URLs du Jour

2021-09-30

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  • cc: presidents.office@unh.edu Bryan Caplan has tenure at George Mason, fortunately. Because he writes stuff like this. Teaching Paranoia: An Open Letter to Every University President.

    We all know that higher education falls far short of its promise. I’ve spent a large part of my twenty five years as a research professor documenting the shortcomings of our system. Perhaps you’re even familiar with my The Case Against Education (Princeton University Press, 2018). In recent years, however, we’ve begun failing our students in new and improved ways. In the past, we failed to transform our students into thoughtful and knowledgeable adults, but at least most of them had a great four-year party (or often a five- or six-year party). Now we’re making the college experience itself actively dehumanizing.

    This is most obvious when we look at our forever war on Covid. Virtually every college in America has a vaccine mandate – a wise move, in my view. Yet instead of using these amazing vaccines to return to normalcy, virtually every college in America continues to aggressively “fight Covid.” Our policies would have been unthinkable two years ago: Indoor mask mandates. 50% seating in dining halls. Excluding guests from live performances. Social distancing. All combined with sporadic yet self-righteous enforcement.

    These policies aren’t merely “inconvenient.” They are dehumanizing. Showing other people how we feel – and seeing how they feel in turn – is a basic part of being a human being. A basic part of making friends. A basic part of connecting with a community. True, most students in the Covid era continue to make friends – and even smile on occasion. As Jurassic Park teaches us, “Life finds a way.” But this is still a stunted and twisted way for young people to live.

    OK, one more gem of a paragraph:

    We have a word for extreme fear of ultra-low risks.  The word is “paranoia.”  Paranoia is what you are teaching students.  The good news is that, based on past educational experience, most students will eventually forget the lesson.   Yet in the meanwhile, you are sickening many students with childish anxieties.

    Let me make it explicit, especially if you (are|were|will be) associated with an institution of higher education: read the whole thing.


  • Thought experiment: what if Jack Ruby had stayed home on November 24, 1963? Kevin D. Williamson (in his Tuesday column) looks at Lessons of the Assassins.

    It has been a while since the last assassination, or near-assassination, of a major political figure made headlines in the United States. But we have some assassins and would-be assassins in the news. One of them is 77-year-old Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian who is serving a life sentence in California, having been incarcerated since 1968, when he assassinated Robert F. Kennedy in retaliation for his support of Israel.

    Sirhan is up for parole, having been declared a “suitable” candidate with the support of both Douglas Kennedy and his crackpot brother, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Other members of the family and many in law enforcement oppose releasing Sirhan on any grounds. If he is paroled, he should be put on the first plane to the Palestinian statelet to live out his days there. Forgiveness is difficult, but forgetting would be somewhat easier with him 7,600 miles away. If the experience of terrorists paroled from Israel prisons is any indicator, he’ll be petitioning to remain under the loving care of his imperialist oppressors, where the standard of living is considerably higher.

    A similar figure of more recent infamy is now entirely at large: On Monday, a federal judge approved the unconditional release of 66-year-old John Hinckley Jr., who shot President Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981.

    Hinckley was, thankfully, a terrible shot with a relatively low-powered weapon, a .22-caliber revolver. (Sirhan Sirhan had used a .22 revolver to kill Robert Kennedy — it is a humble weapon, but still a deadly one.) Hinckley fired six shots and missed Reagan with all six. But, even so, the damage was considerable: Reagan was struck and nearly killed by a ricochet; press secretary James Brady was shot in the head, suffering a wound that left him with a permanent disability and brain damage that ultimately killed him; Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy caught a bullet in the chest that damaged a lung and his liver; D.C. police officer Thomas Delahanty was shot in the neck, suffering damage to his spinal cord that forced him into retirement.

    As KDW relates, it was a dangerous few decades for political/religious leaders back then. Interesting observations throughout.


  • He should not have slept through those Constitutional Law classes. I liked Hillbilly Elegy quite a bit, but I hope Ohio voters consider this a dealbreaker. Elizabeth Nolan Brown reports: J.D. Vance Says Government Should Seize Assets of Political Nonprofits.

    This week in the Republican-descent-into-batshit-authoritarianism beat: U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance tells Fox News host Tucker Carlson that the federal government should seize money from nonprofit organizations and redistribute their wealth.

    The proximate cause of these brain farts is the fact that a fellow with the Ford Foundation—a nonprofit organization dedicated to social justice—got into an argument with some of her fellow students at Arizona State University over a "Police Lives Matter" sticker. For daring to associate with someone who would commit this heinous transgression, Vance suggests that the Ford Foundation should have their assets seized and redistributed.

    "Why don't we seize the assets of the Ford Foundation, tax their assets, and give it to the people who've had their lives destroyed by their radical open borders agenda?" Vance asked on Carlson's show last night.

    In the past, conservatives and libertarians have freaked out—with very good reason—at the idea of the IRS or any other government agency targeting tax-exempt groups based on these groups' beliefs. To have charities, think tanks, grant-making foundations, activist groups, and other nonprofit organizations subject to the whims and will of each passing political administration would be antithetical to free speech, free markets, and the civil liberties of these groups and their donors.

    How anti-liberty can Ohio GOP voters be? I guess we'll find out.


  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] And also for your khakis. I made a rare purchase request of the Portsmouth Public Library for Kathryn Paige Harden's new book, The Genetic Lottery (Amazon link at right), suepecting that it would be out of my usual ideological comfort zone, and that was confirmed by Damien Morris's review at Quillette: The Culture War is Coming for Your Genes.

    In the opening pages of The Genetic Lottery, Dr Kathryn Paige Harden sets out her mission: “What I am aiming to do in this book is re-envision the relationship between genetic science and equality. … I will argue that the science of individual differences is compatible with full-throated egalitarianism.” In this respect, Harden’s book bears a striking resemblance to last year’s The Cult of Smart, in which Freddie deBoer argued that “Hereditarianism [is] the best hope of a twenty-first century left” and proposed that recognising genetically based differences in academic ability was “simply taking left-wing thought to its logical conclusion.” The critical difference is that Harden is a tenured professor in the genetics of human behaviour and she is lending the full weight of her scientific credentials to this moral and political crusade. This makes The Genetic Lottery a dangerous book that threatens to make our genetic advantages and disadvantages a new front in the culture wars.

    PPL has promised to hold this "dangerous" book for me once it's been "processed", so keep an eye on my book page.

URLs du Jour

2021-09-29

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  • IRS wants to be your friendly financial panopticon. Kidding about the "friendly". Daniel J. Pilla explains something that should be shouted from the rooftops about Biden's tax plan: It Calls for Indiscriminate Spying. You know that bit about how "we" (i.e., Uncle Stupid) were losing money due to tax evasion by those nasty "millionaires and billionaires"? Well…

    The Treasury Department recently released its “General Explanations of the Administration’s FY 2022 Revenue Proposals.” This is the so-called Treasury “Green Book.” Dated May 2021, the Green Book explains exactly how various elements of the Biden administration’s tax plan will operate.

    In addition to the tax increases that have been discussed at length, the administration would set up a comprehensive financial spying operation that would impact every American. The proposal is to establish a “comprehensive financial account information reporting regime.” The purpose is to track activities in all financial accounts and report them to the federal government. The law would require an annual report to the government showing “gross inflows and outflows with a breakdown for physical cash, transactions with a foreign account, and transfers to and from another account with the same owner.”

    To say that this is a system of “comprehensive” spying is not hyperbole. The Green Book states:

    This requirement would apply to all business and personal accounts from financial institutions, including bank, loan, and investment accounts, with the exception of accounts below a low de minimis gross flow threshold of $600 or fair market value of $600.

    Sure, that's where the malefactors of great wealth stash their filthy lucre: in $600 bank accounts.


  • In our "Watch what they do, not what they say" Department: Eric Boehm notes the Dems’ Plan To ‘Tax the Rich’ Might Include a Huge Tax Break for the Rich.

    Before Democrats in Congress can pass a massive spending plan that comes with huge tax increases aimed largely at wealthier Americans, they might have to approve a huge tax break that would almost exclusively benefit the wealthiest Americans.

    One of the major stumbling blocks for Democrats as they try to push President Joe Biden's $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill through Congress is the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, which was capped at $10,000 as part of the 2017 tax reforms. Lifting that cap, or repealing it entirely, has been a major priority for members of Congress who represent wealthy districts in high-tax states, and some Democrats are threatening to withhold their support for Biden's Build Back Better plan unless it addresses the so-called "SALT cap."

    The rhetoric being used to justify repealing the SALT cap is some of the most disingenuous that you'll hear from lawmakers debating tax policy—and that's saying something.

    I really hope all the Congresscritters threatening to sink the bills (both bills) do so. Unfortunately, I'm used to lying untrustworthy pols.


  • I'm sure there's a good reason. Like "We have to keep our phony baloney jobs, gentlemen!" Jeffrey A. Singer (appropriately) asks the musical question: Why Does The DEA Wait Until Today To Issue A Public Warning About Counterfeit Prescription Pain Pills?

    Today [actually Monday 9/27] the Drug Enforcement Administration released a Public Safety Alert warning the public about “the alarming increase in the lethality and availability of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine.”

    International and domestic criminal drug networks are mass‐producing fake pills, falsely marketing them as legitimate prescription pills, and killing unsuspecting Americans. These counterfeit pills are easy to purchase, widely available, and often contain deadly doses of fentanyl. Pills purchased outside of a licensed pharmacy are illegal, dangerous, and potentially lethal. This alert does not apply to legitimate pharmaceutical medications prescribed by medical professionals and dispensed by pharmacists.

    A press release accompanying the Alert, stated fentanyl and methamphetamine are primarily made in labs south of the border with China supplying the chemicals to make fentanyl and its analogs. Drug dealers and cartels use pill presses to convert the products into counterfeit prescription opioids pills, as well as counterfeit Adderall (amphetamine mixed with dextroamphetamine) and Xanax (a benzodiazepine tranquilizer).

    Our local TV news "reported" the DEA warning so vaguely that I wasn't sure if I was supposed to worry about my blood pressure meds. I wasn't, apparently. But I'm sure a lot of folks were even more confused than I.

    Of course (as Singer points out) this is old news. And it demonstrates once again (a) that the War on Drugs was a tragic failure that ends and ruins lives; (b) the opioid overdose crisis isn't/wasn't caused by doctor-prescribed opioids.


  • In other news, fish "overlook" the water they swim in. Sally Satel has an important and interesting article at the Atlantic: How Experts Overlooked Left-Wing Authoritarianism.

    Donald Trump’s rise to power generated a flood of media coverage and academic research on authoritarianism—or at least the kind of authoritarianism that exists on the political right. Over the past several years, some researchers have theorized that Trump couldn’t have won in 2016 without support from Americans who deplore political compromise and want leaders to rule with a strong hand. Although right-wing authoritarianism is well documented, social psychologists do not all agree that a leftist version even exists. In February 2020, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology held a symposium called “Is Left-Wing Authoritarianism Real? Evidence on Both Sides of the Debate.”

    An ambitious new study on the subject by the Emory University researcher Thomas H. Costello and five colleagues should settle the question. It proposes a rigorous new measure of antidemocratic attitudes on the left. And, by drawing on a survey of 7,258 adults, Costello’s team firmly establishes that such attitudes exist on both sides of the American electorate. […] Intriguingly, the researchers found some common traits between left-wing and right-wing authoritarians, including a “preference for social uniformity, prejudice towards different others, willingness to wield group authority to coerce behavior, cognitive rigidity, aggression and punitiveness towards perceived enemies, outsized concern for hierarchy, and moral absolutism.”

    This should not surprise anyone who looks at current arguments and proposals with an open mind.


  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Book rec. An excerpt from Steven Pinker's new book at Quillette: Be Rational. See what you think. I pre-ordered the Kindle version long ago. Here's his take on a recurring Pun Salad theme:

    Instead of feeling any need to persuade, people who are certain they are correct can impose their beliefs by force. In theocracies and autocracies, authorities censor, imprison, exile, or burn those with the wrong opinions. In democracies the force is less brutish, but people still find means to impose a belief rather than argue for it. Modern universities—oddly enough, given that their mission is to evaluate ideas—have been at the forefront of finding ways to suppress opinions, including disinviting and drowning out speakers, removing controversial teachers from the classroom, revoking offers of jobs and support, expunging contentious articles from archives, and classifying differences of opinion as punishable harassment and discrimination. They respond as Ring Lardner recalled his father doing when the writer was a boy: “‘Shut up,’ he explained.”

    Bingo. An enthusiastic recommendation for the book, and I haven't even read it yet.

Gulp

Adventures on the Alimentary Canal

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Goodreads claims that the Washington Post has deemed the author, Mary Roach, to be "America's funniest science writer." As far as I know, that's accurate. Probably the funniest science writer in the world, unless there's some unexpected humor in Uttar Pradesh of which I'm unaware. Especially now since Jonathan P. Dowling has passed away.

Sometimes when reading "out there" pop-science books, I imagine the author commenting: Did I just blow your mind, reader? Here, I imagined Ms. Roach saying things like Did I just gross you out? or even Did you just toss your cookies? She doesn't shy away from the gross, the disgusting, the icky. It's science! (And sometimes, even better, quackery.)

As the name implies, it's a trip down your digestive tract, starting at the top, proceeding to the you-know-what. But she's the opposite of methodical; she talks about what interests her, and if you want a detailed discussion of intestinal villi or taste buds, you'll want to go to some more boring books. (They might be listed in this book's extensive bibliography, I haven't checked.)

So roughly, we have explorations of flavor sensing (diverting into the secrets of pet food); our arbitrary rules governing which animal organs/parts are just too nasty to consume; Fletcherism (chew your food, roughly forever). Perhaps more than you wanted to know about coprophagia (a highfalutin word about a lofalutin practice) in beast and man. Sometimes recycling advocates go too far.

If you eat something living, how long does it survive? Can it chew its way out? Can you eat yourself to death? What's the straight scoop on smuggling illicit items, er, down there? Fecal transplants, anyone?

And finally, Ms. Roach's discussion of Elvis's colon shows no reverence whatsoever to the King.

All presented with broad, wicked humor and (otherwise) fine, accessible writing. This book won't turn you into a gastroenterologist, but you'll have a good time.


Last Modified 2021-09-29 10:34 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-09-28

  • Mr. Ramirez muses on how Joe and Nancy see Other people’s money. Specifically, they see it as "really" theirs to demand on whim.

    [Breathtakingly Bad]


  • In our "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means" Department… David Harsanyi notes linguistic drift in a major political party: The one that says Tax Cuts 'Cost' Us, But A $3.5 Trillion Bill Is Free.

    On Friday, Phil Klein did an excellent job debunking Joe Biden’s contention that a $3.5 trillion welfare-state expansion bill will “cost nothing.” Over the weekend, this nonsensical characterization of the widest-ranging and most expensive spending bill in American history metastasized among the liberal punditocracy.

    Liberal pundits contend that the $3.5 trillion welfare-state expansion “costs perhaps zero” because it is “paid for.” Even if we concede that the reconciliation bill contains the kind of tax hikes that can offset short-term outlays, the expenditure does not change. Simply because you can afford a car (or in this case, your parents can afford to buy you one) doesn’t mean the car doesn’t cost anything. Helpful liberals tried to frame the difference in “gross” and “net” costs. But every penny of the bill is money taken from someone, either today or tomorrow — usually from a more useful part of the economy. (Or, likely, it will be lots more debt spending. That isn’t “zero,” either, even if our political parties act like it.)

    As I seem to be asking a lot these days: What's worse? That these people are lying intentionally, or they really believe what they're saying?


  • Unfortunately, the rides ain't free. Gerard Baker explores Joe Biden’s Economic Fantasy World at the WSJ:

    ‘Every element of my economic plan is overwhelmingly popular,” President Biden said last week. “But the problem is, with everything happening, not everybody knows what’s in that plan.” This is an eye-opening observation, to put it mildly.

    First, notice how much work the prase with everything happening does—a breezy parenthetical euphemism presumably for the roll call of mayhem this highly experienced and competent president is now delivering: humiliation in Afghanistan, chaos at the border, a sharp escalation in the pandemic, confusion and misdirection over vaccine mandates, a stalling economic recovery.

    It is as though Mrs. Lincoln had said of that fateful 1865 Ford’s Theatre production of “Our American Cousin,” “It was a very good play, but the problem is, with everything happening, not everybody knows what was in it.”

    Then there’s the curious but potentially revealing juxtaposition of the claim that Mr. Biden’s plan is overwhelmingly popular with the claim that there is widespread ignorance about it. I’ll leave you to guess what might have been the response from a scornful media if Donald Trump had said something like this, but logically it does suggest the strong possibility that the reason the plan might be popular, as Mr. Biden claims, is precisely because people don’t know what’s in it.

    Certainly, our local TV news folks (the only TV news I watch) aren't very diligent about describing the plan critically.


  • But, as always, we come back to Orwell. At City Journal, Tim Rice notes the real battle we're in: The Linguistic Equivalent of War.

    A day before an ISIS attack killed 13 Marines in Kabul, President Joe Biden declared cybersecurity “the core national security challenge we are facing.” Cybersecurity is critical. But with the Taliban retaking Afghanistan after being routed by the U.S. military two decades ago, calling it the “core” national security challenge of our time was bizarre. Still, Biden’s August comments were an improvement from June, when the president declared climate change the greatest threat to American security.

    You would think that the commander in chief responsible for one of the biggest foreign policy blunders in decades would choose his words more carefully. But that’s not how his party tends to operate these days. George Orwell warned of the dangers of imprecise political speech in his seminal essay “Politics and the English Language.” The problem, in Orwell’s telling, is that “political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible.” Political speakers reach for muddled, vague language to sell the public on their indefensible policies. This is bad enough, but it presents a broader issue because “if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”

    Orwell’s diagnosis is as true in America today as it was when he wrote those words 75 years ago. And while both political parties are guilty of indulging in bad rhetoric that corrupts policy, Democrats are the more frequent and more serious offenders, largely because linguistic manipulation is central to so many progressive political ideas.

    See, for example, "asking the rich to pay their fair share."


  • As a geezer, I plan on it. I don't like to be told. Robby Soave notes the incoherent authoritarianism of the Doddering Old Fool: You Will Get a Booster Shot When the CDC Says So.

    Biden outlined an incredibly specific and detailed set of criteria that dictate whether a person can get a booster shot. But he's not overly concerned about people who don't qualify jumping the line, because, well, government health officials will probably approve boosters for everyone else when they get around to it. That doesn't make very much sense: If the White House knows boosters are perfectly safe, and a good—though by no means strictly necessary—health measure for pretty much everybody, then it should really just open up the process right now.

    It's fairly clear that the CDC's internal hesitance over booster shots was not grounded in any actual concern about the safety of booster shots. Health officials had concerns that were political rather than scientific: They were worried about increasing vaccine hesitancy, putting the country's vaccine supply to inefficient use, and also the unfairness of recommending boosters for Pfizer recipients only.

    I know the CDC and Biden aren't making a lot of sense. But I have long since given up on them making any sense.


  • Meanwhile, in our own lovely state, the Josiah Bartlett Center reports some under-reported news: 96.5% of NH COVID infections, 93.5% of deaths are among unvaccinated, but state doesn't publicize the data.

    From Jan. 20-Sept. 24, 2021:

    • Only 3.5% of total COVID-19 infections (1,976 of 57,203) have occurred among fully vaccinated individuals;
    • Only 6.4% of initial hospitalizations (37 of 579) have occurred among fully vaccinated individuals;*
    • Only 6.5% of deaths from COVID-19 (28 of 430) have occurred among fully vaccinated individuals.

    (*The state records COVID hospitalizations for those who were hospitalized upon the initial report of their infection. If someone is hospitalized after the initial report of infection, that would not be included in the hospitalization statistics. The state has always reported COVID hospitalizations this way.)

    Our local vaccine skeptics are (sadly) relying on well-known techniques of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt to … well, I'm not sure why. You don't want a shot, don't get one. Fine. I'll think of it as yet another example of evolution in action.

URLs du Jour

2021-09-27

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Our Amazon Product du Jour was suggested by Instapundit Helen's Deal of the Day yesterday. This one is a magnet, for people who think they might regret a sticker someday.

  • Just in case you thought my constant refrain, "The CDC kills people" was an overreaction. You'll want to check out the (comparatively) sane Peter Suderman on the topic: The CDC Made America’s Pandemic Worse.

    The pandemic was a test of America's public health bureaucracy. It failed.

    Those failures were legion, and they were spread across multiple officials, agencies, and layers of government. But no institution failed quite as abysmally as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which, through a combination of arrogance, incompetence, and astonishingly poor planning, wasted America's only chance to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 before it spread widely.

    The CDC is supposed to be America's frontline institution in the fight against infectious disease. Its job is to analyze viral threats, track their spread and development, and provide the public with relevant information about how to respond to outbreaks. Not only did the agency do this job poorly in the early stages of the pandemic, but it actively hindered efforts that would have greatly improved America's response, and it made planning errors that were both predictable and avoidable. At nearly every stage of the pandemic, the CDC got things wrong and got in the way. Its failures almost certainly made America's pandemic worse.

    And, unlike "statist" European countries", we still don't have cheap OTC Covid tests "thanks" to the FDA.


  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

    From our "Always Useful Advice That I Need To Keep Relearning" Department. Pierre Lemieux's Avoiding Biases: Lessons from Michael Huemer. Excerpting selections from the book Knowledge, Reality, and Value: A Mostly Common Sense Guide to Philosophy, Amazon/Kindle link at your right.

    Rationality is the master intellectual virtue, the one that subsumes all the others. (p. 32)

    Objectivity, like all other intellectual virtues, is part of rationality. The character trait of objectivity is a disposition to resist bias, and hence to base one’s beliefs on the objective facts. The main failures of objectivity are cases where your beliefs are overly influenced by your personal interests, emotions, or desires, or by how the phenomenon in the world is related to you, as opposed to how the external world is independent of you. (p. 32)

    The purpose of intellectual discussion is promoting truth (for yourself and others). If your view can’t survive when you treat the opposing views fairly, then that pretty much means your view is wrong. As a rational thinker, you want your beliefs to be true, so you should welcome the opportunity to discover if your own current view is wrong; then you can eliminate a mistaken belief and move closer to the truth. If you are afraid to confront the strongest opposing views, represented in the fairest way possible, that means that you suspect that your own beliefs are not up to the challenge, which means you already suspect that your beliefs are false. (p. 34)

    The human mind is not really designed for discovering abstract, philosophical truths. Our natural tendency is to try to advance our own interests or the interests of the group we identify with, and we tend to treat intellectual issues as a proxy battleground for that endeavor. Again, we don’t expressly decide to do this; we do it automatically unless we are making a concerted, conscious effort not to. And naturally, when we do this, we form all sorts of false beliefs, because reality does not adjust itself to whatever is convenient for our particular social faction. (p. 35)

    If you can only maintain your beliefs by being biased or irrational, then your beliefs are almost certainly wrong. (p. 38)

    Irrationality and bias can support any ideology, including your opponents’. Nazis, Marxists, flat-Earthers, and partisans of any other crazy or evil view can base their beliefs on irrational biases, and there is no way to reason them out of it if you’ve rejected rationality and objectivity. So don’t attack objectivity and rationality. Unless you’re an asshole and you just want intellectual chaos. (p. 39)

    Also, by the way, collect information from the most sophisticated sources, not (as most people do) the most entertaining sources. (p. 39)

    Dogmatism is probably the most common kind of failure of objectivity. (p. 40)

    I gotta get that book somehow.


  • Speaking of Michael Huemer… At his own website, he tackles the important question of the last sixty years or so: Ayn Rand: World’s Greatest Philosopher, or Incompetent Jerk?

    The title question reflects two common attitudes toward the controversial novelist/philosopher. Her followers (the “Objectivists”, or “Randroids”) often consider her a genius, the first human being to provide a completely rational philosophical foundation for everything. Her critics, however, find her a stupid jerk.

    The truth is a little of both. Ayn Rand was an intelligent and innately talented individual who nevertheless wrote some crazy-ass nonsense. To me, she is sort of a tragic figure – someone who had some great successes which were marred by tragic intellectual and personality flaws.

    On target, I think. Bonus quote: "People who are familiar with contemporary philosophy, when they look at Rand’s work, typically describe it as simplistic and poorly reasoned. That is because it is in fact simplistic and poorly reasoned." Ouch.


  • … But would probably prefer not to have. There, I finished off the headline of Kevin D. Williamson's NYPost column: Texas' new law forces the abortion debate Americans need.

    The Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade, not because abortion is evil — though it is evil — but because Roe is bad law, a fantasy woven out of the 14th Amendment, which contains not a word about abortion or the right to privacy the court has alleged to discover there. Its defects are obvious even to liberal thinkers such as Edward Lazarus, a clerk to Roe author Harry Blackmun, who declared that the opinion “borders on the indefensible.” 

    Congress should keep its nose out of the question, because Congress has no legitimate power to micromanage how states regulate abortion. That will disappoint the pro-choice lobby, who take a bizarrely sacramental view of abortion and a scriptural view of Roe. 

    But pro-lifers should gird ourselves for disappointment, too. Overturning Roe is not the end of the work but the beginning. Once the subject is returned to the legislatures, some states will abolish abortion in all or most circumstances, some states will maintain abortion regimes that are as permissive as they were under Roe or even more so, and most states will, in all likelihood, follow public opinion in taking a generally liberal approach to abortion in the first trimester and then an increasingly restrictive position thereafter. 

    Way back when, the pro-abortion folks trumpeted: "If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament." Well, now it is a sacrament, albeit one covered in thick layers of dishonesty and euphemism.


  • What people call "current events" could be more accurately described as "perpetual events." Because there's nothing new under the sun, etc. Here's Jeff Jacoby: As Washington debates the debt limit, the hypocrisy is at flood tide. (You'll have to click a few times to get the whole thing from the Boston Globe.)

    There has been no end of dire talk about the terrible scenarios that would result from the United States defaulting on its debt to bondholders, but there is zero danger of that happening. As Moody’s, the credit-rating agency, explained during a previous debt-ceiling fight, “the government would continue to pay interest and principal on its debt even in the event that the debt limit is not raised, leaving its creditworthiness intact.” Maxing out your credit card doesn’t mean you’re a deadbeat; it means you have to pay down some of the principal before you can make new charges and until then can only spend what you earn.

    If the debt ceiling isn’t hiked, holders of US Treasury bonds aren’t going to get stiffed. They’ll be fine. Washington this year is projected to raise around $3.8 trillion in taxes and tariffs. That is 10 times the roughly $380 billion needed to service the current debt.

    America can certainly cover its interest payments to lenders with what it collects in taxes. But interest is only one narrow slice of federal outlays. What Washington can’t cover is the entirety of the $6.8 trillion that the federal government is planning to spend this year — everything from Medicare to government salaries to medical research to highway funding to veterans benefits. As things stand now, roughly $3 trillion — more than 40 cents of every dollar the government spends each year — is borrowed. Those borrowed dollars keep getting added to the debt, which now approaches $30 trillion. Not even the United States can indefinitely keep this up.

    And as Herbert Stein pointed out with remarkable pith: "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop."

URLs du Jour

2021-09-26

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  • A glimpse of our glorious green future. As provided by Matt Ridley, not as rationally optimistic as usual: The Root of the Energy Crisis.

    Had it not been so exceptionally calm in the run up to this autumn equinox, one could call the energy crisis a perfect storm. Wind farms stand idle for days on end, a fire interrupts a vital cable from France, a combination of post-Covid economic recovery and Russia tightening supply means the gas price has shot through the roof – and so the market price of both home heating and electricity is rocketing.

    But the root of the crisis lies in the monomaniacal way in which this government and its recent predecessors have pursued decarbonisation at the expense of other priorities including reliability and affordability of energy.

    It is almost tragi-comic that this crisis is happening while Boris Johnson is in New York, futilely trying to persuade an incredulous world to join us in committing eco self-harm by adopting a rigid policy of net zero by 2050 – a target that is almost certainly not achievable without deeply hurting the British economy and the lives of ordinary people, and which will only make the slightest difference to the climate anyway, given that the UK produces a meagre 1 per cent of global emissions.

    I'm sure apologists will deploy shiny-object distractions. Brexit! Tories in charge!

    We are currently enduring TV ads pushing Biden's "Build Back Better" legislation, with promises to "cut costs" and "create jobs". Significantly, no promises are made to cut energy costs; those will skyrocket. And extracting trillions from the private economy will destroy jobs there; they ask you not to notice that.

    But the real unstated assumption is: "Trust us, we're much smarter than those Brits." Or Venezuelans. Or …


  • But many jobs were created. Liz Wolfe notes usual government efficiencies: 21 Federal Agencies Manage 200 Different Diet-Related Programs, Leading to Overlap and Chaos.

    The federal government seems concerned that 42 percent of American adults are obese, but apparently not concerned enough to have formed a competent, coordinated plan of attack.

    A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report publicly released this week found that 21 federal agencies oversee 200 different efforts focused on research, improving crops' nutritional quality, health education and food access initiatives, and regulating grocery stores and restaurants. The GAO admits that, upon study, these nearly two-dozen agencies "have not effectively managed fragmentation of diet-related efforts or the potential for overlap and duplication," which leads to your taxpayer dollars going to waste.

    I fantasize about giving a quiz to college students about government, with questions like:

    1. The optimal number of federal agencies involved with hectoring Americans about their diet is:
      1. Zero
      2. One
      3. Twenty-one
      4. Some other number. Write it here:      . Justify your answer on a separate piece of paper, using crayons provided at the front desk.

    Of course, government employees were deployed to investigate and report government waste and incoherence in this relatively small sector. Why it's almost as if the purpose was to create more Federal Government Jobs, instead of doing anything useful.

    Didn't the US somehow survive without any agencies nagging Americans about what to eat?


  • A darn good question. And good American Charles C. W. Cooke asks it: Why Aren’t Americans Protesting in the Streets?

    Here’s a question for any American who is capable of thinking past next week: Why, in the ever-loving hell, are you not out in the streets, protesting peacefully against what the Democrats in Washington are trying to do to the federal budget?

    Seriously, what is wrong with you? Why aren’t you calling for town halls? Why aren’t you forming committees? Why aren’t you calling Congress and demanding that it stop? Judging by its current behavior, the federal government has decided to completely give up on reality. But you haven’t, right?

    Right?

    Right.

    Most of the items cited here carry at least an implied "Read the Whole Thing" recommendation. In this case I'd make it explicit: it's a free article, it's short, please read the whole thing.


  • Damn. I was really counting on that coin. Robert E. Wright debunks a debt "solution" offered by fundamentally unserious people: the Trillion Dollar Coin Can’t Save US from Debt Crisis.

    Another US debt crisis looms because Congress has yet to authorize an increase in the national debt ceiling. It isn’t the first time such a crisis has occurred and, alas, probably won’t be the last as reconstitution of America’s fiscal constitution seems unlikely anytime soon.

    In fact, if Paul Krugman gets his way, America’s fiscal situation will be getting much worse very soon. That’s right, like other Progressive canards, his ill-conceived trillion dollar platinum coin idea has sprung back to life, like a zombie. It’s time to shoot this one, like DC statehood, dead in the head.

    Here’s the Nobel winner’s idea: if the Treasury needs money to pay Uncle Sam’s bills, which have grown quite hefty of late, and it can’t borrow, it can expend a paltry sum to mint a platinum coin stamped with the desired amount, deposit it at the Federal Reserve, and then draw on its Fed account to pay America’s creditors, from China to grandma.

    Wright (patiently) points out that the legislation that allows Treasury to mint platinum coins specifies bullion coins. Which (if you have any) you keep in a very safe place.

    Which are different from fiat-money coins. The objects you throw into that big jar in your bedroom closet.

    Click over if you need the difference explained further. For example, if your name is "Paul Krugman".


  • It's not just woodland advice any more. David Henderson on how to deal with Angry Bears (Formatting changed slightly from original).

    Something that helps me deal with government in these situations is to think of it as a big angry bear. That helps me not moralize too much and, instead, to just remember to focus on how to survive and thrive around the big angry bear. That’s why I pay the incredibly high taxes I pay; it’s why I don’t bother fighting expensive traffic tickets for driving in ways that endangered no one; etc.

    It’s not just government. I find that going along with other things that don’t make sense is often a good idea when others can impose substantial costs.

    An example follows from David's recent airplane trip. You can probably guess the details.

    I would guess at a corollary: if you do decide to resist the bear, make sure you have adequate skills and resources you can bring to the game.

Always Be My Maybe

[4.0 stars] [IMDB Link] [Always Be My Maybe]

Wow, it's been over a month since I've seen a non-Marvel movie. Even longer since I've watched a romantic comedy. So maybe I was in the mood, but I liked this Netflix streamer a lot. I can imagine on a different evening I might write it off as a prefabricated flick that might have been on the Asian Hallmark Channel, if such a thing existed. (It doesn't. Does it?)

No, it wasn't prefab. It was clever and funny, brought off by talented people. Written and produced by the stars, Ali Wong and Randall Park. All respect to them.

Ms. Wong plays Sasha, Mr. Park plays Marcus. As youngsters in San Francisco, they were next-door neighbors and best friends. Their friendship continues through high school, and after one night of ill-considered passion, they go their separate ways. Marcus underperforms, assisting his dad in the HVAC biz, getting high, playing with his band ("Hello Peril", hah!) in a neighborhood dive. Sasha becomes a glamorous celebrity chef. And thanks to the devious manipulations of a longtime friend, they meet up again after years…

Reader, I'm not gonna lie: if you've seen more than a few romcoms (and who hasn't), you'll recognize the overall plot structure here. So the details matter, and so do the actors. And that made the difference for me here; it was a lot of fun, chuckles all the way through.

Consumer note: if at all possible, I suggest you see it without checking out the cast list ahead of time. No spoilers here, but someone shows up…

URLs du Jour

2021-09-25

  • Mr. Ramirez illustrates it for you. Doing their jobs. [Doing their jobs]


  • Jim Treacher notes the latest from the Doddering Old Fool. I've subscribed to Jim's substack, and you should too, because of items like this Biden Finally Recognizes America's Biggest Threat: Horses. Sample:

    It’s about time the Biden administration did something about the biggest threat in America today: horses. First our hospitals filled up with people OD’ing on horse paste, and now those damn horses are killing black people at the border or whatever. Just say neigh! #BanHorses #JustSayNeigh

    Biden murdered seven children in Afghanistan with a drone strike, and nobody was fired. Some cowboys enforced the border on horseback, as they’ve been doing for 100 years, and Biden fired the horses.

    As Bob Dole would say: Where’s the outrage?


  • Lousy Story du Jour. Slashdot reports on the mutterings of America's least thoughtful progressive, who says 'Facebook Is What's Wrong With America'

    The Salesforce CEO and owner of Time Magazine, Marc Benioff, sees a common thread for what ails America today: deception that is allowed to spread like wildfire on Facebook. "This digital revolution really kind of has the world in its grip. And in that grip, you can see the amount of mistrust and misinformation that is happening," Benioff told CNN. From a report:

    "Look at how it is affecting the world. You can talk about the political process. You can talk about climate. You can talk about the pandemic," Benioff said. "In each and every major topic, it gets connected back to the mistrust that is happening and especially the amount of it being seeded by the social networks. It must stop now."

    "Some of these social media companies, especially Facebook, you can see that they don't really care that their platform is filled with all of this disinformation," Benioff said. The tech billionaire called for Congress to crack down on Facebook's disinformation problem. "I own Time and I am held accountable for what is produced on my platform," Benioff said, adding that CNN and other media outlets are also held accountable. "In regards to Facebook, they are not held accountable. So they do not have an incentive from the government. That has to change." Benioff urged Congress to review existing laws to try to stop the "level of deceit" happening on social networks.

    I'd say outlets like CNN and Time are too rarely "held accountable" for misinformation emanating from their journalism. Cases like Nick Sandmann's, where CNN et al defamed an actual person are relatively rare.

    And where do you go to hold (for example) Joe Biden "accountable" for his outright lies?

    Benioff isn't wrong about Facebook being a source of disinfo. He's wrong that it's worse than other sources, and that it uniquely must be forced to "stop now." Fix your stupid magazine first, Marc.


  • It's not as if Facebook isn't trying very hard. From Behind the Black, we have a report of its latest effort. Today’s blacklisted American: Garden hoes banned by Facebook!

    Today’s blacklisted American, garden hoes, is meant more to illustrate the utter brainlessness of the blacklist culture, and why every intelligent American should refuse to bow to it in any way.

    It appears that Facebook has been repeatedly flagging and then blocking posts on a gardening group because those gardeners periodically make reference to the gardening tool called a “hoe.”

    Maybe they could get away with calling them "strumpets" instead.


  • Might as well call a spade a spade, a hoe a hoe, and Joe Biden a… Daniel Henninger calls for accuracy in labelling: Joe Biden (D., Socialist)

    Last Thursday, Mr. Biden trundled out to give a speech for his mega-trillion Build Back Better plan. The press says the Biden plan is in trouble with moderate Democrats, which could make or break his presidency, with votes starting next week.

    This spending plan may be the whole Biden presidency, but it’s bigger than that. His seemingly run-of-the-mill afternoon speech was a significant statement. It was a public repudiation by Mr. Biden of the U.S. economic system.

    Partway through the speech, Mr. Biden felt obliged to assert: “I am a capitalist.” During the campaign he said: “I am not a socialist.” Both statements are false. Joe Biden is not a capitalist. He is a socialist. Democratic progressives don’t like the s-word, which is why they started calling themselves progressives. Bernie Sanders declared himself a socialist so long ago it’s too late to change. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez admits to being a democratic socialist. Fact-check scolds argue the s-word has no meaning in the American political context because no one is suggesting state control of the means of production. Be that as it may, listen to Mr. Biden talk about the system we do have.

    If Joe isn't a socialist, we're going to have to come up with a new word for someone who advocates vastly increased government control of the economy.

Iron Lake

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

A sister-recommended book. I think she likes books set in Minnesota. This one's way up toward Canada, north of Duluth.

The protagonist is "Cork" O'Connor, and as the present-day part of the book opens, he's in a bad way. Thanks to a tragic incident (eventually detailed) over which he presided as sheriff, he's now ex-sheriff. And he's moved into a barely-heated quonset-hut burger joint, due to his lawyer wife Jo asking him to leave his house, her, and their kids.

Although he's not in official law enforcement any more, Cork is asked by a local mother to track down her son, who went missing on his paper route during a nasty snowstorm. Thanks to a previous chapter, we know that the kid has witnessed a horrific and bloody scene at the house of Judge Robert Parrant.

Cork is of partial Native American descent, and there's a bit of his tribe's mythos dragged in. Specifically, the wendigo, an evil spirit. Could that help explain what happened to the judge? Yes, it turns out, sort of. In the sense that ancient supernatural legends often speak to universal human frailties and capacity for awful deeds.

There's a host of characters, most candidates for suspicion: the parish priest, an ambitious politician, Cork's semi-competent replacement, Cork's girlfriend, a coroner out of his depth, etc. There's a casino (where there are Native Americans, there always seem to be casinos) and that means criminal corruption.

I'm iffy about the series. Slight spoiler: the big climax here goes on way too long, involves our hero being not very smart or well-prepared, and I I think the author is unnecessarily vague about what happens at the very end. (What exactly did that shot hit?) Ah, well. It's a page-turner anyway. For wilderness noir, I think I'll stick with C. J. Box.

Started Early, Took My Dog

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I love the title. It's snipped from an Emily Dickenson poem, but I love it anyway. There are poetic references scattered through the book. (I assume there are more than I recognized, I'm not that literate.)

This is billed as a "Jackson Brodie" novel, but (as usual with this series) Jackson is absent from great swaths of the book, while other characters carry the narrative. Fine, I'm used to that by now.

Private investigator Jackson is hired by a lady living in New Zealand to investigate the circumstances of her adoption back in 1975. Not coincidentally, we're also shown the circumstances of a horrific 1975 murder of a prostitute, discovered by lady cop Tracy Waterhouse and her partner.

In the present day, that murder remains unsolved, and it becomes evident that there wasn't a lot of interest in solving it. Tracy is now retired from the police force, living a lonely and barren life. All that changes when she witnesses a young girl, Courtney, being abused. On the spur of the moment, Tracy shoves some cash to the abuser, and grabs the kid. Kind of an unconventional adoption.

And meanwhile, Jackson acquires an abused dog, in much the same way. No money exchanges hands, but he does beat on the abuser.

There's also Tilly, an aging actress now appearing in the private-eye TV show Collier, as mother to the show's hero. Unfortunately she's in the throes of dementia. But she witnesses a key scene, which later drives a very unfortunate climax.

There is a lot of super-Dickensian coincidence, some very dark humor. Rough justice is eventually delivered.

URLs du Jour

2021-09-24

  • RBG, TERF? The Federalist is one of many sources pointing out the ACLU degenerating at ludicrous speed: ACLU Rewrites Ruth Bader Ginsburg Quote To Erase Women. Specifically:

    Yeah, "fixed." Like my dog was.

    Titania comments:


  • Another sign that the ACLU should change its name. Via Joe Lancaster at Reason: ACLU Thinks the Second Amendment Is a Threat to the First Amendment.

    On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and its New York affiliate organization, the NYCLU, jointly announced they had submitted an amicus brief in the upcoming Supreme Court case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Corlett, which could determine the future of New York's onerous, barely navigable process of concealed carry licensure. Unfortunately, the organization that refers to itself as "our nation's guardian of liberty" is on the side of this illiberal process.

    In the press release announcing the brief, the ACLU averred that "restrictions on guns in public spaces are appropriate to make public spaces safe for democratic participation, including First Amendment activity such as assembly, association, and speech." In other words, the ACLU has decided that exercising one's Second Amendment rights may run counter to someone else's First Amendment rights, and is favoring the latter over the former. As evidence, the ACLU cites a case from last summer in which a Black Lives Matter rally in Florida was disrupted when a counter-protester—who also happened to be a concealed-carry license-holder—pulled out a handgun and threatened some marchers.

    You can always find excuses for infringing liberty. The ACLU used to be pretty good at debunking such excuses. Now it uses them.


  • "Hey, Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!" "Again?" Greg Mankiw quit the Republican Party, but he can spot garbage from either party: A Magic Trick from Biden's Economists.

    A magician tricks his audiences by distracting them. While people focus on something that is attractive but irrelevant (a shiny object, the magician's beautiful assistant in a skimpy outfit), the magician can more easily hide his deception.

    In a new CEA blog post, the Biden economics team does something similar. It asks what the average tax rate of the 400 wealthiest families would be if unrealized capital gains were included in the measure of their income.

    This is a mildly interesting question. But why is the Biden team taking the time from their busy schedules to ask it? Because they want to convince you that the rich aren't paying their fair share in taxes.

    The problem is that this question has little connection to the policies now being discussed. As I understand it, the essence of the plan under consideration is not a tax on the unrealized capital gains of the 400 richest families. Instead, the plan aims to raise the corporate tax rate, which in turn is paid by the many shareholders, workers, and customers of the companies. (Economists debate the relative incidence.) In addition, the plan aims to raise the tax rates applied to the already-taxed income earned by people making more than $400,000 a year. I would guess that this latter group includes about 1.5 million taxpayers. Needless to say, 1.5 million is a much larger number than 400. And the finances of the 400 are in no way representative of the finances of the 1.5 million.

    Don't get distracted by this shiny object.

    One of those posts that I couldn't easily excerpt; that's the whole thing. As a bonus, Prof Mankiw points out that there's pressure to pass that big honking "infrastructure" bill before the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Tax Committee can "score" its economic impact.

    You'd think more people might be concerned about that.

    Also on that legerdemain: good old Kevin D. Williamson, more scornful that Prof Mankiw:

    From the New York Times:

    The White House’s calculation of what the wealthiest pay in taxes is well below what other analyses have found. The difference comes from the White House officials’ decision to count the rising value of wealthy Americans’ stock portfolios — which is not taxed on an annual basis — as income. It finds that between 2010 and 2018, those top 400 households, when including the rising value of their wealth, earned a combined $1.8 trillion and paid an estimated $149 billion in federal individual income taxes.

    Which is to say: Rich people have more income if we take a lot of stuff that isn’t income and call it income.

    Democrats are embarrassed by the actual numbers, because those numbers show that high-income households already pay federal income taxes that are far disproportionate to their share of income.

    It's a pretty dishonest tactic, although granted an air of MSM "respectability" it doesn't deserve.


  • Gosh, it's almost as if Biden said: "Just let me get away with cheap rhetoric, you work out the details." Jim Geraghty's Morning Jolt has some good questions about the workplace vax mandate Biden announced a couple weeks back:

    There’s another aspect of the Biden administration’s pandemic response that is a mysterious “black box.” On September 9 President Biden announced a directive to the Labor Department to develop a temporary emergency rule for businesses with 100 or more employees that would require workers to be fully vaccinated or be tested at least once a week. Biden declared that, “We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers. We’re going to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by increasing the share of the workforce that is vaccinated in businesses all across America.”

    And yet, two weeks later, OSHA has not yet issued the regulations. Almost immediately, businesses had a lot of questions about how this new mandate was going to work. What is considered documentation for proof of vaccination and how will booster vaccinations be factored into compliance? Must an employee be “fully vaccinated” in order to work? How will the requirements address natural immunity? Will individuals that have contracted COVID-19 be required to be vaccinated or submit to testing requirements? Will the requirements only apply to vaccines that are fully approved by the FDA? (The other day in my local pharmacy, a guy said he had gotten one shot of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine in the United Kingdom and wanted to know whether Pfizer or Moderna was compatible with it.) What are the consequences of falsifying one’s vaccination status and does responsibility rest with the individual or employer? If an employee takes a COVID-19 test but the results are not yet available, is the employee allowed to continue to work pending the results? Should employees choose not to vaccinate, is the company or employee responsible for securing and paying for testing? Will paid time off be required for weekly tests?

    As of this [yesterday] morning, no one has any answers to these questions, leaving us to wonder if the Biden administration wanted the announcement of the policy more than the policy itself. Or maybe this administration just doesn’t have much follow-through on its announcements.

    Why it's almost as if this idea was poorly thought out!

    Kind of a habit with Biden. Ask the Afghans.


  • 75% of the joke is in the headline. From the Babylon Bee: Oh No! Girl James Bond Is Foiled When Villain Places Details Of His Evil Plans In Pickle Jar.

    “So, Silverfoot, do you expect me to talk?” asked Jane Bond while she was strapped to a table with a laser inching toward her to cut her in two. “No, you’re always talking,” Silverfoot replied. “I just want you to shut up for once.”

    “Too bad! We’re talking!”

    Yes, I laughed. I'm a bad person.

URLs du Jour

2021-09-23

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • And the theater's showing a lousy movie. Kevin D. Williamson's "Tuesday" column (yes, I know it's Thursday) tackles a weighty subject: The Presidency as Foreign-Policy Theater.

    The American retreat from Afghanistan, with its whimpering and scurrying and its generally cringing tail-between-the-legs posture, would have been debacle enough without the Biden administration’s having added a massacre of children and innocents to it.

    The fact that it was a massacre enabled by incompetence does not improve the situation.

    General Frank McKenzie, who is in charge at U.S. Central Command, confirmed last week that a drone strike carried out in Kabul in order to ward off an imminent attack from ISIS-K actually killed a carload of civilians, mostly children.

    “I offer my sincere apology,” General McKenzie said. Oh, at least it’s sincere. He affirmed that he is “fully responsible for this strike and this tragic outcome.” If General McKenzie is fully responsible, then perhaps he — or someone above him — should act like it and see to it that he is, at a minimum, fully relieved of his responsibilities.

    News flash: General Frank McKenzie has not been fully relieved of his responsibilities. I.e., he's "fully responsible" without actually being held responsible.


  • What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Bryan Caplan illustrates that bit of Biblical wisdom with a current example: Woke Is Old.

    Yes, its intellectual decorations are novel.  Ten years ago, I never heard anyone talk about “microaggressions” or “privilege.”  The substance, however, is almost exactly what teachers, textbooks, and the media told me back in the 1980s.

    Namely: The sole reason non-whites and females are less conventionally successful is because white males have been treating them so unfairly for centuries.  The Beckerian view that market forces strongly check discrimination was never taught – or even mentioned – in school when I was growing up.  For income, the party line was clear: All observed white/non-white and male/female earnings gaps are unjustified by productivity.  For other forms of success, the party line equivocated between, “White males haven’t disproportionately contributed to science, technology, and culture” and “This disproportionate contribution solely reflects white male unfairness.”  And of course, teachers, textbooks, and the media aggressively overlooked Asian and Jewish success even in the face of blatant prejudice.

    What's changed? Bryan argues (convincingly) that it's today's zeal, with many becoming "part-time fundamentalist preachers of the dogmas of my youth."

    See (as usual): UNH Lecturers United, who see their job as "fostering belief" in the tenets of "Anti-Racism". And actively opposing "any political position structured around inequality." That's the kind of dogmatic fundamentalist zeal Bryan is talking about.


  • Why is it so hard to find good help these days? Christopher F. Rufo explores one possible reason at City Journal as he looks Inside CVS Health Corporation’s Racial Reeducation Program.

    Last year, CVS Health Corporation—the largest pharmacy chain in the United States—paid then-CEO Larry Merlo almost 618 times the median company wage, while simultaneously launching a mandatory “antiracist” training program for hourly employees to deconstruct their “privilege.”

    I have received whistleblower documents from inside CVS that reveal the company’s extensive race-reeducation program, which is built on the core tenets of critical race theory, including “intersectionality,” “white privilege,” and “unconscious bias.”

    As a keynote for the initiative, Merlo—who has since retired—hosted a conversation with Boston University professor Ibram Kendi, who told 25,000 CVS employees that “to be born in [the United States] is to literally have racist ideas rain on our head consistently and constantly.” Kendi argued that Americans are “walking through society completely soaked in racist ideas,” including children as young as two to three years old. “Our kids are basically functioning on racist ideas, choosing who to play with based on the kid’s skin color,” Kendi said. The solution, in part, is to “diagnose” employees as “racist” in order to help them become “antiracist” and “stop hurting somebody else.”

    Note that Ibram Kendi has deemed capitalism and racism "conjoined twins", but I'm pretty sure he nevertheless brought away some of that filthy capitalist loot from his CVS gig.

    It was recently reported. that CVS is looking to hire 25,000 people; maybe Applicants of Pallor should be warned ahead of time that it's likely they'll be lectured about their racism.


  • I lean toward "tyranny", Bari. Bari Weiss hosts a symposium on Vaccine Mandates: The End of Covid? Or the Beginning of Tyranny? A number of contributors weigh in with diverse views. I found this point by Vinay Prasad pretty persuasive: Let's, he says, break down the country into six groups:

    1. The Already Vaccinated. Nearly 65 percent of the country has had at least one shot. Mandates won’t affect them because they’re already (or soon to be) protected by the vaccine.
    2. The About-to-Get-Vaccinated Anyway. People get vaccinated every day. Even without the mandates, there were those who were planning, before the mandates were announced, to get vaccinated. Then, the mandates were announced, and then, as they had planned, the About-to-Get-Vaccinated-Anyway got vaccinated — creating the false impression that it was the mandates that led them to get the jab.
    3. Those Unaffected by the Mandates. This includes retirees and most everyone under 18.
    4. The Unvaccinated Who Have Been Infected by and Recovered From Covid-19. Getting these people vaccinated won’t move the needle much when it comes to national infection and mortality rates, since they already have a strong defense against reinfection.
    5. Those Who Quit Their Jobs Instead of Getting Vaccinated. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that, of the unvaccinated, 42 percent would quit their jobs if forced to get vaccinated, and 35 percent would ask for a religious exemption.
    6. The Unvaccinated Who Are Persuaded to Get Vaccinated. This is the president’s target demographic.

    Dr. Prasad's gut feeling is that group six is pretty small, and the folks in group five are numerous enough to cause a significant "socioeconomic toll" in both short and long terms.

    But read everyone, and make up your own mind.

    Not that you asked: I'm fully jabbed (Moderna, months ago), I'll get the booster if it's recommended for me (I'm old). I think mandates are wrong. I think the reputable science says (in nearly all cases) that you should get vaccinated if you haven't been.


  • But all the focus groups say people like those words, so… Ben Shapiro notices something about political rhetoric: ‘Pay Your Fair Share’ Taxation Isn’t About Actual Fairness.

    No Democrat seems prepared to define what “fairness” constitutes, other than “a word I use to pander to the rubes, while hobnobbing with the rich.”

    And Biden’s “fairness” pitch has [nothing] to do with good economic policy, of course. In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama was asked during a debate about raising the capital gains tax, even if it lowered net government revenue. He answered, “I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.” In other words, Obama explicitly stated that he would damage the economy on behalf of a vague, kindergarten notion of equal outcome.

    In the end, the “tax the rich to be fair” notion rests on a simple lie; namely, the lie that income distribution is purely a matter of privilege or luck. It isn’t. In the main, in a free market system, income distribution is the result of successful decision-making that must be incentivized, rather than punished, if we wish to see a more prosperous society.

    [I've added a to-me-obvious missing word in that second paragraph.]

    Like Ben, I wish the people who talk about "fair share" would either (a) share their math; or (b) just admit that they mean "more".


  • Unpopular answer: voters. For electing these clowns. Veronique de Rugy asks the musical question: Who's Really at Fault if the Government Defaults?

    The battle over the federal debt ceiling that's currently being fought by government officials and legislators is yet another example of the political posturing that's so prevalent these days. On one side, you have Democrats, who believe that the debt ceiling should be increased automatically or removed altogether, no matter what level of debt Uncle Sam accumulates, and that it should be done with the support of Republicans. On the other side, you have Republicans, who occasionally remember that they are against big government spending, especially if they're in the minority when the debt ceiling needs to be raised.

    Consider Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., railing against Republicans for saying they won't vote for a bill that funds the government until December and includes a debt ceiling suspension. He accuses them of wanting the federal government to shut down and to default on its debt.

    Failure to raise the debt ceiling would be pretty entertaining. Tax money still comes in, of course. So government wouldn't totally shut down—or it wouldn't have to, anyway. It would just have to decide which bills to pay. You know, like normal people who have been splurging, now forced to live within their means.

URLs du Jour

2021-09-22

  • Ideally, this insight should apply more widely. Expressed succinctly in a tweet:

    It's not just Covid. More and more government policies encourage and, to some extent, expect irresponsibility in the citizenry. That's not a path to a free society. It's the road to serf… oh, you know.


  • The mask slips, literally. As an example of what we're talking about above, Liz Wolfe notes the rhetorical stylings of a West Coast Pol, and concludes: San Francisco Mayor London Breed Is Right: It’s Crazy To Force Vaccinated Patrons To Mask Inside Bars!

    San Francisco Mayor London Breed has unintentionally made the case against the indoor mask mandate she imposed on the city's residents, all while attempting to justify her own defiance of the rules she had imposed.

    "I think it's sad that this is even a story," the San Francisco Democrat told reporters Friday after news emerged that she had partied maskless at a jazz club. "There was something that was really monumental that occurred, and that is Tony! Toni! Toné!—the original members, the brothers…who have not performed in public for at least over 20 years."

    "The fact that that is getting lost here is very unfortunate," continued Breed, whose executive order states that "masks may be removed while actively eating or drinking at events other than indoor dining, such as live performances and movies." When another reporter brought up that the mayor had been dancing maskless, not actively eating or drinking, the excuse that followed was a bit strange: "I was feeling the spirit. I wasn't thinking about a mask; I was thinking about having a good time."

    Ah, the well-known "feeling the spirit" and "not thinking" exceptions to stupid regulations. Good to know about those.


  • A pleasant surprise. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has come out with its Free Speech Rankings. And... whoa. Look who's in a solid third place:

    [Number Threetagtrim]

    Relatively good news. But nationwide, things are kind of ominous:

    Two thirds of students (66%) say it is acceptable to shout down a speaker to prevent them from speaking on campus, and almost one in four (23%) say it is acceptable to use violence to stop a campus speech.

    And it's not that UNH is out of the woods there. Student percentages on those issues are only marginally better:

    • 37% of students say it is never acceptable to shoutdown a speaker on campus.
    • 75% of students say it is never acceptable to use violent protest to stop a speech on campus.

    And (yes, I'm beating this poor horse one more time), the UNH Lecturers United would have UNH move a lot further down the list, with their vague but broad demands to officially condemn "poisonous ideologies" that "have no place" on campus.


  • Speaking of free speech… It's that day for James Lileks' Wednesday Review of Modern Thought.

    If Freedom of Speech was proposed today, it would be turned down by most liberal democracies. If allowed, it would have a giant asterisk the size of a WalMart logo.

    […]

    It’s a common posture these days:

    “I support free speech.”

    “No, you just want to say bad words and spread fake news.”

    Since that's the only reason the wrong people would want free speech, of course. So we have to forget about free speech, and work to prohibit wrong speech. Lucky for everyone, the end result of any contraction in the things one can say is a carefully constructed fence around a highly specific set of words and ideas, and that fence will never be expanded depending on whims or fashions. Everyone’s agreed: these words, this set of phonemes. Everything else is okay!

    Well hold on a minute, not this word, not these ideas. They’re related. So we’ll include them. And keep in mind that anything adjacent to these things are included, because they’re lies. You know they’re lies, right? Are you one of those people who don’t think they’re lies?

    They will qualify every right out of existence in favor of vague, super-better future rights which produce equity, as sure as a quarter in a gumboil machine produces a perfect sphere of delicious sugar.

    James would not get along well with UNH Lecturers United, I fear.


  • Republicans trying to be as bad as Democrats. Kevin D. Williamson in the New York Times! Wonders never cease.

    But it's probably because the tune he's singing is music to the NYT's ears: The Trump Coup Is Still Raging.

    The Trump administration was grotesque in its cruelty and incompetence. But without the coup attempt, it might have been possible to work out a modus vivendi between anti-Trump conservatives and Mr. Trump’s right-wing nationalist-populists. Conservatives were not happy with Mr. Trump’s histrionics, but many were reasonably satisfied with all those Federalist Society judges and his signature on Paul Ryan’s tax bill. Trump supporters, who were interested almost exclusively in theater, enjoyed four years of Twitter-enabled catharsis even as the administration did very little on key issues like trade and immigration.

    In the normal course of democratic politics, people who disagree about one issue can work together when they agree about another. We can fight over taxes or trade policy.

    But there isn’t really any middle ground on overthrowing the government. And that is what Mr. Trump and his allies were up to in 2020, through both violent and nonviolent means — and continue to be up to today.

    When it comes to a coup, you’re either in or you’re out. The Republican Party is leaning pretty strongly toward in. That is going to leave at least some conservatives out — and, in all likelihood, permanently out.

    I'm registered Republican, because I enjoy voting in their primary. But maybe I should rethink that.

URLs du Jour

2021-09-21

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Obscure NH Blogger: I Don't Trust Top House Republicans on Anything. NH Journal has a sad story that's been making the rounds. Top NH House Finance Republican: I Don't Trust DHHS on COVID Vax

    Sparks flew at Friday’s meeting of the state’s Fiscal Committee when House Finance Chair Ken Weyler (R-Kingston) challenged Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette’s claim that 90 percent of people hospitalized for COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Shibinette responded by accusing the Republicans of spreading misinformation.

    Now Weyler tells NHJournal that, when it comes to data regarding the vaccine, hospitalizations, and outcomes, he doesn’t trust Shibinette and the Department of Health and Human Services.

    “Not when it comes to the shot,” Weyler said.

    The fight began when Weyler objected to Shibinette’s statement that more than 90 percent of the people hospitalized for COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

    The key bit that had my eyes rolling nearly clear out of my head:

    Asked for the source of his information, Weyler said he was getting it from talk radio shows and the internet.

    Specifically, an (unnamed) woman who called into an (unnamed) talk show claiming to be an "ER nurse" (at an unnamed hospital in an unnamed location).

    Sure, that's a lot more credible than the DHHS.

    I would wager that Ken Weyler judges a source's credibility by how closely it aligns with his already-settled position. There's a term for that.


  • I bet Betteridge's Law of Headlines applies. Alice Dreger (author of a book I enjoyed reading back in 2016) asks a plaintive question at Quillette: Can We Have Sex Back?

    Somewhere between Women’s Studies turning into Gender Studies and the university lawyers turning into risk managers, we seem to have lost the clitoris. As an historian, I consider this a rare case of history surprising us. Asked in 1970 to predict the likely trajectory of academic feminism from that moment forward, I doubt many would have expected that we would arrive at a place so devoid (or even ashamed) of open appreciation of female anatomy and physiology, and at a milieu so lacking in female sexual agency and pleasure.

    Yet academic feminism has largely been absorbed into Gender Studies, and now, anyone given to exuberant talk of feeling like a natural woman risks being maligned as at best a dinosaur—who still believes in sex?!—and at worst a TERF (a supposedly “trans-exclusionary radical feminist”). Nowadays, you can’t love your innate trinkets without oppressing someone with your damned uterine privilege.

    As a bonus, the article is illustrated with Modigliani's Reclining Nude. May be Safe For Work, since it's art.


  • What the heck happened to LFOD? Elizabeth Nolan Brown asks a relevant question: Why Is This Beer Banned in 15 States?

    A special edition Samuel Adams beer is helping to highlight silly state alcohol restrictions. Each fall, Samuel Adams puts out a new "Utopias" beer, with this year's set to be released on October 11. The 2021 Samuel Adams Utopias clocks in at 28 percent alcohol by volume (ABV)—making it illegal in 15 states.

    "If you live in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia, don't even look. Utopias is illegal in those states because of its high alcohol content," according to the Samuel Adams website.

    New Hampshire?! Outrageous! I was about ready to saddle up the Impreza for a trip to a freer state,

    Good news: "Utopias" is the "Official Beer of Inspiration4", the recent all-civilian orbital spaceflight. (The flight took along 70 pounds of hops, but I don't see any explicit promise those will be used to make Utopias.)

    Bad news: the suggested retail price for one (1) 25.4 ounce bottle is $240.

    Um. So I guess I'll stick with Octoberfest for now, Sam.


  • Blockbuster? Yeah, it's over there next to the Radio Shack. Andy Kessler takes a nostalgic trip back to 2002, and tells us What Super Bowls Teach Us About Capitalism

    On Feb. 3, 2002, Tom Brady appeared in his first Super Bowl—XXXVI, that is 36 for you non-Romans. The New England Patriots beat the St. Louis Rams. U2 played at halftime.

    U2 hasn’t put an album out since 2017, St. Louis no longer has a football team, and see if you can spot a trend from some of the companies that each paid $2.2 million to run 30-second Super Bowl ads in 2002: Blockbuster, Circuit City, AOL, CompUSA, HotJobs, RadioShack, Yahoo! and Gateway. Yes, they are the ghosts of Super Bowls past.

    Well, Yahoo! and AOL are still around, sort of.

    Andy makes the obvious point. You don't need antitrust to destroy big companies. Eventually, they'll commit suicide.


  • Champagne wishes and caviar dreams. Idea for a new reality show: Lifestyles of the Woke and Shiftless! Inspired by this Tad DeHaven article: Utopian Dreams and Subsidy Schemes

    Billionaire entrepreneur Marc Lore recently laid out a vision for a new, built-from-scratch American city “that sets a global standard for urban living, expands human potential, and becomes a blueprint for future generations.” This city of Telosa — a name inspired by an ancient Greek word meaning “highest purpose” — would be founded on an economic model that Lore calls “equitism.” Under equitism, the city’s economy would purportedly be market-based, but the land would be owned by a community endowment that would use rising land values to finance “a much higher level” of social services.

    Alas:

    According to Lore, it will require an estimated $25 billion in funding to get the city started and $400 billion to complete it. That’s a lot of money, but regardless of whether the project is practical or not, a well-connected and wildly successful entrepreneur like Lore would seemingly be an ideal person to raise the funds from private investors and philanthropists. That’s why it’s particularly unfortunate that plans include the pursuit of “federal and state grants” and “subsidies for economic development.” Whereas private investors and philanthropists could choose to help finance Telosa’s creation, taxpayers would be forced to help finance it.

    Ah well. But do check out the Telosa website, because despite being on the grift, it's very cool.

    Too young to make the headline connection? Sorry. If you're interested, see Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

URLs du Jour

2021-09-20

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • The Hayek-Will-Boudreaux-Pun Salad relay team brings you the… Quote du Jour.

    What socialists are so fond of saying, national conservatives are now saying: This time will be different. It never is, because government’s economic planning always involves the fatal conceit that government can aggregate, and act on, information more intelligently and nimbly than markets can.

    Kind of a theme today. And yesterday. And tomorrow…

    Remember these "planners" are the same folks who … oopsy! … killed ten innocent Afghans including seven children. Are these the sort of people you want "planning" your economy? Running the "health care system"?


  • Or, for that matter, controlling energy production? Power Line poses the question: Will “Green” Energy Destroy Europe?. (One of those headlines where Betteridge's Law doesn't apply.) A news story from the Times:

    Acute food shortages were feared last night after high gas prices forced most of Britain’s commercial production of carbon dioxide to shut down.

    Emergency talks were being held between government officials and food producers, retailers and the energy industry….

    The closure of two fertiliser plants in northern England and others in Europe has left the food and drink industry facing a shortage of carbon dioxide, which is a byproduct of fertiliser manufacturing. The gas is critical to the production and transport of a range of products, from meat to bread, beer and fizzy drinks.

    Spiking energy costs are blamed for the plant shutdowns, which (in turn) are caused by carbon taxes and over-reliance on "renewables" like North Sea windmills.


  • Not a fair fight. Kevin D. Williamson takes on an NYT columnist, and the result is predictable. Gun-Control Laws Don’t Prevent Crimes; They Just Satisfy Culture Warriors’ Bloodlust.

    Instead of doing the hard work of enforcing the law on people committed to breaking it, we focus almost all of our efforts on the most law-abiding group of Americans there is: People who legally buy firearms from licensed firearms dealers, a group that, by definition, has a felony-conviction rate of approximately 0.0 percent. These are law-abiding people, but they also are, in no small part, the type of people who mash the cultural buttons of the big-city progressives who dominate the Democratic Party both culturally and financially. From that point of view, what matters is not that retail gun dealers and their clients are dangerous — which they certainly are not — but that they are icky.

    That culture-war mentality produces a great deal of sloppy thinking and ignorant commentary. Consider the case of Gail Collins in Thursday’s New York Times. Collins is hopping mad about gun shows, about which she seems to know . . . not a whole lot. “Yeah,” she writes — really, “yeah” — “right now one easy way to buy a gun without having anyone check to see if you have a history of criminal convictions, mental illness or a domestic violence restraining order is to just plunk down some cash at a gun show.”

    This is — and this part still matters! — not true.

    You'd think the NYT could employ someone to prevent this sort of blather from appearing in print. But I suppose they'd have a lot of empty whitespace on their pages if they did that.

    KDW notes that if we were serious about decreasing "gun crime", a promising avenue is enforcing existing straw-buyer laws. But that would involve "locking up a lot of young women and, almost certainly, a disproportionate share of them will be black or Hispanic and low-income." So a non-starter.


  • Worthwhile WIRED article. No, I'm not kidding. It happens: Apple and Google Remove a Navalny Voting App to Appease Russia.

    As voting began on Friday for Russia's lower house of parliament or State Duma, Google and Apple quietly pulled a beleaguered anti-establishment voting app from their app stores. It's just the latest in a series of concessions that Apple in particular has made to the Kremlin—whose demands seem likely to become only more aggressive from here.

    As the tech industry grapples with how to address a host of complicated human rights and safety issues, the incident underscored the uncomfortable compromises that many tech companies strike in order to operate in certain regions, as well as the increasingly brazen demands of authoritarian governments.

    The Russian government had pressured Apple and Google to take down the voting app for weeks, threatening fines and even accusing the companies of illegal election interference. Created by associates of imprisoned opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, it offered recommendations across each of Russia’s 225 voting districts for candidates with the best shot of defeating the dominant United Russia party in each race. Voting is open through the weekend, but the app is no longer available for download, and misleading imposter apps have already started to pop up in its place.

    Reminding us that Google's "Don't Be Evil" motto has long since been forgotten. And Apple was a lost cause long before that.


  • Eye-catcher. Mark J. Perry brings us the Animated chart of the day: America’s middle-class is disappearing…. but it’s because they’re moving up, NOT down! Five yard penalty for unnecessary uppercase and exclamation, Mark. But let's see…

    The source is the latest Census Bureau data. Note that the "low income" segment is shrinking too. As Instapundit is wont to say: "Faster, please."


  • Ah, but Betteridge's Law of Headlines does apply here. Elizabeth Nolan Brown's article from the October Reason peeks out from under the paywall: Do We Really Need New Anti-Asian Hate Crime Laws?.

    In March, a man opened fire at Young's Asian Massage, just north of Atlanta. Later, he shot up two more Atlanta-area Asian spas. All told, eight people were killed. Six of them were Asian women.

    Was this a hate crime?

    Clearly, it targeted a certain sort of business. In the immediate aftermath, people chalked the killings up to anti-Asian sentiment. Many were quick to implicate the Trump administration's anti-Chinese rhetoric during the COVID-19 pandemic. After all, the shootings came amid a much-discussed uptick in alleged anti-Asian crimes. But neither the Atlanta massage parlor murders nor the broader narrative around anti-Asian incidents is so easily categorized.

    The Atlanta shooter—Robert Aaron Long—told police he struggled with sex addiction. He was a devout Christian who felt guilty about visiting sex workers at Asian spas, friends said. Were Long's hateful acts really about race? Or were they more about misogyny—a man lashing out at women for inspiring lust in him? How significant is the fact that the victims were largely Asian women? Was his true bias against sex workers?

    In one sense, none of this makes a difference. Eight lives were senselessly lost. Long's acts were morally heinous whether driven by anti-Asian racism, general misogyny, resentment of sex workers, or total randomness. And hate crime or not, murder is a serious criminal offense, punishable in Georgia by life in prison, with the possibility of life without parole or even execution.

    Yet if Long was motivated by anti-Asian or anti-female bias, this would be considered, under Georgia and federal law, a hate crime. If he was motivated by hatred of sex workers, it would not. This ambiguity perfectly encapsulates the tangled logic behind U.S. hate crime laws.

    Tangled logic, indeed. Why it's almost as if such laws were designed only to make their authors feel good about themselves.


Last Modified 2021-09-21 5:23 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-09-19

  • Eye Candy du Jour is from a Heritage.org article: "8 Things You Need to Know About Democrats’ Tax Increase Bill." Which is fine, good, you should read it, but it also has a good graphic:

    [Fair Share]

    Save this for the next time anyone says they just want to "ask the rich to pay their fair share of taxes." Show them this. Ask: does that look "fair" to you? What would it have to look like to be "fair"?

    Let me know how that goes.


  • But I suspect it's not really about "fairness". And neither does Kevin D. Williamson, as revealed in an NRPlus (sorry) article: Grifters Push Demagogic Rhetoric on Tax Policy.

    The thing to keep in mind is, none of the half-bright grifters really means it.

    If you will forgive an over-egged metaphor, our contemporary Republicans and Democrats are not opposite poles of the political planet but a binary star system, both orbiting the same point: the pursuit of money, power, and status. They are, in fact, so fundamentally similar that without the cultural cues that are today the main means of political communication, it would be impossible to tell them apart.

    Consider the apparatchik of the moment, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and her big night at the Met Gala. To say that it was in bad taste to wear a white dress emblazoned with the words “Tax the Rich” to a party with a $30,000 cover charge misses the point — the New York Democrat was in costume, like Lil Nas X in his C-3PO outfit and Kim Kardashian dressed as what she is thinking about. The issue isn’t raising revenue for federal programs. The issue is that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez looks good in white — it is her color, as you can tell from her many white dresses, her white Tesla, and her white neighbors. (Of course she lives in an apartment building called “Agora at the Collective,” straight out of Stuff White People Like.) She holds an elected office, but mainly she is a celebrity and a social-media influencer. Of course she likes a party. Of course she likes having her picture taken. Why wouldn’t she?

    She can wear her “Tax the Rich” dress all she likes, because Wall Street has Senator Chuck Schumer around to make sure that doesn’t happen. Senator Schumer talks as good a class-war game as any other blossom in that half-organized bouquet of bungholes he calls his political party. But, somehow, he never gets around to acting on it. Donald Trump would have been delighted to sign into law a trebling of tax rates on private-equity firms and their “carried interest” — like all deadbeats with poor credit, he instinctively detests bankers and anybody who reminds him of a banker.

    KDW is equally merciless with a "conservative" grifter, Dan Bongino, who is "the talk-radio goofus who has taken over the late Rush Limbaugh’s old time slot." I wouldn't have known unless he told me.


  • If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. If you can't stand the smell… you might want to skip over this item. Chris Edwards has an analysis of the finally-released Democratic Tax Plan.

    House Democrats are moving ahead with a huge bill to raise taxes on businesses and individuals, increase welfare handouts, and micromanage numerous industries. It is a complex proposal that would increase taxes $2.1 trillion over 10 years with 66 provisions and would distribute tax breaks and spending with another 79 provisions.

    The following table is my summary of the bill based on the official estimates. The bill would raise $2.073 trillion in taxes, distribute $1.202 trillion to infrastructure, green, and safety net programs, and leave $871 billion in higher taxes to be used for other spending in the overall Democratic agenda. Of the $1.202 trillion, 43 percent is tax cuts and 57 percent is spending through refundable tax credits.

    And more details at the link. It's nice to see that some Democrats are getting reluctant to vote for this steamer, but I fear the result will be a "bipartisan compromise" that's in the range of "nearly as bad" to "even worse".


  • Other than that, though, they're great! Ronald Bailey points out another feature of that monster bill: Biden’s Drug Price Controls Would Make Americans Sicker and Shorten Their Lives.

    Part of the way that the Biden administration and congressional Democrats want to pay for their $3.5 trillion social welfare "infrastructure" plan is by forcing pharmaceutical companies to lower the prices they charge the government for their medications. Democrats argue that benchmarking the prices paid for certain prescription drugs to prices paid by other developed countries will offset around $500 billion in government spending over the next ten years. Voilá—one-seventh of their infrastructure plan would be paid for.

    First, I have been highly critical of pharmaceutical industry shenanigans such as paying off would-be competitors to delay introducing generic versions of their patented drugs and making minor tweaks to the formulations of their drugs as a way to drag out their patent protection beyond the 20 years they are granted. Some of the Biden administration's proposals are aimed at fixing those problems. So far so good.

    However, imposing price controls on drugs is central to Democrats' plan to "save" $500 billion as a way to finance their massive new bill. Congress is supposed to authorize the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate prices for medications with pharmaceutical companies. "An effective negotiation policy must establish criteria for market failure, define a fair price, provide the Secretary with tools and guidelines to negotiate a fair price, and incentivize pharmaceutical companies to participate in the negotiation process," states the HHS comprehensive plan. In addition, the negotiated (controlled) prices would not just be limited to government purchases, but also to commercial distributors and insurers.

    Doesn't the FDA kill enough people already?


  • Non-surprise of the week. Thomas Spence (president of Regnery Publishing) drops a truth bomb on promoters of an upcoming event: ‘Banned Books Week’ Isn’t Actually Interested in Banned Books.

    The annual ritual known as Banned Books Week rarely involves books that have been banned in any meaningful sense. Begun in 1982 and endorsed by such mainstream organizations as the American Library Association and PEN America, this gimmicky promotion caters primarily to those who believe that schoolchildren should have access to anything bound between two covers without the interference of those busybodies we call parents.

    But this year, for the first time in the 40-year history of Banned Books Week, writers and publishers face the threat of real book-banning. Strangely enough, the sponsors of Banned Books Week have nothing to say about it.

    Amazon and the American Booksellers Association come in for criticism. Spence notes that the victims of the actual/wannabe censors will be the would-be readers of the would-be books that won't see the light of day because publishers are afraid of getting yanked from Amazon's virtual shelves.


  • Do you want fries … sorry, I mean pommes frites with that? Jonah Goldberg highlights a small outrage everyone else is ignoring (but to be fair, there are lots bigger outrages): Haute Cuisine and Warped Priorities.

    Which brings me to the James Beard Awards. These are the Oscars of the food world. That’s not my description, it’s basically the group’s unofficial motto. From the Washington Post:

    The organization that doles out the prestigious annual awards has retooled its criteria and now will also base decisions on whether candidates have shown a “demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, environmental sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive.” The James Beard Foundation, which administers the awards, also announced a slate of other changes aimed at diversifying its judging committees—a move it ultimately hopes will lead to a more diverse group of winners—and screening for potentially problematic chefs taking the industry’s top honors.

    I think this is horrible. Oh, I have no problem with diversifying judging committees and all that stuff (though the devil is in the details). But the idea that food should be graded on the chef’s political commitments is gross. I say this regardless of what those political commitments are. When I was in college, Domino’s was very controversial because its owner gave to pro-life causes. Some people refused to order from Domino’s because they didn’t like his politics. Some people ordered from Domino’s because they liked his politics. But most people ordered—or didn’t order—pizza from Domino’s for reasons that had nothing to do with politics. What I can’t imagine is anyone saying, “You know Domino’s is the best pizza” because of their politics.

    We badly need awards issued without regard to political attitudes, race, sex, etc. It's not just movies and food. Hugos? Edgars?

URLs du Jour

2021-09-18

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I missed celebrating Constitution Day yesterday, but I hope to make up for it a bit today with our Amazon Product du Jour.

But I hasten to point out: don't just read the articles, read the Preamble as well. To find out why, just skip over to AIER and read Robert E. Wright's essay, And Secure the Blessings of Liberty.

Go ahead, I'll wait.

  • Best Headline of the Day Yesterday. That award goes to Neal McCluskey at Cato: The First Lesson of Constitution Day Is There Should Be No Forced Lessons on Constitution Day.

    Today is Constitution Day, marking the anniversary of the drafting of the United States Constitution, a document that has survived – sort of – since 1787. “Sort of,” because that oft‐invoked document has been twisted, ripped, and shunted aside – and not through the totally Constitutional amendment process – so frequently it is hard to say that it is really still in force.

    Education – my area – is a perfect example of this. The Constitution only gives the federal government specific, enumerated powers, and none are about education. Yet Washington annually spends tens‐of‐billions of dollars on K-12 schooling, funding that brought us to the brink of a national curriculum; gives grants and loans to college students that fuels rampant tuition inflation, among other disasters; and reaches into the cribs of the youngest Americans. Indeed, any educational institution that receives unconstitutional federal funding has to teach about the Constitution today because the feds unconstitutionally require it in exchange for the unconstitutional bucks.

    See what I mean about twisting?

    We do indeed, Neal.


  • Kyle Smith is a national treasure. And he proves it once again with his NYPost column: Nicki Minaj exposes how anti-vaxxers aren't always who liberal media says.

    I never thought I’d have occasion to type these words, but: I like the White House’s Nicki Minaj policy.

    Ms. Minaj has 23 million Twitter followers (almost as many as me) and is hence a person of some influence. Her loony rant about her cousin’s friend’s cantaloupe cajones became the biggest story of the week, except for maybe Bolshevik Barbie’s backside broadside against rich people at the Met Costume Gala.

    But if it weren’t for all the loony ranters, we’d be a lesser place. We’d be a more boring place. We’d be Canada. As Tocqueville wrote in “Democracy in America” (1840), “It is a vast and bounteous land, but also a curious one, its levers and pullies of influence eagerly manipulated by known chancers, scallywags, and crazy-ass rappers.”

    With Nicki Minaj, the White House is all “That’s very unfortunate, perhaps Ms. Minaj should come in for a cup of tea with the President or the Vice President and we could allay her concerns about vaccines in the interests of outreach. Er, even though it was less than a year ago that both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris warned us against trusting any vaccines developed in the administration of Donald Trump.”

    With the red states, though, the White House’s message is: “Our patience is wearing thin.”

    That's a longer than normal excerpt, but it's tough to stop with Kyle.

    There is (by the way) apparently no new news on the Harvard vs. Nicki imbroglio.


  • And 'Woke' everything else, for that matter. NR newcomer Kenin M. Spivak writes on The Folly of ‘Woke’ Math.

    Math proficiency is white supremacy, proclaims Deborah Lowenberg Ball, a mathematics professor and former dean of the University of Michigan School of Education.

    In the latest episode of the EdFix Podcast, Ball complains that math is a “harbor for whiteness” and “the very nature of the knowledge and who’s produced it, and what has counted as mathematics is itself dominated by whiteness and racism.” She groans that considering math proficiency to be a sign of intelligence is “raced.” In response, host, Michel Feuer, dean of the George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development, gushes, “Listening to you is the greatest positive reinforcement to be in this profession.”

    Unsurprisingly, Ball’s solution included a plug for her consultancy, TeachingWorks, funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. TeachingWorks is no doubt ready to profit by assisting school districts to interrupt “patterns of racism.”

    It should be obvious, but you aren't doing Kids of Color any favors by peddling this twaddle instead of … you know … teaching them math to whatever levels of excellence they can achieve.

    But it's easier, more fun—and lucrative, if you're Deborah Lowenberg Ball—to go the twaddle route.


  • And he means that in a good way. P. J. O'Rourke speaks from his editorial perch at American Consequences, with a provocative headline: Democracy Is for Losers.

    We have just made a heartless, brutal, cowardly, traitorous, panicky shambles of an escape from Afghanistan – with Joe Biden driving the getaway car. We had the time and the resources to make an orderly fighting retreat that could have protected our Afghan friends and allies. But…

    Joe turned America chicken – turned us into a 50-foot-tall, 100-ton chicken that refused a chance to peck its way out of the barnyard when threatened by pint-sized Taliban weasels.

    Is there a lesson to be learned from this? No.

    Except for the eternal lesson about politicians. Here is a man elected on a platform of mushy love for humanity. And when things get tough, he turns out to have the same compassion for Afghan refugee families stuck in Kabul as his supposedly vicious, uncaring, and inhumane predecessor had for Latin American refugee families stuck on the border with Mexico.

    Politicians care about themselves. Politicians don’t care about other people. And the other people they don’t care about include you, the voters, as well as Afghans and undocumented immigrants.

    OK, so that excerpt didn't support the headline directly. You'll have to click over for that. And you should.


  • The Pun Salad Garbage Headline of the Week award goes to… Slashdot for this gem: United Kingdom To Regress To Imperial Weights and Measures.

    Yes, "regress". A tragic backwards step on the road to our bright, shiny, mandatory metric future!

    Their link goes to an Independent/UK story which is entirely less arrogant: Ministers plan post-Brexit return of imperial pounds and ounces in review of EU laws.

    Shops are to be allowed to sell products in pounds and ounces again after the government pledged to review a ban on marking and selling products in imperial units as part of post-Brexit changes to EU laws.

    Ah, so people are going to be allowed to use traditional units. In Slashdot-ese, that's a regress. For people who like liberty, it's a win. Minor, perhaps, but we'll take what we can get.

    Look, I was a physics major, and I'm familiar with metric. It's fine. Back in the days when we did calculations by hand and slide rule, it had its advantages.

    But in these days of calculators, those advantages mostly vanish. There's a slight advantage in being able to use the same units as your colleagues in East Bananastan. But when you can ask Google or Alexa to do conversion to your preferred system, even that's a very small deal.

    And anyway, the metric enthusiasts aren't doing it right anyway. Speed limits in kilometers per hour? Please. Kilometers are fine, but hours are hopelessly non-metric! Instead of 130 km/h, it really should be (about) 36 meters/second. (Both of which, in real money, are about 80 mph.)

    And the dirty little secret about metric: it's more arbitrary than traditional units. The original definition of "meter" was "one ten-millionth of the distance on the Earth's surface from the north pole to the equator, on a line passing through Paris." Hopelessly geocentric, inaccurate, and (worst) Franco-supremacist!

    For a truly natural speed unit, real science says we must use c, the speed of light, the universal speed limit as far as we know. All speeds should be expressed in fractions of c. For example, the 80mph speed limit? It's about (1.2e-7)c. In real life, we could say 120 nanocees.

    There's one more bit of good news: if your speedometer read in nanocees, it would make doing relativistic calculations in your head much easier. ("Hm, my watch is running 0.000012 percent slower than that guy's on the sidewalk!")

    But back here in the Western Hemisphere, Walter Block reports from the Great White North with encouraging news: Canadians Hate the Metric System.

    A recent flyer from Safeway Canada tells its customers that Sterling Silver Premium Beef, “cut from Canada AAA beef,” is on sale for $9.99 a pound, or $22.02 a kilogram.

    A similar announcement from another large Canadian grocer, Save-On Foods, announces that Western Family chicken breasts—boneless, skinless, frozen—are available in a three-kilogram box for $21.10. Shoppers are notified that this works out to $3.19 a pound, and, in case anyone doesn’t appreciate the splendid opportunity, the flyer explains that this is an “unbelievable price.”

    Nothing untoward, except maybe for the “unbelievable” claim. The interesting part is that the prices by the pound are written in a typeface five to 10 times the size of the prices in metric weights.

    A dual citizen, I worked in Canada for more than a decade. And the great secret all Canadians know is that people still shop and weigh their purchases mainly in imperial measures, despite the compulsory metrification imposed on the nation on April 1, 1975, in a grand attempt, typical at the time, to align Anglophone nations with European practices.

    Face it, metric fans. You lost. Deservedly.

URLs du Jour

2021-09-17

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Semantic change is unfortunate. But it's worth pointing out, as does Gerard Baker of the WSJ: Joe Biden’s Presidency Is Incredible—No, Really.

    Say what you will, it should be obvious by now to any fair-minded observer that Joe Biden is an incredible president. Absolutely unbelievable.

    Given what might be politely termed as recent adverse developments, this will come as a surprise to some readers, so let me clarify: I don’t mean “incredible” in the sense the word has come to be used in the modern argot of our rapidly devaluing language. Like “awesome,” which, growing up I only ever heard used in the context of the deity but which is now typically deployed to describe a slice of pizza or a haircut, “incredible” has been subject to significant linguistic distortion.

    It’s amusing to hear some journalist of impressively wide self-esteem but evidently narrower vocabulary heap praise on a story by describing it as “incredible”—though the phrase “this is some incredible reporting from CNN,” which I have occasionally seen tweeted, has a satisfactorily, if unintentionally, faultless quality to it.

    So, in a probably futile bid to return English words to their actual meaning, I should make clear that what makes Joe Biden an incredible president is that you can’t believe a word he says.

    I'm with Baker in my griping about semantic change, and "incredible" is one of the sadder cases. Back in my Usenet days, I recall moaning when someone talked about George Orwell's "incredible honesty". What a concept!

    But (as Baker notes) such griping is "probably futile", and I'd even drop the "probably".

    After all, with respect to our Amazon Product du Jour, they didn't call them "Incredibles" because they were famed for their prevarications and misstatements.

    See also: "literally". Which, thanks to people like Biden, doesn't actually mean literally any more. He loves to use it as a vague adverbial intensifier. Yesterday:

    And I’ve said many times before: I believe we’re at an inflection point in this country — one of those moments where the decisions we’re about to make can change — literally change the trajectory of our nation for years and possibly decades to come.

    Sheesh, there's another one: "inflection point" I took calculus. I wince whenever anyone misappropriates that term simply to sound as if they took calculus.

    As noted previously, there's "racism" too. Dictionary definitions seem to be color-blind, but there's a mighty struggle to make it impossible for People of Color to be racist, even if they generally despise People of Different Color.


  • He's not great on exit strategies. Talking about futile suggestions, here's Jonah Goldberg: Joe Biden Needs a COVID Exit Strategy.

    Maybe President Biden should handle COVID-19 the way he’s handled Afghanistan.

    It’s a strange thought, given how badly he botched the U.S. withdrawal. But at least Afghanistan Joe had a clear idea about what we needed to do. COVID Joe has no such exit strategy. He’s making it up as he goes.

    “I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit,” Biden proclaimed on Aug. 31—and he meant it.

    However, he has no problem with a forever exit from the pandemic.

    Jonah goes on to cite Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commisioner, who thinks that Covid is here to stay, Biden's promise to "shut down the virus" was and is a pipe dream.

    So what's the end game? Unfortunately, it seems the "strategy" is simply to keep the crisis mentality hyped, the fear level up, and (by all means) get more and more people dependent on government.


  • But it's also a great excuse to expand Leviathan. Veronique de Rugy invokes a gastric metaphor: Spending Gluttony Is Washington's Deadly Sin.

    Democrats are ready to raise taxes. They want more revenue, in part to fund an out-of-this-world amount of new spending. Some simply want to soak the rich, as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., plainly signaled at the Met Gala by wearing a white dress with "TAX THE RICH" scrawled across it in red paint. While the public may be more receptive to the idea because of concerns over high budget deficits, let's not be naive — many voters believe that these tax hikes won't hit them. There's so much wrong about this assumption.

    Writing for The Dispatch, the Manhattan Institute's Brian Riedl documents President Joe Biden's spending plan, which would expand federal government spending by $11 trillion over the next decade. This spending would help fund a cradle-to-grave new world in which government is omnipresent in our lives. The spending would increase family assistance by $550 billion. Another $700 billion would be wasted on counterproductive "Buy America" provisions. Expansion of the Affordable Care Act would cost another $1.4 trillion; some $2 trillion would go to a Green New Deal; K-12 schools would get more money. All of this is on top of the $6.6 trillion spent on COVID-19 relief.

    For your reference, Riedl's column (from July) is here.


  • But it is a handy excuse for getting people scared, the easier to push them around. David Harsanyi says nay: Climate Change Is Not a Crisis.

    President Joe Biden contends that the recent hurricanes that hit the United States prove we’re in a “climate crisis.”

    It’s a “code red” for the world, the president warns. White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy added that climate is now a “health emergency.”

    It is, no doubt, quite convenient for politicians to treat every hurricane, tornado, and flood as an apocalyptic sign from Gaea—and then blame political apostates for the existence of nature.

    But it’s an irrational way to think about the world, because our situation is, in most ways—including our ability to adapt to the vagaries of climate—quantifiably better than before on nearly every front.

    I can't help but quote another gem:

    Ponder this rhetorical question of a columnist at The Hill: “Could climate change finally expose China as a global outlaw?” So, it wasn’t the concentration camps that did it. Or the ethnic cleansing. Or the slave labor. Or the decades of collectivist-induced economic misery and authoritarian control. Or the state censorship. It was the Chinese government’s refusal to live by the precepts of the Paris accord.

    It's a public health crisis! Which, as we've seen, means there are no limits to state coercion done in its name.


  • They aimed at a resented minority, shot down the economy. The NR editors look at Democrats' Tax Proposal: More Revenge Than Revenue.

    You might think that raising taxes on the $400,000-and-up set would please progressives, but they are howling about this proposal. Progressivism increasingly is a tendency found in those $400,000-and-up households, and so the current demand is for a tax regime that punishes the wealthy for their wealth rather than docking the high-income for their incomes. “House Democrats’ Plan to Tax the Rich Leaves Vast Fortunes Unscathed,” reads the New York Times headline, as though the purpose of taxes were to scathe the rich. The article goes on to complain that the proposal “stopped well short of changes needed to dent the vast fortunes of tycoons like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk” and landed “only glancing blows at the wealthiest Americans.”

    In other words: Never mind the revenue, bring on the pain.

    Veronique de Rugy, above, noted "gluttony" as a deadly sin exemplified by Democrat-run government. But (checking the list) we could make a solid argument that Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride are wound up in there too.

    I can only make a strained argument for Lust, though.


  • We're Number … <sigh> … Six. Daniel J. Mitchell points to the New Economic Freedom Rankings. The US of A is in the sixth spot, behind Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Georgia (the country, not the state).

    Hong Kong's high ranking is explained by the fact that the rankers used 2019 data.

    So: good news is the US might move up next year. Bad news is, it will probably be because Hong Kong will drop down to China's level (#121).


Last Modified 2021-09-18 5:15 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-09-16

  • Eye Candy du Jour from Pun Salad fave Mr. Ramirez.

    [Tax the Ignorant]

    His home paper, the Las Vegas Review Journal, adds a short comment:

    AOC’s gown at the Met Gala was meant to shock. What it demonstrated was a shocking ignorance of America’s highly progressive tax system. The top 10% percent already pay 71% of all federal income taxes.

    That's from (for example) here (tax year 2018). And the "top 10%" isn't particularly rich, although they're doing OK; the threshold to put your household in that class is $151,935 AGI.


  • A contrarian, probably correct, view. David Harsanyi is looking to lose whatever populist friends he had: The Rich Already Pay Too Much.

    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez donned an elegant gown with the slogan “tax the rich” painted on the back at the Met Gala in New York, where guests selected by Vogue’s Anna Wintour ponied up around $35,000 a pop for tickets. The scene was reminiscent of Tom Wolfe’s “Radical Chic” — though rather than being guests of the well-heeled in Park Avenue duplexes, today’s revolutionaries own luxury condos and drive around in government-subsidized electric cars that most Americans could never afford.

    My first question, though, is: Who doesn’t want to “tax the rich? Judging from my social-media feed, there seems to be a growing segment of people under the impression that the wealthy pay little or nothing in taxes. When you ask Americans if they support a wealth tax, a majority support the idea. One recent poll found that 80 percent of voters were annoyed that corporations and the wealthy don’t pay their “fair share.”

    Polls rarely ask these people what a “fair share” looks like. Is a quarter of someone’s earnings enough? A third? Because the rich have been shouldering an increasingly larger share of the cost of government. The United States already has one of the most progressive tax systems in the free world. Those who make over $207,350 now pay 35 percent in income tax. Those who make $518,400 or more pay a 37 percent income-tax rate. At some point, taxation should be considered theft.

    There's nothing particularly noble about demanding government goodies that someone else must pay for.


  • Rules are for the little people. Specifically, the leprechauns. Glenn Greenwald is scorching about that gala: The Masking of the Servant Class: Ugly COVID Images From the Met Gala Are Now Commonplace. It is by now something even the MSM is noticing.

    From the start of the pandemic, political elites have been repeatedly caught exempting themselves from the restrictive rules they impose on the lives of those over whom they rule. Governors, mayors, ministers and Speakers of the House have been filmed violating their own COVID protocols in order to dine with their closest lobbyist-friends, enjoy a coddled hair styling in chic salons, or unwind after signing new lockdown and quarantine orders by sneaking away for a weekend getaway with the family. The trend became so widespread that ABC News gathered all the examples under the headline “Elected officials slammed for hypocrisy for not following own COVID-19 advice,” while Business Insider in May updated the reporting with this: “14 prominent Democrats stand accused of hypocrisy for ignoring COVID-19 restrictions they're urging their constituents to obey."

    Most of those transgressions were too flagrant to ignore and thus produced some degree of scandal and resentment for the political officials granting themselves such license. Dominant liberal culture is, if nothing else, fiercely rule-abiding: they get very upset when they see anyone defying decrees from authorities, even if the rule-breaker is the official who promulgated the directives for everyone else. Photos released last November of California Governor Gavin Newsom giggling maskless as he sat with other maskless state health officials celebrating the birthday of a powerful lobbyist — just one month after he told the public to “to keep your mask on in between bites” and while severe state-imposed restrictions were in place regarding leaving one's home — caused a drop in popularity and helped fueled a recall initiative against him. Newsom and these other officials broke their own rules, and even among liberals who venerate their leaders as celebrities, rule-breaking is frowned upon.

    "We're all in this together. Except me."


  • Surprisingly, "Local News" strongly supports it. Christian "Only two vowels in my last name" Britschgi, notes imminent damage to an independent press: House Democrats’ Tax Bill Lavishes Subsidies on Local News.

    House Democrats are keen to raise taxes on corporations, high-income earners, and users of vaping products to pay for their $3.5 trillion spending bill. But they're cutting local newspapers some slack by slipping a special subsidy for publishers into their latest tax proposal.

    Under the tax bill released by the House Ways and Means Committee this morning, local publishers would get annual tax credits of up to $25,000 for each journalist they employ, which could then be put toward their employers' share of Medicare payroll taxes. The value of the credit would fall to $15,000 after the law has been in effect for a year.

    This would be a refundable tax credit. In other words, if the value of the tax credit exceeds the Medicare taxes a publisher pays, the publisher would receive the difference in the form of a check from the IRS. This transforms the policy from a targeted tax break to a direct subsidy.

    I can't wait for additional struggling businesses to line up at Congress's door demanding their subsidies.


  • And so much for the "only raising taxes on the rich" lie. Dominic Pino writes at the NR Corner on another legislative feature: Democrats' Tobacco-Tax Proposals Are Nanny-State Instincts Plus Tribalism.

    Democrats want to raise about $100 billion over the next ten years by raising taxes on tobacco products and introducing new taxes on vaping products. Tobacco usage is not a rich-people thing; in fact, it is quite the opposite. About 14 percent of American adults overall are smokers, but 21 percent of American adults living in households making less than $35,000 per year are smokers.

    Democrats have tried to wiggle their way out of this clear violation of Biden’s no-tax promise. According to the Washington Post:

    Democrats have argued their efforts do not violate Biden’s pledge. A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe the administration’s thinking, said smoking is not a required cost for working families and the introduction of higher taxes would not directly affect their incomes. The aide also highlighted the public health imperative behind the idea, given the well-known dangers of a practice they are trying to discourage.

    There’s no display of confidence quite like refusing to go on the record when explaining to the American people why your policies are a good idea. One suspects they know they’re full of it by saying that Biden’s pledge isn’t being violated. The Post also asked Howard Gleckman, a tax scholar at the left-leaning Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, if the proposals violated Biden’s pledge, and he answered, “Absolutely, no question.”

    I wish the anonymous "White House official" would have been even more honest: "We're only raising taxes on the rich, and any other unpopular minority we can get away with."


  • Same as the old b… Oh, you know that song. Thomas A. Firey requests that you Meet the New Boss.

    Some 18 months ago, then-president Donald Trump sent jaws dropping and tongues wagging by claiming the Constitution gave him the power to close and open state economies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    "The authority is total, and that’s the way it’s got to be," he said of his supposed ability to overrule state shutdown orders.

    Of course, neither he nor any president has such authority, whatever the wisdom of the shutdowns. But it was one more example of Trump’s belief that the Constitution gives presidents “the right to do whatever [they] want.” Throughout his time in the White House, the mainstream press and fact-checking organizations were kept busy knocking down such claims, with the Washington Post launching a regular podcast titled “Can He Do That?” (which it has continued in the Biden administration).

    Watch for the partisan bullshit. See someone with an opinion on Biden's "I can do anything" position. Find out what they were saying back then. (Here's an example: Kevin D. Williamson (NRPLUS, unfortunately).

Schrödinger's Killer App

Race to Build the World's First Quantum Computer

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I can't remember why I put this book on my get-at-library list; it was a while ago (pre-pandemic). But there it was; I requested UNH's Dimond Library to get it via Interlibrary Loan, and it showed up from Tufts.

It was not quite what I expected, and I mean that in a good way.

First, it's hilarious. The author, Jonathan P. Dowling, peppers his text with wry observations and jokes. I read a lot of dilettante-level physics books, and I'm pretty sure this is the only one with stories I read aloud to my wife. She even laughed at a few of them. (It helps to have a physics degree under your belt.)

Second, it's opinionated. That's not rare these days, but Dowling turns it up to eleven.

Third, there are many inside-baseball descriptions of how physics is done in the 21st century: funding, employment, refereeing papers, meetings, protecting your turf, bullshitting, confronting charlatans. (Dowling is merciless in taking apart the "hippie" view of quantum mechanics. (E. g, Gary Zukav's The Dancing Wu Li Masters, the movie What the Bleep Do We Know!?.)

He's even merciless in discussing non-hippies. On Roger Penrose:

I have read his book and heard him talk on the subject, and as far as I can tell, his argument goes like this. Penrose does not understand how quantum mechanics works, and he does not understand how his brain works, and hypothesizes that quantum mechanics is needed to understand the working of the mind.

Note: Roger Penrose is a Nobel Laureate in Physics. Dowling isn't afraid to punch upward.

Well, enough of that. What's the book about? It starts out by describing the weirdness of QM, specifically the features that bothered Einstein so much. Dowling breaks the weirdness down into three related features: uncertainty (you don't know an experimental result until you measure); unreality (the measure doesn't really exist until you measure); and nonlocality (measuring at point A can affect a measurement of an "entangled" property at point B. And B can be across the room from A, or light years away.) I found the defense of spooky old quantum mechanics to be as good, if not better, than anything else I've read. I felt marginally smarter.

But the meat of the book is quantum computing. Dowling points out there are problems that are effectively non-solvable by classical computers, no matter how fast. He uses the example of the thulium atom, which has 69 quantum-entangled electrons; it manages to "solve" its own wave equation only slightly slower than instantaneously due to that entanglement. How can this power be exploited for human ends?

The discussion gets pretty deep into the weeds; Dowling eschews equations, but breaks out the Bra-Ket notation pretty willy-nilly. You either follow this or you don't; I (sigh) did not.

But the "killer app" is actually a dagger aimed at the heart of the Internet-as-we-know-it. If a sufficiently powerful quantum computer existed, it could run "Shor's Algorithm" to factor very large numbers. And the encryption used to secure internet traffic relies on that being impossible.

The end of the book is very blue-sky. Quantum AI? Sure. Conscious computers? Why not. Doomsday scenarios (Terminator, Colossus, Borg, etc.)? Maybe!

For an active field, the book is kind of dated (2013). But (as near as I can tell) progress on Internet-breaking has been (at best) marginal, and some people have wondered if it's achievable. An article from earlier this month: NSA: We 'don't know when or even if' a quantum computer will ever be able to break today's public-key encryption. (Of course, the NSA might be saying that even as they have a bunch of quantum computers right now in some basement at Fort Meade spying on the Chinese.)

Some sad news, given the above: Dowling died last year. I didn't know that until I googled him in writing up this report. I also learned that he wrote a second book, Schrödinger’s Web: Race to Build the Quantum Internet, so that one is now on my get-at-library list.

URLs du Jour

2021-09-15

  • Argh. I really liked Caltech physicist Sean Carroll's recent pop-science books. Which makes me only the more saddened when he meanders away from his expertise, for example this tweet, in response to criticism of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's appearance at the recent "Met Gala"

    As a matter of fact, AOC has actually said (along with Bernie, Robert Reich, et. al.) that billionaires shouldn't exist ("as long as Americans live in abject poverty", which means, pretty much, ever.)

    Whether that eliminationist rhetoric adds up to "hating the rich" is something between AOC and her shrink. I don't care much about her mental state, or lack thereof.

    But I'm really irked by the old cliché Carroll deploys: "asking people to pay their fair share." (How old? We're talking at least FDR old.)

    Problem one is the word "asking". That's a dishonest euphemism. AOC and her ilk aren't in favor of "asking". "Asking" should be read as "demanding, under legal threat".

    But even worse than that is the concept of "fair share" of taxes. I always want to collar the people who utter that term and ask them to fill in the blanks:

    The top       percent of American taxpayers earn       percent of all adjusted gross income (AGI) which would make their fair share of taxes       percent.

    I've never seen anyone talking about "fair share" answer such a question. It's safe to assume that "fair share" is another dishonest euphemism for "more".

    If you'd like to know what the current numbers look like, try here:

    [T]he top 1 percent of taxpayers account for 20 percent of all income (AGI). So, their 40 percent share of income taxes is twice their share of the nation’s income.

    Is that "fair"? How would you change the numbers in order to make them "fair"?


  • Health advice: Don't get sick, or old. Kevin D. Williamson looks at U.K.'s National Health Service: Free Health Care's High Price.

    There are two kinds of people who support single-payer health care in the United States: Those who point to the British system as a successful example, and those who know something about the British system.

    Under the Conservative government of Boris Johnson, the United Kingdom will see taxes raised to their highest-ever peacetime level with a new surcharge going to support the financially wobbly National Health Service and “social care,” meaning nursing-home care or at-home care for the elderly. The taxes will fall disproportionately on the wages of young people, who don’t vote Conservative, to the benefit of wealthier retirees, who do.

    One of the proverbs you hear when it comes to comparisons between the United States and the United Kingdom goes roughly: “Sure, they pay higher taxes, but at least they get something for it, including free health care.”

    Neither one of those is exactly true.

    Click through for the deets.


  • Meanwhile on this side of the pond… Ira Stoll describes the same old same old (albeit with a higher price tag): Democrats Try To Hide a $3 Trillion Tax Increase From Voters.

    Explaining a newly leaked House Ways and Means Committee plan to raise taxes by $3,000,000,000,000, a Wall Street Journal news article reports, "Rep. Richard Neal (D., Mass.), the committee chairman, has said that detailing tax-increase plans too soon can give too much time for opposition to build."

    Neal had explained his reticence to The New York Times in an interview by comparing his behavior to a man trying to seduce a woman into marriage, postponing full disclosure until the wedding guests are seated and the bride has been walked down the aisle. "I'm likely to hold off on the pay-fors until we are at the altar," Neal said.

    Legislators with more respect for the deliberative process than Neal has may want to dash for the chapel exit before it's too late. What does it tell you about the Democratic leadership's view of the American public that they need to keep their plans secret until the last minute, for fear that the public might figure out what they are doing? Imagine how it would feel to be engaged to Neal, without knowing precisely what bad news he's planning to dump on you once the wedding ceremony is underway.

    I've been seeing pro-spending ads that make me want to revert to my "old man yelling at clouds" persona.


  • And he ain't talking about the game show. Dennis Prager explains, at PJMedia, Why Freedom Is in Serious Jeopardy. And this is pretty accurate, right up until it isn't:

    There are many ways in which to divide humanity — the decent and the indecent, the happy and the unhappy, the cowardly and the courageous, those who lead and those who follow, etc.

    Two major divisions that are less often noted but highly consequential are between those who want to control others and those who have little interest in controlling others, and between the related categories of those who are comfortable with being controlled by others and those who detest being controlled by others.

    Those who seek to control others and those who seek to be controlled by others would seem to be on opposite ends of the political spectrum. But they are not. Both groups are overwhelmingly populated by individuals on the Left.

    Ah, would that were true. I (again) recommend Katherine Mangu-Ward's take: Let’s Play Horseshoe Theory.


  • So long Turd Ferguson. There are a lot of reminisces about Norm Macdonald out there today. One of the best from Theodore Kupfer at City Journal Norm Macdonald, Comedy Legend.

    Born and raised in Canada, Macdonald began his comedy career in the late 1980s. He was a frequent guest of late-night shows throughout the 1990s, with his appearances on Conan O’Brien in particular being the stuff of legend. His apogee of fame probably came between 1994 and 1998, when he hosted Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” segment—typically a stepping stone to a late-night show of one’s own—only to be fired by NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer for joking too much about O. J. Simpson, Ohlmeyer’s personal friend. Immediately afterward, Macdonald went on David Letterman, who asked how he had reacted to getting canned. “I said, ‘Oh, that’s not good,’” said Macdonald. “And I said, ‘Why is that, now? And [Ohlmeyer] goes, ‘Well, you’re not funny.’ And I said, ‘Holy Lord, that’s even worse news!’”

    Professor Alan Jacobs quotes a brief (apparently recent) joke from Norm:

    You know, I think about my deathbed a lot.

    What do you think about it?

    I think I should never have purchased a deathbed in the first place.

    You can find a lot of video out there. Although Norm was pretty good in his own voice, his impressions were, I think, underappreciated: Bob Dole, Burt Reynolds, and … see if you can find his impression of Charles Kuralt giving his resignation on "CBS Sunday Morning".

    (Of course if you never saw Charles Kuralt on "CBS Sunday Morning", some of the humor might be lost on you.)

Maverick

A Biography of Thomas Sowell

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I have … let me count here … fourteen books by Thomas Sowell on my shelves. I've been a fanboy for many years, going back to my first read of Knowledge and Decisions, sometime in the early 1980s. You can read my more recent book reports here, here, here, and here.

This relatively short book by WSJ writer Jason L. Riley is billed as a "biography" in the subtitle, but it would be more accurate to call it an intellectual biography: an examination of Sowell's work over decades. (Sowell published his own memoir, A Personal Odyssey, back in 2000.) Like me, Riley is a Sowell fan; if you're looking for criticism, you won't find it here. Fine by me; Riley's pushing on an unlocked door in my case.

It's maybe not widely known that Sowell kicked off his academic career as a Marxist. That could have been his ticket to becoming widely embraced in Academe, but (fortunately for us) he had an unswerving devotion to facts and data, following them wherever they led. It didn't hurt that he took up with Milton Friedman and George Stigler as a grad student at the University of Chicago. And he was heavily influenced by Hayek's essay "The Use of Knowledge in Society" (assigned by Friedman in his price theory class).

Riley follows a number of threads in Sowell's oeuvre: his epistemology, largely influenced by Hayek, led him to his analyses of the origins of intellectual debate, where in many cases involve two sides shouting loudly past each other; see A Conflict of Visions, The Vision of the Anointed, and The Quest for Cosmic Justice. There's also his three-volume examination of worldwide history: Race and Culture, Migrations And Cultures, and Conquests and Cultures.

And then there is Sowell's take on current events, expressed over decades, where he brought to bear his views on economics, history, race, and culture in both books and his long-running syndicated column. He saw much foolishness, and took it to task in blunt "undiplomatic" language. He was in profound disagreement with many other black intellectuals on racial policies, properly scornful of paternalistic "preferential policies". He's been retired from active commentary for a few years, but my guess he'd be even harder on Critical Race theorists. While not denying the stubborn persistence of racism in whites, he thought it largely futile to point fingers at it. Blacks could be more productively engaged in fixing up their own culture, moving out from dependence on white largesse.

One surprising thing I learned about in Riley's book was Sowell's personal friendship with Steven Pinker. (I'm also a Pinker fanboy myself.) While Pinker is politically more liberal than Sowell, that didn't prevent them from renting a helicopter to take pictures over San Francisco. (They're both "camera bugs".)

I enjoyed the book quite a bit. It would also be a good read for someone looking for an overview of Sowell's work, maybe with an eye toward a deeper dive into his scholarship and thoughts.


Last Modified 2021-09-15 6:41 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-09-14

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Since our first URL today mentions Critical Race Theory, I decided to check Amazon for an appropriate product. I was amazed at the selection of t-shirts (my favorite link type) which said completely different things on the topic.

It's like that old yarn about the blind men describing an elephant. Except that one group of describers are touching a pipe organ, the other touching a fire engine.

The virtue of the product I settled on today: I can't tell if it's pro- or anti-CRT.

  • Not I. James R. Rogers wonders: Who's Afraid of Critical Race Theory?.

    Critical Race Theory (CRT) seems to have morphed into something of a Rorschach inkblot test, with fears and aspirations being as much read into it as out of it. Even though CRT has many variants even among its proponents, CRT’s historical starting point as a distinctive academic movement, as well as its continuing motivation, derives from positing a relatively clear, parsimonious theory to explain a pressing intellectual and policy puzzle regarding the modern African American experience in the United States. The puzzle is this: Why do significant racial disparities continue in the United States? CRT posits a straightforward theory to explain the continuation of significant racial disparities in the United States: Racial disparities continue in the United States because, despite the Civil Rights policies and social programs of the 1960s, racism continues in the United States. To make the theory work, however, Critical Race Theorists had to broaden the concept of “racism.” That definitional move is where much of the contestation comes in.

     As a theory posited to explain observed phenomena, CRT can be tested—and contested—to determine just how well it accounts for the phenomena it seeks to explain. The irony is that doubling down on practices and policies aimed at making colorblind decisions, that is, decisions without respect to race—and CRT rejects the possibility, let alone the efficacy of colorblind policies—remains the best means to solve continuing racial disparities that distress not only Critical Race Theorists, but most Americans on the Right as well as the Left.

    The core of CRT lies in its assertion of “a regime of white supremacy and its subordination of people of color”. Google that phrase for a selection. It seems to have originated in this 1995 book, and has metastasized since, often without attribution to the original.

    Pro-CRTers don't purport to demonstrate that regime exists; instead, they assume it does, as a matter of faith.


  • And it's not a STOP sign. J.D. Tuccille notes the trend: Biden’s Vaccine Mandate Is the Latest Sign of the Presidency Becoming a Monarchy.

    President Joe Biden's national vaccine mandate sparked a lot of debate and set political seismometers jumping even more frantically than usual. Most commentary has focused on two issues: Is forcing people to take vaccines a good idea, and will the courts sign off on the government's authority to do so? Those are great discussions to have, though anything involving "forcing people" should be a non-starter by default. But another important question is raised by the president's gambit to displace the Afghanistan fiasco from the headlines: How, in the United States, can one guy just impose his preferred policies, whether they're good, bad, or indifferent?

    To be fair, not everybody overlooked this point:

    "There's no authority for this," former Rep. Justin Amash (L-Mich.) noted. "This is legislative action that bypasses the legislative branch. If you care about representative government—if you're consistent regardless of who's president—then it doesn't matter that you like the policy; this mandate is an abuse of power."

    Check J.D. out for some disturbing history.


  • Dubya's been sniffing too many paint fumes. Byron York takes a look at George W. Bush's 9/11 speech. "It was terrible," says Byron.

    In two ways. First, Bush's speech was as much about decrying today's political divisions as it was about remembering the events of Sept. 11. But Bush showed an astonishing lack of self-awareness of the role his own actions played in creating those divisions. And second, Bush helped widen those divisions by endorsing a Rachel Maddow-esque argument that an equivalence exists between the plane-hijacking, murderous terrorists of Sept. 11, 2001, and the Capitol rioters of Jan. 6, 2021 — a comparison that has no basis in fact but has done much to sour the national debate.

    Damn. I kind of liked Dubya.


  • A good story that happens to be true. I was cheered and moved by this, from Bryan Caplan, about his Homeschooling Odyssey.

    Six years ago, I began homeschooling my elder sons, Aidan and Tristan.  They attended Fairfax County Public Schools for K-6, becoming more disgruntled with every passing year.  Even though they went to an alleged “honors” school for grades 4-6, they were bored out of their minds.  The academic material was too easy and moved far too slowly.  The non-academic material was humiliatingly infantile.  And non-academics – music, dance, chorus, art, poster projects – consumed a majority of their day.  As elementary school graduation approached, my sons were hungry for a change.

    So what did we do?  In consultation with my pupils, I prepared an ultra-academic curriculum.  Hours of math every day.  Reading serious books.  Writing serious essays.  Taking college classes.  And mastering bodies of knowledge.

    Read on for the details; they are inspiring. My own kids are long out of school, so my interest was purely theoretical. And I understand that a lot of parents might not have Bryan's talents at education. Still, read through for the happy ending. (Or, really, just the beginning of Aidan's and Tristan's stories.)


  • Questions? We don't need no stinking questions! Michael Graham checks out a political stunt: NH Advocates for HR1 Hold A "NO-Press" Conference in Manchester.

    New Hampshire progressives gathered in Manchester Monday to advocate for an expanded federal election law at a “press conference” that featured plenty of political rhetoric…but no press.

    While the press release invitation read, “New Hampshire For the People Act Coalition Hosts Press Conference Ahead of Expected Senate Vote,” reporters arrived to discover the participants would not be taking questions from the press as part of the program. Instead, the emcee — Liz Tentarelli, president of the League of Women Voters — said journalists were free to roam among the crowd and ask speakers if they would be willing to answer questions.

    At least one speaker was not.

    Rep. Chris Pappas literally fled the scene, his aides physically blocking the press, when approached by a New Hampshire Journal reporter with a question. (“Representative Pappas, your fellow Democrat, Secretary of State Bill Gardner, says you’ve spoken to him about HR 1. Is that true?”)

    I saw this event "reported" on our local news station, WMUR. HR1 was blandly described as an "election reform" bill. The speakers sang its praises! Nary a negative word was heard. Just those mean old Republicans standing in the way!

    A supplementary article covered one of the scary speeches: NH AFL-CIO Prez: PRO Act, H.R. 1 ‘Supersede Individual Rights’

    “There are things that have to be done in this country that supersede individual rights,” [New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Glenn] Brackett told the Manchester crowd.

    Sheesh. It is of course not TV-newsworthy to point that bit out.


Last Modified 2021-09-15 5:24 AM EDT

Clear Light of Day

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I picked up this Anita Desai novel at the Portsmouth Public Library on the enthusiastic recommendation of Professor Alan Jacobs in his recent book Breaking Bread with the Dead: "One of the most beautiful novels I know."

I was not worthy. I can report that I was impressed with Anita Desai's craftwork, and her subtle observations. I appreciated the book, honest. I just didn't like it very much. Sorry, Ms. Desai. And sorry, Professor Jacobs.

I didn't care about the people, and I didn't find what happens to them very interesting. That's on me.

But: It's mostly the story of the Das family, Hindus living in (old) Delhi, India. It's in four parts, starting at some time in the 1970s, then jumping back to the late 1940s (around the time of the India-Pakistan partition), back a little farther in the third part, and then back to the 1970s for the last. It concentrates on the four Das siblings: Raj, Bim, Tara, and Baba. And concentrates further on the rocky relationship between sisters Bim and Tara.

Raj is taken with their Muslim neighbor/landlord, Hyder Ali; this earns him the ire of his Hindu peers and surveillance by the Delhi cops. Nevertheless, he persists, marrying into the family and moving away. Following a different path is Tara, who marries Bakul, a globe-hopping Indian diplomat. This eventually leaves Bim alone in a decaying house with her autistic brother, Baba, who likes listening to 78 RPM records on an old gramophone. (Bing Crosby crooning "Don't Fence Me In" is a favorite.) Bim becomes a somewhat bitter history teacher, full of dark feelings about how her life turned out.

And a cow falls into the well and drowns. They leave her corpse there. That's symbolic of something, I think.

And there's a lot more in this short book. And, as I indicated above, if you're a different sort of reader than I, you can find it a rewarding read.

URLs du Jour

2021-09-13

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  • Glad to do my part for free expression. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is taking a bold stand against Cambridge bluenoses. Calling all Barbz: Twitter rallies behind Harvard students told to remove Nicki Minaj flag from dorm window.

    A viral tweet has left Harvard University facing an outcry from an unlikely group of free speech advocates — the Barbz.

    Barbz — the name given to the devoted fans of rapper/singer/songwriter Nicki Minaj — have taken to Twitter to defend the expressive rights of several Harvard undergraduate students who were told to take down a flag depicting the rapper hanging in their residence hall window.

    On Sept. 5, a Harvard undergrad writing under the Twitter handle @imjustjuice tweeted that he and his suitemates had been contacted and told to remove the flag over concern that “the community will find the flag offensive.” Presumably sent by a Harvard official, the email did not explain how the flag — depicting a bikini-clad Minaj saluting in front of an American flag — could be considered offensive.

    I'm not sure which Harvardites would consider to be more "offensive": (1) the image of Ms. Minaj or (2) the American flag behind her.

    I've inserted an Amazon link above, but I speculate from the creative product naming ("Nic Mina" or "Nic-ki Min-aj") that the vendors are worried about Nic-ki's lawyers getting Amazon to scrub such items from their marketplace. So at some point, sooner or later, the link could fail.


  • Mister, we could use a man like Calvin Coolidge again. Chris Stirewalt looks at the latest addition to an ignominious team: Biden Joins the All-Stars of Constitutional Contempt.

    Populist leaders throughout American history have railed against the Constitution’s limits on the desires of the people. But never in my lifetime have I seen such wanton disdain among our leaders for the Constitution as I have in the past decade.

    As much as we would like to think of the presidency of Donald Trump as a special case, his contempt for our national charter in matters small, medium, and large—while singular in history—is also part of a trend. When Barack Obama was president, he abused his authority right out in the open, too. Now, after just eight months in office, President Biden seems determined to claim his place in the hall of fame of constitutional contempt. After saying he lacked the power to prevent landlords from evicting those who don’t pay their rent, Biden did it anyway. Before the ink had set on the Supreme Court’s decision striking down that action, Biden invented yet another power for himself: to force private employers to require their workers to get vaccinated.

    What the New York Times calls a “novel use of a law on workplace safety” is an invented power that violates the letter and spirit of Article II’s limits on the president’s powers. But as has been the case for much of Washington's decade-long journey into constitutional contempt, this one will end up as pure partisan applesauce. Biden supporters who would have had a fit if Trump had done something similar will stand silent. Biden’s foes who abetted Trump in his worst constitutional abuses will thunder (and raise money) in their umbrage. Indeed, the worst part of Biden’s power grab is that he did it knowing it would deepen divisions as it thrilled the left and outraged the right. But even if it were only a cynical political ploy, that would not lessen its violence to the Constitution.

    Let's toss in the "End Citizens United" crowd. And when you read a headline like "Senator Warren urges Amazon to tackle COVID-19 misinformation", please furnish the translation: "Liz attempts to evade the inconvenient First Amendment by telling Amazon to censor views she doesn't like."


  • Katherine Mangu-Ward throws a theoretical ringer. In her lead editorial in the latest Reason print edition, now out from behind the paywall, she extends an invitation: Let’s Play Horseshoe Theory.

    This summer, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos went to the edge of space on a ship he built with his own earnings. A bunch of people saw the billionaire blast off and thought: "Screw that guy and his dumb rocket—the government should take his money because I have a much better idea of how to spend it."

    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) tweeted, "Here on Earth, in the richest country on the planet, half our people live paycheck to paycheck, people are struggling to feed themselves, struggling to see a doctor—but hey, the richest guys in the world are off in outer space! Yes. It's time to tax the billionaires." Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D–Ore.) said he'll introduce legislation that would tax wealthy space tourists in order to "support the public good." And Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) reiterated their calls to abolish billionaires via a wealth tax.

    The American right has long wanted to get its paws on Bezos as well. Former President Donald Trump has been beefing with Bezos for years, over the editorial line of The Washington Post (which Bezos owns) as well as the conduct of Amazon. In 2018 Trump tweeted, "I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election. Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!" Other conservatives weighed in with their own thoughts when Bezos flew. Matthew Walther, editor of the conservative Catholic publication The Lamp, wrote: "Maybe instead of sending idiots into a blank meaningless void at a gazillion bucks a pop we could build, I dunno, a functioning transit system in our capital city. Maybe we could even try real regional rail. Just spitballing."

    Left and right populists get uncomfortably close in their populist rhetoric against the "rich". And (as KMW notes) they all have bright ideas about how they want to spend Other Peoples' Money.


  • Don't bother, they're here. David Harsanyi warns us, but maybe not far enough ahead of time: Get ready for the left’s climate-change ‘emergency’ lockdowns.

    President Biden claims recent hurricanes prove we’re in a “climate crisis” — “code red” for the world, he warns. White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy adds that climate is now a “health emergency.”

    It’s convenient for politicians to treat every hurricane, tornado and flood as an apocalyptic sign from Gaia — and then blame political apostates for offending the goddess. But it’s an irrational way to think about the world. Because our situation is, in most ways, quantifiably better than before on nearly every front.

    This reality is probably difficult to accept for a generation subjected to decades of fearmongering, but climate anomalies are nothing new. When a freak snowstorm hit Texas this year, the administration used it to push draconian policies. But the Texas storm was no different than the rare 1973 blizzard that hit the South. It happens. And there’s nothing we can do.

    We'll get draconian measures, not because they'll actually "solve the problem", but because (a) politicians like wielding power, the more the better; and (b) a certain fraction of the populace likes them too.

URLs du Jour

2021-09-12

  • Money Printer Go Brrr. Via Power Line's post: Weimar? It’s Us.

    Leave it to "House Ed & Labor Republicans" to not identify the speaker in that clip. It's not "House Democrats", but it's a guy with a lot of power: Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), a powerful argument for Congressional term limits all on his own. He's in his eighth term. He is Chairman of the House Budget Committee.

    Is this 13-second clip out of context? Hey, maybe. I can't find the original complete video. But there's a 51-second clip posted by @HouseBudgetDems here and it's not much better in terms of fiscal sanity. ("We have to stop thinking about the money, which we can create plenty of…")

    Technically, he's right, I suppose, assuming that when he says "We", he means "the Federal Government". As long as it can apply ink to paper, and exempts itself from counterfeiting laws, it can keep paying its debts with the increasingly worthless product of that process.

    If by "We", you mean "American citizens", well… yeah, we can definitely go bankrupt.

    And lest we forget, it's not as if the Trump-era GOP has a good record (from 2016):

    “People said I want to go and buy debt and default on debt, and I mean, these people are crazy. This is the United States government,” Trump told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on “New Day.” “First of all, you never have to default because you print the money, I hate to tell you, OK?”

    OK, Donald.

    I swear I will vote for the craziest person on the ballot next year as long as he or she simply promises to vote for cutting spending.


  • Are these words small enough for Biden to understand? Early Friday evening, Biden claimed his new vaccine mandates were "not about freedom or personal choice." Nick Gillespie dissents: No, Biden, This Is About Freedom and Personal Choice.

    Contra Biden, everything is always (or should be) about freedom and personal choice. That libertarian sentiment defines America's ethos and can't simply be written out of the script because it gets in the way of what this or any other president wants. There are legitimate moments when rights can be abrogated due to actual existential threats, but this is certainly not one of them.

    As Jeffrey A. Singer, a surgeon and senior fellow for the Cato Institute, has noted, COVID-19 has a "0.2 percent fatality rate among people not living in institutions." Fully 80 percent of deaths have occurred among people over 65 and just 358 children under the age of 17 had died of the disease as of July 29, 2021. We are not talking about smallpox, which affected all populations and had a fatality rate of 30 percent. COVID, argues Singer, "will not be eradicated" and will become a small-scale, endemic problem that should be minimized by targeted interventions to protect the most vulnerable. From a public health perspective, it should not become the casus belli for a radical restructuring of society and a massive expansion of presidential (or governmental) powers.

    Well, we'll see if it "works".


  • Worst form of government, except for… Michael Huemer breaks down the arguments pro and con: I Can’t Believe this Is the Best We Can Do, but … Democracy.

    Some people overappreciate democracy – they think it’s a great idea, that it legitimates actions that would otherwise be rights-violations, that it works better than the market, that there’s nothing wrong with it that can’t be fixed by “more democracy”. I cannot sympathize with this view. The idea of a mob imposing its will on the minority never inspired in me that great reverence that it seems to inspire for others.

    But also, some people underappreciate democracy – they think it’s total crap, that voters can’t be trusted to tie their own shoes, that there’s no point in trying to preserve democracy or to improve it.

    So I thought I would give my take on democracy. The right view is in between the extremes: Democracy has serious flaws that are inherent in the system and not fixable; nevertheless, it is much better than anything else people have come up with, other than of course anarcho-capitalism.

    I don't know what an anarcho-capitalist system would look like, or if it would be stable. I wouldn't mind being a guinea pig.


  • Hey, kids! What time is it? Lynn Uzell has the answer in her Real Clear Politics article: It's Time to Acknowledge Anti-White Racism.

    As any student of George Orwell knows, no authoritarian government can ever gain complete control unless it commandeers people’s thinking through the manipulation of language. Thus, the dystopian powers in “1984” deliberately turned the meaning of words upside-down in a process known as double-think.

    The same process is happening today with the words used to discuss racism. In true Orwellian fashion, Ibram X. Kendi (pictured) insists that the only way to fight racism is to embrace racial discrimination in perpetuity. This “anti-racism,” as he calls it, is as likely to stamp out genuine racism as Orwell’s Ministry of Truth was apt to stamp out falsehoods.

    In order to understand what is going on, we must call to mind the traditional definition of racism: the stereotyping, denigrating, marginalizing, or excluding of persons on the basis of race. Look up any definition of racism prior to the racial awokening taking place in the last decade, and it will be: 1) race neutral; and 2) involve some act of free will—relating to word, deed, or belief.

    The definition of racism has undergone a radical change in a short time. According to the new eighth-grade curriculum for the Albemarle County (Va.) School District, racism now means: “The marginalization and/or oppression of people of color based on a socially constructed racial hierarchy that privileges white people.”

    It's much the same at Portsmouth Public Library which proudly published its Anti-Racism Zine awhile back. Its "Glossary" definition?

    Racism - unjust or prejudicial treatment based on racial stereotyping (conscious or unconscious, active or passive) that is backed by institutional power. "A marriage of racist policies and racist ideas that produces & normalizes racial inequalities." -- Ibram X. Kendi

    Yes, Kendi embraces the circular definition fallacy. It's usually not so obvious, but there you are.

    Apparently there's no longer any word for people who simply hate other people based on their skin color.

URLs du Jour

2021-09-11

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  • It's that day again. All the more notable thanks to the roundness of the anniversary number. I gave my personal memoir thirteen years ago, and don't have anything to add.


  • All-purpose headline: "Joe Biden's incoherent, fear-mongering                      speech." John Podhoretz fills in the blank: Joe Biden's incoherent, fear-mongering COVID vaccine speech.

    Joe Biden’s speech on COVID was bizarrely incoherent.

    He told the American people without qualification that fully vaccinated people are at incredibly low risk: “Only 1 out of every 160,000 fully vaccinated Americans was hospitalized for COVID per day.”

    Then he promised to shield them against the evil people who are threatening their very lives: “We’re going to protect the vaccinated from unvaccinated co-workers.”

    But Joe, you just said the vaccinated were already protected!

    Memo to Biden speechwriters: try to avoid such obvious incoherence. I assume this blunder was due to you working much harder on the parts of the speech that said, in effect, "I've done a great job, and everything bad that's happened is somebody else's fault."


  • Not only incoherent, but also… Andrew McCarthy has a different criticism: Biden knows his vax mandates are unconstitutional — but just doesn’t care.

    Clearly, President Joe Biden is not chastened by the Supreme Court smackdown he got just a couple of weeks ago, when the justices invalidated the eviction moratorium that even administration officials acknowledge was patently lawless right before Biden reissued it.

    Quite the opposite.

    The administration is similarly well aware that the national vaccine mandate that the president is poised to issue is unlawful. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain made the obvious explicit by retweeting a progressive commentator’s observation that the ploy of imposing the vaccine requirement as a workplace-safety rule under OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is the “ultimate work-around.”

    Translation: The president knows that an executive order mandating COVID vaccination would be shot down instantly, so he’s trying to camouflage it in a maze of Labor Department regulation.

    Biden, unfortunately, continues past-President precedents of ignoring Constitutional limits on executive power. And Democrats who were horrified of Trump's overreaches are cheering Biden's. Why, I bet… yup, thought so:


  • The unvaccinated are a dangerous menace. Oh, except for… The Free Beacon reports that some are still allowed to spread Covid if they want: Postal Service Unions Spent Big on Biden. Now They’re Exempted From the Federal Vaccine Mandate.

    President Joe Biden's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal workers will exempt United States Postal Service (USPS) employees who pumped millions of dollars into the 2020 election campaign.

    A USPS spokesman told the Washington Free Beacon that Biden's mandate, announced Thursday, will not apply to the nearly 500,000 workers who deliver mail to American residents each day. The postal service's status as an independent agency frees it from the purview of the executive order. The exempted workers happen to be members of two of the most influential government workers unions in the country.

    Note: the government appears confused on whether USPS employees will be required to get vaccinated or merely "strongly encouraged".

    Um, they weren't being "strongly encouraged" up to now?


  • But the FDA is still killing people. Ronald Bailey is a little frustrated by business as usual: Why the Hell Has the FDA Not Approved Cheap Rapid COVID-19 Self-Tests Yet?. (Click through for the photos he mentions.)

    Above is a photograph of my stash of five at-home COVID-19 tests. After participating a conference in South Dakota in July where a lot of folks were ostentatiously unvaccinated, I used one so that if I tested positive I could quarantine myself to prevent infecting other people. Since I have been fully vaccinated since early March, I hoped that the results would be negative. Fortunately, they were. The cost of my test stockpile is $149.95.

    Below is a photo showing a bin of at-home rapid Flowflex COVID-19 tests for sale for about $3.50 apiece at a supermarket in the Netherlands. The test is manufactured by a company headquartered in the U.S., but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved it for sale here. In the bin below the Flowflex test, you'll see another COVID-19 self-test offered by Roche. You can buy it in the Netherlands for about $5.90 per test. It too is not approved by the FDA.

    Cato's latest Human Freedom Index ranks the Netherlands as the 14th freest country in the world. The US comes in at number 17.

URLs du Jour

2021-09-10

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  • Politician's Syllogism alive and well. Philip Klein is one of the numerous people pointing out little problems with the Dodderer-in-Chief's latest: Biden Vaccine Mandate and Employer Complications.

    In our editorial, we addressed the legal issues raised by President Biden’s sweeping mandate that all private businesses with 100 or more employees require workers either get vaccinated, or produce a weekly negative test. Andrew McCarthy separately argued that the order is fundamentally unconstitutional. Beyond the serious legal and process issues raised by using a rarely invoked OSHA emergency authority to deputize private businesses to prod 80 million Americans into getting vaccinated, there are serious practical questions. And one of the problems with bypassing the typical regulatory process is that those tasked with implementing these requirements will have no opportunity to weigh in on the potential complications.

    Just to think of a few complications, under this order, businesses will now have to set up a system for monitoring who has been vaccinated and who has not. They will also have to facilitate weekly testing for those who choose not to be vaccinated, and keep track of the negative tests. Who pays for the tests? What happens in the time that workers are waiting test results? This remains unclear as of now.

    And he goes on with other matters that are "unclear as of now."

    It almost makes me wish I were in a position to engage in civil disobedience. Maybe I'll go out and lick some doorknobs.

    The Politician's Syllogism, in case you haven't heard:

    1. We must do something.
    2. This is something.
    3. Therefore, we must do this.

    I watched Biden's speech yesterday. (It pre-empted local news.) I've become, at last, an old man that yells at the TV. Especially when he took credit for things he had nothing to do with.


  • This woman should have never been let near the levers of power. Specifically, Senator Elizabeth Warren. From the Daily Signal, her latest tilt toward Big Sisterism: Warren Asks Amazon to Ban Products With ‘COVID-19 Misinformation’.

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is urging Amazon to remove books and other products that spread “COVID-19 misinformation” from its online marketplace.

    Warren identified a variety of products that are among the top results when consumers search for certain items and books about COVID-19 in a letter sent Tuesday to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy. The products promote “false and misleading” conspiracy theories about the coronavirus, Warren alleges in the letter.

    It would be, of course, totally unconstitutional for the government to ban books.

    Isn't it nearly as bad for a government official (one who's taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution) to nag a company into doing that dirty work for her?

    It hasn't been that long since she proposed breaking up Amazon (and other firms). That's the stick that puts some oomph behind her "request".

    Noting the obvious: Amazon sells Mein Kampf; Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung; Foundations of Leninism (by one J. V. Stalin). Those three authors alone probably piled up tens of millions of victims. Shouldn't Warren start with those before worrying about the relatively puny death toll from Covid misinfo?

    And finally: Amazon unfortunately should have seen this coming when they decided to stop selling When Harry Became Sally. They have only themselves to blame.


  • Because we live in Cloud-Cuckoo Land. Peter Suderman makes an observation that, honestly, everyone should be making: Medicare Is About To Run Out of Money. Democrats Want To Make the Program Cost Even More..

    To understand the implications of Democrats' current plans for expanding federal health care programs, it's useful to start with some context from the biggest federal health care program that currently exists: Medicare.

    Last week, Medicare's board of trustees produced their annual report on the program's fiscal health. That report contained some expected yet nonetheless alarming news: Medicare's hospital insurance (HI) trust fund, itself a kind of accounting fiction, will be insolvent in just five years. Starting in 2026, the HI fund, which covers inpatient hospital services, will be depleted.

    The program will have to rely on the HI fund's incoming revenues, essentially operating on a cash flow basis—and there won't be enough cash. In 2026, the HI fund will only cover about 91 percent of its bills. In the years that follow, that gap will only grow larger. So without changes to the program's financing, doctors, hospitals, and other medical providers will face rapidly reduced payments from the program, with ensuing ripple effects on both the wider economy, roughly a sixth of which revolves around health care services, and on the provision and availability of health care.

    The "solution", such as it is, will be to delay even talking about this until it becomes a "crisis". And we all know about those…


  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] They lead to big honking sea monsters. Bryan Caplan writes on Liberty's Crisis Crisis and some prescience:

    I often remember the parting words of Robert Higgs’ Crisis and Leviathan:

    [W]e do know something – at least abstractly – about the future.  We know that other great crises will come.  Whether they will be occasioned by foreign wars, economic collapse, or rampant terrorism, no one can predict with assurances.  Yet in one form of another, great crises will surely come again… When they do, governments almost certainly will gain new powers over economic and social affairs… For those who cherish individual liberty and a free society, the prospect is deeply disheartening.

    That’s what Higgs said back in 1987, over a third of a century ago.  And how right he has been!  The Nineties were almost crisis-free; indeed, the collapse of Communism ended the forty-year crisis of the Cold War.  Ever since, however, we’ve had one exasperating crisis after another: 9/11, the Iraq War, the Great Recession, and ISIS, followed by Covid-19, the crisis that puts all the others to shameI maintain, of course, that the chief problem in each crisis has been government’s hysterical overreaction.  Verily, the cure is worse than the disease.  Still, that doesn’t change the fact that the net effect of these crises has been awful.

    As someone who, like Higgs, cherishes individual liberty and a free society, the retrospect has been deeply disheartening.  But at least Higgs psychologically prepared me to see people panicked and freedom trampled.  What I failed to anticipate, however, was the effect of crises on the liberty movement itself.

    It hasn't been pretty, Bryan points out. The "liberty movement" tends to have a significant number of Leviathan apologists for every new incursion on freedom.

    Sad. We're probably doomed.

URLs du Jour

2021-09-09

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  • And I will let the door hit me on the way out. At her substack, Bari Weiss hosts Peter Boghossian, making his resignation from Portland State public: My University Sacrificed Ideas for Ideology. So Today I Quit.

    I never once believed  nor do I now  that the purpose of instruction was to lead my students to a particular conclusion. Rather, I sought to create the conditions for rigorous thought; to help them gain the tools to hunt and furrow for their own conclusions. This is why I became a teacher and why I love teaching.

    But brick by brick, the university has made this kind of intellectual exploration impossible. It has transformed a bastion of free inquiry into a Social Justice factory whose only inputs were race, gender, and victimhood and whose only outputs were grievance and division.

    Students at Portland State are not being taught to think. Rather, they are being trained to mimic the moral certainty of ideologues. Faculty and administrators have abdicated the university’s truth-seeking mission and instead drive intolerance of divergent beliefs and opinions. This has created a culture of offense where students are now afraid to speak openly and honestly.

    I applaud Boghossian's straight talk, and wish him well.


  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Still in Academia for now, however is Joshua M. Dunn Sr. (University of Colorado, Colorado Springs) And he asks (in a review of Jonathan Rauch's The Constitution of Knowledge, Amazon link at your right): Who Can We Trust Today?

    In The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth, Jonathan Rauch contends that we are facing an epistemic crisis. We no longer, as a society, seem to be able to distinguish truth from lies. And who can doubt him? To make his case he points to how preeminent gatekeepers of truth such as leading journalists like Dan Rather (“fake but accurate”) and Brian Williams (my helicopter “was forced down by an RPG”), the entire journalistic establishment that relentlessly peddled lies about Stacey Abrams having the Georgia gubernatorial election stolen from her, raised Michael Avenatti to a plausible presidential contender, and, of course, the biggest of them all, pushed the Russia collusion hoax. Wait! He doesn’t mention those at all. One can search high and low in his book for some discussion of the countless New York Times articles about the collusion hoax that was discredited by the Mueller Report and never find it.  Instead, this is how he describes the problem:

    The crisis had many elements, but two seemed central to its character. One was the deployment of disinformation on an unprecedented scale by Trump, his troll armies, foreign governments, conspiracy mongers, and a conservative media ecosystem which was increasingly detached from reality-based norms. That attack came predominantly though not exclusively from the right. Peculiarly, it received an assist from the left, in the form of an attack on epistemic liberalism which came to be known as cancel culture.

    You don’t have to have a MAGA hat in your closet, or to believe that there was massive electoral fraud depriving Trump of reelection, or to think that QAnon is sending you prophecies on 4chan, or to watch OANN to think that this might be, well, slightly one-sided. Strangely, it also means that our predicament, which Rauch overall excellently diagnoses, is even worse than he describes. If one of the central institutions of what he calls the “reality-based community” is thoroughly compromised (later in the book he does discuss the broader problems confronting mainstream journalism) then perhaps we should have even less hope than he allows.

    Sigh. Rauch's book was on my "maybe buy" list; I've moved it to my "maybe get at library" list.


  • Remember when people used to say "The Moral Majority is neither"? Well, Matt Taibbi remembers Moral Majority Media Strikes Again.

    The problem lay in the reason the error spread, which happens to be the same reason underlying innumerable other media shipwrecks in the last five years. These include everything from wrong reports of Russians hacking a Vermont energy grid, to tales of Michael Cohen in Prague, to the pee tape, to Julie Swetnick’s rape accusation, to the Covington high school fiasco, to Russian oligarchs co-signing a Deutsche Bank loan application for Donald Trump, to Bountygate, to the “mass hysterectomies” story, and dozens beyond: the media business has become a machine for generating error-ridden moral panics.

    News has become a corporatized version of the “Two Minutes Hate,” in which the goal of every broadcast is an anxiety-ridden audience provoked to the point of fury by the un-policed infamy of whatever wreckers are said to be threatening civilization this week: the unvaccinated, insurrectionists, Assadists, Greens, Bernie Bros, Jill Stein, Russians, the promoters of “white supremacy culture,” etc. Mistakes are inevitable because this brand of media business isn’t about accuracy, but rallying audiences to addictive disgust. As a result, most press people now shrug off the odd error or six — look at Maddow leaving her tweet up — so long as they feel stories are directionally right, i.e. aimed at deserving targets.

    (For those who don't remember the reference in the headline: see here and here and here. Hatred thinly diguised as smug superiority is nothing new.)


  • "No choice for you," say the schoolmarms. Dee Juria (her real name, not a legal pun) outlines an actual pro-choice position: Capping Education Freedom Accounts would cap opportunities for students.

    More than 1,000 New Hampshire families have applied for one of the state’s new Education Freedom Accounts (EFAs), showing strong demand for a program that offers many lower-income families their first real alternative to their assigned public school. Sadly, opponents of the program have cited this strong interest as a reason to prevent the program from growing.

    Opponents claim the program will cost taxpayers too much money, so it should be capped. In fact, the program will save taxpayers millions. And the more public school students who take an EFA, the more taxpayers will save.

    Dee does the math, showing her work. (Maybe she's old enough to have learned that in a government school.) In fact, she does such a good job, I wondered about the other side.

    Ah, I bet I can get the other side from New Hampshire Commie Public Radio… and I am not disappointed: With Interest In N.H.'s ‘Education Freedom Accounts’ High, Voucher Critics Point To The Cost.

    Note the sneer quotes around "Education Freedom Accounts". Yes, we've come to the right, by which I mean left, place. Who are the critics? Well the teacher union head, of course:

    “No public school district would be able to come in this much over budget, and (Gov. Chris) Sununu and Edelblut should hold school privatization programs to the same standard,” said Megan Tuttle, the president of the National Education Association in New Hampshire.

    And Democrats generally:

    “Sununu’s school voucher scheme takes money from our public schools and sends it to private, religious, and home schools,” Luneau said in a statement. “Now we are being told that millions more than expected in taxpayer dollars will be siphoned off for these vouchers. We need to put a cap on program costs based on what was presented to the Legislature by the commissioner, so that New Hampshire can plan appropriately.”

    Sigh. Fine. God forbid that New Hampshire should make it easy on the families who want to escape government schools. Obviously that can't be permitted.

    (By the way, I'm being very unfair to the article at NHPR. It's pretty even-handed.)


  • Ah. the famous "Turtle Theory". Steven Hayward comments on the WSJ article I commented upon the day before yesterday: College Men and the Turtle Theory.

    But the really interesting detail is conveyed in this bit:

    Enrollment rates for poor and working-class white men are lower than those of young Black, Latino and Asian men from the same economic backgrounds. . .

    So it is not just men, but specifically white men, who are bailing out of college most. But the Journal is too terrified to look deeper into what this fact might mean. The best they can do is:

    No college wants to tackle the issue under the glare of gender politics, said Ms. Delahunty, the enrollment consultant. The conventional view on campuses, she said, is that “men make more money, men hold higher positions, why should we give them a little shove from high school to college?”

    Yes, I can imagine no one is willing to risk their position on a college campus asking, “I’m wondering if it might be something we said?” I’m sitting here scratching my head, wondering if there could be any reason why young white men might find today’s college experience unappealing?

    You'll have to click through to get the Turtle Theory. Trust me, you'll like it.

URLs du Jour

2021-09-08

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Betteridge's Law of Headlines May Apply. The New Yorker has a long article which doesn't, as near as I can tell, answer the headline question: Can Progressives Be Convinced That Genetics Matters?. It's about a new book by Kathryn Page Harden, The Genetic Lottery: Why DNA Matters for Social Equality. She's a lefty ("with her commitments to social justice"), but also a scientist who's unwilling to ignore what the science says.

    But what I really want to excerpt is the article's subhed:

    The behavior geneticist Kathryn Paige Harden is waging a two-front campaign: on her left are those who assume that genes are irrelevant, on her right those who insist that they’re everything.

    Who out there believes that genes are "everything"? Let's see hands… I don't see any hands.

    In fact, I noticed that Charles Murray (who's cited as a bad "right" example in the article) had a recent tweet in response:

    I've mentioned this before, but as long as lefties ignore and distort what "the other side" actually says on the matter, we ain't close to having a decent conversation.


  • Just ask Lysenko. Where have I mentioned this before? Well, in my report on The Cult of Smart by actual communist Fredrik deBoer. (I didn't like the book too much, but that's not important right now.) deBoer also provides commentary on the New Yorker article at his substack: Genes Believe in You. He notes the pressure he got when word got out he might believe that there might be genetic factors behind cognitive abilities:

    I’ve told this story before, but I feel moved to tell it again. In 2018 hundreds of verified users on Twitter and thousands of their unverified hangers-on started a meltdown about me. Their claim of injustice was that my book, recently under contract, was a pro-race science book. This claim was remarkable not just because it was false, but also because my book did not exist - I had not written it yet. They were making pronouncements with absolute confidence about the argumentative contents of a book that did not have contents. This was particularly strange because my elevator pitch to publishers literally began with the assertion that racial differences in education are not genetic - “someday we’ll close the racial and gender achievement gaps, but what will remain is even more insidious, the innate talent gap.” None of this stopped hundreds of journalists and academics, whose job it is to both collect and source information, from spreading this claim about my book with absolute confidence across thousands of tweets. When I searched for hours for the source of this idea I found that it came from a single unverified pseudonymous shitposting account with a Michael Cera avatar and a few hundred followers. That was the standard of information sufficient for people who now work at places like The New York Times and The Washington Post and Buzzfeed and many more, and at some of the most prestigious universities in the world, to assassinate my character and begin a campaign to get my book dropped by my publisher. To my knowledge not a single one, not one, has ever retracted the tweets or apologized, despite the fact that they have had over a year now to verify that the actual book is explicitly and unambiguously anti-race science.

    This is the rhetorical environment in which [Kathryn Page Harden] must now survive.

    The rude thing is… I just don’t believe people, on this issue. When they say that they think all people have the same innate ability to perform well in school or on other cognitive tasks, that any difference is environmental, what I think inside is, I don’t believe that you believe that. When researchers in genetics and evolution who believe that the genome influences every aspect of our physiological selves say that they don’t believe that the genome has any influence on our behavioral selves, what I think inside is, I don’t believe you. I think people feel compelled to say this stuff because the idea of intrinsic differences in academic ability offend their sense of justice, and because the social and professional consequences of appearing to believe that idea are profound. But I think everyone who ever went to school as a kid knew in their heart back then that some kids were just smarter than others, and I think most people quietly believe that now. Like I said, it’s rude. But I can’t shake it.

    What liberals don’t like, they mock. What they cannot refute, they ridicule.

    I'd quibble with the word "liberals" in that last sentence. It's not particularly liberal.


  • Once upon a time you dressed so fine… Kevin D. Williamson looks at the latest journalistic faceplant: Like a Rolling Stone. And recalls their previous debacle, the University of Virginia rape-that-wasn't.

    Like most of the phony hate crimes and fabricated racial and sexual insults that have for years been an epidemic among young Americans, especially on college campuses, the Rolling Stone rape hoax was a neurotic casserole of familiar ingredients: social and romantic disappointment, weaponized envy, prejudice, mental-health problems, and a progressive-activist culture in which the effort to discredit and abominate cultural enemies — more often than not dishonest — takes the place of argument.

    These things follow a pattern: When Lena Dunham made up a story about being raped while a student at Oberlin, her fictitious villain was not a member of the chess team or the president of the campus Sierra Club chapter but a swaggering College Republican; when North Carolina Central University student Crystal Mangum made up a story about being gang-raped, the malefactors were the Duke lacrosse team; the UVA hoax author, Jackie Coakley, falsely claimed that she was gang-raped by members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity as part of an initiation ritual. When feminist activist Judy Munro-Leighton made up a story about being raped, she chose as her assailant Brett Kavanaugh, who was at the time a Supreme Court nominee in confirmation hearings. Jussie Smollett alleged that he was assaulted in the wee hours by . . . weirdly bitey Trump-loving Empire fans who just happened to have a length of rope and a quantity of bleach on their persons as they roamed the freezing streets of Chicago on an early January morning.

    In all of these cases, the story wasn’t about what the story was about.

    None of those fabricated rapes was presented as a mere crime of sexual violence — a crime that happens every day in these United States, disproportionately affecting not college women (who are, in fact, less likely to suffer rape than are women the same age who are not in college) or well-heeled activists but poor women in isolated urban and rural communities, women with little education, women on Indian reservations, illegal immigrants, etc. The stories and the data associated with some of these places are shocking.

    But here’s the thing: Nobody cares about those women.

    Not really. Of course, they’ll say they do. In reality, the kind of women our newspaper editors and magazine publishers care about are college students, white tourists abroad, and celebrities. But the most important variable in these hoaxes is not any of the personal qualities of the fictitious victims but the cultural resonance of the fictitious attackers. If you want to see a Native American leading the nightly news, put him in front of some white high-school kids wearing MAGA hats.

    What "journalists" at Rolling Stone etc. are really out for is indicting their favored targets: in the Ivermectin case, those GOP-voting Rogan-listening science-denying ignorant Okies.


  • On a related, or actually the same, note… Jim Treacher reassures us in his headline: No, Emergency Rooms Aren't Filling Up with People OD'ing on Horse Paste.

    This all started when Joe Rogan got COVID and didn’t die even though he isn’t vaccinated, right? He said his doctor prescribed ivermectin, and then that instantly became “Joe Rogan takes horse medicine.” From there, it was a short trip to “People who probably listen to Joe Rogan are OD’ing on horse drugs.” It doesn’t need to be true, it just needs to make you feel superior to the people you hate.

    (I think this post is available to non-subscribers. If it isn't, you should subscribe.)


  • The ACLU should just change its name. Glenn Greenwald writes more in sorrow than in anger… waitaminnit, might be the other way 'round… Well, anyway, he seems to have a longer memory than your average ACLU member: The ACLU, Prior to COVID, Denounced Mandates and Coercive Measures to Fight Pandemics. In response to a recent NYT op-ed from two ACLU wonks in favor of vaccine and masking mandates:

    The op-ed sounds like it was written by an NSA official justifying the need for mass surveillance (yes, fine, your privacy is important but it is not absolute; your privacy rights are outweighed by public safety; we are spying on you for your own good). And the op-ed appropriately ends with this perfect Orwellian flourish: “We care deeply about civil liberties and civil rights for all — which is precisely why we support vaccine mandates.”

    What makes the ACLU's position so remarkable — besides the inherent shock of a civil liberties organization championing state mandates overriding individual choice — is that, very recently, the same group warned of the grave dangers of the very mindset it is now pushing. In 2008, the ACLU published a comprehensive report on pandemics which had one primary purpose: to denounce as dangerous and unnecessary attempts by the state to mandate, coerce, and control in the name of protecting the public from pandemics.

    The op-ed was written by two ACLU workers: the "national legal director" (David Cole) and the "director of the ACLU program on freedom of religion and belief" (Daniel Mach). So it's not two guys in the mailroom. Might not be an official ACLU position, but it's pretty close.

    So they should change their name ACL(IFFTAISOLG)U: the "American Civil Liberties (If and Only If They Are In Support Of Leftist Goals) Union.

URLs du Jour

2021-09-07

[Nova Scotia Coat of Arms]

  • Those who we grab by some other pronoun … never mind. A brickbat from Reason wonders What’s in a Name?.

    The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal says Lorne Grabher's last name could be interpreted as a call for violence against women. The court upheld a lower court ruling that Grabher had no free speech right to a license plate with his last name. Grabher had a personalized license plate made with his last name for his father back in 1991. The plate was used by three generations of the family. But the Registrar of Motor Vehicles got a complaint about it in 2016 and told Grabher he could no longer use it.

    Fortunately, the fair maidens of Nova Scotia will hereinafter be safe from men driven mad by the seductive calls to aggression by provocative vanity license plates.

    The province's current plate design carries the slogan "Canada's Ocean Playground."

    I am not sure how much trouble a Nova Scot could get into by taping over this obnoxious wordage. That's a settled issue down here in New Hampshire.

    But unlike New Hampshire, the license plate slogan differs from the official provincial motto, which is (I am not making this up) "Munit haec et altera vincit", translated as "One defends and the other conquers".

    Which only makes sense in the context of the Nova Scotia coat of arms, pictured at your right. (Click to embiggen.) Your eyes do not deceive: a prancing unicorn sporting a crown on one side, an Indigenous Person with a big-ass arrow on the other. A small dragon in between. Above that, an armored hand bearing a thistle clasping a bare hand with an olive branch. Probably referring to the motto inscribed above.

    As far as badassery goes, New Hampshire beats Nova Scotia on its license plate design. But I have to admit, they shellacked us in the "bad acid trip seal design" category.


  • Beware when you get the warm fuzzies from a news story. A cautionary comedy/drama from Astral Codex Ten substack: Too Good To Check: A Play In Three Acts. Let's skip ahead to Act II, opening as the substacker is revelling in that roundly-debunked Rolling Stone Ivermectin story discussed here yesterday.

    Did you believe that?

    I did, briefly. Then I remembered the Law Of Rationalist Irony: the smugger you feel about having caught a bias in someone else, the more likely you are falling victim to that bias right now, in whatever way would be most embarrassing.

    So, quick check: am I doing this? I notice this story is exactly tailored to appeal to me and people like me. It discredits the media establishment, who I don’t like. It’s a great argument for why we need more rationality, something I’ve been trying to push. It lets me feel superior to everyone: I am properly skeptical of ivermectin, but also I haven’t become a contemptible propagandist who joins in mass media smear campaigns.

    And I didn’t even take a second to check if it was true! I’m relying entirely on the word of a Twitter bluecheck I’ve never heard of before, whose profile picture is some kind of dog (an Australian sheepdog? maybe some kind of weird collie?) Forget making a phone call to a hospital, I didn’t even read the original article!

    The story was “too good to check”!

    And on further research, he…

    Well, no spoilers here. It's a three-act play, so my recommendation is to read the whole thing. And also read and take to heart the lessons of The Scout Mindset as the substacker suggests.


  • Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, heretics gotta … Nick Gillespie has a good memory and breaks down the "taxonomy of cancel culture": Self-cancellation, Deplatforming, and Censorship.

    How should defenders of free speech think about "cancel culture," that hotly contested yet vague concept that defines the current moment like flappers and bathtub gin defined the 1920s, communist scares and juvenile delinquency defined the 1950s, and leisure suits and encounter groups defined the 1970s? Author Jonathan Rauch distinguishes canceling from mere criticism in that its practitioners seek "to organize and manipulate the social or media environment in order to isolate, deplatform or intimidate ideological opponents." Cancel culture isn't about seeking truth, he writes; it's "about shaping the information battlefield" in order to "coerce conformity and reduce the scope for forms of criticism that are not sanctioned by the prevailing consensus of some local majority."

    Somebody calling you a jackass on Twitter is criticism. Somebody organizing a mob to get you kicked off of Twitter, fired from your job, and put out on a figurative ice floe is cancel culture. Former President Donald Trump, himself a target of social media cancellation, exemplified cancel culture in 2018 when he called on the NFL to fire players who took a knee during the playing of the national anthem and mused aloud about deporting truculent athletes too. "You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, or you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there," he told Fox & Friends. "Maybe you shouldn't be in the country." At a 2017 rally, he told a crowd that he'd "love to see one of these NFL owners, when someone disrespects our flag to say, 'get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He's fired. He's fired.'"

    I'm not totally sure where Nova Scotia vanity license plates fit into Nick's classification, but I'd bet on "censorship."


  • Here, you belong, and all are welcome. Oh, except you. The WSJ has the numbers. A Generation of American Men Give Up on College: ‘I Just Feel Lost’.

    Men are abandoning higher education in such numbers that they now trail female college students by record levels.

    At the close of the 2020-21 academic year, women made up 59.5% of college students, an all-time high, and men 40.5%, according to enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit research group. U.S. colleges and universities had 1.5 million fewer students compared with five years ago, and men accounted for 71% of the decline.

    So when the University Near Here boasts about its welcoming, you'd think they'd find this more than a little worrisome. At last report, UNH undergrads numbered 5015 men and 6345 women, roughly a 44%-56% split. For grad students, it's a little more unbalanced: 588 men (39%), 910 women (61%).

    So how "welcoming" is UNH for guys? I wonder if anyone in the administration is asking that question.

Voodoo River

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Consumer note: no actual voodoo content in this book.

Author Robert Crais really hit his stride here, however, in this fifth book in his Elvis Cole series. He's hired by TV star Jodi Taylor to track down the mystery of her birth parents, who gave her up for adoption in Louisiana 36 years back. The records are sealed, so Elvis is off to Louisiana to find another way to figure things out.

He does, of course. Around page 60, that mystery's solved. Shortest Elvis novel ever? No, of course not. His investigation stirs up a hornet's nest, because it threatens to reveal a bunch of criminal behavior and corruption, both long-buried and present-day. It's also revealed that Jodi (and her agent) were less than forthcoming in hiring Elvis. And, as an extra complication, Elvis falls for Lucy Chenier, Jody's Louisiana lawyer. (Spoiler: Lucy shows up in a few more books after this, but eventually disappears.)

As always, Elvis's partner, Joe Pike, shows up to to improve the odds of survival. An elaborate scheme is hatched to take down the bad guys, which goes wrong pretty badly. (Helped out by a cop who might as well have a "Corrupt Sellout" name tag. You can see his role pretty clearly from his very first appearance. Unfortunately Elvis doesn't.)

URLs du Jour

2021-09-06

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • And anyone who disagrees is a fascist. Excellent Eric Boehm print-Reason article out from behind the paywall: Everything Is Infrastructure Now.

    "I truly believe we're in a moment where history is going to look back on this time as a fundamental choice that had to be made between democracies and autocracies," President Joe Biden declared during a March 31 speech in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. What exactly could be so vitally important that not only America's future but the entire project of liberal democracy hangs in the balance?

    Infrastructure. Well, "infrastructure."

    In Biden's telling, everything hinged on passing a multi-trillion-dollar spending package that was ostensibly meant to upgrade America's basic infrastructure but that also contained a wide range of unrelated spending on new social programs, industrial policy, and other forms of federal bureaucracy. Previous generations may have fought civilization-defining battles against tyrannical rulers and such toxic ideas as slavery and Nazism. But the fate of the free world, the president would have you believe, now depends on whether 50 senators (plus Vice President Kamala Harris) will vote for bigger Amtrak subsidies and expanded government-run internet service.

    What's more dangerous: (1) a road with too many potholes or (2) degraded political discourse? You can avoid potholes, but the degraded political discourse will eventually get you.


  • Pun Salad's favorite word du jour is "harbinger". We're working up to the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 on Saturday, and (my guess) it will be tough to find anybody saying anything new or interesting. But James B. Meigs, former editor of Popular Mechanics, has an exceptional article at City Journal, recounting his bout with the crazies: 9/11 Truther Movement a Harbinger of Today’s Paranoid Politics.

    I hadn’t intended to join the Globalist/Bush–Cheney/Zionist/CIA cabal for world domination. And I certainly didn’t mean to become a leading figure in the conspiracy to cover up the truth about 9/11. According to my critics, though, I was all that and more. All I’d meant to do was publish an article investigating 9/11 conspiracy theories. The unhinged response to that article taught me a lot about the hold such paranoid worldviews can have on otherwise normal people. In Jonathan Kay’s 2011 book Among the Truthers, he describes followers of the “9/11 Truth Movement” as having “spun out of rationality’s ever-weakening gravitational pull” and fallen into “fantasy universes of their own construction.” I met those people. They used to call and email me every day. Many took pains to explain all the horrible things that would happen to me once my crimes were “exposed.”

    I now believe the 9/11 Truthers I encountered were canaries in the coal mines of American society. They were an early warning sign of a style of thinking that has only grown more common in the years since 9/11: alienated, enraged, and not just irrational, but anti-rational. Today, fantasy universes abound in our current political culture. On the far right, Capitol-storming QAnon followers imagine vast, deep-state conspiracies involving pedophiles and pizza parlors. The Left’s conspiracy theories aren’t as obviously bonkers, but progressives also imagine powerful forces that secretly conspire against the people. In her 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine, for example, writer Naomi Klein introduced the concept of “disaster capitalism”—a kind of global plot to exploit the powerless—and promised to “reveal the puppet strings behind the critical events of the last four decades.” Today, the Woke Left routinely portrays American institutions as engines of cleverly concealed oppression. Racism, sexism, and the like are not just biases to be overcome but fundamental organizing principles of American society.

    It's a long, interesting, and somewhat depressing article, discussing how easily people slip into conspriracism (which might be a better term than "paranoia"). It's an equal-opportunity disease, affecting both left and right. And from there it's only a short slide into violence, as a "last resort".


  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] On a related note… Tom Chivers takes apart a Harvard philosopher's recent book: How not to talk to a science denier.

    Imagine you bought a book with the title How to Talk to A Contemptible Idiot Who Is Kind of Evil. You open the book, and read the author earnestly telling you how important it is that you listen, and show empathy, and acknowledge why the people you’re talking to might believe the things they believe. If you want to persuade them, he says, you need to treat them with respect! But all the way through the book, the author continues to refer to the people he wants to persuade as “contemptible idiots who are kind of evil”.

    At one stage he even says: “When speaking to a contemptible idiot who is kind of evil, don’t call them a contemptible idiot who is kind of evil! Many contemptible idiots find that language insulting.” But he continues to do it, and frequently segues into lengthy digressions about how stupid and harmful the idiots’ beliefs are. Presumably you would not feel that the author had really taken his own advice on board

    This is very much how I feel about How to Talk to A Science Denier, by the Harvard philosopher Lee McIntyre.

    Amazon link at your right, of course. Chivers advises that "It’s mainly a book designed to tell readers that people they already think are dumb are, in fact, dumb." So maybe invest in a different, much more valuable, book by Alan Jacobs: How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds. I really liked his "Thinking Person's Checklist" afterword, which summarizes the book's advice:

    1. When faced with provocation to respond to what someone has said, give it five minutes. Take a walk, or weed the garden, or chop some vegetables. Get your body involved: your body knows the rhythms to live by, and if your mind falls into your body’s rhythm, you’ll have a better chance of thinking.
    2. Value learning over debating. Don’t “talk for victory.”
    3. As best you can, online and off, avoid the people who fan flames.
    4. Remember that you don’t have to respond to what everyone else is responding to in order to signal your virtue and right-mindedness.
    5. If you do have to respond to what everyone else is responding to in order to signal your virtue and right-mindedness, or else lose your status in your community, then you should realize that it’s not a community but rather an Inner Ring.
    6. Gravitate as best you can, in every way you can, toward people who seem to value genuine community and can handle disagreement with equanimity.
    7. Seek out the best and fairest-minded of people whose views you disagree with. Listen to them for a time without responding. Whatever they say, think it over.
    8. Patiently, and as honestly as you can, assess your repugnances.
    9. Sometimes the “ick factor” is telling; sometimes it’s a distraction from what matters.
    10. Beware of metaphors and myths that do too much heavy cognitive lifting; notice what your “terministic screens” are directing your attention to—and what they’re directing your attention away from; look closely for hidden metaphors and beware the power of myth.
    11. Try to describe others’ positions in the language that they use, without indulging in in-other-wordsing.
    12. Be brave.

    My failures to follow this advice are manifest. To everyone except me.


  • We take all kinds of pills that give us all kind of thrills. But the thrill we've never known is having taken a pill that generated a fake story in the Rolling Stone. Fox News is probably a little too gleeful about it: Rolling Stone forced to issue an 'update' after viral hospital ivermectin story turns out to be false.

    Rolling Stone was forced to issue an update to their viral story about Oklahoma hospitals being overwhelmed by patients who overdosed on the drug ivermectin after the doctor they cited was contradicted by the hospitals he referenced.

    On Friday, the liberal magazine published testimony from Dr. Jason McElyea who told a local news station that hospitals were being overrun from patients overdosing on ivermectin which resulted in other patients waiting for treatment. McElyea claimed the situation was so bad that gunshot victims were being neglected.

    "The ERs are so backed up that gunshot victims were having hard times getting to facilities where they can get definitive care and be treated," McElyea said.

    It was just a tad too perfect in (see above) picturing the dumb science-denying, Trump-voting Okies taking horse medicine.

    (But I understand they are all in "stable" condition.)

    And even better:

    I suggest everyone involved in producing or promoting this yarn be given a copy of Alan Jacobs' book.

    (Classical reference in headline.)

An Understated Complaint

I'm currently reading a very good book: Schrödinger's Killer App: Race to Build the World's First Quantum Computer by Jonathan P. Dowling. Eventually it will show up in the book feed of this blog. But I hit a speed bump on page 228:

The role of quantum computing in the field of quantum technology cannot be understated.

Um.

That's a specific example of pretty common idiom. I hate it. Because I always read it as a challenge. I wanted (in this case) to tell the author:

Oh yeah, smart guy? Watch this: "The role of quantum computing in the field of quantum technology is nada. Bupkis! Zilch! Less than nothing!"

Mission accomplished. I understated.

But it's worse. The idiom's general form is something like

The importance of X cannot be understated.

Problem: you sometimes see it as:

The importance of X cannot be overstated.

These should mean opposite things. They don't. (It's not like the folks who say "I could care less" when they mean "I couldn't care less.") Instead, they are both trying to say

X is, like, really important.

… but in a rhetorically inflated way. Writers, speakers: just don't do this.

But (I should add) it's not just me. This Atlantic "Word Court" column from 2004 weighs in for a confused reader:

Cannot understate and cannot overstate are like architectural elements in an M. C. Escher drawing: if you like, you can flip-flop them in your mind. The trick is done by cannot, which has two meanings. Think of Parson Weems's tale in which the young George Washington declared, "I can't tell a lie." Of course Washington was physically capable of uttering a false statement; by can't, he meant he chose not to. Can't, or cannot, can mean something very much like must not—and if it means that, cannot understate the importance of makes sense. Clear communication is subverted, though, when antithetical statements mean the same thing. Cannot overstate is more commonly seen and heard, as you say—in fact, it's much more common. Why not use it from now on?

Or (my advice) just use neither, and say clearly what you really mean instead.

But wait, there's more. Linguist Mark Liberman followed up on the Atlantic column at the very scholarly Language Log here. Ready to leap into the weeds?

In an earlier post, I related examples like cannot understate the importance of... to the hypothesis that it's hard for people to calculate the meaning of phrases involving negatives in combination with modals, scalar thresholds and so on. This interpretive difficulty explains why some phrases with semantically-backwards interpretations are hard to edit out -- it's hard to calcuate what they actually mean, and they include pretty much the right words, and they're syntactically correct. In order to explain why the erring phrases are constructed in the first place, I suggested combining this interpretive difficulty with a sort of lego-block model of sentence construction -- take out an assortment of relevant tree-fragments from the lexicon, and fit them together until it looks OK. Sometimes another factor may be a sort of semantic gap, created by the fact that there is hardly ever any reason to want to express the idea that corresponds to the correct interpretation of the phrase in question.

Liberman goes on to use terms like the "modality of moral obligation" and "deontic necessity". Fine. You, like I, might have better luck understanding Dowling's explanation of quantum entanglement.


Last Modified 2021-09-06 3:38 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-09-04

  • Should I believe in the Science of the guys who left, or the ones who stayed? Mary Chastain reports a Politico article: FDA in Disarray as Two Vaccine Officials Resign Over Biden’s COVID Booster Plans.

    The FDA lost two top vaccine officials because President Joe Biden’s administration is not minding its own business:

    FDA officials are scrambling to collect and analyze data that clearly demonstrate the boosters’ benefits before the administration’s Sept. 20 deadline for rolling them out to most adults. Many outside experts, and some within the agency, see uncomfortable similarities between the Biden team’s top-down booster plan and former President Donald Trump’s attempts to goad FDA into accelerating its initial authorization process for Covid-19 vaccines and push through unproven virus treatments.

    On Tuesday, two top FDA vaccine regulators resigned — a decision that one former official said was rooted in anger over the agency’s lack of autonomy in the booster planning so far. A current health official said the pair, Marion Gruber and Philip Krause, left over differences with FDA’s top vaccine official Peter Marks. Now the agency is facing a potential mutiny among its staff and outside vaccine advisers, several of whom feel cut out of key decisions and who view the plan to offer boosters to all adults as premature and unnecessary.

    Those administration officials include acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock and COVID Czar Jeff Zients. Both approve of the booster. Woodcock praised vaccine regulators. Zients praised the FDA “as the regulatory ‘gold standard.'”

    It's not as if those ex-FDA bureaucrats filled me with a lot of confidence over the pandemic process. On the other hand, it sounds as if things are about to get worse. Take care of your grandparents, kids! Maybe move them to Israel.


  • More FDA death by regulation. But (surprise) not COVID! Jacob Grier notes the continuing legal homicide: The FDA Is Set To Unintentionally Push Quitters Back to Smoking.

    The week ahead will be hugely consequential for the future of tobacco and nicotine in the United States. On September 9, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must meet a court-imposed deadline to decide which electronic cigarette and vapor products will be allowed to remain on the market. The agency's decisions will affect more than just the livelihoods of small business owners and big vaping companies; at stake are the rights of millions of current and former smokers to access a safer alternative that could literally save their lives.

    American news coverage of vaping has tended to focus on its downsides, particularly the use of e-cigarettes among teens and adolescents. Legislators and activist groups have raised the alarm about youth vaping to encourage the FDA to enact de facto prohibition of flavored products. In the popular imagination, vaping seduces youth into dangerous addiction and renormalizes tobacco use, justifying bans on the sale of e-cigarettes even to adults.

    Grier notes that the FDA's incentives tilt toward appeasing "activists" and (heh) "reducing its workload by setting an impossibly high bar for smaller e-cigarette and e-liquid companies". Tsk! Wouldn't want to make them work harder!


  • Did it work? Bryan Caplan has a refreshingly contrarian take on The American Experiment in Federalist Dictatorship. ("Dictatorship" is a term loaded with nasty baggage, but isn't it accurate?)

    During Covid, legislatures became extraordinarily deferential to their executives.  Congress deferred to the President, yes.  But more shockingly, state legislatures across the country virtually abdicated in favor of their governors.  On everything Covid-related – and what isn’t “Covid-related”? – governors have essentially ruled by decree since March of 2020.

    In short, America is now an elective dictatorship.  Unlike almost all historical dictatorships, however, these are dictatorships within a federal system.  Every governor makes it up as he goes along… but he only makes it up for his own state.  Elections will still happen, possibly replacing one dictator with another.  But until those days of reckoning, whoever won the last election has a remarkably free hand to do as he pleases.

    What has this freakish experiment in federalist dictatorship taught us?  I’m curious to hear your thoughts, but here are the biggest lessons I’ve drawn thus far.

    Reader, there are ten of those lessons. To give you a flavor, here's one of them:

    9. Our era of federalist dictatorship has been a great “Obedience to Authority” experiment.  And the experiment replicates.  People in fifty different states have been given fifty different (and fluctuating) sets of often arbitrary rules.  And people in fifty different states have, by and large, obeyed.  You could protest, “Each governor is just ‘ordering’ their citizens to do what they would have done on their own volition.”  But that’s grossly overstated.  The store mask mandates in Virginia and Texas were very similar this winter, and almost universally observed.  But when both states dropped mask mandates, most northern Virginians kept wearing masks in stores for a month and more.  In Texas, in contrast, masks in stores vanished almost overnight.  As individuals, Texans wanted less caution than Virginians.  Yet both groups obeyed their authorities.

    I'm probably reading too much into that. I hope I am anyway. I know my main motivation for (mostly) going along with mandates was to minimize personal hassle and conflict. But how slippery is the slope between that and being a "good German"?


Last Modified 2021-09-05 3:41 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-09-03

  • Eye Candy du Jour. Michael P. Ramirez looks at the latest manifestation of Cancel Culture.

    [Caesar is in Jeopardy]

    To be fair, the (um) insensitive podcast remarks that got Mike Richards pushed out were "only" seven years old.


  • She blinded masked me with Science! Jacob Sullum is one of the dwindling group of sources I trust to play it straight on Covid. Here's a recent analysis from him on a contentious topic: The New York Times Assumes a Scientific Consensus on School Mask Mandates That Its Own Reporting Shows Does Not Exist.

    The Department of Education this week announced investigations of five states that have told public schools they may not force students to wear face masks as a safeguard against COVID-19. Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended "universal masking" [including Klingons? - PS] in K–12 schools, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona says, those states may be violating federal laws that ban discrimination against people with disabilities. Among other things, that argument assumes a nonexistent scientific consensus that mask mandates in schools are a minimum requirement for resuming in-person instruction.

    If you are a regular reader of The New York Times, you could be forgiven for thinking that resistance to mask mandates is irrational at best and crassly partisan at worst, sacrificing the safety of children to score cheap political points. "Many states have urged localities to return to in-person schooling while promoting policies that conflict with the goal of educating young people in safety," the paper lamented in a recent editorial. "As of early August, only 29 states had recommended that students wear masks—down from the 44 states that did so last fall—and nine states had banned masking requirements." The Times commended President Joe Biden for taking "the right approach" by using the Education Department's "broad authority" to "deter the states from barring universal masking in classrooms."

    Jacob notes that the Gray Lady has also reported on the much less draconian school mask policy in Britain, with no apparent associated disasters.


  • It's not just for stellar interiors any more. Matt Ridley reports on some potential good news: The radical potential of nuclear fusion.

    In a key milestone on the road to harnessing fusion power, Lawrence Livermore laboratory announced this week that it had extracted energy from an object the size of a lemon pip at the rate of 10 quadrillion watts (joules per second), albeit for only 100 trillionths of a second. That’s roughly 500 times faster than the entire human population consumes energy.

    The experiment is a reminder that the energy density achieved when atoms merge is vastly greater than anything in a lump of coal, let alone a puff of wind. It is also far bigger than can be achieved by nuclear fission and much safer too: no risk of meltdown and with much less high-level radioactive waste. 

    The problem, of course, is that reliable fusion power stations were 50 years away in 1950, and were still 50 years away in 2000, so milestones on the road to fusion are greeted with sceptical yawns. But almost everybody in the industry now thinks that jibe is out of date: the stopwatch has started, as one insider put it to me. We are probably less than 15 years away from seeing a fusion power station begin to contribute to the grid. 

    The extremely good news is that fusion power produces helium as its waste gas, which can be utilized for talking funny. (And, um, it's also not a "greenouse gas".) As Glenn Reynolds is wont to say: "Faster, please."


  • Scam alert! Vivek Ramaswamy, guest-posting at Bari Weiss's substack, reveals: Stakeholder Capitalism Is a Trojan Horse for China.

    There is nothing more important to progressives today than to apologize: Antiracists apologizing for being racist. Electric-vehicle drivers apologizing for having polluted the planet. And devotees of “stakeholder capitalism” saying sorry for, well, capitalism.

    Joe Biden has called conventional, or shareholder, capitalism a “farce,” saying corporations “have a responsibility to their workers, their community, to their country.” Elizabeth Warren’s “accountable capitalism” calls for higher wages, and greater employee involvement in selecting boards of directors and making political contributions. Al Gore has said that, as the value of socially conscious capitalism gains traction, “investors who fail to take it into account may be at risk of violating their fiduciary duty to their clients” — and, presumably, vulnerable to a lawsuit.

    Nor is stakeholder capitalism limited to politicians or progressive activists: America’s most powerful CEOs have embraced it. In late 2019, the Business Roundtable, a lobbying group representing the country’s biggest corporations, announced it was revising its statement of purpose with an eye toward “stakeholders.” Jamie Dimon, the chairman and CEO of JPMorgan and the chairman of the Business Roundtable, wrote in a follow-up article in Time: “Capitalism has been the most successful economic system in history. But we can improve upon it to help solve society’s problems and lift up more people.”

    Here's what “stakeholder capitalists” miss: Once corporations become vehicles to further an agenda other than shareholder value, they become vehicles to advance any agenda, including those of foreign adversaries. 

    Case in point: In recent years, the Chinese Communist Party has become a key stakeholder of many American multinationals — from Nike to Visa to BlackRock. It’s now flexing its muscle in ways that — no surprise — strengthens China’s interests at the expense of American ones.

    Let's take a moment to appreciate the diversity going on here: a Jewish lesbian hosting an Indian writing about Chinese scheming, using a metaphor where Greeks used trickery to take over a Turkish city. Only in America!


  • Train wreck coming, nobody's worried. Well, almost nobody. Daniel J. Mitchell calls the alarm: The Real (and Growing) Problem with Social Security.

    In an ideal world, Americans would have personal retirement accounts, just like workers in Australia, Sweden, Chile, Hong Kong, Israel, Switzerland, and a few dozen other nations.

    But we’re not in that ideal world. We are forced to participate in a Ponzi Scheme known as Social Security.

    By the way, that’s not necessarily a disparaging description. A Ponzi Scheme can work if there are always enough new people in the system to pay off the old people.

    But because of demographic changes (increasing lifespans and decreasing birthrates), that’s not what we have in the United States.

    And this is why Social Security faces serious long-run problems.

    The occasion is the (belated) release of the annual Trustee's Report. It shows (as Dan says) serious long-run problems. But as Eric Boehm notes, there's also kind of a short-run problem: Social Security Will Be Insolvent in 12 Years.

    The fiscal crisis looming over Social Security is no longer a distant threat. The national pension system will be insolvent by the time workers now in their mid-50s are ready to retire.

    The annual report to Congress from the Social Security Trustees, released this week, paints a grim picture of an entitlement program that was already veering towards insolvency before the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated that trend. The Trustees now estimate that Social Security will be unable to pay the full amount of promised benefits by 2033, one year sooner than the same report estimated last year. Absent any policy changes, beneficiaries will receive just 78 percent of what they've been promised starting in 2034.

    Fixes are currently not under discussion. Instead we're debating on how much more money-we-don't-have Uncle Stupid will be spending. And the longer we dawdle, the more painful the fixes will be.

URLs du Jour

2021-09-02

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • You had me at "Venn diagram". David French has much to say on The Descent of the Partisan Mind. But this is what caught my eye:

    If you could draw a Venn diagram between those who believed, in turn, that 1) COVID was basically the flu; 2) mandatory masking and social distancing represented ineffective acts of government tyranny; 3) the election was stolen; 4) vaccines are experimental “gene therapies” at best and an outright threat to public health at worst, and 5) the real treatment for COVID is hydroxychloroquine or Ivermectin, there would be a high, high degree of overlap.

    In fact, in my experience, belief in any one of those items almost always implies a belief in most if not all the rest.

    I actually, sorta kinda, think 2) is mostly on target, although "tyranny" is too strong a word; it's just government acting like governments act. Everything else is garbage.

    But yeah, I go to a lot of sites where the denizens seem to buy into every one of those. It's like walking into a confirmation-bias lab demonstration.


  • Need some cheering up? Goodness knows I do. Elizabeth Nolan Brown tosses out 40 Ways Things Are Getting Better. She details the twitter responses to a UVa postdoc who asked… well, here's an example:

    And there's 39 more. Some may strike you as trivial, some as examples of moral decay.

    And I know that people like to put down the Internet and its associated services. But I continue to believe it's like having God's library card at your fingertips.


  • OK, enough cheerfulness. Let's get back to our day job, which is slagging our garbage political leaders. President Wheezy is the gift that keeps on giving in that category. Because, as Jordan Davidson points out, Joe Biden Has Always Thought He Was The Smartest Man In The Room.

    Take his response to the Afghanistan crisis, for example. Not only did he delay addressing the nation about the Taliban takeover and subsequent American evacuation problems in Kabul, but he has also refused to take responsibility for the lack of planning associated with the botched withdrawal, and offered flippant looks at his watch and anecdotes about his own son’s death to cancer as a response to the grieving families who lost their loved ones in the Kabul explosion last week.

    Any speech that he gives is plagued with nonsensical verbiage, uncomfortable pauses, and weird comments about how he is or isn’t allowed to answer questions from specific people about specific topics.

    Davidson recounts the infamous 1987 incident up in Claremont, NH when Biden (then running for President) told voter Frank Fahey "I think I have a much higher IQ than you, I suspect." And went on to lie his ass off.

    Biden's since stopped being so obvious an asshole, but that's a low bar. Pretty clearly he continues to harbor delusions about his own intelligence and (for that matter) competence.


  • Enough about the dead son, OK? Charles C. W. Cooke thinks Joe Biden Needs to Stop Talking about Beau.

    Joe Biden should resolve to stop talking about the death of his son, Beau. He should do this immediately, he should do it without exception, and he should keep doing it until the exact moment he ceases to be president of the United States.

    At some point in the recent past, President Biden has been informed by his acolytes that he is considered an empathetic man, and, moreover, that one of the causes of this reputation is that he has suffered an unusual number of personal tragedies — including, in 2015, the loss of his elder son. Unfortunately, at some point in the recent past, President Biden also seems to have been told that he can reproduce that empathy at a moment’s notice with the mere utterance of Beau’s name. Since last week’s terror attack in Kabul, in which 13 members of the American military were killed, Biden has repeatedly attempted to use his own heartbreak as a shield. Addressing the massacre from the White House last week, the president described himself as “the father of an Army major who served for a year in Iraq and, before that, was in Kosovo as a U.S. attorney for the better part of six months in the middle of a war,” and submitted that, as a result, he had “some sense, like many of you do, what the families of these brave heroes are feeling today.” Biden used this line again on Sunday, while meeting with the families of the slain. He used it yet again during his victory-lap press conference this afternoon. And, demonstrating that it has now become an official line, Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, used it today, too. On all four occasions, it was a deeply inappropriate tack to take.

    Unlike CCWC, I would not have posed this as advice to Biden. What are the chances, at this point, that he's going to take advice?


  • But now for the important news. The Jeopardy! folks would probably have done a better job than Biden managing the Afghanistan bugout. But they've done a poor enough job with a task that should have been accomplished with a lot less drama, as Ari Blaff describes at City Journal: I’ll Take “Cancel Culture” for $500.

    In his autobiography, published shortly before his death last November, Alex Trebek noted that Jeopardy!, the trivia show he hosted for 37 years, always sought to transcend politics. Pointing an accusing finger at social media and 24/7 cable news, Trebek mourned America’s inability to see past the binary. “It forces us to choose a side and has convinced us that our side is right and the other side is wrong. If you don’t agree with me, you are my enemy. There is no room for compromise,” he lamented.

    That moderate sentiment has gone missing in recent weeks as the show struggles to replace its beloved long-time host. Two weeks ago, an article by Claire McNear in The Ringer alleged that the show’s recently appointed co-host, Mike Richards, had a track record of making offensive comments. Digging through 41 episodes of a now-defunct, nearly decade-old podcast Richards mostly co-hosted alongside his female colleague Beth Triffon, McNear excavated several Howard Stern-style, off-the-cuff soundbites about sex, money, and politics. In one conversation, following the infamous iCloud photo hacks exposing Hollywood celebrities, Richards jokingly asks Triffon if she ever took such pictures. In another episode, Richards ribs Triffon for giving money to a homeless person. This jibe goes beyond the pale for McNear, who cannot even bring herself to utter the word “homeless,” instead writing “unhoused woman.” McNear also reports that Richards called Triffon a “midget” and “retard,” which she can only bring herself to allude to as “a derogatory term for little people” and “the R-word.”

    I was unaware that Claire McNear was so involved. She was the author of Answers in the Form of Questions, a book I really liked when I read it earlier this year. Disappointing that she seems to have become a participant in host activism rather than a reporter.

    Among the guest hosts, I still liked Buzzy Cohen best. But I bet he's glad to have avoided the shitstorm.

URLs du Jour

2021-09-01

  • Unfinished Business Yesterday, I noticed a bit of oddness in this NH Business Review article:

    As House majority leader, [Jason] Osborne leads the faction of the GOP whose values and votes closely align with those of the NH Liberty Alliance, the political arm of the Free State Project founded in 2003.

    The "political arm" terminology seemed odd, especially since the Wikipedia page for the NHLA states:

    The Liberty Alliance is not part of the Free State Project[…]

    I couldn't find an e-mail address for Michael Kitch, the article's author. So I wrote to to the NHBR editor, Jeff Feingold:

    Dear Mr. Feingold --

    A recent article in NHBR (https://read.nhbr.com/nh-business-review/2021/08/27/#?article=3858697) claims that the NH Liberty Alliance is the "political arm of the Free State Project".

    The Wikipedia page for the NH Liberty Alliance (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Hampshire_Liberty_Alliance) claims "The Liberty Alliance is not part of the Free State Project".

    Who's right here?

    I got an unexpectedly prompt reply from Mr. Feingold 12 minutes later. Brief, but perplexing:

    The Free State Project founded the NHLA in 2003. “Political arm” is not intended to suggest a formal institutional or financial relationship between them, though there could be one.

    Whaaa…?

    Well, here's my reply:

    Thank you for the clarification. We'll have to agree to disagree about what the "political arm" language indicates to the reader.

    But what I almost sent was much less civil. Something like:

    You say that 'political arm' is 'not intended to suggest a formal institutional or financial relationship'. You fail to say what what it is intended to suggest. I guess that's left to the reader's imagination.

    Furthermore, you say 'there could be" such a relationship. It appears you're not sure one way or the other. In other words, the article's "political arm" language is pretty much without factual basis, and is mere speculation? In what school of journalism did you learn that this sort of guesswork-presented-as-fact was a proper form of journalism?

    It's probably for the best I didn't send that.


  • Imangine tiny paws frantically beating… Kevin D. Williamson notes an eerie similarity between President Wheezy's oratory of late and Rat-Paddling.

    So, even Biden’s boast about how competently we run away from a fight is a little rotten.

    I have been watching politics for a long time, and I have observed a many rats rat-paddling away from many sinking ships. That is what rats do: It is an aspect of ratness.

    But I cannot think of a rat rat-paddling away who squeaked quite so self-importantly about it.

    It takes a guy with a sterner stomach than mine to watch enough of Biden's performance to nail that metaphor.


  • Teach your children well. Robby Soave notes the odd rhetoric from the L.A. Teachers Union Leader: ‘There’s No Such Thing As Learning Loss’.

    The head of United Teachers Los Angeles—the city's teachers union—thinks that pandemic-related learning losses are a myth and that the thousands of students who slogged through virtual school last year are doing just fine.

    "There's no such thing as learning loss," Cecily Myart-Cruz told Los Angeles magazine in a recent interview.

    Myart-Cruz did acknowledge that students' achievements in mathematics, for instance, might have been harmed by virtual learning, but she asserted that the experience of surviving 2020–2021 somehow makes up for this.

    "Our kids didn't lose anything," she said. "It's OK that our babies may not have learned all their times tables. They learned resilience. They learned survival. They learned critical-thinking skills. They know the difference between a riot and a protest. They know the words insurrection and coup."

    Later in the interview:

    "You can recall the governor," she said. "You can recall the school board. But how are you going to recall me?"

    How about a PATCO style solution to that problem? Unlikely in LA, I guess.


  • Defund NPR. Matt Taibbi continues to sound like a crotchety old right-winger (which he's not) but he's an honest enough lefty to recognize when NPR Trashes Free Speech.

    The guests for NPR’s just-released On The Media episode about the dangers of free speech included Andrew Marantz, author of an article called, “Free Speech is Killing Us”; P.E. Moskowitz, author of “The Case Against Free Speech”; Susan Benesch, director of the “Dangerous Speech Project”; and Berkeley professor John Powell, whose contribution was to rip John Stuart Mill’s defense of free speech in On Liberty as “wrong.”

    That’s about right for NPR, which for years now has regularly congratulated itself for being a beacon of diversity while expunging every conceivable alternative point of view.

    I always liked Brooke Gladstone, but this episode of On The Media was shockingly dishonest. The show was a compendium of every neo-authoritarian argument for speech control one finds on Twitter, beginning with the blanket labeling of censorship critics as “speech absolutists” (most are not) and continuing with shameless revisions of the history of episodes like the ACLU’s mid-seventies defense of Nazi marchers at Skokie, Illinois.

    At Hot Air, John Sexton also appreciates Taibbi's article:` NPR hosts a discussion on 'free speech absolutism' but invites only critics.

    The problem of course is that once you equate speech and violence, you hand a powerful heckler’s veto to anyone who disagrees with a given speaker’s content. Don’t like what someone is planning to say on campus? Shout that they are doing violence to x, y and z and demand they be deplatformed. Conveniently, this sort of claim that a speaker with a different opinion is causing harm cannot be argued or even discussed rationally. It is wholly dependent on one person’s emotional outburst to silence another person’s right to speak.

    So on the one hand what Powell is recommending is begging students to become special snowflakes who can’t withstand any voice of opposition. On the other hand, there is another danger presented by equating speech with violence. There are some violent people on the left who will take that equivalence as an opportunity to dish out violence in response to speech. Yes, I’m talking about Antifa and their ilk. From their point of view, all one needs to do is determine someone is a fascist, i.e. anyone to the right of Mao, and you are justified in punching them to stop them from talking.

    These aren’t just theoretical dangers. There are lots of examples of both kinds of behavior over the past few years. But of course NPR’s listeners won’t hear about any of them because they didn’t have a contradictory voice on the panel.

    You could have an emotional reaction to all this Constitution- and Mill-bashing, and demand the NPR speakers be removed from the air, Unfortunately, that wouldn't get these folks to realize their self-contradiction.

The Free World

Art and Thought in the Cold War

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

You would think I'd eat up a book titled The Free World, with a picture of the Statue of Liberty on the dust jacket. Eat it up, and say "More, please." Instead, it's another "Wish I'd liked it better" books. It's especially sad because the text runs to 727 pages, so it not only was a slog, but a long one.

For better or worse, I have a self-imposed rule: if I start a book, I finish the book. (Even if "finishing" means, more or less, "looking at all the words on every page for a decent amount of time.") Fortunately, my Reading Schedule Generator kept me on track at a steady 34-35 pages/day, for three long weeks.

The author, Louis Menand, is a Harvard prof, and New Yorker writer. The book is wide-ranging, but is not so much history as it is a series of biographical vignettes, about American and European artists, writers, critics, and intellectuals that were of import during (roughly) the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. Just skimming through the book where small black-and-white pics introduce each chapter: George Kennan, George Orwell, Simone de Beauvoir, Hannah Arendt, Jackson Pollock, Neal Cassady, The Family of Man, Merce Cunningham, Alan Freed, JFK, white guys rioting against racial integration efforts, pop art, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Andy Warhol, Charlotte Moorman, James Baldwin, Pauline Kael, Marines in Da Nang.

Those are just the pictures, but there's also Jean-Paul Sartre, Lionel Trilling, Jack Kerouac, Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, Isaiah Berlin, Richard Wright, Elvis, the Beatles, Betty Friedan, Susan Sontag, Martin Luther King Jr., Bonnie and Clyde, Truffault, Tom Hayden, Ralph Ellison.

And many, many more. A lot of politics, almost entirely left-wing, occasionally Marxist/Communist, but occasionally Fascist. A lot of sexuality, both hetero- and homo-, with heavy doses of infidelity and perversion. Professional jealousies and bitchy spats. All often described down to mind-numbing this-can't-possibly-be-important, why-should-I-care-about-this detail.

But that's probably on me, rather than Menand. His chapter discussing the Beatles, Elvis, and the Sixties music scene was very good! As far as it went. Menand generally ignores Motown, only mentioning it as a source of songs covered by the Beatles. And Bob Dylan? He "had virtually nothing particularly interesting to say about American life." The Beach Boys? Nope.

Such blind spots percolate into other parts of the book. Anthropologists are discussed, notably Claude Lévi-Strauss. But the field of economics is pretty much ignored, and you'd think that might warrant a mention in a long book about the "free world" and the Cold War. No Hayek, no Friedman of course. But also no Keynes, and just a couple of John Kenneth Galbraith shout-outs. The creation and operation of Students for a Democratic Society is lovingly described; its Weather Underground offshoot is ignored, with Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn MIA.

So I didn't care for the book, but you might. If your interests roughly track those of Louis Menand.