URLs du Jour

2021-08-12

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  • In fact, it's a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of two mockeries of a sham. It got fawning news coverage, because "bipartisan", but as Peter Suderman points out: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Is a Sham.

    The $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill is a sham. Not only that, it's a sham that sets up a much bigger round of explicitly partisan spending later in the year.

    In a climactic vote this afternoon, 19 Senate Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.), signed onto the bill, which calls for $550 billion in new spending as part of more than $1 trillion in funding for roads, bridges, waterways, and broadband. The bill also includes essential infrastructure provisions like, er, requiring unproven new drunk-driving-prevention technology on cars, a vaping ban on Amtrak, and new reporting requirements for cryptocurrency.

    The Republicans repeatedly claimed that the spending would be fully paid for, despite plenty of reasons to suspect that it won't be. As Reason's Eric Boehm reported, the Congressional Budget Office, Congress' nonpartisan scorekeeper, estimates that the bill would add at least $256 billion to the deficit, and probably more like $400 billion. Nineteen Republicans voted for it anyway.

    [Don't recognize the reference above? Here you go. Yes, he was funny, fifty years ago.]


  • Monsieur Bastiat, please pick up the nearest white courtesy telephone. Agustin Forzani, who wins Pun Salad's coveted Cool Name du Jour Award, also weighs in on The Seen and the Unseen in the Infrastructure Plans.

    The general understanding on Capitol Hill is that America requires a massive infrastructure overhaul, as was shown on Tuesday by the approval of the $1 trillion bipartisan proposal in the Senate. Most lawmakers favored increasing public spending on infrastructure. However, neither Democrats nor Republicans seemed to recognize that these types of government plans come with extra costs beyond the proposed expenditure. As Henry Hazlitt would have said, it is not only the “seen” effects of proposals such as these that matter, but their “unseen” direct and indirect effects.

    Consider the $110 billion allocated to rebuild roads, highways, and bridges in the bipartisan infrastructure framework. That money could have been spent elsewhere if taxpayers had been allowed to hang onto it. Such a reduction in their consumption, in turn, will entail fewer cars, TVs, computers, clothes, food, and services bought, and thus manufactured or provided. And that, in its turn, will mean less private-sector investment, quite a bit of which would be located in this country.

    That’s not to deny there will be indirect benefits from the investment in public-sector infrastructure, but, as a rule, the private sector spends, whether for consumption or investment, more wisely than the state. People will see the bridges, highways, and roads built, but they will not see all the goods and services that will never be produced — a cost that is rarely factored into the calculation of whether that spending was worth it.

    This doesn't even consider the fact that when Uncle Stupid is dropping trillions from his Magic Stimulus Helicopter, there will be plenty of well-connected "activists" with large buckets to grab the cash before it trickles down to the ground.


  • Biden hates the Constitution. Geez, before I took off for Colorado, this was a thing. Jacob Sullum notes that it's still a thing: The Biden Administration Is Pushing Social Media Platforms To Expand Their Definition of Intolerable COVID-19 ‘Misinformation’.

    A New York Times story about the "rift" between Facebook and the Biden administration regarding COVID-19 "misinformation" illustrates the fuzziness of that category and the perils of suppressing it at the government's behest. While administration officials often claim they are just encouraging the social media platform to enforce its own rules, their idea of misinformation is not necessarily the same as Facebook's, and that cleavage shows that the government is imposing online censorship by proxy, pushing to expand the definition of intolerable speech.

    "We've engaged with Facebook since the transition on this issue," White House spokesman Mike Gwin tells the Times, "and we've made clear to them when they haven't lived up to our, or their own, standards and have actively elevated content on their platforms that misleads the American people." Since the Biden administration has the power to make life difficult for social media companies by pursuing litigation, writing regulations, and supporting new legislation, Facebook et al. have a strong incentive to follow the government's "standards" rather than its own.

    That's a good term to keep in mind: censorship by proxy. And the "Democracy Dies in Darkness" crowd is all too willing to give that tactics a thumbs-up.


  • Good question. Phillip W. Magness and Ethan Yang wonder: Who Fact Checks the Fact Checkers?.

    The advent of fact-checker journalism may be wearing out its welcome. Perhaps the increasing politicization of American life is a contributor to the downward spiral of the fact-checking profession that is primarily run by politically engaged reporters, not expert specialists in the subjects they assess by any sense of the imagination. Not that any one group of experts should have the authority over the truth either. Self-appointed media gatekeepers are a ticking time bomb of political censorship, waiting to be unleashed when the temptations are too great and the necessity for impartiality is even greater. With White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki calling for collusion between social media companies and the government to censor “misinformation”, this threat seems to be as close as ever.

    Although fact checkers purport to be independent guardians of accountability, recent events have exposed them as mere enforcers of fashionable political positions. This brings us to a relatively new, but powerful company known as NewsGuard, which claims a partnership with Microsoft and gleaming spotlights in major outlets. Its staff and board boast powerful connections to the government, finance, and the media. According to an Op-ed in Politico written by NewsGuards’ CEO, rather than simply being a fact-checking company that can only debunk stories after they go viral, NewsGuard rates entire websites’ trustworthiness. This new strategy is aimed at discrediting the very source that alleged misinformation or disinformation may come from. NewsGuard publishes lengthy “nutritional labels,” rating websites on various criteria of journalistic importance and outlining its reasons for giving certain ratings. Perhaps one day, these ratings may be used to filter out certain websites, which is what NewsGuard’s CEO alludes to by citing the great political scientist Francis Fukuyama’s article in Foreign Affairs.

    Fact-checkers (at least some of them) seem to see themselves as on some sort of holy crusade to guard the citizenry against Bad Screen Pixels. Their power has gone to their heads. Worse, they (again, at least some of them) seem blind to their own doubles standards and cognitive bias.

    On the other hand, I checked out Newsguard at the implicit request of Magness/Yang. Their most recent Misinformation Monitor: July 2021 concludes what I concluded back in April: Gateway Pundit is Garbage. Whatever Newsguard's other faults, they got that right.


  • An inconvenient truth about… When the Oath of Office Becomes Inconvenient from Jonah Goldberg. He runs through the latest oath-flouting from Biden, in the historical context of Trump, Obama, Dubya,…

    This is no way to run a constitutional republic.

    The president takes an oath to “faithfully execute” the laws and to “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution. Biden, Bush and Obama, by their own admission, believed their actions ran afoul of the law and/or the Constitution. But politically, it was easier to pass the trash to the Supreme Court so the court could take the political heat.

    You can be sure that when the court invalidates this new moratorium, Democrats—and probably some Republicans who’ve kept their heads down through all of this—will feign outrage at the court’s “callousness.”

    But we should all be outraged by the cowardice of elected politicians who find their jobs too difficult to do within the bounds of their oaths.

    Key phase in that last paragraph: "we should all be outraged". But "we" aren't. Which is, at base, the problem. Why should Biden be worried about keeping his oath when the citizenry, outside of a few extremist nutballs like me, are unconcerned about it?