URLs du Jour

2020-01-21

  • An encyclopedic post from Tyler Cowen on The economic policy of Elizabeth Warren. Spoiler alert: "she has the worst economic and political policies of any candidate in my adult lifetime." Nine specific positions are discussed. Sample:

    1. She wants to ban fracking through executive order.  This would enrich Russia and Saudi Arabia, harm the American economy ($3.5 trillion stock market gains from fracking), make our energy supply less green, and make our foreign policy more dependent on bad regimes and the Middle East.  It is perhaps the single worst policy idea I have heard this last year, and some of the worst possible politics for beating Trump in states such as Pennsylvania.

    Check it out, and maybe bookmark it. Note that Bernie Sanders is probably only excused because his proposals are "often less detailed" than Warren's. Meaning, I suppose, that they're extremely nebulous. Sanders appeals more on attitude than wonkery.


  • I admit I'm kind of a fan of Amazon's Jack Ryan miniseries. But to enjoy it, I kinda hafta ignore its mismatch with reality. At the Foundation for Economic Education, Jon Miltimore has a problem with that: 'Jack Ryan' Gets 4 Pinocchios on Venezuela.

    Venezuela and its suffering take center stage in the plot of season two. Jack Ryan, who in season one was a Ph.D. economist/CIA analyst who stopped ISIS from blowing up Washington, DC, is now a national security policy instructor in Langley, Virginia, home of the CIA’s headquarters. Speaking to a roomful of students, Professor Ryan explains why Venezuelans face suffering of Biblical proportions despite their vast wealth in natural resources (emphasis added).

    The fact is that Venezuela is arguably the single greatest resource of oil and minerals on the planet. So, why is this country in the midst of one of the greatest humanitarian crises in modern history? Let's meet President Nicolas Reyes. After rising to power on a wave of nationalist pride, in a mere six years, this guy has crippled the national economy by half. He has raised the poverty rate by almost 400 percent. Luckily for the rest of us, he’s up for reelection. 

    Yeah, that's a howler. In the real world, Venezuela was crippled by a leftist president who rose to power on socialist fairy tales. But maybe that would have been a little too non-fictional.


  • A belated New Year column from P. J. O'Rourke ("Dateline: January 1, 2020, still in bed, hiding under the blankets with my laptop."): If You Set Your Alarm for 2021… How bad could it be? Peej imagines: "A left-wing Democrat beats Trump. “Progressives” and their pinko ilk sweep the House of Representatives. Democrats win a majority in the Senate."

    We’d have a president who’s a ridiculous fool and is detested by half of America. Yes, yes, I know, lots of people say we have that already. But Trump, even to those who loathe him, is undeniably entertaining and fun to make fun of.

    There’s nothing funny about Bernie Sanders. He’s a sad, old, delusional crank shouting gibberish in the street. He belongs in a mental health facility, not a laugh line.

    Elizabeth Warren is even less entertaining. She is a schoolmarm, and not the beloved “Our Miss Brooks” kind. Warren is the teacher who gives pop quizzes after lunch on Fridays, waits until 3 p.m. to announce the topic of 30-page papers due at 8 a.m. Monday morning, and assigns the complete works of Proust to be read by her students over spring break.

    She is also the national know-it-all, universal answer-pants, and self-appointed authority on everything and its brother. She talks like an encyclopedia… except listening to her is less like reading all 22 volumes of the World Book and more like having them dropped on your ear.

    Well we can hope for … not that, I guess.


  • It's the 10th anniversary of Citizens United, that little case that has ever since demonstrated how much today's progressive Democrats fear political free speech when it's funded by people they despise. At the Dispatch, Sarah Isgur asks the musical question: What’s the Real Legacy of Citizens United?

    In the run-up to the 10-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v FEC, law professor Richard Hasen wrote a thorough article for Slate that concluded “the decade of Citizens United has been a bad one for democracy.”

    But in a surprise twist, spending by presidential campaigns has actually decreased since the Supreme Court’s landmark First Amendment decision and the side that spent less won in 2016. So perhaps the better question 10 years on is, did Citizens United matter?

    Sarah (I call her Sarah) outlines, even-handedly, the pros and cons, and looks at different proposals for further reform.

    Bonus link: Bradley A. Smith in today's WSJ asks us to Celebrate the Citizens United Decade.

    ‘Last week,” President Obama declared a decade ago, “the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections.”

    Mr. Obama was wrong in almost every respect about Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which the court decided on Jan. 21, 2010. Hysterical predictions about Citizens United—then-Rep. Ed Markey, among others, compared it to Dred Scott—haven’t held up.

    I'm with Smith here. Sorry if you can't get past the paywall.


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson opines on Apple Is Right to Refuse to Help the FBI Hack into iPhones. You may already know the details of the particular case (the late Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani's iPhone might have interesting stuff on it) that forced this issue, but here's the bottom line:

    Apple is right to look after the privacy interests of its customers, and to assist law enforcement where doing so is not detrimental to those interests. And the U.S. government’s law-enforcement and intelligence operatives are right to do what they can to learn what can be learned from the communications of terrorists such as Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani. But they are the ones who have to do their job—it is not desirable that Apple should be deputized to do it for them, or that Apple should give them a master key to Americans’ private communications—because the U.S. government already has shown on many occasions that it simply cannot be trusted with such power.

    It is worth remembering that Senator Barack Obama was a civil libertarian who worried that the PATRIOT Act would undermine the privacy of American citizens, and that President Obama, only a few blinks of the eye later, decided that the so-called war on terror invested him with the unilateral authority to order the assassination of American citizens without so much as a legislative by-your-leave.

    Political power is always growing and generally metastatic, and the case of Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani is not only—or even mainly—about Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani.

    I only selectively encrypt, but then again I am not a terrorist. (Honest!)

Your House Will Pay

[Amazon Link]

This book, obtained from the Portsmouth Public Library, was on Tom Nolan's WSJ list of the Best Mystery Books of 2019. Two down, eight to go.

But this isn't really much of a mystery (he whined).

Back in 1991, the Matthews are an African-American family living in LA, mostly happy, save for their occasional dipping into violence and crime. It's OK, though, justified by the cancellation of a showing of New Jack City in "white people territory", Westwood. But soon enough their world will be shattered by an altercation where the family's teenage daughter is shot and killed by a Korean lady shopkeeper. The verdict: involuntary manslaughter, no time served.

Jump forward to roughly present day, where the Korean lady, who's changed her name to Park and moved out of LA, gets shot herself, in a drive-by. This devastates her daughters, Grace and Miriam. Grace in particular, because she was previously unaware of what Mom did back in 1991.

The rest of the book alternates between the Matthews and the Parks. It's pretty clear that the present-day crime is connected to the distant past, but whodunit? Well, eventually we find out.

Writing is good, and (I assume) an honest, earnest, look at the tension in SoCal between Koreans and African-Americans.

Café Society

[2.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Continuing in the December-January TV drought, we watched this 2016 movie, written and directed by Woody Allen. IMDB has it as 'Comedy | Drama | Romance', but it's one of those comedies where you don't laugh very much. (Scan through the IMDB quotes page if you want, all the gag lines are there.)

Also: the drama and romance depend on how much you care about what happens to these people, and the answer there is "not very much". The 2.5 stars are generous, awarded mostly because the movie is (warning: cliché coming up) a feast for the eyes. IMDB says it's the most expensive Woody Allen film made, and they went all out on the sets and costumes.

Also a feast for the eyes: Blake Lively. Whoa. Good move, Ryan Reynolds.

It's set in the 1930s. The main character is Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg), who's moving out to Hollywood from New York; his mom implores her brother, Hollywood exec Phil (Steve Carell), to use his connections to get Bobby a job. This happens, and Bobby happens to also find love with Vonnie (Kristen Stewart). Unfortunately, Vonnie is Uncle Phil's girlfriend. Forced to choose, Vonnie opts for getting hitched to Phil, breaking Bobby's heart. He moves back to NYC, uses his brother's mob connections to start a swanky nightclub. He meets Veronica (Blake Lively), she gets pregnant, they get hitched. But then Phil and Vonnie come to town…

Well, then some other stuff happens, then the movie ends.

Woody Allen himself does a voiceover narration. Jesse Eisenberg does a decent Woody Allen impression, which is apparently required for the main character in a Woody Allen movie these days.