The Phony Campaign

2019-03-24 Update

[Amazon Link]

This week, we bid farewell to Julian Castro, who only managed to stay above a 2% win probability at Betfair for a single week. Senator Spartacus, Cory Booker, also dropped below 2% this week.

And there's good news for the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg! The Betfair punters have elevated him into "credible candidate" territory, comparable with Elizabeth Warren and … yes, Andrew Yang.

I would have expected the no-further-indictments result of the Mueller investigation would have boosted Trump's winning probability more than it did. Probability-wise, the week's big winner was Beto!

Beto! (however) fell into second place in the only poll that really matters, the Google Phony Hit Count. But he and Kamala are still soundly beating Trump, phonywise.

Note that the Amazon Product du Jour is kind of out of date. The "very real" quote is apparently from two years old. From the WaPo, discussing Trump's switch from campaign bullshit rhetoric to incumbent bullshit rhetoric:

There was a moment that epitomized that switch. In March 2017, then-press secretary Sean Spicer was asked whether the newly released jobs numbers were still “phony” in the eyes of the president.

“They may have been phony in the past,” Spicer said, quoting Trump, “but it’s very real now.”

He and the reporters in the room laughed.

Ah, good times. The latest unemployment rate reported (February 2019) is 3.8%.

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
3/17
Phony
Results
Change
Since
3/17
Kamala Harris 11.2% -0.7% 8,050,000 +2,150,000
Beto O'Rourke 10.0% +1.7% 7,250,000 -5,750,000
Donald Trump 34.5% +1.4% 1,770,000 -340,000
Bernie Sanders 12.2% -0.3% 361,000 +4,000
Joe Biden 12.5% +0.1% 226,000 +21,000
Elizabeth Warren 2.1% -0.2% 207,000 -1,000
Pete Buttigieg 2.5% --- 183,000 ---
Andrew Yang 2.8% -0.8% 11,100 +2,040

"WinProb" calculation described here. Standard disclaimer: Google result counts are bogus.

  • In last Friday's "Morning Jolt", Jim Geraghty objected to a recent bizarre assertion from "journalist" Charlotte Alter of Time magazine that people of her age "have never experienced American prosperity in our adult lives." Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, says Jim: Millennials Are Experiencing American Prosperity.

    But what I really wanted to excerpt was Geraghty's take on our Phony newcomer, Pete Buttigieg:

    The nicest things I can say about Pete Buttigieg, the latest subject in the “Twenty Things” series: Starting at a very early age — and some might argue that at 37, he’s still at a very early age — he set out to do everything the right way and steadily and methodically did so — Harvard, Oxford, consulting at McKinsey. He chose to wear his country’s uniform when he had plenty of other options. With his accomplishments and glowing resume, he could have gone anywhere and worked just about any place, but he chose to return to his hometown, determined he could bring better days for his community. His constituents seem to adore him.

    The least-nice things I can say about Buttigieg: He is the insufferably perfect valedictorian class president that your parents kept telling you to emulate. He’s the kid who started thinking about being elected to high office in high school and started making preparations then. His ambition was so transparent that it stood out at Harvard’s Institute for Politics, basically the Hogwarts for bright young people who want to be president someday. South Bend is the 299th-largest city in America and based upon five years of running that, Buttigieg thinks he’s ready to be president of the United States. Some presidential candidates falter because they don’t have “the fire in the belly.” Buttigieg’s got the Hindenberg in his intestines.

    How stupid is the American electorate? No, that's a serious question: how stupid is the American electorate?


  • Tim Miller of the Bulwark takes a brief timeout from that site's overall Trump-stinks theme, and takes a look at The Beto Woke Wars. He's already flunked the Social Justice Warriors' purity test. (And dares to run against Saint Bernie!)

    The grassroots enthusiasm that resulted from this national fame and an opponent the left found nothing short of vampiric jolted his campaigns well past what most political prognosticators thought possible in Texas. But of course didn’t get him enough votes to actually win. So as the calendar turned to 2019, without a Cruzian foil, the prog-cognoscenti began to turn on their toe-headed boy.

    As Jonathan Chait observed, if America was going to get its first socialist president, the Bernie bros were going to have to crush Beto.

    The aspirational socialists and the intersectional liberals suddenly found themselves in league against a common enemy: a white male capitalist who once took a road-trip with a . . . Republican. So when Beto formally announced his campaign last week, what he may not have realized is that he was firing the first presidential shot in the left’s internecine Woke Wars. And in this battle he is on the wrong side of some of the very people who were his base in 2018: center-left journalists and power twitter users.

    There's an impressive roster of folks, both inside and outside the media, who thought Beto was great when he was running against Ted Cruz and … now just noticed that he's awful.


  • At Hot Air, Allahpundit piles on: O'Rourke rocked by major scandal: He once supported basic fiscal responsibility. Specifically, CNN noticed that while running for Congress in 2012, Beto "said the US had an 'extravagant government' that needed 'significant' spending cuts."

    This made me think of that famous Edwin Edwards quote, “The only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy,” just because O’Rourke would have an easier time explaining either of those scenarios to the left than explaining why he used to support entitlement reform.

    He has two options now. One: Publish a hastily written statement pledging allegiance to Modern Monetary Theory or some similar progressive horsesh*t. Two: Switch to the GOP and primary Trump. He probably wouldn’t do worse than four or five percent of the vote in a Republican primary, as that’s roughly the share of righties who still believe in cutting spending.

    Beto must apologize for his dalliance with reality, ASAP!


  • Andrew Yang continues to hang in, with (according to Betfair) a better shot at the presidency than Elizabeth Warren, or any of the other announced candidates that have dropped off our list. At the Federalist, Madeline Osburn helpfully lists Democratic Candidate Andrew Yang's 8 Most Bizarre Policy Proposals. I think I could get behind this one (assuming "White House Staff" includes the boss too):

    4. Monitor the Mental Health of White House Staff

    “My brother is a psychology professor—I believe in the power and good that the discipline can do. We should be 100% confident that people in power don’t have severe psychological problems,” Yang writes.

    It’s unclear what his brother’s occupation has to do with the president’s mental health. Nevertheless, Yang is convinced that there should be a “White House Psychologist group” responsible for monitoring the mental health of employees in the executive branch.

    Unfortunately, doctor-patient confidentiality would preclude the public from learning anything interesting.

    I think, however, that candidates for higher office should be required to take standardized tests of intelligence, basic knowledge, and personality traits. And those results should be released to the public pre-election.

    Also maybe a Jeopardy!-style quiz show, although a format that doesn't depend on button-clicking. Presidential candidates should not be evaluated on how quickly they can hit a button!


  • Senator Gillibrand hasn't met our 2% inclusion threshold for a couple months now (and she's now at something like 0.9%). But Jacob Sullum's blog post at Reason was too good not to include here: Kirsten Gillibrand Says Her Limit on Opioid Prescriptions 'Is Not Intended to Interfere With These Decisions'.

    In response to a backlash against her bill imposing a nationwide seven-day limit on initial prescriptions of opioids for acute pain, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) suggests she is open to changes that would address the concerns raised by critics. Gillibrand's acknowledgment of the criticism is encouraging, but her response seems confused, wrongheaded, and disingenuous.

    "I want to get this right," the presidential contender writes on Medium, "and I believe that we can have legislation to help combat the opioid epidemic and the over-prescription of these powerful drugs without affecting treatment for those who need this medication. I fundamentally believe that all health care should be between doctors and patients, and this bill is not intended to interfere with these decisions but to ensure doctors prescribe opioids with a higher level of scrutiny, given their highly addictive and dangerous effects."

    I would have slightly more respect for an honest take: "I want to get this right. Please tell me what position I need to take in order to maximize the number of people who will vote for me."


URLs du Jour

2019-03-23

[Amazon Link]

  • Jonah Goldberg delivers a late hit on behalf of the Electoral College: Abolishing the Electoral College would be a mistake. Bottom line:

    Most of our political problems today are a result of our political gatekeepers surrendering to the mob. All extreme political movements are hostile to restraints on their will. This is what unites the progressives who want to pack the Supreme Court, abolish the Electoral College, and “reform” the “undemocratic” Senate with those on the right who celebrate President Trump’s emergency declaration and other attempts to rule by fiat.

    In a healthy democracy, leaders are answerable not just to voters but to legislatures, the courts, the states, and parties. The decades-long trend has been to dismantle this arrangement to make presidents answerable to no one but the slice of electorate that voted for them. And even there, those voters are increasingly more interested in seeing their leader “win” than in holding them accountable. Abolishing the Electoral College would be another step toward a kind of national absolutism, which is an even worse medieval relic.

    The language of the latest proposed EC-abolishing amendment can be found here. It's not worth going into detail, but I think the greatest source of mischief would be Section 5: "The times, places, and manner of holding such elections and entitlement to inclusion on the ballot shall be determined by Congress."

    Sure, nothing could go wrong there. I trust Congress.


  • At Quillette, Kathrine Jebsen Moore proposes a tough but fair reform: When Children Protest, Adults Should Tell them the Truth. Specifically, Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who's gained worldwide fame and praise for her "climate activism" needs a heady dose of verity:

    The climate debate is a complicated one. It requires the careful weighing of interests and trade-offs, not the uncompromising fanaticism of an absolutist. A sixteen-year-old should not be expected to see all the nuances, but as adults, we should expose her ideas for what they are: undemocratic, fatalistic, and bereft of the hope and optimism needed to effect consequential change. Thunberg’s speeches and Manichean worldview do not offer realistic answers to the problems we face. Even if her most alarming predictions turn out to be true, solutions will have to rely upon innovation and a realistic assessment of what is possible. Activism might be driven by passionate conviction and founded on good intentions, but as Saul Alinsky, the radical American writer and community organiser, once observed: “Young protagonists are one moment reminiscent of the idealistic early Christians, yet they also urge violence and cry, ‘Burn the system down!’ They have no illusions about the system, but plenty of illusions about the way to change our world.”

    Sixteen-year-olds of whatever political inclination should just Keep It To Themselves. I include myself at that age.


  • At the NR Corner, Charles C.W. Cooke writes on New Zealand Gun Confiscation: One Strike Policy.

    New Zealand has confirmed that it will ban — and confiscate — any firearm that resembles those that were used in the recent terroristic attack. In response, the gun-control movement has taken a break from assuring gun owners that “nobody is talking about confiscation” and set about lionizing New Zealand’s parliament for agreeing to . . . engage in confiscation. In future, we can presumably expect to see similar dance to the one that President Obama performed when he spoke of Australia. To wit: “Why can’t we be more like New Zealand? How dare you suggest I want to do what New Zealand did.”

    Charles observes a more general point: using a horrific individual incident to panic a country into abridging the rights of the general citizenry is no way to run a free country.


  • Drew Cline of the Josiah Bartlett Center wonders if New Hampshire is Slouching towards Connecticut.

    The Legislature’s Democratic majority is seizing its opportunity. In control of both legislative chambers for only the fifth time since the Civil War (and one of those times involved a tie in the Senate), they are determined to leave their mark on the state.

    Indeed, businesses are looking at the bills passed so far and saying to themselves, “Son of a…that’s gonna leave a mark!

    Having campaigned on raising business taxes and forcing businesses to comply with the party’s agenda, Democrats are delivering for their base. The tax-and-regulate agenda is similar to the one being pursued in another New England state this session: Connecticut.

    Drew includes a speaks-for-itself graphic from a recent report from the Boston Fed, which I will attempt to hotlink:

    Nonagricultural employment changes in New England states

    New Hampshire Democrats look at this and say: Hey, we can fix that!


  • And last but … OK, probably also least, the Christian Science Monitor (which still exists) rang our Google LFOD News Alert with: As Beto campaigns, New Hampshire looks for rock-ribbed answers, not fluff.

    "Rock-ribbed", baby. That's us.

    For seven decades, New Hampshire voters have taken very seriously their role in vetting presidential candidates. Every candidate must crisscross the state – the first in the nation to hold a primary – meeting voters face to face. This is America’s tried-and-tested forge of retail politics. Given their personal experiences with candidates, New Hampshire voters may be the most politically savvy citizens in this democracy. And they don’t tend to fall for fluff. These are people who shovel themselves out from underneath winter, grow up going to town meetings, and take to heart the state’s motto, “Live Free or Die.”

    I'm blushing with all this undeserved praise. But let me break out, once again, my favorite bits of NH Primary trivia:

    The last time the Democrat winner of a contested New Hampshire Primary went on to win the general election was 1976 (Jimmy Carter). Forty-three years ago!

    NH Republicans do slightly better on that score. Famously, Donald Trump won in 2016. But before that, you have to go back to 1988 (thirty-one years ago!) when George H. W. Bush squeaked by Bob ("call me Bob Dole, like I do") Dole.

    I know we love going first, but I'm kind of surprised that people take us that seriously.

URLs du Jour

2019-03-22

[Amazon Link]

  • David Harsanyi speaks truly at the Federalist: Democrats Want To Kill The Electoral College Because They Fear The Constitution.

    The United States isn’t a “democracy.” Though every American should have learned this fact in high school civics class, the smart-set still like to ridicule people who point it out–such a cliché, and all.

    Today, we see why the Left worked to convince Americans that majoritarianism was a profound moral good. And it’s not just that America is going through another silly debate about the suddenly inconvenient Electoral College; it’s that Democrats are increasingly comfortable attacking foundational ideas of American governance.

    Harsanyi goes on to relate the pro-Electoral College arguments and rebut the antis.

    But on the point made in Harsanyi's first paragraph: call me old-fashioned, but I still like the distinctions made between a republic and democracy in Federalist Number 10.


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson writes on the same topic: Electoral College and Democrat Opposition to the Constitutional Order.

    The Senate. The Electoral College. The First Amendment. The Second Amendment. The Supreme Court. Is there a part of our constitutional order that the Democrats have not pledged to destroy?

    There are some Democrats out there in the sticks — a lot of them, in fact — who simply don’t understand the constitutional order. They believe that the United States is a democracy, John Adams et al. be damned, and, in fact, they often are confused by the frankly anti-democratic features of the American order, because they have been taught (theirs is a pseudo-education consisting of buzzwords rather than an actual education) that “democratic” means “good” and “undemocratic” means “bad.”

    But the Democrats in Washington are a different story. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris went to law school. They understand the American constitutional order just fine.

    And they hate it.

    Kevin goes on to observe the other Democrat attacks on the constutional order (e.g., "End Citizens United", court-packing). And notes, correctly, that this is a far greater threat than the allegations-du-jour against Trump.


  • Of course, Michael Ramirez has pictorial commentary on one of the EC-threateners:

    What bugs me about this is the same thing that once bugged me about Republican presidential candidates offering to fix fiscal insanity via a "Balanced Budget Amendment" to the Constitution. I want to take them by the hand, sit them down, and speak slowly:

    Kids: you're running for president. Do you know what the role of the president in amending the Constituion is? Here, I'll put it in a box for you:

    That's right: you're running for an office that has no say whatsoever in amending the Constitution.

    In fact, you incumbent Congresscritters have influence over the process right now. Here is S.J.Res.41, introduced in the previous Congress. Senators Warren, Booker, Klobuchar: you could have been co-sponsors, but weren't. Why not?

    Senator Gillibrand, congratulations (sort of): you were a sponsor. Unfortunately, this just shows you're from a high-population state looking to erode the power of small states like mine.

    Senator Harris: you get a pass, you weren't there.


  • James Freeman of the WSJ looks at the record of Bernie Sanders and Venezuela. He's particularly irked that, in a recent interview, Bernie accused his "right-wing colleagues" of characterizing his socialistic proposals as "authoritarianism and communism and Venezuela, and that’s nonsense."

    What’s far worse than nonsense is for Mr. Sanders to pretend that he hasn’t been a long-time backer of Venezuela’s socialist rulers. Mr. Sanders recently attracted criticism from Democrats for refusing to call Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro the dictator that he is. It’s just the latest episode in an appalling history.

    In January of 2003 Mr. Sanders signed a letter of support for Maduro predecessor Hugo Chavez. That month a Reuters report described what was happening in the country:[…]

    What was happening: tear-gassing protestors, threats and confiscations against TV stations and property owners, political arrests, state-sponsored gang violence. Did Sanders utter a critical peep about any of that at the time?


  • The College Fix contributes to our "What Would We Do Without Scholars?" Department: Scholar makes 'moral case' for letting people decide their own age.

    A recent article published in The Journal of Medical Ethics by a Finnish bioethicist made a moral case for the legal change of a person’s age to correspond with that person’s “experienced age.”

    The piece, by Joona Räsänen of the University of Oslo in Norway, titled “A Moral Case for Legal Age Change,” concludes that there are three scenarios when a change to one’s legal age should be allowed: When “the person genuinely feels his age differs significantly from his chronological age,” when “the person’s biological age is recognized to be significantly different from his chronological age,” and when “age change would likely prevent, stop or reduce ageism, discrimination due to age, he would otherwise face.”

    I'm tempted to say "I identify as 17". But there's a downside, missing out on all those sweet senior citizen discounts.

    But I was reminded of a favorite scene in Steve Martin's movie, The Jerk, where his character, Navin Johnson soliloquizes to a sleeping Marie.

    I know we've only known each other four weeks and three days, but to me it seems like nine weeks and five days. The first day seemed like a week and the second day seemed like five days. And the third day seemed like a week again and the fourth day seemed like eight days. And the fifth day you went to see your mother and that seemed just like a day, and then you came back and later on the sixth day, in the evening, when we saw each other, that started seeming like two days, so in the evening it seemed like two days spilling over into the next day and that started seeming like four days, so at the end of the sixth day on into the seventh day, it seemed like a total of five days. And the sixth day seemed like a week and a half. I have it written down, but I can show it to you tomorrow if you want to see it.

    Yeah, something like that. If only Navin were non-fictional, and Finnish, he could probably work this into an article for The Journal of Medical Ethics. Something like "A Moral Case for Differential Time Perception".

URLs du Jour

2019-03-21

[Amazon Link]

  • It sounds like an obituary, but it's unfortunately not. Rich Lowry writes at National Review describing how the SPLC Weaponized Political Correctness.

    Over the decades, the SPLC basically made the philosopher Eric Hoffer’s famous line about organizational degeneracy its strategic plan: “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

    Originally founded as a civil-rights group in 1971 and gaining fame for its campaign to bankrupt the Ku Klux Klan, the SPLC shifted to a catchall “anti-hate” group that widened its definition of hate to encompass more and more people as the Klan faded as a threat.

    It used the complicity or credulousness of the media in repeating its designations to punish its ideological enemies and engage in prodigious fundraising. It raised $50 million a year and built an endowment of more than $300 million.

    Imagine a left-wing outfit with the same shoddy standards as Joe McCarthy, but with a better business sense.

    It's not as if people were unaware of the SPLC's nature. Even back in 2010 (when now-disgraced SPLC founder Morris Dees was invited to give the Commemorative Address for the 2011 MLK Day celebrations at the University Near Here) it was apparent that it was a fundraising scam.


  • In Pun Salad's "Irony Can Be Pretty Ironic Sometimes" Department, Reason's Robby Soave reports: University of Cambridge Cancels Jordan Peterson’s Visiting Fellowship Because He Is Not 'Inclusive'.

    Jordan Peterson, the University of Toronto psychologist known for criticizing political correctness, announced Monday that he would be a visiting fellow at the University of Cambridge's divinity school.

    But on Wednesday, Cambridge's administration announced that they had rescinded the invitation following a public outcry from students and professors.

    "[Cambridge] is an inclusive environment and we expect all our staff and visitors to uphold our principles," a Cambridge spokesperson told The Guardian. "There is no place here for anyone who cannot."

    There's a certain odor of "We had to destroy the village in order to save it" in that explanation, right?


  • An occasional decent article slips onto the Wired site now and then. Current example (from Clive Thompson) is one that will warm any computer geek's heart: Coders’ Primal Urge to Kill Inefficiency—Everywhere.

    Shelley Chang was working as a business analyst for a computer company in 2010 when she met Jason Ho through some mutual friends. Ho was tall and slender with a sly smile, and they hit it off right away. A computer programmer, Ho ran his own company from San Francisco. He also loved to travel. Less than a month after they met, Ho surprised Chang by buying a plane ticket to meet her in Taiwan, where she’d temporarily relocated. Soon they were talking about visiting Japan together for four weeks. Chang was a bit apprehensive; they didn’t know each other well. But she decided to take the gamble.

    Ho, as it turned out, had a very strict and peculiar itinerary planned. He’s fond of ramen dishes, and to fit as many as possible into their visit to Tokyo, he’d assembled a list of noodle places and plotted them on Google Maps. Then he’d written some custom code to rank the restaurants so they could be sure to visit the best ones as they went sightseeing. It was, he said, a “pretty traditional” algorithmic challenge, of the sort you learn in college. Ho showed Chang the map on his phone. He told her he was planning to keep careful notes about the quality of each meal too. “Oh wow,” she thought, impressed, if a bit wary. “This guy is kind of nuts.”

    Shelley should talk to Mrs. Salad, who's been putting up with this sort of thing for … wow … decades. I can still get her to roll her eyes when I describe my latest scheme for life optimization.


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang loudly for a Union Leader story about the latest nannyism from state legislators: NH Democrats use new majority to pass bills restricting use of plastic bags and straws.

    “Even California recognizes that plastic straws have a place in society, and they chose to only apply their prohibition to full-service restaurants,” said Minority Leader Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack.

    “If this bill becomes law, and you’re driving away from receiving your drive-thru milkshake or iced coffee realizing you forgot to ask for a straw, just remember that even your friends in California have more straw freedom than you do here in the Live Free or Die state.”

    We should change our motto to "Live As Free As NH Democrats Decree You Can". A little wordy for license plates, unfortunately.


  • But our legislators were not through, taking up an Important Issue that had shamefully been left unresolved four years ago. Live Free and Fly: New Hampshire House approves state raptor.

    This was a fourth grade school project back in 2015. The same kids are now eighth graders, and they will not be denied!

    […] Discussion of the raptor bill was brief. The only lawmaker who spoke against it was Rep. Christy Bartlett, D-Concord, who argued the state already has too many symbols and that red-tailed hawks, being common place across the country, don't uniquely represent the state. Students who want to get involved in the political process would be better off working on bills of greater importance, she argued.

    But Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, said passing the bill was important given that it had gotten inappropriately hijacked four years ago.

    "I think this is an opportunity for us to establish a symbol that works for the state of New Hampshire but also a way to pay respect to tenacity and perseverance," he said.

    Students wore T-shirts that played off the state's motto of "Live Free or Die" that read: "Our Second Try to Live Free & Fly." They argued red-tailed hawks were deserving of the honor because they're determined, adaptable and share parenting responsibilities. Daniel Blankenship, one of the students, who spotted a red-tailed hawk on his way to the Statehouse on Wednesday, said the defeat four years ago was instructive.

    "It taught us all a lesson that we don't always succeed in getting what we want," he said ahead of Wednesday's vote. "It helped us grow as people."

    So it appears that New Hampshire's 243-year-long nightmare of lacking a State Raptor will soon be over.

Endangered

[Amazon Link]

Another fine outing for C. J. Box, with the latest exploits of Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett. Who goes through an unusual amount of hell here.

As the book opens, Joe is investigating the remains of Lek 64, a sage grouse colony that's been shotgun-slaughtered by persons unknown. A major distraction intervenes: Joe's wayward daughter April has been discovered nearly beaten to death on the side of a road.

Suspicion naturally falls on the rodeo cowboy with whom April had run off in the previous book. But (hm) an anonymous tip is called in, pointing the finger at a reclusive, heavily armed nutjob who doesn't recognize government authority, etc.

In the meantime, Joe's friend Nate Romanowski is in the hands of Federal law enforcement, and they have the bright idea to release him and use him as bait to entrap the at-large bad guy Nate betrayed in the previous book of the series. But Nate's only out for a brief time until he runs into big trouble.

Confession: I thought I saw the big plot twist well in advance. I was wrong. Author Box had me fooled.

A Star Is Born

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Your mileage may definitely vary: this movie won one Oscar (Best Song) and was nominated for seven more (including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Screenplay). The IMDB raters give it a 7.8, pretty decent.

And the Netflix algorithm thought I'd love it.

Wrong. But maybe I was just in no mood for seeing the story of impossibly rich, majorly famous, allegedly talented people destroy their lives.

Anyway: Bradley Cooper plays Jack, the musical superstar with substance abuse problems, a dysfunctional relationship with his older brother, Bobby (Sam Elliot) and also tinnitus. After a performance, he's on a desperate search for booze and goes into a drag bar, where Ally (Lady Gaga) is performing La Vie en Rose. He is enraptured, and before you can say "Are you sure this is a good idea?" she's sharing the stage with him, which launches her career into the stratosphere. Which sets him up for his inevitable eclipse, futher substance abuse, and…

Well, you get the idea. Hollywood loves this plot; IMDB counts four previous movie versions. (One of which I saw, the one with Barbra Streisand, and I didn't like that one either.)

Except… whoa, that was Andrew Dice Clay?

URLs du Jour

2019-03-20

[Amazon Link]

If you want to set an alarm or sacrifice a virgin or something, the Spring/Vernal/March Equinox is today at 21:58 UTC. (Convert as desired.)

I for one am kind of bummed that I didn't get the Amazon Product du Jour.

  • At the (possibly paywalled) WSJ, James P. Freeman opines: Elizabeth Warren Isn’t Qualified to Teach History, Either.

    Trailing the Democratic presidential pack in opinion surveys and fundraising, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) is urging Americans to consider a new redistribution of wealth. The basic idea is that the federal government will apportion among the citizens living now the historical guilt for heinous acts committed by people long dead against other people long dead. Then money would flow from people who have not been convicted of any crime to people who have not been found by any court to have been victimized by a crime.

    That of course is the appeal of "social justice": it's the opposite of actual justice.


  • At Reason, Nick Gillespie bids farewell to Dick Dale, a Great American Original, RIP.

    Dick Dale was born in Boston in 1937 as Richard Anthony Mansour, but he died on Saturday as "The King of the Surf Guitar." His life encapsulates so much that is great about America, especially our part-mythic, part-real ability to invent and re-invent who we want to be. It's fantastic, and totally to-be-expected, that a son of the Middle East and Central and Eastern Europe ended up creating one of the most purely "American" strains of popular music. That's worth pondering, especially in a moment when xenophobia is on the rise.

    Dale was Lebanese on his father's side, Polish and Belorussian on his mother's. He became entranced by Hank Williams as a kid and his paternal uncle bought him a tarabaki and an oud, a Middle Eastern drum and stringed instrument respectively, and he started developing a highly personal guitar style in which he used the guitar as both a lead and percussive instrument.

    His family moved to Southern California in the mid-1950s and Dale started blending Middle Eastern music with rock and country. Along the way, he was christened Dick Dale by "Texas Tiny" Cherry, himself a short-lived, 640-pound country music legend. Dale didn't just reinvent himself and popular music styles. He also reinvented the technology to play rock, country, surf, you name it, by helping Leo Fender perfect the first 100-watt guitar amplifier that was not just incredibly loud but precise and durable.

    My CD collection is regrettably light on Dick Dale. I should remedy that.


  • Bryan Caplan looks for The Missing Planks. No, not on his deck. He's talking about the planks missing from Presidential campaign proposals. All good ideas, here are a couple:

    1. Stop REAL ID before it inconveniences tens of millions of American travelers.  Also, order the TSA to stop asking to see your boarding pass twice just to board a plane.
    2. Let students fulfill their foreign language requirement with a computer language.  For both high school graduation and public college admission.

    Provocative! When I was in high school, that probably would have been Fortran. Instead of… I think I took German? Wie geht es ihnen? Wo ist der Biergarten?


  • At Heterodox Academy, Ilana Akresh has thoughts on Extremism, Hate and Viewpoint Diversity triggered by the latest horror.

    One effect of such tragic events is to remind us that we are terrifyingly powerless to prevent them. And while most of us desperately want to craft a world where such atrocities are exceedingly rare, we struggle to understand how to get there. Yet, while we can’t control individual actors, we are not helpless in the climate we create. We can do something about the way we communicate with and listen to one another. And a climate in which people are led to view other identity groups as adversaries on a zero-sum battleground for resources is not one that will minimize such atrocities.

    Granted, to a certain extent, competition between groups may well be innate. However, it is a perilous move to encourage groups to divide along visible fault lines, appealing to entrenched histories and apparently intrinsic identities.

    A subtle but important point.


  • Andrew Klavan writes at the Daily Wire on the latest outrage: Democrats Fight To Extend Voting Rights To Stupid Kids.

    Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi says the voting age should be lowered to sixteen. In a speech to a mop closet she mistook for a feminist rally, Pelosi said, “Democrats need to get kids involved when they’re totally ignorant and half out of their minds on hormones or we’ll never get elected again.” Pelosi then realized she was talking to a bunch of mops, and said they should have the right to vote as well.

    Inspired by the Speaker, high school students across the country have formed an activist organization called Teenagers Who Like Really Think it Would Be Cool to Vote and You Can’t Stop Us—or TWILLRIT WUC V-YICSU.

    The group’s president, 16-year-old Thad Mellow, made his position clear in an essay he handed in two weeks late because his stupid little brother spilled Red Bull all over his laptop. The essay begins, “Why I would like to vote. By Thad Mellow. I would like to vote because I think Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is really hot and if I voted for her I would get to meet her in person and show her how I can ride my skateboard down the concrete stairway in back of school while lighting a lighter with my tongue only this time I’d do it without cracking my skull and setting my face on fire.”

    Oh, yeah, I forgot: it's explicitly labeled "satire". But is it, really?


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson speaks for me, and the sliver of the electorate that disbelieves in the Government Free Lunch Fairy. Donald Trump's Budget: Just Stop Spending.

    Stop spending money you don’t have, dummy.

    Can we conservatives agree — at least among ourselves — on that much?

    Maybe not.

    Confession: I am not much of an ideologue. And I don’t think “Stop spending money you don’t have, dummy!” is an ideological position, exactly. And there’s no need to be fanatical about it: Running a deficit during a serious economic downturn, a war, or a national emergency? I’m flexible. You show me Hitler invading Poland and my response is not going to be: Stop spending money you don’t have, dummy.

    It's hard. But it's not that hard.

URLs du Jour

2019-03-19

[Amazon Link]

  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson notes an Obviously True Fact: Lawsuit against Remington over Sandy Hook Massacre Is Bogus. You can click through for the facts of the case and the tortured logic of the Connecticut Supreme Court. But here's the kicker:

    The use of commercial litigation and regulatory law to achieve progressive political goals is by now familiar: If an oil company opposes global-warming initiatives, that isn’t politics but “securities fraud,” as far as Democrats are concerned; if conservative activists want to show a film critical of Hillary Rodham Clinton in the lead-up to a presidential election, that isn’t politics but a “campaign-finance violation,” as far as Democrats are concerned.

    This lawsuit happens against the background of progressive demands that certain political views be criminalized.

    Using the courts to achieve goals you can't get via the legislative process isn't a new thing. I can even think of cases where it's proper. But this is just attempted legal extortion with a political motive.


  • Jacob Sullum notes the latest anti-Constitutional musings from our thin-skinned Commander in Chief: Trump Keeps Wondering Why People Are Allowed to Make Fun of Him on TV.

    Although Donald Trump describes Saturday Night Live as "unwatchable," he keeps watching it, and he keeps wondering why the show is allowed to make fun of him. While Trump is no doubt trolling his opponents with these tweets, he also seems genuinely confused about regulation of broadcast television—in particular, the "equal time" rule, which he erroneously views as a general requirement of balance or fairness.

    On Saturday, NBC re-aired an SNL episode from last December that includes a parody of It's a Wonderful Life in which Alec Baldwin, playing Trump, sees what would have happened if he had never been elected president. Trump did not like the sketch when it first aired. "A REAL scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live," he tweeted at the time. "It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can't be legal? Only defame & belittle!"

    Did I mention I was disgusted by attempted extortion? Add attempted censorship too.

    It is true that SNL and much other network content seem like paid ads from the Democratic National Committee. That can be tedious, no question.

    But I still watch, because I Am Easily Amused.

    But I Am Not Amused by Trump's ignorant musings on censorship.


  • Philip Greenspun wonders: Immigration is the Reverse Black Death?.

    Let’s consider the political goals of righteous Americans today:

    • higher wages for the average person
    • an improved environment with less human impact on the land
    • less concentration of wealth in the hands of real property owners
    • more affordable housing for the working class

    While listening to An Economic History of the World since 1400 by Professor Donald J. Harreld, I learned that all of the above goals were achieved in the 14th century via the Black Death, which reduced the European population by approximately one third.

    Unfortunately, I can imagine some Progressives reading that, stroking their chins, and saying "Hmmm…"


  • Jeff Jacoby offers an idea I can get behind: Lower the voting age? Let's raise it instead. Considering the recent testimony of MA State Representative Ayanna Pressley (D, of course) advocating a voting age of 16:

    In her floor remarks before the roll call, Pressley claimed that 16- and 17-year-old kids are qualified to vote by virtue of the "wisdom" and "maturity" that comes from being alive and confronting the "challenges, hardships, and threats" of 2019. "Some have questioned the maturity of our youth," she told her colleagues. "I don't." If that was her best argument for lowering the voting age, it's no wonder 70 percent of House members weren't persuaded.

    Then again, if Pressley has such unquestioning faith in the maturity of high school sophomores, why seek merely to give them the vote? To be consistent, she should push as well to lower the legal drinking age to 16. And the minimum age for buying cigarettes, handguns, and recreational marijuana. And the age at which one can adopt a child. And at which a criminal offender is automatically prosecuted as an adult. Come to think of it, Pressley should also want to lower the age of enlistment in the military to 16, and to require everyone reaching that age to register with the Selective Service System. After all, if the wisdom and maturity of 16-year-olds qualifies them to vote, why shouldn't it qualify them to be treated as adults in every other way?

    The science is clear (as Jacoby points out): human brains aren't fully functional until age 25 or so. and even then…


  • We probably don't have a lot of readers who are prospective college students, but others outside that demographic might find Richard Vedder of Minding the Campus useful in revealing The Four Unspoken Rules for Getting Into College. Actually they are more observations about institutions of higher ed in general. Here's number…

    4. The Absurdity of the Role of Athletics Plays in Admissions Is a National Embarrassment.

    The notion that American colleges and universities are really quasi-country club/finishing school institutions providing a gap period between secondary school and the Real World rather than places where intellectual exploration and discovery is Job One is reinforced by the ridiculous emphasis put on proficiency in using balls – tennis balls, basketballs, volleyballs, footballs, soccer balls, etc. We see kids getting into schools like the University of Southern California on the basis of their alleged ability to handle balls. Nowhere else in the world is that an important or usually even any consideration in evaluating a student for admissions.

    Uh, yeah. What he said.

    There should be only one collegiate sport. And that sport is: crew.


  • Cornerstone is a New Hampshire political group, weighing in on the conservative side. Christopher Jay, their Policy Analyst, has useful thoughts on the desire of some legislators to prey on a common character flaw in order to get more state government revenue: Gambling with Our People.

    Christopher's article is prompted by an upcoming event at the UNH Law school to “discuss the future of regulated sports betting.” Which (oh oh) "is being funded by Spectrum Gaming Group, and “ICE North America,” an extension of Clarion Gaming, a London-based firm specializing in organizing live events for commercialized gambling interests."

    Americans were expected to lose $118 billion of their personal wealth to government-sanctioned gambling in 2018.  Over the next eight years, the American people are on a collision course to lose more than $1 trillion of their personal wealth to government-sanctioned gambling.  If approved, commercialized sports betting will make these financial losses even worse. Saving is the road to wealth creation yet around 50% of the U.S. population has zero or negative net wealth. More than 60% of citizens don’t have enough savings to cover a $1000 emergency expense. This is a critical issue because saving money is the direct opposite of commercialized gambling.

    I'm probably less paternalistic than Cornerstone on this issue. Sports betting should just be legal, period. But encouraged by the state? A thousand times no.

    And don't get me started on those TV ads for the various lotteries, that play up the wonderful happiness of big winners. They make me want to shoot my TV, and that would be bad.

URLs du Jour

2019-03-18

[Amazon Link]

  • Deirdre Nansen McCloskey provides some good self-improvement advice at Reason (from their April print issue): Quit Worrying and Learn To Love Trade With China.

    Get ready for the Great Trump-Xi Depression. The White House is pursuing two stupid policies, trying to reduce the United States' "balance of payments" with China and trying to protect "intellectual property" from China's thievery. These policies are leading to a crash in the Chinese economy, which has been grossly ill-managed under President Xi Jinping. International knock-on effects were already apparent last autumn, even as the trade deficit ballooned and Americans benefited from Chinese theft.

    "Balance of payments" is a silly way of talking, right from the get-go. Are you concerned about your balance of payments with your grocery store? You give Kroger cash and it gives you goods. Worried? I thought not. After all, you have a balance of payments surplus with your employer, right? Hope so. And your scary-sounding deficit with Kroger is good for you. In exchange for money, the store provides healthy food such as oatmeal, walnuts, olive oil, and blueberries. (Try it: I just lost 30 pounds that way, a good deficit.)

    The nearest Kroger to Pun Salad Manor is in Millsboro, Delaware, a mere 391.3 miles away. So I'm not likely to incur a trade deficit with them any time soon.

    But Deirdre's point is otherwise well-taken.


  • For your lexicographical pleasure, Jonah Goldberg devotes his G-File to a word you should get to know: Shibboleth Is a Fun Word.

    Shibboleth is a fun word, and not just because it sounds like what one of the kids from Fat Albert would say if he went to prison, got hard and mean, and told someone to “Shiv old Les.” You know like, “Shib ol’ leth in da shower durin’ the guard change.”

    For those who don’t know, it comes from the Book of Judges in the Hebrew Bible. Long story short, the Gileadites beat the stuffing out of the Ephraimites. When the surviving Ephraimites wanted to get past the River Jordan incognito, the Gileadites had a test to tell them apart from other travelers. They first asked the strangers if they were Ephraimites. If they said “No,” the soldiers asked them to say the word “shibboleth,” which referred either to a part of a grain plant or maybe a flood. But the definition didn’t matter, the pronunciation was everything — because the Ephraimite dialect pronounced “sh” words with an “s” sound. So anybody who said “sibboleth” got the business end of a sword (or perhaps a spear or some sort of pike — I’m no expert on such things). According to the Bible, some “forty and two thousand” Ephraimites went to their maker wishing they had a lisp like Cindy Brady.

    Don't worry, he has an insightful point that he will eventually get to. On the way there, enjoy his improvisational essaying.


  • In local news, Drew Cline of the Bartlett Center (I'm tired of typing their full name) notes what everyone should have seen coming: NH House has passed $56.5 million in new spending, $31 million in new taxes per week in 2019 (so far!).

    In the first 10 weeks of the 2019 legislative session, the New Hampshire House of Representatives passed nearly $310 million in tax and fee increases and $565 million in new spending, Grant Bosse reported at New Hampshire Journal this week. That’s $31 million worth of tax and fee increases and $56.5 million in new spending per week. 

    “The full House voted to increase the state’s two largest business taxes, accounting for most of the increased tax revenue in Fiscal Years 2020-2023. But the House has also passed several other pieces of legislation that increase state revenues or expenditures.  If all the bills given House approval were to be signed into law, taxes and fees would increase by $108 million in the next two years, and by $202 million in the following biennium, according to official estimates from the Legislative Budget Assistant’s Office (LBAO).

    And they're only just getting started. One can only hope that Governor Sununu's veto pen has plenty of ink.


  • And someone noticed that Google is engaging in a little bit of Orwellian history-rewriting. Roger L. Simon protests: Google Does Evil to Patrick Moore.

    Google's erasing the photograph of Patrick Moore, former president of Greenpeace, from the list of early founders and organizers of the environmental group, is, like the firing of James Damore a couple of years ago, a reminder of why it's fitting the tech giant dropped its original motto, "Don't be evil."

    Google is just that and then some. It is evil and dangerous. When one company controls the world's flow of information the way they do and can tilt the argument overtly or, more ominously, covertly in their preferred direction, watch out. We are headed for a new form of totalitarianism.

    We already kind of knew that Google hates America. Now they're at war with history. Next up?

Antarctica

[Amazon Link]

True story: I paid the full $24.95 list price for this book in August 1998 while on vacation in Bar Harbor. Maine. How do I remember that? Ah, because it's signed and dated by the author, Kim Stanley Robinson, his own self. I had happened to notice that a local bookstore was on his book tour stop, and popped in. (He's a pretty nice guy, at least I remember he seemed to be in 1998.)

I had previously read his famous trilogy Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars, which gathered a bunch of awards, including two Hugos and one Nebula.

Unfortunately, Antarctica got zero awards. And (for no good reason) it's been sitting on my bookshelf, unread for over 20 years. That's why, readers, I implemented my book picking system, which at least gives such neglected tomes a chance at being read, eventually.

So enough prelude: Antarctica is a big book, clocking in at over 500 pages. And, at least for me, it should have been at best a 200 page book. Explanation One: I'm a Philistine, KSR is a professional writer, he wrote exactly the book he wanted to, and if I wasn't impressed, that's on me.

Explanation Two: he had a book contract that demanded 500 pages, and he larded up a decent plot with endless digressions and irrelevancies.

I don't know which explanation is more on target.

Anyway, there are three main characters: "X", a "General Field Assistant" working for the oppressive corporation that runs official Antarctic operations; Val, an Amazonian guide, responsible for shepherding adventure-seeking tourists on treks through the frigid landscape; and Wade, a researcher for a US Senator, on a fact-finding mission. Things kick off when X is the only human accompanying a robotic caravan of tractors delivering supplies to the interior; he is surprised when unseen pirates manage to grab one of the tractors.

A promising, intriguing beginning. But then… pretty much nothing happens for the next 200+ pages. Then there's (spoiler) an exciting, harrowing story of near-disaster triggered by a quirky avalanche and some ecological saboteurs. And there's a cool climax which caused me to think: "Ah. Blimpi ex machina!

And then nothing much interesting happens for the rest of the book. Eh.

The novel is set sometime in the future when the Ross Ice Shelf has melted away, thanks to Global Warming. This doesn't appear to be likely to happen anytime soon. KSR is also a "democratic socialist" and that, I'm afraid, is part of the reason I found this book tedious in many spots.