URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • If you've been wondering whether Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren are correct in that we should pay reparations for slavery, Megan McArdle has your answer from her WaPo perch: Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren are wrong. We shouldn’t pay reparations for slavery.. There are practical and moral objections, but here's the biggie, according to Megan:

    […] reparations can be appropriate between nations, and disastrous within them. Germany can offer Israel money in partial recompense for the wrongs of the Holocaust, because Germany and Israel are two independent entities. For the United States to do the same for the descendants of slaves would be to imply that afterward, we will be going our separate ways, with no special obligations on either side. And indeed, conservatives can sometimes be heard tepidly endorsing reparations in just this sense: a one-time payment, and then nothing more owed — no affirmative action, no “national conversation on race,” nothing.

    That is the only conception of reparations that could possibly be politically viable. It would also be utterly toxic, ultimately widening divisions that we’re trying to shrink. And the benefit is likely to be smaller than the heroic price tag suggests; the economic evidence from lotteries suggests that one-time capital transfers do very little to improve the long-term welfare of recipients.

    There are, as I type, 314 comments on the article. I would wager they are of poor quality, although I haven't looked.

  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson contends: Health Care Is the Opposite of a Right. Taking to task a certain Vermont senator:

    Senator Bernie Sanders, gamely making the case for socialism on CNN, offers a familiar argument: that access to health care and other goods like it should be understood as a “right.”

    Properly understood, that claim is literally nonsensical, having the grammatical form of a sentence but no meaningful content, inasmuch as it is logically meaningless to declare a right in a scarce good. (I am using scarce here in its economic sense rather than in its common conversational sense.) For example: If you have twelve children and six cupcakes, the possibilities of division remain the same even if you declare that every child has the “right” to an entire cupcake of his own. Goods are physical, while rights are metaphysical, and the actual facts of the real world are not transformed by our deciding to talk about them in a different way. Other declarations in the same form — “Health care is quintessentially axiomatic,” “Health care is candy-apple gray,” “Health care is a spastically cloistered bottle of courageous smoke,” etc. — would be equally meaningless as sentences.

    Kevin's correct, of course: junk the "rights" rhetoric—it should be reserved for the classic Lockean rights—and start talking adult talk about who's gonna give, who's gonna get, and who's gonna make the rules.

  • Arnold Kling makes a subtle point about Wages and productivity. It's in response to a person claiming that the normal link between wages and productivity was decoupled, starting in 1973. Wait a minute, says Arnold:

    Productivity by definition is output divided by the amount of labor input. Let me make three points:

    1. You can’t measure the numerator very well.
    2. You can’t measure the denominator very well.
    3. The U.S. is not just one big GDP factory. Both the numerator and the denominator are affected by shifts in the composition of the economy, even if actual productivity and wages were not changing at all.

    Notably, the US has undergone a shift from manufacturing to services, like health care and education. I.e., from a sector where (at least) "output" is sort of well defined, to sectors where it's not.

  • But the Google LFOD News alert rang a lot yesterday. For example, an LTE to the Laconia Daily Sun from citizen John Sellers: Some want Bristol to be Utopia, catering to your every want.

    When it comes to Bristol’s taxes, many in our town want the government to care for them, cradle to grave, like they do in Mass. and other over-taxed nanny states. Many others enjoy living by N.H.’s motto,“Live Free or Die.” We should embrace the motto to keep our freedom from over-priced and over-powering government. If you love freedom it is worth fighting for and if you enjoy smaller government then Town Meeting (March 16, 9 a.m. at the high school) is the place you need to be this year.

    Good luck to John. And Bristol.

  • And (of course) LFOD came up, probably a lot, in the legislature's discussion of proposed regulations of Off-Highway Recreational Vehicles (OHRV), especially up in Coos County: Future of riding off-road in New Hampshire up for debate. Interestingly, the Union Leader article only quotes an OHRV-hater invoking it:

    “Turning rail trails and public roads that run through residential neighborhoods into OHRV trails has destroyed the very reason that most of us built and bought our homes in New Hampshire,” said Abby Evankow of Gorham.

    “We claim to be the live free or die state, yet with OHRV trails revving through our neighborhoods four to five months of the year, Coos residents are no longer free to even open their windows on a summer day.”

    I'd bet someone on the other side used it too, though.

  • And the Concord Insider summarizes This Week in Concord History. Specifically, we're coming up on the 46th anniversary of…

    March 1, 1973: Gov. Mel Thomson says he will veto any effort to remove “Live Free or Die” from the state’s license plates. Rep. Jack Chandler of Warner agrees. “Those who don’t like the motto should get out of New Hampshire and live in Massachusetts,” he says.

    I'm pretty sure there have been no recent efforts to get LFOD off the license plates. People have instead discovered that it can be interpreted as "Be Able To Open My Windows On A Summer Day Or Die”.

Last Modified 2019-06-14 5:25 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Winner of today's "Headline That Could Have Been On Hundreds Of Articles" award goes to Charles Sykes at the Bulwark: Hayek Saw This Coming.

    The Austrian-born economist and classical liberal, who played such a central role in the emergence of American free market conservativism, had a keen understanding of the temptations of authoritarianism. That’s what makes his warnings seem so prescient.

    “’Emergencies’ have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded,” he wrote.

    Hayek’s chapter on “Why the Worst Get on Top” in his classic work, The Road to Serfdom, diagnosed the populist impulse that would lead to the demand for ceding power to a “man of action.” This is “the position which precedes the suppression of democratic institutions and the creation of a totalitarian regime.”

    In other Hayekian news, I see some are accusing Senator John Cornyn of … something … because he quoted Mussolini in a Tweet:

    I'm pretty sure Cornyn is not a Mussolini fanboy. This quote also leads off Chapter 4 in Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, whence I assume Cornyn grabbed it.

  • Ross Douthat, writing in the NYT assures us: The Era of Limited Government Is Over.

    […] when conservatives preach about the virtues of “limited government,” it isn’t just Herbert Hoover’s rugged individual that they imagine themselves defending. They envision a larger communitarian panoply — civic associations, religious denominations, charities and universities and private schools — which needs protection against the jealousy of a centralizing state. And they tend to assume that keeping the American corporation embedded in this communitarian system is a better way to balance productivity and innovation and public-spiritedness than just trying to regulate and micromanage businesses into good behavior.

    If you wanted to summarize the intellectual uncertainties of conservatives in the Trump era, you could say that the right is trying to figure out whether the unwritten American constitution it imagines itself defending still exists. And if it doesn’t, or if it’s failing, whether that means that “limited government” as a slogan and strategy is increasingly irrelevant when it comes to shaping the society that conservatives would like America to be.

    I don't know whether Douthat is right, but I can fearlessly predict that, if he is, well, … you'll miss limited government when it's gone.

  • David Harsany, writing at the Federalist observes: Senate Vote Against Born-Alive Infants Proves Democrats Aren't 'Pro-Choice.' They're Pro-Infanticide.

    Presidential hopeful Kamala Harris wants to force every American to give up his private health insurance, but she can’t get herself to support legislation that compels doctors to give an infant who survives an abortion attempt the same care they would provide any other human being. She’s merely one of 44 Democrats who blocked a bill that would have saved all babies from negligent homicide. Presidential candidates Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders all voted against Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse’s Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, as well.

    Senate Democrats unsurprisingly struggled to find an effective way to lie about opposing a bill that prohibits abortion in the fourth trimester. Some of them maintained that Sasse’s bill was superfluous because all the things in it were already illegal. Others claimed the bill would “restrict doctors from making case-by-case decisions about what is best for infants and mothers.” Still others claimed the practice never ever happens. Other Democrats, who support government intervention in every nook and cranny of human existence, argued that tough choices should only be the domain of women and their doctors, not the state. Many of them saw no conflict between these ideas and argued all these things at the very same time.

    Grim stuff. And…

  • Both my state's senators are proudly pro-infanticide. At Inside Sources, Michael Graham is busy Fact-Checking Sen. Shaheen's Speech Opposing the "Born Alive" Act. Sample:

    • Would the Born Alive act “significantly interfere with the doctor-patient relationship?”

    No. In fact, it doesn’t place any restrictions or requirements of any kind on the patient–assuming that by “patient” Shaheen means the mother.  There isn’t a single regulation or restriction that applies in any way to the woman receiving the abortion, or how or when the procedure itself can occur. Instead the bill simply says:

    (1) If an abortion results in the live birth of an infant, the infant is a legal person for all purposes under the laws of the United States, and entitled to all the protections of such laws.

    (2) Any infant born alive after an abortion or within a hospital, clinic, or other facility has the same claim to the protection of the law that would arise for any newborn, or for any person who comes to a hospital, clinic, or other facility for screening and treatment or otherwise becomes a patient within its care.

    There are no requirements that involve the relationship between the doctor and the mother. Sen. Shaheen’s claim is factually incorrect.

    I can't believe that she believes what she's saying. But maybe she does.

  • Richard A. Epstein looks at the head of a proposed "Presidential Committee on Climate Security" Will Happer – Climate “Denier”?.

    My own skepticism about global warming goes back at least a decade and is captured in my 2010 article, Carbon Dioxide: Our Newest Pollutant, which I stand by to this day. I became friends with Happer in 2016 when I critiqued on scientific and legal grounds then-New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s ill-advised attack against Exxon-Mobil for concealing information about the incipient risks of global warming. Happer’s own views are well set out in a key publication,“A Primer on Carbon Dioxide and Climate.” It would do well for the critics to answer his arguments rather than engage in name-calling that reflects only badly on themselves. Unlike his nasty critics, Happer is a learned and judicious man.

    In recent work I have indicated some of the evidence that goes against consensus views on the subject. As I noted in my critiqueof the Green New Deal, none of the recent attacks on Happer reference the global cooling in the last two years of about 0.56° C—the most rapid two-year decline in the last hundred years. Events like this are not supposed to happen as CO2 levels increase. That number is especially telling because the near-hysterical report issued by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (“IPCC”) concluded that it was necessary by 2030 to reduce the targeted level of temperature increase to 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels. Without any real explanation, that report lowered the acceptable temperature increase by 0.5° C from the previous target of 2.0° C. To put this number in perspective, the world would be only 0.137° C cooler by 2100 if the United States cut all carbon emissions. Even if we assumed every other industrialized country would be equally on board, this would merely avert warming by 0.278° C by the turn of the next century. 

    Epstein will be tarred, like Happer, with the "denier" epithet.

    Are alarmists alarmed because they honestly see an existential threat? Or are they alarmed because they know unless they get their totalitarian policies into operation right now, it will become obvious that they're wildly off in their dire predictions?

  • Many things to like in Jim Geraghty's Morning Jolt from yesterday: Bernie Sanders: 2020 Candidate Will Rebuke Billionaires But Not Ruthless Dictators.

    Bernie Sanders is a sucker, who will always give the benefit of the doubt to anyone who claims to be a socialist. Most of us, at an early age, recognize that people who claim to act on behalf of others can be selfish. Plenty of people who say they love humanity turn out to treat individual human beings terribly. Plenty of leaders who claimed to fight for freedom turned out to be lusting after power and ruthless in getting it and keeping it. You have to be careful who you trust with authority, because absolute power corrupts absolutely. And you have no obligation to defend someone you once saw as an ally once they start abusing their power and demonstrating cruelty and brutality.

    Bernie Sanders never learned this. At 77 years old, he’s unlikely to ever learn.

    Indeed. I kind of hope the Democrats nominate him. Because…

  • At Ricochet, Shawn Buell's paean to Bernie triggered our Google LFOD News Alert: Bernie Sanders and the Awesome Democrat Future.

    I’ve written various professions of my love for Bernie Sanders in the past – all, sadly unrequited – but things are quickly ratcheting up in the hunka-hunka Bernin’ love department.

    So, without further ado, let’s just get this out of the way: Bernie Sanders will be the Democrat nominee for President in 2020. To say that this is good news for me in terms of my recommended daily intake of humor does the situation no justice.

    But LFOD? Ah, here, where Shawn notes that Sanders nearly won Iowa in 2016, and:

    Next, the map shifts to New Hampshire… which conveniently sits next to Bernie’s home state of Vermont. Bernie won there in 2016 by a count of 60/40 over Clinton. Advance polling in the “Live Free or Die” state puts Bern up by 15% over the next most popular Democrat that has announced, Kamala Harris. Joe Biden doesn’t count. He isn’t running.

    Yes! I may re-register as Democrat just so I can vote for Bernie!

  • But the LFOD alert also rang for a completely unexpected article from Ian Ward in San Diego CityBeat: A history lesson at Fort Oak.

    The history of rum is equal parts advantageous, horrifying and intriguing. It is, in essence, the history of the Americas as we know it. Born out of ingenuity and a live-free-or-die, bootstrapped spirit, it also has a disgustingly shameful past. 

    We won’t focus on that too much here, but it is worth noting that sugar culture in the Americas, it is speculated, started with Columbus. Inspired by his father in law, who was a sugar farmer on the island of Madeira, Columbus brought sugarcane to the Caribbean in 1493. 

    And on, and on for a few paragraphs dutifully noting the triangle trade, involving slaves.

    And, readers, this is a review of a bar. Apparently in California, booze reviews are considered incomplete unless you wallow in guilt for America's sins first. Then you can go ahead and get plastered on overpriced gourmet rum.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Today's winner of our "Headline Implying Longest Article Ever" award is Mr. Jim Geraghty of National Review: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Lies, Controversies, and Allegations.

    Last night, while discussing the Green New Deal and climate change, her stream of consciousness comments seemed to argue that the threat of climate change made parenthood morally unjustifiable, or at least morally troubling:

    There’s scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult. And it does lead, I think, young people to have a legitimate question, you know, is it okay to still have children? And I mean, not only just financially, because people are graduating with twenty, thirty, a hundred thousand dollars worth of student loan debt, and they can’t even afford to have kids in the house, but also just this basic moral question, what do we do? And even if you don’t have kids, there are still children here who are in the world, and we have a moral obligation to them, to leave a better world for them. This idea that if we just, you know, I’ve been working on this for X amount of years [sic] it’s like, not good enough. We need a universal sense of urgency. And people are trying to, like introduce watered-down proposals that are frankly going to kill us. A lack of urgency is going to kill us. It doesn’t matter if you agree that climate change is an important issue. At this point it doesn’t matter. If you believe climate change is a problem, that’s not even the issue. The issue is, how urgently you feel the need to fix it.

    Any lawmaker with any familiarity with the One Child Policy in China would be wary about floating these kinds of arguments. We don’t want government officials going anywhere near the argument that one size of a family is moral and a different size is immoral. It’s funny how quickly the argument “my body, my choice,” disappears outside of its most prominent context.

    Jim also reveals why non-lefties find AOC so fascinating: "she says out loud what plenty of her fellow believers think but hesitate to state publicly because they fear the reaction from others."

  • But the winner of today's "Most Accurate Headline" award goes to James Pethokoukis of AEI. Because: Basically, the Green New Deal costs all the money. He links to a research paper by Douglas Holtz-Eakin et. al. at the American Action Forum that attempts to price out the GND's promises. A quote from the study goes to the GND's coherence:

    [T]he GND is curiously redundant. For example, a costly retrofitting of every structure in the United States seems considerably less environmentally beneficial once the electricity grid is completely transformed to use 100 percent clean energy than it would be if undertaken with today’s energy mix. Such a retrofit would have no impact on emissions. Similarly, the GND promises to ensure that every person has a guaranteed job, a family-sustaining rate of pay, and benefits such as paid leave and paid vacations. If everyone has good pay with good benefits, why is it simultaneously necessary to provide targeted programs for food, housing, and health care? Some of these objectives appear to be redundant. Nevertheless, we incorporate them into our analysis in an effort to reflect the GND’s intent.

    Yes, it doesn't make sense as policy. But it's not meant to. It's a marketing tool for the acquisition and maintenance of commanding political power over American life and culture.

  • At Quillette, Lee Jussim (professor of social psychology at Rutgers) offers My Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement. (It's a growing practice to "ask" faculty members to include such "DEI" statements in hiring, promotion, and tenure documentation.) Prof Jussim is not a fan:

    DEIs and the toxic, punitive forms of social justice activism warrant fear. I do not want my colleagues to give in to this fear. Recognizing the danger is the first step to preventing it; to not giving in to fear.

    The rise of DEI statements is a symptom of a rising tide among institutions of higher education to endorse de facto political discrimination in the name of social justice. Fears about not getting the job, the invitation to a panel, or the promotion are well-justified. For individual academics, it will take extraordinary courage to risk and resist the vindictive punishment of one’s colleagues.

    However, it is possible that this rising tide of political intolerance and litmus tests can be stemmed, not by individuals, but by institutions. Perhaps some will step up to create an alternative: “At Our University, we value truth, reason, evidence, and accomplishments. We don’t care about your politics or demographics. We realize that ‘justice’ means different things to different people, so we reject declarations of loyalty to any ideology.” My guess is that people would flock to such a place.

    The rest, however, are complicit in creating a climate of fear, regardless of whether or not I personally have to write a statement about how I advance diversity, equity, and inclusion.

    Except I have just published mine.

    Good luck and best wishes to Professor Jussim.

  • At Reason, J.D. Tuccille welcomes our new silicon-based workers: Minimum Wage Boosts Are Great—For Robots.

    In recent weeks, Illinois mandated a huge increase in the state minimum wage, Pennsylvania's governor proposed to double his state's minimum wage, and New Mexico lawmakers moved forward with a plan to raise the minimum wage there, too. Hiking the cost of labor is a popular cause once again—even among people who've demonstrated in the past that they know perfectly well this is a recipe for limiting opportunity and trapping people in poverty.

    It's tempting to say that people are actually getting stupider about economics. But maybe, instead, it's all part of a conspiracy by robots who are poised to be the big beneficiaries of an artificially crippled job market.

    J.D. links (and so will I) the wonderful NYTimes editorial from 1987: The Right Minimum Wage: $0.00. Unfortunately, I can't credit the great robot conspiracy: the Times really has gotten stupider about economics.

Last Modified 2019-02-26 9:57 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Hey, kids, what time is it? At the Bulwark, they claim Time For the GOP to Take a Stand.

    Really? Aren't they like, two years behind? But anyway:

    With the House of Representatives expected to vote Tuesday on a resolution overturning President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to circumvent Congress and build his wall, we thought it might be a good idea to re-up our editorial on the subject. As we argued earlier this month: this should not be a difficult vote for Republicans, especially those who (1) were outraged by President Obama’s use of his executive powers, (2) care about the Constitution’s system of checks and balances, (3) wish to protect Congress’s Article I powers, and (4) recognize the dangerous precedent that the declaration of emergency creates for future presidents.

    We do not always agree with Congressman Justin Amash, but he makes a powerful case to his fellow Republicans: “The same congressional Republicans who joined me in blasting Pres. Obama’s executive overreach,” he wrote on Twitter, “now cry out for a king to usurp legislative powers. If your faithfulness to the Constitution depends on which party controls the White House, then you are not faithful to it.”

    Yeah. Do that. Try to ignore the hacks on the other side of the aisle (and in the media) who wouldn't have a problem if the president were a Democrat pushing some progressive wishlist down our throats.

  • Michael Huemer has some philosophical thoughts on the matter. Because OMG, it’s a national emergency!

    After looking into it a little, I find, to my great alarm, that there are currently no less than 32 “national emergencies” going on as we speak! (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_national_emergencies_in_the_United_States) The longest standing is the one President Carter declared in 1979 during the Iran hostage crisis. It’s not just a matter of people having forgotten about it, either; a state of emergency has to be renewed by the President every year or it expires. The Iran hostages were released in 1981, but that state of emergency has been renewed every year, by every President in office, along with the 30 or so other “emergencies”.

    Trump's not alone, Michael notes. But "other Presidents just don’t get as much press coverage, because most do not trumpet their most obvious bullshit loudly and explicitly."

  • But Trump doesn't always trumpet obvious bullshit. For example, David Harsanyi notes, Trump Calls The Democratic Party Socialist. He’s Right.

    New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, one of the few left-of-center pundits willing to occasionally criticize Democrats for their collectivist tendencies, recently penned an article headlined, “Trump Calls the Democratic Party Socialist. He’s Lying,” in which he contends that both the leftward lurch of Democrats and the popularity of Sen. Bernie Sanders have been overstated for political reasons. A number of Democrat candidates, he says, have already rejected the word “socialist.”

    Rebuffing the “s” word doesn’t make you any less socialist than embracing the word “capitalist” makes you a champion of free markets. No, these presidential candidates aren’t latter-day Trotskys, but contemporary Democrats, who have long favored tighter controls and bigger government, are now far more inclined to embrace proto-socialistic policies than they are liberal (in the genuine sense of the word) ones. By any fair reading, their agendas can be described as socialistic.

    Find me a Democrat who isn't advocating—nay, demanding—that the state be in control of an ever-increasing sphere of activity. Hey, I might vote for such a person. Or a unicorn.

  • At the Josiah Bartlett Center, Drew Cline presents Five facts about the minimum wage. A good primer to use against advocates. Sample:

    Nationally, only 2.3 percent of all hourly wage workers earn $7.25 per hour or less, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show. “Minimum wage workers tend to be young,” according to the BLS. “Although workers under age 25 represented only about one-fifth of hourly paid workers, they made up about half of those paid the federal minimum wage or less.” They also tend to be single. Never-married individuals make up 40 percent of those who earn an hourly wage but 68 percent of hourly wage workers who earn a minimum wage. Married individuals are 44 percent of hourly wage workers but only 21 percent of hourly wage workers who earn the minimum wage or less.

    Then there's the moral case: if someone wants to work for $7.25/hr, and someone wants to pay that person $7.25/hr, what's your justification for saying: nay, thou mayest not?

  • Kevin D. Williamson is unkind. Elizabeth Warren's Presidential Campaign: Akin to Sen. Tracy Flick.

    Senator Warren is a familiar type of character, one that is not necessarily dishonorable: the grinder. I know the grinders when I see them. I went to nerd school — imagine a West Texas high school where everybody knows your SAT score and nobody knows who the starting quarterback is — and you meet a lot of grinders at nerd school. I had a few of them when I used to teach, too: “Tell me exactly what I have to do to get an A in this class.” But, like I said, I don’t think that there is such a thing as trying too hard, and the grinders play to their strengths: brute force. It’s like the two or three times a year I do the dishes: I don’t bring any joy or panache to the task, but I can keep scrubbing until the work is done or somebody tells me to stop because I’m taking the enamel off the Le Creuset.

    Some grinders are my kind of people: relying on work ethic for what they don’t have naturally. Some of them are Tracy Flicks.

    And when I say "unkind", I mean: unkind to Tracy Flick.

  • The New York Times had the great good sense to print an article by the super-great Reason editor Katherine Mangu-Ward: Stop Counting Women. It's about chromosome-counting for the sake of "diversity", and anything that doesn't round to 50% (or more) female is prima facie evidence of invidious sexism.

    The absolute best way to ruin the gradual organic process of moving toward a society where men and women can both pursue the work they want — safely, with fair salaries and equal opportunities for promotion — is to freeze and polarize the conversation by imposing a bunch of rigid laws and policies. California passed a bill last fall that mandates the presence of at least one woman on the board of any publicly traded company headquartered there, with increases in that number under certain conditions.

    “We are tired of being nice. We’re tired of being polite. We are going to require this because it’s going to benefit the economy,” said a co-author of the legislation, Hannah-Beth Jackson, a Democratic state senator from Santa Barbara, in a floor speech. This line of argumentation is typical, and baffling. Could it really be true that increasing female board representation is irrefutably good for business yet won’t happen unless companies are forced to do it right now?

    In Norway, where a requirement for 40 percent female board membership became law in 2008, there’s some evidence that strict quotas may be counterproductive. Fewer companies chose to undertake initial public offerings in the period after the policy took effect and there was no measurable change in the affected companies’ performance or improvement in the prospects for women lower on the corporate hierarchy. In Kenya, lawmakers are debating a bill to enforce the so-called Two-Thirds Gender Rule, a constitutional clause prohibiting more than 66 percent of the legislature to be the same gender.

    Someone has to say it. I'm with Katherine: stop.

Last Modified 2019-03-04 7:01 AM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2019-02-24 Update

[Amazon Link]

Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy this week, and the Betfair betting market rewarded him by doubling his win probability. (Tying him with Uncle Joe Biden, who also did well at Betfair this week without, as near as I can tell, doing anything at all.) Also improving enough to hit our 2% inclusion criterion were Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, and Cory Booker.

But with all those people doing better in the prediction market, someone had to do worse. It's like a law or something. So we bid farewell to Hawaii's own Tulsi Gabbard. For now, at least.

Despite losing a third of her phony Google hits over the week (see disclaimer below table), Kamala Harris continues her commanding (nearly 6-fold) phony lead over President Trump.

And I can't help but think Cory Booker is much phonier than his Google hit counts would indicate.

Candidate WinProb Change
Kamala Harris 13.7% -0.4% 14,800,000 -7,300,000
Donald Trump 32.0% unch 2,470,000 -30,000
Beto O'Rourke 5.9% -1.2% 1,030,000 -3,840,000
Nikki Haley 2.3% --- 658,000 ---
Amy Klobuchar 3.6% -0.9% 442,000 -73,000
Michael Bloomberg 3.8% +0.7% 421,000 -203,000
Bernie Sanders 10.2% +5.1% 378,000 -142,000
Joe Biden 10.2% +2.2% 197,000 -7,000
Elizabeth Warren 3.6% -1.7% 186,000 +21,000
Sherrod Brown 2.9% -0.4% 145,000 -31,000
Mike Pence 2.0% --- 139,000 ---
Cory Booker 2.6% --- 76,800 ---

Standard disclaimer: Google result counts are bogus.

  • President Trump has gotten off lightly these past few weeks, but he threatens to make up for it. At Reason, Jacob Sullum Trump’s Phony Yet Legal Border Emergency.

    Members of Congress who are dismayed by Donald Trump's invocation of emergency powers to build his border wall are like the dog owner who leaves the gate open and is then surprised to find his Labradoodle bounding around the neighborhood. He might have hoped the dog would stay in the yard without external restraint, but it was not a reasonable expectation.

    A lawsuit filed by California and 15 other states on Monday argues that there is "no objective basis for President Trump's Emergency Declaration" and that "by the President's own admission, an emergency declaration is not necessary." Even while declaring a border-related national emergency on Friday, the complaint notes, Trump conceded that "I didn't need to do this," since "I could do the wall over a longer period of time." But he added that "I'd rather do it much faster."

    Although an emergency that is not urgent may seem like a contradiction in terms, that does not mean it is illegal. Under the National Emergencies Act, a 1976 law that was supposed to constrain the president's exercise of extraordinary powers, an emergency is whatever the president says it is. It need not be sudden, pressing, harmful, or of limited duration.

    I'd hope that, like the line-item veto, the Supremes will rule that Congress's ceding this non-emergency emergency power to the President was an unconstutional surrender of its responsibility. That will undo a lot of other mischief as well.

    And voters: if you want a stupid wall, vote for representatives that will fund it.

  • Also at Reason, Peter Suderman gives us reason to speculate that there's (at least) one candidate who's not as smart as you'd expect an ex-Harvard faculty member to be: Elizabeth Warren's Fake Wonkery.

    Warren's penchant for wonkery […] has been vastly overstated. Although she is probably more familiar with the mechanics of economic policy that many of her 2020 rivals, she is also prone to relying on dubious, and arguably dishonest, methodology in order to support the progressive policies she favors.

    Just yesterday, for example, Warren released a proposal calling for a vast new program to federally fund child care. The program would make childcare free for families earning up to about $50,000 a year and would subsidize care for families earning more. The program would be expensive; Warren puts the cost at about $700 billion over the course of a decade. She says would pay for the program using revenues from her wealth tax, pointing to estimates from UC Berkeley economists that the tax would raise $2.75 trillion over the same time—more than enough to offset the cost of the program.

    Problem (fleshed out by Suderman): her cost estimate relies on dynamic analysis, assuming that child care subsidies would allow more parents into the workforce, boosting the economy.

    But her revenue estimate ("we'll pay for it with a wealth tax") is based on static analysis, assuming no behavioral changes whatsoever in the taxpayers she is proposing to fleece.

    Incompetent, or dishonest? I slightly favor the latter.

  • Ah, but what about good old Bernie? At National Review, Mr. Geraghty points out: Bernie Sanders 2020 Run Is Proof that You Can't Teach an Old Dog New Tricks.

    Bernie Sanders is pretty much the exact same guy that he was four decades ago, running on the same platform. He’s making the same arguments for the same ideas about how America needs a socialist revolution that puts an end to millionaires and billionaires and private hospitals and moves social services from charities to government institutions. He’s always been friendly to leftist critics of America overseas and radicals eager to tear down the existing order and has been at best skeptical of U.S. military actions abroad (except during the Clinton administration) and U.S. intelligence agencies. Becoming a millionaire didn’t prompt him to revise his relentless demonization of millionaires as greedy. The collapse of the Soviet Union, several American economic booms, innovative technological revolutions, the fracking and energy boom, the alleviation of poverty around the world through global trade over the past two generations — none of them prompted him to change much of what he thinks about economics, politics, international relations, or society.

    No government management scandal of the past four decades — vets dying while waiting for care at the Department of Veterans Affairs, vast sums on nonfunctional web sites, lavish conferences at the General Services Administration, IRS abuses, Fast and Furious, substandard conditions for wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, endless allegations of cronyism, favoritism, and incompetence — has shaken Sanders’s faith that the federal government is equipped and ready to handle huge new programs that would exercise much more control over the daily lives of Americans.

    No country’s experience with socialism, or countries that call themselves socialist, has prompted him to rethink whether the concepts work as well as the advocates insist.

    How stupid can Democrat voters be? If we start saying "President Sanders" on January 20, 2021, we'll have a concrete answer: stupider than ever.

  • Even though Tulsi Gabbard has vanished from our table, we must link to Mr. Geraghty (again) for Twenty Things You Probably Didn’t Know about the senator. It's all interesting, and, phony-wise, we should note her, um, "evolving" positions on gay rights and abortion. But here's something different:

    Fifteen: In 2015, the second-term congresswoman was declared “young, hip and beautiful” by . . . er, National Review. American Enterprise Institute president Arthur Brooks told NR’s correspondents, “I like her thinking a lot,” and that year Gabbard attended AEI’s private annual retreat at Sea Island, Georgia.

    Many conservatives swooned when she criticized President Obama’s reluctance to label groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda “Islamist” during an interview with Fox News’s Neil Cavuto: “You’re not identifying the fact that they are not fueled by a materialistic motivation, it’s actually a theological — this radical Islamic ideology that is allowing them to continue to recruit, that is allowing them to continue to grow in strength and that’s really fueling these horrific terrorist activities around the world.”

    I think Trump would have a difficult time running against her. But I also don't see her credible path to the nomination.

  • But let's give a nod to our phony leader, who was in-state this week. Michael Graham of Inside Sources notes that she's not above scaremongering above and beyond what science demands: Harris to NH: "In a Relatively Short Time, Portsmouth Will Be Underwater".

    During a speech at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics on Tuesday, California Senator–and Green New Deal supporter– Kamala Harris had a dire warning for the Granite State: The city of Portsmouth will soon be underwater due to climate change.

    “I was in Portsmouth yesterday. If you look at the rates and the tables in terms of the decline, because we are talking about decline, within a relatively short period of time, it will be underwater. This is a real issue,” Harris said.

    Quoted in rebuttal: Judith Curry, Bjorn Lomborg, Fred Singer. None of whom matter, because this is the sort of thing that "fact checkers" never check.


Why We Hate Each Other--and How to Heal

[Amazon Link]

Ben Sasse is (you probably know) a US Senator from Nebraska. I speculate that, against his 99 colleagues, he is the brightest, funniest, best-read, and most insightful. I'm not sure who even comes close.

This book is his diagnosis of the social illnesses in the early 21st-century US. The litany is well-known, pretty much, but the book's subtitle ("Why We Hate Each Other") is an incomplete summary. At the root of things, Sasse claims, is loneliness: the increasing fraction of people who lack deep, thick roots into their communities. Various symptoms: people living alone, or far away from their extended families. Declining chuch attendance. Declining importance of civic organizations. Increasing urbanization. Lack of dependable long-term employment. And on, and on.

So nasty spats between political tribes are at best a secondary symptom of our underlying institutional decay. When the non-governmental institutions dry up, the only thing left is, for better or worse (and it's usually for worse) is politics. Choose a tribe, and go to no-holds-barred war with the infidels.

[Amazon Link]

A possibly-unfair observation: one of the more important books of the last few decades was The Future and Its Enemies by Virginia Postrel. At a number of spots, Sasse sounds like … one of the enemies.

Sasse has a number of recommendations, but they're aimed at the reader: wherever you live, join with good people doing good works. Take time for your family. Limit your tech time. (I think he recommends unfollowing your politics-obsessed social media buddies! That's something, hm, I could see doing myself.

Hey, he could be right, and the trends our country are mindlessly riding might take us right into the ditch. I would bet on us muddling through, as usual. Mainly because I remember the 1960s vividly—literally before Sasse was born—and the social fabric was in much worse shape then.

Sasse's prose is super-accessible; anyone at a middle-school level or above would have no problem whizzing through the book. I sometimes call this USA Today-ese: "We're eating more kale then ever before." That's not a slam, Sasse wants to appeal to the broadest audience.

So I had some problems with the book, but I recommend it to anyone concerned about the long term future of our culture. And I wish that somehow, magically, we could install a bunch of Sasse clones in our Federal, State, and local legislative bodies.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Nick Gillespie writes at Reason: America Is Not as Racist as Jussie Smollet's Defenders Fear or White Supremacists Hope.

    Over the past few weeks, at least two major news stories have vied for our attention because they seemingly revealed the deep truth that not only has America always been a racist nation but that things are getting objectively worse because of Donald Trump.

    The hate-crime attack on Jussie Smollet, we're told, somehow reveals a cancer on the American soul even if the actor engineered it as a bizarre contract-negotiation ploy. So too does the arrest of the Coast Guard's Lt. Christopher P. Hasson, who according to court documents called himself "a long time White Nationalist" and had drawn up a kill list of "traitors" that included CNN and MSNBC personalities along with politicians ranging from Sen. Dick Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Hasson has amassed many weapons and had, prosecutors say, planned on committing "focused violence" that would help to "establish a white homeland."

    I would (slightly) demur: the alacrity with which some jump on ludicrous tales of violent hateful oppression shows they really want to believe in Fundamentally Racist America. That's not a healthy attitude for anyone, and it's not good for the country either.

  • Jonah Goldberg's sujet de la semaine is related: Jussie Smollett and the Hate Hoaxes to Come. Skip down to his bold prediction:

    Obviously more Smollett-style hoaxes are coming. If the negative attention heaped on mass shooters is enough to inspire other losers to commit that kind of evil, it’s easy to imagine that the attention Smollett has gotten will inspire losers to do likewise. But that’s not my prediction. There will be a hoax involving MAGA hats, but the fake victims will be those wearing them. We already saw the hunger for this kind of thing in the Covington case — but those kids were in fact victims. President Trump invited that kid named Trump to the State of the Union precisely because he wanted to exploit this great reservoir of pity. And the coverage of this legitimate outrage will no doubt encourage others to get a piece of that on the cheap.

    So mark my words, some loser, desperate to be lionized by Candace Owens or applauded at CPAC, will manufacture some story of victimhood that will ignite a bonfire of outrage on the right and a riot of sympathy about MAGA persecution. The mainstream media will suddenly remember the professional integrity it forgot in the Smollett case and debunk it. But before then, the pitiables of the right will claim victimhood by proxy and denounce the insensitivity of an uncaring media that hates them. The roles will be reversed, but the script will be the same, and the actors will all yell just a little bit louder, as the snake ups the tempo of its own repast.

    Could be. We'll see, and remember to credit Jonah if it happens.

  • Reader, if you've been doing your taxes, you probably are not feeling a lot of love for the Internal Revenue Service. But believe me, you do not despise it anywhere near as much as does Daniel J. Mitchell, who was recently on CNBC Debating the IRS Budget. From his collection of factoids (original from the NYT):

    Private debt collectors cost the Internal Revenue Service $20 million in the last fiscal year, but brought in only $6.7 million in back taxes, the agency’s taxpayer advocate reported Wednesday.

    That was less than 1 percent of the amount assigned for collection. What’s more, private contractors in some cases were paid 25 percent commissions on collections that the I.R.S. made without their help…the report stated, “the I.R.S. has implemented the program in a manner that causes excessive financial harm to taxpayers and constitutes an end run around taxpayer rights protections.”

    A rich litany of malfeasance, misfeasance, scandal, blunders, arrogance,… You would expect some of this from an agency devoted to parasitic bloodsucking from the productive. But they're really going above and beyond those expectations.

  • At Inside Sources, Michael Graham wonders: Amazon Paid Zero Corporate Taxes Last Year. Why Aren't 2020 Democrats Talking About It?.

    The current crop of Democrats seeking their party’s presidential nomination have made it clear who they’ll be coming after once they’re in the White House: Big corporations and the wealthy 1 percent. Candidates like Sen. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris echo the sentiments of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has all but declared war on “these rich guys who have been waging class warfare on the middle class for decades” through a “rigged system that props up the rich and powerful, but kicks dirt on everyone else.”

    So when news broke that Amazon–the world’s third-most valuable company, run by the world’s richest man—paid zero federal corporate income taxes on their $11.3 billion in US profits in 2018, what did these candidates have to say about it?

    Surprisingly, nothing.

    Interesting. Of course, Bernie's an exception. Is everyone else afraid of the Bezos? Or do they realize that there's not a lot of resentment available for a well-run company that gives people what they want quickly, for a decent price?

  • Michael Graham seems outraged by Amazon's successful tax strategy. Maybe he shouldn't be. At Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen offers Amazon and taxes: a simple primer.

    The main reason Amazon as a corporate entity does not pay much in taxes is because the company so vigorously reinvests its profit.  The resulting expensing provisions lower their tax liabilities, in some cases down to zero or near-zero.  That is in fact the kind of incentive our tax system is supposed to create, and does so only imperfectly, noting that many economists have suggested moving to full expensing.

    And, of course, the obvious: corporations don't really pay tax themselves, even though they write the check. Who pays, in varying proportions: (1) their customers; (2) their shareholders.

The Green Hills of Earth

[Amazon Link]

Another book down on the rereading-Heinlein project, this one a collection of ten short stories in his "Future History" timeline. Only a couple were originally published in science fiction magazines; the remainder were published in mainstream mags like the Saturday Evening Post.

Edition trivia: I reread the paperback I picked up a long time ago. How long ago? Well, the cover price is a cool 35¢. A used copy of this edition at Amazon will set you back at least $6.49 with shipping. (It seems the current in-print version lists for $7.99, but it's combined with The Menace from Earth.)

I can't recommend it, unless (like me) you're a slightly obsessive Heinlein completist. The stories:

"Delilah and the Space Rigger"
Workers on a space station under construction are flummoxed when an incoming worker turns out to be a dame! After much sexist snarling, it's realized that productivity has actually improved after her arrival. Get more dames up here! Also, a padre!
"Space Jockey"
A rocket pilot squabbles with the Mrs. about his demanding job, but (also) saves the day after an obstreperous brat in his ship's control room sends them wildly off course.
"The Long Watch"
There are nuclear weapons on the Moon, ostensibly for peacekeeping purposes. Unfortunately, a madman (think: Jack D. Ripper) takes over and proposes to nuke a few cities and establish a Terran military dictatorship. Fortunately, our self-sacrificing hero saves the day. (This is actually a pretty good yarn.)
"Gentlemen, Be Seated!"
Three guys in a damaged lunar tunnel which is slowly losing pressure. What to do? You assiduously (heh) use whatever patching material comes to hand.
"The Black Pits of Luna"
A family on a lunar tour with two young boys. Fine, but… oh oh, the younger, more impetuous one goes wandering off and nobody can find him! Except his older brother, who uses his knowledge of what the kid likes to do.
"It's Great to Be Back!"
A married couple is unhappy with their life on the Moon, and return to good old Earth. Then they realize that Earth is no great shakes either, and return to the Moon. (Sorry, I guess that was a spoiler. But that's really all that happens.)
"—We Also Walk Dogs"
A lucrative "solve every problem" company is confronted with a toughie, which merely involves the invention of a gravity-controlling device. Only problem: the guy who can do it is kind of a reclusive nut. (Just like all physicists, except more so.) How to persuade him? It turns out he has a weakness for…
"Ordeal in Space"
A former spaceman severely traumatized by a near-fatal spacewalk returns to earth. He is cured by rescuing a kitten. No, I am not making this up.
"The Green Hills of Earth"
The book's title track is the story of Rhysling, "blind singer of the spaceways". A warts-and-all mini-bio of the man. (I recommend the Wikipedia page that goes into detail on the story's origin and impact. Did you know that the Apollo 15 astronauts named a lunar crater "Rhysling"?)
"Logic of Empire"
Two friends argue about the labor system on Venus: is it slavery? After considerable amounts of drinking, one of the participants finds himself shanghaied … to Venus! And yep, if it's not slavery, it's a remarkable facsimile.

Mainly notable for a long paragraph near the end, which appears to be pseudo-Marxian claptrap about the inevitable appearance of slave labor in a colonial setting where the monetary system designed to mumble mumble mumble… Seems to be a leftover from his flirtation with Upton Sinclair-style "wage slavery" leftism.

All stories are notable for their detailed descriptions of imaginary technology. Heinlein was very much a show-the-rivets writer.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Skip at Granite Grok drew my attention to a Mother Jones article that is simultaneously depressing, scary, and outrageous: The Environmental Voter Project Knows Who You Are, and How to Trick You Into Saving the Planet.

    Mary Elizabeth, a redheaded woman in exercise clothes, is holding an extremely bald, blubbery baby when she answers her door. She’s smiling through the exhaustion of new parenthood and is almost gushingly friendly. She wants to let the Environmental Voter Project intern on her doorstep know that she really appreciates what her visitor is doing, really. And yes, of course she’s going to vote in the upcoming election, it’s so important! But she can’t really talk right now.

    The Environmental Voter Project is an extremely well-funded project to get the "right" (by which I mean: left) people into the voting booths. And they are equipped with all the latest tricks in the behavioral psych toolkit. Here's the bit that had Skip exercised:

    The prongs of the EVP’s strategy—data analytics and behavioral psych-based methods—each undeniably contains a potentially icky element, because, well, you’re assessing people based on their personal data and trying to use it to manipulate their behavior. But according to Sasha Issenberg, if promoting civic-minded behavior like voting requires playing on those biases, so be it.

    “If we want to make better decisions or do things in our society’s self-interest, we need to be tricked into doing them,” he says.

    Egads. The only bright spot: the EVP-backed candidates in last year's Massachusetts primary included "Gamergate heroine Brianna Wu" who lost to incumbent Stephen Lynch 71%-23%. But (on the other hand), another backed candidate, Ayanna Pressley, wound up beating ten-term incumbent Mike Capuano, and now sits in the US House.

    I'd like to hold out some dim hope that advocates of limited government, fiscal sanity, and individual liberty might wake up and get hordes of like-minded voters to the polls. But they probably have scruples about "tricking" voters. And can you imagine the hoopla if the Kochs funded any equivalent GOTV project? "Trying to buy our democracy", right?

  • At Reason, Steven Greenhut looks at a different Progressive effort to tip the electoral scales in their favor, and makes a plea that will almost certainly fall on deaf ears: To Reduce Money in Politics, Slash the Size of Government.

    Like a terrifying demon that returns during the final scene of a horror movie, campaign-finance reform is the "thing" that never goes away. The U.S. Supreme Court sometimes saves the day, as it did with the First-Amendment-related Citizens United case in 2010. Yet reformers always have a new scheme to take "the money out of politics," even though their last schemes always resulted in more cash influencing political campaigns.

    The campaign-finance scaremongers are baaaack with a symbolic bill that is a political poke-in-the-eye of the sleazy-seeming Trump administration. It could never pass the Senate or gain a presidential signature, but it makes a point. Now that they have a majority in the House, Democrats are pushing H.R. 1, which Vox describes as a "sweeping anti-corruption measures aimed at stamping out the influence of money in politics and expanding voting rights."

    Good luck with that.

  • Phil Plait speculates on a recent visitor to our vicinity: No, 'Oumuamua is not an alien spaceship. It might be even weirder.

    Oh, you remember 'Oumuamua. It caused quite a stir last year; first seen in late 2017 by the Pan-STARRS survey telescope in Hawaii, it was quickly found to have a very unusual orbit. Instead of the usual ellipse or circle around the Sun like normal solar system objects, it was found to have a hyperbolic orbit. That means it was moving too quickly to be bound to the Sun, and that, in turn, means it came from Out There. Like really out there: interstellar space, the void between the stars.

    Subsequent observations confirmed it: 'Oumuamua was just passing through the solar system, with so much extra velocity (about 25 km/sec) that it was moving faster than the Sun's escape velocity. This was a one-time visitor, screaming through the solar system and heading back out into The Black once again.

    What could be weirder than an alien spaceship? Spoiler: a "three-dimensionally constructed phenomenally porous low-density snowflake."

    Maybe. I still like "alien probe".

  • At the Free Beacon, Matthew Continetti writes on a candidate that just can't stop stepping on banana peels that she's dropped herself: Clumsy Kamala. Matthew describes three recent slips, and here's number two:

    On January 29, after Jussie Smollett claimed he had been attacked in a hate crime by two white Trump fans in the middle of a wintry Chicago night, Harris tweeted her support for the actor. "This was an attempted modern day lynching," she said. "No one should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin. We must confront this hate." What Harris did not mention were the curious details of the story—details that the Chicago Police Department investigated and finally debunked. It turns out Smollett was attacked not by white supremacists but by two Nigerian immigrants who he had put up to the job. The "modern day lynching" was a bogus, disgusting, and exploitative affront to the real victims of hatred. A prepared candidate would have expressed regret at her Tweet and familiarity with the case. Harris was not prepared.

    During a visit to New Hampshire last weekend, a reporter asked Harris if she would like to revisit her words about Smollett. Harris clearly had no idea what the reporter was talking about. "Which Tweet? What Tweet?" she said. The reporter read the Tweet back to Harris. Who stood there, agog, looking to her aides for help. And who finally answered, "I think that the facts are still unfolding, and, um, I'm very, um concerned about obviously, the initial, um, allegation that he made about what might have happened." Except it didn't happen. Nor is it clear if Harris actually wrote the Tweet in support of Smollett. She might hold positions, including on health care, the details of which she is unaware. Which is a problem.

    I gotta say: she doesn't strike me as very smart. Might be all that wacky weed she inhaled in college.

  • And reparations are back in the discussion, baby. ("Like a bad penny…") Kevin D. Williamson—maybe I should just call him "Kevin" to save on carpal-tunnelling keystrokes—analyzes at National Review: Reparations for Slavery: Symbolism over Substance. After looking at recently-approved French payments to non-French survivors of the Holocaust (or heirs):

    Across the Atlantic, the 2020 Democratic primary already is under way, and it is happy hour at Chalmun’s Cantina as the contenders look not only to out-radical one another in 2019 but also to out-radical Bernie Sanders’s 2016 performance on the theory that it did not establish the outermost bound of politically potent left-wing radicalism in today’s Democratic party. Senator Elizabeth Warren, formerly promoted by her employers as a woman of color, has ’fessed up to being as white as Rachel Dolezal waltzing with the ghost of George Plimpton as snow falls gently on Vienna, has endorsed the payment of reparations to African Americans, a position held by Senator Kamala Harris but forsworn by other Democrats, Barack Obama notable among them, and rejected by Senator Bernie Sanders, the Brooklyn socialist who represents Vermont in the Senate and who is seeking the Democratic nomination even though he does not belong to the party.

    This is, needless to say, another case of symbolism-over-substance Democratic politics. Democrats who gave a good goddamn about the lives of black Americans have had a great many years to do something about the schools in Philadelphia or the police department in Chicago, the so-called war on drugs, and a passel of economic policies that help to keep blacks poor — including such Democratic favorites as the Davis-Bacon Act, which explicitly was designed partly for that purpose — “superabundance of Negro labor,” and all that.

    The subhed makes an important point: "The proposals are not intended to mitigate evil. They are intended to make Elizabeth Warren . . . or Kamala Harris, or Kirsten Gillibrand . . . president of the United States."

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson welcomes the latest entry to the presidential campaign: One Last Grift for Bernie Sanders.

    The feature of nationalism that Trump and Sanders — and, to a considerable degree, figures such as Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — are rehabilitating is, in part, corporatism, a word that all of them certainly would abjure and that none of them quite understands. Contemporary progressives use the word corporatism to describe a situation in which the notionally democratic character of government is subverted by private business interests, but in reality it means something closer to the opposite: the subordination of private business interests to the “national interest,” something formally short of the Marxist-Leninist model of outright appropriation of the means of production but functionally similar to it.

    Mussolini was, for all his absurd macho-man peacocking and bluster, a practitioner of what American progressives sometimes call “stakeholder” economics and politics. The corporazioni of fascist Italy were intended to coordinate the efforts of business owners, labor, government, and other interest groups in the service of a unified national agenda. Senator Warren, in particular, frequently speaks of the social role of American businesses in explicitly corporatist terms, but the far-left American intellectuals who dream of “workers’ councils” and grand industrial projects directed by the central government are practitioners of classical corporatism, whether they understand the fact or do not. The so-called Green New Deal is a textbook corporatist boondoggle.

    Senator Sanders may call himself a socialist, but then, so did Mussolini, for a long time.

    Where are the non-fascist candidates?

  • Jonah Goldberg's column notes that Trump’s national emergency declaration is an act of weakness.

    President Trump declared an emergency in part to conceal his weakness. The bipartisan deal to provide even less funding for border security than what was offered to the White House before the shutdown was an unadulterated defeat for the president. If Trump hadn’t declared a national emergency the same day he signed the legislation, all of the headlines would reflect that. It was an effective way of changing the subject.

    It’s also grotesque.

    Jonah goes on to point out that border security is a civilian function of government, and is crime control. Invoking a military response is… well, grotesque.

  • Andrew G. Biggs looks at the latest effort to make things worse: Expanding Social Security for the rich (huh?).

    Consider two groups of Americans: one group’s incomes have risen by 4 percent above inflation over the past two decades, according to Federal Reserve data; the second group’s incomes rose by 84 percent. So what’s the proposal from over 200 House Democrats? To raise taxes on the first group to pay higher benefits to the second.

    Those two groups are working-age households and retirees, and over 80 percent of House Democrats have co-sponsored legislation – the Social Security 2100 Act – that would do precisely as described: raise taxes on working-age households who have seen only skimpy income growth in order to “expand” Social Security benefits for retirees whose incomes have risen rapidly.

    Click through for the dreadful details: boosting the top marginal rates for high-income earners by 14.8 percentage points, but also boosting the payroll tax rate by nearly one-fifth for everyone.

    And (of course), both New Hampshire congresscritters have signed on as co-sponsors. I've penned my first, futile, e-mail to my rep, Chris Pappas, urging him to withdraw. Because I'm an idiot.

  • Veronique de Rugy asks the provocative question: Is Your Car a Threat to National Security?.

    If you drive an imported car, as I do, your vehicle may soon be declared a national security risk by the Department of Commerce. If you drive an American-assembled car, your car may also pose a threat to U.S. national security because it inevitably contains some foreign parts — which Commerce could include in its list of threats to national security. If President Donald Trump acts on this finding, it'll be bad news for automakers and even worse news for consumers.

    Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 gives the president unilateral authority to impose tariffs or quotas on imports that "threaten to impair" U.S. national security. In a still-undisclosed-to-the-public report sent to the administration on Sunday, many suspect that Commerce contends imported foreign cars and parts represent just such a threat. If that's the case, it would give the president power to impose restrictions on them, such as a 25 percent tariff. He has up to 90 days to announce his decision and another 180 days to negotiate remedies with trade partners.

    I can only hope that Trump doesn't call in a drone strike on my Impreza.

  • James Lileks' Bleat is a regular (Mon-Fri) stop for me. And yesterday brought us "The Wednesday Review of Modern Thought":

    GOD I HATE SO MUCH these movies and TV shows about tormented young waify women with super-ultra powers who are grim and determined and have issues but are incredibly special. I had to lie in public about enjoying the second season of Stranger Things, because it was totally awesome that what’s-er-name, Seven? Eleven? had ultra powers that made her capable of defeating Big Tentacled Evil by holding out her hands and assuming the expression of a 12-year-old who just found out the local 21 Forever was closing its doors. Amazon is full of ads for Hanna, which is about some super-ultra kid with powers. Yes, yes, no - I am not the target market. Wish-fufillment, teen fantasy, empowerment, all that. Got it. But the end lesson seems to be that violence is cool if girls do it, because girls are better than boys.

    Yes, it's a thing. Also analyzed, mercilessly, is the new animated version of original Star Wars, in which Leia is "defined by one thing: ANGERY ANGER."

    Is there nothing the SJWs can't ruin?

Last Modified 2019-10-16 10:00 AM EDT

Secondhand Souls

[Amazon Link]

Chronology: This Christopher Moore book is a sequel to A Dirty Job which I read back in the summer of 2016.

Which is kind of a problem for me, sorry. There are quite a few characters, survivors from A Dirty Job, they pretty much pick things up from where they left off, and I'm supposed to remember who everyone is, their backstories, their situations?

Worse, it's set in a Christopher Moore universe, with a lot of supernatural goings-on involving death, souls, and various deities, mostly malign. This universe took an entire book to build, and I'm supposed to remember important details about that, too?

Well, I muddled through. Christopher Moore remains a profanely hilarious writer. But it wasn't as much fun as the first book. I recommend you read them closer together than 18 months.

Charlie, the hero from the past book, died at the end. But fortunately his soul was preserved in a small monster made of animal parts and deli meat. Which is good, because he's needed to fight a resurgent Force of Evil, a reincarnated ancient god who's planning on (um, somehow) using the ghosts of San Francisco's departed to establish his rule over the Earth. (Where's Jehovah when you need him, anyway? I can't help but think He'd make short work of this upstart.)

Charlie's seven-year-old daughter, Sophie is an issue as well. The Bad Guy has designs on her, the hellhounds that protected her in the previous book are seemingly AWOL, and her cute (albeit murderous) supernatural powers may be AWOL too. (She's still pretty foulmouthed for a seven-year-old, though.)

So circumstances dictate that Charlie's soul be incarnated into a new human body. Fortunately, there's a candidate, Mike, who's one of the perpetual painters of the Golden Gate Bridge. And Mike's become enraptured with one of the ghosts who's haunting the bridge, so…

Kind of a hoot, as expected with Moore. But, as noted, kind of a slog, too. It's not him, it's me.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Remember Andy Warhol predicting that we'd all be famous for fifteen minutes? Well, the future turned out slightly different. At Reason, author Nancy Rommelmann provides us with something we will probably need at some point in the future: A Guide to Surviving Your 15 Minutes of Hate.

    I am a pro-choice, aqua-haired, middle-aged liberal living in Portland, Oregon. I probably disagree with Nicholas Sandmann on every major issue. But we have something in common. In the last month we have both endured what is fast becoming an American ritual: our 15 minutes of hate.

    Sandmann's crime was a smirk while wearing a MAGA hat. Mine was a YouTube series I launched in December with another journalist in which we discussed the excesses of the #MeToo movement. This and the show's name, #MeNeither, inspired an ex-employee of my husband's coffee company to send an email to staff, characterizing the series as "vile, dangerous and extremely misguided" and adding that it "throws into question the safety of Ristretto Roasters as a workplace."

    And then things got really nasty. Nancy also has an article at Quillette: The Internet Locusts Descend on Ristretto Roasters. Their nearest location is a mere 2500 crow-flies miles away from Pun Salad Manor (in Portland, OR) but maybe I'll do mail order…

  • At the WSJ, James Freeman notes the baggage being toted into the presidential campaign by the latest, and oldest, declared candidate: Another Bernie Sanders Tax Hike. Specifically, his legislation to "save" Social Security, the "plan is to raise taxes on some participants and spend the money on others."

    Americans earning high incomes should definitely expect that if the Sanders bill is enacted they will be paying higher payroll taxes and receiving nothing in return for the tax hike. Currently the 12.4% Social Security payroll tax (6.2% is collected from employees and another 6.2% from employers) is applied to a worker’s first $132,900 in earnings. The Sanders plan will also apply the full tax to earnings above $250,000. [Social Security Chief Actuary Stephen] Goss explicitly states that the plan will “not credit the additional taxed earnings for benefit purposes.” This is about redistribution, not retirement savings.

    But wait, there’s more. Mr. Sanders also will apply a separate 6.2% tax on investment income starting at $200,000 for a single filer and $250,000 for a married couple filing jointly. Mr. Goss observes: “Under this provision, there is no limit on the amount taxed.”

    “No limit on the amount taxed” sounds like a perfect slogan for the Sanders 2020 campaign. Whether or not Team Sanders chooses to use this catchy phrase in its advertising, it would clearly be the overriding theme of a Sanders presidency.

    Among the cosponsors of Sanders' bill: Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris.

  • A Reason article from Christian Britschgi: State Legislators Suggest Banning Plastic Straw Bans. Which is no big deal, some sensible legislators want to preempt local straw bans. But I laughed out loud at the subhed:

    Bills in Colorado and Florida would mandate some new restrictions on plastic straws, but forbid local governments from banning the suckers outright.

    Funny even on re-reading.

  • A busy day on the LFOD front. First up is a Concord Monitor op-ed from Republican State Senator John Reagan and Democratic State Rep Laura Pantelakos: The bipartisan case for death penalty repeal.

    In these divisive times, there is an issue that Granite State Democrats and Republicans agree on: The time is now to repeal the death penalty. Abolishing this archaic practice is not a partisan issue – it is a personal one. The death penalty defies New Hampshire values. In our “Live free or die” state, it is time to state loudly that New Hampshire can live without the death penalty.

    I just want to point out that a consistent LFOD advocate might argue for expansion of the death penalty, since the motto appears to offer no middle ground between living free and….

    But (seriously) the last person executed in NH was Howard Long, hanged in 1939 for a very heinous crime. Whatever the merits, it seems that our state's heart isn't really into the death penalty any more.

  • The NYT covers a different state controversy: Legalize Pot? Amid Opioid Crisis, Some New Hampshire Leaders Say No Way.

    New England tends to embrace liberal policies on social issues, and this state, with its “Live Free or Die” motto, celebrates personal freedom and limited government. Following other New England states, New Hampshire in 2013 legalized medical marijuana and in 2017, during Mr. Sununu’s administration, decriminalized possession of small amounts of pot. But opioid addiction has ravaged communities in New Hampshire, and the crisis has become a point of public distress. Some 424 people in the state died of opioid-related overdoses in 2017, and the number of children in foster care has more than doubled since 2014.

    I'm full-tilt naked libertarian on this: the state shouldn't be in the business of dictating to adults what they can and can't ingest. And I'd argue that our opioid "crisis" is much more a result of drug prohibition than a justification.

    But nobody asked me.

  • And my own local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat [in its online version] reports on the Fugitive of the Week: U.S. Marshals seeking armed robbery suspect.

    CONCORD — Belknap County fugitive Kevin Sullivan is wanted by the New Hampshire Joint Fugitive Task Force. He should be considered armed and dangerous, according to a U.S. Marshals spokesman.

    Sullivan, 24, is wanted for failing to appear on charges of attempted armed robbery, armed career criminal and felon in possession of a deadly weapon.

    He is described as 6-feet, 1-inch tall, 180 pounds with red hair and blue eyes. He has several tattoos including a bird, fire fox and “Live Free or Die” on his left arm. Other tattoos include “BROUCK” on his right arm, an iron eagle and swastika on his chest, “Loyalty” and “Respect” on his back as well as tattoos on his right and left calves.

    According to this Union Leader story, the charges against young Kevin involved an incident where not only an AR-15 was used, but also Airsoft pistols. One of the vics used a compound bow to fire an arrow into the abdomen of one of the perps. And, oh sure, "two pounds of marijuana and makeshift-greenouse plus $3,600 in cash".

    See, what would these folks do if pot were legal?

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • I've put the Bulwark into my reading rotation, since it seems to have moved off monotonous conservative never-Trumping. An example is Robert Tracinski's article: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the Left's Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

    A lot of people, myself included, have toyed with describing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as the left’s Donald Trump because they both rely so heavily on exaggerated promises and bluster. There’s something to that, but I think I’ve found a better analogy: She’s the Democratic Party’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

    Once you see it, you can’t unsee it. AOC is an MPDG, and if we had political satirists worthy of the name, NBC would already have brought in Zooey Deschanel to play her on Saturday Night Live.

    The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a stock character first classified by Nathan Rabin in a 2007 review of Elizabethtown, a film he described as “The Bataan Death March of Whimsy.” “The Manic Pixie Dream Girl,” he wrote, “exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.”

    Copy that. Since the MPDG species has been identified, I've seen a lot fewer examples in recent movies. I miss that. Fortunately, there's AOC.

  • At City Journal, Heather MacDonald observes that Elites bought Jussie Smollett’s story because it confirmed their cherished narrative about a hateful America.

    The Jussie Smollett case, in which a young black, gay actor has apparently concocted a tale of being attacked by two white men wearing MAGA hats and shouting anti-gay slurs, is just the latest example of how desperately media elites want to confirm their favored narrative about America: that the country is endemically and lethally racist, sexist, and homophobic, and that the election of Donald Trump both proves and reinforces such bigotry.

    The truth: as instances of actual racism get harder and harder to find, the search to find such bigotry becomes increasingly frenzied and unmoored from reality.

    Smollett made a not-irrational wager that a patently preposterous narrative about an anti-black, anti-gay hate crime at 2 a.m. in subzero Chicago would be embraced by virtually the entirety of the mainstream media, leading Democratic politicians, Hollywood, and academia, with no one in these cohorts bothering to fact-check his narrative or entertain even armchair skepticism toward it. He also presumed, again with good reason, that to claim victim status would catapult him to the highest echelons of public admiration and accomplishment. And he was right. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker called it a “modern-day lynching.” Joe Biden warned that “we must no longer give this hate safe harbor,” his implication being that we need to stop winking at such racist attacks. If Beale Street Could Talk’s Barry Jenkins lamented, “This what all that hateful mongering has wrought. Are you PROUD???”  Good Morning America interviewed Smollett without asking a single critical question about his story.

    An interesting take for those of us who wonder WTF was Jussie thinking? from the CBS TV affiliate in Chicago. A "racist letter" sent to the studio producing "Empire", the TV show Jussie is (probably: was) on, failed to get a "bigger reaction".

    Reading between the lines: that letter was probably cooked up by Jussie too.

  • There's a much told tale about attendees at a Soviet meeting in the 1930s giving Stalin a standing ovation. Bad enough, but it went on interminably, because nobody dared be the first to stop clapping.

    Here in the land of the free, a story illustrating our current culture comes from National Review and Kevin D. Williamson: Merciless Sympathy.

    Jussie Smollett’s phony hate-crime story could have been taken apart in 24 hours, except for one thing: Nobody wanted to be the first to call bullsh**.

    Who will bell the cat?

    Not the police, and I don’t blame them. Smollett is a vocal critic of President Donald Trump who checks two protected-category boxes: He is gay and he is black. No police officer comes out ahead in any encounter in which he has to explain that he isn’t a racist or a gay-basher.

  • At Econlog, Bryan Caplan has a suggestion for those who lecture the Rest Of Us on "inclusion". How about Including the Renegade?

    In the last six months, I’ve found myself stuck in two separate Sermons on Inclusion.  These were public events.  Neither was branded as left-wing.  Both, however, gave the floor to speakers who explained the supreme value of making everyone feel included in the community.

    In each case, my mid-sermon reaction was the same: “I don’t think I’ve ever before felt so excluded in all my life.”

    Why would I react so negatively?  It’s not because I disagree with the one-sentence summary of the sermons.  Sure, be friendly to people.  Make them feel welcome.  It’s common decency.  So what’s the problem?

    I’m tempted to blame the glaring hypocrisy.  It was obvious that the speakers had zero interest in making Republicans, conservatives, macho males, traditional Christians, veterans, or economists feel included.  In fact, the Sermons on Inclusion were full of thinly-veiled accusations against members of these groups.

    Nope, that's not it. (Although Bryan is lucky that the sermonizers' accusations were even thinly veiled. In some cases, the accusations aren't veiled at all.)

    Instead, Bryan was put off by the implication that he is a creature whose nature is largely dictated by the pigeonholes (race, class, culture, sex, etc.) that the sermonizers dictated. And his hackles are raised at that. I can sympathize.

  • And the Google LFOD alert rang for a Concord Monitor op-ed from Jeanne Hruska of the NH ACLU: Why cannabis legalization advances racial justice.

    House Bill 481, which would provide for the legalization, regulation and taxation of cannabis, presents a chance for our state to acknowledge the racial injustice caused by cannabis prohibition and begin to right this wrong. It also honors our state’s “Live free or die” mentality and continues our state’s bipartisan commitment to economic justice and criminal justice reform.

    I am all for pot legalization, but because of alleged "racial injustice"? Not so much.

    Jeanne supports her case with the usual stats, e.g.: "[A]lthough black people accounted for only 1.2 percent of the state’s population in 2016, they constituted 6.5 percent of the prison population."

    I.e., ignoring the simple fact that — even in NH — "black people" might be committing crimes at a higher rate than the general population. Not an honest argument, even for the ACLU.

  • And Michael Ramirez notes another "national emergency":

    [National Emergency] Yup.

Last Modified 2019-06-14 5:21 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Kyle Smith points out the obvious in the New York Post: Jussie Smollett ‘attack’ proves the media’s rush to judgment.

    “Jussie Smollett, one of the stars of the television show ‘Empire,’ was attacked in Chicago by 2 assailants who yelled racial and homophobic slurs,” tweeted the New York Times on Jan. 29.

    Mark the tone of absolute certainty about an unconfirmed claim. Many other news outlets took the same tack. “Celebrities, lawmakers rally behind Jussie Smollett in wake of brutal attack,” reported ABC News. “Jussie Smollett Performs at Troubadour Just Days After Chicago Attack: ‘I Had to Be Here Tonight,’ ” read a Los Angeles Times headline. Many commenters linked the alleged attack to larger alleged sicknesses: “The racist, homophobic attack on Jussie Smollett is far-right America’s endgame,” tweeted GQ, in a sentiment echoed by many others.

    And not just the media: Kyle observes that politicians (Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Joe Biden) didn't hesitate to signal their own virtue by condemning the fraudulent attack.

    Judgment-rusher unmentioned by Kyle: Donald Trump.

    That link goes to an AP story, which (by the way) includes an illuminating detail: "The president’s Trump International Hotel & Tower is in the general area where the attack took place."

    Not "alleged attack", you'll notice. But also notice that, in the minds of the AP writers and editors, the Trump tie-in was apparently a relevant detail. I can't help but think their mindset was: "Let's plant the possibility that the attackers were minions employed by Trump to silence a gay Afro-American critic."

  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson uses the Tobias Jussie Smollett tale to wish for A Return to the Regular Order.

    Two relevant facts here are not in dispute: that gay men and members of other minority groups sometimes are targeted for violent crimes by men driven by hatred, and that there has been a years-long epidemic of members of minority groups and allied political activists staging fake hate crimes for their own selfish reasons or to — odious phrase — “raise awareness” about such crimes.

    The irony is that the hoaxers have something in common with Mr. MAGA himself: They desire to proclaim a state of emergency.

    Emergencies are dangerous things. India was in many ways dysfunctional in the 1970s, but it was a democratic society operating under the rule of law until Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency. The prelude to her declaration will not be entirely unfamiliar to contemporary Americans: The executive (in a parliamentary system embedded in the legislature) arrogated new powers unto itself, unhappy with the limitations imposed on it by the other branches of government, in this case the judiciary. Genuine social problems led to tension and unrest, which were channeled into a dispute involving allegations that the election had been monkeyed with. A court case was opened. Mrs. Gandhi lost that case, and, with it, her seat in the upper house of Parliament; the court further banned her from standing for office for six years. She and her supporters argued that she was being removed from office for a conviction on relatively trivial charges (misuse of state resources for political purposes, offenses for which her guilt was never seriously in doubt) and insisted that her critics were not merely engaged in opposition politics but attempting a coup d’état. A state of emergency was declared, and Mrs. Gandhi’s first use of her new emergency powers was to . . . cut off the electricity to the nation’s newspapers. India’s newspapers are a wonderfully troublesome lot. Mrs. Gandhi considered them agents of the coup.

    We can add Jussie Smollett to the long list of people who want to panic us into ill-considered action. So when is he going to announce his presidential candidacy?

  • George F. Will looks at the S-word: It’s common to praise socialism. It’s rarer to define it.

    Time was, socialism meant thorough collectivism: state ownership of the means of production (including arable land), distribution and exchange. When this did not go swimmingly where it was first tried, Lenin said (in 1922) that socialism meant government ownership of the economy’s “commanding heights” — big entities. After many subsequent dilutions, today’s watery conceptions of socialism amount to this: Almost everyone will be nice to almost everyone, using money taken from a few. This means having government distribute, according to its conception of equity, the wealth produced by capitalism. This conception is shaped by muscular factions: the elderly, government employees unions, the steel industry, the sugar growers, and so on and on and on. Some wealth is distributed to the poor; most goes to the “neglected” middle class. Some neglect: The political class talks of little else.

    Bottom line: "This is socialism now: From each faction according to its vulnerability, to each faction according to its ability to confiscate."

  • Richard A. Epstein writes from the Hoover Institution on The Toxic Warren Wealth Tax. I like his rebuttal to those who say "because inequality". Wait a darn minute before you expect me to mindlessly jerk my knee at the I-word:

    It’s not clear why we should worry about inequality of income or wealth. Both concentrate solely on the gap between those at the top and those further down in the distribution. To be sure, the gap is striking. As Saez and Zucman point out, the yearly increase in wealth for the top 0.1 percent between 1980 and 2016 has averaged about 5.3% compared to the general average of 2.5%. But where is the social problem? Why am I worse off because someone else has become better off? The superrich have made their money by providing goods and services to their fellow citizens. Rather than just engaging in massive consumption, the rich, especially at the billionaire level, typically reinvest or give a large fraction of their wealth, often to charitable enterprises. The upshot is that the distribution in consumption is far more equal than that in income.

    Nor is it possible to protest the very rich for their undue political influence. Per person, their influence is great, but on many social issues their views are hardly monolithic. In a world of majoritarian politics, moreover, that isolated 0.1 percent, even if unified, has less in aggregate influence than the unions, civil rights, environmentalist, and consumer groups aligned against them. That differential influence is most evident on taxation. The fraction of total taxes paid by the 90 percent of the population has shrunk over the last 35 years, from over 50 percent to about 35 percent. Currently, about 40 percent of taxes are paid by the top one-percent, which earns just over 20 percent of the income. Piling a wealth tax on top of that tax burden, year after year, is a big deal. Thus, if the wealthy earn about 8 percent return per year on their investments, a wealth tax of 3 percent is like an income tax of 37 percent, on top of the tax on current income. And there’s no reason to think that a Warren wealth tax is necessarily limited to two and three percent. If established, the tax will likely expand.

    Alternatively, it could just be a ploy to get gullible class-warfare wannabes to vote for her.

    Yes, my cynicism has been turned up to 11 of late.

  • Mr. Minuteman has some thoughts on the defunct New York/Amazon "special deal": Amazon's Now Abandoned Special Deal Not So Special.

    Amidst the rhetoric around the abandoned Amazon deal do let me note this - most of the incentives and tax breaks Amazon was offered are available to any qualifying company that moves to New York and/or creates jobs there. These were 80's era tax incentive programs intended to boost New York city and state. Do they make sense today? Probably not for the greatest city in the word, although upstate has needed help since the railroads eclipsed the Erie Canal.

    Like "emergency declarations", corporate-welfare incentives and tax breaks tend to outlive their original justifications (which were probably pretty weak to begin with).

  • And Senator Spartacus rang our LFOD news alert bell: Booker slams Trump over border emergency, says he won't push his vegan diet on Americans.

    Booker, if elected, would be the first vegan president in American history. In a recent interview with VegNews, he lamented that “the tragic reality is this planet simply can’t sustain billions of people consuming industrially produced animal agriculture because of environmental impact.”

    Asked if he would advocate for Americans to eat a vegan diet, Booker said, “I think that whatever you eat is a very personal decision and everybody should what eat what they want to eat. That’s America. That’s freedom. Here it’s live free or die. The last thing we want is government telling us what to eat.”

    Ah, but Cory: how about whether you want to tell farmers what they can produce?

  • And at American Consequences, P.J. "No Relation to Beto" O'Rourke has a quick usage tutorial: Sympathy Versus Empathy.

    Modern moralizing tends to favor empathy over sympathy. The sympathetic formulation, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you,” is mocked. More to current taste in virtue is the empathetic saying – often cited as originating in a wise Native American aphorism – “Never judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.”

    That, however, is not always an act of kindness. As the comedian Emo Philips says, “Never judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. That way, when you do judge him, you’re a mile away and you have his shoes.”

    Also, after lacing up the other person’s footwear, a lot depends on where you’re walking to. If you’re walking a mile to his trailer home from his minimum wage graveyard shift job, that’s one thing. If you’re walking a mile to the 19th hole across the fairways and greens of Augusta National, that’s another, even if the shoes pinch.

    I know that P.J. probably tosses off these columns in under an hour, with the help of a large scotch and a good cigar. But … geez … I am still impressed.

  • And the Union Leader reports on ace detective work by a Plaistow officer cornering an evildoer: Police: Driver used Camel cigarette box for state inspection sticker.

    A driver was stopped by police and ticketed Thursday after police say she attempted to pass off a pack of Camel 99 cigarettes as an official New Hampshire inspection sticker.

    Police said officer Edward Barrasso III noticed what appeared to be a suspicious sticker on a vehicle around 2:20 p.m. on Route 125 and decided to make a stop.

    According to police, the driver stuck the cigarettes in the window and attempted to make them look like an inspection sticker by coloring a reddish border around the box and writing "09-19" in the middle.

    Obligatory libertarian observation: not even the People's Republic of California requires periodic inspections. Only about a dozen states require yearly inspections on most cars. Particularly galling for owners of cars with LFOD on the plates.

Last Modified 2019-02-19 6:17 AM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2019-02-17 Update

[Amazon Link]

A small technical change to our Betfair-derived probability calculations implemented this week: If there's a huge (arbitrarily, greater than 175%) difference between Betfair's "Back all" and "Lay all" prices for a candidate, we assume that the market is too thinly traded to be reliable, and omit that candidate.

This change causes Mike Pence and (surprisingly)  Kirsten Gillibrand to disappear from our standings this week. Sorry, kids. Encourage your backers to put up some money on you.

On the phony front, Kamala Harris nearly doubled her phony Google hits this week, leaving everyone else way behind. (We award her with our Amazon Product Placement of the week, which I'm sure will please any number of her fans.)

Unexpectedly, Beto O'Rourke jumped into second place with an over-eightfold increase in his phony hits.

No doubt: third-place President Trump needs to step up his phony game. (But if you're taking this at all seriously, please see that disclaimer at the bottom of the table.)

Candidate WinProb Change
Kamala Harris 14.1% -1.1% 22,100,000 +11,300,000
Beto O'Rourke 7.1% -1.6% 4,870,000 +4,285,000
Donald Trump 32.0% +1.5% 2,500,000 +10,000
Michael Bloomberg 3.1% +0.6% 624,000 +56,000
Bernie Sanders 5.1% +0.6% 520,000 +69,000
Amy Klobuchar 4.5% +1.2% 515,000 +344,000
Tulsi Gabbard 2.0% unch 360,000 -38,000
Joe Biden 8.0% -0.3% 204,000 +6,000
Sherrod Brown 3.3% -1.0% 176,000 -7,000
Elizabeth Warren 5.3% +1.9% 165,000 -25,000

Standard disclaimer: Google result counts are bogus.

  • Brendan Nyhan has decamped from that college on the other side of the state to the University of Michigan. But he has a provocative take, phony-wise, at Medium: A Politician’s Authenticity Doesn’t Matter. Especially food-based authenticity:

    With the 2020 presidential campaign officially underway, the worst excesses of political reporting are once again rearing their ugly heads — most notably, the media’s preoccupation with candidates’ authenticity, an obsession that has marred so many recent presidential campaigns. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand became the latest victim of the authenticity police on Saturday, after she had the audacity to ask whether it was appropriate to use her fingers or a fork to eat the fried chicken she was served at a women’s brunch in South Carolina.

    New York’s Frank Rich asked on Twitter, “Is there anything Gillibrand has done that is not contrived and opportunistic? I ask the question seriously. Replies welcome.” New York Times columnist Frank Bruni went further, writing that “you got the sense that she would have grabbed that chicken with her pinkie toes if she’d been told to… Anything to conform. Anything to please.”

    With respect to Professor Nyhan, this sort of thing, food etiquette (or lack thereof) proxying for authenticity, has been going on for a while. A tweet exhuming a blurb from a 1964 New York Times article:

    At the time, RFK was running for US Senate, ironically the same seat that Kirsten Gillibrand now occupies. As far as I know, nobody measured how many votes his inauthentic pizza-eating cost him in the South Village.

    Prof Nyhan goes on to observe how candidates get "trapped" in what he calls the authenticity doom loop (in a column we linked to back in 2015): "a pattern in which attempts to showcase a candidate’s authenticity are taken as proof of the opposite."

    Self-interestedly, I hope that candidates and the media fail to take Brendan's advice. I'd have a lot less to write about.

    (And, yes, I know Senator Kirsten isn't currently included in our phony poll, but …)

  • But we have to point you to another in Jim Geraghty's "things you probably didn't know" series: 20 Things You Probably Didn’t Know about Kirsten Gillibrand. You don't have to dive very far down to find…

    3. Gillibrand went to high school at the prestigious Emma Willard School in Troy, arguably the most prestigious private high school in New York. In 1984 she enrolled at Dartmouth; she spent the summer of 1986 at Beijing Normal University in China and the fall semester at Tunghai University in Taiwan.

    After Dartmouth she attended UCLA Law School and spent a summer interning in the Albany office of then-senator Al D’Amato. She was also selected for internships at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and at the offices of United Nations Crime Prevention in Vienna, Austria.

    In her book, Gillibrand describes her childhood as “the stereotypical 1970s middle-class experience — cul de sac, family dinners.” The Washington Post described Gillibrand’s upbringing as that of a “middle-class Roman Catholic Albany schoolgirl.”

    Well, I suppose that sounds better than "privileged daughter of a politically well-connected family."

  • Indispensible Geraghty expands on Kirsten in a Morning Jolt newsletter, in which he holds out hope that she'll rise from her long-shot status: Kirsten Gillibrand's 2020 Presidential Hopes Shouldn't Be Underestimated.

    There’s a strange false modesty at work in Gillibrand’s nascent campaign. When she announced her bid on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, she declared, “I’m going to run for president of the United States because as a young mom, I’m going to fight for other people’s kids as hard as I would fight for my own.” But America has a lot of wonderful young moms, and very few of them get elected to the House or Senate or get invited to sit on Colbert’s couch. “Vote for me because I’m a mom like you” is an argument that hand-waves away everything that makes Gillibrand unique.

    What makes her unique is that year by year, she became exactly what is required to succeed in New York politics, which is basically a synonym for New York Democratic politics. This meant dramatic flip-flops on issues like guns and illegal immigration when she moved from the House to the Senate. When she was appointed to fill out Hillary Clinton’s term, both Democratic rivals and New York Republicans thought she would be beatable. No one’s ever cracked more than 36 percent against her in a statewide primary or general election. She can schmooze both farmers and Wall Street, charm reporters from Vogue and Politico, laugh with Jon Stewart, and hit it off with Charlie Rose. She defends abortion on demand, then attends Bible studies with her GOP Senate colleagues. She calls for bipartisanship and boasts that she’s voted against every one of President Trump’s cabinet appointees. She boasts about voting against the TARP bailout twice, but is now courting Wall Street executives to help out her campaign.

    Marvel comics used to feature a villain called the “Super-Adaptoid,” a robot that could adopt or mimic the powers of anyone it encountered. Gillibrand evolves to fit her environment quickly — and her foes would be foolish to underestimate her.

    She currently sits in the Senate seat occupied by Hillary Clinton. It would be interesting if she manages to do something Hillary couldn't: beat Donald Trump.

  • Paul Mirengoff considers the current crop of Democratic candidates to be Phonies on parade.

    Elizabeth Warren claimed to be an Indian. She isn’t.

    Kamala Harris claims to have been a “progressive prosecutor.” She wasn’t.

    Amy Klobuchar holds herself out as “Minnesota Nice.” She isn’t.

    Etc. Nothing much new, but it's all in one place.

    Surprisingly, Paul considers Bernie Sanders to be "the real deal". Well, maybe in comparison…

  • Emily Jashinsky, at the Federalist looks at Cory Booker: A Man Of Fake Cheese And Fake Friends.

    What kind of man is Cory Booker? Combine the bravery of Spartacus with the hair of Vin Diesel and the diet of a yoga instructor living off a trust-fund. That’s the junior senator from New Jersey — a man who earlier this month praised the abominable trend of “incredible vegan cheese shops popping up across the country.” Such a judgement could come only from a person who has not eaten cheese in at least five years, when Booker converted from vegetarianism to veganism.

    “Suddenly,” he recently told something called VegNews, “eating those eggs for me was something that didn’t align with my spirit, and I could feel it.” How exactly one senses a sudden misalignment between eggs and his own spirit remains unclear. I will assume it involves reading too much VegNews.

    As far as "fake friends" go, that's Booker's well-known fabrication of "T-Bone". Emily's bottom line: "Cory Booker is the vegan cheese of politicians."

    (As with Kirsten G., I know Cory B. isn't currently meeting the criteria for inclusion in our phony poll, but I have hopes he'll return.)

  • I shouldn't miss commenting on Kamala Harris's self-proclaimed fondness for the wacky weed. See (again) Indispensible Geraghty on: Kamala Harris, Pot-Smoking Drug Prosecutor.

    This morning, Kamala Harris admitted she once smoked marijuana when she was younger.

    This would hardly be a scandal in the world of 2019 — except that when running for reelection as San Francisco’s district attorney, Harris boasted she had increased convictions of drug dealers from 56 percent in 2003 to 74 percent in 2006. Almost certainly, some of those convicted dealers were selling marijuana. California did not legalize marijuana for recreational purposes until 2016. She also boasted that she “closed legal loopholes that were allowing drug dealers to escape prosecution.” In one of her books, Harris wrote, “60 percent of the new felony cases annually were nonviolent drug crimes.”

    In other words, as a young woman Harris obtained marijuana and enjoyed it, and then later in life she prosecuted people for selling and possessing the same product that she had enjoyed.

    I suppose she would follow in a long Presidential tradition of Bill "Didn't Inhale" Clinton and Barack "Choom Gang" Obama.

  • But Nick Gillespie, at Reason, notes the real story: Kamala Harris Got So High Smoking Weed in College She Thought She Was Listening To Snoop Dogg and Tupac.

    In an interview yesterday with the radio show The Breakfast Club, Harris admitted to smoking weed in college ("I did inhale," she said, laughing, "I just broke news!") and that she listened to Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur while getting high. Here's the problem: Harris graduated from Howard in 1986 and law school in 1989. Snoop Dogg, then known as Snoop Doggy Dogg, didn't get started until 1992 and Tupac's "career did not take off until the early 1990s when he debuted in Digital Underground's 'Same Song' from the soundtrack to the 1991 film Nothing but Trouble."

    So either Harris was baked enough to time travel or she hit the bong after being in school. Not cool for a candidate whose slogan is "speaking truth, demanding justice." Most likely, she's just trying to curate a playlist that sends the right message. In this, she's hardly alone. We can recall, for instance, the way in which Al Gore quickly morphed from hosting a Senate panel on "porn rock" in 1985 (which included testimony from his wife Tipper, who headed up the Parents Music Resource Center, a group committed to combating sex, drugs, and satanism in popular entertainment) to becoming the world's most public—if unconvincing—Grateful Dead fan just a few years later. In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama dictated an iPod playlist to Rolling Stone that was curiously inclusive of just about every possible demographic that might vote for him. Especially in an age of forced transparency, why do politicians feel a need to do this?

    Here's hoping this all gets cleared up, hilariously.

  • Sadly, the Democratic field has been a lot more interesting, phony-wise than the Republican side. Yes, Donald Trump is a huge phony. But that's not really news.

    But another GOP candidate has emerged, one who doesn't even appear on Betfair's wagering radar yet. In this Reason article, Matt Welch notes Bill Weld Is Prepping To Be the First—and Most Improbable—Primary Challenger to Donald Trump.

    Can a pro-choice, pro-amnesty "Libertarian for life" who backed Barack Obama in 2008, thinks the phrase "all lives matter" is "nothing but a dog whistle," and maintained throughout 2016 that Hillary Clinton is preferable to Donald Trump, truly be competitive in the 2020 Republican Party presidential primary? That's what Bill Weld is set to begin finding out in New Hampshire tomorrow morning, when he takes what his friends are forecasting as a substantial move toward declaring his candidacy for president.

    Weld, the 2016 Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee and current* honorary chair of a nonprofit whose purpose is to "stop the political duopoly" (*Update: Our America Initiative announced this afternoon that Weld has resigned that post effective today), took the pre-primary step January 17 of switching his Massachusetts voter registration back to a Trump-led GOP that he has repeatedly compared to the xenophobic Know-Nothing Party of the 1850s. He has scheduled a second New Hampshire visit for February 26, he has recruited former New Hampshire Republican Party Chair Jennifer Horn to help, and his allies are writing thinkpieces about how "Democrats' hopes to take back the White House may lie in the hands of a Republican candidate." (Update 2: WMUR is reporting that Weld will announce Friday the formation of an exploratory committee.)

    That "Libertarian for life" thing will kind of sting, I think, should anyone ask him about it. "Were you high when you said that?"

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • P.J. O'Rourke writes with wit and insight (as usual) at his American Consequences gig: Learning to Love Our Emotions.

    It’s an old Wall Street saying: “Markets are driven by greed and fear.”

    If so, markets are a sort of one-man full-court basketball game where you dribble acquisitively down the floorboards to sink an Avarice basket, only to find that the Worry side is down by two points, and then, panic-stricken, you have to pass the ball to yourself back across the center line and make a Safe Haven layup.

    This is a ridiculous metaphor for investing.

    Warren Buffett, in his 2004 Annual Shareholder Letter, famously said, “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy only when others are fearful.”

    Good advice, if you can assume that everybody’s wrong all the time.

    [But if you do assume that, you might want to get today's Amazon Product du Jour.]

    Also in P.J.'s crosshairs: John Maynard Keynes, Oliver Stone, FDR. Heros: Gordon Gekko, Dave Barry ("America’s most profound philosopher"),

  • At Reason, Michael J. Socolow has a timely article about a In a State of Emergency, the President Can Control Your Phone, Your TV, and Even Your Light Switches.

    December 11, 1941, is not nearly as memorable a date as the one that lives in infamy. But that Thursday after Pearl Harbor is still an important moment in American history, because it's the day that Germany declared war on the United States and the U.S. immediately reciprocated. And it was on that date that President Franklin Roosevelt told his press secretary, Stephen T. Early, that the government should take over one of the national broadcast networks.

    Early informed James L. Fly, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and director of the newly created Defense Communications Board (DCB), that Roosevelt had personally directed Fly to acquire a national broadcast network for the government. The DCB had been created for just such a national emergency: Its mandate was to coordinate all communications (both military and civilian) in case of war or another national emergency. Both the FCC and the DCB were empowered by Section 606 of the 1934 Communications Act, which expressly gave the president full control over electronic transmissions in such circumstances.

    The light switches thing is kind of a stretch, but it's kind of disquieting to know that this is just one example of the kind of power a president can legally exert.

  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File this week is on DJT and The Failure of the Deal.

    I had my say on the emergency declaration yesterday, and I’m sure I’ll have to say it all again not very far down the road.

    But there is a point that I think needs to be made. The reason President Trump finds it necessary to declare a national emergency stems from the fact that he is not the world’s greatest dealmaker.

    If President Trump had signed the budget deal last December, he would have gotten more wall funding than he did after forcing a government shutdown. For two years, Republicans controlled Congress, and no wall was built. If you want to blame the congressional GOP for that, be my guest. But then don’t give sole credit to the president for everything Congress did pass.

    Jonah also has a great discussion (based on an interview about Venezuela on his podcast) about "Gangsterism and Socialism". The lack of differences… may surprise you! Or not.

  • [Amazon Link]
    And Wired has an interview with Gregory Benford. His new novel (a sequel to Timescape) is out, in which it is revealed: Sci-Fi Author Robert Heinlein Was Basically MacGyver.

    Heinlein appears as a character in Benford’s new novel, a time travel thriller called Rewrite. The novel depicts Heinlein as a MacGyver-esque man of action who dispatches his enemies with the aid of improvised traps. Benford, who met Heinlein in the late 1960s and knew him throughout his life, says this is an extremely accurate portrayal.

    “He had a degree in engineering from Annapolis, and he liked doing things himself,” Benford says. “You can certainly see it in his novels, which are full of people rigging stuff up and making it work. He loved that kind of thing.”

    Heinlein’s DIY attitude even extended to his houses, which he designed himself and which also displayed his technical flair. “He over-pressured this circular house he built in Santa Cruz so that when you open the doors, dust doesn’t blow in, it blows out,” Benford says. “Plus the fact that over-pressuring your house gives you a little more oxygen to run on.”

    Another addition to the things-to-read list. It's not getting any shorter!

Last Modified 2019-03-02 11:19 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Pun Salad is no fan of crony capitalism, and there was plenty of that in the now-defunct deal to put an Amazon HQ in Queens, NY. But Seth Barron, writing in City Journal makes some interesting points: Critics of Queens Amazon deal have preserved stagnation and called it progress.

    Opponents claimed that the incentives offered to Amazon were unfair, and they have a point: most corporate subsidies are ineffective and wasteful. But Amazon wasn’t being offered anything obscene. Job-creation tax incentives are written into state law and are available to any company doing business in New York, and represent foregone taxes on income that otherwise wouldn't exist. And the local politicians crying loudest have never squawked about the $420 million in transferable tax credits that the state gives every year to the film and television industries. Why would they? Many take major campaign contributions from the studios based in their Queens districts. “I hope this is the start of a conversation about vulture capitalism and where our tax dollars are best spent,” city council speaker Corey Johnson, a 2021 mayoral hopeful, said in a prepared statement. He has received substantial contributions from film and television industry executives, too, and has never complained about the Empire State Film Tax Credit Program.

    Dear Mr. Bezos: I'm sure you'll wind up on your feet, even if those feet don't land in Queens. If you can get along without state and local handouts, New Hampshire is nice.

    Philip Greenspun also has his usual amusing observations on the topic. What stuck with me was this comment: “It is a dark day when small retailers in NYC are denied the opportunity to pay the expenses of their largest competitor.”

  • George F. Will's column this week observes that Progressives are emulating Trump — and reality is leaking from American life. Exemplified by the Green New Deal (GND):

    Every endorser of the GND thereby endorses its claim to life-or-death urgency, yet — cognitive dissonance alert — every endorser knows that none of it will happen. Its authors say, “There is no time to waste.” Strange. The last Democratic administration, which departed just 25 months ago, proposed approximately none of what the GND says we cannot survive without.

    The GND has no practical importance but much significance. First, it underscores the rise of the politics of gestures that are as flamboyant as they are empty: President Trump has his wall, the left has its GND. Second, it reprises the progressive desire to militarize everything but the military, to conscript everyone into vast collective undertakings that supposedly justify vast excisions from personal liberty and the setting aside of pesky constitutional impediments. See President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s call in his first inaugural address for power “as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.”

    And, finally: "the GND reveals progressives’ embrace of Trump’s political style, a stew of frivolity and mendacity." Hey, you gotta go with what works in these stupid times.

  • The Bulwark is a collection of anti-Trump conservatives mostly collected from the ruins of the Weekly Standard. So far… eh, it's not that interesting (even though you'd think I'd be in their target audience). But this article from Liz Mair rang the Google LFOD alert: William Weld Could Make 2020 Interesting. Here’s How. Specifically, Liz thinks Weld's got a shot to make a splash in New Hampshire:

    Weld is well-known in the state whose motto is “Live Free or Die,” and he undoubtedly has better currency there, because of all these factors plus one more: He was the 2016 Libertarian vice presidential nominee in a year when the Libertarian ticket got about 3.3 percent of the vote nationwide and 4.2 percent in the Granite State itself. Tack on some aggrieved #NeverTrumpers who voted for Clinton in 2016 but will play in a GOP primary contest in 2020, plus independents and moderate-to-libertarian Republicans who have fond memories of Weld, and it’s pretty conceivable that Weld could get to 10 percent or higher.

    Liz's argument also relies on Weld's being Massachusetts governor over twenty years ago.

    I have no burning desire to vote for Weld in the NH primary, because he's an opportunistic, unprincipled, flake.

    But I probably will, because he'll be running against a different opportunistic, unprincipled, flake.

  • Also on the LFOD front: the Buffalo [NY] State Record looks at Black History and religious progress. Reproducing an 1860 letter to the editor in the New York Daily Tribune from "An Old Republican":

    [W]hile we adjured the God of Hosts to witness our resolution to live free or die, and imprecated curses on their heads who refused to unite with us in establishing the empire of freedom, we were imposing upon our fellow-men, who differ in complexion from us, a Slavery ten thousand times more cruel than the utmost extremity of the grievances and oppressions of which we complained.”


How Language Began

The Story of Humanity's Greatest Invention

[Amazon Link]

The author of How Language Began is Daniel L. Everett, the hero of what turned out to be the final book from the late Tom Wolfe, The Kingdom of Speech, which I read back in 2016. Everett's primary claim to fame is his demurral from the Noam Chomsky school of human language: that we have a "language organ" in our brains that provides us with the power to generate syntactical sentences.

Wait a minute, says Everett. His research into the language of the Pirahã, a primitive Amazonian tribe, didn't fit into the Chomskian paradigm at all. Language, according to Everett, isn't "built in", it's not in any sense a hardwired "instinct". (Thereby contradicting a Pun Salad fave, Steven Pinker.) Instead, it's an invention of the human mind, like (as I've said before) a pencil or Buick.

Everett contends that "we" have been conversing in at least rudimentary ways (but distinct from animal communication) since the days of Homo erectus. This involves, obviously, a lot of discussion/argument about what language, at root, actually is. But Everett's arguments are at least plausible to my untrained brain.

I didn't find the book uniformly interesting. Everett seems to belabor the obvious at certain points. His prose is occasionally clunky. (And the book doesn't seem well-edited. One symptom: a footnote on page 277 has a misplaced asterisk in the text, very confusing.)

And remember, this is a controversial topic, and we're only seeing Everett's side of the controversy here. Which is fine, but it just means that the interested lay reader (me) probably should remain skeptical of both sides until there's a scientific consensus.

But there's a lot of stuff I didn't know, or didn't adequately appreciate previously. One example: we know that we need big-enough brains to use language. But Everett notes that many other parts of the human organism are involved, all of which needed to be evolved "enough" to handle the desired communicative tasks. For example, we have a remarkably flexible sound-generation system in our mouths, throats, and lungs, something only a few other species boast. Not only can it make the necessary range of phonemes, but also construct widely various pitches and volumes. And it pairs up well with our sound-reception organs, which can detect the subtlest differences in incoming acoustic vibrations.

All thanks (allegedly) to the "dumb luck" of evolution. A lot of things had to go right in order for language to work; enough to make me seriously consider creationism again.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Arthur C. Brooks writes in a February 14-appropriate way in the WaPo: The U.S. is in a crisis of love.

    Consider the evidence. Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, has found a precipitous decline in romantic interest among young people in what she calls “iGen,” the post-millennial generation growing up since just before the turn of the century. She notes in her research that while 85 percent of Generation X and baby boomers went on dates as high school seniors, the percentage of high school seniors who went on dates in 2015 had fallen to 56 percent. I asked my son, a junior in college, if this matched his experience. His matter-of-fact reply: “No one dates.”

    It’s not just iGen; millennials are living more loveless lives as well. According to the General Social Survey, from 1989 to 2016, the percentage of married people in their 20s fell from 32 percent to 19 percent. And lest you think they are forgoing marriage but not sex, note that the percentage of 20-somethings who had no sex in the past year rose by half over the same period, from 12 percent to 18 percent.

    Not surprisingly, Valentine’s Day celebrations reflect the change. According to a 2015 survey from the pet health company VetIQ, 69 percent of American pet owners reported planning to give their pets a Valentine’s Day gift. In contrast, only 61 percent planned to give a gift to a spouse or significant other. I’m sure your ferret will appreciate those chocolates, you incurable romantic.

    I didn't get the pets anything. I'm pretty sure they didn't notice.

  • At Quillette, Richard Hanania reports that It Isn’t Your Imagination: Twitter Treats Conservatives More Harshly Than Liberals. Jack Dorsey has denied that Twitter has any political bias. But:

    Not everyone is convinced. A June, 2018 Pew poll found that 72% of Americans believe that social media companies censor views they don’t like, with members of the public being four times more likely to report a belief that such institutions favor liberals over conservatives than the opposite. Podcasters Joe Rogan and Sam Harris both received backlash from their respective audiences for not pressing Dorsey hard enough on the censorship issue.

    Until now, conservatives have had to rely on anecdotes to make their case. To see whether there is an empirical basis for such claims, I decided to look into the issue of Twitter bias by putting together a database of prominent, politically active users who are known to have been temporarily or permanently suspended from the platform. My results make it difficult to take claims of political neutrality seriously. Of 22 prominent, politically active individuals who are known to have been suspended since 2005 and who expressed a preference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, 21 supported Donald Trump.

    I'm pretty innocuous on Facebook and Twitter, but (then again) I have not yet suggested that anyone learn to code.

    Hanania (see his last paragraph) seems to view Twitter as a "utility" which the government ("we") can and should regulate. I (of course) disagree: Twitter can do whatever Twitter wants. It's a free country.

    But I would respect Twitter a lot more if they were honest and transparent about their actual rules: "We will throw you off if you say anything that a member of any oppressed group claims to be upset about. The definition of "oppressed group" is subject to our whimsical Progressivism."

  • This Slashdot story makes me reevaluate my estimate of Gavin Newsom's intelligence… downward: California Governor Proposes Digital Dividend Aimed At Big Tech.

    California Governor Gavin Newsom proposed a "digital dividend" that would let consumers share in the billions of dollars made by technology companies in the most populous U.S. state. In his "State of the State" speech on Tuesday, Newsom said California is proud to be home to tech firms. But he said companies that make billions of dollars "collecting, curating and monetizing our personal data have a duty to protect it. Consumers have a right to know and control how their data is being used." He went further by suggesting the companies share some of those profits, joining other politicians calling for higher levies on the wealthy in U.S. society. "California's consumers should also be able to share in the wealth that is created from their data," Newsom said. "And so I've asked my team to develop a proposal for a new data dividend for Californians, because we recognize that data has value and it belongs to you." Newsom didn't describe what form the dividend might take, although he said "we can do something bold in this space." He also praised a tough California data-privacy law that will kick in next year.

    Egads, what a demagogic muddle. And (worse) it's used to justify a proposed fiscal panty raid on tech companies.

    I can't even imagine a coherent theory of property rights that hides behind Newsom's casual assertion that "California's consumers should also be able to share in the wealth that is created from their data."

    Their data? Please enlighten me, Governor, on your theory of individual property rights in data. I would wager that it's roughly as coherent as David Icke's theories about the Lizard People.

    Even though I am not a California Consumer, I know that (for example) Amazon knows nothing about me that I haven't implictly or explicitly told it, under terms I agreed to.

    Yes, they make money off me, at least I hope so.

    Newsom wants a cut of that? (Or would, were I a California Consumer?) Give me a break.

  • At City Journal Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox obituize California high-speed rail: This Train Won’t Leave the Station.

    Perhaps the most critical national casualty may be the Green New Deal proposed by New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Much of her platform for a ten-year transformation of the American economy centers on transportation. In her bid to kill the internal-combustion engine, Ocasio-Cortez apparently seeks to eliminate both cars and planes. Her favored solution for cross-continental travel: a massive network of high-speed trains.

    Some of this must seem fanciful even to the democratic-socialist heartthrob from the Bronx. In contrast with Western Europe, where several high-speed rail lines operate, the United States has huge distances between cities; its average population density is between three and ten times less compact than that of the European continent. Even on the California coast, a 450-mile high-speed rail trip from  Los Angeles to San Francisco would have taken nearly four hours, compared with a one-hour plane ride. Imagine taking high-speed rail from Los Angeles to Chicago: a three-hour trip by plane becomes a 15-hour or longer trek across vast, empty spaces. During that time, the traveler would cover more high-speed rail mileage than the current length of the entire French system.

    Even fervent supporters of the Green New Deal must recognize what California’s cancellation means: if high-speed rail is not feasible in the state with the three densest major metro areas in the nation, and the highest overall urban density, it is not feasible anywhere else in the United States. (And not just here: Britain’s proposed high-speed rail megaproject, HS2, also appears on the verge of cancellation. Sounding like Governor Newsom, a senior government official told Channel 4’s Dispatches public affairs program: “The costs are spiraling so much we’ve been actively considering other scenarios, including scrapping the entire project.”) It also suggests that the costs for a national network would be formidable and would require the printing presses at the Treasury to work overtime. Of the many high-speed rail lines built in the developed world, only two (Tokyo-Osaka and Paris-Lyon) have ever been profitable, and in each case highway tolls for the same routes exceed $80 one-way, making high-speed rail in those cases an economical consumer choice. California, the green heart of the resistance, has met fiscal reality; reality won.           

    The current plan is to complete the link between Merced and Bakersfield. I.e., they still plan on an idiotic waste of money, just not as much as before.

  • Your probable next President, Senator Kamala Tweeted about taxes:

    Congratulations, Kamala. Even with Twitter's strict length limits, you've managed to earn a coveted Four Pinocchios from Glenn Kessler in the Washington Post: Kamala Harris leaps to unwarranted conclusions in tax tweet.

    The average tax refund is down, at least according to very preliminary data for returns processed through Feb. 1. (That’s essentially one week of filing data.) But the size of a refund tells you nothing about a person’s tax bill.

    The tax law required the IRS to change tax withholding tables. The IRS encouraged Americans to review and update their W-4 forms to make sure the right amount was being withheld from their paychecks, but a survey by H&R Block indicated that 80 percent of Americans failed to do so.

    In other words, if you left everything just the same, you can’t expect the same result. The new tax law raised the standard deduction but also eliminated personal and dependent tax exemptions. While the law reduced tax rates, it also capped a deduction for state, local and real estate taxes, which could really mess up a person’s tax situation, especially if they live in a state with high taxes such as California, New York and New Jersey.

    She's a liar. Maybe not on Trump's scale yet, but give her time.

  • There's good Wired and bad Wired; here's an example of the former, from Matt Simon: R.I.P., Opportunity Rover: the Hardest-Working Robot in the Solar System.

    Last night, NASA reached out one final time to the Opportunity rover on Mars, hoping the golf-cart-sized machine would phone home with good news. Since June, the robot has been unresponsive, likely because a planet-wide sandstorm coated its solar panels in dust. NASA has pinged it over 1,000 times in those gloomy eight months, to no avail. Last night’s attempt was no exception: NASA has announced that Opportunity is officially dead.


    So yes, Opportunity is technically dead. But perhaps it’s more accurate to say it’s bravely completed its mission—and then some. It was only expected to scoot about the martian surface for three months, yet here we are 15 years later. It was designed to travel just 1,100 yards, yet ended up roving a stunning 28 miles. With its companion rover Spirit, the two robots studied the hell out of the Red Planet, exploring geology and dust devils and even finding meteorites.

    NASA and JPL can and should be proud. I also like xkcd's obituary:


    Sigh. I used to assume I'd go there myself one day.

Last Modified 2019-02-14 1:24 PM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • A Reuters-quoting Slashdot story: California Will Not Complete $77 Billion High-Speed Rail Project.

    California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Tuesday the state will not complete a $77.3 billion planned high-speed rail project, but will finish a smaller section of the line. "The project, as currently planned, would cost too much and take too long. There's been too little oversight and not enough transparency," Newsom said in his first State of the State Address Tuesday to lawmakers. "Right now, there simply isn't a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to (Los Angeles). I wish there were," he said. Newsom said the state will complete a 110-mile (177 km) high-speed rail link between Merced and Bakersfield. In March 2018, the state forecast the costs had jumped by $13 billion to $77 billion and warned that the costs could be as much as $98.1 billion.

    California planned to build a 520-mile system in the first phase that would allow trains to travel at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour in the traffic-choked state from Los Angeles to San Francisco and begin full operations by 2033. Newsom said he would not give up entirely on the effort. "Abandoning high-speed rail entirely means we will have wasted billions of dollars with nothing but broken promises and lawsuits to show for it," he said. "And by the way, I am not interested in sending $3.5 billion in federal funding that was allocated to this project back to Donald Trump."

    Things to note: (1) Invocation of the sunk cost fallacy shows that Governor Newsom is only half-smart; (2) Federal taxpayers (not "Donald Trump") are being played for suckers, again.

    California previously threw up its collective hands on single-payer health care. Now high-speed rail.

    My question: Among the states, California's GDP is the highest by far. If they can't make Green New Deal fantasies work there, how can they work anywhere?

  • At National Review, Charles C.W. Cooke notes something about the Green New Deal — There Is None.

    What Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has thrust upon our national conversation is not, in any sense, a “Green New Deal.” It does not resemble a Green New Deal. It does not approximate a Green New Deal. It does not so much as represent the shadows or the framework or the embryo of a Green New Deal. It is, instead, the inchoate shopping list of a political novice who has managed to get herself elected to Congress and believes that this has turned her into a visionary.

    As is her prerogative, Ocasio-Cortez can name her work as she sees fit. But her document is in no manner a “plan.” It is in no context a “program.” It is in no way an “approach.” It is not an outline, a manifesto, a statement, or a catechism. It is, rather, an all-compassing wish list — an untrammeled Dear Santa letter without form, purpose, borders, or basis in reality. It is not even “green,” except in that peculiar, mind-wrecking way that “intersectionality” seeks to make everything part of everything else, and thus leads to Planned Parenthood insisting that “Net Neutrality is reproductive justice” and to the Democratic Socialists of America proclaiming that we can’t possibly fix our algae problems until we institute union card check. Debates over the minutiae may fill the hours on cable news, but it does not, in fact, much matter whether the FAQ had been perfectly edited before release, or whether the PDF had been appropriately updated by its author, or whether the language in section 2, subsection 5 had been properly reviewed by the committee. It does not matter, either, whether Ocasio-Cortez eventually manages to get half the press corps or all of the press corps to cover for her disingenuousness. FAQ or not, the work deserves no serious evaluation beyond grim, derisive laughter. Clearly panicked by what Ocasio-Cortez was doing to her nascent majority’s agenda, Speaker Pelosi described the document disparagingly as a “green dream.” Tangerine Dream would have been closer to the mark. But Edgar Froese had talent.

    We are lucky to have Charles as an American.

  • The WaPo's Megan McArdle has an interesting point: Democrats are learning to copy Trump. Uh-oh. Her observations, based on Sandy Ocasio-Cortez's "gaslighting" effort to deny the wacky FAQ verbiage about farting cows, etc.

    Someone in the Ocasio-Cortez office had forgotten to remove a parenthetical note clearly meant for internal consumption: “We will begin work immediately on Green New Deal bills to put the nuts and bolts on the plan described in this resolution (important to say so someone else can’t claim this mantle).” Even more embarrassing, the FAQ implied that the deal would ultimately ban air travel and scour the country clean of cows.

    It was an inauspicious launch for the signature new initiative of the Democratic Party’s signature new star. Instead of confessing that they were still learning how policymaking works, Ocasio-Cortez apparently decided to just pretend it hadn’t happened — not in the sense of ignoring the gibes and hoping to live it down but in the sense of an Obi-Wanian “these are not the droids you’re looking for.”

    Megan notes that, mostly, the GOP has cravenly gotten behind President Trump's narcissistic exaggerations and arrogant lies. And now, she wonders, are the Democrats about to perform the same maneuver for Sandy?

  • Also at the WaPo, Charles Lane remains fact based, asking and answering the musical question: Can a bitter policy argument be settled by the real world? For once, yes.

    In terms of total revenue, Boeing, the aerospace giant, had its best year ever in 2018, with worldwide sales of $101.1 billion.

    Exports were particularly robust. Commercial jet deliveries to foreign airlines rose from 763 in 2017 to 806 last year. Overall, the company has a 5,900-order backlog for airplanes worth a staggering $412 billion, according to The Post last week.

    Congratulations, Boeing! You have created jobs for workers and value for shareholders. The only losers might be your Washington lobbyists. Their argument that Boeing and other U.S. makers of big-ticket manufactured products cannot compete internationally without taxpayer help, in the form of government-guaranteed credit from the Export-Import Bank, has been badly undercut.

    Bottom line: the sky didn't fall when the ExIm Bank's lending powers were curtailed in 2015, for Boeing or any other company. Time to pull the plug totally.

  • At Cato, Chris Edwards looks at Elizabeth Warren's plea to raise Taxes on [the] Tippy Tippy Top.

    U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren told CNBC the other day: “I want these billionaires to stop being freeloaders … I want them to pick up their fair share.”

    Are billionaires freeloaders? To get an idea, we can look at IRS data on the Top 400 taxpayers in the nation with the highest incomes.

    The Top 400 paid $29.4 billion in federal income taxes in 2014, an average of $74 million each. These “freeloaders” together paid enough to more than fund the budgets of NASA and the EPA that year ($26 billion).

    Anyone who talks about "fair share" taxation is a scammer.


[2.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

It's kind of amazing that it took me until the middle of February to watch my first movie of 2019. I used to be more of a movie fanatic. Nowadays, not so much. Not sure why.

Anyway: For some reason, the Netflix algorithm thought I would like this movie a lot. I thought it was, instead, kind of a snooze.

Not that its heart isn't in the right place. It is the true story of Virginia couple Mildred and Joe Loving (Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton, respectively) who fell in love, and got married in the District of Columbia in 1958. Unfortunately, Mildred was "colored", Joe was white, and that was a no-no in Virginia. They were arrested, jailed, and exiled from the state that today claims to be "for lovers". Eventually, they decided to sue, and their case caused the Supreme Court, in 1967, to strike down all laws banning interracial marriage.

So that's good.

Unlike a lot of "based on a true story" movies, Loving is very historically accurate, according to the research at History vs Hollywod. Which is (sorry) kind of the problem. What drama there is is molasses-slow. There are a lot of scenes where nothing much happens. Michael Shannon shows up as Life photographer Grey Villet, shoots some pix, and then vanishes. Just like what actually happened, but… not particularly interesting.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Jonah Goldberg's article in dead-trees National Review on the latest Moral Equivalent of War (MEOW) is out on the web (but I don't know if it's paywalled): Everyone a Conscript.

    ‘So, when we talk about existential threats — the last time we had a really major existential threat to this country was around World War II,” then-candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez explained at a town-hall meeting last fall, making her case for a “Green New Deal.” Referencing the way America mobilized for war against the Nazis, she granted that “none of these things are new ideas” and that World War II provides a “blueprint of doing this before.”

    Putting aside the temptation to dwell on the question of what a minor existential threat might look like as opposed to a “really major” one, we should find it a remarkable argument in several ways. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has been lionized and vilified as a socialist radical by the Left and the Right respectively (treatment she brilliantly encourages on social media and elsewhere), and yet by her own admission her ideas are not new. And she is right.

    Jonah does a deep dive into the history and implications of MEOW. And the lesson for sensible people should be: avoid at all costs.

    Today's Amazon Product du Jour: William James's MEOW essay, a mere 99¢ on Kindle. But read Jonah first, you might find 99¢ to be far more than the essay's worth.

  • Wired is still, occasionally, a good source for geeky journalism. But on the environmental front, the lunatics have taken over, so it's also a good source for ludicrous scare-mongering and hand-wringing. Latest example from a guy named Alex Baca, who purports to tell The Wretched, Climate-Killing Truth About American Sprawl. He is bemused both by (1) a new $40 Million, 470-car parking garage in Berkeley, CA; and (2) the previously mentioned "Green New Deal" from AOC and her socialist minions.

    But the Green New Deal has a big blind spot: It doesn’t address the places Americans live. And our physical geography—where we sleep, work, shop, worship, and send our kids to play, and how we move between those places—is more foundational to a green, fair future than just about anything else. The proposal encapsulates the liberal delusion on climate change: that technology and spending can spare us the hard work of reform.

    Yeah. For folks like Alex, the problem with the Green New Deal, is that it's insufficiently totalitarian. Sure, it's massively expensive, and technologically unrealistic. But it fails to deal with the problem of people living where they want, instead of where they should.

  • At Hot Air, Jazz Shaw summarizes a recent news story: New Hampshire pols "freaking out" over less relevance in primaries.

    It sounds like the movers and shakers in the Granite State have gotten themselves into a snit over next year’s primary calendar again. The Boston Globe was reporting this weekend that New Hampshire’s top political honchos are “freaking out” over all of the primary calendar changes and alternate voting schemes, seeing this as an erosion of their importance. Some fear that their state will now become a FINO… First in Name Only.


    My favorite bit of NH Primary trivia: for all its faults, the GOP-side NH primary picked the eventual general election winner in 2016: Donald J. Trump. Unfortunately, that's the first time it had managed this feat (in a contested primary) since 1988. (George H.W. Bush)

    NH Democrats: even worse. The last Democrat to win a contested NH primary, and go on to win the election, was Jimmy Carter in 1976. That's ̆… um … quite a while ago. Since then, winning a contested NH Primary has been a don't-give-up-your-day-job omen for Democrats.

  • Writing in the New York Sun, Ira Stoll remembers to point out that Warren Forgets One Thing As She Announces.

    Senator Elizabeth Warren, announcing her campaign for president [in Lawrence, MA] over the weekend, used the word “rich” or a variation on it — “richer,” “richest” — at least nine times in a single 45-minute stump speech.

    The senator called President Trump “the product of a rigged system that props up the rich and powerful and kicks dirt on everyone else.”

    She said “America’s middle class has been deliberately hollowed out” by “the richest families in America.” Mrs. Warren said those richest families, “wanted to be even richer, and they didn’t care who got hurt.”

    Mrs. Warren spoke of “too little accountability for the rich, too little opportunity for everyone else.” She said “the rich and powerful use fear to divide us.”

    Holy cow… Yes, it's a bad thing to use "fear" to "divide us". But how about using conspiracy-theory scapegoating and envious resentment to divide us? Is that any better?

  • At Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux takes aim at Warren's Unwarranted Assertion.

    […] Sen. Warren is far off base when she asserts that America has a “rigged system that props up the rich and powerful and kicks dirt on everyone else.”

    Let’s look at the data. The U.S. Census Bureau reports annually on the percentage American households earning different annual amounts of inflation-adjusted annual income – for example, households earning annually less than $15,000, households earning annually between $15,000 and $24,999, and so on up to households earning annually $200,000 or more.

    Comparing the figures for 2017 to those for 1980 – the year Ronald Reagan was first elected president – we find that in 2017 smaller percentages of American households earned lower- and middle-incomes than earned such incomes in 1980. But we find also that the percentages of American households earning high incomes in 2017 were much larger than in 1980.

    Demagogues like Warren have to shout loudly to distract you from plain facts.

  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang for David "Granite Geek" Brooks' article in the Concord Monitor: Critics warn right-to-repair bill could be disastrous.

    If you want to be terrified about living in your own house, may I suggest you attend a legislative hearing about right-to-repair laws.

    If the hearing goes as one did in Concord last week, you will learn from industry representatives that you can be killed or maimed by your smoke alarm (if it fails), your refrigerator (if food spoils because the door-was-left-open alarm doesn’t work), your washing machine (if the lid lock is disabled and you fall inside), your cooking range (if heating controls go awry) and almost anything with a lithium-ion battery.

    And this doesn’t include obviously deadly things like chainsaws and riding mowers.

    At issue is House Bill 462, which "requires manufacturers of digital electronic products to provide independent repair facilities with diagnostic and repair information for such products."

    But LFOD, David? Ah, here it is:

    (Incredibly, not a single proponent of the bill quoted the state motto. I thought citing “Live Free or Die” was a mandatory part of all New Hampshire rhetoric when even a whiff of personal choice was involved.)

    Ha. David thinks that the LFOD spirit weighs on the side of the bill's advocates. But what about the liberty of the manufacturers the bill would coerce? What about the liberty of consumers who might want a choice between independently-repairable products and (presumably cheaper) non-independently-repairable products?

Last Modified 2019-02-13 4:48 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • At Reason, Elizabeth Nolan Brown welcomes the latest Oval Office contender: Scandal-Plagued Sen. Amy Klobuchar Announces 2020 Presidential Run.

    In front of a snow-drenched crowd on Boom Island, Minnesota, Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced her 2020 presidential intentions. "I am running for this job for every person who wants their work recognized and rewarded" and "every parent who wants a better world for their kids," said Klobuchar. "I am running for every American." And no matter what, "I'll lead from the heart."

    She went on to call for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, for passing a law that automatically registers Americans to vote at age 18, for universal background checks for gun owners, for "sweeping" legislation addressing climate change, and for "net neutrality for all."

    Y'know, if a guy candidate identifying as male advocated "sweeping" legislation, I'm pretty sure he'd be branded a horrible Handmaid's Tale-advocating sexist pig.

    But, yes, Senator Amy advocates "fixing" (i.e., partially repealing) the First Amendment, ignoring the Second Amendment, and otherwise restricting liberty.

  • A long and dismaying article from Mary Hudson at Quillette: Public Education’s Dirty Secret. Ms. Hudson was a teacher in the New York City system of government schools, 2001-2009. The horrors are detailed, and they are worth your attention. But the bottom line:

    It is not poor teaching or a lack of money that is failing our most vulnerable populations. The real problem is an ethos of rejection that has never been openly admitted by those in authority.

    Why should millions of perfectly normal adolescents, not all of them ghettoized, resist being educated? The reason is that they know deep down that due to the color of their skin, less is expected of them. This they deeply resent. How could they not resent being seen as less capable? It makes perfect psychological sense. Being very young, however, they cannot articulate their resentment, or understand the reasons for it, especially since the adults in charge hide the truth. So they take out their rage on the only ones they can: themselves and their teachers.

    They also take revenge on a fraudulent system that pretends to educate them. The authorities cover up their own incompetence, and when that fails, blame the parents and teachers, or lack of funding, or “poverty,” “racism,” and so on. The media follow suit. Starting with our lawmakers, the whole country swallows the lie.

    Why do precious few adults admit the truth out loud? Because in America the taboo against questioning the current orthodoxy on race is too strong and the price is too high. What is failing our most vulnerable populations is the lack of political will to acknowledge and solve the real problems. The first step is to change the ”anti-discrimination” laws that breed anti-social behavior. Disruptive students must be removed from the classroom, not to punish them but to protect the majority of students who want to learn.

    Since reading John Taylor Gatto, I've been in favor of abolishing compulsory attendance laws.

  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson examines Sandy's War, aka the Green New Deal of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

    “Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez” is, at 16 syllables, a mouthful. The day before yesterday, she was “Sandy,” a pleasant-seeming young woman who liked to dance, worked in a bar, worried about her family, and chafed that her advantages and elite education (Boston University shares Case Western’s academic ranking and is significantly more expensive than Princeton: Is there a more appropriate preparation for life in Washington?) left her struggling, obscure, and unsatisfied. And so she set after glory and personal significance in politics, to which she is relatively new — the hatreds and grievances she dotes on are obvious enough and familiar enough that one assumes she has been in possession of those for some time. They are not newly acquired.

    If you spend enough time around politics and/or media, you have seen this figure before. Years ago, a young woman beginning what would turn out to be a successful turn on the Washington cursus honorum asked me, earnestly: “Is it wrong to want to be famous?” I asked her what she intended to do with the celebrity she sought — for what purpose did she want it? “Why?” The question obviously had never occurred to her. I might as well have asked her why she wanted two eyes rather than one. She has a lot of Twitter followers now.

    Very insightful. Have I mentioned that I've already ordered Kevin's new book The Smallest Minority: Independent Thinking in the Age of Mob Politics, due in July? Well, I have, and maybe you should too.

  • Jonah Goldberg is also on Sandy's case in his recent G-File: Green New Deal’s War on Cows.

    Contained within the FAQ for the Green New Deal is one of the greatest sentences ever written with the intention of being taken very, very seriously:

    We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast.

    I love this sentence so much I want to stand outside its house holding up a boom box blasting Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.”

    Unfortunately, this quote and other manifestations of looniness were withdrawn (and lied about). Jonah's tweet about that:

  • And finally, Mr. Ramirez's cartoon comment on Sandy's Green New Deal is thousand-word eloquent.

    [Utter Nonsense]

    As always with Mr. Ramirez, click through for the glorious big version.

Last Modified 2019-06-14 4:28 AM EDT

The Lock Artist

[Amazon Link]

I continue with my "Steve Hamilton Catch Up" reading project, this one from 2009. It is another standalone, a break from his series narrated by glum ex-cop Alex McKnight. And this one is pretty good, in fact it won the Edgar Award for "Best Novel".

Hamilton does a pretty good job of grabbing you from the get-go. In Chapter One we meet the narrator Michael, who's in the slammer for unspecified reasons. He is unable to speak, thanks to a traumatic episode in his past. (Details on that don't emerge until pages 253ff., but don't skip ahead, OK?) He pines for his true love, Amelia. He has uncanny artistic talent. But he also has an "unforgivable talent", which turns out to be absolute mastery of breaking into places that he's not supposed to get into. Locked doors, padlocks, safes, you name it.

From there, the story develops on two time tracks, alternating chapter by chapter. One follows how Michael got caught up in a life of crime, starting by falling in with a bad-jock crowd in high school. The other follows his career as a (more or less) professional "boxman", a freelance member of gangs looking to knock over targets that call for his expertise.

All the while, Michael remains a totally sympathetic character, poor choices and all. The book leaves room for a sequel, but so far Hamilton hasn't done that, and I kind of hope he doesn't. It's a pretty complete story as is.

The Phony Campaign

2019-02-10 Update

[Amazon Link]

This week we bid at least a temporary farewell to Nikki Haley and (somewhat surprisingly) Cory Booker, both of whom dropped below our 2% win-probability threshold at Betfair. Go figure. Maybe Cory will be back. But remember that things didn't turn out well for Spartacus.

The big winner this week has to be Beto, with a relatively large comeback in his election probability. Because, as near as I can tell, he said or did nothing at all. Other candidates: take a hint, please.

Loser: Elizabeth Warren, who officially launched her candidacy yesterday. But as I type Google's top story is about actor Rob Lowe deleting the tweet that said:

Elizabeth Warren would bring a whole new meaning to Commander in ‘Chief,’

Yes, Liz: a peripatetic actor making a lame joke about you is getting bigger Google play than anything you said yourself.

Compared to last week, you'll note, Warren's win probability has shrunk by 0.2%. Not an auspicious beginnin, Senator.

Still not a credible candidate according to Betfair bettors: Howard Schultz.

And despite shedding nearly 7 million hits over the week, Kamala Harris remains our leader, out-phonying Donald Trump by more than a four-to-one margin:

Candidate WinProb Change
Kamala Harris 15.2% unch 10,800,000 -6,900,000
Donald Trump 30.5% +0.9% 2,490,000 +10,000
Beto O'Rourke 8.7% +2.5% 585,000 +35,000
Michael Bloomberg 2.5% unch 568,000 -57,000
Bernie Sanders 4.5% +0.3% 451,000 +118,000
Tulsi Gabbard 2.0% -0.5% 398,000 +103,000
Kirsten Gillibrand 2.4% -0.2% 321,000 +15,000
Joe Biden 8.3% +0.3% 198,000 +12,000
Elizabeth Warren 3.4% -0.4% 190,000 -23,000
Sherrod Brown 4.3% +1.0% 183,000 +7,000
Amy Klobuchar 3.3% +0.2% 171,000 +38,000
Mike Pence 3.8% +0.9% 151,000 +6,000

Standard disclaimer: Google result counts are bogus.

In recent phony-relevant news:

  • Ilya Somin of the Reason-hosted Volokh Conspiracy makes a serious and insightful point: Why the Demand for Fake News is a Far More Serious Problem than the Supply. Beginning with a lengthy quote from Canadian Andrew Coyne:

    I have an urgent warning for the people of Canada. Even now, certain agents are plotting to influence the result of the next election campaign by means of stealth and deception.

    Posing as ordinary Canadians, they plan to use social media to spread falsehoods designed to inflame public opinion, using the latest micro-targeting technologies to tailor their messages to the reader’s particular fears and prejudices.

    These agents are better known as the political parties.

    [Amazon Link]
    You can certainly apply this insight even more appropriately to the situation in Canada's southern neighbor. Yes, American votes are abysmally ignorant. (See Ilya's book, link at right.) But!

    But the problem here goes beyond simple ignorance. As Coyne suggests, many people are actively eager to believe dubious claims, so long as doing so confirms their preexisting views. Particularly in our current environment of severe political polarization, partisans often act not as truth-seekers, but as "political fans" eager to endorse anything that supports their position or casts the opposing party and its supporters in a bad light. These biases affect not only ordinary voters, but also otherwise highly knowledgeable ones, and even policymakers and politicians. This helps explain why many people eagerly consume crude misinformation, without giving careful thought to the validity of the claims made.

    There is no easy solution to these problems. Individual voters can do a lot to better inform themselves and curb their biases. But I am skeptical that many will do anytime soon. In my view, the better approach is systematic reform to limit and decentralize the power of government, so as to reduce the potential harm caused by voter ignorance and bias. There are a variety of other possible solutions, as well. Regardless, the beginning of wisdom on the issue of fake news is to recognize - as Andrew Coyne does - that the root of the problem is demand, not supply. And as long as the demand remains high, there will be plenty of willing suppliers.

    Not just ignorant. Willfully ignorant.

  • At Power Line, Steven Hayward outlines The Epic Fraud of Elizabeth Warren.

    Elizabeth Warren has claimed that she never used her supposed native American heritage for professional advantage, though the circumstantial evidence suggests otherwise. Late this afternoon the Bezos Bulletin reported (though not until the 8th paragraph, with no hint of the key fact in the headline or the lede) that Warren did in fact claim to be “American Indian” in her own handwriting in her application to the Texas Bar in 1986:

    (Bezos Bulletin == the Washington Post.) Image of the application at the link.

  • OK, so Cory Booker's long shot at the presidency seems even longer this week. So maybe we should link to Jim Geraghty's Cory Booker: 20 Things You Probably Didn’t Know while he's still relatively fresh in our memories. In order to fit in with his fellow candidates, he's had to backtrack on some issues, notably school choice. But also:

    14. Back in 2007, Steve Malanga wrote in City Journal that Booker “made reducing crime his Number One priority and installed a zero-tolerance policing strategy engineered by a veteran of New York’s drug wars.” But once Booker was in the Senate, he lamented that the United States “imprisons more people than any other country on earth and spends about a quarter of a trillion dollars each year on a bloated, backward criminal-justice system.” “Over the past 30 years, the federal prison population has grown by 800 percent, an increase largely due to overly punitive sentences for nonviolent, low-level drug crimes.”

    In other words: present-Cory laments that past-Cory put so many people in the slammer.

  • And sometimes it seems that Cory's following a sloppily-written script that he hasn't written himself, and might not understand. Billy Binion at Reason: Cory Booker Asked Neomi Rao if She Ever Hired LGBT Law Clerks. She's Never Been a Judge.

    Sen. Cory Booker (D–N.J.) squared off with D.C. Circuit nominee Neomi Rao at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday, asking the potential judge if she has ever employed any LGBT law clerks. While the question raised eyebrows for multiple reasons, the most glaring is that she's never been a judge, so she's never had any law clerks—LGBT or otherwise.

    But the question itself is suspect: It implies that sexuality should be part of the test for determining an applicant's suitability for hire. "Um, to be honest I don't know the sexual orientation of my staff," Rao said, when pressed by Booker. "I take people as they come, irrespective of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation."

    A reasonable answer to an unreasonable query.

  • As David Rutz notes at the Washington Free Beacon: Kamala Harris Cracks Herself Up.

    That could get real old. In fact, it's already old for me.

  • At PJ Media, Bryan Preston wonders: Has Beto Already Blown It? Here Are His Three Biggest Blunders. Number…

    1. He revealed his inner Beto, who turns out to be a dull weirdo.

      Have you read Beto’s travelog? After setting a pile of other people’s money on fire to lose to Sen. Ted Cruz, Beto suddenly found himself unemployed. In that situation, most people look for work. Beto is rich, so he wandered off to look for himself. Or per the old Simon and Garfunkel song, to look for America. And he blogs this search on Medium.

    Click over for the remaining blunders. But they don't seem to have been Elizabeth Warren-sized blunders.

  • When Harry Freakin' Reid has to lecture you about being a decent person… A report from the Huffington Post: Harry Reid Rebuked Amy Klobuchar For Mistreatment Of Staff.

    Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s mistreatment of her office staff began more than a decade ago and eventually caused such concerns that in 2015, then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) spoke to her privately and told her to change her behavior, multiple sources have confirmed to HuffPost.

    Klobuchar, a Democrat who plans to announce whether she’s running for president at a rally in Minneapolis on Sunday, has faced trouble hiring campaign aides because of her history of mistreating staff. 

    Gosh, whatever happened to "Minnesota Nice"? I guess Amy didn't get that memo.

Last Modified 2019-02-16 7:00 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Reason's Nick Gillespie asks the musical question: Should Paul McCartney and Other Billionaires Be 'Abolished'?.

    As left-wing populists and progressives ascend in the Democratic Party, they are laying down new dogma, none more heartfelt than the idea that billionaires are evil, rotten, and not to be tolerated. For the Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warrens, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezes of the world, billionaires are what witches were to Salem congregationalists and kulaks were to Lenin: a threat to they system that must be eliminated.

    Ocasio-Cortez's economic policy adviser Dan Riffle has changed his Twitter name to "Every Billionaire Is a Policy Failure." Lefty blogger Tom Scocca declares "Billionaires are bad. We should presumptively get rid of billionaires" (he graciously adds, "they may go on living...[but] they must not be allowed to possess a billion dollars"). A research director at the proggy Roosevelt Institute says simply, "We do not need billionaires."

    Don't worry. Nick's answer to the question is "No". Might even be "Hell, no!"

    But this reminds me of an important point made by Noah Rothman on a recent episode of Jonah Goldberg's podcast: US progressives seem to be moving en masse away from advocating "restorative justice" to "retributive justice".

    I.e., from "let's help the oppressed" to "let's eat the rich."

    That can't be good, can it?

  • At the American Institute for Economic Research, Veronique de Rugy asks and answers the burning question: Is President Trump, in his heart of hearts, really Against Government Coercion? Not So Much.

    As we saw on Tuesday night when he delivered his second State of the Union address, he couldn’t care less about small-government policies. To be fair, he delivered a bunch of lines that sound good to libertarians and free market conservatives. For instance, I can’t say my heart didn’t beat a little bit faster when he said: “America was founded on liberty and independence — not government coercion, domination and control. We are born free, and we will stay free.”

    The problem is that for a guy who claims to be against government coercion, he certainly goes out of his way to guarantee that our future will be filled with government coercion.

    For instance, during his very long speech, Trump never even mentioned the debt, which has reached $22 trillion, or the annual budget deficits, which are heading surely and permanently over the $1 trillion mark. While past Republican presidents may not have been fully honest about their commitment to fiscal responsibility, they at least felt that it was important to maintain the appearance of caring.

    In addition: his advocacy of mandatory paid leave and trade war. For Veronique, his deregulation initiatives, corporate tax rate cuts, etc. do not balance out to net-liberty.

  • Here in New Hampshire, Granite Grok's Steve MacDonald notices the latest local bad (but also stupid) news: NH Dems Pass Bill To Create $80K+/Year Job to Enforce Licensing That Collects $12,100/Year. (It's tattoos.)

    This legislation crams the art of tattoo, body piercing or branding under the Granite State’s crowded umbrella of professional licensure and certification. For a State with a Live Free or Die nickname, we regulate the crap out of occupations. Some of the most mundane professions are required to dump a small fortune in time, cash, and training to appease their regulatory overlords. Just to run a business.

    This Institute for Justice report ranks the states on burdensome occupational licensing laws. New Hampshire isn't the worst, but it's far from the best.

  • [Amazon Link]
    Randal O'Toole wrote a book about passenger rail, Romanace of the Rails. (Amazon link at right, the $6 Kindle price seems like a steal.) At Cato, he defends his thesis against a claim that high-speed rail works in Europe and Asia, so why not here? No, Passenger Trains Don't Work in Europe & Asia Either.

    Both Europe and east Asian countries are highly celebrated for building high-speed rail lines. But these efforts have to be judged by their results. Are they making money or at least covering their operating costs? Are they attracting people out of their cars or airplanes? Are doing anything other than putting their countries deeply in debt?

    The answers to all of these questions are “No!” Spain and Italy are jeopardizing their entire economies by going so heavily into debt for high-speed rail. A case can be made that Japan’s economic stagnation since 1990 is due to that country’s continued construction of subsidized high-speed rail lines. Despite growing high-speed rail systems, air travel in Europe and auto travel in Asia are both growing much faster than rail travel.

    I should probably put Randal's book on the TBR list.

  • And the Google LFOD Alert rang for the sad story (as reported by the AP): New Hampshire court upholds women's topless conviction.

    Adam Levine can rip his shirt off during the Super Bowl LIII halftime show. But women can’t go topless while sunbathing in Laconia, N.H., according to the highest court of this New England state whose motto is “Live Free or Die.”

    Warning: a picture of one of the perpetrators at the link. I'm a pretty libertarian guy, but … some people should keep their tops on just for esthetic reasons.

  • And my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat has an LTE from onetime NH legislator Phyllis Woods, who points out: New Hampshire like New York on abortions.

    If you were appalled and outraged at the joyous celebrations that took place upon the passage of the New York law that allowed for unrestricted abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy, right up to the time of birth, you might be surprised to learn that New Hampshire got there first.

    I experienced déjà vu when seeing the disgusting display of glee as I recalled the same happening here in the New Hampshire House back in 2000. As a Dover representative, a bill that I sponsored to ban partial-birth abortion was narrowly defeated by less than a handful of votes. The chief opponents of the ban, who worked diligently to defeat the bill, were given beautiful long-stemmed roses by pro-abortion advocates who were delighted that their "right" to kill a baby in the very process of being born, was protected.

    To this day, in this Live Free or Die state of New Hampshire, we remain one of only seven states which has no restrictions on abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy, and in a country that is one of only four in the world that allows unrestricted abortion up until birth.

    "Live Free or Die" implies you're given the option to choose. Which the babies are not offered.

Last Modified 2019-02-10 3:39 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

Well, the big news of late is that Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) (AOC) and Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) unveiled their "Green New Deal". It's a good news/bad news situation.

Bad news: it's full of awful ideas.

Good news: it's completely and obviously full of awful ideas.

  • So let's take a look. First up is the general summary from the Club for Growth: AOC’s Green New Deal Is Really the New Green Unemployment Deal.

    “The Green New Deal is nothing more than the latest job-killing, socialist wish list from the radical left obsessed with climate change, Medicare-For-All, free college, and a total redistribution of wealth,” stated Club for Growth President David McIntosh.

    “The ‘Green Dream’ — as even Nancy Pelosi calls it — would eliminate or transform nearly every job across nearly every sector of the U.S. economy including the military.  The American People should be alarmed to know that extreme liberal socialist Democrats are out to destroy the ‘American Dream.’

    “The Green New Deal isn’t a dream, it is the GREEN NIGHTMARE that the American People need to wake up from and stop before it ever becomes a reality.  It’s economic Armageddon, plain and simple,” concluded David McIntosh.

    Exaggeration? I think not.

  • At Reason, Joe Setyon notes a specific feature: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal Aims to Eliminate Air Travel.

    The resolution's aims include "overhauling transportation systems in the United States to eliminate pollution and 19 greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible." According to an overview of the resolution, this will be accomplished, in part, by "build[ing] out highspeed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary."

    As the article's subhed says: "Sorry, Hawaii."

    Of course, you'll still be able to get there. As long as you are on a watercraft wind-propelled by hemp sails.

  • But what's the fatal flaw of the Green New Deal? At AEI, James Pethokoukis nails it: The fatal flaw of the Green New Deal is that it doesn't take climate change seriously.

    Here’s the problem: While Ocasio-Cortez might truly believe climate change poses an immediate existential risk to Earth and our civilization, her Green New Deal inadvertently gives aid and comfort to the most skeptical skeptics. Certainly if the stakes are as catastrophically high as she argues, nothing would be off the table. Like, you know, reducing the risk of climatic catastrophe through advanced nuclear power

    Moreover, if climate change is the problem — and a problem like no other that humanity has ever faced — then a Green New Deal would put a laser-like focus on reducing global carbon emissions. But the Green New Deal has many aspirations that have nothing to do with climate.

    James lists some of the aspirations:

    Provide job training and education to all. … Ensure that all GND jobs are union jobs that pay prevailing wages and hire local. … Guarantee a job with family-sustaining wages. … Protect right of all workers to unionize and organize. … Strengthen and enforce labor, workplace health and safety, antidiscrimination, and wage and hour standards. … Enact and enforce trade rules to stop the transfer of jobs and pollution overseas and grow domestic manufacturing. … Obtain free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples… Provide high-quality health care, housing, economic security, and clean air, clean water, healthy food, and nature to all.

    I.e., the "progressive/democratic socialist wish list." Which (to repeat a point I've been yammering about for the past few years): it's not about "saving the planet"; it's about grabbing onto the political power to bend people to your will.

  • But not only that! As National Review's Jack Crowe discovers: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal Promises ‘Economic Security' for Those 'Unwilling to Work’.

    Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) and Ed Markey (D., Mass.) introduced a Green New Deal bill Thursday that, in addition to transitioning the U.S. entirely to renewable energy in ten years, promises to provide “economic security for those unable or unwilling to work.”

    Crowe notes that (other than waving away a carbon tax) "there is no mention of any additional taxes to cover the cost of spending." Because once we find the leprechauns' gold…

  • The above criticisms come from the usual radical right wing heteronormative patriarchs. But we can rely on Wired for a measured, sober, science-based look at the pros and cons, right?

    Oh, you are so wrong. Adam Rogers' headline: The Green New Deal Shows How Grand Climate Politics Can Be. Grand, I tells ya!

    If it’s hard to imagine the sweeping changes proposed in the “Green New Deal” actually happening, don’t blame the Green New Deal. It’s just that it has been so long since any politician suggested something so grand. The wildfires, hurricanes, droughts, and sea level rise that climate scientists have long promised are here, but we could get accustomed to that. We could forget that the world of five years ago or a decade ago was any different. And we got used to elected representatives saying predictable things about it, too—doubt and denial, or expressions of concern that climate change is too complicated and too expensive to deal with. We grow accustomed to their farce.

    It's pretty much a total alarmist buy-in at Wired in other words.

    By pouring everything in those silos into one bin, the Green New Deal attempts to build a new coalition. It seems crazy. But really, it’s a last-chance amplification of smaller, incremental, hopeful changes already happening around the country—built into a broader vision for political change. Too wild? Maybe. As the dyed-in-the-wool hacks never say until after the balloons drop: Politics is the art of the impossible.

    Key sentence: "It seems crazy." As I said in a comment: Wired should have started there. And also ended there.

  • But it's not all Green New Deal today. The Google LFOD News Alert rang for an article at Liberty Headlines from Kaylee McGhee: Former Mass. Gov. Switches Back to GOP for Likely Primary Challenge to Trump. I found these paragraphs key:

    New Hampshire Republicans are not keen on Weld, though.

    “Bill Weld ran as a Libertarian candidate for vice president,” Stephen Stepanek, the chair of the New Hampshire GOP and the Trump campaign’s 2016 New Hampshire co-chair, told WMUR. “He’s a Libertarian, and if he wants to run for president as a Libertarian, that’s fine. But we don’t want him back in the Republican Party.”

    The Johnson 2016 campaign pulled just over 4 percent of the vote in the “Live Free or Die” State, which was slightly higher than the national average. Even so, it is unlikely to translate to any sort of primary advantage for Weld.

    Yeah, fine. I am still, nominally, a Republican, likely to vote in the primaries. But it occurs to me that if Stephen Stepanek doesn't want Weld in the party, he probably doesn't want me either.

Last Modified 2019-02-10 3:39 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Jonah Goldberg knows The problem with 'social justice'. Specifically: the concept is nonsense.

    Now, when I say “nonsense,” I mean nonsensical, as in lacking interior logic and definitional rigor. A few years ago, while working on my book “The Tyranny of Clichés,” I put on my prospector’s helmet and mined the literature for an agreed-upon definition of social justice. What I found was one deposit after another of fool’s gold. From labor unions to countless universities to gay-rights groups to even the American Nazi party, everyone insisted they were champions of social justice. The only disagreements hinged on who is most in need of this precious resource.

    Common to almost every definition of social justice is some version of “economic justice,” which usually means what philosophers call “distributive justice” — i.e., taking money from the haves and giving it to the have-nots. But what it’s really about is power. Its advocates want the power to do what they want, and if they say it’s for social justice, that’s supposed to make it okay.

    That's a theme I've been hitting here over the past few days as well. And, as I'm sure I've said before: "social justice" is "justice" that punishes those who haven't done anything wrong, and rewards people who needn't have experienced anything wrong.

  • David Harsanyi is harsh but fair: The State Of American 'Fact-Checking' Is Completely Useless. Example:

    Hyper-precision fact-checking that creates the impression that a Republican is misleading the public: For this, take Politico’s insinuation that Donald Trump was lying to the public about abuse of women at the border. During the State of the Union, Trump claimed “one in three women is sexually assaulted on the long journey north.” This contention is only “partly true,” according to Politico, because a “2017 report by Doctors Without Borders” found that only 31 percent of female migrants and 17 percent of male migrants said they had been actually abused while traveling through Mexico.

    Whether Doctors Without Borders’ scary statistic is accurate or not, is one thing. Trump, however, was being called out for asserting that “one in every three” illegal immigrants has been abused attempting to cross the border rather than “33.333 percent of women”––probably a rounding error in the poll. It is almost surely the case that every past president and every politician has used “one-third” or “one-half” rather than a specific fraction, and walked away without being fact-checked.

    I wouldn't say fact-checkers are completely useless. If they manage to gripe about a Democrat, they are almost certainly justified. But in terms of selective coverage and double standars, it's pretty bad.

  • Veronique de Rugy looks at PURPA and Why Central Planning Fails.

    Among the goals of PURPA was expanding the use of renewable energy sources. To do that, it required utilities to purchase energy produced by "qualified facilities" (QFs) if it was an equal or lesser cost to what could be purchased from a traditional power plant or generated itself. In PURPA lingo, that's an "avoided cost." This was considered a way to introduce competition into energy markets. In practice, however, the unintended consequences of the mandate coupled with other government interventions have resulted in less competition.

    Utilities have had no choice but to buy from these QFs. In recent decades, the lower costs of solar and wind hardware, combined with the introduction of lucrative solar and wind tax credits, artificially high rates and PURPA's guaranteed purchase requirement, have made QFs moneymaking investments regardless of market need. In other words, tax credits distort the energy markets, and the PURPA mandate distorts them further.

    As Veronique notes, politicians have Hayek's "Fatal Conceit" disease in spades: they have utter, unwarranted, confidence that they can manage vast swaths of the economy via well-meaning legislation and regulation. Another unshakeable tenet of the Church of Progressivism.

  • My new CongressCritter, Chris Pappas tweets a lot about his support of H.R. 1. David French has some problems with it: For the People Act of 2019: Democrats’ Thoroughly Unconstitutional Campaign-Finance Bill.

    At its essence, the bill federalizes control over elections to an unprecedented scale, expands government power over political speech, mandates increased disclosures of private citizens’ personal information (down to name and address), places conditions on citizen contact with legislators that inhibits citizens’ freedom of expression, and then places enforcement of most of these measures in the hands of a revamped Federal Election Commission that is far more responsive to presidential influence.

    The bill is too long and complex to analyze in its entirety in one essay, but let’s pull out a few components.

    The bill contains a section misleadingly entitled “Stopping Super PAC-Candidate Coordination” that dramatically expands government regulation of political speech and contact with candidates for public office. These provisions not only work to flatly prohibit constitutionally protected speech, but their sheer scope would also chill a considerable amount of protected speech as law-abiding citizens try to steer clear of violating broad and vague laws.

    It's a travesty, I tells ya! Pappas should be, but won't be, ashamed.

  • Technophobes have one more reason to get over their fears and embrace new technology. As the Daily Mail reports: Small penis emoji is being rolled out on all phones this year.

    A new emoji being rolled out this year is a hand doing a pinching motion to depict a 'small penis' to mock modestly endowed men.  

    270 new emojis have been announced including a range of accessibility-themed symbols including hearing aids, wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs.

    It's a fine line, I guess, between mockery and respectfully recognizing differences in, um, physical attributes.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • At Reason, Ira Stoll: How Another Patriots' Super Bowl Victory Explains Anti-Billionaire Politics. Interesting facts about the NFL's efforts to (yes) level the playing field:

    The NFL owners have chosen to organize their affairs in a way that places a priority on equality of opportunity, if not equality of outcome.

    National revenue—about $8 billion in 2017—is split evenly among the 32 teams in the league. An inflexible salary cap means that each team is allowed to spend only a set amount on paying players, so richer teams can't win just by paying more for better athletes. The worst team each year gets the first draft pick, and the Super Bowl champion gets the last draft pick.

    Even all those steps to level the playing field, though, have not prevented the Patriots from assembling their impressive collection of Super Bowl wins.

    This, in turn, generates some envy, or resentment.

    No fooling.

    Possible lesson about the inequality warriors in general: their efforts to "level the playing field" won't stop people from being (relative) winners and losers.

    But in all honesty, on that front, it seems it's all about gaining political power, not actually helping people or society.

  • And not that it matters but it seems that some folks out there are saying the Pats might as well be wearing Klan hoods over their helmets due to the Trump fandom of owner Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady. On that topic, I noticed something back in 2017 from Kraft:

    The only bad deal I’ve had in my whole life is when my wife, bless her memory, died of ovarian cancer. He [Trump] flew up to the funeral with Melania. They came to my home. And he called me once a week for a year and invited me to things. That was the darkest period of my life. . . .

    I don't usually associate Trump with classy behavior, but… yeah, that's classy behavior, and something we probably wouldn't know about if Kraft hadn't talked about it.

  • We mentioned Cato's latest Freedom in the 50 States when it came out last August. But now Daniel Mitchell does a deep dive into the data: America’s Most Libertarian State Is…?. If you are a big a sucker for this kind of thing as I am, you'll find it interesting.

    All the way down at the bottom, though…

    This final selection tells us which ones have been moving in the right direction and wrong direction since the turn of the century.

    … and on this measure, New Hampshire is in a solid 45th place out of 50. That's sad news.

  • The headline on some articles seem to scream: longest article ever. Today's example is from David Harsanyi at the Federalist: Why Democrats Can't Talk Honestly About Abortion.

    Democrats will protect American children from the evils of trans fats and gay conversion therapy, but not from doctors who will kill them through negligent homicide in the first few hours of their lives. This is the ugly reality of the contemporary abortion debate. It’s why most advocates will do about anything to avoid describing the unpleasant realities and consequences of their increasingly radical position.

    On Tuesday, Senate Democrats blocked Republican Ben Sasse’s effort for unanimous consent on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. It must be stressed that this bill wasn’t technically about abortion, but about protecting babies who survived the procedure. It seems the already risible argument of “my body, my choice” has morphed into “not my body anymore, still my choice.”

    I'm old enough to remember pro-abortion folks saying: "If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament." Well, now it is a sacrament in the Holy Church of Progressivism.

  • With all the hoopla about squeezing more tax dollars out of the rich, advocates don't seem to notice that the "social democracies" they keep touting have pretty much given up on that particular class-warfare tactic. Economist Timothy Taylor asks the musical question: Why Have Other Countries Been Dropping Their Wealth Taxes?.

    Back in 1990, 12 high-income countries had wealth taxes. By 2017, that had dropped to four: France, Norway, Spain, and Switzerland (In 2018, France changed its wealth tax so that it applied only to real estate, not to financial assets.) The OECD describes the reasons why other countries have been dropping wealth taxes, along with providing a balanced pro-and-con of the arguments over wealth taxes, in its report The Role and Design of Net Wealth Taxes in the OECD (April 2018).

    For the OECD, the bottom line is that it is reasonable for policy-makers to be concerned about the rising inequality of wealth and large concentrations of wealth But it also points out that if a country has reasonable methods of taxing capital gains, inheritances, intergenerational gifts, and property, a combination of these approaches are typically preferable to a wealth tax. The report notes: "Overall ... from both an efficiency and an equity perspective, there are limited arguments for having a net wealth tax on top of well-designed capital income taxes –including taxes on capital gains – and inheritance taxes, but that there are arguments for having a net wealth tax as an (imperfect) substitute for these taxes."

    Translation note: "For the OECD" means: "Given that the OECD isn't particularly concerned with the immorality of taking cash from people just because (1) you can and (2) you want it".

    But in any case: net wealth taxes don't work well from a purely pragmatic point of view either.

  • Jim Treacher notes the newest gripe from the woke: 'Learn to Code': Good Advice, or Hate Speech?.

    It seems like a good piece of career advice, doesn't it? After all, we live in the Information Age, and just about every facet of daily life has been automated. A computer wakes you up, a computer has your coffee ready, a computer gives you the best route to the office, a computer tells you which song is on the radio, you go to work and stare at a computer all day, you go home and a computer gives you movies and TV shows to watch, social media shows you stupid people from all over the world 24 hours a day, you're reading this right now on a computer, a computer delivered all of the above to your door, etc. All this stuff has become commonplace, but it doesn't just happen by magic. Somebody had to code all that software. People who know how to code are crucial to our society, and learning to code is a valuable skill.

    Or... is it? Could it be that "learn to code" isn't good advice, but actually hate speech? A Russian plot? The work of alt-right white nationalist Nazis? If you have to ask, then the answer is obvious!

    It's not particularly polite to suggest that a newly-unemployed humanities major made a poor career choice way back when, but as advice goes, it's not that bad.

  • And our Google LFOD alert rang for a newsflash from a Vermont TV station: New Hampshire marijuana bill gets public hearing.

    "Granite Staters know that it is already legal to grow and possess marijuana in all three neighboring states. They ask, why can't we do this in the live free or die state?" said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project.

    This continues to be a Good Question. Governor Chris Sununu promises to veto any legalization bill that makes it to his desk. But the issue seems to be whether a bill can pass with veto-proof majorities. We'll see.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Usually our Amazon Product du Jour is a t-shirt or bumper sticker containing sentiments with which I broadly agree. Today is an exception; it's instead meant to illustrate the mentality described in J.D. Tuccille's recent Reason article: Taxes Are Getting Weaponized for Partisan Purposes.

    Government agencies and laws have devolved into weapons to be wielded against political opponents in this country. Why wouldn't taxes follow?

    Too many Americans promote taxes as a means of hurting people they dislike, putting the raising of revenue as a secondary consideration—or dropping it entirely.

    Given the destructive nature of taxation, it's a potentially effective strategy, at least for a while. But it may also totally delegitimize the tax system in the eyes of the people who are supposed to pay the bills.

    Democrat-backed proposals are Tuccille's main examples, but Trump's unbaked threats against corporations that don't toe his nationalistic line are mentioned as well.

    There was a time when politicians were concerned with equity, right? Making sure that people in similar situations were treated equally? Yeah, that's over.

  • At National Review, Robert Bryce Three Major Problems with a Carbon Tax. What, just three? Well, they're bad enough:

    Proponents claim that a carbon tax would be the most cost-effective way to cut carbon-dioxide emissions. But the carbon tax keeps running aground. There are three big problems with the concept: It would disproportionately hurt low-income consumers, it would inevitably be watered down by special interests, and it would have to be imposed on our trading partners.

    As a low-income consumer myself, I'm especially wary of that first one.

  • Another mental disease on the upswing amongst our political class: assuming they can deliver advice to companies on how to run their businesses more wisely. The latest culprits are Senators Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders. At AEI, James Pethokoukis reveals The new Democratic plan to tell American companies how to invest makes no sense.

    In a New York Times op-ed, Sens. Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders argue that Congress should limit corporate stock buybacks — and maybe dividends, too. And what is the compelling reason for such government intervention? American capitalism is broken — or, rather, still broken. Schumer and Sanders contend that Corporate America — for “decades … obsessed with maximizing only shareholder earnings” — has been putting its cash to use in ways that hurt both workers and the long-term strength of their companies.

    As near as I can tell, Chuck has never held a job in the private sector, let alone run an enterprise. Bernie (on the other hand) rattled around with a "variety of jobs": Head Start teacher, psychiatric aide, carpenter, filmmaker, writer. Not exactly CEO-level resumes in either case.

    The Schumer/Sanders op-ed (link above) drew some (probably paywalled) attention from the WSJ's James Freeman too. He asks, wistfully: Remember When Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders Loved Business? He concentrates on their dewy-eyed opening paragraphs:

    From the mid-20th century until the 1970s, American corporations shared a belief that they had a duty not only to their shareholders but to their workers, their communities and the country that created the economic conditions and legal protections for them to thrive. It created an extremely prosperous America for working people and the broad middle of the country.

    But over the past several decades, corporate boardrooms have become obsessed with maximizing only shareholder earnings to the detriment of workers and the long-term strength of their companies, helping to create the worst level of income inequality in decades.

    Freeman calls these "perhaps the two least honest paragraphs in American newspapers today". That's a high bar.

    In claiming that U.S. corporations have somehow become selfish weapons of mass economic destruction, Messrs. Sanders and Schumer encourage readers to look back to those good old days of the 1960s when American businesses were the engines of broad prosperity. The two men remember those times well, and clearly they were highly impressed. That’s why as young men they became stalwart champions of the free enterprise system.

    Just kidding. That was the era when Chuck Schumer was becoming active in Harvard’s Young Democrats club before volunteering for the left-wing presidential campaign of Eugene McCarthy. Later, after graduating from Harvard’s law school, he made a name for himself in the New York state assembly by attacking asphalt companies and commercial real estate operators, among others.

    Mr. Sanders for his part kept busy attacking not just particular businesses, but business itself. In the early 1960s he joined the Young People’s Socialist League and seems never to have lost that old time non-religion.

    Say what you will about Howard Schultz and Mike Bloomberg, but at least they've run something other than their mouths.

URLs du Jour


Hey, how about that Super Bowl. As a longtime New England resident, I was for the Pats by default. And, in my defense, I was a fan back when they stank. Many fond memories of reading the Monday morning Boston Globe sports section featuring a morose Jim Plunkett saying "What do we have to do to win?"

Well, they got better. But I understand why the rest of the country, with its shorter memory, hates them.

Boring game? Please. Not if you're a fan of steely defenses and chessmaster control of the time of posession.

Since I (1) love Amazon; (2) like Harrison Ford a lot; and (3) own a Boston Terrier myself, I was a sucker for this ad (long version):

With that out of the way, we return to our regularly scheduled programming:

  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson provides a needed remedy to all the sentimental claptrap about "small business": Big Business Is the Future.

    Our politicians reliably fetishize two constituents of American life: the middle class and small business. The Democrats used to talk a bit more about the poor before they became the Harvard party — poor people are lousy donors, as it turns out — and the Republicans used to be a lot warmer toward Big Business before the GOP became a right-wing farmer-labor party and Big Business came to mean Howard Schultz, Mark Zuckerberg, and Lloyd Blankfein.

    But the fact is, America needs Big Business — maybe more than Big Business needs America. There are lots of markets out there.

    His bottom line: "Big Business is not without its sins. But between Big Business and Big Envy, the choice is not difficult."

  • [Amazon Link]
    At Reason, Peter Suderman reviews Oren Cass's latest work, The Once and Future Worker (Amazon link at right). Cass is one of the conservative critics of how (allegedly) the "free market" has eroded the American working class. Suderman demurs. The Government Can't—and Won't—Give Meaning to Your Life.

    Cass starts from what he has dubbed the "Working Hypothesis"—that "a labor market in which workers can support strong families and communities is the central determinant of long-term prosperity and should be the central focus of public policy." His primary target is "economic piety"—the prevailing notion that the organizing aspiration of politics and policy should be to promote economic growth above all. He describes his book as an attempt to reorient American politics around promoting work and the interests of workers, especially less educated workers in manufacturing jobs.

    But Cass' description understates his own ambitions, for he is actually trying to solve something much bigger: the problem of purpose. "Most of the activities and achievements that give life purpose and meaning are, whether in the economic sphere or not, fundamentally acts of production," he writes. His ultimate aim, then, is to restore—or provide—a sense of meaning to American life, particularly to factory workers who lack advanced education.

    The goal is noble, ambitious, and impossible. Cass, the policy wonk and campaign adviser, wants to solve this big problem the same way he wants to solve all the little problems: by carefully pulling the levers of public policy. It reflects a profound and fundamental misunderstanding of what politics can do and what it is for.

    Peter's a pretty sharp guy, and Reason is fortunate to have him.

  • Don't get Jeff Jacoby started on Bill Weld… oh, wait. Someone got Jeff Jacoby started on Bill Weld. And he's brutal: Bill Weld's true north is that he has no true north.

    I VOTED for Bill Weld in the 1990s, when he ran as a Republican for governor of Massachusetts. I voted for him in 2016, when he was the Libertarian nominee for vice president on a ticket with another former governor, Gary Johnson of New Mexico. If Weld runs for president in 2020, should I vote for him again? Should anyone?

    The former Bay State governor has been making noises for a while about getting into the 2020 sweepstakes, though whether as a Republican or as a Libertarian hasn't been clear. On Feb. 15, he is scheduled to speak in New Hampshire at a "Politics & Eggs" breakfast co-hosted by Saint Anselm College and the New England Council — a traditional appearance for presidential wannabes.

    After years of following Weld's political career, there is only one thing about him I'm sure of: He regards politics as a form of intellectual entertainment, and nothing he says on the subject should be mistaken for conviction.

    Yeah, fine. ("A politician with character traits a few sigma away from the mean? Oh, no!")

    I hope Weld runs as a Libertarian, and if he makes the ballot in NH, I'll almost certainly vote for him, if the alternatives are Trump and Kamala.

  • Philip Greenspun looks at the how the emphasis on STEM (science, tech, engineering, math) comes at the "expense" of non-STEM fields. A complaint, unsurprisingly, made loudest by people getting whacked in the pocketbook. “There’s so much messaging in general about STEM, STEM, STEM”.

    As Philip notes (and somewhat understates) "The innumeracy displayed by journalists and editors is interesting." Quote from the Seattle Times:

    The stereotype that English majors wind up as highly educated baristas isn’t borne out by research, Stacey said. A recent study showed that many English majors are more likely to become teachers, lawyers, CEOs and legislators.

    Red flags: "many" and "more likely" than what, exactly? The link goes to an Inside Higher Ed article which at least has numbers:

    According to the Census Bureau, graduates with an English degree have about a 4.9 percent chance of working in one of these food service occupations for some time between the ages of 22 and 26. By comparison, the average among all degree holders in this age group is about 3.5 percent. So English majors are only about 1.4 percentage points more likely to work in food service than the average for all degree holders.

    Phil says (in effect): wait a minute. That means it's 40 percent more likely for an English major to wind up in a food service job than the average grad (never mind STEM grad).

    So a newspaper is (essentially) lying to its readers about the benefits of non-STEM majors.

  • David Harsanyi lists Questions Media Should Ask Democratic Presidential Hopefuls (But Won't). Sample:

    Candidate Elizabeth Warren is proposing a special annual confiscatory tax on the wealthy. Bernie Sanders is proposing levying up to a 77 percent estate tax on wealthier Americans. Do you believe taking money from a certain class of people for the sole purpose of redistributing it to another class comports with the Constitution?

    The top individual income tax is the largest source of U.S. revenue. Right now, the top 20 percent of American earners pay nearly 90 percent of all income tax. What percentage do you believe would be a “fair share?”

    I've long wondered about how candidates would answer that last question. I'd like a number, please, not handwaving.

The Phony Campaign

2019-02-03 Update

[Amazon Link]

This week we welcome newly-announced candidate Senator Cory "Spartacus" Booker to our phony standings. Our Betfair-based calculations show him with a 2.8% probability of being the next occupant of the White House.

The Betfair punters do not have an equally high faith in the odds of Howard "Starbucks" Schultz, who's "contemplating" running for president as an independent. Our calculations show him with a 0.8% shot, not near our 2% inclusion criterion. In comparison, Oprah Winfrey clocks in with a 0.9% probability. So sorry, Howard. Maybe next week. Or never. ("Does 'never' work for you?")

Biggest loser this week: Beto O'Rourke, whose 2020 fortunes are fading. Check out his probability drop below! When a CNN "analyst" says his road-trip adventure drips with white male privilege, that's a pretty clear signal that he's not passing some Identity Politics Purity Test, nickname notwithstanding.

On to our standings, which has Kamala Harris in a solid phony lead over Donald Trump for the third straight week. It's getting hard to pass this off as a Google glitch.

Candidate WinProb Change
Kamala Harris 15.2% +1.5% 17,700,000 +9,970,000
Donald Trump 29.6% +0.4% 2,480,000 -860,000
Nikki Haley 2.0% -0.6% 717,000 +19,000
Michael Bloomberg 2.5% -0.6% 625,000 +164,000
Beto O'Rourke 6.2% -3.2% 550,000 -252,000
Bernie Sanders 4.2% -0.6% 333,000 -9,000
Kirsten Gillibrand 2.6% unch 306,000 +28,000
Tulsi Gabbard 2.5% -0.8% 295,000 +29,000
Elizabeth Warren 3.8% -0.4% 213,000 +58,000
Joe Biden 8.0% -1.1% 186,000 +21,000
Sherrod Brown 3.3% +0.2% 176,000 -46,000
Mike Pence 2.9% +0.3% 145,000 +3,000
Amy Klobuchar 3.1% -1.7% 133,000 +14,000
Cory Booker 2.8% --- 90,700 ---

Standard disclaimer: Google result counts are bogus.

  • Scott Johnson of Power Line welcomes Senator Booker to the field: Spartacus jumps in.

    Senator Booker distinguished himself among the thuggish and theatrical Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee with a comic performance as “Spartacus.” Senator Booker should be better known for the fabrication of T-Bone, his imaginary friend.

    Unlike some of the other current and prospective candidates for president, he must know he’s a fraud. He cannot fake sincerity; he tries too hard. His entry into the Dems’ contest for the 2020 presidential nomination may be notable for the unintended entertainment value it offers by contrast with the candidacies of his Democratic competitors.

    Scott apparently thinks Cory is the especially phony candidate. Maybe. But from our observations, it's a tough competition on that score.

  • But if you're interested in Cory's past fantasies, Joe Seyton reminisces at Reason: Remember 'T-Bone,' Cory Booker's Imaginary Drug Dealer Friend?.

    But Booker's chances will no doubt be hurt by his penchant for grandstanding and embellishing the truth for rhetorical purposes. Take, for instance, his many references to "T-Bone," a drug dealer who Booker claimed to have been friends with. Various critics have questioned whether T-Bone is actually a real person, and Booker has never really provided a definitive response.

    Booker was talking about T-Bone at least as far back as 2000, when he gave an interview to Stanford Magazine. (Booker is a Stanford graduate.) "I still remember my first month on the street," Booker said, referring to the time in 1995 when he moved to a dangerous neighborhood in Newark. "I walked up to this charismatic black guy my age called T-Bone, who was one of the drug lords. I just said, 'Yo, man, wha's up?' And he leaped in front of me, looked me right in the eye and said, 'Who the blank do you think you are? If you ever so much as look at me again, I'm going to put a cap in your ass.'"

    Ah, I long for the days when pols could make up stories about their colorful and heroic past and not get caught.

  • At National Review, Jim Geraghty has a host of Spartacus stories: Cory Booker's 2020 Presidential Hopes Hinge on Bipartisanship. An Senate colleague is quoted anonymously:

    Once Booker entered the Senate, he got somewhat more predictable and partisan in his stances. A Republican senator once said to me, paraphrasing, that he actually liked working with Cory Booker on legislation because Booker wasn’t a partisan jerk. But in order to win the Democratic presidential nomination, Booker was going to have to act like a partisan jerk, and this Republican senator predicted that this wasn’t going to turn out well for him, because he believed that this would only make Booker come across as an inauthentic partisan jerk.

    Can't have that.

  • And about Kamala… Reason notes that Kamala Harris Hopes You'll Forget Her Record as a Drug Warrior and Draconian Prosecutor. You can watch the ReasonTV video right here (narrated by Katherine "Why Can't I Vote For Her For President" Mangu-Ward), or click through for the heavily-hyperlinked text version.

    As David Harsany pointed out a few days back: Kamala Harris Sounds A Lot Like An Authoritarian. As if anyone but a few libertarian souls care about that these days.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File this week is concerned with Defining & Defending Dogma.

    I need a word for the kinds of words that people think are universal and objective but are used by those same people only selectively and subjectively.

    For example, for years I’ve written about how almost everybody believes in censorship, but they only use the word censorship to describe censorship they don’t like. There are people who genuflect to “Banned Book Week” but also insist that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should be pulled from libraries because it uses the N-word. But they don’t call that censorship. There are people who are totally for free speech, but if you ask them if it should be legal to broadcast hardcore porn on Saturday morning broadcast TV, they suddenly start replacing the word “censorship” with things like “reasonable regulation” and “community standards.”

    One of my favorites is “hate.” Decrying hate has been a thing for a long time. JFK was visiting what became the “City of Hate” when he went to Dallas (unfortunately for the narrative-mongers, he was killed by a different kind of hater: a Communist). And I’m sure people paid lip-service to hating hate long before that. But the volume really got amped up with the gay-rights movement in the 1980s. Somebody made bank on those “Hate Is Not a Family Value” bumper stickers.

    Another one getting my goat lately is "choice". Occasionally lefty Facebook friends will proudly declare themselves to be "pro choice".

    I swear, the next time I see that, I'm gonna reply: "So I assume you'll be signing onto my campaign to repeal compulsory school attendance laws?"

  • Speaking of "choice", abortion is in the news again, thanks to Democrats who have made it a priority to legalize everything up to (and including?) outright infanticide. At the Federalist, Ben Domenech talks about The Thing We Don't Talk About.

    In Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan poses the question: “Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature—that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance—and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions?” And softly, his brother Alyosha answers: No. Today’s Democratic Party says: Yes.

    My email and direct messages were filled yesterday with pro-life Americans – and even moderate pro-choice Americans – rightly distressed by the comments from Ralph Northam, the doctor and supposedly moderate Bill Kristol-backed Democrat who is the governor of Virginia, who yesterday made explicit his views concerning what is nothing less than the murder of born-alive infants.

    We're going to undergo a heavy bombardment from the euphemism cannons, as the Ds scramble to undo the damage done by plain honest talk.

  • At Reason, Peter Suderman notes that Elizabeth Warren's Wealth Tax Is a Stunt Policy That Other Countries Have Tried and Discarded.

    More likely, the rich would find ways to avoid those assessments entirely. Sweden's wealth tax, for example, was frequently blamed for capital flight and a depressed rate of national entrepreneurship. Relative to other European nations, Swedes were less likely to own their own business, and those who did often took their money elsewhere rather than reinvest it at home. The founder of Ikea, for example, moved much of his wealth into offshore foundations that shielded the money from the tax.

    I say it was blamed because a little more than a decade ago, Sweden eliminated its wealth tax. The move was easy to make, because the government lost essentially no revenue. As The Financial Times reported, the elimination of the tax had "virtually no effect of government finances." So much for making the rich pay their share.

    Nor is Sweden an outlier in its decision to nix a tax on wealth. European countries that have imposed wealth taxes have largely given up on them; of the dozen OECD nations that had wealth taxes in 1990, just four still have the tax on the books. Warren wants the U.S. to adopt an idea that has been tried and discarded.

    It's a bad idea for other reasons as well, but that's not the point. The purpose of the proposal is solely to get her elected.

  • At the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, Drew Cline looks at: A costly and unnecessary paid leave plan.

    Senate Democrats unveiled their paid family and medical leave bill this week, and the big question was: Why? 

    The reasons given — that it will be a job recruitment tool and a family benefit — were hardly enough to justify its cost. 

    The bill’s fiscal note predicts that the mandatory 0.5 percent tax would raise $156.6 million a year from private employers. That would make it New Hampshire’s sixth-largest tax, coming in right behind the real estate transfer tax. It would extract from the economy $50 million more per year than the interest and dividend tax does. 

    Even with Democrats in charge of both houses of the NH Legislature, it is to be hoped that Drew's objections will be heeded.

  • And the great Michael Ramirez checks out the "Medicare for All" plan.

    As they say: If you have been in a poker game for a while, and you still don’t know who the patsy is, you’re the patsy.

Last Modified 2019-02-10 3:38 AM EDT

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  • In our occasional "Pun Salad is a Sucker For Things Like This" department, the Reason Foundation has published a report Ranking U.S. Metropolitan Areas on the Economic Freedom Index. Oooh!

    For centuries, experts have been trying to discover why some places are so rich and others so poor. Some economists suggest that a largely unregulated system leaves individuals maximally free to pursue their own plans, spurring entrepreneurial activity and innovation.

    About 30 years ago, Nobel Laureate economists Milton Friedman, Gary Becker, and Douglas North, as well as a host of other economists and public policy experts, began an effort to quantify how free the economies of individual nations were. About 10 years later, that resulted in the production of the first Economic Freedom of the World report, and later a state-level version: Economic Freedom of North America (EFNA), which is now produced annually.

    That state-level index shows us how the level of economic freedom can vary across sub-national jurisdictions within the same country (e.g., Texas and Florida have less- burdensome economic policies and therefore much greater economic freedom than New York and California). However, levels of economic freedom can also vary within those subnational jurisdictions. For example, the San Jose metro area has substantially higher economic freedom than Los Angeles. The same is true for Nashville compared to Memphis. In some places, metropolitan areas straddle state borders, skewing state-level economic data. This report, the “U.S. Metropolitan Area Economic Freedom Index,”  quantifies those intra-state disparities by providing a local-level version of the EFNA, ranking 382 metropolitan areas by their economic freedom levels.

    OK, so how did we do? There's good news, sort of: New Hampshire's Strafford and Rockingham Counties (the former being the home of Pun Salad World Headquarters) are in the "Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH MSA", which ranks (surprisingly, for me) at #17 "among the 52 largest MSAs with 2012 populations of more than one million".

    Not bad! But does including those two New Hampshire counties raise the score for the region? (Or, equivalently, is Boston/Cambridge/Quincy dragging it down?) I'd bet yes. Evidence: the report also tabulates 330 MSAs with 2012 populations less than 1 million; on that list, the Manchester/Nashua NH MSA ranks #5. (Just behind Sioux Falls, SD. Damn you, Sioux Falls!)

  • At National Review, John Allison suggests that we should make the Moral Case for Capitalism.

    Progressives want to accelerate the country’s century-long shift toward socialism with a long list of policies: Medicare-for-all, “free” college, government-run energy production and prescription-drug manufacturing, federal job and housing guarantees, dramatically higher tax rates and new wealth taxes, and a $15 minimum wage.

    Conservatives have opposed these socialist proposals by pointing out how much they will cost. For instance, they’ve trumpeted a Mercatus Center study estimating that Medicare-for-all would roughly double the federal budget. They have explained how high tax rates would hurt economic growth. And they’ve demonstrated how a $15 wage floor would hurt small businesses and reduce job opportunities.

    These arguments are all correct. But they do not address the root of why these policy proposals are wrong. By merely citing the financial or economic challenges of implementing them, conservatives cede the moral high ground and tacitly accept the Left’s premises.

    That's an excellent point. There's no reason not to attack Progressive proposals on both fronts: not only are they guaranteed to make us worse off in objective terms, they're also inherently coercive, based in fear, envy, and resentment.

    Of course, that would mean a lot of pols would have to back off their own coercively-implemented proposals based in fear, envy, and resentment. That's tough for Republicans, given their choice of presidents.

  • Don Boudreaux writes at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Soaking the rich impoverishes us all.

    The truth that wealth creation requires creativity, risk-taking, saving and work effort seems to me to be both indisputable and obvious. And yet many people apparently don’t understand this truth.

    How else to explain the enthusiasm that many Americans today have for the soak-the-rich schemes offered up by politicians such as Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

    I’m not close to being a billionaire, and I have no prospect of ever becoming one. Yet when I hear calls to confiscate large amounts of wealth from billionaires, I shudder. While exceptions no doubt exist, the people who get rich in our economy are overwhelmingly people who have made the rest of us richer.

    RTWT. But, geez, the commenters are pretty bad, as one might expect.

  • Caught by Hot Air, a WaPo self-parodic "news" article from their "national political reporter" Matt Viser: Republicans seize on liberal positions to paint Democrats as radical.

    Yes! Those damned Republicans, seizing. But wait, what about…? Ah, never mind, there it is:

    “There is legitimate concern among Democrats about policy and rhetoric that comes out of the very far left,” said Ed Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “Yes, they hurt. It gives Republicans fodder to continue this train of thought that Democrats have become a socialist party. . . . They pounce on anything someone in our party says and make it seem like it represents the whole party.”

    Yes, not only do they seize, they also pounce. One would think relatively savvy WaPo editors might caution their writers: avoid clichés like the plague.

  • And Reason's Eric Boehm has Super Bowl news you probably won't see anywhere else: Atlanta Spent $23 Million Building a Pedestrian Bridge for the Super Bowl That Pedestrians Can't Use.

    In anticipation of hosting this year's Super Bowl at the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the city of Atlanta spent more than $23 million to build a pedestrian bridge linking the stadium to the nearby Vine City public transit station, allowing fans to cross a busy street without needing a crosswalk. The bridge was originally supposed to cost about $13 million—already pretty pricey for a simple pedestrian crossing over a four-lane road—but city officials approved an extra $10 million in funding last year to ensure the project would be finished in time for the big game, which kicks off Sunday evening.

    The serpentine bridge—decked out with dazzling, customizable LED lights and wrapped with diamond-shaped aluminum panels—did indeed get finished in time for the Super Bowl.

    But it won't be used by the vast majority of the expected 80,000 people heading to the game on Sunday. Because of it's location adjacent to the stadium, the bridge has been deemed a security risk and will be closed to everyone except credentialed staff and media, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported this week.

    Well, that's just peachy. (Get it?)

  • But at the WSJ, Gregg Opelka makes a constructive suggestion that would cost… well, nothing. The NFL Should Stop LIVing a LIII. Specifically, enough with the roman numerals. Among the many reasons cited:

    The rest of the game uses Arabic numerals.Rob Gronkowski’s jersey reads 87, not LXXXVII. We don’t say the Patriots’ record was XI-V or the Rams beat the Saints XXVI-XXIII to advance to the Super Bowl.

    Tom Brady is at DXVII career touchdown passes; he only has XXII to go before catching Peyton Manning, who has DXXXIX.