderman points out at Reason: Elizabeth Warren’s Plans Don’t Add Up. (Also in the October print issue.)

    The Warren worldview is thus both bloodless and moralizing. It is also dangerous, combining self-righteous certainty about the perils of the economy with dubious data and an instinct for bureaucratic paternalism. Warren wants the federal government to be the American economy's hall monitor, telling individuals and companies what they can and can't sell or buy and making some of the nation's most successful businesses answer to her demands.

    It seems to be working. During the first six months of 2019, this strategy vaulted Warren into the top tier of Democratic primary contenders, helping her raise more than $19 million during the year's second quarter and placing her among the top three or four candidates in the party's crowded field. Focus groups and political reporting have consistently found that Democratic voters are warming not only to the substance of Warren's ideas but to the very fact that she has them.

    Yet Warren's wonkery and her populist fury are both based on myths and misdirection, often perpetuated by Warren herself. Although she styles herself as a data-driven champion of the little guy, she has run a campaign based on a dismal representation of the U.S. economy that fails to account for factors that complicate her story. And although she has received kudos for the volume and specificity of her plans, Warren has a history of pushing misleading research and cherry-picked data designed to support politicized conclusions.

    Peter's article is a long, interesting, scary picture of Liz's rise to political power, supported by shoddy scholarship along the way.

  • Jeff Jacoby bids an unfond farewell to a recently departed leader: To Hell with Robert Mugabe. And reveals a certain willful blindness of American higher ed:

    Determined to suppress all political opposition, Mugabe ordered the fearsome Fifth Brigade — a North Korea-trained military unit — to move against the Ndebele minority in the country's southern province of Matabeleland. The Ndebele, who constituted about one-fourth of Zimbabwe's population, were supporters of Joshua Nkomo, a national hero and the leader of a key opposition party. Mugabe, a member of the country's Shona majority, unleashed what he called a gukurahundi — a "wiping away" — against the Ndebele in Matabeleland. Beginning in February 1983, thousands of victims were being massacred. Many were shot dead in public executions after being forced to dig their own graves. The atrocities committed by Mugabe's forces were reported on at the time by human rights organizations and international media. By 1987, the death toll carried out in Matabeleland had reached 25,000.

    That didn't keep the University of Massachusetts from awarding Mugabe an honorary degree. In October 1986, Zimbabwe's increasingly ruthless ruler was extolled in a special convocation on the Amherst campus as a champion of human rights. The UMass chancellor, Joseph Duffy, hosted Mugabe at a dinner in his home, where he praised his leadership and economic reforms and expressed the hope that Mugabe's record in Zimbabwe was a preview of what a post-apartheid South Africa would look like.

    According to Jeff, the slow-motion UMass revoked Mugabe's degree 22 years later, in 2008.

URLs du Jour

2019-09-11

[Amazon Link]

  • No jokes or snarkiness up front today. Our Amazon Product du Jour is the new book from Garrett M. Graff. He has an article about the book at the Atlantic: On September 11, Blind Luck Decided Who Lived or Died. Which starts:

    Joseph Lott, a sales representative for Compaq computers, survived one of the deadliest days in modern American history because he had a penchant for “art ties,” neckties featuring famous masterpieces. “It began many years earlier, in the ’90s,” he said in an oral history with StoryCorps. “I love Impressionist paintings, and I use them as a way to make points with my kids. I’d put on an art tie, and then I would ask my kids—I have three daughters—I would say, ‘Artist identification?’ And they would have to tell me whether it was a van Gogh or a Monet, and we would have a little conversation about the artist.”

    On the morning of September 11, 2001, he had put on a green shirt before meeting colleagues at the Marriott hotel sandwiched between the Twin Towers, in advance of speaking at a conference that day at the restaurant Windows on the World. Over breakfast, his co-worker Elaine Greenberg, who had been on vacation the week before in Massachusetts, presented him with a tie she’d spotted on her trip that featured a Monet.

    “It was red and blue, primarily. I was very touched that she had done this,” Lott explained. “I said, ‘This is such a nice gesture. I think I am going to put this on and wear it as I speak.’ She said, ‘Well, not with that shirt. You’re not going to put on a red-and-blue tie with a green shirt.’” So when breakfast was done, his colleagues headed up to Windows on the World, located on the 104th floor of the North Tower, and Lott went back to his hotel room to change shirts. He ironed a white one, put it on, and then headed back down toward the hotel lobby. “As I was waiting to go from the seventh floor back down to the lobby and over to the bank of elevators that would take me to the top, I felt a sudden movement in the building,” he recalled.

    Graff notes the role of random chance and seemed-inconsequential-at-the-time decisions that can knock one's life in a new and unalterable direction. Or end it.

    Something to think about when you're having trouble sleeping. It won't help you sleep.

    A quote I saw years ago from an old Roman playwright, Plautus, has stuck with me ever since:

    The gods play games with men as balls.

    He said it in Latin, of course. I have no idea what sort of games the ancient Romans played with balls. But here's what I imagine: you, a happy little ball, just sitting in the grass, living your bally life.

    Unfortunately, the gods are playing some sort of polo. And you hear distant hoofbeats, growing louder, deafening… And suddenly, whack, the mallet finds you, you're speeding off in some unknown direction, perhaps to oblivion.

    Well, that's life.


  • In other news, Mark J. Perry has updated his classic graphic, based on the latest report on incomes and poverty from the Census Bureau.

    Will trends continue? If my math is right, a straight-line extrapolation says the middle-income segment will disappear in… about 176 years.

    The Low-income group? Even quicker: they're gone in about 153 years.

    Everybody will be high-income then. But Bernie Sanders will still find something to gripe about.


  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum extracts a probably-unintended lesson: Congressional Report on ‘Deaths of Despair’ Highlights the Hazards of Drug Prohibition. Bottom line:

    The upward trend in opioid-related deaths not only continued but accelerated after the government succeeded in reducing opioid prescriptions, pushing nonmedical users toward black-market substitutes. It's not hard to see why: Legally produced opioids come in uniform, predictable doses, while illegal opioids vary widely in potency, making fatal mistakes more likely. The emergence of fentanyl and its analogs as heroin boosters and replacements has only magnified that hazard. Based on mortality data published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, combined with drug use estimates from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the RAND Corporation, heroin is roughly eight times as deadly as prescription opioids.

    Just as prohibition made drinking more dangerous, it has made drug use more dangerous, both by favoring more-potent products and by creating a black market where consumers do not know what they are buying. After considering the broader puzzle posed by "deaths of despair," the report concludes that "we clearly remain in the grip of a national opioid crisis that requires the attention of policymakers." But depending on the form that attention takes, it can easily make matters worse rather than better.

    The government: killing people in the name of "compassion".


  • David French, at National Review notes something that shouldn't surprise us: Elizabeth Warren’s Plans Consistently Unconstitutional. The latest example (well, the latest as of September 6):

    Yep, she’s going to ban fracking. When I read the tweet, I flashed back in my mind to Ronald Reagan’s famous retort to Jimmy Carter in a 1980 presidential debate — “There you go again.” Here the “again” isn’t just proposing a bad plan (it would have extraordinary negative effects on domestic energy production and would likely increase dependence on more “dirty” fuels to generate power), it’s proposing an illegal policy. She simply can’t ban fracking on her own.

    In fact, the executive branch’s authority over fracking is rather profoundly limited by statute. Beginning in 2012, the Obama attempted to introduce “additional regulatory effort and oversight” of fracking by introducing new regulations through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In 2015, the states of Wyoming and Colorado filed petitions for judicial review of the Obama regulations, and on June 21, 2016, federal district court judge Scott Skavdahl (an Obama appointee) held that the fracking rule was “unlawful.”

    She doesn't want to be President. She wants to be Queen. The old-style kind, that could issue unquestionable decrees and behead people.


  • At the Technology Liberation Front, Adam Thierer asks: should we Socialize Journalism in Order to Save It?. Adam looks at Bernie Sanders' proposals and also one from a group at the University of Chicago.

    “The Sanders scheme would add layers of regulatory supervision to the news business,” notes media critic Jack Shafer. Sanders promises to prevent or rollback media mergers, increase regulations on who can own what kinds of platforms, flex antitrust muscles against online distributors, and extend privileges to those employed by media outlets. The academics who penned the University of Chicago report recommend public funding for journalism, regulations that “ensure necessary transparency regarding information flows and algorithms,” and rolling back liability protections for platforms afforded through Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

    Both plans feature government subsidies, too. Sen. Sanders proposes “taxing targeted ads and using the revenue to fund nonprofit civic-minded media” as part of a broader effort “to substantially increase funding for programs that support public media’s news-gathering operations at the local level.” The Chicago plan proposed a taxpayer-funded $50 media voucher that each citizen will then be able to spend on an eligible media operation of their choice. Such ideas have been floated before and the problems are still numerous. Apparently, “saving journalism” requires that media be placed on the public dole and become a ward of the state. Socializing media in order to save it seems like a bad plan in a country that cherishes the First Amendment.

    Suggested Bernie slogan: "Awful ideas on innumerable levels."