URLs du Jour

2019-07-17

[Amazon Link]

  • Nick Gillespie and I are on the same page. (Except that his page is at Reason and mine is, um, here.) The Last Few Days Exemplify Why I’m Libertarian (and Why You Should Be Too).

    Things are getting uglier by the second in American politics and the sheer awfulness of the current moment perfectly illustrates why I'm libertarian. Do you really want to live in a world where you're constantly living inside either Donald Trump's mind or that of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D–N.Y.) democratic socialist "squad"?

    Our lives are too short, too fleeting, too important to spend all of our waking hours engaged in the systematic organization of hatreds, which is as good a working definition of politics as there is. There's ultimately not a lot of wiggle room between Trumpian conservatism, which demands complete reverence for the Donald and includes bolder and bolder threats to stifle free speech along with free trade, and Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Dealism, which explicitly uses the totalist regimentation of all aspects of American life during World War II as its model. If I wanted to deal with politics all the time, I'd move to a totalitarian country already.

    If the definition of politics as "the systematic organization of hatreds" is unfamiliar, it's from Henry Brooks Adams (1838–1918). Great-grandpappy was John, grandpa John Quincy.


  • At the Library of Economics and Liberty, Scott Sumner explains Why both liberals and conservatives will lose on health care (in the short run). And makes a point that neither side will straightforwardly make:

    The basic problem for both liberals and conservatives is that their proposed reforms would imply a huge fall in income to the health care industry, and that’s not politically feasible for the following two reasons:

    1. Liberals favor European style health care, which typical costs about 10% of GDP. It’s not politically feasible to raise enough revenue to pay for a Medicare program costing 17% of GDP. Indeed that sum is greater than the total amount of revenue currently raised by the federal government. Socialized medicine in America can only be achieved by slashing the incomes of doctors, nurses, administrators, support staff, and other medical industry personnel to much lower levels.

    2. Conservatives favor a more market-oriented approach, as in Singapore. But Singapore spends only 5% of GDP on health care, a sum that would be completely unacceptable to America’s health care industry.

    Liberals believe their opponents on health care are heartless conservatives. Conservatives believe their opponent are starry-eyed liberals. Both are wrong; it is the health care industry itself that blocks all meaningful reforms.

    Our only hope is… naahh, it's hopeless.


  • I am also on the same page as Andrew C. McCarthy: Donald Trump's Tweets: Not Racist, but Stupid.

    What does “racist” even mean anymore?

    Racism is the headline on President Trump’s Sunday tweets — the media-Democrat complex assiduously describes them as “racist tweets” as if that were a fact rather than a trope. I don’t think they were racist; I think they were abjectly stupid.

    Like many Americans, I am tired of being lectured about racism by racists and racialists, individuals whose full-field explanation for all life’s issues is this matter of genetic happenstance that should be increasingly irrelevant in a pluralistic society.

    Is it “racist” to tell people who have contempt for the country — who abhor the common culture that makes us American — that they ought to go back to where they came from? It has nativist and reactionary overtones, but I don’t think it is racist. I’ll grant this much, though: It is closer to actual racism than the Left’s usual demagogic claim: I am a racist if I extend to a non-white nincompoop like Ilhan Omar the courtesy of taking her seriously as an individual and a public official, as if it were her race rather than the idiocy of what she says that moves me to dissent.

    I stand by my scatological description from yesterday.


  • In my personal celebration of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, I watched the new documentary last night. At Cato, Chris Edwards has thoughts on it too. Apollo 11: A Rare Federal Success.

    If the mission were pursued today, the president would be tweeting undignified comments and hogging the spotlight. The launch would be years behind schedule and the computers would jam like during the Obamacare launch. Environmental lawsuits would shut down the launchpad. Labor regulations would slow astronaut training. NASA executives would be indicted for graft. Federal budget squabbling would close the federal government and mission control, leaving the astronauts to find their own way home from the moon. It would be a mess.

    Afraid so. Governments are good at (1) killing millions of people and (2) throwing tons of money at technical projects to bring off a gimmicky (albeit glorious) feat with little follow-through. And the US is getting worse at the latter.


  • In our "From the Daily Wire, so who knows if it's true" department: REPORT: Facebook Censors Peaceful Saint Augustine Quote As ‘Hate Speech’.

    A Massachusetts pro-life Catholic man claims that Facebook censored a peaceful quote from the theologian St. Augustine of Hippo as "hate speech."

    According to LifeSiteNews, Dominic Bettinelli published the St. Augustine quote on his Facebook page after two priests with whom he was friendly were allegedly censored by the social media platform for publishing the same words, arguing they violated "community standards on hate speech."

    The quote, which originates from one of the saint's homilies, essentially repeats Jesus Christ's command in Matthew 7:3 for people to focus on their own sins instead of focusing upon the sins of others.

    I gotta say that Matthew 7:3 ("Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?") is entirely out of whack with modern sensibilities.

URLs du Jour

2019-07-16

[Amazon Link]

  • At National Review, Indispensible Geraghty looks at Donald Trump Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Tweet: An Act of Political Stupidity. (Online headline: "He Just Can’t Help Himself") We all know what he's talking about.

    Whether or not Donald Trump believes immigrants are not “real Americans” — the man did twice marry immigrants, after all — he certainly has no problem with making statements and arguments that feed into the notion that immigrants are not “real Americans.” He certainly seems to think that AOC, Tlaib, and Pressley have some sort of obligation to fix problems in the lands of their ancestors before attempting to change laws in the United States, and that Omar must do the same in a land she left when she was six years old. Or perhaps the way to interpret Trump’s remarks is that someone born in America to immigrant parents, like Ocasio-Cortez or Tlaib, doesn’t meet his personal definition of “real Americans.”

    There’s a small mountain of legitimate gripes about AOC’s “squad.” Beside the “snot-nosed punk” traits driving other, more experienced Democrats crazy, Ocasio-Cortez and her allies have received far too little criticism for their theoretical fantasyland policy ideas, in which the United States can replace 88 percent of all of its energy sources in a decade and that in that same time period, all 120 million buildings in America can be either upgraded or torn down and replaced with more energy-efficient construction. They want economic security for those unwilling to work, an eventual ban on air travel, and for the Federal Reserve to loan the federal government $10 trillion.

    For the record, I don't think Trump is a racist. He's a narcissistic bully and a unprincipled, willfully ignorant bullshitter. His tweets simply reflect the turds that happen to have floated to the top of his mental septic tank, not deserving of even the semi-descriptive adjective "racist".


  • So I'm not in specific agreement with this Babylon Bee headline: Trump Distracts From Previous Racist Tweets With New Racist Tweets.

    In what's being called a "4D chess move" worthy of the greatest 4D chess grandmasters in the universe, President Trump was able to distract from some seriously questionable tweets by posting even more questionable tweets, sources confirmed over the weekend.

    "See, when they are fighting about your racist tweets, the winning thing to do is to fire off a few more," Trump told confused White House aides. "They won't know what hit 'em. You broadside 'em. You don't even ask, you just slam out a whole bunch of 'em. It's the greatest strategy. It works every time. Every time."

    Republican strategists who were defending Trump's old racist tweets then had to jump on his new racist tweets. Then, while they were trying to figure out a way to defend them, Trump dropped even newer ones, forcing them to defend a whole host of racist stuff he said.

    "It's kinda exhausting if I'm being honest," said one Republican strategist. "But what else are we going to do? Take a stand for our values? Ha, good one."

    So, for "racist", I'd substitute some other adjective, like "assholish". But otherwise…

    And Republicans taking a stand for their values? I'm afraid that ship has sailed.


  • Jacob Sullum at Reason notes with a straight face: Two Senators With Business Degrees Want the FDA to Tell Doctors They Should Not Treat Chronic Pain With Opioids.

    Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) has a bachelor's degree in business administration. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) has an MBA from Harvard. Yet the two senators seem to think they have the medical expertise to second-guess the judgment of physicians across the United States, not to mention the Food and Drug Administration. A bill they introduced last week, the FDA Opioid Labeling Accuracy Act, instructs the agency to tell prescribers that opioids are "not intended for the treatment of chronic pain."

    Senators, it's not as if the agencies of government are doing a good job accomplishing their goals and serving the citizenry. Maybe you should demonstrate some competence in getting those problems fixed before you move into fields in which you have no demonstrable expertise.


  • I am a devoted listener to the weekly Reason Podcast, it's always insightful and funny. But I wanted to recommend this week's episode, because they took on not only Trump's stupid tweets, but also:

    Peter Suderman's soliloquy on this was incandescently brilliant. Unfortunately, there's no transcript. It's about 9:30 in, though.


  • And (yay) I have entered the "Win a Whiskey with Kirsten" contest. ("Round-trip tickets and one night hotel accommodations included.")

    Yes, of course I entered without donating. The link for that is in the fine print at the bottom of the page.

URLs du Jour

2019-07-15

[Amazon Link]

  • At National Review, Jonah Goldberg reveals The Real Danger of Categorical Politics. Which is the term Jonah finds to be more precise than the usual "identity politics".

    The notion that all you need to know about a person is the color of their skin still strikes me as close to the definition of racism, whether you’re talking about black people or white people or people of some other hue. If you think you know what a woman is going to say before she says a word simply because you believe all women think a certain way, you’re a sexist.

    Set aside the question of bigotry for a moment, since I don’t think everyone who talks in these terms does so with evil intent. There are other problems with this kind of categorical thinking. The two most important: It’s not true, and it’s lazy.

    And (untrue) + (lazy) = (stupid).

    Yesterday, I chuckled at Victor Davis Hanson's hexfecta: "upper-middle-class, white, male, heterosexual, Christian, or old". That's me, dude. You know who else it is? Joe Biden.

    [At least before Joe became an S-Corp Millionaire.]

    You think I'm anything like Joe Biden? C'mon, man!


  • An article from the "bad news" half of the current issue of Reason by Tom Palmer The Terrifying Rise of Authoritarian Populism. "Populism" is kind of an inkblot, a label applied to all sorts of movements, most of which seem to despise each other. But Tom notes a couple common threads:

    The policies promoted by those governments [Turkey, Hungary, USA] vary, but they reject two related ideas. One is pluralism, the idea that people are variegated, with different interests and values that need to be negotiated through democratic political processes. The other is liberalism—not in the narrow American sense of the political center-left, but the broader belief that individuals have rights and the state's power should be limited to protect those rights.

    Populists can be "of the left," but they need not be motivated by Marxian ideas of class conflict or central planning. They can be "of the right," but they are distinctly different from old-school reactionaries who yearn for a lost world of ordered hierarchies; if anything, they tend to dissolve old-fashioned classes and social orders into the undifferentiated mass of The People. Or they can reject the left/right spectrum altogether. As the French populist leader Marine Le Pen put it in 2015, "Now the split isn't between the left and the right but between the globalists and the patriots."

    Also see my take on a book of essays on populism, Vox Populi, edited by Roger Kimball.


  • The (possibly paywalled) WSJ offered a provocative column by Jo Craven McGinty: Is It Time to Drop Local Time Zones?. (That was the print edition headline. Online, it's "Major Industries Use Coordinated Universal Time. Why Doesn’t Everyone Else?")

    A pair of Johns Hopkins professors want to change the way we keep time. Everyone, they argue, should abandon local time zones and instead set all clocks to Coordinated Universal Time.

    If that were to happen, the world’s timepieces would show the same hour at the same time, no matter where in the sky the sun was positioned.

    Longtime readers might remember that this is a change I've long advocated. (See my 2013 post, "The Right Number of Time Zones is Zero."). The Johns Hopkins professors, Steve H. Hanke and Richard Conn Henry, have a website discussing this idea. (But mostly aimed at their "Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar", an even wackier proposal. Check it out.)

    I've framed this in terms of "separation of time and state": the government should simply use UTC itself and stop mandating what we use. But:

    Today, because essential industries have voluntarily switched to UTC, Hanke and Henry believe it’s only a matter of time before the general public embraces the idea.

    But if that doesn’t happen, they have a backup plan.

    A president who is adept at branding, they gleefully muse, could convert the U.S. to UTC by executive order, and the world would follow suit.

    “This is just made for Trump, ” Dr. Hanke said. “Trump Towers? Forget it. That’s peanuts. Can you imagine Trump Time?”

    To quote Han Solo: I don't know, I can imagine quite a bit.


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang for… France?! Yes: Hundreds of migrants occupy Paris Pantheon in 'Black Vests' protest.

    France on Saturday detained 21 African migrants who surged into the Pantheon in Paris to push their claims for regularised status, police said.

    The 21 will be held pending investigation into potentially "violating legislation on foreigners," the local prefecture said.

    The Pantheon, the article explains, is "the final resting place of France's greatest non-military luminaries including the writers Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Emile Zola." But where's LFOD?

    Well, it's not in the current version of the article. But:

    Well, the inscription actually says "Vivre Libre ou Mourir". We should remember that General Stark kind of stole his "Live Free or Die" from this French Revolution slogan.


  • On a related note, Roger Kimball, writing in American Greatness, urges us: Don’t Celebrate Bastille Day. Which was, as I type, yesterday, July 14. And I didn't.

    Since I am writing on Bastille Day, I am prompted to wonder why the French—or anyone else, for that matter—celebrate this infamous date. After all, the “storming” of that royal keep in 1789 was the spark that started the conflagration of the French Revolution. Unlike the American Revolution, in which the rule of law and the institutions of civil society survived the change of governments, the French Revolution was one of the signal bad events in world history. It consumed civil society and the centuries-old institutions of civilization. It was an unalloyed triumph of the totalitarian spirit, and in this respect it presaged and inspired that even greater assault on decency and freedom, the Bolshevik Revolution, the opening act of one of the darkest chapters in human history. The butcher’s bill for the French Revolution is many hundreds of thousands. Soviet Communism was responsible for the deaths of tens upon tens of millions and the universal immiseration of the people whose lives it controlled.

    Yet today’s news is full of cheery stories about Bastille Day celebrations. Why?

    Well, it gave us "Live Free or Die".

The Phony Campaign

2019-07-14 Update

[Amazon Link]

The Betfair bettors sobered up slightly this week, and brought the probability of Queen Kamala I down significantly. She's still their favorite Democrat, though.

On the phony side, President Trump expanded his commanding lead. It's tough to catch a guy who inspires headlines like "Trump shares fake Reagan quote from phony Twitter user".

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
7/7
Phony
Results
Change
Since
7/7
Donald Trump 46.5% -0.4% 2,120,000 +330,000
Bernie Sanders 4.2% -0.8% 1,120,000 -350,000
Pete Buttigieg 3.9% -0.6% 1,090,000 -50,000
Joe Biden 8.0% +1.2% 894,000 -146,000
Elizabeth Warren 8.5% +0.2% 201,000 -4,000
Kamala Harris 15.9% -9.1% 129,000 -15,000
Andrew Yang 2.4% +0.1% 29,200 +500

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

  • The estimable Victor Davis Hanson notes at National Review: Democratic Candidates Are Running a Race of Inauthenticity. After running down the list (faux Native American Liz; faux Hispanic Beto; Warren Wilhelm Jr.; millionaire Bernie; etc.), Professor Hanson compares and contrasts:

    Trump may be many things, and he may exaggerate data and fudge facts. But he at least seems authentically Trump. He does not claim to be a poor victim, but instead brags on, or even exaggerates, his billions.

    Trump does not downplay his politically incorrect Scottish and German background. Instead, he often emphasizes both to the point of overstatement.

    He always appears with his customary comb-over hair, orange tan, long tie, and suit, and he speaks in the same Queens accent whether he is talking to Alabama farmers, West Virginia miners, or Michigan auto workers.

    In contrast, Trump’s Democratic rivals do not seem especially forthcoming about who they are. When convenient, they play down their advanced degrees, the success of their parents, their own advantaged upbringings, successful assimilation, and stereotypically bourgeois lives. And based on their attacks on front-runner Biden, they seem to want to distance themselves from anyone upper-middle-class, white, male, heterosexual, Christian, or old.

    Damn. I am in every one of those pigeonholes.


  • At Reason, Christian Britschgi finds that Kamala Harris’ Plan To End the Racial Homeownership Gap Doubles Down on the Worst Aspects of U.S. Housing Policy. Probably a bad thing, then.

    Harris's plan is to provide "free" down-payment money to lower-income people buying houses in historically-redlined neighborhoods. Among the problems:

    Research suggests that homeownership is a particularly bad wealth creation tool for low-income buyers. They are more likely to buy at the top of the market—when prices are high but credit standards are looser—and are more easily pushed into default as a result of other financial shocks like job losses or sudden large medical bills.

    If Harris wants to decrease the racial gap in homeownership rates, there's a lot of other policies, from getting rid of single-family zoning to abolishing urban growth boundaries, she should endorse that could make that a reality without costing taxpayers a dime.

    But "everyone knows" that you can only measure compassion and caring by the amount of Other People's Money you are willing to spend, no matter how ineffectively or even counterproductively.


  • The WaPo's Megan McArdle notes, amusingingly: The media is starting to tune Trump out, and it’s helping him in the polls.

    I’m not the first to observe that if the president wants better approval ratings, all he needs to do is shut up. Every time he stops tweeting, his numbers improve. Besides, the economy is good, and the public grows fond of presidents who preside over strong economies. Barring a recession, if Trump would just let the economic news speak for itself, he could probably sail to reelection.

    Luckily for Democrats, Trump seems constitutionally incapable of learning from experience. Unluckily for the Democrats, their primaries are mimicking the effect of Trump holstering his Twitter finger. The media is now too busy analyzing the Democratic race to provide wall-to-wall coverage of Trump’s every tweet.

    Even if you don't listen to Jonah Goldberg's podcast, The Remnant, you might make an exception for his latest one with Megan. It's pretty good.


  • Another anecdote in the annals of Senate civility is related by the Washington Free Beacon: Biden Exploded at Dem Colleague Over Busing, Called Him 'Dirty Bastard'.

    Former vice president Joe Biden exploded at a Democratic Senate colleague for blocking anti-busing legislation in the Judiciary Committee, calling him a "dirty bastard" and a "son of a bitch" during the hearing.

    Former South Dakota senator James Abourezk relates the 1977 incident in his book, Advise & Dissent: Memoirs of South Dakota and the U.S. Senate (1989). Abourezk had been approached by the chief lobbyist for the NAACP to fight an upcoming bill Biden coauthored with Delaware's other U.S. senator, Republican William Roth, to block a federal court from ordering the state to desegregate schools through busing.

    As Abourezk told it, Biden eventually came around, because his efforts gave him great press back in Delaware.


  • At City Journal, John S. Rosenberg looks at the back-from-the-dead Kamala/Joe busing issue from another angle: Biden’s Busing Backtrack: The Democrats have abandoned traditional definitions of civil rights..

    Just as Harris’s reasons for supporting busing are unclear—except for her stated belief that it helped her—Biden has muddled his own stance on the issue. He has insisted that he never opposed busing in principle, only Department of Education- or court-ordered busing, in the absence of proven prior discrimination. But his remarks from 1975 are more straightforward: “I am philosophically opposed to quota-systems. . . . It is one thing to say that you cannot keep a black man from using this bathroom, and something quite different to say that one out of every five people who use this bathroom must be black. [Busing] has now been turned into an affirmative program to insure integration, and that brings us right back to quota systems.”

    Biden went on: “It is wrong to penalize someone who has committed no wrong, based simply on the generalization of his race’s violation of the civil rights of another race. . . . We’ve lost our bearings since the 1954 Brown v. School Board desegregation case. To ‘desegregate’ is different than to ‘integrate.’” Biden’s anti-quota arguments and belief in individual rights and responsibilities were consistent with the positions of many liberals at the time. His statements about the meaning of desegregation are aligned with Thurgood Marshall’s own arguments during the Brown case. “Racial distinctions in and of themselves are invidious,” Marshall said, rejecting the notion that overturning the “separate but equal” doctrine would guarantee every child the right to go to an integrated school. Justice Frankfurter asked him during oral argument, “You mean, if we reverse, it will not entitle every mother to have her child go to a non-segregated school in Clarendon County?” Marshall replied, “No.”

    Times change. As Rosenberg points out, modern Democrats now "endorse a view that echoes the arguments of both the Brown defendants and the Civil Rights Act’s segregationist opponents". He calls it "ironic". I call it phony.


  • And even though Andrew Yang has consistently appeared in our phony poll for months, we haven't had much to say about him. Let's change that. Bruce Schneier notices that Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang Has Quantum Encryption Policy. But he's not that impressed:

    At least one presidential candidate has a policy about quantum computing and encryption.

    It has two basic planks. One: fund quantum-resistant encryption standards. (Note: NIST is already doing this.) Two, fund quantum computing. (Unlike many far more pressing computer security problems, the market seems to be doing this on its own quite nicely.)

    Okay, so not the greatest policy -- but at least one candidate has a policy. Do any of the other candidates have anything else in this area?

    Yang has also talked about blockchain: "

    "I believe that blockchain needs to be a big part of our future," Yang told a crowded room at the Consensus conference in New York, where he gave a keynote address Wednesday. "If I'm in the White House, oh boy are we going to have some fun in terms of the crypto currency community."

    Okay, so that's not so great, either. But again, I don't think anyone else talks about this.

    I would wager that no other candidate could even discuss the issues intelligently. But it might be entertaining to see them try.

URLs du Jour

2019-07-13

[Amazon Link]

  • At Cato, John Samples reacts to the news that Facebook is going to "remove misinformation about the Census from its platform." Au contraire, John says: We Need More Speech about the Census. There are good reasons (for example) for censoring lies about the availability of polling places on Election Day. And there's nothing problematic about the usual imminent incitement to violence exception.

    But there’s an important difference between the two harms, violence and false beliefs about elections. I cannot avoid being punched in the nose as a result of incitement. I can avoid false beliefs by modest research regarding facts. Here’s a (hardly obscure) place to start. Our freedom of speech does require that citizens take some responsibility for their beliefs and the reasons for them. Facebook should not protect us from our sloth.

    Emphasis added. As in so many other areas, once you assume that the mass of citizenry need to be treated like children, it rapidly turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy.


  • Jonah Goldberg's "G-File" seems to be e-mail only, at least for now. You can sign up for it at Reagan35x.com. Let me share this quote from his latest, where he discusses President Trump's remarks at his recent social media summit.

    “And we don’t want to stifle anything, we certainly don’t want to stifle free speech. But that’s no longer free speech…See I don’t think that the mainstream media is free speech either, because it’s so crooked, it’s so dishonest…So to me, free speech is not when you see something good and then you purposely write bad, to me that’s very dangerous speech, and you become angry at it…But that’s not free speech.”

    As Thomas Jefferson said, “huh?”

    Trump took an oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" slightly over 900 days ago, and he still remains woefully, and willfully, ignorant about what's in it.

    Note that (1) our Amazon Product du Jour quotes "Thomas Jefferson" (2) saying something he never actually said. Yet (3) Amazon is free to sell it anyway.

    For now.


  • Mark J. Perry presents the latest version of his Chart of the day.... or century?.

    [chart of the day, or century]

    Excercise for the reader: which items have politicians long promised to make more "affordable"?


  • A funny/sad article in Tablet from Nancy Rommelmann on Portlandization: It Can Happen to a Place Near You. We're talking Oregon, not Maine. A telling anecdote:

    I have a friend, let’s call her Karen. Karen bootstrapped several Portland businesses, including a coffee shop. She walks in one day and the barista, who is trans, says she had a man come in earlier wearing a MAGA cap and is she obliged to serve people like him? Karen asks, did he say something to you? No, says the barista, but he’s a white supremacist. Karen tells her, first, you don’t know that, and second, you cannot discriminate based on the way someone is dressed. And that, Karen thinks, is that, but no, the barista relays the story to another barista we will call Jen, who goes onto Facebook and posts, “My boss Karen is a Nazi.” Karen learns of this while she is on vacation. She calls her manager and tells her to get Jen into the office. Jen may intuit as much, as when the manager says she needs to speak with her, Jen gets on the floor behind the espresso bar and curls into a fetal position. And you might think, if anyone should maybe not be in customer service, it’s Jen, but no, people prove sympathetic to her and the other barista’s fears and start an online inquisition and can Karen prove she is not a Nazi? And should she not be more concerned with the safety of her employees than some random Republican wanting a cup of coffee?

    Nancy is moving from Portland to New York.


  • Drew Cline writes at the Josiah Bartlett Center on The scalping of Gordon MacDonald and the demise of an honorable culture. He is referring to the New Hampshire Executive Council rejecting Governor Sununu's nomination of Gordon MacDonald to be chief justice of the state Supreme Court. (The 2018 election gave Democrats a 3-2 majority on the Council, and coincidentally…)

    In 2017, MacDonald sailed through his Attorney General confirmation. “He’s someone I’ve met through (legal) practice, WMUR-TV reported a member of the Executive Council as saying. “I’ve generally thought him to be a sophisticated, thoughtful lawyer, which is what I want in an attorney general. He’s never been known to have any ethical issues.”

    This week, a councilor condemned MacDonald as having been associated with politicians who have “shockingly extreme views.”

    Both comments were uttered by the same councilor, Concord Democrat Andru Volinsky.

    Thus Volinsky, a convention delegate for Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist who would abolish all private health insurance, labeled as a radical extremist a convention delegate for… Marco Rubio.

    I have, for a few years, considered myself literally a Republican In Name Only, because I enjoy voting in the primary.

    But, geez, even though I can't cheer very hard for Republicans, it's things like this that make me wish that Democrats would lose. Every one of them.

URLs du Jour

2019-07-12

[Amazon Link]

  • Daniel Henninger of the (perhaps paywalled) WSJ gives his thoughts on Wahooing Betsy Ross.

    The remarkable thing about Colin Kaepernick’s banning of Nike’s Betsy Ross flag sneaker to commemorate the Fourth of July isn’t that it happened, but how easily it happened. Nike’s management simply folded over “concerns that it could unintentionally offend.”

    No one has ever thought to go looking inside corporate headquarters for profiles in courage, but the lurch toward timidity in our time by individuals at the top of America’s private and public institutions is something to behold. Pusillanimity has become a plague.

    Mr. Henninger notes the recent history: the Cleveland Indians' Chief Wahoo; Kate Smith. We could add more. Like that hectoring Gilette Super Bowl ad.

    What these incidents have in common is that the outcome didn't solve anything. Racism didn't go away because Nike pulled the flag shoe; nor was it affected by memory-holing Kate Smith. Chief Wahoo's presence was not a crucial factor in the relative poor economic position of Native Americans. Not a single male lout was inspired to be less loutish.

    I really shouldn't psychologize this, but I will anyway: the advocates behind this onslaught of wokeness aren't trying to "solve" anything. That's not the point of the exercise.

    Instead they're getting a temporary dopamine jolt from a successful campaign of intimidation/legislation/moral posturing. I bent these people to my will. Congratulations.

    And that's why it's a never ending struggle. Each little biochemical thrill only lasts so long, then it's another search for the next pointless crusade.


  • But can you stand another example? As a retired computer geek, I found this interesting: Google Told Employees to Delete Politically Incorrect Language From Code.

    Google has instructed employees to stop using politically incorrect terminology, and to edit existing code in order to remove offensive language.

    That's according to The Daily Caller, which obtained a copy of a "respectful code" policy written by Google Senior Fellow Sanjay Ghemawat and Vice President of Engineering Suzanne Frey. The document was shared with employees a year ago—around the same time Python stopped referring to components that control or are controlled by other components as "master" and "slave," which some people found offensive.

    I will go out on a limb and claim that not a single person was actually offended. And—yay!—once the last master/slave reference is wiped out from code and support documentation, we'll still have unacceptable implications of dominance and submission.

    And (again) racism will not vanish. The only thing different: that little momentary dopamine jolt.


  • David Harsanyi has had some beefs with Tucker Carlson in the past but he points out: Tucker Carlson Is Absolutely Right About Rep. Ilhan Omar.

    Americans are constantly being lectured that good citizenship isn’t contingent on skin color, faith, or ethnicity, but a set of beliefs. Yet whenever anyone is critical of the ugly things someone like Ilhan Omar says, they are immediately battered for being xenophobes and racists. You can’t have it both ways.

    I mean, you can try. Nearly the entire contemporary progressive argument is girded by identity grievances. So when Fox News’s Tucker Carlson gives a monologue, in which he concludes that Omar was “living proof that the way we practice immigration has become dangerous to this country,” the reaction is predictable.

    As philosophical matter, though, Omar isn’t the kind of immigrant we should want.  That’s not because she is Muslim or black, but because she doesn’t believe in the traditional ideas that define American life. And she shouldn’t be immune from criticism merely because of her background.

    Unfortunately, there are too many born-here Americans that no longer buy the American ideals. What are you gonna do, deport them?


  • Just something that needs to be said, from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, spurred by the recent confab on "social media" held at the White House: Empowering Government to Regulate Speech Would Harm Americans' First Amendment Rights.

    “Issues surrounding social media and speech have become more contentious and complicated in recent years, and are worthy of presidential attention. However, it’s disappointing the White House is elevating voices that advocate for the use of government against private individuals and companies with whom they have political differences.

    “Empowering bureaucrats to police speech and fairness in any industry is a dangerous idea. Conservatives and free-market advocates should remember that not long ago the shoe was on the other foot and IRS employees weaponized regulation against political enemies. Inserting government into decisions properly left to the private sector doesn’t eliminate ‘bias’ or stop ‘censorship,’ as some claim. Only the government has the power to engage in censorship and asking it to intervene in questions about speech on social media could lead to severe curtailing of First Amendment rights under both President Trump and any future president.”

    CEI's observation applies equally as well to "campaign finance reform".


  • James Lileks is Remembering a WWII vet, an American orginal, a father.

    Ralph Lileks — father, husband, up-from-nothing businessman, veteran, sportsman, aviator and by-God American original, died at his home this week. I found his WWII cap on the seat of his Harley in the garage.

    Thank you for reading, and if you see a man with that hat, thank him, too. We owe them the world.

    Over the years I've been reading Lileks, his admiration and love for his father has been a recurring theme. I hope he'll take comfort from having his dad around for as long as he did.

URLs du Jour

2019-07-11

[Amazon Link]

  • Veronique de Rugy notes a milestone: The Global Trade War Comes Full Circle. "For a while…"

    As a result, the price of steel went up for a while, the U.S. steel industry fired up its mills, and U.S. steel output went up dramatically. For a while, it seemed like it was all working according to Trump's plan — for the domestic producers of steel, that is, not for consumers. As U.S. companies were still trying to figure out their options, some had no choice but to shift their demand and increase purchases of domestic steel. The industry responded by adding more capacity than they would have had without the protection.

    Yet because they were responding to an artificial and temporary increase in demand triggered by the tariffs, as opposed to real market signals, they failed to recognize the global economic slowdown and the subsequent reduction in overall demand. As a result, prices of steel went down quite dramatically. That's what we economists call malinvestment, and as a result, the older, less productive blast-furnace steel mills are now paying a dire price as they're unable to stay profitable even with the foreign competition out of the way. And because misery loves company, the furnaces suppliers are in trouble, too.

    It's hard to feel too sorry for the folks who were clamoring for "protection" only to now find themselves ass-bitten. But spare some sympathy for … well, us, American Consumers.


  • In local news, New Hampshire station WMUR reports: Rochester woman told she can't fly 'Trump 2020' flag outside apartment.

    A woman in Rochester is fighting to fly a flag supporting the president.

    Kay Keenan said she's trying to show her patriotism by flying a "Trump 2020" flag, but the Rochester Housing Authority said her actions violate the rules and regulations in her lease agreement.

    It gets interesting, because (I Am Not A Lawyer But) a Rochester Housing Authority (RHA) attorney may have shot his client's case in the foot:

    The RHA told her that the flag violated her lease agreement.

    "They don't allow political flags," Keenan said. "However, that's not in our lease. It doesn't say that."

    The RHA argued otherwise. In its community rule book, it says residents cannot have "signs, advertisements, notices, banners" or "flags."

    "With probably over 500 units. It would be quite cumbersome to have people putting anything and everything in common space outside," said Jerry Grossman, legal counsel for the RHA.

    Grossman said there could be one exception. Some of Keenan's neighbors fly a U.S. flag.

    "I think the American flag is a symbol of our country. I don't think that would be prohibited," Grossman said. "That's my personal opinion."

    Uh, from what I understand about First Amendment jurisprudence, you generally can't restrict expression based on (non-libelous, non-obscene, etc.) content. Either enforce the rule uniformly, or don't enforce it at all.

    But, of course:

    "I live in New Hampshire. Live free or die," [Ms. Keenan] said. "So, I'm at the -- I live free, you know? I live free. I can put the flag up that I want, maybe."

    "Maybe." I hope it doesn't come to the "or die" part.


  • The Greenwich (CT) Time reported on the latest New Hampshire state news for some reason: Sununu vetoes 10 more bills, including 2 related to hiring.

    Sununu vetoed 10 bills on Wednesday, bringing his total to the year to 23. The latest round included bills that would have prohibited employers from using an applicant's credit history in making hiring decisions and would have prohibited employers from requiring applicants to provide their salary histories. Sununu said both bills were part of a larger effort to impose more regulations on businesses.

    Rep. Brian Sullivan, a Grantham Democrat who chairs the House Labor Committee, said the bills were aimed at ensuring privacy and fairness for applicants. He says no one in the "Live Free or Die" state should be forced to provide irrelevant personal information that might result in employment discrimination.

    Geez, Brian. I think LFOD cuts against your argument here. Maybe employers and job applicants should be able to decide for themselves what information to exchange, and whether such information is relevant or irrelevant. Without being dictated to by your whims.


  • And what would we do without CNBC telling us… These are the best places to live in America in 2019. And (no suprise), we're pretty high on the list, number 5, tied with Washington state.

    With its famous motto, “Live Free or Die,” it stands to reason that the Granite State is among America’s most inclusive. Freedom also includes security. New Hampshire enjoys the third lowest violent crime rate in the nation. The state also boasts the nation’s lowest child poverty rate. On the other hand, air quality can suffer, partly due to the state’s proximity to Boston. And the quiet life here means New Hampshire can sometimes lack things to do.

    Number one is Hawaii, which tells me maybe cost-of-living doesn't factor into the CNBC comparison. But note that the link goes to an article posted the day before…


  • i.e., CNBC's ranking of Top States For Business 2019. And on that ranking we're a pretty mediocre #25.

    The motto "Live Free or Die" also applies to the friendly regulatory regime, but Granite State infrastructure is a bit unstable.

    We get an A+ for "Business Friendliness", and a D- for "Infrastructure". I assume for good reasons, except that I haven't broken an axle in a pothole for a couple weeks now.

URLs du Jour

2019-07-10

[Amazon Link]

  • Alex Nowrasteh writes (at generally pro-immigration Cato) in contradiction to a lot of Democratic presidential candidates: Illegal Immigrants – and Other Non-Citizens – Should Not Receive Government Healthcare.

    Last week during one of their debates, all Democratic primary candidates supported government health care for illegal immigrants. This type of position is extremely damaging politically and, if enacted, would unnecessarily burden taxpayers for likely zero improvements in health outcomes. I expect the eventual Democratic candidate for president to not support this type of proposal, but it should be nipped in the bud.

    After the debate, Democratic candidate Julian Castro argued that extending government health care to illegal immigrants would not be a big deal. “[W]e already pay for the health care of undocumented immigrants,” Castro said. “It’s called the emergency room. People show up in the emergency room and they get care, as they should.” It is true that some illegal immigrants use emergency room services thanks to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act and to Emergency Medicaid, but Castro leaned heavily into a stereotype often used by nativists. According to a paper published in the journal Health Affairs, illegal immigrants between the ages of 18-64 consumed about $1.1 billion in government healthcare benefits in 2006 – about 0.13 percent of the approximately $867 billion in government healthcare expenditures that year. That’s a fraction of the cost that would be imposed on American taxpayers by extending nationalized health care to all illegal immigrants. So, with all due respect to Mr. Castro, we do not already pay for their health care just because some illegal immigrants visit emergency rooms at government expense.      

    It's a sign of just how panderful the Dems are getting in their quest for left-wing supporters. The late Bill Niskansen is quoted as saying that we should "build a wall around the welfare state, not around the country.”


  • Speaking of our wacky presidential candidates, Michael J. Boskin offers a 24-page rebuttal to their half-or-less-baked proposals: A Closer Look At The Left’s Agenda: Scientific, Economic, And Numerical Illiteracy On The Campaign Trail.

    The policy community and media have too often not taken these Democrats’ proposals seriously enough. Almost all the Democrat presidential candidates immediately jumped on board with the most extreme proposals, including Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. That made Nancy Pelosi’s demand to vote on Obamacare—“We have to pass it to see what’s in it”—seem innocuous by comparison. And the mainstream media, environmentalists, and left-leaning think tanks and academics laud the proposals for being wonderfully aspirational, if maybe a bit too difficult to achieve fully so quickly. Opponents are mostly content to mock them as socialist and highlight the most extreme implications, such as eliminating cows or airplanes. The policies and their proposers deserve more than such a shallow analysis. From taxes, spending, and debt to climate risks, from lifting up the less fortunate to strengthening our constitutional republic, they legitimately raise vital national issues,

    Unfortunately, each of the proposals could be quite damaging in its own right; taken together, they would be extremely dangerous, likely causing an economic, medical,and energy disaster trifecta. That is bad enough, but even more important, the radical proposals are crowding out any serious debate about solutions. These legitimate issues won’t go away just by rejecting extreme proposals. After detailing some of the most salient arguments against these radical proposals, I will turn to some examples of policies that would be quite constructive, affordable, and potentially amenable to bipartisan compromise.

    It's a skillful accumulation of rebuttals and refutations to essentially wrong-headed schemes. One of the policies Boskin favors is a carbon tax. I'd bet that's a wrong-headed scheme too. But I have an open mind, or I'd like to think so anyway. I would like to see a back and forth between Boskin and Benjamin Zycher (to whom we linked yesterday).


  • One bad proposal that Boskin doesn't mention is discussed at Reason by Alex Muresianu, who says we should Be Skeptical About Bernie Sanders’ Financial Transactions Tax.

    Taxing financial transactions is a popular proposal among Democrats to fund new government programs—but some on the center-left have called into question how much revenue such a tax would generate.

    Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D–N.Y.), along with several other members of Congress, have introduced a bill that would tax financial transactions. It would levy a tax of 0.5 percent on stock trades, 0.1 percent on bond trades, and 0.005 percent on derivatives trades. Sanders promises that this new tax will raise $2.4 trillion over the next decade, citing a study from University of Massachusetts economists; he plans to use that revenue to fund free college, student loan debt forgiveness, expanded Pell Grants, support for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and increased investment in K-12 education. 

    The small percentages are deceptive (and probably, to the extent that Sanders and Gillibrand aren't ignorant, dishonest). As Alex notes, the huge sums promised are only achievable by "tax pyramiding": taxing the same economic activity multiple times.


  • I am always a sucker for discussions of free will, conciousness, quantum mechanics, and the like. At Quillette, William Edwards looks at The Academic Quarrel over Determinism.

    Sam Harris has adamantly argued against the existence of free will. He notes that a theory of free will presupposes that before we make a decision something occurs inside of us that is completely separate from the cause and effect chain of events preceding it in the outside world. Whatever occurs inside of us must be completely different from a random roll of the dice, as well. Given the absurdity of such a mental process, Harris rejects the possibility of its existence. This view is actually very close to the majority of philosophers and scientists who think about such things. To argue otherwise seems to flirt with pseudoscience or magical thinking.

    Regardless of the truth of whether our actions are subject to determinism or individual will, it certainly doesn’t feel like our actions are being dictated by a script that has already been written. When it comes time to make a decision it doesn’t seem as though we’re watching our self in the third person and helplessly wondering, “What will he do now?” It feels as though we are making a decision in real time for which we must take moral responsibility. Making a choice doesn’t feel remotely similar to watching someone else make a choice. This sense of things is dismissed as an illusion by serious, contemporary neuroscientists. Laboratory evidence and coherent reasoning, they say, demand it.

    Still, the universe is full of things that seem irrefutably evident and yet can’t be well explained or understood. Sam Harris has also devoted much attention to consciousness. Why does it exist and what exactly is it? How does something become “aware” of something else? Godel’s incompleteness theorems indicate that there are truths about numbers that cannot be proven through calculation or computation. In math and physics there are singularities; times and places where all “rules” break down or don’t seem to apply. Is it far-fetched to suppose that conscious choice is real, but rules, processes, and definitions don’t apply?

    Sam Harris is an interesting case. I thought that his short-book attempt to debunk free will was irredeemably sloppy. And yet, if you follow the link provided to his thoughts on consciousness, he is (for some reason) much less dogmatic: it's obviously true, even if we can't explain whence it comes.


  • The (Manitowoc Wisconsin) Herald Times Reporter offers a bit of sub trivia that set off the LFOD News Alert: Walt Disney designs, mermaids among US Navy submarine battle insignia. Lots of interesting stuff, but let us cut to the chase:

    Many of the submarines named after the “denizens of the deep” not only had fierce names, but fierce insignia as well. Their patches depicted fighting fish, mermaids riding or holding a torpedo, or exploding torpedoes and Japanese flags. The tougher the creatures looked, the more the submariners liked them. The designs were meant to send a “don’t mess with us” warning to the enemy and included famous sayings such as “Don’t give up the ship” and "Live free or die.” Battle insignia were considered good omens and were placed on letterheads, jackets and painted on sails when the submarines were not on patrol. The insignia also appeared throughout the submarine and on the ship’s battle flag.

    Indeed! And on our Amazon Product du Jour (if you look closely).

URLs du Jour

2019-07-09

[Amazon Link]

  • Guilty confession: although I've dropped my Monday-Saturday subscription to the local newspaper, Foster's Daily Democrat, I still browse through the online version to see if I'm missing anything. And I occasionally get reminded that I made a good decision; for example, the front-page headline "news" story: "A Walk for democracy". Awww! Who could be against that? (Online headline not quite as gushy: "Group makes walk to rid big money from politics".) Lead paragraph:

    A 20th anniversary walk from Kittery to Market Square by members and supporters of NH Rebellion aimed to bring awareness to the need to remove big money from politics.

    The "reporter", Karen Dandurant, is a willing conduit for the views of "NH Rebellion". The group's goal is presented uncritically as a "need". Not a smidgen of criticism or (even) skepticism appears.

    And above all, the whole enterprise is covered with a thick layer of gauzy euphemism. Goodness forbid that anyone should come right out and say: we want the government to be in more control of what you can say about politicians and political issues, and how and when you can say it..

    Put that way, it doesn't, or at least shouldn't, sound like such a hot idea.

    So thanks to Karen and Foster's for reminding me why I no longer subscribe.


  • [Amazon Link]
    The "good news" side of Reason's current issue reviews a new book by Nicholas A. Christakis, Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society. (Which I have obtained via the ILL services of the University Near Here. I'll get to it once I wade through Victor Davis Hanson's analysis of World War II.) Prof Christakis's thesis: Our Big Brains Are Pre-Wired for Love, Friendship, Cooperation, and Learning.

    We finally have an answer to the nature/nurture debate, and it appears to be yes.

    It took billions of years of biological evolution for bacteria to morph into humanity, but the human ability to learn and to teach each other new tricks means that useful behaviors and ideas don't have to take biological time to spread through the species. Their emergence, the ways we spread them, and the ways they change over time amount to a kind of cultural evolution.

    A cultural discovery—our pre-human predecessors' capture of fire—externalized the digestive system that evolution had shaped for our variety of ape. That freed biological energy to grow a big brain. In Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of A Good Society, Nicholas Christakis argues that this coevolution has equipped us with a "social suite" of traits that arose through genetic evolution and that have been amplified by cultural evolution, which has in turn influenced our genetic evolution toward propensities that support the social suite. These include the "capacity to have and recognize individual identity," "love for partners and offspring," friendship, social networks, cooperation, "preference for one's own group ('in-group bias')," "mild hierarchy (that is, relative egalitarianism)," and "social learning and teaching."

    As people who have been following my reading habits know (and I hope there aren't a lot of you) this is a theme for which I've been a sucker over the last few years.


  • George Will writes: Democratic Presidential Candidates Imitating Trump Strategy. That's the column title from the HTML version; actual online headline: "How Can Presidential Candidates Be So Silly?" Which is another way of saying the same thing, I guess.

    If California senator Kamala Harris is elected president in 2020 and reelected in 2024, by the time she leaves office 114 months from now she might have a coherent answer to the question of whether Americans should be forbidden to have what 217 million of them currently have: private health insurance. Her 22 weeks of contradictory statements, and her Trumpian meretriciousness about her contradictions, reveal a frivolity about upending health care’s complex 18 percent of America’s economy. And her bumblings illustrate how many of the Democratic presidential aspirants, snug in their intellectual silos, have lost — if they ever had — an aptitude for talking like, and to, normal Americans.

    As I type, Kamala is the most likely Democrat to become Our Next President (as judged by online betting site Betfair). Mr. Will also mentions a less likely, but no less silly, candidate:

    The day the Supreme Court held that “partisan gerrymandering” is not a justiciable issue, Massachusetts representative Seth Moulton, yet another presidential candidate, tweeted: “Make no mistake: the partisan gerrymandering SCOTUS just allowed is also racial gerrymandering — modern-day Jim Crow. Just look at what happened with Stacey Abrams last cycle in Georgia.” Abrams lost a gubernatorial race. How can a statewide race be gerrymandered? How can presidential candidates be so silly?

    That's a challenge to which many candidates will step up: "You think Kamala and Seth are silly? Hold my beer."


  • Many ostensible free market types concerned about greenhouse gases have embraced a so-called "carbon tax". At AEI, Benjamin Zycher outlines The confusions of the ‘conservative’ carbon tax.

    Various news reports and self-serving political pronouncements would have us believe that imposition of a tax on “carbon” — emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) — now enjoys growing support among Republican policymakers and conservative observers, a political premise advertised at a decibel level vastly higher than actual political reality would support. That reality is straightforward: Any policy to reduce GHG emissions by definition must increase energy costs, and policymakers endorsing such policies would have to describe the benefits that supposedly would redound to the electorate.

    And that is a very serious political stumbling block: The most prominent “conservative” proposals for a carbon tax would reduce global temperatures in the year 2100 by about 0.015°C, as estimated by the EPA climate model under a set of assumptions exaggerating the temperature effect of GHG reductions. That effect would not be measurable, as it is an order of magnitude smaller than the standard deviation of the surface-temperature record. A complete elimination of US GHG emissions, envisioned by supporters of the Green New Deal, would yield a temperature reduction of 0.173°C under the same favorable assumptions. (An international policy vastly more aggressive than the Paris agreement, and thus utterly unachievable, would have an effect of about 0.5°C.)

    It's difficult to imagine that carbon tax proposals are anything more than a foot in the door for even more draconian measures.


  • A WSJ op-ed from Michael Saltsman wonders: How Many Jobs Would the $15 Minimum Wage Kill?. And presents the latest estimate from the CBO:

    This is one political promise it’s OK to break. Democrats pledged a $15-an-hour minimum wage while campaigning in 2018, and all but three of the party’s 2020 presidential candidates endorse the increase. But a new report from the Congressional Budget Office finds the policy could leave nearly four million workers without a job.

    This week’s analysis is an update of CBO’s 2014 analysis of a $10.10 minimum wage, which said one million workers would be pulled out of poverty at the cost of half a million jobs. That conclusion was enough to tank the proposal; a Bloomberg poll at the time found that 57% of Americans viewed the jobs trade-off as “unacceptable.”

    Democrats have responded to CBO’s wage warning by ignoring it. The Raise the Wage Act of 2019, introduced in January, would set a $15 minimum wage by 2024. The trade-offs from this legislation are even worse than in 2014. CBO finds a $15 minimum wage would pull 1.3 million workers out of poverty at the cost of 1.3 million jobs in the median scenario, and 3.7 million jobs in the worst-case scenario.

    It's not as if a minimum wage increase wouldn't benefit some workers. It's just that the people it would hurt are the ones at, or trying to get on, the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.

    People who pride themselves about "caring" should at least make an attempt at caring about that.

URLs du Jour

2019-07-08

[Amazon Link]

  • A left-leaning Facebook friend posted a Forbes article with the startling headline: United States Spend [sic] Ten Times More On Fossil Fuel Subsidies Than Education.

    The author is James Ellsmoor, a "Forbes 30 Under 30 entrepreneur". And he's a cheerleader for "sustainable development and renewable energy". But that headline! Could that possibly be true?

    Well, not really. Since I put some effort into analyzing it at Facebook, I might as well share here as well.

    The bare facts: a recent report from the International Monetary Fund which claims that the US subsidized fossil fuels to the tune of $649 billion in 2015. And compares this to (I assume) the annual budget of the Federal Department of Education, which is about $68 billion.

    So, ohmigod, right? Not really. First, the vast majority of education spending in the US takes place at the state/local level. As even Politifact notes we spend more than 'almost any other major country' on education: more than $620 billion dollars on K-12 education each year.

    So Ellsmoor is dramatically understating how much is spent on education to get his "Ten Times" claim.

    But what about that "fossil fuel subsidy". Isn't that (still) way too much money for the US to be spending?

    Well, here's the thing. It's not as if Uncle Stupid is writing huge checks to Exxon/Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell. There's no budget line item for "Fossil Fuel Subsidies". The IMF report Ellsmoor cites defines its "subsidy" figure as "fuel consumption times the gap between existing and efficient prices (i.e., prices warranted by supply costs, environmental costs, and revenue considerations)."

    In other words, the IMF study thinks fossil fuels are too cheap, and calls the difference between the actual price and their imaginary "efficient" price a "subsidy". Merits of that calculation aside, it's spurious to compare it with actual government expenditure.

    So the headline is (doubly) misleading, and (if we assume that Ellsmoor knows better) wildly dishonest.

    Forbes used to be better than this.


  • Bryan Caplan writes wisely at the Library of Economics and Liberty: Historically Hollow: The Cries of Populism. Specifically, he has zero patience with the present-day demagogues bitching about Amazon/Facebook/Google/etc.

    During [the last fifteen years], I’ve seen the tech industry dramatically improve human life all over the world.

    Amazon is simply the best store that ever existed, by far, with incredible selection and unearthly convenience.  The price: cheap.

    Facebook, Twitter, and other social media let us socialize with our friends, comfortably meet new people, and explore even the most obscure interests.  The price: free.

    Uber and Lyft provide high-quality, convenient transportation.  The price: really cheap.

    Skype is a sci-fi quality video phone.  The price: free.

    Youtube gives us endless entertainment.  The price: free.

    Google gives us the totality of human knowledge! The price: free.

    That’s what I’ve seen.  What I’ve heard, however, is totally different.  The populists of our Golden Age are loud and furious.  They’re crying about “monopolies” that deliver firehoses worth of free stuff.  They’re bemoaning the “death of competition” in industries (like taxicabs) that governments forcibly monopolized for as long as any living person can remember.  They’re insisting that “only the 1% benefit” in an age when half of the high-profile new businesses literally give their services away for free.   And they’re lashing out at businesses for “taking our data” – even though five years ago hardly anyone realized that they had data.

    Let me make explicit what is usually implicit: Read The Whole Thing.

    Speaking of explicit: Elizabeth Warren has made it an explicit part of her campaign to destroy all that. The other Democratic candidates aren't as definite, but make strong noises that way.

    And if you're looking to Donald Trump as someone who might appreciate Bryan Caplan's simple truths, think again.


  • Another article from the "bad news" half of the current Reason issue: Robby Soave noting that Socialism Is Back, and the Kids Are Loving It.

    For decades, democratic socialism was an old man's ideology. Its adherents were aging hippies, old-time union organizers, and folks who fondly remembered the pre-'60s left. As recently as 2013, the average member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) was 68 years old. Even today, the ideology's best-known spokesperson, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.), is 77.

    But Sanders is suddenly an outlier. Today, most DSAers are young: The average member is 33. The ideology's second-best-known spokesperson, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.), is just 29. And the DSA's ranks have grown larger as well as younger. Socialist gatherings buzz with youthful energy, and they are taking place all over the country.

    I have lost hope.

    Well, not really. I remember that my age cohort, the baby boomers, were supposed to usher in the "Greening of America". And now everyone's bashing us for … not doing that, I guess.


  • The Daily Wire interviews Donald Bolduc, who's in the running to replace Jeanne Shaheen in the US Senate. Parts I and II.

    (My pedantic old-man gripe: the headline refers to "Jeanne Shaheen’s NH Senate Seat". It's not her seat, Daily Wire. It's the state's seat; she's just sitting in it.)

    Anyway: this is not the worst possible thing for a Republican candidate to be saying about health care:

    This area in particular in Congress is broken and it's hurting the people of New Hampshire. It’s more expensive and failing our veterans; it's failing our elderly and our young, and everybody in between. Everyone in America must have affordable health care, and we must understand that one size does not fit all. So, the Democratic plan doesn't work from the beginning. It’s the leading cause of individual bankruptcy in New Hampshire. This just should not happen.

    What we need to really think about for affordable health care is lower costs for prescriptions – and I'm not talking about generic medications as a substitute either – transparency in billing, and recognizing pre-existing conditions is hugely important. We must innovate to ensure quality health care so we need competition and a free market.

    The other thing that I've been hearing a lot about is expanding and supporting a transferable health savings account (HSA) where people can invest in their own health care and take that health care from one job to the next, and it actually becomes their money. That, at some point in time, makes a heck of a lot more sense than what we're doing now.

    Select health care like you do auto insurance. Provide choices in health care like we do in auto insurance, and recognize that everyone's situation is different. Reward good behavior for people who stay healthy – and that's something that we don't do. Let’s incentivize this a little bit.

    The ACA and the Medicare-for-all that the Democrats are so in love with is socialized medicine at its best, and it is going to crush New Hampshire and America.

    Yeah, that thing about medical-caused bankruptcy is probably bogus. Still: not Jeanne Shaheen.


  • Here's a fact from blogger Ann Althouse that made my jaw drop, rocked my world, caused me to question the nature of physical reality: Did you know that Alan Arkin co-wrote "The Banana Boat Song"?. (Video of a very young Arkin singing it with his group at the link.)

    Well, OK, it's not quite that simple.

    Now why do they play it as a crowd sing-along at baseball games? The Wikipedia page does not enlighten me on that issue. Maybe "Me wan' go home" reflects a desire for the team to hurry up and finish the game?