URLs du Jour

2019-02-22

[Amazon Link]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

    Good luck with that.


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

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

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

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

    Maybe. I still like "alien probe".


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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