URLs du Jour

2019-05-04

[Amazon Link]

  • At Cato, Ryan Bourne plays Government Jeopardy! Specifically: $2 trillion: The Infrastructure Answer To What Question?.

    Media reports suggest President Trump and Democratic leaders have agreed in principle to a $2 trillion infrastructure plan “to upgrade the nation’s highways, railroads, bridges and broadband.”

    Minor details such as how to finance it have yet to be agreed. White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney doubts the deal will come to fruition anyway, given differences between the parties on environmental regulations surrounding new projects.

    But it’s difficult to think of a worse way to make major policy than to dream up a big round number and then work backwards in deciding how money is spent.

    When a deal is touted as "bipartisan", it's a safe bet that's a synonym for "bad for the taxpayer".

    With respect to the Amazon Product du Jour, I can't find any recent news about Mitt Romney weighing in on this proposal.


  • Theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder offers advice at her blog: How to live without free will. It's (yet another) effort via crude reductionism to explain away free will as a "stubbornly persistent illusion." One of her bits of advice:

    No one presently knows exactly what consciousness is or what it is good for, but we know that parts of it are self-monitoring, attentional focus, and planning ahead. A lot of the processes in your brain are not conscious, presumably because that would be computationally inefficient. Unconscious processes, however, can affect your conscious decisions. If you want to make good decisions, you must understand not only the relevance of input, but also how your own brain works. Instead of thinking that your efforts are futile, identify your goals and the strategies you have for working towards them. You are monitoring the monitor, if you wish.

    No matter how you feel about free will, you don't get to avoid making decisions, or shirking responsibility for your actions. So I think "illusion" is a poor word to describe free will. Illusions typically don't survive prolonged contact with reality so well.

    I don't have a better word, though.

    I also read a lot of the comments. Given her position, Sabine is usually (but not always, and who could blame her) reasonable and measured in her responses to them.


  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum asks the musical question: Did the Attorney General Commit a Crime by Lying to Congress?. Spoiler: probably not.

    The perjury statute, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, pretty clearly does not apply to Barr's April 9 testimony. Whether 18 USC 1001 applies is a closer call. But if we give Barr the benefit of the doubt, which is what he would get if he were actually prosecuted for lying to Congress, his "masterful hairsplitting" seems like enough to prevent a conviction.

    Also see a more full-throated defense of Barr at NR from Andrew McCarthy: The Big Lie That Barr Lied


  • Or you can read Jonah Goldberg's G-File this week on the same general topic: William Barr's Testimony -- Cover-Up Allegations Reveal a Never-Ending Spin Cycle.

    You know that feeling when you and your fellow Knights Templar are sitting around drinking absinthe-flavored Fresca watching turtles play chess, but no one else notices that the bigger turtle, which is actually a rare breed of parrot that likes to wear unlicensed Phish concert T-shirts, brings its queen out way too early? No wait, that’s a different feeling. A somewhat related one is when everybody is screaming about stuff you don’t think is scream-worthy.

    That’s how I feel about this Barr stuff. On the substance, I mostly fall in with my colleagues on this one. Bill Barr stands accused of a heinous cover-up. But he didn’t actually cover up anything. He wrote a letter that characterized the findings of the Mueller report in terms that were favorable to the president, but not inaccurate. The monster! He then released the report less than a month later with minimal and, by most objective accounts, perfectly reasonable redactions.

    In the long history of attorneys general playing the role of political fixers and cronies, this doesn’t seem to amount to much. George Washington’s first — “handpicked” — attorney general, Edmund Randolph, served as a political operative and confidante of the president. JFK appointed his 35-year-old, unqualified brother to run interference for him. FDR’s first AG was a former head of the DNC who spent much of his tenure concocting dubious constitutional arguments to give the boss wartime powers over the economy. If you’ve seen Boardwalk Empire, you probably know that Harding’s AG, Harry Daugherty, was a piece of work.

    I wish I could come up with that stuff as easily as Jonah. I mean, how do you do this?

    Much like that time the border patrol opened my car’s trunk during my Bolivian-tree-frog-smuggling phase, a few things jump out at me.

    Work backward from the last part, I guess. But I'm pretty sure I'd sound stupider if I tried.


  • At the Federalist, David Harsanyi didn't get the memo about not calling leftists "liberals". But other than that, he's on target: Liberals Were Very Wrong About Tax Cuts. Once Again..

    The tenor of left-wing cable news and punditry was predictably panic-stricken. After asserting that the cuts wouldn’t help create a single job, Bruce Bartlett told MSNBC that tax relief was “really akin to rape.” Kurt Eichenwald tweeted that “America died tonight … Millenials [sic]: move away if you can. USA is over. We killed it.” “I’m a Depression historian,” read the headline on a Washington Post op-ed. “The GOP tax bill is straight out of 1929,” proclaimed the same writer. And so on.

    None of this is even getting into the MSM’s straight news coverage, which persistently (and falsely) painted the bill as a tax cut for the wealthy. “One-Third of Middle Class Families Could End up Paying More Under the GOP Tax Plan” noted Money magazine. An Associated Press headline read, “House Passes First Rewrite of Nation’s Tax Laws in Three Decades, Providing Steep Tax Cuts for Businesses, the Wealthy.” “Poor Americans Would Lose Billions Under Senate GOP Tax Bill” reported CNN. Yahoo News ran one piece after the next predicting doom.

    Instead we got… well, as the WSJ headline screams at me this morning: "Jobless Rate Hits a 50-Year Low"