URLs du Jour


Happy May Day, all. Feel free to ignore the commies who might wish you a joyous International Workers' Day.

  • Privacy Advocates Strangely Silent. If you're worried how much Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. know about you, please be aware that Uncle Stupid knows more, and wants to know even more. Eric Boehm at Reason: Biden’s ‘American Families Plan’ Sends the IRS To Snoop on Bank Transactions, Venmo Accounts.

    To pay for a glut of new federal spending, President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced plans to hike taxes on businesses and wealthy Americans—and to sic the federal tax cops on everyone.

    Biden's American Families Plan calls for spending $80 billion on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to increase tax compliance in the hopes of generating $700 billion over the next 10 years to partially offset the plan's $1.8 trillion price tag. The $700 billion that will supposedly come from stepped-up tax enforcement will be the largest single funding source for the American Families Plan—the revenue from tax enforcement is six times larger than what will be produced by raising the top income tax rate back to 39.6 percent.

    Eric links to an Americans for Tax Reform article: Obama IRS Chief Thinks Biden IRS Funding is Excessive. That's John Koskinen, who was in the IRS saddle 2013-2017. And maybe he learned that throwing money at an incompetent bureaucracy isn't a good way to improve results.

    That's a lesson Biden will never learn at this stage of his life.

  • Systemic Racism, Now With Menthol. Charles C. W. Cooke (NRPLUS) considers Biden’s Toxic Menthol Ban.

    Making yet another mockery of the Constitution’s insistence that the federal government’s powers remain “few and defined,” President Biden has announced that he intends to effect a national ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes. There is nothing left in America, it seems, that can escape the executive’s whim.

    The Washington Post notes that the Biden administration is specifically targeting menthols because “African Americans have been disproportionately harmed” by them — which, once you strip out the jargon, is simply another way of saying that the Biden administration is targeting menthols because African Americans disproportionately like menthols. It can be tough nowadays to keep up with what is racist and what is not, but I’ll happily admit that I didn’t have “ban something black people like because they like it too much” on my Anti-Racist Bingo card. Time for me to say three Hail Kendis and two Our Joneses, and re-read the Revelation chapters in Robin DiAngelo’s book.

    I assume the IRS will be checking PayPal accounts for transactions indicating purchases of officially disapproved cigarette flavors. They'll need an extra billion or two for that.

  • Something To Bookmark. James Lindsay has a useful summary on Critical Race Theory: A Two-page Overview. Sample:

    Critical Race Theorists describe Critical Race Theory as a movement (which is strange for a theory of society) designed to reinvent the relationships between race, racism, and power in society. To do this, they begin with the assumption that race is socially constructed and racism is systemic. This means that  they view racial categories as social and political fictions that have been imposed by white people on people of color, especially blacks, and that the “system” upon which all of society operates on every level unjustly produces “racist” outcomes that favor whites (and minority races that adhere to “whiteness”) at the expense of people of color, especially Latinos and, even more especially, blacks. Because racism is a property of the system, which includes everything from policy to behavioral norms to manners of speech to what we consider true, racism persists even if no individual or institution acts in a racist way or holds any racist beliefs. It is the way society operates that is racist, as can be determined by the fact that there are statistical differences in average outcomes by racial category.

    Much more at the link. You'll notice an overall sense of epistemic closure in Critical Race Theory.

  • Not To Mention Epistemic Arrogance. Greg Lukianoff has been thinking about how to deal with the new Red Guards sent to proselytize among the young'uns: 10 Principles for Opposing Thought Reform in K-12. Here's one:

    Principle 3: Teachers & administrators must demonstrate epistemic humility.

    “No field of education is so thoroughly comprehended by man that new discoveries cannot yet be made. Particularly is that true in the social sciences, where few, if any, principles are accepted as absolutes…. Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise our civilization will stagnate and die.” Sweezy v. New Hampshire (1957) (Warren, C.J.) (emphasis added). This was true in 1957, and there is no reason to think that we have anything close to perfect knowledge in 2021.

    Heavy-handed ideological programs always show epistemic arrogance. To believe that students must be inculcated with specific political or ideological beliefs is to assume the infallibility of those beliefs and the omniscience of the instructors or the curriculum designers. This is not the way we educate people to become critical thinkers. Our collective knowledge is incomplete, no ideology has a monopoly on truth, and to tell young people otherwise leaves them ill-equipped to live in a society in which questions are always open, debates are always to be had, and new discoveries are always to be made.

    I liked the reference to Sweezy; he was a Marxist in trouble for refusing to answer questions about lectures he gave to the kiddos at the University Near Here back in the 1950s.

    But speaking of "epistemic humility", please note the open letter from UNH Lecturers United (to which I keep returning), which claims that classroom questioning of their "Anti-Fascist" ideology is akin to arguing "that the Earth is flat or only 2000 years old in a Geology class".

    Yeah, I think that counts as an example of epistemic arrogance.

  • But For A Different Delusion, Kevin D. Williamson describes how COVID Conspiracy Theories Part of Long American Tradition. It's long, rambling, and funny, and (best of all) it's not NRPLUS. Sample:

    The other day, I fell into one of those crazy Internet rabbit holes, in this case involving amateur day-traders who believe that the Fibonacci sequence gives them insight into the movement of stock prices. It’s pure digital bumf, of course, but one analysis found that there are more Fibonacci-aligned turning points in some highly speculative stocks than you would expect — almost certainly because the trade in the stocks in question is largely dominated by idiot day-traders all applying the same Fibonacci model. It’s like the prankers in Foucault’s Pendulum who create a conspiracy theory to amuse themselves (and make a little money) and, in doing so, accidentally bring a real-world conspiracy into existence.

    I was reading up on this because I was thinking about an Uber driver I had some time ago who was engaged, at every red light and sometimes while zooming through traffic, with something on his phone. I assumed he was texting with a friend, or maybe using a dating app. (I’d be even more likely to guess “dating app” today: Condom sales have been skyrocketing as Americans abandon social distancing in the most primal way.) But that wasn’t it at all — he was engaged in foreign-exchange trading. On his phone. While driving me to the airport.

    It wasn’t even a good phone.

    Read on for KDW's description (in contrast) Goldman Sach's "system": "an array of forex-trading offices around the world, staffed 24 hours a day by Ukrainian math Ph.D.s who have been doing nothing but think about forex trading since they were in the third grade and who are not driving for Uber in their off hours."

    The stupidest financial decision I ever made: opening up a Swiss banking account on Harry Browne's advice.

    The smartest financial decision I ever made: realizing how stupid about investing I was and tossing the keys to Fidelity.

  • Democrats With Open Eyes. All Thirty Of Them? Jim Geraghty writes his Morning Jolt headline: Ex-Obama Adviser Delivers Eye-Opening Warning to Democrats. But I'll skip down a bit:

    Apparently, President Biden intends to keep wearing his mask for the foreseeable future, even when interacting with other vaccinated people, “because the likelihood of my being able to be outside and people not come up to me is not very high. . . . If we were, in fact, sitting there talking to one another close, I’d have my mask on . . . even though we’ve both been vaccinated.”

    This stance makes no sense and inadvertently communicates to the public that vaccination does not change the risk of catching COVID-19 or suffering ill effects, which is hot garbage.

    As many of us suspected, Biden’s “Just 100 days to mask, not forever. One hundred days,” comment shortly before inauguration was meaningless.

    I don't see a lot of Big Media pointing out this broken promise either.