URLs du Jour

2019-08-24

[Amazon Link]

  • Cranky old Ken White is a lawyer, and he's got a bone to pick with you: Don’t Use These Free-Speech Arguments Ever Again. Something I've been dealing with on Facebook lately:

    It’s common, in free-speech debates, to find people arguing that America must balance free speech and safety, or free speech and the right to be free of abuse. A related rhetorical trope is “line drawing”: the idea that we must draw lines between free speech and abusive speech.

    In point of fact, however, American courts don’t balance the benefits and harms of speech to decide whether it is protected—they look to whether that speech falls into the First Amendment exceptions noted above. As the Supreme Court recently explained, the “First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech does not extend only to categories of speech that survive an ad hoc balancing of relative social costs and benefits. The First Amendment itself reflects a judgment by the American people that the benefits of its restrictions on the Government outweigh the costs. Our Constitution forecloses any attempt to revise that judgment simply on the basis that some speech is not worth it.”

    A related trope is “This isn’t free speech; it’s [x],” where x is bullying, or abuse, or some other social evil. But many social evils are protected by the First Amendment. “This isn’t free speech; it’s [x]” is empty rhetoric unless x is one of the established First Amendment exceptions.

    Is your favorite anti-speech argument one of the bad ones? Click over to find out.


  • As I look at the smoldering ruin of the DJIA today, I shake my fist at the sky and yell "Damn you, Donald Trump!". But to compound my old-man ire, Michael D. Tanner points out: Trump’s Trade Critics Don’t Offer Better Options.

    But what exactly are the Democratic presidential candidates proposing as an alternative? Their policies — as opposed to their words — don’t seem all that different. In fact, some of the Democratic plans may be even more restrictive.

    For example, many experts believe that the best way to restrain China would be to join with our regional allies in some sort of block, similar to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). And there is reason to believe that our allies would be happy to have us join the pact. But with the exception of extreme long-shot Representative John Delaney, every major Democratic candidate either joins Trump in opposing the TPP or is highly critical of the current negotiation. Even former vice president Joe Biden won’t commit to the treaty his administration negotiated.

    Well, I see there's a Libertarian candidate… oh, good Lord, no.

    The 2016 presidential election was not kind to Lincoln Chafee: the former Rhode Island governor, U.S. senator, and metric system enthusiast flopped when he mounted a long-shot campaign for the Democratic Party’s nomination, becoming a punchline for the pundit class and a footnote in that year’s brutal primary.

    I can't wait for a Libertarian candidate to advocate forcing a switch to metric. That would be the perfect capper to the first two decades of the twenty-first century.

  • Oh, right. I was talking about free trade. At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson gives thumbs up to Unilateral Free Trade: An Old Idea Reappears.

    Protectionists often describe reciprocity as if it were a cover charge for admission to American markets, but that gets the issue exactly backward: The question isn’t whether Washington may properly interfere with foreign sellers but whether it ought to interfere with American buyers. The case for allowing Senator Sanders to interpose his political interests between buyers and sellers is non-obvious, on either moral or economic grounds. It takes a special kind of stupid to believe that a voluntary exchange — willing seller, willing buyer — is transmuted into a form of hideous predation simply because some of the parties to the transaction may hold different passports. To accept the premise that a voluntary exchange — which by definition is held to be beneficial by all involved parties — becomes a matter for federal police powers when the magical phrase “national interest” is uttered is to reject the intellectual basis of free enterprise per se and to accept in its place the operating assumptions of managerial progressivism: that you are to be permitted as much liberty as the bosses think useful.

    And, yup, Lincoln Chaffee has a pretty good record on free trade. As long as you're weighing your goods in grams.


  • The Google LFOD news alert rang for Eugene Volokh's analysis of a recent Eighth Circuit decision: Videographers Have First Amendment Right Not to Make Same-Sex Wedding Videos. The "nice" state of Minnesota argued otherwise, and lost.

    Minnesota also suggests that a lesser form of scrutiny is appropriate because the Larsens can say that they disapprove of same-sex marriage in some other way. But just like New Hampshire could not "require [drivers] to display the state motto" Live Free or Die on their license plates, even if they could disavow the motto through "a conspicuous bumper sticker," so too would a disclaimer here be inadequate. The reason is that the constitutional "protection of a speaker's freedom would be empty" if "the government could require speakers to affirm in one breath that which they deny in the next." …

    So there, Minnesota.


  • But LFOD (and, specifically, the same legal precedent) is cited by Dyer Oxley at the KIRO radio site. KIRO is in Seattle, but the issue discussed is in Norfolk, Virginia, where the city is trying to take down a Confederate monument, currently thwarted by state law.

    Norfolk's argument: that's compelled speech! But: Newest Confederate monument argument likely won't work.

    The compelled speech concept is the same reason that people are not forced to say the pledge of allegiance if they don’t want to. Or in New Hampshire, people have the right to not have a license plate that states “live free or die.” But statues and memorials may be a bit different. McKenna notes that the Supreme Court has upheld in the past that permanent memorials are government speech and cannot be associated with compelled speech.

    “Let’s say that you are really a big believer in dictatorship and autocracy and you really resent the Statue of Liberty in New York because it’s all about that terrible idea of freedom and liberty, so by gosh, you want to have a giant statue erected as a monument of autocracy and dictatorship. And if you don’t get to do that you would argue that your First Amendment rights are being violated.

    “Well, that case would go nowhere, because the Supreme Court has held that an individual’s free speech rights, or even a group’s free speech rights, are not violated when a government refuses to put up a statue in a public place.”

    It's complicated!

URLs du Jour

2019-08-23

[Amazon Link]

  • At Quillette, Michael Hannon asks the provocative (but musical) question: Are Political Disagreements Real Disagreements?. Yes, I'm singing "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off" in my head.

    In Democracy for Realists, Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels argue that Americans vote largely on the basis of loyalty to their “team,” not sincere policy preferences. Although many citizens will describe themselves as “liberal” or “conservative,” they actually lack stable beliefs fitting these ideological self-descriptions. Thus, what seems like deep political disagreement is actually superficial and inauthentic. We know this because a small payment of $0.30 will motivate people to give more accurate (and less partisan) answers to politically charged questions. By incentivizing people for accuracy, the gap between Democrats and Republicans in response to factual questions sharply decreases, and sometimes disappears entirely.

    Being a "team player" can tend to make you deny obvious facts. That sounds like a bad idea. So good advice: don't be one of them. And don't trust any of them to give you the straight scoop.


  • With reference to the above item, the first two headlines presented this morn by Real Clear Politics, provided here without excerpt.

    The links are there if you want them. I suspect you don't want them.


  • And (very) related, from Nick Gillespie at Reason: The 2020 Race Is Completely Unpredictable Because Politicians Are Awful.

    It's unlikely that either major party will see a surge of new members as they get increasingly shrill, bitter, and partisan leading up to Election Day. President Trump is already floating policies that are geared to fire up his base. He wants to end birthright citizenship and double down on trade war with China, and in anticipation of a recession, he's already lambasting the Federal Reserve for not doing his bidding. The Democrats have their own reflexive responses, including amping up charges of racism against any and all voters who disagree with them on just about anything.

    The end result of such ugliness is not likely to be a great awakening of civic engagement but something like The Great Tuneout, with weaker-than-expected voter turnout and even less faith and confidence in whoever manages to squeak into office. Which, if past is prologue, will lead not to less government but more.

    Well, Nick is optimistic today, right? Well, maybe tomorrow.


  • Just to add to my air of unremitting gloom, Jim Geraghty points out at National Review: Anti-President Trump Conservatives Have No Good 2020 Options.

    If you’re a conservative who subscribes to the old Reaganite mix of free-market economics, a strong national defense, and traditional values, it’s understandable that you might be less than fully satisfied with a Republican presidency that features $555 billion in new tariffs, $8.4 billion in new taxpayer-funded assistance to farmers to offset the effect of those tariffs, talk of a full withdrawal from Afghanistan, persistent presidential desire to withdraw from NATO, increasingly warm public praise of Kim Jong-un, a perpetually furious presidential Twitter feed full of personal insults, and six-figure payoffs to porn stars.

    Unfortunately, the alternatives for traditional conservatives are not great, and the odds of another Republican winning the GOP nomination in 2020 are infinitesimal.

    And the Libertarians stand a good chance of nominating an inexperienced wacko, for whom I will probably vote.


  • The WSJ Editorial Board makes a plea that will fall on two deaf ears, because they are the only ears that matter: Cut the Trump Uncertainty Tax.

    President Trump isn’t famous for consistency, but his reversal on a new round of tax cuts may be a record. On Tuesday he said he was considering a cut in the payroll tax and indexing capital gains for inflation, but on Wednesday he took it all back.

    “I’m not looking at a tax cut now,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “We don’t need it. We have a strong economy.” He added that indexing capital gains might be seen as “somewhat elitist” and would benefit the wealthy, thus aligning himself ideologically (and bizarrely) with his many media opponents who still denounce his 2017 tax reform.

    Mr. Trump is also confused about whether the economy is strong or weak, whether more economic stimulus is needed, and even whether his trade brawls with the rest of the world are weakening the economy. No wonder business investment is falling amid this climate of policy uncertainty. Mr. Trump’s payroll-tax cut wouldn’t pass Congress in any case, and indexing capital gains for inflation, while economically useful, would be challenged in court if he implemented it by executive order.

    With the vast powers stupidly vested by Congress in the hands of a whimsical President, it's surprising that the economy has done as well as it has. Although, as I type, the DJIA is down 400 points or so…


  • And the Google LFOD alert rang for an Above the Law story: New Hampshire Shows Its Baby Love (And Practical Side) By Passing Fertility Access Law.

    As of August 1, 2019, hopeful parents in New Hampshire have reason to celebrate. That’s because Governor Chris Sununu signed into law SB279, a law expanding insurance coverage for fertility-related diagnosis, treatment, and preservation. Now not everyone has to work at Starbucks to get in vitro fertilization (IVF) benefits! Or at least not after the law’s effective date of January 1, 2020.

    But LFOD is… ah, there:

    Since When Did The “Live Free Or Die” State Go For Insurance Mandates?

    [Assisted reproductive technology law specialist and attorney Catherine] Tucker explained that while perhaps counterintuitive, there is considerable evidence that a fertility mandate will save insurance companies, the state, and taxpayers money in the long run. Without the help of insurance, IVF can commonly run around $15,000 a round. That’s all out of pocket to a patient lacking coverage. Aside from being cost prohibitive for many, it has also been shown to lead infertility patients to make poor choices.

    Insurance companies are too stupid to figure this out for themselves, I guess.

    [Sarcasm, in case it wasn't obvious.]

URLs du Jour

2019-08-21

[Amazon Link]

  • At Reason, Tim Sandefur criticizes the New York Times' "1619" project, its effort to revive discussion of the legacy of American slavery: The Founders Were Flawed. The Nation Is Imperfect. The Constitution Is Still a ‘Glorious Liberty Document.’.

    Where the 1619 articles go wrong is in a persistent and off-key theme: an effort to prove that slavery "is the country's very origin," that slavery is the source of "nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional," and that, in Hannah-Jones's [one of the "1619" essayists] words, the founders "used" "racist ideology" "at the nation's founding." In this, the Times steps beyond history and into political polemic—one based on a falsehood and that in an essential way, repudiates the work of countless people of all races, including those Hannah-Jones celebrates, who have believed that what makes America "exceptional" is the proposition that all men are created equal. 

    For one thing, the idea that, in Hannah-Jones' words, the "white men" who wrote the Declaration of Independence "did not believe" its words applied to black people is simply false. John Adams, James Madison, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and others said at the time that the doctrine of equality rendered slavery anathema. True, Jefferson also wrote the infamous passages suggesting that "the blacks…are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind," but he thought even that was irrelevant to the question of slavery's immorality. "Whatever be their degree of talent," Jefferson wrote, "it is no measure of their rights. Because Sir Isaac Newton was superior to others in understanding, he was not therefore lord of the person or property of others." 

    Ironically, the thrust of the "1619" thesis echoes the insistence of actual white supremecists of the 1800s: the myth that America's founding was inherently racist.

    I find the Amazon Product du Jour amusing, but I wonder if anyone outside a Certain Age Range will get it. Here is an explanation, sorry.


  • At the Hoover Institution, David Henderson opines that A Carbon Tax Is Not A Slam Dunk. Specifically, it may not be the best way to combat climate change. For example…

    […] one important technological development over the last decade has been “geo-engineering.” The idea here is to change other things in the atmosphere that are easier to change than the amount of carbon used. Consider what we learned from the June 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, in the Philippines. That eruption poured 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere. Over the next two years, the effect of that one eruption was to reduce the earth’s temperature by about 1 degree Fahrenheit. That might not sound like much but it’s actually over half the 1.4 degree warming that has happened over the last century. What if every year we could put sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere so as to permanently prevent the earth from warming? In their 2009 book Superfreakonomics, University of Chicago economist Steven D. Levitt and writer Stephen J. Dubner point out that if we could get just 34 gallons per minute of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere (which translates to about 100,000 tons per year), that would reverse warming in the high Arctic and reduce it in much of the Northern Hemisphere. Why focus on such high latitude areas? Because, note Levitt and Dubner, “high-latitude areas are four times more sensitive to climate change than the equator.” How would you get the SO2 into the atmosphere. Levitt and Dubner cite the thinking of Nathan Myhrvold, at one time the chief technology officer for Microsoft. Mrhrvold argues that if we had a big enough hose, we could do it.

    As I've said before: the problem isn't figuring out how to adjust the global thermostat; we're only going to get better at doing that over the coming decades.

    The problem is: once we have that power in hand, who decides where to set it? You think arguments over your house's thermostat setting are bad? Just multiply the arguers by billions, and give some of them nuclear weapons.


  • Kevin D. Williamson, writing at National Review asks about Patriotism: Is It Possible?.

    Is it possible for, say, Robert Francis O’Rourke? The Dave Matthews Band of Democratic presidential candidates put this into writing: “This country was founded on racism, has persisted through racism, and is racist today.” If by patriotism we mean simply to indicate love of country, would it be unfair to ask: How could a man of conscience love such a country? O’Rourke here is neither writing about the state nor any particular administration nor any of our nation’s many episodic failures to live up to its own ideals, but about the nation per se.

    One cannot love a hateful country the way one might love a racist uncle in spite of his shortcomings, because the love of country cannot survive the contempt and condescension one unavoidably feels toward doddering old men who should have learned better by now but are too old to be taught. You might cut your dotty uncle some slack, but love of country assumes a certain minimum of respect for it and confidence in it that are precluded by the kind of eye-rolling indulgence that in the South is accompanied by the exclamation “Bless your heart!”

    Among KDW's further observations is a drive-by hit on the term Latinx: a "neuter neologism" used "to refer to people descended from speakers of a language that is unintelligible without gender specificity."


  • In her column, Veronique de Rugy proposes A Truly Populist Social Security Reform. Specifically, how to deal with the whole "going broke" thing, which pols in both parties are diligently trying to ignore?

    We must rethink the system entirely, root and branch. The current universal age-based system requires relatively high taxes and spreads the benefits thinly across everyone. Considering that much of the support for Social Security comes from people who incorrectly assume it's mostly helping poor Americans — economists have shown that Social Security is a regressive system that mostly benefits higher-income Americans — we need reform that truly targets people who can't help themselves. Such a reformed program would provide better and larger benefits to fewer recipients and, in turn, require less revenue and lower taxes.

    To be sure, such a reform would be sweeping. Yet, so are the problems faced by the program.

    I buy Veronique's premise: it would be a sensible matter to cut benefits for people [gulp, like me] who have a comfortable nest egg to fall back on. I don't know how the politics will work out, though.

Alienated America

Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse

[Amazon Link]

By coincidence, I found myself concurrently reading two books about dysfunctional America. The other one, The Inclusive Economy, focused on poverty, and I didn't care for it much. This one, however, by Tim Carney, exceeded my expectations. When I get around to composing a "top 10" nonfiction list, this will definitely be on it.

Carney's goal is daunting, to explain various symptoms of social dysfunction among some areas of America. There are increased "deaths of despair" caused by drugs, suicide, and alcohol. People report feelings of loneliness, depression, and free-floating anger. People perceive that the "American Dream" is deader than the dodo. And we alreadly know about the murderous wackos.

Arguably worse: Donald Trump got elected by tapping into all this angst.

So what's going on? Carney convincingly ties things to the breakdown of healthy communities. Much is due to the decline of church attendance. (For example, those Trump voters? They report being "religious" at a higher than average rate. But their church attendance is actually lower than average. Hm.)

Yes, economic dislocation, in terms of good old "creative destruction" has its part. When a factory shutters, a significant fraction of "good decent" people move away, leaving behind a population without good prospects. But its more than that. (Carney visits a North Dakota fracking boom town, which is pretty dysfunctional on its own terms.)

Carney does a fantastic job of slicing and dicing demographic data, exit polling, and plain old shoe-leather reporting on communities that work and communities that don't. He doesn't have any grand top-down solutions, and explains why he doesn't. "Solutions" are something that have to be bottom-up; the best thing he can recommend is that governments stop some of the trends we're on: restore religious liberty, stop discouraging private charity, decentralize, deregulate.

You know, the kind of things that no major politician is advocating.

Personal note: one of Carney's Bad Example locations is Pottawattamie County, Iowa. Where I lived for the first ten years of my life. Guess it was a good idea for Mom and Dad to move us out back in 1961. The big city in the county is Council Bluffs, across the Missouri from Omaha. I guess it's where Omahans go to sin these days. And the current nickname for the place is "Counciltucky". Ouch.

God's Pocket

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

One of Mrs. Salad's picks. And then (could I confide in you here) she decided she didn't want to see it. And I didn't particularly want to see it either, but how can one in good conscience send a DVD back to Netflix unplayed? So after a few months, she's off to lunch with her ex-coworkers, and…

IMDB classifies this in the "Crime, Drama" genres. Sure. Maybe a bit of Film Noir. And some very, very dark comedy, but you probably shouldn't laugh at these poor folks. Although I eventually did.

This was the late Philip Seymour Hoffman's last movie, and I hope it didn't send him over the edge. He plays Mickey, small-time crook, full-time loser. He's married to hot chick Jeanie (Christina Hendricks), though. But she doesn't seem very happy about that, or anything else.

Mickey is saddled with a pill-popping semi-psychotic stepson, Leon. At least for awhile. Because while he's at work, he threatens an old black guy, who promptly knocks his lights out, permanently, with a piece of pipe.

Problem: Mickey can't afford a decent funeral from the local ghoul/mortician, "Smilin' Jack". Mickey just pulled off a minor league heist with some buddies (including John Turturro), but that went very wrong, and the cash is not forthcoming. Maybe a hot tip on the ponies will come through.

Meanwhile, a "neighborhood" column-writer for the local newspaper (Richard Jenkins) decides to write about Leon's death. Which means interviewing Jeanie, with whom he's immediately smitten. And then…

Well it was based on a novel. Maybe it all came together in the book. Onscreen, it's kind of a mess. Sort of watchable, if you like watching pathetic people wreck their lives.

Acting is first-rate though. Too bad they weren't acting in a better movie.

URLs du Jour

2019-08-21

[Amazon Link]

  • At Reason, Billy Binion blasts Beto: Beto O’Rourke Proposes Plan to Punish Tech Companies for Failing to Censor Hate Speech.

    Democratic presidential hopeful and former congressman Beto O'Rourke announced on Friday that he would like to remove legal protections from tech companies if they fail to police hate speech online. As with previous attempts to interfere with internet speech, the move would be an assault on the First Amendment.

    O'Rourke joins a growing chorus of lawmakers and political activists who would like to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms from facing lawsuits over potentially defamatory statements posted to those platforms by users.

    Given that all Senate Democrats have signed on to "partially" repeal the First Amendment, I guess Beto! thinks he has to do something in that same direction.


  • Politico talked to "experts on aging" about the septugenarians running for President. One expert claimed that Wheezy Joe, Bernie, Liz, and President Bonespurs were "superagers". Somehow immune to the bodily deteriorations besetting the rest of us who are Getting Up There.

    But what I really noticed was this bit from the doctor who performed surgery on Biden twice to fix brain aneurysms.

    Kassell, who performed brain surgery on Biden, went a step further: “I am going to vote for the candidate who I am absolutely certain has a brain that is functioning. And that narrows it down exactly to one.”

    One can almost hear Joe in the background: "And that's me, right, Doc? Maybe you should say it's me."

    Because (thanks to Viking Pundit for pointing out) here are Six times Biden described major events in his life that never happened noted by the Washington Examiner.

    And, unfortunately too late to make the Examiner list, a report from the Washington Free Beacon, Biden claiming that MLK, RFK Were Assassinated in 'the Late '70s'.

    But he's fine, really.


  • The WSJ editorializes today on The Great Student-Loan Scam.

    Some economists are predicting a recession in the next year, but the New York Federal Reserve’s quarterly household debt survey last week showed few portents. What it did show is that more Americans are defaulting on their student loans, and that government budget gnomes have vastly underestimated the future taxpayer charge.

    Defaults have fallen for most forms of consumer debt as the economic expansion continues. Mortgage delinquencies last quarter hit a historic low. But severely delinquent student loans have soared since 2012 and are now 35% of “severe derogatories”—more than credit cards (23%), auto loans (21%) and mortgages (11%).

    It's funny (but not really funny) how Uncle Stupid never pays for his own mistakes. James Freeman has more, noting that the student loan system is the scam that helped make Liz rich.

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s past claims of minority status may not be the most embarrassing fraud she’ll have to explain as she continues to seek the Democratic presidential nomination. A Journal editorial outlines the scale of a Warren-backed disaster that is goring taxpayers even as it has helped the Massachusetts lawmaker accumulate a small fortune.

    Sen. Warren has done as much as anyone in Washington to support the taxpayer-financed bubble in higher education by serially demanding expansions in student loans and pretending the government would make money off the program. But now the cost to taxpayers—including those who never went to college— is getting too big to ignore. A report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York notes the disturbingly high delinquency rates on student loans compared to other types of debt.

    If I win the "Have a Beer with Liz" contest, I'll try to bring this up.

URLs du Jour

2019-08-20

[Amazon Link]

  • George F. Will spells it out for you: ‘National conservatism’ is ‘Elizabeth Warren conservatism’.

    Regimes, however intellectually disreputable, rarely are unable to attract intellectuals eager to rationalize the regimes’ behavior. America’s current administration has “national conservatives.” They advocate unprecedented expansion of government in order to purge America of excessive respect for market forces, and to affirm robust confidence in government as a social engineer allocating wealth and opportunity. They call themselves conservatives, perhaps because they loathe progressives, although they seem not to remember why.

    The Manhattan Institute’s Oren Cass advocates “industrial policy” — what other socialists call “economic planning” — because “market economies do not automatically allocate resources well across sectors.” So, government, he says, must create the proper “composition” of the economy by rescuing “vital sectors” from “underinvestment.” By allocating resources “well,” Cass does not mean efficiently — to their most economically productive uses. He especially means subsidizing manufacturing, which he says is the “primary” form of production because innovation and manufacturing production are not easily “disaggregated.”

    Also in Mr. Will's crosshairs: Tucker Carlson ("who, like the president he reveres, is a talented entertainer"). What should be done, besides perhaps sending copies of The Road to Serfdom to anyone claiming to be a "national conservative"?


  • At National Review, Mairead McArdle covered another recent big lie. Specifically, Kamala Harris to Big Donors: 'I Believe in Capitalism'. This was a "fundraiser in the Hamptons", meaning that probably everyone there was a person to which capitalism had been very, very good.

    But also interesting is her attempt to weasel out of positions she once firmly held, specifically on Bernie's Medicare for All scheme:

    “I have not been comfortable with Bernie’s plan,” Harris said in the Hamptons, referring to Senator Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All plan, which she cosponsored and which would eliminate private health-insurance plans. She originally said she was on board with eliminating private plans should she become president, but she has since backtracked, saying that while she is “committed to reining in the private insurance companies,” it “has to happen over a period of time.”

    Amusingly, Mairead also reported on the blowback: Bernie Sanders Attacks Kamala Harris after she Criticizes Medicare for All. Via this tweet:

    Don't worry, Bernie. Kamala will be back again into your arms on this issue if and when she gets appropriate polling.


  • Everyone's favorite New Age Loon has a vow. Specifically (according to Paul Bois, Daily Wire): Marianne Williamson Vows To Remove Andrew Jackson’s Portrait As ‘Atonement’ For Native American Treatment.

    Keeping in line with her spiritualist approach to politics, 2020 longshot Marianne Williamson has vowed to remove the portrait of President Andrew Jackson from the Oval Office as part of her "atonement" plan for the U.S. treatment of Native Americans.

    I only mention this because it's so progressive-typical: "I plan to make a meaningless symbolic gesture that will do absolutely nothing to relieve the woes of Native Americans."


  • At the Free Beacon, Stephen Gutowski and Charles Fain Lehman perform the unenviable task of digging through the horse manure: Democrats’ Gun-Policy Plans, Explained.

    Jockeying for attention in a packed primary, Democrats running for their party's 2020 nomination have rolled out expansive gun-control proposals. The Washington Free Beacon tallied which candidates support which plans and examined the evidence for and against the measures supported by the most candidates.

    Gun control has been a major feature of the 2020 primary discussion. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D., Calif.) ran his failed campaign on his proposal to ban and confiscate certain guns. Other contenders, like Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.), released comprehensive proposals months ago. The conversation has only gotten more heated since the mass shootings in El Paso, Tex., and Dayton, Ohio, with major candidates like senators Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) dropping new proposals.

    But who's advocated what, as of late August 2019? Stephen and Charles do their best to nail that jelly to the tree.

    Quibble: they use the term "buyback" for government compensation for turned-in guns. Dudes, it's not "buyback" unless you sold the gun in the first place. Eschew euphemism.


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert sent us to the [Kenya!] Standard. With the happy news: Devolution should bring community pride. A puzzling beginning:

    The aftermath of devolution was supposed to be community pride. With each county making economic strides, leading to higher standards of living, citizens in the regions should be as proud of their counties and communities as Nairobians, who are treated as better citizens.

    Nairobians are very proud of themselves, perhaps because they are treated with awe by rural folk who do not know enough of the reality of living in the city. To the rural folk, Nairobi is full of fun and money is plenty. The truth is that only a few make enough money in the city and the skyscrapers do not signify money.

    Wha?… OK, "devolution" is explained, sort of, here. (By the World Bank, so allegedly kosher.) It's (more or less) decentralization.

    But LFOD? Ah, there it is. The author looks to the US for inspiration on pride-instilling.

    Whether in the Deep South of vibrant California or dynamic New York, every community has some pride. They will talk of something they have that others do not have. They take pride in firms started by their sons and their economic mainstay, whether industrial or service. Kentucky and Illinois haggle over where Abraham Lincoln was born because of the pride that goes with that.

    The mottos of the States espouse this pride. New Hampshire is “live free or die”, California is “Eureka”, Florida has “In God We Trus”t, just like the national motto. Check other state mottos and see the trend in pride.

    OK. Glad to be of help. Hope that devolution thing works out for you. But you might also want to work on improving your Economic Freedom score.

URLs du Jour

2019-08-19

[Amazon Link]

  • Arnold Kling has Pushback against race-mindedness. He excerpts a couple WSJ columns, but I like his subsequent insight:

    I find it striking to contemplate how much easier race relations seem to be in the blue-collar sectors of America. There certainly was a time when many whites did not want to work next to blacks in factories, retail stores, or construction sites. But today racially-mixed work forces seem to operate in those industries with little apparent discord.

    Instead, the need for diversity and inclusion programs seems to be concentrated in academia, with some spillover into journalism and other fields that attract recent graduates in humanities and social sciences. Fifty years ago, one would not have predicted that academia would be the industry where race relations would require the most attention.

    Academia is probably the place where claiming to be a member of an offical oppressed victim class will provide one with the most benefit. Right, Liz?


  • Speaking of Liz, and also Kamala, Paul Mirengoff of Power Line comments: Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren lie about the Michael Brown case. The details are well known, but I'm in agreement with Paul's conclusion:

    One last point. It’s one thing to make false statements about, say, taxes or crowd size. It’s another falsely to accuse someone of murder and to use the false accusation to peddle the notion that policing in America systematically puts innocent black lives in jeopardy.

    Such a claim is divisive and incendiary — far more so than anything President Trump has said about race.

    Harris has stated that “we need a president who doesn’t fan the flames of race and division.” But with her false claim about the Brown shooting — a claim so at odds with the facts that the Washington Post awarded it four Pinocchios — Harris is doing just that. So is Warren.

    One of these two candidates may be our next president. Neither should relish having to govern in a racial environment as toxic as the one they are promoting through false statements like the one about Michael Brown’s case. Americans should fear being governed in that environment.

    I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”


  • So the leader in the funniest-name category, John Hickenlooper, dropped out of the presidential race last week. It's up to you now, Mayor Buttigieg! Could I maybe ask for a Buttigieg/Hickenlooper ticket?

    Sigh. All right, enough with the third-grade giggles. I apologize.

    At the Federalist, Tristan Justice (whoa, cool name!) waves bye-bye:

    Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper officially ended his presidential campaign Thursday, possibly pivoting to a run for U.S. Senate against one of the nation’s most vulnerable Republican incumbents, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.).

    That's the first paragraph. Tristan saves the punchline for the last paragraph:

    Hickenlooper said earlier this year he is not “cut out to be a senator.”

    Senator Gardner, there's your TV ad for next fall right there, if you want to use it.


  • Don Boudreaux opens our eyes to an everyday minor miracle: I, Asparagus.

    This morning in the Whole Foods Market at Fair Lakes (in northern Virginia) I noticed that asparagus are selling for $3.99 per pound – asparagus grown in Peru!

    What a spectacular world! A production or nonsupervisory worker in the United States today who is paid the average wage for such workers must spend a mere 17 percent of one-hour’s wage to purchase a pound of fresh asparagus grown on another continent.

    Further observation: that's at upscale Whole Foods. So that $3.99 almost certainly is after a hefty markup.

    Even further observation: I don't much care for asparagus, but the market provides it nonetheless.


  • As a good baby boomer, I'm getting inundated with 50-years reunions, anniversaries, reminisces, etc. For example, 'twas 50 years ago that the Beatles came out with the only album of theirs I currently listen to, "Abbey Road". Mark Steyn concentrates on George Harrison's song, "Something." And I guarantee that you'll learn "something" you didn't know about it. (See what I did there?)

    The tune was so good that Harrison initially assumed it must be something he'd heard before, somewhere or other, and put it aside. (He would have been better advised to do that a few years later with "My Sweet Lord", which was to prove a rather expensive mistake.) He wrote it on a piano at the Abbey Road studios while Paul McCartney was in the adjoining studio laying down overdubs for the White Album, so there was a lot of music around the building and one can understand his momentary fear that "Something" might have been something else. It took him a few months to accept the melody was actually his, and a few more to work out the middle-eight in contrasting key. Although not exactly conventional in one important respect, it was an AABA song, with what Harrison's biographer Simon Leng calls "harmonic interest" throughout "almost every line".

    Mark drops approximately 149 names of other musicians throughout the essay. I don't know how he has all this insight/data/gossip on hand, but there you go.

The Inclusive Economy

How to Bring Wealth to America's Poor

[Amazon Link]

I regret to say that this book (obtained via Interlibrary Loan by the University Near Here from Wesleyan University) goes in the "Wish I'd Liked It Better" category. I had high hopes, as it emanates from the Cato Institute. I've noticed the author, Michael D. Tanner, writing a lot of good stuff in the past. But…

That's not to say it's bad, it's merely "not awful", could have been better. Poverty is not a burning issue in America, causing pols to me more vocal about what they'll do for (or, more likely, to) you. Still, if you walk around with open eyes, it's hard bot to be concerned.

What causes American poverty? Guess what? It's complicated. Tanner discusses (some of) the usual culprits: racism, sexism, changing social attitudes, economic dislocation, etc. And his proposed reforms are conveniently listed:

  1. Reform the criminal justice system, end the war on drugs.
  2. Reform education system and stop the slide of the U.S. in education outcomes.
  3. Bring down the cost of housing.
  4. Make it easier for the poor to bank, save, borrow and invest–and start businesses.
  5. Increase economic growth and make it more inclusive.

All worthy endeavours, and the sub-reforms (e.g., reform of regulations, occupational licensing, zoning, etc.) are congenial to liberty-minded folks who are also compassionate toward the less well-off.

So what was not so good about the book?

  • You'd think that Charles Murray would have made a more frequent appearance in a libertarian-oriented book about poverty. But as far as Tanner seems to be concerned, Murray's contribution started and ended with 1984's Losing Ground. But The Bell Curve (1994) described a significant correlation between intelligence and poverty. And Coming Apart (2012) went into more detail on "assortive mating"; to the extent that IQ is heritable, the haves and the have-nots tend to procreate with each other, and the correlation propagates into the likely future.

    But it's not just (specifically) Murray, the issue of intelligence is, as near as I can tell, entirely absent from Tanner's book. OK, so maybe Tanner thinks it's unimportant. But (still) we're owed at least a cursory dismissal of why he thinks it's unimportant.

  • Also largely absent is Thomas Sowell. His insight that statistical disparities between groups need not, and often are not the result of invidious discrimination goes unmentioned. And Tanner usually assumes the worst, especially in his discussion of criminal justice. (Yes, African-Americans are jailed out of proportion to their presence in the popultion. But they also commit more crime,)

  • Similarly, the issue of immigration is (as near as I can tell) MIA in Tanner's book. Specifically, low-skilled immigration. Tanner is eloquent on the damage that minimum wage laws do to the poor: they literally make it illegal to hire someone whose value to the employer might not make economic sense.

    So, what about an increased supply of low-skill labor? What does that do to the poor job-seeker?

    Again, Tanner might not find this important. But (again) not mentioning it at all is difficult to excuse.

  • Finally, a quibble: in a mostly-good discussion of the need to provide financial/banking services to the poor, Tanner includes this bit of evidence:

    For instance, according to the Federal Reserve, 46 percent of adults say they either could not cover an emergency expense costing $400, or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money.

    It's not that simple, and (guess what) I found a more nuanced discussion on the Cato blog (because this was also a talking point of presidential ex-candidate John Hickenlooper): Is it True that 40% of Americans Can't Handle a $400 Emergency Expense? Asked and answered by Alan Reynolds:

    The question was about how people would choose to pay a $400 “emergency expense” — not whether or not they could pay it out of savings (or checking) if they wanted to.  Respondents were also free to choose more than one way of paying the extra $400 (“please selects [sic] all that apply”), so the answers add up [to] 143% rather than 100%.  Even if 100% said they could pay an extra $400 with cash, there could still be more than 40% who would choose a different method.

    It turns out that 86% would pay cash or charge it and then pay off the bill at the next statement (many consumers autopay credit card bills from checking accounts). Some (11%) said they might borrow some or all of it from a friend or family member, but that probably means a spouse or parent in most cases (respondents included full-time students).

    I.e., Tanner either should have reported this more carefully, or left it out. This sloppiness says that there may be problems in some of those other footnotes and citations as well.

Bottom line: not awful. Could have, and should have, been much better.

The Phony Campaign

2019-08-18 Update

[Amazon Link]

No changes in our phony lineup this week, but the Betfair wagerers continue to be disenchanted with Kamala, sending her back to pre-debate lows. But Liz's odds continue to improve, as she's now the favorite candidate among those not named Donald.

And it's been a relatively quiet week on the phony front, with our leaders, Trump and Bernie, shedding over 3 million phony hits. (Which, see below, were probably not there in the first place.) But in these times, "relatively quiet" means it's gone from "aircraft carrier deck" to "unlubricated chain saw".

Case in point, Ellie Bufkin of the Washington Examiner is seemingly tasked with amplifying every lie, gaffe, stumble, or stutter of the Democratic candidates, and the best she could do this week is: Kamala Harris marks Muslim holiday: ‘Finally got my pork chop!’. Kamala was at the Iowa State Fair.

Also at the fair was Cory Booker, vegan. He went for a fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But fried in what, Ellie? Come on, do some reporting!

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
8/11
Phony
Results
Change
Since
8/11
Donald Trump 46.5% -1.3% 2,760,000 -2,070,000
Bernie Sanders 7.0% +0.3% 1,910,000 -1,010,000
Pete Buttigieg 2.7% unch 848,000 +1,000
Joe Biden 12.0% -0.7% 411,000 -149,000
Elizabeth Warren 15.2% +3.2% 219,000 -121,000
Kamala Harris 5.5% -1.1% 124,000 -190,000
Andrew Yang 2.9% +0.6% 30,300 -2,600

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

  • So it's been kind of a tough week for candidate phoniness, but fortunately the New York Times is on the case, publishing an exposé by Kevin Roose on The Phony Patriots of Silicon Valley.

    Not long ago, many leading technologists considered themselves too lofty and idealistic to concern themselves with the petty affairs of government. John Perry Barlow, a lion of the early internet, addressed his “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” to the “governments of the industrial world,” saying that for him and his fellow netizens, these creaky institutions had “no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.”

    But that was before privacy scandals, antitrust investigations, congressional hearings, Chinese tariffs, presidential tweets and Senator Elizabeth Warren.

    Targets of Roose's scorn: Peter Thiel, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple. Apparently they are… well, it's hard to pull a coherent thesis out of Roose's words. He's long on snarky descriptions of Big Tech government interactions, short on demonstrating that they exhibit even nominal patriotism, let alone the phoniness thereof.

    But: "Not long ago"? Barlow's famed declaration was initially published in 1996, 23 years ago.


  • The Fox News website describes a Fox News show segment ("Fox & Friends"): Dan Bongino on Bernie Sanders calling Trump 'an idiot': Biggest phony I've ever seen in politics. Among other things:

    Bongino argued Sanders and others on the left show hypocrisy on the issue of climate change by using private jets to travel.

    "He is the biggest fake I've ever seen in politics and I can't believe people are getting suckered by this guy every day," he added.

    In addition, Don called Sanders a "fraud". No wonder this was near the top of the Google results.

    Hey, why don't I get paid for going on cable TV and shouting insults and namecalling? Better, I could do it on either CNN, MSNBC, or Fox! Just tell me who to hate!


  • At National Review,  Alexandra DeSanctis profiles Pete Buttigieg: Christian Moralist of the Left.

    Pete Buttigieg isn’t always sure that he knows what it means to be a moral Christian. But he’s pretty certain you aren’t one.

    […]

    “The left is rightly committed to a separation of church and state,” he told USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers in an April interview, “but we need to not be afraid to invoke arguments that are convincing on why Christian faith is going to point you in a progressive direction.”

    Did you catch that? Underneath the McKinseyesque jargon, Buttigieg is asserting that being a good Christian means you must embrace progressive ideology. This is how he’s spoken about religion for the entirety of his campaign, wielding it like a cudgel against anyone who hesitates to champion his policy prescriptions.

    Mayor Pete is a strident moralist right up to… you guessed it, when the discussion turns to abortion.


  • The Washington Times reports: Bernie Sanders' 'Medicare for All' sputters as Kamala Harris, 2020 Democrats flee.

    When Sen. Bernard Sanders reintroduced his “Medicare for All” bill in the Senate in April, four of his fellow Democratic presidential hopefuls signed on with him, thrilling liberal activists who believed the universal health care proposal was becoming unstoppable.

    Four months later, Mr. Sanders is looking more and more like a lonely holdout after watching his allies slink away as politics of the plan shift.

    I think the Washington Times overstates the back-off. Even though Kamala is a famous waffler on this sticky point, Elizabeth Warren is still on board. Good luck on getting a straight answer from anyone, though.


  • Finally, at National Review, Kevin D. Williamson on the eighth dwarf, Wheezy: Joe Biden, Designated White Guy. KDW is especially keen in his analysis of Barack Obama's pickle in finding himself the 2008 Democratic nominee:

    And so Obama’s balancing act: a Wilsonian-Johnsonian commitment to expanding the welfare state and regimenting critical sectors of the economy under Washington’s direction; all that dopey, content-free “hope and change” stuff that worked so well for Bill Clinton; and, in both international relations and sensitive domestic cultural affairs, a politics of respectability, which was often enough in practice a politics of condescension — and insincerity. Senator Obama, you’ll recall, was too much of a social conservative to stand a chance in today’s Democratic party — he opposed homosexual marriage and cited his religious beliefs in service of that position, meaning that 2008’s great progressive hope is 2019’s irredeemable hate monster. Not many people thought that he actually believed any of that, but they admired the calculation and the so-called realism of his self-conscious positioning. Democrats do not mind being lied to if they are skillfully lied to — Bill Clinton left the White House a hero.

    Barack Obama is famously unsentimental, including on racial questions, for instance in shaping his romantic life in a way that would comport better with his political ambitions. When it came time for him to choose a running mate, his short list consisted exclusively of white, moderate, establishment Democratic figures, mostly with Catholic backgrounds: a governor of Kansas, a governor and senator from Indiana, a governor of Virginia, and Joe Biden, an eternal Senate fixture who had chaired two committees important to the Obama campaign: Foreign Relations, which might help provide some heft on international relations that Obama’s own résumé wanted, and Judiciary, which would make the vice president a potential asset in high-court confirmation hearings. It was put out that Mrs. Clinton was under consideration, but Obama himself apparently never took that idea seriously.

    So Biden's "Obama likes me!" schtick sounds a lot better than "Obama made a cynical political calculation and picked me!"