URLs du Jour

2019-10-31

[Amazon Link]

  • I am not a big Halloween fan. OK, the cute kids coming to your door in costume are fun. Everything else … sheesh, could you give it a rest, already?

    At the Federalist, Joy Pullmann is even less enchanted. She advises: Stop Turning Your Yard Into A Hellscape For Halloween.

    One of the things I’ve learned from moving into town is how little so many people think about others. Drivers will honk at 6 a.m. to get someone to come out of a house (Don’t you have a cell phone? Or get your rear out of the car and walk 20 feet to the door and knock.). People will blare music at all hours so loudly it shakes the windows of the houses they pass. They paint their porches fire engine red and their houses execrable shades of teal, let their cats defecate in other people’s sandboxes, and dump their fast food wrappers into the wind.

    In other words, lots of people are rude, tasteless, and selfish. Of course, since I believe human nature is corrupt, this isn’t really a surprise, but what is a surprise is what appears to be an increase in these crudities along with a growing tendency to excuse and rationalize them.

    Perhaps the most vivid illustration of this tendency is the grotesquery with which many people “decorate” their yards for Halloween. Within a few blocks of my house are yards full of severed heads, decomposing corpses, positively demonic-looking witches, goblins, and ghouls, and moldy skeletons coming out of the ground (some even shake!).

    One entire nearby neighborhood decorated all of its streetlights with hanging severed heads that have blood running out of the eyes. Some people have fog machines and motion detectors that emit noises from Hell every time a mom walks by with her preschooler and baby, or kids of all ages go past on their way to school.

    What is wrong with these people?

    Yeah, it's weird.

    Although I hope Joy's neighbors don't read her opinions about them.


  • Also noting the nastiness is Robert C. Hamilton at the (probably paywalled) WSJ: Halloween Has Taken a Sadistic Turn.

    Today, Halloween is much different from what I remember as a boy. The day is now for everyone, not children only. Teenagers and ever more adults are dressing up. While the secularization of America has made Christmas controversial, Halloween has become a celebration for all.

    It’s also big business. Americans spend billions each year on candy, home decorations and costumes. America’s retailers and theme parks are cashing in. Schools are too—bizarrely raising funds through haunted houses and fairs.

    The overall tenor of the holiday seems to have changed as well. Halloween has always had a certain transgressive appeal—as with Mardi Gras, the evening before a holy day is a natural occasion for naughtiness and mischief. But like a scene in a movie when events go awry and the music crescendoes to a cacophonous din, the Halloween of today has taken a sadistic turn.

    A local anecdote: a mom in a neighboring town dressed her kid (approximately age 9) up as "Chucky", the evil homicidal doll from the R-rated movies. Hm.


  • I guess today's overriding theme is: things are going straight to hell, sorry. At AEI, Frederick M. Hess shares the Grim news on the “Nation’s Report Card”. Which is the National Assessment of Educational Progress issued by the Department of Education. Hess's takeaways:

    First, the results were dismal. Scores were up a tick in 4th grade math, but dropped in 4th grade reading, 8th grade reading, and 8th grade math. Indeed, the drop in 8th grade reading was large — at more than 3 scale points, it was the largest change in scores ever seen for that test, and in the wrong direction.

    Second, test score declines are never welcome. But these results were especially disheartening given the backdrop of the past decade. While there were some test score gains (particularly in math) between 2000 and 2010, NAEP performance has stagnated since that time, with the 2015 results showing the first widespread declines in NAEP.

    Third, a close look at the detailed results adds insult to injury. The bulk of the declines are coming from our lowest scoring students. In 4th grade reading and in 8th grade reading and math, declines are larger for lower-performing students.

    Secretary of Education Betsey DeVos was quoted channelling her inner libertarian in a Tweet:

    Democrat solution: promise to throw more money at government schools.

    Yeah, I don't think that will help.

    But when it doesn't help, Democrats will tell us: well, we just haven't thrown enough money at the schools.

    As a retired programmer, I can recognize an infinite loop when I see one.


  • As long as we are bemoaning societal and government dysfunction, let's bring in Veronique de Rugy's advice: End the Failed Renewable Fuel Standard Experiment.

    It's time for the annual Congressional fight over the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS. In one corner sit corn farmers and their representatives, who fight tenaciously not just to preserve the RFS but to expand it. In the other sits, well, just about everyone else. Whether you are a refiner, a consumer, an environmentalist, a free market economist or just someone who cares about good government, there is ample reason to oppose the ethanol mandate.

    Since 2005, the federal government has required that refineries blend increasing amounts of ethanol (grain alcohol) with gasoline. There are requirements for cellulosic, biodiesel and advanced biofuels, with the rest of the mandate typically being met by corn ethanol since it is the cheapest.

    The stated goals of the RFS were to reduce reliance on foreign energy and to move toward cleaner fuel sources. It falls short on both fronts.

    Additional reading from Arthur R. Wardle AND Joseph L. Verruni Jr in the Hill: The Renewable Fuel Standard is killing the environment.


  • At Reason, Nick Gillespie piles on the recent call for censorship in the pages of the Washington Democracy-Dies-In-Darkness Post by Richard Stengel: Former Time Editor and CEO of Constitution Center (!) Wants To Cancel First Amendment, Pass Hate Speech Laws.

    As befits a man who helmed a legacy media outlet that is slowly being reduced to rubble like a statue of Ozymandias in the desert, Stengel is particularly distraught over "the Internet" and the "Web." He implies that the "marketplace of ideas" worked well enough when John Milton and, a bit later, America's founders pushed an unregulated press, but, well, times have changed.

    On the Internet, truth is not optimized. On the Web, it's not enough to battle falsehood with truth; the truth doesn't always win. In the age of social media, the marketplace model doesn't work. A 2016 Stanford study showed that 82 percent of middle schoolers couldn't distinguish between an ad labeled "sponsored content" and an actual news story. Only a quarter of high school students could tell the difference between an actual verified news site and one from a deceptive account designed to look like a real one.

    If you're basing the erosion of constitutional rights on the reading comprehension skills of middle schoolers, you're doing it wrong. And by it, I mean journalism, constitutional analysis, politics, and just about everything else, too.

    People with memories longer than a few years will recall the decades-long wrangling over defining bannable pornography. People seriously want to redo that for the far vaguer concept of "hate speech"? Please.

Thanks a Lot Mr Kibblewhite

My Story

[Amazon Link]

I've been a fan of a lot of music artists over the decades. For a lot of them I look back, and ask: Geez, what was I thinking? I can't say I'd be upset if I never heard another of their songs. Chicago. Fleetwood Mac. The Association. The Eagles.

But The Who is an exception. If anything, I'm a bigger fan now that I was back in the 60s-70s.

I have also, over the past few years, picked up the occasional memoir/autobiography by aging stars. At first, I thought I'd gather some insights into creative genius and the keys to fame and fortune.

But (as it turns out) the uniform message of these books is: these folks don't know how it happened. Luck is involved. A passionate attachment to the art, of course. Usually, substance abuse. Borderline mental illness. Also, getting suckered by thieving managers.

So anyway, I picked up Roger Daltrey's book at the Portsmouth Public Library. It's an interesting counterpoint to Pete Townshend's book, which I read last year. It seems to be an "as told to" book, a ghostwriter (I assume Matt Rudd, thanked in the endnotes) kind of arranging random thoughts in roughly chronological order.

Roger seems a lot more grounded than the other members of the band, mostly free of the drug abuse that killed Keith Moon and John Entwistle (and almost Pete, Roger claims).

Impressive: coming from a poor background, Roger built his first guitar. And his second.

Roger was not exactly an angel himself. His deviations from the straight and narrow were mostly sexual, meaningless hookups with convenient chicks on the road. (Generating at least one kid he finds out about much later.)

It's especially fun to read his tales of the making of Tommy, directed by Ken Russell. There's an "Acid Queen" scene where Roger, playing Tommy, is in a coffin. Hey, let's put snakes in there too!

Nope. How about butterflies?

As it turns out, both snakes and butterflies will pee and crap on you when in a coffin.

And they went with poppies instead.

The title: one of the defining incidents in Roger's life was getting expelled from school at age 15. He'd brought an airgun, one of his friends shot it off, the pellet ricocheted into another friend's eye causing him to lose sight in that eye). The headmaster, Mr. Kibblewhite, bidding him goodbye: "You'll never make anything of your life, Daltrey."

Oh, yeah? But who knows how things would have worked out if he hadn't been expelled? Roger's smart enough to know things would have been way different. And so the title isn't sarcastic. It's earnest.

URLs du Jour

2019-10-30

[Amazon Link]

  • Some good stories at Michael Graham's Inside Sources New Hampshire's POTUS Filing Period Is Now Open, So Grab Your Gorilla!

    New Hampshire’s Secretary of State Bill Gardner is the political guard dog of the Granite State’s First In The Nation primary. In his tireless defense of the state’s unique place in presidential politics, he’s faced off against big states, powerful political parties and scheming politicians.

    Plus, a gorilla.

    “This guy showed up with a gorilla in his truck, and he came into the office to file the paperwork for the gorilla to run for president,” Garnder told NHJournal on Tuesday. “The guy came in with a monkey wearing a white tuxedo on his arm, and the monkey was holding the check [to file as a candidate]. He said the Constitution didn’t say that you had to be a human to run for president, you just had to be 35-years-old and that the gorilla met the requirements and he wanted his name on the ballot. I said no.”

    Why?

    “I just didn’t feel like it,” Gardner told NHJournal.

    Or maybe he thought that the gorilla might win, which would have been … problematic. The article does not say in which party's primary the ape would have been running.

    [This was 1980, with Teddy Kennedy losing against Jimmy Carter on the D side, Ronald Reagan beating George H. W. Bush, Howard Baker, John Anderson, etc., for the Rs. An ape might have altered the course of history!]


  • Jonah Goldberg gives the President free advice (which I fearlessly predict will be ignored): Trump's best option for avoiding impeachment is to do something he loathes — apologize.

    As former federal prosecutor (and my old National Review colleague) Andrew McCarthy argues, by insisting there was no quid pro quo, the president made things much easier for the Democrats. The implicit concession in Trump’s position is that if the charges were true, it would be impeachable. That is a burden of proof that no doubt warms the cockles of Democratic Rep. Adam B. Schiff’s heart. The smarter course is to admit it happened, but as McCarthy writes, “no harm no foul.”

    I would go one step further. Rather than take the Mick Mulvaney line and shout “get over it” — now a Trump campaign T-shirt — I think the president should apologize. Trump’s refusal to admit any wrongdoing imperils GOP senators who are already reluctant to defend him on the merits. Once the process complaints evaporate, they’ll be left with no defense at all. Bill Clinton fended off removal in the Senate in no small part because he admitted wrongdoing and asked the country for forgiveness. Once he did that, he and his supporters were liberated to say the country should “move on.” It’s worth recalling that the first existential crisis of Trump’s 2016 campaign — his talk about groping women on the Access Hollywood tape — was averted by the first, and last, meaningful apology anyone can remember from him.

    Amusingly, the "Move On" organization, founded in 1998 to derail Bill Clinton's impeachment ("Censure President Clinton and Move On to Pressing Issues Facing the Nation"), is now forthrightly against moving on. Lock! Him! Up!

    Is that irony? I can never tell.


  • [Amazon Link]
    There's a new book out arguing for (let's not mince words) censorship. Link at right. At NR, Nicholas Phillips checks out Andrew Marantz's 'Antisocial' and the Folly of the New Gatekeepers. Phillips makes a lot of on-target observations, here's one I liked:

    Marantz doesn’t think that the formation of an overtly punitive intersectional leftism organized around racial and gender identity, hegemonic in high-prestige cultural spaces but widely despised outside them, has any relevance to identity politics on the right. Which is odd, first because the far Right is called “reactionary” for a reason, and second because the intersectional Left seems to have supplied just the kind of new “moral vocabulary” that Marantz calls for, and it doesn’t seem to have gone over very well.

    One senses Marantz’s fear of any angle that could be seen to soft-pedal or both-sides the problem of the far Right — the author repeatedly frets about being morally compromised by merely covering them. The sole time the online Left appears in Marantz’s book is, I kid you not, when he contrasts the Left’s “sincere aspirations to virtue” with the Right’s cynicism — as if being progressive made you immune to social-media outrage incentives.

    Is it just me, or have censorship calls protections gotten much, much more prevalent lately? Another prominent advocate, Richard Stengel, got an op-ed in the WaPo: "Why America needs a hate speech law".

    Which I probably would not have noticed, except for Charles C. W. Cooke tweeting about it:

    "Indeed."


  • Every time I make the mistake of watching TV news or reading my local paper, it seems there's a another scare-story about vaping. Matt Ridley describes how Britain (yes, Britain) has avoided the moral panic, and also lung damage: Why Britain has embraced vaping.

    There are now 3.6 million vapers in the U.K. and 5.9 million smokers (some people are in both categories). Many British smokers have switched entirely to vaping, encouraged by the government, whose official position is that vaping is 95% safer than smoking, an assertion now backed by early studies of disease incidence. The organizations that have signed a statement saying that vaping is significantly less harmful than smoking include Public Health England, the Association of Directors of Public Health, the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal Society for Public Health.

    There have been no deaths and few if any cases of lung illness directly attributed to vaping in the U.K. A recent study has concluded that vaping is now helping up to 70,000 people stop smoking every year by reaching those who failed to quit smoking by other means. “The British public have voted with their feet and are choosing to use e-cigarettes. This is a positive choice, and we should promote it,” says Prof. Linda Bauld of Cancer Research U.K.

    Somewhat uncomfortably for this libertarian, Ridley notes that the main reason for differences in illness/death is due to Britain's stricter government regulations on e-cigs.


  • But here in the US, a big problem is (according to Jacob Sullum in Reason): Anti-Vaping Propaganda in Schools Undermines Critical Thinking and Spreads Dangerous Misinformation.

    In response to the "epidemic" of underage e-cigarette use, public schools are deploying the tried-and-true method of lying to children about the hazards of drug use, because how could that possibly backfire? A misinformation sheet about vaping, published by the Florida-based Nemours Foundation and distributed to eighth-graders at my daughter's school in Dallas, illustrates this approach, making scary claims that can easily be debunked by anyone with an internet connection.

    The handout, written by Florida physician Lonna Gordon, repeatedly conflates legal, nicotine-delivering e-cigarettes with the black-market cannabis products that have figured prominently in the recent outbreak of vaping-related lung injuries. After incorrectly defining e-cigarettes, which do not contain tobacco and do not burn anything, as "battery-powered smoking devices" (emphasis added), Gordon says they use "cartridges filled with a liquid that usually contains nicotine."

    In the next paragraph, Gordon warns that "experts are reporting serious lung damage in people who vape, including some deaths." Later she says "e-cigarettes…may cause serious lung damage and even death" and reiterates that "recent studies report serious lung damage in people who vape, and even some deaths." There is no evidence to support such claims with regard to legal nicotine products.

    I have enough bad habits (plonkish red wine, Diet Dr. Pepper, Folgers, crossword puzzles, Spider solitaire, …). So I don't need another involving nicotine.

    But sometimes, you have to wonder why the voices of sanity are ignored on so many issues. This is just one.


  • Man, I loved the original headline on this Wired story (still preserved in the URL): "The Glorious Victories of Trans Athletes Are Shaking Up Sports."

    It's since been toned down: "Trans Athletes Are Posting Victories and Shaking Up Sports". I suppose some Wired higher-up realized that the adjective was a little too reminiscent of Chinese and Russian Communist propaganda ("May 1 greetings to glorious athletes of our motherland!")

    The author, Christie Aschwanden, is gleeful and (to me) hilarious:

    Transgender athletes are having a moment. At all levels of sport, they’re stepping onto the podium and into the headlines. New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard won two gold medals at the Pacific Games, and college senior CeCé Telfer became the NCAA Division II national champion in the 400-meter run. Another senior, June Eastwood, has been instrumental to her cross-country team’s success. At the high school level, Terry Miller won the girls’ 200-meter dash at Connecticut’s state open championship track meet.

    These recent performances are inherently praiseworthy—shining examples of what humans can accomplish with training and effort. But as more transgender athletes rise to the top of their fields, some vocal opponents are also expressing outrage at what they see as transgender athletes ruining sports for cisgendered girls and women.

    Things can get pretty bizarre, and as Orwell noted, language can be corrupted in the service of Higher Goals.

    So which approach is most fair? “Fair is a very subjective word,” says Joanna Harper, a transgender woman, distance runner, and researcher who served on the IOC committee that developed that organization’s current rules. It boils down to whom you’re trying to be fair to, Harper says. “To billions of typical women who cannot compete with men at high levels of sport?” Or “a very repressed minority in transgender people who only want to enjoy the same things that everybody else does, including participation in sports?”

    Bottom line: Too bad, bio-ladies.


  • But what about Rachel McKinnon, “world champion” of women’s track cycling? At NR, Madeleine Kearns pulls no punches: Rachel McKinnon Is a Cheat and a Bully.

    Rachel McKinnon — the so-called defending “world champion” of women’s track cycling — is a man. I’ll repeat that so my meaning cannot be misconstrued. He is a man.

    Maybe my kind-hearted reader is offended by this blunt phrasing. Why am I calling McKinnon a man — when, perhaps for complicated reasons, he would rather be called a woman? Why don’t I compromise and call him a “trans woman,” as others do? Or be polite and address him by “she/her” pronouns, like everyone else in the media?

    Well, I’ll tell you why, since you asked. This is precisely the well-meant, tragically naïve logic that has enabled a structure of lies and tyranny to be erected around us, a structure that most cannot opt out of without incurring an enormous social cost. It is a structure in which cheating and viciousness are rewarded while civility and truth-telling are punished. Rachel McKinnon is the perfect example of how this structure works and operates, as well as why we should resist it.

    For some reason, Madeleine's article made me dig out my copy of Stephen Vizinczey's Truth and Lies in Literature. From the same-titled essay:

    There are two basic kinds of literature. One helps you to understand, the other helps you to forget; the first helps you to be a free person and a free citizen, the other helps people to manipulate you. One is like astronomy, the other is like astrology.

    May we have the wisdom to know, detect, and appreciate the difference.

URLs du Jour

2019-10-29

[Amazon Link]

  • Down in Massachusetts, Greg Mankiw has had it: he's no longer a Republican.

    I just came back from city hall, where I switched my voter registration from Republican to unenrolled (aka independent). Two reasons:

    First, the Republican Party has largely become the Party of Trump. Too many Republicans in Congress are willing, in the interest of protecting their jobs, to overlook Trump's misdeeds (just as too many Democrats were for Clinton during his impeachment). I have no interest in associating myself with that behavior. Maybe someday, the party will return to having honorable leaders like Bush, McCain, and Romney. Until then, count me out.

    The second reason: he can vote in either party's primary. That's not an option up here in NH.


  • And speaking of Republicans, Jeff Jacoby has an offering in the Pun Salad "Sure, They Don't Have To, But They Almost Certainly Will" Department: Republicans made a mistake in 2016. They don't have to repeat it in 2020.

    The Trump years have turned American politics into a screaming freak show. They have tarnished our standing around the world and embittered our civic discourse at home. The original Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, implored his countrymen to heed "the better angels of our nature." Ronald Reagan, the 20th century's greatest Republican president, told Americans he "appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears; to your confidence rather than your doubts." Trump does the opposite.

    The Republican Party desperately needs a new standard-bearer. In 2016, the GOP allowed itself to be taken over by an unworthy and indecent scoundrel. Now, following an endless train of scandals and abuses, that scoundrel is about to be impeached. This would be a good time for his party to jettison him, as Republicans jettisoned Nixon. America is blessed with many honest, admirable, competent conservatives. The Republican Party ought to nominate one of them for president in 2020. One term of this exhausting, disordered, toxic administration is enough. What is needed now is a candidate who can make America normal again.

    Disclaimer, the link in the above excerpt goes to FiveThirtyEight, which lists a bunch of anti-Trump conservatives, some of whom stink pretty badly. But overall, I take Jeff's point.


  • Speaking of parties, though, George Will has an observation about them: Weak political parties smooth the way for demagogues.

    There are political moments, and this might be one, in which worse is better. Moments, that is, when a society’s per capita quantity of conspicuous stupidity is so high and public manners are so low that a critical mass of people are jolted into saying “enough, already.” Looking on the bright side, as he wisely is disinclined to do, Jonathan Rauch thinks such a moment might be arriving.

    Writing in National Affairs (“Rethinking Polarization”), Rauch, a Brookings Institution senior fellow, postulates a vast emptiness at the core of the politics that has engulfed us: “What if, to some significant extent, the increase in partisanship is not really about anything?” What if rival tribalisms are largely untethered from ideologies?

    Plausible, except Democrats do tend to be tethered to ideological statism, differing only on details. Should we travel down the Road to Serfdom at 90 mph, or a more stately 45?

    Mr. Will also notices Senator Liz's "grotesque — and classically demagogic" formulation from a couple months back:

    My message is, you have things that are broken in your life? I'll tell you exactly why. It's because giant corporations, billionaires, have seized our government.

    That's some dangerous bullshit.


  • I admire the attitude of a new website, Liberalism Unrelinquished.

    In the 17th and 18th centuries there was an ascendant cultural outlook that may be termed the liberal outlook. It was best represented by the Scottish enlightenment, especially Adam Smith, and it flowed into a liberal era, which came to be represented politically by people like Richard Cobden, William Gladstone, and John Bright. The liberal outlook revolved around a number of central terms (in English-language discourse, the context of the semantic issue that concerns us).

    Especially from 1880 there began an undoing of the meaning of the central terms, among them the word liberal. The tendency of the trends of the past 130 years has been toward the governmentalization of social affairs. The tendency exploded during the First World War, the Interwar Years, and the Second World War. After the Second World War the most extreme forms of governmentalization were pushed back and there have since been movements against the governmentalization trend. But by no means has the original liberal outlook been restored to its earlier cultural standing. The semantic catastrophes of the period 1880-1940 persist, and today, amidst the confusion of tongues, governmentalization continues to hold its ground and even creep forward. For the term liberal, in particular, it is especially in the United States and Canada that the term is used in ways to which we take exception.

    A number of smart people have added their names, like Deirdre McCloskey, Charles Murray, and Richard Epstein. (Not Greg Mankiw, yet.)

    (I decline to self-pigeonhole, lest I get embarrassed by one or more of the other pigeons in my hole. But that's me.)


  • Kevin D. Williamson writes on the George Bush & Ellen DeGeneres 'Controversy': Cooties Politics.

    When the Founders designed the basic architecture of the American system, they bore in mind among other antecedents the Roman republic. Their heirs are fascinated by a rather different model of social organization: the junior-high cafeteria.

    “Nobody should be friends with George W. Bush,” reads the headline over Sarah Jones’s essay in New York magazine, that purported bastion of urbanity. The article addresses the scandalization of American progressives by the private life of talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres, whose circle of friends is wide enough to encompass many people with whom she disagrees politically, including the former president.

    KDW notes that anyone who wears "the better part of $1 million on her wrist" (a vintage Rolex) has to be "at least a little bit Republican".

    Also, a Cher Horowitz reference, which I had to look up.


  • Enough politics? If you made it down this far, you deserve a breather, so you should check out Mark Steyn on that oldie by Bill Haley and the Comets: "Rock Around the Clock".

    One hundred years ago this weekend - October 26th 1919 - a man called James E Myers was born in Philadelphia. You may know him better as Jimmy DeKnight. More likely, you won't know him at all. But you'll certainly know a song he wrote. Or, again more likely, didn't write. But he certainly played a large part in the spectacular success thereof - a wild anthem of rebellious youth, thanks to a chubby-faced kiss-curled singer pushing thirty with a backing group named after a theory published in Synopsis Astronomia Cometicae in 1705 and a bit of help from a chap born in the nineteenth century:

    One, two, three o'clock, four o'clock rock!
    Five, six, seven o'clock, eight o'clock rock!
    Nine, ten, eleven o'clock, twelve o'clock rock!
    We're gonna Rock!
    Around!
    The Clock tonight...

    We have no plans at Pun Salad Manor to rock around the clock tonight, or any night. Our eyelids get irreversibly heavy at 10pm or earlier.

URLs du Jour

2019-10-28

Our leadoff today is from the Immortal Iowahawk, parodying yesterday's WaPo headline in a Tweet.

Man, he's good. Jeff Bezos should give Dave an insane amount of money to act as the WaPo sanity checker. Someone in charge of saying: "Naw, you better rethink that."

Well, good as that might be for the WaPo, it would be a lot less fun for the rest of us.


  • Bret Stephens writes at the NYT: Elizabeth Warren Wants to Lose Your Vote.

    A decade ago, it was conventional wisdom that the world would soon start running low on oil and that the United States would henceforth be at the mercy of the inexorable trend. Then the fracking revolution came about, and the U.S. resumed its long-lost place as the world’s No. 1 oil and natural gas producer.

    The result: lower oil prices for American consumers, less dependence on petrodespots, a dramatic shift from coal to natural gas for electricity generation (with concomitant benefits in carbon emissions), and hundreds of thousands of working-class jobs, including tens of thousands in swing states like Colorado and Pennsylvania.

    Elizabeth Warren wants to kill all this.

    Other bad-Liz ideas Bret discusses: tech regulation, and health care. And I'm pretty sure he ran out of room for others. Liz is the anti-Hayek. As Bret points out: "Those with plans for everything prove only that they can’t be trusted to plan for anything."

    I'd say "good job" in the comments, but there are 2133 of them as I type. Why does anyone bother adding comments?


  • The Verge notes an interesting statistic: Drivers killed the most pedestrians and bicyclists in almost 30 years.

    Nearly 36,600 people died on US roadways last year, a decrease of 2.4 percent from 2017, according to recently released figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled also decreased by 3.4 percent, from 1.17 in 2017 to 1.13 in 2018. The NHTSA says it is the lowest fatality rate since 2014.

    That all sounds encouraging, but it’s really only good news for those of us driving or riding in cars. Everyone else, especially vulnerable road users like pedestrians and bicyclists, is being killed at an alarming rate. The number of pedestrians killed — 6,283, an increase of 3.4 percent from the previous year — was the highest such number since 1990.

    That's … impressive. But nobody seems to have proposed banning biking or walking. At least not yet.


  • The Bulwark started out as sort of a refuge for conservative never-Trumpers, which is fine, although it can get a little tedious. Their founder and editor-at-large, Charles Sykes, is off-target here in his discussion of Mark Zuckerberg's recent decision to err on the side of free speech: Mark Zuckerberg Won't Save Us .

    Mark Zuckerberg worries about the “erosion of truth.” He wants us to know that he worries about it “deeply,” because, as we know, he is a deep thinker.

    But he really doesn’t want to do anything about it.

    As he tried to explain to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) the other day: “Well Congresswoman, I think lying is bad and I think if you were to run an ad that had a lie, that would be bad. That’s different from it being — from it — in our position the right thing to do to prevent your constituents or people in an election from seeing that you have lied.”

    Sykes' bottom line: "Mark Zuckerberg won’t save us. But he’s wrong not to try."

    That is mealy-mouthed nonsense, Charlie. Zuck should be able to make his own calls about regulating the content seen on his site without getting his elbow jiggled by self-serving politicians or pundits.


  • And at Reason, Jacob Sullum writes on something other than drugs: A Survey Finds Speech Restrictions Are Pretty Popular. That’s Why We Need the First Amendment..

    The First Amendment is unpopular…which is why we need the First Amendment. A recent survey commissioned by the Campaign for Free Speech underlines that point, finding that most Americans support viewpoint-based censorship, suppression of "hurtful or offensive" speech "in universities or on social media," government "action against newspapers and TV stations" that print or air "biased, inflammatory, or false" content, and revising the First Amendment, which "goes too far in allowing hate speech," to "reflect the cultural norms of today."

    That last position was endorsed by just 51 percent of respondents, compared to 42 percent who disagreed and 7 percent who had no opinion. But 57 percent favored legal penalties for wayward news organizations, 61 percent supported censorship of "hurtful or offensive" speech in certain contexts, and 63 percent said the government should restrict the speech of racists, neo-Nazis, radical Islamists, Holocaust deniers, anti-vaccine activists, and/or climate change skeptics.

    What we need is… to lock Joe Biden up for invoking Obama's old pledge:

    "If you like your employer-based plan, you can keep it," Biden said July 15. "If you have private insurance, you can keep it."

    Maybe that would get the would-be speech regulators off their perch?


Last Modified 2019-10-28 1:49 PM EST

The Phony Campaign

2019-10-27 Update

Let's lead off with an ad for BIDEN 2020, brought to you by the geniuses at Bad Lip Reading:

"Nathaniel, Nathaniel, Nathaniel."

But Joe was our big winner over the week, improving his electon probability by 1.2% percentage points. Big loser: Senator Liz, who shed 3.2 percentage points. The bettors still find her more likely to win than Joe, though.

And the Mike Pence boomlet seems to be over (for now), as he dipped back under our 2% inclusion threshold. Hillary's still hanging in there, with the punters believing she's got a better shot at winning than all but four Democrats (Liz, Bernie, Pete, Joe). And Trump.

In our phony standings, Mayor Pete had an absolutely stunning week, with Google discovering two million new phony hits. Sorry, President Bone Spurs, even though you gained nearly a million new hits, you're in a distant second this week.

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
10/20
Phony
Results
Change
Since
10/20
Pete Buttigieg 5.1% +0.8% 2,750,000 +2,030,000
Donald Trump 41.2% -0.3% 2,180,000 +940,000
Hillary Clinton 2.5% +0.2% 715,000 +21,000
Bernie Sanders 4.9% +0.2% 535,000 +82,000
Joe Biden 10.5% +1.2% 430,000 +35,000
Elizabeth Warren 21.5% -3.2% 265,000 +54,000
Andrew Yang 2.0% -0.3% 32,800 +1,400

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • But what about Hillary? Well, Mairead McArdle reports at NR that not everyone's enthused: Senate Democrats Warn Hillary Not to Jump Into 2020 Race. Specifically, three of them:

    In the wake of reports that Hillary Clinton is considering making a late entry into the 2020 presidential race, Senate Democrats are warning her against it, saying the party has moved on.

    “She’s done a great service to our country and public service, and I supported her wholeheartedly, but I believe it’s time for another nominee,” Senate minority whip Dick Durbin said, according to a Politico report.

    Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico called the move a “mistake.”

    Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, generally the most conservative Senate Democrat, said, “Absolutely not,” when asked about a possible Clinton 2020 run.

    Michael Ramirez also commented in his own style: Here comes Asteroid Hillary.

    [Here comes Asteroid Hillary]

    I would have thought that Senator Liz had already filled the 'unlikeable shrill elitist' niche this time around. I guess we'll see.


  • P. J. O'Rourke takes A Squint at the Democratic Nomination Contest at his American Consequences perch. Among the objects squinted at:

    But before we get into specifics let’s perform a rudimentary analysis called “Weigh the Bullshit” or “WBS.” What we do is we Google “Political positions of Elizabeth Warren” and “Political positions of Joe Biden” and print out their respective Wikipedia entries.

    Biden’s is 25 pages long but liberally interspersed with photos of Joe-Looking-Presidential and Joe-Being-Statesman-Like. It includes 151 reference notes.

    Warren’s is 42 pages of dense gray print with 251 reference notes.

    It is an axiom of American politics: If you value individual liberty and economic freedom, always pick the candidate with fewer ideas.

    That's a good guideline. Except I'm pretty sure that would be a clear win for Trump: no ideas whatsoever.


  • Also comparing the field is Bob Maistros at Issues & Insights: Democrat’s Health Care ‘Debate: Textbook Distinction Without A Difference.

    In the latest installment of the way-too-long-running Dem Debaters Gone Wild series the other night, cuddly “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg and Senator Amy “Don’t-Forget-to-Duck-When-I-Hurl-Binders” Klobuchar were working overtime trying to create separation from their out-in-orbit competitors – and thereby revive the myth of the “moderate Democrat.”

    The Dynamic Duo from the Midwest, claim the media, were staking out the party’s “centrist” wing versus the “progressives” with their attacks on Elizabeth Warren and her Medicare for All plan – appropriately challenging the Massachusetts solon on how the galactically expensive scheme would be financed (more on that in a minute).

    You see, both the senior Senator from Minnesota and the CEO of sleepy South Bend (2010 population: 101,168 and sinking) are positioning themselves as guardians of private healthcare policies – and common sense – with their advocacy of a “public option.” Said proposal would ostensibly allow Americans to choose a version of Medicare or, in the immortal phraseology of one Barack Obama (in an expression once rated the Lie of the Year), keep their own plans.

    Bob asserts, and I agree, that the "distinction" is between (a) those who want a full government takeover of health care right away and (b) those who propose the "public option" way-station as an intermediate step toward the same ultimate goal.


  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson analyzes the Elizabeth Warren Tax Plan: Her Financial Berlin Wall.

    Senator Bernie Sanders, an antediluvian Brooklyn red who literally honeymooned in the old Soviet Union as dissidents were being shipped off to the gulags, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, the counterfeit Cherokee princess who holds forth on “accountability” from her comfortable sinecure at Harvard Law, which once put her forward as the first “woman of color” on its faculty. The wretched old socialist from Vermont is making a good scrappy show of it — and I sincerely wish Senator Sanders the very best of health after his recent cardiac episodes — and, the times being what they are, apparently anybody can be elected president of these wobbly United States. But Warren — in spite of being a plastic banana of titanic phoniness, an ass of exceptional asininity, an intellectual mediocrity, and a terrible campaigner on top of it all — seems the more likely threat. Sanders, who cannot resist that old Soviet liquidate-the-kulaks-as-a-class rhetoric, insists that “billionaires should not exist.” Warren has a ghastly imbecilic plan for that.

    Click through for the details, but the bottom line is: if you're going to treat the "tippy top" of rich people as milk cows to fund your socialist schemes, you've got to have some way to pen them in place while you're doing that.


  • But even if she manages that effectively, there's still the problem of … math. At Reason, Peter Suderman uses it to show that Elizabeth Warren Is Running Out of Fake Money to Pay for Her Terrible Ideas.

    The first problem with using a wealth tax to finance Warren's plans is political. Even with unified Democratic control of Congress, an unlikely proposition, it's hard to imagine that a wealth tax would actually pass. The second problem is practical. It is quite difficult to calculate wealth, especially for the richest households, which tend to have obscure assets, as well as the resources to shield their fortunes from evaluation. Indeed, capital flight is one of the reasons why the large majority of developed economies that have adopted wealth taxes have also abandoned them. In a survey of economic experts conducted by Chicago Booth earlier this year, for example, 73 percent agreed Warren's wealth tax would be "much more difficult to enforce than existing federal taxes" thanks to complications arising from valuation and tax evasion.  

    Meanwhile, Warren's insistence that the math adds up ignores the very real academic debates over the source of her estimates. One study presented at the National Bureau of Economic Research this summer, for example, found that Warren's numbers vastly over-estimate the amount of wealth that would be available to tax, suggesting that it would raise far less revenue than what she projects. 

    I've recently seen an emerging pro-Warren argument along the lines of: "Well, none of her spending or taxation plans will pass Congress anyway, so who cares if nothing adds up? Vote for her anyway. Her heart's in the right place."

    It's not (yet) stated so bluntly, but …


  • At Power Line, John Hinderaker notes yet another example of Joe Biden’s Trouble With the Truth.

    In his lifetime in politics, Joe Biden has always had a tenuous connection to reality. As he has gotten elderly, that connection has weakened further. While politicians in general are not famed for veracity, Biden’s pronouncements–especially about himself, a topic on which you might expect him to be an authority–are uniquely likely to be false.

    The latest case in point: Brother of Sandy Hook victim calls out Joe Biden for ‘factual inaccuracy’.

    Although Wheezy Joe is leading in the polls, he's lagging among the oddsmakers. I suspect that might be due to the perception that his "mental faculties", as John says, are "slipping away."


  • And you'll notice that, with the bare minimum 2% probabiliity, Andrew Yang just might be on the verge of elimination. So we should get in our shots while we can. Daniel Mitchell looks at Andrew Yang’s Dependency Dividend. Quoting the Tax Foundation:

    Andrew Yang said he wants to provide each American adult $1,000 per month in a universal basic income (UBI) he calls a “Freedom Dividend.” He argued that this proposal could be paid for with…a combination of new revenue from a VAT, other taxes, spending cuts, and economic growth. …We estimate that his plan, as described, could only fund a little less than half the Freedom Dividend at $1,000 a month. A more realistic plan would require reducing the Freedom Dividend to $750 per month and raising the VAT to 22 percent.

    As Dan notes, the Tax Foundation is pretty generous to Yang, making a few rosy assumptions about the disincentives involved in his tax increases. But still, the "Freedom Dividend" punches a $1.5 Trillion/year hole in the federal budget.


  • And even the geek-friendly folks at Wired threw a bucket of cold, neutron-absorbing heavy water on a different scheme: Andrew Yang Wants a Thorium Reactor by 2027. Good Luck, Buddy.

    Yet of all Yang’s futuristic policies, one in particular stands out for its uniqueness and specificity. To transition the United States from fossil fuels to green energy, Yang wants the government to invest $50 billion in the development of thorium molten-salt nuclear reactors—and he wants them on the grid by 2027.

    “Nuclear isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s a solid solution for now,” Yang’s climate policy page reads. It calls out thorium molten-salt reactors in particular as “a technology we should invest in as a stopgap for any shortfalls we have in our renewable energy sources as we move to a future powered by renewable energy.”

    The Wired article details the hurdles. But still… as this article relates, it only took a decade or so to go from Fermi's Chicago Pile No. 1 in 1942 to various commercial (and military) reactors.

    I don't want to succumb to the "nerd harder" fallacy, but… c'mon, geeks. Those old guys in the 40's and 50's were that much smarter than you?

URLs du Jour

2019-10-26

[Amazon Link]

  • P. J. O'Rourke has a damn fine idea at the WaPo: We need a bar exam for politicians.

    Politicians should be licensed. Nearly every other profession has some form of accreditation or certification. In the District, more than 125 occupations require a license.

    We license lawyers, doctors, teachers, accountants, plumbers, real estate brokers, marriage counselors, dental hygienists, cosmetologists, beauticians and barbers. But a politician has the power to cause more damage and expense than even the worst hair stylist.

    Licensing is no cure-all, as the behavior of Washington law firms shows. Most politicians are lousy, and a license to practice won’t make them better. But creating complicated and time-consuming regulatory barriers to becoming a politician might, at least, limit the number of louses.

    I've previously suggested that presidential candidates should be subjected to an array of quizzes on a variety of subjects, the results made public. Peej's idea is similar, maybe better. Demand some sort of qualifying exam.

    Only problem is: the politicians would set the licensing rules.


  • George Will believes that Elizabeth Warren [is] not suited to push swing voters away from Trump. But there's also Bernie stuff:

    Along New York’s East River, which is not really a river (it is a 16-mile-long tidal estuary), perhaps 20,000 people actually chose to spend a gorgeous autumn afternoon Saturday listening to socialist Bernie Sanders, who is not really a socialist — he just wants to confiscate capitalism’s bounty to fund his promises of free stuff. This might seem counterintuitive, but: It bodes well for the republic that so many were eager to hear yet another of Sanders’ harangues about the inequity of all existing social arrangements.

    The rally was Sanders’ announcement that he, like the Young Man in Longfellow’s poem, is “up and doing, with a heart for any fate.” His message was: Never mind my heart attack. He is 78, and, in his second run for the nomination, is no longer a novelty, which Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a sprightly 70, is. Her persona, that of a hectoring schoolmarm, can be grating, but is less so than his. Sanders fluctuates between anger and indignation. Besides, it is entertaining to count how many times Warren plans to spend the same revenues from her wealth tax before it is declared unconstitutional (see Article I, Section 9).

    I like the image of a fake socialist speaking next to a phony river.


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson suggests, nay demands, some due process on the Trump Impeachment: Nancy Pelosi, Bring It into the Light.

    Republicans and Democrats, partisans of Donald Trump and those looking to impeach him, should speak with one voice about at least one thing: It is time for Nancy Pelosi to bring the impeachment process out of the shadows, out from behind closed doors, and into the light and air, such as it is, of the people’s house, where the people may oversee it.

    The power and the responsibility in this matter are expressly Pelosi’s in her role as speaker of the House. If you doubt for a moment that this blessed republic has entered a penitential stage in its history, then behold the fulcrum of the U.S. government’s credibility and her wan, conniving aspect. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

    As I've stated ad nauseam, I no longer care what happens to Trump. But we might care, just a little, about too-secretive impeachment process.


  • Cato's Jeffrey A. Singer notes the latest stupid tactic in the Opioid Panic: DEA Is About to Demonstrate “How Little They Know About What They Imagine They Can Design”. At issue is a recent proposal from the Drug Enforcement Agency to establish various new (and, obviously, reduced) quotas on prescription opioids.

    The rationale behind the production quotas is to reduce the amount of prescription opioids that can be diverted into the black market for non-medical use. But last month’s DEA quota proposal stated (Federal Register page 48172):

    As a result of considering the extent of diversion, DEA notes that the quantity of FDA-approved drug products that correlate to controlled substances in 2018 represents less than one percent of the total quantity of controlled substances distributed to retail purchasers.

    Therefore, it appears that diversion of prescription opioids into the black market is now a rare event. An obvious question then is why tighten quotas even further? Is the DEA on a mission to reduce or eliminate the use of opioids based upon this law enforcement agency's belief that it knows best how health care practitioners should engage in pain management?

    Well, it's an idiotic idea, meaning nothing more than a signal saying "Hey, we're doing something!"

    David Henderson comments sagely:

    To be fair, I think the DEA knows very well how to design a drug cartel.

    And note that, unlike most people use the term “drug cartel,” I’m using it correctly.


Last Modified 2019-10-26 6:24 PM EST

Socialism Sucks

Two Economists Drink Their Way Through the Unfree World

[Amazon Link]

A fun book which (somewhat surprisingly) was purchased by the Portsmouth Public Library. Author Robert A. Lawson is one of the co-authors of the Economic Freedom of the World (EFotW) report put out annually by the Fraser Institute. Benjamin Powell is an econ prof at Texas Tech. They are no fans of socialism. But they are fans of drinking and strip clubs. So they got the bright idea to (or near) various socialist utopias, and try to have some alcohol-fueled fun.

It turns out that's hard to do. The fun part, that is.

First, they dismiss Sweden, and the similar countries Bernie et. al. like to use as examples. They aren't free-market heaven, to be sure, but they regularly rank pretty high on the EFotW measurements. (Sweden is #35 out of the 162 countries scored.)

Countries considered:

  • Venezuela, dead last (#162) in EFotW. Worried about kidnappers, Bob and Ben don't get into the country itself, but visit a Columbian border town, where Venezuelans try to get goods that are impossible to buy in their own land.

  • Cuba (unranked at EFotW because of lack of data).

  • North Korea (also unranked at EFotW). Again (unsurprisingly) Bob and Ben just look across the border (from both China and South Korea).

  • China (#113) is cited as "fake socialism". Sorta-capitalism is combined with ruthless suppression of anything the rulers consider to be dangerous to their system.

  • Russia (#85) and Ukraine (#135): "hungover socialism". Two countries that can't seem to make the transition to freedom.

  • Georgia (#12) is a success story, however. Adopting some heavy market reforms helped, and even though it's still kind of poor, it's on a pretty decent growth path.

  • And finally, the good old USA (#5), or is that the USSA? Bob and Ben visit the July 2018 "Socialism Conference" held at the Chicago People's Collective Hotel of the Revolution Hyatt Regency. They are taken with how little socialism is discussed or defended; instead it's the usual left-wing array of issues: white privilege, immigration, feminism, gender, … All topics worthy of discussion, of course, but where's the socialism?

All in all, not a lot of surprises here, but the authors do a good job of reporting.

To the folks who gripe: that's not real socialism. Well, sorry, it is.

Panic Attack

Young Radicals in the Age of Trump

[Amazon Link]

An excellent, readable book from Reason associate editor, Robby Soave. His goal is analysis of Young People Today (Robby is only barely older than many of the kiddos he reports on) and what the heck is their deal anyway?

To a rough first approximation, the youngsters on the left wing have fallen prey to the ideology of intersectionality. Everything is viewed on an oppressor vs. oppressed axis; but you get extra points for each checkbox you tick off: African-American, female, gay, transgender, disabled, Muslim, … About the only folks who don't score here are… well, folks like me: cis, white, male, Christian, etc. (I think people of Asian descent are considered "white" for oppressive purposes; Jews get lumped in with Christians, because Jehovah.)

Robby's is a less nuanced analysis than I saw in the Haidt/Lukianoff book The Coddling of the American Mind. But Robby goes out and actually talks to the people he's reporting on, and (like Haidt/Lukianoff) he's a bend-over-backwards guy, listening and trying to understand why the kids have suddenly gone nuts.

He visits various factions: the anti-Trump "resistance", including AntiFa, Black Lives Matter, the radical feminists, the LGBTQ activists. A common thread is intolerance, sometimes edging over into violence, toward the people on the other side.

Robby also visits with some less radical groups. The Democratic Socialists of America, for example; the Greens; the gun-grabbers. But also Turning Point USA (about whom Robby has some deserved criticism).

And finally, the alt-Right. Robby considers it to be a more wretched hive of scum and villainy than Mos Eisley. It's hard to disagree, especially when their victim body count (Heather Heyer in Charlottesville) is probably higher than their lefty counterparts. But (again) the book lets them have their say.

TPUSA@UNH

[Culture War]

Rand Paul is one of my two favorite current US Senators (the other being Ben Sasse). And I'm somewhat interested in the (usually dreadful) activism on American college campuses, especially at the University Near Here, where I used to study (long ago) and work (not so long ago). So I took the opportunity to attend the event hosted by the local chapter of Turning Point USA, featuring Charlie Kirk and Senator Paul.

One thing to get out of the way first: although the TPUSA event held last year at UNH was obstructed and disrupted by local social justice warriors, this event went extremely smoothly. One attendee shouted something (I didn't catch what) during the presentation, and that was it. There were no venue blockades, no shoutdown attempts, and even the negative questions (see below) were poised civilly.

Security was tight, though. You needed a ticket, IDs were checked, the UNH cops were in attendance. I ran into an ex-co-worker in line, a thorough progressive; she told me she was there as a "peacekeeper". I don't know how many others there were, or if the peacekeeper force was mustered by the University. Still, whatever measures were taken were effective.

The event was held in the Granite State Room of the Memorial Union Building (MUB); it's the largest meeting room in the building, and it was close to capacity, I would estimate about 600-700 attendees. Eyeballing the crowd, I estimated about 75% were students (or at least student-aged). And maybe 85% male.

A brief warmup: "Culture War" t-shirts were thrown to the crowd. A cheer was led: "When I say 'socialism', you say 'sucks'! Ready? Socialism SUCKS! Socialism SUCKS!…" And nearly all of the crowd seemed to join in. (I'm too old for such activities, even though I do think socialism sucks.)

The president of the UNH chapter of TPUSA started the presentation, welcoming us, pointing out the exits, thanking everyone involved in bringing off the event, and (most notably) reminding us that UNH was committed to civil discourse, and that people attempting to interfere with the event would be, um, asked/assisted to leave.

Then, after a razzle-dazzle video intro, the founder and Executive Director of TPUSA, Charlie Kirk, took the stage. He is a slick speaker, and he and TPUSA are in favor of good things: American exceptionalism, the Constitution, and free-market capitalism. Hey, me too. And (judging by applause and cheers) nearly all the crowd, too.

Charlie made reference to the Unfortunate Incident from earlier in the week reported by Breitbart where an earnest young lady destroyed a TPUSA display at the MUB and, when approached by TPUSA members, said “I hate you and I hope you die”.

Apparently, she was in the front row, and made her presence known. Charlie took it in stride, telling her: "Thanks for coming, and I hope you live."

[Amazon Link]
Then Senator Paul was brought on. His main theme was socialism, and he's against it. (He even has a new book on the topic, Amazon link at right.) He and Charlie had a Q&A session, Charlie pitching softball (and, I suspect, rehearsed) questions to the Senator, the Senator hitting them out of the park. Venezuela, Medicare for All, eat-the-rich taxation schemes, Syria, impeachment. (On Syria, Senator Paul gave about the best possible defense of Trump's Kurd sellout; I'm still convinced that however worthy Trump's goal, his implementation was a stupid bungle that made things worse.)

The floor was then opened to audience questioners, and they were mostly softballs too.

Senator Paul's reaction to Hillary's slander of Tulsi Gabbard? "Despicable."

He was also against Beto's proposal to yank tax-exempt status from religious institutions that don't bend the knee on gay marriage.

He was (maybe) open to allowing newspapers to band together to negotiate tougher terms with Google/Facebook et. al. when their content is scraped.

A few questions were not softballs, and they seemed to be directed mostly at Charlie. There was something about West Point. Some guy wanted to make a (maybe) white-nationalist "blood and soil" point about immigration. Somebody else wanted to make an anti-Israel point about the USS Liberty. (Which happened, I'm pretty sure, before Charlie was born.) Charlie's replies to such questions were curt, polite, and dismissive.

Bottom line: Coming in, I thought the "Culture War" title on this event was needlessly provocative. I'm trying to be more of an Arthur C. Brooks/Ben Sasse love-your-enemies civil-discourse kind of guy.

And, despite the title, that's pretty much what this event was. Good. But they should have come up with a better title.

Cryptonomicon

[Amazon Link]

So after reading Neal Stephenson's Fall, I decided to stick all the Stephenson novels I hadn't read recently into my To-Be-Read system. And the first to pop up was this one Cryptonomicon, copyright 1999.

Boy, is it ever a lot of fun. Even given that it's slightly over 900 pages of small type.

The book alternates between the 1940s and the 1990s. The 1940s story begins with the US Marine Bobby Shaftoe being evacuted from Singapore in advance of the Japanese invasion, composing haikus as he goes. The other main character in this time is Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse, gifted mathematician and cryptoanalyst, keeping pre-war company with Alan Turning and (fictional) Rudolf von Hacklheber. When the war kicks off, Waterhouse and Turing devote their lives into (successfully) breaking Axis codes. Unfortunately, they also have to disguise the fact that they've broken the codes from their old buddy, who seems to be working for the Nazis. This involves Shaftoe on a series of adventures, right up until (almost) the end of the war.

Also involved: Japanese soldier Goto Dengo, for whom the war is literally hell. He's a "digger", skilled in tunnelling. This turns out to be useful in a scheme to squirrel away Axis gold in a remote part of the Philippines.

In the 1990s scenes, Lawrence's grandson, Randy is a Silicon Valley geek, just having been taken to the cleaners by his ex-girlfriend. His friend Avi, enlists him in a new venture, involving underwater cables leading to a semi-autonomous land near the Philippines, the site of a "data vault" holding people's secrets from around the world. And maybe a new currency. Backed by … hm … that Axis gold, buried where Goto left it? But they have their own adversaries.

And Enoch Root in both times. I have to remember to keep an eye on that guy.

There is a wonderful digression on the sensual pleasures of eating Cap'n Crunch cereal in precisely the right way. Randy's ritual is … well, I think the description all by itself deserves the Nobel Prize for Literature. Even if Stephenson never wrote another word.

URLs du Jour

2019-10-24

[Amazon Link]

  • Well, the Donald sort of went over the top, as reported by Allahpundit at Hot Air. Trump: Let's face it, Never Trumpers are human scum. Occasioned by this tweet:

    He was so proud of that tweet, he “pinned” it to the top of his account. For a few hours today, it was the first thing you saw when you visited his Twitter page, even above the more recent tweets.

    A fun research question for historians: When was the last time a U.S. president publicly described *domestic* political opponents as “scum”? Bush probably said it at some point about Al Qaeda, but that’s not what I mean. I’m talking specifically about fellow citizens, not foreign enemies. I’d be surprised if even Nixon referred — publicly — to his antagonists that way. So when was the last time? Woodrow Wilson describing African-Americans, maybe? Does it go back even further than that?

    Well, at least he didn't lump me in with the Deplorables. That would really hurt my feelings.

    [And, yes, I know I'm only technically a Republican, because I'm registered that way, and I like being able to vote in the primaries. But still.]


  • At NR, Victor Davis Hanson points out the obvious: Universities Breed Anger, Ignorance, and Ingratitude.

    The dirty little secret on campuses is that a legion of exploited, temporary lecturers, usually without multiyear contracts, are paid far less than tenured professors — often to teach the same classes. In short, an entire caste of low-paid faculty who lack the perks and benefits of their liberal permanent superiors subsidize thousands of colleges and their supposedly liberal agendas. The academic mentality is to feel angst about the distant plight of the would-be illegal immigrant waiting to cross the border; the angst is a sort of medieval penance for ignoring the exploited lecturer under one’s nose who indirectly supports the perks of the tenured.

    Progressive college administrators, in the abstract, love unions and collective bargainers as long as they stay off campus and far away from their own exploited teachers. Tenure was originally designed to protect the sometimes unorthodox and even heretical views of the faculty. Today, however, professors who preach “diversity” in lockstep do not want to hear diverse ideas and values, among either students or faculty. Tenure has become not protection for against-the-grain expression but a merit badge for the party faithful coming up through the ranks. Try giving a public lecture on campus about the ill effects of abortion, the inconsistencies of global-warming advocacy, respect for the Second Amendment, or skepticism over identity politics. The result would be a student version of the Jacobin Reign of Terror.

    Speaking of that, I'm headed out to this Turning Point USA event at the University Near Here this evening. I'll let you know what happens.


  • At the Federalist, David Marcus has today's winning entry in Pun Salad's "What Could Possibly Go Wrong" department: Democrats' Election Bill Allows The Government To Define 'Legitimate News'.

    One of the major problems with the [“Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy Act” or the “SHIELD Act”] regarding free speech is a provision that allows the federal government to determine what is and is not “legitimate journalistic activities” for the purposes of protecting them from the provisions of the act. The obvious problem with this is that should the federal government decide a journalistic activity is not legitimate, it will have broad powers to silence it.

    In addition to this concern, the bill creates a wide array of hoops for United States citizens wishing to engage in political speech to jump through. By making it more difficult to purchase online ads, the bill threatens to chill speech. Regular Americans should not fear federal prosecution for engaging in the political process.

    In short, yet another attempt to get the state even further into the business of regulating political speech. The relevant page at congress.gov is here. It passed the House this morning, with Democrats voting 227-1 in favor, Republicans voting 0-179 against. ACLU's comments are here.


  • And Veronique de Rugy comments at Reason on the latest battle in escalating war over which political party is the stupidest: Democratic Wealth Tax Proposals Demonstrate Economic Ignorance.

    For starters, wealth inequality is a very poor measure of unfairness in our society. Speaking at the Peterson Institute recently, economist and former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers correctly made the case that a change in wealth inequality would have little impact on the concentration of political power.

    Reducing inequality is also a poor means to fix whatever these candidates think ails America. In a 2013 paper published by the Brookings Institution, economist Scott Winship reviewed claims made about inequality and their negative impact on various aspects of our lives. In a summary of that paper for National Affairs, he writes that there's "little basis for thinking that inequality is at the root of our economic challenges, and therefore for believing that reducing inequality would meaningfully address our lagging growth, enable greater mobility, avert future financial crises, or secure America's democratic institutions."

    I suspect such proposals are the Progressive version of what Daniel Moynihan called "boob bait for bubba"; tough-sounding rhetoric designed to placate "base" voters.

    Or the advocates could be serious. Even scarier.


  • And our Google LFOD alert rang for an article about an upcoming Oscar-bait flick: Giving You A Sneak Peek Of The Harriet Tubman Biopic.

    In the biopic, Lemmons adds phrases like “live free or die” as well as the instruction to “follow the northern star to get to freedom” which were known to be used by Harriet during her escape to freedom.

    Sounds good, but I'll probably wait for the Netflix DVD.

URLs du Jour

2019-10-23

[Amazon Link]

  • I don't go to Breitbart no more, but the good folks at Granite Grok pointed to an incident at the University Near Here, reported at Breitbart and (as near as I can tell) nowhere else: 'I Hope You Die:' University of New Hampshire Students Destroy Turning Point USA Display.

    Students at the University of New Hampshire were caught on video tearing down Turning Point USA posters on Sunday and Monday. A leftist student said “I hate you and I hope you die” to one of the members of the school’s TPUSA group after being approached about tearing down the displays.

    I'm pretty sure that's not allowed in the Student Code of Conduct. One would hope the University officials in charge of enforcement will grow a spine and follow through.


  • At National Review, Yuval Levin notes Congressional Attention Deficit Disorder, coincidentally about… What Deficit?.

    […] the emphasis on impeachment does exacerbate one particular problem that will demand to be noticed: The twelve appropriations bills that compose the federal budget all expire on November 21, one month from now, which could be near the heart of the Democrats’ impeachment schedule. Congress needs to pass spending legislation by then or else face a shutdown.

    There is no prospect of the regular appropriations process functioning to achieve that goal. Over the summer, Congress and the president did agree on the overall discretionary spending levels for the year, but at this point the Senate has not passed even one appropriations bill, while the House has passed most of the needed bills but in versions that couldn’t hope to survive in the Senate.

    Well, it's not as if anyone on Capitol Hill is that interested in doing anything that might actually make the country's fiscal situation slightly more sane. Better to work on that partisan warfare. We don't get enough of that.


  • John Tamny is even-handed in his criticism: Elizabeth Warren Is Impressively Wrong About Taxes. So Are Her Critics.. Making a subtle point:

    More than either side would like to admit, a tax increase on the other guy is a tax on everyone. Congress doesn’t tax away our dollars earned to stare lovingly at the money; rather it taxes away the money because it means extra control for the political class over the economy. That’s a tax on all of us, and it’s a cruel one. If a lot of central planning hurts, so does a little. Get it? Even crueler to the middle class is when taxes are foisted on the rich. We know why this is, and the Times tells us why: the rich account for nearly all of the investment in the United States. Tax them, as Warren desires, and opportunity shrinks. Contrary to what’s suggested at the Journal, any tax on anyone, the rich most of all, is a tax on the middle class.

    More than either side would like to admit, a tax increase on the other guy is a tax on everyone. Congress doesn’t tax away our dollars earned to stare lovingly at the money; rather it taxes away the money because it means extra control for the political class over the economy. That’s a tax on all of us, and it’s a cruel one. If a lot of central planning hurts, so does a little. Get it? Even crueler to the middle class is when taxes are foisted on the rich. We know why this is, and the Times tells us why: the rich account for nearly all of the investment in the United States. Tax them, as Warren desires, and opportunity shrinks. Contrary to what’s suggested at the Journal, any tax on anyone, the rich most of all, is a tax on the middle class.

    I've said it more than once: politicians like Elizabeth Warren know in their bones that there's not a single dollar in private hands that they could not spend more wisely.


  • The 21st century Emerald City never fails to impress. Robby Soave at Reason: Seattle Public Schools Will Start Teaching That Math Is Oppressive.

    Math is a deeply frustrating subject for many elementary and high school students. But Seattle public schools are gearing up to accuse math of a litany of more serious crimes: imperialism, dehumanization, and oppression of marginalized persons.

    The district has proposed a new social justice-infused curriculum that would focus on "power and oppression" and "history of resistance and liberation" within the field of mathematics. The curriculum isn't mandatory, but provides a resource for teachers who want to introduce ethnic studies into the classroom vis a vis math.

    Robby is a bend-over-backward-to-be-fair kind of guy, so he dismisses criticism from the American Conservative as "hyperbolic". But he admits the actual proposal "seems fairly terrible." For example:

    The guidance also includes some extremely political, simplistic talking points that might be popular among activist academics but are in reality somewhat dubious. This is verbatim from the proposal: Students will be able to "identify the inherent inequities of the standardized testing system used to oppress and marginalize people and communities of color," "explain how math has been used to exploit natural resources," and "explain how math dictates economic oppression." Each of these statements are debatable, but they are not being presented as such. It would be one thing to hold a class discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of standardized testing, but what's happening here is that students are being trained to reject standardized testing due to its "inherent inequity," which is asserted as some kind of proven fact.

    It's not as if government schools are great at teaching math in the first place. And it's not fun. To "educators" of a certain bent, it's more fun to do this instead.


  • Veronique de Rugy counts 'em up at AIER: Five Wrong Claims about Trade. Made by guess who? Let's skip down to number five:

    During his campaign, Mr. Trump said that he would wipe away the trade deficit. Aside from the fact that this is a foolish goal, his trade disputes have achieved quite the opposite. As my colleague Daniel Griswold documents, “During President Obama’s second term in office, from 2013 through 2016, the monthly trade deficit in goods and services averaged $40.7 billion; under President Trump the monthly deficit has averaged $50.1 billion.”

    A reduction in the bilateral trade deficit is a meaningless measure of success because when one deficit goes down, many others go up. Case in point: The deficit with China is going down, but it has been more than offset by rising bilateral deficits elsewhere, including with Vietnam and Mexico. Imports from China are also down 12 percent, but exports to China are down 19 percent. So even by the president’s own mercantilist standard, he is failing.

    The bottom line is that pretty much everything Mr. Trump has promised on the trade front by imposing tariffs hasn’t panned out, even if the president persists in saying the opposite.

    Trump can't admit he was wrong, I get that. But I'm sure he could claim victory, remove his stupid tariffs, and get a net win that way. His sheeplike followers would buy it.


  • And it's that time of year for the Tax Foundation to issue its 2020 State Business Tax Climate Index.

    The 10 best states in this year’s Index are:

    1. Wyoming
    2. South Dakota
    3. Alaska
    4. Florida
    5. Montana
    6. New Hampshire
    7. Nevada
    8. Oregon
    9. Utah
    10. Indiana

    Yay! We're number six! No other New England state comes close: ME is #33, MA is #36, VT is #44, CT is #47, RI is #39.


  • Noah Shepardson asks the important question in Reason: Is Sam Adams’ New 28 Percent ABV Beer Legal in Your State?. The beer is "Utopias", and it's a very fancy brewing process, comes in a very fancy bottle, and … oops, here's why it doesn't matter whether it's legal in my state:

    In addition to carrying the astronomical price tag of $210 dollars per 25.4-ounce bottle,[…]

    Yeah. But for the record: no it's not legal to sell in NH. Another outrage in what's supposed to be the Live Free or Die state.

URLs du Jour

2019-10-22

I noticed that the creators of the Marx v. Mises video (featured here a few days ago) had a previous great video back in 2014. The Kronies. Hey, it's new to me, and maybe you too. Watch away:

  • Donald J. Boudreaux takes a side trip from Cafe Hayek to visit AIER, and tells us The Three Biggest Myths about Political Economy. Number one is…

    The most pernicious of all Big Myths is that the economy and society – or, at least, any economy that is productive, and any society that is good – are the conscious creation of the state. Classical-liberal scholars have fought for centuries against this social-creationist myth. In the 18th century Adam Smith celebrated the market’s invisible hand and warned against the “man of system” who arrogantly fancies that he (or she) can rearrange flesh-and-blood people in society as a chess player rearranges inert pawns and princes on a chess board.

    In the 19th century Herbert Spencer observed that nearly all legislative schemes for uplifting society are doomed to fail because “[t]hey have their root in the error that society is a manufacture; whereas it is a growth.” In the 20th century F.A. Hayek repeatedly insisted on the vital importance of recognizing that while modern society and the economy are indeed the results of human action, they are not – and cannot possibly be – the results of human design.

    In the 21st century this essential truth is emphasized and explained eloquently by a host of brilliant scholars, including, for example, Steve Davies, Richard Epstein, Deirdre McCloskey, Tom Palmer, Matt Ridley, and Mario Rizzo.

    Yet this Big Myth seems only to spread and strengthen. Listening to politicians, and reading everything from popular punditry to much seemingly deep scholarship, makes clear that large numbers of people – I dare say most – conceive of social order, economic growth, and widespread prosperity as being unobtainable unless engineered into existence by the state.

    The other two (click over to read in full): "You didn't build that!"; and "the will of the people."


  • Will small policy tweaks fix Facebook? At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson provides the answer: nope. Facebook & Free Speech: Small Policy Tweaks Won’t Fix Social-Media Giant.

    That much is obvious from Facebook’s own peculiar selectivity. The figures that Facebook and other social-media companies have blacklisted include most prominently gadflies and media entrepreneurs such as Milo Yiannopoulos and Laura Loomer — who are straight-up dopes, rodeo clowns rather than storm troopers. These people are not excluded from Facebook because they present a danger to anything other than good taste; they are excluded because they are unpopular — or, to be more precise, because they are unfashionable. Hosting Milo Yiannopoulos on your site is an offense against fashion and the community of shared taste — he’s a Nickelback T-shirt worn unironically. His function is purely semiotic, and objections to him are hardly rooted in scrupulosity about matters of fact or logic. Why do you think the Washington Post prints paeans to science and horoscopes in the same newspaper? The animating energy in these matters comes from social allegiance, not from the careful application of reason.

    Damn, he's good. The bottom line: Facebook will continue to be mired in hypocrisy and controversy until it figures out how to radically (and honestly) reconstruct its core concepts. Good luck, Zuck.


  • Jonah Goldberg's column this week: Column: Republicans got Trump to abandon his plan for hosting the G-7. There's a lesson there.

    Most conservatives try to focus on Trump’s results rather than on the president himself. Republicans like his judicial appointments, tax cuts, deregulation. And his support for culture war priorities like the 2nd Amendment and abortion have also kept conservatives on board. They simply tune out the price the party and the country has paid for these “wins.”

    But there’s a part of the equation that has been forgotten. Thanks in part to the polarized climate, the near-banishment of critical voices from pro-Trump media outlets and the psychological need to defend the leader of their “side,” conservatives forget that many of these wins are the result Trump’s hand having been forced in a political transaction. Until Trump launched his hostile takeover of the GOP, he was pro-choice, pro-gun control and utterly unconcerned about fidelity to the Constitution. He became pro-life and pro-2nd Amendment because that was the price of widespread conservative support. He agreed to outsource his judicial appointments to the Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation precisely because no one trusted his judgment.

    Once elected, however, Trump used his ability to influence his core supporters -- who have outsize power in primaries to punish GOP critics. By taking the scalps of politicians like former GOP Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, he also took the spines of countless others. As a result, the GOP lost control of the House in 2018 and may be on the cusp of losing the Senate and the presidency in 2020.

    The only (speculative) good news is that it could be a replay of 1976, when we tossed the keys to Jimmy Carter, who mucked things up so badly that we got Ronnie in 1980.


  • At Cato, Neal McCluskey has a Hot Take: Elizabeth Warren’s K-12 Education Plan.

    This morning, presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren released her plan, or at least its general contours, for K-12 education. There are a few marginal positives in it, but for the most part, at least based on my first, quick reading, it is exactly what you’d expect: spend a lot and attack school choice. All this while ignoring the Constitution, which simply does not authorize the vast majority of what Warren wants to do.

    It would be news if Liz had a proposal that was in line with the Constitution.

URLs du Jour

2019-10-21

Mr. Ramirez notes a double standard. (Submitted in honor of our Canadian friends holding elections today.)

[Obama Endorses Trudeau]

On to our regularly scheduled programming:

  • I am bugged, like a lot of folks, at the New York Times presentation of a tendentious tax picture aiming to show that the "rich pay lower taxes than you", based on a new book by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, The Triumph of Injustice. At National Review, Robert VerBruggen joins the naysayers: Income Inequality Has Soared While Taxes Have Become Dramatically Less Progressive . . . or Not. There's a lot of propeller-beanie analysis, here's a small sample:

    And here too, beyond problems with the basic data, there are arguments over what to include. A big one — a way that The Triumph of Injustice departs even from its authors’ own previous work — has to do with the tax on corporate profits, which has fallen significantly in recent decades. Since corporations are just legal entities, they don’t really pay these taxes; people do. And there’s a lot of debate over how much of this tax burden falls on corporate shareholders, as opposed to other folks, including workers and customers, who tend to be less wealthy and might benefit if the government didn’t take this money. Faced with this conundrum, the right-leaning Tax Foundation will point to studies showing “that labor bears between 50 and 100 percent of the burden of the corporate income tax,” while the left-leaning Tax Policy Center assigns 60 percent of the burden to shareholders, 20 percent to capital in general (because the corporate tax has spillover effects for other forms of capital), and 20 percent to labor.

    Saez and Zucman’s approach? To assume the entire corporate tax falls on shareholders, and to make this clear only after their number-crunching has been reported as fact in the national media. As the economist Tyler Cowen put it in a scathing post, “no Western fiscal authority I have heard of thinks of tax incidence in these terms.” And as this animation from Kopczuk shows, this new assumption largely explains a big change in the trend for rich people’s taxes even relative to Saez and Zucman’s own approach in a recent paper with Thomas Piketty:

    Bottom line: "At every step of the way, Saez and Zucman made decisions that skewed the income distribution toward the top and the tax burden away from it."

    As noted before, Saez and Zucman are advising Elizabeth Warren's presidential campaign.


  • AEI's James Pethokoukis notes a new innovation by left-coast statists: San Francisco unleashes destructive creation on Silicon Valley. He notes that, despite worldwide attempts to do so, nobody's duplicated the miracle of tech-innovation seen in Silicon Valley. It's hard (probably impossible) to do that top-down!

    But if directly constructing an entrepreneurial tech hub is maddeningly difficult, destroying one might well be considerably easier. And how would one go about doing such a crazy thing? San Francisco appears intent in running an experiment in destructive creation. City officials want to create an Office of Emerging Technology that would give “notice to proceed” to entrepreneurs before they released their products into the wild — assuming, of course, OET thinks the products are expected to generate “a net result is for the common good.” So permits for innovation instead of permissionless innovation.

    So we'll see how that works out for them.


  • Peter Suderman continues to be a voice of Reason on the topic of health care: Medicare for All Is All Democrats Want To Talk About.

    Medicare for All, as proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) and supported by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) and Cory Booker (D–N.J.), would end the nation's employer-based health care system. In the space of four years, it would implement a fully government-run system that is similar to Canada's but even more restrictive, leaving virtually no room for private insurance. Sanders' plan, according to both independent estimates and Sanders himself, would raise government spending on health care by $30–$40 trillion over a decade. It would also require tax hikes or tax-like fees on the middle class. In terms of both cost and transition complexity, it would dwarf Obamacare.

    Note the not-so-hidden pretext: Obamacare didn't, and is not, working as advertised.

    For statists, the only reaction to the failure of statist policies is: more statism!

The Phony Campaign

2019-10-20 Update

[Amazon Link]

Betfair bettors are stubbornly holding on to their (≥ 2%) hopes/fears of a Hillary/Pence presidency come 2020, and these two very dark horses remain in our table this week.

Biggest gainer: Bernie! Who showed that he was alive, feisty, and still firmly in the thrall of socialist fantasies in the recent debate.

Biggest loser: Elizabeth Warren, who demonstrated in that same debate that she can ignore requests for a simple yes/no answer. I suppose ignoring questions, hitting your talking points instead for the Nth time, impresses some people.

I'm just saying that she might not pass a Turing Test that way.

President Bone Spurs holds on to his solid lead in phony hits, although Mayor Pete is showing signs of a phony surge:

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
10/13
Phony
Results
Change
Since
10/13
Donald Trump 41.5% +0.3% 1,240,000 -630,000
Pete Buttigieg 4.3% +1.3% 720,000 +95,000
Hillary Clinton 2.3% -0.8% 694,000 -14,000
Bernie Sanders 4.7% +1.9% 453,000 -38,000
Joe Biden 9.3% -0.5% 395,000 -2,000
Elizabeth Warren 24.7% -2.9% 211,000 -28,000
Mike Pence 2.0% -0.1% 143,000 +31,000
Andrew Yang 2.3% -0.3% 31,400 -134,600

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • Reason's Billy Binion found a silly exchange in the debate: Kamala Harris Demands That Warren Promise To Ban Trump From Twitter.

    When it comes to politics, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris (D–Calif.) is "For The People." When it comes to Twitter, though, she would like to put the fate of President Donald Trump's account in the hands of one powerful man: CEO Jack Dorsey.

    "He and his account should be taken down," said Harris during Tuesday night's debate, facing off against Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) who declined to support the move.

    Damn, that Kamala is one nasty piece of work. Is there another candidate so obviously aching to get into a position of power so that she can bend people to her iron will?

    Fortunately, she seems to be toast, candidacy-wise.


  • Joe's kid Hunter was not only on the board of Chinese and Ukrainian companies; back in 2006 he was appointed to Amtrak's board. Why? As Brent Scher of the Washington Free Beacon reports: Hunter Biden's One Qualification for Amtrak Board Was Taking Trains.

    That's according to his father Joe Biden's Delaware colleague in the Senate, Tom Carper, who offered the sole nomination speech for the younger Biden when his name was presented in the Senate Commerce Committee. In his prepared remarks, Carper said Biden would be an "excellent addition" to the board, but was unable to list any reason beyond his frequent use of trains.

    "More significantly, Hunter has spent a lot of time on Amtrak trains," Carper said after listing schools Biden attended. "Like his father, Rep. Mike Castle and myself, Hunter Biden has lived in Delaware while using Amtrak to commute to his job in Washington, D.C."

    I can't easily find Hunter's Amtrak salary, but this site claims the average executive compensation is north of $230K/year. And all you need to to qualify, apparently, is to have train-riding experience! And it doesn't hurt to have a powerful politician daddy.


  • With the other candidates hatching their crazy, stupid, and unconstitutional "plans", Bernie apparently thought he needed to make his own contribution in that area. At Cato, Ryan Bourne looks at The Economic Consequences of Sen. Sanders' Stock Confiscation Plan.

    Bernie Sanders would confiscate 20 percent ownership stakes in 22,000 companies, distributing the stocks to workers through shared employee ownership funds. His “Corporate Accountability Plan,” announced yesterday, should lay to bed any lingering doubts that “democratic socialism” is just about social democracy, or a bigger welfare state. Rather, it amounts to a fundamental attempt to re-order the American economy through federal government edicts.

    Under Sanders’ “Democratic Employee Ownership Funds,” all publicly traded companies and those with at least $100 million in annual revenue would have to contribute 20 percent of their stock to “workers” over a decade, creating an “employee-controlled fund” that distributes any dividends to employees. Unlike ordinary stocks, workers couldn’t sell or transfer the stocks in their name. Instead, the fund would be managed by elected worker representatives, with ordinary voting rights. Worker representatives would also make up at least 45 percent of boards in firms with at least $100 million in annual revenue, $100 million balance sheets, and publicly traded companies.

    I like that bit about being unable to sell your stocks in a plan billed as giving ownership in their companies.

    Bernie, if you can't sell something, you don't own it.


  • There was also a recent CNN "Town Hall" featuring the Democrat candidates. In our "Of Course They Did" departnment: MSNBC Praises Warren's 'Authentic' Answer to Campaign Donor's Question.

    An MSNBC panel praised Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) for being "so authentic" after the 2020 candidate went viral for her answer to a campaign donor's question about same-sex marriage at a CNN town hall.

    MSNBC analyst Zerlina Maxwell said Warren's viral zinger demonstrated how authentic she can be, and questioned whether a male candidate could have mustered such a response. "I don't know how a guy would have answered that question, but I think one of the things that's so great about that moment is it's just her authentic personality," Maxwell said.

    "So authentic," fellow analyst Lauren Leader said.

    CNN did not disclose the questioner (from Texas) was a maxed-out contributor to Liz's (Massachusetts) Senatorial campaign in 2018. Leaving open the possibility that it was a phony softball question designed for Liz to hit out of the Little League park.


  • In our "Not Only On That" department, Peter Suderman at Reason: On Medicare for All, Elizabeth Warren Is Fundamentally Dishonest.

    Elizabeth Warren is being fundamentally dishonest about Medicare for All. Not just vague. Not just evasive. Not just dodgy. Dishonest

    At last night's Democratic primary debate, Warren repeatedly refused to admit something that is obviously true: that Medicare for All, the single-payer health care plan envisioned by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) that Warren says she supports, would require higher taxes on most Americans, including the middle class. 

    We know that this is true because the plan would, according to multiple independent estimates as well as Sanders himself, cost somewhere in the range of $30 or $40 trillion over a decade. (A new estimate of the type of plan that Warren and Sanders support puts the cost at just a hair over $34 trillion.) That's $30 or $40 trillion in new government spending, on top of the federal spending that would have occurred otherwise. And as Sanders—who likes to remind people that he "wrote the damn bill"—has said on many occasions, that means higher taxes. Sanders has not proposed tax revenues that are sufficient to cover the cost of his plan. But he has, at least, been clear that higher taxes are part of the deal. 

    So there's every indication that Liz should be much higher in our phony polling. Maybe it's rigged! Google, are you up to somethin'?


  • And the Daily Caller reports another all-too-convenient, unverifiable, Warren Tale of Victimization, told in an inappropriate venue: Liz Warren Once Eulogized A Man By Accusing Him Of Sexual Harassment In Front Of His Children.

    Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren once eulogized a former colleague by accusing him of sexual harassment in front of his ex-wife and children, according to a profile of the presidential candidate in the Washington Post.

    Warren, who got her first full-time teaching job at the University of Houston, returned to campus 15 years later to deliver a eulogy for UH law professor Eugene Smith. Smith was a “champion” of Warren, according to WaPo, and specifically requested she speak at his funeral after he passed away from polio complications.

    May I just stop to gripe a bit here: I doubt that Prof Smith asked Liz to speak after he passed away. That would be the big story here.

    The WaPo story is clearer. But the key point: "Some wondered whether it was physically possible for Smith to have done what Warren described."


  • [Amazon Link]
    Pun Salad has been going too easy on Andrew Yang, because, darn it, I kind of like him. He seems to be slightly less obviously power-hungry than the other Democrats, and I have the feeling that you could at least talk to him without being accused of being deplorable. But Rich Lowry, at the NYPo disagrees with one of his key allegations: Andrew Yang’s (phantom) robot menace.

    To hear Yang tell it, robots are on the verge of ripping an irreparable hole in the American job market. He is particularly alarmed by the potential advent of autonomous vehicles. According to Yang, “all you need is self-driving cars to destabilize society.” He predicts that in a few years, “we’re going to have a million truck drivers out of work,” and “all hell breaks loose.”

    Not to put too fine a point on it, Yang’s fear of automation in general and self-driving cars in particular is completely insane.

    It can’t be that the only thing holding our society together is the fact that cars and trucks must be operated by people. If innovations in transportation were really the enemy, we would have been done in long ago by the advent of ­canals, then railroads, then automobiles and highways.

    Yeah, Andy. Calm down. You don't want to be a case study in the next edition of Virginia Postrel's The Future and its Enemies. (Link at right.)


  • And Amy Klobuchar is long gone, baby, gone from our phony poll, and as the Daily Show demonstrates, she should Keep Her Day Job, because she does not have a future as a professional comedian.


Last Modified 2019-10-20 5:04 PM EST

URLs du Jour

2019-10-19

A pretty clever video from the folks at the American Institute for Economic Research: Mises vs. Marx.

A fair debate? I know enough about my own biases to avoid weighing in. I liked it, though.

  • At AEI, Benjamin Zycher reveals The trouble with ‘renewable’ energy. Just one?

    Notwithstanding the romantic view of wind and solar power held by many, they are not cost-competitive, they are very far from clean, and they would do remarkably little to limit greenhouse-gas emissions and anthropogenic climate change, the “crisis” view of which is unsupported by the evidence. Several available analyses show that a major expansion of wind and solar power would increase the emissions of such conventional pollutants as carbon monoxide. Even apart from those problems, the renewable-electricity component of the GND is unworkable as a matter of straightforward electrical engineering, unless one believes that the American electorate will accept constant and widespread blackouts.

    Click over for the deets. Bottom line is also worth quoting:

    The forced expansion of renewable electricity and the adoption of the Green New Deal would yield no positive outcomes. They are all cost and no benefit, derived from falsehoods, environmentally destructive, anti-human, and authoritarian. They are a fitting monument to leftist ideology.

    Other than that, though, it's fine.


  • Jonathan S. Tobin points out a simple truth at the Federalist: Now That 'Sesame Street' Is On HBO, PBS Doesn't Need Tax Dollars. I would only quibble with the qualification before the comma: PBS never deserved tax dollars. But let's let Mr. Tobin make his case:

    Back in the 1960s, when television meant three national channels and a smattering of independent outlets located only in major markets, there may have been an argument for public broadcasting. With so few choices available, the idea of the state creating an educational alternative to the commercial networks made some sense. In that context, federal funding for the network that provided a home to shows such as “Sesame Street,” documentaries, classical music, and quality British imports was defensible.

    Liberals tended to dominate the news programs and documentaries. Large, liberal nonprofit foundations that have always found the government channel a friendly place to push their ideology have heavily influenced PBS programming. But WNET, New York City’s PBS affiliate, was also home to the original television news discussion show William F. Buckley’s “Firing Line.” Buckley’s program, which began airing in 1966 and ran until 1999, was the most literate show in television history and the place where many Americans (myself included) began their journey to conservatism.

    Now it's tough to find anything on PBS that couldn't have been provided by other sources. Here at Pun Salad Manor, Mrs. Salad likes watching the cooking shows, but they're essentially 30-minute commercials for their providers, who want you to buy their books and subscribe to their magazines.


  • I guess National Review's Jim Geraghty is talking to me: Never-Trump Conservatives -- Democrats Think They Can Win without You. ("Yeah, I noticed.")

    A  few days ago, Ericka Anderson, an old friend of National Review, popped up in the pages of the New York Times lamenting that “the Democratic presidential field neglects abundant pools of potential Democrat converts, leaving persuadable audiences — like independents and Trump-averse, anti-abortion Christians (some of whom are white evangelicals) — without options.”

    It’s not fair to expect the Democratic party to re-tailor its positions to appeal to conservatives disgruntled with Trump. When a Democrat and a Republican get into a bidding war for the vote of a conservative, the Republican is almost always going to win. And Democrats could reasonably argue that depending on how strictly or narrowly you define it, the demographic consisting of never-Trump or Trump-skeptical or Trump-weary right-leaning voters is not big enough to be decisive in a race. Then again, after the 2016 election came down to Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Minnesota all being decided by 2 percent or less, perhaps no demographic should be written off as being too small to be decisive.

    My "Dave Barry write-in" strategy continues to look like my best option.


  • The American Institute for Economic Research provided the video up top, and it also hosts Veronique de Rugy's latest column: Medicare-For-All Is a Plot to Pillage You.

    As Brian Riedl notes recently,  one of the ideas floating around is that we simply need to come up with a $35 trillion tax to pay for it all (I am not kidding). He writes, “Proponents [of M4A] assert that the $35 trillion that families and businesses are currently projected to pay over the next decade in health premiums, out-of-pocket expenses, and state taxes to fund Medicaid would all be replaced with a $35 trillion federal ‘single-payer tax….”  

    Yet we have no details of how that would work in practice, and no one who supports M4A so far has offered an actual plan for the elusive $35 trillion replacement tax. Riedl writes, “Congressional Budget Office data show that raising $35 trillion would require a payroll tax increase of 39 percentage points, or a value-added tax of 91 percent – an enormous burden even for families no longer paying premiums.”

    As with Obamacare, the strategy will be to hide the details until it's too late.

URLs du Jour

2019-10-18

We lead off this lovely not-quite-as-windy Friday with the new Remy Reason video: Horrifying Tweets Resurface!. You might want to watch it a few times to make sure you get all the jokes; as my great-grandpappy used to say, keep checking the chyron!

(Back in my great-grandpappy's day, the "chyron" was "poop level under the outhouse".)

Remy is some kinda genius, and Reason is lucky to have him.


  • Jonah Goldberg has had it up to here (picture me with my palm three inches over the top of my head) with Donald Trump's impish foreign policy: In his unconscionable betrayal of the Kurds, Trump was winging it — again.

    In one sense, the Syria debacle is a singular moment in the Trump presidency, and arguably in American history. I can’t think of another momentous decision by a commander-in-chief that was instantly recognizable as a disaster for which the president was entirely to blame.

    Even if you think the Iraq war was a catastrophic blunder, it wasn’t immediately and universally recognizable as such. And President Bush could point to support from both parties in Congress, his advisors, the intelligence community and even his predecessor. The Bay of Pigs was backed by the Pentagon and CIA. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution passed Congress, unanimously in the House and 88-2 in the Senate.

    But here the cheese stands alone.

    I know nothing about foreign policy, and I gape in wonder at people who (at least pretend to) comment knowledgeably on the details. But even I can recognize a Really Bad Idea.

    As bad as the Democrats are on domestic policy, it's difficult to imagine any of them being worse than Trump in this area.


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williams has a pretty good metaphor. Beto O’Rourke’s America: Progressive Security State.

    With apologies to Margaret Atwood and a thousand other dystopian novelists, we do not have to theorize about what an American police state would look like, because we know what it looks like: the airport, that familiar totalitarian environment where Americans are disarmed, stripped of their privacy, divested of their freedom of speech, herded around like livestock, and bullied by bovine agents of “security” in a theatrical process that has an 85 percent failure rate because it isn’t designed as a security-screening protocol at all but as a jobs program for otherwise unemployable morons.

    Now, when I hear the words “otherwise unemployable morons,” I think of Robert Francis O’Rourke and his sad little presidential campaign, which suffered a little setback on Tuesday night when the gentleman who advertises himself as “Beto” tried out some tough-guy shtick on Pete Buttigieg, who is, whatever else you can say about him, a veteran of the Afghanistan campaign, one who rightly pointed out that he doesn’t have to prove his “courage” to the idiot son of a well-connected El Paso political family who has done almost nothing with his life other than show himself a reasonably effective fundraiser in the family business.

    O’Rourke is a cretin, and an ambitious cretin at that. And what are his ambitions?

    Turning America into the airport.

    We really dodged a bullet (is that a bad metaphor?) when Beto lost to Ted Cruz last year. And, fortunately, his Presidential prospects don't look good either.


  • My impression of Megan McArdle's position at the WaPo was "wonkish non-ideologue". But she's really letting her hair down (bad metaphor?) recently. Today's example: On health care, Elizabeth Warren sounded like a student who hadn’t done her reading.

    Warren’s appeal to voters is as the thinking man’s Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Among a certain sector of the electorate — highly educated, urbane, prone to reading “explainers” — the pedantic glamour of the Harvard professoriate blurs her radical edges and limns her most pedestrian pronouncements. These are the sort of people who praise Warren over Sanders because she really knows her stuff.

    Yet consider her answer on Tuesday night when Marc Lacey, a New York Times editor, asked her about health-care insurance: “You have not specified how you’re going to pay for the most expensive plan, Medicare-for-all. Will you raise taxes on the middle class to pay for it, yes or no?”

    Reader, you will not be surprised to learn that Elizabeth Warren didn't reply with either "yes" or "no". From the transcript:

    So I have made clear what my principles are here, and that is costs will go up for the wealthy and for big corporations, and for hard-working middle-class families, costs will go down. You know, the way I see this is, I have been out all around this country. I've done 140 town halls now, been to 27 states and Puerto Rico. Shoot, I've done 70,000 selfies, which must be the new measure of democracy.

    And this gives people a chance to come up and talk to me directly. So I have talked with the family, the mom and dad whose daughter's been diagnosed with cancer. I have talked to the young woman whose mother has just been diagnosed with diabetes. I've talked to the young man who has MS.

    And here's the thing about all of them. They all had great health insurance right at the beginning. But then they found out when they really needed it, when the costs went up, that the insurance company pulled the rug out from underneath them and they were left with nothing.

    Look, the way I see this, it is hard enough to get a diagnosis that your child has cancer, to think about the changes in your family if your mom has diabetes, or what it means for your life going forward if you've been diagnosed with MS. But what you shouldn't have to worry about is how you're going to pay for your health care after that.

    Lacey tried again, with another evasive response from Liz.


  • You may have heard that the old USSR tried and failed to get their own space shuttle, Buran, back before it became the ex-USSR. Wired has a photo gallery of the semi-abandoned Buran facilities at Baikonur in Kazakhstan: The Quest to Get Photos of the USSR's First Space Shuttle. And this one, not of any space stuff, gave me a little chill of joy:

    [On the Ash Heap of History]

    Supplemental reading: Wikipedia's entry for "Ash heap of history".

URLs du Jour

2019-10-17

[Amazon Link]

Early-AM power failure has screwed up my schedule today, sorry. Just a couple things, both about the same general topic :

  • David Harsanyi at the Federalist points out that LeBron Jame$ Is A Coward.

    NBA superstar LeBron James says Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey was “misinformed” and “wasn’t educated on the situation at hand” when he tweeted in support of Hong Kong’s freedom demonstrations. Morey’s sin was sharing an image of a slogan that read, “Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” Even though the GM, regrettably, deleted his tweet, one strongly suspects his grasp of China— where the state is running “re-education” camps filled with Uyghurs—is considerably stronger than any of the NBA’s leading apologists.

    Only last year, James, a purported champion of social justice, came out in support of former quarterback Colin Kaepernick with the vacuous platitude, “I stand with anyone who believes in change.” Anyone? Of course, LeBron’s stand, as with most acts of pretend celebrity bravery, resulted in hosannas being thrown at him by the press, and, more importantly, never costing him a penny.

    I'm old enough to remember when decent folk united in showering apartheid-era South Africa with opprobrium, and boycotts. And eventually, … well, at least it's different nowadays.

    Why no equivalent outrage at China? Is it all because of the Benjamins, LeBron?


  • At National Review, Jim Geraghty piles on: The President and the NBA Have Turned Their Backs on Hong Kong.

    And no, our president is no better and is in fact even more shameful, considering the traditional role of the President of the United States in standing up for American values. No one’s asking the president to nuke Beijing or deploy troops to Hong Kong. Just stand up for what’s right and denounce the abuse of innocent people, instead of insisting that a new trade deal will resolve the situation.

    In case you missed it, our president shrugged and declared, “I think great progress has been made by China in Hong Kong. I’ve been watching, and I actually told the vice premier, it really has toned down a lot from the initial days of a couple of months ago, when I saw a lot of people and I see far fewer now.” [Note: Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in central Hong Kong Monday night.] “We were discussing it, and I think that’s going to take care of itself. I think this [U.S.-China trade] deal is a great deal for the people of Hong Kong to see what happened. I think this is a very positive thing for Hong Kong. But it really has — the escalation, it really has de-escalated a lot, and we were discussing it.”

    I try not to be disgusted, but these days, on this topic, it's impossible.


Last Modified 2019-10-18 10:22 AM EST

The Conservative Sensibility

[Amazon Link]

This is George F. Will's career-capping magnum opus, aka "brain dump." As near as I can tell, it's everything he has to say about government, politics, and philosophy. Even excluding the bibliography and index, still clocking in at just slightly under 600 pages.

Fortunately, the big idea is right up front, and clearly stated: if you're wondering what 21st century American conservatives are supposed to be conserving, GFW says: easy: it's the vision of the Founding Fathers, as expressed in the Declaration and Constitution. It's the notion that government does not provide you with rights, but is meant to secure the natural rights you have, by dint of you being an adult human being. Including, but not limited to, the big three: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I'm in total agreement with GFW here.

But there's more. Much more. GFW explores every nook and cranny of political thought: the proper role and function of the courts, for example. He's in favor of an "engaged" judiciary, one that (see above) is dedicated to curbing the rights-eroding follies of the other two branches. (He's a little down on my preferred theory of Constitutional interpretation, "original public meaning." I still slightly disagree there, but no longer think it's the slam dunk I used to.)

Also: foreign policy, education, religion, science. Everything except baseball. Each chapter is a pinball ride through history, philosophy, literature, … ; each topic could have been a book in itself. Unfortunately, I only had the book for 14-day loan period; it probably deserves closer study.

Bad guys: Woodrow Wilson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Fun fact: this is a new book, copyright 2019. Guess who's entirely missing from the book?

Donald J. Trump, that's who. Conspicuous by his absence. I have my theories about why, but unless someone asks GFW, they are only guesses.

As I've mentioned before, I don't do "reviews" here. It's basically just "I read this, I liked (or didn't like) it, here's what it's about, here's some things I noticed."

I feel a little guilty about that in GFW's case. If you want to read a real review, check out Richard M. Reinsch II at Law & Liberty: Progress of a Conservative.


Last Modified 2019-10-17 3:05 PM EST

URLs du Jour

2019-10-16

[Amazon Link]

  • Kevin D. Williamson takes down a bad idea at National Review. ‘Government Run Like a Business’: A Superstition Best Left Behind.

    Businesses measure their success in profit. Governments don’t. Businesses offer products and services in exchange for money in voluntary transactions. Governments don’t. Businesses that fail go bankrupt and are disbanded (except for politically sensitive banks, automobile companies, steel producers, farmers . . .) while failed governments keep right on misgoverning in the city and state of New York, in Illinois, in New Jersey, in California, in Connecticut, in the District of Columbia, in Austin, and abroad. Businesses have customers. Governments don’t. Those who profess their desire to “run government like a business” most often mean that they seek to achieve a higher degree of administrative excellence and bureaucratic accountability than Americans are used to seeing from their governments. But that isn’t running government like a business — that’s running government like . . . Swiss government.

    Yup. It's equally irritating to see (a) politicians tell corporations how they should be running their business; (b) CEOs presuming to have expertise in what government should be doing and how best to do it.


  • Mickey Kaus is an old-style liberal, which means that on a lot of days he sounds pretty conservative. And (good news) his blogging seems to have picked up a bit. He's always had interesting things to say about inequality, and he continues to do so, asking the musical question: What's More Important Than Progressive Taxes? Looking at dueling stats about ecomomic status:

    So in one statistic, workers at the bottom are losing. In another, they’re winning. Which is more important? It depends on why you care about income inequality. My argument is that we care about it, not for its own sake, but because we worry about its effect on social equality— how equal we are “in the eyes of each other.” If this is your perspective, does it matter more that 400 people—really, really, really rich people—paid 2.5 percent less in taxes, or that the bottom 25 percent saw their wages grow maybe 4.5% (annually).

    It’s not even close, With their incomes mostly stagnant for decades, unskilled workers were in danger of falling out of the bottom of the economy—into despair, disability, drugs. How much difference does it make, in their actual lived experience, if a billionaire pays 25.5% in taxes instead of 23 percent? Would they even notice the change? But it makes a world of difference if they can take a job—any job—and have enough to buy a used car, or rent a safer apartment, or go on a date--participate in the normal activities of their communities as normal citizens.

    That one link goes to Ronald Reagan's farewell speech to the 1992 GOP convention.


  • [Amazon Link]
    Writing at the (probably paywalled) WSJ, Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay have some tips for people (like me, maybe you) who dare to interact with the progressives in their lives: Social-Justice Warriors Won’t Listen, but You Should.

    It would be charming for advocates of social-justice ideology to say, “We need to have a conversation,” were they not almost uniformly such dreadful conversationalists. If they’ll converse with you at all, you might hear that any disagreement with them is a sign of your inherent weakness (“white fragility,” Robin DiAngelo), of your intentional refusal to engage honestly (“pernicious ignorance,” Kristie Dotson ), or of your unreasonable expectation that someone do your homework for you (“epistemic exploitation,” Nora Berenstain ). You might find yourself accused of complicity in white supremacy ( Barbara Applebaum ) or misogyny ( Kate Manne ), both understood in an obscure “systemic” sense, though of course the words retain the damning connotations rightly associated with their literal meanings.

    The suggestion is: buy (or at least read) our book. Amazon link at right.


  • I get a number of unusual pointers via my Google LFOD News Alert. This is one of the more unusual, from the Japan Times: So much to say — so many ways to show it. It is a review of “Image Narratives: Literature in Japanese Contemporary Art”, an exhibition at The National Art Center in Tokyo. And maybe this makes more sense to your average Japanese art lover than it does to me:

    Yuichiro Tamura has created a claustrophobic enclosed studio that glows beautifully with a yellow-green light, a warehouse space filled with New Hampshire number-plates with the state’s motto “Live Free or Die,” and a room filled with wooden oars laid out like dead bodies. A stream-of-consciousness computerized voice connects the muddiness of McDonald’s coffee with drowning in a flood of muddy water.

    So if you've been wondering where old license plates go when they die: a large number of them wound up in a Tokyo art museum. If you've started making travel plans already, the exhibit runs until November 11, and will set you back ¥1,000. As I type, that's about US $9.20.

URLs du Jour

2019-10-15

[Amazon Link]

  • Is there no limit to the damage a President Warren would do? At Law & Liberty, Greg Weiner discusses another "plan": Elizabeth Warren’s “Accountable” Court.

    Elizabeth Warren, the Senator from Harvard Law School, has a plan—of course she does—for guaranteeing an “impartial and ethical judiciary” based on “the basic premise of our legal system,” which is “that every person is treated equally in the eyes of the law.” Shortly before its unveiling, she tweeted a promise to nominate “a demonstrated advocate for workers” to the Supreme Court.

    In other words, she seeks a justice who would violate Canon 3 of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, which requires jurists to disqualify themselves from cases in which they have “a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party.” The Code does not apply to the Supreme Court, but buckle up: The aforesaid “plan for that” would extend the ethical rules to the Supreme Court, which means Warren is promising to appoint justices whose conduct she will seek to classify as unethical.

    Why, I'm old enough to remember when having "litmus tests" for judicial nominees was seen as a bad thing.


  • Scrooge
Swimming in his Money Bin At the (possibly paywalled) WSJ, Andy Kessler asks the musical question: What’s a Wealth Tax Worth?.

    The most preposterous part of the wealth-tax plans is their supporters’ insistence that they would be good for the economy. Only in an upside-down world could anyone think “a wealth tax is pro-growth,” as a New York Times columnist has claimed.

    Start with the spending side. If the Democrats gain the presidency and Senate, the wealth tax would help fund a phantasmagoria of new mandates, like the Medicare free-for-all and the blingy Green New Deal. The candidates will say most of the revenue would go toward education and infrastructure—both areas in which unions have overwhelming control over employment. C’mon, Liz and Bernie, we’re not that dumb.

    The revenue side is even worse, as a wealth tax would suck money away from productive investments. Of course liberals in favor of taxation always trot out the tired trope that the poor drive growth by spending their money while the rich hoard it, tossing gold coins in the air in their basement vaults. As the Times put it, wealthy Americans supposedly have “more money than they know what to do with.” So just tax the rich and government spending will create great jobs for the poor and middle class.

    This couldn’t be more wrong. As anyone with $1 billion—or $1,000—knows, people don’t stuff their mattresses with Benjamins. They invest them. Sure, you might have some in a checking account that doesn’t pay interest; you don’t even get a toaster anymore! But if money’s in an account, it’s being invested.

    I'm somewhat happy that Andy makes the observation I've also made a few times here at Pun Salad: "Why do liberals think rich people have money just lying around, like Scrooge McDuck swimming in a giant pool of gold coins?" I've deployed my usual image.


  • Nick Gillespie at Reason thinks it's a problem that The New York Times, NBC, and Other Outlets Don’t Trust You To Handle the Truth. Specific examples cited by Nick: (1) the New York Times refusing to embed the tacky "Church of Fake News" video; (2) NBC's Meet the Press noting that Trump "attacked" Hunter Biden at his recent rally, but the video? "We cannot in good conscience show it to you."; (3) New Zealand's ban on "owning or sharing" the Christchurch mass-shooter's "manifesto".

    Just to show I'm slightly less craven than the New York Times:

    The actions of the Times, Meet the Press, and the New Zealand media will not slow the loss of confidence and trust in the media. On the contrary, such behavior will accelerate it as readers continue to rebel against such paternalism by searching out alternative sources of information (including many shady, conspiracist sites). There's already a widespread belief, some or much it justified, that powerful elites hold most Americans in various forms of contempt. Simultaneously telling those same readers, viewers, and listeners that big, important, scary things are happening and then withholding primary sources is a perfect recipe to increase cynicism and anger toward the media.

    I'm already maxed out on cynicism toward the media; I suppose I could get angrier than I am, but I'd prefer not to.


  • And sometimes the media just makes it so easy for their critics. The Washington Examiner reports: ABC News ‘slaughter in Syria’ footage appears to come from a Kentucky gun range.

    ABC aired supposedly shocking footage Monday and Sunday purporting to be from the frontline battle between the Syrian Kurds and the invading Turks. The only problem is, the footage appears to come from a nighttime machine gun demonstration at the Knob Creek Gun Range in West Point, Kentucky.

    Which reminds me of…


  • From our "Unintentional Consequences That Anyone With An Ounce Of Sense Could Have Predicted" file, National Review notes the news: Target Cuts Workers' Hours after Vowing to Raise Minimum Wage to $15 By 2020.

    Workers at Target stores are struggling to pay their bills after the company cut the total amount of employee working hours in preparation for raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020, according to a report from CNN.

    “I got that dollar raise but I’m getting $200 less in my paycheck,” said Heather, who works at a Florida branch. She began working 40 hours per week but is now offered less than 20.

    “I have no idea how I’m going to pay rent or buy food,” she continued.

    Target committed to raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020 in a statement on September 25, 2017.

    That last link goes to Target's press release that bragged of its "long history of investing in our team members" and how it "care[s] about and value[s]" its workers.

    Today's footnote: "But not that much."

URLs du Jour

2019-10-14

[Amazon Link]

  • Hey, happy Columbus Day to you folks out there. An amusing story from across the Salmon Falls River, presented by Campus Reform: UMaine PUBLICLY SHAMES College Republicans for Columbus Day comments in CAMPUS-WIDE EMAIL. It's a long story, starting with Maine legislatively changing the official name from Columbus Day to "Indigenous Peoples' Day.”

    After Waterville, Maine Republican Mayor Nick Isgro publicly announced his disapproval of the change at an Oct. 1 city council meeting, the University of Maine College Republicans made a Facebook post, thanking Isgro for his comments and for "standing up to the Radical Left-Wing agenda,” as reported by News Center Maine.

    […]

    After the group voiced its opinion, UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy and Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Life Robert Dana sent an email to the student body to "provide the University of Maine position on recent Facebook posts by the UMaine College Republicans on their private Facebook page."

    Which (in turn) spurred outrage from the College Republicans who didn't appreciate being singled out for criticism by UMaine officialdom for expressing their semi-reasonable, semi-literate opinions about Native Americans. (What exactly are they referring to about the "bible", though?)

    True fact: President Ferrini-Mundy and I used to have our offices in the same building at the University Near Here.


  • Megan McArdle doesn't hold back in the WaPo: The NBA executives who bow to China shame themselves and their country.

    There aren’t enough synonyms for “cowardly” to capture the craven pusillanimity of America’s corporate capitalists who have abjectly prostrated themselves before Chinese government censors. Those spineless weaklings whose expense accounts tower over their atrophied consciences have shamed themselves and their country.

    On Thursday, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, when asked about human rights in China, actually tried to suggest a moral equivalence between an admittedly less-than-perfect American system of government and a Communist regime that operates concentration camps, imprisons dissidents and violently cracks down on democratic protest.

    Megan points to a handy GitHub site that "names and shames" corporations kowtowing to the Chinese dictators. A handy reference for your future purchasing decisions.


  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson notes a certain similarity: Elizabeth Warren Is Jussie Smollett.

    Elizabeth Warren has a moving story about being fired from a teaching job because she was pregnant, a story that perfectly complements her political narrative that she is the tribune and champion of those who have been treated unfairly by the powerful. Joe Biden has a moving — and horrifying — story about his wife and daughter being killed by a drunk driver, a story that similarly could not have been designed more perfectly to bolster his political image as a man who can be counted on to soldier on in the face of adversity.

    Of course, neither story is true.

    Are we still caring about that sort of thing?

    Elizabeth Warren has long pretended to be a person of color — a “woman of color,” the Harvard law faculty called her. (That color is Pantone 11-0602.) What Senator Warren has in common with Jussie Smollett turns out to have nothing to do with skin tone. Smollett, you’ll recall, regaled the nation with the story of a couple of violent, Trump-loving, MAGA-hat-wearing white supremacists who just happened to be cruising a gay neighborhood in Chicago on the coldest night of the year, who also just happened to be fans of Empire, who also just happened to have some rope at hand. Who happened, as it turns out, to be a couple of Nigerian brothers and colleagues of Smollett’s.

    Good victimhood tales continue to pop up, Liz is just the latest teller. I think it's safe to assume that the more convenient the yarn is in furthering the "victim's" political/economic/personal goals, the less likely the story is to be true.

    Should you not be able to guess for yourself, Pantone's page for 11-062 is here.


  • Meanwhile at Cato, John Samples talks about Warren’s Dangerous Lie. No, not that one. A different one:

    Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign has a new Facebook ad claiming Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, has endorsed Donald Trump for re-election. That claim is false, and Warren admits as much in the ad. Warren is not trying to mislead people about Zuckerberg. She is trying to control what can be said on Facebook. That is much more dangerous than any lie appearing in a campaign ad.

    Recently the Trump campaign ran an ad on Facebook saying former vice president Joe Biden had sought to fire a Ukrainian prosecutor investigating a company whose board included Biden’s son. Many on the left like Warren think this claim is a bald-faced lie. Trump’s supporters probably think it’s obvious something is rotten in the state of Ukraine. Many others, not all fans of the President, find the charges plausible. The Hill newspaper gingerly calls the Biden claims “unsubstantiated allegations.”

    I would have thought this sort of thing would have been settled by the unanimous Supreme Court ruling in Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus. If you haven't read the Cato amici curiae brief on the case (co-author: P. J. O'Rourke!), here you go. Highly recommended.


  • Michael Huemer has worthwhille thoughts on Politics and Leadership. More specifically, the inherent problem with "democracy":

    The problem is that we have inborn preferences, including especially the preference for strongman leaders, which are not only uncorrelated with the objective quality of leaders, but are actually strongly anti-correlated with leadership quality. We have a preference for the type of personalities that, when given power, are most likely to use it to exploit and harm others — people who are aggressive, over-confident, and low in empathy. Indeed, such people are the most likely to undermine democracy.

    These sorts of instinct-based preferences, I would conjecture, are more pronounced among the masses, as compared to the elites of our society. For this reason, it is the preferences of the masses that are the greatest threat to the masses. The elites are needed to protect the masses from themselves. If the masses get exactly what they want in the short term, they will gladly surrender their liberty, surrender democracy, and submit themselves and their descendants to a tyrant. (For more, see this book, from which the title of this section is taken: The Irony of Democracy.)

    The founders would be dismayed by the popular clamor for "democracy".


Last Modified 2019-10-15 5:21 AM EST

The Phony Campaign

2019-10-13 Update

[Amazon Link]

With respect to our Amazon Product du Jour: I don't think Trump is a traitor or a racist. I'd go with 'terrible' and 'repugnant' there instead.

Another new candidate makes our cut this week: Mike Pence! I can see that scenario: Trump either (a) resigns in disgrace, (b) like LBJ, pulls out of the race, (c) is impeached and convicted, or (d) God forbid, assassinated by some wacko. Pence waltzes to the nomination, beating the unpleasant Elizabeth Warren in the general election.

Okay, that's unlikely. But the people betting their own money at Betfair see it as an increasingly likely outcome.

Another non-candidate, Hillary, is getting some wagering love, with bettors giving her a 3.1% probability of being Our Next President. This must really grate on actual candidates. Just think: Hillary's considered to have a better shot at the presidency than Mayor Pete, Bernie, Andrew, Kamala, Cory, Julian, Amy, Tulsi, Beto,…

Another thing about Hillary: right now, she has the best shot at overtaking Donald Trump in phony Google hits. Not this week, though:

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
10/6
Phony
Results
Change
Since
10/6
Donald Trump 41.2% unch 1,870,000 -70,000
Hillary Clinton 3.1% +1.0% 708,000 -89,000
Pete Buttigieg 3.0% -0.6% 625,000 -49,000
Bernie Sanders 2.8% -0.4% 491,000 -67,000
Joe Biden 9.8% -0.1% 397,000 -6,000
Elizabeth Warren 27.6% +1.6% 239,000 +24,000
Andrew Yang 2.6% -0.9% 166,000 +133,000
Mike Pence 2.1% --- 112,000 ---

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • Jeff Jacoby writes on The autobiographical fictions of Elizabeth Warren. It's about her "evolving" story of how she left her New Jersey teaching job in the early 1970's. Speaking to an interviewer in 2007, she said that she decided pursuing that career path wasn't "going to work out" for her.

    But recently, she's taken to claiming that she was canned due to her pregnancy.

    [Her 2007 version is] a perfectly respectable, even admirable, account of how she ended up in the world of law. But it has none of the aura of victimhood that contemporary candidates crave as a substitute for moral authority. Assuming Warren was telling the truth in 2007, and there is no reason to assume otherwise, the whole business about being given the boot because she got pregnant was concocted for political purposes. That probably doesn't matter to the besotted crowds at Warren rallies. But the senator's opponents may not be as willing to overlook her invention.

    Jacoby also discusses her version of the 2012 race that put her in the Senate, also finding it reality-challenged.


  • At National Review, Jim Geraghty (no stranger to debunking candidate auto biographical fictions) notes some wagon-circling: Elizabeth Warren Pregnancy Discrimination Story Defended by Mainstream Media.

    No one, of course, is arguing that it’s impossible a Riverdale teacher could’ve been dismissed for being pregnant in 1971; they’re merely questioning, with good reason, whether that’s what happened in Warren’s case — whether she is inaccurately describing a moment she claims, over and over again, was a turning point in her life. The version of the story Warren told at Berkeley — that she decided that pursuing a career in childhood education just wasn’t for her — isn’t all that dramatic or likely to win voters’ sympathy. The version she’s taken to telling on the campaign trail — that she was a good teacher helping needy children before a sexist school board broke its promise and fired her because she was pregnant — is quite the opposite.

    At best, we’ve got the candidate who’s arguably the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination changing her story about her first job; at worst, she’s rewriting her personal history to paint herself as a victim of sinister patriarchal forces because it makes for a better and more politically useful narrative.

    If you'd like to read a defense of Warren's claims, there's Michelle Ruiz in Vogue: Think Elizabeth Warren Lied About Being Let Go While Pregnant? You've Never Been a Woman in the Workplace.

    Correct: I have never been a Woman in the Workplace. However, Ms. Ruiz bends over backwards to come up with narratives that explain Warren's, um, inconsistencies: Hey, you know the #MeToo movement happened, "creating space for women to come forward with credible allegations of sexual abuse and workplace harassment". Maybe Liz was just a big chicken in 2007, so was lying back then.

    Don't believe that? Well, Ms. Ruiz has Justification B: "perhaps the senator just had the benefit of time and perspective to see her story more clearly in hindsight. When women get older, wiser, and more confident, they may also be less prone to downplaying the ways they’ve been wronged and more willing to call out injustice."

    Maybe! And who knows what stories another few months of "time and perspective" will allow Liz to come up with? (I assume by now she's learned not to make them easily debunked, like with a DNA test.)


  • A couple big phony stories for Trump showed up this past week. As reported by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Trump campaign threatens to sue Minneapolis over "phony" security bill for rally.

    Tensions between Minneapolis city leaders and President Donald Trump’s campaign escalated Monday when the campaign threatened to sue the city for trying to force it to pay $530,000 for security during this week’s rally.

    Trump’s campaign team said in a news release late Monday night that Mayor Jacob Frey is “abusing the power of his office” by “conjuring a phony and outlandish bill for security” to cover those costs for Thursday’s campaign rally.

    Cooler heads prevailed, at least on this particular matter, and the outlandish bill was not passed on to the campaign. But things were not good, according to John Hinderaker at Power Line: Last Night, We Saw Fascism In the Streets.


  • President Bone Spurs is a rich source of phony news. Newsweek reports: 'Where's Hunter?': Trump Slams Bidens, 'Sinister Faker' Democrats in First Rally Since Impeachment Inquiry.

    Trump also spent a great deal of time slamming the press, which he referred to as "the fake news media" who are "so bad for our country." The president suggested that the press was complicit in the "partisan witch hunt sabotage" of impeachment. He reserved particular disdain for the Washington Post, which he called "a terrible newspaper."

    Public opinion appears to be turning in favor of Trump's impeachment. A recent Fox News poll suggests that a majority of Americans would like to see the president "impeached and removed." Trump complained about the "phony polls" at Thursday's rally, claiming "polls are no different than crooked writers."

    That's a lot of inauthenticity.


  • And finally, Rick Berman of the Washington Times has A tip for Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

    South Bend’s “Mayor PeteButtigieg spent the summer bolstering his progressive bona fides, releasing a set of labor law “reforms” he claims would boost paychecks and double union membership. But the mayor’s highest-profile policy proposal — a severe change in the payment system for tipped employees — has drawn opposition from the very people he claims to help.

    Mayor Pete’s website describes his plan to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, effectively doubling current law (which also prevails in Indiana). He also supports elimination of the separate lower base wage for tipped employees, which would effectively raise this wage floor more than 600 percent. Could you handle a rent or mortgage increase of 600 percent? Can you think of any labor-intensive industry that could absorb that hit to their balance sheet?   

    One of our local brewpub/restaurants decided to ban tipping in September 2017. And then proceeded to shut down in July 2018. They claimed no cause and effect, but…

URLs du Jour

2019-10-12

Mr. Ramirez comments as only he can. China in a bull shop; profits over liberty at the apostate's house of manure.

[China in a Bull Shop]

In case you missed it, the red book down there on the right is I'm With Stupid, author Steve Kerr.

And in other news…

  • Alex Berezow, at the American Council on Science and Health, makes a point I've tried to make before, only more eloquently: Why Politicians Aren't Incentivized to Fix Big Problems Like Homelessness.

    […] Believe it or not, there is talk about the existence of a "homeless-industrial complex," similar to the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned about. (See this excellent article by Christopher Rufo in City Journal.) In the case of the latter, there was a concern that the military and defense industry were incentivized to advocate for war rather than peace.

    Similarly, the homeless-industrial complex is incentivized to not solve the problem of homelessness. In cities like Seattle, self-appointed homeless advocates, who often earn six-figure salaries, wield enormous political power and influence. They support politicians who support them and vice versa. Like war, if homelessness ever goes away, they lose both money and power.

    Combine that self-serving interest with our nation's political climate, and that is a nasty recipe for politicians to actually benefit from not solving problems. If people have to die because of inaction, so be it. That's the cost of winning.

    I would only quibble with the "problem/solution" language. It encourages what I think of as the "math course" mentality: you get "problems" presented to you every so often; you work out "solutions". And there's never any doubt that a properly crafted "solution" will make the "problem" go away.

    And if you, Mr. Politician, don't do that, you're either evil or stupid. Why don't you do something? You probably just don't care.

    But big social dysfunctions are not like math problems. At all.


  • Mickey Kaus takes up his infrequent blogging pen, and presents the Best Thing I've Read on Impeachment.

    The most useful thing I’ve read on this issue is Edward B. Foley’s 11/6 Politico article. Foley says it’s not enough to show that Trump asked a foreign government to investigate a political rival—there’ve been several times in our history when that would have been a more-than-reasonable request: Jefferson investigating whether Burr was conspiring with the British to split the US, for one.  LBJ after learning that candidate Nixon was trying to sabotage the Vietnam peace talks. I mean, if as president you were convinced these people were guilty, it would almost be a dereliction of duty *not* to lean on the foreign governments to get what evidence they had. 

    Journalists take the truth wherever they find it. Why not presidents? Note to MSM: Finding out the truth from a foreign government about the conduct in office of a Vice President (who’s also a current presidential candidate) is not ‘interfering in our election.’ Finding out about candidates is a large part of what campaigns and elections are for. Established politicians don’t like it, for obvious reasons—the same way they don’t like negative ads. Screw ‘em. If Biden somehow wangled proof Trump was on Putin’s payroll, would that be “interfering in our election”?

    Disclaimer: Trump is awful, I don't care if he's shown the door. But here's a useful exercise: every time you see the phrase "dig up dirt on Biden", mentally edit that to "dig up the truth about Biden".


  • At National Review, Deroy Murdock is profoundly unconcerned about the Greatest Crisis of Our Time: Income Gap Grows under Trump, Obama — but So What?. Occasioned by the Census Bureau report that the Gini Index increased from 0.481 in 2017 to 0.485 in 2018.

    I know: the Census Bureau reports the 2018 number as "significantly higher" but this apparently means nothing more than "an increase outside the range of statistical uncertainty." Barely outside in this case.

    Meanwhile, “These Gini figures overlook all the massive redistribution of the modern welfare state,” notes economist Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute. He cites a recent study by government economists Gerald Auten and David Splinter. It shows that — after taxes and government transfers — the top 1 percent share of U.S. income has been roughly flat since the 1960s. “Flat!” Edwards adds. “The inequality crisis that AOC and Warren scream about is a myth.”

    Beyond Edwards’ objections, and more profoundly, income inequality focuses on the wrong thing. It’s like a patient who is rushed into the hospital with a heart attack and then stunned when the emergency room doctors X-ray his leg. The focus, instead, should be on what really counts: absolute, rather than relative, incomes.

    Gini encourages the myth that poor people are poor because rich people are rich. This myth is helpful to those who want to ride it to obtain political power, otherwise, eh.


  • Cato's Walter Olson analyzes the latest assault on the First Amendment from a no-hope politician, Beto O'Rourke: Churches That Don't Support Rights Should Lose Exemption.

    Last night, at a CNN candidate forum on gay rights, CNN's Don Lemon asked Democratic candidate Beto O'Rourke: "religious institutions like colleges, churches, charities. Should they lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage?"

    O'Rourke answered "Yes," going on to say "There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone ... that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us."

    Aside from being grossly illiberal, anti-pluralist, and inflammatory, O'Rourke's announced policy is also unconstitutional under current Supreme Court precedent.

    The Democratic candidates are really displaying their contempt for the Bill of Rights. How long will it be before Marianne Williamson starts demanding that soldiers be quartered in selected houses without the consent of the owner?


  • I would vote for him in a heartbeat. Katherine Mangu-Ward at Reason calls for Dave Barry 2020 in an interview with the man himself.

    [Katherine:] It seems like we've done good work here today, hammering out your presidential platform.

    [Dave:] Let me just add that if I were the president of the United States, and I had access to a big jet that could go anywhere in the world that I wanted to anytime I wanted to, I'd take that baby all over the world. I have a commitment to jet travel as president. That would be kind of the cornerstone. I wouldn't even try to hammer anything out when I got there. I just drive around and screw up traffic in a motorcade, maybe go to the beach, and then fly home. I would never have any meetings with anybody. I would not meet with foreign leaders about anything. They say you guys are busy; do what you want. I'm just going to the beach.

    In the increasing likelihood that none of the actual names on the ballot will be acceptable, I'm writing him in.

URLs du Jour

2019-10-11

[Amazon Link]

  • At the Federalist, David Harsanyi complains: Democrats Keep Changing The Rules Of Impeachment.

    When Barack Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder ignored congressional subpoenas in an investigation into a scandal featuring a body count, White House Spokesperson Dan Pfeiffer argued that administration officials had no duty to participate in what amounted to “political theater rather than legitimate congressional oversight.”

    So does the White House get to decide what constitutes a legitimate congressional investigation? Or is it only Democrats who make this determination? Since Pfeiffer now argues that an administration that ignores congressional subpoenas is functioning “above the law”—surely an impeachable offense—I can only imagine the latter.

    Our Amazon Product du Jour is what comes up when searching for "moving goalposts". Just imagine that they are on Nancy Pelosi's head.

    (And if you buy the Product du Jour, please feel free to invite me over for party night. You sound like a fun person. Around Pun Salad Manor, our biggest excitement is when a new episode of "Emergence" shows up on the TiVo. Allison Tolman is great.)


  • Jim Geraghty is one of many telling the story: The NBA Shamelessly Panders to China. The Washington Wizards played the Guangzhou Long-Lions in a pre-season exhibition, there were a lot of empty seats, but somebody spotted a small sign in the stands: "Google Uyghurs". And security was dispatched to confiscate! Can't have that!

    In addition:

    Another pro-Hong Kong sign was taken away by security during the United States National Anthem. It was taken away before the singer got to the lyric “in the land of the free and home of the brave.” Please consult your doctor before consuming such painfully concentrated doses of irony.

    Cesar Conda says he saw another fan kicked out for chanting, “free Hong Kong.” (As Conda notes, fans yell exceptionally rude things at the referees or opposing players and no one minds.) Candice Bucker has video footage of security confronting another pair of fans. Patrick Hedger says he got kicked out.

    A spokesman for the Wizards contends no one was asked to leave the game. In other news, the Chinese government contends that “most people” have been released from the concentration camps. (Never mind that footage from drones posted last week shows hundreds of people bound and blindfolded being unloaded off a train into camps.)

    They told me that if Donald Trump were elected, there would be crackdowns on peaceful protesters. And they were right. But I bet they didn't guess who'd be cracking down, on whom, and for what.


  • I usually try to restrict myself to one URL from a source per day, but Kevin D. Williamson has a comment on Beating Retreat in Syria.

    […] only one of these two things can be true: One, the United States is so beat, broke, and terrified that our commander in chief can be backed down by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a second-rate thug representing a third-rate power; or, two, the United States is dictating its own terms and conditions, in which case let’s have no crocodile tears for the Kurds but instead point to the massacre in progress and forthrightly inform the world that that is what working with the United States gets you.

    Yeah, I'll take door number two, Kevin.

    I don't think Trump should be impeached. But I wouldn't lift a finger to stop it.


  • And I've been going at it with a few Facebook friends who were inordinately impressed by a neat gif:

    How the taxes on the wealthy have fallen over the past 70 years (USA)

    As noted, it's from a New York Times article headlined "The Rich Really Do Pay Lower Taxes Than You".

    And it's bullshit. (I'm using more diplometic language with my friends.) It's based on "research" from Emmanuel Saez and and Gabriel Zucman, who just happen to be advising Elizabeth Warren on her campaign.

    I threw a couple links into the pot on Facebook, so thought I'd throw them at you too:

    But there's one I haven't deployed (yet) on Facebook, and it's pretty good too, a Bloomberg column by Michael Strain: The Rich Really Do Pay Higher Taxes Than You>.

    Saez and Zucman train much of their focus on the 400 wealthiest Americans. This group makes up 0.0003% of households. The New York Times column describing the Saez-Zucman estimates reports that last year this group had a 23% combined federal, state and local tax rate

    In fact, the jury is still out on that number, which is based on a forecast of what income might have been last year. (The data for 2018 aren’t in. If you filed for an extension, your taxes for 2018 aren’t due until next week.) Even if it turns out to be correct, it doesn’t follow that the U.S. system is not progressive.

    Characterizing features of the tax system based on a few hundred individuals is silly. For one, people cycle in and out of the top 400 every year. And there are over 120 million households in the U.S. The tax code can create strange situations for some of them, depending on their circumstances.

    Strain notes that the overall tax rate paid by 0.0003% of households is "not at the top of my list of concerns." I bet it's even lower on mine.


  • Via Slashdot, high dudgeon is Revealed: Google made large contributions to climate change deniers. It's the left-wing Guardian:

    Google has made “substantial” contributions to some of the most notorious climate deniers in Washington despite its insistence that it supports political action on the climate crisis.

    Among hundreds of groups the company has listed on its website as beneficiaries of its political giving are more than a dozen organisations that have campaigned against climate legislation, questioned the need for action, or actively sought to roll back Obama-era environmental protections.

    The list includes the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a conservative policy group that was instrumental in convincing the Trump administration to abandon the Paris agreement and has criticised the White House for not dismantling more environmental rules.

    Well, darn. I knew Google was good for something.

The Idealist

Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty

[Amazon Link]

Another book I put on my to-read list years ago, and only just now got around to. Thanks to the UNH Interlibrary Loan folks for getting it from Boston College; boo to whatever BC student (or, who knows, faculty member) who underlined, starred, dog-eared, and in one instance dropped an F-bomb in the margin.

They feel strongly about African poverty at BC, I guess.

Anyway, the author is Vanity Fair editor Nina Munk, who embedded herself with the efforts of superstar economist Jeffrey Sachs to alleviate poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. It was a massive project, diverting millions of dollars in private/public aid to so-called "Millennium Villages" in order to bootstrap them out of their grinding poverty and into a new era of (at least relative) prosperity.

And… it didn't work. Or at least not as originally envisioned. You can't drop piles of money into an area and not see some important changes. But the poor are still poor, eking out a pastoral existence, subject to the whims of climate, corrupt government, and local criminals.

As Munk sketches out, Sachs had impeccable credentials and the best of intentions. And he wasn't above bullying donors into supporting his efforts, essentially telling them that if they didn't shell out, they were condemning millions of Africans to remain in miserable poverty. He seems to be one of those folks, like Steve Jobs or Elizabeth Holmes who could create a Reality Distortion Field while explicating their vision. (As far as fraudulence goes, Sachs lies somewhere in the middle of the Jobs-Holmes spectrum.)

Hubris was also maxed out in Sachs's case. Grand plans were conceived, only to bump into mundane reality much later. For example, let's get those African farmers to produce banana flour! Unfortunately, there wasn't much of a market for banana flour…

Sachs also butted his head against the local culture. As Deirdre McCloskey has pointed out tirelessly, capitalism (she says "trade-tested betterment") can work wonders in a culture whose values are compatible with it. Time and again, the villagers who Sachs was trying to help … demonstrated that those values were not that important to them.

URLs du Jour

2019-10-10

[Amazon Link]

A shorter-than-usual post, and also a later-than-usual post. Apologies to whoever this inconveniences. Although I can't imagine that set is other than null.

  • I am a sucker for these data-driven articles, and this one is more amusing (in the schadenfreudian sense) than average: Business Insider tabulates The 50 most miserable cities in the US, based on census data. Highlights:

    • The most miserable city in the US is Gary, Indiana.
    • The state with the most miserable cities is California, with 10. New Jersey is close behind, with nine, and Florida comes in third, with six.
    • These cities have things in common — few opportunities, devastation from natural disasters, high crime and addiction rates, and often many abandoned houses.

    They provide a link to the spreadsheet of the 1000 cities they used in the tabulation.

    New Hampshire comes off OK: Manchester is the #423d most miserable, with Concord at #498 and Nashua in #539.

    Herriman, Utah seems to be least miserable (#997). It's a suburb of Salt Lake City, which is a relatively gloomy #572 (still better than Nashua).


  • At City Journal, Steven Malanga uses the Business Insider article as a springboard to unload on… NJ Scores Heavily on a Recent Survey of States with the Bleakest Cities..

    Last week, Business Insider created a stir when it used demographic data to rank the 50 “most miserable” cities in America. Though California led the way with ten municipalities, considerably smaller New Jersey was close behind, with nine—including Newark, Trenton, Camden, and Paterson. Why was this case? I was asked. Several days later, an answer arrived, with the news that Atlantic City’s mayor, Frank Gilliam, had resigned after pleading guilty to stealing money from a nonprofit youth basketball club he’d help start, using the money to buy designer clothes and expensive meals. Part of a long line of Atlantic City mayors pushed out of office in disgrace, Gilliam had been elected mayor two years ago—defeating incumbent reformer Don Guardian with backing from a coalition of “top Democrats, unions, online gaming companies,” and other Jersey powerbrokers who thought that “there’s still money to be made” in the currently insolvent city, as the Philadelphia Inquirer put it.

    Dishonest mayors who step down in disgrace are “A Jersey Tradition,” as a recent headline in another paper described the long, debilitating history of municipal corruption in the Garden State. There, urban political machines manufacture politicians who regularly enrich themselves at the expense of those that elect them, preferring to line their pockets instead of building—or, in the case of Jersey cities, rebuilding—communities. Sometimes they hijack local institutions, like the school system, and use them as patronage mills, ensuring that the system doesn’t do its job. Or they steal directly from residents, including some of the country’s neediest people. Cities already suffering from urban ills like deindustrialization, high crime, and drug use wind up governed by political machines with little interest in doing the hard work of revival. This status quo goes unreformed because Garden State cities are run by one party—a machine party, consisting of politically connected Democrats, government unions, businesses, and nonprofits that feed off government money. With change virtually impossible, everyone who can manage it gets out, leaving the least capable residents to fend for themselves.

    I've been to Morristown. It's nice. If you can afford to pay the taxes.


  • And I swear I'm going to do this someday, thanks to xkcd:

    [Aw.]

    Mouseover: "We've met! I remember you when you were thiiiis tall! [*holds a hand an inch above their head*]"

URLs du Jour

2019-10-09

[Amazon Link]

  • At Reason, Shikha Dalmia pinpoints the problem. Donald Trump’s Chaotic Presidency Has One Fixed Principle: Retaliation.

    In recent days, President Donald Trump has threatened the Ukraine whistleblower with the treatment meted out in "old times" to "spies," which means execution. He has suggested that Rep. Adam Schiff (D–Calif.)—chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating the scandal—should be arrested and charged with treason for unfairly characterizing Trump's comments soliciting dirt about former Vice President Joe Biden from the Ukrainian president. And he has warned that if Democrats try to remove him from office through impeachment, they will trigger another "civil war" in the country.

    This language may be spooky, but it is not surprising. Trump thrives on chaos. But the one constant in everything he does is that he will pull out all the stops to retaliate against anyone who crosses him—friend or foe, domestic or foreign. This would be a dangerous trait in a person with any degree of power, let alone the most powerful man on the planet.

    This should be no surprise, other than to the folks who expected that Trump would "grow" once in office.


  • Robert VerBruggen writes at National Review on a topic near and dear to my heart: As Senior Population Expands, Political Clout Increases & Fiscal Crisis Worsens.

    The president on Thursday unveiled the “Executive Order on Protecting and Improving Medicare for Our Nation’s Seniors,” a plan to, among other things, expand seniors’ options within Medicare Advantage, the popular program that allows the elderly to buy private health plans in lieu of receiving traditional Medicare.

    There are several conversations we could have about this move. We could talk about the debate over Medicare Advantage itself, in which conservatives point out that it is far more cost-effective than traditional Medicare but skeptics say the savings aren’t passed through to taxpayers. Or we could talk about how this fits into the Trump administration’s broader efforts on health care, which have freed up many Americans to buy many plans that regulations previously took off the table. Or we could talk about the criticisms Trump made of the Democrats’ health-care plans, and whether those plans would really hurt seniors as he claimed, rather than holding seniors harmless and expanding benefits for everyone else.

    But instead, let’s talk about why the president, facing a major controversy you no doubt have already read about elsewhere, would head to Florida to visit “the country’s largest retirement community” (as the New York Times observed) and make a big show of how much he supported Medicare. The reason is that seniors have a hugely disproportionate sway over this country’s politics and policy, and their power will only continue to grow even as it destroys our finances.

    It's kind of fun watching people pandering to my demographic. Not just politicians, but also advertisements on "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy". (Apparently a lot of the audience has problems with COPD, AFib, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia,…)

    But if you can't afford your medication, AstraZeneca may be able to help.


  • Issues & Insights wonders: Will Capitalists Fight Elizabeth Warren, Or Sell Her The Rope?. After noting some in the business community speculating that an Elizabeth Warren presidency might not be so bad:

    There’s no mystery motivation here. People in the business of making money want to be able to play ball with whoever occupies the Oval Office. But more soldiers have saved their own lives in the face of the enemy with artillery than with wishful thinking, and business and finance shouldn’t kid themselves: Sens. Warren, Bernie Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the like are their mortal enemies.

    What they should be fearful of is not identifying and fighting the adversaries of the market, but of taking a hand in fulfilling Lenin’s prophesy that “the capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.”

    Not to say the left in America has immediate plans to hang capitalists to death. As the Wall Street Journal’s Bill McGurn, appearing on Fox News last week, said of post-Mao Beijing’s hard-line policy toward staunchly capitalist Hong Kong’s aspirations for freedom, “It’s always been more about Lenin in power than Marx in economics. They might want to get rich but they want control.”

    Some "capitalists" are perfectly OK with being milk cows for the state. I think I read about this in Atlas Shrugged.


  • [Amazon Link]
    I have Robby Soave's recent book, Panic Attack (Amazon link at right) teed up for my next Interlibrary Loan request from UNH. Arnold Kling takes a look at it too, and likes what he sees. Wrangling Radicals: Intersectionality and Campus Culture.

    I would speculate that young people are turning to intersectionality in part because a totalitarian ideology is appealing at a time of cultural stress. I believe that the cultural stress comes from the ubiquitous media environment created by cable television news, smart phones, the Internet, and social media.

    Technology has erased what used to be a boundary between personal space and public space. Your friends used to be available in person, while public figures used to be distant and usually out of view, accessed when you read a newspaper or watched the evening news on television. Now, both your friends and the President of the United States can be found on apps on your phone. The felt need to respond to both reflects emotional triggers that were never experienced by earlier generations.

    The 1930s also were a stressful time, and radio technology also coincided with strong totalitarian impulses in many societies. I hope that today’s totalitarian ideology ultimately gives way to better solutions for coping with our current media environment.

    Uh, yeah. Difficult to disagree with that.


  • And finally, the Google LFOD News Alert flashed a big red arrow pointing to this article in the Nigerian Voice by Farouk Martins Aresa: Why Africans Achieve More Outside Despite Hostile Environment.

    Most Africans that have not traveled or lived in foreign countries think once we get out, fertile enabling environment where our potentials will be appreciated and rewarded accordingly await us. In essence, that it is easier to succeed outside Africa. Please, you cannot blame us for that wrong assumption. Especially when we see our cohorts coming back to flash foreign currencies and exotic cars. If it is that easy, foreigners will not be leaving home for Africa to make a fortune.

    Indeed, outside environment is more hostile and not as enabling as postulated by those that come back with easy money and vanities. By the time those looking for a land full of milk and honey realize that they have to work their butt off, twice or three times as they would have at home; they fight back vigorously or take a flight into desperation. Rather than starve, they improvise and make ways to survive in many ways; they would not even think of doing at home.

    I confess that I'm not sure what Farouk is getting at here, but he seems earnest enough. His prose seems to have been translated automatically from Hausa into English, maybe with intermediate stops at Croatian and Icelandic.

    LFOD comes up later in the article:

    Recently though, other pictures of Nigerians on FBI list in USA, on death row in Asia and Saudi Arabia have spoken louder than voice or oral stories. Yet, it has not discouraged desperadoes from engaging in nefarious activities outside their countries. They have acquired warped or twisted mentality of bravery that a desperate man must do just about anything to survive.

    There is also the tendency of those that suffered and worked hard to disrespect lazy people and blame them for their predicament since they were sleeping while their mates were hustling and working hard. There is a state in the U.S. where "Live Free or Die" is the official motto of New Hampshire adopted in 1945. Yes, there are unfortunate and unlucky people but too many of us looking for freebies hide under them giving them a bad name.

    OK… An early New Year's Resolution: don't be looking for freebies while hiding under unfortunate and unlucky people.

URLs du Jour

2019-10-08

[Amazon Link]

  • You may have heard about the NBA's bow to Chinese repression. What was that? Giancarlo Sopo has the answer at the Federalist: The NBA’s Bow To Chinese Repression Was Reprehensible.

    The only appropriate response from an American corporation in such a situation—including those trying to steer clear of international political controversies—is some variation of “We stand by our people.” Period. If a company cannot bring itself to say that, then it should say nothing at all.

    Sadly, the NBA’s dastardly comments were not the result of PR malpractice. It is an accurate reflection of corporate America’s cowardice and pitiful moral neutrality on significant matters of strategic national interest.

    While large U.S. companies enjoy all the benefits of doing business in the United States—such as unparalleled property rights, legal protections, a society that values entrepreneurship, and a favorable tax climate—too many don’t really view themselves as, well, American, or even care for the duties that come with citizenship, like standing up for liberty and human rights.

    Sadly, I can't boycott the NBA, since I don't watch the NBA in the first place.


  • Perhaps being successful with the NBA emboldened China to go after another target. Robby Soave at Reason: China Banned South Park After the Show Made Fun of Chinese Censorship.

    In a case of life imitating art imitating life, the Chinese government has purged all references to South Park from the country's highly restricted internet—following an episode of the show that criticized Chinese censorship.

    "Band in China," the second episode of the show's 23rd season, satirizes China's heavy-handed crackdowns on free expression. The kids attempt to make a biopic about their new rock band, only to discover that they need to sanitize the plot to appease the Chinese government. Meanwhile, Randy Marsh gets sent to a Chinese prison, where he meets Winnie the Pooh—a reference to China's odd attempts to clamp down on the beloved bear for its supposedly resemblance Chinese President Xi Jinping. The episode also castigates Disney for making artistic concessions in order to remain in Chinese markets. "You gotta lower your ideals of freedom if you want to suck on the warm teat of China," one character says.

    And…


  • South Park reacted.

    Dang. Good for them. I don't watch South Park, but I may have to start. In solidarity, and all that.

    Can't help but wonder if Saturday Night Live will tackle, or even mention this at all. Or will it be the 943d Alec Baldwin Trump impression making exactly the same jokes as in the previous 942?


  • I also don't plan on seeing the new Joker movie anytime soon; from what I've heard, it seems a little bleak. But Kevin D. Williamson takes on the naysayers, and that's interesting: ‘Joker’ & Its Moralistic Critics: Everybody Is Tipper Gore Now.

    The “x might plausibly encourage y” argument against free speech has been with us for a very long time. It was the basis for the persecution of heretics in the Christian world, the censorship that John Milton criticized in the 17th century, the suppression of war protesters in the United States (the legal justification of which is the origin of the ubiquitous “fire in a crowded theater” trope), and the effort to censor and marginalize rap music in the 1980s, a project that brought to public prominence a woman called Tipper Gore, at the time Mrs. Al. Mrs. Gore’s name became, for a generation, the national shorthand for prudish blue-rinsed tight-assery allied to scheming political opportunism. She was a figure of fun, loathed by all right-thinking people.

    But Tipper Gore–ism, like the poor, syphilis, and usury, we shall always have with us.

    Sorry, can't resist saying… I guess it all depends on the ox being Gored.

    ( • •)
    ( • •)>⌐■-■
    (⌐■_■)
    YYYYYYYEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH


  • Jeff Jacoby proposes the ninth Beatitude: Blessed are the retractors.

    THE TITLE of the study, published in the journal Current Biology in November 2015, was on the dry side: "The Negative Association Between Religiousness and Children's Altruism across the World." The text was even drier. But the findings, by University of Chicago neuroscientist Jean Decety and his colleagues, proved irresistible to journalists, who gave them wide play under headlines likely to grab readers' attention:

    "Religion doesn't make kids more generous or altruistic, study finds" (Los Angeles Times)

    "Are religious children more selfish?" (Slate)

    "Religious children are meaner than their secular counterparts, study finds" (The Guardian)

    "Study: Religious Kids are Jerks" (Daily Beast)

    And the study, guess what, turned out to be glaringly incorrect. Credit to the authors, who made their raw data available for perusal.

    Jacoby, bless him, says there are "no villains" in this story: just an honest (albeit sloppy) mistake, causing a straightforward retraction of the study.

    What's missing: any indication that the debunking of the study was publicized anywhere near as much as the original "religious kids are jerks" narrative. (That Daily Beast story, for example, is still up, with the same headline, with no mention (as near as I can tell) of the study's retraction.)

URLs du Jour

2019-10-07

[Amazon Link]

  • At Econlib, Pierre Lemieux asks the important question: Do People Want to Be Free?.

    It seems that, at least in developed countries, a significant proportion of individuals don’t care much about being free; they want security instead. According to a recent opinion poll, for example, a majority of Americans favor “Medicare for all” in the sense of allowing anybody to “buy into” the scheme; perhaps more significantly, only a slight majority of 56% oppose a universal Medicare scheme that would replace private insurance, presumably by banning it.

    The higher is the proportion of individuals who don’t want liberty, the greater the risk to the (partly) free society. The advantage of a general system of individual liberty is that it lets those who want liberty have it, while allowing those who don’t care much for it to establish some private, contractual limits on the exercise of their own liberty. One may enter into a convent, get a regular nine-to-five job, get married, make (some) private oaths, commit part of his future income to a mortgage (under penalty of losing an important asset and a stream of future income), and so forth. A system of non-liberty, on the contrary, does not allow those who prefer individual liberty to live as they want. When individual preferences are different (as they have to be in a modern society), a regime of individual liberty is thus preferable to its opposite, at least if we value individual preferences. The two systems are not symmetric in the sense that they would simply favor and harm different sections of society.

    It's complicated. (He said, unafraid that anyone would disagree.) A lot of people are driven by their fears.

    And some seem to derive an inordinate amount of satisfaction by bending others to their will. If we're lucky, those folks become managers/entrepreneurs. If we're unlucky, they become politicians.


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson writes on The Two Government Paternalisms. Kind of continuing our discussion from the previous item:

    […] Some people believe that government should be a moral tutor, instructing the people in virtue and encouraging them to live virtuous lives, or mandating that they do: You will buy insurance; you will wear a motorcycle helmet; you will not say certain things. Some people with libertarian instincts nonetheless prefer this model of government, and so they reframe these preferences as questions of externalities. Externalities are a relevant consideration, inasmuch as the choices we make affect others both in indirect ways and in such direct ways as imposing costs on taxpayers. But that is a line of argument that can become expansive very easily: Should the federal government be limiting your salt intake or forcing you to go to the gym four times a week because Medicare exists?

    If we are designing programs to assist people who are out of work, should we take into account those risk-averse populations? Should we design our programs in a way that accommodates their aversion to risk, or should we try to change it, to make them more risk-tolerant and enterprising? Should we design programs for people as they are, or design programs intended to make them more like we (who have the power to make these decisions) want them to be? Shouldn’t we want them to be better (as we define it) and nudge them in the right direction?

    Kevin is insightful, and I'm pretty sure on target here.


  • Katherine Mangu-Ward's lead editorial in the current issue of Reason is now online: Privacy Is Over. We Must Fight Harder Than Ever To Protect Our Civil Liberties..

    Privacy is dead. We have killed it, you and I.

    It happened slowly and then all at once, much like falling in love. We traded away some of our privacy for convenience, with credit cards and GPS and cloud computing and toll transponders. Some of it was taken from us while we weren't paying attention, via warrantless wiretaps and IRS reporting requirements and airport searches.

    […]

    If speech and assembly and trade are not crimes—not punishable by the state—then the loss of privacy will be less acutely felt. This, in turn, is self-reinforcing. A state where civil liberties are robust and jealously guarded has little reason to install a vast surveillance network of its own or to force its way into private networks. There is little it can do with that information. It's a virtuous cycle.

    In other words, while the fight for privacy is over, the battle for civil liberties is more important than ever.

    I am sensing an theme in today's items…


  • But we break that theme, because Ramesh Ponnuru wants to talk about something else, the recent judicial blessing of racial discrimination: In Harvard’s Magical Admissions Process, Nobody Gets Hurt.

    If parts of Judge Allison Burroughs’s decision in the Harvard affirmative-action case don’t seem to make sense, it’s not entirely her fault. She was bound by the Supreme Court’s precedents on the subject, and the justices have been refining absurdity ever since they took up the issue in 1978.

    […]

    It is a testament to the contrived nature of the Supreme Court’s rulings that toward the end of her opinion, Burroughs drops the pretense: “Race-conscious admissions will always penalize to some extent the groups that are not being advantaged by the process, but this is justified by the compelling interest in diversity and all the benefits that flow from a diverse college population.” Besides, she adds, the burden on Asian-Americans, the focus of the lawsuit, is light. This line, though, creates another unacknowledged problem: The burden on Asian-Americans is too small to give them a legal injury, but absolutely vital to maintaining the benefits of a racially engineered student body?

    It's interesting to see how rhetorically desperate things get to hide the inherent zero-sum quality of racial preferences: if you treat DNA as a "plus" for some favored races, that means it's a minus for everyone else. So sorry, kids of Asian descent. We were kidding about that "content of your character" thing.


  • After a book-writing break, the great Virginia Postrel is back to column-writing, to the great relief of a beleaguered nation. Her latest: Homelessness in California Isn't Just a Humanitarian Problem. Some fun facts about how tough things are out there on the left coast:

    In November 2016, Los Angeles voters approved, by a 3-to-1 margin, a $1.2-billion bond measure to finance housing construction, mostly for the long-term homeless. After three years, the first building, with a mere 62 units, is scheduled to open in a couple of months. The city’s strong Nimby culture — and the political tools available to halt new housing — extends to efforts to relieve homelessness.

    Opposition from local residents, including a lawsuit, has stymied a local nonprofit’s plan to build a mixed-use complex with 140 housing units, artist lofts and retail space on city-owned parking lots in Venice. Outraged residents of L.A.’s Koreatown neighborhood blocked a proposed homeless shelter there. My own neighbors in West L.A., where the sidewalks play host to a growing number of homeless campsites, are trying to rally opposition to a proposed 50-unit building on a city parking lot — but you have to read their website carefully to realize that's the agenda. The lawsuits and protests, and the resulting delays, typify the drawn-out process that makes housing of all kinds so expensive in the state.

    The people involved no doubt congratulate themselves on their compassion for the poor and downtrodden. In their spare time.


Last Modified 2019-10-08 5:50 AM EST

The Phony Campaign

2019-10-06 Update

President Elizabeth Warren? Michael P. Ramirez says: The joke is on you.

[The Joker]

In other news… whoa, look who's back, qualifying for inclusion in our Phony analysis with a 2.1% probability of being our next president. Ladies and gents, I give you the candidate America probably deserves: Hillary!

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
9/29
Phony
Results
Change
Since
9/29
Donald Trump 41.2% -0.6% 1,940,000 +250,000
Hillary Clinton 2.1% --- 797,000 ---
Pete Buttigieg 3.6% +1.3% 674,000 +104,000
Bernie Sanders 3.2% -1.2% 558,000 -137,000
Joe Biden 9.9% -0.2% 403,000 0
Elizabeth Warren 26.0% +1.1% 215,000 -30,000
Andrew Yang 3.5% +0.1% 33,000 -6,700

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

For diversity-mongers: our leader board is 71% male-identifying, 86% heterosexual, 86% white, and 71% septuagenarian.

  • Fox News reports the news that Tomi Lahren (who apparently has a show on "Fox Nation", their streaming service) does not care for Hillary: Lahren rejects Hillary Clinton's latest excuse for losing in 2016: 'It was your lying'. Specifically, Tomi did not care for Hillary's recent appearance on "The View", where she claimed one of the reasons for her loss in 2016 was that she was not as "loose or open as I could have been."

    “Hillary, a friendly piece of advice if, God forbid, you ever decide to run again (Please Don’t), it wasn’t your seriousness, it wasn’t sexism, it wasn’t married women who didn’t stand up to their husbands, it wasn’t Comey, or Obama, or Bernie or voter suppression or Russia. It was your lying, your elitism, your lying, your shameless and phony pandering, your lying! Oh, and your lying!”

    I don't believe that was particularly friendly advice, Tomi.


  • At National Review, David French weighs in: Joe Biden’s Gun-Control Plan Is a Constitutional Disaster.

    This morning, Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden unveiled his “Plan to End Our Gun Violence Epidemic,” and it’s a mess. It contains provisions that would bankrupt gun manufacturers for the crime of selling fully functional, legal firearms. It would ban the sale of the most popular rifles in America and the standard-capacity magazines made for America’s most commonly used handguns. Oh, and to incentivize a voluntary buyback of existing “assault weapons,” it would grant the owners of such weapons a choice: sell your rifle to the government or join a firearms registry.

    Put simply, Biden’s plan would leave law-abiding citizens outgunned in their own homes by predatory criminals, and place virtually every gun-maker at risk of financial ruin. This is what Democratic “moderation” looks like?

    Well, of course it is.

    In other news, Politico reports on Wheezy Joe's verbatim stream-of-consciousness rap in Urbandale Iowa back in August:

    “I think that, uh, the behavior of this administration has awakened, uh, a whole new generation to get engaged in ways that they may not have gotten before,” Biden said, referring to President Donald Trump and the current tumult. “Just like in my generation, when I got out of school that, uh, when Bobby Kennedy and Dr. King had been assassinated in the ’70s, uh, late seven—when I got engaged, um, you know, up to that time, remember the, none of you women will know this, but a couple men may remember, that was a time in the early, late ’60s, and the early ’60s and ’60s, where it was drop out and go to Haight-Ashbury, don’t get engaged, don’t trust anybody over 30. I mean, for real. What happened to them, by the, by the early ’70s, the late ’60s, there was a whole generation that said, ‘Enough.’ The war in Vietnam was underway, and it was—a lot of you served in that war—and, uh, we were fighting like the devil to make sure that there was something dealing with cleaning up the environment, which was only beginning. We were in a position where the women’s movement was just beginning to move. We should have, by now, long before, passed the ERA amendment, but that was another issue …”

    Joe's fading, in more ways than one.


  • Bernie had a heart attack, and I wish him a speedy recovery. But, as Issues & Insights points out: Bernie Sanders Should Be Grateful We Don’t Have ‘Medicare for All’.

    A 1995 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that no patients needing an urgent coronary angiography test – used to reveal artery blockages – received one within 24 hours in Canada or the U.K., whereas 65% did in the U.S. Nearly two-thirds of Canadians and 94% of Brits had to wait more than three days.

    The same study found that while 80% of urgent coronary bypass operations occurred within 24 hours in the U.S., only 24% did in Canada and 10% in the U.K.

    The situation has not improved in either country since then.

    Well, maybe he would have been fine. I'm pretty sure he would have been fine. Right?


  • Another week, another new tax proposal. Peter Suderman looks at the latest, and doesn't like it: Elizabeth Warren’s Lobbying Tax Is Anti-Constitutional Pseudo-Policy.

    Among the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment is the right "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." In other words, you have a right to communicate with the government, to complain about its current policies, and to advocate for new and different ones without fear of punishment or censor. You might call this a right to gripe about the government, to the government. Alternatively, you might call it a right to lobby

    The unlimited right to petition the government—to lobby the lawmakers who make decisions that affect your life, your family, your fortune, and your business—is a right that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) thinks American businesses should not have. 

    Elizabeth Warren, like most Democrats, is fond of inventing "rights"; she's not particularly good on protecting or respecting the rights we currently have.


  • And over at National Review, Michael Brendan Dougherty looks at an older issue: Elizabeth Warren Native American Ancestry Controversy: Not Going Away.

    ‘I have listened and I have learned,” said Elizabeth Warren at a forum of Native American voters in Iowa last month. “Like anyone who’s being honest with themselves, I know that I have made mistakes. I am sorry for the harm I have caused.” Did any reporter ask her what harm, specifically, she’d caused, or what, specifically, she’d learned? Did any reporter ask her if her “mistakes” were ones anyone could have made, or ones she believed any of her peers, either at Harvard or in the Senate, had also made?

    No, they did not.

    She's currently, however, judged by people betting their own money as the Democrat with the best shot at being Our Next President.


Last Modified 2019-10-12 4:43 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2019-10-05

[Amazon Link]

I haven't purchased, read, or recommend the Amazon Product du Jour. But I cracked a smile just reading the subtitle. (The book will be out later this month.)

  • But speaking of elites, Kevin D. Williamson has thoughts on A Host of Squalid Oligarchs.

    Both Left and Right offer their own versions of anti-elitist rhetoric, although progressives seem to be making their peace with being the party of money and power from the Ivy League to Silicon Valley to Wall Street to the most expensive ZIP codes and the boardrooms of the Fortune 500. Their days of lampooning the Republicans as the party of the rich have come to an end, and now they lampoon Republicans as the party of the poor, the uneducated, and the dysfunctional. This is partly the product of a genuine desire for popularity, and partly the product of popularity or the appearance of popularity being a useful political tool.

    The endless citations of 86 percent of the people supporting this or that is only the politics of middle school refined: Everybody else is doing it, what’s the matter with you? We used to lionize the lone brave soul standing up to the madness of crowds, now we want to see whether the polls support driving the tank over that guy in Tiananmen Square. It is useful to have a villain to blame for everything, and it is helpful if that villain is weak and vulnerable, his numbers piteous. Again, democratic politics in its raw form is a great deal like ordinary schoolyard bullying, and bullies always prefer a weak victim to a strong one, and the vulnerability of the lonely and despised minority is itself provocative.

    It's a long essay, worth your while. Even money on whether you walk away from your social media accounts after reading it.


  • Mark J. Perry shares The best sentence [he] read today…...

    Diversity programs are increasingly not about getting past race; they are about insisting on its eternal centrality to everything in America.

    That is pretty good. The bad news: it's Andrew Sullivan, on whom I gave up back when he started obsessing over Sarah Palin's uterus. Ah, well, stopped clock and all that.

    I fear I've become utterly cynical about this sort of thing. How many times in my life have I seen this general behavior pattern in government or other institutions?

    1. A problem is noticed (or, at least, imagined/asserted);
    2. A bureaucracy is set up to solve the problem;
    3. The bureaucracy immediately realizes that if the problem is actually solved, the rationale for their jobs, money, and power goes away;
    4. So the bureaucracy becomes devoted to:
      • perpetuating the problem, only making ineffectual/counterproductive/silly efforts;
      • inflating the problem ("It's bigger and more stubborn than we thought. You need to give us a lot more money and power.");
      • wrapping the whole thing up in moralistic language;
      • denigrating any skeptics who have the temerity to point this out.

    Affirmative action is only one instance of the general pattern.


  • [Amazon Link]
    So the New York Times published an op-ed from Andrew Marantz, a New Yorker staff writer with a new book coming out (Amazon link at right): Free Speech Is Killing Us.

    There has never been a bright line between word and deed. Yet for years, the founders of Facebook and Twitter and 4chan and Reddit — along with the consumers obsessed with these products, and the investors who stood to profit from them — tried to pretend that the noxious speech prevalent on those platforms wouldn’t metastasize into physical violence. In the early years of this decade, back when people associated social media with Barack Obama or the Arab Spring, Twitter executives referred to their company as “the free-speech wing of the free-speech party.” Sticks and stones and assault rifles could hurt us, but the internet was surely only a force for progress.

    No one believes that anymore. Not after the social-media-fueled campaigns of Narendra Modi and Rodrigo Duterte and Donald Trump; not after the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Va.; not after the massacres in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and a Walmart in a majority-Hispanic part of El Paso. The Christchurch gunman, like so many of his ilk, had spent years on social media trying to advance the cause of white power. But these posts, he eventually decided, were not enough; now it was “time to make a real life effort post.” He murdered 52 people.

    Marantz makes the argument (by now pretty standard) in favor of "doing something" about "hate speech". And (see above) if his argument succeeds, the most predictable outcome is: the people given the power to "do something" will not use that power wisely or well.


  • At Reason, Robby Soave rebuts Marantz: The New York Times Says ‘Free Speech Is Killing Us.’ But Violent Crime Is Lower Than Ever..

    Most of [Marantz's] suggestions involve government regulation, government funding, or some other sort of govenrment intervention. (Repealing Section 230 would singlehandedly destroy free speech on the internet as we know it.) So it's worth exploring whether the claim "free speech is killing us" really holds up.

    It does not. Today the U.S. has greater protections for free speech and less violence. The Supreme Court has recognized increasingly fewer exceptions to the First Amendment over the last several decades. The result has not been an increase in violence: The violent crime rate has plummeted since the early 1990s.

    That's a pretty utilitarian argument, but not bad as those go.


  • But the Babylon Bee chimes in on the same topic with an op-ed: Free Speech Is Killing Us, by … um … Kim Jon Un.

    Noxious speech is causing tangible harm to the best country on earth, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

    Yet this fact implies a question so uncomfortable that many of us go to great lengths to avoid asking it. Namely, what should we — the government, private companies also owned by the government or the happy citizens of our republic — be doing about it?

    The answer is obvious: we should have thought police. We should crush free speech so we can preserve order and a stable society and a benevolent government. We should curb speech in an effort to stop violence.

    Note for Snopes: It's a deft satire! Not really by Kim Jon Un!

URLs du Jour

2019-10-04

[Amazon Link]

  • It's a bit too early for Thanksgiving, but Reason's Nick Gillespie won't let that stop him: Let Us Now Thank Donald Trump for Revealing Brutal Truths About How Power and Privilege Operate.

    Trump is great at reminding people about all the things they don't like about "the swamp" in D.C. And while Trump may well be removed from office, it's much more likely that Joe Biden is the real casualty of the telephone call now at the center of the impeachment process. The same poll that finds 45 percent of Americans favor an impeachment investigation of Trump also finds that by a margin of 42 percent to 21 percent, Americans "there are valid reasons to look at the behavior of Joe and Hunter Biden in Ukraine." Biden has long campaigned as a working-class stiff whose career is completely aboveboard (never mind his history of plagiarism). All of the details emerging about the way his son used his father's position to live large—"Hunter Biden's whole career is being Joe Biden's son," as [Vox writer Matthew] Yglesias puts it—betray an ugly reality that helps explain why Americans have been losing trust and confidence in "the system" for decades.

    Nick also points out that partisans on both sides want to divert your gaze away from the obvious abuses of power, and instead concentrate on the relatively trivial procedural details.

    Our Amazon Product du Jour is a print titled "Power and Privilege" from Wildlife Artist Randy McGovern; it will set you back $25 plus shipping and handling. But there are (it says) 8 hidden wildlife animals in the background!


  • At National Review, Daniel Lee compares two young ladies being used: Greta Thunberg & Samantha Smith: Propaganda Poster Girls. Are you too young (or—ahem—too old) to remember Samantha?

    Samantha Smith was a ten-year-old American who in 1982, at her mother’s suggestion, wrote to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov — a former KGB chief and agent who took part in the brutal takedown of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and, later, suppression of dissent in Russia — about her fear of nuclear war between the USSR and the U.S. “I would like to know why you want to conquer the world or at least our country,” she wrote.

    Of course, Andropov wrote back quickly — and publicly — to let her know that the peace-loving people of the Soviet Union had no such intention. He invited her on a “fact-finding” mission to his country to prove it.

    Smith’s trip fit neatly with the Nuclear Freeze and No First Use movements of the time — Andropov explicitly endorsed the latter in his response — and was covered exhaustively by an international press eager to make her the spokeschild of youth desperate to stop adults from destroying the world with nuclear weapons. Today, Greta Thunberg plays that role. She is the new spokeschild for young people who believe that they’re battling to save the earth from the cupidity of grownups.

    Samantha died in a small-plane crash near Lewiston, Maine in 1985. Hope things work out better for Greta.


  • Veronique de Rugy sings us a lullaby: Hush, Little Voter, Don't Say a Word (About Tariffs).

    There are many bad ideas flying around right now in Congress. The recent proposal by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., to give some taxpayers a rebate check funded with the tariff loot is one of those ideas. It's not only bad economics, but it comes across as hush money to keep tariff victims silent in advance of the next election.

    […]

    Up until now, Cotton has bent over backward to defend President Donald Trump's trade war. He even defended the tariffs by claiming they inflicted no pain on consumers or farmers. But this bill suggests that he has changed his tune. He's contradicting one of the administration's main talking points — namely, that the tariffs are paid by the Chinese. Obviously, anyone who understands economics knows that American consumers pay most of the tariff costs.

    And despite Trump's assertion that trade wars were "easy to win"… well, we're still waiting.

    Not that replacing Trump with a Democrat would help; none of the D candidates have pledged to remove the Trumpian tariffs. Instead they issue vague promises to use them as "leverage" to help "deal". Which is pretty much what Trump is saying.


  • James Pethokoukis at AEI is Taking another look at America’s superentrepreneurs.

    So how did the richest Americans get that way? Through government largess, such as crony contracts and bailouts? No, they didn’t. Glance at the new Forbes 400 list, and you will see massive entrepreneurial fortunes built on the ability to expertly exploit the latest advances in information technology, not political connections. Among the tech superbillionaires: Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, the Google Guys, and Mark Zuckerberg. 

    Quibble: Getting onto the Forbes list is a trailing indicator of wealth creation. Bezos et. al. guessed right decades ago. We won't know who's guessing right today until 2035 or so.


  • Ex-Senator Phil Gramm and Jerry Ellig had a good (but probably paywalled) WSJ column on antitrust. At Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux has a quibble: Gramm and Ellig Bust Myths that Fuel Antitrust Activism... But.... It's about "censorship" allegations against "Big Tech":

    Censorship is an offense committed only by government – or, perhaps more generally, only through the use of force. Each private person – individually or in voluntary league with other private persons, such as in households or firms – is perfectly within his or her rights to govern what is and what is not said on his or her property or with the use of his or her property.

    The right of free expression would be violated by government if it denies or otherwise restricts the ability of private individuals to determine what is and what isn’t said, sung, written, drawn, danced, projected, or otherwise peacefully expressed on their properties. And so when Jerry and Mr. Gramm here lend credence to the complaints of people such as Dennis Prager that some tech companies  “censor” conservatives, they not only err; they court danger. Their express agreement that the actions of private companies are censorious encourages – in an awful irony – the use of the state to supplant these private parties in determining what sorts of expression are permitted on their private properties.

    There's also the utilitarian argument: you may not like what Big Tech does, but please don't imagine that any government "fix" won't make things worse overall.

    However, it would be nice if Big Tech were in spirit believers in that whole John Stuart Mill marketplace of ideas thing. Buying into (for example) some wise words: "If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."

URLs du Jour

2019-10-03

Michael P. Ramirez helps us continue our "celebration" of 70 years of Chinese Communist rule:

[Whoopee]

  • At the Volokh Conspiracy blog, Ilya Somin reminds us Why the 70th Anniversary of the Establishment of the People’s Republic of China Should be a Day of Mourning.

    Who was the biggest mass murderer in the history of the world? Most people probably assume that the answer is Adolf Hitler, architect of the Holocaust. Others might guess Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who may indeed have managed to kill even more innocent people than Hitler did, many of them as part of a terror famine that likely took more lives than the Holocaust. But both Hitler and Stalin were outdone by Mao Zedong. From 1958 to 1962, his Great Leap Forward policy led to the deaths of up to 45 million people – easily making it the biggest episode of mass murder ever recorded.

    And that was only part of the murderousness.


  • At the Federalist, Georgi Boorman points out Trump Is Shamelessly Bribing Farmers With Cash Handouts. Don't call it a bailout!

    Farmers have raked in $24.5 billion and counting from the main “bailout” program in President Trump’s aid package to farmers, supposedly intended to mitigate losses due to the disruption caused by his trade war with China. As critics have pointed out, that’s more than twice what taxpayers lost the auto industry bailout in 2009. This is despite the fact that American farmers are, arguably, far more insulated from the impact of China’s tariffs than Chinese companies are of American tariffs.

    Reports seem to be missing a key point, though: The auto bailouts were not direct subsidies, but losing investments through buying stock and extending loans to the failing companies. The Automotive Industry Financing Program totaled $80 billion in investments and loans. By the time the government had completely closed the AIFP, taxpayers netted a loss of $9.3 billion, most of it lost to General Motors.

    The farm “bailouts,” on the other hand, are neither bailouts in the sense that they are saving companies from failing, nor are they loans and investments. In total, the trade aid packages for 2018 and 2019 included $2.6 billion to purchase food staples for government food programs, $300 million for “developing new export markets,” and $24.5 billion for direct payments — cash transfers — to farmers.

    I like farmers just fine. I just want them off the federal tit.


  • I like what Ann Althouse has to say about this news story: “2020 Democratic candidate Sen. Kamala Harris asked Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a Tuesday letter to consider suspending President Trump's account...”.

    It’s helpful to know that Harris’s orientation is to suppress freedom of speech. Her own political speech has proven quite ineffectual, so it’s in her self-interest to shut down the speech of others. Whether she’s into restricting speech for personal reasons or whether she pure-heartedly seeks the greater good through censorship, it’s a bad orientation to display as you’re running for President. I’m certainly glad she has the freedom of speech to express that lousy thinking, though. What she’s said puts her out of the running for my vote.

    According to Election Betting Odds, Kamala's gone from "long shot" to "just slightly more likely to be the 2020 winner than is Hillary Clinton".

    I'll quibble with the "asked" bit. Kamala's rhetoric is more in the "demanded" zone than the "asked" zone.


  • Let's go back to the inscrutable Orient for a minute. Because the Google LFOD News alert rang for this Daily Wire story: Hong Kong Demonstrations Turn Violent On Anniversary Of Chinese Communist Party, Protesters Shot With Live Rounds.

    This past weekend, clashes between protesters and police became more frequent, and many ended in violence. The protests themselves have become more aggressive. At one point, the anti-China sentiment went from implied to overt, and Saturday, demonstrators were burning Chinese flags in the city center. The words “Live Free Or Die” appeared across Hong Kong, graffitied on to walls and monuments.

    In English, I wonder? Google Translate says the Chinese (Simplified) equivalent is 自由生活或死亡, but I obviously have no way to check that. But I might blow it up to bumper-sticker size.


  • But the LFOD alert also rang for a Clean Technica post from one Steve Hanley, which is more politica than technica: The Koch Brothers & Protest In America.

    I was sitting on the back porch with a friend recently, discussing the affairs of the world as men do when our wives are busy doing important work elsewhere. The topic of protest in America today came up and I told him about how some of those who protested against the Dakota Access pipeline at Standing Rock and other locations were charged with major felonies that could have put them behind bars for 40 years or more.

    One of them was documentary filmmaker and journalist Deia Schlosberg, who was arrested and charged with felonies carrying a maximum sentence of up to 45 years in prison simply for reporting on the ongoing Indigenous protests against fossil fuel infrastructure, according to Common Dreams. The situation was so outrageous that Edward Snowden commented on it on Twitter.

    Note that tweet is about three years old, and Ms. Schlosberg is apparently still running around free. If she's been convicted of anything, I can't find any evidence of it. (Snowden is, last I heard, safe in that paradise of civil liberties, Russia.)

    Well, anyway, Steve's post is full of … dudgeon at legislation aimed at people "protesting" pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure. The Koch brothers are (of course) blamed, even through one of them, David, passed away a few months back.

    But here's the New Hampshire/LFOD connection:

    I got to thinking about all this when CleanTechnica reader Dan Allard sent me a link to a New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR) story about 67 people being arrested and charged with felonies recently for daring to walk on railroad tracks leading up to the largest coal-powered generating station still operating in New England — the Merrimack Station located in Bow, New Hampshire. About 150 protesters carrying signs locked arms and sang songs to draw attention to the health and climate risks of burning coal. How dare they! Keep in mind the official motto of the Granite State is “Live Free Or Die!

    Sigh. I kinda miss the days when believers in civil disobedience were willing to accept whatever legal penalties went along with them breaking the law.

    But to set the record straight: the Commie Radio story makes it clear that the "about 67 people" were not charged with felonies, but face class B misdemeanor charges. That's not fun, but it's not jail; at best, a fine and loss of your driver license.

Bad Blood

Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

[Amazon Link]

Pun Daughter enthusiastically recommended this book to me. It's a lurid tale of entrepreneurial capitalism gone very wrong. Also still quite popular, despite being published last year; it took a number of tries at Portsmouth Public Library before a copy became available off the shelf. It's written by the WSJ reporter, John Carreyrou, who was primarily responsible for revealing the rot.

It's the story of Theranos, a Silicon Valley health-tech startup led by Stanford dropout Elizabeth Holmes. It lasted 15 years, fueled by deep-pocketed private investors and prospective customers that Elizabeth beguiled with her charismatic description of promised futuristic diagnostic machinery: just a droplet of a patient's blood, obtained via a simple finger-stick, fed into Theranos tech would be able to quickly diagnose disease, and measure levels of countless enzymes, lipids, sugars, and minerals.

Bad news: none of this ever worked well, most of it never even came close to working. Theranos machines couldn't even get reliable results for potassium levels in blood samples.

But, geez, what a yarn. Elizabeth seemed to see herself as a girl Steve Jobs, down to dressing in a black turtleneck. She even (Carreyrou acknowledges) had a way of creating a Jobs-like "reality distortion field", persuading her listeners that she really had a workable vision that was going to revolutionize the medical tech field.

The difference was that Jobs really did, at least a lot of the time, have tech in the pipeline to eventually bear out his boasts. Elizabeth seems to have had a cargo-cult belief that if she got the outer trappings right, the technology would somehow magically be created. By the force of her personality and vision. And also having her boyfriend (and company president) "Sunny" Balwani browbeat the employees incessantly.

She acquired a lot of glitz along the way: George Shultz (the former Secretary of State), General James Mattis, Henry Kissinger. Theranos got a visit from Joe Biden, and Elizabeth was featured at a Hillary Clinton fundraiser during the 2016 campaign. She also brought in famous high-priced lawyer David Boies, both to sit on the board, and sue people.

But life inside Theranos was pretty miserable, because if you suspected there was not a lot of substance behind the hype, and brought your concerns to upper management, you were politely (well, not that politely) asked to pack your things and leave. And also threatened with legal action if you said anything about Theranos' "trade secrets". (The main "trade secrets" being: "Our stuff doesn't work, we don't know how to make it work, Elizabeth is a bullshit artist.") The company's chief scientist, Ian Gibbons, committed suicide by acetaminophen overdose just before he was to testify in court.

Eventually things fell apart. Elizabeth and "Sunny" are due to go on trial for fraud and conspiracy next year.

So: a massive waste of time, talent, and money. But the lawyers—damn, they made out pretty well. Not just Boies, but also the lawyers for the folks he sued, and threatened to sue. In a just world, Boies would be looking at jail time too.


Last Modified 2019-10-07 11:12 AM EST

Cracks in the Ivory Tower

The Moral Mess of Higher Education

[Amazon Link]

Fun fact: I've been involved with "higher education" off and on, mainly on, since 1969. An undergrad for four years, a grad student for … too long a time, a non-tenure-track instructor for seven years, and winding up as a diligent employee geek for 25 years. I won't say I'm an expert, but I kept my eyes open.

Another fun fact: my separation agreement with the University Near Here allowed me to keep my library borrowing privileges, including Interlibrary Loan. And when I requested this book via Interlibrary Loan, the library responded: "Nah, we'll just buy it, and put it on hold for you."

I can't help but think that was a gutsy move on their part. Even though this book is published by the Oxford University Press (respectable!) and has two academic authors, Jason Brennan (McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University) and Phillip Magness (American Institute for Economic Research), it's fundamentally subversive of most features of the modern American university.

The authors make the following complaints about higher ed:

  • Faculty, administrators, and students face bad incentives that cause them to advance their selfish interests instead of working for the common good of their institution.

    One description of administrators particularly rang true: "Administrators respond [to the demand that they appear "busy"] by filling their schedules with meeting after meeting, with a large percentage of those meetings being little more than administrators reporting to each other about what happened at other meetings."

    I can report that this behavior filtered down to those lower on the totem pole.

  • Universities promote themselves shamelessly with gauzy websites, self-advertisements, festooned with meaningless slogans. UNH's "on the edge of possible" is mentioned as a good (by which I mean: bad) example. (I commented on this dreadfulness back in 2016.) Worse, universities don't even deliver on even their nebulous promises; students don't learn much that's useful.

  • Student evaluation of teaching is garbage.

  • Calculating GPAs is an inherently incoherent methodology; the results are meaningless.

  • Academics relentlessly seek their own self-interest while cloaking themselves in the language of morality.

  • Gen eds don't work; they're mostly established to serve the needs of the influential faculty and their departments, instead of students.

  • There are too many low-quality PhD programs which (inevitably) oversupply low-quality PhDs. This wastes everyone's time and money.

  • Students cheat. A lot.

  • Universities waste a lot of taxpayer money; justice demands reform.

Brennan and Magness acknowledge that their treatment only scratches the surface. They don't even touch some topics, most notably athletics and leftist political activism. That's OK; what they do discuss should (but probably won't) cause some serious soul-searching in academic halls.

[And another fun fact: Jason Brennan is a UNH alumnus.]

URLs du Jour

2019-10-02

[Amazon Link]

Amazon has an amazing amount of pro-Mao merchandise. Commies apparently have no problem buying and selling stuff on Amazon. I had to skip over a lot to get to our Product du Jour.

  • You might have heard that the Boston Red Sox are moving their triple-A team from Pawtucket, RI to Worcester, MA. At Reason, Eric Boehm is flabbergasted by one feature of the transition: it involves $100 Million for a Minor League Ballpark?! .

    To clear space for a new minor league baseball stadium, the city of Worcester, Massachusetts, is using eminent domain to condemn and seize two successful businesses. City officials then plan to put Worcester's remaining taxpayers on the hook for more than $100 million to build the ballpark and do some adjacent redevelopment. It's hard to say which part of the plan is worse: stealing private land or wasting public dollars.

    Worcester initially tried to buy out the owners of an auto glass repair shop and a cannabidiol retailer, but the businesses turned down offers of $310,000 and $265,000 respectively, according to court documents. When the property holders refused, Worcester officials resorted to eminent domain to get their way.

    I wonder how long it will take the announcers to convert from saying "PawSox" to "WooSox", apparently the designated new nickname. They took awhile to master the transition from the insensitive "disabled list" to the woker "injured list".


  • At AEI, James Pethokoukis takes issue with Trump's tweeted 70th anniversary "congratulations": Please, no congratulations for China’s communists. He quotes Yaqiu Wang of Human Rights Watch:

    Today is the 70th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party’s rule of China. The CCP killed tens of millions of Chinese people, plundered our resources, forbids us from speaking our mind, and jails us if we criticize it, thus is arguably the biggest anti-China org in the world. … The CCP didn’t lift 80 million out of poverty. First, it plunged the country into utter destruction by its crazy policies, then it became less crazy and ppl [sic] started to lift themselves out of poverty through hard work. Chinese not ruled by the CCP (HK, TW) are still richer today.

    James compares Trump's kowtowing rhetoric to Reagan's. Can we have a president who will call China an "Evil Empire", please?


  • David Harsanyi, writing at the Federalist, is not in a congratulatory mood either: Actually, China's Communist Government Can Rot In Hell.

    Donald Trump today tweeted his “Congratulations to President Xi and the Chinese people on the 70th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China!” For diplomatic reasons, it’s become customary for American presidents to praise and commend this depraved totalitarian regime. In a just world, the president would be sending his sympathies to a Chinese people who have endured inconceivable sufferings under the communist regime since 1949.

    As Helen Raleigh, whose family experienced Maoist-driven deprivations, aptly noted, the 70th anniversary of People’s Republic of China marks one of the darkest days in Chinese history. It is also one of the darkest days in mankind’s history. Of all the planned utopian economies during the 20th century, none were more deadly or dehumanizing. No government has murdered, tortured, imprisoned, and terrorized more of its own people than communist China.

    In celebration of the anniversary, Hong Kong police shot a protester at point-blank range.


  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson is perceptive as usual: For Democrats, Taxes Aren’t about Revenue.

    Senator Elizabeth Warren (Democrat, Radcliffe Quad) and Senator Bernie Sanders (Socialist, Further) both want to be the Democratic party’s presidential nominee in 2020. It’s hard to blame them — it’s an excellent grift, and these are grifters nonpareil. (If you think Senator Sanders’s rape-porn columns were embarrassing, try Senator Warren’s Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan, from back in her days as a conservative-ish Lou Dobbs economic populist.) Sure, Senator Warren is the national hall monitor and Senator Sanders is one sandwich board shy of lecturing lampposts about Lyndon LaRouche, but they think Donald Trump is going to be easy pickin’s. (The 2020 election will be, among other things, a dynamic illustration of the principle that you cannot reason a man out of a belief he was not reasoned into.) But you can’t take a swing at the big orange piñata until you win the primary, and the Democrats are huffing out of the same brown paper bag as the Republicans, which means they’re in the market for crazy. And so Senator Warren and Senator Sanders are trading paint at high speed in the Bats**t 500.

    Senator Warren has proposed a 2 percent wealth tax on certain affluent Americans — not a tax on their incomes, but a tax on their savings. Senator Sanders — metaphorically banging a shoe on the podium in his soul while shouting “We will bury you!” — multiplied by four, suggesting an 8 percent tax on savings. There are other countries that have wealth taxes (usually more broadly applied than Senator Sanders or Senator Warren proposes; again, Democrats are very dedicated to the proposition that the American middle class should be exempted from paying very much for the welfare system of which it is the primary beneficiary), but very few of them even reach 1 percent, much less 8 percent: Norway’s wealth tax is less than 1 percent, and Switzerland’s begins at 13 one-hundredths of 1 percent. Austria, Denmark, Sweden, and Germany, among others, once had wealth taxes but eliminated them because — this part should matter — they are usually really, really bad policy.

    It's tough to excerpt Kevin D. Williamson. You should always Read The Whole Thing.

    But yeah. If you have "progressive" Facebook friends, as I do, you will have noticed their occasional (or frequent, depending on the friend) veer into hostility and hatred toward "the rich". That's still the kind of hate speech you can get away with on Facebook.


  • Terence Kealey writes at Cato, providing Beefy Arguments for Libertarianism.

    We've long understood chicken and fish to be safe, but a new study has been released suggesting that both red meat (beef, pork, lamb or venison) and processed meat (sausages, bacon, ham, hot dogs) are also safe; and the panjandrums of the nutrition orthodoxy are outraged. "This report has layers of flaws and is the most egregious abuse of evidence that I have ever seen," said Walter Willett of Harvard. "Their recommendations are really irresponsible," said Frank Hu of Harvard. A contrarian would immediately assume, therefore, that the study in question must be marvelous. Is it?

    Well, it represents part of a new wave in nutrition, in which a group of scientists who have no financial ties to the food industry set themselves up, like the justices of the Supreme Court, to adjudicate as a panel on a field of research. And, again like the justices of the Supreme Court, they are not frightened from disagreeing with each other and from voting differently from each other. That represents a useful advance in science, as scientists move away from papers that present a monolithic consensus to papers that admit a more conflicted recognition of doubt.

    My hypothesis: worrying a lot about what you eat will likely shave more months off your life than eating, moderately, what you feel like eating.

Downton Abbey

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

Mrs. Salad was a fan of the TV series. And being a good husband, I watched along, scoffing that anyone could be interested in a bunch of upper-class Brits and their servants.

Of course, I got sucked into it.

But a movie. Please. OK, I'll go, but I may nod off a few minutes in…

Well, I'll be darned. Sucked in again.

It's the same bunch, more or less. The primary plot driver is a surprise visit to D. A. by the King and Queen. Of England! A big deal. Which in turn sets off a lot of subplots. (I didn't count, but there had to be at least eight.) Most notably, ex-commoner (and Irishman) Tom is suspected of harboring anti-royal sympathies; could he be harboring thoughts of assassination?

Well, no. Of course not. But someone else is. And guess who's going to save the King? (Hint: not God, at least not directly.)

There's also Carson coming out of retirement to help the staff deal with the royal visit, pissing off his replacement Tom Barrow, who's struggling with his sexuality, which causes him to get into deep trouble, which gets resolved by one of the King's flunkies. Other of the King's flunkies attempt to take over from the Downton staff, and there's resentment and conflict there. Edith might be pregnant, and her husband's been tapped to escort the Prince of Wales (a real jerk here, just like in real life) to the Empire's African colonies. And…

Well, that's probably enough. If you liked the TV show, you'll like this.

URLs du Jour

2019-10-01

[Amazon Link]

Our Amazon Product du Jour reminds us: it could be worse. Or maybe, it could get worse.

(That's James Buchanan, by the way. Usually considered to be even worse than Franklin Pierce.)

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown's Reason Roundup for yesterday: Trump’s Civil War Tweet Is Bad. This Other Tweet May Be Unconstitutional..

    Who had "Civil War fetishizing by the executive branch" on their 2019 bingo card? Because that's where we find ourselves this Monday morning after President Donald Trump spent the weekend (per usual) watching TV and tweeting furiously.

    "If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal," Trump tweeted on Sunday night, quoting what Pastor Robert Jeffress said on Fox News. (Update: it turns out that Trump's tweet misquoted Jeffress, adding the "which they will never be" parenthetical and taking out "I'm afraid" before "it will cause a Civil War.")

    This followed Trump tweets accusing Rep. Adam Schiff (D–Calif.) of treason and fraud and saying Democrats were trying to "destabilize" America.

    I am a pretty libertarian soul, but I might go for legislation that fitted all American politicians with Gamesters of Triskelion shock collars that would go off whenever they utter (or tweet) accusations of treason.


  • At National Review, David French notes the facts about President Trump's Ukraine Call: Safeguards around Donald Trump Breaking Down.

    Yesterday and again this morning, the president of the United States tweeted that Representative Adam Schiff should be questioned for “treason” and possibly arrested. He also approvingly quoted an absurd statement from an increasingly unhinged Trumpist pastor named Robert Jeffress that threatened a “Civil War like fracture” (led by Evangelicals!) if he is impeached and removed.

    Given the lack of serious grounds on which to defend these statements, Trump’s apologists fell back to the claim that they were “just tweets,” and that we should instead always focus on his actions. If he doesn’t actually attempt to have Schiff arrested, they said, then we need to stop our “pearl-clutching,” and if he doesn’t actually attempt to start a civil war, then all we’re dealing with is a metaphor no worse than the “war” rhetoric we see all the time in politics and public controversies.

    These arguments don’t hold water. One of the reasons why the Ukraine scandal is starting to have legs is that it demonstrates that the Trump you see on Twitter is not some virtual persona distinct from the man himself; they are one and the same. There is no “just Twitter.” There is just Trump, and Trump can and will operationalize his vendettas and conspiracy theories, including by running unofficial diplomatic operations through his personal legal team. He can and will break through the safeguards erected around him, even in matters of grave national importance.

    On the other hand, Trump's, uh, foibles were pretty much known in November. Elected anyway.


  • But certain things are dealbreakers. For me, it's this Tweet.

    Yeah, congratulations on killing sixty-five million of your citizens over the years. A real accomplishment.

    I'm ready for President Pence.


  • An interesting ruling publicized by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE): Sixth Circuit properly finds that University of Michigan bias response team could chill students’ speech.

    In a victory for student speech rights, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the judgment of a federal district court that dismissed a case brought by Speech First, an organization committed to defending free speech on college campuses. Speech First filed the lawsuit to stop the University of Michigan from:  

    Here's an interesting bit from the decision (linked above):

    Additionally, the very name “Bias Response Team” suggests that the accused student’s actions have been prejudged to be biased. The name is not the “Alleged Bias Response Team” or “Possible Bias Investigatory Team.” It is the “Bias Response Team.” And as such, the name intimates that failure to meet could result in far-reaching consequences, including reputational harm or administrative action.

    Which led me to check… well, the University Near Here has what's called its Bias Response Protocol.

    The Bias Response Protocol provides an organized response to bias incidents (including hate crimes) when they occur, and a mechanism to inform the person or group harmed and the community about the outcomes.

    Maybe at some point they'll change this to "Alleged Bias Response Protocol". Before it goes to court, preferably.


  • And if you have a working familiarity with the language used at this blog, congratulations. Because as John McWhorter points out: English Is Not Normal.

    English speakers know that their language is odd. So do people saddled with learning it non-natively. The oddity that we all perceive most readily is its spelling, which is indeed a nightmare. In countries where English isn’t spoken, there is no such thing as a ‘spelling bee’ competition. For a normal language, spelling at least pretends a basic correspondence to the way people pronounce the words. But English is not normal.

    But it's not just spelling, friends (or should that be "frends"?)

    More weirdness? OK. There is exactly one language on Earth whose present tense requires a special ending only in the third‑person singular. I’m writing in it. I talk, you talk, he/she talk-s – why just that? The present‑tense verbs of a normal language have either no endings or a bunch of different ones (Spanish: hablo, hablas, habla). And try naming another language where you have to slip do into sentences to negate or question something. Do you find that difficult? Unless you happen to be from Wales, Ireland or the north of France, probably.

    As Professor McWhorter goes on to explain: Blame Canada history. And my own ancestors, maruading Scandinavian Vikings. Sorry on their behalf.


Last Modified 2019-10-02 2:43 AM EST