URLs du Jour

2020-09-14

  • The Josiah Bartlett Center wants to make sure you can't say later that you weren't warned: The wrong policies could bring California's rolling blackouts to New Hampshire.

    Energy policy is often described in moral terms, with “green energy” representing the forces of good and fossil fuels representing the forces of darkness. But really it’s about math. California politicians have spent decades fighting a losing battle against math. In August, math finally won.

    The rolling blackouts that cut off power during an August heat wave were the entirely predictable — and often predicted — result of a series of energy policy decisions designed to impose politicians’ energy preferences on a market that wasn’t ready for them.

    The markets do a great job of bringing people what they want. Politics does a pretty bad job of bringing people what the politicians think they should want.


  • At National Review, David Harsanyi analyzes Woodward Revisionist History.

    Donald Trump will have to live with the political fallout from his own ham-fisted admission to Bob Woodward that he downplayed the virus as an effort to calm Americans.

    It’s an incident that amplifies two of Trump’s most glaring weaknesses. First, his narcissism. No one, after all, forced Trump to give Woodward White House access or interviews. If he deluded himself into believing he could convince Woodward to frame his presidency in a positive light, that’s on him.

    Second, his complete lack of messaging discipline. The president’s unscripted rants and maximalist rhetoric have their moments in political warfare, but they do not engender confidence when dealing with a genuine crisis. Everything is the “best” or the “worst,” nothing or everything. There was no reason for him to have been as dismissive as he was about coronavirus.

    But Harsanyi goes on to note that nobody in the early days of the pandemic was strongly advocating policies that might have done a better job of containing the outbreak.

    If we're going to imagine alternate realities and blame the President for not omnisciently doing exactly the right thing… well, let's take a look at FDR, pre-December 7, 1941.


  • At Liberty Unyielding, Hans Bader has an amusing observation about the New York Times' algorithm for racial pigeonholing: apparently Your race is based on your politics.

    Arabs become “people of color” when they are Democrats, but are considered white when they are Republicans, judging from a New York Times story. As Seffi Kogen notes, the Times recently described some government officials of Palestinian or other Arab descent as people of color, and others as white, in its story about the racial makeup of “922 of the most powerful people in America.”

    The Times bizarrely highlights” Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) as a person of color, even “while marking” as “white” both Governor Chris Sununu (R-N.H.) — who is also of Palestinian ancestry — and HHS Secretary Alex Azar, who is of Lebanese ancestry.

    Nobody claimed—or even noticed—that Chris Sununu was New Hampshire's first Governor of Color.

    Oh, right: his dad, John, was also Gov. So Chris is the second.


  • On the LFOD front, one little-noticed result from the September 8 primary was publicized by NHInsider: Transsexual Satanist Anarchist Is GOP Nominee for Cheshire County Sheriff.

    New Hampshire’s first trans, anarchist, Satanic candidate for county sheriff says she’s not getting a lot of support from the Republican Party.

    “I can’t imagine they’re happy about this,” said Aria DiMezzo.

    DiMezzo, who is running as a Republican with the campaign slogan “F*** the Police,” said Friday she hasn’t had any help or support for the county or state GOP. DiMezzo won the Republican nomination for Cheshire County Sheriff Tuesday night running unopposed in the primary. She’ll now square off with popular incumbent Democrat Eli Rivera, who is running for his fifth term.

    Well. Cheshire County is over there in the Keene corner of the state (picture me waving vaguely westward), so I wonder how Free Keene is describing this?

    [DiMezzo] previously ran for Cheshire Sheriff as a Libertarian candidate in 2018, back when the Libertarians had major party ballot access status in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, the transsexual anarchist founder of the Reformed Satanic Church only received just over 2.3% of the vote in the three-way race. However, at that point she had not yet legally changed her name, which she now has. Since the two major parties make it so hard for Libertarians and other parties to run for office, we might as well run in the two parties.

    This time around DiMezzo’s campaign attracted some attention from some haters in Rindge who mounted a sizable write-in campaign on behalf of Nelson. It is not known whether they got Nelson’s approval for this and the official republican primary results from the state show their campaign had near-zero effect outside of Rindge. However the attacks against her had a reverse effect and actually brought her new supporters who excitedly put dozens of yard signs out around Cheshire County’s roads.

    So there you have it.


  • Another excerpt from P. J. O'Rourke's latest book, peej-splaining: This is why millennials adore socialism.

    What’s the matter with kids today? Nothing new. A large portion of the brats, the squirts, the fuzz-faced, the moon calves, the sap-green, and the wet behind the ears have always been “Punks for Progressives.”

    As soon as children discover that the world isn’t nice, they want to make it nicer. And wouldn’t a world where everybody shares everything be nice? Aw … kids are so tender-hearted.

    But kids are broke — so they want to make the world nicer with your money. And kids don’t have much control over things — so they want to make the world nicer through your effort. And kids are very busy being young — so it’s your time that has to be spent making the world nicer.

    I was steered onto a different path in the early-60's, reading Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom.

The Hot Hand

The Mystery and Science of Streaks

[Amazon Link]

I got this book thanks to an interesting interview with the author on the EconTalk podcast. The host, Russ Roberts, was effusive; the author, Ben Cohen, was interesting; the book was available at Portsmouth Public Library.

Ben (I call him Ben) is a WSJ sports writer, and a lot of the book is about basketball. The "hot hand" concept comes from there, particularly an early video game, "NBA Jam". Where, if you made a difficult shot, the game made it more likely that you'd make the next shot.

But that just codified a phenomenon that "feels right" to people in many areas: when you're in the groove, you've solved a thorny problem, you've negotiated a tricky path, whatever, you feel like you could continue to operate at a supranormal level.

But is that feeling based on anything real? Back in the 1980s, that great detector of self-delusion, Amos Tversky (with two co-authors) analyzed basketball shot data and concluded that the "hot hand" was likely a misperception, due to humans ability to imagine "streaks" in actually-random occurrences. Sigh. But this countered the actual strong feelings of all those jocks (and others) who had experienced the hot hand for themselves.

So is the hot hand real or not? No spoilers here! But Ben's book takes a wild and crazy path on the way to finding out. It's not just basketball. We wander through many wonderfully interesting and colorful side streets, discussing subjects you wouldn't expect: Shakespeare, Van Gogh, Raoul Wallenberg, Apple's iPod shuffling algorithm, the movie career of Rob Reiner, American refugee policy, roulette, and more. All presented with compelling and often drily hilarious writing. A lot of fun.

And I learned about a form of sampling bias of which I was previously unaware!


Last Modified 2020-09-14 1:32 PM EDT