URLs du Jour


[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


[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 EDT

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
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


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


[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


[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:


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

URLs du Jour


[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


[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.


  • 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.

    ( • •)
    ( • •)>⌐■-■

  • 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


[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 EDT

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
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 EDT

URLs du Jour


[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


[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


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


  • 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 EDT

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


[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


[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 EDT