URLs du Jour

2019-05-24

[Amazon Link]

  • At Cato, Derek Bonett asks Wherefore the Freedom Caucus? I believe that "wherefore" is used here in the sense of "What's the point of".

    In a column for Reason Magazine yesterday, Matt Welch asks “What’s the point of a ‘limited government’ bloc that doesn’t limit government?” Indeed, in the Trump era some of the President’s most strident defenders can be found amongst the ranks of the Freedom Caucus, and, as my colleague Chris Edwards points out, they seem every bit as comfortable with big deficits as the other fiscal-conservatives-cum-spendthrifts in the GOP.

    But, to my knowledge, nobody has yet performed a systematic analysis of the Freedom Caucus’ voting behavior vis-a-vis other Republicans in the House. Do they, as a caucus, even vote cohesively? If so, are they at all differentiable from generic Republican House members? I set out to test this using the NOMINATE methodology to assign an “ideal-point” estimate for each member of the House during the modern era of Republican dominance (2011-2018). […]

    What follows is an interesting use of software and visualization to investigate Freedom Caucus voting behavior. Marred somewhat by the time period chosen, 2011-2018; Matt Welch was pretty clearly bashing them for their behavior under Trump, so 2017-2018 would have been more appropriate.


  • Charles Sykes writes at the Bulwark on those In Pursuit of Fiscal Unicorns.

    Pollsters want to know: Would you like to make the world a better place and help plants, animals, and small children? How about a program to save the earth from imminent destruction that won’t really cost you anything, cuz it’s free?

    I mean who wouldn’t? And why wouldn’t progressives in places like Australia, the U.K., and the U.S. think they are massive political winners?

    All we need is a Fiscal Unicorn –a magical source of cash that makes the desired object – universal child care, health care, and Green New Deals – pain free. The national debt now tops $22 trillion, but we live in an age that is more than willing to suspend disbelief and mathematics alike.

    Charles goes on to note that a recent poll that claiming "that more than 80 percent of the public supported the Green New Deal" was "basically a push poll." Which brings us to, coincidentally, …


  • … the Union Leader reporting that Survey finds wide support for NH commuter rail.

    A new poll indicates a large percentage of Granite State residents favor passenger train service between Boston and southern New Hampshire.

    The Saint Anselm College Survey Center poll found 75.5% of residents surveyed said they are in support of expanding passenger rail service to Boston from Manchester and Nashua, according to a release Monday from New Hampshire Businesses for Rail Expansion, a statewide, nonpartisan business coalition that launched in January 2018.

    Is this another poll in favor of making the world a better place and helping plants, animals, and small children? Probably.

    Could it have been a push poll, where all sorts of benefits were rattled off to the pollees, with no mention of costs? Possibly. I can't find any report of the actual question asked. The poll was commissioned by a "coalition" calling itself the "New Hampshire Business for Rail Expansion". Cynics (like your blogger) might read this as "New Hampshire Businesses Who Stand to Reap Rent-Seeking Profits From Rail Expansion".

    The group's website lists theoretical benefits that might have been pre-fed to the pollees. "5,600 permanent jobs supporting 3,600 new residential units"! "1,730 jobs would be created every year beginning in 2030"! And the like.

    More cynicism: rail projects traditionally are sold by lowballing costs, and wildly inflating benefits. Unpleasant surprises inevitably are revealed once things are in motion.

    And even taking those rosy numbers at face value, it's an object lesson in Bastiat's Seen/Unseen. What we don't see when all that money is "invested" in rail: to what other uses could that have gone to?


  • Michael Graham of NH Insider interviews Marianne Williamson, Tea Party Progressive?. This bit was, um, "interesting":

    But perhaps Williamson’s most progressive position is her call for up to $500 billion in cash payments for slavery reparations, which she says “is not some black agenda. It’s an American agenda.”

    “My campaign is based on the idea of moral and spiritual regeneration,” Williamson told NHJournal. “Lincoln said a nation must confess its sins. A nation, like a person, must take a serious moral inventory. We simply can’t have the future we want if we don’t clean up the past.”

    According to a statement from her campaign, “Marianne supports reparations in the form of establishing a commission or council which would direct investment in economic and educational revitalization and renewal, not cash payments.”

    Hm. Calls for "up to $500 billion in cash payments" in the first paragraph. Followed by a "not cash payments" clarification in the third.


  • So let's go to Marianne's website. The relevant page is titled: Racial Reconciliation & Healing.

    For that reason, I propose a $200 billion - $500 billion plan of reparations for slavery, the money to be disbursed over a period of twenty years. An esteemed council of African-American leaders would determine the educational and economic projects to which the money would be given.

    "Esteemed". Well, all righty, then!


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang for an article in Yes! Weekly, a publication from down in North Carolina: Greensboro Roller Derby to celebrate LGBTQIA Pride month with themed bout.

    Greensboro Roller Derby (GSORD) is excited to announce its third home team bout of the season, the Mad Dollies versus the Battleground Betties! These two teams will face off for the first time this season in a Pride-themed bout, as June is national Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual (LGBTQIA) Pride month. Spectators are encouraged to wear rainbow to show support for LGBTQIA rights, culture and communities while watching exciting derby action as these two rival teams square off.

    Greensboro Roller Derby strives to be a place of acceptance to all of our skaters and volunteers, and our skaters are excited to come together in our first ever Pride-themed bout to celebrate Pride month. Battleground Betties Co-Captain Live Free or Die (aka FOD) remarked, “I’m beyond excited that GSORD is hosting our first Pride-themed bout. I’ve seen other derby leagues do it before and I think it’s such a wonderful concept to celebrate our community of Queer skaters and help them feel heard or seen, whether they are out or not. Although I don’t look forward to hitting my amazing derby wife, Queenie, the Dollies are always such an amazing and fun team to play against! It’s going to be a great bout!”

    I have… no additional comment. Except to wish everyone involved good luck.

Nothing Stays Buried

[Amazon Link]

The 2017 entry in P. J. Tracy's "Monkeewrench" series. P. J. Tracy was a mother-daughter writing team, but mom passed away. The daughter continues the series here without a glitch.

As always, there are two crime-fighting teams here: there's the Minneapolis Police Department detectives, concentrating on the able and likeable duo of Magozzi and Rolseth. And then there's "Monkeewrench", an elite team of super-hackers. An important link: Magozzi is sweet on chief-Monkewrencher Grace. To the extent that (in this book) she's pregant with his child.

But as far as crime goes: there's a serial killer on the loose in the Twin Cities, gruesomely preying upon young women jogging in parks after dark. Which understandably is occupying the cops.

But the Monkeewrench folks are taking their show on the road, responding to a southwest Minnesota farmer whose daughter has gone missing. Are these two investigations linked. (Spoiler: yah, you betcha.)

There's also a lion that provides an important clue. (Yes, I said: a lion. Honest.) And a very bad storm which leads to more gruesomeness.

The series is not my favorite, but it's pretty good.

URLs du Jour

2019-05-23

[Amazon Link]

  • Mark J. Perry, at AEI, does some anti-mythologizing of Big Business: Only 52 US companies have been on the Fortune 500 since 1955, thanks to the creative destruction that fuels economic prosperity. Much data, names are dropped, and here's the bottom line:

    As consumers, we should appreciate the fact that we are the ultimate beneficiaries of the Schumpeterian creative destruction that drives the dynamism of the market economy and results in a constant churning of the firms who are ultimately fighting to attract as many of our dollar votes as possible. The 500 top winners of that competitive battle in any given year are the firms in the Fortune 500, ranked not by their profits, assets or number of employees, but by what is ultimately most important in a market economy: the dollar votes (sales revenues) cast by consumers — the “kings and queens” who rule supreme in the marketplace.

    Emphasis in original. Next time someone tells you that the game is rigged in favor of big business, show them this article and ask why big businesses don't "rig" things to assure their immortality?


  • In Pun Salad's occasional "Of Course She Does" Department, Reason's Peter Suderman reports: Kamala Harris Wants to Force Companies to Report Pay Data to the Federal Government—and Fine Them If They Don’t Offer Equal Pay. Hey, what could go wrong with that? Well, among other things:

    There are plenty of things that could go wrong with a plan like this: For one, it might end up backfiring if firms responded to the threat of fines by avoiding hiring women for certain types of jobs. Overt discrimination would be prohibited, but with incentives to discriminate in place, and the threat of penalties looming, some firms would probably find a way, at least at the margins. It could also encourage firms to outsource jobs that might have gone to women, in order to keep them out of the reporting data.

    … and much more at the link. But (generally speaking) putting the inner workings of your biz under the eye (and thumb) of Federal bureaucrats who don't really care much about it sounds like a bad idea.


  • At Marginal Revolution, Alex Tabarrok discusses One of the Greatest Environmental Crimes of the 20th Century. Quoting a Pacific Standard article:

    It was one of the fastest decimations of an animal population in world history—and it had happened almost entirely in secret. The Soviet Union was a party to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, a 1946 treaty that limited countries to a set quota of whales each year. By the time a ban on commercial whaling went into effect, in 1986, the Soviets had reported killing a total of 2,710 humpback whales in the Southern Hemisphere. In fact, the country’s fleets had killed nearly 18 times that many, along with thousands of unreported whales of other species. It had been an elaborate and audacious deception: Soviet captains had disguised ships, tampered with scientific data, and misled international authorities for decades. In the estimation of the marine biologists Yulia Ivashchenko, Phillip Clapham, and Robert Brownell, it was “arguably one of the greatest environmental crimes of the 20th century.”

    Whoa. In other words, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, without all the space and time travel stuff. But (as it turns out) all that slaughter was literally without purpose.

    The Soviet whalers, Berzin wrote, had been sent forth to kill whales for little reason other than to say they had killed them. They were motivated by an obligation to satisfy obscure line items in the five-year plans that drove the Soviet economy, which had been set with little regard for the Soviet Union’s actual demand for whale products. “Whalers knew that no matter what, the plan must be met!” Berzin wrote. The Sovetskaya Rossiya seemed to contain in microcosm everything Berzin believed to be wrong about the Soviet system: its irrationality, its brutality, its inclination toward crime.

    Sure, we're told: socialism will do a lot better next time.


  • Also on that topic, Bryan Caplan muses on the use and abuse of the S-word: "Socialism": The Provocative Equivocation.

    The socialists are back, but is it a big deal?  It’s tempting to say that it’s purely rhetorical.  Modern socialists don’t want to emulate the Soviet Union.  To them, socialism just means “Sweden,” right?  Even if their admiration for Sweden is unjustified, we’ve long known that the Western world contains millions of people who want their countries to be like Sweden.  Why should we care if Sweden-fans rebrand themselves as “socialists”?

    My instinctive objection is that even using the term “socialism” is an affront to the many millions of living victims of Soviet-style totalitarian regimes.  Talking about “socialism” understandably horrifies them.  Since there are plenty of palatable synonyms for Swedish-type policies (starting even “Swedenism”!), selecting this particular label seems a breach of civility.

    If this seems paranoid, what would you say about a new movement of self-styled “national socialists”?  Even if their policy positions were moderate, this brand needlessly terrifies lots of folks who have already suffered enough.

    The civility issue aside, Bryan notes that a lot of self-billed "socialists" are high on criticism, weak on clearly defining their actual proposals.


  • The always-sensible Veronique de Rugy writes that Trump’s Immigration Plan Could Use Some Work.

    Last week, the Trump administration released the outline of an immigration plan meant to reshape how and which people are allowed into the United States. The plan would prioritize merit-based immigration and high-skilled labor over those who already have family here. Far from comprehensive or sufficient, it's a modest improvement over the administration's previous restrictive pushes.

    The plan's centerpiece is a shift toward a "merit" system very similar to those in place in Australia and Canada. The reform would boost skill-based immigration from 12% to 57%, while decreasing family-based and lottery-based immigration by 50%. This is great news for employers in the market for high-skilled workers. Indeed, the cap for H-1B visas (for temporary, skilled workers) and employment-based green cards has not increased for many years, while the U.S. workforce has grown by 38 million since these programs' inception.

    So what needs work? There's no resolution for the so-called "Dreamers". And (Veronique thinks) there needs to be more low-skill immigration too. I'm skeptical on that last point, but I'm willing to be convinced.

URLs du Jour

2019-05-22

[Amazon Link]

  • P. J. O'Rourke, writing in the WaPo, has a modest proposal: It’s time to make rich people uncomfortable again.

    Lately there has been a lot of anger and indignation about income inequality. Some blame this on . . . income inequality. I blame it on rich people in T-shirts.

    I won’t mention Mark Zuckerberg by name. But, honestly, young man, you’re almost 35 years old, worth $72 billion, and you’re wearing your underwear in public.

    Peej is always worth reading. But the subtext… The article features an illustration with Zuck, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Richard Branson,… and Jeff Bezos. Who (you probably don't need to be reminded) owns the WaPo.

    Even better, or worse, depending on your attitudes: Peej also complains:

    Rich people are also having fun — launching their own rocket ships, sending lewd selfies, buying private islands (Manhattan, for example). Having fun was something rich people didn’t used to do, at least not as far as we poor people could tell.

    And (as you also probably don't need to be reminded) two of those three examples are Bezos-relevant.

    I'm not sure what to make of that. I would expect Peej to take shots at Bezos. But I can't help but wonder what the fate of the relevant WaPo editors will be in the near future.


  • Guaranteed to make lefty heads explode is a New Republic article by Win McCormack, Socialism in No Country.

    There is now an organization in the United States called the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA)—the youth wing of the older DSA. Unfortunately, no self-identified socialist regime in the world—all of which have been installed by professional revolutionists in the Marxist-Leninist tradition—has ever been the least bit democratic. No democratically elected legislative body has ever voted to take control of their nation’s “means of production,” except to the most modest extent. Jacobin magazine, which could reasonably serve as the house organ of the YDSA, points to Salvador Allende’s brief presidency of Chile as an example of a situation in which true socialism might have been democratically installed, had it not been for America’s intervention.

    There’s good reason to be skeptical of that claim. Allende, elected to his nation’s presidency in 1970 with 36.3 percent of the vote, was ousted in a bloody coup by right-wing forces three years later. Thirty years on, Chilean socialists would argue that Allende’s basic error was in disregarding “the law of the three-thirds,” meaning the almost even division between left, right, and center in Chilean politics. Allende represented a Popular Unity coalition, in which his principal partner was the Chilean Communist Party. While Allende seems to have been sincere in his commitment to build a “democratic, pluralistic, and libertarian” model of socialism (whatever he imagined that meant), Chile’s hard-line Communist Party was not so committed. Its leaders pressured Allende to move ahead ever faster with a radical socialist agenda, alarming not only Chilean rightists and many centrists as well, but also Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, an informal adviser to Allende. In conversation with the Chilean foreign minister, Zhou said tersely, “You’re going too fast,” and implied doubt about whether it would be possible to create socialism in a country with a parliament and free press (i.e., a democracy), especially at such reckless speed.

    Win McCormack is editor in chief of The New Republic. The mag is probably not going to turn into National Review, I suppose, but still.


  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum weighs in on the last honest Republican Congresscritter: Justin Amash Is Right About Impeachable Conduct.

    Justin Amash thinks Donald Trump is guilty of "impeachable conduct," and he is absolutely right. Impeachable conduct is whatever the House of Representatives decides it is, a point the president's defenders and some of his critics seem determined to obscure.

    The House impeached Bill Clinton for lying under oath about oral sex, and the conduct described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report is more troubling and consequential, even if it does not amount to a crime that could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. When Amash, a five-term Michigan congressman, became the first Republican legislator to make that point, the reaction revealed how determined his colleagues are to evade their responsibilities.

    I can't help but think "obstruction of justice" is what prosecutors charge you with when they can't find enough evidence to make the case for an actual crime.


  • Baseball stats geeks will love Dave Sheinin's article in the WaPo: Velocity is strangling baseball — and its grip keeps tightening.

    A flame-throwing relief pitcher enters a game — mid-inning, runners on base, tie score — sending the telecast to another commercial break, dialing back the tension in the stadium and pushing the game into its fourth hour. As he faces his first batter, two more relievers are warming up in the bullpen.

    He takes huge breaths and lengthy pauses between pitches, as he gears up for each neck-straining, 100-mph heater or sharp-breaking slider. The hitter, fully aware he has little chance of making contact, likewise gears up to swing for the fences, just in case he does. The defense, anticipating the full-throttle hack, shifts acutely to the hitter’s pull side.

    Within this scenario are the ingredients many believe are strangling the game of baseball: long games with little action, the growing reliance on relief pitchers at the expense of starters, the all-or-nothing distillation of the essential pitcher/hitter matchup. Those are some of the problems Major League Baseball is contemplating, with newly installed and proposed rule changes. But they are merely the symptoms.

    A lot of impressive numbers and neat visualizations help Dave make his point. I'm impressed, but… I tend to take baseball as it is, not as I might wish it to be. No, it's not thrill-a-minute. But here are a couple things I've fantasized about in the past: (1) A pitch clock: throw the ball within 35 seconds of your previous pitch, or it's an automatic ball. (2) No batter-requested timeouts. If you're not ready to swing the bat when the pitch comes, it's just too darn bad. Plan your day better.


  • And finally a Babylon Bee twofer, both riffing off Robert F. Smith's promise to pay off the college loans of Morehouse College's graduating class. First up: Bernie Sanders Criticizes Billionaire For Giving Money To Students Instead Of The Needy Federal Government.

    Bernie Sanders's favorite pastime is calling out evil billionaires for their evilness. Sanders found the perfect opportunity to do this once again as billionaire Robert F. Smith announced he would be paying off the student debt of those who graduated from Morehouse College.

    Sanders pointed to the egregious waste of funds as a perfect example of what happens when billionaires are allowed to keep their money.

    Satire, but… is it, really?


  • But another presidential candidate weighed in (fictionally) as well: Elizabeth Warren Surprises Grads By Announcing She Will Sharply Increase Their Taxes To Pay For Their Student Loans.

    Speaking to the graduating class of 2019 at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Senator Elizabeth Warren proudly announced she would be sharply increasing their taxes in order to pay for their own student loans, which were inflated by government subsidies in the first place.

    After an inspiring speech in which she encouraged students to let the government do everything for them instead of doing things themselves and to exploit any minority status they have, or even ones they don't have, Warren unveiled her generous offer.

    Snopes will no doubt rate this article "false", including the final shot: "At publishing time, Warren had told all the students to look under their seats for a free, authentic Indian headdress she had purchased at the Dollar Tree."

URLs du Jour

2019-05-21

[Amazon Link]

  • At the Bulwark, Christian Vanderbrouk asserts that we are becoming A Nation of Fake Lawyers.

    A generation ago, the politically aware citizen with a bee in his bonnet might write a letter to his member of Congress or the newspaper. Today he’s spamming memes across Twitter and Facebook, and applying engagement metrics to A-B test the most effective lines of attack.

    As a result, Americans are embracing sophistry, and arguing more like litigators than citizens. This is especially true for discussions about presidential accountability, which take place in the gray area between four quadrants: the legal, the political, the moral, and the prudent.

    For example, Christian continues, take the emoluments clause. How hard is that to understand, even without passing the bar exam?

    Well, Christian thinks it's a slam-dunk against Trump. Maybe!


  • At NR, Rich Lowry deploys a gun-violence metaphor: Bernie Sanders Targets Charter Schools.

    Few things offend Bernie Sanders as much as people escaping from command-and-control government systems, even minority students whose parents are desperate to get their kids a decent education.

    The socialist wants to turn George Wallace on his head and not block black children from attending traditional public schools, but block them from exiting those schools for something better.

    Sanders' proposal wouldn't affect "the rich"; like Barack Obama and Arne Duncan, they can afford to opt out of government schools and send their kids elsewhere. But Bernie's not just "targeting" the charter schools, he's targeting the kids whose parents can't afford other options.


  • And the (possibly paywalled) WSJ published a pun-filled op-ed on the metric system from James Panero: Be a Leader, Not a Liter.

    World Metrology Day is Monday. Forgive me if I don’t raise a pint—sorry, 473 milliliters—in commemoration. This date is meant to celebrate the International System of Units, otherwise known as the metric system. Against pascals of pressure, the U.S. stands nearly alone in maintaining its own “customary units” of weights and measures. We should stand tall on our own 2 feet. The metric system has never measured up. It was customary units that calibrated the machinery of the Industrial Revolution and took us 240,000 miles to the moon.

    Proponents of the metric system have been metering out contempt since their inhuman invention emerged from the French Revolution. In 1793 France’s own customary units, including the pied du Roi (king’s foot), fell victim to Jacobin Terror. The radicals standardized regional differences and went the extra mile, rationalizing their measures through the blinding logic of Enlightenment thought.

    The single reasonable argument for the metric system was (allegedly) easy calculation; just move the decimal point! But that argument went out the window when calculators became cheaper than dirt. And today, you don't even need that: Google will be happy to tell you the speed of light in furlongs per fortnight (1.803 x 1012).


  • And Iowahawk has taken his priceless schtick to Twitter these days where (as the Daily Wire reports) he's happy to use the media to mercilessly mock the sophisticates. Latest mockable example from a Politico reporter:

    Just one of the Hawk's tweets:


  • And, yes, I know Jimmy Fallon can be Politically Tedious, but he can also be wonderful, especially if you are a Who fan: Jimmy Fallon, The Who & The Roots Sing "Won't Get Fooled Again" playing Classroom Instruments.

    I look at some folks and say "Wow, that guy has the best job ever." Often about Dave O'Brien, NESN announcer for Red Sox games. But Jimmy Fallon is right up there too.

URLs du Jour

2019-05-20

[Amazon Link]

  • At American Consequences, P. J. O'Rourke provides a primer: Negative Rights vs. Positive Rights.

    There’s a reason why so much political thinking starts out in the neighborhood of Idealism, crosses Naive Street, and winds up in Stupidville.

    The reason is confusion between negative rights and positive rights.

    We all agree that rights are wonderful, and we’ve got a lot of them – at least in this country – and we should get a lot more.

    But there are two kinds of rights – Getoutta Here Rights and Gimmie Rights. Or, as they’re called in political theory, “negative rights” and “positive rights.”

    Negative rights are our rights to be left alone – to do, be, think, and say (and buy and sell) whatever we want as long as our behavior doesn’t cause real harms.

    Positive rights are our rights to real goods – our rights to get things. The right to education. The right to health care. The right to a living wage, etc.

    And positive "rights" can be established and expanded at whim. Peej is a little easier on those than I am.


  • At his Fake Nous blog, philosopher Michael Huemer looks at the A-issue: Abortion Is Difficult. There's a long discussion, but here's the bottom line:

    I don’t have many conclusions from all this. But here is one conclusion: If the abortion issue seems very simple and obvious to you, then you’re probably a dogmatic ideologue, and your ideology is stopping you from appreciating this very subtle, complex question. Abortion is a highly intellectually interesting issue, connected with all sorts of important — and very difficult and controversial — issues: Issues about personal identity, potentiality, the foundation of rights, the physical basis of consciousness, the doctrine of double effect, special obligations to family, negative vs. positive conceptions of rights, and the problem of moral uncertainty.

    I think that's pretty much correct. Darned biology keeps invading our neat philosophical air-castles, causing a mess.


  • Big news, reported by Reason's Eric Boehm: Rep. Justin Amash Says Trump ‘Has Engaged in Impeachable Conduct’.

    In a series of tweets this afternoon, Justin Amash accused President Donald Trump of having "engaged in impeachable conduct." The libertarian-leaning Michigan congressman blamed his fellow Republican legislators for choosing to defend the president rather than the Constitution in the wake of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's report.

    "Mueller's report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment," Amash tweeted. "In fact, Mueller's report identifies multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice, and undoubtedly any person who is not the president of the United States would be indicted based on such evidence."

    I think Trump should be impeached, but not for some bogus "obstruction of justice" allegation, but for his multiple sins against the Constitution.

    Of course, I've thought Obama should have been impeached for similar reasons.

    Also Dubya, for signing McCain-Feingold even though he thought it was unconstitutional.

    Bill Clinton, of course.

    George H. W. Bush? Well, maybe.


  • At Power Line, Paul Mirengoff is not a fan of Justin Amash, a party of one.

    Amash is a hard core libertarian of the Ron Paul variety. Earlier this year, he did not rule out running for president in 2020 as the Libertarian Party candidate.

    Amash is a Palestinian-American. He routinely votes against Israel’s interests. For example, he voted against additional funding for Israel’s anti-missile system, Iron Dome, during the 2014 Gaza war. He even voted against a bill to set a 90-day deadline for President Donald Trump to fill the position of anti-Semitism monitor. Apparently, the bill would have passed unanimously but for Amash’s opposition.

    Yeesh. Of that I was unaware. If Amash winds up on the ballot, I could conceivably just skip voting for President in 2020.


  • Kevin D. Williamson is not a Trump fan, but he sees merit (heh) in Trump's latest effort: Immigration Reform: Merit-Based System Serves U.S. Interests.

    Having chain-migrated his way into the White House and a little bit of political power, Donald Trump’s son-in-law is shopping around an immigration plan. And if you can get past the hilarious juxtaposition of the words “merit-based” and “Jared Kushner,” it’s a pretty good one.

    As things stand, the majority of immigrants to the United States (the majority of legal immigrants, anyway) qualify for entry on the basis of having a family member legally present in the United States. This is the mechanism behind what is known as “chain migration,” in which one member of a family provides entry to another, who provides entry to another, who provides entry to another, and so on.

    In contrast, a small share of immigrants — about 12 percent — enter the country on the basis of a job offer or the possession of certain skills or education that make them desirable to employers. (Others enter as investors, coming in as potential employers rather than potential employees.) These are everything from doctors to software developers.

    Kushner’s agenda is to reverse those proportions, reducing the number of entrants through family-based immigration and loosening up restrictions on highly skilled workers. The plan would also eliminate the “lottery,” the visa system under which 50,000 applicants are selected randomly (almost randomly, anyway) in the name of diversity, albeit a kind of diversity that excludes Canadians, Englishmen, Indians, Brazilians, Nigerians, and many others. It is difficult to think of a worse criterion for the admission of new Americans than randomness.

    Sounds (mostly) good to me, but (of course) even mostly-good is a dealbreaker for Democrats.


  • And our Google LFOD News Alert rang for an article in the UK (!) edition of Wired: 3D-printed guns are back, and this time they are unstoppable. Discussion centers on "Ivan the Troll" a spokesmodel for the decentralized, so far successfully unsquelched, movement.

    One of his most recent videos shows the polymer Glock 17 frame in various stages of production in his workshop. The footage is set to fast-paced synthwave music and is run through a trendy VHS filter – the aesthetics are important. Toward the end, Ivan fires several rounds with the fully built handgun, as text flashes up saying “ANYONE CAN MAKE IT”, “LIVE FREE OR DIE”, and “GO AHEAD TRY TO STOP THIS YOU FILTHY STATISTS”. He’s also uploaded the complete CAD reference model designs for a 3D-printed AR-15 assault rifle to his file-sharing space online. It’s clear Ivan is trying to provoke his detractors as much as possible.

    It's Wired, so there's some expected hand-wringing about "gun violence", but it's pretty clear that homemade guns are a negligible-to-zero part of that.

The Phony Campaign

2019-05-19 Update

[Amazon Link]

Another busy week in the presidential race! Did you hear that Bill de Blasio is running? Probably you did, but the Betfair betters were unimpressed (probability: sub-1%, comparable to Jay Inslee, Steve Bullock, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Julian Castro, Oprah, Eric Swalwell, Cory Booker, and a pile of others.)

So: again, no changes to our phony lineup. According to Betfair, Elizabeth Warren is showing surprising signs of life; Beto! is flirting with elimination; Bernie's fading.

And Donald Trump is coming close to even odds for re-election. But continues to be walloped by Mayor Pete in phony hits. C'mon, Big Orange, you can do it!

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
5/12
Phony
Results
Change
Since
5/12
Pete Buttigieg 4.0% -0.2% 8,750,000 +610,000
Donald Trump 45.7% +2.0% 1,780,000 +300,000
Bernie Sanders 9.3% -1.7% 390,000 +11,000
Joe Biden 15.9% -0.5% 270,000 -5,000
Elizabeth Warren 4.3% +0.3% 216,000 +19,000
Kamala Harris 6.7% +0.8% 97,200 +600
Beto O'Rourke 2.5% -0.8% 76,000 +6,800
Andrew Yang 3.6% unch 22,600 -700

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

  • The p-word featured prominently in a recent Dana Perino interview with Gov. Sununu on Fox News. They concentrate on the horse race:

    Dana: So Joe Biden is up by a point in this poll. But what is it really?

    Sununu: Um well I gotta tell ya. That's very telling. I mean Bernie is from Vermont, so naturally Bernie should do very well in New Hampshire.

    Dana: Elizabeth Warren is from Massachusetts. Shouldn't she do better in New Hampshire?

    Sununu: No. Because whether you… policy aside, our first litmus test is being genuine, do we buy into you as a person. Right? Do we connect with you at a gut level. And that goes with Republicans and Democrats. Bernie, I mean his policies are just insane, but at least he is what he is and he doesn't apologize for it. Warren is more of a phony, right, and people don't buy into any sense of genuineness there.

    Notes: I take responsibility for any transcription errors. And in more recent polls, Joe Biden is up by double digits, not "a point".

    And I'm not sure how Warren's bad polling reflects here perceived phoniness, as opposed to her strident unlikeability.


  • And not everyone's as convinced of Bernie's authenticity. For example, At least one smart guy down in Cambridge: Harvard's Laurence Tribe calls Bernie Sanders a 'phony'.

    Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe on Monday took a swipe at 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), calling him a “phony.”

    Tribe tweeted that he was making his assertion “based on watching [Sanders] for decades,” while also saying he did not think the Independent senator is “a monster” like he believes President Trump to be.

    “I’d prefer him massively over Trump. But I’d prefer a cardboard box over Trump,” Tribe added.

    I, for one, might vote for a cardboard box over just about anyone.

    [Note: Tribe's tweet may have been deleted, I can't find it. Perhaps he sobered up at some point since.]


  • Luke "Grr" Savage writes to (I guess) his fellow Jacobins at Jacobin magazine: We Can Do Way Better Than These Guys.

    […] there’s good reason to believe that the upcoming primary contest will end up resembling the GOP’s chaotic and disorienting 2016 race, in which Republican elites scrambled to find the secret formula that could arrest Donald Trump’s momentum, cycling awkwardly through donor-friendly suits like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich before finally settling on the widely loathed (and spectacularly unsuccessful) Ted Cruz. (Most of those Republican elites then swiftly turned on a dime, becoming die-hard Trump loyalists.)

    In similar fashion, Democratic power brokers and consultants have already auditioned several Anything But Bernie vehicles and are likely to test-drive a few more before the race is through. Even at this early stage, the primaries have become a kind of phony war in which an array of functionally indistinguishable establishment candidates compete to make the contest about something, anything, other than a decisive break with the political and economic status quo.

    Interesting point of view. By which I mean: completely delusional and mistaken. The non-Sanders candidates are "indistinguishable" only if you view them from the far left wing, and you still have to scrunch up your eyes to intentionally view your vision.

    Still, it's kinda what you expect to see from a publication named after a movement primarily known for beheading its opponents.


  • In our occasional "Of Course She Does" Department, we have the report from Elizabeth Nolan Brown at Reason: Kamala Harris Lies. At issue: Kamala's on-again, off-again support for the California truancy laws that criminalized parents if their kids skipped school. You might find this squirming to be hilarious:

    In any event, Harris explicitly defended her truancy crime lawsand lied about themin an interview with Jake Tapper that aired Sunday on CNN. Harris told Tapper, falsely, that "not one parent was sent to jail" because of her initiative:

    TAPPER: Well, you pushed for a statewide law, right, a statewide truancy law.

    HARRIS: And the state…

    TAPPER: And people were thrown into jail under that law.

    HARRIS: Not by me.

    TAPPER: Not by you, but you supported the law.

    Of course they weren't literally put in jail by Harris, who was attorney general of California when the truancy law was enacted and not an arresting officer. Yet no common understanding of "no one was sent to jail" means People were sent to jail, but they weren't personally put there by the attorney general. Again, we see Harris trying to rewrite her record and history.

    I have to say, President Kamala might be entertaining, in an Orwellian sense.


  • Roger L. Simon also has news on the phony front: Blowhard Democrats Are Green Phonies.

    Listening to politicians expound on the imminent dangers of that neologism "climate change" you wonder if any of these people could even pass a high school physics test. Maybe Rand Paul — he's an ophthalmologist. He had to take some chemistry. But most of them?

    Nevertheless, the Democratic Party at the moment seems to be in a knockdown, drag-out fight for who can be the greenest of the green and push us forward to a brave new world propelled exclusively by solar and wind energy. Only the strongest (i. e. most slavishly devoted to renewable energy at all costs) will survive.

    Read on for the sad story of Germany, dropping the equivalent of $36 Billion per year on renewable energy sources, only to announce… nope, not gonna make their 2020 greenhouse gas reduction commitments.

    Bonus: Germany also "announced plans to bulldoze an ancient church and forest in order to get at the coal underneath it."

    And I'm on record favoring testing candidates on a range of subjects, making the results publicly available: not just physics, but civics, current events, math, general intelligence, logic…


  • And we haven't had much to say about Andrew Yang, even though his Betfair odds have consistently stayed well above our credible-candidate cutoff. But Nick Gillespie pays him some attention and concludes… Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang Is Wrong About the Future of Work. Yang's big thing is a claim that we need a Universal Basic Income (UBI) program paid for by, well, you, assuming you're a taxpayer. Because automation and AI will gobble up all the jobs!

    Yang's animating concern is ultimately misguided in two profound ways. One concerns the pace of change. At least since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, critics have always worried that technological revolutions will wipe out whole industries overnight, causing a huge amount of human suffering and social dislocation. But that is essentially never the case. Consider manufacturing jobs. The share of factory workers as a percentage of the labor force peaked in 1943, at around 40 percent. Since then, it's been a steady decline for decades. When it comes to contemporary fears about things such as autonomous vehicles and trucks, self-interested hucksters such as Elon Musk can easily gull reporters and others with predictions that we're just a couple of years away from never having to touch a steering wheel again. But as Reason Foundation's transportation guru, Robert W. Poole will tell you, we are in fact multiple decades away from such technological marvels becoming commonplace. Even disruptive economic change unfolds at a pace to which we can generally adapt.

    Second? People have been making predictions like Yang's for centuries, so far with a perfect record of failure.


Only to Sleep

[Amazon Link]

This is the third Philip Marlowe novel written entirely by someone other than Raymond Chandler. (First was 1991's Perchance to Dream by Robert B. Parker; second was 2014's The Black-Eyed Blonde by John Banville writing as "Benjamin Black").

It's easy to be cynical about this: the Chandler estate wants to squeeze some bucks out of suckers who love Chandler's private eye and desperately want to know what he's been up to. Worked in my case!

The year is 1988, and Marlowe is an old man, living the expatriate life in Baja California. He's retired, but couple of insurance company guys show up on his doorstep. One of their customers, Donald Zinn, has (apparently) drowned further down Mexico way, and their payout is huge. Could Marlowe kind of check things out to see if they could, well, weasel out of their obligation?

Well, sure. Phil could use a break from retirement lassitude. Some things become immediately apparent: the beneficiary is the Zinn's knockout wife, and she's somewhat less than grief-stricken. Zinn was teetering on the edge of financial ruin. And his body was near-immediately cremated, after a cursory investigation and autopsy by obviously corrupt Mexican officials.

A promising setup, but even this short book (253 pages) seems plot-padded. The author, Lawrence Osborne, explains in his Author's Note that he considered Chandler's plots to be "bewilderingly dreamlike", and decided to emulate that. Unfortunately, this has Marlowe doing things that don't make a lot of sense, like walking into an obvious deadly set-up.

Also: people who expect Chandleresque prose ("It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.”) will probably be disappointed. Instead, the prose seems (to me anyway) overly flowery. As if Marlowe, the narrator, got both more cynical and more grandiloquent in his seventies.


Last Modified 2019-05-19 9:52 AM EDT

Governing Least

A New England Libertarianism

[Amazon Link]

Note the subtitle. And yet, the University Near Here's Interlibrary Loan folks needed to obtain this book from Southeast Missouri State University. My geography is weak, but I'm pretty sure that's not New England. I'm grateful, but isn't it kind of ironic that it wasn't available from someplace… closer by?

The author, Dan Moller, is a philosophy prof at the University of Maryland (also: not in New England). In this book, he attempts to promote and defend a version of libertarianism that (unlike, say, Nozick) does not depend on assertions about the absolute moral rights of individuals.

Instead, Moller aims to show that our everyday, common-sense, views of morality look askance at "burden-shifting". (And the "New England" part of this is based on an imaginary thought experiment involving a wannabe welfare recipient pleading his case before his peers at an old-style town meeting. Also, Emerson and Thoreau are cited.) Moller notes (reasonably enough) that some burden-shifting might be necessary, but thresholds must be met; it's not anything-goes.

The beginning of the book was the roughest going for me, where Moller defends his take on civic morality. Unsurprising: this is an area where people have been trying and failing to resolve issues for millennia; there's a whole language (using terms like "deontic"). Things get easier once we're past that.

Moller lays out his thesis with a lot of insight and some wit. If you're interested at all in libertarian political philosophy, recommended.

URLs du Jour

2019-05-18

[Amazon Link]

  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson describes The 50-Way Abortion Fight. ("NRPlus Member Article")

    The state legislatures are full of activity related to abortion. This is as it should be.

    New York passed a law making it easier to perform grisly late-term abortions and then celebrated by lighting up the Empire State Building in pink, as though a baby girl had been born rather than sentenced to death by surgical dismemberment. Other states are considering similar laws, while in Georgia abortion has been prohibited once a heartbeat is detectable, and in Alabama the procedure has been almost categorically outlawed.

    This is what the post-Roe world is going to look like: divisive, ugly, and possibly irreconcilable — democratic, in a word.

    That's the best case scenario, at least for now. My own state is one of those who say that baby-killing is fine up until birth, but then immediately becomes a heinous crime. People claim this with a straight face.


  • Roger L. Simon answers your burning questions about the College Board's 'Adversity Score' scheme: The College Board Just Shot Itself in the Foot with Its New 'Adversity Score' Scheme.

    In the midst of multiple college admissions and general higher education scandals -- celebrity-paid test taking, discrimination lawsuit against Harvard, overwhelming academic bias, administrations growing faster than faculties, etc. -- The College Board decided to institute an "adversity score" for applicants. This score would use 15 variables to quantify the student's socioeconomic challenges -- poor neighborhoods, bad schools, etc. It's masked affirmative action.

    This would all be done in secret, the applicants and their families unable to question or even see the results. Only the colleges could see it.

    In a probably-related development, the University Near Here announced that it was dumping the SAT/ACT requirement for applicants. (Also probably related to that: the so-far unannounced drop in admitted UNH students for Fall 2019. "Hm. We need to make it easier for kids to get in.")


  • There's new P. J. O'Rourke content at American Consequences. In which he announces: It’s The End of the World.

    Classical Liberalism has had a good run. Now it’s about to get run over… by a bus full of stupid “post-capitalist” political trends – the new socialism, the new nationalism, the new trade-war mercantilism, and the new social media platforms that drive this bus. Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Donald Trump, and the countless candidates running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination are all on board. So are the Brexiteers and so, for that matter, are the maniacally micro-regulating bureaucrats of the EU that the Brexiteers want to leave.

    Wave goodbye to Classical Liberalism.

    Or you could just wave at the camera you’re facing on your phone or computer. Too late to put a sticky note over it. Your civil liberties are already gone, swiped left. Neither a click falls on a keypad nor a finger taps a touch screen without the Internet seeing.

    Peej is a tad pessimistic this month. Still… I wouldn't bet heavily on him being wrong.

    Oh, wait. (Eyes retirement savings.) I am betting heavily on him being wrong.


  • [Amazon Link]
    At Reason, Nick Gillespie provides a sobriety check: If You Think Capitalism Is Dying Because Two Companies ‘Control 90 Percent of the Beer Americans Drink,’ Go Home, You’re Drunk. That particular factoid is from Jonathan Tepper, author of The Myth of Capitalism (available at right if you care).

    Among the evidence he marshals is the fact that "two corporations control 90 percent of the beer Americans drink." Tepper's numbers seem a bit high. According to the latest edition of Beer Marketer's Insights, a trade publication, Anheuser-Busch Inbev controls 41 percent of the market, MillerCoors owns another 24 percent, and "since 2017, more than 9 percent of the market volume has shifted from large brewers and importers to smaller brewers and importers."

    But let's grant Tepper his large point: Two mega-players dominate the market for beer. How has that been working out for beer drinkers? Pretty damn well, actually. Go back to, say, 1990, when the microbrewery revolution was barely a thing and I started graduate school at SUNY-Buffalo. My friends and I would drive across the Peace Bridge to Canada specifically to drink Molson and Labatt's because it was so much better than American beer. Such a thought is inconceivable now given the proliferation of choices available to today's beer drinkers. Some of that choice comes from Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, and other big brewers, and much of it comes from small, scrappy startups.

    Could be that Tepper spends too much time writing and not enough time wandering down the beer aisle at Walmart.