URLs du Jour

2022-09-30

  • We haven't done an xkcd in a while, and this one made me laugh:

    [Wing Lift]

    Mouseover: "Once the air from the top passes below the plane of the wing and catches sight of the spooky skulls, it panics, which is the cause of turbulent vortices."

    If you want to look at the real story, Wikipedia has you covered. Do not handwave about "Bernoulli's Principle", because you'll probably say something incorrect.

    And (above all) if you do handwave about Bernoulli's Principle, don't attribute it to anyone but Daniel; there are a lot of Bernoullis, many of them famous for something or other. Smart family.


  • Alternate headline: Biden Seeks to Expand Citizen Dependence on Government. The Wall Street Journal: Biden Seeks to Expand Free School Meal Programs.

    President Biden pushed to expand free school meals Wednesday as part of what he called a new national strategy to end hunger and increase healthy eating by 2030.

    Of course, "free" here means "paid for by taxpayers". I'm not sure that definition is in the dictionaries yet, but they're supposed to reflect actual usage, so maybe soon.


  • I'm OK with this. Charles C. W. Cooke says it's time to Dismantle the FBI.

    In the New York Times this week, Bret Stephens complained that, in unholy conjunction with the Department of Justice, the FBI had disgraced itself yet again with its public smear of Representative Matt Gaetz. “I don’t like Gaetz’s politics or persona any more than you do,” Stephens told a characteristically bewildered Gail Collins. “But what we seem to have here is a high-profile politician being convicted in the court of public opinion of some of the most heinous behavior imaginable—trafficking a minor for sex—until the Justice Department realizes two years late that its case has fallen apart.”

    Which . . . well, yeah. That’s what the FBI is for. Last week, a whistleblower named Kyle Seraphin told the Washington Times that the FBI had adopted “an entirely ridiculous internal process for determining every single national priority.” One must ask: “ridiculous” from whose perspective? Relative to the FBI’s stated mission, its behavior does indeed look “ridiculous.” Relative to its historical conduct, its behavior seems pretty standard. What the FBI did to Matt Gaetz is precisely what it did to Donald Trump. And what it did to Donald Trump is what it’s been doing since it was founded: namely, spying on, or attempting to discredit, anyone who irritates the powers that be.

    I'd suggest a more moderate course. Appoint an FBI director who will fire the "investigators" that engage in such behavior. Repeat until everyone gets the message.

    More on that from Daniel J. Mitchell, who wonders if there will be Consequences for FBI Misbehavior?

    But why not at least have some sort of adverse consequences for the bureaucrats who lied? Have any of the FBI officials been fired or charged with lying to the court? Has anyone in the U.S. attorney’s office lost their license to practice law?

    The answer almost surely is no. It seems there are never negative consequences when bureaucrats and other public officials misbehave.

    Mitchell discusses the FBI's recent raid of "U.S. Private Vaults" in Beverly Hills, CA. Before you go off incompletely informed, Eugene Volokh notes that a judge has weighed in to deny allegations of FBI misbehavior in that case.

    But I still like CCWC's "disband" solution. While they're at it, they should demolish the FBI's ass-ugly brutalist D. C. headquarters.


  • While we are in the disbanding mood… let's disband the Internal Revenue "Service". The latest addition to the (approximately) 5,239 posts I've made detailing IRS screwups and malfeasance is described by Eric Boehm: IRS Sent $1.1 Billion in Child Welfare Payments to the Wrong People.

    In the first five months of sending expanded child welfare payments to American families, the IRS wasted only about $1.1 billion.

    In other words, this might be the federal government's most efficient pandemic spending effort—despite the huge amount of money sent to an estimated 1.5 million taxpayers who did not qualify for the payments.

    Boehm notes that there have been far greater Covid-related losses of taxpayer money to fraud, waste, and stupidity. So he admits: "Grading on the government curve, however, makes this look almost like a success."


  • Vero responds to her critics. And she requests that they Don't Blame Me for 'Pro-Business' Policies. Blame Government Officials.

    During my many battles fighting against cronyism, I have often been accused of being hard on government while letting businesses off the hook. This accusation is weird. Defending the free market is quite different from a blanket defense of businesses. I am pro-business only insofar as I am pro-market — that is, I'm "pro"-allowing consumers to spend their money as they choose, and "anti"-special privileges given by government to any business.

    As usual, Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman said it best: "You must separate out being 'pro free-enterprise' from being 'pro-business.' ... Almost every businessman is in favor of free enterprise for everybody else, but special privilege and special government protection for himself. As a result, they have been a major force in undermining the free enterprise system."

    Indeed, when you advocate for the free market system, you quickly learn that businesses are all in favor of competition, tax cuts and deregulation only until they aren't — meaning, only until subsidies might benefit them. A good example is their well-known champion, the Chamber of Commerce. On one hand, you can always count on the Chamber to join in fights to reduce the burdens government imposes on its members. However, its leadership also frequently embraces loads of special favors for its members — favors such as export subsidies and targeted subsidies or tax credits.

    Vero doesn't even mention her noble crusade against the Export-Import Bank.


  • LFOD News Alert, Man. The Google alarm rang for this InDepthNH.org story: 2 N.H. Guys Bring Belushi's Farm Cannabis To Just Over The Border in Maine.

    New Hampshire residents Paul Morrissette and Ryan Ward of East Coast Cannabis in Eliot and Lebanon, Maine, have put together a deal with Jim Belushi’s company Belushi’s Farm to have the Blues Brothers brand of cannabis products for sale in their Eliot and Lebanon, Maine stores. Belushi’s Farm products are based in Eagle Point, Oregon.

    In 2017, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu signed HB 640 which decriminalized the possession of three-quarters of an ounce or less of adult-use cannabis from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil violation punishable only by a fine. Morrissette has said, “Most of the license plates that came [to Eliot] in the last week say live free or die on them. That’s what’s going on.”

    Google Maps tells me the East Coast Cannabis location is a mere 8.4 miles away from Pun Salad Manor. And I can report my informal scan of cars in their lot confirm Morrissette's claim. (Please don't ask embarrassing questions like "What were you doing there?" and "Who decided the alphabet was in alphabetical order?")

URLs du Jour

2022-09-29

  • Could someone explain to me why this isn't obviously true? A recent tweet:

    Abby takes on her many responders (as I type, "3.2K replies"), so many I stopped reading. But you might want to check out her response to the person who attempted to explain to her about "blackface menstrual shows".


  • Historical whataboutism. Alan Jacobs claims that comparisons are odorous. Specifically, he's irritated by an Atlantic article with the (HTML) title Don't Fear the Artwork of the Future. Which analogizes today's criticism of AI-generated art to the century-old denials that photography could be considered "art". His reply:

    This is one of the laziest tropes of pseudo-thinking, but also one of the most common. If you want to try it for yourself, follow these steps:

    1. Note that people are afraid of something;
    2. Find something in history that people were unnecessarily afraid of;
    3. Conclude that if people were wrongly afraid of something in the past, then, logically, people who are afraid in the present must also be wrong.

    Indubitable! (Just make sure you don’t notice any situations in the past in which the people who were afraid were right. Nobody says, “Those who worry about appeasing Putin should remember that in the late 1930s a bunch of nervous Nellies worried about appeasing Hitler too.”)

    But (I want to sputter) people have always feared the future. At least, ever since they realized that it might differ significantly from the present.

    And yet, we're still here.

    Shouldn't, at some point, the burden of proof shift to the future-fearers?


  • But that's why they are called the Stupid Party. Jonah Goldberg speculates on an alternate reality: If Only the GOP Had Nominated the RINOs.

    I’m a fan of ironic nicknames: big men named “Tiny,” bald dudes who go by “Curly,” etc. But in politics there’s no nickname more ironic than RINO, short for “Republican in Name Only.”

    Originally it was supposed to describe Republicans who went along with Democrats for political expediency. In the 1990s, when RINO really took off as a conservative epithet, it was usually aimed at either liberal Republicans like Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter or obnoxious Republicans who relished opportunities to break party ranks, also like Arlen Specter.

    Today it basically just means “not MAGA” or “insufficiently Trumpy.”

    And that’s the irony, because the so-called RINOs are pretty much the only politicians who actually care about the Republican Party.

    The hopes of the GOP in retaking the U.S. Senate in November depend entirely on a handful of first-time candidates: celebrity TV doctor Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, former football star Herschel Walker in Georgia, retired general and active crank Donald Bolduc in New Hampshire and, in Arizona, Blake Masters, a former libertarian minion of billionaire Peter Thiel.

    If the GOP wanted an active crank to run against Senator Maggie, they could have nominated me.

    But Jonah's bottom line is that the GOP's Senate chances would have been tremendously better if they'd gone with the "RINO". The Democrats realized this too, when they flooded the pre-primary airwaves with an ad savaging (RINO) Chuck Morse.


  • UC Santa Cruz delenda est. Power Line notices: “Race Science” Comes Back—On the Left. (Did it ever really leave?) They reproduce a job listing for an "Assistant or Associate Professor Critical Race Science and Technology Studies" at the University of California-Santa Cruz. Which contains this gem (boldfaced at Power Line):

    A demonstrated record of research that de-centers Western scientific ways of knowing and challenges extractivist capitalist practices is especially welcome as are commitments to queer and indigenous ecologies, trans-species studies, and race-radical approaches to STEM.

    I'm pretty sure that a student learning "race-radical approaches to STEM" will obtain no marketable skills.

    A red flag for prospective employers: any resume touting a BA in Critical Race and Ethnic Studies from UC Santa Cruz.

    Well, unless you're applying for a faculty position in Critical Race Science and Technology Studies. Might be a plus there.


  • Well, here's some good news. Elizabeth Nolan Brown reports No Evidence for DEA's Claims of 'Rainbow Fentanyl' in Halloween Candy.

    The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is warning that drug cartels are making colorful "rainbow fentanyl" to appeal to kids.

    "Brightly-colored fentanyl is being seized in multiple forms, including pills, powder, and blocks that resembles sidewalk chalk," cautions a DEA press release.

    And yet there is no evidence—none whatsoever—that these pills are being peddled to the playground set.

    "I'm skeptical that [dealers] would try to target children where there is not an existing market," says Sally Satel, an addiction psychiatrist and resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). What's more, young kids are a true loss leader, because without a "significant tolerance for opioids," the chances of overdosing are huge. "Few would survive and come back for more," adds Satel.

    ENB goes into some detail on how opioid sellers market their wares. Interesting!


  • Consumer note: no secrets were actually discovered. Nevertheless a fun article at Ars Technica: We interviewed Linux OS through an AI bot to discover its secrets.

    Millions of people use Linux every day, but we rarely stop to think about how the operating system feels about it. Wouldn't it be nice to know what Linux really thinks about open source, Windows, Macs, and the command line? Until now, this has been impossible. But thanks to a new AI chat tool, we're able to find out.

    Two weeks ago, a website called Character.AI opened a public beta that allows visitors to create a chat bot based on any character they can imagine. You input a few parameters, and the AI does the rest using a large language model similar to GPT-3. So we called forth "The Linux OS" as a bot to ask it a few questions about itself. The results were fun and surprising.

    A slice:

    Ars: In a wrestling cage match between you, Windows, and macOS, who would win?

    Linux: Linux, without a doubt. Most of the computing world runs Linux in one form or another and Linux is free for anyone to download and use, so I would say that Linux stomps on both macOS and Windows.

    Ars: Literally stomps? This is a wrestling match, remember.

    Linux: Of course! The fact that Linux doesn't have a major corporation backing it and that Linux is able to win on all fronts (low price, ease of use, customization) allows it to be a force to be reckoned with and it would easily crush Windows and macOS in this wrestling match.

    I've been a Linux user, in one form or another, for nearly 30 years. Typing on a Linux VM as we speak. About to upload this to a different Linux VM whence you can read it.

    I have to disagree with Linux about its favorite desktop environment. It says it prefers GNOME. Which I tried to like and failed. I've been using and liking Cinnamon for many many years now.


Last Modified 2022-09-29 1:23 PM EST

URLs du Jour

2022-09-28

  • In lieu of a reteeet… I'm featuring this Baseball Crank tweet here.

    I'm reminded of that dialog between Sir Thomas More and William Roper in A Man for All Seasons. Substitute appropriately to get to Dan's observation:

    Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

    More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

    Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

    More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

    Of course, you give your hero all the good lines. They never kick themselves later in the day thinking "What I should have said was…"


  • OK, so now I'm hungry. Kevin D. Williamson exposes The Impossibility of the Ham Sandwich. It's a good brush-up on Comparative Advantage, which everyone needs to know about. But skipping down to the (heh) meat of the article:

    You know about the guys who decided to make a ham sandwich? Some locavore enthusiasts in the Netherlands decided to make a batch of croque-monsieur sandwiches truly from scratch: They raised pigs and made ham, made and aged cheese, grew wheat and milled it into flour, etc. This took more than a year and cost almost $50,000 to produce about 350 sandwiches. A croque-monsieur from La Madeleine is about seven bucks. (It’s $25.57 to have one delivered via Seamless at my current location, estimated delivery time 40 minutes or less.) Other people have run similar experiments, and, illuminating as they are, they understate the case: Those Dutch locavores may have ground the wheat they grew into flour, but they didn’t build the mill, and they didn’t mine the iron and refine it into steel to make the tools they needed to harvest that wheat or butcher those pigs. It takes some infrastructure to create cheese. In truth, without the benefits provided by the division of labor in accord with comparative advantage, a ham sandwich wouldn’t be something that cost fifty grand—it would be something that is impossible to create at any price.

    You can, if you want to drive yourself a little bit nuts, do an infinite recursion on that ham sandwich: The guys who built the flour mill used tools and raw materials produced by others, which were themselves produced with tools and raw materials produced by the earlier work of others, which, in turn, etc.: In a sense, we are all benefitting from the all the accumulated production that has been undertaken since the first H. sap. took a break from barking at the moon to stack one rock on top of another and consider the possibilities.

    One of the great failures of the theorists and defenders of capitalism is their emphasis on the competitive nature of free enterprise. But that competition is only a way of helping us to organize what is in reality a massively cooperative enterprise: an effectively species-wide partnership between people of different nations and cultures, working together around the world and across decades and centuries, to produce . . . a ham sandwich. And fish and coconuts.

    It sounds similar to Zeno's Paradox. And you can refute both at the same time by taking a jaunt to your nearest Subway.


  • What would he have to say to get banned by Twitter? J.D. Tuccille notes that water is still wet, and President Biden Is Lying About Guns. Again..

    Government lies aren't new; political fibs have such deep roots in history that you could open a museum of official mendacity and have enough rotating exhibits to keep things fresh. But now, amidst much hysteria over "misinformation," we see a resident of the White House misrepresent facts in pursuit of restrictions on legal ownership of firearms and ignore corrections. President Biden's claim that bullets fired from AR-15's are impossibly speedy is only the latest example of his continuing lies about guns.

    "There's no justification for a weapon of war. None. The speed of that bullet is five times that that comes out of the muzzle of most weapons. It can penetrate your vests," President Biden huffed last week. "What in God's name do you need an assault weapon for?" he added.

    This wasn't the first time the president insisted on the supposed superpowers of so-called "assault weapons" and especially of AR-15s, which are popular among gun owners.

    "Do you realize the bullet out of an AR-15 travels five times as rapidly as a bullet shot out of any other gun, five times—is lighter—and can pierce Kevlar?" he insisted on August 30 while touting his administration's "Safer America Plan," which includes tighter firearms restrictions.

    Really? Well, no.

    As I type, Politifact has nothing to say about this.


  • Well, here's something else for me to worry about. Jonathan Helton explains How a protectionist shipping law could leave New England in the cold.

    Will New England have enough fuel this winter?

    The region’s six governors have their doubts, and in July they wrote U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to ask for relief from a 1920 shipping law that has limited the region’s supply of fuel, particularly oil and natural gas.

    The governors asked the Biden administration to “explore the conditions under which it might be appropriate to suspend the Jones Act for the delivery of LNG [liquid natural gas] for a portion or all of the winter of 2022-2023.”

    I can't imagine Federal agents showing up with guns in Portsmouth Harbor to enforce the Jones Act. But…


  • It's not just New England. The WSJ editorialists note that those ships that might not arrive in New England may not be coming to a different part of the country either: The Jones Act Strands Hurricane Aid in Puerto Rico.

    Thousands of Americans in Puerto Rico are without power after Hurricane Fiona roared through last week. Idling off the island’s coast is a ship that reportedly carries 300,000 barrels of diesel fuel from Texas. Yet unloading that fuel is illegal without a Jones Act waiver, which the Biden Administration hasn’t granted.

    The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is protectionism at its worst. The law says waterborne cargo between U.S. points must be carried by ships that are primarily built, owned and crewed by Americans. This raises shipping prices, while shifting cargo to trucks, which are less efficient and worse for the environment. The law also explains why wintry Boston imports Russian liquefied natural gas.

    The Jones Act is particularly hard on areas like Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Pedro Pierluisi, the Democratic Governor of Puerto Rico, has asked Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to expedite a waiver. The ship carrying diesel was diverted to Puerto Rico at the request of a wholesaler. Its general manager told CBS that, given the damage wrought by the hurricane, the company asked its supplier in good faith “to see if there was a cargo in the vicinity of the island that could come earlier.”

    I keep waiting for sanity to arrive, but it's making like Godot these days.

URLs du Jour

2022-09-27

  • I have an observation about this Tweet from Ryan Marino:

    And that observation is: you can tell an "Independent Thinker" because:

    1. He specified Halloween candy.
    2. He correctly put an apostrophe in "kid's". (But what if there's more than one kid, IT?)
    3. Four dots to finish off the tweet instead of two.

    Clearly a human being.


  • I'd probably start repaying, but that's me. Bryan Caplan explains Why Student Loan Repayments Will Barely Resume.

    As reasonable folk denounce student loan forgiveness with one voice, it’s easy to forget that the issue may already be… academic. Almost 99% stopped making payments on student loan debt when Covid started. The government has repeatedly delayed the resumption of payments. The latest story is that obligations resume on January 1, 2023. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that this really is absolutely positively definitely the ultimate final last extension. We still face a massive question:

    How many students will actually start repaying their loans again?

    Sure, a few debtors will follow the revised rules to the letter. We saw this during Covid: Some people sharply change their behavior when the rules change because they respect official rules. Many other debtors, however, will try to figure out whether they really have to pay. During Covid, we saw this too: Instead of just following the posted rules, people look around to see whether other people are compliant. If other people aren’t following the rules, why should I?

    The logic is clear: There’s safety in numbers. If hardly anyone else is wearing a mask, the odds you’ll get punished for failing to wear yours is trivial. In a like manner, if hardly anyone else is making their student loan payments, the odds you’ll get punished for failing to make yours is trivial.

    I'd prefer income tax evasion, myself. By the time the IRS noticed an issue with me, I'd have successfully faked my own death and become an RV nomad. Paying for everything in cash. Or maybe pre-1964 dimes and quarters.


  • Well, that's not good. It shouldn't be doing that. Jim Geraghty notes that while Democrats keep screeching about abortion 24x7, The Economy Is Starting to Buckle. After noting some big companies doing some big belt-tightening:

    Last week, President Biden attended a Democratic National Committee event held at National Education Association headquarters — yet another sign of how those two organizations are now so symbiotic that they’re becoming indistinguishable — and took a victory lap about how well the economy is doing:

    We passed the American Rescue Plan, which lifted this nation from economic crisis to economic recovery. And every single Republican voted for it. [Note: Biden meant every single Republican voted against it.] Nearly 10 million more jobs have been created since I’ve been President — the highest number of jobs in that period of time of any President of the United States of America. We have a 3.7 percent unemployment rate, the lowest in 50 — more than 50 years; a record number of new — record number of new small businesses created; and over 668,000 new manufacturing jobs in America.

    The same day, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre offered this remark:

    This is one of the strongest job markets that we have seen on record. And, and so, what we are seeing – and I’ve said this before; you’ve heard this from Brian Deese — is a transition to a more steady and stable growth. And that’s what we’re currently seeing and in the process of moving the economy into.

    That “steady and stable growth” she’s referring to is two consecutive quarters of declining GDP. The White House message is, “You’ve never had it so good.”

    I'm not a fan of the current crop of Republican candidates, but (geez) I sure hope Democrats lose big. If that means a lot of GOP assholes get in, I can live with that. For a while.


  • I was not a "Never Trump" guy, but … Nick Catoggio notes the continuing attempt of the Donald to drive away his remaining sane supporters: Q-ing Up. His appeal to the QAnon lunatics is getting more blatant. Why?

    Here's the least "sinister" possibility:

    He’s trolling.

    We shouldn’t underestimate the willingness of the world’s biggest troll to do something that damages himself and his party purely for the lulz of seeing normies sputter over it. “He’s said that he thinks some of [QAnon’s] memes and images are ‘funny,’” one person close to Trump told Rolling Stone. “He also sometimes mentions that it’s hilarious to make people like you [in the media] so mad when you see him touch the Q sh-t.” But would a former president really do something so cruel and reckless as to promote an honest-to-goodness cult, one with a growing body count, for the simple spiteful pleasure of pwning CNN?

    Well, yes, he would. Undoubtedly.

    The flaw in the theory that Trump is trolling isn’t that he’s too responsible a citizen to egg on bloodthirsty conspiracy theorists, God knows. The flaw is the timing. Trolling doesn’t explain why he would lean harder into QAnon at this moment. The only logical possibility would be that he’s bored. I don’t think he’s bored.

    All Catoggio's other possibilities are worse.


  • Hey! That hurt! space.com tells us what's up:

    NASA's DART mission has successfully slammed into Dimorphos, obliterating the spacecraft and giving the asteroid an almighty whack that scientists hope has altered its orbit around its larger companion and proven that we have the ability to deflect incoming hazardous asteroids.

    Mission over? Not by a long shot! 

    Now that DART has done its job and crashed into its asteroid target, astronomers hope to understand how much the impact deflected Dimorphos by, as well as learning more about Dimorphos' interior structure and composition to give a complete picture of what it takes to move an asteroid.

    Back in my physics days, we called this an "inelastic collision". I assume some instructors have already composed the corresponding homework assignment.

URLs du Jour

2022-09-26

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. That's "Hanlon's Razor" and it's a useful thing to keep in mind while reading The Dirty War over Covid by Ari Schulman. It's still worth drawing useful distinctons between various flavors of Covid "skeptics":

    Covidianism is dead, and we have killed it. Related to the Technium is another very old problem of Western thought: the trouble of separating rational skepticism as deployed in pursuit of Truth and rational skepticism as deployed in pursuit of, well, something else.

    The skeptical type I have targeted here is not the one who believes merely that prolonged school closures were a travesty (which is true), that natural immunity should have counted as equivalent to vaccination (true), that an egalitarian view of the virus meant that too little was done to protect people in nursing homes (true), that with different choices, restrictions could have ended far sooner than they did (true again).

    No, he was the one who gave himself over wholly to Unmasking the Machine. Starting from entirely reasonable frustrations, the skeptical project took its followers to dark places. The unmasker insisted a million of his countrymen would not die and then when they did felt no reckoning. He at one moment cast himself as Churchill waiting to lead us out of our cowering fear of the Blitz (Death is a part of life) and in the next said that actually the Luftwaffe is a hoax (Those death certificates are fake anyway). He feels no reckoning because he has been taken in by a force as totalizing as the Technium’s; he is so given over to it that he too no longer accepts his own agency.

    This skeptic is no aberration. An entire intellectual ecosystem is fueled by his takes. He owns, if not the whole movement of the Right, then certainly its vanguard.

    What is the "Technium", you ask? Schulman's definition is also worth excerpting:

    If you have gained insight from conservative thought, you should have encountered the idea of the Technium, and learned to fear it. The Technium is what arises when we attempt to gain mastery over the unmasterable: the ordinary course of human affairs.

    The roots of this problem are very old (see: Plato), but we often recognize it as a nasty overgrowth of the Enlightenment. The Technium is Darwin’s theories metastasizing into eugenics, enforced by jackbooted agents of the state. The Technium is Mark Zuckerberg, after his dorm-room project proved a disastrous experiment in global brainworming, unveiling the Metaverse. The Technium would have human begetting become a lab process, embryos become material for biomanufacturing, and opponents of all this cast out as anti-science troglodytes.

    Accounts of this phenomenon are found in C. S. Lewis, Martin Heidegger, Karl Polanyi, Leon Kass, Alasdair MacIntyre, Isaiah Berlin, Friedrich Hayek, Wendell Berry, Joseph Weizenbaum, Giorgio Agamben, and many others. It goes by the names “technocracy,” “technopoly,” “technique,” “scientism,” “planning,” “conditioning,” “mastery and possession of nature,” the “Machine,” the “biosecurity state.”

    It's the natural result of meritocracy shorn of wisdom, prudence, and humility. Or, more directly: smart people not knowing what they are stupid about.

    Here's the bad news: Schulman's article is from the latest dead-trees issue of National Review. And I don't think those things ever emerge from behind the paywall. So if you don't subscribe, you might want to go to a library or something.


  • Not feeling the chemistry here. Daniel Nuccio dissects a recent article published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters by ten academics, purporting to address "the debate over free speech, inclusivity, and academic excellence". Nuccio characterizes the article this way: Scientists defend censorship, cancel culture as ‘recalibrating,’ ‘consequences culture’.

    Or, shorter: "academic chemists echo the usual claptrap".

    “The term ‘cancel culture,’” they write, “has lately been twisted into an epithet that is used to discredit progressive policies.” However, they assure, “the practice of creating social distance from controversial or objectionable statements and actions is as old as society itself.”

    Cancellation, they continue, “[is] a way of calling out behavior seen as prejudiced or regressive. Almost all elements of society have adopted the strategy and tactics of ‘call-out culture’ (to use a less loaded term), perhaps best exemplified by the ‘#MeToo’ movement that worked to expose long-ignored misogyny.”

    Conversely, a practice the coauthors would appear to consider far more objectionable is the embrace of unrestrained free speech over more tempered speech that generally supports progressive causes.

    “Rather than advocating in favor of unencumbered free speech, for its own sake and devoid of consequences,” they write, “we advocate for speech that promotes freedom but recognizes that words have consequences.”

    And those "consequences" are that views dissenting from "progressive causes" will not sully your academic journals. You're welcome.


  • Who are you gonna believe? Me, or your own eyes? At Quillette, Bo Winegard argues against Misunderstanding Equality. And it's certainly relevant to the previous item.

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is perhaps the most venerated sentence in American history. And for good reason. The sentiments it expresses are a triumph of Enlightenment philosophy, and they still resonate hundreds of years later. However, a confusion about their meaning and significance has pervaded popular discourse, muddying moral thinking and leading to extravagant and implausible claims about human sameness. In extreme cases, this muddled thinking has motivated calls to suppress science that supposedly threatens “the dignity and rights of all humans.”

    This might seem hyperbolic. It is difficult to believe that a misinterpretation of such a morally uplifting sentence could lead, however circuitously, to the suppression of academic freedom. And certainly, it is true that most people who want to limit academic freedom are not directly motivated by a misreading of the Declaration of Independence. However, they are motivated by a misunderstanding of the fundamental moral value it expresses. They have conflated the laudable ethical claim that all humans deserve dignity, respect, and equal moral consideration with the implausible empirical claim that humans are born with roughly the same characteristics and capabilities. This conflation has led to fear, antipathy, and even censorship of writings that examine human variation on socially valued traits because it has encouraged the erroneous idea that human variation is a threat to moral equality.

    To quote Meg Murray from Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time: "Like and equal are not the same thing at all!" I read that as a young 'un, and it's one of those quotes that stuck with me over many decades.


  • Don't panic! Ronald Bailey looks at The Unscientific Panic Over Solar Geoengineering.

    Last year a team of Harvard scientists had an idea involving a large balloon and a small amount of chalk dust. They devised an experiment in which a weather balloon would release less than 2 kilograms of calcium carbonate about 12 miles above a Swedish Space Corporation facility near the arctic town of Kiruna, or possibly a tiny quantity of sulfate particles, equivalent to the amount released in a single minute by a typical commercial aircraft.

    These plans were greeted with utter panic. Activist groups declared the "risks of catastrophic consequences" were too great, and there were "no acceptable reasons" for allowing the project to go forward. Experimenting with this technology, they claimed, has "the potential for extreme consequences, and stands out as dangerous, unpredictable, and unmanageable." The Swedish government canceled the tests.

    Bailey looks at the arguments provided by the folks who don't want to even think about mitigating climate change. Other than (of course) their way: forced draconian decreases in fossil fuel use and burping cows.

    I think that's the real issue. But the opponents make at least a show of noting the same problem I've mentioned here over the years: if your family occasionally bickers about where to set the thermostat in your house, multiply that bickering by 10 billion or so, and give a lot of the participants dangerous weaponry.


  • Banker claims to not be a scientist, outrage ensues. The WSJ editorialists look at A Gore-Kerry Political Climate Hit.

    When Al Gore, John Kerry and the New York Times gang up on someone, you know a political hit is on. That’s what happened last week to World Bank President David Malpass, for the sin of not turning the international lending institution into an arm of Democratic Party policy on climate change.

    Mr. Gore started the pile-on by claiming that Mr. Malpass is a “climate denier.” For today’s political left, that charge is an undefined, all-purpose smear intended to banish you from polite company. Mr. Kerry last week also repeated his claim that the bank isn’t doing enough to combat climate change, which really means the bank isn’t taking dictation from him.

    Suggested supplementary reading from David Henderson: Axios Badly Misstates Malpass's View on Global Warming. And not just Axios.


Last Modified 2022-09-27 5:58 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2022-09-25

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • My initial take on billionaires: we need more of them. But I could be wrong. And the place to go for my reality check would be Astral Codex Ten. He recently wrote on Billionaires, Surplus, And Replaceability.

    The typical neoliberal defense of self-made billionaires goes: entrepreneurs and other businesspeople create a lot of value. EG an entrepreneur who invents/produces/markets a better car has helped people get where they’re going faster, more safely, with less pollution, etc. People value that some amount, represented by them being willing to spend money on the car. The entrepreneur should get to keep some of that value, both because it’s only fair, and because it incentivizes people to keep creating value in the future.

    How much should they keep? The usual answer is that the surplus gets distributed between the company and the customers. So suppose that this new type of car makes the world $200 billion better off. We could have the company charge exactly the same price as the old car, in which case customers get a better car for free. We could have the company charge enough extra to make a $200 billion profit, in which case customers are no better off than before (they have a bit less money, and a bit better car). Or they could split it down the middle, and customers would end up better off than before and the company would make some money. Which of these distributions happens depends on competition; if there’s no competition, the company will be able to take the whole surplus; if there’s a lot of competition, all the companies will compete to lower prices until they’ve handed most of the surplus to the customers. Then once the company has some portion of the surplus, it divides it among capital and labor in an abstractly similar way, although with lots of extra complications based on whether the labor is unionized, etc.

    This seems to me pretty hard to argue with - if someone creates a surplus, who doesn’t want them getting to keep some large fraction of it as a reward?

    But he goes on from there, making some pretty sound arguments.

    And when you're done with that, ACT goes on to curate a number of thoughtful comments (yes, thoughtful commenters do exist): Highlights From The Comments On Billionaire Replaceability. Here's a good point in response to a guy on my side:

    The strongest force in the universe is leftists’ tendency to spot that some part of business can potentially benefit from something other than pure grit and talent and say “Aha! So all the rightists who say it’s 100% pure merit ability are wrong and therefore it’s 100% pure privilege and luck, zero way ability can ever possibly matter”

    But the second strongest force in the universe is rightists’ willingness to spot that some part of business can potentially benefit from something beyond pure random dumb luck and say “Aha! So all the leftists who say it’s 100% luck are wrong and it must be 100% merit!”

    Come on! It’s obviously a combination of talent and luck! We can debate the relative proportions of each, but it has to be this! And the most successful people must have had both lots of talent and lots of luck, otherwise they wouldn’t have outdone tens of millions of their peers to become the most successful people.

    My guess is that [Amazon founder Jeff] Bezos was something like a one-in-a-million business talent - which still means there are eight thousand other people as talented as him in the world who got less lucky. I could be totally wrong about this, but I think this is a more honest way to think about things than “it’s all luck” or “it’s all talent”.


  • Aiiee! It's alive! The hoariest horror movie cliché: the monster we thought was safely dead dispatched turns out to be back in the sequel. Ryan Bourne and Rachel Chiu note the inevitable: The Dangerous Journalism Competition and Preservation Act Returns.

    Yesterday, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary voted 15–7 to advance the worrying Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA).

    This bill would carve out an antitrust exemption for news media, enabling journalistic groups to band together as “joint negotiation entities” to demand payment from major digital platforms (such as Meta and Google) for links to and previews of their publications. If the joint negotiation entity cannot reach an agreement with the platform, the journalists would be able to force independent arbitration to set the payment level.

    Last month, we explained why this amounted to a government‐sanctioned local newspaper industrial policy. Big tech platforms would be forced to pay to subsidize journalists, with arbitrators compelled to ignore any value that digital platforms granted news outlets for sharing their content.

    Also commenting in the same vein is Mike Masnick at Techdirt: Klobuchar’s Link Tax Is Back… And Somehow Even Worse? Helps Trumpist Grifters Get Free Money & No Moderation From Google.

    So, we’ve talked quite a bit about the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), Senator Amy Klobuchar’s attempt to do Rupert Murdoch’s bidding and force successful internet companies to send cash to media companies for… linking to them. Yes, not only do the news orgs want the traffic from Google, but they also want to get paid for it. This whole scheme was dreamed up by Rupert Murdoch, who after decades of pretending to be about free markets, started demanding the government force internet companies to subsidize him for his own failures to innovate.

    The nature of the JCPA is that it allows news organizations to band together into a cartel to “negotiate” with big internet companies to force them to “pay” for “access” where access really means “linking to us and sending us the traffic we crave, and already use search engine optimization tactics to try to increase.” If the big internet companies don’t agree to pay for this thing that does not require payment (on the internet, linking is and must remain fundamentally free), then the cartel can submit an amount they think they should get paid to an arbitrator. The internet company can submit their own alternative, but the arbitrator has to chose, baseball-style, between one of the two submissions, and can’t pick anything else.

    We dump on antitrust legislation, but this is an idea to explicitly allow collusive behavior that will make consumers worse off. Y'know, the kind of thing that people said antitrust was supposed to prevent.


  • It says we've got some work to do. Once you get used to The Way Things Are, it's difficult to imagine things could be any different. Suppose, reader, that you had to buy your lawn mower from an independent Toro dealership instead of directly from Toro. (Or, if you wanted a John Deere, an independent John Deere dealership, or…)

    Pierre Lemieux takes a look at What Selling Cars Suggests About a Free Society.

    In America, the laws of 27 states generally prohibit car manufacturers to sell their vehicles directly to the public from company-owned stores, forcing them to use independent dealerships. (Selling online is not forbidden, but many customers apparently like a physical place where they can see the thing and obtain more information.) The situation looks better than half a dozen years ago, when all 50 states had come, over the previous 25 years, to forbid all sales in manufacturers’ stores. It is, however, doubtful that the state of public opinion has much improved as opposed to becoming infatuated with electric vehicles (EVs).

    Tesla obtained the privilege of selling cares [sic] through its own stores in a few of the restrictive states, but the resistance of independent dealerships and political orthodoxy are now difficult to crack. What is the political orthodoxy justifying these bans?

    Don Hall, president of the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association, puts it bluntly:

    When you have one person who controls all the marbles, you get marbles when they want to give it to you.

    The new electric vehicle manufacturers, following Tesla's lead, are fighting back against this cronyism.


  • And for some reason the IRS is uninterested. Kimberley A. Strassel takes a look at something pretty shady: Democrats ‘Charity’ Voter-Registration Scheme.

    Senate Democrats plan to pass the Disclose Act, a bill they claim would force “dark money” groups into the light. Never mind the darkness that envelops their own epic voter-registration scam.

    A New York Times article this week confirmed a political reality that Republicans have been slow to publicize: Democrats are openly abusing charities to stack voter rolls in their favor. The Times story was ostensibly about “voter registration” groups worried that donors weren’t giving enough to “democracy-related” programs this midterm cycle. Read closely and you notice the story is entirely about Democrats, confirming a longstanding scheme by which foundations and private donors funnel tax-exempt dollars into “charities” that microtarget and register Democratic voters.

    As 501(c)(3) charities, these folks are not supposed to be (wink, wink) partisan. But they aren't really trying to hide their leanings.


  • Why isn't this stupid Memory Hole working? The Free Beacon reports on the latest effort to shift the language to adopt to a new reality: Planned Parenthood Changes Website To Match Stacey Abrams’s Heartbeat Comments.

    Planned Parenthood quietly made changes to its website to reflect Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’s claim that babies do not have detectable heartbeats at six weeks gestation, the Washington Examiner reported.

    "There is no such thing as a heartbeat at six weeks," Abrams said at an event at the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center in Atlanta on Wednesday. "It is a manufactured sound designed to convince people that men have the right to take control of a woman's body."

    Abrams, who is trailing her opponent Gov. Brian Kemp (R.) by 6.6 points in the polls, was speaking against Georgia’s "heartbeat" bill, which went into effect in July and bans most abortions once a heartbeat is detected, usually around six weeks.

    On Friday, Planned Parenthood changed its website, without any notice, to say that at five to six weeks of pregnancy "a part of the embryo starts to show cardiac activity. It sounds like a heartbeat on an ultrasound, but it's not a fully-formed heart—it's the earliest stage of the heart developing."

    In other news, Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.

Shadows Reel

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

The title is inspired by William Butler Yeats' poem "The Second Coming" (quoted throughout the book). Specifically his vision of:

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

Creepy! And both our series heroes, Joe Pickett and Nate Romanowski, have creepazoids to deal with in this dual-plot entry.

In plot one, Joe is dealing with a charred corpse found on Lorne Trumley's ranch. A brief investigation reveals that it's Bert Kizer, a loner scraping a meager living out of being a decent fishing guide. And also that he's been tortured before being murdered. It turns out that just that morning, Joe's wife Marybeth had caught a strange figure dropping off a package at her town library. And it turns out to be a photo album from a World War II bad guy.

Could these things be connected? Well, sure.

In plot two, Nate is on the trail of a different bad guy, Axel Soledad, who in the previous book had assaulted Nate's wife, scared Nate's daughter, and swiped Nates prized falcons. Soledad is (as Yeats would put it) full of passionate intensity. His plan, to be financed by the sale of Nate's falcons, is to sow chaos and anarchy by manipulating Antifa dimwits (who are rioting anyway) into triggering an unstoppable race war.

It's not the best Box book. It's low on outdoorsiness, Box's strong point in my eyes. The ending seems kind of rushed, and people who read this book without reading the previous entry might be a tad confused.

But I'm all caught up with Box's books now!

Well, until two days from now, when a new one is coming out. A throwaway comment in this book might signal a connection between the Pickett series and Box's other series. We'll (eventually) see.

The Aristocracy of Talent

How Meritocracy Made the Modern World

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

This book was one of the nominees for this year's Hayek Book Prize. My small project to read all the nominated books has been a mixed bag so far (see here, here, here, and here) but this is a pretty good contender. The good folks at the Interlibrary Loan department at the University Near Here wangled a copy from Tunxis Community College in Farmington, Connecticut.

The author, Adrian Wooldridge, is a Brit, and worked for The Economist for a long time. He writes very accessibly for the layman, with quite a bit of wit. One downside of that is the language. I'm pretty sure he expects the reader to know what a "swot" is. (American translation, I think, is "nerd".) And (apparently) in Britain there are "grammar schools" which differ from "public schools". (Grammar schools are what we'd consider to be "prep schools", I think.)

It's a very interesting history of how the concept of meritocracy rise and fell over the centuries, in a lot of different countries and cultures. It had its roots in Plato: that whole philosopher-king thing. But for millennia the default assumption was that your social position was determined by the simple fact of being born to your parents: nobles begat nobles, farmers begat farmers, and you were pretty much stuck in that role for life.

As society complexified, the flaws in that scheme began to show. (To everyone: "The Emperor's New Clothes" had centuries-old roots, after all.) Gradually the liberals and left-wingers of the day started pushing the idea that jobs with power should be held by people of better intellectual talents and abilities. (But not completely. You might have noticed whose funeral just happened.)

Meritocracy has had a rough time of it lately. And not without good reasons; the folks at the tippy-top of the pyramid can get out of touch with The Rest Of Us, start working for their own benefit instead of society at large. Nebraska's Senator Roman Hruska said it best: "[The mediocre] are entitled to a little representation, aren't they, and a little chance?" There are critics of even trying to measure intellectual talent, most notably via the IQ test. Wooldridge is dismissive: "This argument is an exercise in anachronistic sermonizing rather than serious historical understanding, which at its best is an exercise in grasping the intricacies of context rather than projecting our own prejudices backwards."

But anyway, in a neat flip-flop, although old leftists were enthusiastic about meritocracy, modern leftists bemoan it.

Nobody wants a mediocre brain surgeon, though.

The book is not without its flaws. A Herbert Spencer quote, "The superior shall have the good of his superiority; and the inferior the evil of his inferiority", is shorn of context to imply he's referring to those inherent qualities and talents. I think (after looking at the original text) that he's referring to superior/inferior conduct, and arguing against "communistic distribution" of wealth.

Near the end of the book, Woolridge cheers Kamala Harris's ascent to the Vice-Presidency, and says it wouldn't have been possible "without the meritocratic idea." Overlooking the facts that (a) Kamala's widely perceived as lacking in intellect, (b) was picked for veep primarily due to her race and sex, and (c) got her start not through merit, but by becoming the mistress of a married politician.

Charles Murray has had a lot of interesting stuff to say about this. Woolridge only mentions The Bell Curve, and (I think) misinterprets the thrust of that 1994 book. Nothing's said about the work Murray's done since then.

But, overall, a very worthwhile and interesting book.

URLs du Jour

2022-09-24

  • Ladies and gentlemen: We got your second episode of Crime Squad right here:

    It's a federal crime to not watch Crime Squad, so…


  • Like Web 2.0, it kind of sucks. Kevin D. Williamson's debut column at the Dispatch doesn't seem to be paywalled, so check it out: Grift 2.0.

    Writing in Salon under the headline, “I was a right-wing pundit,” Rich Logis confesses: “I was all-in on Donald Trump’s lies, well after Jan. 6.” And: “I was dead wrong about all of it.”

    Welcome to the party, pal.

    I’m not here to sneer at Salon or its contributors, but I am going to guess you’ve never heard of Rich Logis, who seems to have been a “right-wing pundit” more in aspiration than in reality. You know the type: a couple of Federalist bylines, one on FoxNews.com, and, at last count, 64 Twitter followers. The media-activism nexus, left and right, is full of reasonably bright, reasonably articulate people trying to build a career telling people what they want to hear, and Logis seems to be one of those on the right who have moved on to Grift 2.0: “Mea most maxima culpa, baby, now here’s a link to donate to my new organization.” In Logis’ case, that’s a new entity called Listen, Lead, Unite, which consists of a web page with a mission statement, a founder bio, and—the most important bit—a link for donations.

    Speaking as someone with (yup) 21 Twitter followers (as I type)… well, maybe I shouldn't speak.

    But KDW moves on to bigger game, namely Senator Lindsay Graham (2.1 megafollowers).


  • That train has already left the station. Still it's worth pointing out, as Jonathan Rauch does, The Danger of Politicizing Science.

    Nature Human Behaviour, a respected member of the Springer stable, thinks so. “Science has for too long been complicit in perpetuating structural inequalities and discrimination in society,” the editors declare in a recent manifesto. “With this guidance, we take a step towards countering this.”

    The editors assure us that “advancing knowledge and understanding is a fundamental public good.” Okay. They say that research should avoid harming the individuals it studies; not a controversial proposition. But then, in a move that deserves to be very controversial, they broaden their definition of unacceptable harm to include negative social consequences for studied groups.

    Researchers should “minimize as much as possible…risks of harm to the studied groups in the public sphere,” they say (my italics). “Research may—inadvertently—stigmatize individuals or human groups,” they add (again, my italics). “It may be discriminatory, racist, sexist, ableist or homophobic. It may provide justification for undermining the human rights of specific groups, simply because of their social characteristics.”

    The phrases I italicized do a lot of work. A researcher might not have a discriminatory bone in her body, and she might take exquisite care to avoid biasing her research. Her evidence may be solid, her methods sound, and her conclusions actually true. Nonetheless, the editors may reject her article, require revisions, or even retract and repudiate it if they believe it “undermines the dignity or rights of specific groups; assumes that a human group is superior or inferior over [sic] another simply because of a social characteristic; includes hate speech or denigrating images; or promotes privileged, exclusionary perspectives.”

    When Rauch is not dealing directly with politics, he's pretty good. But when he does, he can be pretty bad. Caveat lector.


  • The Senator's New Clothes? Charles C. W. Cooke is the truth-telling kid in the crowd: Elizabeth Warren Is Trump in Professor’s Clothing. (NRPlus, sorry. Subscribe!)

    Elizabeth Warren believes that she is treated differently than are many other American politicians because she is a woman. For once, Warren is correct: Were she a man, people would be far more likely to see her for who she actually is — which, once one gets past her pseudo-academic affect and poll-studied indignation, is Donald Trump in a Harvard professor’s pantsuit.

    Warren is a little more refined than Trump — and, as a result, she is more transparent in her artifice. But the ingredients are the same. She is a bully who seeks office for its imprimatur. She is an egomaniac who responds well to praise. (In 2019, a simple endorsement was sufficient to get her to propose that “black trans and cis women, gender-nonconforming, and nonbinary people are the backbone of our democracy,” which is a sentence that nobody else has ever constructed, or will ever again construct, in English.) And, because she is a narcissist, she is incapable of admitting her mistakes — even when not doing so means adopting intellectual positions that would have made Prospero blush. At root, Warren is a shell, an opportunist, an actor. She was white, then she was Native American, then she was white again. She was a Republican, then she was a Democrat. She was against money in politics, until that money began to follow her, rather than her opponents, and, suddenly, she favored it. Her life story is malleable and Gatsbyesque, with the only consistent narrative being that she, Elizabeth Warren, is the hero of the age.

    Obligatory Babylon Bee story: Harvard To Pay Elizabeth Warren $400,000 To Teach Class On Why College Is So Expensive.


  • Most Americans encounter immigrants regularly, so… Veronique de Rugy notes yet another disconnect: Most Americans Value Immigration. Most Politicians Don't.

    At a time when the American economy could use more people, restrictions on immigration continue to trap a lot of unused talent in low-productivity countries. To unleash it, the United States could simply let these immigrants in and let them work. They'd become a productive part of the system that makes this country so wealthy. But politicians are getting in the way.

    Forget for a moment about the usual fear-based talking points. Ignore the recent use of immigrants as political props. As George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan said on PBS, "if you don't know anything about economics, just learn this: the secret to mass consumption is mass production. Countries that produce a lot of stuff have a high living standard. Countries that produce a small amount of stuff have a low living standard. That is why people want to live in rich countries, because production per person is high in rich countries."

    Unfortunately, the extravagant redistribution of wealth during the COVID-19 years created incentives to stay home instead of work. Today, many U.S. industries are having a hard time finding workers, leaving production lower than it should be. That means fewer goods and services to raise our living standards. It's so bad that unfilled jobs in the manufacturing sector could cost the U.S. economy $1 trillion annually.

    Data point: Vero's from France. Their loss, our gain.


  • But they're so progressive! So it's sad, but unsurprising, to see reports of Antisemitism at University of Vermont. Bobby Miller at the NR Corner:

    The University of Vermont (UVM) is currently experiencing a spate of antisemitic incidents. The students committing these blatant acts of bigotry may have been initially motivated by their sanctimonious opposition to the “occupation” of the Palestinian territories. Irrespective of what is motivating them, this sentiment has clearly entered the realm of outright xenophobia.

    For example, UVM students were recently seen throwing rocks at the Jewish student-life center on campus. When asked to cease their vile behavior, one of the perpetrators asked the person beseeching their goodwill, “Are you Jewish?”

    There’s no way that this can be construed as anything other than explicit antisemitism. Yet the school refuses to acknowledge what’s happening.

    Vermont is also home to "hey, we're not anti-semites" Ben & Jerry's, which last year ended sales of its ice cream in what it called "Occupied Palestinian Territory". Which (currently) is causing a rift with "hey, we're not anti-semites either" parent company Unilever.

URLs du Jour

2022-09-23

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • There must be fifty ways… to betray your first principles, but Adam Thierer stops at six: 6 Ways Conservatives Betray Their First Principles with Online Child Safety Regulations. And here is number…

    1) It’s a rejection of personal responsibility

    Again, I understand all too well how hard parenting can be. But that does not mean we should abdicate our parental responsibilities to the State. Conservatives have spent decades fighting government when it comes to broken schools and the supposed brainwashing many kids get in them. The rallying cry of conservatives has long been: Let us have a greater say in how we raise and educate our children because the State is failing us or betraying our values.

    Thus, when conservatives suggest that the State should be making decisions for us as it pertains to anything the government says is a “child safety” issue, there is some serious cognitive dissonance going on there. In his humorous Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce jokingly defined responsibility as, “A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one’s neighbor. In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it upon a star.” For parental responsibility to actually mean something, it has to be more than a “detachable burden” that we unload upon government.

    Is there anything wrong with the Internet that ham-fisted government regulation can't make much worse?


  • For more on that… here's Jacob Sullum with his usual Very Long Headline: The Government Can't Fix Social Media Moderation and Should Not Try: Democrats and Republicans Both Demand Solutions That Are Inconsistent With the First Amendment.

    Despite their increasingly bitter differences, Democrats and Republicans generally agree that content moderation by social media companies is haphazard at best. But while Democrats tend to think the main problem is too much speech of the wrong sort, Republicans complain that platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are biased against them.

    The government cannot resolve this dispute and should not try. Siding with the critics who complain about online "misinformation" poses an obvious threat to free inquiry and open debate. And while attempting to mandate evenhandedness might seem more consistent with those values, it undermines the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment in a more subtle but equally troubling way.

    Under a Texas law that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit declined to block last week, the leading social media platforms are forbidden to discriminate against users or messages based on "viewpoint." The "censorship" that Texas has banned includes not just outright removal of content and cancellation of accounts but also any steps that make posts less visible, accessible or lucrative.

    That means platforms are obliged to treat all posts equally, no matter how objectionable their content. With narrow exceptions for speech that is not constitutionally protected, Facebook et al. are not allowed to favor tolerance over bigotry, peace over violence, or verifiably true historical or scientific claims over demonstrably false ones.

    There's zero chance of this working out well.


  • Which brings us to this somewhat related item. Karl Bode may, someday, come to realize that this sort of behavior from government is Standard Operating Procedure, but (for now) he's still surprised that There Have Been Decades Of Broadband Policy And Subsidies And We’re Only Just Now Accurately Measuring Their Impact.

    This FCC this week formally announced it had finally started gathering more accurate broadband mapping data from U.S. ISPs after more than a decade of complaints about mapping accuracy.

    “On June 30, the Federal Communications Commission opened the first ever window to collect information from broadband providers in every state and territory about precisely where they provide broadband services,” FCC boss Jessica Rosenworcel stated in a press release.

    “For the first time ever, we have collected extensive location-by-location data on precisely where broadband services are available, and now we are ready to get to work and start developing new and improved broadband maps,” she added.

    Think about that for a moment. Decades of broadband policy and programs, and countless billions in taxpayer subsidies, and we only just started accurately trying to figure out if those efforts actually made a difference. It’s not a landmark the gadget and gossip obsessed tech press will give much attention to, but it matters all the same.

    Unfortunately, Bode's remedy is to get Gigi Sohn confirmed to the FCC. It's difficult to avoid sarcasm here: "Yeah, that'll work."

    Supplementary Gigi reading: The FCC is working just fine without Gigi Sohn; Gigi Sohn, Biden's Pick for FCC Vacancy, Is Still Pushing Pointless 'Net Neutrality' Regulations.


  • Allahpundit is now Nick Catoggio. His column at the Dispatch is titled "Boiling Frogs" (now there's an image) and his inaugural address is: Suckers and Fighters.

    One of the more illuminating footnotes of the Trump years comes from an interview Paul Ryan gave in 2018. Ryan was on his way out of Washington by then, an ember of post-Reagan Republicanism smothered by Trumpism and finally flickering out. He told the New York Times that Trump had privately taken to calling him a “Boy Scout,” a habit that began at their first meeting after the 2016 election. But one day, after Ryan’s House majority had pushed through a number of bills on the president’s agenda, a pleased Trump informed him that he would no longer use the term.

    “I guess he meant it as an insult all along,” Ryan later observed. “I didn’t realize.”

    Boy Scouts are (or should be) Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent. I can see how Trump would have a problem with some of those.


  • Meanwhile, in Pennsyvania… voters have a choice between two flavors of crap sandwich. George F. Will: While Oz campaigns about campaigning, Fetterman sells a synthetic authenticity.

    Distilled to its populist essence, Fetterman’s campaign theme is: Oz’s successes — as cardiothoracic surgeon and a television talk-show host — have made him wealthy, so, unlike me, he is unable to relate to the toiling masses. For Fetterman, being a mayor was his only toiling — his only protracted employment — until, in 2019, he shouldered the burden of being lieutenant governor.

    The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that “for a long stretch lasting well into his 40s,” Fetterman’s “main source of income came from his parents,” including “$54,000 in 2015 alone.” As mayor from his mid-30s until he was 49, he earned $150 a month. In 2013, he paid his sister $1 for a loft she purchased for $70,000. He was mayor of Braddock (population 1,700) near Pittsburgh from 2006 until 2019. The town’s decay (population has declined; one-third of the remaining residents are in poverty) resisted whatever ameliorative talents Fetterman acquired with his degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School.

    “You’d be surprised,” Dolly Parton says, “how much it costs to look this cheap.” Imagine how much thought goes into Fetterman’s feigned thoughtlessness about his appearance. Six feet 8 inches, tattooed arms, shaved head, a goatee. His signature costume is a hoodie and shorts, even in winter, perhaps even at parent-teacher meetings at his children’s private school. His synthetic authenticity signals proletarian envy, a Bernie Sanders acolyte embarrassed by having uncalloused hands.

    In “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Truman Capote’s protagonist, Holly Golightly, is “a phony” but “a real phony” because “she believes all this crap she believes.” Fetterman is skittering away from inconvenient beliefs he has espoused: Releasing one-third of incarcerated Pennsylvanians would not make the state less safe. Fracking is so risky, vast natural gas reserves should remain locked in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale formation. Fetterman does not like big things (corporations, campaign contributions) other than big government. He says “our economy is a mess because of Washington.” Which his party controls. And he thinks the mess-maker insufficiently permeates and regulates Americans’ lives.

    Oz, of course, has his own problems.


  • Harpootling on "The View". Back in 2011, I invented a verb: harpootle. To "harpootle" is "to attack someone in a way that reveals the attacker as foolish, petty, vile, and/or stupid."

    Since then, examples have abounded. But my original inspiration was Dick Harpootlian, South Carolina Democrat who attempted to attack then-governor Nikki Haley being identified as "white" on a 2001 voter registration form.

    Yes, a white Southern Democrat was outraged because he thought that someone with a non-European bloodline was trying to "pass".

    Now, 11 years later, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. And unsurprisingly, the target is again Nikki Haley. Andrew Stiles tells the tale: Liberal Host Sunny Hostin (Real Name Asunción) Smears Nikki Haley (Real Name Nikki) as Racial ‘Chameleon’.

    Asunción "Sunny" Hostin on Tuesday smeared former governor Nikki Haley (R., S.C.) as a racial "chameleon," suggesting the GOP politician changed her name because she was ashamed of her Indian heritage. "What is her real name, again?" the liberal cohost of The View snarked when colleague Alyssa Farah Griffin suggested Haley was a strong presidential contender in 2024.

    Haley, who made history as the first female Asian American governor and the first Indian American to ever serve in a presidential cabinet as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was born Nimarata Nikki Randhawa and changed her surname after marrying Michael Haley in 1996. Hostin, by contrast, is a former commentator on Court TV. She was born Asunción Cummings and married Emmanuel Hostin in 1998. Nevertheless, the liberal journalist persisted in attacking Haley as a traitor to her race. "I think if she leaned into being someone of color, it would be different," Hostin said.

    Like Harpootle, Hostin has a long history of hostility to any person without (yes) a pure European bloodline identifying as a Republican or conservative. She is stunningly stupid. (But she's "leaning into" it.)

URLs du Jour

2022-09-22

  • Alternate title: California Screaming.

    Captain Ego! [Captain Ego]

    Suggested reading from Christian Britschgi at Reason: California Providing Free Money In Attempt To Mitigate Inflation.


  • Nietzsche is just pietzsche to these folks. Stephanie Slade notes the bad news: "National" conservatives haven't mended their wayward ways: The Will to Power Was Front and Center at NatCon III.

    "Wokeism is not a fever that will pass but a cancer that must be eradicated," declared a main-stage speaker at the third National Conservatism Conference ("NatCon III") last week. "In this new reality, the only institution with the power to contend with and conquer the woke-industrial complex is the government of the United States."

    In the task to identify what distinguishes national conservatism from other right-wing varietals, you could do worse than to start with that quote from activist Rachel Bovard. It shows that this burgeoning political faction has at its heart a fundamentally favorable orientation toward federal power and not a mere revivification of national pride. It also makes it clear that the natcons' purpose in acquiring government power is not merely to prevent its misuse by opposing ideologues; it's to use it affirmatively to destroy opposing ideologues.

    The rhetoric is just rhetoric, for now. But we're talking about folks (the left has them too, of course) who view every election as a "Flight 93 election". It's not a giant leap to embrace "whatever means necessary" tactics to "charge the cockpit".


  • Oh, Danny, this isn't Disneyland. Is this Disneyland? This isn't Disneyland, is it? I didn't think so. Mike Masnick (aka: "the sensible Techdirt writer") makes a useful distinction: The Internet Is Not Disneyland; People Should Stop Demanding It Become Disneyland.

    Disneyland can be a fun experience for kids (and potentially a frustrating one for parents), but it’s a very controlled environment in which everything is set up to bend over backwards to be welcoming to children. And that’s great for what it is, but the world would kinda suck if everything was Disneyland. I mean, some countries have tried that, and it’s… not great, especially if you believe in basic freedoms.

    Here’s the thing: Disneyland’s limits are great for a place to visit occasionally. As a vacation. But it’s not the real world. And we shouldn’t be seeking to remake the real world into Disneyland. And I think it’s especially true that most parents wouldn’t want to raise their kids in Disneyland and then send them out into the real world upon turning 18, and assuming they’ll be fully equipped to deal with the real world.

    Yet that’s exactly what some busybody politicians (with support of the media) have been trying to do. They want to pass new laws that effectively demand that the internet act like Disneyland. Everything must be safe for kids. That means much greater surveillance and much less freedom… but “safe for kids.”

    I thought I was quoting someone when I said the Internet was like having God's library card. If I was, then I can't find that source now.

    The problem (or: the "problem") is that God stocks all the books. Even the bad ones.

    [Headline quote based on a classic.]


  • And they don't put the "fun" in "fundamentalism". Joel Kotkin elaborates on a long-running theme: Environmentalism Is a Fundamentalist Religion.

    Today's climate activists resemble nothing so much as a religious movement, with carbon the new devil's spawn. The green movement is increasingly wedded to a kind of carbon fundamentalism that is not only not realistic but will reduce living standards in the West and around the world. And as with other kinds of religious fundamentalism, the climate hysteria is often overwrought and obviously so; a decade ago, the same activists predicted a planetary disaster by 2020 if the U.S. and China did not reduce their emissions by 80 percent—which of course never happened.

    This approach is a losing one that reduces the effectiveness of the green lobby. What's needed to combat climate change is a pragmatic approach based on adapting to real and verifiable dangers. And this starts with environmentalists acknowledging the limits of our ability to curb emissions in the short run.

    My favorite climate solution, artificial photosynthesis, goes unmentioned yet again. [The linked article views it as a "renewable" energy source. Which is fine, but its first-order effect is to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Which would (literally) be cool.]


  • Not a town in New Mexico. Martin Gurri, thinking deeply about the Big Picture at Discourse: Truth and Its Consequences.

    Let me be blunt: Truth, for the human animal, is always partial, temporary and local. We never attain the “whole truth”—eyewitness testimony is notoriously faulty. Rather, truth comes to us in bits and fragments, like a jigsaw puzzle with most pieces missing. As we learn new facts and with time shift our point of view, truth alters its aspect. That process never ends. Finally, truth is dependent of the level of analysis: It appears wholly different through the lens of the atom collider than it does through that of the Webb telescope. We earth-bound creatures can hold no conception of what truth must look like to an immense universal being.

    Because we are symbolic as well as biological animals, we find truth’s imperfections difficult to accept. It goes against logic. A proposition that is partial and is soon to be overthrown feels like an error. Truth—complete accordance with reality—must be one and eternal. This craving for wholeness in human experience eventually inspires a desperate maneuver: Truth is removed from earth to a higher sphere. For Plato, the world of objects was a flitting shadow on a cave wall; reality could be found only in the realm of perfect and unchanging forms. The great world religions, like Christianity, have made a similar move. Truth abides in heaven while doubt torments earthly life. The result is a curious but all-too-human inversion, whereby the attainment of truth now demands an act of faith.

    It's as eye-opening and mind-expanding as you might expect. A drive-by observation: "Media 'fact-checkers' are not concerned with checking facts but with regaining epistemic control."


  • Biden's gonna have trouble putting lipstick on this pig. Eric Boehm notes a really inconvenient (albeit partial, temporary, and local) truth: Expected Interest Rate Hike Will Add $2 Trillion to the Deficit.

    Tomorrow's [as I type, yesterday's] rate hike will add an estimated $2.1 trillion to the federal deficit over the next two years, according to an analysis from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), a nonprofit that advocates for lower deficits. That's $2 trillion that goes on the tab to be repaid even though no one ever benefitted from it. It helped to build no bridges, feed no hungry people, or make any business more profitable.

    Even with low interest rates, the cost to service the size of the national debt was expected to balloon during the next few decades. Other than the cost of entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, the interest costs are the biggest driver of America's long-term deficit. Higher interest rates will compound that problem, as the CRFB has been detailing for months.

    Biden and Congress have made the situation yet worse by continuing to borrow and spend even long after it became obvious that interest rates would have to rise to combat inflation caused in part by all the borrowing and spending. Despite what the White House claims, Biden has approved more than $4.8 trillion in new borrowing to finance the American Rescue Plan, student debt relief, and other initiatives.

    Eric notes that the Pollyannas who thought interest rates could/would be kept low forever were wrong, wrong, wrong.

    They will not be the ones suffering for their errors.

URLs du Jour

2022-09-21

  • Whoa. So Cathy Young tweeted:

    This is the kind of thing you see on Twitter all the time. No big deal. But it drew a response:

    Which caused Cathy to reply:

    Which seemed, well, an odd argument to make. I made a not-at-all snarky tweet:

    And, as noted above: whoa. Look at those likes! This was literally unprecedented for me. (You want to make fun of me? It's easy: after 12 years on Twitter, I've accumulated 21 followers.)

    I should mention that I like Cathy Young. Although her current primary perch is at the Bulwark, she's been a feature of a bunch of publications I read, like Reason. I didn't tweet out of hostility.

    But I guess I learned two things about getting Twitter likes:

    1. Be quick. In this case: 6 minutes. Otherwise someone else is gonna make your completely obvious point first.
    2. Be brief.
    3. No insults. (Some of the people in the thread… sigh.)
    4. Most important: reply to someone who has a lot of followers (Cathy has 67.6K of 'em) and (apparently) draws a lot of flak from them.


  • This is Joe's brain. This is Joe's brain on "replay". People are starting to notice some recurring themes. President Biden in April of this year, as quoted in this C-Span tweet:

    "This ain't you [sic] father's Republican Party. Not a joke, all you gotta do is look what's being played this morning about the tape that was released. Anyway, but all kidding aside, this is a MAGA party now...These guys are a different breed of cat."

    President Biden just a few days ago:

    "This is not your father’s Republican Party. This is a different breed of cat we’re dealing with."

    President Biden ten years ago, as reported by ABC News.

    PORTSMOUTH, Ohio - Vice President Joe Biden often proclaims how different the Republican Party is from generations ago, but in Portsmouth, Ohio, today, he had a new way to describe them - a "different breed of cat."

    "They're not bad guys. It's just a different, as my brother would say, different breed of cat," Biden said at Portsmouth High School.

    In nearly every speech, Biden cites the transformation of the GOP with Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan now at the helm of the party, telling audiences "This is not your father's Republican Party."

    But as it turns out, the Huffington Post noticed this a couple years ago:

    “This is not your father’s Republican Party,” Biden said campaigning for a Senate candidate in 2018. “They are not who we are. They are not who America is.” Not with their “phony populism” or “fake nationalism.”

    “This is not your father’s Republican Party,” he said in 2011. “This is a different breed of cat.”

    “Today’s Republican Party is not your father’s Republican Party,” Biden said in 2010. “It’s the party of the tea party. … I’m not questioning their integrity. I’m questioning their judgment.”

    “I don’t get it,” Biden said during the close of the 2008 election with Sarah Palin his GOP opponent. “This is not your father’s Republican Party. This is a different deal. This is a different outfit.”

    “This is not your father’s Republican Party,” Biden said in 2006, his first recorded utterance. Republicans are “bright, patriotic people,” he added, who, sadly, “want to radically change the social structure that has nurtured a thriving middle class.”

    I know this isn't classy at all, but… just sayin'.

URLs du Jour

2022-09-20

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Also: why I'm sending money to The Dispatch. Even occasional readers may have noticed that I'm a Kevin D. Williamson fanboy. He's recently pulled up his stakes from National Review, and decamped for … well, let him tell you about it in an unpaywalled article: Why I’m at The Dispatch.

    Some of you may know me from National Review, where I spent 15 years, or from the Atlantic, where I spent three days, or from my earlier newspaper work, or from one of my books. I’ve done a lot of different things, but the thing I’ve always liked best is long-form reported pieces, going to places where interesting things are happening and trying to understand them and explain them. The idea is to make you say, “Huh, interesting, I didn’t really know anything about that.” In most cases, I won’t have known very much about that two weeks ago, either—whatever that is—which is fun. Someone once described journalists as “people who have the bad taste to learn in public.” And that’s what I’m here at the Dispatch to do, mostly.

    I’m not going to pretend that I don’t enjoy delivering verbal beatdowns to sundry miscreants defiling our public life and institutions—or that readers haven’t enjoyed those, too, or that I’m not good at that—but that isn’t what I’m here to do. That’s the directive from Dispatch On High Such As It Is: extra reporting, hold the hot takes.

    I assume that most of his Dispatch content will be paywalled. That won't stop me from plugging and excerpting it here. I recommend you cough up for a subscription. (They have an enticing promo offer right now.) Can't afford it? As KDW has advised in the past: Get a job, hippie.


  • A tale (not quite) as old as time. Kat Rosenfield writes at Unherd on The American media's racism fantasy. The latest datapoint on that ongoing story being…

    It was the kind of correction you love to see. The story that originally broke in the final days of August, about a young black athlete being racially heckled in front of a crowd of thousands at Utah’s Brigham Young University, was not just exaggerated but completely false. The n-word was not shouted, let alone repeatedly, at Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson when she went up to serve. A crowd of more than 5,000 people did not stand idly by during an act of malignant racism. The United States is not, apparently, a socially backwards hellscape where people openly scream slurs at packed sporting events without compunction or shame.

    Unfortunately, it’s a correction that many people are probably never going to see — or if they do, they won’t believe it.

    Ms. Rosenfield links to an (uncorrected, as I type) USA Today column from Mike Freeman from a couple weeks back: "Right-wing conspiracy theory involving Duke volleyball player is absurd".

    Mike, conspiracy theories are absurd. At least that's the way to bet.

    You know what's not absurd? Skepticism. Which is a stance you should have adopted.

    Let's go back to Ms. Rosenfield's bottom line, which should go on a Post-It above Mike Freeman's workstation, and that of every other "journalist" who bought into this fantasy:

    Needless to say, it is not good for a society to exist in a state of such constant catastrophising vigilance for signs of racial resentment. Amid our obsessive fear of fake news, this is a particularly insidious sort of misinformation; it is the reason why, for instance, liberal Americans grossly overestimate the number of unarmed black men killed every year by police. The actual number in 2019 was somewhere between 10 and 30, but fully 53% of surveyed liberals assumed it was over 1,000, while 22% estimated the number at 10,000 or more. It is also why, even as Americans across the board report feeling good about diversity and warmth for their black countrymen, we nevertheless believe that other people’s racism is bad and getting worse.

    But the worst harm is something more basic: it is bad for black Americans to be unreasonably terrified that they’ll be hate-crimed every time they leave the house. It is wrong to instil fear and pessimism and panic for the sake of clicks. And telling people that many of their fellow Americans secretly hate them and wish them harm, when this is not in fact the case, is morally reprehensible.

    Yeah. Let me also mention that Ms. Rosenfield's latest book is really good.


  • Meet the New Scientist, same as the Old Scientist. Jerry Coyne notes a recent effort from a "science" magazine to boost illiberalism: New Scientist calls for curbs on “free speech” in America. It's from Annalee Newitz, American journalist and fiction writer, and here's her article Coyne is rebutting: Twitter and the dangers of the US myth of free speech.

    Myth? Oh well. 'Twas nice while it lasted.

    Newitz's article is free-after-registration, or you can just check out the long excerpts Coyne provides. Here's one:

    It turns out that information overload is just as toxic to democracy as censorship is. We need to chuck out the US myth that bad speech can be “cured” with more speech. Without moderation, ground rules for debate and thoughtful regulation in our digital public squares, it is impossible for us to reach agreement on anything.

    There is a vast and pleasant country between total censorship and total information chaos, and that is where I hope to live one day. I’ll save you a seat.

    Coyne's response:

    So I ask this obvious question to Ms. Newitz:

    “Who, do you propose, should censor the speech of “anti-democratic politicians,” trolls, promoters of offense and hate, confusing messages (presumably false information about Covid and the like), and others. Do you nominate yourself? Or would you prefer a Department of Censorship.  And how will you silence the likes of Trump?”

    I’m looking forward to Newitz, in a future column, describing how she would arrange things to turn America into the “vast and pleasant country” she craves.  How, exactly, will she arrange the suppression of speech that she finds cruel, vicious, chaotic, and trollish?

    Free speech isn’t a myth, but if censorious folk like Newitz get their way, it will become one.

    But if you'd like to check out Annalee's tale of "time travelers fighting for reproductive rights across thousands of years of history"…

    Hey! Will Wheaton liked it!

    I'm pretty sure we won't see her novel of time travelers fighting for free speech rights across thousands of years of history anytime soon.


  • A simple question. And it's posed by the WSJ editorialists to the Folks in Charge: Is the Pandemic ‘Over,’ or Not?.

    President Biden finally dared to say it on Sunday, declaring in an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” that the “pandemic is over.” Various public-health eminences are saying he’s wrong, but his comments recognize the reality of the disease at this stage and the public mood. The trouble is that his Administration still hasn’t lifted its official finding of a Covid public-health emergency.

    Eric Topol, the Scripps Research Translational Institute director who is one of America’s leading Covid scolds, tweeted “Wish this was true. What’s over is @POTUS’s and our government’s will to get ahead of it, with magical thinking on the new bivalent boosters. Ignores #LongCovid, inevitability of new variants, and our current incapability for blocking infections and transmission.”

    I detect a whiff of that old Blazing Saddles quote: "We have to protect our phoney baloney jobs here, gentlemen!"

    And, yes, further down, the WSJ notes: "The reason is almost certainly money." And also power. And also (specifically) the power to give away taxpayer money.


  • And for more details on that… Peter Suderman takes Biden pandemic-over pronouncement literally, but not seriously: Biden Inadvertently Declares His Student Loan Forgiveness Program Illegal.

    If the pandemic is over, then there is no ongoing national emergency, which means that the already shaky legal ground on which the Biden administration based its action has now collapsed entirely.

    What's more, the administration had previously acknowledged that it lacked the legal standing to enact policy based on a pandemic emergency.

    In a post flagging the legal implications of Biden's inconsistency, National Review's Charles Cooke notes that "in May, the Biden administration (correctly) reported that it was obliged to end the use of Title 42 of the 1944 Public Health Services Act at the border because the Covid-19 emergency had passed." The administration, in other words, had already concluded that the pandemic was no longer an emergency that justified extraordinary action months prior to the student loan forgiveness announcement. But that, of course, was a policy the Biden administration wanted to end. For legal purposes, the Biden administration's position was that the pandemic was over when it needed to be over, but ongoing when it needed to be ongoing.

    Suderman concludes that Biden "cannot even be bothered to keep his shoddy story straight." I'd add: He likely lacks the mental capacity to even notice that his shoddy story isn't straight. Also: nobody outside of us Reason-reading cranks will call him on it.


  • We're not walking anything back, but you shouldn't pay attention to anything the senile old fool says. Jimmy Quinn at National Review notes another Orwellian moment. Senior White House Official: Biden’s Taiwan Comments Were Not Walked Back.

    During an interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes, Biden said that the U.S. would send American service members to defend Taiwan “if in fact there was an unprecedented attack” by China.

    White House officials told the television program, however, that the president’s comments did not represent a change in U.S. policy, and that there is no official commitment to mount a defense of Taiwan. White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell then denied that this contradicts what the president said during the interview last night.

    And then he said: "Who are you gonna believe? Me, or your own ears?"

    To point out something obvious: having the president babble incoherently about foreign policy and America's response to naked aggression is kind of dangerous. Just ask Ukraine.

    [And you'll want to check out the Quote Investigator for the Marxist take on our current situation.]

URLs du Jour

2022-09-19

  • Rating about a 7.5 on the Snarkometer. My tweet in response to my ex-CongressCritter, but still full-time toothache, Carol Shea-Porter:

    Effective deterrence would have been far less expensive, in both monetary and human costs. Let's not forget "masterful" Joe's "minor incursion" babble, that even NPR realized needed cleaning up. And, although I don't agree with Ted Galen Carpenter's usual "blame America first" viewpoint, his analysis at Cato (from January of this year) is damning enough:

    However, there has been a noticeable change in the language that Biden administration officials use when talking about the U.S. commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty or the likely U.S. response if Russia uses military force against its neighbor. That change created a new wave of mixed messages. In his two‐hour video conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on December 7, Biden spoke of “harsh consequences” if an invasion took place. However, he only warned of additional economic sanctions and vaguely of “other measures.” Tellingly, he did not caution Putin that U.S. forces would take steps to defend Ukraine.

    I don't claim to know anything about foreign policy or defense. (Other than to observe that the Smart People In Charge keep getting things wrong.)


  • Anonymous sources, what would we do without 'em? The Washington Times reports: Biden accused of pressuring FBI to fabricate 'extremist' and 'White supremacist' cases.

    Rank-and-file FBI agents are accusing the Biden administration of exaggerating the threat of White supremacists and pressuring agents to cook up domestic terrorist cases involving racist extremists. 

    Current and former FBI agents told The Washington Times that the perceived White supremacist threat is overblown by the administration. They said top bureau officials are pressuring FBI agents to create domestic terrorist cases and tag people as White supremacists to meet internal metrics.

    “The demand for White supremacy” coming from FBI headquarters “vastly outstrips the supply of White supremacy,” said one agent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We have more people assigned to investigate White supremacists than we can actually find.”

    Now (of course) the "rank-and-file FBI agents" are unnamed. As are the "top bureau officials" accused of demanding cases be made against those white supremacists. Take it with a big-ass crystal of sodium chloride.

    Still, it sounds pretty similar to the IRS's aggressive scrutiny of conservative 501(c)(3) groups under the Obama Administration. I would imagine FBI higher-ups are reviewing technigues on how to unconvincingly claim emails were lost and how to selectively invoke the Fifth Amendment in front of Congressional investigators.


  • A sordid story. Jeff Jacoby looks at the latest Ken Burns documentary on PBS and it's pretty grim:

    ON JAN. 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was sworn in as the chancellor of Germany. Over the next 100 days, American newspapers published more than 3,000 thousand [sic] stories about the eruption of antisemitic attacks whipped up by the new regime.

    "Bands of Nazis throughout Germany carried out wholesale raids calculated to intimidate the opposition, particularly the Jews," reported Edmond Taylor of the Chicago Tribune. "Men and women were insulted, slapped, punched in the face, hit over the head with blackjacks, dragged from their homes in night clothes. Never have I seen law-abiding citizens living in such terror."

    Taylor's story is quoted early in "The US and the Holocaust," a six-hour documentary by Ken Burns that premieres tonight on PBS and will air in three parts this week. It is cited to make the point that for Americans who cared to know what was happening to the Jews under the new German government, the information was readily available. News accounts like Taylor's fueled widespread protests. On March 27, more than 20,000 New Yorkers packed Madison Square Garden, with 35,000 more outside, to condemn the Nazis' behavior. Similar rallies were held in scores of cities across the country.

    Pressure to suppress both the news coverage and the protests was not long in coming. Some of that pressure came from Germany, where Nazi officials denied that they were targeting Jews and claimed that the negative stories were "Jewish lies." But efforts to downplay the truth, the new documentary makes clear, also came from the US government.

    I (probably) won't be watching, although I (probably) should. Jacoby notes the Burns blind spot:

    The one serious weakness in Burns's documentary is how hard it tries to justify FDR's inaction. Repeatedly viewers are told that the president could not get out in front of public opinion, which was unwilling to open the doors to refugees. But Roosevelt, despite his vast popular following, made no effort to influence that public opinion.

    Writing at the New Yorker, James McAuley critiques the other Roosevelt, Eleanor's, introduction to an edition of The Diary of Anne Frank:

    The destruction of the European Jews, in Eleanor Roosevelt’s telling, was not really about the Jews: it was a parable for right and wrong, a “teachable moment” about perseverance in the face of adversity—could there be anything more hopelessly and terminally American than that? As Roosevelt wrote, Anne’s diary was among “the wisest and most moving commentaries on war and its impact on human beings that I have ever read. . . . Despite the horror and humiliation of their daily lives, these people never gave up.” Anne, she concluded, “tells us much about ourselves and our own children.” Not once did Eleanor Roosevelt use the word “Jew”; the story of “these people” was not the point. By then, the Jewish catastrophe was everyone’s to claim, and the “lessons” of the Holocaust were already in the process of becoming a strangely American form of national self-help.

    For Eleanor, Anne Frank's diary was simply teaching us that "war is bad".


  • My TV set is in danger. Because I swear I'm gonna start throwing heavy objects at it when political ads come on. Not a single one shows a glimmer of intelligence or wit. And there are still (as I type) seven more weeks of them to look forward to.

    And of course there are the outright lies. Michael Graham points out a subset of them: Democrats, Abortion, and the 'Big Lie'.

    When New Hampshire Public Radio ran a story on Thursday reporting GOP U.S. Senate candidate Gen. Don Bolduc’s sudden reversal on the 2020 election, its headline read, “Bolduc Abandons False Claims of Stolen Election, Days After GOP Senate Primary Win.”

    “False claims” is strong language for journalists writing a news story. At WMUR, news reports on Republicans questioning the 2020 results used the phrase “unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud.” At The Concord Monitor and Associated Press, their news coverage — not opinion — uses the word “lies” to describe comments by some GOP politicians regarding 2020.

    So, how will those news outlets cover the claims being made by Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan and Rep. Chris Pappas about their opponents’ position on abortion?

    Since (at least) the first debates of the GOP primary cycle, hosted by NHJournal, both [Don Bolduc] and First District Republican nominee Karoline Leavitt have repeatedly said they support states making abortion laws for themselves and oppose a national abortion law.

    And yet Hassan and Pappas are both spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads claiming the opposite.

    As I've observed before: these guys can't talk about how swimmingly the economy is going. Immigration is another unmentionable. They can't really say the country's being run by a competent president. So… abortion, abortion, abortion.

Live and Let Die

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

By coincidence, I read this short book concurrently with the (very long) novel Gone With the Wind. My copy of Live and Let Die has (according to Amazon's "Look Inside the Book" function) three occurrences of that N-word, including the original title of Chapter Five. Both books make heavy use of their black characters' dialect. ("Don' ack mad at me, honey. Ah was fixin tuh treat yuh tonight. Take yuh tuh Smalls Par'dise, mebbe. See dem high-yallers shakin' 'n truckin,")

Yeah. That sort of thing would not fly today, I'm pretty sure. Live and Let Die is from 1954, GWtW from 1936. Times change. That said:

Bond is tasked with tracking down Communist agent (and master criminal) "Mr. Big", who's financing Soviet spying activities in America with gold smuggled in from the Caribbean. Mr. Big is big in Harlem, and he keeps his criminal empire in line via voodoo and the extra-sensory perceptive powers of "Solitaire", a beautiful maiden Mr. Big keeps as his slave.

Bond teams up with CIA agent Felix Leiter to investigate. This works out not at all well for Felix. (The book's details on that were repurposed for a different Bond movie.) Bond survives a series of encounters with Big and his gang, but it's a near thing. (It doesn't help that Big really seems to have Bond outsmarted and outgunned nearly all the way through the book.) There is a slam-bang final encounter. Which, spoiler alert, Bond survives.

URLs du Jour

2022-09-18

  • George, the Memory Hole doesn't seem to be working that well. Not as long as people can take screenshots, as demonstrated in Mollie Hemingway's tweet.

    I don't attach much significance to the quote itself. It's a prime example of "nutpicking"; you can always find people, left, right, and center, who will make embarrassing statements off the cuff that they regret a few milliseconds later. (Or not, if they really are nuts.)

    The real scandal lies with NBC news. They would not (of course) hesitate to publicize an equivalent comment from an immigration restrictionist. We'd have a name, a place, a time, and probably video of the picked-nut. And it would echo through the airwaves and interwebs of ABC, CBS, NPR, NYT, WaPo, …

    So Mollie has it exactly right: someone at NBC realized, at some point: Hey, that makes our friends look bad. Can't have that. [Flushing sound effect]

    We may never know who said this, or the "foundation" of which he or she was a "founding member". If NBC News reported that, Google can't find it (as I type), so those inconvenient facts seem to have been successfully deleted from reality.

    So the Memory Hole is partially functioning. Orwell would be happy to hear that.

    [Well, no, he probably wouldn't.]


  • Nice try, railroad unions. Eric Boehm describes How Railroad Unions Almost Broke the Economy.

    Freight railroads and unions representing nearly 125,000 workers reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract that, for now, averts the possibility of an economically catastrophic strike.

    The deal itself still needs to be ratified by union members before it becomes binding—and before the possibility of a strike that could have disrupted billions of dollars of daily commerce is put off for good—but both the unions and the Association of American Railroads, which represents the industry, have praised the deal. The details of the contract are not public, but the unions reportedly scored several of their top priorities, including graduated pay increases of 24 percent that will be doled out over several years and an average lump sum payment of $11,000 to all union members (a major carrot to get workers to approve the new deal). Much of the brinksmanship on display over the past week, however, had to do with a demand for paid medical leave—a demand that even the Biden administration opposed for being "too costly"—which was reportedly left out of the final deal.

    That a strike was avoided is undeniably the most important thing, given the high economic stakes. But how we got to the brink of a major railroad strike is a fascinating, if convoluted, story as well—one that involves unions overplaying their hand in what they believed to be a favorable political environment, only to discover that Democratic politicians were not prepared to play ball.

    Click through for the "fascinating, if convoluted, story".


  • My guess is we'll have another six years of Senator Maggie. At Reason, Jacob Sullum pays attention to some flip-flopping in my little state: A Senate Candidate's Belated Acknowledgment of Biden's Victory Is a Reality Check for a Trump-Dominated GOP.

    During a debate last month, Don Bolduc, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general who was seeking the Republican nomination to oppose Sen. Maggie Hassan (D–N.H.) in November, unambiguously asserted that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election. "I signed a letter with 120 other generals and admirals saying that Trump won the election, and, damn it, I stand by my letter," Bolduc said, eliciting cheers and applause from the audience. "I'm not switching horses, baby. This is it."

    Yesterday, two days after Bolduc won the Republican Senate nomination, he suddenly renounced that reality-defying position. "I've done a lot of research on this," he said on Fox News, "and I've spent the past couple weeks talking to Granite Staters all over the state from every party, and I have come to the conclusion—and I want to be definitive on this—the election was not stolen….Elections have consequences, and, unfortunately, President Biden is the legitimate president of this country."

    Ed Mosca at Granite Grok is pretty steamed at what he calls Bolduc's "massive unforced mistake". His suggestion on what Bolduc should have said instead (essentially): "Hey, I was just talking about Zuckerbucks and Hunter Biden's laptop." I don't think that would have meshed well with Bolduc's previous "not switching horses" rhetoric either.

    Granite Grok enthusiastically endorsed Bolduc in the primary. Dunno if that made a difference, but I'll point out that he only won by fewer than 2,000 votes, 1.3 percentage points. So it's not too far-fetched.

    My prediction in the headline could be totally wrong. If you want proof of my bad guesses in the past, see (roughly) everything I wrote about Donald Trump's chances in 2016.


  • LFOD Watch I. The intrepid Boston Globe reporter Brian MacQuarrie traveled up to the Queen City to find out about the Free State phenomenon, and reports: For this New Hampshire family, ‘Live Free or Die’ is more than a motto. There's an interesting interview with Tyler and Sara Brown, who bailed from New York last year. But I was more interested in MacQuarrie's looking-for-Free-Staters-under-the-bed language, emphasis added:

    Already, there are 25 known and likely members in the state House of Representatives, according to progressive tracking groups, and a number of other representatives are suspected of sympathizing with the movement.

    Damn! I mean… damn! I'm not old enough to remember McCarthyism, but I was told that it was pretty paranoid about card-carrying ("known") Communists, and for those not carrying cards, there were plenty of "suspected" Commies, not to mention "likely" fellow travellers. It's … interesting to see that sort of rhetoric repurposed for the 21st century. Except now we're going after libertarians, so I'm sure it's OK.


  • LFOD Watch II. The Google LFOD News Alert also drew my attention to Emily Apter, writing at a site called e-flux, with a truly daunting headline: Live Free or Die? Psychopolitical Infrastructures of Denialism. [footnotes elided]

    When approached from the angle of political theory, the Todestrieb of Covid-denialism aligns with the logic of “live free or die” libertarianism. New Hampshire’s official motto was adopted in 1945 and borrowed from a toast (“Live free or die: Death is not the Worst of Evils”) made by Revolutionary War hero General John Stark, who himself was borrowing it from the French Revolutionary slogan “Vivre libre ou mourir.” Under conditions of pandemia, this libertarian rallying cry is weaponized in a paroxysm of individual choicism that gains energy and positive reinforcement from in-group identification and the community support-structures of fellow denialists. One could say, then, that pandemia denialism produces a singular community; a company of Lockean self-property owners, possessive individualists whose ego-ideal is based on the kind of self-sufficing “ownness” (Eigenheit) that Max Stirner outlined in his controversial 1844 book The Ego and its Own (Der Einzige und sein Eigentum). Stirner’s theory of the ego was castigated by Marx as little more than a smokescreen for petty bourgeois individualism and self-interest, but Marx was short-sighted in dismissing its potential for the kind of anarchist individualism that we see animating entrepreneurial philosophy in the tech industry. Nor could he forsee its importance for Freud’s theory of das Ich, of the ego as a subjective agency that, in misrecognizing itself, and engaging in a dreamlike distortion of reality to justify its own ends, enables grandiose fantasies of self-possession. Psychosis, as Freud would note in this instance, becomes a way of making good on the loss of reality.

    Shorter: whoa, them folks is cray-zee!

    Ms. Apter makes it somewhat easier on her thesis by quoting extensively from Pastor Greg Locke of the Global Vision Bible Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee. Who really is cray-zee. See my comments above about "nutpicking".

URLs du Jour

2022-09-17

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • On the meritocracy front… I'm currently reading The Aristocracy of Talent: How Meritocracy Made the Modern World by Adrian Wooldridge, and it's great. So good, in fact, that my ears prick up (figuratively) for articles like Jeff Maurer's: Merit is Meaningless.

    Next week, I’ll publish a column arguing that meritocracy is good. I’ll argue that the recent trend towards rolling one’s eyes at meritocracy is bad, and that meritocracy is something a just society should want. But first, I need to write this column, in which I argue that merit is a meaningless concept that should be ignored in every context except for one.

    That might seem contradictory, and maybe it is. Maybe I’m getting so far up my own ass with semantic distinctions that this column is basically a self-colonoscopy. Nonetheless, I see a big difference between saying that merit is a useful concept — which I think it is — and saying that it’s a meaningful concept, which I think it isn’t. The debate over meritocracy often seems to be pro-merit people arguing that the concept is useful versus anti-merit people arguing that it’s meaningless. As is so often the case in American politics, both sides are sort of right, both sides are speaking past each other, and both badly need to shut the fuck up.

    Well, I hope you survived Jeff's F-bomb. The useful-vs-meaningful distinction is an interesting one. Check out his argument.

    I'll go into slightly more detail when I report on the Wooldridge book later this month, but right now my insight is limited to something pretty trivial: the problem with "meritocracy" is the "-cracy" suffix: that people should have more coercive power over others according to whatever quality comes before that dreaded -cracy.


  • Teaching kids how to read might help. Frederick M. Hess and Hayley Sanon observe that Educators Have Lost the Public’s Trust and wonder how can they get it back.

    Educators sense the skepticism and know that it has real implications. Jay Wamsted, a middle school math teacher from Atlanta, recently penned a much-discussed essay for Education Week fretting that the lack of trust and the ensuing policy fights make teaching more difficult. Wamsted argues, “We need to grant our teachers freedom to answer questions” without his feeling compelled to “choose between my students’ education or my own job security.” Wamsted is right to note that complex issues inevitably arise in the course of schooling and that good teachers want and need the ability to address these in thoughtful, responsible ways.

    But the problem is that many parents don’t trust all educators to do just that. While education leaders like American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten have blamed right-wing “extremists” for undermining public support through a campaign of “lies, smears, and distortions,” the inconvenient fact is that there are educators out there publicly bragging about their efforts to infuse their dogmas into school practices and policy.

    Hess and Sanon cite the Project Veritas videos which (if you haven't heard) are "troubling", because they show educrats "talking frankly about how they promote ideological agendas at school." They suggest that Step One for educators looking to regain trust would be for them to clearly denounce such statements.

    So far, that hasn't happened. Not holding my breath.


  • Also having trust issues… are the mainstream media. Jerry Coyne has his take on the Jesse Singal article we discussed here yesterday. His theory: NYT and other media fall for a hoax because it matched their ideology. His thoughts:

    This is typical of what happens when a campus “hate crime” is revealed as a hoax—as a substantial proportion of them are. I suggest having a look at Wilfred Reilly’s book, Hate Crime Hoax: How the Left is Selling a Fake Race War. (Reilly, by the way, is black.) I’ve read it, and the stories he tells are dire. I can’t remember the proportion of campus hate crimes or hate “incidents” that turn out to be fake (usually perpetuated by a member of the minority group that was a victim of the fabricated “hate”), but it’s substantial.

    What’s telling is what these incidents have in common after they’re revealed as hoaxes. The perpetrators are often not punished, even when they’re caught; the fact that the hate crime or incident was a hoax is not revealed to the college community (this is bad, because it perpetrates the idea that racism is prevalent on campus); these hoaxes happen everywhere, and, after the “crime” is revealed as a hoax, the schools nevertheless continue to insist that it could have been real because racism is everywhere. Finally, the colleges even put in place new antiracist initiatives—simply to show that they’re doing something, even in the face of a hoax. These colleges, like the newspapers, have a substantial ideological investment in perpetrating the idea that racism is ubiquitous.

    An interesting sidelight: the too-good-to-check hoax was revealed by a small (conservative) student paper at Brigham Young. Because they took the time to do the job the New York Times and others didn't feel like doing.


  • Chuck Schumer thanks New Hampshire GOP primary voters. As I type, FiveThirtyEight gives Democrats a 71% chance of controlling the Senate come 2023. At National Review, Fred Bauer describes How Destabilizing a Post-Nuclear Senate Could Be. That refers to the fact that if the Ds have a net gain of two seats, "nuking" the legislative filibuster would be probable.

    Nuking the filibuster could also have broader constitutional effects by dramatically affecting the balance of power in the federal government. A post-nuclear Congress could decide to pack the Supreme Court on a narrow, party-line vote. Civil-service protections could also be revised by only the slimmest of partisan majorities, with significant implications for the federal bureaucracy.

    Other than Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, every incumbent Democratic senator is on board with the nuclear option. In January, Michael Bennet, Catherine Cortez Masto, Maggie Hassan, Mark Kelly, and Raphael Warnock (all up for reelection in November) all voted to exercise the nuclear option on the legislative filibuster. Senate challengers Mandela Barnes, Val Demmings, John Fetterman, and Tim Ryan have also said that the filibuster should be scrapped. In Utah, independent Senate candidate Evan McMulllin (who is supported by the state’s Democratic Party) says at the moment that he only supports certain reforms to the filibuster — but his campaign did not respond to a request for comment about whether McMullin would support the nuclear option or not.

    The latest poll shows Senator Maggie (bolded above) with an 11-point lead over her November opponent, Don Bolduc, just picked by 37.1% of GOP primary voters.


  • I'm letting my WIRED subscription lapse. There's just too much left-wing navel-gazing. But (I must admit) there are some things I'll miss, things like this Steven Levy article: Neal Stephenson Named the Metaverse. Now, He’s Building It.

    Neal Stephenson invented the metaverse. At least from an imagination standpoint. Though other science fiction writers had similar ideas—and the pioneers of VR were already building artificial worlds—Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash not only fleshed out the vision of escaping to a place where digital displaced the physical, it also gave it a name. That book cemented him as a major writer, and since then he’s had huge success. But late last year, Stephenson’s ambient, persistent and immersive alt-reality suddenly became known as the next step in computing. “Metaverse” became a buzz word, and Big Tech raced to productize it. Most notably, Facebook, spending billions on its Reality Labs, renamed itself Meta. Everyone from Microsoft to Amazon was suddenly coming up with a metaverse strategy, even though the technologies that might make it happen are still out of our grasp.

    At the time, Stephenson was publicizing his most recent novel, with a theme involving climate engineering. “That turned into the ‘Neal, how do you feel about the Metaverse?’ book tour,” says Stephenson. The answers Stephenson provided to that question were a mix of bemusement or, as a WIRED writer noted, disgust. For one thing, the metaverse according to Snow Crash was a somewhat dystopian locale, a fact ignored by the companies telling us that it will be a great place to live. And seeing his fictional creation colonized by profit-seeking growth-greedy goliaths wasn’t fun.

    Well, you see what I mean about the left-wing navel-gazing there at the end. Anyway, the Neal news is that he's co-founding LAMINA1, which is described as "the base layer for the Open Metaverse". (I.e., something uncontrolled by Zuck.)

    And he's doing this instead of writing a new novel. I have mixed feelings about that.

The Lost City

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

A free-to-me Amazon Prime streamer. It's a lot of fun if you're in the right mood. And I was in the right mood.

Sandra Bullock plays Loretta, a famous romance novelist with terminal writer's block. Her latest work was particularly painful to finish. But she manages to go on one last book tour, where she shares the stage with "Dash", the hunky model featured shirtfree on her book covers. (That's Channing Tatum.) She's dressed up in purple spangly low-cut garb, which becomes kind of a running joke in the movie.

She's unexpectedly abducted by well-to-do-but-also-insane Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe) who (knowing Loretta's previous life as a student of ancient culture and language) demands that she help him find the fabled "Lost City" where a fantastic jewelled crown is hidden. And "Dash" for some reason puts himself on a mission to rescue her from her abductor.

Lots of comic-flavored action ensues. Brad Pitt is briefly in it as well. Everyone is very funny.

Some snarky Trivia contributor at IMDB did the ungallant math:

Lead actress Sandra Bullock is sixteen years older than lead actor Channing Tatum.

She's 58. But you know what? She's still very good looking.

URLs du Jour

2022-09-16

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Could you shut these people up for us? Will Duffield has an important report at Cato: Jawboning against Speech. His abstract:

    Over the past two decades, social media has drastically reduced the cost of speaking, allowing users the world over to publish with the push of a button. This amazing capability is limited by the fact that speakers do not own the platforms they increasingly rely on. If access to the platforms is withdrawn, speakers lose the reach that social media grants. In America, government censorship is limited by the First Amendment. Nevertheless, seizing upon the relationship between platforms and speakers, government officials increasingly demand that platforms refrain from publishing disfavored speech. They threaten platforms with punitive legislation, antitrust investigations, and prosecution. Government officials can use informal pressure — bullying, threatening, and cajoling — to sway the decisions of private platforms and limit the publication of disfavored speech. The use of this informal pressure, known as jawboning, is growing. Left unchecked, it threatens to become normalized as an extraconstitutional method of speech regulation. While courts have censured jawboning in other contexts, existing judicial remedies struggle to address social media jawboning. Amid the opacity and scale of social media moderation, government influence is difficult to detect or prevent. Ultimately, congressional rulemaking and the people’s selection of liberal, temperate officials remain the only reliable checks on this novel threat to free speech.

    It's a long and important article. Goes well with yesterday's item about Biden using his presidency as a "bully pulpit". It should be an impeachable offense.


  • Confirmation bias, I think. Jesse Singal describes How the Media Fell for A Racism Sham.

    Last month, Rachel Richardson—the only black starter on the women’s volleyball team at Duke University—leveled a shocking accusation. She said that during her team’s August 26 match against Brigham Young University, fans inside the BYU arena in Provo, Utah inundated her with racist abuse and threats.

    After the match, 19-year-old Richardson told her godmother, Lesa Pamplin, about the incident. Pamplin is a criminal defense attorney running for a county judgeship in Texas, and was not at the game—but the next day, she published a tweet that rocketed the story to national attention: “My Goddaughter is the only black starter for Dukes [sic] volleyball team. While playing yesterday, she was called a [n-word] every time she served. She was threatened by a white male that told her to watch her back going to the team bus. A police officer had to be put by their bench.” 

    Well, if you were paying attention during the Jussie Smollett affair, or the Covington Kids affair, or the Smith College affair, or the…

    Well, you get my point. Singal notes: "Unsurprisingly, major media outlets were all over this story." But:

    There is no evidence that the chain of events described by Richardson and her family members occurred. There isn’t even evidence a single slur was hurled at her and her teammates, let alone a terrifying onslaught of them.

    All the journalists who credulously reported on this event were wrong—and it was an embarrassing kind of wrong, because the red flags were large, numerous, and flapping loudly. Richardson and her family members reported that racial slurs had been hurled with abandon, loudly and repeatedly, in a crowded gym filled with more than 5,000 people. But the journalists covering this incident never stopped to notice how odd it was that none of these vile slurs were captured by any of the thousands of little handheld cameras in the gym at the time, nor on the bigger cameras recording the match. Nor did they find it strange that in the days following the incident, not a single other eyewitness came forward—none of Richardson’s black teammates, and none of the players for either team.

    It is vitally important to "major media outlets" that every American hate incident be reported loudly and often, without a shred of skepticism or sanity-checking.

    And then they wonder why people don't trust them any more.


  • The hubris is strong with this one. "UNH Today", the publicity outlet for the University Near Here, profiles Michael Ettlinger, Director of UNH's Carsey School of Public Policy, and the headline indicates what a tongue bath it is: Steady Guidance and a Broad Perspective.

    Michael Ettlinger is always thinking of the bigger picture.

    “My undergraduate degree was in electrical engineering and then, well, then I went to law school,” he says, looking back. “In a way, it’s the ultimate engineering challenge, right? To figure out how society operates.”

    He does not express the slightest doubt that he's the perfect guy to do that. Humility is not his strong point:

    “I might surprise an economist about how much I know about economics or someone who's spent their career on clean energy about how much I know about clean energy or someone who works on immigration about how much I know about immigration. The experts know more than me, but what I bring to the table is knowing enough about all [the disciplines] to help weave them together and make interconnections between them,” he says, emphasizing the collaborative nature of politics. “There are a lot of issues that end up crossing disciplinary boundaries.”

    The article describes Ettlinger's pre-UNH career, heavily involved with Democratic politics and "progressive" think tanks. When not engaged in self-praise, he takes indirect responsibility for the "Inflation Reduction Act, which he believes echoes the work he was a part of at [the Center for American Progress]".

    Please accept the thanks of a grateful nation, Mike.

    We previously noted Ettlinger in this 2016 article, which told the story of his Wikileaked offer of "helpful" UNH resources to the Hillary Clinton campaign when it was getting off the ground in 2015.

    It's nice to pretend you're a simple problem-solving social engineer, when you're just another political hack.


  • Solving the big problems, answering the big questions. Underappreciated researchers get their due every year from the Cambridge, MA-based "Improbable Research" organization, and Here are the winners of the 2022 Ig Nobel Prizes. Skipping down to the Peace Prize:

    Citation: "Junhui Wu, Szabolcs Számadó, Pat Barclay, Bianca Beersma, Terence Dores Cruz, Sergio Lo Iacono, Annika Nieper, Kim Peters, Wojtek Przepiorka, Leo Tiokhin and Paul Van Lange, for developing an algorithm to help gossipers decide when to tell the truth and when to lie."

    We generally think of gossip as a negative factor in social interactions, but the authors of this 2021 paper treat the practice—which they define as "sharing information about absent others [the target] with one or more receivers"—as a viable strategy for promoting and sustaining cooperation, particularly in situations where there are conflicting interests with in-group or out-group members or strangers. That information can be positive, negative, or neutral, but it should be honest. Low-level dishonest gossip can be relatively harmless. But when gossip is dishonest—i.e., the gossiper lies—at sufficiently high levels, the system breaks down and that vital social cooperation can't evolve.

    Yes, unless I'm miscounting, that's eleven authors. Perhaps one of them, someday, will become Director of the Carsey School of Public Policy at UNH,

URLs du Jour

2022-09-15

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • I could think of worse things to say about them. But Freddie deBoer (self-proclaimed Marxist) wonders, specifically, Why Are Identitarians Such Cheap Dates? His article is funny and insightful throughout, As for our excerpt, here's his response to an Upworthy article about the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid with a "diverse" cast, headlined Disney's black Ariel isn't just about diverse representation. It's also about undoing past wrongs.

    … is it? Is it really? The article is profoundly unconvincing on this score. Yes, Disney did some racist portrayals in the past. That’s bad. I don’t see how you’re evening up the score by putting more Black people in your films, really; history doesn’t work that way. Also, why does an almost all-Black film like (the deeply underrated) The Princess and the Frog not right that wrong? What’s the conversion rate, here? Six Black Disney princesses for every one Song of the South? Or maybe, sometimes, pop culture is just a fun diversion, and we shouldn’t constantly go around hanging immense political consequences on it.

    This relentless drive to celebrate diversity compels people to say things that just aren’t true. When Black Panther came out, people said it was the first Black superhero movie (nope) or the first Black Marvel movie (wrong again), in an effort to give it laurels it never needed, given that it’s just a really good movie. (Imagine that, a movie getting praised for being good!) Wonder Woman (2017) and Captain Marvel (2019) both, somehow, got tons of press as pioneering movies for women superheroes, despite the fact that Supergirl came out in 1984. A part of me feels that we have to be running out of “First X to Y!” More and more of these boxes are getting checked, and so you’d think the number of “First This Type of Person to Star in an Overlong Shitty CGI Spectacle with a Dissatisfying Ending!” headlines would have a shelf life. But the takes industry finds a way. How many more “First South Asian Polyamorous Rural Taoist Family in a Hulu Series!” headlines are we going to get? Apparently many many more!

    Our Amazon Product du Jour is right in line with Freddie's post. Find out if Nadine Gordimier and Alice Walker were cheap dates! Let me know one way or the other!

    [I'm currently reading both Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind, and Ian Fleming's second James Bond novel, Live and Let Die. Both make Song of the South look pretty enlightened in comparison.]


  • Democrats will be talking abortion, abortion, abortion, 24-7 between now and November 8. At least judging from last night's local news, which had interviews with incumbents (Sununu, Hassan, Pappas, Kuster) and their challengers (Sherman, Bolduc, Leavitt, Burns). Every single Dem mentioned abortion, or some equivalent euphemism.

    Well, what are they gonna do? Talk about how wonderfully the economy is humming along?

    Their primary scare tactic is decrying a "Federal Abortion Ban".

    They were assisted in this tactic by… GOP Senator Lindsay Graham proposing a Federal Abortion Ban.

    The NR editors, all respect to them, think that's a great idea. I find myself agreeing instead with Andrew C. McCarthy in his Dissent from NR’s Editorial Favoring Federal Abortion Ban.

    I respectfully dissent from Wednesday’s National Review editorial, which supports Senator Lindsey Graham’s proposed federal ban on abortions after 15 weeks. When, in the last paragraph of the editorial, they get around to first-order question of what the supposed constitutional source of this federal power is, the editors proclaim, “We are persuaded that the undoubted federal power to defend basic civil rights under the 14th Amendment” does the trick. Count me out of the “we,” for I harbor significant doubts.

    The “who would dare doubt this” appeal is surprising to find in our pages. Until about five minutes ago, the protection of abortion itself was “undoubted” because progressives were haughtily confident that no one would call them on their dearth of constitutional mooring. I fear my colleagues go with “undoubted” because they don’t want to say aloud what this implicitly means: They believe the supposed federal power to regulate abortion is a matter of substantive due process. It’s just that, unlike progressives, they undertake to accomplish a limited ban rather than make it available on demand.

    Also weighing in on the issue from a more-libertarian perspective is Jacob Sullum: Graham's Proposed Abortion Ban Shows Contempt for Federalism.

    The federal abortion ban that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.) proposed yesterday is moderate compared to state laws that have been enacted or taken effect since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. But it is based on an audacious claim of congressional authority to regulate abortion that obliterates the constitutional distinction between state and federal powers. If successful, Graham's reasoning would renationalize a controversy that Roe's opponents have long argued should be settled state by state.

    Graham's bill, which has provoked more dismay than enthusiasm among his Republican colleagues, would make it a federal felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, to perform an abortion at 15 weeks of gestation or later. Its very name, the Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children From Late-Term Abortions Act, is contentious. Graham controversially argues that "an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain at least by 15 weeks gestational age," and he arbitrarily defines abortions at that point, early in the second trimester, as "late-term." But in practical terms, a 15-week ban is far milder than the restrictions that many states have imposed or begun to enforce in recent months.

    I'm also persuaded by this (more practical) observation about the pols who forget about Constitutional power limits when it comes to pushing policies they like:

    This cavalier attitude is shortsighted as well as unprincipled. If Congress can force states to allow abortion, it can also prevent them from allowing it. Conversely, if Congress can restrict abortion under the Commerce Clause, it can also establish a statutory right that precludes state regulation. That position would make abortion policy throughout the country contingent on the vicissitudes of federal elections. Instead of a diversity of policies based on a diversity of opinions in a vast nation of 50 states and 332 million people, we would get just one, always subject to change depending on who happened to be in power.


  • The best I ever had. We get AARP publications here at Pun Salad Manor. The recent issue of the AARP Bulletin was absolutely gloating about the drug price controls passed as part of the "Inflation Reduction Act". Saith the AARP CEO: "With your support, we stood up to big drug companies-and we won!" And more in that vein.

    Party-poopers Charles L. Hooper and David R. Henderson write at the WSJ: Expensive Prescription Drugs Are a Bargain. And, oh yeah: "People will die".

    The Inflation Reduction Act has eight provisions intended to reduce future drug prices. Some observers were surely pleased that Congress gave the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services new powers to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies. They shouldn’t have been. The Inflation Reduction Act won’t noticeably reduce inflation and it will do little or nothing to lower the cost of healthcare. Forcing drug companies to charge lower prices will likely lead to fewer new drugs.

    Virtually no products are more valuable than the modern medicines produced by the biopharmaceutical industry. They cure diseases and extend lives. We’ve all heard that Americans pay higher drug prices than people in other countries. That’s true, but only when comparing retail prices of brand-name drugs. Very few Americans pay retail prices; most pay a fraction—a copay dictated by their insurance plan. Most country-to-country comparisons also leave out generics. Nine of 10 prescriptions in the U.S. are filled with generic drugs priced lower than in most other countries.

    Another classic seen/unseen case: Lower prices (someday) for (some) people may be "seen". Unseen: lifesaving drugs that won't be developed, or can't be produced economically due to low "negotiated" prices. And also those dead folks.


  • The presidency is a bully pulpit. So Teddy Roosevelt said, "bully" meaning something different back then. How was TR to know that, over a century later, a different guy would take it the wrong way? Jacob Sullum writes on Biden's Sneaky Censors.

    "Tech platforms are notoriously opaque," the White House complained last week, saying Americans deserve to know more about how online forums decide "when and how to remove content from their sites." Yet the Biden administration, which routinely pressures social media companies to suppress speech it does not like, is hardly a model of transparency in this area.

    In a lawsuit they filed last May, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt argue that the administration's "Orwellian" crusade against "misinformation" violates the First Amendment. They are trying to find out more about this "vast 'Censorship Enterprise' across a multitude of federal agencies," and the administration is fighting them every step of the way.

    So far, Landry and Schmitt have identified 45 federal officials who "communicate with social media platforms" about curtailing "misinformation." Emails obtained during discovery show those platforms are desperate to comply with the government's demands for speech restrictions, including the removal of specific messages and accounts.

    "Nice tech company you've got there. Be a shame if someone signed legislation designed to cripple it. By the way, here's some problematic content we found…"


  • Does this make me look fat? Liz Truss is not asking that question. As reported by Scott Shackford: U.K.’s New Prime Minister Targets Aggressive Food Nannies.

    Good news in England for people who like good food: New Prime Minister Liz Truss' administration is taking aim at the country's overly oppressive attempts to regulate what people eat.

    Health experts in the United Kingdom say it has a massive obesity problem, with around two-thirds of Brits classified as overweight. And because England has socialized health care, everybody is responsible for paying the additional medical expenses that may come from treating those who are obese, which the National Health Service (NHS) calculates at more than 6 billion pounds a year (almost $7 billion).

    I can't help but notice that the Brits would measure the extra health costs incurred per additional mass unit in "pounds per pound". I'm not a huge fan of the metric system, but that's a pretty good argument for it.

URLs du Jour

2022-09-14

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Get used to losing. Michael Graham of NH Journal, despised by my friends at Granite Grok, provides Three Takeaways From the NHGOP's 'All-MAGA' Primary Night.

    New Hampshire’s Primary System Is A Fiasco. The Granite State may be great at running the First in the Nation presidential primary, but its “last in the nation” state primary is a nightmare. Having a system where the nominee merely needs a plurality — as opposed to “50 percent of the vote plus one” — is bad enough. Because there’s no minimum threshold of votes to win the nomination, the New Hampshire GOP has three candidates headed into the fall who won less than 40 percent of the primary vote.

    In other words, 60 percent of the members of their own party just voted for someone else. Yesterday.

    Ah well. My prediction is: at least two more years of Chris Pappas and Annie Kuster; six more of Senator Maggie.

    I could be wrong. I home I am wrong.


  • And guess who is being "converged" upon? Reason's Stephanie Slade has a perceptive and important article, out from behind the paywall: Both Left and Right Are Converging on Authoritarianism.

    On the left, a new crop of socialists hope to overthrow the liberal economic order, while the rise of intersectional identity politics has supplanted longstanding commitments to civil liberties. On the right, support for free markets and free trade are more and more often derided as relics of a bygone century, while quasi-theocratic ideas are gathering support.

    What has not changed—what may even be getting worse—is the problem of affective polarization. Various studies have found that Americans today have significantly more negative feelings toward members of the other party than they did in decades past.

    But partisan animosity suits the authoritarian elements on the left and right just fine. Their goal is power, and they have little patience for procedural niceties that interfere with its exercise. As history teaches, a base whipped up into fear and fury is ready to accept almost anything to ensure its own survival. Perhaps even the destruction of the institutions and ideals that make America distinctively itself.

    I'm afraid she's very much on target. A highly recommended article.


  • Here's an example of what Slade's talking about. Zach Caverley investigates an upcoming state Ministry of Truth: California’s Misbegotten Misinformation Bill AB 2098.

    Introduced in February 2022 by California assembly member Evan Low and now awaiting the signature of the governor, Gavin Newsom, the bill designated as AB 2098 would allow state medical boards to punish physicians who spread misinformation or disinformation regarding Covid-19 and its treatment options. The bill defines “misinformation” as “false information that is contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus contrary to the standard of care” and “disinformation” as misinformation provided with “malicious intent or an intent to mislead.” Jokes about a Covid-19 “ministry of truth” aside, the bill represents an alarming push to create scientific consensus through government force rather than open debate and the gradual accumulation of evidence.

    The most obvious problem with AB 2098 is the bill’s assumption that a term like “scientific consensus” is a specific enough guideline for tracking and punishing misinformation by medical professionals. This is a particular problem for topics relating to Covid-19; there may be consensus in a rough sense, but the finer details often remain contentious. For instance, N-95 masks seem to be the only type of facial covering that significantly reduces viral transmission, but health agencies, even when conceding the superiority of those masks, continue to promote broad public masking, even with inferior cloth masks, for unspecified reasons. One could argue that this falls under the vague notion of misinformation. Or take the use of coronavirus vaccines in children: vaccination may have been broadly beneficial, but the degree to which most children benefit is a topic of dispute, and health agencies’ insistence on younger and younger children receiving a shot has sparked concerns of significant side effects. A physician could run afoul of the state’s vague misinformation regulation merely by reviewing the nuances of pediatric vaccination with concerned parents.

    The guv has not said whether he's going to sign the bill, so there's some small hope that California will dodge this bullet. (There's a scientific consensus that says dodging bullets is a good idea.)


  • It's one of my favorite essays. In fact, I cited it just last Saturday. So attention must be paid when Don Boudreaux gives us A Reflection on Bastiat’s “What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen”.

    Yet for all of his unquestionable brilliance, Bastiat himself missed a reality that should be revealed. Bastiat’s oversight is hardly a major blunder. It’s barely a blemish. The insight of his essay continues to inspire and its relevance to radiate. Yet he did miss something that’s worth pointing out.

    Specifically, Bastiat missed the fact that many of the consequences that he identifies as “that which is seen” are themselves often just as invisible as are the countless consequences that he identifies as “that which is unseen.” The great majority of the populace regularly and immediately “see” a small handful of invisible consequences while they miss most others.

    Don points out that nobody actually saw M. Bonhomme pay the glazier to fix his broken window. They just assumed that was going to happen.


  • We should still destroy Facebook, though. Walter Olson debunks one of the mainstays of the "rigged election" crowd: "Zuckerbucks" Didn't Throw the 2020 Election.

    In the lead‐up to the 2020 election, philanthropies backed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan provided grants to local election offices around the country to aid in administrative tasks, voter communication, and other work made more challenging by the COVID-19 pandemic — a program sometimes nicknamed Zuckerbucks. Some Republicans have charged that the grants were improperly meant to assist Democrats by differentially increasing turnout of their likely voters, especially in bigger cities. Many backers of former President Donald Trump took the episode to heart as part of what they imagine to have been the rigging of the 2020 election.

    As I’ve noted in this space before, there is reason to doubt that the grants, to the extent that they raised turnout at all, made any difference in the election’s major outcomes. In Wisconsin, one of the closest states, a study by the right‐of‐center Wisconsin Institute of Law and Liberty estimated that any extra turnout, if measurable at all, would not have been enough to swing the election. (In addition, as a legal matter, courts will not throw out otherwise lawfully cast votes even if they were encouraged by a voter turnout effort that violated some rule.)

    You may not be convinced by Olson's argument, but it's worth reading.


  • What a difference a state line makes. We liberty-minded types in New Hampshire tend to look at Maine as a bad example, a bullet dodged. But Drew Cline takes a look at an exception to that general rule, exemplified by folks Moving to Maine to escape high housing prices in New Hampshire.

    Apartmentlist.com puts the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment at $952 in Maine and $1,329 in New Hampshire.

    Home prices are lower in [Maine] too.

    The median home price in New Hampshire is about $430,000.

    In Maine, it’s about $350,000.

    Maine and New Hampshire have almost identical populations. Maine has 1.34 million people, and New Hampshire has 1.35 million people.

    That’s not enough of a difference to create such huge price variations for housing.

    Why would prices be so much lower in Maine?

    In a word: Supply.

    Maine has 101,000 more housing units than New Hampshire does, according to Census Bureau data.

    That’s almost exactly as many housing units as exist in Merrimack and Cheshire Counties combined.

    If New Hampshire had 101,000 more housing units, what do you think the effect would be on home prices and rents?

    As they say: duh. RTWT for a recent bad example of how local governments (specifically, Keene) restricts housing construction, thanks to pressure from residents.

URLs du Jour

2022-09-13

  • Reason presents… Crime Squad!

    The link above contains citations to laws broken by those miscreant puppets.


  • It's primary day in New Hampshire! And we taxpayers are paying for it. Jeff Jacoby explains Why taxpayers shouldn’t pay for primary elections.

    Unlike general elections, which are public contests and must be funded and administered by public officials, primary elections are essentially private functions.

    They should be paid for with private funds and conducted under private supervision. The Democratic Party and the Republican Party (and the Libertarian, Green, and other minor parties) are not public-sector organizations. They are private corporations created to influence elections and public policy.

    Jeff, as always, makes a lot of sense.


  • Etiquette guideline. And it's from an unexpected source, David Boaz at Cato: Americans Don't Bow.

    In the wake of Queen Elizabeth’s passing, journalists have discussed President Biden’s meetings with her. And they always quote the advice he says he got from his mother: “Don’t you bow down to her.”

    His mother was right. This is a republic. Americans are citizens, not subjects. We don’t bow or curtsy to any fellow Americans, much less to foreign monarchs. (If you don’t believe me, ask Miss Manners, repeatedly.)

    If only Joe's mom had provided him similar guidance about plagiarism. (Link goes to a 2020 Trump campaign document, so get out your salt grain. The law school and Kinnock stuff is well-known, however.)


  • Looking for a free market advocate? Eric Boehm gives us another reason to look elsewhere: Marco Rubio Wants To Make Your Groceries Even More Expensive.

    A trip to the grocery store costs considerably more than it did a year ago. Now Florida's congressional delegation wants to inflate prices even more.

    On Friday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R–Fla.) led a bipartisan group of lawmakers—all of them from Florida—in submitting a petition to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai seeking "an investigation" into what the lawmakers call "the flood of imported seasonal and perishable agricultural products from Mexico." They ask Tai to invoke Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to impose "trade remedies" that will protect American growers from the scourge of…low-priced produce.

    While they don't come out and say it directly, it's obvious from the letter that Rubio and his colleagues are seeking tariffs on Mexican produce. Section 301 is the same mechanism the Trump administration used to impose wide-ranging tariffs on goods imported from China. It's a law that grants the executive branch broad, unilateral power over trade.

    Also signing the petition was Rick Scott, Florida's other senator. And (if I'm counting correctly) 22 Congresscritters. (Florida currently has 26 of those, with Charlie Crist vacating his seat to run for Governor.)


  • Stop One. Jonathan M. Gitlin asks Joe nicely. Dear Mr. President: Seriously, please stop with these science “moonshots”.

    On Monday, US President Joe Biden will announce more information on his plan to end cancer. The president will use the 60th anniversary of President Kennedy's legendary speech about putting a man on the Moon to name a director for a new agency to make this happen, adding yet one more acronym to the US biomedical research enterprise. The new agency is intended to improve the "government’s ability to speed biomedical and health research," and will be led by Dr. Renee Wegrzyn.

    And as was the case in 2016, it still appears to suggest that the federal government is wasting money on the National Cancer Institute, which despite receiving almost $7 billion a year, apparently needs an entirely new agency—the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health—to actually cure cancer. What is especially troubling is that those concerns were evident in 2016 when then-Vice President Biden first proposed the idea, […]

    I'm open to the idea that the government is wasting money on the NCI. In fact, I'd be surprised if it wasn't. But the answer is not to waste more money. Gitlin was once at the NIH, so his objections are grounded in reality and experience.


  • Stop Two. Virginia Postrel also has something she'd like to stop. Specifically: Stop with the "Jetsons" Nostalgia!.

    The Jetsons was not science fiction any more than The Flintstones was archeology. It was, like its Stone Age partner, a midcentury family sitcom—I Love Lucy/The Honeymooners/Father Knows Best with different backdrops and dumber jokes. The commentary (such as it is) about technology mostly consists of complaints about devices breaking down and costing too much. Automation also means George and Jane Jetson do nothing all day except push a few buttons. If real, their lives would incredibly boring. (The Feminine Mystique was a bestseller for a reason.) The show is definitely not Star Trek.

    The great VP points to this anti-Jetson screed: What's on the Ground in The Jetsons? Answer: "Homeless people and walking birds."

    I sometimes can't remember why I walked into the kitchen, but I remember George's family ( his boy Elroy, daughter Judy, Jane his wife), dog (Astro), robot maid (Rosie), and employer (Spacely Sprockets). And, God help me, more.

URLs du Jour

2022-09-12

  • And that's just the recent stuff. Mr. Ramirez notes a presidential selective memory.

    [Selective]

    Not mentioned in the cartoon is… well, a lot of things, but let's not forget the Democrat desire to partially repeal the First Amendment to allow the government to regulate political speech.

    The gas seems to have gone out of that particular baloon for now. Congressman Adam Schiff's proposed amendment seems to have gone nowhere.

    My own state's senior senator, Jeanne Shaheen, has had slightly more success with her version of the same thing. It has attracted 38 cosponsors, including my state's junior senator, Maggie Hassan.

    I note the "End Citizens United" group has rebranded itself as "American Promise". But they are as dishonest as Schiff, Shaheen, and Hassan. "Hey, we're not restricting free speech; we just want to make sure you can't spend any money to get your message out."

    If you want a single reason to vote against Maggie in November, that's it.


  • My state's primary is tomorrow. As a registered Republican, that means I'm getting one more day of junk mail. As an evening television watcher, it means another night of intelligence-insulting political ads.

    If there are any candidates who are presenting themselves with wit and humility, they are flying way below my radar.

    And even Democrats are in the act. Specifically, as the WSJ editorialists point out, the Democrats for MAGA Republicans.

    New Hampshire primary voters will go to the polls Tuesday, and Democrats are again running TV ads to help a Trumpy Republican candidate for Senate. President Biden is warning that ultra-MAGA Republicans threaten American democracy. Why won’t he tell his party to quit elevating them?

    The GOP’s mainstream Senate candidate is Chuck Morse, president of the New Hampshire state Senate. He’s endorsed by Gov. Chris Sununu and the National Rifle Association. A Super Pac linked to Sen. Mitch McConnell is running ads hailing him as “one tough conservative.” Mr. Sununu knows how to win New Hampshire, and Mr. McConnell wants to retake the Senate. They know Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan is beatable.

    But Democrats are dumping money into New Hampshire to besmirch Mr. Morse as “another sleazy politician.” One ad says his campaign is run by lobbyists, one of whom once “worked for a Chinese company owned by a Communist Party official.” Also, the Chinese official knows a guy who was a dogsitter for Kevin Bacon, for those who recall that six-degree party game. Why run this attack ad in a primary?

    The answer is that Democrats want Republicans to pass over Mr. Morse and nominate Don Bolduc, who has a history of flirting with conspiracy theories. He told NH Journal in May last year that bad voting machines had tampered with the 2020 election results. “It’s not a fair process,” he said, “when a foreign company owns machines that count our votes.”

    We live in an … um, interesting state. Both my friends at Granite Grok and Chuck Schumer want Don Bolduc to win tomorrow.


  • Where are those electrons coming from, anyway? Bjørn Lomborg observes that Policies Pushing Electric Vehicles Show Why Few People Want One.

    We constantly hear that electric cars are the future—cleaner, cheaper and better. But if they’re so good, why does California need to ban gasoline-powered cars? Why does the world spend $30 billion a year subsidizing electric ones?

    In reality, electric cars are only sometimes and somewhat better than the alternatives, they’re often much costlier, and they aren’t necessarily all that much cleaner. Over its lifetime, an electric car does emit less CO2 than a gasoline car, but the difference can range considerably depending on how the electricity is generated. Making batteries for electric cars also requires a massive amount of energy, mostly from burning coal in China. Add it all up and the International Energy Agency estimates that an electric car emits a little less than half as much CO2 as a gasoline-powered one.

    I note that Tesla has a Supercharger station in Seabrook, near the Walmart. Less than a crow-flies mile from NextEra Energy Seabrook Station. So there's a good chance some of your car's electrons are coming carbon-free.

    (Just kidding. I know that electricity doesn't work that way.)


  • Feel-good story of the day. Kevin D. Williamson on recent legal troubles: Steve Bannon’s Gravy Train Gets Derailed.

    I don’t mind people getting paid. But I mind the fraud. I mind the lies. I detest the sanctimony.

    And I’m also not a very big fan of the incompetence, either.

    If you’ll forgive me for noticing, these guys aren’t actually very good at this stuff. I follow this world pretty closely, and, best I can tell, far from becoming “the most talked about media narrative ever,” the false claims that Brian Kolfage wasn’t being paid for his work on behalf of Bannon’s nonprofit escaped public notice almost entirely. The only reason most people will ever remember Kolfage now is that he was a central player in this fraud case. These so-called masterminds and media manipulators talk about themselves as though they are a little platoon of Machiavellis, but they kind of suck at politics. They won a surprise victory in 2016, and then lost . . . everything: the House, the Senate, the presidency. Joe Biden is Hillary Rodham Clinton minus about 45 IQ points, and he unseated Donald Trump — an incumbent president — while campaigning mostly from home.

    It's NRPlus, like most of KDW's stuff. How about you unsubscribe from those streaming services you never watch, and improve your mind with an NRPlus subscription instead?

URLs du Jour

2022-09-11

  • Heh. On Reddit:

    Easily identified for me: taken on the north side of US4, coming into the Lee traffic circle from the west.

    I suppose I shouldn't wish good luck to Moe. And yet, I'd bet on his success.


  • Good news from the hinterlands. James Freeman notes it: Beyond the Beltway, a ‘Flat Tax Revolution’. He quotes an article by Jared Walczak of the Tax Foundation:

    In more than a century of state income taxes, only four states have ever transitioned from a graduated-rate income tax to a flat tax. Another four adopted legislation doing so this year, and a planned transition in a fifth state is now going forward under a recent court decision. In what is already a year of significant bipartisan focus on tax relief, 2022 is also launching something of a flat tax revolution.

    In 1987, the 75th anniversary of state income taxation, Colorado replaced its half century-old graduated-rate income tax with a single-rate tax. It would take another 30 years for another state to follow suit, when Utah implemented a flat tax in 2007. Next came North Carolina in 2014, as part of that state’s comprehensive reforms, and most recently, Kentucky implemented a single rate of 5 percent in 2019. They joined five other states which already had flat taxes: Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

    Iowa is phasing in a 3.9 percent flat individual income tax by 2026, going from a graduated-rate tax that not long ago topped out at 8.98 percent. Mississippi will have a flat tax as of next year, with a 4 percent rate by 2026. Georgia’s income tax is now scheduled to convert to a flat rate of 5.49 percent, eventually phasing down to 4.99 percent. A court cleared the way for the implementation of Arizona’s transition to a 2.5 percent flat tax, which should happen, pending revenue availability, in 2024. In special session, Idaho adopted a 5.8 percent flat tax, replacing a four-bracket system. Missouri has been called into special session to adopt income tax rate cuts, but a flat tax could still be a consideration, soon if not this session, and a serious effort at adopting a flat tax is likely in Oklahoma next year.

    Left unfortunately unmentioned is the push in Massachusetts to undo its flat-since-1917 income tax. I've been seeing ads in favor of that so-called "Fair Share Amendment" on Boston stations James Stergios, also in the WSJ pleads with his statemates: Don’t Make Massachusetts ‘Taxachusetts’ Again.

    Unlike many blue states, Massachusetts has resisted the temptation to raise taxes on high earners. That antitax fortitude is about to be tested. In November state legislators will ask voters to approve an amendment to the Massachusetts constitution adding a 4% surcharge to annual income over $1 million.

    Massachusetts is home to arch-progressives like Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, but many voters here remember the 1980s, when the state was derisively known around the country as “Taxachusetts.” A series of antitax popular initiatives in the 1980s and tax cuts enacted by Gov. William Weld in the 1990s reduced Massachusetts’ overall state and local tax burden considerably. Proposition 2½, which limits both the levels and growth of property taxes, was approved by voters in 1980 and remains sacrosanct. Among states with income taxes, Massachusetts’ flat 5% rate is on the low side. In neighboring Connecticut and New York, the highest earners pay 6.9% and 10.9% respectively.

    The Tax Foundation calculates the tax burden for Massachusetts at 11.7%, which is low compared to nearby Maine (12.4%), Vermont (13.6%), Connecticut (15.4%), Rhode Island (11.4%), and New York (15.9%).

    But not as low as New Hampshire: 9.6%.

    Stergios predicts a Mass outflow of millionaires to New Hampshire and Florida if the amendment passes. I would have mixed feelings about that, because the scuttlebutt is that tax refugees quickly forget the reason they moved here.


  • At least Massachusetts has liberals to blame. But Veronique de Rugy contends The Road to Serfdom is Paved by Conservatives. It's a personal view:

    For the last ten years I have been baffled as I watched the conservative movement devolve into a weird wing of progressivism—especially on economic issues. While once at least paying lip service to limited government, fiscal prudence, and personal responsibility, conservatives now ignore the size of government and fiscal responsibility. They increasingly call for a larger child tax credit, a universal basic income, and paid leave arranged and ensured by the federal government. Many conservatives now also proudly embrace tariffs, hyperactive antitrust, and industrial policy (often justified, of course, as necessary to ‘fight’ China).

    Conservatives – or at least the more politically active ones – are reverting to their 1920s selves (See Matt Continetti’s book, The Right: The 100 year war for American Conservatism.) I failed to see this reversion occurring, in part because I moved to the United States in 1999 and was until recently fairly ignorant of the history of the conservative movement- and how the last forty years were more an exception than the rule.

    I fear that this recent trend is just the beginning. It won’t be long before the conservatives’ platform is a full-on version of big government, big business, and big unions. It’s depressing.

    Yeah, noticed that myself, although it took me somewhat longer than it did Vero. Some of my once-favorite sites seem to devote themselves entirely to name-calling the Other Guys. (The Other Guys being somewhat ill-defined, but at times seem to be 75% of the American population.) Reasoned arguments that might convince someone not to side with the Other Guys? Not so much.


  • You'll miss it when it's gone. Dan Drezner wonders if it's time to say Goodbye, Globalization?

    At the dawn of the 21st century, countries in both the Global South and the former communist bloc were falling over each other to lower their trade barriers, liberalize their capital markets, and encourage their best and brightest to study in the West. Multinational firms were expanding their supply chains to bring workers from Mexico, China, Vietnam, India, and Russia into their fold. The internet had created entirely new ways for information to cross borders. Labor productivity was soaring and global poverty was falling.

    U.S. politicians largely embraced this trend. Republicans and Democrats cooperated to negotiate trade agreements with both longtime friends and former foes. All this took place in a context of public optimism: In January 2000, 69 percent of Americans told Gallup they were satisfied with the country's direction.

    Two decades later, things have not quite worked out the way many champions of free trade hoped at the end of President Bill Clinton's administration. Neither China nor Russia turned into liberal, free market democracies. Two decades of unending war have been peppered by financial crises, populist uprisings, and pandemics. Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing sanctions are merely the latest shock to the system.

    Drezner looks back to the previous crisis, proclaimed by folks such as Karl Polanyi to be the death knell of global capitalism. Capitalism managed to dodge that bullet, but will we be lucky again?


  • Speaking of the Other Side… When You Find the Bad Guy in the Mirror. It's long and rambling, but he more or less summarizes at the end:

    Last week, in the wake of a report cataloging the catastrophic consequences of school closures, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre suggested that Democrats did everything they could to get schools open “in spite of Republicans.” Lots of folks have dunked on this ridiculous claim, though fact checkers seem to be mostly MIA. Obviously, some of this is just partisan B.S..

    But underneath it is exactly what I’m talking about. Forget Democrats and Republicans for a second. Liberals–good, decent, as pretty as George Clooney on the inside liberals—were overwhelmingly on the side of keeping schools closed. Teachers unions in particular behaved abhorrently and indefensibly—certainly, at least, in retrospect—in their effort to keep schools closed. When Donald Trump and countless others called for opening schools, they were accused of willingly endangering lives.

    Now, while I think some teachers unions are literally villainous, I still don’t think they see themselves that way. And lots of liberals who were wrong—coercively wrong!—about shutdowns and school closings were surely trying to do the right thing as they saw it.

    But groupthink married to an invincible and unreflective confidence that your side is always right led to all manner of mistakes. Emily Oster was villainized and attacked for dissenting from the groupthink.

    Again, I have no objection to calling out the foibles of those you disagree with. That’s a huge and indispensable part of democratic and political discourse. It’s literally how progress is made in a free society. But an essential ingredient for such progress is an openness to admitting your “side” might be wrong. Epistemic closure is a human failing, not an ideological one. And while it can take courage to call out the people on the other side of an issue, a deeper political courage comes from being willing to admit that no one has a monopoly on political virtue—or facts. Sometimes, it helps to ask, “Am I the bad guy?” And – just sometimes – the answer might be, “Yes.”

    Well, except for me.


Last Modified 2022-09-11 12:39 PM EST

The Judge's List

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Like another recently-read book, Michael Connelly's The Dark Hours, this book made the WSJ's Best Mysteries of 2021 list. It's by John Grisham. I remember reading his first best-seller, The Firm, back in the early 1990s. He's written well over thirty books since then, but I was never motivated enough to read them, and I probably wouldn't have read this, if not for that recommendation

I was disappointed.

Lacy Stoltz is an investigator working for Florida's "Board on Judicial Conduct", an agency tasked with checking out allegations of wrongdoing by the state's judges. Usually that involves undisclosed conflicts of interest, bribery, that sort of thing. It's a neglected and disrespected department, everyone's morale is low. But an unusual call is routed to Lacy: it's from a mysterious anonymous caller, claiming that a judge is actually a mastermind serial killer, bumping off people on his "list": those who did him dirty in years previous. His hallmark is strangulation with a nylon cord, tied post-mortem with an unusual double clove hitch.

Lucy is reluctant; that's way out of the Board's usual ambit. Why doesn't the anonymous caller just go to the cops? Or maybe an ambitious true-crime reporter? Well, that's a good idea, and the answer isn't really that convincing.

I kept waiting for the didn't-see-that-coming shocking plot twist. I have a spoiler about that: there is nothing to spoil. No twists, no turns. Not even a mystery, really.

Wait a minute! Is that a loose end I see, one that Lacy will tug on to reveal … Nope, sorry.

The dialog is flat, the characters are not that interesting, it's very repetitious, the plot is full of unanswered "why didn't they just…" points. There are suspenseful moments of action, resolved by dumb luck and coincidence.

And it's way too long; I assume Grisham was writing to meet a page-count contract.

Recessional

The Death of Free Speech and the Cost of a Free Lunch

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

A book of essays by David Mamet, prizewinning playwright, screenwriter, director. Many of the essays originally appeared in the back pages of National Review, which means I've read them before, perhaps magazine-edited for space and (maybe) language. No matter.

The essays are short, insightful, and seemingly rambling at times. (Or maybe Mamet was just following a trail I missed. That's not unlikely.) Full of allusions, praise and pans for people famous and obscure. Very funny in spots.

As someone who cares about language and the meaning of words, Mamet can be quick and devastating when eviscerating foolish language. Here's something to keep in mind when the Sanders/Warren Democrats talk about "stakeholder capitalism":

Over the last decade "shareholder" has been replaced by "stakeholder.' I will remind my readers that a stakeholder is an onlooker to a gambling event.

The contenders in the wager trust the stakeholder to hold their respective bets (the stakes) and at the contest's conclusion to award them to the winner.

The stakeholder is one who, by definition, can have neither interest nor profit in the outcome.

I believe no further comment is required.

On a once-favored bookstore's website denouncing "systemic racism":

Now, I don't know what systemic racism is, but neither does anyone else. but neither does anyone else. Like social justice, any communicable meaning is destroyed by the adjective. Both terms are indictments of human evil; its perpetrators are easily identifiable: they are those who request a definition.

And an observation about biz-speak, on a par with woke-speak:

Employees are now referred to as human resources. The folks described are the same, but the difference is semantic, which is to say, in the way they are considered, and, so, treated. What does one do with employees? One pays them. What does one do with resources? One exploits them.

And then there's his fantasy of, when asked for his pronouns, answering that they are "His Majesty/Your Majesty".

One unfortunate false note: Mamet entertains the theory that Dorothy Kilgallen ("columnist, journalist, and television game show panelist") was murdered because she was about to reveal discoveries she made investigating the JFK assassination. (As Mamet puts it, she died "from an overdose of 'You got too close.'")

That's a well-known offshoot of that genre. I won't debate it, but… come on.


Last Modified 2022-09-22 6:43 AM EST

The Dark Hours

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Another fine outing from Mr. Connelly; for some reason I can't put my finger on, I find him eminently readable. I e-picked this Kindle version from Amazon on its release day back in November of last year; took a while before my book-picking algorithm gave me the OK to read it. (Just in time before Connelly's next book comes out!)

Even though I would have read this book anyway, I should point out that it also made the WSJ's Best Mysteries of 2021 list. So it's not just me.

Connelly's female cop, Renée Ballard, takes center stage here, with a major supporting role played by the semi-retired Harry Bosch. It opens on New Year's Eve 2020, and the LAPD is at a low point, reeling from defund-the-police calls in the wake of the George Floyd protests. Many cops are phoning it in, including Ballard's partner, Lisa Moore. They are trying to track down the "Midnight Men", a two-man team of rapists preying on single females. But as the book opens, Ballard and Moore are sheltering under a freeway overpass, the safest place to be when the fusillade of bullets fired off into the air at midnight comes raining back down on the innocent and the guilty, cop and civilian.

But tonight, a bad guy has used the midnight gunfire to disguise a homicide, shooting an ex-gang member in the head at close range. Powder burns on the victim's scalp tell the sharp-eyed Ballard that it was murder. So that makes two major cases she takes it upon herself to solve. She has to fight against apparently hopeless odds: not only against the criminals who have done a pretty good job covering their tracks, but also the internal politics of the LAPD. Doesn't help that Ballard has a crusading chip on her shoulder, showing little respect for department protocol or her colleagues' lassitude. (She's much like Bosch there.) But (good news) she finds some companionship with a Fire Department EMT; which comes in handy when later in the book… well, I don't want to spoil that.


Last Modified 2022-09-10 4:50 PM EST

URLs du Jour

2022-09-10

  • Also a totally pointless tweet, but… I made a totally non-snarky tweet in response to our state's junior senator:

    The "economic report" to which she refers is from the totally unbiased "Seacoast Shipyard Association" (website "saveourshipyard.org"). That report is not on their website as I type but this local newspaper story summarizes it uncritically.

    A lot of good people work at the shipyard, including one of my neighbors. And, yes, many of the defense dollars spent at the shipyard "trickle down" to the betterment of the local economy.

    But to repeat my tweeted point: the "economic report" is the sort of garbage that Frédéric Bastiat debunked back in 1848 with his essay "What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen". I won't repeat everything I wrote back in 2017, except to embrace the fallacy (as Bastiat did) and see where it leads us: if defense spending is by its nature so economically beneficial, why don't we put the entire nation to work in it, and get rid of all these fripperies produced by the private economy?

    I won't hold my breath waiting for an answer.


  • Speaking of wisdom from dead authors… David R. Henderson is on an Ayn Rand kick these days, and he chooses one of his favorite segments in her very long book, on: The Aristocracy Of Pull.

    One of Ayn Rand’s best scenes in her novel Atlas Shrugged has her hero Francisco d’Anconia complete the statement of one of her villains with a surprise ending. Villain James Taggart states:

    “We will liberate our culture from the stranglehold of the profit-chasers. We will build a society dedicated to higher ideals, and we will replace the aristocracy of money by—”

    “the aristocracy of pull,” interjects [Francisco] d’Anconia.

    Ayn Rand was getting at two things. First, she was saying that those who make a lot of money in a free society do so by producing goods or services that consumers value highly. But I’m pretty sure, having read almost all her fiction and nonfiction, that Rand would not have accepted the term “aristocracy of money” to describe the laissez-faire economic system she favored. “Aristocracy” normally refers to a form of government in which a small elite calls the shots; Rand wanted a government that called very few shots.

    Second, and more important in this context, Rand was saying that if you replace a society in which people are free to make contracts with one in which the government interferes, inevitably political pull will be more important. So, for example, if a government sets tariffs on certain imports but grants exemptions to some importers, the people and companies that get to be the exempt importers will disproportionately be those who have some connection with the decision makers in government. 

    David has a number of examples, pulled from the headlines.


  • Offering advice that will not be taken. Veronique de Rugy gives it a try: Championing Opportunity is a Winning Strategy for Democrats.

    Today's political parties lack ideas. The Republicans define themselves as opponents of Democrats. Yet many of the GOP economic policy positions resemble, with minor variations, those of Democrats. Meanwhile, the Democrats repeat the same simplistic refrain: "solve" every problem with more money and stricter regulations. How dreary and unproductive.

    To the Democrats in charge right now, let me offer an idea as you try to fight poverty, inequality and corporate influence: Transform yourselves from the party of handouts and regulations into the party of opportunity.

    […]

    Why should Democrats embrace what might sound like conservative talking points? As conservatives encroach more and more into government control over the economy, progressives, who've failed at their traditional approach for decades, have nothing to lose.

    It would be nice if Democrats thought that way. But at least since FDR, their strategy has been to make more people dependent on government for more stuff. Why should they abandon that winning strategy?


  • Democracy in action. At Techdirt, Mike Masnick relates some senatorial hijinx: Amy Klobuchar’s Link Tax Bill Put On Hold Because She Doesn’t Understand Her Own Bill And Ted Cruz Doesn’t Understand The 1st Amendment.

    Earlier today, there was a Senate Judiciary Committee markup on the JCPA the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act put forth by Senator Amy Klobuchar. Last week I wrote a long post about just how broken the bill is. It does almost everything it seeks to do badly, in ways that are genuinely dangerous. That post has the details, but in short: it tries to force big internet companies to pay news organizations for linking to them, which fundamentally changes how the internet works (you should never have to pay to link). While it pretends not to, it fundamentally messes with copyright law, because while it talks about “licensing,” it never explains what these sites need to actually license. That’s because the reality is that they’re trying to license links, news snippets, and headlines. All of those are fair use and require no license. Yet under this bill, they’ll need to be licensed.

    So the bill was already garbage. Masnick goes into further detail, if you're interested. But Ted Cruz (sort of) saved the day:

    Either way, somehow, Ted Cruz, who ranted nonsensically for way too long about “big tech censorship”, got his own amendment to the bill approved by the committee. And… once that happened, Klobuchar insisted that it ruined the bill and basically took her ball and went home, refusing to allow the bill to go for a vote. Of course, it’s unclear how Cruz’s amendment actually does anything here, because he’s (yet again) confused about how the 1st Amendment works, and how it’s the 1st Amendment that allows websites to moderate as they wish.

    It was only via dumb—literally dumb—luck that we were spared further action on Senator Amy's bad bill. There's an argument for electing stupid Republicans, I suppose.


  • We're number … eh, seven. The Fraser Institute has published its latest report on the: Economic Freedom of the World. And yes, the Land of the Free is now the Land of the Somewhat Less Free. The previous annual report had the US in fifth place (behind Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, and Switzerland. In this report, we also fell behind Australia and Denmark, putting us in a precarious seventh.

    And Estonia is nipping at our heels.

    Further note the data is from the pre-Biden year of 2020.

    The authors look hard for the pony hiding in all the horseshit:

    In 2000, the average rating fell to 6.84 in 2020 from 7.00 in 2019—erasing about a decade’s worth of improvement in economic freedom in the world. The policy responses to the coronavirus pandemic undoubtedly contributed to an erosion of economic freedom for most people in 2020. Even after the recent decline, between 2000 and 2020 the average economic-freedom rating increased to 6.84 from 6.59.

    I'm seemingly feeling more pessimistic by the day.


  • Disparate treatment. Tristan Justice has a long enough memory to compare and contrast July 2020 with September 2022 and everything has changed. Biden’s Speech From Hell Was Everything The Media Called Trump’s Address At Mount Rushmore.

    Some might say President Joe Biden’s prime-time speech in Pennsylvania last week amplified “racial division.” Critics could also say the speech featured a president “leaning into the culture wars” to exploit the nation’s historic polarization. Others might even say the speech was “dark and divisive,” where the president accused his political opposition of being a “threat” to “the very soul” of America.

    These descriptors, however, weren’t used to characterize President Biden’s opening message for the November midterms delivered under a blood-red background flanked by marines as his personal stormtroopers. This was how the media portrayed President Donald Trump’s patriotic address to celebrate Independence Day in 2020.

    Among the interesting data points was this widely-circulated AP "news" story, headlined "Trump pushes racial division, flouts virus rules at Rushmore".

    Pun Salad mentioned the Rushmore speech back in 2020: here, here, here, and here. Among the interesting observations therein:

    • Senator Tammy Duckworth complained on CNN that Trump “spent more time worried about honoring dead Confederates” than talking about Covid. In fact, Trump didn't mention Confederates at all.
    • Trump complained about "cancel culture" which was "driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters, and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees." Neatly ignoring all the times he demanded that people be fired, and companies be shut down, for doing/saying things he didn't like.


  • And just for the fun of it… Jeff Maurer provides another R-rated rant about one of his pet entertainment peeves: Enough With the Lore, Thank You.

    What follows is just one man’s opinion, and worse yet: I am that man. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from a lifetime of consuming and producing entertainment, it’s that my opinions are not widely shared. When it comes to what’s good and what’s bad, I am a lonely idiot atop a mountain, whispering opinions into an icy wind that will carry my thoughts quickly to oblivion.

    Still, I’m compelled to share this thought: Lore — the explanatory preamble that begins most fantasy tales — is a big bag of hot nothing. It gets in the way of good stories and should be minimized, if not eliminated. We can have tales about elves and dragons and all that fruity mystical crap that people including me love so much, but it would be better if we had it without the lore.

    The proximate cause of this tirade is the fact that I recently watched Elves of the Rings: Power of the Lord of Hobbits (or whatever it is — I refuse to look it up). The show begins by burying the viewer under a big steaming pile o' lore. Before we see Hobbit One, we're told about Morgoth and the Legion of Elves and the exodus from Valinor and the orc diaspora and Sauron and a million other things. It felt like an assignment; it felt like I should be taking notes for a test that the TV show was going to give me later. I find it taxing to feel expected to remember things that were thrown at me quickly in a (still too long) montage. I assume that knowing these things is critical to the story, and if that’s not the case, then why was some elf bending my normal-sized ear with this crap in the first place?

    Maurer makes an interesting observation about that good old Star Wars movie, and that text crawl right at the beginning. Did we really need that to understand what the movie was about to show us?

    (Still, as Maurer says, it was preferable to the text crawl at the start of The Phantom Menace, all about "the rules of Interstellar NAFTA". Heh.)


Last Modified 2022-09-10 4:42 PM EST

Thor: Love and Thunder

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

The latest Marvel movie became a free-to-me streamer on Disney+, so I bit. Bottom line: I'm sort of glad I didn't pay to see it in the theater. (By the way, the company that owns our local Regal Cinema megaplex just went bankrupt. Just thought I'd mention that.)

The movie begins with a downer: Gorr, a very pasty humanoid played by Christian Bale, watches his young daughter die as his god ignores his plea for miraculous salvation. And then the god shows up with a luxurious oasis, and mocks Gorr for thinking he gives a rat's ass about him or his daughter. Gorr is righteously pissed, and there's a fortuitous god-slaying sword near at hand, and… well, there's your plot. Gorr acquires the means and motive to go on a god-slaying crusade. Not just his god, but all of 'em, including those comparatively decent Asgardians.

Thor has been hanging out with the Guardians of the Galaxy, and it's nice to see those guys again. But it's clear that their relationship is getting a tad strained. They agree to part ways, and Thor returns to the Earthbound remnants of Asgardian glory, now ensconced in a scenic Norwegian fjord…

Also meanwhile, Thor's ex-girlfriend Jane is dying of cancer. She travels to the previously-mentioned fjord, where the remains of Thor's old weapon, Mjölnir, are being kept as a tourist attraction. Miraculously…

Well, Thor and Jane soon find themselves in a desperate struggle with Gorr and his forces. Epic battles ensue, allies are (unsuccessfully) sought, et cetera.

There's a lot of jokiness involved, somewhat at odds with the girlfriend-cancer and dead-daughter themes. But it's funny, nevertheless. The director/co-writer, Taika Waititi, also wrote/directed Jojo Rabbit, with a similar horror/humor mix. That one worked better for me.

URLs du Jour

2022-09-09

  • Her Majesty was a pretty nice girl. RIP, Queen Elizabeth II.

    I might not have posted about her passing, but I'm currently reading The Aristocracy of Talent by Adrian Woolridge, a look at the nature and history of meritocracy. It's one of those insightful and thought-provoking books that have you looking at current events differently.

    And of course, if you do that, you can't help but observe the Queen's position was not due to merit in the slightest. It was simply an accident of birth and long-running, somewhat arbitrary, history; her life trajectory had nothing to do with talent or character. It was a reminder of how things played out in pre-meritocratic days.

    That must be a damned odd situation to find yourself in. ("I'm what now? Royalty? How did that happen?")

    That said, she played her preprogrammed role well, by all accounts. (Well, nearly all accounts.)

    For an interesting take on American media reaction, I recommend Philip Greenspun, who wonders How can the death of a 96-year-old dominate the news if we are facing multiple emergencies? He presents a screenshot of the QEII-dominated New York Times front page, and says waitaminnit:

    Of course, it is sad that a 96-year-old has died, but this is the newspaper that has told us we’re facing a “climate emergency” (Biden will fix), a public health emergency (COVID-19), a second public health emergency (racism), a public health crisis (racism, again), a global health emergency (monkeypox), a domestic health emergency (monkeypox, again), a non-health emergency (homelessness), a kids’ mental health emergency (give them a computer while their school is closed for 1.5 years and then give them therapy), etc., etc.

    Yes, those are all links to the NYT's recent "emergency"-screaming headlines. Why, it's almost as if they don't believe their own hysteria.

    [You don't need a clue about our headline's inspiration do you?]


  • Speaking of emergencies: Some are eminently predictable but politically convenient to ignore. And yes, I'm talking about what Timothy Taylor is talking about: Social Security: On Hold Until 2034?

    For the last 30 years, the actuaries who draw up the long-run projections for Social Security have been forecasting that by the 2030s, there were be inadequate funds to pay promised Social Security benefits. There is no secret here–but nothing has been been done. Douglas Arnold describes the situation and makes some judicious predictions about what is likely to happen in “Fixing Social Security: The Politics of Reform in a Polarized Age,” (Milken Institute Review, Third Quarter 2022). It’s an excerpt from Arnold’s just-published book of the same title. Arnold writes:

    We should not be surprised if Congress does nothing to fix Social Security before 2034, when the trust fund runs dry. Although experts first identified the long-term solvency problem nearly three decades ago, and opinion surveys have repeatedly shown that fixing the problem is one of the public’s top priorities, legislators have never voted on a proposal to fix it — not in committee, not on the floor, not in the House, not in the Senate. … And the principal reason for congressional inaction is clear: insolvency is a long-term problem without short-term consequences. Everything will change in 2034. Suddenly, insolvency will become an urgent problem with enormous consequences. Absent congressional action, an estimated 83 million Social Security recipients — 18 million more than today — will face automatic benefit cuts of 21 percent. Another 8 million people filing for Social Security benefits that year will face similar reductions from what they would otherwise collect.

    It’s worth emphasizing that Arnold’s comment that “legislators have never voted on a proposal to fix it.” Apparently, both parties would prefer to have the Social Security issue linger, rather than find a way to take credit for fixing it. This seems especially striking to me because addressing the coming shortfall in Social Security is pretty straightforward. The same actuaries who point out that the system isn’t financially sustainable as it stands also offer financial estimates of a list of possible policy choices. I’ve written about these kinds of proposals before (for example, see here and here) and won’t run through them again here. But I sometimes say that if a bipartisan group was locked in a room one morning and told that they wouldn’t be served food until a compromise was reached, I think the group could easily be out with a plan before lunchtime.

    Speaking of that: we recently got snailmail from the AARP, attempting to scarify us about the TRUST act, legislation proposed by Mitt Romney to (approximately) set up the scenario described in that last quoted paragraph: task bipartisan committees to examine unsustainable government trust funds (including Social Security's) and recommend fixes. And those recommendations would have to be voted on.

    Well, the AARP was aghast. Their mail didn't bother to explain the TRUST proposal even perfunctorily, just calling it evil. They included prefab forms that we could use to demand our congressional representatives oppose the proposal.

    Oh, and they also asked us to send them money, so they can keep scaring old people like us.

    I'm pretty sure the AARP is following the strategy Taylor describes: wait until 2034 or so, when the SocSec crisis is imminent, and the viable options will be much more constrained. That's irresponsible, but they don't care.


  • Speaking of funny accounting games… Alex J. Pollock and Paul H. Kupiec take a look at the asymmetrical treatment of Federal Reserve Operating Losses and the Federal Budget Deficit. It's really green-eyeshade stuff, but…

    The Federal Reserve remits most of its operating profits to the US Treasury. Federal Reserve remittances are government revenues that directly reduce the federal budget deficit. But what is the budgetary impact of Federal Reserve System losses? The Federal Reserve System has not had an operating loss since 1915, so history provides no guidance as to how these losses will impact the official federal government deficit.

    In 2023, the Fed will likely report tens of billions of dollars in operating losses as it raises interest rates to combat raging inflation. Will Fed losses increase the budget deficit as logic dictates they should, or will they be treated as an off-budget expenditure? Given the “transparency” of federal budgetary accounting standards, it is not surprising that a recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report suggests Federal Reserve operating losses will be excluded when tallying the official federal budget deficit.

    You'll want to click over to read about the thorny concept of "deferred assets". Sounds shady. I'm not one of those "End the Fed" libertarians, but… well, maybe I should take a closer look at that.


  • Yeah, how did that happen? John Murawski takes to the pages of the Federalist to describe How America's Elites Decided Vicious Anti-White Racism Is A Good Thing.

    In a 2021 lecture at Yale University titled “The Psychopathic Problem of the White Mind,” psychiatrist Aruna Khilanani described her “fantasies of unloading a revolver into the head of any white person that got in my way, burying their body and wiping my bloody hands as I walked away relatively guiltless with a bounce in my step, like I did the world a favor.”

    Around the same time, a scholarly article in a peer-reviewed academic journal described “whiteness” as “a malignant, parasitic-like condition to which ‘white’ people have a particular susceptibility.” The author, Donald Moss, had also presented his paper as a continuing education course for licensed therapists who would presumably treat patients with this condition. The paper advises: “There is not yet a permanent cure.”

    This is a sampling of the new racism that is gaining purchase in American society even as its advocates relentlessly punish speech they deem harmful and threatening to people of color. It parallels the acceptance of anti-male rhetoric that casts masculinity as “predatory” and “toxic,” or just casually demeans males as oafish and clueless, which allows the Washington Post to give a megaphone to Northeastern University professor Suzanna Danuta Walters to ask: “Why can’t we hate men?” (Her conclusion: We can and we should.)

    I'm one of those fuddy-duddies who think that a perfectly good definition of "racism" is "invidious stereotyping on the basis of race". Or was, anyway. That has long been passé in polite progressive company.


  • No, not that F-bomb. The other one. Steven Hayward recounts the long history of Democrats and the F-Bomb.

    President Biden recently charged that Republicans were becoming “semi-fascist,” and this, too, began with FDR. In his 1944 State of the Union speech, Roosevelt said “if history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called ‘normalcy’ of the 1920’s [invoking Republican Warren Harding’s campaign slogan in 1920]—then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of Fascism here at home.” (Emphasis added.) The Democrats had their new f-bomb, and began mass producing it.

    Harry Truman was happy to extend this charge. “PRESIDENT LIKENS DEWEY TO HITLER AS FASCISTS’ TOOL,” read the front-page New York Times headline of October 25, 1948:

    “CHICAGO, Oct. 25 — “A Republican victory on election day will bring a Fascistic threat to American freedom that is even more dangerous than the perils from communism and extreme right ‘crackpots,’ President Truman asserted here tonight.”

    The Democrats’ “fascism” slur went into overdrive when the GOP nominated Barry Goldwater in 1964. California Governor Pat Brown said Goldwater’s acceptance speech “had the stench of fascism. . . All we needed to hear was ‘Heil Hitler’.” San Francisco Mayor John Shelley said that Republicans “had Mein Kampf as their political bible.” Most of the media was happy to amplify this chorus. Columnist Drew Pearson wrote that “the smell of fascism has been in the air at this convention.” The Chicago Defender ran the headline: “GOP Convention, 1964 Recalls Germany, 1933.” (The good-natured Goldwater remarked about himself after that “If I had had to go by the media reports alone, I’d have voted against the sonofabitch, too.”)

    I remember when I was a college student out in California, the then-governor was regularly called "Ronnie Raygun, the fascist gun in the west." Ah, college.

    I left a comment on Hayward's post, my usual observation you may have seen before:

    Well, if nobody else is gonna quote Orwell, I will:

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

    -- "Politics and the English Language", 1946.

    So, yeah, something George noticed was occurring across the pond, 76 years ago.

URLs du Jour

2022-09-08

  • Oops, I did it again. I typed a snarky tweet in response to our state's junior senator:

    Gee, why didn't she think of that before?

    But seriously. Senator Hassan's self-praising press release has (slightly) more detail about her proposed panacea.

    Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) announced today that she is introducing a bill to help address New Hampshire’s housing crisis by expanding housing opportunities, which will increase housing options for families and in turn, help businesses attract workers.

    “Investing in housing helps families across the state and boosts local economies that are in need of workforce housing,” said Senator Hassan. “This bill will help expand the housing options available in New Hampshire in order to tackle the housing crisis and ensure that families have access to good housing that they can afford. I have been working on addressing our state’s housing crisis since my time in New Hampshire state government, and I urge my colleagues to support this bill that will help more families and small businesses thrive.”

    Quotes from tame New Hampshire "business leaders" are provided to impress the gullible. Unsurprisingly, her legislative solution to New Hampshire's "housing crisis" is for Uncle Stupid to spend more money on grants and subsidies. (Apparently HUD's $71.9 billion budget just isn't getting the job done.) The congress.gov website has very little information on the actual bill. The bill's text is unavailable as I type, and despite Senator Hassan's claim that the bill is "bipartisan", there are no co-sponsors signed up (again, as I type).

    Housing woes in New Hampshire (and elsewhere) are primarily local. NIMBYism is rife. (I can report that the Facebook page for my little town is filled with disdain and hostility for any new housing development.)

    A recent article from Jason Sorens at the Josiah Bartlett Center website looks at recent proposals by this year's likely gubernatorial candidates, Sununu and Sherman, about housing. His comment about Sununu's scheme:

    The governor’s InvestNH program consists of $60 million in grants for owners and developers, and $40 million in grants for municipalities. In an ideal world, taxpayer dollars wouldn’t be used to subsidize a private industry at all. Yet government has created housing scarcity by strictly regulating home-building, not in the interest of health or safety, but simply with the explicit goal of preventing new people from living in the area. The obvious solution is to remove the unnecessary regulations that limit residential construction. But those regulations rest at the local level, and legislators have proven reluctant to overrule them with state laws. Using financial resources as incentives to work around or relax local regulations is a compromise that attempts to produce quick results while accepting the political reality that no statewide fix is achievable this year.


  • He just wanted to be president. And in the worst way. Charles C. W. Cooke discourses on Biden’s Pointless Presidency.

    President Biden says that he is engaged “in a battle for the soul of this nation.” The trouble is, he doesn’t seem quite sure what that means.

    It is not unfair to ask: What is the Biden administration? What is its purpose? What, besides a haphazard rehashing of Absolutely Everything Progressives Have Ever Thought Of, is its program? Joe Biden became president because the alternative was reelecting Donald Trump, and, much to his detriment, Joe Biden has never managed to transcend that elementary fact. Eighteen months in, his presidency still lacks a theme, a focus, a narrative. The most pressing issues facing the country — inflation, debt, energy — all seem to bore him. His foreign policy is non-existent. His domestic priorities are determined by the transient concerns of Elizabeth Warren’s emissaries to the White House and by the trending bar on Twitter. “Who is really in charge?” Biden’s critics like to ask. The question assumes too much. Nobody is in charge, because there’s nothing to be in charge of. One might as well ask who is in charge of a feather floating in the wind.

    Around and around Biden spins — smiling here, glaring there, emitting sparks without kindling, telling stories without meaning, gesturing without function, striding purposelessly back and forth in search of something, anything, that might reverse his slide toward irrelevance. Rudderless, he motions momentarily toward tackling inflation, and then moves on to something else. Desperate, he forswears responsibility: Gas prices are up? That’s the oil companies’ fault. Hopeful, he snatches responsibility: Gas prices are down? That’s Dark Brandon’s doing! Impotently, he yells and intones and lectures, flitting between ersatz solemnity and peremptory ire with no perceptible loss of vim. We have a crisis in this country, he says, in whispers. What is that crisis? It’s Trump and his friends. Or, maybe, it’s everyone in the Republican Party, or pro-lifers, or apologists for Wall Street, or people with bad policy ideas. It’s something; he just hasn’t quite decided what yet. He’ll get back to you on that.

    His entire raison d'être was getting elected President, something he pursued starting in 1987. But it's that whole dog-chasing-car thing: he didn't know what to do with it when he caught it.


  • It's like asking whether Schrödinger's cat is alive or not. John Kass asks: Just Who Are Those (Semi) Fascists of Yours, Mr. President?

    Did President Joe Biden really pour steaming buckets of official White House hate upon the heads of 75 million American citizens simply for the sin of disagreeing with him?

    Yes, he did.

    With just two months before the most important election in our lifetimes, Biden decided to kick those tens of millions of Americans to the margins of society. He branded pro Trump MAGA Republicans as hateful fascists, or “semi-fascists” (whatever that means).

    Well, good luck finding out what Biden means. Because he doesn't seem to know himself. See Dan McLaughlin: Joe Biden Can’t Decide What ‘MAGA Republican’ Means.

    But here’s a thing Joe Biden is not so sure of: who exactly these “MAGA Republicans” are, or what makes them so extreme. As Charlie and I noted of last week’s Philadelphia speech, Biden couldn’t keep straight even within the speech whether he was denouncing the refusal to accept election results, the use or threat of political violence, or more common Republican policy proposals such as opposing abortion. He’s been doing this for months. At a Pride Month event in June, Biden described state laws against age-inappropriate sex and gender education and transgender drugs and surgeries on children as “ultra-MAGA agenda attacking families and our freedoms.”

    The problem with this, of course, is that throwing everybody in the party or in support of its agenda (such as the Florida sex-education bill, which is supported by a majority of Florida Democrats) dissipates the force of the attack, strengthens Trump’s position within the Republican Party, and gives every Republican in the country good reason to believe that the president of the United States has declared them enemies of the state. It does not even make any sense on its own terms. As I’ve argued in contexts ranging from radical Islam to white supremacy to woke ideology and critical race theory to left-wing street violence, if you want to defeat a radical fringe, you try to give them a distinct name and identity that isolates them from their ideological fellow-travelers and sometime-allies. If MAGA Republicans are just all Republicans, there’s no effort to isolate them.

    Don't press Joe too much on this, because he might challenge you to an IQ test.


  • It's always a Flight 93 election. Jacob Sullum writes his usual long headline: "Biden and Trump Stoke Division While Complaining About It: The Current and Former Presidents Offer Dueling but Equally Apocalyptic Takes on This Fall's Elections".

    Last week in Philadelphia, President Joe Biden gave "the most vicious, hateful and divisive speech ever delivered by an American president," so former President Donald Trump proclaimed at a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on Saturday before proceeding to outdo Biden.

    The two speeches — one decrying "MAGA Republicans" who "represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic," the other condemning "the radical left lunatics" who are "trying to destroy our country" — mirrored each other in ways neither man would be willing to admit. Both portrayed the other side as not just mistaken but malevolent and warned that its victory this fall would doom everything Americans hold dear.

    Biden prefaced his attack on Trump and his followers by drawing a distinction between "MAGA Republicans" and "mainstream Republicans," whom "I've been able to work with." But even as he averred that "not even the majority of Republicans are MAGA Republicans," Biden warned that "the Republican Party today is dominated, driven and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans," who pose "a threat to this country."

    Is it any wonder that people find evidence-free allegations of voting fraud so credible? After all, when the Other Side thinks your candidate is an existential threat to the country, wouldn't they use Any Means Necessary to ensure their guy wins?


  • Here's a "duh" item. It's from Jonah Goldberg: Trump Is Hurting the GOP’s Midterm Prospects. His bottom line:

    More important, the very nature of the scandal around Trump’s egregious mishandling of classified documents elicits a powerful déjà vu effect. The former president is claiming executive privilege—despite the fact that he’s no longer president—and talking like he’s an unjustly deposed king in internal exile. In terms of the national conversation, it feels like the guy never left.

    By making himself the issue that defines a “good” Republican, Trump and his enablers have frittered away their advantage, turning what should be a referendum on the party in power into a choice between the two parties.

    The other day William Barr, Trump’s former attorney general, said about the Mar-a-Lago search: “People say this was unprecedented, well, it’s also unprecedented for a president to take all this classified information and put them in a country club.”

    It’s a good point with broader applicability. According to precedent, losing presidents go away. This allows their party to reinvent itself as the reasonable alternative to the party in power. That’s a big reason why the midterm curse is such a powerful precedent. The GOP complacently relied on that precedent while ignoring the reasons for its existence.

    Of course, Trump could not care less about the GOP's midterm prospects. His only interest is himself.


  • Let me apologize in advance for posting this. George F. Will observes: In the sandbox also known as academia, it’s the golden age of the grovel.

    Although mediocrity is as rampant as usual, this is at least the golden age of the grovel. And James H. Sweet, the protagonist of academia’s most recent pratfall, is a maestro of self-abasement.

    This history professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and president of the American Historical Association tried to say something sensible, and partially succeeded. It is, however, perilous to deviate even microscopically from progressive orthodoxy, as enforced by today’s censorious professoriate, so he experienced Twitter crucifixion. His “crap” was “white-centric” and advocating “white supremacist Aryan eugenicist” history, etc. Sweet’s critics reduced him to quivering contrition because he had written this:

    “Presentism” — interpreting the past through the lens of the present — has permeated the discipline of teaching and writing history in academia. “Historical questions often emanate out of present concerns” but “Doing history with integrity requires us to interpret elements of the past not through the optics of the present but within the worlds of our historical actors.” As academic historians have focused increasingly on the 20th and 21st centuries, “our interpretations of the recent past collapse into the familiar terms of contemporary debates.” The “allure of political relevance” is intensified by this anxiety: “If we don’t read the past through the prism of contemporary social justice issues — race, gender, sexuality, nationalism, capitalism — are we doing history that matters?”

    Sweet had threatened the fun of progressive vanity, of celebrating oneself by disparaging historical figures: Washington, Lincoln, Churchill — all were the moral inferiors of 21st century professors. Worse, from the perspective of the woke, is Sweet’s skepticism about history as progressivism’s servant, which is history “that matters.”

    GFW speculates that It Is No Coincidence that history majors have become the latest endangered species on campus. (Fortunately, there are still Gen Ed requirements propping up history departments.)

URLs du Jour

2022-09-07

  • Eye Candy du Jour confirms: Biden has always been a scary guy. I'll be seeing that pic in my nightmares.

    Lance Morrow takes to the WSJ op-ed page to note: Biden’s Speech Had It All Backward.

    The Democrats have the “fascist” business wrong.

    Donald Trump isn’t a fascist, or even a semi-fascist, in President Biden’s term. Mr. Trump is an opportunist. His ideology is coextensive with his temperament: In both, he is an anarcho-narcissist. He is Elmer Gantry, or the Music Man, if Harold Hill had been trained in the black arts by Roy Cohn. He is what you might get by crossing the Wizard of Oz with Willie Sutton, who explained that he robbed banks because “that’s where the money is.”

    As for Mr. Trump’s followers, they belong to the Church of American Nostalgia. They are Norman Rockwellians, or Eisenhowerites. They regard themselves, not without reason, as the last sane Americans. You might think of them as American masculinity in exile; like James Fenimore Cooper’s Natty Bumppo, living in the forest has made their manners rough.

    If there are fascists in America these days, they are apt to be found among the tribes of the left. They are Mr. Biden and his people (including the lion’s share of the media), whose opinions have, since Jan. 6, 2021, hardened into absolute faith that any party or political belief system except their own is illegitimate—impermissible, inhuman, monstrous and (a nice touch) a threat to democracy. The evolution of their overprivileged emotions—their sentimentality gone fanatic—has led them, in 2022, to embrace Mussolini’s formula: “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” Or against the party. (People forget, if they ever knew it, that both Hitler and Mussolini began as socialists). The state and the Democratic Party must speak and act as one, suppressing all dissent. America must conform to the orthodoxy—to the Chinese finger-traps of diversity-or-else and open borders—and rejoice in mandatory drag shows and all such theater of “gender.” Meantime, their man in the White House invokes emergency powers to forgive student debt and their thinkers wonder whether the Constitution and the separation of powers are all they’re cracked up to be.

    Emphasis, as the say, added.


  • Some local election news. Josh Christenson looks at a recent CNN interview with Washington's senior senator: Patty Murray Defends Dem Donations to ‘MAGA Republicans’. There's a New Hampshire connection:

    Democrats are throwing money behind extreme candidates in hopes that they will be easier to beat in the general election. In New Hampshire, the party’s Senate Majority PAC purchased $3.2 million in ad time to attack moderate Republican Chuck Morse, Politico reported Friday. Morse, a long-serving state senator, is set to square off against far-right GOP candidate Don Bolduc in a September senate primary. Bolduc is beating Morse by double digits in the most recent polls, according to RealClearPolitics.

    Those anti-Morse ads are unavoidable if you watch any NH-market channels. They're spending a lot to make sure Morse doesn't win the GOP primary.

    Not that you care, or even should care, but I'm leaning toward Kevin Smith in the primary. He's running fifth, only slightly ahead of "Other" in the latest UNH Survey Center poll. But I'm impressed with the meatiness of his policy page. (Try, in contrast, to find anything about Jones Act reform at either the Bolduc site—although I like his doggie—or the Morse site.


  • Because it's been fission for compliments. Andrew Cline of the Josiah Bartlett Center says Nuclear power is having a moment despite, not because of, environmental activists.

    Energy shortages in California and Europe have prompted a revival of interest in Nuclear power. And who gets the credit? Environmental activists, naturally.

    Why even environmental activists are supporting nuclear power today,” National Public Radio gushed last week.

    The few environmentalists highlighted in the story deserve credit for taking such an unpopular position within the movement. NPR even acknowledges their pariah status.

    Drew (I call him Drew) lists the dismal activist record of obstruction to plant construction in New England and (if the plants managed to get up and running) unceasing opposition to their continued operation. Bottom line:

    It’s nice to see the small group of pro-nuclear environmental activists get credit for being right when the rest of the green movement has been shamefully, dangerously wrong about nuclear power from the start.

    But that’s only a small part of the story. The bigger story is how the environmental movement put itself on the wrong end of one of the biggest fights of its existence and wound up hurting the environment as a result.

    And all the while, they sought to delegitimize the activists, policy wonks, industry experts, academics and researchers who told the truth. That’s the story that needs to be told.


  • Least surprising headline of the day. And it's from David Harsanyi: Hillary Keeps Shamelessly Lying About Her Emails, taking issue with a recent Tweet from Hill:

    None of what Clinton says in her thread is even remotely true.

    Hillary contends that “Comey admitted he was wrong after he claimed I had classified emails.” Even if the former FBI director had changed his mind, it would not have mattered very much once he was out of office. But Comey never did any such thing. After scrupulously detailing Hillary’s numerous evasions of laws governing the handling of classified information in July of 2016, Comey let the former Secretary of State skate, maintaining the FBI couldn’t prove intent. Clinton, he said, had merely been “extremely careless” in “handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” Comey didn’t charge Hillary, probably to save himself the trauma of indicting someone he believed would be the next president.

    If you truly believe that Hillary, the most “qualified candidate ever,” had stumbled into setting up a secret server that was specifically used to circumvent government transparency, you’re a gullible fool. Whatever you believe, though, according to the FBI, Clinton sent 110 emails with clearly marked classified information — 36 of those emails contained secret information, and eight of those email chains contained “top secret” information. And the FBI also found that Hillary should have known many other topics under the discussion were classified, even if they were not so marked. “We assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail account,” Comey explained at the time. The New York Times concurred.

    Lying continues to come naturally to Hillary. I didn't (and don't) much care for Trump, but the country really dodged a bullet back in 2016.


  • Magic 8-Ball says: Ask again later. Michael Shermer takes the occasion of Frank Drake's death to wonder about one of the Big Questions: Are We Alone in the Cosmos? And it's an interesting summary of what we know and what we don't. But here's what kind of grated:

    Is our existence a necessity—it could not have been otherwise? Or is our existence a contingency—it need not have been? A course-grained look at the question finds scientists roughly divided between astrobiologists and SETI astronomers who tend to be fairly optimistic, estimating a relatively high probability of intelligent life evolving in the cosmos (or re-evolving in an earth-bound thought experiment), and biologists and evolutionary theorists who tend to be fairly pessimistic, estimating a relatively low probability of intelligent life evolving elsewhere (or re-evolving here). Since the question cannot be answered in a laboratory experiment, we must turn to those sciences that attempt to answer it indirectly, such as those employed by SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) scientists and evolutionary theorists.

    Emphasis added to the grating words.

    Neither overt "optimism" or "pessimism" have a place in scientific inquiry into an open question. (Do black holes have hair? What's the optimistic answer to that?)

    But (on the other hand) I kind of appreciate the (unintentional) honesty. Shermer (and a lot of other folks) really want there to be life, preferably intelligent life, "out there". Somewhere. I'm unsure what the motivation behind that desire is. Maybe an underlying craving for proof of the "unspecialness" of humanity? Probably rooted in atheism? Just guessin'.


Last Modified 2022-09-08 4:02 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2022-09-06

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  • Among many things Biden has forgotten… Eric Boehm describes a recent one: Biden Forgets That Workers Are Consumers Too.

    Since taking office, President Joe Biden has sought to position himself as an ally of working Americans. His administration is enacting what it calls a "worker-centric" trade policy, and the president scarcely seems to give a public address without mentioning the importance of union jobs.

    "You're a gigantic reason why I'm standing here—standing here today as your president," Biden said in a June keynote address at the AFL-CIO annual convention in Philadelphia. "I owe you. From the very beginning of my running for office, back when I was a kid, it was labor, the unions."

    Yet despite all he believes he owes American laborers, Biden's economic policies are punishing them as consumers.

    Consider that supposedly worker-centric trade policy. Biden has left in place many of the tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump, including the levies on aluminum and steel. By artificially hiking the price of imported steel, those tariffs are supposed to boost domestic production, creating more and better-paying steelworker jobs. But the cost of the tariffs rebounds onto every industry that uses steel to make other products. While about 57,000 Americans work in steelmaking jobs, more than 12 million are employed in manufacturing jobs that use steel. The tariffs hurt those workers.

    Plenty more examples at the link, of course under-reported in the mainstream media.


  • Time for Republicans to take a bold stand. Although you wouldn't think it would be that bold. The National Review editors put it this way: End Infanticide.

    As the general election heats up, Democrats continue to pour tens of millions of dollars into advertising that hammers Republicans on the issue of abortion, and too many congressional GOP candidates are responding by looking at their feet, mumbling something about letting the states decide, and pivoting to a discussion of inflation.

    That response simply won’t do. Pro-life candidates need to punch back before they pivot.

    Congressional Democrats are perhaps one or two Senate seats shy of providing unlimited taxpayer funding of elective abortions for Medicaid recipients — a policy that would result in tens of thousands more babies being dismembered or poisoned to death in the womb each year.

    Most congressional Democrats have pretended for decades that they support limits on abortion after viability, the point in pregnancy when a baby can survive outside the womb. But they have almost unanimously opposed legislation that would ban abortion beyond the fifth month of pregnancy, when babies are viable and capable of feeling pain. Congressional Democrats have almost unanimously voted for legislation that would create a national right to abort a baby beyond viability until birth whenever a midwife, nurse, or doctor asserts the continuation of that pregnancy poses a risk to the pregnant woman’s mental or emotional health. That same abortion bill — the one almost all Democrats are promising to make law in 2023 if they get the chance — would also gut conscience laws that protect health-care workers, strike down parental-consent abortion laws, and override some state laws banning partial-birth abortion.

    I'm generally in favor of Republicans not looking at their feet. Democrats are extreme on this issue, and the GOP should point this out, early and often.


  • It's horseshit vs. bullshit. J.D. Tuccille reviews the recent presidential speech: In Philadelphia, Joe Biden Peddled a Competing Brand of Authoritarianism.

    Back in the distant year of 2020, Joe Biden sold himself as a unifier, able to bridge divides created by then-President Donald Trump.

    What a long way he's fallen. Last week, he took to a stage to denounce his political opponents as a "threat to this country" in a setting seemingly chosen by 20-something staffers who dusted off imagery from V for Vendetta. And he did so not as a political candidate, but "as your president." Even for those of us who agree that Republicans are a flawed bunch defined by their loyalty to a wannabe caudillo, Biden's alternative is just a different brand of authoritarianism.

    "There is no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven, and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans, and that is a threat to this country," President Biden insisted in a speech at Philadelphia's Independence Hall, lit blood-red and flanked in the background by two marines. "And here, in my view, is what is true: MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution. They do not believe in the rule of law. They do not recognize the will of the people."

    It's true that former President Trump threw a temper tantrum when he lost the 2020 election and that his supporters rioted at the Capitol. To this day, Trump and company nurse fantasies of stolen elections. But it's not clear what use for the Constitution and rule of law is harbored by his successor, who took office with an avalanche of executive orders that disconcerted even The New York Times editorial board and recently launched a half-trillion-dollar vote-buying scheme by unilaterally forgiving student loans.

    I'm currently reading a book of essays by David Mamet. Quote: "We cannot hate something unless we fear it."

    By stoking fear of vaguely described "MAGA Republicans", Biden invites the unfocused hatred that will surely follow.


  • Speaking of competing authoritarians… Ann Althouse noticed that Trump accused Fetterman of drug use!

    But here's how the drug-use charge pops out:

    Fetterman supports setting loose one out of every three inmates in your prisons, and he bragged that his goal is to get as many criminals out onto the street as quickly as possible. Fetterman supports taxpayer funded drug dens and the complete decriminalization of illegal drugs, including heroin, cocaine, crystal meth, and ultra lethal fentanyl — and by the way, he takes them himself— which would mean death and despair for every community in Pennsylvania and every community in the United States of America....

    Why did Trump say that? There are many possibilities:

    1. Trump is an out-of-control blurter, who might say anything, for virtually no reason at all.

    2. Trump has some evidence that Fetterman is a user of illegal drugs.

    3. Trump is guessing that Fetterman is a user, and he's putting drug use in issue to see what happens. Will Fetterman deny it? Then people will fact check him, informants may come forward. Why wouldn't they? There's so much at stake. He remembers what happened to Brett Kavanaugh. Why not attract some of that kind of action?

    4. He was riffing, stirring up a cloud of fear of crime and disorder and drug use and putting Fetterman in the center of that chaos: Fetterman is wearing a dirty sweatsuit! Fetterman leeches off his parents! Fetterman is a socialist loser! Fetterman uses drugs! It sticks in the mind. That's how you do political rhetoric... if you're Trump.

    I lean toward explanation one above. If you're interested in some legal analysis, here's Eugene Volokh: Could John Fetterman Win a Defamation Lawsuit Against Donald Trump, for Accusing Fetterman of Hard Drug Use?


  • The long con continues. Tim Carney has a long memory and an old-fashioned sense of honesty: Obamacare was ‘paid for’ by nationalizing student loans. Embedding this video:

    Got it? By nationalizing the student lending industry, which previously had federal guarantees for private banks, Obamacare would raise $58 billion [$68 billion in the video -- your blogger] in revenue over a decade.

    Some Democrats promised even more. “Part of the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010 will make key changes to the student loan industry,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) said. “This measure will save taxpayers nearly $70 billion over 10 years.”

    So to all the other ways in which this student loan bailout is objectionable, here is another one. It is yet another abandonment of the lies used to sell Obamacare. Of all the bogus claims that it paid for itself, this is only the latest to fall apart.

    Carney dubs this (accurately) a "long-term con". But it's really even longer than he implies. Even back in 1848, Bastiat wrote:

    L'État, c'est la grande fiction à travers laquelle Tout Le Monde s'efforce de vivre aux dépens de Tout Le Monde. (The state is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else.)

    I left the original French in so you would think me très chic..

Heretics of Dune

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Consumer note: I actually own the 1984 hardcover (picked off a remainder shelf for $4.98), but its ISBN doesn't give me an accurate cover image. So clicking on the cover will take you to the Kindle page at Amazon.

Continuing my "reread/read Frank Herbert's Dune series" project. This is number five out of six, previous entries here, here, here, and here. My enjoyment is monotonically decreasing, volume by volume. I won't repeat my observations from previous books, but the negative ones apply here to an even greater extent.

I can't help but think of 1980s Frank Herbert, cursing himself for signing a contract requiring him to deliver a 480-page Dune book.

This book is set 1500 years after the events of the previous book, which ended with the demise of Leto II, Paul Atreides' son, who self-transformed into a monstrous human/sandworm hybrid. In between, there's been massive famine, followed by an even more massive migration of humanity into unknown reaches of the galaxy. And now people are returning to known space from that "Scattering", and not all of them are nice.

Most of the action takes place on Arrakis (now called "Rakis" for some reason) and the old home planet of the Harkonnens, Giedi Prime (now called "Gemmu" for some reason). A returning character (of sorts) is a Duncan Idaho ghola, the latest in a long series of Tleilaxu reincarnations of an Atreides fighter who didn't make it through the first book. Another interesting character is Sheeana, who is able to control the Rakis sandworms. The manipulative Bene Gesserit have designs on both the ghola and Sheeana. There are Fish Speakers and Face Dancers. (Or is that Fish Dancers and Face Speakers?) There's a lot of intrigue, violence, and (I think) a noticeable uptick in sex. (Because of the breeding.)

There's also a lot of people talking, in the usual pretentious way, interspersed with inner monologizing. Italics and exclamation points! They are rife.

Sigh. One more to go.

URLs du Jour

2022-09-05

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  • We're going somber for Labor Day. Jeff Jacoby has a powerful article memorializing an atrocity: The Munich massacre, 50 years on.

    FIFTY YEARS ago next week, Palestinian terrorists invaded the Olympic Games in Munich and murdered 11 Israeli athletes. It was the worst atrocity in Olympic history. Nearly as horrifying was the reaction of the International Olympic Committee and its execrable president, Avery Brundage, who announced, almost before the bodies of the victims had grown cold: "The games must go on."

    The 1972 Olympics were the first to be held in Germany since the infamous Berlin Games of 1936, which took place under Nazi supervision. The (West) German government was eager to show the world how much things had changed in 36 years — above all, that Germany was no longer to be associated with the totalitarian grimness of its past. To emphasize the ease and freedom of the new Germany, security was kept to a minimum. There was no hint of barbed wire, troops, or heavily armed police. So intent was the government on promoting the Munich Olympics as "the Carefree Games," that no one closely scrutinized identification badges. Access to the athletes' village was easily gained; anyone lacking an ID could simply climb the chain-link fence.

    Which is exactly what eight Black September terrorists from the Palestine Liberation Organization's Fatah faction did early on the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 5.

    Jacoby ably describes the horror of the invasion, the botched "rescue" attempt, and the years of IOC amnesia about the carnage. He goes on to note that "the terrorists who carried out the horror continue to be honored and celebrated by the Palestinian Authority."

    Not that it matters, but that amnesia was repeated in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, back in 2016 when it published an op-ed from Robert Azzi which described a lot of Israeli Olympic history, but managed to avoid talking about 1972. It was one of the few times I successfully got my LTE response published.


  • Hydrogen molecules are small and tricky, especially when cold. If you've been paying attention, you know the Artemis I launch was scrubbed last Saturday. Eric Berger has been on the space beat at Ars Technica for a while; he has analysis you probably won't get from less techie news outlets: Years after shuttle, NASA rediscovers the perils of liquid hydrogen.

    America's space agency on Saturday sought to launch a rocket largely cobbled together from the space shuttle, which itself was designed and built more than four decades ago.

    As the space shuttle often was delayed due to technical problems, it therefore comes as scant surprise that the debut launch of NASA's Space Launch System rocket scrubbed a few hours before its launch window opened. The showstopper was an 8-inch diameter line carrying liquid hydrogen into the rocket. It sprang a persistent leak at the inlet, known as a quick-disconnect, leading on board the vehicle.

    Berger does a fine job of detailing the problems involved in getting a first-stage liquid hydrogen rocket to work without setting itself on fire. And you will not be surprised to learn the root cause is…

    In 2010, when Congress wrote the authorization bill for NASA that led to creation of the Space Launch System, it directed the agency to "utilize existing contracts, investments, workforce, industrial base, and capabilities from the Space Shuttle and Orion and Ares 1 projects, including ... existing United States propulsion systems, including liquid fuel engines, external tank or tank related capability, and solid rocket motor engines."

    Yes, when you have rockets designed by Congress, you can expect this sort of behavior.


  • Duelling semi-fascists. Kevin D. Williamson shakes his head in dismay, but not surprise: Biden Speech Imitates Trump Movement's Illiberalism.

    President Joe Biden, advocate of what he has the temerity to call the “Unity Agenda” — not a unity agenda, but the Unity Agenda, which says all you need to know about that — has given a stupid, irresponsible, and intentionally provocative speech in which he declared Donald Trump and his supporters a “clear and present danger” to the United States, having earlier described them as practitioners of “semi-fascism.”

    Of course the Trump movement is semi-fascist — and for many of its most enthusiastic foot-soldiers and lieutenants, you could strike the “semi” bit. You can run the fascism checklist: Nationalism? Check. Authoritarianism? Check. Cult of action? Check. Contempt for liberal norms, procedures, and institutions? Check. Propensity for political violence? Check. Anti-individualism? Check. The replacement of black shirts by red hats is only a matter of stagecraft, which presumably comes naturally to a super-virile he-man whose staff plays him showtunes from Cats and other Broadway shows to soothe him when he’s feeling a little verklempt.

    But, on the question of semi-fascism: J’accuse, Mr. President.

    Begin with President Biden’s irresponsible and foolish invocation of the phrase “clear and present danger,” which is not only the title of a Tom Clancy novel, but also a legal rationale — one invoked in order to permit the federal government to abrogate Americans’ civil rights in the face of a public emergency. It is a doctrine that has been cited in order to permit the state to imprison war protesters — and even war critics — or to arrest a man for making a speech at a political rally. The phrase “clear and present danger” comes to us from Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and the Schenck decision, which also gave us that nonsense about “shouting ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater.” In Schenck, war protesters were distributing flyers advising draftees of their options for resisting induction into the military, and for this they were jailed, ultimately with the blessing of the Supreme Court.

    It's NRPlus. I'd prefer that National Review didn't put all the good stuff behind a paywall, but it does, so do the right thing and sign up.


  • Fortunately, it doesn't require public health snoops. Jason Lee Steorts has a good suggestion for Republicans: Contact-Tracing Trump’s Auto-Coup Attempt. He tries to find a middle way in the (civil) disagreement between Kevin D. Williamson and Charles C. W. Cooke.

    My view is that to reject either party as a whole is too simple, but that it’s right to reject any candidate who can be “contact-traced” to Trump’s auto-coup attempt.

    I’m borrowing that figure of speech from Charlie’s most recent article in National Review magazine, in which he uses it to describe those who reject any politician who had anything to do with the Trump presidency in any way. I would not do that. I see Trump’s presidency as mixed — up until he lost the 2020 election. Before then, there were things I liked and others I disliked, but we were within the realm of what I’d call “normal politics.” And there are plenty of people who served in his administration or supported his legislative goals for whom I still feel a lot of respect.

    But I could never vote for a candidate who tried to help Trump steal the election, who defended Trump’s attempt to steal the election, who is now campaigning for anyone who did either of the first two things, and so on.

    Me neither. Hope our local version of Tracy Flick doesn't win the GOP primary:

    Well, yeah he did.


  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] We have short memories. Phoebe Maltz Bovy traces The Origins of Woke.

    At a church book sale in my Toronto neighborhood, I found The Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook, a bestseller by Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf first published 30 years ago. I always gravitate to books like this—first to see whether there is anything new in this world, and then to remind myself that the overly simplistic answer is no. (See also the 1995 compendium Debating Sexual Correctness. The #MeToo discourse existed prior to #MeToo.) It seems we’re living through a kind of 1990s revival—fueled, I suspect, by nostalgia for pre-Covid, pre-9/11, pre-internet times. Or maybe just by teenagers’ timeless desire to dress the way everyone did decades ago.

    The front cover of the dictionary shows a man, a woman, and a dog, each affixed with labels such as “hair disadvantaged” (he’s balding), “woman of noncolor” (she’s white), and “nonhuman animal companion” (it’s a shaggy dog). None of them, though especially the woman and the dog, would be out of place in a 2022 farmers market. (Again: cyclical fashions.)

    I'd forgotten about this classic (Amazon link up there on your right). I don't own it, but I do have 1994's Politically Correct Bedtime Stories and the sequel Once Upon A More Enlightened Time, both by James Finn Garner. He's still around.

URLs du Jour

2022-09-04

  • And ours. Mr. Ramirez identifies The Root of Trump's Problems.

    [Rooty Toot Toot]


  • Which one is Scylla, and which one is Charybdis? Jacob Sullum notes our dilemma: Trump Disregards Democracy, While Biden Ignores Its Dangers.

    In his speech [Thursday] night about "the continued battle for the soul of the nation," President Joe Biden said some things that are indisputably true. He noted that democracy requires candidates to accept the results of "free and fair elections" and that refusing to do so threatens the rule of law as well as the peaceful transfer of power.

    Donald Trump and his followers have conspicuously failed that basic test. But Biden's emphasis on preserving democracy sets the bar for good government pretty low, eliding the tension between majority rule and individual freedom. And his related claim that Trump's refusal to concede electoral defeat amounts to an "extreme ideology" gives the former president, who is anything but a systematic thinker, too much credit.

    "Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic," Biden warns. But his response confuses means with ends, elevating democracy above the values it promotes when properly constrained.

    Jacob takes his readers through Limited Government 101. Lessons seemingly never learned or forgotten by today's politicians.


  • Lock him up? Damon Linker, far from a Trump fan, nevertheless presents The Case Against Prosecuting Donald Trump. It's a long and interesting article, and discusses many scenarios, all lousy. Skip to the bottom line:

    Donald Trump is at bottom a political problem. Which means he can’t be defeated in a courtroom. He needs to be taken down at the ballot box by such a wide and indisputable margin that it’s impossible to mistake him for anything other than a loser. If we can’t accomplish that, then the fact that he’s eluded conviction and a jail sentence will be the least of our problems.

    Speaking of Scylla/Charybdis, there are two factions who really want Trump to stay in the news:

    1. Trump and his fans.
    2. Democrats.

    The latter because keeping the focus on Trump makes it easier to distract voters from our actual problems.


  • Not Sarah Palin, I guess. Jim Geraghty, looking at the recent Alaska election, wonders Who Really Wins Under Ranked Choice Voting? And he explains it all for you:

    Under Alaska’s ranked-choice system, in each race, voters rank their choices in order of preference, and votes are counted in rounds. The Alaska Division of Elections counts all first choices. If a candidate gets 50 percent plus one vote in round one, that candidate wins and the counting stops. If not, counting goes to round two. The candidate with the fewest votes gets eliminated. If you voted for that candidate, your vote goes to your next choice, and you still have a say in who wins in the second round. Voters are allowed to rank as many or as few candidates as they like. If a voter skips a ranking, their next ranking moves up — in other words, not listing a second-place choice means your third-place choice is re-ranked as your second-place choice. But if you skip two or more rankings in a row, only the rankings before the skipped rankings will count.

    If a voter’s first-choice candidate was not eliminated in the first round, their vote stays with that candidate in the second round. Votes are counted again, and the third-place finisher is eliminated. This process continues until there are only two candidates left, and the candidate with the most votes in the final round wins.

    And then, if Jupiter is rising in Sagittarius, the second-place finisher has to make a saving throw against potions of elimination and then the third-place finisher has to beat the Wild Card candidate in a play-in round, in order to advance to the State Eastern Division playoffs, and then reduce their magic number to three, unless both candidates finish below 40 percent; in that case, all the candidates are entered into a blind-choice round-robin and the candidates compete in a potato-sack race on consecutive Sundays until a champion is crowned, just as in the Baseketball playoff system.

    Okay, I made up that last paragraph. […]

    A point I (and others) have made: the people who (1) have faith in the typical voter's ability to flawlessly fill in a two-dimensional RCV array of candidate/preference bubbles are the same people who (2) tell us that a significant fraction of voters can't get their act together to obtain a Voter ID card.

    I detect a convenient inconsistency there.


  • Laziness, maybe? Adam Thierer wonders: Why the Endless Techno-Apocalyptica in Modern Sci-Fi?.

    AI, machine learning, robotics and the power of computational science hold the potential to drive explosive economic growth and profoundly transform a diverse array of sectors, while providing humanity with countless technological improvements in medicine and healthcare, financial services, transportation, retail, agriculture, entertainment, energy, aviation, the automotive industry and many others. Indeed, these technologies are already deeply embedded in these and other industries and making a huge difference.

    But that progress could be slowed and in many cases even halted if public policy is shaped by a precautionary-principle-based mindset that imposes heavy-handed regulation based on hypothetical worst-case scenarios. Unfortunately, the persistent dystopianism found in science fiction portrayals of AI and robotics conditions the ground for public policy debates, while also directing attention away from some of the more real and immediate issues surrounding these technologies.

    Among "modern" sci-fi writers, my automatic reads are Neal Stephenson, Andy Weir, and… gee, that's about it. Both avoid cheap man-vs-machine dystopianism.

URLs du Jour

2022-09-03

  • I'll be watching NASA TV this afternoon… to see if they get that expensive turkey off the pad. I honestly wish them well. But, speaking of honesty, Robert Poole, is pretty blunt about the Artemis project: it's The Last Gasp of 20th-Century NASA.

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is stuck in the past. NASA halted its planned first launch of its Space Launch System moon rocket Monday, owing to a failure of one of its four first-stage rocket engines. Those RS-25 engines, which NASA decided to refurbish and use as a cost-saving measure, are left over from the space-shuttle program. Building a new launch vehicle with obsolete technology is emblematic of NASA’s approach to this late, overbudget program.

    SLS was developed to replace Constellation, the George W. Bush-era plan to repeat the Apollo moon-landing program. The giant booster NASA proposed was faulted as far too costly by an expert committee chaired by former aerospace executive Norman Augustine, and the Obama administration planned to terminate it. Senate heavyweights, contractors already working on the Constellation and longtime NASA employees came up with SLS as a supposedly lower-cost replacement by using the same aerospace technology already under contract for Constellation.

    I'd be more enthusiastic, but NASA seems to have designed a program simply to irritate my libertarian-except-for-NASA sensibilities. The first thing on their main Artemis page:

    With Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon, […]

    First person of color? And what color would that be? Green?

    And the purpose would be … what? To find out if they change color on the Moon? Hey, it could happen. Won't know until we try.

    No, sorry. That's crazy 1960s content-of-their-character talk.

    Another warning flag is found on the "Artemis Partners" page, which screams "The program is a boondoggle, and we're proud of it."

    Since its inception, every state in America has made a contribution to the success of NASA’s Artemis program […]

    Yes, I'd wager every congressional district has "made a contribution to" to Artemis. And the translation of NASA-speak "made a contribution to" into English is: "grabbed some taxpayer dollars from".


  • So nothing new then. Charles C. W. Cooke keeps his eye on the latest news out of Mar-a-Lago, and he assures us, never fear, that Donald Trump Is Still a Lunatic.

    On Truth Social this week, Donald Trump, in response to the news that the FBI had disgracefully put pressure on Facebook to suppress the true story of Hunter Biden’s laptop, insisted that he must be immediately reinstalled as president of the United States. “REMEDY: Declare the rightful winner,” Trump wrote. “Or, and this would be the minimal solution, declare the 2020 Election irreparably compromised and have a new Election, immediately!”

    Well, then.

    It is increasingly tempting to ignore these outbursts of constitutionally illiterate election-trutherism as a distraction. Certainly, if one wishes to, one can write them off as a mere sideshow — as the detached and irrelevant ravings of an unemployed septuagenarian has-been. At this point, one might say, Trump is just another Crazy Uncle with a social-media account. And, besides, instead of parsing what he says on the Internet, shouldn’t we be focused on the FBI’s continuing self-abasement, which occasioned the flare-up in the first instance?

    Will the 2024 election really boil down to "Narcissistic Lunatic" vs. "Doddering Old Fool"? Gee, there's a choice.


  • Hey, kids, what time is it? Megan McArdle has her answer: It’s time for Republicans to save themselves.

    By mid-February 2016, it was clear that some kind of collective Republican action would be needed to keep Donald Trump from winning the nomination. Instead, everyone stood around hoping that someone else would do the job for them. This was an error they repeated many times in the ensuing years, keeping quiet about outrage after outrage, passing up two separate chances to remove him from power and ensure he could never run again.

    It is long past time for the GOP to have a Dr. Phil moment: How’s that working for you?

    For six years, Trump has been systematically — okay, unsystematically — wrecking the party. At every juncture, Republicans made the same excuses for keeping quiet about it: The media was biased, so no need to actually deal with the outrageous substance of what was going on in the Oval Office. Besides, Trump’s voters would primary any Republican who stood up to him. Better to quietly work against him where possible, and otherwise bide their time until Trump passed from the scene.

    Trump has had a lot of help in wrecking the party, with his sycophants deriding those who don't show adequate fealty as RINOs who should go be Democrats. There's a recipe for long-term irrelevance.


  • Also wanting to tie the GOP to the Trump Boat Anchor… is, guess who, Joe Biden. John Podhoretz teases out the subtext in his recent oration: Hypocrite Biden's speech was about one thing only.

    Joe Biden has become America’s leading troll — and he’s trolling Donald Trump. The president’s supposedly grand speech in “defense of democracy” under attack by “Trump and the MAGA Republicans” was hardly a visionary call to renew our commitment to the Republic.

    If it had been the highfalutin speech we were promised, Biden wouldn’t have spent ludicrous time praising himself for things like prescription-drug costs and burn-pit health coverage. No, this speech was nakedly, even comically, designed not to elevate but to offend — to poke and taunt and push his predecessor and his predecessor’s camp followers and acolytes into firing back about how evil Biden is.

    Biden wants Trump angry, and loud, and silencing every other voice but his own. It’s not an accident that Biden’s rise and the Democratic enthusiasm surge has come in tandem with Trump once again at the top of the American news agenda over the past six weeks. Biden knows he won in 2020 by successfully making the election a referendum on Trump. Nothing would make him happier than having the 2022 election continue in that vein.

    And he may get his wish.


  • More advice to the GOP that they won't take… is provided by James C. Capretta: Republicans Should Push Back on Economic Populism, Not Embrace It.

    Donald Trump’s shocking victory in 2016 prompted speculation that American politics might be undergoing a realignment. The Republican presidential candidate picked up working class voters from the Democrats while also alienating some moderate suburbanites. Even though Trump went on to lose in 2020, many in the GOP still believe this transformation is inevitable, and, from their perspective, desirable.

    While a lasting shift is certainly possible, the parties show no signs of trading places on most economic questions. Since January 2021, it has been the Democrats who have aggressively implemented populist tax and spending policies, leaving Republicans to stoke cultural battles to burnish their anti-establishment bona fides. The result has been a distorted debate, with little substantive pushback on what the Democrats have advanced, and a notable shift toward policies that set aside the market in favor of government management.

    For a time, it seemed as if the political terrain might actually shift substantively and not just rhetorically. After all, Trump blustered frequently about economic populism in 2016, and then also episodically while in office, with repeated attacks on the profits of drug companies and incomes of Wall Street executives. However, his term came and went with no discernible or lasting populist influence on actual economic policies beyond the regrettable bipartisan consensus on renewed protectionism. (As an aside, the tariffs he imposed on Chinese imports are not having their intended economic effects but should be evaluated from both a trade and national security perspective.)

    Capretta argues that you can't out-populist the Democrats. I'd disagree slightly, given the disproportionate impact of "Student Loan Forgiveness" edict and the barely-disguised corporate welfare in the recent "Inflation Reduction" and "CHIPS" acts. There's plenty there for a fire-breathing populist pol to fire up the masses about.

    But the larger point is that the GOP needs to be better at selling economic liberty. True. Again, Trump-fealty is a major obstacle to that happening.


  • A service to New Hampshire Republican voters. James Thomas guests at Granite Grok to announce: The 2022 Republican Primary Edition of Liberty Ballot is Published.

    On the night before the New Hampshire Primary, many voters in New Hampshire will be asking the same question: of the many candidates on the ballot, which viable candidates will vote to reduce the size of government?

    By then, it’s too late to research the candidates, so we’ve done the research for you since 2014.

    All a voter has to do is select their town from the drop-down menu, and a sample ballot with the pro-liberty candidates in contested primary elections per-marked will appear. This ballot may be downloaded, printed, or emailed. There is an extensive Frequently Asked Questions section at the bottom of LibertyBallot.com that answers the when, where, and how-to vote questions.

    I'm grateful for this. Someone else doing the research. Bottom line: they make no recommendation for Governor, any of three candidates for US Senator, Tim Baxter for NH01 CongressCritter.

    All other races are noncompetitive. ("Vote for not more than N", and there are exactly N candidates on the ballot.) Except for the "Delegates to the State [GOP] Convention" recommendation; there are five candidates on the ballot, and the directions say "Vote for not more than four". A decision is called for and there is, as near as I can tell, zero information about anyone.

    Until now. The Ballot recommends one guy: Nicholas Hubbard. Easy to remember, initials the same as the state's.

URLs du Jour

2022-09-02

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Good idea. Won't happen, but good idea. Charles C. W. Cooke Goes There: Impeach and Convict President Biden to Save Our Political System.

    If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll keep getting what we get. To avoid getting what we’re increasingly likely to get, Congress should impeach and convict President Biden.

    Evidently, Biden feels as if there are no consequences to violating his oath of office. Last August, Biden “double, triple, quadruple checked” whether he was allowed to order another moratorium on evictions without Congress, and he concluded that he was not. Then he did it anyway — on the outrageous grounds that the time it would take to litigate might allow him “to keep this going for a month, at least — I hope longer.” Last Wednesday, Biden pulled the same trick with student loans. That the president does not have the statutory power to “cancel” college loans has long been so obvious that even Nancy Pelosi has managed to acknowledge it. “The president can’t do it, that’s not even a discussion,” Pelosi said last year. “People think that the President of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness.” But, she confirmed: “He does not.” A week ago, Biden did it anyway — with the help of what might be the single most cynical and embarrassing legal memorandum in modern American history.

    While assuming powers not granted him by legislation, he proceeded to quack about the semi-fascism of his opponents.

    Is that irony? I can never tell.


  • High crime rates and good basketball. In the mind of Joe Biden they go together like convenience stores and Indian immigrants. Jim Geraghty investigates Why Joe Biden Gets Away with Making Offensive Statements.

    President Biden, speaking in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., yesterday:

    My deceased son, Beau, he was the Attorney General of the State of Delaware. And what he used to do is go down, in the east side, the — called the “Bucket” — highest crime rate in the country. It’s a place where I used to — I was the only white guy that worked as a lifeguard down in that area, on the east side.

    And you know where the — you could always tell where the best basketball in the state is or the best basketball in the city is: It’s where everybody shows up.

    The east side of Wilmington is indeed a primarily African-American neighborhood; earlier this year, Wilmington mayor Mike Purzycki described the East Side as “neglected for decades and decades” by city, county, and state leaders. Whether or not this neighborhood in Wilmington ever had the “highest crime rate in the country,” the area has been described as “Murder Town USA” in the not-too-distant past of 2014. And yes, this is the neighborhood with the swimming pool where Biden used to be a lifeguard (now renamed after the president) as well as Corn Pop’s old neighborhood.

    “You could always tell where the best basketball in the state is or the best basketball in the city is” is a yet another classic, cringe-inducing use of stereotypes by Biden. It’s not the most consequential thing that Biden did yesterday, but it fits in with his long history of using racial and ethnic stereotypes that make him look like an ass: “You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking”; “[Obama is the] first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy”; “gonna put y’all back in chains; “these Shylocks”; “Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids”; “Unlike the African-American community with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community”; “Are you a junkie?”; “You ain’t black”; and so on.

    Unfortunately, being a senile old fool is not an impeachable offense. But (as I've said before) I'm pretty sure Kamala and the cabinet officers all have easily-accessible copies of the Constitution with section four of the twenty-fifth amendment highlighted for easy reference. Maybe not on their desks, but in a convenient drawer.


  • None dare call it class warfare. Well, none except Veronique de Rugy. And everyone else who's paying attention. Here's Vero: Taking From the Working Class and Giving to the Laptop Class.

    If you had any doubts that those in power have dropped the pretense of fighting for the working class, you can dispense with them after the Biden administration's latest concessions to the laptop class. From student loan forgiveness to subsidies for people who drive pricey electric cars and profitable semiconductor company CEOs, this administration is working hard to shower its friends with handouts paid for by hardworking lower-wage Americans.

    We learned of the most outrageous handout of them all, of course, when Biden announced that he will — unilaterally, mind you, and for no apparent reason that I can see — extend the pause on student loan payments until the end of the year and forgive up to $10,000 for those persons making less than $125,000 a year. This generosity with other people's money extends up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients.

    As David Stockman, a former director of the Congressional Office of Management and Budget, reported recently, "Only 37% of Americans have a 4-year college degree, only 13% have graduate degrees and just 3% have a PhD or similar professional degree. Yet a full 56% of student loan debt is held by people who went to grad school and 20% is owed by the tiny 3% sliver with PhDs."

    The mystery here is why more people aren't irate.


  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Mister, we got a man like Frankie Roosevelt again. At the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), Lawrence W. Reed delivers a history lesson: FDR Campaigned on Fiscal Restraint in 1932. He Delivered Just the Opposite.

    With Labor Day upon us, the summer of 2022 is ebbing as the campaign season kicks into high gear. On November 8, American voters will decide the composition of the next Congress based largely upon what they hear over the next two months. Sadly, what candidates say when running often doesn’t look like what they do later when elected.

    Such was the case 90 years ago in the year 1932, near the bottom of the Great Depression. All eyes focused on the presidential contest between incumbent Republican Herbert Hoover and Democrat challenger Franklin Roosevelt. When the smoke cleared, Roosevelt won in a landslide with 57.4 percent; Hoover trailed with 39.6 percent; Socialist Party nominee Norman Thomas came in third, drawing a scant 2.2 percent.

    If you were a socialist (or a modern “liberal” or “progressive”) in 1932, you faced an embarrassment of riches at the ballot box. You could go for Norman Thomas. Or perhaps Verne Reynolds of the Socialist Labor Party. Or William Foster of the Communist Party. Maybe Jacob Coxey of the Farmer-Labor Party or even William Upshaw of the Prohibition Party. You could have voted for Hoover who, after all, had delivered sky-high tax rates, big deficits, lots of debt, higher spending, and trade-choking tariffs in his four-year term. Roosevelt’s own running mate, John Nance Garner of Texas, declared that Republican Hoover was “taking the country down the path to socialism.”

    Reed heaps praise upon The Roosevelt Myth, a 1948 book from John T. Flynn. The cheapest version I could find at Amazon was $4.99 (Kindle), link at your right above. Consumer note: it's published by the Mises Institute, which many consider to be be kind of sketchy, especially recently. There are other editions available too.


  • Karoline, Ho. I was minding my own business, half-listening to the local TV news, when, as described at NHJournal'Hoe Bag' Attack Ad Drops Hits Leavitt on Age, Maturity. "Leavitt" is Karoline Leavitt, currently running for the GOP nomination to run against my CongressCritter, Chris Pappas, in November. It's pretty brutal. And unfortunately, I can't get it to embed properly. But the NHJournal folks have it.

    The ad, released by the Defending Main Street super PAC, takes direct aim at Leavitt’s age, showing a video clip of a Leavitt saying “Listen up, ho bag” into a camera phone, with the narrator adding, “She wants to bring her generation’s new vision to Congress. You know, mooching off her parents, [and] running up huge credit card debt.”

    The spot concludes with, “Woke, immature and irresponsible Karoline.”

    OK. I wasn't planning on voting for her anyway.

    (How old do you have to be to recognize my classic headline reference?)


Last Modified 2022-10-30 9:33 PM EST

URLs du Jour

2022-09-01

Happy September, all. Unless you're depressed about the Red Sox losing seven out of their last ten games. In which case: cheer up, there's always next year.

  • A common theme of late. It's a continuing mystery as to why Jacob Sullum's column's headlines are nearly as long as the articles themselves. The latest is The Student Loan Debate Shows How the ACLU Has Lost Its Way: The Venerable Champion of Civil Liberties Is Increasingly Indistinguishable From Myriad Progressive Advocacy Groups.

    The American Civil Liberties Union last week applauded President Joe Biden's plan to cancel student loan debt, which it describes as "a racial justice issue." That puzzling position encapsulates how far the venerable organization has strayed from the mission reflected in its name.

    Under Biden's new policy, borrowers earning up to $125,000 a year will be eligible for $10,000 in debt relief, or twice that amount if they qualified for Pell Grants as students. The 43 million or so beneficiaries include many affluent people who could readily afford to pay off their loans, while the cost, which is projected to be at least $300 billion, will be borne by taxpayers, including Americans of relatively modest means.

    Some of the people picking up the tab never attended college, while others struggled to do so without borrowing money or have already paid off their loans. But in the ACLU's view, that seemingly unfair redistribution of resources is what racial justice demands.

    Sullum notes how the ACLU's fondness for progressive nostrums blur and degrade its once-principled focus on civil liberties. Now, like all progressives, they're OK with pushing people around as long as it's for a good (i.e., left-progressive) cause.

    I used to be too conservative to like the ACLU. Now I find myself too libertarian to like the ACLU. We were like ships passing in the night, I guess.


  • Maybe a better question: Who are you not calling a fascist, Mr. President? David Harsanyi has a query: Who Are You Calling A Fascist, Mr. President?

    The other day Joe Biden accused voters of the opposition party of turning to “semi-fascism.” This is probably the first time in American history a president has openly attacked the opposing party’s constituents in this way. Grammatically speaking, the accusation could use a little work. What Biden probably meant to say was that 74 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump in 2020 are “quasi-fascist” or “increasingly fascistic.”

    Then again, Biden, who once alleged that the chaste Mitt Romney was harboring a desire to bring back chattel slavery, is prone to stupid hyperbole. And it’s true that most people who throw around the word “fascist” fail to do so with much precision.* Anyway, our president will probably further explain his thinking on the matter of “semi-fascism” when he gives a prime-time speech about threats to our “democracy” this Thursday—a week after he broke millions of existing contracts and unilaterally “forgave” student loans by executive decree. Biden has engaged in historic and unprecedented abuses of White House power. Sometimes, the chutzpah is staggering.

    These days, the word “democracy,” like “fascism,” has lost all meaning.

    We keep trotting out this snippet from George Orwell's 1946 essay, "Politics and the English Language":

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

    But let me also point out what Orwell had to say about "democracy" (and other words), immediately after that observation:

    The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice, have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of régime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different. Statements like Marshal Pétain was a true patriot, The Soviet press is the freest in the world, The Catholic Church is opposed to persecution, are almost always made with intent to deceive. Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are: class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality.

    I like David Harsanyi, and that affection is not diminished by the observation that what he's writing today was already true 76 years ago.


  • Looking for voting advice? Kevin D. Williamson has some: Don’t Reward Cowardice with Your Vote. He's talking about Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters and his switch-hitting on the abortion issue. But he has other points to make first.

    Like Hammurabi, I am trying to organize my laws. Here’s what I have so far:

    Williamson’s First Law: Everything is simple, if you don’t know a fucking thing about it.

    Williamson’s Second Law: When Democrats are in power, they act like they’ll never be out; when Republicans are out of power, they act like they’ll never be in.

    Williamson’s Third Law: Candidates who aren’t with us on abortion really aren’t with us at all. The Romney Addendum: Be very, very suspicious of anybody who changes his mind about abortion — in either direction — after the age of 40 or so.

    “I am very pro-choice,” Donald Trump said until about five minutes before he decided he wanted to make a run for the Republican presidential nomination, when somebody with a soothing voice and a fresh new coloring book explained to him that he wouldn’t get far embracing the same position on abortion as Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Before descending that escalator in 2015, Trump had also been a long-time advocate of anti-constitutional gun-control measures, confiscatory wealth taxes, and a whole lot of other bad ideas he shared with former allies such as Chuck Schumer.) Moving the other direction, Mitt Romney was firmly pro-choice when he was engaged in Massachusetts and then told a story — a preposterous story — about having his mind changed during the stem-cell debate. There is good reason to expect Romney to continue to be on the right side of the abortion debate now that he has found it: For one thing, it’s pretty obvious that the pro-choice Romney was the phony Romney, and, for another thing, there’s no juice in flip-flopping on that issue now that the honorable gentleman from La Jolla is pretending to be a Utah guy. But there’s always a mental asterisk there for those of us who remember.

    Note: the f-bomb in KDW's first law is asterisked in the online article. I've taken the liberty of restoring the spelling, something I almost never do. I think it works better that way.

    There are (as I type) 669 comments on KDW's article. The "most popular" comments are pretty livid about his failure to toe the (literal) party line. They must not read him much.


  • Incentives work. Even if you wish they wouldn't. Robby Soave notes an instance of that general rule: Biden's Income-Driven Repayment Plan Will Make College Much More Expensive. The "forgiveness" aspect of Biden's edict was bad enough. But:

    The IDR aspect of Biden's plan attracted less scrutiny than the direct forgiveness aspect, which will cost at least $300 billion (and probably much, much more) in the immediate future. But in the long-term, this aggressive move toward an income-driven model of repaying college loans will probably have a bigger impact—and that impact will be catastrophic. In fact, unless the government does something to constrain colleges' ability to set their own prices, IDR could break the entire higher education financing system and lead to skyrocketing costs for taxpayers.

    There are some IDR programs available right now, but Biden's approach would vastly expand this option. The existing plans require borrowers to pay 10, 15, or 20 percent of their income for two decades, at which point the rest of the loan is forgiven. Biden would make IDR much more appealing than it is currently; according to the Biden-Harris debt relief plan, borrowers will pay just 5 percent of their income (or 10 percent if they took out graduate student loans) for either 10 or 20 years depending on how much money they owe. The income threshold will be raised from 150 percent above the poverty line to 225 percent, and punitive interest rates will be eliminated.

    All in all, this IDR model will be extremely appealing for a large number of borrowers, and we should expect the percentage of borrowers who are repaying via IDR to increase substantially in the coming years. But without further changes to the federal student loan program, this is going to be a huge problem.

    That's because both the borrowers and the universities will have increased incentive to bilk the people who actually make the loan: the taxpayers.

    As always: "Look Around the Poker Table; If You Can’t See the Sucker, You’re It"


  • Another language peeve of mine… is nicely described by Bryan Caplan: Pretty Safe Lies.

    “But is it safe?” Good economists will scoff that it’s a meaningless question, because safety is always a matter of degree. Nothing in the real world is perfectly safe. Even if you spend your day hiding in your house, you could die of a heart attack, an earthquake, or a home invasion.

    In contrast, non-economists - and bad economists - love binary thinking about risk. Everything is either “safe” or “unsafe.” This was blatant during COVID. How many times did you hear the sentences, “Is it safe to reopen restaurants?,” “Is it safe to reopen schools?,” and “Is it safe to fly yet?”

    What silly questions! Each activity has a positive probability of catching and spreading COVID - and the probability of bad outcomes rises the more time you spend doing the activity. Politically, however, you couldn’t regain your freedom until an authority gave each silly question an even sillier answer. “Yes, flying is now safe again.”

    I am reminded of a very old (1975) Saturday Night Live bit from an Albert Brooks-produced video short, which had two doctors arguing about medical ethics. One thinks he's "safe" from dying, but the other disagrees:

    “You could be hit by a car driving home today!”

    “I’m not going home today!”


Last Modified 2022-09-01 10:20 AM EST