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.