Melting Pot or Civil War?

A Son of Immigrants Makes the Case Against Open Borders

[Amazon Link]

As you can see right there in the subtitle, the author, Reihan Salam, is the son of immigrants, specifically Bangladeshi. And he's obviously a success story. And yet…

It's a relatively short book (under 200 pages) and Reihan's thesis is pretty simple: our current immigration system lets in way too many low-skilled immigrants. Why is this bad?

Well, first, we should note that it's a pretty good deal for those low-skill immigrants. Their lives are measurably improved by coming to America, by accepting employment "doing jobs Americans won't do". And we natives should forthrightly admit that we benefit from their inexpensive labor making goods and services more affordable for us.

Except it's a bad deal in nearly all other ways. While low-skill immigrants improve their lot, they are pretty likely to be stuck at the bottom as far as American economic strata go. Opportunities for economic mobility are close to zero. As are opportunities for social mobility: they are likely to be segregated into low-income low-status communities; their kids are going to attend bad schools. What we've thought of as "assimilation" is increasingly off the table.

[Amazon Link]
So Reihan worries that we're moving toward an ever-more stratified society, with an unhealthy white-person dependence on a funny-talking, funny-looking, low-paid underclass. He says: let's not go there, and I am somewhat persuaded. (At least until I can get my hands on the Caplan/Weinersmith defense of open borders, available for pre-order at right.)

Reihan advocates high-skill immigration. Fine. And thinks Yet Another Amnesty for the current crop of illegals is probably desirable (and inevitable). But it must be coupled with a "this time we mean it" strengthening of border security, e-Verify, and whatever else necessary to stem the low-skill tide.

He has a number of other interesting suggestions. For example, reverse immigration, where (relatively) affluent Americans relocate down south, and start employing people there. Government policies to reform (especially) Central American economies, allowing more of their people to participate in the global economy.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • At the Federalist Warren Henry excerpts and comments upon Andrew Ferguson's recent Atlantic essay (which laments the demise of the once-funny White House Correspondents’ Dinner): Late-Night TV Writers Know They’re Awful, But Their Solutions Are Worse. Quoting Ferguson:

    The one quality that unites these late-night jokes is that they scarcely ever make me laugh – or you either, I’m guessing… Very often, they are simple statements of fact, with minimal humorous adornment… [N]obody seems to be trying… The two-step formula of a stand-up joke, setup followed by punch line, has been edited down to the first step and left at that.

    Sometimes they use funny voices, though!

    It's not just late-night. Although I have a TiVo Season Pass to Mom, it's been a few years since it's caused even a chuckle.

  • At Reason, Nick Gillespie is (I imagine) tired of the "practical" arguments against Democrat campaign promises for free stuff. So, instead he says what needs to be said about The Immorality of Student Loan Forgiveness and Free College.

    There's nothing wrong with asking people who benefit from something to shoulder all or part of the costs. Our national finances are falling apart largely because we keep insisting that all benefits be universal and that nobody pay their own way when it comes to big-ticket items such as health care, education, and retirement. One result in those areas are markets that don't function as efficiently as they would otherwise. Another is a pervasive belief that we can always pass the costs of our choices onto other people. Our government is trying to be all things to all people It would be better to let it focus on helping people who can't help themselves, and let the rest of us get on our with our own lives.

    ObPersonalNote: Pun Son and Pun Daughter graduated with zero debt. They're grateful. And having University employees for parents helped some. Let me echo the sentiments of a WSJ LTE-writer, Alfonso Q. Estrada:

    Sen. Warren’s proposal to cancel student loans is unfair to the parents who sacrificed to put their children through college, to the graduates who worked and saved before or while going to college, and to those who lived a lifestyle after college to be able to honor their responsibility to pay off their loan. Loan forgiveness isn’t the answer to this governmental woe. We must find another solution for repaying existing loans.

    Yeah, we could have gone to Paris instead of Boothbay Harbor. Bought a a Beemer instead of a Subaru. Always nice to have Elizabeth Warren tell us we were stupid about that.

  • Yet another warning which nobody will heed, this time from Charles Blahous at the WaPo: We’re running out of time. Social Security must be saved now..

    This week, Social Security’s trustees issued a dire warning. In their 2019 annual report, they announced that future costs for the program will be 20 percent higher than projected revenue. As soon as next year, Social Security’s yearly expenses are expected to exceed its income — forcing the program to begin drawing down its trust funds.

    Those funds will be depleted in 2035, but we can’t wait that long for reform. Even if we were to cut off all new beneficiaries at that time — a measure so drastic that lawmakers would never allow it — the program’s financial shortfall would still be too enormous to avoid insolvency.

    Social Security, in other words, has to be saved now.

    Trump has (for a long time) expressed zero interest in bringing Social Security receipts in line with its payouts. I assume the Democrat strategy is to wait until (oh, say) 2034 or so, and then propose something that must be passed to avoid blood in the streets.

  • The American Council on Science and Health asks the musical question: What Are "Modified Milk Ingredients"?.

    If you care for a real exercise in label reading, just take a peek at a standard supermarket ice cream. You would think that the list of ingredients should be pretty short. After all, traditional ice cream is made by mixing together cream, milk, egg yolk and sugar, blending in some vanilla, fruit or chocolate flavoring and freezing the concoction. That’s the stuff that makes or mouths drool and arteries panic. But chances are in addition to this cream or milk, you will see something labeled “modified milk ingredients.” What on earth are these?

    Although if you are in the USA I'm pretty sure you won't see that on the ingredient list at all. As I left as a comment on the article: "modified milk ingredients" seems to be a Canada-only regulatory invention.

    So why should I, or Americans generally, care? I think it kind of illustrates the arbitrariness of food ingredient labels demanded by governmental nannies. Is it somehow vital that Canadians be informed of "modified milk ingredients"? Are dead Americans piling up because we're not being told of "modified milk ingredients"?

    No, and no. Although a lot of time and resources go into making those rules, they're pretty pointless. There's another issue too:

    However, while there is no health concern, there may be a political one. The amount of fluid milk that can be imported into Canada without a tariff is limited, whereas modified milk ingredients fall under different regulations. It is, therefore, cheaper for manufacturers to make dairy products with imported modified ingredients than with Canadian milk.


  • And denizens of higher ed should get some amusement from the University Title Generator. Just click to find the next addition to your little dynasty!

    (I got "Assistant Deputy Executive for Athletic Technology to the Subcommittee for Investor Communications", estimated salary $162,213)

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • At NR, the correct-as-usual Kevin D. Williamson says Impeaching Donald Trump Would Be a Redundant Judgment.

    The Mueller investigation was supposed to be a legal process concerned with crimes. Investigators identified no crimes to charge, and so it has, naturally, become something else: no longer a theory about a criminal conspiracy — only an irritable mood.

    An ordeal that had been conducted under the procedures of law in accordance with legal criteria is now an ordeal that is being conducted under the procedures of politics in accordance with political criteria — or, if you prefer, with moral criteria related to Donald Trump’s character. For those who want to see President Trump impeached and who think of impeachment as a fundamentally political process in spite of its mock-trial aspect, that’s just fine. They’ll take their pound of flesh, however it is had.

    The problem with this point of view is that the question of Donald Trump’s personal fitness for office already has been adjudicated as a political matter: That is what happened in the 2016 presidential election. Many critics, myself included, argued that Trump was unfit for the office, both morally and intellectually. We made our arguments, the voters consulted their own consciences, and, weighing these things however it is that voters weigh them, chose Trump. There wasn’t some occult intermediary step in there. That’s how things go in politics: The people behave just as if they had minds of their own! And, sometimes, they get to have their own way.

    Executive summary: There is literally nothing we know in late April 2019 about Trump that people paying attention didn't know in November 2016.

  • Thomas Lifson shares the old news: Universities now requiring loyalty oaths taken to ‘diversity’.

    I am so old that I can remember when Democrats and the progressive Left regarded forcing college faculty to sign loyalty oaths as abhorrent. Of course, that was when Communist infiltration of colleges, the media, and government bureaucracy was both genuine and a real threat. President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9835 requiring federal employees to sign a loyalty oath and the state of California passed a law, the “Levering Act,” requiring the same of state employees.

    The University of California has published a loving, celebratory  timeline describing the reaction among faculty and the ultimate repeal of the loyalty oath.  Loyalty oaths were very, very bad, back then.

    But loyalty oaths are back again, and this time, according to the progressive deep thinkers, they are good. Because it is not loyalty to the United States, but rather loyalty to the ideology of “diversity” that is being demanded. […]

    It's a religion, and one must display his or her pious obeisance!

    [ObPersonalExperience: back in 2014, I was "encouraged" (but not required) as a University Near Here employee-identifying-as-male to sign an online pledge about violence against women. Didn't care for that either.]

  • At the Daily Wire, Ian Haworth touches on a topic that we've discussed before: The Weaponization Of Phobias.

    Like so many other elements of our culture and language, the radical Left have hijacked and redefined the word “phobia.” Phobias are a form of anxiety disorder, defined by a strong and irrational fear of something that poses little or no danger in reality. Some examples of well-known phobias are the irrational fear of spiders (arachnophobia), confined spaces (claustrophobia), or heights (acrophobia).

    The radical Left have intentionally stretched this objective definition to apply to any dissenting opinion which relates to a minority group. The terms “transphobia,” “homophobia,” and “Islamophobia” appear often in political debate. While it is clearly true that some viewpoints may be motivated by fear or hatred, the radical Left ignore all content or context and apply the suffix “phobia” to all opposing viewpoints, rejecting any such opinion as “hateful.”

    Bing! It's especially ironic, since lefty gospel demands that mental disorders be treated with compassion, not opprobrium. And yet, they gleefully ignore that when they treat some "phobias" with scorn.

    But I'm not sure this means more than: leftists don't think very hard about their terminology and consistency.

  • [Amazon Link]
    Randy Barnett reviews the Cass Sunstein book On Freedom (a print-Reason article now available on their website to non-subscribers): The Problem With Nudging People to Happiness.

    Sunstein is a progressive liberal. He genuinely cares about individual freedom. But like all progressives, he thinks "we" can do better than merely protecting the rights of individuals and letting the spontaneous order of human actions develop from there. The best and the brightest should intervene to improve outcomes.

    Sunstein's distinctive contribution concerns the nature of that intervention. Most progressives, like Hobbes, believe that freedom must be constrained by force to "make the world a better place." Indeed, many seem to believe that anything that is not prohibited by the state should be mandated. Sunstein, instead, has long favored "nudging" over jailing and fining. On Freedom is an accessible introduction to how he approaches social problems—and a constructive challenge for libertarians.

    I probably won't get around to Sunstein's book, even though it's short. I'm way behind on my "serious" reading.

  • I know I should, and I usually do, treat all humans with respect and dignity. And Maine politics are not in my wheelhouse. And yet, I devoutly hope to see a debate involving Bre Kidman, against either her Democrat or Republican opponents. Because: 'Queer Feminist Mermaid' Surfaces to Challenge Susan Collins.

    Sensing the lack of a Democratic candidate willing to challenge Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine), a "queer feminist mermaid" named Bre Kidman—politically mobilized by the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation fight—has filed to enter the race.

    Mx. Kidman [that's their preferred honorific] [and they prefer "they/their" pronouns] has a website.

    I'm a millennial. I've never run for office. I hate wearing blazers. I drive a dented 10-year-old subcompact with a missing hubcap. I'm a pierced, tattooed, rainbow-haired plus-sized burlesque performer who buys most of their fast fashion wardrobe on clearance. I put the "Q+" in "LGBTQ+." I live in an 830-square-foot house recently described as "probably not intended for year-round occupancy." I had a medical marijuana card when I needed it.  I have been naked on the internet. I won't hide who I was before I started running to represent Mainers. I am not slick or polished, but I am smart and passionate.

    I'm sold. I want the Susan/Bre debate!

  • I've been desperate to avoid spoilers for the new Avengers movie, seeing it tomorrow night. But I think this is OK, from Michael Ramirez: Endgame.

Last Modified 2019-04-30 5:42 AM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2019-04-28 Update

[Amazon Link]

Once again we have no changes to our candidate lineup this week. Elizabeth Warren is still showing an above-2% pulse! The other thing to notice is the fading probability of President Beto O'Rourke, who's dipped below Andrew Yang in the betting market:

Candidate WinProb Change
Pete Buttigieg 6.5% -0.8% 7,500,000 -1,250,000
Donald Trump 43.7% -0.2% 1,690,000 +20,000
Bernie Sanders 12.7% +1.1% 331,000 +4,000
Joe Biden 11.1% +2.8% 233,000 -19,000
Elizabeth Warren 2.8% +0.6% 181,000 +3,000
Kamala Harris 6.5% -2.4% 80,500 -9,300
Beto O'Rourke 3.1% -1.1% 59,900 -12,400
Andrew Yang 3.3% +0.5% 17,600 -1,100

"WinProb" calculation described here. Google result counts are bogus.

In phony news, Mayor Pete dropped 1.25 million hit counts this week, but maintains his large lead over the Donald.

  • Before we continue our usual snide sniping at our wannabe rulers, a brief geeky aside: Smart Harvard Prof Greg Mankiw does the math, specifically the Bayesian calculation implied by the probabilities shown at PredictIt.

    Bayes' Theorem:

    P(A|B) = P(B|A) · P(A)

    Or: for two events A and B, the probability of A-given-B is the probability of B-given-A times the probability of A divided by the probability of B. OK? (Not that I'm going to actually do the calculation here, but it was a pain to figure out how to write that in HTML, and that effort should not be wasted.)

    Anyway: I haven't checked his numbers, but Professor M calculates that Mayor Pete has the best shot (probability 0.8) of beating Trump if he's the nominee. Coming in at the bottom: Elizabeth Warren (probability 0.44).

  • Handsy Joe Biden officially tossed his propeller beanie into the ring this week, causing everyone to comment: "That's it, right? Nobody else?" At the lefty site TruthDig, Norman Solomon welcomes him to the race: Joe Biden Is a Fraud, Plain and Simple.

    Let’s be blunt: As a supposed friend of American workers, Joe Biden is a phony. And now that he’s running for president, Biden’s huge task is to hide his phoniness.

    From the outset, with dim prospects from small donors, the Biden campaign is depending on big checks from the rich and corporate elites who greatly appreciate his services rendered. “He must rely heavily, at least at first, upon an old-fashioned network of money bundlers — political insiders, former ambassadors and business executives,” the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

    It's an interesting look at how the left views Joe.

  • Jazz Shaw looks at the Constitution-defying stylings of candidate Kamala: Gun control via executive order?.

    One more item from CNN’s Night of a Thousand Presidential Candidates yesterday. Among her various “moderate” proposals, California Senator Kamala Harris (D) made sure to get in a pitch for gun control and what she planned to do about it if elected. The basic principles she was pushing for were nothing new among Democrats. More background checks, closing “loopholes” and bans on “assault rifles” were all on the table. But Harris offered a bit of a twist. She pledged that if Congress didn’t do anything about this in the first 100 days of her presidency, she’d take matters into her own hands and solve the matter via executive order. (NY Times)

    Lady, we already have a President who treats the Constitution with contempt. Do we need another?

  • During her terms in Congress, I usually referred to Carol Shea-Porter as my "CongressCritter/Toothache". Meant as affectionately as I could for someone who always seemed to be looking for ways to toss the government more money and power. Michael Graham reports at Inside Sources on her latest news: NH Progressives Unhappy as Shea-Porter Snubs Bernie, Backs Biden.

    The announcement that one-time progressive outsider Shea-Porter will be campaigning with Biden when he visits the Granite State in May is just the latest sign that the New Hampshire political class is determined to do their part to boost Biden’s POTUS bid. And, it appears, slow down Bernie Sanders.

    And Granite State progressives don’t like it:

    “Granite Staters and young people overwhelmingly voted for Bernie Sanders, a candidate who stands for Medicare For All, Free College For All and the Green New Deal,” Dylan Carney of NH Youth Movement told NHJournal. “Seeing establishment NH Democrats show public support this early in the race for Biden is telling of how they see the future of the party. I’d hope former politicians would leave the primary to the will of the voters.”

    NH Youth Movement is basically in favor of a lot of stuff as long as it's paid for by someone else.

  • In an NRPlus article, Jim Geraghty claims: Media Cast Newly Skeptical Eye on Democratic Candidates.

    Assume, for a moment, that conservatives’ worst suspicions about the national media are true: that they wake up each morning and ask themselves, “How can I help the Democrats win today?”

    A Democratic presidential primary is the one time of the cycle where the interests of a partisan media and those of the general public coincide: The Democratic presidential candidates need to be investigated and evaluated, with the aim of weeding out the flawed and unelectable in order to nominate the candidate most likely to win a general election. But the behavior of many reporters and commentators in this young presidential cycle suggests that they have a newfound doubt about their ability to pick a winner.

    In 2016, almost everyone in the mainstream media thought Hillary Clinton would win in a landslide. Some on the Left still prefer exculpatory explanations (Russian hackers! Collusion! Heartland racism!), but others have begrudgingly acknowledged that their candidate-assessment skills had atrophied, and that Clinton was a lousy, unlikeable candidate, dogged by scandal and a sense of entitlement. Quite a few Democrats sensed Clinton’s repellence deep in their brains’ hippocampus; this is one reason that nearly half of them chose a septuagenarian socialist from Vermont over her in the primary.

    One upshot is something we've mentioned before: the national media just now noticing that "Biden’s handsiness, discussed on the right throughout the Obama presidency, is suddenly a topic for a Serious National Conversation."

  • Also at NR, John McCormack evaluates the Calculating Kamala Harris.

    If you want to know which way the wind is blowing in the Democratic primary, just watch Kamala Harris.

    Asked about impeaching President Trump on Saturday, the California senator and presidential candidate said: “I believe that there is room for that conversation, but right now what I want is, I want Mueller to come before Congress to testify. I want to be able to see the full unredacted report, and specifically also the underlying evidence.” But by the time Harris appeared on CNN Monday night for a town-hall meeting in New Hampshire, she had apparently heard enough of the conversation going on inside the Democratic party to make up her mind. “I believe that Congress should take steps towards impeachment,” Harris said, following the lead of Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, who had called for impeachment last Friday.

    "Let's have a conversation about that" is Democratese for "I don't want to take a position that might lose me votes."

  • And finally, Michael Ramirez on Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

    Oh darn, forgot the Trigger Warning: don't look if you have a gropy uncle or a crazy aunt in the basement.

Last Modified 2019-04-29 6:02 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • At NR, Jonah Goldberg's G-File this week asks the musical question: Who Cares about National Unity? Let's see:

    But what is it exactly about unity that you think is so damn important? If your answer is simply that “disunity” is bad, that’s understandable. But is that true either? I mean, can’t 300+ million Americans disagree on some stuff without everyone getting weepy? Moreover, it seems to me we’re slicing distinctions as thin as the garlic in the prison cell dinner scene in Goodfellas when people say diversity is among the highest virtues but disunity is one of the greatest vices. If diversity — real diversity — is good, then it is irrefutably the case that some disunity is good too. In a condition of maximum diversity and maximum unity, it follows that all of these very different people — different races, genders, religions, abilities, traditions, etc. — would have to all think alike.

    There’s something downright Orwellian about the prospect of shouting at people “We must unite around our celebration of our differences!”

    Who the hell wants to live in a world like that?

    Not I. Although it would be tempting to think about a polity more unified around the principles of personal liberty, fiscal responsibility, limited government… Such a group would soon forget about why those principles are valuable.

  • A brave student, Dominic Aiello, reports at Quillette on What I Saw at Middlebury College. It ain't pretty.

    “At a meeting last week at Middlebury College, students upset and angry that conservative Ryszard Legutko had been invited to speak on campus were calmed and reassured by three administrators who apologized to the students for their feelings of discomfort, agreed that they had every right to feel aggrieved, and assured them there’s steps underway to ensure controversial right-wing speakers are not easily invited to campus in the future,” reported Jennifer Kabbany of The College Fix this week. “That according to a 40-minute recording of the meeting recorded surreptitiously by a student in the room…who said the three administrators at the meeting were Sujata Moorti, the incoming dean of the faculty, as well as Dean of Students Baishakhi Taylor and Renee Wells, director of education for equity and inclusion.”

    And the student "surreptitiously" recording was… Dominic! His article is well worth reading in full, but here's some detail:

    As my recording of the event shows, it was a call-and-response performance starring outraged protestors and three highly sympathetic administration members—two of them being both deans and gender studies professors. The whole thing resembled a modern day Struggle Session, with kids literally weeping over the “violence” that supposedly had been brought to campus though the vessel of Legutko. The response of the administrators was an endless expression of sympathy and guilt, as well as pledges to make things right. The students actually demanded that the administrators take notes. And like an obedient underling, one of the professors whipped out her phone to record every demand (all of which were subsequently published in manifesto form).

    The three faculty members spoke openly about their desire to block speakers with certain viewpoints from coming to campus, and discussed plans for an extensive background-check scheme that would allow Middlebury officials to systematically analyze speakers beforehand. I recorded all of this because I’m passionate about free speech—and I felt it was my duty to show other students that members of their own administration were explicitly advocating a system that would allow them to restrict speech on campus in accordance with their own privately held biases.

    As Dominic notes, Legutko managed to speak to a PoliSci class whose students unanimously voted to hear him.

  • Here in New Hampshire, Drew Cline of the Bartlett Center looks at a local boondoggle: A solar subsidy double whammy.

    Technological innovation has brought solar power to the brink of market competitiveness. It will never be as reliable as a gas or nuclear plant that can run 24/7, but as a supplement it doesn’t have to be. When its price is truly market competitive, individuals and businesses will rush to build their own facilities so they can lower their bills and make money selling power back to the grid. 

    We appear to be on the verge of such a transformation, as the price of producing solar power has fallen dramatically in the last half century. By at least some measures, solar generation is already price competitive. And yet the Legislature appears set to pass two simultaneous subsidies that would raise New Hampshire’s already astronomically high electricity rates for the express purpose of creating huge new subsidies for the solar industry (and hydro too).

    You will hear plenty of high-minded "renewable" arguments from the folks who it just so happens will be the beneficiaries of those subsidies, hoping that the folks paying those subsidies don't notice.

  • Over in Vermont, they're considering a brute-force method to deal with their demographic woes: State finds $10,000 relocation offer rubs residents the wrong way.

    Vermont has made news from USA Today to Public Radio International’s “The World” for its new Remote Worker Grant Program that promises $5,000 annually for up to two years to people willing to transplant themselves to the Green Mountain State. Nearly 50 people so far have taken advantage of an offer that has triggered an avalanche of national public and press attention.

    “We’ve had over 3,000 inquiries and over a million impressions on social media,” [VT Governor Phil] Scott told more than 100 business leaders at a Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon. “But I do hear some pushback from people saying, ‘It’s great that you’re trying to get people to move here, but what about me?’”

    Milton Friedman compared the different taxation paths New Hampshire and Vermont took in one of his Newsweek columns in 1976. The differences were apparent 43 years ago, and they have only gotten more so. Now Vermont wants to gimmick its way out of their predicament? Good luck with that.

    Governor Scott is a Republican, but I'm not sure what that means these days nationwide, let alone in Vermont.

  • And our Google LFOD News Alert rang for a story at New Hampshire Laws Force Some College Students To Pay To Vote. Oh no!

    The state motto of New Hampshire hearkens back to the days of the Revolutionary War: “Live Free or Die.” Yet in spite of that motto, however, election laws in the state, particularly for out-of-state college students, are incredibly burdensome.

    Small history lesson: although John Stark was a Revolutionary War general, his use of the phrase dates only from 1809. Its origins are probably mostly (eeeewww) French than American. And it's only been our motto since 1945.

    And, I'm sorry, but "out-of-state college students" should vote in their own damn state. (See Steve MacDonald at Granite Grok for his analysis of an equally slanted article, and his answer to the musical question Are Out-Of-State College Students In New Hampshire Just Too Stupid to "Vote?")

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • David French, writing at NR, takes down an increasingly prevalent illiberal argument on Free Speech: ‘Dehumanizing’ or Not, It’s Vital.

    If you’re going to ask a conservative which predominantly leftist idea is the greatest threat to our nation’s culture of free speech, I’d expect that they’d immediately answer with “speech is violence.” It’s an understandable response. After all, “speech is violence” is not only the most dramatic claim, it’s a claim that has occasionally justified and rationalized actual violence — including on campus.

    But there’s another claim, one that’s slightly less lurid and thus somewhat easier to justify. It applies in the most emotionally fraught debates about race, sexuality, and gender, and it goes something like this: No person should be required to “debate” his right to exist. Free speech is fine, but “dehumanizing” speech is something else entirely.

    For example, if you argue that a man cannot get pregnant, you are “erasing” trans people. If you argue that marriage is a union of a man and a woman, then you are “dehumanizing” gay Americans. To take another example, as Jesse Singal points out in his invaluable newsletter, campus activists once tried to deny Heather Mac Donald a platform to critique Black Lives Matter by arguing that “if engaged, Heather Mac Donald would not be debating on mere difference of opinion, but the right of Black people to exist.”

    You might think such arguments are too silly to be made with a straight face, but years of working at a University Near Here tell me otherwise.

    It's worth noting that such arguments are asymmetrically deployable. Only Official Victim Classes can be "dehumanized" by speech. I'm sorry, but them's the rules. As French points out, telling Christians that their religion is based on fiction and myth is OK. Telling a Muslim that… oh oh.

  • In the WSJ Kevin D. Williamson tells us what to fear. The Walking Dead? No, but close: Fear Mark Zuckerberg’s Illiberal Impulses.

    Facebook already is working with European governments to craft a regulatory regime it can live with. That’s troubling. Freedom House reports that there is “no official censorship” in Austria, even as it admits that some speech, notably pro-Nazi political speech, is prohibited by law, which is the definition of official censorship. In Austria, possession of banned books can be punished with prison sentences of up to 20 years. There are similar laws in Germany and elsewhere, prohibiting not only neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic communications but also radical left-wing activism of certain kinds.

    As a practical matter, Facebook’s cooperation with continental regulators suggests the eventual standard governing speech restrictions on tech platforms will reflect more-restrictive European practice rather than more-liberal American practice, for much the same reason that California’s relatively stringent automotive emissions standards act as an effectively national standard: Corporations generally prefer standardization and homogenization where they are economical.

    On a related note, see this recent Motherboard article: Why Won’t Twitter Treat White Supremacy Like ISIS? Because It Would Mean Banning Some Republican Politicians Too. People are outraged, of course. And mostly drawing stupid conclusions. Various forms of communism have killed far more people than either ISIS or "white supremacists". So should Twitter start deplatforming commies?

    You're right: that "would mean banning some Democrat politicians too."

  • At the WaPo, Megan McArdle invites us to Meet your new woke inquisitors, same as the old ones. Middlebury College recently tried (semi-unsuccessfully) to disinvite "anti-liberal Polish philosopher Ryszard Legutko". Megan comments:

    I suspect that both sides are searching for a different word, one associated with both religion and Marxism: What they are trying to describe is an orthodoxy, a received wisdom enforced not by argument but by social, economic or even violent coercion.

    Thus, publicly opposing gay marriage today, or even having opposed it in the too-recent past, risks sanction ranging from public abuse to job loss. As tends to happen with orthodoxies, even asking empirical questions about related subjects risks being declared anathema. Asking what are outcomes like for the children of gay parents, or how many kids with gender dysphoria desist from experiencing it, invites furious activist groups to shower you with abuse and call for your firing.

    This is not, as New York University social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has pointed out, the way we treat questions of science; it is how we guard our sacred dogmas, our moral communities. And maybe it can’t be otherwise. Seventy years ago, arguing for gay marriage would have been at least as dangerous as arguing against it is now, and a youthful, decades-old flirtation with communism could be career-ending. As for banning empirical inquiry to protect dogmas, well, we’re still fighting over teaching evolution in schools.

    This sounds correct to me.

  • And George Will has a very good question: Why should socialists be held to fiscal standards that today’s ‘conservatives’ do not follow?.

    Pursed lips and clucked tongues signaled disapproval among the wise and responsible when, at a recent televised event, Sen. Bernie Sanders, the “democratic socialist” from Vermont, did not plausibly explain how he would pay for “Medicare for all.” The remarkable thing, however, is the quaint expectation that any political person should explain how he or she would align proposed expenditures and actual revenues. For decades, the implicit answer has always been the same: They won’t even pretend to align them.

    Under a Republican president and, until four months ago, Republican control of both houses of Congress, the nation is about to run trillion-dollar budget deficits with the economy expanding and employment more than full: The unemployment rate is 3.8% and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 7.1 million jobs unfilled. As the birth rate declines, the population ages (approximately 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day) and the country is told to be alarmed because too many would-be immigrants are trying to enter the country and its workforce.

    Yet Sanders is supposed to hew to some archaic standards of fiscal probity? Why should an avowed socialist be held to standards of fiscal candor and prudence that have no discernible adherents in the avowedly conservative party?

    One upside to a Democrat being president: Republicans will at least pretend to care about keeping spending under control.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • About-to-be-ex-Professor Evan Charney writes at the James G. Martin Center on The End of Being a Duke Professor and What It Means for the Future of Higher Education.

    The end of the spring semester marks the 20th anniversary of my professorship at Duke, first as an assistant professor and then as an associate professor of the practice at the Sanford School of Public Policy. During this time, I regularly taught the required ethics class for all undergraduate public policy majors. I won multiple teaching awards, consistently received scores on student teaching evaluations above the school average and, in a Duke Chronicle poll of undergraduates, was ranked as one of the three most popular professors at Duke University for several years.

    Therefore, I was blindsided last April when informed that my contract would not be renewed, particularly given that for the past five years (I was on a five-year renewable contract) I was never informed of any problem with any aspect of my performance. Nor was I given an evaluation, despite a change to the Duke bylaws in 2017 mandating such reviews (see here).

    Charney believes that his canning was due to "the complaint of a handful of students concerning the events of a single class in which we discussed racism at Duke."

    What happened to me is being repeated at colleges and universities throughout the country. Unfortunately, a growing number of university students equate being made uncomfortable in the classroom with being “harmed.” And in this they are encouraged by a growing number of faculty and administrators who view the mission of the university as more about shielding students from such “harm” (for the sake of “inclusivity”) and less about meaningful education. In the “surveillance university,” students are encouraged to report on the transgressions of faculty, and in what has been called an impulse of “vindictive protectiveness,” faculty are judged guilty and harshly punished.

    Such protectiveness is motivated less by a reasonable concern for students’ mental health and more by political ideology. The complaint of a group of conservative students who felt singled out or disrespected or uncomfortable in class would be taken far less seriously. I have been on the receiving end of faculty emails making light of just such complaints.

    Cheney's case is examined (heavily quoting from his article) at the WSJ's Best of the Web column: How to Get Fired at Duke. Treatment of a different Duke prof is compared and contrasted:

    There’s a particular irony if Duke is sacking Mr. Charney for offending some students by addressing a topic related to race. Regular readers may recall that this is the same university that employs Nancy MacLean, who published the bogus claim that the late Nobel Prize-winning economist James Buchanan, who contributed to an anti-segregationist newspaper, was the author of a “diabolical” plan to favor rich white people. One of her own colleagues on the Duke faculty called her book containing this smear “a work of speculative historical fiction.”

    I try to follow the Elvis Costello rule (see the Amazon Product du Jour). But this sort of thing makes it difficult.

  • The Bulwark publishes an article by William ("the Weasel") Weld: It's Time for Trump to Resign.

    If Donald Trump is an American patriot, he should resign from office.

    Well, there's your problem, right up front. (There's more to the article, of course.)

  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson writes on The Bakshish Primary.

    One of the strange tasks of conservative journalism is taking left-wing policy fantasies seriously — more seriously, in many cases, than do the Democrats and their allied party mix of salty nuts.

    In many cases, you’ll get more substantive policy specifics in conservative critiques of progressive proposals than in the progressive proposals themselves. The Democrats took the so-called Green New Deal so lightly that they didn’t even bother to proofread their marketing material and nix the cow-fart jokes before sending it out to the great wide world, and then were so embarrassed that they felt compelled to lie about it.

    The distinction between "this is a policy I think will help the country" and "this is a policy I think will help me get elected" is pretty clear.

    (Bernie is kind of a class by himself: "this is a policy that won't help me get elected, and it doesn't do anything to help the country, but my ideology demands that I advocate it.")

  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang for a "I think this will help me get elected" story in the Keene Sentinel: In Keene visit, Harris describes willingness to take executive action on gun control.

    In her second trip to New Hampshire since announcing her candidacy, Harris showed no hesitation in running afoul of the Live Free or Die ethos; she unveiled a new gun control policy proposal the night before her campaign stop in Keene at a CNN televised town hall in Manchester, which was then detailed in a news release from the campaign.

    Were she to be elected and Congress still found itself unwilling or unable to pass gun control legislation in her first 100 days in office, Harris said she would take executive action to mandate “near-universal background checks” for anyone selling five or more guns per year, in addition to revoking the licenses of gun manufacturers and dealers who break the law.

    Would-be dictators gotta dictate. And you can't say we weren't warned.

    See Jacob Sullum at Reason for futher analysis. His bottom line: "It is telling that Harris believes voters who are appalled by Trump's power grabs would welcome a Democratic president who thinks she can ignore the law as long as they like her policies."

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • I have to give Jacob Sullum an Incomplete for his Reason article: Trump Is a Victim of His Own Dishonesty.

    For two years Donald Trump told us the truth over and over again: Neither he nor his presidential campaign illegally conspired with Russian agents to influence the 2016 election. But Trump also lied to us over and over again, which cast doubt on his assertions of innocence.

    I was never much impressed by the evidence of "collusion" between the Trump campaign and Russia, an allegation that was conclusively debunked by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, which was released by the Justice Department last Thursday. The one thing that made me think there might be something to the conspiracy theory was the fact that Trump kept denying it.

    Why an Incomplete? Because Trump's not just dishonest. He's also authoritarian, boastful, capricious, disloyal, irresponsible, lazy, ignorant, and narcissistic. To name eight. So a more accurate headline would be "Trump Is a Victim of His Many Character Flaws."

  • Of course, Democrats have their own problems. At Inside Sources, Michael Graham wonders: Is "Let The Marathon Bomber Vote!" A Sign of Things to Come for NH Democrats?.

    Republicans have a very simple strategy for 2020: Sit back and watch Democrats go crazy. And so far, Democrats are sticking to the GOP’s preferred script.

    Monday night at St. Anselm College in Manchester, NH, several of the 2020 Democrats offered moments straight from a Karl Rove script on “Stuff Democrats say to help elect Republicans.”

    For example, Sen. Bernie Sanders reiterated his longstanding support for allowing criminals to vote while still in prison–including, he acknowledged, Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. It’s all part of what Sanders says is “creating a vibrant democracy.”

    Trump's biggest worry: that Bernie will self-destruct too soon.

    But if you'd like to read a libertarian defend Sanders' position, read Joe Seyton at Reason. (And also read the comments.) This is one issue where my Schrödinger-cat oscillation between "libertarian" and "conservative" comes down pretty strongly on "conservative".

    I'm not sure what Kamala Harris's position is right this minute—she's doing her own Schrödinger-cat imitation.

  • Power Line's John Hinderaker tells us that "America’s PAC" has been Banned by Google for Opposing Infanticide. Really? Well, as far as anyone can tell:

    America’s PAC is a conservative political action committee run by Tom Donelson. It produces, among other things, radio and television advertising on behalf of, and in opposition to, politicians. Today America’s PAC revealed that it has been permanently banned from advertising by Google:

    In their on-going corporate campaign against political speech and advertising by Conservatives, Google has permanently suspended Americas PAC’s advertising account saying, “We’ve confirmed that your account is in violation of our Google Ads policies.”

    Google did not cite which, if any, policies Americas PAC supposedly violated.

    “My assumption is that we violated their policy that liberals should never be criticized,” said Tom Donelson, Chairman of Americas PAC. “Or maybe we violated their policy against effective conservative advertising. It is hard to know because they won’t give us a reason.”

    Google’s email made it clear a reason for the suspension would never be given by saying, “Our support team will not be able to give you any more specifics on the suspension.”

    That's impressive opacity (confirmed by a screenshot of Google's message to America’s PAC). You did something we don't like, and we're not going to be specific about what it was, and we're not going to discuss it further, and you have no recourse.

  • At the WaPo, Megan McArdle asks the musical question: Who will really benefit from Warren’s student debt plan?. After a number of practical questions (How will Warren make sure public-college tuition stays at what the federal government is willing to pay? How is Warren going to prevent the overcrowding and deteriorating conditions that tend to afflict free university systems in Europe? How do we pay for it?), Megan makes the point promised by her headline:

    But the biggest question I have is simply: Why spend federal money on this? College graduates are the best-off people in the country, in almost every way. There are probably better candidates for new spending — about two-thirds of the population, in fact.

    The burden of student loans doesn’t even begin to erase the economic benefits of the degree they paid for. Over a lifetime, college graduates will earn hundreds of thousands of dollars more than their less-educated peers. Meanwhile, the median student loan balance is around $17,000 — more like “new economy car” than “perpetual debt slavery.” 

    Americans have about $1.1 trillion of outstanding auto debt, not that far from that $1.6 trillion in student loans, but without already-generous government repayment subsidies. If you wouldn’t claim that Toyota Corollas are imposing a grievous, unsupportable burden on the nation’s youth, making it impossible to start a family or buy a home, and generally wrecking the economy, then you probably shouldn’t make similar claims about student loans. And in America, cars are also usually a prerequisite for gainful employment.

    And unlike a lot of higher education, cars are actually useful.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Don Boudreaux's Bonus Quotation of the Day... is on Arrow's Impossibility Theorem. Which refers to his "disturbing" finding that "one cannot achieve collectively rational choices by aggregating the individual choices of people with diverse values and preferences."

    Don's reaction is actually better than the quote:

    Arrow’s finding is certainly unexpected and unwelcome by – and, hence, disturbing to – those who naively believe that groups of individuals are akin to an actual flesh-and-blood individual – that is, by those who wish to anthropomorphize groups of individuals. But for those of us who never fell for the validity of such anthropomorphization, Arrow’s finding is no more disturbing than is the realization that flapping our arms doesn’t cause us humans to fly.

    We humans are hardwired to be "social". But mistaking that result of evolution's bumbling process for some sort of moral imperative is a fallacy.

  • Peter Suderman tells an inconvenient truth at Reason: Elizabeth Warren’s Plan To Cancel College Debt Is a Giveaway to the Well-Off and Well-Connected.

    In addition to ending tuition at public colleges, Warren wants to cancel the vast majority of outstanding student loan debt. The idea is to eliminate debt up to $50,000 for people with household incomes under $100,000, and offer more limited debt cancellation for households making between $100,000 and $250,000. By her own estimates, the full plan, which also includes funds for Pell Grants and historically black colleges, would cost about $1.25 trillion, which she says she would pay for with a tax on wealth that she announced earlier this year.

    On the surface, Warren's idea might sound like another expensive federal benefit for struggling families. But the nature of college attendance and student loans means that Warren's loan forgiveness plan is a massive giveaway to relatively well-off people.

    The math isn't hard.

  • Arnold Kling, writing at Hackernoon, tells us How the Internet Turned Bad. Many ways, as it happens. But, as a retired geek, I liked this:

    One of the aspects of the Internet that intrigued me the most in 1993 was its governance mechanism. You can get the flavor of it by reading this brief history of the Internet, written twenty years ago. In particular, note the role of Requests for Comments (RFCs) and Internet Engineering Task Force Working Groups, which I will refer to as IETFs.

    I compare IETFs with government agencies this way:

    — IETFs are staffed by part-time or limited-term volunteers, whose compensation comes from their regular employers (universities, corporations, government agencies). Agencies are staffed by full-time permanent employees, using taxpayer dollars.

    — IETFs solve the problems that they work on. Agencies perpetuate the problems that they work on.

    — A particular group of engineers in an IETF disbands once it has solved its problem. An agency never disbands.

    When I hear calls for government regulation of the Internet, to me that sounds like a step backward. The IETF approach to regulation seems much better than the agency approach.

    Wise observation.

  • Of course, one of the ways the Internet went bad was spelled M-I-C-R-O-S-O-F-T. At Power Line, Steven Hayward notes: Microsoft Confuses the Workplace with a Wokeplace.

    As it happens, there's a James Damore-style heretic (so far unnamed), a "female Microsoft program manager". She writes things like this:

    “Because women used to be actively prohibited from full-time employment many decades ago, there is now the misguided belief that women SHOULD work, and if women AREN’T working, there’s something wrong…. Many women simply aren’t cut out for the corporate rat race, so to speak, and that’s not because of ‘the patriarchy,’ it’s because men and women aren’t identical, and women are much more inclined to gain fulfillment elsewhere.”

    “We still lack any empirical evidence that the demographic distribution in tech is rationally and logically detrimental to the success of the business in this industry….We have a plethora of data available that demonstrate women are less likely to be interested in engineering AT ALL than men, and it’s not because of any *ism or *phobia or ‘unconscious bias’- it’s because men and women think very differently from each other, and the specific types of thought process and problem solving required for engineering of all kinds (software or otherwise) are simply less prevalent among women. This is an established fact. However, this established fact makes people very uncomfortable, because it suggests that the gender distribution in engineering might not actually be a problem (and thus women can no longer bleat about being victims of sexism in the workplace), these facts are ignored in favor of meaningless platitudes our SLT [senior leadership team] continues to shove down our throats – e.g. ‘We’re not doing enough’ and ‘we clearly have a long way to go.’”

    The news story Steven quotes also includes the predictable outrage. (Roughly: A witch! Burn her!)

  • The wise Bryan Caplan debunks … You Have No Right to Your Culture.

    Most complaints about immigration are declarative: “Immigrants take our jobs.”  “Immigrants abuse the welfare state.”  “Immigrants won’t learn English.’  “Immigrants will vote for Sharia.”  One complaint, however, is usually phrased as a question: “But don’t people have a right to their culture?”  When people so inquire, their tone is usually conciliatory, as if to say, “Surely, even you will accept this.”  My considered judgment, however, is that this challenge is a true Trojan Horse.  No one, no one, has “a right to their culture.”

    Why not?  Because culture is… other people!  Culture is who other people want to date and marry.  Culture is how other people raise their kids.  Culture is the movies other people want to see.  Culture is the hobbies other people value.  Culture is the sports other people play.  Culture is the food other people cook and eat.  Culture is the religion other people choose to practice.  To have a “right to your culture” is to have a right to rule all of these choices – and more. Though I dread hyperbole, the “right to your culture” is literally totalitarian, because you can’t ensure the preservation of your culture without totalitarian rule over the very fabric of life in your society.

    Good point, of course. I don't buy into Bryan's "open borders" position—at least not yet.

    And, by the way, if anyone, of any color, nationality, or creed—wants my culture (Norwegian Nice), have at it. As long as you promised to drop some lefse on me every so often. But hold the lutefisk.

Last Modified 2019-04-23 5:00 PM EDT


Social Justice and the Unmaking of America

[Amazon Link]

This recent book by Commentary editor Noah Rothman comes heavily blurbed. (Back cover: Ben Shapiro, John Podhoretz, Dana Perino, Jonah Goldberg. Inside: Charles C.W. Cooke, James Kirchick, Joe Scarborough.) I like nearly all those people, some of them a lot! And yet…

The book's central theses are completely correct, and important. First, the notion of "social justice" is perniciously at odds with traditional American ideals. Worse, "social justice" has gotten married to "identity politics", where the most important thing you can know about individuals are their memberships in the various pigeonholes deemed important by… well, whoever decides these things.

[Rothman uses the term "identitarianism" to describe this situation. Unfortunately, that term is currently used to describe just one white nationalist offshoot. He should have just stuck with "identity politics".]

The disease's manifestations are described with many, many examples. Most will be familiar to people who've been paying attention over the last few years. James Damore at Google (pp 66-68). Melissa Click at the University of Missouri (pp 157-158). The Christakises at Yale (pp. 128-130). Laura Kipnis at Northwestern (p. 171). And so on.

While most of Rothman's fire is directed at the political left, he reserves some of his criticism for right-wing dreadfulness as well. The 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville is analyzed, and President Trump's limp reaction excoriated.

The book unfortunately seems disjointed due to all the anecdotes. And there are occasional false notes. Peter Thiel is linked to "neo-reactionary" thought, based on a partial-sentence quote from his Cato Unbound essay "The Education of a Libertarian". ("I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.") Seemed unfair to me.

Rothman provides some historical context for our current situation. The origins of "social justice" in the works of Jesuit philosopher Luigi Taparelli d'Azegilio, specifically set out in opposition to the classical liberal thought of John Locke and Adam Smith. Hayek, John Rawls, and Robert Nozick thoughts are given Cliff's Notes-style summary treatment.

Bottom line: recommended for bright high-schoolers and college kids as a remedy to the claptrap they may be getting fed in the classroom.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • At Reason, Thomas Hazlett looks at Zuckerberg’s Plea: Regulate Me Before I Violate People’s Privacy Again!. An interesting point:

    While Congress has been holding hearings, poking tech execs, and dancing the legislative Fandango, the marketplace has imposed actual sanctions. Between the time Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal was revealed, March of last year, and March of this year, shareholders lost more than $61.6 billion adjusted for overall market (NASDAQ) fluctuations. In contrast, Sen. Wyden's 4 percent fine—even if applied to global sales, and instantly—would whack just $2.2 billion from the Facebook moguls.

    Not that it matters, but: the "privacy" concept seems slipperier the more I think about it. Especially when people talk about "their" data; it's invariably data that they've chosen (or have been forced to) to share with (at least) some people. What kind of property rights does one have over data that one has shared?

    Contracts and user agreements? Sure, except nobody reads those.

    But, as Hazlett notes, the big privacy-invader is the state, which demands to know the inner details of your financial status every April 15. (And has the right to demand even more data if they don't like your numbers.)

    And my beloved Town demands to be informed in detail (and get a piece of the action) of any alteration to my house. And that becomes public information, of course.

    But I'm supposed to be worried about Zuckerberg knowing my birthday? Please.

  • I've occasionally thought it was odd that government expenditures were automatically added to the Gross Domestic Product, no matter how stupid or (even) destructive they were. Not being an economist, however, I thought the underlying reasoning was probably pretty good, even if I didn't understand it.

    [Amazon Link]
    But as it turns out, this was (and is) a controversial question. Pierre Lemieux discusses Government Expenditures in GDP, as revealed in a 2014 book by Diane Coyle, GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History:

    Many economists were opposed to adding government expenditures to private production in the concept of GDP, including Simon Kuznets himself who was among the main developers of the national accounts methodology. But Coyle suggests that there was a propaganda motivation under the victory of the other side. Coyle writes (pp. 16-17):

    In the policy tussle in Washington, Kuznets lost and wartime realpolitik won. … Subtracting defense spending from the older conception of national income would have wrongly given the impression that the war effort was going to involve a huge sacrifice in private consumer spending. … The pattern of growth before and after 1945 would have looked very different if government spending had been disregarded as before in the definition of total economic activity.

    By “wrongly,” Coyle means “correctly,” that is, it would have annoyingly contradicted government propagandists. As often if not as usual, it seems, politics was about manipulating collective choices.

    Hm. Maybe some smart economists could come up with some other one-number measure of economic health that reflects how well peoples' material wants are satisfied, not necessarily the state's material wants.

  • At AEI, Mark J. Perry notes recent research: Trump's washing machine tariffs created 1,800 US jobs, but at a YUGE cost to consumers of $820,000/job. It's illustrated by a Ramirez cartoon, which you can click over to see, but here's a different one: [Trade War]

    Bottom Line: As the cartoon above by Michael Ramirez illustrates graphically, the tariffs imposed last year on imported washing machines that launched Trump’s insane trade war are imposing YUGE costs on American consumers and businesses that make the US economy worse off, not better off. Assuming the new 1,200 factory workers at Whirlpool and Samsung are making the average annual pay for US manufacturing workers of $43,000, the costs to American consumers exceeds the value of each new job by a factor of 19-to-1. If the Dealmaker-in-Chief thinks it’s a good deal to force US consumers to pay $820,000 annually in higher costs to create a new $43,000 per year factory job, then he might have to re-think his deal-making strategies or take some remedial economics courses in the economics of trade protection. Is that Trump’s idea of the kind of “winning” we’re supposed to get sick of?

    It all goes back to Bastiat's Seen and Unseen: We don't see the jobs that would have been created if American consumers been able to buy cheaper washing machines and spent the savings elsewhere.

  • A pretty good local restaurant/brewpub banned tipping in 2017. And went out of business the following year. Coincidence? Maybe. But an article in Grub Street describes Why Eliminating Tips At Restaurants Doesn’t Work.

    In early 2015, Thad Vogler became an unwitting pioneer of the movement to eliminate tipping at restaurants. Vogler, who owns Bar Agricole and Trou Normand in San Francisco, had worked and traveled throughout Europe and Asia, where he loved the convenience and lack of pretense that came from restaurant pricing in which service was already included. Less than a year into his experiment, he found himself struggling with the consequences of a tip-free dining room: His staff was in a constant state of flux, and he would routinely attack anyone who expressed even the slightest bit of doubt about his new policy. “I started to feel like Stalin,” Vogler says. “I was being a total ideologue.” After nine months of being tip-free, he knew something needed to be done.

    The Stalinists at Consumer Reports recently excoriated tipping (in their usual passive-agressive manner).

Last Modified 2019-06-14 4:44 AM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2019-04-21 Update

[Amazon Link]

Happy Easter to all. Your Easter hymn this year is Leon Russell's Roll Away the Stone.

But it's also time for our usual Sunday feature, seeing how the 2020 Phony Campaign is evolving:

Candidate WinProb Change
Pete Buttigieg 7.3% -0.2% 8,750,000 +3,270,000
Donald Trump 43.9% +2.7% 1,670,000 -540,000
Bernie Sanders 11.6% unch 327,000 -125,000
Joe Biden 8.3% unch 252,000 -6,000
Elizabeth Warren 2.2% +0.2% 178,000 -5,000
Kamala Harris 8.9% -1.2% 89,800 -23,200
Beto O'Rourke 4.2% -1.4% 72,300 -8,000
Andrew Yang 2.8% +0.1% 18,700 +5,300

"WinProb" calculation described here. Google result counts are bogus.

Observations: (1) Bernie is the only non-Trump candidate with a Win Probability over 10%; (2) Elizabeth Warren's Win Probability actually improved a tad from last week, surprising your blogger, who thought she was destined to swim with the other don't-know-they're-doomed fishes (Klobuchar, Gillibrand, Gabbard, Booker, etc.); (3) Pete Buttigieg is absolutely killing Donald Trump in phony Google hit counts [but see disclaimer above].

  • So what's the deal with Mayor Pete and phoniness? Perhaps, as David A. Graham notes at the Atlantic: Pete Buttigieg Is Running on Cory Booker’s Playbook.

    But familiarity can breed contempt, or simply indifference. Booker has also long struggled with the impression that he’s doing too much of a shtick, that he’s a bit of a phony, or simply that he’s too ambitious, as he acknowledged perplexedly to New York last September. “My closest friends say to me, ‘When I have conversations with people, they ask that question: “Is he for real?” ’ Which I don’t understand.”

    Perhaps relatedly, the former Hillary Clinton aide Nick Merrill told New York that Booker is a skilled retail politician. “From afar, he never really did it for me,” Merrill said. “I find the constant snapping in Senate hearings to be a little ridiculous, and the opposite of authentic. Then I saw him up close and was converted. He’s incredibly impressive.” (Ominously for Booker, Clinton’s fans often say the same about her: She’s incredibly impressive in small groups, but struggles to connect as directly onstage.) Buttigieg, on the other hand, has excelled in larger settings—the wholesale politics that’s most essential for presidential hopefuls.

    OK, the wholesale/retail politics distinction is a serious insight. But it's hard not to be amused by: (1) the underlying theme of Graham's article seems to be: "I don't know much about Buttigieg, but I'm supposed to write something about him, so maybe I can get away with talking about Cory Booker instead." And (2) I really like "opposite of authentic" used to avoid saying "phony".

  • At Reason, Zuri Davis applies the Purity Test to Pete: These Positions Place Pete Buttigieg at Odds With Libertarians. For example:

    Buttigieg has previously invoked his military service to criticize endless war. He's also used his experiences to speak positively about national service. Though he hasn't presented any official positions, his sentiments on the latter indicate that he would be comfortable with mandatory national service.

    Earlier in the month, Buttigieg told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow that national service would be part of his campaign. While his proposal is otherwise vague, Buttigieg explained that service could be an answer to bridging social divides. Maddow responded that even the Pentagon is against conscription for the sake of morale and quality of recruits.

    Mandatory (occasionally further euphemized as "universal") national service is an occasional remedy recommended by statists who have enough good sense to deplore the excesses of identity politics, and want to come up with some scheme to push the "we're all in this together" alternative.

    My own modest proposal: combat military service should be mandatory for descendants of representatives who vote to authorize and fund foreign military interventions. Might be an effective check on that particular power.

  • At AEI, Sean Trende is Evaluating the 2020 Democratic primary field. Comments on Beto! seem apt:

    Three terms in Congress and a failed Senate bid aren’t the usual qualifications for a presidential candidate, but these are not usual times, and “real estate mogul/reality TV host” and “first-term senator” weren’t typical resume lines in 2016 and 2008 either. More importantly, as a friend of mine put it, O’Rourke has “it.” I’m not entirely sure what “it” is, but it’s the thing that allows you to stand on the countertop in diners and give speeches without seeming hokey. This Democratic field has some heavy hitters, at least on paper, but most of the candidates running lack “it.” O’Rourke will have a ton of money, and he is exactly the type of candidate who can catch fire in Iowa.

    It's your call Whether you find the countertop-standing thing to be "hokey" or not. I find it difficult not to think of it that way.

  • At the young-adult website Vox, Anna North finds that Trump’s “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT” tweets are an insult to #MeToo. A sample of what's she's talking about:

    Trump’s use of “presidential harassment” to refer to the Russia investigation has ramped up over time, as David A. Graham at the Atlantic noted in January. It’s a way for the president to cast himself as an innocent victim of outside forces who are depressing his poll numbers and threatening his authority.

    But by using the word “harassment,” Trump is also co-opting the language of the #MeToo movement. In recent years, countless women have come forward to report unwelcome sexual behavior by powerful men — including Trump himself. By using the same language, Trump is suggesting that he’s actually the real victim.

    Boo hoo!

    Yeah, well, maybe. Seems a stretch, except for that "I'm a poor victim" thing. That's a theme for our time; everyone wants to claim victim status. As George Will pointed out nearly five years ago (and got into trouble for his truth-telling).

  • At Reason (again, sorry), Matt Welch observes that Orange Man is insecure about his prospects: Donald Trump, Scaredy-Cat.

    "Crooked Hillary," Donald Trump tweeted in November 2017, "bought the DNC & then stole the Democratic Primary from Crazy Bernie!" The unusually tight relationship during the 2016 primary between the Democratic National Committee and its presidential front-runner, the president suggested, might be worthy of a Justice Department investigation.

    If that were true, then the FBI should have a new case on its hands: the unprecedented collusion between the Republican National Committee and Trump himself.

    Well, slight difference: Hillary wasn't the incumbent in 2016. But still, point taken. Trump is clearly worried about the symbolism of a significant fraction of non-Trump votes in 2020 primaries.

    Matt talks about the 1972 insurgency of Pete McCloskey against Nixon, which fizzled badly.

  • Daniel J. Mitchell asks the question: Is Crazy Bernie Sanders a Sincere Hypocrite?.

    Bernie Sanders demonizes the rich and argues that millionaires need to pay higher tax rates in order to finance a bigger burden of government.

    Which presumably means that he should surrender more of his income, since he is part of the gilded class. The New York Times has a report on the Vermont Senator’s lavish income.

    Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, disclosed 10 years of tax returns on Monday… He and his wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, reported income that topped $1 million in 2016 and 2017… Mr. Sanders’s higher income in recent years has created some political awkwardness for the senator, who in his 2016 presidential campaign frequently railed against “millionaires and billionaires” and their influence over the political process. …His income now puts him within the top 1 percent of taxpayers, according to data from the Internal Revenue Service.

    Yet when asked why he didn’t pay a big chunk of his income to the IRS, Sanders showed typical statist hypocrisy by giving the same reason used by every rich person (including Trump) and every big corporation.

    Mitchell's answer: yeah, he's probably a sincere hypocrite.

    Still, I'd like a straight, concrete, answer from Bernie and all the other Democrats who can't go thirty seconds talking about taxation without saying that the "rich" aren't paying their "fair share": please tell me what that "fair share" is, for each income level.

  • And, finally, an Easter-themed Tweet.

    I, for one, am not ready for a president whose name I can't figure out how to pronounce.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson urges his readers to Enjoy the Silence.

    Passover and Easter both are spring festivals and have long been connected to other rites of spring, when our ancestors, emerging from the long, silent, cold, and more often than not hungry winter, took time to thank God for the blessings they enjoyed, to celebrate the bewildering fact that the world had not ended after all but had been born again.

    We, too, should be mindful of our blessings, which are — please, don’t ever forget — beyond the wildest imaginings of our forebears only a generation or two back. Americans don’t starve to death in the winter. We don’t freeze to death. And before you dismiss that as a laughably low bar to clear, consider what has been the normal state of human beings for most of the time there have been human beings.

    Good to remember.

  • OK, but let's get real with Jonathan V. Last, writing at the Bulwark, who reminds us: Trump Sits on a Throne of Lies.

    Let’s start with the obvious: Every president lies. Maybe it’s a little fib. Maybe it’s “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” Maybe it’s actual perjury. After all, we live in a fallen world and saints typically don’t run for president.

    All of that said, the sheer volume of falsehoods, fabrications, mistruths, and prevarications from Trump and his administration collected in the Mueller report should be disconcerting to pretty much everyone in America, regardless of party or creed. He lies to the press. He lies in official communications. He lies to his staff. He tries to get others to lie for him.

    Fine, but… let's remember the distinction made by philosopher Harry Frankfurt in his great book On Bullshit:

    The liar cares about the truth and attempts to hide it; the bullshitter doesn't care if what they say is true or false, but rather only cares whether their listener is persuaded.

    That almost applies to Trump, but he doesn't seem to care very much about persuading his listeners either.

  • So my reaction in hearing this news on WMUR yesterday was: "Of course she did." Elizabeth Warren Demands Trump’s Impeachment in Wake of Mueller Report. Christian Britschgi at Reason:

    The odds that Warren will get her wish seem slim. Demanding Trump's head is nonetheless a good publicity stunt for the senator's flagging presidential campaign.

    The latest New Hampshire polls show support for Warren at 8.7 percent. That puts her behind former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.), South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and "No Opinion." A Monmouth University Poll from last week put Warren at 7 percent among Iowa Democratic voters.

    That link goes to a poll carried out by St. Anselm College. Not that it matters, but one of the interesting data points is that Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Amy Klobuchar are all more popular with male poll respondents than females. (Gillibrand and Gabbard's support is microscopic with both sexes.)

    More popular with the ladies: Biden, Buttigieg, Booker.

  • I'm going to the dentist on Monday, so my ears picked up a bit for this Marginal Revolution post from Alex Tabarrok: Is Dentistry Safe and Effective?. He quotes from a recent Atlantic article:

    Consider the maxim that everyone should visit the dentist twice a year for cleanings. We hear it so often, and from such a young age, that we’ve internalized it as truth. But this supposed commandment of oral health has no scientific grounding. Scholars have traced its origins to a few potential sources, including a toothpaste advertisement from the 1930s and an illustrated pamphlet from 1849 that follows the travails of a man with a severe toothache. Today, an increasing number of dentists acknowledge that adults with good oral hygiene need to see a dentist only once every 12 to 16 months.

    Many standard dental treatments—to say nothing of all the recent innovations and cosmetic extravagances—are likewise not well substantiated by research. Many have never been tested in meticulous clinical trials. And the data that are available are not always reassuring.

    Also of dubious benefit: fluoridation. Geez, I remember when it was only right-wing cranks who thought it was a commie plot. Good times.

  • At the Hoover Institution, David R. Henderson says that free-market economist Stephen Moore is Wrong For The Fed.

    First, let’s consider why Moore shouldn’t be on the Fed. Some people have argued that the fact that he lacks a Ph.D. in economics disqualifies him. I don’t think so. Moore has a Masters in economics and a number of well-known economists have taken fewer formal economics classes than Moore. The late Gordon Tullock, who was on many people’s short list for the Nobel Prize in economics, took one course at the University of Chicago, before going to be one of the founders of the Public Choice school of economics. David Friedman, who most recently was an economics professor at Santa Clara University’s law school, never took an economics course in his life—although admittedly, he learned much of his economics from his father, Milton. Alan Reynolds, a very productive economist for over 40 years, never completed his Masters at Cal State Sacramento.

    The argument against Moore is simpler: even by his own admission, he doesn’t have much background in monetary theory or monetary policy.

    The most important thing the Federal Reserve does is determine monetary policy. It has many tools. Of its two most powerful tools, one is long-standing and the other relatively new. The first is open market operations, which means buying and selling bonds to affect the amount of money in the economy. If the Fed wants to increase the money supply, it buys bonds; to reduce the money supply, it sells bonds. The relatively recent tool, introduced during the financial crisis, is paying interest on the required and excess reserves held by depository institutions. The higher the interest rate the Fed pays banks on their reserves, the less willing they are to lend, which causes the money circulating in the economy to be less than otherwise.

    Hey, but what about Herman Cain? David goes on to say "I focus here on Moore both because it seems clear that Cain will not be confirmed and because the case for non-economist Cain is even weaker than the case for Moore." Tough but fair.


[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

I must reveal that Netflix sent me this DVD nearly four months ago. Mrs. Salad (who is Catholic) didn't want to see it. And I kept finding other things to do. But it's good! It won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay in 2016, and was nominated for four more. The acting talent is overkill: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci,… and a bunch of others.

It is the story of how the Boston Globe "Spotlight" investigative team unveiled the slimy history of kid-molesting priests in Boston. The Church did its utmost to keep the problem under wraps, the Massachusetts "justice" system was agreeable, and bad priests walked free, often to offend in different parishes.

There's not a lot of action. Amend that: there's not any action, it's just people pretty much talking to each other. Occasionally shouting. But I stayed awake, while I've been known to fall asleep during the fight scenes in thrillers.

And, hey, guess what? This means I've watched all eight of the 2016 Best Picture nominees. Given the Oscars' current penchant for nominating tediously woke movies, I doubt I'll manage this feat again.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Up north from here, Susan the Bruce writes on what we're looking for in a President. Specifically, a National Drinking Buddy. But first, her interesting observation:

    If you Google, “shrill” and the names of any of the five female candidates, you’ll find abundant coverage of their degree of shrillness. Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, and Kamala Harris all seem to posses the average level of shrill that one would expect from a female candidate. Gillibrand is attractive but shrill. Amy Klobuchar is shrill and bitchy. Kamala Harris is just plain old shrill. Elizabeth Warren has an advanced level of shrill, combined with her being polarizing and not likeable enough. Tulsi Gabbard is deemed “less shrill,” or “easy on the eye and ear.” Next, try Googling “shrill” and any male candidate’s name. You won’t find anything. Shrill is not an adjective ever applied to men. Shrill is being replaced. Polarizing is the new shrill, and it’s used in direct proportion to how much of a threat the woman’s candidacy is. The smarter the woman, the stronger the shrill.

    An interesting take. I left a version of my thoughts as a comment on Susan's blog:

    When I google "shrill" next to candidates' names, the results are disproportionately complaints about the adjective being applied to female candidates. (I.e., not actual instances of ladies being deemed shrill.) So Google is an unreliable measure of actual misogyny.

    Ironically (I think), Susan's blog post, also published in the Conway Daily Sun, often comes up on the first page of results.

    The Huffington Post had an interesting article back in 2016 about their poll asking Americans for one-word descriptions of Trump and Clinton. "Shrill" doesn't appear for Hillary, but "Bitch/Bitchy" does.

    But a lot of the negative-connotation words appearing for the Donald seem (to me anyway) to be mostly applied to guys, e.g. "Bombastic", "Arrogant", "Loudmouth", "Jerk".

    Hypothesis: The sexes tend to be off-putting in significantly different ways. The language we use simply reflects that.

  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson has an immodest proposal: Eliminate Federal Student Loans. (It's "NRPlus", so I don't know what the visibility is for the general public.)

    Here is a three-part plan for something practical the federal government could do to relieve college-loan debt. Step 1: The federal government should stop making college loans itself and cease guaranteeing any such loans. Step 2: It should prohibit educational lending by federally regulated financial institutions or, if that seems too heavy-handed, require the application of ordinary credit standards in any private educational lending, treating the student himself as the main credit risk in all cases, including those of secured or unsecured loans taken out by parents or other third parties for that student’s educational expenses. And 3: It should make student-loan debt dischargeable in ordinary bankruptcy procedures.

    The easy availability of college loans has been the primary driver of inflated college costs. As Kevin puts it:

    If you make a few gazillion dollars available to finance tuition payments with underwriting standards a little bit lower than those of the average pawn shop, you create a lot of potential tuition inflation. Another way of saying this is that if Uncle Stupid puts a trillion bucks on the table, there are enough smart people at Harvard to figure out a way to pick it up.

    As I'm pretty sure Milton Friedman observed decades ago: government higher-ed subsidies overwhelmingly benefit the relatively well-off. And (by definition) are paid for by the Average Schmoe Taxpayer. The Warriors Against Wealth Inequality tend to ignore this for some reason.

  • Ever since I heard about Betteridge's law of headlines ("Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no."), I've been paying attention to its applicability. In the case of Elizabeth Nolan Brown's recent Reason article (Are Socialists More Like Libertarians Than We’d Prefer To Admit?), I'd have to say…

    "Are you interested in revolutionary politics?"

    As I arrive at the location of the Socialism in Our Time Conference, a weekend-long summit organized by U.S. lefty mag Jacobin and the British Marxist journal Historical Materialism, a middle-aged woman approaches me to ask this question.

    "I'm going in there," I say, gesturing toward the entrance, hoping this non-answer will suffice.

    It does not.

    "In there," she says, I will not hear about the Russian revolution, or black liberation, or true workers' rights. Instead, I will hear about Bernie Sanders, who it is fair to say she does not support. She hands me a flyer from Workers Vanguard with the title "Bernie Sanders: Imperialist Running Dog."

    A not particularly insightful observation: People on the political fringes tend to be several sigma off the mean in other personal characteristics as well.

    By the way, if you want to read more about Bernie being an Imperialist Running Dog (and why do those dogs always run, anyway? Sit, Ubu, sit! Good dog!) here you go (from the "International Communist League (Fourth International)").

    While some of what Sanders calls for—like free tuition, Medicare for all and higher wages—would certainly be welcome, the true purpose of his campaign is to promote the myth that the capitalist Democratic Party is the party of the “little guy.” What he is introducing into “the conversation” has nothing to do with socialism but is rather the fraudulent idea that the “people” can vote into office a benevolent capitalist government that will defend their interests against the robber barons of Wall Street. Such illusions have long served to tie the working class to the rule of its exploiters.

    So there, Bernie. The Commies don't like you as much as you like them.

  • Yay, the new season of Bosch is going up on Amazon Prime. At Law & Liberty, Titus Techera does an insightful deep dive into the Bosch's motto: Everybody Counts or Nobody Does.

    Bosch is a driven man on a mission to catch killers. While there is no crime or criminal that Harry has to face which would have been unknown to Philip Marlowe, surely the most famous detective ever to face the glamorous wickedness of Los Angeles, things have changed since Raymond Chandler wrote. L.A. is now the second largest city in America and one of the most important, so wealthy that it’s a major piece in our globalized economy, and obviously plays an outsized role in entertainment around the world.

    Chandler suggested that Marlowe was a knight in The Big Sleep—accordingly, Marlowe favors the political game par excellence—chess, but he plays it alone. Bosch prefers a more existential form of solitude. He stares at the city at night from his cliff-hanger home in the Hollywood Hills, a few miles from Hollywood Station, his professional home since getting himself kicked off the department’s elite Robbery-Homicide Division by Internal Affairs some time before the show opens. That house, a luxury bought with money from consulting on a TV show about a serial killer case he’d worked, is a sign of the things success makes possible in L.A. The secret longings of his heart only find expression in jazz, which combines excellence with an all-American origin. Like his beloved Art Pepper, Bosch came from nothing and achieved some prominence in California. Once upon a time, in mid-century America, jazz was popular—just like the manly virtues Bosch has to offer were.

    As I think I've mentioned before, Titus Welliver does an outstanding job of "being" Bosch. Now when I read a Bosch novel, I "see" him as Welliver.

  • And Michael Ramirez comments on the Mueller Report reaction:

    That better not be a plastic straw you're grasping at!

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Apparently the Mueller Report is being released as I type! Fortunately, Instapundit supplies my own take:

    I’M JUST GOING TO GET AHEAD OF THE SPIN AND ANNOUNCE THAT THE MUELLER REPORT SUPPORTS EVERYTHING I ALREADY THOUGHT. And if the redactions were removed, it would support everything I already thought even more.

    The Amazon Product du Jour is appropriate, although if you want one that doesn't say "2016", go here.

  • Veronique de Rugy answers the question you didn't know you had: who does bipartisan support for electric vehicle handouts betray? I bet you saw it coming: Bipartisan Support for Electric Vehicle Handouts Betrays Taxpayers.

    Excessive partisanship and endless acrimony are common complaints lodged against the political class. There's a lot to be said in favor of this narrative, but bipartisanship isn't always what it's cracked up to be, either. As evidence, consider the latest attempt to extend corporate handouts for electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers.

    The Driving America Forward Act was recently introduced to extend the existing EV tax credit well beyond its current limits. Unsurprisingly, its sponsors include both Michigan Senators, Democrats Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, as well as Republican Senators Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Susan Collins of Maine. A companion version was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Dan Kildee, also a Democrat from a district in Michigan.

    At issue is the $7500 tax credit that applies to "only" the first 200,000 vehicles sold by a manufacturer. The legislation says: "eh, let's add on 400,000 more to that."

  • Also piling on: the esteemed George F. Will, who says (obviously): The electric vehicle tax credit is another example of government foolishness.

    Some government foolishness has an educational value that compensates for its considerable cost. Consider the multibillion-dollar federal electric vehicle tax credit, which efficiently illustrates how government can, with one act, diminish its already negligible prestige while subtracting from America’s fairness. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Rep. Jason T. Smith (R-Mo.) hope to repeal the tax credit, which probably will survive because it does something that government enjoys doing: It transfers wealth upward by subsidizing affluent individuals and large economic entities.

    Where are all the lefty critics of wealth inequality and corporate welfare when you need them?

  • Well, if you need a reason to cheer up, NR's Kevin D. Williamson looks at the "Stop Sanders" movement among Democrats: Democrats Worry Bernie Sanders Can’t Win in 2020.

    The clever people in the Democratic party have turned their attention to Senator Bernie Sanders, the creepy Brooklyn red who for some reason represents Vermont in the Senate, functionally as a member of the Democratic party, an equally creepy political organization to which he does not belong but whose presidential nomination he nonetheless is seeking a second time.

    Stop Sanders! is the cry of the moment from Cambridge, Mass., to Tiburon, Calif., and everywhere that clever Democrats gather. The worry is that Senator Sanders’s grumpy-Muppet shtick will not discreetly charm the bourgeoisie, that his disheveled populism and his unmade bed of a mind will not be a smash hit with well-heeled swing voters in the moneyed suburbs of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Florida — which, the clever people inform us, is where the real action is going to be in 2020. They aren’t out there screaming “A vote for Sanders is a vote for Trump!” just yet, but they are scheming behind the scenes, and the moneymen of the party already are so alarmed that they are making approximately the same sound that Donald Sutherland makes at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

    As I type, the only candidates with over a 10% shot at winning the 2020 presidential election are Trump (42.9%) and … the grumpy-muppet Bernie (13.3%).

  • You know who's given no chance whatsoever? Matt Welch at Reason looks at him. It’s Official: Bill Weld Announces Primary Challenge to Donald Trump. Here's my sticking point:

    One challenge Weld faces among Republican and libertarian-leaning voters alike is his track record of slippery political allegiances and policy positions. In May 2016, during a contentious two-round ballot fight to become the Libertarian Party's vice presidential nominee, Weld was repeatedly asked by the then-dropping out V.P. challenger Alicia Dearn to promise never to "betray" the L.P., as many believe he had done during a botched New York gubernatorial bid in 2006.

    "I'm a Libertarian for life," Weld said, trying to make the awkward moment go away without precisely answering the question. Dearn pressed him, saying that "betray," to her, just meant leaving the party, to which Weld declared: "Libertarian for life means not going back to any other party."

    Unsurprisingly honest Weld has made a weasel his campaign mascot.

  • James Lileks writes at the Bleat about (among other things) a song that I hated back in the sixties.

    Let's go right to scripture:

    Back in the early 1960s, Malvina Reynolds wrote a song called “Little Boxes,” inspired by a drive past rows of lookalike pastel-hued houses in a new suburban housing tract in the Bay Area. (Her friend Pete Seeger had a hit with the song in 1963.) Reynolds saw the cookie-cutter houses as both symbols and shapers of the conformist mindset of the people who lived in them—doctors and lawyers who aspired to nothing more than playing golf and raising children who would one day inhabit “ticky-tacky” boxes of their own.

    Right. And the smugocracy has held that disdain in their gas-filled noggins for decades.

    I lived (1961-69) in a suburban housing tract, and it was great.

  • Charles Sykes takes a break from Trump-hating, and turns his attention to the blog-pointing tweet from the Library Journal:

    Charles notes: First They Came for the Books.

    The good news here is that Leung cannot be described as a thought leader in the librarian tribe. In her article, she describes her epiphany about the “whiteness” of libraries in a discussion with a colleague:

    One of the mind-blowing things she shared was this idea of how our library collections, because they are written mostly by straight white men, are a physical manifestation of white men ideas taking up all the space in our library stacks. Pause here and think about this.

    Yes, let’s pause here. Leung regards the idea that books are written by straight white men (many of them dead) as “mind blowing,” when, in fact, that has been a hoary, tattered, clichéd fixture of academic leftism for nearly half a century. Her innovation here is moving from the identities of the dead white guys—Shakespeare, Milton, Dante, Plutarch, Freud—to the offensive nature of the physical space that their books occupy.

    Dude, the barbarians aren't at the gates. We've already let them inside, whence they tweet and blog.

  • And the Google LFOD News Alert takes us to the Peoria Journal Star and an LTE from Emma Schnerre of Seaton, Illinois (population 204). Emma asks: With seat belts, are we losing freedom for safety?.

    Seat belt laws were enacted to provide safety to the driver and passengers while in vehicles. For most people it is routine to put on a seat belt when in a vehicle; however, seat belt laws are relatively new to the United States. It was not until 1984 that seat belts became mandatory.

    New Hampshire is the only state in America that does not have a seat belt laws pertaining to adults. Significantly, according to a New Hampshire Public Radio article by Ben Henry, “Despite New Hampshire’s loose seat belt laws and correspondingly unbuckled drivers, the state’s traffic fatality rate is actually below the national average.” It is true New Hampshire is a small state so people travel smaller distances and therefore there is less chance for fatality in vehicle accident; however, the quotation still insinuates that perhaps seat belts should not be a mandatory law but rather just be provided in vehicles allowing for an individual to choose freely whether to wear one or not.

    There is even grounds for questioning if it should be in the government’s jurisdiction to mandate seat belts. Also, there is a lack of logic in seat belt laws due to the fact that motorcyclists are not mandated to wear seat belts. Lastly, it is time to consider as a country how much government interference we the people want. Should we follow New Hampshire’s motto “Live Free or Die” or should we continue down the path we are on? That is, losing freedom to gain safety?

    Good for Emma. I'll just restrict myself to pointing out that according to the latest numbers from the Federal Highway Administration:

    • New Hampshire drivers average 12,931 miles yearly, while Illinois drivers average 12,921. (So Emma's wrong to guess that we travel smaller distances.)
    • NH recorded 1.05 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, and IL racked up 1.38. Despite their paternalistic seat belt law.

Last Modified 2019-04-18 1:54 PM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • At Reason, Ira Stoll has an interesting take on the indictment of Gregory Craig, accused of … something, mumble. mumble, Ukraine… mumble, mumble … How Trump Could Save Obama’s Lawyer.

    The first count on which Craig is charged is Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001. That’s the same section to which Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to violating, and also to which Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, pleaded guilty to violating. It provides or a fine or up to five years in prison for anyone who “knowingly and willfully” makes any materially false statement or representation “in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States.” The provision also is the one that James Comey used against Martha Stewart, and the one that prosecutors used during the George W. Bush administration against Vice President Cheney’s aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who was pardoned by Trump.

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has accurately warned of the “sweeping generality” of Section 1001, writing, “the prospect remains that an overzealous prosecutor or investigator—aware that a person has committed some suspicious acts, but unable to make a criminal case—will create a crime by surprising the suspect, asking about those acts, and receiving a false denial.”

    The second count on which Craig is charged is violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act. That’s a law passed in 1938 amid anxiety about Nazi influence in America on the eve of World War II. It’s so broadly written that it could conceivably require the Times itself to register as a foreign agent of Mexican investor Carlos Slim.

    Ira suggests that Trump direct the Justice Department to (a) "use their prosecutorial discretion", or (b) get out the pardon pen, or (c) ask Congress to fix (or repeal) such overbroad laws.

  • Something Monty Python perhaps missed, from Kevin D. Williamson in NR: The Division of Labor Is the Meaning of Life. (Long, based on a lecture Kevin was allowed to deliver at Georgetown University.)

    What we call “globalization” is a sudden radical expansion in the worldwide division of labor—a miracle of human cooperation that, as such miracles so often are, goes mostly unappreciated and unloved, and often hated. Our globalization is hated for the same reason that Renaissance globalization was hated: It disrupts existing status arrangements and introduces new elements of insecurity and anxiety into communities whose members had believed their situations to be fixed, if not ordained—and who believe that they have a natural right to the fixity of those situations, and that the duty of the state is to secure them. Our Silicon Valley billionaires are denounced as “rootless cosmopolitans” (the phrase itself derives from the anti-Semitic socialist purges of the 1940s and 1950s) and are resented for their transnational lives and transnational interests, as well as for their preference for self-regulation and their slipperiness in the face of merely national mandates. Like the merchant princes of Florence, they lead lives that seem impossibly indulgent and patronize cultural and political forces that perplex, irritate, and offend the partisans of peasant conservatism.

    At the other end of the economic spectrum, special vitriol is reserved for a new kind of division of labor: the casual “gig” work associated with firms such as Uber. This opportunistic work provides important income to many people who could not otherwise get it as conveniently, and it performs the important function of allowing people of more modest means to convert their property into capital. But this comes with none of the old assurances: health insurance, pensions, the gold watch at the end of a long tenure of service, etc. It is easy to be sentimental about those old assurances, and to forget that almost nobody in 2019 really wants a 1950 standard of living (you can have it—cheap!), but we should keep in mind that the economy has evolved the way it has because people have made certain choices that comport with their preferences in the face of the unalterable reality that is scarcity.

    That makes some of us uneasy, if not enraged.

    It's Wednesday, and this is my day to be optimistic about the future. Mankind has flourished through millennia of social upheavals, each accompanied by widespread panic and predictions of doom. Now is different? I doubt it.

  • At Quillette, Sebastian Cesario looks at the Case of the Black Hole Science Lady: Scientific Progress and the Culture Wars. In case you missed it: dimwit ideologues of all stripes took turns overinflating/denigrating Dr. Katie Boumann's contributions to the Event Horizon Telescope team. People pointed out that a White Male [also Gay] team member, Andrew Chael, actually contributed more lines to the software used in imaging.

    As to the people who actually stirred this up, much of the problem obviously lies with the temptations of the wider culture war. There are ample justifications for recognizing accomplished women scientists; one needn’t subscribe to every inaccurate narrative about gender gaps in STEM to think that it’s nice to highlight role models for young women. However, singling out one individual from a large team (which reportedly includes 40 other women>) denies the other team members their deserved recognition, possibly arousing resentment from co-workers. Also, justifying this lopsided attention as a remedy for some sort of social ill makes it harder to highlight anyone else. Even deserved attention for someone like Andrew Chael can now be tarred as part of a backlash.

    Likewise, there are good reasons to push back against inaccurate narratives about gender gaps in STEM—I have certainly done so! However, what is to be gained by picking one scientist and using a worthless metric (size of file uploads) to build him up at the expense of another good scientist? We can question bad narratives about gender and STEM careers without calling into doubt the good work of Bouman, and without drafting Chael into a fight that he sought no part of. Yes, Bouman did give a TED Talk about the work, making herself a face of the project, but she never sought to be the face of the project, and she should not be maligned as some sort of glory hog. Most importantly, the other 198 people on the project (including many women at all career stages) certainly don’t deserve to have their fine work turned into a culture war battlefield.

    Apparently, both Boumann and Chael are requesting sanity. Good luck with that! And Katie's on her way to Caltech, where she has a tenure-track appointment, so good for her.

  • At the Federalist, David Harsanyi provides an "Of Course They Are" headline: Democrats Are Using Ilhan Omar As An Excuse To Chill Speech.

    Democrats have spent the past two-plus years accusing the president of the United States and his allies of seditiously conspiring with our enemies to destroy “democracy.” For the most part this fairytale has been cynically deployed by politicians to undermine the legitimacy of a Republican presidency, yet millions of Americans now believe their votes were upended by a foreign power. There is no more serious charge against an elected official than treason.

    Then again, for decades before the 2016 election, Democrats argued that Republicans were literally killing their fellow Americans when cutting taxes, murdering the sick when rejecting nationalized health care, and sentencing the poor to death when rejecting socialist schemes. Not to mention suppressing the minority vote when asking for ID, engaging in Nazi-like actions when enforcing existing border laws, and destroying the world when failing to embrace a takeover of the economy. And so on.

    This overwrought rhetoric is embedded in the everyday arguments of the mainstream left, and its intensity is only growing.

    The same liberals are now demanding that conservatives stop quoting and posting video of progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar belittling the 9/11 attacks because doing so puts her life in danger. That’s quite the deal they’ve cooked up for themselves. Nearly every presidential candidate and major Democratic leader has argued that Donald Trump’s criticism of Omar is out of line because of increased death threats against her. I do wonder how many death threats Trump or Mitch McConnell or Steve Scalise receives every week. I imagine it’s considerable.

    As the Babylong Bee headlined: "Leftists Demand That All Criticisms Of Trump Cease Until He Stops Getting Death Threats".

  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang for an unlikely story in the Cornell Sun: Comedian Ronny Chieng on Asian Representation in Politics, Critics and Life as an Asian in America. Chieng immigrated from Malaysia, and became a stand-up comic, because this is America.

    Chieng said that people from other countries have a romanticized view of America and tend to “think of [America] as a monolith,” but, after emigrating to the US, he learned more about the nation’s cultural diversity and that “every state is like a nation onto itself.”

    Chieng delved into the nuances of American culture and weighed in on the East Coast versus West Coast debate, calling the East Coast “intense” and pointing to New Hampshire’s state motto — “Live Free or Die” — as an example. He also asked the audience to shout out some guesses for the state motto of Texas. After receiving a few wrong guesses — “Lone Star State” and “Don’t Mess With Texas” among them — he surprised the audience by revealing that the motto is actually “Friendship.”

    Texas: unexpectedly wimpy motto!

    I hope Netflix puts up one of Chieng's shows. I'd watch it.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • James Lileks' Bleat today contains his reactions to the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Moving and insightful, of course, but here's an interesting tidbit he dug out of Wikipedia:

    In 1793, during the French Revolution, the cathedral was rededicated to the Cult of Reason, and then to the Cult of the Supreme Being. During this time, many of the treasures of the cathedral were either destroyed or plundered. The twenty-eight statues of biblical kings located at the west façade, mistaken for statues of French kings, were beheaded.

    The French revolutionists were the Taliban of their day.

  • A belated Tax Day link: at Reason, Liz Wolfe reports I Got Stoned and Did My Taxes.

    ("I" referring to Liz, not your blogger. I was not stoned, although I will admit to being under the mild influence of Folgers. As a result I went through the entire five stages of grief: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, acceptance.)


    Things took a turn for the worse when I got to the page that asked “Do you want to donate $3 to the presidential campaign fund? This will not reduce your refund or increase your tax due.” I clicked on the description, rightly fearing the worst. TurboTax explained that this opt-in funding of elections could “reduce candidates’ dependence on large contributions and, hopefully, to put everyone on an equal financial footing (so they’d have more time to discuss the issues).”

    It was at this point that I realized I wasn’t sufficiently stoned anymore. As if candidates would focus on the substance—and as if that substance would matter to the many hobbits and hooligans swarming around the ballot boxes like flies. As TurboTax auto-checked for more credits and deductions, my brain descended into campaign finance reform, and I made some cannabutter tea (Thai red tea with milk, a hefty chunk of homemade cannabutter, and some sweetener), which produces a long-lasting but mild high.

    As far as I can recall, Turbo Tax didn't even ask me about the $3 donation this year. Perhaps its AI is getting to know me better.

  • Jonah Goldberg's latest G-File concerns itself with Democrats & Republicans -- With Partisanship & Ideology, Who Makes the Rules?. I resemble this remark:

    The challenge of today is that partisanship is masquerading as principle, and principle is being denounced as a racket. Facts are becoming instrumental plot points in competing “narratives” bendable to the needs of the storyline. Kim Jong-un is a murderous thug, even if he’s friends with the president. Putin is a goon and enemy of American interests, even if he helped in the beclowning of Hillary Clinton. Tariffs aren’t paid for by foreign countries, even if the president says so all of the time. Assange and Manning are villains, regardless of the messaging problems they cause for one party or another. Sexual assault is repugnant, whether you have an R or a D after your name, and the other side’s hypocrisy in selectively being outraged about it doesn’t validate your own.

    This is what I am getting at when I tell people I’ve never been more politically homeless even though I’ve never been more ideologically grounded. Taken seriously, being called a RINO doesn’t bother me one whit, because it’s true: I am a Republican in name only. If I wear a Los Angeles Lakers jersey and the team lets me sit on the bench one night as an honorary member, I would still only be a LINO.

    I am also a RINO, because I like voting in primaries, and can usually find someone I don't utterly loathe on the GOP ballot. (Between Trump and Bill Weld… well, I may stay home next February.)

  • Jeff Jacoby has a great idea for the US Senate: Don't dump the filibuster — restore it to its former glory.

    In 1970, then-Majority Leader Mike Mansfield introduced a "two-track" system, under which a bill being filibustered would be set aside so the Senate could take up other matters. The result was not what Mansfield doubtless expected — to make filibusters less desirable by stripping them of their power to gridlock the Senate. Instead, the number of filibusters soared. Or rather, the number of threatened filibusters soared. Those threats never had to be made good. The mere announcement that Senator X intended to filibuster Bill Y created a presumption that a supermajority would be required if the legislation was to move forward. Soon it was taken for granted that nearly every bill needed 60 votes to pass.

    The solution to this problem isn't to eliminate filibusters altogether, but to eliminate the two-track system that made them ubiquitous. Senators were far less likely to undertake a filibuster back when they knew that doing so would bring the Senate to a halt. It was a weapon used sparingly. During the entire 19th century there were only 23 filibusters. Since 1970 there have been more than 1,000.

    As with most good ideas, this will be ignored.

    Bonus quote: "It should give pause to moderate Republicans and Democrats alike that polarizing brawlers like Warren and Trump are the most prominent champions of killing the filibuster."

  • Christopher Jay of Cornerstone Action of New Hampshire writes at Inside Sources: New Hampshire Politicians Are Gambling With Lives. At issue is "legalizing" sports betting:

    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.

    I think Jay's argument applies to "sin taxes" generally: when the burden of taxation is shifted onto a weak-willed (and politically unpowerful) minority, the incentives for keeping spending under control go out the window.

  • And the Google LFOD alert rang for a WaPo story detailing Where the war on weed still rages. An interesting graphic has a county-by-county breakdown of the fraction of arrests made for pot posession. And:

    Nationwide, a few clear patterns emerge in the county-level arrest statistics from 2016, the latest year for which data is available. A swath of mostly conservative states, running from North Dakota through Texas, is home to many counties where marijuana enforcement accounts for 10 percent or more of all arrests — well above the national average.

    But those conservative states are by no means alone. On the East Coast, New York and New Jersey stand out for relatively high arrest rates for marijuana possession. In New England, New Hampshire — the “Live free or die” state — also shows a high number of arrests relative to its neighbors.

    For those keeping score: it appears the fraction of pot arrests are highest up in the north counties (Coos, Grafton, Carroll); more moderate in the southeast (Strafford, Belknap, Rockingham); and light in the southwest (Merrimack, Sullivan, Cheshire).

Last Modified 2019-04-17 4:05 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • At NR, George Will writes on the Democratic Party 2020 Presidential Candidates: Foolishness Sweepstakes. A couple examples:

    Competition in the Democrats’ frivolity sweepstakes is intense. Beto O’Rourke contemplates amending the Constitution “to show that corporations are not people.” Conceivably, he has not thought through why corporate personhood has been in Anglo-American law for centuries: For-profit and nonprofit (including almost all progressive advocacy groups) corporations are accorded rights as “artificial persons” (William Blackstone’s phrase) to enable them to have lives, identities, and missions that span generations and produce a robust civil society of freely cooperating citizens.

    Donald Trump must secretly admire Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren’s thoroughly Trumpian proposal — made where pandering is perfected: Iowa — to ban foreigners from buying U.S. farmland. Lest diabolical foreigners take our loam home? No, Warren says foreigners threaten “food security,” hence “national security,” too. Warren and Trump — he who sees a national-security threat from imported Audis — are together at last.

    Hey, I'm old enough to remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth when the Japanese bought Rockefeller Center. Surely a harbinger of imminent Japanese dominion! But a few years later, they defaulted on the mortgage.

  • At Power Line, Paul Mirengoff reports that Ken Starr shielded Hillary Clinton in report on Vince Foster’s death.

    Ken Starr’s investigation confirmed that Foster’s death was a suicide and that the suicide was due to depression. However, Starr also came to believe, based on the FBI’s work, that the event that triggered the suicide was Hillary Clinton going full Amy Klobuchar on him. Specifically, in front of White House staff, she raked Foster over the coals for incompetence, reportedly telling him he would always be a little hick town lawyer who was obviously not ready for the big time. I discussed this charming matter in a 2016 post.

    Starr, though, did not include Hillary’s mistreatment of Foster in his report on Foster’s death. Starr’s explanation? According to this report, Starr says he “did not want to inflict further pain” on Hillary.

    Something that voters might have found illuminating … oh, say, anytime in the past two decades, but especially in 2016. Yet our watchdog press is only selectively curious.

  • Megan McArdle notes that AOC wants to fund federal literacy programs. But they’re failing for a reason..

    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is outraged. That isn’t news, of course. But the targets of the Democratic representative from New York do change, and on Thursday, it was Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, of whom she tweeted:

    “Only *one-third* of American children in elementary & middle school can read at grade-level. One third. Yet Betsey DeVos is trying to cut *every* Federal literacy program in the country.”

    Ooh, that does sound outrageous, doesn’t it? But Betsy (not Betsey) DeVos offered a reasonable-sounding explanation for her slash-and-burn approach to federal literacy programs: She says they don’t work.

    Her claim could, of course, be false. But Ocasio-Cortez’s own tweet inadvertently offered compelling empirical support for DeVos’s position. After all, if only a third of American children can read at grade level, the literacy programs aren’t working very well. We should certainly hope that there is some better method out there. And a good way to fund it might be to divert money from the current lackluster programs.

    For AOC, and folks like her, the only possible explanation for an $X million Federal program not working is that it wasn't given $2X million instead.

  • I thought the black hole picture was pretty neat. But Jazz Shaw at Hot Air notes the ensuing non-science discussion: So now we're trolling the black hole picture lady?. The lady is "Dr. Katherine “Katie” Bouman, one of the imaging scientists involved in processing the massive mountains of data that went into creating the image."

    Woman in STEM! Role model! Immediately, some (including, of course, AOC) made it seem like she did it on her own.

    This was greeted by (understandable, but also obnoxious) trolling, belittling her contributions to the overall project. (Note that Dr. Bouman herself never exaggerated her role in the imaging.)

    Jazz comments:

    So in the end, Dr. Katie Bouman was a valuable, contributing member of a 200 person team that developed the black hole photo. And after posting one innocent photo of herself enjoying the team’s moment in the sun she was turned into a feminist hero and then a glory-grabbing monster, all in the space of a few hours. Is anyone really surprised? That’s life on social media in 2019.


  • And the Google LFOD alert rang for a conservative rant by Vivek Saxena at Business and Politics Review about an incident at the local Center of the Universe, Epping NH: Girl gets pseudo apology for being ordered to remove Trump hat, shirt on America Pride Day. Is it enough?. The goons came for…

    Vivek gathers some truly hateful tweets about Ciretta. But also some support:

    Thanks, Randy. Except it's "fair and square".

  • And Farouk Martins Aresa mentions LFOD in (I am not kidding) the Nigerian Voice: Government Of The Privileged Rigged For The Privileged Ignored Poverty.

    Social safety nets were needed to avoid revolts within live free or die states and cushion the hungry workforce. Yet, corruption is in every political system. Check, balance and in China’s case dire consequences up to and including death might have brought down poverty drastically. Unfortunately, in Africa where corruption is shielded by the cry of due process, rule of law and democracy; tolerance emboldened and increased poverty with unplanned population growth.

    Yeah, I have no idea.

  • But Pravda on the Merrimack notes New releases by N.H. writers. And this one looks pretty good:

    [Amazon Link]

    Amanda Marin’s book, North to Nara, is the first in a planned series set in a dystopian future where Suffers bear troubles of others for the good of the Nation. It was released by Inkspell Publishing on March 20.

    When the leading character, Neve Hall is assigned a new Sufferer, Micah Ward, she begins to uncover secrets and will have to choose between love or loyalty to the Nation.

    Marin includes tributes to her home of New Hampshire in the novel.

    “I always love coming across nods to New Hampshire in books or movies – even after living here for more than 30 years,” Marin said in a statement.

    There is a scene set in the state with references to the White Mountains and local granite. The characters come across an old sign with the current state motto and ponder what it means to truly “live free or die.”

    North to Nara is a mere $2.99 (Kindle) at Amazon, so click away.


The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment

[Amazon Link]

A short book by a serious Big-Thinking author, Francis Fukuyama. His theme is right there in the title: Identity. And he takes us on a magical mystery tour of all its origins and manifestations.

Origin-wise, the Greeks had a word for it: thymos, which they recognized as a separate component of human consciousness, apart from the facilities of reason and desire. It is the demand for recognition of one's dignity by one's fellow people. (Fukuyama quotes Adam Smith, but not the most succinct version that supports his thesis: "Man naturally desires, not only to be loved, but to be lovely; or to be that thing which is the natural and proper object of love.")

Which would be fine, even admirable, if it were limited to what we are entitled to by the bare fact of our species membership. But thymos often comes into conflict with one's social environment, especially when one has an unusual sense of one's nature. It then turns into a game of oppressor (society) vs. the oppressed (me, and people like me).

Even that's not necessarily bad: some people really are oppressed, and thymos can drive them to seek fair redress. More often these days,… well, you can read the papers as well as I can.

Even worse than standard thymos is megalothymia (Fukuyama's own word): the inner need to be recognized as superior to others. This isn't necessarily fatal; some form of megalothymia probably exists at the root of every damned politician, CEO, or movie star. But it's also the underlying motivation of every despot (or psychopathic killer, although Fukuyama doesn't go there).

The discussion is wide-ranging, because once you see the universal trait of thymos, it's not easy to unsee it: you start detecting its influence in every public policy debate. Immigration, education, trade, welfare, … you name it. And Fukuyama notes especially where an overdose of identity has brought us (and others) into a fractious state.

Fukuyama writes from a mildly liberal perspective, which can be a little off-putting at times. He admits that the key impetus to writing the book was Trump's election, and also the Brexit vote. He views both as horrible, and products of megalothymia.

And then sometimes he just goes off the rails. He writes of the Obamacare campaign: "The ACA's opponents tried to frame it as an identity issue, suggesting sotto voce that the policy was designed by a black president to help his black constituents."

As someone who was paying attention to opponents' arguments, I'm reasonably sure that's a lot of hooey. (Although claiming that such framing was "sotto voce" allows Fukuyama to get away with not actually providing examples.)

The Phony Campaign

2019-04-14 Update

[Amazon Link]

No changes in our phony lineup this week, but Elizabeth Warren creeps even closer to our (arbitrary 2%) elimination threshold. Where she would join Tulsi, Amy, Cory, Julian,… and, um, Hickenlooper. And more. No shame in that! Unless you think it's shameful to waste your supporters' time and money, but what pol has ever been ashamed of that?

I for one am plugging for a Buttigieg/Hickenlooper ticket. Because I identify as having a 12-year-old's sense of humor about funny names.

Speaking of Mayor Pete, he expands his phony lead this week over President Orange:

Candidate WinProb Change
Pete Buttigieg 7.5% +1.9% 5,480,000 +2,300,000
Donald Trump 41.2% +0.4% 2,210,000 +440,000
Bernie Sanders 11.6% -1.7% 452,000 +166,000
Joe Biden 8.3% +1.4% 258,000 +24,000
Elizabeth Warren 2.0% -0.1% 183,000 +20,000
Kamala Harris 10.1% -1.7% 113,000 +27,100
Beto O'Rourke 5.6% -0.9% 80,300 -5,600
Andrew Yang 2.7% -0.6% 13,400 +300

"WinProb" calculation described here. Google result counts are bogus.

And maybe it's a good time to point out that since we started tracking the candidates' Betfair-based "WinProbs" back in January, Trump's has gone from 29.2% to 41.2% (as I type). Hm.

  • At the Bulwark, Benjamin Parker urges us: Let's Not Forget About Biden's Gaffes. There are a lot, but my favorite is a New Hampshire oldie:

    At least Biden doesn’t have to worry about appearing low-energy. During the 1988 presidential race, a New Hampshire voter asked Biden about his law school record. Biden interrupted the man, gesturing vigorously,

    I think I probably have a much higher IQ than you do, I suspect. I went to law school on a full academic scholarship, the only one in my class to have a full academic scholarship. The first year in law school I decided I didn’t want to be in law school, and ended up in the bottom two thirds of my class, and then decided I wanted to stay, going back to law school, and in fact ended up in the top half of my class. I won the international moot court competition. I was the outstanding student in the political science department at the end of my year. I graduated with three degrees from undergraduate school and 165 credits — only needed 123 credits – and I’d be delighted to sit down and compare my IQ to yours if you’d like, Frank.

    Poor Frank was eventually able to finish his question after Uncle Joe’s tirade, much of which turned out to be false. But hey, at least he fights?

    Good times. There's a 2008 Keene Sentinel article recalling the incident here. Biden's interlocutor was Frank Fahey of Claremont, identified in 2008 as "a lifelong Republican who is now an ardent Obama supporter."

    Somewhat sweetly:

    Last fall, Fahey encountered Biden again at a campaign event in Claremont’s Broad Street Park. The senator rushed to make amends.

    “You’re Frank Fahey, aren’t you,” Fahey recalls Biden saying, before he had finished introducing himself.

    “I owe you a big apology. It’s 20 years too late.”

    Fahey, in turn, offered his own apology for how news coverage of their 1987 dustup had affected Biden’s campaign.

    How did that apology go, Frank? "I'm sorry that I revealed you to be a thin-skinned bullshitter, sir. With all due respect."

  • CNN "Senior Washington Correspondent" Jeff Zeleny revealed even older news about Joe Biden: Letters reveal how he sought support of segregationists in fight against busing.

    Joe Biden's road to a third presidential bid has been lined with a series of explanations and apologies, illustrating the challenges of preparing a long record of public service for fresh scrutiny under the spotlight of the 2020 campaign.

    Yet he rarely discusses one of the earliest -- and most controversial -- issues he championed in the Senate: his fight against busing to desegregate schools.

    This all happened circa 1977. And (as it so happens) Biden was kind of right: busing created far more problems than it solved, and it arguably diverted time, resources, and attention from other policies that might have been more effective.

    But (of course) the interesting point here is not 4-decade-old history, but how the Watchdog Press lacked all curiosity on this until now. It would have remarkably "inconvenienced the narrative" if it had been revealed (say) before the 2008 election.

  • At the Miami Herald, Jay Ambrose gripes about disparate impact: Biden hugged, Harris ruined lives. Guess who’s more reviled?. We all know about Biden's Tactile Nukes, but Ambrose reminds us:

    As San Francisco’s district attorney and California’s attorney general, Harris compiled an astonishing record of disregarding legal flubs that stuck people in prison as she then insisted they stay there. In effect, she shoved due process in a paper shredder by way of technicalities, thereby enabling the ruin of people who, in some instances, were likely innocent. We’re not talking about emotional disturbance after a supposed kiss on the back of the head. We’re talking about the prolonged, debilitating torture of prison.

    Harris, smart, tough and quick to offer freebies we can’t afford to citizens perhaps returning the favor at the voting booth, offered little to defendants when she served as a district attorney. She didn’t tell defense attorneys, for instance, that a lab technician had messed with drug evidence by such methods as theft, and so you got convictions based on a fair share of hooey. A judge let 600 of the victims go home despite Harris’s unprincipled protests.

    This is not news to (say) Reason readers, but it might be news to Miami Herald readers.

  • Speaking of Reason, Ira Stoll writes there, claiming Pete Buttigieg Is the Most Interesting Democrat Running for President. Interesting? There are all sorts of ways to be interesting! But let's let Ira tell it, because he attended a couple of Buttigieg events in Boston:

    In more than a few moments, he was downright impressive.

    Facing a question from a tenant-rights activist complaining about Northeastern fueling “gentrification,” he pivoted to an answer about affordable housing that included the words “rethinking exclusionary zoning.”

    That is a big deal coming from a Democratic politician. Left-leaning economists and journalists such as Eduardo Porter, Paul Krugman, and Lawrence Summers have been making this point about zoning restrictions artificially constraining the supply of housing. It’s ideologically consistent with libertarian aversion to regulatory interference in free markets. But politicians have been slow to seize the issue. Another Democratic presidential candidate, Beto O’Rourke, had earlier handled a housing affordability question by talking about aggressive antidiscrimination enforcement by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, leaving me wishing he’d at least also mentioned something about zoning.

    Uh, fine, Ira. You're not wrong about zoning. But is it really a Federal-level, let alone a presidential-level, issue?

  • And then there's another way to be "interesting". And that's discussed by Ben Shapiro at NR: Pete Buttigieg Attacks on Mike Pence Are in Bad Faith.

    Back in 2015, South Bend, Ind.’s mayor, Pete Buttigieg, came out of the closet as a gay man. Asked about the news, Indiana governor, Mike Pence, simply responded, “I hold Mayor Buttigieg in the highest personal regard. I see him as a dedicated public servant and a patriot.”

    A year earlier, Buttigieg had been deployed to Afghanistan as a member of the U.S. Naval Reserve. According to the Indianapolis Star, “a noticeably moved Pence called Buttigieg the day he was driving to the base.”

    There is no evidence that Pence has ever said an unkind word about or done an unkind thing to Buttigieg.

    So, naturally, Buttigieg is attacking Pence as a homophobic bigot nearly every day on the campaign trail. Appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Buttigieg sneered, “He’s nice. If he were here, you would think he’s a nice guy to your face. But he’s also fanatical.” Speaking at the LGBTQ Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch in Washington, Buttigieg tore into Pence’s supposed intolerance: “That’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand. That if you got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me — your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.” This week, Buttigieg tweeted, clearly in reference to Pence, “People will often be polite to you in person, while advancing policies that harm you and your family. You will be polite to them in turn, but you need not stand for such harms. Instead, you push back, honestly and emphatically. So it goes, in the public square.”

    I'm not Pence's biggest fan, but I assume he will continue to exhibit Christian compassion and kindness even to those who revile him.

  • And David Harsanyi provides some news about a declared candidate who is stuck in the sub-1% regions of Betfair betting: Eric Swalwell Claims Kids Live In A Bullet-Riddled Dystopia. The Opposite Is True.

    “First, we must address the single greatest threat to young Americans’ lives: gun violence,” Rep. Eric Swalwell explained in an essay laying out the reasons for his vanity presidential run. “It is astonishing and unacceptable that we have let school massacres become part of daily life.”

    In the real world, guns aren’t even in the vicinity of being the “single greatest threat” in the lives of young people. And school massacres are a rare event that the vast majority of American children will, luckily, never experience—other than those moments when adults subject them to another traumatizing and useless shooting drill or politicians tell them they are in constant mortal danger.

    If it weren't for fear-mongering, would Eric Swalwell have anything to say? Unsurprisingly, he bills himself—proudly!—as "the only candidate calling for a mandatory national ban and buyback of military-style semiautomatic assault weapons".

    But did he 'suggest nuking' gun owners who resist confiscation?. Well, yes, sort of. Even left-leaning Snopes is left to claim (with Swalwell) that was a "joke". Hilarious!

    And would someone please buy me the Amazon Product du Jour so I can wear it if Eric Swalwell ever decides to hold a campaign event I can attend?

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • The Bartlett Center's Drew Cline adjoins two current events to comment on Concord's expanding black hole. Specifically, this refers to New Hampshire's Democrat-controlled legislature demanding a 14.8% spending increase in the upcoming budget.

    Drew makes a general point beyond the details of the current situation:

    In sum, the House budget expands both the size and the reach of state government. It enlarges state power and authority in much the same way a black hole grows — by grabbing things that were not previously under its control and absorbing them. When this is the primary motivation of government, all that is just outside of government’s reach ought to be worried.

    By the way: today's Amazon Product du Jour is a t-shirt that no member of the Event Horizon Telescope research team would be caught dead wearing in view of media. Because we know how that works out.

  • Jonah Goldberg writes on Why the ‘tax the rich’ demands are so unreasonable. (I'd add on "dishonest" and "evil", but that's me.) Jonah's starting point is a group called (I am not making this up) "Patriotic Millionaires".

    “Tax the Rich. Save America. Yes, it really is that simple,” they explain in their mission statement.

    This slogan is simply dishonest; rich people do, in fact, pay taxes. Just under half (48 percent) of federal revenue comes from income taxes. If you define the rich as the top 1 percent — which is probably too narrow, depending on the region of the country — the rich pay a big chunk of that. In 2016, according to the Tax Foundation, the top 1 percent accounted for 37.3 percent of all income-tax revenue, a share that was greater than the bottom 90 percent of all payers of income tax combined. The top half of taxpayers paid 97 percent of income taxes.

    When it comes to taxing the "rich", the motto of the pitchforks and tumbrels crowd is "Never Enough".

  • At Reason, Matt Welch asks the musical question: Could Justin Amash Cost Trump Michigan?.

    Donald Trump famously won the combined 56 electoral votes of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan by a total of 77,744 in the popular vote. Had those quarter-percentage-point squeakers gone the other way in the three states, Hillary Clinton would have won the Electoral College in addition to the popular vote, by a score of 283 to 248. It's no wonder that the president's re-election campaign is focused foremost on, well, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

    Enter fifth-term Michigan congressman Justin Amash (R-Grand Rapids). The self-described libertarian Republican has been openly weighing a presidential challenge under the banner of the Libertarian Party (which selects its nominee in May 2020), so his home-state media is starting to assess the potential impacts of such a run. Some initial headlines: "Amash could play 2020 spoiler in Michigan as Libertarian nominee," and "Amash's presidential decision could spell trouble for Trump in Michigan."

    I hope he runs. It would give me someone to non-reluctantly vote for in 2020.

    (I should add that this article violates Betteridge's law of headlines: the answer seems to be not "no", but "maybe".)

  • Pun Salad has done its share of bitching and whining about Big Tech's anti-conservative bias. And we have no Fairness Doctrine to worry about. But still, let's give a listen to James Pethokoukis at AEI: Even the anecdotal evidence of Big Tech's anti-conservative bias isn't super compelling.

    Sen. Ted Cruz led off Monday’s congressional hearing on Big Tech’s supposed anti-conservative bias with a humble concession: “I will note much of the argument in this topic is anecdotal. It’s based on one example or another example.” And the reason for that, Cruz continued, is insufficient transparency by Google, Facebook, and Twitter. “Nobody knows what the raw data is in terms of bias,” he added.

    But that’s not quite right. There’s actually a significant amount of data available to help analyze the bias issue. A Twitter executive at the hearing noted that in 2018 there were 33 million MAGA tweets with #MAGA the fifth most tweeted hashtag. And a recent internal Twitter study found that tweets by Democratic and Republican members of Congress perform pretty much the same.

    Pethokoukis does admit to the transparency problem: Facebook/Twitter are notoriously opaque about their takedown rules.

  • But… you know, we still have anecdotes like this (recounted by Madeline Osburn at the Federalist): Google Marks Pro-Life Film 'Propaganda,' Labels Nazi Propaganda 'History'.

    A Google search for the new movie, “Unplanned” returned results labeling the film “Drama/Propaganda,” while other films that are actual propaganda material do not receive the same designation. “Unplanned” is the story of a Planned Parenthood director who became pro-life after witnessing an abortion.

    Kelsey Bolar, a Daily Signal writer and Federalist contributor, captured a screenshot of the search result below on Thursday. By Friday, the label had been removed.

    [screenshot elided]

    A Google search for the 1935 Nazi propaganda film, “The Triumph of the Will,” returns results labeling it “History/War.” The director Leni Riefenstahl was called up by Adolf Hitler himself, commissioning her to make a film of the annual rally of the Nazi party.

    Explain how that happened, Google.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • My new Congresscritter, Chris Pappas, tweeted incessantly about his support for H.R. 1, the "For the People Act" At NR, Akhil Rajasekar and Bradley A. Smith note its nasty heritage: Democrats’ ‘For the People Act’: McCarthyist Disclosure Requirements.

    Longstanding federal law requires disclosure of the names, amounts, employment, and addresses of contributors to candidates’ campaigns. Through H.R. 1, however, Democrats seek new, unprecedented disclosure of citizen support for non-profit advocacy groups, think tanks, trade and professional associations, and charities if those organizations should — even months and sometimes years after the contribution is made — make public communications that might be deemed to “promote, support, attack, or oppose” a politician. This definition would subsume communications that, say, criticize a politician’s vote on a bill or question a candidate’s ethics. It would include most discussion of public affairs.

    But is that a good thing? Nay, say Smith and Rajasekar (which, come to think of it, would be a pretty good title for a 1970s buddy cop show):

    Indeed, as a matter of first principle, we should question whether people are entitled to knowledge of others’ political associations and contacts. It is often argued that people have a right to know who is trying to influence them. In fact, as a general rule, they don’t. People have a right to participate in public affairs, but they have no right to know the details of how their fellow citizens, or groups of voluntarily associated citizens, choose to exercise that right. We have made a narrow exception to that general rule for speech that specifically advocates the election or defeat of a candidate, and for contributions to fund a candidate’s own campaign. But we have never accepted that the government — or our neighbors — have a broad right to know about our political activities.

    I occasionally have a morbid interest in those sorts of things, but (I admit) it's not particularly admirable. Especially in these days of political purity tests for employment in some fields, it's a good idea to keep these things private.

  • Who could be against something called the "Violence Against Women Act"? Answer: the NRA. And guess what? According to Jacob Sullum at Reason: The NRA Is Right About the Violence Against Women Act.

    After the National Rifle Association urged legislators to oppose the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that the House approved last week, Amy Klobuchar said the organization had shown its true colors. The Minnesota senator, who is seeking the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, claimed the NRA's position "shows where they are when it comes to safety and when it comes to protecting women."

    The NRA, in other words, does not care about violence against women, or at least it does not care enough to accept the new gun control provisions in the House version of the bill. This blithe dismissal of the NRA's legitimate complaints about those provisions makes Klobuchar, a former prosecutor, sound like an authoritarian demagogue who equates concern about civil liberties with indifference to crime.

    Both New Hampshire Congresscritters (of course) voted for the legislation. In fact they were both co-sponsors. But the legislation allows gun-grabbing based on some pretty flimsy pretexts. And so:

    This casual disregard for civil liberties is reminiscent of Donald Trump's recommendation, during a meeting last year with members of Congress, that police should "take the guns first, go through due process second." When it comes to sacrificing constitutional rights in the name of public safety, Democrats see eye to eye with the president.

    And, lest there be any mistake: that's not a good thing to see.

  • Another bit of stupid legislation made its way through the House with (again) co-sponsorship and votes from both New Hampshire Congresscritters. Bret Swanson tells the never-ending story of The never-ending neutrality pageant at AEI.

    Honey, do we really have to sit through this one again?

    We’ve been watching the same performance for nearly two decades. And some of us have tired of the amateur computer science and rehashed melodramatic outrage. We know the ending, too. Despite the act — a bill passed this week by the House of Representatives to regulate broadband networks like public utilities — the internet is already free, open, and prosperous. Most people understand that’s precisely because we didn’t regulate it like a utility.

    Swanson notes the shifting rationales, failed predictions, and moving goalposts of the Net-Neut advocates. Leaving one to assume that their true goal is both cynical and simple: "to gain broad governmental control of the internet."

  • James Freeman (at the possibly-paywalled WSJ) asks the headline question: Would Patients Be Able to Escape BernieCare? And guess what? It obeys Betteridge's law of headlines: "For all but a very few, the answer is no."

    On Wednesday Sen. Bernie Sanders (Socialist, Vt.) rolled out this year’s version of his draft legislation to abolish traditional Medicare. He calls it “Medicare for All” because polls tell him that voters don’t want to abolish traditional Medicare. Voters also don’t want him to destroy the U.S. system of private medical insurance, but his plan would do that, too. A key question raised by the new bill is whether patients, doctors and nurses would be able to escape the new government-run system when it fails to provide needed care—as such systems always do.

    Calling it “Medicare for All” is not the only deception. One section of his bill, entitled “Freedom of Choice,” includes the following text:

    Any individual entitled to benefits under this Act may obtain health services from any institution, agency, or individual qualified to participate under this Act.

    In other words, you are free to choose any doctor the federal government allows you to choose. On at least one point, Mr. Sanders is being honest. He’s not even trying to sell the Obama whopper that patients will get to keep the plans and the doctors they like.

    And guess what? Neither New Hampshire Senator is co-sponsoring, at least not yet. Presidential candidates that are co-sponsoring are Kamala, Spartacus, Fauxcahontas, and Kirsten "Tactile" Gillibrand.

  • Which brings us to Mr. Ramirez:

    Worth a thousand words? Probably more than that.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Why I am embarrassed to call myself a conservative, part LXVII: Conservatives Push an Internet Fairness Doctrine, Again (TechFreedom).

    WASHINGTON D.C. —­­ Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on The Constitution is holding a hearing titled “Stifling Free Speech: Technological Censorship and the Public Discourse.” TechFreedom submitted a letter into the record for the hearing, including TechFreedom’s testimony at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the same subject almost a year ago and a letter sent to the Attorney General on these issues last fall.

    Senators Cruz and Graham misunderstand both the First Amendment and Section 230,” said Berin Szóka, President of TechFreedom. “Neither requires neutrality. Wrapping themselves in the First Amendment, both Senators talk about preventing ‘censorship,’ but ‘censorship’ is something only the government can direct. The First Amendment isn’t a sword by which the government can require neutrality or fairness; it’s a shield from such meddling by the government. Likewise, Section 230 was intended to encourage private companies to moderate and curate content as they see fit. Congress recognized that second-guessing those decisions would discourage website operators from trying to address harmful content on their sites.”

    Look, it's pretty simple: (1) Don't expect Facebook/Twitter/etc. to treat you fairly; (2) Don't expect government regulation of Facebook/Twitter/etc. to make things better.

    Our Amazon Product du Jour features a quote from Susan Collins. Yes, that Susan Collins (R-Maine).

  • At Reason, Ronald Bailey reports on something only government can do: Achievement Gap Between Rich and Poor Public School Students Unchanged Over 50 Years.

    Half a century of trying hasn't closed one of schooling's most vexing achievement gaps. According to a new paper, the gap in educational achievement between public school students in the bottom 10th socioeconomic status (SES) percentile and those in the top 90th SES percentile has remained essentially unchanged over the last 50 years.

    "In terms of learning, students at the 10th SES percentile remain some three to four years behind those in the 90th percentile," report a team of researchers led by the Stanford economist Eric Hanushek in their disheartening new National Bureau of Economic Research study, "The Unwavering SES Achievement Gap."

    A half-serious radical proposal that I've been making for years: repeal compulsory attendance laws. Well, it started half-serious. Nowadays, it's up around 80-85% serious.

  • Kevin D. Williamson, at NR, turns his unsparing eye to presidential critics. And it's not pretty (but also NRPlus): Donald Trump’s Critics Are Incompetent.

    A strange thing about President Donald Trump’s critics: The ones who are best positioned to make a case against him and who have the strongest incentive to do so — the Democrats — have proved the least competent at doing so.

    The legitimate criticisms of President Trump are mostly the ones that were obvious to critics such as myself in 2016: He does not really know how to do the job and so has trouble with basic things like staffing his administration and moving his legislative priorities through Congress; he is mercurial and inconstant; he lies, even when there isn’t any reason to, seemingly out of habit; he is vain and emotionally incontinent, which distorts his decision-making; he has surrounded himself with some very shady and untrustworthy people; he has some pretty loopy ideas about trade and about America’s role in the world. Trump says, not without reason, that he is a different kind of politician, but in reality he has been at his best when he has deferred to such pillars of the establishment as the Federalist Society and Senator Mitch McConnell.

    Yep. So why do Democrats bother chasing fantasies about Russia, emoluments, and tax returns, when the plain truth is bad enough?

    They don't even have the normal excuse:

    [The Light is Better here]

  • Here's an unexpected way in which I am like John Bolton (as reported at the Washington Free Beacon): Bolton Can't Stop Laughing at Gillibrand's Nuclear Weapon Gaffe.

    White House National Security Adviser John Bolton could not stop laughing when played a clip of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) discussing her opposition to "tactile" nuclear weapons on the campaign trail.

    [Ed: Bolton did eventually stop laughing.]


    "As national security adviser, I don’t get involved in politics, but I’ll just say maybe Senator Gillibrand could give me a call and tell me what she knows about those tactile nuclear weapons," Bolton said. "I’d be interested in learning it."

    As would we all. At Betfair, the betting market gives Senator Kirsten about the same odds of winning the presidency as Oprah Winfrey.

  • And the Google LFOD alert rang for an editorial in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat: Charge tourists, not taxpayers, for tourism services. It's about the latest scheme to put more dollars into the hands of local spenders: allowing towns "to collect an occupancy fee from room rentals."

    You would think in the Live Free Or Die state, lawmakers from communities that benefit from Meals and Rooms taxes without contributing their fair share would at least have the decency to allow the tourist towns the freedom to pass some of the costs of tourism onto visitors and keep the costs off the local taxpayers.

    It's not that the tourists don't spend money. (Years ago, Cow Hampshire's Janice Brown suggested a state slogan for the "Welcome to New Hampshire" signs on the Interstates: "Visit, Spend Money, Then Go Home".)

    And it's not as if tourist establishments don't pay local taxes already.

    So what is LFOD is doing here?

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • I hear you out there wondering: Will simple government solutions fix complex societal problems? Well, bunkie, let me direct you to Kevin D. Williamson at NR, who has the answer: Simple Government Solutions Won’t Fix Complex Societal Problems.

    Imagine that you are the czar of all building in San Francisco, and that you have been asked for your thoughts on the design of a new apartment building that is under consideration. What is your top concern?

    If you are a halfway competent and benevolent dictator — and, goodness knows, history has shown us few enough of those! — then you’d probably put “affordability” at the top of your list. The people of San Francisco and the surrounding areas are very much in need of new affordable housing: In the city itself, the median price of a house is now just over $1.6 million, more than 16 times the median household income. Affordable housing is a big issue not only for regular middle-class people but for the high-tech titans of Silicon Valley, who worry that some highly productive potential employees are looking elsewhere for their futures, not to mention that the housing market forces them to pay more for all their workers. There are other places that have faced such problems, notably resort communities such as Aspen, Colo., but it is unusual for a major city to become so comprehensively unaffordable. Even famously expensive New York City has its more affordable enclaves, without which many industries — from food-service to publishing — would have enormous human-capital problems.

    But if the czar of building in San Francisco were presented with a design for the most affordable apartment building that possibly could be built (for the purpose of our thought experiment, there is no building code), he almost certainly would reject it, because it would lack certain health and safety features that most of us regard as essential. It probably would not be very attractive or very energy-efficient. It probably would not be very comfortable to live in, either.

    Bottom line is straight outta Hayek/Mises: the Czar lacks (and by his nature, can't get) the distributed information available to private entrepreneurs via market prices.

  • Who knew there was such a thing as Betteridge's law of headlines? It's simple: "Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no."

    But I'm not sure that applies to Scott Shackford's Reason article: Will a Free Press Cheer on Government Censorship of the Internet? It seems the answer there could be "Gulp. Maybe."

    The United Kingdom appears to be following in the footsteps of the European Union and Australia in trying to punish online platforms that don't censor content the way government officials want them to.

    The British authorities are pondering a proposal to create an entirely new government agency to regulate, and even punish, online communication platforms to make them more thorough in removing content the government deems dangerous or violent.

    You might be saying: "Other countries, so who cares?" But Shackford goes on to note the news report in the Washington "Democracy Dies in Darkness" Post which "contains a lot of loaded language" on the side of speech suppression.

  • Veronique de Rugy has a suggestion: How Free Traders Can Improve Their Case. It is spurred by the latest threats from President Trump to blow up the NAFTA replacement agreement (USMCA) by sticking a 25 percent national-security tariff on Mexican cars. (Or, even worse, closing the Mexican border to trade entirely.)

    According to Veronique, the problem might be the nature of trade agreements themselves:

    But here is the thing: as effective as free trade agreements have been at lowering trade barriers, there’s one way in which they have impaired the fight for a world of even freer trade. They suffer from the weakness of fundamentally being rooted in mercantilist misunderstanding.

    Indeed, trade negotiations and the agreements that they produce rest on the mistaken belief that the ultimate benefit of trade is exports, while imports are the unfortunate but necessary price to pay in order to export more. The multilateral and bilateral trade treaties “worked” to make trade freer in practice because each government was willing to allow its citizens to import more as the necessary condition for persuading other governments to allow their citizens to do the same. Each government, in short, agreed to lower import barriers only as a means of increasing its country’s exports.

    But this entire approach is backwards. The economic case for free trade is fundamentally a unilateral one. Tariffs imposed in the U.S. are a tax on American consumers. It’s not that we wouldn’t love it if other countries stopped hurting their consumers with tariffs on U.S. goods, but their idiocy is no reason to “retaliate” by inflicting an identical harm on our consumers. Besides, the truth of the matter is that it is not our place to tell other governments how to govern their countries.

    'Strewth! But in these nutty days, how many pols can we get behind non-backwards thinking?

  • I'm not a yuuuge fan of American Greatness, but Victor Davis Hanson uses their site to provide a pretty good article on: All the Progressive Plotters.

    Right after the 2016 election, Green Party candidate Jill Stein—cheered on by Hillary Clinton dead-enders—sued in three states to recount votes and thereby overturn Donald Trump’s victory in the Electoral College. Before the quixotic effort imploded, Stein was praised as an iconic progressive social justice warrior who might stop the hated Trump from even entering the White House.

    When that did not work, B-list Hollywood celebrities mobilized, with television and radio commercials, to shame electors in Trump-won states into not voting for the president-elect during the official Electoral College balloting in December 2016. Their idea was that select morally superior electors should reject their constitutional directives and throw the election into the House of Representatives where even more morally superior NeverTrump Republicans might join with even much more morally superior Democrats to find the perfect morally superior NeverTrump alternative.

    And it goes on from there. Chrome counts ten subsequent occurrences of "When that did not work". Pretty funny, but grim, stuff.

  • And (yes) another WalletHub state-by-state comparison: 2019’s States Most Dependent on the Gun Industry.

    In light of the recent developments in the firearms industry and debates on how, if at all, it should be restricted, WalletHub compared the economic impact of guns on each of the 50 states to determine which among them leans most heavily on the gun business, both directly for jobs and political contributions and indirectly through ownership. Read on for our findings, methodology and expert commentary from a panel of researchers.

    Bottom line: Idaho is ranked most "dependent", and New Jersey least. New Hampshire is smack in the middle of the pack at #26.

    But it's slightly more interesting when you look at the components of the ranking. For New Hampshire is number one in the "Firearms Industry" component. It has the most firearms industry jobs per capita. It is in fourth place for the highest average firearms industry wages and benefits. And we're well "below average" on the Giffords Law Center rankings of "gun law strength".

    So how did we get such a mediocre ranking? Well, we're in 47th place on the "Gun Politics" component. Which is based on three criteria:

    • Gun-Control Contributions to Congressional Members per Capita
    • Gun-Rights Contributions to Congressional Members per Capita
    • Senator Score – How Senators Voted on Gun Bills

    So (unsurprisingly) our Democratic Congresscritters are heavily supported by gun controllers, ignored by gun rights people, and they reliably vote for weapon restrictions.

    I think this means that WalletHub's overall methodology is flawed and misleading, but nobody asked me.

Last Modified 2019-04-10 10:30 AM EDT

The Hate U Give

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

So this movie was part of the annual MLK tribute at the University Near Here this past February. As discussed at the time, the title is (allegedly) based on the rap artist Tupac Shakur who had a "THUG LIFE" tattoo, which he alleged was an acronym for "The Hate U Give Little Infants F***s Everything". (The movie spells this out, but not enough times to imperil its PG-13 rating.)

I was encouraged to view the movie thanks to this [NRPlus] review by Kyle Smith.

Anyway: the hero is beautiful African-American high schooler Starr. She is the beloved daughter of a semi-intact middle-class black family, residing in a nice house in the "predominantly black" community. But the local public high school is a horror show, so her parents sacrifice to send her to a good, heavily upper-class white school further away. She self-conciously adopts an alternate "non-ghetto" persona for use while there. And she even has a white boyfriend.

But she also has connections back close to home. So she attends a party where (oh well) gunshots erupt, which causes everyone to chaotically scatter. She's offered a ride home by an old boyfriend who just happens to be a member of the local drug-dealing gang. Who, when they are stopped by a white cop, is not very smart about obeying orders. And when he makes a Sudden Move, he gets shot.

This puts Starr in conflict with both the white culture at her school and the black culture. The local drug lord doesn't want her to testify to the grand jury investigating the shooting (although the reasons for that are unclear). And her best girlfriend thinks the cop was justified in using deadly force.

So: there's a lot of conflict and anguish. Starr's family and acquaintances are well developed, the acting is fine. The overall tone is a little strident. (But is redeemed somewhat when an uncle reminds Starr about the realities of police life.)

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • At American Consequences, P.J. O'Rourke offers a Trick Quiz. No, not for you. It's for 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates, and there's only one question: Where Will the Money Come From?

    The big, unruly crowd of would-be Democratic presidential candidates is engaged in a free-for-all. Literally. They’re fighting to see who can promise the most free stuff to the largest number of people – college tuition, student-loan forgiveness, Medicare-For-All, Universal Basic Income (UBI), and throw in the kitchen sink of subsidized housing for the homeless who crowd the sidewalks of places like San Francisco and Portland where everybody votes Democratic.

    A few numbers: The 10% of Americans who earn the most money make a total of about $4.75 trillion a year. These are the rich. Not that they’re crazy rich… An annual household income of $118,000 puts people in the top 10%. But let’s not quibble, $118,000 ain’t hay. They’re the rich. We’ll take from them.

    And, what the heck, let’s take everything from them – all $4.75 trillion.

    Now let’s give to the poor. Or try to. The federal budget for 2018 was $4.1 trillion – without any new programs for dispensing costly goods and services at no cost to the recipients.

    If we took every bit of the $4.75 trillion from the rich, it would last the federal government 14 and a half months.

    Meanwhile, the people we took the money from have been earning nothing for more than a year… so they now qualify for free stuff, too.

    Oh, but maybe the people we gave money to will spend it, goose the economy, and we'll all be rich again! It will pay for itself!

    Ah, sure.

    Read the whole thing for P.J.'s discussion of some Democrats' Plan B, wealth expropriation.

  • I have close to zero opinion about Brexit, but Kevin D. Williamson is always worth reading, and it's usually safe to assume he's right. So check out Brexit: Deal or No Deal.

    The great benefit of trade is the imports, not the exports — the politicians always get that wrong. You would think that the United Kingdom, with its proud history of world-bestriding trade, would appreciate that first of all countries. For eons, kings, consuls, emperors, and khans undertook enormous pains to keep the trade routes open and to establish new ones, building everything from roads to navies to educational institutions (propagating the once-arcane sciences of accounting and basic finance) to enable the exchange of goods. It is a myth that the Romans salted the fields of conquered Carthage: They ate the grain Carthage grew, and only would have been starving themselves. They needed those imports.

    In our time, we have stood that on its head, and as the merchants of the world bring the best of everything to our shores for our use and delight, our biggest worry is that they are not charging us enough money for their goods. These are dumb times.

    Indeed. Trump was wrong when he said "trade wars are good and easy to win".

  • Caitlin Flanagan draws on her past life as a college counselor at an "good" LA high school ("worst job I've ever had") to tell us (for free) What the College-Admissions Scandal Reveals at the Atlantic. A little poignant story about the daughter of Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli:

    The couple paid $500,000 to get both of their daughters into USC on the preposterous claim that they rowed crew. Their daughter Olivia has become a particularly ridiculed character in the saga, because there are pre-indictment videos in which she describes both her lack of desire to attend college and how rarely she attended high school during her senior year. But I have sympathy for her. She knew higher education wasn’t where she belonged, but her parents insisted that she go. Up until the scandal, the girl had a thriving cosmetics line, was a popular YouTuber, and was clearly making the best of what Hillary Clinton would call her God-given potential. Now she’s a punch line, and Sephora has pulled her products off the shelves.

    She'll turn out OK, and maybe she'll even forgive her parents eventually. But, as Flanagan notes, there are Lessons To Be Learned from all this.

  • Another freed-up article from print Reason, this one from Matt Welch: The Populist Temptation.

    For the two decades that he's edited the scabrous and insightful U.K.-based web magazine Spiked, Brendan O'Neill, an occasional Reason contributor, has described himself—perhaps with a wee bit of provocation—as a "libertarian Marxist." That is, until the populist uprisings in Europe last year.

    "The thing that's different now than it would have been six months ago," O'Neill told me during a February episode of the Fifth Column podcast, "is that I've increasingly gone off the word libertarian." The Brexit vote in England, the Yellow Vest protests in France, various anti-elitist spasms across the globe—these have packed more of a punch in two short years than four decades' worth of classical liberal think-tank thumbsucking, he said: "I think other things more interesting than libertarianism are happening in the world right now."

    "May you live in interesting times" was always described to me as a Chinese curse.

    Which is not actually true, but still.

  • And a presidential candidate was just down the road from Pun Salad Manor the other day. In news you probably won't read other than the Washington Free Beacon: Gillibrand Twice Refers to Tactical Nuclear Weapons as 'Tactile'.

    Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke at Flight Coffee in Dover, where she discussed her opposition to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019.

    "We used to say we don't worry about a first strike because a first strike would end in complete devastation of the person who fired nuclear weapons," Gillibrand said. "When you say you want to develop low-yield nuclear weapons that are tactile, what you're saying is you want to use them."

    You know what would be a good tactile weapon? Joe Biden! [rim shot]

  • And this Babylon Bee article may be less than factual: Ocasio-Cortez Suddenly Shifts To Speaking Like Jar Jar Binks While Addressing Crowd Of Gungans.

    NABOO—Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has come under fire after giving a speech to a crowd of Gungan supporters on the planet of Naboo. Critics claim Ocasio-Cortez clearly shifted her speaking style to try to emulate the Gungans' speech patterns, changing her speech to sound exactly like that of Jar Jar Binks.

    "Meesa Ocasio-Cortez. Meesa gonna seize the means of production big-big," she said as the Gungan crowd cheered. "Meesa your humble servant who's in charge." The congresswoman unveiled a plan to save Naboo, one which would coincidentally require giving her all the power and money. "Yousa planet gonna die big, icky icky goo goo if yousa don't change your habits." She pointed out that the ecosystem of the planet's core was already changing, and the giant monsters which live down there will likely die within 12 Coruscant solar cycles.

    If you're not acquainted with the underlying controversy, here you go.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Because someone had to do it: George Will Explains American Exceptionalism. Quoted by Kyle Smith at NR:

    Americans were born exceptionally free from a feudal past, and hence free from an established church and an entrenched aristocracy. This made them exceptionally receptive to intellectual pluralism and exceptionally able to achieve social mobility. America had an exceptional revolution, one that did not attempt to define and deliver happiness, but one that set people free to define and pursue it as they please. Americans codified their Founding doctrines as a natural rights republic in an exceptional Constitution, one that does not say what government must do for them but what government may not do to them. And because the Founding experience was the result of, and affirmed the potency of, human agency, Americans are exceptionally impervious to bleak modern anxieties about human destinies being shaped by vast impersonal forces. America’s central government is exceptionally constructed to limit the discretion of those in power by balancing rival centers of power.

    But will we throw it all away? Hope not.

  • What's the worst thing about Trump? According to Gene Healy (Reason), it's that he's Standing on the Shoulders of Tyrants. OK, his rhetoric is reprehensible and disturbing. But…

    But unsettling and repellent as Trump's behavior is, how he wields power has to matter more than what he rants about. It's entirely possible that Donald J. Trump is a terrible human being without a redeeming liberal impulse and not nearly as imperial a president as his two immediate predecessors. (Or at least not yet.)

    In fact, a close examination of Trump's policies suggests that what we've got so far is the Xtreme Energy Drink version of what's been on tap for a long time. Like Four Loko, it clouds your vision, sours your stomach, and wrecks your head, but it may not be as lethal as the alarmists claim. In his first two years, Trump has aggressively exploited the powers he inherited, but—with very few exceptions—he hasn't really forged new frontiers in the expansion of executive power.

    It would be nice (and also we'd be damned lucky) if one of the aftereffects of Trump's presidency was a de-imperializing of the American presidency.

  • On a related note, Dan Mitchell looks at Trump’s Keynesian Monetary Policy. After noting an NYT article saying that Trump wants the Fed to "cut interest rates and take additional steps to stimulate economic growth":

    Regardless of whether a politician is a Republican or a Democrat, I don’t like Keynesian fiscal policy and I don’t like Keynesian monetary policy.

    Simply stated, the Keynesians are all about artificially boosting consumption, but sustainable growth is only possible with policies that boost production.

    Trump realizes (probably accurately) that an easy-money policy might make the economy look good in November 2020, and the bills won't come due until after.

  • Philosopher Michael Huemer asks the musical question: Why Not Sell a Kidney?. Looking at the kidney-exchange system that's saved "probably thousands of lives", Huemer says that's nice, but…

    Also perhaps needless to say, we need to do more. 100,000 people need kidney transplants; most will die waiting for it. 5,000 die every year, waiting for a kidney transplant ( Yet there are millions of people who have two healthy kidneys and could donate one and save someone else’s life. The cost to the donor would be minimal, compared to the value of a life saved. But almost no one does it, because there is still some cost and risk, and there is no benefit to the donor. And the reason there is no benefit to the donor is that it is illegal to pay the donor for giving a kidney. (The donor can be compensated for medical bills, transport, and the like, but not for the personal risk involved in going into major surgery, or the general disutility of donating a kidney.)

    I think this law is basically a form of mass murder. The government is not merely allowing 5000 deaths a year, or failing to save 5000 people; it is killing 5,000 people a year. Since the killing is unjustified (it is not, e.g., done in self-defense, or defense of an innocent third party, or as just punishment for a heinous crime, or as a form of euthanasia), it is murder.

    Argue about abortion all you want. But where are all the folks preaching about the "right to control your own body", when it comes to selling bits of it you can do without?

  • And finally, the Google LFOD News Alert rang for yet another article from Canada about their license plates (previous discussion here). In the opinion of one Jack Knox of the (British Columbia) Times Colonist Beautiful British Columbia a gold-plated motto. And it's nice to hear our northern neighbors squabble about this stuff the same way we do:

    That said, provinces change the words on their plates all the time. They’re etched in aluminum, not stone. Ontario last swapped things up in 1982, dumping “Keep It Beautiful” after someone noticed the smog-belching hell of the 401 and realized it was too late. In Quebec, René Levesque ditched “La Belle Province” in favour of “Je Me Souviens” (literal translation: “It’s not over, squareheads”) in 1978.

    “Friendly Manitoba” — a slogan that damns with faint praise, like Miss Congeniality — arrived in 1976. Saskatchewan has been the “Land of Living Skies” since 1998 (though for a laugh, it should try aping the T-shirts: “Easy to draw, hard to spell”). No truth to the rumour that Alberta will switch from “Wild Rose Country” to “Wild-Eyed Country” if Jason (Turn Off the Taps) Kenney wins next week’s election and goes Dr. Strangelove on his fellow Canadians.

    Tiny Prince Edward Island changes slogans more often than Alberta changes governments, doing so eight times since 1962, with some of the more eye-catching offerings being “Garden of the Gulf,” “Home of Anne of Green Gables,” “The Place to Be in ’73” (a slogan that actually hung around until 1975), the stately “Birthplace of Confederation” and the somewhat more prosaic “Seat Belts Save,” a message echoed by Ohio’s “Seatbelts Fastened?” and Maryland’s “Drive Carefully.” (American mottos, from New Hampshire’s “Live Free Or Die” to Idaho’s “Famous Potatoes,” have stories of their own: “Georgia … on my mind” was the only plate with lyrics by Ray Charles, while the “Sweet Home” on Alabama’s inspired drivers to thrust fists out the window and bray “Skynyrd!” to the embarrassment of their children.)

    There. I had to quote three paragraphs to get to LFOD, but the trip was worth it. (The rest is pretty funny too, so if you have a few minutes…)


[4.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Hearing good things, Pun Son and I went to the Regal in Newington to take in this horror movie. Whoa. Whoa. I am fully prepared to hand writer/director Jordan Peele my Mastercard and say: just buy me tickets to your next ten movies. Mr. Peele knows how to do creepy and scary. (And also, sometimes, funny.)

Little Adelaide goes with her family to the Santa Cruz boardwalk one summer night. A bit of parental inattention (Whac-A-Mole) allows her to wander off to a deserted part of the park, she enters a spooky funhouse that turns out to be a gateway to… well, that would be telling. Let's just say it's a life-changing experience.

Years later, she seems to have recovered, acquired a husband and kids of her own, but she's still extremely reluctant to return to the boardwalk. Understandably, as it turns out. After some disturbing experiences, the family returns home, only to be confronted by a group of doppelgangers who are looking forward to a night of harrowing mayhem. Which happens.

The movie rewards your careful attention to detail. There's a recurring reference to Jeremiah 11:11:

11 So now I, the Lord, warn them that I am going to bring destruction on them, and they will not escape. And when they cry out to me for help, I will not listen to them.

That is (because I could not resist using it) the "Good News Translation". Why, that doesn't sound like good news at all!

The Phony Campaign

2019-04-07 Update

[Amazon Link]

In case you can't read the fine print on our Amazon Product du Jour: "Today's Phony Narratives Become Tomorrow's Fabricated History!"

Huge, if true. In any case, unexpectedly profound from a t-shirt.

This week's results:

Candidate WinProb Change
Pete Buttigieg 5.6% -0.9% 3,180,000 +2,857,000
Donald Trump 40.8% +0.5% 1,770,000 -100,000
Bernie Sanders 13.3% -0.1% 286,000 -27,000
Joe Biden 6.9% +0.2% 234,000 +32,000
Elizabeth Warren 2.1% -0.2% 163,000 -34,000
Kamala Harris 11.8% -0.4% 85,900 -7,800
Beto O'Rourke 6.5% -1.8% 85,900 -17,100
Andrew Yang 3.3% +0.4% 13,100 +500

"WinProb" calculation described here. Google result counts are bogus.

Elizabeth Warren came this close (imagine my thumb and index finger about 3mm apart) to getting dropped out of our table this week. It's not so bad, Liz: you'd be in the distinguished, albeit delusional, company of fellow senators Gillibrand, Booker, and Klobuchar.

  • At the Bulwark, Jonathan V. Last provides Secret Wars: The April Democratic Power Rankings. Lots of insight and contrarian observations, but let's take this about Mayor Pete, the leader this week in our phony poll:

    We should pause for a moment to consider the sheer audacity and political genius of Mayor Pete. Let’s say you’re an ambitious, progressive, gay guy from a deeply conservative state. You want to run for national office.

    How do you do that? Maybe you can find a blue House district, but after that what? You’re not going to win a Senate race or become governor unless you radically change your political persona and then get lucky, too.

    Buttigieg found a liberal city, got himself elected mayor, and then fast-passed the entire system by running for president. If he has a good showing, he’ll never have to go back to Indiana politics. He’ll come into the next Democratic administration. Or, if Trump wins re-election, can go become a university president or think tank head.

    He’ll carry around with him a national profile and a giant donor list and be prepared to run again in 2024.

    Guys like Biuttigieg [sic, the Bulwark can't afford a proofreader] often find a way. It doesn’t always work out (Martin O’Malley), but sometimes it does (Bill Clinton).

    I’m impressed and you should be, too.

    Sorry, but I'm not that easily impressed.

  • Emily Yoffe notes the truth about Vice President Handsy: Joe Biden Created the Culture He Is a Target Of. (As I never get tired of saying: I was present at that UNH gathering where Biden presented the infamous Obama Administration Title IX "guidelines". So I'm very much in the "it's silly, but it serves him right" camp.)

    Joe Biden is now living in the world of accusation he helped to create. It is one of peril for the accused, in which they are subjected to expansive definitions of sexual misconduct and little benefit of the doubt. Biden helped to bring it about as the leader of the Obama administration’s cornerstone effort to end sexual assault at colleges and universities, a worthy undertaking that quickly spiraled into overreach. The goal, as Biden often says, was to remake sexual culture on campuses and in society at large—a goal that’s reached remarkable fruition in the #MeToo era. Now, as he mulls whether to enter the presidential race, Biden is finding himself ensnared by some of the doctrines he has advocated over the past several years.

    Biden has been peddling an untrue origin of the phrase "rule of thumb" for years; maybe he should familiarize himself with "hoist with his own petard" instead.

  • [Amazon Link]
    At Reason, Katherine Mangu-Ward provides a mini-review of a mini-book: Superheroes Are Everywhere (available via link at right. No, your right.)

    California Sen. Kamala Harris kicked off her 2020 Democratic presidential campaign this January with the now-mandatory cliché-ridden memoir. But she also published a kid's book: Superheroes Are Everywhere (Philomel).

    On a certain level, you have to admire the chutzpah it takes to put a picture of yourself on the cover of a book directly below the word superhero. Harris comes from a long tradition of superherodom, it seems, including her blood relations, her neighbors, and…her fellow lawyers. As the very short book drags on, one is tempted to side with young Dash in the classic Pixar superhero flick The Incredibles, who grumbles to his mom that if "everyone's special" then "no one is."

    While the final page declares that the "heroes are…You!" the use of Harris' childhood photos and life timeline, and the fact that she appears on every page, make it pretty clear who the reader is meant to understand the real hero is.

    If Trump wrote a children's book, what would the title be? Don't Be a Dopey Sloppy Loser maybe?

  • At the Atlantic, staff writer Edward-Isaac Dovere examines The Myth of Beto O’Rourke.

    Myth is important to O’Rourke. He named his oldest son Ulysses because he loves The Odyssey, and likes to talk about how it’s a story of a man having adventures on a quest to get back to his wife (he leaves out the part about Odysseus turning around and leaving Penelope again to search for his father, after 10 years fighting in the Trojan War and 10 years at sea). In his early stops on the campaign trail, he’s mentioned several times that he’s been rereading Joseph Campbell, explaining how he’s taken the “follow your bliss” advice of the man who wrote of the archetypal hero in his book, The Power of Myth.

    O’Rourke’s own myth is about being a phenomenon in raising money online, drawing massive crowds and speaking sincerely, from his heart. There’s no question that O’Rourke can do all those things, but as Ivanka Trump wrote in her 2017 book, “cultivating authenticity is essential to creating strong bonds” with people.

    Quoting Ivanka as an authority on authenticity is a bold move, Edward-Isaac.

  • Emily Zanotti (in the Daily Wire) notes another myth Beto! is buying into: Beto O'Rourke Goes Full Socialist, Says He Will 'Break Apart' American Wealth. At issue:

    "One country", except for those guys whose wealth we're planning to expropriate. Over to you, Emily:

    That's...rather extreme. Instead of simply redistributing wealth the way Warren, Harris and others are looking to do, with huge increases in income and corporate tax rates, O'Rourke seems to believe wealth, power, and "privilege" must be taken by force from those that hold them — and he's oddly vague on the details.

    His speeches are lofty, but his concrete policy positions seem to begin and end with an open borders immigration policy and universal background checks for gun buyers — the only two issues he's been clear on thus far. Late last week, O'Rourke seemed to take an extreme position on abortion, claiming that he, as a male, had no right to interfere with a woman's decision to terminate her pregnancy, even up until the moment of birth.

    Details would be nice, Beto! Will tumbrels and guillotines be involved?

  • At NR, Kyle Smith goes right to the phony issue: Beto O'Rourke is Fauxbama.

    […] a great many people were entranced by Obama’s platitudes. Giving speeches, it turned out, was the only thing he was good at. But those speeches made him president. Closely hewing to the Obama script, Beto O’Rourke reminds us that the power of a script depends entirely on the skill of an actor, and how well he fits the role. Anthony Hopkins makes a convincing King Lear. Justin Bieber, not so much.

    Obama: a phony who managed to make it seem authentic. Beto!: a phony that might actually come across as a phony.

  • (We better get these Fauxcahontas links in while we can.) What do you suppose Elizabeth Warren's increasingly dramatic proposals reflect? According to William A. Jacobson at Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion: Elizabeth Warren's increasingly dramatic proposals reflect a campaign struggling to stay relevant.

    Here is a partial catalog of Warren’s increasingly dramatic proposals just in the past three weeks:

    ‘Full-blown Conversation about Reparations’ for Blacks and Native Americans

    Eliminate the Electoral College

    $700 Billion Free Childcare Plan

    Expand Government Oversight of Credit Reporting Bureaus

    Break Up Big Tech

    Break Up Big Corporate Agricultural Businesses including Seed Companies

    Jail Executives for Negligence if Company has a Fraud Scandal

    Jail Executives for Negligence if Company has  a Consumer Data Breach

    End the Senate Filibuster

    These proposals have kept Warren in the short-term news cycles without any obvious positive impact on her popularity or fundraising. Warren is approaching the point where even the sympathetic liberal and mainstream media will grow weary.

    What is left for Warren to propose? Public flogging of executives?

    "If I have to propose that to get you damned kids to like me, then sure!"

Last Modified 2019-04-07 11:43 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • For a while I've been bemused by the hassling over the word "socialism". Some of my Facebook friends think it's Game Over, socialism-wise, if you have a public library card and drive on the public streets to get there. You've already taken the red pill.

    Bernie thinks it's Denmark, although nay-sayers will point out that it's ranked #14 in the world on economic freedom, while the USA is #12. Is all the fuss really about moving us down a couple spots in the ranking to tie with Denmark?

    But if you ask Jacobin, they will tell you it means entirely "nationalizing the financial sector" and "introducing democratic planning and social ownership over corporations".

    So, yeesh. You guys fight it out, OK?

    "Progressive"? That can be even worse.

    I'm flirting with using an older term, one I used to fling around quite a bit in my USENET days, but seems to have gone mostly out of style. Simply put: if you're in favor of granting ever-increasing power and resources to the state, you are a statist.

    Medicare for all? Statist.

    Green New Deal? Statist.

    Tariffs and protectionism? Statist.

    Does your state budget propose $584 million in new spending, $417 million in new taxes and fees? Statist.

    It's not a new idea. While Googling around I found an Albert Jay Nock article in The American Mercury May 1939 (starting on page 101). Key para:

    Individualism, like democracy and many other terms in common use, is a term·which has been so greatly perverted by ignorant persons and scoundrels that when a man speaks praisefully of individualism - especially rugged individualism - you are pretty safe in putting him down provisionally as either one or the other. Nevertheless its true meaning is perfectly clear. If you believe that society ought to be organized on the system of voluntary co-operation, and believe that this system should be indefinitely extended, you believe in individualism. If you believe that society ought to be organized on the other system, and believe in the indefinite extension of that system, you believe in Statism. Whether you call this fascism, Naziism, communism, or socialism is immaterial.

    So maybe for the near future, at least, I'll decrease my use of liberal/progressive/(left|right)-wing/fascism/socialism labels, and try to just stick to "statism", maybe with a leading adjective or two (like "tedious" … "predictable" … "kneejerk" …)

  • George F. Will dissects the Jones Act, coming up on its centenary: This 99-year-old federal law is stifling jobs and shifting higher costs to consumers.

    The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, a.k.a. the Jones Act, was passed after one war and supposedly in anticipation of others. Its purported purpose was to encourage the development of a merchant marine sufficient for war or other “national emergency.” Ninety-nine years later, the nation is in a “national emergency” (presidential disappointment regarding his wall); emergencies and national security crises multiply as the ease of declaring them increases. Never mind. The Jones Act has failed to achieve its stated aims while inflicting substantial unanticipated costs, enriching a few businesses and unions, and pleasing the at least 16 congressional committees and six federal agencies that have oversight jurisdiction under the act.

    [Senator Mike] Lee’s Open America’s Waters Act of 2019 would repeal the Jones Act’s requirements that cargo transported by water between U.S. ports must travel in ships that are U.S.-built, U.S.-owned, U.S.-registered and U.S.-crewed. Colin Grabow, Inu Manak and Daniel J. Ikenson of Washington’s Cato Institute demonstrate that under — and largely because of — the Jones Act, the following has happened:

    One of the nation’s geographic advantages — tens of thousands of miles of coastline and inland waterways — has been minimized by making it off-limits to foreign competition in transportation. This increases transportation costs, which ripple through the production process as a significant portion of the costs of goods. Because of the Jones Act’s costly mandates, less cargo is shipped by water, merchant mariners have fewer jobs, and more cargo is carried by truck, rail and air, which are more environmentally damaging than water transportation. Two of America’s most congested highways, Interstate 95 and Interstate 5, are along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, respectively. Yet the amount of cargo shipped by water along the coasts and on the Great Lakes is about half the volume of 1960. Since then, railroad freight volume has increased about 50 percent, and volume by intercity trucks — responsible for more than 75 percent of federal highway maintenance costs — has increased more than 200 percent.

    Yes, it's yet another statist deed perpetrated under the Woodrow Wilson administration. Jerk.

  • At Reason, Brian Doherty notes the latest news about another Wilsonian statist idea: Trump Wants to Name Political Loyalists to Federal Reserve Board.

    In the past couple of weeks, President Donald Trump is reported to have settled on two choices for open seats on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors: former Club for Growth president and Heritage Foundation economic policy analyst Stephen Moore, and former Godfather's pizza boss and 2012 GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain. Cain from 1989-96 served in various capacities, including chairman of the board, with the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, though Cain doubters argue such positions are more honorary for local business leaders than proving any monetary policy savvy.

    Neither Cain nor Moore are technically trained academic economists, which alarms many, although, as has been argued by former Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas analyst Danielle DiMartino Booth, board members with more varied real-world experience might be useful voices in central bank decision-making.

    It is less lack of academic/technical training that's disturbing as the clear sense that both men are being appointed not for expertise but for team-playing loyalty to Trump. Cain has recently been running a pro-Trump political action committee, America Fighting Back; Moore was a former Trump economic adviser during his 2016 campaign.

    Our Amazon Product du Jour speaks for itself.

  • And finally, breaking news from the Babylon Bee: King Solomon Accused Of Inappropriate Behavior By 1,000 Of His Wives.

    Hundreds of women have come forward to accuse King Solomon of Israel of inappropriate behavior, a report revealed. The alleged misconduct reportedly led to strife within Solomon's kingdom as well as the eventual division of Israel.

    "Frankly, he was pretty obsessed with sex and inappropriate touching," one woman claiming to be one of his wives said in a statement. "He was always using these really weird metaphors for my hair, teeth, and other parts of my body. It was a little creepy."

    As they said in Ecclesiastes: there is nothing new under the sun.

A Think Tank for Liberty

A Personal History of Reason Foundation

[Amazon Link]

I got this as a freebie for being a contributor to Reason magazine. So I felt obligated to read it.

Make no mistake, the author, Robert B. Poole, should be one of the heroes of the libertarian movement. He transformed Reason from a cranky mimeographed rag into a high-quality professional magazine with national import. He was also the driver of the Reason Foundation (the "think tank" of the title), which performs solid scholarship on the various misfeatures of the "mixed economy."

So, good news: there are parts of this book that are very interesting, notably Poole's own story, his relationships with co-Reasoners, his insights into various controversies he's been part of.

But there's also bad news: at times, the book reads like one of those annual evaluation reports put together for The Boss. Details about what meetings were taken, with whom, what happened as a result. Phone calls. Trips to different places. We got money from this guy. But this guy got a little pissed off by something in the magazine! Bob, don't worry! You can have your raise! It's richly deserved!

Instead of reading "then we did this study" over and over again, I think would have been significantly more interesting to read the studies themselves. Poole has long been a champion of privatizing infrastructure and some state-provided services. That's an ongoing battle, with Poole and his Reason friends providing ammo for the side of the angels. (You can check out the current foundation work at their website.)

But I shouldn't complain overmuch about the book Poole chose not to write. Especially a freebie.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Veronique de Rugy notes something that will make not one whit of difference to supporters of state-mandated paid leave: Government-Mandated, Paid Leave Programs Proven Ineffective.

    Paid leave advocates often argue that paid family leave and other social policies will reduce gender inequality in the workplace. Recent research on Denmark, however, suggests that this is hardly the case.

    Denmark is often cited as an example of working-parent paradise. The government offers 52 weeks of paid leave and other generous family-friendly benefits. But even in paradise, there's no such thing as a free lunch. A January 2018 National Bureau of Economic Research paper by economists Henrik Kleven, Camille Landais and Jakob Egholt Sogaard looks at what happened to the earnings of 470,000 Danish women who gave birth for the first time between 1985 and 2003. These researchers found that having children was a career bummer for women.

    For instance, they found that while men's and women's pay grew at roughly the same rates before they had kids, mothers saw their earnings rapidly reduced by nearly 30% on average, compared to the trajectory they were on before having kids. Men, on the other hand, saw their pay grow at the same rate before and after their children were born. Women may also become less likely to work, and if still employed, had earned lower wages and worked fewer hours.

    It's sad that the American Enterprise Institute seems to be weighing in on the pro-mandate side.

  • The cover story in the May 2019 Reason is out on the web, and it's a sobering query from Dan Drezner: Will Today's Global Trade Wars Lead to World War III?. History lesson:

    In the first decade of the 1900s, it was the newly independent Serbia taking actions to try to reduce its economic dependence on the Austro-Hungarian empire. The country increased its imports from France and signed a customs union with Bulgaria. In 1906, Austria-Hungary responded by slapping high tariffs on Serbia's chief export: pork. The "Pig War" lasted another five years, during which time Serbia painfully weaned itself from economic dependence on the Habsburg empire. Austria-Hungary's share of Serbian trade fell from 90 percent to 30 percent.

    The Pig War prompted Austria-Hungary to annex Bosnia and Herzegovina, a move that escalated tensions with Russia—and sowed the seeds for the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June 1914 by a Bosnian Serb.

    Economic closure in the Balkans did not ignite the First World War. It did make the kindling that much easier to spark, however.

    An article that Donald Trump should read (but won't) and understand (but probably couldn't).

  • And the Washington Free Beacon notes … irony, maybe? … in the recent voting behavior of some legislators: Kittens Over Kids.

    Four Democratic senators who voted against protecting newborns sponsored a bill designed to protect baby cats.

    Senators Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.), Cory Booker (D., N.J.), Gary Peters (D., Mich.), and Tom Udall (D., N.M.) cosponsored a bill designed to put an end to animal testing using kittens. The KITTEN Act of 2019 came after it was revealed that the Department of Agriculture was testing suspect Chinese meat on cats, posing a potentially fatal risk to the felines. It was introduced about a week after all of those Democratic senators voted to block legislation that would have required doctors to provide medical care to newborns who survive abortion.

    Of course it's different. Because the kitty thing might save human lives, and the abortion thing ends them.

  • You don't have to have a very long memory to realize that (as Jim Geraghty points out at National Review): Joe Biden Got Away With It for Eight Years.

    A lot of us have been making fun of Joe Biden for decades. He’s got a goofy charm, but half of what comes out of his mouth makes no sense. In the 2008 debate with Sarah Palin, he declared, “Along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon,” and everyone just acted like he hadn’t hallucinated a major foreign-policy event. His gaffes are particularly tone-deaf, he’s a blustery blowhard, he’s been wrong about a heck of a lot in his long history, and he’s often an egomaniacal BS artist.

    For eight years, Biden got away with a lot because the media chose to perceive him as that “wacky, lovable Uncle Joe” and if the media paid too much attention to his flaws outside of comic relief from the usually serious Obama, it would call into question Obama’s judgment in picking him.

    Biden didn’t just start touching women in public this way recently. In BuzzFeedKatherine Miller writes, “Everybody already knows what they think about Joe Biden putting his hands on people, because we’ve all seen this happen in public. We’ve seen Biden kiss people at public events! We’ve all had years to think about it!” And not many people were upset about it while Biden was vice president — at least not many people on the Left; our John Fund mentioned this in 2015, as did Victor Davis Hanson. I wrote that year that “Biden’s style is a bit ‘hands-on.’”

    I think it's overwrought, sure. But as Sarah Hoyt points out at Instapundit: what Biden has been seen doing is objectively worse than anything Clarence Thomas was accused of.

  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang for (pay attention here) a San Francisco Chronicle story about the new design for Mississippi licence plates: Humanist group objects to 'In God We Trust' license plate.

    A national group that includes atheists and agnostics is objecting to Mississippi's new standard license plate design that has the phrase "In God We Trust."

    The American Humanist Association sent a letter Thursday to the state's revenue commissioner and attorney general. It demands that Mississippi either set a new standard license plate design without a religious phrase or allow people to get another license plate design without paying an extra fee.

    The plates contain an image of the Mississippi state seal, which (in turn) contains the IGWT phrasing. And the LFOD reference is:

    The American Humanist Association's letter to Mississippi officials cites a 1977 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a dispute over the phrase "Live Free or Die" on New Hampshire's standard license plate. People who were Jehovah's Witnesses sued the state, saying the phrase was "repugnant to their moral, religious and political beliefs."

    The article fails to note the presence of IGWT on every bit of American currency. Wikipedia article on the phrase here.

    I bet the American Humanist Association wouldn't be griping about E Pluribus Unum.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • At Vox, Jacob Levy gives a wonderfully contrarian take: The idea of a “wrong side of history” will be considered unthinkable 50 years from now.

    “What will be on the wrong side of history in 50 years time?” The very question is one of superstition and myth. In fact, the very idea that there is a wrong or right side of history has been the moral justification for a variety of historical horrors that were steeped in ideas of modernity and technological mastery.

    Martin Luther King Jr., who famously encouraged hope by saying that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” later offered a different approach. In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” he wrote: “Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively.”

    It's a symposium, so you can look around for other answers to the question “What do we do now that will be considered unthinkable in 50 years?”

    I'd like to think the answer is "take socialism seriously", but that's just me.

  • At Econlib, David Henderson puts forth his Short Case Against Occupational Licensing. It's short, RTWT, but:

    In his 1962 classic, Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman even made a case for ending licensing of doctors. He pointed out that licensing made doctors’ fees higher than otherwise, causing some people to get less medical care than otherwise. An alternative he proposed, which many economists favor for many currently licensed occupations, is certification. In a discussion I had with the earlier mentioned Alan Krueger on NPR, Krueger said that some reduction of licensing would be good, but he “wouldn’t want an unlicensed doctor to touch” him. I would, if a trustworthy certifier had given thumbs up. Indeed, many of us wouldn’t want even licensed doctors to treat us on particularly serious ailments if they were not certified for that ailment. If we had certification rather than licensing, I predict that we would quickly have at least 10 percent more doctors, as foreign doctors resident in the United States came out of the woodwork and more of them moved here.

    Rebutting the "consumer protection" argument, David notes that he's unaware of any consumers, ever, pushing for licensing.

  • Are the Berniecrats behind Biden bashing? James Barrett writes at the Daily Wire: As More Accusers Come Forward, Team Bernie's 'Blood Boiling' Over 'Creepy Biden' Blame Game.

    On Tuesday, two more women came forward to accuse former Vice President Joe Biden of touching them inappropriately, further inflaming the already damaging "Creepy Joe" narrative. Amid mounting pressure for Biden to more fully address the accusations, the embattled would-be president's team is reportedly increasingly convinced that Bernie Sanders' camp is promoting the scandal — an accusation that has Bernie's backers' "blood boiling."

    I'm impressed by the alliteration.

  • Emily Jashinsky, writing at the Federalist notes the latest brain fart from Christiane Amanpour: 'Lock Her Up' Is 'Hate Speech' The FBI Should 'Shut Down'.

    Amanpour’s assertion about the anti-Clinton language came in the form of a question to James Comey during a live sit-down interview with the former FBI director on CNN Tuesday afternoon. Here’s the exact wording:

    Of course, ‘lock her up’ was a feature of the 2016 Trump campaign. Do you, in retrospect, wish that people like yourself, the FBI, I mean, the people in charge of law and order, had shut down that language—that it was dangerous potentially, that it could’ve created violence, that it’s kind of hate speech. Should that have been allowed?

    Amanpour is a "journalist", and one might expect her to have at least heard people talk about the First Amendment? Guess not.

    Comey (to his credit) mentioned that "The beauty of this country is people can say what they want, even if it’s misleading and it’s demagoguery.” Or just chain-yanking.

  • And Bill Gates has our Tweet du Jour:

    Might be a boondoggle, but really: anyone who's actually concerned about climate change should start advocating for increasing use of nuclear power.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Katherine Mangu-Ward, editor-in-chief of Reason, speaks out in favor of Stuff. Because Stuff Sparks Joy.

    When Bernie Sanders and Tucker Carlson agree on something, be afraid. The democratic socialist senator and the populist conservative pundit are not natural allies. But recently, they have converged on a single point of consensus with potentially terrifying consequences: Americans have too much stuff.

    A subset of conservatives has long espoused its own variant of anti-consumerism, typically concerned more with the corruption of the immortal soul than the planet. But in January, Fox News host Tucker Carlson highlighted how aligned the views of the populist right and the socialist left have become on issues of trade, industry, jobs, and markets. "Does anyone still believe that cheaper iPhones or more Amazon deliveries of plastic garbage from China are going to make us happy? They haven't so far," he asked, in the middle of an impassioned monologue imploring viewers to turn away from the idea that markets are a force for good. "Libertarians tell us that's how markets work—consenting adults making voluntary decisions about how to live their lives," he sneered. "OK. But it's also disgusting."

    A subset of conservatives has long espoused its own variant of anti-consumerism, typically concerned more with the corruption of the immortal soul than the planet. But in January, Fox News host Tucker Carlson highlighted how aligned the views of the populist right and the socialist left have become on issues of trade, industry, jobs, and markets. "Does anyone still believe that cheaper iPhones or more Amazon deliveries of plastic garbage from China are going to make us happy? They haven't so far," he asked, in the middle of an impassioned monologue imploring viewers to turn away from the idea that markets are a force for good. "Libertarians tell us that's how markets work—consenting adults making voluntary decisions about how to live their lives," he sneered. "OK. But it's also disgusting."

    Katherine pushes back on Tucker and Bernie, hard, by invoking the "tiny Japanese deity of tidiness, Marie Kondo." Katherine is a very worthy heir to a previous Reason editor, Virginia Postrel.

  • And, darn it, I forget to include this classic yesterday from Mark Perry:

  • Mark Jamison of AEI may have found A dark(er) side of Elizabeth Warren’s war on tech?.

    If presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) gets her way, the people who give you D+ infrastructure, an impoverished postal system, and the 38th best math education in the world will also be in charge of the news you see, your online shopping, and how you find information. What could possibly go wrong?

    In a nutshell, Sen. Warren’s plan is to break up Facebook, Amazon, and Google and turn what’s left into federally regulated utility platforms. Why? Her basic case for breaking up these companies is that they are large.

    Mark goes on to imagine a hypothetical Federal Bureau of Platform Control. It's not a pretty picture, Emily.

  • The Google LFOD News Alert had a lot of business of late. First up is an LTE from Michelle Sanborn in the Laconia Daily Sun: Both parties bow to corporate wishes in Live Free Or Die state. Michelle is an advocate for the "Community Rights Amendment" (text here). Basically, it gives cities and towns the power to regulate local "corporations and other business entities".

    It recently failed to advance in the legislature, and Michelle is pretty put out about it:

    This result defines party politics, right down to the pressure to conform that made legislators buckle and abandon their constituents. Individual state representatives on both sides of the aisle expressed principled support for securing the right of local self-governance in the Live Free or Die state. But after the parties caucused prior to this year’s committee executive session and before the House vote on the N.H. Community Rights Amendment, some representatives who had taken a stand on the side of the people they represent changed their votes and aligned instead with the agenda of party leadership and their corporate handlers to vote against the amendment.

    Unsurprisingly, anyone who owned a business would be scared of a vaguely-worded blank check handed over to local activists.

  • Tunf is a news portal "focused on covering all the ongoing news related to Business, Sports, Casinos, Gambling & Cryptocurrencies." So the ongoing controversy is a natural: New Hampshire Investigating Legalisation of Sports Betting.

    New Hampshire is following the lead of many states in American, and seriously investigating the possibility of legalising sports betting in the state. However, the complications of legalisation and regulation continue to complicate the matter.

    No foolin'. Although what's being considered isn't really "legalization". If you or I decided to set up a bookie joint, that would still be illegal. What it is: a state-granted monopoly to folks who would proceed to get rich, sheilded from competition.

    Anyway, the path is rocky and uncertain. The author gets in the usual invocation:

    If, for whatever reason, the authorities continue to drag their heels on this issue, then one must question whether the state’s motto of “Live Free or Die” will indeed remain appropriate…

    Dude, LFOD has been the motto since 1945. And sports betting has been illegal that entire time. If sports betting stays illegal, somehow we've got to get rid of the motto? I don't think so.

  • And one of the provinces of our northern neighbor is looking to come up with a new license plate slogan. Ontarian Lorraine Sommerfield urges her readers: Keep the political branding off Ontario’s licence plates.

    Beautiful British Columbia. Wild Rose Country. Land of Living Skies. Friendly Manitoba. Yours to Discover. Je me Souviens. Canada’s Ocean Playground. Birthplace of Confederation. Klondike. The shape of an actual polar bear.

    What do these licence plate slogans — and shapes — have in common? They all show a desire to embrace what is best about their region of this country, its beauty, its possibilities. They all show a need to demonstrate the glories of the Canadian landscape, the importance of our history, and to invite others to experience those things. Like most American states, Canadians choose slogans to represent us at our best, and to celebrate the extraordinary natural world we live in.

    Open for Business, proposes Doug Ford. Well, that’s somewhat less soothing. But it is the newest change being offered up by Ontario’s Conservative government, in an earnest attempt to make Ontario sound like the grubby edge of town where all the steel plants are.

    I agree, it's stupid, and Conservatives should be ashamed.

    But guess what, Ontario? You can't have LFOD. It's taken. It's American. And it doesn't sound as if Lorraine would want it anyway:

    Idaho plates say “Great Potatoes”, and I love it. New Hampshire gets right to the point with “Live Free or Die”, something that always makes me raise an eyebrow as a helmetless motorcyclist blasts by. Virginia used to be for history lovers, but then they got bold and omitted the word, “history”. The District of Columbia is the only place that displays a protest on every plate: “Taxation Without Representation”, a reminder that they pay taxes but have no vote in Congress. Americans, like Canadians, make the most of that little space running across the bottom of the plates, frequently changing it up, but always hewing to the wonder and beauty of where they live, displaying pride in what matters most to them.

    You know who's from Ontario? Paul Anka. So, how about "I Did It My Way"? Pretty good, right? Almost as good as LFOD.


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

Yet another wasted Netflix pick. Some algorithm glitch said: "Paul's really going to like this. More than Ralph Breaks the Internet or that Magnificent Seven remake with Denzel."

Nope, not even close. Although Jack Black tries his best.

There's a teenager, Zach, new kid in school. His mom is also new in school, she's the new Vice Principal. (I may have missed the movie's necessity for this stretch.) They have moved in next door to a spooky old house, inhabited by a disagreeable neighbor who preemptively warns Zach to stay the heck away.

But it turns out the house also holds Hannah, a cute teen who seems to be interested in Zach, so…

And finally, it's revealed that the grumpy neighbor is actually the author of the Goosebumps series, R. L. Stine. And the monsters in those books are real, and they are only being held at bay by their original books' texts being kept under lock and key.

Remarkably flimsy locks as it happens. And the upshot is obvious and very, very, predictable. I napped a lot, but did not feel the need to rewatch in order to fill in what I missed.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • David French responds to a critic who didn't appreciate French's claim that Virginia's abortion law promoted ‘infanticide’ and ‘barbarism': ‘Abortion Kills a Baby’ Is Not an ‘Uncivil’ Argument.

    A person can and typically should tell difficult truths without being uncivil or indecent. It is one thing to contest an idea, or to share a fact, or even to offer your own description (like “barbaric”). It is another thing entirely to offer personal insults or ascribe evil motives to your opponents — especially when we (unlike Christ) can’t see into people’s hearts. Moreover, petty insults are particularly pernicious coming from Christians. We know that our virtue comes from Christ, not ourselves. We can boast only in Him and should be grateful, not proud, when we are able to perceive truth.

    It is a common tactic in public discourse to try to banish ideas from debate by labeling their very utterance “uncivil.” You see this in the battle over gender identity, where it is now considered so malicious to refer to transgender people with pronouns that match their biological sex that in some jurisdictions you can even face legal sanction if you call Chelsea Manning “he.” We saw this in the battle over gay marriage, where even expressing the idea that marriage is properly defined as the union of a man and woman was seen as too outrageous to utter.

    [Amazon Link]

    I've been mulling the Arthur C. Brooks thesis that we should love our enemies (although I haven't read his book yet). I suppose you can call the Virginia law "barbaric", but people will inevitably jump to the implication that the law's supporters are, therefore, barbarians.

    This is not even venturing into a more straightforward counterexample…

  • Specifically, the example of Congresscritter Ocasio-Cortez. The Minuteman recounts her latest history-challenged allegation: AOC Doubles Down On Dumb. Specifically, AOC initially claimed: "[Congress] had to amend the Constitution of the United States to make sure Roosevelt dd not get reelected."

    Hmm. The 22nd Amendment that was eventually adopted emerged from the 80th Congress which convened in 1947 (p. 69, "Amendments to the Constitution: A Brief Legislative History". FDR had died in 1945; as an attempt to prevent his re-election the 22nd Amendment was sure to succeed. So har de har, AOC don't know much about history. In any case, the text of the 22nd Amendment includes a clause that makes it inapplicable to the officeholder(s) during the period of proposal and ratification (which was 1951).

    Worse: Newsweek attempted to defend AOC's ahistoricism. (You have to read very closely to discover Newsweek's admission that the 22nd Amendment, as proposed, would not have applied to FDR even if it had been magically ratified before his 1944 re-election.)

    And subsequently AOC used Newsweek to mock her critics. Hence, doubling down on dumb.

    Interestingly, Newsweek changed its article's headline from:


    to (as I type):


    I think that's an implicit admission that, yes, she was actually wrong.

    So, what I want to discuss with Arthur C. Brooks is: I don't consider either AOC or Newsweek to be my "enemies", exactly. But it's difficult to point out their dishonesty and stupidity without slopping over into implications that they are dishonest and stupid.

    If that's "loving your enemies", it's very tough love.

  • At Reason, J.D. Tuccille has a strong suggestion: Media Must Drop the Political Shenanigans and Get Back to Scrutinizing the Powerful.

    Looking for evidence that ink- and pixel-stained wretches are their own worst enemies when it comes to destroying public trust in the media? Consider the continuing turmoil of a week which closed with an MSNBC news editor pressuring a freelance writer on behalf of the Democratic Party just days after media types donned collective frowny faces because an investigation apparently did not find evidence that the president conspired with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election.

    That MSNBC editor, Dafna Linzer, called journalist Yashar Ali to try and convince him to delay or kill a small story that would slightly inconvenience the Democratic Party over its presidential primary debate plans. According to Ali, "the head of all political coverage for NBC News and MSNBC" had not been "calling to advocate for her network, she was calling to advocate the DNC's position."

    As noted at in an evergreen Instapundit quip: "Just think of the media as Democratic Party operatives with bylines, and it all makes sense."

  • David Harsanyi at the Federalist fails to embrace the Zuck: Mark Zuckerberg's Plan For The Internet Would Be A Disaster For Free Speech.

    In a recent op-ed, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg implored the state to get more involved in governing the internet. “Every day, we make decisions about what speech is harmful, what constitutes political advertising, and how to prevent sophisticated cyberattacks,” he began. “These are important for keeping our community safe. But if we were starting from scratch, we wouldn’t ask companies to make these judgments alone.”

    Zuckerberg’s case for government-instituted speech codes is a cynical attempt to deflect criticism aimed at his company. But it’s also propelled by two corrosive political myths.

    Harsanyi notes:

    1. There’s no such thing as “harmful speech”;
    2. There's nothing stopping Zuck from ridding Facebook of whatever speech he doesn't like;
    3. There's no responsibility for anyone else, let alone Your Federal Government, to aid and abet him in his censorship quest;
    4. There's less than zero evidence Your Federal Government would be very good at that job anyway;
    5. Facebook users can already block or ignore accounts they consider offensive;
    6. What Zuck really wants is uniform censorship, eliminating competition on that facet.

    … and maybe some other points I missed.

  • And Mr. Ramirez pays homage to a classic, while still commenting on current events:

    What we need at this moment: Ben Stein intoning "Mueller? … Mueller? … Mueller?"

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

Welcome to April, everyone. In preperation for Earth Day, our Amazon Product du Jour, as noted by Philip Greenspun, shows that the Green New Deal need not cost as much as everyone feared; it's a cool $199.95!

  • Jim Geraghty's Morning Jolt is always worth reading whole-thing-wise, but I just wanted to quote this observation:

    It’s April Fool’s Day, but the world has been so weird lately, the holiday almost seems superfluous

    Indeed. I assume there are some lies I've already taken seriously.

  • Over at Reason, Katherine Mangu-Ward continues to do a great job as editor-in-chief, and she somehow has time to write about rockets in the print magazine. She says You Can't Shut Down Space.

    On the 34th day of the recent government shutdown at 4 p.m., a huge cloud billowed out from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. It had been produced by a successful static test fire of the Falcon 9, which will ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station sometime in the next few months. It will be the first such flight since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, essentially marking an American return to manned spaceflight.

    On the day of the test fire, about 95 percent of NASA's workforce was on furlough, having been deemed non-essential to government functioning. How did NASA manage such a milestone with a skeleton crew?

    It didn't. The Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon capsule that sits atop it were built by SpaceX, a privately held company founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk. The vehicle's tests and flights are being conducted on contract with NASA as part of the Commercial Crew Program, which represents a tiny fraction of the overall cost of the U.S. space effort. The program is a classic study in the power and pitfalls of privatization, and it may be our best chance to get off this godforsaken rock.

    We are itchin' for NASA to refactor itself and get out of the welfare-for-certain-zipcodes business. (There's plenty of that in Defense.)

  • Myles Weber, writing at Quillette writes on When a Question of Science Brooks No Dissent.

    As a university professor, I am best positioned to report on the widespread incompetence and malfeasance found specifically in academe. A work colleague once corrected me on a matter concerning the greenhouse effect. With no scientific training, he had recently moderated a panel discussion on climate change in an attempt to convince students to support our university president’s Green Initiative, which as far as I could tell reduced carbon dioxide emissions not at all but placed undue strain on the university’s finances, which in turn put upward pressure on tuition costs. I mentioned to my colleague in passing that, from an educational standpoint, the term greenhouse gas was an unfortunate misnomer since the architectural design of an actual greenhouse is not closely related to the physical properties of tropospheric greenhouse gases.

    His colleague was under the impression that greenhouses worked because (honest!) their glass was full of CO2.

    [Briefly: "greenhouse gases" are those that are transparent to (incoming) visible light but relatively opaque to infrared. An actual greenhouse works by physically blocking sun-heated air from escaping. Even more briefly: radiation vs. convection.]

  • Power Line notes Mark Zuckerberg's WaPo op-ed in which he advocates "four areas" which demand (government) regulation: "harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability." Note that first thing. In other words, John Hinderaker notes, Facebook Calls For Censorship.

    The First Amendment does not allow government to suppress speech on the ground that it is “harmful.” Harmfulness is not a constitutionally significant concept. I personally believe that every word that emanates from the Democratic National Committee is harmful, and the world would be better off without the DNC or its speech. But that does not give me the right to ban it, even if I happen to control Congress.

    Tempting, though, to do some self-petard hosting.

  • Mark J. Perry pre-deflates some propaganda you're likely to see tomorrow: For Equal Pay Day (Apr. 2): Evidence of employers paying women 20% less than men for the same work is as elusive as Bigfoot sightings.

    This week gender activists and feminist organizations like the American Association of  University Women will be promoting “Equal Pay Day” on Tuesday, April 2 and this is an update of my “Bigfoot” post from a year ago to help counteract some of questionable statistics and mythology that get recycled every year in early April about the “gender pay gap.” The annual event known as Equal Pay Day brings awareness to a completely bogus apples-to-oranges comparison of median incomes by gender. Specifically this year’s Equal Pay Day will publicize the 20% unadjusted difference in median annual earnings for women and men working full-time in 2018 (most recent data available) when absolutely nothing relevant is controlled for that would help explain that 20% raw differences in income like hours worked, marital status, number of children, education, occupation, number of years of continuous uninterrupted job experience, working conditions, work safety, workplace flexibility, family friendliness of the workplace, job security, and time spent commuting.

    He's also got one of his famous Venn diagrams; I'll see if I can't post that tomorrow.

  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson writes on American Nationalism and Public Policy in the Trump Era.

    Trump-era nationalism is about 3 percent policy and 97 percent aesthetics, rhetoric, and affectation, a kind of identity politics of the Right. That is one of the reasons why critics such as Tucker Carlson […] have so much trouble describing in meaningful terms what it is they want. They are well-versed in who is to blame, but a little vague on what to do. This fundamentally aesthetic orientation also is one of the reasons for the nationalist bias toward that which is easily visible and comprehensible: steel mills, not logistics, “Made in China” labels on consumer goods in Walmart, not integrated supply chains, software, or intellectual capital. It helps to explain the bumptiousness, narrowness, and pettiness so closely associated with nationalism as it is in fact currently practiced, in situ, as opposed to in essay form—a politics not of love and community (including community with future generations) but one of resentment and anxiety. Not manifest destiny but the melancholy long withdrawing roar. The associated variety of politically proprietary patriotism has its obvious counterpart in the adolescent and often unserious anti-patriotism of the Left, which is why we have expended so much spittle in a national confrontation over sporting-event etiquette.

    I'm eschewing the "nationalism" label as overbroad.

  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang for a Patheos article by Rebecca Bratten Weiss: Contrapasso in the Heartlands: When We Reject The Common Good.

    […] here in the US, we’ve long adhered to a form of radical individualism which may look heroic on the surface, but which, when you begin to analyze it, looks self-defeating. Even the slogan “live free or die,” which sounds so epic, is a little nonsensical, given how little freedom we actually have. It also carries with it the dangerous idea that without freedom we’re better off dead. Freedom from what, or freedom to do what, rarely gets defined. But in America, “at least we know we’re free” – don’t stop and analyze it! Don’t ask whether it’s true! Just repeat it, wave the flag, and distrust the government (when it suits you, and if you happen to be white.

    Yes, Ms. Weiss is tedious. She doesn't really understand freedom. Still, worth reading to find out how confused the Other Side can get.

    Or maybe I've been taken in by an April Fool joke.