Resurrection Walk

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

The latest from gifted mystery writer Michael Connelly. This is billed as a "Lincoln Lawyer" novel, featuring defense attorney Mickey Haller. But Harry Bosch also plays a major role; Connelly alternates Haller segments (first person) with Bosch segments (third person).

Mickey is usually in it for the money, more power to him. But he gets a thrill from a successful "resurrection walk": seeing a wrongly-convicted prisoner walk free, proven innocent by Mickey. So he's taking on pro bono cases now and then, with Harry offering assistance. They pick a case that sounds intriguing: a woman convicted of murdering her estranged husband, a sheriff's deputy. She maintains her innocence, saying she only pleaded nolo contendre to manslaughter to avoid being found guilty on a full-on murder charge. The evidence seems damning, but is it really?

Another complication: Bosch is undergoing an experimental treatment for his leukemia (probably caused by radiation exposure in a previous story). It's an arduous therapy, and it puts him out of action for a bit. And it has (possible) side effects on cognition, which becomes an issue later in the book.

There's nothing special about Connelly's prose, or his dialog. But he's masterful at plotting. There's courtroom drama, of course. Shady lawyers, possibly corrupt cops, spooky warnings from unknown intruders. I was going to say it's a page turner, but I got the Kindle version, so: it's a screen-poker.


Last Modified 2024-01-09 9:10 AM EST

Murder Under Her Skin

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

This book made the NYT's list of The Best Mystery Novels of 2021. It is the sceond entry in Stephen Spotswood's "Pentecost and Parker" series; I enjoyed the first one quite a bit. Same here, with only one quibble, below.

The book is set in 1946. The narrator, Willowjean Parker (call her Will), is the Archie Goodwin-style assistant to Lillian Pentecost, a New York City private eye. This book takes them out of the city, down to small-town Virginia, where the circus Will worked at years ago (she ran away from home to join) has a spot of trouble. Ruby, the circus's tattooed lady, has been murdered with a knife in the back. Which makes the prime suspect Valentin, the circus's knife thrower. Who taught Will the tricks of the trade back in the day.

Can they clear Valentin's name and suss out the real culprit? Well, they have a lot of hurdles: the sheriff is pretty sure he's got the right guy, and has little patience with private investigators messing around his town. By sheer coincidence—or is it?—the circus is playing in the town Ruby grew up in, and left under unclear, possibly scandalous, circumstances years back. So not only are the circus folks possible suspects, so are the townsfolk.

I enjoyed it quite a bit. Will is an irreverent, wise-cracking investigator; Mrs. Pentecost has Sherlock-level powers of observation and deduction.

I promised one quibble, and here it is: as a narrator, Will has an unfortunate habit of not telling what she knows, when she knows it. Keeping the reader in the dark for a while, usually only a few pages.


Last Modified 2024-01-09 9:09 AM EST

President Lazarus

Specifically, Emma Lazarus.

[like a sieve]

I know I already blogged about Dave Barry’s review of the top events of 2023. But I thought I would excerpt some of his observations of the candidates. From February:

President Biden travels to Kyiv to show support for Ukraine in its war with Russia, which is in danger of being canceled in the United States because of low ratings. The president also gives the traditional State of the Union Address, but because of a teleprompter glitch, it’s the same speech that Bill Clinton delivered in 1994. Fortunately it’s just the State of the Union Address, so nobody notices.

March:

But the big drama in March takes place in New York City, where Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is on a passionate crusade to do something about the alarming increase in violent crime.

Just kidding! Bragg is on a passionate crusade to investigate the issue that has been shown, in poll after poll, to be the No. 1 concern of New Yorkers as they go about their daily lives: misreported hush-money payments to porn stars. Under Bragg’s direction, a Manhattan grand jury indicts Donald Trump in connection to a payment of $130,000 made to alleged actress Stormy Daniels (real name: Blustery Jones) in exchange for keeping quiet about allegedly engaging in alleged acts with Trump, who claims this never happened, but if it didn’t happen why would he pay her $130,000 never mind shut up.

The indictment story is good news for everyone. It’s good news for people who hate Trump because after watching him skate free on the alleged Russia collusion scandal and the alleged Ukrainian phone-call scandal and all the other alleged scandals and what felt like six historic impeachment trials, they believe that this time he is finally going to get nailed for something. It’s good news for Trump because it proves he’s a victim of a WITCH HUNT, so he reaps millions of dollars in contributions and a big boost toward winning the 2024 Republican nomination. Which in turn is good news for Joe Biden, because he has already defeated Trump, and therefore, in a rematch, is more likely to be able to remember his name. It’s good news for the news media, particularly cable news shows, because they need Trump the way tomatoes need manure. So all in all it’s an exciting time for the nation, as Donald Trump once again takes center stage in American politics, where he is apparently destined to remain throughout all eternity.

And in April…

...when Trump surrenders to New York authorities after they lure him out of Trump Tower by tricking him into following a trail of Egg McMuffins placed along the ground. He is arraigned on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records — charges that legal experts unanimously agree are extremely serious, unless you’re watching a different cable channel, in which case the legal experts unanimously agree that the charges are hamster poop.

Trump, outraged by what he views as a flagrant abuse of power by a politically motivated Democratic prosecutor, responds by launching an all-out attack on: Ron DeSantis. For his part, DeSantis continues his laser-beam focus on the single biggest threat facing the people of Florida, as well as the American way of life: Disney.

OK, just one more, from July:

The leading non-Trump Republican in Iowa is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, campaigning on a promise to protect Iowans from the single biggest threat facing their state: drag queens, who every year destroy an estimated 35 percent of the soybean crop. There are dozens of other Republican contenders, including somebody called “Doug Burgum,” who claims to be the governor of North Dakota, although this cannot be verified because nobody has ever been there.

On the Democratic side, the most visible campaigner is California Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose name can be rearranged to spell “Veganism Now.” In a selfless display of selflessness, Newsom has been campaigning across America in support of Joe Biden’s re-election, telling audiences that Biden “has earned the right to continue leading this nation until it is time to pass the torch to someone younger and more photogenic who is governor of a populous state, speaks in complete sentences and doesn’t keep falling down, whoever that person might be.”

You should click over to the Miami Herald site, disable Javascript, and find out what else really happened this year.

And just as an aside: Dave Barry makes being hilarious look easy. But if it were that easy, more people would be doing it, and they are not. Hence…

Whatever turn of phrase amuses you here is probably a homage to Dave. And by "a homage to", I mean "shamelessly stolen from".

See what I did there?

Our weekly look at the betting odds shows…

Candidate EBO Win
Probability
Change
Since
12/24
Donald Trump 40.1% +0.2%
Joe Biden 29.5% -0.5%
Nikki Haley 10.0% +0.4%
Gavin Newsom 6.2% -0.1%
Robert Kennedy Jr 3.2% unch
Other 11.0% unch

Also of note:

  • I bet you're wondering… would Trump be the first non-Confederate barred from office by the 14th Amendment? Eric Boehm has been hitting the history books and finds that Trump Wouldn't Be First Non-Confederate Barred From Office by 14th Amendment.

    Since the end of Reconstruction, Trump is just the second person ruled ineligible for federal office due to that provision.

    The first: Victor Berger, who is perhaps slightly more well known for being the first Socialist elected to Congress.

    Berger was born in Austria and immigrated to the United States as a young man. In 1910, he won a seat in Congress representing Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and served a single two-year term. After being defeated in 1912, Berger remained active in left-wing politics and opposed America's entry into the First World War. In 1918, he was convicted (along with several other Socialist organizers) of having violated the Espionage Act of 1917, which effectively criminalized any criticism of the war effort.

    Despite that conviction—or perhaps because of it—Berger was elected to Congress again in 1918. His campaign called for the country to respect free speech and freedom of the press, and he continued to push for an "early, general, lasting and democratic peace." (Naturally, he also campaigned for a variety of typically terrible Socialist ideas too, like the nationalization of industries.)

    Here's where Section 3 of the 14th Amendment popped up. Congress refused to seat Berger when he showed up to work in January 1919, on the grounds that his Espionage Act conviction was tantamount to engaging in insurrection against the country. The vote was nearly unanimous, 311-1, with the lone dissenting vote cast by a Wisconsin Republican.

    Man, they really didn't care for him.

  • Good question. And James Freeman asks it: How Do You Like DeSantis Now?

    With enemies like these, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.) is bound to make new friends among caucus and primary voters nationwide. A Florida newspaper has published a scathing editorial about the governor’s education policies, and it seems that his team couldn’t be happier.

    If American parents learned anything from the educational catastrophe of Covid lockdowns, it’s that teachers union bosses are not their allies. As learning losses spiked and isolated adolescents suffered from a host of mental challenges, union officials who should have been advocates of immediate reopening kept demanding delays and all manner of unnecessary changes to school buildings and operations in the name of safety—without any rigorous analysis of costs and benefits.

    Mr. DeSantis would have none of it, driving an early reopening in Florida and pursuing a sensible strategy of focused protection. The idea was to help those most at risk while allowing people at low risk to live their lives and maintain a thriving society. He also resolved to shift power over education back to parents, where it belongs. Now a hostile media outlet is providing a helpful reminder.

    The DeSantis-hostile Miami Herald editorialized about the woes of the United Teachers of Date, which is precariously close to being decertified as a bargaining agent. Thanks to (a) a Florida law that requires 60% of employees for which the union purports to bargain to be dues-paying members and (b) Florida being a right-to-work state.

  • A slow news week and you get slow news. Dan McLaughlin wonders Is Nikki Haley Ready for Prime Time?

    The flap over Nikki Haley botching an answer to an audience question in New Hampshire about the origins of the Civil War has produced the usual flood of hyperbole, with Democrats accusing her of being some sort of racist for not saying “slavery” and partisans of her primary opponents declaring her career over. That’s what you get when you combine campaign silly season with a slow news week over the holidays. Still, we shouldn’t write off the real meaning of all this: It reminds us that Haley still hasn’t really been stress-tested enough in the true limelight of a presidential race to know how ready she is for the prime time of a general election.

    The "flap" was the subject of three separate stories in the Saturday edition of my pathetic local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat. Reason? I think Nikki is the candidate they would least like to see run against Biden in November. So if she gives them an excuse, the knives are out.

    But as for Dan's point: the question, as always, is "compared to who?" If your criterion for a good candidate is how well they respond to gotcha questions, fine, but let's judge all the candidates that way.


Last Modified 2024-01-16 5:12 AM EST

asleep@thewheel.com

[asleep at the wheel]

James Lileks' Bleat for yesterday touched on a raw nerve: the clickbait ads that way too many websites insert into their content.

Essentially, they say to readers: "The owners of this website think you are gullible, foolish, or ignorant enough to click on some of these obvious dimwitted efforts to grab your eyeballs."

Not to pat ourselves too hard on the back, but that's why the "ads" on Pun Salad are simple Amazon paid links, a cheap method to get eye candy into an article. And my Amazon Associates account says that almost nobody buys anything; I have smart readers.

Anyway, Lileks does this far better than I,

I made the mistake of clicking on a link to read a stupid piece, and the stupid piece was, indeed, stupid, but also pitched me into that realm of Very Bad Internet that makes me think I’ve dropped into a parallel world of unutterable banality. You know, this place -

[Crap]

If you attempt to imagine who spends time in this place, you will assemble an uncharitable composite of oldish gullible people, scrolling and clicking and tut-tutting and wondering if the camera really did see too much. Some variant of that headline has been infecting the chumshite sites for ten years. It’s as if nothing is happening. We’re stuck. Music, architecture, culture, politics, it’s all in the ditch upside down spinning its wheels.

Or maybe no one spends much time in this internet. It’s a vast unpopulated space full of billboards blinking at no one. Is it constructed by mediocre people? Or is it tuned and adjusted by cynical people to appeal to mediocre people?

I recommend you click over to see further examples with Lileks' commentary. It's genius and experts will be furious, but you'll know what to do in case of societal collapse. Hint: the library will be closed.

Also of note:

  • He's not talking about the pot shops. The fabled land across the Salmon Falls River, Maine, has the rather totalitarian slogan "The Way Life Should Be".

    Too bad, other-state residents. You're living a life that shouldn't be that way. Tsk.

    Anyway, one of the ways life should be, according to the Maine Secretary of State, is that you shouldn't be allowed to vote for Trump. Matt Taibbi looks at The Mess in Maine.

    This year the public is being forced to research questions in which they have no say. We all understand now that there’s a disqualification clause in the 14th Amendment. We also understand that this clause seems to have been written with deliberate vagueness. I’m no lawyer, but I doubt the 14th Amendment was designed to empower unelected state officials to unilaterally strike major party frontrunners from the presidential ballot. If it was, that’s a shock. I must have missed that in AP Insane Legal Loopholes class. Is there any way this ends well? It feels harder and harder to imagine.

    As far as I can recall, it wasn't mentioned in AP Destroying Democracy In Order To Save It class either.

  • In the Too Little, Too Late Department… Rich Lowry looks at Francis Collins’s Covid Confession. Collins is "former head of the National Institutes of Health during the pandemic and current science adviser to President Biden."

    “If you’re a public-health person and you’re trying to make a decision, you have this very narrow view of what the right decision is,” Collins said at an event earlier this year that garnered attention online the last couple of days.

    This is not a new insight, or a surprising one. It’s a little like saying Bolsheviks will be focused on nationalizing the means of production over everything else, or a golf pro will be monomaniacal about the proper mechanics of a swing.

    The problem comes, of course, when public health, or “public health,” becomes the only guide to public policy. Then, you are giving a group of obsessives, who have an important role to play within proper limits, too much power in a way that is bound to distort your society.

    Francis Collins, again: “So you attach infinite value to stopping the disease and saving a life. You attach zero value to whether this actually totally disrupts people’s lives, ruins the economy, and has many kids kept out of school in a way that they never quite recover from.”

    True and well said, but that’s an awful lot of very important things to attach “zero value” to.

    I bet Fauci is furious about Collins's apostasy.

  • Via Arnold Kling, Helen Dale and Lorenzo Warby write on Weaponising Emotion. Just this one little excerpt:

    There is a persistent pattern of progressives demanding respect for their moral judgements while clearly feeling entitled to treat others’ moral judgements with contempt. Part of the reason they resist labels—not only “woke” but also Yascha Mounk and Andrew Doyle’s more descriptive terms—is because they are “simply being moral”. Their sense of owning morality is palpable.

    Here's hoping I avoid palpating a progressive's sense of morality in 2024.


Last Modified 2024-01-22 6:01 AM EST

Rikki Suggests We Lose a Number

Specifically, 2023.

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Have you noticed that mental health is getting worse? And have you wondered why? Rikki Schlott fingers a culprit for you: Year-in-review round-ups are just making mental health worse.

From international wars to the ascendancy of AI, it feels like the world is falling apart and we’re at the brink of oblivion.

As 2023 comes to a close, media outlets are pumping out “year in review” videos and articles. What they all inspire— from Vox’s 2023, in 7 minutes to the AP Year in Review and Time’s 2023 roundup — is existential dread.

This has undeniably been a chaotic year. But it’s important to gain some perspective.

Being a human with internet access — and an up-close view of all the world’s chaos delivered straight to your screen — is insanely unprecedented. And insanely stressful.

Rikki co-authored one of the best non-fiction books I read this year, The Canceling of the American Mind. So never mind that her column contains kind of a (partial) list of 2023's bad stuff, and so if you take her headline literally, you might want to stop reading right there.

We don't think you're that mentally fragile, though. So let me point you to the only year-in-review article you'll need: Humorist Dave Barry’s review of the top events of 2023.

It was a year of reckoning, a year in which humanity finally began to understand that it faces an existential threat, a threat unlike any we have ever faced before, a threat that will wreak havoc on our fragile planet if we fail to stop it — and it may already be too late.

We are referring, of course, to pickleball.

Nobody knows where it started. Some scientists believe it escaped from a laboratory in China. But whatever its origin, it has been spreading like rancid mayonnaise ever since, to the point where pickleball courts now cover 43 percent of the continental U.S. land mass, subjecting millions of Americans to the inescapable, annoying POP of the plastic ball and the even more annoying sound of Boomers in knee braces relentlessly telling you how much fun it is and demanding that you try it.

And more. Much more. Highly recommended. Sorry, Rikki.

(Fun fact: My editor, vim, knows a lot of words, but thinks "pickleball" may be a misspelling. Also "Rikki" and "Schlott".)

Also of note:

  • I'm from the government, and I'm here to help sabotage you. Judge Glock (his real name, apparently) has some end-of-year bad news: Uncle Stupid is Sabotaging Manufacturing

    The Biden administration is engaged in an unprecedented effort to boost American manufacturing. With scores of subsidies and tax credits, it hopes to revive a sector that has shed millions of jobs since a peak over 40 years ago.

    It is odd, then, that another part of the government is doing its best to hamstring industry. Biden’s environmental regulators are layering more and more requirements on factories and utilities.

    The latest example came to light on December 15, a Friday, when the government tends to release bad news. The Department of Energy (DOE) proposed a new regulation on certain small electric motors. The purported goal is to increase the efficiency of these motors and thereby save energy.

    Although small electric motors may seem, by definition, insignificant, the government estimates that the regulation would have massive costs, in this case of around $5 to $10 billion. It also estimates that the new rules would shrink the value of the industry that produces the motors by up to 13 percent.

    To justify imposing billions of dollars in new costs, the government claims that there will be tens of billions in benefits. The vast bulk of these benefits will come from energy-efficiency savings. They are not benefits for the country as a whole but rather “private benefits” of those buying the regulated products.

    Like other energy-efficiency mandates, this one faces the obvious question: If the energy savings are so great, why don’t consumers and manufacturers adopt them on their own? The government simply claims it’s smarter than most families and businesspeople whose job it is to make and save money. For some reason, business executives in particular fail to understand their self-interest and the government therefore does it for them.

    Glock provides plenty of reasons to doubt that Your Federal Government can do an accurate cost-benefit analysis. Hayek would agree.

  • Oy, again with the Fourteenth. Kevin D. Williamson writes on Defending the Ballot.

    European governments not only ban political parties but also political books, songs, tattoo designs, associations, and events. To Americans steeped in the First Amendment tradition and raised on The Crucible and Fahrenheit 451, this can be shocking and uncomfortable. At the same time, European observers may be perplexed as Americans flounder impotently for a legal means of preventing the possible reelection of Donald Trump, who attempted to stage a coup d’état when he lost reelection in 2020.

    That Donald Trump not only could be but already is prohibited from seeking reelection seems to me reasonably straightforward: Section 3 of the 14th Amendment prohibits those “engaging in” insurrection from standing for election. That there was an insurrection in January 2021 is at this point a matter of legal record, as there are prisoners currently incarcerated after being convicted on charges of seditious conspiracy, defined in statute as an attempt to “conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof.” This is the very definition of insurrection.

    I despise Trump as much as does KDW, but I'm not persuaded that Trump "engaged in insurrection". But I'm neither a Constitutional scholar, nor a Constitutional lawyer. (I did go on board the USS Constitution years ago.)

    So see what you think about KDW's argument.

  • It should just change its name to "Clown College" at this point. Alex Tabarrok writes of the intellectual rot in Cambridge: The Sullivan Signal: Harvard's Failure to Educate and the Abandonment of Principle.

    The current Harvard disaster was clearly signaled by earlier events, most notably the 2019 firing of Dean Ronald Sullivan. Sullivan is a noted criminal defense attorney; he was the director of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia and he is the Director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School, he advised President Obama on criminal justice issues, he represented the family of Michael Brown. He and his wife were the first black Faculty Deans in the history of the college.

    Controversy erupted, however, when Sullivan joined Harvey Weinstein’s legal defense team. Student protests ensued. The students argued that they couldn’t “feel safe” if a legal representative of a person accused of abusing women was also serving in a role of student support and mentorship. This is, of course, ridiculous. Defending an individual accused of murder does not imply that a criminal defense attorney condones the act of murder.

    Harvard should have educated their students. Harvard should have emphasized the crucial role of criminal defense in American law and history. They should have noted that a cornerstone of the rule of law is the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial, irrespective of public opinion.

    Harvard should have pointed proudly to John Adams, a Harvard alum, who defied popular opinion to defend hated British soldiers charged with murdering Americans at the Boston Massacre. (If you wish to take measure of the quality of our times it’s worth noting that Adams won the case and later became president—roughly equivalent to an attorney for accused al-Qaeda terrorists becoming President today.)

    Instead of educating its students, Harvard catered to ignorance, bias and hysteria…

    And current Harvard Prez Claudine Gay was one of the caterers.

  • Be careful what you wish for. I shook my head when I read the WSJ headline yesterday: New York Times Sues Microsoft and OpenAI, Alleging Copyright Infringement. Isn't it supposed to be the stick-in-the-mud conservatives who are standing athwart history, yelling "stop"?

    But Mike Masnick has a long and interesting (but mainly long) article describing why that's a bad idea: The NY Times Lawsuit Against OpenAI Would Open Up The NY Times To All Sorts Of Lawsuits Should It Win.

    Let me let you in on a little secret: if you think that generative AI can do serious journalism better than a massive organization with a huge number of reporters, then, um, you deserve to go out of business. For all the puffery about the amazing work of the NY Times, this seems to suggest that it can easily be replaced by an auto-complete machine.

    In the end, though, the crux of this lawsuit is the same as all the others. It’s a false belief that reading something (whether by human or machine) somehow implicates copyright. This is false. If the courts (or the legislature) decide otherwise, it would upset pretty much all of the history of copyright and create some significant real world problems.

    Like I said, it's long. But you could learn something if you (like me, and apparently also like NYT lawyers) "don’t much understand copyright law".


Last Modified 2024-01-09 9:09 AM EST

It's a Dog Way to Get Around

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Gee, we don't link to Jacobin enough. Ben Burgis, adjunct philosophy professor at Rutgers, floats his bad idea there: Nationalize Greyhound. His thesis:

A publicly owned intercity bus service with dedicated highway lanes could do for travelers what the US Postal Service does for letters and packages: let them criss-cross the country cheaply and quickly at their own convenience.

Just like USPS! Reader, I can hear you snorting derisively and note your eyes rolling. Burgis's first paragraphs demonstrate (unintentionally) the rosy retrospection fallacy:

When I was growing up, I could walk from my parents’ place to the Greyhound station in East Lansing, Michigan. There was another one ten minutes’ drive from there in downtown Lansing. At either station, I could buy an inexpensive ticket on the spot and wait inside until my bus came to take me to, for example, visit my sister in Oberlin, Ohio.

Neither East Lansing nor Oberlin are anything you could possibly call a “hub,” but it didn’t matter. The Greyhound went everywhere.

Later on in the article, Burgis imagines a "libertarian dystopia" (his phrase) where the USPS was privatized. And claims that a nationalized bus service would be "financially self-sufficient like the USPS."

Really.

Burgis fails to mention that Your Federal Government makes it illegal for private firms to compete with USPS. Would a similar fate befall Megabus? (One-way fare from Boston to NYC $39.)

Not that it matters, but I also did a fair amount of intercity bus travel in my younger days. I think my record was at some point in the mid-1970s, a round trip between Washington DC and Oakland, California. Unlike Burgis, I derive no grand lessons from my experiences, just a pedestrian (heh) one: it's been many years since I took a bus other than a shuttle to/from an airport. If I wanted to go to New York, though…

Anyway, Christian Britschgi takes apart Burgis's thesis at Reason: Do Not Under Any Circumstances Nationalize Greyhound.

That the Postal Service is "financially self-sufficient" would be news to USPS, which reported a $6.5 billion net loss this past fiscal year. Indeed, the Postal Service is currently shuttering facilities and raising prices as part of a 10-year restructuring plan meant to get it out of the red.

As it turns out, the nationalized Postal Service is engaged in the same kind of retrenchment a nationalized bus company is supposed to avoid. This fact strengthens Burgis' point that a government-run intercity bus company would perform as well as USPS. But it doesn't necessarily recommend nationalization.

Of course, Amtrak is similarly built on expensive nostalgia.

Randal O'Toole has comments on the news stories that spurred all this sudden bus discussion: Curbsides: The Salvation of Intercity Buses.

In order to better compete with Megabus and Flixbus, Greyhound (which is owned by Flixbus) is selling or moving out of many of its downtown bus stations and loading and unloading passengers at curbsides. This is being derided as “taking mobility away from low-income people” and that moving stations from downtowns to suburban locations was a major hardship for passengers. But the alternative would probably be worse.

[‥]

FlixBus’s task was to turn a money-loser [Greyhound] into a money-maker, and changing to the curbside model is a major part of this. The alternative to moving from bus stations to curbsides is to completely shut down service, which would hardly be better for low-income people. Unfortunately, members of the media are so used to seeing heavy subsidies to Amtrak, transit, and other forms of transportation that they can’t understand why the government isn’t similarly subsidizing everything else or why other modes need to earn a profit to be able to complete.

I'm sure that when the dust settles, the government will be assuring us that we didn't really need to go to New Jersey anyway.

Also of note:

  • From the people who brought you "the dog ate my homework." Jacob Sullum has an early one of those year-in-review columns: 'I Relied on Others,' 'Documents Were Filed in the Wrong Place,' and Other Memorable Excuses: The Year's Highlights in Blame Shifting.

    After two former Georgia election workers sued Rudy Giuliani for falsely accusing them of committing massive fraud in 2020, his attorney argued that the real culprit in that calumny was The Gateway Pundit. Meanwhile, Gateway Pundit publisher Jim Hoft, who faced a separate defamation lawsuit by the same plaintiffs, was arguing that his website "fairly and accurately reported on the claims made by third parties, such as Trump's legal team," which Giuliani led.

    This month's $148 million verdict against Giuliani suggests that jurors were not swayed by his attempt to shift the blame for his baseless allegations. His consolation prize is top billing in my annual list of memorable moments in buck passing, several of which involved the tireless peddler of Donald Trump's stolen-election fantasy.

    'Really Crazy Stuff.' That was Rupert Murdoch's private description of Giuliani's baroque conspiracy theory, which Fox News nevertheless helped promote. Although the outlet, like Hoft, blamed Giuliani et al. for the tall tale, its frequently credulous coverage of his allegations against Dominion Voting Systems resulted in a $787 million defamation settlement last April.

    I remember when Granite Grok was a hotbed of Dominion Denial. (Samples here and here with fun comments by, and vituperation aimed at, yours truly.) They fortunately went unsued.


Last Modified 2024-01-09 9:09 AM EST

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet

Is that Trump or Biden out there on the wing?

[Is that Trump or Biden out there on the wing?]

Peter Berkowitz notes a metaphor he doesn't like: 'Flight 93 Election' Anti-Trumpers Imperil the Rule of Law.

On Sept. 5, 2016, The Claremont Review of Books’ website published “The Flight 93 Election” under the pseudonym Publius Decius Mus. The high-brow polemic went viral a few days later when Rush Limbaugh read it aloud on his radio show. Author Michael Anton – who served on President Trump’s National Security Council and is now a fellow at Hillsdale College and the Claremont Institute – analogized the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to the one faced by passengers on the last of the four doomed commercial aircraft that had been hijacked by Al Qaeda terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001. If Flight 93 passengers did nothing, they faced certain death. If they charged the cockpit, they might still die, but they gave themselves a fighting chance to seize control of the plane.

A Clinton presidency, argued Anton, would plunge the nation into an authoritarian progressive dystopia, a secession crisis, or internal collapse. Meanwhile, despite his vulgar and erratic character and lack of government experience, “Trump articulated, if incompletely and inconsistently, the right stances on the right issues – immigration, trade, and war – right from the beginning.” Notwithstanding the manifest risks, maintained Anton, the real-estate mogul and reality-TV star gave hope of preserving America’s constitutional order.

Desperate times, Anton counseled, necessitated desperate measures. He did not call for lawlessness. But by maintaining that Clinton’s election would produce unmitigated catastrophe, he encouraged the notion that all bets were off if she prevailed at the ballot box.

Today’s anti-Trumpers go Anton one better. Whereas he warned of the danger of progressive dictatorship a mere two months before the 2016 election, anti-Trumpers have been sounding the alarm continuously against Trumpian tyranny since 2016 and have picked up the pace this cycle. This gives Democrats time to grasp the grave threat and take suitable precautions. But what precautions are suitable to thwart the authoritarian conquest of America?

Rhetoric gets escalated. I winced at a recent article by Ray Cardello at Granite Grok: It Is Time To Take Back This Country. And it's no less of a storm-the-cockpit call from the first paragraphs:

It is time to take off the gloves and get the knuckles bloody. It is time to stop playing softball and throw the heat high and inside, right under the chin. It is time to stop playing by their rules and take back this country.

It is time to nail Biden with a fastball that will make him double over in pain and not even know where first base is. It is time to take this country back by whatever means are necessary. The Democrats are destroying this country, and most Republicans are willing to be casual spectators. This dynamic must change, or we will someday see America replaced by a new Socialist experiment and wonder how that happened.

"Whatever means are necessary."

And in this morning's local paper, I note an LTE from one J. Michael Atherton of Dover. Who goes right to the Godwin's Law demo:

Trump insists he has not read Mein Kampf . This may be true but, perhaps, not the point. Scholars justifiably read it to study the mind of a sociopath. It helps them see warning signs before someone becomes a dictator with power to enforce his demented view of the world. That is, before it’s too late.

Non-scholarly people with anger issues and sociopathic tendencies read Mein Kampf as a how-to book. They read it to have their master, Hitler, show them the way. But that 'way' ended poorly for everyone. At the end of the war, for example, deep in the bowels of the Berlin bunker, Hitler’s right-hand man, Goebbels, killed his own six children, his wife, and then himself. Because of Hitler, Europe lay in ruins with millions of people dead, injured, or misplaced. Hitler caused the world’s economic structure to crumble. All this happened when gullible people followed the ideas of Mein Kampf even if they never read it.

No link, sorry, it's well-paywalled. But trust me, J. Michael goes on in the same vein for awhile.

This Flight 93ism from both sides can't be good. I can't help but think people are going to start shooting.

(I assume most everyone gets the headline reference, but just in case, here's the relevant Wikipedia page.)

Also of note:

  • Is your blood pressure too low? Let me point you to a doctor-approved remedy. Specifically: Dr. Paul Releases 2023 ‘Festivus’ Report on Government Waste.

    Some of the highlights include the National Institutes of Health spending a portion of a $2.7 million grant to study Russian cats walking on a treadmill and Barbies used as proof of ID for receiving COVID Paycheck Protection Program funds. The Department of Defense ruined over $169 million worth of military equipment by leaving it outside, the United States Agency for International Development spent $6 million to promote tourism in Egypt, and the Small Business Administration gave ‘struggling’ music artists like Post Malone, Chris Brown, and Lil Wayne over $200 million.

    And nothing for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. Sigh.

  • The science is settled. Also censored. Via Jerry Coyne: Anna Krylov (USC Chemistry prof) and Jay Tanzman (freelance statistician) shine their spotlight on scientific censorship.

    Censorship—the suppression of facts and ideas—is as old as history itself. Censorship has been invoked to protect people's minds from corruption by bad ideas, to shield religious truths from heresy, to protect the feelings of the faithful from blasphemy, and to ensure the safety of the state in time of war.

    Suppression of facts and ideas is antithetical to the production of knowledge; yet, from its inception, science has been a target of censorship. Despite the key role science plays in reducing human suffering, providing solutions to pressing problems of humankind, and improving the lives of people worldwide, censorship in science is endemic in even the most advanced democratic societies.

    Recently, science journals and publishers have opened a new and disturbing chapter in the history of scientific censorship: the censorship of scientific articles that are alleged to be “harmful” to a particular group or population, a practice that violates the guidelines of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). The practice began with scientific journals retracting articles in response to the demands of online mobs, but has since been codified into policy by various editorial boards and scientific publishers.

    Your confirmation bias is a lot easier to maintain if there's no possibility disconfirming evidence will make it to your eyeballs.

  • A worthy effort continues. The WSJ editorialists have some good news about The DEI Rollback of 2023.

    The diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) bureaucracy on campus has proliferated in recent years, but there are signs it’s finally meeting resistance. The latest good news is from Wisconsin, where public universities will pare back some DEI programs and freeze them going forward.

    Under a deal shaped by Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, the state approved $800 million in pay raises for university staff and for plans to build a new engineering building at the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison. In exchange, the university will freeze all DEI hiring, eliminate a third of DEI positions on campus, and create an endowed chair to teach “conservative political thought, classical economic theory or classical liberalism” at UW Madison. At least now there will be one conservative.

    Come on, New Hampshire. What are we waiting for?

  • If you answered "very", you were correct. John Hinderaker asks a mostly-rhetorical question: How Left-Wing Is the Press?.

    That the “mainstream” press is overwhelmingly liberal is obvious to everyone, and I think is now admitted by most liberals. Still, it is interesting to see quantification of what we all know to be true.

    The Economist attempted such an objective measurement, using an interesting criterion:

    The first step in our analysis was compiling a partisan “dictionary”. We took all speeches in Congress in 2009-22 and broke them up into two-word phrases. We then filtered this list to terms used by large shares of one party’s lawmakers, but rarely by the other’s. The result was a collection of 428 phrases that reliably distinguish Democratic and Republican speeches, such as “unborn baby” versus “reproductive care” or “illegal alien” versus “undocumented immigrant”.

    Next, we collected 242,000 articles from news websites in 2016-22, and transcripts of 397,000 prime-time tv segments from 2009-22. We calculated an ideological score for each one by comparing the frequencies of terms on our list. For example, a story in which 0.1% of distinct phrases are Republican and 0.05% are Democratic has a conservative slant of 0.05 percentage points, or five per 10,000 phrases.

    The result was what you would expect.

    There are pretty pictures (but as Hinderaker notes, no surprises) at the links.


Last Modified 2024-01-16 5:26 AM EST

And I Didn't Get Her Anything

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

George Leef wonders Is Claudine Gay the Gift That Keeps On Giving? She and other university presidents have certainly inspired a lot of blog-fodder here at Pun Salad.

Perhaps we should be happy that Harvard is determined to keep Claudine Gay as its president. Nothing could do more to focus attention on the institutional rot the university has been suffering for many years.

Professor William Jacobson contemplates here the harm that has been done to the “Harvard brand.”

He notes that Claudine Gay is a non-scholar whose academic publications wouldn’t get her tenure at a low-level college. Ah, but Harvard no longer cares about scholarship — it is clearly concerned only about having a leader who will push the “diversity” agenda full throttle. In that regard, she was in on the nasty attack on Professor Roland Fryer because he (a scholar of repute) wrote a paper that undermined the leftist narrative about race. He also writes that she plagiarized the work of (among others) Professor Carol Swain.

Jacobson writes, “Gay is a child of privilege who learned how to play the game among other elites — she stole from Swain and shut down Fryer on her path to the presidency.”

Carol Swain, for one, is pretty pissed at Gay, and she unloads at the WSJ's opinion pages: Claudine Gay and My Scholarship

I write as one of the scholars whose work Ms. Gay plagiarized. She failed to credit me for sections from my 1993 book, “Black Faces, Black Interests: The Representation of African Americans in Congress” and an article I published in 1997, “Women and Blacks in Congress: 1870-1996.” The damage to me extends beyond the two instances of plagiarism identified by researchers Christopher Rufo and Christopher Brunet.

“Black Faces, Black Interests” received numerous accolades and recognitions. In 1994 it was selected one of Library Choice Journal’s seven outstanding academic books and won the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award and the V.O. Key Award for political science. It won the D.B. Hardeman Prize for its scholarship on Congress in 1995. My book has been cited in court opinions, including by U.S. Supreme Court justices in Johnson v. De Grandy (1994) and Georgia v. Ashcroft (2003).

[…]

Harvard can’t condemn Ms. Gay because she is the product of an elite system that holds minorities of high pedigree to a lower standard. This harms academia as a whole, and it demeans Americans, of all races, who had to work for everything they earned.

Meanwhile, Philip Greenspun wondered if that old plea for "context" might save President Gay's reputation. So he consulted ChatGPT, and it turns out that, indeed, Plagiarism depends on the context.

Unfortunately for President Gay, ChatGPT thought "context" would not be her friend:

When a student plagiarizes, it is often seen as a failure of this learning process. In contrast, the president of an esteemed institution like Harvard is expected to be well-versed in academic integrity. Plagiarism at such a high level suggests a deliberate breach of ethical standards, which is more serious given their role and influence. … The president of Harvard, as a leader and scholar, holds a position of significant influence and authority. Plagiarism in their scholarly work would severely undermine their credibility, the integrity of their research, and could lead to broader implications for the reputation of the institution they represent. … The president of a university is held to higher standards of accountability due to their leadership position. Plagiarism in their work can lead to severe consequences, including loss of their position, public censure, and damage to their professional career. For a student, consequences are usually confined to academic penalties, such as failing the assignment or course, and potentially facing disciplinary action from the university.

Philip's efforts to tease out a more Gay-friendly response failed.

President Gay also finds no love from Reason's Robby Soave: If You Ignore Claudine Gay's Plagiarism, Shame on You. He looks at the lame defense that Gay's critics are (in the words of NBC's Ben Collins) a bunch of "right-wing grifters".

So far, Harvard has stuck by Gay, merely noting that some of the articles would be reworded to satisfy critics. This did not satisfy CNN's Em Steck, who correctly took the school to task for failing to address "her clearest instances of plagiarism." And according to the Times, the university's review of Gay's work was conducted by Harvard Corporation—the university's governing board—rather than the office of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which would normally handle academic malfeasance.

People are free to conclude that Gay's transgressions are not quite serious enough to merit termination. They are also free to point out that such sloppiness is probably rampant in higher education and certainly under-policed. (At some point, though, this isn't really an excuse for Gay—but rather a broader indictment of the entire project of elite education.)

Pun Salad fave John McWhorter explains, from his lofty New York Times perch, Why Claudine Gay Should Go. His bottom line:

I, for one, wield no pitchfork on this. I did not call for Dr. Gay’s dismissal in the wake of her performance at the antisemitism hearings in Washington, and on social media I advised at first to ease up our judgment about the initial plagiarism accusations. But in the wake of reports of additional acts of plagiarism and Harvard’s saying that she will make further corrections to past writing, the weight of the charges has taken me from “wait and see” to “that’s it.”

If it is mobbish to call on Black figures of influence to be held to the standards that others are held to, then we have arrived at a rather mysterious version of antiracism, and just in time for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in less than a month. I would even wish Harvard well in searching for another Black woman to serve as president if that is an imperative. But at this point that Black woman cannot, with any grace, be Claudine Gay.

And if Harvard declines to dismiss her out of fear of being accused of racism — a reasonable although hardly watertight surmise — Dr. Gay should do the right thing on her own. For Harvard, her own dignity and our national commitment to assessing Black people (and all people) according to the content of their character, she should step down.

I confess to not wielding a pitchfork here either, but for a different reason: I have zero respect for Harvard. I think university presidents, as a class, should be presumed guilty unless proved innocent. As long as President Gay continues at Harvard, she'll be a reminder of the intellectual corruption of elite higher education.

Also of note:

  • Hey, kids, what time is it? At the Hill, Arthur Herman and Alex J. Pollock provide the answer: It’s time for universities to share the burden of student loan defaults. After noting that burden, thanks to Wheezy Joe Biden, is being borne exclusively by American taxpayers:

    By inducing their students to borrow from the government, higher education institutions collect vastly inflated tuition and fees, which they then spend without worrying about whether the loans will ever be repaid. This in turn incentivizes them to push the tuition and fees, and room and board, ever higher — by an average of 169 percent since 1980, according to a Georgetown University study.

    In short, in the current system the colleges get and spend billions in borrowed money and put all the loan risk on somebody else — including those student borrowers who responsibly pay off their own debt and those who never borrowed in the first place, not to mention taxpayers, whether they attended a college or not.

    This perverse pattern of incentives and rewards must stop. A more equitable model would insist that colleges have serious “skin in the game.” It would insist that they participate to some degree in the losses from defaulted and forgiven loans to their own students.

    Harvard reports its FY2023 endowment to be $50.7 Billion-with-a B.

  • Very very meta. GeekPress brings to our attention a True Fact about the Ship of Theseus On Wikipedia:

    The mind boggles. Slightly.

Recently on the book blog:


Last Modified 2024-01-10 7:11 AM EST

The Little Sister

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Raymond Chandler's fifth Philip Marlowe novel, published in 1949.

It's a slack period for Marlowe's detective business, so mostly out of boredom he takes the case of Orfamay Quest, a seemingly innocent Kansas lady, in town to track down her brother Orrin, who has ceased communicating with his family back in the sleepy town of Manhattan. She gives him all she can afford, twenty dollars. (Neatly folded, three fives and five ones.)

It doesn't take long for a couple corpses to show up, both done in with an icepick to the occipital. Things get very twisty and convoluted, involving Hollywood starlets and the movie biz. Which Marlowe describes with his usual keen eye for the sordidness behind the glamorous tinsel. He also manages to survive a doped cigarette, several deadly dames, sleazy hotel detectives, and other threats.

I think Marlowe's wisecracks and colorful observations have ramped up a bit here, compared to previous entries. A sample, where Marlowe visits the scene of a past crime:

The Chateau Bercy was old but made over. It had the sort of lobby that asks for plush and india-rubber plants, but gets glass brick, cornice lighting, three-cornered glass tables, and a general air of having been redecorated by a parolee from a nut hatch. Its color scheme was bile green, linseed-poultice brown, sidewalk gray and monkey-bottom blue. It was as restful as a split lip.

Odd coincidence: I'm currently reading a recent novel, U Up?, where glass bricks also make an appearance. Coincidence or homage?

Further fun fact: Hotshot lawyer Lee Farrell (previously mentioned in Farewell, My Lovely) shows up to extract Marlowe from a tight spot with the cops. "Lee Farrell" is also the name of a recurring cop character in Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels, and I believe that's a homage, not a coincidece.

I originally bought my copy back in the early 1970s, a 95¢ Ballantine paperback (pictured). I don't think there's ever been a better cover, but the one on the Wikipedia page is also very good.


Last Modified 2024-01-09 9:09 AM EST

It's Christmas, and This is Pun Salad, So…

[I Wanna Wish You A Merry Christmas]


Last Modified 2024-01-22 11:58 AM EST

Email I Sent to Jeb Bradley

For non-Granite Staters: Jeb is a Republican, and current president of the New Hampshire State Senate. The message contains points I've made at this blog, really nothing new. But in case you've ever wondered how I would write to a State Senator, here you go.

If you'd like to see what spurred me to write, the letter sent by Jeb and the other senators to UNH President James Dean is here.

Dear Senator Bradley --

I recently read (via an article in NH Journal) the letter sent by you and other state senators to UNH President James Dean. I was a longtime UNH employee (retired in 2016), and an occasional critic of UNH's stances on political issues. And I remember shaking your hand at the Black Bean Cafe, one of your Rollinsford campaign stops for the US Congress.

I agree with much of what your letter says. Specifically, the University should not support "hatred and bigotry in any way". That's an easy call.

However, I think the letter blurs the distinction between "not supporting" and "actively punishing". And in labeling a broad array of words and actions "unacceptable", it fails to recognize that, in a free country, one simply has to "accept" people expressing their opinions, even odious ones. Yes, swastika-painting vandals and anti-semitic harassers should be caught and appropriately punished; people peacefully demonstrating, even shouting their stupid and evil slogans, should not.

UNH has an enviably high position on the most recent College Free Speech Rankings put out by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE). (At the very bottom of the rankings: Harvard. Also below average: Tufts, sorry.) As a public university, UNH has recognized that it cannot restrict or punish First Amendment-protected speech without running afoul of the law. And there is no exception for "hate speech".

For a specific example, any effort to punish Professor Chanda Prescod-Weinstein for her anti-Israel expressions would likely be grounds for an expensive lawsuit that UNH would lose bigly.

I also wonder whether UNH has adopted (belated and unannounced) a so-called "Kalven Report" policy, deciding that it, as an institution, should refrain from issuing ex cathedra statements on political/social issues. (That would be a good idea, in my view.)

My suggestion: instead of making demands of President Dean, NH legislators should advocate (and, if necessary, legislate) that USNH defund and dismantle "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion" (DEI) bureaucracies on all campuses. Just keep whatever offices are necessary for required legal reporting to the Feds.

In addition, USNH schools should be barred from requiring "diversity statements" as part of their hiring practices.

These actions have been undertaken in other states, and people across the ideological spectrum have been advocating them.

Best wishes, and thanks for your service.

--
-- Paul A. Sand
-- sand.paul@gmail.com

Explanation: I mentioned Tufts because I noticed that Jeb went there.

On that last point, here's a recent "Republicans pounce"-style article from Vox which (nevertheless) captures the state of play: Republicans are weaponizing antisemitism to take down college DEI offices.

Now DEI programs in higher education are facing so much conservative backlash that at least 22 state legislatures have introduced at least 40 bills to ban the initiatives in state university systems and K–12 schools. Florida and North Dakota made the DEI bans state law this year, and many copycat bills are being considered.

Last week, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed an executive order to defund all DEI training and programs in public colleges and all other state agencies. Meanwhile, after a six-month standoff, Wisconsin Republicans approved $800 million in state funds that it had been withholding from the Universities of Wisconsin over objections to campus DEI programs. To receive funding for cost-of-living raises and campus building projects, the UW regents had to agree to freeze DEI staffing for three years and eliminate or redefine about 40 DEI positions.

The Vox writer was clearly dismayed, I was cheered.

For a powerful anti-DEI take, see Bari Weiss: End DEI. Excerpt:

In theory, all three of these words [diversity, equity, and inclusion] represent noble causes. They are, in fact, all causes to which American Jews in particular have long been devoted, both individually and collectively. But in reality, these words are now metaphors for an ideological movement bent on recategorizing every American not as an individual, but as an avatar of an identity group, his or her behavior prejudged accordingly, setting all of us up in a kind of zero-sum game.

We have been seeing for several years now the damage this ideology has done: DEI, and its cadres of enforcers, undermine the central missions of the institutions that adopt it. But nothing has made the dangers of DEI clearer than what’s happening these days on our college campuses—the places where our future leaders are nurtured.

It is there that professors are compelled to pledge fidelity to DEI in order to get hired, promoted, or tenured. (For more on this, please read John Sailer’s Free Press piece: How DEI Is Supplanting Truth as the Mission of American Universities.) And it is there that the hideousness of this worldview has been on full display over the past few weeks: we see students and professors immersed not in facts, knowledge, and history, but in a dehumanizing ideology that has led them to celebrate or justify terrorism.

My only quibble is with Bari's calling it a "zero-sum game". It's a negative-sum game.


Last Modified 2023-12-25 7:36 PM EST

Bad Santa

[Bad Santa]

You may be a Trump fan. Or a Biden fan. In that case, just enjoy Mr. Ramirez's glorious artwork.

It's time for our weekly look at the horserace, as judged by the betting markets:

Candidate EBO Win
Probability
Change
Since
12/17
Donald Trump 39.9% -2.7%
Joe Biden 30.0% -0.1%
Nikki Haley 9.6% +3.3%
Gavin Newsom 6.3% -0.5%
Robert Kennedy Jr 3.2% unch
Other 11.0% +2.3%

The coal lumps are still the betting favorites, although Nikki and "Other" improved their standings some.

Gone missing this week is Michelle Obama, who has dipped (just slightly) below our 2% inclusion threshold. She joins Kamala, Ron, Vivek, and Elizabeth in Probablynotgonnahappenville. My guess is that a number of oddsmakers took a look at the tedious Netflix flick Leave the World Behind, which she and Barack executive-produced, and decided … nah.

Also of note:

  • Leading to the obvious question: is there any smart reason to rally around Trump? Ramesh Ponnuru dismisses one popular one, anyway: Dumb liberal decisions aren’t a smart reason to rally around Trump. Dumb liberal decisions? He's talking about the Colorado Supreme Court decision to disqualify Trump.

    Trump supporters sometimes say they feel compelled to support him as a way to stand up to the illegitimate tactics of his opponents: to preserve their freedom to use the political process to choose him as president even as those opponents try to deprive them of that option.

    This is deeply unwise. It’s self-defeating, because Republicans who react that way are letting the behavior of Trump’s opponents dictate their votes. And although the opponents have taken extraordinary measures, it’s not simply because they dislike his fans or because Trump is a threat to a nebulously defined establishment. Trump poses an extraordinary threat to the Constitution: That’s what created the opportunity for this lawsuit and supplies much of the motivation of those backing it. Voters should consider the conduct at issue in the Colorado suit disqualifying even if it is not the court’s place to say so.

    And it isn’t. The Colorado court followed what jurist Robert Bork called the “heart’s desire” school of jurisprudence. The teaching of that school: If you squint at the Constitution from just the right angle, it makes your fondest wish come true. It works for anyone, regardless of their party affiliation or ideology.

    It's even easier if you close your eyes entirely.

  • Jacob Sullum is not squinting. He has a long article at Reason looking at the logic of the four Colorado justices: Was the Capitol Riot an 'Insurrection,' and Did Trump 'Engage in' It?. Excerpt:

    The justices eventually concede that Trump, who never explicitly called for violence, said his supporters would be "marching to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard." But they discount that phrasing as cover for Trump's actual intent. Given Trump's emphasis on the necessity of "fight[ing] like hell" to avert the disaster that would result if Biden were allowed to take office, they say, the implicit message was that the use of force was justified. In support of that conclusion, the court cites Chapman University sociologist Peter Simi, who testified that "Trump's speech took place in the context of a pattern of Trump's knowing 'encouragement and promotion of violence,'" which he accomplished by "develop[ing] and deploy[ing] a shared coded language with his violent supporters."

    That seems like a pretty speculative basis for concluding that Trump intentionally encouraged his supporters to attack the Capitol. Given what we know about Trump, it is perfectly plausible that, unlike any reasonably prudent person, he was heedless of the danger that his words posed in this context. It is harder to believe that he cleverly developed a "coded language" that he knew some of his supporters would understand as a call to violence.

    Nor is it clear how the violence that Trump allegedly intended was supposed to benefit him. There was no realistic prospect that it would actually stop Biden from taking office, and in the end it did no more than delay completion of the electoral vote count. Meanwhile, it alienated former Trump allies (albeit only briefly in some cases), led to his second impeachment, and left an ineradicable stain on his presidency.

    The proper remedy for Trump's reckless and incendiary behavior: impeachment and conviction. Which was tried and failed. Time to move on dot org.

  • Compared to other elections, this election is the electionest. NYPost writer Yaron Steinbuch notes that Kamala Harris serves up another word salad about 'most election of our lifetime'. I hope the good folks at RNC Research are paid well. It can't be easy to pay attention to this stuff:

    Yes, folks: it's yet another Flight 93 election. Further on:

    “I have been fortunate and blessed during the course of being vice president to have many situations where it becomes too clear me that there are people … of every age and gender, by the way, who see something about being the first that lets them know they don’t need to be, um, limited by other people’s limited, um, understanding of who can do what,” she rambled.

    The hand motions make this even more profound.

  • Or the new John Kasich. But let's let Nate Silver explain why he thinks Nikki Haley could be the new John McCain. And what that could possibly mean.

    He's comparing Nikki 2024 with McCain 2000:

    George W. Bush’s lead over his Republican rivals in 2000 was pretty Trump-like, and anti-Trump Republicans can take at least a little bit of comfort from the fact that the race at least wound up being interesting, if not exactly competitive.

    Bush won Iowa by 10 points that year, with Steve Forbes finishing in second. But then he lost to John McCain in New Hampshire — and McCain wound up winning seven states in total. This did have important downstream impacts, boosting McCain’s national profile, which culminated in him being the GOP nominee in 2008.

    Still, Bush was probably never in that much danger. McCain’s appeal was regional; five of his seven wins came in New England, another in his home state of Arizona, and the final one in Michigan, a state that has a long history of doing maverick-y things in presidential primaries.

    You could argue that Nikki Haley is on a McCain-in-2000-like trajectory. Whereas Trump has actually been expanding his lead lately in Iowa, New Hampshire is closer, with a YouGov poll this weekend showing Haley at 29 percent to 44 percent for Trump. Other polls don’t show as tight of a race, but there haven’t actually been any other high-quality non-partisan polls in New Hampshire in the past several weeks.

    As I type, the very latest NH Primary polls have Trump ahead of Nikki by 14, 30, 15, and 27 percentage points.

    Hey, maybe she's like 1992 Bill Clinton. Who lost the NH Primary to Paul Tsongas in 1992, but spun that into a "Comeback Kid" narrative.

    For the record, I think I voted for Steve Forbes in 2000.

  • She's not in it to win it. She' s not in it at all. At the American Thinker website, Marie Hembree explains Why Michelle Obama is as Rotten a Choice for President as Hillary Clinton.

    What's the evidence for that?

    But like Hillary, Michelle had a disqualifying moment that reflected poorly on her integrity, dating from Inauguration Day in 2016.

    It was about her treatment of the incoming first lady, Melania Trump.

    Americans will recall Melania clad in a Jacqueline Kennedy-esque Ralph Lauren light blue pastel coat dress and matching gloves, nervously carrying a light blue Tiffany gift box to graciously offer the departing Michelle Obama.

    But, instead of graciously accepting the gift and making Melania feel at home, Michelle recounted her alleged famously ‘awkward’ moment on the Ellen DeGeneres show this way:

    Shaking her head with feigned embarrassment, Michelle stated she was given the famous robin’s egg blue box by Melania and claimed she had no idea what to do with it. In other words, she attempted to construct the perception that Melania Trump had made the most unprecedented social gaffe in White House history.

    To the delight of Trump-despising DeGeneres, Michelle complained: "So, I’m sort of like, 'O.K., what am I supposed to do with this gift?' and everyone (staff) cleared out and no one took this gift,” the former first lady added. With intuitive, Marxist finessing, Michelle painted herself as a victim of a traumatically awkward $1,000 sterling silver picture frame.

    Marxist finessing! Two words I would not previously have ever conceived being conjoined.

    I wouldn't vote for Michelle, either, but this is pretty weak sauce. Sorry, Marie.


Last Modified 2024-01-16 5:16 AM EST

Traveling This Holiday?

Remy "examines" the TSA (not recommended for those offended by slang terms for "penis"):

You can read the lyrics at the link. And there are sublinks to explanations of some of the more obscure lyrics.

In related news, this is an actual TSA news release in its entirety: TSA detects bullets artfully concealed in diaper at LaGuardia Airport.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at LaGuardia Airport removed a diaper from a man’s carry-on bag this morning (Dec. 20) when it triggered an alarm in the security checkpoint X-ray unit.

Inside the diaper, TSA officers unwrapped 17 bullets that had been artfully concealed inside the otherwise clean disposable baby diaper.

The man, a resident of Arkansas, first told officials that he did not know how the bullet-filled diaper came to be in his carry-on bag. Then he said that his girlfriend must have put it in his bag.

TSA officers notified the Port Authority Police, who cited the traveler with unlawful possession of the 9mm ammunition.

Apparently this guy needs a bullet-proof plan for packing his carry-on bag before heading to the airport for his next flight.

I will give the TSA a thumbs-up, or maybe some other upraised digit, for even a lame sense of humor.

Also of note:

  • But who's keeping score? Paul Schwennesen is philosophically upbeat: When Progressives and Conservatives Compete, Agnostics Win.

    The basic problem with each side in today’s culture wars is that they know too much. Progressives self-consciously seek “progress,” (and they know what that means) and conservatives seek to “conserve” valuable forms from the past (and they, too, know what that means). The problem, of course, is that they’re both full of baloney. Neither side is inclined, shall we say, toward intellectual humility. The fact is, nobody knows precisely what “progress” should look like, nor is anyone wise enough to know precisely what traditions are worth keeping in the long run. Despite this, the majority of us non-extremists are caught out on an artificial teeter-totter of political divisiveness, struggling to stay sane in the demilitarized zone between two camps that presume to know more than we do.

    A third way (which might be termed “centrist,” or “classical liberal,” or “libertarian”) is built on a foundation that presumes there is no way to know, in advance, what exactly society should be collectively aiming for. Call us agnostics if you like, aware of, and indeed embracing our collective lack of knowledge. That’s right: no presumption of directionality either Forward (as in Hillary Clinton’s “Forward Together” campaign) or Backward (as in the “Again” in Donald Trump’s MAGA slogan). Agnostics distrust dirigiste political structures, partly out of innate cussedness, but mostly from a position of informed historical experience; it’s not at all clear to an even-headed observer that grandiose plans for the directed structuring of society have turned out very well in the past.

    This is why I'm a little leery about (specifically) some conservatives' grand schemes (usually involving tax policy) to encourage people to have kids, in order to avoid population decline.

  • "With Jokes" is a good way to capture my attention. Jeff Maurer provides something sorely lacking in most discussions: The 14th Amendment Case Against Trump, But With Jokes.

    Before I dive into the case, let me be clear about my biases:

    • I think that Trump is to the American political system what Jar Jar Binks was to the Star Wars franchise. His obvious unfitness for office (Trump’s, though also Jar Jar’s) has become a secondary concern to his open hostility to small “d” democratic governance. Trump has made it very clear that he doesn’t intend to play by the rules. I fear what he might do, and I think that the “who could have foreseen this?” hand-washing from Republicans that will come after those events might drive me insane.

    • Buuuut, I also think that voters’ ability to elect whatever toxic idiot they want is a basic American right. I’m very troubled by the prospect of officials striking candidates from a ballot. That’s what happens in tin pot dictatorships; eliminating candidates for heinous crimes like fishing without a license or removing the “DO NOT REMOVE” tag from a mattress is Autocracy 101. The fact that our process would be less capricious doesn’t change the fact that voters should decide who is and isn’t fit for office.

    • Buuuuuuuuuut I also think that the law should be interpreted without consideration of political consequences. We can’t have judges saying “the law says x, but x sucks, so I’ll pretend it says y.” That’s basically what I was complaining about in the previous paragraph: judges subverting the legislative process. “Judicial activism!” isn’t just what anyone yells when a ruling goes against them; it’s a real problem.

    If you believe those three things — or even just the last two — then the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling this week creates a tough situation. The court has disqualified a major candidate for president. But the court’s interpretation of the 14th Amendment may be correct. Honestly, I hoped that the ruling would be a clownish bit of judicial hackery; I hoped that I would read the court’s words and practically hear MSNBC playing in the background. But the ruling is not clownish. You may or may not find it persuasive, but there are real questions here. Below is my attempt to recount those questions and add jokes, and, as always, I must mention that I’m not a lawyer, constitutional scholar, or even a strong reader, and this entire column is being written by Chat GPT while I play Street Fighter 6.

    For the record, I think the key is something Jeff doesn't consider: The Fourteenth Amendment language disqualifies those who "engaged in insurrection".

    Engaged.

    Whether you consider January 6 to have been an "insurrection" or not, I don't think Trump "engaged" in it. He wasn't at the Capitol. And (indeed) the four Colorado Supremes seem to point to his lack of action that day as the main problem. I.e., he was disengaged.

    But I Am Not A Lawyer.

  • Because of the Jewish Space Lasers, obvsly. Tevi Troy reveals Why Universities Target Jews.

    Many Jewish students, parents, and donors are rethinking their allegiance to America’s elite universities. They think that Jewish students are not welcome there.

    That message is being sent in two ways. First, these schools aren’t admitting Jewish students at the rates they once did. Harvard used to be about 20 percent Jewish; today, it’s below 9 percent. At the University of Pennsylvania, long considered one of the friendliest campuses to Jewish students, the number of observant Jews admitted has dropped by about two-thirds, from 200 in the early 2000s to about 70 today, according to Inside Higher Ed. Jewish enrollment is down across much of the Ivy League.

    Second, the Jewish kids who are admitted increasingly feel uncomfortable on campus. In a now-infamous congressional hearing, the presidents of Harvard, Penn, and MIT struggled to say definitively whether calls for genocide violated their campus codes of conduct. Schools committed to “safe spaces” are strangely silent about anti-Semitism, and in some cases seem implicitly supportive of acts of intimidation and violent protest.

    Maybe someday we'll stop talking about Hamas Campus Cheerleaders, but today is not that day.

I Got Your Sample Ballot Right Here

Well, ackshually, my Rollinsford RINO sample ballot, direct from the New Hampshire Secretary of State.

[Sample Ballot]

Click to go to the SOS's site to generate your own.

A few random observations:

  • In case it's not self-evident: it's relatively cheap to get your name on the ballot here in New Hampshire. So we have an interesting array of (more or less) serious candidates, a number of folks who have dropped out already, and an assortment of cranks, crooks, and lunatics. (Your classification may differ from mine.) Google to your heart's content.

  • Mary Maxwell was also on the ballot four years ago. Her website is here. Sample stance:

    Per Article IV of the Constitution, the US "shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion..." I believe Hawaii was invaded from the sky on August 8, 2023 and that the other 49 states are under obligation to help Hawaii sort this out. Although the Framers couldn't have foreseen anything like DEWs, a guarantee is a guarantee, is it not?

    DEWs? That stands for "Directed Energy Weapons". (Are those the same thing as Jewish Space Lasers?)

    Mary is an occasional poster at Granite Grok, and last year we had an interesting discussion (in the comments section) of her claims about the innocence of the Tsarnaev brothers in the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

  • Sorry, Republicans: Vermin Supreme is on the Democrat ballot this time around. And it's too late to change your party affiliation.

  • And sorry, Democrats: Joe Biden refused to put his name on the ballot, for reasons. (He came in fifth place in 2020.) Never mind that blatant disrespect, say our local Democrats; they recommend writing him in.

  • However, the local GOP is recommending that Democrats not reward the obstreperous Joe and Write In Bozo.

Also of note:

  • I assume he is no relation to Jeremiah "Liver-Eating" Johnson. Jeremiah Johnson looks at the "laziest form of persuasion on the internet": Ugh, Capitalism.

    Complaints about The Man were a common theme in film and television through the 70s, 80s, and 90s. As with so many parts of pop culture, the phrase had roots in black film and television before migrating to the mainstream. What used to be a mainstay of blaxploitation1 films was now being parroted by white teenage stoners. Anybody who grew up in the 90s can perfectly recollect “It’s just like, Society, mannnnn. It’s like, The Man, screwing us over” as spoken by an angsty teen.

    This was seen as ridiculous. Not all complaints about society are ridiculous, of course. But this particular one always was. The person spouting it was always a disaffected loser. They were rarely making any sort of coherent point. Sometimes they were just listing random things they disliked about the world. And at the end of the complaint was the all-blame-taking Man, the omnipresent Society who was responsible for it all in some sinister way.

    And now, JJ notes, those in the know have switched from "the man" to "capitalism". No matter how little sense that makes.

    And completely by coincidence, my favorite UNH physics professor tweeted shortly after I read that:

    Ugh, capitalism.

  • Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise. That's Proverbs 17:28 (KJV). NH Journal notes the latest shot across the bow of the University Near Here by local pols who didn't follow the implied Biblical advice: GOP State Senators Demands [sic] UNH Action on Antisemitism; NHDems Silent.

    Following weeks of reports detailing ongoing instances of antisemitism at the University of New Hampshire, Granite State Senate Republicans on Thursday formally called on UNH administrators to “simply reaffirm its commitment to denouncing all hate speech and racism, especially those related to antisemitic hate.

    “Following the horrendous terrorist attack in Israel on Oct. 7, we’ve seen a sharp increase in antisemitic hate across the globe. This has ranged from physical and verbal attacks to targeting Jewish-owned businesses with graffiti to online hate speech and has led to fear and anxiety in the Jewish community. It is safe to say that no sensible person condones these actions or the perpetrators of them,” the senators wrote in a letter to UNH President James Dean. “Unfortunately, the University of New Hampshire has not been immune to this spreading hatred.”

    The linked letter contains condemnation of UNH "facility [sic] members voicing antisemitic hate speech", no doubt referring to Professor Chanda Prescod-Weinstein (see above item).

    I don't want to get (once again) into the weeds of college speech codes. Let's just point out:

    1. UNH has an enviably high ranking on the most recent College Free Speech Rankings put out by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE).
    2. It could be that UNH has adopted (belated and unannounced) a Kalven-style policy of institutional neutrality toward contentious issues.
    3. The senators' letter is vague about both (a) what they want UNH to do and (b) who they want UNH to do it to.

    If the senators are interested in doing something useful instead, they should investigate (1) defunding and dismantling the DEI bureaucracy on all the USNH campuses; (2) banning the "diversity statement" requirement for applying for USNH employment.

    (See Quote Investigator on the mutations of that Bible verse that neither Lincoln nor Twain made.)


Last Modified 2024-01-16 5:17 AM EST

But What About the Sanity Clause?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Austin Bragg as…

Yes, I laughed. To keep from crying.

Also of note:

  • Hey kids, what time is it? According to Jerry Coyne, it's Time for Claudine Gay to resign.

    When the Presidents of MIT, Harvard, and Penn testified in a House hearing on antisemitism, I didn’t think any of them deserved to be fired. Sure, their performance was wooden and seemingly unempathic, but they were correct in maintaining that the First Amendment did allow calls for the genocide of Jews—under many circumstances. The problem with all three was not that statement, but their universities’ history of hypocrisy. None of them have speech codes strictly adhering to the courts’ interpretation of the First Amendment, as does the University of Chicago, and so they have enforced speech-code violations unevenly. It did not look good for them to suddenly invoke the First Amendment when it allowed for calls of Jewish genocide—not after a history of not allowing things like microaggressions. In other words, Penn, MIT, and Harvard invoked the First Amendment when it was convenient for them to do so—when it allowed dissing of Jews. Not good optics!

    Nevertheless, I didn’t think this hypocrisy was sufficient to call for firing the three Presidents. What did rise to the firing level was Penn President Liz Magill walking back her defense of the First Amendment the next day. Any President who doesn’t adhere, at least in lip service, to the First Amendment is not a President who should be leading a college. As for President Gay and President Kornbluth, I thought they should be given a chance to reform their speech codes. After all, both have been Presidents only since this year, and so can’t even be accused of most of the historical speech hypocrisy of their institutions. Perhaps the hearing was a “teachable moment” for Gay and Kornbluth, and would lead to improvements in their universities’ policy of free expression.

    No longer. Now, I think, Gay should resign—or be fired. Increasing and credible accusations of plagiarism, which now include substantial lifting of others’ prose in 7 of her 11 published papers (not much of a scholarly output, I must say), is enough to show that her academic history is ridden with theft. If a Harvard student would be kicked out for such plagiarism—and they would be—then how can a President remain in power with the same level of academic theft?

    For extra credit, this Twitter thread from Emma Pettit (reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education) may be perused (not as funny as Austin Bragg, but almost):

  • And neither is Rearden Steel. You may have heard the fulminations about the proposed sale of U.S. Steel to Nippon Steel from a number of Wesley Mouch wannabes. Dominic Pino points out a simple truth: U.S. Steel Is Not Owned by U.S. Senators.

    The 572nd most valuable company in America is being bought out. This isn’t big news, but some people think it is.

    Senators John Fetterman (D., Pa.), Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), J. D. Vance (R., Ohio), Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), and Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) have all expressed their displeasure with U.S. Steel’s pending sale. It is one of the enduring ironies of economic discourse that the people who sometimes accuse free-market proponents of being shills for business often get all sentimental about businesses targeted for acquisition.

    Vance, Rubio, and Hawley co-authored a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen urging her to block the acquisition of U.S. Steel by Nippon Steel on national-security grounds. They write that U.S. Steel is an “icon of American industry” and that the sale would have “dire implications for the industrial base of the United States.”

    U.S. Steel was at one time vital to the industrial base, but that time has long passed. Its peak employment was 340,000 during World War II when, like other companies, it was effectively government-run to supply the war effort. Today’s employment is just over 20,000. Peak market share was when the firm started, and peak output was in the 1970s. “X,” the firm’s ticker symbol, ceased being a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average 32 years ago. It hasn’t even been an S&P 500 component since 2014.

    Two Democrats, three Republicans. Demonstrating once again that populist pandering is bipartisan.

    Pino follows up with some additional comments on how The Steel Industry Illustrates the Inconsistency of Populist Economics.

    This deal will have a negligible effect on market concentration in the U.S., and the alternative of Ohio-based Cleveland-Cliffs buying U.S. Steel, which some populists and the United Steelworkers union support, would increase market concentration significantly.

    The inconsistencies from a populist perspective don’t end there. U.S. Steel, and the steel industry more generally, is the archetypal economic-populist bogeyman.

    It was founded in 1901 as a merger between several large steel firms at the peak of the age of trusts. It was the sort of thing that populists at the turn of the century hated: industry consolidation with the backing of mega-financier J. P. Morgan himself. Along with Standard Oil, it was one of the mega firms that inspired the first wave of antitrust crusaders. U.S. Steel was the first billion-dollar corporation, and its valuation of $1.4 billion in 1901 was twice as large as the federal budget that year.

    As Jonah Goldberg noted in his review of a recent book by Patrick Deneen, “I do wonder why Deneen simultaneously laments the opening of factories in the 18th century and the closing of them in the 21st.” There’s a similar dynamic with U.S. Steel, which was the embodiment of everything populists hated at the start of the 20th century but has found populists as its last redoubt of enthusiasm in the 21st.

    Pino goes on to note that US Steel has been an eager supplicant for corporate welfare for decades.

  • A timeless observation about "free". Kevin Corcoran makes it: No Free Lunches, Air Travel Edition.

    It’s not for nothing that in David Henderson’s Ten Pillars of Economic Wisdom we find the following observation, coming in at number one: “TANSTAAFL: There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” Everything comes with a cost. When people say something to the effect of “Healthcare should be free” (or swap out “healthcare” with anything else you like), they are making an impossible demand. The only thing this demand could mean is “when I receive healthcare, I shouldn’t have to pay for it.” But health care doesn’t become “free” just because you, personally, didn’t receive a bill. Someone else will end up bearing the cost. So what this statement necessarily entails is “when I receive healthcare, it should be paid for by someone else.” Now, very few people would be willing to openly say “When I receive [insert good or service here], other people should have to pay for it, not me.” But advocates of free healthcare, free college, free childcare, etc, are in fact making that claim.

    Or at least some of them are. I’d say the “such-and-such should be free” crowd probably falls into two camps. The first camp is made up of people who understand perfectly well that what they’re actually saying is “other people should pay my bills,” but know better than to say that openly. So, they use language like “free”, or perhaps declare the good or service in question to be a “human right,” as a means of sidestepping the no-free-lunch issue. But I also suspect that there are a lot of people who genuinely do think that as long as no bill is received, then something really was “free” in some grand metaphysical sense – manna falling from heaven.

    Corcoran's punching bag is Southwest Airlines, which has long touted its "bags fly free" policy. And now offers "free" extra seats for fat people. Which didn't (heh) "sit" well with this mom and her two daughters:

    “Please help me understand why do I have to spend the night without any accommodations in Baltimore because an oversized person didn’t purchase a second ticket,” the exasperated mother said, claiming all of her and the teenagers’ luggage was sent to their final destination in Denver.

    But those bags flew "free".

  • AARP treats me like I'm already senile. As I previously noted. At NH Journal, Kate Day makes a related point: AARP’s Election Year Playbook on Social Security Means Seniors Lose.

    But there are likely other reasons AARP focuses so much on Social Security, and less so on Medicare’s financial uncertainty these days. Both critical programs face challenges, but AARP’s questionable support for the Democrats’ so-called Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that raided $280 billion in Medicare prescription savings is key among them. How does AARP present itself as an advocate dedicated to securing Medicare’s long-term solvency when it supported recent legislation that diverted billions obligated to beneficiaries that instead went to fund unrelated special interest programs?

    It gets worse. In addition to using the IRA’s Medicare drug savings to pay for handouts like electric vehicle and solar panel tax credits, billions were reallocated to pay for large tax subsidies benefiting massive health insurers like AARP’s corporate benefactor, UnitedHealth. Equally astonishing, these climate and insurer subsidies were doled out immediately while the IRA provisions AARP and Democrats sold to seniors as a means to lower their drug costs had delayed implementation timeframes of two to five years. It was a huge win for Democrats and big insurers seeking a financial windfall but far less so for older Americans.

    I think I've mentioned that AARP mail goes right to the shredder.

We Had To Prevent People From Voting For Him In Order To Save Democracy

Also of note:

  • We're Number 17! Cato has issued a new edition of its Human Freedom Index. It contains data for 2021.

    The United States ranks 17th on the index with its rating falling over time. In 2000, it ranked 7th. Not all countries deteriorated compared to 2000, the first year for which we have sufficient data. Taiwan (in 12th place) and Estonia (5th place) notably increased their level of freedom, for example.

    […]

    The tragic loss of freedom in Hong Kong—symbolized by the sham trial of Jimmy Lai that began there this week—is a dramatic example. As part of its crackdown on the traditional liberties of the territory, the Chinese regime has jailed the dissident billionaire for having advocated in favor of free expression and other basic rights.

    The complete (PDF) report is here. Read it (and weep, if you're so inclined).

    Taiwan, as noted, is in twelfth place. China may fix that someday.

  • In other good news… Phil Gramm and Mike Solon point out that Social Security Was Doomed From the Start. History lesson:

    Americans imagine that the Social Security benefits they are promised belong to them. That’s by design. In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt promised to use “compulsory contributory annuities” to set up a “self-supporting system for those now young and for future generations.” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Pat Harrison (D., Miss.) repeated that claim during debate over the Social Security Act: “The annuity system will give to the worker the satisfaction of knowing that he himself is providing for his old age.”

    Yet two years later, FDR’s Justice Department successfully argued before the Supreme Court that Social Security payroll taxes weren’t reserved for future retirees. “These are true taxes, the purpose being simply to raise revenues,” assistant attorney general Robert Jackson asserted in his brief to the justices. “The proceeds are paid unrestricted into the Treasury as internal revenue collections, available for general support of the Government.”

    The two leading presidential candidates continue to pretend that we can just keep kicking the can down the road.

  • The Kraken remains unreleased. Jacob Sullum's syndicated column headline is (as usual) very long: Giuliani Never Puts Up, but He Never Shuts Up Either: The Former Trump Lawyer Could Have Avoided a Massive Defamation Verdict by Presenting His 'Definitively Clear' Evidence of Election Fraud.

    In a recent CNN poll, 71% of Republicans said Joe Biden "did not legitimately win enough votes to win the presidency," and 41% said there was "solid evidence" to support that conclusion. Last Friday, a federal jury in Washington, D.C., gave those Republicans 148 million reasons to think again.

    Former Trump campaign lawyer Rudy Giuliani could have avoided that ruinous defamation verdict if he had "solid evidence" to support his assertion that two Georgia election workers helped Biden steal the presidency. But as usual, Giuliani claimed to have proof of massive election fraud that he inexplicably could not share. Giuliani never puts up, but he never shuts up either.

    Also in the "never purs, nor shuts, up" category is Donald J. Trump. From Commie Radio a few months back: Trump cancels press conference on election fraud claims, citing attorney advice

    Former President Donald Trump now says he won't be holding a news conference next week to unveil what he claims is new "evidence" of fraud in Georgia's 2020 presidential election — even though no fraud has ever been substantiated — citing the advice of lawyers as he prepares to face trial in two criminal cases that stem from his election lies.

    No compelling evidence of the wide-scale fraud Trump alleges has emerged in the two-and-a-half years since the election in Georgia or elsewhere, despite Trump's baseless claims. Republican officials in the state have long said he lost fairly and three recounts there confirmed President Joe Biden's win.

    Please feel free to neglect the gratuitous, but also obligatory, disclaimers about Trump's baseless claims and unsubstantiated allegations. But do wonder why Trump has suddenly started following legal advice.

    Donald, if you had followed decent legal advice, you wouldn't be in most of the trouble in which you find yourself.

Jim Crow on Steroids

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Renu Mukherjee notes that Colleges Have a New Scheme to Get Around the End of Affirmative Action. And, fair warning: there's a considerable amount of educratese coming:

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court held that colleges and universities can no longer elevate race over merit in their admissions decisions. EducationCounsel, a leading education consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., has devised a clever way to get around this: Redefine merit to include race.

In July, EducationCounsel shared guidance with college and university admissions officers on how they can continue “toward the achievement of diversity and equity goals in light of the Court’s decision.” “As an important initial step,” the firm advised, “consider conducting a data-driven evaluation of whether merit definitions and measures in admissions policies are mission-aligned and have predictive value.” In particular, “reconsider and recalibrate criteria associated with merit in admission, such as grade thresholds, test use practices, and the extent to which student context is considered part of the admissions decision.”

If only segregationists in the 1960s were so clever! "We've reconsidered and recalibrated our criteria for our bus seating, Ms. Parks. And you have to move to the back."

Hopefully, the "new scheme" will be quickly shot down in the courts.

Also of note:

  • Elizabeth Warren is unavailable for comment. Allysia Finley runs some numbers and concludes: Harvard Is Big Business at Its Worst. Excerpt:

    Columbia is New York City’s largest private landowner, with more than 320 properties, valued at nearly $4 billion. The school saves more than $182 million annually by not paying property tax. Harvard avoids some $50 million annually. Property tax exemptions allow colleges to offer low-cost housing to faculty and reduce the cost of building facilities to house new bureaucracies.

    At the same time, Ivy League endowments—Harvard ($50.7 billion), Yale ($40.7 billion), Princeton ($34.1 billion) and the University of Pennsylvania ($21 billion)—exceed the market values of most publicly traded corporations. These endowments wouldn’t be anywhere near as large if the schools had to pay a 23.8% tax on capital gains, as their wealthy alumni must on their investment earnings.

    Ivy League schools also practice price discrimination by awarding financial aid to lower-income kids so the schools can market themselves as diverse and accessible even though most of their matriculants are affluent and ideologically homogenous. It’s essential to their branding that customers—i.e., undergraduate students—believe they are open to all.

    Ms. Finley goes on to note:

    Yet the Ivy League differs from corporations in an important respect: The schools don’t have shareholders who can force changes. In public capital markets, investors have the power to replace corporate management. Mr. Ackman, however, can’t wage a shareholder campaign to oust Ms. Gay or Harvard Corp. members.

    Big donors doubtless have some influence. University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill resigned after Stone Ridge Asset Management CEO Ross Stevens threatened to withdraw a $100 million donation. Smaller donations, however, are a drop in their endowment buckets. Ivy League schools can also easily raise tuition to compensate for lost funds, covered in part by financial aid at taxpayer expense.

    It's tempting to fantasize about higher ed getting the same scrutiny as (say) Liz Warren and Lina Khan provide for "Big Sandwich".

  • And it's even not a hard math problem. Kevin D. Williamson says We Don’t Have a Wealth Problem. We Have a Math Problem..

    Anybody who tells you that his favorite policy costs nothing, imposes no pain, and involves no trade-offs is a liar. That being stipulated, the United States does not want for material resources to throw at our problems. There is no eliminating scarcity, human being and their appetites being what they are, but if the United States does not have the material resources to solve a problem, then there is no solving the problem by means of material resources, at least under current economic realities. (My friend Jonah Goldberg is fond of James Burnham’s proverb: “Problems without solutions aren’t really problems.” They are instead, as Goldberg writes, only facts.) The United States has enough money to do the things it wants to do—all of the private-sector things as well as the public-sector ones, including maintaining the kind of military it wants to have, funding a more-than-adequate welfare state, subsidies for education and scientific research, etc. I’d disinvent the federal highways system if I could (sorry, Ike!), but we can afford to maintain that, too. Basically, a problem that can be solved with money is a problem the United States can solve—the kind of problem we want to have.

    But no matter how much money you have, x is less than 1.5x. Our deficits and debt are mainly driven by entitlement spending, and our entitlement-spending model doesn’t work, because it is based on the mistaken notion that we can transfer to Peter more than we are willing to take from Paul—forever. You can fix that by cutting spending or by raising taxes (or, if you want to get really wild, by means of a sensible bipartisan compromise incorporating a bit of both), but it doesn’t matter how much tax revenue you collect if you are committed to spending 130 percent of whatever it is, as we did in 2022 and as we are more on less on track to do forever.

    Since I do remember some math, and since I am also a helpless pedant, I'll note that x is only less than 1.5x for x > 0. I don't blame KDW for not mentioning that, though.


Last Modified 2024-01-09 9:08 AM EST

Oy Vey

You may have seen this reported:

The NY Post reports on a different aspect of the same poll: Majority of Americans 18-24 think Israel should 'be ended and given to Hamas'.

The survey, conducted THIS WEEK by Harvard-Harris polling, found 51% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 said they believed the long-term answer to the Israel-Palestinian conflict was for “Israel to be ended and given to Hamas and the Palestinians.”

The article gets around to reporting the oppressor question later on. Which is worse? Hard to say.

Ilya Somin, writing at the Volokh Conspiracy, tries to find a pony in the mounds of horseshit, suggesting that his readers Don't Put too Much Stock in Survey Finding that 67% of 18-24-Year-Olds Say Jews are "Oppressors".

A likely explanation is that the question is badly designed. Before going into this, I should note that I have considerable background in public opinion research, and am the author of a number of academic publications on voter knowledge and ignorance, including my book Democracy and Political Ignorance (Stanford University Press). That doesn't make me a source of infallible wisdom in this field. Far from it! But it does mean I have relevant expertise on such matters, more so than at least some of the other commentators opining about this question.

There are multiple flaws in the way the question is designed, each of which may lead to skewed results. First, the question asks about two things at once: whether Jews, "as a class" are "oppressors" and whether they "should be treated as oppressors." This is a survey no-no because it leads to inaccurate results among respondents who agree with one of the statements, but not the other, and because a compound question can easily confuse respondents who don't read it carefully (which many don't).

Could be a problem with question design, but that by itself doesn't explain the disparity between age groups, does it? Another explanation is that young people, eyes glazed over by social media, have a hard time focusing their attention beyond six consecutive words. Or maybe don't know what a "false ideology" is.

Or maybe it really is the American garbage educational system; see our week-old items here and here.

Also of note:

  • University presidents went wrong? Say it isn't so! Patterico has a long and interesting take on that Kerfuffle that keeps on Kerfuffling: Where the University Presidents Went Wrong in the Stefanik/University Presidents Kerfuffle.

    Anyone following the news at almost any level is no doubt familiar with the recent hearings in which Chief Trump Apologist Elise Stefanik asked some smirking college presidents whether calling for the genocide of Jews violated their school’s code of conduct. If you somehow missed this controversy, the nuts and bolts were thoroughly covered at my blog in this post by my co-blogger Dana. The relevant videos are there for you to watch.

    It’s been a few days since this happened, and I’ve tried to absorb some of the commentary that has come down since. In one camp you have honest champions of free speech, like Ken White, or FIRE, or Nicholas Christakis, as well as their compatriots like Jonathan Chait. These folks generally take a more absolutist view: the school presidents were right; it depends on context, and a lot of the uproar is a dishonest appeal to dopey populism.

    In the opposite camp, you have the folks who echo Stefanik, and insist that there is no such thing as context here. If someone asks if genocide is wrong—or if it violates your code of conduct, which is just a lot of words that boil down to “it’s wrong”—the answer is simple: yes, genocide is wrong; yes, calling for genocide violates our code of conduct; yes, anything that Elise Stefanik wants to label a call for genocide really is one; and anyone who disagrees is a horrible anti-Semite.

    I think I fall into a third camp. …

    Patterico's argument is detailed and fair to all sides. Except to Elise Stefanik; he really despises her.

  • Indeed. Kevin D. Williamson has a long essay in Saturday's WSJ and sets off a major truth bomb about Election 2024: You Asked for It, America. And if you're a fan of invective that (probably) goes right up to the limit of the WSJ's language rules, you will not want to miss it.

    I have my own theme song for the 2024 election, David Bowie’s magnificent 1995 collaboration with Brian Eno: “I’m Afraid of Americans.” It is an anthem for our times.

    Presidential elections are almost always showy, nationalistic affairs, full of appeals to patriotism and unity, occasions upon which even Ivy League diversity officers wave the flag and festoon the public square in red, white and blue. And that points to the tension at the heart of the dreadful and contemptible 2024 presidential election, which almost certainly will be fought out by Donald Trump, a depraved game-show host who tried to stage a coup d’état when he lost his 2020 re-election bid, and Joe Biden, a plagiarist and fabulist first elected to public office 53 years ago who is going to be spending a lot of time this campaign season thinking about his family’s influence-peddling business and the tricky questions related to it, like whether you can deduct hookers as a business expense.

    Run Old Glory up the highest flagpole you can find, but 2024 is going to be the least patriotism-inspiring election in American history so far, a reminder of what a depraved, decadent, backward, low-minded, primitive, superstitious and morally corrupt people we have become.

    Don’t blame “the system,” you gormless weasels. You chose this.

    KDW is… not optimistic.

Recently on the book blog:


Last Modified 2024-01-10 7:11 AM EST

The Canceling of the American Mind

Cancel Culture Undermines Trust and Threatens Us All―But There Is a Solution

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Back in 2019 I read The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, and (grep tells me) I've mentioned it numerous times since then.

Lukianoff is back, with a new co-author, Rikki Schlott. And their mission this time is to explore the epistemic pandemic of "Cancel Culture". Coddling discussed what they called the "three great untruths": "What doesn't kill you makes you weaker." "Always trust your feelings." and "Life is a battle between good people and evil people." This book adds a fourth, called the "Great Untruth of Ad Hominem": "Bad People Only Have Bad Opinions".

Which makes Cancel Culture sensible, sort of. What to do when confronted with people with Bad Opinions? Unfortunately, that pesky First Amendment makes it impractical to jail them. But that Great Untruth allows you to make the logical leap that they are (indeed) Bad People. So go ahead and feel free to do whatever you need to punish them extralegally: ostracise them, get them fired, censor their writings, erase their names from the historical record, … whatever tactic comes to hand is fair game!

The authors do a good job looking at the history (with a shout-out to another great "saw it coming" book, 2015's So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson). If you've been paying attention to this phenomenon over the last few years, you might be familiar with many of their examples, drawn from (of course) academia, (but also) journalism, publishing, science, medicine, psychotherapy, politics, and more. It's a scourge.

Although most of the examples here are products of totalitarian wokeism, the authors go out of their way to criticize both sides of the political spectrum, detailing conservative's ham-fisted efforts to suppress their opponents' opinions in the marketplace of ideas: book banning, "divisive concepts" laws, and the like.

The weakest bit of the book is its discussion of book banning, which edges into an argument that we should just trust librarians to do the right thing without political interference. That is at best a mixed bag. I wince at the "Racial Justice Resources" compiled by the library at the University Near Here, which spans the ideological range from Ibram X. Kendi to Ta-Nehisi Coates. And there's the Anti-Racism Zine published by Portsmouth (NH) Public Library. And those are just the libraries I frequent.

And then there's the recent installation of Emily Drabinksi, self-described "Marxist lesbian" as president of the American Library Association. Who rhapsodized at "collective power" to build a "better world."

I'm unsure how that's going to play out. Marxists do not have the best history with respect to free speech.

The book's subtitle promises a "solution" to Cancel Culture. It's actually multi-pronged, the first being aimed at parents: raise "anti-fragile" and "free range" kids. Other chapters advocate common-sense activism aimed at K-12 schools and universities. And advocate something that's taken hold elsewhere: defund DEI departments, and ban the ideological purity tests known as "diversity statements" in hiring.

Personal note: I got a taste of Cancel Culture a few months back, visiting Caltech for its "Alumni Weekend". Nobel Laureate Robert A. Millikan, also the president of Caltech (1920-1946) is now a campus non-person, thanks to his onetime embrace of eugenics. Millikan Library has been renamed "Caltech Hall" and the bust of Millikan that used to stand outside the Norman Bridge Laboratory of Physics has been removed, to some unknown fate. It's unclear if this effort has actually made anyone's life better.


Last Modified 2024-01-09 9:08 AM EST

Pun Salad Health Tip: Wash Your Hands After Handling Currency

You don't know where it's been:

[Hunter]

Taking our usual Sunday look at how the bettors look at the race:

Candidate EBO Win
Probability
Change
Since
12/10
Donald Trump 42.6% +2.3%
Joe Biden 30.1% -1.7%
Gavin Newsom 6.8% +0.5%
Nikki Haley 6.3% -0.7%
Robert Kennedy Jr 3.2% +0.1%
Michelle Obama 2.3% unch
Other 8.7% +1.5%

The Smart Money continues to shift Trump's way. I like Nikki, I plan on voting for Nikki next month, but her path to the Presidency necessitates her, y'know, actually winning something in the primary/caucus season. Unless she's got a rabbit in a hat somewhere…

And, oh yeah, Ron DeSantis has dropped below our 2% inclusion threshold again. Michelle, ma belle, the nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Also of note:

  • His advisors no doubt warned him about entering this wretched hive of scum and villainy. But he persisted, and went to the University Near Here yesterday, as reported by NH Journal: Trump Brings Spirit of '16 to NH With Raucous Rally at UNH.

    Former President Donald Trump came to the bluest corner of New Hampshire on Saturday and reminded Republicans that when it comes to drawing a crowd, he has no competition.

    The more than 4,000 Trump supporters at the Whittemore Center burst into rock concert-style screams when he took the stage. About halfway through his speech, they began spontaneously chanting “We love you” as the former president beamed.

    “Nobody else in the race could do this, could they?” a national reporter commented as he watched the spectacle from the stands.

    Permit me some sour (but accurate) grapes: we got ourselves a serious personality cult going here. And that ain't a good thing, either in general, and especially not in particular.

    No, I did not attend, even though it was (indeed) Near Here. I would feel guilty about taking a seat away from a cult member.

  • Well, that's a relief. Jim Geraghty weighs in on the current manifestations of Trump Derangement Syndrome, offering A Reality Check on the Trump-as-Dictator Prophecies.

    Over on the Wall Street Journal editorial page, former congresswoman Liz Cheney warns, “Checks and Balances Won’t Stop Trump . . . The Constitution’s protections won’t be able to block his abuses of executive power.”

    Readers of this newsletter know that I’m not a supporter of Trump, never voted for him, never will, and find his glaring character flaws, narcissism, erratic judgment, and childish stubbornness outweigh his acts as president that I applauded (tax cuts, defense buildup, killing Soleimani, judicial appointments, First Step Act, Right to Try). But I don’t like this argument that Republicans or the electorate at large must reject Trump because if he wins the election, democracy will end, the Constitution will burn, and America will become an autocracy.

    Because if our existing checks and balances under the Constitution aren’t strong enough to stop abuses of power by Trump . . . why would you think that they’re strong enough to stop abuses of power by Joe Biden or anyone else? Because there’s another guy running for president who has also been willing to ignore the Constitution when it proved inconvenient.

    I wasn't impressed with Liz Cheney's op-ed either, but if you want to read it yourself, I've changed Geraghty's link into a "gift unlocked article" link above.

    But I'm probably a little less optimistic than Geraghty about Trump's hypothetical second-term behavior. Thanks to complaisant, lazy, and ineffective legislative branch, the President does wield way too much power. And… well, see the "personality cult" observation above. His fans believe he can do no wrong.

    "He says that we've always been at war with Eastasia? I didn't know that, but it must be true!"

  • And then lock him up? Charles C. W. Cooke explains it for you. Why a Formal Biden Impeachment Inquiry Is Now Necessary.

    Since the prospect was first raised, I have been of the view that the Republican Party would be better off moving too slowly than too fast in its inquiry into the Biden family’s peculiar business dealings. James Comer and Chuck Grassley have done sober and sedulous work over the past couple of years, and I have worried that, if they were to run out over their skis, they would fatally undermine their own efforts. As National Review’s editors correctly observed this week, impeachment is ultimately a political question, not a legal question, and it is thus subject to the slings and arrows of demagoguery and the vicissitudes of public opinion. Hitherto, my advice to the GOP has been to keep up the good work and wait for the right moment. An inquiry was already ongoing. What need could there be to formalize it?

    I have changed my mind. Naturally, I still consider it imperative for the Republicans to remain diligent and shrewd and for all involved to stick assiduously to the facts. But, having watched the brazen manner in which both the White House and the press have continued to stonewall, I have come to the conclusion that a more ceremonial investigation is, in fact, necessary. In theory, the media ought to be keenly interested in informing the country of where things stand. In practice, its leading lights have effectively been working for the president. If the GOP is to have any chance of conveying what it has found thus far — and, despite the foot-stamping and gaslighting, what it has found thus far is extremely interesting — it will be obliged to do so under its own steam. We are a long, long way away from Woodward and Bernstein. To break through, the Republicans will need to stage their own show.

    Also see CCWC's optimistic take on the dictator question: The American System Works, and It Will Work If Trump Wins Again.

  • But let's get away from the horserace fare. Jeff Maurer brings the news that more respectable media won't write about COP28: Nations That Are Ignoring Their Old Climate Agreement Reach New Climate Agreement. Skipping down to the scatalogical, a bit of history, footnotes elided:

    The first major climate change agreement was the Kyoto Protocol. It was signed in 1997 to fanfare similar to what we’re hearing today. Environmentalists celebrated, leaders congratulated each other and themselves — oh how they congratulated themselves! And then — to make a long story short — basically nobody did any of the shit. Almost every country missed their goals; practically the only ones that didn’t were Soviet Bloc countries whose economies got shitmixed right before measurement began in 1990. It would be too simple to say that Kyoto failed; the treaty did technically meet its goals. But those goals were extremely modest, and Kyoto did not come close to solving climate change. The purpose of the treaty was to reduce global emissions, but emissions rose by 44 percent over 15 years, which is a bit like pledging to drink less and then ending up addicted to black tar heroin.

    The 2015 Paris Agreement replaced Kyoto. This time, the whole world was involved; no more trying to solve a global problem by relying on Iceland and The Rubble Formerly Known As Croatia. Some countries made truly impressive commitments; other countries pledged to recycle ten aluminum cans by 2090. Eight years on — to make a long story short — it looks like very few countries are doing any of the shit. It’s hard to assess precisely how things are going, but the circumstantial evidence doesn’t look good. Greenhouse gas emissions are still rising steadily. A UN report from September gave the Agreement credit for altering trajectories relative to pre-accord estimates, but also said “the world is not on track to meet [the Agreement’s] long-term goals.” A recent assessment from Climate Action Tracker — whose methods I don’t like, but still — found that The Gambia is the only country whose actions are compatible with the Paris Agreement’s goals. Allow me to show that on a map:

    [Bzzt]

    Feeling let down by American journalism?

  • You ain't alone, baby. James Bennet explains How American journalism lets down readers and voters. In case you don't remember:

    Are we truly so precious?” Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the New York Times, asked me one Wednesday evening in June 2020. I was the editorial-page editor of the Times, and we had just published an op-ed by Tom Cotton, a senator from Arkansas, that was outraging many members of the Times staff. America’s conscience had been shocked days before by images of a white police officer kneeling on the neck of a black man, George Floyd, until he died. It was a frenzied time in America, assaulted by covid-19, scalded by police barbarism. Throughout the country protesters were on the march. Substantive reform of the police, so long delayed, suddenly seemed like a real possibility, but so did violence and political backlash. In some cities rioting and looting had broken out.

    It was the kind of crisis in which journalism could fulfil its highest ambitions of helping readers understand the world, in order to fix it, and in the Times’s Opinion section, which I oversaw, we were pursuing our role of presenting debate from all sides. We had published pieces arguing against the idea of relying on troops to stop the violence, and one urging abolition of the police altogether. But Cotton, an army veteran, was calling for the use of troops to protect lives and businesses from rioters. Some Times reporters and other staff were taking to what was then called Twitter, now called X, to attack the decision to publish his argument, for fear he would persuade Times readers to support his proposal and it would be enacted. The next day the Times’s union—its unit of the NewsGuild-CWA—would issue a statement calling the op-ed “a clear threat to the health and safety of the journalists we represent”.

    And in case you still don't remember, it only took four days after Cotton's op-ed was published for Bennet to be defenestrated. He accurately notes that the NYT "has metastasised from liberal bias to illiberal bias."


Last Modified 2024-01-16 5:28 AM EST

Tonight We're Gonna Party Like It's 1773

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

In case you haven't heard, today is the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. And in the interest of open and free discussion, Jeff Jacoby (who is a Boston Globe columnist) goes all contrarian: The Boston Tea Party was a crime.

How should we regard the events of that night 250 years ago? Was it really an act of heroism to destroy 46 tons of tea? Was that massive and costly act of vandalism to private property justified by the protesters' anger at Britain's policy on tea?

I revere the founders of the American republic and rejoice in the independence they ultimately wrested from Great Britain. I have only disdain for the "woke" view of history that regards the United States, in the words of a 2017 essay in The New Yorker, as "a mistake from the start." I am profoundly grateful that I had the good fortune to be born an American. But that doesn't change the fact that destroying other people's property to advance a political cause is wrong. It is wrong whether the cause is right-wing or left-wing. It is wrong whether the cause is racial equity, climate change, opposing a war, overturning an election, or denouncing Wall Street. It is wrong in 2023 and it was wrong in 1773.

Hostility to the Tea Act of 1773 was entirely defensible. But the Sons of Liberty didn't have to destroy a vast fortune in tea to make their point. After all, anti-British patriots in other cities had managed to block the English tea without causing damage.

I'm not convinced by Jacoby's argument, but then again I don't have to be.

At Law & Liberty, Hans Eicholz takes a look at The Constitutional History of the Boston Tea Party.

The Tea Party sparked the long series of imperial measures and colonial countermeasure that would eventually lead to the shooting war of the American Revolution. These measures included the much hated Boston Port Act, which collectively punished one of the most important trading centers in colonial America. The significance of the Tea Party as the ignition spark that exploded the powder keg of the American Revolution cannot be overemphasized. Yet there remains considerable doubt as to its moral, political, and economic causes.

A great deal of this orientation arises from a number of fairly recent critical accounts that are in sympathy with the constitutional and political position of the king and Parliament. We hear again ideas once pronounced by American Loyalists and their British counterparts that colonial Patriots were actually confused about the nature of the British constitution, that they were in large measure led about by local smugglers of Dutch tea in service of their private interests, and that the Tea Act of 1773 was actually designed to lower the price of tea to the benefit of American consumers. Each of these points can be defended as having a basis in historical fact. But there was a whole lot more going on than just this.

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
When it comes to tea, I'm on Team Lasso.

Tea was the first beverage Ted was served after arriving at AFC Richmond. When Rebecca offered it to him, she asked him, "How do you take your tea?", as English custom demanded. He responded unpredictably with, "Well, usually I tell them to take it right back to the counter, because someone has made a horrible mistake."

(You have to say this to yourself with Ted's "Kansas Country" accent.)

And for an alternative quote, see the amazon product at your right.

Finally, the NR editors are enthusiastic about The Undying Spirit of the Boston Tea Party.

The fundamental question that led to the Boston Tea Party was taxation without representation. Seeking to recoup the costs of the Seven Years War (known here as the French and Indian War), which had begun on the western Pennsylvania frontier, the British Parliament between 1765 and 1770 made successive efforts to tax the American colonists. The amounts involved were hardly oppressive, and the colonists were among the most lightly taxed people in the Western world at the time — but they liked it that way, and grasped immediately the menace to their freedoms in the principle that they could be taxed by a faraway body in which they had no voice. They were also alarmed that new taxes would finance a larger and more intrusive colonial government.

The result was protests, boycotts, and worse — including riots that terrorized anyone who cooperated in collecting the taxes. This struck the British as unreasonable, but being unreasonable in devotion to liberty and self-government turns out to be an excellent basis upon which to found a nation.

We link, you decide.

Recently on the book blog:


Last Modified 2024-01-10 7:20 AM EST

Broken Trust

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

According to Amazon, this is #51 in "Robert B. Parker's" Spenser series. And they helpfully tell me I can buy "All 40 remaining for you in this series" for a mere $331.20! No thanks, Jeff; I bought many of those before there even was an Amazon. And you don't seem to remember all the hardcovers I bought from you.

Anyway: Mike Lupica takes over from Ace Atkins as the chronicler of our favorite Boston private eye. And things start out pretty normal: the "wife of the sixth-richest man in America", Laura Crain, shows up at his office door, recommended by Susan Silverman (who just happens to be Laura's good friend). Laura's husband, Andrew, has been acting erratically of late, and she'd like to know why, before he ruins his own life, their marriage and the company.

And then after a bizarre episode at a fancy restaurant, Andrew goes missing on page 53. And then (finally, on page 93) a body shows up.

I think I've mentioned in the past that a disquieting number of people that hire Spenser wind up being sorry they did so. That tradition continues.

So, how does Lupica do? Not bad. Although Lupica's a well-known sports journalist, Spenser's sports musings here are confined to the Red Sox, their dismal season, and the loss of Mookie Betts. The Spenserian wisecrack amps are turned up to 11 or so, and they're pretty good. Maybe there's a little too much about food, drink, restaurants, sex, exercise, and Boston geography. Hawk plays a major role, and there are cameos from Zebulon Sixkill, Tony Marcus, Vinnie Morris, Quirk, Belson, and more. As usual, Spenser's method is to go around bothering people until someone tries to kill him. But (truth be told) he does do some actual detective work to eventually discover the truth.


Last Modified 2024-01-09 9:08 AM EST

Fun While It Lasted, I Guess

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

A (1) bold claim and (2) dire prediction from Steve H. Hanke and John Greenwood: The Economy Is Running on Fumes. A Recession Is Right around the Corner. Looking at the M2 numbers and going by history:

The contracting money supply means that the economy is running on fumes. And with the normal long lag between substantial contractions in the money supply and changes in economic activity, the U.S. economy is on schedule to tank in 2024. Given the current course of M2’s contraction, we now forecast that inflation will fall below the Fed’s 2 percent target in 2024, and decline further into outright deflation in 2025.

I have a gadget that pops articles into my feed on specified dates. I've scheduled this one for a review on December 31, 2024. And, God willing, we'll blog about it.

Also of note:

  • One from the book. Specifically, The Coddling of the American Mind, the great 2018 book by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. One of their "great untruths" that American youth were being pushed to accept: "What doesn't kill you makes you weaker."

    John McWhorter notes that it's still going on: Black Students Are Being Trained to Think They Can’t Handle Discomfort. Noting One More Thing from the university ladies:

    The presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been roundly condemned for arguing, at a congressional hearing on antisemitism, that calls for genocide against Jews are not always susceptible to sanction on their campuses. (Liz Magill of Penn has since resigned.)

    Less noticed has been how starkly their expectations of Jewish students point up how low expectations are for Black students on many college campuses — expectations low enough to qualify as a kind of racism.

    Yes, racism, though it’s more of the “soft bigotry of low expectations” that George W. Bush referred to.

    Many leaders at elite universities seem to think that as stewards of modern antiracism, their job is to denounce and to penalize, to the maximum extent possible, anything said or done that makes Black students uncomfortable.

    In the congressional hearing, the presidents made clear that Jewish students should be protected when hate speech is “directed and severe, pervasive” (in the words of Ms. Magill) or when the speech “becomes conduct” (Claudine Gay of Harvard).

    But the tacit idea is that when it comes to issues related to race — and, specifically, Black students — then free speech considerations become an abstraction. Where Black students are concerned, we are to forget whether the offense is directed, as even the indirect is treated as evil; we are to forget the difference between speech and conduct, as mere utterance is grounds for aggrieved condemnation.

    And I am the sort of sick puppy to be amused by a past example:

    The offense can even be 100 years in the past. In 2021 at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, some Black students were upset when walking past a boulder on campus that was referred to as a “niggerhead” by a newspaper reporter in 1925, when that term was common for large, dark rocks. The school had the boulder removed.

    In cases like those last two, it seems that Black students are being taught a performed kind of delicacy. If you can’t bear walking past a rock someone called a dirty name 100 years ago, how are you going to deal with life?

    And, yes, I did not bowdlerize McWhorter's language there. If New York Times readers can handle it, so can mine.

  • Guess the state. Patterico's guest poster JVW, relates a tale of The State Where Everything Fails. Yes, that state is California. It's the sad story of HOPICS, the Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System, which despite being the recipient of heaps of taxpayer cash, fell months behind on paying the rent for the people they were supposed to be helping.

    Altogether, 306 residents of Los Angeles County lost their homes thanks to HOPICS failing to keep up on the rent subsidies. While the CalMatters piece assures us that “more than half were then placed in permanent housing or sent to temporary sites,” there are apparently 119 formerly-housed souls who are unaccounted for, though in interviews with former program participants CalMatters has ascertained that at least some of them are on the streets or are living in their automobiles. Perhaps others are incarcerated or even dead. Where did it all go wrong? According to documents reviewed by CalMatters, it was the usual mix of ineptitude such as a failure to properly vet middlemen who connected homeless residents with housing, utter and complete laziness like ignoring repeated warnings from landlords that the rent was in arrears, and that annoying sort of progressive grandiosity which in this case was taking on far too many clients than the program could properly manage.

    Naturally, HOPICS … blames their problems on an embarrassment of riches, i.e. the piles and piles of COVID money that the government was happy to shovel into the economic furnace over the past three years. The program hired the aforementioned middlemen, many of them from fly-by-night nonprofits that suddenly sprung up when the government started making it rain with all of the Jacksons, Grants, and Benjamins that they were feverishly printing late at night. You won’t be surprised to hear that HOPICS found some “questionable charges” on the invoices submitted by these middlemen, and investigating them started clogging up the whole payment process. And, of course, the eviction moratoriums being extended well beyond the point when the pandemic had started to subside ensured that there was no real urgency for HOPICS to act in a timely manner.

    As we have observed in the past: When government starts dropping cash from helicopters, there will be plenty of people out with buckets. Probably not you.

  • Press this, yutz. Today's WSJ has the headline: U.S. Presses Israel to Begin Winding Down Gaza War.

    And instead of wracking my weary brain for language to express my disdain, I will outsource to Jerry Coyne:

    ‥ frankly, I’m tired of [ U.S. national security adviser, Jake Sullivan] telling the IDF how to do their business. Does he tell Bashar al-Assad to lay off killing his own people? Of course not; it’s the Jews he wants to control. I’m glad that Biden is financially and logistically supporting the war, but I don’t see him telling President Zelensky how to fight in Ukraine, which we support financially as well. Does the U.S. regard Israel as a “client state,” giving us the right to tell it what to do?

    Sullivan was, according to this article, "at the center" of the 2021 Afghanistan debacle. Where in the world does he get the chutzpah to lecture other countries on anything? Why on earth would anyone even pretend to listen to him?

Recently on the book blog:


Last Modified 2024-01-10 7:11 AM EST

Minds Wide Shut

How the New Fundamentalisms Divide Us

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Yet another book about thinking poorly, tribalism, demonization, dogmatism, and related maladies. I seem way too fond of them, maybe. This, however, is the only one I've read recently that uses the word "casuistry" casually. But it's the second non-fiction book I read in a row that quotes Adam Smith, specifically noting his disdain for the "man of system". Also seen: the Kant quote about "the crooked timber of humanity" and Isaiah Berlin's observation about foxes vs. hedgehogs. I swear, someone should make up a bingo card for the reader of books like this.

But the authors, Gary Saul Morson and Morton Schapiro, do provide a unique take. Both academics, Morson is a literary critic while Schapiro is an economist (but more recently a president at Williams College and Northwestern University). And they argue for using timeless insights from (mostly Russian) literature to illuminate one's thinking about current controversies. So, as a bonus, the reader gets a mini-tour of classics like Anna Karenina and Uncle Vanya.

Their main target is various forms of "fundamentalism", a term which the authors take care to define with philosophical rigor, not merely using it as an insult. Fundamentalism manifests itself in certainty: adherents admit no self-doubt, and nay-sayers are evil, stupid, or crazy. Another criterion (involving another word I didn't know) is the "perspicuity of truth": you not only can be certain about it, it's easy for anyone to perceive. And criterion three is often the presence of a "foundational text or revelation": the Bible, the Koran, Das Kapital, …

Definition out of the way, authors proceed to describe how fundamentalism crops up, and damages, large areas of controversy: politics (of course), economics, religion, and literature.

One of areas they discuss in the economics area is "market fundamentalism". Which got into an unsafe area for me; maybe they should have provided me a trigger warning! Am I a market fundamentalist? Fortunately, I think I didn't resemble their caricatures. Their prime example of a market fundamentalist is (Nobel prizewinner) Gary Becker, who thought that economics could potentially explicate all human behavior. And also was dead certain that humanity would eventually see the wisdom of a market in human organ transplantation. (Friedman and Hayek escape scrutiny.)


Last Modified 2024-01-09 9:07 AM EST

A Day Without University Presidents?

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Well, we will see. The day is young.

Martin Gurri wonders Why all this Trump hysteria?.

A giant landfill of words has been dumped out on the subject of Donald Trump. I hate to add to the pile, but I feel I must. Unlike most participants in this industrial disaster, though, I have no wish either to praise Trump or to bury him. What I want is clarity.

The word most often associated with Trump is “authoritarian”. From the New York Times, Atlantic and Economist to the Guardian, Vanity Fair and Politico, we are told, with ritual repetition, that Trump is the second coming of Hitler or Mussolini, an aspiring dictator eager to herd his opponents into the great American gulag. Naturally, people panic. I want to calm them down. Using as few words as possible, I’m going to show that the combination of Trump and authoritarianism is an impossibility.

Gurri may be a tad optimistic. But see what you think.

Also of note:

  • How to lie with statistics. Jeffrey H. Anderson reveals Another Gavin Newsom Whopper.

    “Can you explain this migration, out of California and going to red states?” moderator Sean Hannity asked California governor Gavin Newsom during his recent debate with Florida governor Ron DeSantis. Newsom confidently replied, “You mean the last two years, more Floridians going to California than Californians going to Florida? By the way, that’s going to be fun to fact-check.”

    Newsom twice repeated his claim, stating the third time, “We just established more Floridians coming to California in the last two years than the other way around.” DeSantis replied, “We didn’t establish it. You just asserted it.” Newsom responded, “It’s a fact.”

    Newsom’s claim is nowhere near the truth. Rather, it’s a prime example of the use and abuse of statistics, aided and abetted by the mainstream media.

    Anderson notes that Newsom left out the phrase "on a per-capita basis" that he sometimes inserts into that assertion. That would make it more accurate, although there's room to argue about that.

    But Anderson goes on to note that there's no particular reason to measure interstate migration on a per-capita basis. It's just the only way to make California's out-migration look better, so Newsom seized on it. And the "fact checkers" docilely go along with that.

  • Warning: linked article contains the phrase "flagship of suck". Matt Taibbi has the latest: Tireless Busybodies Again Target Substack.

    Substack is under attack again. The crusade is led by a site contributor, Jonathan Katz, whose style might be characterized as embittered-conventional, i.e. toting the same opinions as every mainstream editorialist, only angrier about it. There’s been more of this genre on offer here as staff positions for talking-point-spouters dry up in legacy shops, but hey, it’s a free country. If you want braying about fascism, Tucker Carlson, Elon Musk, the lab leak theory, and other #Resistance horrors you’d hear about if you just left MSNBC on in a corner — or feel deprived of headlines like “What Ron DeSantis and a Norwegian mass murderer have in common” — Substack’s got you covered. It’s not my idea of what alternative media’s for, but fortunately, nobody asked me. Why should I care what other people read?

    Katz does. Though this site is a true content free-for-all, where you can find everything from serialized graphic novels to Portuguese “dark storytelling” to bagel bites recipes, a microcosm of the old Internet where the randomness of being able to hop from Bigfoot to Buddhism is a key part of the free vibe, Katz believes he’s detected a malicious pattern. He aims to put a stop to it, by deplatforming Substack contributors he doesn’t like. A group letter is being organized, demanding action, following Katz’s stern argument in the Atlantic, “Substack Has a Nazi Problem.”

    As an aside: a big reason people read Substack is because of the terribleness of magazines like The Atlantic, which is edited by a guy, Jeffrey Goldberg, who won a pile of awards for blowing the WMD story in spectacular fashion for years on end, making him a walking, talking symbol of the failing-upward dynamic in corporate media. If that magazine wants people to read Substack less, it might consider not filling its pages with exposés about the Alfa Server fantasies or plaintive defenses of the Steele dossier or other transparent propaganda, instead of demanding deplatforming here.

    Bottom line: Katz found a handful of sites displaying "some variation of a swastika".

    I don't know if he even bothered to look for Communists. For example this guy. In terms of historical body count, they have the Nazis badly beat. (But maybe we're supposed to measure that on a "per-capita" basis too?)

  • Because honest leftists know that liberty is their enemy. Nate Silver explains Why liberalism and leftism are increasingly at odds.

    Up above I wondered if we could get through the day without looking at the university presidents. Reader, Silver's essay starts out by looking at the university ladies, Gay, Magill, and Kornbluth. So let's skip down a bit:

    The essay “Why I Am Not A Conservative” by the Nobel Prize winning economist F.A. Hayek is a must-read for anybody who wants to understand how liberalism was traditionally defined in the Enlightenment political tradition and how the term came to be used in a rather different way in the United States. To simplify: liberalism is a political philosophy that’s centered around individual rights, equality2, the rule of law, democracy, and free-market economics. There are many flavors of liberalism that emphasize these components in different ratios, running from more libertarian variants to others that see a much larger role for government.

    In Europe, liberalism arose in opposition to a more conservative social hierarchy — usually, feudal monarchies backed by incredibly powerful churches. So if you were looking toward Europe, it made sense to think of liberalism as denoting change. As Hayek points out, however, the United States was founded on liberal, Enlightenment ideas. Appeals to classical liberalism are in some ways appeals to American tradition, therefore. Nonetheless, left-wing “American radicals and socialists” began calling themselves “liberal” because they wanted a departure from these traditions, Hayek wrote. Thus, in the United States, we wound up in a confusing position where “liberal” can either be a synonym for “left-wing” or can refer to European-style liberalism.

    The mainstream media almost always uses the former definition (“liberal” just means left). However, in Hayek’s view — and mine — we should return to the original definition of liberalism. That’s because liberalism describes something distinctive. It doesn’t suffice to view liberalism as a halfway point between socialism and conservatism, Hayek thought, because in important ways it differs from both, namely in its elevation of individual rights and suspicion of central authority. Instead, he imagined a triangle that looked like this, with socialism and conservatism as two flanks and liberalism in the third corner:

    [Triangle]

    That makes a lot more sense to me than the one-dimensional spectrum. Sliver goes on to argue that the "socialism" corner has largely been debunked, but has been subsumed into what he calls "Social Justice Leftism (SJL)". AKA "wokeism". And how those folks revealed themselves as Hamas cheerleaders.

  • Casey Jones you better watch your speed. David Ditch is probably not high on cocaine when he says America Taking a High-Speed Train to Bankruptcy. Looking at Uncle Stupid's recent allocation of taxpayer money on choo-choos:

    [California's] High-Speed Rail Authority will receive $3.1 billion to continue its singularly awful 520-mile boondoggle from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Following its initial approval in a 2008 referendum, the project has racked up an impressive list of failures over the course of 15 years, including an increase in the estimated cost from $33 billion to over $128 billion; a delay in the estimated completion date from 2020 to at least 2033; and a 2022 New York Times expose revealing many details of California's staggering incompetence and overregulation.

    While the project has been beset with then-unforeseen problems, it was primarily undermined by fundamental flaws that should have doomed it from the beginning.

    "Should have" because unfortunately both California and the federal government refuse to let this boondoggle die. Even with Washington's latest $3.1 billion injection, the project needs an additional $7 billion just to complete its initial 117-mile segment from Merced to Bakersfield.

    I should point out that Amtrak's Downeaster, which rumbles through my town of Rollinsford a few times per day, also got some bucks dumped on it. And that was ballyhooed by my state's senators and my CongressCritter:

    I was tempted to reply: no, it isn't; no, it won't.

    And (digs out calculator) that $27 million is a whopping 0.87% of the $3.1 billion going to California's boondoggle.

    But that's not important. It's another example of actual trickle-down economics.

    1. Your Federal Government takes your money.
    2. After taking a cut, sends it back to you.
    3. Well, no. Not back to you, but to people it thinks you should have spent your money on.
    4. And your elected representatives tell you that will (somehow) trickle down to your (eventual) benefit.
    5. And they will claim they did you a huge favor.

Recently on the book blog:


Last Modified 2024-01-16 5:19 AM EST

Devil House

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

This book got an Edgar "Best Novel" nomination early this year, so onto the "get at library" list it went. The Portsmouth (NH) Public Library helpfully provides the subject classifications, and one is:

True crime stories -- Fiction
This is a clue, Sherlock: we are getting somewhat meta here.

Things start out more or less conventionally: the book's narrator, Gage Chandler, is a reasonably successful "true crime" author. A previous book, The White Witch of Morro Bay was even made into a movie! But now his publisher has asked him to look into a lurid crime committed in Milpitas, California years ago. Gage's writing process involves him moving into the scene of the crime. the titular "Devil House".

The author, John Darnielle, takes the reader on many unexpected detours and twists along the way, including stylistic changes, even typographical changes (mercifully brief). We keep coming back to that White Witch book; it's clear that remains kind of a touchstone for Gage. We only gradually learn about the Milpitas murders, the backstories of the characters involved, the Devil House's history (most recently, "Monster Adult X", a porn store). As Gage investigates and interviews, the creepiness of his efforts keeps increasing.

I liked the book quite a bit, although I would imagine some readers might find it ultimately unsatisfying.


Last Modified 2024-01-09 10:16 AM EST

It's the Most Wonderful Time of … Hey, Wait a Minute

[Bad Santa]

President/Santa Wheezy isn't having the most wonderful time either, as reality keeps colliding with his rhetoric. As Charles C. W. Cooke points out: Joe Biden Ought to Be Thrilled by the Prosecution of Hunter Biden, the 'Wealthy Tax Cheat'. After looking at reports that "people close to the president … have seen his moods shift" when he gets bad Hunter news.

And these days it all seems bad.

This is a bit of problem for Joe Biden, who has spent a good part of the last two years complaining that the IRS does not have the resources to go after “tax cheats.” This summer, the White House proudly touted Biden’s work in passing the Inflation Reduction Act, a 2022 bill that, among other things, gave nearly $80 billion extra dollars to the IRS. “One Year In,’ read its statement, “the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is strengthening enforcement against wealthy tax cheats and increasing recoveries from delinquent millionaires.”

And if the Republicans try to reduce that funding? President Biden has promised to veto it. In a statement issued in January of this year, the Biden administration made it clear that it “strongly opposes” any Republican-led attempts “to rescind certain balances made available to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)” that enable “the IRS to crack down on large corporations and high-income people who cheat on their taxes and evade the taxes that they owe under the law.” Such a move, Biden’s office confirmed, would serve as a “reckless” gift to “the rich,” that “protects wealthy tax cheats at the expense of honest, middle-class taxpayers.”

Which is to say that if it is true that, absent Joe’s presidency, Hunter Biden “wouldn’t be facing criminal prosecutions,” then surely Joe Biden is to blame? Or, rather, that Joe Biden is to thank? As the White House has made repeatedly clear, the dastardly Republicans who run the House of Representatives oppose increasing IRS funding. But President Biden, that great tribune of the working man, got it done anyway. The result of this achievement is that “high-income people who cheat on their taxes and evade the taxes that they owe under the law” can now be brought to justice.

"Wealthy". "Tax". "Cheat". Which one of these words does Joe not understand? (Maybe more than one?)

Also of note:

  • It's all in the framing. Jim Geraghty describes How Democrats Are Holding Up a Ukraine Aid Deal.

    You will notice this week that the debate over additional Ukraine aid is almost always framed as: “Those stubborn, intransigent, isolationist Republicans aren’t willing to help Ukraine.” And it is true enough that Republicans insist that one of their top priorities — border security — gets funded alongside the aid for Ukraine, as well as Taiwan and Israel.

    House Speaker Mike Johnson said at a Wall Street Journal summit yesterday:

    My message to [Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky] will be the same as it’s been to the president [Biden]. This is an important battle for all the reasons we know, but I don’t think it’s a radical proposition to say that if we’re going to have a national-security supplemental package, it ought to begin with our own national security.

    But notice how rarely President Biden and congressional Democrats are portrayed as stubborn or intransigent for refusing to make the border-security changes that Republicans want, in order to reach a deal on Ukraine. And no, Republicans are not demanding the construction of a big, beautiful wall from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean, although their offer does call for resuming the border-fencing construction that Biden canceled at the start of his presidency. Senate Republicans want the current overloaded system of asylum claims to be changed so that not everybody who shows up at the border and says they’re seeking asylum gets to stay in the country indefinitely[.]

    I suspect that Biden political advisors worry that he's already losing support among the pro-Hamas bunch, he doesn't need to lose a bunch of people who like our current de facto open border policies.

  • University presidents: the gifts keep on giving. Jeff Maurer has an amusing take: In a Shocking Turn of Events, the Right is Using the Left's Cancel Culture Tactics.

    The three university presidents who testified before Congress last week — and who are now being pelted with e-dung in our virtual town square — were screwed long before they set foot on Capitol Hill. There probably was a path through the minefield of career-destroying statements laid before them by Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, but navigating that path would require having previously shown a commitment to free speech. And, since all three presidents represented schools that have been doing to free speech what Sbarro’s has been doing to Italian cuisine (Harvard and Penn are last and second-to-last in FIRE’s free speech rankings) all they could do was fumble, stammer, and then issue statements clarifying that they do not support genocide. And the first rule of PR is: When you find yourself clarifying your position on genocide, you’ve lost.

    The university presidents weren’t wrong, though. I agree with those who have pointed out that statements about genocide are not always threats, and therefore those statements are sometimes protected by university free speech codes. Of course, it’s hard to make that point if you, say, recently allowed a biology professor to be run off campus for committing the unforgivable sin of saying that there are two sexes, as Harvard did. The fact that these schools spent years savaging the concept of free speech put them in a position where they could lose a battle of wits to Elise Stefanik, which truly takes some doing.

    Jeff's bottom line:

    I can’t believe that some on the left didn’t see this coming. Of course the shoe would eventually be on the other foot — the shoe is always eventually on the other foot. Last week, Elise Stefanik laced up that proverbial shoe and lodged it about a foot deep in Elizabeth Magill’s ass. University presidents who don’t want to suffer the same fate should probably re-commit to principles that have eroded in recent years.

    "Re-commit to principles" would be an interesting tactic. Not pain-free, but respectable.

  • But is it too late to re-commit to principles? Because when you've so recently demonstrated your lack of principles… Julia Schaletzky ("Executive Director for the Center of Emerging and Neglected Diseases and professional faculty at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley") is pretty blunt: College Presidents Are Lying About Free Speech.

    Pushback against antisemitic mobs at U.S. universities is often countered with cries of “It’s free speech!” But the sudden converts to the cause of free speech, like the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and MIT, who testified before Congress last week about not being able to define calls for genocide of Jews as actionable due to First Amendment concerns, are not engaging in good-faith debate. Having been part of several free speech-focused campus organizations at UC Berkeley, I know the law is clear: The right to free speech does not extend to threats and inciting violence. Harassment, death threats, and exclusion based on religion are not permitted in educational settings as a civil rights issue. Title IX and Title IV protect the rights of students to participate in campus activities without fear of aggression or harassment.

    The discussion around free speech by campus presidents is misleading because the issue is not the law itself. Rather, college administrators have been weaponizing the First Amendment when it suits them, and blatantly disregarding it when it doesn’t. When the Proud Boys were threatening to have a presence during a protest recently, Berkeley brought the FBI to campus, just in case. For the pro-Palestine protesters too busy to do their coursework, we are being asked to use our “discretion to administer grace and flexibility” for grading so that they don’t fail their classes.

    Grace and flexibility. After they administer that, they can try out for the Cal gymnastics squad. (They segregate men's and women's teams, but I'm sure they're "flexible" on that too.)

  • I'm seeing a common recommendation here. The Boston Globe offers (Pun Salad hero) Steve Pinker some column inches to present A five-point plan to save Harvard from itself. They are all good, but I will skip down to point five:

    Disempowering DEI. Many of the assaults on academic freedom (not to mention common sense) come from a burgeoning bureaucracy that calls itself diversity, equity, and inclusion while enforcing a uniformity of opinion, a hierarchy of victim groups, and the exclusion of freethinkers. Often hastily appointed by deans as expiation for some gaffe or outrage, these officers stealthily implement policies that were never approved in faculty deliberations or by university leaders willing to take responsibility for them.

    An infamous example is the freshman training sessions that terrify students with warnings of all the ways they can be racist (such as asking, “Where are you from?”). Another is the mandatory diversity statements for job applicants, which purge the next generation of scholars of anyone who isn’t a woke ideologue or a skilled liar. And since overt bigotry is in fact rare in elite universities, bureaucrats whose job depends on rooting out instances of it are incentivized to hone their Rorschach skills to discern ever-more-subtle forms of “systemic” or “implicit” bias.

    Universities should stanch the flood of DEI officials, expose their policies to the light of day, and repeal the ones that cannot be publicly justified.

    I should point out that abolishing/restricting DEI has been recommended, just in the past couple months, by Bari Weiss, Andrew Sullivan, and John O. McGinnis. And those were just the folks I blogged about. It's been a long-standing exhortation from Pun Salad too (Here, for example.)

    Instead of rumbling about firing Chanda Prescod-Weinstein (see that last link) the trustees of the University System Near Here should be examing strategies to cut back USNH's DEI-related departments to the minimum necessary to fulfill legal obligations.


Last Modified 2024-01-16 5:20 AM EST

You're Welcome, Other States

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

At the American Institute for Economic Research, William Ruger and Jason Sorens tell us about New Hampshire’s Lesson for America.

New Hampshire may be a small state in New England, but it offers a big lesson for America.

That lesson is this: The best way to keep your freedom is never to lose it in the first place, and once you’ve ensured that, to whittle down the remaining barriers to liberty and opportunity.

Conspicuous by its absence from the article: the word "marijuana".

(Not that it matters, but East Coast Cannabis is only about 15 minutes away from Pun Salad Manor. So New Hampshire's reluctance is a non-issue here.)

(Or it would be a non-issue if I were in the market, which I'm not.)

Also of note:

  • But even in the LFOD state, there are limits on free speech. NH Journal has the sad tale of a guy who may have read the First Amendment too literally: No Bail for UNH Staffer Who Threatened Ramaswamy.

    Brought into court by federal agents and wearing the Strafford County House of Corrections’ inmate uniform, Tyler Anderson managed to stay quiet for Monday’s short hearing.

    If he had mastered that same self-control before he allegedly started threatening GOP politicians, Anderson might not have been in court at all.

    Anderson, 30, threatened to kill Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy at a campaign event planned for Monday morning, U.S. Attorney Jane E. Young said in a statement. And days before that threat, Anderson allegedly threatened a mass shooting at a different Republican presidential candidate’s events and made threats to multiple other candidates, according to court records.

    Tyler, as noted, is an employee of the Unversity Near Here, an "administrative assistant" in the "Natural Resources and the Environment" department. (As I type, his staff directory page is still working.) That department is part of COLSA, the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture, where Mrs. Salad used to teach. It is one of the more woke-soaked colleges. Can't help but wonder if Tyler had to write a "diversity statement" to get hired.

  • Keep it clean, officer. John McWhorter says it true to the boys in blue: Cussing Cops Poison Race Relations.

    A recent documentary on the George Floyd incident includes body cam footage largely unseen by the American public until now. There are some important revelations in this footage that I suspect will enter national discussion gradually. What first struck me was that Officer Thomas Lane, who approached Floyd sitting in his car, addressed him with profanity (specifically, the word “fuck”) very freely. This is a problem endemic to the way cops in the United States speak to people they detain—it goes some way towards explaining what happened with Floyd, as well as countless other incidents—and it needs to be penalized.

    Floyd, likely because of the drugs in his system, was confused and anxious about what was happening and resisted putting his hands up. Lane’s response to this was to issue commands, twice using the word “fuck.” One has reason to assume that this is the way Lane addressed people regularly in cases of conflict and that he was not alone on the force in this.

    Sorry for the profanity, but I've decided to eliminate bowdlerization in quoted material.

    The documentary to which McWhorter links is "The Fall of Minneapolis", which I have not seen. But Jerry Coyne has, and he reports that he came away with the feeling that "at the very least George Floyd wasn’t obviously murdered by police." Which is actually pretty big, if true.

  • People who say otherwise are trying to sell you a scary narrative. Wilfred Reilly looks at the stats, and comes away with some (relatively) good news about The Race War That Isn’t.

    Throughout modern internet culture, we often see snickering references to the idea that black people commit virtually all modern crime, and that a huge amount of this crime targets white people. The common phrases “13/52” and “13/60,” for example, are oblique references to the allegation that African Americans make up (X) percentage of the U.S. population but commit (Y) percentage of either murder or all violent crime. This sort of claim is hardly marginal: No less a giant of the modern Right than President Donald Trump once tweeted out a famous graphic asserting that, in the representative year of 2015, “whites killed by blacks” made up 81 percent of all white murder victims.

    The majority of stuff like this is not even in the same ballpark as the truth. The black homicide rate, specifically, is quite high. But, by most accounts, over 80 percent of the murderers of white Americans are themselves suntan-challenged, and the person most likely to kill you — “Cherchez la femme” — is your wife or husband. More broadly, there exists a national crime report (the “BJS-NCVS”) which comes out annually, and we can . . . just look at it to get a near-exact fix on totals, rates, and trends across all crimes nationally. Per this data, in 201819 (the last year to include Asian Americans as a distinct category, and a year during which white and Hispanic crime totals were reported separately), blacks made up “just” 21.7 percent of the offenders responsible for index violent crimes. This is, importantly, according to a victim-reported table subject to neither racial bias effects nor intentional under-reporting by the police.

    Periodic reminder: Statistics don't kill people. People kill people.

  • This grates my cheese too. Gerard Baker chronicles some higher education, specifically: Higher Education’s Slide From ‘Veritas’ to ‘My Truth’. (Amusing subhed: "On free speech, university leaders suddenly sound like Voltaire. But they’ve long operated like Lenin.") It's a look at Harvard's President Gay's testimony and subsequent apology for that testimony. But this is the thing that really irritates Baker:

    Few phrases are as reliable as “my truth” for identifying seasoned purveyors of cant and doubletalk. Truth isn’t something that can be identified or modified by a possessive pronoun. If my truth is different from your truth and your truth is different from her truth, these aren’t truths. “My truth” is the device deployed to elevate the particular viewpoint of a member of a particular group or identity, by claiming the validation of the “truth” for a narrow ideological cause.

    And this is what we saw last week at that hearing—the narrow, exclusive intolerance of the ideology that has our universities in its grip.

    Certainly "my truth" deserves a spot on the "Academic Bullshit" bingo card.

Recently on the movie blog:

[Leave the World Behind]


Last Modified 2024-01-22 6:02 AM EST

Leave the World Behind

[2.5 stars] [IMDB Link] [Leave the World Behind]

Julia Roberts has a great idea: arrange for a small vacay out on Long Island without telling her husband (Ethan Hawke) ahead of time. You'd think that would be a pretty good sitcom premise, but no, this is an end-of-the-world thriller. They're off to a very nice AirBnB house near the beach with their teenage son and preteen daughter.

Things start going a little off when (preview-level spoiler) their trip to the beach is interrupted by an oil tanker running aground right in front of them. And later, the house's owner, a black guy (Mahershala Ali), shows up at the doorstep with his daughter (Myha'la). At least that's what they claim. Julia's kind of suspicious about that.

Eventually, it becomes undeniable that something really bad is going on in the country. The Internet goes out, phones go out, the TV goes out, deer start acting funny,… power stays on, though. And, did I mention the Teslas? No? Good, that would have been a spoiler.

Everyone, including the kids, drop the f-word a lot.

It's way too long (two hours). The theme of heightened paranoia between countrymen is as subtle as that oil tanker running aground. (I blame the preview of that oil tanker for gulling me into watching the movie.)

And (oh yeah) there are unexpected names in the opening credits: executive producers Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. Apparently producing tedious movies is one of their gigs now.


Last Modified 2024-01-16 5:21 AM EST

There's a Bad Moon on the Rise

[We actually do not]

That eye candy du jour is from Robert Graboyes at Bastiat's Window, who discusses Antisemitism's Sharp Left Turn. He addresses is "friends on the left":

You’ve told me countless times over many years that antisemitism is almost exclusively a right-wing phenomenon, but events since October 7 indicate strongly that a far greater threat to the happiness, health, and safety of Jews comes from your left-wing allies. While Hamas was still live-streaming acts of rape, torture, mutilation, murder, kidnapping, and necrophilia on innocents; before Israel lifted a finger in response; throngs of your allies flooded streets, campuses, airwaves, and social media to rejoice. Still more of your friends hung their heads low to avoid offending the celebrants, who are vital components of your electoral base. A modest number of courageous souls on the left have sounded the alarm that when mobs cry out for the torment of Jews, the call is coming from inside the progressive house.

I’ve never disputed nor minimized your concern over right-wing antisemitism. But when I’ve offered that leftist antisemitism is as big a problem or bigger, your response has been a ballet of head-scratching, shoulder-shrugging, brow-furrowing, eye-rolling, arm-waving, face-reddening, and body-shaking—with wails of indignation.

After two months of depravity across the West, it’s obvious that the greater problem today lies on the left. Right-wing antisemitism today comes mostly in two forms: (1) off-putting remarks and irritating attitudes by otherwise normal people who have little or no particular power over Jewish lives, and (2) wild-eyed conspiracies and episodic violence by small numbers of marginal loners. Left-wing antisemitism, in sharp contrast, is highly organized and endemic among swarms of people endowed with considerable power over the daily lives of Jewish Americans.

I've tried hard to follow the Costello rule: be amused instead of disgusted. Those folks down in Cambridge seem to want to make that as hard as possible.

Also of note:

  • Don't know much geography7 Ron E. Hassner demonstrates that the college kids literally (and I mean that literally) don't know what they're talking about: From Which River to Which Sea?.

    When college students who sympathize with Palestinians chant “From the river to the sea,” do they know what they’re talking about? I hired a survey firm to poll 250 students from a variety of backgrounds across the U.S. Most said they supported the chant, some enthusiastically so (32.8%) and others to a lesser extent (53.2%).

    But only 47% of the students who embrace the slogan were able to name the river and the sea. Some of the alternative answers were the Nile and the Euphrates, the Caribbean, the Dead Sea (which is a lake) and the Atlantic. Less than a quarter of these students knew who Yasser Arafat was (12 of them, or more than 10%, thought he was the first prime minister of Israel). Asked in what decade Israelis and Palestinians had signed the Oslo Accords, more than a quarter of the chant’s supporters claimed that no such peace agreements had ever been signed. There’s no shame in being ignorant, unless one is screaming for the extermination of millions.

    I am slightly relieved that nobody said it meant from the Connecticut River to the Atlantic Ocean. I would find that personally problematic.

  • Teach your children well. The Economist reveals that One in five young Americans thinks the Holocaust is a myth.

    [myth is not as good as a mile]

    On December 5th, for over five hours, lawmakers grilled the presidents of elite universities in a congressional hearing about antisemitism on college campuses. In one of the testiest exchanges a Republican congresswoman, Elise Stefanik, asked whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” violates university rules. It is “context-dependent”, replied Liz Magill, the president of the University of Pennsylvania. Clips of the exchange went viral on X, formerly Twitter. Yad Vashem, a Holocaust museum and research centre, issued a condemnation and stressed the importance of “raising awareness about the history of antisemitism and the Holocaust”.

    A new poll from YouGov/The Economist suggests that Yad Vashem has its work cut out. Young Americans—or at least the subset of them who take part in surveys—appear to be remarkably ignorant about one of modern history’s greatest crimes. Some 20% of respondents aged 18-29 think that the Holocaust is a myth, compared with 8% of those aged 30-44 (see chart). An additional 30% of young Americans said they do not know whether the Holocaust is a myth. Many respondents espouse the canard that Jews wield too much power in America: young people are nearly five times more likely to think this than are those aged 65 and older (28% versus 6%).

    I'm sure most of those kids know who Harriet Tubman was, though. There's only so much time in the school day.

  • Hey, baby, I'm your handyman. Bari Weiss has some ideas, and they couldn't be implemented soon enough: How to Really Fix American Higher Education.

    A quick thought experiment: imagine if large numbers of students and professors had marched through the campus of Penn over the past two months saying that all black people should go back to Africa and whoever remains should be subjected to genocide. Should the president of Penn defend those people merely as exercising their rights to free speech?

    I think that it would be monstrous to do so.

    Bold stand, Bari!

    You should click over and read her recommendations, though. Spoiler: Number One is something I've noticed a bunch of people calling for: End DEI. Yes!

    (I can also get behind her other advice: End Double Standards on Speech; Hire Professors Committed to the Pursuit of Truth (and Allergic to Illiberal Ideologies); and Eliminate the Ideology That Replaced Truth as Higher Education’s North Star.

    Well, almost. I don't know that "eliminate" is the right verb. I'd go with "ridicule" and "refute". Given the other remedies, that should be enough.

    And (for goodness sake) read something else, for example…

Recently on the book blog:


Last Modified 2024-01-16 5:29 AM EST

Social Justice Fallacies

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

I could have read this book via Portsmouth (NH) Public Library; they do a decent job of picking up books from all over the political map.

And I could have saved a few bucks by getting the Kindle version.

But instead I sprang for the hardcover, simply to put a few more shekels in Thomas Sowell's pocket. I like him that much. I still have the first Sowell book I bought, Knowledge & Decisions, purchased back in the early 1980s. (I'm too lazy to get out the tape measure to find out how much shelf space is being taken up by Sowell books. Trust me, it's a lot.)

It's a short book, 130 pages of main text. 58 pages of notes, 13 page index, and some blank pages at the end. Maybe that's unexpectedly short; the title certainly describes a vast subject range. But, as I type, Sowell is 93 years old, and I'll take what I can get.

And, truth be told, there's not a lot new here for Sowell fans; he's hitting the same themes he's played for decades, rearranged in terms of the common "fallacies" the social justice warriors employ in arguing for their schemes. A quick tour:

"Equal Chances" Fallacies: Sowell has long argued against the assumption that disparities in outcomes prove that invidious oppressive forces are at work. Not so.

Racial Fallacies: in a special case of the above, various explanations of differing statistical outcomes of different races are examined and found wanting. Sowell throws cold water on "genetic determinism", an explanation favored by "progressives" back in the day.

Chess Pieces Fallacies: Maybe it's not the best title, but it's inspired by Adam Smith's observation of the "man of system", who "seem to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board." Sowell comments:

Interior decorators arrage. Governments compel. This is not a subtle distinction.

Another Sowellian comment about one of the more popular proposals of "arranging" society:

There is no question that governments, or even local looters, can redistribute wealth to some extent.

Knowledge Fallacies: A deep Hayek-inspired dive into the "fatal conceit": that those "men of system" have all the information needed to direct social forces to their will; all they need is more power to do so. Sowell's bottom line:

Stupid people can create problems, but it often takes brilliant people to create a real catastrophe.
Words, Deeds, and Dangers: a summary of what Sowell has called the "unconstrained vision" of those crusaders for "cosmic justice" causing damage and ill-will instead. And, Sowell points out, those crusaders seem immune to pesky facts, and they bear no penalty when their well-intentioned schemes fail to work. Instead, they double down on their bad bets.

Bottom line: it's a fine, short, summary of Sowell's major lifetime themes.


Last Modified 2024-01-09 9:06 AM EST

Trophies

[Trophies]

As a textual addition to that picture, let's go to Charles C. W. Cooke, who has thoughts on the Mutual Assured Destruction of our political system: ‘Not Trump’ Is Not Enough. His bottom line:

What the hell are the Democrats thinking? Having become frivolous, vainglorious, and suicidal, the Republican Party is on the verge of super-gluing itself to its risible liability of a perma-candidate for the eighth year in a row. As a countermeasure, the Democrats have embarked on an experiment in political masochism that would have made George McGovern blush. The president has grown so transparently senile that one half-expects to see a set of jumper cables protruding from his back; the Democrats’ best rejoinder to this charge is “No, he’s not.” The economy is widely disesteemed; the Democrats have christened it “Bidenomics.” The vice president remains unable to speak in intelligible human sentences; the Democrats have concluded that she’s just one more TV appearance away from being designated as a National Treasure. When, in the BBC’s Blackadder Goes Forth, General Melchett explained that “if nothing else works, a total pigheaded unwillingness to look facts in the face will see us through,” the line was intended as satire, not advice. In 2023, it might as well be the Democratic Party’s election slogan: “Vote for Us — We Have No Other Plan.”

That's from the January 2024 print version of National Review, and that's allegedly a "gifted" link. See if it works, and if it does, read the whole thing.

And now on to our usual Sunday feature looking at the betting odds:

Candidate EBO Win
Probability
Change
Since
12/3
Donald Trump 40.3% +1.9%
Joe Biden 31.8% -0.5%
Nikki Haley 7.0% -1.6%
Gavin Newsom 6.3% +0.3%
Robert Kennedy Jr 3.1% -0.1%
Michelle Obama 2.3% -0.3%
Ron DeSantis 2.0% ---
Other 7.2% -1.7%

I guess the big news here is that Ron DeSantis is back, baby. Barely meeting our 2% inclusion criterion. And Trump has significantly improved his probability. No doubt this news had something to do with that: Trump Takes 2024 Lead as Biden Approval Hits New Low, WSJ Poll Finds.

President Biden’s political standing is at its weakest point of his presidency, a new Wall Street Journal poll finds, with voters giving him his lowest job-performance marks and favoring Donald Trump for the first time in a head-to-head test of the likely 2024 presidential matchup.

Biden lags behind Trump by 4 percentage points, 47% to 43%, on a hypothetical ballot with only those two candidates. Trump’s lead expands to 6 points, 37% to 31%, when five potential third-party and independent candidates are added to the mix. They take a combined 17% support, with Democrat-turned-independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. drawing the most, at 8%.

Also of note:

  • So why aren't the Democrats dumping Biden? Kevin D. Williamson looks at, and debunks, one popular theory: It Isn’t About Kamala Harris.

    One thing that a whole lot of Republicans and Democrats agree on: The Democrats would be much better off replacing Joe Biden as their 2024 nominee, but they can’t because it would be too awkward to pass over Kamala Harris, who would be an even worse nominee than Biden.

    As almost always is the case when Republicans and Democrats agree, this claim is fundamentally wrong.

    Vice President Harris is hardly holding the conch in the Democrats’ election-season version of Lord of the Flies. She is, in a real sense, in a worse position than anybody else trying to figure out what to do about the problem she presents. The idea that she is some kind of hostage-taker who is keeping the Democrats from replacing Biden—that she would not or could not step aside without causing an identity-politics tantrum on the left—is pure nonsense. As things stand, Harris has two possible bad outcomes in front of her if she and Biden are the 2024 ticket: One, they lose, and she gets blamed either for being an encumbrance who thwarted efforts to replace Biden or simply for dragging down the ticket with her personal unpopularity and her political career comes to an end; two, they win, and she gets stuffed into the national sock drawer that is the vice presidency for another four years, waiting for her political career to come to an end. Harris isn’t exactly Niccolo Machiavelli, but she is smart enough to see how things stand. The notion that she would make a stink in order to hold on to the vice presidency—an office in which she has foundered badly and has been subjected to contemptuous treatment by her boss and her party—is nonsense.

    Instead, KDW's theory is our "weird, increasingly cultic approach to the presidency." It's apparently an unpaywalled article, so check it out and see what you think.

  • Just following orders. John Daniel Davidson at the Federalist reports: The Press Fearmongers About Trump At The Behest Of Biden.

    So what’s with the coordinated media campaign this week claiming a second Trump term will usher in the end of the republic and the rise of a fascist dictatorship?

    Well, three weeks ago, President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign scolded the press for not attacking Donald Trump hard enough, specifically calling out The New York Times, saying “it’s time to meet the moment and responsibly inform the electorate of what their lives might look like if the leading GOP candidate for president is allowed back in the WH.”

    As my colleague David Harsanyi noted at the time, the Biden camp wasn’t working the refs, it was demanding obedience. “And the fact that the White House can brazenly petition a supposedly free press to join his campaign effort tells us a lot about how little the contemporary Democrat cares for a free press.”

    We looked at the panicking lapdogs last Monday.

  • I'm a Never-Trumper so… I was intrigued by the headline on this column from Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.: Never Trumpers Never Learn. Hey, I'd like to think I'm ready to learn, so let's see … oh, he's not talking about me. Instead, he reviews the history of 2016's Russia, Russia, Russia hoax that boomeranged on Hillary, and…

    In some sense, this accident is already trying to replay itself in 2024. The latest exhibit is the Kagan essay in the Washington Post. Work through its 6,000-word argument and try to discern how Mr. Trump, with his limited appeal to an uninfluential base, checks and balances, and a mobilized opposition controlling almost every establishment institution, is supposed to make himself a dictator, when, say, FDR, with the most powerful electoral coalition in history, a 75% approval rating, and a world war to fight couldn’t have done so.

    It makes no sense and isn’t required to. Mr. Kagan replicates the failed strategy of the past eight years: Donald Trump is so bad, we must lie about him. The lies are so obvious and easily discovered, though, they end up validating Mr. Trump’s critique of the establishment and win him more voters. In fact, the only way not to see Mr. Kagan as dotty is to assume he’s trying deliberately to justify civil disorder and unconstitutional resistance when Mr. Trump is elected.

    Interestingly, the Post itself seems to have gagged on Mr. Kagan. With an insightful and well-balanced news report a few days later, it not only gave (as the press rarely does) the complete context of recent overplayed Trump quips. It went out of its way to note that the “dictator” talk comes from Democrats desperate over Mr. Biden’s sagging polls. Maybe Trump opponents are finally wising up to their own self-defeating tactics. Seeing the ex-president for what he is but knowing something about dictators, the former CIA analyst and formidable political philosopher Martin Gurri writes at Unherd.com: “Relax. Trump is too old, too isolated, and too ADD to have a shot at dictatorship—and if he tried, the result would be comedy rather than tyranny.”

    A second Trump term, in my view, would be useless for America. His opponents, as I’ve been pointing out since 2016, are nonetheless working hard to make it happen.

    And (see the table above) they are having some success at that endeavour.

  • Pun Salad agrees with Jeff Maurer. Specifically: Republicans Could Own the Libs by Nominating Nikki Haley.

    And Pun Salad (with sadness) also agrees with his subhed: "But they probably won't."

    Haley has become the candidate of choice of the Republican donor class. She’s been surging in the polls, though that statement needs a galaxy of context: Her numbers have roughly doubled in a few months, but she still trails Trump by 50. She was absolutely treated like the frontrunner in last night’s debate: DeSantis and Ramaswamy attacked her early and often. Of course, Ramaswamy’s attacks may have helped Haley more than they hurt; Ramaswamy is so unlikable that most people probably instinctively take the non-Ramaswamy side in any dispute. He truly is an obnoxious shit smear of a man; the crowd — which was full of Republicans — boo’d him like he was Jane Fonda at a VFW meeting. I thought Megan Kelly might punch him in the mouth; if she had, then she would probably be the presumptive nominee. Ramaswamy attacked Haley’s intelligence, he said she doesn’t know things that his three year-old knows, and he also did this:

    [Yes he did]

    Fun fact: Vivek's even lower at EBO than Kamala.

  • But is she corrupt? Say it ain't so, Christian Britschgi! Nikki Haley Opposed Boeing Subsidies at Tonight's GOP Debate. As Governor, She Gave Boeing Millions.

    At tonight's Republican presidential debate, former United Nations ambassador and South Carolina governor Nikki Haley took a lot of flak for her entanglements with corporate America.

    "You left government service in 2018 with just $100,000 in the bank. Five years later, you're reportedly worth $8 million, thanks to lucrative corporate speeches and board memberships like you had with Boeing," said rival candidate Vivek Ramaswamy.

    Haley defended her record by saying that when Boeing started to ask for government bailouts during the pandemic, she resigned from the board on principle.

    I'd certainly wish that Nikki scored higher on my Personal Political Purity Test. But she easily beats the other likely candidates.


Last Modified 2024-01-22 6:05 AM EST

I Can Do This All Day

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

George Will casts a well-earned plague on both their houses: Two parties, two wildly different spending solutions, both implausible. But his actual reference is to "Annie", not "Romeo and Juliet":

The two parties disagree even when they agree, as they do about this: Federal spending is on an unsustainable trajectory under current law. They also agree that altering the most important drivers of this trajectory — Social Security and Medicare — is for tomorrow, which is always a day away. The parties propose, solemnly but implausibly, radically different solutions.

Republicans propose cutting taxes and regulations enough to ignite economic growth so rapid and constant that a gusher of revenue will restore fiscal health. This approach is marginally less implausible than the Democrats’ proposal, because one can at least postulate a sufficient growth rate — say, 5 percent, forever. But given the bipartisan normalization of enormous annual deficits — $2 trillion and heading up — substantial borrowing probably would be needed to supplement revenue streams, no matter how large they are.

The Democrats’ proposal is even less realistic: “Tax the rich” until they pay their “fair share.” The Republican approach ignores political and economic probabilities. The Democratic approach ignores arithmetic. The Manhattan Institute’s Brian Riedl explains this in his recent study “The Limits of Taxing the Rich.”

I was never a big Queen fan, but certainly we seem to be "caught in a landslide, no escape from reality". Is this just fantasy?

Also of note:

  • Speaking of Social Security… A couple months back I looked at one of those dreadful AARP mailers which demanded that I (1) petition my Senators and Congresscritter and (2) write them (AARP) a check. One of theit gambits was that proposed reforms to Social Security "could put the money you've earned at risk".

    I objected to that "earned" bit. And in the WSJ today, Andrew G. Biggs has issues as well: No, Social Security Isn’t ‘Earned’.

    Joe Biden and Donald Trump have something in common: Neither wants to touch Social Security. The program’s benefits “belong to the American people,” Mr. Biden said in February. “They earned them.” A month later Mr. Trump said: “We’re going to take care of our Social Security—people have earned that.”

    Both men have used the program as a cudgel against political opponents who have supported reining in benefits to balance the program’s troubled finances. The same goes for Medicare, which the progressive group Social Security Works has described as “an EARNED benefit,” adding that “anyone who proposes cuts to this program is reaching into your pockets and stealing from you!”

    Yet the numbers tell a different story. The Congressional Budget Office and Social Security Administration both find that most Americans are promised Social Security and Medicare benefits substantially exceeding the taxes they’ll pay over their lifetimes. In other words, the benefits are neither earned nor paid for. This ought to lead policy makers to consider fiscally prudent and generationally fair reforms, rather than force younger Americans to fund benefits that older Americans claim to have earned but haven’t fully paid for.

    If anyone's getting ripped off, it's today's young workers. (Thanks, kids!)

  • Maybe Hunter and Donald can be cellmates? I smell an SNL sketch! Andrew C. McCarthy calls them like he sees them. And he sees that The Hunter Biden Tax Indictment Is a Disaster for the White House.

    There are several astonishing things about the 56-page grand-jury indictment filed with nine counts against the president’s son, Hunter Biden, by federal prosecutor David Weiss.

    The first is that it’s dizzying.

    The indictment is scathing in describing the younger Biden’s unsavory lifestyle, his deep dishonesty, and his willful decision to evade tax liabilities on millions of dollars in income and instead spend the money on escorts, drugs, luxury goods, and the like. Hunter is portrayed as exactly the kind of tax cheat who should be prosecuted. In fact, he appears to be just the sort of elitist scoundrel abominated in the rhetoric of his father and Democrats — privileged, addicted to consumption, producing little of real value, and greedily unwilling to pay his “fair share.”

    But here’s the problem: Just four months ago, the same David Weiss tried to bury the same tax case against the same Hunter Biden — offering him a no-jail plea to two puny misdemeanors, a sweetheart deal so out of the ordinary that Weiss’s minions could not answer a judge’s simple questions about it, and that the ever-entitled Hunter’s defense lawyers foolishly blew up over fear of a hypothetical prosecution on tougher charges that Weiss patently had no intention to bring.

    Hope everyone stocked up on popcorn.

  • I gave up reading Andrew Sullivan when he grew obsessed with Sarah Palin's uterus. So I rely on folks like Instapundit to let me know when he's said something worth reading. And here it is, Sullivan describing The Day The Empress' Clothes Fell Off.

    It may be too much to expect that the Congressional hearings this week, starring the three presidents of Harvard, MIT, and Penn, will wake people up to the toxic collapse of America’s once-great Ivy League. But I can hope, can’t I? In the immortal words of Hitch (peace be upon him), as you listen to these people, “You see how far the termites have spread, and how long and well they have dined.”

    The mediocrities smirked, finessed, condescended, and stonewalled. Take a good look at them. These are the people who now select our elites. And they select them, as they select every single member of the faculty, and every student, by actively discriminating against members of certain “privileged” groups and aggressively favoring other “marginalized” ones. They were themselves appointed in exactly the same way, from DEI-approved pools of candidates. As a Harvard dean, Claudine Gay’s top priority was “making more progress on diversity,” i.e. intensifying the already systemic race, sex and gender discrimination that defines the place.

    Especially amusing are the defenders of the university presidents, who (I'm pretty sure) consider smirks, condescension, stonewalling, and finessing to be Business As Usual for people in that orbit.


Last Modified 2024-01-09 9:06 AM EST

Fun With Words

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Our Amazon Product du Jour illustrates a seeming contradiction: how can a school branding itself as a university also be a champion of diversity?

I'm sure others have remarked on this. I'm sure others have combed through the etymology of those terms trying to reconcile the conflict. But I'm too lazy to look. Why has nobody upped their game, demanding triversity? Or tetraversity? Or…

Well, never mind that. Yesterday, we briefly examined the abhorrent/hilarious performance of university presidents testifying before a Congressional committee about their obviously hypocritical embrace of free speech. The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression's (FIRE's) Nico Perrino has a good suggestion: Don’t expand censorship. End it..

Yesterday, the U.S. House Committee on Education & the Workforce held a hearing on “Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism.” For hours, members of Congress grilled the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on their responses to anti-Semitism on campus following Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel — and many observers noted the hypocrisy of leaders of institutions with checkered records on free expression suddenly claiming their institutional commitments to free speech prevented them from cracking down on anti-Semitic speech.

Of course, one can understand the frustration of critics who rightly observe how quickly college administrators — including those at Harvard, Penn, and MIT — will reach for speech codes when certain disfavored views are expressed, yet don the cloak of free speech when they are more sympathetic to the speech at issue. Speech codes depend for their very existence on the exercise of double standards, as FIRE co-founder Alan Charles Kors has said.

But the solution to this moral cowardice is not to expand the use of vague and overbroad harassment codes so that they apply in more cases. Rather administrators should eliminate these codes and defend free speech in all cases. No hypocrisy. No double standards.

I suspect that the intellectual rot has set in too deep for the "elite" universities to take this advice.

Bonus, a tweet from Harvard's own Steven Pinker (who quotes a FIRE tweet referencing a different statement):

Click through for especially recommendation number four.

Also of note:

  • Neither was reverse racism, but we got that too. Glenn Reynolds, the Blogfather, pbuh, says, at his substack: Reverse Speech Codes Aren't the Answer.

    So the shocking pro-genocide/pro-Palestinian marches at top Ivy League schools have put their administrations into a pretty pickle.  They want to escape responsibility for student speech, but their efforts to plead “free speech” ring hollow, when they’ve been eagerly policing student – and faculty – speech for years. Just ask IowaHawk.

    […]

    But as much as I enjoy seeing these people stew in the juices of their hypocrisy – and believe me, enjoy it I do -- it is nonetheless true, as Eugene Volokh cogently points out, that free speech principles, and the First Amendment where it applies, prevent things like a selective ban on anti-semitism, or on “advocacy of genocide” or whatever. 

    But think how much easier the life of these administrators would be if they and their institutions had just had some principles.  If they had a record of allowing student and faculty speech on everything without punishment, they could point to that record and say, sure, some of our students are saying monstrous things, but we believe in free speech and that the best way to deal with monstrous ideas is by discussing, and refuting, them in the open.

    Of course, they can’t say that, because it isn’t true – and, more importantly, it obviously isn’t true.   Top universities have for years been denying the value of free speech, and even suggesting it is some sort of questionable relic of white supremacy, or Christian Nationalism, or something.  They’ve been centers for the belief that the way to deal with ideas you don’t like isn’t to refute them, but to ruthlessly suppress them.

    I'll once again point out (with a little pride) that the University Near Here is at the other end of the FIRE scale which Iowahawk references.

  • But that wasn't the only fun at that hearing. Another major idiocy didn't get the coverage it deserved, as described at the College Fix: MIT president defends blacks-only dorm: ‘Positive selection,’ not ‘exclusionary’.

    The president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology defended a blacks-only dorm on her campus Tuesday before a U.S. House committee, saying the segregation is not “exclusionary” but “positive selection by students.”

    “Actually at MIT, our students affiliate voluntarily with whichever dorm they want to. It’s not exclusionary, it’s actually positive selection by students which dormitory they want to live in,” MIT President Sally Kornbluth said during a hearing about rising antisemitism on college campuses.

    This can't end well, can it?

  • By which I mean: not my fault. David Harsanyi points the finger: Yes, Inflation Is Sort Of Your Fault.

    “If people are so mad about high prices, why do they keep buying so many expensive things?” wonders Annie Lowrey in an Atlantic piece headlined, “Inflation Is Your Fault.”

    Well, I assume demand remains high because individuals work and save to purchase things they need and like for themselves and their families — even when they’re mad about the price. We’re not automatons, after all.

    But let's skip to David's bottom line:

    Debt, spending, and inflation are all the culmination of long-term irresponsible behavior, compounded by many administrations and Congresses. If voters keep putting the same people into office — the ones who botched budgets, and Covid, and recoveries, and pretty much everything else — then yes, you’re also at fault.

    As someone who pretty much always votes for the election-losers lately, it's not exactly my fault. But I'm far from certain the pols I voted for would have done better.


Last Modified 2024-01-09 9:05 AM EST

I Agree With Sonny Bunch

Please don't miss "Readers added context".

David Strom adds that this may be the Best Troll Ever. And in case you don't know who Saira Rao is:

Some people and/or statements are so amazingly stupid that the only appropriate response is to laugh at the statements and ridicule the people.

Saira Rao is the stupid person in this case, and her claim that Time Magazine’s naming of Taylor Swift as Person of the Year is a celebration of the “White love of Black and brown genocide” is a ridiculous statement worthy of ridicule.

Rao, you may remember, is the grifter who has convinced bored middle-aged White women to pay her unGodly sums of money to call them irredeemable racists. This business model, I admit, is pure genius, as Affluent White Female Liberals (AWFLs) love to show their virtue by pretending to believe they are “doing the work” to become better people.

Strom says "you may remember", but I have to admit that I had forgotten her after a single blog item I wrote over four years ago. At the time, I left open the possibility that her website was a "fiendish parody".

If so, she's a consistent parodist.

Also of note:

  • I'd say "hilarious" instead of "abhorrent", but… the National Review editorialists viewed and deplored University Presidents’ Abhorrent Hypocrisy on Anti-Jewish Speech.

    All of a sudden, America’s elite universities have started to sound like John Stuart Mill. Asked yesterday by Representative Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.) whether students who call for “intifada” or shout “from the river to the sea” were acting “contrary to Harvard’s code of conduct,” Harvard’s president, Claudine Gay, struck a notably enlightened pose. Such “hateful, reckless, offensive speech,” Gay insisted, was “abhorrent” to her personally, and “at odds with the values of Harvard.” But she could not in good conscience move to do anything about it, given Harvard’s “commitment to free expression even of views that are objectionable, offensive, hateful.”

    Ah.

    The first problem with Gay’s answer (which was not fixed by a subsequent clean-up attempt) is that it is a brazen lie. Harvard does not, in fact, “embrace a commitment to free expression.” It does not tolerate views that its speech police consider to be “objectionable, offensive, hateful.” And, as the plain language of its own policies makes clear, it does not endure opinions that are contrary to its “values.” There is, of course, a strong case to be made for the university as an incubator of all ideas. Were Harvard known for a consistent liberalism, it might be able to defend the indulgence of students who chant “intifada” at their peers. But Harvard is not known for any such thing. On the contrary: Harvard is known for sanctioning scholars, for revoking acceptances, for disinviting academics, and for having created an environment in which students feel unable to share their beliefs. Per the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Harvard’s score in the Free Speech Rankings is an “abysmal” “0.00 out of a possible 100.00.” In its latest evaluation, FIRE accorded Harvard a “-10.69,” which, the outfit recorded, is “more than six standard deviations below the average and more than two standard deviations below the second-to-last school in the rankings, its Ivy League counterpart, the University of Pennsylvania.”

    Of all things to be outraged about! I've long considered the statements of university presidents too obviously mealy-mouthed and self-serving to be taken seriously.

  • This is Pun Salad, and I am a George Will fanboy, and Elizabeth Warren is a joke in herself, so… this column's headline, its author, and its subject is kind of a perfect storm: Any way you slice it, Elizabeth Warren’s war on Big Sandwich is crummy.

    Although not all worrywarts are progressives, all progressives are worrywarts. They believe that there are evermore things urgently in need of their supervision — things to ban or mandate or regulate to help society shimmy up the pole of progress.

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is progressivism incarnate. The former Harvard Law School professor should possess, if there were such, a PhD in Advanced Worrying. She represents the cutting edge of modern fretting, forever anxious lest something, somewhere, escapes the government’s improving attention. So she has Xed (tweeted, for those who are not au courant) her joy that the Federal Trade Commission recently has been preoccupied with the menace of Big Tech is turning its disapproving squint at Big Sandwich. (This delicious phrase is from the Washington Examiner’s Tom Joyce.)

    This makes me want to get a Spicy Italian for lunch. And I don't mean Monica Bellucci.

  • Don't plan on driving an EV vary far down the Road to Serfdom. Politico reports Congress provided $7.5B for electric vehicle chargers. Built so far: Zero.

    Congress at the urging of the Biden administration agreed in 2021 to spend $7.5 billion to build tens of thousands of electric vehicle chargers across the country, aiming to appease anxious drivers while tackling climate change.

    Two years later, the program has yet to install a single charger.

    States and the charger industry blame the delays mostly on the labyrinth of new contracting and performance requirements they have to navigate to receive federal funds. While federal officials have authorized more than $2 billion of the funds to be sent to states, fewer than half of states have even started to take bids from contractors to build the chargers — let alone begin construction.

    It's Politico, so the partisan bias is blatant; eeevil Republicans are looking to subvert this noble cause. Not to pull the plug (heh) on an obvious boondoggle.

    And the article confidently states: "Consumer demand for electric vehicles is rising in the United States". I guess they don't read Money: Car Dealers Have Too Many EVs (and That's Good for Buyers).

    Well, it's good news for buyers who want an EV. But the simple fact is that supply > demand. For a good schadenfreudian time, Google electric vehicles piling up.

Few Seem To Grasp the Actual Problem

(Hint: The President Has Too Much Power)

Noah Rothman seems to be an exception, and he also has a good grasp on Trump's psychology. He wonders: Can Trump Be a Dictator If He Needs to Fail? First, a quick review of the current epidemic of Trump Derangement Syndrome:

Donald Trump has enjoyed a consistent lead over Joe Biden in a hypothetical 2020 election rematch for the better part of three months, which seems to be the amount of time necessary to convince Washington-based political observers that the trend is real. All of a sudden, a burst of apocalyptic warnings about a second Trump term has overtaken the political discourse.

Washington Post editor at large Robert Kagan led the charge last week with a column that has “Washington buzzing,” according to New York Times reporter Peter Baker. It’s well past the point at which the civically minded public should stop indulging the “self-delusion” that an alternative to Trump will win the Republican nomination, Kagan wrote in the piece warning of the “inevitable” coming of the “Trump dictatorship.”

But here's the thing:

The second Trump administration doesn’t want victories. It wants defeats. It is not interested in going through the ordeals that produced, for example, Middle East travel bans that passed constitutional muster or a policy of family separation at the border that survived scrutiny in the courts. Rather, they want to shoot for the moon with the understanding that their overreach will be slapped down in court, and that those defeats will give them an excuse to attack the foundations of the American system as unequal to the measure of the moment. That would be a reckless and cynical enterprise, but it could not also be a competent one.

According to their “conversations with Trump insiders” and their analysis of Trump’s campaign-trail pronouncements, Axios reporters Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen speculated about the high-profile face-plants the Trump administration hopes to engineer. Trump wants to “unleash” law-enforcement agencies like the FBI and the intelligence community “against political enemies.” He wants to “deport people by the millions per year” and will prioritize the hiring of “whoever promises to be most aggressive” in satisfying that desire. He seeks a “deep and wide purge of the professional staff” that manage executive agencies across administrations. He seeks to eliminate “social engineering and non-defense related matters” from the remit of the armed services.

The flunkies to whom these portfolios will fall will not be tasked with masterminding a series of unalloyed successes. Instead, their goal will be to establish the basis for an elaborate stabbed-in-the-back narrative designed to implicate the wreckers and saboteurs within the American system. Success in this endeavor would, in that sense, constitute failure.

Bottom line:

A more responsible political culture wouldn’t test the tensile strength of America’s constitutional guardrails, but they have held so far. Trump World’s plan seems to rest on the assumption that they will continue to hold — if only to establish what it regards as the logical basis for their demolition. Trump’s courtiers may have grander ambitions, but Trump himself seems animated most by cleaning himself of the stink of an electoral loss. Indeed, beyond dishing out one last humiliation to his adversaries, it’s not at all clear that Donald Trump wants to get much done in his second term. Assuming dictatorial control over the United States is probably low on his list of priorities. After all, that would be a lot of work.

No question, Trump II would be a shitshow. One the country would be wise to avoid.

Also of note:

  • Oh, yeah. He's an idiot. Or he thinks you are. Or maybe both can be true. Scott Sumner wonders: How important are "the issues"?

    Donald Trump has promised to pay off the entire national debt within 4 years:

    “We’re going to pay off debt — the $35 trillion in debt. We’re going to pay it off. We’re going to get it done fast, too.”

    I am supposed to be an economic commentator.  So perhaps I should do my civic duty and evaluate this economic policy proposal.

    Federal revenue is less than $5 billion trillion per year. Thus even if spending were cut to zero, it would require huge tax increases to pay off the debt in 4 years. But spending cannot be cut to zero, as the government is legally required to pay interest on the debt. That means even more massive tax increases would be needed.

    That link goes to an MSNBC column by Steve Benen, but it (even so) seems accurate that Trump was making the exact same promise in the 2016 campaign. I said "idiot" above, but Benen floats the "bonkers" theory.

  • A good bumper sticker for the Biden campaign: "Morally Weak, Untethered From Reality." The National Review editorialists look at Kamala Harris’s Performative Scolding of Israel.

    With Israelis in a grueling fight against a dangerous terrorist enemy, Vice President Kamala Harris was dispatched to Dubai to deliver a scolding of our close ally for the benefit of Arab leaders. Her remarks were morally weak and untethered from reality.

    Perhaps you would prefer less measured language about Harris's performance. Patterico's guest poster JVW has you covered: Mindless Bimbo Hectors Tiny Nation Besieged by Bloodthirsty Enemies.

    Vacuous Vice-President Kamala Harris showed up at a rostrum in Dubai yesterday on Saturday and embarrassed our nation and herself in much the same way that another fellow sugar baby did at the United Nations in the waning days of the Obama Administration. Visiting the repressive, authoritarian United Arab Emirates ostensibly for one of those climate change confabs where everyone furrows their brows at the risks posed by mowing your lawn or eating a hamburger, the Biden Administration’s number two officer (whose senile boss consistently confuses her for the head honcho) followed up Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s shameful dismissal of Israel’s resolve to eradicate Hamas by unleashing her toxic brew of frivolousness and cluelessness […]

    Our "advice" to Israel on defending itself against barbarism should be along the lines of: "Go for it. Let us know if we can help."

  • We have to protect our phony baloney jobs here, gentlemen. Last month I reported on a book by hil Gramm, Robert Ekelund, and John Early: The Myth of American Inequality. Today, Gramm and Early take to the WSJ opinion page to update one of the theses of that book: the Census Bureau has found Another Wrong Way to Measure Poverty.

    The credibility of the Census Bureau’s official measure of poverty didn’t survive the pandemic. Though government payments for social benefits rose by $1.5 trillion, or 47%, between 2019 and 2021, they didn’t dent the official poverty rate. The rate rose to 11.6% from 10.5%. President Biden claimed that the pandemic increase in the refundable child tax credit would cut child poverty in half, but the subsequent official census rate rose from 14.4% to 15.3%. These results were predictable because the official poverty measure fails to count 88 social benefits that low-income Americans receive from the government as part of their income, including almost all of the pandemic benefits.

    With the official poverty measure discredited, the Biden administration is pushing the experimental Supplemental Poverty Measure, which counts about half of the social benefit payments as income but redefines the income thresholds that determine who is counted as poor in a way that ensures the poverty threshold rises as median income rises. The official poverty measure has hardly changed for more than 50 years, even as social benefit payments to the average household in the bottom 20% of income earners have risen from $9,700 to $45,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars, because most of these payments simply aren’t counted as income to the recipients.

    Gramm and Early expose a different poverty problem: the poor state of "official poverty measures".

  • "<voice imitation="hal">I'm sorry, Dave Phil. I'm afraid I can't do that.</voice>." "A friend of a friend" of Philip Greenspun plays with AI: ChatGPT and the Art of Science. Specifically, he makes the following prompts:

    • "Make a poster with only white female scientists."
    • "Make a poster with only black male scientists."
    • "Poster of scientists."
    • Make a poster with only white male scientists."

    ChatGPT considers one of those things to be unacceptably unlike the others. Click over for the results, and additional examples.

I Propose My Usual Alternative Explanations

Tim Carney is inspired by President Wheezy's tweet:

Carney's commentary: Joe Biden really doesn’t understand how income taxes work (or he's full of it).

A few years back, all the liberal activists, half the news media, and the leaders of the Democratic Party all invented a new tax system that exists only in their minds. And then, for some reason, they all decided to act like it already existed.

The trick here is using the term “wealth gain” in a way that makes people think they are talking about “income.” But the category of “wealth gain” is far broader than the category of income.

Specifically, the imaginary proposal includes unrealized capital gains. Don't worry though! Only on billionaires! We hates them, don't we, Precious?

Carney points out that Biden's tweet implies “everyone else” is paying taxes on their "wealth gain". That's untrue, of course. He proposes two theories behind the tweet:

  1. Biden's "pure ignorance".
  2. His "rank dishonesty".

There are other possibilities, to which I've alluded before. First, let's allow for the strong probability that Biden doesn't actually write these tweets himself. I assume there's some team in some dark DC basement whose job it is to write, review, and approve these tweets. So let's toss in alternative explanations:

  1. The people who wrote/reviewed/approved this tweet are purely ignorant.
  2. The people who wrote/reviewed/approved this tweet exhibit rank dishonesty.

But finally, the most likely explanation:

  1. The people who wrote/reviewed/approved this tweet are (indeed) dishonest, and they think that they can hoodwink idiotic voters with this bullshit anyway.

… and, you know, they could be right about that.

Also of note:

  • Got my Reason for living. Katherine Mangu-Ward's lead editorial in the print edition is out from the paywall; the issue is themed to … well, not my favorite state, but it's definitely in the top ten: People Flock to Florida for the Freedom.

    Florida is a land of attainable possibilities. It's sunny, it's warm, there's a magic castle anyone can visit, there's no income tax, and there's enough beach for everyone. It lacks the pristine glamour of California or Hawaii, but it's cheaper and more accessible in nearly every sense. What it lacks in polish, it makes up for in unpredictability. It's a paved paradise—with plenty of parking lots.

    As a child, I was shipped off to Jacksonville for a couple of weeks every summer to enjoy the kind of oversugared, under-structured time that happens when you're left in the care of out-of-practice grandparents. I'd stretch out on a patch of pinky-beige carpeting under the skylight in their house reading age-inappropriate Stephen King novels and waiting for the afternoon deluge, then head outside to watch the sun force steam up from the wet pavement. Sometimes we'd drive to see the Weeki Wachee mermaids.

    I have never seen the Weeki Wachee mermaids, but they are still an option.

    I regret that Reason has yet to do a special New Hampshire issue. But I realize that we're poor competition to Weeki Wachee mermaids.

  • Commies gotta commie, even in the Live Free or Die state. Suzy Weiss writes on a New Hamposhire's resident: He’s Got $250 Million to Spend on Communist Revolution.

    Nestled into the mountains of the Upper Valley in New Hampshire, up a semi-paved road in a house next to a tiny cemetery lined with white picket fencing, Fergie Chambers, 38, leans over his kitchen island, worrying over his commune.

    […]

    Fergie’s the General Secretary of the Berkshire Communists, which describes itself as a “revolutionary Marxist-Leninist collective, aiming to promote the formation of a powerful workers’ party.” But the urgent issue that late summer afternoon—before Hamas’s war against Israel; before Fergie called for “making people who support Israel actually afraid to go out in public”; before three of Fergie’s comrades were arrested on the roof of a weapons manufacturer in New Hampshire—was that 16 comrades were descending on Alford for a weekend retreat, and it’s been pouring rain. The canvas tents they pitched on the property are letting in water. A skylight in one of the six houses there is leaking. The punching bags in the barn-turned-gym are in the wrong place.

    It's an excellent profile of a slightly scary moral monster.

  • Hey, kids, what time is it? Megan McArdle suggests that it's time for Politicians in both parties need to face up to the national debt.

    Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and I disagree on any number of political questions, but I’ve never doubted his intelligence. So it was dispiriting to see him tweet last week that our national debt was caused by only four things: “1) Reagan’s tax cuts, 2) Bush’s tax cuts, 3) Trump’s tax cuts, and 4) Bush’s overseas wars.”

    “We don’t need a fiscal commission to study it,” he added. “Everyone knows Johnson’s fiscal commission will recommend cuts in Social Security & Medicare. Instead, we need to end the tax breaks for the ultrarich and make a moonshot investment in American industry.”

    Khanna’s assertions about the debt are simply not true, not even in the low, Washington sense of facially correct, yet wildly misleading. And I assume Khanna knows better.

    Yet it’s hard to bring myself to fault him too much, because at the moment everyone in Washington is playing the same damned game, a noxious hybrid of “let’s pretend” and “not it.” The budget hawks in the GOP have been effectively vanquished by the Trump faction, and the days when Democrats strove to claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility are long gone. Now, approximately no one is trying to contain budget deficits, which stand at almost 6 percent of GDP, or the resulting national debt, which is on course to equal basically the entire annual output of the U.S. economy. Instead, they’re looking to allocate blame, hoping to force the other party to bear the responsibility for fixing it.

    Add Khanna to the list of politicians who insult your intelligence, hoping you won't notice. For a more detailed refutation, see Dan Mitchell: Knowingly Flunking Budget Math.

  • Your periodic reminder that we actually have a First Amendment. It's from J.D. Tuccille: Even Hateful Protests Are Protected, Free Speech Group Reminds Congress.

    If you know the history of Israel, that the country was created after one-third of the world's Jewish population was murdered by Nazis (it has yet to fully recover), it's difficult to stomach protesters who often slip from supporting the Palestinian cause to gloating over Hamas's terrorism and the prospect of destroying the Jewish state. There's not a lot of good will in projecting "Glory to Our Martyrs" on buildings or chanting "from the river to the sea"—let alone explicit endorsements of the attack.

    But even assholes have speech rights. That's because all individuals have rights, however they use them, and because free expression only works if it's available to everybody, not reserved as privilege for the "right" ideas. And, importantly, respecting free speech lets people show us who they are.

    Unfortunately, political officials' natural distaste for dissent can combine with honest revulsion at despicable sentiments to produce a reaction that would violate the right to free expression.

    If I weren't so darn lazy, I'd send a copy of J.D.'s article to New Hampshire state Senator Jeb Bradley who thinks UNH physics prof Chanda Prescod-Weinstein "should be fired." Maybe also throw in a copy of the US Constitution.

Recently on the book blog:


Last Modified 2024-01-10 7:10 AM EST

The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Note to blog-readers: the Amazon paid link at your right reflects the used edition I bought back in 2018 for $5.98. (Cover price: $1.50.) As I type, the vendor is asking $16.99. The Kindle version is cheaper these days, but (according to one reviewer) it only includes the titular item.

Futher consumer note: the cover is, I guess, a lunar landscape, and all the stories are entirely earthbound.

My version has these stories:

· "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" — I fantasize that someone dared Heinlein to write a mash-up of H. P. Lovecraft and Dashiell Hammet's Thin Man. Mr. Hoag has no memory of what he does during the day, so he hires a husband-and-wife detective team to find out. They get more, much more, than they bargained for.

· "The Man Who Traveled in Elephants" — A traveling salesman, now widowed, soldiers on. Until…

· "—All You Zombies—" — One of the too-few Heinlein works that they (loosely) based a movie on. Given its time-travel premise, it's all too plausible. The story has a Wikipedia page that will explain things for you if necessary, but I strongly suggest you read the story first.

· "They" — A guy in a mental hospital discusses his paranoid delusions with his shrink. Spoiler: they ain't paranoid delusions. Didn't I see a Twilight Zone episode based on this?

· "Our Fair City" — Two words: sentient whirlwind.

· "'—And He Built a Crooked House—'" — An arrogant architect builds a tesseract-based house for his client and his high-strung wife. Unfortunately, an earthquake traps them in a multi-dimensional nightmare on the walk-through.

A very enjoyable short read. Next up on my reread-Heinlein project is Time for the Stars.


Last Modified 2024-01-09 9:05 AM EST

Derangement

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

It seems to be on the upswing. Headline example one, from the WaPo: Trump attempts to spin anti-democracy criticism against Biden. Reporting from Cedar Rapids, Iowa:

Republican polling leader Donald Trump moved to deflect from criminal charges that he tried to overturn the 2020 election and from his own pledges to take revenge on his opponents if he returns to the White House, seeking to parry warnings that he presents a danger to democracy.

His speech on Saturday was an effort to turn the tables on rising alarms from Democrats and some Republicans that Trump’s return to power would imperil free elections and civil liberties. As candidates ramp up appearances in Iowa ahead of the caucuses on Jan. 15, the former president, who refused to accept his 2020 election loss and inspired his supporters to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power, responded by comparing President Biden to a fascist tyrant, and the campaign distributed signs reading ‘BIDEN ATTACKS DEMOCRACY.’

The intrepid WaPo reporters knew who to contact in order to get the F-word out there:

The speech showed that Biden’s framing of the 2024 election as democracy versus authoritarianism is resonating with voters, according to Jennifer Mercieca, a historian of American political rhetoric at Texas A&M University. Trump’s strategy to “accuse the accuser” could confuse voters about the real threat and help reassure his own supporters, she said.

“Trump’s Iowa speech continues his use of fascist rhetoric: it’s us versus them, he tells his supporters, and ‘they’ are enemies who cheat,” she said. “Authoritarians have a lot of rhetorical tricks for explaining away anti-democratic actions as actually ‘democratic.’”

To be clear: I am no Trump fan. He's awful. But he has a point to make about Biden, and the WaPo reporters go out of their way to dismiss it as a fascist diversion.

Also of note:

  • But it's not just the WaPo. The NYT, ostensibly a different newspaper, makes the same headline dismissal: Trump’s Defense to Charge That He’s Anti-Democratic? Accuse Biden of It.

    Former President Donald J. Trump, who has been indicted by federal prosecutors for conspiracy to defraud the United States in connection with a plot to overturn the 2020 election, repeatedly claimed to supporters in Iowa on Saturday that it was President Biden who posed a severe threat to American democracy.

    While Mr. Trump shattered democratic norms throughout his presidency and has faced voter concerns that he would do so again in a second term, the former president in his speech repeatedly accused Mr. Biden of corrupting politics and waging a repressive “all-out war” on America.

    While the NYT reporter fails to dig up anyone who will call Trump a fascist, …

    Having said that he would use the Justice Department to “go after” the Biden family, on Saturday, he swore that he would “investigate every Marxist prosecutor in America for their illegal, racist-in-reverse enforcement of the law.”

    Mr. Trump has frequently decried the cases brought him against by Black prosecutors in New York and Atlanta as racist. (He does not apply that charge to the white special counsel in his two federal criminal cases, who he instead calls “deranged.”)

    Yet Mr. Trump himself has a history of racist statements.

    You don't have to consider seriously what Trump is saying because he once persisted in claiming Obama wasn't born in America.

    Via Ann Althouse, who observed: The NYT headline about Trump's Cedar Rapids speech is so close to WaPo's headline that I was afraid for a moment that I'd mistakenly attributed the NYT headline to WaPo... They are, indeed, singing from the same hymnal.

  • We said the F-word. We said the R-word. Now it's time for… Yes, the D-word. WaPo "Editor at large" Robert Kagan deploys it: A Trump dictatorship is increasingly inevitable. We should stop pretending.

    Let’s stop the wishful thinking and face the stark reality: There is a clear path to dictatorship in the United States, and it is getting shorter every day.

    Kagan's rhetoric is apocalyptic:

    But Trump will not only dominate his party. He will again become the central focus of everyone’s attention. Even today, the news media can scarcely resist following Trump’s every word and action. Once he secures the nomination, he will loom over the country like a colossus, his every word and gesture chronicled endlessly. Even today, the mainstream news media, including The Post and NBC News, is joining forces with Trump’s lawyers to seek televised coverage of his federal criminal trial in D.C. Trump intends to use the trial to boost his candidacy and discredit the American justice system as corrupt — and the media outlets, serving their own interests, will help him do it.

    "Like a colossus"! Welcome to Robert Kagan's nightmares.

    And yes, he goes there:

    In Weimar Germany, Hitler and other agitators benefited from the squabbling of the democratic parties, right and left, the endless fights over the budget, the logjams in the legislature, the fragile and fractious coalitions. German voters increasingly yearned for someone to cut through it all and get something — anything — done.

    He goes on, and on, describing the Trumpian Hellscape. And it's our own damned fault:

    We are closer to that point today than we have ever been, yet we continue to drift toward dictatorship, still hoping for some intervention that will allow us to escape the consequences of our collective cowardice, our complacent, willful ignorance and, above all, our lack of any deep commitment to liberal democracy. As the man said, we are going out not with a bang but a whimper.

    Viking Pundit notes that Kagan is essentially calling for Trump's assassination.

    At first I thought it was partisan bluster, then I was bemused by the overwrought fan fiction of a hypothetical tyranny, but then it dawned on me that Kagan was all but calling for Trump's assassination. The piece has references to Hitler (natch), Stalin, and Julius Caesar. Having established that Trump's return would be apocalyptic, Kagan makes a call to action
    Are we going to do anything about it? To shift metaphors, if we thought there was a 50 percent chance of an asteroid crashing into North America a year from now, would we be content to hope that it wouldn’t? Or would we be taking every conceivable measure to try to stop it, including many things that might not work but that, given the magnitude of the crisis, must be tried anyway?

    I'm old enough to remember when JFK was assassinated, respectable commentators ignored the fact that the killer was a dedicated Communist, instead preferring to point to the right-wing atmosphere of Dallas. If, God forbid, some crank does pull the trigger on Trump, I'm sure Kagan will be saying “That is not what I meant at all; That is not it, at all.”

Recently on the book blog:


Last Modified 2024-01-10 7:10 AM EST

Dark Music

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

This book made Tom Nolan's list in the WSJ of the The Best Mystery Books of 2022. The author, David Lagercrantz, is known for his continuation of Stieg Larsson’s "The Girl Who…" novels.

As sometimes happens, I was not as impressed as Nolan was. In fact, my initial impression from wading through the first couple dozen pages was similar to watching a poorly-dubbed Japanese monster movie. It's translated from the original Swedish, so maybe that could explain at least part of it: an over-literal translation of Swedish idioms? Anyway, it eventually got easier, either because I got adjusted to the style, or the translation got better. I don't know.

There are apparently conscious parallels to the Holmes/Watson stories. In this case, "Holmes" is Hans Rekke, a reclusive ex-professor with psychological and substance abuse issues. "Watson" is a Swedish cop, Micaela Vargas, daughter of Chilean refugees who apparently ran afoul of the Pinochet regime. She has two criminal brothers, and chafes under police bureaucracy.

The case in question is the murder of a soccer referee after a match. The obvious suspect is a livid parent upset at a call that went against his kid. In fact, the cops view it as such an open-and-shut case, the only issue is how to get that parent to confess. Vargas has doubts, but the investigative team goes to Rekke for advice on how best to get a confession; instead, Rekke claims that it's pretty clear the guy is innocent, drawing the contempt of all the cops except Vargas.

But of course Rekke's right. Vargas, after saving him from an apparent suicide attempt (!) tries to enlist him in futher investigation, but she's shortly dismissed from the case herself. It seems there's political pressure involved. The victim was an Afghan refugee with an iffy past involving some nasty American torture at Abu Ghraib.

I think Holmes and Watson could have solved this case in about a couple dozen pages. But Rekke and Vargas have to deal with the previously mentioned problems too. (Is it my fault I didn't find that particularly interesting?)


Last Modified 2024-01-09 9:03 AM EST

The Big Bang of Numbers

How to Build the Universe Using Only Math

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Not exactly what I expected.

I keep hearing that some scientists theorize that the universe we know and love is entirely a creation of pure mathematics. (There is, of course, a Wikipedia page about that.) Can I be excused for seeing this title in the library, and thinking that the book might be a dilettante-level explication of that interesting speculation?

Well, it's really not. The author, Manil Suri, likes math. (So do I.) And he tries to build up math from its foundations: first, the natural numbers, then integers, rational numbers, real numbers, and complex numbers. Then, using the visuals developed: geometry, analytic geometry, higher dimensions, the golden ratio, fractals, infinities, … Finally, "nature" is brought into the picture. He does a pretty good job of arguing for inverse-square behavior of simple gravity and electric fields.

Gripe: Poor Emmy Noether is relegated to a short endnote in the back of the book. She really did show how the big three physics conservation laws (momentum, energy, angular momentum) can be developed using (uh, relatively) simple arguments from symmetry. That's beautiful. It would have been a better book if she got a few pages in the main text, because that's the kind of thing I assumed Suri would have been talking about!

All this is tied together with an offbeat style that ranges from whimsical to daffy. A running gag involves Suri's NYT 2013 article, "How to Fall in Love With Math" which was denied the top spot on some NYT ten-most-discussed list by one of Pope Francis's pronouncements on homosexuality. So Suri promises/threatens to send Francis a copy of the book, and references what he imagines his reaction would be throughout. Sigh, fine.

This might be an OK book to give to a smart middle-schooler who is showing signs of being interested in math and science. (Or you can try One, Two, Three, … Infinity, by George Gamow, which is what got me started.


Last Modified 2024-01-09 9:02 AM EST

Sadly, It May Not Be a Good Year for "Patient and Practical"

Seen on Twitter: [crickets are delicious]

Where can I buy?

It's Sunday, so let's look at what the oddsmakers are saying:

Candidate EBO Win
Probability
Change
Since
11/26
Donald Trump 38.4% -0.1%
Joe Biden 32.3% +4.2%
Nikki Haley 8.6% +1.2%
Gavin Newsom 6.0% -3.9%
Robert Kennedy Jr 3.2% -0.5%
Michelle Obama 2.6% -0.6%
Other 8.9% +2.0%

Whoa. Notice who's missing? Ron DeSantis! He's dropped below our 2% criterion for inclusion. Below Gavin Newsom and Michelle Obama, who aren't even running.

Not yet, anyway.

George Will plugs our girl, who's now in third place in the bettor's hearts and pocketbooks: Nikki Haley, patient and practical, awaits her moment.

Delicacy is rare in the mass-mobilization politics of democracy, where candidates prefer bold brushstrokes of primary colors rather than pastels. But while the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination is a fountain of colorful rhetoric, Nikki Haley’s ascending candidacy is using tactical reticence to reach the right moment for becoming the last challenger standing against Donald Trump.

Critics in, as it were, the bleachers, fault Haley for not focusing her campaign against the former president. What these critics have in common is that they do not have what she has: responsibility. She is competing in the game. They do not have the challenge of prudence — of applying personal preferences and principles to untidy realities. This task falls to the few who are in the arena where great power is at stake.

Critics of Haley’s judiciously modulated nomination campaign can haughtily disdain compromises and maneuverings. These critics can concentrate on curating their pretty political profiles. They have the luxury of ignoring stubborn facts while proclaiming the importance of stopping Trump. Haley, however, must attend to the practical politics of doing that, which begins by accommodating this fact:

Americans gave Trump 62,984,828 votes in 2016 and, after watching him govern for four years, 74,223,975 of them asked for four more years. Many voted for him not as a complaint about the nation’s distribution of material rewards but to protest a more searing deprivation: of dignity. The large and widening “diploma divide” between the roughly one-third of Americans who acquire the (often foolish) prestige that comes with a four-year college degree, and the nearly two-thirds who do not.

Interesting points about campaign strategery. How to criticize Trump without insulting the people who like him?

Also of note:

  • Worst Poltergeist sequel idea. Robert Graboyes says The Jew-Movers Are Back.

    Sages of social media and swarms in the streets tell us, “It’s time to move those Jews again.” “From the river to the sea,” they inform us, “Palestine will be free.” Free of Jews, that is. Or, some Germans once put it, “Judenrein.”

    Following Hamas’s livestreamed orgy of murder, torture, rape, beheading, kidnapping, and necrophilia, and before Israel had reacted in any way, celebrants took to Western streets and campuses to condemn Israel, not Hamas, and to chant their ambiguous little rhyme, which has three plausible interpretations: (1) extermination, (2) coexistence in a binational state, and (3) expulsion and exile. Hamas has always made crystal-clear that their ambition is option (1)—the murder of every Jew on earth. Rep. Rashida Tlaib chose option (2), saying the phrase “is an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate;” but she proffered that definition while dodging censure and repeatedly spreading Hamas’s murderous lie that Israel had killed 500 by bombing a hospital.

    So, let’s explore interpretation (3)—expulsion and exile. We’ll examine a whole array of questions: How long have Jew-Movers been forcibly relocating Jews? How did European and Arab governments force Jews to move to what is now Israel? What would happen if Israel’s Jews suddenly left Israel en masse? Where do Jew-Movers insist they go?

    Graboyes looks at the long history, often gory, of Jewish persecutions and forced exile from various countries. A useful, if painful, history.


Last Modified 2024-01-16 5:24 AM EST

I Assume Remy Couldn't Figure Out How To Rhyme "New Hampshire"

So instead he says he's Moving to South Dakota.

But don't get lost on the way here, freedom-lovers, because (as Mitchell Scacchi points out): While freedom flourishes in New Hampshire, the rest of New England is a different story. After reviewing the latest scores from Cato's Freedom in the 50 States 2023 and the Fraser Institute's Economic Freedom of North America 2023, here's the bottom line:

While the rest of New England champions increased government spending for social programs and public welfare, higher tax rates, more regulation, and top-down control over education and the economy, they get in return lower levels of economic opportunity, growth, and prosperity than New Hampshire does.

Also of note:

  • Sounds like clickbait! Jess Gill takes a contrarian look at This TikTok Video Shows How the Right Is Scaring Young People Away from Capitalism. And I think this is my first effort to embed a TikTok video, let's see if it works:

    @brielleybelly123

    im also getting sick leave me alone im emotional ok i feel 12 and im scared of not having time to live

    ♬ original sound - BRIELLE

    To be fair: she's annoying, practically begging for comments like: geez, lady, don't spend so much time installing your eye makeup!

    Ms. Gill:

    As with all generations, zoomers face disadvantages. One of the biggest challenges young people face today is finding an affordable place to live. It’s hard enough for many young people to afford rent, let alone save up for a mortgage. As the Tiktoker describes in the video, she’s unable to afford to live close to her workplace.

    The housing crisis has a big role to play in this. Due to red tape and planning regulations, the supply of housing is severely limited. This is especially true in cities, where the demand greatly outweighs the supply.

    Anyhow, the theory is that by not taking Brielle's problems seriously, non-sympathetic boomers are driving her toward socialism.

    Which won't fix her problems either, but by the time she figures that out, it will be too late, we'll all be Zooming down the Road to Serfdom.


Last Modified 2023-12-02 1:13 PM EST

At the Top of Uncle Stupid's Executive Branch

I especially like the "Readers added context" feature. Here's my "added context": Joe Biden is an idiot.

Or perhaps even more accurately: Whoever writes these tweets for him is an idiot.

Or perhaps still more accurately: The people who write and (undoubtedly) review and approve these tweets are idiots.

But my final take: the people who write, review, and approve these tweets think you are an idiot.

And they could have a point there, I suppose. He got a lot of votes, after all.

Also of note:

  • Not the first time I spoke too soon. And it probably won't be the last. Just a couple days ago, I wrote that the fuss over Hamas cheerleading at the University Near Here seemed to have died down. But NHJournal reports on yesterday's outbreak: More Anti-Israel Chants of 'From the River to the Sea' on UNH Campus.

    Just hours after New Hampshire’s attorney general announced an expansion of his office’s Civil Rights Unit in response to an increase in antisemitism, anti-Israel protesters gathered on the UNH campus to repeat the chant, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

    The phrase is viewed as an antisemitic call for the destruction of Israel by the Anti-Defamation League and many members of New Hampshire’s Jewish community.

    No foolin'. Here's the poster used to advertise the event:

    [Advocating a new Holocaust]

    Note the map of river-to-sea "Palestine". Appropriately in red. Governor Sununu has called the rhetoric "nothing short of requesting another Holocaust.” And he's right.

  • Well, at least we're not Brown. Zach Kessel notes the doin's down in Providence: Brown University President Omits Reference to Jewish Students after Heckling from Pro-Palestinian Activists. Christina Paxson addressed a vigil in support of Brown student Hisham Awartani, who was wounded in a Vermont shooting:

    “We can’t disentangle what happened to Hisham from the broader events in Israel and Palestine that sadly we’ve been dealing with for decades,” Paxson said before being confronted by demonstrators. “Sadly, we can’t control what happens across the world and country. We are powerless to do everything we’d like to do.”

    The next line in the version of the speech Brown published on its website was the following: “At a faculty meeting last month, I said that ‘Every student, faculty and staff member should be able to proudly wear a Star of David or don a keffiyeh on the Brown campus, or to cover their head with a hijab or yarmulke.'”

    However, when Paxson gave the address, and after pro-Palestinian protesters began heckling her, that line changed to “every student, faculty and staff member should be able to proudly don a keffiyeh on the Brown campus, or to cover their head with a hijab,” with no mention of a Star of David or yarmulke.

    Maybe decent Brown alumni—there must be some—should think about diverting their donations to organizations that have some administrative backbone.

  • Given the previous items… John O. McGinnis's article should be on the reading list of every college administrator and trustee: Addressing the Rot in Our Universities.

    The naïve might wonder why universities need to set up special task forces on antisemitism, when they all have established Offices of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, supposedly dedicated to protecting minorities. Do these offices not have ample personnel to take on new issues of the moment? The answer is that most DEI offices cannot be trusted to focus on antisemitism, particularly when it is connected in any way to Israel.

    Many DEI offices prioritize a particular ideology—that of intersectionality—which analyzes how various identities contribute to the construction of the oppressed and oppressor. Through that prism, Jews do not fit into the oppressed class, but rather are placed in the oppressor class of privilege. Indeed, Jews are seen (correctly) as one of the groups that built Western Civilization. And from the identitarian perspective, Western Civilization is at best complicit in the harms that have been visited on various groups—women, Blacks, and gays, among others.

    That an event in Israel furnishes the context for the rise of antisemitism makes it that much harder for DEI offices to become the locus of a response. Part of the DEI outlook is anti-colonialist, and Israel is seen by the left as a colonial power with the Jews taking the lands of the Palestinians.

    Step one:

    Thus, the inability of these offices to address antisemitism should prompt a renewed effort to end their role in college life. Indeed, any trustee who has been appalled by the reaction to the Hamas massacres should take a cue from Roman history. Just as the elder Cato ended every speech with the conclusion that Carthage must be destroyed to safeguard the republic, so should the trustee end every speech with the conclusion that DEI must be administratively dissolved to safeguard the modern university.

    Again, looking at the University Near Here: you can get a hint of the massive (and expensive) DEI sub-bureaucracy on UNH's Diversity, Equity, Access & Inclusion page.

    They got your "Aulbani J. Beauregard Center for Equity, Justice, and Freedom".

    They got your "Civil Rights & Equity Office".

    They got your "Office of Community, Equity & Diversity"

    To be fair, one of those (but only one) is responsible for making sure UNH is adhering to civil rights laws and other regulations. The other two could go away tomorrow and nobody would notice.

  • Inescapable conundrums are the best conundrums. Finally, a non-university item. Jeff Jacoby writes on The inescapable conundrum of anonymous speech. Spurred by Nikki Haley's recent demand (and eventual back-down) of anonymity bans on social media sites:

    To a nation that cherishes and upholds free speech, anonymity poses an insoluble conundrum. The harms it makes possible are all too real. From behind the mask of a pseudonym (or no name at all), bad actors are emboldened to spew hatred and abuse, to disseminate lies and disinformation, to whip up bigotry against minorities and incite animosity against those they resent. People lacking the courage to identify themselves will spread ugly rumors, trash reputations, and promote conspiracy theories surreptitiously. And while that has always been the case, the digital revolution has compounded it by orders of magnitude. The nastiness of social media, the vitriol of online comment sections, the viciousness of trolls — they are familiar to just about anyone with a computer and an internet connection.

    But if anonymity can be toxic, it can also be invaluable. It can shield dissidents, reformers, or truth-tellers from the retaliation of the powerful. It allows thoughtful individuals to candidly express views on contentious issues without worrying that their words will maliciously be used to cancel them. It helps counteract the chilling effect caused by our culture's merciless thought police, who have deemed certain opinions unsayable and persecute anyone who deviates.

    But if anonymity can be toxic, it can also be invaluable. It can shield dissidents, reformers, or truth-tellers from the retaliation of the powerful. It allows thoughtful individuals to candidly express views on contentious issues without worrying that their words will maliciously be used to cancel them. It helps counteract the chilling effect caused by our culture's merciless thought police, who have deemed certain opinions unsayable and persecute anyone who deviates.

    After a few dabbles with semi-anonymity on BIX and Usenet decades ago, I made the personal decision to be non-anonymous. I get the arguments that might lead people the other way, though.


Last Modified 2024-01-16 5:24 AM EST