URLs du Jour

2020-08-31

[Amazon Link]

  • I may just put that Marcus Aurelius quote on every post from now until Election Day… Jacob Sullum notes the latest from the Loose Cannon: Trump Promotes the Outlandish Claim That COVID-19 Has Killed a ‘Minuscule’ Number of Americans.

    Last spring the White House warned that COVID-19 could kill between 1.5 million and 2.2 million Americans with "no intervention." But "with intervention," it said, the death toll would be somewhere between 100,000 and 240,000. "By very vigorously following these [social distancing] guidelines," President Donald Trump declared, "we could save more than 1 million American lives. Think of that: 1 million American lives."

    Forget all that, Trump implied today by retweeting a message claiming that the official COVID-19 death toll, currently about 187,000, is off by a factor of 20. "So get this straight," says the summary of an August 29 Gateway Pundit post that was originally tweeted by Trump attorney Jenna Ellis. "Based on the recommendation of doctors [Anthony] Fauci and [Deborah] Birx the US shut down the entire economy based on 9,000 American deaths [due] to the China coronavirus." Trump thus implicitly rebuked his own COVID-19 advisers (and himself) for grossly overstating the danger posed by the disease.

    Jacob, being tethered to reality, explains how and where things went wrong.


  • At Liberty Unyielding, Hans Bader notes a left coast slide into dystopia: California moves toward reparations.

    Reparations took a step closer to becoming a reality. California’s state senate just voted 33-to-3 to create a reparations commission. The commission will “study the effects slavery had on California and recommend to the legislature no later than 2023 what type of compensation would be appropriate, how it might be dispersed and who could be eligible to receive it,” according to Fox News.

    Supporters of reparations assume the racial wealth gap between blacks and whites is the result of slavery, and thus, something to be fixed through reparations. “If the 40-acres-and-a-mule that was promised to free slaves were delivered to the descendants of those slaves today, we would all be billionaires,” state Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) said. “I hear far too many people say, ‘Well, I didn’t own slaves, that was so long ago.’ Well, you inherit wealth — you can inherit the debt that you owe to African-Americans.”

    Finding the fallacies in Bradford's theories of intergenerational debt are left as an exercise for the reader. I'd just like to point out that "reparations" will do nothing to heal racial animosity in the country. If anything, they will turn a whole bunch of white people into actual racists, full of resentment and condescension toward the beneficiaries, who just have different DNA.


  • But as far as actually enacting policies that might move the needle toward betterment for the differently-DNAd, California says… nah: Police reforms face defeat as California Democrats block George Floyd-inspired bills. The Sacramento Bee editorializes:

    So much for the moist eyes and feigned empathy some California Democrats showcased during the Black Lives Matter marches that followed the police killing of George Floyd. Despite performative emoting by powerful members of California’s ruling party, a slate of necessary police reforms may be headed for full or partial defeat in the California State Legislature.

    The bills, which met strong resistance from law enforcement groups and some weak-kneed legislators, teetered near the brink of failure this week.

    Details at the link. Nevertheless, California will keep electing Democrats.


  • And Slashdot reports something for our "I Can't Even" Department: 'Divinity Consultants' are Now Designing Sacred Rituals for Some Corporations. Quoting the New York Times:

    They have degrees from divinity schools. Their business is borrowing from religious tradition to bring spiritual richness to corporate America. In simpler times, divinity schools sent their graduates out to lead congregations or conduct academic research. Now there is a more office-bound calling: the spiritual consultant. Those who have chosen this path have founded agencies — some for-profit, some not — with similar-sounding names: Sacred Design Lab, Ritual Design Lab, Ritualist.

    They blend the obscure language of the sacred with the also obscure language of management consulting to provide clients with a range of spiritually inflected services, from architecture to employee training to ritual design. Their larger goal is to soften cruel capitalism, making space for the soul, and to encourage employees to ask if what they are doing is good in a higher sense. Having watched social justice get readily absorbed into corporate culture, they want to see if more American businesses are ready for faith. "We've seen brands enter the political space," said Casper ter Kuile, a co-founder of Sacred Design Lab. Citing a Vice report, he added: "The next white space in advertising and brands is spirituality...."

    Were I an active stock market trader (I'm not) I'd try to find out which corporations are spending money on this and sell any stock I happened to own. And maybe get some short positions…

    [If it turns out that Fidelity Investments is a "Divinity Consultant" customer sucker… well, please don't tell me, I'd rather not know.]


  • And in our (increasingly common) "<voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone!</voice>" Department: Nancy Pelosi Says Tax Dollars Will Fund Free Abortions for Medicaid Recipients in 2021.

    The LA Times reported on Friday afternoon that House speaker Nancy Pelosi has privately committed to fellow Democrats that the House will vote next year to provide unlimited taxpayer funding of abortion for Medicaid recipients:

    The author, John McCormack, quotes estimates that the current ban on Medicaid-funded abortions saves about 50,000 babies per year. As serendipitous web-browsing goes, I noticed that around the same time I noticed that Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy was tweeting…

    "Deliberately". But what do you want to bet that the Senator will enthusiastically and proudly vote for putting an additional 50K babies/year into medical waste bins, and shoveling more money to Planned Parenthood?

    Let's just say it.

How Innovation Works

And Why It Flourishes in Freedom

[Amazon Link]

A very good book on an important topic, innovation, from Matt Ridley. A Brit, but I don't hold that against him.

Approximately the first two-thirds of the book is wide-ranging history, and darn good story-telling. Chapter by chapter: how energy was harnessed to do useful work and provide reliable heat and light; how our health was improved; transportation; food production; "low tech" items, like our numbering system; communication and computing; and prehistoric innovation.

Back when I taught computer stuff, I wish I'd had Ridley's great sketch of "who invented the computer". Answer: nobody, really. Or lots of people, over decades and even centuries.

And he could have (but didn't) put in a plug for my favorite unsung area of innovation: packaging technology. There must be a bunch of pretty good stories of how hard-working techies put together metal, plastics, cardboard, paper, ink, tape, glue; all molded, folded and perforated to fine tolerances. In often attractive eye-grabbing arrangements. Simply to be easily ripped open, unscrewed, cut, or pulled apart, to get at whatever's inside. Not to mention that the packages need to be strong and safe enough to endure transportation from here to there to there to there… winding up at your domicile without spilling the goods.

I wouldn't have the slightest idea how to do that. And yet it happens, and nobody thinks it's a big deal. (Well, it's not the biggest deal. Still.)

Ridley devotes the last third of his text to pull out some general lessons about innovation. He notes that there's usually no lightbulb going off, no quantum leaps. It often happens by accident (see: Post-Its). Often involves combinations of ideas from unexpected sources, lots of trial and error. It's less likely to happen in large companies, which tend to be bureaucratic and sclerotic. (Exception: when a company sets up a blue-sky "skunk works" division that's given a green light to pursue out-there ideas.)

Finally, Ridley discusses fakes and frauds: he's got a good section on Theranos, summarizing the Carreyrou book (if you haven't read it, you should). And then there are the enemies of innovation: entrenched special interests, modern-day Luddites, etc. (Ridley should have, but didn't, give a shout out to Virginia Postrel's The Future and its Enemies.) And there are disturbing signs that America could be losing its innovative mojo as a whole. Are we destined to be out-innovated by others? (I'm tending pessimistic today, so: probably.)

The Phony Campaign

2020-08-30 Update

Mr. Ramirez illustrates our first item below:

[The USPS Is Really Important]

In our weekly table, the betting-market probability gap between Trump and Biden shrunk by a whopping 5.3 percentage points over the week of the Republican National Convention.

No, I'm not sure what's going on there. But Trump also expanded his Google phony-hit lead over Biden, from a 1.66-fold advantage to a 3.85-fold advantage!

Typical new hit (from Vanity Fair): Donald Trump’s Own Sister Thinks He’s a Complete Phony.

“It’s the phoniness of it all. It’s the phoniness and this cruelty. Donald is cruel,” [Maryanne Trump Barry] says to [Mary Trump] in one of the exchanges. Deploring “what they’re doing with kids at the border,” Barry appears appalled by her brother’s behavior in office. “His goddamned tweet and lying, oh my God,” she said. “I’m talking too freely, but you know. The change of stories. The lack of preparation. The lying. Holy shit.”

Holy shit, indeed. Makes me wonder what my sister would say about me in a surreptitiously-recorded conversation. But not for long, because I'm sure she likes me, and has forgiven all that stuff in our childhood.

On to our current standings:

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
8/23
Phony
Results
Change
Since
8/23
Donald Trump 44.6% +2.9% 6,780,000 +4,190,000
Joe Biden 53.0% -2.4% 1,760,000 +200,000
Jo Jorgensen 0.0% unch 23,200 -200
Howie Hawkins 0.0% unch 18,600 +3,600

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • On to that USPS thing alluded to by Mr. Ramirez above: WSJ editorialists consider The Phony Post Office War.

    House Democrats on Saturday returned to Washington to continue their political theater over the non-scandal of the U.S. Postal Service and the election. Speaker Nancy Pelosi whooped through a bill handing the post office $25 billion in the name of getting a trustworthy result on Nov. 3.

    Even by Washington standards, this is a joke. New Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testified last week that the post office has enough money to deliver mail-in ballots, and his operation can’t possibly spend $25 billion that quickly in any case. Democrats voted for so much money as a bailout for the letter-carriers union that endorsed Joe Biden this month.

    They want the money with no reform strings attached, though the Postal Service has lost $78 billion since 2007. The post office has been taking out underutilized equipment for years, but last week Mr. DeJoy suspended those efforts through the election after Democratic protests. He also said the post office will prioritize ballots over other kinds of first-class mail.

    As I've said before: an organization that can lose $78 billion can sure as heck lose your ballot.


  • And Ilya Shapiro and James Knight of Cato have some suggestions for Election Regulation during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

    The ongoing pandemic has necessitated dramatic changes to nearly every aspect of American life. The ways we work, shop, eat, and socialize have been radically restructured to protect our own health and that of our communities. This November, that radical restructuring will extend to the way we vote. Changes to our voting systems to safeguard public health, such as by allowing mail‐​in voting, are sorely needed, particularly if fears of another COVID-19 wave in the fall come true. At the same time, hastily switching from in‐​person voting to more‐anonymized systems with which the states lack experience creates the potential for chaos, errors, and decreased electoral legitimacy in the eyes of voters. With little more than two months until the election, states must finalize decisions on what they are doing and communicate those plans to their citizens and the country as a whole.

    A sober look at the prospects and possible pitfalls. Blessedly non-partisan. It's difficult to believe that at least some, probably many, states won't foul things up and give election losers plenty of excuses to gripe about the legitimacy of the results. Russian meddling? Hah, just wait until they see how badly we can do on our own.


  • In what may become a perennial Pun Salad department, "Kamala's Annoying Verbal Tics", Ann Althouse provides: "Kamala Harris has this revealing verbal tic, where she simply repeats herself over and over when she cannot construct a logical argument.". She's quoting a perceptive commenter at her site.

    "One example was her 'It was a debate!' non-explanation of her maligning of Joe Biden's character. Same when she said 'it's a movement' and 'they're not going to stop, they're not going to stop' over and over again."

    The tweet demonstrating the latter:

    Ann also links to a clip we've linked to before, demonstrating Kamala's propensity to laugh inappropriately, a non-verbal tic.


  • A video history lesson from Reason, wondering Can the Republican Party Survive Trump?

    Donald Trump, who four short years ago was viewed by many GOP operatives as an erratic outsider, has just been re-nominated as the Republican Party's standard-bearer. But whether he wins or loses, can a party without any guiding principles survive?

    How do old political parties die, and how are new ones born?

    Imagine a political party that has lost its ideological coherence and is torn apart by various warring factions. Then an outsider and celebrity candidate emerges with no fealty to the party's policy agenda and with no previous political experience. He goes on to connect with voters and retake the White House.

    That's exactly what happened in 1848, when the Whigs backed Zachary Taylor.

    Maybe once the GOP has self-immolated, the Whigs could come back!


  • If Trump loses in November, there's always Nikki Haley in the wings. So, predictably, the knives are out, as described by Jordan Davidson at the Federalist: Democrats Attack Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley Over Her Given Name.

    Democrats attacked former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley on Tuesday, accusing her of changing her name from “Nimrata” to avoid racial discrimination. These racist allegations were levied against Haley, a daughter of Indian immigrants, after she spoke at the Republican National Convention on Monday night, declaring that “America is not a racist country.”

    South Asians for Biden was the first group to target Haley, claiming that she probably felt “compelled to change her name to ‘Nikki'” because the Republican Party is racist. The hashtag #PhonyNikki accompanied the tweet along with #BidenHarris2020.

    Only problem is that "Nikki" is her actual middle name.

    [Amazon Link]
    You'd really think that Democrats would think twice about accusing a Person of Color of trying to "pass" as white. Might remind folks about their party's (um) checkered past on race.

    I looked at a previous attempt by a prominent Democrat to accuse Nikki of "passing" back in 2011.


  • And in our evergreen "Factcheckers Lie" department, here's David Harsanyi at National Review: Joe Biden & Abortion: 'Factcheckers' Keep Lying about His Position.

    Joe Biden supports the right of unlimited abortion, funded by the taxpayers, up until the moment of birth.

    It’s a position that remains exceptionally unpopular with the majority of voters, so “factcheckers” have been super busy during this Republican National Convention trying to confuse the issue. Ramesh Ponnuru has already debunked abortion “factchecks” from the Washington Post and New York Times.

    The Post was back at it tonight, taking exception with Sister Deirdre Byrne’s contention that a Biden-Harris ticket supports “the horrors of late-term abortion and infanticide”:

    Biden does not support “late-term abortion and infanticide.” He supports abortion rights and says he would codify in statute the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade and related precedents, which generally limit abortions to the first 20 to 24 weeks of gestation.

    None of the above conflicts with Byrne’s contention. For one thing, the words “generally limit” do a lot of heavy lifting. The Post notes that only “1 percent” of abortions “happen after the fetus reaches the point of viability.” What the Post avoids saying is that more than 8,000 viable fetuses, and probably more than 10,000 on the cusp of viability, are aborted every year. The killing of thousands of tiny human beings — whether it is “codified” by law; or whether it is allowed by emotional health exemptions; or whether reporters find “experts” to tell us it’s okay — is properly described as infanticide.

    It might be a good issue for Republicans to pursue. The rarity of a particularly abhorrent "procedure" is a red herring.

URLs du Jour

2020-08-29

  • Our Pic du Jour is Mr. Marcus Aurelius, who provides our Quote du Jour via JustOneMinute.

    The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.

    Marcus was a pretty sharp guy.


  • At Reason, non-insane Brian Doherty realizes America has a fever, and the only cure is… Bourgeois Libertarianism Can Save America.

    Traditional American libertarianism, to the extent either side acknowledges its existence, is seen by both leftists and rightists as either supporting the Evil Side or, at best, a pusillanimous, pie-in-the-sky distraction from the necessary business of seizing state power to crush the enemy.

    But that old school, non-revolutionary, bourgeois American libertarianism, if actually embraced by most Americans, remains the only peaceful way out.

    That it's a mistake—both morally wrong and likely ineffective—to use government force to solve most social problems is one of libertarianism's staid tenets. As the past months should have made evident, police power in the conventional sense can't keep cities secure if even a small number of people are unwilling to live and let live. State power simply cannot rule a people if even a small, energized minority refuses to let it. If you actually care about a functioning civilization, it is never enough to have the state controlled by the "right side." 

    That's somewhat longer than the Marcus Aurelius quote, and the whole article is of course longer than that. But I think Brian has successfully avoided the ranks of the insane.


  • Quillete publishes advice from Andreas Bikfalvi and Marcel Kuntz, two French scientists: International Scholars Must Resist the American Campaign to Inject Racial Tribalism Into Science.

    The racialization of discourses, a phenomenon that has spread rapidly to other Western countries from the United States, is increasingly metastasizing into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The process is on display at numerous scientific institutions and journals, including the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Academy of Medicine. In Science, chemist Holden Thorp declared that “the evidence of systemic racism in science permeates this nation [i.e., the United States].” In an unsigned editorial, Nature editors pledged to end (unspecified) “anti-Black practices in research.” They also declared that they lead “one of the white institutions that is responsible for bias in research and scholarship,” and that “the enterprise of science has been—and remains—complicit in systemic racism, and it must strive harder to correct those injustices and amplify marginalized voices.”

    This is the language of religious confession, not scientific analysis. As scientists ourselves, we feel insulted by such blanket self-denunciations—since we are not racists, have never been racists, and have never met colleagues who, to our knowledge, acted in a racist manner.

    The blurb at the end: "This article is adapted from declined editorial submissions to Science and Nature."

    No heretics must be allowed expression in the publications of the woke.


  • Harry Potter money can insulate you from pressures to join the mob. At Hot Air: JK Rowling returns an award after criticism from the group that gave it to her.

    The award was from the group "Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights", given in late 2019. Which might as well have been last century. The Hot Air article contains both an excerpt of the "criticism" provided by the group's president, Kerry Kennedy (RFK's daughter) and Ms. Rowling's statement in response.

    And it's Kennedy's hot woke garbage vs. Rowling's reasonable irritation at being accused of "transphobia" and (somehow) violating RFK's "vision". No excerpts, just go look for yourself.

    RFK died over 50 years ago, and I'm pretty sure he never got around to describing how his "vision" applied to the transgendered. Never mind, his daughter is apparently in communication with his spirit.

    Kerry Kennedy used to be married to Andrew Cuomo, and in clicking around I got an unexpected load of schadenfreude from this Vanity Fair article describing Cuomo's rocky relationship with the Family.


  • Cato's David Boaz examines The Republican Party's Confusion on Trade.

    I was particularly struck by a fundraising questionnaire I received in the mail last week from the National Republican Senatorial Committee. After some demographic questions and some Republican boilerplate, I got to these two questions:

    17. Do you think it’s a good idea to renegotiate international trade deals to make sure we are leveraging our power in favor of American workers and U.S.-based companies?

    18. Generally, is there too much government involvement in our free enterprise system?

    I assume the NRSC expects recipients to offer a hearty “yes!” to both those questions. But of course they represent diametrically opposed views. Is there too much government involvement in our free enterprise system? Yes: the government should stop telling me what I can buy and from whom. I’d like to be a delegate to a hypothetical Republican convention with a hypothetical debate on the party platform. I’d stand up and say, paraphrasing Hubert Humphrey’s famous 1948 convention speech:

    We'll have to wait awhile for the Republican Party to make sense again.

    Well, maybe that's overly optimistic. Try: "We'll have to wait awhile for the Republican Party to pull back from blatant contradictions." Until then, see above for that Marcus Aurelius quote.


  • And Don Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek provides his "Quotation of the Day" from a recent economics book, which is fine, but I like his own words on materialism even better.

    It’s easy and oh-so-cool for people awash in modernity’s material amenities to parade their ethical sophistication by denouncing what they take to be the excessive, even animalistic, “addiction” (as they often call it) of other human beings to material goods and services. (Often such denunciations feature as examples devices that are used chiefly for entertainment, such as flatscreen TVs – as if the opportunity for escape, to be entertained, is a somewhat contemptible human desire.) But such denunciations are made by people who cast a too-shallow glance at their fellow human beings.

    Sure, the Joneses seem rather too materialistic, what with mom and dad snacking on microwave popcorn as they watch “Schitt’s Creek” on their flatscreen TV, while each of the junior Joneses sits alone in his or her room texting friends or surfing the Internet. The Joneses aren’t doing what some intellectuals fancy they should be doing. They’re not at the bowling alley; they’re not sitting on the porch talking with the neighbors; they’re not at a townhall meeting; they’re doing nothing found in a Norman Rockwell painting.

    Yet what are the other experiences that the Joneses enjoy because of their ready access to an abundance of material goods and services? Well, if they are typical Americans they’re healthier than they would have been even just a few decades ago because of the availability of some drugs and medical devices and procedures that only relatively recently became available. The Joneses can talk daily, without worrying about the cost, in real time face-to-face with grandma and grandpa who live hundreds of miles away. When the Joneses travel by automobile they’re less likely to be killed or seriously injured than were their parents at their age. They can acquire recorded music and many books within seconds – and thus, if they wish, elevate their tastes and improve their minds.

    Generally, those who make a lot of fuss over the choices other people make—not just consumer choices, but choices about risk, social interaction, parenting,…—make me tired. Cast out the beam from thine own eye, etc.

Dishonored Lady

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

IMDB genrecizes this as 'Crime | Drama | Film-Noir', so I guess it qualifies as an entry in our marathon. A free-to-me Amazon Prime streamer, it is so-so. Hedy Lamarr is the protagonist, so I spent a lot of time thinking "Whoa, she's pretty."

But I never forgot to add "… and I admire her brain as well."

Hedy plays Madeleine, a hard-charging, hard-living editor of a high-end fashion magazine. But at the beginning of the movie she's cracking up, driving her car recklessly, crashing into the country estate of Dr. Richard Caleb. Who is (Dickensian coincidence) a shrink, diagnosing Madeline with … something that requires her to adopt a new identity, cut ties with her old life, rent a dingy flat (from Margaret Hamilton!), and take up painting. Also taking up with the handsome doctor that lives downstairs.

But eventually the sleazy people who so beleaguered her in her old life (including Lovey Howell from Gilligan's Island!) track her down and threaten to drag her back into her old haunts and habits. And it almost works, to the extent that one of the sleaziest gets murdered, and Madeline appears to be the likeliest suspect.

Will the handsome doctor forgive Madeline for her deceptions and work to clear her name? No spoilers here!

Oh, yeah: William Lundigan plays one of the sleazeballs, which led me to recall my days watching "Men In Space", where he played astronaut Col. Edward McCauley. I had a space helmet labeled "McCauley"… ah, here it is.

URLs du Jour

2020-08-28

[Amazon Link]

  • Talk about a clickbait headline! The One Glaring Question No One Has Asked Joe Biden But Should. That's from Christopher Jacobs at the Federalist.

    In “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” Sherlock Holmes solved a murder mystery by investigating the dog that didn’t bark. Similarly, one of the biggest wild cards of a potential Biden presidency comes from a question the media haven’t asked

    Given his septuagenarian status, reporters have queried Biden about his mental and physical health. ABC’s David Muir posed the question in an interview right after the Democratic National Convention.

    But while Biden has answered questions about whether he would need to leave the presidency involuntarily, due to death or disability, this observer has no recollection of a reporter asking him whether he would leave the presidency voluntarily, to “grease the skids” for Kamala Harris to succeed him. It sounds far-fetched, but it happens in Washington quite often.

    Well first, Chris: the dog that didn't bark is in the short story "Silver Blaze", not Hound of the Baskervilles.

    And it seems to me that the question can be answered pretty easily: "Chris, 'greasing the skids' would be a bad rationale for resigning as President. I wouldn't do that." Assuming Biden can still think as fast as I can, that's not the gotcha question Christopher imagines.

    I'm pretty sure Biden wouldn't leave the Oval Office voluntarily. I'm pretty sure everybody in the Biden Administration, assuming that happens, will be boning up on Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, which is a more realistic Plan B.


  • Eric Boehm waxes wistful at Reason: In Convention Speech, Mike Pence Said Joe Biden Will Repeal Trump’s Tariffs. If Only That Were True.

    As he capped off the third night of the Republican National Convention, Vice President Mike Pence may have briefly given voters hope that the trade war with China could soon come to an end.

    Discussing China in his convention speech, Pence claimed that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden "wants to repeal all the tariffs that are leveling the playing field for American workers."

    Don't get your hopes up. No matter who wins November's general election, a wind-down of the import taxes that President Donald Trump imposed on Chinese-made goods is unlikely to be a priority.

    Letting US citizens and businesses buy whatever they want, from whomever they want, at whatever mutually-agreeable price they negotiate: that's not sexy. It doesn't allow politicians to say they've done something, like "create jobs" or "level the playing field." And that's something both Biden and Trump would like to say.


  • Bradley Smith has a modest proposal in the WSJ (probably paywalled): Political Giving Should Be Private.

    A third of Americans fear being fired for their political beliefs. Unfortunately, for those who wish to support political campaigns, federal and state laws leave no place to hide.

    “Cancel culture” has divided First Amendment advocates. Some argue that private actors must tolerate differing views for free speech to survive, while others say the only concern should be government intrusions on speech. But when private individuals target and harass other Americans for their political donations, the government can’t say it plays no role.

    Campaign contributions are public because the law requires it. Every American who gives more than $200 to a candidate for president or Congress, or to a political party, has his name, address and employer published in an online, searchable database. Every state has similar laws for reporting contributions to state candidates, many with substantially lower donation thresholds.

    I can't remember the last time I wrote a check to an actual political candidate. Rand Paul, maybe? And I can't be fired, I retired. Still, if I were still working for UNH, I'd think not once, not twice, but thrice, before I dropped any cash on anyone with unwoke positions on the issues. Heretics not welcome! Hostile workplace!

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

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

So I was in the mood for a stupid comedy, and I got it. Will Farrell's latest, straight to Netflix streaming. (I usually put the Amazon DVD image/link on these movie reports, but Amazon just has the CD soundtrack right now. I can't recommend you buy the soundtrack.)

Lars is a moody Icelandic kid after his mom dies, leaving him with his strict, emotionally unavailable dad, Pierce Brosnan. But he gets inspired when ABBA appears on the tube, and finds a mission: to write and perform schlocky pop songs. His perhaps-sister Sigrit also gets dragged into the dream.

But decades later, Lars is now Will Ferrell, Sigrit is now Rachel McAdams, and they're still stuck in their small Icelandic fishing village, and pretty much everyone realizes Lars's meager talents are not enough to propel them to stardom. Except Lars and Sigrit. But thanks to unlikely (and, for some, unfortunate) occurrences, they find themselves on their way to Edinburgh for the famed titular song contest.

There's a lot of good stuff here. Especially Dan Stevens playing Lemtov, Eurovision's Russian entry: his suggestive and sexually ambiguous performances with over-the-top production pyrotechnics are hilarious. (When challenged, Mrs. Salad did not recognize him as Matthew Crawley from Downton Abbey. That's good acting in itself, she's usually pretty good at that.) Farrell is unparalleled at playing a doofus with big, unlikely dreams. Rachel McAdams is sweet and semi-clueless throughout.

Drawbacks: It could have been improved if it were cut down by 15-20 minutes. And Farrell's Icelandic accent comes and goes. Pierce Brosnan just sticks with an Irish accent as near as I can tell, although maybe that's what an Icelandic accent sounds like, how would I know?

The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols

Adapted from the Journals of John H. Watson, M.D.

[Amazon Link]

Another Sherlock Holmes pastiche from the sainted Nicholas Meyer. Sainted for his involvement with the Star Trek movies. Especially for directing the best one ever.

But his Holmes stuff predates that, the first one (The Seven-Per-Cent Solution) was from 1974 and had Sherlock meeting up with Sigmund Freud, who helped out with his coke habit. (Or something. It's been a long time since I read it.)

The book is set around 1905. Watson is dragged out of his stable marriage to saintly Juliet when Holmes is given an assignment by brother Mycroft: track down the origins of the notorious anti-Semitic tract The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. A lady spy has been murdered and tossed into the Thames for obtaining a copy in Russian. Can the perpetrators be brought to justice and the vile fraud debunked?

Well, if you know your history: the answer is no.

But they give it their best shot. They get a translation from real-life Russian translator Constance Garnett, and she provides an important clue to the Protocols' plagiarized origin. Holmes and Watson embark on a perilous covert journey to Czarist Russia, where anti-Jewish pogroms are becoming rife. They are accompanied by (again, real-life) activist Anna Strunsky. But the Czar's secret police, the Okhrana seem to be one step ahead of them all the way.

It's not great. There's not a lot of deduction, and Holmes seems to be outmatched, resorting to thuggish tactics to get to the truth. (Doyle wouldn't have done that!) But Meyer has done his homework for the novel's time and place: for example, the trek Holmes, Watson, and Anna take to Russia and back is lovingly described, and I imagine that Meyer dug out just exactly which trains they would have to travel on. (The Orient Express!)


Last Modified 2020-08-28 12:54 PM EST

Pitfall

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

An Amazon Prime free-to-me streamer, as we continue on our film noir festival. For me the real star here is Jane Wyatt. Mrs. Sarek, Spock's mom! Margaret Anderson on Father Knows Best!

That said, this could be the worst episode of Father Knows Best ever. More like Father Should Know Better, amirite?

Anyway, she's married to John here, Dick Powell. Who should be happy with Jane Wyatt and their irritating son, Tommy. A steady job, nice house in Los Angeles. Ah, but John works in insurance, a well-known soul-sucking service sector. He's bored, and boring.

But he gets an assignment to recover insured property purloined by petty crook Bill Smiley, given to girlfriend Mona. Oops, Mona is Lizabeth Scott! She should have a button pinned to her lapel: "May Cause Permanent Damage to Your Marriage and Life".

In a typical film noir, Mona would have a heart of charcoal. But she's pretty nice, actually. Nevertheless, John and Mona find themselves making a big mistake. Complicating matters is the private eye who investigated Mona for the insurance company. It's Raymond Burr, in a pre-Perry Mason heavy (very heavy) role: he's also smitten with Mona, and in a deeply unhealthy way.

The movie's dialogue is surprisingly sharp, and the plot develops some unexpected twists. Not everyone lives happily ever after.

URLs du Jour

2020-08-27

Eye candy from Remy today:

"What's the worst that could happen?" I'd bet we're going to find out.

  • Veronique de Rugy answers her own question: Want To Boost Economic Growth? Tell Government To Spend Less.

    Intellectuals are supposed to speak truth to power. Unfortunately, some seem to be more interested in saying what everyone expects them to say, which only reinforces the status quo. Thankfully, a few scholars are resisting this trend, fighting for what is true rather than what is popular.

    Case in point: a recent Hoover Institution paper by economists John Cogan, Daniel Heil and John Taylor, which makes the case for a reduction in spending now in order to positively impact the economy.

    It's refreshing to see their research, considering that we live in a world where pundits and even economists bend over backward to make the case that more debt is not a problem and that more fiscal stimulus is desirable. Never mind that the arguments that intellectuals offer to defend these claims aren't supported by the academic literature. Consider the mistaken notion that more spending will stimulate the economy and somehow reduce the debt burden of the policy in the first place. Research overwhelmingly confirms that, for a variety of reasons, the return of government spending on economic growth is much less than the money spent.

    Not a popular position to take these days, since both parties are wedded to the idea that government spending can solve problems. (You did watch that Remy video, right?)


  • But some sensible voices are still managing to make it onto the NYT op-ed page. (I guess the woke censors are on vacation this week.) Reason managing editor Stephanie Slade saith: Republicans Are Ripping Out ‘the Very Heart and Soul’ of Their Party.

    (I suspect that the GOP criticism made it NYT-acceptable.)

    In 1975, the future president Ronald Reagan said, “I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.”

    Today, many leaders of the Republican Party have coalesced around a desire to purge libertarians, with our pesky commitments to economic liberty and international trade, from their midst. If Mr. Reagan’s agenda was a three-legged stool of religious traditionalism, a strong national defense and free-market economics, they hope the latter leg can be reduced to sawdust and scattered to the winds.

    The Republican Party seems to become more comfortable with top-down economic interventionism by the day. Rising stars denounce the global market integration that has defined the postwar era. Last year in a speech calling for a national pivot to “common-good capitalism,” Senator Marco Rubio of Florida declared, “Our challenge is an economic order that is bad for America.” Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri insists, “It’s time we ended the cosmopolitan experiment.”

    Hey, Republicans? You'll miss us when we finally give up on you.


  • I'm slightly ill by the newfound respect to the USPS shown by our state pols. "Respect" of course in the sense that they want to dump $N billion on the "service", few questions asked. At the NYPost, Betsy McCaughey points out: Democrats' 'postal' panic has zero basis in fact.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) recently warned that “dangerous new policies” made by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who took the top job at the US Postal Service in June, will prevent mail-in ballots from being counted. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has charged that there is a conspiracy afoot to “undermine and dismantle the post office ahead of the November election.”

    This is rank, irresponsible scaremongering. Consider two central facts.

    (1) The USPS is ready to handle mail-in voting. Even if every voter in the United States relied on the mail instead of voting in-person, first-class postal volume would increase by a minuscule 2 percent. That’s nothing. Yet at most half that number, about 80 million, are expected to vote by mail. Keep in mind: The post office handles a staggering 472 million pieces of mail a day.

    (2) The USPS has enough cash on-hand to pay bills and meet payroll until August 2021. It doesn’t need emergency funding. What it needs is overdue reform.

    I would only dissent that the USPS will "handle" mail-in voting about as well as they "handle" my National Review subscription. Two recent issues missing, another one chewed up.


  • But how's the GOP platform coming? Jeff Jacoby reports it's unwell: Honey, they shrunk the GOP platform.

    In a resolution adopted Sunday, the Republican National Committee said there would be no new platform because pandemic-related restrictions made it too difficult to bring delegates together to draft one. If only the party had left it at that.

    But the resolution didn't stop there. It went on to dismiss platforms as cynical documents that shouldn't be taken seriously anyway. "Parties abide by their policy priorities," the resolution declared, "rather than their political rhetoric." Yet rather than list even a few of the GOP's 2020 policy priorities, party leaders summarized their outlook in a single principle:

    "The RNC enthusiastically supports President Trump. . . . The Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President's America-first agenda . . . [and] calls on the media to engage in accurate and unbiased reporting, especially as it relates to the strong support of the RNC for President Trump and his Administration."

    'Twas only yesterday I wrote: " The Republican Party has ceased to be a party that even pays lip service to the principles it once thought were important. (Or at least important to tell the bubbas about.) Now it's just Trump. Who doesn't stand for anything besides Trump."

URLs du Jour

2020-08-26

[Amazon Link]

  • Veronique de Rugy is a lonely voice, but usually a correct one. At AIER she explains why, as a rule of thumb, she's Opposed to Government Intervention, Crisis or Not.

    Proponents of a large government response during crises believe in the “leave it to you” route in the name that during crises, centralization can be beneficial. Unfortunately, even though I fully acknowledge that in times of emergencies, governments at different levels can play a positive role, in most cases, government officials and institutions do a terrible job at solving problems, even when it is their job to do so.

    There are different reasons for that but here are the main ones. During good times, government officials suffer from systematic decision-making failures. Unfortunately there is nothing to indicate that the problems that plague their response during good times are gone during bad times. In addition, during crises, government officials typically respond with a one-size-fits-all mentality, without ever missing an opportunity to expand their already gigantic powers. 

    What’s more, by the time an emergency occurs, governments are so big and overextended that they do not have what it takes to respond appropriately. These patterns of behavior from politicians is why I often respond to all proposals for government intervention with skepticism.

    It is only because we're used to government ineptitude that many people judge it by lax standards. At least they're doing something! Boy, that's a very low bar to clear.


  • Flying under the radar is kind of big news from last week's DNC: After 48 Years, Democrats Endorse Nuclear Energy In Platform. Noted by Robert Bryce at Forbes:

    It took five decades, but the Democratic Party has finally changed its stance on nuclear energy. In its recently released party platform, the Democrats say they favor a “technology-neutral” approach that includes “all zero-carbon technologies, including hydroelectric power, geothermal, existing and advanced nuclear, and carbon capture and storage.” 

    That statement marks the first time since 1972 that the Democratic Party has said anything positive in its platform about nuclear energy. The change in policy is good — and long overdue — news for the American nuclear-energy sector and for everyone concerned about climate change. The Democrats’ new position  means that for the first time since Richard Nixon was in the White House, both the Republican and Democratic parties are officially on record in support of nuclear energy. That’s the good news. 

    Bryce goes on to quote an Energy Department official from years past: “Democrats are pro-government and anti-nuclear. Republicans are pro-nuclear and anti-government.” Unfortunately, to get that fabled "bipartisan agreement", we'll no doubt get big-government pro-nuclear policies, i.e., cronyism.


  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum isn't buying the rhetoric: Trump’s War on Economic Freedom.

    If Donald Trump's sister is right that he "has no principles," he does at least have a few enduring instincts. Perhaps the most persistent is the president's conviction that American greatness is threatened by voluntary economic exchange, the most powerful engine of peace and prosperity in human history.

    Each of us has a fundamental right to the fruits of our labor, which includes the right to exchange the money we earn for products and services. When governments respect that right, mutually beneficial transactions replace zero-sum interactions that forcibly transfer resources from losers to winners. The value of those voluntary transactions does not depend on where buyers and sellers happen to be located.

    Trump's rejection of those principles pervades the second-term agenda he unveiled this week. He promises not only to "create 10 million new jobs in 10 months"—which itself betrays a basic misunderstanding of the president's powers and the way a market economy works—but also to "keep jobs in America" through "Made in America" tax credits and "fair trade deals that protect American jobs."

    It's difficult to respect either candidate when they seem to be competing on who's more misguided on free-market econ.


  • David French wonders at the Dispatch: Who Needs a Platform When You Have Negative Partisanship?.

    Over the weekend, the Republican Party and Trump campaign did two things that should be rather shocking. Indeed, in ordinary times they would be. But these are not ordinary times. 

    First, the party decided that it would not create a party platform for 2020. Instead, the party adopted a resolution that it would “enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda” rather than issue the normal, detailed statement of Republican principles and policies. The party was now plainly organized around a person. 

    Second, later that same evening, President Trump issued his second-term agenda, a series of bullet points titled “Fighting for You!” This was not a statement of ideology or philosophy. Instead, as my former colleagues at National Review noted in an excellent editorial, the document “is better understood as a series of aspirations, with little sense of how the powers of government might plausibly be used to achieve any of these goals”:

    Thus, we are told, a reelected Trump would “Create 10 Million New Jobs in 10 Months,” “Return to Normal in 2021,” “Cut Prescription Drug Prices,” “Protect Social Security and Medicare,” “Wipe Out Global Terrorists Who Threaten to Harm Americans,” and “Partner with Other Nations to Clean Up our Planet’s Oceans.” How are voters supposed to evaluate a fuzzy and stilted pledge such as “Drain the Globalist Swamp by Taking on International Organizations That Hurt American Citizens”?

    Moreover, the document is just as notable for what it omits as for what it includes. There is no mention of abortion or religious liberty. There is no mention of the Constitution at all. In past campaigns, these omissions would have led to thunderous denunciations from conservatives. 

    The Republican Party has ceased to be a party that even pays lip service to the principles it once thought were important. (Or at least important to tell the bubbas about.) Now it's just Trump. Who doesn't stand for anything besides Trump.


  • And Megan McArdle takes to the WaPo so she can be Cutting through the convention spin on Trump’s response to COVID-19.

    Long before the conventions opened, it was clear that covid-19 would be the central narrative of this election. Cue Republican convention segments that strenuously implied that President Trump had taken the virus more seriously than Democrats . . . that he’d cut through bureaucratic red tape and PC nonsense to take bold action . . . that his resolve, plus a hefty dose of American greatness, have put the country in an enviable position, covid-wise.

    The moments were exceptionally well-produced, even stirring, if you didn’t know that Trump’s response to covid-19 has been well below average for the leader of a developed country.

    Comparing Trump to the Pacific Rim, where the experience of SARS prepared countries for another viral outbreak, is perhaps not fair. Let’s compare him to Europe, where most governments made catastrophic errors.

    Still, Trump managed to underperform.

    Yes, I know (and Megan knows) that there were plenty of screwups by the FDA, the CDC, and various politicians, especially Cuomo and de Blasio. But…

The Trespasser

[Amazon Link]

I got hooked on Tana French's series of novels circling around the Dublin Ireland Murder Squad: a group of detectives charged with figuring out homicides. The primary team here is the one from the previous book: Antoinette Conway and Stephen Moran. The tale is told with Antoinette as the first-person narrator. And she's kind of a mental can of worms, thanks to the hostile sexism she perceives from her testosterone-heavy squadmates. She's got her shields on high, looking for (expecting, really) betrayal by her peers.

The current case seems pretty straightforward: the victim, Aislinn, has expired thanks to hitting her head on her fireplace. Unfortunately, the underlying cause of that was getting punched in the face. The suspect is pretty obvious: Rory, a guy Aislinn's been seeing, had a date with her on the evening of the crime. And he's got no alibi, and he's obviously hiding something. Relative newbies Antoinette and Steve are being "assisted" by veteran detective Breslin, And Breslin's anxious to arrest Rory and close the case. But does he have an ulterior motive? Aislinn's best friend seems to think there was another guy in Aislinn's life, but actual evidence for his existence is difficult to find.

This is really my favorite Tana French book so far. She's an uncommonly gifted writer, especially in the parts where the first-person narrator reveals more about herself to the reader than the narrator knows about herself. And (as usual for Ms French) the Murder Squad detectives do nearly as much psychic damage to themselves as the physical damage done to the victims.

Ocean's 8

[1.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

We watched the previous three Ocean's movies back in 2008. (The modern ones, anyway. I have a dim recollection of the old Frank Sinatra/Rat Pack flick, but I'm not sure if I've watched it the whole way through.)

This one is less fun. Although I'm sure it seemed like a good idea to someone: Let's construct a pseudo-sequel to the successful old movie franchise with females replacing the guys! (Hey, it worked for Ghostbusters, right? Oh, wait, no it did not.)

Anyway, as the movie opens Debbie Ocean is getting out of the slammer via shamelessly lying to the parole board about her intentions to live an honest, modest life on the outside. (She's the sister of Danny Ocean, played by George Clooney and Frank Sinatra, who's thought to be dead, but probably isn't if he can be brought back in another movie.)

Debbie immediately assembles a team to go after a diamond-infested necklace held in a deep underground vault at Cartier's. Lots of good actresses are involved: Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Awkwafina, …

The ladies are very cool customers, which unfortunately translates to "boring". Awkwafina is an exception, but not enough of one to keep me interested, or even awake. Not to be sexist, but the movie seems to emphasize costumes, fabulous sets, hair, makeup, … what I think of as girl stuff. Mrs. Salad enjoyed this more than I.

Whistle Stop

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Mrs. Salad has gotten into a film noir mood. She composed a list of possible titles. Many of which she'd forgotten we watched during one of her previous film noir moods. But this one we hadn't seen, and it's free on Amazon Prime Video, so…

Bottom line: Ava Gardner is really easy on the eyes. Maybe the best way to watch this movie is to turn off the sound and fast forward through any scene she's not in? Unfortunately impractical in 2020; technology has brought us many wonders, but not the ability to do that. I'll suggest this to Jeff Bezos.

Anyway, the whistle stop of the title is the dinky town to which Ava returns from her high life in the big city (Chicago). She wants to sell her old house, so she never has to come back again. But she's waylaid by the attentions of two former suitors: George Raft, who's been spending his time turning into a lazy gambler with an alcohol problem; and Tom Conway, sleazy rich owner of a swanky nightclub. Both George and Tom flirt with criminality. There's also Victor McLaglen, playing "Gitlo", a bartender who's George's old buddy. He hatches a scheme to eliminate Tom… Well, it's pretty complicated, the scheme goes wrong, there's a chase, George gets shot, …

It's really tough to care about any of these people. Even Ava wears a little thin.

URLs du Jour

2020-08-25

[Amazon Link]

  • David Marcus of the Federalist contributes to our "Tell Us Something We Don't Know" department: The NBA’s Definition Of Racism Is Racist.

    The National Basketball Association hates racism. They are very clear about this. In the playoffs being played in the bubble in Orlando, “Black Lives Matter” is emblazoned not just on the shirts players wear but on the court itself.

    So when the Los Angeles Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell clearly called Dallas Maverick Luka Doncic a “bitch ass white boy” during a recent game, it should be obvious what the NBA reaction would be: Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

    As a bitch ass white boy myself…

    I've said this before, so sorry for the repetition: "Racism" has long been been pounded into vague meaninglessness. People wanted to maintain its (deserved) opprobrium while (um) broadening to encompass … well, whatever was found problematic. To the point it became what Orwell said about the term "fascism": it "has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’."

    And if you "redefine racism", we're gonna need a new word for "invidious stereotyping based on skin color".

    And if you have a double standard allowing a member of one race to say things, punishing the equivalent language used by another… well, you're going to have to deal with some richly deserved contempt.


  • More information from Campus Reform about the University of Southern Maine's effort to make sure all its students are true believers: University asks students to 'pledge to practice antiracist behaviors' in full-throated endorsement of BLM movement.

    The President’s Cabinet of the University of Southern Maine, including President Glenn Cummings and several other administrators, sent a message to its students pledging its support of the Black Lives Matter movement and encouraging students to do the same. 

    The pledge cites late Georgia Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis’ support of the movement and proclaims that “we must add our voices to the Black Lives Matter Movement.” The cabinet went on to condemn the phrase “all lives matter” as “hurtful” and claims that it “misses the point.”

    USM is a mere hour's drive up Route 4 from me. The University Near(er) Here hasn't tried this as near as I can tell.

    President Cumming's message (linked above) is predictably full of hot steaming woke garbage. But he claims that "No administrator will see the list of people who pledge to practice antiracist behaviors."

    Of course, USM students might be wary of such promises, given recent behavior at a Northestern:

    Northeastern University sent an email to over more than 100 undergraduate students, threatening to rescind their admission offers should they choose to participate in parties.

    An Instagram account called Northeastern Class of 2024 posted a poll, asking whether the page’s followers would be willing to participate in parties during the fall semester. The Boston Globe reported that of the respondents, 115 said that they intended to party. After Northeastern became aware of the poll, the school reached out to the pollster, who turned over the names of the students who answered “yes.” 

    … and they are in a heapa trouble, boy.


  • The WSJ brings us suggestions from Kenneth L. Marcus: How Not to Be an Antiracist. He notes increased concentration on "systemic" racism has its drawbacks:

    In other words, the new antiracism requires that we take our eyes off what antidiscrimination work is all about—combating invidious discrimination—and focus instead on social outcomes that arise in the absence of racial preferences. The results can be seen in the report I sent Congress last month on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Over the past three fiscal years, OCR resolved 4,656 complaints against institutions, requiring them to redress discriminatory practices. This is 1,507 more than OCR achieved during the preceding three years under an administration generally aligned with antiracist thinking. In other words, OCR is now requiring far more schools to change discriminatory policies and practices. We closed twice as many school-discipline cases and six times as many sexual-violence cases than the prior administration.

    Why is that? It turns out there is a price to be paid when we take our eyes off racial (or sex) discrimination. The price, which victims of discrimination paid during earlier years, is that enforcement agencies were unable to resolve discrimination cases because they were too focused on statistical disparities and social change. Civil-rights enforcers should address systemic problems where appropriate, as in major sexual-violence investigations that I oversaw at Michigan State University and in the Chicago Public Schools. When we resolve such systemic failures, however, we are addressing a large number of individual claims, rather than looking at statistical disparities and presuming structural problems. The primary focus of antidiscrimination, however, must be on mistreatment of individuals.

    That's a predictable outcome of screwing around with a perfectly good word for bad behavior.


  • And here's some reassurance from young Isaac Schorr and National Review: You Don’t Owe Your Vote to Anyone.

    Election years bring their own unique array of annoyances. When the most powerful office on the planet is on the line, partisans become more unbearable than usual, our televisions and laptops become inundated with ads, and our social-media squabbles increase in both volume and intensity. With Donald Trump up for reelection, 2020 has been and will continue to be exceptional in this respect.

    Like the last election, and the one before that, this is the “most important of our lives.” Because of its importance, many in the pundit class have decided that you, the voter — sweet, innocent, stupid you — are incapable of making this consequential decision for yourself. But there are two problems for these pundits. The first is that they cannot make your choice for you. The second is that they are competing with other pundits, pundits who would have you vote for evil. To win, they need to make you feel bad enough to agree with them prior to November 3, and they need to be more forceful in their condemnations of any who disagree with them than their counterparts on the other side of the aisle.

    I noticed that as November 2018 2016 appoached, advocates got very strident and moralistic. My favorite is still around, from one Sasha Stone: "If You are Voting for Jill Stein, Here is What I know About You". Rest assured, none of those things are complimentary.

    Sasha was apparently of the belief that she could insult people into voting the way she wanted.


Last Modified 2020-08-26 4:11 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2020-08-24

Our Eye Candy du Jour: The worst attraction in every state.

Well, OK. But the Old Man used to be much better than he is today.

  • In the Pun Salad "Of Course They Did" department, Michael Graham at NH Journal says: Dems Choose Union Dollars Over Charter School Families. Despite past openness to charters,…

    Now, the Democratic Party has turned on charter schools, teaming up with teachers unions targeting them for destruction. Unlike his old boss, former Vice President Joe Biden said in May that if he’s elected president, charter schools “are gone.”

    That would close more than 7,500 public charter schools serving more than 3 million American children. While rich kids will always have education choices, defunding charter schools would close the schoolhouse doors on low-income families with few options.

    After the Trump campaign called out Biden’s threat to charter schools, his campaign released a statement to factcheck.org that appeared to reverse course. It said the campaign “does not oppose districts letting parents choose to send their children to… high-performing public charters.”

    The famed Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force is full of mealy-mouthisms about charters. They do call for a ban on for-profits receiving "federal funding". As for the non-profits, it's clear they either mean to regulate them to death, or ensure they'll become as bad as their government counterparts.


  • Possibly the most literate headline we've ever blogged, is from Anthony Daniels in the New Criterion: Hypocrite Hector. A review of a couple of our bete noirs: the books White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo and How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.

    You feel in reading them that you have been cornered at a party by a monomaniac who will not let you escape until he has preached you into total silence, if not acquiescence. I can only conclude from their sales that people like being hectored.

    His bottom line:

    Perhaps the most interesting question raised by these books is why, when they are so badly written, self-indulgent, and intellectually nugatory, when they are so plainly written in the spirit of what Karl Popper called reinforced dogmatism, they should be so popular among the Western intelligentsia. Let us hope that this is not a question for an Edward Gibbon of the next millennium to answer.

    Pointing out one more time: both dreadful books are high on the list of recommended "Racial Justice Resources" at the University Near Here. And I don't see any dissenting voices from the suffocating wokeism, do you?


  • At AIER, Jeffery A. Tucker describes Older Americans Should Be Anti-Lockdown Activists. (And, hey, that's me! I am an Older American!)

    As demographic data has poured in, and it has finally become common knowledge that the average age of death with/from COVID-19 is 80 years with comorbidities. Indeed,  in only 6% of COVID deaths is COVID listed as the only cause; the typical death from COVID-19 lists 2.6 additional health factors. 

    Once this became obvious, so too has come the accusation that those who oppose lockdowns care nothing for the lives of the aged and infirmed. We are trying to kill grandmother, as the popular lockdowner saying goes. It’s a purely emotional argument that basically accuses anti-lockdowners of bad faith, which is a particularly nasty way to go about disagreeing with anyone. 

    And his bottom line:

    Lockdowns have done nothing to protect anyone while creating astonishing chaos and confusion all around, with no evidence that they have minimized mortality for any groups.

    I buy that. I'm doing a certain amount of "public health theater" myself, so I don't get people hectoring me. But I'm way past thinking that it's anything more than a sham.


  • And finally, a Quote du Jour from Scott Meyer, who has an excellent brief review of a classic;

    The message of Pride and Prejudice seems to be that even a socially awkward, emotionally remote man can find love, as long as he’s very good looking and fabulously wealthy.

    Unfortunately, Scott's classic Ask Capt. Pike page requires Adobe Flash Player. If you (still) have that going, check it out.

The Phony Campaign

2020-08-23 Update

Our Getty Image du Jour is US presidential Candidate Vermin Love Supreme, to whom we'll be referring later.

The betting markets were apparently unimpressed with the Democratic Party Convention/Infomercial this past week. Wheezy Joe continued to lose ground to President Bone Spurs, this week by a net 2.5 percentage points.

The GOP is up this week. Can't help but wonder if we'll see a reversal in Trump's fortunes, as a few million people tune in and say… "Oh crap, I don't like this guy much either."

And Joe Biden was the only candidate to gain phony hits this week. Again, I expect a big convention-related boost for Trump there.

Standard disclaimer: nobody's paying me to watch the GOP convention, so I won't.

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
8/16
Phony
Results
Change
Since
8/16
Donald Trump 41.7% +1.3% 2,590,000 -80,000
Joe Biden 55.4% -1.2% 1,560,000 +500,000
Jo Jorgensen 0.0% unch 23,400 -3,000
Howie Hawkins 0.0% unch 15,000 -77,500

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • We really should show Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins some love. By which we mean, share the views of the World Socialist Web Site ("Published by the International Committee of the Fourth International"), which finds him to be a Phony Socialist, engaging in Capitalist politics in the guise of “ecosocialism” (from May of this year):

    In the aftermath of Bernie Sanders’ endorsement of Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden last month, the Green Party is presenting itself as the continuation of Sanders’ “political revolution.” Workers and youth seeking an alternative to the Democrats and Republicans must be warned: The Green Party is a capitalist party with no real independence from the Democrats.

    The Green Party is presently on track to nominate Howie Hawkins, one of the co-founders of the party in 1984, as its presidential candidate. Hawkins has announced that Angela Walker will be his running mate for vice president. Both Hawkins and Walker are also members of Socialist Party USA and Solidarity, pseudo-left groups that operate in the orbit of the Democratic Party.

    The Hawkins-Walker campaign platform itself is an eclectic list of various reform proposals, centered on an “Ecosocialist Green New Deal.” To fund their programs, they call not for the expropriation of the wealth of the capitalists or the nationalization of any corporations, but simply “progressive taxation.” The words “working class,” “capitalist class” and “revolution” do not appear in their platform.

    "Howie Hawkins: not totally in bed with Trotskyites." Maybe he could print up some bumper stickers.


  • Let's also look at the top phony hit for Jo Jorgensen. It's from New York magazine, by Ed Kilgore: Libertarians Decide to Become a Joke in 2020. Oh, no! And here's our promised Vermin connection:

    During the last three presidential election cycles, to the dismay of purists, the Libertarian Party has nominated ex-Republican politicians who offered conventional credibility and name ID in exchange for something a bit less than full subscription to libertarian ideology. The transaction paid off pretty well in 2016, when a ticket of former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson and former Massachusetts governor William Weld won more than 4 million votes and more than 3 percent of the national popular vote, tripling its prior best performance.

    But in 2020, Libertarians are going in a very different direction, best evidenced by Bill Weld’s successor as the party’s veep nominee, Spike Cohen. Cohen, an online media entrepreneur, is best known as the designated running mate of political performance artist Vermin Supreme, the perennial candidate known for wearing a boot on his head and promising all voters free ponies. Supreme, who was a bizarre minor presence in the 2012 and 2016 Democratic presidential contests, took his act to the Libertarians this year, and though he finished third in last weekend’s online presidential vote, his sidekick Cohen won the separate vice-presidential balloting.

    On a 0-to-10 enthusiasm scale, my vote for Gary Johnson in 2016 was about a 5.68. My vote for Jo in November will probably come in around 2.83.


  • The Baseball Crank Dan McLaughlin, pens a missive in National Review (NRPLUS, sorry): Dear Biden Supporters: We Can Read, You Know.

    The Democrats’ pundit class has a Joe Biden agenda problem. On the one hand, they are devoted to reassuring centrist voters that Biden is a soothing moderate because of things he did decades ago (say, the 1994 crime bill), because he talked down some of the most ridiculous of the left wing’s policy proposals (notably “Medicare for All”) in the primary, or because he does not speak the language of the woke “defund the police” faction. But at the same time, they are hard at work loudly telling the Bernie/Warren/AOC wing of their party: Don’t worry, Joe won’t stop you from getting what you want. He’s actually going to help you.

    The problem is: We can read. This stuff is all out there. And voters who are being sold the “moderate Joe” line need to understand that the people selling it are simultaneously building support to govern with a much more radical agenda.

    "Radical? Moderate? Hey, I'll be anything you want, as long as I get to be President."


  • The Reason video folks detail: Kamala Harris’ Dishonest Campaign To Destroy Backpage.com.

    Before Senator and former California Attorney General Kamala Harris was chosen as Joe Biden's running mate in the 2020 election, she played a role in a campaign to force a website called Backpage.com to stop operating on the grounds that it was used to facilitate sex trafficking.

    "Backpage.com needs to shut itself down, when it has created as its business model the profiting off of selling human beings and the purchase of human beings," Harris said at a 2012 press conference.

    She would go on to spread misinformation about the site and its co-founders, Michael Lacey and James Larkin, and she co-filed criminal charges that were quickly dismissed but succeeded at garnering headlines and photo ops that raised her political profile. In reality, Backpage.com had become a powerful tool for law enforcement to help catch sex traffickers because of the cooperation and commitment of the site's founders to that cause, whom Harris and many other states' attorneys general had painted as villains.

    Surprise: truth is the first victim of political ambition.


  • Oh oh. Is Joe in trouble with teacher again? The NYPost says Joe Biden faces plagiarism claim over DNC acceptance speech.

    Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden reprised his penchant for borrowing lines from other people’s work this week — apparently relying a bit too heavily on the words of a deceased Canuck party leader during his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, reports said.

    Biden concluded his Thursday night speech by saying: “For love is more powerful than hate. Hope is more powerful than fear. Light is more powerful than dark.”

    But Canadian media quickly noted that the former veep’s words were uncannily similar to those of Jack Layton, the leader of Canada’s left-wing New Democratic Party, who issued a poignant open letter to his fellow citizens as he lay dying in 2011.

    In Joe's slight defense: there are only so many ways to express meaningless platitudes.

    (And it's always nice to hear "hope is more powerful than fear" from a guy that's just told me that Donald Trump is personally gonna kill my grandma.)


  • As Tim Graham from the Daily Wire notes, the convention/informercial also featured a blast from a past master: Phony Lines From Barack Obama’s Speech. Five examples, here's the final one:

    Finally, Obama said of the Biden-Harris ticket: “They understand that political opponents aren’t ‘un-American’ just because they disagree with you; that a free press isn’t the ‘enemy’ but the way we hold officials accountable.”

    False. In April, Biden said Trump’s differing opinion on mail-in voting was “un-American.” And most conservatives thought it was rich for Obama to uphold the press, when even Obama-supporting journalists admitted he was the harshest president in history in prosecuting journalists during leak investigations.

    Donald Trump isn’t wrong to think of the media elite as an enemy, even as Obama arrogantly poses as the defender of hardened observers such as ABC’s Terry Moran, who oozed in 2009 that Obama was “taking a step down into the Oval Office.”

    Biden has also called Trump "un-American" for his efforts to take down DACA; restricting Muslim immigration; and probably on more issues to come.


Last Modified 2020-08-23 11:30 AM EST

Peppermint

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

It's almost a genre in itself: revenge fantasy, where the hero suffers grievous loss, takes personal responsibility for vengeance against the perpetrators. Here, it is Jennifer Garner, who I keep expecting to snarl "What's in your wallet?" as she is dispatching one of her victims.

Not that she doesn't have a good reason to be pissed. Her husband made the mistake of considering, then turning down, an offer to assist in ripping off a drug dealer. Guess what, that's good enough for the drug dealer to order a drive-by on hubby, who just happens to be enjoying a night out with Jennifer and their cute young daughter. And Jennifer is (barely) the sole survivor. Man, that's rough.

Combine that with an utterly corrupt miscarriage of justice, and Jennifer develops an unusual mental attitude. (I almost said "goes crazy", but that would be too judgmental.) She drops out of normal society, self-trains to be an urban guerilla, and eventually starts shootin'. IMDB puts her body count at 43, which seems low.

Ms Garner was nominated for a Razzie "Worst Actress" award for her performance. That's kind of harsh. Anyway, she lost to Melissa McCarthy.

URLs du Jour

2020-08-22

[Amazon Link]

  • Need a break from politics? Check out Rob Long at Commentary on The Beauty Parton. Notable for how incomprehensible Dolly Parton's brain is to politics-obsessed New York City podcasters:

    For one thing, she resists labels. When the podcast producers cheerfully suggest that she’s a “feminist,” Dolly hesitates. She doesn’t like that word and wouldn’t use it to describe herself. This reaction sends the producers into a deeply confused state. They love Dolly and they love feminism, so by the Transitive Property of Politically Aligned Entertainment, Dolly must also love feminism. An entire episode ensues wherein the producers—who are genial and thoughtful and utterly ingenuous—interview as many women as they can who identify as feminists and Dolly fans, and then they present this evidence to Dolly as if to say, See? You’re a feminist!

    Dolly laughs and sighs. Okay, she says, I guess if it’s that important to you, maybe I am. But you can hear the half-hearted tone in her voice. Dolly refuses to be claimed.

    I'm not sure how the Commentary paywall works, but if you have problems, you might have better luck following the link found here.


  • Cato's Walter Olson asks whether it's appropriate to Dissolve The National Rifle Association.

    Earlier this month New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a civil action over alleged insider self‐​dealing against the National Rifle Association (NRA) and some of its top officers. Policing charity misconduct is among the longstanding powers of the New York Attorney General, and James advanced a substantial narrative of misconduct by high officials. Had she contented herself with seeking such lesser but potent sanctions as restitution of ill‐​gotten money and court orders barring wrongdoers from managing non‐​profits in the future, few outside NRA circles would pay much heed. (The case is not a criminal prosecution.)

    Instead James grabbed nationwide headlines by asking the court to dissolve the nation’s best‐​known gun rights organization in its entirety. Some of those praising her action were openly gleeful at the prospect that government action might shut down what is, from their perspective, a major opposition political group. For the very same reason, James’s demand has drawn deserved fire from a range of commentators who themselves can’t stand the NRA as a group, disagree with its view of Second Amendment rights, or both (a “violation of key democratic and rule‐​of‐​law norms [that] should be troubling …no matter one’s place on the political spectrum.”)

    Walter notes:

    There’s all the difference in the world between dropping a legal anvil on NRA insiders because you want to vindicate the interests of the organization’s donors and members, and demanding the group’s dissolution precisely because you don’t.

    I'm not an NRA member, but this is pretty clearly an effort to silence Second Amendment advocacy. And is therefore also an assault on the First Amendment.


  • Josiah Bartlett notes: Without a mask mandate, N.H.'s COVID-19 cases fell sharply this summer.

    For months, Democratic gubernatorial candidates Dan Feltes and Andru Volinsky have criticized Gov. Chris Sununu for not issuing an emergency order mandating that people wear face masks.

    As new cases have declined, the Democratic primary rivals have continued to press for a mandate, with Volinsky even hinting at masses of infected outsiders streaming over the border and spreading the virus in New Hampshire.

    “As Gov. Chris Sununu has chosen to open our malls, with hordes of Massachusetts shoppers coming from areas of concentrated contagion, we need to be even more careful to limit the spread of the virus. It is the cost of doing business. No shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service,” Volinsky wrote in May.

    Yet state data tracking the dates people contracted the illness show a steady decline in new COVID-19 cases since early May, when shopping malls reopened. Though restaurants reopened for indoor dining a month later, new confirmed cases continued to fall.

    Statists love the words "mandatory" and "mandate". It's their Pavlovian bell, gets them salivating.

    Since I love state-by-state comparisons, I've been going to the New York Times Covid-19 page daily to see how the little laboratories of democracy are doing. The visualizations are apples-to-apples comparisons, and it's pretty gratifying to notice how well we're doing on the cases-per-capita measure, despite being uncomfortably close to Massachusetts.


  • Gosh, an article at the Bulwark that doesn't contain a single mention of Donald Trump! It's by Andy Smarick: Protecting the Products of Liberty.

    A brilliant mind could study the rules of football and never predict that the I formation would end up as a classic arrangement for offensive players before the snap. That same genius could study the rules of chess and never predict that the Najdorf variation of the Sicilian Defense would become an essential opening. Only when millions of plays are run from scrimmage, and when billions of games of chess are played, do these sound strategies emerge. To be clear, those strategies are found nowhere in the rules. It’s when real people act inside of established parameters time and time and time again that robust solutions are discovered.

    A version of this insight is found in game theory. The rules of the “prisoner’s dilemma” seem to inevitably lead to a permanently suboptimal result. But play that game thousands of times in a tournament with other participants, and the unintuitive but optimaltit-for-tatstrategy is revealed. Such “iterated” games show that it is through activity inside of rules over time that we accumulate the wisdom necessary to succeed inside of those rules. We can call such strategies “emergent,” “spontaneous,” “unplanned,” or something else. But we must recognize them for what they are: evolved, experience-based responses to established conditions.

    Andy's argument is that certain outcomes are the "products of liberty". And it sounds very Hayekian, emergent order and all that, and Hayek is even referenced. Fine.

    But what are Andy's examples of "products of liberty"?

    People living in liberty learn lessons about family formation, theft, vandalism, homelessness, land use, professional licensing, alcohol sales, taxation, gambling, and much more.

    And I say: whoa. Some of those things are not like the others.

    For example: professional licensing. In real life, is that really an example of a community coming together to a consensus, saying that (for example) a Maine wood scaler needs to convince "the State Sealer that he is competent to measure wood using one or more authorized systems of measurement and successfully complete an examination as established by the State Sealer"?

    Or is that just an example of entrenched Maine wood scalers convincing the state to "cut down" (heh) competition?

URLs du Jour

2020-08-21

[Amazon Link]

Boy, I really got a lot of, um, unexpected results when I searched Amazon for "magic wand". I lead a sheltered life.

  • But Jim Geraghty makes a good point in his National Review newsletter. As opposed to what you might have thought from listening to Democrats all week: The Government Isn’t a Magic Wand.

    Every presidential challenger makes the job sound easier than it is. Harry Truman famously declared that Dwight Eisenhower had a naïve and unrealistic sense of how running the executive branch would work. “He’ll sit here, and he’ll say, ‘Do this! Do that!’ And nothing will happen. Poor Ike — it won’t be a bit like the Army . . . I sit here all day trying to persuade people to do the things they ought to have sense enough to do without my persuading them. . . . That’s all the powers of the president amount to.”

    A well-run executive branch that minimizes mistakes would be an epic achievement, but very few people in politics ever want to level with the American people.

    We would like to have a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that could roll out tests that worked the first time. We would like a Food and Drug Administration that didn’t require the CDC to retest every positive coronavirus test run by a public-health lab to confirm its accuracy, slowing everything down when time is of the essence. If a team from the U.S. State Department visits a Chinese virology lab and writes a memo describing “a shortage of the highly trained technicians and investigators required to safely operate,” we would like that memo to not just sit in someone’s desk drawer for a year.

    We'd also like an Internal Revenue Service that wasn't weaponized against political opponents, but I'd bet we're not gonna get that either.


  • In the Pun Salad "It's His Money, But Are You Kidding?" Department, Robby Soave reports at Reason: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Donates $10 Million to Ibram X. Kendi, Who Wants To Make Racism Unconstitutional.

    In a 2019 piece for POLITICO magazine, Kendi proposed a constitutional amendment that would prohibit racism. Here is his idea in full:

    To fix the original sin of racism, Americans should pass an anti-racist amendment to the U.S. Constitution that enshrines two guiding anti-racist principals: Racial inequity is evidence of racist policy and the different racial groups are equals. The amendment would make unconstitutional racial inequity over a certain threshold, as well as racist ideas by public officials (with "racist ideas" and "public official" clearly defined). It would establish and permanently fund the Department of Anti-racism (DOA) comprised of formally trained experts on racism and no political appointees. The DOA would be responsible for preclearing all local, state and federal public policies to ensure they won't yield racial inequity, monitor those policies, investigate private racist policies when racial inequity surfaces, and monitor public officials for expressions of racist ideas. The DOA would be empowered with disciplinary tools to wield over and against policymakers and public officials who do not voluntarily change their racist policy and ideas.

    Such an amendment would constitute a brazen assault on the principles of a free society. Kendi would like to empower a team of government bureaucrats who are beyond even the normal accountability of the political process. Their job would be to investigate both public and private racism, and "monitor public officials for expressions of racist ideas." Kendi's promise that what constitutes a "racist idea" would be "clearly defined" is hardly reassuring: There's no way such a department could avoid becoming an Orwellian nightmare—indeed, the very program would necessitate the formation of a kind of speech police.

    Robby points out that this "would constitute a brazen assault on the principles of a free society."

    And (as I continue to point out): Kendi is one of the scholars whose work is Officially Recommended as a "Racial Justice" resource at the University Near Here.


  • Hey, kids, what time is it? Our Google LFOD News Alert takes us to the proposal of Erik Corbett in the Union Leader: It's time to abandon The Pledge.

    IT’S ABOUT THAT TIME in New Hampshire’s two-year election cycle for conservatives to sign a pledge to keep your property taxes high and put the burden of funding schools and local government almost solely on the backs of property owners.

    Since the early 1970s, when Meldrim Thompson finally won the race for governor after three failed attempts by promising to veto any broad-based tax, it has been taken as gospel that candidates for governor must take “The Pledge”.

    For background information, Mel Thomson was a Georgia lawyer and state’s-rights fanatic. Once he settled in New Hampshire and became governor, he advocated for arming the National Guard with nuclear weapons, added “Live Free or Die” to our license plates and imprisoned a citizen who covered the phrase because of religious objections, had Massachusetts tax agents who were recording Massachusetts license plates at New Hampshire Liquor Stores arrested and sent the New Hampshire Attorney General to Maine to defend a lobsterman who had pulled a gun on Maine game wardens. In some ways, he was Trump when Trump was developing bone spurs in order to avoid going to Vietnam.

    OK, I get it: Erik hates Mel with a passion. But you know what? Mel has been dead for 19 years, and hasn't been governor for forty-one years.

    And I'm not sure about his history: it says here that LFOD was legislated onto state license plates in 1971. Mel didn't become governor until 1973. A lot of sources claim Mel single-handedly decreed putting the motto onto license plates, but I'm pretty sure he couldn't have done that on his own.

    And about the Pledge: it will go away when people elect enough candidates who fail to take it. This isn't rocket science, it's democracy.


  • Tech Crunch looks at a controversial software company, whose CEO had the gall to invoke LFOD in an interview: Palantir moves its HQ from Palo Alto to Denver as plans to go public percolate.

    Palantir CEO Alex Karp announced plans to move the company’s headquarters away from California in an Axios interview back in May.

    “We haven’t picked a place yet, but it’s going to be closer to the East Coast than the West Coast,” Karp said, adding that Colorado would be his guess for where the headquarters would land.

    In the same interview, Karp railed against what he called Silicon Valley’s “monoculture,” a reference to left-leaning views that generally characterize both Bay Area culture and the company’s vocal critics.

    […]

    All Palantir employees not currently working with customers in the field are working from home with no set plan to return to the office at this time. Karp, a frequent critic of Silicon Valley’s regional myopia, currently runs the company from his home in the libertarian enclave of New Hampshire.

    “I’m pretty happy outside the monoculture in New Hampshire and I like living free here,” Karp told Axios, referencing the state’s motto “Live free or die.”

    The "libertarian enclave of New Hampshire". Dude, we haven't legalized pot yet.

URLs du Jour

2020-08-20

[Amazon Link]

  • Rachelle Peterson writes at National Review on An Important Step in the Fight to Ban Chinese Confucius Institutes.

    Alabama is poised to become the first state to take up legislation banning public colleges and universities from hosting Confucius Institutes, the Chinese government-sponsored campus centers that propagandize for Beijing and serve as outposts of Communist Party espionage. State representative Tommy Hanes recently unveiled a draft proposal to ban the centers, which immediately drew public support from Alabama congressman Mo Brooks.

    The bill would prohibit public universities in Alabama from “providing support for, funding for, or use of its campus facilities” for “cultural institutes that are affiliated with, funded by, or supported by the government of China.” It would affect both of Alabama’s existing Confucius Institutes, at Alabama A&M and Troy University. (A third Confucius Institute, at Auburn University at Montgomery, closed quietly a few years ago.)

    Well, that would be pretty neat to emulate up here. Instead, the Confucius Institute at the University Near Here is still muddling along.


  • At Reason, Nick Gillespie reports on The ‘Highest Single-Day of COVID-19 Deaths’ That Wasn’t.

    Under the best of circumstances, reporting on COVID-19 is tough. There are simply too many unknowns, and even when officials aren't manipulating the truth they aren't always willing to cop to the fact that they really don't have solid answers.

    But there's really no excuse for journalism as sloppy and misleading as the August 13 ABC News segment whose headline blared "US reports highest single-day of COVID-19 deaths." This video was widely shared, appearing not just on the main ABC News site, but also on Good Morning America, MSN.com, and elsewhere. And it simply wasn't true.

    ABC has retroactively corrected itself, but how many bleary-eyed saps who believe Good Morning America caught the correction, which was not delivered with the same fervor as the lie?


  • We've long observed that "Progressives" aren't that innovative. Instead they're devoted to the past. (Most recent: Protect the United States Postal Service! With more money!)

    And they are wedded to decades-old warhorses. But as George F. Will reminds us: Progressives want a new New Deal. The old one failed at its main task.

    Today’s oddly retrospective progressives locate progress in a past that they hope will soon be revisited. They call for a new New Deal to resuscitate the economy from the pandemic-induced contraction. For example, James Roosevelt Jr., grandson of the New Deal’s creator, and Henry Scott Wallace, grandson of Henry Wallace, who was agriculture secretary during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first two terms and vice president during the third, recently exhorted Joe Biden to “go even bigger” than FDR, who promised — and delivered — “bold, persistent experimentation.” The grandsons recommend the sort of “jobs programs that were successfully implemented through the New Deal.” Well.

    The current unemployment rate is properly described as disastrous: 10.2 percent. In 1939, the sixth year of the New Deal’s bold, persistent experimentation, the unemployment rate was 17.2 percent. On May 9 of that year, Roosevelt’s treasury secretary, Henry Morgenthau, testified to the House Ways and Means Committee:

    “We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. And I have just one interest, and if I am wrong . . . somebody else can have my job. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises. . . . I say after eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. . . . And an enormous debt to boot!”

    But surely there's a magic wand in Uncle Stupid's bag of tricks!


  • Pierre Lemieux celebrates an American Nostradamus: Mencken’s 100-Year-Old Prediction Realized, Twice.

    Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956) was an elitist libertarian (which, by itself, raises iconoclastic questions) and one of those free speakers who did not always, in his writings, engage in civil conversation. One hundred years ago, in the Baltimore Evening Sun of July 26, 1920, Mencken made a striking prediction, which, barring improbable events, is certain to be realized in less than three months, and for the second time in four years:

    As democracy is perfected, the office [of president] represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people … On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

    To repeat: to save our country, Pun Salad demands that the candidates be subjected to a blindly-administered series of exams on civics, current events, basic math and science, and general intelligence. Perhaps an essay question or two.

    Actually, this should have happened before the primaries. But now is OK.

The Dam Busters

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

An earnest 1955 WW2 movie, based on actual events. I think I got it because there's a Star Wars connection: George Lucas ripped off adapted a lot of the dam-busting scenes for the death star-blowup scenes in his movie.

Sorry, I guess that's a spoiler for both movies.

It's the story of an innovative idea to take down some dams above the Ruhr Valley: they provide power for the Axis factories below, and (bonus) you'd also get some damage to the Nazi war machine by simple flooding. Unfortunately, conventional straight-down bombing won't work: adequate-sized bombs are too heavy to be carried by available bombers. And the dams are guarded from torpedos by netting. So an ingenious doctor who's in on the problem proposes to skip mines (like stones in a pond) over the water surface, hitting the dams in their most vulnerable spots with relatively lightweight explosives.

Problem: this movie is very earnest, and (hence) super boring. 1.75 hours, and it seems much, much longer. Dudes, get to the exploding part!

Robert Shaw is in it!

There's a pre-movie disclaimer/warning about one bit of language in the movie. An unfortunate dog bears an unfortunate name (as in real life), and … well, it's a word I've never used in this blog (I checked), and I don't plan to start now. (The closest I've come was in 2009, when I referred to "sniggering MSNBC hacks".)

You can read about the actual operation at Wikipedia.

The Daughter

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

One of Mrs. Salad's picks. Not awful, but eh.

I had a vague recollection of Chekhov's gun while watching this movie: "One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn't going to go off." Well, kids: a shotgun shows up in this movie. What do you think is going to happen?

OK, so it's based on a play ("The Wild Duck") by the Norwegian Ibsen, not the Russian Chekov. The action is moved to Australia. Henry, the rich guy in town is closing down his lumber mill, causing economic chaos in the community. But he's also getting married to his much younger ex-housekeeper, which brings in his grown son (Christian) who's been living in America, doing jobs that Americans won't do. We learn that Christian is an alcoholic is trying very hard to get sober. He connects back up with his pal Oliver, and his wife, Charlotte, and their precocious, sensitive, adventurous daughter, Hedvig.

Hedvig is the titular Daughter. And there's a secret about her that both Mrs. Salad and I figured out within about five minutes of her introduction. No spoilers here, but please: the (totally unnecessary) revelation of this secret turns everyone's life upside down and sends friendships and lives onto a path of destruction. (Not to mention that there wasn't a lot of reason for the secret to exist in the first place.)

Acting is decent. Am I the only one who keeps getting Miranda Otto (Charlotte) mixed up with Emily Mortimer? Are they related?

The Catcher Was a Spy

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

As I've previously mentioned: I keep my Netflix DVD queue in descending order by their algorithm's predicted rating for me. Good stuff at the top, in other words. But since there's been a paucity of good new movies coming down the pipe, we're getting down into the mediocre three-star ratings.

So it's a pleasant surprise when a movie outperforms the Netflix prediction. Like this one. Perhaps I was seduced by the opening scene recreating a 1939 Fenway Park. Oooh!

Why are we there? Because the catcher in question, Moe Berg, wound up his professional baseball career with the Red Sox in 1939. There's a pretty good scene where Moe (played by Paul Rudd) discusses his prospects with Joe Cronin (played by the great Shea Whigham). But you know who else was on the Red Sox that year? Ted Williams! Jimmie Foxx! Man, I would have liked to see them too! But no, because…

Moe quits pro ball; even though he's made The Show, he is, let's face it, not destined for the Hall of Fame. (Unlike Williams and Cronin.) But he's very smart, and patriotic, and as fate would have it, he goes to work for "Wild Bill" Donovan (Jeff Daniels) and the OSS as a spy. The fact-based movie has Moe embark on a perilous mission: into Switzerland, aiming to infiltrate a party to which Werner Heisenberg (Mark Strong) has been invited. And if Moe determines that Heisenberg has a real shot at coming up with a Nazi A-bomb, he's supposed to shoot Heisenberg dead. Understandable.

Now, since I'm a lapsed physics major, I know that Heisenberg lived into his 70s. Oops, sorry, spoiler there. But the movie maintains a pretty good level of suspense anyway. And Paul Rudd does a pretty good job dealing with a straight dramatic role: no superhero stuff, and very little comedy. (He does a very good droll delivery.)

URLs du Jour

2020-08-19

Eye candy du jour is a tweet from spiked.

She's back now, and has a message for Twitter Support:

This could be a result of selection bias, but there seems to be a pronounced political asymmetry in these "innocent errors". I wonder if Wired will be investigating this any time soon? … Nah, just kidding!

  • Catching up with last week's Geraghty, who notes…

    Trump is president, but the world does not really respond to him as if he’s president anymore. He’s just some guy who goes out and says things, either from the White House or on Twitter, that have little impact on what the federal government actually does.

    He’s kept far away from the White House staff’s negotiations with Congress about economic relief. His own staff reportedly “routinely ignores his orders.” After Trump threatened to use the Insurrection Act to send the U.S. military into cities to control riots, Defense secretary Mark Esper publicly disagreed: “The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now.”

    Even the Republicans in the Senate now ignore Trump’s veto threats.

    There's more. You should subscribe to Geraghty's "Morning Jolt" newsletter, or at least the RSS feed.


  • Another guy I read is Jeff Jacoby. In his latest web-accessible article he looks at (among other things, also worth reading): Sexism and the female running mate. He has a memory stretching all the way back to 2008…

    A standard tactic on the Democratic left these days is to cry "Sexism!" when anyone criticizes a liberal female candidate or points out her political weaknesses. Elizabeth Warren's liberal allies, many of them in the media, routinely deployed the "sexism" card in response to even the mildest negative appraisal during the Democratic primary campaign. So it was no surprise that Joe Biden's choice of Kamala Harris to be his running mate was instantly swaddled in dire predictions about the deluge of sexist attacks to come.

    Indeed, even before Biden had named Harris, a group of prominent women affiliated with such left-wing organizations as Planned Parenthood, Emily's List, NARAL, and the National Women's Law Center fired off a memo to news organizations, warning that they would be guilty of sexism if in the course of the coming campaign they report on the ambition, likeability, electability, temper, appearance, leadership shortcomings, or political relationships of the Democrat's vice-presidential candidate — whoever she might be.

    "We will be watching you," intoned the memo. "We expect change. We expect a new way of thinking about your role in how she is treated and the equality she deserves relative to the three men running for President and Vice President."

    Jeff has plenty of examples of how those rules didn't apply to Sarah Palin. It would be interesting to see how quickly Jimmy Kimmel would be fired if he made the same joke about Kamala Harris today as he did about Sarah Palin in 2008. Would it be measured in minutes or seconds? Would he have gotten to the end of the joke before being wrestled off the set?


  • In our "Don't Worry, I Won't" department, Nick Gillespie at Reason advises: Don’t Blame Donald Trump if the Post Office Loses Your Vote.

    By now you've probably heard that President Donald Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy "are sabotaging democracy in plain sight" through a mix of nefarious ploys, ranging from removing "blue Post Office drop boxes" to scrapping mail-sorting machines to allegedly mandating a slowdown in delivering the mail. The upshot of the chatter is that Trump, fearful of losing the election in November, is supposedly doing everything possible to block what is expected to be a historically high level of mail-in ballots. (Meanwhile, the president has been stoking his own conspiracy theories by preemptively declaring the upcoming vote "the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history.")

    The truth is far less incendiary, though still troubling. As USA Today concluded in a fact-check of various rumors floating around,

    it is false to say mail is intentionally being slowed, despite reports that a new USPS [United States Postal Service] system might inherently cause delays. The Trump administration said the president did not direct USPS to slow down its deliveries, and USA TODAY found no evidence of that claim being true either.

    In any case, as NPR and other outlets have reported, the president has said he'd sign a bill including more funding for the Postal Service, including aid dedicated to processing any surge in mail-in votes.

    There are any number of problems you can validly blame on Trump, but…


  • On the same topic, Daniel Mitchell writes on The Make-Believe Postal Service Panic and the Tenth Theorem of Government

    Politicians and interest groups periodically fan the flames of temporary panic to push for misguided policy. We’ve already seen three big examples this century.

    • The so-called PATRIOT Act was enacted in the feverish aftermath of 9-11, but many of its provisions simply added bureaucracy and gave government new/expanded powers unrelated to fighting terrorism.
    • The TARP bailout allegedly was needed to save us for financial collapse, but in reality was a substitute for a policy (FDIC resolution) that would have recapitalized the banking system without bailing out Wall Street.
    • Obama’s stimulus scheme had to be enacted to supposedly save the nation from another depression, but unemployment soared beyond administration projections and cronies got rich from boondoggles.

    The same thing is now happening with the Postal Service, which ostensibly is on the verge of catastrophic collapse because of an expected increase in mail-in voting and sabotage by the Trump Administration.

    The real story, though, is that bureaucracy has been losing money at a rapid pace for years and the only sensible solution is privatization. But that would upset the various postal unions and related interest groups, so they’ve created a make-believe crisis in hopes of getting more cash from taxpayers.

    And this has nothing to do with Trump vs. Biden.

    Indeed. But what's the Tenth Theorem of Government?

    Politicians and interest groups fan the flames of panic to obtain goodies that would be impossible in normal circumstances.

    So… well, I was about to type it, but there's an Amazon Product:

    [Amazon Link]

URLs du Jour

2020-08-18

  • Hey, kids! Remember "Security Theater"? 363,000 Google hits, and a helpful Wikipedia entry is right on top of them.

    Security theater is the practice of investing in countermeasures intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to achieve it.

    Clayton Cramer invites us to think about "Public Health Theater" in a similar way.

    COVID-19 is a real public health crisis, but requiring masks at home while teleconferencing (Wisconsin) or in uncrowded open air (Illinois) are both public health theater.

    As I type, Googling "Public Health Theater" gives only 38,400 hits.

    A large fraction of people who were, and are, properly skeptical of security theater seem to be totally buying into public health theater.


  • And (hey, kids) what time is it? At National Review, Cathy Ruse and Tony Perkins say it's time to Rethink Public Education.

    What’s that popping sound? Could it be a million figurative lightbulbs clicking on above public-school parents’ heads?

    The vast majority of American families send their children to public schools. Only 11 percent of children attend private schools, and fewer than 5 percent are homeschooled. And as one school board after another gives the no go signal for the coming school year, families are being thrown into crisis. And yet, the great American entrepreneurial spirit is awakening as parents are forced to rethink education for their children. And that is to the benefit of children and the nation.

    Cathy and Tony are from the Family Research Council, which is a "hate group" according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Which, in turn, inspired a lunatic to pop into FRC's DC headquarters with a rifle, aiming to kill "as many employees as possible".

    Maybe the SPLC should designate itself as a hate group.


  • At the Federalist, Mollie Hemingway took on the unenviable task of reading the New York Times: NYT Manipulates FBI Lawyer's Guilty Plea To Hide Real Spygate News.

    A New York Times reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize for his role perpetrating the Russia collusion hoax was tasked with framing the news that a former top FBI lawyer was to plead guilty to deliberately fabricating evidence against a Donald Trump campaign affiliate targeted in the Russia probe. The resulting article is a case study in how to write propaganda.

    Adam Goldman broke, and cushioned, the news that former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith was to plead guilty to fabricating evidence in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant application to spy on Trump campaign affiliate Carter Page.

    Perhaps Adam Goldman is aiming for the Walter Duranty Prize for Journalistic Integrity?


  • At the NYPost, Rich Lowry considers The left’s lunatic ‘postal’ conspiracy theory. This time it's about the Postal "Service".

    At this rate, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy will be lucky if he isn’t arrested and tried for treason before a people’s tribunal.

    DeJoy has quickly replaced Vladimir Putin as the man that progressive opinion will hold responsible if Trump wins a second term in November.

    According to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, DeJoy is a “complicit crony” aiding Trump’s effort to sabotage American democracy. She believes the two have hatched a plot to delay mail-in voting and disenfranchise countless Americans prior to the election.

    Debunking ensues. At Inside Sources, Michael Graham notes that our state's senior Senator has bought into the theory:

    Shaheen tweeted out a news story about the Manchester mail processing center shutting down 20 percent of its mail sorting machines, with the ominous warning: “This is unacceptable. The admin’s attempt to sabotage the USPS is hurting our veterans and seniors who rely on the mail to get prescription drugs delivered.”

    “@USPS is the only federal agency mentioned in the Constitution,” Shaheen insisted in another tweet. “More Americans than ever are relying on mail to conduct business, get prescription drugs & exercise their right to vote. We cannot — & will not — let President Trump dismantle the Postal Service. #DontMessWithUSPS,” Shaheen warned.

    “Dismantle the Postal Service?” That claim has as much factual basis as GOP warnings that Democrats intend to “defund the police.”

    I wish Trump wanted to dismantle USPS. But I'm just a cranky libertarian.

    I'm about as radical as this WaPo editorial from 2009.

    Europe's increasingly privatized mail services offer exciting examples of postal possibilities in the 21st century. They are leaner and greener than the U.S. service because they work with, not against, the Internet. Switzerland's Swiss Post, for example, employs green technology, providing customers with secure, address-linked online mailboxes where they can view scanned images of their mail and decide whether to virtually "open" it, discard it or have it physically mailed to them. This system has greatly increased efficiency, promoted recycling and decreased junk mail.

    But I was informed that all those countries were socialist.


  • Instapundit asks: Have you noticed how the left moves seamlessly from one batshit conspiracy theory to another, while calling the right paranoid?. And links to a PJMedia story by Rick Moran, sample:

    That dastardly Donald Trump is at it again. He is either the evilest man ever to hold the office of president or the dumbest. He is either a Machiavellian genius manipulating the media and his hypnotized followers or a bumbling know-nothing idiot.

    Trump is being accused of sabotaging the November elections because he won’t give the postal unions and incompetent managers in the postal service $25 billion to play with. The money will stave off catastrophe for about a year at the rate the USPS is burning through cash. Without that money, we’re informed by those in the know, thousands — no, tens of thousands — no, millions of voters who wait until the last minute to mail in an absentee ballot might not have their votes counted because, well, Trump.

    This conspiracy theory will only last as long as it's useful.

URLs du Jour

2020-08-17

[Amazon Link]

  • At American Consequences, P. J. O'Rourke reviews Joe Biden’s 564 pages of empty promises.

    But although Joe has a plan for everything and can’t shut up when explaining his plans, he doesn’t make it easy to find out exactly what these plans are. (And perhaps that’s a wise move for someone trying to attract “Anybody-But-Trump” moderate voters.)

    If you care to repeat my reading experience, you’ll have to go to the “Joe Biden for President: Official Campaign Website” and get past all the pestering for donations and amateurish videos of Joe interacting with highly diverse and moderately enthusiastic supporters until you find the little “Menu” icon among the screen clutter.

    Click on that, and you’ll be presented with a list of (not very enticing) options. Ignoring “Home,” “Joe’s Story,” “Action Center,” “The Latest,” “Store,” “How to Vote,” and “En Español,” click on “Joe’s Vision.” This will take you to “Bold Ideas.” Beneath that heading, there’s an array of 43 boxes similar to Jeopardy! categories. (And unless you lack any political conservatism whatsoever and are bereft of every libertarian principle, the “jeopardy” comparison is apt.)

    Peej summarizes: "Every one of the 43 platform planks seems to have been written by perfervid freshmen political-science majors in a dorm room bull session after taking methamphetamine."

    But RTWT, if you can stand finding out about the progressive vapidity emitted by the campaign that the oddsmakers (still) favors to win in November.


  • The print version of National Review features a paywalled James Lileks: Transform It All.

    Does Joe Biden write his tweets? Does an aide gently guide his finger to the keys on his phone while humming a soothing melody? Whoever’s in charge of his account, this was sent a few weeks ago:

    “We’re going to beat Donald Trump. And when we do, we won’t just rebuild this nation — we’ll transform it.”

    Barack Obama made the same pledge, noting his intention to fundamentally transform America. Some credulous folk thought this meant “improve,” but that’s like saying you “improved” the Mona Lisa by painting it over, Jackson Pollock–style. No, that would be a transformation.

    The Left adores transformation, because it means the old miserable manifestations of the culture are remade to their wishes. Like this:

    “Hey, you like hamburgers? We’re going to transform them! Now you’ll eat lab-grown pseudo-beef with ground-up insects! Yes, we’re transforming the American diet, because meat is patriarchal, causes climate change, and also mustard is racist.”

    “How is mustard racist?”

    “I’m not going to perform unpaid labor to teach you. Educate yourself. Do the work. Read a book. I suggest Yellow Peril: How Condiments Led to the Anti-Chinese Riots of 1886. If you want to decolonize your burger, it’s a good place to start.”

    And, well, that's probably beyond fair use, but trust me. It's good. Subscribe if possible. Or wander into a decent library, it's the August 10 issue.


  • Boy, I'm already sick of the USPS brouhaha. One of the few islands of sanity is (of course) Eric Boehm at Reason: A Coronavirus Bailout Won’t Save (or Fix) the USPS.

    Congress has proposed a $25 billion bailout for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) as part of the latest COVID-19 stimulus bill, but it's unlikely that any amount of cash will be enough to stabilize the agency's finances. Postmaster General Megan Brennan told the House Oversight Committee in April that the postal service stands to lose $13 billion this year. That's an acceleration of an ongoing trend, not a new problem created by the coronavirus pandemic; the post office has lost $69 billion since 2007.

    In May, a report from the Government Accountability Office called the agency's business model "not financially sustainable"—a conclusion it had reached before the impact of the coronavirus was factored in. The report called for Congress to make changes to "critical foundational elements" of how USPS operates. In other words, COVID-19 might be an easy scapegoat to justify a federal bailout, but the pandemic is not the main problem, and a bailout would not be a permanent solution.

    Hey, if they can lose $13 billion in a year, they can certainly lose your mail-in ballot. Especially if they've been semi-reliably delivering copies of Reason to your mailbox for 30 years, they might get the idea that you're not a USPS fan.


  • I heard Biden say this, and made the mistake of talking to my TV: "That's stupid." And Thomas A. Firey of Cato agrees: No Joe, Governors Shouldn’t Require Everyone to Wear a Mask When Outside. Bottom line:

    And yet, Biden is wrong that governors should require U.S. residents to wear masks whenever they’re outside. Many times, when people are outside their homes, they do not put others at involuntary risk of infection. From hiking and biking on public lands, to boating and fishing public waterways, to driving on public roads, to outdoor activities on private property (but not at home), and countless other instances, there are plenty of instances where mask‐​wearing creates little or no involuntary risk of infection. A general mask mandate would thus produce countless government failures.

    Statewide mask mandates would both violate the principles of limited government and cause unnecessary harm to citizens. As I explain in my paper, mask policy should be left to local governments (a point that applies to both Biden and to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, both of whom at one time prohibited local mask ordinances). At the local level, policymakers are more responsive to citizens and the ordinances can be better tailored to address specific circumstances—including, perhaps, cases where there is no community spread and no need for masks.

    Apparently the strategy of providing the citizenry with accurate and full information and allowing them to judge their own risk levels is only taken seriously by those wacky libertarians.


  • And (in a column helpfully labeled "Humor") Rich Cromwell has advice at the Federalist for our favorite government agency, because rockets. Dear NASA: Don't Stop With Renaming 'Eskimo Nebula.' Probe Uranus.

    Finally, NASA is doing something important: Taking a closer look at the nicknames for cosmic objects.

    In a real and not satiric press release announcing the move, Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Science Mission Directorate, said, “Our goal is that all names are aligned with our values of diversity and inclusion, and we’ll proactively work with the scientific community to help ensure that. Science is for everyone, and every facet of our work needs to reflect that value.”

    This comes a little too late. It is 2020, after all. It also focuses on things like the Eskimo Nebula and the Siamese Twin Galaxy, and doesn’t take into account all celestial bodies. The sad fact is that it’s time to cancel all the planets in the solar system, starting with Uranus.

    Discovered in 1781, the seventh stone from the sun was named for the Greek god of the sky. Although all the other planets except for Earth are named for Greek gods, this is especially troubling as the god of the sky is the sun, unless you have a misbegotten belief in a geocentric universe. Even then, though, no way Uranus would get the crown.

    In case you worry that Rich might slip into 13-year-old jokes about Uranus… don't worry, he totally does.

In Sunlight and in Shadow

[Amazon Link]

I was pointed to this 2012 book by National Review’s Summer Reading List 2020, a recommendation by Alexandra DeSanctis. I got it on a curbside pickup from Portsmouth Public Library, a two week loan, about 700 pages, which meant I had to polish off fifty pages a day. That's a little fast, especially when the author, Mark Helprin, is a wonderfully lush writer, inviting you to linger over lovely lengths of description and musing. Sorry, Mark, we're on to the next page already!

It's (mostly) set in postwar New York City and environs, and things kick off when our hero, Harry Copeland, espies the lovely Catherine Hale aboard the Staten Island Ferry. It is love at first sight, and it does not run smooth. First of all, she's betrothed to Victor, who turns out to be kind of a bad guy. That has to be undone. The business that Harry's inherited, purveying fine leather products for retail sale, gets targeted by a nasty mobster. And Catherine, who (it turns out) has a supporting role in a Broadway-bound musical find her career path threatened by mysterious corrupt influences.

So: it's a love story, and it might make you feel a little guilty about the depths of your devotion to your own Significant Other. Harry and Catherine never make the mistake of taking their relationship for granted.

There is a long flashback to Harry's wartime experiences, as part of an elite unit performing particularly dangerous operations behind enemy lines. This sets up for the book's climax, but no spoilers here.

The plot is character-driven, by which I mean that the stuff that happens seems inevitably guided by the sort of people Harry and Catherine (and the supporting cast) are. Many decent, some impressively heroic.

Jay Nordlinger (it turns out) had a five-part essay on the book at the National Review website back in 2013. If you're interested: Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five.

Here's a bit I found amusing: one of the characters notices a movie poster and we're obviously meant to think that it's the inspiration for a famous fictional character.

[Dear Ruth]

See it? Obviously true, right?

But wrong, according to Wikipedia:

Although it is sometimes mistakenly believed that J. D. Salinger got the name for his character Holden Caulfield, in The Catcher in the Rye and other works, when he saw a marquee for [Dear Ruth] the first Holden Caulfield story, "I'm Crazy", was published in December 1945, a year and a half before the movie's release.

So: it's an unbelievable cosmic coincidence.

The Decadent Society

How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success

[Amazon Link]

A few months back, I found myself embroiled in a debate over at Granite Grok with an earnest Progressive who insisted that "living standards in this country have declined for the vast majority since 1980." Apparently a Reagan hater. They tend to view 1980, specifically November 1980, as the date America began its long slow slide into the toilet.

I think I got the better of that mini-debate. (Life expectancy: up since 1980; median income: up; unemployment: down; inflation: way down; poverty rate: down; …) But my adversary would have done better if he had a copy of this Ross Douthat book. Ross believes that we are slipping into decadence. And not just the US of A, but pretty much your entire furshlugginer Western Civilization as a whole. Oh well, fun while it lasted.

Ross doesn't have a particular political axe to grind, because the signs are everywhere, trends have been accumulating for decades. Manned space exploration has gotten boring, since it's running up against barriers of cost and technology. Actual economic growth shows signs of stalling out. Dynamism, research, entrepreneurship are down. Population growth is off. Politicians are more concerned with power grabs and partisan gains than actually working to find common ground. (When was the last innovative government program, anyway?) Religious participation is down.

And media seems to be recycling itself. Yeah, the new movie I most want to see is… the new James Bond flick. I saw the first one in 1962, thanks very much.

There are two ways things could end. Decadence might be sustainable! Good news for folks already in comfortable positions, poised to grab their share of a static economic pie. Not great news for people stuck at the bottom. Presumably, in order for the status quo to be "sustainable" their resentments will have to be managed. Maybe more drugs could be legalized.

Or something interesting could happen. Here, Ross advances possible scenarios, which are less convincing, but he could be right. An Africa-driven renaissance, maybe? A religious revival: Islam, Christianity, or…

Anyway, a thought-provoking book, by one of the New York Times pet conservatives. (He's over here in this cage…)

Quote du Jour from David Mamet

From David Mamet's (paywalled) essay in the August 10, 2020 issue of National Review.

Now, I don’t know what Systemic Racism is, but neither does anyone else. Like Social Justice, any communicable meaning is destroyed by the adjective. Both terms are indictments of Human Evil; its perpetrators are easily identifiable: They are those who request a definition.

The essay is titled "The Nazis Got Your Mom". I don't want to be a shill, but that's pretty tempting clickbait.

The Phony Campaign

2020-08-16 Update

In this week's Eye Candy, Michael Ramirez celebrates Wheezy Joe's Veep pick: [Baggage]

Our two-row table was looking pretty pathetic, so I tossed in the Libertarian Party candidate, Jo Jorgenson, and the Green Party candidate, someone named Howie Hawkins.

What our country needs: a president with a nine-year-old's name. (Didn't we learn from President Jimmy?)

President Bone Spurs closed his win-probability gap with Biden by another 2.8 net percentage points, Hm, with 11 weeks to go, and assuming he keeps closing at the same rate… nope, not going to do that.

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
8/9
Phony
Results
Change
Since
8/9
Donald Trump 40.4% +1.6% 2,670,000 +1,110,000
Joe Biden 56.6% -1.2% 1,060,000 +555,000
Howie Hawkins 0.0% --- 92,500 ---
Jo Jorgensen 0.0% --- 26,400 ---

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • Of course, the Trump campaign's video in response to the Kamala pick is right up our alley: "Slow Joe and Phony Kamala".

    Uh, sure.


  • But you're wondering: should we count on Kamala Harris?. Fortunately, Jim Geraghty has the answer: Don’t Count on Kamala Harris.

    There’s a reason people laughed so hard at Maya Rudolph’s portrayal of Harris as a woman who thinks she’s in a TNT legal drama. Harris often speaks like she’s the protagonist of a John Grisham novel — grandiose tributes to the law and justice that just happen to align with whatever she politically needs at any particular moment.

    Harris did rise further, winning election to the U.S. Senate. Winning a statewide Democratic primary in California is usually a matter of money, name recognition, and which competitor has the strongest preexisting base of support; Harris had already won statewide races, and Representative Loretta Sanchez had not. But Harris’s arrival in Washington coincided with the arrival of Donald Trump, an event that filled the Democrat Party with an endless rage that they could lose to a man like him. Democrats wanted anger during the Trump era, so Harris repositioned herself as the administration’s toughest foe in the Senate.

    You probably noticed that Harris flip-flopped on Medicare for All, independent reviews of police shootings, decriminalizing border crossings, and abolishing ICE. She hit Joe Biden for opposing a federal mandate for busing but later said she herself wouldn’t support a federal mandate. For all her toughness and tributes to principle, she repeatedly demonstrated that she would say whatever was needed to impress the audience in front of her.

    And she has the disquieting habit of laughing uproariously at something she's just said. It doesn't have to be remotely funny. Sample:

    It's probably sexist of me, but I find this extremely grating.


  • Via Ann Althouse, a Biden tweet:

    Ann quotes Breitbart:

    Breitbart reacts: "Former Vice President Joe Biden tweeted Sunday that 'Michael Brown’s life was taken in Ferguson' — a reference to the founding myth of the Black Lives Matter movement, which claimed Brown was murdered by police in cold blood.... Left-wing activists popularized the slogan 'Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,' and claimed that Brown had been shot in the back with his hands raised in a gesture of surrender. Journalists and mainstream media pundits gave credence to the claim.... The Department of Justice under the Obama-Biden administration investigated Brown’s death and confirmed that there was no basis for charging Wilson under federal law. The investigation also suggested that Brown had attacked Wilson in his patrol car, reaching into the vehicle and attempting to seize the officer’s gun. In the ensuing struggle, part of Brown’s thumb was shot off. Brown ran away, and Officer Wilson pursued him. Wilson fired only when Brown charged at him...."

    That's impressively phony pandering right there. Joe should say: "Under a Biden Administration, the Department of Justice will railroad cops without regard to evidence or due process."


  • And in our "It's A Funny Old World" Department, Jacob Sullum notes a tad of hypocrisy: Rejecting Biden’s Threat of a Nationwide Mask Mandate, Trump Suddenly Respects Limits on Presidential Power.

    Democrats, who routinely complain about Donald Trump's power grabs when they do not like the results, quickly change their tune when they see presidential orders as the easiest way to impose a nationwide policy they favor. Trump, meanwhile, never hesitates to assert authority he does not have, except when it comes to policies he opposes.

    That utterly unprincipled approach to executive power is vividly illustrated by the debate between Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden about face mask mandates, which yesterday led Trump to utter these words: "If the president has the unilateral power to order every single citizen to cover their face in nearly all instances, what other powers does he have?" This is the same man who last April asserted "total" authority over COVID-19 lockdowns, saying "the president of the United States calls the shots."

    Probably both Biden and Trump are of the right age to have watched Woody Allen's Bananas and thinking it was a documentary.


  • And Elle Reynolds of the Federalist reports: Biden Touts Catholic Faith A Month After Vowing To Crack Down On Nuns.

    The Democratic National Convention’s Twitter account posted a video touting Biden’s Catholic background on Sunday, exactly one month after Biden vowed to strip a group of nuns of their right to refuse providing contraceptives that violate their Catholic beliefs.

    Someone needs to give Joe a sharp rap on the knuckles with a ruler.

URLs du Jour

2020-08-15

[Amazon Link]

  • I am not a member of the National Rifle Association, and (I hear) that its upper management may well be living high off the hog on membership dues and fundraising. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be troubled by what Kevin D. Williamson sees in its legal troubles with the NY Attorney General: The Emergence of Distributed Police State.

    […], it is important to understand that there are at least three things going on with the New York attorney general’s attempt to have the National Rifle Association legally dissolved: The first of those things is a political jihad that may or may not end with the NRA’s having its charter revoked but that certainly will subject it to ruinous litigation costs and disruption, a transparent effort to sideline it before the November election; the second is a longer-term effort to discredit the NRA by appealing to the same kind of envy-based politics that were deployed against Mrs. Dole [and her high salary at the American Red Cross] all those years ago; the third, currently being treated almost as an afterthought, is a legitimate investigation into potential financial wrongdoing at the NRA, of which there is more than a whiff.

    KDW goes on to note that Wayne LaPierre has not been charged with any crime, and that doesn't seem to be in the offing. The point, it seems, is to use the legal system to get rid of an organization that's a bulwark against one piece of the progressive agenda.


  • Bernard Goldberg explains: Why I Want Biden to Lose More than I Want Trump to Win.

    As regular readers of my column know, I’m no fan of Donald Trump. And that’s putting it mildly.

    I don’t like his chronic dishonesty. I don’t like narcissism. I don’t like his nastiness and his silly name-calling. I detest his need to constantly cause chaos, as he did with a recent tweet suggesting we should postpone the 2020 presidential election. There’s nothing about this man’s character that I like.

    Actually what I mean is that I hope the Republican candidate beats the Democratic candidate. And I wish the Republican candidate were almost anybody else. But since “almost anybody else” isn’t running, I hope Joe Biden loses more than I’m actively rooting for Donald Trump to win. If that’s akin to a distinction without a difference … so be it.

    I see his point, although my list of Trump problems would be much longer.

    If I were (somehow) forced to choose between Trump and Biden, fine, I'd take Trump. But fortunately we do not live in a world where I would be forced to make that choice. We live in a world where I'll probably have a couple more options, and one where my choice wouldn't make a difference anyway.


  • A powerful story at Quillette from Robert Frodeman who describes his Ordeal by Title IX.

    I missed the call. But the fact that it had been made on a Saturday morning—September 29th, 2018—was cause for concern. Why was the dean, who never phoned me, calling on a weekend? When I rang back his voice was tense. He informed me that he was removing me from my classes “effective immediately.” I was told to expect an email informing me of this decision. I was no longer allowed on campus. Nor was I permitted to contact any member of the faculty, staff, or students, “on pain of termination.” No reason was given for any of this. Nor was I given a chance to defend myself.

    Twelve days earlier I had received a letter from the University stating that I was the subject of a Title IX investigation. The letter said that an inquiry had been opened in June, prompted by an anonymous complaint concerning two departments on campus, one of which was mine. That inquiry uncovered an allegation that I had sexually harassed a graduate student in 2006. No information was given about the source or content of this allegation. The letter, dated September 17th, said nothing about disciplinary action. What had changed between then and my sudden removal on the 29th? The email that arrived later that day provided no explanation.

    It's long. And if you're academically-affiliated, you should find it scary.


  • Drew Cline of the Josiah Bartlett Center looks at a dustup between the two major Democrats running for the chance to lose to Chris Sununu: In the Feltes vs. Volinsky fight over natural gas, Feltes is right.

    The two candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for governor are engaged in a heated dispute over natural gas. Though both support transitioning to 100% “clean energy,” state Sen. Dan Feltes would use natural gas in the transition; Executive Councilor Volinsky would not.

    Feltes would rely on natural gas as a bridge fuel between dirtier-burning fossil fuels (coal and oil) and energy sources that emit no greenhouse gasses.

    Volinsky opposes the use of natural gas in any circumstances. He portrays any use of natural gas as a win for fossil fuel companies and a loss for the environment.

    The historical record shows the opposite to be true.

    Feltes is awful for other reasons.


  • That state across the river has done slightly better than New Hampshire as far as COVID cases are concerned But AIER urges a broader look at the Consequences of Lockdowns: The Case of Maine.

    At the time the first case of COVID-19 was recorded in Maine, there was not enough evidence to show that full-scale lockdowns would be the most effective strategy. In fact, the evidence available in March suggested the vast majority of people would not suffer severe illness from the virus. This should have led state leaders to focus limited resources on protecting the most vulnerable in society. However Gov. Mills opted to shut down the entire state.

    The economic costs of the lockdown were immense. Unemployment skyrocketed and participation in the state’s labor force plummeted. Businesses continue to permanently close their doors.

    The unilateral lockdown strategy of the Maine government also deteriorated public health. Despite the documented increased costs of delaying “elective” procedures, the regional epidemic of drug addiction has also gotten worse. Maine lost 127 people to drug overdose deaths from January to March 2020, 23% more than in the last quarter of 2019. Nationally, data show a 13% increase in overdose deaths in the first quarter of this year, yet Maine has exceeded that trend. It is estimated that drug overdose deaths in Maine over the first half of 2020 will reach almost 260, more than double the total number of deaths from COVID-19.

    Those are some of the conclusions of a report from the Maine Policy Institute, a free-market think tank.


  • And let's not forget that Maine has a place of honor among 25 of America's Most Dangerous Roads.

    The United States may not have anything like Bolivia's “death road,” but for highway deaths per capita, the World Health Organization ranks the U.S. as much more dangerous than most northern European countries, at 11 highway deaths per 100,000 population per year—three times the death rate of the U.K., for example. These are some of our deadliest stretches of pavement. Be careful out there.

    Spoiler: the number 10 spot goes to US Highway 1 in Maine. "… a poorly signed, tightly curved location with suspect weather, but add in moose wandering aimlessly on the roadway and the danger level rises …"

    Apparently it's a dangerous nightmare from Kittery all the way up to Fort Kent. About 360 miles

Shakespeare for Squirrels

[Amazon Link]

A gift from Pun Daughter for Father's Day. She knows I'm kind of a Christopher Moore fan.

It is the third book in Moore's series about Pocket, originally The Fool from Shakespeare's King Lear. Moore's gimmick: tell the tale from this (allegedly) minor character's point of view, where it's revealed that he's the actual mover and shaker behind many of the events. It didn't stop the Tragic Ending, as I recall. Moore tells the "true" story (rated R for language, snogging, bonking, and general bawdiness).

The second book in the series took on The Merchant of Venice. And this book deals with an even more out-there play, A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Downside for me: I've never (ever) read or watched any of these plays. I really recommend you do that first before tackling the Moore books. Didn't stop me, though.

It's a devilishly complex plot with a lot of characters. Pocket gets into it when he (and his assistant Drool, and his monkey, Jeff) are cast adrift on the high seas. After nearly dying, they are washed up on the shores of Greece, near Athens. And are immediately plunged into a wacky ecology of foolish mortals, fairies, goblins, and Amazons. Some of the mortals are part-time play-actors, and they plan to present "Pyramus and Thisby" in celebration of an upcoming royal marriage… And (somewhat departing from the play), it quickly turns into a murder mystery, because someone shoots Puck with a crossbow. Pocket turns private eye, interviewing suspects at his considerable peril.

And in the end, what better device to reveal the culprit than a play that's designed to catch the conscience of the… perpetrator. Yeah, even I know that's a different play. But it works pretty well.

Matt Mowers Insults My Intelligence

So I got a slick mailer from Matt Mowers, who is running for the GOP nomination to oppose my current US CongressCritter, Chris Pappas. And (honest) this made me laugh like an idiot on the walk from my mailbox back to the house:

[Pap is ON FIRE]

[I know a lot of people black out addresses. I figure that if the Republicans know my address, you can too.]

Let's deal with what's sort of true: Chris Pappas has been photographed wearing a "Resist" T-shrt, with a clenched fist replacing the I. But in the pics I've seen, it's not black text on grey, but rainbow text on black. (Example here.) Pappas's 2019 GOP opponent, Eddie Edwards, tried to make this shirt an issue in his debate with Pappas. Unsuccessfully, as Pappas won 54%-45%. ("Don't blame me, I voted Libertarian.")

Pappas is guilty of (at most) appropriate attire for a gay guy at a gay pride event. And also a phony smile. But…

I'm mortally certain that Pappas has not set fire to a cop car during a riot. I would bet that he's never even been close to a riot, let alone smiling a phony smile in front of a riot. The mailer's photo is a fake that will only impress people who probably shouldn't be allowed to vote anyway.

Let's go back to what's (again, sort of) true: Pappas voted for the "George Floyd Justice in Policing Act". Did he vote "with the leftist mob", as the mailer alleges? Well, only if you equate "all the other Democrats in the House" with "the leftist mob". (And, frankly, that seems a little inflammatory.) It was nearly a straight party-line vote with three Republicans voting Yea. The bill would have limited "qualified immunity" for police officers, which was probably the sticking point.

This is one of the very few issues where I'm on the D side. Pre-Floyd, lawyer Joanna Schwartz took to the Volokh Conspiracy blog to argue against qualified immunity, and she was pretty convincing.

I bet, however, that Democrats would not go so far as Samantha Harris recommended at Reason: It’s Time to End Qualified Immunity for College Administrators, Too. All authority-wielding pseudo-government officials should think not once, not twice, but thrice before violating the civil rights of a citizen they've taken a dislike to.

OK, so Chris Pappas is a loyal Democrat. Does he, as the mailer alleges, vote "with Nancy Pelosi 100% of the time"?

Well, as Speaker of the House, Nancy usually does not vote herself. So, technically untrue. But is Pappas essentially a marionette with Pelosi pulling the strings? As it turns out, not quite (but almost):

Rep. Pappas has voted against a majority of House Democrats 21 times (2.4%) in the 116th Congress (2019-20). He ranks 262nd among all representatives in voting against his party. The average House Democrat votes against his or her party 2.3% of the time.

(In comparison, our state's other CongressCritter, Ann McLane Kuster, is slightly less independent, only voting against party 1.3% of the time in this Congress.)

So Pappas is a (very) typical Democrat. Which is bad enough. Mowers should stick to the facts instead of putting up incendiary (heh) fake photos and deceptive language.


Last Modified 2020-08-29 6:00 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2020-08-13

[Amazon Link]

  • Our Amazon Product du Jour has a double meaning. As Ann Althouse notes, Biden lies. Sharing a tweet:

    Here's Ann (quoting herself from when Biden previously said this, months back):

    I'm blogging this morning in a public place, so although I've put up 2 posts about Biden's announcement video, I had not yet listened to it. I finally got out my headphones out so I could  listen, but I could not get through to the end, because I became so angry at the LIE and the continued music and montage became torture to me.

    In the part that I did see, we were shown images from the Charlottesville march — replete with the "Jews will not replace us" chant and swastikas — and then Biden's blandly earnest face asserted that Trump said some of them "are fine people." But Trump did not say that! It's absolutely established that Trump excluded those people explicitly before saying that there were some fine people on both sides of the question of keeping Confederate statues. (At the time of the fine people remark, Trump said, "I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and white nationalists because they should be condemned totally.")

    How dare Biden rest his campaign on a blatant lie — a lie that has been used to stir up fear and racial discord?! The hypocrisy of offering to bring us together and embrace lofty values when he is either repulsively ignorant or just plain lying!

    I could not finish watching that video. I tried, but I couldn't force myself. It's utterly toxic bilge.

    If Biden does not come forward and retract this video and apologize and commit himself to making amends, I consider him disqualified. He does not have the character or brain power to be President.

    Unfortunately, neither does Trump, so what are you gonna do?

    It would be nice (however) if some of the "unbiased fact checking" sites would be as tough on Biden as they are on Trump.


  • Still catching up with articles from the Bridge, brought to us by the Mercatus Center at George Mason U. Back in July, Patrick Horan asked: Is a Gold Standard Practical Today?. The answer is "probably not".

    As indicated by the historical record, a gold standard regime is not necessarily a bad idea. The classical gold standard performed comparatively well in its day. However, a gold standard regime is not necessarily a good idea for today because virtually every country now has a central bank, and central banks are major players in monetary policy and financial markets. Unless we abolish central banks (an unrealistic proposition), instituting some sort of gold standard–like system would require trusting central bankers to administer the system well.

    Given the disastrous results of the interwar system as well as the end of the ill-fated postwar Bretton Woods System (which also proved difficult to implement as its fragile design prompted attacks from speculators seeking to game exchange rates they believed central banks could not credibly control), it seems unlikely that a current-day version of a gold standard would work well. Moreover, as the interwar experience shows, severe economic downturns brought on by poor monetary policy can lead to support for less market-oriented policies, as politicians blame the downturn on supposed inherent flaws of the market economy rather than on bad policy.

    So an "End the Fed" position would actually make more sense. Barring that, the Fed adopting a "stabilize nominal GDP" policy would probably work as well. I don't know how realistic that would be, either.


  • At Reason, Veronique de Rugy writes on a related matter: Why Stimulus Spending Fails.

    When revenue shrinks by 1 percent of GDP and spending increases by 51 percent over 10 months, you get a $2.8 trillion deficit. That figure, according to the Congressional Budget Office, is significantly larger than the deficit Uncle Sam accumulated over the first 10 months of 2019. Yet, many in Congress demand that even more spending be enacted in the name of stimulating the economy.

    More spending means more debt and more future taxes. That much we know. What we also know is that the calls for sustained spending—in the form of unemployment checks, individual stimulus checks, small-business grants, and payroll tax cuts—which are made regularly in newspapers, political speeches, and partisan punditry, are overblown to stay the least. The idea here is that if Uncle Sam continues paying people to stay home, their consumption will continue, and the economy will grow.

    These calls are based explicitly or implicitly on the belief in an all-powerful federal spending multiplier, or the idea that if the government spends one dollar, the economy will grow by more than a dollar.

    Veronique points to her recent article in the Bridge with the sad, unmagical, news: the "multiplier" is probably significantly less than one. Meaning … well, we are in a heap of trouble, prosperity-wise.


  • Kevin D. Williamson in his weekly newsletter writes on Bloc Politics and Democratic Decline.

    Right-leaning writers hawking books about virtue and character used to go on and on about the moral dangers of the welfare state, the spiritual deadening caused by dependency, the “culture of victimhood,” passivity, lack of personal agency — and they grew strangely quiet right around the time a bunch of white people in the suburbs and rural areas started dying from opioids and rallying around the banner of Donald Trump, whose populist-nationalist politics offered them both patronage and a barely plausible justification for their embrace of dependency, which is what all patron-client politics ultimately comes down to.

    The about-face was remarkable, hence much remarked-upon. When it was young, poor African Americans and Puerto Ricans dying of heroin overdoses in New York City under Mayor John Lindsay (“demand a recount!”), the preferred solution was tougher policing and longer prison sentences, a prescription that held for a generation with the enthusiastic support of Joe Biden, among others. In the early 21st century, when it was young white men from modest-to-affluent backgrounds dying of prescription-painkiller abuse in Governor Robert J. Bentley’s Alabama, the entrepreneurs of Virtue, Inc. did their best imitation of the tweedy sociological liberals they once mocked and began snuffling out “root causes” like so many shiny pink truffle-hunters. (And I don’t mean Der Truffeljäger von Zuffenhausen.) Our progressive friends insist that this is racism prima facie, but, then, they also insist that it is evidence of racism if Mitt Romney orders oatmeal for breakfast.

    Oatmeal? Darn, now I'm hungry.


  • At the Library of Economics and Liberty, Pierre Lemieux makes a good point about Price Gouging.

    When the Treasury auctions government bonds (more than $100 billion per week these days), its goal is to obtain the highest possible prices (pay the lowest interest rate): that’s why a seller holds an auction. But private individuals are forbidden to hold auctions of goods deemed important in an emergency; they are forbidden to charge what the market will bear. Sanctimonious officials defend it and the populace often applauds.

    In the sort of announcement that has become familiar in the current crisis, the Attorney General of Iowa, Tom Miller, announced a second lawsuit against a Brenda Kay Noteboom who had auctioned toilet paper and sanitizing products on eBay, and sold them at prices judged excessive by the state’s “price gouging” law. The majority of American states have such laws on the book (not counting the federal Defense Production Act). This is not the first prosecution against private auctioneers and it is not surprising that price-control laws would apply to formal auctions because, after all, the market itself is a vast, continuous, and invisible auction. “Price gouging” laws naturally target all free markets.

    OK, I bought the whole idea that the state has a Monopoly on violence. Didn't think that extended into a monopoly on charging market prices.

URLs du Jour

2020-08-12

  • Interesting article in Wired: Why Wikipedia Decided to Stop Calling Fox a ‘Reliable’ Source. Are those sneer-quotes by any chance?

    When Karen Bass, a congresswoman from Los Angeles, emerged in late July as a serious contender to be Joe Biden’s running mate, interest in her Wikipedia page exploded. By that time, the entry had grown to 4,000 words, been worked over by more than 50 different editors, and drew a weekly readership of 360,000. During that flurry of editing, a new section twice appeared below a list of offices Bass has held and legislation she has supported: "Controversy." It described the "substantial controversy and criticism" Bass had received for her words upon the death of Fidel Castro in 2016, and cited a Fox News report.

    Each time, less than an hour later, this addition would be gone—deleted by another Wikipedia editor. Anticipating there might be some pushback at the removal, the editor offered a simple explanation: “Fox News is not enough …”

    Uh huh. Those are darned convenient rules we just made up. Notice that there's no assertion that anything in the Fox News article is untrue. It's just from … the wrong sort. Not our kind.

    But it took me to this Wikipedia page (on "Reliable sources/Perennial sources"). Which contains a color-coded list of said sources. It's a good demonstration of how a putatively "fair" set of standards can result in obvious bias in practice.

    Specifically, National Review gets a yellow "no consensus" sticker. While the New Republic, the Nation, Rolling Stone. and everything in the Conde Nast stable (including, ahem, Wired) are all considered green "generally reliable."

    Politifact and Snopes? Green! The Southern Poverty Law Center? Green!

    Yeah. I would have to rate Wikipedia as unreliable for any content that depends on its reliability guidelines.


  • I signed the Philly Statement.

    Social Media mobs. Cancel culture. Campus speech policing. These are all part of life in today’s America. Freedom of expression is in crisis. Truly open discourse—the debates, exchange of ideas, and arguments on which the health and flourishing of a democratic republic crucially depend—is increasingly rare. Ideologues demonize opponents to block debates on important issues and to silence people with whom they disagree.

    We must ask ourselves: Is this the country we want? Surely not. We want—and to be true to ourselves we need—to be a nation in which we and our fellow citizens of many different faiths, philosophies, and persuasions can speak their minds and honor their deepest convictions without fear of punishment and retaliation.

    It's good stuff, signed by a bunch of good (and more famous) people. Shouldn't be controversial, but probably will be. Check it out.


  • We'll probably have more On Kamala Harris over the next few days, weeks, months,… God forbid, maybe even years. But let's check out what Kevin D. Williamson has to say:

    Joe Biden has named his 2020 running mate: authoritarianism.

    American prosecutors wield awesome and terrible powers that lend themselves easily to abuse, and Senator Kamala Harris, formerly the attorney general of California, is an enthusiastic abuser of them.

    Harris was a leader in the junta of Democratic state attorneys general that attempted to criminalize dissent in the matter of global warming, using her office’s investigatory powers to target and harass non-profit policy groups while she and her counterpart in New York attempted to shake down Exxon on phony fraud cases.

    This should matter. I regret that it won't matter enough.

URLs du Jour

2020-08-11

Our good old (very old) Secretary of State provides our Eye Candy du Jour:

That's my sample ballot for next month's primary. As previously explained, I am a RINO, since it's more fun to vote in their primaries.

You'll note that "Nobody" is a choice for Governor. That's an actual person, but I bet he gets a lot of votes from people who think he's an option instead. (As near as I can tell, Nobody's sole campaign issue is pot legalization.)

I have a lot of decisions to make in the coming four weeks. The only person I'm definitely not voting for is Bolduc, who came out in April in favor of a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

In short: he's in favor of increasing government power to regulate political speech.

Damn.

  • Deirdre McCloskey writes at the Bridge (from the Mercatus Center) on The Great Enrichment.

    The Great Recession of 2008, and now the Greater Recession, might distract you from the vastly bigger story of our times: the Great Enrichment, from 1800 to the present. But as we try to restart the economy battered by governmental failures, we need to keep in mind, and keep, what has been gained.

    As more than one historian has pointed out, poor people in the United States and other developed countries live better than 18th-century European monarchs. Today, supermarkets and other stores are stocked with an ever-growing variety of goods, lifespans have been extended by decades, and (in the past 40 years alone) billions of people have been lifted from poverty. These are just some of the amazing achievements that have come about as the result of the Great Enrichment, a flowering of opportunity and economic growth unparalleled in human history.

    But this enriched modern economy is not a product of state planning or coercion. Instead, it came about as the result of the happy chances of a change in political and social rhetoric in northwestern Europe from 1517 to 1789. People—regular people, the hobbits of the Shire and not the almighty warriors from afar—began to perceive themselves in a new and dignified light. Perhaps most crucially, they came to feel their artisanal and commercial undertakings to be more appreciated socially. They were permitted to “have a go,” as the British say, and proceeded then to innovate on a massive scale.

    If you haven't read McCloskey on the Great Enrichment, this is a fine intro.

    If you have read McCloskey on the Great Enrichment, it's a fine reminder to keep the faith.

    (I shouldn't say "faith". As someone once said: "I don't have faith in the market. I have facts." But "keep the facts" sounds a little weird.)


  • Don Boudreaux provides a good rebuttal to a Progressive mantra: On “You Didn’t Build That”.

    During a July 13th, 2012, campaign stop in Roanoke, Virginia, President Barack Obama (in)famously dispensed this tidy bit of information to successful businesspeople: “You didn’t build that.” Immediately, the president was misinterpreted. He was mistakenly said by many to have accused hard-working restaurateurs, intrepid founders of construction companies, and risk-taking financiers of Apple and other profitable corporations of not really building their enterprises. Yet what Mr. Obama in fact said is that successful business people could not possibly have become successful without the help of many others – including especially, in Mr. Obama’s mind, government officials.

    Mr. Obama is correct that no person’s success in a market economy is literally “self-made.” (The first person I encountered – it was decades ago – who explicitly identified the silliness of the “self-made man” myth is Thomas Sowell.) Mr. Obama is correct also that every business in America relies upon roads and bridges constructed by government, as well as upon other government projects such as state-supplied education and research funding. But from this rather mundane reality Progressives such as Mr. Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) draw two mistaken implications.

    If I may summarize:

    1. Progressives never seem to wonder "compared to what?" Look at a government-built Interstate or airport, and ask yourself: "OK, but what wasn't built because government decided to do this instead?"
    2. Progressives seem to forget that "we" did, in fact, "build that". The people involved were paid. The goods and services involved were purchased. The airports and Interstates were not free gifts from the state, which has no resources other than what it forcibly extracts from the citizenry.


  • Jerry Coyne looks with some exasperation at the demise of a word: Real estate goes woke with elimination of term “master bedroom”.

    But will all usages of the term “master,” including ones that have no connection to slavery like the above, be fair game? What about MasterCard? What about a “master” in martial arts or a “Grand Master” in chess? And so on. I do, however, take issue with the use of “master/slave” referring to a device or process that controls other devices or processes: here the referent is clear—and obnoxious.

    Jerry also briefly discusses the term "walk-up", as in "walk-up apartment". Which is ableist! Yet, some are replacing the term with "non-elevator".

    And don't get me started on “His and Hers” bathrooms.


  • Wired has some bad news for folks designing this fall's schooling: Hybrid Schooling May Be the Most Dangerous Option of All.

    “The hybrid model is probably among the worst that we could be putting forward if our goal is to stop the virus getting into schools,” says William Hanage, an epidemiologist at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “I don’t see how, in the end, this helps teachers,” says Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “I don’t fully get the hybrid model.”

    I don't know if that's the least-bad option. (Nobody's taking my idea very seriously: abolish mandatory attendance.) It won't be the first time Your Government has adopted a policy without thinking it through.


  • And Maureen Callahan explores Peddling the idea that 'all white people are racist' for profit. Why didn't I think of that?

    The wholesale intellectual fraud that is “white fragility” has so infested our culture that Oprah Winfrey, the world’s first female black billionaire, is criticizing America as hopelessly and intractably racist.

    For this we can thank the white liberal academic Robin DiAngelo, whose book “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” — first published in 2018 by a small press — has become a textbook of liberal orthodoxy and a totem of radical chic.

    DiAngelo’s thesis: All white Americans are racist. All white Americans are a product of white supremacy and are actively or unwittingly complicit in maintaining this power structure. If you say you are not racist, that is only proof that you are racist. If you believe you are not racist, same thing. Black people exist in America only to be oppressed by whites. In DiAngelo’s worldview, any progress black Americans have made is because white Americans have allowed such growth as pacifiers.

    And Robin's book (I continue to point out) remains one of the recommendations on UNH's Official List of Racial Justice Resources.


Last Modified 2020-08-12 7:32 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2020-08-10

The Babylon Bee provides our Eye Candy du Jour: The Official NASA Guide To More Inclusive Space Terms.

[Inclusivity in Space]

Those saying "what are you talking about" should click here where NASA govsplains the "actively harmful" nicknames past racists have stuck onto heavenly bodies.

  • Just about an hour up Route 4, in Gorham, the University of Southern Maine is getting a little more totalitarian in its demands for demonstrating allegiance to the Church of Woke:

    The University of Southern Maine has asked all members of the community to sign a "Black Lives Matter Statement and Antiracism Pledge." The pledge cites Ibram Kendi, who popularized the concept of "antiracism."

    We stand in solidarity with those who are working for justice and change. And we invite you to join us in pledging to be a practicing antiracist at the University of Southern Maine and in all aspects of your life. We believe, as Ibram Kendi writes, that "the only way to undo racism is to constantly identify it and describe it — and then dismantle it."

    The University will publish the list of antiracists. There very well may be retaliation against those who do not sign the pledge.

    The University Near Here hasn't tried anything like that, as far as I can tell. Its various subgroups are posturing wildly, however. For example, something called "NH Listens" recently issued Statement on Protests. Which includes this sentence:

    Racism is endemic and hurts all of us.

    I'm pretty sure this was written by someone who doesn't really know what "endemic" means, but thought it sounded profound.

    [RTWT if you want to appreciate how many incoherent banalities and clichés can be strung together in a short statement.]


  • At Tablet, Zach Goldberg examines How the Media Led the Great Racial Awakening. Specifically, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

    Countless articles have been published in recent weeks, often under the guise of straight news reporting, in which journalists take for granted the legitimacy of novel theories about race and identity. Such articles illustrate a prevailing new political morality on questions of race and justice that has taken power at the Times and Post—a worldview sometimes abbreviated as “wokeness” that combines the sensibilities of highly educated and hyperliberal white professionals with elements of Black nationalism and academic critical race theory. But the media’s embrace of “wokeness” did not begin in response to the death of George Floyd. This racial ideology first began to take hold at leading liberal media institutions years before the arrival of Donald Trump and, in fact, heavily influenced the journalistic response to the protest movements of recent years and their critique of American society.

    Starting well before Donald Trump’s rise to power, while President Obama was still in office, terms like “microaggression” and “white privilege” were picked up by liberal journalists. These terms went from being obscure fragments of academic jargon to commonplace journalistic language in only a few years—a process that I document here in detail. During this same period, while exotic new phrases were entering the discourse, universally recognizable words like “racism” were being radically redefined. Along with the new language came ideas and beliefs animating a new moral-political framework to apply to public life and American society.

    Zach has interesting time-series graphs demonstrating his thesis.


  • David Henderson provides Two 1930s Political Leaders Agree About Complexity. Guess who! First:

    We were the first to assert that the more complicated the forms assumed by civilization, the more restricted the freedom of the individual must become.

    And:

    Instinctively we recognized a deeper need—the need to find through government the instrument of our united purpose to solve for the individual the ever-rising problems of a complex civilization.

    Hint: the first one is a translation. You can check your guesses (as I did) by Googling.


  • From the latest dead-trees National Review, Kevin D. Williamson on The Celestial Afterlife of Karl Marx.

    That Black Lives Matter should have tendrils connecting it directly to the Marxist terrorist network of the 1960s and ’70s is entirely unsurprising. It would be surprising if it were otherwise. That’s the stuff of 2020.

    BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors describes herself as a “trained Marxist,” with “trained” calling to mind that comical Marxist study session in Hail, Caesar! She tells Democracy Now! that her entrée into politics came under the guidance of Eric Mann, the Weather Underground terrorist who was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder after shooting up a Massachusetts police station. For radicals of that kind, it is easy to see the appeal not of Marxism per se but of Karl Marx himself and the Marxist style: Never mind the socialism, Marx offers up radical anti-individualism, a totalitarian prefiguration of contemporary identity politics, pathological anti-Semitism, the pretense to science, and many other ingredients in the soup of radical politics du jour. And in this meme-addled age, it is worth keeping in mind that Karl Marx, with his big head of hair and Brooklyn beard, makes a pretty good mascot. 

    The article is almost certainly paywalled out the wazoo, but might I suggest you subscribe?


  • Also paywalled, I think, is Jay Nordlinger's dirge that showed up in my LFOD. Google News Alert.

    Contemplating this scene, I have been thinking of Dinesh D’Souza — who said something brilliantly insightful in conversation with me several years ago. I will paraphrase it, although Dinesh says it much better.

    In a contest between freedom and fairness, fairness will win every time. Fairness will kick the daylights out of freedom. (Some of us think freedom is fair, but that’s another story.)

    Anciently, subjects had a question about their king: “Is he a good king?” In other words, is he a fair and just king? Does he rule equitably? Few people thought of freedom, autonomy, rights — the pursuit of one’s own destiny, come hell or high water.

    What does a child say, almost as soon as he can talk? “That’s not fair!” It is apparently elemental.

    Freedom is a scary thought to people. Nobody wants freedom, honestly, except for a few weirdos. “Live free or die” is just a slogan — no one means it. What people want is protection. What they want is their idea of fairness.

    The Democrats have long understood this. Trump and his Republican Party understand it. You almost never hear Trump talk about freedom, do you? “Freedom” used to issue from every Republican mouth. No more. Populism doesn’t do freedom, really: It does fairness.

    In America today, you can have pink-hued populism or brown-hued populism. The constituency for freedom — for the ideals of the American Founding — is essentially nil. (David Frum was saying this back in the early ’90s.)

    I have long let my mind imagine a candidate who said, “This is my promise to you: I will subdue or deter our enemies. I will adhere to and enforce the Constitution. And I will do my damndest to keep your sorry behinds free.” How many votes do you think such a candidate would get? Nine? (And four of those would be mistaken ballots.)

    Well, that's sad. Maybe true. America had a good run, and I was there for a lot of it.

Annihilation

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

As I've said before: we're getting pretty deep into the Netflix queue, which I keep in descending order by their algorithm's predicted rating for me. Netflix said I would consider this "just OK" and it was on target.

A large extraterrestrial object enters the atmosphere, seemingly about to destroy a pretty lighthouse somewhere on America's coastline… but instead simply turns into an enigma which mystifies the best and brightest minds the USA has to offer. Something called the "Shimmer" has enveloped the lighthouse's environs, a pretty array of special effects. It keeps growing outward, so that's a problem. Government solution: send in teams of scientists and military types, who promptly vanish and are never heard from again.

Except for a guy named Kane (Oscar Isaac), who unexpectedly reappears at his house, disconcerting his wife Lena (Natalie Portman). Unfortunately, he's very very sick, and quickly becomes uncommunicative.

So, since their strategy is working so well, the government decides to send in an all-girl team! Girl power, that's the ticket! And it's diverse, containing two white ladies (Lena, of course, and also a researcher played by Jennifer Jason Leigh); an African-American, a Hispanic, and a lesbian.

What they rapidly discover: the alien presence is playing tricks with their minds (for some reason that's never explained), and also doing some really disgusting things to the local flora and fauna. And threatens to do the same to them, usually accompanied by violence and insanity.

I didn't fall asleep. These days, that's the mark of an OK movie.

The Phony Campaign

2020-08-09 Update

[Amazon Link]
The implied subtitle on our Amazon Product du Jour: "Or, On Second Thought, Probably Not".

Hey, The Trump/Biden probability gap narrowed by 3.0 percentage points over the week! Good news for Trump, unless… well, maybe make that until … he says something to remind people that he's a narcisstic boor.

Trump also shed a lot more phony hits than did Biden over the week, but still has a three-to-one advantage there:

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
8/2
Phony
Results
Change
Since
8/2
Donald Trump 38.8% +1.5% 1,560,000 -1,080,000
Joe Biden 57.8% -1.5% 505,000 -184,000

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • At the (probably paywalled) WSJ, the editorialists wonder: Will Joe Biden Duck the Debates?. ("He'd have to be crazy not to!" "Yeah, so … you're saying he won't?")

    Televised presidential debates have been forcing future leaders of the free world to sweat since Richard Nixon in 1960. Six times President Obama went mano a mano with Republican opponents in 2008 and 2012. But Joe Biden is leading President Trump in the polls and has been known to fumble his words, so now TV debates are apparently passé.

    The Commission on Presidential Debates has scheduled three of them for Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump, beginning Sept. 29. But it’s becoming a theme in certain quarters—namely, the New York Times —that Mr. Biden should skip out, or that the face-offs should be canceled. The latest entry is an op-ed by the liberal journalist Elizabeth Drew, who was a panelist during a 1976 debate. “The debates have never made sense as a test for presidential leadership,” she writes, because points are awarded for “snappy comebacks and one-liners.”

    She isn't wrong about that. Still, 2020 is a mighty convenient time to notice it's a problem. Biden't snappy comebacks seem to be limited to … well, you know what.


  • The esteemed Dune fan Jack Butler writes at the NR Corner: On Presidential Debates.

    Jim Geraghty is right to question the sincerity of the chorus of left-leaning voices suddenly advocating or rationalizing the cancellation of this fall’s presidential debates. Some of the arguments he cites depend, whether explicitly or implicitly, on the contention that the format of a televised presidential debate will somehow significantly advantage Donald Trump over Joe Biden. Others exude a general cynicism about the enterprise — a cynicism whose timing seems rather convenient.

    [Didn't I just say that myself?]

    My own cynicism, however, predates this moment, and will obtain regardless of whether these debates are held and which candidate benefits the most from them. There is something somewhat ridiculous to me to the assumption on which presidential debates in their modern incarnation, both in primaries and in the general election, depend: namely, that how a given individual performs on television for an extended period of time is in some way a meaningful and revelatory test of presidential fitness. In his anti-television tirade Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, media critic Neil Postman gets at the core of the absurdity:

    The point is that television does not reveal who the best man is. In fact, television makes impossible the determination of who is better than whom, if we mean by “better” such things as more capable in negotiation, more imaginative in executive skill, more knowledgeable about international affairs, more understanding of economic systems, and so on. The reason has, almost entirely, to do with “image.” But not because politicians are preoccupied with presenting themselves in the best possible light. After all, who isn’t? It is a rare and deeply disturbed person who does not wish to project a favorable image. But television gives image a bad name. For on television the politician does not so much offer the audience an image of himself, as offer himself as an image of the audience.

    The modern presidential debate is mostly a test of how well a candidate can perform in the environment it presents. This seems like a tautology, but if it is, it is an important one. A nation with short attention spans, served by a media enamored of soundbites and isolated moments of high drama, cannot help but to create a stage in which the performers are just that — performers. To the extent that there is utility in certain aspects of what the presidential debate has become —giving opposing candidates an opportunity to interact with one another directly and almost unfiltered, allowing an assessment of records and performance, and, perhaps uniquely in this election, testing a possible president’s stamina — it is mostly incidental. Perhaps even accidental.

    I remain committed to my alternate duel: a battery of tests, double-blind administered, on civics, current events, basic math and science, and general intelligence. Perhaps an essay question or two.


  • There's been a lot of speculation about Biden from Trump fans, but anyone who's had the nerve to actually listen to Orange Man lately has noticed what Ann Althouse noticed: Trump speaks as if he's lost the ability to think and is just reading from a note card. She quotes from a transcript:

    Joe Biden’s policies put China first and America last, and that’s what he’ll continue to do, if he ever got this shot. And you will have a disruption in the market, the likes of which our country has never seen. You will have a crash in the markets, because he’s going double and triple your taxes. He’s going to do things that nobody ever would ever think even possible. Because he’s following the radical left agenda. Take away your guns. Destroy your second amendment. No religion, no anything. Hurt the Bible, hurt God. He’s against God. He’s against guns. He’s against energy, our kind of energy.

    C'mon man.


  • I'm catching up with the Mercatus Center Bridge, but Charles Lipson's article about both candidates' Unforced Errors is timeless.

    In Biden’s case, the fumble came when he promised to “transform” America. “We’re going to beat Donald Trump,” he tweeted on July 5. “And when we do, we won’t just rebuild this nation—we’ll transform it.” Now he will be forced to say what that means.

    Whatever he says will hurt him, first, because his proposals will break the bank and require a bigger federal government; second, because they require him to explain himself in detail, which is not exactly his strong suit. Making a major policy speech or answering tough questions is often a bridge too far, and he has made every effort to avoid crossing it.

    Those problems are serious, but there is an even bigger issue with his statement. Biden’s transformational promise undercuts his most appealing message: that Trump has taken America off the rails and that he, Biden, will restore the country to normalcy. After the tumultuous Trump years, Biden’s best argument is to say, “I will return the nation to the calm, steady progress that characterized the Obama-Biden administration and led America forward. I worked hand-in-hand with President Obama, so I know how to do that.”

    I have an even simpler strategy. Biden should just say "I'm not Trump." Repeat, repeat, repeat.


  • As I type, Wheezy Joe has not announced his Veep pick. But one of the candidates, Karen Bass, took to a Sunday show to say: I Know 'an Awful More Now' About Castro's Brutality.

    California representative and potential vice presidential pick Karen Bass (D.) said Sunday that she "absolutely" should not have made a statement mourning the death of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in 2016 because she knows "an awful lot more now" about Castro's brutality.

    "I absolutely would have not put that statement out and I will tell you that after talking to my colleagues who represent the state of Florida, raised those concerns with me, lesson learned, would not do that again for sure," Bass said during an appearance on Fox News Sunday.

    Gosh. In how many ways does this make KongressKritter Karen look bad?

    1. Was she really that ignorant about the brutality of the 60-year Cuban dictatorship until some Florida colleagues clued her in?
    2. She seems awfully apologetic about what she said. Shouldn't she be even more apologetic about what (the hell) she was thinking?
    3. Did her statement really reflect her ignorance, or was it more about her underlying leftist values?

    You might excuse Bass's response if she'd been specifically asked whether she regretted saying what she did. But the Fox News transcript shows Chris Wallace's question:

    WALLACE: You put out that message about Cuba -- about Castro's death six years -- or four years ago in 2016. Shouldn't you have known by then that Castro's death was not a great loss to the Cuban people?

    BASS: I absolutely would have not put that statement out and I will tell you that after talking to my colleagues who represent the state of Florida, raised those concerns with me, lesson learned, would not do that again for sure.

    Not responsive to the question, Karen.


  • Ann Althouse further noted an oddity about KongressKritter Karen's Komments on Meet the Press (theoretically a friendler venue):

    The Cubans also have two medicines, one for diabetes, of which my mother died for, lung cancer, which my father died for, and I would like to have those drugs tested in the United States.

    Ann notes that saying her parents died for their respective ailments is a marker: "that's the kind of thing that gets out when you're thinking something different from what you are saying." True!

    I also note the fantasy that Socialist Cuban Medicine has managed to find cures for diabetes and lung cancer, something which has eluded Evil Capitalist Amerikkka for decades.


  • So Senator Kamala is also in the Veepstakes, and Rich Lowry thinks she'd be a perfect choice. Because: Kamala Harris typifies the Democrats’ love for dictatorial control.

    Last year, Kamala Harris may have become the first presidential candidate in history to laugh derisively at the idea that the Constitution limits what a president can do.

    When Joe Biden said that her plan for gun control by executive fiat didn’t pass constitutional muster, she scoffed and deployed one of her canned one-liners: “I would just say, ‘Hey, Joe, instead of saying, ‘No, we can’t,’ let’s say, ‘yes we can!’  ”

    Yes, we can — flippantly blow by the constitutional requirement that new laws be passed by Congress.

    But guess what folks? Pretty much the last person who can make that debating point against Kamala is President Donald Trump.


Last Modified 2020-08-15 10:56 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2020-08-08

  • Sean Carroll is a Caltech physicist—they don't come any better—but a recent tweet demonstrates that (to be charitable) brilliance in one field is not portable to others:

    Question 1 is an effort to get Trump to say something racist; Question 3 is probably designed to get him to say something seditious; Question 4 tries to get him to reveal his Biblical ignorance.

    But I want to concentrate on Question 2: "Should we guarantee health care to every American?"

    If such a question were posed to me, I hope I'd have the presence of mind to answer something like this:

    Sean, you appear to think that "we" (by which I assume you mean "government") are in a position to "guarantee" some sort of service to our fellow citizens. Despite not being qualified to provide such service ourselves. Fine. A lot of people think that. A lot of people believe in ghosts, too.

    Leaving that aside: what do you think such a guarantee would consist of? If I don't receive "health care", do I get my money back? (What money?)

    I'll note that we do have (sort of) a guarantee in place today: it's called EMTALA ("Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act"), enacted back in 1986. As the name implies, it requires hospitals to provide treatment for emergency medical conditions, without regard for the patient's ability to pay.

    Now, the "guarantee" it provides doesn't directly compensate the patient if "health care" fails to be provided; it fines physicians and hospitals, and opens them up to civil liability.

    Health care provided by EMTALA is an unfunded mandate; taxpayers are not (directly) on the hook, doctors and physicians are. But (you bet) the expenses incurred are made up for in the inflated medical costs paid by solvent patients, insurance companies, and Uncle Stupid.

    So, you mean something else? What, exactly? Or are you just signalling your virtue with a meaningless slogan?

    I should toss in something relevant from a recent WSJ editorial, about COVID-19 and Sweden:

    America’s liberals cite Sweden’s relatively high death rate (56 per 100,000 compared to 45.1 in France and 35.8 in the Netherlands). But two-thirds of deaths have been among those over age 80, and 97% never received intensive-care treatment. Blame Sweden’s socialized health system, which rationed treatment for the elderly even though ICUs were never overwhelmed.

    Sweden is also cited by America's liberals as a country where health care is "guaranteed". Just not intensive care.


  • LA Mayor Eric Garcetti was (once) floated as a possible presidential candidate. He's showing his chops, as described by Christian Britschgi at Reason: Los Angeles Will Shut Off People’s Utilities For Hosting Parties, Not For Failing To Pay Their Utility Bills.

    In Los Angeles, you can have your power turned off for having parties at your house, but not for failing to pay your power bill.

    On Wednesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that he was authorizing the city-controlled Department of Water and Power (DWP) to shut off utilities to homes and businesses that host unpermitted gatherings in violation of county and city stay-at-home orders.

    The order comes in response to reports of large parties being held at residences across Los Angeles, including one on Tuesday night that ended in the shooting death of one attendee.

    In today's America, I'd guess a significant fraction of the citizenry will read that and think: Yay, Garcetti! Serves 'em right!


  • Scott Linicome at Cato notes the ability of markets to produce goods "Seemingly Out of Nowhere".

    A few short interminable months ago, COVID-19 had made it almost impossible to find hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and other cleaning products at the local grocery store or online. The shortages not only sent Americans scrambling for supplies (I actually mailed my mom some Clorox Wipes), but also elicited calls from both the right and the left for major changes to U.S. trade and economic policy. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, for example, in April wrote in the New York Times that our empty shelves proved that America, suffering a “severely diminished” manufacturing base due to U.S. politicians’ decades‐​long “choice to facilitate offshoring,” needed a “sensible industrial policy” that included “the re‐​shoring of supply chains integral national interest.” Sure, Rubio argued, “some heroic businesses have shifted production to help fill this gap and produce masks, hand sanitizer and other goods,” but “the nation is still behind” because “we by and large lack the ability to make things.” Scott Paul of the union‐​backed Alliance for American Manufacturing made similar claims on those very same pages a few days earlier. Others implored the president to invoke the wartime Defense Production Act to “contract with companies throughout the country to widely produce and distribute free soap and hand sanitizer.” Others still said that the sanitizer shortages of March and April called both global supply chains and capitalism itself into question. “Medical masks are already in short supply, and everyday items such as hand sanitizer have become difficult to find,” said progressive economist James K. Galbraith in March, because “[T]he heavily globalized, consumer‐ and finance‐​driven U.S. economy was not designed for a pandemic.”

    Fast forward to today: “Walk into any drug store, grocery chain or market today, and you’ll be hit with a wall of hand sanitizers and cleaning products that help fight against the coronavirus.” Wow!

    The 'seemingly out of nowhere' phrasing is from (I am not making this up) a CNN Business story: first link in the second paragraph. It is regrettable, yet unsurprising, that a CNN Business correspondent seems so mystified by ordinary market responses.


  • [Amazon Link]
    At the Federalist, Katya Sedgwick recounts the latest Great Debate among the Deep Thinkers: When Educrats Can't Even Agree That 2+2=4, Public Education Is A Joke.

    It started on July 5 when Nikole Hannah-Jones, who penned the lead essay for The New York Times’ 1619 Project, was trolled with a meme. The meme came from philosopher James Lindsay, whose upcoming “Cynical Theories” book on identity politics co-written with Helen Pluckrose is already an Amazon bestseller. Lindsay summarized the exchange:

    [I]t appears someone put this Woke Mini into the employ of satirically replying to Nikole Hannah-Jones on the fifth of July in response to her tweeting, ‘I wonder if folks always talking about ‘standards’ ever stop to consider that it’s their so-called standards that are the actual problem.’ Hannah-Jones decided to make fun of me by quote-retweeting this delightful troll, including the image of the ‘2+2=4’ Woke Mini, and adding the comment, ‘Using Arabic numerals to try to make a point about white, Western superiority is just so damn classic.’

    Referring to George Orwell’s 1984, and poking fun of wokesterism, Lindsay quipped: “2+2=4: A perspective in white, Western mathematics that marginalizes other possible values.”

    And it just went from there. Public education may be a joke, but… maybe not a particularly funny one.

    I've plunked the Pluckrose/Lindsay book on my TTR list. Amazon link above.


  • And in our (increasingly common) "<voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone!</voice>" Department: NASA to Reexamine Nicknames for Cosmic Objects.

    Distant cosmic objects such as planets, galaxies, and nebulae are sometimes referred to by the scientific community with unofficial nicknames. As the scientific community works to identify and address systemic discrimination and inequality in all aspects of the field, it has become clear that certain cosmic nicknames are not only insensitive, but can be actively harmful. NASA is examining its use of unofficial terminology for cosmic objects as part of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

    As an initial step, NASA will no longer refer to planetary nebula NGC 2392, the glowing remains of a Sun-like star that is blowing off its outer layers at the end of its life, as the “Eskimo Nebula.” “Eskimo” is widely viewed as a colonial term with a racist history, imposed on the indigenous people of Arctic regions. Most official documents have moved away from its use. NASA will also no longer use the term “Siamese Twins Galaxy” to refer to NGC 4567 and NGC 4568, a pair of spiral galaxies found in the Virgo Galaxy Cluster. Moving forward, NASA will use only the official, International Astronomical Union designations in cases where nicknames are inappropriate. 

    Not just harmful, dear reader. "Actively harmful". The body count caused by the Eskimo Nebula alone is probably fast approaching the single-digit range. Real soon now.

    NASA has people on the payroll thinking this stuff up, producing the press releases, approving the wording.

    Actually doing its job? Not so much.

URLs du Jour

2020-08-07

  • Greg Mankiw quotes two recent papers on The High Cost of PPP Jobs. First, from Raj Chetty et. al.:

    We therefore conclude that the PPP had little material impact on employment at small businesses: we cannot rule out a small positive employment effect of the program (of e.g., 3-4 pp on employment rates), but it is clear that the program did not restore the vast majority of jobs that were lost following the COVID shock.

    And from Davud Autor et. al.:

    Our benchmark estimates imply that each job supported by the PPP cost between $162K and $381K through May 2020, with our preferred employment estimate implying a cost of $224K per job supported.

    You haven't heard about this massive waste of taxpayer dollars because both parties supported it. So it's in nobody's political interest to bring it up.

    What about the media? This story would take a distant back seat to Trump-bashing. And it works against the dominant narrative of Your Competent Federal Government being able to solve your problems, if it weren't for Orange Man.


  • Continuing on that money-burning path is Eric Boehm at Reason: The Trump Administration’s $765 Million Kodak Deal Is More Proof That ‘Economic Nationalism’ Is a Scam.

    The Trump administration's latest "economic nationalism" scheme involves having taxpayers underwrite a $765 million loan to Eastman Kodak, the long-struggling camera company, in the hopes of transforming it into a pharmaceutical manufacturer.

    If that sounds like a far-fetched idea, well, give some credit to the lobbyists who apparently made it happen.

    The Daily Beast's Lachlan Markay reports that Kodak restarted its shuttered D.C. lobbying team in April of this year and proceeded to spend $870,000 on influence-peddling in the months leading up to last week's announcement by the White House. That's twice as much as the company had ever spent in a single quarter, according to lobbying disclosures, and it appears to have paid off.

    The math is pretty bad here too: "The massive loan to Kodak will create 360 new jobs—that's more than $2.1 million per job."

    And those jobs are in New York, which will certainly vote for Biden, so it's a really dumb idea politically too.


  • I'm apparently, and unforgivably, late to discover The Bridge, an online publication of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Here's a good take from Charles Lipson, Professor of Political Science Emeritus at the University of Chicago: Woke Colleges Are Assembly Lines for Conformity. It's excellent all the way through, RTWT, but here's important advice:

    Students entering this den of college conformity can prepare for it in four ways—and improve their education in the process. Actually, these four suggestions are good advice for anyone, at any age, facing intense institutional pressure to conform.

    1. Listen to alternative views and criticism of ideas you currently hold. That does not necessarily mean changing your views. It means testing and reevaluating them.
    2. Try not to be swept away by peer pressure. One way to minimize it is to widen your social circle.
    3. Learn to make coherent arguments. Name-calling is not an argument, damn it.
    4. Report teachers or other authority figures who demand ideological conformity to get a good grade or promotion. Your academic adviser or human resources department can tell you confidentially how to lodge a complaint and what evidence you need to support it.

    Remember: just because others are marching in lockstep doesn’t mean you have to join their parade. Make up your own mind, and do it without fear or favor. No lesson in college is more important.

    Did I say RTWT? I did? Well, here it is again: RTWT.


  • Also calling them like he sees them is Philip Carl Salzman, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at McGill University: The Invention of 'Systemic Racism'. It is largely a rebuttal to the so-called "Princeton letter". Which mostly contains the usual "demands" (some Princeton-specific) and signed by an impressive list of people. I assume a lot of signers assumed they would be publicized as racist if they didn't sign.

    Anyway, Prof Salzman:

    The evidence-free “systemic racism” is “proven” in the minds of radical professors and race activists by the poor performance of African Americans, by the “underrepresentation” of African Americans in choice professions, jobs, and wealth, and by the “overrepresentation” of African Americans in the prison system. The argument is that, if African Americans are underrepresented among rocket scientists, brain surgeons, and presidents of major corporations, it must be due to bigotry and discrimination. QED. As the Princeton letter puts it, “Diagnose the problem of racism through transparent demographic reporting. Redress the demographic disparity on Princeton’s faculty immediately and exponentially by hiring more faculty of color.” The signatories of the letter are both students and professors—most of whom are in the humanities and very few in the social sciences (two professors of sociology, zero professors of economics), except of course for anthropologists—who thus, entirely in the absence of evidence of racism, buy into the argument that any “demographic disparity” is the result of “racism.”

    We should keep in mind that this so-called “underrepresentation” of African Americans still exists in spite of fifty years of vigorous “affirmative action” preference given to African Americans in government, industry, and education. The “social justice” mantra of “diversity and inclusion” does not mean inclusion of whites, Asians, or Jews; it only means inclusion of African Americans and other “people of color” and the exclusion of others. (Nor should you ever imagine that “diversity and inclusion” means diversity of opinion, which is forbidden; uniformity of thought is enforced by the ever growing number of “diversity and inclusion” officers. Just ask Joshua Katz, who critiqued the Princeton letter, how his views were received.)

    There's already a presumption that protected-class people at even not-particularly-prestigious Universities Near Here are largely there because of that class membership, not due to impressive intellectual prowess. How much worse can it get?

    But many administrators are saying: "How much worse can it get? Hold my beer."


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson wonders: What Next?. Always a good question.

    So far, 2020 has proved to be an annus horribilis, with the plague, a painful economic disruption, unemployment, the impeachment fiasco, riots, arson, political violence, Sarah Palin’s performing “Baby Got Back” on The Masked Singer. The episodes have come down so relentlessly that it is difficult to keep up with them all: Do you remember when the United States assassinated Iranian general Qasem Soleimani? That was this year, even if it seems like a decade ago.

    The moments in history when we suddenly are forced to confront the fact that things will never be the same are almost never pleasant ones. Though every now and then you get to watch the fall of the Berlin Wall or the moon landing, more often, you get Pearl Harbor or the Kennedy assassination. I went to college and began my career in the 1990s, a time of great confidence and prosperity that I watched coming to an end while sitting in a Philadelphia newspaper office on September 11, 2001. I knew that things would never go back to what they had been, and I was not happy about it.

    The three great convulsants of our contemporary public life — the epidemic, the political violence in the cities, and the Trump administration — are distinct but complexly interrelated phenomena. Together, they have created a moment of genuine national instability. But it is likely that each of them will come to an end in the near term or be greatly diminished, and that the mitigation of any of them would reduce the tension contributing to the others. One day, and let us pray that it is soon, the coronavirus will be reduced to a relatively minor problem. The economy will recover. The protests will die down. And Donald Trump will, either in January 2021 or in January 2025, make his way back to private life or to federal prison or whatever it is that awaits him after the presidency.

    Then what?

    KDW notes the very large elephant in the room: federal debt. And further notes that the GOP has the same old dynamics that failed to deal with the issue credibly when it was a lot more manageable.

URLs du Jour

2020-08-06

[Amazon Link]

  • Kevin D. Williamson takes an unfond look at the World’s Worst Idea.

    Almost a decade ago, I wrote a little book called The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism. When Regnery asked me to write the book, I was happy to do it but wondered whether a book on socialism, a brief conspectus of its grotesque failures, would be necessary or useful. I wondered why anybody would be interested. In the upcoming issue of National Review, I will have an essay on reading Karl Marx, and I do not have to worry about why people are interested. The world’s worst idea will not die.

    I do not expect to write another book on socialism, but I have been reading some. There are some horrifyingly relevant books out now and on the way. One is Iain Murray’s excellent, just-published The Socialist TemptationI will be discussing it with him on Thursday, if you’d like to watch — in which Murray addresses some of the eternal lies (“Real socialism has never been tried!”) and abominable clichés of socialism. He emphasizes that historically, socialism has consistently delivered the opposite of its promises: more economic and political inequality, not less; more poverty, not less; more ruthless social domination of the poor and the marginalized, not less; more environmental degradation, not less.

    My take on KDW's book from back in 2011 is here. Even back then I was a fanboy.


  • Veronique de Rugy suggests State and Local Governments Need Some Tough Love From Uncle Sam.

    State and local governments want more funds from the federal government to patch their budgets. Lack of revenue due to the recession and self-inflicted damage from the COVID-19 shutdowns of their economies, as well as larger-than-ever expenditures on top their regular overextended budgets, mean that many of them are hurting for cash. And while they're asking for $500 billion in bailout cash, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wants to give them $1 trillion. I, on the other hand, think it's about time state and local governments start fending for themselves.

    As I've explained before, there are many reasons to oppose state and local government bailouts. For starters, these jurisdictions have already received large amounts of federal funds to pay for their coronavirus-related expenditures. As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act and other relief measures, they've received $280 billion for various coronavirus-related expenses and another $150 billion for more flexible needs. The Federal Reserve has also set up a $500 billion program to facilitate short-term borrowing by state and local governments.

    A persistent goofy belief is that incoming cash from Uncle Stupid is "free": as if we taxpayers hadn't sent it to him in the first place. Or won't have to, sometime in the future.

    It's as if we've taken Scarlett O'Hara as a role model: "I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow."


  • On that Biden interview from Nick Gillespie at Reason: ‘Why the Hell Would I Take a Test?…Are You a Junkie?’.

    Joe Biden enjoys a comfortable lead over President Donald Trump in most polls, but the former senator and vice president is famous for gaffes that worry his supporters virtually every time he opens his mouth, especially without a script.

    In an interview earlier today with CBS's Errol Barnett, Biden scoffed at the idea that because of his advanced age—he would be the oldest person ever to take office if elected in November—he should take a test to show he has his wits about him (a few weeks ago, Trump discussed taking a cognitive test on Fox News).

    "Why the hell would I take a test?" he asked angrily before launching a rant:

    That's like saying, 'You—before you got on this program you took a test where you're taking cocaine or not, what do you think? Huh? Are you a junkie?'

    The weirdness doesn't end there. Throughout the exchange, Biden's affect is exaggerated and he repeatedly stammers and cuts himself off, at one point stumbling repeatedly when announcing that he's confident he will shine in any debate with Trump.

    Which brings us to…


  • James Freeman at his WSJ Best of the Web column considers Politician Cognition. After discussing Joe Biden's "Are you a junkie?" interview on CBS, he speculates:

    Meanwhile in Washington, this week brings fresh evidence that cognitive tests are in order for many politicians on both sides of the aisle. Specifically, there appears to be a need for more widespread testing for cognition as well as numeracy. A widely held view seems to be that state and local governments can suppress the private economy while federal lawmakers and monetary authorities successfully offset the damage. The scale of this misguided experiment is staggering. The Journal’s Kate Davidson reported on Monday:

    The U.S. expects to borrow an additional $2 trillion in the second half of the year as federal spending ramps up to combat the coronavirus pandemic, the Treasury Department said Monday.

    The department estimated the government would borrow $947 billion from July through September, a record for the quarter, bringing total borrowing for fiscal year 2020 to $4.5 trillion... That total is more than triple last year’s $1.28 trillion, and it dwarfs borrowing during and after the 2008 financial crisis.

    "Don't blame me, I voted for … something else."


  • Spencer Alexander McDaniel, an undergraduate student at Indiana/Bloomington, was of the folks who pointed out the bad Latin translation of "Live Free or Die" on the original cover of Sean Hannity's new book. Sean Hannity Still Doesn't Know Latin—But Does He Read My Blog?.

    If the answer to that question is yes, then Spencer has a message for Sean.

    Sean Hannity, if you’re reading this, I want you to go on your show and publicly admit that you’ve done nothing on air for the past eleven years but peddle lies, nonsense, and conspiracy theories. Then, I want you to disavow white supremacy, misogyny, and xenophobia, acknowledge the reality and seriousness of climate change, and tell all your viewers to take COVID-19 seriously and wear masks in public at all times. Finally, I want you to quit your job at Fox News with the condition that Fox must fill your primetime slot with a real news segment featuring a real journalist like Chris Wallace or someone else who does actual reporting.

    Well, what do you want, he's just a kid. Would I handle my fifteen minutes of fame, if I got them, any better?

URLs du Jour

2020-08-05

  • AEI's Mark J. Perry celebrates the birthday of John Venn with (what else) a collection of his best Venn Diagrams. And provides our Eye Candy du Jour:

    [Lack of Consistency]

    "But that's different!" Is it, really?


  • I have previously written that I think the Libertarian Party's "End the Fed" position comes off as a little wacky. I am considerably less confident of that position after reading Richard M. Ebeling at AIER on Paul Krugman’s Ad Hominem Defense of Central Banking. (On the other hand, I'm much more confident in my previous belief that Paul Krugman is kind of a nasty piece of work.)

    One of the sorriest aspects of almost all political discussions nowadays is how often they seem to degenerate into rude ad hominem attacks rather than more reasoned arguments over the pros and cons of what public policies might be most conducive to achieving various social and economic goals. 

    An example of this is an opinion piece by economist Paul Krugman in The New York Times (July 13, 2020), in which he asserts that those who question the current system of central banking and wide discretion by the monetary central planners are all reduced to the name calling of being, “Goldbugs for Trump”

    He starts out by emphasizing that being a “real” and successful economist requires hard work, creative originality, and rigor with using “the facts.” Many are called, but few are chosen, he basically implies. So, what are the mediocre second and third best to do? Well, they can accept their mediocrity, and leave it at that. Like most other things in life, they, too, will pass without leaving much of a trace. 

    But what if you do not want to accept this lesser state within the economics profession compared to some like, well, Paul Krugman, who was awarded a Nobel Prize in Economics in 2008? How might the mediocre make a name for themselves? According to Krugman, the path to fame and fortune for the intellectually underprivileged is to become a charlatan, the economist huckster, advocating kooky and crazy ideas that no reputable economist would be caught dead believing. 

    This is all about Judy Shelton, nominated by Trump to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. She has said nice things about the gold standard, an unforgivable sin against the memory of FDR.

    Ebeling goes through the history of the gold standard and central banking. Arguably, the demise of the former and the ascendency of the latter have not issued in the promised economic nirvana.

    This is a specific example of a more general tenet of Progressive theology: Government institutions are judged by the wonderful imagined results they could (but never actually do) achieve. While laissez faire policies and private institutions are graded on a much harsher scale.


  • Kevin D. Williamson weighs in on Trump Critics and 'Burn It Down' Debate. It's an excellent overview of the various conservadroids' arguments about the future of the GOP.

    The question is, “Burn It Down, or No?”

    Or, to put it another way: “What’s the more pleasing way to march Republicans onto ice floes and shove their sorry asses out to sea — one at a time, or all at once?”

    “Burn It Down!” has become a shorthand for the less easygoing kind of anti-Trump conservative. (Apologies, Millennials and nitwits: I do not think or write in hashtags, and if that is what you are looking for, look elsewhere.) For members of the Burning faction, to see Donald Trump lose in 2020 would be insufficient — their view is that the Republican Party as a whole must be punished for its energetic embrace of Trump and Trumpism. For some, such as the gentlemen of the Lincoln Project, that means not only actively supporting Joe Biden’s presidential campaign but also working to pick off congressional Republicans, especially vulnerable senators — some make the case for voting straight-ticket Democrat as a matter of civic hygiene.

    The Not For Burning faction argues that this is an overreaction and that it is counterproductive, inasmuch as taking down Lincoln Project targets such as Senator Susan Collins of Maine would leave the Republican Party not only smaller but also Trumpier — it would be easier to knock off the last New England moderate than it would be to take down Ted Cruz or Jim Inhofe. Surely, the Not For Burning faction argues, the answer cannot be a Republican Party that is both politically weaker and politically worse than it already is?

    Allow me to climb up on my soapbox: the problem isn't the politicians. It's the voters. Bumping off (say) Susan Collins will only replace her with someone worse. Probably much worse, and for the subsequent six years (barring indictment, health issues, or the like).

    And it's not as if Maine's GOP voters will come up with a better GOP candidate in 2026.


  • At Patterico's Pontifications, JVW analyzes Biden's Veepstakes, and puts in a plug for his Little Aloha Sweetie.

    With putative Democrat Presidential nominee Joe Biden zeroing in on his Vice-Presidential pick — and believe me, the leaked names under consideration are indeed a bunch of zeros — it’s time to make the argument for a bold, refreshing, unconventional pick that would establish Slow Joe as something other than a dinosaur who has spent a half-century mucking around Washington, DC and who is in complete thrall to the power players and elite opinion makers which sadly dominate his party. Various names have been bandied about over the past few months: Stacey Abrams, Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Keisha Lance Bottoms, Tammy Duckworth, and now Karen Bass. They each have something to offer the elderly white male Establishment figure around whom party pooh-bahs rallied during that harrowing point last winter when a nutty old socialist nearly stormed the gates and threw out everyone who wore a tailored suit.

    But none of them offer the advantages that Mr. Biden stands to reap if he takes the bold step of naming the fourth-term Congresswoman from the islands of Hawai’i to his ticket. She matches and/or surpasses any of the strengths of the other potential candidates, and at worst her liabilities are no more troublesome than those of the rest of the field. Don’t believe me? Let’s consider:

    What follows is a good summary of the so-called top tier of Veep candidates. Sample:

    Karen Bass
    Pros: Apparently she and Biden get along well together, though Biden might have mistaken her for his nurse.
    Cons: As late as 2016 still thought Fidel Castro had done a bang-up job in Cuba. Her only major accomplishment as Speaker of the California Assembly, a budget deal with Governor Schwarzenegger, was overwhelmingly rejected by the state’s voters, hardly an endorsement of her ability to sell her fellow Democrats on compromise.

    Tulsi's efforts to revive the stupid Fairness Doctrine make her a non-starter for me, but JVW might be right that she's the best pick for Joe.

    But "little"? I should point out that Tulsi is 5'8", whereas the average American woman is slightly under 5'4".


  • OK, back to serious and sensible. At Reason, Jacob Sullum asserts Trump’s Warnings About Voting by Mail Mix Reasonable Concerns With Fanciful Conspiracy Theories.

    Donald Trump's main beef against wide use of mail-in ballots is that it creates "a great Voter Fraud scenario," allowing Democrats to "cheat in elections" and deprive Republicans such as himself of their just victories. While the evidence of such a scheme is hard to find, the president recently has voiced a more realistic concern: that a flood of mail-in ballots from Americans worried about visiting polling places in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic will overwhelm vote counters, delay the announcement of results, and create lingering uncertainty about who won.

    The experience with the recent primary elections in New York City, which was woefully unprepared to tabulate mail-in ballots, shows this danger is more than a figment of the president's imagination. Six weeks after those elections, the votes are still being counted.

    New York Times story about the fiasco, which it says has fed fears of a "November Nightmare," identifies several problems. Notwithstanding the likelihood that COVID-19 anxiety would result in an unusually large number of mail-in ballots—about 400,000, it turned out—the city's Board of Elections did not have enough workers. Some 34,000 ballots were sent to New Yorkers the day before the June 23 primary, giving them insufficient time to vote. Thousands of ballots were discarded because of "minor errors." Thousands more were not counted because the U.S. Postal Service did a haphazard job of postmarking the prepaid envelopes, which was required to document that ballots were cast before the deadline.

    Total government ineptitude, in a state where government is the secular religion.

    Jacob is copacetic on the fraud front, though. He says that evidence is hard to find, ignoring that the system is designed to make such evidence hard to find.


  • And <voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone!</voice>. Portland (Oregon) has been protected against the menace of Kindergarten Cop. The movie, that is.

    A film center in Portland cancelled its screening of Kindergarten Cop after a local author complained about the movie’s portrayal of police in schools and compared it to The Birth of a Nation, a 1915 film that romanticized the Ku Klux Klan.

    Northwest Film Center, an organization supporting local filmmakers, had planned to show Kindergarten Cop as the first movie in its summertime drive-in movie series until author Lois Leveen said a movie showing cops in schools wasn’t "entertaining."

    "There’s nothing entertaining about the presence of police in schools," Leveen tweeted. "5- and 6-year-olds are handcuffed and hauled off to jail routinely in this country. And this criminalizing of children increases dramatically when cops are assigned to work in schools."

    Routinely?

    Kindergarten Cop has one of my favorite movie quotes, although it doesn't work as well on the pixelled page.

URLs du Jour

2020-08-04

  • Our Eye Candy du Jour is a fine video from Austin and Andrew at Reason: What Should Have Happened at the Big Tech Antitrust Hearing.

    Libertarians have humor on their side. Unfortunately, that's not enough for a working majority these days.


  • The WSJ editorialists note a mortal combat from which only one can emerge: Economists vs. Common Sense.

    Most Americans understand intuitively that if people make more money by not working, fewer people will work. Then there are politicians and economists who want to pass out more money while claiming that disincentives to work are irrelevant.

    The latest attempt to defy common sense is a study by Yale economists that purportedly finds the $600 federal enhancement to jobless benefits hasn’t affected the incentive to work. But the study offers limited evidence for this conclusion, which is contradicted by other data and real-world evidence.

    The Yale study analyzes how higher unemployment wage replacement rates affected employment at small businesses after the Cares Act passed in late March. Wage replacement rates vary by a worker’s state and prior earnings. Lower-income and part-time workers have the highest replacement rates. A California worker who previously made $300 per week would receive $150 in normal state benefits plus $600 for a total of $750. The same worker in Oregon would get $795.

    Of course, the Yale study was held up as definitive by (for example) Commie Radio (any my own local TV station).


  • Donald J. Boudreaux writes at AIER with his Covid Cri de Cœur.

    Sometimes one’s soul is best served by issuing a cri de cœur. I want to scream and protest against today’s unprecedented (in my adult lifetime) long spasm of irrationality and madness. “Why,” I ask myself, “are so many people content to be denied context, perspective, and completeness of pictures?”

    Even though this morning I was still far from being fully caffeinated when I visited the Washington Post website, I immediately grew highly agitated with frustration upon reading this headline: “Coronavirus threat rises across U.S.: ‘We just have to assume the monster is everywhere’.”

    This description of the coronavirus threat as a “monster” comes from Ohio’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine. The Post obviously regards this description as valid and important – as front-webpage headline-worthy. This was the lead story in Sunday’s print edition, under the headline ”Experts push for new tack on virus.”

    I don't have all the answers, and (like Professor Boudreaux) I am not an epidemiologist. But if I were forced to bet, I would say in five years or so, an honest assessment of our response will involve the phrase "Cargo cult science".


  • Jim Geraghty's Morning Jolt says: Hey.

    Hey, remember George Floyd? Didn’t all this start with a broad, bipartisan consensus in support of equal treatment under the law? The 14th Amendment has stated since 1868 that “no State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Didn’t we have a far-reaching agreement among whites, blacks, Latinos, Asians, and everyone of every race, creed, and color that it was time for America to live up to that requirement?

    Instead we’ve had Golden Girls reruns pulled from streaming services, changes to the depiction of fantasy races in Dungeons & Dragons, an end to the brands of “Eskimo pies,” “the Dixie Chicks” and “Lady Antebellum,” an all-black Mercedes Formula One car, and slogans on the backs of NBA players. We want a more just society, but instead we get headline-grabbing rebranding efforts.

    This would be "cargo cult racial justice".


  • An amusing take from Michael Fumento at Issues & Insights: The Two Horsemen Of The Apocalypse: Fauci And Redfield. Redfield is Director of the CDC, but here's some Fauci info:

    The left-wing publication Vox.com notes it was not coronavirus but, “an earlier crisis that shaped (Fauci’s) career — and that’s crucial to understanding his position today.” Indeed. Nobody did more to kick off the U.S. AIDS alarm than Fauci, who was sole author of a 1983 piece in the prestigious JAMA in which he declared the disease might be transmissible by “routine close contact, as within a family household.”

    He shortly thereafter ascended to the position he holds to this day. Long after it was established that AIDS was actually extremely hard to transmit, Fauci nonetheless continued to raise hue and cry. In 1987, columnist George Will asserted on national TV that the threat to heterosexuals was overstated. “That’s not correct,” Fauci protested, followed by a prediction that the percentage of AIDS cases contracted via heterosexual transmission (then at 4%) would rise to 10% by 1991. No, it never rose above 4%.

    He repeated the pattern during successive disease panics, such as when he declared 16 years ago that we’re “due” for “massive person-to-person” spread of Avian flu A/H5N1. How massive? While Fauci didn’t define the term, according to one estimate by a CDC modeler “even in the best-case scenarios” worldwide it would “cause 2 to 7 million deaths.”

    British epidemiologist Neil Ferguson (whose later prediction of 550,000 coronavirus deaths in Britain and 2 million in the U.S. would lead to economically ruinous nationwide lockdowns in both countries) scaled that back to “only” 200,000. As it turned out, the disease killed 440 worldwide.

    More recently, Fauci sounded alarm over the threat of the Zika virus, demanding billions more in taxpayer funds. It barely touched two U.S. states before burning out on its own.

    We looked at Zika and Fauci back in 2017. Ironically, the issue at the time was a UNH/Carsey School of Public Policy study that wondered "How Concerns About Scientists May Undermine Efforts to Combat the Pandemic". And they were talking about Zika.

    Do you think that past pandemic hoopla might have led the public to guess that authorities were overreacting to Covid?


  • The daily Morning Dispatch from the Goldberg/Hayes Media Empire is a pretty good stop. It's lengthy, but I just wanted to note this bit:

    In one of the toughest interviews to date of President Donald Trump, Axios correspondent Jonathan Swan spoke to the president about coronavirus, his re-election, Rep. John Lewis and other topics. Swan was polite but firm throughout, and Trump responded with several eyebrow-raising comments. When Swan asked whether Trump finds Rep. John Lewis “impressive,” the president initially responded, “I don't know ... I don't know John Lewis. He chose not to come to my inauguration.” And the two men clashed over Trump’s claim that the U.S. has outperformed other countries in its response to the coronavirus. The entire interview is well worth the time.

    Let's not pretend Trump isn't a narcissistic boor. A guy died, and the most important thing that jumped to Trump's brain? And jumped immediately from there to his mouth? Whether he came to his inauguration.


  • [Amazon Link]
    And our Google LFOD News Alert has been cluttered with references to Sean Hannity's new book. Which has that title. But also a pretentious Latin translation on the cover. Which turns out to be…

    “Live Free Or Die: America (and the World) on the Brink” is released [sic] Tuesday, and has already topped some best-selling lists.

    Its Amazon blurb characterises the book as a description of “America’s fight against those who would reverse our tradition of freedom,” and warns of “full-blown socialism” and economic collapse if President Donald Trump loses the 2020 presidential election.

    To top off its sense of urgency and tradition, the book cover includes a line of Latin underneath an image of a tattered US flag.

    However, the original version of the five-word motto was full of mistakes.

    Moral: don't rely on Google Translate for your English-to-Latin translation needs.


Last Modified 2020-08-12 9:16 AM EST

Historical Impromptus

Notes, Reviews, and Responses on the British Experience and the Great Enrichment

[Amazon Link]

This is a grab-bag collection of articles, book reviews, and interviews from Deirdre McCloskey (DM), accumulated over decades. The Kindle version is mere $5 at Amazon, and since I am a DM fanboy, I snapped it up.

It covers decades, some bits going back to when Deirdre considered herself to be Donald. And (consumer note) a lot of this stuff is generally available on the web.

Let's be honest: some of the contents (I think it's fair to say) will be of limited interest to the dilettante reader. By which I mean: me. We get DM's side to some pretty wooly academic debates, mostly without any context or dissent. Much of DM's original research was on British economic history, and things get into the weeds pretty quickly on (for example) coal mining issues, the breadth and depth of seams dictating how practically they could be extracted. Also some stuff about swamp-draining… . Friends, I don't care and I don't feel a bit guilty about not caring. I gave long stretches of the book the looked-at-every-page treatment. I would not pass even a cursory quiz on the topics.

But everything else is good, driven by DM's punchy prose, unrivalled in my usual non-fiction reading. Specifically, DM's book reviews are fun and occasionally illuminating. Example: reviewed Thomas Friedman's 1999 book The Lexus and the Olive Tree for the Minnesota Journal of Global Trade, and she quotes him making a stunning prediction:

China's going to have freedom of the press Globulation will drive it. Oh, China's leaders don't know that yet, but they are being pushed straight in that direction.

Well, over 20 years later, and we're still waiting. Apparently the push wasn't as pushy as either Friedman or DM thought it would be.

So I won't be reading Tom Friedman soon. But DM's glowing review of Niall Ferguson's The Square and the Tower caused me to put it on my TTR list.

Once Were Brothers

Robbie Robertson and the Band

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

A documentary about The Band. A group that I didn't "get" until they were almost over. And they haven't faded in my estimation, unlike some others. (The Eagles? Fleetwood Mac? They're OK, but not as great as I once thought they were.)

It is specifically Robbie Robertson's version of The Band's genesis and eventual demise. He's the only member shown in non-archival footage. Somewhat understandable: Rick Danko died, allegedly of heart failure, at age 55 in 1999. Richard Manuel committed suicide in 1986, age 43. Levon Helm died of cancer in 2012, age 71. That leaves Garth Hudson, but he's not here. Bob Dylan shows up a lot in old clips, but nothing filmed for this documentary.

Anyway, it's pretty much the standard story: scrappy beginnings, fortuitous early connections (in this case with Ronny Hawkins), a general recognition of musical genius, lots of booze and drug use, an ego-fueled breakup. The Band reformed for a while in the 1980s without Robbie, so it's easy to speculate that the other members couldn't stand him. That's left relatively unexplored.


Last Modified 2020-08-04 7:25 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2020-08-03

  • <voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone!</voice>. Mark J. Perry has another Animated chart of the day, and it's our Eye Candy du Jour:

    Why, it's almost as if our government schools have been incentivized to work for the benefit of teachers and non-teaching staff instead of students!


  • Writing at the Washington Post, Mark Theissen wonders: are teachers really essential? (Well, actually, he doesn't. But I do.)

    This week, public school teachers in D.C. marched to protest opening schools next month, placing fake body bags outside the school district’s office. They brought signs saying “RIP Favorite Teacher,” “killed in the line of duty” and “how many will you let die?” They are not alone. According to an Education Week poll released last month, 65 percent of public school teachers and administrators want to keep schools closed this fall, while just 35 percent want to reopen.

    Maybe they should have brought signs that read “I’m not essential” — because that is what they are telling us.

    At the height of the pandemic, millions of grocery clerks, factory workers, food processors, truck drivers, railroad workers, mass transit workers, sanitation workers, utility workers, police officers and firefighters continued showing up for work — because it was essential that they do so. Are teachers less essential than these professions? Apparently, they think so.

    Nothing would please me more than a long slow slide of government schools into irrelevancy.


  • Andy Kessler has an amusing op-ed at the WSJ: The Physics of a Political Crack-Up. Probably paywalled, but…

    Are politics swinging out of control? Have we reached the resonant frequency of destruction? Oh, how we’ve swung—from the lefty Third Way of Clinton-Gore, to the righty foreign adventures of Bush-Cheney, to the progressive “Life of Julia” nanny state of Obama-Biden, to today’s confused tariff and border-wall follies of Trump-Pence. No wonder we throw the bums out every four or eight years.

    Physics students learn that everything has a resonant frequency, which can cause an object to vibrate with increased amplitude and eventually out of control. This is how opera singers can shatter glass.

    One real-life example is “Galloping Gertie.” On Nov. 7, 1940, a day with 35-mile-an-hour wind, Washington state’s Tacoma Narrows Bridge, then the world’s third-longest suspension bridge (after the Golden Gate and George Washington) and just four months after completion, started to twist and swing out of control. Movie footage shows what seems like a wave of energy pulsing through the bridge until, after an hour, it collapsed. Apparently, it had hit its resonant frequency.

    In a later paragraph, Andy notes that's not really happened to Gertie: she was just poorly designed and cheaply built. So the resonant-frequency analogy isn't great. Also, the design and construction of our political system was actually pretty good. Our current woes are more due to (trying to set up a different analogy) neglectful maintenance and intentional vandalism.


  • At Inside Sources, guest columnist David Micali says our state might be a little slow to latch onto political fashion, but eventually… The Debate Over Statues Reaches New Hampshire. David discusses Franklin Pierce (revealing some seamy opinions of which I wasn't aware), and the even more obscure…

    Hannah Duston was a Puritan Massachusetts colonist taken captive by the Abenaki people in 1697 as part of King William’s War (1689-1697). She was held in Boscawen, N.H. and she killed and scalped 10 of the Native American family members holding them hostage in her escape.

    Her story became famous 100 years after her death in 1736 and she has become known as the “mother of the American tradition of scalp-hunting.” A statue of her was erected in Boscawen in 1874.

    Some historians have argued that her story was used as a justification for American settlers’ harsh treatment of Native Americans during Manifest Destiny as the country pushed west.

    Egads. The Wikipedia article doesn't mention the scalping bit. The Atlas Obscura entry has more gory detail.


  • A feelgood story from John Fund at National Review: How Olivia de Havilland & Ronald Reagan Beat Hollywood Communists.

    When Olivia de Havilland, the grande dame of the Golden Age of Hollywood, died last week at age 104, the tributes and memories for a life well lived poured in. She was the last surviving cast member of the epic Gone with the Wind. She won two Academy Awards. She was romantically pursued by everyone from Jimmy Stewart to Howard Hughes to a young Jack Kennedy. She challenged and helped change punitive film-industry practices toward performers.

    But one chapter in her life was missing from almost all the tributes. In its 3,000-word obituary the New York Times failed to mention the key role she played in defeating the Communist subversion of Hollywood in the 1940s.

    The Washington Post devoted not one word of its 2,400-word obit to it. Neither did the Los Angeles Times, Hollywood’s local paper, in its 2,200-word sendoff.

    But it's a great story, and an interesting tidbit: in 1946, Miss de Havilland asked Ronald Reagan to pen an anti-Commie declaration for newspaper publication. And she rejected Reagan's initial try: "Ronnie, it’s not strong enough. It’s not strong enough. It has to be stronger than that or I won’t accept it,"

    I hope she was adequately pleased with his future efforts.


  • And here's a pan: the Bulwark The Blind Oracle of Noonan, a trashing of Peggy Noonan's recent WSJ column dissenting from the "burn down the GOP" never-Trumpers.

    Most of it is sneering and name-calling. But here's something substantive:

    She doesn’t want Never Trumpers making noise because their critiques “will be unhelpful for Republicans, and bad for the country, if that’s the background music of the party the next 10 years.”

    That seems to be… incorrect. Here are the last few paragraphs of Noonan's column, where the quote appears:

    Some Never Trumpers helped create the conditions that created President Trump. What would be helpful from them now is not pyromaniac fantasies but constructive modesty, even humility.

    The party’s national leaders and strategists don’t have a lot to be proud of the past few decades. The future of the party will probably bubble up from the states.

    But it matters that the past six months Mr. Trump has been very publicly doing himself in, mismanaging his crises—setting himself on fire. As long as that’s clear, his supporters won’t be able to say, if he loses, that he was a champion of the people who was betrayed by the party elites, the Never Trumpers and the deep state: “He didn’t lose, he was the victim of treachery.”

    Both parties have weaknesses. Liberals enjoy claiming progress that can somehow never quite be quantified. Conservatives like the theme of betrayal.

    It will be unhelpful for Republicans, and bad for the country, if that’s the background music of the party the next 10 years.

    Could anything be clearer? It's not the "Never Trumpers" making that background music. It's the what-if Trump fans blaming the Never Trumpers for their "betrayal" and "treachery"?

    It's been awhile since I've been able to find anything worth blogging at the Bulwark. If this keeps up, I may give up, just as I've given up on Breitbart and Michelle Malkin.

Onward

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

Pixar's latest. As you might remember, it was released to the theaters in early March, just as Covid was getting going. So it did poorly for a Pixar flick. Sad! But it's pretty good. Not up there with Up or Toy Story N, but still pretty good.

It's set in a world populated by various mythical creatures: elves, centaurs, manticores (maybe just one manticore), ogres, etc. And while magic still exists, it's been de-emphasized and disrespected since modern technology was developed. Our hero is Ian, whose family (seemingly like most Pixar families) is missing a dad: he died before Ian was born. Again, sad! But there's an out: on Ian's 16th birthday, his mom reveals a long-concealed gift: a magic staff and a spell that will bring dad back for just one day.

Unfortunately for Ian, but fortunately for the movie plot, the spell only half works. Ian and his goofy brother Barley set off on a dangerous—and, yes, perilous—quest to acquire the magical Maguffin to finish the spell, and reunite with dad.

If you watch it, I suggest going to the IMDB trivia page afterward to find out what you missed. In my case, a lot.

The Phony Campaign

2020-08-02 Update

It's been a good week for Mr. Ramirez, and he once again provides the day's eye candy:

[1-800-JOE-LOST]

That 25th Amendment theme is only going to get heavier play from here until (at least) November.

Donald Trump continues to charm the marginal bettors, shaving a hefty 0.5 percentage points off his (much heftier) disadvantage. Linear extrapolation would imply he'd be back to even money in about… oh, never mind, that's stupid.

Trump's phony hits continue to dominate Biden's, though:

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
7/26
Phony
Results
Change
Since
7/26
Donald Trump 37.3% +0.3% 2,640,000 +250,000
Joe Biden 59.3% -0.2% 689,000 +100,000

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • As a break from our usual cynically lighthearted take on the campaign, any reader who's undecided about their November vote could do worse than listening to the Reason-sponsored Soho Forum Debate Who Should Libertarians Vote For in 2020? It's Ilya Somin advocating for Biden, Angela McArdle for the Libertarian Party candidate Jo Jorgenson, and Francis Menton pumping for Trump.

    Unsurprisingly, both Somin and Menton made the same tired pitch for major-party voting: essentially, "you should vote for the best candidate who has a chance at winning."

    I don't buy that. Effectively, it translates to "vote for one of the candidates who'll come in either first or second place."

    But there's nothing magical about the number "two". Why isn't it "vote for one of the candidates who'll come in either first or second or third place"?

    And there's the practical matter: your vote won't swing the election. You might as well make it a statement about who you actually prefer, instead of agonizing over a choice between two different flavors of crap sandwich.

    That said, MxArdle's advocacy of Jo J. was kind of wince-inducing at times, long on strident sloganeering. And, apparently, Jo's an end-the-fed libertarian. Hey, maybe, but I'd like to see that treated as an open question instead of dogma.

  • A major source of outrage was Trump's tweet floating a proposal he has no power to enact. At Cato, Gene Healy asks: “Delay the Election???”.

    In any event, if Trump’s tweet was a veiled threat to postpone the election, it joins a long list of crackpot authoritarian fancies he’s let fly since his inauguration. In just the last two years, this president has (an incomplete list):

    […]

    We’ll no doubt hear from the president’s allies that it’s just a tweet, he didn’t mean what you thought he meant, and/​or he was just being “sarcastic.” Trump doesn’t think he misspoke: look at what’s now his “pinned tweet,” with pride of place atop his feed. The guy’s an attention vampire, and all press is good press.

    The "attention vampire" thing is probably part of it, But (I'm pretty sure) he also thinks this sort of thing is necessary to fire up his base.

    His ever-shrinking base.


  • [Amazon Link]
    At National Review, David Bahnsen looks at a new book (link at right) by one Julie Kelly, and deems it A Dishonest Disgrace.

    Julie Kelly’s new book, Disloyal Opposition: How the #NeverTrump Right Tried and Failed to Take Down the President, is tempting to ignore. She is quite explicit about the fact that she didn’t write it to advance the conservative cause. It is instead meant as an attack on those members of the Never Trump club — and a whole bunch of people she wrongly identifies as part of that club — whom she doesn’t like. I do think a serious and credible treatment of the Right’s various anti-Trump factions would be an interesting read. But Kelly is neither serious nor credible; she’s occupies a place in the MAGA firmament roughly equivalent to Jennifer Rubin’s place among Never Trumpers, which is to say that she’s a hack.

    Those who read this book hoping for useful analysis of what exactly has polarized various figures on the right around their Trumpian positions are sure to be disappointed. What they will quickly learn instead is that treating all of President Trump’s critics as one monolithic group is dishonest, lazy, and ultimately unhelpful.

    Bahnsen points out that it's not particularly difficult to distinguish the positions of Jen Rubin, Max Boot, and Tom Nichols (who Bahnsen considers "completely unhinged") from those of Jonah Goldberg and David French. But this is something that Kelly is too lazy or dishonest to do in her book.


  • So we move to the Biden veepstakes. Evita Duffy reports at the Federalist: Kamala Harris Has ‘No Remorse’ For Ambushing Biden In Primary Debates.

    In June 2019, during the Democrat presidential primary debates, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) blasted the now-nominee, Joe Biden, insinuating he was a racist for applauding segregationist senators and opposing a 1970s federal busing program that put children in schools based on race: 

    … it’s personal and it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country. It was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing.

    Former Sen. Chris Dodd, a member of Biden’s vice presidential search committee, recently asked Harris about her attack on Biden in that first debate. Dodd told a longtime Biden supporter and donor, “She laughed and said, ‘That’s politics.’ She had no remorse.” The donor relayed the exchange to Politico on condition of anonymity.

    As noted before, Biden's problem with Kamala should be that she would start lining up cabinet members to invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment sometime in the early afternoon of January 20, 2021.


  • Hey, how about that Lincoln Project thing? At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson suggests we Take the Lincoln Project at Its Word.

    The Lincoln Project has not been suddenly exposed making common cause with Democrats — making common cause with Democrats in opposition to Trump and Trumpism is its raison d’être. Maybe some conservative critics do not think that is a good or worthy undertaking, but those who are engaging with the Lincoln Project have an intellectual obligation to address the actual argument being advanced; i.e., that Donald Trump and his administration represent a special kind of awful that requires bipartisan repudiation. Agree or disagree, that is the question raised by the Lincoln Project. The fact that the Lincoln Project sometimes airs ads on Morning Joe is entirely beside the point.

    What is most worrisome to me is not that Republicans do not by and large agree with the Lincoln Project’s critique but that they are incapable of taking it seriously. They dismiss it as being of interest only to four self-aggrandizing politicos, but there is a great deal of evidence that this is simply not the case. Biden currently leads Trump in the polls in Texas, and Republicans are in danger of losing their Senate majority. This is not because the nation is disappointed in the performance of John Cornyn. The issue is Trump. Pretending that the issue is Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, awful as they are, won’t do.

    But for another take…


  • Declan Garvey at the Dispatch: Donald Trump Stole Their Republican Party. They Want to Take It Back.. He looks at the group "Republican Voters Against Trump" (RVAT); for them, it's simply about opposing Trump, not Republicans generally. But about that:

    It is on this point where RVAT diverges from its more notorious counterpart. The Lincoln Project—announced in December 2019 by political operatives Steve Schmidt, Rick Wilson, and John Weaver, as well as conservative lawyer George Conway—was founded, according to its website, with a singular mission in mind: “To defeat Donald Trump and Trumpism.”

    That second part—“and Trumpism”—is what has gotten the Lincoln Project so much flak from the right while RVAT has flown largely under the radar. The group is focusing its tens of millions of dollars not just on helping Joe Biden’s odds in the presidential election, but defeating vulnerable Republican senators—like Thom Tillis, Martha McSally, Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, Joni Ernst, Lindsey Graham, Steve Daines, and Mitch McConnell—as well. Weaver—who has worked for Sen. John McCain and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich but also the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee—recently told the Washington Post he thinks the Lincoln Project will remain active in a hypothetical Biden presidency, working against GOP lawmakers who oppose Democrats’s agenda.

    Fortuately, I'm not a joiner.


  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File also looks at the Lincoln Project: Burn, Baby, Burn. Headline aside, Jonah's actually against the idea that the GOP must be "burned down totally" in a Trumpism purge.

    Let me put it this way: Even if the burn-it-down folks are right that the ideal option would be to raze the current GOP and build it anew, they can’t do it. (Indeed, it’s funny: Anti-Trump conservatives have spent three years being told we don’t matter, and many of us have said we’re okay with that. But now suddenly we’re debating—as if it were a real possibility—whether or not we should tear down the existing GOP and redesign it on our terms.)

    And sometimes if you can’t succeed, the worst thing you can do is try. Say I’m in a boat with Steve Hayes, far from both shore and medical assistance. Now, suppose Steve has appendicitis. We know the best solution is to remove his appendix. Well, possibly the worst thing I could do is bust out my Swiss Army knife and start cutting away at his abdomen in search of his appendix. Even if I found it, I wouldn’t know how to remove it, never mind sew him back up. Better to leave it in there and figure out the best possible way to get help. 

    To the extent that the Lincoln Project folks have the power to do anything to Republicans, most of the Republicans they can actually take down aren’t the Trumpiest ones. They’re the least Trumpy. Indeed, the fact that they’re the least Trumpy is the reason they hate them the most. It’s analogous to the way hardcore leftists hate moderate liberals so much. When two camps agree on a lot of first principles, deviation and compromise are seen as acts of cowardice or betrayal. Everyone knows that Sen. Susan Collins isn’t a Trump stooge, which is why her concessions to Trumpism enrage the fiercest Trump opponents the most (including me, sometimes). On a psychological level, you expect more from people who you think should know better. And because she’s a fairly liberal Republican from a liberal state, she can be hurt by the charge of being a Trump stooge in ways that, say, Tom Cotton or Rand Paul can’t. So that’s why the Lincoln Project is running ads calling her a “Trump Stooge.”

    Yeah, that doesn't make a lot of sense. Although Susan is not on Pun Salad's Respectable list, it's not because she's a Trumpite.


  • Ah, Damon Root remembers the good old days: When Joe Biden Tried To Paint Clarence Thomas as a Crazy Libertarian.

    How long has Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden been in the political game? Long enough to have been at the center of a smear campaign during the Senate confirmation hearings of the longest-serving member of the current U.S. Supreme Court.

    The 1991 showdown over Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas is mostly remembered today for the accusations of sexual misconduct leveled by Anita Hill. But the hearings actually kicked off with Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Joe Biden trying to discredit Thomas as a crazy libertarian and reckless judicial activist.

    "I assure you I have read all of your speeches, and I have read them in their entirety," Biden told Thomas shortly after the nominee's opening statement. "And, in the speech you gave in 1987 to the Pacific Research Institute, you said, and I quote, 'I find attractive the arguments of scholars such as Stephen Macedo who defend an activist Supreme Court that would'—not could, would—'strike down laws restricting property rights.'"

    Root shows that, despite Biden's claim to have read Thomas's speeches "in their entirety', he managed to obviously snip out the context to misrepresent Thomas's position on Macedo.

    Biden: liar or illiterate? I'm going with "both".

URLs du Jour

2020-08-01

[Amazon Link]

  • Via Hot Air, an interesting take from James Lindsay: No, the Woke Won’t Debate You. Here's Why.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked why it is that the Woke won’t seem to have a debate or discussion about their views, and I’ve been meaning to write something about it for ages, probably a year at this point. Surely you’ll have noticed that they don’t tend to engage in debates or conversation?

    It is not, as many think, a fear of being exposed as fraudulent or illegitimate—or otherwise of losing the debate or looking bad in the challenging conversation—that prevents those who have internalized a significant amount of the Critical Social Justice Theory mindset that prevents these sorts of things from happening. There’s a mountain of Theoretical reasons that they would avoid all such activities, and even if those are mere rationalizations of a more straightforward fear of being exposed as fraudulent or losing, they are shockingly well-developed and consistent rationalizations that deserve proper consideration and full explanation.

    Our Amazon Product du Jour provides one of those "reasons" (which avoid actual reasoning): if you're looking to destroy the structures of oppression, you can't play the oppressor's game of evidence, logic, precision, and clarity.

    Which brings us to…


  • Peter Franklin at the Brit website UnHerd helpfully lists Ten woke ways to shut down debate. For example, number seven is "I'm not here to educate you."

    In its proper context, the phrase “I’m not here to educate you” expresses the idea that members of oppressed groups are not responsible for explaining their oppression — and especially not to their oppressors. Quite right too. While it is the right of individuals to advocate for their community, it is certainly not a duty. In any case, the onus is on the people responsible for an injustice to undo it.

    Ostensibly well-meant, but intrusive, questions from a member of one culture to another also merit the above reply. No one should be expected to serve as an ambassador for a community just because they happen to belong to it.

    The trouble, of course, is that the use of “I’m not here to educate you” has mutated — being used in general argument as a get-out clause (and one that makes the other person look like the fool). If you didn’t want to get into a debate in the first place, then fair enough, but if you did and you’ve been challenged on something you’ve said, then it is your job to stand your claims up or concede the point.

    At (for example) the University Near Here, debate is shut down by having the administration aggressively push its "woke" positions out onto its official channels. You don't have to shut down a debate when you pretend that there are no alternate opinions.


  • Patterico's Pontifications notes one win for sanity against Woke Culure: Trader Joe's will not be rebranding its cutesy-named ethnic food products: Trader Jose's, Trader Ming’s, etc.

    That doesn't mean the war on problematic terms is over. The folks at Remodelista have (of course) dumped "master bedroom" and "master bathroom". And:

    CNN also compiled a list of words and expressions with racist roots. Among them: cakewalk, peanut gallery, blacklist, and grandfathered in. We’re adding these to our banned words list. And a reader pointed out that using the phrase “we discovered the work of so-and-so” is problematic. You won’t hear that sort of colonialist phrasing from us anymore either.

    Are they kidding? Apparently not. The Discovery doctrine was used to justify a Bad Thing: colonialism.

    (Without which we'd all still be on the African savanna, but that's OK.)

    The University Near Here calls its general education requirements The Discovery Program. I suppose that problematic terminology will soon be noticed and (with copious amounts of time, money, and hoopla) be renamed.

    And furthermore:

    This all reminds me of a Twitter thread I saw recently where someone warned advertisers to reconsider their campaigns, because in this woke era, what sounded fine last week might seem tone deaf this week. Scary enough, how standards change from week to week … but then, someone responded to the guy by saying “tone deaf” was “ableist” and she was offended because she is deaf. The woke scold thanked her, and the replies were filled with people adding a new term to the ban list.

    What will be the new name for Venetian Blinds?


  • The Josiah Bartlett Center has a good question: Why does it take 220% longer to become a cosmetologist than a police officer?.

    If you want to become a police officer in New Hampshire, you have to undergo 684 hours of training at the N.H. Police Academy. That’s less than it takes to become a licensed barber, and less than half as long as to become a cosmetologist.

    Most people probably don’t think of police as being subject to occupational licensing, but that’s what the training and certification process amount to. And the level of training required to become a police officer is much less than is required for people entering many other occupations, none of which carry a gun and have the authority to use lethal force.

    That's in New Hampshire. Your state may differ. But I'd wager that you can find equally nonsensical differences no matter where you live. Why, it's almost as if the rules are not the product of uniform and rational design, but merely the product of whatever interest group set them up.


  • And good news from Slashdot: One Mystery of Stonehenge's Origins Has Finally Been Solved.

    For more than four centuries, archaeologists and geologists have sought to determine the geographical origins of the stones used to build Stonehenge thousands of years ago. Pinning down the source of the large blocks known as sarsens that form the bulk of the monument has proved especially elusive.

    Spoiler: from about 25 kilometers north.

    But the real amazement for me is: back in 3000 BC, a farmer who must have been desperately scraping for his mere survival looked around at his neighbors and said: "Hey, you know what we need to do? Hew out a bunch of 20-ton rocks, tote them 25 kilometers south, stand them up in a circle, and…"

    How did he ever persuade people that was a good idea?