Insights du Jour - 2015-03-02

  • A very clarifying op-ed from Joel Kotkin: "Empire strikes back"

    Seven years after setting the world into crisis, the people who brought us the Great Recession appear to have regained their suzerainty over the nation’s political parties. Rather than being sent to the woodshed, or even to prison, the financial nabobs of high finance are now being wooed actively by most Republican candidates and by the singular serious Democratic contender, Hillary Clinton.

    Okay, I definitely need to work "suzerainty" into my blog posts more often. But the phrase "financial nabobs of high finance" is a little clumsy.

    Kotkin argues convincingly that neither Jeb Bush nor Hillary Clinton are likely to do anything about the too-cozy relationship between government and rent-seeking crony "capitalists".

    (Today's picture: fat cat. Get it?)

  • Oh, yeah: we got "network neutrality" now. Apparently, one of the major factors was John Oliver's rant on his HBO show. Henry Scanlon's perceptive analysis: "On Net Neutrality, Even John Oliver Would Call John Oliver An Idiot". On the "fast/slow lane" topic:

    Scaring you into thinking you’re going to be consigned to some kind of broadband back alley is another “shiny object” intended to distract. Here’s how Oliver describes it: “Ending net neutrality would allow big companies to buy their way into the fast lane, leaving everyone else in the slow lane.”

    Fast lanes, slow lanes, all kinds of lanes will develop and emerge and die and be replaced, based on market demand. Here’s how stupid that statement is: “Ending tech neutrality would allow Apple to provide faster iPads for more money, leaving everyone else with slower ones.” Or, “Ending car neutrality would allow Ford to have big dealerships all over the country, while Tesla has to struggle to find a market.”

    Companies setting different prices based on different levels of service: that's Free Freakin' Market 101. Imposing a procrustean one-size-fits-all model will kill any ability to use prices as signals, with inevitable collateral damage to service and innovation.

  • Or, you could check out the Tomo News take:

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The Phony Campaign — 2015-03-01 Update

[phony baloney]

Joe Biden turned out to be a one-week wonder at Betfair; the punters there have regained a small bit of sanity and returned him to the long shot category. Odds: 48 as I type. Albeit that's better odds than Cruz (95), Christie (60), and Perry (80). So Joe's gone, at least for now, leaving us with Jeb, Hillary, Scott, Rand, Marco, and Fauxcahontas:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Jeb Bush" phony 4,830,000 +3,967,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 421,000 +66,000
"Scott Walker" phony 237,000 +83,000
"Rand Paul" phony 215,000 +44,000
"Marco Rubio" phony 92,300 -2,800
"Elizabeth Warren" phony 90,700 -4,800

And, yes, that's almost certainly a Google Glitch causing a more-than-fivefold phony hit increase for Jeb Bush.

  • A small hit piece this week from the Washington Post documenting the "expensive tastes of Jeb Bush’s low-key wife, Columba. Spending $19K on clothing and jewelry in Paris! (And then misleading customs officials about it!) A $42K loan to buy jewelry! And more!

    Just think, if we get another Clinton/Bush campaign, we'll no doubt get round-the-clock MSNBC coverage of Columba's baubles! Fox will fire back with details about Bill's cigars and watches!

    Comments Melinda Henneberger:

    We say we want politicians and their families to be authentic, but expect them to pretend to be just average folk who shop at Target. (Oh, but then when Mrs. Obama was criticized for doing that, too: “What a phony-baloney plastic banana good-time rock-and-roll optic photo op that was,’’ observed Rush Limbaugh.)

    Rush can certainly turn a phrase.

  • Andrew Stiles does a quick Q-and-A about the The Clinton Foundation Scandals. Sample:

    What are [the Foundation's] guiding principles?

    Here are the foundation’s guiding principles, according to the website:

    • We’re all in this together.
    • Nothing truly happens unless a life is changed.
    • No one has all the answers, but we can bring together the people who can find them.
    • Results you can measure are the only results that matter.
    • Empowerment is liberating and life-changing.
    • There is always a way to be faster, leaner, and better.
    • The greatest good is helping people live their best life story.

    What does that even mean?

    Good question. The Clinton Foundation is fluent in the language of feel-good corporate jargon. Many have suggested that these words, when arranged in such a fashion, have no meaning.

    Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has suggested that foreign government contributions to the Clinton Foundation should disqualify Hillary from running for president.

    Well, yes. But if this were the kind of country that held the Clintons to rigorous ethical standards, they would today be practicing law out of a small office in a Little Rock mini-mall. (Generously imagining that neither would have been permanently disbarred.)

  • But instead, we are treated to (again, WaPo) stories like "The making of Hillary 5.0: Marketing wizards help re-imagine Clinton brand".

    Is Hillary Rodham Clinton a McDonald’s Big Mac or a Chipotle burrito bowl? A can of Bud or a bottle of Blue Moon? JCPenney or J. Crew?

    Now, this sort of thing isn't exactly new. The late Joe McGinnis rose to journalistic fame with his book about the 1968 Nixon campaign, The Selling of the President, all about this kind of stuff.

    But really:

    In politics, authenticity can be a powerful trait, and it is one that sometimes has escaped Clinton. In her 2008 presidential campaign, despite some raw displays of emotion, she often came across as overly programmed.

    How many ways can a WaPo writer euphemize "she's really phony"?

    Hillary is the Oakland, California of candidates: other than an overwhelming appetite for power and wealth, there is no there there.

Last Modified 2015-03-01 10:42 PM EST
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Frivolities du Jour - 2015-02-27

  • Drew Cline pens a funny column: "The New Hampshire primary to come, if current journalism is a clue". Small (fair use, I hope) sample:

    [Reporter:] “Excuse me, do you mind if I ask what you thought of [Marco Rubio's] speech?”

    Woman: “I thought it was great. I liked how he related to average people, you know? I don’t hear a lot of candidates talking about how to make it easier for low-income families to succeed in America.”

    Reporter: “It didn’t bother you that his second cousin once removed said Tom Brady wears ladies underwear?

    Woman: “Who said that?”

    Reporter: “Rubio’s second cousin once removed. He said it at a Miami fund-raiser three weeks ago. Thus far, Rubio has failed to disown his cousin, denounce the comment, or apologize to Tom Brady for it."

  • I got "Libertarian" on this quiz. See how you do:

    (I've also pre-ordered Charles C.W. Cooke's book), and so should you.

  • There's Dave Barry content at the WSJ this weekend, musing about whether his (and my) parents' generation managed to have more fun than ours. It's hard to find anything excerptable, just go read it if you can breach the WSJ paywall. (Or buy—ahem—Dave's book.)

  • Let us count the layers of awesomeness in this Variety story: (1) Rosamund Pike is said to be co-starring with (2) Christian Bale, who is playing (3) Travis McGee in The Deep Blue Good-by, an upcoming movie based on John D. MacDonald's novel. That was enough for me, but: (4) the movie's screenplay is by Dennis Lehane.

    Does that mean it will be set in Boston instead of Fort Lauderdale? Nah, probably not. In any case, could the filmmakers just tell me where I should send my wallet?

  • And finally:

    … those wounds run pretty deep.

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Pun Salad is 10

Pun Salad's first post was 10 years ago today. Not sure how to celebrate, but here's a somewhat arbitrary "greatest hits" selection of posts, one per year:

2005: Jane Smiley is a Better Human Being Than Holman Jenkins, and Probably Me, and You Too.
2006: Myth Communication: Professor Farrell on Professor Woodward
2007: The Times Channels Engine Charlie
2008: Top XLII Facts About the Super Bowl (Historical note: the Pats lost. I regret the snark directed at the psychic powers of Dionne Warwick in this post.)
2009: MLK Day 2010: UNH Goes With Academic Poet-Thug
2010: President Obama: Not a Fan of the First Amendment
2011: Mark Fernald, Math Whiz
2013: Carol Shea-Porter: College Does Not Necessarily Make You Employable. Or Smart.
2014: Money is Evil, Unless You're Sending It To UNH

Enjoy, if you are so inclined.

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Higher-Ed Follies du Jour - 2015-02-26

  • I encourage you to read the long but worthwhile article "Grievance School" by Steven F. Hayward at National Review; it's a piece with which I was much impressed when I read it in my dead-trees copy a few days ago.

    Of all the college towns fixed in the American mind as bastions of elite leftism, a Big Four stand out: Cambridge, Madison, Berkeley, and Boulder. It was no wonder, then, that the University of Colorado at Boulder received national attention, and raised many eyebrows, when it announced a couple of years back that it wanted to hire an identified conservative as a visiting faculty member — the beginning of a privately funded pilot program to bring conservative perspectives to its storied campus. I ended up being the guinea pig for this unorthodox experiment.

    Steven was (briefly and unsuccessfully) accused of "bigotry" for un-PC observations at the Power Line blog.

  • And more recently, Steven has been one of the scholars targeted by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ); Rep Raul has demanded that Steven's employer, Pepperdine, produce "detailed records on the funding sources for affiliated researchers who have opposed the scientific consensus on man-made global warming". Steven calls Raul and his ilk "McCarthyite witch hunters" and it's hard to disagree.

    I do hope the House Committee on Natural Resources will hold a hearing on this topic, because I’d love to ask Rep. Grijava some questions in return, such as which contacts at Greenpeace ginned up the particulars of his complaint (since I doubt the worthy Rep. or his staff actually read Power Line, which is cited in his letter). Further, it will be fun to ask a series of questions about the incentives of government-funded scientists, such as what might happen to their government research grants if they didn’t report a result congenial to Rep. Grijalva. More to the point: why pick on the seven of us at universities?  Does he really just say “how high?” every time Greenpeace asks him to jump?

  • And, yes, I've heard of Pepperdine:

  • Another scholar under investigation by "Tailgunner Raul" Grijalva is Roger Pielke, Jr. His reaction is also very much worth your attention. His heresy was minor: asserting (with plenty of solid evidence) that it was “incorrect to associate the increasing costs of disasters with the emission of greenhouse gases.” Pielke's conclusion:

    The incessant attacks and smears are effective, no doubt, I have already shifted all of my academic work away from climate issues. I am simply not initiating any new research or papers on the topic and I have ring-fenced my slowly diminishing blogging on the subject. I am a full professor with tenure, so no one need worry about me — I’ll be just fine as there are plenty of interesting, research-able policy issues to occupy my time. But I can’t imagine the message being sent to younger scientists. Actually, I can: “when people are producing work in line with the scientific consensus there’s no reason to go on a witch hunt.”

    When “witch hunts” are deemed legitimate in the context of popular causes, we will have fully turned science into just another arena for the exercise of power politics. The result is a big loss for both science and politics.

    Good luck unringing that bell.

  • Katherine Timpf reports that Wesleyan University is now offering "Open House", a "LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM" dorm. The uncensored version of the acronym: "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Flexual, Asexual, Genderfuck, Polyamourous, Bondage/Disciple, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism".

    Ironically, it's on Church Street.

Last Modified 2015-02-27 5:02 AM EST
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Outrage du Jour - 2015-02-25

Politifact attempted to check an aside in Jonah Goldberg's recent column on "gotcha" questions posed to Scott Walker:

As my National Review colleague Kevin Williamson notes, “Everybody wants to know what Scott Walker and Sarah Palin think about evolution, but almost nobody is asking what Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama think about homeopathy, acupuncture, aromatherapy and the like.” Even though such remedies have been given elevated legitimacy under the Affordable Care Act.

The quote is from Kevin Williamson's article here. Specifically:

I have made the point here a dozen times — and you’d think that one of these big-on-science guys like Neil deGrasse Tyson or Bill Nye would take up the cause — that there is in reality an important federal project under way giving rank pseudoscience and pure hokum the force of law: Obamacare, which, thanks to the efforts of Senator Tom Harkin (D., Iowa), will oblige taxpayers to subsidize all manner of scientifically illegitimate “alternative medicine.” Everybody wants to know what Scott Walker and Sarah Palin think about evolution, but almost nobody is asking what Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama think about homeopathy, acupuncture, aromatherapy, and the like. The same people who are scandalized that Walker doesn’t want to talk about something that he doesn’t know the first thing about celebrate as the most important health-care advance in a generation a law that treats as legitimate sundry species of quackery based in pure mysticism.

The point Jonah and Kevin assert about Obamacare is somewhat tangential to the main point of their articles, but that's what the Politifact-checker, Lou Jacobson, chose to "factcheck".

And deemed it "Partially True". Because “it leaves out important details.”


A fair reading of Jacobsen's "analysis" reveals that those statements are true, full stop.

I can't do better than Jonah's response. Key:

As best I can tell, [Jacobsen's quibbles] amount to the fact that Jacobson doesn’t like the fact that my statement was entirely true. So he meanders along pointing out things I didn’t mention (because there was no need to) as a way to lessen the blow of the point I was making.

Also amusing: Jacobsen asserts:

(Neither Williamson nor Goldberg returned inquiries for this fact-check.)

Jacobsen's "inquiries" were (1) e-mail message to one of Jonah's public addresses and (2) a tweet to Kevin.

This last bit inspired an article devoted to ridicule on Twitchy. And Kevin's response … well, remind me never to get on his bad side:

Bottom line: Politifact is useless partisan hackery.

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Irritants du Jour - 2015-02-24

  • Watch out, ladies! The Law School of the University Near Here has announced that Joe "Excuse Me While I Feel Up Your Wife" Biden will be on hand in Concord tomorrow.

    Vice President Joe Biden will receive the second Warren B. Rudman Award for Distinguished Public Service on February 25, 2015, when he visits the University of New Hampshire School of Law.

    Biden and the late Senator Rudman were pals, of course. Their most magical moment was a recreation of one of the scenes in Brief Encounter between Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson. The setting was immediately after the Supreme Court's Casey v. Planned Parenthood decision, in which David Souter helped to reaffirm Roe v. Wade. Rudman had previously shepherded Souter's nomination to the Court by quietly assuring Democrats that Souter wasn't as anti-abortion as they (or George H. W. Bush, who nominated him) thought. And so:

    As fate would have it, on that same day Senator Rudman and Senator Joe Biden bumped into each other at the train station, not in Washington, DC but in Wilmington, Delaware.

    “At first, I didn’t see Joe; then I spotted him waving at me from far down the platform,” Rudman later recorded in his memoirs, Combat: Twelve Years in the U.S. Senate. “Joe had agonized over his vote for David, and I knew how thrilled he must be. We started running through the crowd toward each other, and when we met, we embraced, laughing and crying.”

    An ecstatic Biden wept tears of joy, telling Rudman over and over: “You were right about him [Souter]! ... You were right!”

    The two men were so jubilant, so giddy—practically dancing—that Rudman said onlookers thought they were crazy: “[B]ut we just kept laughing and yelling and hugging each other because sometimes, there are happy endings.”

    … except for all those dead babies, of course. They weren't available to dance on the train platform with Joe and Warren.

  • Joe's also famous for … wait for it … getting caught at plagiarism when he was a law student at Syracuse. And now he's getting getting honored by our law school. Is that irony? I can never tell.

  • We might as well continue our Biden theme by pointing out a recent Slate article from Jamelle Bouie: "Why Joe Biden Should Run for President".

    The subtitle (and I swear I am cutting-n-pasting, not just making it up): "The vice president won’t win, but it’d be the best thing for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party."

    Bouie's entire argument seems to be that using Biden as a "sparring partner" would help Inevitable Hillary get ready for the November election. (I would have said "punching bag", but …)

    I don't get it. Why would anyone find this kabuki useful?

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Insights du Jour - 2015-02-23


  • Good for J.K. Simmons, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor last night. Nice to see someone from my demographic (bald 60-something white guys) win something.

    Like many Oscars, I see this as really an acknowledgment that Oscar failed to honor him for his work as J. Jonah Jameson in Spider-Man (2002).

  • In other Oscar-related news, Monica Guzman did not care for The Imitation Game.

    Instead of an inventor, it shows a stereotype. Instead of a machine, it shows an obsession. And instead of inspiring us to follow in the footsteps of a person who shaped technology, the film inspires us only to get out of the way of the next genius who can.

    Monica is (like my kids) a graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas High School of Dover, New Hampshire. She's turned into a perceptive and successful journalist. Good for her. (Unfortunately, her take on "Network Neutrality" is dreadful, but you can't have everything.)

  • A recent NYT op-ed discusses "The Government’s Bad Diet Advice (the URL gives a possible alternate title: "When the Government Tells You What to Eat").

    It's short, and depressing for those of us who took that advice seriously for way too long. But I can't improve on Philip Greenspun's summary: "What happens when you combine the world's two most arrogant organizations?". Those being? The US Government and Harvard University.

    Fun fact: Phil's blog is hosted by Harvard Law School.

  • Does Obama love America? I think this guy has his finger on the truth:

    (Need an explanation? Here you go.)

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The Phony Campaign — 2015-02-22 Update

[phony baloney]

As expected, Rand Paul's multi-million phony hit count has come crashing back to earth this week.

But (slightly unexpected), Betfair odds on Chris Christie being elected in 2016 have gone to 48, longer than our arbitrary cutoff of 30. So, at least for now, Governor Christie is outta here.

And (totally unexpected), Joe Biden's odds have improved to 30, which has us include him in our standings. Phonywise, he's edging out Rand Paul for a respectable third place:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Jeb Bush" phony 863,000 -118,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 355,000 -5,000
"Joe Biden" phony 174,000 ---
"Rand Paul" phony 171,000 -3,209,000
"Scott Walker" phony 154,000 +15,000
"Elizabeth Warren" phony 95,500 +3,900
"Marco Rubio" phony 95,100 +3,800

  • Biden's improved odds perhaps show that there's no such thing as bad publicity. As a WaPo blogger summarizes:

    First, he's getting heat for placing his hands on the shoulders of Stephanie Carter, wife of new Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Then, Biden said he has great relations with the Somali community in Wilmington, Del., "because an awful lot of them are driving cabs." (Fox News, Huffington Post) Worse, or not as bad, as the 7-Eleven crack about Indian Americans?

    It's easy to be depressed about the future of our nation when Biden's odds of becoming President are better than those of Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, or Bobby Jindal.

  • Another significant phony news story was: Pinterest took down Rand Paul's fake "Hillary Clinton" page. So, alas, we won't be able to see:

    Among the pinned items on the parody page were photos of Clinton posing with Muslims, as well as quotes poking fun at the former secretary of state's statements on the killing of Americans in the terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

    Hillary's supporters deemed it "sexist". I get the feeling we're going to hear that a lot over the next (at least) 624 days or so.

  • While the candidates are certainly phony enough, let's give some extra attention to the good old MSM, which did its best this week to live up to the "Democratic operatives with bylines" insult. As former Governor Tommy Thompson tweeted:

  • I am not a huge fan of Jennifer Rubin, but she had some wicked fun with a competing journalist covering Jeb Bush's foreign policy speech/Q&A;

    There is a decided lack of seriousness among the press in the substance of foreign policy, typified by an unintentionally hilarious tweet from a Huffington Post reporter: “Ok. Tuning out now. I think Jeb’s pretty good at this Q+A thing. Real approachable. And obviously has knowledge/data points.” So whatever. Nothing remotely suggesting a gaffe so let’s tune out.

    It's sweet of Jen to classify the HuffPo as "the press", instead of "Democrat propaganda site". Although there's certainly overlap there.

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Frivolities du Jour - 2015-02-20

  • From the Washington Post:

    The author of a Minnesota newspaper slideshow that called President Obama an "assclown" for using a selfie stick apologized Monday.

    … "If any actual assclowns took offense at being compared to the President, I sincerely apologize to them."

  • I've been shovelling snow a lot recently. The mind tends to wander. Specifically: what if I had a flamethrower?

    I need wonder no more, because someone in a no doubt similar situation asked Randall Munroe:

    I've long thought about putting a flamethrower on the front of a car to melt snow and ice before you drive across it. Now I've realized that a flamethrower is impractical, but what about a high-powered microwave emitter?

    Short answer: his flamethrower idea is more practical than the microwave idea. But click through for the long answer, because the discussion is (as is standard for Munroe) funny and entertaining.

    I'm (slowly) reading Munroe's book What If?. Highly recommended.

  • Your Tweet du Jour:

  • Well, now, if we wanted our children to listen to Bob and Ray's Komodo Dragon sketch… where would be take the children to listen to Bob and Ray's Komodo Dragon sketch?

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