URLs du Jour

2022-07-31

Mr. Ramirez updates The Shining for the upcoming 2024 horror season:

[Horror show]

It's a tribute to Kubrick that you and I can make the connection to a forty-two year old movie from this single image, and know exactly what Ramirez is getting at. (See also: HAL's big red eye.)

  • I, Pun Salad. At the Foundation for Economic Education, Benjamin R. Dierker has a sequel to the famed essay "I, Pencil": I(nflation), Pencil: What a Simple Pencil Can Teach Us about Energy Prices and Inflation.

    You may already know me. I am a simple yellow wood pencil. I have already recounted to you the wonder and amazement of my genealogy. From the mines of Sri Lanka to the forests of California, my lineage is anything but linear – it is instead a complex global collaboration to bring my constituent parts together. I trust you know this tale well and do not need me to restate it here today.

    But I have been thinking about another lesson that may interest you. As I look back on all the hands that passed along my components, I could not help but recognize how much energy it took to bring me about.

    Yes, even me, a small wooden pencil, required millions of barrels of crude oil, billions of cubic feet of natural gas, thousands of tons of coal, and even nuclear fission to be brought into existence. I want to take you through my journey just one more time to instruct you on the importance of energy and how it can lead to insidious price increases on everything you use – from me, a friendly desk implement, to the baked chicken you had for dinner last night.

    Recommended, except you're likely to pop a few blood vessels the next time Biden shows up on your TV claiming his schemes are all about "lowering costs for the average family in America".


  • Demand to see the work. Arnold Kling has some interesting observations on The Carbon Calculation Problem.

    Also fifty years ago, there was a concern that we would soon run out of fossil fuels. This motivated President Carter and Congress to create the Department of Energy, tasked with developing alternative energy sources in what Mr. Carter called a “moral equivalent of war.”

    The global warming issue shifted the rationale for opposing gasoline and “smokestack” industries. The concern that fossil fuels were subject to scarcity was replaced by a worry that they are too abundant. When people arrive at the same policy recommendations but shift to the opposite rationale, it seems fair to doubt their objectivity.

    Regardless of the rationale for hating fossil fuels, people have intuitively felt that all-electric vehicles, along with solar and wind power are cleaner. Consider this IGM Forum poll of leading economists, who are willing to support government provision of more charging stations for electric cars without doing anything like a Show Your Work calculation of whether this would, in the end, reduce carbon emissions. They go with simple intuition, but simple intuition is a poor guide for assessing complex processes.

    Similarly, when politicians demand increased taxes, increased spending, increased regulation, and increased subsidies, no matter what the current state of the economy is… "it seems fair to doubt their objectivity."


  • And let's not forget increased spending on bureaucrats. Liz Wolfe is dubious about another feature of a recently-resuscitated legislative proposal: Supersizing the IRS Will Hurt the Working Rich, Not Fat-Cat Tax Evaders.

    After months of acrimonious infighting, Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) have reached a deal on a spending bill, portrayed as a means of fighting inflation, that will devote federal money to climate change initiatives, clean energy, and reducing the deficit. The spending bill, called the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, will pay for its ambitious proposals in part by doubling the size of the IRS, empowering the agency to reach its grubby little hands into ever more people's pocketbooks.

    […]

    But the bill also beefs up IRS enforcement capabilities, allowing our tax cops to audit far more people than before—including many working-professional high earners, while the richest continue to employ teams of accountants to take advantage of every possible loophole (as they darn well should). Is this really what Biden thinks the American people have been waiting for?

    "Our major concern is that the IRS provisions of the bill contain no accountability provisions for the agency, no sort of significant oversight of its efforts to reform and improve its processes, not a ton of robust protections for taxpayers who have seen their privacy or the security of their information threatened," Andrew Lautz, director of federal policy at the nonpartisan National Taxpayers Union, tells Reason.

    Drastically simplifying the tax code apparently wasn't on the table.


  • Not that the GOP will actually learn anything. Luther Ray Abel crafts a parable for Republican voters: What the GOP Can Learn from Mozzarella.

    Republicans have a dazzling opportunity in November to win back the Senate and House, not to mention dominance in state legislatures and governors’ mansions: Joe Biden is polling below Earth’s mantle, Democrats are gleefully collaborating to send billions of dollars to climate interest groups during a recession (or recession-adjacent economic situation of sudden indecipherability), and Anthony Fauci has re-emerged like an uninvited bespectacled groundhog to announce he’d like to see kids back in masks.

    And yet, I cannot shake the feeling that Republicans are going to screw this up — perhaps it’s attributable to whiffs of Eau de KDW–brand curmudgeon-ism wafting from Texas to Wisconsin — but the more likely explanation for my anhedonia is the multitude of close races between solid conservatives and loons — loons who will lose general elections and, even if they should win the odd race, will be useless as legislators.

    But I’m a young guy and should stick to what he knows. Being a good Wisconsin lad, I know cheese, so allow me to offer an object lesson, arising from a kitchen mishap I once experienced.

    (1) It appears to be a free link, so click over for some good, funny writing. (2) Glad to see I'm not the only one who refers to "KDW", assuming readers will get the reference.


  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Except, of course, for Klingons. Astronomy magazine explores the Rare Earth hypothesis: Why we might really be alone in the universe. The leading proponents are Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee, who published Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe back in 2003, Amazon link at your right.

    The Rare Earth hypothesis focuses on numerous aspects of Earth and its environment that played a role in allowing complex life to develop. Some of the key factors Ward and Brownlee felt were critical to the formation of complex life included:

    • A planet that exists in a favorable part of the right kind of galaxy, where significant amounts of heavy elements are available and sterilizing radiation sources are located far away.
    • An orbit around a star that has a long lifetime (billions of years) but does not give off too much ultraviolet radiation.
    • An orbital distance that allows liquid water to exist at or near the planet’s surface.
    • An orbital distance that is far enough away to prevent the planet from becoming tidally locked to its host star.
    • An orbit that is stable around its host star over cosmic timescales.
    • A planetary tilt that allows for seasonal atmospheric changes to be mild, not severe.
    • A solar system that includes gas giants capable of preventing debris from polluting the inner solar system, reducing the odds of major cosmic impacts and subsequent mass extinctions.
    • A planetary mass large enough to both retain an atmosphere and allow for liquid oceans.
    • A moon large enough to help stabilize the tilt of the planet’s axis.
    • A molten planetary core that generates a significant global magnetic field, largely protecting the surface from solar radiation.
    • The presence of oxygen, and the right amount of oxygen, at the right time for complex life to utilize it.
    • The presence of plate tectonics, which build up land masses, create diverse ecosystems, cycle carbon into and out of the atmosphere, prevent a runaway greenhouse effect, and help stabilize the surface temperature worldwide.

    With respect to that oxygen thing: the O2 level is due to the evolutionary invention of photosynthesis, aided by an enzyme that's not very smart or fast. But it helped put Earth into the Goldilocks Zone; what are the chances?

    As far as I know, Ward and Brownlee stay away from the It-was-God Explanation.

    But I note that a lot of scientists and science-popularizers really want life to exist elsewhere. As a matter of fact, they sometimes seem to have faith that life must exist elsewhere, despite lack of any positive evidence. That doesn't seem very scientific to me.


Last Modified 2022-07-31 5:28 PM EDT

Seven Deadly Economic Sins

Obstacles to Prosperity and Happiness Every Citizen Should Know

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

This book was one of the nominees for the 2022 Hayek Book Prize, so I thought it might be a good choice to obtain via the Interlibrary Loan services of the University Near Here Library. Soon enough, it arrived from the good people at Michigan State.

I had previously read the winning book, Joseph Henrich's The WEIRDest People in the World, which I liked; and Gerald Gaus's The Open Society and Its Complexities, which (I admit) was way too advanced for me. This one's good but a tad on the too-simple side.

And the title's a little misleading. The author, James R. Otteson, doesn't really organize his book around those seven "sins"; the title might have been an eye-grabbing effort by the publisher. (Those wild and crazy folks at Cambridge University Press!) Instead, Otteson details seven economic and philosophical principles underlying progress and prosperity, showing how those principles contradict corresponding popular fallacies.

Those principles: (1) Voluntary economic transactions are positive-sum, adding to wealth, in contrast to "extractive" coerced transactions, which are often zero-sum at best, and usually negative-sum. (2) A rational economic order requires attention to opportunity costs. (3) Economic decision-making involves local knowledge unavailable to would-be central planners; (4) Economic progress relies on a supporting foundation of public processes and institutions that should not be taken for granted. (5) Another vital foundation of prosperity is recognizing the virtue inherent in lightly-regulated markets. (6) The only "equality" worth defending is the equal moral worth of individuals. And finally, (7) markets are great, but inapplicable in numerous settings.

I've simplified Otteson's points considerably. He draws on the wisdom of Adam Smith, Frédéric Bastiat, Hayek, McCloskey, and numerous others in support.

The book can seem a little repetitious at times, and this was apparent right from Chapter One. Forty-nine pages to hammer home, belabor, dwell on, and emphasize the nature of wealth-creating economic transactions? Certainly in my case he was preaching to the choir and pushing on an already wide-open door, but …

However, I think Otteson's overall approach is valuable, providing an overall moral case for the free market. I'd recommend this for any bright high schooler or undergrad who's economics-curious.

URLs du Jour

2022-07-30

  • Just say no. A WSJ story from a couple days ago triggered my snarky tweet:

    Providing a little more context, here's the article opening:

    Microsoft Corp. is rallying other big-name cloud-computing providers such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Oracle Corp. to press the U.S. government into spreading its spending on such services more widely, taking aim at Amazon.com Inc.’s dominance in such contracts.

    The software giant has issued talking points to other cloud companies aimed at jointly lobbying Washington to require major government projects to use more than one cloud service, according to people familiar with the effort and a document viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

    Wonder what the article means by its assertion that Amazon holds "dominance" in the cloud? Well, later on, this "dominance" turns out to be 39% of the global market, as opposed to Microsoft's 21%. Amazon has only slightly more "dominance" in the government submarket: 47% to Microsoft's 28%.

    This is (and should remain) a competitive market. I'm pretty OK with the "translation" I provided in the tweet.


  • It's green. Don Boudreaux quotes Mencken on envy, but I like his followup comment even better:

    Most of us, alas, are emotionally equipped to experience envy. But while envy, perhaps, occasionally serves a useful purpose, it is, I am sure, overwhelmingly one of the most antisocial and uncivilized emotions that humans in modern society are prone to suffer.

    The decent man or woman works diligently to overcome the natural proneness to envy. And to the extent that success in this noble endeavor is met, that person is indeed rewarded with a greater likelihood of tranquility.

    Unfortunately, we live in an era in which envy is encouraged. The media, politicians, and intellectuals stir it up. Making matters worse, this stirring-up of envy is regarded as enlightened and “progressive,” while resistance to the attempts to stir up envy are treated as the product of a character both benighted and greedy. We are incessantly being told that those individuals who have more material wealth than we have do not deserve what they have. We’re counseled to support redistributive taxation.

    Thomas Piketty, Paul Krugman, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren – these and many other “Progressives” are merchants of envy, which is to say that they are merchants of an exceedingly antisocial sentiment, one both childish and destructive.

    Envy is a leftover emotion from the humanity's small-tribe origins. I've seen that plausibly argued, anyway. It's something that has to be jettisoned in order for progress and prosperity to happen.


  • Or maybe drop a flag on the play. Tarren Bragdon notes Biden's effort to take over what Zuckerberg set up in 2020: Biden’s Illegal Election Hail Mary Might Still Be Intercepted.

    Inflation is at a 40-year high, an economic recession may be just around the corner, the president’s approval rating is plummeting, and the 2022 midterm elections are less than four months away. Desperate times call for desperate measures, right?

    At least, that must be what the Biden administration is thinking. Why else would a U.S. president launch a thinly veiled get-out-the-vote campaign designed to give the Democrats an electoral advantage?

    The president’s plan was outlined in Executive Order 14019, which ultimately directs all federal agencies to do what they can to increase voter registration and turnout, including by working with a select group of third-party organizations “approved” by the White House. Sounds harmless on its face, until you consider the fact that it is being carried out by political appointees whose job security literally depends on Democrats being reelected in 2022 and 2024, and that the person charged with collecting the plans and leading this effort is President Joe Biden’s domestic policy advisor, Susan Rice.

    This debate could use a healthy dose of cynicism. Getting government employees to select populations for get-out-the-vote efforts? What could go wrong there?


  • Good advice… provided by Patrick Hedger, executive director of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance: Don't Give U.S. Chipmakers a $76 Billion Government Handout.

    Staying a step ahead of China is a recurring theme in U.S. foreign policy. Yet the most expansive effort on the table right now to keep China in check sadly emulates the communist country's greatest weakness: the blurred line between where the state stops and the market begins. Congress is set to get the government deeply involved in the critical market of semiconductors.

    In a 64-33 vote, the Senate passed the CHIPS Act on Wednesday and it will likely be signed into law by President Biden soon. This law traces its roots back to a 2020 bill to provide $16 billion in research and development (R&D) funding for the semiconductor industry. Government R&D funding is often wasteful, but such an amount for this purpose is not unheard of.

    The current legislation has swelled to a total cost of more than $400 billion. The core of the bill is $76 billion in direct funding for domestic semiconductor manufacturing through a variety of grants and tax credits. The rest of the money, beyond doubling the budget of the notoriously silly spenders at the National Science Foundation, is predictably a billion here and a billion there for vaguely named programs with even more ambiguous purposes. For example, as the Wall Street Journal editorial board pointed out, "The Commerce Department gets $11 billion, most of which it intends to plow into creating 20 new 'regional technology hubs,' which will somehow expand 'U.S. innovation capacity.'"

    Unfortunately…


  • A "Tradeoff" turned into "Ripoff" awfully quick. Jimmy Quinn looks a little deeper into that legislation: The GOP’s CHIPS Tradeoff.

    The debate over Congress’s massive, $280 billion China-focused package is over. With the passage of the Chips and Science Act by both houses this week, it now awaits the president’s signature.

    In the end, Republican lawmakers could have blocked it, but they declined to do so. The legislation received 17 GOP votes in the Senate and 24 votes in the House, delivering the bill for the White House.

    On the one hand, there’s a reasonable case to be made that boosting semiconductor production on U.S. soil is such an imperative that the bill’s deficiencies can be overlooked. Those deficiencies, among other things, include its creation of a “chief diversity officer” for the National Science Foundation, a loophole allowing universities with Confucius Institutes to receive funding, and the removal of previously included provisions to support Taiwan and counter Chinese propaganda.

    In short, it's a demonstration that nobody learned their lessons about central planning, industrial policy, and corporate welfare.


  • Trouble follows him. Greg Lukianoff and Joshua Bleisch tell the Stuart Reges tale: He Made a Joke About Land Acknowledgements. Then the Trouble Began..

    Stuart Reges is no stranger to controversy. In the 1980s, he risked his career as a budding academic by writing about being openly gay. Then, as lecturer at Stanford in the 1990s, he bucked the status quo by protesting the war on drugs. (Bob Martinez, then the national drug czar, wrote a letter to Stanford urging the school to penalize him.) Reges once wrote a piece called “Why Women Don’t Code” for Quillette and you can read a poem on his website titled “Fag Talk.” You get the picture.

    Reges is an now a professor of computer science at the University of Washington’s Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. At the beginning of the Fall 2020 semester, the UW published a best practices document encouraging faculty to include an “Indigenous Land Acknowledgment Statement” on their syllabi. The statement, which has been more prevalent in left-leaning institutions in recent years, is meant to acknowledge the historic presence of indigenous people on the land where the university sits.

    Professor Reges doesn’t think highly of these statements. “Land acknowledgments are performative acts of conformity that should be resisted,” he said.

    So last school year, instead of reprinting the university-approved language—“The University of Washington acknowledges the Coast Salish peoples of this land, the land which touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Suqaumish, Tulalip and Muckleshoot nations”—Reges constructed his own disclaimer. He wrote: “I acknowledge that by the labor theory of property the Coast Salish people can claim historical ownership of almost none of the land currently occupied by the University of Washington.” This appeared on his syllabus for a computer programming course he was teaching.

    The authors detail UW's efforts to thwart Reges, and their efforts (on behalf of FIRE) to deal with that thwarting effort.


Last Modified 2022-07-30 11:05 AM EDT

No One Will Miss Her

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

This book was one of the 2022 Edgar Award nominees for Best Novel. The author, Kat Rosenfield, has been appearing in my web-browsing a lot, including a number of articles at Reason, Tablet, UnHerd. and elsewhere.

(I didn't care for her sci-fi book A Trick of Light, co-authored with the late Stan Lee. I can't remember a single thing about it, but my blog doesn't forget.)

The opening sentence is one of those grabbers: "My name is Lizzie Ouellette, and if you're reading this, I'm already dead." I haven't read The Lovely Bones, but I've heard about it, and I'm already wondering if it's one of those deals.

What's indisputable is a body, found in a lakeside cabin outside of Copper Falls, Maine. A shotgun blast to the head, a nose found in the garbage disposal, a missing husband, a dump set on file, a couple on the lam down to a posh Boston townhouse…

And (I must admit) an whoa-I-didn't-see-that-coming revelation around page 165. And the whole book has me wondering Are they gonna get away with this?

URLs du Jour

2022-07-29

  • Or even admit that you were wrong? My snarky tweet in response to our state's junior US senator:

    No response from Maggie, not that I was expecting one. A perennial pet peeve of mine is legislation that promises noble goodies, but nevertheless sticks around after failing to deliver them. (Remember Obamacare "bending the cost curve"?)


  • I think that's the way to bet. David Harsanyi has his own prediction: Democrats' high-spending 'Inflation Reduction Act' will do the opposite.

    The first thing to remember about the reconciliation bill Sens. Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer agreed to Wednesday is that despite its utterly preposterous name, it has absolutely zero to do with inflation. The Inflation Reduction Act is crammed with the very same spending, corporate welfare, price-fixing and tax hikes that were part of Build Back Better — long-desired progressive wish-list agenda items. Pumping hundreds of billions into the economy will do nothing to alleviate inflation. The opposite.

    Let’s also remember the Democrats’ deflection on inflation last year — claiming it was “transitory” and “no serious economist” is “suggesting there’s unchecked inflation on the way” and so on — was all part of a concerted political effort to ignore the problem long enough to cram through a $5.5 trillion iteration of their agenda. And when inflation suddenly became non-transitory and politically problematic, the Biden administration argued that more spending would relieve inflation. It doesn’t care about the economy, as long as dependency is being expanded.

    And, yes, here's Harsanyi's bottom line: "The Inflation Reduction Act is to inflation what the Affordable Care Act — which doubled premium costs — was to health-care insurance."


  • And though the news was rather sad, well, I just had to laugh. Steve Landsberg sings an oldie: I Heard the News Today, Oh Boy. In its entirety:

    I’m getting a little tired of presidents of the United States repeating things that could only be spoken by an idiot or a liar, and then trying to intimidate people out of contradicting them.

    The latest (though of course not the most egregious) offender is one Joseph R. Biden, who told the country today that he can raise corporate income taxes without imposing any additional tax burden on anyone who earns less than $400,000 a year. Because in the United States of America, nobody with an income under $400,000 owns any stocks or mutual funds. And if you disagree, he’ll stare you in the face and repeat himself. Like I said, this is getting old.

    Also, a bonus comment, not mine: "Aside from managers, employees, customers, and shareholders, it doesn’t raise taxes on anyone."


  • I expect more of the same. How about you? Let's see what Veronique de Rugy expects, specifically: What to Expect from Washington's Latest Industrial Policy.

    Industrial policy is making a comeback. For those of you under the age of 50, this is just another term for corporate welfare — a lovely name for the unlovely practice of a government granting subsidies, protective tariffs and other privileges to politically influential industries or companies. It's often done in the name of some lofty goal such as strengthening national security or ensuring that America is a leader in the "industries of the future." But the outcome is always the same: wasteful, unfair, unsuccessful and unjustified. Oh, and it invariably grows the budget deficit.

    The latest form of industrial policy is Congress's CHIPS Act of 2022, a bill meant to subsidize the semiconductor industry by channeling taxpayer money to build up domestic production capacity and combat feared Chinese computer-chip supremacy.

    I expect other industries will soon be lining up to the trough. Because "fairness" demands…


  • Instead of insulting our intelligence, what could Congress do instead? Here's a suggestion, via David French: Stop Screwing Around and Pass the Electoral Count Reform Act.

    I want to begin with a question I’ve asked before. What if Mike Pence had said yes? What if the history of January 6 was very different, Pence had agreed with the John Eastman memos arguing that he enjoyed a tremendous amount of discretion in counting Electoral College votes, and he either declared Trump the winner outright, throwing the election into the House of Representatives, or sent it back to the states for the state legislatures to decide which electors were valid?

    America probably would have survived that moment, but the key word there is probably. Does Trump leave the White House? If the Supreme Court intervenes, does he care? Do we see a situation in which Chief Justice Roberts swears in Joe Biden while a MAGA judge swears in Trump for his “second term”? What do state governors do? Does federal law enforcement intervene? What about the military?

    Mike Pence saved us from all this chaos, and he deserves our gratitude. But he never should have been put in that position, and we have an opportunity to fix the prime legal reason why he was. The primary blame, of course, rests with the depraved corruption of Donald Trump and his cadre of loyalists. The secondary blame, however, rests with the Electoral Count Act, an absolute mess of a statute.

    French goes on to note how the ECA is a "playpen for bad actors" and how the proposed reform legislation coming out of the Senate actually fixes things. (Even though it's "bipartisan", often a warning flag of lousiness.)

    But a number of House Democrats are saying "not so fast". And it's raising the possibility that any meaningful reform will be doomed.


  • I bet you've been wondering. Or maybe not. Andrew C. McCarthy explains Why the DOJ Is Taking Its Time on January 6 Probe.

    The New York Times bewails the comparative snail’s pace of the Justice Department’s reported investigation of former president Trump and his advisers in schemes to overturn the result of the 2020 election.

    Seems prosecutors are so “apparently plodding and methodical” that they frustrate . . . well, it’s not exactly clear who is frustrated except for the Times and its fellow partisans. For all its rebuking of the former president’s tactics, the paper has adopted his “people are saying” schtick for broaching topics that are of more interest to the Times than to most people. In truth, besides Democrats, the January 6 committee controlled by Democrats, and the media allies of Democrats, no one is wondering whether or why the Justice Department’s investigation is lagging behind the committee’s.

    As I pointed out over the weekend: The committee, by adopting a slick, television-production approach that suppresses such inconveniences as cross-examination and opposing perspectives, has managed, in the eyes of some, to create the illusion of a detective story constantly turning up new revelations. In the real world, though, millions of people watched the Capitol riot as it happened and were quite familiar with Trump’s appalling conduct in the weeks leading up to it, as well as his failure to act during the hours of the uprising. Then, the nation watched for several weeks as Trump was impeached by the House and tried in the Senate over this episode. Despite its TV-drama presentation, the committee’s summer episodes have not altered our basic understanding of January 6.

    McCarthy's bottom line: " It may seem quaint, but the “plodding and methodical” Justice Department needs proof of a crime before it may properly act."

    Well, that's the theory, anyway. With Merrick Garland at the helm, I wouldn't bet a pile on that.

URLs du Jour

2022-07-28

  • Mister, we could use a man like Ronnie Reagan again. Eye candy du jour is a tweet from an account named I Love History.

    Context: June 12, 1987 in West Berlin, during the same trip as the "tear down this wall" speech.


  • Well, that's sad. Kat Rosenfield provides somber news: Publishing will never be fair. Her article is (sort of) in response to Joyce Carol Oates' tweet (see yesterday's post) that claimed "a friend who is a literary agent told me that he cannot even get editors to read first novels by young white male writers, no matter how good; they are just not interested. this is heartbreaking for writers who may, in fact, be brilliant, & critical of their own 'privilege.'" Ms. Rosenfield:

    The outpouring of replies were split between people who argued that Oates’s assertion was false and people who argued that it was true but not heartbreaking, and in fact a real and unmitigated good. And then there were the people who argued both of these things simultaneously, sometimes even within the same breath. For whatever reason, this type of self-refuting argument is particularly ubiquitous on Twitter; the fallacy, which some have termed The Law of Salutary Contradiction, is best summed up as: “this isn’t happening, and also it’s good that it’s happening”. One representative reply read: “I am a literary agent. This is not so. And why ever would we invest our hopes in the continued success of white men in an industry which persists in shutting out queer and BIPOC authors?!”

    Is it happening? With more than one extremely high-profile person flat-out accusing Oates of lying, it’s worth surveying the statistics. This is only an informal snapshot of the data, but one that still tells a story: of the 100 most recent debut book deals listed on Publisher’s Marketplace, 83 went to women. Of the remaining 17, 12 went to white men — ten of whom appear to be under the age of 40, and thus young by literary standards. It’s not a total shutout, of course, but it’s also not parity. And the same trend can be observed in terms of not just who’s published, but who’s celebrated; for instance, of the 13 books on the Booker longlist, released this week, three are by white men, none of whom are under 45 (one is the oldest ever recipient of a Booker nomination).

    If you're a white male, and your name is not "Steven King", your chances of breaking into the fiction market seem poor. But there's always self-publishing.

    (As I've mentioned before: I'm currently reading Ms. Rosenfield's latest book, No One Will Miss Her. A very nasty and extremely well-written crime novel.)


  • Open the pod bay doors, Hal. Adam Thierer describes How Science Fiction Dystopianism Shapes the Debate over AI & Robotics.

    George Jetson will be born this year. We don’t know the exact date of this fictional cartoon character’s birth, but thanks to some skillful Hanna-Barbera hermeneutics the consensus seems to be sometime in 2022.

    In the same episode that we learn George’s approximate age, we’re also told the good news that his life expectancy in the future is 150 years old. It was one of the many ways The Jestons [sic], though a cartoon for children, depicted a better future for humanity thanks to exciting innovations. Another was a helpful robot named Rosie, along with a host of other automated technologies—including a flying car—that made George and his family’s life easier.

    Most fictional portrayals of technology today are not as optimistic as The Jetsons, however. Indeed, public and political conceptions about artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics in particular are being strongly shaped by the relentless dystopianism of modern science fiction novels, movies and television shows. And we are worse off for it.

    Thierer argues that there's "no possibility of machines gaining human-equivalent knowledge any time soon—or perhaps ever."

    Fine. I wouldn't expect "human-equivalent". But look: arguably we humans are "smart" due to the fantastically complex interactions of a few pounds worth of nerve cells. What happens when computer circuitry approaches that complexity? A possible answer: something completely unexpected. And maybe unrecognizable as "intelligence". ("It's life, Jim. But not as we know it.")


  • Williamson on Krugman. And he provides Perspective on Perspective.

    Paul Krugman writes:

    In New York City, homicides so far this year are running a bit below their 2021 level, and in 2021 they were 78 percent lower than they were in 1990 and a quarter lower than they were in 2001.

    That’s true, but I don’t think “New York City has fewer murders today than it did in the year when it had more murders than at any other point in its entire history” is as compelling an argument as Professor Krugman seems to think.

    KDW goes on to muse on the extraordinarily violent country we live in.

    Obligatory stat: in 2020, New Hampshire had the lowest intentional homicide rate among the 50 states+Puerto Rico+D.C. (You can look at other years at the link.)

    As Damien Fisher points out, however, we've had 17 homicides so far in 2022, compared to an average of 18 since 2017. "And it’s still July."


  • Another perennial headline template: "Chuck Schumer Learned Nothing From           ". And filling in today's blank is Jacob Sullum: Chuck Schumer Learned Nothing From the Failure of Pot Legalization in California.

    During the next year, California officials said last week, the state expects to seize "more than $1 billion worth of illegal cannabis products." That announcement came a few weeks after the U.S. Justice Department bragged about guilty pleas by 11 unlicensed California marijuana merchants who had been nabbed with help from state and local law enforcement agencies.

    Six years after California voters approved recreational marijuana, unauthorized suppliers still account for somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of sales. A recent report from the Reason Foundation (my employer) highlights one major reason why licensed businesses have had so much trouble competing with illegal suppliers: Taxes are too high.

    Schumer's legislation was a major topic on this week's Reason Roundup podcast. They were even less impressed than Jacob Sullum is.


  • Oh swell. Eric Boehm has some very bad news: Schumer, Manchin Strike Deal To Raise Taxes, Cut the Deficit, Spend Billions on Climate Change.

    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) has reportedly brokered a deal with Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.) to pass a slimmed-down version of President Joe Biden's spending plan—now to be marketed as an attempt to curb inflation.

    In a statement on Wednesday evening, Manchin announced The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, a bill that the swing-vote senator says will be built around "paying down our national debt, lowering energy costs and lowering healthcare costs."

    Though Manchin's statement is light on specifics about the bill, subsequent reporting by Politico and other outlets quickly fleshed out the proposal. The bill will include $370 billion in new spending on climate change initiatives and green energy projects—a linchpin of Biden's Build Back Better plan through its many, many interactions over the past year—and would dedicate about $300 billion of revenue toward reducing the deficit, which has been Manchin's top priority.

    To belabor the obvious: Manchin is an idiot. "$300 billion of revenue toward reducing the deficit" won't wipe out the deficit (Latest CBO estimate for FY2022 $514 billion). (Update, added 2022-07-29": I should have stressed that $300 billion is over 10 years. So, roughly $30 billion per year. Not even a significant fraction of the yearly deficit.) Hence, will not be "paying down our national debt."

    And if you lard on additional spending, it certainly won't.

    And those additional taxes on businesses will certainly be passed on in part to consumers. Calling it an "Inflation Reduction Act" is Orwellian Ministry of Truth stuff.


Last Modified 2022-07-29 1:10 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2022-07-27

  • So, yes, I blogged this Hot Air article yesterday: The far left bans books by not letting them get published in the first place.

    At the time I noted the "controversy" on the facts, based on the reaction to this tweet from Joyce Carol Oates:

    The excrement swiftly hit the electrical air circulator. One response got my attention:

    Hm. Many tweeters treated this as definitive debunking of JCO's anecdote. But (my confirmation bias no doubt kicking in) I noticed some problems:

    • JCO was specifically referring to "first novels by young white male writers".
    • Note: not just white writers, white male writers.
    • Also note: not all fiction books, just first novels.

    So I did some quick lazy Googling. After a few seconds, I found (I think) more relevant data:

    And after a few more seconds:

    So, two independent sources contend that only 20% of white male-authored debut novels deserved to be classified as "best".

    Is that definitive proof of JCO's anecdote? No, just supporting evidence. And… geez, certainly if the race/sex disparity worked the other way, people of Julia Carrie Wong's inclination would immediately cite it as proof of systemic racism/sexism.

    And, by the way, I put that Alex Finlay book on my get-at-library list. Looks good!


  • Absolutely no argument here: Kevin D. Williamson adjusts his view of a classic movie: Exnihilating an American Idiocracy .

    We live in a dumb world. Americans have a moral responsibility not to make it dumber than necessary — and Americans have been shirking that responsibility for a few years now.

    On Twitter, that great overflowing sewer of American life, our friend Bill Kristol suggested — jokingly, I assume — that Democrats rally behind the singer John Legend if Joe Biden should (for some totally unforeseeable and unknowable and not-at-all-age-related reason!) not complete his term or decline to run again in 2024. His argument: The Ukrainians plucked Volodymyr Zelensky from the world of celebrity, and that has worked out pretty well for them — why not John Legend?

    To which some nitwit replied with the complaint: “Kevin D. Williamson told me to grow the f*** up when I said Bill Kristol is a socialist.”

    Well.

    If you think Bill Kristol is a socialist — not somebody who disagrees with you about this or that, not somebody you think has bad political ideas, not somebody you think overreacted to the Trump phenomenon, but a socialist — then, yes, you should, indeed, grow the f*** up. Words mean things, and whatever socialism means, it doesn’t mean, “I think it would be a hoot if Democrats nominated John Legend for president.” I disagree with Bill Kristol about any number of things (and agree with him about many more), but insisting that such disagreements somehow magically transmute Kristol into a socialist is idiotic kid stuff, deserving of contempt.

    You need an NRPlus subscription to read the whole thing. I'm in agreement with KDW's advice: "If the price of a subscription seems too high to you, then get a job, hippie."


  • Another perennial headline template: "Biden Administration can't make up its mind about           ". C. Jarrett Dieterle fills in the blank: Biden Administration Can’t Make Up Its Mind About Alcohol Regulations.

    This administration can't make up its mind about alcohol. Sometimes it brags that the industry is thriving. Sometimes it acts like the business needs a government intervention.

    Last year President Joe Biden issued a far-reaching executive order that, among other things, ordered the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to investigate anti-competitive issues in alcohol markets. When the report came out earlier this year, it was a complete muddle. It laid out in excruciating detail the diversity and dynamism of American alcohol markets—a result of the craft alcohol boom of the past few decades—but then urged more robust antitrust scrutiny of mergers involving large brewers.

    Since then, the administration's position on alcohol has grown only more convoluted. To hear the administration tell it, alcohol markets are flourishing. If only other industries could be so healthy, it argues; if only every industry was so competitive and flush with vibrant businesses. And that, it then declares, is why the industry might need more regulation.

    Everyone still waiting for the administration to cease its dithering: don't hold your breath. (Or, if you plan on voting Democrat anyway, maybe you should seriously consider holding your breath.)


  • It's always something. Matt Ridley notes government dysfunction in the Laccadive Sea: Eco-extremism has brought Sri Lanka to its knees.

    My article for The Telegraph:

    Sri Lanka’s collapse, from one of the fastest growing Asian economies to a political, economic and humanitarian horror show, seems to have taken everybody by surprise.

    Five years ago, the World Bank was extolling “how Sri Lanka intends to transition to a more competitive and inclusive upper-middle income country”. Right up to the middle of last year, despite the impact of the pandemic, the country’s misery index (inflation plus unemployment) was low and falling. Then the misery index took off like a rocket, quintupling in a year.

    What happened? There is a simple explanation, one that the BBC seems determined to downplay. In April 2021, president Gotabaya Rajapaksa announced that Sri Lanka was banning most pesticides and all synthetic fertiliser to go fully organic. Within months, the volume of tea exports had halved, cutting foreign exchange earnings. Rice yields plummeted leading to an unprecedented requirement to import rice. With the government unable to service its debt, the currency collapsed.

    Adam Smith once said "there is a great deal of ruin in a nation". (Talking about Britain's loss of its American colonies.) Seems Sri Lanka is about to find out if there's an infinite amount of ruin.


  • Well, this is just great. A Facebook post from the Cinema Shorthand Society in honor of Gracie Allen's 127th birthday (yesterday).

    I very much encourage you to Read The Whole Thing. The way things are going, I may write Gracie's name in for the next few elections.


Last Modified 2022-07-27 5:51 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2022-07-26

[Opinions about Python] Eye Candy du Jour is one panel from a recent Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. Doesn't mean anything other than I love the concept of lemmings with opinions about Python.

  • In case you were thinking this was legislation to bring back that show with Jon and Ponch… nope, it's not that at all. The NR editorialists say it's even worse than that: CHIPS Legislation Leaves U.S. at Disadvantage vs. China.

    The CHIPS legislation advancing rapidly through the Senate is many things. It is an industrial-policy bill and a handout to the higher-education industry. It’s a bill intended to further entrench progressive pieties on diversity and equity within the federal bureaucracy. And it is expensive. What it is not, however, is a tool for improving Washington’s lot in the competition with the Chinese Communist Party.

    After over a year of back-and-forth, lawmakers seem poised to converge on a final version of the so-called U.S. Innovation and Competition Act this week. At first, it seemed that the final package would contain about $52 billion in subsidies for semiconductor manufacturing and some miscellaneous other provisions. But, as lawmakers realized that a larger version of the package remained politically feasible, the package ballooned. The most recent version, put forward by Chuck Schumer, strongly resembles the original, disappointing version that the Senate passed last year. That’s the main problem. Sixty-four senators, including 16 Republicans, voted to advance the bill last Tuesday.

    As I've asked before: why should semiconductor companies bother to convince private investors to fund their operations when they can convince politicians to force taxpayers into doing so?


  • An inspiring story, and I'm not being sarcastic for once. James Freeman recounts a tale from the Peoples' Republic of Rhode Island: A Teacher Triumphs Over the Woke Educational Establishment.

    At last some good news from U.S. public education, thanks to one tough teacher who refused to accept the poisonous ideology now enforced in so many classrooms. Regular readers of this column will be especially cheered to read the latest dispatch from Ramona Bessinger via the Legal Insurrection website:

    On July 13, 2021, I blew the whistle at Legal Insurrection on how a new Critical Race curriculum in the Providence, Rhode Island, middle school where I taught was creating racial hostility, turning students and staff against me because I was white, and turning students against their country.

    My students, almost all of whom were minority, started calling me “America” because I was white — You are America, they would say, we are not. How could I keep silent seeing what the Critical Race curriculum was doing to the students and our society?

    ... What followed was a year of retaliation, harassment, intimidation, and involuntary transfer to another school where there was no teaching position for me. I was forced to spend a year alone in a windowless empty school basement resource room, as students and staff passed by and gawked at me like I was some strange caged zoo animal, audibly mumbling how I was that ‘racist’ teacher they had been warned about.

    I fought the district legally with the help of James Peterson at Judicial Watch, and I am emerging from the basement victorious, with a full-time regular classroom assignment. I am unbowed, and more committed to fighting the CRT scourge than ever before.

    Not every teacher will have Ms Bessinger's guts, but hopefully her story will inspire a lot more pushback to woke religionists on the hunt for heresy.

    Ironically, Providence RI has its origins (as you may remember from school) as a refuge for those persecuted elsewhere for their faith. These days, not so much.


  • The folks behind Banned Book Week will pay no attention. John Sexton at Hot Air reads the New York Times so you don't have to: The far left bans books by not letting them get published in the first place.

    Yesterday Pamela Paul, the former editor of the NY Times Review of Books, wrote about a new trend in the publishing industry. Her piece is titled “There’s More Than One Way to Ban a Book” and it offers some strong criticism of the leftist takeover of the industry which she says has introduced a new strain of self-censorship.

    The American publishing industry has long prided itself on publishing ideas and narratives that are worthy of our engagement, even if some people might consider them unsavory or dangerous, and for standing its ground on freedom of expression.

    But that ground is getting shaky. Though the publishing industry would never condone book banning, a subtler form of repression is taking place in the literary world, restricting intellectual and artistic expression from behind closed doors, and often defending these restrictions with thoughtful-sounding rationales. As many top editors and publishing executives admit off the record, a real strain of self-censorship has emerged that many otherwise liberal-minded editors, agents and authors feel compelled to take part in.

    A former chief executive at publishing giant MacMillan tells Paul that censorship is happening on both the far left and far right. On the right he means the pressure to remove some books from school curriculums and school libraries. This strikes me as a very unfair comparison. There may be some cause for concern about removing certain books from curriculums; however, deciding what books get read by tens of thousands of students in public school is always going to be a public decision in which parents, through school boards, have some say. More to the point, even if a book is removed from the curriculum under public pressure from parents, it doesn’t cease to exist. You can still order a copy of the book on Amazon or pick one up at a local bookstore. The books in question are still in print. What the left is doing to book publishing is far worse. To the degree the woke get their way, no one will ever see the books they disagree with because they won’t have been published at all.

    There's plenty of controversy about this issue, but the dynamics are plausible, rooted pretty firmly in what we've seen in other areas.


  • The only thing that matters is loyalty. An unintentionally revealing article by Peter Navarro at a site called American Greatness, titled Trump’s ‘Think Tank’ Prepares to Betray Him.

    Don’t go, Boss! That’s my strong advice to President Trump as he prepares to deliver a speech in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday at his alleged “think tank,” the America First Policy Institute (AFPI).

    Yes, it is important for President Trump to have a well-credentialed stable of policy experts capable of both building a 2024 platform and finding solid MAGA talent to populate a new Trump Administration. But the AFPI Trojan Horse—whose leadership is now bragging about how it will staff Trump’s “shadow cabinet”—is decidedly not that.

    Most comically, the AFPI roster features the author of a poison pen White House memoir who sued the president; a Communist China-trained accountant who criticized the president for “ineffective drug price policies”; a former Cabinet secretary who almost got Trump impeached; a former top advisor to Dick “Endless War” Cheney; and John “Book Deal” Bolton’s former chief of staff. What could go wrong there?

    Well, you get the idea. Trump should avoid getting advice from people who've criticized him, or his policies, in the past. Sycophants only! Only listen to me, Boss. I never doubted you, not for a minute!


  • Don't trust Wikipedia on any issue with ideological bearing. Jerry Coyne has a long article (partially) on pervasive ideological censorship of Wikipedia articles. It's about an article I missed at Quillette, by a pseudonymous author Cognitive Distortions

    The study of human intelligence falls within a broader field known as psychometry, which refers to the measurement of psychological traits. Intelligence research is among the most replicable bodies of research in the social sciences: while many areas of psychology have been affected by the replication crisis during the 2010s (including some other branches of psychometry), a 2019 paper states that within intelligence research, “there is no replication crisis about key empirical findings.” Human intelligence is also among the most socially important areas of psychology, as Quillette described in a 2018 article, because of the large impact that a person’s intelligence may have on his or her life.

    Before 2020, Wikipedia’s articles related to psychometry and human intelligence were mostly consistent with this field’s published literature, although many of these articles were somewhat outdated because there have never been many Wikipedia users with the necessary knowledge and interest to keep them updated. Under normal circumstances, Wikipedia articles increase in quality over time as more people contribute to them. However, for reasons that will be explained, the recent trend in articles related to human intelligence has been for Wikipedia’s coverage to become steadily more divorced from its source material. (In this article, when I refer to Wikipedia, I am referring specifically to the English-language version of the site.)

    Over the past two years, there has been a collective decision by several members of Wikipedia that “scientific racism […] has infiltrated psychometry” and that the field must no longer be trusted. This assumption is explained in an FAQ created in May and June 2021:

    Psychometry is a field where people who advocate scientific racism can push racist ideas without being constantly contradicted by the very work they’re doing. And when their data did contradict their racist views, many prominent advocates of scientific racism simply falsified their work or came up with creative ways to explain away the problems. See such figures as Cyril Burt, J. Phillipe [sic] Rushton, Richard Lynn, and Hans Eysenck, who are best known in the scientific community today for the poor methodological quality of their work, their strong advocacy for a genetic link between race and intelligence, and in some cases getting away with blatant fraud for many years.

    Particularly odious was the yearslong, finally successful, crusade to delete an entry about the (high) IQ of Ashkenazi Jews. It was removed with a promise that it be recreated later "in an improved state". And that never happened.

URLs du Jour

2022-07-25

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Talking back to the Times. Earlier this year, Ian Underwood had his fifteen minutes of fame … well, actually, a few months of fame … when he successfully (albeit temporarily) got the $1.7 million school budget in Croydon, New Hampshire, cut to $800,000 in the March town meeting.

    And a couple weeks back, he made the New York Times, as a poster boy for the Free State Menace. An article titled "What Croydon, a ‘Live Free or Die’ Town, Learned About Democracy", dubbed the story a "cautionary tale". Sample:

    In pamphlets he brought to the meeting, Mr. Underwood asserted that sports, music instruction and other typical school activities were not necessary to participate intelligently in a free government, and that using taxes to pay for them “crosses the boundary between public benefit and private charity.”

    The pamphlet did not note that its author was a 1979 graduate of the public high school in Chesterton, Ind., where he starred on the tennis team, ran track, played intramural sports and joined extracurricular activities in math, creative writing, radio and student government. Also: National Honor Society member, National Merit finalist and valedictorian.

    Feel the snark, people. The implied rule: once you take advantage of government goodies, you are forbidden from ever criticizing government again.

    I recommend Underwood's Letter to the Times, published at Granite Grok, where he's a contributor. And (as he notes) it's unlikely that you'll read it in the New York Times.

    Dear Editor,

    Since the publication of your article by Dan Barry about the budget drama in Croydon, NH, my wife and I have been the recipients of anonymous emails and telephone calls from people who are eager to tell us what horrible people we are, how terrible our parents must have been, and how awful our views on education are.

    The problem is, they don’t know anything about us, or about our views on education. They know only what they’ve read in the article, which are caricatures.

    Anyone who takes a moment to look at the things I’ve been writing for years (on the GraniteGrok website) will see that my primary concern was, and continues to be, getting a better education for the kids of Croydon (and every other town in New Hampshire).  The following is just a small sampling:

    https://granitegrok.com/blog/2018/11/rethinking-fairness-in-education

    https://granitegrok.com/blog/2020/02/schools-first-do-no-harm

    https://granitegrok.com/blog/2019/04/a-standard-for-school-standards

    Here is the pamphlet that I handed out at our annual town meeting:

    https://granitegrok.com/blog/2022/03/budget-or-ransom

    As I point out in the pamphlet, and as I stated at the meeting, decades of data show that we can’t improve education by spending more money.  We can only do it by spending less, because that will require us to consider seriously the justification for public education laid out by our state supreme court 20 years ago. That in turn requires asking some fundamental questions that have been ignored for too long, and requires making some serious decisions about what to prioritize.

    Underwood is righteously pissed by the slant of the NYT, which is, roughly: Eternal vigilance is the price of ensuring continued lousy government schooling.


  • USPS delenda est. Scott Johnson of Power Line looks at the musical/political stylings of Comrade Pete Seeger. If I had a hammer & sickle.

    It is somehow fitting in the Age of Biden that Seeger is to be honored with a stamp issued by the United States Postal Service. While the true authors and heroes of American liberty are defamed and dishonored, the likes of Seeger are to be celebrated. This is our history, Postal Service style:

    “He was not only a champion of traditional American music, he was also celebrated as a unifying power by promoting a variety of causes, such as civil rights, workers’ rights, social justice, the peace movement and protecting the environment,” said Tom Foti, the postal service’s product solutions vice president.

    There is a lesson there somewhere, but not the one that the USPS draws. And the linked AP story from which I am quoting only goes so far as to mention Seeger’s “Communist affiliations.” Seeger was a member of the Communist Party in the heyday of American Communism. That was his principal Communist affiliation.

    Seeger's on-a-dime turn in the 1940s from peacenik to warhawk, mirroring the state of Stalin/Hitler relations, is recounted. According to City Journal's Howard Husock, in an article linked at Power Line, Seeger was "America’s Most Successful Communist". Fitting that he should be honored by the USPS.

    Not that it matters, but I'm a little pissed that there's an Ursula K. Le Guin stamp, but nothing for Robert Heinlein.


  • Might as well face it, you're addicted to… well, probably more than you think. Ronald W. Dworkin looks at the concept of "addiction" and the oddball policy responses of government: The New Prohibition.

    Addiction is defined as using a substance or engaging in behaviors in a compulsive manner despite harmful consequences. Opioid and alcohol addiction are classic examples. Over the years, the definition of addiction has expanded to include activities such as shopping and golf. But when one thinks about it, we all have compulsive behaviors that border on the harmful. Such behaviors are even central to our identities. We know people by what they love and what they hate, typically expressed in a sentence that begins with the word “I,” as in “I love this and I don’t love that.” This “I” of ours—including its peculiar property of loving one thing and not another with varying degrees of intensity, be it ice cream, work, or sexual partners—is how we distinguish one person from another in our minds.

    The notion of addiction as a spectrum is not new. Shakespeare used the word addiction when referring to a “strong inclination” toward useless activities. But the notion has particular relevance today. Nicotine—once inhaled only through smoking, but now available in safer form through vaping—has thrown a monkey wrench into our understanding of what constitutes an addiction worth policing. When confined to adults, nicotine is less harmful than opioid or alcohol abuse, shopping to the point of bankruptcy, or golfing to the point of divorce. Yet government regulators spend an inordinate amount of time trying to regulate nicotine, while public health authorities hold sway on the issue by spreading anxiety among the public and arousing a consciousness of guilt.

    If vaping nicotine sits on the safer end of the addiction spectrum, why does government pay so much attention to it? Indeed, the FDA recently proposed banning all JUUL vaping devices, pulling back only in response to public pressure. The answer is that regulators are using a half-century old model for policing addiction that has gone too far.

    Agreed. Although I'm still enough of a Puritan to recommend that you not get hooked on any Substance. And I'm not sure if the FDA's JUUL's pullback was entirely due to "public pressure". I think a Federal Appeals Court ruling might have had more to do with it.


  • If Bob Dylan can get the Nobel Prize, the WHO should certainly get one. <voice imitation="emily_litella">What? Oh, that's quite different! Never mind!</voice>

    John Tierney informs us: The WHO Doesn’t Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.

    The frontrunner for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, according to the bets placed with British bookmakers, is the World Health Organization. It’s hard to imagine a worse choice. (Okay, Vladimir Putin.) The bettors’ theory is that the Nobel committee will honor the WHO for its efforts in fighting Covid-19—but it would be absurd to reward an organization that began the pandemic by spreading deadly misinformation, went on to promote disastrous policies, and now seeks new powers to do even more damage next time.

    The Nobel jurors in Norway should be honoring the pandemic’s true heroes, starting with an obvious candidate across their border: Anders Tegnell, the state epidemiologist of Sweden. While the WHO and the rest of the world panicked, he kept calm. While leaders elsewhere crippled their societies, he kept Sweden free and open. While public-health officials ignored their own pre-Covid plans for a pandemic—and the reams of reports warning that lockdowns, school closures, and masks would accomplish little or nothing—Tegnell actually stuck to the plan and heeded the scientific evidence.

    Looking at the local angle:

    Sweden has fared especially well by comparison with the United States, which has suffered 206 excess deaths per 100,000. That’s more than triple the rate in Sweden, and there’s another glaring difference: the death toll among the young and middle-aged. Even during 2020, Sweden’s worst year of the pandemic, no excess mortality occurred among Swedes under 70, but the rate soared among younger Americans. The CDC reported that the excess mortality rate rose more sharply among Americans aged 25 to 44 than in any other age group. When researchers analyzed excess deaths among Americans aged 15 to 54, they found that the majority died from causes other than Covid. Many were presumably casualties of the lockdowns’ disruptions: the canceled medical and mental-health treatments, the enforced isolation and inactivity, the surge in unemployment, the steep increases in rates of depression and anxiety disorders, obesity and diabetes, and abuse of alcohol and drugs.

    Fat, drunk, depressed, anxious, high, and diabetic is no way to go through life, America.

URLs du Jour

2022-07-24

[When Seconds Count...]

  • "When seconds count, the police are only minutes away." That saying turned out to be way too optimistic in Uvalde. J.D. Tuccille compares and (especally) contrasts: One Civilian With a Gun at an Indiana Mall Offered Better Protection Than 376 Cops in Uvalde.

    The same day Texas legislators released a devastating report on indecision and failure among hundreds of police officers during the school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, a single armed man ended an attack at Greenwood Park Mall in Greenwood, Indiana. It's impossible to avoid comparing the two incidents. Once again, taking responsibility for yourself and assisting others turns out to be a better idea than putting faith in the state.

    "Greenwood leaders have used several titles to describe Elisjsha Dicken, the 22-year-old Indiana man who intervened in a mass shooting at the Greenwood Park Mall on Sunday night," write Ryan Martin, Tony Cook, and Dayeon Eom of the Indianapolis Star. "A hero. A good Samaritan, even. Gun-rights advocates have yet another: A good guy with a gun."

    Assessments of the performance of 376 police officers at Robb Elementary School are less positive.

    "At Robb Elementary, law enforcement responders failed to adhere to their active shooter training, and they failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety," according to the July 17 report from Texas legislators. "The first wave of responders to arrive included the chief of the school district police and the commander of the Uvalde Police Department SWAT team. Despite the immediate presence of local law enforcement leaders, there was an unacceptably long period of time before officers breached the classroom, neutralized the attacker, and began rescue efforts."

    Hey, maybe you have braver and more competent law enforcement in your locality than they did in Uvalde. Maybe. You want to bet your life on that?


  • The road to hell is paved with 'em, I hear. Robert Weissberg describes How the Best of Intentions Created Today’s Academic Disasters.

    Today’s assault on intellectual excellence in the academy will eventually end. Hopefully, an investigation will then commence on its causes, and all the usual suspects will be rounded up. This tribunal will, however, likely ignore one key culprit: ordinary faculty—people like me—who complained about the assault, all while enthusiastically aiding it.

    Yes, some criticized the Diversity and Inclusion obsession and condemned identity politics. But, out of sight and on the sly, we contributed to the university’s intellectual decline. We made this disaster worse than what even the “woke” mob accomplished.

    The adage “no good deed goes unpunished” captures this culpability. In a nutshell—and here I will speak only for myself and those I knew personally from the late 1960s onward—I am referring to lowering academic standards for black students and faculty in order to promote racial progress, a Weltanschauung in which the path to racial equality lay through education and, ultimately, the act of recruiting as many black students as possible and ensuring that they graduated.

    Much of what changed in my department of political science was obvious: more bureaucratic paperwork, additional departmental offerings on race and ethnicity, a neglecting of traditional political science subjects, and untold meetings that accomplished nothing. Less obvious was the extra time spent by faculty personally tutoring struggling minority students and recruiting affirmative-action candidates at professional meetings. It’s hard to estimate all the hours taken away from our teaching and research responsibilities as a result.

    This is via Arnold Kling; he describes the academics that silently put up with DEI's "assault on academic excellence" as "enablers". On target.


  • I'm shocked. I'm stunned. And so is Eric Boehm: Senate Election Reform Bill Surprisingly Logical and Bipartisan.

    Former President Donald Trump's attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election sought to exploit three potential weaknesses in the legal and political mechanisms for certifying a winner.

    This week, a bipartisan group of senators formerly unveiled a proposal that, if passed, would prevent a repeat attempt from succeeding where Trump failed.

    […]

    While a special House committee has been probing the scope of Trump's plots and the role the former president played in the ugly events of January 6, a bipartisan group of senators led by Susan Collins (R–Maine) and Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.) has been working on a fix for the procedural issues Trump's team nearly exploited to overturn the election. This is less dramatic than what the January 6th Committee has been turning up, but it is probably the more important project for the future of American democracy.

    The Susie/Joe legislation has 15 cosponsors, eight Republicans and seven Democrats, including my state's senior senator, Jeanne Shaheen.

    Pun Salad previously looked at reform of the Electoral Count Act here, linking to Andy Craig's [Cato] wishlist. Craig has weighed in on the proposal and says: "Overall, it is a very solid proposal and would represent an immense improvement over the status quo."

    I.e., a welcome change for Congress.


  • News I can't use. But maybe you (or someone you know) can. Kat Rosenfield explores The problem with being hot. And, reader, she's not talking the thermodynamic concept.

    The late Rush Limbaugh once said that feminism was created to “allow ugly women access to society” — a comment all the crueller because it was true. A central tenet of feminism is that a woman’s social value should be predicated on her humanity, not her beauty. The only legitimate response to being called ugly, then, is surely a shrug: yes, and? So what? But Limbaugh’s comments were met with outrage, for the most obvious, human reason: even feminists want to be beautiful.

    These competing forces — a resentment of punishing beauty standards on one hand, and on the other the yearning to be beautiful oneself, with all the privileges that entails — have long been a source of tension, one that the movement keeps trying to resolve by treating beauty not as an objective quality, but a resource to which all women are entitled. Hence the endless campaigns telling women that they’re beautiful no matter what they look like, that they deserve to feel beautiful, that beauty is something every woman possesses in her own way.

    The latest iteration of this phenomenon is a howler of a trend piece, which was published at the weekend by the New York Times — and subsequently went off-the-charts viral. “A social media movement inspired by the rapper Megan Thee Stallion strikes back at the gatekeepers of beauty,” announces the subhead. This movement sees being “hot” not as the condition of being physically attractive or sexually desirable, but as a state of mind, a vibe. Gone are the days when being hot required that another person bestow the label upon you. If you identify as hot, then you are.

    I can't help but also point out:

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that young people like to mess around with language, walling themselves off with vernacular from the generations that came before them.

    I think I could devote my blog entirely to pointing out current examples of that.

    I'm currently reading Ms. Rosenfield's latest book, No One Will Miss Her. A very nasty and extremely well-written crime novel.

URLs du Jour

2022-07-23

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Why yes, Democrats are taking tactical cues from video games. But Charles C. W. Cooke says No to “Executive Beast Mode”.

    President Biden is once again gearing up to utter a series of words that ought to inspire Americans to search in exasperation for their pitchforks: “If Congress won’t do it, I will.”

    If it can raise itself from the reverie that our imperial presidency has imposed, the public’s emphatic response to the president’s climate plan must be, “No, you damn well will not.” Article I of the U.S. Constitution vests “All legislative Powers” in Congress, not in the White House, and, in exercising those powers, Congress’s judgment is not advisory, but binding. If, as is often the case, Congress declines to act in a given realm, the result is not a transfer of authority, it is inertia. There is no such thing as a Too Important Clause in our highest law, nor is there any provision that accords lawmaking powers to the executive branch in such cases as its friends consider the legislature to be irresponsible. There are, indeed, a handful of statutes on the books that grant the executive some emergency powers, but those are not enabling acts, and, funnily enough, they require the existence of an emergency before they can be applied. No emergency exists in this case. That the Democratic Party has been unable to get its agenda past its own senators is presumably frustrating for it, but it does not count as a crisis under any plausib[l]e interpretation of that term.

    Merriam-Webster has more on the term "beast mode" here. And the current usage is apparently from …

    That's at the end of a long thread with Whitehouse's recommendations for stuff he thinks Biden should dictate.


  • Not just misery, but also despotism. Bjørn Lomborg describes How the Climate Elite Spread Misery.

    The chattering classes who jet to conferences at Davos or Aspen have for years been telling the rest of us that our biggest immediate threats are climate change, environmental disasters and biodiversity loss. They point to the current heat waves killing thousands across Europe as the latest reason to change our societies and economies radically by switching to renewables.

    Such arguments are misleading. It’s true that as temperatures rise the world will experience more heat waves, but humans also adapt to such things. In Spain, for example, rising temperatures have actually led to fewer heat deaths, because people have adapted faster than temperatures have gone up. It simply took air conditioning, public cooling centers and better treatment of maladies that are caused or aggravated by heat, such as heatstroke and heart disease.

    At Pun Salad Manor, we're hunkering down with the AC on for the next couple days.


  • Speaking of stifling innovation… Veronique de Rugy pleads for some Congressional sanity: Antitrust Craze Would Unplug Technological Progress.

    Always beware of the name given to a piece of legislation. It rarely describes accurately the likely impact of enacting a bill. In fact, statutes often do the opposite of what their names suggest. Take Sen. Amy Klobuchar's, D-Minn., proposed legislation named the American Innovation and Choice Online Act. While everyone likes more choice and innovation, this bill would hinder both as it imposes high costs on consumers. In fact, a more apt name for Klobuchar's bill would be the Anti-Consumer and Stagnation Act of 2022.

    Born out of the recent eagerness to expand antitrust regulation, the bill would empower government bureaucrats at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to bridle the economy's thriving technology sector with regulations and mandates aimed at making "big" companies smaller regardless of how well a "big" firm is serving consumers. The economics of this idea are all wrong.

    The targets of these legislative efforts are some of the most successful companies in our nation's history, including Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft. Klobuchar and company want to break these entrepreneurial successes into smaller companies, all without regard to the benefits consumers reap from vertical integration. Vertical integration is when a company owns multiples stages of production. In competing for customers, firms buy — or sell — different stages to achieve maximum possible efficiencies. To put this reality into perspective, popular services such as Amazon Prime and Google Maps are products of vertical integration and would be prohibited under the new legislation.

    If Senator Amy thinks she can run a tech business, she should quit her job and try it, instead of hobbling successful companies that have done a good job providing goods and services people want.


  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Instead of trying to destroy successful businesses… Megan McArdle suggests there should be at least one party that stays in its own lane: Republicans could change government the way they changed the courts. She disdains the GOP's current hamfisted efforts to fight wokeness.

    If Republicans actually want to combat creeping wokeness, they need to stop making showy attacks on the most egregious progressive excesses. Instead, they need to break up the left’s monopoly on expertise. This is not only good strategy but actually good policy that will eventually make the lives of their constituents better.

    I say “eventually” because it won’t happen quickly. On the one hand, Republicans need to build up their own institutional capacity to govern. And on the other, they need to attack the credentialing regime that provides progressive-dominated academic institutions with a captive customer base.

    To do that, start by taking a lesson from what almost every conservative agrees was President Donald Trump’s one great success: engineering a rightward shift of the courts. Notice that Republicans did not win this victory by passing laws forbidding judges to be liberal. Instead, they spent decades building out conservative theories of jurisprudence and networks of scholars trained in those methods who could be appointed or elected to the bench. They should be replicating that model in every discipline that produces a lot of government workers or political appointees — the equivalent of a Federalist Society chapter at every school of education, social work, public health or public policy in the country.

    Megan points out a possible Plan A: go on the attack "against the credentialism and occupational licensing regimes that have turned colleges into gatekeepers to most of the good jobs." That's not a new idea, it was a major theme of the 1992 book School's Out by Lewis J. Perelman. Thirty years ago.


  • What were we thinking? Robby Soave notes some interesting crow-eating: Homeland Security Agrees That the Disinformation Board Was a Bad Idea.

    Two months after it first scrapped the Disinformation Governance Board, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) now admits there is "no need" for the board at all.

    A DHS advisory subcommittee made the declaration on Monday, according to The Washington Post. Previously the board had technically been "paused."

    First announced in April, the disinformation board attracted scrutiny from conservatives and civil libertarians due to concerns that its director, Nina Jankowicz, was a progressive ideologue with a poor track record of identifying misinformation. She had fallen for narratives that had hoodwinked other liberals, including the false notion that the New York Post's Hunter Biden laptop story was a hoax of Russian origin. Federal law enforcement officials played a prominent role in providing cover for this false notion; 50 of them signed a letter asserting the story was Russian disinformation, which provided the mainstream media and social media companies with intellectual cover to suppress the story. There is good reason to worry that Jankowicz's disinformation board could have done the same had it been up and running at the time.

    Now (as Robby notes) maybe the DHS could start rolling back the expensive and pointless security theater at airports.

Sophomoric Claptrap @ UNH

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] The "Office of Community, Equity & Diversity" of the University Near Here provides a document entitled DEI ["Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion"] Terminology. Perhaps that's an implicit warning that the Office uses certain "special" terms in ways you won't find in a normal dictionary. There's a disclaimer up front:

It [meaning, I think, "this"] is not intended to be an exhaustive list of every word and term used in conversations about diversity and social justice. Keep in mind that as language continues to evolve around these concepts, many of these words and terms will also change.

Or, if I may translate: "Not only do we have our own special lingo, we reserve the right to alter it whenever we find it convenient or necessary, in order to achieve whatever our current goals are."

Many words and terms are "defined". There's a lot of unintentional humor. Do you think you know what "disability" means? Well, you probably don't. Because:

Disability: Understanding disability requires a complex consideration of a variety of factors. As stated within the WHO ICF Practical Manual, “The functioning of an individual in a specific domain reflects an interaction between the health condition and the contextual: environmental and personal factors. There is a complex, dynamic and often unpredictable relationship among these entities.” As highlighted, any understanding of disability needs to be centered within this dynamic and often changing interaction between an individual (identities, impairments, personal goals, strengths, etc.) and the environment (physical and digital space, culture of inclusivity, accessibility, barriers, practices, etc.).

That's an impressive dish of word salad, almost certainly designed to make you come away knowing less about the topic than you thought you did before.

Style guidelines for word salad:

  1. Never use one word when you can string two or more together.
  2. Go as long as you can without using a period.
  3. Embrace redundancy.
  4. And vagueness.
  5. Use plenty of jargon.
  6. When listing items, always add "etc." at the end in case you missed something.
  7. Etc.

Concentrating on rule 2: we are told there are many "factors" involved (twice). We are reminded (again, twice) that those factors are "complex". And also (twice) that they are "dynamic". And not just "dynamic": they are "dynamic and often changing".

Not to be pedantic, but "dynamic" means "often changing".

But once you've sorted that out, you'll note that your understanding needs to be centered within an interaction.

I'm relatively sure that's pretentious drivel. At best, it boils down to "keep your eyes open and your brain engaged." Good advice, I guess.

(The document also provides the legal definition in the Americans with Disabilities Act. It's remarkably readable in comparison.)

But what I really want to mention is this definition:

Race: A social construct that artificially divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance (particularly race), ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification, and the social, economic and political needs of a society at a given period of time.

Well, first, there's the obvious: using the word "race" in the definition of race. Not really kosher.

But there's that "social construct" thing. No, they don't define "social construct" in the document; I assume that means we have permission to go to Merriam-Webster, where we learn it's

an idea that has been created and accepted by the people in a society

Fine. The implication being that "race" has no reality outside of peoples' heads. It's artificial!

The only problem being: that's not true at all.

As it happens, the evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne looked at the concept of "race" recently, specifically focusing on this question: Are “races” social constructs without scientific or biological meaning? Excerpting the first few paragraphs:

Every day, it seems, I hear that “races have no biological reality or meaning; they are purely social constructs.” And that statement is somewhat misleading, for even the crudely designated races of “white, black, Hispanic, and East Asian” in the U.S. are, as today’s paper shows, biologically distinguishable to the point where if you look at the genes of an unknown person, you have a 99.86% chance of diagnosing their self-identified “race” as one of the four groups above. That is, if you ask a person how they self-identify as one of the four SIRE groups (SIRE: “self identified race/ethnicity), and then do a fairly extensive genetic analysis of each person, you find that the groups fall into multivariate clusters.

More important, there’s little deviation between one’s SIRE and which genetic cluster they fall into. Over 99% of people in the sample from this paper can be accurately diagnosed as to self-identified race or ethnicity by looking at just 326 regions of the genome.

This in turn means that there are biological differences between different SIREs, so race cannot be simply a “social construct.” This is in direct contradiction between the extreme woke view of “race”, as expressed in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a statement I discussed in an earlier post:

Race and ethnicity are social constructs, without scientific or biological meaning.

Nope, and we’ve known that statement is wrong for nearly 20 years. Of course, if you take “biological meaning” as “data show that there are a finite number of distinct groups with huge genetic differences”, then it is a correct statement. But nobody thinks that any more except for racists or those ignorant of modern population genetics in humans.

I should note that Coyne is outspokenly on the left side of the political spectrum on most contentious issues. But he's remarkably honest about calling out the claptrap emitted from that side.

I suppose I can't blame UNH very much for submitting to unscientific bunk. I'd be surprised if you'd find any members of the woke religion that would dissent from this "race is a social construct" dogma. Or, if they did dissent, they'd be ostracized, shunned, and … well, probably not burned at the stake. But they'd be out of the field pretty quickly.

There's much more in that DEI Lexicon, but that's enough for today.

URLs du Jour

2022-07-21

  • Free money-saving advice to corporations. From xkcd:

    [Chemicals]

    Mouseover: "It's hard to believe, but lots of kids these days ONLY know how to buy prepackaged molecules."


  • You should definitely be outraged. I'm too old for that sort of thing, but the WSJ editorialists might raise your blood pressure to dangerous levels, writing about The Senate’s Semiconductor Spending Trick. [Free link.]

    Are Republican Senators conniving spendthrifts or babes in the Beltway? We lean toward the former after watching a $76 billion semiconductor subsidy bill morph within minutes on Tuesday night into a $250 billion bipartisan spendarama.

    The Senate voted 64-34 to begin debate on its Chips bill, a corporate-welfare vehicle providing $52 billion in grants and $24 billion in tax credits to the profitable semiconductor industry. But it turns out that bill was merely the bad news. The really bad news is that Majority Leader Chuck Schumer quickly filed a 1,054-page bipartisan amendment to pour more than twice that amount of money into federal agencies.

    The $76 billion Chips version is wasteful enough since the pandemic computer-chip shortage is already easing amid slowing demand and new investments in capacity—including new factories in the U.S.

    But politicians always want more, and the $250 billion version will help the U.S. compete against China only if you believe that the key to success is a larger federal bureaucracy and more political allocation of capital.

    "In the interests of equal time," yesterday's WSJ had an op-ed defending the corporate welfare bill: When the Chips Are Down, Congress Should Support the Semiconductor Industry. [Also a free link.] It's co-written by the CEOs of Ford and Intel. (Well, probably by their lobbyists.) They count the CEOs of Medtronic and Lockheed-Martin.

    Their effort is by-the-numbers special pleading. They invoke that tired "playing field" cliché twice: it's "uneven" and Congress must "help level" it.

    Why bother to innovate and run your companies efficiently, making them attractive to investors, when you can get Congress to force American taxpayers to provide you with capital?


  • Funny that. Elizabeth Nolan Brown writes (for print-Reason's "Banned Books" issue) about How the Controversy Around When Harry Became Sally Boosted Its Popularity.

    I was worried I wouldn't be able to stomach When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment, Ryan T. Anderson's 2018 book on gender identity in modern America. Anderson is a Catholic pundit who made a name for himself opposing same-sex marriage at a time when even many of his conservative peers had let that one go. Yet, while there's plenty in the book for socially liberal folks (myself included) to disagree with, it isn't brimming with blatant bigotry. One might argue that he has selectively wielded data and anecdotes, and one might disagree with the conclusions he draws—chief among them that helping people with gender dysphoria accept their birth sex may be a more effective and humane course of action than hormone treatments and surgeries. But this isn't a wildly hateful or inflammatory book.

    That's what makes Amazon's 2021 decision to stop selling When Harry Became Sally so strange. The megaplatform is home to all sorts of socially conservative books, including Anderson's previous publications on marriage. It carries works from radical feminists, whose takes on transgender issues often mirror those of conservatives. It carries a Matt Walsh book calling trans ideology "collective insanity." It sells Michelle Malkin's defense of internment camps.

    ENB notes that you can still buy the book at Barnes & Noble or direct from the publisher. And she notes the publisher's irresistable marketing: it's "the book Amazon doesn’t want you to read."

    I note "Banned Books Week" is coming up in September. Can't help but wonder if When Harry Became Sally will be mentioned.


  • For once, not the University Near Here. But it's a university pretty close by that's being chided by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE). Because Southern New Hampshire University forbids students from inviting ‘controversial’ speakers to campus, claims to promote ‘diverse ideas’.

    When new president Kyle Urban of the Southern New Hampshire University College Republicans asked the university how to invite conservative speakers to campus, the response was not what he expected.

    Instead of providing a policy detailing the mechanics for the chapter to invite speakers, SNHU told Urban the university must substantively review and approve all proposed speakers to ensure they “are not so controversial that they would draw unwanted demonstrators” to campus. The university explained it “invite[s] discussion as long as it is friendly.”

    But that’s not what SNHU’s free expression promises say, as FIRE pointed out in a May 18 letter to the university. SNHU unequivocally promises students an environment which sustains the “ideals of freedom of inquiry, freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and freedom of the individual.” Having made those strong promises, the university may not lay them aside when the expression in question could lead to controversy.

    SNHU has previously actually hired faculty that believe Australia is not a country. And (perhaps more important) they have a history of treating conservative speakers unfairly.


  • But he really, really wants to. Shouldn't that count? David Harsanyi provides a brief Constitution 101 tutorial: Biden Has No Right To Declare A 'National Climate Emergency'.

    The Washington Post reported Monday night that President Joe Biden is “considering declaring a national climate emergency” to “salvage his environmental agenda in the wake of stalled talks on Capitol Hill.” A few hours later, the Associated Press reported that the administration would “hold off” on the announcement as he, presumably, lays the political groundwork to move forward.

    There’s no “It’s Summer” clause in the Constitution, empowering the president to ignore the will of Congress and unilaterally govern when it gets hot. The rejection of the president’s “agenda” by the lawmaking branch of government isn’t a justification for executive action, it’s the opposite. The Senate has unambiguously declined to implement Biden’s climate plan.

    Though you have to marvel at the utter shamelessness of Democrats, incessantly warning that “democracy” is on the precipice of extinction, now urging the president to act like a petty dictator. It’s been less than a month since the Supreme Court rejected the Environmental Protection Agency’s claim that bureaucrats could govern without Congress to regulate carbon (which is to say, the entire economy). What makes anyone believe that the president—who, incidentally, just got back from begging Saudi theocrats to pump more oil—is imbued with the power to enact a new regulatory regime or funding by fiat?

    In a sane country, this would be (additional) grounds for impeachment. But that's something that coulda, shoulda been done to the last four presidents.


  • A related question: Do I have anyone to vote for? The great Virginia Postrel wonders: Do Upwardly Mobile Latino Plumbers Have Anyone to Vote For?.

    I spent the morning with a young plumber who owns a growing company known for excellent work. He came with his cool camera-snake—a technology plumbers under 40 take for granted—to see why our condo complex’s pipes are backing up. We talked tree roots and hydrojetting, not politics. But my experience with this competent and upwardly mobile entrepreneur, whose fluent English still has a Latin American lilt, gave some recent political discussions additional resonance.

    Last week Ruy Teixeira, co-author of the famous 2004 book The Emerging Democratic Majority, posted an essay on his Substack with the self-explanatory title “Working Class and Hispanic Voters Are Losing Interest in the Party of Abortion, Gun Control and the January 6th Hearings.” It hit some themes he’s long been trumpeting, including the growing defection of Latino voters from the Democratic party.

    VP says she'd "like to see Democrats wise up." I'd extend that wish to Republicans. And also big-L Libertarians.

    There are no signs of that happening.

URLs du Jour

2022-07-20

  • We are in a heap of trouble. The Reason Foundation (associated with, but not the same as, the magazine) has a set of scary visualizations: Debtor Nation. Here's number one:

    Need some text to go along with that?

    At the end of 2021, the $29.6 trillion debt of the United States federal government was 1.3 times larger than the annual economic output of the country. The U.S. is now reaching federal debt levels, as a share of gross domestic product (GDP), that we have not seen since the end of World War II. As of this writing, the national debt is more than $30 trillion. 

    Federal spending is increasingly untethered from fiscal realities. From 1965 to 2022, the federal government ran an annual budget deficit in 52 of the 57 years.

    The annual federal budget deficits during and following the Great Recession of 2007-2009 were dwarfed by the recent federal deficits of 2020 and 2021, however, when annual budget deficits were $3.1 and $2.8 trillion respectively. The COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying lockdowns and policies sparked the largest spending bills in American history, including the $2.2 trillion CARES Act signed by then-President Donald Trump in March 2020. A year later, in March 2021, President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act.

    Click over, remembering this quote snippet from The Empire Strikes Back:

    Luke: I'm not afraid.
    Yoda: You will be.


  • Need some good news? Bravery and persistence (sometimes) pays off, and Jack Fowler provides a case study: A Persistent Cook Serves Up a Winning Recipe for the First Amendment.

    Tina Curtis, the lead cook for the New Haven, Conn., Board of Education, may not have figured herself to be a First Amendment warrior. But by prevailing over her government-union bosses in what may prove to be an important Janus-rights case, she has shown herself to be exactly that.

    Curtis’s story is a familiar one. Since the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME asserted that the First Amendment protects government employees from compulsory union membership and obligatory dues-paying, many state and municipal public-sector workers have sought to exercise this free-speech right. But too often, union officials have gaslit and baldly lied to these workers, in a desperate attempt to maintain the forced-dues bounty that, for decades, has crammed Big Labor’s coffers.

    In New Haven, the 20-year worker’s union bosses and representatives undeniably understood the message of Janus. And then chose to willfully ignore it.

    Bottom line: after some sane lawyer explained Janus to the union, they folded "like a cheap suit".

    It's NRPLUS, so… you should get NRPLUS.

    And I know "folded like a cheap suit" is a longtime simile, but I just realized I'm not sure what it means. The union folded quickly and completely. Is that how a cheap suit folds?

    Yeah, pretty much. A likely explanation here.


  • Hidden Agenda Watch. Elizabeth Nolan Brown thinks she's found one: Republicans Seek Child Support Payments for Fetuses.

    New legislation would require some fathers to pay child support during pregnancy, beginning in the month of conception. The Unborn Child Support Act—introduced in the Senate by Sen. Kevin Cramer (R–N.D.) last Wednesday—would amend the Social Security Act "to ensure that child support for unborn children is collected and distributed under the child support enforcement program."

    I'm cool with that. But what about that hidden agenda, Elizabeth?

    Abortion opponents are often accused of not doing much to actually help women with unwanted or difficult pregnancies. Looked at in one light, the Unborn Child Support Act is simply a bid to remedy that.

    "Caring for the well-being of our children begins long before a baby is born," said Cramer in a statement. "It begins at the first moment of life—conception—and fathers have obligations, financial and otherwise, during pregnancy."

    But sponsors of the bill may have a hidden agenda. By amending federal law to say that child support is owed during pregnancy, the Unborn Child Support Act could help establish that legal personhood begins at conception—a change that could have implications far beyond child support.

    Well, she didn't say it was a well hidden agenda.


  • The next time you see someone claim that conservatives are uniquely bad at viral misinformation… you can always point them to Jesse Singal's substack article: An Attempt To Accurately Explain The Viral Controversy Over The Leon County, Florida School System’s Policy On Trans Kids. Warning, it's long.

    A couple weeks ago there was a mass Twitter panic about the Leon County, Florida school system. In a now-deleted tweet (I’ll explain), an actor and TV writer named Benjamin Siemon wrote: “This school board in FL voted that if an LGBTQ child is in a P.E. class or attending an overnight trip that ALL the parents in their class will receive a notification about it, which essentially paints these children as sex offenders that require warnings.” 

    [Deleted tweet image elided]

    Siemon’s tweet linked to a story in the Tallahassee Democrat that covered the school board meeting where the policy was officially passed. That story, in turn, contained a link to a PDF titled “The Leon County School District’s LGBTQ Inclusive Guide with amendments,” which included language like:

    Parent notification example: 

    All students are allowed to access locker rooms and restrooms that are consistent with their gender identity or be provided appropriate accommodations. A student who is open about their gender identity is in your child's Physical Education class or extra/co-curricular activity. If you are requesting accommodations for your student, please contact school administration to discuss reasonable accommodation options.

    It would be hard to overstate the horror that set in on Twitter as Siemon’s tweet spread, and as others found the Democrat article and the linked document. “[M]an, when I was a kid casual homophobia was absolutely rampant but we never had anything like this,” tweeted Ryan Cooper, managing editor of the liberal American Prospect magazine.

    Many more progressive-Twitter freakouts are provided, and the story filtered up to "respectable" news outlets.

    But, as Singal carefully teases out, the actual reality is a lot different than the self-styled "reality-based community" claimed.


  • In the interests of equal time. Even though there's no Fairness Doctrine any more, let alone one for blogs, I should point out this Mollie Hemingway article NeverTrump's Latest Attempt To Dismiss Election Concerns Is Dishonest. It's a response to "Lost, not Stolen", the comprehensive report rebutting claims by Trump and (some of) his supporters that the 2020 election was stolen. I linked to that report, approvingly, a few days ago. But let's see what Mollie has to say:

    It is not news that Joe Biden won the 2020 election. The report’s strawman-slaying title is intended to suggest that concerns about the integrity of that election are without merit. But the report itself simply goes through court decisions and recounts, listing how they turned out. It focuses on questions about “fraud,” rather than the significant and extremely well-substantiated concerns Republican voters have about the election.

    “Their methodology obscures the vast majority of actual material to consider if one were honestly engaging the problems,” said Capital Research Center President Scott Walter. His group has documented the significant role played by Mark Zuckerberg’s private funding of government election offices, a massive issue that the report almost completely elided.

    Okay. By claiming the report is "strawman-slaying", she implicitly agrees that the election wasn't "stolen".

    So she wishes the authors of the report had talked about something else instead, like ZuckBucks. Uh, fine, I guess, I think Zuckerberg's election antics were bad, but they were above-board and legal. (Maybe they shouldn't have been legal.)

    But I didn't see where she actually disagreed with anything in the report..

    She makes a very big deal that the folks signing the report were Trump-hostile before the election controversy. Also fine.

    But Mollie and the report authors are really talking past each other.


  • At least. Ann Althouse investigates Movies that you have to watch twice to understand. It's a lists of other people's lists, and it's interesting to count up how many I've seen. But here's the bit I was amused by:

    3. "Top 20 Movies That You Have to Watch Twice to Understand" (Mojo). At #2 is “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968):

    Nowadays, when you watch a film that leaves you puzzled, the internet is there to help. But can you imagine watching “2001: A Space Odyssey” back in 1968?

    Not only can I imagine it. I can remember it. I can even remember verbatim what my companion said to me when it ended: "What the hell was that?"

    Yeah, me too. Down to what my companion (Hi, Buffie!) said when it ended.


Last Modified 2022-07-20 2:48 PM EDT

The Drunkard's Walk

How Randomness Rules Our Lives

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I previously enjoyed Leonard Mlodinow's memoir of his postdoctoral time at Caltech, Feynman's Rainbow, quite a bit. And I'm always up for a breezy popular science book every few months, so…

It's a very entertaining look at probability and statistics, branching into statistical mechanics and chaos theory near the end. Like most books of this genre, the math is kept to an absolute minimum. Given that limitation, the breadth of topics covered is admirable. (The famed Monty Hall Problem? Check, it's here.) Mlodinow also does the history of the appropriate bits of math, with many yarns about the characters involved long the way: Pascal, Bayes, Gauss, Cardano,… And Bernoulli! Or, actually, numerous Bernoullis. I'm ashamed to admit that I've always thought there was one guy named Bernoulli.

Adding to the fun: Mlodinow is not averse to making cheap-but-funny jokes every so often. Not laugh-out-loud, but deserving of the occasional snort or moan.

If I had to pick a nit: nobody who's looked at the issue doubts that math, especially probabilistic math, can be counter-intuitive. Casinos rely on this, for example. And (ahem) see that previously-mentioned Monty Hall problem. But (arguably) Mlodinow overdoes this; I'm not sure he's seen a psychological study he didn't like. In at least one case, that leads him astray, on page 161:

In fact, in recent years psychologists have found that the ability to persist in the face of obstacles is at least as important a factor in success as talent.

… with a footnote to a 2005 Psychology Today article, "The Winning Edge." This is that "grit" thing that was popular back then. But: only a few weeks back, I'd read The Quick Fix by Jesse Singal. And that book had a chapter that pretty convincingly depicted "grit" as an overhyped psychological fad. (If you don't want to get Singal's book, here is an article he wrote on the topic.)

So this kind of wrecked the bits of the book where Mlodinow reports psychological "studies" uncritically. I kept wondering: has this research been replicated?

Never mind. It's a fine book, and ("odds are") you'll learn a lot.

URLs du Jour

2022-07-19

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Have "Progressive Activists" taken over the WSJ editorial page? I ask because our Amazon Product du Jour specifically says it's for "Progressive Activists". I'm not sure if you have to take a quiz before buying it. But I'm pretty sure today's WSJ editorial is in agreement with the shirt: Congress Goes All in for Chip Subsidies.

    Industrial policy is back in fashion in Washington, or as it ought to be called, corporate welfare. The semiconductor industry is first in the queue, but it won’t be the last. Taxpayers should at least know they’ll be subsidizing highly profitable companies that don’t need the help and might end up regretting the political handcuffs they’re acquiring.

    The bill that will head to the Senate floor as early as Tuesday includes $52.2 billion in grants to the computer chip industry. But wait, there’s more. Congress is also offering a 25% tax credit for semiconductor fabrication, which is estimated to cost about $24 billion over five years. That’s $76 billion for one industry.

    Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee point out that for the same money Congress could double the research and development tax credit for all companies through 2025. It could also throw in 100% expensing for companies and allow immediate R&D deductions through 2025. But that would mean the politicians aren’t picking favorites, which is what they prefer to do.

    Yesterday's page-one story on the legislation was more, um, "measured": Chip Investment Decisions Await Congressional Action on $52 Billion Funding Bill.

    Political wrangling in Congress over government funding for the semiconductor industry is leaving tens of billions of dollars of potential factory projects hanging in limbo and could dent the ambitions of some political and industry leaders to recharge America’s chip-making prowess.

    Oh, no! Limbo! That's bad!

    It's rare, very rare, that I agree with Robert Reich, but his take, as reported in the article, is on the money: the industry's tactics in pushing this bill are "pure extortion".

    And (guess what) our state's junior senator, Margaret Wood Hassan, is one of this dreadful bill's cosponsors. (Also: Mitt Romney, Susie Collins, and Lindsay Graham.)


  • If anyone at our local paper wants to know why I didn't renew my subscription… they can check out Chris Stirewalt's story: News Consumers See Balance as Part of Accuracy. The Press? Not So Much..

    It probably wouldn’t surprise you that a much higher percentage of the American public thinks that news outlets fail to report the news accurately compared to the journalists who work in the business.

    If you asked the proprietors of hot dog carts how sanitary the practices of the mobile weiner industry were, you’d probably get a lot better reviews for the healthfulness of hot dog water than you would from the general public.

    So the fact that 65 percent of journalists in a recent Pew Research Center survey said news organizations do a good job at accurate reporting compared to just 35 percent of all adults is maybe not a shocker.

    Stirewalt mentions that journalists, especially younger journalists, decry "bothsidesism". And that view rather easily becomes "there's only one side, my side, and that's the only one that's going into this news story."


  • Ah, yes. Good times. Jim Geraghty has a long memory: Hey, Remember When Biden Pledged to 'Continue to Support the Afghan People'?.

    President Biden, August 31 [2021]:

    Let me be clear: We will continue to support the Afghan people through diplomacy, international influence, and humanitarian aid. We’ll continue to push for regional diplomacy and engagement to prevent violence and instability. We’ll continue to speak out for basic rights of the Afghan people, especially women and girls, as we speak out for women and girls all around the globe. And I’ve been clear that human rights will be the center of our foreign policy.

    The Wall Street Journal, this morning:

    The U.N. says over 90 percent of the Afghan population isn’t eating sufficiently and that nearly half of the population is facing acute hunger. Families have resorted to selling their children or their organs to survive. The worst drought in decades has compounded the crisis.

    “The current humanitarian crisis could kill far more Afghans than the past 20 years of war,” warned the International Rescue Committee, a nongovernmental organization that has been providing assistance in Afghanistan for decades.

    …The current inflationary crisis has put basic goods out of the reach of many Afghans. A basket of basic household goods cost 41.6% more in May than a year earlier, according to data from the World Food Program. Food prices continue to rise, partly because of the war in Ukraine and global supply-chain disruptions.

    President Biden has barely mentioned Afghanistan since that August speech. Nothing this guy says matters. What he says is just pretty words that he reads off a teleprompter, it has no connection to what U.S. policies actually are.

    As Matt Lewis observed almost a year ago:

    This president loves to say “let me be clear” but he’s often anything but clear—including on critical matters of public health.

    It hasn't gotten better. Now, when "this president" says "let me be clear", what comes next is likely to be a lie.


  • Strike a pose. M. Todd Henderson, a UChicago lawprof, writes at Newsweek (still around, who knew?) on The Folly of Land Acknowledgements.

    "Land acknowledgements" are all the rage. For those who haven't been to a graduation or university lecture in Blue America, a "land acknowledgment" is the practice of starting an event with a statement that the land on which the event is taking place once belonged to particular groups of Native Americans. It is easy to dismiss these as ahistorical nonsense, laden with sentimentality. But there is another way to look at these statements that demonstrate American exceptionalism.

    Start with the basics. All of human history has been the displacement of one people by another. No one has a claim on land except if they put it to productive use and are capable of defending it. In fact, land moving to a higher-valued use is the premise on which most wealth creation and human flourishing is based.

    Moreover, once one starts acknowledging, there is no sensible place to stop. Nearly every plot of land on Earth is inhabited today by groups of people that displaced other people who lived there before. Which of the thousands of groups of humans that have once claimed the land that is now Poland should the current Poles "acknowledge?" In fact, why stop there—don't the Neanderthals who once lived there deserve a nod too?

    Henderson's article mentions some bloody history of tribal warfare. I'm pretty sure we don't have to acknowledge the Neanderthals here in New Hampshire, though.


  • "Diversity." I subscribe to Jeff Jacoby's newsletter, which (for some reason) has content that's not available via the web, at least not yet. Yesterday's missive contained a link to this Harvard Crimson article: More than 80 Percent of Surveyed Harvard Faculty Identify as Liberal. And there's a pie chart!

    Jeff's comments:

    Harvard’s 82-to-1 faculty ratio of liberals to conservatives makes a mockery of the university’s avowed commitment to diversity. A handsome page on its website declares that “Harvard's commitment to diversity in all forms” — my italics — “is rooted in our fundamental belief that engaging with unfamiliar ideas, perspectives, cultures, and people creates the conditions for dramatic and meaningful growth.”

    Those fine words aren’t true, of course. Everyone knows that Harvard has no desire to uphold “diversity in all forms.” Like other institutions that go out of their way to trumpet their embrace of diversity — the media, Hollywood, major-league sports — Harvard wants its people to be “diverse” only when measured by the yardsticks that matter least: race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation. But the clash of ideas? A robust competition among worldviews? The exposure of students to compelling arguments that challenge liberal and progressive shibboleths? That’s not what Harvard is interested in. It hasn’t been for decades.

    We can only hope some of those facules are classical liberals.

Career of Evil

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

The third adventure of British private eye Cormoran Strike and his secretary-almost-partner Robin Ellacott. It's a nasty one, too, right from the start, as Robin takes delivery of a package, addressed to her, containing a severed human leg. It's quickly revealed that Strike is the target of a psychotic killer, who intends to murder Robin as part of his demented scheme.

Suspicion quickly falls on four figures from Strike's past, each of whom would have ample (if twisted) motive for revenge. The cops are called in, of course, but Strike thinks they are, for their own reasons, concentrating their efforts on investigating the wrong guy. So it's up to Strike and Robin to track down and check out the others.

It's a page-turner, especially near the end. "Galbraith" (aka J. K. Rowling) concentrates almost as much on the Strike/Robin relationship as "he" does on the process of the investigation. It's a muddle, with Robin's upcoming wedding threatened almost as much by her job with Strike as it is by being a target of a serial killer.

Caveat lector: Some chapters are third-person POV of the bad guy, describing in pornographic detail his thoughts and deeds. Not for the squeamish. Also, a continuing theme: the oeuvre of Blue Öyster Cult, concentrating on their sinister lyrics.

At a certain point, characters with Body integrity dysphoria are encountered, people with a strong desire to hack off bits of their own bodies. The author clearly is aghast at this, and I can't help but wonder how this informed her "controversial" (aka, sensible) views on transgenderism.

URLs du Jour

2022-07-18

  • Getting Congress to do its job now, so it can do its job later. Is it too much to ask an assembly of power-hungry blowhards and grifters to fix an obviously creaky and loophole-ridden old law that threatens our country's system of governent? Andy Craig at Cato has an impressive report on How to Pick a President: A Guide to Electoral Count Act Reform. [Footnotes elided.]

    The attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election took advantage of long‐neglected ambiguities in the process of translating votes cast at the polls into the declaration of a formal winner. It was a stress test of our electoral architecture: the patchwork of historical practices, informal norms, and ambiguous laws that govern how the United States chooses its chief executive every four years. While the election result was ultimately confirmed despite the defeated incumbent’s efforts, the crisis revealed severe flaws that can no longer be safely ignored. Understandably, there has been growing bipartisan support in Congress for shoring up presidential election procedures.

    At the heart of the matter is the Electoral Count Act (ECA). Passed in 1887, the Electoral Count Act was Congress’s response to our closest call with a disputed presidential election, the notorious Hayes‐Tilden dispute of 1876 and the renewed civil war it very nearly sparked. As Congress correctly recognized in 1887, the ad hoc Electoral Commission that was created to resolve the 1876 election was a deeply problematic precedent that should not be repeated. This well‐intentioned but poorly drafted statute governs how electoral votes are cast, certified, sent to Congress, and counted, and how any objections to the results are handled.

    The ECA is, simply put, a mess. It is a tangle of woefully unclear drafting, apparent contradictions, and constitutional infirmities, leaving too much room for partisan actors to undo the choice of the American people. The stakes are too high for us to rely on the current ECA for future elections. Congress must go back to the drawing board and get it right this time.

    I'm no legislative guru or Constitutional scholar, but Craig's proposal seems well thought out. It respects the Constitution, anticipates roadbumps, deals with possible disasters, removes ambiguity. (In contrast, those 1887 legislators might have been drunk.)

    It would be preferable to get the ECA reform done before the midterm elections, before it becomes even more of a political football than it is. Unfortunately, … well, you know: Congress. And Biden.


  • He did not shoot the deputy, either. Kevin D. Williamson clears one of the most vilified senators: Joe Manchin Didn’t Kill the Democrats’ Climate Agenda.

    President Joe Manchin has handed down a climate-bill veto — or so you would think from reading the newspapers.

    Contrary to what his fellow Democrats insist, Senator Manchin has not single-handedly derailed climate-change legislation or anything else — except for Democrats’ attempts to govern as though Republicans did not exist.

    “It seems odd that Manchin would choose as his legacy to be the one man who single-handedly doomed humanity” undead Clinton hack John Podesta proclaimed with his habitual fine sense of restraint and nuance. It emphatically is not the case that humanity is now doomed because Podesta’s green-business friends and benefactors are going to be deprived of subsidies and favors paid for by U.S. taxpayers, nor is it the case that Senator Manchin is solely responsible for this outcome. The Democrats’ plan is a dead letter because 49 senators support it and 51 senators oppose it.

    In our age of very stupid tribal politics, compromise is an idea that has fallen into discredit. Where once we had admirable collaborators, now we have detestable collaborationists. It is the same thing, of course — finding common ground with those icky cootie-bearing miscreants in the other party — but where once it was seen as a necessary part of democratic life, now it’s understood as a moral betrayal. This is, of course, idiotic, and it is not even an exclusively partisan kind of idiocy: Democrats here are being frustrated not only by their inability to work with Republicans but also by their failure to bring all of the relevant Democrats on board.

    One more KDW observation:

    It is really quite something to see Democrats raking Joe Manchin over the coals for his supposed environmental apostasy while President Joe Biden is on his elbows and knees in Riyadh begging the ghastly and murderous Saudi crown prince to ramp up oil drilling in his kingdom — where local environmental standards governing energy production are rather lower than they are in Pennsylvania.

    I'm fine with having no "climate" bill; it would inevitably be chock-full of awfulness that would make us all worse off. So I'm actually kind of glad about lack of compromise.


  • Uh oh. I still haven't decided whether to renew my print subscription to WIRED. Yes, it's full of woke claptrap, environmental Marxism, and navel-gazing hipsters. That can be tedious. But every so often they put out something excellent, like this from Matt Ribel: Here Comes the Sun—to End Civilization. The problem, nicely described:

    To a photon, the sun is like a crowded nightclub. It’s 27 million degrees inside and packed with excited bodies—helium atoms fusing, nuclei colliding, positrons sneaking off with neutrinos. When the photon heads for the exit, the journey there will take, on average, 100,000 years. (There’s no quick way to jostle past 10 septillion dancers, even if you do move at the speed of light.) Once at the surface, the photon might set off solo into the night. Or, if it emerges in the wrong place at the wrong time, it might find itself stuck inside a coronal mass ejection, a mob of charged particles with the power to upend civilizations.

    Nice writing! But (as an ex-physics guy) I could quibble: is the photon that gets emitted from the solar surface really the same photon that started out in the interior 100,00 years ago? It's not like photons have nametags to distinguish one from another.

    I think that article might be readable by non-subscribers. Craig goes on to describe the 1859 Carrington Event, which caused problems in an era that wasn't particularly tech-dependent. Here's the bit that especially caught my eye:

    Modeling how the grid would fail during another Carrington-class storm is no easy task. The features of individual transformers—age, configuration, location—are typically considered trade secrets. Metatech, an engineering firm frequently contracted by the US government, offers one of the more dire estimates. It finds that a severe storm, on par with events in 1859 or 1921, could destroy 365 high-voltage transformers across the country—about one-fifth of those in operation. States along the East Coast could see transformer failure rates ranging from 24 percent (Maine) to 97 percent (New Hampshire). Grid failure on this scale would leave at least 130 million people in the dark. But the exact number of fried transformers may matter less than their location. In 2014, The Wall Street Journal reported findings from an unreleased Federal Energy Regulatory Commission report on grid security: If just nine transformers were to blow out in the wrong places, it found, the country could experience coast-to-coast outages for months.

    Wha?! I hope someone at Eversource reads this. I know electricity rates are high, but I wouldn't mind kicking in a few extra bucks per month to get those creaky transformers fixed.


  • I'm not really a Trekkie, but… I've been watching Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, and enjoying it pretty much. But I especially enjoyed the season one final episode, because … well, no spoilers here, but if you want to know, this Gizmodo article will provide: How Strange New Worlds Recreated Star Trek's Greatest Episode. (I'm not even going to excerpt it.)

    Oh, OK, small spoiler: that original-series episode was "Balance of Terror". And I was so impressed with the Strange New World "recreation" that I watched it. (Obligatory "I'm old" data: I first watched it as a geeky fifteen-year-old in 1966.)

    With apologies to the Gizmodo writer: it's not "Star Trek's Greatest Episode". It's preachy. It rips off a bunch of World War II submarine movies. (I kept waiting for Kirk to say "Up periscope!") "City on the Edge of Forever" was better. "Amok Time" was better. "The Trouble with Tribbles" was better. "The Menagerie" was better. (And, by the way, you'll want to watch that one before you watch any episode of Strange New Worlds.)

URLs du Jour

2022-07-17

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Hey, you remember that old Biden campaign slogan? It's over there, our Amazon Product du Jour. Still on sale. And it's not actually "old", it was just two years ago.

    And now, Matthew Continetti is wondering: Why Should We Believe Biden?. It springs off Biden's recent pledge to, as a "last resort", prevent Iran from getting nukes. We'd like to think, says Continetti, that Biden "means what he says."

    Does he? In the spring of 2021, President Biden was asked about the record numbers of illegal immigrants who began crossing the southern border after he reversed his predecessor’s asylum policies. Biden dismissed the question. The migrant surge was “seasonal,” he said. It happens “every single solitary year.” Not like this, it doesn’t. The season ended long ago. The migration has continued for a year and a half. Last month saw the largest number of illegal crossings on record. Biden’s flippant answer was grossly mistaken, to say the least. He doesn’t seem to care. In fact, if he’s successful in ending Title 42 protocols allowing for the swift repatriation of illegal migrants, he will continue to make the problem worse.

    In the summer of 2021, President Biden gave a speech on the inflation that was starting to appear in the economic data. “Our experts believe and the data shows that most of the price increases we’ve seen are — were expected and expected to be temporary,” he said. Like the “seasonal” migration on the southern border, the “temporary” inflation continues. Last month’s number was higher than expectations. Real earnings fell 4 percent. The president’s economic policies have resulted in a decline in Americans’ standard of living. Nothing he says on the issue has changed the public’s dismal view of his job performance.

    It was only a year ago, remember, that President Biden was asked if a Taliban conquest of Afghanistan was inevitable. “No,” he answered. A month later, the holy warriors rolled into Kabul and America was forced into a panicked and dangerous rescue operation that left 13 U.S. servicemen killed and Afghanistan abandoned. Throughout this disaster, Biden spoke and acted as if everything was going according to plan, as if everything was under control. By Labor Day 2021, the public had severed its connection with a president whom it had placed in office simply because it was tired of the incumbent’s excesses. Biden might as well spend the rest of this year in Rehoboth Beach. He operates without public attention and without public support. His words carry no meaning. They don’t land, they don’t register, they don’t signify.

    Even the "fact checkers" who famously go much easier on Biden than they did on Trump are forced to bail these days: WaPo, July 8: Biden’s inaccurate claim about writing law review articles on privacy. Politifact, July 13: Joe Biden’s dubious math on the federal income tax burden.


  • For more on honesty… here's Jonah Goldberg on Lying Liars and the Marks Who Love Them.

    I know it may not seem like it, but I’m actually weirdly tolerant of wrongness. It may not always come across that way in my writing, but that’s because writing about and debating ideas is different from dealing with people. I kind of like wrong people—i.e. people with wrong opinions and beliefs—if they come by their wrongness honestly. I’ve had fun and interesting conversations with everyone from animists, to Communists, to all manner of reactionaries (I even loved a whole book by a guy who thinks we’d be better off as serfs). Hell, I’m really good friends with David French, and he thinks Aquaman was a great movie.

    What I have a big problem with is lies and the lying liars who tell them. Part of it is just the insult. Some lies rest on the assumption that I’m stupid enough to believe them and cowardly enough not to say anything. But it’s also the feeling of being manipulated. If you’re a big sports fan, you’ve probably met someone who claimed to be a lifelong fan of your team when you know they got into it only when, say, the Mets started doing well. If they said, “Yeah, I wasn’t really into them until recently, but now I’ve got the fever,” you’d have no problem. But when they try to act like they’ve put in the time all those years, it can piss you off. It’s not the best analogy, but that feeling is sort of what I’m talking about.

    Anyway, if you want to tell me that Stalin was a great leader who had to do terrible things to drag the Soviet Union into the 20th century, I can have a fun conversation with you. Even more fun is finding the rare fool who actually buys the more theoretical arguments for Stalin. If you believe he was a necessary instrument of the Hegelian dialectic to hasten the inevitable triumph of scientific socialism, I can talk to you for hours. But if you start telling me that Stalin didn’t kill lots of people or some other B.S., I’ll start to lose my temper. And if it becomes clear that you don’t actually believe what you’re peddling but you think it’s necessary to lie for the cause, I’ll really get angry.

    It’s worth emphasizing that these are two different kinds of people. The former is peddling lies in good faith. The latter is actually telling lies. It’s the difference between being wrong and doing wrong.

    Which brings me to Steve Bannon.

    Click through for Bannon's relationship with the truth.

    A lot of the decay in our social fabric is caused by the mentality that "the Other Side lies, so I better do it too." (Or, more generally, "dirty tactics by the Other Side justify my dirty tactics.")


  • Speaking of liars and their marks… Price St. Clair publicizes A 2020 Election Report ‘By Conservatives, For Conservatives’.

    Eight prominent conservatives released a report on Thursday examining “every claim of fraud and miscount put forward by former President Trump and his advocates” following the 2020 presidential election and reached an “unequivocal” conclusion: “Joe Biden was the choice of a majority of the Electors, who themselves were the choice of the majority of voters in their states.”

    I occasionally dipped into "stolen election" claims. I mainly encountered serious issues of confirmation bias: trumpeting allegations of fraud, no matter how flimsy; dismissing rebuttals to fraud allegations simply because they're from RINOs, or something. Obvious grifters like Jovan Pulitzer and (it saddens me to say this) Dinesh D'Souza are lionized unskeptically.


  • I see a possible Broadway smash hit musical… Veronique de Rugy says we should Shed No Tears for the Floundering Global Tax Cartel.

    Implementing a global tax cartel is hard. This lesson is being learned by the bureaucrats who dreamt up an effort to prevent businesses from taking advantage of the fact that some countries impose lower taxes than do other countries. A year after 130 jurisdictions agreed in principle to institute a global minimum tax rate of 15% on corporate profits and make it harder for companies to shift their tax liabilities from higher- to lower-taxing countries, the early result is a delay and buyers' remorse.

    The global tax agreement, overseen by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), has two main pillars. Pillar One is meant to allow governments to tax digital businesses that sell services in a country but have no physical presence there, and hence weren't previously taxed there. These companies, of course, are taxed in the country where they are based or where their intellectual property is located, which (not surprisingly) is often in jurisdictions with lower taxes. Just as you don't attract bees with vinegar, you don't attract corporations by promising to tax them heavily.

    As Mitt Romney observed, and was widely derided for observing, corporations are people. Politicians like to pretend otherwise, but raising taxes on corporations takes money out of someone's pocket: customers or shareholders. Also known as "people".


  • The University Near Here makes the news again. Thanks to the flurry of publicity about the James Webb Space Telescope, UNH professor Chanda Prescod-Weinstein got another uptick in publicity herself. Here's the College Fix, which isn't impressed: ‘Queer agender’ feminist physicist still cheesed at ‘homophobic’ NASA telescope.

    As NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope is sending back its first remarkable images of our universe, “queer agender” feminist physicist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein wants you to know she remains miffed at the telescope’s moniker.

    Late last year, the University of New Hampshire professor and three other scientists demanded NASA ditch Webb’s name from the project due to his alleged homophobia.

    Prior to Webb’s appointment as head of NASA in 1961, he allegedly played a role in the so-called “Lavender Scare” as a State Department official. In response to a petition started by Prescod-Weinstein et. al., NASA investigated the issue last summer but concluded there was “no evidence at this point that warrants changing the name of the [telescope].”

    If you'd like to check out CPW's TED Talk on dark matter, here you go. "The universe is more queer and fantastical than it looks to the naked eye." I think she likes saying "queer".

URLs du Jour

2022-07-16

  • But I was assured that price controls on drugs would fix everything. The WSJ editorialists note a dog that's not barking, and A Price That Isn’t Soaring: Prescription Drugs.

    For our sins, we spent some of Wednesday looking through the price tables in the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation report for June. Fun, right? Ok, not a hoot, but call it a labor of love. And, what do you know, we discovered a remarkable fact you won’t see reported anywhere else: Prescription drug prices are rising more slowly than almost all other items.

    Yes, the same drug prices that are the target of so much Washington denunciation rose a mere 0.1% last month. This is not a one-time event. Drug prices are up a mere 2.5% over the past year. This is notably less than the increase in non-prescription drug prices, which grew 1.2% in June and 4.7% in the last year. Other medical care prices also rose far more. Health insurance climbed 2.1% last month and is up 17.3% over the last year.

    I have sat through Senator Maggie Hassan's TV ad that has her earnest line “Lowering costs for families starts with getting prescription drug prices under control" for what seems to be hundreds of times. Well, mission accomplished, right? Now what are you gonna do about… everything else, Maggie?


  • On the Harpootling watch. The Washington Free Beacon reports on the latest bigotry: If You Marry a White Guy, You Ain’t Latina.

    Rep. Ruben Gallego (D., Ariz.) accused Tanya Contreras Wheeless, a Hispanic woman running for Congress in Arizona’s fourth district as a Republican, of not being authentically Latina because she took her husband’s last name.

    Gallego suggested that Wheeless deliberately "hid" her Hispanic identity before running for office to avoid discrimination. "If you were Latino in Arizona around 2010 people were telling us to go back to Mexico," he said, "you would hear I am not voting for a ‘spic.’"

    Back in 2011, I invented the verb "Harpootle", defined as "to attack someone in a way that reveals the attacker as foolish, petty, vile, and/or stupid." Inspired by then-Chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, "Dick" Harpootlian, who couldn't seem to talk about South Carolina's then-Governor Nikki Haley without obsessing about her non-white heritage. A tactic he continued a couple years later.

    It's unsurprising to see that Ruben Gallego is carrying on in the Harpootling tradition, getting all atwitter about a Hispanic he thinks is trying to "pass".


  • Stuart Reges is a brave guy. And (if there's any justice) his latest act of bravery will cause some major legal headaches for his employer: Professor Sues University of Washington Over 'Land Acknowledgment'.

    When Stuart Reges, a University of Washington computer science professor, was directed to place a land acknowledgment in his syllabus, he wrote one of his own. That land acknowledgment may very well get him fired.

    For the fall 2021 semester, the university's computer science department recommended that professors place a land acknowledgment in their syllabi. On a list of syllabus "best practices," administrators gave the following language as a template: "The University of Washington acknowledges the Coast Salish peoples of this land, the land which touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Suquamish, Tulalip and Muckleshoot nations."

    Reges has been an outspoken advocate—and occasional provocateur—for free speech during his long career in academia. "I've said things you're not supposed to say. I was openly gay in 1979 when it was not popular to be openly gay. I talked about the war on drugs in the early 90s and got fired from Stanford for that," Reges told the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. "And for the past four or five years, I've been dealing with what I call the equity agenda and fighting back against that. So I took the opportunity to make a political statement I know they wouldn't be happy with."

    Seeing an opportunity, Reges wrote his own land acknowledgment. He wrote, "I acknowledge that by the labor theory of property the Coast Salish people can claim historical ownership of almost none of the land currently occupied by the University of Washington."

    (Pun Salad mentioned Reges' previous head-butting with UW here and here. On the land-use acknowledgment, more recently, here and here.)

    I am not a lawyer of any kind, but I can't help but think UW will lose big here. And will deserve to.

    Does the University Near Here do the land acknowledgment thing? Oh my yes.


  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Ah, I remember those motivational posters. Kyle Smith cheers on our own national kitten: Hang in There, Joe Biden!.

    They doubted you when you had a stutter, as a little boy. They doubted you again when you finished 76th out of 85 in your Syracuse Law School class. They continued to mock and scorn you as a notorious blowhard for nearly 40 years in the Senate. Barack Obama said you could be counted upon to f*** things up, and repeatedly tried to talk you out of running for president.

    And you proved them all wrong, Mr. President! You not only won in 2020, you got more votes than any president in the history of the country. After all you’ve been through, you’re not really going to let those pipsqueaks at the New York Times push you around, are you? Somebody put out a hit on you over on Eighth Avenue, resulting in this classic reporter-generated, columnist-seconded pile-on. News flash, Mr. President: You’re the leader of the free world, they’re a bunch of people who write stuff. Stay right where you are. Don’t give an inch. Announce your intent to run for reelection as often as possible. Is another Democrat going to knock out an incumbent president? Unlikely.

    Kyle's very funny. He's apparently moving over to the Wall Street Journal from National Review, and I'll no doubt be posting his stuff from time to time.


  • Betteridge's Law of Headlines applies. Kat Rosenfield wonders Does Jill Biden think you are a taco? I'm pretty sure the answer is "no", but let's check out what she has to say:

    First Lady of the United States Jill Biden is the outrage cycle’s main character this week, after she compared a coalition of Hispanic voters to breakfast tacos. The offence occurred during an event called, and I am not making this up, the LatinX IncluXion Luncheon.

    If you spent 10 years trying to write a satire that encapsulates our present moment in American Democratic politics, you could do no better than this story. It is practically art. It is divinely ridiculous. But it’s also an incident from which certain conclusions can be drawn — about where the Left stands politically, and what the future holds, here at the almost-halfway point to our next presidential election.

    If you spent 10 years trying to write a satire that encapsulates our present moment in American Democratic politics, you could do no better than this story. It is practically art. It is divinely ridiculous. But it’s also an incident from which certain conclusions can be drawn — about where the Left stands politically, and what the future holds, here at the almost-halfway point to our next presidential election.

    Okay, let's skip down a bit:

    Jill Biden is being squeezed. Not because she actually did anything wrong, but because she cares about being seen to do right, and that makes her vulnerable. Let’s be clear about this: nobody actually believes that the First Lady of the United States, a 71-year-old professional with a doctoral degree, needs to be instructed as to the difference between people and tacos. Even the group of people who just issued a public statement declaring themselves not to be tacos do not believe it. Biden’s speech was many things — cringy, pandering, clearly unrehearsed — but it was not racist, not by any stretch of the imagination.

    Whew!

    Ms. Rosenfield has an Edgar-nominated mystery in my get-at-library list, and if it's ever returned, I shall be sure to check it out.

Downton Abbey: A New Era

[3.5 stars] [IMDB Link] [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Mrs. Salad invited Pun Daughter in for dinner and a movie, specifically this one. (Free-to-us on Peacock.) I sighed deeply and said, "Oh, all right, I'll watch it with you." But I suspect they knew I was going to enjoy it too.

Big doin's at the Abbey: (1) a mysterious figure from the Dowager Countess's past has died and left her an opulent villa on the French Riviera, to be (eventually) passed down to young Sibyl, her great-granddaughter. But in the meantime: (2) a British movie company has asked to use the Abbey grounds and interiors to shoot a silent movie, The Gambler. To which the old and staid members of the household say, very Britishly, "Well, I never!". But once Lady Mary shows her dad the array of chamberpots in the attic catching raindrops from the leaky roof… well, the movie company's cash starts looking pretty good, so much for your snooty principles.

Part of the crowd runs off to France to check out the villa, and there's some friction between the Crowleys and the widow. But good manners and legal necessity win out. Robert gets some potentially distressing news about his parentage, and then he's aghast all over again. Could he be … part French? Soccer Blue!

Meanwhile back in Old Blighty, the movie production runs into a snag: it's supposed to be silent, but talkies are clearly ascendant, the studio is about to pull the plug. Before you can say "this subplot was ripped off from Singin' in the Rain", the household gets wangled in to playing a much larger role in the production than they planned. This is hilarious, especially when the downstairs staff get a chance to play dress-up, after being stuck in maid/cook/butler outfits for the past decades.

There's a lot of fan service here, as shameless as any Marvel movie. And I ate it up, just as I do while watching Marvel movies.

URLs du Jour

2022-07-15

  • Things are more like they are today than they've ever been before. Just when you thought you were losing motivation, there's help: a new batch of inspiration from the Federalist: Kamala Harris Quotes As Motivational Posters. Sample:

    [Time keeps on slipping]

    [My favorite bogus presidential quote in headline.]


  • Warren Women. Pro-life women, anyway. Liz Wolfe on Liz Warren's current crusade: Elizabeth Warren Wants To Shut Down All of the Country's Crisis Pregnancy Centers.

    "In Massachusetts right now, those crisis pregnancy centers that are there to fool people who are looking for pregnancy termination help outnumber true abortion clinics by three to one," Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) told NBC 10 Boston. "We need to shut them down here in Massachusetts and we need to shut them down all around the country."

    "You should not be able to torture a pregnant person like that," she added, referring to the work done by the pro-life charities.

    It's unclear what legal authority Elizabeth Warren would use to enact her will. In fact, a sitting U.S. senator trying to shut down charitable organizations, like crisis pregnancy centers, for no violation of laws but rather due to the fact that they further the pro-life cause, would be quite blatantly unconstitutional.

    Ms. Wolfe notes that it's possible to find crisis pregnancy centers that "provide misleading information" and "use aggressive, deceptive marketing". Is that enough to "shut them down all around the country"? Um, no.

    Warren has introduced the "Stop Anti-Abortion Disinformation [SAD] Act". As I type, it's (apparently) too pro-abortion for (even) our state's senators to co-sponsor. Over on the House side, NH-02 CongressCritter Annie Kuster has signed on; NH-01's Chris Pappas has not.


  • Ridiculous and bad faith? That's a twofer. Jesse Singal writes On Rashida Tlaib And Chase Strangio’s Ridiculous, Bad-Faith Attack On The New York Times.

    Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat from Michigan, just launched a broadside against The New York Times.

    It came in the form of a tweetstorm that reads as follows, numbering and link added by me:

    (1) The @nytimes has been providing a platform for transphobic hate & propaganda, with horrifying consequences. Texas just entered NYT articles into evidence to push for the TX Dept of Family & Protective Services to take trans kids away from their supportive parents. (2) During escalating assaults on trans people & trans rights nationwide, the New York Times is featuring writers debating whether trans people should even exist and scapegoating this already-marginalized community. One way to act in solidarity is to sign now: Sign now to tell the New York Times to stop providing a dangerous platform for transphobic hate, and instead amplify trans voices. As trans lawyer and activist Chase Strangio has said: “The NYT's horrible coverage of and fixation on trans people has been central to the progression of anti-trans bills and policies nationally… https://bit.ly/nytpetition (3) Thank you @chasestrangio for sounding the alarm and asking cis people to speak up. To trans & non-binary people: I'm with you. I’m going to keep fighting for your right to exist, to be safe as your full authentic selves, & to thrive. Our safety & liberation is intertwined. (4) The fights for trans rights and reproductive justice are wrapped up together. Our right to bodily autonomy—our ability to make decisions about our own bodies—is under threat. This affects ALL of us. We must be in solidarity to defeat the growing fascist movement to control us.

    It goes almost without saying that the Times has not published anything “debating whether trans people should even exist” — this seems to just be completely made-up, or relying on a very esoteric definition of “exist.”

    Not to mention the esoteric definition of "fascist".

    Chase Strangio is an ACLU lawyer. Singal, as might be expected, is dismayed by the attempt to bully the NYT into full compliance with ACLU's theology on the matter.


  • He's no FDR. He's not even a Jimmy Carter. Kevin D. Williamson is tough but fair: The President Is Not (Entirely) to Blame for Left's Failures.

    Two-thirds of Americans think Joe Biden is doing a poor job in office. The other third is selling meth to Hunter. The trajectory is decidedly southerly, and this has not escaped the notice of leftier Democrats who weren’t all that excited about the old man in the first place.

    I don’t think that I would have much in common politically with RootsAction, the progressive group that has just made a splash with its new campaign to convince Joe Biden not to run for reelection in 2024. But I do admire progressives’ willingness to take on their party’s president. That’s a sign of good political health — rare on the left.

    “A president is not his party’s king,” the RootsAction statement says, “and he has no automatic right to renomination. Joe Biden should not seek it. If he does, he will have a fight on his hands.”

    Biden should have a fight. He should lose it.

    KDW points out that the problem for Democrats isn't Biden, old and ineffective as he is. It's that the progressive-activist policies he's chosen to pursue are fundamentally out of whack with normal-people concerns. Replacing Joe with Elizabeth, or Kamala, or Mayor Pete, [etc.] might fix the geezer problem, but not the policy problem.


  • But we want to go this way, Science! Marty Makary M.D., M.P.H. and Tracy Beth Høeg M.D., Ph.D. write at Bari Weiss's substack: U.S. Public Health Agencies Aren't ‘Following the Science,’ Officials Say.

    The calls and text messages are relentless. On the other end are doctors and scientists at the top levels of the NIH, FDA and CDC. They are variously frustrated, exasperated and alarmed about the direction of the agencies to which they have devoted their careers.

    “It's like a horror movie I'm being forced to watch and I can't close my eyes,” one senior FDA official lamented. “People are getting bad advice and we can’t say anything.”

    That particular FDA doctor was referring to two recent developments inside the agency. First, how, with no solid clinical data, the agency authorized Covid vaccines for infants and toddlers, including those who already had Covid. And second, the fact that just months before, the FDA bypassed their external experts to authorize booster shots for young children.

    That doctor is hardly alone.

    The problem according to Dr. Makery and Høeg: "the heads of [FDA, CDC, and NIH] are using weak or flawed data to make critically important public health decisions. That such decisions are being driven by what’s politically palatable to people in Washington or to the Biden administration. And that they have a myopic focus on one virus instead of overall health."

    So, yeah, nothing could go wrong there.


  • I'm not generally a fan of saying your political opponents are nuts. But let's see where Arnold Kling is going when he discusses the "Coalition of the Sane."

    By now, you’ve heard about and probably read Bari Weiss’ speech The New Founders America Needs. Did you notice the italicized phrase in this passage?

    I want to offer you the briefest overview of the core beliefs of the un-American revolution we are currently living through, which are abundantly clear to anyone willing to look past the hashtags and the jargon. Then I want to tell you what I think we—liberals, conservatives, independents, trads, whigs, normies, the coalition of the sane—can do to stop it in order to preserve the precious virtues that have made this country the last, best hope on Earth and that have made every single one of our lives possible. 

    I was titillated by the phrase “coalition of the sane.” It sounds really promising, but she never returns to it in her speech. And I am left wondering about the terms “coalition” and “sane.”

    In this context, what does it mean to be sane? Probably it means believing that men and women differ in physiologically identifiable ways. It means believing that a color-blind society is a desirable goal. It means believing that freedom of speech and freedom of inquiry are important values. It means understanding that market processes have some virtues and that government processes have some vices.

    But what does it mean to be a coalition? A coalition works together to overcome opposition. I do not think that Weiss’s list of constituents actually are a coalition. It includes too many of what I call Enablers—people who profess principles that differ from Woke ideology but who are ready to excuse it. Like Jonathan Haidt, they put the blame on social media. Like Jonathan Rauch, they put the blame on Donald Trump

    Arnold has a number of suggestions that a "coalition" could get behind. But if those suggestions attract only conservatives and libertarians, that's not going to make a "coalition."

A Fine Balance

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

One more book down on the New York Times shortlist of fiction whence they asked their readers to pick "the best book of the past 125 years". Eight to go!

This was a biggie, 603 pages of unlarge type and unwide margins. (In comparison, Charlotte's Web, also on the NYT list, was a lean 184 pages, big type, big margins, and illustrations.) And yet, it grabbed me from page one, interesting and (mostly) sympathetic characters, doing interesting things, having interesting (often unfortunate) things done to them. Alas, it's mostly kind of a downer, but (hey) you know what happened to Charlotte, right?

The four main characters are (1) Dina, a headstrong and independent woman who strives to make a life for herself after her husband dies, without submitting herself to her domineering brother; (2) Ishvar, an untouchable whose entire family is murdered by a mob stirred up by a local thug; except for (3) his hotheaded nephew Omprakash; and (4) Maneck, who's sent by his parents to the big city to get his college degree in refrigeration and air conditioning. There are a bunch of other colorful and mostly miserable supporting characters.

It's mostly set in 1975, the year Prime Minister Indira Gandhi concocted her "State of Emergency"; the "emergency" being that she was about to lose her office and probably go to jail. The resulting crackdown affects the whole country, and trickles down to our characters in various ways. But it's not just despotism that's the problem throughout the book. There's also death, dismemberment, disability, corruption, forced sterilization, grinding poverty, hunger, unsanitary conditions, …

But the WSJ blurbed review on the front cover says that it's "full of wisdom and laughter". And there is humor, albeit mostly sarcastic and often very, very dark. (You see that child on the pole on the book cover? You might laugh, or you could be shocked, when that scene comes up in the book. Might have something to do with the book's title, or a metaphor, or symbolism, or something.)

All in all, I couldn't help but wonder if the take-home point was "Hey, maybe the Brits should have stayed in charge here for a few more decades." Things might not have been better, but it's hard to see how they could have been worse.

URLs du Jour

2022-07-14

  • Coming soon to a bogoda near you. Andrew Stiles of the Free Beacon has a sneak preview of An Incluxive Guide to the Races of the World by Dr. Jill Biden, Ed. D. The "Asian" page, for example:

    [Asians]


  • Sorry, Mrs. DeSantis. Kevin D. Williamson offers, as is usual for him, a heretical observation: America Doesn't Need a First Lady.

    First ladies are the worst. All of them, even the ones I like.

    We live in a republic, not an elected monarchy, and the fact that a woman happens to be married to the president ought properly to mean absolutely nothing for her role in American life. Of course, it is a curiosity. But that we have made it a position and a rank — first! — smacks of the kind of formal aristocracy that we fought a revolution to liberate ourselves from.

    And, inevitably, the “first lady” begat the “second lady,” or, perhaps even more nauseating, the “second gentleman” in the case of Douglas Emhoff, a poor dumb bastard for whom I legitimately feel sorry. Imagine putting in all that hard work being evil at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and ending up as an accoutrement to an accoutrement to such a nullity as Dr. Jill Biden’s husband. That is practically purgatorial.

    […]

    We don’t need a “first lady.” I don’t know if IBM CEO Arvind Krishna is married, but I guarantee you that if he is, nobody calls his wife the “first lady” of IBM. Karen S. Lynch’s husband isn’t the “first gentleman” of CVS Health. Surely the government of the United States of America can manage to be at least as republican in its manners as the Fortune 500. Patty Smyth is the woman who sang “Goodbye to You,” not some special weird minor figure ceremonial in the tennis world because of her marriage to that lunatic John McEnroe. Dr. Jill Biden is a lightly accomplished, half-educated Ed.D-holding numbskull who sees the locals in San Antonio and thinks: “Tacos. What these people remind me of is tacos.”

    As usually happens, this got me to wondering about the wife of James "Jimmy" Dean, President of the University Near Here. Turning to the Google,… well, here's an article in New Hampshire Home, A Home Fit For a President.

    THE DIGNIFIED, RED-BRICK HOME overlooking Durham’s Main Street holds a special place for anyone connected to the state’s flagship university. Like the iconic Thompson Hall, the president’s home is a showpiece, situated in the midst of campus, with students, professors and residents passing by every day. Jan Dean, the first lady of the University of New Hampshire, understands the importance of her residence, as much as her husband—UNH President James Dean—understands the importance of his position.

    Yep, UNH has that "first lady" disease too. Or at least our local magazine writers do.


  • Those pesky moderates are the real problem. At the Federalist, one Auguste Meyrat explains Why Mitt Romney’s Call for Moderation Is Dishonest And Dangerous.

    In an essay published on July 4 in The Atlantic, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, sounded off on the political polarization tearing apart the nation. In expected fashion, he directs the most ire against Donald Trump-supporting conservatives for making the United States “a nation in denial.”

    Specifically, he says these Republican voters deny the seriousness of climate change and January 6, 2021. He somehow absolves Joe Biden of any blame for our nation’s current messes and instead blames Americans: “President Joe Biden is a genuinely good man, but he has yet been unable to break through our national malady of denial, deceit, and distrust.” After making his case for compromise, Romney concludes with the hope that a future leader not named Trump “will rise above the din to unite us behind the truth.”

    I'm old enough to remember when the "genuinely good" Joe Biden told a Virginia crowd that Mitt Romney was "going to put you all back in chains". I think Mitt might be overdoing the "turn the other cheek" thing here. "Dishonest and dangerous" is a stretch, though.

    I've read the essay too which Meryat links. It's pretty anodyne, although he's against a Trump comeback and disdains "MAGA loyalists". His closing paragraph:

    I hope for a president who can rise above the din to unite us behind the truth. Several contenders with experience and smarts stand in the wings; we intently watch to see if they also possess the requisite character and ability to bring the nation together in confronting our common reality. While we wait, leadership must come from fathers and mothers, teachers and nurses, priests and rabbis, businessmen and businesswomen, journalists and pundits. That will require us all to rise above ourselves—above our grievances and resentments—and grasp the mantle of leadership our country so badly needs.

    Who could possibly be against that bomfoggery?


  • For an R-rated version of that… we turn to Jeff Maurer, who wonders What Makes a Good President?.

    When thinking about what makes a good president, it’s tempting to simply list a billion positive traits. After all: A president should be strong, and smart, and enlightened, and informed, and compassionate, and steadfast, and limber, and a good cook, and they should smell like cinnamon, and be able to dunk, and own a bunch of cool shit, and know a few card tricks, and honestly being good at kung fu wouldn’t hurt. I’m sure we can all agree on that. But I’m trying to identify a few key traits that should be considered essential.

    Looking at one specific requirement:

    Knowledge. Being president isn’t like being a film noir gumshoe; you can’t get by on hunches and horse sense. You need to know stuff. You need a good working knowledge of history, law, philosophy, economics, and about a dozen other things. This is why I like the part of the Constitution that says you have to be 35 to be president; no-one can acquire the knowledge needed to be president in fewer than 35 years, even if they forgo the part of their youth that involves binge drinking and weird sex. Which nobody should.

    Knowledge isn’t the same as intelligence. If you transported Isaac Newton to the present day, he’d be an awful president, because he doesn’t have well-considered opinions on things like the nuclear triad and renewable energy. He’d also probably spend most of this time cowering in a corner, terrified of all the cars and airplanes. A beautiful mind is great, but a beautiful mind that doesn’t possess relevant information is as useful as a Formula One car with a beehive under the hood.

    It seems obvious to say “the president should know about president stuff,” but apparently it needs to be said. People are always calling for folks like Oprah or Duane “The Young Rock Tuesdays on NBC” Johnson to run for president, even though they show no signs of knowing a great deal about government (though both seem like nice people!). Dr. Oz is running for Senate, his main qualification being that he had a TV show that proved that he is a terrible doctor. Football great Herschel Walker is running for Senate despite perhaps knowing less than any person who has ever lived. I want my dentist to know about dentistry, I want my plumber to know about plumbing, and I similarly want my president to possess the knowledge he needs to do his job well.

    The Romans didn’t know that lead pipes can poison people. The Crusaders didn’t know that the Middle East is hot. The French Revolutionaries didn’t know that if you keep printing money, inflation ensues. History is full of bad decisions caused by not knowing stuff. The more stuff the president knows, the better his decisions are likely to be.

    More qualities at the link, but yeah, knowledge. This is why, instead of those stupid debates, we should have a Jeopardy!-style quiz show for the candidates for high public office. Concentrating on "history, law, philosophy, economics, and about a dozen other things." No pop culture, rap music, or "potent potables" categories! You wouldn't need to answer in the form of a question. And (somehow) you'd like to eliminate the advantage of quick buzzer thumbs.

    After those details are worked out, I think this would be a benefit to the country and (even better) a ratings winner. You'd have to pay me a lot of money to watch a normal candidate debate, but I'd watch this in a heartbeat.


  • Actually, he set himself up for failure by getting a job with demands far outside his abilities. But Jonah Goldberg has an alternative explanation: How Biden Set Himself Up for Failure. Yes, Biden's incompetent, his policies have been disastrous, he's aging badly, he's way too partisan, etc. But:

    But the biggest driver of his problems is ideological and structural.

    Biden will be remembered as the last Democratic president shaped by the old FDR coalition and its reliance on the white working class and bipartisanship. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party’s ideological base is philosophically and culturally contemptuous of traditional politics (yes, the same is true of the GOP) and is all too happy to blow up that old coalition. Picking Kamala Harris as his running mate—after vowing to select a woman—was an acknowledgement of this fact. Biden-Harris was a unity ticket.

    While his return-to-normalcy candidacy brought enough moderates and independents into the fold, it was Biden’s implied promise to hand the baton to the left that kept progressives in line (aside from a unifying animosity toward Donald Trump). “Look, I view myself as a bridge, not as anything else,” Biden said at a campaign event where several younger Democrats shared the stage with him. “There’s an entire generation of leaders you saw stand behind me. They are the future of this country.”

    […]

    But Biden let his vanity—specifically the prospect of outshining Barack Obama as a “transformational” president—and his instinct to placate the left get the better of him. Now he’s left with a party that demands an agenda that Biden can’t sell, in no small part because voters don’t want it.

    And for the "structural" reason, click on over.


  • Keeping up with the cool kids. Damien Fisher notes the latest Effort To Do Important Stuff That Will Make Peoples' Lives Better. No, just kidding! It's the latest Symbolic Gesture That Does Nothing Except Signal Virtue: In Pursuit of 'Diversity,' Portsmouth Kills Columbus Day, Keeps Indigenous People's Day.

    Bowing to pressure from a group of “woke” high school activists, the Portsmouth City Council voted to cancel Columbus Day.

    For years, the seacoast city known for its liberal politics has recognized both Columbus Day and Indigenous People’s Day on the same date — traditionally October 12. But at Monday night’s council meeting, students with Portsmouth High School’s We Speak club for social justice activism complained that accommodating Columbus Day and the history it celebrates was intolerable.

    Intolerable!

    Well, I'm not a huge Columbus fan, but I can tolerate a lot. See Bryan Caplan for a non-left indictment of the Admiral:

    The far left’s radical critique of Columbus Day rubs a lot of people the wrong way. But the facts are on their side. Columbus was not just a brutal slaver; he was a pioneer of slavery. I flipped through a dozen books on Columbus and slavery in the library today, and none of them disputes this – though the hagiographies generally omit “slavery” from the index.

    Can you condemn a man just for being a slaver? Of course. It’s almost as bad as you can get. And Columbus didn’t even have the lame excuses of a Thomas Jefferson, like “I grew up with it,” or “I couldn’t afford not to do it.”

    The lamest excuse of all is that we have to judge Columbus by the standards of his time. For this is nothing but the cultural relativism that defenders of Western civilization so often decry. If some cultures and practices are better than others, then we can fairly hold up a mirror to Columbus and the Spanish conquerors, and find theirs to be among the worst.

    Perhaps we should find our own heroes and celebrate them without being told to by the local, state, or federal governments.

Casino Royale

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

For obscure reasons (long story, you don't care, trust me) I've decided to undertake a new reading project: Ian Fleming's James Bond novels. I read a number of them back in my youth. Things were complicated, however, when Mom glanced through the beginning of The Spy Who Loved Me, and forbade further excursions into the 007 oeuvre.

I was sneaky though, sorry Mom. Although I never did read The Spy Who Loved Me.

Anyway, started with book one, 1953's Casino Royale. Bond is tasked with taking down a Soviet Communist stooge, Le Chiffre, by beating him soundly at the high-stakes baccarat table in a fancy French gambling resort. In this he's assisted by the beautiful Vesper Lynd, French agent René Mathis, and the CIA's Felix Leiter. Once Bond is in place, he's told his room has been bugged, and a couple of bungling hit men try to kill him. Jimmy, I think your cover is blown.

He makes it to the table, there's a lot of gambling drama, but that's over by page 83 of this 178-page edition. Then there's some really gruesome violence, over by page 120 or so. Then there's physical recovery (up to page 145), Bond decides to give up spying, then follows a love story with a tragic ending winding things up.

The book is weirdly paced, is what I'm trying to say. And it very much shows its age; at one point Bond muses about the "sweet tang of rape". That wouldn't pass muster these days, Ian.

This is (more or less) 007's origin story, setting up the series as his revenge against the Soviets who did him very wrong here. And the very last line is one of the more brutal book endings I've read.

URLs du Jour

2022-07-13

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Omnis humanitas in tres partes dividitur. Arnold Kling names them: Deceivers, Skeptics, and Enablers.

    The political ecosystem consists of Deceivers, Skeptics, and Enablers. Deceivers have a gift for gaining power over others. Think Clinton, Obama, or Trump. Think of the purveyors of the folk versions of critical theory. Skeptics are those who see through the Deceivers and who stick with classical liberal values. Think Thomas Sowell, Robin Hanson, or Bryan Caplan.

    Enablers are those who help Deceivers gain power. Think of people of strong partisan faith. They think that the candidate they are voting for is not a Deceiver. They take the professed intentions of political activists at face value.

    It's a lot easier to see enablers on the Other Side, innit? Here's one of Kling's examples:

    I am afraid that Jonathan Rauch is also an enabler. His books The Kindly Inquisitors and The Constitution of Knowledge brilliantly articulate the values of free speech, intellectual humility, and free inquiry. But when we see Yale and The New York Times repeatedly and decisively reject those values, he still treats them with respect, as if they are still at heart the same institutions that they were when he was a boy. Even though Donald Trump has been out of office for a year and a half, Rauch still seems willing to see Trump as an excuse for the illiberal young brats and their Enabler editors at newspapers and universities.

    I read The Constitution of Knowledge last month; my report is here. It meshes pretty well with Kling's take.


  • For all you bodily autonomy fans. Chris Freiman has a suggestion: End the War on Drugs—Including Nicotine.

    Libertarians are no doubt dismayed by the FDA’s recent ban on Juul vaping products (although the current status of the ban is unclear) and the news that the Biden administration is planning to mandate lower nicotine levels in cigarettes. But libertarians shouldn’t be the only ones opposed to state-enforced nicotine restrictions.

    For one, all liberals recognize a right of bodily autonomy: “my body, my choice.” If it’s your body, it’s your choice to put nicotine in it even if it’s harmful. By analogy, if it’s your car, it’s your choice to put sugar in the gas tank even if it’s harmful.

    Indeed, the right of bodily autonomy entitles people to make far more harmful decisions than smoking. You may decline a life-saving blood transfusion, so it’s hard to see why you may not smoke high-nicotine cigarettes—a choice that will result in significantly fewer life years lost.

    We (obviously) didn't Learn Our Lesson with alcohol prohibition. Even though (NIH estimate) it kills 95,000 people/year in the US. Which is slightly more than (even) recent drug overdose fatality rates (combining fentanyl, meth, cocaine, …).

    Yes, nicotine is addictive, and it can kill you. But that's true of caffeine too. Nobody's talking about government crackdowns on caffeine addiction. Probably too many Starbucks customers at the FDA.


  • Perhaps with concrete overshoes. Charles C. W. Cooke notes the danger signs: Democrats Prepare to Throw Biden Overboard. Discussing the recent NYT polling that says “only 26 percent of Democratic voters said the party should renominate [Biden] in 2024.” Ouch! CCWC looks at some recent history:

    Apologists for Joe Biden — and for the media’s coverage of him — like to insist that his shortcomings have been covered amply since he first announced he was running for president. But that isn’t quite right. It is true that Biden was frequently cast in a negative light during the 2019 primaries: Back when there was a chance that someone else might be the nominee, Biden was often said to be too old, or too gaffe-prone, or too racist, or too law-and-order-ish to be the nominee. It is not true, however, that these criticisms continued in earnest once Biden had secured the Democratic nomination. Remember those SNL skits that showed Biden as a confused, mendacious, out-of-touch, geriatric has-been? Remember how they stopped once he represented the only chance to beat Donald Trump? The same thing happened in the press. In December 2019, Joe Biden was ancient and ineloquent. By the summer of 2020, he was the experienced survivor of a debilitating stutter. By 2021, only a rotter would have suggested that he might be over the hill. “Casual ageism,” Jill Lawrence wrote in USA Today last summer, “is a staple of the conservative arsenal against the president.” Not only was there nothing at all to “the right’s narrative about Biden’s acuity,” Lawrence went on to explain, but “the age-related conservative offensive reprise[d] the blatant psychological projection of the Trump era.” “Fundamentally,” she concluded, “the tactic is out of whack with reality.”

    By “reality,” Lawrence really meant “the Democrats’ priorities.” And what a difference 14 approval-rating points have made! When Lawrence penned her column, Biden’s approval–disapproval split was about even, a “comeback” was supposedly on the horizon, and chatter about replacing him on the 2024 ticket hadn’t yet really begun in earnest. Now, Biden is the most unpopular president in a century, the idea of a “comeback” seems absurd on its face, and the Democrats are wondering aloud if they will be able to get rid of him without a bloody fight. In the Times’ poll, 74 percent of Democrats, including 94 percent of Democrats under the age of 30, said they wanted a different nominee in 2024. Among that supermajority, “concerns about his age ranked at the top of the list” of reasons for wishing he’d retire after one term. How does “casual ageism” become “distinct challenges”? That’s how. How does “the right’s narrative” become “an uncomfortable issue for [Biden] and his party”? That’s how. How do we move from talking about an “age-related conservative offensive” to gleefully printing quotes from a voter who compares “the president to zombies”? That’s how. This isn’t about the truth. It’s about the polls.

    I wonder how many top Democrats are rewatching Tom Hagen's visit to Frank Pentangeli in The Godfather Part II for tips on how best to approach Biden?


  • More on the upcoming defenestration. From David Harsanyi: For Biden, Polls Are Probably Worse Than They Seem.

    No modern president, as far as I can tell, has faced higher dissatisfaction in his own party during his first term. Only 13 percent of voters say the United States is on the right track, the lowest number since they began asking this question during the great recession.

    Not long ago, left-wing pundits couldn’t stop talking about Donald Trump’s poll numbers — “Donald Trump is remarkably unpopular,” “The unprecedented unpopularity of Donald Trump,” “Trump is officially the most unpopular president since modern polling began in the 1930s. It will forever be his legacy,” and so on. A president with that kind of piddling support, they would argue, had no business initiating policy changes. Nowadays, Democrats want their historically unpopular president to sign “transformative” legislation using reconciliation and unilaterally restructure American governance. The only consistent characteristic of modern liberalism is the unyielding belief that politics should be played by two sets of rules.

    […]

    Republicans, though, should remember that job approval rating is measured in a bubble. The New York Times/Siena College poll finds Biden winning a match-up against Donald Trump 44-41. The real presidential election is largely a binary choice for those who vote, and many of those dissatisfied with Biden may never vote for a Republican.

    Trump fans can console themselves by going to ElectionBettingOdds.com, where Bone Spurs is beating Wheezy handily.


  • Dr. Jill's also kind of losing it. So everyone's heard about this, but Jim Geraghty has a very good take on Jill Biden’s Speech: A Hard Lesson about the New Reality.

    Let’s begin with an assessment that I suspect many readers will find too generous: First Lady Jill Biden has no discernible animosity, ill will, or hatred toward Latinos.

    What Jill Biden does have is a certain tone-deafness and presumptuousness toward them — and likely toward lots of other people — along with far too much confidence that every word that drips from her lips is a gift on par with manna from heaven. This is a trait she shares with her husband.

    Jill Biden’s prepared remarks at the 2022 UnidosUS Annual Conference in San Antonio on Monday included this paragraph: “Raul [Yzaguirre] helped build this organization with the understanding that the diversity of this community — as distinct as the bodegas of the Bronx, as beautiful as the blossoms of Miami, and as unique as the breakfast tacos here in San Antonio — is your strength.”

    Except she pronounced “bodegas” as “bogodas.” Bodegas, blossoms, and breakfast tacos are all rather clichéd examples of American Latino culture; I suppose we should be thankful she didn’t add, “and as fast as Speedy Gonzalez.” Beyond that, the metaphor doesn’t really work; go order two of the same kind of breakfast tacos from the same restaurant and see how unique they are. If she had declared, “The Scandinavian-Americans of Minnesota are as unique as pancakes,” everyone would have instantly seen the problem with the comparison. It would have been bad enough if she said it off the cuff, but this was part of Biden’s prepared remarks, meaning it had been written, and approved, by an allegedly professional speechwriter.

    Geraghty notes the response of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists/Asociación Nacional de Periodistas Hispanos , which said in part, "We are not tacos."

    Mi amigos, she didn't say you were tacos. She doesn't think you're tacos. Nobody thinks you're tacos.

    She said you were as unique as breakfast tacos. Specifically, the ones in San Antonio.

    The only decent response is: Doctor Jill, that doesn't make any sense whatsoever. Your speechwriters are on drugs.


  • Shut up, they explained. Reason reminds us what happens when you don't have a First Amendment: Shhhh!.

    The Université Laval, a public university in Quebec, has suspended Patrick Provost, a professor of microbiology and immunology, for eight weeks without pay for saying at a conference that he believes the risks of vaccinating children for COVID-19 outweigh the benefits. A university committee declared that his remarks were not objective. "I was just doing what I was hired to do," Provost said. "I had some concerns about something, I searched the literature and I prepared a speech, delivered it to the public. Being censored for doing what I've been trained to do—and hired to do—well, it's hard to believe."

    Prof, if you've been watching the news lately, it's really easy to believe.

URLs du Jour

2022-07-12

  • Another evergreen headline template: "Biden Blames       for      ". Today's fill-ins are "Republicans" and "Inflation". Ed Morrissey reminds us of Wheezy Joe's campaign tweet:

    As they say, that was then, this is now:

    Ed comments:

    How odd. Wasn’t inflation Putin’s price hike/tax hike? Corporate greed? Actual growth? “Transitory”? Non-existent? None of those messages have broken through in polling for Biden on the economy or on his overall job performance, and especially on economic stewardship. Right now his RCP aggregate on economic job approval is worse than his overall standing (33.2/62) in an election cycle that is all about the economy.

    Not only that, but Biden's gripe can be summarized as: "Republicans (somehow) won't let me impose price controls."

    To which a grateful nation should say: "Thank goodness."


  • Up for some Constitutional Law geekery? Patterico provides a hefty dose at his substack: In Defense of the Independent State Legislature Doctrine.

    The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case called Moore v. Harper, involving a theory known as the “independent state legislature” doctrine (ISLD). The left confidently declares this doctrine to be radical and insane — a recently concocted bit of buffoonery by Federalist Society types who can’t really be serious. Matthew Cooper of the Washington Monthly calls it “the crazy ‘independent legislature’ doctrine.” The reliably incorrect Ian Millhiser at Vox declares Moore v. Harper to be “perhaps the gravest threat to American democracy since the January 6 attack.” Steve Benen terms the ISLD “an obscure idea” that could be used to overthrow presidential elections. Rick Hasen calls it an “extreme position” that “could help foment election subversion.” NPR says it “could radically reshape elections for president and Congress.” Radley Balko has a typically sober and restrained take, writing that he “[c]an’t emphasize enough how batshit this is.”

    What is this obscure, crazy, extreme, radical position that has the lefties (and, as we will see, Michael Luttig) in such a lather? As it turns out, it is really nothing more than reading the Constitution to mean what it says. There are arguments against the ISLD, some of which are plausible and some of which are just silly. It’s my purpose in this set of pieces to begin to evaluate them for you. But any rational discussion of the subject has to acknowledge that the doctrine really does nothing more than give a plain reading to the clear text of the Constitution — which, the last time I checked, was still the supreme law of the land.

    The discussion will proceed in at least two parts, because putting them in a single newsletter challenged the Substack length limits. Today, I will discuss the textual basis for the ISLD. I will note that support for the ISLD does not imply that legislatures may follow the Trump Blueprint of holding an election and then changing the results if they don’t like them. That idea actually is insane. Then, for paying subscribers, I will take on the issue of whether state legislative action in this area can be trumped by state constitutional provisions. (Hint: I believe it is not.)

    Patterico provides a useful counterweight to the lefty people hyperventilating about the alleged Trumpian plot to overturn electoral results in 2024. (Google will give you plenty of examples in addition to those cited in the article.)


  • Kids ᴙ Dum. Freddie deBoer is a lefty who's unafraid of uttering utter heresy: Education Doesn't Work 2.0.

    The brute reality is that most kids slot themselves into academic ability bands early in life and stay there throughout schooling. We have a certain natural level of performance, gravitate towards it early on, and are likely to remain in that band relative to peers until our education ends. There is some room for wiggle, and in large populations there are always outliers. But in thousands of years of education humanity has discovered no replicable and reliable means of taking kids from one educational percentile and raising them up into another. Mobility of individual students in quantitative academic metrics relative to their peers over time is far lower than popularly believed. The children identified as the smart kids early in elementary school will, with surprising regularity, maintain that position throughout schooling. Do some kids transcend (or fall from) their early positions? Sure. But the system as a whole is quite static. Most everybody stays in about the same place relative to peers over academic careers. The consequences of this are immense, as it is this relative position, not learning itself, which is rewarded economically and socially in our society.

    FdB is thoughtful and provocative, and (see above, he's a lefty) I don't agree with everything he says. As I said when I read his book, I'd really like to see him engage with Charles Murray, and vice-versa.


  • Is it time to rename PolitiFact as PolitiFail? PolitiFake? Stanley Kurtz is amused by PolitiFact's Failed Attack on Ron DeSantis, over Civics Education.

    Late last Friday, PolitiFact issued a “fact check” claiming that Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s recent swipe against the Civics Secures Democracy Act (CSDA) was “false.” Actually, DeSantis’s criticism of CSDA is on the mark. It’s PolitiFact’s reporting that’s fallacious. PolitiFact’s failed attack on DeSantis can fairly be called an opinion piece in disguise. But it’s also something more — and worse — than that. Yacob Reyes of PolitiFact thoroughly misrepresents DeSantis, merely refuting a straw man of his own making. Let’s have a look, then, at the media’s latest bogus hit job on DeSantis.

    At a June 30 event on civics education, DeSantis contrasted Florida’s approach to that subject with CSDA, which he said, “would allow the Biden administration to buy off states with $6 billion if they sacrifice American history for critical race theory and Biden’s other political whims of the day.” PolitiFact rates this statement “false,” because “DeSantis’s claim ignores a provision in the Civics Secures Democracy Act that prevents the education secretary from imposing curricula, such as critical race theory, on states.”

    Kurtz notes the actual issue is the (almost certain) bribe involved in the Federal funding of local civics education: "teach it this way or no soup funding for you."

    A recent report on my local TV news had another example: the newsladies bemoaned New Hampshire's recently-passed-and-signed bill that "precludes [state and local] enforcement of federal gun laws." We won't be able to get our share of those cool federal bucks!


  • And finally A tweet from Elizabeth Nolan Brown:

    I love self-checkout, except (1) when it's bottlenecked by old ladies painstakingly scanning two carts full of merch; (2) when the scanner refuses a perfectly valid coupon, by which time it's too late to do anything about it.

URLs du Jour

2022-07-11

[Exercise in Cluelessness]

  • If you can't kill 'em, erase them from the Internet. Kevin D. Williamson looks at America on Parole.

    If Democrats get their way, America’s crisis-pregnancy centers will be wiped off the map — literally.

    A small army of progressive activists and Democratic officials including New York attorney general Letitia James is leaning on Google to ensure that its mapping service does not direct women experiencing crisis pregnancies to crisis-pregnancy centers — to ensure that these women are directed to abortion clinics and to abortion clinics only. As Jezebel complains: “Nearly 40 percent of search results for ‘abortion’ on Google Maps direct people in abortion-hostile states to crisis pregnancy centers instead of real clinics.”

    Why bother with persuasion when anybody who disagrees with you can just be digitally disappeared?

    The progressives’ delegitimization game is old, familiar, and tedious: Forcing children to parrot ideological bromides as an educational requirement is not indoctrination but “cultural competence”; climate policy is not a matter of political, social, and economic tradeoffs but a question that can be answered empirically via science, and, hence, opposition to the progressive climate-policy agenda is anti-science; criticizing that climate agenda is not political activism but somehow is securities fraud; talking to unhappy people experiencing gender dysphoria is forbidden “conversion therapy” that stands criminally in the way of the obvious medical necessity of ritual mutilation and genital amputation. Etc.

    Many on the left have let their argumentation skills atrophy, preferring instead to insist that disagreement with their views is akin to maintaining the earth is flat. (My favorite example from last year.)

    And then there's…


  • Worry not, GOSPLAN is here, comrade. The WSJ editorialists are not fans of Pete Buttigieg’s Climate Toll Road.

    To adapt what Stalin said of the Pope, how many divisions does the Supreme Court have? That seems to be the implicit slogan of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who on Thursday ignored the High Court’s recent ruling with a proposed rule requiring states to reduce CO2 emissions on highways—that is, banish gas-powered vehicles.

    In West Virginia v. EPA, the Court ruled that regulatory agencies can’t impose costly new regulations without a clear direction from Congress. The feds had interpreted an obscure corner of the Clean Air Act to impose costly climate rules on power plants.

    Now the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) wants to take this abuse of authority on the road. It cites an obscure provision in federal law that authorizes it to set national “performance” goals for the national highway system. The law defines these goals as safety, infrastructure condition, congestion reduction, system reliability, freight movement and economic vitality, environmental sustainability and reduced project delivery delays.

    One of the fun parts of imagining GOP control of Congress: they could zero out the entire budget of the Department of Transportation.


  • Michael Moore channels Carrie Nation. His proposed 28th Amendment is all about guns. And refreshingly totalitarian. It repeals the Second Amendment. Sample (from Section 5):

    Congress will stipulate and continually update the limited list of approved firearms for civilian use, including weapons in the future that are not yet invented. The following firearms are heretofore banned:

    • All automatic and semi-automatic weapons and all devices which can enable a single-shot gun to fire automatically or semi-automatically;

    • Any weapon that can hold more than six bullets or rounds at a time or any magazine that holds more than six bullets;

    • All guns made of plastic or any homemade equipment and machinery or a 3D printer that can make a gun or weapon that can take a human life.

    Yes, 3D printers too. It's like Moore was asleep when they discussed the Eighteenth Amendment in his history class.


  • Feelgood story of the day. Axios reports that Wired’s union threatens to strike.

    The union representing roughly 65 editorial workers at Wired, the tech publisher owned by Condé Nast, is threatening to strike for two days if it can’t reach a contract agreement with Condé Nast management by July 12 — the first of two digital shopping holidays known collectively as “Amazon Prime Days.”

    That's tomorrow! Eek!

    WIRED (the mag prefers all-caps spelling) is consistently Progressive and Woke. Today's example headline: The Climate Anxiety Discussion Has a Whiteness Problem. Note: not the "climate discussion", but the "climate anxiety discussion". Which is a separate thing. Imagine: decades-long screeching about We'reAllGonnaDieeee has caused some psychological problems in the audience.

    Discuss.

    But anyway, I assume WIRED's other notable "journalism" is inserting commercial plugs for stuff. Like $1049 electric scooters and $679 inflatable paddle boards. I assume that's a cash cow for the magazine, and the joyless drones who pump out those articles would like a bigger cut. So maybe they could actually afford to buy some of that stuff.

Top Gun: Maverick

[4.5 stars] [IMDB Link] [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

The IMDB raters have this at spot #44 in the best movies of all time (between Whiplash and The Intouchables) and who am I to argue. Pun Son and I went to see it down at the Newington Regal. Expensive as movies are these days, it was worth it. Walking out to the parking lot, I told him that I was still unclenching from the Big Final Sequence.

OK, you probably know the premise, but I'm gonna type it in anyway. Thirty-six years after the events of Top Gun, Pete Mitchell is still a hotshot pilot, irritating most of the US Navy hierarchy by following his own rules. (An opening sequence has him flying a Mach 10 beast to prevent the cutting-edge program from cancellation.)

But menace looms in the form of a uranium enrichment plant about to go online in an unnamed rogue nation. The only possible solution is quite audacious, verging on impossible, a daring strike against ultra-long odds, facing advanced weaponry. Pete is tapped to train the next generation of hotshot pilots to take out the bad guys.

And he does, and they do, everything proceeds flawlessly, and everyone goes home happy.

Just kidding! Pete chafes at not being able to fly the mission himself. A long ago tragedy is unearthed. There are personality conflicts between the pilots. One of Pete's old girlfriends owns a bar near the training base.

And when the mission finally happens, Murphy's Law strikes hard. Quick decisions have to be made at near-supersonic speed. G-forces must be endured.

Yes, I saw the ending coming a few nautical miles off. And so will you, probably. This did not distract from my enjoyment.

And, oh yeah, thirty years after I first saw her in The Rocketeer, Jennifer Connelly is still jaw-droppingly beautiful.

Labor Econ Versus the World

Essays on the World's Greatest Market

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Bryan Caplan is on my short list of Trusted Thinkers. My default attitude toward those folks: If I disagree with them, there's a very good chance I'm wrong. I've previously read his previous books Open Borders, The Case Against Education, and The Myth of the Rational Voter. All quite good and recommended. (He has another one, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, but it came out when that was no longer an option for me.)

This self-published book is probably not for everyone; it's a collection of (approximately) 59 "essays" on the topics in which he's most interested:

  1. Labor Economics: he's not a fan of labor regulation, including especially the minimum wage;
  2. Open Borders: a supplement to the book cited above, fleshing out his desires to greatly liberalize national immigration policy:
  3. Education: why he thinks college is a waste of time and money for most;
  4. Family/Personal Economics: looking at why (for example) married men make more money than single men, but married women make less than single women.

Most of these "essays" are recycled blog posts from Caplan's days at EconLog. (He now has his own substack.) So I've probably read most of them before.

But I didn't mind tossing a few shekels Bryan's way via Amazon. And it was a fun read, despite the repetition.

URLs du Jour

2022-07-10

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • I'd get the Amazon Product du Jour, except… nobody would understand it to mean "in McCloskey's sense of that word." At Cato, Deirdre argues: A Libertarian Is the Only Real Egalitarian.

    A libertarian—which means a true “liberal” in the original sense of the word—wants a society with no human‐made, involuntary ups and downs, no masters and slaves. That’s all there is to it.

    But what about equality?

    One reply is that the libertarian admires the varied gifts of humans: some have athletic prowess, some have wisdom in religion, and some have insight into commercially tested betterments, such as a new app or a new hip replacement. The libertarian therefore wants people to exchange their gifts for mutual advantage and mutual enlightenment. It amounts to free trade and free speech among free adults. Lovely.

    You know it works in rock music and friendship and the English language. Let’s have equal liberty of permission to venture, says the libertarian. Let’s not have governmental intervention in rock music, friendship, language … or the economy. Equality of permission. No masters with a clipboard or a regulation and the threat of a fine or imprisonment to back them up.

    It's another tour de force for my favorite used-to-be-a-guy economist, and I encourage you to Read The Whole Thing™.


  • LP, RIP? I've been worried about the Libertarian Party and its New Hampshire branch for a while. They offered me a voting option every couple Novembers when neither the Democrat Lying Crook nor the Republican Narcissistic Clown appealed that much. But lately…

    Well, at the UnPopulist, Andy Craig has a story: How the Libertarian Party Became the Reactionary Arm of Trump and Trumpism. It's deeply flawed, because the author's obvious long-standing pet hatreds, peeves, and score-settling intrude on his analysis. He apparently trusts the Southern Poverty Law Center as an authoritative source, instead of untrustworthy scam artists.

    But Craig was "an active member of the party for nearly 10 years", and so he's Not Totally Clueless, and many of his points are worthwhile.

    Even among ideological libertarians, the Libertarian Party has long been viewed with a mix of disdain and embarrassment. To the degree anybody else is aware of the LP, it’s from the 2016 presidential campaign of former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, whose poll numbers briefly broke into the low double digits before collapsing to a desultory 3.3%. Other than that, the party has languished for five decades, usually getting 1% or less of the vote for president every four years and electing only a tiny smattering of local officials around the country.

    But the LP’s lack of electoral relevance does not mean that its recent takeover by a reactionary and populist faction is a politically inconsequential event. The party’s core active membership is in the low five figures, somewhere between the Proud Boys and the Democratic Socialists of America. It has a decent organizational infrastructure with a chapter in every state and in many local precincts too. And it has a history of mobilizing resources in a targeted fashion to pass ballot initiatives and organize protests.

    If it decides, for example, to aid election subversion efforts in 2024, it could turn out people in support of Jan. 6-style rallies or worse around the country. This is not a far-fetched possibility given that the new national leadership either minimizes or sympathizes with Jan. 6 rioters, and several state party chapters have made statements in support of the riot.

    […]

    Aside from Johnson’s candidacy, the party had mostly drawn attention for antics ranging from the mildly amusing to utterly cringe-inducing, such as running an Elvis Presley impersonator as a perennial candidate, nominating someone who accidentally turned his skin blue by drinking colloidal silver, entertaining the presidential aspirations of the mentally unstable alleged murderer John McAfee, and treating C-SPAN viewers to a man stripping nearly naked on the national convention stage. But now, as Ken White, a criminal defense lawyer and respected commentator known by his online moniker Popehat, aptly observed on Twitter, “bigoted shitposters” have now wrested control from these “mostly harmless cranks.”

    But on the other hand, this guy is running for the US Senate under the LPNH banner:

    … and if the November alternatives turn out to be (D) Maggie Hassan and some (R) Trump ring-kisser, Jeremy's a real option. Hope he doesn't disappoint.


  • Worst sequel to How the Leopard got his Spots ever. George F. Will explains How millennials became aggressively illiberal, censorious young adults.

    Time was, conscientious parents fretted about “summer learning loss.” Now, when much of what schools do subtracts from understanding, summer could at least be a time for recuperation from educational malpractice — were summer not just another season of screen addictions for young people deformed by this digital age.

    In 2008, Americans were being inundated by journalism performing anticipatory sociology. “Techno-cheerleaders” — Mark Bauerlein’s term — predicted that millennials (born 1981-1996), the first generation suckled by their digital devices, would dazzle the world with the sublime personal and social consequences of their mind-melds with those devices. And their emancipation from the dead hand of everything prior. Bauerlein, Emory University professor of English, dissented.

    Fourteen years ago, in “The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30)” he anticipated that millennials were going to become “unsatisfied and confused” adults, bereft of the consolations of a cultural inheritance, which is unavailable to nonreaders. They would be gripped by the furies of brittle people bewildered by encounters with disagreement, which they find inexplicable. And by the apocalyptic terrors that afflict frustrated utopians, the only kind there is.

    As the parent of two millennials, I can testify they're not all like that.


  • I just want to quote the funniest line I've read (so far) today, from Ann Althouse.

    These days we ask, What are your pronouns? But it would be more interesting to know: What are your proverbs?

    Ann, I'm very fond of: "I used to be disgusted, and now I try to be amused." Source.


  • Right on. James Lileks demands it: Power to the People.

    The Midwest has been told to brace for rolling blackouts this summer. We expect the occasional outage when the grid’s stressed; we’re not unreasonable. A transformer blows and throws a squirrel into low orbit, and I’ll get a text from my power company explaining they expect it to be fixed by 4:17 p.m. But this summer? We might get a text that says, “Hey, it’s Tuesday.”

    Isn’t it about time, really? The idea of having power whenever we want it, well, that’s pure 100 percent American privilege, as if we’re entitled to keep the lights on while the planet turns into a lifeless cinder. Remember what our first Fundamental Transformer said in his early days of hectoring his lessers:

    “We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times . . . and then just expect that other countries are going to say, ‘Okay.’”

    Well, I have to admit, I’m not particularly concerned with whether other countries (Nepal? Madagascar? Peru? which one is our moral better, I forget?) will say Okay, good going, nice start when our air conditioners shut off and the garage door doesn’t open and your electric car won’t recharge and the hot water isn’t hot. I am concerned with some old lady in an apartment who dies in a heat wave when the AC goes down, as happens every summer in Our Moral Very-Better France. Odd how all the people who told us we were killing Grandma because we didn’t wear three masks while walking outdoors at a zoo are content to put her on the altar like some Aztec sacrifice to the climate gods, but I digress.

    That's from the dead-trees version of National Review. So for the rest, you'll either have to subscribe or get thee to a decent library.

URLs du Jour

2022-07-09

  • Without further comment… the best of Power Line's Week in Pictures:

    [Biden Blames Pretty Much Everyone]


  • Does Betteridge's Law of Headlines apply? Daniel B. Klein has a question: Is Classical Liberalism Anti-Democratic?. Spoiler: near the top, Klein says "I’m going to say no, but I do think, like you, it’s complicated." Sample:

    The mythologized democracy, Hayek suggested, in the 20th century especially, projects a fantasy of consensus—as in the small band of our ancestors of our Paleolithic past, when there were just 40 of us in a small band. This is in our genes still, and in our instincts. We decided by consensus in the small band.

    Modern collectivist politics plays upon these Paleolithic instincts by projecting the nation as a band. On this fantasy, there is no reason to limit or check the actions of the band as a whole. Its consensus knows what is good for the band and faithfully advances that good.

    If we are the government, by democracy, why would we want to put limits and checks on ourselves when striving to advance our own common interest?

    Tocqueville foresaw the emergence of a quasi-religion of collectivist politics perfumed by democratic mythology. Big collectivist government now fully replaces God as a source of meaning and validation. The nightmare that he warned us of is a continuation of the displacement of God and religion by temporal powers.

    I've recently read a (very dense) book on Hayek's thoughts in this area, and (I think) the author found Hayek way too pessimistic on this score.


  • Will they never learn? Laura Williams looks at the mindset that says: There Ought To Be a Law, or at Least a Regulation.

    The Biden Administration, under the auspices of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), announced plans to force cigarette makers to reduce the amount of nicotine in their products by as much as 90 percent. The FDA also announced Juul, manufacturer of nicotine-based e-cigarettes, would no longer be allowed to sell products in the U.S. Another pending FDA rule would outlaw menthol cigarettes, preferred by 40 percent of smokers.

    In doing so, the Biden Administration, which was elected partly on promises to reform our broken criminal justice system, limit the War on Drugs, and lesson the discriminatory impact of federal policy on minority communities, would criminalize more Americans, open a new theatre in the War on Drugs, and ensure disparate impacts for decades to come.

    The legacy of prohibition in this nation has taught dark, stark lessons about how humans behave. The only ones who don’t seem to learn those lessons are the regulators, who in their unconstrained vision of the malleability of human nature, fancy themselves able to force others to live as they wish. The lessons of prohibition have proven a thousand times over that people, in general, act according to their own preferences, and attempts to shape human behavior from outside lead to foreseen – but often totally foreseeable – outcomes.

    War's first casualty is the truth. Somebody said that.


  • We have met the enemy, and… Eric Boehm notes an historic moment: the FDA Finally Admits It Caused the Baby Formula Shortage.

    More specifically, it's the FDA's unnecessary and protectionist rules that effectively ban foreign-made baby formula from being imported into the United States. On Wednesday, the agency announced plans to tweak those rules so foreign formula manufacturers can permanently import their goods into the U.S., giving American consumers greater choice in the marketplace and ensuring more robust supply chains.

    "The need to diversify and strengthen the U.S. infant formula supply is more important than ever," FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said in a statement. "Ensuring that the youngest and most vulnerable individuals have access to safe and nutritious formula products is a top priority for the FDA."

    That might be true now, but it clearly hasn't been the case in the past. As Reason has detailed throughout the recent crisis, the FDA's priorities have been protecting the domestic formula industry (and the dairy industry, which provides key inputs for baby formula) from foreign competition. As a result, it's nearly impossible to find foreign-made baby formula in the U.S., even though formula manufacturers based in England, the Netherlands, and Germany are some of the biggest suppliers of baby formula to the rest of the world.

    But will the babies grow up speaking German? Wir müssen vorsichtig sein!


  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] More good advice tossed across the pond. David Harsanyi has some: Hey EU, Mind Your Own Business.

    In a 324-155 vote this week, the European Union Parliament passed a resolution condemning the Supreme Court of the United States for overturning Roe v. Wade. This is now the second time the EU Parliament has denounced the United States over the legal decision, claiming it undermines “human rights.”

    Abortion isn’t even tangentially mentioned in the Constitution. But guess what? The European Union’s constitution, with its 448 articles and more than 70,000 words micromanaging the continent’s affairs, doesn’t mention “abortion” anywhere, either. Abortion isn’t a constitutional “right” in the EU. It isn’t a constitutional “right” in any EU member state. There is no pan-European law dictating the issue of abortion. If terminating an unwanted child is a fundamental human right, as so many Europeans now claim, why did they forget to mention it in a constitution that was only ratified in 2004?

    David has a new book out. I assume he expands and generalizes his argument. Link at your right.


  • And what do they want? Michael Shermer has a pretty good, long, article wondering: What is a Woman, Anyway?. He looks at (among other things) the provocative new movie from Daily Wire personality David Warsh that asks that very question:

    In a Borat-like series of conversations and encounters Walsh can’t seem to get a straight answer from anyone, including the University of Tennessee Chair of the Interdisciplinary Program in Women, Gender and Sexuality, Patrick Grzanka, who answered the titular question thusly: “When someone tells you who they are, you should believe them. If a person tells you they are a woman or a man they’re telling you what their gender is.” Unsatisfied with this answer, Walsh presses his subject: “What is a woman?” This exchange is emblematic of postmodernism’s turn to obscurantism:

    Grzanka: “Why do you ask that question?”

    Walsh: “Because I’d really like to know.”

    Grzanka: “What do you think the answer is?”

    Walsh: “I’m asking you, a college professor that studies this subject.”

    Grzanka: “What other answers have you gotten?”

    Clearly frustrated, Walsh explains that others he’s queried are equally obfuscating.

    Grzanka: “The simple answer is a person who identifies as a woman.”

    Walsh: “What are they identifying as?”

    Grzanka: “A woman”

    Walsh: “But what is that?”

    Grzanka: “As a woman.”

    Walsh: “Do you know what a circular definition is?”

    If you're squeamish, you might want to skip over Gabriel Mac's description of transitioning. Had me crossing my legs.

URLs du Jour

2022-07-08

  • That toddlin' town. No flags at half staff for one of these numbers:

    It's not news that some Windy City residents consider one of their normal weekend activities to be "shooting at each other".


  • Another item that may not have made your local news‥ Eric Boehm reports the latest from President Wheezy: Biden Celebrates $90 Billion Bailout of Private Union Pension Plans.

    President Joe Biden jetted off to Cleveland on Wednesday evening to announce the official launch of a $90 billion bailout of union retirement plans—one that's completely paid for with federal borrowing.

    The bailout was approved last year as part of the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion emergency spending bill that was ostensibly meant to combat COVID-19 but included an impressive array of spending that had nothing to do with public health. The bailout will direct funds to more than 200 nearly insolvent multiemployer pension plans, which are established jointly by unions and the private companies that contract with them through collective bargaining agreements.

    "With today's actions, millions of workers will have the dignified retirement they earned and they deserve," Biden told the cheering crowd at a Cleveland high school.

    Millions of union workers, that is. If you're not part of that select club, there's no bailout coming your way—even as a sagging economy eats into private retirement savings, inflation makes every saved dollar worth less, and Social Security looms on the brink of insolvency.

    Don't worry, I'm sure my bailout is coming soon.

    For some reason, I'm reminded of the Frédéric Bastiat quote: "The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else."

    It's just that a few of us are getting to the trough ahead of the rest.


  • Sounds like a book series. Robert E. Wright writes the first entry: The Amtrak Abomination.

    The same policymakers who wanted to shut down the American economy for an indefinite period to save just one person from dying with Covid refuse to shutter an increasingly dangerous and expensive government-supported monopoly, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, better known as Amtrak. Instead of leading with substantive policy improvements, America’s leaders prefer to mislead the nation with weak virtue signals. Until the Federal Reserve gets inflation under control, though, the only real virtue will be increasing economic efficiency with bold reforms, including selling Amtrak to the (second) highest bidder.

    The weekend before the 2022 Independence Day holiday, one Amtrak train in California struck a vehicle, killing three and injuring two others. In Missouri another derailed, killing multiple passengers and injuring many more. Accidents can never be eliminated entirely, but Amtrak’s record is poor relative to other countries, especially given its snailrail speeds. Other economically advanced countries sport trains that travel at hundreds of miles an hour with much better safety records. Trains in Eastern Europe are also safer than Amtrak, even adjusted for passenger miles traveled.

    On a tax dollar basis, Amtrak’s overall performance is abysmal. Passengers pay a pretty penny for their tickets, but those traveling the northeast corridor routes subsidize those traveling America’s vast western expanses. And all Americans subsidize Amtrak through increasing bailouts. Amtrak’s leaders learned, for example, that they could spend $450 million over 11 years to save Acela passengers a little over a minute and a half on the Philly to New York run and not get fired for it. Annual taxpayer subsidies average over a billion dollars since Amtrak’s formation in 1970-71.

    Upcoming volumes: The Homeland Security Horror; The FDA Folly; The IRS Idiocy; The Medicare Mendacity

URLs du Jour

2022-07-07

  • Your discourse is toxic. My discourse is gritty and honest. Townhall juxtaposes in a tweet.

    I'm not a fan of Saul Alinsky, nor do I think it's good to refer to your political opponents as "the enemy". But I couldn't help but think of Rules for Radicals #4: "Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules."


  • Speaking of rules… David Harsanyi takes on one of the progressive whines about "minority rule": It's Not 'Minority Rule,' It's The Point.

    Here is the pollster Nate Silver:

    “Despite the various, very serious threats to American democracy, things would *mostly* be fine if the balance of elected power more closely reflected the popular will (e.g. Senate seats proportional to population, no Electoral College, less gerrymandering).”

    Silver is confusing the inability to coerce others with minoritarianism. It is not a serious threat to American democracy that New Yorkers are unable to dictate Oklahoma’s abortion laws. Nor that Texans can’t compel Rhode Islanders to adopt their gun laws. It’s the point.

    Elites like to mock the proles when they point out that we don’t live in a democracy. But the system Silver believes problematic tempers divisions. It is the core idea of American governance. If the United States is more divided than it ever has been in modern times, as a New York Times reporter recently claimed, we have even less reason to dispense with the mechanisms and institutions that diffuse power and constrain one side of the divide from lording over the other.

    Harsanyi also takes down Max Boot's WaPo assertion that the "Founders never envisioned such an imbalance between power and population" evidenced by the fact that California and Wyoming are both entitled to two senators.

    Boot’s contention only makes sense if a person is ignorant of the founding bargain between states. As many people have already pointed out, the first American census in 1790 found that Virginia, then the most populous state, was home to around 20 percent of the population. Today, California, our largest state, makes up around 12 percent of the nation’s population. No one complained about the disparity of the Senate in 1790 — or, as far as I know, 1890 or 1990, for that matter — because the “imbalance” was literally codified in the founding document (which, incidentally, mentions “democracy” zero times).

    Fun fact: the only bit of the Constitution that can't be amended away is the Article V guarantee that no state can be "deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate."


  • What's worse: (1) they don't know what they're doing; or (2) they do? Peter Suderman has a small reality check: Democrats' Obamacare Subsidies Would Make Inflation Worse.

    Obamacare's headline promise was contained in the title of the legislation that spawned the program: It was the Affordable Care Act, and it promised to make health care, or at least health insurance, more affordable.

    What went mostly unacknowledged by the law's authors and backers was that Obamacare had little if any real mechanisms to bring down the price of health coverage. Instead, it had a system of federally funded subsidies, running about $60 billion annually, which would mask the true price of health insurance by offloading a share of premium costs to taxpayers.

    As it turned out, even this system of subsidies was deemed deficient by supporters of the law, including its namesake, President Barack Obama. This April, Obama commemorated the law's anniversary by warning that, in the absence of a subsidy funding boost provided by the American Rescue Plan (ARP), "health-care subsidies aren't where we want them to be, which means that some working families are still having trouble paying for their coverage." The implicit conclusion was hard to miss: The Affordable Care Act, on its own, had not made coverage more affordable.

    To repeat: the Affordable Care Act did not make care more affordable. However it did make a lot of people more dependent on government, which I assume was the actual goal.


  • Can't we all just get along? The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) has an article outside its domain, but that's OK. Patrick Carroll looks at the latest skirmish: Peterson, Rubin Suspended from Twitter as the Culture War Heats Up. That's Jordan Peterson and Dave Rubin, convicted by the Twitter cops of "deadnaming" Elliott-used-to-be-Ellen Page. Carroll's advice:

    First, we shouldn’t have so much compassion that we cancel and attack everyone who is deemed a perpetrator. For one, that approach will likely backfire, because it’s only a matter of time before we are all labeled perpetrators. What’s more, canceling people is antithetical to a genuine tolerance of diverse viewpoints.

    LGBTQ activists, of all people, should appreciate the value of such tolerance. After all, it was this very tolerance of diversity that allowed them to get as far as they have come. It was free speech—not just as a legal principle, but as a cultural value to be upheld in social and academic platforms—that allowed them to get their ideas into mainstream culture in the first place. It would be incredibly hypocritical for them, having championed free speech as a means of advancing their cause, to suddenly turn their backs on it now that their detractors also have something to say.

    Having said that, just as too much compassion can be a problem, it would also be wrong to completely neglect compassion. Just saying “deadnaming doesn’t matter, I’ll say what I want” is a callous approach that spits in the face of those extending tolerance in your direction.

    Don't go out of your way to offend people with problems, I guess. I don't know how Peterson and Rubin would handle Deirdre McCloskey.


  • Things are more like they are today than they've ever been before. With Spending and Inflation, It's More of the Same.

    The go-to policy for dealing with nearly every modern problem is more government spending. So it was just a matter of time before Democrats tried to revive the failed "Build Back Better" (BBB) program to address today's economic troubles. Of course, if they succeed, the result will be much the same as what we've experienced over the past 18 months: more debt and rising inflation.

    As a reminder, the $2 trillion proposed BBB legislation came on the tail of an oversized $2 trillion third COVID-19 relief bill and a $1 trillion infrastructure bill. It was killed when two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, joined all Republican senators in opposition. They rightfully worried that more spending would inflate our debt and produce inflation. But now, their party is back at it again. In the midst of the largest inflation in four decades, they've been negotiating behind the scenes for weeks in hopes of passing a slimmer BBB.

    As a reminder, the $2 trillion proposed BBB legislation came on the tail of an oversized $2 trillion third COVID-19 relief bill and a $1 trillion infrastructure bill. It was killed when two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, joined all Republican senators in opposition. They rightfully worried that more spending would inflate our debt and produce inflation. But now, their party is back at it again. In the midst of the largest inflation in four decades, they've been negotiating behind the scenes for weeks in hopes of passing a slimmer BBB.

    Well, I guess we're doomed.

From Strength to Strength

Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Note the subtitle, which hints strongly that I shouldn't have been reading this book. Consulting the actuarial table … has anyone written a book with handy recommendations for the last 16% of life?

Nevertheless, I got the book from Portsmouth Public Library. Why? Because I am an Arthur C. Brooks fan. Back in 2014, I attended the "Freedom Summit", a conservative/libertarian dog-and-pony show put on in Manchester NH by Citizens United and Americans for Prosperity. lots of pols spoke, as did The Donald Trump, but Brooks gave the speech I enjoyed most, with a substance/slogan ratio far over the norm for the day. Since then, I've read a couple of his books: The Conservative Heart and Love Your Enemies. (The latter inspired by a conversation Brooks had at that 2014 conclave, not with me. It was very prescient about today's political hatreds.)

No politics in this book, though. Instead, it's written to address a problem that many people encounter midlife: inevitable physical and cognitive decline, and how that decline can impact one's professional and personal life. Brooks observes that (with some scientific backing) that one's early career is marked by "fluid intelligence". It drives creativity and innovation. But that's what starts declining.

Fortunately, there's "crystallized intelligence" which is maintained better with age. (And "crystallized intelligence" sounds better than "petrified intelligence", doesn't it?) This is the ability to "use a stock of knowledge learned in the past". If you're lucky, this looks a lot like wisdom.

Brooks suggests strongly that you plan to transition your life from one to the other ("strength to strength") as smoothly as possible. Good advice on doing that abounds. Approximately none of which had any applicability to me. (I won't bore you with details of my professional career.) Nevertheless, it was a fun read, because Brooks is a wise and punchy writer. And, well, anecdotes like (p. 9):

There are some famous cases of classical musicians who go on and on, performing into old age. In 1945, double bass player Jane Little joined the Atlanta Symphony at the tender age of sixteen. She retired seventy-one years later at the age of eighty-seven. (Well, she didn't exactly retire: she actually died onstage during a concert while performing "There's No Business Like Show Business.")

And you really should pay attention, no matter your age, when Brooks begins a sentence with "As the Dalai Lama once reminded me,…" (p. 58).

Brooks concludes with "Seven Words to Remember":

Use things.
Love people.
Worship the divine.

Sorry, maybe I should have said "Spoiler Alert" there.

The Open Society and Its Complexities

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

The author, Gerald Gaus, died shortly after completing this book. It was nominated for last year's Hayek Book Prize by the Manhattan Institute.

I picked it via Interlibrary Loan, which was unfortunate. If I'd browsed through it off a library shelf, I probably would have quietly put it back. It's very complex and dense, and I had to go into "look at every page" mode for long stretches. There's even math (page 219):

xi = xi-1 + 1 ± (p × yi-1) ± (q × Zi-1)

I don't know how well that will translate on Goodreads. But in any case, that tells you the intended audience for the book: those who can look at that and say "Ah, of course." (I can almost tell what's going on: it's intended to model the evolution of a social policy that has a number of "targets", which are influenced by each other and a couple other independent parameters.)

So what did I understand?

Gaus's goal here is to update the concept of the "Open Society" as described by Friedrich Hayek and Karl Popper. (Hayek usually called it the "Great Society".) In the decades since that framework was promulgated, there have been immense strides in anthropology, evolution (biological and cultural), economics, and game theory. How does (especially) Hayek hold up?

It's a mixed bag. Hayek was pessimistic; he speculated that the ethos of small-tribe hunter-gatherer societies was more or less hard-wired into our brains, and those egalitarian biases could well flummox any effort to establish a classical-liberal order for the long term. Gaus objects that before those small tribes developed, we were more like our closest primate kinfolk: chimps and bonobos. And those species aren't egalitarian at all. So there's every reason to suppose that we aren't hardwired egalitarians.

Gaus goes on to examine how social morality and cooperation can evolve, given the (actually) unchanging bits of human nature, diversity of attitudes, values, and talents, and changing environments and resources. Lots of game theory here. Basically, Gaus winds up agreeing with Hayek's belief that "grand plans" for human society were misguided; instead, society can and should evolve on its own, self-organizing. Probably painfully, but necessarily so. "Governors" at every level of society can help by measured, small-scale fixes. But much remains outside their power. Gaus is pretty optimistic about the long-term prospects for the Open Society.

URLs du Jour

2022-07-06

  • One last Independence Day post. And it's this tweet from the Free Staters:

    Unfortunately, you have to click through to see the template, but trust me, it's worth it.

    I know the Free Staters are a little wacky, and everyone respectable hates them, but still, that's pretty good.


  • The Dude abides. Jeff Maurer takes an unconventional tack in his analysis of a recent SCOTUS decision: A Stoner Question Has Changed the Course of Climate Policy.

    The Supreme Court justices all agree on one thing: Congress sucks. “Congress has become a pathetic little circle jerk in which sad losers publicly crap their pants,” Justice Roberts (for all intents and purposes) wrote in his majority opinion on West Virginia v. EPA. “These feckless donkey turds wouldn’t know good legislation if it kicked them in the taint,” Justice Kagan (basically) wrote in a stinging dissent. In what’s probably the most contentious era of the Court in our lifetime, all nine justices concur that Congress is a rubber room for useless little dorks.

    However, the justices disagree on who, specifically, is metaphorically stealing Congress’ lunch money and throwing their backpack into the girl’s bathroom. The conservatives think it’s the bureaucracy: “EPA claimed to discover unheralded power representing a transformative expansion of its regulatory authority in the vague language of a long-extant, but rarely used, statute,” the Court (actually) wrote. The liberal justices think the Supreme Court is usurping Congress’ power; Justice Kagan (for reals) opined that the Court had “[stripped] the Environmental Protection Agency of the power Congress gave it to respond to ‘the most pressing environmental challenge of our time.’” This chasm in opinion led to starkly different views in the 6-3 ruling that greatly reduced EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases.

    I don't totally agree with Maurer's preferred policy option, but his analysis is (even more) R-rated hilarity and I recommend it.


  • Think of the children! Specifically, think of the crappy books they'll be reading. Kat Rosenfield (a book author herself) looks at the latest trend in publishing: Sensitivity Readers Are the New Literary Gatekeepers.

    Alberto Gullaba Jr. was the type of author that publishers dream of having in their catalogs. A first-generation college grad, a child of working-class immigrants, and the recent recipient of a Master of Fine Arts degree from the prestigious University of California, Irvine, program, Gullaba was a debut novelist with a gift for visceral and vivid prose. His first book, University Thugs, had all the makings of a smash hit. A work of character-driven literary fiction steeped in immersive vernacular, it tells the story of a young black man named Titus who is trying to make his way at an elite university in the wake of a criminal conviction—all while the school is being rocked by racial scandals, not unlike the racial reckoning that consumed so many American institutions in the summer of 2020.

    Gullaba's agent knew he had something special, and he was excited for a big submission push. But on the eve of sending the manuscript out to publishers, the agent suggested Gullaba update his bio to emphasize his racial identity. Publishers, he reasoned, would be excited to support a young black writer fresh on the literary scene.

    There was a problem: Gullaba is Filipino.

    "We had never met in person," he tells me, laughing. "I guess you can't really judge who's black or not based on a name like Alberto, and Gullaba is just ethnically ambiguous enough that it could be from Africa? I don't know."

    What was clear, immediately, was that something had changed. The agent wasn't excited anymore. Actually, he seemed downright nervous, and he started asking for significant changes to the manuscript.

    "The guy's frightened," Gullaba says. "God bless him, that's the reality of that world."

    At first, Gullaba was asked to add an Asian character—east Asian, specifically, perhaps a Pacific Islander. Then it was suggested that Titus' wingman, the biggest secondary character, should also be assigned an Asian identity. And there was one more bizarre twist: Another agency employee, who we'll call Sally, was brought in at the eleventh hour to read the book and provide additional feedback.

    "My agent was like, 'I don't want to do this, it makes me very uncomfortable,'" Gullaba says. "But then he says it."

    Sally, the agent explained, was black.

    And Sally was a so-called "sensitivity reader". Ms. Rosenfield's article goes on to describe the outcome.

    Now, youth fiction has near-always been a minefield for authors. (Please see Robert Heinlein's battles with his publisher of juveniles back in the 1950s.) Still it seems that the field is aiming to produce books that are as processed and predictable as a bag of Cheetos.


  • With a headline like this… I barely need to excerpt the article. Jacob Sullum complains: The FDA Perversely Seeks to Make Both Cigarettes and Harm-Reducing Alternatives Less Appealing: The Agency's Policies Would Boost the Black Market and Smoking-Related Deaths.

    The Food and Drug Administration wants to prevent smoking-related deaths by making cigarettes less appealing. Toward that end, the FDA plans to ban menthol cigarettes and limit nicotine content to "reduce the addictiveness of cigarettes."

    Meanwhile, the FDA seems determined to make vaping products, the most promising harm-reducing alternative to cigarettes, less appealing to smokers. The perverse combination of these two regulatory strategies would undermine public health in the name of promoting it.

    "Undermine public health" is a nice way of saying "kill more people". Thanks, FDA!


Last Modified 2022-07-06 3:51 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2022-07-05

  • Which is worse? Karen Townsend reads Twitter so you don't have to: Bezos slams Biden for "misdirection" and "misunderstanding" of markets in gas price tweet. At issue is an autocratic demand from President Wheezy:

    Ms. Townsend points out what anyone interested in the issue already knows: gas station owners operate on tiny margins and engage in heavy price competition. They very often have convenience stores attached to them to sell high-margin items to stay afloat.

    You know who else knows this?

    In less diplomatic language: either (1) Biden is an idiot, or (2) he thinks you are.


  • Democracy dies in dumbness. The WSJ editorialists also have a takedown of (free link) Bidenomics 101. With the helpful callout: "The President doesn't seem to know anything about markets." Thereby going with option (1) above.

    Business leaders have chalked up President Biden’s attacks on oil companies to political cynicism, but maybe they’re too generous. His tweet over the weekend ordering gas stations to lower prices betrayed a willful ignorance about the private economy.

    It’s embarrassing for the leader of the free world to sound like he’s channeling Hugo Chávez. A Chinese state media flack praised Mr. Biden’s tweet: “Now US President finally realized that capitalism is all about exploitation. He didn’t believe this before.” Or maybe he did, and nobody wanted to believe it.

    Commenting (however) on the Bezos characterization of the Biden tweet as "either straight ahead misdirection or a deep misunderstanding of basic market dynamics”, the editorialists note "They aren't mutually exclusive".

    So, yeah, let me amend the above. It's possible that (1) Biden is an idiot, and (2) he thinks you are.


  • Some things shouldn't be said. Kevin D. Williamson notes that Larry Arnn Is Right about Education Majors.

    A local CBS affiliate in Nashville thinks it has uncovered a scandal: Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, has been exposed — via “hidden-camera video” no less! — saying things in private that Larry Arnn often says in public, in this case that the people who become public-school teachers tend to come from low-performing academic backgrounds. From News 5 Nashville:

    Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Michigan’s ultra-conservative Hillsdale College, also takes aim at diversity efforts in higher education, claiming people in those positions have education degrees because they are “easy” and “you don’t have to know anything.”

    . . .“The teachers are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country.”

    The thing is, Larry Arnn is right about this. Our friends from CBS should check out . . . CBS, which notes a strange outcome: Education majors enter college with the lowest standardized-test scores, but they finish college with the highest grades. Students majoring in math and science enter with relatively high test scores and finish up with relatively low grades. Why? Because education programs are not very academically rigorous. Drop a 3.9 GPA education major into a physics program and chances are that he isn’t going to finish at all. “Dr.” Jill Biden probably would have had a tough timing earning a doctorate in, say, mathematics.

    KDW goes on to note that "ultra-conservative" Hillsdale has been admitting African Americans as students since its founding by abolitionists in 1844, and was the second U.S. college to grant four-year degrees to women.


  • On the McCloskey Watch. In an Independence Day-related essay, Pun Salad's favorite transgender economist writes about how Slavery Enriched White Slave Owners But Robbed America, Not Just African Americans.

    It is scandalous that Thomas Jefferson, the man who penned the immortal declaration of July 4, 1776, that “all men are created equal”(and women, dear!) did not liberate his slaves even at his death, or free even his own slave children by Sally Hemings—who, by the way, was his deceased wife’s half sister. It’s a miserable historical muddle.

    But it is every bit as muddled to believe that American prosperity depended on slavery, as some authors of the 1619 project do when they equate the Southern plantation with capitalism. They are not alone. Slavery and wealth are linked in American lore: In his second inaugural address, on March 4, 1865, another great if flawed president, Abraham Lincoln, declared, “If God wills that [the Civil War] continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, ... as was said 3,000 years ago, so still it must be said, ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’”

    It is a creditable sentiment, nobly expressed by our poet president. Would that he had lived and fulfilled the promise to the freedmen of 40 acres and a mule. Yet Lincoln’s lyricism can mislead. The “piled” plunder of the crime of slavery is dwarfed by the returns of the honest commerce that might have been; Jefferson’s declaration is an economic opportunity sadly missed. Free and equal Black Americans would have generated far more wealth in America than enslaved ones did. Economic history is unequivocal: Jefferson’s slavery wasn’t the basis of America’s prosperity; Jefferson’s liberalism, so beautifully expressed in the document we celebrate today, was.

    McCloskey goes on to rebut the slavery-capitalism slur.


  • And on the LFOD Watch… the Google News Alert rang for an ill-tempered screed in the Daily News of Newburyport (MA) from a guy named Jack Garvey: Live free or freeload. He's pretty put out by our fair state:

    Not to moon you with the butt of an old joke, but I can see New Hampshire from my Plum Island home.

    Note: realtor.com reports the median home listing price on Plum Island is $979.9K.

    Where else? New Hampshire puts all of its sprawling fireworks outlets right on our border, liquor stores, too, so it makes sense that the biggest bang of all, should it happen, be closer to our capital of Boston than to theirs of Concord.

    Evacuation plans? Plum Island’s only road to the mainland is about 2.5 miles that go mostly toward Seabrook, but I guess that’s our problem, not theirs.

    Fireworks sales are worth noting when twirlers, crackers and pops are fresh in our ears. Though all these explosives are illegal in Massachusetts, they are advertised on Boston airwaves, making a mockery of state laws, common sense and any concept of being a “good neighbor.”

    I’ve wondered if another neighbor, Maine, could sue New Hampshire for its tolls on the 19-mile stretch of I-95 between the Mass and Maine borders.

    Given that this is their only realistic connection to all centers of American commerce, the Interstate Commerce Clause may well support a claim that the New Hampshire tolls constitute “de facto piracy.”

    Hoping to prompt such a suit, one Mainiac historian invoked the 1786 Treaty of Tripoli aimed at ending piracy in the Mediterranean when he asked: “Where’s John Adams when we need him?”

    No matter. Adams could still be home with Abigail in Quincy listening to fireworks ads on the radio, and capitalism would still trump the interstate clause and everything else in the Constitution he helped craft.

    Every. Time.

    Wow, Jack really has a bee in his bonnet about all things Granite. And "capitalism". If you're wondering what "capitalism" has to do with Interstate tolls… well, so am I.

    But here's some math about I-95 in NH: the toll is $2.00 cash at the Hampton tollbooth, or $1.40 if you have an E-ZPass. According to Wikipedia, its border-to-border length is 16.131 miles, not 19. The cost per mile is tricky, depends on where you get on and off, but assuming a Mass-to-Maine trip (or vice-versa), it works out to be 12.4 ¢/mile cash, 8.7 ¢/mile E-ZPass.

    In comparison, if you drive up the Maine Turnpike, and don't have an E-ZPass, the York tollbooths will demand $4.00. And beware, if you're getting off 12 miles later in Wells there are no refunds; that works out to be 21 ¢/mile. (Don't do this without an E-ZPass.)

    If you're going all the way to Augusta, the cash total is $8.00, which comes to 7.3 ¢/mile. (E-ZPass: $6.70, 6.1 ¢/mile).

    So, yes, New Hampshire's tolls are (in some cases) slightly pricier than Maine's. Enough to be called "de facto piracy"? Uh, no.

    And (by the way) when it comes to the Most Expensive Toll Roads in America (on a cost per mile basis) neither NH or ME make the list.

    But let's get past the math, and get to the insults:

    Ethics in advertising? I’d call that a contradiction in terms, but in a country where anything goes, there’s no such thing as contradiction.

    New Hampshire’s only other neighbor is Vermont. True, there’s a short Canadian border, but it’s all wilderness, and so New Hampshire doesn’t pose the menace to Quebec that it does to Maine and Mass.

    Luckily for the Green Mountain State, no major commercial centers require its residents to cross the Connecticut River the way that Metro Boston draws people from southern Maine.

    Hence, Vermonters can avoid tolls that have nothing to do with transportation, but everything to do with commerce.

    This is incoherent. I can't make enough sense out of it to even criticize.

    For all of its “Live Free or Die!” sound and fury, New Hampshire prohibits any sale of hard liquor anywhere except for state liquor stores.

    And where are these liquor stores located? The busiest are on the two interstates, close to the two tolls.

    To buy liquor in New Hampshire – “tax free” as they like to entice us here in what they ridicule as “Taxachusetts” – you pay a toll whether north- or southbound.

    And if you’re just on a packy run, they got you coming and going.

    What can I say? Except "We appreciate your business."

    I agree that NH should privatize liquor sales. And I've noted in the past that "tax free" is certainly misleading. When you buy a bottle of rotgut, whether in Maine, Massachusetts, or New Hampshire, some of your cash winds up in state coffers, OK?

    If states had descriptive names a la, say, the Seven Dwarfs, New Hampshire would be Sleazy.

    If it had a flag to represent its chosen role in the American union, it would fly an invoice.

    Its state bird would be a vulture, its mascot a hyena, its flower a parasitic weed, its anthem “Give Me Money!”

    That’s all they want. Even their “first in the nation” primary is a cash cow they milk through three years until they butcher it every fourth.

    And pay no attention to the unwarranted influence on our national elections by one of America’s smallest and least representative states.

    Its two largest cities combined are the size of Akron, the fifth-largest city in Ohio, a state with at least 10 times the farmland of New Hampshire.

    As I sit here looking north, I laugh at the motto on their license plates as they commute to Massachusetts jobs without paying a cent in tolls.

    When I think too much about it, as I just have, I wish the whole state would take the second option.

    But in my better moods, I’d simply change the last word to something honest.

    Whoa, "I wish the whole state would take the second option"? Hate speech, much? Eliminationist rhetoric?

    I'm more amused than disgusted by the NH Primary. Jack's right about the cash cow thing, I suppose, but I never see any of the cash. Sad.

    Summarizing some points I've made before: we do a lousy job of picking the eventual president.

    • In the 2020, Joe Biden did not win. In fact, he came in fifth. Behind Bernie, Mayor Pete, Amy Klobuchar, and Fauxcahontas.
    • The last time the Democrat winner of a contested New Hampshire Primary went on to win the general election was 1976 (Jimmy Carter).
    • Republican primary voters can congratulate themselves on a slightly better record. In the last seriously-contested GOP-side primary in 2016, Trump soundly beat the field, and (as you know) went on to win. (Whether that was a wise choice for GOP voters… well, longtime readers know my opinion there. Probably also short-time readers.)
    • But before that, to find an NH GOP primary winner who went on to become President, you have to go back to 1988 when George H. W. Bush beat Bob Dole.

    But speaking of "parasites", I'm reminded that Massachusetts successfully extracted income taxes from NH residents even when they were working at home during the height of the pandemic. "Give me money!" indeed

URLs du Jour

2022-07-04

[Independence Dude]

  • Not much today. Jim Geraghty explains Why America Still Rocks. Agreed! But I have issues.

    Six years ago, when Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the national anthem, he explained, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

    The overwhelming majority of Americans at all kinds of events stand for the national anthem — game after game, year after year. It is likely that some of those standing believe that America no longer oppresses black people and people of color. Others likely believe there still is some lingering oppression, but that the country is getting closer and closer to equality, personally and legally. Some probably believe that there is equality on paper, but not in practice. And there are probably some people who see the country in the same way Kaepernick does but stand anyway — because that’s the flag of their country, too.

    The point is, few if any of those standing would say that their choice to stand and sing the national anthem means they think the country is perfect, or without serious flaws. They’re standing because America is theirs, too. A refusal to stand and associate yourself with America concedes the flag, the anthem, and the identity of American to the other guys.

    You probably don’t think your parents, siblings, spouse, or children are perfect, but you love them anyway — or, at least I hope you do, and I hope they feel the same way about you.

    Do Americans love America? The latest Gallup polling numbers tell us that American patriotism is slipping:

    The 38 percent of U.S. adults who say they are “extremely proud” to be American is the lowest in Gallup’s trend, which began in 2001. Still, together with the 27 percent who are “very proud,” 65 percent of U.S. adults express pride in the nation. Another 22 percent say they are “moderately proud,” while 9 percent are “only a little” and 4 percent “not at all” proud. . . .

    While the current 38 percent expressing extreme pride is the historical low by four percentage points, the combined 65 percent reading for those who are extremely or very proud was two points lower in 2020 than it is today. The current readings are well below the trend averages of 55% extremely proud and 80 percent extremely or very proud.

    Before 2015, no less than 55 percent of U.S. adults said they were extremely proud. The highest readings followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when patriotism surged in the U.S.

    Can you be proud of your country and simultaneously frustrated, disappointed, or angry with the state of your country as well? I see no contradiction. We have strong disagreements or fights with our family members, too — and that doesn’t mean we don’t love them. Oftentimes our love is one of the factors that inadvertently drives the conflict — we want our parents to go to the doctor to get that lingering health issue checked out, we think our spouses bring their work stress home with them, or our kids drive us crazy when they forget their chores or homework. Frequently, our anger and frustration with someone is driven by feelings like this: “You haven’t don’t that thing I wanted you to do, which I think is in your best interest. If I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t care. But I do care, which is why I’m irritated or angry that you haven’t done it.”

    Whew! Long excerpt!

    Mark me as hopelessly pedantic, but Geraghty really conflates things here.

    • Gallup asked "How proud are you to be an American -- extremely proud, very proud, moderately proud, only a little proud or not at all proud?"
    • Geraghty seemingly equates this to asking "Are you proud of America?" That's not the same thing.
    • He also seemingly equates this to asking "Do you love America?" And that's not the same thing either!

    My major problem is this: If I were asked "Are you proud to be X?" or even "Are you proud of X?" I could only answer "Yes" if I had something to do with X.

    I'm extremely happy to be an American. I am darn lucky to be an American. I don't know what the second-best country is, but it's pretty far behind the USA. I stand for the National Anthem.

    I don't say the Pledge of Allegiance, though. It's creepy, socialist, and fetishizes an object. I've blogged about that here; also see here.

    But in any case: "proud" is the wrong word for me.

    (I'm happy to report that the comment I left to this effect on Geraghty's article has six thumbs-up, a record for me.)


  • Nobody's gonna confuse Canada with "The Land of the Free". A recent Reason "Brickbat" in its entirety:

    The government of Canada has announced it will ban the import and manufacture of most single-use plastic products later this year and ban the sale of such items next year. The ban will cover straws, utensils, and checkout bags. "After that, businesses will begin offering the sustainable solutions Canadians want, whether that's paper straws or reusable bags," said Steven Guilbeault, minister of environment and climate change.

    I probably don't need to point this out to alert readers, but if "the sustainable solutions Canadians want" were an accurate description, then you wouldn't need to ban anything, would you?

    The link goes to a CNBC article, which:

    • notes the USA's relative slo-mo policy: "This month, the Interior Department said it will phase out the sale of single-use plastic products in national parks and other public lands by 2032."
    • also notes the Greenpeace reaction: “The government needs to shift into high gear by expanding the ban list and cutting overall plastic production."

    I'm proud of not being a Canadian.

Starman Jones

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Another book down on the "Reread Heinlein Novels" project. A mere thirteen left to go! Wish me luck. (I think I read this one just once before, probably sixty years ago, out of some library. Remembered quite a bit of it, not everything.)

This is one of Heinlein's juveniles, originally published in 1953. It tells the story of young Max Jones, who has big dreams of interstellar travel, emulating his late uncle, an "astrogator" in charge of delicately setting the course for the big spaceships. But Max is stuck on his family farm in the Ozarks, dealing with his slatternly stepmother and her brand new loutish husband. When things turn physically abusive, Max heads out for the local spaceport on his very long-shot quest. He meets a seeming hobo, Sam, who provides sage advice, and also robs him of his valuable astrogation textbooks.

Max persists, and through a series of unlikely events, winds up on a starship, in one of the lowliest jobs. But in a series of even more unlikely events, his talent is recognized, he and the ship (and a comely maiden) are cast into deadly peril, and… well, it's a great yarn.

The current edition from Baen Books has an intro from Heinlein's biographer, the late William H. Patterson, Jr. He observes that Heinlein's juvenile works are explicitly modeled after the (even older) Horatio Alger stories, of young boys growing up out of hardship, and prevailing by grit and talent. And there's also an Afterword by Michael Z. Williamson, which notes the enduring value of the book. It's not the technical details, which are absurd to modern readers. (For example, the plot hinges on astrogation being a high-stress "priesthood" occupation demanding massive computers, but also detailed and delicate paper computation. Dude, buy a PC.) But it's really a book about growing up, something that never gets old.

I'm glad the book, like all Heinlein's novels, remains in print. But sadly it lacks Clifford Geary's imaginative illustrations I remember from that long-ago library book; instead we get a generic spaceship landed on a barren planetscape on the cover, something that doesn't actually happen in the book. (You can get a taste of the Geary pics here.)

URLs du Jour

2022-07-03

  • Pretty simple Article I stuff. Michael Ramirez says that SCOTUS is Putting a leash on the federal bureaucracy. [SCOTUS leashes the EPA]

    Hoping this becomes a habit.


  • Examples abound. And since Jason Brennan is a university professor, and that university is located in Washington, D. C., he probably has those examples hit him in the face every day:

    I'm kind of a fan. I've I've read some of his books (reported here, here, and here) and he's a graduate of the Universty Near Here.


  • You don't have to be crazy to work here, but it helps. I think I first saw that on a poster fifty or sixty years ago. And it doesn't have that much to do with Freddie deBoer's article: My Brief Brief Against "Mental Illness is Just Capitalism, Man, the System".

    Someday I will do this long-form and with a lot of sources and such, but I’m writing at the moment out of considerable annoyance. In short, I am so sick and tired of being told by leftists that our mental illness problems (my mental illness problem) are the fault of capitalism, or perhaps some such vague and useless thing as “the system.” Sometimes they say this specifically about suicide as well. I would like to ask compassionate people to stop doing this, and I have the following questions and complaints.

    1. Capitalism is fairly young, while mental illness is not. There are all manner of mental disorders with etiologies strikingly similar to those of modern diseases described in texts from antiquity. How would capitalism cause mental illness thousands of years prior to its birth?

    2. There is no simplistic relationship between the generosity of a country’s social safety net and its rates of mental illness and suicide. The Netherlands, a very generous social state and one that has invested a great deal of money and energy into modern psychiatric services, nevertheless suffers from high rates of mental illness. The Nordic social democratic model not only does not prevent suicidality, it is in fact associated with slightly higher than average rates. The USSR, supposedly home to an alternative economic system, had disturbingly high rates of mental illness. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has some of the highest suicide rates in the world. Meanwhile the advantages that more redistributive states might enjoy in mental wellness are hopelessly confounded by their overall status as wealthy and technologically advanced countries. If the problem is capitalism, why do various approaches to the market economy and attempts to ameliorate its ills not produce stable and significant advantages in mental wellness?

    That's just the first two of ten points deBoer uses to rebut this shoddy slur against capitalism.

    As far as I know, deBoer remains a self-admitted Marxist. He has every reason to yield to very human biases to blame capitalism for… well, everything, including mental illness. But he's resisted that, and good for him. But I have to wonder how long he can continue living in the Marxist camp?


  • "The dog ate our meeting notes" would have been a better excuse. Robby Soave has the story: Oregon Health Officials Delayed a Meeting Because 'Urgency Is a White Supremacy Value'.

    The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is a government agency that coordinates medical care and social well-being in the Beaver State. During the pandemic, OHA was responsible for coordinating Oregon's vaccination drive and disseminating information about COVID-19—both vital tasks.

    The agency's office for equity and inclusion, however, prefers not to rush the business of government. In fact, the office's program manager delayed a meeting with partner organizations on the stated grounds that "urgency is a white supremacy value."

    In an email obtained by Reason, Regional Health Equity Coalition Program Manager Danielle Droppers informed the community that a scheduled conversation between OHA officials and relevant members of the public would not take place as planned.

    "Thank you for your interest in attending the community conversation between Regional Health Equity Coalitions (RHECs) and Community Advisory Councils (CACs) to discuss the Community Investment Collaboratives (CICs)," wrote Droppers. "We recognize that urgency is a white supremacy value that can get in the way of more intentional and thoughtful work, and we want to attend to this dynamic. Therefore, we will reach out at a later date to reschedule."

    COVID is killing an average of 5 Oregonians each day, but they're probably all white supremacists, so no biggie.

    Ms. Droppers referenced a website detailing White Supremacy Culture. And it's not just urgency! The site provides a handy illustration you state bureaucrats can tack up on your cubicle wall and consult any time you need an excuse for your lousy job performance:

    [Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture]

    You're welcome.


  • And yet demands to inhibit this hate speech are absent. Kyle Smith points out The Democrats Hate Guns, Not Crime.

    Perhaps we’re nearing a rapprochement with our friends on the left about what is now the No. 1 concern among the key voting group of Latinos. Yes, Democrats twist themselves into knots when the subject is crime, violent crime, or criminals. But the Dems are finally coming around to the idea that there is at least a problem with “gun violence.”

    That’s the spirit. Darn those guns! They should all be locked up and given hefty prison sentences.

    But this is progress. True, I think most Americans understand guns to be built into the equation when it comes to violent crime. People don’t greatly fear being attacked with slingshots or blow darts. Still, if it will make Democrats happy to frame our very disturbing crime problem as “gun violence,” I will go along. Ordinarily, Democrats have as much difficulty saying the word “criminal” as Fonzie had when he tried and failed to admit he was wrong. We’ll be happy to reframe criminals as “people involved with the perpetration of gun violence” if Democrats will agree to put such people in prison for appropriate periods of time. The interest they show in doing this is limited.

    Kyle notes the good old days when Joe Biden boasted of a bill he championed containing “60 new death penalties,” “70 enhanced penalties,” “100,000 cops,” and “125,000 new state prison cells”. Nowadays… well, you're not going to hear that language out of him in 2022.


Last Modified 2022-07-03 9:29 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2022-07-02

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Another reason for you to do the NRplus thing. Charles C. W. Cooke writes Against the Supreme Court’s Appalling Attack on Our Democracy™.

    This morning, six unelected judges on the Supreme Court struck a fatal blow against Our Democracy™. In the case of West Virginia v. E.P.A., the Court rejected the expansive authority of the nimble, responsive, and representative Environmental Protection Agency, and insisted that, under the American system of government, federal laws must be made by the elected lawmakers of the United States Congress. From Heav’n, James Madison must surely have wept.

    OK, one more priceless excerpt:

    Most distressing of all, Roberts steadfastly declined to apply the U.S. Constitution’s crucial “But What If Congress Is Stupid?” clause. “Members of Congress,” Justice Kagan noted in her dissent, “often don’t know enough—and know they don’t know enough—to regulate sensibly on an issue.” And, as we all know, when judges believe that lawmakers are stupid, democracy requires that they hand those lawmakers’ powers over to bureaucrats within the executive branch as soon as possible. By pigheadedly refusing to acquiesce to the EPA’s ambitions, the Supreme Court has made a mockery of its role as a neutral arbiter of the law and rendered itself even more un-democratic than it was when it returned the abortion question to the voters last Friday.


  • Yes it did. George F. Will also looks at the SCOTUS's EPA smackdown and comes to a less sarcastic conclusion: The EPA decision is the biggest one of all, and the court got it right.

    Hysteria is constant today, so hyperbole is, too — as when on June 20 the New York Times’s lead article — top of Page 1, columns five and six — warned readers to be frightened that the court might do what it in fact did Thursday. The Times said a ruling against the EPA could severely limit “the federal government’s authority” to reduce carbon dioxide from power plants. But the court’s Thursday decision did not diminish the government’s authority; it said the primary authority must be explicitly exercised by Congress, which (although progressivism often forgets this) is part of the government. The Times also warned that the EPA case could eviscerate the “federal ability” to address climate change. No, the court has required only that more responsibility be taken by Congress, which is (although progressives often regret this) a federal institution.

    In 1887, Professor Woodrow Wilson of Bryn Mawr College wrote that the complexities of modern life demand government by expert administrators with “large powers and unhampered discretion.” On Thursday, the court served notice to Congress and executive agencies that modern complexities are not a sufficient reason for abandoning the Constitution’s separation of powers, which still governs those who govern us.

    Take that, Woody.


  • And here's yet another executive overreach. Peter Jacobsen lets us know that Student Debt Forgiveness Is Already Happening Because of the Payment "Freeze".

    In March of 2020, Donald Trump paused federal student loan payments and “froze” interest accumulation in an effort to help borrowers through the difficulty of pandemic shutdowns.

    The Oval Office has changed occupants, pandemic shutdowns have ended, but the payment and interest freeze has been extended several times. As Friedman quipped, “there’s nothing so permanent as a temporary government program.”

    When Brad Polumbo and I wrote about temporary pandemic programs (including the student-loan payment freeze) becoming permanent in September, I noticed some criticism in the line of “the programs are still here because the pandemic is still here.”

    Well, for what it’s worth, Fauci now says we’re out of the pandemic phase. Of course, some may simply disagree with Fauci. To some, we may never be.

    In any case, the student loan payment freeze has certainly outlasted the government shutdown. And, although there are many problems in the economy right now, it wouldn't be hard to point to worse economies in the past when student loan payments were still being collected.

    Peter goes on to make the point we've echoed here: student loan "forgiveness" is "already helping the rich at the expense of the poor."


  • It would have been classier to say it in Latin. Ayaan Hirsi Ali demands: Harvard must fall.

    In 1951, William F. Buckley Jr. warned in God and Man at Yale of his alma mater’s inability to prepare its students for the real world. Its subtitle, The Superstitions of “Academic Freedom”, hinted at the already existing tendency for administrators to hire academics who only teach ideas they deem acceptable. Scepticism was banished: to Buckley, political radicals were subverting American society by indoctrinating their students with atheism and collectivism. Yet he remained an “epistemological optimist”, hoping that sense would prevail both in the Ivy League and across the nation.

    More than 70 years later, that sense has manifestly not prevailed. Take the case of Roland Fryer. A hugely gifted and until recently celebrated black professor of economics at Harvard, he was suspended for two years without pay following the most tenuous sexual harassment claims. Many suspect the real reason for his humiliating treatment was his research showing that African Americans are not disproportionately the targets of lethal violence by the police. There were, Fryer wrote, “no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account”.

    I'm not quite sure what to recommend to smart young people coming out of high school. But I'm reminded of this ditty from the Lambda Chi Alpha Songbook:

    Don’t send my boy to Harvard the dying mother said
    Don’t send my boy to Michigan, I’d rather see him dead (see him dead).
    Just Send my boy to Iowa State, it’s better than Cornell,
    But rather than to Iowa U, I’d see my boy …

    That song's (apparently) over a century old. And it stands the test of time.


  • Could be true. Arnold Kling shares his view of "transitioning".

    I have a view of transitioning that I will admit is unlikely to be shared. My interpretation is based primarily on having met one trans individual at a social gathering and subsequently reading his/her autobiography. My view is certainly not his/hers. I will not tell you who it is, other than to say that it is not Deirdre McCloskey.

    I think of transitioning as akin to committing suicide. Both transitioning and suicide tend to cause deep pain in those around you. You are at the point where you don’t mind inflicting that pain, and maybe deep down you want them to feel pain.

    I can imagine people objecting to this analogy between transitioning and suicide. But that is where I come down.

    When we encounter people in extreme emotional distress, we should try to be sympathetic and helpful. That includes people who are in distress over gender issues. But as for trying to drum up support for transitioning, count me out. I would no sooner support someone’s wish to transition that I would support someone’s wish to commit suicide.

    Strong words. I think of McCloskey as an sane person, and she's tempered my views on transgenderism quite a bit. But Arnold makes a lot of sense here.

URLs du Jour

2022-07-01

  • Dr. Piltdown, call your office. Our Eye Candy du Jour was brought to our attention by Jerry Coyne. If you click over, you'll find the caption "Spadefoot toad catching dragonfly". Prof Coyne has some issues with that: (1) that's not a spadefoot toad; (2) that's a chameleon tongue; (3) the dragonfly is also photoshopped in. (The Getty site says the pic is a "digital composite.".)

    Worse (from Prof Coyne's standpoint) is the mostly phony pic was used to illustrate a Guardian article: Do we need a new theory of evolution? As you might guess from his blog's title ("Why Evolution is True"), Professor Coyne didn't think much of it; his criticism is here.

    The picture was removed ("stealth-edited") from the Guardian's online article.

    I've been an evolution skeptic ever since I took a biochemistry class. (While looking at a beautiful diagram of the Krebs cycle in the textbook: "This all just fell together by accident? Suuure it did.") I realize (however) that it's the best non-God explanation available.


  • Hillary tries not to say "uppity". Ann Althouse has commentary on Hillary's recent Clarance Thomas insult: "I went to law school with him. He’s been a person of grievance for as long as I’ve known him. Resentment, grievance, anger."

    Ann's response is to quote from Thomas's dissent in the 2003 SCOTUS case Grutter v. Bollinger, where a 5-4 decision threw a lifeline to race-based admissions preferences, aka "affirmative action". Thomas:

    Frederick Douglass, speaking to a group of abolitionists almost 140 years ago, delivered a message lost on to day's majority:

    "[I]n regard to the colored people, there is always more that is benevolent, I perceive, than just, manifested towards us. What I ask for the negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice. The American people have always been anxious to know what they shall do with us . . . . I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! . . . And if the negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone! . . . [Y]our interference is doing him positive injury." What the Black Man Wants: An Address Delivered in Boston, Massachusetts, on 26 January 1865, reprinted in 4 The Frederick Douglass Papers 59, 68 (J. Blassingame & J. McKivigan eds. 1991) (emphasis in original).

    Like Douglass, I believe blacks can achieve in every avenue of American life without the meddling of university administrators.

    I'm with Fred and Clarence here, despite them airing their greivances.


  • It's not as if it works; it's to make white progressives feel better about themselves. Joel Kotkin writes on The cost of Biden's racialism.

    Joe Biden may have once bragged about his cooperative relations with segregationists, but he still arguably owes more to African-American leadership and voters than any politician in recent history. After all, it was black voters who bequeathed him the two critical victories in South Carolina and Georgia that led to his nomination in 2020. Perhaps that’s why he promised in his inaugural address to focus on the “sting of systemic racism” and fight encroaching “white supremacy.”

    Adding action to rhetoric, Biden has embraced brazenly discriminatory policies that Barack Obama would likely have been too savvy to impose openly: special assistance to prospective black homeowners, race-based support for black farmers and black businesses, and attempts to end inflation by promoting “equity” in the financial sector through intrusive regulation.

    Yet while Biden has placed racialism — making race a decisive factor in public decisions — at the heart of his political programme, in reality minorities may not prove the Castroite fifth column dreamed up by either the far-Right or their leftist doppelgängers. Minorities are more than genetic constructs; they are people with ambitions, families, and budgets. And sadly, Biden’s policies are not making their lives any better.

    Kotkin says the obvious: if Biden really cared about minorities, he'd concentrate on furthering their working-class prosperity and making them less dependent on government.

    But making people less dependent on government is progressive heresy.


  • “All I want is peace. Peace! Peace! A little piece of Poland, a little piece of France.” Charles C. W. Cooke criticizes Biden's latest proposal: Joe Biden Wants a Filibuster Carve-Out for the Democratic Party.

    Per NBC, Joe Biden wants the Senate to abolish the filibuster so that it can preempt abortion law in all 50 states.

    This is a bad idea — for a couple of reasons. First, because there is no such thing as a “carve-out” to the filibuster. Like a turkey, if any part of the filibuster is “carved out,” it will die. Biden and his party keep proposing this idea: a carve-out for voting rights, a carve-out for abortion, a carve out for gun-control . What they mean, of course, is that they want a carve-out for the Democratic Party. But this is never going to happen, because such a system would be unsustainable. If they carve it out, they end it.

    Which brings us to the second problem: That whatever Democrats chose to do with their abolished filibuster would be undone — and possibly inverted — by the Republicans within a few years. Tomorrow, the Democrats abolish the filibuster and pass a bill that “codifies” Roe. And in 2025, the GOP repeals it with 50 votes, and maybe even replaces it with a national ban.

    When Kyrsten Sinema talks about the value of the filibuster as a means by which to avoid radically see-sawing national policy, this is exactly what she means. Joe Biden ought to listen to her more.

    (Okay, it wasn't the greatest movie ever, but here's the headline reference.)


  • But on that same topic… David Harsanyi has further thoughts.

    Joe Biden was in Madrid today attacking American institutions. “The one thing that has been destabilizing is the outrageous behavior of the Supreme Court of the United States,” the president said of the Dobbs ruling, which sent the abortion issue back to the democratic process where it belongs. (Is this the first time in American history that a president has criticized a branch of his government on foreign soil?)

    Biden went on to say that he wants to “codify Roe v. Wade into law,” and “[i]f the filibuster gets in the way … we should provide an exception to the filibuster to deal with the Supreme Court decision.”

    Now, it’s become tedious to point out the shameless, unmitigated hypocrisy of the Democrats on the filibuster. Once upon a time, Biden called the filibuster “one of the pillars of American democracy,” and now he agrees with his former boss that it’s a “relic of the Jim Crow era.” Biden, who knows a bit about Jim Crow, had nothing to say on the matter from 2017-2020 when Democrats deployed the filibuster more than 300 times during the Trump administration — easily a record.

    In 2017, in fact, 30 Democrats signed a letter written by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, defending the filibuster as an imperative tool in maintaining the “deliberative” composure of the legislature. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., argued in 2018 that abolishing the filibuster “would be the end of the Senate.” He was right then. And maybe that’s the point. Now that his party is unable to unilaterally dictate policy, he says the filibuster has a “death grip” on American democracy.

    Nearly all politicians have extremely selective memories and principles that shift with the latest polls, but the Democrats seem to have outdone themselves in recent months on that score.


  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Unless you're a bureaucrat working in an agency where it matters, I bet the answer is "Not very well". David Bernstein (he has a book coming out, link at right) has a clickbait headline: How Well Do You Know America's Racial Classification System?. Three questions, here's the third:

    The Lopez family from Argentina moved to Japan in 1920. In 1980, the whole family, still composed solely of individuals with origins in Argentina, moved to the US. Is the family classified as Hispanic/Latino, Asian American, or both?

    A poser! Bernstein supplies the answer:

    If members of the Lopez family consider themselves to be Hispanic, then they meet the official definition of being of Spanish origin or culture. No matter how many generations a Latin American family lives in Asia, however, they never become "Asian" under federal standards, because they are not descended from the original peoples of Asia. By contrast, if a Filipino family moves to Argentina as soon as they adopt Hispanic culture they become both Asian and Hispanic (assuming they at some point move to the US).

    Bernstein's book is described (at Amazon) as a "call for the separation of race and state, backed by a deep dive into the surreal world of racial classification in America." It's well beyond time for that.