URLs du Jour

2019-04-16

[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.)

    Anyway:

    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