URLs du Jour

2017-12-17

Proverbs 17:7 is all about the lips, again:

7 Eloquent lips are unsuited to a godless fool—
    how much worse lying lips to a ruler!

But enough about President Trump…


■ It's Christmas season, and @kevinNR urges us to Just Say ‘Yes’ to Prosperity. RTWT, but I really like his bottom line:

Years ago, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, some newly liberated East Germans were discussing the changes that had taken place with the end of Communism. What stood out for them? Oranges. Suddenly, they could buy oranges whenever they wanted, because there were oranges in the stores to buy. Previously, they could get oranges only at Christmas. In that sense, it’s always Christmas for us, and it always has been. Whether it always will be is up to us.

I'm not a shopper, but find myself grinning like a fool when I go into stores these days. Not just at the oranges.


■ George F. Will wants to tell you a story about washing machines: Whirlpool has Washington in a spin cycle.

A household appliance will be the next stepping-stone on America’s path to restored greatness. The government is poised to punish many Americans, in the name of protecting a few of them, because, in the government’s opinion, too many of them are choosing to buy foreign-made washing machines for no better reason than that the buyers think they are better. If you are wondering why the government is squandering its dwindling prestige by having opinions about such things, you have not been paying attention to Whirlpool’s demonstration that it is more adept at manipulating Washington than it is at making washing machines.

In 2006, when Whirlpool was paying $1.7 billion to buy its largest competitor, Maytag, federal regulators fretted that this would give the company too much market power. Whirlpool said: Fear not, competition from foreign manufacturers such as South Korea’s Samsung and LG will keep us sharp and benefit American consumers. Now, however, Whirlpool, which is weary of competition, has persuaded the U.S. International Trade Commission to rule that Samsung and LG should be reproached for what, 11 years ago, Whirlpool said it welcomed: competition.

Factoid mentioned in Will's column, from the WSJ: in the past decade, Whirlpool's market share has remained relatively steady at 35%, But Samsung's has gone from nearly zero to 19%; LG has about 15%.

Mere words are inadequate to express my utter contempt for companies like Whirlpool.


Reason's Peter Suderman has a heavy-breathing-free description of the FCC's action on "Net Neutrality", if you're still interested: The FCC Just Voted to Roll Back Obama-Era Net Neutrality Rules.

The Obama-era rules focused the FCC's regulatory authority on ISPs over other types of internet companies. Although the net neutrality debate is often framed as one that pits consumers versus large internet providers, it can also be understood as a regulatory tug-of-war between two types of companies on the web. Many of the largest internet content companies — so called "edge providers" like Google, Facebook, and Netflix have supported net neutrality in recent years. Recently, however, Netflix, has backed away from its previous support for net neutrality, having made a number of private connection deals that make net neutrality less useful to its business model. "Where net neutrality is really important is the Netflix of 10 years ago," CEO Reed Hastings said in May. "It's not our primary battle at this point."

The shift in strategy is telling: Netflix favored net neutrality rules as a way to preserve a business advantage. As it has grown, it no longer needs that advantage. The debate over net neutrality was always, in part, a tug-of-war over regulatory advantage between tech industry giants. Today, the FCC took steps to stay out of the fight — and remain a neutral regulator over the net.

As a Netflix customer, I'm not happy that it ran to the Federal Government to get favorable regulation to implement its business model. But I am happy that they figured out how to make their service work without that.


■ Macroeconomist Scott Sumner describes Three big natural experiments contained in the tax reform package:

Experiment #1. Does the powerful real estate lobby have enough political power to prevent Congress from taking away the mortgage interest deduction from the vast majority of taxpayers? Most people previously assumed the answer was yes. But today we found out the answer is no. Under the new tax bill very few taxpayers will deduct mortgage interest.

Experiment #2. Does the mortgage interest deduction play a big role in supporting the price of residential real estate? I suspect the answer is no, but we'll know for sure within a few months.

Experiment #3. Do state income tax rate differentials play a big role in interstate migration? I've argued that state income taxes play a bigger role than many progressives assume, but the effect seems to be declining over time as the younger generation cares more about non-material amenities, rather than material goods like a big house and an expensive car.

He also has Good/Bad/Neutral lists about the various provisions.


■ And it's been a while since we had an embedded RamirezToon. Here's a good one:

Pies and Lies

Back story, if you need it, here.


Last Modified 2017-12-17 9:08 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2017-12-16

Proverbs 17:6 is straightforward:

6 Children’s children are a crown to the aged,
    and parents are the pride of their children.

Pun Salad Fact Check: True.


■ Thanks to 19th Century American legislation, the Mississippi River is safe from the Viking menace! As reported by Scott Shackford at Reason: There Will Be No Viking Longboats Cruising the Mississippi, Thanks to Hard-Headed U.S. Protectionism.

There are 2,000 ports across the world where cruise ships dock for passengers to embark on fabulous getaways. Only 30 of them are in North America.

The market won't likely be calling for more docks in the United States anytime soon. Switzerland-based Viking Cruises, which wanted to build and send small cruise ships up the Mississippi River, leaving new tourism dollars for river towns in its wake, is backing off its plan.

We are being "protected" by the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886, which forbids foreign ownership of ships transporting passengers between American ports. So if you've wondered why those river cruises you see advertised on PBS are always on European rivers, that's why.


■ And it's not as if we're being protected from truly pernicious Scandinavian cultural influence. But fortunately, one of the worst may be fading away. At the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Lileks asks: Have we lost our love for lutefisk?

Let’s remind ourselves what lutefisk is. Most recipes involve cod soaked in lye, but there are alternatives:

A) Sunfish soaked in turpentine.
B) Crappies soaked in Listerine.
C) Fish sticks soaked in bleach.

Disclaimer: Even with my Norwegian heritage, I've never had any lutefisk-love to lose. Had it at Grandma's once, in the late 1950s. The most accurate description: Fish-flavored Jell-O. I don't need to do it again.


■ At NRO, David French notes what should be obvious: Constant Hysterics Damage Our Democracy.

Late last night, while reading a stream of apocalyptic rhetoric about the repeal of net neutrality and the “end of the internet as we know it,” I reached the shattering conclusion that one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies was wrong. The movie is the 2004 Brad Bird masterpiece, The Incredibles. The line comes from the villain, Syndrome, who outlines his plan to make “everyone super,” because when “everyone is super [he chuckles maliciously] no one will be.”

It’s a great line, and it seems to convey an important truth. When you make everyone or everything “the best” or “the greatest” or “special,” then you inevitably end up devaluing the superlative. When everyone gets a trophy, trophies matter less. The same truth applies equally in reverse. Not everything is “the worst” or an “emergency,” and when we pretend otherwise, it turns out that nothing is believed to be. That’s the essence of “crying wolf.”

Except in politics. In politics, when everything’s a crisis, it turns out that EVERYTHING’S A CRISIS!

At my age, I can't be in a constant state of ideological agitation. It's getting really tough to tease out the issues over which I should be going batshit insane.


■ For example, you might think this would be an issue going batshit insane over: Google Is Using Its Immense Power To Censor Content That Doesn’t Fit Its Political Goals. It's from the Daily Caller, a conservative site not on my usual web crawling map, but:

The Daily Caller released a funny video Tuesday of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai defending the commission’s upcoming net neutrality rollback. Through Wednesday and Thursday, liberals and others who dislike Pai’s political position lost their minds. And by Friday morning, Google, one of the most powerful companies on the planet, had censored the video based on a bogus claim from a politically motivated man.

It took seven crucial hours and the full force of our news site to push Google and YouTube to reverse this political censorship. We were able to prevail because of the sizable contacts and resources of TheDC. An average citizen showcasing a political viewpoint Google and the left disagreed with would almost certainly have had a far more difficult — and fruitless — time fighting back.

Google is a private company and can run its business the way it wants. And I'm a "customer" for a number of its products and services.

But when their thumb-on-the-scale Progressivism leaks out into censorship and biased search results, that's far more concerning than "Net Neutrality" regulation going away.

URLs du Jour

2017-12-15

gloat

■ Well, now that the FCC HAS DESTROYED THE INTERNET, you're probably not reading this, and I probably haven't published it. Or something.

Seriously. Get a grip, people.


■ We know that the Proverbialist despises mockers, and he displays that once again in Proverbs 17:5; but he goes after gloaters too:

5 Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker;
    whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.

I, for one, will not give up my right to say "I told you so." If that brings divine punishment, so be it.


American Consequences' P. J. O'Rourke turns his eye onto American Consumer Trends. One of the things we're buying: calories. And…

How did Americans get so huge? Rhetorical question. Drive down any commercial strip. Where there was a diner, a White Castle, and a truck stop there is now…

Cowabunga Burger… Fatty Fries… Chunk-Up Chicken… Cheesy Chef… Gobble King… Beef Blimp… Taco Dump… Double-Butt Pizza…

Americans not only look gross but they dress the part. We’ve become a nation of immense 9-year-olds dressed for all occasions in T-shirts, shorts, and Tevas. Or, sometimes, just to change things up, pajama pants, sports bras, and wife-beater shirts.

The clothes are revealing, but in no erotic sense. What’s revealed is big, hairy legs and vast ass tattoos.

"Ass tattoos." Heh.


■ Daniel J. Mitchell is Grading the House-Senate Republican Tax Plan. Spoiler: his grade on the current proposal is B. But:

Aficianados of “public choice” are painfully aware that politicians and interest groups are depressingly clever about preserving their goodies. So while it seems like tax reform is going to happen, it’s not a done deal. When dealing with Washington, it’s wise to assume the worst.

So I am "cautiously pessimistic".


■ If you are a political journalist, and you've been wondering who to blame for your sinking credibility, David Harsanyi has your answer right here: Political Journalists Have Themselves to Blame for Sinking Credibility. After listing four "big scoops" that turned out to be… wrong:

Forget your routine bias. These were four bombshells disseminated to millions of Americans by breathless anchors, pundits and analysts, all of whom are feeding frenzied expectations about Trump-Russia collusion that have now been internalized by many as indisputable truths. All four pieces, incidentally, are useless without their central faulty claims. Yet there they sit. And these are only four of dozens of other stories that have fizzled over the year.

If we are to accept the special pleadings of journalists, we have to believe these were all honest mistakes. They may be. But a person might then ask: Why is it that every one of the dozens of honest mistakes is prejudiced in the very same way? Why hasn't there been a single major honest mistake that diminishes the Trump-Russia collusion story? Why is there never an honest mistake that indicts Democrats?

Even my beloved WSJ is mentioned. Oh, well, I'll just skip to the editorial pages a little faster.


■ I try to avoid obvious clickbait, but occasionally a headline just works. So it is with Wired: The Alabama Senate Election Was Decided 100 Million Years Ago. What?

They say victory has a hundred fathers, and Doug Jones' upset win in the Alabama Senate race Tuesday night is no exception. Maybe it was the mounting accusations of child molestation facing Republican opponent Roy Moore that sealed Jones' victory. Maybe this was just the latest swell in the blue wave that washed over Virginia last month. Maybe it was the work of a small, but mighty, group of Jones volunteers who ran an expansive ground game.

Or maybe, it was the ground itself—the literal soil underneath voters' feet, which was once submerged underwater, leaving behind a uniquely fertile strip of land on which human beings committed unthinkable atrocities, the effects of which are still being felt today.

If only Roy Moore had taken geology in college!


■ A bit of good news from the Fraser Institute, brought to us via my Google LFOD news alert: New Hampshire leads U.S. in economic freedom three years running.

For the third year in a row, New Hampshire—the Live Free or Die state—has the highest level of economic freedom among all U.S. states, finds a new report released today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

At the bottom: New York and California.


■ Also in the LFOD news is a Techdirt article: Bogus Wiretap Charges Brought Against Man Who Recorded Cops Costs NH Taxpayers $275,000

One of those things I thought would have gone out of vogue is apparently still in style in New Hampshire. The number of bullshit wiretap prosecutions brought against people recording cops has dropped precipitously over the past half-decade as courts have found use of wiretap statutes in this fashion unconstitutional, but over in the Live Free or Die state, the statute lives freely and dies even harder.

Your tax dollars at work, Mancunians.

Rights Angles

[Amazon Link]

Back in the previous century, I bought, and read, a book plugged at Reason: Persons, Rights, and the Moral Community by Loren Lomasky, then at the Duluth campus of the University of Minnesota. It was a strong defense/explication of the underpinnings of classical liberalism and (so-called) "natural" individual human rights. Lomasky's insight was was that humans are project pursuers as part of their core natures; when the state proposes to override such (presumably peaceful) pursuits in order that the individual serve instead some collective goal, it violates some of the person's moral space. Which is wrong.

I was convinced. But the world, unfortunately, was not. (Lomasky, by the way, does not love the term "classical liberalism", with its connotation of old ideas fixed in amber; he'd prefer a term that reflects something more dynamic. He has a point, but "classical liberalism" seems to be the best label we have.)

Anyway, Persons, Rights, and the Moral Community was back when Reason, and I, were more concerned with political philosophy. This 2016 book, Rights Angles, is a collection of fifteen scholarly papers Lomasky published between 1983 and 2011 on various topics in political philosophy, still circling around the core of classical liberalism. There's also a leadoff new essay with an overview of the current state of affairs. It will run you a cool $43.99 at Amazon; fortunately, the University Near Here Library got a copy.

Speaking from my vantage point (strictly a philosophical dilettante, and even that may be an overestimate): The essays are of varying degrees of difficulty, depending on one's familiarity with the field. I'd recommend at least a nodding acquaintance with the major works of John Rawls (A Theory of Justice) and Robert Nozick (Anarchy, State, and Utopia. But even then, some I just bounced off. (But, honest, Professor Lomasky, I looked at every page.)

I learned a word: optimific. No, you go look it up. I had to.

URLs du Jour

2017-12-14

Proverbs 17:4 appears to be Blaming the Victim:

4 A wicked person listens to deceitful lips;
    a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.

Hey, Proverbialist, it's not my fault that I believed all that stuff I heard from …

Well, you can finish that sentence yourself. In so many ways.


■ The Skeptical Libertarian, Daniel Bier, asks and answers: Is Climate Change Killing Coffee? Not So Far. It's a short review of actual data (with graphs!), in response to Yet Another Article predicting Imminent Caffeine Armageddon. Bottom line:

I’m not playing Pollyanna to Cassandra here. I’m not saying climate change is a good thing. I’m not even saying that climate change won’t present challenges for coffee farmers in the future — as long as global and regional climates are changing, of course industries will have to adapt.

But it’s ridiculous to go around prophesying the imminent doom of an industry (based on papers written by non-economists and non-specialists) without even attempting to square that prediction with the observable reality of that sector.

And the reality is this: the coffee industry (as shown by prices, production, and yield rates) is quite healthy. If you think it’s actually on its deathbed, you have to explain why that data doesn’t matter and what everyone with a financial stake in it is missing. It’s bad journalism to report on the demise of coffee without even mentioning that production and yields are at all time highs — and coffee futures prices aren’t.

If you think Bier is wrong, he offers to bet.


■ Big trouble over in Hooksett, as reported in the Daily Signal: College Republicans Say Conservative Speaker Was Treated ‘Unfairly’ at Southern New Hampshire University.

Conservative activist Matt Walsh came to Southern New Hampshire University at the request of the SNHU College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation, but Walsh and College Republicans believe his speech was not treated fairly.

It's a script we've seen elsewhere: advertising posters torn down, people reserving "tickets" for an event they had no intention of attending, interested students not allowed access because they couldn't get tickets.


■ At AEI, Michael R. Strain writes a manifesto for A Limited, Energetic Government. He bills it as "an alternative to both Trump and Sanders." Sounds good! And his vision seems solid:

It’s a society in which free markets reward individual initiative, public policy advances opportunity and empowers people to earn their own success, and dynamism and energy characterize our economic lives. It’s a society that demands personal responsibility, self-reliance, and self-discipline, but also recognizes human imperfection and uncertainty and therefore allows no one to fall too far. And it’s a society in which the “mediating institutions” between citizen and government, most especially the family, are strong and vibrant, and in which social trust is high and bonds of solidarity are strong.

Only problem: solid opposition from Democrats, and unprincipled spinelessness from Republicans.

Well, I guess that's two problems. But you know what I mean.


■ What would happen if you put an AI to work writing a novel based on a corpus of famous best-sellers? Fortunately, that burning question has now been answered; you would get Chapter 13 of Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash.


Mental Floss will tell you The Most (and Least) Expensive States for Staying Warm This Winter. (It's based on a Wallet Hub article from July.)

Michigan, which ranks 33rd overall, outdoes every other state in the natural gas department with an average bill of $60 a month. Alaska is close behind with $59, followed by Rhode Island With $58.

People living in Maine prefer oil to heat their homes, spending $84 a month on the fuel source. All six New England states—Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts—occupy the top six spots in this category.

New Hampshire is #9 in overall energy cost, #5 on monthly home heating-oil cost.


■ NHPR notes that the ACLU has pointed out something that we shouldn't need the ACLU to point out: Border Patrol Checkpoints On I-93 Violated N.H. Constitution

Gilles Bissonnette, legal director for the ACLU-NH, says those stops, and the use of drug-sniffing dogs, violated the New Hampshire Constitution because there was no warrant or reasonable suspicion.

“Border Patrol simply used these dog sniff searches on everyone that went through the checkpoint, and that’s violative of New Hampshire constitution, which is more protective of privacy than even the Fourth Amendment to the Federal Constitution,” he said.

During the multi-day checkpoints, Bissonette believes that hundreds and possibly thousands of individuals were subjected to illegal searches by the dogs.

“So we just think this is incredibly problematic, and hardly consistent with New Hampshire’s ‘Live Free or Die’ approach to these issues.”

This story brought to you by my Google News Alert for LFOD invocations.


■ Also triggering the LFOD alarm bell comes all the way from Colorado, in a publication called the Mountain-Ear Newspaper. (Mounain-Ear. Get it?) Stage Stop fair welcomes locals

Derik Stevens, of Ward, brought in his hand made fur hats, saying this was his first time at the Fair. Derik was featured on the National Geographic series, “Live Free or Die,” representing the Mountain Man.

Derik's unusual name allows us further Google research, and brings up this story from 2007:

Ward's self-proclaimed "Giant Killer Blacksmith" — and "undefeated champion" of the mountain town's daylong slugfest, "Hammertime" — has been ordered by a Boulder judge to give up his weapons.

Derik Leif Stevens, 36, who makes battle axes and spears for a living, is slated to begin serving a Boulder County Jail weekend work-crew sentence today after pleading guilty last week to felony menacing. Stevens also was sentenced to four years of probation by Boulder County District Judge D.D. Mallard and cannot posses any weapons during that time.

The LFOD spirit is strong with Derik, and if that involves having a certain number of felony menacing convictions on your rap sheet, so be it.

MLK@UNH 2018: Going Into Stealth Mode

The Dream of Martin Luther King,
Jr.

For many years, the University Near Here has conducted a "celebration" of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. It was kind of a big deal: invited speakers, book signings, candlelight marches, church services (aka "spiritual celebrations").

This coming year, things will be different. The announcement of the "16th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Summit" is remarkable in its reticence about what will actually happen.

There's a "theme": "Race, Sexuality and Romantic Identity, Ability". (OK, so that's maybe three themes.)

The description, in its entirety:

Named in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the MLK Summit is a two and a half day social justice development institute that allows students to build identity competencies and to expand their understanding of community activism.

This retreat is FREE and open to all** full-time undergraduates and graduate students who are interested in gaining a better understanding of diversity and working toward social justice on the UNH campus and beyond!

The MLK Summit is an excellent opportunity for students to create a greater sense of community and explore critical issues related to social inequity in a challenging environment that promotes growth, reflection, community building, and honest dialogue.

The usual activist windbaggery and jargon, of course. But no specifics, no lists of speakers or events, not even locations. Why, it's almost as if they don't want people to know what's going on!

And, unlike previous years, the public ain't invited to anything. Just full-time students, thanks very much. And it's not as if they can just show up either.

Because, this year, you have to fill out an application if you want your identity competencies built or your understanding of community activism expanded. It's a "competitive[!] and formal process", kid. Even though we said it's "open to all full-time undergraduates and graduate students", that may not include you, sorry.

I just got to the first page. In order to get beyond that, I would have had to lie. Chuckled at this, though:

Pronouns:*
They, Them, Theirs
She, Her, Hers
He, Him, His
Ze, Hir, Hirs
I use my name as my pronoun
My pronouns are not listed

… but they don't ask you to pigeonhole yourself otherwise. Except sneakily:

Please Attach a Photo of Yourself (Preferably a larger file)

Even though they say "please", the picture appears to be required. Leading one to suspect that they may not be judging applicants by the content of their character.

So, an awful lot of hoops the kiddos must jump through in order to attend. Couple this with the shying-away about what's actually gonna happen at the summit, and… it's almost as if they don't want people to show up.

Past Pun Salad MLK@UNH coverage: 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017. We skipped reporting the 2008 and 2016 events, because they were boring.

Finally, I can't help but notice that most, if not all, records of UNH's previous MLK celebrations are now 404-memory-holed. Out of embarrassment? But if you really want to check out the differences between this year's non-event and previous years, the Internet Archive Wayback Machine is your friend. For example, here's 2009, the year of Angela Davis.


Last Modified 2017-12-13 9:26 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2017-12-13

Proverbs 17:3 is a pretty good metaphor, the kind of thing we tune in to Proverbs to hear:

3 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,
    but the Lord tests the heart.

That doesn't sound like a lot of fun, but … point taken.


■ Who can Republicans blame for Senator-elect Doug Jones? Jordan Gehrke at the Federalist has a plausible answer: Mitch McConnell Is The Reason Doug Jones Is A Senator. Because, to start, McConnell backed Luther Strange. But…

Strange was a flawed candidate from the jump. The circumstances around his appointment by scandal-ridden Governor Robert Bentley were sketchy at best, and rightly or wrongly, voters just never trusted him.

Looking back, an establishment candidate like Strange, beset by issues surrounding his appointment was never going to win a runoff in an anti-establishment state like Alabama–certainly not in the year after Donald Trump was elected.

Judge Roy Moore soon entered the race, followed by Mo Brooks, a conservative congressman from northern Alabama with a very solid voting record. A member of the House Freedom Caucus in the mold of Jeff Sessions, Brooks resonated with conservative grassroots. […]

Determined to keep a Freedom Caucus member out of the Senate, McConnell and [his PAC] swung into action with a little over a month to go, spending over four million dollars carpet-bombing Mo Brooks.  They told everyone who would listen that they were going to destroy Brooks. They even hired consultants for a potential primary challenger in his house seat, just to intimidate him.

… and Brooks came in third in the primary, leaving Strange and Moore to compete in a runoff, which Moore won handily. And then…


@kevinNR tells us about The Politics of Humiliation. Long and insightful, and here's the bottom line:

There is a better way to go about organizing the country than bonk-you-on-the-head tribalism, but it requires a measure of maturity and forbearance that we do not seem to be able to muster just now. The founding generation had Washington, Madison, Jefferson, Adams. We have Trump, Moore, Schumer, Pelosi. If the Almighty had wanted to teach us not to put our trust in princes, He could hardly have done any better. But this is our doing. We have this situation because we choose to have it, because we put our faith in naked political power and therefore choose to elevate the worst and ugliest among us. This is all on us.

Agreed, as long as the "us" is understood to mean "not me".


■ Two ex-profs involved in the Evergreen College insanity earlier this year, Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein, look at how leftist intolerance is killing higher education. Again, the bottom line:

For today’s social justice warriors, only one narrative shall be allowed. It is unquestionable. Those who dissent are guilty. The “equity and inclusion” movement, cloaked in words that sound benevolent and honorable, is a bludgeon. To the outside world, Evergreen’s implosion looked like a student-motivated response to conditions on the inside. But the terrible conditions don’t really exist, and the real power dynamics, between administrators and faculty, were obscured by a narrative constructed to make resistance impossible.

The script [followed by the SJWs] showed up at our public, liberal arts college, and we, the evolutionary biologists, are now gone. It showed up at Duke Divinity School, and Paul Griffiths, a Catholic theologian, has resigned after being vilified for questioning training in racial equity. His words are to the point: “Events of this sort are definitively anti-intellectual. (Re)trainings of intellectuals by bureaucrats and apparatchiks have a long and ignoble history; I hope you’ll keep that history in mind as you think about this instance.”

Coming to a University Near Here? I guess we'll see.


■ Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback is no fan of NFL Commissioner Roger "Five-Year, $200 Million Contract" Goodell.

The big implication of the new contract is that Goodell’s mega-payday should draw attention to the very subsidies the owners don’t want talked about. Stadium construction and operating subsidies, plus tax exemptions—most NFL teams don’t pay property taxes on their stadia or practice facilities, or pay trivial amounts compared to similar businesses—represent around $2 billion per year diverted from typical taxpayers to the mega-rich pashas of the NFL. That means about 15 percent of the NFL’s current roughly $14 billion a year in revenue is public subsidy.

The true number may be far larger. U.S. law allows images taken in public stadia to be copyrighted. All but a few of the NFL’s stadia are either mostly paid for by the public—the next Super Bowl, in Minneapolis, will occur on a field mostly financed by Minnesota taxpayers—or are entirely publicly owned. Yet the NFL copyrights the images from these fields; television licensing of the copyrights brings in far more revenue than ticket sales. If the ability to copyright games played in publicly financed facilities were viewed as a subsidy to the NFL’s landed-aristocracy class—and it should be—as much as 90 percent of the league’s revenues would be seen as gifts from the working class to the aristocratic class.

But if we stick with the most-conservative view of 15 percent of NFL revenue coming from average people, that suggests Roger Goodell’s new deal will allow him to stuff about $30 million in taxpayer funds into his pockets. American households with a current median income of $59,000 will be taxed so that Goodell receives $30 million for his Park Avenue luxury suite, his Versailles-sized vacation home in Scarborough, Maine, his personal private jet, and other perks.

Ouch. Here's what I didn't know: Roger is the son of onetime NY Senator Charles "Chuck" Goodell. Easterbrook liked Chuck a lot more than Roger. I remember mainly that Chuck came in third place in the 1970 NY Senate election, losing to James L. Buckley, WFB's brother.


■ Via Cato, the Daily Caller's Richard Pollock describes How The Republican Senate Saved The ‘Death Tax’.

The Senate tax reform bill does not repeal the “death” estate tax conservatives have long opposed, apparently because of at least three Republican senators. The three are among many who have received donations from insurance companies benefiting from the tax.

The House fully repealed the “death tax,” but Senate Republicans did not include a repeal in their version of the bill. Republican Sens. John McCain, Susan Collins and Mike Rounds, who are the only three Republican senators on-record opposing repeal, could be held responsible if the estate tax is not repealed in the final bill. The two chambers are now in the process of reconciling for final passage.

The article notes that it's not the rich plutocrats that are most active in lobbying against death tax repeal. It's the companies most involved in helping the rich plutocrats avoid the death tax. If the death tax goes away, so does a lot of the money they make off it.

Strangely, Democrats, usually insurance-company-bashers, are silent on this.

URLs du Jour

2017-12-12

Proverbs 17:2 gets further into familial dysfunction:

2 A prudent servant will rule over a disgraceful son
    and will share the inheritance as one of the family.

It sounds as if the Proverbialist has been watching the recent season of Gotham. Man, that young Bruce Wayne seems to be kind of a dick. Here's hoping that turns out to be an elaborate con when episodes resume.


■ The cover story in the current issue of Reason by Katherine Mangu-Ward is an excellent summary of where we are: facing The End of Free Speech. For most of 2017, Republicans (correctly) deplored college shout-downs of conservative/libertarian speakers. But…

But as the weather cooled, the GOP revealed its true colors. Led by an increasingly vehement and erratic President Donald Trump, the same party that was poised to die on the hill of free speech when it was being threatened by angry progressives was suddenly ready to eliminate First Amendment rights on the football field, revoke citizenship for flag burning, pull broadcast licenses over bad comedy sketches, and expand libel laws to take down annoying members of the media. There are greater threats to speech, it turns out, than a bunch of angry co-eds.

James Damore is not mentioned, but I suppose Katherine only had so many column-inches.


■ At NRO, Robert VerBruggen considers Google, Facebook, Amazon: Our Digital Overlords.

[…] there are real monopolies in this country, and three of them — Alphabet (i.e., Google), Amazon, and Facebook — control much of our online life. They are already showing anti-competitive tendencies, as well as censoring speech, and yet there is no perfect response to such practices. These firms could do great damage if left unchecked — but then again, their market dominance might not be as secure as it seems.

It’s not time to smash these companies to pieces. But it just might be time to rein in some of their most egregious practices.

Democrats, usually the first to rail against monopolies, are kind of quiet about the big three. Gee, I wonder if that's because they're reliably in Democrat pockets?


■ Chris Edwards of Cato debunks the "giveaway to the rich" propaganda that opponents of tax legislation are flinging around. In fact, Edwards claims, Senate Tax Bill Increases Progressivity.

Without any tax cut, the top quintile will pay 67.0 percent of all federal taxes in 2019, and the top 1 percent will pay 26.7 percent. Since the tax cut shares for those groups are less than that, the cuts will make federal taxation more progressive. If the Senate bill were passed, the top quintile of higher earners would pay an even larger share of the overall federal tax burden. That would undercut the growth potential of tax reform and make our excessively progressive tax code even more so.

And that's not a good thing, in Edwards' eyes, nor in Pun Salad's.


■ Pun Salad is a Frederic Bastiat fanboy, so is AEI's Mark J. Perry. And Mark contributes The Candlemakers’ Petition: Revised and modernized for today’s climate of rising trade protectionism. It's a letter to President Trump from "the American Lighting Association, US light bulb manufacturers, and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers." Sample:

Simply put, the American lighting industry is suffering from the damaging competition of a foreign rival whose conditions are so far superior to our own for producing light that it is flooding the American market with light at an incredibly low, unfair price. That is, this foreign producer is “dumping” light into the US economy to our great disadvantage. The moment the foreign rival appears, our sales of lighting fixtures drop precipitously, all cost-conscious American consumers turn to him, and an important segment of American industry is reduced to economic stagnation, with the accompanying loss of American jobs and the impoverishment of our country.

… and I bet you can guess the nature of that menacing foreign—nay, extraterrestrial—rival.

But if you can't, here's a Tweeted hint from Mark:

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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

A very pleasant surprise. Netflix's guess was that I would like it. I was dubious, because it seemed like a too-obvious effort to squeeze some more dollars out of Harry Potter's fan club. But—ha!—it turned out to be a movie with an interesting story, sympathetic characters, a daft sense of humor, and imaginative visuals. Go figure.

Of course, it's the first of five projected movies. Those could be worse. We'll see.

It's set in the Harry Potter universe, but in the 1920's and in New York City. Our hero, Newt Scaramander, arrives from England with a case full of magical animals, and promptly loses control of one of them—a cute little guy, who loves to filch shiny objects: coins, jewelry, etc.. Newt's efforts to retrieve the little dickens causes a certain amount of hilarious mayhem; he attracts the attention of the American magical community, and also acquires a non-magical sidekick, Jacob Kowalski, an agreeable schlub who has dreams of opening a bakery.

Unfortunately, Newt gets tangled up in the conflict between the American magical bureaucracy (MACUSA), a disgraced magical investigator, an evil wizard (pre-Voldemort), and a know-nothing "New Salem" church group, looking to burn the witches. Uh-oh!

Especially good was Dan Fogler, the guy playing Jacob. Deserved an Oscar, he did.

URLs du Jour

2017-12-11

■ We begin a new chapter today, with Proverbs 17:1:

17 Better a dry crust with peace and quiet
    than a house full of feasting, with strife.

"If you folks will excuse me, I'll be down in the basement while you work this out. I'll just take this dry crust here. Oh, and also this bottle of wine."


@kevinNR asks Where’s the Omelet?

[…] “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways,” Marx said, highlighting the inevitable rift between the intellectuals and the bomb-throwers. “The point, however, is to change it.” The Western world was at one point quite full of apologists for the purges and brutalities of Joseph Stalin, with our Communists and fellow-travelers — just “liberals in a hurry,” they said they were — justifying what ended up being 100 million deaths as the brush-clearing necessary before laying the foundations of utopia. The inevitable cliché, “You’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelet,” was answered with characteristic economy by George Orwell: “Where’s the omelet?”

Republicans ought to be asking themselves the same question.

My friend (and boss) Rich Lowry recently argued that the Trump administration has proved so far surprisingly successful from the point of view of conventional Republican priorities — there’s more to the Trump record, he said, than Neil Gorsuch. And that’s true enough: Scott Pruitt at the EPA has done useful and important things, as has Betsy DeVos at Education. But that’s a side of hash browns, not an omelet. Health care remains unreformed, the tax bill is an incoherent mess, the border remains unsecured, there has been no significant reform of economic policy, and we have in fact moved in the direction opposite from fiscal sanity, etc. President Trump announced that the U.S. embassy in Israel would be moved to Jerusalem . . . and then immediately signed a waiver, as he predecessors had, adding an Augustinian “but not yet” to the end of his declaration. That was a classic Trump move: The Trump administration is a show about nothing.

I'm slightly happier about Trump than is Kevin. But that's me. I'm a happy guy.


■ At Reason, Veronique de Rugy notes: The Annual Federal Spending Frenzy Is a Terrible Year-End Tradition

What do you do if you wind up with a little extra money in your household budget at the end of the year?

Perhaps you pay down your credit card debt or save it for an earlier retirement. Maybe you replace old appliances or go on a much-needed but unplanned vacation. One thing is clear: Because you're spending your own cash, you make sure to get as much out of it as possible.

You might expect our tax dollars to be treated the same way. You would be mistaken. The end of the fiscal year—September 30—triggers a spending frenzy in Washington, where the driving order isn't "do something worthwhile" but rather "make sure nothing is left." Because agencies can't carry over any part of their operating budgets into the next fiscal year, politicians and bureaucrats spend to the last dime, knowing that leftover resources will be returned to the Department of the Treasury. They also worry Congress will reward frugal agencies with cuts to their future allotments.

I wish I could say it was different at the University Near Here. It was not. Perverse incentives—they're not just for perverts any more!


■ Everyone in the world is pointing to this, and why should Pun Salad differ? Lara Witt instructs all who would listen: 10 Things Every Intersectional Feminist Should Ask On a First Date.

As a queer femme of color, I keep close relationships with people who go beyond allyship; they’re true accomplices in the fight against white supremacy, queerphobia, and misogyny. If you’re not going to support marginalized folks, then we can’t be friends, let alone date. The personal is political.

Beyond the lovely cushioning, happiness and support that we receive from our platonic relationships (which are, in all honesty, soul-feeding and essential), feminists also date! But there are questions we have to ask before we get close to someone.

Lordy, "in all honesty", it's awful. And funny.

Here's deal-breaking question number 7: "Do you think capitalism is exploitative?"

"No, Lara, I don't. What you call "capitalism" has been the driving force for lifting billions of people out of miserable poverty. It's a good thing. Would you like to throw your drink in my face now, or wait until after the appetizer?"

The bio-blurb at the bottom of the article says Lara's work "has been featured in Teen Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, BUST Magazine, ELLE and more." Which just goes to show how much trouble we're in: Lara, and people like Lara, are being Taken Seriously.


■ Down in da Bronx,
Just up from the Zoo,
There's trouble a-brewin'
At Fordham U:

Campus coffee shop evicts College Republicans from 'safe space'

Members of the Fordham University College Republicans were asked to leave an on-campus coffee shop because their MAGA hats apparently violated the shop’s “safe space policy.”

I could comment, but I would not do better than Treacher's Tweet du Jour: