The Phony Campaign

2020-02-23 Update

[Amazon Link]

Well, that went well. The Nevada Democratic caucus, that is. At least procedurally.

Glass-half-full optimists can take heart from the fact that about two-thirds of Nevada Dems voted for someone not named Bernie.

Pessimists will note: they voted for people only slightly worse.

The Betfair punters deemed Mayor Mike the week's big loser, probably due to his lousy debate performance. Bernie's odds improved dramatically. And so did Trump's, less dramatically.

In the phony standings, Trump maintains his commanding lead over all Democrat contenders. But Bernie has slipped into second place ahead of Wheezy Joe:

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
2/16
Phony
Results
Change
Since
2/16
Donald Trump 58.5% +0.9% 1,930,000 +280,000
Bernie Sanders 23.7% +7.5% 501,000 +74,000
Joe Biden 3.0% -1.1% 475,000 +26,000
Pete Buttigieg 2.0% -0.4% 174,000 -56,000
Michael Bloomberg 8.6% -5.2% 118,000 +34,800

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • The Free Beacon's Andrew Stiles tries to talk some sense into Democratic voters about what they deserve: Democrats Deserve a Younger, Healthier Frontrunner in 2020.

    The Democratic primary has rapidly devolved into a bitter squabble between 78-year-old socialist Bernie Sanders and 78-year-old billionaire Michael Bloomberg. Former vice president and 77-year-old train enthusiast Joe Biden is also technically running. The self-described "party of the future" appears to be doing everything in its power to ensure a second term for President Donald J. Trump.

    The most youthful Democrat with a realistic shot at the nomination is Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of Indiana's fourth-largest city who won't shut up about the time he studied abroad in Afghanistan. He's riding high after strong finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire but is in for a rude awakening once the voting starts in states that aren't dominated by his core demographic of wealthy whites with graduate degrees and West Wing fetishes.

    Andrew's solution to the dilemma may shock and/or amuse you.


  • At the (possibly paywalled) WSJ, James Freeman looks at How Bloomberg and Sanders Made Their Fortunes.

    Michael Bloomberg is a lot wealthier than Bernie Sanders. But there’s a case to be made that Mr. Sanders has been more creative in developing his business model. Who would have guessed that being a full-time socialist in the United States could result in a net worth more than 25 times that of the median American household?

    [Amazon Link]

    Factoid about Bernie's fortune: "Mr. Sanders’ Senate and presidential campaign organizations have spent a total of more than $500,000 buying copies of his books." The campaigns then give the books "free" to contributors.

    That's a pretty good scam, and probably legal. Freeman credits a new book by Peter Schweizer, Amazon link at right.


  • Megan McArdle warns us at the Washington Post: Bernie Sanders is not just a garden-variety social democrat.

    The world of comic books, in which characters are constantly dying and being revived or reinvented for a new legion of fans, eventually had to invent a concept known as the “retcon” — short for “retroactive continuity.”

    You’ll have noticed the phenomenon in film and television even if you never knew its name: “retconning” means altering an already-established past story line, to cover up growing plot holes or simply to free an author to craft a more enjoyable narrative in the present, one unhindered by the back catalogue.

    The term has obvious applications to modern politics. As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) looks increasingly likely to win the Democratic nomination, left-of-center people are anxious to downgrade Sanders’s self-described socialism into something more politically palatable — like Great Society liberalism, or perhaps, at maximum, a Nordic-style welfare state.

    One problem among many, as Megan notes: many of the Nordic countries that Bernie cites have already tried and given up on the policies Bernie's actually proposing.


  • You may have seen this already, but just in case, don't miss Sean Davis's essay at the Federalist: So God Made A Bloomberg.

    And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a tiny, soulless technocrat to tell everyone else how to live their lives.” So God made a Bloomberg.

    God said, “I need a know-it-all Wall Street banker who made more money by getting fired than most men will make their entire lives working an honest job.” So God made a Bloomberg.

    “I need somebody with hands strong enough to carry a stool and a booster seat wherever he goes, but gentle enough to sign the voter registration papers as a Democrat, and then a Republican, and then an independent, and then a Democrat again.

    … and there's more. In case you don't get the inspiration, check out the late Paul Harvey's "So God Made a Farmer".


  • At Reason, Scott Shackford notes the ease with which well-meaning social media rules against deception can become weaponized tools of censorship: Twitter’s New ‘Deceptive Video’ Labeling Plan Immediately Abused To Attack a Silly Joke Ad from Bloomberg. While it's still outside the memory hole:

    In the video, Mike Bloomberg asks if it's "fair" for him to point out that he's the only person in the debate who has started a business, followed by 20 seconds of quick cuts back and forth between the other candidates saying nothing. This is obviously not what actually happened, and the fact that they've edited in crickets chirping is a pretty big tell. But then, the idea that there would be 20 seconds of silence about anything in one of these debates is an absurd, over-the-top concept.

    So the ad is clearly a joke, on that's in the spirit of a lot of political advertisements. You'd have to be a pretty credulous rube to think it's real. But some very loud people seem to think you're a rube—or think pretending you're a rube will help them take advantage of some new rules Twitter is implementing in March. And by take advantage of some new rules, I mean chill political speech.

    Unsurprising: The party that pretty much unanimously despises Citizens United is the party looking to shut down political speech.


  • So one last bit of New Hampshire Primary fallout, as reported by Michael Graham at Inside Sources. Pro-Warren Progressive Group: NH Dems Made 'Terrible Mistake' Backing Klobuchar.

    “So…the voters of New Hampshire just made a terrible mistake.”

    That’s the first line of a press release from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) on Monday attacking Granite State voters for boosting the candidacy of Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

    “Exit polls show that Amy Klobuchar picked over 10 points in the final couple days before the New Hampshire primary because of…a couple good zingers in the last debate,” the PCCC said. “Klobuchar has faced no scrutiny this year. New Hampshire voters didn’t know that Klobuchar voted to confirm two-thirds of Trump judges to lifetime appointments -— and has one of the most conservative records of any Democrat.”

    The press release also included a tweet from “a progressive voice:”

    “Time for Tina Fey to polish off that Sarah Palin impression and tweak it for Amy. #NotPresidential.”

    Amy beat Liz badly in NH (19.8% vs 9.2%). But thanks to the "Progressive Change Campaign Committee" telling us that NH Democrats are easily swayed by "good zingers". That explains a lot.

    So the remedy is obviously to beg Tina Fey to come up with… good anti-Amy zingers on SNL. That's an interesting strategy.


  • But speaking of Amy, she had a "gaffe" by forgetting the name of the Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos. And she forgot it on Telemundo. Doh!

    Speaking of zingers, she was zinged by the recent debate moderator and also Mayor Pete. (Pete and Amy apparently despise each other.)

    But she has an excuse, as reported by the Daily Wire: I Was Too Tired, ‘This Is Not A Game Of Jeopardy’.

    “You were asked to give the name of the president of Mexico, you couldn’t at the time, mayor Buttigieg did know the name, and he says it helps his argument that Washington experience is not necessary to be president. Does it?” CNN host Anderson Cooper asked Klobuchar.

    Klobuchar, appearing flummoxed, stuttered for a moment as she attempted to explain herself. Most impressively, she even managed to lay some of her gaffe’s blame at the feet of President Trump, because she was apparently too tired after being in the “Senate all day” voting on a resolution to rein in his power.

    “Well, first of all I would like to give my greetings to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the president of Mexico,” Klobuchar began. “When that happened, for what it’s worth, I had been in the Senate all day, we had six votes, including a resolution to be a check on the president so that he does not go to war with Iran. I got on a plane and got there, I think, at midnight my time, and had a fast interview, and then did two forums after that, ending at about two or three in the morning.”

    In response to Mayor Buttigieg’s dig, Klobuchar suggested he stop acting like the election is a “game of ‘Jeopardy.'”

    I'm not a fan of gotcha questions. (Ever since Gary Johnson spaced on Aleppo back in 2016.) But I'd actually watch a Jeopardy!-style competition between the candidates.

    I believe it would strengthen democracy.

URLs du Jour

2020-02-22

[Amazon Link]

  • As predictably as the sun rising in the east, special interests will demand increased state regulation to hamper their competitors. At Reason, Elizabeth Nolan Brown notes the latest instance: Newspaper Lobbyists and Encryption Foes Join the Chorus Against Section 230.

    The Department of Justice has joined the campaign against Section 230, the federal law that enables the internet as we know it. Its effort is probably part of Washington's ongoing battle against encrypted communications. And legacy news media companies are apparently all to happy to help them in this fight.

    On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice held a "public workshop" on Section 230. Predictably, it wound being up a greatest hits of the half-truths and paranoid bellyaching commonly employed against this important law.

    Barr's jihad against strong encryption doesn't quite fit in the regulate-my-competitors model, but of course the government uses strong encryption itself. At least I hope it does. So, yeah, the point is to deny us the tools the government uses itself.


  • At Inside Sources, Michael Graham apparently has the goods on my current CongressCritter, Chris Pappas: Pappas Spends Tens of Thousands of Tax Dollars on Facebook Ads, Repeatedly Violated FB Guidelines.

    New Hampshire Congressman Chris Pappas has worked hard to maintain a low profile since winning his First Congressional District seat, a district Donald Trump carried in 2016. However, he hasn’t been shy about communicating with his constituents the old-fashioned way: Spending tax money on political messages.

    For decades, Congress has dealt with recurring scandals involving “franking privileges” — taxpayer-funded mailings to voters back home. However, in recent years, more members have moved to social media and Facebook to spread the news of their accomplishments. Buying ads promoting their official Facebook (FB) pages is one way to get the word out to future voters — and on the voters’ dime.

    No idea of what Facebook rule Pappas ran afoul, but I'm afraid this scandal won't stink badly enough to send him back to peddling dangerous chicken tenders in Manchester.


  • More rebuttal to the "American Compass" project, this time from Alberto Mingardi at the Library of Economics and Liberty: Oren Cass as a gift to Bernie Sanders.

    Were I Bernie Sanders, I would continuously quote Oren Cass and his ambition of giving the United States an industrial policy.

    Though he is more nuanced and moderate than most advocates of an “entrepreneurial state”, Cass interprets industrial policy as being oriented towards supporting manufacturing and “vital sectors that might otherwise suffer from underinvestment”. That definition, as always with industrial policy, is loose enough to be applicable to pretty much everything. What is a vital sector? How do you assess under-investment?

    Industrial policy is meant to be discretionary, because it aims to correct alleged errors on the part of investors and consumers in the market economy insofar as the allocation of resources is concerned. It is “picking winners”, and picking winner needs a picker.

    Click through for more, including links to criticism that you might not have seen here.


  • Have you been wondering whether Mike Bloomberg's technocratic arrogance is at odds with America's founders? Well, Rich Lowry has an answer for that: Mike Bloomberg’s technocratic arrogance is at odds with America’s founders. Especially amusing is the compare-and-contrast with our current Prez:

    If November were to come down to a Trump-Bloomberg race — despite the former New York City mayor’s woeful debating skills — Americans would get the choice of swapping one president with an aconstitutional view of the office for another.

    The two New York City billionaires are studies in contrast, except no one would think to feature either one of them in an episode of “Schoolhouse Rock.”

    Trump views the presidency through the prism of what’s most gratifying to him, especially his insatiable need for attention; Bloomberg would view it through the prism of what’s good for you, as filtered through his supreme confidence that, he, and only he, truly knows what that is.

    Trump’s ego feeds off constant praise and airtime; Bloomberg’s feeds off his belief that he’s the smartest guy in the room, in fact, in any room, and that you’d inevitably agree with him if only you were as intelligent, rational and public-spirited as he is.

    Devastating, and, to my mind, on-target.

URLs du Jour

2020-02-21

If you need a compass…

[Amazon Link]

  • At National Review, Oren Cass lays out the rationale for his new project, American Compass: Economics with People Included.

    Today we are announcing the formation of American Compass, an organization dedicated to helping American conservatism recover from its chronic case of market fundamentalism. In preparation, we have been perusing the mission statements of many of our nation’s think tanks. Nearly every group has one. Oddly, the right-of-center’s preeminent public-policy institutions all have the same one: to advance the principles of “limited government, free enterprise, and individual liberty” or “free markets and limited, effective government” or “free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom” or “individual liberty, limited government, free markets” or “economic choice and individual responsibility” or “individual, economic, and political freedom; private enterprise; and representative government.”

    Without question, those principles are vital. But an emphasis so monotonal is neither supportive of effective deliberation nor genuinely conservative. “Why don’t we look at a policy and just ask, does it expand economic freedom?” suggests Heritage Foundation vice president Jack Spencer. Because there is more to life than economic freedom. Also, there is more to economic freedom than economic freedom. A society that attempts to maximize everyone’s freedom at every moment will fail miserably in preserving individual liberty and limiting government over time.

    Well, pardon me if I'm not all that worried about the creeping menace of "market fundamentalism", Oren. But let's look at some other reactions.


  • Jonah Goldberg asks, rhetorically: Does Anyone Really Believe Free Market Fundamentalists Are ‘Running the Show’?

    I keep hearing people say or imply that libertarians and free market “fundamentalists” have been running the show in Washington. I honestly have no idea what they’re talking about—and neither do any libertarians I know. In fairness to Cass, he doesn’t make the barmy claim that Washington has been run by libertarians, just the slightly less barmy claim that Republican party has been. I still have no idea what he’s talking about—and, again, neither do any libertarians I know. 

    (As an aside, whenever I hear arguments that Group X is running everything, I know I’m dealing with an argument that is spiced with some dosage of conspiratorialism and exaggeration. Here’s a newsflash: No one is running everything—not the Deep State, not the Jews, not the Frankfurt School Marxists, the globalists, the donor class, or the lizard people. One of the great things about advanced democracies is that every faction is competing for power and influence and none of them ever fully succeeds. Even when one faction dominates the conversation or policymaking, it isn’t long before they overstep, atrophy, or lose their mojo because even limited success tends to dissolve the reasons for certain coalitions to come together in the first place. It’s a bit analogous to Joseph Schumpeter’s argument for why monopolies cannot long endure so long as they are not protected by the state. Monopolies create the circumstances for their own demise as more nimble entrepreneurs innovate them into obsolescence.)

    Looking at the latest trillion-dollar deficit, I'm not getting the feeling that anyone with a shred of fiscal sanity is in charge, let alone the market fundamentalists.


  • And Don Boudreaux weighs in at the PIttsburgh Tribune-Review with a truism: Conservatives can be just as mistaken as ‘progressives’. After debunking some stats Oren Cass uses to demonstrate economic travail:

    Cass errs also in failing to understand the incompatibility with liberty and prosperity of schemes designed to protect community and industry.

    Joseph Schumpeter, Julian Simon and Deirdre McCloskey are only three of the economists who’ve demonstrated that high and rising prosperity for ordinary people is the result of innovation that destroys old patterns of production and replaces these with new and better ones. Such “creative destruction” is inescapable for those who wish to be members of a society that grows and prospers economically.

    Yet Cass and other proponents of “national conservativism” are uncomfortable with creative destruction. Obsessing over the destruction, they’re blind to the creativity.

    It’s true that patterns of production, work, and community life are changed by competition and the innovation that it inspires. It has been so for the past two centuries. But it’s untrue that the replacement of older forms of community engagement with new forms necessarily means less, or less-satisfying, personal engagement with others.

    Still, Oren could have a point about decay of old institutions, deaths of despair, etc. But kicking capitalism in the nards isn't likely to bring back the good old days.


  • Harvard econ prof Greg Mankiw has A Question for Bernie. And I'm just gonna include the Whole Thing:

    "Senator Sanders. You regularly say that you want the U.S. healthcare system to be more like those in Europe, with their less expensive, more inclusive, government-run systems. Well, in Europe, physicians are paid less than half what physicians are paid in the United States. (See below.) Is a massive cut in physician salaries a part of your vision for the future of the U.S. healthcare system under a Sanders administration? If so, don't you think you should warn the roughly one million U.S. physicians of that fact now? If not, is it realistic to expect the cost savings that you are promising?"

    And the accompanying graphic from (I assume reliable) Medscape:

    [International Physician Earnings]

    I've wondered about this for a while, good on Prof Mankiw for digging it out.

    I'd add that (almost certainly) this effect isn't restricted to doctors, but all workers in that sector. Not that I begrudge them, they are (mostly) honest people responding to incentives. But "we" are wildly overpaying for the care we receive.


  • And James Pethokoukis continues his debunking of progressive memes about the economy. This time, he asks How many Americans live in poverty? In response to the claim that “140 million Americans are either poor or low-income.”:

    This number comes from an Institute for Policy Studies report. And it’s kind of weird. It starts off by noting that “the number of Americans in poverty has increased by 60 percent to 40.6 million” since 1968. But the US population has grown by even more, 64 percent. That’s why the official poverty rate has declined to 11.8 percent from 12.8 percent.

    Of course, that’s not much of a decline, just a percentage point in a half century. That has led some to claim that LBJ’s War on Poverty has been lost, as the official poverty rate remains near 1960s levels despite massive spending on anti-poverty programs. But that number ignores lots of anti-poverty benefits from government: food stamps, housing assistance, and Medicaid, and the value of both the Earned Income Tax Credit and the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit. 

    I'd make the related point that the "War on Poverty" did a self-evidently lousy job of lifting people out of poverty. It just made poverty more tolerable. That's not nothing, but it's not what was promised.

URLs du Jour

2020-02-20

  • Michael Ramirez is based at the Las Vegas Review-Journal so his take on the upcoming Nevada caucus is reality-based:

    [Vegas, Baby]

    Goodness, that's a beautiful cartoon.


  • For a text-based analysis of the same subject, look no further than the intrepid Veronique de Rugy at Reason, on Bernie Sanders’ Troubling Agenda.

    In a recent piece in CapX, the Cato Institute's Ryan Bourne makes an excellent case that while many European governments have implemented one or more of Sanders' dream policies, his vision for America still "goes far beyond any modern social democracy in terms of government size and scope." Consider the most recent example of two left-wing European politicians' plan to grow the U.K.'s government: Labour's Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. As hard as they've tried, what they've dreamt up still isn't as big of an expansion of government control over our wallets and lives as Sanders proposes.

    Bourne notes that Sanders would like to grow spending all the way to 70 percent of GDP. In comparison, Labour's 44 percent of GDP figure is small. While Sanders' policies include pretty much everything that Corbyn had planned, the U.S. presidential aspirant adds a few other cherries on top, like forgiving all student debt, banning private health insurance, and massively increasing spending on infrastructure and climate change.

    The referenced Ryan Bourne article here.


  • Sanders is awful, the other Democrats are not significantly better. But, as Michael Tanner points out at National Review, Debt and Deficits Will Have Huge Impact on Our Future.

    As fiscally irresponsible as the Democrats are, though, anyone concerned about the growing tide of red ink should not look to the Trump administration for a better way forward. Faced with news of trillion-dollar deficits, President Trump’s response at a Mar-a-Lago fundraiser was a dismissive, “Who the hell cares about the budget? We’re going to have a country.” And a quick glance at his record confirms that that’s not just more of his trademark bluster: He has signed $4.7 trillion of new debt into law over his first three years in office. If he wins reelection and continues at that pace, by the end of his second term, Trump will end up having added more to the national debt than President Obama. And he will have done it amid relative prosperity, rather than the recession Obama had to navigate.

    People wanting to vote for fiscal sanity in November will have to hold their noses and vote Libertarian. Or write-in.


  • And nobody paid me to watch last night, so I didn't, but the Washington Free Beacon has mushed together The Most Savage Moments of the Democratic Debate.

    I don't think it's very woke to associate Senator Warren with savagery, even given her proud Native American heritage.


  • John Tierney has been calling bullshit on performative environmentalism for a long time, and continued that proud tradition in the WSJ yesterday: Plastic Bags Help the Environment.

    […] single-use plastic bags aren’t the worst environmental choice at the supermarket—they’re the best. High-density polyethylene bags are a marvel of economic, engineering and environmental efficiency. They’re cheap, convenient, waterproof, strong enough to hold groceries but thin and light enough to make and transport using scant energy, water or other resources. Though they’re called single-use, most people reuse them, typically as trash-can liners. When governments ban them, consumers buy thicker substitutes with a bigger carbon footprint.

    Once discarded, they take up little room in landfills. That they aren’t biodegradable is a plus, because they don’t release greenhouse gases like decomposing paper and cotton bags. The plastic bags’ tiny quantity of carbon, extracted from natural gas, goes back underground, where it can be safely sequestered from the atmosphere and ocean in a modern landfill with a sturdy lining.


  • By now this should be expected, but here's the latest revolution of the euphemism treadmill, as revealed by City Journal: Progressive Elected Officials Abuse Language In An Attempt To Change How We Think.

    A new law in California bans the use, in official documents, of the term “at risk” to describe youth identified by social workers, teachers, or the courts as likely to drop out of school, join a gang, or go to jail. Los Angeles assemblyman Reginald B. Jones-Sawyer, who sponsored the legislation, explained that “words matter.” By designating children as “at risk,” he says, “we automatically put them in the school-to-prison pipeline. Many of them, when labeled that, are not able to exceed above that.”

    "At-risk" will be memory-holed, and replaced with (I am not making this up) "at-promise". The claim is that this will remove the "stigma" currently associated with "at-risk".

    Just how many milliseconds will it take sentient human beings to recognize that this is a linguistic shell game that doesn't alter reality one bit? Whatever "stigma" there is will simply move over to the new terminology.

    And then Reginald B. Jones-Sawyer will have to come up with a new term, and the cycle will repeat. That's why it's called a treadmill.


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang unexpectedly for Vishal Gullapalli's review, at a site with the excellent name Adventures in Poor Taste. He reviews a comic book Undiscovered Country #4. With this image (click for original):

    [Undiscovered Country]

    That's Destiny Man, who is allegedly the bad guy in this series. But I'm in concert with Vishal: he seems like a pretty decent sort here. That… whatever it is coming out of his rear is a tad disturbing, though.

URLs du Jour

2020-02-19

[Amazon Link]
Cute Amazon Product du Jour. But I have a quibble. Complaining on the Internet at least has a non-zero chance of persuading readers. (I'm assuming that "complaining" also covers … whatever it is I'm doing here. Complaining Plus™, maybe.)

But my voting, on the other hand, persuades zero people, and has a negligible chance of affecting the electoral outcome.

So I'm pretty sure the cute t-shirt is wrong. But it leads into our first item…

  • The good folks at Issues & Insights ask: Does Expressive Voting Trump The Rest?

    Say there was a (wildly optimistic) one-in-a-million chance that your vote would swing an electoral outcome to a result benefitting you by $10,000. Viewed instrumentally — solely as a means to an improved end — the expected value of that vote is one cent ($10,000 divided by 1 million). Such a small payoff cannot explain choosing to vote, much less adamant support for a particular candidate.

    However, people often also care about the expressive value of voting — what a vote says about the voter. Perhaps best expressed by Geoffrey Brennan and Loren Lomasky’s classic “Democracy & Decision,” it reflects the fact that, beyond voters’ instrumental incentives, they might also want to vote for something because it makes them feel better by, say, embellishing a noble self-characterization. For instance, a vote could validate one’s sense of self-worth by illustrating that “I care,” “I am patriotic,” “I am not a racist,” etc.

    It turns out that I'm pretty much an "expressive" voter. But it's not (honest) all about "burnishing my halo". I'm simply going for the candidate who, however imperfectly, aligns with my political values.

    For the life of me, I can't imagine why people do anything else.

    Which (once again) reminds me of a quote from an old movie, Catch-22:

    Dobbs: Look Yossarian, suppose, I mean just suppose everyone thought the same way you do.

    Yossarian: Then I'd be a damn fool to think any different.


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson says we got trouble. Trouble in the Workers’ Paradise. That starts with T, and that rhymes with AOC, and that stands for …

    Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is precisely the sort of campaign surrogate you want, especially if you are Bernie Sanders: She is young, energetic, charismatic, popular (with the people she needs to be popular with, anyway), and, happily, currently ineligible to run for the presidency herself.

    Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is precisely the sort of campaign surrogate you don’t want, especially if you are Bernie Sanders: She is callow, flippant, vain, shallow, and prone to making policy pronouncements that are even battier than your own, and she forgets to mention you at all in the course of making appearances that are in theory on your behalf.

    Senator Sanders is, in his bizarre way, the conservative in the Democratic presidential primary: Republicans are accused of “wanting to turn the clock back” to the 1950s, but Sanders, the confessing socialist, wants to turn the clock back to the 1930s. (The senator himself is culturally a product of the 1970s, which is what his weird little rape-fantasy literary œuvre is all about.) In the New York Times, former economist Paul Krugman poo-poos the idea that Senator Sanders means that he is a socialist when he says he is a socialist, but Sanders’s prescriptions do have a certain dustily familiar aspect to them: Health care? Nationalize it by making Medicare an effective public monopoly. Banking? Nationalize it by having the government operate its own banks, i.e. by having the state literally own the means of production.

    Which reminds me of another quote, this one from the Notebooks of Lazarus Long, by Robert A. Heinlein:

    If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for … but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong.

    If this is too blind for your taste, consult some well-meaning fool (there is always one around) and ask his advice. Then vote the other way. This enables you to be a good citizen (if such is your wish) without spending the enormous amount of time on it that truly intelligent exercise of franchise requires.

    It looks as if when November rolls around, I'll be voting against … a lot of people.


  • At American Greatness, Stephen Milloy is unimpressed with The GOP’s Carbon Capture Dodge.

    House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is releasing a climate bill this week. The purpose is “to put the GOP on the map on climate” in response to polls reporting that enough young voters have finally succumbed to a lifetime of being propagandized on climate.

    No sane Republican politician would saddle our economy with pointlessly expensive—the only kind that there are—climate regulations. But there are many who would gladly try to appease climate alarmists by throwing around limited amounts of taxpayer dollars on various boondoggles to make it look like they take the matter seriously. One of these boondoggles is carbon capture and sequestration (CCS)—which is the focus of McCarthy’s bill.

    Milloy goes into detail on the various boondoggles, one that (kind of obviously) increases atmospheric carbon.

    Fun note: Milloy blogs at junkscience.com where he's not shy of quoting all the people who tar and feather him as a "denier".


  • And, back to our almost-theme of voting, CNET looks at the latest technology: Microsoft ElectionGuard ("This could be Microsoft's most important product in 2020. If it works.")

    Key caveat there: "If it works."

    ElectionGuard is open-source voting-machine software that Microsoft announced in May 2019. In Microsoft's demo, voters make their choices by touchscreen before printing out two copies. A voter is supposed to double-check one copy before placing it into a ballot box to be counted by election workers. The other is a backup record with a QR code the voter can use to check that the vote was counted after polls close. 

    Open source is good for this kind of thing, of course.


  • And Sky News previews the American "Medicare for All" future with the latest from Old Blighty: NHS staff can refuse to treat racist or sexist patients under new rules.

    Sexist and racist patients could be barred from non-emergency care at NHS trusts, under new rules to be enforced from April.

    Currently, staff can refuse to treat non-critical patients who are verbally aggressive or physically violent towards them.

    But these protections will extend to any harassment, bullying or discrimination, including homophobic, sexist or racist remarks.

    No slippery slope there.

URLs du Jour

2020-02-18

Bizarre pic today, right? I can't figure out what's going on here. "Mr. Giant, I'll give you this big dollar sign for that even bigger mask!" "OK, little running man, it's a deal!"

  • At National Review, David Harsanyi is upset with The Roger Stone Double Standard.

    Whether Roger Stone, the loopy, self-aggrandizing political operative, deserves nine years in Supermax for obstructing an investigation into Russia–Donald Trump “collusion” is debatable. Whether the powerful men who helped create the investigation that ensnared Stone have been allowed to lie with impunity is not. They have.

    Only a few days after prosecutors melodramatically left the DOJ after Trump tweeted a defense of Stone and the DOJ subsequently revised its sentencing recommendation to be more lenient, former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe was informed that he wouldn’t face charges. McCabe faced an inquiry into whether he broke the law when he denied to investigators that he had leaked information concerning a Clinton Foundation probe to the press.

    I've seen good arguments both ways on Mr. Stone. (Kevin D. Williamson is a lock-him-up guy, for example.)


  • At Spectator USA, Will Lloyd derives some loopy fun from the antics of one of the clowns in the car: Joe Biden should do town halls forever.

    While a successful politician in many ways, Joe Biden’s attempts to become president are marked by quite a severe flaw — he cannot enter a town hall without saying something stupid. What would American democracy be without Joe Biden garlanding astonished voters with insults and imprecations of every kind? God bless that man. Biden has been making a fool of himself at these events for so long now that I’m fairly sure Alexis de Tocqueville observed this phenomenon in a celebrated passage from his Democracy in America (1835):

    ‘I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers — and it was not there…in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there…in her rich mines and her vast world commerce — and it was not there…in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution — and it was not there.’

    Indeed, it was not until I went into the town halls of America and heard Joe Biden, aflame with righteousness, describe a young woman as a ‘lying, dog-faced pony soldier’ did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she allows crazy old men to talk nonsense without interruption, and if America ever ceases to allow this deluded old mariner to run for president, she will cease to be great.

    Since I have a vested interest in staying amused, I hope Joe doesn't drop out soon.


  • Deirdre McCloskey writes at Reason: Steal This Intellectual Property.

    In 1971 the yippie radical Abbie Hoffman wrote a book advocating resistance to government, capitalism, and the "Pig Nation." Steal This Book advocated shoplifting, squatting, and other methods of living off other people for free. The title and the contents made the manuscript hard to peddle. But when it finally got a publisher it sold well in bookstores, which was good for Hoffman financially. It turns out that most people want to live off other people not by stealing but by paying a fair price earned by their own labors. Hoffman remarked, "It's embarrassing when you try to overthrow the government"—and capitalism—"and you wind up on the Best Seller's List."

    I want you to steal what the lawyers self-interestedly call "intellectual property": Hoffman's book or my books or E=mc2 or the Alzheimer's drug that the Food and Drug Administration is "testing" in its usual bogus and unethical fashion. I want the Chinese to steal "our" intellectual property, so that consumers worldwide get stuff cheaply. I want everybody to steal every idea, book, chemical formula, Stephen Foster lyric—all of it. Steal, steal, steal. You have my official economic permission.

    I'm glad Deirdre's OK with it, but I bet if I walked out of Barnes&Noble with her latest book under my arm, the gendarmes would be called. So that wouldn't be prudent. I'll be content with quoting her "liberally" here at Pun Salad. (Heh.)

    She was on C-SPAN2 last night. Mrs. Salad commented on Deidre's voice. I had to explain.


  • Mickey Kaus is Chastising Amy. Klobuchar, that is.

    In her triumphant speech after a strong third place finish in New Hampshire, new MSM darling Amy Klobuchar said this:

    America deserves a president who's gonna take on the challenges of our time: Climate change and affordable education and college, immigration reform, justice and democracy and, yes, bringing down the cost of health care

    Hmm. The rap on Klobuchar is she's smart and capable but "small bore," gubernatorial, focused on meaningful but wildly incremental victories like getting an extra day in the hospital for women after they’ve given birth (something she boasts about in her stump speech).

    Here she's hanging a lantern on her problem, and [she's right] to do so — presidents are supposed to take on “the challenges of our time."

    But look at her list:. Those are the big challenges?

    Mickey lists some other challenges he'd like to see addressed: Alienation; Meritocratic inequality; Mass migration; China; Robots.

    What about the robots, Amy?! Is Andrew Yang the only person worried about the robots?


  • At AEI, James Pethokoukis asks the question Are most Americans really living paycheck to paycheck? All the Democrats seem to think that's happening, but…

    Anyway, a more rigorous way to get at this issue of financial vulnerability is the Federal Reserve’s annual report on household well–being. The most recent one found that 39 percent of respondents said they wouldn’t be able to scrape together the cash to meet a $400 emergency expense, while 61 percent said they would cover it with cash, savings, or a credit card paid off at the next statement. 

    Now here’s what’s weird and why you need to be careful with surveys: A footnote in the survey highlights 2016 research that found 76 percent of households had at least $400 in liquid assets, far higher than even the 60 percent with cash or its equivalent. 

    See, there’s a thing called the “credit card debt puzzle,” where some people choose to hold both high–interest credit card debt and cash that could be used to pay down that debt. And the survey itself poses the question: “Although so many incurring additional costs for a modest expense is disconcerting, it is possible that some would choose to borrow even if they had $400 available, preserving their cash as a buffer for other expenses.”

    This is the second Democrat meme-debunker from James, and I look forward to more.

Angel Eyes

[Amazon Link]

The latest Spenser novel by Ace Atkins, continuing the Robert B. Parker series. Mr. Atkins has really hit his stride, turning out content that's very comparable to the original.

Yeah, I know: this whole thing is pretty ghoulish. I'm not sure how I'd react to (say) someone resurrecting the Kinsey Millhone series that Sue Grafton didn't get around to finishing. (Z is for Zero, then looping back around with A is for Avarice, B is for Buy This Book, C is for Cupidity, …).

Anyway, this is set in Los Angeles, where wannabe Hollywood starlet Gabby Leggett has dropped out of sight. Gabby's Boston-based mom hires Spenser to find out what happened to her.

And immediately I have quibbles: What, not local boy Elvis Cole? At least Mom would have saved some travel, lodging, and dining expenses. (Spenser grows fond of eating at Gjusta in Venice, and seems fond of the $17 huevos rancheros with $7 almond butter toast on the side.)

Spenser has help from series supporting characters: Zebulon Sixkill, a comrade Spenser met in the final Parker-written novel, now an LA private eye. And also Chollo, a marginal thug. And eventually (small spoiler) Susan Silverman shows up to help out. (Let me utter a minor heresy: Mr. Atkins manages to make Susan more tolerable than Parker did.)

No Hawk this time around.

Anyway, Spenser engages his usual detecting methods: asking around, making a pest of himself, until thugs show up to shoot him, women try to seduce him, moguls try to bribe him, cops threaten to arrest him… you, know, the usual stuff. There is the usual amount of sharply-observed scenery and characters, replete with wisecracks and testosterone.

And (speaking of Elvis Cole) there's a skim-and-you'll-miss-it Joe Pike cameo. I may have missed others.

URLs du Jour

2020-02-17

[Amazon Link]

  • UColorado philosophy prof Michael Huemer has the good news for people worrying about Trump getting re-elected: We Are Doomed. Make that "Doomed, Anyway".

    Obviously, humanity will at some future time be extinct. That goes without saying. That’s almost a metaphysical truth; nothing (of the relevant kinds) lasts forever.

    There is a fascinating Wikipedia article about the far future, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_far_future, which includes (among other things) many events that could extinguish life on Earth. The Sun will leave the main sequence (running out of hydrogen) within about 5 billion years. It will probably engulf the Earth within 8 billion years. Long before that, though, multiple other disastrous things are expected to happen. One item says that within only 600 million years, all plants that use C3 photosynthesis (99% of all plant species) will die. Another item says that the rest of the plants will probably die within 800 million years.

    I don’t think any people are going to live to see any of that happen, though. I think we’ll die of stupidity long before that. (Life will probably still continue without us, though. E.g., the bacteria will have hundreds of millions of years to flourish without us.)

    To adapt an old joke: "Oh, wait, did you say 5 billion years? Thank goodness I thought you said 5 million!"

    I hadn't heard that about C3 photosynthesis before. Sobering!


  • Mr. Kevin D. Williamson notes our changing times at National Review: Socialism Once Again the Left's Rallying Cry. And he makes an interesting point at the end:

    “All voting is a sort of gaming,” Henry David Thoreau wrote, “like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it. The character of the voters is not staked. I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that that right should prevail. I am willing to leave it to the majority. Its obligation, therefore, never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority.” If we are to have something more than mere majoritarianism — if there is to be a truth superseding that “power of the majority” — then we are going to need those ideas that our populists and nationalists and self-declared pragmatists hold in contempt along with the kinds of minds that can produce them.

    “Oh, be practical!” you say? Survey the scene in 2020 and tell me with a straight face that it represents the flowering of some practical good. As the philosopher might have asked, “If the pragmatism you followed brought you to this, of what use was the pragmatism?”

    That's a … deep thought. Unfortunately, if you're not an NRPLUS person, it's probably paywalled.


  • At Reason, Ronald Bailey asks: What Happens to the U.S. Population If Immigration Rises Substantially or Halts Entirely? And the Census Bureau gives us its best guess.

    U.S. population could increase from 323 million in 2016 to as high as 447 million by 2060—or fall as low as 320 million. It depends on how many immigrants are admitted over the next four decades, according to new report from the Census Bureau.

    The report sketches out four scenarios for 2060. If current levels of immigration are maintained, the U.S. population will grow to 404 million by 2060. If immigration is cut in half, the population will rise to 376 million. If immigration increases by 50 percent, the population expands to 447 million. And if all immigration were to be halted now, the U.S. population would peak at around 332 million in 2035 and drop to 320 million in 2060.

    I will be 109 in 2060, so I'll be interested in that number.


  • The Google LFOD News alert rang for (of all things) the Bangor [Maine] Daily News, which puts on its nanny hat: Cleaning off your car isn’t the law, but it’s the right thing to do.

    It shouldn’t take a law for driver’s [sic] in Maine to respect the safety of others, and take those few extra minutes to clean their car off — even the sometimes hard to reach roof. And we understand that adding such a law could feel like a move toward a nanny state.

    Looking at our New Hampshire neighbors, however, we have to wonder: if the “Live Free or Die” state is willing and able to make this a requirement in the name of public safety, why shouldn’t Maine do the same?

    This is one of the rare cases where the Maine nanny-statists have failed to keep up with New Hampshire's. Shame!


  • And my district's current Executive Councilor, Andru Volinsky, is running for Governor, which means that people are scrambling to take his current position. For example, one Jay Surdukowski, who writes in the Concord Monitor about "Listening first". Among his points:

    Defending women’s health care: The council should not play politics with women’s health care. Having advised Planned Parenthood’s political arm for five years when they first set up their local PAC, I am steeped in knowledge of their work and one of the highlights of the 2012 election was welcoming then-Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards to my home to engage young people in the fight for reproductive health. I’m also proud to be publicly supported by three founders of New Hampshire’s first abortion clinic, which opened in 1974 – what is now the Equality Health Center.

    The council should not "play politics" with baby-killing. Just stand back and pay for it, I guess.

The Bomb

Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War

[Amazon Link]

Fred Kaplan gives the history up-to-now of America's policy toward the use of nuclear weapons.

Governments have always been pretty good at killing people; some, like the bad old USSR, Nazi Germany, and Red China, have been exceptionally good at murdering their own people.

But for the past 75 years or so, thanks to E = mc2, our governments have had the technology to "improve" their death-dealing technologies by (probably) a couple orders of magnitude. And while dealing death to civilian populations was once seen to be an off-limit atrocity even in wartime, it became an accepted (albeit controversial) tool by both sides in WW2. And since then it has become a given fact of life.

But wait, it gets better. By which I mean worse: the whole shebang can be set off by one person. And maybe by accident.

So it's an interesting, but also a scary and possibly depressing topic. This book discusses the history of how nuclear weapons policy has developed over the years: targeting strategies, escalation and de-escalation scenarios, arms control efforts, proliferation, risk mitigation, and so on.

As it turns out, our atomic war-fighting "strategy" for a number of years was pretty much "fire everything you've got at the bad guys as quickly as possible." With the near certainty that the bad guys were going to do the same.

The book is marred somewhat by the author's obvious partisanship. Pretty much all the Republicans are dimwitted, oblivious, or probably dangerous madmen. Democrats are on the side of the angels, but even when they're in power their peacekeeping efforts are continually getting thwarted by the Dr. Strangeloves and Jack D. Rippers who have a real yen for nuking the Commies until they glow.

And of course, Donald J. Trump, with his combination of willful ignorance, stupidity, and impulsive lunacy is probably gonna get us all killed. Or at the very least, a whole bunch of Koreans.

That's a slight exaggeration of the author's caricatures, but only slight.

Kaplan has done an impressive amount of historical research, digging into the declassified archives of the 1950s and 1960s. Unfortunately, but somewhat understandably, nearly all his digging is into the American side of things; there's very little insight into what the Russians are doing concurrently. I suspect there has to be some reason why we made the decisions the way we did, but Kaplan's weak on that score.

It's a brand new book that I picked up at the library on impulse, I'll be interested to read some critical reviews.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

This makes four out of last year's ten Oscar Best Picture nominees I've seen so far. Not too shabby. It didn't win Best Picture (booo!) but Brad Pitt got one for Best Supporting Actor, and it also got one for Production Design (which even I noticed was amazing). And it was nominated for seven more.

Just a quibble, though: Brad Pitt nominated for supporting actor? Come on. I think he had more screen time than Leonardo DiCaprio.

As an extra bonus, the New Yorker film critic calls this movie "obscenely regressive". No wonder I liked it so much.

Anyway: it follows buddies Rick Dalton (Leo) and Cliff Booth (Brad) in 1969 Hollywood. Rick is a fading action star: think Steve McQueen, if his career had fizzled after Wanted Dead or Alive. Cliff is his longtime stunt double, and personal chauffeur/gofer.

And Rick just happens to live next door to Roman Polanski's place in the Hollywood hills. Bouncy, bubbly, pregnant Sharon Tate is living there. And there are these filthy hippies hanging around, associated with (hey, that's Dewey Crowe) an aspiring musician named "Charlie". Oh oh.

It's a Quentin Tarantino flick, so there's a lot of swearing, smoking, and… surprisingly, not as much cynicism and violence as I would have expected. (Okay, there's a lot, but … just not as much as I would have expected.) QT clearly has a lot of affection for the time and place. And I had a lot of fun watching.