Fidelity Beyond the Grave

I get spammed a lot by Fidelity, but that's OK.

A recent message suggested I take a short quiz to guide me toward a strategy for paying for health care in retirement. Also OK.

After answering the questions, I was sent to this page. Again, fine fine fine.

But I was amused by the description of one of their "relevant topics":

Find out how to help ensure that your loved ones and organizations near to your heart are taken care of today and in the afterlife.

Dude, Fidelity's so good, they'll take care of my loved ones in the afterlife.

Now, sure, I know what they meant to say: "after you are dead". But maybe they could have found a clearer way to euphemize that.

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The Phony Campaign — 2015-09-27 Update

Our PredictWise punters noticed that Scott Walker's chance at the presidency have gone from "slim" to "none", and that has created room in our poll for the ample frame of Chris Christie. And, although Jeb and Carly lost a lot of their phoniness over the past week, Jeb dropped significantly more than Carly, which gives us a new phony front-runner:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Carly Fiorina" phony 2,470,000 -2,030,000
"Jeb Bush" phony 1,100,000 -7,740,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 482,000 +44,000
"Donald Trump" phony 367,000 -43,000
"Joe Biden" phony 153,000 -2,000
"Bernie Sanders" phony 146,000 -16,000
"Marco Rubio" phony 131,000 +19,000
"Chris Christie" phony 116,000 ---
"Ben Carson" phony 108,000 +4,000

  • Carly's phony hits continue to be generated by her debate claim about Planned Parenthood's baby organ harvesting for cash. Typical headline from the Daily Kos tribe: "Planned Parenthood: Carly Fiorina cooks up fake video to 'prove' her lies". Alternatively, Jonah Goldberg: "It’s Not Carly Fiorina Who’s Wrong in the Planned Parenthood Fight".

    I report, you decide. You can't help but notice, however, that one side is desperately trying to discredit Carly, instead of describing what Planned Parenthood does in non-euphemized language and trying to defend it.

  • Hrafnkell Haraldsson reports: "Donald Trump’s Phony Christian Routine Earns Boos at Values Voter Summit". Trump walked onstage carrying the Good Book:

    “Most importantly,” he said, “I brought my Bible,” and lifted it up for all to see.

    Given what followed, you can be sure he is not very familiar with its contents, as he spent the next 20 minutes on his usual spiel, showing a complete lack of humility and loads of hubris, and an utter disparagement of everyone who is not Donald Trump.

    No, I had not previously heard of Hrafnkell Haraldsson, but I miss a lot. The PoliticsUSA "About Us" page claims "he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors."

    So lock up your daughters if you hear Hrafnkell's coming to your town.

  • Roque Planas (yes, we are unaccountably drawn to unusual names this week) thinks he noted phoniness in the Jeb Bush's claim that he "repudiated multiculturalism". Why, Roque argues, "Jeb Bush Is So Multicultural, He Doesn’t Even Know It". His wife is Mexican! He studied Latin America in school! He speaks Spanish! He eats Mexican food at home! In 2009, he identified himself as Hispanic on his voter registration! He lives in one of the most conspicuously multicultural cities in the U.S.! (Miami!)

    OK, Roque. If what you think Jeb said is so easily refuted by obvious facts, could it be possible that you missed the thrust of what he actually said?

    Let's see… here.

    But Bush said later he viewed multiculturalism as not aspiring to an American ideal. "You have to have people assimilate into society. But that doesn't mean we have a monolithic, homogeneous population. To the contrary," he told The Associated Press before headlining a legislative fundraiser in Cedar Rapids. "The power of America is a set of shared values with a very diverse population embracing it."

    I dare say you can eat Mexican food at home and still believe something like that.

  • And then of course, there's Hillary. It has been another week of inconvenient facts coming to light, revealing her previous prevarications. In NRO, John Fund notes: "Democrats Wake Up to How Bad a Liar Hillary Is". He points to a quote from last Sunday's Meet the Press uttered by Bill Clinton biographer David Maraniss:

    She doesn’t have Bill Clinton’s charisma and amazing campaign abilities. You know, and theater. You know, you talk about authenticity. I always have called Bill Clinton sort of an authentic phony. He really is good at that. And Hillary, if you look at it, just as theater, is a phony phony. She’s not as good at it.

    Here's the problem: the American people aren't very good at their job either, which is to humiliate these people out of public life.

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Bias-Free Language Guide Has a Defender

It was only a couple months ago that the kerfuffle over the Bias-Free Language Guide made the University Near Here the well-deserved target of nationwide ridicule. (The link goes to the July 28 version of the document available from the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.) Over the span of a day or two, the document was removed from the University web server; President Huddleston put out a disavowal statement; and the furor and laughter eventually died down.

But now the students are back in town, and one of them, Ezra Temko, Graduate Student Body President, took pen in hand to defend the BFLG, and the student newspaper dutifully published said defense both online and in its dead-trees edition.

Let us take a look at young Ezra's thoughts; I reproduce them in full, lest I be accused of quoting out of context. His words are on the left with a lovely #EEFFFF background color; my comments are on the right.

This past July, a Campus Reform web post that highlighted a “Bias-Free Language Guide” on UNH’s website quickly entered the national news cycle.

That week, I was embarrassed to be a Wildcat.

Oh, no! Why?
I was not embarrassed by Campus Reform’s story. Campus Reform’s founder and president promotes right-wing orthodoxy. He has expressed solidarity with organizations that believe only Christians should be able to hold public office and that support discrimination against gay individuals. A tortured chain of damnation indeed: the (factual) news came from a website founded by a (gasp!) conservative (unnamed, but apparently Morton Blackwell) who (somehow, at some point) "expressed solidarity" with (unnamed) organizations that held certain tendentiously-characterized political opinions.

OK, well that's a good excuse to ignore criticism.

And it also gives Ezra a chance to ignore the criticism of the BFLG from just about everyone else.

I was embarrassed by our university’s official response. President Huddleston joined conservative pundits in lambasting the guide. Huddleston removed the guide from UNH’s website and declared that speech guides have no place at UNH. His statement was noticeably missing any mention regarding the importance of addressing microaggressions on our campus or of fostering inclusive language and discourse. True enough. President Huddleston said X; Ezra wanted him to say not-X instead. Ezra claims to have been embarrassed, but since he's making his feelings an issue, it seems more accurate to say he feels betrayed.
Language and behavior can reproduce social inequalities and de-value people. […] Language can also inflate trivial assertions into pretentious and vague claptrap. As here.
Last year I witnessed white students casually calling each other n—-r and a swastika painted on a campus building. […] Neither of these—not even casual use of the N-word—was addressed by the BFLG. Now, if those white kids had been calling each other "Negro": the BFLG would have deemed that "problematic".
I heard stories from other Wildcats of rape jokes and disparaging remarks about transgender persons and persons of varying ethnicities. […] Could we just stipulate that young people say all sorts of stupid, filthy, and insensitive crap?

But this is a diversion: the actual language the BFLG was written to inhibit is far less obvious…

I also heard more subtle put-downs, some of which were likely made by individuals who were not even aware that their language was exclusive or stigmatizing. As someone who endorses UNH’s goal of striving towards “a culture of inclusion and diversity” (one of UNH’s six “Visions and Values” in our strategic plan), I appreciated having a toolkit that encourages thoughtful expression that upholds and affirms the diversity present within our community. Now (finally) we're getting to it: the BFLG is (allegedly) a well-meaning "toolkit" to implement "a culture of inclusion and diversity".

And what kind of toolkit? Well, mostly a hammer: one you can use to beat the heads of those who speak or write at variance with what Ezra and his ilk consider to be the Official University Ideology.

And, lest you doubt, Ezra is correctly quoting UNH's Strategic Plan. "A Culture of Inclusion and Diversity" is in the list of "Six Visions and Values" (although it's not clear whether it's a "Vision" or a "Value").

And (unfortunately for us all) the Strategic Plan makes no mention of, say, "A Commitment to Free Expression and Reasoned Discourse", either as a "Value" or a "Vision".

That's (as they say) problematic.

President Huddleston’s statement also bought into the right-wing framing of the language guide as being about free speech. These charges were associated with misleading headlines like “[UNH] Bans Word ‘American.’” The guide, however, was not in a policy handbook; it was on UNH’s Inclusive Excellence page under a section entitled Resources. The guide explicitly states that it is about “starting a conversation about word choice” and encouraging critical and reflective thinking, and that it is “not meant to censor… [or] represent absolute requirements.” I am not the first to point out that those who claim to want to "start a conversation" are often the first to get really, really annoyed when people talk back to them.

In truth, the BFLG makes no explicit disciplinary threats against those who violate its guidelines. But its tone is unmistakeably didactic and ex cathedra: 10 "avoid"s; 6 "should"s; a whopping 55 "problematic"s. Ominously, the document is shot through with references to "aggression", "assault", "violence": the fuzzy conflation of language acts with terms used to refer to actual physical brute force certainly implies that certain language should be sanctioned/punished, even if that's not (yet) explicitly stated.

Should our administration be taking cues regarding how to realize our vision from Campus Reform? Or should our administration take its cues from the students and community members who are on the receiving end of microaggressions, and from the researchers and practitioners on our campus who understand these issues and are on the front lines of working for a campus climate that engenders inclusive excellence? If we're giving cue-taking advice to President Huddleston:
  • It might be too much to hope for, but the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has an excellent suggestion: UNH should work to improve its current "red light" rating there.

  • Recommended additional reading: "The Coddling of the American Mind" by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, in the September issue of that well-known right-wing hate mag The Atlantic.

  • At all costs avoid advice from anyone who uses the term "microaggressions" without giggling.

President Huddleston, whose side are you on? That's not a very "inclusive" question, Ezra. Doesn't "diversity" suggest that President H listen to diverse opinions, not just one side? This side, that side… can't we all just get along?
In the coming months I will look to the UNH administration’s actions for an answer to that question. Hey, like all of us.

(My previous posts on the BFLG: here, here, and some here.)

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The Phony Campaign — 2015-09-20 Update

Our 2% PredictWise criterion causes us to welcome Carly Fiorina to our phony poll, and bid adeu adeiu adous farewell to John Kasich. And Carly makes a fine showing:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Jeb Bush" phony 8,840,000 +7,830,000
"Carly Fiorina" phony 4,500,000 ---
"Hillary Clinton" phony 438,000 +3,000
"Donald Trump" phony 410,000 +18,000
"Bernie Sanders" phony 162,000 +34,000
"Joe Biden" phony 155,000 -28,000
"Scott Walker" phony 140,000 +31,000
"Marco Rubio" phony 112,000 +9,000
"Ben Carson" phony 104,000 -8,000

  • One of the big current "phony" drivers for Carly is her claim in last week's debate about what the Planned Parenthood videos released by the Center for Medical Progress show: "Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says, ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain."

    Nay, shouted many "fact checkers". Federalist has a decent rundown of Carly vs. the "fact checkers". Key:

    The media have consistently failed to cover the Planned Parenthood footage, and now they are covering up the truth. The reality is that babies of the same gestational age are having their organs harvested every day. These videos feature graphic footage of abortionists mangling babies to harvest organs to sell. They feature abortionists admitting that babies often survive those abortions. They show high-level Planned Parenthood officials encouraging this organ-harvesting scheme, acknowledged that it is happening, and attempting to skirt scrutiny from it.

    We try to keep things light here. And (disclaimer) I haven't watched the Planned Parenthood videos, don't plan to. I know they are horrifying, not only due to the explicit gore, but also the window into the depraved and ghoulish mindset hiding behind the fundamentally dishonest "Planned Parenthood" moniker.

  • Jeb still has a comfortable lead on the field, though. In an effort to put the game away, his Super PAC recently released an ad that contrasted Jeb's upbeat optimism with Trump's dour darkness.

    The video, called "Bright," then pivots to the sun rising in a field along with the text “choose a brighter path” as Bush says his message will be an optimistic one.

    "If we get a few big things right, we can make lives better for millions of people in this nation where every life matters and everyone has the right to rise,” he says.

    The only problem: The sun is rising over a field in Cornwall, England — a clip available for between $19 and $79 on Shutterstock.

    The Politico story also claims the ad uses the "silhouette of a construction worker"—taken in Southeast Asia and "kids heading off to school"—probably from the United Kingdom.

  • A Salon lefty, one Shane Ryan, pontificates on phoniness:

    Any presidential election has a superficial quality to it, but as Rachel Maddow pointed out recently on MSNBC, merely looking presidential, in the patrician sense that John Kerry and Mitt Romney embodied, means little. Instead, a modern candidate has to pass the “phony test.” The history of recent electoral losers tells the story—Romney got caught dismissing half of America, McCain lost his maverick credentials when he added a fringe lunatic from Alaska to his ticket, Kerry was a flip-flopper, and Gore was a snob. There are a thousand reasons why one candidate loses and another wins, but personality defects are no small part of the formula.

    … and then loses it in the very next paragraph:

    When you hear progressives laud [Bernie] Sanders’ “authenticity,” it goes deeper than his political record. The judgment takes aesthetics into account—with his guileless manner, and the way his face defaults into a dogged, curmudgeonly glare, you get the sense that it would never occur to him to tell anything but the truth. Just like it would never occur to him to change his positions on wealth inequality over three decades, or to accept money from super PACs, or to shy away from the word “socialist.”

    Swooning over a "curmudgeonly glare" — that's what American Progressivism has come to. Shane, please play the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" over and over on your iPod until you snap out of it.

    Somewhat more honest leftism is to be found from Stephen Lendman at Counterpunch, in which Bernie Sanders is compared with current head of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn:

    Differences between them are stark. Sanders is more opportunist than populist, nearly always supporting Democrat pro-war, pro-Israel, pro-business, anti-human/civil rights policies – voting with party members 98% of the time, more than most Democrats, polar opposite his high-minded rhetoric, hiding his real agenda.

    Ooooh, tell me more about Bernie's "real agenda".

    He’s no populist/anti-war savior. His voting record belies his stump speeches. He represents business as usual dressed up in phony high-minded rhetorical mumbo jumbo.

    OK, so beyond the vague "business as usual" claim, Stephen never actually gets around to telling us what Bernie's "real agenda" is. I bet it's nasty, though. Maybe next week?

  • Bernie was down the road last week, at St. Anselm's College, telling students what he meant by the term "democratic socialism". Not to fret, he declaimed, you'll still get your important liberties:

    "So what does [democratic socialism] mean?” Sanders asked the students. “Does anyone here think I’m a strong adherent of the North Korean form of government? That I want all of you to be wearing similar colored pajamas?”

    A sigh of relief went through the throng, as they realized their sleepwear choices were not under imminent threat.

    When the laughter died down, […]

    Wait a minute: there was actually enough laughter at the pajama remark for it to "die down"? It seems St. Anselm's students are very easily amused. Or maybe you had to be there.

    […] the longest-serving independent in Congress asked how many of the students were familiar with the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Finland and Norway.

    Hm. Check the Heritage Foundation's 2015 Index of Economic Freedom. Denmark, Finland, and Norway are all ranked in the "mostly free" category, along with the U.S. And Denmark is actually ranked slightly above the U.S.

    What does it mean when a self-proclaimed socialist, scrambling for examples of ideal economic systems, points to ones that are more or less like the one we already have?

    I'll tell you what it means to me: it means we need to do a lot better, economic freedom-wise. What do we have to do to get to the "Free" category?

  • Ben Carson trails badly in our phony poll. At the Daily Beast, P. J. O'Rourke claims "It’s Time to Pull the Plug on Dr. Ben Carson’s Campaign." But why, Peej?

    Ben Carson is brilliant and kind. Therefore, he has no business running for president.

    Ah. But read the whole thing.

Last Modified 2015-09-21 5:19 AM EDT
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The Phony Campaign — 2015-09-13 Update

PredictWise is down this morning for some reason, so we'll assume the same phony lineup as last week:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Jeb Bush" phony 1,010,000 -180,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 435,000 +14,000
"Donald Trump" phony 392,000 +11,000
"Joe Biden" phony 183,000 +25,000
"John Kasich" phony 166,000 -9,000
"Bernie Sanders" phony 128,000 +5,000
"Ben Carson" phony 112,000 -8,000
"Scott Walker" phony 109,000 -3,000
"Marco Rubio" phony 103,000 -2,000

  • On Monday, the NYT reported yet another planned makeover for Hillary. Key ludicrous paragraph:

    There will be no more flip jokes about her private email server. There will be no rope lines to wall off crowds, which added to an impression of aloofness. And there will be new efforts to bring spontaneity to a candidacy that sometimes seems wooden and overly cautious.

    Planned spontaneity—that's the ticket!

  • Hillary also, sort of, kind of, "apologized" for using her own e-mail server to conduct government business while she was Secretary of State. James Taranto offers a perceptive take (as is usual for him). But first he quotes Paul Waldman of the WaPo, and Waldman's article is also worth perusal. Waldman's thesis "authenticity is baloney" (italicized in original):

    The truth is that all campaigning is a performance, by its very nature. When you stand up in front of a group of people, whether five or five thousand strong (not to mention the cameras that will carry the event to untold numbers more), you’re presenting a version of yourself crafted for an audience. That’s true of a politician, it’s true of a teacher in front of a class, and it’s true of you or me when we tell a joke at a party. You may be trying to communicate something substantive — say, an argument about why we should cut taxes or impose emissions limits on coal-fired power plants — but you’re also communicating something about yourself. The persona we present in public settings isn’t necessarily “true” or “false,” it’s just a particular version of ourselves.

    How postmodern! Taranto lets Waldman off pretty easy, but it seems to me that Waldman is trying way too hard on the "c'mon, everyone does it" defense. Practical presentation tactics are just tools in the pol's belt: not inauthentic in and of themselves. Using them to prevaricate and obfuscate—that's where true phoniness horns in.

    To that point, Taranto's conclusion seems on-target:

    Regarding the current scandal, [Hillary] told [Ellen] DeGeneres: “I am now trying to be as transparent as I can.” In a way, she is succeeding. She is delivering scripted evasions, and it is obvious to everybody that is what they are.

  • Another couple of read-the-whole-thing insights: "The MacGuffinization of American Politics" at Ace of Spades HQ and Friday's G-File from Jonah Goldberg; Jonah's piece expands and extends Ace's thoughts.

    Ace's thesis is that "politics as spectator sport" has gone from an apt metaphor to the more-or-less literal truth to a large chunk of the population. Specifically:

    This is a movie. And Barack Obama is the Hero. And the Republicans are the Villains. And policy questions -- and Obama's myriad failures as an executive -- are simply incidental. They are MacGuffins only, of no importance whatsoever, except to the extent they provide opportunities for Drama as the Hero fights in favor of them.

    Explains a lot of otherwise mystifying behavior. Like why David Muir thought it would be appropriate and interesting to ask Hillary "Is your [late] mother's voice in your ear?" Because who hasn't seen a movie where that's been a thing?

    As said, Jonah expands on the idea. Key paragraph:

    Ever since Hegel or maybe Plato, statists have been telling a story about government in which government itself is the hero in an epic struggle. At least for Hegel, the state was the mechanism by which God worked out His will. For Marx, the State was an expression of cold immutable forces. For the socialists who followed, control of the state was a kind of MacGuffin but over time it became the hero itself.

    I've recently been thinking of statism as a kind of secular religion; but Ace/Jonah may have a more insightful take on it.

  • Walter Olson notes Hillary's Labor Day speech in which she pledged "to make sure that some employers go to jail " for various misdeeds alleged against their workers.

    Olson points out that some employers should, and do, get in trouble for employee-related misdeeds. But once you get past the easy questions, the Federal law is "vague and hard to interpret", and "anticipating what is lawful is often a matter of guesswork." Just the right situation for demagoguery!

    This is bait and switch terminology and there is no reason to give it a pass. Reporters should ask Hillary Clinton which cases, specifically, she has in mind when she talks of jailing employers, and whether that includes cases in which managers were obliged to guess what the law required of them.

    But "reporters", see above, are far more interested in asking Hillary whether she hears her mother's voice in her ear.

  • It has come to this:

    “When Ben Carson makes a phony statement, I am going to attack him.” Trump said on Thursday. “Ben Carson is not going to be the next president, that I can tell you.

    Trump and Carson are currently debating who is religiouser. Personally, I liked Bobby Jindal's comment about Trump:

    “When asked, he couldn’t even name a specific or a single Bible verse that was important to him, that had an impact on him,” Jindal said. “Well, do you know why? It’s clear Donald Trump has never read the Bible. The reason we know he’s never read the Bible? He’s not in the Bible.”

    I chuckled, but can't help but think this is the wrong road for the GOP clown car to drive down. Questioning the amount and quality of the religious faith of others is a negative sum game. I suggest the candidates ponder the wisdom expressed by the modern sage Mike Birbiglia: "What I should have said … was nothing."

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The Phony Campaign — 2015-09-06 Update

We welcome Dr. Ben Carson to the phony poll, as PredictWise puts him with a 2% probability of being our next president. But how does he stack up against the crowd, phony-wise?

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Jeb Bush" phony 1,190,000 -1,150,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 421,000 -69,000
"Donald Trump" phony 381,000 +38,000
"John Kasich" phony 175,000 -10,000
"Joe Biden" phony 158,000 -10,000
"Bernie Sanders" phony 123,000 +1,000
"Ben Carson" phony 120,000 ---
"Scott Walker" phony 112,000 -3,000
"Marco Rubio" phony 105,000 +1,000

  • We've occasionally noted politicians reading their stage directions out loud was considered a gaffe. (The classic example: George H. W. Bush's " Message: I care.")

    But now, as Andrew Ferguson notes in the WSJ, it's become a trend: "The 2016 Race Has Already Gone Meta".

    Even now, so early in the presidential contest, we are seeing vivid signs of the “meta-campaign”—the spectacle of candidates who would rather describe the wonderfulness of their campaign than tell us what they’ll do in the unlikely event it succeeds.

    I can't help but think this is a symptom of campaigns that hold voter intelligence in contempt. And the campaigns may find it a successful tactic, at least this time around.

  • At the Daily Beast, one Betsy Woodruff headlines her article "Scott Walker: Anti-Immigrant Phony", and chronicles the candidate's "every position imaginable" on birthright citizenship and other immigration-related matters.

    Charlie Sykes, one of the most influential conservative talk-radio hosts in Wisconsin, estimates he’s interviewed Walker hundreds of times over the last 20 years. Sykes said there may be a very simple explanation for why Walker has had so much trouble talking about the issue: The governor doesn’t believe what he’s saying.

    We'll give him points for being an obvious phony.

  • As noted at Power Line, Hillary tried out yet another e-mail talking point to a complaisant interviewer, Andrea Mitchell:

    AM: Did anyone in your inner circle say, “This is not a good idea. Let’s not do this?”

    HRC: You know, I was not thinking a lot when I got in. There was so much work to be done. We had so many problems around the world.

    I didn’t really stop and think, “What kind of e-mail system will there be?”

    Note that Andrea Mitchell did not follow up with the obvious queries:

    1. "You claim you were 'not thinking a lot' when you became Secretary of State. Can you give voters any reason to believe you'll be 'thinking a lot' if you become President?"

    2. "But wait a minute. You had to have made a conscious decision to set up your private mail system; otherwise you would have just settled on the default State Department system. Didn't you just tell me an obvious lie?"

    We can only hope that someday Hillary will have the bad luck to get interviewed by someone able to nail her down on obvious dishonesty.

  • For example, some future interlocutor might read Timothy P. Carney's article: "Hillary’s ethanol flip-flop reveals a Democratic sclerosis on cronyism". She was agin' ethanol mandates… until it was time to start campaigning in Iowa.

  • Speaking of ethanol: Our phony poll newcomer, Ben Carson, has come out in favor of taking "$4 billion a year we spend on oil subsidies" and using that to support "fueling stations" with a 30% ethanol blend.

    He took this stand immediately after saying "I don't particularly like the idea of government subsidies for anything because it interferes with the natural free market."

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The Phony Campaign — 2015-08-30 Update

No changes this week in our phony lineup, according to our arbitrary PredictWise criterion. Jeb! increases his solid phony lead on the pack:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Jeb Bush" phony 2,340,000 +620,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 490,000 +79,000
"Donald Trump" phony 343,000 +7,000
"John Kasich" phony 185,000 -12,000
"Joe Biden" phony 168,000 +8,000
"Bernie Sanders" phony 122,000 -9,000
"Scott Walker" phony 115,000 -9,000
"Marco Rubio" phony 104,000 -1,000

In the phony news this week:

  • Michael Kinsley (of all people) writes in Vanity Fair (of all places) some surprising wisdom:

    […] the biggest problem with American politics is phony umbrage: invented issues that substitute for serious debate. They allow candidates to climb onto their high horses and go nowhere important. They allow voters to avoid thinking about the choices this country needs to make. Yet they often dominate the political debate.

    Kinsley is well-known for occasional non-ideological insights, and this is one of those times. His general topic is "what may be the the worst editorial that has ever graced" the pages of the New York Times. That's a high bar to clear.

  • Been wondering why the media ignores Bernie Sanders? Find out the awful truth in "Why The Media Ignores Bernie Sanders". Samuel Warde connects the dots.

    See if you can follow what Warde bills as "proof": (1) Warde lives in Colorado; (2) one of his news sources is Denver's channel 9; (3) which is owned by TEGNA Media; (4) in which Carl C. Icahn has a 7% ownership stake; (5) Icahn has been named-dropped by Donald Trump as his (hypothetical) Secretary of the Treasury or (again, hypothetical) chief trade negotiator in the (even more hypothetical) Trump Administration!

    Q.E.D. All that's missing is a strident wake up, sheeple!

  • The coveted Deez Nuts endorsement goes to…

    Deez Nuts, the 15-year-old Iowa boy whose fake third-party presidential campaign has gone viral, has endorsed Ohio Gov. John Kasich for the GOP nomination.

    Deez (I call him Deez) endorses Bernie Sanders on the Democrat side. But he's still endorsing himself for the general election in November 2016. (In the event of a Trump/Clinton matchup, I'll probably do the same.)

  • You've probably already seen this, but:

    When voters were asked [in a Quinnipiac University poll] to say the first word that came to mind when they thought of Hillary Clinton, the most popular responses were “liar,” “dishonest,” and “untrustworthy.”

    Complete list is at the link. "Phony", our personal favorite, appears pretty far down (a mere 8 responses), but that's OK. Surprisingly: it was edged out by "murder" (9 responses); apparently some people are still sore about Vince Foster.

  • At some point, you have to ask: is Jeb Bush even an actual person?

    (Apologies for the dreadful narrator and his meandering presentation.)

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Hillary is Creepy

Hillary Clinton is grabbing a trick from the Obama campaign playbook: invite people to enter a drawing to have dinner with her. I was a sucker for this offer, just as I was for Obama's. Because (frankly) what amateur libertarian/conservative pundit wouldn't want to meet her, just on the off chance that you could post just the right question at just the right time to cause a well-publicized Clintonian meltdown, one that would cause all but die-hard supporters to realize that, OK, it's time to back away slowly from the crazy lady.

Such is the fantasy, anyway.

And good news, you can enter the drawing without giving the campaign one red cent! The link is buried in the fine print. It's the law, I think. No purchase necessary to win, or something.

The downside: you get on the campaign mailing list. Just about every day something comes in, usually begging for money. That's OK, I know where the delete button is.

But today…

[Hillary is creepy]

Whoa. I would think this would cause even some Hillary fans to say: Back off, lady! Or perhaps: Sheesh! How dumb and gullible does she think I am?

Or am I wrong? Does this really fool nearly every recipient into thinking that Hillary gives a rat's patootie about his or her birthday? Do they click immediately on one of the links, thinking OMG, she cares! She really cares! About me!

I got no clue. The pessimist in me has observed before: if there weren't a lot of idiot voters out there, Hillary and Bill would be, at best, mini-mall lawyers in Little Rock. (Making the generous assumption they would have avoided disbarment. Or jail.)

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The Phony Campaign — 2015-08-23 Update

Our arbitrary criterion for inclusion (2% or higher probability of becoming president at the PredictWise prediction market) says we must bid farewell once more to the hapless Martin O'Malley. So:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Jeb Bush" phony 1,720,000 -1,700,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 411,000 -2,000
"Donald Trump" phony 336,000 -36,000
"John Kasich" phony 197,000 -7,000
"Joe Biden" phony 160,000 +1,000
"Bernie Sanders" phony 131,000 +4,000
"Scott Walker" phony 124,000 +3,000
"Marco Rubio" phony 105,000 +2,000

What went down in Phonytown this past week? Let's see:

  • The RantPolitical site features a rant by Mark Twain (but probably not the famous one; the report of the famous one's death was not an exaggeration): "Hillary Clinton’s Phony Agenda Will Further Destroy America’s Economy". Well sure:

    Hillary Rodham Clinton mocks and ridicules the Confederate flag to position herself as a phony goddess of liberty. She contemptuously ridicules 299,521 Confederate dead and 200,000 armless and legless Confederate veterans who haunted barber shops and street corners until the 1940s. She belittles those long dead to serve her power binge. Four died needlessly in Benghazi because of Hillary. It’s now, always and forever all about Hillary. “Race is still a problem in America,” bitches Hillary. Where are the low income projects, and where’s the gangsta rap from Yukon Denalis within 20 miles of Hillary’s Chappaqua, N.Y. felony personal server home?

    I am not sad to see the Confederate flag go, but (on the other hand) nobody should fool themselves that the motive behind Hillary's every thought, word, and deed is compassion for the downtrodden. As Mr. Twain indicates: it's about her power lust.

  • Ex-Congresscritter Allen West reacts to the leaked video of Hillary's meeting with "Black Lives Matter" activists. Intro:

    I’m pretty sure those of you reading this have long known Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is nothing if not a big fat phony. Her campaign talking points are taken straight from the Democrat Book of Pandering. Adding insult to injury, Mrs. Clinton’s delivery of said talking points is as wooden as the paper on which they’re printed.

    Video of the encounter at the link. West encourages viewers to pay "special attention to the Democrat candidate’s facial expressions and body language." West can stand it, can you?

  • Matthew K Burke collects the "Top Ten Reasons Why Jeb Bush Is NOT A Conservative". Just ten? Well, it's a round number. Here's #3:

    Jeb Bush’s dad famously said “Read my lips, no new taxes,” but went on to be the Rockefeller Republican that he was, raising taxes which ultimately cost him his re-election and resulted in giving America — Bill Clinton (not to mention his wife). Jeb Bush is flexible enough in his phony conservativism to not make the same mistake. He won’t pledge to not raising taxes, period. Is there any conservative in America who thinks taxes are possibly too low. Yes, there is one — Jeb Bush.

  • Kimberly A. Strassel of the WSJ provides a useful service for us libertarian-leaners, using Ohio Governor John Kasich an example:

    As the nation goes about mentally categorizing the crowded Republican field, here’s one way to divide the arena: small-government reformers and big-government surrenderists. That debate is at the center of a bigger GOP meditation on how to better appeal to the poor and minorities. Mr. Kasich has emerged as the most eloquent and compelling spokesperson for the go-big camp.

    Also falling on the big side, in Strassel's view: Santorum, Huckabee, Rubio, and (to the extent you can dig any coherent policy views out of the morass), Trump. Curiously left out of her indictment: Jeb (see above), Scott (Bucks-for-the-Bucks) Walker.

  • This week's award for unintentional hilarity goes to Chris Tognotti writing at Business Insider: "Bernie Sanders' campaign is facing a major danger"

    Oh no! What is it?

    These may be the boom times for Team Bernie, but there's still a bit of trouble in paradise. On Monday, a Sanders interview ran in the New York Times Magazine, conducted by longtime political journalist Ana Marie Cox. One of her questions sent Sanders and some of his supporters into a tizzy: “Do you think it’s fair that Hillary’s hair gets a lot more scrutiny than yours does?”

    Read the whole thing for Bernie's answer to this lamely-framed question, the resulting Twitstorm, and (above all) Tognotti's deep-thinking analysis about What It All Means. Basically: Sanders' failure to insufficiently genuflect to current progressive theology on race and gender is completely problematic.

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Zero For Kelly

I am on the mailing list of "Friends of Kelly Ayotte" the campaign organization spun up for the New Hampshire Republican Senator's 2016 campaign. This entitles me to receive four or five e-mail missives a week, many with a couple irritating focus-grouped tropes that seem to have been invented by the Obama campaigns:

  • Something about "common-sense solutions" is usually present, often with a explicit New Hampshire tie-in:

    • "Your donation will go directly into the field to help fund our grassroots campaign for common-sense New Hampshire solutions";

    • "The fundraising numbers we report after this deadline will go a long way in setting the tone for our campaign for common-sense New Hampshire solutions."

    • "You and I both know that Kelly has been leading the charge for common-sense solutions in the Senate";

    • "We’re putting together a letter to the editor team to help spread the word on Kelly’s record of strong leadership and common-sense solutions for the Granite State."

    • "From the North Country to Nashua, Granite Staters are lining up behind Kelly and her campaign to bring New Hampshire common-sense solutions to the Senate."

    Who's against common sense? Not Senator Ayotte! This drumroll of vapidity might impress some recipients; to me it's just a reminder that the sender thinks I'm easily swayed by repetitive meaninglessness.

  • Some messages do their best to disguise their nature: personal-name From lines, content-free Subject lines: "New Hampshire Summer" from Thomas Reiker; "Show them" from Stephanie Hubbe; "Could you..." from Ada Furciniti; "Exclusive Invitation" from Jon Kohan; and (my favorite) simply "Hey" from "Thomas". ("Hey" back atcha, Thomas!)

    I get it: there is a marginally greater chance that recipients will read a message if it looks like it might not be campaign spam.

I guess that's the name of the game these days. They'll continue until some other gimmicks become the latest thing.

But I got a paper-mail solicitation the other day. I decided to waste a stamp and send it back, filled out this way:

[Zero for Kelly]

Yes, there's that "New Hampshire common sense" again.

And I also composed a letter to send along explaining my snottiness. I have no idea whether anyone will read it at Kelly's end, but here it is (HTMLized):

Dear Friends of Kelly Ayotte:

Allow me to explain why I am donating the generous sum of $0 to Senator Ayotte's campaign. I am particularly irked on two specific points:

  • Senator Ayotte's enthusiastic support for the Export-Import Bank is misguided. There has rarely been an issue that unites conservatives and libertarians so uniformly as this one: it's time for this corrupt institution of crony capitalism to sail into the sunset. The arguments are well-known, but if you need a short reminder, check out a recent column in The Hill by David Williams: "The Export-Import Bank is dead and should stay that way". (

  • Senator Ayotte's co-sponsorship of the "Campus Accountability and Safety Act" (CASA) is also a red light for me. The current version of CASA is a slight improvement over the previous one, but it still fails to take campus sexual assault seriously as a crime, with all that entails: an unbiased investigation, carried out by professionals, with proper respect for due process for the accused. Ashe Schow of the Washington Examiner has detailed the many problems with the legislation. ( A particularly disturbing detail is the failure of Senator Ayotte's office to respond substantively to her questions about due process.

I have written to Senator Ayotte on these two issues and have received her unconvincing boilerplate replies.

Although I find Senator Ayotte's positions on those two issues particularly wrong-headed, her record shows that the problem is more general. Consider her scorecard from FreedomWorks on key issues of economic freedom. Her lifetime score ( is a mediocre 65%. And it's only that high due to her outstanding voting record in her first year. Year-by-year, her score looks like this:

2011: 83%
2012: 69%
2013: 64%
2014: 50%
2015: 33%

The scorecard from the Club for Growth ( shows a similar dismal trend:

2011: 98%
2012: 86%
2013: 79%
2014: 60%

In addition her current rating from Heritage Action ( is a very low 29%, near the bottom for Republican senators.

Given this, your claim that Senator Ayotte does not "drink the water in Washington" is laughable. My gut feeling is that she is clearly compromising the principles she ran on in 2010, cynically attempting to position herself as a "moderate" in order to be re-elected. I have no current enthusiasm for voting for her, let alone supporting her campaign financially.


Paul A. Sand

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