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.

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 EDT

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?