URLs du Jour

2022-05-21

  • Well, this is pretty cool. I'm a fan of Mark J. Perry's animated charts, and here's the latest: World’s top ten billionaires, 2000 to 2022.

    Perry's "bottom line":

    Many of the world’s richest billionaires are successful self-made entrepreneurs who accumulated large fortunes by providing low-cost goods at brick-and-mortar retailers like Aldi, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, and Ikea, and through online retail e-commerce platforms like Amazon, and in the process have generated cost savings and value for consumers (especially low and middle-income households) in amounts that are collectively far in excess of their personal wealth. Other successful billionaires/entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Elon Musk created entire new industries that also generated value for consumers that far exceed the personal wealth of innovators like Gates and Musk. It could maybe be described as a kind of reverse/perverse, soak-the-rich Marxism that consumers have actually “exploited” the billionaires above by “extracting” more value, cost savings, and wealth collectively from those entrepreneurs than the value of their personal fortunes. And it’s arguably not even close — the wealth and value generated for society by successful entrepreneurial billionaires dwarf their personal fortunes, which were only made possible because they made the lives of millions of consumers, many of them living in low-income households, better off.

    Don't tell that to Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, or AOC; their heads might explode.


  • A surprising observation. Kevin D. Williamson finds that Even Our White Supremacists Aren't Very Interested in White Supremacy.

    One of the reasons the race entrepreneurs of the Left are forced to define white supremacy down (Subject-verb agreement is white supremacy! Algebra is white supremacy! Punctuality is white supremacy!) is the fact that actual white-supremacist ideology has so little purchase in American culture. White supremacy is mostly a hobby for miserable dweebs on the Internet.

    There is a reason these killers almost always act alone. Other than the occasional Leopold-and-Loeb flavor of a crime such as the massacre at Columbine, mass shooters almost always are solo — because they have no other choice. They do not have a big group of committed comrades ready to join them. They generally do not have many friends, as in the case of the Buffalo shooter, by his own telling.

    In the United States, even our white-supremacist organizations aren’t very interested in white supremacy. Think of the Aryan Brotherhood, which is one of the largest groups of its kind, with as many as 20,000 members, and which conducts extensive operations both inside the prison system and in the outside world. The Aryan Brotherhood is highly organized, it has access to money and guns and other resources, and its members are not shy about murder and other violent crimes. When was the last time you heard about the Aryan Brotherhood shooting up a black church or bombing a Holocaust museum? Outside of the requisites of prison life, the Aryan Brotherhood has almost no apparent interest in white supremacy, and its criminal activities are almost exclusively ordinary organized-crime enterprises: drug and gun trafficking, murder for hire, extortion, etc. — profit-oriented crime rather than ideologically inspired crime. There isn’t much profit in white supremacy.

    The people in charge of Doing Something About This will no doubt be offering proposals to Do Something About This.


  • But the interesting bit about "white supremacy"… is that it's only the latest instance of a Orwellian disease. Here's Seth Moskowitz on what happens When Words Lose Their Meanings.

    The past decade has been a bad one for clear and specific language. Since around 2014, when the political left pivoted to emphasizing identity and systemic oppression, redefining words has become an increasingly fundamental tool in political activism.

    Take the term “white supremacy.” For most people, white supremacy refers to a) the belief that white people constitute a superior race; and b) political and societal arrangements predicated on this explicitly racist idea. But this straightforward definition has gone out of style. Activists have found that there is little political incentive to maintain such a tight definition when, by loosening it a little, you can shame and humiliate your adversaries. And so activists loosened it. Now, standardized testing is white supremacy; criticizing identity-based politics is white supremacy; “worship of the written word” is white supremacy.

    Of course, not everyone on the left is acting in bad faith. Some activists truly believe that the traditional understanding of white supremacy should be broadened to explain how racism is woven into our society, norms, and institutions. Robin DiAngelo, a well-known diversity trainer and author, defines white supremacy as “the historical and current accumulation of structural power that privileges, centralizes, and elevates white people as a group.” But broad definitions like this one are incredibly vague: jargon like “structural power” and “elevate” is open to interpretation. Such ambiguity makes it all but certain that the term will be a source of confusion or used as a rhetorical trump card. When a widely circulated document claims that punctuality is white supremacy culture, and others insist it’s just good manners, constructive discussion on issues of race becomes unlikely.

    Indeed. Moskowitz has some good points. But is it a new phenomenon? It has been over 75 years since Orwell wrote his essay "Politics and the English Language". Containing the observation:

    The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’.

    … among many others.


  • Speaking of things that have been going on a long time… Chris Stirewalt has an amusing story and associated observations: Bear-ly Working.

    In politics, like most things, sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you. But unlike real life, in politics, you can hire a bear to be in your campaign ads.

    That’s what one House candidate did in Florida (naturally). Or, more precisely, she accepted an in-kind contribution of what may be the only instance in Federal Election Commission history of a “trained bear for campaign photo shoot” valued at $2,500 from the proprietor of Bearadise Ranch (again, naturally).

    A couple of thoughts: First, the ad missed the obvious opportunity to support the “right to arm bears” in addition to the “right to bear arms.” Second, it is much cheaper to rent a bear than I would have imagined. Consider this fair warning to my colleagues, golf partners, and anyone who invites me to weddings.

    I mention bear rentals as a reminder that the business of politics has a lot more in common with the entertainment industry than it does most with other ways that people make a living. In that way, politics is not so different from other kinds of marketing-oriented enterprises. 

    The marketing observation isn't new. The Selling of the President 1968 was published over a half-century ago, after all. But that's a great bear story.


  • General observation: People whose funding depends on managing crises will search for, and find, crises to manage. J.D. Tuccille suggests we all just calm down: The Traffic Death ‘Crisis’ Isn’t What Bureaucrats Claim.

    To the limited extent that there was an upside during the early days of the pandemic, empty roads and reduced enforcement of petty traffic laws made what driving was still to be done relatively stress-free. But now that life has returned to something closer to what passes for normal these days, cars are back on the roads and traffic fatalities are rising. That has the usual suspects screaming that we're in a "crisis" that necessitates government action. But they overstate the case and, if there is a problem, it was caused by the politicians and bureaucrats who present themselves as our saviors.

    "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration…projects that an estimated 42,915 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes last year, a 10.5% increase from the 38,824 fatalities in 2020," the federal agency announced this week. "The projection is the highest number of fatalities since 2005 and the largest annual percentage increase in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System's history."

    "We face a crisis on America's roadways that we must address together," commented U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. "With our National Roadway Safety Strategy and the President's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are taking critical steps to help reverse this devastating trend and save lives on our roadways."

    Really? Last year's infrastructure law was an expensive boondoggle, and the flood of money it served up might help make the roads a tad safer only as higher inflation renders fuel for vehicles less affordable (though that may not be what Buttigieg has in mind). For its part, the Transportation Department's National Roadway Safety Strategy is a marvel of control-freakery that emphasizes speed limits, technology mandates, and rule enforcement.

    Tuccille points out:

    Federal highway bureaucrats invoke constant measures only after that breathless language about "the largest annual percentage increase" in traffic fatalities (their figures slightly differ from those of the NSC). As it turns out, "the fatality rate for 2021 was 1.33 fatalities per 100 million VMT [vehicle miles traveled], marginally down from 1.34 fatalities in 2020. While the fatality rate continued to rise in the first quarter, it declined in the other three quarters of 2021, compared to 2020."

    So, it turns out that there was a big jump in the raw number of fatalities as people returned to the road after pandemic-related interruptions, but this jump represented a slight decline in the rate of traffic fatalities once you consider the number of miles driven. That's not what we were sold in the opening paragraphs of the press release, but it's not entirely good news since the rate was already elevated.

    He speculates that maybe the elevated rate just might have something to do with draconian Covid restrictions, already on the hook for increased levels of domestic violence, substance abuse, homicide…