URLs du Jour


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.