URLs du Jour

2019-04-20

[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.