URLs du Jour

2019-02-15

[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.”

    Indeed.

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

2019-02-14

[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:

    [Opportunity]

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


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

URLs du Jour

2019-02-13

[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.

Loving

[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

2019-02-12

[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.

    Aieee!

    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 EST

URLs du Jour

2019-02-11

[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.

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

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 peripatic 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
Since
2/3
Phony
Results
Change
Since
2/3
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.


URLs du Jour

2019-02-09

[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 EST

URLs du Jour

2019-02-08

[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 EST

URLs du Jour

2019-02-07

[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

2019-02-06

[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

2019-02-05

[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

2019-02-04

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
Since
1/27
Phony
Results
Change
Since
1/27
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

2019-02-02

[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 EST

URLs du Jour

2019-02-01

[Amazon Link]

  • 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.