URLs du Jour

2019-11-20

[Amazon Link]

  • We open with another quote from Deirdre McCloskey's new book, provided by Alberto Mingardi at the Library of Economics and Liberty: Deirdre's Test.

    To test your belief that the government is your own (good) will generalized, and to test in particular your disbelief in the centrality of coercion in government, I suggest an experiment on April 15 of not paying your US income taxes – perhaps giving voluntarily a few contributions in strict proportion to the share of the government’s budget you judge to be effective and ethical. Whether you tend toward left or right on the conventional spectrum, you will have plenty of corrupting items in mind NOT to give to. The new fighter jet that doesn’t work. The corporate subsidy that does.

    Then try resisting arrest. Then try escaping from prison. Then tr[y] resisting re-arrest. After release, if ever, you will note the contrast with the non-policy, non-police arenas of commerce or persuasion. Try buying an iPhone rather than a Samsung. Nothing happens. Try not agreeing with McCloskey. Ditto. You will observe a sharp difference from your experience with the entity possessing the monopoly of coercion, even in Goetborg or St. Paul.

    We mulled on Senator Liz's coining of "traffic violence" as a concept. What needs to be explored, mulled over, instead: actual government violence. But it won't be; it's considered business as usual, the nature of the beast.

    Anyway, the quote is from Deirdre's new book, our Amazon Product du Jour, and I wonder if I'll need to read it if I keep posting excerpts from it.


  • We also have a pretty good quote from a pretty good article by Kevin D. Williamson at National Review: Marco Rubio & Elizabeth Warren Are Wrong: Capitalism Is Not a Rival to the Common Good.

    This is a time of great forgetting, and one of the things that has been forgotten is why we have a federal government and what it is there to do.

    From Senator Marco Rubio and his “common-good capitalism” to Senator Elizabeth Warren and her “accountable capitalism,” politicians right and left who want politicians to have more power over private economic decisions assume a dilemma in which something called “capitalism” must be balanced against or made subordinate to something called the “common good.” This is the great forgetful stupidity of our time.

    Capitalism is not a rival to the common good. Capitalism, meaning security in one’s own property and in the right to work and to trade, is the common good that governments exist to secure.

    Geez, I could just keep going, copy-n-pasting paragraph after paragraph. But I shouldn't; instead I will explicitly encourage you to do that which is usually implicit: Read The Whole Thing.


  • At Reason, Peter Suderman whistles the ball dead after a desperate fourth-down play: Elizabeth Warren Gives Up on Medicare for All.

    Technically she still supports a single-payer system that would outlaw most private health insurance and charge the federal government with financing virtually all of the nation's health care. But less than a month after releasing a half-baked plan to finance single-payer, the Massachusetts Democrat released yet another plan—an implementation timeline that calls for passing full-fledged Medicare for All in year three of her presidency. 

    That is not a plan to pass Medicare for All; it is an acknowledgment that it will never happen.

    Her real, primary, sole goal is to get elected, full stop. No matter what previously-held principles or positions she thinks need to be altered, jettisoned, or reversed to accomplish that feat.


  • … but for an alternative take from a "respectable" analyst, Bloomberg columnist Max Nisen: Elizabeth Warren Has a Smart Hedge on Medicare for All. How smart is it?

    Warren doesn’t give a price for the interim option but expects that it would cost less than the $20.5 trillion in new federal spending she projects Medicare for All will require over 10 years. The plan’s cost, structure, and comparative moderation should make it easier to pass via the reconciliation process and with even a slim Democratic majority in the Senate. Passing it still won’t be easy, but it’s a more realistic and quicker option than needing to end the filibuster or immediately shift to a single-payer plan.

    Warren will still have to go and defend her approach to both Medicare for All absolutists and more moderate rivals. But she has better answers for both now and offers an appealing third path; more realistic than Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’s, more ambitious than Biden’s or Buttigieg’s.

    "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time." But, as I'm sure Senator Liz is thinking: … but I only need to fool enough people for as long as it takes to get elected.


  • This is turning into an all-Warren day. Jeff Jacoby notes: Elizabeth Warren plays the "sexism" card. Wheezy Joe and Mayor Pete criticized her for her dogmatic and antagonistic rhetoric, and oh my stars:

    "It's the same old ugly caricatures of women," liberal strategist (and Warren donor) Rebecca Katz, told the Washington Post. In The Atlantic, Megan Garber tied the charge that Warren is too angry to "the dark and ugly history in which the anger displayed by a woman is assumed to compromise her [and] render her unattractive." The headline in The American Prospect bristled with outrage: "Biden's and Buttigieg's Sexist Attacks."

    Warren's media claque routinely plays the sexism card. Pundits who wonder about Warren's likeability, they say, are being sexist. So is anyone who presses Warren to explain the details on her Medicare-for-All plan. So is anyone who likens Warren to Hillary Clinton.

    True enough that the "same old ugly caricatures" are objectionable. Because they're boring. Couldn't we have some new ugly caricatures for a change?

URLs du Jour

2019-11-19

  • Cafe Hayek brings us the Quotation of the Day from Deirdre McCloskey's new book, Why Liberalism Works.

    The more complex and specialized and spontaneously bettering an economy is, the less it can be planned, the less a central planner however wise and good can know about the trillions of preferences and plans for consumption and production and betterment. A household or your personal life might possibly be plannable, though anyone who believes it with much confidence has not lived very long. But a big, modern economy has vastly too much going on to plan.

    A good thing to keep in mind when Elizabeth Warren says she's "got a plan for that." Because…


  • Kyle Smith looks at 'em: Elizabeth Warren's Plans: Misconceived, Impractical, or Downright Bonkers.

    Time for another episode of Strange Thoughts with Elizabeth Warren. “Traffic violence kills thousands and injures even more Americans every year,” Senator Warren said on Twitter. “On World Day of Remembrance for Traffic Crash Victims, I’m sending my love to the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones. It’s time to #EndTrafficViolence.

    “Traffic violence” is quite a phrase. In the end, it may be all that anyone remembers of Warren’s decreasingly persuasive but increasingly eccentric campaign. In this bold new framing, cars are not the principal way Americans get around, with fatalities being an unfortunate but blessedly rare occurrence (one per 100,000,000 vehicle miles traveled, a rate that is down more than 80 percent in my lifetime). No, to Warren, cars are instruments of violence like, I don’t know, nunchucks or fuel-injected guillotines, and so she issues her clarion tweet to #EndTrafficViolence. So, right now, November 18, 2019, “it’s time” for us to zero out deaths from cars? How? On what planet?

    Say one thing about "traffic violence": as a concept, it makes about as much sense as "gun violence". And I suspect Senator Liz is living in a reality-resistant bubble where her inner Progressive logic is pushing her to ever more ridiculous positions and schemes.


  • At Reason, Robby Soave reports the latest on right-wing infighting: Young America’s Foundation Excommunicates Michelle Malkin for Defending Nick Fuentes.

    Young America's Foundation (YAF) has removed Michelle Malkin, a right-wing writer and pundit, from its roster of featured speakers. Malkin, the author of a number of books—including, most recently, Open Borders Inc: Who's Funding America's Destruction?—has toured campuses as part of YAF's speakers bureau for 17 years.

    The firing comes as a result of Malkin's vocal support for 22-year-old far-right provocateur Nick Fuentes and his allies, the groypers (yes, that's what they call themselves).

    "YAF gives a platform to a broad range of speakers with a range of views within the mainstream of conservative thought," wrote YAF. "Immigration is a vital issue that deserves robust debate. But there is no room in mainstream conservatism or at YAF for holocaust deniers, white nationalists, street brawlers, or racists."

    Looking back at Pun Salad archives: I used to link to ma belle Michelle Malkin a lot. A year-by-year count:

    12 2005
    14 2006
    15 2007
    21 2008
    8 2009
    5 2010
    1 2011
    3 2012
    2 2013
    1 2014
    2 2017
    2 2018

    I. e., a huge dropoff starting in 2009, nothing at all in 2015 or 2016, and nothing so far in 2019. And here it is in mid-November.

    So maybe she's changed, or I have.

    I'd like to give her the benefit of doubt: it's silly to call this woman of Philippine descent a "white nationalist", and if she's a Holocaust denier, or even an anti-Semite, I'd think the evidence for that would be … well, more evident.

    And it could be that "vocal support" for objectionable people is more like Michelle refusing to get on the treadmill of condemnation at the never-ending demands of SPLC types.

    Or it could be that she's really gone off the deep end. I dunno.


  • Issues & Insights reports & reminds: FedEx Paid No 2018 Federal Corporate Taxes — A Reminder That The Tax Rate Should Be Zero. It's a good reminder of why a certain breed of politicians love taxes on corporations: it allows them to obscure some simple truths:

    Before anyone gets too worked up about low and zero corporate rates, don’t forget who really pays the taxes: consumers through higher prices, business owners (which makes the corporate tax a tax on capital), shareholders (including retirees who live on their 401Ks and mutual funds) through reduced profits, and workers themselves, who apparently pay the largest share.

    The greediest people on Earth are not those who earn wages, salaries, and profits and wish to keep what they made — it’s the lawmakers who want to forcibly take what belongs to others and use it for their own purposes. Even a criminal sometimes sleeps, said C.S. Lewis, and “his cupidity may at some point be satiated.” But the politicians’ lust for other people’s money never rests.

    "Indeed."


  • And I've been working through Season Two of "Jack Ryan" on Amazon Prime. But James Lileks in today's Bleat notes why he (and I) have to wince a lot along the way:

    If this was a review it might note the stupidest line uttered on any streaming media platform in late 2019: Jack Ryan, learning that the Right-wing nationalist government of . . . VENEZUELA, okay, I’m trying to get that potato down my windpipe, well, Jack learns the assassination of a US Senator is being blamed on a group fighting the gobermen, as they say “government” down there. The group is hard left-wing, because of course that’s the sitch down in Venezuela now, and he says:

    “The FLA is a small hard-left splinter group. Anti-Americanism isn’t in their DNA.”

    Uh -

    It might be entirely plausible to have a guerrilla group fighting Chavism because it was insufficiently murderous, and did not empty out the cities to put the soft-handed spectacle-wearing intellectual glasses in agricultural camps where they worked until they died, and it is possible this group would be so focused on removing the insufficiently collective government of Maduro, and was so localized in their concerns that they gave little thought to the United States, and it is possible that such a group might have an animus towards the US when they stopped for a smoke and tossed around fundamental ideas, but -

    The idea that a CIA analysts would say “Anti-Americanism is in the DNA of the hard left guerrilla movements” suggests:

    The writers are idiots

    The writers are willfully obscuring a truth

    Note: this is not an either-or choice.

    Yes. I'd bet on "both", too.

URLs du Jour

2019-11-18

We open with Michael P. Ramirez's cartoon comment on the passing scene…

[Impeachment]

Yup. And now on with our clown show:

  • [Amazon Link]

    We'll steal Mark J. Perry's Quotation of the day on ‘social justice’…...

    The commitment to “social justice” has, in fact, become the chief outlet for moral emotion, the distinguishing attribute of the good man, and the recognized sign of the possession of a moral conscience….. But the near-universal acceptance of a belief does not prove that it is valid or even meaningful any more than the general belief in witches or ghosts proved the validity of those concepts. What we have to deal with in the case of “social justice” is simply a quasi-religious superstition of the kind which we should respectfully leave in peace so long as it merely makes those happy who hold it, but which we must fight when it becomes the pretext of coercing other men. And the prevailing belief in “social justice” is at its present probably the gravest threat to most other values of a free civilization.

    That's from Hayek's The Mirage of Social Justice, Amazon link at your right.


  • Kevin D. Williamson has some thoughts at National Review on Marco Rubio’s Half-Baked Political Philosophy.

    I am a great believer in Senator Marco Rubio, in his excellent intentions, and in the undoubtable ability of Senator Marco Rubio and his excellent intentions together to screw up anything they touch.

    Senator Rubio, writing in National Review, joins the ranks of those who propose to reinvent capitalism — “common-good capitalism,” he calls it. Senator Elizabeth Warren also proposes to reinvent capitalism and calls her version “accountable capitalism.” Dear old Bernie Sanders still proposes to overthrow capitalism and be done with it, bless his heart.

    Senator Rubio, working from remarks originally delivered in a speech at Catholic University, references a series of popes — Leo XIII, mostly, but also Benedict and Francis — to describe (whether the senator understands this or not) the familiar moral basis of fascist economic thinking, beginning from the premise that “workers and businesses are not competitors for their share of limited resources, but partners in an effort that strengthens the entire nation.” Under the careful tutelage of the state, of course. I write this as a fellow Catholic: God defend us from these backward, primitive-minded Catholic social reformers. Pope Francis would do mortal harm to the poor of this world if he had any real political power; blessedly, Providence has relieved him and us of that burden.

    Yes, he said "fascist".

    I just read an impressive article by Stephanie Slade on papal attitudes toward capitalism in the current (December 2019) issue of Reason; I will point it out when it becomes freely available on the web.


  • Thanksgiving is coming! Or are we coming to Thanksgiving? Everything's relative, I suppose.

    But I couldn't wait to let P. J. O'Rourke explain to us: Why I’m Thankful for Bad Politics. We'll skip right to the second thing for which he's thankful:

    A second thing to be thankful for is that bad politics are a healthy reminder that politics are bad. Actually, being a “good” politician specifically requires committing every single one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

    Pride is foremost, of course. What kind of too-big-for-your-britches swell-head grandstander has the sheer damn conceit to flash the brass and come right out and claim that he or she ought to be president of the United States? It’s a nearly impossible job, and anyone who doesn’t admit that is unqualified for the position. The only kind of people we should want to be president are the kind of people we’d have to drag, kicking and cursing, into the Oval Office. (Anybody know where Clint Eastwood hangs out?)

    Read on for Envy, Wrath, Greed, Gluttony, Lust, and Sloth.


  • At Reason, Matt Welch bemoans one of Beto's last rhetorical gambits before he gave up his presidential quest: Democrats Are Conjuring Up New ‘Rights’.

    "Living close to work shouldn't be a luxury for the rich," Democratic presidential candidate and former congressman Beto O'Rourke tweeted in September. "It's a right for everyone."

    In a video of a campaign stop embedded in the tweet, the perpetually earnest Texan elaborated on this new right.

    "Here's a tough thing to talk about, though we must," O'Rourke said. "Rich people are going to have to allow, or be forced to allow, lower-income people to live near them….We force lower-income, working Americans to drive one, two, three hours in either direction to get to their jobs, very often minimum wage jobs."

    There are a half-dozen fuzzy-to-erroneous ideas baked into that language—"we" don't "force" just about anyone to drive two-plus hours a day to and from work, for starters. But the underlying principle is worth pondering, particularly since you see it all over the left side of the political spectrum these days. O'Rourke is urgently demanding a federal role in life choices that are shaped by policies at the state and local level.

    Only a half-dozen? Well, maybe.

    Matt sketches the history of rights-invention. It's ironic (isn't it?) that while Democrats are coming up with ever more new "rights", they also continue advocating limits on actual rights of religion, speech, weaponry, property,…


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang (indirectly) for this HKMarch tweet.

    As the French Wikipedia entry for "Vivre libre ou mourir" explains:

    C'est également la devise officielle de l'état américain du New Hampshire ("Live Free or Die"), adoptée par l'état en 1945.

    And it seems some Frenchies still know the words.

The Phony Campaign

2019-11-17 Update

Wow, how about that impeachment stuff, huh? Yeah, me neither.

A new phony leader has emerged in our standings: Mayor Pete had a nearly-eightfold increase in phony hits over the past week, while President Bone Spurs' dropped by nearly 75%. It's a funny world, and will probably change again next week; Google hits are not only bogus, they're volatile.

Slightly more tethered to reality—at least, "reality" as judged by people betting their own money on the election outcome—are the probability changes. Mayor Pete wins here too, with a decent upward bump of 2.6 percentage points.

And the big loser again this week: Senator Liz, down to a mere 13% chance of taking the oath on January 20, 2021. She still leads the Democrats, but… only a few weeks ago she was at 27.6%.

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
11/10
Phony
Results
Change
Since
11/10
Pete Buttigieg 9.5% +2.6% 7,240,000 +6,252,000
Donald Trump 40.5% -0.3% 1,990,000 -5,740,000
Hillary Clinton 3.0% +0.9% 949,000 -5,000
Bernie Sanders 7.0% +0.9% 538,000 +36,000
Joe Biden 10.4% -0.8% 440,000 -25,000
Elizabeth Warren 13.0% -4.1% 220,000 -42,000
Michael Bloomberg 2.1% -2.1% 80,800 +29,000
Andrew Yang 2.1% +0.1% 40,100 -2,500

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • A CNN opinionator, Frida Ghitis, detects heroism opposed to major inauthenticity: Real hero takes down phony corruption fighter.

    If we could remove partisan blinders, all Americans would see former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch as the national hero she is. Her testimony before the House committee investigating President Donald Trump showed a public servant who has devoted her life, at great personal risk, to bolstering the nation that gave refuge to her parents after they fled the Nazis and the Bolsheviks.

    She radiated the same dedication to freedom that seeps into the DNA of those who have fled oppression or seen it up close.

    That's why her story was not just inspiring but also dispiriting. An American hero, attacked by an American president -- removed from her post not because she failed to do her job but because she was doing it too well. As a result of Trump's actions, US policy went from supporting anti-corruption efforts to combating them. And for whose benefit?

    Trump, right?

    I'm not sure about the "national hero" and "great personal risk" stuff though.


  • Marc A. Thiessen puts his finger on a possible out for Trump: Incompetence is not an impeachable offense.

    The problem with most conspiracy theories is that they presume too much competence on the part of the conspirators. The same may be true when it comes to President Trump’s alleged quid pro quo with Ukraine. As Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) put it, “What I can tell you about the Trump policy towards the Ukraine is that it was incoherent. . . . They seem to be incapable of forming a quid pro quo.”

    Graham may be right. Wednesday’s impeachment hearing certainly provided no new evidence that Trump had a coherent strategy to use U.S. security assistance, and the prospect of a presidential meeting, to get Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.

    It may not be the best campaign ad, though.


  • E. J. Dionne really, really, wants Trump gone, and he's bereft that Democrats have put their differences above beating Trump.

    Somewhere on the seventh tee, the phony populist Trump is laughing. One side of the Democratic Party is denouncing its foes as class enemies and apologists of the rich. The other argues that champions of the left will destroy the American economy. Is this how Democrats want to spend the next few months?

    Yeah, E. J., they probably do. Or, more accurately, each Democrat will spend his or her time doing whatever they think is necessary to win the nomination. I wouldn't have thought I needed to spell that out.


  • E. J. is kind of irked about Bloomberg getting into the race. But at National Review, Kevin D. Williamson sees Upsides for Left & Right in Bloomie's campaign.

    The troubles with Michael Bloomberg, from the conservative point of view, are obvious enough: He has a terrible record on abortion and on Second Amendment rights. He is a climate-change crusader and is unlikely to install great heaping pallets of Federalist Society–approved judges in the U.S. courts. He is a nanny and a scold whose conception of the proper sphere of government action is broad enough to encompass salt-shakers and soda cups. But while Nurse Bloomberg may be Barry Goldwater in comparison to the silly Sandinista sad-sack who succeeded him, he is not running against Bill de Blasio or Warren Wilhelm Jr. or whatever it is the mayor of New York City is calling himself these days.

    The Democrats’ objections to him are partly demographic — he is an old, white, male billionaire in a party that increasingly is openly hostile to each of those categories independently and slavers with rage when they are combined — and partly political: In rhetoric and in office, Bloomberg has shown himself to be a bipartisan moderate who if not quite free of ideology at least has the good sense to try to subordinate ideological passions (his and others’) to the pursuit of administrative competence.

    Whatever Mike's multiple and egregious faults, KDW notes, he was an effective mayor of NYC. Democrats "could do worse". And "Unfortunately for them, they almost certainly will, too."


  • Ann Althouse notes the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea is kind of iffy on Wheezy Joe: "[Biden] bereft of elementary appearance as a human being, much less a politician, again reeled off a string of rubbish against the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK.". And moreover:

    "A crow is never whiter for often washing. Baiden [sic], still going reckless, not coming to his senses though he was censured and rejected by all people, must be a rabid dog only keen on getting at others' throats. Such rabid dogs are second to none in their craftiness in seeking their own interests... Such a profiteer who ran for the two failed presidential elections has now gone zealous in another presidential election campaign, wandering about like a starving field dog."

    A message from North Korea. It seems funny at first, but if you keep reading, it's a death threat: "It seems time has come for him to depart his life.... Anyone who dare slanders the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK, can never spare the DPRK's merciless punishment whoever and wherever. And he will be made to see even in a grave what horrible consequences will be brought about by his thoughtless utterances. Rabid dogs like Baiden can hurt lots of people if they are allowed to run about. They must be beaten to death with a stick, before it is too late."

    Well, that seems intemperate.


  • Well, let's look at Mayor Pete with Scott Shackford at Reason: Pete Buttigieg Has a $1 Trillion Plan to Drive Up Housing, College, and Labor Costs.

    On Friday, Buttigieg revealed "An Economic Agenda for American Families: Empowering Working and Middle Class Americans to Thrive," his expensive proposal to push for even greater amounts of federal spending and regulation in housing, child care, college, and the workplace.

    This is hardly a surprise from a Democratic candidate, even a self-styled moderate like Buttigieg. He says in the proposal's introduction that he "doesn't mean government taking over the economy." But he nevertheless argues that government is supposed to have a "vigorous presence" in our economy to make sure it "actually works for all."

    As Scott notes, this is "a fantasy wish list with no relationship to reality."


  • But Senator Liz is still plumping for her phony plans. Which is too much for even the WaPo fact checker, Glenn Kessler: Warren’s misleading pitch for her tax on billionaires.

    “All we are saying is, when you make it big, pitch in two cents so everyone else gets a chance to make it,” Warren says before [her new TV] ad lists programs that the candidate says would be funded through a wealth tax, such as universal child care ($700 billion over 10 years), universal free college and student debt forgiveness ($1.25 trillion), “and more.”

    Only problem: Liz has already tripled her wealth tax proposal for "billionaires" to 6%. Kessler awards her Three Pinocchios.


  • Senator Amy is long-gone from our standings, down with the other dead-but-don't-go-away candidates. But Klobuchar recently komplained about the "relative success of Pete Buttigieg" — a mere mayor! — causing fellow Minnesotan Scott Johnson at Power Line to invite us to Meet Amy Whinehouse.

    In Minnesota politics Klobuchar has led a charmed life, but so have a few other DFL politicians who lacked the advantage of a widely known name. Her popularity among Minnesota voters is not a credit to us. From my perspective, the most notable fact about Senator Klobuchar is what a phony she is.

    She is not nice. She is not funny. She is not a moderate. She is not an accomplished legislator. She is an incredibly boring speaker.

    EBO currently has her probability at 1.1%. Same as Tulsi, but better than Kamala (0.7%), Cory (0.4%), or Julian (0.1%).


Last Modified 2019-11-17 11:06 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2019-11-16

  • An amusing column from David Harsanyi on Paul Krugman: Always Wrong, Never in Doubt.

    One of the nation’s leading doomsayers has been the New York Times’ perpetually mistaken Paul Krugman, who warned shortly after the 2016 election that Trump’s victory would trigger a global recession “with no end in sight.” We could file that under “post-election hysteria,” but as late as April of this year he was still telling crowds that the bond-market signals predicted “a pretty good chance of a recession sometime in the next year or so.” And he has kept this going all year:

    February 11: Paul Krugman expects a global recession this year, warns “we don’t have an effective response.”

    August 1: “Why Was Trumponomics a Flop?”

    August 15: “From Trump Boom to Trump Gloom”

    September 5: “Trumpism Is Bad for Business”

    October 3: “Here Comes the Trump Slump”

    October 24: “The Day the Trump Boom Died”

    A couple of weeks after the Trump Boom expired, CNBC reported that “October job creation comes in at 128,000, easily topping estimates even with GM auto strike.” This cycle has been going on for three years.

    (My favorite Trump-era Krugmanism, though, is when the esteemed economist explains away his bad predictions by claiming that the economy’s successes are really just driven by instances of his own political preferences playing out — “Impeaching Trump Is Good for the Economy,” “The Economics of Donald J. Keynes,” and so on.)

    Eventually, we will have a recession. And Paul Krugman will claim to have predicted it.

    As I've said before: I would dearly love to see the current and past investment portfolios of doomsayers like Krugman, and see their performance over the recent past. If they believe their own predictions, their returns have got to be pretty lousy.


  • James W. Benefiel of Dunedin, Florida read a recent WSJ story about Apple kicking in $2.5 billion to help California with the “availability and affordability" of housing in the state. He makes a cogent point in an LTE: iPad Pseudo-Tax Money Is Ingenious Progressive Coup.

    Your editorial “Affordable Rents at the iPad” (Nov. 6) describes the billions of dollars Apple and other big California tech giants are contributing to increase availability of “affordable housing” in the Silicon Valley area. So now I need to consider when I shell out $900 for my next iPhone that I will be paying a tax to subsidize the amelioration of convoluted reasoning in California that creates most of its problems. That system has invented a new concept: a free-market tax-collection mechanism for a muddled progressive state that manages to dredge in revenues from around the country and world.

    [Amazon Link]
    Bears repeating: buying Apple products helps bail out California from its dysfunctional housing policies. Facebook and Google are also culprits.

    Gee, if only someone would write a book about the craven co-dependence of statists and crony capitalists…


  • And our Google LFOD alert rang for a recent article in The Conversation by Julia Gaffield (Associate Professor of History, Georgia State University): Haiti protests summon spirit of the Haitian Revolution to condemn a president tainted by scandal.

    A radical, unlikely figure has emerged as the icon of Haiti’s months-long protests against President Jovenel Moïse, who stands accused of embezzling millions in public funds.

    That figure is Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the black Haitian revolutionary who defeated the French to free Haiti from colonial rule in 1804. By summoning Dessalines, Haitian protesters implicitly contrast the achievements of that revolution – freedom, universal citizenship and racial equality – with the disappointments of the Moïse government.

    Dessalines wrote a radical constitution that eliminated racial hierarchy, established equality before the law and instituted freedom of religion in Haiti.

    One of Haiti’s opposition political parties is called “Pitit Dessalines” – Children of Dessalines.

    When demonstrations began last year, simple stenciled images of Dessalines wearing a military hat and holding a protest sign appeared on walls across the capital. This year, at several marches, men in revolutionary-era garb have ridden the streets of Port-au-Prince on horseback. They were waving Dessalines’ red-and-black version of the Haitian flag inscribed with the words “Viv Lib ou Mouri” – “Live Free or Die.”

    Professor Gaffield eventually gets around to mentioning a small fact that the Wikipedia entry for Dessalines puts right up front: he ordered the 1804 Haiti massacre of the remaining white population of native French people.

    I'll say what Gaffield won't: replacing crooks with murderers isn't gonna go well.

URLs du Jour

2019-11-15

[Amazon Link]

  • Our Amazon Product du Jour is a book originally written in 1954 (and I originally read it not too long after). But, as Phillip W. Magness notes at AIER, it's a topic of continuing relevance: The [New York] Times’s Editorial Page Lies with Statistics.

    As the debate over wealth taxation rages on, journalists have assumed a central role in the dissemination of empirical claims about the distribution and historical trajectory of U.S. tax policy. Unfortunately several leading media outlets have approached this task by engaging in political advocacy on behalf of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders’ tax plans, sacrificing factual accuracy in the process.

    Phillip's issue is with a recent NYT editorial that asserted:

    In 1961, Americans with the highest incomes paid an average of 51.5 percent of that income in federal, state and local taxes. In 2011, Americans with the highest incomes paid just 33.2 percent of their income in taxes, according to a study by Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman published last year.

    As Phillip notes, there are numerous well-documented problems with the Piketty/Saez/Zucman [PSZ] study. But the NYT manages to muck this up even further by cherry-picking its time period.

    The IRS didn't publish detailed statistics on taxpayer income until tax year 1962. But in that year, the top-0.1% tax rate according to PSZ was 43.6%.

    So PSZ claim that the rate dropped nearly 8 percentage points between 1961 and 1962 even without changes in the main tax rates. Miraculous!

    There are also problems with the other end of the NYT's timeframe, 2011. It was (it turns out) during a relative lull in tax receipts, mainly caused by capital losses realized post-recession. Things have rebounded since, but you will not learn that from the NYT.

    Phillip's conclusion:

    In short, the Times appears to have selected 1961 and 2011 to create the illusion of an 18 percentage point decline in the average overall tax rate paid by the wealthiest earners. The actual decline, measured from the earliest microdata year 1962 to the most recent available year in 2014 shows a top average tax rate change from 43.6% to 39.8% – or only 3.8 percentage points in 50 years.

    My non-economist conclusion: don't trust the New York Times.


  • I was favorably disposed to Marco Rubio until his disastrous pre-primary debate performance up here in New Hampshire in 2016. OK, he's young, he could bounce back in 2024, right?

    Well, not if David Harsanyi has anything to say about it: Marco Rubio & Capitalism -- Republican's Bizarre Turn against Capitalism.

    Not even socialist Bernie Sanders could have unfurled a more exhaustive vilification of the market economy than Marco Rubio did in his recent Catholic University speech defending “common-good capitalism.”

    If you think I’m exaggerating, note that the former Tea Partier now blames capitalism for stifling innovation, undermining religious institutions, stripping workers of their dignity, corroding good will among men, and driving childlessness, hopelessness, and suicides.

    Rubio's proposed "solutions" are ludicrous (expand the federal per-child tax credit, paid parental leave) and cronyistic ("reform" the Small Business Administration, "invest" in rare-earth mineral mining). Or, as David puts it, punishing "big corporations" for not making the business decisions Mario thinks they should.

    Because Mario's a lot smarter than those CEOs, y'know.


  • A sober look from AEI's James Pethokoukis on The Warren wealth tax, innovation, and consumer surplus. It's another example of what's "seen and unseen" in the economy.

    Elizabeth Warren’s new campaign ad returns fire on American billionaires who’ve criticized her wealth tax idea. Her counter attack: “All we’re saying is when you make it big, pitch in two cents so everybody else gets a chance to make it.” 

    Let’s put aside the reality of the eye-roll-inducing bit about the “two cents.” What Warren is suggesting is that building a business mostly helps the builder. Everyone else, maybe not so much. That sort of thinking always reminds me of the great paper from Nobel laureate economist William Nordhaus, “Schumpeterian Profits in the American Economy: Theory and Measurement.” In it, Nordhaus takes a stab at determining who really gains from the value generated by innovation, the producer of the innovation or the consumer of the innovation. 

    His findings: “We conclude that only a minuscule fraction of the social returns from technological advances over the 1948-2001 period was captured by producers, indicating that most of the benefits of technological change are passed on to consumers rather than captured by producers” And by “most,” he means almost all of the benefit with innovators “able to capture about 2.2 percent of the total social surplus from innovation.” Makes a rough sort of sense when you think about it. Consider what Jeff Bezos is worth — a lot — versus the value generated by his nearly trillion-dollar company — a whole lot more.

    This isn't difficult for even non-economists to understand. But when you're a power-hungry politician whose route to higher office depends on demagoguing the issue and demonizing the rich, it pays to ignore it.


  • And Jeff Jacoby looks at The counterproductive cruelties of occupational licensing.

    COSMETOLOGISTS AND emergency medical technicians don't have much in common.

    Cosmetologists treat skin, style hair, and paint nails. EMTs respond to 911 calls, administer urgent medical care, and rush patients by ambulance to hospitals.

    Cosmetologists are beauty-industry professionals who help people feel good about their appearance. EMTs are first responders who help people survive violent traumas and heart attacks.

    Cosmetologists rarely face a life-threatening crisis on the job. EMTs make life-or-death decisions every day.

    But there is one thing cosmetologists and EMTs do have in common: Both must be licensed by the state. The amount of training and experience needed to obtain those licenses, however, could hardly be more different. An applicant for a Massachusetts EMT license has to complete just 150 hours of education in order to qualify. But anyone seeking a cosmetology license faces a far higher hurdle: An applicant must log 1,000 hours of education, plus two full years of hands-on experience, before the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will allow them to go into the beauty business.

    MA leaves some licensing decisions to municipalities. My favorite example is Salem's regulation of "fortunetellers, psychics, and other similar businesses".

    Because you can't have fake psychics making money off customers! That would be wrong!

URLs du Jour

2019-11-14

[Amazon Link]

  • Kevin Butterhof writes at Aero on Why We Should Reject Diversity and Equity As Values. His opening sentence will come as no surprise to anyone who has (say) visited the website of the University Near Here over the past decade or so.

    The concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion have gained in popularity in recent years among the political left, including university administrations and corporate HR departments. To those who believe no individual is intrinsically more valuable than any other, this trend is troubling. While inclusion is a good thing, valuing diversity and equity with regard to immutable characteristics is unethical. Naturally occurring diversity and equity are indications—though not proof—of a tolerant and inclusive society. A lack of diversity and equity may indicate bias. However, active pursuit of these ideals requires disregarding the basic, universalist ethics that civil rights leaders fought and died to achieve for everyone.

    From the UNH page linked above:

    We are committed to supporting and sustaining an educational community that is inclusive, diverse and equitable. The values of diversity, inclusion and equity are inextricably linked to our mission of teaching and research excellence, and we embrace these values as being critical to development, learning, and success. We expect nothing less than an accessible, multicultural community in which civility and respect are fostered, and discrimination and harassment are not tolerated.

    This is the Nicene Creed of modern American universities, and it's antithetical to actual tolerance.


  • Veronique de Rugy has a sharp eye for bad news. While everyone's distracted by the impeachment circus Congress Readies Another Round of Crony Handouts.

    Here we go again. We're approaching another deadline to pass a government spending bill or risk a government shutdown. Legislators routinely manufacture this sort of "crisis" to ram through provisions that wouldn't survive scrutiny standing on their own. Congress is reportedly likely to push the budget deadline into December, but whenever the next full funding bill is finally taken up, there will inevitably be an effort to load it up with crony handouts.

    At the top of the wish list will be "tax extenders." These are tax provisions that generally bestow benefits on particular business interests, but they expire every year or so. They must be renewed regularly if the benefits are to continue.

    Not all tax extenders are corporate favoritism. Some alleviate economic distortions in the tax code. But most of those provisions were either mooted by the 2017 tax reform or have already been made permanent. What is left, by and large, is cronyism, especially for various forms of renewable energy.

    Particularly egregious: the tax credit for electric vehicles, mainly benefiting the already well-off. (When was the last time you saw a poor person in a Nissan Leaf?)


  • James Pethokoukis writes at AEI on The ‘billionaire effect’ that wealth worriers never mention.

    The “billionaire effect” isn’t how the mere existence of the super-rich seems to cause great alarm in some people. Well, it isn’t just that, obviously. [Swiss financial services firm] UBS defines the “billionaire effect” as how entrepreneur-led businesses “have tended to outperform others financially” due to “long-term vision, smart risk taking, business focus, and determination.”

    UBS analysis of more than 2,000 global billionaires finds that over the past 15 years, billionaire-controlled companies returned almost twice the annualized average performance of the market and generated a 50 percent higher return on equity. Moreover, while the billionaire effect is seen globally, the effect was strongest in the United States.

    Reached for comment, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren sang in two-part harmony: "We don't care, we hate 'em anyway."


  • At Cato, Randal O'Toole asks the musical question: Is Amtrak Guilty of Securities Fraud? [Spoiler: no, but only because it's not a publicly-traded company.]

    A press release issued by Amtrak last week would, if it were published by publicly traded firm, be a violation of securities laws and regulations. The press release claimed that Amtrak's FY 2019 annual financial report, which has yet to be published, would show that passenger revenues covered 99 percent of operating costs. Amtrak officials further projected that the company would show a profit for the first time in its history in 2020.

    Neither of these claims are true because they grossly misrepresent what the annual report will say in two ways. Most important, the annual report will identify depreciation as one of Amtrak's biggest costs, amounting to nearly 20 percent of its budget. Depreciation was $807 million in Amtrak's 2018 annual report, and is projected to be around $50 million more in 2019.

    "We're profitable, if you ignore the things that would make us non-profitable."


  • John O. McGinnis writes, more in sorrow than in anger, at Law & Liberty on The Ongoing Decline of The New York Times.

    I have been reading the New York Times for over five decades. By the time I was ten, I came home from school to immerse myself in its pages, enthralled as the outside world enveloped me each evening at my parents’ kitchen table. I even played the game Stratego on the porch of our country home against an older boy who would become its publisher.

    It is thus painful for me to watch the fall of a once-worthy institution. At one time, it had some claim to be the United States’ paper of record because of its objective reporting and the absence of a persistent agenda in determining what news was fit to print. A sensible center-left perspective generally drove its editorials. These were not my views then or now, but the paper offered a useful challenge to my enduringly classical liberal perspective.

    As far as today's "paper of record" goes, John puts in a plug for my paper of choice, the Wall Street Journal.

    The NYT may have a marginally better crossword puzzle, but the WSJ's is pretty good. And Foster's has the NYT Sunday puzzle anyway, a week late.

URLs du Jour

2019-11-13

[Amazon Link]

  • Our Amazon Product du Jour is the recent book Die Behind the Wheel: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Music of Steely Dan, a collection of short stories brought to my attention via Instapundit.

    I like Steely Dan, and I like crime fiction, so it's a real possibility. Even though I have never heard of any of the authors involved.

    But what I found from perusing the table of contents at Amazon out was disturbing. One of the story titles is a line from the song Sign In Stranger:

    Do you have a dark spot on your past?

    And I realized I'd been mishearing this for appoximately 43 years. I thought it was

    Do you have a dark spot on your pants?

    Well, that's embarrassing. The actual lyric makes more sense. To the extent that Steely Dan lyrics make sense at all.


  • The war on Christmas continues with an abject surrender down the road in Durham, NH, as reported by Foster's Daily Democrat: Durham ends tree lighting, downplays Santa.

    Though the town’s holiday celebration is weeks away, Durham is already getting criticism about modifications to the event designed to remove religious overtones that non-Christians or non-religious residents could find offensive.

    Town Administrator Todd Selig said the newly named Frost Fest, scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 7 from 6 to 8 p.m., includes significant changes to the traditional holiday tree lighting at Memorial Park, including the absence of a formal tree lighting ceremony. Memorial Park, a small, town-owned traffic island on Main Street at the Mill Road intersection, where the tree that is lighted for the holidays is rooted in the ground, has traditionally been the gathering spot for the event, which headlines the holiday season.

    Yes, "significant changes to the traditional holiday tree lighting" would be not to light the tree. At least not in a "formal" way. Whatever that means. Nobody wearing a tux?

    Ah, but it turns out there will be lights on the tree, but…

    Organized by the Durham Parks & Recreation Department, it is described as the “annual welcome to winter celebration” with “cold hands, warm hearts.” The modified event will not include the traditional countdown and tree lighting, though the tree will have lights, Selig said, and Santa Claus, though he will have some presence in the celebration, will not arrive by town fire truck as he has in the past.

    Yes, there will be lights but no lighting. I guess the lights will be turned on surreptitiously, somehow. That won't offend the previously-offended.

    The reworked event is part of an effort to make Durham’s celebration more secular and inclusive, Selig said, so all residents from a variety of backgrounds and religions could feel comfortable participating.

    “Santa will be present, but not presented,” said Kitty Marple, who chairs the Winter Celebration Working Group and the Town Council.

    Present, but not presented. I love that smug Orwellian wordplay, don't you?

    “I understand why some people will be angry about the changes,” Marple said, but noted most of the activities will be the same as they’ve always been. A bonfire, s’mores, music, cookie decorating, ice sculpting demonstrations and crafts are planned.

    So note: the aim is to make more people "feel comfortable". But Kitty says she knows "some people will be angry".

    Wouldn't it have been refreshingly honest if she had added "… but we don't care about them"? Have a s'more and shut up.

    Though Marple said she personally felt neutral about Durham’s tree lighting tradition, others felt unwelcome. The small changes suggested by the working committee were designed to make the event “more ecumenical,” Marple said.

    News flash: Ms Marple doesn't know what "ecumenical" means. It would have been more accurate to say: entirely shorn of anything that even hints at a religious connection.

    Oh yeah: no wreaths on the lampposts either. Well, enough local garbage, we move on to…


  • Former restaurant CEO Andy Puzder has a go at Senator Liz in the WSJ: Warren’s ‘2 Cents’ Come at Your Expense. Much we've discussed previously, here's another example of the dishonesty involved:

    What about Ms. Warren’s catchphrase that the tax is “just 2 cents”? The line has worked as political marketing, but it’s either dishonest or mathematically illiterate. On Sunday, Ms. Warren retweeted a statement that misrepresented her wealth tax as an income tax, saying it would apply to people who earn $50 million a year. It actually applies to a much larger group—those whose net worth exceeds $50 million. The tax would be assessed against those assets every year, even if the taxpayer loses money.

    This effect is cumulative. Suppose a 40-year-old entrepreneur has a net worth of $525 million, the midpoint of Ms. Warren’s 2% wealth-tax bracket. If his net worth otherwise didn’t change, an annual wealth tax of “just” 2% would confiscate an amount equal to more than 50% of this value over the rest of a normal lifespan. After death, he would also pay a 40% tax on whatever remained above an $11 million exemption. Ms. Warren’s “just 2 cents” combined with the death tax would add up to about 70% of the value of those assets.

    Senator Liz likes to understate the losers under her plan. We should also not neglect the winners who would get their fingers on the moola confiscated from the losers.


  • There's not a better writer around than Kevin D. Williamson when he is pissed off at some pontificating statist. Today's victim is Michael Tomasky who wrote at the NYT: Bill Gates, I Implore You to Connect Some Dots. KDW rebuts at National Review: Connecting Some Dots on Taxes.

    Tomasky writes: “Multibillion-dollar fortunes are often called excessive and decadent. But here’s something they’re rarely called but ought to be: anti-democratic. These fortunes will destroy our democracy. . . . Any democracy needs a robust and thriving middle class, and we have spent the last 30 or so years transferring trillions of dollars from the middle class to the people at the very top. Just one set of numbers, from the University of California, Berkeley, economist Gabriel Zucman: The 400 richest Americans — the top .00025 percent of the population — now own more of the country’s riches than the 150 million adults in the bottom 60 percent of wealth distribution. The 400’s share has tripled since the 1980s.”

    Question: Can Tomasky or anybody else describe the actual mode of “transfer” at work here? In what sense has money been transferred from the middle class to billionaires such as Bill Gates? And who did the transferring?

    KDW's article is long and worth the read.

    I'd also add that the middle class is shrinking because they're getting richer.


  • We recently celebrated the anniversary of the Berlin Wall's demise. Yay! But Jeff Jacoby points out an Inconvenient Truth about its birth: America stood down as the Berlin Wall went up.

    Yet the heartbreaking truth, which I haven't seen mentioned in the 30th anniversary coverage, is that those long years of separation had been wholly unnecessary. If only the United States had acted at the outset to stop the wall, the wall would have been stopped. When the East German police first began putting up barbed wire to close the crossings between the Eastern (Soviet) and Western sectors of the city, US tanks could have easily and bloodlessly knocked them down. What's more, they had every legal right to do so — the Allies' post-World War II agreements covering the administration of Berlin had stipulated that there was to be free movement within the city. But President Kennedy, notwithstanding the swagger of his Inaugural Address — "we shall pay any price, bear any burden" — was afraid of provoking a military confrontation. The orders came down from the top: Do nothing.

    The bitter irony is that the orders coming down from the top on the other side were to back down if the Americans made a show of force.

    For what should be the millionth time: we and the world were damned lucky to have President Reagan.

URLs du Jour

2019-11-12

[Amazon Link]

  • Cafe Hayek provides the Quotation of the Day from Deirdre Nansen McCloskey's new book. (Amazon link at right.)

    Non-economists think that economics is about “keeping the money circulating.” And so they are impressed by the claim by the owner of the local sports franchise that devoting tax dollars to a new stadium will “generate” local sales and “create” new jobs. To a non-economist the vocabulary of generating and creating jobs out of unthrifty behavior sounds tough and prudential and quantitative. It’s not. It’s stupid. No economist of sense would use such locutions. Indeed, you can pretty much depend on it that an alleged economist on TV is a phony if she talks of “generating” or “creating” jobs.

    Which brings us naturally to…


  • Deirdre's recent article at Quillette: Reflections on My Decision to Change Gender.

    It’s been a long time now since, at age 53, I became a woman. Actually, I’m an old woman more than twenty years on, who walks sometimes with a nice fold-up cane, and has had two hip-joint replacements, and lives in a loft in downtown Chicago with 8,000 books, delighting in her dogs, her birth family, her friends scattered from Chile to China, her Episcopal church across the street, her eating club near the Art Institute, and above all her teaching and writing as a professor. Or, as the Italians so charmingly say, as una professoressa. Oh, that –essa. She retired from teaching, though not from scribbling, at age 73, twenty years after transitioning, “emerita.” Not, you see, “emeritus.”

    But of course one can’t “really” change gender, can one? The “really” comes up when an angry conservative man or an angry essentialist feminist writes in a blog or an editorial or a comment page. The angry folk are correct, biologically speaking. That’s why their anger sounds to them like common sense. Every cell in my body shouts XY, XY, XY! I do wish they would shut up. Wretched little chromosomes. In some magical future I suppose we’ll be able to change XYs into XXs. But not now.

    I was never "angry", but I have to admit that Deirdre has changed my thinking about people who are (way) out of the ordinary in their gender self-perception. I used to think such people were nuts, full stop. Nowadays, I'm a lot less eager to approach the issue that way.


  • And kinda related to that original quote is this AIER article from Jeffrey A. Tucker: Economics Is the Great Reality Check.

    There is a sense these days, whether in politics or academia, that people should shape their own realities and each result is as valid or real as any other. Your truth. My truth. Speaking as a fill-in-the-blank, my view is this and you can tell my theory by the way I just phrased that: identity is truth and there is no other. Let’s all just make things up, dream our dreams and then impose them by force of intimidation or of law.

    If nothing else, let’s fight.

    Which is precisely why economics is so lovely by comparison. Yes, economists disagree on things. But for the most part, economic science strives to understand universal forces at work, things that unite us and the human experience through time and space regardless of our wishes and dreams. More importantly, regardless of what economists themselves think, economics is an amazing and welcome constraint on flights of intellectual and political fancy. 

    Last week, for example, Elizabeth Warren’s campaign…

    Well, if you've been paying attention, you'll know exactly where Tucker is headed there.


  • Speaking of a presidential candidate in dire need of a reality check, Emily Yoffe writes at Reason: Joe Biden’s Record on Campus Due Process Has Been Abysmal. Is It a Preview of His Presidency?.

    The rationale for the 2020 candidacy of former Vice President Joe Biden, a man who will be 78 years old on Inauguration Day, is that he is the great moderate hope. He is the man who will save the Democrats from their ever-leftward impulses by attracting the centrist voters who remain the majority of the electorate. But the key domestic initiative of his vice presidency was not middle-of-the-road at all. It was a declaration that the federal government must engage in a far-reaching, top-down intervention in the sexual interactions between young adults, setting new rules aimed at how students must behave and establishing harsh punishments for those who deviate.

    Though his reputation rests on his moderation, Biden's approach to campus sexual assault is part of a pattern: He identifies an actual problem, engages in inflammatory—and sometimes false—rhetoric about it, then fashions a harsh, overreaching response that sweeps up the harmless and even the innocent. He has been called to task on the consequences of this approach to the federal wars on drugs and crime. (As a senator, he was a key figure in overseeing comprehensive drug and crime legislation.) Over the years, and especially since announcing his presidential run, he has repudiated some of the policies he previously promoted.

    Longtime readers may recall that I was Present at Biden's announcement of the Obama Administration's new campus sex policies in an event at the University Near Here. Looking back at what I wrote at the time, I was pretty easy on him. In my (slight) defense, nobody knew the details of the infamous "Dear Colleague" Title IX letter at the time, and he was content just to impress us all with his earnestness, if not his connection to reality.


  • At National Review, David Harsanyi writes on President Trump & Vladimir Putin -- Manchurian Candidate Conspiracy Theory Will Never Die.

    One of the most durable conspiracy theories of our times finds Vladimir Putin recruiting a billionaire media personality named Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency. In some iterations of the tale, Trump is willingly serving his Kremlin comrades; in others, he is merely the victim of kompromat. In every version he is an asset.

    The basic account holds that Putin, who is apparently blessed with seer-like abilities, knew in the late 1970s that Trump, whose political positions would wildly fluctuate over 40 years, was presidential material, and that now, after decades of patiently waiting, the duo’s nefarious plan to cut taxes and place originalists onto the federal bench has finally come to fruition.

    In a sprawling July 2018 New York piece headlined, “Will Trump Be Meeting with His Counterpart — Or His Handler? A plausible theory of mind-boggling collusion,” Jonathan Chait offered a fully realized rendering of Trump’s potential sedition. Cobbling together every interaction the real-estate developer ever had with Russians — helpfully laid out in a handy Pepe Silvia–like flow chart — Chait posits that Trump might have become a Kremlin asset in 1987 when visited Moscow.

    We'll briefly note that it's far more "respectable" for the Blue Team to make fun of silly right-wing conspiracy theories. They're far less likely to call out their own.


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang for a Vice article: 'Mango Is Not a Crime': Trump-Supporting Vapers Stormed D.C..

    On Saturday, Donald Trump took off on Marine One and flew over a crowd of vapers who promptly began shouting at the helicopter. The president was on his way to the University of Alabama football game, where he was likely seeking spectators who wouldn't boo him. But what many of those gathered below sought was simple: They were vapers, and they needed Trump to notice them.

    They might have appreciated it if some aide leaned over to the president and explained that smoking combustible cigarettes was the number one cause of preventable death in the world, and that they believed vaping to be a safer alternative. They wanted him to know that they did not condone teen use, and that they disdained embattled vape giant JUUL Labs for its marketing. Most importantly, they wanted him to reconsider a federal ban of e-liquid flavors, one he had called for weeks ago and just days earlier suggested was imminent. They wanted him to let them vape cake. And cinnamon roll, and bubble gum, and custard.

    And LFOD? Ah, here 'tis:

    But there's another problem. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), announced that it had discovered a "very strong culprit"—a suspect that has been floated in the past—for the vaping-linked illnesses: vitamin E acetate, a thickening agent that has been found in black-market THC cartridges. So although many vapers skew libertarian and insist the government should largely stay out of their lives—there were several "live free or die" tattoos in the crowd—the lung injuries and fatalities might well have been prevented or at least curtailed had the feds placed stricter regulations on cannabis.

    Or—here's a crazy thought—if the pot-vapers had an ounce of common sense in the first place they wouldn't be using black market THC cartridges.


Last Modified 2019-11-12 11:50 AM EST