URLs du Jour

2020-11-30

  • Not only does Biden suck, but (as Ben Shapiro notes at the Daily Signal) so does the "watchdog" press covering him: Media Gushes Over Biden's 'Return to Normalcy' of the Swamp.

    The media spent four long years suggesting that President Donald Trump was steeped in corruption, ensconced in partisanship, enmeshed in dangerous foreign policy fiascos. The media assured us that they would defend democracy from Trump’s brutalities, that they would spend every waking moment fighting to prevent anyone from accepting Trumpian standards as the “new normal.”

    Instead, the media suggested we needed to return to the old “normal”—by which they meant a system in which the media and Democrats worked hand-in-glove together to lie to the American public about the content of policy (“If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor!” — former President Barack Obama); in which conventional wisdom was treated as gospel truth, no matter how wrong it was (“There will be no advanced and separate peace with the Arab world without the Palestinian process” — John Kerry on Israel); and in which cozy relationships between corporations and government were considered de rigueur.

    Sample of the hard-hitting journalism in our near future: the Daily Beast reports Joe Biden’s Dogs Have Told This Pet Psychic a Lot About Their Beloved Master, and His Future. Woof!


  • It's not all bad news, though. Brian Doherty holds out some hope at Reason: Bourgeois Libertarianism Could Save America.

    As the streets of various U.S. cities descended into disorder set off by anger and anguish over police brutality, the domestic tranquility for which Americans theoretically surrender large chunks of their fortunes and freedom to the government seemed out of reach. Some protests devolved into generalized orgies of destruction and even arson—the most fiendishly destructive thing the average person can do in dense cities, and an act committed with careless glee dozens of times.

    In the public debate between angry forces on the left and right wings, too many Americans insist on recapitulating the stark choices Germany seemed to offer its citizens between the world wars a century ago: a controlling, decadent left out to destroy private property, and a right embracing harsh, violent authoritarianism and viewing outsiders of all stripes with suspicion.

    Each side seems so obviously, intolerably evil to the other that both sides agree the only moral or prudential choice is to come out swinging against the other side. The blood on the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin, where in August a right-wing 17-year-old shot three people during a protest is a small preview of where that path leads. Radicals on both left and right seem to agree that traditional American libertarianism either supports the evil side (wittingly or unwittingly) or, at best, provides a pusillanimous, pie-in-the-sky distraction from the necessary business of seizing state power to crush the enemy. But that old-school, nonrevolutionary, bourgeois libertarianism is, in fact, the only peaceful way out for our troubled country.

    Brian hopes for a groundswell of large numbers of Americans minding their own business. A tough prescription for most of us, but probably a good one.


  • A long article in last Saturday's WSJ, probably paywalled, dealing with something I've been thinking about for years. The Census Predicament: Counting Americans by Race.

    As director of the U.S. Census Bureau from 1998 to 2001, Kenneth Prewitt oversaw the first decennial count of the new century. When the enormous job of data collection was finally done, he arrived at a stark conclusion: The government should stop asking every American to report their race. “The race question is incoherent because race is incoherent,” said Prof. Prewitt, now a professor of public affairs at Columbia University. “We pay a price for not having a more subtle, nuanced set of numbers than what we currently have.”

    Prof. Prewitt and many other demographers and sociologists say that the government’s centuries-old classifications no longer reflect realities on the ground, especially when it comes to generations of immigrants who have edged toward assimilation. Racial or ethnic labels are also falling behind the growing diversity within each racial and ethnic group and failing to capture mixed-race people. Americans of two or more races or ethnicities—including Vice President-elect Kamala Harris—are the country’s fastest-growing demographic, and they defy labels.

    I'm not one of those folks who view race as a "social construct". My reading (including Charles Murray's latest book) persuaded me that's not a realistic view.

    On the other hand, having the state pigeonhole us into categories based on our DNA details should give any thoughtful person pause. Will the 2030 Census require us to submit a cheek swab?

    So I'm on Prof. Prewitt's side. Emphatically. But not everyone agrees:

    Most experts continue to see the race question on the census—and the data it generates—as essential. Without it, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would lack the benchmarks it relies on to combat discrimination in the workplace. Federal health agencies wouldn’t be able to measure the disproportionate toll that the Covid-19 pandemic takes on Blacks and Hispanics, or show that people of certain races live years longer than others.

    I think those rationales are bogus. If the EEOC (for example) is relying on census data to "combat discrimination", it probably means they can't make an actual case using facts about discriminatory treatment.


  • We haven't dumped on Robin DiAngelo, author of the best-selling book White Fragility, for a while now. But Coleman Hughes does the good work in City Journal: Black Fragility?.

    DiAngelo’s book does more than rehearse the familiar tenets of Critical Race Theory (CRT)––racism is systemic and pervasive; race-blind standards are really white supremacist standards in disguise; lived experience confers special knowledge on victims of racism; and so on—it also uses simple and direct language to teach white people how to talk about race from a CRT perspective. Drawing on her academic work as well as her experience providing corporate diversity training, DiAngelo puts forth her theory of “white fragility”—a set of psychological defense mechanisms that white people use in order to avoid acknowledging their own racism. These defense mechanisms include “silence, defensiveness, argumentation, certitude, and other forms of pushback” in the face of racism accusations.

    At first glance, it may be hard to understand why such a punishing message would appeal to a white audience. But on closer inspection, the appeal of DiAngelo’s message derives from her masterful exploitation of white guilt. As Shelby Steele has observed, white guilt is less a guilt than a terror—terror at the thought that one might be racist. If one has never felt this terror, then it may be hard to understand how intolerable it can be, and how welcome any alleviation is.

    DiAngelo understands all this and exploits it masterfully. Like most antiracist literature, White Fragility spends considerable time telling white people that they’re racist, but with a crucial twist—it’s not their fault. “A racism-free upbringing is not possible,” she writes, “because racism is a social system embedded in the culture and its institutions. We are born into this system and have no say in whether we will be affected by it.” For DiAngelo, white supremacy is like the English language. If you’re born in America, you learn it without trying. Racism, in her view, transforms from a shameful sin to be avoided into a guiltless birthmark to be acknowledged and accepted.

    Hughes notes that DiAngelo's recommendations are fundamentally condescending toward blacks. Whites are asked to "refrain from crying around blacks." Because that's triggering.

    But: "Holding back tears to spare others’ emotions is not something that adults do around their equals; it’s what parents do around children."


  • David Harsanyi is enthusiastic about one outcome of the election: This election only reinforced the value of the Electoral College. An interesting point here:

    Most free nations don’t have democratic majority votes for their ­executives. Parliamentary systems, for example, aren’t national polls. Between 1935 and 2017, the majority of British voters backed the party that formed a government on only two occasions. Voters don’t even cast a ballot directly for the prime minister. In 2019, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau “lost” the “popular vote.” By eliminating the Electoral College, we are far more likely to spark the creation of smaller parties that would keep presidents from gaining a majority. Of historical interest: Vladimir Putin was elected through a direct national poll.

    As a practical matter, the Electoral College is probably here for good; you could never get enough states to ratify a Constitutional amendment to get rid of it.

I Wake Up Screaming

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

I seem to have seen at least part of this movie before; in this 2015 post (a book report for Lileks' The Casablanca Tango) I claim that I had "just watched a bit" of the movie "on the local old-movie channel".

But I'm pretty sure I didn't see the whole thing.

Victor Mature plays Frankie Christopher, a "promoter" who specializes in making other people rich and famous. That was apparently a thing back in 1941. As the movie opens, he's being grilled by the cops for the murder of one of them: Vicky Lynn (Carole Landis). In flashback, it's revealed that she was a hash-slinger at a local restaurant. On a dare from his buddies, Frankie sets out to work his magic on her.

This works only too well. Shortly after Vicky announces that she's off to Hollywood for a movie career, she's found dead in her apartment. Her sister Jill (Betty Grable) walks in to find Frankie kneeling over her cooling corpse. Who done it? There are a host of suspects. The cops like Frankie for the crime, but they can't prove anything.

Jill and Frankie develop a relationship. Because of course they do. They cooperate in trying to find the Real Killer.

The best performance here is from Laird Cregar, playing a cop involved with the investigation, but also is revealed to have been kind of creepily obsessed with Vicky from back in her waitress days.

There are some comic touches here too. That's pretty rare for a noir. I'm pretty sure nobody wakes up screaming, though. I think I would have noticed that.

Murder Mystery

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Murder Mystery]

I may have noir-overdosed, because this trifling Adam Sandler/Jennifer Aniston comedy from last year started to look real good to me. Let's see a flick where a lot of folks (mostly deserving) get bumped off and everyone avoids treating it as if it were a big deal, and maybe get a few chuckles along the way.

Reader, I admit I laughed a lot more than I probably should have.

Mr. Sandler and Ms. Aniston play Nick and Audrey Spitz, a couple married for 15 years. Once you get over the credibility hurdle (she couldn't do better?), the plot develops: he's a cop stuck in the lower ranks, she's a hairdresser, and she desperately wants him to take her on a long-promised European trip. He gives in, although they can't really afford it.

But on the flight over, she "accidentally" wanders into the first-class section of the plane and meets its only inhabitant, Charles Cavendish. Who's charming, filthy rich, and intrigued enough with Audrey to invite them onto his (even richer) uncle's yacht for some Mediterranean cruising. The rich uncle has invited his relations and hangers-on for an announcement involving their inheritance.

Terence Stamp plays the uncle. Great to see him again.

But you know how these things go. He soon winds up dead, in one of those Agatha Christie-style scenarios. Lots of suspects, most of them with shady pasts or possible motives. Nick and Audrey find themselves playing detective. Which annoys the actual detective on the case no end; he'd rather view them as prime suspects.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-29

[Amazon Link]

  • Could it be possible to include a "Biden Sucks" item in every daily post? Maybe. In today's entry, Kevin D. Williamson looks at the New Normal: Joe Biden cabinet setting presidency up to be 'Swamp Things 2'.

    After a summer of discontent driven in part by protests against racial injustice and in part by the not-altogether-unrelated desire of a great many Americans to be rid of Donald Trump, Joe Biden has responded to his party’s call for sweeping social change by taking a deep dive into the Ivy League trash heap and coming up with the pale desiccated carcass of John Kerry, the man whose chiseled face appears next to the entry for “mediocrity” in the American political dictionary.

    Kerry is leading a parade of familiar faces, a hack pack if ever there were one.

    Mssr. Kerry of Switzerland’s Institut Montana Zugerberg and Yale will be joined in the administration by Anthony Blinken of the Dalton School and Harvard. Kerry will be a special envoy for climate issues, which will ensure that there is no bipartisan progress on climate issues, while Blinken, a sturdy Democratic time-server, will take over Kerry’s old job at State. Mike Donilon (prep school in Providence, then Georgetown), a ghastly political consultant, will serve Biden as a political consultant, though they’ll call him a “senior adviser.” Jen O’Malley Dillon, who has done almost nothing in her life except staff campaigns — a parade of losers and misfits including Al Gore, John Edwards, and Tom Daschle, before striking gold with Obama I and Obama II — will be deputy chief of staff. Janet Yellen, a Federal Reserve lifer who has served that institution in a number of capacities since the 1970s, will head up Treasury.

    We chuckle at a 78-year-old president, but John Kerry will be turning a sprightly 77 in a few weeks. And he wasn't that smart to begin with.


  • Speaking of overestimated intelligence, getting the Nobel in Economics doesn't mean you're going to be automatically good at Constitutional analysis. At Reason, Jacob Sullum notes that Paul Krugman Thinks Holding Religious Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic Is Like ‘Dumping Neurotoxins Into Public Reservoirs’.

    When the Supreme Court blocked New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's restrictions on religious services this week, it was the first time the justices had enforced constitutional limits on government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision predictably provoked hyperbolic reactions from critics who seem to think politicians should be free to do whatever they consider appropriate during a public health crisis.

    Describing the Court's emergency injunction in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo as "the first major decision from the Trump-packed court," New York Times columnist Paul Krugman warned that "it will kill people." He added: "The bad logic is obvious. Suppose I adhere to a religion whose rituals include dumping neurotoxins into public reservoirs. Does the principle of religious freedom give me the right to do that?" Krugman averred that "freedom of belief" does not include "the right to hurt other people in tangible ways—which large gatherings in a pandemic definitely do."

    It was a 5-4 decision, but Jacob notes that a couple of dissenters (Breyer and Roberts) also granted the possibility that Cuomo's decree might have violated the free exercise clause.

    Krugman is a clown.


  • The WSJ editorialists look at The Social Media Fact-Check Farce. Probably paywalled, but…

    In recent years liberals have successfully lobbied social-media companies to police conservative content more and more aggressively. But there’s little evidence that this political interference has reduced the prevalence of misinformation online—and a new study shows how it could make the problem worse.

    In the study—by Dino Christenson of Boston University and Sarah Kreps and Douglas Kriner of Cornell—volunteers were shown a May 26 tweet by President Trump attacking mail-in voting and claiming that “Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed.”

    Groups of participants were also shown “corrections” to Mr. Trump’s tweet, including Twitter’s “explanatory text labeling the claims ‘unsubstantiated’ according to major media outlets, including CNN and the Washington Post.”

    Conservatives did not find mainstream-media assurances convincing. For Republicans who were shown Twitter’s effort to debunk the President, “belief that mail voter fraud occurs was more than 13% higher than in the control.” Or as the authors put it, “corrections increased misperceptions among those predisposed to believe President Trump.”

    Great job, Twitter: In your Resistance zeal, you may have increased the salience of the mail-fraud idea among Mr. Trump’s core supporters. The overall effect was a wash, the authors find, because Democrats were more likely to believe the corrections. But when it comes to Republicans, the site may have played into Mr. Trump’s hands.

    I'm no Trump fan by any stretch, but I'm likely to view a Twitter "fact check" as synonymous with "Leftists are afraid of this idea."


  • Ilya Shapiro writes at Cato over a fantasy-football exercise in governmental design: The Libertarian, Progressive, and Conservative Constitutions. Ilya was on "Team Freedom", and here's a sample of their approach:

    We also circumscribed executive power (as did the other groups in certain ways), including by allowing for impeachment of federal officials for "behavior that renders them unfit for office." We made sure that Congress couldn't coerce the states -- the states are allowed to choose block grants instead of federal funding with regulatory strings -- while a supermajority of the states can reverse a federal law or regulation. And we strengthened or made more explicit what we now consider to be protections under the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments, as well as -- my favorite -- protecting the right to the “fruits of one’s labors” and adding a catch-all “right to live a peaceful life of one’s choosing.” You can read our constitution here.

    It's a good primer on what good thinkers from different ideological camps share, and where they differ.

Kiss of Death

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

For some reason, this movie went unseen by me until our current NoirFest. It's mainly famous for Richard Widmark's character pushing an old lady in a wheelchair down a long flight of stairs to her demise, then giggling like a maniac. Which he is, of course.

Reader, that was a relatively underplayed scene from Widmark. He's even more unhinged elsewhere in the movie. I see he got an Oscar nomination, so…

But the "hero" is Victor Mature, playing Nick. Who gets caught after a jewel heist, but refuses to squeal on his partners in crime, so is sent up for hard time. But he gets disillusioned by the whole no-honor-among-thieves thing: his pals promised they would take care of his wife and kids. Instead, she's destitute, commits suicide, and the kids go to an orphanage.

So Nick contacts prosecutor Brian Donlevy, says OK, I'll squeal. And gets out. And takes up with Nettie, a previous babysitter for his kids. Can they start a new life together after Nick rats out his pals? No spoilers here, but I note that the movie's ending was originally different. (Don't look at that unless you've already seen the movie… oops, too late.)

If they gave out a Biggest Lips Oscar, Mature would win every year.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-28

  • Howie Carr on Twitter provides the rhetorical stylings of our (sorry, conspiracy theorists) President-Elect:

    At Liberty Unyielding, Ben Bowles speculates on mispronunciation:

    The word he substitutes, palmist, is especially unfortunate since it is a term for some one who engages in palmistry, or telling one’s fortune by reading his palm — a practice pretty far removed from organized religion. Then again, like that other devout Catholic on the Democratic side, Nancy Pelosi, Biden tends to be a Sunday Christian, if that. In seeking the Democratic nomination, he renounced his career-long support for the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except to save the life of the woman or if the pregnancy arises from incest or rape. Talk about your deals with the devil!

    I'm pretty sure Kamala Harris can recite Section 4 of the 25th Amendment in her sleep, backwards.


  • At City Journal, Theodore Darlymple muses on a simple, underused, four-letter word: The Age of Cant. No apostrophe. He thinks "hypocrisy", a near-but-not-quite synonym has a bad rap in comparison.

    Cant is more destructive than hypocrisy because it is harder to expose and because a humbug deceives himself as well as others, while a mere hypocrite retains some awareness; he is a rogue rather than a villain. Cant is the vehement public expression of concern for others, or of anger at an opinion casting doubt on some moral orthodoxy that is not, and cannot be, genuinely felt, its vehemence being a shield for insincerity and lack of confidence in the orthodox opinion. Doctor Johnson defined cant as “a whining pretension to goodness, in formal and affected terms.” Cant is contagious, and, when widespread, it creates an atmosphere in which people are afraid to call it by its name. Arguments then go by default; and if arguments go by default, ludicrous, bad, or even wicked policies result.

    I think that we live in an era of cant. I do not say that it is the only such age. But it has never been, at least in my lifetime, as important as it is now to hold the right opinions and to express none of the wrong ones, if one wants to avoid vilification and to remain socially frequentable. Worse still, and even more totalitarian, is the demand for public assent to patently false or exaggerated propositions; refusal to kowtow in such circumstances becomes almost as bad a sin as uttering a forbidden view. One must join in the universal cant—or else.

    I'll try to do better.


  • The newish "CapitalMatters" section of National Review brings us Andrew Stuttaford on the Davos Great Reset: The Culmination of Corporatism. He notes that it even has its own website, which seems to be (and I hope I'm getting this right) exactly the sort of thing Theodore Darlymple is talking about. "Partners" in the Great Reset include "Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, IBM, IKEA, Lockheed Martin, Ericsson and Deloitte."

    Not a partner: me. Probably you neither.

    Recently, one expression of corporatism, “stakeholder capitalism,” has won strong support on both sides of the Atlantic. This might be expected in Europe, but that it has been taken up by the Business Roundtable and many leading firms in the U.S. — allegedly a bastion of both free enterprise and democracy — is depressing. Looked at optimistically, the BRT and its C-suite cheerleaders are useful idiots. Looked at realistically, they are part of a managerial class grubbing for the power that flows from other people’s money.

    Stakeholder capitalism rests on the notion that a company’s management owes a duty to more than its shareholders. It’s something that Klaus Schwab, the WEF’s founder and executive chairman, has been advocating for a long time. A key feature of the Great Reset is the idea that stakeholder capitalism should, one way or another, be adopted.

    I just hope the folks handling my portfolio are nimble enough to ride this seemingly inevitable wave instead of getting pulled under.


  • Also at NR, Kevin D. Williamson writes on more down-to-earth econ: Shopping Superstitions.

    It’s the boss-bossiest time of the year, when Americans getting ready to open up their wallets to buy Christmas presents are lectured by illiterate halfwits about where and how to spend their money. The usual demands: Buy local, or buy from small businesses.

    This is pure nonsense, and you should feel free to ignore it.

    The “buy local” people insist that if you choose, say, your locally owned coffee shop over Starbucks, then the money you spend there will somehow stay in the community, hanging around and providing additional economic benefits. But that isn’t how money works: Most businesses spend most of what they take in and then put the rest in the bank, where it becomes global capital.

    And local businesses do not generally spend their money locally — they can’t. I like my local coffee shop, and I am pretty sure that it does not buy its coffee locally, because I do not live in Colombia or Brazil or Vietnam, and it doesn’t buy its to-go cups from a local maker, since it is not in the shadow of a paper-goods factory, etc. Its lease is probably held by an out-of-town entity, along with its loans. Its espresso machine probably came from Italy or Germany, maybe Hong Kong.

    Fully of insight, as usual, and he avoids the term "comparative advantage". Bonus quip: "The people who want you to believe otherwise are the same ones who want you to give up Bordeaux for wine made in Missouri or Oregon or Illinois — i.e., people who are not to be trusted."

    Fortunately, I'm good with my plonk, Kevin.


  • Apparently my CD shelf is fuller of libertarian artists than I previously expected. The Washington Times reports: Eric Clapton joins Van Morrison's anti-lockdown campaign with new song, 'Stand and Deliver'.

    Music legend Eric Clapton is joining Van Morrison’s efforts to reopen the live music industry amid the coronavirus pandemic by releasing a new anti-lockdown song called, “Stand and Deliver.”

    The song, which was written by Mr. Morrison and performed by Mr. Clapton, will debut Dec. 4 and the proceeds will go toward Mr. Morrison’s Lockdown Financial Hardship Fund, which supports U.K. musicians who are facing financial hardship because of widespread government restrictions on live music, Variety reported.

    “There are many of us who support Van and his endeavors to save live music; he is an inspiration,” Mr. Clapton told Variety. “We must stand up and be counted because we need to find a way out of this mess. The alternative is not worth thinking about. Live music might never recover.”

    Lads, let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-27

Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. We did Zoom Feast with old people upstairs, kids downstairs. It worked out.

  • Daniel Mitchell wishes us a Happy Thanksgiving from America’s Hypocritical Politicians. Example (from NBC News):

    Denver’s mayor is explaining himself and offering an apology after he traveled to Mississippi for Thanksgiving, though he had urged others to stay home if possible because of the coronavirus pandemic. …The mayor’s trip comes as officials in Colorado have warned about a steep increase in Covid-19 cases that threatens to stress the hospital system, and after warnings from the governor and others to keep Thanksgiving gatherings small and safe. …The station reported he traveled to Houston for the Mississippi trip, and that his account tweeted the guidance to stay home about 30 minutes before his flight.

    Conclusion:

    They genuinely think that they should be exempt from all the nonsensical policies that they impose on everyone else.

    "Indeed." I'd add that the politicians' perceptions of risk may well be accurate and appropriate for their own cases. It's just they don't trust their subjects to exercise the same judgment.


  • Jeff Jacoby observes: The coronavirus curfews make no sense.

    Did you know that the coronavirus, like vampires and werewolves, is deadliest after dark? I didn't either, but it must be true. What other justification can there be for the imposition of curfews on residents and businesses in Massachusetts, Ohio, New York, and elsewhere by governors who claim their purpose is to control the spread of COVID-19?

    In Massachusetts earlier this month, Governor Charlie Baker issued his 53rd "emergency" order , requiring 16 categories of facilities — from restaurants, arcades, golf courses, and drive-in theaters to gyms, zoos, flight schools, and museums — to close their doors to the public by 9:30 each night. Though the order is 5½ single-spaced pages long, it contains not a single sentence explaining how Massachusetts will be better protected from the coronavirus if residents who are permitted to go out for pizza or to work out at 7:45 pm are barred from doing so at 9:45 pm. Neither does the accompanying "advisory ," which counsels all residents of the state to stay home between 10 pm and 5 am.

    I don't know how Governor Baker spent his Thanksgiving, so we'll let him off the "hypocrisy" charge.

    But it seems clear that he (like even some pols up here in New Hampshire) has succumbed to the "do something" mantra. He needs to be seen as "doing something", even if it's stupid.

    And, to be overly fair to Charlie, that's probably what a significant fraction of the Massachusetts citizenry demands.


  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum notes a downside: Senseless Restrictions on Outdoor Activities Undermine the Goal of Curbing COVID-19. After reciting numerous (and when I say "numerous", I mean a lot of) examples of such restrictions:

    There are several problems with these restrictions on outdoor activities. First, many of them are inconsistent and scientifically dubious. Second, foreclosing opportunities for people to recreate or gather outside is apt to increase the risk of virus transmission indoors, especially in private settings where the authorities have no idea what is happening, even if they are notionally imposing limits there. Third, arbitrary COVID-19 edicts that make life more inconvenient and less enjoyable for no rational reason foster resentment and defiance, which make compliance with reasonable safeguards less likely. In their determination to seem like they are doing something to slow the spread of COVID-19, many politicians are actively undermining that goal.

    One of the nanny-state guidelines from the Left Coast: "Californians should not travel significant distances for recreation." What's "significant"? They seem to say it involves driving 2-3 hours. Is that one way or round trip? And what if there's a traffic jam? I understand they have those in California.


  • The current statist mindset seems to be: Hey, as long as we're doing Covid mandates, we might as well mandate some other stuff too. I was surprised to learn from David Harsanyi at National Review of the growing demands for mandatory voting.

    We encourage American to vote as if it is the only rite of a citizen, without any corresponding expectations. And as if that constant cultural haranguing to vote weren’t annoying enough, after every election, no matter how many people participate, there is a campaign to force everyone to do it.

    “America Needs Compulsory Voting,” writes a professor in Foreign Affairs. “A Little Coercion Can Do a Lot for Democracy.” “1 In 3 Americans Didn’t Vote. Should We Force Them To Next Time?” asks BuzzFeed.

    Ideally, in a free nation, the answer to “should we force them?” is almost always “no.” But for the folks at places such as the Brookings Institution and Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, the answer is almost always “yes.” In July, these think tanks laid out their case for mandatory voting in a report titled “Lift Every Voice: The Urgency of Universal Civic Duty Voting.” I wish I could whip up an equally anodyne euphemism for “ugly authoritarian instinct,” but none immediately comes to mind.

    Also ugly: the reaction to people who point out ugly authoritarian instincts.

URLs du Jour

Thanksgiving 2020

Among the things I'm thankful for today is the continuing brilliance of Mr. Michael Ramirez. [Happy Thanksgiving]

And there's that whole "being alive and (mostly) healthy and wealthy in 21st Century America". As much as I gripe, it beats the hell out of whatever's in second place.

  • If you haven't heard the story, get it from Drew Cline at the Josiah Bartlett Center: How private property saved the Pilgrims from socialist misery.

    The 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing in the New World is a time to reflect on important lessons we want our children to remember about America’s founding. One of the most critical is that hippie communes don’t work.

    Yes, the Pilgrims who arrived in Massachusetts in 1620 promptly tried to create a socialist workers paradise.

    Like all other socialist paradises, it left a failed legacy of starvation and death.

    Next year will be the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving. Hope you and I will both be around for that.


  • Scoring 9.998 on Pun Salad's ReadTheWholeThing Scale is Kevin D. Williamson at National Review: On Being Grateful for Our Gifts and Blessings. Really. It's insightful and moving all the way through. I almost hate to excerpt, but:

    Christians take a distinctly radical view: that suffering is neither an evil to be evaded nor a punishment handed out routinely, like some kind of divine speeding ticket, but something to be entered into willingly in order to become not godlike but more fully and more perfectly human. We learn to be grateful not only for the alleviation of suffering but for the suffering itself — that, too, is a gift. We discover ultimate gratitude when we discover the Ultimate Object of our gratitude. Learning that ultimate gratitude does not necessarily mean wandering around the desert in a supernatural daze, though that has worked for many great men in the past. Some of them even sought out such a wild place as Massachusetts, landing there in the winter in rickety boats, like madmen. They went ashore and gave thanks to God.

    We need not go so far, and, besides, we have business to attend to here at home, to which our attention is likely to be enforced for a few more months. Gratitude may not make us saints, but it should leave us cheerful, useful, modest, and patient, and ever mindful of those gifts and blessings that we could not possibly hope to deserve.

    Whether I can be considered a Christian is a matter of opinion, but that's one Christian view I can buy into.


  • On to the stuff we're not thankful for. Specifically, another cancellation, as reported by Jerry Coyne at Why Evolution is True: A respected journalist is bullied out of the Guardian. That journalist is Suzanne Moore, who dared pen a column that "trans women" differ from biological women in some … um … important respects. From Ms. Moore's farewell:

    The censorship continues and I cannot abide it. Every day another woman loses her job and a witch-burning occurs on Twitter. My fear is not about trans people but an ideology that means the erasure of women — not just the word, but of our ability to name and describe our experience. We are now cervix-havers, birthing parents, people who menstruate. On Amnesty’s latest posters to support the women’s strike in Poland, the literal translation from Polish for the thousands of women who were protesting the awful tightening of abortion laws was: “I stand with people in Poland”. Which people? Women forced to give birth on a plastic sheet to a dead baby with foetal defects? Say it.

    Things are getting more Orwellian by the day, it seems.


  • At the Volokh Conspiracy, the founding conspirator, Eugene, describes the state of play at the University of Maryland: UMD Public Policy School Mandating Ideological Statements on Syllabus, Requiring That Class “Materials” and “Discussions” “Respect All Forms of Diversity”. Here's (apparently) the text:

    Diversity Inclusion and Belonging in the School of Public Policy

    Commitment to an Inclusive Classroom

    It is my intent, as well as the stated policy of the School, that students from all backgrounds and perspectives will be well-served by this course. The diversity the students bring to this class will be seen and treated as a resource, strength and benefit. Materials, discussions, and activities will respect all forms of diversity. All students are expected to promote this aim through their words, actions, and suggestions. If something is said or done in this course, either by myself, students, or guests, that is troubling or causes offense, please let me know right away. The impact of what happens in this course is important and deserving of attention. If you ever do not feel comfortable discussing the issue directly with me, I encourage you to bring the issue to an advisor, administrator or the School of Public Policy Equity Officer.

    Pronouns and Self Identification

    We invite you, if you wish, to tell us how you want to be referred to, both in terms of your name and your pronouns (she/her, he/him, they/them, etc.). The pronouns someone indicates are not necessarily indicative of their gender identity. Visit trans.umd.edu to learn more.

    Land Acknowledgement

    We acknowledge that we are gathered on the stolen land of the Piscataway Conoy people and were founded upon the erasures and exploitation of many non-European peoples. You can find more information about the Piscataway Conoy Tribe at http://www.piscatawayconoytribe.com. For more information about the University of Maryland's project for a richer understanding of generations of racialized trauma rooted in the institution visit https://go.umd.edu/SNW.

    Suggested placements: We suggest this statement should be placed just prior to or after the learning outcomes in the syllabus as well as prominent within your ELMS site. Faculty should vocally review these statements within class as well.

    Eugene notes the creepiness of the school mandating that the syllabus language be "set forth in the professor's voice", obfuscating its origins.


  • And, boy, it's been a long time since I saw anything interesting on a certain site I used to frequent all the time. At Tablet magazine, Armin Rosen wonders: Who Really Runs The Drudge Report?.

    It was the kind of story that would once have had Matt Drudge deploying font sizes that newspapers used to reserve for declarations of war. On Oct. 14, Twitter and Facebook blocked users from spreading a New York Post article alleging that Hunter Biden had brokered meetings between his father, then the vice president of the United States, and executives at a Ukrainian energy firm where the younger Biden held an $80,000-a-month sinecure. The Post’s article included photos of what appeared to be an exhausted and intoxicated-looking Biden in various states of undress.

    Yet the controversy over tech companies restricting the spread of a story unflattering to the Democratic presidential contender was nowhere to be seen in the upper half of The Drudge Report—once the most coveted and agenda-setting real estate in right-of-center media. “RECORD TURNOUT ALARMS REPUBLICANS... BIDEN +7 GA,” screamed the top headlines on Oct. 15.

    Drudge—the real guy—may not be that involved any more.

Stalking the Angel

[Amazon Link]

Robert Crais's second Elvis Cole novel, and of course it's good.

Elvis is hired by asshole banker Bradley Warren to try to find a purloined copy of the "Hagakure", an extremely rare edition of a 17th century guide to Samurai life and lore. Warren doesn't care too much about the book itself, just its implied price tag: about $3 million. And the pull it gives him with his Japanese business partners.

Reader, it's a real thing.

Wisecracking all the way, Elvis visits the scene of the crime, Warren's home. He meets Warren's wife, Sheila, who throws herself wantonly at our noble detective; nothing doin', ma'am. And he also encounters Warren's surly daughter Mimi. A good guess: the book is getting peddled to the local Yakuza-infested Japanese underworld, which sends Elvis into LA's Little Tokyo. Eventually: fights, grisly murders, gunplay, kidnapping, sordid revelations, Joe Pike. And a lot of psychic turmoil for Elvis, who wonders if he could have handled things better if he'd been a little quicker on the uptake.

For some reason, as he navigates the Southland, Elvis is obsessed with telling us (seemingly) every street he's driving on. Could do without that, unless it's Mulholland Drive. But otherwise, he does a great job of detailing late-80's LA.

The inside front cover, by the way, refers to Joe Pike as Elvis's "sociopathic sidekick"? On Joe's behalf, I resent that psychologizing. He's not a sociopath, he just has an unusual personal code of conduct.

Thieves' Highway

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

Still on our old film noir kick from Netflix's DVD service. Fun stuff! The director, Jules Dassin, was blacklisted soon after this 1949 movie was released, for being a full-fledged Communist back in the 1930s, when that was cool. He apparently bailed on the CPUSA in response to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in 1939, but his stint was enough for the movie studios to dump him. (He went off to Europe, and made some pretty famous movies there. And married Melina Mercouri!)

One IMDB reviewer says this movie "is really an expose of the rotten heart of capitalism". Certainly it's kind of a downer.

Our hero, Nick Garcos (Richard Conte), is back from a post-WWII tour of exotic Asia, bearing gifts for his folks and sweetie, Polly. But one of those gifts turns out to be an utter faux pas: fancy slippers for Dad. Because—surprise!—Dad has no feet! It turns out that on one of his trucking runs bringing produce to the San Francisco market he ran afoul of crooked dealer Mike Figlia (Lee J. Cobb). And Figlia's way of dealing with obstreperous truckers is to rob and maim them.

So Nick plots vengeance. Kind of indirectly, it seems to me. He hooks up with his dad's old partner, Ed. They wangle an extra truck, deal with some local Polish farmers for a load of Golden Delicious apples, and they head off to Frisco. Every step of the way is loaded with complications and danger. (Not helping: Ed's only marginally honest, trying to stiff the farmers on the price once the trucks are loaded. Capitalism!)

Once in San Francisco, Nick drives a hard bargain with Figlia, which causes Figlia to complicate Nick's life with a hot heart-of-gold hooker, Rica. And then Polly shows up. And Nick gets ripped off by Figlia's thugs. And the partner's truck, held together with spit and baling wire,….

Well, eventually things work out, Nick and Rica go off into the sunset, San Francisco gets its apples, and capitalism is saved!

URLs du Jour

2020-11-25

Arlo and Janis on clickbait:

[Clickbait Sucks]

I guess clickbait ads must work or they'd die a well-deserved death. I don't care much about Don Knotts, but I admit I have been sorely tempted by "Lily from AT&T Finally Confirms the Rumors". I've learned to keep my mouse away from such things.

  • At the Volokh Conspiracy, Josh Blackman wonders: What exactly is a vaccine mandate?.

    Before the current pandemic, I had never read the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's opinion in Commonwealth v. Jacobson. That case observed, "[i]f a person should deem it important that vaccination should not be performed in his case, and the authorities should think otherwise, it is not in their power to vaccinate him by force, and the worst that could happen to him under the statute would be the payment of the penalty of $5." I was struck by that sentence.

    I had long assumed that Jacobson upheld the state's power to forcibly vaccinate someone. For example, states routinely force people into quarantines. Why couldn't states take the antecedent step of inoculating people, even against their wishes, to avoid the need to quarantine? In Buck v. Bell, Justice Holmes analogized the forcible sterilization of Carrie Buck to the forcible vaccination of Henning Jacobson. But my assumption was wrong. And I suspect I am not alone. Most lawyers never actually read Jacobson, let alone the lower court opinion. The case does not appear in any casebook I have reviewed. And, I doubt most judges who have cited Jacobson in the past 6 months have bothered to read both opinions. Rather, I suspect most lawyers and judges are familiar with Buck v. Bell, and rely on Holmes's characterization.

    Buck v. Bell is the famous eugenics case where Justice Holmes wrote "Three generations of imbeciles are enough."

    Blackman gives an interesting take on "mandates".


  • In a National Review ["NRPLUS"] article, Robert VerBruggen analyzes Biden's "gun safety" plan and concludes: Plan Failure Likely.

    Joe Biden’s gun-control plans have about zero chance of getting through Congress, especially if Republicans win at least one of the Georgia runoffs. That’s good, because his bright idea for restricting “assault weapons” would force America’s gun owners to choose between (a) giving up millions of their firearms and magazines to a federal “buyback” and (b) registering those guns with the federal government, paying billions of dollars in taxes for the privilege.

    Any guesses as to how that would play out in this country?

    As many readers may be old enough to remember, America had a ban on assault weapons for ten years, from 1994 to 2004, and it didn’t start a civil war. That’s because the folks who drafted that law were smarter than whoever is handling gun policy for Biden. The law applied mainly to businesses: It became illegal to sell brand-new semiautomatic guns with certain combinations of tactical features (think folding stocks, flash suppressors, etc.), as well as new magazines that held more than ten rounds at a time. Individual Americans who’d previously purchased the banned items were left alone, and they were even allowed to sell the items on the secondary market.

    Two theories of the policy, neither particularly flattering to Biden: (1) it was a "boob bait for bubbas" proposal, floated knowing it would never be put into practice; (2) it's an accurate indication of Biden's knee-jerk totalitarian instincts.


  • The coveted Pun Salad "Least Surprising Headline of the Week" award has a front-runner, from Randal O'Toole at Cato: Amtrak Continues to Lie.

    Amtrak is maintaining the twin fictions that subsidies from state taxpayers are “passenger revenues” and that depreciation isn’t a real cost even though its accountants list it as an operating cost on its consolidated financial statements. Based on these fictions, Amtrak claimed that it was “on track to break even financially for the first time in its history” in 2020.

    The pandemic derailed that fantasy, so now Amtrak claims that it lost $801 million in fiscal year 2020 (which for Amtrak ended on September 30). Yet a close look at its unaudited end‐​of‐year report reveals that the actual operating losses were well over $2 billion.

    Amtrak wants a bailout. The amount is about 10 times smaller than what the airlines are requesting, but (as Randal notes) Amtrak's passenger traffic is more than 100 times smaller than the airlines'. Republicans should prove that they're good for something and Just Say No.


  • As previously stated, conspiracy theorizing about the 2020 Presidential election is hot garbage; whatever misbehavior that existed was nowhere near large enough to swing things from Biden to Trump.

    I expect this kind of nonsense from Trump; I'm saddened to see some bloggers buying into it.

    One real danger is that easily-debunked tales of election fraud might hide smaller (but important) stories of actual fraud. We shouldn't go into the 2022 election thinking "everything's fine" when it's not.

    John Hinderaker seems to have gone agnostic on fraud, but he notes: There’s More Than One Way to Steal an Election.

    The jury is still out on whether the Biden campaign stole the 2020 election through voter fraud, but that isn’t the only way elections get stolen. The evidence is strong that the Democratic Party press swung this year’s election to Biden by its selective non-coverage of critically important news stories that reflected well on President Trump or poorly on Biden.

    The Media Research Center has conducted extensive polling in seven key swing states. The MRC asked Biden voters whether they were aware of certain facts or news stories, and if they were not, whether awareness of those facts or issues would have caused them to change their vote away from Biden. The data are striking.

    I can't find the survey itself, but Hinderaker provides some slides. Example: over half of swing-state Biden voters were unaware that the US achieved "energy independence under President Trump". MRC says that a significan fraction of those voters (now) say that if they'd known about some of those issues, they wouldn't have voted for Biden. And that theoretically would have swung things Trump's way.

    Well, maybe. It would be nice if voters were well-informed on all sides of various issues. Hinderaker blames the media for not giving them that. I'd tend to blame media consumers for not demanding that.


  • And Reason's Christian Britschgi has a libertarian take on the latest story: Giant Metal Monolith Discovered In Utah Desert Possibly Extraterrestrial, Definitely a Code Violation.

    A new installation is out of character with the surrounding neighborhood and might have to be removed.

    On Monday, the Utah Department of Public Safety announced that members of its Aero Bureau—while performing a count of big horn sheep in Red Rock Desert in the southeastern portion of the state last week—came across a large metal monolith in the remote region.

    There's a pic of the monolith at the link, with a befuddled Utahn looking for all the world as if he's re-enacting a scene from 2001. All we need is Ligeti background music.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-24

  • I think Biden won, I think conspiracy theorizing is entirely bogus and counterproductive, but that's old news. So I'm ready to look ahead to our near future and so is Michael Ramirez:

    [Speaking of Natural Disasters]


  • But that's not all the bad news. Via Slashdot, a Reuters report of what they probably think is good news: Biden's top tech adviser makes regulation more likely.

    President-elect Joe Biden’s top technology adviser helped craft California’s landmark online privacy law and recently condemned a controversial federal statute that protects internet companies from liability, indicators of how the Biden administration may come down on two key tech policy issues.

    Bruce Reed, a former Biden chief of staff who is expected to take a major role in the new administration, helped negotiate with the tech industry and legislators on behalf of backers of a ballot initiative that led to the 2018 California Consumer Privacy Act. Privacy advocates see that law as a possible model for a national law.

    Reed also co-authored a chapter in a book published last month denouncing the federal law known as Section 230, which makes it impossible to sue internet companies over the content of user postings. Both Republicans and Democrats have called for reforming or abolishing 230, which critics say has allowed abuse to flourish on social media.

    Get ready for "regulation" making your online life more tedious. Specifically, the "abuse" will still be allowed to flourish on social media, as long as it's directed against the correct targets.


  • And that's still not all the bad news. Betteridge's law of headlines probably does not apply to David Boaz's post at Cato: Will Biden Turn the Education Department over to the Teachers Unions?

    President‐elect Biden is rumored to be considering a teachers union head to be his secretary of education. Since the Education Department was essentially created by the National Education Association, this is basically just confirming their control. It’s understandable that Biden would promise to name a teacher for this post. After all, who knows education better than teachers? It no doubt sounds good to voters. But imagine a candidate promising to name a defense contractor as secretary of defense, an oil company CEO as secretary of energy, or a real estate developer as HUD secretary. For each of those the candidate could plausibly raise the same argument, that few others would know more about the subject. But there would be a lot more public skepticism about naming a provider of the service to run the federal department in those cases.

    The near future will be dedicated to shovelling more money into the educrat wallets. And disappointed head-shaking at the continuing mediocre results of government schooling.


  • This WSJ article is probably paywalled, but I found it interesting enough to comment upon: Chocolate Makers Are Having a Hard Time Cutting Down on Sugar.

    LONDON—A longstanding push to slash sugar in chocolate has stalled, leaving confectionery makers in a sticky situation amid the threat of regulation that could hit sales.

    In the U.K.—where people eat more chocolate per head than anywhere but Russia—a government report shows the industry has made little progress toward a 2020 deadline to cut sugar. That has prompted health campaigners to call for a tax on chocolate similar to a levy on sugary soft drinks, which in several countries has reduced consumption or propelled reformulation.

    I didn't know that about Russia, dollink. I thought their unhealthy habits were limited to vodka and cigarettes.

    But the bottom line is that regulators are dedicated to making chocolate taste worse, so you'll eat less of it. How long will it take for them to crack down on homebrew chocolate? Chocolate speakeasies?


  • A good podcast from Reason where Nick Gillespie interviews Virginia Postrel about her new book: The History of Fabric Is the History of Civilization. Promo video:

    Virginia (I call her Virginia) did a great job of uncovering why fabric is a taken-for-granted miracle. I've queued up her book at the library.


  • And Kevin D. Williamson's Tuesday column has a great bit on Household Words.

    Household is part of a set of old English formulations (smallholding, freehold, householder, etc.) that survive into modern English in legal usages and certain dusty and slightly archaic-sounding expressions, and in names such as Smallhold Farms, a Brooklyn-based operation that provides exotic mushroom to New York City restaurants. The first attested use of household in English is the 14th-century Bible translation undertaken by John Wycliffe (not to be confused with Wyclef Jean) and similar expressions have been around for a long time in Scots (houshald), Dutch (huishouden), German (Huushollen), Norwegian (husholdning), etc. Shakespeare tried really, really hard to make household happen in English — he used it in a dozen plays, from Anthony and Cleopatra to The Taming of the Shrew and practically all of the Henrys — but it did not become a common English expression — a household word — until Charles Dickens started a magazine called Household Words.

    Household word has two meanings in English that are distinct but related: common or famous. “Clint Eastwood is such a big movie star that his name is a household word,” or “Google and Xerox do not want to end up like ‘aspirin,’ a formerly capitalized name that comes into such common use that it ceases to be a proper noun and ends up a household word.” Household word’s meaning of famous is of course an application of its meaning of common: Everybody knows what a doorknob is, and everybody knows who Alec Baldwin is. (If you don’t, the answer is: a doorknob.) But a person whose name is a household word isn’t common at all — that’s a very uncommon thing. English is funny that way.

    I'm reading KDW's new book, one or two articles per day. It's great.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-23

My Political Opinions Funny Yard Sign

Our Product du Jour (not an Amazon link) is another yard sign I lack the courage to buy myself.

  • At the otherwise obnoxious Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby notes: A student debt bailout would be unjust.

    During the presidential primary campaign last winter, as Democratic candidates were promoting various plans to cancel federal student loan debt, one Iowa father’s encounter with Elizabeth Warren captured the raw unfairness of the idea.

    “My daughter’s getting out of school. I saved all my money [so] she doesn’t have any student loans,” the man said. “Am I going to get my money back?”

    “Of course not,” Warren answered.

    “So you’re going to pay for people who didn’t save any money, and those of us who did the right thing get screwed,” said the father, visibly upset. “My buddy had fun, bought a car, went on vacations. I saved my money. He made more than I did, but I worked a double shift, worked extra. My daughter’s worked since she was 10.”

    That exchange vividly illustrates the injustice of student-debt proposals that would, in effect, punish those who saved and worked more to pay for college, those who deferred higher education until they could afford it, and those who responsibly repaid their loans — by forcing them to pay for those who didn’t. Even more outrageous, it would compel the two-thirds of Americans who didn’t earn a college degree to help pick up the tab for many of those who did.

    Mrs. Salad and I did much the same as the Iowa dad; Pun Son and Daughter got out of school with no debt.

    David Henderson provides an excerpt from Milton and Rose Friedman's memoir about how there's "no government program that so clearly transferred income from low- to high-income people as government subsidization of higher education." You might expect progressives to be against that. Instead, they look to make the transfer even worse.


  • Lawprof Jonathan Turley notes that on Sunday morn's episode of "Meet the Press", Chuck Todd and Gretchen Whitmer were an excellent source of lies.

    Chuck Todd interviewed Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this morning and turned to the recent decision of the Michigan Supreme Court that ruled that she had violated the Michigan Constitution in her extended pandemic orders. Todd did not challenge Whitmer stating falsely that the opinion was a “partisan” decision. It was not. The “Democrat justices” agreed that Whitmer violated the Constitution. They only disagreed on the remedy.  However, that untruth was quickly lost in what was a flagrantly untrue statement by Todd himself. He told NBC viewers that the justices did not cite any law to support their decision against Whitmer. Todd stated as fact that the Court did not “cite any Michigan law, they didn’t cite any law in deciding that you didn’t have this power.” The roughly 50 page opinion contains over 60 cases discussed in support of the decision. It does not seem to matter anymore at Meet The Press or NBC.  NBC is not alone. I previously noted how the Washington Post also has failed to correct openly false accounts of cases.  Not only is there no apparent inclination to be accurate but even less expectation to do so.

    A detailed takedown follows. Professor Turley's conclusion:

    For academics who have called for an end to objectivity in journalism, Meet the Press.


  • One of Reason's podcasts is the "Soho Forum Debate", and the most recent one was between Richard Epstein and Lawrence Lessig. The topic was The Electoral College: Keep or Replace?. Lessig is a well-known "modern" liberal, Epstein a "classical" liberal. Epstein defended the Electoral College, Lessig argued against.

    And here's a surprise: I found myself leaning toward Lessig's side of the argument, despite my stick-in-the-mud conservatism and my reverence for the Founders.

    If only Lessig had been this persuasive when he was arguing Eldred v. Ashcroft before SCOTUS.


  • Crypto/security expert Bruce Schneier signed a letter recently attesting that "no credible evidence" exists that the election was compromised.

    Schneier's political opinions are tediously liberal, but I think he's honest enough to play this straight. I'm pretty tired of the conspiracy theories.

    But he also provides a link to his Guardian article from a couple years back: American elections are too easy to hack. We must take action now.

    Elections serve two purposes. The first, and obvious, purpose is to accurately choose the winner. But the second is equally important: to convince the loser. To the extent that an election system is not transparently and auditably accurate, it fails in that second purpose. Our election systems are failing, and we need to fix them.

    Today, we conduct our elections on computers. Our registration lists are in computer databases. We vote on computerized voting machines. And our tabulation and reporting is done on computers. We do this for a lot of good reasons, but a side effect is that elections now have all the insecurities inherent in computers. The only way to reliably protect elections from both malice and accident is to use something that is not hackable or unreliable at scale; the best way to do that is to back up as much of the system as possible with paper.

    Recently, there have been two graphic demonstrations of how bad our computerized voting system is. In 2007, the states of California and Ohio conducted audits of their electronic voting machines. Expert review teams found exploitable vulnerabilities in almost every component they examined. The researchers were able to undetectably alter vote tallies, erase audit logs, and load malware on to the systems. Some of their attacks could be implemented by a single individual with no greater access than a normal poll worker; others could be done remotely.

    One of the serious problems with all the current easily-debunked conspiricism is that it feeds into the (false) narrative that everything is hunky-dory. It's not.


  • And a final amusing item from the Free Beacon: Antiracism Icon Robin DiAngelo Paid More Than Black Woman for Same Job.

    The prominent diversity consultant Robin DiAngelo raked in $12,750 for a speaking gig last month at the University of Wisconsin—70 percent more than the other keynote speaker, black female author Austin Channing Brown.

    The University of Wisconsin-Madison's Division of Diversity, Equity, and Educational Achievement paid Channing Brown just $7,500 for her keynote address at its annual Diversity Forum, receipts obtained by the Washington Free Beacon show. The payments were negotiated with the Harry Walker Agency, a New York-based speakers bureau that represents both women.

    The "woke" position is that racial disparities prove racial discrimination. So…?

URLs du Jour

2020-11-22

Michael Ramirez goes a little PG-13 but… [View From Behind]

  • We don't care awfully much about the jerks who voters in a faraway state have chosen to impose upon themselves, but Joel Kotkin does: Governor Preen.

    If Hollywood were to cast a governor and future president, and if a straight white male were still politically acceptable, he would look like California’s Gavin Newsom. The 53-year-old governor, a former mayor of San Francisco, Newsom handsomely epitomizes the preening politics of the California elite class that has nurtured and financed his career from the beginning.

    Like aristocrats of the past, Newsom seems oblivious to the realities felt by constituents among the lower orders. In the face of massive wildfires, he postures on climate change, conflating fires with an angry mother Earth—as opposed to poor land management—and uses the conflagration to justify a radical policy of switching to all-electric power over the next decade, with the elimination of gas-powered cars by 2035. In the midst of a near economic free-fall, he favors raising taxes and works to tighten pandemic lockdowns; and, with the state losing its ability to train workers, he backs an education system where almost three out of five California high schoolers graduate unprepared for either college or a career.

    A good summary of what (I hope) the rest of the country can manage to avoid.


  • At the WaPo, Megan McArdle dreams of an alternate timeline, one in which We Could Have Done Better. It's about the latest Grim Milestone.

    Do you even know what 250,000 people looks like? Because I don’t. I have been trying to imagine it, andfailing [sic].

    The closest I can get is imagining something I have seen: Yankee Stadium, filled to capacity with a World Series crowd — multiplied by five. Then comes the hard part: I imagine all of them locked into the stadium and dying, mostly alone and terrified, of heart attacks or strokes or kidney failure or slow suffocation, while their families wait weeping in the parking lot.

    And then I imagine that happening on a live stream so the country can witness the horror. That’s what it would look like if you could see all the Americans who have died of covid-19 since last March.

    But…


  • … at the WSJ, Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. is the anti-McArdle: Media Banality Is a Covid Comorbidity. Probably paywalled, but really, this is why you should subscribe.

    National Public Radio host: “We have said the words grim milestone so many times over the past eight months on this program, and yet here we are once more. The number this time—250,000. . . . Each digit in that number, a life now gone, their loved ones now grieving. The collective loss is hard to measure.”

    NPR reporter: “You know, Rachel, each of these terrible new milestones is so big they can start to feel incomprehensible. So I’ve been struggling to find a way to put such a terrible tragedy into some kind of context. It’s hard. But 250,000 deaths is about five times the number of U.S. troops killed in combat in Vietnam. It’s nearly five times the number of Americans who died in combat in World War I.”

    These words (and I’ve spared you the full version) were spoken with the dramatic intonation that NPR apparently now requires of its on-air performers, indicating not informational content but somebody’s idea of the appropriate emotional response to be extorted from listeners. And yet the question that started this discussion could have been answered in another way more befitting a news organization: 250,000 is 9% more than the estimated U.S. death toll from the 1957 flu, adjusted for population; it’s 34% larger than the 1968 flu’s death toll; it’s about one-fifth the 1918 pandemic’s.

    At least our reporter didn’t tell us that laying the victims end to end would reach from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.

    Wouldn't it be nice if journalists avoided sensationalism and heartstring-tugging emotion, and simply reported facts?


  • Another stupid article from Wired, this one from Zachary Karabell lecturing on What the EU Gets Right—and the US Gets Wrong—About Antitrust.

    Over time, US law has come to view antitrust through a single lens: harm to the consumer. That’s a problem for critics of Big Tech, because the companies give away many of their products for free and can argue that in other cases they lower prices. The US antitrust framework simply isn’t well-suited to the unique structure and scope of these 21st-century behemoths.

    In the words of Lina Khan, an attorney who served on the staff of the House antitrust subcommittee that issued a highly critical report of the tech giants in October, “the current framework in antitrust—specifically its pegging competition to consumer welfare, defined as short-term price effects—is unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy.” The report says tech’s Big Four have gone from being “scrappy, underdog startups” to the “kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons” and that have acquired too much power that they have then exploited. Khan favors changing the law to look more broadly at the ill effects of monopolies.

    I believe a good translation is: "Big tech is not causing consumer harm, which is our usual rationale for invoking anti-trust remedies. So we'll make up a different story, one they weren't expecting! Bwah hah hah!"

    It was nice when progressives pretended to believe in "norms". Such as that good old "rule of law".

    Which, if it means anything at all, means having clear, bright lines that (for example) corporations have solid knowledge ahead of time about what kind of behavior they need to avoid.

    The kind of anti-trust Karabell is advocating is the opposite of that.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-21

[Amazon Link]
I like the Amazon Product du Jour a lot. You can (if you are far braver than I) get the yard sign at Etsy.

  • P. J. O'Rourke at American Consequences tells us about Beautiful Losers.

    Voter turnout was huge. But almost everybody was voting against a candidate – because they were hugely opposed to him (or him + her). And every voter was right. The vote was a great big “No thank you” to Trump and Biden.

    I’m glad to see the back of Donald Trump. (Although I’m already sick of looking at the front Biden puts up.) It’s not that I disagree with Trump’s policies. I mostly don’t, except for his stupid Wall and the xenophobic crap that went with it.

    I’ve traveled the entire border, from Brownsville/Matamoros to San Ysidro/Tijuana, on both sides of the boundary. The Wall is about as conceivable as a hiking trail across the Atlantic. The only sane reaction to the idea is, “Go long on the Mexican ladder industry.”

    Closing quote: "Partisan politics is a minor team sport – somewhere in importance between beach volleyball and curling."


  • Jonah Goldberg was never a Trump fan, and his disgust has, if anything, ratcheted up a few notches in the past couple weeks: This Was Always the Plan.

    The thing is, I am very angry.

    The president of the United States is trying to steal an election he clearly and unequivocally lost.

    Even liberals frame this fact wrong. They keep saying that Trump is undermining the legitimacy of the election. He is certainly doing that. But the undermining isn’t the end he most desires—it’s the means to that end. The man is literally trying to steal an election.

    I'm not angry, because I'm too old for that. But it's difficult not to be disgusted. And saddened to see people I generally like being taken in by the con.


  • Back in Realityville, Reason provides Steven Greenhut with the good news: Voters Wisely Chose Divided Federal Government.

    At some point when his bruised ego allows it, President Donald Trump will quit acting like the spurned dictator of Belarus and curtail his civically destructive effort to overturn a legitimate election. At that point, we can embrace a satisfying reality, regardless of our presidential preference: America will have a bitterly divided government that won't accomplish very much.

    Being libertarian, I rarely enjoy election night. It's like watching a football game between the Patriots and the Raiders. Is it possible for both teams to lose badly? Fortunately, that result is entirely possible in our political system—and is what took place on Tuesday. Democrats had hoped for a blue-wave election that would throw Trump to the curb, provide a Senate majority and expand their numbers in the House.

    I'm of the cautious opinion that the GOP might have an excellent election night in 2022. If they can manage to avoid doing stupid things between now and… oh, shit, what am I thinking?


  • Drew Cline at the Josiah Bartlett Center does a little home state boosterism: Economic freedom has made New Hampshire an international marvel.

    New Hampshire is a small, remote, mountainous state with no major port or trade hub. Considering only natural economic resources, it has more liabilities than assets. Yet its economy is legendary. Its economic growth has been the envy of New England for decades.

    How did this happen?

    The simple answer is that New Hampshire unleashed the power of human ingenuity by systematically pursuing economic freedom for its people. The human mind being the greatest economic asset, New Hampshire leaders freed it from unnecessary constraints. Tremendous prosperity followed.

    What we call “The New Hampshire Advantage” is not merely the absence of a broad-based sales or income tax. It is the result of a consistent, decades-long strategy of leaving individuals and businesses largely free to trade with each other as they see fit.

    In short, the state’s economic strategy is to not have an economic strategy, other than to leave people and businesses free. It has worked beautifully.

    Statistics at the link. Now if we could just do reforms of occupational licensure and onerous land use/zoning regulations…


  • Robert Graboyes and Charles Blahous write at Discourse magazine on The Rattler’s Tail and Snakebit Pollsters.

    There are countless, conflicting interpretations of 2020’s election results, but one fact is indisputable: across the board, polls failed miserably. Several reasons have been offered for this failure, but one explanation is especially compelling and worthy of further attention, namely, the fraying of social trust in America. It is not possible to produce accurate public opinion surveys where there isn’t tolerance of opposing viewpoints—even those we detest.

    In 2020, poll after poll foretold a “blue wave,” with Democrats easily recapturing the White House, toppling several Republican incumbents to retake the Senate and swelling their majority in the House of Representatives. Instead, Republicans may retain their Senate majority, holding at least 50 and possibly as many as 52 seats. Republicans may also end up only a few seats short of a majority in the House.

    The "shy Trump voter" thesis is mentioned, and debunked: it doesn't explain why every poll showed Senator Susan Collins losing in Maine, only to win handily on Election Day.

    My thesis: Democrats/progressives/leftists are only too willing to yak to anyone who will listen about their political opinions. Including pollsters. The rest of us are (increasingly) saying: why should I tell you anything?


  • David Henderson (Library of Economics and Liberty) provides a Great Line from T.S. Eliot. Which I will do as well:

    Eliot could not have found a kinder, or more effective, way of putting me at ease. As we sat down, he said, “Tell me, as one editor to another, do you have much author trouble?” I could not help laughing, he laughed in return–he had a booming laugh–and that was the beginning of our friendship. His most memorable remark of the day occurred when I asked him if he agreed with the definition that most editors are failed writers, and he replied: “Perhaps, but so are most writers.”

    And maybe we could add bloggers to that.

Apocalypse Never

Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All

[Amazon Link]

This book by onetime environmental hero, Michael Shellenberger, aims at a lot of sacred cows: Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, 350.org, Greta Thunberg, Tom Steyer, Bill McKibben, Malthus, Leo DiCaprio,… He paints a convincing (to me) case that "environmental alarmism" is a dangerous trend, very likely to do more harm than good.

It's very wide-ranging. (Maybe even a little unfocused.) Let's see if I can summarize: most of the "solutions" to environmental issues peddled by the activists are (at best) ineffective and, very often, counterproductive. Specifically, they doom poorer nations to their poverty, mandating (for example) that they give up relatively reliable and cheap fossil fuel and hydro for expensive and unreliable "renewables": solar and wind. Worse, they've successfully kiboshed nuclear energy in the richer nations. In addition to being unreliable and expensive, transitioning to solar/wind power would require vast amounts of land, squeezing out wilderness, endangering species. (Especially birds and bats.)

All this alarmism is accompanied by massive amounts of propaganda, scare tactics, and politicized science. Dissenting voices are ignored or slandered.

Shellenberger also scores points against the anti-nuclear crowd via hoisting them on their own petard. They routinely excoriate think tanks and scholars, sometimes falsely, for taking their funding from hands that might once have touched fossil fuel. But, Shellenberger says, wait a minute: doesn't that equally condemn the anti-nukers who are massively funded by oil/gas/renewable magnates?

Well, sure. If we were judging everyone by the same standards. (The idea that we should take arguments on their merits, instead of "following the money", has long since been abandoned by the alarmist crowd.)

Much of Shellenberger's thesis will be familiar to people who read outside the (unfortunately huge and impermeable) alarmist bubble. But his credentials seem solid, and he provides a welcome counterpoint to the green totalitarians.

Mildred Pierce

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

I read the James M. Cain novel long ago, but somehow never got around to seeing this 1945 movie. Joan Crawford, in the titular role, won the Oscar for Best actress. The movie also was nominated for five other Oscars, including Best Picture. I wasn't that impressed, because (frankly) it's kind of a chick flick. (Mrs. Salad liked it a lot.)

It opens with Mildred Pierce's current husband, Monte, getting filled full of lead in a swanky Santa Monica beach house. Whodunnit? Mildred's on the scene, and tries to frame her slimy business partner, Wally, for the deed. The cops aren't fooled by that, but they seem convinced the actual murderer was Mildred Pierce's first husband, Bert. Mildred can't have that: she confesses herself. But is she lying to protect Bert, or someone else? Is she the kind of person who'd do such a thing?

Well, yes. All that happens in the first few minutes, and most of the rest of the movie is flashbacks to how Mildred found herself in this pickle. Starting way back to when she was a mere housewife, struggling to make ends meet, saddled with that sad sack loser, Bert. And two young daughters, one good, one… well, not so good.

The movie chronicles Mildred's rise against the odds. In a blink of an eye, she's a restaurant tycoon, feeding most of Southern California. But her personal life is a mess, because she can't seem to shake some of her most dysfunctional relationships. Eventually…

Check out Eve Arden and (uncredited!) Butterfly McQueen in comic relief roles.

So it's very watchable, but easy to make fun of. They don't make movies, or shoulder pads, like that any more.

Witness for the Prosecution

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

I thought I'd seen this 1957 monochrome drama before, but after watching it, I'm pretty sure not.

It's adapted from an Agatha Christie play, and directed by Billy Wilder. Charles Laughton plays a barrister in ill health who (against the wishes of his nurse, Elsa Lanchester) takes on the defense of Tyrone Power, accused of murdering the rich dowager who left him a pile of money in her will.

Tyrone is married to Marlene Dietrich. Or is he? Everybody's kind of shocked when she is called as a (drumroll) Witness for the Prosecution.

So it's pretty good, although there's a lot of scenery-chewing acting from Marlene and Tyrone. Comic relief is provided via the banter between Laughton and Lanchester which is hilarious.

Also slightly amazing is Ian Wolfe, who plays Charles Laughton's secretary. According to IMDB, he was born in 1896 which would have made him about 60 here. Or you might remember him from a couple of Star Trek episodes when he was in his early 70s. Or (if you're really lucky) you watched him in a small recurring role on WKRP in Cincinnati, Mother Carlson's uppity butler Hirsch; he was in his mid-80s there.

Or any one of a zillion other things. He kept working, his last role in Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy movie in 1990, when he would have been about 94 years young.

And in all those roles, he looks pretty much the same. I suppose he was young once. Maybe I'll rent The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934) to test that theory.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-20

  • Geraghty's Morning Jolt takes what should be an uncontroversial stand: Americans Deserve the Truth, Even If It’s Unpleasant. After some extensive quoting:

    If you put your faith in President Trump’s claim of a presidential election stolen through massive alteration of votes through the use of voting software, and in the legal skills of Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, I am sorry to tell you that you have been conned. Whether or not Rudy Giuliani wants $20,000 per day as the New York Times reported, it is safe to conclude he expects to be well compensated for his work for the Trump campaign. He has a financial interest in dragging out proceedings for as long as possible.

    I am saddened by the otherwise sensible folks, often on my side, who are convinced by the Trump/Giuliani/Powell smoke and mirrors.


  • So yesterday I shared an item (on LFOD grounds) from Religion Dispatches by John Stoehr, In Order to Move Forward We Must Believe the Unbelievable: Some Choose Death Over Democracy. Who, with the Christian charity typical of the progressive left, found "millions" of Trump voters "favor or tolerate organic homegrown fascism."

    I didn't quote the "evidence" that prompted this screed:

    There’s probably no better illustration of this than Jodi Doering’s interview on CNN this morning. Doering is a nurse in South Dakota. These days, she sees a lot of death. She said nearly all of her small town is now dead from the new coronavirus. She sees patients denying the reality of Covid-19 even as they’re immobile and dying from it.

    No silliness from Nurse Doering about patient confidentiality! And of course she got on CNN via "viral" tweets that just happened to fit a certain narrative. And of course she "proves" to people like Stoehr that Trump voters are a bunch of reality-denying fascists.

    But some are saying waitaminnit. For example, Ryan Mills at National Review: Nurse Goes Viral Claiming Dying Patients Deny COVID.

    Kim Rieger, a spokeswoman for the Huron Regional Medical Center, one of the hospitals where Doering works, said that after Doering’s claims went viral she did an informal poll of about a half dozen other nurses who work at the hospital to see if they had similar experiences.

    “No one else has gotten that statement back from a patient, specifically,” Rieger said about COVID denial. “Nor have they heard of that happening here. Not to call her a liar, because she provides care here as well as other hospitals, so it could have happened at another hospital.”

    Rieger said that after reading Doering’s tweets, she felt horrible.

    “I read these tweets, and, I think she was at her end,” Rieger said. “It might have been a better conversation for her girlfriends than Twitter.”

    OK, well what would you expect from a far-right rag like NR?

    Well, how about Wired? David Zweig brings an ounce of skepticism to the story, asking: Are Covid Patients Gasping ‘It Isn’t Real’ As They Die?.

    Doering’s statement that she’s watched “so many” people die from the disease even as they deny its very existence, endlessly repeated on social media and presented by news outlets without corroboration, would seem to represent a broader phenomenon.

    But other nurses who work in similar settings say they’ve seen nothing of the kind.

    I called a number of hospitals in the same part of South Dakota to ask emergency room nurses if they’d noticed the same, disturbing phenomenon. At Avera Weskota Memorial Hospital, about 20 minutes from Doering’s hometown of Woonsocket, an ER nurse told me, “I have not had that experience here.” At my request, Kim Rieger, the VP for communications and marketing at Huron Regional Medical Center, one of the four medical facilities where Doering works, spoke with several nurses at Huron to get their reactions to the CNN interview. None said they’d interacted with Covid patients who denied having the disease. “Most patients are grateful, and thankful for our help,” one told her. “I have not experienced this, nor have I been told of this experience, ever,” another said.

    Zweig is amazed at the "journalists" who simply repeated Doering's assertions without investigation. But, you know, it serves the we're-all-gonna-die-and-it's-Trump's-fault narrative. Too good to check!


  • At Liberty Unyielding, Hans Bader wonders: Did claims about rigged elections backfire on Trump and some Democrats?.

    Why did Donald Trump narrowly lose in Georgia? Perhaps because he encouraged voters not to vote by mail. That resulted in fewer Republicans casting ballots at all, because some wouldn’t — or couldn’t — vote in person. Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State says that 24,000 Republicans who voted absentee in the primary election did not vote in the general election. He says Donald Trump cost himself the election by sowing distrust in voting by mail, and whether states would count mailed ballots fairly: “He would have won by 10 thousand votes he actually suppressed, depressed his own voting base.”

    You know, that actually makes more sense to me than anything Trump/Giuliani/Powell are saying.


  • Kids these days with their hep jargon! Like Peter Suderman at Reason: The Conservative Antitrust Case Against Big Tech Is a Giant Self-Own.

    Few prominent political arguments have been so nakedly self-refuting as the conservative case for antitrust action against big tech.

    The argument typically goes something like this: Big tech has too much power, and social media companies like Facebook use that power to shape and stifle political debates, censoring conservatives and conservative speech in ways that are both visible and invisible. They are not neutral actors but partisan boosters, and their sheer size means they must be reined in.

    As Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.) put it on Fox News last night, following yet another congressional hearing featuring Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter chief Jack Dorsey, "These are the most powerful companies we've seen in American history. They're the most powerful companies in the world. And it's time we took them on." Hawley, the right's foremost critic of big tech, has repeatedly called for taking antitrust action against Facebook, arguing that it represents a monopoly. Facebook, he said in October, "is a lot like a supermarket…except there's only ONE supermarket in town, and they decide who can and can't shop."

    Facebook, in Hawley's telling, is the only online venue for political speech. There are no other options. There's no place else to go to share your political views, especially if you're a conservative.

    He explained all this, of course, on Twitter.

    I foresee me not voting for Hawley in the 2024 New Hampshire Presidential Primary.


  • And (more generally) any Republican who gripes about "market fundamentalists" is essentially telling me "vote for someone else". Ryan Bourne and Oliver Wiseman ask at the Dispatch: What Policies Are Really in the Interests of the Working Class?. They look at Hawley, and also Marco Rubio, who have been trying to claim the "just as good as Trump" label.

    The upshot of all this is that the Trump administration delivered prosperity with free-market policies and then undercut those gains with a dose of economic populism. Yet to listen to Rubio and Hawley, as well as policy wonks like Oren Cass, it is now in workers’ interests to build on Trump’s destructive protectionism with new industrial strategies and "pro-worker" labor laws. It is a strange paradox of the debate in Washington today that the most vocal supporters of the policies that helped deliver the Trump boom are the ones most widely derided as being on the wrong side of economic history. 

    In the coming debate about the future of the GOP, those serious about building a working-class party should be honest about which policies actually help American workers, as opposed to just "appealing" to them. And those typecast as “free market fundamentalists” should not be shy about the fact that it was their preferred policies that helped generate greater prosperity for working class Americans. 

    I'd like to think that "working-class" folks are smart enough to understand an argument about economic prosperity.


  • And at Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux would like to extend the skepticism the FDA brings to medicine to all policy proposals. Are they Safe and Effective?

    New drugs and medical devices cannot be made available to the general public, even through prescriptions by physicians, until these are proven – to the satisfaction of FDA bureaucrats – to be both safe and effective. Americans are denied access to any drug or medical device that isn’t certified to have such proof. Can’t be too safe, dontchaknow!

    Why does no one demand that any proposed Covid restriction be proven to meet the same standard before governors, mayors, public-health bureaucrats, and other pooh-bahs are allowed to prescribe it as treatment for the general public? (Actually, “prescribe” is not really the correct word; a more accurate one is “impose.” But we’ll here leave this nicety aside.)

    Heck, not just Covid! What about "Medicare for all"?

Fake Like Me

[Amazon Link]

Always on the lookout for good reads, I put five of the 2020 Edgar Award Nominees onto my get-at-library list. This is the first, and it's pretty good.

Not that I wasn't a little worried. Out of six back cover blurbs, five are from women, and the six is not gender-identified ("Kirkus"). Was I going to be awash in estrogen-fueled fancy writing? Well, maybe a little, but it's mostly just good, compelling prose.

It's set in the art world. Which is a far different one than the one I (and probably you) inhabit. The narrator is a moderately successful painter, about to finish up a project that will make her wildly successful. Unfortunately, a fire in her (uninsured) loft destroys everything. What now?

"What now" is quickly answered: she wangles her way into "Pine City", a small conclave of artists set in a once-fashionable, now-shabby lakeside campground in upstate New York. The idea is to (fraudulently) recreate her paintings in the few summer months before they're scheduled to be exhibited.

The artist community is haunted, however, by the past suicide (or was it?) of their colleague and performance artist Carey Logan: she apparently filled her boots with concrete and walked into the lake one day. Especially moody is Carey's once-boyfriend Tyler, who is pretty clearly keeping secrets about their relationship. Coincidentally, the narrator's childhood friend, now married into big money (and also plugged into the art scene), has a mansion across the lake, and their complex, semi-dysfunctional, relationship gets even more complex and dysfunctional.

And before you say: "Gee, that sounds kind of like Rebecca." You got it in one. Down to the book's narrator never getting a name. It's not as if this is hidden; one of those back-cover blurbs says it's 'du Maurier-esque', which even a lousy literary detective like me could pick up on.

It's very much a psychological thriller, which is easy because all the major characters seem to be some flavor of crazy, combined with a heavy dose of pretension, often accompanied with substance use. Their art is intentionally out there, mostly making Piss Christ look like Norman Rockwell in comparison.

It's also a detailed look at the technological details behind the production of cutting-edge art; there's a surprising amount of engineering and chemistry involved. With trips to Home Depot. And (in one case) stomach-turning deals with shady medical technicians.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-19

  • At the WSJ, James P. Freeman has a longer memory than I do, and I thank him: About Those Trump Vaccine Predictions.

    Back in August, Jane C. Timm and Jane Weaver of NBC News reported on the President’s Republican convention speech:

    Fact check: No evidence for Trump’s COVID-19 vaccine claim

    “In recent months, our nation, and the entire planet, has been struck by a new and powerful invisible enemy. Like those brave Americans before us, we are meeting this challenge. We are delivering lifesaving therapies, and will produce a vaccine before the end of the year, or maybe even sooner!” Trump claimed on Thursday night.

    This is largely false... The president boasts of lifesaving therapies, but critics argue there isn’t enough evidence to back up this claim... There is also no evidence that an effective vaccine will be delivered by the end of the year.

    And, gosh. Trump turned out to be more accurate than the "fact checkers".

    I know: that almost never happens. And certainly Trump made a lot of claims about the pandemic that were hot garbage.

    But maybe the media should tone down its mania for "fact checking". At least: if you're checking a prediction, maybe wait until it definitely fails to pan out.


  • Paul Ford provides fodder for our "Stupid Wired Story" category: Love the USPS? Join the Infrastructure Appreciation Society!.

    Oh, so there's a pandemic and suddenly you all want to protect the Post Office that brings you medicine and socks? Suddenly you're America's number one Census fan and think public health is really cool? Well, welcome to the Infrastructure Appreciation Society. Seriously, my God, welcome! I cannot tell you how happy I am you're here. Membership has been falling for decades. Please visit our website.

    One of the oddest outcomes of our long global disaster has been an emergent appreciation for big, shared, legacy institutions and the infrastructure they support. I see it on Twitter, I hear it in conversations, I read it in the news. People care about mail sorting. They want Stars and Stripes to keep publishing. They want people with medical degrees, not politicians, to run our pandemic response. I guess being indoors a lot while the world crumbles will make you more sensitive to the fact that you exist as a single human node within a lattice of overlapping networks.

    OK, so Ford's tongue is at least a little bit in his cheek. But what you'll notice under all the semi-cleverness is the asymmetric treatment of government and non-governmental "institutions and the infrastructures they support". The former are lionized and cheered. The latter are mostly ignored.

    You won't see a "Free Market Appreciation Society" being cheered by Wired any time soon.

    One exception: Ford declares himself a fan of, among other things, "AT&T from 1920 to '84". But is that really an exception? During that era, AT&T was (more or less) a government-granted monopoly.


  • But also in Wired is an actually half-decent article: The Senate's Section 230 Discourse Somehow Keeps Getting Dumber.

    At the risk of imposing more coherence than there really was, the main line of attack on Section 230 from Senate Republicans today was that Twitter and Facebook are no longer mere neutral platforms, but rather act as publishers, making editorial decisions about what content to allow and when to add their own content. The idea is that the law is unfairly giving platforms extra protections that ordinary publishers and news organizations don’t get. In one illustrative exchange, Senator Ted Cruz badgered Dorsey about Twitter’s decision to add labels pushing back against claims of voter fraud. “You’re a publisher when you’re doing that,” he barked. “You’re entitled to take a policy position, but you don’t get to pretend you’re not a publisher and get a special benefit under Section 230 as a result.”

    Cruz is simply mischaracterizing how Section 230 works. The law protects any interactive website from being sued over content posted by users, whether it’s Facebook posts or comments at the bottom of a Washington Post article. It doesn’t matter whether the company is a “publisher” or not. The reason Twitter can get away with labeling a tweet false is not Section 230; it’s the fact that even absent the law, such an action would not raise any sort of legal liability. If it did, it would be impossible to run any kind of news organization: The essence of publishing is deciding what’s true and what’s false, what is and isn’t fit to print. These judgments would be impossible if they routinely put publishers into legal jeopardy. (This is why the First Amendment makes it very hard for public figures to sue for defamation. Even without Section 230, lawmakers would have very little recourse when it comes to mean tweets.)

    Cruz is a smart guy, and you would think he'd know better.

    Bonus for Wired: they at least mention the typical Democrat demand: that the platforms "prohibit even more content".


  • [Amazon Link]
    I may be pimping Kevin D. Williamson's new book even more than he is. (One more time: Amazon link at right.) If you haven't bought your copy yet (or copies, I'm sure it would freak out the folks on your Christmas list), National Review provides a Big White Ghetto Book Excerpt.

    Owsley County, Ky.—There are lots of diversions in the Big White Ghetto, the vast moribund matrix of Wonder Bread–hued Appalachian towns and villages stretching from northern Mississippi to southern New York. It’s a slowly dissipating nebula of poverty and misery with its heart in eastern Kentucky, the last redoubt of the Scots-Irish working class that picked up where African slave labor left off, mining and cropping and sawing the raw materials for a modern American economy that would soon run out of profitable uses for the class of people who 500 years ago would have been known, without any derogation intended, as peasants. Thinking about the future here, with its bleak prospects, is not much fun at all. So instead of too much black-minded introspection you have the pills and the dope, the morning beers, the endless scratch-off lotto cards, the healing meetings up on the hill, the federally funded ritual of trading cases of food-stamp Pepsi for packs of Kentucky’s Best cigarettes and good old hard currency, tall piles of gas-station nachos, the occasional blast of meth, Narcotics Anonymous meetings, petty crime, The Draw, the recreational making and surgical unmaking of teenaged mothers, and death: Life expectancies are short; the typical man here dies well over a decade earlier than a man in Fairfax County, Va. And they are getting shorter, women’s life expectancy having declined by nearly 1.1 percent from 1987 to 2007.

    It's grim and colorful. Observation: Kevin talks some about his upbringing, and some of it makes J. D. Vance's (in Hillbilly Elegy) look like Chelsea Clinton's in comparison.


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang for an article by one John Stoehr at a site called Religion Dispatches, with the audacious title In Order to Move Forward We Must Believe the Unbelievable: Some Choose Death Over Democracy.

    Religion asks us to believe the unbelievable all the time, so I don't see what the big deal is there. But:

    I get why some people don’t get why 72 million Americans voted for Donald Trump. The Covid-19 pandemic has killed nearly a quarter of a million people in this country; it’s brought the U.S. economy to the brink of collapse; and the president is a lying, thieving, philandering sadist. How could so many Americans say: “Yeah, I’m good with that?”

    I get why that’s hard to believe, but the thing we have to do, if we hope to move our country forward, is get over this disbelief. It’s time to believe millions favor or tolerate organic homegrown fascism. It’s time to believe millions voted against their material self-interests. It’s time to believe they will kill themselves before admitting a mistake. America is no more exceptional than any other nation. We can and will eat ourselves. I don’t mean to sound hopeless. I mean that we can’t solve the problem till we see it clearly.

    So Stoehr's not a fan of the folks Hillary called "a basket of deplorables". But she only put half of Trump's supporters in that class. Stoehr—what the hell not—puts 'em all in that basket.

    So much for Christian charity. It only goes so far.

    But what of LFOD? Ah, here it is, and it's a symptom:

    We have to rethink our political thinking, too. It’s often presumed Americans resist wearing face masks and other pandemic precautions due to the depth of their faith in individual liberty. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem gave voice to this when she said recently, “My people are happy, and they’re happy, because they’re free.” Our heritage is rife with heroes choosing death over tyranny. “Live free or die,” for instance. See also: “Don’t tread on me.” But nowhere is there a hero choosing death over democracy.

    Stoehr isn't particularly coherent. But to be fair, it's tough to be coherent when you're full of spittle-flecked rage at 73 million of uour fellow countrymen for voting for fascism.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-18

  • A clear-eyed Glenn Greenwald tweets:

    As indicated, Obama is the latest Chicken Little.

    Well, that's an inapt analogy. Chicken Little, as I remember, was warning people in good faith. Obama and his ilk are using this "threat to democracy" scare tactic to put more power in the hands of the state.

    And really, what does it say about Obama's conception of "democracy" when he's working off the implicit assumption that most of the American people aren't able to sift through arguments, separating facts from nonsense, etc.?

    Hey, that might be true. But I wouldn't expect a "democracy" fan like Obama to push that narrative.


  • But there's good news, as reported by NH Journal: NH Named Top State For Economic Freedom Two Years in a Row.

    New Hampshire is the most economically free state in North America for the second year in a row, according to a new report released by the Fraser Institute, in partnership with the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy.

    It’s the third time in four years the state has topped the list.

    Here's the story at Josiah Bartlett: New Hampshire ranked most economically free state for second year in a row. (Can we say that too many times?)


  • Jonah Goldberg states what's obvious to everyone except Trump's cult: Donald Trump Will Never Stop Fighting—For Himself.

    “Despite the Left’s attempts to undermine this Election, I will NEVER stop fighting for YOU,” President Trump assured me in a fundraising email.

    I don’t take campaign fundraising emails seriously (never mind literally). They’re all pretty stupid. But this one was obviously different, for the simple reason that the election is over.

    Indeed, this note—one of many sent by the Trump campaign recently—was a plea for money to pay for the legal effort to reverse an election Trump lost by the same margin of electoral votes he once claimed amounted to a “massive landslide.” If you read the letter’s fine print, you’ll discover that “fighting for you” actually means “fighting for me.” Most of the money from small donors will go not to the legal effort but rather to pay down campaign debt.

    In a sense, I’m grateful that Trump is doubling down on everything wrong about his presidency in its final chapter. Yes, this is embarrassing for the country. Yes, Trump’s radioactive conspiracy theory of a stolen election will have a long, poisonous half-life. But Trump is removing any doubt that his narcissistic presidency was always entirely about him.

    I didn't think I could have a lower opinion of Trump. But he's managed to underperform my low expectations since Election Day.


  • [Amazon Link]
    In his regular weekly feature at National Review, Kevin D. Williamson writes on the Two Americas. (Which is a major theme of his just-released book! Amazon Link at right!)

    When Donald Trump was nominated in 2016, the shock of it exnihilated into existence a whole genre of “white working class” reporting, often with a Jane Goodall-ish feeling to it —“Lookit, Caitlyn, they seem almost human!” — that was held in almost universally low regard. Conservatives complained, not without good reason, that much of that reporting was shallow and shaped by the unshakeable preconception that this is all somehow about racism and Christian fanaticism; progressives complained, not without good reason, that reporting about subjects such as poverty and addiction has been noticeably more sympathetic when the stars of the show are white, and especially white and middle-class. But I think that that kind of reporting is well-intentioned and useful — it’s always good to get journalists out of New York City and Washington, D.C. Much of that white-working-class reportage hasn’t been very good, but the effort is worth something.

    It’s worth something because that fault-line in American cultural life is real. Increasingly, we act as though we inhabit entirely separate realities. Some of the work I think of as a “skeleton key for Trump country,” reports from on the ground in places and situations that tend to be covered poorly by much of the press to the extent that they are covered at all. But part of the story — a big part — is how people in those communities perceive the outside world, which is why I’ve spent so much time writing about crime in places such as Chicago and Philadelphia, and the rolling crime wave that is leftist street violence in Portland. Most people can’t be reached, of course, because you can’t reason someone out of a belief that he wasn’t reasoned into. But the curious facts and arresting little details of real life in the world as it actually is — as opposed to the world of our political narratives and economic models — have a certain power. The people who have the inclination to be moved or enlightened by such things are the people for whom this book was written — the people for whom any book worth a damn is written.

    UPS brought my copy last night, an early Christmas present to myself. Numerous small chapters, most of which appeared (in an expurgated form) at NR over the past few years. I'm taking it in small doses.


  • A new-to-me site called Not the Bee takes an argument apart: WaPo tries to use data to prove that the Republican Party is authoritarian and it's the stupidest thing ever. You'll get the flavor from this tweet:

    Note the science! The underlying research purported to measure authoritarianism on a number of dimensions. Here's one, with the blogger's comments:

    "Non-Pluralist." Let's define that first. A Pluralist is one,

    "Who believes that the existence of different types of people, beliefs, and opinions within a society is a good thing."

    I am working on getting my hands on the actual data because I think that would be VERY interesting, but given that we are in the midst of an unprecedented attempt by Democrats to shame, penalize, and make unemployable, people with whom they disagree, together with their long history of labeling political opponents as racists, you'll have to count me as "skeptical" on this point.

    In my view, the actual authoritarians are those who

    • demand mask mandates;
    • demand censorship of ideas with which they disagree (see first item above);
    • demand that institutions promote Black Lives Matter-style "racial justice" ideology;
    • demand government regulation of political speech;
    • etc.

    But that's just me. You?


  • Micha Gartz asks the musical question at AIER: Does Science Really Demand that Bars and Restaurants Close?. I'm guessing that Betteridge's law of headlines applies, but let's see:

    It’s Now Up to Governors to Slow the Spread,” says a Wall Street Journal article — written by board members of pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Illumina, Johnson and Johnson and Cigna. It encourages states and governors to band together and implement restrictions “focus[ed] on known sources of spread, such as bars and nightclubs.”

    Drs. Gottlieb and McClellan’s plea sounds reasonable. After all, ‘the science’ tells us that Covid spreads in confined spaces. Basing policy advice on ‘the science’ would be the sensible thing to do. These spaces — the restaurants, bars and cafes we enjoy — must be closed for our protection.

    But there’s just one small problem: ‘the science’ isn’t really there. In fact, the only evidence we have is circumstantial: all we have are data simulations (in other words, predictions), case studies followed up with contact tracing, and… that’s it. Given that Covid has become a worldwide attention magnet for 8 months one would expect a lot more substantial evidence than is available.

    Maybe. Since I'm old, I'm laying low in any case.


Last Modified 2020-11-19 5:25 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2020-11-17

  • Because we looked at this issue before and came up with the wrong (premature) result: a guy at the WaPo asks and answers: By how many votes did Joe Biden beat Donald Trump?

    But one of the paradoxes of our electoral college system is that, while the popular vote margin of more than five million may seem like a landslide win, the vote margins that gave Biden the presidency are razor-thin. Flipping just a little more than 81,139 votes in four states would have changed the winner of this election. That is just over the margins that gave Trump the presidency in 2016. The vote count has not yet been completed and those margins could change, but they are unlikely to shift dramatically.

    The states in question: Nevada, Wisconsin (misspelled at the WaPo), Georgia, and Arizona.

    The comparable numbers in the 2016 election: 77,744 in three states (Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan) gave Trump the win.

    In the (I think unlikely) event that Trump's lawyers ever manage to prove their electoral misfeasance/malfeasance claims, these numbers could be significantly updated, of course. But otherwise: you can't help but think that if Trump had been only slightly less Trumplike, he could have won pretty easily.

    (Or if any one of dozens of things that happened, didn't.)


  • The Issues & Insights folks note that Bidenomics Is Off To A Really Bad Start. And I'm not sure if this is more funny than sad:

    At Monday’s briefing, Biden was practically giddy about a meeting he’d had earlier in the day with CEOs at four big companies – Microsoft, The Gap, Target, and General Motors – along with five union bosses.

    “It was really encouraging, quite frankly,” he said, to get “business and labor agreeing on the way forward.”

    Why these companies? Biden didn’t say. But if he wanted advice on how to grow the economy and create jobs, he picked a sorry lot to get it from.

    The Gap closed 230 of its stores last year. GM’s sales have been steadily declining since 2016. Target’s annual revenue growth has been more or less flat since 2013. Microsoft’s glory days are well in the past.

    As far as jobs go, the four companies had a combined loss of 10,000 jobs from 2015 to 2019 – years overall job growth topped 8% – according to data from Macrotrends. Only Microsoft created a significant number of new jobs over those years.

    No word on whether Biden's next meeting will be with manufacturers of buggy whips, VCRs, and kerosene lamps.


  • If you've been wondering if arbitrary COVID-19 control measures will make Americans more likely to "hang in there" until vaccines are available… well, Jacob Sullum has an answer for you at Reason: Arbitrary COVID-19 Control Measures Will Not Make Americans More Likely To ‘Hang in There’ Until Vaccines Are Available. In response to the surge in new cases and hospitalizations:

    The legal restrictions imposed this fall cover a wide range, from mask mandates to renewed lockdowns. But in many cases, governors and mayors do not seem to have learned much from the bitterness and defiance engendered by last spring's restrictions, which were often arbitrary and hard to square with what we know about the coronavirus.

    Jacob cites some "do something" measures in New Mexico, Chicago, New York. And notes the obvious problem:

    When there is little rhyme or reason to COVID-19 control measures, politicians should not be surprised by the skepticism and resentment they provoke. Worse, arbitrary legal restrictions may encourage Americans to disregard official advice and resist the voluntary steps that are crucial to reducing virus transmission.

    A perennial Pun Salad observation: when government treats its citizenry as irresponsible children, a significant fraction will start acting like irresponsible children. Covid is just the latest example.


  • We previously looked at the anti-free speech writings of Richard Stengel. Today, Jerry Coyne takes him on: “We must add new guardrails”: Biden transition team official wrote op-ed asking for hate speech laws. Jerry (I call him Jerry) takes on Stengel's argument in said op-ed:

    Yes, Stengel is a Pecksniff who wants hate speech laws, but is curiously silent about who will make them? Who will be The Decider? We all know the problems with that, and they are pretty much insuperable. For every Biden official who disallows criticism of Black Lives Matter and Islam, there will be a later Trumpy official who criminalizes speech that liberals favor. The best solution is to allow everyone to say their piece, with a reasonable few exceptions that the courts have carved out as outweighing free speech (false advertising, defamation, harassment of individuals, and so on).

    You know what my worries are: that Stengel will influence and also reflect a general censorious wokeness on the part of the new Biden administration. Granted, this editorial was written over a year ago, but I think it’s fair to ask Stengel if he still stands by it. If he does, then we should keep a weather eye on his behavior—and that of the Biden administration’s actions about speech.

    Biden was a primary pusher for the Obama Administration's Title IX "Dear Colleague" letter. His respect for Constitutional restraints on the Federal Government is minimal. Point to Stengel if you want, but I suspect the actual attacks on civil liberties over the next four years will be emanating from the top.


  • Ann Althouse pointed me to a Louis Menand New Yorker book review: Wikipedia, “Jeopardy!,” and the Fate of the Fact. Good stuff, somewhat free from the political manure spread throughout the Condé Nast magazine stable. And, in addition to Alex Trebek and Jimmy Wales, a third Pun Salad hero is mentioned:

    A major influence on Jimmy Wales’s conception of [Wikipedia] was an essay by Friedrich Hayek called “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” published in 1945, and Hayek is virtually the father of postwar neoliberalism. His tract against planning, “The Road to Serfdom,” published in 1944, has sold hundreds of thousands of copies, and is still in print. Hayek’s argument about knowledge is the same as the neoliberal argument: markets are self-optimizing mechanisms. No one can know the totality of a given situation, as he puts it in “The Use of Knowledge” (he is talking about economic decision-making), but the optimal solution can be reached “by the interactions of people each of whom possesses only partial knowledge.”

    Well, not entirely free from politics; "neoliberal" is a trendy progressive slur against people who like capitalism.

    I'll quibble a tad further: I would wager that Hayek did not claim that markets automatically deliver "optimal solutions". I'd buy a significantly weaker claim: markets deliver better solutions than do "planners". Seventy-five years after The Road to Serfdom, that's still on target.

Hunter Killer

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

I was in the mood for a good sub movie. This is not a good sub movie.

The movie opens with a US hunter-killer sub stalking a Russian sub in the Barents Sea, just off the Russian northern coast. Both are ruthlessly blown up! The USS Arkansas, under the command of new captain King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) is sent to surreptitiously investigate. Meanwhile a SEAL team is sent to the area to investigate strange goings on at the nearby Russian Navy base. Before you can say "I wish Sean Connery were in this movie", a nefarious plot is revealed: a no-goodnik wants to depose the nice-guy Russian president and (probably) start a war with the US. Or something. I'm pretty sure I dozed off while the plan was described.

The SEALs and the sub crew engage in some major operations to rescue the Nice Russian, foil the plot, all while avoiding escalating the violence to all-out war. Lots of shooting, explosions, even fisticuffs; you'd be surprised at how boring this can be.

Gary Oldman is wasted as a hotheaded Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Linda Cardellini brings her two X chromosomes to try to calm him down.

Looks as if they spent a lot of money on the special effects and sets, but … you gotta do more than that.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-16

[Amazon Link]

  • Jeff Jacoby has some good advice that probably won't be taken: If you love this country, Mr. President, concede defeat.

    "AN ELECTION does not end when the winner declares victory," wrote Scott Farris in "Almost President," his 2011 study of unsuccessful presidential candidates. "It ends only when the loser concedes defeat. This may seem a minor distinction, but it is what makes American democracy work."

    If Farris's book comes out in an updated edition, that line may need to be changed. For while Donald Trump has lost the 2020 presidential election, he evinces no intention of conceding the race to Joe Biden. Having spent four years in the White House shattering longstanding norms, Trump is now wrecking another of the unwritten but crucial expectations of presidential politics — the duty to accept defeat with dignity and submit to the people's decision.

    Nobody likes to be beaten in a contest, and there have always been graceless losers. But a tennis player who smashes his racket when he loses a set or an NBA superstar who refuses to shake hands when another team wins ultimately affects only his own reputation. A presidential candidate who won't acknowledge defeat, on the other hand, undermines the legitimacy of American democracy and inflames partisan rancor just when the need for reconciliation is greatest.

    Expecting Trump to act with dignity is … well, see our Amazon Product du Jour. You'll be wasting your time.


  • But did he concede? Even briefly? Jacob Sullum answers that burning question at Reason: No, Trump Did Not Concede the Election (Even Briefly).

    A Sunday morning tweet by President Donald Trump set off a flurry of misleading reports suggesting he had finally admitted that he lost his bid for reelection. "Trump says for the first time Biden won the election," CNN said. "Trump says Biden won," BBC News announced. "Referring to Mr. Biden, the president said that 'he won,'" The New York Times reported. "That represented the first time Mr. Trump had publicly said what his advisers have been telling him for days privately: His re-election bid failed and Mr. Biden will be inaugurated on Jan. 20."

    But what Trump actually said was perfectly consistent with what he has been saying since Election Day: "He won because the Election was Rigged." In other words, Biden did not really win; it looks that way only because of a massive fraud that deprived Trump of his rightful victory. The president added: "NO VOTE WATCHERS OR OBSERVERS allowed, vote tabulated by a Radical Left privately owned company, Dominion, with a bad reputation & bum equipment that couldn't even qualify for Texas (which I won by a lot!), the Fake & Silent Media, & more!"

    Also: what Trump actually said was perfectly consistent with his (as Jacob says) long history of self-flattering delusions. My only depressing observation is the surprising number of people who are going along with it. It really is a personality cult mixed with conspiracy theory. There's a toxic mix for you.


  • But (as reported at the Epoch Times, via Liberty Unyielding), there's always Trump lawyer Sidney Powell: ‘We're getting ready to overturn election results in multiple states’.

    Former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell, a Trump campaign lawyer, suggested in a Sunday interview that there is still more evidence coming out in President Donald Trump’s claims of voter fraud and irregularities.

    OK. Fine. Evidence? Let's see it.


  • Pun Salad Fave Virginia Postrel is optimistic: 'Trumpism' Without Trump? There's No Such Thing.

    Even in defeat, President Donald Trump is a master of branding. People are rushing to slap his name on their favorite version of the Republican Party.

    “Whatever the GOP once stood for, voters today associate it with one thing: Donald Trump,” writes Bloomberg’s Joshua Green. “Trumpism” is the word of the season.

    But what exactly is it, or was it?

    What follows is an excellent analysis of what "Trumpism without Trump" might look like. As someone said once about Oakland, California: there's no "there" there. Or in VP's words:

    Trumpism without Trump is like chocolate chip ice cream without chocolate chips. Missing its defining ingredient, it’s plain vanilla.


  • [Amazon Link]
    Making some waves for her book (link at your right) published months ago, Abigail Shrier wonders: Does the ACLU Want to Ban My Book?.

    I never thought book banning would be respectable in America, much less that I’d be the target, but here we are. Last Thursday Target stopped selling my book, “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,” in response to two Twitter complaints.

    Where does the ACLU come in? Right here:

    “Abigail Shrier’s book is a dangerous polemic with a goal of making people not trans,” Chase Strangio, the American Civil Liberties Union’s deputy director for transgender justice, tweeted Friday. “I think of all the times & ways I was told my transness wasn’t real & the daily toll it takes. We have to fight these ideas which are leading to the criminalization of trans life again.” Then: “Stopping the circulation of this book and these ideas is 100% a hill I will die on.”

    You read that right: Some in today’s ACLU favor book banning. Grace Lavery, a professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, went further, tweeting: “I DO encourage followers to steal Abigail Shrier’s book and burn it on a pyre.”

    Et tu, ACLU? As I type Alison's book is Amazon's "#1 Best Seller in LGBT Demographic Studies". I see a Streisand Effect.

    As I wondered in a comment at Granite Grok: will Irreversible Damage make the American Library Association's Banned Books Week next year? (I note it's not available at Portsmouth Public Libary.)


  • Glenn Greenwald has more on the ACLU connection: The Ongoing Death of Free Speech: Prominent ACLU Lawyer Cheers Suppression of a New Book. There's an "internal war" going on in the ACLU about its stance toward unwoke speech.

    Numerous ACLU staffers told me that one of the most vocal and effective advocates for a more “nuanced” free speech approach was Chase Strangio, the ACLU’s Deputy Director for Transgender Justice of its LGBT & HIV Project, who I also interviewed. I knew Strangio as an excellent lawyer who earned my admiration from his years of dedication representing WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning, and I joined him once at the ACLU headquarters for a videotaped discussion of that case. A measure of Strangio’s massive influence is his inclusion in this year’s TIME 100 list, with a tribute from actress Laverne Cox.

    My interview with Strangio was too long ago for me to comfortably summarize it, but suffice to say there was no question that his views on free speech are sharply divergent from those that caused me to regard ACLU lawyers and their free speech absolutism as among my childhood heroes. If you want to hear reasons why the ACLU should be more reluctant to represent the free speech rights of “dangerous” extremists and why free speech should give way to other, more important values — views I vehemently reject — Strangio is about the most thoughtful advocate I’ve heard in defense of that position.

    Sad!


  • Here's news you can use from Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution: Sunny Days Protect Against Flu. Quoting a research paper:

    Sunlight, likely operating through the well-established channel of producing vitamin D, has the potential to play a significant role in reducing flu incidence. A recent meta-analysis of 25 randomized controlled trials of vitamin D supplementation (Martineau et al. 2017) demonstrated significant benefits of such supplements for reducing the likelihood that an individual will contract an acute upper respiratory infection. The current study considers sunlight as an alternate, natural path through which humans can and do secure vitamin D. This study’s findings complement and reinforce the Martineau et al. findings.

    Alex also, bless him, links to Inc: Neuroscience Says These Are the 10 Happiest Songs Ever. Relevance? I got your relevance right here. On the list:

Starship Troopers

[Amazon Link]

Continuing on my "Reread Heinlein" project. I still remember when I first read this book: got the hardcover out of the library of Boyd Elementary School in Omaha, Nebraska. I was either in fifth or sixth grade, and that would have made me 10 or 11 years old.

I even remember what shelf it was on in the library. Memory is funny.

And: whoa. I'd read some of Heinlein's juveniles before that. This was different. With someone buying the farm in Chapter One, despite the best, heroic efforts of the narrator.

And the book pictured at your right is the edition I own: Signet 50¢ paperback, second printing 1963. (Available for $9.60 at Amazon, plus shipping.)

The narrator is Juan Rico, spoiled aimless rich kid. On a lark, being eighteen years of age, he signs up for the Federal Service, which is the only way in his future society to get the vote and qualify for full citizenship. Having no skills of possible interest, he's assigned to the Mobile Infantry (MI). Which is a tough way to go; even if you survive basic training (not everyone does), there's soon an interstellar war on. The enemy is a race of insect-like creatures, unaffectionately called the "Bugs". Also involved are the "Skinnies", who are initially Bug allies, but are "persuaded" (by MI actions) to switch allegiance to the humans.

But what the book is really about is Juan's growth from callow youth into a seasoned military veteran. Heinlein handles this transformation deftly, to an extent I didn't really appreciate as a pre-teen.

Another theme is the obligation of individuals to their society. A few flashbacks to Juan's (required) high school course in "History and Moral Philosophy" illustrate: the teacher, Mr. Dubois, is a veteran and a martinet. None of this "two sides to every question" nonsense for him. He's utterly certain that the philosophical underpinnings of the Terran Federation are not just true, but provably mathematically correct! (I doubt that.)

The book won the Best Novel Hugo in 1960. So yeah, it's very good. But not perfect; for some reason, Juan spends a bunch of paragraphs on the MI's organization and politics. Those are details we don't need, Imho.

And can you have spoilers for a sixty-year-old book? Well, stop reading if your answer is yes.

The book just ends, with Juan about to lead his troops into another battle. Does it end because Juan buys it? Gee, hope not.

Oh, yeah: if you like this book at all, you're probably gonna hate the movie.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-15

Presented without comment…

[Republicans Win]

  • [Amazon Link]
    Kevin D. Williamson explains Why Trump supporters are here for good. Hey, I'm cool with that. Some of my best friends, etc. I do, however, wish that Trump would go away.

    I have spent much of the past decade trying to tell some of the stories of what we now think of as Trump Country. And it’s complicated, because Trump Country is full of both amazing things — from the startling innovation of the energy industry to high-tech farming — and horrifying things: poverty, addiction, dysfunction, despair. I’ve reported from the poorest corners of the country, from homeless camps, from drug-treatment facilities, pornographers’ conventions, eviction court, gun court, casinos, campaign rallies, and everywhere else I could think of. And I’ve encountered things I wouldn’t quite believe if I hadn’t seen them myself: welfare dependents who use cases of soda as an improved currency, the logistical ballet of Amazon fulfillment centers, enormous fracking rigs that walk from place to place on gigantic robot legs. It’s pretty far from Midtown Manhattan — you can’t see it from there, which is one of the reasons I work from Texas.

    Blue America is feeling triumphant at the moment. But vanquishing Donald Trump is not quite the achievement they think it is, because Trump has always been much more a symptom of our Great Divide than a cause of it. That may not be obvious to an intellectual class that knows more about the Uyghurs than it does about Southwestern Oklahoma, but those who are interested in understanding the other America rather than merely sneering at it have a lot of homework to do.

    Kevin has a new book coming out Tuesday, which I ordered back in April. Amazon link up and to your right, you know you need it.


  • As befits a philosopher, Michael Huemer makes a subtle point: Language Police Are Messing with You.

    Social Justice Warriors (who prefer to be called “woke people”, or something like that) are obsessed with policing language. Sometimes, it seems as if the worst sins they can conceive of consist of talking to or about people using the wrong linguistic expressions.

    E.g., when I hear complaints about President Trump, the most common type of complaint I hear is about something the President said. Not a policy he implemented or refused to implement, not an actual crime he committed, but a comment that he posted on Twitter or uttered in a news conference. (Granted, many of these comments are dumb and malicious.)

    But it’s not just stupid and spiteful comments that draw the SJWs’ ire. They’re very concerned about making up new rules for how we’re supposed to refer to people, what we can talk about, what is to be considered “offensive”, etc. — in other words, policing language.

    Recent example: "sexual preference" which used to be an OK thing to say, until, like, a month ago.

    Anyway, Michael presents four functions of SJW's language laws. Number four contains some rough language, but you can handle it.


  • Speaking of language, Paul Mirengoff at Power Line likes a SCOTUS justice's use of it: Justice Alito tells it like it is. We looked at a bit of Sam's speech yesterday, but this is different and just as good:

    Alito was careful to emphasize that he wasn’t diminishing the “severity of the virus’ threat to public health” or even taking a position on whether the restrictions are good public policy. However, he argued that the restrictions on public gatherings and worship services highlighted “trends that were already present before the virus struck,” including a “dominance of lawmaking by executive fiat” rather than by legislators and the relegation of certain rights to second class status.

    Religious rights, for example. Alito homed in on the decision of Nevada to limit church attendance to 50 people, while reopening large casinos to 50 percent capacity. “It pains me to say to it, but in certain quarters religious liberty is fast becoming a disfavored right,” he concluded.

    Take a quick look at the Constitution,” Alito urged. “You will see the free exercise clause of the First Amendment, which protects religious liberty. You will not find a craps clause, or a blackjack clause, or a slot machine clause.”

    Should Mirengoff have said "honed in" instead of "homed in"? If you're interested, check a blissfully politics-free New Yorker article: Don’t Try to Hone In On a Copy Editor.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-14

[Amazon Link]

  • Philip Greenspun reveals a hoop through which incoming victims at the Massachusetts Bay Colony Institute of Technologickal Arts must jump: Diversity and Inclusion Training for MIT Students. An example query:

    [mind reading required]

    How is Student X supposed to know what Students Y and Z are trying to do in forming friendships? (especially given that everyone is dispersed and interacting only via Zoom) The student is also supposed to know what 1,000+ classmates value:

    The question in that case is "My classmates value a diverse, inclusive, and equitable school community." Apparently MIT assumes either the test-takers have diligently discussed such issues with their peers, or have mind reading powers.

    I assume most MIT folks are smart enough to (1) pass this gauntlet with flying colors; (2) take it with all the seriousness it deserves; and (3) not get overly upset at the fact that MIT is paying a bunch of folks big bucks to write this drivel, design the web forms, etc.


  • Jacob Sullum at Reason notes a separation-of-powers champ, SCOTUS Justice Sam Alito Rightly Slams Five Democratic Senators for ‘Bullying’ the Supreme Court.

    In an eyebrow-raising 2019 brief, five Democratic senators warned that the Supreme Court might have to be "restructured" if it failed to reach the conclusion they preferred in a Second Amendment case. Justice Samuel Alito recalled that episode during his Federalist Society speech last night, saying the senators had engaged in blatant "bullying" by issuing "a crude threat" aimed at undermining judicial independence.

    Alito is right. The case involved New York City's uniquely onerous restrictions on the transportation of firearms, and the senators—Sheldon Whitehouse (D–R.I.), Mazie Hirono (D–Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D–Conn.), Dick Durbin (D–Ill.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D–N.Y.)—wanted the justices to decide (as they ultimately did) that mid-litigation revisions to those rules made the case moot. But instead of simply presenting legal arguments in favor of that outcome, Whitehouse et al. launched an attack on the Court's integrity, accusing the justices of perverting the law to protect "interests important to the big funders, corporate influencers, and political base of the Republican Party." The evidence they presented consisted of cases in which the Court had reached conclusions they did not like.

    Norm-trashing: not just for Republicans any more.


  • But maybe, unlike Senator-Elect Tommy Tuberville, those Democrat senators might be able to correctly list three branches of the Federal Government.


  • Via the Daily Wire: Nikki Haley Rips Twitter For Flagging Her While Leaving Iranian Leader’s Holocaust Denial Untouched. And she did it in a tweet:

    Twitter is garbage. But can I cast my vote President in the 2024 election right now?


  • Sharyl Attkisson writes eloquently in the Hill: Election suspicion is a result of simmering distrust in our institutions.

    Amid the dueling claims and information chaos in the wake of Election Day 2020, we’re seeing the consequence of the loss of faith in our basic institutions by at least half of the American public. These Americans have seen stark, specific examples in recent years of how justice is not equally applied. 

    They have watched as some federal agents and officials of the intelligence community, who should be helping to protect us and to uphold the laws, instead have embarked upon propaganda campaigns and operations that involved committing shocking violations and potential crimes, such as conducting illegal spying, filing improper wiretap applications, unmasking the protected names of innocent U.S. citizens, engaging in illegal leaks of confidential or classified information, and destroying evidence and documents. These lapses didn’t just happen during the 2016 presidential election; there is evidence they have been going on for years, unmitigated.

    when both sides view every day as a "Flight 93" occasion, it's not surprising that corners are cut, excuses made, and "news" coverage slanted. (I'm not sure if Ms. Attkisson mentioned the weaponized IRS. I'll try to get her new book to see.)


  • David R. Henderson watched the new Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma and deems it No Fair Trial For Big Tech.

    Throughout the ninety-four-minute movie, various commentators argue that social media have done great harm. In every case but one, the commentators criticize social media, warning us of its many harms. The movie states quite prominently, without exception, the credentials for all the negative commentators, and the credentials are impressive. The main commentator throughout is Tristan Harris, identified as a former design ethicist at Google and also as president of the Center for Humane Technology. Another commentator is Sandy Parakilas, identified as a former platform operations manager at Facebook and a former product manager at Uber. Yet another is Justin Rosenstein, whom the movie identifies as a major player at Google and then Facebook. A fourth is Shoshana Zuboff, an emeritus professor at Harvard Business School and author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. That’s not a complete list.

    In the whole movie, only one person expresses skepticism about the idea that manipulation by social media is sui generis. He expresses this view at a panel in which he challenges the aforementioned Tristan Harris. This skeptic points out that newspapers and print media also played on people’s addictions and ability to be influenced. He notes that when television came along, it did so as well, but in different ways. This, according to the skeptic, is just the next thing.

    Here’s what’s most interesting about this skeptic. Only because I’m an economist do I know who he is. “That’s Kevin Murphy,” I said to my wife, who was watching the movie with me. Who’s Kevin Murphy? You wouldn’t know from watching the movie. You had to pay close attention even to know it was Kevin Murphy. I had to pause and rewind and only then did I notice that he had a name card in front of him. Probably not one viewer in fifty notices that, and probably not one viewer in a thousand knows who he is. So let me tell you. Kevin M. Murphy is a star economist at the University of Chicago. He won the John Bates Clark Medal in 1997, given in those days only once every two years to the most outstanding American economist under age forty. He’s the only business school professor ever to win a MacArthur genius award. But the movie tells you none of that.

    Even a doofus like me knows the John Bates Clark Medal is a big deal. I think I'll make one of my rare tweets to point to David's article.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-13

[Amazon Link]

  • At National Review, David Harsanyi notes another small step toward our Orwellian future: Joe Biden Appoints Free-Speech Antagonist Rick Stengel to Sell Free Speech Abroad. Specifically, Stengel was appointed to "Biden’s transition team to the U.S. Agency for Global Media".

    Unfortunately, such a thing exists, with a budget of $753 million (FY2016) and 3.592 employees.

    Considering Stengel’s animosity towards free expression this seems quite a poor fit. You might remember his infamous 2011 Time cover piece, featuring a picture of the Constitution with the headline “Does It Still Matter?”

    In it he argued:

    We can pat ourselves on the back about the past 223 years, but we cannot let the Constitution become an obstacle to the U.S.’s moving into the future with a sensible health care system, a globalized economy, an evolving sense of civil and political rights. The Constitution does not protect our spirit of liberty; our spirit of liberty protects the Constitution. The Constitution serves the nation; the nation does not serve the Constitution.

    This malleable view of foundational law, one that allows partisans to reimagine the Constitution in any way that suits them, is pretty popular these days. It is, in essence, an acknowledgment that the contemporary left-wing can’t function under traditional American principles.

    David also provides a link to Stengel's WaPo op-ed, "Why America needs a hate speech law" in which he bemoaned that the First Amendment was "engineered for a simpler era."

    Well, if Stengel gets his way, we're headed for a more complicated era. One in which government bureaucrats will examine your every utterance for "hate".

    Like…


  • It's not just freedom of expression that will be attacked under Biden. Veronique de Rugy chronicles Biden's Search for Bipartisanship (and Bloated Budgets). In the context of Biden's let's-all-get-along speech, some history:

    Between the enormous budget deals designed by former Republican Speaker Paul Ryan and Democratic Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray under President Barack Obama and the bailout of automakers in 2008 under President George W. Bush, Republicans in Congress (or in the White House) have always worked with Democrats to expand the role of government.

    The Manhattan Institute's Brian Riedl wrote 3,000 words for National Review to explain how "Republican lawmakers have never been the partisan anti-government zealots that many Democrats claim" — and that some, frankly, fervently wish they were. As he writes, "(Republicans under Bush) also teamed up with Ted Kennedy to aggressively expand Washington's role in education under No Child Left Behind, created a Medicare drug entitlement, built the Department of Homeland Security, and spent heavily on farm subsidies, global AIDS and poverty relief, and domestic programs." In fact, if people care to look closely, they would see that beneath the tip of what looks like "gridlock" is a massive iceberg of irresponsible spending and social engineering supported with equal fervor by both political parties.

    It seems that both parties will require a painful dose of economic reality before fiscal sanity is even considered.


  • Jacob Sullum keeps hitting them out of the park at Reason. Here, he considers a prediction from a recent debate: Joe Biden’s COVID-19 Death Forecast Looks Less Plausible Every Day.

    During a debate with Donald Trump last month, Joe Biden said "the expectation is we'll have another 200,000 Americans dead [from COVID-19] between now and the end of the year." That implied a total U.S. death toll of about 423,000 by January 1. The current total is around 242,000. Biden's projection therefore suggests that COVID-19 will kill more than 3,600 Americans a day between now and the end of the year, compared to the current seven-day average of fewer than 1,100.

    That is not likely to happen. The "ensemble forecast" from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on projections from "45 modeling groups," puts the death toll at 250,000 to 266,000 by November 28. Assuming that estimate is in the right ballpark, Biden is projecting at least another 157,000 deaths from November 29 through December 31, or nearly 4,800 a day. That's more than four times the current seven-day average and more than twice the April 21 peak.

    The MSM will keep telling you for the foreseeable future that it's the Republicans that campaign by stoking the fears of the citizenry.


  • [Amazon Link]
    Well, we've dumped on Wheezy Joe enough for one day. At The Library of Economics and Liberty, Scott Sumner notes another blast from the past: Trump supported lockdowns.

    President Trump is such an unusual politician that people (myself included) have trouble seeing him clearly. For instance, Trump is often seen as an opponent of lockdowns. But while he did often speak out against lockdowns during the waning days of the campaign, he actually supported them during the period they were most restrictive.  Here’s a NYT headline from April 22:

    Trump Criticizes Georgia Governor for Decision to Reopen State

    “I think it’s too soon,” said the president, who joined several mayors in questioning Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, who had said some businesses could resume on Friday.

    […]

    And it’s not just lockdowns. I could easily dredge up Trump quotes for and against masks, for and against testing, or for and against any of a number of other policies.

    Indeed. Why it's almost as if Trump read Harry Frankfurt's On Bullshit and took it for an instruction manual. (Amazon link above, to your right.)


Last Modified 2020-11-13 10:30 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2020-11-12

  • Our Eye Candy du Jour is from an article tossed up from our Google LFOD News Alert: Artists in 'limbo' share their feelings of frustration and hope in new works.

    [LFOD]

    Yes, the painting is entitled "Live Free or Die". And it is an accurate picture of downtown Rollinsford, NH.

    Just kidding! That fire escape skeleton was standing, not sitting!

    The artist is Nicolas Holiber, and this painting and others will be on display this month at the Everyday Gallery in Antwerp, Belgium. The theme of the exhibition will be to show the "collective feelings" of the group: "Distress, anger, frustration, but also hope".

    (I believe that's Hope on the ground behind the school bus.)


  • Also on the LFOD alert, from the (honest) Irish Examiner, interviewing Oprah's life coach: 'The world will fry if we don't do something different'. That's Martha Beck, and LFOD is part of this quote:

    “If there is anyone who doesn’t need a life coach; it’s Oprah Winfrey but I guess you could say I’m in her stable,” Martha laughs.

    “I’ve talked to her many times and she’s always been lovely, the first article I wrote, the whole thing was about, is your life a prison, will you live free or die and she wrote me a really kind letter and said it was very much the way she thinks. The thing that I treasure about the friends that I have who are better known is they don’t compare themselves to other people, it’s more about the path, they’re all kind of on a mission, to move towards awakening.”

    I, for one, don't see how you can't read Martha without feeling your IQ decay. I looked around and found on her website: Becoming a Samurai Sword in 2020. A samurai sword? Why not a SIG Sauer P226? Or a W54 nuclear warhead?

    Anyway, Martha's essay begins:

    Arnold Toynbee famously defined history as “one damned thing after another.”

    Well, stop right there. Another one of those not-quite quotes that are too good to check.

    It's just one of those things you type when you want to sound smart.


  • Jacob Sullum does the math for Reason and comes up Republican Lawsuits Cannot Deliver the Evidence Trump Needs To Prove He Actually Won the Election.

    After last week's election, Donald Trump supporters in Nevada claimed that 10,000 people had voted illegally in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas. Even assuming that all 10,000 voted for Joe Biden, that would not have been enough for Trump to win Nevada, where the former vice president beat him by nearly 37,000 votes. Still, such a large number of illegal ballots would have counted as serious and substantial voting fraud. But by the time Republicans filed a lawsuit challenging the results in Clark County, The Washington Post notes, the claim of 10,000 fraudulent votes "had been whittled down drastically" to a single case involving a woman who said her mail-in ballot had been stolen, although the signature on it matched hers.

    That incident illustrates a broader pattern. While the president insists the election was "stolen" through large-scale, orchestrated fraud, the post-election lawsuits fall notably short of making that case. With the exception of the dubious argument that the longstanding practice of voting by mail is inherently unconstitutional, the claims in the lawsuits, even if accepted as true, are weak tea compared to the strong brew cooked up by the president, who alleges a vast anti-Trump conspiracy that denied him his rightful victory.

    Song du Jour is from Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks: "How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away". Maybe Pence could sneak a boombox into the Oval Office and play it for Trump.

    Or maybe some fat lady singing. Trump would probably get that.


  • For some reason, I'm hooked on these post-election "Blame Libertarians" articles. Instapundit links to Roger L. Simon at the Epoch Times as another example. (The Epoch Times seems to demand you hand over your e-mail address before they let you look at a whole article. So never mind that, we'll just look at the excerpt Glenn provides.)

    As of this writing, the votes separating Donald Trump and Joe Biden in the swing states of Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are less than the numbers gained by Libertarian Party candidate Jo Jorgensen who garnered close to 1.7 percent of the popular vote.

    As Joel Pollak wrote on breitbart.com, “If Jorgensen’s votes went to Trump, instead of allowing Biden to win these states, the president would win re-election, with 289 Electoral College votes.”

    Whether this is absolutely true is, of course, unknowable, but given the current leftward-lurching Democratic Party that seems about as libertarian as Chairman Mao, if push came to the proverbial shove, the majority of Ms. Jorgensen’s voters likely would have gone to Trump.

    She seems like a decent person but Jorgensen […] is a textbook example of what I termed a “moral narcissist” in my 2016 book “I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already. “

    What the moral narcissist claims she believes (in this case Jorgensen, but there are many similar self-described liberals and progressives as well)—not the actual results of those beliefs—is what defines her as a person and makes her good.

    Links removed, they mostly go to the Epoch Times. But I'm more than amused when Roger implies I should have voted for Trump as a brave stand against narcissism.


  • Counterpoint from Tiana Lowe in the Washington Examiner: Maybe the libertarians weren't so irrelevant after all.

    All of this has led to a bit of meltdown on both sides of the aisle, complete with the ever-inane debate over whether third parties "steal" votes from major parties. But the important fact is that a crucial segment of the public does not buy into the "binary choice" theory of elections. Does this really come as a surprise when the two main parties keep producing unacceptable candidates as their nominees?

    No party or candidate is entitled to your vote, or anyone else's for that matter. If you want the votes that straddle between Biden's key state margins, you have to earn them. And further, maybe the reluctant persistence of the Libertarian Party is a sign that Republicans really do need to cater to that vote. On foreign policy and criminal justice reform, Trump is likely the most libertarian candidate of my lifetime, but he embraced blowing out the national debt even when the economy was thriving, rejected the entitlement reforms required to curb an incoming debt crisis, and refuses to dismantle the surveillance state that spied on his campaign.

    No president in a post-coronavirus world will be able to immediately reclaim the Tea Party mantle, but perhaps there does have to be a discussion of the millions of Americans who might vote for Republicans if they actually kept their promises. Jorgensen voters likely did cost Trump the election, and that's no one's fault other than the Republicans'.

    It's arguable whether Trump would have won in the alternate universe where Jorgenson was kept off the ballot. And I won't point the finger of blame for losing at anyone but Trump.


Last Modified 2020-11-13 5:24 AM EST

Human Diversity

The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class

[Amazon Link]

Odd things happen to language all the time, and one of the oddest is what happened to the word "diversity". I blame Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, whose decision in Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke mentioned "diversity" in a student body could be a "compelling state interest" that would justify treating people better or worse based on their race. "Progressive" people turned that word into a magical justification allowing blatant unfair racial discrimination. But now, given Justice Powell's pass, as long as you say "diversity", you can get away with not saying what you're really doing.

The title of Charles Murray's new book uses the D-word in the classic sense: differences. And it's a noble effort to bring science into the discussion, tempered by a classical-liberal view of essential, underlying, human equality. As the subtitle implies: when it comes to issues of "gender, race, and class", biology plays an important role in explaining observed differences. Avert your eyes if that shocks or offends you, but ignoring it will ensure that your efforts to improve/reform/transform society will be misguided, ineffective, wasteful, and almost certainly invidious.

The main body of the text is split into three parts, each dealing with one of those subtitle pieces. Easy to summarize, because Murray puts forth "propositions" heading up each chapter.

  1. Sex differences in personality are consistent worldwide and tend to widen in more gender-egalitarian cultures.
  2. On average, females worldwide have advantages in verbal ability and social cognition while males have advantages in visuospatial abilities and the extremes of mathematical ability.
  3. On average, women worldwide are more attracted to vocations centered on people and men to vocations centered on things.
  4. Many sex differences in the brain are coordinate with sex differences in personality, abilities, and social behavior
  5. Human populations are genetically distinctive in ways that correspond to self-identified race and ethnicity.
  6. Evolutionary selection pressure since humans left Africa has been extensive and mostly local.
  7. Continental population differences in variants associated with personality, abilities, and social behavior are common.
  8. The shared environment usually plays a minor role in explaining personality, abilities, and social behavior.
  9. Class structure is importantly based on differences in abilities that have a substantial genetic component.
  10. Outside interventions are inherently constrained in the effects they can have on personality, abilities, and social behavior.

Each proposition is supported by Murray's summary of research, mostly very recent, of what's been revealed by genetic and sociological studies. In my case, Murray was pushing on an open door; I was kind of believing those things anyway. But he gets very deep into the genetic weeds, and (frankly) I'm not looking to become conversant with the science at that level. But it's there if you need it, and can understand it. Supporting Murray's argument, should you want to go even deeper: three appendices (about 50 pages) and end-matter footnotes (about 80 pages).

A couple concluding chapters are less science-intensive, and contain Murray's speculations and recommendations. Dilettante readers (or those not even pretending to dilettantism) might want to read these more intently. They won't surprise his fans (and they will be ignored or misconstrued by his enemies): they're a humane and liberal vision of how to deal with "diversity".

The book's penultimate sentence: "We need a new species of public policy that accepts differences and works with people as they are, not as we want to shape them." Amen.

[You might think that Murray's concerns are overwrought; if so, you might want to check out a recent Quillette article by Tim Courtois on Gender Ideology. There are powerful forces of denial, and they don't cotton much to your fancy-schmancy "science", Chuck.]


Last Modified 2020-11-11 9:41 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2020-11-11

Michael Ramirez notes the day:

[Veterans Day 2020]

Thank a veteran, if you get a chance.

  • We don't usually do more than one piece of eye candy per day, but this (from Mark J. Perry at AEI) is pretty good, unless you're a Venezuelan: Visualizing the rise and dramatic collapse of ‘democratic socialism’ in Venezuela.

    I admit, I find Uruguay somewhat surprising.


  • I can only shake my head, roll my eyes, sigh a sigh, and wonder why. From the College Fix: Hundreds of students protest after school posted a photo of a College Republican. That's at Bates College, average annual cost $73,538 before aid.

    Hundreds of students recently protested at Bates College after the school posted one photo of a College Republican leader on Instagram as part of a planned series on student voting leading up to the 2020 election.

    After an outcry from students, the private university in Maine deleted the post and the school’s president appeared at a rally to apologize for his mistakes. But that’s not enough, as the students are now using the social media post as a reason to push for a list of demands.

    It is difficult to be unamused by the first two (out of five) demands of the students, as reported by the student newspaper:

    1. An apology from the Bates administration regarding the silencing of students and restriction of free speech.
    2. Deletion of the Instagram post.

    That $73,538/year doesn't seem to have made the students any more adept at avoiding obvious self-contradiction. Maybe they should add a demand for a tuition refund.


  • [Amazon Link]
    Kevin D. Williamson's Tuesday article at National Review asks the musical question: What Gives You the Right? It's a relatively calm look at the bad idea of "positive rights".

    Positive rights run into some pretty obvious problems if you think about them for a minute, which is why so much of our political discourse is dedicated to moralistic thundering specifically designed to prevent such thinking. Consider, in the American context, the notion that health care is a right.

    Declaring a right in a scarce good such as health care is intellectually void, because moral declarations about rights do not change material facts. If you have five children and three apples and then declare that every child has a right to an apple of his own, then you have five children and three apples and some meaningless posturing — i.e., nothing in reality has changed, and you have added only rhetoric instead of adding apples. In the United States, we have so many doctors, so many hospitals and clinics, so many MRI machines, etc. This imposes real constraints on the provision of health care. If my doctor works 40 hours a week, does my right to health care mean that a judge can order him to work extra hours to accommodate my rights? For free? If I have a right to health care, how can a clinic or a physician charge me for exercising my right? If doctors and hospitals have rights of their own — for example, property rights in their labor and facilities — how is it that my rights supersede those rights?

    Rights are actionable — a right to a doctor’s services is a warrant to press that doctor into service against his will. That is why the conversation always is kept at a level of comfortable generality: You have a right to health care in general, not a right to any particular medical service at any particular time and place from any particular provider. That is another way of not talking about the facts of the case, because sick and injured people do not want health care in principle but in fact, not a general right to it but specific services and treatment. As some point, specificity and the actual facts of the case have to be taken into account.

    Looking forward to getting KDW's new book next week. Amazon link up and to your right.


  • Our second musical question of the day comes from Jeff Jacoby, who asks Were California voters confused?. Answer: "Well, probably, about some things." But they don't seem to have been confused when they soundly defeated an attempt to allow the state to "discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin."

    No, you read that right. Californians voted on "Proposition 16", an effort to remove the state constitution's language, added in 1996, barring such "affirmative action". Leftists and Democrats wanted it, the proposition's proponents outspent the opposition ($19 million vs. $1.3 million). But it lost badly.

    Have Prop. 16's advocates accepted their defeat gracefully, and acknowledged that they were badly out of touch with California voters? Of course not. They insist that they lost not because identity politics and racial discrimination are unpopular, but because the voters didn't understand what they were voting on.

    "The ballot language itself was confusing," said Oakland's Eva Paterson, a co-chair of the Yes-on-16 campaign. "We just weren't able to get through to voters. . . . People who didn't understand the purpose of Prop. 16 didn't get it." The same lame claim was offered by Michele Siqueiros, another advocate of racial and ethnic preferences. "I think voter confusion was our biggest uphill battle," she said. "We know that when folks read the ballot description that they were simply confused by it."

    What a pathetic excuse for failure. The campaign to re-legalize government discrimination sought to exploit voter confusion, by portraying the purpose of Proposition 16 as an initiative in support of inclusiveness, diversity, equity, balance, and racial justice — and by suggesting that anyone opposed to the ballot measure must be a hate-filled bigot. Rarely did advocates respond honestly to the profound moral argument against sorting people by race — the cause to which Martin Luther King Jr. devoted his life. Virtually every lever of power and every influential voice in the state was deployed in support of Proposition 16. It was backed by Governor Gavin Newsom and Senator Kamala Harris, by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, by the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Chronicle, and by hundreds of local governments, labor unions, corporations, and activist groups.

    So a bit of good news.


  • And third musical question du jour, from David Boaz at Cato: Did the Libertarians Spoil the Election?. As a Jo Jorgenson voter, I'm interested in the "blame libertarians" debate.

    On election night and the next morning, when President Trump was leading in the early vote count in more states than expected, Democrats were yelling at libertarians on Twitter that “you kept Trump in office.”

    As Biden moved ahead in the battleground states, conservatives on Facebook and Twitter–including former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker–were complaining that libertarians cost Trump the election because Libertarian nominee Jo Jorgensen was getting more votes than the margin between Trump and Biden in closely divided states.

    Both sides seemed to assume that their candidate should have gotten the votes of libertarians, and would have had the Libertarian Party not run a candidate, and that they were being wrongly deprived of their rightful property. Of course, elections give every voter the right and the opportunity to express their preferences by voting for the candidate they choose.

    Boaz provides data that suggests that third-party voters are sincerely turned off by the major party candidates, and there's not a lot of evidence that says they would overwhelmingly vote R or D if denied their choice.


Last Modified 2020-11-11 9:48 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2020-11-10

This xkcd this morn is data-driven:

[Electoral Precedent 2020]

Mouseover: "He also broke the streak that incumbents with websites are unbeatable and Delawareans can't win, creating a new precedent: Only someone from Delaware can defeat an incumbent with a website."

  • At the Federalist, Glenn T. Stanton has no love for the corporate media. For the Corporate Media Doubles Down On Hatred For All Who Voted Trump.

    President Trump has taken bipartisan criticism for his late election-night victory declaration, but he is not the only one to have lost mind of his citizenship manners as we all wait to see the final outcome.The editors at The Atlantic are breathlessly accusing about half the country of being nuts for voting to “leave a dangerous sociopath in the Oval Office,” fueled by their “sullen commitment to authoritarianism.”

    If that half of the country gets their wish and Trump is re-elected, The Atlantic says that’s very, very bad. Effectively, “The United States would begin its last days as a democracy, finally stepping over the ledge into authoritarianism.” That is a lot of blame to put on the shoulders of one’s fellow Americans, but so be it when you live in a bubble.

    The Atlantic link goes to a column by Tom Nichols, not the "editors", but point taken. I think if Trump's actual goal was to push the country "over the ledge into authoritarianism", even he would have realized that he should get that done in his first term. Tom Nichols is a poster child for Trump Derangement Syndrome, but click over to see if any other of the examples gathered by Stanton outdo him.

    But speaking of authoritarianism …


  • See Elizabeth Nolan Brown at Reason: Joe Biden’s Presidency Is Coming. It Will Be Bad In Predictable Ways.. (Elizabeth's daily column aggregates the morning news, but her commentary goes beyond mere aggregation.)

    We knew this was coming, of course. We have decades of history to tell us how Biden and Harris will govern. We know, for instance, that they want top-down solutions to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, will be bad on free speech and internet regulation, are always ready to spread some new sex panic, support harmful regulations for independent contractors, and don't even pretend to be realistic about government spending. We know they're still cowards when it comes to ending the drug war and enacting meaningful criminal justice reform.

    And now, we're already seeing rumblings around many of these dangerous fault lines. Biden is working on plans to get state and local governments to universally enact mask mandates, according to NBC News:

    President-elect Joe Biden in the coming days will begin calling governors and the mayors of major cities from both parties to encourage them to institute mask mandates as the coronavirus pandemic enters a potentially deadlier phase with winter arriving, according to a senior Biden adviser who briefed NBC News.

    "If a governor declines, he'll go to the mayors in the state and ask them to lead," the official said. "In many states, there is the capacity of mayors to institute mandates."

    I eagerly await Tom Nichols' writings on Biden's authoritarianism. Maybe the Atlantic will publish them, maybe not.


  • Hey, Pfizer announced they have a pretty good Covid vaccine! Good news, right? Well… At Hot Air, Allahpundit notes the thoughts of NY Governor Andrew Cuomo: It's "bad news" that Pfizer announced these vaccine results before Biden takes office.

    This isn’t the first time he’s sounded discouraging notes about a vaccine, knowing full well how much persuasion it’ll take to convince skeptics to get the shot once it’s available.

    I can’t believe I’m going to say this but I think the question needs to be asked in light of his track record.

    Is this guy … pro-COVID? That criticism is often thrown at Trump because of his insane recklessness in holding rallies amid a pandemic and his relentless push to reopen for business no matter how high community spread gets. But between the body count Cuomo’s racked up in New York and his consistent casual denigration of a vaccine approved and administered by Trump’s administration, he’s certainly a finalist for coronavirus’s MVP among U.S. politicians.

    The Reason Roundtable podcast was also incredulous. One of the participants noted that Cuomo was asked what he would recommend doing differently … and he just repeated what he'd already said about his misgivings.

    Those misgivings seem to revolve around having "private providers" be the primary drivers of a mass vaccination effort. Echoing the Reason folks: given the botches of WHO, the CDC, the FDA, the NIH, the President, and many states… you gotta hope that "private providers" step in.


  • At National Review, Jim Geraghty recalls a very inconvenient op-ed. Biden's Pick for Coronavirus Task Force: 'Living Too Long Is Also a Loss'.

    This morning, President-elect Biden announced that his coronavirus task force would include Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

    In a 2014 essay in The Atlantic, Emanuel, explained why he hoped to die at age 75, and why he finds the idea of living past that date to be morally problematic:

    Here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.

    By the time I reach 75, I will have lived a complete life. I will have loved and been loved. My children will be grown and in the midst of their own rich lives. I will have seen my grandchildren born and beginning their lives. I will have pursued my life’s projects and made whatever contributions, important or not, I am going to make. And hopefully, I will not have too many mental and physical limitations. Dying at 75 will not be a tragedy.

    Once I have lived to 75, my approach to my health care will completely change. I won’t actively end my life. But I won’t try to prolong it, either. Today, when the doctor recommends a test or treatment, especially one that will extend our lives, it becomes incumbent upon us to give a good reason why we don’t want it. The momentum of medicine and family means we will almost invariably get it…

    But 75 defines a clear point in time: for me, 2032. It removes the fuzziness of trying to live as long as possible. Its specificity forces us to think about the end of our lives and engage with the deepest existential questions and ponder what we want to leave our children and grandchildren, our community, our fellow Americans, the world. The deadline also forces each of us to ask whether our consumption is worth our contribution.

    This is the man who Joe Biden has selected to help save the country from a virus that is particularly dangerous to the elderly.

    In other news, Joe Biden turns 78 on November 20.

    Usually, I just excerpt stuff, but I couldn't figure out a way to do that with Jim's post.


  • Bryan Caplan has some wisdom to impart if you find yourself wrangling with some idjit on Facebook or a blog comment section.

    I’ve spent over 30 years arguing about ideas.  During those decades, I’ve learned a lot.  I’ve changed my mind.  I’ve changed minds.

    Normally, however, arguing about ideas is fruitless.  Tempers fray.  Discussion goes in circles.  Each and every mental corruption that Philip Tetlock has explored rears its ugly epistemic head.  You even lose friends.

    When a conversation goes off the rails, I’m sorely tempted to bluntly assess the other party’s deep intellectual flaws.  (As I repeatedly barked at my mom when I was a teenager, “When will you get it through your thick skull that…?”)  You don’t have to master Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People to predict the results.  The other party typically has the temerity to bluntly assess my deep intellectual flaws, which in turn sparks an even more unpleasant, fruitless, and potentially friendship-ending exchange.

    Click over for some good advice.

    I don't think I've argued much about "ideas" of late. I have argued about facts. I still think that can be productive, although I haven't had a lot of success in getting my opponents to say "Gee, I guess I was wrong about that."

URLs du Jour

2020-11-09

  • Well, shoot. I'm not sure if watching Jeopardy! will ever be the same.

    I don't have any particularly profound thoughts. I started watching the show intermittently back in the Art Fleming era. For you kiddos: you can see Mr. Fleming parodying his role in the movie Airplane!, or in the Weird Al song "I Lost on Jeopardy". He was unusual for a host in that, going into a break, he politely asked the audience to watch the upcoming commercial.

    Alex (I call him Alex) continued that tradition, treating the TV audience with respect. Also the contestants and the live audience. Mrs. Salad and I have watched every episode in recent years, thanks to TiVo.

    Here's Christopher Jacobs (who was once a contestant on the show himself) at the Federalist: With Alex Trebek, We Say Goodbye To An Era In Television. A poignant observation:

    At that November taping, one of the contestants in particular struggled mightily. Early in the episode, she couldn’t master the signaling button to ring in. But once she learned how to use the buzzer, she rang in—and froze. She rang in for the wrong clues, and forgot responses under the glare of the stage lights. On this particular day, everything that could go wrong for her did.

    Having over-compensated when behind in a match myself, I couldn’t help but feel compassion for the contestant, who seemed shell-shocked by the experience. With a negative score heading into Final Jeopardy!, the producers escorted her off the stage, while the two remaining contestants played out the last clue.

    At the end of the match, the producers brought the contestant back on stage while the show’s closing credits rolled. While the two other contestants chatted with Alex, this third contestant stood there awkwardly, likely wishing she was standing anywhere else in the world than on that soundstage.

    Trebek noticed her discomfort, and pulled her aside for a quiet conversation as the cameras switched off. I know not what words he spoke to her, or whether his words helped to put the episode in proper perspective. But I couldn’t help but recognize the fact that a man fighting for his life took time to comfort this distraught contestant. That heartfelt gesture had an impact on me, an observer watching from a distance; I can only imagine it had a similar impact it had on her.

    I (still) harbor an ambition of being on the show myself. Part of the problem is that I'm so damned boring; I don't have any cute yarns to tell about my life during that mid-round chat with the players.

    "Paul, I understand you once met Richard Feynman."

    "That's right, Alex. I asked him a really stupid physics question which he answered with patience and kindness."

    "Good for you."

    It's theoretically possible, I suppose, that I could be on. But I won't be able to say what I dreamed of saying: "That's right, Alex."


  • Ah, well, back to election entrail-reading. Here's Jacob Sullum at Reason: According to Trump, Nearly Everyone Is Conspiring To Deny Him His Rightful Victory.

    The vast conspiracy that Donald Trump says delivered the presidential election to Joe Biden gets broader with each passing day. It now includes not just a cabal of pollsters, mainstream media outlets, and corrupt Democrats but also Republican officials and Trump-friendly new organizations.

    The president's assertion that the election was "stolen" posits massive, orchestrated fraud. But one study after another has found that voting fraud is very rare, and there is no evidence this year is an exception.

    Demanding evidence is fine. I still worry that it's too easy to vote fraudulently without leaving evidence. Advocates of mail-in voting, for example, cite a number of safeguards, so don't worry, move along, nothing to see here. But in a high-stakes election where we've been told incessantly over years that That Guy is a danger to democracy, the embodiment of evil, etc. … there's quite a high motivation for the Resistance to figure out loopholes and security compromises.

    Has any state red-teamed their voting system?


  • John McCormack doesn't wait for all the votes to come in: Joe Biden Victory Margin May Be Smaller Than Trump's in 2016.

    In 2016, Donald Trump’s majority in the Electoral College came down to 77,744 votes spread across three states — Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

    His margin of victory in each state:

    Michigan: 10,704 votes

    Wisconsin: 22,748 votes

    Pennsylvania: 44,292 votes

    If Trump had lost those three states, he would have lost the Electoral College to Hillary Clinton.

    So (by this measure) Biden may have pulled off even more of a squeaker than Trump did in 2016. His current leads (as I type, rounding to nearest thousand):

    • Wisconsin (10 Electoral Votes): 20,000
    • Georgia (16EV): 10,000
    • Arizona: (11 EV): 17,000

    So swinging about 47,000 popular votes from Biden to Trump in those states would shift 37 EVs from Blue to Red. Assuming Trump gets North Carolina (15 EV) and Alaska (3 EV), that would give a tie in the Electoral College at 269 each, which would throw the election to the House of Representatives.

    And then people would freak, but…


  • Speaking of vote margins, Walter Block, writing in the WSJ (maybe paywalled) is kind of disappointed: Libertarians Spoil the Election.

    Did the Libertarian Party throw the election to Joe Biden? Maybe. At this writing nominee Jo Jorgensen’s vote total exceeds Mr. Biden’s margin over President Trump in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania, enough to change the outcome.

    […]

    In 2016 physician Donald Miller, historian Ralph Raico and I started a group called Libertarians for Trump. Our advice to libertarian voters was: If you live in Massachusetts or California, strong blue states, vote for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian nominee. The Republicans will lose big there, and your vote for the porcupine won’t help the donkey beat the elephant. Likewise in Louisiana or Alabama, where Mr. Trump was sure to win. But if you live in a purple state, don’t vote Libertarian. It is crucial that Donald beat Hillary!

    I kick myself for not reinstituting this effort in 2019. My thought was that Gary Johnson, a former governor, was well-known and might manage 5% of the vote. He actually registered 3.27%, still more than three times the previous record of 1.06%, set by Ed Clark in 1980. I figured Ms. Jorgenson for 0.25%. She now looks on track to exceed Mr. Clark’s percentage slightly—and hand the presidency to Mr. Biden.

    Pardon me while I beat my head against the wall. How could libertarians in purple states be so stupid?

    We've covered various "blame [Ll]ibertarians" in the past. But, really, Walter: the question you should be asking is: How could Donald Trump be so stupid?

    All he had to do was appeal to a few tens of thousands voters (see above). Of whatever stripe.

    Maybe he could have done this by acting slightly more libertarian, peeling off some Jorgenson voters.

    Or acting slightly more presidential over the past four years.

    Or acting slightly more like a decent human being.

    But none of those things happened, did they, Walter?

Bad Education

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

According to IMDB, this movie played a few film festivals in 2019, then was dumped right onto HBO in April of this year. Despite having a big star in the lead, Hugh Jackman. But they eventually made a DVD version, and it showed up at Netflix, so:

Hugh plays Frank Tassone, superintendent of the Roslyn public school system out on Long Island. As the movie opens, he's being feted for leading the high school to the #4 position on the Wall Street Journal's list of the best in the entire country! Woot! Especially happy about that are the local real estate folks, who note the effect on property values. (Ray Romano plays a real estate guy who's also on the school board.)

And as the movie opens, you kind of get it: Frank seems to know every single one of the students under his wing, and cares deeply about their plans and goals. And he even recognizes a student from long past when he's in a Las Vegas bar—that turns out to have an unexpected plot development, but never mind that now.

But little cracks start to appear in the perfect edifice. The district's business manager, played by Allison Janney, encourages a relative, another district employee, to put a Christmas-present Xbox on the district credit card. She also spends a few thou at Macy's. And a different relative hops from hardware store to hardware store, stocking up on home improvement items on the school district dime.

And eventually it all falls apart, despite the efforts of Tassone and the school board to keep a lid on the blossoming scandal. Thanks to a plucky student journalist!

Kudos to the filmmakers for tackling a sacred cow, the government school system. The miscreants are caught because they're greedy and sloppy. Any sentient being has to ask: what about the folks who aren't caught?

The end of the movie reveals a further outrage, by the way: even after the embezzlement revelation, Tassone received a $173,495.04/year pension. Even while he was in prison. This is New York, baby. And the biggest scandals are what's legal.


Last Modified 2020-11-28 5:36 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2020-11-08

[Ziegler Toon]
Our pic du jour is a favorite, and relevant New Yorker cartoon from the late, great, Jack Ziegler. Click to see a bigger version, or buy a print.

  • People are hailing Joe Biden's victory speech from yesterday. I thought it was garbage, but then I would, wouldn't I?

    But this stuck out:

    America has always been shaped by inflection points — by moments in time where we’ve made hard decisions about who we are and what we want to be.

    Lincoln in 1860 — coming to save the Union.

    FDR in 1932 — promising a beleaguered country a New Deal.

    JFK in 1960 — pledging a New Frontier.

    And 12 years ago — when Barack Obama made history — and told us, “Yes, we can.”

    We stand again at an inflection point.

    We have the opportunity to defeat despair and to build a nation of prosperity and purpose.

    You have to admire Biden's chutzpah there, implicitly putting himself into the that pantheon. We may quibble about the list, but I'm sure it focus-grouped well. What, no Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton? Certainly no Ronald Reagan!


  • David French is pretty put out with the conspiracy-mongers: The Presidential Election Was Legitimate. Conspiracies Are Not. After listing off a variety of deranged assertions from Bone Spurs, Bone Spurs Jr., Newt Gingrich, Mark Levin…

    How should we think of the state of play? Aside from the ordinary (and considerable) sting of a presidential loss, is there any objective reason for this extraordinary amount of hysteria? Is the election, in fact, being stolen?

    Let’s walk through some of the most viral claims of malfeasance and irregularity. As you’ll see, this newsletter will rely heavily on the extraordinary work of our Dispatch Fact Check team. Without further ado—and in question-and-answer form—let the debunking commence.

    David takes a sharp pin to the rumors and false allegations. Worth reading, unless you've already convinced yourself that Democrats successfully stole the Presidential election, but didn't also manage to steal elections for the House, Senate, governorships,…


  • But aren't the other guys also up to mischief? You bet, as described by Jordan Davidson at the Federalist: Democrats Compile List Of Names Targeting White House Staff, Trump Campaign, Judges, And Donors.

    Former staffers for Democrats Barack Obama and Pete Buttigieg are creating a list of people who staffed for, donated to, or even endorsed President Donald Trump and his administration.

    “The world should never forget those who, when faced with a decision, chose to put their money, their time, and their reputations behind separating children from their families, encouraging racism and anti-Semitism, and negligently causing the unnecessary loss of life and economic devastation from our country’s failed response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the site for the “Trump Accountability Project” reads.

    Hey, anyone else besides me remember when blacklists were supposed to be bad? You know, McCarthyite and all that?

    More importantly: will the MSM demand Biden to disavow the "Trump Accountability Project" with the vigor that they demanded Trump denounce Proud Boys, QAnon, etc.?

    No, I don't think so either.


  • Even though he's on his way out the door, and even though his replacement may be even worse, Reason looks at Peter Navarro’s No-Good Economic Nationalism.

    Peter Navarro is a loser. Literally.

    He has run for office five times and never won. He has never gained approval from the Senate to occupy an official cabinet post. He started a trade war that may not technically be lost yet, but it hasn't been a roaring success by any account.

    And yet, somehow, he's become one of the most powerful people on the planet.

    In a presidential administration that quickly jettisoned the few serious economists who signed on to help steer it away from catastrophe, Navarro has been the perfect fit. He's a tough-talking Democrat-turned-Republican who maintains a set of deeply held beliefs that influence his policy choices and who refuses to be compelled by expert opinion or facts. He has no governing experience and recognizes few of the practical or institutional limits on governmental behavior. In many ways, he is a magic mirror for President Donald Trump: He reflects Trump's ethos and ideas but adds enhancements and policy details that would likely otherwise elude the president.

    If you have the slightest regret about Trump going away, the article may cheer you up a tad.


  • [Amazon Link]
    Kyle Smith is rapidly becoming one of my favorite writers. Here he is in the New York Post, reviewing a new book: How CBS and CNN went from reporting the news to distorting it.

    When Sharyl Attkisson discusses media bias, she isn’t just sharpshooting from a distant perch. She’s a true insider, having worked at CNN in the early days, when it was all news instead of peacocking personalities and venting about politics. She went on to be a star correspondent and anchor for CBS News, from which she resigned in frustration six years ago. When she talks about what kinds of stories get on the air and why, she has specific, damning details. In her new book “Slanted: How the News Media Taught Us to Love Censorship and Hate Journalism” (Harper), out later this month, she brings the receipts.

    The book opens with a stunning array of examples of undisguised bias from her superiors and colleagues as she fought to get investigative stories on the air at CBS. Back in 1996, when media mogul Steve Forbes was running for president, the following assignment came down to her at the Washington bureau: “Do a story on why Steve Forbes’ flat tax won’t work.” Forbes was running for president on a revolutionary idea about simplifying federal income tax so that an entire family tax return would fit on the proverbial postcard. Attkisson wasn’t told, “Do a story on the pros and cons of this” or “Look into whether this would work.” She was handed a conclusion and told to pick whatever facts might lead to it.

    Ms. Attkisson's book will be out later this month, Amazon link at right.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-07

[Amazon Link]

  • Jacob Sullum at Reason does some psychologizing, which I usually hate, but for some reason seems OK here: Trump’s Desperate Conspiracy Theories Won’t Save His Presidency, but They Might Save His Ego.

    When Donald Trump claimed he would have won the popular vote in 2016 if it weren't for "the millions of people who voted illegally," he was only trying to magnify his victory over Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Now that he seems to be losing a presidential election, his desperate scramble for explanations has produced conspiracy theories that make his 2016 fantasy pale by comparison. Here are a few of the things the president seems to believe, judging from his remarks at the White House last night.

    "If you count the legal votes, I easily win," Trump said. "If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us. If you count the votes that came in late, we're looking to them very strongly, but a lot of votes came in late."

    This is a testable claim. Trump is saying that Biden can win the election only if mail-in ballots that arrived after Election Day, which he deems "illegal," are counted. Yet in Pennsylvania, whose 20 electoral votes would clinch Biden's victory, the former vice president has pulled ahead of Trump even without including late-arriving ballots. "The votes being counted in Pennsylvania do not include any mail ballots arriving after Nov. 3," New York Times reporter Nick Corasaniti notes. "Those are being kept segregated. This count is for votes in by Election Day."

    When Trump (et. al.) float 23 allegations, and 22 of them are garbage, how seriously are we supposed to take that last one?


  • My own blog inspiration, Instapundit, has (at least for now) totally bought into the stolen election story. Sample, excerpting an Epoch Times article from Michael Walsh: Democrats and Media Collude to Steal Presidential Election.

    With the corrupt and partisan media edging toward declaring Joe Biden the presumptive president-elect—you can practically hear the salivation—the Democrats’ long march through the institutions of the American electoral system is nearly complete. Scripted as carefully but as predictably as a run-of-the-mill Hollywood thriller, the Democrats played every card and sprung every trap on their way to achieve a media, if not genuine, victory over their hated enemy.

    After their surprise 2016 loss, the Democrat/Media complex relearned the importance of the Electoral College, a zero-sum game in which all the winner has to do is get to 270 votes. Despite all their complaints about how Hillary Clinton “won” the popular vote—which doesn’t matter a whit—this year they went back to the maps and realized the key to victory lay exactly where it had lain for Trump: in Pennsylvania and the upper Midwest.

    And so, via their control of the big-city machines in cities with large minority populations (Detroit, Milwaukee, and above all Philadelphia), that’s where they concentrated their efforts to steal this election.

    Yeah, well, maybe. But probably not.

    I'll throw one bone to the conspiracists: the years-long effort to "improve ballot access" by making voting easier has also made fraud theoretically easier. Demands for proof of fraud are (probably) valid, but the MSM, who you'd think would have the tools and the clout to do this kind of investigative journalism are uninterested.


  • Kyle Smith has some good news for us, though: The Progressive Agenda Is Dead.

    The Democrats gambled that if they chose the least offensive, most avuncular establishmentarian to lead them — a guy who could say “Do I look like a socialist?” and get America to concur that, no, Joe Biden did not look like one — they could leverage dislike for President Trump to win not only the presidency but the Senate. Meanwhile, they assumed they would build on their majority in the House to achieve overwhelming dominance.

    What the Democrats understood is that Democrats are pretty much all the same under the surface. Once a “harmless moderate” was installed, the radicals would come out and boogie. Trojan Joe was selected to tell the voters he didn’t support the Green New Deal, even as his platform clarified that he essentially did. He was supposed to tell the voters that restoring “decency” was what the election was mainly about, even as his backers schemed to rewrite the political rulebook by destroying the filibuster, packing the Supreme Court, and making states out of Puerto Rico and D.C. He didn’t want Medicare for All, which would destroy the private insurance industry immediately; he merely sought a “public option,” which would do so gradually. And every time he futzed up a simple sentence or retired for the day at 9 a.m., activist Democrats licked their lips at the prospect of replacing him with the single most liberal member of the United States Senate, a woman of color whom several nonpartisan surveys ranked to the left of even Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Just as Biden secured the party nomination, the country was gripped by the pandemic, whose catastrophic effects allowed him to blame Trump for mismanagement, even though his own party’s disgust for the stigmatization of China and the hardening of our borders against the virus probably would have made matters worse.

    I'm cautiously optimistic that Kyle's correct. Bad news is that we're already in a deep fiscal hole that can't be crawled out of without real pain.


  • Trashing Progressives is always a job that needs doing. At City Journal, William Voegeli asks the musical question: Compared to What?.

    The Right’s burden, however, is lightened by the Left’s arrogance. Progressives’ responses to the 2016 election are indistinguishable from their reactions to the 2020 election, notwithstanding the detail that Donald Trump won last time and (apparently) lost this time. It seems that progressives have not only forgotten nothing and forgiven nothing but also learned nothing—exactly the way progress is not supposed to work.

    Four years ago, the New Yorker’s David Remnick pronounced the election results “a sickening event” and a “crushing blow to the spirit.” For Slate’s L.V. Anderson, Trump’s victory demanded that white liberals discard any illusions about America’s fundamental decency and capacity for improvement—threads Barack Obama had woven into a garment of Hope and Change—in order to finally “see our unjust, racist, sexist country for what it is.”

    Within the past 72 hours, the Nation’s Joan Walsh has informed us that America’s failure to repudiate Donald Trump in a landslide has left her “ashamed of our country,” one where “racists who prefer white supremacy to equality” are horrifically numerous and powerful. Since John F. Harris, Politico’s founding editor, regards Trump’s odiousness as self-evident, “there is no logical way to scorn Trump without being somewhat scornful of voters who cheered his ascent to power and were eager for him to keep it.” Indeed, Harris believes 2020 is worse than 2016, since no voter this time could have taken refuge in the possibility that presidential responsibilities would induce Trump to “embrace moderation and restraint.” For the Washington Post’s Paul Waldman, the “last four years were a test,” one that “America failed.” The failure occurred because seeing “a political leader who enacts their darkest impulses on a daily basis thrills and intoxicates” Trump’s voters.

    The most important question in politics is Henny Youngman’s: compared to what? If progressives were given to rigorous self-examination, they might think hard about the possibility that Trump and Republicans in general surpass electoral expectations because the alternative to the GOP is . . . progressivism. Standing next to a twenty-first-century progressive turns out to be a good way for conservatives to get asked out onto the dance floor. Strange to relate, many voters do not respond gratefully to being execrated as bigots, fascists, and idiots.

    We're lucky in our enemies, who (occasionally) let the focus-grouped rhetoric slip and tell us what they're really after.


  • And more gloating from David Harsanyi back at National Review: This Is Biden’s Worst-Case Scenario for a Presidency. Yay! (NRPLUS, sorry.)

    Let’s just say this wasn’t the repudiation the Left was looking for. If Joe Biden wins the presidency, he will have beaten one of the most eccentric and flawed candidates in American history, and then only during a once-in-a-century pandemic and a massive economic contraction. It’s unlikely Donald Trump loses this election without coronavirus. I’m not sure he loses this election if he had a good first debate.

    Trump, who brought much opprobrium on himself, faces the prospect of losing after enduring four years of mind-numbing hysteria over a slew of imaginary existential threats to American democracy and a concocted scandal about imaginary Russian spy rings. And then, barely. Not only did the political media feed the frenzy (though many Americans are likely inured to it), but also by the end many were openly campaigning for his opponent. They even went so far as to bury inconvenient stories for their favored candidate. The media’s credibility is shot. No one deserved Donald Trump more.

    I doubt this will bother Biden much, though. He (like Trump) just wanted to be President. Goal accomplished, it doesn't matter to him much what happens next.

A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear

The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (And Some Bears)

[Amazon Link]

An irresistible title for me, and (even better) it's a book about a town more local than most: Grafton, New Hampshire, just up US Route 4. A few years back, it was the target of the so-called "Free Town Project", an effort for self-styled libertarians to take over the reins of Grafton's town government, and start whittling back on its power. The book's author, Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling, centers his book around this movement, but it's really more wide-ranging. For one thing, Grafton had (and has) a pretty serious bear problem, and MH-H goes into great (and sometimes gory) detail there. But there's no indication the bears ask about your political leanings before they raid your beehives and chicken coops.

Since the book is so wide-ranging, it also seems unfocused. There's stuff about Grafton's history (a long record of tax-hating). But most of the book centers on people: one citizen takes the local church building off the town's hands, only opening up years of wrangling over whether the town can assess property taxes on it. (A tragic ending unfolds.) Various people have bear interactions. NH Fish and Game is criticized for its bear policies. Bear poaching is deplored, and MH-H is given "Friendly Advice" that he probably shouldn't inquire into the details.

At one point, MH-H's story-telling takes him to Tunisia and the colonialist scholar Professor Daniel Butt of the University of Oxford. Which gives rise to the following phraseology:

  • "Butt heads down a different path…"
  • "… the oppressors (according to Butt) wipe out the indigenous culture…"
  • "Butt cracks down on the notion of benevolent colonialism…"
  • "All three characteristics, taken togother, make this very serious theory of colonialism, proposed by Professor Butt, whole."

My inner thirteen-year-old couldn't help but chuckle.

By coincidence, while I was finishing up the book I read this Reason article which urges libertarians to work politically at the local level. I'd recommend this book to anyone looking to go that route: sure, you can hold down spending, but it would be a good idea to have privately-provided services ready to take the place of the taxpayer-supported ones you're defunding. Arguably, Grafton libertarians failed on that score.

Also from that article:

In 2014, Jeffrey Tucker wrote about two main libertarian camps, which he termed "humanitarians" and "brutalists."

The humanitarians believe in liberty because it "allows peaceful human cooperation" and "keeps violence at bay," he argued. "It allows for capital formation and prosperity. It protects human rights of all against invasion. It allows human associations of all sorts to flourish on their own terms."

By contrast, brutalists like liberty because "it allows people to assert their individual preferences, to form homogeneous tribes, to work out their biases in action, to ostracize people based on 'politically incorrect' standards." It allows them "to hate to their heart's content so long as no violence is used as a means, to shout down people based on their demographics or political opinions." I call them "get off my lawn" libertarians.

Arguably, Grafton's libertarians might have had a brutalist tilt. Some seem nice enough, others not so much.

Small data point, since we just had an election: In Grafton, the Trump/Biden/Jorgenson US presidential votes split 423/345/16, for a Libertarian percentage of 2.04%. In my town of Rollinsford, things went 735/951/50, working out to 4.42% for Jorgenson. I question Grafton's [Ll]ibertarian creds! (Yes, anarchistic libertarians don't vote, because it's a symbolic granting of legitimacy to the state, blah blah blah; but there's no reason to think we don't have those folks in Rollinsford too. It shouldn't affect the apples-to-apples town comparison.)

By the way, Jorgenson's statewide percentage was a puny 1.63%. So Rollinsford is a relative libertarian hot spot.


Last Modified 2020-11-07 6:05 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2020-11-06

  • David Harsanyi has a pretty good Tweet:

    I share David's disgust with the opaque processing and (for the Nth time) most of the MSM's bias. But I'm also in agreement with the Indispensible Geraghty:

    If you’re convinced that the election is being “stolen” through fraudulent votes or the destruction of legitimate ballots, you can post all you want on social media or maybe go on cable news and make accusations. But if you have witnessed a crime in the process of voting or vote-counting, you shouldn’t be trying to build your audience or brand; you should be going to law enforcement. Don’t take it from me, take it from Attorney General William Barr:

    In consultation with federal prosecutors at the Public Integrity Section in Washington, D.C., the District Election Officers in U.S. Attorney’s Offices, FBI officials at headquarters in Washington, D.C., and FBI special agents serving as Election Crime Coordinators in the FBI’s 56 field offices will be on duty while polls are open to receive complaints from the public.

    Election-crime complaints should be directed to the local U.S. Attorney’s Offices or the local FBI office.  A list of U.S. Attorney’s Offices and their telephone numbers can be found at http://www.justice.gov/usao/districts/.  A list of FBI offices and accompanying telephone numbers can be found at www.fbi.gov/contact-us.

    Public Integrity Section prosecutors are available to consult and coordinate with the U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the FBI regarding the handling of election-crime allegations.

    If “they’re trying to steal an election,” as the president claimed last night — on a scale large enough to overcome five-figure margins in most of these swing states —  the Trump campaign’s lawyers should be describing who is doing what, where, and when, in detail in their lawsuits and requests for injunctions. So far, they’re not doing this.

    Jim says it's "put up or shut up time", and it's hard to disagree with that.


  • We had two "blame libertarians" posts yesterday, and today Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown takes those folks to school: You Are Not Entitled to Libertarian Votes.

    As the results of the 2020 presidential election remain unknown, partisans on both sides have begun casting about desperately for folks to blame. Latino voters for Trump have been getting a special amount of guff from Democrats. And both liberals and conservatives agree that third-party voters are a problem, which each side somehow convinced that those who cast their ballots for Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen are traitors who owed votes to either former Vice President Joe Biden or President Donald Trump.

    […]

    It's a complaint that Libertarians are sadly used to—and, as always, it's a hollow one. The Trump administration and its allies have spent years growing the government, turning against free speech and free trade, and in some cases mocking the idea that libertarian-minded constituents are a part of their coalition. Yet come election time, they act baffled that Libertarians wouldn't want to lend this administration their support.

    "If they're going to cry about the libertarian vote playing spoiler when they lose, then they either have an incentive to attract it with better candidates & policies, or they need to keep our names out of their mouths," suggests the libertarian journalist Hannah Cox. "They don't get to have it both ways."

    I think what's perfectly obvious in retrospect was easily summed up by someone I've lost the link for: "All Trump had to do to win was be a normal, decent human being."


  • Was the election all about Trump, you ask? Jonah Goldberg provides the answer you're looking for, bunkie: Yes, the election was all about Trump.

    One reason many of Trump’s biggest fans love him is that he “owns the libs.” As Donald Trump Jr. said on election night, “We cannot only keep making America great again, but we can make liberals cry again!”

    Among the myriad problems with this juvenile attitude: It invites a backlash. Democrats turned out in massive numbers not to vote for Joe Biden but to vote against Donald Trump. Trump, not Biden and not Kamala Harris, energized the Democratic base.

    Just as important, Trump gave Republicans and independents who prefer Republican policies (or who dislike extreme Democratic policies that have tainted the Democratic brand) an excuse not to vote for him. The fact that Republicans weren’t sent packing along with Trump demonstrates this.

    Agreed.


  • Back at Reason, Steven Greenhut wonders: Where Do Libertarians Go From Here?.

    I've long argued that libertarians should focus their politicking on the local level, at building a bottom-up rather than top-down movement. California's city council and supervisor races are nonpartisan, which gives third-party candidates real opportunities to actually win office. We shouldn't underestimate how much we can achieve at that level.

    For instance, former Calimesa Mayor Jeff Hewitt, now a Riverside County supervisor, led the reform of his city's fire department to reduce pension liabilities—something officials in the Orange County city of Placentia officials echoed. The legislature then passed a law halting such reforms out of fear that it would spread (and endanger union pay packages), but this was a testament to how much change one elected libertarian can accomplish.

    A libertarian has again failed to become president or to even seriously be in the running. Perhaps libertarians have a more promising future if we spend less time worrying about national elections and more time championing our good ideas—and working politically at the local level.

    Hey, maybe. Local politics is tedious, though.


  • I heard Brian Riedl on a recent Reason interview, and he sure made a lot of sense. He also has a recent article at National Review: Debunking Fiscal Policy Myths on Spending, Taxes & Deficits. Full of good stuff, I wish I'd had this particular exposed myth at my fingertips a few days ago:

    Myth: The Federal Tax Code Is Becoming Less Progressive

    The CBO reports that the highest-earning one-fifth of households now pay 87 percent of all federal income taxes, and 69 percent of all combined federal taxes — both well above the levels of 40 years ago. Combining all federal taxes, the highest-earning 1 percent of households pays a 32 percent overall tax rate, while the top-earning one-fifth pays a 26 percent overall tax rate (roughly the same as 40 years ago), while average tax rates for the remaining 80 percent of taxpayers have plummeted. Even after adjusting for their increasing share of the income earned, the highest-earning 1 percent and 20 percent of households each shoulder more of the federal tax burden than they had in 1980. The U.S. maintains the most progressive tax system in the OECD.

    Brian's got a book of charts here.

Gentle on My Mind

In Sickness and in Health with Glen Campbell

[Amazon Link]

I usually read more serious non-fiction, but when I don't, I tend to be drawn to musician memoirs. I tell myself I'm looking for the sources of their talent and inspiration. Usually what I get is tales of substance abuse (licit and illicit), dysfunctional relationships, greedy hangers-on bamboozling cash out of the artist's pocket, and, well, you get the drift.

This one is a memoir of Glen Campbell, written by his fourth wife, Kim. Kim was the longest-lasting spouse, from 1982 up until Glen's death in 2017, and bore three of Glen's eight kids. Kim tells the story personally, starting from how they were set up on a blind date when she was a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall. Glen's just coming off his famously disastrous relationship with Tanya Tucker. But he's a charmer, taking Kim to a James Taylor concert, but slips into boorish behavior ("I wanna jump your bones"), nearly wrecking the relationship on Night One.

But once Glen knows the rules, things eventually slide into love and marriage. They float in celebrity culture. An amazing number of names are dropped, because Glen is grounded in nearly all genres of music, plus the movie/TV world. Here's something I didn't know: he was good buddies with Alice Cooper.

Kim is a devout Christian, as is Glen. This gives her strength and patience through many trials: Glen's boozing, his fondness for cocaine, and (eventually) his final challenge with Alzheimer's. There's also reference to nasty legal struggles, as people (apparently his children from previous marriages) accuse Kim of malfeasance in her role of Glen's caretaker. They weren't in the will. As near as I can tell from Googling, the wrangling over the estate is still going on; at least some lawyers are getting rich.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-05

[Amazon Link]

  • I'm pretty sure Jesus had something to say about this too, but Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke have a go at it in Discourse magazine: The Immorality of Moral Showcasing.

    There is an even more fundamental problem with showcasing, though: it treats people as mere instruments in someone else’s quest for enhanced social status. Just because someone deserves to be blamed, that doesn’t mean others may blame him or her for just any reason so long as they don’t go too hard on the wrongdoer.

    Imagine you’re in a bad mood, and you’re just looking for an opportunity to lash out at someone. You go about your day just on the verge of an outburst, when luckily you see someone do something wrong, and you unleash your anger on that person. Even if your reaction isn’t disproportionate, it’s disrespectful to use people this way. And just like it’s wrong to use other people’s mistakes as a convenient opportunity to vent your spleen, it’s also wrong to use them as an opportunity to look good.

    Showcasers treat people as interchangeable punching bags in an attempt to craft their public image as moral paragons. But morality requires us to treat other people according to their worth as human beings, not as mere instruments. Showcasing fails to do so.

    Good points there. Maybe applicable to your blogger, I'm wary that looking over my archives could reveal such. I'll try to be careful in the future.


  • In her column, Veronique de Rugy wonders: Would Both Trump and Biden Bring More of the Same?. The election isn't quite decided as I type, so this is not yet out of date:

    Once again, Election Day in America has come and gone with some lingering questions as to when the results will be certified. In the run-up to the presidential contest, each side overflowed with hope about the many wonders its guy, once in power, might bring about. Unfortunately, for those of us who prefer smaller government — for those of us who value individual liberty as an end in itself — neither candidate really promised fiscal solvency or less government interference in our lives.

    Despite corporate tax reform, deregulatory efforts, some criminal justice reforms and an anti-socialist rhetoric, President Donald Trump has shown little interest in free market policies. His administration promised and failed to get rid of the Affordable Care Act and would have likely replaced it with what is best described as Obamacare Light. With the Republicans' support, Trump opened wide the spending spigot for the Pentagon and its defense contractors. Ditto for other kinds of spending, much of which was irresponsibly funded with debt.

    Click through for more. The good news: whoever loses, Vero will make you feel better about it. The bad news, though: one of them is going to win.


  • Our Amazon Product du Jour applies to me, I voted L where possible. Still, Philip Greenspun asks: should we Blame Libertarians for election confusion?.

    The NYT hates Libertarians so much that it takes at least three clicks to learn about any Libertarian votes. But if we click down into Wisconsin, which Biden-Harris leads by 1.1 percent, we learn that 1.2 percent of voters chose Ms. Jorgensen. Biden-Harris lead by 0.6 percent in Nevada, with 86 percent of the vote tallied. The Libertarian vote, 0.9 percent, is larger than the difference between mainstream candidates.

    Biden-Harris has a 0.2 percent lead in Michigan and 1.1 percent of voters there chose Libertarian. Trump is leading by 1.8 percent in Georgia, but it would be 3 percent if all of the Libertarians had voted for Trump rather than for Shutdown Joe. It’s a similar story in North Carolina. He Who Must Not Be Named leads 1.4 percent with 95 percent of the vote tallied, which is apparently not sufficient to predict the outcome. In NC, 0.9 percent voted Libertarian. If they’d voted against the promised bigger government of President Harris, the spread would be 2.3 percent.

    […]

    Readers: What do we think? Fair to call the Libertarians the spoilers of 2020? In a country where most voters want a bigger government, higher taxes, and more regulation, should the Libertarians recognize that by running their own candidates they are simply helping Democrats?

    My dim recollection is that this argument could have been even more applicable in 2016, where Johnson/Weld performed much more strongly than Jorgenson/Cohen. And I think I saw that the Libs drained voters about equally from both Reps and Dems. Can't find it now, though.


  • But Clayton Cramer also seems to blame Libertarians.

    Those who voted Libertarian instead of for Trump seem likely to have helped elect the most anti-Libertarian President in my lifetime, and the least mentally competent. I was expecting a Trump landslide, based on the enthusiasm gap, but lots of mail-in ballots probably reflect Democrats who do not normally get out much.

    Amusing pic at the link.


  • J.D. Tuccille tells the sad truth at Reason: Pandemic Rules Are Only for the Little People.

    The defining moment in the "rules for thee but not for me" ethos of the ruling class during the COVID-19 pandemic may have come when Neil Ferguson, the epidemiologist behind Britain's lockdown policy, met with his married girlfriend in defiance of the restrictions he promoted. Eager to threaten the common people with penalties if they failed to socially distance, he saw no reason to inconvenience himself the same way—although at least he conceded that propriety required him to resign his government post when the trysts were discovered in May.

    "He has peculiarly breached his own guidelines, and for an intelligent man I find that very hard to believe," marveled Sir Iain Duncan Smith, a prominent member of the ruling Conservative Party. "It risks undermining the Government's lockdown message."

    It shouldn't be surprising that the "ruling class" see themselves almost by definition as superior to the "ruled class".

URLs du Jour

2020-11-04

As I did in 2016, I intentionally avoided watching election coverage last night. Sounds as if that was a good call. Mr. Ramirez, if you please:

[Thelma and Sam]

  • So let's do at least one thing not directly about the election. Mark J. Perry has an all chart post at AEI's Carpe Diem. Many are classified as "narrative destabilizing", and if you need to know what that means (or even if you don't) click over. Here's a goodie:

    And in related good news: in 2019, the "USA had the single-largest reduction in CO2 of any country in the world".


  • At Power Line, Paul Mirengoff wonders: Is Kamala Harris a Marxist or just incoherent? I'll go with "Incoherent Marxist". At issue is the tweet we blogged about yesterday.

    On the one hand, Harris seems to want everyone to have equal resources and support so they can compete on an equal footing, which is how she views equity. At the same time, she defines equitable treatment as everyone ending up at the same place. But if there is competition, then everyone will not end up at the same place. There will be winners and losers. Will another massive transfer of resources be required?

    Just what is Harris’ vision of an equitable society? Is it one in which there is a massive redistribution not just of wealth but of “support,” so that everyone starts out equally, followed by competition? Or is it one in which everyone ends up at the same place?

    Both visions are harrowing, of course. Both entail totalitarianism.

    More analysis at the link, but Paul's probably trying too hard to tease out something sensible enough to refute from Kamala's meandering mental squiggles.

    Just a non-libertarian thought: We should require Kurt Vonnegut's short story "Harrison Bergeron" be read monthly, in all classrooms, in all schools, public, private, and home. Audio version read aloud by Kamala Harris; she'd be required to do this by appropriate legislation.


  • A still-possible scenario is floated by Kyle Smith at the NYPost: If Biden is dragged over the finish line, Dems will quickly drop him.

    Relax, young woke-tivists: You carried Joe to Nov. 3, and according to most pollsters, a thundering victory awaits you. If Biden concludes his inaugural address with the memorable words, “Now can I go back to my basement and watch ‘Matlock’?,” everyone around him will be happy to oblige.

    Biden has been envisioning this day since he was a boy, but no one is under any illusions that this election boils down to much more than the question of which candidate is Donald Trump and which one is not. Biden is not “Hope and Change II: Electric Boogaloo,” he’s simply Generic Democrat. Generic Democrat has been beating Trump in the polls for nearly two years, and even this Geriatric Generic Democrat may therefore prevail.

    I'll simply observe that, as I type, "most pollsters" will need (yet again) to figure out why they screwed up so badly.


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson points out a big problem: Fiscal and Financial Crises Unaddressed.

    We probably are not facing another financial crisis like the one of 2008–09. But our situation is a lot like it was in 2008 in one way: We are carrying a lot of risks that we do not understand very well. The crisis doesn’t have to look like 2009 — it can be its own thing. Driving a few million small-time residential landlords into foreclosure and penury is going to ripple throughout the economy for the simple reason that they owe a lot of money to banks and other creditors, and the current relationship between Washington and Wall Street means that we all carry that risk together, whether we want to or not. We have had for a generation a bipartisan consensus against serious action on either the taxing or spending side of the ledger, and the Trump-era Republican Party is at least as hostile to entitlement reform as the Democrats are. But: More than half of federal spending is Social Security and medical entitlements, another 20 percent or so is national security, and the next biggest chunk is interest on the debt we’ve already piled up. That adds up to something just short of the whole federal enchilada, more than 80 percent of spending. Even if we froze everything else in place, there would be no way to put our country on a sustainable fiscal path without touching those sensitive interests and/or substantially raising taxes — and we can’t keep everything else frozen in place. We have an unpredictable epidemic on our hands, a financial system still in need of wide-ranging reform, and a fiscal time bomb ticking away in Washington.

    And no matter how hard you look at your ballot today, you will not see on it a solution for that compound mess of messes.

    I'm trying to resist apologizing to my kids every time I see them for the fiscal mess we're dumping in their laps.


  • Rational Optimist Matt Ridley is not too optimistic about the near future: Six reasons the new lockdown is a deadly mistake. (He's writing as a Brit, but I'm pretty sure we're making the same blunder.) The first two:

    Covid is not a very dangerous disease for most people. The death rate is probably around 0.2 per cent of those infected, and most who die are elderly and suffering from other medical conditions. The mortality of those in hospital with Covid has almost halved for the over 80s since the start of the epidemic as treatment has improved.

    Lockdowns are lethal. They cause more deaths from cancer, heart disease and suicide as well as job losses, bankruptcies, social disintegration and mental illness especially among the young, who are at least risk from the virus. In April sunshine, many people and firms could cope for a short period – once. Today, in November rain, the pain will be far worse. I will be all right, living in a rural area and able to work online, but what of those who started restaurants or live alone in small flats?

    The people making the decisions in Britain, Matt points out, do not have skin in the game. Same here.


  • Jonah Goldberg has a sensible suggestion: One thing America needs is a lot less politics.

    What vexes me most about … stories of families being torn apart by partisan politics is the underlying assumption shared by both sides. It’s a worldview that elevates politics — national politics — to the primary source of meaning in people’s lives. It reminds me less of the 1850s in America than of the 1860s in England. Catholics felt that a Protestant on the throne would overturn everything they believed about their country, and vice versa. Today, we talk about a Republican or Democrat in office as if they were monarchs with control over the nation’s soul.

    I’m a conservative, so I’m enamored with smaller and more limited government anyway. But even accounting for that bias, I still think the answer is devaluing the currency of national politics. If you want stronger, more ambitious government, fine. Advocate for it at the local level, where the powers that be are more connected to the reality on the ground, and where political winners and losers have to look each other in the eye.

    Alternating between parties that want to unify a vast and diverse country under “one best way” is a recipe for perpetual strife. Politics should be about solving the specific problems government is suited to solve — not defining our souls.

    If only there was a good way to get from here to there. Both major parties need to present themselves as the only thing standing between you and some imaginary dystopia. One where pre-existing conditions are never, ever, covered.


Last Modified 2020-11-05 6:27 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2020-11-03

[Amazon Link]

No recommendations on how you should vote here. Not even recommendations that you do vote. If you need my urging to do that, though, maybe you shouldn't. In any case, "you do you", as the kids say.

My own attitude … well, let me dust off my post from four years ago:

It's probably time for me to admit that the voters show absolutely no sign of breaking hard for the Johnson/Weld Libertarian ticket. Even ignoring the massive character flaws of the major party candidates, it's the only one that offers any respect for the Constitution, fiscal sanity, and individual liberty. So the horse race is between two old nags whose campaigns are nearly entirely based on pointing out how dreadful the other one is. And, for that, the campaigns deserve some points for accuracy: they really are both dreadful.

If you substitute "Jorgensen/Cohen" for "Johnson/Weld", it's still on target.

Other than that, no predictions. I was burned on my (relatively mild) 2016 predictions, and I swore off.

So:

  • Spencer Case writes at Discourse magazine on decades of failed ideology-driven racial policy: The Starting Line. He takes a bold stand in favor of color-blind meritocracy:

    First, … some ideas are race neutral (e.g., “What goes up must come down” is neither a racist idea nor an anti-racist idea). There are also procedures that don’t unfairly discriminate against anyone, such as the blind audition process. We could implement more of these procedures throughout society. Moving toward color blindness is a real option.

    Second, critics of color blindness point out that “color-blind” procedures often result in racial disparities. But it’s question-begging to assert that all procedures that produce a “disparate impact” are racist or unjust. Some color-blind policies are of course bad policies—for example, ill-considered fiscal or military policies that have nothing to do with race—but not bad because they’re color-blind!

    Third, it’s often said that we cannot live in a color-blind society as long as racism exists. But color-blind policies offer us the best chance to overcome racism. In a color-blind society, Whites—not to mention Blacks, Hispanics, and others—would have greater confidence that minorities in positions of influence got there by their own merits. Racial preferences, by contrast, generate animosity, as demonstrated in Thomas Sowell’s excellent book, Affirmative Action around the World: An Empirical Study.

    Finally, it’s often argued that color blindness has been a failure on account of enduring race-relation problems. This objection is the easiest to respond to. Despite the promise of the civil rights movement, institutional racial discrimination never went away. It only changed direction. If anything is a failure, it’s discrimination—even when that discrimination favors historically oppressed groups.

    We've had nearly a half-century of "affirmative action" and it clearly failed. Time to try something else.


  • Opposed to that, of course, is someone who want's to be in charge of Fixing Things: Kamala Harris Says Equal Outcomes Should Be the Goal of Public Policy (from Robby Soave at Reason). At issue, is this tweet:

    In short, a plug for continuing, nay, doubling down on race-concious discrimination in the name of "equity". Here's Robby's comment:

    This may seem like a trivial difference, but when it comes to public policy, the difference matters. A government should be obligated to treat all citizens equally, giving them the same access to civil rights and liberties like voting, marriage, religious freedom, and gun ownership. The government cannot deny rights to certain people because they are black, female, Muslim, etc.—this would be unequal treatment.

    A mandate to foster equity, though, would give the government power to violate these rights in order to achieve identical social results for all people. In accordance with this thinking, the authorities might be justified in giving some people more rights than others. Indeed, this would arguably be strictly necessary, in order to create a society where everyone ends up in the exact same situation.

    "We had to destroy equality in order to save it."


  • Don Boudreaux writes on Covid Collectivism at AIER. He muses on how collectivists are forever painting "liberal individualism" as an ideology that encourages atomistic people, isolated from each other. Ironically, though, "covid collectivism" is actually giving us

    Most obviously, Covid collectivists command individuals to keep their physical distance from each other, and in many cases to remain largely confined to their homes. These commands take little, if any, account of the extremely different risk profiles of different age groups. The one-size-fits-all diktats ignore relevant distinctions among flesh-and-blood individuals.

    […]

    Covid collectivism is fast spawning the detached, isolated, lonely, sullen, and antisocial individuals that collectivists have for so long mistakenly accused liberal individualism of spawning.

    His conclusion: "It’s time for a revolt against Covid collectivism." We'll see.


  • At National Review, Jonathon Van Maren points out something obvious to anyone not an Atlantic editor: Atlantic Documentary ‘White Noise’ Shows White Nationalist Movement More Pathetic than Powerful.

    After a four-year investigation, The Atlantic has released their first feature documentary, White Noise: Inside the Racist Right. By the end of the film, however, one gets the distinct sense that a more accurate title might be The Rise and Fall of the Racist Right. The film is bookended by scenes that warn of a rising white-nationalist movement, but the documentary actually tells a different story — the tale of the alt-right’s brief moment of euphoria, their bitter sense of betrayal at Donald Trump’s presidency, and their disillusionment and collapse.

    Interestingly, of the three figures followed by filmmaker Daniel Lombroso, only one of them is a self-described white nationalist: Richard Spencer, the alleged thought leader of the alt-right and one of the founders of AltRight.com. Mike Cernovich, a lifestyle coach-turned Trumpian conspiracy theorist, and Lauren Southern, the Canadian YouTube star who discovered the lucrative nature of being an attractive right-wing American troll, have been dubbed “alt-light” by the truly dedicated racists of America’s white-nationalist underground. Both were willing to flirt with the dark forces to build a following; neither fully took the plunge.

    What's next for the Atlantic? I suggest: Spherical, Schmearical: Inside the Flat Earth Movement.


  • Back at Reason, Nick Gillespie talks to Jonathan Rauch: How To Tell If You’re Being Canceled. Good all the way through, but Nick asks: "how do you engage [the cancelers] when they are not interested necessarily in hearing what you have to say?"

    The single most common question I get when I talk about free speech and open inquiry on college campuses comes from a student—usually it will be a freshman, sometimes it's a sophomore—who says, "What do I say, Mr. Rauch, when I try to speak up in a conversation and I'm told, 'Check your privilege. You can't say that.' What do I do when I'm disqualified from the conversation because I don't have the minority perspective?"

    I used to try to say all kinds of things that they could say: "Try this. Try that." That wasn't a good answer. Then I began telling them, "Well, you figure it out. You know how to talk to your generation. I don't." That wasn't a good answer.

    The answer that I finally settled on—though the first two were also partly true—was: "It doesn't matter all that much what you say to them, because they're not listening. That's what they're telling you. They're not listening. What matters is that you not shut up. They do not have the power to silence you if you do not allow yourself to be silenced. Insist on your right to continue the conversation to say what you want to say. Don't slink away. You won't necessarily persuade those people, but, as we found in the gay marriage debate, your real target is that third person on the periphery of the circle of the conversation who is seeing one person acting rationally and reasonably and other people acting irrationally and unreasonably. You're probably winning the heart and mind of that third person, so don't shut up."

    So nobody's cancelling me—it helps to have a blog whose readership is mainly automated web crawlers—but I have no plans to shut up anyway.

See you tomorrow when we may know a lot more about our future. I am reminded of an old Woody Allen quote, from back when he was funny:

More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.

Inside Llewyn Davis

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

"Coen Brothers" attached to a movie usually makes it an automatic must-watch for me. But this 2013 movie slipped through some cracks, and I saw it sitting there on Amazon Prime, so… It's not bad, not their best. But definitely contains one of the Best Movie Quotes of All Time: "Where's his scrotum, Llewyn? Where's his scrotum?!"

Llewyn is on his own personal odyssey, although he doesn't seem to know where he's going. He's a denizen of the early-60's folk music scene in Greenwich Village, and it's a tough go when you're low on money, principles, and ambition. (Everybody seems to agree that he's got talent, though.) Oh, and he's also homeless, crashing on couches and floors. In one of those apartments he manages to lose a friend's cat, which escapes out of a window he's opened. This is a major plot driver.

There's a miserable side trip to Chicago, to follow up on a possible professional opportunity. It doesn't work out. There's his possible impregnation of a friend's fiance; although she's not sure it's his, she wants an abortion just in case it might be.

And he gets beat up a couple times. Or is it just once?

URLs du Jour

2020-11-02

  • Philosopher Michael Huemer tackles an important, relevant question about Voting: Civic Duty or Immoral Waste of Time? He's very unsentimental, a refreshing change from … well, just about everyone else. The whole thing's good, but here's an excerpt:

    “What if nobody voted?” That’s somehow supposed to be an argument for voting, but I have no idea how the argument is supposed to go. I don’t know what the premises are. Whether you should do X depends upon what would happen if literally everyone did X? That’s generally crazy.

    • If literally not one single other person voted, then I would of course vote, since then my vote would be decisive. But this is such a bizarre scenario that I don’t see what relevance it has.
    • If fewer people voted, then what? Say voter turnout went down from ~50% (as it usually is) to ~30%. So what? I have no idea how that’s supposed to be bad. It would probably be good, since the people most likely to keep voting are the more educated people.

    (Not that it matters, but I'm classified under Huemer's reason 1.3: "Expressive Voting". All this paying attention to politics has to be good for something.)


  • The Josiah Bartlett Center suggests New Hampshire must avoid another coronavirus crash.

    This week, New Hampshire’s initial unemployment claims fell below 2,000 for the first time since March. And the state’s positive PCR coronavirus test rate edged up past 1% for the first time since the state started increasing its testing and calculating the percent-positive rate late this summer. Whether the state can keep the former trend going depends on how the latter is handled. 

    It’s hard to overstate the importance of keeping the economy from sliding back into a recession. Contrary to the sentiments of delusional anti-capitalists who blithely assert that the economy can be sacrificed indefinitely for the purpose of crushing the virus, a thriving economy is a tremendous social good and ought to be a top governmental priority. 

    The let's-do-another-lockdown advocates dismiss the economy as an abstraction, easier to do when you're insulated from its effects. But if you want alarm, check out Granite Geek: COVID tracker: More cases enter the hospital, a really bad sign.


  • Kyle Smith (NRPLUS article, sorry) writes on Joe Biden's Notorious Indecisiveness.

    What kind of president might Joe Biden be should he be elected next Tuesday? No one can really say. Consider two widely circulated Biden videos.

    Video one: (context here): Biden, campaigning in the New Hampshire Democratic primary and surrounded by activists, approaches a young progressive who says she worries that he won’t do enough to fight energy companies in the name of climate change. Biden takes her hand and says, “I want you to look in my eyes. I guarantee you. I guarantee you. We’re going to end fossil fuel.”

    Video two: Biden, campaigning for hard-hat votes in Pennsylvania, where fossil fuels harvested via fracking are the basis of an industry that enjoys widespread support, vows “a clean energy strategy that has a place for the energy workers right here in Western Pennsylvania,” adding, “I am not banning fracking. Let me say that again, I am not banning fracking, no matter how many times Donald Trump lies about me.”

    Kyle is mighty kind to call this "indecisiveness". A more parsimonious explanation: Biden is perfectly comfortable with lying to your face, if he thinks that lie can get you to vote for him.


  • At Reason, Baylen Linnekin looks at a neglected issue: Food Issues That Should’ve Been Front and Center in the 2020 Presidential Election. He hosts a number of food policy folks. Wyomingite Tyler Lindholm makes an interesting comparison:

    Presidential elections are consistently devoid of one topic, in particular, let alone food policy….Why shouldn't States be the master of their own markets and in return let the people be the master of their own free market? To put it into perspective, it is now easier to sell marijuana brownies in Colorado directly to a consumer than it is to sell a ribeye steak in Wyoming directly. Standing on the principle of removing barriers for States to economically develop by promoting direct-to-consumer sales is a winning issue. It's also important to note though that farmers and ranchers rarely have lobbyists to line pockets. I expect nothing.

    I'm not overly worried, but for some reason Dannon® Oikos® Greek Traditional Yogurt, Toasted Coconut Vanilla flavor has been impossible to find around here.


  • The Google LFOD News Alert rang for an unhinged anti-Trump screed at Salon: Trump's wall is based on a ridiculous fantasy. The first paragraph is a gem of name-calling:

    Donald Trump's "wall" is a monument to his evil as shown through cruelty, racism, white supremacy, nativism, ignorance, fear, violence (against people and the environment), greed, corruption, incompetence, malignant narcissism, sociopathy, psychopathy, and authoritarian-fascism.

    Friends, that's fourteen bad things. One ("violence") against two sub-things. Impressive.

    But LFOD? Well, it's an interview. It doesn't really matter who's doing the questions and the answers. Here you go:

    Is America a schizophrenic country? Considering all this talk of a second Civil War in the Age of Trump, conservatives, and other members of the right-wing with their conspiracism and lie-filled echo chambers, and of course Trump himself who is a pathological liar, the country feels like it is being torn apart at the seams. Too many Americans are not living in the same reality although they are ostensibly in the same country.

    There is a period in the history of this version of America where a great migration takes place. Different parts of the country are freed to do what they want. Some of those areas of the country have very little if any government regulation. It really is "live free or die." There is another zone where it is organized more communal principles and has government protections. Over time those zones end up at odds with one another and go to war. And because time is moving faster outside of the United States than inside of it all of these events take place over 100 years.

    If that's confusing, sorry. The answering guy has written a "graphic novel" where LFOD… oh, never mind.

Dear Committee Members

[Amazon Link]

I heard good things, at some point in the past, about this book. Might have been this WSJ review or this WSJ review. I didn't find it as riotously funny as the reviewers, but maybe I was in a sour mood.

The author, Julie Schumacher, is a professor of Creative Writing and English at the University of Minnesota. Her protagonist, Jason Fitger, is a (male) professor of Creative Writing and English at (fictional) Payne University. Thumbs up to Prof Schumacher for writing from a gendered POV not her own!

It's an "epistolary" novel, consisting of (mostly) letters and (some) web forms into which Jason pours his distressed, peevish, soul. He will write letters of recommendation for just about anyone, including Melanie deRueda.

I've known Ms. deRueda for eleven minutes, ten of which were spent in a fruitless attempt to explain to her that I write letters of recommendation only for students who have signed up for and completed one of my classes. This young woman is certainly tenacious, if that's what you're looking for.

Jason's character is slowly revealed via correspondence with his ex-wife and ex-girlfriends, academic colleagues he's accumulated over the years. His sputtered-out literary career becomes apparent. He's particularly dedicated to nurturing the writing career of a student who's in the process of a "shattering reinterpretation of 'Bartleby'", titled Accountant in a Bordello: the poor updated scrivener works in a whorehouse outside Vegas. Things don't work out well.

It's an easy read, 180 pages with a lot of whitespace. Denizens of English departments at institutions of higher education might especially relate. (But hopefully not; Jason's life is not a pretty one.)

The Good Liar

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

I've been picking through the DVD selections at Netflix, looking for movies we missed queueing up when they first became available. Sometimes we pick a winner, like this one: a nice, nasty little crime drama. Needless to say: Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen ensure the acting will be first-rate. And everything else is pretty good too.

McKellen plays a ruthless con artist named Gandalf   Magneto   Roy. He and his buddy Vincent (Jim Carter, aka Downton Abbey butler Carson) play classic investment scams on people with a lot of money, who want to have even more money.

Ms. Mirren plays Betty, shaping up to be Roy's newest patsy. They're set up via a computer dating site, where both of them aren't entirely honest about their profiles. Never mind, because Betty's a lonely widow, and succumbs to Roy's polished charms. No sex, please, we're British. But the objections of Betty's skeptical grandson are ignored, and Roy moves into Betty's modest, boring beige home. Soon enough the scam appears…

Will Ray succeed in duping Betty? No spoilers here, but (let's face it) it would be a pretty uninteresting movie if his plan goes off flawlessly. What actually develops is unexpected, shocking, … well, check it out. I didn't see it coming.

The Phony Campaign

2020-11-01 Update

[Amazon Link]

Well, here 'tis: the last update for the 2020 edition of the Phony Campaign. We started up back on November 11, 2018, and this right here is number 103 in the series.

It's funny to look back at that first entry:

  • Caroline Kennedy was deemed by Betfair bettors to have a 13% probability of grabbing the Democratic Presidential nomination.
  • Both Kamala Harris (16%) and Elizabeth Warren (10%) were judged to have a higher nomination probability than Joe Biden (9%).
  • I made fun of the prospect of President Bernie Sanders getting sworn in at age 79 in January 2021. I totally missed snarking on Joe Biden, who will be 78 on January 20, 2021.

The Amazon product du jour is probably not deliverable by Tuesday, but you could probably store it away for the 2022 election, when your choices may be even less palatable.

In our table, you'll note that Wheezy Joe gained a net 2.6 percentage points over President Bone Spurs. But (as expected) Trump outdoes Biden in phony hits, winding up campaign season with about a 2-to-1 advantage. Congratulations, Don. Most people are saying that's the only contest you'll win this month.

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
10/25
Phony
Results
Change
Since
10/25
Donald Trump 34.6% -0.4% 2,260,000 -740,000
Joe Biden 64.8% +2.2% 1,040,000 -80,000
Jo Jorgensen 0.0% unch 24,700 +1,600
Howie Hawkins 0.0% unch 14,600 +1,400

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • [Amazon Link]
    At Reason, John Stossel urges us: Don’t Freak Out About the Election.

    Worried about Tuesday?

    Remember: The most important parts of life happen outside politics.

    Love, friendship, family, raising children, building businesses, worship, charity work—that is the stuff of life! Politicians get in the way of those things. But despite the efforts of power-hungry Republicans and Democrats, life gets better.

    You may not believe that. Surveys show most people think life is getting worse.

    But it isn't, as Marian Tupy and Ron Bailey point out in their new book, Ten Global Trends Every Smart Person Should Know.

    Amazon link at your right, if you're a smart person who needs some cheering up.


  • But if you're feeling a little too cheerful, Ann Althouse might bring you down. She watches Cher, so you don't have to. But if you want to…

    Oh … goodness. That's awful. Ann provides the lyric excerpt:

    Right now our country's gloomy
    Fear is in the air
    But when Joe's president
    Hope is everywhere
    Troubles fly away
    And life will easy flow
    Joe will keep us safe
    That's all we need to know....

    Gosh.

    I just got done reading a (typical) article, this one in Wired, warning us that Donald Trump Is Attacking the Very Core of America. Eek!

    I'm not a Trump fan either. But … geez … those lyrics reveal a far more alarming mindset: the President as our Great Protective Father/Tribal Chief/King. Omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient. Don't bother thinking, because "that's all we need to know".

    Nice country we had there. It was a shame something happened to it.


  • National Review authors are revealing their electoral preferences. Jack Fowler unleashes his considerable talent on Joe Biden: Vote No. This story is telling:

    The awful story of the first Mrs. Biden, Neilia, is well known: Along with her daughter Naomi, she was killed in a car accident in December 1972, just weeks after her husband had been elected to the U.S. Senate. It was what it was — an accident. A truck hit the Biden car, but the truck driver was blameless. Whatever the cause, this is true: No charges were filed. Nor should they have been.

    But what if the driver, the late Curtis Dunn, had been drinking?

    That’s not true either. But years after this terrible tragedy — a tragedy that has generated genuine sympathy for Joe Biden, a tragedy that could not possibly generate more sympathy for Joe Biden — Joe Biden sought . . . more sympathy.

    It is one thing to exaggerate your class standing, to manufacture teen tough-guy stare-downs at the public pool. But this is a wholly different strata of lying in which Biden engaged. Nearly 30 years after his wife’s death, he began telling audiences that Dunn had been drinking, that he had had the old liquid lunch (I wrote about this for NR last year). The Dunn family called out Biden — the boozed-up story was a lie. It denigrated their late dad, who lived out his years bowed by the heaviness of the tragedy. Biden ignored repeated requests to end the fictional death tale. Eventually he stopped (without apologizing). But he should never have started.

    Joe Biden embellished a profound tragedy, he persisted at it, he repeatedly lied in the face of all known evidence, his exaggerations pained actual people, whose cease-and-desist requests were ignored for years. To be Joe Biden means at times to be a twisted Walter Mitty, a contriver who thrills to go down fantastical alleyways. His thought processes, his motivations, his objectives — it can combine, and does, to produce a deeply disturbing package.

    I can see voting against Trump. I can't see voting for Biden.


  • Back at Reason, Jacob Sullum describes Trump's latest assault against truth: White House Says ‘President Trump’s Coronavirus Response Has Saved Over 2 Million Lives’.

    A White House "fact sheet" posted yesterday asserts that "President Trump's Coronavirus Response Has Saved Over 2 Million Lives"—a claim that relies on an utterly unrealistic worst-case scenario that the administration promoted last spring. Six months later, Trump was retweeting outlandish claims that COVID-19 had killed a "minuscule" number of Americans: about 9,000, compared to the official death toll of about 187,000 at the time. Although Trump may have thought slashing the number of deaths by 95 percent reflected well on his policies, the implication was that he could not possibly take credit for saving millions of lives, because COVID-19 never posed much of a threat to begin with.

    During his debate with Biden last week, Trump reverted to the position he took at the end of March. "As you know, 2.2 million people, modeled out, were expected to die," he said. "We closed up the greatest economy in the world in order to fight this horrible disease." That we was suspect, since it was governors, not the president, who decided to fight COVID-19 with sweeping social and economic restrictions. Nevertheless, Trump was clearly suggesting that lockdowns had reduced the death toll.

    There will be plenty of reasons to bemoan the election result. But one ray of sunshine: I agree with Dan Klein that the media's "Covid propaganda will start to fade away" no matter what. It will have either succeeded or failed in its true purpose: to defeat Trump.


Last Modified 2020-11-01 11:15 AM EST