URLs du Jour

2020-07-10

  • At National Review, Jim Geraghty has a good quote from Frederick deBoer on that Harpers letter and the dishonest criticisms it drew.

    Think for a minute and consider: what does it say when a completely generic endorsement of free speech and open debate is in and of itself immediately diagnosed as anti-progressive, as anti-left? There is literally no specific instance discussed in that open letter, no real-world incident about which there might be specific and tangible controversy. So how can someone object to an endorsement of free speech and open debate without being opposed to those things in and of themselves? You can’t. And people are objecting to it because social justice politics are plainly opposed to free speech. That is the most obvious political fact imaginable today. Of course Yelling Woke Twitter hates free speech! Of course social justice liberals would prevent expression they disagree with if they could! How could any honest person observe our political discourse for any length of time and come to any other conclusion?

    Can we just proceed by acknowledging what literally everyone quietly knows, which is that the dominant majority of progressive people simply don’t believe in the value of free speech anymore? Please. Let’s grow up and speak plainly, please. Let’s just grow up.

    That's a bit of Mr. deBoer's entire article. Which I would ordinarily just link to, but Geraghty's worth reading on his other topics too.

    The Amazon page for an upcoming book by by Mr. deBoer calls him a "leftist firebrand". But he seems honest, which seems to be an ever-shrinking brand these days.


  • More on the backlash against one of the Harpers letter signers from Jerry Coyne: The Purity Posse pursues Pinker.

    The Woke are after Pinker again, and if he’s called a racist and misogynist, as he is in this latest attempt to demonize him, then nobody is safe. After all, Pinker is a liberal Democrat who’s donated a lot of dosh to the Democratic Party, and relentlessly preaches a message of moral, material, and “well-being” progress that’s been attained through reason and adherence to Enlightenment values. But that sermon alone is enough to render him an Unperson, for the Woke prize narrative and “lived experience” over data, denigrate reason, and absolutely despise the Enlightenment.

    The link to the document in question, “Open Letter to the Linguistic Society of America,”  was tweeted yesterday by Pinker’s fellow linguist John McWhorter, who clearly dislikes the letter. And, indeed, the letter is worthy of Stalinism in its distortion of the facts in trying to damage the career of an opponent. At least they don’t call for Pinker to be shot in the cellars of the Lubyanka!

    Coyne does a point-by-point rebuttal of that letter. Really, the only interesting thing to discuss is whether today's "Purity Posse" is more Stalinist or Maoist?

    Also on that topic: Jonathan Turley.


  • Don Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek had a Bonus Quotation of the Day... from Deirdre McCloskey:

    And the tale of expert social engineering is unbelievable, really. It cannot answer the simplest folk skepticism: If You’re So Smart, what ain’t you rich?

    Something to keep in mind when (for example) Joe Biden, who has never run anything even as complicated as a McDonalds, promises to transform the nation.


  • At Politico, Rich Lowry offers his lonely, but correct, opinion: Mark Zuckerberg is Right.

    Mark Zuckerberg clearly hasn’t gotten the memo.

    The founder of Facebook persists in defending free expression, even though free speech has fallen decidedly out of fashion.

    His reward for adhering to what once would have been a commonsensical, if not banal, view of the value of the free exchange of ideas is to get vilified for running a hate-speech machine and to get boycotted by major American companies.

    As a mild Facebook user, I'm amazed how Zuck is unable to resist flinging that McCloskey taunt at his critics: "If You’re So Smart, what ain’t you rich?".

    Or: "Set up your own site, genius."


  • And a bit of New Hampshire pride quoted by Inside Sources: New Hampshire Taxpayers Get Best Deal in U.S..

    That’s according to a new study released by WalletHub ranking states on whether their taxpayers “get the most or least bang for their buck.” Their analysts break down government services into five categories: education, health, safety, economy, and infrastructure & pollution.

    Their findings: Nowhere else in the country will taxpayers get more for their money than the Granite State. They also found the percentage of the state’s residents in poverty is the lowest in the nation.

    “New Hampshire has the best taxpayer ROI because its residents pay the second-lowest taxes per capita, and benefit from quality government services,” WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez told NHJournal. “More specifically, the state’s school system is among the best, and there is a low share of idle youth — just 8 percent.”

    They hate us 'cause they ain't us. Which brings us to …


  • … a slagging in the Financial Times, which set off the Google LFOD News Alert: Americans want to be free to be stupid. The writer, Elizabeth Cobbs, is billed as a "history professor at Texas A&M University and a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution." She's down on Americans generally, but those in one state specifically:

    Stiff-necked resistance to authority is not limited to western or southern states. New Hampshire, one of the original 13 colonies, remains the epitome of what Turner called Americans’ “antipathy to control”. The state motto, “”, helps explain why it is the only US state without an adult seatbelt law and one of only three that do not require motorcyclists to wear helmets.

    Et Tu, Hoover Institution?

    Anyway, Elizabeth remains befuddled by even the suggestion that the NH motto implies that the state shouldn't be making risk decisions for adults. Nope, she goes immediately for "stupid".

    That link, by the way, goes to a description of the Randolph accident from last year, which killed seven motocyclists. Even after Googling, I haven't seen any authoritative source claiming whether or not any of the dead or injured were wearing helmets. Given the horrific details, I suspect helmets might not have made much difference one way or the other.

URLs du Jour

2020-07-09

Mr. Ramirez comments on recent news:

[Morona]

Yup, you have to look hard, but he got the pig socks too. (Compare original here.)

  • I'm having trouble treating this article as anything other than good news. Victor Davis Hanson at the Daily Signal: Universities Sowing the Seeds of Their Own Obsolescence.

    The current chaos has posed existential questions of fairness and transparency that the university cannot answer because to do so would reveal utter hypocrisy.

    Instead, the university’s defense has been to virtue signal left-wing social activism to hide or protect its traditional self-interested mode of profitable business for everyone–staff, faculty, administration, contractors–except the students who borrow to pay for a lot of it.

    How strange that higher education’s monotonous embrace of virtue signaling, political proselytizing, and loud social justice activism is now sowing the seeds of its own obsolescence and replacement.

    Unfortunately (as VDH notes) our "higher education system" has produced "a generation that is poorly educated and yet petulant and self-assured without justification." Once they've knocked down the universities, how likely is it that they'll come up with anything better?


  • A (related) modest proposal from David Harsanyi at National Review: Destroy the ‘Public’ Education System.

    ‘Public' schools have been a catastrophe for the United States. This certainly isn’t an original assertion, but as we watch thousands of authoritarian brats tearing down the legacies of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, it’s more apparent than ever.

    State-run schools have undercut two fundamental conditions of a healthy tolerant society. First, they’ve created millions of civic illiterates who are disconnected from long-held communal values and national identity. Second, they’ve exacerbated the very inequalities that trigger the tearing apart of fissures.

    If you’re interested in ferreting out “systemic racism,” go to a big-city public-school system. No institution has fought harder to preserve segregated communities than the average teachers’ union. And I don’t mean only in the schools.

    Congratulations to David on coming up with a solution more radical than mine. Which is: abolish mandatory attendance laws. Kind of the ultimate in "school choice".

    This might destroy some "public" schools, true. But I think it would have a disparate impact on those that only exist because kids are forced to attend.


  • At Reason, Veronique de Rugy asks the musical question: Has the U.S. Government Finally Spent Too Much?. A neat summary:

    Looking at the spending that had passed as of early May, Brian Riedl of the Manhattan Institute predicted that the budget deficit would be $4.28 trillion in 2020 and $2.19 trillion in 2021. This year's deficit is estimated at 19.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), nearly double the peak deficits during the Great Recession and second only to the deficits during World War II. Over 10 years, that spending is projected to add nearly $8 trillion to the national debt, pushing the debt held by the public to $41 trillion, or 128 percent of the annual GDP, within a decade. This debt-to-GDP ratio will exceed even that at the height of World War II. Moreover, the national debt came down after that war ended—but continued Social Security and Medicare shortfalls will keep the current debt rising indefinitely.

    You can find Brian Reidl's analysis here in Detroit.


  • You've heard a lot about the "right to privacy". For example, SCOTUS has decided it grants you the right to an abortion. But it doesn't give you the right to avoid giving government details of your financial transactions. Funny.

    Well, Jim Harper thinks a lot about it. And at AEI, he urges: Don’t ‘democratize’ privacy.

    In 1980, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development described the expansive course that the concept of privacy had taken up to that point. “Generally speaking, there has been a tendency to broaden the traditional concept of privacy (‘the right to be left alone’) and to identify a more complex synthesis of interests which can perhaps more correctly be termed privacy and individual liberties.” Today, there’s even more to privacy than that. It seems as if any maltreatment of people online can be described as a “privacy” concern. We might want to rein it in.

    There’s a touch of the Streisand Effect in the fact that I learned about a new, minor internet star — gas station girl? — through a Twitter thread lamenting her poor treatment. In a video making the rounds, a young woman is seen repeatedly moving her car among gas pumps, failing each time to orient her car so that her gas tank is next to the pump. (It’s step one in filling up your gas tank.)

    Jim links to his longer AEI report that makes a careful near-philosophical dissection of the concept of "privacy". You'll be forever wary of people using the term sloppily. (Which, compared to Jim Harper, is pretty much everyone.)


  • Blowing up over the past few days:

    1. a group letter signed by a lot of old-fashioned liberals in favor of free speech. Followed by
    2. Well, let Matt Welch tell you at Reason: Lefties Hate on Liberal Open Letter on Free Speech.

    "The letter…is about Open Debate only to the extent that people who make very healthy salaries arguing in public for a living seem to have a bizarre aversion to being argued against," spat Gawker alum Hamilton Nolan at In These Times (other choice Nolan adjectives included "pathetic," and "almost intolerably exasperating"). "We have entered a brave new world in which those waving the banner of 'Free Speech' accuse their opponents of being unable to take criticism while waging a histrionic campaign against anyone who dares to criticize them."

    It takes a certain willfulness to ignore the plain words of a statement that's all of three paragraphs long, but judging by the reactions on Twitter, Nolan's pampered-crybabies-whining-about-criticism take was as common as goose turds by a pond. Yes, there are people on the list who are probably agitated at having been the target of public shaming campaigns—the Linguistic Society of America went after Pinker just this month, and Lord knows Rowling has had quite the 2020 arguing with transgender rights activists.

    You'll miss free speech when it's gone.


  • And I suspect this is related news. It would explain a lot: Officials confirm rare case of brain-eating amoeba in Florida.

    The Florida Department of Health (DOH) confirmed that one person was infected by a brain-eating amoeba in the Tampa area, just before the Fourth of July holiday weekend. The unidentified individual contracted naegleria fowleri, which is a single-cell amoeba that can produce a rare but often fatal infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), according to the department. 

    Now they mean really rare. 145 "known infected individuals" since 1962.

    But only four of them survived.

URLs du Jour

2020-07-08

Pigeon. In a hole. Get it?

  • At Heterodox Academy, Irshad Manji says: Fragility Is Not the Answer. Honest Diversity Is. He reminisces about a debate that didn't come off with Robin DiAngelo, author of White Fragility. (That's the book that Matt Taibbi said "makes The Art of the Deal read like Anna Karenina.")

    Take the central claim of her book: that white people’s entitlement to feeling comfortable makes them defensive, even hostile, when conversations about race need to be had. No doubt, many white people fit that bill. However, it is not because they are white. It is because they are human.

    I speak from personal experience. In the wake of 9/11, I toured the world to promote liberal reform in my faith of Islam. Before audiences of my fellow Muslims, I argued that the time had come to update our religious interpretations for a pluralistic 21st century. I also explained that Islam has its own tradition of independent thinking. As people of faith, we could rediscover that glorious tradition instead of turning to outside influences.

    The “Muslim fragility” that I witnessed pained me. Most of my co-religionists did not want to hear about the need to change ourselves. Despite backing up my case with passages from the Qur’an, I was met mostly with denial, consternation, condemnation, and, on occasion, violent threats.

    Manji makes an eloquent appeal for "honest diversity". Which "starts with the desire for varied perspectives and rectifies representation to fulfill that desire."

    Which is quite different than pigeonholing people by their DNA.


  • Quillette hosts Lawrence M. Krauss's thoughts: Racism Is Real. But Science Isn’t the Problem.

    In his June 9th eulogy for George Floyd, Reverend Al Sharpton said, “What happened to Floyd happens every day in this country, in education, in health services, and in every area of American life.” The metaphor goes to the suffocation of hopes, dreams, and basic rights among many black Americans, in part because of inequities in American society, and in part because of direct experiences with racism.

    Several days later, the American Physical Society (APS), which claims to represent 55,000 physicists working in the United States and abroad, quoted Sharpton’s statement in announcing its solidarity with the “#strike4blacklives” campaign. The group declared that “physics is not an exception” to the suffocating climate of racism that Sharpton described; and that the APS would be closed for regularly scheduled business on June 10th, so as “to stand in support and solidarity with the Black community and to commit to eradicating systemic racism and discrimination, especially in academia, and science.” And the APS wasn’t alone. The strike was embraced by many scientific groups, national laboratories and universities. Throughout scientific disciplines, combating systemic racism has become a rallying cry.

    It sounds laudable. But as argued below, mantras about systemic racism are hard to square with the principles and necessary protocols of academic science. And in any case, overhauling university hiring and promotion aren’t the way to address the fundamental underlying causes of racism in our society. The APS and other scientific organizations have adopted dramatic anti-racist posturing in sudden response to George Floyd’s homicide and the protests that followed. But in so doing, they risk unwittingly demeaning science and scientists, as well as trivializing the broader and more vicious impacts of real racism in our society.

    I used to be an APS member, back when I had delusions of being a physicist. Glad I'm long gone.


  • At National Review, Kyle Smith is Imagining John Roberts Explaining Himself.

    Ever since I was a little boy, the other boys never called me “John” or “Johnny” or even “Roberts.” It was always “John Roberts.” The words would always run together, so in essence my name, to one and all, was “JohnRoberts.” “JohnRoberts, did you hear wrestling practice was canceled?” “JohnRoberts, Father Reilly said he wants to see you after Mass.” “JohnRoberts, do you want to go to the Dairy Queen for a root beer?” (Root was the only kind of beer I drank.) I did consider it a little strange when my own father started calling me “JohnRoberts,” but I didn’t mind. It was simply a gesture of respect for my immense propriety. I wanted to impress my elders with my rectitude, and I think I did.

    I impressed the other students too. I know I was not seen the way the other boys were. People didn’t ask me, “Hey, JohnRoberts, want to go get high and see Gimme Shelter?” More often they would ask me for my opinion about cross-comparing the various options in life-insurance annuities or what model sedan I considered the most decorous and respectable. (Buick. Always Buick.) Often a group of boys would approach me, and one boy in the group would ask me these kinds of questions while his friends stood around, snickering at some private joke to which I was not privy. In retrospect, I suppose these were strange questions to ask a high schooler, but then again, it was my practice to wear long, black silken robes everywhere I went, just to be prepared for my future. I guess you could say young Kavanaugh did enough youthful hijinks for the both of us. He once told me he went to see Porky’s when he was only 16 and a half! Can you imagine? He’s a card, that boy.

    It's pretty funny. Although JohnRoberts might not think so.


  • Billy Binion at Reason notes one of the many strange features of our modern times: In 2020, Words Are ‘Violence,’ Arson Is Not.

    There's a righteous anger driving protests against police brutality in the U.S. But an effort on the left to radically redefine "violence" threatens to alienate people who are attached to a more conventional understanding of that word and trivializes the very real reasons why they're protesting. A demonstration that hinges on an anti-violence orthodoxy needs to employ a coherent definition of their central tenet, should they not want to undermine their own movement.

    The leftist case for redefining "violence" relies on two main arguments: damaging a person is morally more serious than damaging an object, and psychologically damaging a person is worse than physically damaging an object.

    Nobody seems to care about the psychological damage they're inflicting on me with their moldy cant.


  • And Ennio Morricone passed away. Which makes me want to watch The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly one more time. (Yes, of course I have the DVD.)

    At Language Log, Heidi Harley makes a point about the Accidental filmic poetry contained in the title:

    In English, "the Adj" generally only allows a generic reading, and often refers to the class of humans characterized by the adjective, as in the poor, the rich, etc. In Italian (and French, Spanish, etc.) this isn't the case; the construction, although based on the same syntax, can also receive a particular referential singular interpretation. Borer and Roy ascribe this to the presence of identifying number and gender features on the determiner in those languages.

    In the original Italian title of the movie, Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo ('The good.masc.sg, The ugly.masc.sg, the bad.masc.sg.) these 'The-Adj' sequences are referential; they refer to the three main characters Blondie, Angel Eyes and Tuco. The Italian title is more or less equivalent to English "The good guy, the bad guy and the ugly guy". 

    In English, though, the grammatical structure of the title can only get the generic reading. The use of these forms in the film to refer to three protagonists, then, bestows an archetypal quality on those characters; they're metonymically interpreted as instantiating the whole classes of good people, bad people and ugly people respectively. And the kind of mythic force it imparts somehow fits so perfectly with the grandiose yet tongue-in-cheek quality of the whole film, to me it's really a fundamental part of its impact, humor and appeal.

    So the English title actually works better than the original Italian, despite the literal translation. Heidi (I call her Heidi) wonders if that possibly could have been intentional.

After the Storm

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

An arty Japanese movie, undubbed. Not for those who don't like reading subtitles, therefore. But it's pretty OK.

The protagonist is Ryôta, who's kind of a mess. He used to be a novelist, publishing his first book to critical acclaim, but didn't manage to follow up. He's now a private investigator, and not an honorable one: when he gets the goods on a cheating wife, he and his partner offer to keep the news from their client, her husband, for a price. Sleazy!

He's also divorced, with a cute son. And due to a nasty gambling habit, he's behind on his child support payments.

(Did you know that in Japan, they bet on bicycle races? Neither did I. But don't worry, Ryôta also buys lottery tickets, a more American tax on irrational innumeracy.)

There's also a meddling (but very sweet and funny) mother. And an impending typhoon.

It's a pretty good movie to remind us of a couple things: first: Japan is wonderfully weird. But second: not that weird; everyone here operates with emotions and motivations and foibles that are instantly recognizable to any red-blooded American. That's sort of comforting in these "diverse" times.

The Price We Pay

What Broke American Health Care--and How to Fix It

[Amazon Link]

I was tempted into getting this book via the author's appearance on Russ Roberts' EconTalk podcast back in Februrary. (I would have gotten to it before now, except for the Portsmouth Public Library's extended Covid-19 shutdown.)

Marty Makary, a doctor affiliated with Johns Hopkins, describes various ways that "we" (as taxpayers, health insurance customers, and/or patients) are being gouged by the health care system.

  • Some hospitals have "list prices" for their services that are stratospherically higher than normal; not only do they gouge, they go after slow-payers aggressively with collection agencies and garnishments.
  • "Health Fairs" that are setups to steer unwary attendees toward expensive and unnecessary services.
  • Surprise billing for participants in your care who are "out-of-network".
  • Ground and air ambulance services are notorious overchargers.
  • Some OB-GYNs aggressively seek out women in labor and persuade them to get unnecessary (but lucrative) cesareans.
  • Doctors (through greed or ignorance) gravitate toward more expensive procedures, out of whack with prevailing practices in their fields.
  • Doctors overprescribe, especially opioids. Probably that's less of a problem these days. But Makary admits do doing it himself, out of ignorance.
  • Middlemen, like pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and "group purchasing organizations" (GPOs) can skim, and sometimes a lot more than "skim".

And I got tired of typing, so I'll stop there.

Makary's style is informal, first person, often reporting in detail about his research interviews ("I landed at the Omaha airport and immediately saw a big Omaha Steaks shop in the airport terminal.") Hence, the book is largely anecdotal. That has pluses and minuses. Plus: the stories are grabby and rage-inducing. Minus: there's not a lot of quantitative data. For example, he (sensibly) thinks kickbacks from pharmaceutical manufacturers to PBMs should be banned; but how much would that save? Big problem, medium, or tiny?

Markary is also kind of weak (imho) on the promise made in his subtitle: how to fix it. The basic problem (to which he alludes over and over) is that health care doesn't work like a market. To a first approximation, the reason is pretty simple: someone else is paying, not the consumer. Consumers are insulated from the gory details, and so why should they care about the vast sums flying around that they never see?

Of course, they're paying. Sort of. Through paycheck deductions, mostly. But they have little control over that.

But Markary doesn't go so far as to advocate radical free-market reforms. And I don't think he even touches the over-regulation and over-licensing in the field.

My deep thought about why market reforms aren't coming to health care: we don't want them.

Markets are wondrous mechanisms, but there's one nasty fact: they will provide some things you can't afford.

We don't worry about that in most areas. Can't afford filet mignon? Fine, I'll grab the sirloin on sale. Can't get a Tesla? Honda Civic, baby. No problem.

But with health care, we want the best. We are entitled to the best. And if we can't have the best, then our inner egalitarian takes over: if I can't have it, then nobody else should have it either.

That's ugly, but very understandable. And that's why we can't have nice things.

ADDED slightly later: Markary blames doctor overprescription for the increase in opioid overdose deaths. I don't buy that. See, for example here.


Last Modified 2020-07-08 10:57 AM EDT

Parasites

A Mini-Fisking

The Google LFOD News Alert rang for this piece at a site called "GoLocalProv", by which they mean Providence, Rhode Island. It's a (very long) column by (apparently) a regular columnist, Robert Whitcomb.

I was sufficiently irritated to break out the old fisking template. I am reproducing the relevant section of Bob's op-ed here, on the (appropriate) left, with a lovely #EEFFFF background color; my comments are on the right.

Bob (I call him Bob) gets right into it after a few literary quotes that bear little relevance to this topic:

As it turns out, many perhaps most, of those fireworks that have ruined life recently for many people in Providence, Boston and other New England cities […]

Wait a minute. Fireworks ruined life for many people?

I'm not unsympathetic. Personally, I experience rapidly decreasing marginal utility for most things that explode prettily or loudly. After a dozen or so: "Eh, more of the same. Could we get to the finale, please?"

But that's pretty far from a ruined life. I suspect something about people whose lives are ruined by fireworks: That in the absence of fireworks, their lives would quickly be ruined by something else. Barking dogs, loud motorcycles, inconsiderate littering, MAGA hats, Gadsden flags, …

[OK: A Providence TV station reported on July 5 that extensive fire damage to a house in Providence may have been due to fireworks. They were able to find neighbors speculating about that, anyway. Still, kind of a stretch to "ruined life" for "many people"]

Anyway, Bob knows who to blame. He points his shaky finger roughly a hundred miles north:

[…] came from New Hampshire, that old “Live Free or Die” parasite/paradise (where I lived for four years). There, out-of-state noisemakers stock up and take the explosives back to Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, where they ignite them all over the place, with the worst impact in cities. While the fireworks are illegal in densely populated southern New England, they’re legal in the Granite State.

Parasite!? That's pretty nasty, Bob.

As Wikipedia will tell you, it's a slur with a long and sordid history. Both Commies and Nazis were fond of deploying it against broad classes of people, with predictable results. The left-wing anthem The Internationale contains a few references (e.g., "All the power to the people of labour! And away with all the parasites!") At the Library of Social Science, Richard Koenigsberg collects a few choice quotes from the remarkably similar-sounding Hitler and Lenin.

Anyway, Bob's gripes are not directed at the scofflaws in southern New England. Nor with its inability/unwillingness to enforce such laws ("No fireworks arrests made in Providence on Fourth of July").

Nope, it's those damn New Hampshire Parasites.

New Hampshire has long made money off out-of-staters coming to buy cheap (because of the state’s very tax-averse policies) booze and cigarettes. The state also has loose gun laws. Fireworks are in this tradition.

Translation: "People chafe under government-mandated high prices and arbitrary prohibitions, and New Hampshire offers bargains and (some) freedom."

That’s its right. But it could be a tad more humane toward people in adjacent states by making it clear to buyers at New Hampshire fireworks stores that the explosives they’re buying there are illegal in southern New England.

Translation: "Could you please help us enforce our stupid laws by nagging your customers?"

Because of our federal system, states that may want to control the use of dangerous products can be hard-pressed to do so because residents may find it easy to drive to a nearby state and get the stuff. Still, in compact and generally collaborative New England, it would be nice if New Hampshire, much of which is exurban and rural, would consider the challenges of heavily urbanized Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut as they seek to limit the use of fireworks, especially in cities. Granite Staters might remember that much of the state’s affluence stems from its proximity to that great wealth creator Greater Boston and show a little gratitude. (This reminds me of how Red States are heavily subsidized by Blue States, whose taxes fund much of the federal programs in the former.)

In addition to the above, a couple things are worth pointing out:

  1. New Hampshire's poverty rate is the smallest in the nation according to the latest tabulation. The "great wealth creator" to our south is number 8. Rhode Island, on the other hand, is unaccountably unaffected by its proximity to Massachusetts: it's in 28th place.
  2. The "Red States are heavily subsidized by Blue States" is tendentious garbage. Debunkings here and here.

And then it gets worse…

Ah, the federal system, one of whose flaws is painfully visible in the COVID-19 pandemic. Look at how the Red States, at the urging of the Oval Office Mobster, too quickly opened up, leading to an explosion of cases, which in turn hurts the states that had been much tougher and more responsible about imposing early controls. But yes, the federal system’s benign side includes that states can experiment with new programs and ways of governance, some of which may become national models, acting as Justice Louis Brandeis called “laboratories of democracy’’.

Yay, Federalism. Fine, me too. But I'm not sure Rhode Island has a lot to brag about, given its high position on the state ranking by COVID-19 death rate. If states are democracy labs, RI done botched its experiment.

There's more to Bob's column. He bemoans the recent SCOTUS decision on non-discriminatory aid to parents who choose to send their kids to religious schools under the heading "Church-State Walls Erode".

But amusingly, he does that just after trashing the town of Burrillville, RI, which declared itself a “First Amendment Sanctuary Town.” Burrillville's crime: daring to specifically oppose the state's "cumbersome restrictions on places of worship".

For Bob, that Church-State Wall becomes pretty porous when it comes to State imposing its will on Churches.

The Limehouse Golem

[1.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

So I thought a golem was some sort of Yiddish-legend Frankenstein-monster. Check Wikipedia… yeah, that's pretty much right.

So I'm not sure where this movie's title came from. There's no indication that anyone here is Jewish, and the movie's "Golem" is just a plain old serial killer, not a supernatural claymation monster.

Unless they explained this in one of the stretches where I was asleep. I can't say that's unlikely. I dozed off pretty solidly for awhile there. Not enough to deter me from counting this movie as "seen in 2020", though.

Uh, the plot: in Victorian-era London the Golem is killing people, but there's also the gruesome poisoning of John Cree, husband of Elizabeth. Suspicion naturally falls upon her, and she finds herself on whatever it is they called Death Row back there and then. But Inspector Kildare (Bill Nighy) finds evidence possibly linking John Cree to the Golem murders! And did I mention that Elizabeth is a music-hall singer with aspirations, John a struggling playwright?

It's pretty convoluted, perverse, and unbelievable. Karl Marx apparently has a cameo, but I slept through it.

URLs du Jour

2020-07-06

[Amazon Link]

  • Steve Hanke and Richard M. Ebeling have a National Review article in honor of Thomas Sowell hitting the big nine-zero (NRPLUS, sorry). An utter travesty is left until the final paragraph. After relating and summarizing Sowell's work on cultural, geographic, and racial disparities and differences over the years:

    Sowell’s tracing of these past differences brings us back to today. On June 5, the American Economic Association (AEA), the premier professional association for economists since its founding in 1885, issued a statement saying that it was time for officers and governance committees within the association to look into racism and racist practices and presumptions within the profession. To that end, the AEA compiled a recommended reading list on race and discrimination. Sowell is nowhere to be found on it. Neither is the late Gary Becker, former president of the AEA, who won a Nobel prize in 1992 for, among other achievements, his pathbreaking work on the economics of discrimination. This is the blinkered world we live in today.

    Another professional society hopelessly in thrall to the woke mob. At least for now. Until the folks in charge start answering the question posed in the title of our Amazon Product du Jour in the negative.


  • [Amazon Link]
    At the Library of Economics and Liberty, Alberto Mingardi offers an anecdote about The Anticapitalist Mentality. Quoting from a recent book (Amazon link at right):

    On 14 April 1912, Benjamin Guggenheim, Solomon’s younger brother, found himself on board the Titanic, and, as the ship started sinking, he was one of those who helped women and children onto the lifeboats, withstanding the frenzy, and at times the brutality, of other male passengers. Then, when his steward was ordered to man one of the boats, Guggenheim took his leave, and asked him to tell his wife that ‘no woman was left on board because Ben Guggenheim was a coward’. And that was it. His words may have been a little less resonant, but it really doesn’t matter; he did the right, very difficult thing to do. And so, when a researcher for Cameron’s 1997 Titanic unearthed the anecdote, he immediately brought it to the scriptwriters’ attention: what a scene. But he was flatly turned down: too unrealistic. The rich don’t die for abstract principles like cowardice and the like. And indeed, the film’s vaguely Guggenheim-like figure tries to force his way onto a lifeboat with a gun.

    Ah, well, it was still a good movie. Just filter out the anticapitalism.


  • At Quillette, Peter Toshev reports On Steve Hsu and the Campaign to Thwart Free Inquiry.

    Steve Hsu, Professor of Theoretical Physics and, until June 19th, 2020, Senior Vice-President for Research and Innovation at Michigan State University (MSU) is the latest high-profile sacking. Hsu is not accused of a discriminatory act while carrying out his administrative responsibilities, such as faculty promotions or recruitment. He reports that he has not received any such allegation during his eight years as SVP. Instead, he is accused of holding—and of supporting others who hold—racist, eugenicist, and sexist views pertaining to intelligence. His accusers are Kevin Bird, president of MSU’s Graduate Employees Union (GEU), the GEU itself, and a list of signatories—including many college professors—to a petition addressed to MSU President Samuel Stanley demanding Hsu’s removal from the SVP post. The accusations, and the evidence that supposedly supports them, were shared on June 10th in a series of tweets hashtagged into the #ShutDownAcademia #ShutDownSTEM initiative.

    In a blogpost published on June 12th, Hsu forcefully rejected the accusations and methodically addressed the mischaracterizations that informed them. A counter-petition was circulated, which attracted an even longer list of signatories than Bird’s, and which also included many university professors. This too was sent to President Stanley, rejecting the claims made by the GEU and defending Hsu’s role as SVP. The president also received personal letters in support of Hsu from noted figures such as Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, who wrote “I am writing to urge you not to surrender to an outrage mob by removing Professor Steve Hsu from his Vice President position at MSU. Professor Hsu has discussed ideas that are controversial, but they are not malignant, and he has supported them with citations from the scientific literature.”

    Yet another shameless and spineless capitulation by "higher education" administration.


  • At the Josiah Bartlett Center, Drew Cline confirms that I interpreted a recent judicial decision correctly (always an iffy proposition): N.H.'s tax credit scholarships must include religious schools, U.S. Supreme Court confirms.

    The June 30th U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue demolishes once and for all the false claim that New Hampshire’s Education Tax Credit Program violates the New Hampshire and U.S. Constitutions. 

    Further, the ruling renders inoperative New Hampshire’s anti-Catholic Blaine amendment, added to the state constitution in 1877. 

    “While the plain text and history of New Hampshire’s Blaine Amendment should not have been an impediment to enacting robust school choice programs prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Espinoza, there is now no question that legislators and policymakers in the Live Free or Die state are free to design and enact programs that will empower parents to choose the educational environment that will best serve their children’s learning needs,” Tim Keller, senior attorney at the Institute for Justice and co-counsel in the Espinoza case, told the Bartlett Center.

    That's excellent news. However, the decision was 5-4. And it would only take a single Biden appointment to undo. (Have Supreme Count liberals ever been swayed by stare decisis considerations? Not to my knowledge, which I admit is not broad or deep.)


  • And, due to a paywall, I wasn't able to read too much of this Telegraph [UK] article by Sarah Kennedy, which purports to explain Why Ghislaine Maxwell chose New Hampshire. But it set off the Google LFOD News Alert.

    The subhed: "Dense forests and difficult access from few public roads make it easy to get off radar in the place whose motto is ‘Live Free or Die'".

    Ghislaine Maxwell could not have chosen a better spot than Bradford, New Hampshire for the hidden location of her house Tuckedaway. Known as the ‘Granite State’ for the local psychology as much as the landscape, New Hampshire is a live- and-let-live place whose motto is ‘Live Free or Die’....

    Um.

    Bradford is only a few miles off Interstate 89, Sarah. It's remarkably easy to get to. It's pretty close to Lake Sunapee, one of the state's major tourist draws

    Now, apparently, Maxwell was holed up in a McMansion a few miles down the road from the town center. But still, I think she would have had an easier time staying out of site in Oakland, Iowa.

The Phony Campaign

2020-07-05 Update

The election betting markets gave Trump a little more love over the week, bumping his win-probability up by a whopping 0.2 percentage points.

And they also gave Biden a little more love than that: his win-probability improved by 0.3 percentage points.

Which means that, marginally, the "smart" money says that America is likely to be stuck with one or the other of these lying phony narcissistic weasels men come January 2021.

But Trump widened his lead over Biden in the only poll that really counts: Google phony hit counts.

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
6/28
Phony
Results
Change
Since
6/28
Donald Trump 38.3% +0.2% 1,810,000 +110,000
Joe Biden 57.1% +0.3% 473,000 -31,000

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • Jeffrey A. Tucker explains it at AIER: Why Election Markets are Betting Against Trump.

    The betting markets judge Trump’s prospects for keeping the presidency with more negativity each day. As of this writing, there is a 24-point gap between Trump and Biden. It seems unbelievable that it shows confidence in Biden; rather it is likely a measure of how Trump’s glamour and glitz are fading. 

    You can dismiss this. You can also disregard the many reports that Trump is demoralized and considering dropping out of the race. Maybe he will pull a rabbit out of the hat. Maybe the polls are wrong again, and the betting odds also. Maybe. But actually, based on what I can read from his Twitter feed, I suspect that Peggy Noonan is correct:

    How a lot of Trump supporters feel about the president has changed. The real picture at the Tulsa rally was not the empty seats so much as the empty faces—the bored looks, the yawning and phone checking, as if everyone was re-enacting something, hearing some old song and trying to remember how it felt a few years ago, when you heard it the first time.

    Tucker's article contains a snapshot of the Real Clear Politics Betting Odds historical graph which I recommend if you're interested in these things; RCP appears to sample more betting sites than does the Lott/Stossel Election Betting Odds site, but the actual odds, nevertheless, seem to be about the same.

    He helpfully annotates the chart with explanatory milestones, and attributes Trump's erosion to his embrace of statist rhetoric and bogus epidemiological modeling, with the aiieee-we're-all-gonna-die lockdowns.

    It's a story. Might be so.

    Or things might have been even worse for Trump if he'd embraced Tucker's libertarian advice. I don't think the country's generally in the mood for libertarian advice. It seems more devoted than ever to finger-pointing, scapegoating, and close-mindedness.


  • And then there's "journalism". Instapundit points out a Courtney Shadegg tweet:

    (And Instapundit has more examples.)

    I didn't watch Trump's speech at Mount Rushmore, and why should I bother when "journalists" are right there willing to brand it as hate speech, which should probably be banned?


  • At Vanity Fair, Charlotte Klein engages in some utterly tiresome and predictable psychologizing, but … y'know what? Also pretty credible: Trump Only Wants to Be Reelected Because of His Giant Ego.

    It appears that President Donald Trump’s primary motivation to run for reelection—is to be reelected. Some of the president’s allies told The Daily Beast that Trump’s desire for a second term is largely driven by fears of being embarrassed. A former senior Trump administration official said that on multiple occasions, Trump said “he is determined not to be a one-termer, and says that history forever remembers them as ‘losers,’” sentiments that another source says Trump expressed in late 2018. The source, paraphrasing, remembered Trump citing former President Jimmy Carter “as an example of a modern political ‘loser,’ and how ‘you never want to be that guy,’” a legacy Trump is trying to avoid by cinching another four years.

    What Trump would actually do with another term, however, isn’t something the president seems totally sure about, based on a recent interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity. Trump was unable to name a single policy item when asked what his top goals would be if reelected, instead musing about “experience” and changing the subject to former national security adviser John Bolton, according to CNN. “I always say talent is more important than experience, I've always said that -- but the word experience is a very important word, a very important meaning," said Trump, noting that his time in office has made him familiar with Washington and the people there, which he said “wasn’t [his] thing” as a New Yorker. “Now I know everybody, and I have great people in the administration,” he said, though “you make some mistakes,” citing “an idiot like Bolton” to be among them.

    Both Jeff Jacoby and Clarence Page have compared Trump's response to Hannity's slo-pitch softball query to Teddy Kennedy's answer to a similar question from Roger Mudd back in 1979: “Why do you want to be president?”

    "Uhhhh…".


  • Kevin D. Williamson takes to the NYPost to observe: Barack Obama's failures left a weak VP field for Joe Biden.

    Biden’s old boss, Barack Obama, really thinned out his party: Democrats in 2009 had controlled 59 percent of state legislatures and 29 governor’s offices, but by the end of Obama’s presidency they were down to fewer than a third of state legislatures and a rump of 16 governorships, while 63 Democratic House seats went Republican after Obama’s first midterm. Democrats were reduced to a status they had not endured since Warren G. Harding was in the White House.

    Donald Trump has done a very fine job helping the Democrats to rebuild — a mad scientist in a laboratory couldn’t have created a more useful enemy — but their bench is still a little thin. Because Biden has been accused of creepy behavior, he’s promised to choose a woman as his vice-presidential pick, as though that would nullify his weirdness with women rather than highlight it. Because Biden is the author of an infamous crime bill very closely associated with mass incarceration — and very much objected to by Black Lives Matter and other left-wing activists, without whose support Biden will lose — he is under pressure to choose a woman who is not white.

    Which brings us to…


  • Aída Chávez writing at the Intercept, noting that Kamala Harris's Wikipedia Page Is Being Edited. Yes, she's a contender for Biden's VP. But:

    Presidential vetting operations have entire teams of investigators, but for the public, when the pick is announced, the most common source for information about the person chosen is Wikipedia. And there, a war has broken out over how to talk about Harris’s career. 

    At least one highly dedicated Wikipedia user has been scrubbing controversial aspects of Harris’s “tough-on-crime” record from her Wikipedia page, her decision not to prosecute Steve Mnuchin for mortgage fraud-related crimes, her strong support of prosecutors in Orange County who engaged in rampant misconduct, and other tidbits — such as her previous assertion that “it is not progressive to be soft on crime” — that could prove unflattering to Harris as the public first gets to know her on the national stage. The edits, according to the page history, have elicited strong pushback from Wikipedia’s volunteer editor brigade, and have drawn the page into controversy, though it’s a fight the pro-Harris editor is currently winning.   

    I often rely on Wikipedia, but this is a useful reminder that it's not that reliable on contentious issues. Stick to looking up stuff like Betteridge's law of headlines.

    Kamala does, however, strike me as the candidate most likely to have memorized the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Should she become VP, the talk on invoking Section 4 will start no later than January 21, 2021.


  • The NYPost reports on Biden's recent Q-and-A with the press corps: Joe Biden rips Trump, calls reporter a 'lying dog face'.

    Biden, who has been stuck at his Wilmington home during the pandemic, also took questions from reporters for the first time in months after the Trump campaign accused him of hiding.

    But the gaffe-prone former lawmaker lashed out when one reporter mentioned his own mental deterioration at age 65 and asked Biden if he had been tested for cognitive decline.

    “You’re a lying dog face,” Biden said, apparently irritated that the reporter kept asking questions as he tried to leave the event, before adding that he was “constantly tested.”

    Good luck finding this reported anywhere outside the right-wing press. But it brings us to…


  • In our "Who Could Blame Them" Department, the Federalist's Jonah Gottschalk reveals: Biden Campaign Refuses To Release Cognitive Test Results.

    Its been three days now since former Vice President Joe Biden told reporters that he’s been “tested and am constantly tested” for cognitive decline. The media has, unsurprisingly, swept this story under the rug, but the candidate’s claim still raises a lot of questions.

    Who’s been doing these assessments? Why are we only hearing about these “constant” tests after the cognitive question has plagued the campaign for well over a year? And most importantly, Biden never actually said what any of the results were. So what were they?

    I want—nay, demand—cognitive tests be given to both candidates, and those tests and their results should be broadcast live on C-SPAN. I'd watch, with plenty of popcorn nearby.

    And then a general test, covering civics, geography, history, basic science, etc. No math, though!


  • And just a reminder from Daniel J. Mitchell on what we have to look forward to under President Biden, House Speaker Pelosi, and Majority Leader Cuomo: The Adverse Economic Consequences of Higher Tax Rates.

    The good news is that Joe Biden has not embraced many of Bernie Sanders’ worst tax ideas, such as imposing a wealth tax or hiking the top income tax rate to 52 percent..

    The bad news is that he nonetheless is supporting a wide range of punitive tax increases.

    • Increasing the top income tax rate to 39.6 percent.
    • Imposing a 12.4 percent payroll tax on wages above $400,000.
    • Increasing the double taxation of dividends and capital gains from 23.8 percent to 43.4 percent.
    • Hiking the corporate tax rate to 28 percent.
    • Increasing taxes on American companies competing in foreign markets.

    The worst news is that Nancy Pelosi, et al, may wind up enacting all these tax increases and then also add some of Crazy Bernie‘s proposals.

    This won’t be good for the U.S. economy and national competitiveness.

    Well, not for the first time, and not for the last, what Mencken said: "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."

    (And 11 other quotes at the link.)

URLs du Jour

2020-07-04

[Happy Fourth]

That is, of course, Michael Ramirez, who often manages to express my own thoughts more beautifully than I could.

  • At the Josiah Bartlett Center, Drew Cline tells us that It's OK to celebrate the United States of America. What a relief!

    Independence Day, 2020, will come without parades or fireworks shows in many communities. They are canceled for the coronavirus. Some Americans seem to want them canceled for good. They’re ashamed of the flag and the nation it represents.

    [PS: Like this guy.]

    Six years from America’s 250th birthday, her citizens should be preparing for the party to end all parties. Instead, many of us are questioning the idea that the country is worth celebrating at all.

    It is. Joyfully and unashamedly.

    In other news, Don Boudreaux's Quotation of the Day is from George F. Will's latest book:

    America was born with an epistemological assertion: The important political truths are not merely knowable, they are known. They are self-evident in that they are obvious to any mind not clouded by ignorance or superstition. It is, the Declaration says, self-evidently true that “all men are created equal” not only in their access to the important political truths, but also in being endowed with certain unalienable rights, including the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    And you might also want to read (or reread) What Calvin Coolidge Said About The Declaration of Independence.

    Less seriously, because why not, the Babylon Bee: Americans Excited To Celebrate Their Liberty While Confined To Their Homes By The Government.

    And Andrew Stiles has some tips: How to Celebrate July 4 Without Getting Canceled for Glorifying White Supremacy. Example:

    American Flags — Despite their common usage in July 4 celebrations, it is advisable to refrain from flying the American flag given its close association to the United States of America, a country founded on British colonialism, genocide, and tax evasion. If you must incorporate the stars and stripes into your festivities, consider adding a 51st star to show your support for D.C. statehood and the hundreds of disenfranchised journalists forced to reside there.

    All worth your attention!


  • And do you ever find yourself typing and need to fill in the blank: "America is the             country on Earth." Oh oh. Is it Freeest or freest?

    Well, the mavens at Language Log are academics, so of course they weren't talking about America. But still:

    I wrote this sentence: "Hong Kong was one of the freeest cities on earth". My automated spell checker flagged "freeest", so I changed it to "freest", and the spell checker let that stand. But in my mind I was still saying "free‧est", with two syllables, whereas when I see "freest", it's very hard for me to think of that as having two syllables. So how are we to pronounce the superlative degree of the adjective "free"?

    Bottom line: stick with "most free".