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!