URLs du Jour

2019-02-18

[Amazon Link]

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

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

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

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

    Judgment-rusher unmentioned by Kyle: Donald Trump.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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