The Big Short

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

This movie claims to explore the underpinnings of the 2007-2008 financial crisis, based on Michael Lewis's book of the same name. After viewing it, Megan McArdle claimed: "Feel like it's [sic] enjoyability is probably inversely proportional to your knowledge about the crisis." Good news: by that measure, I know quite a bit about the crisis!

I also found this quote telling, from A. O. Scott's NYT review of the movie: "The Big Short will affirm your deepest cynicism about Wall Street while simultaneously restoring your faith in Hollywood." I'm sure Scott captured, albeit unintentionally, the worldview of the (multimillionaire) filmmakers in constructing this hit piece on capitalism: Us Good/Smart, Them Bad/Stupid. And, obviously, A. O. considers himself and his likely readers to be included in the subset of Us.

Anyway: the movie, like Lewis's book, is told mainly around the activities of a few smarties who saw that the bubble developing around housing mortgages was unsustainable, predicated on ever-rising housing values. Quite understandably, for such is the nature of a bubble, they are out of step with the market mainstream. The movie gets quite a bit of comic mileage out of the Pollyannish attitude of their opponents.

I read Michael Lewis's book back in 2010 and liked it well enough, but noted that it was "wedded to the good-guy/bad-guy scenario of wheeler-dealers duping innocent civilians into taking out huge mortgage loans they had zero chance of ever paying back." The movie turns the volume on this simplistic thread up to 11.

The movie was nominated for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Christian Bale), Directing, and Editing, and won for Best Adapted Screenplay. Not bad for a movie that's mainly people talking to each other! (With some gratuitous female nudity, meant to illustrate the corrupt debauchery of the Wall Street crowd. Let's hear it for the moral superiority of the Hollywood crowd!)

The Phony Campaign

2016-05-29 Update

PredictWise saith: Bernie Sanders still has a shot. In fact, the prediction markets are giving him a 3% probability, a whole percentage point higher than our cutoff. I assume this is due to bettors thinking (reasonably enough): "If Hillary is indicted, I could make a lot of money here." I can see that scenario playing out myself.

Query String Hit Count Change Since
2016-05-22
"Donald Trump" phony 617,000 -18,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 584,000 +77,000
"Bernie Sanders" phony 476,000 +107,000

  • At Cato, David Boaz gets a chuckle out of some MSM angels-dancing-on-pinhead rhetorical acrobatics:

    Earlier this week Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post published a column titled (in the print edition) “Stonewaller, shape-shifter, liar.” I won’t keep you in suspense: it was about Donald Trump. But apparently I wasn’t the only reader to have the reaction, Wouldn’t that title apply to more than one candidate this year? And some of the readers made their view known to Marcus. So today she tries valiantly to explain why Hillary Clinton isn’t – really, quite, so much – guilty of the same offenses.

    Boaz would like journalists to hold politicians to the same phony standards. Really, is that too much to ask? Apparently, it is. Neither Boaz nor I will be holding our breaths waiting for it to happen.

  • Have you ever wondered why both Clintons are such unapologetic liars? Jonah Goldberg offers up his theory: "Why Both Clintons Are Such Unapologetic Liars".

    It all boils down to one of the more weaselly words in the political vocabulary: "pragmatism".

    Pragmatism bills itself as being beyond ideology and “labels.” Well, if you don’t feel bound to any objective ideological or even ontological criteria — labels, after all, are the words we use to describe reality — why not lie? Why not wax philosophic about the meaning of “is”? If attaining and wielding power is your only benchmark, the ethical imperative of telling the truth is no imperative at all. It’s just another false ideological construct.

    Jonah proposes that we neologize "Clinton" as a verb: "to Clinton" meaning “to say whatever the moment requires, with an eye to being able to defend the statement under oath.”

    And (I would add) knowing that some syncophatic saps will defend you no matter what outrageous lies you tell.

  • And have you been wondering what Donald Trump’s past comments about Bill Clinton prove? Look no further than Sean Colarossi's article at PoliticsUSA: "Donald Trump’s Past Comments About Bill Clinton Prove He’s An Opportunistic Phony". (I bet you saw that coming.)

    Hoping to resuscitate discredited attacks of the 1990s and energize his supporters, Donald Trump has gone hard after Bill Clinton in recent weeks. Whether it’s slamming the 41st president’s economic policies or his personal baggage involving women, there is no boundary Trump has been afraid to cross.

    His supporters likely look at these attacks as another example of Trump not being afraid to “go there,” but an increasing amount of old Trump video clips show that the self-obsessed billionaire’s recent comments are just as phony as his tan.

    (Note that "discredited attacks" is the term-of-art Clinton fans use to refer to stuff the Clintons did that they'd rather not talk about.)

  • At Front Page, Jack Kerwick points out: "Bernie Sanders: Not a Good Guy"

    Even among far too many Republicans, a popular misconception persists that Bernie Sanders, while fundamentally wrong-headed politically, is nevertheless a decent person that means well for the country.

    In the meantime, it is Donald Trump and his supporters who have gotten branded as “haters” who encourage violence.

    This is bizarro world or, what amounts to the same thing, an ideologically-useful fiction of the left’s.

    Socialism, even "democratic" socialism, is all about centralizing ever-more coercive power in the political sphere. So not too surprising that its fans tend to be bullies. [Downside: Kerwick repeats the chair-hurling allegations that we looked at last week.]

  • The great Mickey Kaus sums up a NYT article: "Trump Not Fake Enough!"

    The NYT says “Donald Trump’s Campaign Stumbles As it Tries to Go Big.” Evidence of the stumbling? 1) Trump met with “dozens of female chief executives and entrepreneurs” last week but “never publicized” it! Instead of putting out this staged campaign news, Trump put out real news (that he’d fired political director RIck Wiley, the man who crash-landed Scott Walker’s campaign.) 2) Trump only has one communications aide. One! Why, Hillary has “a press team of more than a dozen, including people devoted solely to the news media for black and Hispanic audiences”! 3) Trump hasn’t yet violated the spirit of the campaign finance laws by “unofficially” anointing a particular super Pac (a campaign organization he’s technically supposed to be independent of).

  • And finally, your Tweet of the week:

Bridge of Spies

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

After a long hiatus, we finally start work again on the Netflix DVD stack. (Netflix keeps charging you monthly even when you don't get any new DVDs, so… sigh.)

Bridge of Spies was directed by Steven Spielberg. It's got your Tom Hanks. It was nominated for Best Movie and Best Original Screenplay Oscars, and the guy playing the Commie spy, Mark Rylance, won for Best Supporting Actor. So, yes, it's not bad. But it's "not bad" in a respectable, take-no-chances way.

It is "based on true events", which in this case means "we can make stuff up to keep the viewer interested". The true events here center around the swap of Soviet spy "Rudolf Abel" for U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers and minor league prospect grad student Frederic Pryor. And maybe a third-round pick in the 1961 NFL Draft? The unifying character played by Mr. Hanks is James B. Donovan, a boring insurance lawyer "volunteered" to defend Abel after his apprehension in 1957.

Donovan is a straight-shooter, believing that Abel is entitled to a full 21st-century understanding of his rights, even though it's 1957. Arguably, those rights were violated, and Donovan did so argue all the way to the Supreme Court, who ruled against him 5-4 in 1960.

At the height of the Cold War, this didn't make Donovan a popular figure. (Although the film chooses to illustrate this by having Donovan's house shot up from a car passing by, which didn't happen.) Nevertheless, Donovan finds himself back in the thick of it when he's asked to unofficially negotiate the swap in 1962.

So: not bad for a movie that's basically people talking to each other. (One exception: the U-2 shootdown scene, which is fantastic.)

It's a Long Story

My Life

[Amazon Link]

Billed on the inside cover flap as "the definitive autobiography of Willie Nelson", which invites a derisive comment: as opposed to those other non-definitive autobiographies?

Well yes. A couple pages in, on the "also by Willie Nelson" page, there's Willie: An Autobiography, published back in 2000 or so (but still in print). Given his copious cannabis consumption, he might have forgotten he wrote that one. Or maybe he just needed to shake the money tree again.

On the back jacket, one of the blurbs says Willie is "one of those rare American icons that you're just not allowed to dislike". Certainly, he has a lot of positive qualities: he's a prodigious musical talent, and is eager to share his success in collaboration with other musicians. The most entertaining parts of the book are about his early life, where he's scrabbling to make a career out of songwriting and playing. Everybody knows that's a tough career path, and there are detours along the way into encyclopedia sales, disk jockeying, and farming, all over the US and occasionally in Canada. There are endless conflicts with The Suits, who never buy into Willie's artistic vision of the moment, and are inevitably proved wrong.

Willie's generous with his praise of his friends and fellow musicians, and he's also quick to quote their praise of him. A close second in praiseworthiness is marijuana, to which Willie attributes his long life. (He gave up on tobacco and booze decades ago.) Why, did you know that Thomas Jefferson used hemp paper to draft the Declaration of Independence? If you didn't know that, you must not know any potheads; I think every one of them has told me that at some point. (But, yeah, probably not. Mamas, don't let your babies believe musicians trying to be historians.)

Willie's also quite religious, with a "spiritual" version of Christianity, infused with lots of Khalil Gibran, Edgar Cayce, astrology, and the like. Conveniently, his religion never seems to prevent him from doing whatever he feels like doing at the time. (He has apparently settled down with his fourth wife; they've been married since 1991.)

The book touches lightly on his political activism: pot legalization (of course!), his Farm Aid concerts, and a general willingness to believe any fool thing uttered by a Democrat. The book doesn't mention his 9/11 Trutherism or his anti-GMO activism. Maybe that would seem to complicate the story of someone you're "not allowed to dislike." .

Captain America: Civil War

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

Another summer blockbuster; we avoided the crowds by cleverly attending a Wednesday evening showing. As I type, it's number 121 on IMDB's top 250 movies of all time, ahead of Chinatown and The Great Escape. Um.

And, oddly enough, the second blockbuster in a row featuring the heroes mainly whacking on each other, spurred by controversy about collateral damage caused by previous world-saving outings. This one succeeds a little better, but the point remains: just what deep-thinking moral lessons are there to be drawn from a situation taking place in an alternate universe infested by superheros, supervillains, and supertechnology, nearly completely untethered from the laws of physics?

But still, it's a pretty good yarn. Aunt May gets younger each time I see her. Specifically, this is the first time she's played by an actress younger than I. Sigh.

Hayek's Modern Family

Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions

[Amazon Link]

If you're like me, your instant reaction to the title might be: best sitcom spinoff ever! Alas, probably not to be, but it's fun imagining possible characters and amusing plotlines.

The author, Steven Horwitz, is an econ prof at St. Lawrence University; as you might guess from a more sober look at the title, he's of a classical liberal bent, and his task here is to look at the past and likely evolution of family, marriage, and childrearing from that perspective.

It's a task well worth undertaking, given the proclivity of both left and right to proclaim the correctness of their views on those matters, and willingness to enlist the power of the state to enforce those views.

On the other hand, libertarians (which I tend to use interchangeably with "classical liberals", sue me) tend to either ignore such issues (especially those involving kids), or are clearly fumble-brained about the best way to approach analysis of non-state social institutions. Horwitz's effort is a welcome remedy.

The book emphasizes, for the unconvinced, that the "ideal" family of one male breadwinner, life-married to one female housekeeper, raising N well-scrubbed children in a detached single-family dwelling was only "typical" for a brief period of American postwar history. And even then 'twasn't that typical, as irrevocable trends were transforming it. Attitudes about sex, love, equality of the sexes, divorce, longevity, the nature of parenthood, etc., all push and pull on the surfaces of the institutions. Add in economic incentives, the availability of government-backed programs, tax policy, … Well, probably too many to list here.

As appropriate for an introductory inquiry, Horwitz probably raises more questions than he answers, but he knows the right people to quote: Hayek, of course, but also Deirdre McCloskey, Randy Barnett, and others who'll be familiar to libertarian dilettantes. (There's also a detailed advocacy of raising "Free Range Kids", based on Lenore Skenazy's book of the same name.)

Horwitz's basic recommendation: dynamic social forces have always changed social institutions like the family, and those changes will continue for the foreseeable future. Predicting the exact nature of the transformations is impossible; attempts to prevent those changes via government coercion, regulation or subsidy will be at best counter-productive. It's best to wherever possible trust in individuals to make their own choices, and the "emerging order" will certainly be better than whatever the social engineers of left and right attempt to force into reality.

Now: all is not perfect. Horwitz quotes McCloskey, but unfortunately doesn't write like McCloskey. His prose is academic-clunky; sentences and paragraphs go on forever, in small type and narrow margins. So it was kind of a slog. Still recommended though, because it might make you smarter.

The Phony Campaign

2016-05-22 Update

PredictWise provides us with the same lineup as last week and Trump widens his phony lead somewhat:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
2016-05-15
"Donald Trump" phony 635,000 +57,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 507,000 -53,000
"Bernie Sanders" phony 369,000 +22,000

  • Eric Boehlert opines at Salon: "Donald Trump is a phony and a liar: The press doesn’t get to call him “authentic” ever again"

    For a candidate who’s often touted in the press as an authentic straight shooter, Donald Trump did a lot last week to puncture that reputation. From insisting that his promise of a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” was really “only a suggestion,” to flip-flopping on whether voters had a right to see his tax returns, Trump seemed to cast aside promises on a daily basis.

    Now, Donald Trump is a phony and a liar. No argument here.

    But even if you didn't know anything else, wouldn't you detect a tad of totalitarianism in asserting what the press "doesn't get" to do?

    However, it gets worse: Eric Boehlert is employed by "Media Matters for America", an organization effectively a subsidiary of the Clinton campaign. What you won't see: Boehlert demanding that the press apply the same standard to judging authenticity and honesty to both Trump and Clinton. Such a demand would get him fired from Media Matters for America before it hit the Interwebs.

  • At the somewhat less partisan Fortune, Michael D'Antonio details "Donald Trump's Long, Strange History of Using Fake Names"

    All political candidates use some spin to advance their cause. It is now so common that voters come to expect it. As a businessman, Donald Trump long practiced an extreme version of self-promotion he called “truthful hyperbole” to get what he wanted. Now, as he is the presumptive GOP nominee for president, this past is coming back to haunt him.

    Summary: Trump's sock-puppetry has been going on a long time. It was also practiced by Daddy Trump, Fred, who inquired about real estate properties as "Mr. Green", to avoid possible aggressive bargaining.

  • If you follow the news, you probably "know" that unruly Bernie Sanders supporters threw chairs at the Democratic National Committee convention in Nevada this week. Implication: Sanders supporters are a bunch of violent hotheads, prone to misbehave unacceptably when they don't get their way.

    Problem is, as this Snopes article shows rather convincingly: there's no direct evidence the chair-throwing actually happened. The NYT, NPR, AP, … based their stories on the account of a single reporter who didn't witness it himself.

    Or did it happen? Check this story:

    Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas: It isn’t just the title of the classic Hunter S. Thompson book. It quite accurately describes the atmosphere of the Nevada State Democratic Party (NSDP) Convention this past weekend. A sitting US Senator & long-time progressive icon [Barbara Boxer] was booed off the stage. Mere credentials updates were being filibustered to death. And the whole shebang ended with punches & chairs taking flight.

    Given the partisan tempers involved, the truth may be known… never.

  • Hillary made note of the fact that Donald Trump is refusing to release his tax returns.

    For those of us who aren't Trumpkins, the reason is pretty obvious: he would be deeply embarrassed if they were made public. No doubt.

    But for Hillary to make this complaint is beyond ludicrous. Here's our tweet of the week:

The Phony Campaign

2016-05-15 Update

Bernie's still hanging in there at PredictWise, with the underlying bettors wagering that he still has a 2% shot at becoming your next President.

Query String Hit Count Change Since
2016-05-08
"Donald Trump" phony 578,000 +22,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 560,000 +11,000
"Bernie Sanders" phony 347,000 -20,000

Meanwhile, I'm wondering: where's Gary Johnson?

Maybe I'm optimistic, but over the next 176 days or so, we're going to hear a lot of stories about how both Trump and Clinton are lying, power-hungry, unprincipled dangers to liberty, prosperity, and peace. These stories will be persuasive, because true.

So I think Gary Johnson has a shot, if he's on the ballot in enough states. Heck, I think Mister Mxyzptlk would have a shot against these two.

Back to the real phony news:

  • In New York Magazine, Ed Kilgore looks at the advice Hillary is receiving to shift her positions to appeal more to either Sanders/Warren leftists or to more moderate folk. He says nay: "Hillary Clinton Shouldn’t Be ‘Pivoting’ to the Left — or to the Center"

    If all this hypothetical "pivoting" and "moving" makes you a little dizzy, how must it seem to voters whose main concern about Hillary Clinton is that she seems a tad too calculating and inauthentic — in a word, phony? Not so good. And since it's these personal characteristics, and not her positioning on an ideological spectrum, that are arguably the biggest source of her relative unpopularity among general-election participants, perhaps she should keep that pivot foot un-planted.

    Here's the problem with Ed's argument: let's posit there's a bloc of voters that somehow aren't currently convinced of Hillary's phoniness. Isn't it obvious that these voters are either willfully blind or ignorant enough so that they wouldn't care if she "pivoted" left, center, or right, or toward new dimensions beyond that which is known to man?

  • In this week's "well, of course he did" department: "Donald Trump masqueraded as publicist to brag about himself".

    The voice is instantly familiar; the tone, confident, even cocky; the cadence, distinctly Trumpian. The man on the phone vigorously defending Donald Trump says he’s a media spokesman named John Miller, but then he says, “I’m sort of new here,” and “I’m somebody that he knows and I think somebody that he trusts and likes” and even “I’m going to do this a little, part time, and then, yeah, go on with my life.”

    Do Trump supporters care about stuff like this? Recent history says: not so much.

  • Even though (or maybe because) they tap into the same rich vein of voter attitude, there's no love lost between Bernie and Trump:

    In an interview on MSNBC on Wednesday, Mr. Sanders didn’t leap to defend Mrs. Clinton, who has come under heated attacks from Mr. Trump. But when asked about whether many votes for him were essentially votes against Mrs. Clinton and for Mr. Trump, he showed how little affection he has for the billionaire businessman: “I think the people of America, the more they see Mr. Trump, understand that he’s a total phony, that what he said yesterday is not what he’s going to say tomorrow. That he is a pathological liar and that he gets a lot of media attention for attacking people but that is going to wear thin.”

    In response:

    For his part, Mr. Trump, in a Fox News interview earlier in the day, said he now plans to call Mr. Sanders “Crazy Bernie” — not typically a term of endearment.

    Reminds me of grade-school playground feuds, albeit at a lower intellectual level.

  • And…

Slow Burn

[Amazon Link]

I've said it before: Ace Atkins does a miraculous job of maintaining Robert B. Parker's Spenser character. Right up front, Spenser quotes the first line of a Yeats poem to Henry Cimoli, off the top of his head.

Yes, I had to look it up to nail down the source. I'm not as literate as Spenser.

The first chapter introduces the bad guys: a trio of losers decides to start fires around Boston, their loose justification being that it will bring increased funding for the Boston Fire Department. But that's a thin disguise for their pyromania. Spenser is hired (pro bono) by a firefighter who lost three comrades in a church fire he suspects was set.

Spenser has, over the years, negotiated an uneasy truce with the city's old guard gangsters. But his investigation runs him headlong into a relatively new kingpin, Jackie DeMarco. DeMarco just wants Spenser dead, thanks very much. I'm not too worried about Spenser; are they going to kill off the series moneymaker? But I'm not too sure that some of his associates won't wind up as collateral damage. (No spoilers.)

Bottom line: a fine addition to the series. Mr. Atkins has settled into Robert B. Parker's shoes, doing Spenser right.

The Phony Campaign

2016-05-08 Update

After Ted Cruz's ignominious defeat in Indiana and subsequent campaign suspension, PredictWise has predictably dropped him below our 2% probability threshold. But, unexpectedly, Bernie Sanders has popped (barely) back into the running.

Leaving candidates who happen to be utterly contemptible or completely foolish (guess which are which):

Query String Hit Count Change Since
2016-05-01
"Donald Trump" phony 556,000 +307,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 549,000 +447,000
"Bernie Sanders" phony 367,000 ---

If those hit counts look a little huge compared to recent values, it's because Google totally turned off its long-deprecated Google Web Search API at some point in the past week, which I'd been using to automatically grab its data. Well, it was fun while it lasted. Your blogger has gone back to the old method of generating the search link, bringing it up in a browser, then copy-and-pasting from the browser window. To quote Dr. McCoy: "What is this, the Dark Ages?"

"Good" news: our remaining lineup has more than enough phoniness to last us until November. And maybe Gary Johnson will show up at some point. Frankly, I think that anyone appearing on the ballot not named "Clinton" or "Trump" would have a good shot at a plurality of the popular vote.

  • Back in those happy days before Indiana Republicans voted, Jim Treacher requested: "Watch Trump Lie About Mike Tyson’s Rape Conviction". Ted Cruz had pointed out, accurately, that the Trump-endorsing Tyson was a past rapist. It came up during an interview with Chris Wallace. Treacher summarizes:

    Trump tells an enormous, outrageous lie — that Mike Tyson isn’t a rapist — and then says it’s just more evidence that Cruz is the liar.

    Chris Wallace could have followed up, pointing out Trump's lie. He didn't.

    Other media, with more readership than Treacher, could have pointed out Trump's lie. Ho hum.

    And the GOP voters of Indiana either didn't bother to find out or didn't care that they were voting for such a slimeball. May they all go pee on a substation transformer.

  • The NY Post editorial writer observed: "Even Hillary Clinton’s pals can’t pretend to believe her lies". Verdict: true! But what was it this time?

    In West Virginia, she was confronted with her March comment: "We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business."

    Clinton’s eye-rolling answer: “What I was saying is that the way things are going now, we will continue to lose jobs.”

    Riiight. Except that's not what she was saying.

    In any case, her excuse is: She Has A Plan that will seamlessly transform all those coal miners into well-paid solar panel installers.

  • At the WaPo, Glenn Kessler details "The Sanders campaign’s phony math on superdelegates". At issue is the Sanders campaign manager's assertion that Democrat superdelegates (who can vote for whoever they want at the convention) are a historically wishy-washy bunch:

    "During the course of 2008, over 120 superdelegates switched their quote-unquote allegiance in that process. In fact, there is a lot of movement of superdelegates in these contests.”

    Kessler will tell you more than you want to know about the electoral history of superdelegates. But the bottom line is: Four Pinocchios. The Sanders campaign is as unrealistic (or dishonest) about superdelegates as it is about economics, foreign policy, national defense….

Monkeewrench

[Amazon Link]

When my sister was in town a few months back, she enthusiastically recommended the "Monkeewrench" series, written by "P. J. Tracy", the nom de plume of a mother-daughter writing team. I was a little dubious, because "Monkeewrench" came off a little too tea-and-cozyish, Jane Fletcherish, maybe there would be a cat detective or two, and… Well, my tastes run elsewhere.

First clue that I was wrong: an inside-the-cover blurb from the late Robert B. Parker: "Monkeewrench is funny and convincing. P. J. Tracy's taut storytelling makes me jealous." OK, that's good enough for me. As it turns out, there's a grim and gripping tale at the core of book, and it's fleshed out well with interesting and sympathetic characters.

It's set in Minneapolis and small-town Wisconsin. Cops in both locales are mystified by recent nasty clue-free homicides. Also involved is the titular "Monkeewrench" clan, a secretive, brilliant, close-knit group of software engineers. They are wildly successful at writing educational software, but have decided to branch into games, specifically "Serial Killer Detective", challenging the player to solve murders that—oh oh—are being re-enacted in Minneapolis meatspace.

It's a page turner, all right. As the book winds along, it begins to be more than a tad contrived, with events working out just so to provide the requisite pulse-pounding conclusion. But I enjoyed it none the less for that.

The Phony Campaign

2016-05-01 Update

And then there were three… PredictWise has sent poor Bernie's probability of being President a-glimmering below our 2% threshold. So it's down to:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
2016-04-24
"Donald Trump" phony 249,000 -7,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 102,000 -96,000
"Ted Cruz" phony 90,700 -6,900

I guess the conventional wisdom is that Hillary won't be indicted for her classified-material carelessness, or that people won't care if she is.

  • When you have nothing better to say… "Trump repeats phony pig's blood story at rally."

    At an Orange County rally Thursday, Donald Trump repeated a bogus yarn about executing Muslim prisoners with bullets dipped in pigs' blood.

    How many ways does this make Trump look bad?

    1. He loves this story, even though it's a (false) tale of American atrocity;
    2. He either:
      • knows it's false, which makes him a demagogic bigoted liar; or
      • doesn't know it's false, which makes him an ignorant fool.

  • Michael Kinsley pens a Miami Herald op-ed: "Trump’s a phony — but he’s for real."

    How can that be, Mike?

    The explanation [of Trump's voter appeal] is not so difficult. In the opening paragraph of his novel Ravelstein, Saul Bellow writes, “Anyone who wants to govern the country has to entertain it.” [Hillary] Clinton has been called many things, but “entertaining” is not one of them. This is not the case with Trump, who is an authentic American character like something out of Mark Twain. All the other candidates except Sanders had the character squeezed out of them when they decided they wanted to be president. Trump’s a phony of course (not to mention a racist), but his phoniness is authentic. He’s self-made — not in the financial sense, but characterologically.

    OK. Maybe.

    Caveat Lector: you can read the whole thing if you like, but beware, it contains a later sentence which you should not read while drinking a beverage:

    When President Obama proposes something, you know it’s been analyzed and balanced and weighed against the alternatives, tested in the laboratory and found to be a reasonable solution given the limitations and under the circumstances.

    Kinsley's ideology sometimes limits his insightfulness.

  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum noted some phoniness in Hillary's endorsement of a proposed Pennsylvania soda tax

    When Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders argued about soda taxes last week, neither of them mentioned obesity. That striking omission reflects a shift in tactics by advocates of a special levy on sugar-sweetened drinks, who have started emphasizing the good that can be done with the resulting revenue instead of the evil that can be prevented by encouraging people to consume fewer calories.

    A very old saying, attributed to Kin Hubbard: "When a fellow says, 'It hain't the money, but th' principle o' the thing,' it's th' money."

  • Belated addition:


Last Modified 2016-05-01 10:05 AM EDT