URLs du Jour

2019-04-23

[Amazon Link]

  • Don Boudreaux's Bonus Quotation of the Day... is on Arrow's Impossibility Theorem. Which refers to his "disturbing" finding that "one cannot achieve collectively rational choices by aggregating the individual choices of people with diverse values and preferences."

    Don's reaction is actually better than the quote:

    Arrow’s finding is certainly unexpected and unwelcome by – and, hence, disturbing to – those who naively believe that groups of individuals are akin to an actual flesh-and-blood individual – that is, by those who wish to anthropomorphize groups of individuals. But for those of us who never fell for the validity of such anthropomorphization, Arrow’s finding is no more disturbing than is the realization that flapping our arms doesn’t cause us humans to fly.

    We humans are hardwired to be "social". But mistaking that result of evolution's bumbling process for some sort of moral imperative is a fallacy.


  • Peter Suderman tells an inconvenient truth at Reason: Elizabeth Warren’s Plan To Cancel College Debt Is a Giveaway to the Well-Off and Well-Connected.

    In addition to ending tuition at public colleges, Warren wants to cancel the vast majority of outstanding student loan debt. The idea is to eliminate debt up to $50,000 for people with household incomes under $100,000, and offer more limited debt cancellation for households making between $100,000 and $250,000. By her own estimates, the full plan, which also includes funds for Pell Grants and historically black colleges, would cost about $1.25 trillion, which she says she would pay for with a tax on wealth that she announced earlier this year.

    On the surface, Warren's idea might sound like another expensive federal benefit for struggling families. But the nature of college attendance and student loans means that Warren's loan forgiveness plan is a massive giveaway to relatively well-off people.

    The math isn't hard.


  • Arnold Kling, writing at Hackernoon, tells us How the Internet Turned Bad. Many ways, as it happens. But, as a retired geek, I liked this:

    One of the aspects of the Internet that intrigued me the most in 1993 was its governance mechanism. You can get the flavor of it by reading this brief history of the Internet, written twenty years ago. In particular, note the role of Requests for Comments (RFCs) and Internet Engineering Task Force Working Groups, which I will refer to as IETFs.

    I compare IETFs with government agencies this way:

    — IETFs are staffed by part-time or limited-term volunteers, whose compensation comes from their regular employers (universities, corporations, government agencies). Agencies are staffed by full-time permanent employees, using taxpayer dollars.

    — IETFs solve the problems that they work on. Agencies perpetuate the problems that they work on.

    — A particular group of engineers in an IETF disbands once it has solved its problem. An agency never disbands.

    When I hear calls for government regulation of the Internet, to me that sounds like a step backward. The IETF approach to regulation seems much better than the agency approach.

    Wise observation.


  • Of course, one of the ways the Internet went bad was spelled M-I-C-R-O-S-O-F-T. At Power Line, Steven Hayward notes: Microsoft Confuses the Workplace with a Wokeplace.

    As it happens, there's a James Damore-style heretic (so far unnamed), a "female Microsoft program manager". She writes things like this:

    “Because women used to be actively prohibited from full-time employment many decades ago, there is now the misguided belief that women SHOULD work, and if women AREN’T working, there’s something wrong…. Many women simply aren’t cut out for the corporate rat race, so to speak, and that’s not because of ‘the patriarchy,’ it’s because men and women aren’t identical, and women are much more inclined to gain fulfillment elsewhere.”

    “We still lack any empirical evidence that the demographic distribution in tech is rationally and logically detrimental to the success of the business in this industry….We have a plethora of data available that demonstrate women are less likely to be interested in engineering AT ALL than men, and it’s not because of any *ism or *phobia or ‘unconscious bias’- it’s because men and women think very differently from each other, and the specific types of thought process and problem solving required for engineering of all kinds (software or otherwise) are simply less prevalent among women. This is an established fact. However, this established fact makes people very uncomfortable, because it suggests that the gender distribution in engineering might not actually be a problem (and thus women can no longer bleat about being victims of sexism in the workplace), these facts are ignored in favor of meaningless platitudes our SLT [senior leadership team] continues to shove down our throats – e.g. ‘We’re not doing enough’ and ‘we clearly have a long way to go.’”

    The news story Steven quotes also includes the predictable outrage. (Roughly: A witch! Burn her!)


  • The wise Bryan Caplan debunks … You Have No Right to Your Culture.

    Most complaints about immigration are declarative: “Immigrants take our jobs.”  “Immigrants abuse the welfare state.”  “Immigrants won’t learn English.’  “Immigrants will vote for Sharia.”  One complaint, however, is usually phrased as a question: “But don’t people have a right to their culture?”  When people so inquire, their tone is usually conciliatory, as if to say, “Surely, even you will accept this.”  My considered judgment, however, is that this challenge is a true Trojan Horse.  No one, no one, has “a right to their culture.”

    Why not?  Because culture is… other people!  Culture is who other people want to date and marry.  Culture is how other people raise their kids.  Culture is the movies other people want to see.  Culture is the hobbies other people value.  Culture is the sports other people play.  Culture is the food other people cook and eat.  Culture is the religion other people choose to practice.  To have a “right to your culture” is to have a right to rule all of these choices – and more. Though I dread hyperbole, the “right to your culture” is literally totalitarian, because you can’t ensure the preservation of your culture without totalitarian rule over the very fabric of life in your society.

    Good point, of course. I don't buy into Bryan's "open borders" position—at least not yet.

    And, by the way, if anyone, of any color, nationality, or creed—wants my culture (Norwegian Nice), have at it. As long as you promised to drop some lefse on me every so often. But hold the lutefisk.


Last Modified 2019-04-23 5:00 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2019-04-22

[Amazon Link]

  • At Reason, Thomas Hazlett looks at Zuckerberg’s Plea: Regulate Me Before I Violate People’s Privacy Again!. An interesting point:

    While Congress has been holding hearings, poking tech execs, and dancing the legislative Fandango, the marketplace has imposed actual sanctions. Between the time Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal was revealed, March of last year, and March of this year, shareholders lost more than $61.6 billion adjusted for overall market (NASDAQ) fluctuations. In contrast, Sen. Wyden's 4 percent fine—even if applied to global sales, and instantly—would whack just $2.2 billion from the Facebook moguls.

    Not that it matters, but: the "privacy" concept seems slipperier the more I think about it. Especially when people talk about "their" data; it's invariably data that they've chosen (or have been forced to) to share with (at least) some people. What kind of property rights does one have over data that one has shared?

    Contracts and user agreements? Sure, except nobody reads those.

    But, as Hazlett notes, the big privacy-invader is the state, which demands to know the inner details of your financial status every April 15. (And has the right to demand even more data if they don't like your numbers.)

    And my beloved Town demands to be informed in detail (and get a piece of the action) of any alteration to my house. And that becomes public information, of course.

    But I'm supposed to be worried about Zuckerberg knowing my birthday? Please.


  • I've occasionally thought it was odd that government expenditures were automatically added to the Gross Domestic Product, no matter how stupid or (even) destructive they were. Not being an economist, however, I thought the underlying reasoning was probably pretty good, even if I didn't understand it.

    [Amazon Link]
    But as it turns out, this was (and is) a controversial question. Pierre Lemieux discusses Government Expenditures in GDP, as revealed in a 2014 book by Diane Coyle, GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History:

    Many economists were opposed to adding government expenditures to private production in the concept of GDP, including Simon Kuznets himself who was among the main developers of the national accounts methodology. But Coyle suggests that there was a propaganda motivation under the victory of the other side. Coyle writes (pp. 16-17):

    In the policy tussle in Washington, Kuznets lost and wartime realpolitik won. … Subtracting defense spending from the older conception of national income would have wrongly given the impression that the war effort was going to involve a huge sacrifice in private consumer spending. … The pattern of growth before and after 1945 would have looked very different if government spending had been disregarded as before in the definition of total economic activity.

    By “wrongly,” Coyle means “correctly,” that is, it would have annoyingly contradicted government propagandists. As often if not as usual, it seems, politics was about manipulating collective choices.

    Hm. Maybe some smart economists could come up with some other one-number measure of economic health that reflects how well peoples' material wants are satisfied, not necessarily the state's material wants.


  • At AEI, Mark J. Perry notes recent research: Trump's washing machine tariffs created 1,800 US jobs, but at a YUGE cost to consumers of $820,000/job. It's illustrated by a Ramirez cartoon, which you can click over to see, but here's a different one:

    Trump Trade War and Tariffs

    Bottom Line: As the cartoon above by Michael Ramirez illustrates graphically, the tariffs imposed last year on imported washing machines that launched Trump’s insane trade war are imposing YUGE costs on American consumers and businesses that make the US economy worse off, not better off. Assuming the new 1,200 factory workers at Whirlpool and Samsung are making the average annual pay for US manufacturing workers of $43,000, the costs to American consumers exceeds the value of each new job by a factor of 19-to-1. If the Dealmaker-in-Chief thinks it’s a good deal to force US consumers to pay $820,000 annually in higher costs to create a new $43,000 per year factory job, then he might have to re-think his deal-making strategies or take some remedial economics courses in the economics of trade protection. Is that Trump’s idea of the kind of “winning” we’re supposed to get sick of?

    It all goes back to Bastiat's Seen and Unseen: We don't see the jobs that would have been created if American consumers been able to buy cheaper washing machines and spent the savings elsewhere.


  • A pretty good local restaurant/brewpub banned tipping in 2017. And went out of business the following year. Coincidence? Maybe. But an article in Grub Street describes Why Eliminating Tips At Restaurants Doesn’t Work.

    In early 2015, Thad Vogler became an unwitting pioneer of the movement to eliminate tipping at restaurants. Vogler, who owns Bar Agricole and Trou Normand in San Francisco, had worked and traveled throughout Europe and Asia, where he loved the convenience and lack of pretense that came from restaurant pricing in which service was already included. Less than a year into his experiment, he found himself struggling with the consequences of a tip-free dining room: His staff was in a constant state of flux, and he would routinely attack anyone who expressed even the slightest bit of doubt about his new policy. “I started to feel like Stalin,” Vogler says. “I was being a total ideologue.” After nine months of being tip-free, he knew something needed to be done.

    The Stalinists at Consumer Reports recently excoriated tipping (in their usual passive-agressive manner).

The Phony Campaign

2019-04-21 Update

[Amazon Link]

Happy Easter to all. Your Easter hymn this year is Leon Russell's Roll Away the Stone.

But it's also time for our usual Sunday feature, seeing how the 2020 Phony Campaign is evolving:

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
4/14
Phony
Results
Change
Since
4/14
Pete Buttigieg 7.3% -0.2% 8,750,000 +3,270,000
Donald Trump 43.9% +2.7% 1,670,000 -540,000
Bernie Sanders 11.6% unch 327,000 -125,000
Joe Biden 8.3% unch 252,000 -6,000
Elizabeth Warren 2.2% +0.2% 178,000 -5,000
Kamala Harris 8.9% -1.2% 89,800 -23,200
Beto O'Rourke 4.2% -1.4% 72,300 -8,000
Andrew Yang 2.8% +0.1% 18,700 +5,300

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

Observations: (1) Bernie is the only non-Trump candidate with a Win Probability over 10%; (2) Elizabeth Warren's Win Probability actually improved a tad from last week, surprising your blogger, who thought she was destined to swim with the other don't-know-they're-doomed fishes (Klobuchar, Gillibrand, Gabbard, Booker, etc.); (3) Pete Buttigieg is absolutely killing Donald Trump in phony Google hit counts [but see disclaimer above].

  • So what's the deal with Mayor Pete and phoniness? Perhaps, as David A. Graham notes at the Atlantic: Pete Buttigieg Is Running on Cory Booker’s Playbook.

    But familiarity can breed contempt, or simply indifference. Booker has also long struggled with the impression that he’s doing too much of a shtick, that he’s a bit of a phony, or simply that he’s too ambitious, as he acknowledged perplexedly to New York last September. “My closest friends say to me, ‘When I have conversations with people, they ask that question: “Is he for real?” ’ Which I don’t understand.”

    Perhaps relatedly, the former Hillary Clinton aide Nick Merrill told New York that Booker is a skilled retail politician. “From afar, he never really did it for me,” Merrill said. “I find the constant snapping in Senate hearings to be a little ridiculous, and the opposite of authentic. Then I saw him up close and was converted. He’s incredibly impressive.” (Ominously for Booker, Clinton’s fans often say the same about her: She’s incredibly impressive in small groups, but struggles to connect as directly onstage.) Buttigieg, on the other hand, has excelled in larger settings—the wholesale politics that’s most essential for presidential hopefuls.

    OK, the wholesale/retail politics distinction is a serious insight. But it's hard not to be amused by: (1) the underlying theme of Graham's article seems to be: "I don't know much about Buttigieg, but I'm supposed to write something about him, so maybe I can get away with talking about Cory Booker instead." And (2) I really like "opposite of authentic" used to avoid saying "phony".


  • At Reason, Zuri Davis applies the Purity Test to Pete: These Positions Place Pete Buttigieg at Odds With Libertarians. For example:

    Buttigieg has previously invoked his military service to criticize endless war. He's also used his experiences to speak positively about national service. Though he hasn't presented any official positions, his sentiments on the latter indicate that he would be comfortable with mandatory national service.

    Earlier in the month, Buttigieg told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow that national service would be part of his campaign. While his proposal is otherwise vague, Buttigieg explained that service could be an answer to bridging social divides. Maddow responded that even the Pentagon is against conscription for the sake of morale and quality of recruits.

    Mandatory (occasionally further euphemized as "universal") national service is an occasional remedy recommended by statists who have enough good sense to deplore the excesses of identity politics, and want to come up with some scheme to push the "we're all in this together" alternative.

    My own modest proposal: combat military service should be mandatory for descendants of representatives who vote to authorize and fund foreign military interventions. Might be an effective check on that particular power.


  • At AEI, Sean Trende is Evaluating the 2020 Democratic primary field. Comments on Beto! seem apt:

    Three terms in Congress and a failed Senate bid aren’t the usual qualifications for a presidential candidate, but these are not usual times, and “real estate mogul/reality TV host” and “first-term senator” weren’t typical resume lines in 2016 and 2008 either. More importantly, as a friend of mine put it, O’Rourke has “it.” I’m not entirely sure what “it” is, but it’s the thing that allows you to stand on the countertop in diners and give speeches without seeming hokey. This Democratic field has some heavy hitters, at least on paper, but most of the candidates running lack “it.” O’Rourke will have a ton of money, and he is exactly the type of candidate who can catch fire in Iowa.

    It's your call Whether you find the countertop-standing thing to be "hokey" or not. I find it difficult not to think of it that way.


  • At the young-adult website Vox, Anna North finds that Trump’s “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT” tweets are an insult to #MeToo. A sample of what's she's talking about:

    Trump’s use of “presidential harassment” to refer to the Russia investigation has ramped up over time, as David A. Graham at the Atlantic noted in January. It’s a way for the president to cast himself as an innocent victim of outside forces who are depressing his poll numbers and threatening his authority.

    But by using the word “harassment,” Trump is also co-opting the language of the #MeToo movement. In recent years, countless women have come forward to report unwelcome sexual behavior by powerful men — including Trump himself. By using the same language, Trump is suggesting that he’s actually the real victim.

    Boo hoo!

    Yeah, well, maybe. Seems a stretch, except for that "I'm a poor victim" thing. That's a theme for our time; everyone wants to claim victim status. As George Will pointed out nearly five years ago (and got into trouble for his truth-telling).


  • At Reason (again, sorry), Matt Welch observes that Orange Man is insecure about his prospects: Donald Trump, Scaredy-Cat.

    "Crooked Hillary," Donald Trump tweeted in November 2017, "bought the DNC & then stole the Democratic Primary from Crazy Bernie!" The unusually tight relationship during the 2016 primary between the Democratic National Committee and its presidential front-runner, the president suggested, might be worthy of a Justice Department investigation.

    If that were true, then the FBI should have a new case on its hands: the unprecedented collusion between the Republican National Committee and Trump himself.

    Well, slight difference: Hillary wasn't the incumbent in 2016. But still, point taken. Trump is clearly worried about the symbolism of a significant fraction of non-Trump votes in 2020 primaries.

    Matt talks about the 1972 insurgency of Pete McCloskey against Nixon, which fizzled badly.


  • Daniel J. Mitchell asks the question: Is Crazy Bernie Sanders a Sincere Hypocrite?.

    Bernie Sanders demonizes the rich and argues that millionaires need to pay higher tax rates in order to finance a bigger burden of government.

    Which presumably means that he should surrender more of his income, since he is part of the gilded class. The New York Times has a report on the Vermont Senator’s lavish income.

    Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, disclosed 10 years of tax returns on Monday… He and his wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, reported income that topped $1 million in 2016 and 2017… Mr. Sanders’s higher income in recent years has created some political awkwardness for the senator, who in his 2016 presidential campaign frequently railed against “millionaires and billionaires” and their influence over the political process. …His income now puts him within the top 1 percent of taxpayers, according to data from the Internal Revenue Service.

    Yet when asked why he didn’t pay a big chunk of his income to the IRS, Sanders showed typical statist hypocrisy by giving the same reason used by every rich person (including Trump) and every big corporation.

    Mitchell's answer: yeah, he's probably a sincere hypocrite.

    Still, I'd like a straight, concrete, answer from Bernie and all the other Democrats who can't go thirty seconds talking about taxation without saying that the "rich" aren't paying their "fair share": please tell me what that "fair share" is, for each income level.


  • And, finally, an Easter-themed Tweet.

    I, for one, am not ready for a president whose name I can't figure out how to pronounce.


URLs du Jour

2019-04-20

[Amazon Link]

  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson urges his readers to Enjoy the Silence.

    Passover and Easter both are spring festivals and have long been connected to other rites of spring, when our ancestors, emerging from the long, silent, cold, and more often than not hungry winter, took time to thank God for the blessings they enjoyed, to celebrate the bewildering fact that the world had not ended after all but had been born again.

    We, too, should be mindful of our blessings, which are — please, don’t ever forget — beyond the wildest imaginings of our forebears only a generation or two back. Americans don’t starve to death in the winter. We don’t freeze to death. And before you dismiss that as a laughably low bar to clear, consider what has been the normal state of human beings for most of the time there have been human beings.

    Good to remember.


  • OK, but let's get real with Jonathan V. Last, writing at the Bulwark, who reminds us: Trump Sits on a Throne of Lies.

    Let’s start with the obvious: Every president lies. Maybe it’s a little fib. Maybe it’s “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” Maybe it’s actual perjury. After all, we live in a fallen world and saints typically don’t run for president.

    All of that said, the sheer volume of falsehoods, fabrications, mistruths, and prevarications from Trump and his administration collected in the Mueller report should be disconcerting to pretty much everyone in America, regardless of party or creed. He lies to the press. He lies in official communications. He lies to his staff. He tries to get others to lie for him.

    Fine, but… let's remember the distinction made by philosopher Harry Frankfurt in his great book On Bullshit:

    The liar cares about the truth and attempts to hide it; the bullshitter doesn't care if what they say is true or false, but rather only cares whether their listener is persuaded.

    That almost applies to Trump, but he doesn't seem to care very much about persuading his listeners either.


  • So my reaction in hearing this news on WMUR yesterday was: "Of course she did." Elizabeth Warren Demands Trump’s Impeachment in Wake of Mueller Report. Christian Britschgi at Reason:

    The odds that Warren will get her wish seem slim. Demanding Trump's head is nonetheless a good publicity stunt for the senator's flagging presidential campaign.

    The latest New Hampshire polls show support for Warren at 8.7 percent. That puts her behind former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.), South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and "No Opinion." A Monmouth University Poll from last week put Warren at 7 percent among Iowa Democratic voters.

    That link goes to a poll carried out by St. Anselm College. Not that it matters, but one of the interesting data points is that Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Amy Klobuchar are all more popular with male poll respondents than females. (Gillibrand and Gabbard's support is microscopic with both sexes.)

    More popular with the ladies: Biden, Buttigieg, Booker.


  • I'm going to the dentist on Monday, so my ears picked up a bit for this Marginal Revolution post from Alex Tabarrok: Is Dentistry Safe and Effective?. He quotes from a recent Atlantic article:

    Consider the maxim that everyone should visit the dentist twice a year for cleanings. We hear it so often, and from such a young age, that we’ve internalized it as truth. But this supposed commandment of oral health has no scientific grounding. Scholars have traced its origins to a few potential sources, including a toothpaste advertisement from the 1930s and an illustrated pamphlet from 1849 that follows the travails of a man with a severe toothache. Today, an increasing number of dentists acknowledge that adults with good oral hygiene need to see a dentist only once every 12 to 16 months.

    Many standard dental treatments—to say nothing of all the recent innovations and cosmetic extravagances—are likewise not well substantiated by research. Many have never been tested in meticulous clinical trials. And the data that are available are not always reassuring.

    Also of dubious benefit: fluoridation. Geez, I remember when it was only right-wing cranks who thought it was a commie plot. Good times.


  • At the Hoover Institution, David R. Henderson says that free-market economist Stephen Moore is Wrong For The Fed.

    First, let’s consider why Moore shouldn’t be on the Fed. Some people have argued that the fact that he lacks a Ph.D. in economics disqualifies him. I don’t think so. Moore has a Masters in economics and a number of well-known economists have taken fewer formal economics classes than Moore. The late Gordon Tullock, who was on many people’s short list for the Nobel Prize in economics, took one course at the University of Chicago, before going to be one of the founders of the Public Choice school of economics. David Friedman, who most recently was an economics professor at Santa Clara University’s law school, never took an economics course in his life—although admittedly, he learned much of his economics from his father, Milton. Alan Reynolds, a very productive economist for over 40 years, never completed his Masters at Cal State Sacramento.

    The argument against Moore is simpler: even by his own admission, he doesn’t have much background in monetary theory or monetary policy.

    The most important thing the Federal Reserve does is determine monetary policy. It has many tools. Of its two most powerful tools, one is long-standing and the other relatively new. The first is open market operations, which means buying and selling bonds to affect the amount of money in the economy. If the Fed wants to increase the money supply, it buys bonds; to reduce the money supply, it sells bonds. The relatively recent tool, introduced during the financial crisis, is paying interest on the required and excess reserves held by depository institutions. The higher the interest rate the Fed pays banks on their reserves, the less willing they are to lend, which causes the money circulating in the economy to be less than otherwise.

    Hey, but what about Herman Cain? David goes on to say "I focus here on Moore both because it seems clear that Cain will not be confirmed and because the case for non-economist Cain is even weaker than the case for Moore." Tough but fair.

URLs du Jour

2019-04-19

[Amazon Link]

  • Up north from here, Susan the Bruce writes on what we're looking for in a President. Specifically, a National Drinking Buddy. But first, her interesting observation:

    If you Google, “shrill” and the names of any of the five female candidates, you’ll find abundant coverage of their degree of shrillness. Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, and Kamala Harris all seem to posses the average level of shrill that one would expect from a female candidate. Gillibrand is attractive but shrill. Amy Klobuchar is shrill and bitchy. Kamala Harris is just plain old shrill. Elizabeth Warren has an advanced level of shrill, combined with her being polarizing and not likeable enough. Tulsi Gabbard is deemed “less shrill,” or “easy on the eye and ear.” Next, try Googling “shrill” and any male candidate’s name. You won’t find anything. Shrill is not an adjective ever applied to men. Shrill is being replaced. Polarizing is the new shrill, and it’s used in direct proportion to how much of a threat the woman’s candidacy is. The smarter the woman, the stronger the shrill.

    An interesting take. I left a version of my thoughts as a comment on Susan's blog:

    When I google "shrill" next to candidates' names, the results are disproportionately complaints about the adjective being applied to female candidates. (I.e., not actual instances of ladies being deemed shrill.) So Google is an unreliable measure of actual misogyny.

    Ironically (I think), Susan's blog post, also published in the Conway Daily Sun, often comes up on the first page of results.

    The Huffington Post had an interesting article back in 2016 about their poll asking Americans for one-word descriptions of Trump and Clinton. "Shrill" doesn't appear for Hillary, but "Bitch/Bitchy" does.

    But a lot of the negative-connotation words appearing for the Donald seem (to me anyway) to be mostly applied to guys, e.g. "Bombastic", "Arrogant", "Loudmouth", "Jerk".

    Hypothesis: The sexes tend to be off-putting in significantly different ways. The language we use simply reflects that.


  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson has an immodest proposal: Eliminate Federal Student Loans. (It's "NRPlus", so I don't know what the visibility is for the general public.)

    Here is a three-part plan for something practical the federal government could do to relieve college-loan debt. Step 1: The federal government should stop making college loans itself and cease guaranteeing any such loans. Step 2: It should prohibit educational lending by federally regulated financial institutions or, if that seems too heavy-handed, require the application of ordinary credit standards in any private educational lending, treating the student himself as the main credit risk in all cases, including those of secured or unsecured loans taken out by parents or other third parties for that student’s educational expenses. And 3: It should make student-loan debt dischargeable in ordinary bankruptcy procedures.

    The easy availability of college loans has been the primary driver of inflated college costs. As Kevin puts it:

    If you make a few gazillion dollars available to finance tuition payments with underwriting standards a little bit lower than those of the average pawn shop, you create a lot of potential tuition inflation. Another way of saying this is that if Uncle Stupid puts a trillion bucks on the table, there are enough smart people at Harvard to figure out a way to pick it up.

    As I'm pretty sure Milton Friedman observed decades ago: government higher-ed subsidies overwhelmingly benefit the relatively well-off. And (by definition) are paid for by the Average Schmoe Taxpayer. The Warriors Against Wealth Inequality tend to ignore this for some reason.


  • Ever since I heard about Betteridge's law of headlines ("Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no."), I've been paying attention to its applicability. In the case of Elizabeth Nolan Brown's recent Reason article (Are Socialists More Like Libertarians Than We’d Prefer To Admit?), I'd have to say…

    "Are you interested in revolutionary politics?"

    As I arrive at the location of the Socialism in Our Time Conference, a weekend-long summit organized by U.S. lefty mag Jacobin and the British Marxist journal Historical Materialism, a middle-aged woman approaches me to ask this question.

    "I'm going in there," I say, gesturing toward the entrance, hoping this non-answer will suffice.

    It does not.

    "In there," she says, I will not hear about the Russian revolution, or black liberation, or true workers' rights. Instead, I will hear about Bernie Sanders, who it is fair to say she does not support. She hands me a flyer from Workers Vanguard with the title "Bernie Sanders: Imperialist Running Dog."

    A not particularly insightful observation: People on the political fringes tend to be several sigma off the mean in other personal characteristics as well.

    By the way, if you want to read more about Bernie being an Imperialist Running Dog (and why do those dogs always run, anyway? Sit, Ubu, sit! Good dog!) here you go (from the "International Communist League (Fourth International)").

    While some of what Sanders calls for—like free tuition, Medicare for all and higher wages—would certainly be welcome, the true purpose of his campaign is to promote the myth that the capitalist Democratic Party is the party of the “little guy.” What he is introducing into “the conversation” has nothing to do with socialism but is rather the fraudulent idea that the “people” can vote into office a benevolent capitalist government that will defend their interests against the robber barons of Wall Street. Such illusions have long served to tie the working class to the rule of its exploiters.

    So there, Bernie. The Commies don't like you as much as you like them.


  • Yay, the new season of Bosch is going up on Amazon Prime. At Law & Liberty, Titus Techera does an insightful deep dive into the Bosch's motto: Everybody Counts or Nobody Does.

    Bosch is a driven man on a mission to catch killers. While there is no crime or criminal that Harry has to face which would have been unknown to Philip Marlowe, surely the most famous detective ever to face the glamorous wickedness of Los Angeles, things have changed since Raymond Chandler wrote. L.A. is now the second largest city in America and one of the most important, so wealthy that it’s a major piece in our globalized economy, and obviously plays an outsized role in entertainment around the world.

    Chandler suggested that Marlowe was a knight in The Big Sleep—accordingly, Marlowe favors the political game par excellence—chess, but he plays it alone. Bosch prefers a more existential form of solitude. He stares at the city at night from his cliff-hanger home in the Hollywood Hills, a few miles from Hollywood Station, his professional home since getting himself kicked off the department’s elite Robbery-Homicide Division by Internal Affairs some time before the show opens. That house, a luxury bought with money from consulting on a TV show about a serial killer case he’d worked, is a sign of the things success makes possible in L.A. The secret longings of his heart only find expression in jazz, which combines excellence with an all-American origin. Like his beloved Art Pepper, Bosch came from nothing and achieved some prominence in California. Once upon a time, in mid-century America, jazz was popular—just like the manly virtues Bosch has to offer were.

    As I think I've mentioned before, Titus Welliver does an outstanding job of "being" Bosch. Now when I read a Bosch novel, I "see" him as Welliver.


  • And Michael Ramirez comments on the Mueller Report reaction:

    That better not be a plastic straw you're grasping at!

URLs du Jour

2019-04-18

[Amazon Link]

  • Apparently the Mueller Report is being released as I type! Fortunately, Instapundit supplies my own take:

    I’M JUST GOING TO GET AHEAD OF THE SPIN AND ANNOUNCE THAT THE MUELLER REPORT SUPPORTS EVERYTHING I ALREADY THOUGHT. And if the redactions were removed, it would support everything I already thought even more.

    The Amazon Product du Jour is appropriate, although if you want one that doesn't say "2016", go here.


  • Veronique de Rugy answers the question you didn't know you had: who does bipartisan support for electric vehicle handouts betray? I bet you saw it coming: Bipartisan Support for Electric Vehicle Handouts Betrays Taxpayers.

    Excessive partisanship and endless acrimony are common complaints lodged against the political class. There's a lot to be said in favor of this narrative, but bipartisanship isn't always what it's cracked up to be, either. As evidence, consider the latest attempt to extend corporate handouts for electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers.

    The Driving America Forward Act was recently introduced to extend the existing EV tax credit well beyond its current limits. Unsurprisingly, its sponsors include both Michigan Senators, Democrats Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, as well as Republican Senators Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Susan Collins of Maine. A companion version was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Dan Kildee, also a Democrat from a district in Michigan.

    At issue is the $7500 tax credit that applies to "only" the first 200,000 vehicles sold by a manufacturer. The legislation says: "eh, let's add on 400,000 more to that."


  • Also piling on: the esteemed George F. Will, who says (obviously): The electric vehicle tax credit is another example of government foolishness.

    Some government foolishness has an educational value that compensates for its considerable cost. Consider the multibillion-dollar federal electric vehicle tax credit, which efficiently illustrates how government can, with one act, diminish its already negligible prestige while subtracting from America’s fairness. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Rep. Jason T. Smith (R-Mo.) hope to repeal the tax credit, which probably will survive because it does something that government enjoys doing: It transfers wealth upward by subsidizing affluent individuals and large economic entities.

    Where are all the lefty critics of wealth inequality and corporate welfare when you need them?


  • Well, if you need a reason to cheer up, NR's Kevin D. Williamson looks at the "Stop Sanders" movement among Democrats: Democrats Worry Bernie Sanders Can’t Win in 2020.

    The clever people in the Democratic party have turned their attention to Senator Bernie Sanders, the creepy Brooklyn red who for some reason represents Vermont in the Senate, functionally as a member of the Democratic party, an equally creepy political organization to which he does not belong but whose presidential nomination he nonetheless is seeking a second time.

    Stop Sanders! is the cry of the moment from Cambridge, Mass., to Tiburon, Calif., and everywhere that clever Democrats gather. The worry is that Senator Sanders’s grumpy-Muppet shtick will not discreetly charm the bourgeoisie, that his disheveled populism and his unmade bed of a mind will not be a smash hit with well-heeled swing voters in the moneyed suburbs of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Florida — which, the clever people inform us, is where the real action is going to be in 2020. They aren’t out there screaming “A vote for Sanders is a vote for Trump!” just yet, but they are scheming behind the scenes, and the moneymen of the party already are so alarmed that they are making approximately the same sound that Donald Sutherland makes at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

    As I type, the only candidates with over a 10% shot at winning the 2020 presidential election are Trump (42.9%) and … the grumpy-muppet Bernie (13.3%).


  • You know who's given no chance whatsoever? Matt Welch at Reason looks at him. It’s Official: Bill Weld Announces Primary Challenge to Donald Trump. Here's my sticking point:

    One challenge Weld faces among Republican and libertarian-leaning voters alike is his track record of slippery political allegiances and policy positions. In May 2016, during a contentious two-round ballot fight to become the Libertarian Party's vice presidential nominee, Weld was repeatedly asked by the then-dropping out V.P. challenger Alicia Dearn to promise never to "betray" the L.P., as many believe he had done during a botched New York gubernatorial bid in 2006.

    "I'm a Libertarian for life," Weld said, trying to make the awkward moment go away without precisely answering the question. Dearn pressed him, saying that "betray," to her, just meant leaving the party, to which Weld declared: "Libertarian for life means not going back to any other party."

    Unsurprisingly honest Weld has made a weasel his campaign mascot.


  • James Lileks writes at the Bleat about (among other things) a song that I hated back in the sixties.

    Let's go right to scripture:

    Back in the early 1960s, Malvina Reynolds wrote a song called “Little Boxes,” inspired by a drive past rows of lookalike pastel-hued houses in a new suburban housing tract in the Bay Area. (Her friend Pete Seeger had a hit with the song in 1963.) Reynolds saw the cookie-cutter houses as both symbols and shapers of the conformist mindset of the people who lived in them—doctors and lawyers who aspired to nothing more than playing golf and raising children who would one day inhabit “ticky-tacky” boxes of their own.

    Right. And the smugocracy has held that disdain in their gas-filled noggins for decades.

    I lived (1961-69) in a suburban housing tract, and it was great.


  • Charles Sykes takes a break from Trump-hating, and turns his attention to the blog-pointing tweet from the Library Journal:

    Charles notes: First They Came for the Books.

    The good news here is that Leung cannot be described as a thought leader in the librarian tribe. In her article, she describes her epiphany about the “whiteness” of libraries in a discussion with a colleague:

    One of the mind-blowing things she shared was this idea of how our library collections, because they are written mostly by straight white men, are a physical manifestation of white men ideas taking up all the space in our library stacks. Pause here and think about this.

    Yes, let’s pause here. Leung regards the idea that books are written by straight white men (many of them dead) as “mind blowing,” when, in fact, that has been a hoary, tattered, clichéd fixture of academic leftism for nearly half a century. Her innovation here is moving from the identities of the dead white guys—Shakespeare, Milton, Dante, Plutarch, Freud—to the offensive nature of the physical space that their books occupy.

    Dude, the barbarians aren't at the gates. We've already let them inside, whence they tweet and blog.


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert takes us to the Peoria Journal Star and an LTE from Emma Schnerre of Seaton, Illinois (population 204). Emma asks: With seat belts, are we losing freedom for safety?.

    Seat belt laws were enacted to provide safety to the driver and passengers while in vehicles. For most people it is routine to put on a seat belt when in a vehicle; however, seat belt laws are relatively new to the United States. It was not until 1984 that seat belts became mandatory.

    New Hampshire is the only state in America that does not have a seat belt laws pertaining to adults. Significantly, according to a New Hampshire Public Radio article by Ben Henry, “Despite New Hampshire’s loose seat belt laws and correspondingly unbuckled drivers, the state’s traffic fatality rate is actually below the national average.” It is true New Hampshire is a small state so people travel smaller distances and therefore there is less chance for fatality in vehicle accident; however, the quotation still insinuates that perhaps seat belts should not be a mandatory law but rather just be provided in vehicles allowing for an individual to choose freely whether to wear one or not.

    There is even grounds for questioning if it should be in the government’s jurisdiction to mandate seat belts. Also, there is a lack of logic in seat belt laws due to the fact that motorcyclists are not mandated to wear seat belts. Lastly, it is time to consider as a country how much government interference we the people want. Should we follow New Hampshire’s motto “Live Free or Die” or should we continue down the path we are on? That is, losing freedom to gain safety?

    Good for Emma. I'll just restrict myself to pointing out that according to the latest numbers from the Federal Highway Administration:

    • New Hampshire drivers average 12,931 miles yearly, while Illinois drivers average 12,921. (So Emma's wrong to guess that we travel smaller distances.)
    • NH recorded 1.05 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, and IL racked up 1.38. Despite their paternalistic seat belt law.


Last Modified 2019-04-18 1:54 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2019-04-17

[Amazon Link]

  • At Reason, Ira Stoll has an interesting take on the indictment of Gregory Craig, accused of … something, mumble. mumble, Ukraine… mumble, mumble … How Trump Could Save Obama’s Lawyer.

    The first count on which Craig is charged is Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001. That’s the same section to which Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to violating, and also to which Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, pleaded guilty to violating. It provides or a fine or up to five years in prison for anyone who “knowingly and willfully” makes any materially false statement or representation “in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States.” The provision also is the one that James Comey used against Martha Stewart, and the one that prosecutors used during the George W. Bush administration against Vice President Cheney’s aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who was pardoned by Trump.

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has accurately warned of the “sweeping generality” of Section 1001, writing, “the prospect remains that an overzealous prosecutor or investigator—aware that a person has committed some suspicious acts, but unable to make a criminal case—will create a crime by surprising the suspect, asking about those acts, and receiving a false denial.”

    The second count on which Craig is charged is violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act. That’s a law passed in 1938 amid anxiety about Nazi influence in America on the eve of World War II. It’s so broadly written that it could conceivably require the Times itself to register as a foreign agent of Mexican investor Carlos Slim.

    Ira suggests that Trump direct the Justice Department to (a) "use their prosecutorial discretion", or (b) get out the pardon pen, or (c) ask Congress to fix (or repeal) such overbroad laws.


  • Something Monty Python perhaps missed, from Kevin D. Williamson in NR: The Division of Labor Is the Meaning of Life. (Long, based on a lecture Kevin was allowed to deliver at Georgetown University.)

    What we call “globalization” is a sudden radical expansion in the worldwide division of labor—a miracle of human cooperation that, as such miracles so often are, goes mostly unappreciated and unloved, and often hated. Our globalization is hated for the same reason that Renaissance globalization was hated: It disrupts existing status arrangements and introduces new elements of insecurity and anxiety into communities whose members had believed their situations to be fixed, if not ordained—and who believe that they have a natural right to the fixity of those situations, and that the duty of the state is to secure them. Our Silicon Valley billionaires are denounced as “rootless cosmopolitans” (the phrase itself derives from the anti-Semitic socialist purges of the 1940s and 1950s) and are resented for their transnational lives and transnational interests, as well as for their preference for self-regulation and their slipperiness in the face of merely national mandates. Like the merchant princes of Florence, they lead lives that seem impossibly indulgent and patronize cultural and political forces that perplex, irritate, and offend the partisans of peasant conservatism.

    At the other end of the economic spectrum, special vitriol is reserved for a new kind of division of labor: the casual “gig” work associated with firms such as Uber. This opportunistic work provides important income to many people who could not otherwise get it as conveniently, and it performs the important function of allowing people of more modest means to convert their property into capital. But this comes with none of the old assurances: health insurance, pensions, the gold watch at the end of a long tenure of service, etc. It is easy to be sentimental about those old assurances, and to forget that almost nobody in 2019 really wants a 1950 standard of living (you can have it—cheap!), but we should keep in mind that the economy has evolved the way it has because people have made certain choices that comport with their preferences in the face of the unalterable reality that is scarcity.

    That makes some of us uneasy, if not enraged.

    It's Wednesday, and this is my day to be optimistic about the future. Mankind has flourished through millennia of social upheavals, each accompanied by widespread panic and predictions of doom. Now is different? I doubt it.


  • At Quillette, Sebastian Cesario looks at the Case of the Black Hole Science Lady: Scientific Progress and the Culture Wars. In case you missed it: dimwit ideologues of all stripes took turns overinflating/denigrating Dr. Katie Boumann's contributions to the Event Horizon Telescope team. People pointed out that a White Male [also Gay] team member, Andrew Chael, actually contributed more lines to the software used in imaging.

    As to the people who actually stirred this up, much of the problem obviously lies with the temptations of the wider culture war. There are ample justifications for recognizing accomplished women scientists; one needn’t subscribe to every inaccurate narrative about gender gaps in STEM to think that it’s nice to highlight role models for young women. However, singling out one individual from a large team (which reportedly includes 40 other women>) denies the other team members their deserved recognition, possibly arousing resentment from co-workers. Also, justifying this lopsided attention as a remedy for some sort of social ill makes it harder to highlight anyone else. Even deserved attention for someone like Andrew Chael can now be tarred as part of a backlash.

    Likewise, there are good reasons to push back against inaccurate narratives about gender gaps in STEM—I have certainly done so! However, what is to be gained by picking one scientist and using a worthless metric (size of file uploads) to build him up at the expense of another good scientist? We can question bad narratives about gender and STEM careers without calling into doubt the good work of Bouman, and without drafting Chael into a fight that he sought no part of. Yes, Bouman did give a TED Talk about the work, making herself a face of the project, but she never sought to be the face of the project, and she should not be maligned as some sort of glory hog. Most importantly, the other 198 people on the project (including many women at all career stages) certainly don’t deserve to have their fine work turned into a culture war battlefield.

    Apparently, both Boumann and Chael are requesting sanity. Good luck with that! And Katie's on her way to Caltech, where she has a tenure-track appointment, so good for her.


  • At the Federalist, David Harsanyi provides an "Of Course They Are" headline: Democrats Are Using Ilhan Omar As An Excuse To Chill Speech.

    Democrats have spent the past two-plus years accusing the president of the United States and his allies of seditiously conspiring with our enemies to destroy “democracy.” For the most part this fairytale has been cynically deployed by politicians to undermine the legitimacy of a Republican presidency, yet millions of Americans now believe their votes were upended by a foreign power. There is no more serious charge against an elected official than treason.

    Then again, for decades before the 2016 election, Democrats argued that Republicans were literally killing their fellow Americans when cutting taxes, murdering the sick when rejecting nationalized health care, and sentencing the poor to death when rejecting socialist schemes. Not to mention suppressing the minority vote when asking for ID, engaging in Nazi-like actions when enforcing existing border laws, and destroying the world when failing to embrace a takeover of the economy. And so on.

    This overwrought rhetoric is embedded in the everyday arguments of the mainstream left, and its intensity is only growing.

    The same liberals are now demanding that conservatives stop quoting and posting video of progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar belittling the 9/11 attacks because doing so puts her life in danger. That’s quite the deal they’ve cooked up for themselves. Nearly every presidential candidate and major Democratic leader has argued that Donald Trump’s criticism of Omar is out of line because of increased death threats against her. I do wonder how many death threats Trump or Mitch McConnell or Steve Scalise receives every week. I imagine it’s considerable.

    As the Babylong Bee headlined: "Leftists Demand That All Criticisms Of Trump Cease Until He Stops Getting Death Threats".


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang for an unlikely story in the Cornell Sun: Comedian Ronny Chieng on Asian Representation in Politics, Critics and Life as an Asian in America. Chieng immigrated from Malaysia, and became a stand-up comic, because this is America.

    Chieng said that people from other countries have a romanticized view of America and tend to “think of [America] as a monolith,” but, after emigrating to the US, he learned more about the nation’s cultural diversity and that “every state is like a nation onto itself.”

    Chieng delved into the nuances of American culture and weighed in on the East Coast versus West Coast debate, calling the East Coast “intense” and pointing to New Hampshire’s state motto — “Live Free or Die” — as an example. He also asked the audience to shout out some guesses for the state motto of Texas. After receiving a few wrong guesses — “Lone Star State” and “Don’t Mess With Texas” among them — he surprised the audience by revealing that the motto is actually “Friendship.”

    Texas: unexpectedly wimpy motto!

    I hope Netflix puts up one of Chieng's shows. I'd watch it.

URLs du Jour

2019-04-16

[Amazon Link]

  • James Lileks' Bleat today contains his reactions to the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Moving and insightful, of course, but here's an interesting tidbit he dug out of Wikipedia:

    In 1793, during the French Revolution, the cathedral was rededicated to the Cult of Reason, and then to the Cult of the Supreme Being. During this time, many of the treasures of the cathedral were either destroyed or plundered. The twenty-eight statues of biblical kings located at the west façade, mistaken for statues of French kings, were beheaded.

    The French revolutionists were the Taliban of their day.


  • A belated Tax Day link: at Reason, Liz Wolfe reports I Got Stoned and Did My Taxes.

    ("I" referring to Liz, not your blogger. I was not stoned, although I will admit to being under the mild influence of Folgers. As a result I went through the entire five stages of grief: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, acceptance.)

    Anyway:

    Things took a turn for the worse when I got to the page that asked “Do you want to donate $3 to the presidential campaign fund? This will not reduce your refund or increase your tax due.” I clicked on the description, rightly fearing the worst. TurboTax explained that this opt-in funding of elections could “reduce candidates’ dependence on large contributions and, hopefully, to put everyone on an equal financial footing (so they’d have more time to discuss the issues).”

    It was at this point that I realized I wasn’t sufficiently stoned anymore. As if candidates would focus on the substance—and as if that substance would matter to the many hobbits and hooligans swarming around the ballot boxes like flies. As TurboTax auto-checked for more credits and deductions, my brain descended into campaign finance reform, and I made some cannabutter tea (Thai red tea with milk, a hefty chunk of homemade cannabutter, and some sweetener), which produces a long-lasting but mild high.

    As far as I can recall, Turbo Tax didn't even ask me about the $3 donation this year. Perhaps its AI is getting to know me better.


  • Jonah Goldberg's latest G-File concerns itself with Democrats & Republicans -- With Partisanship & Ideology, Who Makes the Rules?. I resemble this remark:

    The challenge of today is that partisanship is masquerading as principle, and principle is being denounced as a racket. Facts are becoming instrumental plot points in competing “narratives” bendable to the needs of the storyline. Kim Jong-un is a murderous thug, even if he’s friends with the president. Putin is a goon and enemy of American interests, even if he helped in the beclowning of Hillary Clinton. Tariffs aren’t paid for by foreign countries, even if the president says so all of the time. Assange and Manning are villains, regardless of the messaging problems they cause for one party or another. Sexual assault is repugnant, whether you have an R or a D after your name, and the other side’s hypocrisy in selectively being outraged about it doesn’t validate your own.

    This is what I am getting at when I tell people I’ve never been more politically homeless even though I’ve never been more ideologically grounded. Taken seriously, being called a RINO doesn’t bother me one whit, because it’s true: I am a Republican in name only. If I wear a Los Angeles Lakers jersey and the team lets me sit on the bench one night as an honorary member, I would still only be a LINO.

    I am also a RINO, because I like voting in primaries, and can usually find someone I don't utterly loathe on the GOP ballot. (Between Trump and Bill Weld… well, I may stay home next February.)


  • Jeff Jacoby has a great idea for the US Senate: Don't dump the filibuster — restore it to its former glory.

    In 1970, then-Majority Leader Mike Mansfield introduced a "two-track" system, under which a bill being filibustered would be set aside so the Senate could take up other matters. The result was not what Mansfield doubtless expected — to make filibusters less desirable by stripping them of their power to gridlock the Senate. Instead, the number of filibusters soared. Or rather, the number of threatened filibusters soared. Those threats never had to be made good. The mere announcement that Senator X intended to filibuster Bill Y created a presumption that a supermajority would be required if the legislation was to move forward. Soon it was taken for granted that nearly every bill needed 60 votes to pass.

    The solution to this problem isn't to eliminate filibusters altogether, but to eliminate the two-track system that made them ubiquitous. Senators were far less likely to undertake a filibuster back when they knew that doing so would bring the Senate to a halt. It was a weapon used sparingly. During the entire 19th century there were only 23 filibusters. Since 1970 there have been more than 1,000.

    As with most good ideas, this will be ignored.

    Bonus quote: "It should give pause to moderate Republicans and Democrats alike that polarizing brawlers like Warren and Trump are the most prominent champions of killing the filibuster."


  • Christopher Jay of Cornerstone Action of New Hampshire writes at Inside Sources: New Hampshire Politicians Are Gambling With Lives. At issue is "legalizing" sports betting:

    Americans were expected to lose $118 billion of their personal wealth to government-sanctioned gambling in 2018.  Over the next eight years, the American people are on a collision course to lose more than $1 trillion of their personal wealth to government-sanctioned gambling.  If approved, commercialized sports betting will make these financial losses even worse.

    I think Jay's argument applies to "sin taxes" generally: when the burden of taxation is shifted onto a weak-willed (and politically unpowerful) minority, the incentives for keeping spending under control go out the window.


  • And the Google LFOD alert rang for a WaPo story detailing Where the war on weed still rages. An interesting graphic has a county-by-county breakdown of the fraction of arrests made for pot posession. And:

    Nationwide, a few clear patterns emerge in the county-level arrest statistics from 2016, the latest year for which data is available. A swath of mostly conservative states, running from North Dakota through Texas, is home to many counties where marijuana enforcement accounts for 10 percent or more of all arrests — well above the national average.

    But those conservative states are by no means alone. On the East Coast, New York and New Jersey stand out for relatively high arrest rates for marijuana possession. In New England, New Hampshire — the “Live free or die” state — also shows a high number of arrests relative to its neighbors.

    For those keeping score: it appears the fraction of pot arrests are highest up in the north counties (Coos, Grafton, Carroll); more moderate in the southeast (Strafford, Belknap, Rockingham); and light in the southwest (Merrimack, Sullivan, Cheshire).


Last Modified 2019-04-17 4:05 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2019-04-15

[Amazon Link]

  • At NR, George Will writes on the Democratic Party 2020 Presidential Candidates: Foolishness Sweepstakes. A couple examples:

    Competition in the Democrats’ frivolity sweepstakes is intense. Beto O’Rourke contemplates amending the Constitution “to show that corporations are not people.” Conceivably, he has not thought through why corporate personhood has been in Anglo-American law for centuries: For-profit and nonprofit (including almost all progressive advocacy groups) corporations are accorded rights as “artificial persons” (William Blackstone’s phrase) to enable them to have lives, identities, and missions that span generations and produce a robust civil society of freely cooperating citizens.

    Donald Trump must secretly admire Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren’s thoroughly Trumpian proposal — made where pandering is perfected: Iowa — to ban foreigners from buying U.S. farmland. Lest diabolical foreigners take our loam home? No, Warren says foreigners threaten “food security,” hence “national security,” too. Warren and Trump — he who sees a national-security threat from imported Audis — are together at last.

    Hey, I'm old enough to remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth when the Japanese bought Rockefeller Center. Surely a harbinger of imminent Japanese dominion! But a few years later, they defaulted on the mortgage.


  • At Power Line, Paul Mirengoff reports that Ken Starr shielded Hillary Clinton in report on Vince Foster’s death.

    Ken Starr’s investigation confirmed that Foster’s death was a suicide and that the suicide was due to depression. However, Starr also came to believe, based on the FBI’s work, that the event that triggered the suicide was Hillary Clinton going full Amy Klobuchar on him. Specifically, in front of White House staff, she raked Foster over the coals for incompetence, reportedly telling him he would always be a little hick town lawyer who was obviously not ready for the big time. I discussed this charming matter in a 2016 post.

    Starr, though, did not include Hillary’s mistreatment of Foster in his report on Foster’s death. Starr’s explanation? According to this report, Starr says he “did not want to inflict further pain” on Hillary.

    Something that voters might have found illuminating … oh, say, anytime in the past two decades, but especially in 2016. Yet our watchdog press is only selectively curious.


  • Megan McArdle notes that AOC wants to fund federal literacy programs. But they’re failing for a reason..

    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is outraged. That isn’t news, of course. But the targets of the Democratic representative from New York do change, and on Thursday, it was Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, of whom she tweeted:

    “Only *one-third* of American children in elementary & middle school can read at grade-level. One third. Yet Betsey DeVos is trying to cut *every* Federal literacy program in the country.”

    Ooh, that does sound outrageous, doesn’t it? But Betsy (not Betsey) DeVos offered a reasonable-sounding explanation for her slash-and-burn approach to federal literacy programs: She says they don’t work.

    Her claim could, of course, be false. But Ocasio-Cortez’s own tweet inadvertently offered compelling empirical support for DeVos’s position. After all, if only a third of American children can read at grade level, the literacy programs aren’t working very well. We should certainly hope that there is some better method out there. And a good way to fund it might be to divert money from the current lackluster programs.

    For AOC, and folks like her, the only possible explanation for an $X million Federal program not working is that it wasn't given $2X million instead.


  • I thought the black hole picture was pretty neat. But Jazz Shaw at Hot Air notes the ensuing non-science discussion: So now we're trolling the black hole picture lady?. The lady is "Dr. Katherine “Katie” Bouman, one of the imaging scientists involved in processing the massive mountains of data that went into creating the image."

    Woman in STEM! Role model! Immediately, some (including, of course, AOC) made it seem like she did it on her own.

    This was greeted by (understandable, but also obnoxious) trolling, belittling her contributions to the overall project. (Note that Dr. Bouman herself never exaggerated her role in the imaging.)

    Jazz comments:

    So in the end, Dr. Katie Bouman was a valuable, contributing member of a 200 person team that developed the black hole photo. And after posting one innocent photo of herself enjoying the team’s moment in the sun she was turned into a feminist hero and then a glory-grabbing monster, all in the space of a few hours. Is anyone really surprised? That’s life on social media in 2019.

    "Indeed."


  • And the Google LFOD alert rang for a conservative rant by Vivek Saxena at Business and Politics Review about an incident at the local Center of the Universe, Epping NH: Girl gets pseudo apology for being ordered to remove Trump hat, shirt on America Pride Day. Is it enough?. The goons came for…

    Vivek gathers some truly hateful tweets about Ciretta. But also some support:

    Thanks, Randy. Except it's "fair and square".


  • And Farouk Martins Aresa mentions LFOD in (I am not kidding) the Nigerian Voice: Government Of The Privileged Rigged For The Privileged Ignored Poverty.

    Social safety nets were needed to avoid revolts within live free or die states and cushion the hungry workforce. Yet, corruption is in every political system. Check, balance and in China’s case dire consequences up to and including death might have brought down poverty drastically. Unfortunately, in Africa where corruption is shielded by the cry of due process, rule of law and democracy; tolerance emboldened and increased poverty with unplanned population growth.

    Yeah, I have no idea.


  • But Pravda on the Merrimack notes New releases by N.H. writers. And this one looks pretty good:

    [Amazon Link]

    Amanda Marin’s book, North to Nara, is the first in a planned series set in a dystopian future where Suffers bear troubles of others for the good of the Nation. It was released by Inkspell Publishing on March 20.

    When the leading character, Neve Hall is assigned a new Sufferer, Micah Ward, she begins to uncover secrets and will have to choose between love or loyalty to the Nation.

    Marin includes tributes to her home of New Hampshire in the novel.

    “I always love coming across nods to New Hampshire in books or movies – even after living here for more than 30 years,” Marin said in a statement.

    There is a scene set in the state with references to the White Mountains and local granite. The characters come across an old sign with the current state motto and ponder what it means to truly “live free or die.”

    North to Nara is a mere $2.99 (Kindle) at Amazon, so click away.

The Phony Campaign

2019-04-14 Update

[Amazon Link]

No changes in our phony lineup this week, but Elizabeth Warren creeps even closer to our (arbitrary 2%) elimination threshold. Where she would join Tulsi, Amy, Cory, Julian,… and, um, Hickenlooper. And more. No shame in that! Unless you think it's shameful to waste your supporters' time and money, but what pol has ever been ashamed of that?

I for one am plugging for a Buttigieg/Hickenlooper ticket. Because I identify as having a 12-year-old's sense of humor about funny names.

Speaking of Mayor Pete, he expands his phony lead this week over President Orange:

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
4/7
Phony
Results
Change
Since
4/7
Pete Buttigieg 7.5% +1.9% 5,480,000 +2,300,000
Donald Trump 41.2% +0.4% 2,210,000 +440,000
Bernie Sanders 11.6% -1.7% 452,000 +166,000
Joe Biden 8.3% +1.4% 258,000 +24,000
Elizabeth Warren 2.0% -0.1% 183,000 +20,000
Kamala Harris 10.1% -1.7% 113,000 +27,100
Beto O'Rourke 5.6% -0.9% 80,300 -5,600
Andrew Yang 2.7% -0.6% 13,400 +300

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

And maybe it's a good time to point out that since we started tracking the candidates' Betfair-based "WinProbs" back in January, Trump's has gone from 29.2% to 41.2% (as I type). Hm.

  • At the Bulwark, Benjamin Parker urges us: Let's Not Forget About Biden's Gaffes. There are a lot, but my favorite is a New Hampshire oldie:

    At least Biden doesn’t have to worry about appearing low-energy. During the 1988 presidential race, a New Hampshire voter asked Biden about his law school record. Biden interrupted the man, gesturing vigorously,

    I think I probably have a much higher IQ than you do, I suspect. I went to law school on a full academic scholarship, the only one in my class to have a full academic scholarship. The first year in law school I decided I didn’t want to be in law school, and ended up in the bottom two thirds of my class, and then decided I wanted to stay, going back to law school, and in fact ended up in the top half of my class. I won the international moot court competition. I was the outstanding student in the political science department at the end of my year. I graduated with three degrees from undergraduate school and 165 credits — only needed 123 credits – and I’d be delighted to sit down and compare my IQ to yours if you’d like, Frank.

    Poor Frank was eventually able to finish his question after Uncle Joe’s tirade, much of which turned out to be false. But hey, at least he fights?

    Good times. There's a 2008 Keene Sentinel article recalling the incident here. Biden's interlocutor was Frank Fahey of Claremont, identified in 2008 as "a lifelong Republican who is now an ardent Obama supporter."

    Somewhat sweetly:

    Last fall, Fahey encountered Biden again at a campaign event in Claremont’s Broad Street Park. The senator rushed to make amends.

    “You’re Frank Fahey, aren’t you,” Fahey recalls Biden saying, before he had finished introducing himself.

    “I owe you a big apology. It’s 20 years too late.”

    Fahey, in turn, offered his own apology for how news coverage of their 1987 dustup had affected Biden’s campaign.

    How did that apology go, Frank? "I'm sorry that I revealed you to be a thin-skinned bullshitter, sir. With all due respect."


  • CNN "Senior Washington Correspondent" Jeff Zeleny revealed even older news about Joe Biden: Letters reveal how he sought support of segregationists in fight against busing.

    Joe Biden's road to a third presidential bid has been lined with a series of explanations and apologies, illustrating the challenges of preparing a long record of public service for fresh scrutiny under the spotlight of the 2020 campaign.

    Yet he rarely discusses one of the earliest -- and most controversial -- issues he championed in the Senate: his fight against busing to desegregate schools.

    This all happened circa 1977. And (as it so happens) Biden was kind of right: busing created far more problems than it solved, and it arguably diverted time, resources, and attention from other policies that might have been more effective.

    But (of course) the interesting point here is not 4-decade-old history, but how the Watchdog Press lacked all curiosity on this until now. It would have remarkably "inconvenienced the narrative" if it had been revealed (say) before the 2008 election.


  • At the Miami Herald, Jay Ambrose gripes about disparate impact: Biden hugged, Harris ruined lives. Guess who’s more reviled?. We all know about Biden's Tactile Nukes, but Ambrose reminds us:

    As San Francisco’s district attorney and California’s attorney general, Harris compiled an astonishing record of disregarding legal flubs that stuck people in prison as she then insisted they stay there. In effect, she shoved due process in a paper shredder by way of technicalities, thereby enabling the ruin of people who, in some instances, were likely innocent. We’re not talking about emotional disturbance after a supposed kiss on the back of the head. We’re talking about the prolonged, debilitating torture of prison.

    Harris, smart, tough and quick to offer freebies we can’t afford to citizens perhaps returning the favor at the voting booth, offered little to defendants when she served as a district attorney. She didn’t tell defense attorneys, for instance, that a lab technician had messed with drug evidence by such methods as theft, and so you got convictions based on a fair share of hooey. A judge let 600 of the victims go home despite Harris’s unprincipled protests.

    This is not news to (say) Reason readers, but it might be news to Miami Herald readers.


  • Speaking of Reason, Ira Stoll writes there, claiming Pete Buttigieg Is the Most Interesting Democrat Running for President. Interesting? There are all sorts of ways to be interesting! But let's let Ira tell it, because he attended a couple of Buttigieg events in Boston:

    In more than a few moments, he was downright impressive.

    Facing a question from a tenant-rights activist complaining about Northeastern fueling “gentrification,” he pivoted to an answer about affordable housing that included the words “rethinking exclusionary zoning.”

    That is a big deal coming from a Democratic politician. Left-leaning economists and journalists such as Eduardo Porter, Paul Krugman, and Lawrence Summers have been making this point about zoning restrictions artificially constraining the supply of housing. It’s ideologically consistent with libertarian aversion to regulatory interference in free markets. But politicians have been slow to seize the issue. Another Democratic presidential candidate, Beto O’Rourke, had earlier handled a housing affordability question by talking about aggressive antidiscrimination enforcement by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, leaving me wishing he’d at least also mentioned something about zoning.

    Uh, fine, Ira. You're not wrong about zoning. But is it really a Federal-level, let alone a presidential-level, issue?


  • And then there's another way to be "interesting". And that's discussed by Ben Shapiro at NR: Pete Buttigieg Attacks on Mike Pence Are in Bad Faith.

    Back in 2015, South Bend, Ind.’s mayor, Pete Buttigieg, came out of the closet as a gay man. Asked about the news, Indiana governor, Mike Pence, simply responded, “I hold Mayor Buttigieg in the highest personal regard. I see him as a dedicated public servant and a patriot.”

    A year earlier, Buttigieg had been deployed to Afghanistan as a member of the U.S. Naval Reserve. According to the Indianapolis Star, “a noticeably moved Pence called Buttigieg the day he was driving to the base.”

    There is no evidence that Pence has ever said an unkind word about or done an unkind thing to Buttigieg.

    So, naturally, Buttigieg is attacking Pence as a homophobic bigot nearly every day on the campaign trail. Appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Buttigieg sneered, “He’s nice. If he were here, you would think he’s a nice guy to your face. But he’s also fanatical.” Speaking at the LGBTQ Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch in Washington, Buttigieg tore into Pence’s supposed intolerance: “That’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand. That if you got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me — your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.” This week, Buttigieg tweeted, clearly in reference to Pence, “People will often be polite to you in person, while advancing policies that harm you and your family. You will be polite to them in turn, but you need not stand for such harms. Instead, you push back, honestly and emphatically. So it goes, in the public square.”

    I'm not Pence's biggest fan, but I assume he will continue to exhibit Christian compassion and kindness even to those who revile him.


  • And David Harsanyi provides some news about a declared candidate who is stuck in the sub-1% regions of Betfair betting: Eric Swalwell Claims Kids Live In A Bullet-Riddled Dystopia. The Opposite Is True.

    “First, we must address the single greatest threat to young Americans’ lives: gun violence,” Rep. Eric Swalwell explained in an essay laying out the reasons for his vanity presidential run. “It is astonishing and unacceptable that we have let school massacres become part of daily life.”

    In the real world, guns aren’t even in the vicinity of being the “single greatest threat” in the lives of young people. And school massacres are a rare event that the vast majority of American children will, luckily, never experience—other than those moments when adults subject them to another traumatizing and useless shooting drill or politicians tell them they are in constant mortal danger.

    If it weren't for fear-mongering, would Eric Swalwell have anything to say? Unsurprisingly, he bills himself—proudly!—as "the only candidate calling for a mandatory national ban and buyback of military-style semiautomatic assault weapons".

    But did he 'suggest nuking' gun owners who resist confiscation?. Well, yes, sort of. Even left-leaning Snopes is left to claim (with Swalwell) that was a "joke". Hilarious!

    And would someone please buy me the Amazon Product du Jour so I can wear it if Eric Swalwell ever decides to hold a campaign event I can attend?