URLs du Jour

2019-07-23

[Amazon Link]

  • Our last P. J. O'Rourke selection for the month, from American Consequences, on a topic under heated discussion of late: Patriotism Versus Nationalism.

    The difference between patriotism and nationalism is the difference between the love a father has for his family and the love a Godfather has for his “family” – the Bonanno family, the Colombo family, the Gambino family, the Genovese family, the Lucchese family…

    Patriotism is a warm and personal business. Nationalism is another business entirely. It’s the kind of business Salvatore Tessio talks to Tom Hagen about after Tessio’s betrayal of Michael Corleone.

    Tessio: “Tell Mike it was just business.”

    P. J. refers to Orwell's 1945 essay Notes on Nationalism. Which outlines the distinction without reference to The Godfather:

    By ‘nationalism’ I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’(1). But secondly — and this is much more important — I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognising no other duty than that of advancing its interests. Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.

    Neither O'Rourke nor O'Rwell buy the thesis of our Amazon Product du Jour, which uses "Argumentum ad dictionarium". Thought by many authorities to be potentially fallacious. (Also fallacious: appeal to authority, so you might want to work this out on your own.)


  • Good Lord, this reminds me of the books I used to gobble up in the 1970s: The Coming Economic Crash — And How to Stop It.

    Except that those books were mostly about how to survive it, not stop it. Anyway, alarmism sells. And the linked entry is by Elizabeth Warren, not (say) Howard Ruff.

    And what she's trying to get you to buy is not her investment advice. Instead, the only recipe for disaster is to give her and her (theoretical) government a lot more power to boss people around. E.g.:

    Monitor and reduce leveraged corporate lending: In response to the 2008 crisis, Congress created the Financial Stability Oversight Council — made up of the heads of the financial regulatory agencies — to monitor risks that cut across different markets. The risks of leveraged lending are exactly the kind of thing FSOC is supposed to monitor, but the Trump-era FSOC is falling down on the job. It should meet specifically to discuss these risks and announce a plan for addressing them. Federal regulators should also enforce leveraged lending guidance that is intended to stop banks from issuing these risky loans in the first place.

    Predictions are difficult, especially about the future, but I suspect that the most likely scenario to drive our country into the economic ditch starts with Elizabeth Warren getting elected.


  • But I've always wanted to ask prophets of economic doom to provide the following full-disclosure information:
    1. What did your investment portfolio look like five years ago?
    2. How has it performed since then?
    3. What does it look like today?
    Not too much to ask, right? I assume Senator Warren has gone all in on short positions on stocks. Or, there's even mutual funds that will do that for you. For example, the Grizzly Short Fund (GRZZX). Which (as I type) is
    • down 21.62% YTD;
    • down 12.61% over the past year;
    • averages a -16.18% return over the past three years;
    • a -11.03% return over the past 5 years;
    • and a -16.79% return over the past 10 years.

    If you'd bought $10,000 worth of GRZZX 10 years ago, you'd now have a cool $1592.

    Not to say Liz is wrong. She could be right. But I want to know her track record.


  • We've been harping on Google playing footsie with the Chinese dictators, possibly offering a version of their search engine to the masses that wouldn't return anything that might embarrass the thugs in power. But, according to Taylor Millard at Hot Air, Google: Project Dragonfly is terminated. Promise..

    Lost in the kerfuffle over Houston Congressman Al Green’s failed attempt to get an impeachment vote on President Donald Trump and the “send her back” chants is a rather interesting piece of news regarding Google’s censored search engine for China.

    It’s deader than Jacob Marley.

    Google’s Karan Bhatia told a U.S. Senate committee on Wednesday the company was no longer working on the project using the phrase, “we have terminated that,” when asked by Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley. A Google spokesperson provided a little more context to Buzzfeed.

    Well, fine. I promise to terminate my criticism. About this one thing.


  • Inside Sources opens its pages to Mark Sanford, allegedly thinking about challenging the Donald for the GOP nomination: The Deafening Silence on Debt and Deficits in the 2020 Debate.

    A national debate is a terrible thing to waste.

    On July 30 and 31, twenty of the Democrats running for president will participate in yet another four hours of political debate. If past is prologue, not one of them will mention the massive debt that hangs over our country and its future.

    And, if things stay on script, President Trump will have something to say—or rather, tweet–about those debates, too. But none of his commentary will confront the surge in spending and debt happening on his watch.

    This is not a coincidence.

    Just think: if Sanford campaigns in New Hampshire, he could actually hike the Appalachian Trail.

    Still, I'd vote for him over Trump or Weld.


  • Because, as Daniel J. Mitchell points out, Reckless and Irresponsible: Trump Is Making Big Government Even Bigger. He quotes the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB):

    …this agreement is a total abdication of fiscal responsibility by Congress and the President. It may end up being the worst budget agreement in our nation’s history, proposed at a time when our fiscal conditions are already precarious. If this deal passes, President Trump will have increased discretionary spending by as much as 22 percent over his first term… There was a time when Republicans insisted on a dollar of spending cuts for every dollar increase in the debt limit. It’s hard to believe they are now considering the opposite – attaching $2 trillion of spending increases to a similar-sized debt limit hike.

    But don't worry, Dan. There's nothing Trump can do that Democrats can't do worse.

URLs du Jour

2019-07-22

[Amazon Link]

  • Kevin D. Williamson writes at National Review on Ilhan Omar & ‘Send Her Back’: Our Eroding Sense of Citizenship. He manages to say well what I've tried to say, poorly, over the past few days:

    ‘Send her back!” they chanted, meaning Representative Ilhan Omar, the Somalia-born Jew-hating weirdo elected to Congress by the ghastly fruitcakes who run things in Minneapolis. President Donald J. Trump, elected president by the ghastly nut cutlets who run things in much of the rest of the country, basked in the chant, glowing like a gopher sauntering forth from Chernobyl — he was, in effect, hearing his own daft words shouted back at him ecstatically, and he has a real weakness for that sort of thing.

    Much has been made about whether the episode and Trump’s words inspiring it were racist; my own view is that Donald Trump is incapable of being a racist in the traditional sense of that word, because racism is derived from a perverted and misapplied sense of loyalty, a sentiment from which President Trump is manifestly immune. What is more interesting — and more troubling — is what the exchange says about our eroding sense of citizenship.

    RTWT, of course, but if you still need to brush up on the whole "citizen" concept, I recommend buying our Amazon Product du Jour.


  • At Slate, Ruth Graham ponders the weighty question that you might not have realized was a question: Who Gets to Be the Next Poet Laureate of New Hampshire? And for those of us with unrefined tastes, it's very very funny.

    In his poem “New Hampshire,” Robert Frost once called his home “a most restful state.” But these days, New Hampshire’s tightknit poetry community is anything but restful. “I don’t want to pussyfoot anymore,” said Marie Harris, a former state poet laureate. “We tried our best not to be confrontational, and not to splash it all over the news, but the time has come.” At issue is a controversial nominee for state laureate, private negotiations with a governor who says he’s “not a poetry expert,” and a bit of verse that an elected official described to me as “a misogynistic poem about sex with Condoleezza Rice on Air Force One.”

    As described in a 1967 state statute, the selection process for poet laureate is supposed to work like this: A nonprofit organization called the Poetry Society of New Hampshire evaluates nominations for the position and then makes a recommendation to the governor. The governor takes the nomination to the state’s five-person executive council and then formally makes the appointment. The five-year position comes with a $500 annual stipend from the Poetry Society and the honor of joining a distinguished list of New Hampshire state poet laureates that has included nationally known writers like Donald Hall, Maxine Kumin, and Jane Kenyon.

    I can hear you clamoring for that Condi poem. Oh, all right;

    Condoleeza are we
    not the lucky ones,
    Happier than a
    barrel of nuns.
    Like impetuous kids
    we would have our fun
    In the lavatory
    on Air Force One.

    For additional works (including the classic "A Sonnet for Our Lesbians in Orbit") see Moran's page at Asinine Poetry.

    Governor Sununu shoulda known better than to pick a fight with the Poetry Society of New Hampshire. Those folks play rough.


  • At Reason, Eric Boehm provides the latest offering in Pun Salad's "Of Course She Did" department: Pelosi Rejects Plan to Cut Spending by Less Than 0.3 Percent

    Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) rejected a White House offer on Friday to cut $150 billion in federal spending over 10 years as a part of a possible deal to raise the debt ceiling.

    Now, $150 billion might sound like a large amount of money. But relative to how much money the federal government is set to spend over the next 10 years, the White House's proposed cut is roughly equivalent to deciding you'll eat one fewer Chipotle burrito per month for the next decade. That's not going to pay off a maxed-out credit card.

    The fact that Pelosi rejected such a comically small reduction without even giving her colleagues the chance to consider it tells you all you need to know about the state of fiscal responsibility in Washington right now.

    It's fun to blame Pelosi for fiscal irresponsibility, and goodness knows she deserves it. But she's a politician. And she knows how to read the polls. See, for example: Gallup's numbers on what we consider to be the nation's Most Important Problem. Try to find where the deficit ranks.

    Save most of your scorn for the voters in our democratic system.


  • At Quillette, James Lindsay describes How the Left Turned Words Into 'Violence,' and Violence Into 'Justice'.

    Responding to news that journalist Andy Ngo had been beaten by antifa protestors in Portland last month, a woman named Charlotte Clymer tweeted that “Ngo intentionally provokes people on the left to drive his content. Being attacked today on video taken by an actual journalist (because Ngo is definitely not) is the greatest thing that could have happened to his career. You know it. I know it. He knows it. We all know it. Violence is completely wrong, and I find it sad and weak to allow a sniveling weasel like Andy Ngo to get under one’s skin like this, but I’m also not going to pretend this wasn’t Ngo’s goal from the start. I mean, let’s cut the shit here. This is what they do.”

    Who is Charlotte Clymer? She is an activist who works at the Human Rights Campaign, America’s “largest LGBTQ civil rights organization,” which supposedly “envision[s] a world where LGBTQ people are ensured equality at home, at work [and] in every community.” Andy Ngo, who has written for Quillette, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and other publications, happens to be gay. So this is where we are right now: A staffer for a human-rights organization dedicated to helping gay people is publicly cheering the beating of a gay man. This should raise an eyebrow.

    Bitch was asking for it, according to Charlotte. There are, as near as I can tell, no demands from anyone inside or outside the Human Rights Campaign for Charlotte to step down from the HRC's "Press Secretary, Rapid Response" position.


  • Philosopher Michael Huemer writes that Intellectual Conformity Is Adaptive. Leveraging quotes from Bertie Russell (“Most people would rather die than think; in fact, they do so.”) and George Bernard Shaw (“Two percent of the people think; three percent of the people think they think; and ninety-five percent of the people would rather die than think.”), Huemer makes some interesting points, and then…

    Many thinkers in the Russell-Shaw sense are crazy. Independent, intellectual reflection leads to craziness, and intelligence is no defense against it. Conformity, however, is a defense against craziness — at least certain kinds of craziness that would otherwise be common.

    One can cite extreme cases, such as the Unabomber, who tried to start some kind of anti-technology revolution by sending mail bombs to scientists. Before his criminal career, he was a brilliant UC Berkeley mathematics professor. (Not just a regular math professor, which is already very smart, but an exceptional one.) But then he started thinking about … industrial society and its future. Which led him to radical conclusions, which led him to start a campaign of terrorism, and landed him in prison for life. (Evolution is an asshole, so it doesn’t care that he killed and maimed other people. But it was predictable that other people would respond with force, which tends to reduce one’s reproductive success.)

    Most modern American libertarians are lucky (at least so far) that their views are only a tad non-conformist, easily fit into existing society. Assuming you don't take that "taxation is theft" thing to a logical conclusion.


  • [Amazon Link]
    Speaking of Americanism, P. J. O'Rourke urges us to Go To Your Happy Place.

    Other nations are founded on battle, blood, territory, nationality, culture, and language. Not America… We’re founded on happiness.

    It’s right there in America’s IPO, in the first sentence of the main body of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

    No talk of happiness appears in England’s Magna Carta. The French Revolution’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen fails to address the subject. The European Union’s proposed constitution never mentions happiness, although, at 485 pages, it mentions practically everything else, including regulatory specifications for “edible meat offal” and “lard and other rendered pig fat.”

    When the EU constitution was rejected by French voters (“Sacré bleu! Vous ne pas tell us how to make ze lard!”), it was replaced by the Treaty of Lisbon that also makes no reference to happiness (or even edible meat offal).

    For perhaps the 114th time in the history of this blog, I urge readers to get In Pursuit by Charles Murray. Amazon link at right. No, your right.


Last Modified 2019-07-22 4:16 PM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2019-07-21 Update

[Amazon Link]

The Donald enhances his grip on the top phony spot, with an eightfold lead in phony hit counts over his nearest competitor, Bernie.

As far as our Betfair-derived probabilities go, the Donald was also most-improved this week, continuing his flirtation with coin-flip probability at winning next November.

Poor Andrew Yang is flirting with elimination, right at our 2% threshold. Is it a coincidence that Google finds him to be the least phony candidate? Interesting link below.

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
7/14
Phony
Results
Change
Since
7/14
Donald Trump 47.6% +1.1% 8,710,000 +6,590,000
Bernie Sanders 3.7% -0.5% 1,070,000 -50,000
Pete Buttigieg 3.9% unch 777,000 -313,000
Joe Biden 8.9% +0.9% 486,000 -408,000
Elizabeth Warren 9.3% +0.8% 246,000 +45,000
Kamala Harris 13.5% -2.4% 173,000 +44,000
Andrew Yang 2.0% -0.4% 21,300 -7,900

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

  • A refresher course in the authenticity of our current candidate crop, garnered from the first page of Google hits:

    But the best I could do for Yang? From Politico, wondering: Is Andrew Yang for Real? Andy seems to be immune from anyone actually calling him out for fakery.

    But I want to say something about Yang before he joins Beto, Tulsi, Kirsten, Cory, Julian, et. al. in the "Don't Know They're Doomed" category. So I looked at this Rolling Stone article: Andrew Yang’s Wild Ride and the Search for a Freedom Dividend. What does the author find disturbing about the Yang candidacy?

    In February, Yang appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience. Rogan has a massive platform with the second-most-downloaded show on Apple Podcasts in 2017 and 2018. Now in its ninth year, Rogan draws millions of viewers an episode on YouTube. Some of his most popular interviews — Elon Musk, conspiracy theorist and nutritional supplement peddler Alex Jones, bestselling author and alt-right icon Jordan Peterson, Steve-O from Jackass, boxer-turned-cannabis-entrepreneur Mike Tyson — give you a flavor of Rogan’s bro-ish brand of libertarian politics.

    Episode No. 1245 featuring Yang has 3.3 million views (and counting) on YouTube, a modest success by Rogan’s standards. For Yang’s campaign, it was a turning point. His Twitter following skyrocketed. Donations flooded in, including one from Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey. (Actor Nicolas Cage had given $1,000 in early February.) Within weeks of the Rogan podcast, Yang hit the 65,000-donor threshold needed to qualify for the first debate.

    But in the process, Yang has also developed a following in the more rank corners of the internet, like 4chan, an uncensored version of Reddit where misogyny and anti-Semitism flourish, and Discord, a chat app used by the alt-right and white supremacists to organize online. White nationalist Richard Spencer tweeted favorably about Yang; the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer took an interest in his campaign.

    Which raises a tricky question: How much of this was Yang’s doing, and how much of it was beyond his and his campaign’s control?

    There's no hint of cognitive dissonance experienced by the Rolling Stone writer when he tries to claim that white supremacists like the Asian dude. But I encourage you to Read The Whole Thing, if only to get a sense of how coastal lefties are trying to buy the votes of the great unwashed Rust Belt masses.

    We live in funny times.


  • Legal Insurrection reports on the latest poll from St. Anselm, and their headline focuses on… those folks with no credible shot at the Oval Office, unless they join a tour group: New Hampshire Poll Has Williamson Polling Ahead of Booker, Gillibrand, and O'Rourke.

    [Bernie] dropped a whole 6 points [compared to April's poll], putting him in the middle rung with 10%. As we’ve blogged before — Bernie was a novelty in a tiny field. In 2020, he’s just a (very) loud old man yelling at clouds compared to the younger, equally as progressive crowd he’s battling.

    Just wondering: when did "progressive" come to mean that your worldview is stuck in the early 20th century?


  • In an "NRPLUS" article, Kevin D. Williamson notes that Mayor Pete was targeted by a New Republic writer, but the tables were soon turned: The New Republic’s Mayor Pete Problem.

    The pitchforks are out again — are they ever really put away, anymore? — and this time the mob is calling for the head of the editor of The New Republic, who turns out to be Chris Lehmann, a name that requires a little looking around to find, editor of The New Republic being a rather more low-profile position today than it was in the days of Andrew Sullivan or Michael Kelly.

    The offense is the magazine’s decision to publish “My Mayor Pete Problem,” a sophomoric essay by Dale Peck, a gay writer who finds the gay mayor of godforsaken South Bend, Ind., not quite gay enough. Pete, sniffs Peck, never had a proper gay adolescence, publicly acknowledged his homosexuality only a few years ago, and — angels and ministers of grace defend us! — got married without acquiring a very long or varied curriculum venereae. How could such a man ever hope to shoulder the burdens of leading the free world? The author suggested that “Mary Pete” be adopted as the homosexual answer to “Uncle Tom.”

    Not exactly Montesquieu — or even Andrew Sullivan.

    Indeed. I suppose it's "progress" when a gay candidate is criticized for not being the right kind of gay.


  • The WSJ editorializes on Impeachment Phonies.

    So much for high crimes and misdemeanors. Faced with a resolution to impeach President Trump on Wednesday, House Democrats blinked. That was the smart move politically, but what does it say about the courage of their conviction that Mr. Trump is a clear and present danger to the country and Constitution?

    The resolution was offered by Texas Rep. Al Green, who has been calling for impeachment almost since Jan. 20, 2017. He used the uproar over Mr. Trump’s Twitter attacks on four House Democratic women to offer his resolution on the House floor.

    Even former Republican Justin Amash voted to table, as did both New Hampshire reps. I guess they'd rather grandstand.


  • An amusing Tweet. from Mark "Venn Diagram" Perry:


  • And Wheezy Joe knows how to assuage the fears of the masses: Joe Biden to Run on Obamacare, Repeats Lie About Keeping Your Plan.

    While speaking at forum for AARP in Iowa this weekend, Joe Biden revealed his plan for healthcare, which would be based on Obamacare. At one point, he told the crowd with a straight face, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”

    Biden actually repeated the Obama line Politifact declared the “Lie of the Year” in 2013.

    Big government policy changes generate winners and losers among the populace. Successful policy-selling involves hiding the ball from the losers. Joe figured that out sometime in the 1970s. But he hasn't figured out how to do it with convincing subtlety.


  • At the Bulwark, Robert Tracinski deems Joe to be The Man in the Middle. That's not an enviable position.

    Yet the woke brigade, by virtue of being activists and donors, have a disproportionate influence in the primaries, so Biden feels the need to appease them. The most notable example (so far) has been his cave-in on the Hyde Amendment. This is an old political compromise from way back in 1976, named after Henry Hyde, a then-prominent Republican congressman. The compromise was that Congress did not ban abortion, but it banned the use of federal funds to pay for abortions.

    A lot of people on the religious right these days are bad-mouthing the “libertarians,” but this was actually a pretty straightforward libertarian solution: government won’t ban it, but it won’t make you pay for it with your taxes. Yet for everybody else, the Hyde Amendment was always just a compromise, one that has survived for so long only because neither party has been politically strong enough to move the issue their way.

    Joe Biden was around for the original Hyde Amendment, and because he is a creature of compromise, he has supported it ever since—until a month ago, when he hastily reversed himself under pressure from the left.

    This in itself will not be a problem for him politically. Few people who are not already partisans even know what the Hyde Amendment is, and this flip-flop is happening so early in the election cycle that the average primary voter will have no knowledge of it by the time the voting really starts.

    The danger to Biden is if this becomes a pattern: if he keeps staking out what used to be the “moderate” position, then keeps caving in when the far left screams. If he keeps doing that, then what’s the point of a Democrat voting for him in the primaries when they could just vote for one of the candidates who are actually calling the ideological shots?

    Or: why vote for a phony at all, when you can vote for … Andrew Yang!

Spider-Man: Far from Home

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Pun Son and I decided it was time to see at least one more summer blockbuster. (Mrs. Salad begged off.) And with the heat and humidity outside, it was a good evening to spend in air conditioning that someone else was paying for.

(Well, technically and indirectly, we were paying for it. It's easy to delude yourself.)

The movie describes the travails of Peter Parker, smitten by his smart/funny/dark classmate MJ. He has concocted a romantic scenario for their class trip to Europe. Will he be able to implement it?

Peter doesn't even want to take his Spidey suit along on the trip. But superherodom raises its inevitable head, as "Mysterio" appears, battling the "Elementals", huge monsters threatening the existence of Earth itself. Nick Fury and Maria Hill get into the act; they welcome Mysterio's help but also enlist Spider-Man as kind of backup.

People who remember the comic books will realize that Not All Is What It Seems.

Marisa Tomei returns as Hot Aunt May. Am I wrong to feel disturbed when the movie's "Aunt May" is actually younger than I am?

Not too much of a spoiler: the first post-credits scene has an appearance by … J. Jonah Jameson, played by J.K. Simmons, perhaps the most perfectly cast actor in a comic book role, ever. (Is there an Oscar for that? There should be.)

URLs du Jour

2019-07-20

We'll forego the usual Amazon Product du Jour today and bring you Mr. Ramirez instead: Man on the Moon.

[Man on the Moon]

And now to our usual linkage:

  • [Amazon Link]
    Kevin D. Williamson has a … well, let's put it this way: if there were a local preacher who gave sermons like this, I'd start going to church again: Jeffrey Epstein & Biblical Christianity -- Judge, if You Must, but Curb the Glee: Notes from Las Vegas.

     Las Vegas, Nevada — Judge not, lest ye be judged” is the most abused line in the Bible and possibly the most tortured and misunderstood sentence in English. (Perhaps the passage is clearer in Matthew’s original Greek or in other translations. Hit me up, New Testament scholars.) “Judge not!” is practically the municipal motto here in Las Vegas: What happens in Sodom . . . But of course we must judge. We must do justice and mercy, protect the vulnerable, enforce the law, maintain order — and none of that is possible without judgment. We value judgment above all in public men and those who are entrusted with important affairs. (Well . . .) When your children are going the wrong way in life, when you meet at addict, when your neighbor keeps showing up with unexplained bruises on her face, Judge not! is the worst of all possible advice.

    And yet . . .

    Did I ever tell you how I came to oppose capital punishment? In the 1990s, I went to write about a protest outside the prison in which Texas conducts its executions. There was a small group of people voicing their opposition to the execution — the usual hippies and protest hobbyists. They were pretty dusty. There was also a much larger and more expressive group cheering on Old Sparky — and they were having a great time. It was a rave, and their eyes were shining, and they were alive with joy. The horror of the scene, it seemed to me, was not what was being done to the man inside the walls of the prison — who surely had it coming — but what was being done to the citizens gathered outside those walls.

    I ordered KDW's new book back in January, and it's due out in a few days. Amazon link at right. You know what to do. If you haven't done it already.

    And as for the request to "New Testament scholars": I am not one, but I can go to the relevant Bible Gateway. I am impressed with the "Message" version:

    Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.

    I can imagine Jesus saying: "Yeah, that's what I meant. Thanks for clearing that up."


  • At Reason, Scott Shackford contributes to our "Amazingly Overpaid TV People" department. Because Joy Behar Has No Idea What the ACLU Does or That Hate Speech Is Protected Under the First Amendment.

    There are many, many ways a concerned American could respond to the repulsively racist and nativist "Send her back!" chant at President Donald Trump's rally last night in Greenville, N.C., during which the crowd cheered for the forceful removal from the U.S. of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D–Minn.), a Somali-born American citizen.

    Joy Behar of The View, who is in many ways a professional journalist, somehow managed to articulate one of the least informed responses.

    The ladies of The View started their show today by unanimously expressing contempt for the behavior at Trump's rally. Then Behar asks, "Why can't he be brought up on charges of hate speech? Why can't he be sued by the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] for hate speech? I don't get it. How does he get away with this?"

    If you need more explication of the wrongheadedness of this Beharism, click through.

    I will (as usual) decline to join in the "racist" characterization of President Bonespurs. In the same spirit that Russell Kirk once said about President Eisenhower in response to accusations from the John Birch Society ("Ike’s not a communist, he’s a golfer."): Trump's not a racist, he's an asshole.


  • P. J. O'Rourke is feeling patriotic and grateful: Oh Beautiful For… Some Expected Things. And all he has to do is…

    Anyway, when I get depressed, I tune into the WBZ traffic report, and I’m instantly full of optimism, good feelings, and love for life… Compared with the people in Boston who are stuck in traffic… which would be all of them. WBZ has a slogan for its traffic report: “Boston – it’s an hour’s drive from Boston.”

    Why Boston traffic is so bad, I don’t know. Boston isn’t a huge city. In fact, it’s less populous than Columbus, Ohio, or Charlotte, North Carolina. And Boston drivers are notoriously aggressive – curb-jumping, left-turning-on-red, one-way-wrong-waying, lead-foot lane-hopping lions in the zebra crossing.

    They should, by all rights, be able to hot rod their way out of any traffic tie-up. (Why don’t Boston drivers use turn signals? That would be giving classified information to the enemy.)

    But Boston has something called “the Leverett Connector.” This is where I-93, Rt. 1, Rt. 3, Rt. 28, Storrow Drive, the Charles River, Boston Harbor, the Zakim Bridge, the Callahan Tunnel to Logan Airport, and the Rose Kennedy Greenway all meet. If you’re coming into Boston from the north… or south… or east… or west… you will end up in the Leverett Connector. You may not mean to, but you will.

    I will not forget the first time I drove in Boston, in the fall of 1973. If what does not kill you makes you stronger, I got much stronger that day.


  • The Smithsonian's National Museum of African-American History is honoring Angela Davis this coming September. At the Bulwark, Ron Radosh says what's wrong with that: The Real Angela Davis.

    It is disheartening … to hear that this coming September the museum is featuring an old documentary on Angela Davis titled, Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners. After the screening there will be a discussion moderated by Rhea Combs who will interview and question Ms. Davis. In announcing the event, the museum’s press release notes that “we all recognize that Prof. Davis is a figure for the ages, as fascinating to us now as she was at the height of her incarceration and trial” (which took place in 1972). The release added that Davis’s life “is a quintessential American story of activism,” and that “because of her activism in support of social justice, she was criminalized and named on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list.”

    This description is demonstrably false. And it elides the most important parts of Davis’s biography.

    Angela Davis was not arrested and tried because she worked for “social justice.” She was tried for purchasing guns for a courtroom raid carried out by her lover George Jackson’s brother, Jonathan, whose use of these guns in a shootout (while attempting to flee) killed one of the four people he had taken hostage, a man named Judge Harold Haley. The purchase of these guns was easily traced to Davis who, rather than surrendering, fled to avoid being captured. She was eventually found at a motel on 8th Avenue in New York City, where she was taken into custody, having been charged by superior court judge Peter Smith with “aggravated kidnapping and first-degree murder.”

    Is it wrong to consider this "whitewashing"?

    A blast from the past: my reaction to the University Near Here bringing Davis in for its 2009 Martin Luther King celebration.


  • At Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen offers a pop quiz Which of these claims is false?. And here they are:

    The Democratic-controlled House just voted to abolish the “Cadillac tax” on employer-supplied health plans.

    The Independent Payments Advisory Board no longer exists, having been abolished with support from both parties.

    In the public option for Democratic-controlled Washington State, reimbursement rates were set at up to 160 percent of Medicare levels.

    Single-payer health care will save America a great amount of money.

    I'm sure Pun Salad readers will have no trouble picking out the clinker.

URLs du Jour

2019-07-19

[Amazon Link]

  • At National Review, Jim Geraghty claims 2020 Will Be a Referendum on Who Qualifies as an American. Hope I make the cut! Let's see:

    You may recall “Define American,” a nonprofit organization that, in its own words, “uses the power of story to transcend politics and shift the conversation about immigrants, identity, and citizenship in a changing America.”

    The organization more or less exists to advance an argument made by former president Obama, that the Dreamers – and by extension, a significant number of those who entered the country illegally – were “American by any other name except for their legal papers.” Obama elaborated that they were Americans because they “want to serve this country, oftentimes want to go into the military or start businesses or in other ways contribute.”

    Is being an American simply a matter of being within our borders and wanting to stay? Does it depend upon a desire to serve the country in some way? If you come here, have otherwise not broken the law beyond entering illegally, and want to start a business someday, does that make you American? Those legal papers that Obama wanted to hand-wave away have to count for something, don’t they? If they don’t matter at all, why do we have them?

    It would be nice to have an honest debate on immigration policy, but I'm afraid that horse left the barn a number of years ago.


  • In our "You Would Think This Would Be Obvious" department, Drew Cline writes at the Josiah Bartlett Center: Expanding the tobacco tax to non-tobacco products is bad policy.

    New Hampshire has no broad-based sales tax on goods, but it does have “sin” taxes on alcohol and tobacco. Legislators and the governor this year have proposed expanding the sin tax on tobacco to devices known as electronic cigarettes.

    This expansion is pitched not as a tax increase, but as a technical correction to an existing tax. But the measure is more complicated than that. For starters, the tobacco tax exists to discourage the “sin” of tobacco smoking. But e-cigarettes contain no tobacco.

    Current law (RSA 78:1) defines tobacco products as those that contain both tobacco and nicotine. E-cigarettes can discharge nicotine, a tobacco byproduct, but no e-cigarette burns tobacco. To get around that, the revision changes the “and” to “or.” The tobacco tax is thus changed to a tobacco or nicotine tax.

    Just that one little word…

    You might think that one more Juul user is (to a first approximation) one less tobacco user. Therefore a good thing, healthwise.

    But if you think that way, you are probably not a "something must be done" politician.


  • And you are also probably not the kind of person who finds it "compassionate" to encourage people to make the same mistakes over and over. For example, those sorts will ignore Chris Edwards at Cato pointing out: Governments Make Flooding Worse.

    Government policies encourage Americans to live in risky places on seacoasts and along flood-prone rivers. Disasters happen, governments bail people out, they rebuild in the same places, bad incentives stay in place, further disasters strike and more dollars and lives are lost.

    Chris references a WaPo story which contains the quote: “It’s lunacy. They’re continuing to build in places where Mother Nature intended water to go. And there’s no end to it."


  • At the WaPo, Megan McArdle finds that Marianne Williamson is the only true anti-Trump.

    New Hampshire may be the Granite State, but it appears to have a wee soft spot for long-shot presidential candidate Marianne Williamson. The best-selling self-help author garnered 1.5 percent support in a new Democratic primary poll by St. Anselm College.

    Critics will quibble that 1.5 percent is . . . not anything close to a majority. Indeed, it’s within the poll’s margin of error. But that still beats “serious” candidates such as New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker (1.2 percent) and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (0.7 percent). Besides, Williamson tells us in “ A Return to Love,” “the world of the human storyline . . . is a veil in front of a more real world, a collective dream.” So let’s take a moment to dream about, well, a collective return to love, if only because her candidacy offers so many interesting parallels to that of our current president.

    Marianne has not found enough favor with the Betfair bettors in order to be included in our Sunday phony poll updates. Unfortunately, because she's a hoot.

    The UNH Survey Center poll (reporting things to the nearest percent) has her at 1%, behind Spartacus and Beto! (2%), tied with Tulsi, Yang, Delaney, and Kirsten. And ahead of Bennet, Steyer, Klobuchar, all at 0%.


  • And there's good news from AEI: Fears of a retirement crisis are overblown.

    The things that should be going up are going up, including the share of Americans with retirement plans, the size of our retirement-plan contributions, total retirement savings, retirees’ incomes, and retirees’ satisfaction with their financial security. And the things that should be going down — like poverty in old age and dependence on Social Security benefits — are going down.

    I can report (looking around quickly, left to right) no crisis in view at Pun Salad Manor. But I've stocked up on cat food, just in case.

URLs du Jour

2019-07-18

[Amazon Link]

  • At Hot Air, Taylor Millard reports on The Chris Pratt/Gadsden shirt nontroversy.

    There was an attempt by a rather pint-sized rage mob to gin up anger at actor Chris Pratt for his choice of T-shirt. By pint-sized, I mean, five to seven people. By gin up anger, I mean claiming Pratt’s choice of wearing a T-shirt by Forged.com – featuring an American flag with the Gadsden snake and “Don’t Tread One Me” slogan – was somehow a white supremacist slogan.

    Yahoo Movies U.K. even wrote a round-up of the almost non-existent enmity towards the Guardians of the Galaxy and Parks & Rec star in hopes of giving the story legs. Here’s the original version from yesterday with the headline Chris Pratt criticized for ‘white supremacist’ T-shirt (thanks WaybackMachine!):

    There may be actual white supremacists out there who wear Gadsden-flag attire. But that makes it all the more important that we yank that symbol back from them ASAP. So, check out our Amazon product du jour.

    Or you can deal with the forged.com folks directly, they seem like a good bunch:


  • We've mentioned Peter Thiel approvingly in the past, I hope we get the chance to do so in the future. But today, we're pointing out Brian Doherty's takedown at Reason: Peter Thiel Explains the New ‘National Conservatism’.

    A group of conservatives mostly dedicated to removing the stain of individual liberty from their brand met this week for a "National Conservatism Conference." Superwealthy tech-industrialist Peter Thiel gave one of the keynote speeches. Contemplating his remarks is helpful in assessing what these "national conservatives" are up to.

    Thiel used to be roughly identified, including, at times, by me, as a libertarian. One reason was his decision to fund what started as a libertarian-rooted wild idea, Seasteading. Another indicator was his big-money support of an ultimately feckless Ron Paul-oriented SuperPac. These decisions made his warm embrace of Trump back in 2016 confusing, but he has now made it clear he has, and wants, nothing to do with the idea that human liberty is overall good and enriching.

    Well, maybe he'll sober up after Trump is re-elected.


  • CNN sponsored a poll of New Hampshire voters by the UNH Survey Center. The Survey Center folks are nice people, and I'm glad CNN threw them some cash, but … it's still over 200 days before the New Hampshire Primary. Anyway:

    Former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders are bunched at the top of the Democratic field in New Hampshire. Warren has seen an increase in support since April and is now on equal footing with Biden and Sanders. Likely Republican primary voters remain firmly behind President Trump and very few express support for Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld.

    Click through for the deets. Fun trivia:

    • The Democrat leading the "Would Not Vote For Under Any Circumstances" is Joe Biden, taking over this coveted spot from Elizabeth Warren.
    • Bill de Blasio is leading the "Unfavorable" category (29% of Democrat respondents), followed closely by Wheezy Joe (25%), Beto! (24%) and Marianne Williamson (24%).
    • "Most Important Issue" for Democrats: "Health Care" (20%); "Climate Change/Environment" (14%); "Immigration" (13%).
    • But "Gun Policy" is down in the noise at 1%. That's arguably good news. Arguably bad news: "National Budget/Debt" is also at a near-negligible 1%, suggesting that Democrats don't care about the iceberg that's bearing down on our Fiscal Titanic.


  • Mayor Pete is trying hard to get African-American voters to like him. He is now embracing the so-called "Douglass Plan". Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe answers the question that leapt to your mind: What to Frederick Douglass is the "Douglass Plan"?.

    Under the "Douglass Plan," a Buttigieg administration would pour vast sums of money into black institutions, health programs, and schools. It would expand racial preferences for government contracting, and spend more money to "diversify the teaching profession." It would eliminate "broken windows" policing, which focuses on curbing low-level crimes to discourage more serious offenses. It would also abolish the death penalty, cut the prison population in half, provide student grants and Medicaid benefits to prison inmates, and make it harder for criminals released on probation to be sent back for "small violations." And it would make the promotion of black history a federal priority.

    All of this, says Buttigieg, would be in addition to — not instead of — a system of reparations for the descendants of slaves. And the "Douglass Plan" doesn't stop with issues that are explicitly connected to race. It also includes elimination of the Electoral College.

    And statehood for Washington, D.C.

    And a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United.

    And public financing of election campaigns.

    And an end to political gerrymandering of legislative districts.

    And a "Lead Paint Mitigation Fund."

    And more money for disaster preparedness and relief.

    And a "Community Homestead" program to purchase abandoned urban properties and turn them over at no cost to "eligible residents" who promise to rehabilitate them.

    And a $15-per-hour federal minimum wage.

    That's impressive pandering.


  • Scott Sumner provides more hopelessness: Health care subsidies are almost impossible to reform.

    Imagine if the government gave people a subsidy of $5000 each time they bought a new car. That would be inefficient, encouraging the excessive purchase of new cars. Now imagine that the subsidy was 40% of the price of the car, up to a price of $25000. That would be even more inefficient, encouraging the excessive purchase of cars, and also encouraging the purchase of cars of excessively high quality. Now imagine a 40% car subsidy that had no upper limit. That would be extremely inefficient.

    That last option, a “Cadillac subsidy”, is a good description of our health care system. The government effectively pays roughly 40% of the cost of private health insurance, via tax subsidies. That means if you buy a health care plan that costs $20,000/year, it actually only sets you back roughly $12,000/year. This subsidy encourages people to consume too much healthcare.

    Scott writes in anticipation of the House vote to repeal ObamaCare's "Cadillac Tax". Which happened yesterday: the vote was 419-6. (One of the six votes against repeal: the principled Justin Amash.)


  • In LFOD news: the New Hampshire Senate Rejects Plastic Bag, Soda Straw Bans.

    A plastic bag ban is not right for New Hampshire, says state Rep. Glenn Cordelli (R-Carroll).

    “NH is the ‘Live Free or Die’ state,” Cordelli said. “Consumers now are free to use canvas bags to carry groceries without a government mandate or ban on plastics.”

    I think this is old news (from May), but the LFOD reference is new.


Last Modified 2019-07-19 5:29 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2019-07-17

[Amazon Link]

  • Nick Gillespie and I are on the same page. (Except that his page is at Reason and mine is, um, here.) The Last Few Days Exemplify Why I’m Libertarian (and Why You Should Be Too).

    Things are getting uglier by the second in American politics and the sheer awfulness of the current moment perfectly illustrates why I'm libertarian. Do you really want to live in a world where you're constantly living inside either Donald Trump's mind or that of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D–N.Y.) democratic socialist "squad"?

    Our lives are too short, too fleeting, too important to spend all of our waking hours engaged in the systematic organization of hatreds, which is as good a working definition of politics as there is. There's ultimately not a lot of wiggle room between Trumpian conservatism, which demands complete reverence for the Donald and includes bolder and bolder threats to stifle free speech along with free trade, and Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Dealism, which explicitly uses the totalist regimentation of all aspects of American life during World War II as its model. If I wanted to deal with politics all the time, I'd move to a totalitarian country already.

    If the definition of politics as "the systematic organization of hatreds" is unfamiliar, it's from Henry Brooks Adams (1838–1918). Great-grandpappy was John, grandpa John Quincy.


  • At the Library of Economics and Liberty, Scott Sumner explains Why both liberals and conservatives will lose on health care (in the short run). And makes a point that neither side will straightforwardly make:

    The basic problem for both liberals and conservatives is that their proposed reforms would imply a huge fall in income to the health care industry, and that’s not politically feasible for the following two reasons:

    1. Liberals favor European style health care, which typical costs about 10% of GDP. It’s not politically feasible to raise enough revenue to pay for a Medicare program costing 17% of GDP. Indeed that sum is greater than the total amount of revenue currently raised by the federal government. Socialized medicine in America can only be achieved by slashing the incomes of doctors, nurses, administrators, support staff, and other medical industry personnel to much lower levels.

    2. Conservatives favor a more market-oriented approach, as in Singapore. But Singapore spends only 5% of GDP on health care, a sum that would be completely unacceptable to America’s health care industry.

    Liberals believe their opponents on health care are heartless conservatives. Conservatives believe their opponent are starry-eyed liberals. Both are wrong; it is the health care industry itself that blocks all meaningful reforms.

    Our only hope is… naahh, it's hopeless.


  • I am also on the same page as Andrew C. McCarthy: Donald Trump's Tweets: Not Racist, but Stupid.

    What does “racist” even mean anymore?

    Racism is the headline on President Trump’s Sunday tweets — the media-Democrat complex assiduously describes them as “racist tweets” as if that were a fact rather than a trope. I don’t think they were racist; I think they were abjectly stupid.

    Like many Americans, I am tired of being lectured about racism by racists and racialists, individuals whose full-field explanation for all life’s issues is this matter of genetic happenstance that should be increasingly irrelevant in a pluralistic society.

    Is it “racist” to tell people who have contempt for the country — who abhor the common culture that makes us American — that they ought to go back to where they came from? It has nativist and reactionary overtones, but I don’t think it is racist. I’ll grant this much, though: It is closer to actual racism than the Left’s usual demagogic claim: I am a racist if I extend to a non-white nincompoop like Ilhan Omar the courtesy of taking her seriously as an individual and a public official, as if it were her race rather than the idiocy of what she says that moves me to dissent.

    I stand by my scatological description from yesterday.


  • In my personal celebration of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, I watched the new documentary last night. At Cato, Chris Edwards has thoughts on it too. Apollo 11: A Rare Federal Success.

    If the mission were pursued today, the president would be tweeting undignified comments and hogging the spotlight. The launch would be years behind schedule and the computers would jam like during the Obamacare launch. Environmental lawsuits would shut down the launchpad. Labor regulations would slow astronaut training. NASA executives would be indicted for graft. Federal budget squabbling would close the federal government and mission control, leaving the astronauts to find their own way home from the moon. It would be a mess.

    Afraid so. Governments are good at (1) killing millions of people and (2) throwing tons of money at technical projects to bring off a gimmicky (albeit glorious) feat with little follow-through. And the US is getting worse at the latter.


  • In our "From the Daily Wire, so who knows if it's true" department: REPORT: Facebook Censors Peaceful Saint Augustine Quote As ‘Hate Speech’.

    A Massachusetts pro-life Catholic man claims that Facebook censored a peaceful quote from the theologian St. Augustine of Hippo as "hate speech."

    According to LifeSiteNews, Dominic Bettinelli published the St. Augustine quote on his Facebook page after two priests with whom he was friendly were allegedly censored by the social media platform for publishing the same words, arguing they violated "community standards on hate speech."

    The quote, which originates from one of the saint's homilies, essentially repeats Jesus Christ's command in Matthew 7:3 for people to focus on their own sins instead of focusing upon the sins of others.

    I gotta say that Matthew 7:3 ("Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?") is entirely out of whack with modern sensibilities.

The Second World Wars

How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won

[Amazon Link]

Irrelevant personal details: Mrs. Salad and I decided to get a non-resident "family" card at the Portsmouth (NH) Public Library. It's a beautiful facility, the card is (probably) a steal at $95/year, and their selection is great.

Specifically, they had this book readily available on their shelves. The University Near Here has it as well, but some grabby faculty member has had it on extended loan for a couple years now. (Current due date 4/11/2020, and who knows if it won't be renewed then?)

Sigh. End of rant.

The author, Victor Davis Hanson, will be well known to anyone who's been reading in the dextrosphere for the past few years. He's at the Hoover Institution, and is professionally a historian, primarily a military one. Mostly, until now, concentrating on ancients: Rome, Greece, those guys.

But he does a good job with something more modern here. The title is a little attention-grabbing: the Second World Wars? Reflecting the fact that, as implied by the subtitle, the 1939-1945 conflagration was really the first conflict fought around the globe, in a dizzying array of venues. Each had its special qualities.

The book is not chronological; instead, each section/chapter focuses on a different theme/subtheme and how it played out in differing countries. It looks at the "wise and foolish" choices the combatants made in deciding to enter the conflict, and in waging their parts thereof.

For example, there's a chapter devoted to siegecraft, with examples of Leningrad, Stalingrad, Sevastopol, Tobruk, Singapore, Some successful for the siegers, some disastrous. Some puzzling, like the Japanese (essentially) walking into Singapore without a lot of fuss.

The point that keeps resonating is the macabre efficiency of modern states in slaughtering not only their military opponents, but also their civilian opponents. And, often, their own military and civilians. VDH puts the body count north of 60 million, a nearly unimaginable number. (About 80% of this inflicted by the Axis powers; it was an unusual war in that the side that killed the most people lost.)

VDH is also quite good at describing the herculean efforts in the design and production of military hardware. He is rhapsodic about the Soviet T-34 tank, and the American B-29 bomber. I previously lacked sufficient appreciation at how much bigger the B-29 was in comparison with the B-17 and B-24. And how Curtis LeMay ignored the B-29's ostensible mission goal, high-altitude strategic bombing, and turned it to low-altitude incendiary bombing.

Finally, VDH gives a good picture of how stupid decisions doomed the Axis. Example bad ideas: Japan bombing Pearl Harbor; Germany declaring war on the US; Germany invading the USSR. And many more.

Apollo 11

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Fortuitously, this DVD arrived from Netflix so we could watch it amidst all the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the event. It's a bare-bones documentary, using a considerable amount of recently-unearthed 70mm footage, never before seen. The movie was released in IMAX theaters earlier this year, and watching it off a DVD at home is a definite second-best. But it's still good.

All the footage is contemporaneous. There are no after-the-fact interviews, no what-does-it-all-mean chin pulling, and only a little effort to drag in contemporaneous events. (There's one reference to Teddy Kennedy's Chappaquiddick accident, one report of the Vietnam War being relatively quiet.) The sonorous voice of Walter Cronkite is occasionally heard. Also Richard Nixon.

So there's not a lot that's new for those of us who obsessively followed the mission 50 years ago. But (hey) I didn't know that the astronauts played John Stewart's "Mother Country" on their tiny tape player on the way home. In a brilliant moving moment, the filmmakers replace replace the tinny playback with the high-fi version. This might be the most patriotic movie moment I'll experience all year. "Oh, mother country, I do love you…".

This movie also shows the picture of Neil Armstrong in First Man to be (at best) misleading. First Man's Armstrong was a closed-off introvert; but the real Armstrong here is affable and upbeat, occasionally funny.

URLs du Jour

2019-07-16

[Amazon Link]

  • At National Review, Indispensible Geraghty looks at Donald Trump Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Tweet: An Act of Political Stupidity. (Online headline: "He Just Can’t Help Himself") We all know what he's talking about.

    Whether or not Donald Trump believes immigrants are not “real Americans” — the man did twice marry immigrants, after all — he certainly has no problem with making statements and arguments that feed into the notion that immigrants are not “real Americans.” He certainly seems to think that AOC, Tlaib, and Pressley have some sort of obligation to fix problems in the lands of their ancestors before attempting to change laws in the United States, and that Omar must do the same in a land she left when she was six years old. Or perhaps the way to interpret Trump’s remarks is that someone born in America to immigrant parents, like Ocasio-Cortez or Tlaib, doesn’t meet his personal definition of “real Americans.”

    There’s a small mountain of legitimate gripes about AOC’s “squad.” Beside the “snot-nosed punk” traits driving other, more experienced Democrats crazy, Ocasio-Cortez and her allies have received far too little criticism for their theoretical fantasyland policy ideas, in which the United States can replace 88 percent of all of its energy sources in a decade and that in that same time period, all 120 million buildings in America can be either upgraded or torn down and replaced with more energy-efficient construction. They want economic security for those unwilling to work, an eventual ban on air travel, and for the Federal Reserve to loan the federal government $10 trillion.

    For the record, I don't think Trump is a racist. He's a narcissistic bully and a unprincipled, willfully ignorant bullshitter. His tweets simply reflect the turds that happen to have floated to the top of his mental septic tank, not deserving of even the semi-descriptive adjective "racist".


  • So I'm not in specific agreement with this Babylon Bee headline: Trump Distracts From Previous Racist Tweets With New Racist Tweets.

    In what's being called a "4D chess move" worthy of the greatest 4D chess grandmasters in the universe, President Trump was able to distract from some seriously questionable tweets by posting even more questionable tweets, sources confirmed over the weekend.

    "See, when they are fighting about your racist tweets, the winning thing to do is to fire off a few more," Trump told confused White House aides. "They won't know what hit 'em. You broadside 'em. You don't even ask, you just slam out a whole bunch of 'em. It's the greatest strategy. It works every time. Every time."

    Republican strategists who were defending Trump's old racist tweets then had to jump on his new racist tweets. Then, while they were trying to figure out a way to defend them, Trump dropped even newer ones, forcing them to defend a whole host of racist stuff he said.

    "It's kinda exhausting if I'm being honest," said one Republican strategist. "But what else are we going to do? Take a stand for our values? Ha, good one."

    So, for "racist", I'd substitute some other adjective, like "assholish". But otherwise…

    And Republicans taking a stand for their values? I'm afraid that ship has sailed.


  • Jacob Sullum at Reason notes with a straight face: Two Senators With Business Degrees Want the FDA to Tell Doctors They Should Not Treat Chronic Pain With Opioids.

    Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) has a bachelor's degree in business administration. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) has an MBA from Harvard. Yet the two senators seem to think they have the medical expertise to second-guess the judgment of physicians across the United States, not to mention the Food and Drug Administration. A bill they introduced last week, the FDA Opioid Labeling Accuracy Act, instructs the agency to tell prescribers that opioids are "not intended for the treatment of chronic pain."

    Senators, it's not as if the agencies of government are doing a good job accomplishing their goals and serving the citizenry. Maybe you should demonstrate some competence in getting those problems fixed before you move into fields in which you have no demonstrable expertise.


  • I am a devoted listener to the weekly Reason Podcast, it's always insightful and funny. But I wanted to recommend this week's episode, because they took on not only Trump's stupid tweets, but also:

    Peter Suderman's soliloquy on this was incandescently brilliant. Unfortunately, there's no transcript. It's about 9:30 in, though.


  • And (yay) I have entered the "Win a Whiskey with Kirsten" contest. ("Round-trip tickets and one night hotel accommodations included.")

    Yes, of course I entered without donating. The link for that is in the fine print at the bottom of the page.

Between Two Scorpions

[Amazon Link]

This is the second novel from the indispensible Jim Geraghty. I liked his first one The Weed Agency just fine, and this one is an incredibly good Kindle deal at a mere $3.99. So…

It's a spy thriller, with the heroes being a small CIA group tasked with thwarting the latest terrorist threat. It starts in a Berlin cafe, when a discredited contact warns the beautiful CIA agent Katrina of a mysterious Iranian moving money around, wanting information about planes and chemicals, very worrisome. The contact's credibility goes up a couple notches when he, and most of the people in the cafe get blown up. And when co-agent Alec (who is also Katrina's hubby) goes to check out the contact's apartment, it's on fire. As is the contact's tortured girlfriend.

It gradually develops that the plotters aim to instill massive amounts of fear into the USA. Perhaps involving a nasty drug.

There is a lot of globe-hopping by our intrepid agents to many exotic locales. Many narrow escapes from death. A lot of detective work. Violent confrontations. And some loose ends left at the end. (This is billed as "Book 1" of a potential series.)

Now, it's not perfect. The dialogue is clunky at times. The plot (frankly) strains credulity, and I am a very credulous person when it comes to this genre. And it could have used some professional editing. In Chapter 50, Katrina notices that a camel herder's getup in Turkmenistan looks like a Klan costume. And then, in case we missed it, she makes the same observation in Chapter 56.

But, all in all, a decent read.

URLs du Jour

2019-07-15

[Amazon Link]

  • At National Review, Jonah Goldberg reveals The Real Danger of Categorical Politics. Which is the term Jonah finds to be more precise than the usual "identity politics".

    The notion that all you need to know about a person is the color of their skin still strikes me as close to the definition of racism, whether you’re talking about black people or white people or people of some other hue. If you think you know what a woman is going to say before she says a word simply because you believe all women think a certain way, you’re a sexist.

    Set aside the question of bigotry for a moment, since I don’t think everyone who talks in these terms does so with evil intent. There are other problems with this kind of categorical thinking. The two most important: It’s not true, and it’s lazy.

    And (untrue) + (lazy) = (stupid).

    Yesterday, I chuckled at Victor Davis Hanson's hexfecta: "upper-middle-class, white, male, heterosexual, Christian, or old". That's me, dude. You know who else it is? Joe Biden.

    [At least before Joe became an S-Corp Millionaire.]

    You think I'm anything like Joe Biden? C'mon, man!


  • An article from the "bad news" half of the current issue of Reason by Tom Palmer The Terrifying Rise of Authoritarian Populism. "Populism" is kind of an inkblot, a label applied to all sorts of movements, most of which seem to despise each other. But Tom notes a couple common threads:

    The policies promoted by those governments [Turkey, Hungary, USA] vary, but they reject two related ideas. One is pluralism, the idea that people are variegated, with different interests and values that need to be negotiated through democratic political processes. The other is liberalism—not in the narrow American sense of the political center-left, but the broader belief that individuals have rights and the state's power should be limited to protect those rights.

    Populists can be "of the left," but they need not be motivated by Marxian ideas of class conflict or central planning. They can be "of the right," but they are distinctly different from old-school reactionaries who yearn for a lost world of ordered hierarchies; if anything, they tend to dissolve old-fashioned classes and social orders into the undifferentiated mass of The People. Or they can reject the left/right spectrum altogether. As the French populist leader Marine Le Pen put it in 2015, "Now the split isn't between the left and the right but between the globalists and the patriots."

    Also see my take on a book of essays on populism, Vox Populi, edited by Roger Kimball.


  • The (possibly paywalled) WSJ offered a provocative column by Jo Craven McGinty: Is It Time to Drop Local Time Zones?. (That was the print edition headline. Online, it's "Major Industries Use Coordinated Universal Time. Why Doesn’t Everyone Else?")

    A pair of Johns Hopkins professors want to change the way we keep time. Everyone, they argue, should abandon local time zones and instead set all clocks to Coordinated Universal Time.

    If that were to happen, the world’s timepieces would show the same hour at the same time, no matter where in the sky the sun was positioned.

    Longtime readers might remember that this is a change I've long advocated. (See my 2013 post, "The Right Number of Time Zones is Zero."). The Johns Hopkins professors, Steve H. Hanke and Richard Conn Henry, have a website discussing this idea. (But mostly aimed at their "Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar", an even wackier proposal. Check it out.)

    I've framed this in terms of "separation of time and state": the government should simply use UTC itself and stop mandating what we use. But:

    Today, because essential industries have voluntarily switched to UTC, Hanke and Henry believe it’s only a matter of time before the general public embraces the idea.

    But if that doesn’t happen, they have a backup plan.

    A president who is adept at branding, they gleefully muse, could convert the U.S. to UTC by executive order, and the world would follow suit.

    “This is just made for Trump, ” Dr. Hanke said. “Trump Towers? Forget it. That’s peanuts. Can you imagine Trump Time?”

    To quote Han Solo: I don't know, I can imagine quite a bit.


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang for… France?! Yes: Hundreds of migrants occupy Paris Pantheon in 'Black Vests' protest.

    France on Saturday detained 21 African migrants who surged into the Pantheon in Paris to push their claims for regularised status, police said.

    The 21 will be held pending investigation into potentially "violating legislation on foreigners," the local prefecture said.

    The Pantheon, the article explains, is "the final resting place of France's greatest non-military luminaries including the writers Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Emile Zola." But where's LFOD?

    Well, it's not in the current version of the article. But:

    Well, the inscription actually says "Vivre Libre ou Mourir". We should remember that General Stark kind of stole his "Live Free or Die" from this French Revolution slogan.


  • On a related note, Roger Kimball, writing in American Greatness, urges us: Don’t Celebrate Bastille Day. Which was, as I type, yesterday, July 14. And I didn't.

    Since I am writing on Bastille Day, I am prompted to wonder why the French—or anyone else, for that matter—celebrate this infamous date. After all, the “storming” of that royal keep in 1789 was the spark that started the conflagration of the French Revolution. Unlike the American Revolution, in which the rule of law and the institutions of civil society survived the change of governments, the French Revolution was one of the signal bad events in world history. It consumed civil society and the centuries-old institutions of civilization. It was an unalloyed triumph of the totalitarian spirit, and in this respect it presaged and inspired that even greater assault on decency and freedom, the Bolshevik Revolution, the opening act of one of the darkest chapters in human history. The butcher’s bill for the French Revolution is many hundreds of thousands. Soviet Communism was responsible for the deaths of tens upon tens of millions and the universal immiseration of the people whose lives it controlled.

    Yet today’s news is full of cheery stories about Bastille Day celebrations. Why?

    Well, it gave us "Live Free or Die".

The Phony Campaign

2019-07-14 Update

[Amazon Link]

The Betfair bettors sobered up slightly this week, and brought the probability of Queen Kamala I down significantly. She's still their favorite Democrat, though.

On the phony side, President Trump expanded his commanding lead. It's tough to catch a guy who inspires headlines like "Trump shares fake Reagan quote from phony Twitter user".

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
7/7
Phony
Results
Change
Since
7/7
Donald Trump 46.5% -0.4% 2,120,000 +330,000
Bernie Sanders 4.2% -0.8% 1,120,000 -350,000
Pete Buttigieg 3.9% -0.6% 1,090,000 -50,000
Joe Biden 8.0% +1.2% 894,000 -146,000
Elizabeth Warren 8.5% +0.2% 201,000 -4,000
Kamala Harris 15.9% -9.1% 129,000 -15,000
Andrew Yang 2.4% +0.1% 29,200 +500

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

  • The estimable Victor Davis Hanson notes at National Review: Democratic Candidates Are Running a Race of Inauthenticity. After running down the list (faux Native American Liz; faux Hispanic Beto; Warren Wilhelm Jr.; millionaire Bernie; etc.), Professor Hanson compares and contrasts:

    Trump may be many things, and he may exaggerate data and fudge facts. But he at least seems authentically Trump. He does not claim to be a poor victim, but instead brags on, or even exaggerates, his billions.

    Trump does not downplay his politically incorrect Scottish and German background. Instead, he often emphasizes both to the point of overstatement.

    He always appears with his customary comb-over hair, orange tan, long tie, and suit, and he speaks in the same Queens accent whether he is talking to Alabama farmers, West Virginia miners, or Michigan auto workers.

    In contrast, Trump’s Democratic rivals do not seem especially forthcoming about who they are. When convenient, they play down their advanced degrees, the success of their parents, their own advantaged upbringings, successful assimilation, and stereotypically bourgeois lives. And based on their attacks on front-runner Biden, they seem to want to distance themselves from anyone upper-middle-class, white, male, heterosexual, Christian, or old.

    Damn. I am in every one of those pigeonholes.


  • At Reason, Christian Britschgi finds that Kamala Harris’ Plan To End the Racial Homeownership Gap Doubles Down on the Worst Aspects of U.S. Housing Policy. Probably a bad thing, then.

    Harris's plan is to provide "free" down-payment money to lower-income people buying houses in historically-redlined neighborhoods. Among the problems:

    Research suggests that homeownership is a particularly bad wealth creation tool for low-income buyers. They are more likely to buy at the top of the market—when prices are high but credit standards are looser—and are more easily pushed into default as a result of other financial shocks like job losses or sudden large medical bills.

    If Harris wants to decrease the racial gap in homeownership rates, there's a lot of other policies, from getting rid of single-family zoning to abolishing urban growth boundaries, she should endorse that could make that a reality without costing taxpayers a dime.

    But "everyone knows" that you can only measure compassion and caring by the amount of Other People's Money you are willing to spend, no matter how ineffectively or even counterproductively.


  • The WaPo's Megan McArdle notes, amusingingly: The media is starting to tune Trump out, and it’s helping him in the polls.

    I’m not the first to observe that if the president wants better approval ratings, all he needs to do is shut up. Every time he stops tweeting, his numbers improve. Besides, the economy is good, and the public grows fond of presidents who preside over strong economies. Barring a recession, if Trump would just let the economic news speak for itself, he could probably sail to reelection.

    Luckily for Democrats, Trump seems constitutionally incapable of learning from experience. Unluckily for the Democrats, their primaries are mimicking the effect of Trump holstering his Twitter finger. The media is now too busy analyzing the Democratic race to provide wall-to-wall coverage of Trump’s every tweet.

    Even if you don't listen to Jonah Goldberg's podcast, The Remnant, you might make an exception for his latest one with Megan. It's pretty good.


  • Another anecdote in the annals of Senate civility is related by the Washington Free Beacon: Biden Exploded at Dem Colleague Over Busing, Called Him 'Dirty Bastard'.

    Former vice president Joe Biden exploded at a Democratic Senate colleague for blocking anti-busing legislation in the Judiciary Committee, calling him a "dirty bastard" and a "son of a bitch" during the hearing.

    Former South Dakota senator James Abourezk relates the 1977 incident in his book, Advise & Dissent: Memoirs of South Dakota and the U.S. Senate (1989). Abourezk had been approached by the chief lobbyist for the NAACP to fight an upcoming bill Biden coauthored with Delaware's other U.S. senator, Republican William Roth, to block a federal court from ordering the state to desegregate schools through busing.

    As Abourezk told it, Biden eventually came around, because his efforts gave him great press back in Delaware.


  • At City Journal, John S. Rosenberg looks at the back-from-the-dead Kamala/Joe busing issue from another angle: Biden’s Busing Backtrack: The Democrats have abandoned traditional definitions of civil rights..

    Just as Harris’s reasons for supporting busing are unclear—except for her stated belief that it helped her—Biden has muddled his own stance on the issue. He has insisted that he never opposed busing in principle, only Department of Education- or court-ordered busing, in the absence of proven prior discrimination. But his remarks from 1975 are more straightforward: “I am philosophically opposed to quota-systems. . . . It is one thing to say that you cannot keep a black man from using this bathroom, and something quite different to say that one out of every five people who use this bathroom must be black. [Busing] has now been turned into an affirmative program to insure integration, and that brings us right back to quota systems.”

    Biden went on: “It is wrong to penalize someone who has committed no wrong, based simply on the generalization of his race’s violation of the civil rights of another race. . . . We’ve lost our bearings since the 1954 Brown v. School Board desegregation case. To ‘desegregate’ is different than to ‘integrate.’” Biden’s anti-quota arguments and belief in individual rights and responsibilities were consistent with the positions of many liberals at the time. His statements about the meaning of desegregation are aligned with Thurgood Marshall’s own arguments during the Brown case. “Racial distinctions in and of themselves are invidious,” Marshall said, rejecting the notion that overturning the “separate but equal” doctrine would guarantee every child the right to go to an integrated school. Justice Frankfurter asked him during oral argument, “You mean, if we reverse, it will not entitle every mother to have her child go to a non-segregated school in Clarendon County?” Marshall replied, “No.”

    Times change. As Rosenberg points out, modern Democrats now "endorse a view that echoes the arguments of both the Brown defendants and the Civil Rights Act’s segregationist opponents". He calls it "ironic". I call it phony.


  • And even though Andrew Yang has consistently appeared in our phony poll for months, we haven't had much to say about him. Let's change that. Bruce Schneier notices that Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang Has Quantum Encryption Policy. But he's not that impressed:

    At least one presidential candidate has a policy about quantum computing and encryption.

    It has two basic planks. One: fund quantum-resistant encryption standards. (Note: NIST is already doing this.) Two, fund quantum computing. (Unlike many far more pressing computer security problems, the market seems to be doing this on its own quite nicely.)

    Okay, so not the greatest policy -- but at least one candidate has a policy. Do any of the other candidates have anything else in this area?

    Yang has also talked about blockchain: "

    "I believe that blockchain needs to be a big part of our future," Yang told a crowded room at the Consensus conference in New York, where he gave a keynote address Wednesday. "If I'm in the White House, oh boy are we going to have some fun in terms of the crypto currency community."

    Okay, so that's not so great, either. But again, I don't think anyone else talks about this.

    I would wager that no other candidate could even discuss the issues intelligently. But it might be entertaining to see them try.

URLs du Jour

2019-07-13

[Amazon Link]

  • At Cato, John Samples reacts to the news that Facebook is going to "remove misinformation about the Census from its platform." Au contraire, John says: We Need More Speech about the Census. There are good reasons (for example) for censoring lies about the availability of polling places on Election Day. And there's nothing problematic about the usual imminent incitement to violence exception.

    But there’s an important difference between the two harms, violence and false beliefs about elections. I cannot avoid being punched in the nose as a result of incitement. I can avoid false beliefs by modest research regarding facts. Here’s a (hardly obscure) place to start. Our freedom of speech does require that citizens take some responsibility for their beliefs and the reasons for them. Facebook should not protect us from our sloth.

    Emphasis added. As in so many other areas, once you assume that the mass of citizenry need to be treated like children, it rapidly turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy.


  • Jonah Goldberg's "G-File" seems to be e-mail only, at least for now. You can sign up for it at Reagan35x.com. Let me share this quote from his latest, where he discusses President Trump's remarks at his recent social media summit.

    “And we don’t want to stifle anything, we certainly don’t want to stifle free speech. But that’s no longer free speech…See I don’t think that the mainstream media is free speech either, because it’s so crooked, it’s so dishonest…So to me, free speech is not when you see something good and then you purposely write bad, to me that’s very dangerous speech, and you become angry at it…But that’s not free speech.”

    As Thomas Jefferson said, “huh?”

    Trump took an oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" slightly over 900 days ago, and he still remains woefully, and willfully, ignorant about what's in it.

    Note that (1) our Amazon Product du Jour quotes "Thomas Jefferson" (2) saying something he never actually said. Yet (3) Amazon is free to sell it anyway.

    For now.


  • Mark J. Perry presents the latest version of his Chart of the day.... or century?.

    [chart of the day, or century]

    Excercise for the reader: which items have politicians long promised to make more "affordable"?


  • A funny/sad article in Tablet from Nancy Rommelmann on Portlandization: It Can Happen to a Place Near You. We're talking Oregon, not Maine. A telling anecdote:

    I have a friend, let’s call her Karen. Karen bootstrapped several Portland businesses, including a coffee shop. She walks in one day and the barista, who is trans, says she had a man come in earlier wearing a MAGA cap and is she obliged to serve people like him? Karen asks, did he say something to you? No, says the barista, but he’s a white supremacist. Karen tells her, first, you don’t know that, and second, you cannot discriminate based on the way someone is dressed. And that, Karen thinks, is that, but no, the barista relays the story to another barista we will call Jen, who goes onto Facebook and posts, “My boss Karen is a Nazi.” Karen learns of this while she is on vacation. She calls her manager and tells her to get Jen into the office. Jen may intuit as much, as when the manager says she needs to speak with her, Jen gets on the floor behind the espresso bar and curls into a fetal position. And you might think, if anyone should maybe not be in customer service, it’s Jen, but no, people prove sympathetic to her and the other barista’s fears and start an online inquisition and can Karen prove she is not a Nazi? And should she not be more concerned with the safety of her employees than some random Republican wanting a cup of coffee?

    Nancy is moving from Portland to New York.


  • Drew Cline writes at the Josiah Bartlett Center on The scalping of Gordon MacDonald and the demise of an honorable culture. He is referring to the New Hampshire Executive Council rejecting Governor Sununu's nomination of Gordon MacDonald to be chief justice of the state Supreme Court. (The 2018 election gave Democrats a 3-2 majority on the Council, and coincidentally…)

    In 2017, MacDonald sailed through his Attorney General confirmation. “He’s someone I’ve met through (legal) practice, WMUR-TV reported a member of the Executive Council as saying. “I’ve generally thought him to be a sophisticated, thoughtful lawyer, which is what I want in an attorney general. He’s never been known to have any ethical issues.”

    This week, a councilor condemned MacDonald as having been associated with politicians who have “shockingly extreme views.”

    Both comments were uttered by the same councilor, Concord Democrat Andru Volinsky.

    Thus Volinsky, a convention delegate for Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist who would abolish all private health insurance, labeled as a radical extremist a convention delegate for… Marco Rubio.

    I have, for a few years, considered myself literally a Republican In Name Only, because I enjoy voting in the primary.

    But, geez, even though I can't cheer very hard for Republicans, it's things like this that make me wish that Democrats would lose. Every one of them.

URLs du Jour

2019-07-12

[Amazon Link]

  • Daniel Henninger of the (perhaps paywalled) WSJ gives his thoughts on Wahooing Betsy Ross.

    The remarkable thing about Colin Kaepernick’s banning of Nike’s Betsy Ross flag sneaker to commemorate the Fourth of July isn’t that it happened, but how easily it happened. Nike’s management simply folded over “concerns that it could unintentionally offend.”

    No one has ever thought to go looking inside corporate headquarters for profiles in courage, but the lurch toward timidity in our time by individuals at the top of America’s private and public institutions is something to behold. Pusillanimity has become a plague.

    Mr. Henninger notes the recent history: the Cleveland Indians' Chief Wahoo; Kate Smith. We could add more. Like that hectoring Gilette Super Bowl ad.

    What these incidents have in common is that the outcome didn't solve anything. Racism didn't go away because Nike pulled the flag shoe; nor was it affected by memory-holing Kate Smith. Chief Wahoo's presence was not a crucial factor in the relative poor economic position of Native Americans. Not a single male lout was inspired to be less loutish.

    I really shouldn't psychologize this, but I will anyway: the advocates behind this onslaught of wokeness aren't trying to "solve" anything. That's not the point of the exercise.

    Instead they're getting a temporary dopamine jolt from a successful campaign of intimidation/legislation/moral posturing. I bent these people to my will. Congratulations.

    And that's why it's a never ending struggle. Each little biochemical thrill only lasts so long, then it's another search for the next pointless crusade.


  • But can you stand another example? As a retired computer geek, I found this interesting: Google Told Employees to Delete Politically Incorrect Language From Code.

    Google has instructed employees to stop using politically incorrect terminology, and to edit existing code in order to remove offensive language.

    That's according to The Daily Caller, which obtained a copy of a "respectful code" policy written by Google Senior Fellow Sanjay Ghemawat and Vice President of Engineering Suzanne Frey. The document was shared with employees a year ago—around the same time Python stopped referring to components that control or are controlled by other components as "master" and "slave," which some people found offensive.

    I will go out on a limb and claim that not a single person was actually offended. And—yay!—once the last master/slave reference is wiped out from code and support documentation, we'll still have unacceptable implications of dominance and submission.

    And (again) racism will not vanish. The only thing different: that little momentary dopamine jolt.


  • David Harsanyi has had some beefs with Tucker Carlson in the past but he points out: Tucker Carlson Is Absolutely Right About Rep. Ilhan Omar.

    Americans are constantly being lectured that good citizenship isn’t contingent on skin color, faith, or ethnicity, but a set of beliefs. Yet whenever anyone is critical of the ugly things someone like Ilhan Omar says, they are immediately battered for being xenophobes and racists. You can’t have it both ways.

    I mean, you can try. Nearly the entire contemporary progressive argument is girded by identity grievances. So when Fox News’s Tucker Carlson gives a monologue, in which he concludes that Omar was “living proof that the way we practice immigration has become dangerous to this country,” the reaction is predictable.

    As philosophical matter, though, Omar isn’t the kind of immigrant we should want.  That’s not because she is Muslim or black, but because she doesn’t believe in the traditional ideas that define American life. And she shouldn’t be immune from criticism merely because of her background.

    Unfortunately, there are too many born-here Americans that no longer buy the American ideals. What are you gonna do, deport them?


  • Just something that needs to be said, from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, spurred by the recent confab on "social media" held at the White House: Empowering Government to Regulate Speech Would Harm Americans' First Amendment Rights.

    “Issues surrounding social media and speech have become more contentious and complicated in recent years, and are worthy of presidential attention. However, it’s disappointing the White House is elevating voices that advocate for the use of government against private individuals and companies with whom they have political differences.

    “Empowering bureaucrats to police speech and fairness in any industry is a dangerous idea. Conservatives and free-market advocates should remember that not long ago the shoe was on the other foot and IRS employees weaponized regulation against political enemies. Inserting government into decisions properly left to the private sector doesn’t eliminate ‘bias’ or stop ‘censorship,’ as some claim. Only the government has the power to engage in censorship and asking it to intervene in questions about speech on social media could lead to severe curtailing of First Amendment rights under both President Trump and any future president.”

    CEI's observation applies equally as well to "campaign finance reform".


  • James Lileks is Remembering a WWII vet, an American orginal, a father.

    Ralph Lileks — father, husband, up-from-nothing businessman, veteran, sportsman, aviator and by-God American original, died at his home this week. I found his WWII cap on the seat of his Harley in the garage.

    Thank you for reading, and if you see a man with that hat, thank him, too. We owe them the world.

    Over the years I've been reading Lileks, his admiration and love for his father has been a recurring theme. I hope he'll take comfort from having his dad around for as long as he did.

URLs du Jour

2019-07-11

[Amazon Link]

  • Veronique de Rugy notes a milestone: The Global Trade War Comes Full Circle. "For a while…"

    As a result, the price of steel went up for a while, the U.S. steel industry fired up its mills, and U.S. steel output went up dramatically. For a while, it seemed like it was all working according to Trump's plan — for the domestic producers of steel, that is, not for consumers. As U.S. companies were still trying to figure out their options, some had no choice but to shift their demand and increase purchases of domestic steel. The industry responded by adding more capacity than they would have had without the protection.

    Yet because they were responding to an artificial and temporary increase in demand triggered by the tariffs, as opposed to real market signals, they failed to recognize the global economic slowdown and the subsequent reduction in overall demand. As a result, prices of steel went down quite dramatically. That's what we economists call malinvestment, and as a result, the older, less productive blast-furnace steel mills are now paying a dire price as they're unable to stay profitable even with the foreign competition out of the way. And because misery loves company, the furnaces suppliers are in trouble, too.

    It's hard to feel too sorry for the folks who were clamoring for "protection" only to now find themselves ass-bitten. But spare some sympathy for … well, us, American Consumers.


  • In local news, New Hampshire station WMUR reports: Rochester woman told she can't fly 'Trump 2020' flag outside apartment.

    A woman in Rochester is fighting to fly a flag supporting the president.

    Kay Keenan said she's trying to show her patriotism by flying a "Trump 2020" flag, but the Rochester Housing Authority said her actions violate the rules and regulations in her lease agreement.

    It gets interesting, because (I Am Not A Lawyer But) a Rochester Housing Authority (RHA) attorney may have shot his client's case in the foot:

    The RHA told her that the flag violated her lease agreement.

    "They don't allow political flags," Keenan said. "However, that's not in our lease. It doesn't say that."

    The RHA argued otherwise. In its community rule book, it says residents cannot have "signs, advertisements, notices, banners" or "flags."

    "With probably over 500 units. It would be quite cumbersome to have people putting anything and everything in common space outside," said Jerry Grossman, legal counsel for the RHA.

    Grossman said there could be one exception. Some of Keenan's neighbors fly a U.S. flag.

    "I think the American flag is a symbol of our country. I don't think that would be prohibited," Grossman said. "That's my personal opinion."

    Uh, from what I understand about First Amendment jurisprudence, you generally can't restrict expression based on (non-libelous, non-obscene, etc.) content. Either enforce the rule uniformly, or don't enforce it at all.

    But, of course:

    "I live in New Hampshire. Live free or die," [Ms. Keenan] said. "So, I'm at the -- I live free, you know? I live free. I can put the flag up that I want, maybe."

    "Maybe." I hope it doesn't come to the "or die" part.


  • The Greenwich (CT) Time reported on the latest New Hampshire state news for some reason: Sununu vetoes 10 more bills, including 2 related to hiring.

    Sununu vetoed 10 bills on Wednesday, bringing his total to the year to 23. The latest round included bills that would have prohibited employers from using an applicant's credit history in making hiring decisions and would have prohibited employers from requiring applicants to provide their salary histories. Sununu said both bills were part of a larger effort to impose more regulations on businesses.

    Rep. Brian Sullivan, a Grantham Democrat who chairs the House Labor Committee, said the bills were aimed at ensuring privacy and fairness for applicants. He says no one in the "Live Free or Die" state should be forced to provide irrelevant personal information that might result in employment discrimination.

    Geez, Brian. I think LFOD cuts against your argument here. Maybe employers and job applicants should be able to decide for themselves what information to exchange, and whether such information is relevant or irrelevant. Without being dictated to by your whims.


  • And what would we do without CNBC telling us… These are the best places to live in America in 2019. And (no suprise), we're pretty high on the list, number 5, tied with Washington state.

    With its famous motto, “Live Free or Die,” it stands to reason that the Granite State is among America’s most inclusive. Freedom also includes security. New Hampshire enjoys the third lowest violent crime rate in the nation. The state also boasts the nation’s lowest child poverty rate. On the other hand, air quality can suffer, partly due to the state’s proximity to Boston. And the quiet life here means New Hampshire can sometimes lack things to do.

    Number one is Hawaii, which tells me maybe cost-of-living doesn't factor into the CNBC comparison. But note that the link goes to an article posted the day before…


  • i.e., CNBC's ranking of Top States For Business 2019. And on that ranking we're a pretty mediocre #25.

    The motto "Live Free or Die" also applies to the friendly regulatory regime, but Granite State infrastructure is a bit unstable.

    We get an A+ for "Business Friendliness", and a D- for "Infrastructure". I assume for good reasons, except that I haven't broken an axle in a pothole for a couple weeks now.

URLs du Jour

2019-07-10

[Amazon Link]

  • Alex Nowrasteh writes (at generally pro-immigration Cato) in contradiction to a lot of Democratic presidential candidates: Illegal Immigrants – and Other Non-Citizens – Should Not Receive Government Healthcare.

    Last week during one of their debates, all Democratic primary candidates supported government health care for illegal immigrants. This type of position is extremely damaging politically and, if enacted, would unnecessarily burden taxpayers for likely zero improvements in health outcomes. I expect the eventual Democratic candidate for president to not support this type of proposal, but it should be nipped in the bud.

    After the debate, Democratic candidate Julian Castro argued that extending government health care to illegal immigrants would not be a big deal. “[W]e already pay for the health care of undocumented immigrants,” Castro said. “It’s called the emergency room. People show up in the emergency room and they get care, as they should.” It is true that some illegal immigrants use emergency room services thanks to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act and to Emergency Medicaid, but Castro leaned heavily into a stereotype often used by nativists. According to a paper published in the journal Health Affairs, illegal immigrants between the ages of 18-64 consumed about $1.1 billion in government healthcare benefits in 2006 – about 0.13 percent of the approximately $867 billion in government healthcare expenditures that year. That’s a fraction of the cost that would be imposed on American taxpayers by extending nationalized health care to all illegal immigrants. So, with all due respect to Mr. Castro, we do not already pay for their health care just because some illegal immigrants visit emergency rooms at government expense.      

    It's a sign of just how panderful the Dems are getting in their quest for left-wing supporters. The late Bill Niskansen is quoted as saying that we should "build a wall around the welfare state, not around the country.”


  • Speaking of our wacky presidential candidates, Michael J. Boskin offers a 24-page rebuttal to their half-or-less-baked proposals: A Closer Look At The Left’s Agenda: Scientific, Economic, And Numerical Illiteracy On The Campaign Trail.

    The policy community and media have too often not taken these Democrats’ proposals seriously enough. Almost all the Democrat presidential candidates immediately jumped on board with the most extreme proposals, including Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. That made Nancy Pelosi’s demand to vote on Obamacare—“We have to pass it to see what’s in it”—seem innocuous by comparison. And the mainstream media, environmentalists, and left-leaning think tanks and academics laud the proposals for being wonderfully aspirational, if maybe a bit too difficult to achieve fully so quickly. Opponents are mostly content to mock them as socialist and highlight the most extreme implications, such as eliminating cows or airplanes. The policies and their proposers deserve more than such a shallow analysis. From taxes, spending, and debt to climate risks, from lifting up the less fortunate to strengthening our constitutional republic, they legitimately raise vital national issues,

    Unfortunately, each of the proposals could be quite damaging in its own right; taken together, they would be extremely dangerous, likely causing an economic, medical,and energy disaster trifecta. That is bad enough, but even more important, the radical proposals are crowding out any serious debate about solutions. These legitimate issues won’t go away just by rejecting extreme proposals. After detailing some of the most salient arguments against these radical proposals, I will turn to some examples of policies that would be quite constructive, affordable, and potentially amenable to bipartisan compromise.

    It's a skillful accumulation of rebuttals and refutations to essentially wrong-headed schemes. One of the policies Boskin favors is a carbon tax. I'd bet that's a wrong-headed scheme too. But I have an open mind, or I'd like to think so anyway. I would like to see a back and forth between Boskin and Benjamin Zycher (to whom we linked yesterday).


  • One bad proposal that Boskin doesn't mention is discussed at Reason by Alex Muresianu, who says we should Be Skeptical About Bernie Sanders’ Financial Transactions Tax.

    Taxing financial transactions is a popular proposal among Democrats to fund new government programs—but some on the center-left have called into question how much revenue such a tax would generate.

    Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D–N.Y.), along with several other members of Congress, have introduced a bill that would tax financial transactions. It would levy a tax of 0.5 percent on stock trades, 0.1 percent on bond trades, and 0.005 percent on derivatives trades. Sanders promises that this new tax will raise $2.4 trillion over the next decade, citing a study from University of Massachusetts economists; he plans to use that revenue to fund free college, student loan debt forgiveness, expanded Pell Grants, support for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and increased investment in K-12 education. 

    The small percentages are deceptive (and probably, to the extent that Sanders and Gillibrand aren't ignorant, dishonest). As Alex notes, the huge sums promised are only achievable by "tax pyramiding": taxing the same economic activity multiple times.


  • I am always a sucker for discussions of free will, conciousness, quantum mechanics, and the like. At Quillette, William Edwards looks at The Academic Quarrel over Determinism.

    Sam Harris has adamantly argued against the existence of free will. He notes that a theory of free will presupposes that before we make a decision something occurs inside of us that is completely separate from the cause and effect chain of events preceding it in the outside world. Whatever occurs inside of us must be completely different from a random roll of the dice, as well. Given the absurdity of such a mental process, Harris rejects the possibility of its existence. This view is actually very close to the majority of philosophers and scientists who think about such things. To argue otherwise seems to flirt with pseudoscience or magical thinking.

    Regardless of the truth of whether our actions are subject to determinism or individual will, it certainly doesn’t feel like our actions are being dictated by a script that has already been written. When it comes time to make a decision it doesn’t seem as though we’re watching our self in the third person and helplessly wondering, “What will he do now?” It feels as though we are making a decision in real time for which we must take moral responsibility. Making a choice doesn’t feel remotely similar to watching someone else make a choice. This sense of things is dismissed as an illusion by serious, contemporary neuroscientists. Laboratory evidence and coherent reasoning, they say, demand it.

    Still, the universe is full of things that seem irrefutably evident and yet can’t be well explained or understood. Sam Harris has also devoted much attention to consciousness. Why does it exist and what exactly is it? How does something become “aware” of something else? Godel’s incompleteness theorems indicate that there are truths about numbers that cannot be proven through calculation or computation. In math and physics there are singularities; times and places where all “rules” break down or don’t seem to apply. Is it far-fetched to suppose that conscious choice is real, but rules, processes, and definitions don’t apply?

    Sam Harris is an interesting case. I thought that his short-book attempt to debunk free will was irredeemably sloppy. And yet, if you follow the link provided to his thoughts on consciousness, he is (for some reason) much less dogmatic: it's obviously true, even if we can't explain whence it comes.


  • The (Manitowoc Wisconsin) Herald Times Reporter offers a bit of sub trivia that set off the LFOD News Alert: Walt Disney designs, mermaids among US Navy submarine battle insignia. Lots of interesting stuff, but let us cut to the chase:

    Many of the submarines named after the “denizens of the deep” not only had fierce names, but fierce insignia as well. Their patches depicted fighting fish, mermaids riding or holding a torpedo, or exploding torpedoes and Japanese flags. The tougher the creatures looked, the more the submariners liked them. The designs were meant to send a “don’t mess with us” warning to the enemy and included famous sayings such as “Don’t give up the ship” and "Live free or die.” Battle insignia were considered good omens and were placed on letterheads, jackets and painted on sails when the submarines were not on patrol. The insignia also appeared throughout the submarine and on the ship’s battle flag.

    Indeed! And on our Amazon Product du Jour (if you look closely).

URLs du Jour

2019-07-09

[Amazon Link]

  • Guilty confession: although I've dropped my Monday-Saturday subscription to the local newspaper, Foster's Daily Democrat, I still browse through the online version to see if I'm missing anything. And I occasionally get reminded that I made a good decision; for example, the front-page headline "news" story: "A Walk for democracy". Awww! Who could be against that? (Online headline not quite as gushy: "Group makes walk to rid big money from politics".) Lead paragraph:

    A 20th anniversary walk from Kittery to Market Square by members and supporters of NH Rebellion aimed to bring awareness to the need to remove big money from politics.

    The "reporter", Karen Dandurant, is a willing conduit for the views of "NH Rebellion". The group's goal is presented uncritically as a "need". Not a smidgen of criticism or (even) skepticism appears.

    And above all, the whole enterprise is covered with a thick layer of gauzy euphemism. Goodness forbid that anyone should come right out and say: we want the government to be in more control of what you can say about politicians and political issues, and how and when you can say it..

    Put that way, it doesn't, or at least shouldn't, sound like such a hot idea.

    So thanks to Karen and Foster's for reminding me why I no longer subscribe.


  • [Amazon Link]
    The "good news" side of Reason's current issue reviews a new book by Nicholas A. Christakis, Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society. (Which I have obtained via the ILL services of the University Near Here. I'll get to it once I wade through Victor Davis Hanson's analysis of World War II.) Prof Christakis's thesis: Our Big Brains Are Pre-Wired for Love, Friendship, Cooperation, and Learning.

    We finally have an answer to the nature/nurture debate, and it appears to be yes.

    It took billions of years of biological evolution for bacteria to morph into humanity, but the human ability to learn and to teach each other new tricks means that useful behaviors and ideas don't have to take biological time to spread through the species. Their emergence, the ways we spread them, and the ways they change over time amount to a kind of cultural evolution.

    A cultural discovery—our pre-human predecessors' capture of fire—externalized the digestive system that evolution had shaped for our variety of ape. That freed biological energy to grow a big brain. In Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of A Good Society, Nicholas Christakis argues that this coevolution has equipped us with a "social suite" of traits that arose through genetic evolution and that have been amplified by cultural evolution, which has in turn influenced our genetic evolution toward propensities that support the social suite. These include the "capacity to have and recognize individual identity," "love for partners and offspring," friendship, social networks, cooperation, "preference for one's own group ('in-group bias')," "mild hierarchy (that is, relative egalitarianism)," and "social learning and teaching."

    As people who have been following my reading habits know (and I hope there aren't a lot of you) this is a theme for which I've been a sucker over the last few years.


  • George Will writes: Democratic Presidential Candidates Imitating Trump Strategy. That's the column title from the HTML version; actual online headline: "How Can Presidential Candidates Be So Silly?" Which is another way of saying the same thing, I guess.

    If California senator Kamala Harris is elected president in 2020 and reelected in 2024, by the time she leaves office 114 months from now she might have a coherent answer to the question of whether Americans should be forbidden to have what 217 million of them currently have: private health insurance. Her 22 weeks of contradictory statements, and her Trumpian meretriciousness about her contradictions, reveal a frivolity about upending health care’s complex 18 percent of America’s economy. And her bumblings illustrate how many of the Democratic presidential aspirants, snug in their intellectual silos, have lost — if they ever had — an aptitude for talking like, and to, normal Americans.

    As I type, Kamala is the most likely Democrat to become Our Next President (as judged by online betting site Betfair). Mr. Will also mentions a less likely, but no less silly, candidate:

    The day the Supreme Court held that “partisan gerrymandering” is not a justiciable issue, Massachusetts representative Seth Moulton, yet another presidential candidate, tweeted: “Make no mistake: the partisan gerrymandering SCOTUS just allowed is also racial gerrymandering — modern-day Jim Crow. Just look at what happened with Stacey Abrams last cycle in Georgia.” Abrams lost a gubernatorial race. How can a statewide race be gerrymandered? How can presidential candidates be so silly?

    That's a challenge to which many candidates will step up: "You think Kamala and Seth are silly? Hold my beer."


  • Many ostensible free market types concerned about greenhouse gases have embraced a so-called "carbon tax". At AEI, Benjamin Zycher outlines The confusions of the ‘conservative’ carbon tax.

    Various news reports and self-serving political pronouncements would have us believe that imposition of a tax on “carbon” — emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) — now enjoys growing support among Republican policymakers and conservative observers, a political premise advertised at a decibel level vastly higher than actual political reality would support. That reality is straightforward: Any policy to reduce GHG emissions by definition must increase energy costs, and policymakers endorsing such policies would have to describe the benefits that supposedly would redound to the electorate.

    And that is a very serious political stumbling block: The most prominent “conservative” proposals for a carbon tax would reduce global temperatures in the year 2100 by about 0.015°C, as estimated by the EPA climate model under a set of assumptions exaggerating the temperature effect of GHG reductions. That effect would not be measurable, as it is an order of magnitude smaller than the standard deviation of the surface-temperature record. A complete elimination of US GHG emissions, envisioned by supporters of the Green New Deal, would yield a temperature reduction of 0.173°C under the same favorable assumptions. (An international policy vastly more aggressive than the Paris agreement, and thus utterly unachievable, would have an effect of about 0.5°C.)

    It's difficult to imagine that carbon tax proposals are anything more than a foot in the door for even more draconian measures.


  • A WSJ op-ed from Michael Saltsman wonders: How Many Jobs Would the $15 Minimum Wage Kill?. And presents the latest estimate from the CBO:

    This is one political promise it’s OK to break. Democrats pledged a $15-an-hour minimum wage while campaigning in 2018, and all but three of the party’s 2020 presidential candidates endorse the increase. But a new report from the Congressional Budget Office finds the policy could leave nearly four million workers without a job.

    This week’s analysis is an update of CBO’s 2014 analysis of a $10.10 minimum wage, which said one million workers would be pulled out of poverty at the cost of half a million jobs. That conclusion was enough to tank the proposal; a Bloomberg poll at the time found that 57% of Americans viewed the jobs trade-off as “unacceptable.”

    Democrats have responded to CBO’s wage warning by ignoring it. The Raise the Wage Act of 2019, introduced in January, would set a $15 minimum wage by 2024. The trade-offs from this legislation are even worse than in 2014. CBO finds a $15 minimum wage would pull 1.3 million workers out of poverty at the cost of 1.3 million jobs in the median scenario, and 3.7 million jobs in the worst-case scenario.

    It's not as if a minimum wage increase wouldn't benefit some workers. It's just that the people it would hurt are the ones at, or trying to get on, the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.

    People who pride themselves about "caring" should at least make an attempt at caring about that.

Black Mass

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

The IMDB trivia-gatherers count 254 f-bombs in this movie.

Johnny Depp plays the late, not particularly lamented, James "Whitey" Bulger; the movie documents his rise from a small-time South Boston hoodlum to a one-man crime wave… and then his fall. There's no great moral lesson to be learned from Whitey's character arc.

On the other hand, Whitey's corruption of his boyhood pal, FBI agent John Connolly, is a moral lesson, but it's pretty straightforward: don't be corrupt.

Along the way there's a lot of unglamorous violence. Depp does a fine job of portraying Bulger as a creepy unpredictable psycho. ("Probably not that much of a stretch for him.")

Benedict Cumberbatch plays Whitey's brother, Boston politician Billy Bulger. He's fine, of course, but doesn't look a bit like Billy. (Maybe the movie producers figured they had too many potato-faced actors in the movie already.)

URLs du Jour

2019-07-08

[Amazon Link]

  • A left-leaning Facebook friend posted a Forbes article with the startling headline: United States Spend [sic] Ten Times More On Fossil Fuel Subsidies Than Education.

    The author is James Ellsmoor, a "Forbes 30 Under 30 entrepreneur". And he's a cheerleader for "sustainable development and renewable energy". But that headline! Could that possibly be true?

    Well, not really. Since I put some effort into analyzing it at Facebook, I might as well share here as well.

    The bare facts: a recent report from the International Monetary Fund which claims that the US subsidized fossil fuels to the tune of $649 billion in 2015. And compares this to (I assume) the annual budget of the Federal Department of Education, which is about $68 billion.

    So, ohmigod, right? Not really. First, the vast majority of education spending in the US takes place at the state/local level. As even Politifact notes we spend more than 'almost any other major country' on education: more than $620 billion dollars on K-12 education each year.

    So Ellsmoor is dramatically understating how much is spent on education to get his "Ten Times" claim.

    But what about that "fossil fuel subsidy". Isn't that (still) way too much money for the US to be spending?

    Well, here's the thing. It's not as if Uncle Stupid is writing huge checks to Exxon/Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell. There's no budget line item for "Fossil Fuel Subsidies". The IMF report Ellsmoor cites defines its "subsidy" figure as "fuel consumption times the gap between existing and efficient prices (i.e., prices warranted by supply costs, environmental costs, and revenue considerations)."

    In other words, the IMF study thinks fossil fuels are too cheap, and calls the difference between the actual price and their imaginary "efficient" price a "subsidy". Merits of that calculation aside, it's spurious to compare it with actual government expenditure.

    So the headline is (doubly) misleading, and (if we assume that Ellsmoor knows better) wildly dishonest.

    Forbes used to be better than this.


  • Bryan Caplan writes wisely at the Library of Economics and Liberty: Historically Hollow: The Cries of Populism. Specifically, he has zero patience with the present-day demagogues bitching about Amazon/Facebook/Google/etc.

    During [the last fifteen years], I’ve seen the tech industry dramatically improve human life all over the world.

    Amazon is simply the best store that ever existed, by far, with incredible selection and unearthly convenience.  The price: cheap.

    Facebook, Twitter, and other social media let us socialize with our friends, comfortably meet new people, and explore even the most obscure interests.  The price: free.

    Uber and Lyft provide high-quality, convenient transportation.  The price: really cheap.

    Skype is a sci-fi quality video phone.  The price: free.

    Youtube gives us endless entertainment.  The price: free.

    Google gives us the totality of human knowledge! The price: free.

    That’s what I’ve seen.  What I’ve heard, however, is totally different.  The populists of our Golden Age are loud and furious.  They’re crying about “monopolies” that deliver firehoses worth of free stuff.  They’re bemoaning the “death of competition” in industries (like taxicabs) that governments forcibly monopolized for as long as any living person can remember.  They’re insisting that “only the 1% benefit” in an age when half of the high-profile new businesses literally give their services away for free.   And they’re lashing out at businesses for “taking our data” – even though five years ago hardly anyone realized that they had data.

    Let me make explicit what is usually implicit: Read The Whole Thing.

    Speaking of explicit: Elizabeth Warren has made it an explicit part of her campaign to destroy all that. The other Democratic candidates aren't as definite, but make strong noises that way.

    And if you're looking to Donald Trump as someone who might appreciate Bryan Caplan's simple truths, think again.


  • Another article from the "bad news" half of the current Reason issue: Robby Soave noting that Socialism Is Back, and the Kids Are Loving It.

    For decades, democratic socialism was an old man's ideology. Its adherents were aging hippies, old-time union organizers, and folks who fondly remembered the pre-'60s left. As recently as 2013, the average member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) was 68 years old. Even today, the ideology's best-known spokesperson, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.), is 77.

    But Sanders is suddenly an outlier. Today, most DSAers are young: The average member is 33. The ideology's second-best-known spokesperson, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.), is just 29. And the DSA's ranks have grown larger as well as younger. Socialist gatherings buzz with youthful energy, and they are taking place all over the country.

    I have lost hope.

    Well, not really. I remember that my age cohort, the baby boomers, were supposed to usher in the "Greening of America". And now everyone's bashing us for … not doing that, I guess.


  • The Daily Wire interviews Donald Bolduc, who's in the running to replace Jeanne Shaheen in the US Senate. Parts I and II.

    (My pedantic old-man gripe: the headline refers to "Jeanne Shaheen’s NH Senate Seat". It's not her seat, Daily Wire. It's the state's seat; she's just sitting in it.)

    Anyway: this is not the worst possible thing for a Republican candidate to be saying about health care:

    This area in particular in Congress is broken and it's hurting the people of New Hampshire. It’s more expensive and failing our veterans; it's failing our elderly and our young, and everybody in between. Everyone in America must have affordable health care, and we must understand that one size does not fit all. So, the Democratic plan doesn't work from the beginning. It’s the leading cause of individual bankruptcy in New Hampshire. This just should not happen.

    What we need to really think about for affordable health care is lower costs for prescriptions – and I'm not talking about generic medications as a substitute either – transparency in billing, and recognizing pre-existing conditions is hugely important. We must innovate to ensure quality health care so we need competition and a free market.

    The other thing that I've been hearing a lot about is expanding and supporting a transferable health savings account (HSA) where people can invest in their own health care and take that health care from one job to the next, and it actually becomes their money. That, at some point in time, makes a heck of a lot more sense than what we're doing now.

    Select health care like you do auto insurance. Provide choices in health care like we do in auto insurance, and recognize that everyone's situation is different. Reward good behavior for people who stay healthy – and that's something that we don't do. Let’s incentivize this a little bit.

    The ACA and the Medicare-for-all that the Democrats are so in love with is socialized medicine at its best, and it is going to crush New Hampshire and America.

    Yeah, that thing about medical-caused bankruptcy is probably bogus. Still: not Jeanne Shaheen.


  • Here's a fact from blogger Ann Althouse that made my jaw drop, rocked my world, caused me to question the nature of physical reality: Did you know that Alan Arkin co-wrote "The Banana Boat Song"?. (Video of a very young Arkin singing it with his group at the link.)

    Well, OK, it's not quite that simple.

    Now why do they play it as a crowd sing-along at baseball games? The Wikipedia page does not enlighten me on that issue. Maybe "Me wan' go home" reflects a desire for the team to hurry up and finish the game?

The Phony Campaign

2019-07-07 Update

[Amazon Link]

As far as winning probabilities go, Senator Kamala had another good week at Betfair, while Wheezy Joe continued to fade.

And the President continues to lead the in the phony campaign, although any of Sanders/Buttigieg/Biden are just a major prevarication away from taking over the top spot:

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
6/30
Phony
Results
Change
Since
6/30
Donald Trump 46.9% +1.2% 1,790,000 -410,000
Bernie Sanders 5.0% +0.1% 1,470,000 +70,000
Pete Buttigieg 4.5% -1.0% 1,140,000 +254,000
Joe Biden 6.8% -1.2% 1,040,000 -270,000
Elizabeth Warren 8.3% unch 205,000 +24,000
Kamala Harris 25.0% +13.5% 144,000 +38,000
Andrew Yang 2.3% -0.8% 28,700 +700

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

We'll be jumping around considerably among the candidates and issues, but here goes:

  • Megan McArdle makes an important point about "Medicare for All", while observing that Elizabeth Warren had better hope voters want radical honesty. Notably, Senator Warren was one of the two candidates raising her hand in Debate I when asked if they favored abolishing private health insurance. (The other being Bill de Blasio.)

    Unfortunately, leaving private insurance in place would make any sort of comprehensive left-wing reforms impossible. You couldn’t cut costs down to European levels, for instance, because that involves forcing providers to take lower reimbursements. And as long as a private system exists that’s willing to pay higher ones, slashing payments in the public system would just mean providers’ migrating toward the private one.

    Nor could you save much money on administrative overhead, since provider billing departments and insurer back offices would continue to exist in any hybrid system. You couldn’t develop the centralized health records to provide better continuity of care. And most important, you couldn’t make central decisions about which treatments to offer and which are too expensive for the benefit they provide.

    Piecemeal reforms that don’t touch employer insurance, or don’t touch it much, may modestly expand coverage. But they won’t fix everything else that’s broken in the current system — and for that reason, the piecemeal reforms would probably be too expensive to pass.

    So if you’re serious about creating a European-style health-care system, then you have to be serious about abolishing private insurance. The presidential candidates’ responses to Holt’s question were revealing.

    So Warren's being "honest". About that, at least. However…


  • At National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru pointed out the hapless Kirsten Gillibrand's Single-Payer Dishonesty. Senator Gillibrand is a cosponsor of Bernie's "Medicare for All" bill. But she didn't raise her hand for the "abolish private insurance" question. WTF, Kirsten?

    “The plan that Senator Sanders and I and others support, Medicare-for-all, is how you get to single payer. But it has a buy-in transition period, which is really important. In 2005 when I ran for Congress in a two-to-one Republican district, I actually ran on Medicare-for-all and I won that two-to-one Republican district twice. And the way I formulated it was simple: Anyone who doesn’t have access to insurance they like, they could buy it in a percentage of income they could afford,” she said.

    Yeah, yeah. Take it, Ramesh:

    What Gillibrand didn’t say: At the end of the third year of the transition, the federal government would prohibit private insurers from selling policies covering what the new Medicare for all” program does. The old joke about politicians is that you can tell they’re lying when their lips move. Sometimes Gillibrand manages to do it when her arm doesn’t move.

    Other candidates co-sponsoring Berniecare: Booker, Harris, Warren. The latter being the only one honest about what it means for private insurance.


  • Also at NR, editorial intern Kayla Bartsch notes Kamala Harris and the Fallacy of Defective Induction. Because Kamala is claiming to be meeting people out on the hustings "working two and three jobs" in order to "put food on the table." Sad!

    Harris, however, remained especially vague as to the actual number of Americans forced to work multiple jobs to feed their families. The reality is, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than 5 percent of Americans worked more than one job in 2018. Further, only 3.2 percent of that 5 percent work a full-time job alongside of a part-time job (instead of two part-time jobs). And, recorded within that 3.2 percent are freelance artists, moonlight writers, and weekend Uber drivers — in short, it is hard to gauge whether the majority were working multiple jobs simply to “put food on the table” as Harris suggested, or if they were simply unsatisfied with their regular job (as the Census Bureau suggests).

    "Kamala Harris and the Fallacy of Defective Induction" sounds as if it could be the first volume of a series, à la J.K. Rowling. "Kamala Harris and the Berkeley Busing Experiment". "Kamala Harris and the Married Politician". "Kamala Harris and the Foolish Economic Agenda."


  • But Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner points out: Kamala Harris is the most cynical and dishonest 2020 Democrat — and it just might work. Specifically, her recent back and forth on whether we should go back to imposing busing. Philip notes:

    So Harris milked the issue for what it was worth at the time. It was the MacGuffin that allowed her to reduce Biden to an out-of-touch doddering old man, while she came off as tough and was able to throw in an inspirational personal story of being bused to school. Allahpundit predicted that Harris would “chuck this issue into the ocean within eight seconds of clinching the nomination.” But it turned out she casually tossed it in the Des Moines River once she got her polling bounce.

    Being so brazenly dishonest has proven both an asset and liability in presidential politics, when leading candidates undergo more scrutiny than running for any other office.

    Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton were both calculating liars, and that contributed to their 2008 primary losses, as well as their respective losses in the 2012 and 2016 general elections. Of course, there are many examples in the opposite direction. Bill “Slick Willie” Clinton was a routine liar and mostly managed to pull it off during his political career — at least electorally.

    President Trump is a brazen and shameless liar. His healthcare statements while running for president were totally incoherent and he casually made up facts. He made promises everybody knew were unattainable, such as Mexico paying for his border wall and boasting that he would pay off the federal debt within eight years while dramatically cutting taxes, boosting military spending, and not touching entitlements. Yet he won.

    So it could work out for her, as it has for Trump.


  • But let's move on to "honest" Elizabeth Warren. At the Washington Free Beacon, Brent Scher recalls: Warren Helped Confirm Clueless Obama Bundlers as Ambassadors.

    Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren's pledge to end the practice of tapping political donors to be ambassadors comes after years of silence during the Barack Obama presidency, when she voted to confirm numerous donors with no diplomatic experience.

    Warren's latest proposal, laid out in a Medium post, points to the Trump administration "selling swanky diplomatic posts to rich buffoons."

    "Buffoons". Heh. And yet:

    Warren was a senator, for example, when Obama nominated Noah Bryson Mamet to be U.S. ambassador to Argentina—Mamet was a political operative with no diplomatic experience who raised millions of dollars for Obama's presidential campaigns. It was revealed during Mamet's confirmation hearing that he had never been to Argentina.

    Warren voted to confirm Mamet, who passed through the Senate with 50 votes and none from Republicans.

    Brent provides a couple more examples of Liz's pro-buffoon record.


  • True confession: I am on Elizabeth's mailing list. My bad for signing up for a chance to grab a beer with her, and give her a piece of my alcohol-addled mind.

    So I've been pointed to her Student Loans Calculator. ("See how much debt you’ll have canceled under Elizabeth’s plan.")

    And she's touted her Universal Child Care Calculator. ("See how much you could save on child care costs under Elizabeth’s plan.")

    I looked in vain for "See how much more you'll be paying in taxes under Elizabeth's various plans." That's something I'll bring up with her when we meet for a drink.


  • And good news from the Babylon Bee: Nike Releases Bernie Sanders Signature Shoe That Helps You Survive Under Socialism.

    Nike has released a new patriotic shoe just in time for the Fourth of July: the Sanders Air Marx, the official, signature shoe of Senator Bernie Sanders.

    Every pair of Air Marx is emblazoned with Sanders' signature and iconic "crazy old man" silhouette. The shoes pack in all kinds of useful features for people living in a socialist regime, including the following:

    • New ActiveShrink technology helps the shoe shrink right along with you as you wither away from starvation
    • Breadline Padding Plus helps you stand in breadlines for hours hoping the government is generous enough to give you some food
    • A Venezuelan flag, or optional Soviet Russian flag, to show your true patriotism
    • A patented air pump that helps you pump up your wheelbarrow tire as you slave away farming food for the government to redistribute
    • Comfy and aerodynamic design that helps you chase zoo animals more effectively
    • The shoes are completely edible and can be boiled into soup or gruel in a pinch

    Picture at the link, comrade.


  • But let's move on to Fading Joe. We noted above how Kamala weaponized his anti-busing stance effectively and cynically. But as Jeff Jacoby points out in the Boston Globe: Biden was right. Busing was wrong.

    Biden wasn’t wrong. The forced busing of schoolchildren for purposes of racial desegregation was a wretched, wrongheaded policy that caused far more harm than good. As a young, liberal Democratic senator 45 years ago, Biden firmly opposed busing, and he was right to do so.

    In the days following the debate, the liberal media chorus declared that of course opposition to forced busing was wrong, of course Biden had been on “the wrong side of history,” and of course he should acknowledge the error of his ways. A visitor from Mars could be forgiven for assuming that racial busing had been wise and beneficial, and that no reasonable mind could deny it.

    Jeff goes back and looks at the sad history of (yet another) failed social engineering scheme.


  • And the Washington Free Beacon brings us a video supercut. Joe Biden: A Life of Platitudes.

    Pun Salad Fact Check: platitude level 100%.

URLs du Jour

2019-07-06

[Amazon Link]

  • At the James G. Martin Center, George Leef reviews the book Cracks in the Ivory Tower by Jason Brennan and Phillip Magness. Which I've just placed high on my get list. He quotes:

    From a business ethics standpoint, the average university makes Enron look pretty good. Universities’ problems are deep and fundamental: Most academic marketing is semi-fraudulent, grading is largely nonsense, students don’t study or learn much, students cheat frequently, liberal arts education fails because it presumes a false theory of learning, professors and administrators waste students’ money and time in order to line their own pockets, everyone engages in self-righteous moral grandstanding to disguise their selfish cronyism, and so on.

    This will surprise nobody who's been associated with a university lately.


  • Matthew Mitchell writes at Reason: Socialists Are Scary, but Capitalists Are Their Own Worst Enemies.

    According to a recent Gallup poll, four in 10 Americans now think favorably about socialism.

    This reminds me of the economist Joseph Schumpeter, who in 1942 wondered, "Can capitalism survive?" His conclusion? "No. I do not think it can." Schumpeter didn't like this conclusion. But his fear, to borrow a Marxist saying, was that capitalists would sell the rope with which they would be hung. Schumpeter and many other free marketeers from Adam Smith to Milton Friedman observed that individual capitalists can profit by destroying capitalism, by lobbying governments for special privileges that undermine competition and tilt the economic playing field in their favor.

    If this depressing hypothesis is right, we should find evidence of it in the way business leaders think and talk about markets. Sadly, it turns out we can.

    Working with a national research firm, my colleagues Scott Eastman, Tamara Winter, and I surveyed 500 American business leaders. What we found was that capitalists who benefit from government favoritism are more likely to accept interventions into markets. Being a favorite is correlated with approving of favoritism.

    This isn't new, as anyone who remembers the character of James Taggart in Atlas Shrugged can attest.


  • Local hero Drew Cline returns to the Union Leader, and suggests: If you want to keep government in check, subscribe to a newspaper.

    Reading through the state budget passed and vetoed last week, I was struck by how many provisions had gone either unreported or lightly reported. The people’s elected representatives had just passed a $13 billion budget, and the people, excepting a handful of insiders, had little idea what was in it.

    Drew argues that this ignorance is due to lack of journalistic coverage. Which (in turn) is caused by declining newspaper readership. So, bottom line:

    Citizens cannot check government power if they abandon the organizations that expose what government is doing. This Independence Day weekend, commit a radical act of American patriotism. Subscribe to your local newspaper.

    This argument comes at an interesting time, as I just cut back my 7-day subscription to our local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat. I'm now down to Sunday-only, the edition with the coupons and the good crossword puzzles.

    I was "assisted" in this decision by a huge increase in their yearly subscription price. I paid $285 last year; this year, they wanted more than $400.

    And it's not as if me re-subscribing will touch off a new spirit of libertarian investigative journalism at Foster's. No, they'll just continue their leftward drift, providing their support for statism at all levels of government.

    So: sorry, Drew. Times change.


  • Jonah Goldberg's column looks at the Nike/Kaepernick/Betsy Ross kerfuffle. And asserts, accurately: Nike fans the flames of the culture war. A few loony extremists have attempted to use the Betsy Ross flag as their symbol, but (as Jonah points out) the ADL keeps a largish database of Hate Symbols, and Betsy's flag isn't widely appropriated enough to rise to their attention.

    And even so, isn't that even more of an argument for an enlightened company to do its part to take back the symbol from the haters?

    But here’s the thing: When evil people acquire symbols for their own ends, the only guarantee of success is when everyone else validates the acquisition.

    If Nike had gone ahead with the special-edition sneakers, it would have been, in marketing terms, the equivalent of Godzilla versus Bambi. A few neo-Nazis and a few more social-justice warriors would have complained, and everyone else would have gone about their day totally unconcerned.

    Instead, Nike followed the advice of a man whose business model is to stir grievance and controversy for its own sake. Suddenly, millions of people who once thought the Betsy Ross flag was just an admirable bit of Americana now associate it with hate groups. Worse, other entirely decent and patriotic Americans will now likely start brandishing the flag to offend people who, until recently, had no idea some hate groups adopted the flag in the first place.

    Nike makes everything worse.


  • The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education notes: FBI issues troubling advisory suggesting colleges should surveil Chinese academics.

    Late last month, National Public Radio reported a new development in the increasingly uneasy relationship between China, the U.S. government, and American academic institutions. According to NPR, Federal Bureau of Investigation officials visited at least 10 Association of American Universities member institutions to suggest they consider creating “protocols for monitoring students and visiting scholars from Chinese state-affiliated research institutions.” 

    Fred Cate, vice president of research at Indiana University, told NPR that “[i]t’s not a question of just looking for suspicious behavior — it’s actually really targeting specific countries and the people from those countries.”

    This news follows recent government reports on the potential threats posed to academic freedom at American campuses by China’s Confucius Institutes, FBI director Christopher Wray’s advocacy for a stronger response to China’s alleged intelligence-gathering efforts, and the news that the Trump administration considered stronger vetting procedures against Chinese students seeking visas. (In February, FIRE expressed concerns about the proposal to review Chinese students’ social media accounts, and again in June when the State Department adopted a similar policy requiring social media account information for all visa applicants.)

    FIRE says "sounds like it could be a bad idea", and it's difficult to disagree. Although dumping Confucius Institutes remains a good idea.


  • And a conversation between two Pun Salad heroes is a must-read: James Lileks interviews Dave Barry about his new book. (Which, rumor has it, I may be getting as a belated Father's Day gift.)

    “Lessons From Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog” is the title of Dave Barry’s new book. It’s about what an aging Barry, one of America’s finest humorists, learned from his aging mutt. In writing it, Barry managed a rare thing: a humorous dog book that is also useful. As you read, it gets even rarer: a useful, humorous dog book that examines the lessons of gratitude that apply to man and beast.

    And, as someone who has a dog and a cat, I can appreciate the profound truth of this:

    Q: Is your book full of anti-cat propaganda? Readers should be warned.

    A: I love dogs a lot, and I do not love cats a lot, and I got challenged repeatedly by my cat-loving son. I would just say everyone knows what a dog park is: dogs playing, people talking happily about their dogs. Imagine a cat park. Vast empty space, people 30 or 40 feet apart, saying, “Where’s my cat?”

URLs du Jour

2019-07-05

[Amazon Link]

Hope everyone survived the 4th. Let's start out with a point/counterpoint on the pressing issue of yesterday, namely: TANKS!

  • At the Corner, Charles C. W. Cooke assures us: It’s Not About the Tanks.

    I’m not at all happy about Trump’s July 4th parade — replete with tanks, and a ticketed speech, no less! — and yet I can’t help but feel that most of its critics have got their objections the wrong way around. The problem is not that the presence of the tanks augurs an American dictatorship or that President Trump is signaling that he intends to become Chairman Mao. The problem is that events such as this one are the logical outgrowth of an executive branch that has become overbearing and imperial, in structure and in style, and of a culture that cares about the White House and its occupants above all other political concerns. Or, put another way: Trump’s tanks are a symptom of a bigger problem, not its cause. The disease is simply being taken to the next stage.

    Well, of course he's right about that.


  • [Amazon Link]
    At Reason, Eric Boehm doesn't like 'em: Trump’s Militarized Fourth of July Parade Makes America Less Great.

    Nationalism, political philosopher Isaiah Berlin observed, is the "inflamed desire of the insufficiently regarded" to prove their significance.

    In his 1972 book The Crooked Timber of Humanity, Berlin wrote that nationalist fervor is a "pathological form of self-protective resistance," a victim mentality that serves as a sort of cultural coping mechanism, emerging from historical wounds or "collective humiliation."

    It follows, then, that the United States would have little reason for such displays. For nearly a century—and certainly, for the past 30 years—America has been the exact opposite of "insufficiently regarded." There's no need to remind Americans, or the rest of the world, of that fact by parading tanks through Washington, D.C.

    We've long left such vulgar displays of power to nations that feel the need to compensate for lacking what Americans enjoy—places like North Korea and the former Soviet Union. Or those that suffer from a pathological sense of victimhood and national inadequacy, like France. Instead, Americans celebrate the Fourth of July joyously with food and recreation. We don't wallow in our ability to destroy, or the fear that we could be destroyed.

    Yeah, I get that too. There's been a spirited debate about "nationalism" among some folks on Our Side for the past few months. It's one of those slippery terms that may be less than useful in the current climate. People wind up saying, essentially, that they're in favor of "nationalism" that's good. And against "nationalism" that's bad.


  • Philip Greenspun comments on the unexpected report: Boeing hires software engineers for $9/hour.

    “Boeing’s 737 Max Software Outsourced to $9-an-Hour Engineers” (Bloomberg) seems to be getting folks’ attention regarding the aviation safety angle. I think the career planning angle is much more interesting. The other day, I met a bright young high school student who said that he was considering a career in software engineering. He used the term “STEM” about 15 times. Presumably he is being pushed in this direction by well-meaning adults, including our politicians (nothing helps turn a person into a cheerleader for STEM more than a complete absence of any engineering background and a college transcript that is devoid of a single science class).

    Programming/software development/software engineering tends to be a brief career, almost certain to end when the former coder is in his or her 50s (usually much quicker because people don’t love this job).

    Now we learn that one of America’s most demanding employers is able to find programmers to work for $9/hour. Why would a young American want to slug it out against that kind of competition?

    A few months ago, advising people to "learn to code" could get you kicked off Twitter. The reasons for that were unclear, but probably not because it was unacceptably poor career advice.

    And just yesterday, I filled up the Impreza at Cumberland Farms, and observed a sign offering positions paying "up to" $12/hr. With decent benefits.

    Disclaimer: I did software stuff, including coding, for most of my career. (And, yeah, for more than $9/hr.) I thought it was fun, and I still code for fun. But I understand it's not everyone's dream job.


  • Dan Mitchell brings us up to speed on The Continuing Battle against Cronyism at the Export-Import Bank. Its charter is up for renewal this year!

    There’s no chance of killing the program, but there may be an opportunity to at least curtail its power and authority.

    Negotiations on Capitol Hill have produced a compromise package between the top Democrat and top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee.

    But not everyone is a fan. The Washington Examiner opined that the deal should be rejected.

    House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., has drafted a bill that would expand the Ex-Im Bank, rename it, free it from oversight, and charge it with a handful of irrelevant liberal mandates. The committee’s top Republican, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., has unfortunately agreed to Waters’ bill. …Republicans should outright reject Waters’ proposal. It’s pitched as a compromise, but the Senate GOP has no reason to compromise. Either fix Waters’ bill or let the Ex-Im Bank’s charter expire in the fall. The “reforms” in Waters’ bill are weak tea. They don’t do anything to steer the Ex-Im Bank away from being welfare for America’s largest corporations.

    So did House Republicans kill the deal, which should have been an easy decision?

    Not exactly. According to a Politico report, House Democrats stopped it.

    But not because they’re opposed to corporate welfare. They rebelled because they want a deal that’s even worse.

    Sigh. They came this close (visualize my thumb and forefinger 1 millimeter apart) to killing it.


  • And last but not least: a brilliant take from Michael Ramirez on Kaepernick and the Betsy Ross flag.

    [Colin Complains]

    That is… good.

URLs du Jour

2019-07-04

[Amazon Link]

Happy Independence Day, folks. Try not to blow yourselves up tonight while holding truths to be self-evident. (Good lyric for a Jefferson musical: "I got your self-evident truth right here!/So Sally, could you fetch me a beer.")

Our Amazon Product du Jour is Jefferson's Rough Draft of the Declaration of Independence.

  • At the Bulwark, Tim Miller points out truths that are not quite self-evident, but close: The Fourth of July Is an Idea and Donald Trump Doesn't Understand It.

    It will be a gaudy TRUMP extravaganza, replete with tanks on the mall, “USA” spelled out across the sky, a rendering of the president’s massive hands with USA tattooed across the palm, a musical extravaganza hosted by Uncle Jesse from Full House, an “enormous” American flag, and a “special appearance” by the Sesame Street muppets. (Only one item in that list is made-up, the rest were provided, unironically, by the Department of Interior).

    The TRUMP version of Independence Day swaps out liberty and self-government for owning the libs and self-aggrandizement.

    Nothing from the promotion of this event, nor from President Trump’s rhetoric, has given us the slightest reason to believe that he intends for this celebration to honor the founding principles. I’d say that it’s probably an even-money proposition that our president has ever read the Declaration, or the Constitution, or the Federalist Papers, or . . . oh, what the hell. He appointed Gorsuch and loves big-ass American flags. Shouldn’t that be enough?

    Why, no it shouldn't.

    I'll be spending a good part of the evening at a friend's house, eating a couple grilled brats, drinking (I hope) too much beer, and (I hope even more) avoiding all discussion of current politics.


  • Another not-quite-self-evident truth from Veronique de Rugy at Reason: Trump Is Losing His Own Trade War.

    President Donald Trump likes to keep score. Well, here's a score for him: America, zero; while the rest of the world keeps tallying up free trade points. That's right; while American consumers have been waiting for well over a year to see some resolution to the various trade disputes started by Trump, other countries have agreed to lower their tariffs against each other and signed free trade agreements with one another. Meanwhile, American consumers and exporters are drowning in a sea of high tariffs.

    Let's recap. For the last year and a half, the president has unilaterally imposed tariffs on, among other things, imports of steel, aluminum, and hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese products. Many of these tariffs fall on intermediary goods that American and foreign companies use to produce things here in the United States. Despite being told by the administration that no one would dare retaliate against us, everyone has. Canada, Mexico, Japan, India, China, and the European Union have all since then retaliated with their own duties against U.S. exports.

    And, as reported yesterday: US trade deficit widens to a 5-month high of $55.5 billion in May. Now, I'm with various economists who think the "trade deficit" is a garbage statistic to which stupid people (and politicians, but I repeat myself) attach far too much import. But it's interesting to note that Trump's trade war, the one he claimed would be "easy to win" is failing, by his own standards.


  • At National Review, Kyle Smith (in an "NRPLUS" article timestamped July 3 at 6:03am) shakes his head: Kamala Harris Thinks That Busing in 2019 Would Be a Good Idea — Seriously. He notes Senator Kamala's transformation of a cheap anti-Biden shot from the debate into an Actual Issue:

    The tactic was entirely understandable. Textbook, even. What was amazing was that, after the debate, Harris swiveled from using busing as a means of assailing Biden’s character and judgment to praising busing itself as a wonderful proposal for 2019 America.

    “I support busing,” she said a few days later. “Listen, the schools of America are as segregated, if not more segregated, today than when I was in elementary schools. Where states fail to do their duty to ensure equality of all people, and in particular where states create or pass legislation that created inequality, there’s no question that the federal government has a role and a responsibility to step up.”

    Hear that, parents of America? President Kamala Harris would use federal power to yank your children out of their schools and hustle them to some other zone because she, Kamala Harris, is disappointed in the racial mix you have created in America’s classrooms. Forget how much you may have spent to buy a house in a particular neighborhood because it brought access to a particular school system. Forget how much you’ve paid in property taxes to fund those schools. Kamala Harris thinks your kids belong in some other school, maybe one far away and maybe offering a far less valuable education. Details to be worked out later. Trust her.

    But "trust her" is very bad advice. For as Kyle tweets (timestamped July 3 at 11:54pm): Never Mind.

    Kamala's positions on issues are a lot like what Mark Twain may have said about New England weather: if you don't like them, just wait a few minutes.


  • [Amazon Link]
    And you may have seen the latest proposal from an actual US CongressCritter. As described by Jim Treacher: Mock Frederica Wilson and Go to Jail. He provides a sample of What Not To Say, lest you find yourself in the federal pen:

    • Frederica Wilson looks like what would happen if you put Gary Coleman, Liberace, and Cowboy Curtis in a blender
    • Frederica Wilson sounds like somebody letting air out of a very stupid balloon
    • Frederica Wilson (D-Lollipop Guild)
    • Frederica Wilson is a space alien who crash-landed in a Dollar General
    • If sequins could talk, they would beg to be rescued from Frederica Wilson
    • Frederica Wilson is the world's worst Macho Man Randy Savage impersonator
    • Frederica Wilson is a superhero who got her powers after getting bitten by a radioactive Bratz
    • Frederica Wilson is dumb, there's no joke here, she's just an objectively unintelligent person

    Buying, or selling, the book at right would probably also be a crime.


  • We've been following the Great Self-Labeling discussion going on here and there. "Classical Liberals"? "Individualists"? "Libertarians"? At the Library of Economics and Liberty, Sarah Skwire asks What's in a Name? And contributes her own wisdom, based on an apocryphal Congresscritter's response when asked about whiskey:

    If you mean the demon drink that poisons the mind, pollutes the body, desecrates family life, and inflames sinners, then I’m against it. But if you mean the elixir of Christmas cheer, the shield against winter cheer, the taxable potion that puts needed funds into public coffers to comfort little crippled children, then I’m for it.

    So use whatever label you like! And she suggests something to memorize:

    If you mean that vile and selfish crew that puts the interests of business before all other concerns, makes wage slaves of workers, and enriches the wealthy at the expense of the poor, then I will have no part of it. But if you mean that collection of freethinkers that liberates the mind of humanity, unchains the body of the captive, and allows individuals to engage in voluntary and peaceful transactions without interference, than I am for it.

    And you can add the classic punchline: "This is my position, and I will not compromise!”


  • And our Worldwide Google LFOD alert rang from the Philippines! Reporting on a recent speech from Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.: US remains PH's natural ally.

    "A country’s natural ally is always the one that is too far to get into one’s hair, yet with a reach long enough to deliver a strong punch at a common enemy. Two countries fit that bill; one far more than the other and that is the United States," Locsin said in his toast remarks during the celebration of the American-Filipino Friendship Day in Makati City.

    You're welcome, Teo. And you've bought yourself some extra love in my book:

    Despite the sharp differences between the two nations, Locsin highlighted the US and Philippines' commonality.

    "We both hate subservience to foreign powers; we cannot imagine living without total freedom in word, in thought, and in deed. 'Live Free or Die' is our motto," he said.

    Well, technically, it's our motto. But it's eminently shareable. And I hold that truth to be self-evident.


Last Modified 2019-07-04 3:26 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2019-07-03

[Amazon Link]

  • At Patterico's Pontifications, JVW has thoughts On Nike, Kaepernick, and Doing the Right Thing for the Wrong Reasons. Specifically, a message to Colin Kaepernick:

    Thank you.

    Thank you for removing from the market an overpriced shoe which cynically tried to tie itself to American heroism and sacrifice. Thank you for confirming once and for all that your campaign is not about police violence or uplifting minority communities, it is about your myopic view of American history that has been drilled into you by hard-left demagogues. Thank you for embarrassing Nike and forcing them to eat a product that had already been manufactured and shipped. And thank you for demonstrating that Nike, a company that has always had an absolutely garbage marketing program (I started a post on this topic over a year ago and just may get around to completing it), holds the American tradition in contempt, at least when it isn’t trying to exploit it for profit. Neither Nike not Colin Kaepernick meant for this to happen, but I think this is going to be one of those situations where almost everyone comes out a winner.

    As someone who has a flag-emblazoned t-shirt somewhere, I can't get sanctimonious about flag-adorned apparel. Some object, but if it's OK with the American Legion, I guess it's on Patriotically Correct ground. (There's no "except for shoes" on that page.)


  • At the Federalist, David Harsanyi also has thoughts on Why Nike's Capitulation To Kaepernick Matters.

    Colin Kaepernick has made a fantastic living out of protesting the America flag. That’s fine. No political speech should be inhibited, not even pseudo-intellectual historical revisionism. But let’s stop pretending that kneeling during the national anthem at sporting events is really about “respecting the flag” or criminal justice reform or any fixable policy problem.

    Whatever the underlying causes for Kaepernick’s popularity—some of them certainly legitimate—these protests are acts of contempt toward an irredeemable nation created in sin. This view of our founding is an increasingly popular position on the left. And if it ever takes hold in mainstream American life, we’re in real trouble.

    As said before, I would love to boycott Nike, but I've never bought any of their celebrity-driven walking-billboard overpriced stuff. And have no plans to. So a boycott would … change nothing whatsoever.


  • The Indispensible Jim Geraghty lists 20 Things You Didn’t Know about Long-Shot Presidential Candidate. But maybe suspected. For example, her "proposal for addressing the oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon platform disaster":

    I completely understand why Republicans are donating money to keep her in the debates.

    And, not that it matters, but I've started in on Jim's new book, Between Two Scorpions, a very good deal on Kindle from Amazon, link over there on your right.


  • Reason's current issue is a clever Good News/Bad News theme. With the Good on half the magazine, the Bad on the other. And to get from one to the other, you flip the magazine over. Anyway, we had one from the Good side yesterday, and here's one from the Bad from Stephanie Slade: Bad Ideas Are Spreading Like the Plague.

    The defeat of measles in the United States was one of the great good news stories of the turn of the millennium. Prior to 1963, when a vaccine was developed, the highly contagious virus led each year to 48,000 hospitalizations and 400–500 deaths, mostly among small children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But immunization campaigns steadily eroded the disease's reach, and by 2000 it was declared eliminated from American shores.

    Today, the U.S. is grappling with the worst measles outbreak in a quarter-century. Some 981 cases were confirmed in 26 states between January 1 and May 31—a 26-fold increase from the total in 2004. The CDC anticipates one or two fatalities per 1,000 cases, so it looks like only a matter of time before the disease again starts claiming American lives.

    Other bad ideas making a comeback: socialism, toxic nationalism, protectionism, … and maybe a few more by the time your read this.


  • And LFOD turns up in some odd places, as revealed by our Google News Alert. For example, the Caracas Chronicles: Venezuelan Lives Drift Away at Sea.

    Aruba is so close to Venezuela that you can see its lights from parts of our Falcón state on clear nights, and only 70 km separate Trinidad and Tobago from the North-Eastern Venezuelan coast. Both islands are closer than Perú or Ecuador, but reaching them is a lot more dangerous: while Venezuelan caminantes have to endure a difficult journey through the Andes or the Gran Sabana on their way to the rest of South America, the toll of leaving the chavista-fabricated crisis by sea is getting higher.  

    What follows is a retelling of many Venezuelan lives lost, simply because they want to escape oppression. Bottom line:

    They say you should live free or die trying. Well, some people really die.

    Something to think about over the next day or two.

Fall

or, Dodge in Hell

[Amazon Link]

A new Neal Stephenson book is a must-buy. And here's how much of a fanboy I am: I pre-ordered the book on Amazon, got it delivered on the publication date. And then I noticed that Stephenson was coming to Portsmouth, just down the road, on his book tour. Tickets to which included a copy of his book.

Yes, so now I own two copies of Fall. But one of them is signed by the author. I'll give the unsigned one to my daughter; she also likes Stephenson, just not as rabidly as I do.

The story begins in the near-future, after the events chronicled in REAMDE. The billionaire capitalist from that book, Richard Forthrast, aka "Dodge", is a little older now. He enjoys hanging out with his grand-niece Sophia, reading her yarns of Greek and Norse mythology. But he's scheduled for a routine medical procedure. And (unfortunately) he ignores the don't-eat-before advice. And he winds up in a vegetative state.

But he, long ago, made it clear in his will that he wanted his brain to be preserved post-mortem. And there's new tech available: a (physically-destructive) brain-scan, uploading the complete "connectome" to storage in the cloud. So, yeah, his heirs say: let's do that.

Years later, little Sophia is all grown up, and she's a computer whiz. Dodge's uploaded connectome is just sitting there in cyberspace. What would happen if it were … started up?

And what would that connectome experience? If given the ability to self-modify? Build a recognizable environment, perhaps, to move around in?

And what would happen if a few other dying people decided to upload their connectomes as well, and interacted with Dodge's (who is now calling himself "Egdod") process and the environment he created?

And what if one of those uploaded souls wasn't satisfied for obtaining immortality in the cloud, but in addition had a plan to wrest control of the new "Bitworld" from Egdod and run things himself?

Well, as you can imagine, things get quite biblical/mythological. And cyber-violent. (So much so that I wondered if they got a suitably portentous narrator for the audio book. Like Alexander Scourby.)

A lot of things happen in the book's 883 pages. There's an interesting dystopic sub-story: the "fake news" problem has (essentially) destroyed America. Everyone lives in their own "bubble" of reality, constructed by the Internet inputs in which their common tribe has bought into. Well-off people hire reliable data concierges for the straight scoop; but in the rural heartland, everyone's fallen for nutty bot-generated conspiracy theories and (um) interesting religion. Sad! Could make a book in itself, but it's dropped after a few hundred pages.

I've often griped that location-intensive books lack maps. Good news: this book has maps.

When All Else Fails

The Ethics of Resistance to State Injustice

[Amazon Link]

Jason Brennan is an iconoclastic and wide-ranging scholar. According to his home page, he "specializes in politics, philosophy, and economics." (Um, that's not what most people mean by "specialize", Professor Brennan!) I read his contrarian book Against Democracy, and I liked it quite a bit. So I had the good Interlibrary Loan folks at the University Near Here wangle me a copy from Boston College. And…

Here's the issue: Generally, we know that violence against other people is wrong. So is lying and sabotage. But there's an important exception: we (again, generally) accept that it's okay to use violence, even deadly violence, not only in self-defense, but in defense of others. And it's okay to lie to an abusive husband if you're hiding his wife: "No, man, she's not here." And it's okay to disable the bank robber's getaway car.

But some people think there's an exception to that: if the evildoers are government employees, acting ex officio, they have a magic immunity against interference.

Brennan argues against that exception: his claim is that you have pretty much the same right to thwart rights-violating agents of the state as you would civilian villains. Including, if necessary, the right to use deadly violence against them. There's no reason to think they have that magic immunity.

The argument is developed with the care you would expect from a philosopher. Brennan first examines your "right" to resort to (otherwise) bad behavior in response to injustice: when does it work, when doesn't it, and what are the limits? He then makes a powerful observation with much broader implications than his limited thesis here: in thousands of years of trying, political philosophers have entirely failed to come up with good arguments establishing the rightful authority of the state against its citizenry. (This is a separate and independent argument from whether established governments are legitimate; Brennan argues against the authority of even legitimate states.)

You probably have a host of objections and worries to Brenan's thesis. A bunch occurred to me as well. But he does a pretty thorough job of anticipating and replying to them. (If you'd like a article-sized summary, here it is, from the January 2019 issue of Reason.)

Stan & Ollie

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

Why yes, it has been a long time between Netflix DVDs. I'm pretty sure we got this one in the mail back in April or so. Still we keep sending them their monthly fee…

Oh, well. We killed off our subscription to the sad Monday-Saturday Foster's Daily Democrat. (Keeping Sunday, for the coupon flyers and the crossword puzzles.) So, overall, we're ahead of the game, moneywise.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, Stan & Ollie. It's not bad, being the sorta-true story of the late career of two legendary funnymen. It opens in 1937, on the set of Way Out West. Stan Laurel attempts to wangle a raise out of the tyrannical producer Hal Roach, but he has little leverage on his own: Hardy's still under contract to Roach. And Hardy, being under constant financial pressure due to his lavish womanizing/gambling habits, doesn't want to rock the boat. So the team splits up.

And we jump forward to 1953, where Stan is trying to revive their career with a new movie. Part of the deal is a vaudeville-style tour of the British Isles, where he and Ollie perform some of their classic skits. It's not promising, as their first dates are sparsely attended. And the would-be movie producer is continually unable to take Stan's calls, never a good sign. And Ollie's health isn't the best…

Stan and Ollie are played (respectively) by Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly, and you probably couldn't do better than that. Thanks to prosthetics and makeup, the physical resemblance is very good. A few skits are reproduced and (at least to my dim memory) they seem to be on target. (Still funny? Well, they don't make them like that any more; tastes have changed.)

URLs du Jour

2019-07-02

[Amazon Link]

  • Katherine Mangu-Ward contributes to the "good news" edition of print Reason. Pieces like this are the reason I subscribe: We Live in a World of Reliable Miracles.

    When I'm having a bad day, I trawl the internet for videos of happy cyborgs. My favorites are clips of hearing-impaired people getting their cochlear implants turned on for the first time. The videos follow a soothingly predictable pattern. Mumbly background chatter and shaky cam—the cinematography is rarely good—then a pregnant pause, wide eyes, and finally that peculiar kind of sobbing that human beings do when we are overwhelmed. The pattern is the same whether it's a babe in arms or a full-grown man.

    If you catch the right algorithmic wave on YouTube or the right hashtag on Instagram, you can surf for hours in this genre: videos of Parkinson's patients as their tremors are calmed by a new therapy, paraplegics walking with the help of adaptive prosthetics, infants getting their first pair of coke-bottle glasses, and more.

    Adorable kittens and soppy love stories do little to warm my cold, dead heart. But show me a part-robot baby flipping out because he heard his mom say "hello" for the first time, and it's onion city.

    A Kindle Reason subscription is our Amazon Product du Jour, but I have every reason to expect that picture's going to change when the next issue comes out.


  • Continuing the broad-brush label debate, weighing in on the side of the good guys, is Stephen Davies at the American Institute for Economic Research: Let’s Revive the Term Individualism. Sure, why not?

    […] Individualism was a word that had undergone the change from being a term of opprobrium to one of positive identity. It had originally had connotations of selfishness and egoism but by the 1870s had been adopted by a number of radical liberals as a label for their views, on both sides of the Atlantic (and, interestingly, particularly in France).

    In the 1880s and 1890s there was a vigorous intellectual debate on both sides of the Atlantic between the self-defined individualists on one side and the self-defined “collectivists” (in the UK, Canada, and Europe) or “progressives” (in the U.S.) on the other. Subsequently the terms “individualist” and “individualism” remained the main labels used by advocates of the radical case for personal, individual liberty. This was true in the 1920s and even as late as the 1940s and early 1950s (Friedrich Hayek used the term for example and spoke of “those of us who adhere to the individualist position”).

    Then quite suddenly, in the middle of the 1950s, all of this changed. People who had described themselves as individualists and identified with that label suddenly stopped using it (with a very few exceptions such as Frank Chodorow). Many adopted the label “conservative,” particularly in the U.S. Most however took to calling themselves classical liberals or libertarians (a word that had previously referred to communist anarchists of the Peter Kropotkin type). The term “individualist,” which had been used until then by both friends and critics, almost vanished.

    Although I'm wary of labels, Stephen gives a good argument for embracing them. Maybe taking "embracing" in the "hugging the old girlfriend you haven't seen in decades, in front of your wife" sense.


  • At National Review, Jay Nordlinger is the go-to guy for stories of citizens standing up to their dictatorial regimes and often getting martyred as a result. His latest piece discusses Dictators and Americans.

    Yesterday, President Trump heaped praise on Mohammed bin Salman, the acting dictator, so to speak, of Saudi Arabia. When his father, King Salman, dies, he will be dictator outright (if all goes according to plan). Trump also shielded Mohammed from blame for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last October. “He’s very angry about it,” Trump said. “He’s very unhappy about it.”

    Is he? Other people, including investigators, think otherwise. I’m reminded of Trump’s reluctance to believe U.S. intelligence on the matter of the Kremlin’s interference in our 2016 election.

    After hearing Trump, Senator Mitt Romney tweeted, “The President’s praise for MBS, the man who US intel says ordered or authorized the heinous murder of a WaPo columnist & Saudi dissident, sends the wrong message to the world. It’s past time for Congress & the administration to impose sanctions for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”

    A bit of advice: Don’t wait up nights.

    Read on for how the Saudi regime is treating Loujain al-Hathloul. If this doesn't make you a little angry at Trump, then … well, I have to ask: what the hell is wrong with you? I mean, seriously, what's your deal?


  • The LFOD News Alert rang for a WSJ LTE from Mark Generales in Fort Myers, FL, who asks: What Principle Limits Our Public Unions?. Mark, specifically, notes the recent unbanning of collective bargaining by public employees in Nevada.

    Nevada follows other states that have seen their existing politics undergo a sea change as a wave of new residents overwhelm native-born residents. Las Vegas, Reno and other Nevada cities have undergone a building and growth boom over the past 10-20 years. The new residents have come mostly from deep-blue Democratic states. Drawn by low housing costs, the lure of no state income tax and proximity to their former home, Democrats from neighboring California have inundated Nevada. As has happened in other states, California Democrats have brought their liberal voting patterns with them.

    We see the same pattern in New Hampshire, where decades of heavily taxed Massachusetts residents continue to seek shelter in the “Live Free or Die” state. Over and over again, liberal advocates have attempted to install a state income tax. While their arguments have fallen flat for 30 years, the contingent from Boston grows each year and the income tax edges ever closer to reality.

    Yes. But I've been hearing that argument (roughly) ever since I first came here, about 46 years ago. Yes, sure, it could be for real this time.


  • And it didn't take too long for someone to make a nanny-state argument off some recent carnage up north. Glynn Cosker, the managing editor of EMD [Emergency & Disaster Management] Digest reports: Helmet Laws Scrutinized Following Motorcyclist Deaths.

    On June 21, a pickup truck towing a trailer struck 10 motorcyclists (head on) on Route 2 in Randolph, N.H. – leaving seven riders dead and three seriously injured. New Hampshire State Police Col. Christopher Wagner called the collision "one of the worst, tragic incidents that we have investigated here in the state."

    New Hampshire Has No Motorcycle Helmet Laws

    New Hampshire is one of only three states with no motorcyclist helmet laws on its books. The other two states are Illinois and Iowa. However, wearing a helmet is a choice that most riders in the Granite State see as their sacred right – and a vast majority of motorcyclists ride without any head protection. The state’s motto, “Live Free or Die” appears on every vehicle’s license plate – including those found on motorcycles. It is not yet clear whether any of the motorcyclists involved in the recent horrific crash were wearing helmets.

    As near as I can tell, there's been no official word on whether the victims were wearing helmets.

    To (tiresomely) make a point I've made before: legislating "acceptable" risk is, at best, an exercise in arbitrary line-drawing.

    In this case: US motorcyclists' risk of a fatal crash is over 25 times greater than occupants of passenger cars. (Rates normalized by vehicle miles traveled.)

    Sure, go ahead and mandate helmet use, but that at best would have a marginal effect on the death rate. Shouldn't nanny-staters go whole-hog (heh) and advocate banning motorcycles?


Last Modified 2019-07-03 3:58 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2019-07-01

[Amazon Link]

  • At Hot Air, Allahpundit contributes to our "The Emperor Has No Clothes" department. Where the Emperor in this case is Our Watchdog Press: Ten years after he became VP, news outlets decide Biden's track record on busing is noteworthy.

    I think the most charitable explanation for this oversight is simple laziness. They didn’t give Biden the kid-gloves treatment in 2008 because they were in the tank and determined not to make trouble for a historic Democratic nominee, one might say. They gave him the kid-gloves treatment because they don’t do much investigating themselves, even of their own archives. Even this year, it may be the case that most of the media reports about Biden’s history with busing have been spoonfed to them by rival campaigns like Sanders’s or Harris’s. The reason Uncle Joe didn’t get dinged for this a decade ago might be as simple as the RNC’s oppo team having either dropped the ball or concluded that there was little to be gained by feeding the press stories about Biden’s opposition to busing (a position overwhelmingly shared by Republicans). But again: If you prefer this theory, you’re stuck believing that the press is uninterested in doing the basics of its own job, even when there are potentially high-stakes consequences in a national election.

    Apparently it's heretical to point out that busing was a classic social engineering "Do Something" policy, ineffective and expensive, diverting resources that could have been used to actually, you know, improve education for kids. It seems to have almost been designed to increase racial animosity.

    But all Senator Kamala has to do is say "That little girl was me" and everyone swoons. If you're a swooner, you might want to check out our Amazon Product du Jour.


  • Kevin D. Williamson, writing at National Review, notes a case of corporate cooperation with evil: Nike and the Disciplinary Corporation.

    Nike, the athletic shoe giant, has pulled a product off the shelves in response to a storm of social-media protest. The product was a sneaker collaboration with sportswear brand Undercover, whose principal designer, Jun Takahashi, published these unspeakable words on Twitter: “No extradition. Go Hong Kong!”

    Nike says it made the decision “based on feedback from Chinese consumers.” Just so.

    The context is this: Hong Kong, a free, liberal, democratic, self-governing city was handed over to the powers that be in Beijing — a clutch of corrupt, brutal, dishonest, organ-harvesting, gulag-operating murderers — as part of an agreement with the United Kingdom, who once had sovereignty over Hong Kong as a colonial power. Beijing wants Hong Kong to be more like the rest of China, and the people of Hong Kong do not. They recently took to the streets to force the reversal of a decision that would have subjected Hong Kong residents to extradition to the so-called People’s Republic of China for certain crimes rather than be tried in Hong Kong under Hong Kong law. Because the junta in Beijing has no compunction about drumming up charges for political purposes, this would have represented a noose around the neck of every dissident in Hong Kong. Jun Takahashi tweeted his support for liberal democrats against mass-murdering national socialists.

    And guess which side Nike came down on? The answer will… well, probably not shock you. Nike is fine with lionizing the American "dissident" Colin Kapernick, but when it comes to risking its Red China market? Welcome to the Memory Hole, Jun Takahashi!

    I'd boycott, but… well, I've never bought anything with a Nike swoosh in my entire life so far. Because I object to being a walking billboard for a corporate brand unless I'm getting paid for it.


  • I noticed a link to this New York Times article over at Hot Air: Everyone Wants a Rescue Dog. Not Everyone Can Have One. Which contains this little factoid:

    In May, 26 dogs died from excessive heat in a vehicle owned by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals while being shipped from Mississippi to Wisconsin.

    Oopsie.

    That said: when I was looking for a dog, I was surprised at all the rescues available to be shipped up from down South. And when conversing with fellow dog owners at the park, I was doubly surprised at how many of them got their pups that way.


  • Our LFOD News Alert was triggered by an article in SC Magazine, a cybersecurity publication : Cellebrite claims it can crack any iPhone or Android.

    Israeli data extraction firm Cellebrite announced the ability to break into any iPhone or Android device for law enforcement agencies near the same time Trump administration officials weighed the pros and cons of banning encryption law enforcement can’t break.

    Whoa. Banning encryption? We're thinking about doing that again?

    SCMagazine found some talking heads to point out the obvious:

    SecurityFirst Chief Marketing Officer Dan Tuchler said there’s a fine line between positions on this issue with no grey area. 

    “An authoritarian government will always seek to exert control by monitoring its citizens, using the reasoning that safety of citizens is more important than any erosion of their rights,” Tuchler said. 

    “The United States has a long history of mottoes such as “Live Free or Die” emphasizing the common conviction that the balance should always lean towards freedom of speech,” he said. “We don’t like it when suspected terrorists have the ability to communicate on encrypted channels, but we need to catch them a different way, so that we can protect one of our most important fundamental rights.”

    OK, I'm working on visualizing the "fine line with no grey area"… got it.

    The last time around, it became obvious that Our Federal Government was essentially trying to ban math. Or, more precisely, ban the software implementation of crypto algorithms.

    Eventually, it was decided that was not only offensive to liberty, but also ineffective and even counterproductive. What's different this time?


  • And LFOD appeared in (of all places) the Cedar Rapids, Iowa Gazette: 'BAD LAW' censors Iowans' personalized license plates. The jackbooted thugs at the Iowa DOT have a little long list.

    The state government wants you to be able to express yourself, as long as you’re not too expressive.

    Thousands of Iowans have custom license plates, offering seven characters to send a personal message to anyone who drives behind you. The vast majority of requests are granted, but the state also maintains a long list of denied entries.

    Which you can view/search here. LFOD-relevance is established using the example with which we're very familiar:

    In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in favor of a family that had covered up the “Live Free or Die” motto on their New Hampshire license plates.

    “The First Amendment protects the right of individuals to hold a point of view different from the majority and to refuse to foster, in the way New Hampshire commands, an idea they find morally objectionable,” Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote in the majority opinion.

    So the state cannot compel you to promote its own messages on your personal property, but the related question — whether, and to what extent, the state can censor your personalized license plate — is less clear. Federal courts have variously sided with and against states that block potentially offensive license plate requests, and the Supreme Court has not taken such a case.

    Yeah, but… no, it's not at all the same thing. But that's OK. A good roundup of the current legal state of affairs is here, from Los Angeles magazine: A USC Professor Is Suing the DMV for Rejecting His Vanity Plate. Pun Salad hero Eugene Volokh is extensively quoted.

    Also cited: the 2014 case of New Hampshire's own David Montenegro ("who two years ago legally changed his name to 'human'"): Court rules state violated free speech in 'COPSLIE' license plate case

    You can check the legality/availability of your desired NH vanity plate here. As expected, "LFOD" is unavailable.

    But you know what is available (at least as I type)? "IMVAIN". Which might be a little too self-referential, but…