The Phony Campaign

2019-03-24 Update

[Amazon Link]

This week, we bid farewell to Julian Castro, who only managed to stay above a 2% win probability at Betfair for a single week. Senator Spartacus, Cory Booker, also dropped below 2% this week.

And there's good news for the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg! The Betfair punters have elevated him into "credible candidate" territory, comparable with Elizabeth Warren and … yes, Andrew Yang.

I would have expected the no-further-indictments result of the Mueller investigation would have boosted Trump's winning probability more than it did. Probability-wise, the week's big winner was Beto!

Beto! (however) fell into second place in the only poll that really matters, the Google Phony Hit Count. But he and Kamala are still soundly beating Trump, phonywise.

Note that the Amazon Product du Jour is kind of out of date. The "very real" quote is apparently from two years old. From the WaPo, discussing Trump's switch from campaign bullshit rhetoric to incumbent bullshit rhetoric:

There was a moment that epitomized that switch. In March 2017, then-press secretary Sean Spicer was asked whether the newly released jobs numbers were still “phony” in the eyes of the president.

“They may have been phony in the past,” Spicer said, quoting Trump, “but it’s very real now.”

He and the reporters in the room laughed.

Ah, good times. The latest unemployment rate reported (February 2019) is 3.8%.

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
3/17
Phony
Results
Change
Since
3/17
Kamala Harris 11.2% -0.7% 8,050,000 +2,150,000
Beto O'Rourke 10.0% +1.7% 7,250,000 -5,750,000
Donald Trump 34.5% +1.4% 1,770,000 -340,000
Bernie Sanders 12.2% -0.3% 361,000 +4,000
Joe Biden 12.5% +0.1% 226,000 +21,000
Elizabeth Warren 2.1% -0.2% 207,000 -1,000
Pete Buttigieg 2.5% --- 183,000 ---
Andrew Yang 2.8% -0.8% 11,100 +2,040

"WinProb" calculation described here. Standard disclaimer: Google result counts are bogus.

  • In last Friday's "Morning Jolt", Jim Geraghty objected to a recent bizarre assertion from "journalist" Charlotte Alter of Time magazine that people of her age "have never experienced American prosperity in our adult lives." Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, says Jim: Millennials Are Experiencing American Prosperity.

    But what I really wanted to excerpt was Geraghty's take on our Phony newcomer, Pete Buttigieg:

    The nicest things I can say about Pete Buttigieg, the latest subject in the “Twenty Things” series: Starting at a very early age — and some might argue that at 37, he’s still at a very early age — he set out to do everything the right way and steadily and methodically did so — Harvard, Oxford, consulting at McKinsey. He chose to wear his country’s uniform when he had plenty of other options. With his accomplishments and glowing resume, he could have gone anywhere and worked just about any place, but he chose to return to his hometown, determined he could bring better days for his community. His constituents seem to adore him.

    The least-nice things I can say about Buttigieg: He is the insufferably perfect valedictorian class president that your parents kept telling you to emulate. He’s the kid who started thinking about being elected to high office in high school and started making preparations then. His ambition was so transparent that it stood out at Harvard’s Institute for Politics, basically the Hogwarts for bright young people who want to be president someday. South Bend is the 299th-largest city in America and based upon five years of running that, Buttigieg thinks he’s ready to be president of the United States. Some presidential candidates falter because they don’t have “the fire in the belly.” Buttigieg’s got the Hindenberg in his intestines.

    How stupid is the American electorate? No, that's a serious question: how stupid is the American electorate?


  • Tim Miller of the Bulwark takes a brief timeout from that site's overall Trump-stinks theme, and takes a look at The Beto Woke Wars. He's already flunked the Social Justice Warriors' purity test. (And dares to run against Saint Bernie!)

    The grassroots enthusiasm that resulted from this national fame and an opponent the left found nothing short of vampiric jolted his campaigns well past what most political prognosticators thought possible in Texas. But of course didn’t get him enough votes to actually win. So as the calendar turned to 2019, without a Cruzian foil, the prog-cognoscenti began to turn on their toe-headed boy.

    As Jonathan Chait observed, if America was going to get its first socialist president, the Bernie bros were going to have to crush Beto.

    The aspirational socialists and the intersectional liberals suddenly found themselves in league against a common enemy: a white male capitalist who once took a road-trip with a . . . Republican. So when Beto formally announced his campaign last week, what he may not have realized is that he was firing the first presidential shot in the left’s internecine Woke Wars. And in this battle he is on the wrong side of some of the very people who were his base in 2018: center-left journalists and power twitter users.

    There's an impressive roster of folks, both inside and outside the media, who thought Beto was great when he was running against Ted Cruz and … now just noticed that he's awful.


  • At Hot Air, Allahpundit piles on: O'Rourke rocked by major scandal: He once supported basic fiscal responsibility. Specifically, CNN noticed that while running for Congress in 2012, Beto "said the US had an 'extravagant government' that needed 'significant' spending cuts."

    This made me think of that famous Edwin Edwards quote, “The only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy,” just because O’Rourke would have an easier time explaining either of those scenarios to the left than explaining why he used to support entitlement reform.

    He has two options now. One: Publish a hastily written statement pledging allegiance to Modern Monetary Theory or some similar progressive horsesh*t. Two: Switch to the GOP and primary Trump. He probably wouldn’t do worse than four or five percent of the vote in a Republican primary, as that’s roughly the share of righties who still believe in cutting spending.

    Beto must apologize for his dalliance with reality, ASAP!


  • Andrew Yang continues to hang in, with (according to Betfair) a better shot at the presidency than Elizabeth Warren, or any of the other announced candidates that have dropped off our list. At the Federalist, Madeline Osburn helpfully lists Democratic Candidate Andrew Yang's 8 Most Bizarre Policy Proposals. I think I could get behind this one (assuming "White House Staff" includes the boss too):

    4. Monitor the Mental Health of White House Staff

    “My brother is a psychology professor—I believe in the power and good that the discipline can do. We should be 100% confident that people in power don’t have severe psychological problems,” Yang writes.

    It’s unclear what his brother’s occupation has to do with the president’s mental health. Nevertheless, Yang is convinced that there should be a “White House Psychologist group” responsible for monitoring the mental health of employees in the executive branch.

    Unfortunately, doctor-patient confidentiality would preclude the public from learning anything interesting.

    I think, however, that candidates for higher office should be required to take standardized tests of intelligence, basic knowledge, and personality traits. And those results should be released to the public pre-election.

    Also maybe a Jeopardy!-style quiz show, although a format that doesn't depend on button-clicking. Presidential candidates should not be evaluated on how quickly they can hit a button!


  • Senator Gillibrand hasn't met our 2% inclusion threshold for a couple months now (and she's now at something like 0.9%). But Jacob Sullum's blog post at Reason was too good not to include here: Kirsten Gillibrand Says Her Limit on Opioid Prescriptions 'Is Not Intended to Interfere With These Decisions'.

    In response to a backlash against her bill imposing a nationwide seven-day limit on initial prescriptions of opioids for acute pain, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) suggests she is open to changes that would address the concerns raised by critics. Gillibrand's acknowledgment of the criticism is encouraging, but her response seems confused, wrongheaded, and disingenuous.

    "I want to get this right," the presidential contender writes on Medium, "and I believe that we can have legislation to help combat the opioid epidemic and the over-prescription of these powerful drugs without affecting treatment for those who need this medication. I fundamentally believe that all health care should be between doctors and patients, and this bill is not intended to interfere with these decisions but to ensure doctors prescribe opioids with a higher level of scrutiny, given their highly addictive and dangerous effects."

    I would have slightly more respect for an honest take: "I want to get this right. Please tell me what position I need to take in order to maximize the number of people who will vote for me."


URLs du Jour

2019-03-23

[Amazon Link]

  • Jonah Goldberg delivers a late hit on behalf of the Electoral College: Abolishing the Electoral College would be a mistake. Bottom line:

    Most of our political problems today are a result of our political gatekeepers surrendering to the mob. All extreme political movements are hostile to restraints on their will. This is what unites the progressives who want to pack the Supreme Court, abolish the Electoral College, and “reform” the “undemocratic” Senate with those on the right who celebrate President Trump’s emergency declaration and other attempts to rule by fiat.

    In a healthy democracy, leaders are answerable not just to voters but to legislatures, the courts, the states, and parties. The decades-long trend has been to dismantle this arrangement to make presidents answerable to no one but the slice of electorate that voted for them. And even there, those voters are increasingly more interested in seeing their leader “win” than in holding them accountable. Abolishing the Electoral College would be another step toward a kind of national absolutism, which is an even worse medieval relic.

    The language of the latest proposed EC-abolishing amendment can be found here. It's not worth going into detail, but I think the greatest source of mischief would be Section 5: "The times, places, and manner of holding such elections and entitlement to inclusion on the ballot shall be determined by Congress."

    Sure, nothing could go wrong there. I trust Congress.


  • At Quillette, Kathrine Jebsen Moore proposes a tough but fair reform: When Children Protest, Adults Should Tell them the Truth. Specifically, Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who's gained worldwide fame and praise for her "climate activism" needs a heady dose of verity:

    The climate debate is a complicated one. It requires the careful weighing of interests and trade-offs, not the uncompromising fanaticism of an absolutist. A sixteen-year-old should not be expected to see all the nuances, but as adults, we should expose her ideas for what they are: undemocratic, fatalistic, and bereft of the hope and optimism needed to effect consequential change. Thunberg’s speeches and Manichean worldview do not offer realistic answers to the problems we face. Even if her most alarming predictions turn out to be true, solutions will have to rely upon innovation and a realistic assessment of what is possible. Activism might be driven by passionate conviction and founded on good intentions, but as Saul Alinsky, the radical American writer and community organiser, once observed: “Young protagonists are one moment reminiscent of the idealistic early Christians, yet they also urge violence and cry, ‘Burn the system down!’ They have no illusions about the system, but plenty of illusions about the way to change our world.”

    Sixteen-year-olds of whatever political inclination should just Keep It To Themselves. I include myself at that age.


  • At the NR Corner, Charles C.W. Cooke writes on New Zealand Gun Confiscation: One Strike Policy.

    New Zealand has confirmed that it will ban — and confiscate — any firearm that resembles those that were used in the recent terroristic attack. In response, the gun-control movement has taken a break from assuring gun owners that “nobody is talking about confiscation” and set about lionizing New Zealand’s parliament for agreeing to . . . engage in confiscation. In future, we can presumably expect to see similar dance to the one that President Obama performed when he spoke of Australia. To wit: “Why can’t we be more like New Zealand? How dare you suggest I want to do what New Zealand did.”

    Charles observes a more general point: using a horrific individual incident to panic a country into abridging the rights of the general citizenry is no way to run a free country.


  • Drew Cline of the Josiah Bartlett Center wonders if New Hampshire is Slouching towards Connecticut.

    The Legislature’s Democratic majority is seizing its opportunity. In control of both legislative chambers for only the fifth time since the Civil War (and one of those times involved a tie in the Senate), they are determined to leave their mark on the state.

    Indeed, businesses are looking at the bills passed so far and saying to themselves, “Son of a…that’s gonna leave a mark!

    Having campaigned on raising business taxes and forcing businesses to comply with the party’s agenda, Democrats are delivering for their base. The tax-and-regulate agenda is similar to the one being pursued in another New England state this session: Connecticut.

    Drew includes a speaks-for-itself graphic from a recent report from the Boston Fed, which I will attempt to hotlink:

    Nonagricultural employment changes in New England states

    New Hampshire Democrats look at this and say: Hey, we can fix that!


  • And last but … OK, probably also least, the Christian Science Monitor (which still exists) rang our Google LFOD News Alert with: As Beto campaigns, New Hampshire looks for rock-ribbed answers, not fluff.

    "Rock-ribbed", baby. That's us.

    For seven decades, New Hampshire voters have taken very seriously their role in vetting presidential candidates. Every candidate must crisscross the state – the first in the nation to hold a primary – meeting voters face to face. This is America’s tried-and-tested forge of retail politics. Given their personal experiences with candidates, New Hampshire voters may be the most politically savvy citizens in this democracy. And they don’t tend to fall for fluff. These are people who shovel themselves out from underneath winter, grow up going to town meetings, and take to heart the state’s motto, “Live Free or Die.”

    I'm blushing with all this undeserved praise. But let me break out, once again, my favorite bits of NH Primary trivia:

    The last time the Democrat winner of a contested New Hampshire Primary went on to win the general election was 1976 (Jimmy Carter). Forty-three years ago!

    NH Republicans do slightly better on that score. Famously, Donald Trump won in 2016. But before that, you have to go back to 1988 (thirty-one years ago!) when George H. W. Bush squeaked by Bob ("call me Bob Dole, like I do") Dole.

    I know we love going first, but I'm kind of surprised that people take us that seriously.

URLs du Jour

2019-03-22

[Amazon Link]

  • David Harsanyi speaks truly at the Federalist: Democrats Want To Kill The Electoral College Because They Fear The Constitution.

    The United States isn’t a “democracy.” Though every American should have learned this fact in high school civics class, the smart-set still like to ridicule people who point it out–such a cliché, and all.

    Today, we see why the Left worked to convince Americans that majoritarianism was a profound moral good. And it’s not just that America is going through another silly debate about the suddenly inconvenient Electoral College; it’s that Democrats are increasingly comfortable attacking foundational ideas of American governance.

    Harsanyi goes on to relate the pro-Electoral College arguments and rebut the antis.

    But on the point made in Harsanyi's first paragraph: call me old-fashioned, but I still like the distinctions made between a republic and democracy in Federalist Number 10.


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson writes on the same topic: Electoral College and Democrat Opposition to the Constitutional Order.

    The Senate. The Electoral College. The First Amendment. The Second Amendment. The Supreme Court. Is there a part of our constitutional order that the Democrats have not pledged to destroy?

    There are some Democrats out there in the sticks — a lot of them, in fact — who simply don’t understand the constitutional order. They believe that the United States is a democracy, John Adams et al. be damned, and, in fact, they often are confused by the frankly anti-democratic features of the American order, because they have been taught (theirs is a pseudo-education consisting of buzzwords rather than an actual education) that “democratic” means “good” and “undemocratic” means “bad.”

    But the Democrats in Washington are a different story. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris went to law school. They understand the American constitutional order just fine.

    And they hate it.

    Kevin goes on to observe the other Democrat attacks on the constutional order (e.g., "End Citizens United", court-packing). And notes, correctly, that this is a far greater threat than the allegations-du-jour against Trump.


  • Of course, Michael Ramirez has pictorial commentary on one of the EC-threateners:

    What bugs me about this is the same thing that once bugged me about Republican presidential candidates offering to fix fiscal insanity via a "Balanced Budget Amendment" to the Constitution. I want to take them by the hand, sit them down, and speak slowly:

    Kids: you're running for president. Do you know what the role of the president in amending the Constituion is? Here, I'll put it in a box for you:

    That's right: you're running for an office that has no say whatsoever in amending the Constitution.

    In fact, you incumbent Congresscritters have influence over the process right now. Here is S.J.Res.41, introduced in the previous Congress. Senators Warren, Booker, Klobuchar: you could have been co-sponsors, but weren't. Why not?

    Senator Gillibrand, congratulations (sort of): you were a sponsor. Unfortunately, this just shows you're from a high-population state looking to erode the power of small states like mine.

    Senator Harris: you get a pass, you weren't there.


  • James Freeman of the WSJ looks at the record of Bernie Sanders and Venezuela. He's particularly irked that, in a recent interview, Bernie accused his "right-wing colleagues" of characterizing his socialistic proposals as "authoritarianism and communism and Venezuela, and that’s nonsense."

    What’s far worse than nonsense is for Mr. Sanders to pretend that he hasn’t been a long-time backer of Venezuela’s socialist rulers. Mr. Sanders recently attracted criticism from Democrats for refusing to call Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro the dictator that he is. It’s just the latest episode in an appalling history.

    In January of 2003 Mr. Sanders signed a letter of support for Maduro predecessor Hugo Chavez. That month a Reuters report described what was happening in the country:[…]

    What was happening: tear-gassing protestors, threats and confiscations against TV stations and property owners, political arrests, state-sponsored gang violence. Did Sanders utter a critical peep about any of that at the time?


  • The College Fix contributes to our "What Would We Do Without Scholars?" Department: Scholar makes 'moral case' for letting people decide their own age.

    A recent article published in The Journal of Medical Ethics by a Finnish bioethicist made a moral case for the legal change of a person’s age to correspond with that person’s “experienced age.”

    The piece, by Joona Räsänen of the University of Oslo in Norway, titled “A Moral Case for Legal Age Change,” concludes that there are three scenarios when a change to one’s legal age should be allowed: When “the person genuinely feels his age differs significantly from his chronological age,” when “the person’s biological age is recognized to be significantly different from his chronological age,” and when “age change would likely prevent, stop or reduce ageism, discrimination due to age, he would otherwise face.”

    I'm tempted to say "I identify as 17". But there's a downside, missing out on all those sweet senior citizen discounts.

    But I was reminded of a favorite scene in Steve Martin's movie, The Jerk, where his character, Navin Johnson soliloquizes to a sleeping Marie.

    I know we've only known each other four weeks and three days, but to me it seems like nine weeks and five days. The first day seemed like a week and the second day seemed like five days. And the third day seemed like a week again and the fourth day seemed like eight days. And the fifth day you went to see your mother and that seemed just like a day, and then you came back and later on the sixth day, in the evening, when we saw each other, that started seeming like two days, so in the evening it seemed like two days spilling over into the next day and that started seeming like four days, so at the end of the sixth day on into the seventh day, it seemed like a total of five days. And the sixth day seemed like a week and a half. I have it written down, but I can show it to you tomorrow if you want to see it.

    Yeah, something like that. If only Navin were non-fictional, and Finnish, he could probably work this into an article for The Journal of Medical Ethics. Something like "A Moral Case for Differential Time Perception".

URLs du Jour

2019-03-21

[Amazon Link]

  • It sounds like an obituary, but it's unfortunately not. Rich Lowry writes at National Review describing how the SPLC Weaponized Political Correctness.

    Over the decades, the SPLC basically made the philosopher Eric Hoffer’s famous line about organizational degeneracy its strategic plan: “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

    Originally founded as a civil-rights group in 1971 and gaining fame for its campaign to bankrupt the Ku Klux Klan, the SPLC shifted to a catchall “anti-hate” group that widened its definition of hate to encompass more and more people as the Klan faded as a threat.

    It used the complicity or credulousness of the media in repeating its designations to punish its ideological enemies and engage in prodigious fundraising. It raised $50 million a year and built an endowment of more than $300 million.

    Imagine a left-wing outfit with the same shoddy standards as Joe McCarthy, but with a better business sense.

    It's not as if people were unaware of the SPLC's nature. Even back in 2010 (when now-disgraced SPLC founder Morris Dees was invited to give the Commemorative Address for the 2011 MLK Day celebrations at the University Near Here) it was apparent that it was a fundraising scam.


  • In Pun Salad's "Irony Can Be Pretty Ironic Sometimes" Department, Reason's Robby Soave reports: University of Cambridge Cancels Jordan Peterson’s Visiting Fellowship Because He Is Not 'Inclusive'.

    Jordan Peterson, the University of Toronto psychologist known for criticizing political correctness, announced Monday that he would be a visiting fellow at the University of Cambridge's divinity school.

    But on Wednesday, Cambridge's administration announced that they had rescinded the invitation following a public outcry from students and professors.

    "[Cambridge] is an inclusive environment and we expect all our staff and visitors to uphold our principles," a Cambridge spokesperson told The Guardian. "There is no place here for anyone who cannot."

    There's a certain odor of "We had to destroy the village in order to save it" in that explanation, right?


  • An occasional decent article slips onto the Wired site now and then. Current example (from Clive Thompson) is one that will warm any computer geek's heart: Coders’ Primal Urge to Kill Inefficiency—Everywhere.

    Shelley Chang was working as a business analyst for a computer company in 2010 when she met Jason Ho through some mutual friends. Ho was tall and slender with a sly smile, and they hit it off right away. A computer programmer, Ho ran his own company from San Francisco. He also loved to travel. Less than a month after they met, Ho surprised Chang by buying a plane ticket to meet her in Taiwan, where she’d temporarily relocated. Soon they were talking about visiting Japan together for four weeks. Chang was a bit apprehensive; they didn’t know each other well. But she decided to take the gamble.

    Ho, as it turned out, had a very strict and peculiar itinerary planned. He’s fond of ramen dishes, and to fit as many as possible into their visit to Tokyo, he’d assembled a list of noodle places and plotted them on Google Maps. Then he’d written some custom code to rank the restaurants so they could be sure to visit the best ones as they went sightseeing. It was, he said, a “pretty traditional” algorithmic challenge, of the sort you learn in college. Ho showed Chang the map on his phone. He told her he was planning to keep careful notes about the quality of each meal too. “Oh wow,” she thought, impressed, if a bit wary. “This guy is kind of nuts.”

    Shelley should talk to Mrs. Salad, who's been putting up with this sort of thing for … wow … decades. I can still get her to roll her eyes when I describe my latest scheme for life optimization.


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang loudly for a Union Leader story about the latest nannyism from state legislators: NH Democrats use new majority to pass bills restricting use of plastic bags and straws.

    “Even California recognizes that plastic straws have a place in society, and they chose to only apply their prohibition to full-service restaurants,” said Minority Leader Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack.

    “If this bill becomes law, and you’re driving away from receiving your drive-thru milkshake or iced coffee realizing you forgot to ask for a straw, just remember that even your friends in California have more straw freedom than you do here in the Live Free or Die state.”

    We should change our motto to "Live As Free As NH Democrats Decree You Can". A little wordy for license plates, unfortunately.


  • But our legislators were not through, taking up an Important Issue that had shamefully been left unresolved four years ago. Live Free and Fly: New Hampshire House approves state raptor.

    This was a fourth grade school project back in 2015. The same kids are now eighth graders, and they will not be denied!

    […] Discussion of the raptor bill was brief. The only lawmaker who spoke against it was Rep. Christy Bartlett, D-Concord, who argued the state already has too many symbols and that red-tailed hawks, being common place across the country, don't uniquely represent the state. Students who want to get involved in the political process would be better off working on bills of greater importance, she argued.

    But Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, said passing the bill was important given that it had gotten inappropriately hijacked four years ago.

    "I think this is an opportunity for us to establish a symbol that works for the state of New Hampshire but also a way to pay respect to tenacity and perseverance," he said.

    Students wore T-shirts that played off the state's motto of "Live Free or Die" that read: "Our Second Try to Live Free & Fly." They argued red-tailed hawks were deserving of the honor because they're determined, adaptable and share parenting responsibilities. Daniel Blankenship, one of the students, who spotted a red-tailed hawk on his way to the Statehouse on Wednesday, said the defeat four years ago was instructive.

    "It taught us all a lesson that we don't always succeed in getting what we want," he said ahead of Wednesday's vote. "It helped us grow as people."

    So it appears that New Hampshire's 243-year-long nightmare of lacking a State Raptor will soon be over.

Endangered

[Amazon Link]

Another fine outing for C. J. Box, with the latest exploits of Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett. Who goes through an unusual amount of hell here.

As the book opens, Joe is investigating the remains of Lek 64, a sage grouse colony that's been shotgun-slaughtered by persons unknown. A major distraction intervenes: Joe's wayward daughter April has been discovered nearly beaten to death on the side of a road.

Suspicion naturally falls on the rodeo cowboy with whom April had run off in the previous book. But (hm) an anonymous tip is called in, pointing the finger at a reclusive, heavily armed nutjob who doesn't recognize government authority, etc.

In the meantime, Joe's friend Nate Romanowski is in the hands of Federal law enforcement, and they have the bright idea to release him and use him as bait to entrap the at-large bad guy Nate betrayed in the previous book of the series. But Nate's only out for a brief time until he runs into big trouble.

Confession: I thought I saw the big plot twist well in advance. I was wrong. Author Box had me fooled.

A Star Is Born

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Your mileage may definitely vary: this movie won one Oscar (Best Song) and was nominated for seven more (including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Screenplay). The IMDB raters give it a 7.8, pretty decent.

And the Netflix algorithm thought I'd love it.

Wrong. But maybe I was just in no mood for seeing the story of impossibly rich, majorly famous, allegedly talented people destroy their lives.

Anyway: Bradley Cooper plays Jack, the musical superstar with substance abuse problems, a dysfunctional relationship with his older brother, Bobby (Sam Elliot) and also tinnitus. After a performance, he's on a desperate search for booze and goes into a drag bar, where Ally (Lady Gaga) is performing La Vie en Rose. He is enraptured, and before you can say "Are you sure this is a good idea?" she's sharing the stage with him, which launches her career into the stratosphere. Which sets him up for his inevitable eclipse, futher substance abuse, and…

Well, you get the idea. Hollywood loves this plot; IMDB counts four previous movie versions. (One of which I saw, the one with Barbra Streisand, and I didn't like that one either.)

Except… whoa, that was Andrew Dice Clay?

URLs du Jour

2019-03-20

[Amazon Link]

If you want to set an alarm or sacrifice a virgin or something, the Spring/Vernal/March Equinox is today at 21:58 UTC. (Convert as desired.)

I for one am kind of bummed that I didn't get the Amazon Product du Jour.

  • At the (possibly paywalled) WSJ, James P. Freeman opines: Elizabeth Warren Isn’t Qualified to Teach History, Either.

    Trailing the Democratic presidential pack in opinion surveys and fundraising, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) is urging Americans to consider a new redistribution of wealth. The basic idea is that the federal government will apportion among the citizens living now the historical guilt for heinous acts committed by people long dead against other people long dead. Then money would flow from people who have not been convicted of any crime to people who have not been found by any court to have been victimized by a crime.

    That of course is the appeal of "social justice": it's the opposite of actual justice.


  • At Reason, Nick Gillespie bids farewell to Dick Dale, a Great American Original, RIP.

    Dick Dale was born in Boston in 1937 as Richard Anthony Mansour, but he died on Saturday as "The King of the Surf Guitar." His life encapsulates so much that is great about America, especially our part-mythic, part-real ability to invent and re-invent who we want to be. It's fantastic, and totally to-be-expected, that a son of the Middle East and Central and Eastern Europe ended up creating one of the most purely "American" strains of popular music. That's worth pondering, especially in a moment when xenophobia is on the rise.

    Dale was Lebanese on his father's side, Polish and Belorussian on his mother's. He became entranced by Hank Williams as a kid and his paternal uncle bought him a tarabaki and an oud, a Middle Eastern drum and stringed instrument respectively, and he started developing a highly personal guitar style in which he used the guitar as both a lead and percussive instrument.

    His family moved to Southern California in the mid-1950s and Dale started blending Middle Eastern music with rock and country. Along the way, he was christened Dick Dale by "Texas Tiny" Cherry, himself a short-lived, 640-pound country music legend. Dale didn't just reinvent himself and popular music styles. He also reinvented the technology to play rock, country, surf, you name it, by helping Leo Fender perfect the first 100-watt guitar amplifier that was not just incredibly loud but precise and durable.

    My CD collection is regrettably light on Dick Dale. I should remedy that.


  • Bryan Caplan looks for The Missing Planks. No, not on his deck. He's talking about the planks missing from Presidential campaign proposals. All good ideas, here are a couple:

    1. Stop REAL ID before it inconveniences tens of millions of American travelers.  Also, order the TSA to stop asking to see your boarding pass twice just to board a plane.
    2. Let students fulfill their foreign language requirement with a computer language.  For both high school graduation and public college admission.

    Provocative! When I was in high school, that probably would have been Fortran. Instead of… I think I took German? Wie geht es ihnen? Wo ist der Biergarten?


  • At Heterodox Academy, Ilana Akresh has thoughts on Extremism, Hate and Viewpoint Diversity triggered by the latest horror.

    One effect of such tragic events is to remind us that we are terrifyingly powerless to prevent them. And while most of us desperately want to craft a world where such atrocities are exceedingly rare, we struggle to understand how to get there. Yet, while we can’t control individual actors, we are not helpless in the climate we create. We can do something about the way we communicate with and listen to one another. And a climate in which people are led to view other identity groups as adversaries on a zero-sum battleground for resources is not one that will minimize such atrocities.

    Granted, to a certain extent, competition between groups may well be innate. However, it is a perilous move to encourage groups to divide along visible fault lines, appealing to entrenched histories and apparently intrinsic identities.

    A subtle but important point.


  • Andrew Klavan writes at the Daily Wire on the latest outrage: Democrats Fight To Extend Voting Rights To Stupid Kids.

    Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi says the voting age should be lowered to sixteen. In a speech to a mop closet she mistook for a feminist rally, Pelosi said, “Democrats need to get kids involved when they’re totally ignorant and half out of their minds on hormones or we’ll never get elected again.” Pelosi then realized she was talking to a bunch of mops, and said they should have the right to vote as well.

    Inspired by the Speaker, high school students across the country have formed an activist organization called Teenagers Who Like Really Think it Would Be Cool to Vote and You Can’t Stop Us—or TWILLRIT WUC V-YICSU.

    The group’s president, 16-year-old Thad Mellow, made his position clear in an essay he handed in two weeks late because his stupid little brother spilled Red Bull all over his laptop. The essay begins, “Why I would like to vote. By Thad Mellow. I would like to vote because I think Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is really hot and if I voted for her I would get to meet her in person and show her how I can ride my skateboard down the concrete stairway in back of school while lighting a lighter with my tongue only this time I’d do it without cracking my skull and setting my face on fire.”

    Oh, yeah, I forgot: it's explicitly labeled "satire". But is it, really?


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson speaks for me, and the sliver of the electorate that disbelieves in the Government Free Lunch Fairy. Donald Trump's Budget: Just Stop Spending.

    Stop spending money you don’t have, dummy.

    Can we conservatives agree — at least among ourselves — on that much?

    Maybe not.

    Confession: I am not much of an ideologue. And I don’t think “Stop spending money you don’t have, dummy!” is an ideological position, exactly. And there’s no need to be fanatical about it: Running a deficit during a serious economic downturn, a war, or a national emergency? I’m flexible. You show me Hitler invading Poland and my response is not going to be: Stop spending money you don’t have, dummy.

    It's hard. But it's not that hard.

URLs du Jour

2019-03-19

[Amazon Link]

  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson notes an Obviously True Fact: Lawsuit against Remington over Sandy Hook Massacre Is Bogus. You can click through for the facts of the case and the tortured logic of the Connecticut Supreme Court. But here's the kicker:

    The use of commercial litigation and regulatory law to achieve progressive political goals is by now familiar: If an oil company opposes global-warming initiatives, that isn’t politics but “securities fraud,” as far as Democrats are concerned; if conservative activists want to show a film critical of Hillary Rodham Clinton in the lead-up to a presidential election, that isn’t politics but a “campaign-finance violation,” as far as Democrats are concerned.

    This lawsuit happens against the background of progressive demands that certain political views be criminalized.

    Using the courts to achieve goals you can't get via the legislative process isn't a new thing. I can even think of cases where it's proper. But this is just attempted legal extortion with a political motive.


  • Jacob Sullum notes the latest anti-Constitutional musings from our thin-skinned Commander in Chief: Trump Keeps Wondering Why People Are Allowed to Make Fun of Him on TV.

    Although Donald Trump describes Saturday Night Live as "unwatchable," he keeps watching it, and he keeps wondering why the show is allowed to make fun of him. While Trump is no doubt trolling his opponents with these tweets, he also seems genuinely confused about regulation of broadcast television—in particular, the "equal time" rule, which he erroneously views as a general requirement of balance or fairness.

    On Saturday, NBC re-aired an SNL episode from last December that includes a parody of It's a Wonderful Life in which Alec Baldwin, playing Trump, sees what would have happened if he had never been elected president. Trump did not like the sketch when it first aired. "A REAL scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live," he tweeted at the time. "It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can't be legal? Only defame & belittle!"

    Did I mention I was disgusted by attempted extortion? Add attempted censorship too.

    It is true that SNL and much other network content seem like paid ads from the Democratic National Committee. That can be tedious, no question.

    But I still watch, because I Am Easily Amused.

    But I Am Not Amused by Trump's ignorant musings on censorship.


  • Philip Greenspun wonders: Immigration is the Reverse Black Death?.

    Let’s consider the political goals of righteous Americans today:

    • higher wages for the average person
    • an improved environment with less human impact on the land
    • less concentration of wealth in the hands of real property owners
    • more affordable housing for the working class

    While listening to An Economic History of the World since 1400 by Professor Donald J. Harreld, I learned that all of the above goals were achieved in the 14th century via the Black Death, which reduced the European population by approximately one third.

    Unfortunately, I can imagine some Progressives reading that, stroking their chins, and saying "Hmmm…"


  • Jeff Jacoby offers an idea I can get behind: Lower the voting age? Let's raise it instead. Considering the recent testimony of MA State Representative Ayanna Pressley (D, of course) advocating a voting age of 16:

    In her floor remarks before the roll call, Pressley claimed that 16- and 17-year-old kids are qualified to vote by virtue of the "wisdom" and "maturity" that comes from being alive and confronting the "challenges, hardships, and threats" of 2019. "Some have questioned the maturity of our youth," she told her colleagues. "I don't." If that was her best argument for lowering the voting age, it's no wonder 70 percent of House members weren't persuaded.

    Then again, if Pressley has such unquestioning faith in the maturity of high school sophomores, why seek merely to give them the vote? To be consistent, she should push as well to lower the legal drinking age to 16. And the minimum age for buying cigarettes, handguns, and recreational marijuana. And the age at which one can adopt a child. And at which a criminal offender is automatically prosecuted as an adult. Come to think of it, Pressley should also want to lower the age of enlistment in the military to 16, and to require everyone reaching that age to register with the Selective Service System. After all, if the wisdom and maturity of 16-year-olds qualifies them to vote, why shouldn't it qualify them to be treated as adults in every other way?

    The science is clear (as Jacoby points out): human brains aren't fully functional until age 25 or so. and even then…


  • We probably don't have a lot of readers who are prospective college students, but others outside that demographic might find Richard Vedder of Minding the Campus useful in revealing The Four Unspoken Rules for Getting Into College. Actually they are more observations about institutions of higher ed in general. Here's number…

    4. The Absurdity of the Role of Athletics Plays in Admissions Is a National Embarrassment.

    The notion that American colleges and universities are really quasi-country club/finishing school institutions providing a gap period between secondary school and the Real World rather than places where intellectual exploration and discovery is Job One is reinforced by the ridiculous emphasis put on proficiency in using balls – tennis balls, basketballs, volleyballs, footballs, soccer balls, etc. We see kids getting into schools like the University of Southern California on the basis of their alleged ability to handle balls. Nowhere else in the world is that an important or usually even any consideration in evaluating a student for admissions.

    Uh, yeah. What he said.

    There should be only one collegiate sport. And that sport is: crew.


  • Cornerstone is a New Hampshire political group, weighing in on the conservative side. Christopher Jay, their Policy Analyst, has useful thoughts on the desire of some legislators to prey on a common character flaw in order to get more state government revenue: Gambling with Our People.

    Christopher's article is prompted by an upcoming event at the UNH Law school to “discuss the future of regulated sports betting.” Which (oh oh) "is being funded by Spectrum Gaming Group, and “ICE North America,” an extension of Clarion Gaming, a London-based firm specializing in organizing live events for commercialized gambling interests."

    Americans were expected to lose $118 billion of their personal wealth to government-sanctioned gambling in 2018.  Over the next eight years, the American people are on a collision course to lose more than $1 trillion of their personal wealth to government-sanctioned gambling.  If approved, commercialized sports betting will make these financial losses even worse. Saving is the road to wealth creation yet around 50% of the U.S. population has zero or negative net wealth. More than 60% of citizens don’t have enough savings to cover a $1000 emergency expense. This is a critical issue because saving money is the direct opposite of commercialized gambling.

    I'm probably less paternalistic than Cornerstone on this issue. Sports betting should just be legal, period. But encouraged by the state? A thousand times no.

    And don't get me started on those TV ads for the various lotteries, that play up the wonderful happiness of big winners. They make me want to shoot my TV, and that would be bad.

URLs du Jour

2019-03-18

[Amazon Link]

  • Deirdre Nansen McCloskey provides some good self-improvement advice at Reason (from their April print issue): Quit Worrying and Learn To Love Trade With China.

    Get ready for the Great Trump-Xi Depression. The White House is pursuing two stupid policies, trying to reduce the United States' "balance of payments" with China and trying to protect "intellectual property" from China's thievery. These policies are leading to a crash in the Chinese economy, which has been grossly ill-managed under President Xi Jinping. International knock-on effects were already apparent last autumn, even as the trade deficit ballooned and Americans benefited from Chinese theft.

    "Balance of payments" is a silly way of talking, right from the get-go. Are you concerned about your balance of payments with your grocery store? You give Kroger cash and it gives you goods. Worried? I thought not. After all, you have a balance of payments surplus with your employer, right? Hope so. And your scary-sounding deficit with Kroger is good for you. In exchange for money, the store provides healthy food such as oatmeal, walnuts, olive oil, and blueberries. (Try it: I just lost 30 pounds that way, a good deficit.)

    The nearest Kroger to Pun Salad Manor is in Millsboro, Delaware, a mere 391.3 miles away. So I'm not likely to incur a trade deficit with them any time soon.

    But Deirdre's point is otherwise well-taken.


  • For your lexicographical pleasure, Jonah Goldberg devotes his G-File to a word you should get to know: Shibboleth Is a Fun Word.

    Shibboleth is a fun word, and not just because it sounds like what one of the kids from Fat Albert would say if he went to prison, got hard and mean, and told someone to “Shiv old Les.” You know like, “Shib ol’ leth in da shower durin’ the guard change.”

    For those who don’t know, it comes from the Book of Judges in the Hebrew Bible. Long story short, the Gileadites beat the stuffing out of the Ephraimites. When the surviving Ephraimites wanted to get past the River Jordan incognito, the Gileadites had a test to tell them apart from other travelers. They first asked the strangers if they were Ephraimites. If they said “No,” the soldiers asked them to say the word “shibboleth,” which referred either to a part of a grain plant or maybe a flood. But the definition didn’t matter, the pronunciation was everything — because the Ephraimite dialect pronounced “sh” words with an “s” sound. So anybody who said “sibboleth” got the business end of a sword (or perhaps a spear or some sort of pike — I’m no expert on such things). According to the Bible, some “forty and two thousand” Ephraimites went to their maker wishing they had a lisp like Cindy Brady.

    Don't worry, he has an insightful point that he will eventually get to. On the way there, enjoy his improvisational essaying.


  • In local news, Drew Cline of the Bartlett Center (I'm tired of typing their full name) notes what everyone should have seen coming: NH House has passed $56.5 million in new spending, $31 million in new taxes per week in 2019 (so far!).

    In the first 10 weeks of the 2019 legislative session, the New Hampshire House of Representatives passed nearly $310 million in tax and fee increases and $565 million in new spending, Grant Bosse reported at New Hampshire Journal this week. That’s $31 million worth of tax and fee increases and $56.5 million in new spending per week. 

    “The full House voted to increase the state’s two largest business taxes, accounting for most of the increased tax revenue in Fiscal Years 2020-2023. But the House has also passed several other pieces of legislation that increase state revenues or expenditures.  If all the bills given House approval were to be signed into law, taxes and fees would increase by $108 million in the next two years, and by $202 million in the following biennium, according to official estimates from the Legislative Budget Assistant’s Office (LBAO).

    And they're only just getting started. One can only hope that Governor Sununu's veto pen has plenty of ink.


  • And someone noticed that Google is engaging in a little bit of Orwellian history-rewriting. Roger L. Simon protests: Google Does Evil to Patrick Moore.

    Google's erasing the photograph of Patrick Moore, former president of Greenpeace, from the list of early founders and organizers of the environmental group, is, like the firing of James Damore a couple of years ago, a reminder of why it's fitting the tech giant dropped its original motto, "Don't be evil."

    Google is just that and then some. It is evil and dangerous. When one company controls the world's flow of information the way they do and can tilt the argument overtly or, more ominously, covertly in their preferred direction, watch out. We are headed for a new form of totalitarianism.

    We already kind of knew that Google hates America. Now they're at war with history. Next up?

Antarctica

[Amazon Link]

True story: I paid the full $24.95 list price for this book in August 1998 while on vacation in Bar Harbor. Maine. How do I remember that? Ah, because it's signed and dated by the author, Kim Stanley Robinson, his own self. I had happened to notice that a local bookstore was on his book tour stop, and popped in. (He's a pretty nice guy, at least I remember he seemed to be in 1998.)

I had previously read his famous trilogy Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars, which gathered a bunch of awards, including two Hugos and one Nebula.

Unfortunately, Antarctica got zero awards. And (for no good reason) it's been sitting on my bookshelf, unread for over 20 years. That's why, readers, I implemented my book picking system, which at least gives such neglected tomes a chance at being read, eventually.

So enough prelude: Antarctica is a big book, clocking in at over 500 pages. And, at least for me, it should have been at best a 200 page book. Explanation One: I'm a Philistine, KSR is a professional writer, he wrote exactly the book he wanted to, and if I wasn't impressed, that's on me.

Explanation Two: he had a book contract that demanded 500 pages, and he larded up a decent plot with endless digressions and irrelevancies.

I don't know which explanation is more on target.

Anyway, there are three main characters: "X", a "General Field Assistant" working for the oppressive corporation that runs official Antarctic operations; Val, an Amazonian guide, responsible for shepherding adventure-seeking tourists on treks through the frigid landscape; and Wade, a researcher for a US Senator, on a fact-finding mission. Things kick off when X is the only human accompanying a robotic caravan of tractors delivering supplies to the interior; he is surprised when unseen pirates manage to grab one of the tractors.

A promising, intriguing beginning. But then… pretty much nothing happens for the next 200+ pages. Then there's (spoiler) an exciting, harrowing story of near-disaster triggered by a quirky avalanche and some ecological saboteurs. And there's a cool climax which caused me to think: "Ah. Blimpi ex machina!

And then nothing much interesting happens for the rest of the book. Eh.

The novel is set sometime in the future when the Ross Ice Shelf has melted away, thanks to Global Warming. This doesn't appear to be likely to happen anytime soon. KSR is also a "democratic socialist" and that, I'm afraid, is part of the reason I found this book tedious in many spots.

Network Propaganda

Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics

[Amazon Link]

Not sure why I got this from the University Near Here Library. Maybe some recommendation I read somewhere a few months back? Anyway, it's outside my usual non-fiction diet, which slants libertarian/conservative. Probably a good thing.

Consumer note: you can by the book at Amazon via the link at your right (as I type: $88.18 hardcover, $25.16 paperback, $11.11 Kindle) or you can apparently read the whole darn thing for free here.

The authors contend that, thanks to the Internet and its participants, we are in an "epistemic crisis", where voters are going to the polls "knowing" things that just aren't so. They blame primarily the right-wing media for pushing stories that are based on rumor and innuendo. Their primary examples: Pizzagate, the Seth Rich murder, Uranium One. (On the other hand, they're relatively dismissive of Russian influences via their Facebook ad buys.)

Their claims are based on exhaustive analysis of linking behaviors on Facebook and Twitter. They assign a central importance to Breitbart, Infowars, Gateway Pundit, and Zero Hedge, which (they say) played a major role at pushing fake news out to their readers. On the broadcast side, Fox News is claimed to be guilty of similar bad behavior.

Oh yes, there are also lefty sites. But (it's claimed) they aren't as bad. The attitudes toward truth are linked up with the standard "journalistic norms" exhibited by the respectable news outlets: the New York Times, the Washington Post, ABC, NBC, CBS, … basically anything not called "Fox News". Hence the information consumed by American left and right wings is "asymmetrical", with the right far more likely to believe delusional stuff.

And Politifact is not biased.

This goes on to influence their recommendations for reform: since the "problem" is on the right, the proposed solutions are predictably skewed too. Their only criticism of what we right-wing loons call the Mainstream Media: ah, they take that whole this-side-said/that-side-said model of fairness as flawed: How can that be fair when the right side lies all the time?

Obviously, I had a number of problems with the book's analyses. In no particular order:

  • Not that it matters, but this came up in my feed today from the Daily Wire: Reuters Admits They Sat On Bombshell Beto O'Rourke Story For 2 Years. This true story about O'Rourke's hacktivist past could have negatively impacted his chances in his race against Ted Cruz. Violation of journalistic norms? I'm afraid the authors of Network Propaganda would consider it, at best an aberration.

    Unfortunately, this is just today's example. The authors turn a deaf ear to what by now is substantive conservative/libertarian criticism of the MSM.

  • Which (in turn) means that they don't really understand the evolution of right-wing sites, many if not most of which were formed to fill a niche in the media ecosystem in response to MSM failings. "Asymmetry" shouldn't be surprising—it's exactly what you'd expect from essentially dissident media, voices that exist specifically in reaction and opposition to the dominant narrative.

  • Since we are all human beings suffering under the same cognitive biases, it would be surprising if the right wing was uniquely under the spell of fakery. You don't have to have a very long memory to recall the heyday of 9/11 Trutherism, in which a good-sized fraction of the populace were led to believe the WTC buildings were brought down by explosives secretly planted in the two buildings and/or that the government knew about the attacks ahead of time and consciously decided to let them happen.

    There are also the JFK assassination conspiracy theories: he wasn't shot by a Russia/Cuba-loving commie, but a shadowy cabal of right-wing plotters. (One variety of the theories even got a movie devoted to it, gathering eight Oscar nominations.)

    And also unconsidered is the oeuvre of Michael Moore, at least as truth-challenged as anything at Breitbart, but much more "respectable".

    The authors ignore this sort of lefty propaganda, with the implied excuse that it's conveniently outside the time window they concentrated on. I think the resulting "asymmetry" in their analysis is the book's biggest flaw.

  • I'm probably biased and maybe unrepresentative, but my personal experience with right-wing media differs strongly from what the authors picture. I had given up on Breitbart by early 2016. I don't watch Fox News much, never got into any of the wackiness at Infowars or Gateway Pundit. Zero Hedge was not a habit either (but it seems OK to me).

    The authors claim that their analysis shows that these sites are uniquely influential on the right. Uh, fine, but I'm not convinced.

There are other quibbles, but I've babbled long enough. Anyway, feel free to check it out for yourself. I feel virtuous for being "outside the bubble", having looked at a book that I disagree with so strongly.


Last Modified 2019-03-18 6:22 AM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2019-03-17 Update

[Amazon Link]

The big phony news: Beto O'Rourke announced his 2020 candidacy and (in an almost certainly causal sequence) his Google phony hits exploded by over a factor of 13. Impressive! With an even bigger collapse in phony hits, President Trump is in third place phony-wise, trailing both Beto and Kamala badly.

Beto also improved his lot at Betfair slightly over the week, with a 0.9% bounce in his win probability. That's nice, Beto, but not as nice as Biden's 1.2% increase, or Andrew Yang's 1.1% increase.

We bid farewell to Mike Pence and Amy Klobuchar this week, but welcome Julian Castro back into contention, at least for a while.

It's interesting to note that Yang is doing Betfair-better than career pols Warren, Castro, and Booker. And far better than the career pols who Betfair considers to be even longer shots: Gillibrand, Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Gabbard, Hickenlooper, Inslee,… What do the Betfair bettors know that we don't?

And, since Pun Salad is not above making childish jokes about people's names: if Yang wins the Democratic nomination, could he find a running mate named Yin?

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
3/10
Phony
Results
Change
Since
3/10
Beto O'Rourke 8.3% +0.9% 13,000,000 +12,042,000
Kamala Harris 11.9% -0.6% 5,900,000 -820,000
Donald Trump 33.1% +0.6% 2,110,000 -12,190,000
Bernie Sanders 12.5% -0.3% 357,000 -116,000
Elizabeth Warren 2.3% -0.2% 208,000 -4,552,000
Joe Biden 12.4% +1.2% 205,000 -14,000
Julian Castro 2.0% --- 103,000 ---
Cory Booker 2.2% -0.3% 71,500 -3,000
Andrew Yang 3.6% +1.1% 9,060 -11,940

Standard disclaimer: Google result counts are bogus.

  • Linkwise, we are Beto-heavy this week. First up is Matt Welch at Reason who wonders: Has Phony Betomania Already Bitten the Dust?.

    In retrospect, the biggest surprise was that Beto O'Rourke did not announce his long-expected (though recently denied) presidential candidacy last week in his native habitat of South by Southwest, while he was promoting an HBO documentary about his stirring failure to unseat one of the most reviled incumbents in American politics.

    But then, the former El Paso congressman, whose occasionally moody Gen X uplift has almost completely overshadowed his unusual political path and heterodox policy beliefs, probably knew he was about to get the full Vanity Fair Annie Leibovitz cover treatment:

    And about that Vanity Fair cover, some juxtaposing genius noticed:

    Reagan wins (among other things) the belt competition.


  • In case you were not sufficiently braced, Jim Geraghty advised his readers to Brace Yourselves for Betomania.

    Ah, here we go again.

    The magazine covers and posters . . . [click through for a montage]

    . . . the graffiti murals . . .

    . . . the gushing media profiles, the adoring interviews with late-night hosts, the hagiographic documentary, the t-shirts, the celebrity endorsements and appearances, the social-media mania, the volunteers creating their own designs for posters and logos and campaign imagery . . . we’ll probably get the flash mobs from 2018 restarted, too.

    Except the last time we did this, all of the hype and hoopla was for a once-obscure slender guy in his mid-to-late 40s who had been in the legislature for a while, hadn’t been able to get many pieces of legislation passed whether his party was in the majority or minority, who boasted about his across-the-aisle friendships but who had never really defied his party’s orthodoxy, who had little or no executive experience, who could do mundane tasks such as driving or sweating and have them described by political reporters like he was completing the 12 labors of Hercules, who was full of charisma but vague enough in his answers and agenda to be a blank slate to everyone looking for an ideal candidate. Same script, slightly different leading man.

    Gosh, it's almost as if the media (and a large fraction of the electorate) are easily gulled by good looks and charismatic patter.


  • Kyle Smith has a more cynical take on Weirdo O’Rourke.

    Friends of the young Bill Clinton and Barack Obama spoke of the special glow of promise they had about them, even back in their early twenties. Angels sat on their shoulders. History gave them a wink and said, “Hey, good lookin’, I’ll be back to pick you up later.”

    Robert O’Rourke? Not so much. He was just a weirdo. That isn’t my word, it’s how his friends saw him. “You’re supposed to make friends with future secretaries of state, not weirdo musicians,” one O’Rourke pal, Adam Mortimer, told the New York Times. “It’s like, wait, one of the weirdo musicians might run for president.” One contemporaneous photo accompanying the Times story about O’Rourke in his New York City years (four at Columbia University, three reenacting Reality Bites afterwards) shows him with what appears to be a food stain on his crotch, sitting between his girlfriend and a dog who is obviously possessed by Satan. The other picture has O’Rourke wearing a moustache and a ladies’ floral dress.

    The former El Paso congressman’s spastic “Hey, I’m still figuring out these new hands” presidential-kickoff video, in which his upper limbs appeared to be subject to mad random yanks by an angry puppeteer, was merely the latest odd detail in the saga of Weirdo O’Rourke. It was even weirder than Elizabeth Warren’s “Greetings fellow earthlings, I too enjoy fermented malt beverages!” video. Robert/Beto is a man so apart from other human beings that he recently thought nothing of ditching his wife and three kids so he could drive around the country, alone, accosting unsuspecting dentists to help him apply Novocaine to his aching soul. He might be the first person ever to run for the White House on a platform of asking the nation help him figure out who he is.

    As a recovering computer geek, I noticed that one of Beto's long-hidden talents was computer hacktivism, as a member of the "Cult of the Dead Cow" (CDC).

    Good news? At least he was skilled at something other than dreamboatery? Not so much. The linked article claims that he "was more focused on writing screeds for the CDC's text-file essays than hacking." Even as a hacker, he was more of a wannabe.


  • And the hits just keep on coming, this one from Jack Shafer at Politico: The Semigoguery of Beto O’Rourke.

    If O’Rourke promised to seize all the tendrils of power, encouraged race or class war, blocked dissent or promised the impossible, we wouldn’t hesitate to call him a demagogue, which he isn’t. President O’Rourke is more likely to host the bands from the Vans Warped Tour in the Rose Garden then he is to order the 3rd Infantry Regiment to dissolve Congress at bayonet point. Think of him instead as a semigogue, a temperate politician who exploits the naiveté of the mob with his hollow yet passionate appeals to goodness, light and possibility. A demagogue traffics in fear. A semigogue peddles hope. A demagogue hoses gasoline onto a fire. A semigogue pours milk or maybe a craft brew. A demagogue bangs the table with a closed fist. A semigogue talks with fluttery hands. Because he never issues genocidal orders or establishes totalitarian regimes, the semigogue can also escape our deep scrutiny. Instead, he lulls his targets into political sleep with his eternal kindness, his overdone decency and his endless speeches.

    Shafer goes on to ask: Will it work? Geez, I hope not. (And given my lousy track record, I'm taking myself out of the prediction business … until I lose my good judgment and get back in.)


  • At the Bulwark, Jonathan V. Last advises us to be afraid. Very, very afraid. For Biden, Beto, or Biden-Beto Is the GOP's Worst Nightmare.

    Let’s try to put our arms around how dangerous Biden, Beto, or Biden-Beto would be for Trump.

    The Trump theory of reelection is essentially this:

    • He starts out 3 million votes in the hole.
    • He gets lucky and draws a challenger who is either a radical leftist, deeply unlikeable, or both.
    • He holds his 2016 states with similar margins.
    • Maybe he flips New Hampshire.

    Last goes on to detail how a Biden/Beto ticket might pop this strategy like a balloon.


  • But there are other candidates still technically alive, and (at the Federalist) Mitchell Blue looks at the policy proposals from one of them: Warren Floats 19th Century Policy For 21st Century Tech Problems.

    Elizabeth Warren made headlines last week for her Medium post entitled “Here’s how we can break up Big Tech.” In the piece, Warren laments that Facebook, Amazon, and Google have grown too big, and suggests government must break up the companies to encourage competition.

    Warren is clearly trying to position herself as a protector of consumers who is hip to the internet age (WhatsApp! Instagram! A joke about Bing! Hold on, I’m so excited, I’m going to git me a beer!). But when you delve into the details of her plan, you quickly realize that Warren is using 19th century solutions for 21st century problems.

    Click through for the details, with a bonus section that describes how Andrew Yang's proposals are (somehow) even worse.

    I've recently started listening to podcasts on my walks with my dog. In a recent offering from Reason, Todd Zywicki noted how Warren is a direct ideological descendent of Louis Brandeis. (Although Brandeis was arguably a bigger friend of free speech tnan is Warren.)

URLs du Jour

2019-03-16

[Amazon Link]

  • Kevin D. Williamson reviews, hilariously, a new book allegedly about Texas: Austin City Limits. Sample:

    God Save Texas is full of sloppy writing of the kind that raises the question of what exactly it is that book editors are for: using staunch when [author Lawrence] Wright means stanch, careen when he means career, jealousy when he means envy, nonplussed when he means uninterested; deriding “Daddy Warbucks capitalism” as “heartless, rapacious, and predatory”—the opposite of the benevolent ethic of Harold Gray’s self-made philanthropist in Little Orphan Annie; repeating the myth that Texas enjoys a unique right to subdivide itself into five states (Article IV, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution confers the right of subdivision on all states, assuming legislative cooperation); classifying Louisiana as a Saudi-style petro-state without considering that health care and education employ about ten times as many people in the state as oil or wondering why its economy has sunk while Texas thrives. Those errors come alongside some truly strange assertions. Wright complains that he knew no liberals and hardly any Democrats growing up in a state that was at the time almost uniformly Democratic and whose political foundation was New Deal liberalism. (I myself grew up not far from New Deal, Texas, surrounded by cotton farmers who would barely spit the word “Republican”—but then, I worked at 7-Eleven and think Buc-ee’s is pretty interesting, so I suppose I have unfair advantages.) Only four of Dallas’s 59 theoretically nonpartisan mayors have been Republicans, and none served before the 1980s. Rick Perry first held office as a Democrat (his CV does not emphasize his energetic support for the presidential campaign of Al Gore) and Texas did not go all meshuga Republican until the 1990s. The state didn’t have a Republican governor between Reconstruction and the Reagan era. If Wright didn’t know any Democrats, he wasn’t looking very hard.

    Lawrence Wright wrote The Looming Tower last decade, I've heard good things about it, so he's not uniformly dreadful.


  • At Reason, Jason Brennan and Phillip W. Magness have an interesting take on the brouhaha: Universities Play the Victim in Admissions Scandal, but They’re Far From Blameless. A point I've made myself (less eloquently):

    Elite universities are a kind of ideological paradox. On one hand, faculty and staff overwhelmingly identify with the Left and push social justice causes. But on the other, the universities are hierarchical and reinforce social hierarchies. They serve as gatekeepers of prestige, power, and status. Many have plenty of physical capacity to expand the number of students they admit, but they instead work to keep admissions rates and the number of undergraduates as low as possible, all to enhance the elite status of their brand.

    Some of the celebrities in question, such as actress Felicity Huffman, frequently campaign for social justice. Yet, when push comes to shove, we see them (allegedly) using their advantages to secure further privileges for their children. This sort of thing happens throughout academia. Loud, enthusiastic trumpeting of moral slogans conveys the image that one is good and noble, and so people have a selfish interest in being political outspoken. But, half the time, when you dig in, you find that moralistic language actively disguises selfish behavior. It's often just a pretense to ask for more money and power for one's self.

    As they say: bad news, kids: Aunt Becky's going to jail.


  • There's a new edition of Arnold Kling's great book The Three Languages of Politics coming out. And even though he deserves every penny he makes off the book, he is not averse to telling you Where to find it for free. So much for the money-grubbing libertarian stereotype. If you haven't read it, You Now Have No Excuse. You can read my take on the book here.


  • Speaking of libertarian stereotyping: at Quillette, Cameron Hendy wonders What If Ayn Rand Was Right About Entrepreneurs and Inequality? (No doubt sending some readers to the fainting couch.)

    Few public figures have managed to consistently attract both sheer adoration and abject disgust quite like Russian-American author Ayn Rand. Fewer still have created an intellectual legacy with as much endurance as her radically individualistic philosophy of Objectivism.

    Atlas Shrugged remains a cherished favorite of venture capitalists and libertarian-leaning politicians all over the planet, with a notable stronghold in Washington D.C., perhaps even within the Oval Office itself. Rand’s literary influence is often derided as a mere reflection of the tractability and moral certitude afforded by her novels, her economic principles disregarded as patently ridiculous. Galt’s Gulch has attracted so much scorn as to become something of a joke, a way to easily scoff at the naive utopianism of laissez-faire capitalism. Rand and her largely philosophical economic views have been consigned to history as an interesting relic of sorts—a compelling, well-articulated fantasy that has no basis in reality. How then should we interpret new research from the Nation Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) that suggests her controversial description of the income inequality dynamic might have been mostly true?

    I want to say: of course it's mostly true. But it's nice to have research backing it up.


  • At National Reivew, Rachelle Peterson writes on a Pun Salad bête noire: China's Confucius Institutes Stifle Academic Freedom.

    Recently the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a powerful report on Confucius Institutes, the Chinese-government-funded centers that have been established at some 100 American colleges and universities, ostensibly “to promote Chinese language and culture.” It raises key questions about the propriety of hosting campus centers sponsored by an authoritarian government — and concerns about the outdated and unenforced laws in the U.S. regarding foreign-gift disclosures.

    The report, written by committee staff for subcommittee chairman Rob Portman (R., Ohio) and ranking member Tom Carper (D., Del.), blasts Confucius Institutes as “part of China’s broader, long-term strategy” to develop “soft power” and “export China’s censorship” to college campuses. It declares that unless Confucius Institutes become fully transparent and the Chinese government reciprocates by welcoming U.S. State Department–funded American Cultural Centers in China, “Confucius Institutes should not continue in the United States.” (Full disclosure: I consulted with the subcommittee staff and my own research, Outsourced to China: Confucius Institutes and Soft Power in American Higher Education, is cited in the subcommittee report.)

    And, as I type, the Confucius Institute at the University Near Here is (yep) still there.

Captain Marvel

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

I would have skipped this movie except that it seems to be a prequel of sorts to the upcoming Avengers flick. Which, frankly, I wish I'd seen instead. It's tough keeping track of the plot when so many of the participants are shape-shifters, able to impersonate (apparently) any vaguely humanoid form factor. And I'm pretty weak, in any case, on a lot of the details: are there two tesseracts? How did Carol get her suit back? (Mrs. Salad asked about this too.)

Anyway: as the movie opens, Brie Larson plays Vers, a member of an elite Kree mercenary squad, headed up by Jude Law. They're in conflict with the shape-shifting Skrulls, and a botched mission sends Vers crashlanding to planet C-53, aka 1995 Earth. Where she discovers details about her long-lost past (she's actually from Earth herself, and she's Carol Danvers!) and disturbing revelations about her current situation.

The feminism is pretty strident, but seems to be limited to, hey, let's watch the empowered enlightened girls blow up the bad guys and save the day. Also … spoiler alert! … the Skrull turn out to be the good guys (a little unsettling to those of us who were reading Marvel comics in the 1970s), and before you can say "family separation" they are refugees victimized by the Trumplike racist policies of the Kree. Egad.

Still, it's OK. A certain amount of fun. Don't leave until the credits are over.

URLs du Jour

2019-03-15

[Amazon Link]

The Amazon product du jour is from the engagingly-named "English Department Apparel Co." Unfortunately, that appears to be the only product they sell at Amazon. But if the apparel apparently appeals to you, click away!

  • What does the college admissions scam reveal? Fortunately, Megan McArdle is here to tell us: The college admissions scam reveals a truth about our self-perpetuating elites.

    Let us have a moment of silence for all the affluent parents who have spent the past decade or so frantically preparing their kids for college admissions. They vastly overpaid for homes near excellent public schools — or perhaps forked over the annual price of a new car to private ones — paid for extracurriculars, tutors, college-essay coaches . . . but as we now realize, they could have saved some money and a lot of effort if they had just paid a sleazy consultant to fake a record of achievement, rather than going to all the trouble of pushing their kids into actually acquiring one.

    Yes. But the truth to which Megan refers? It's this: "The closing of most secure and well-paid employment to all but the college-educated means selective colleges are now far more effective gatekeepers of elites than they were in the days when a certain class of father rushed out of the hospital to put his newborn son’s name down for Groton and Harvard."

    Power corrupts, or at least that's what I've heard. And it seems ironic (assuming, dubiously, that I know what that means) that the "progressive" institutions of higher ed most zealously maintain the myths and privileges that sustain them.


  • The otherwise-tedious Time magazine opens its pages to Bryan Caplan, who reveals The Larger Lie Beyond the College Admissions Bribery Case.

    [Amazon Link]

    […] Despite the grand aspirations that students avow on their admission essays, their overriding goal is not enlightenment, but status.

    Consider why these parents would even desire to fake their kids’ SAT scores. We can imagine them thinking, I desperately want my child to master mathematics, writing and history — and no one teaches math, writing and history like Yale does! But we all know this is fanciful. People don’t cheat because they want to learn more. They cheat to get a diploma from Yale or Stanford — modernity’s preferred passport to great careers and high society.

    What, then, is the point of sneaking into an elite school, if you lack the ability to master the material? If the cheaters planned to major in one of the rare subjects with clear standards and well-defined career paths — like computer science, electrical engineering or chemistry — this would be a show-stopping question. Most majors, however, ask little of their students — and get less. Standards were higher in the 1960s, when typical college students toiled about 40 hours a week. Today, however, students work only two-thirds as hard. Full-time college has become a part-time job.

    I continue to recommend Bryan's book, available via the link at your right.


  • Steve Landsburg on What I Get and What I Don’t Get about the scandal (unexcerpted):

    If you get accepted to college because you faked being a sports star, pretty much everyone is outraged. I get that.

    If you get accepted at college because you are a sports star, almost nobody seems to mind. That’s what I don’t get.

    Either way, you’ve climbed the ladder by prevailing in a largely meaningless zero-sum (and hence socially useless) game, thereby signalling a dollop of narcissism together with a few mostly irrelevant talents or advantages. What’s the difference?

    Um. Indeed. It shouldn't be surprising that college sports is an unusually corrupt sector of higher ed.


  • Well, let's talk about something else, like yesterday's Senate vote on Trump's emergency-that-isn't declaration. Specifically, at Reason, Eric Boehm asks: What the Heck, Ben Sasse?.

    When the Senate voted Thursday afternoon to block President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency on the southern border, most Republicans stood with the president and opposed the effort.

    But none of those "nay" votes seems quite as loud, or discordant, as the one cast by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who is fond of talking about the importance of Congress as a check on runaway executive power but who declined Thursday to play his part in stopping exactly such a power grab. The joint resolution passed easily—59-41, with 12 Republicans supporting it—so Sasse's vote didn't change the outcome, but that really only makes Sasse's opposition more curious.

    My high regard for Senator Ben has slipped a bit. That still makes him way better than (approximately) 15 of his colleagues.


  • [Amazon Link]

    I am a sympathetic listener to those (like Ben Sasse and Arthur Brooks) who think we should (see book link at right). But Don Boudreaux, at Cafe Hayek makes an implicit counter-argument when he asks, concerning pols: What Motivates these Creatures?. And (sorry) I found it impossible to excerpt, so here's the Whole Thing:

    Hearing this morning that Beto O’Rourke is running for the office of president of the executive branch of the national government of the United States prompted me to wonder what motivates someone such as Mr. O’Rourke. I can, I think, sort of empathize with someone who seeks political office for the purpose of helping to reduce or simply to restrain the reach and power of the state. But I cannot begin to empathize with someone who seeks political office for the purpose of using state power to ‘do good’ for others.

    I do understand the lust for acclaim, fame, and material wealth that often are the spoils of power. I condemn this lust as immoral, but I understand it. What I don’t understand is the lust to ‘help’ strangers by using force to prevent them from doing A, B, and C, and to compel them to do X, Y, and Z.

    I cannot comprehend how any human being fancies himself or herself to be intellectually and ethically fit to order peaceful people about. Seriously, if I try to put myself into the head of someone such as O’Rourke or Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump or Chuck Schumer or … I discover that I cannot do so. Successfully putting myself into the heads of such power-seekers is, for me, no more possible than putting myself into the head of a grizzly bear or a speckled trout. These creatures differ from me so fundamentally that I can only wonder at what motivates them and what it must be like to be moved by such motivations and to see the world as they see it. I have no idea what motivates them, and I cannot imagine what it must be like to possess any such motivations.

    And just as I, perhaps out of ignorance, thank the fates for not making me a bear or a trout, I thank the fates for not making me whatever is the humanoid creature who seeks power over others.

    The Brooks/Sasse argument says not to hate your enemies. I get that. But Brooks (at least) argues against my previous default of contempt. I'm not sure that's right. I think Don implicitly makes a pretty good case for contempt.


  • At Forbes, Bruce Y. Lee tells us What Anne Hathaway's Prank On 'Ellen' Said About Pseudoscience. Ms. Hathaway, an excellent actress, told the story of "Dr. Q" who wrote "Citrus Health", and advocated incorporating fruit into meditation practice.

    She got everyone in the audience to hold peeled clementine oranges to their mouths and blow in and out of them, their mouths and the clementines. Not only that, she encouraged them to simultaneously make a sound a bit like Yoda saying "WTH?" She then asked, "Do you guys feel a little bit better? Do you feel good?" While a few audience member had a "this blows" look on their faces and others appeared a bit confused, there were audience members actually nodding in agreement with Hathaway. To that Hathaway responded, "That's impossible, I made the whole thing up!"

    Lesson learned? Don't believe celebrities about anything. Especially when they tell you to give up booze or vote Democrat. They're probably just seeing if they can prank you.


  • And the Google LFOD alert rang for an LTE from Durham State Rep Judith Spang (pronounced "SPANNNNG", like a cartoon character getting hit with a frypan): Should plastic pollution be partisan?.

    Most shoppers leaving grocery stores with a dozen plastic bags know these bags are about to become waste. So do diners receiving plastic straws they didn’t ask for or want. Recently the House Commerce Committee passed HB 560 and HB 558 which will reduce the use of plastic bags and plastic straws. To my disappointment, the votes on the bills were strictly down party lines, with every Republican on the Committee voting against them.

    I asked why those Republicans did not support control of plastic given the problems it causes. Scores of citizens, municipalities and businesses had just testified in favor of the need to pass these bills now.

    What I heard was that it was a Live Free or Die issue. To some, living free might mean being free to choose to amass and throw out dozens of plastic bags and straws. To others, it means being free of trash polluting our waters and roadsides. Free of pollution caused by burying or incinerating millions of bags and straws. Free to enjoy wildlife that have not been injured or killed by ingesting plastic litter. Free of the costs to communities of disposing of unrecyclable plastic waste. Free of totally unnecessary plastic.

    Blogger's note: Representative Spang is the sort of person who harangues total strangers in parking lots for Unacceptable Plastic Bag Counts in their shopping carts. And, yes, to her, LFOD means: free to use her unfortunately-granted political power to tell other people what to do.

URLs du Jour

2019-03-14

[Amazon Link]

Happy π Day!

  • P.J. O'Rourke in American Consequences writes A Libertarian Looks at Legalization.

    What should politics, government, and law have to do with people taking drugs for fun?

    Sitting on my shoulder is a libertarian angel saying, “Nothing!”

    Sitting on my butt is me… parent, property owner, concerned citizen.

    One thing I’m concerned about is this libertarian angel on my shoulder… What’s up with that? Does it have something to do with the drugs I took for fun when I was in college? Am I having an Ayn-Rand-on-acid flashback?

    P.J.'s internal debate is entertaining, insightful, and mirrors a lot of my own thought.

    Part of the anti-legalization argument relies on status quo bias. Change would usher in … some differences. Maybe bad!

    A related thing to think about: the incommensurability of problems (not the greatest of terms, but I can't think of anything better). Our current situation has problems. A society without drug prohibition would too. Way different problems on dozens of diverse dimensions, in fact. Even Utilitarians would go nuts trying to figure out which was "better".

    So, I dunno for sure. But I know which way I'd bet, if I had to bet.


  • At the Federalist, David Harsanyi lists 5 Reasons Warren's Plan To Break Up Big Tech Is Bad For America. What, just five? Too many to excerpt here, but here's a biggie:

    5. A Transparent Attempt to Control Free Expression

    “Curious why I think FB has too much power?” Warren recently asked on Twitter. “Let’s start with their ability to shut down a debate over whether FB has too much power. Thanks for restoring my posts. But I want a social media marketplace that isn’t dominated by a single censor.” Even her conservative colleague Ted Cruz agrees: “Big Tech has way too much power to silence Free Speech. They shouldn’t be censoring Warren, or anybody else. A serious threat to our democracy.”

    A person doesn’t need to be exceptionally perceptive to notice that Warren’s grievance regarding a “single censor” shutting down debate on social media is weakened by the fact that she went to a competing social media platform to perpetuate the debate. Nor did it take much work to find out that virtually every major news site had thoroughly covered her plan to break up Big Tech. Her own tweet debunks the notion that a sole social media site can dominate news coverage or a national debate.

    You'd expect Warren to demand that private companies host content that calls for their own destruction. Cruz's comments are … disappointing. Must be that beard.


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson has notes on the College Admissions Bribery Scandal: Elite Outrage Deeply Revealing.

    The American ruling class has been scandalized by the revelation of a bribery ring that fixed admissions into elite colleges on behalf of wealthy and well-connected celebrities. Listen, and you can hear: “Oh, of course we care about the poor people in . . . Venezuela, or wherever — but this is a big deal!”

    You can tell what the ruling class really values, and it isn’t money.

    God forbid that Lori Loughlin's kid go to … I dunno, UNH?

    Certainly the best headline I've seen on the issue: "Lori Loughlin's daughter Olivia Jade was aboard USC official's yacht in Bahamas when mom was charged"


  • At the Volokh Conspiracy, Keith E. Whittington laments the fate of efforts of legislation aiming to claw back "emergency" powers tossed over to the executive branch: Madison Wept.

    Sen. Mike Lee came up with a quite reasonable bill to curb presidential discretion to declare national emergencies and make Congress more affirmatively responsible for the actions that might be pursued during such emergencies. It might not be perfect, but it would be a significant improvement to the current statutory framework, a reasonable check on presidential abuse of emergency powers, and a step toward having Congress assume its proper constitutional responsibilities. A companion bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Andy Biggs. Such a reform should have been passed long ago, but it often takes an abuse of power to generate the political will to curb power. And sometimes that isn't even enough.

    The prospects look dim. For this particular issue, and for the system of checks and balances generally.


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang for an article in "Ozy": Will the 'Live Free or Die' State Usher in Ranked-Choice Voting?

    In this case, "the LFOD State" is just an alternate way of saying "New Hampshire". Why do they bother?

    Ellen Read is a state representative, a college professor, a public bus driver — actually, she was fired from that last gig recently for trying to unionize. But today, the 39-year-old is most certainly an activist. “Man, this is a hike,” she says, after parking with the cars lined up a half-mile away. A volunteer shovels snow as she enters the house party where more than a hundred New Hampshire residents are gabbing ahead of the main event: Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

    Read also wants to see Klobuchar, but she wants to convince the presidential contender to back her ranked-choice bill, a law that could make voting more democratic and have significant ramifications for the Granite State (and the nation) next year. So Read takes a strategic seat, so close to the New Hampshire pine box pulpit that she could tug the Senator’s jacket from behind. Uncomfortably close. It’s the type of positioning lobbyists pay thousands for. That’s how much is at stake.

    I'm not sure where Ellen Read is a "college professor". A search at UNH turns up nothing (she is one of the Newmarket representatives).

    I have no strong feelings about ranked-choice voting. Mainly because my politics are such that I view most of the candidates as varying shades of awful. But, hey, maybe.

Tully

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

I'm not proud to admit that Netflix sent me this DVD many moons ago, and it languished next to the Blu-ray player. Kept finding different things to watch. And Mrs. Salad was uninterested, from what she read about it. But she went out with the church ladies, so I bit the bullet and… Hey, it was pretty good.

It's the story of no-longer-young mother Marlo, who's about 11 months pregnant with her third child. She's no longer enthusiastic about that prospect, given her young son, Jonah, who has serious behavioral issues (euphemistically described as "quirky"). And her husband is increasingly adept at detaching himself from parental responsibilities, retreating to their bedroom for long stretches of video gaming.

Things get worse after the baby arrives, with Margo increasingly on edge. But there's an out: her rich brother has offered to pay for a "night nanny", someone who can appear in the evenings to take care of the kid, while mom gets some rest.

Showing up is "Tully", a free-spirited young thing. And she's fantastic! In more ways than one. But things get progressively weirder as Tully and Marlo interact.

And there's a big twist at the end. Unfortunately, I knew a little too much about it. Don't make that mistake, reader: watch this movie knowing nothing. In fact, try to forget you just read this.

URLs du Jour

2019-03-13

[Amazon Link]

  • At Quillette, Blake J. Harris is interviewed by Clay Routledge, and they take us Down the Rabbit Hole of Political Intolerance in Silicon Valley. Executive summary: could it be worse than higher ed? It is mostly the story of Palmer Luckey, who invented Oculus, sold out to Facebook for big bucks, but had the temerity to…

    [Harris:…] here’s a quick recap of what happened: in September 2016, Palmer donated about $10k to a pro-Trump organization called Nimble America whose mission was to “Develop and advocate for legislation, regulations, and government programs to promote America first, improve legal immigration, fight corruption and stimulate the economy” and, to accomplish this mission, planned to put up snappy, meme-like billboards in swing states.

    On September 13, Nimble America filed the paperwork to officially become a 501(c)(4) organization (which was a designation for nonprofits dedicated to “promoting social welfare.”). Nine days later—on September 22—The Daily Beast published an article with the following headline: “The Facebook Billionaire Secretly Funding Trump’s Meme Machine: Palmer Luckey—founder of Oculus—is funding a Trump group that circulates dirty memes about Hillary Clinton.”

    And you won't believe what happened next. Or, if you've been paying attention, you will.


  • Bryan Caplan (who believes, correctly, that taxpayer-funded education is extremely wasteful) writes wisely on Hypocrisy and Hyperbole.

    I teach at a public university.  Am I a hypocrite?  Bernie Sanders’ net worth is about $2M.  Is he a hypocrite?  How about vegetarians who regularly eat meat?

    You'll have to click through for the answers, but (spoiler): of course Bernie's a hypocrite.


  • At National Review, Wesley J. Smith describes why Medicare-for-All Plan [is] an Authoritarian, Centralized Mess.

    The newly filed 120-page “Medicare for All Act of 2019,” authored by Pramila Jayapal (D, Wash.), already has 106 co-sponsors — nearly half of the Democratic caucus — and it seeks to yank America hard toward the port side of the political spectrum. The bill — which resembles Medicaid more than it does Medicare — would transform our entire health-care system into an iron-fisted centralized technocracy, with government bureaucrats and bioethicists controlling virtually every aspect of American health care from the delivery of medical treatment, to the payment of doctors, to even, perhaps, the building of hospitals. It would obliterate the health-insurance industry and legalize government seizure of pharmaceutical manufacturers’ patents if they refuse to yield to government drug-price controls.

    "Other than that, though, it's fine."

    Local note: as dreadful as New Hampshire's congresscritters are, they are not listed as cosponsors, at least not yet.


  • Ah, but my own Congresscritter was downright smug in his support for a different piece of liberty-degrading legislation. Read about it at Cato: House Passes Political-Omnibus Bill H.R. 1.

    H.R. 1, the political regulation omnibus bill, contains “provisions that unconstitutionally infringe the freedoms of speech and association,” and which “will have the effect of harming our public discourse by silencing necessary voices that would otherwise speak out about the public issues of the day.” Don’t just take my word for it; that’s the view of the American Civil Liberties Union, expressed in this March 1 letter (more). For example, the bill would apply speech-chilling new restrictions to issue ads by cause organizations, should they happen to mention individual lawmakers.

    The ACLU isn't exactly liberty-friendly these days, but it's nice to see them recognize (at least partially) a bad bill, even if my Congresscritter can't.


  • The new issue of American Consequences has the theme of drug legalization. Editor-in-Chief P.J. O'Rourke is an expert, and he reminisces as much as he can: Grass Roots.

    “If you can remember the ‘60s, you weren’t there” is a quote variously attributed to Grace Slick, Dennis Hopper, Robin Williams, and a bunch of other people because – you guessed it – nobody from back then can remember anything.

    I’m a veteran of the ‘60s drug culture. At least I suppose so. I was there – a 19-year-old college kid during the Summer of Love. And I wasn’t some Student Senate, frat boy, ROTC, squaresville college kid. I was fully onboard the Magical Mystery Tour. It’s just that I don’t recall much about it. Where were we going in the “bong bus”? What did we do when we got there? Who else was along for the ride? And why, when I try to think of their names, do they all seem to have been called “Groovy” and “Sunshine”? Oh my gosh, I hope I wasn’t driving…

    Fifty-two years later, everything is a purple haze – so to speak. But today there’s another “drug culture” in progress.

    In an attempt to learn from the past, we should be thinking about this new drug culture… Although maybe not the way I was half a century ago, when I was thinking, “Wow! This is great f***ing s**t!” (Notice that my thoughts were so fuzzy that I was thinking in asterisks.)

    [Which reminds me: See today's Amazon Product du Jour.]

URLs du Jour

2019-03-12

[Amazon Link]

  • Just a couple notes on Facebook's continuing slide into irrelevant doom, the first from Ann Althouse: "Facebook removed several ads placed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign that called for the breakup of Facebook and other tech giants.".

    Well, they put 'em back. Not so, at least not yet, for their other recent efforts at censorship, as reported by Power Line: Facebook Bans ZeroHedge. ZeroHedge's announcement of the ban is excerpted:

    We were especially surprised by this action as neither prior to this seemingly arbitrary act of censorship, nor since, were we contacted by Facebook with an explanation of what “community standard” had been violated or what particular filter or article had triggered the blanket rejection of all Zero Hedge content.

    (Almost) needless to say, ZeroHedge had been critical of Facebook.


  • I've been a fan of Mitch Daniels ever since I happened upon his book recommendations at the Five Books site back in 2010 (Hayek, Friedman, Murray, Olson, Postrel; all excellent). Nowadays, he's the president of Purdue University out in Indiana. And Reason bills him as A Mild-Mannered Radical. From his interview with Katherine Mangu-Ward:

    How are things going at Purdue in the campus free speech and due process wars?

    When I first got here, there's a watchdog group called [the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or] FIRE. I noticed that they had us down with a yellow mark instead of green. So the first thing we did was change a couple of policies. They were fairly small things. Up to that time Purdue had said that demonstrations had to be in one part of the campus, a designated place. There were some policies about what could be on a bulletin board. So we changed those policies and got the green rather quickly. But I wanted us to have a clear policy on the part of the university, which means the trustees would vote formally for it.

    As soon as I saw what the commission did at [the University of] Chicago, I called the president there. I could commission a faculty group and it would take years and the statement wouldn't be any better or maybe not as good as that one. So I said, "Would you mind if another school just Xeroxed it?" And he said, no, they'd be pleased. So we did that. Our board of trustees voted it through and we became either the second or the third school to adopt what I tried to get everybody to call "the Chicago principles." I think we're at 50-some schools now. The idea was that not only would it be more straightforward to just take something off the shelf that was good, but also that you would have more impact and power if a lot of institutions said exactly the same thing.

    It is a damned shame that we don't have Donald Trump as president of Purdue and Mitch Daniels as president of the USA.


  • Still, it's not all bad news from the Oval Office. At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson notes that Health-Care Price Transparency a Smart Reform.

    Milton Friedman famously described the four ways you can spend money. You can: 1. spend your own money on yourself; 2. spend someone else’s money on yourself; 3. spend your own money on someone else; 4. spend someone else’s money on someone else. No. 1 is usually the most efficient model, because when you spend your own money on yourself you have powerful incentives to monitor both cost and quality.

    But when it comes to health care, we almost always use one of the other models, which creates different incentives, often bad ones: We love spending other people’s money on ourselves (No. 2) and don’t pay much attention to the cost when doing so, hence the difficulty of reducing Medicaid expenditures and other medical benefits. (In Finland, the Centre party government of Prime Minister Juha Sipil has just resigned after failing to pass reforms to control the rising expenditures associated with the country’s aging population — that’s our future, too.) Politicians love spending other people’s money on other people (No. 4) even when the costs are high and the quality is low. We don’t like paying taxes (that’s No. 3) and so we sometimes underfund programs for the vulnerable and the needy; the same incentive often means that employer-based insurance plans reflect the employer’s priorities more than those of the purported beneficiaries.

    Ideally, our health-care policies would shift more medical spending toward No. 1 — people paying their own expenses out-of-pocket, especially for routine, predictable medical costs incurred by people who are neither poor nor elderly. But it will be nearly impossible to do that in an effective (and politically palatable) way without real prices.

    It's a baby step. But at least (unlike M4A) a step in the right direction.


  • Cato looks at the proposed Trump Budget [for FY] 2020. There's an (unsurprising) chart. But in words:

    The president’s budget proposes balancing in 15 years, partly achieved by spending cuts. The budget proposes reforms to student loans, welfare programs, disability payments, and federal employee retirement benefits. The nondefense discretionary part of the budget would be cut from $685 billion in 2019 to $511 billion by 2029. Those would be good reforms, as discussed here.

    However, the budget would increase defense and security spending. It would “bolster our global force posture,” which sounds like more spending on misguided foreign activities. We should fund our military to defend America, not the globe.

    I'm all for defending the country, which after all is one of the jobs allocated to the Federal Government by the Constitution. (Student loans, among 984,245 other things, are mysteriously unmentioned.) But so much of it is devoted to (in the words of Rand Simberg) "shipping taxpayer funds to the right zip codes".


  • At Inside Sources, Michael Graham asks the musical question: Is Tom Steyer's NextGen Promoting Voter Fraud in NH?.

    It’s no secret that NextGen America, now known as NextGen Rising, has been aggressive in its outreach to college students on behalf of Democratic candidates and liberal causes. In 2016, for example, Steyer bankrolled a NextGen staff of 50 to identify and turn out Democratic votes on New Hampshire college campuses.

    And NextGen has made no secret of their belief that the effort paid off. During an appearance in Bow, NH last July, Steyer bragged that the increased turnout among college students at UNH alone was larger than the 1,017-vote margin Maggie Hassan had over incumbent US Senator Kelly Ayotte in 2016.

    The answer to the question is probably "not intentionally, at least as a matter of official policy". Steyer's not that dumb. But almost certainly one or more of his minions gave one or more students bad legal advice.

    But, as in most cases, the real scandal is what's legal: letting students who are paying out-of-state tuition vote at New Hampshire polls.


  • A related column in the WSJ from Dartmouth student Daniel M. Bring: The College ‘Grass-Roots’ Organizations That Aren’t.

    If college students are politically conscious and impressionable, they might find themselves pawns of national political nonprofits masquerading as student groups. Such outfits, on both left and right, are expanding rapidly on campuses and recruiting students to advocate for their ideological agendas.

    At Dartmouth, where I am a student, the midterm elections convulsed the campus. Student canvassers recruited from the college filled social and study spaces. These progressive “community activists” littered walls with posters and harangued students constantly to sign Democratic Party voting pledges. They knocked on the doors of every dorm room. Their activities, uncoordinated with the College Democrats or local party affiliates, baffled me and many others.

    It's not just NextGen, of course. There's Turning Point USA and Young Americans for Liberty, and probably others.

    Mr. Bring urges his readers (wisely) to not be delusional about the grass-unrootedness of such organizations.

    I wonder (however) whether such groups are equally welcomed on campuses. History gives us plenty of reasons for skepticism.


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang for a story in… the Maine News Wire. Wha? Well, anyhow, it's good news, from John Andrews, Maine legislator: Legislative committee narrowly rejects National Popular Vote, but fight is not over.

    The Legislature’s Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs, of which I am a member, recently held a public hearing on two bills designed to subvert the Electoral College in electing the President of the United States. 

    Rather than amend the Constitution, which requires overwhelming agreement, supporters of this approach are seeking to get around the Constitution by committing Maine into entering an interstate compact with other willing states to award their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote across 50 states. This would be done at the expense of other states not in the compact and the current Constitutional system that utilizes the Electoral College.

    It really is a nasty Constitutional circumvention. But LFOD? Ah:

    As a member of the Veterans and Legal Affairs committee, I applaud the Democrats who joined all Republican members to do the right thing by voting to protect Maine’s independence and sovereignty. We will work in a bipartisan effort to ensure Maine has a loud voice on the national stage.  Virginia is for lovers, Texas doesn’t want to be messed with and in New Hampshire they live free or die.  I want to keep Maine the way life should be and not lose ourselves to states that maybe don’t share the same outlook that we have here in Maine.

    Preach it to the rooftops, Representative John Andrews!

URLs du Jour

2019-03-11

[Amazon Link]

  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File muses on The Aristocracy of Victimhood.

    I won’t get all deep in the weeds on Nietzsche’s concept of ressentiment, but the gist of his argument was that the priestly caste turned the hierarchy of morality on its head. They made virtues — strength, honor, etc. — into vices, and vices — meekness, weakness, etc. — into virtues.  Now, Nietzsche’s ideas of what constitute virtue and vice are not my own, but his analysis was brilliant nonetheless.

    As I wrote recently, we’ve turned victimhood into a source of incredible cultural power to the extent that some people, like Jussie Smollett, make a perversely rational choice to turn themselves into victims because they know that if they can pull it off, they’ll gain status, fame, and money as a result. It’s not always as cynical as that, of course. Victimhood has cultural power because victimhood is a new source of meaning, and people are desperate to find new sources of meaning these days as religion recedes further from modern life. Rachel Dolezal didn’t don blackface — blackbody? — to mock or ridicule black people. She did it because she thought she could fill the hole in her soul with a can of shoe polish.

    It's been nearly five years since George F. Will wrote a column observing that when colleges and universities "make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate." That heresy got him booted off some newspapers.

    But he was just prescient, and that particular disease has spread into society at large.


  • A long and thoughtful article from Nick Gillespie in the current issue of Reason has made it out to the web: Everyone Agrees Government Is a Hot Mess. So Why Does It Keep Getting Bigger Anyway?.

    When libertarians dole out blame for the growth of government, perhaps we should take a look in the mirror. Is it possible that our arguments—correct and widely accepted though they are—about government inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and incompetence have had the unintended consequence of fueling government's growth?

    For 50 years, Reason writers and other libertarians have preached that government at all levels is bad at what it does, a view that virtually every poll finds to be widespread among Americans of all political persuasions. In his first inaugural address in 1981, Ronald Reagan famously declared that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." That's a tight summary of what not just a majority of libertarians but most Americans believe these days. But has all this declining trust in government actually led to smaller government? With some meaningful exceptions, the answer is no. The government spends more, controls more, and does more than ever.

    What's the bottom line? What's a better strategy for people who want strictly limited government? Ah, you must read the article, pilgrim.

    I'm not sure I'm in complete agreement with Nick, but that's probably because I'm wrong. He's very smart.


  • Granite Grokster Steve MacDonald looks at a recent story in my local paper: SeacoastOnline Gives Away the Democrat Lie On Taxes and Education Funding. It's a story covering Executive Councilor (and probable 2020 candidate for Governor) Andru Volinsky's presentation in Somersworth on school funding.

    In what can only be labeled as pro-Volinsky state-wide tax propaganda SeacoastOnline ran a story about Volinsky’s mission to change how New Hampshire funds education. The headline they chose?

    Volinsky: Take education funding burden off taxpayers

    Uh huh. Take the burden off taxpayers, and who will assume that burden instead? Unicorns and pixies?

    A more honest, accurate headline would be something like "Volinsky Advocates Shifting Education Tax Burden from Local Taxpayers to State Taxpayers". But neither Seacoast Online nor Volinsky have any interest in being honest or accurate.


  • Next time you hear that there's a farm bankruptcy crisis, here's a link for you to trot out, from Vincent H. Smith at AEI: There is no farm bankruptcy crisis. It's in rebuttal to a recent WSJ op-ed from Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), which, um, claimed there was such a crisis.

    In 2018, among the 2.2 million farms that produce food and fiber on a nationwide basis, only 501 farms filed for bankruptcy under chapter 12 (the one measure for which data on bankruptcies are available on a consistent basis from the mid-1980s). It is true that in 2008, a year in which corn and wheat prices reached very high levels, only 345 farms filed for bankruptcy. However, the number of farms who filed for bankruptcy under chapter 12 were 544 in 2009, 723 in 2010, 637 in 2011, and 512 in 2012 — all years in which crop and cattle prices were atypical high. The real point is that bankruptcies among farms were exceptionally low in all of those years, as they were in 2018. They are equally likely to be low in 2019, a year during which farm income is meant to increase by approximately $7 billion more than it was in 2018 according to the US Department of Agriculture forecasts.

    The Senator is correct that, unequivocally, in 2018, as a direct result of the current administration’s trade policies, prices for some agricultural commodities were substantially lower. On the crop side, those commodities include soybeans, peas (garbanzo beans et al) and lentils. On the livestock side, hogs are included. Prices for wheat, corn and some other crops were also lower but the trade related impacts were very modest.

    It would be nice if Trump would call off his stupid trade war, but overstating the argument doesn't help.


Last Modified 2019-03-12 5:07 AM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2019-03-10 Update

[Amazon Link]

Our Amazon Product du Jour is a phony security sign you can buy to deter stupid home invaders. Consider it an analogy to every candidate promising that they'll keep you safe against foreigners, medical bills, fake news, and/or Amazon/Facebook/Google/Twitter/AOL.

Big shakeup in our phony lineup this week!

  • Sherrod Brown decided he'd rather be Senatorialing than Presidentializing.

  • And Michael Bloomberg decided to avoid what he called the "crowded field" of, y'know, actual Democrats. (Possible translation: "There's no way I could pass the 2020 version of the Democrat Purity Test.")

  • Also gone: Nikki Haley, who dipped below our 2% probability inclusion threshold. I don't think she's expressed any interest whatsoever in running.

  • That made room for Andrew Yang, whose main claim to fame is his advocacy of a Universal Basic Income which he calls, channelling George Orwell, the "Freedom Dividend". ("It's not freedom for the people you're taking the money from, Andrew.")

    I.e., an expansion of the Green New Deal promise of economic security for those unwilling to work. Given the state of debate on the D side, I'm pretty sure a lot of candidates will simply say: "Yeah, that's a good idea. I'm for that too." Removing Andrew's single talking point.

    Be that as it may, Andrew's chances of winning the Presidency are judged by the Betfair bettors as roughly the same as those of Liz, Amy, and Spartacus.

  • And also reappearing (after a week's absence) is Mike Pence, with a surprisingly high probability of 7.4%. Maybe there are rumors about Trump getting impeached/convicted, or just deciding he's bored and tossing the Oval Office keys to the Veep? Or the way I calculate the probability from Betfair odds may be screwed up.

That said: Trump returns to his rightful position atop the phony standings this week, trouncing Kamala by over a two-to-one margin. Sanity has returned to the phony universe. Liz also made strong gains:

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
3/3
Phony
Results
Change
Since
3/3
Donald Trump 32.5% +0.5% 14,300,000 +11,420,000
Kamala Harris 12.5% -0.3% 6,720,000 -560,000
Elizabeth Warren 2.5% -0.1% 4,760,000 +4,555,000
Beto O'Rourke 7.4% -2.1% 958,000 +4,000
Bernie Sanders 12.8% +2.6% 473,000 +53,000
Amy Klobuchar 2.3% -0.1% 377,000 -21,000
Joe Biden 11.2% +2.1% 219,000 -21,000
Mike Pence 7.4% --- 191,000 ---
Cory Booker 2.5% +0.1% 74,500 -10,400
Andrew Yang 2.5% --- 21,000 ---

Standard disclaimer: Google result counts are bogus.

  • The young-adult website Vox brings us Sherrod Brown’s message for 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.

    (I am officially amused by the subhed on the article: "The senator from Ohio won’t run for president in 2020. But his economic platform is still inspiring Democrats." Holy cow, what shameless flackery. Anyway…)

    “I will keep calling out Donald Trump and his phony populism. I will keep fighting for all workers across the country. And I will do everything I can to elect a Democratic President and a Democratic Senate in 2020,” Brown said in a statement. “The best place for me to make that fight is in the United States Senate.”

    Some pols recycle the same tired phrases every time they get in front of a microphone or camera. So it is with Sherrod Brown and "phony populism".

    Also note two occurrences of the "Progressive F-Bomb": fight. They really do love their violent rhetoric.


  • Vanity Fair pays writer Bess Levin to pen articles like this: White House: Jobs Numbers That Make Us Look Bad Are Fake News.

    I sympathise. It's hard to come up with thoughtful insights, when your audience seems perfectly happy with cheap snarkiness.

    When Donald Trump was running for president, he regularly accused the government of putting out “phony” economic data, declaring that the jobs numbers were nowhere near as good as the Bureau of Labor Statistics claimed, and that the “true” unemployment rate was probably more like 42 percent. (Yes, he literally attempted to suggest that nearly half the country was looking for work.) Naturally, once he became president, that tune about the government faking official data changed faster than you can say “DADDY, GIVE ME MY TOP SECURITY CLEARANCE!”, and he was more than happy to believe, brag about, and take credit for the numbers the Labor Department reported, including the ones that came out when he had barely been on the job for a month. (An actual quote: “[The numbers] may have been phony in the past, but [they are] very real now.”) But it seems Friday brought about a return to form, with the president’s administration arbitrarily deciding that the news that a mere 20,000 jobs were created in February cannot be trusted…

    News flash: Trump makes unsupportable claims about economic statistics.

    I suggest this (possibly paywalled) WSJ report which has numerous graphs putting the jobs report in context. The report wasn't that good, but neither was it that bad. Is it the harbinger of bad news to come? Maybe, maybe not.

    Yeah, it's more or less the administration's job to spin it positively. And the job of a partisan flack at Vanity Fair to throw as much mud at Trump and his minions as possible.

    As I type, a mere 603 days before Election Day 2020… Safe bet: more of the same until then, and probably after too.


  • I would not have pegged George F. Will as the kind of guy that watches this sort of TV. But here goes anyway: Democratic Candidates Channel Late-Night Infomercials.

    A four-word phrase common on late-night television, exclaimed by announcers giddy about their offers: “Buy this kitchen knife that is so sharp it can slice and dice diamonds, and we’ll throw in a nonstick frying pan that can double as a satellite dish. BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! If you call immediately, we’ll include a homeopathic cure for sciatica.”

    Today’s Democratic presidential candidates sound like late-night infomercials: “A Green New Deal! Medicare-for-all! Reparations for some! Free college for the young! Increased Social Security for the elderly! BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! At no additional cost, you get Modern Monetary Theory.”

    Read on for more on MMT, true voodoo econ. But I (slightly) demur from Will's thesis. Any commercial enterprise that made the claims and promises equivalent to those made by our political class would be quickly busted by the FTC for consumer fraud.


  • An amusing question and answer from the Puffington Host: Who Calls Joe Biden 'Middle-Class Joe'? Joe Biden Does, That's Who.

    Joe Biden likes to say that other people call him “Middle-Class Joe,” but there is little evidence that anyone calls him that other than Joe Biden himself.

    “I know I’m called Middle-Class Joe,” Biden said at a campaign event in October. “It’s not meant to be a compliment. It means I’m not sophisticated. But I know what made this country what it is: ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

    The former vice president and possible presidential candidate has been saying some variation of this line for years. He has probably said the phrase “Middle-Class Joe” more times than everybody else combined. It has been a standard part of many Biden speeches.

    Actually, in these parts, he's mostly called Plagiarizin' Joe.


  • The Bulwark has been kind of a mixed bag for me—how many different ways can you say Trump is icky and so are his fans—but I'll stick with it. Jonathan V. Last is pretty good, and he brings us The March Democratic Power Rankings. We might as well go with this dig at Amy Klobuchar while she's still in the field:

    It’s not the crime that kills you, it’s the coverup.

    When Klobuchar was revealed to be a Very Bad Boss, she had three options: (1) Deny; (2) Admit, apologize, and reform; or (3) Play the feminism card.

    She went with Door No. 3 and that was a mistake. You know what’s not a great idea? To insist that being a woman is just part and parcel of being a terrible human being.

    As the great Caitlin Flanagan writes, “Don’t sell cruelty and pathological behavior as a feminist victory.”

    She's toast.

    You read it here first. Unless you read the Bulwark, in which case you read it here second.


  • Liz Warren tried to breathe life into her campaign with a new proposal: hey, let's break up Amazon. And Facebook. And Google. And… well, it gets vague. Anyone who pisses off Madame Wannabe President, I guess.

    Megan McArdle rolls her eyes and explains: Why ‘break up big tech’ will work better as a Warren campaign theme than as an actual policy.

    Warren’s position is of a piece with her earlier focus on banks: Big is bad. It’s also consistent in that it’s a Washington Issue that doesn’t address any particularly pressing problem, except maybe an inchoate unhappiness with the alienating scale of the modern economy.

    As a longtime skeptic of antitrust, I note that Warren’s proposal would probably make the lives of most Americans somewhat worse. Amazon would be forced to divest both Amazon Marketplace and its Amazon Basics line of cheap utility products, meaning those USB cables wouldn’t be quite so affordable. Google would be forced to divest its advertising business, a move of little benefit to the average person. It would, however, somewhat impair the cash flows Google uses to fund a bunch of free stuff, such as Gmail and Google Maps.

    Warren argues that breaking up big tech isn’t about consumers, at least not directly. It’s about enhancing competition, giving smaller tech companies space to grow into the next Amazon or Facebook. Sure, if you’re one of a couple hundred people wandering around Silicon Valley with a business plan in your pocket, that might actually help you. Then again, it well might not.

    It would be pretty funny if she (somehow) grabbed the Democratic nomination and then all the erstwhile Democrat big tech donors looked at this and slowly shook their heads and closed their checkbooks.


  • And finally, Mr. Michael Ramirez's reaction to Hillary disavowing any interest in campaigning:

    She says she's "not running". In the back of her mind, I'm sure there's an asterisk: "… but if I could somehow be President without all that dreary campaigning…"

Death Wish

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Last year's remake of Death Wish, with Bruce Willis playing Charles Bronson popped up as a free streamable Amazon Prime movie, so I bit. And it's OK!

You probably know the story: home of mild-mannered urban professional Paul Kersey gets targeted by home invaders while he's away. His wife is killed, daughter sent into a coma (but not raped, as in the previous version). And the guy turns into a vigilante, shooting bad guys in the street.

Well, there are some major differences. It's Chicago, not New York. Kersey is a gifted surgeon, not an architect. This turns out to be important when his profession delivers him an important clue to the identity of his family's attackers. And so it turns into more of a revenge drama than a vigilante tale. Which is fine.

The acting is pretty solid. I haven't seen a lot of Bruce Willis movies lately, but he's very believable.

Vincent D'Onofrio plays his brother. The most recent thing I've seen him in was the last season of Daredevil, where he played Kingpin. There couldn't be two more different characters, and D'Onofrio is completely buried in both roles. Amazing actor.

And Dean Norris plays the Vincent Gardenia character, a dogged cop who (finally) figures out Kersey's game, and is unsure what to do about it. I've been a fan ever since he played Hank Schrader, the flawed but eventually tragic/heroic DEA cop in Breaking Bad. He's good here too.

Gun Crazy

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

It appears we kind of exhausted all the good film noir movies already. I stuck this one in the Netflix queue a few years back, it was about to die of old age, so…

The theme is "crazy", and not just about guns. One of the afflicted is Bart, who just loves guns. So much so, that as a kid, he throws a rock through a storefront window in order to get one. Unfortunately this crime gets him shipped off to reform school. Then it's a stint in the Army, where he develops his sharpshooting skills. And then back home to start up an honest working-class life, except…

He and his boyhood buddies head off to the carnival that happens to be in town. Where he meets up with carny sharpshooter Ruby. And it's lust at first sight.

Unfortunately, Ruby is… well, maybe not a homicidal maniac. It's just that when she's in a stressful situation, her first instinct is to shoot someone that's irritating her.

Before you can say "crime spree", Bart and Ruby are off on a crime spree. And you know how those end.

Not awful, certainly watchable. But I watch so few flicks these days, I wish I'd spent time on a different one.

URLs du Jour

2019-03-09

[Amazon Link]

  • At Reason, Steven Greenhut asks the musical question: Why Are We Still Debating the 'Merits' of Socialism?.

    For me, the answer is pretty simple: that's a pretty easy debate to win. So maybe a better question is: why do people keep lining up on the other side of the debate?

    Anyway:

    These days, some progressives describe themselves as "democratic socialists," which makes the idea sound kinder and gentler. They aren't thinking about crumbling buildings in Cuba, starving children in Venezuela and genocide in Cambodia, but might be envisioning a facsimile of Portland, Ore.,—a place with cool, fair-trade, vegan restaurants and hip bars, but without all that private ownership stuff. Yet socialistic policies could turn the nicest cities into wastelands.

    Apparently, the leaders in those bad socialist places didn't do socialism right. As a former Barack Obama national security adviser told the Post, "I think the challenge for Bernie is just going to be differentiating his brand of social democratic policies from the corrupt turn—and authoritarian turn—socialism took in parts of Latin America."

    A turn? Authoritarianism is the inevitable outcome—a feature of socialistic systems, not a bug, because those systems empower government at the expense of individuals.

    It was tough to find only a few paragraphs to excerpt; they're all pretty good.


  • At the (possibly paywalled) WSJ, James P. Freeman looks at the latest proposals from a senator from a neighboring state: Bernie’s Bet: $32.6 Trillion Is Not Enough.

    Polling suggests that the more people learn about the cost and bureaucracy likely to result from a government-run health system, the less they favor it. So naturally Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has decided to make his plan for a government-run health system bigger and more expensive.

    This column recently noted that Mr. Sanders is the kind of socialist who demands $32.6 trillion from taxpayers to alter their medical care and then misleads them about the imagined benefits. But that description now seems unfair since the 2020 presidential candidate has decided to shove the price tag significantly further north.

    Bernie is proposing to kick in "free" long-term care in his M4A scheme, offered to …

    People of any age could qualify if illness, injury or age limit their ability to perform at least one “activity of daily living,” such as bathing or dressing, or one or more “instrumental activities of daily living,” such as managing money or taking prescribed medications. There would be no income or assets tests to qualify, and no copays or deductibles.

    Sounds wonderful, except if you're one of the suckers paying for it.

    Donald Trump, right now, as you are reading this, is hoping that Bernie will not peak too soon.


  • Jonah Goldberg's column this week notes: House Democrats finding it hard to confront anti-Semitism.

    The Democratic party is having a rough time condemning anti-Semitism. Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota has, on several occasions, made classically anti-Semitic claims about American Jews, and the effort to formally denounce those statements in the House ruined a week in which the Democrats were supposed to talk about their agenda.

    The gist of Omar’s complaints is that the perfidious, string-pulling Hebraic hordes control Congress with their shady shekels; Israel has hypnotized the world; and American Jews are guilty of dual loyalty.

    They finally passed a watered-down who-could-be-against resolution. So at least we'll have no more hatred in America for the next few years.


  • I'm just back from my weekly trip to the town dump "Transfer Station", so I am attuned to what Kyle Smith at National Review says: Recycling: Wasteful, Expensive, Pointless.

    It took man only 20 centuries or so to give up trying to transmute base metals into gold. How long will it take us to stop trying to turn our rubbish into gold? As John Tierney put it 23 years ago in the New York Times, “Recycling Is Garbage.”

    It may make sense to recycle a few items for the savings in carbon emissions — paper, cardboard, and metals such as aluminum from cans. Recycling a ton of these items saves about three tons of carbon dioxide. Glass, plastic, rubber, all the other stuff? Not really. We used to send our plastic empties to China, but China has lost interest, as The Atlantic’s Alana Semuels reports in “Is This the End of Recycling?” The subhead reads, “Now that other countries won’t take our papers and plastics, they’re ending up in the trash.” Some municipalities are directing those recycling trucks to the nearest incinerator. A transfer station in New Hampshire reports that sending rubbish to a landfill costs $68 a ton. Recycling it? That costs $125 a ton. Wasn’t recycling supposed to save us money, not cost twice as much?

    John Tierney's classic article is here.


  • A local story from Drew Cline of the Josiah Bartlett Center attempts to clear up confusion about The Education Tax Credit: How does it work?. Quoting the sponsor of a bill to repeal the ETC:

    “By reversing this unjust carveout, $6 million currently set aside for the education tax credit program would be appropriated fairly, taking into account all Granite Staters’ needs,” Rep. Joelle Martin, D-Milford, said in testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee in February.

    Every part of that statement about the program is incorrect. There is no state money set-aside for the program. And the credits do not come close to totaling $6 million.

    Democrats basically hate every dollar spent on education that doesn't come from taxpayer pockets..

URLs du Jour

2019-03-08

[Amazon Link]

  • To cheer up your day, a reminder from Jim Geraghty about the bullet we dodged in November 2016 [only to be hit by a different bullet, but what are you gonna do]: Hillary Clinton's 2016 Election Loss: Her Latest Excuse. Herself is quoted:

    I was the first person who ran for president without the protection of the Voting Rights Act, and I will tell you, it makes a really big difference. And it doesn’t just make a difference in Alabama and Georgia; it made a difference in Wisconsin, where the best studies that have been done said somewhere between 40 [thousand] and 80,000 people were turned away from the polls because of the color of their skin, because of their age, because of whatever excuse could be made up to stop a fellow American citizen from voting.

    The WaPo awards her 4/4 Pinocchios

    There’s an important debate to be had over voter ID laws and their effect on turnout, considering how rare voter fraud cases are in the United States and the risk of disenfranchisement. We’re looking at something different here. Clinton made a series of specific claims that were way off-base.

    The Supreme Court’s ruling in 2013 had no bearing on Wisconsin. The University of Wisconsin study she relied on for her 40,000 estimate says its findings from two counties should not be extrapolated to form statewide conclusions. Her spokesman did not cite any study for the 80,000 estimate. Voter registration in Georgia did not decline from 2012 to 2016.

    And (even) Politifact considered this worthy of its coveted Pants[uit] on Fire classification.


  • Do you ever wonder about an alternate history timeline, where American fascists might try to sell us on their ideology?

    "Yeah, we know those fascists in Europe were bad, but what we're proposing is Democratic Fascism? That's totally different!"

    "Oh, OK then."

    Anyway, Megan McArdle isn't having even adjectivally-modified socialism: Democratic socialists are selling us a system that no longer works. Assuming they can agree on what it is:

    For [Bernie] Sanders, democratic socialism is Scandinavia. Not good enough, retorts the website Jacobin, which declared “Democratic Socialism Isn’t Social Democracy” in a headline last year. Around the same time, one of the website’s staff writers said in an article for Vox that social democracy’s ultimate goal is to “end capitalism.” Jacobin has pointed the way in various articles: nationalize vast swaths of the economy, abolish wage-slavery and turn every workplace into a miniature democracy.

    It’s a radical vision not simply of redistributing the fruits of our labor, but fundamentally altering how that work is organized, to something less like the army and more like the prom committee. On the left, this seems to be gaining on Sanders’s “Norway, but bigger” model of democratic socialism.

    I was never on prom committee. Sounds like I (warning: recurring theme) dodged a bullet.


  • My home town has been engaging in back-and-forth recycling policies pretty much since I've been living here: decades. At Reason, Eric Boehm notes that it might be time to call it quits: Some Towns Are Trashing Their Costly, Inefficient Recycling Programs.

    Should that empty soda bottle go in the recycling bin or the trash can? Increasingly, it doesn't really matter.

    A large portion of America's plastic and paper waste used to go from our recycling bins to China, where it was refashioned into everything from shoes to bags to new plastic products. But since the end of 2017, China has restricted how much foreign trash—er, recycling—it buys, including cutting off purchases of waste paper products, like all the junk mail that goes directly from your mailbox to the recycling bin.

    The article cites Franklin, NH, which nowadays just sends "recyclables" to the incinerator.


  • An interesting article at Ars Technica from an Electronic Frontier Foundation guy, Daniel Nazer: Theranos: How a broken patent system sustained its decade-long deception. Assuming you know the broad outlines of the story:

    For any disaster as large as Theranos, there’s plenty of blame to go around, of course. Both Holmes and former COO Sunny Balwani now face federal fraud charges. Theranos’ star-studded board of directors failed to do adequate oversight. Walgreens ignored warning signs before launching its in-store partnership. Some VCs and journalists were too eager to believe Theranos’ unproven claims.

    But the patent system also played an important, and often overlooked, role in the situation. The USPTO gave out patents much too easily, giving Theranos early credibility it didn’t deserve. Theranos then used these patents to attract staff, investors, and business partners. The company would last for 10+ years and burn through half a billion dollars before the truth finally emerged.

    An interesting detail: the only thing worthwhile left of Theranos is its hundreds of patents which don't reflect any actual inventions. This, as Nazer notes, is a "portfolio of landmines for any company that actually solves the problems Theranos failed to solve."


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang for a Holly Ramer AP story: Death penalty repeal bill passes New Hampshire House. OK, that's the news, but who invoked LFOD, and for what purpose?

    Among those arguing for repeal was Safiya Wazir, a 27-year-old Democrat whose family fled the Taliban when she was 6. She said the United States should remove itself from the troubling list of nations endorsing government-sponsored violence, and she invoked New Hampshire's "Live Free or Die" motto.

    "Let's put the emphasis on living," she said. "New Hampshire is better than this."

    As noted before, you'd expect the "or die" part might weigh in favor of capital punishment, but that's the thing about LFOD: it's very flexible.


Last Modified 2019-03-09 7:51 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2019-03-07

[Amazon Link]

I need a browser extension that will automatically block any page that contains the string "Game of Thrones". I mean, really.

  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson writes on Louis Farrakhan Anti-Semitism and the Democratic Party. It's pretty sad stuff. But:

    “Oh, that’s not anti-Semitism!” their apologists will say. “That’s anti-Zionism.”

    Farrakhan has used the same line of defense. But it doesn’t wash. The viciousness and slander of the Democrats’ attacks on Israel are unique; give them a Cuban police state or a Venezuelan dictatorship and they’re kittens, but give them a polity full of Jews and they’re jackals. The double standards and unreasoning hatred of the progressive view of Israel simply does not have an equivalent associated with a non-Jewish state. Even their anti-Americanism is not quite as poisonous.

    Latest word seems to be that Nancy Pelosi can't even manage to bring an anodyne anti-Semitism resolution up for a vote, due to dissent in the ranks.


  • The headline on Peter Suderman's Reason article made me think: "Ew. Worst horror movie title ever.": The Rise of the Low-Tax Socialists.

    Aside from Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, most of today's prominent Democrats are not, strictly speaking, socialists. But they have been influenced by its proponents and its ideas. And in response, they have adopted a partial form of democratic socialism that promotes all sorts of new spending, but not the broad middle class taxes that typically go along with it. These Democrats represent a peculiar, American strain of pop democratic socialism—call it low-tax socialism. It's easy enough to understand the political incentives, but in some ways, it's even less sensible than the real thing.

    Consider how taxation works in the nordic countries that many American socialists describe as their models. Yes, taxes are high on the rich. But as the Tax Foundation noted during Sanders' last presidential campaign, they are also high on the middle class. The 70 percent top marginal tax rate floated by Ocasio-Cortez would apply to income earned over $10 million, affecting only about 16,000 Americans each year. In countries like Denmark, Sweden, and Finland, marginal tax rates of near 60 percent hit earners deep into the middle class. Denmark's 60 percent marginal rate applies to income over 1.2 times the national average, which in the U.S. would hit earners making just $60,000 a year—not exactly millionaires and billionaires. These countries also typically rely on value-added taxes that are inherently regressive, placing a bigger burden on the poor and middle class than on the rich.

    Largely, "prominent Democrats" aren't making serious policy proposals; they're just saying things they think will get votes.


  • We linked to a Cato article yesterday that pointed out problems with Trump's executive order on campus free speech. In the interest of equal time, here's Frederick M. Hess at AEI: Why Trump is justified in suggesting an executive order on campus free speech.

    […] there’s another, useful way to think about all this. If Washington plans to spend $40 million in taxpayer funds to develop new airport security technology for the TSA, contractors wishing to bid on the project are asked to offer certain assurances—including various commitments intended to safeguard the quality of their work. Such requirements are rarely seen as controversial. More typically, they’re held up as a hallmark of responsible government.

    Well, it turns out that U.S. taxpayers spend about $40 billion—not million—a year on research at American colleges and universities. These dollars are spent by the Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation, and a host of other agencies. These funds are not being used to underwrite tuition or teaching; Washington is engaging universities as subcontractors in order to conduct selected research. From the beginning, such taxpayer-funded research has presumed that recipients would abide by the tenets of responsible science—including the assurance that the research will be guided by an inviolable commitment to free inquiry.

    After decades of college obfuscation on race-based admission standards, I can't wait for decades more obfuscation on their free speech supression rules.


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang for a Manchester Ink Link think piece from Jordan Estrada: Regulators win, hunters lose in NH turkey hunting debate.

    In approximately 44 states across the nation, hunters can report harvested game online or over the phone. This year, NH had a chance to join those ranks with the introduction of HB322 – a bill that would create an online check system for reporting wild turkey harvests. But on February 14, the NH general court voted 227-150 to kill the bill, consigning NH to a group of about six states that still require hunters to physically transport harvested game to in-person check stations.

    Sheesh! Well, those turkeys that occasionally wander through my yard are safe again this spring. Who needs the hassle of trucking a dead bird to Madbury. (The nearest check station to Pun Salad Manor.)

    So, who decided to deny NH hunters access to the easy reporting system hunters in 44 other states enjoy? When the votes were counted on HB322, it was 92% of democrats who voted against this bill, while almost every Republican voted for it. This is troubling, because turkey hunting should not be a partisan issue in a pro-hunting, outdoor-enthused state like NH. NH hunters deserve an answer from the NH lawmakers who opposed this bill en masse. Do our NH representatives know something about hunting the rest of the nation doesn’t? Or are NH Democrats pursuing a regulation-heavy approach that would be sharply out of place in the individualistic, liberty-minded culture of the “live free or die” state?

    Unsurprisingly, NH Democrats never saw a regulation they didn't like.

    Unless it's abortion regulation. In NH, wild turkeys are probably better protected than not-quite-born babies.

URLs du Jour

2019-03-06

[Amazon Link]

  • In the "Didn't They Learn Their Lesson" Department, Jacob Sullum writes at Reason: The IRS Targets Drug Policy Reformers.

    A recently adopted IRS rule for tax-exempt organizations seems to violate the First Amendment by taking aim at groups that support drug policy reform.

    The rule, described in an Internal Revenue Bulletin dated January 2, 2018, says the IRS will deny tax-exempt status to "an organization whose purpose is directed to the improvement of business conditions of one or more lines of business relating to an activity involving controlled substances (within the meaning of schedule I and II of the Controlled Substances Act) which is prohibited by Federal law regardless of its legality under the law of the state in which such activity is conducted."

    The pernicious anti-Constitutional legacy of Lyndon Baines Johnson has been around way too long.


  • We noted Arthur C. Brooks' anti-contempt crusade yesterday; at AEI, Daniel Lyons notes an example: Net Neutrality and the Culture of Contempt. Things were going fine for Daniel at a recent symposium until…

    But the final speaker of the day struck a different tone. A business professor, the speaker described net neutrality as a “life-and-death situation” for entrepreneurs, whom he has advised to leave the country. He then continued with the following proclamation:

    “Everybody who argues for abolishing net neutrality . . . knows they’re lying.”

    His remarks continued in this vein, exclaiming that we should not be “having this debate in an academic sense in a way that . . . legitimizes the other side.” After describing net neutrality skeptics as flat-earthers who want to destroy the American dream for entrepreneurs who are “trying to make our planet a better place,” he concluded by stating that the fact that we are even discussing the issue “makes me think, Oh My God, where am I?”

    The business prof is unnamed, but is easy enough to figure out from the symposium schedule linked in the article.

    I suppose there are some advocates of abhorrent ideas that should be beyond the pale. But c'mon. The message I get from arguments as above are "I'm too lazy or incompetent to argue the merits, but I have some choice insults I picked up off Twitter…"


  • I suppose you are wondering whether NH GOP legislators wore pearls to mock grieving mothers, and whether someone named Shannon Watts can be trusted to answer that question. Fortunately, Michael Graham of Inside Sources has your answers: No, N.H. GOP Legislators Did Not Wear Pearls to Mock Grieving Mothers. And Shannon Watts Knows It. At issue:

    Retweeting Ms. Watts' allegation were Senators Spartacus and Kamala, so it's kind of a big deal. But let the record show:

    Only one problem: Shannon Watts was completely wrong.

    “We were given the pearls by the Women’s Defense League,” Rep. Scott Wallace told NHJournal. “They ask us to wear them as a sign of support. And not just the guys. Women legislators were wearing them, too.”

    Informed of the pearls' origin story, Ms. Watts quickly corrected her misimpression doubled down on the smear.

    Kimberly Morin of the Women's Defense League of NH has much more at Granite Grok. She and Michael win the coveted Pun Salad "Gun-Grabbers Are Shameless Liars" Award for the day.


  • Daniel J. Mitchell asks the musical question: Is Trump’s Treasury Department Supporting a Cronyist Plan to Empower Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?. Unfortunately,…

    The good news is that Fannie and Freddie have been in “conservatorship” every since they got a big bailout last decade. And that means the two cronyist firms are now somewhat constrained. They can’t lobby, for instance (though Republicans and Democrats still seek to expand subsidies in response to campaign cash from other housing-related lobbyists).

    But the worst news is that there are people in the Trump Administration who want to go back to the bad ol’ pre-bailout days.

    Aieee! Top crony advocate seems to be (unsurprisingly) Steven Mnuchin. President Trump, save us!


  • Speaking of the Donald, you'd maybe expect the Cato Institute to welcome President Trump’s Campus Speech Order. Wrong! Or, at least, not right. Donald Downs:

    Alas, my experience in free speech politics and higher education informs my concern that Trump’s end does not justify his means for at least two reasons. First, do we really need yet another executive order to deal with a problem that is already being addressed by many concerned citizens? We the People and our legislative representatives have kicked too many problems over to the executive/administrative branch of government to solve, weakening democratic consensus and self-government in the process. Many critics, including me, chided President Obama’s issuance of a unilateral executive order requiring transgender access to every public school bathroom in America. Though not opposed to transgender rights, we thought it best for each school or state to work out its own policy in this delicate area as a matter of principle. Is Trump’s order any different? This is true apart from the constitutional issues implicit in Trump’s statement which require separate consideration once we know the details.

    Second, such an order could well backfire. To begin, the Feds often intervene with a jackhammer, unintentionally breaking things in the process. Recall how the expansive application of Title IX in sexual misconduct cases led to the evisceration of due process in campus hearings for many years. Only recently has the pendulum balancing justice for the accuser and the accused begun swinging back toward an appropriate position. As the president of the University of Chicago, perhaps the nation’s leading institution in supporting campus free speech, wrote in response to Trump’s declaration, such intervention “makes the government, with all its power and authority, a party to defining the very nature of discussion on campus.” Such power undermines institutional responsibility and could readily include chilling the voices of those whose politics differ from whatever group or party controls the government at the time.

    Good points. Although the schadenfreude involved in seeing Higher Ed bow down to the demands of Orange Man is awfully, awfully tempting.


  • You would think that ‘ji32k7au4a83’ would be a damn fine password. Unfortunately… it turns out to be pretty common. Why?

    The password is coming from the Zhuyin Fuhao system for transliterating Mandarin. The reason it’s showing up fairly often in a data breach repository is because “ji32k7au4a83" translates to English as “my password.”

    'ji32k7au4a82', on the other hand, would probably be fine. Nobody would guess that.


  • And check out Michael P. Ramirez's Parody of Progressivism.

    As always: click through for the glorious big, uncropped, version. And let me know if you can make out what that sign on the wall over the laptop says.


Last Modified 2019-03-06 11:04 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2019-03-05

[Amazon Link]

  • Arthur C. Brooks takes to the New York Times to talk about Our Culture of Contempt. Let me skip down a bit to find his thesis:

    People often say that our problem in America today is incivility or intolerance. This is incorrect. Motive attribution asymmetry leads to something far worse: contempt, which is a noxious brew of anger and disgust. And not just contempt for other people’s ideas, but also for other people. In the words of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, contempt is “the unsullied conviction of the worthlessness of another.”

    The sources of motive attribution asymmetry are easy to identify: divisive politicians, screaming heads on television, hateful columnists, angry campus activists and seemingly everything on the contempt machines of social media. This “outrage industrial complex” works by catering to just one ideological side, creating a species of addiction by feeding our desire to believe that we are completely right and that the other side is made up of knaves and fools. It strokes our own biases while affirming our worst assumptions about those who disagree with us.

    Arthur makes a pretty good argument. (I think he's constitutionally incapable of making a bad one.)

    But if I buy his argument totally, I'm gonna have to come up with a better word for my own attitude toward politicians who keep moving our country down the road to serfdom. Either quickly and directly (Democrats, mostly) or slowly and indirectly (Republicans, mostly).

    For the past few years, I've (at least internally) considered my attitude to be "contempt". Mainly to distinguish it from "outright hatred", which I think we can all agree is bad.

    But if Arthur takes "contempt" off the table, what's left?


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson examines the recent history of "lockstep" voting: Democratic Party Demands Conformity. Cute anecdote:

    Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is embarrassed, to the extent that she is capable of being embarrassed, by the fact that Republicans pulled a humorous little switcheroo on her. House Democrats were on the verge of passing a bill that would require you to get clearance from the federal government before selling your old deer rifle to your brother-in-law for 50 bucks, and Republicans got a couple dozen Democrats to join them in support of a last-minute amendment that would have required alerting immigration authorities when those mandatory background checks turned up illegal immigrants, who are not permitted to buy firearms.

    Keep in mind that this was a symbolic flip of the bird to a piece of legislation that itself is a symbolic flip of the bird: Senator Mitch McConnell isn’t going to be letting any Democratic gun-grabbing legislation come to a vote in the Senate. So it’s symbolism about symbolism about symbolism, but Madame Speaker flipped her wig, anyway. She called those moderate Democrats, many of whom represent districts carried by Donald Trump, in to a meeting to berate them. Never mind the quality of the legislation, this is about party discipline: “Vote no, just vote no, because the fact is a vote yes is to give leverage to the other side.”

    OK, that's not unfunny. But KDW makes the point that The Other Side is busy turning the personal into the political, and (before you know it) a demand for "voting in lockstep" will become a demand for "living in lockstep".


  • At Reason, Robby Soave's blog post has a Babylon Bee-worthy headline: Former Clinton Campaign Staffer Accuses Bernie Sanders of Failing to Mention Race, Gender in Speech That Explicitly Mentioned Race, Gender.

    One of the more straightforwardly dishonest aspects of the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries were certain Hillary Clinton supporters' efforts to portray rival Bernie Sanders as out-of-touch with black and female voters, even though his record on race and gender issues was at least as progressive as Clinton's.

    Some Clinton partisans are still pushing this narrative. Enter Zerlina Maxwell, a former communications staffer for the 2016 Clinton campaign and current director of progressive programming at Sirius XM Radio. Maxwell, a black woman, appeared on MSNBC to react to Sanders' campaign kick-off speech at Brooklyn College on Saturday. She was not impressed.

    "To be very serious about it, I clocked it," said Maxwell. "He did not mention race or gender until 23 minutes into the speech. And just for point of comparison, I looked at Elizabeth Warren's opening speech for example, she mentioned race and discrimination in the first paragraph. So that's a big difference and as somebody who is a black woman, knowing that black women are going to be a core constituency for any Democrat who hopes to win the nomination, I was looking to hear messaging specifically for my community, and I did not, at least until 23 minutes into the speech." Maxwell went on to accuse Sanders of failing the test of intersectionality.

    As the headline says: that assertion was inaccurate. At worst a lie, at best a display of heavily-motivated confirmation bias. Almost makes me sorry for Bernie.


  • Hey kids, what time is it? Well, at City Journal, Guy Sorman passes along one possible answer: It’s time to be scientific about global warming, says climatologist Judith Curry. A nice profile of the woman who "gave up on the academy so that she could express herself independently." (That's a pretty remarkable notion right there.)

    Curry is a scholar, not a pundit. Unlike many political and journalistic oracles, she never opines without proof. And she has data at her command. She tells me, for example, that between 1910 and 1940, the planet warmed during a climatic episode that resembles our own, down to the degree. The warming can’t be blamed on industry, she argues, because back then, most of the carbon-dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels were small. In fact, Curry says, “almost half of the warming observed in the twentieth century came about in the first half of the century, before carbon-dioxide emissions became large.” Natural factors thus had to be the cause. None of the climate models used by scientists now working for the United Nations can explain this older trend. Nor can these models explain why the climate suddenly cooled between 1950 and 1970, giving rise to widespread warnings about the onset of a new ice age. I recall magazine covers of the late 1960s or early 1970s depicting the planet in the grip of an annihilating deep freeze. According to a group of scientists, we faced an apocalyptic environmental scenario—but the opposite of the current one.

    But aren’t oceans rising today, I counter, eroding shorelines and threatening to flood lower-lying population centers and entire inhabited islands? “Yes,” Curry replies. “Sea level is rising, but this has been gradually happening since the 1860s; we don’t yet observe any significant acceleration of this process in our time.” Here again, one must consider the possibility that the causes for rising sea levels are partly or mostly natural, which isn’t surprising, says Curry, for “climate change is a complex and poorly understood phenomenon, with so many processes involved.” To blame human-emitted carbon dioxide entirely may not be scientific, she continues, but “some find it reassuring to believe that we have mastered the subject.” She says that “nothing upsets many scientists like uncertainty.”

    As I'm sure I've said before, it's very tempting to view climate alarmists as socialist hucksters who want to panic us into their totalitarian schemes.


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang this morning for an article in the self-described "Hard Center" journal Merion West from Emre Kazim and Matt McManus: The Splits in Anglo-Saxon Conservatism. Their goal:

    In this article, we wanted to look more closely at some of the deeper ideological tensions and dynamics which might have produced these developments. In particular, we want to examine why American conservatism was conducive to the exceptionally virulent emergence of Trumpist nationalism, while the United Kingdom, despite making a strong nationalist statement through Brexit, has nevertheless avoided a slide into full blown right-wing populist government. Our argument is that British conservatism is characterized by a greater degree of moderation than its American counterpart—and that this has a basis in the ideological foundations of the two respective branches [of] Anglo-Saxon conservatism.

    "Virulent", hm? Well, that's not overstated or anything. But check it out, you might find something useful in there. LFOD appears here:

    As observed by Patrick Deneen in his provocative recent book Why Liberalism Failed, the United States is very much a Lockean nation. The initial revolution was deeply inspired by the argument put forward in the Second Treatise on Government: that appropriation of private property was only permissible where one was given a chance to influence policy through democratic representation. This was well summarized in the revolutionary slogan “no taxation without representation.” But at a deeper level, American Lockeanism was fundamentally about the liberty to engage in self-creation. No state or moral majority should be permitted to interfere with an individual’s choices in life, particularly their religious choices, except in very extraordinary circumstances. To “live free or die” was the mantra of any self-respecting individual. This is an exceptionally permissive and modern moral position to take, one which leaves the state little room to either redistribute the fruits of “free” economic exchanges or to enforce traditional mores and expectations.

    I'm very much in the LFOD camp, but the authors discuss its possible conflict with the other "branch" of American conservatism which is… well, you can check it out.


  • At the Boston Herald, Howie Carr has an amusing article. Or outrageous article, depending on how seriously you take the MSM these days: Smirking media bias against GOP couldn’t be clearer.

    Have you ever noticed how differently Republicans are treated in the media than Democrats?

    Every newsroom in the country used to have what was called the “AP Stylebook” to use in writing news stories.

    Now you need two AP stylebooks, one for Democrats, about whom seldom is heard a discouraging word, and a second for the GOP, with a hundred different pejoratives.

    Fact check: true. Last month I noticed an AP news article on the front page of my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat. Headline: End of the era of rants in Maine? New governor looks ahead. And the first couple of paragraphs:

    For eight years, a Republican governor viewed by critics as a blabbermouth and bully systematically shifted the course of state government to the right with a take-no-prisoner style.

    Maine’s new governor is wasting no time in trying to undo the most visible signs of his legacy.

    You need not guess: the incoming governor is a Democrat. Saving us from the "blabbermouth and bully".

    Can you imagine an equivalent "news story" treatment of an outgoing Democrat? No, you can not.

URLs du Jour

2019-03-04

[Amazon Link]

  • I don't know what will happen to the G-File under Jonah Goldberg's changed relationship with National Review, but it was there last week, and it's real and it's spectacular: Socialism and Infanticide: The Return of Barbarism. An interesting insight as to the former:

    […] Whether it’s the Socialist Party of Great Britain or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or the millions of young people who think they’re socialists, they think socialism is a good thing that can do no wrong, and if it does wrong it must be because it’s not really socialism. I understand why conservatives think socialism is evil — because there are so many examples of socialism being evil. But most socialists don’t think they’re evil — nor is it their greatest dream to steal our hamburgers: Socialism is just their word for fixing what’s wrong with the world. The problem is that when you give yourself over to a single idea of how things should be, you check yourself into what Chesterton called “the clean and well-lit prison of one idea” and you become “sharpened to one painful point.” You are bereft of the “healthy hesitation and healthy complexity” that lets you grasp the world as it is and understand the crooked timber of human nature.

    But that’s kinda what I like about the SPGB. At least they take their ideas seriously. They’ve constructed a wholly hypothetical alternative world that is simultaneously as plausible and impossible as Middle Earth or Westeros or a great meal at a Wolfgang Puck Express at the Newark airport. It sounds like it could be real, and it’s kind of fun to think about, but it’s not actually reality. It’s like they think they can pluck the Platonic ideal of a hamburger out of the ether and use it as a rhetorical cudgel to say a Five Guys burger “isn’t a real hamburger! Real hamburgers have never been tried!” Even the Wikipedia entry on the SPGB says: “The party’s political position has been described as a form of impossibilism.”

    I've seen some people describing themselves as "directional" libertarians. In that: they don't know what a libertarian utopia would look like, but they know they want to move in that direction. Makes a lot of sense, and socialists of all stripes would probably benefit from adapting a similar stance.


  • At the American Institute of Economic Research, Jeffrey A. Tucker asks the musical question: Where Did AOC Get Her Sweet Potatoes?.

    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was trying to explain to me that the world is going to melt, we are all going to die, and probably we shouldn’t be having any more children, but I was distracted by the dinner she was preparing on camera. She was carefully cutting sweet potatoes before putting them in the oven.

    She put salt and pepper on them. Salt was once so rare that it was regarded as money. Ever try to go a day with zero salt? Nothing tastes right. That was the history of humanity for about 150,000 years. Then we figured out how to produce and distribute salt to every table in the world. Now we throw around salt like it is nothing, and even complain that everything is too salty. Nice problem.

    Sweet potatoes are not easy to cut, so she was using a large steel knife, made of a substance that only became commercially viable in the late 19th century. It took generations of metallurgists to figure out how to make steel reliably and affordably. Before steel, there were bodies of water you could not cross without a boat because no one knew how to make an iron bridge that wouldn’t sink.

    And so on. Jeffrey and I are in violent agreement on this:

    It drives me crazy to see people so fully enjoying the benefits from private property, trade, technology, and capitalistic endeavor even as they blithely propose to truncate dramatically the very rights that bring them such material joy, without a thought as to how their ideology might dramatically affect the future of mass availability of wealth that these ideologues so casually take for granted.

    It doesn't drive me crazy, exactly, but it doesn't drive me sane either.


  • Matt Ridley writes on Insects, herbicides and floods: three cases of pseudoscience.

    ‘The whole aim of practical politics,’ wrote H.L. Mencken, ‘is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.’ Newspapers, politicians and pressure groups have been moving smoothly for decades from one forecast apocalypse to another (nuclear power, acid rain, the ozone layer, mad cow disease, nanotechnology, genetically modified crops, the millennium bug…) without waiting to be proved right or wrong.

    Increasingly, in a crowded market for alarm, it becomes necessary to make the scares up. More and more headlines about medical or environmental panics are based on published scientific papers, but ones that are little more than lies laundered into respectability with a little statistical legerdemain. Sometimes, even the exposure of the laundered lies fails to stop the scare. Dr Andrew Wakefield was struck off in 2010 after the General Medical Council found his 1998 study in the Lancet claiming a link between the MMR vaccine and autism to be fraudulent. Yet Wakefield is now a celebrity anti-vaccine activist in the United States and has left his long-suffering wife for the supermodel Elle Macpherson. Anti-vax campaigning is a lucrative business.

    Hardly a week goes by without my state's senators tweeting about the dangers of some chemical found at Pease. Here's the thing: knowing the history of doomcrying, I'm less likely to give credence to such dire news even if they're right. The alarmists are bad for realistic risk assessment.


  • At Quillette, Sean Welsh is disturbed by Lies, Damned Lies, and STEM Statistics.

    Concerns about the number of women in STEM are misplaced for three reasons. First, the definition of the “T” is STEM is narrow and arbitrary (a lie); second, the definition of the “S” in STEM is narrow, arbitrary, and flagrantly wrong (a damned lie); and, third, while the causal attribution of sexism to explain low numbers of women in STEM (narrowly defined) is undoubtedly true in particular cases, it is unconvincing as a general explanation of the relative low numbers of women in some broad fields of PhD study. Better explanations for these disparities are readily available.

    Simply put: if "sexism" is so effective at maintaining 3/1 male/female ratio in math and computer science, how does it fall apart in health sciences (70-30 female majority)?


  • Mark Steyn eulogizes The Rain Maker: Stanley Donen, 1924-2019.

    A couple of decades back, at one of those American Film Institute galas, in the midst of the more familiar anecdotes, Steve Martin revealed his own hitherto unknown part in one of the most celebrated song-&-dance sequences in motion picture history. "It was the early Fifties," Steve recalled. "Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen were directing a film, so I dropped by to see my pals. They were very glum, and I said, 'What's the matter?' And they said, 'This damn weather! We can't get this number shot!' I sat there in the rain for a minute and said, 'Why don't you shoot it anyway..?' Well, the rain kept up and Stanley said, 'What the heck, we'll do what Steve said... Just get this lamppost outta here and we'll be ready to go.' I said, 'Leave the lamppost.' Gene said, 'Steve, what'll I do when I get to the lamppost?' I said, 'Swing around it a coupla times and make like it's a big deal.'" Martin paused. "The rest is history."

    Mark has good stories to tell about the people behind one of the best movies of all time.


  • And finally, the Google LFOD alert rang for Faith Canner's LTE in the Nashua Telegraph: Jette’s proposal is sound. (And that proposal is to raise the tobacco age to 21.)

    In the Friday, Feb. 22 opinion entitled “Government Overreach,” You had me in agreement until you got to the paragraph that you felt something was wrong with the government raising the age limit from 18 to 21 years. This was based on if you could fight for your country at age 18, then you should be able to buy tobacco products.

    I found it strange that you didn’t seem to know that young men and women’s bodies are pretty much at maturity level by 18 years. But, their brains are not fully matured until the ages of 21 or 22. Very young teenagers are fully capable of producing babies. They are rarely capable of nurturing them.

    Actually, the human brain (according to science) isn't fully rational "until age 25 or so".

    So isn't that an argument for increasing the voting age? (Also left as comment at the Telegraph site.)

    LFOD? Ah:

    In terms of “Live Free or Die,” that came about living free of a monarchy or dictatorship several centuries ago. And, while this is true today, the century we live in has very different problems that need to be addressed differently than the state motto.

    Well at least Faith is honest: liberty shouldn't get in the way of the state placing whatever rules it wants on people. As long as it's not a king or dictator, it's all good.

The Scarlet Pimpernel

[Amazon Link]

Before Iron Man, before Batman, before even Zorro, there was… the Scarlet Pimpernel! Seemingly a mild-mannered doofus, he covertly assumes an alternate identity to right wrongs, save the endangered, and to make his enemies look foolish.

Pun Son was assigned this book back in his school days, and left his copy hanging around when he got his own place. I knew (vaguely) the idea of the story, sounded appealing to my anti-French Revolution sentiments, so…

The general idea: in the midst of the Reign of Terror, the Pimpernel takes on the task of rescuing French aristocrats (men, women, children) from the bloodthirsty revolutionaries. He uses disguise, distraction, and deception. And this puts him in the crosshairs of the evil Chauvelin, who will stop at nothing to capture and kill him.

There were many surprising things about the book.

  • The writing is … um … ornate. Purple, verging on ultraviolet. In fact, it seems that the Baroness Orczy was trying, paragraph after paragraph, to win the Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest. YMMV, but I found it to be kind of a hoot after a while.

  • The identity of the Scarlet Pimp is kept hidden from the reader (and the main character) for about the first 58% of the book. Big secret!

    Or (in my son's paperback copy) you can just read the big secret on the back cover. Spoiler alert necessary!

    But I'm kinda kidding. Any fan of the Batman/Zorro genre will have the Pimp identified well before the big reveal. Cherchez le fop!

  • But you notice I referred to the "main character" above? That turns out not to be the Scarlet Pimpernel, who actually appears on relatively few pages of the book. The main character is Marguerite St. Just, a dazzling, witty, charming beauty.

    Unfortunately for her, but fortunately for the plot, she's also kind of a ditz. So not just an inspiration for Batman/Zorro: the miscommunications and mixups between Marguerite and her hubby are no doubt the vitalizing force behind thousands of American sitcom episodes.

Fun read.

The Phony Campaign

2019-03-03 Update

[Amazon Link]

We bid farewell (at least for this week) to Mike Pence, whose Betfair-derived odds dipped below 2% this week. My guess: this reflects the growing realization that Donald Trump will probably not be impeached, let alone convicted.

Big mover: the currently-unemployed Beto! O'Rourke, who's indicated (as I type) that he's made up his mind whether he's going to run, but he's keeping us in suspense for now! After a significant gain this week, he's now at a solid 9.5% win probability. (Which is … um … where he was back in late January.)

Who needs coffee to stay awake? I'm just going to keep hitting the refresh button on my Beto! newsfeed to find out what his decision was!

Oh, but Jay Inslee announced his candidacy this week! He's the governor of … Oregon or Washington, I forget which. Anyway, he failed to get any interest at Betfair.

It's semi-interesting that the punters have sorted the Democratic candidates into three groups:

  1. The front-runners: Harris, Bernie, Beto!, Biden.
  2. The stragglers: Warren, Brown, Bloomberg, Spartacus, Klobuchar.
  3. The long shots (who don't make our cut): Gillibrand, Gabbard, Castro, Yang, Inslee, … and everyone else.

Slightly amazing result: Kamala Harris lost nearly half of her Google Phony Hit Counts over the week, and she still maintains her huge phony lead over Donald Trump. (But see disclaimer at the bottom of the table.)

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
2/24
Phony
Results
Change
Since
2/24
Kamala Harris 12.8% -0.9% 7,280,000 -7,520,000
Donald Trump 32.0% unch 2,880,000 +410,000
Beto O'Rourke 9.5% +3.6% 954,000 -76,000
Nikki Haley 2.0% -0.3% 916,000 +258,000
Michael Bloomberg 2.8% -1.0% 508,000 +87,000
Bernie Sanders 10.2% unch 420,000 +42,000
Amy Klobuchar 2.4% -1.2% 398,000 -44,000
Joe Biden 9.1% -1.1% 240,000 +43,000
Elizabeth Warren 2.6% -1.0% 205,000 +19,000
Sherrod Brown 3.1% +0.2% 180,000 +35,000
Cory Booker 2.4% -0.2% 84,900 +8,100

Standard disclaimer: Google result counts are bogus.

  • I didn't watch Trump's CPAC speech, but Reason's Nick Gillespie did, and I'm sort of shocked by his take: Trump Just Might Have Won the 2020 Election Today.

    It's way too early to be thinking this, much less saying it, but what the hell: If Donald Trump is able to deliver the sort of performance he gave today at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual meeting of right-wingers held near Washington, D.C., his reelection is a foregone conclusion.

    There is simply no potential candidate in the Democratic Party who wouldn't be absolutely blown off the stage by him. I say this as someone who is neither a Trump fanboy nor a Never Trumper. But he was not simply good, he was Prince-at-the-Super-Bowl great, deftly flinging juvenile taunts at everyone who has ever crossed him, tossing red meat to the Republican faithful, and going sotto voce serious to talk about justice being done for working-class Americans screwed over by global corporations.

    Trump's speech lasted over two hours. That's pretty impressive for a 72-year-old. I'm (slightly) younger, and I'm pretty sure I'd have to take one or two nap breaks.


  • Before I gave up reading WaPo pundit Jennifer Rubin, I noticed how personal her feelings were about the pols she talked about: she fawned and swooned over her favorites (Mitt Romney); she was nasty, unfair, and bitter toward those who rubbed her the wrong way (Trump, of course). It seems, for now, that she's taken a shine to our phony leader: How Kamala Harris is breaking out. And it's not her complexion!

    It is that ability to weave one’s personal story (in her case, a woman raised mostly by her mother after a divorce, a multi-ethnic American and a prosecutor wanting to do good from the inside) that allows voters, whether in person or through a screen, to connect in some emotional way with the candidate. Voters fall in love with candidates, not proposals; if they don’t know you, they cannot fall in love.

    Finally, let’s face it, she has some of that “it” — the smile, the joyous laugh, the ability to intersperse inspiration with policy responses. (We are an aspirational people, she declares, trying to live up to our founding creed.) She doesn’t get lost in airy platitudes or in the weeds of policy; she paces her appearances with some of each. She can read a room. Call it connectivity or empathy, but the best politicians have it, and those who don’t cannot fake it.

    Uh huh. Jen's in love, folks. Otherwise, that "joyous laugh" would have been cast as grating and inappropriate. Her "personal story" would include her career boost from sleeping with a powerful, married politician.


  • In the Mercury News, Ruben Navarrette Jr. offers: 10 reasons why ‘Beto’ O’Rourke bugs me. (Ruben uses the phrase "as a Mexican-American", referring to himself twice in the column.) Here's a couple of Ruben's reasons:

    — When the Post asked about immigration and what to do about visa overstayers, O’Rourke said: “I don’t know.” He lives in El Paso, not Des Moines. He can’t say: “I don’t know.” An actual Mexican-American would be toast if he said that.

    — O’Rourke doesn’t do homework. He is the Democratic Party’s version of Sarah Palin, telegenic and charismatic but afraid to open a book because he thinks it might explode in his face.

    I'm not a fan of "gotcha" questions, but I wonder what a candid response would be to "What book have you read lately?"


  • Politico reports on Bernie Sanders' updated campaign strategy: Bernie gets personal.

    When the New Yorker profiled Sen. Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential campaign, he sighed when he was asked about his earlier life.

    “I understand,” he said. “I really do. For people to elect a president, you’ve got to know that person — you’ve got to trust them.”

    But, the magazine wrote, “he couldn’t resist sermonizing first,” joking, “I know those issues are not quite as important as my personal life.”

    More than three years later, Sanders’ advisers acknowledge that approach won't cut it in 2020, and Sanders and his team are now trying to present a warmer and fuzzier version of Bernie.

    [This is a good place for an eye-roll emoji: 🙄]

    So Bernie announced his candidacy in Brooklyn, not Vermont. And he's playing up his past. Drawbacks?

    But the strategy comes with risks: It could draw more attention to parts of Sanders’ life that could prove damaging, such as when he said more than 30 years ago that Cuban dictator Fidel Castro “totally transformed the society.” And there's a chance it will be viewed by some of his fans as phony.

    I have no insight into what might trigger a Bernie fan into a such a realization. It would seem that suspension of sharp observational skills is a sine qua non of Bernie fanhood.


  • Michael Graham wonders at the Bulwark: Is Elizabeth Warren’s Campaign Already Over?.

    Forget the “Native American” stuff—Is Liz Warren a fake presidential candidate?

    While the political press covering the 2020 Democratic presidential primary are focused on who’s getting in—“Joe Biden, Will He or Won’t He?”— Elizabeth Warren, the one-time front-runner and progressive rock star, is fading away.

    The polls aren't good. Especially bad is the recent poll done by the UNH Survey Center that asked Democratic primary voters which candidate they wouldn't vote for "under any circumstances". Leading the pack: Elizabeth, with 13%. On the poll's "most likeable" question, she came in sixth, after Biden, Beto!, Bernie, Kamala, and Spartacus.

    I also liked this observation, about Liz's overuse of a (probably) focus-tested rhetorical gimmick that rubs me the wrong way:

    For Liz Warren, everything is a “fight.”

    Her’s [sic] isn’t a presidential campaign, it’s “the fight of our lives.” Her mission is a “fight that began in the streets,” a “fight for big structural change” and, she repeatedly assures us, “I’m in that fight all the way!” She dropped the progressive’s “F-bomb” a total of 26 times in her announcement speech.

    And I'm not the only one: Viking Pundit.

    OMG, yes, she's always fighting and fighting the fight against those who need to be fought. The other joke I make that she alternates between "the rich and the powerful" and "the wealthy and well-connected" depending on what day it is.

    Indeed. I, for one, am a lover, not a fighter.



Last Modified 2019-03-03 7:22 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2019-03-02

[Amazon Link]

  • The Washington Free Beacon reports on the results of a Senate-sponsored investigation: China Infiltrating U.S. Education System in Propaganda Coup.

    The Chinese government has infiltrated nearly every sector of the U.S. education system via a package of programs and monetary schemes that seek to indoctrinate American children and bring the Communist government's propaganda into the classroom, according to a new report by a Senate investigatory body.

    The wide-ranging report by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has found that China has spent nearly $200 million on educational entities known as Confucius Institutes. These programs have been instated in U.S. schools across the country with the mission of indoctrinating students and painting a sympathetic portrait of the Chinese Communist government, according to the report.

    Caveat Lector: the Beacon's prose is considerably more lurid than the language in the report itself. (Linked above.)

    But for the nth time, a reminder: The University Near Here remains a proud host to a Confucius Institute. In an article no longer available at the Union Leader website, UNH claimed they would review the situation this year.


  • At Reason, Peter Suderman recollects that 2010-era GOP claims that Obamacare was a "government takeover of health care" were, at best, overwrought. But guess what? Medicare for All Would Actually Be a Government Takeover of Health Care.

    The single-payer health care plans now being put forth by Democrats under the label "Medicare for All," however, would eliminate that coverage. As Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D–Wash.) said this week when announcing House Democrats' new Medicare for All bill, the plan would "mean a system where there are no private insurance companies that provide these core comprehensive benefits that will be covered through the government." Unlike Obamacare, then, Medicare for All can legitimately be described as a government takeover of health care.

    Although Jayapal's plan would allow for the creation of a secondary market for supplementary coverage in addition to the government-run plan and direct cash payments to doctors, the market for the private health coverage that tens of millions of Americans currently have would be eliminated. Employers and insurers would be prohibited by law from providing the same benefits as the the government plan, a prohibition that goes further than some other countries with national health care systems. Private insurance as we know it today would be illegal.

    Will the GOP's arguments against M4A be crippled due to its previous wolf-crying?


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson asks the question on which we all ponder now and again: Harris, Ocasio-Cortez, Reich: Dumb or Dishonest?.

    Senator Kamala Harris, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Robert Reich — Democrats are truly testing our prowess in 2019’s championship round of that peerless political parlor game, “Dumb or Dishonest?”

    We don’t play that game when it comes to the great blithering demos at the center of our democracy, because we already know the answer: stone-cold stupid. The American voter bears out the wisdom of the managerial proverb: “None of us is as dumb as all of us.” At the moment, voters are cheesed off because they got a tax cut and because the federal government acted, for once, with uncharacteristic directness and speed.

    When the Republican tax bill lowered taxes for the great majority of taxpayers — all but about 4 million, as the hilariously named Government Accountability Office runs the numbers — the IRS got a move on and changed the withholding schedules. As a result of which, the people who got a tax cut got a tax cut right then, their paychecks getting a little bigger as Uncle Stupid skimmed off a little less.

    You can see where this is going.

    Yes indeed. But if you'd like to follow the tale to the end, click on through and RTWT.


  • The UNH Survey Center has issued the results of its latest polling. The abstract:

    Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are the current favorites in the 2020 New Hampshire Democratic Presidential Primary, with Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren trailing. However, most voters are still trying to decide whom to support. Among Democratic candidates, primary voters believe Biden is most likeable, has the right experience, and has the best chance to win the general election, while Sanders is seen as the most progressive. Just over two-thirds of Republican primary voters would vote for Donald Trump if the primary were held today, while one in six would vote for John Kasich and very few would support William Weld.

    Disclaimer: the Survey Center isn't particularly accurate in its predictions even when they poll a few days before an election. Nearly a year ahead of time? Probably meaningless.


  • And the wicked, wicked Babylon Bee marks the latest tweet from Everyone Who's Never Read A History Book Shocked As Socialist Turns Into Authoritarian At First Whiff Of Power. Specifically:

    Comments the Bee:

    After a recently elected democratic socialist politician suddenly began using authoritarian, elitist-sounding language mere weeks after getting her first whiff of power, every single person in the country who's never read a history book expressed their shock and surprise at the sudden transformation.

    The woman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, tweeted "We're in charge" in the context of a proposed sweeping government takeover of the economy, saying her critics who haven't proposed an alternative were "shouting from the cheap seats." She also declared "I'm the boss, how about that?" in a recent video interview. The statements shocked certain groups of people across the country, namely, those who haven't been in the same room as a history book anytime in the past few decades.

    We're just one election away from the Road to Serfdom.


Last Modified 2019-03-03 2:56 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2019-03-01

[Amazon Link]

  • The Club For Growth has issued its latest Congressional Scorecard, updating for 2018. It "ranks the voting behavior of Members of Congress based on issues relating to limited government and economic growth." And should you wonder why advocates of "limited government and economic growth" are so incredibly pissed off at Republicans these days…

    “Despite Republicans being in control of both houses of Congress, profligate spending was the norm,” stated Club for Growth President David McIntosh.  “Looking at these scores, it’s no wonder that Republicans lost control of the House.  Instead of seizing on the opportunity to get our nation’s fiscal house in order, the Republican-led House brought big-spending bills to the floor time and time again.”

    “The one positive point is that the more fiscally conservative a member was, the better their reelection chances were.  For example, incumbents who did not win reelection had an average lifetime score of 64 percent.  Whereas, the incumbents that won reelection had a 72 percent lifetime score,” concluded McIntosh.

    [Alternate explanation: GOP members vulnerable to Democrat challenges felt the need to move leftward in their voting patterns. Duh. But it didn't do them a lot of good, did it?]

    Need you ask how New Hampshire members did? Awful: In the Senate, Jeanne Shaheen ranked #68 and #70, respectively. And in the House, Annie Kuster and (now-retired) toothache Carol Shea-Porter ranked #345 and #380, respectively.

    Our new Congresscritter, Chris Pappas, has not shown any indication of improvement.


  • David Henderson notes A Missed Opportunity for Dianne Feinstein. Specifically, what she should have said to those children haranguing her to support the Green New Deal.

    Do you have any idea what the Green New Deal would cost? What if it cost $50 trillion, which is more than double the output of the whole U.S. economy this year? Would you still want to do it? Let’s say that you asked your parents to buy a new wide-screen TV; what if the cost of that TV were $10,000? Do you think your parents would buy it? Shouldn’t we look at the cost of programs before deciding whether to implement them?

    Do you think any of you would ever want to fly to Europe? How would you feel if ten years from now the federal government prevented anyone from ever flying to Europe or to anywhere else? Would you feel upset that you would never ever after that be able to fly?

    You say that you’re the ones who would be affected. That’s true. You’ll be around much longer than me. If the whole of the GND were adopted or even if some major parts were adopted, what would be the effect on world temperatures?

    You say that some scientists have said that we have 12 years to turn this around. Which scientists said that? Are you aware that most scientists who have studied the issue disagree with that?

    Asking such questions of children might seem unfair. How about asking them of allegedly responsible adults?


  • If you buy the rationale of the Food and Drug Administration is to protect food safety or consumer health, Reason's Mike Riggs provides a wake-up call: The FDA's Fixation on Nut Milk Labeling Is Not About Food Safety or Consumer Health.

    Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb announced earlier this week that his agency is reviewing "more than 10,000 comments" it has received about whether plant-based food products may market themselves using language more commonly associated with animal products. More simply: Can almond milk call itself milk?

    The FDA proposed in July that no product could use the word "milk" on a label unless the substance inside was a "lacteal secretion...obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.'' Gottlieb noted at the time that "an almond does not lactate."

    I, for one, think that all dairy product labels should be required to say "CONTAINS LACTEAL SECRETIONS FROM ONE OR MORE MAMMALIAN SPECIES" in letters large enough to be read from ten feet away.


  • A publication called Liberal First—don't worry, readers, it's based in Liberal, Kansas—brings us LFOD commentary from its publisher, Earl Watt: Why a Wall Would Benefit Hispanics Fleeing Corrupt Mexico. He tells the story of his younger days, working in a meatpacking plant with a diverse set of co-workers:

    I saw a scar on the face of an older Vietnamese man in packaging, something that I thought happened in the plant. His wife also worked in packaging, and neither of them spoke English, but I got to know a younger Vietnamese worker who could speak English.

    I was always aware of the man with the scar on his cheek. It was a deep gash that left an opening to his mouth, and I once saw him entering the plant while smoking, and the smoke actually leaked out of the opening in the side of his cheek.

    I asked the younger Vietnamese man during work one day, “What happened to his cheek?”

    “When he tried to escape from Vietnam, he was caught, and they hung him in the village square on a meat hook,” I was told.

    Still being a naive 18-year-old, I asked, “How did he get here?”

    The answer, “He escaped again.”

    Had he been caught, he surely would have been killed since he already had a scar from trying to escape before, and yet he still wanted to leave the communist nation so bad that he was either going to live free or die trying.

    Anyway, it has something to so with the proposed wall, and Earl gets there eventually, but that's a pretty powerful story about the Vietnamese guy.


  • And a publication called Jezebel employs a writer named Rebecca Fishbein, who is (apparently) paid to write articles with headlines like Jordyn Woods May or May Not Have Also Hooked up With James Harden, Not That It Matters?.

    Problem one: I have no idea who these people are. But the article rang the LFOD news alert, so…

    I remain unconvinced this entire Jordyn Woods/Khloé Kardashian/Tristan Thompson saga isn’t some Kris Jenner-orchestrated effort to get the Kardashians back in the news now that we’ve collectively moved on to Ariana Grande. Still, now there is some new alleged scandal: Woods allegedly also hooked up with former Khloé flame James Harden. Which, fine? Sleep with whom you want? All’s fair in love and war? IDK.

    I remain unconvinced this entire Jordyn Woods/Khloé Kardashian/Tristan Thompson saga isn’t some Kris Jenner-orchestrated effort to get the Kardashians back in the news now that we’ve collectively moved on to Ariana Grande. Still, now there is some new alleged scandal: Woods allegedly also hooked up with former Khloé flame James Harden. Which, fine? Sleep with whom you want? All’s fair in love and war? IDK.

    Still not following. Although I'm pretty sure I've heard of two or three of those names before. Where's LFOD? Ah:

    I guess on the one hand it does really suck when a “friend” hooks up with an ex, but also, who cares? Live free or die. No press is bad press. Kris, can you come out from behind the curtain now?

    This makes me sad for Rebecca Fishbein. How much money would you have to make in order to be happy writing such stupid pap? Whatever number you came up with, I bet she's not making that much. And I bet she knows it.


  • Also on the LFOD front, a story from Arizona Central: State Rep. Kelly Townsend says mandatory vaccinations are 'Communist'. At issue is her Facebook post from yesterday:

    See? If you click through, LFOD on the bottom, probably a little more applicable in this case than most. Wonder if her water's fluoridated?