URLs du Jour

2021-04-14

[Amazon Link]

  • News You Can Use. Paul Graham tells us How People Get Rich Now.

    Every year since 1982, Forbes magazine has published a list of the richest Americans. If we compare the 100 richest people in 1982 to the 100 richest in 2020, we notice some big differences.

    In 1982 the most common source of wealth was inheritance. Of the 100 richest people, 60 inherited from an ancestor. There were 10 du Pont heirs alone. By 2020 the number of heirs had been cut in half, accounting for only 27 of the biggest 100 fortunes.

    Why would the percentage of heirs decrease? Not because inheritance taxes increased. In fact, they decreased significantly during this period. The reason the percentage of heirs has decreased is not that fewer people are inheriting great fortunes, but that more people are making them.

    How are people making these new fortunes? Roughly 3/4 by starting companies and 1/4 by investing. Of the 73 new fortunes in 2020, 56 derive from founders' or early employees' equity (52 founders, 2 early employees, and 2 wives of founders), and 17 from managing investment funds.

    Mr. Graham does a good job of cutting through a lot of ideological cant. You may not agree with his interpretations, but his facts are pretty solid.


  • An Actual Profile in Courage. Provided by Bari Weiss, who hosts an article by Paul Rossi on her substack: I Refuse to Stand By While My Students Are Indoctrinated.

    I am a teacher at Grace Church High School in Manhattan. Ten years ago, I changed careers when I discovered how rewarding it is to help young people explore the truth and beauty of mathematics. I love my work.

    As a teacher, my first obligation is to my students. But right now, my school is asking me to embrace “antiracism” training and pedagogy that I believe is deeply harmful to them and to any person who seeks to nurture the virtues of curiosity, empathy and understanding.

    “Antiracist” training sounds righteous, but it is the opposite of truth in advertising. It requires teachers like myself to treat students differently on the basis of race. Furthermore, in order to maintain a united front for our students, teachers at Grace are directed to confine our doubts about this pedagogical framework to conversations with an in-house “Office of Community Engagement” for whom every significant objection leads to a foregone conclusion. Any doubting students are likewise “challenged” to reframe their views to conform to this orthodoxy.

    RTWT, if your blood pressure is under control.

    Many articles about Rossi are sympathetic and outraged. And point out that the school's yearly tuition is $57,300.


  • Someone Will Probably Observe That Hysteria is Sexist. But you know who doesn't care about such observations? Kevin D. Williamson: Hysteria is not a Program.

    A number of right-leaning readers wrote in, occasionally spitting with rage, to protest my suggestion that the time is ripe for a bipartisan deal on gun policy. The refrain was, for the most part: “No compromise!” Some of the less verbal among the critics sent cartoons of Lucy van Pelt pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. The usual right-wing social-media accounts desperate to draft off of NR’s traffic did the sort of thing they usually do, in the usual sad-clown fashion. And to think: It was only a few years ago these folks were talking up The Art of the Deal.

    Here’s some negotiating advice: When the other side offers you something you want, take it.

    Of particular interest to me was former Brady Campaign director Dan Gross’s column in the New York Times, in which he forthrightly conceded that if our goal is reducing the level of criminal violence in these United States in a meaningful fashion, then focusing on mass-shooting events (which claim fewer lives every year than do firearms accidents) and pressing for policies such as a ban on so-called assault weapons is not the way to go. Gross suggested several possible courses of action, including doing more to investigate and prosecute gun-trafficking operations. So, if you are keeping score: Gross supports an assault-weapons ban in principle, writing, “I believe there is no place in civilized society for guns that are made for the express purpose of killing people,” which is a case against the Second Amendment per se — the right enshrined therein isn’t about pheasant hunting. I, along with most other gun-rights advocates, would oppose such a ban. But the action item here isn’t what we disagree about — it’s what we agree about. If there are more like Gross, willing to put the “assault weapons” issue on the back burner (I don’t expect them to set it aside entirely) and instead work with conservatives on trafficking and straw buyers — something many Second Amendment advocates have been seeking for years — then why on God’s green earth should we pass up the chance to take “Yes” for an answer?

    One problem with cracking down on "trafficking and straw buyers": doing so will put a disproportionate number of "people of color" in jail. And I can't imagine lefties going along with that; they'd prefer to make new criminals out of previously law-abiding citizens.


  • But That's SOP for the FDA. Ronald Bailey spells it out: The FDA’s Decision To Pause J&J Vaccination Will Kill People.

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement today "recommending a pause in the use" of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine. The agencies took this step "out of an abundance of caution" based on six cases of a rare blood clot disorder in people who had been inoculated with the one-dose vaccine. There have been six cases out of 6.8 million people who have already been inoculated with the vaccine. The blood clot incidents all occurred in women between the ages of 18 and 48. Those odds amount to one in 1.13 million, which is comparable to your annual chances of being struck by lightning (1 in 1.22 million).

    For comparison, a November 2020 meta-analysis in The Lancet found that more than one in five very ill hospitalized and post-mortem* COVID-19 patients experienced venous thromboembolism—that is, blood clots in their veins. A 2010 study in the Journal of American Preventive Medicine reported that the annual incidence of thromboembolism between the ages of 15 and 44 was about 1.5 cases per 1,000 people. In addition, the risk of blood clots from taking oral contraceptives is about 1 in 1,000 annually.

    A March 2021 study in Science reports that more than 70 percent of new COVID-19 infections have been driven by Americans between the ages of 20 and 49. The faster that people in that age group get vaccinated, the less likely it is that other Americans who remain unvaccinated or immunocompromised will become infected.

    How can I say this diplomatically? The incentives for FDA bureaucrats are not to save lives; instead, they are incentivized to err on the side of a flawed conception of "safety."

    Even when that means killing people.


  • Shoulda Stuck to Writing Books. I liked J. D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy a lot. But as Patrick Hedger demonstrates, that talent doesn't translate into being right: J.D. Vance Shows How the Populist Right Adopted the Logic of 'You Didn't Build That'.

    While running for reelection in 2012, then-President Barack Obama defended the progressive economic agenda of greater wealth redistribution with the now infamous line, “If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Republicans correctly skewered him for that proclamation because it was a deeply insulting remark to the countless entrepreneurs and critical institutions that protect private citizens and their property and have helped make America the most prosperous nation in history. That wasn’t a one-off gaffe from Obama, either, but a genuine reflection of his worldview. Remember the Life of Julia video, also from 2012? It told the story of a woman’s life entirely through the lens of her reliance on government programs. Conservatives recoiled in horror.

    Yet, not even a decade later, in a troubling sign of growing authoritarian tendencies in the Republican Party, many on the political right are embracing the exact same logic toward a far more dangerous end.

    Last week, best-selling author, and all-but-declared Republican candidate for the Senate from Ohio J.D. Vance was interviewed by Tucker Carlson. When discussing regulating companies and the First Amendment, Carlson asked Vance how he responds to the argument that Google, as a stand-in for Silicon Valley broadly, is a private company. Vance responded stunningly: “I just don’t care.”

    Yeesh.

URLs du Jour

2021-04-13

[Amazon Link]

  • Desperately Looking For Reasons For Amusement Rather Than Disgust. Eric Boehm brings the goods: Stop the Steal? Organized Labor Can’t Accept Loss in Amazon Unionization Election. Losers always sound the same:

    It was a high-stakes election with big political implications for the country, one that came at the end of a bruising campaign that attracted a lot of media attention. When all the votes were counted, there was a clear winner. But the losing side refused to concede, alleging that their defeat was the result of unfair or even illegal conduct by the winner—and calling for government officials to review and perhaps even overturn the results.

    I'm describing, of course, last week's union certification election at an Amazon distribution center in Alabama.

    Workers at the Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse voted by a margin greater than two-to-one against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). It was a sound rejection of the weeks-long campaign to establish the first-ever unionized workforce at an Amazon facility.

    Even before all the votes had been counted, the head of the union was calling the election unfair.

    Gems from the article: the union president saying "the system is broken" and complaints—yes, complaints—to the NLRB that a USPS mailbox was placed near the Amazon facility to make it easier for workers to drop in their completed ballots.


  • Come Out From Under Your Bed and Get Vaccinated. Then Go Back Under Your Bed. Kylee Zempel notes mixed messaging from the same guy on the same day: Americans Won't Vaccinate If Fauci Keeps Telling Them It's Pointless. About his weekend appearance on MSNBC:

    “What is the message to vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans as to what they should and should not be doing right now? For example, eating and drinking indoors in restaurants and bars — is that OK now?” asked host Mehdi Hasan.

    “No, it’s still not OK for the simple reason that the level of infection, the dynamics of infection in the community are still really disturbingly high,” Fauci replied. “Like just yesterday, there were close to 80,000 new infections, and we’ve been hanging around 60,000, 70,000, 75,000.”

    I'm tired of seeing Fauci soundbites on the news. So are the NR editors; they say: Anthony Fauci Has Worn Out His Welcome.


  • Because He Thinks Big. Also, Delusionally. Randal O'Toole wonders: Why Is Biden Talking about High-Speed Trains and Supersonic Planes When His Infrastructure Plan Doesn't Include Either One?.

    “The Interstate Highway System transformed the way we traveled, lived, worked, and developed,” said President Biden in the March 31 speech introducing his American Jobs Plan. “Imagine what we can do, what’s within our reach, when we modernize those highways,” he continued. “You and your family could travel coast to coast without a single tank of gas onboard a high‐speed train.”

    When I read this, I had to wonder: is Biden’s speechwriter simply ignorant when it comes to transportation? Or did Biden depart from the speech and allow his mind to drift to a total non‐sequitur? I wondered this because, in case you weren’t aware, high‐speed trains will not go on even modernized interstate highways. Although many people talk about building rail lines in the median strips of interstate highways, that’s just a fantasy: trains cannot handle the grades and high‐speed trains cannot handle the curves found on interstate freeways. More pertinently, Biden’s infrastructure plan doesn’t even include any money for high‐speed trains.

    It would be even worse if it did, of course.


  • In Our Refurbished and Expanded "Even Worse Than You Think" Department. Byron York is down in Mission, Texas. And he says The border is even worse than you think.

    Anyone paying attention to the news knows the situation on the U.S.-Mexico border is terrible. Anyone who actually visits the border discovers it is worse than that.

    Here is what is most striking about the government's response to the unprecedented surge of illegal border crossers: It is entirely improvised. Jury-rigged. Thrown together in a scramble to accommodate thousands of migrants who were not coming just months ago. And the reason it is being improvised is that during his first days in office, President Joe Biden blew up the foundation of the government's handling of migrants. With a series of executive actions, Biden threw out key policies with nothing ready to replace them. And he did it using rhetoric that invited migrants to rush to the border — more than 172,000 in March alone, including nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children.

    It's a mess. Democrats used to pretend they cared, but only inasmuch as they could use the issue as an anti-Trump cudgel.


  • And Finally… John McWhorter posts a long excerpt from his upcoming book The Elect. A mere snippet:

    [Critical Race Theory's] current grip on America as a whole starts with developments among a certain group of legal scholars a few decades ago. No one was chanting their names in protests about George Floyd, or while deep-sixing someone for tenure in an academic department, or while suspending someone from a newspaper, or while excommunicating someone for “problematic” – i.e. blasphemous – views. But the difference between good old-fashioned left and modern Elect starts with, for example, legal scholar Richard Delgado teaching nonwhites to base their complaints about injustice not on something so “rigid” as objective truth, but upon the “broad story of dashed hopes and centuries-long mistreatment that afflicts an entire people and forms the historical and cultural background of your complaint.”

    This kind of argument was the source for the one now so familiar, that if a brown person says they have encountered racism, then it is automatically indisputable that they did, and if you don’t agree it makes you “problematic.” Or, the left of 1980 transmogrified into the left of 2020 on the basis of ideas such as this one by legal scholar Regina Austin, urging:

    a new politics of identification, fueled by critically confronting the question of the positive significance of black lawbreaking, might restore some vitality to what has become a mere figure of speech … drawing on lawbreaker culture would add a bit of toughness, resilience, bluntness, and defiance to contemporary mainstream black political discourse, which evidences a marked preoccupation with civility, respectability, sentimentality, and decorum.

    In other words, politics needs a jolt of some gott-damned street!! Yes, this was from a scholar of jurisprudence, and its like was the fount of the idea that for brown people, the old rules don’t matter. Forget (fuck?) civility or even logic (see Delgado above) – it’s all about how you feel, and specifically about how you hate the reigning order. Critical Race Theory tells you that everything is about hierarchy, power, their abuses, and how to not be Caucasian in America is to be akin to the captive oarsman slave straining belowdecks in chains.

    I'm on the lookout for the book to show up on Amazon. Assuming Amazon won't deplatform it.


Last Modified 2021-04-13 1:35 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-04-12

  • Eye Candy du Jour from Michael Ramirez.

    [Divison vs. Unity]

    I've been puzzling over the Woke strategy, and Mr. R illuminates the problem well: nonstop accusations of implacable racism are supposed to make us all get along with each other someday?


  • But That Ain't the Only Way to Divide Americans. J. D. Tuccille notes that Wheezy Joe has hit on an old favorite: Biden’s Gun-Limitation Schemes Make a Mockery of His ‘Unity’ Message.

    Just months into President Joe Biden's tenure, his early calls for "unity" look not only insincere—something we expect of any politician—but positively laughable. Last week, he threatened executive action to tighten restrictions on privately owned firearms in a move bound to infuriate gun owners, including millions of people who purchased tools for self-defense for the first time amid the chaos of the past year. Much of the country is certain to ignore his dictates, including state and local governments who have already vowed that they won't enforce such rules. Forget unity—the president has found an effective means of deepening the country's divisions.

    Just months into President Joe Biden's tenure, his early calls for "unity" look not only insincere—something we expect of any politician—but positively laughable. Last week, he threatened executive action to tighten restrictions on privately owned firearms in a move bound to infuriate gun owners, including millions of people who purchased tools for self-defense for the first time amid the chaos of the past year. Much of the country is certain to ignore his dictates, including state and local governments who have already vowed that they won't enforce such rules. Forget unity—the president has found an effective means of deepening the country's divisions.

    "I asked the Attorney General and his team to identify for me immediate, concrete actions I could can take now without having to go through the Congress," the president huffed from the White House on April 8. "And today, I'm announcing several initial steps my administration is taking to curb this epidemic of gun violence."

    J. D. makes the obvious observation: if there were a set of unifying proposals to curb "gun violence", they would sweep though Congress easily. Biden's not interested in "unity" on this issue; he's interested in finding ways to push people around, and (probably) make criminals out of existing gun owners.


  • Hey, You Know That Failed Policy We Tried Thirty Years Ago? Chris Stirewalt claims, plausibly, that Biden’s Reboot of 1990s Gun Restrictions Is a Predictable Flop.

    The debate over gun control has been so pointless for so long that even to make note of its futility has become pointless itself. It’s like art-house cinema: nonsensical but annoyingly derivative and going nowhere fast. That’s what happens when people don’t want to get to the point—which President Biden and most of his fellow Democrats certainly do not want to do.

    We’ve been on repeat for nearly 30 years now, with Biden’s new suite of firearms proposals just the latest remix. The president knows. He was there when the template was set in 1994 with the federal weapons restrictions he helped pass as a senator. The legislation was part of an enormous crime bill approved with bipartisan support—the same legislation Biden spent much of 2020 atoning for because of its increased federal prison sentences for drug offenders.

    The “assault-style weapons ban” component was passed in response to a series of mass murders, particularly the 1991 massacre that left 23 dead at a Luby’s Cafeteria in Central Texas. But what advocates believed was strong public demand for federal restrictions on semiautomatic weapons and ammunition capacity was a mirage. While voters were indeed alarmed about the crime wave of the era—New York City had 2,245 murders in 1990 compared with 462 last year—the weapons limits immediately turned into a political liability for their proponents. This was the beginning of the two-decade heyday of the National Rifle Association and, as it was with many issues at the time, a sharp turn toward partisan orthodoxy.

    Stirewalt notes that the "patronizing proposals are a reflection of Democrats’ desires to please base voters without further jeopardizing paper-thin majorities in both houses of Congress." And he wishes (forlornly) that they'd just explicitly propose what they implicitly desire: repeal of the Second Amendment.


  • It's Like Nominating Carrie Nation to be Chief of the Liquor Commission. Michael Graham notes there's a local angle to the gun-grabbing effort: Biden's ATF Pick Backs Gun Bans, Debunked Waco Conspiracy. Will Hassan Back Him?.

    Few Granite Staters have ever heard of David Chipman, President Joe Biden’s pick to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. But if his nomination makes it to the floor of the Senate, he’s likely to become a local celebrity.

    That’s because Chipman’s going to need the vote of Sen. Maggie Hassan, a solidly-blue Democrat in a purple state with one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the nation and fewest restrictions on legal gun ownership. Hassan’s up for re-election next year, so Republicans and Second Amendment groups will make sure Granite State gun owners know all about Mr. Chipman before she casts that vote.

    Chipman, a 25-year veteran of the ATF, has hardly been subtle about his support for gun control. He’s a former lobbyist on behalf of not one, but two anti-Second-Amendment organizations: the Mike Bloomberg-backed Everytown group and Giffords.org. Not surprisingly, gun-control advocates hailed his nomination. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) celebrated Chipman’s pick as “exactly what A.T.F. needs.” CNN calls him “a fierce advocate for gun control.”

    Michael details Chipman's expressed opinions over the past years, which range from extreme to wacko (about Waco). And speculates that our state's Senator Hassan might not want to irk NH gun owners by voting to confirm him.


  • Zero Is Not an Acceptable Option. Andrew A. Michta (in an NRPlUS article, sorry) touches on an issue about which I've thought a lot about over the years: The Zero-Risk Western Society.

    A year of the COVID pandemic has transformed some of the freest and most affluent societies in the history of the West beyond recognition and in ways perhaps never imagined. Not even amid the last century’s two world wars did we experience anything similar to the past twelve months, whereby the economies and lives of entire nations were stopped on a dime by executive fiat, when normal human interactions were forcibly halted to save us from a pathogen that, according to many a pundit — at least initially — would have otherwise killed millions. During this past year “lockdowns” gained widespread currency: a term eerily connoting the idea of incarceration, only this time it was to be effected by the citizens themselves, urged to accept a de facto self-imprisonment mandated by pro publico bono and based on the mantra of “trust the science” repeated by government officials and media outlets. As a result, Europe and North America of a year ago and today look like two different worlds.

    I offered my take as a comment, inspired by Bjørn Lomberg's recent book: It's funny how this works. 30K-40K people in the US die every year from traffic accidents. It would certainly be possible to "save" a lot of those lives by draconian restrictions on driving. But such restrictions are not on the table; even in these sensitive times, as a society we've (more or less) collectively decided that those dead people are "the price we pay" for having a transportation system we like. But as Michta notes, that decision making doesn't easily translate to other areas.


  • Twitter Doesn't Like the Truth. The Federalist notes its latest censorship: Twitter Hides BLM Founder Buying $1.4 Million Home In Mostly White Area.

    Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors purchased a $1.4 million home last month in Topanga Canyon, a secluded area of Los Angeles whose population is reportedly less than 2 percent black. The self-described Marxist is now facing criticism for the extravagant purchase, including from Jason Whitlock, an African-American sports journalist.

    Whitlock tweeted about the controversy last week, writing, “Black Lives Matter Founder buys $1.4 million home in Topanga, which has a black population of 1.4%. She’s with her people!” He added a link to the story on the celebrity property blog The Dirt. Twitter quickly deleted his post and locked his account for “violating our rules against posting private information.”

    I suppose the argument is that someone could figure out the location of Patrisse's new digs from the Dirt article. But it's the same sort of stuff you see in the WSJ's "Mansion" section on Fridays. So I suspect the real problem is that it exposes the BLM organization as a pack of grifters.

URLs du Jour

2021-04-11

[Amazon Link]

  • Just Two? Matt Taibbi reveals The Two Faces of Joe Biden.

    On April Fool’s Day, CNN ran an “analysis” of Joe Biden’s presidency:

    Will JRB take his place alongside FDR and LBJ?

    CNN explained “JRB” had just unveiled a $2 trillion infrastructure plan “to boost ordinary working Americans rather than the wealthy,” a program that together with his $1.9 trillion Covid rescue doubles “as a bid to lift millions of Americans out of poverty.”

    The news is like high school. One day, one kid comes in wearing Dior sneakers and Nike X Ambush pants, and two days later, that’s all you see in the halls. The “Biden-as-FDR” stories raced around News High, with headlines like “With nods to FDR, JFK and LBJ, Biden goes big on infrastructure plan” (Yahoo!) and “Can Biden achieve an FDR-style presidency? A historian sees surprising parallels” (Washington Post). Even the New Yorker’s naysayingtake, “Is Biden Really the Second Coming of F.D.R. and L.B.J.?” read at first glance like an affirmation.

    Now Taibbi is a lefty, so he wishes Joe was an AOC-emulating bringer of Social Justice. But the rest of us don't need to adopt that viewpoint to shake our heads in wonder at the silly sycophancy of CNN et al.


  • Also Crumbling: His Grasp on Reality. Chris Edwards notes the herd of independent minds discoursing on Biden’s Crumbling Bridges.

    Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says America’s roads and bridges are “crumbling.” The administration’s infrastructure plan says, “After decades of disinvestment, our roads, bridges, and water systems are crumbling,” and it notes that 45,000 bridges are in “poor condition.”

    The Washington Post says, “President Biden aims to tackle some of the nation’s most pressing problems—from climate change to decaying water systems to the nation’s crumbling infrastructure,” and it claims that “the nation’s infrastructure woes … have been growing for decades.”

    Rolling Stone says Biden’s plan “promises to revitalize 20,000 miles of roads and fix 10,000 crumbling bridges.” A 2018 NBC report was titled, “More than 50,000 American bridges are falling apart,” and pointed to 54,259 bridges that are “structurally deficient.”

    Nobody wants to drive on a "crumbling bridge". Or under one, for that matter. But (as the article details) bridge quality statistics have shown improvement for decades.

    Biden will (of course) take credit for improvements that would have happened anyway.

    But bridge-uncrumbling is popular. So even though that makes up a mere sliver of his massive "infrastruture bill", it can be used as a smokescreen to hide the billions handed out for less popular items.


  • I Strongly Suggest the Answer Is: Stop Using It, If You're So Damned Concerned. Bari Weiss wonders: What Should Be Done to Curb Big Tech?. And, good news, her article is more nuanced than its question-begging headline implies. Good point here:

    So why is so much of the writing about tech so confusing? One of the reasons it confuses, I think, is that the loudest “progressive” and “conservative” arguments are the opposite of what you’d imagine.

    Progressives are supposed to be against corporate power. And yet on this subject, they are the ones pushing for more of it. They are enraged that these companies don’t crack down harder on “disinformation,” arguing that the Zuckerbergs and Dorseys of the world put profit above principle when they allow groups like QAnon to run wild on their platforms. Sure, President Trump was banned, but only after he lost the election. Why didn’t it happen earlier? Private companies are not hamstrung by the First Amendment, so why do they hesitate to ban dangerous people whose online words lead to real-world violence?

    Conservatives are supposed to be for small government and allergic to sweeping intervention. And yet some of the country’s most prominent Republicans find themselves arguing against free enterprise. The crux of their argument, pushed most passionately by Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, goes like this: The law is handing Big Tech companies a ridiculous and unfair advantage. Section 230 grants companies like Twitter protection from the kind of legal liability that makes a traditional publisher, like a newspaper, vulnerable. Why should tech companies have that privilege, given that they obviously make editorial decisions? Fairness would begin with a repeal of Section 230.

    I'm knee-jerk libertarian on the issue: there's nothing wrong with Big Tech that government-imposed "solutions" won't make worse. But Bari (I call her Bari) notes some pushback on that from Richard Epstein and Clarence Thomas, who make alternate arguments without statist bias.


  • Nothing Says 'We Have Had No New Ideas Since the 1930s' Like… Jonah Goldberg writes his G-File on The Newest Deal. It's an interesting look at the programs and philosophy behind Progressive Statism. But let's go right to pungently-observed bottom line:

    Joe Biden’s trillion-here, trillion-there approach is as ad hoc as FDR’s in many ways. You look at some of the outlays in his proposals—a hundred billion for this, a hundred billion for that—and it becomes clear that the important thing is just to spend a hundred billion, or $2.4 trillion; what the money actually goes to is an afterthought.

    Similarly, his conception of “infrastructure” is very New Deal-y. “So many people said, ‘Oh, the $400 billion that are being proposed for the home care workers or the home care sector, that’s not really infrastructure,’” White House economist Cecelia Rouse argues. “Well, I beg to differ. I can’t go to work, if I don’t have someone who’s taking care of my parents or my children.”

    I can’t go to work without pants either, that doesn’t mean the government should launch a pants-buying program.

    I have problems with a lot of the people on both sides of the aisle who throw around the term “socialism” without knowing what socialism is—and isn’t. But at some point, if everything is “infrastructure”—which Biden basically defines as anything that makes your life easier—than we’re going to stumble into precisely that. It may still be “democratic,” but the range of stuff you’ll be allowed to vote for will be quite Deweyan. That was Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s hope. In 1947, he wrote in Partisan Review, “There seems no inherent obstacle to the gradual advance of socialism in the United States through a series of New Deals.” All it would take is the empowerment of the “politician-manager-intellectual type—the New Dealer,” to make it happen.

    We’re on our way.

    I keep looking for a pony in here somewhere.


  • Gullible Virtue-Signalling Donors Also Matter. The UK Daily Mail has a provocative article: BLM founder is branded a FRAUD after buying a $1.4 million home.

    A Black Lives Matter co-founder and self-professed 'trained Marxist' has raised eyebrows by purchasing a $1.4 million Los Angeles home, in a largely white district.

    Patrisse Cullors, a 37-year-old 'artist, organizer, and freedom fighter', has bought a three bedroom, three bathroom house in Topanga Canyon, complete with a separate guest house and expansive back yard, reports

    The home is described in the real estate listing as having 'a vast great room with vaulted and beamed ceilings'.

    It's a nice house. Pictures at the link. The folks who bought swag at the Black Lives Matter Official Store ("Proceeds help fund the Movement.") should especially click over.

    I keep thinking about Patrisse's claim to be a "trained Marxist". Is there an Obedience School you can attend, you know, like my dog?

URLs du Jour

2021-04-10

[Amazon Link]

  • Send The Bill To My Kids. And Their Kids. And… Christian Britschgi has good news for those rooting for American decline: Biden’s $1.5 Trillion Budget Request Would Fund All Nails Needed for the Coffin of Fiscal Restraint.

    Despite the record amounts of money the federal government has spent over the last year responding to the pandemic—and the record deficits it's racked up in the process—the Biden administration continues to ask for trillions more.

    Today, the White House released its first budget request. It has asked Congress to approve a $1.52 trillion budget, including $769 billion in non-defense discretionary spending (a 16 percent increase over fiscal year 2021) and $753 billion in defense spending (a 1.7 percent increase).

    That would represent an overall 8.4 percent increase in federal spending from last year, when excluding the recent $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill that Biden signed in March, reports Bloomberg. Today's budget request also comes in addition to the $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan that Biden unveiled last week.

    I think someone on the Reason Podcast made this observation recently:

    • A million seconds is about 11½ days.
    • A billion seconds is about 31.7 years.
    • A trillion seconds is about 31,710 years.

    Biden et al. rely on the public not understanding the difference between "a lot of money", "an exorbitant lot of money", and "an insanely exorbitant amount of money".

    I'm no economist, but I can't see how this ends well.


  • Good Luck on That Advice. Ramesh suggests Fauci and CDC's Walensky Should Be Candid About Vaccines Now.

    On March 29, Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control, shared “the recurring feeling I have of impending doom.” Later that day, she gave MSNBC viewers some good news: “Our data from the CDC today suggests, you know, that vaccinated people do not carry the virus, don’t get sick.”

    Three days later, a spokesman for the CDC took it back: “Dr. Walensky spoke broadly during this interview. It’s possible that some people who are fully vaccinated could get Covid-19. The evidence isn’t clear whether they can spread the virus to others. We are continuing to evaluate the evidence.”

    When I heard that "feeling of impending dooom" thing, I thought: Lady, maybe you shouldn't be blabbing about your psychological problems to a nationwide audience.

    But never mind that. Ramesh notes that both the NIH (Fauci) and CDC have been confusing and inconsistent in their pronouncements. To the point of dishonesty: crafting their messaging so it doesn't "elicit undesirable behaviors from the public."

    Ramesh further notes that (sensibly enough) as a result, many people stop trusting government health advice.

    That's not the mark of a healthy relationship.

    I should add that, back on March 3, Biden derided the Texas and Mississippi decisions to stop mandating masks as 'Neanderthal thinking'.

    Nearly 40 days later: both Texas and Mississippi are classified as states where "new cases are lower and staying low" on the NYT Coronavirus summary page.

    New Hampshire, where mandates remain in place? It's been stuck in the (much larger) category of states where "new cases are higher and staying high".

    Why it's almost as if treating your citizens as adults and able to make rational decisions about their risks works well.


  • A Much Bigger Heath Threat: Misinformation From Government Officials. We ain't quite done with Dr. Rochelle yet. Jim Treacher looks at her recent pronunciamento: 'Racism Is a Serious Public Health Threat'.

    The last time I paid any attention to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, she was moaning about her “recurring feeling… of impending doom” about COVID-19. She used her public platform to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt, and the libs all loved her for it. If you thought that was pathetic and insane, check out Walensky’s latest “Director’s Commentary” from the CDC website:

    The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the death of over 500,000 Americans. Tens of millions have been infected. And across this country people are suffering. Importantly, these painful experiences and the impact of COVID-19 is felt, most severely, in communities of color—communities that have experienced disproportionate case counts and deaths, and where the social impact of the pandemic has been most extreme.

    Yet, the disparities seen over the past year were not a result of COVID-19. Instead, the pandemic illuminated inequities that have existed for generations and revealed for all of America a known, but often unaddressed, epidemic impacting public health: racism.

    What we know is this: racism is a serious public health threat that directly affects the well-being of millions of Americans.

    Isn’t racism the real virus, when you don’t think about it?

    It's probably wrong of me, but whenever I see Dr. Rochelle on TV: (a) she looks very low-res, like Max Headroom; (b) I can't help but think of Rochelle, Rochelle, the running-gag fictional movie on Seinfeld. Described as "a young girl's strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk".

    And then to the CDC.


  • When Uncle Stupid Makes It Rain… there will be no shortage of well-connected folks waiting around with buckets. Connor Harris in the New York Post: Amtrak Joe's rail line will blow your cash on pricey repairs.

    President Biden’s lavish infrastructure plan promises to give $80 billion to improving long-distance rail, almost all of it going to Amtrak — the mode of transport beloved by, well, “Amtrak Joe.” Amtrak released a plan for what it wants to do with the money: A fact sheet that the rail service posted on its Web site, for a project called Amtrak Connects US, shows several new or improved routes crisscrossing the nation.

    Amtrak’s route expansion plans are at once strikingly unambitious and dogged by its famous inefficiencies.

    Amtrak plans to add routes connecting nearby cities with trips that would take only a few hours: for instance, Dallas to Houston and Cleveland to Cincinnati. This may seem prudent, but one has to wonder how much ridership these lines will get: Amtrak generally runs low-quality equipment with average speeds slower than freeways, and Amtrak’s new routes parallel major highways, most of them with preexisting bus service.

    My main gripe with Connor's column is that it speculates how Amtrak could work in an alternate universe with sensible construction costs. I'm positive there's no way to get to that alternate universe, and even if there were, the result would still be plagued with declining ridership, lousy service, and perpetual subsidies.


  • Things I Didn't Know (A Recurring Series). Patterico drops a truth bomb on a 50-year-old song that's been one of my favorites for… pretty much that entire time. “Layla” Outro: Stolen. Summarized in a tweet:

    The victim is Rita Coolidge (not very "obscure" to us baby boomers) who was Gordon's lady friend at the time. Gordon, as Patterico notes, went on to murder his mom,

URLs du Jour

2021-04-09

[Amazon Link]
I'll probably find out that the Amazon Product du Jour is pushed by an American Nazi group or something.

Still, it accurately reflects my mindset.

  • Of Course It Will. Campus Reform posts on the latest from the University Near Here: New course will teach UNH students about 'racism in science'.

    Declaring that science is not necessarily “culturally neutral,” academics at the University of New Hampshire are offering a new course about anti-racism in STEM.

    Natural resources professor Serita Frey and graduate student Emily Whalen are teaching “Anti-Racism in Science: Promoting an Inclusive and Equitable STEM Community” in the spring 2021 semester.

    Yeesh. UNH Today has more, and it's pretty predictable. Sample from instructor Serita Frey:

    “Racism in science is like racism in all other aspects of our society. As we say in the course syllabus, science is often viewed as ‘culturally neutral,’ and scientific information is often presented as objective and unbiased. However, science, like every other human endeavor is subject to the biases of its practitioners,” Frey says.

    “All of us in the U.S. were raised with a 400-year history of racism and thus we all hold biases, implicit or otherwise, and these translate into treating people differently based on the color of their skin and also has led to policies and practices that make it difficult for Black, indigenous people and people of color ( BIPOC) to enter and fully participate in STEM disciplines,” she says.

     That truth is reflected in the lower number of BIPOC people who work in the sciences.

    "We all hold biases", states Prof Frey, but I wish she'd examine her own before she flatly holds out her dubious assertions as "truth".


  • Contrary Opinions are a Threat. My guess is that the Frey course would be a likely breeding ground for this sort of litigious fun, as reported by Robby Soave at Reason: A Medical Student Questioned Microaggressions. UVA Branded Him a Threat and Banished Him from Campus..

    Kieran Bhattacharya is a student at the University of Virginia (UVA) School of Medicine. On October 25, 2018, he attended a panel discussion on the subject of microaggressions. Dissatisfied with the definition of a microaggression offered by the presenter—Beverly Cowell Adams, an assistant dean—Bhattacharya raised his hand.

    Within a few weeks, as a result of the fallout from Bhattacharya's question about microagressions, the administration had branded him a threat to the university and banned him from campus. He is now suing UVA for violating his First Amendment rights, and a judge recently ruled that his suit should proceed.

    That's the University of Virginia. As in "Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia".

    No word on the RPMs recorded in TJ's grave.


  • Joe's Lips Moved. The Results Were Predictable. David Harsanyi on Joe Biden’s Amazing Second Amendment Whopper (which sounds like a bad takeoff on Tom Swift and His Polar-Ray Dynasphere, but never mind):

    Here is how the president of the United States, Joe Biden, proud graduate of Syracuse University Law school, opened his remarks on his new gun control efforts:

    “Nothing I’m about to recommend in any way impinges on the Second Amendment,” Biden said. “They’re phony arguments suggesting that these are Second Amendment rights in what we’re talking about.”

    Biden added that “no amendment to the Constitution is absolute. You can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded movie theater and call it freedom of speech. From the very beginning, you couldn’t own any weapon you wanted to own. From the very beginning of the Second Amendment existed, certain people weren’t allowed to have weapons.”

    Every part of his statement is utterly absurd.

    Click through for David's three-part takedown, but also see Charles C. W. Cooke's comments: The Bill of Rights Doesn’t Have to Be ‘Absolute’ to Have Teeth

    David is right, of course. But what annoys me the most about this claim is that it is totally irrelevant to the question of whether Biden’s plans are legitimate. Invariably, people who say that a “right isn’t absolute” are not trying to determine the proper scope of the right so much as they are trying to skip a step by implying that if some regulation is permissible then all regulation is permissible.

    Which it’s not.

    As Charles notes, this type of argument is also often deployed against First Amendment rights. It's tedious to deal with people who deploy it as if it were somehow profound.


  • Nevertheless, He Persisted. In lying, that is. Elizabeth Nolan Brown noted another brain-dribble: Contrary to What Biden Says, Gun Show Sales Aren’t Exempt From Background Checks.

    In announcing new gun control plans yesterday, President Joe Biden commented on alleged loopholes in gun background checks. "Most people don't know, you walk into a store and you buy a gun, you have a background check. But you go to a gun show, you can buy whatever you want and no background check," according to Biden.

    Multiple fact-checkers have taken issue with this claim.

    Because it is utter garbage. Even Politifact rates it "mostly false", which, given their bias, means "made-up crapola".

    But you have to admire Biden beginning it with "Most people don't know…". Joe, people don't know that because they live in reality.


  • Pun Salad is a Sucker for any Column Using 'Dragoon' in the Headline. George Will looks at an objectionable feature of Biden's/Democrats' latest spendapalooza: Congress dragoons the states.

    The essence of progressivism’s agenda is to create a government-centered society by increasing government’s control of society’s resources, then distributing those resources in ways that increase the dependency of individuals and social groups on government. Hence this stipulation in Congress’s just-enacted $1.9 trillion money shower: None of the $350 billion allocated for state governments can be used to finance tax cuts.

    So, the federal government is using the allocation of society’s financial resources to state governments to coerce them into maintaining their existing claims on such resources. This illustrates how progressives try to implement a leftward-clicking ratchet. The Supreme Court, whose duties in supervising democracy include reminding a forgetful Congress about federalism, should find the following provision unconstitutional.

    They probably will, but I have a modest proposal: the folks who wrote that provison, voted for it, and the guy who signed it into law should resign for violating their pledge to support the Constitution.


  • Speaking Of Unconstitutional Legislation… The effort to sell the "For The People" act caused a snarky tweet du jour.

    Joke explanation, if necesssary, here.


Last Modified 2021-04-10 6:46 AM EDT

Hamilton

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

Consumer note: Amazon link to your right goes to the $72.13 vinyl 4-LP soundtrack. If you buy it, I get a cut!

With our shiny new Disney+ subscription, we watched Hamilton. (I know, Gina Carano. Sorry.) I also know it's a stage play. Still, it was movie-length, so I'm counting it as a "watched movie". It's an impressive effort, watchable all the way through. And I don't really like hip-hop. But as it turned out the songs are less hiphoppy than I feared; the Wikipedia page, the songs also draw from "R&B, pop, soul, and traditional-style show tunes."

It's based on Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton, briefly describing his impoverished early life on Nevis, and really gets going with his move to Manhattan in the auspicious year of 1776. (Update: well, that turns out to be off by three years. My bad for believing everything Lin-Manuel Miranda put in his play. See Wikipedia for that quibble and more, some less quibbly.) He gets education, gets acquainted with the local revolutionary firebrands (including Aaron Burr), eventually joins up with George Washington in the Revolutionary War.

His success there jumpstarts his political career; it also sows the seeds of resentment and jealousy among his counterparts. He turns into a Constitutional madman, writing many Federalist Papers in defense of the new plan of government. When the dust settles, he's named the first Secretary of the Treasury, and eventually draws even more ire from Jefferson and (oops) his former friend Aaron Burr. We all know how that turns out.

There are a number of other plot threads involving romance and family, mostly tragic in nature. Comic relief is provided by actors portraying George III, Lafayette, and Jefferson.

The show caused me to try to put Chernow's biography on my get-at-library list. Ack, Portsmouth Public Library seems to lack a copy. What's up with that? Well, if they ever let me back into the UNH Library… .


Last Modified 2021-04-11 9:13 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-04-08

Our Eye Candy du Jour:

[LFOD]

That's from an article from a site called "Artsy", entitled 8 Artists Who Had Breakout Moments at March Auctions. It was brought to my attention by the Google LFOD News Alert, and, yes, the painting's title is "Live Free or Die". The artist is Pieter Schoolwerth, and it is reported that the 2002 painting sold for $22,680. (It "failed to sell in its previous auction appearance, back in 2010.")

So, good for Pieter. <understatement>There's certainly a lot going on there</understatement>. I especially like that the man sitting on the steps has the exact same expression as the head-vase(?) on the table.

  • James Freeman has interesting thoughts on Ron DeSantis and ‘Resistance Journalism’.

    It’s hard to find silver linings in this era of expanding government authority and contracting individual opportunity for free expression. But at least the media establishment can no longer pretend that its abandonment of journalistic standards was necessitated by the unique character of Donald Trump. “Resistance journalism” is now industry standard, judging by a story on Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis by the formerly prestigious television newsmagazine “60 Minutes.”

    Resistance journalism is the term coined by media maven Ben Smith, who was also one of the genre’s most successful practitioners. The idea was to create compelling anti-Trump narratives unbound by the traditional obligations of fact-checking.

    The Trump administration began with news organizations flogging false collusion claims from anonymous sources. It ended recently with news organizations flogging a false story from a single anonymous source who did not even witness the relevant event—and was then protected until she granted her permission to acknowledge she was the source of the bogus report.

    Freeman goes on to note that the "60 Minutes" went "one step beyond simply advancing the hidden agendas of people unwilling to go on the record." Instead: "Sunday night’s attack on Gov. DeSantis didn’t even include key facts presented by witnesses who have been speaking on the record."

    I think you can still trust CBS News to report some things correctly. For example, the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Maybe the Red Sox score from last night's game.

    Anything that involves politics, nah.


  • Also, A Lot of Stuff They're Calling 'Infrastructure' That Isn't Infrastructure. Veronique de Rugy looks at an infestation: Biden’s $2.3 Trillion Infrastructure Plan Is Teeming With Cronyism.

    "A crony anti-infrastructure plan" is, sadly, the best description of the Biden administration's proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan. It's insanely expensive and unnecessary, especially coming, as it does, on top of last year's fiscal insanity.

    Over the past year, our leaders have spent $6 trillion in bailout and COVID-19 relief funds. They've driven local, state, and federal government spending up to 43.5 percent of GDP, meaning that we're already in financial trouble. Now they want to top it off with trillions more of wasteful spending, describing it as "infrastructure" spending, which arguably everyone likes. But once you look at what's in the bill, you realize that the label is mere marketing for more handouts to politicians' friends and payments for pet projects.

    I rarely tweet, but Senator Kirsten Gillibrand offered up an Orwellian definition of "infrastructure" that I couldn't resist sniping at:

    I'm waiting, Senator!


  • Without State Sponsorship of Critical Race Theory, Nobody Will Learn About Harriet Tubman! Boy, it's been a long time since I looked at Breitbart, let alone linked to it. But they have an NH-relevant story that dinged the Google News Alert: New Hampshire Businesses Fight Bill Banning Critical Race Theory.

    About 80 New Hampshire businesses and other organizations are seeking to block a bill that would ban public schools and other entities from teaching that America is a fundamentally racist nation, warning the measure would be bad for business in the state.

    The coalition sent a letter to Gov. Chris Sununu (R) and lawmakers, stating the bill would “have a chilling impact on our workplaces and on the business climate in New Hampshire,” reported New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR), which further noted the letter warned the measure, “would not only harm the ability of New Hampshire businesses to be competitive, it would severely harm the state’s image as business-friendly, since it stifles the ability of organizations who do business with the state to foster diverse workforces as they see fit.”

    But LFOD is… ah, here:

    Dan Weeks, a director at ReVision Energy, wrote at NH Business Review Tuesday the bill would continue the “whitewash” of New Hampshire and U.S. history.

    Weeks observed slavery existed in 1645 before the “Live Free or Die” state was even an independent colony.

    I'm pretty sure that nothing in the bill prevents accurate history teaching.

    Let me link (once again) to James Lindsay: A Letter Supporting a Bill to Ban Critical Race Theory. I think he does a good job refuting objections to the bill.


  • Betteridge's Law of Headlines Applies. Joel Zinberg asks the musical question at City Journal: Will We Even Need Vaccine Passports?.

    Countries worldwide have announced plans to implement vaccine passports—electronic or paper credentials that show a person has immunity to Covid-19 through either vaccination or recovery from the disease. U.S. states and private businesses seem ready to follow suit. New York State has launched the Excelsior Pass for New Yorkers to prove immunity with a machine-readable QR (“quick response”) code. Walmart will provide an app letting customers vaccinated at the store share their status. At least 17 private initiatives to provide vaccine credentials are in development.

    The goal of a passport system is to allow immunized individuals to resume business, normal activities, and travel, replacing the current restrictions imposed on everyone, regardless of infection risk. Many are concerned that passports could exacerbate existing inequities for poor people who cannot afford smartphones—or create privacy headaches for those who can. Some complain that granting special privileges to those lucky enough to gain access to vaccination is morally questionable. Though U.S. public opinion is divided on the idea, Israeli researchers believe that the country’s digital “green pass” program induced people to be vaccinated so that they can resume normal activities and that public use of the passes has helped reassure hesitant people that the shot is safe.

    The good news: the evolving vaccine rollout and imminent attainment of herd immunity may render the whole idea moot. To achieve herd immunity from Covid-19, roughly 70 percent to 75 percent of the population must be immune, whether because of past infection or vaccination. Given current numbers in both categories, we are already close to that mark.

    The whole passport idea sounds like yet another bureaucrat following the politician's syllogism: "Something must be done; this is something; therefore, this must be done."


  • Nice Guys May Finish Last, But It's Still Better To Be A Nice Guy. So, I'm a diligent Jeopardy! watcher. And after watching three episodes with Aaron Rodgers at the host podium, my take is: a very classy guy who doesn't have the spark to be a long-term replacement for Alex Trebek.

    But in case you missed it, Aaron got a good-natured zing from one of the contestants in Final Jeopardy. Karen Townsend has the story:

    A little palate cleanser of a story at the end of a long day. On Monday Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers began a two-week stint as guest host on Jeopardy!. A little fun was had at his expense during the Final round question. The two-day returning champ, Scott Shewfelt, took a not-subtle-at-all jab at Packers coach Matt LaFleur. LaFleur’s decision-making was called into question by Shewfelt, specifically in January’s NFC championship game.

    The Final round question was about Emmy lifetime achievement winner Fred Rogers. (Different spelling than the host’s last name.) Shewfelt didn’t know the answer and instead of guessing, he wrote, “Who decided to kick that field goal?” Rodgers good-naturedly played along. He chuckled and said, “That is a great question. It should be correct, but for this game today, that’s incorrect.”

    Even though he despises people like me, I have to say the best replacement host so far has been Ken Jennings.


Last Modified 2021-04-09 5:29 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-04-07

[Amazon Link]

Our Amazon Product du Jour is for those readers who need one more damned thing to worry about. Otherwise, go ahead and wreck your Iodine-deficient life!

Of course, your Iodine Crisis fears may be assuaged by that big canister of iodized salt in your pantry. The author says: Don't be! It's a scam!

Disclaimer: I have no idea whether the author, Lynne Farrow, is a quack or not.

  • Not Content With Damaging American Prosperity… the Biden Administration has global prosperity in its green-eyeshade sights. Ryan Young reviews the current battle: Janet Yellen & Corporate Taxes.

    A mammoth infrastructure bill is on the way from Congress, and policy-makers are touting a corporate-tax-rate hike to help pay for it. Treasury secretary Janet Yellen even proposed a global minimum corporate-tax rate this week. These are both bad ideas for three reasons.

    First, corporations do not pay any corporate tax — individuals do. That is because companies pass on their costs. Some of the tax is paid by consumers, who pay higher prices. Company employees pay some of the tax through lower wages. And investors’ retirement accounts pay some of the tax through lower returns.

    And to summarize the other two reasons: (2) Yellen's proposed "minimum" corporate tax rate would remove competitive pressure on high-corporate tax countries (e.g., the US, if Biden/Yellen get their way); and (3) it also provides a powerful incentives for companies to lobby for higher rates in other countries to handicap competition there.

    But Ryan's real point is: the government should tax people directly, rather than hiding an indirect tax that gets passed on opaquely to consumers, workers, and shareholders.


  • "Shoddy and Dishonest" is an Understatement. Andrew Wilford examines The Misleading Push for Corporate Tax Hikes.

    President Joe Biden's plan to spend $2 trillion on infrastructure was noteworthy not for proposing trillions of dollars in new spending—that's now par for the course in Washington—but for proposing commensurate tax hikes as well. The corporate taxes that Biden laid out are likely to be popular among Americans constantly bombarded by stories about large businesses with low tax burdens. But the increases will do real damage to the economy.

    Whenever a new story comes out about "profitable" corporations not paying taxes, it almost invariably can be traced back to the Institution on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). This is the advocacy group that launched that round of articles about Amazon paying zero federal income taxes a couple years back, and it just put out a report declaring that 55 large American corporations with "pre-tax profits" are getting away with paying no federal income tax.

    Andrew exposes the fallacies in ITEP's analysis. For a more freewheeling discussion, see Dan Mitchell, who looks at the Dishonest Tax Analysis from the New York Times based on ITEP's "shoddy and dishonest report".


  • Also Probably Causes Iodine Deficiency. Randal O'Toole looks at the environmental impact of a futuristic boondoggle: Maglev to Destroy Habitat, Climate. ("Other than that, though, it's fine!")

    A proposed maglev line between Washington and Baltimore will disrupt 1,000 acres of “parks, recreational facilities and wetlands,” according to a recently released draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the project. That’s a lot of land considering that all but nine miles of the project would be underground. While 180 acres are for a maintenance facility, the remaining acres represent a right‐of‐way that is an average of 750 feet wide.

    This potential disruption has raised the ire of the local chapter of the Audubon Society, which is opposing the plan. As I recently noted, such land disruptions will be an issue for all high‐speed rail lines, and in that analysis I was clearly being conservative in assuming a mere 80‐foot right‐of‐way. By contrast, airlines don’t need any right‐of‐way once they leave the airports.

    If you don't bemoan the birdies, you might be impressed by the dollars involved:

    The project is economically dubious as well. It is currently projected to cost $13.8 billion to $16.8 billion, or $345 million to $420 million per mile. Of course, the actual cost will probably be somewhere between $20 and $30 billion. What do we get for that?

    Currently, Amtrak’s Acela covers the route in 29 minutes at fares ranging from $19 to $44. Amtrak’s conventional trains take 37 minutes at fares ranging from $8 to $25. Buses take as little as 40 minutes at fares ranging from $2.50 to $20.

    Maglev backers promise their line will take just 15 minutes and that fares will range from $27 to $80, with an average of $60. In other words, it will cost $8 to $36 to save 14 minutes, $19 to $55 to save 22 minutes, or $25 to $60 to save 25 minutes.

    Randal speculates that maglev customers will be "bureaucrats and lobbyists" travelling on someone else's dime. Probably yours.


  • Heresy From Williamson. Kevin D asks the provocative question, going against the implicit narrative behind all the "voting rights" stories: Why Not Fewer Voters?.

    There would be more voters if we made it easier to vote, and there would be more doctors if we didn’t require a license to practice medicine. The fact that we believe unqualified doctors to be a public menace but act as though unqualified voters were just stars in the splendid constellation of democracy indicates how little real esteem we actually have for the vote, in spite of our public pieties.

    There are tradeoffs in voting, as there are in all things. Democrats prefer to minimize attention paid to voting fraud and eligibility enforcement, but even a little bit of fraud or improper voting is something that should be discouraged and, if possible, prevented. It is — spare me your sob stories — something that should be prosecuted in most cases. It is a fact that many of the things that would be useful in discouraging and preventing voting fraud would also tend to make voting somewhat more difficult for at least some part of the population. Republicans generally think that tradeoff is worth it, and Democrats generally don’t. Is there motivated reasoning at work there? Of course. But the mere presence of political self-interest does not tell us whether a policy is a good one or a bad one.

    One argument for encouraging bigger turnout is that if more eligible voters go to the polls then the outcome will more closely reflect what the average American voter wants. That sounds like a wonderful thing . . . if you haven’t met the average American voter.

    [Amazon Link]
    [Amazon Link]
    If you are getting mad at this argument, it could be you haven't read Bryan D. Caplan's The Myth of the Rational Voter and/or 10% Less Democracy by Garett Jones. Amazon links at right.


  • Maybe Brains Would Work Better For This, But… The HTML of Joy Pullmann's Federalist article has the title: If Left Will Cry 'Racist' No Matter What, Republicans Should Grow A Pair.

    The headline, however, is a little more mild: "If Democrats Will Cry ‘Racist’ No Matter What, Republicans Should Pass Much Stronger Laws."

    In March, Georgia Republicans amended their state’s election laws in a weak attempt to assuage voters disgusted with their enabling of the 2020 election circus. To punish their political opponents for requiring voter ID and creating an election season of a month long or more Democrats called up their character assassination squads.

    Democrats have been throwing every bit of pressure they can at Georgia elected officials to get their way without winning power legitimately through elections. This has included pressure from Democrats’ current and last U.S. presidents, Joe Biden and Barack Obama.

    Joy suggests, of course, that the GOP should (er) man up, ignore the lies, and wait for Democrats to start negotiating in good faith.

    She also notes Mike Lee wondering if it's time to repeal MLB's antitrust exemption. What say you, Elizabeth Warren and all you other antitrust hipsters?

    The go-to article on voting reform is (still, unfortunately) behind the National Review paywall. But check it out if you can: How to Secure Elections by the Baseball Crank himself, Dan McLaughlin.

URLs du Jour

2021-04-06

It's Infrastructure Day at Pun Salad! Please don't run over construction personnel.

  • Or. More Accurately, 'Gargantuan'. Brian Reidl at the Dispatch: Biden's Infrastructure Proposal Is a Giant Boondoggle.

    President Biden has unveiled a $2.2 trillion grab bag of liberal spending projects creatively branded as an “infrastructure” initiative. The words “invest” and “investment” may appear 160 times in the American Jobs Plan, yet its largest proposal is $400 billion for long-term care for the elderly and disabled, which—whatever its merits—has nothing to do with infrastructure. Same with the proposed billions to support community violence prevention programs, a $10 billion “Civilian Climate Corps” (duties include “advancing environmental justice”), and a proposal to eviscerate state right-to-work laws. Highways, roads, and bridges would receive just $115 billion, or 5 percent of all spending. 

    Unfortunately there's no "investment" in support of individual cranky bloggers.


  • Also, Since We're Doing Titles: a Road to Perdition. Robert Krol makes a kind-of pun, so he's in: Biden’s Infrastructure Package is a Bridge Too Far.

    The American Jobs Plan” proposed last week by the Biden administration is a very large ($2.3 trillion over eight years), ambitious and complex proposal. Much of it is also misguided and unnecessary.

    To begin with, the emphasis on job creation is odd. Doesn’t the administration remember that the unemployment rate was only 3.6% right before the pandemic? The country had experienced continued employment growth since 2010. This was even true for the manufacturing sector. In addition, wage growth among lower-wage earners had accelerated and was increasing faster than growth among high-wage earners. The U.S. labor market was not the basket case implied by the plan.

    Another flaw in the plan involves its considerable confidence in the government’s ability to control large swaths of the economy. Simply increasing funding to government agencies and programs often fails to produce the desired outcomes. Is there the manpower and technology available to implement the policies? History shows that in a large, geographically heterogeneous country the central management of big, complex programs is often very difficult.

    Especially that last paragraph. I was struck by how much the sales pitches sounded like the Five-Year Plans put out by the bad old Soviet Union. For example

    The President’s plan will create a more resilient grid, lower energy bills for middle class Americans, improve air quality and public health outcomes, and create good jobs, with a choice to join a union, on the path to achieving 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035.

    Da, comrade. You can't make a carbon-free omelet without breaking some free market eggs, понимать?


  • It's Not Arrant Corruption, Because They're Unions. Graham Piro notes that Biden's Infrastructure Plan a Boon for Unions. No foolin'.

    President Joe Biden's multitrillion-dollar infrastructure proposal includes a major union handout that would overhaul labor law in the United States.

    The White House released a fact sheet Wednesday detailing Biden's proposed $2 trillion infrastructure package that includes a call to pass the PRO Act, which is currently languishing in the Senate after passing the House. The law would overturn right-to-work laws in 27 states and expand the ability of the National Labor Relations Board to fine employers that violate employees' organizing rights.

    New Hampshire is possibly going to pass right-to-work legislation this year. Biden would overrule that.


  • Did You Notice Their Lips Were Moving? That Means… Robby Soave notes a rare surrender to truth at the White House: Biden Administration Retracts Claim That $2.25 Trillion Infrastructure Plan Would Create 19 Million Jobs.

    In pitching his $2.25 trillion infrastructure spending proposal, President Joe Biden said last week that if the plan was passed, "the economy will create 19 million jobs—good jobs, blue collar jobs, jobs that pay well" over the next 10 years.

    That's a technically accurate description of an analysis of the American Jobs Plan published by Moody's Analytics, an economic forecasting firm. But it leaves out a major caveat: Without the passage of the American Jobs Act, Moody's projects that the economy will create 16.3 million jobs in the next decade.

    Politicians try to take credit for things that would have happened anyway. It's an evergreen story.

URLs du Jour

2021-04-05

[Amazon Link]

  • Surprisingly, None Mentioning China. Mollie Hemingway offers Questions The Media Should Ask President Biden On Georgia Voting Law. Here's one:

    Q: Seeing that over the past year, almost 50 percent of small, black-owned business in America have closed for good and seeing how African Americans make up 55 percent of Atlanta, 54 percent of Savannah, and 55 percent of Augusta (where The Masters is played), does President Biden still think calling for an economic boycott and punishment by private companies on all Georgia citizens is a good idea? And will he now call for boycotts of The Masters, the Atlanta Braves, the Atlanta Falcons, and the Atlanta Hawks along with UGA & GA Tech. football? Why or why not?

    Gotcha questions, all. Perhaps Joe could take some pointers from the next item…


  • How To Bedazzle with Bullshit. At the (probably paywalled) WSJ, Andy Kessler points with admiration to the rhetorical stylings of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella: How to Answer the ‘Trap Question’. An interviewer asked the "responsibility of the corporations" on matters of "racial justice".

    Mr. Nadella isn’t CEO of a trillion-dollar company for nothing. Coolly and calmly, he explained that “the social purpose of a company is to find profitable solutions to the challenges of people and planet,” crediting Oxford economist Colin Mayer for the definition. “Driving broad economic growth is perhaps the biggest thing that a company can do,” Mr. Nadella added. “In order to have the pie distributed evenly, the pie should first grow.” Left unsaid is the pie should never stop growing.

    Mr. Nadella’s comeback was the best misdirect to the trap question I’ve ever heard. Every CEO should pay attention. Mr. Mayer’s definition of corporate purpose as finding “profitable solutions” is—shh, don’t give it away—basically the same as Milton Friedman’s “the social responsibility of business is to increase profits,” except with the crowd-pleasing word “planet” tacked on. The definition was even part of the agenda of the World Economic Forum, making it suitable for John Kerryish globalists everywhere. Write it with a Sharpie inside every CEO’s eyelids for future reference. The answer is brilliant.

    Fortunately for capitalism, I was never on the corporate executive path.


  • Frankenstein Also Criticized His Monster. Kevin D. Williamson gets a chuckle out of politicians pretending to not know what they've done in the past. Corporate Tax Breaks: Democrats Criticize Policies They Created.

    Here is a tragicomedy in three parts:

    1. Politicians enact tax credit that benefits Corporation X.
    2. Corporation X accepts tax credit.
    3. Politicians are scandalized by Corporation X’s tax filings.

    The New York Times is inviting its readers to be shocked and appalled by the fact that dozens of big companies have paid no federal business-income tax over the past three years in spite of taking in lots of money. At the top of its naughty list is Duke Energy, which made just under $8 billion over the past three years and had an effective corporate income-tax rate of . . . negative 15.5 percent. One big reason for that is green-energy subsidies of the kind proposed by the very same progressives who complain about the tax bills of companies such as Duke. Duke benefited from “bonus depreciation” arrangements that reward green-energy investments. As Duke points out in the Times report, that doesn’t actually eliminate Duke’s tax liability, but only defers it, leaving Duke with some $9 billion on its tax tab that will have to be paid at some point in the future.

    It should come as no surprise that when Uncle Stupid starts turning on the money gusher, there will be plenty of folks waiting with big buckets to catch as much as they can, by fair means or foul.


  • But Those Are Our Loopholes. George F. Will pleads for a dietary restriction: Democrats, don't pass the SALT. It's actually about Biden's bad proposal to increase the corporate income tax. And what might it take to get that to happen?

    [… I]n order to get enough House Democrats to support the foolishness of increased corporate taxation, the Biden administration might have to endorse repealing something intelligent from 2017. Republicans then imposed a $10,000 cap on deductions of state and local taxes (SALT) by individuals filing their federal income taxes. An uncapped SALT deduction would almost entirely benefit very wealthy taxpayers in high-tax states and cities, and subsidize the growth of state and local governments by somewhat reducing resistance to their taxes.

    For 90 years, the Democratic Party has been devoted to government growth, and is increasingly the party of the wealthy. Repeal of the SALT deduction cap would give those in the bottom half of income distribution a tax cut of, on average, at most $1, but an average tax cut of $23,500 for the top 1%, and $145,000 for the top 0.1%. The average middle-class family would get about $27.

    Democrats bemoan previous GOP-favored tax cuts as "giveaways to the rich" sometimes in the same breath as demanding SALT cap repeal. That's pretty amazing; this publication from the Congressional Research Service estimates that 71% of the "SALT benefit" went to taxpayers with over $200K Adjusted Gross Income in 2017.

    I assume (however) that what blue-state pols really resent is that it inhibits their ability to raise state and local taxes, since after a certain point their own taxpayers have to bear the entire burden, rather than shuffling it off to the other states.

URLs du Jour

2021-04-04

  • Happy Easter. A truly wonderful combination of beauty, cuteness, humor and (oh oh) impending bad news from Michael Ramirez.

    [Happy Easter, Kid. Also: sorry.]

    Happy Easter, kid. Also: sorry.


  • Could I Be Surprised by Joy? I'm a LINO (Lutheran in Name Only), still I was impressed with Joseph Loconte's telling of How C. S. Lewis Accepted Christianity.

    Shortly before he was admitted to Oxford University in 1916 to study English literature, C. S. Lewis, a recent convert to atheism, got into an argument with a friend about Christianity and its supernatural elements. His letters on the topic during this period reveal the spirit of the age: a disposition against religious belief. It has found many allies over the last century.

    Lewis chided his friend for not accepting “the recognized scientific account of the growth of religions.” The miraculous stories of the life of Jesus were “on exactly the same footing” as that of Adonis, Dionysius, Isis, and Loki. All religion, he wrote, was an attempt by primitive man to cope with the terrors of the natural world. Just so with Christianity: The story of the resurrection was a sublime retelling of ancient pagan myths about gods and goddesses who, by initiating the cycle of the seasons, represented the pattern of death and rebirth.

    And how's this for clickbait: you'll never guess who the friend was. And you'll never guess what happened next. Well, maybe you will. Or maybe you know already. Still, it's a pretty good story. And maybe I should start a C. S. Lewis reading project, for the benefit of my immortal soul.


  • Need Optimism? Ron Bailey's article from dead-trees Reason is out from behind the paywall: The Last Pandemic.

    "This will not be the last pandemic, nor the last global health emergency," declared WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a September 2020 report. A World in Disorder estimated that the world's governments had already spent $11 trillion (of often borrowed money) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has so far resulted in 115 million diagnosed cases and 2.6 million deaths.

    But take heart: There are good reasons to believe that the WHO director-general is wrong. The greatly speeded-up biomedical innovation provoked by the current global scourge has provided future generations with tools to keep subsequent viral invasions at bay. These include fast new vaccine production platforms, the development of better diagnostic and disease surveillance monitoring, and progress in the rapid design of therapeutics.

    Ron gives a suitable-for-laymen description of what happened vaccine-wise. And what might happen in the future. And isn't afraid to point fingers and name names at people (including himself) who got stuff wrong.

    If audio is more your thing, here is Ron's interview with Nick Gillespie.


  • You'd Think This Would Be a Given. Alden Abbott and Tracy C. Miller describe why Antitrust Law Should Focus on Consumer Welfare.

    Politicians and policy analysts have expressed concern about the growing size and impact of large digital-platform companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple. Some are advocating more aggressive antitrust enforcement or major changes to the law. Although competition policy can be improved, promoting consumer welfare should continue to guide antitrust enforcement in the United States.

    Critics claim that antitrust law, which is intended to condemn business practices that undermine competition or maintain monopolies, is being neglected as competition weakens across the economy. They claim that the failure to enforce antitrust law allows unchecked abuses — not just by digital platforms, but by powerful firms in other market segments as well.

    The problem seems to be that antitrust law is written vaguely enough so that large companies find themselves with no clear notion of what business decisions may or may not turn out to be illegal. That determination is made, often years later, because of the whims and prejudices of whatever political faction is on top in D. C.

    But if we are going to have antitrust law, the "consumer welfare" standard is probably the best practical one. Abbott and Miller argue that it "has served consumers well". Certainly, whatever the likes of Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren cook up will be worse.


  • Pun Salad Will Link to Just About Anything With 'Gutless' in the Headline. Bari Weiss's substack hosts a guest essay by Peter Savodnik: America's True Believers and Their Gutless Enablers.

    The mountain of witches is piling up. At the top of the heap is Sharon Osbourne, the Captain Underpants guy, the Bachelor host, or whatever C-list celebrity failed to condemn “Gone with the Wind” on Instagram with sufficient fervor. But by the time you read this they’ll surely be eclipsed by another faux-outrage pieced together by the microaggression-hunters poring over old text messages or yellowing screen-shots of Halloween parties past.

    Most of these disappearances won’t matter much, because the disappeared are already known. Even if their contract isn’t renewed or their agent indignantly — and very publicly — cuts ties with them, they’ll be fine. They’ll resurface.

    The people who won’t are the countless, less visible who have lost jobs, lost businesses, lost reputations, lost friends. The schlubs. The cautionary tales. Those who have been cautioned, made to comply, squeezed into the Procrustean Bed of identitarian absolutism.

    The "True Believers" in Savodnik's essay are "the children of Park Slope and Echo Park with their graphic tattoos and nut allergies and an odd inability to form complete sentences." Bad as they are, they are children, in an emotional if not chronological sense.

    The "Enablers" are worse. The adults in the room who just want them to shut up and leave them alone. Will firing this assistant professor make them go away? Fine. So the true-believing mob gets appeased.

    Until next time.


  • While We're At It, Abolish Every Government Agency Beginning with 'F'. Katherine Mangu-Ward advocates that we Abolish the FDA.

    Last year, hashtag activists were ready to #AbolishICE, in part over the deaths of about 20 immigrants in custody in 2020. Protesters called on the government to "defund the police" over more than 1,000 killings by law enforcement during the same period. Those deaths are tragic, and many could have been prevented with better policy. But they pale in comparison to the blood on the hands of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the last 12 months.

    Faced with the challenge of COVID-19, the FDA screwed up on nearly every level. When the agency did do something right, it was almost always by making exceptions to its normal policies and procedures.

    How many people does the FDA have to kill before it goes away?

False Alarm

How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet

[Amazon Link]

I know the front cover says the author's name is "Bjorn Lomborg". I'm going with Bjørn, because my knowledge of how to deal with funny characters was hard-won. And still imperfect; so I need to practice when I can.

Lomborg has been lumped in with climate-change "skeptics". That's not really accurate; he thinks climate-change is real, due to our greenhouse gas emission, and likely to cause problems in the future. He has long been off the "alarmist" train, however (as long as we're slinging simplistic, semi-invidious labels around). He updates and extends his argument in this book.

I think he clarifies the argument quite a bit with an analogy in the introduction:

Imagine a similar discussion on traffic deaths. In the United States, forty thousand people die each year in car crashes. If politicians asked scientists how to limit the number of deaths to an almost impossible target of zero, one good answer would be to set the national speed limit to three miles per hour. Nobody would die. But science is not telling us that we must have a speed limit of three miles per hour—it only informs us that if we want zero dead, one simple way to achieve that is through a nationwide, heavily enforced three-mile-per-hour speed limit. Yet, it is a political decision for all of us, to make the trade-offs between low speed limits and a connected society.

That's an important, and very generalizable, observation about social risk management. The collective "we" have decided that 30K-40K annual deaths are worth it, in order to have a convenient, flexible, vehicle-based transportation system. Sounds more than a little cold-blooded when you put it that way, doesn't it? Yet it's true.

I think this applies a lot more generally, illuminating a number of public issues: the COVID-19 response, gun control, the war on drugs, and more. But Lomborg is talking about climate change, and we'll stick to that from here on out.

Lomborg argues that holding humanity to unrealistic climate goals is equally wrong-headed, even dangerous on net. Despite the doom-saying hoopla, of which there is no shortage, most actual scientific evidence says that climate change will be managable. Not without problems aplenty, mind you. But we would be far better off to have a richer world to deal with those issues. Instead of giving in to panic, totally shutting down the fossil-fuel economy, making us all poorer.

I said "making us all poorer" above, but that's not really accurate. Yes, most of us would be worse off, but in rich countries, we'd probably muddle through. But a successful fossil-fuel shutdown would really sock it to the poorer parts of the world, dooming them to (almost certainly) eternal deprivation and early death.

All the more reason why we need to come up with a panic-free realistic approach. Lomborg first advocates a carbon tax, one set optimally. Set too high, it will wreck the overall economy. Set too low, and it won't get much carbon reduction. Set juuust right, it will discourage low-hanging-fruit emissions and incentivize shifts to renewables while letting high-value fossil-fuel uses continue. That's why we have green-eyeshade economists: to play Goldilocks.

Realistically, the whole world won't go along. Lomborg realizes this, and discusses how that changes things.

In addition to a carbon tax, Lomborg recommends directed R&D on further innovation. That's tough, because innovation is notoriously unpredictable. But energy storage is a pretty vital thing we could (in theory) get a lot better at. (So we could save up the solar/wind energy abundant on sunny/windy days, and release it as needed.) Also: nuclear energy. And if there were some way to suck CO2 out of the air economically at scale, that would be pretty neat too.

But we should also bring thoughts to bear on adaptation. If we forget about chasing unattainable temperature-increase "goals", then we'll have a richer would in order to implement various methods of dealing with increased warmth. It's likely (for example) that flooding will increase; but flood control already works in rich countries, avoiding death and mitigating economic damage. It's not cheap, but probably worth it.

And then there's geoengineering: manipulating the environment on a macro scale to increase overall albedo. Lomborg examines the various schemes, and recommends that we keep those in our back pocket in case things get really bad.

But finally, Lomberg returns to the best tool for dealing with climate change: prosperity. We need to encourage worldwide economic growth through free trade (and, I'd add, free-market capitalism). That's the magic dust that will allow us to deal with climate problems as they occuur, and provide a cleaner environment overall.

If I had a quibble, it would be with Lomborg's (relative) optimism. I get that he's advocating a path forward, but it relies on many governments doing the "right" thing. Something they've so far shown minimal interest in doing on this issue. But maybe if enough movers and shakers read this book…

URLs du Jour

2021-04-03

  • Doubling Down on Stupid. Randal O'Toole is your go-to guy to look at the choo-choo fraction of President Biden's "Let's Waste A Whole Lotta Money" proposal: Amtrak's Money-Losing Vision.

    Amtrak responded to Biden’s “American Jobs Plan,” which would give Amtrak $80 billion (presumably over several years), with a “vision to grow rail service and connect new city pairs across America.” As shown in the map below, some of those city pairs might seem to make sense, such as Dallas‐​Houston and Los Angeles‐​Las Vegas.

    [Amtraks Big Plans]

    But a lot of the cities being added to the map are so small — places like Rockland, Maine (7,500 people), Christiansburg, Virginia (25,000), and Cheyenne (76,000) — that even Amtrak lovers are skeptical. Matthew Yglesias, for example, says “Amtrak’s big idea of what to do with extra funding is to create new low‐performing extensions to places with very low demand.”

    I note that they really want to extend commuter rail up to Concord/Manchester (as does our local CongressCritter, Chris Pappas). It's a safe bet that this (and, I assume, the other "New/Enhanced" services on the map) would cost more than advertised, have less ridership than promised, and be a drain on taxpayers for years to come.


  • Joe's Lips Moved, So It's a Safe Bet… Veronique de Rugy exposes the obvious: Biden Said His Tax Hikes Would Only Affect the Rich. He Can’t Keep That Promise. She covers the shift from the campaign's "Joe Biden will not raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000. Period." to "Oops, sorry, we meant any family."

    But not only that:

    Here's another reason why Biden was never going to be able to keep his promise: He already announced his intention to increase the corporate income tax from the current 21 percent to 28 percent. The reality here is that the corporations that he says are going to send bigger checks to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) after the tax hike aren't the ones who actually shoulder this heavier tax burden.

    The best explanation I've seen on this comes from a 2004 quote by economist Stephen Entin, who wrote, "The economic burden of a tax frequently does not rest with the person or business who has the statutory liability for paying the tax to the government." That's because taxes are ultimately only paid by people.

    In this case, the burden of Biden's corporate tax-rate hike will inevitably fall on corporations' workers and shareholders (which includes almost everyone with a retirement plan), many of whom earn much less than $400,000 a year. Workers might not personally be sending more or bigger checks to the IRS, but they will still suffer higher taxation in the form of lower wages, as well as higher prices for consumer goods and services.

    The last word in Vero's column is "bunk." Probably that could go at the end of a lot of columns.


  • Wouldn't Be a Circus Without One. Madeline Osburn of the Federalist reports on the latest antics of one of the 2020 losers. Clown Show: Buttigieg 'Bikes' To Work After SUVs Drive Him Partway.

    If you ever wondered what would happen if that white, upper-class student body president, you know the one who used your student activity fees to pay for bike lanes on campus, were actually in charge of a federal bureaucracy, look no further than our Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

    CNN reporter DJ Judd shared a video that appears to show a team of Secret Service agents unloading Buttigieg’s bike from the back of an SUV, then at least two SUVs following him as he mounts the bike and rides to the White House.

    I'm sure Mayor Secretary Pete has a good excuse for this performative phoniness.


  • Speaking of phoniness, the People's Republic on our state's western border is (as Monty Python once said) not only proud about that, it's also smug about it. Hans Bader at Liberty Unyielding: Vermont limits access to COVID vaccine based on race, which is unconstitutional.

    Vermont is giving racial minorities and their families a preference in access to the COVID-19 vaccine. As the state’s governor explained on Twitter, “If you or anyone in your household identifies as Black, Indigenous, or a person of color (BIPOC), including anyone with Abenaki or other First Nations heritage, all household members who are 16 years or older can sign up to get a vaccine!”

    This is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has ruled that preferences for racial minorities are presumptively unconstitutional, and that even if minority groups have faced “societal discrimination,” that is not a reason to give them a preference. (See Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co. (1989)).

    Fun fact: According to the Census Bureau, Vermont is 94.2% white. Which is even whiter than NH.


  • New Hampshire Public Radio Looks at Vermont, and Says "Hold My Beer." Granite Grok's Steve MacDonald looks at the latest activism-posing-as-journalism from Commie Radio: Is NH's Vaccine Plan Racist?.

    New Hampshire Public Radio has yet another published piece fishing for racial division in a vacuum. But did it suck up NH Senators Shaheen and Hassan and Congresswoman Ann Kuster along the way?

    In a piece titled “Racial Disparities Persist in N.H.’s Vaccine Rollout, According to New Data,” the race pimps at NHPR drag the canal for bodies they can present as proof that the system is rigged against people of color.

    Taken in a vacuum, the data shows that people of color have received fewer doses as a percentage of their demographic representation. Using the same vacuum, this makes Democrats Jeanne Shaheen, Maggi Hassan, and Ann Kuster racists.

    Kuster got her shot in December; the Marx Sisters took the jab in January, and they are all technically members of the vulnerable age group who should have received the vaccine if they want it. But given their access to “affordable health care” why didn’t they take a hard pass so some people of color could have theirs? Talk about a PR win for team race-baiter.

    Hah. "The Marx Sisters". I love that.

    The NHPR article that Steve is going off on is her: Racial Disparities Persist in N.H.'s Vaccine Rollout, According to New Data.

    New Hampshire continues to see persistent racial disparities in its COVID-19 vaccine rollout, according to the latest data from the state health department.

    As of March 28, only about 10 percent of New Hampshire’s Black and Latino residents have received their first dose of the vaccine, compared to about 22 percent of white residents. The coverage rate for Asian American residents falls in between, at about 15 percent.

    There's also a "disparity" by sex, with women more likely to have been vaccinated (27.9% with at least one shot) than men (19.8%).

    That's way down in the article, the last three paragraphs. It doesn't fit NHPR's implicit narrative of "disparites always reveal systemic injustice."

URLs du Jour

2021-04-02

  • Eye Candy du Jour. And on Good Friday, an appropriate religious theme from Michael P. Ramirez: Satan Shoes.

    [Satan Shoes]

    [Amazon Link]
    I have no strong feelings about Lil Nas X. I don't think I've ever listened to "Old Town Road". And I have no idea if this contretemps is related in any way to "Satan's Shoes", on the Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes 2006 album "Messin' With The Blues". (Amazon link at right). The song tells the story of a young loser who takes the devil's footwear offer and has "all kinds of illicit fun". For a while. Final verse:

    Ah, people, now
    We come to the sad part of the story
    They found him face down
    In the mayor's wife's morning glories
    Yeah, he had a good time
    But it didn't last too long
    Now he's somewhere singing
    That old mournful song...

    Here endeth the Lesson.


  • Feds With Too Much Time On Their Hands. At the Federalist, Ilya Shapiro brings equal parts outrage and amusement in reporting the latest: Bureaucrats Keep Legally Harassing The Federalist Over A Twitter Joke.

    In June 2019, around the time staffers at Vox Media unionized, Ben Domenech, the publisher of this website, jokingly tweeted from his personal Twitter account: “FYI @fdrlst first one of you tries to unionize I swear I’ll send you back to the salt mine.”

    And before you could say "you don't need to make a federal case out of this", lo and behold, someone did make a federal case out of this.

    A Twitter troll named Joel Fleming, who has no connection to The Federalist, filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NRLB), claiming Ben’s tweet amounted to a violation of labor law by parent company FDRLST Media: threatening reprisal against those wishing to form a union.

    And the case is still hanging on.

    But if there's a silver lining in this foul-smelling cloud of bad behavior, it's that the Cato Institute has submitted an amicus brief on the Federalist's side. Among the credited authors are P. J. O'Rourke, Penn & Teller. Excerpt:

    This case can be resolved on the basis of one fact: Domenech’s tweet was a joke, not a threat. We know this because Domenech sent it out to more than 80,000 followers—and anyone else who might find it through retweets or other shares. That’s not the typical modus operandi for breaking federal labor law. If Domenech really wanted to punish employees of FDRLST Media, he would have done it in an email—and if he really really wanted to punish them, he would have done it in a proverbial meeting (now via Zoom?) that could have been an email.

    Why, it's almost as if the NLRB can't take a joke. Or understand a joke. Or (probably most likely) see an obvious joke as an opportunity to harass a conservative media outlet.


  • Or, as Biden Would Say, a 'Big F***ing Deal.' Kevin D. Williamson investigates (in an NRPLUS article) Biden’s ‘Infrastructure’ Scam.

    President Joe Biden is proposing a multi-trillion-dollar “infrastructure” plan that actually isn’t all that focused on infrastructure — because bullsh** is the common currency of this realm — and one of the things high on his agenda is subsidizing broadband Internet connections for areas that don’t have them. By industry estimates, about 93 percent of Americans have access to a broadband connection, and those who don’t mostly live in remote and rural areas. There are many more Americans who have access to a broadband connection but choose not to pay for one. The Biden administration complains that high-speed connections are “overpriced,” based on . . . the careful thinking and analysis that one naturally associates with Joe Biden.

    Lack of broadband connections is not, in reality, much of a national problem for the United States, and it is becoming less of a problem every year as Americans gravitate toward the metropolitan areas where the jobs and the capital are, along with the good broadband connections. But this kind of project presses all sorts of New Deal, TVA, rural-electrification buttons in Democrats of Joe Biden’s generation. Hence the slogan, “Broadband is the new electricity.” These are not super-imaginative people.

    KDW notes that bringing wider broadband coverage to (say) Coos county won't do much for the poor and unemployed there; they'll be poor and unemployed with a faster Internet connection. But it will bring the faster speeds to the "affluent, educated professionals" from Boston spending a week in their comfy Coos country homes.


  • Or, as Biden Would (Also) Say, 'So, What's Your Point?' Chris Edwards at Cato notes Biden Proposes Massive Corporate Welfare. To corporations that know how to curry favor, anyway.

    President Biden is introducing an infrastructure plan today costing $2 trillion. The plan is a combination of subsidies for corporations and subsidies for state and local governments. Both types of subsidies are unneeded and wasteful.

    Biden wants $135 billion for highways and bridges, $111 billion for water supply, $100 billion for schools, $85 billion for transit, $25 billion for airports, $17 billion for waterways and seaports, and much else. State and local governments own these assets and can fund them with their own taxes and user fees. There is no economic reason for federal subsidies for any of these assets. Indeed, federal subsidies for state and local infrastructure creates unneeded bureaucracy and misallocates resources. Obama‐era subsidies, for example, induced California to waste billions on a boondoggle high‐speed rail project.

    Even more troubling is Biden’s proposed money gusher for private‐sector infrastructure. He wants $300 billion for manufacturing, $100 billion for broadband, $100 billion for electric utilities, $174 billion for electric vehicles, $180 billion for research, and much else. Much of this spending would subsidize big corporations.

    Other than that, though, it's fine.


  • We All Live In Orwell's World Now. Charles C. W. Cooke suggests Why AOC’s Border Newspeak Should Be Ditched.

    Dimly aware that the border crisis is taking a toll on its popularity, the Democratic Party has finally resolved to do something concrete: It is going to burn the dictionary.

    Wands outstretched and shouting incantations, prominent Democrats have begun to curse our language. In a livestream performed last night, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attempted to change the meaning of the word “surge” in the hope that she might be able to magic away the news from the border. “They wanna say, ‘But what about the surge?’” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Well, first of all, just gut check, stop. Anyone who’s using the term ‘surge’ around you consciously is trying to invoke a militaristic frame.”

    I believe AOC consciously is trying to make my eyes roll clear out of my head. She came close there.


  • And I'm gonna just snip one sentence from this Instapundit post from Stephen Green, recounting another MSM COVID story trying to gin up brow-wrinkling and elevated heartrates among credulous readers.

    Listen, if we’re going to let facts stand in the way of perfectly reasonable panicmongering, then eventually people are going to stop being needlessly afraid.

    To expand on what Lester Holt said the other day ("fairness is over-rated"); the MSM also seems to think accuracy, objectivity, and accountability are over-rated.

URLs du Jour

April Fools' Day 2021

[Amazon Link]

Be careful about your web-reading today, because things might be more dishonest than they are on the other 364 days of the year.

But Google is apparently playing it straight for the second year in a row. Spoilsports.

  • Foolish Times. David Lewis Schaefer writes on Andy Ngo Unmasks the Real Threat to American Freedom. As bad as January 6 was (and it was pretty bad) it wasn't the first effort to undermine the system with mob tactics. It was just done by the Wrong People.

    More recently, a thoroughly anti-constitutional precedent was set by then-minority leader Chuck Schumer only last March, when he led a posse of about 75 members up the steps of the Supreme Court to warn recently appointed justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh that they had “released the whirlwind,” would “pay a price,” and would “not know what hit” them if they voted the “wrong” way on an abortion case. (Schumer’s act won a rare rebuke from the normally reserved Chief Justice Roberts, who denounced Schumer’s comments as “inappropriate” and “dangerous,” stressing, that “all members of the court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter.” In a proto-Trumpian response, Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman explained that his boss’s words didn’t mean what they sounded like, and denied that. Schumer was threatening or encouraging violence.)

    A decade ago, an even more direct and threatening, though ultimately (mostly) nonviolent, challenge to constitutional government was offered by Wisconsin public employee unions who invaded that state’s Capitol to protest and attempt to block Governor Scott Walker’s program of reforming public-employee contracts so as to balance the state budget without raising taxes, and also liberate public school administrations from rigid tenure rules (closely paralleled in school districts throughout the country) that prevented them from hiring teachers based on merit and adjusting their pay based on performance. Walker’s reforms even went so far as to require public employees to contribute to their health-insurance and pension costs—while still paying less for those benefits than the average Wisconsin citizen. (See Walker’s retrospective view of the “Capitol Siege,” with over 100,000 occupying the building and its surrounding square). Although nobody died in the Wisconsin protests, several legislators, both Republicans and Democrats, reported receiving death threats at the time. And one woman who emailed death threats to Republican lawmakers also pleaded guilty to making a bomb threat. Yet it would be difficult to find criticism of either Schumer’s warnings or the Wisconsin unions’ attempt to intimidate their state’s public institutions in most of the “mainstream” media.

    Our foolish times are made even more foolish by the asymmetrical treatment of issues by the media.


  • WHO's Foolin' Who? The NR editors give reason for skepticism, and cynicism: WHO Investigation into COVID-19 Origins Compromised.

    The World Health Organization’s investigation into the origins of COVID is an international scandal. The global health body has released a joint report with the Chinese government on its findings about the disease, following a WHO mission to China in February, and it only confirms the grave doubts harbored by outside observers regarding the panel’s impartiality.

    The 17 WHO-appointed investigators and 17 Chinese experts who authored the study dismiss out of hand as “extremely unlikely” the lab theory of COVID’s origin — the idea, specifically, that it leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is the highest-level-security lab in China (biosafety level four) and one known to have experimented with coronaviruses carried by bats. They instead assert that the virus most likely reached humans either directly from bats or from bats via other small mammals.

    The truth is that each of these theories is just that — a theory, unsupported yet by direct, material evidence. But the lab theory can’t be blithely dismissed, even though, incredibly enough, the WHO study treats more seriously a debunked theory pushed by the Chinese government stating that the disease originated in China when it arrived on foreign frozen-food packaging.

    You believed WHO? You fool, you.


  • Foolish Wastefulness. Eric Boehm previews the coming catastrophe: It’s Infrastructure Week. Really..

    Citing congressional sources briefed on the plan Tuesday, The New York Times reports that Biden will propose $625 billion in federal spending on traditional infrastructure items like roads, bridges, mass transit, railroads, and ports. Additional spending will be earmarked for upgrading utilities, improving power grids, and expanding rural broadband internet service. There will also be funding for some items that seem to have little to do with infrastructure, including $400 billion for "home care for the elderly and disabled," $300 billion to "revive U.S. manufacturing," and another $300 billion to provide for more affordable housing, according to The Washington Post.

    The infrastructure package will also be tied to the White House's plans for tackling climate change, including the goal of putting America on course for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. To that end, Biden will reportedly propose electrifying the entire federal government vehicle fleet.

    To pay for all this, the White House will propose raising the corporate income tax from 21 percent to 28 percent. That would generate an estimated $2.1 trillion over 10 years, but it would also reduce America's future economic growth and likely cost hundreds of thousands of jobs. When you include state-level corporate income taxes, a federal rate of 28 percent would mean American businesses would incur the highest tax rates in the developed world.

    And of course, Biden's obsession with choo-choo trains will drop (by which I mean: waste) billions on Amtrak and commuter rail.


  • Pure Foolishness. Alan Jacobs has a good, brief comparison that's not as unlikely as it sounds: Left Purity Culture.

    Like many other people, I’m not happy with the terms “woke” and “wokeness,” but I haven’t been sure what a good alternative is. Then, just the other day, as I was reading a few of the thousands of op-eds that have recently been written about Christian “purity culture,” I realized that what people typically call “woke” culture is really a different sort of purity culture, one for the secular left. Just as the messages of Christian purity culture are that you must be eternally vigilant in maintaining your purity; you must sign up to pledges of purity; you must denounce those who are impure; if you lose your purity you can never get it back, your defilement marks you forever; so — well, the parallels make themselves, don’t they. So instead of “wokeness” I will from now on refer to Left Purity Culture (LPC). I’ve altered the relevant tags for this blog accordingly. 

    It makes a lot of sense. Only downside is that few people are acquainted with Christian purity culture, so applying it to the left doesn't sting as much as it should.


  • And, Finally, Foolish Fairness. The Daily Wire caught Lester Holt saying something truly foolish. NBC News Anchor: ‘Fairness Is Overrated’.

    NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt says “fairness is overrated” and the news media no longer needs to present both sides of a given story.

    Holt, who was this week awarded the Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism from Washington State University, waxed poetic on the news media, at one point declaring that “it’s become clearer that fairness is over-rated.”

    “Before you run off and tweet that headline, let me explain a bit,” he said. “The idea that we should always give two sides equal weight and merit does not reflect the world we find ourselves in. That the sun sets in the west is a fact. Any contrary view does not deserve our time or attention.”

    I'm pretty sure if NBC News told me the sun sets in the west, I'd want to see some independent verification. Just picking at random, here's an example of NBC News "facts": Chuck Todd: The Michigan Supreme Court Did Not “Cite Any Law” In Ruling Whitmer’s Actions Unconstitutional

This Is How You Lose the Time War

[Amazon Link]

Well, gee. Nuts. Yet another "wish I liked it better" book. Yet another "it's probably me, not the book" book. Because it won both Hugo and Nebula Awards for "best novella". (See the Amazon page for other encomia.) And (in theory, even better) it won a rave from Katherine Mangu-Ward on a Reason podcast back in 2019.

And I didn't care for it at all. Couldn't get interested in the characters or their stupid problems. Didn't like the obfuscatory "look. ma, I'm writing" prose.

But here is (as far as I understand it) the story: it's the story of two shape-shifting time-travelers, agents "Red" and "Blue", who are trying to alter the various time strands so their side winds up to dominate the eventual future. This involves a lot of gory slaughter. Red and Blue leave cleverly hidden notes to each other as their paths through spacetime cross. At first, they are taunting. Then admiring. And eventually, they fall head over heels in love.

They both use "she/her" pronouns for themselves, so it would be easy to call this yet another lesbian sci-fi story. (It would be my third recent one in a row; apparently it's a required theme to get attention of influential critics?) But that's problematic, because it's not clear that Red and Blue are even human. (I didn't get a handle on that.)

To repeat: you could very well like this book very much. But I think I'm going back to the old reliables for the foreseeable future: Heinlein, Herbert, Stephenson.