URLs du Jour

2018-11-14

[Amazon Link]

  • At the WaPo, Megan McArdle asks a darn good question: How did America end up raising Generation Paranoia?.

    In an 1827 essay titled “On the Feeling of Immortality in Youth,” English author William Hazlitt noted that “no young man believes he shall ever die . . . to be young is to be as one of the immortal gods.” That glorious fearlessness is the natural inheritance of every generation of youth. Except maybe the current one.

    As Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt chronicle in their new book, “The Coddling of the American Mind,” today’s young people tend to be obsessed with safety, troubled by a pervasive sense of threat. Consequently, understandably, they’re anxious and depressed.

    Keyboards have been worn to nubs by young writers fretting that they’ll never be able to pay off student loans, buy a house or retire. And those are their minor worries. In an Atlantic article headlined “College Is Different for the School-Shooting Generation,” Ashley Fetters describes a rising generation that constantly scans rooms for exit points and games out active-shooter scenarios.

    Paranoia driven by moral panic isn't a new thing, but I wonder: Is it worse this time around? Maybe. Gotta read that Lukianoff/Haidt book, I think.


  • But, speaking of driving moral panics, David Harsanyi has some advice for your doctor (hey, there's a switch): Yes, Doctors Should ‘Stay In Their Lane’ On Gun Policy.

    What kind of ignorant troglodyte would tell a doctor to mind his own business?

    This was, in essence, the question an incredulous media was asking after the National Rifle Association disparaged the American College of Physicians (ACP) for promoting an array of gun-control regulations last week. “Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane,” the NRA tweeted. “Half of the articles in Annals of Internal Medicine are pushing for gun control. Most upsetting, however, the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves.”

    As Mrs. Salad will tell you, many doctors talk out of their hats on nutrition issues. Harsanyi's conclusion:

    Most of the “appropriate” measures ACP floats were already on the books in California when the Thousand Oaks mass shooting occurred. Yet the ACP report is teeming with long-standing, highly debatable contentions about guns that have as much to with the wounds doctors treat as their angry reaction has to do with effective gun laws. That’s fine as a matter of activism, but there’s nothing rational or unique about this kind of positioning. And the NRA has every right to push back against groups that use science to conceal their political arguments.

    Hey, whatever happened to all those people who yelled that they bleeping loved science? I kind of miss them.


  • Although maybe some medical so-called "professionals" should get out of the lane they've claimed for themselves. According to Bruce Bawer at PJMedia: After Thousand Oaks, It's Time to Dethrone the Mental-Health 'Experts'. He takes particular note that the Thousand Oaks killer was examined by those "experts" who judged that he was "of no danger to himself or others."

    The bottom line here is that all of this so-called mental health expertise is, with a very few exceptions, a scam. The ranks of psychiatrists and psychologists are filled with incompetents who have no business deciding whether or not a mentally ill person should be hospitalized – or, once that person is hospitalized, have no business deciding whether to send him home. Topping off their incompetence is, in all too many instances, an overweening arrogance. You might think that if everyone who is closest to a person thinks he needs help, that fact would carry some weight with the psych professionals. On the contrary, one often gets the impression that these practitioners enjoy, and even pride themselves on, dismissing the pleas of a potential patient's loved ones. Perhaps they resent the idea of family members playing doctor or making diagnoses.

    I'm all for getting charlatans out of the decision-making loop. Bawer seems to think this will tilt the scales in favor of "protecting public safety" at the expense of "patient freedom". I'm uncomfortable with that bit.


  • Kevin D. Williamson recounts (in an "NRPlus Member article", don't know what that means) Florida’s Shame, and Ours.

    Conspiracy theories are bad for civic life.

    So are conspiracies.

    I wonder if there is one mentally normal adult walking these fruited plains — even the most craven, abject, brain-dead partisan Democrat — who believes that what has been going on in Broward County, Fla., is anything other than a brazen attempt to reverse the Republican victories in the state’s Senate, gubernatorial, and (not to be overlooked) agriculture commissioner’s races. I cannot imagine that there is, but it is really quite something to see partisan Democrats — the same people who pretend to believe that the 2016 presidential election was invalid because Boris and Natasha posted something on Facebook — watch not only utterly contented but with joy in their hearts as the rolling crime wave that is Broward County elections supervisor Brenda Snipes and her coconspirators try to actually steal an election or three.

    And it gets worse. I haven't been paying enough attention to judge the conspiracy charge; I suspect, however, that a lot of the people demanding ironclad smoking-gun evidence are being intentionally obtuse.


  • Michelle Obama has a book out! Fortunately, some folks are paid to read it, like Joe Setyon of Reason. Here's something he noticed: Michelle Obama Felt 'the Shadow of Affirmative Action' as Princeton Undergrad.

    Michelle Obama felt "the shadow of affirmative action" as an undergraduate student at Princeton University, the former first lady writes in her new book, Becoming.

    Obama, who graduated in 1985, says she sometimes wondered why she had been accepted into Princeton, a majority-white school, in the first place. "It was impossible to be a black kid at a mostly white school and not feel the shadow of affirmative action," Obama writes. "You could almost read the scrutiny in the gaze of certain students and even some professors, as if they wanted to say, 'I know why you're here.'" This was often "demoralizing," Obama says, while acknowledging she "was just imagining some of it."

    My guess is that Michelle probably would have gotten into Princeton on color-blind criteria.


  • I'm a longtime Jeopardy! fan, so this Mental Floss article was like catnip: Alex Trebek Knows He Sometimes Sounds Like a 'Disappointed Dad' on Jeopardy.

       If longtime Jeopardy host Alex Trebek seems disappointed any time a contestant misses a seemingly simple clue, it's because he is. Or at the very least, coming off as stern and perhaps a little smug is part of his television persona.

    As The Ringer once put it, "Trebek has two settings: mildly, politely impressed and Disappointed Dad." Now, in a recent interview with Vulture, Trebek has addressed the perception that he not-so-secretly judges contestants with an air of paternal reproach. As it turns out, he knows exactly what he's doing. "I know that 'You've disappointed daddy' is a tone I'm striking," he said. "It's also, "How can you not get this? This is not rocket science."

    Alex is … Alex, sui generis. Criticizing him for the way he acts? You might as well criticize water for being wet.

The Death of Stalin

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

It's billed at IMDB as "Comedy , Drama , History". But prospective viewer be warned: it's very dark humor. And as that Stalin t-shirt proclaims: dark humor is like food; not everyone gets it.

But I pretty much got it, I think. It is a based-on-fact movie about the events in 1953, beginning shortly before the Boss's demise, continuing until shortly after his funeral, and the inevitable power struggle is resolved. It is a only slightly sped-up good-parts version of actual events.

It is a satirical picture of a society powered largely by terror. Violence is rarely pictured directly; the movie's R rating is based mostly on its language. If people running afoul of Stalin are lucky, it's off to the Gulag; otherwise it's a bullet in the head. No less fearful are those ostensibly in power directly underneath the Beloved Leader and Teacher of Progressive Mankind. But neither are they bound by any silly rules; when it's clear that there will need to be a new ruler, the competition quickly becomes feral, as former "comrades" realize it's betray-or-be-betrayed.

You ask: how can that be funny? It's hard to explain. Certainly because of all the absurdity involved, and knowing that we're watching this from our comfy couches, and not as a participant or victim.

Acting is first-rate. According to IMDB's trivia page, the director decided to not even try for Russian accents. So Steve Buscemi as Nikita Khrushchev sounds… just like Steve Buscemi.

And Michael Palin plays Molotov as the totally craven toady that he was; a Monty Python parody without mercy.

URLs du Jour

2018-11-13

[Amazon Link]

  • A week after the election, I think it's safe to evaluate the predictions I made.

    As previously noted, I thought that the UNH Survey Center's Granite State Poll was too Democrat-lening on the three races it reported. I was right.

    I also thought Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight website was too Democrat-leaning; when I typed, the average of their models predicted a GOP Senate pickup of 0.5 seats; it appears they'll get at least 2, probably 3.

    FiveThirtyEight was pretty close on the House side. Although, in the early AM of Election Day, their average model predicted a gain of 39 House seats for the Democrats. I didn't think they'd do that well. And, although there are a number of races still to be called, the Democrats are +32 at Real Clear Politics, so I'm claiming victory here too.

    So, five for five. Bottom line: you can bet on Republicans to beat the spread, even if they don't win.

  • I really liked this article by Matt Welch in the current print Reason: Mad Genius. It's about the late Lanny Friedlander, who cranked out the first issue of Reason fifty years ago.

    (And when I say "cranked", I mean that literally. On a mimeograph. Youngsters may need to look that technology up.)

    Anyway, Lanny had psychological problems. After selling Reason to Robert Poole, Tibor Machan, and Manuel Klausner, he wound up institutionalized, on and off his anti-schizophrenic medication, losing touch with (a) the magazine he founded and (b> to a certain extent, reality.

    Do you find this as touching as I do?

    Yet so complete was Friedlander's break from his Reason-founding past that even [late-in-life attorney and fiduciary George] Murphy did not believe his friend's account of his own biography. "Lanny was telling me that he was this great graphic artist and he started a magazine and everything, and of course I'm thinking that this was the psychosis, you know. I was all incredulous."

    Interesting throughout.


  • How unprincipled is Donald Trump? Specifically, Thomas Firey of EconLib wonders: Will Trump Join the "Fight for $15?".

    As is now well understood, Trump has few policy interests beyond managing trade and suppressing immigration. Further, he’s an economic populist who has championed plenty of left-wing causes in the past. So he’d have little compunction about abandoning a Republican economic policy and embracing a Democratic one that has blue-collar appeal—and one that would impose hardship on immigrants and minorities to boot.

    That’s why I believe Trump will become a loud proponent of increasing the minimum wage—perhaps all the way to the political left’s ideal of $15 an hour.

    A horrible idea, but as the tariff thing shows, Trump is no friend of free markets.


  • Daniel J. Mitchell writes a longish article with many links describing The Harmful Campaign Against Vaping and E-Cigarettes.

    In an ideal world, the discussion and debate about how (or if) to tax e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn, and other tobacco harm-reduction products would be guided by science. …In the real world, however, politicians are guided by other factors. There are two things to understand… First, this is a battle over tax revenue. Politicians are concerned that they will lose tax revenue if a substantial number of smokers switch to options such as vaping. …Second, this is a quasi-ideological fight. Not about capitalism versus socialism, or big government versus small government. It’s basically a fight over paternalism, or a battle over goals. For all intents and purposes, the question is whether lawmakers should seek to simultaneously discourage both tobacco use and vaping because both carry some risk (and perhaps because both are considered vices for the lower classes)? Or should they welcome vaping since it leads to harm reduction as smokers shift to a dramatically safer way of consuming nicotine?

    I don't vape or smoke anything, but as previously noted, my default position is that the state should not be in the business of telling people what they can and can't imbibe, ingest, inject, or inhale. Unfortunately, that's a very minority position.


  • I still watch Saturday Night Live, mainly out of habit, and it's still funny in spots. The TiVo makes it easy to skip commercials and the (usually not-my-cup-of-tea) musical guests. But last Saturday's was kind of special. At NR, David French The Dan Crenshaw Moment.

    Given the spirit of our times, things could have gone so differently. On November 3, when Saturday Night Live comic Pete Davidson mocked Texas Republican Dan Crenshaw’s eye patch, saying he looked like a “hit man in a porno movie” — then adding, “I know he lost his eye in war or whatever” — it was a gift from the partisan gods.

    A liberal comic had gone too far. He had mocked a man who was maimed in a horrific IED attack, an attack that had taken the life of his interpreter and nearly blinded him for life. He mocked a courageous man’s pain. And thus Crenshaw had attained the rarest position for a Republican politician: aggrieved-victim status. He was free to swing away.

    But that's not what happened. You can click through for David's description, which I recommend. Here's the clip, though:

    I was moved. Honest.


  • An interesting post at the Volokh Conspiracy, by the head Volokh, Eugene, looking at the recent addition to our state's constitution: N.H. Constitution Now Protects "Right to Live Free from Governmental Intrusion in Private or Personal Information". He asks:

    My question: What do you think this means?

    1. That all governmental searches of private or personal information (and all subpoenas of such information) are now unconstitutional, so that the government can't, for instance, get your e-mail records even with probable cause and a warrant?
    2. That such searches and subpoena require a probable cause and a warrant (language that the provision does not contain, though section 19 of the New Hampshire bill of rights, the existing search and seizure provision, does)?
    3. That such intrusions may be allowed, but only if they are narrowly tailored to a compelling government interest, to borrow a test that has sometimes been used for other facially categorical rights?
    4. That traditionally accepted intrusions are grandfathered in as legitimate, but that ones introduced after the amendment is enacted are not?
    5. That the public is essentially delegating to courts the responsibility and authority to turn this into some meaningful test that accommodates both privacy rights and the need to gather information in order to enforce the laws?
    6. Something else?

    My only observation (as a comment on the post): this is an add-on to the NH Constitution's existing Article 2, in place since 1784: "All men have certain natural, essential, and inherent rights among which are, the enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing, and protecting, property; and, in a word, of seeking and obtaining happiness."

    I'm very much not a lawyer, but I can do arithmetic: The state has somehow managed to muddle through 234 years with this "natural, essential, and inherent" language. I don't know how many times Article 2 has been invoked in court decisions, but the new language shouldn't be any more difficult to interpret than the previous language.


  • Elliot Kaufman writes at the (maybe paywalled) WSJ: Even the Libertarians Get Luckey Sometimes.

    What do you call a Silicon Valley Republican who wants to have friends? A libertarian.

    Ask virtual-reality pioneer Palmer Luckey. Oculus, the company he founded, was acquired by Facebook in 2014. Last year Facebook fired Mr. Luckey amid fallout from his $10,000 donation to a pro-Trump group founded by internet trolls and extremists. The Journal reports that before Mr. Luckey’s firing, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hatched a plan to rehabilitate him. Internal emails show Mr. Zuckerberg personally drafted a public statement and pressured Mr. Luckey to use it. The crux was a denial that Mr. Luckey supported Donald Trump. Instead, he was to say he’d be “voting for Gary”—Johnson, the Libertarian nominee.

    I was employed for a long time by the University Near Here, which was about as friendly to dissenting political views as you might expect. Still, it was nowhere near as hostile as the Silicon Valley biggies.


Last Modified 2018-11-14 11:35 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2018-11-12

[Amazon Link]

  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson muses on the folks who have nothing better to do than … um … let's say "engage in group activism": The Lonely Mob.

    The age of easy and instantaneous connectivity, globalization, and related phenomena have created a new kind of “lonely crowd,” full of people who feel isolated, inadequate, insignificant — and resentful of being made to feel that way. There are many ways to assuage that loneliness, but many of them — family life, religion — have fallen out of fashion. Ordinary politics provides insufficient drama, as anybody who has observed the real business of government in action knows. Fantasy politics — I’m fighting the Nazis! — offers a lot more emotional oomph.

    It’s a sad spectacle. It’s also a dangerous one.

    I feel isolated, inadequate, and insignificant all the time, but I'm cool with it.


  • At Reason, Nick Gillespie has a good idea for Veterans Day (Observed): Instead of Making Today About Trump, Let's Remember the Dead of World War I.

    And take some time to read Rudyard Kipling's Epitaphs of the War, penned between 1914 and 1918. Kipling, who carries a whole hell of a lot of baggage of his own, was originally in favor of the war and helped his son get a commission despite eyesight so poor it was disqualifying. His son was killed, the body never recovered. Kipling wasn't a pacifist by any stretch and he didn't necessarily think World War I was avoidable so much as insanely and incompetently prosecuted. Whatever his thinking, he penned lines that still burn with anger and resentment, including these:

    If any question why we died,
    Tell them, because our fathers lied.

    Every leader should read Epitaphs before considering military action.

    … but they probably won't.


  • We've been pointing out a few articles pointing to the New Hampshire's GOP funding disadvantage in the last election. Jon DiPietro dissents at GraniteGrok: Money Is Not the Problem for NH GOP.

    Here is the key question as far as I’m concerned: Did Democrats persuade more people because they spent more money or did Democrats raise more money because they persuaded more people?

    I believe that blaming the spending gap is a dangerous misdiagnosis for Republicans. If the party believes that the answer is simply to figure out a way to raise more money, they will be treating the symptom instead of the disease.

    Jon's column argues, persuasively, that the NH GOP (and probably the GOP nationwide, I'd guess) has failed to adapt sufficiently to a heavily networked world.


  • At EconLog, Bryan Caplan urges us to resist The Siren of Democratic Fundamentalism.

    Almost all economists, regardless of ideology, would scoff at the following argument: “Market decisions are voluntary, so we should respect market outcomes.” But say, “Political decisions are democratic, so we should respect political outcomes,” and even economists salute.

    Every economics textbook explain how market outcomes can go wrong. Externalities. Monopoly. Asymmetric information. Irrationality. Democratic outcomes can easily go wrong for all the same reasons.

    Can, and do. (And I'd argue, far more likely to.)


  • At Power Line, Paul Mirengoff notes a problem at that college on the other side of the state: Another Dartmouth Disgrace. Specifically, David Horowitz was treated shabbily in an October appearance there; his open letter to Phil Hanlon, Dartmouth's prez:

    On October 23, I spoke at your college. I was invited by members of College Republicans and Students Supporting Israel. They probably wanted to hear what I had to say because I am one of the most prominent conservative intellectuals in America, having published over twenty books, three of which were New York Times best-sellers and one of which was nominated for a National Book Award.

    Despite my credentials, and even though these conservative students pay the same tuition – $75,000 per year – as your leftwing students, I was forced to raise the money to underwrite my visit and lecture. This was particularly galling to the Dartmouth conservatives who invited me, because the previous spring Dartmouth’s “Office of Pluralism and Leadership” sponsored a visit by notorious anti-Semite and terrorist supporter Linda Sarsour – who has no academic credentials to speak of – underwriting her expenses and paying her a reported $10,000 honorarium for her talk.

    Of course, a mob of "progressive" Dartmouth students invaded and disrupted the event; campus "security" officers did nothing. And the student newspaper joined in on the slagging.

The Phony Campaign

2020 Kickoff

[phony baloney]

With the 2020 New Hampshire Presidential Primary only (approximately) 450 days away, we once again fire up our quadrennial analysis of the relative authenticity of the crop of candidates for the office of President of the United States.

Or: how phony are these people, anyway?

Our guidelines:

  • To start, we build our candidate list from PredictWise, David Rothschild's site that aggregates data from betting markets. (Currently it appears he's only looking at Betfair.) Our inclusion criterion: if Predictwise shows someone with a 3% chance or greater to win their party's nomination, they are included in the polling.

  • We then Google each candidate's name (in quotes), adding the word "phony" to the search string.

  • And we scrape off Google's result count at the top of the first page of search results. And that tells us the current level of perceived phoniness for each candidate.

  • We hear you screaming: No, it doesn't! And you're right. We were kidding just then. This is a totally unscientific, meaningless, invalid metric. You might get different results. You probably will get different results.

  • It is kind of fun, through.

  • We will attempt to tabulate and post our results every Sunday from now until November 1, 2020. We'll append a few observations on the pages we find by following the Google links. Probably mostly snark, but there have been grazes with profound insights in past elections.

Without further ado, our initial results, fourteen(!) candidates, sorted in order of decreasing phoniness:

Candidate Nomination
Probability
Phony
Result Count
Donald Trump 73% 2,070,000
Nikki Haley 5% 1,490,000
Bernie Sanders 7% 776,000
Caroline Kennedy 13% 633,000
Kamala Harris 16% 506,000
Michelle Obama 3% 242,000
Joe Biden 9% 206,000
Paul Ryan 3% 202,000
Mike Pence 7% 197,000
Elizabeth Warren 10% 179,000
Kirsten Gillibrand 5% 179,000
Sherrod Brown 3% 125,000
Amy Klobuchar 5% 101,000
Cory Booker 4% 63,700

  • Okay, first: Caroline Kennedy?! A 13% shot at the Democratic nomination?! Are you kidding?

    I think things are a little hinky there. A delusional bettor at Betfair, maybe.

  • Donald Trump is, of course, the undisputed phony leader. A lot of the recent phony news also involves Senator-elect Mitt Romney. Example, from the New York Post:

    Romney during the 2016 presidential campaign called Trump “a phony, a fraud,” but appeared to moderate his view after Trump became president.

    “President Trump was not the person I wanted to become the nominee of our party, but he’s president now. The policies he’s promoted have been pretty effective. And I support a lot of those policies,” he said during an October Republican rally in Arizona, adding that he would disagree when he felt there was a need.

    Mitt is not (yet) on our candidate list, but I'll dust off (one more time) Jonah Goldberg's quip about what Mitt Romney seems to be saying if you hit the mute button while watching him on TV: What do I have to do to put you in this BMW today?

  • We have a Kamala/Spartacus phony twofer from Matt Lewis at the Daily Beast: Liberals Are Now in Love With Cory Booker and Kamala Harris? That’s What’s Wrong With Liberalism. Matt was unimpressed with their performances at the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings:

    They’re both auditioning of course, but are they auditioning well? In attempting to learn the lessons of Trump’s victory, Democrats are missing some key ingredients. Trump’s appeal wasn’t (solely) about his status as a fighter. It also had to do with the fact that he was (a) authentic and (b) an outsider. Harris and Booker, conversely, are demonstrating the exact opposite attributes. Simply put, they look like phony politicians. (Another thing about Trump is that he is utterly shameless. You can’t fake that, either.)

    When Donald Trump looks more authentic than you, Senators, you've got a phony problem.

  • In second place, Nikki Haley scores … higher than Biden? Higher than Warren? Come on, people. But she recently got a phony bump from the New York Times: Nikki Haley Pokes Fun at Trump, and Herself, at Al Smith Dinner. And here's a good one:

    When the president first learned of her Indian heritage, she said, “He asked me if I was from the same tribe as Elizabeth Warren,” the Democratic senator from Massachusetts who may challenge Mr. Trump in 2020. He has ridiculed Ms. Warren’s claims of Native American ancestry.

    And (remember this is an article from the NYT):

    Ms. Haley also chided The New York Times for an article last month that left the misimpression that the Trump administration had spent more than $52,000 on curtains for her diplomatic residence. The curtains had been ordered by the Obama administration. (The Times corrected the article to make that clear.)

    But Ms. Haley wasn’t satisfied. She joked that the newspaper had merely “changed the headline to ‘Obama Creates High-Paying Jobs in the Curtain Industry.”

    Ms. Haley also complained about other fake headlines, including one that said the rapper Kanye West had been sworn in as her replacement. “Oh wait, that could really happen,” she said.

    I confess I love Nikki Haley. And when I say "love", I mean in a way that's completely inappropriate, given our age difference, our respective marital statuses, our incompatible social circles, geographical separation, and a host of additional irreconcilable differences.

  • I am also unsure that Senator Bernie (who would be 79 on Inauguration Day, 2021) is a viable candidate, but Betsy McCaughey does a phony number on his "Medicare for All" legislation, deeming it a prescription for failure:

    Sen. Bernie Sanders says that because Medicare is “the most popular, successful and cost-effective health insurance in the country,” everyone should have it, regardless of age.

    But watch out for the bait-and-switch. Truth is, Sanders’ “Medicare for All” legislation actually abolishes Medicare and Medicare Advantage, as well as employer-provided coverage, union plans and plans people buy for themselves. Every person, whether they want to or not, would be forced into a government-run system with the phony name “Medicare for All.” The quality of your medical care would plummet.

    Wait, let me finish my thought… our so-far oldest president, Ronald Reagan, was 77 when he left office. Bernie starting when he's 79? I don't think so.

Veterans Day 2018

Veterans Day 2018

… thank a vet near you.

Hail, Caesar!

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

A fun movie from the Coen brothers. Really took too long for me to get around to watching it.

It's the tale of a few days in the life of the Hollywood studio of Capitol Pictures, which is in the business of churning out all kinds of early-50's movies: religious epics, musicals, dramas, comedies, you name it. Overseeing it all is Eddie Mannix, played by Josh Brolin; he's got his eye on everything, moves his stars around movies like pieces on a chessboard, and is always ready to quash some scandal before it can erupt in the gossip rags. Eddie is considering a job offer from Lockheed, and you can see it's tempting to jump out of his world of high-pressure in service of frivolity.

Specifically: one of the stars of the religious epic Hail, Caesar!, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), has been kidnapped by a group of Communist screenwriters. The studio is also trying to transition cowboy-movie star Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) into a more serious flick; the problem being that he's got no idea how to act, or how to lose the oater accent. He's a nice guy, sure, but his new director, Laurence Laurentz, is flummoxed about how to deal with him.

And DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson), an Esther Williams-type star of swimming musicals, has a bun in the oven, another potential scandal. Also, she's finding it extremely difficult to fit into her mermaid-tail costume.

Alden Ehrenreich, in case you forgot, and who could blame you if you had, played the young Han in Solo this year. He's much better in this movie.

Also, if you watch it, keep an eye out for Frances McDormand in a brief but hilarious scene. I didn't recognize her until I looked her up at IMDB.

I think there's a underlying religious theme here, but I didn't feel like thinking too hard about it.

URLs du Jour

2018-11-10

[Amazon Link]

  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson notes the latest in the ongoing struggle: Democrats vs. the Constitution. (It's billed as a "NRPlus Member Article", but I have no idea what that means to non-NRPlus peons.)

    Having taken control of the House of Representatives, the Democrats face an enormous and perhaps insurmountable political barrier to achieving their agenda. It’s not the Republicans. It’s the Constitution.

    “Kill the Constitution” would not be a winning campaign slogan for the Democrats, and you will rarely hear an American politician running against the Constitution as such. But it is the Constitution and the American constitutional order — not Senator McConnell — that currently vexes them.

    When your goal is power over as many people as possibile, you can't let a little thing like Federalism stand in your way.


  • Jonah Goldberg's column (via AEI) concerns Jeff Sessions and Trump’s strange definition of loyalty. Bottom line:

    This is all one piece of the broader tapestry of what Trumpism always boils down to when put to the test: a cult of personality. Support of the man is more important than support of anything else, including Trump’s own agenda. I disagree with Sessions on quite a few things, but the notion that he isn’t a conservative is silly. More importantly, the idea that he’s not a conservative — or a man of integrity — simply because he wouldn’t display blind loyalty to the president is grotesquely unconservative.

    Sessions resigned from the Senate to become attorney general because he thought he could accomplish important things. Trump had him fired (he refused to even talk to Sessions personally) because at the end of the day, the only truly important thing in Trump world is Trump.

    I should note, like a good sometimes-libertarian, that Sessions made us sometimes-mad. Reason's Jacob Sullum lists 8 Ways in Which Jeff Sessions Sucked. What, only 8?


  • The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) notes a slight problem for professors at state universities who irk a sufficiently litigious community: UC Davis law professor subjected to open records request over criticism of financial groups.

    As with many of these incidents, this story begins with an outspoken professor’s criticism of a powerful industry group. This time, it’s University of California, Davis School of Law professor Dennis J. Ventry Jr.’s opposition to a free tax filing service offered by financial services companies such as Intuit and H&R Block. He argues that these services scam low-income taxpayers, and that Congress should reject company lobbying efforts to make the service a permanent Internal Revenue Service program.

    Ventry’s writings earned him an open records request from the companies’ trade coalition “seeking everything Mr. Ventry had written or said about the companies this year, including emails, text messages, voice mail messages and hand-jotted notes,” according to the Times. UC Davis “estimated that it spent 80 to 100 hours complying with the request,” which “generated 1,189 pages of documents.”

    Looking for a silver lining, there's the Streisand Effect: going after Ventry makes the Intuit/Block ripoff more widely known.


  • Via Marginal Revolution, an article in "Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review" by Robert Laszewski (the title of which might lead you to think: Longest Article Ever): What Neither the Republicans Nor the Democrats Understand About Obamacare.

    Republicans have seemingly never understood that Obamacare has worked well for low-income people who get the biggest premium and out-of-pocket subsidies. It has worked well for those eligible for Medicaid in the states that have expanded it. And, it has been critically important for those with preexisting conditions. And, that three deep red states--Nebraska, Utah, and Idaho--voted last week to expand Medicaid clearly says that even in the reddest states what people want is health insurance security not only for themselves but for their neighbors.

    But what Democrats have never been willing to admit is that the program has been devastating for the middle class--those who get no subsidy, or a relatively small subsidy--for the way it has wrecked their individual health insurance market.

    But, dumb as they are, the Democrats were able to figure out how to make the pre-existing condition thing a workable campaign issue.


  • For Granite Staters, Michael Graham of NH Journal has The Midterm Numbers You Need to Know. Well, you may not actually need to know them. But he brought out this interesting factoid from my very own Congressional District:

    “The Democrats did an unbelievable job of drilling down into the lower-tier GOTV universes,” Greg Moore, Executive Director of Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire, told NHJournal. “Net-net, they brought out 320,000 of their folks and the conservatives brought out 260,000.

    “To put that into perspective, [Republican] Eddie Edwards in the NH-01 race got 6,000 more votes than Republican Frank Guinta did in 2014–and Guinta won by 9,000 votes. Edwards lost by 24,000.”

    I have considered myself only nominally Republican for a number of years, but I'm registered that way. And (as an anecdotal data point) I got a lot of mail asking me to vote for the Democrat, Chris Pappas. (I might have got a GOTV phone call, but I'm not sure about that; I hardly ever answer the phone unless caller ID is clearly someone I want to talk to.)


  • And Drew Cline of the Josiah Bartlett Center has more facts, these concentrating on spending: The New Hampshire Democratic Party’s financial advantage over the GOP is enormous. Just one I liked:

    Campaign finance reports filed with the Secretary of State’s office through October 31 (the last report filed before the election) show that the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s three statewide political action committees — the New Hampshire Democratic Committee, the Senate Democratic Caucus, and the Committee to Elect House Democrats — outspent their Republican counterparts by $3 million. The Democratic PACs spent $4.09 million. Their Republican counterparts — the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, the Senate Republican Majority PAC, and the Committee to Elect House Republicans — spent just $1.1 million.

    Pretty sad. But (as Steve MacDonald points out at GraniteGrok) when Republican "leaders" are sounding just as economically stupid as Democrats, it's tough to work up a lot of sympathy.

URLs du Jour

2018-11-09

[Amazon Link]

  • Bryan Caplan speaks out Against Veneration:

    I have close friends who venerate Adam Smith, John Rawls, Friedrich Hayek, James Buchanan, John Maynard Keynes, Ayn Rand, John Stuart Mill, Ludwig von Mises, Paul Samuelson, Deirdre McCloskey, Elinor Ostrom, Hannah Arendt, Alexis de Tocqueville, David Hume, Murray Rothbard, Paul Krugman, or Thomas Jefferson.

    “Venerate.” I choose the word with care. “Venerates X” means far more than “Admires X’s intellectual achievements.” It means, rather, than you (a) ascribe superlative and wide-ranging intellectual insight to X, and (b) energetically lobby to get X ample credit for their supposedly remarkable intellectual contributions. Thus, people who venerate Hayek don’t merely say, “Hayek made several fruitful points.” People who venerate Hayek maintain that Hayek’s work is packed with wisdom – and persistently advertise Hayek’s genius to the world.

    Read on for Bryan's argument that veneration is a misguided take.

    I see a lot of names I like on Bryan's list, although I don't think any of them reach the veneration threshold. McCloskey and Hayek come pretty close, though.

    People who read this blog know that I am a dedicated fanboy of a few current writers. Does that imply veneration? I'll try to watch out for that.


  • Except for Chris Sununu, it was a pretty bad election for Republicans in New Hampshire. Michael Graham notes the inevitable sour grapes: "The Party Let Us Down,” NH Republicans Complain. But Will They Pay Up to Solve the Problem?.

    New Hampshire Republican candidates, activists and soon-to-be-former legislators are bemoaning their party’s devastating losses in the midterm elections, and they’re putting at least part of the blame on the leadership–or lack thereof– of the NHGOP.

    Republicans attending a midterm post-mortem event hosted by NHJournal on Wednesday repeatedly brought up the fact that the GOP state organization–which is underfunded and relies heavily on volunteers– is unable to compete with the Democrats and their paid, full-time staff.

    For all Democrats' griping about "big money" in politics, they seem to snap it up pretty fast. Here in my Congressional district, at last report, the D guy raised about 1.9 times more cash than the R guy.


  • Our Google LFOD alert rang for a heartwarming story in the Brattleboro Reformer: Chroma celebrates 'bright future'. In Vermont. Chroma Technology's president, Paul Millman, was a tad in-your-face:

    Millman joked that comparing the New Hampshire state motto of "Live Free or Die" to Vermont's "Freedom and Unity" made it an easy decision to stay in Vermont. "Where's the choice?" he said.

    This was at a meeting celebrating an expansion of Chroma's workplace, allowing it to add 25 employees to its current 113. We can pick up certain clues from the article. In attendance: US Senator Patrick Leahy (Democrat) and Governor Phil Scott (Republican). And:

    Leahy and Scott both were instrumental in helping to fund the expansion. The project took advantage of federal New Market tax credits, community development block grants, the Vermont Employment Growth Incentive, the Windham County Economic Development Program funded by Entergy Nuclear, as well as other state and federal programs. The company worked closely with the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp., as well as the town of Rockingham, on its needed expansion plan.

    So Chroma is a Classic Creature of Crony Capitalism, with obvious carefully-tended "bipartisan" political connections. How many of those jobs, I wonder, are dedicated to tending the governmental funding spigots, and looking out for more federal/state/local teats on which to suck?


  • LFOD also appears in Michael Moffett's Concord Monitor open letter to DJT: Now is a good time to retire, Mr. President. Michael's closing argument:

    Freed from having to put all that time, energy, emotion and wherewithal into a re-election campaign, you could focus on consolidating and expanding upon achievements that, ironically, would more likely be preserved under a president other than yourself. You could be an extraordinary president emeritus.

    And you could remain the brawler who’ll fight back when needed – in New Hampshire and elsewhere. Combine your strengths with a new ticket as part of a winning team in 2020 for the sake of the country.

    Let your final decision reflect courage and wisdom – not ego and hubris.

    Straight talk indeed.

    Live Free or Die.

    Fine. Good idea, in fact. But asking Trump to forgo ego and hubris is like asking Bill Clinton to waive his book advance. Not gonna happen.


  • [Amazon Link]

    And Matt Simon op-eds in the Union Leader on the upcoming report of the study commission on marijuana. It looks good!

    Now that two-thirds of Granite Staters and two-thirds of Americans believe cannabis should be legal for use by adults, it has become apparent that legalization is no longer a question of “if” — it’s a question of “when and how.” The commission’s report goes a long way toward answering the question of “how,” but only the Legislature and governor can decide “when.”

    While considering that question, New Hampshire policymakers should remember a fact that is not included in the commission’s report: cannabis is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and most residents of the “Live Free or Die” state are ready to see it treated that way.

    The LFOD state should have been out in front on this issue, but (hey, I have an idea) let's get rid of all state laws that try to tell adults what they can and can't imbibe, ingest, inject, or inhale.

URLs du Jour

2018-11-08

[Amazon Link]

  • Jonah Goldberg writes on The Hollowing Out of American Political Parties.

    It is perhaps the central irony of our politics today: We live in an incredibly polarized and partisan moment, but our political parties have never been weaker.

    As odd as it sounds, political parties in democracies have an important anti-democratic function. Traditionally, the parties shaped the choices put to voters. Long before voters decided anything in the primary or general elections, party bosses worked to groom good candidates, weed out bad ones, organize interests, and frame issues.

    OK, the good old days had their problems. But, as Jonah notes, political power that used to reside with people in that business has now been farmed out to corruptible amateurs. And, as just two examples: "This is why every Academy Awards ceremony is peppered with asinine political jeremiads, and why late-night-comedy hosts serve as de facto Democratic-party organizers."

    (Also see Joy Behar, below.)


  • Andrew Marzoni, "a writer, editor and musician in Brooklyn", tells the truth in the Washington Post: Academia is a cult. And he knows whereof he speaks:

    As a teenager growing up in the Living Word Fellowship, an international Christian organization widely regarded as a cult, I aspired to be a writer. Instead, I spent seven days a week at church: It was where I worshiped, socialized, ate, volunteered and even went to school. One summer, at the fellowship’s “School of Prophets” camp in rural Iowa, a senior pastor took his turn at the pulpit to encourage the youth of the congregation to skip college, work for the church and live in one of its communal homes in Hawaii or Brazil, which many in my graduating class went on to do. My parents, who joined the cult as graduate students in the 1970s but have recently left, were an educated anomaly in a culture that valued faith over reason. I’m grateful for my father, who in passing later that day told the pastor in seriousness disguised as joviality, “Stay away from my kids.”

    So Andrew went to college. And started an academic career, But eventually came to realize…

    Looking back, the evidence was everywhere: I’d seen needless tears in the eyes of classmates, harangued in office hours for having the gall to request a letter of recommendation from an adviser. Others’ lives were put on hold for months or sometimes years by dissertation committee members’ refusal to schedule an exam or respond to an email. I met the wives and girlfriends of senior faculty members, often former and sometimes current advisees, and heard rumors of famed scholars whisked abroad to sister institutions in the wake of grad student affairs gone awry. I’d first come in contact with such unchecked power dynamics as a child, in the context of church. In adulthood, as both a student and an employee of a university, I found myself subject to them once again.

    It's not surprising that, in a country that (rightly) prides itself on "separation of church and state", that some other secular institution worms its way into a similar niche in the social ecosystem. With the hearty support, financial and otherwise, of the state. And develop the same misfeatures.


  • David Harsanyi notes that Democrats Aren’t Losing Faith In Our Constitutional System. They Just Don’t Like It.

    In the liberal imagination there are only four ways to lose elections — and none have to do with their increasingly leftist turn, their hysterics, or their one-dimensional identity politics. Democrats lose because of “gerrymandering,” “voter suppression” (sometimes known as “asking for ID”), Russian mind-control rays deployed by social media, and our antiquated and unfair Constitution.

    The final one of these excuses is becoming increasingly popular among liberal pundits who continue to invent new crises to freak out about.

    Sometimes it gets pretty silly, as with Joy Behar on The View complaining that Democrats lost US Senate races "because of gerrymandering".


  • In her column, Veronique de Rugy draws our attention to Another Republican Capitulation on Health Care.

    Republicans have established a clear pattern on health care. First, they rail against whatever big-government scheme Democrats propose. Then, after a half-hearted and incompetent effort to convince the public of the benefits of a market-oriented system, they abandon their principles and adopt the big-government idea as their own in order to win or hold power.

    The spectacle of Republican candidates tripping over themselves to announce their commitment to preserving requirements for coverage of pre-existing conditions, a key component of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the mandate most responsible for making insurance unaffordable for average Americans, is one example.

    Also, as Veronique points out, the recent announcement from the Trump administration to base Medicare Part B reimbursements on international drug prices, a significant step toward price controls.


  • And, ladies and gentlemen, in our occasional "I'm a Sucker For This Kind of Thing" department: These Are The 10 Most Stressed Out States In America.

    Which states sentence you to a life of long commutes, high unemployment, ridiculous rent prices, and grueling work hours?

    Yes, it's junk statistics, but it's fun. New Hampshire is in the middle, position #29. The least-stressed states are unsurprising: Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North and South Dakota.

    Compare and contrast with the rankings made by "Mental Health America". Here, Minnesota is the sanest state, Nevada the nuttiest. NH comes in at #10, not too shabby for a state WHERE MOST OF THE PEOPLE ARE SECRETLY LIZARDS I TELL YOU.