I want one of those hats. [As pictured. Hope the WSJ doesn't sue.]
Tunku Varadarajan interviews Nadine Strossen, who thinks the US should Make Freedom of Speech Liberal Again. Specifically:
Old-fashioned liberalism doesn’t get much respect these days, and Nadine Strossen illustrates the point by pulling out a hat. “I have to show you this gift that somebody gave me, which is such a hoot,” she says, producing a red baseball cap that bears the slogan MAKE J.S. MILL GREAT AGAIN. “Which looks like a MAGA cap,” she adds, as if to help me narrate the scene.
As she dons it, I observe that if she walked around town in her bright-blue home state, angry onlookers would think it was a MAGA hat. “And,” she continues, “I can’t tell you how many educated friends of mine have said, ‘Who is J.S. Mill?’ So we really do have to make him great again.”
Ms. Strossen, 71, has made a career as a legal and scholarly defender of classical liberal ideals, most notably as president of the American Civil Liberties Union from 1991 through 2008. She brings up John Stuart Mill (1806-73), the British philosopher and parliamentarian, by way of citing his view, as she puts it, “that everything should be subject to re-examination,” including “our most cherished ideas.” For her, that means “I continue to re-examine my longstanding belief about the mutually reinforcing relationship between free speech and equality, and I continue to be completely convinced that these are two mutually reinforcing values.”
Just a note for you Amazonian entrepreneurs: if you produce that cap in a size 8 for my melon head, you might have a customer. Can it make any 71-year-old look as good as Ms. Strossen?
Hey, wait a minute, I'm a well-off American! So why am I so enraged by this Peter Suderman article? Biden's Giveaways Largely Benefit Well-Off Americans.
During his campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, Joe Biden repeatedly insisted that his primary goal as president would be to help the struggling American middle class. "Ordinary middle-class Americans built America," he declared during a June 2019 Democratic primary debate. Under President Donald Trump's policies, he said, "too many people who are in the middle class and who are poor have the bottom fall out."
In defining the "middle class" and the "poor," a good place to start is the median household income. In 2020, the year before Biden became president, the U.S. median was about $67,000, down from about $69,000 the previous year. The poor presumably make less than that, and people in the "middle" class, particularly those who feel the economic bottom falling out beneath them, presumably don't make much more.
As president, Biden's attention has often been elsewhere. Under Biden, Democrats consistently have focused their energies on policies designed to benefit households with stable employment and six-figure annual incomes—not the super rich, but the affluent upper-middle class.
I appreciate Suderman's diplomatic phrasing of "Biden's attention has often been elsewhere," implying that the concept of "Biden's attention" refers to an actually-existing thing.
The more you tighten your grip, Senator Manchin, the more prosperity will slip through your fingers. David Harsanyi is pretty tired of a perennial bit of political rhetoric: It's Not a Loophole Just Because Democrats Don't Like It.
While peddling the ludicrously named Inflation Reduction Act on CNN this past week, Sen. Joe Manchin claimed that Democrats were merely trying to “close the loopholes and collect the taxes that are owed to the Treasury and the United States people.”
In Washington, a “loophole” is a euphemism for a perfectly legal policy that Democrats have decided they want to regulate or tax. The word “loophole” suggests that some ambiguous wording or omissions in the text of a bill have allowed people to exploit the law. Few of the Democrats’ “loopholes” meet this definition. Indeed, in most cases, the “loopholes” they’re talking about were deliberately written to exist in their present form.
Take the “carried-interest loophole,” which intentionally functions in tax code as a means of incentivizing investment, risk, and “sweat equity”—ownership stakes generated through work rather than just capital investment.
Manchin, D-W.Va., might be looking for ways to raise “revenue” so he can tell constituents his bill won’t add to the deficit. And those who subscribe to zero-sum populist economics might want to punish private equity and redistribute wealth (though the American Investment Council says more than 74% of private equity investment went to small businesses in 2021).
The latest news stories indicate that the "carried interest loophole" remains in the passed version of the so-called "Inflation Reduction Act". The WSJ editorialists are cynical: "This is the old Washington political game of threatening an industry with policy harm, extorting it for campaign cash, then failing to impose the harm. The threat lingers into the next campaign season, the industry keeps paying protection money and the cycle repeats."
[Yes, that's a slightly altered classic quote in the headline. I miss Carrie Fisher!]
Of course there is. David French maintains There Is a Secular Case for Life. Although it's convenient for baby-killers to maintain that opposition to abortion is based solely on woo-woo superstition. And he quotes the atheist Nat Hentoff:
Once the sperm and the egg meet, and they find a sort of nesting place in the uterus, you now have a developing human being. It’s not a kangaroo. It’s not a giraffe. It’s a human being. And that development in the womb until the person comes out is a continuing process. Therefore, if you kill it at any stage–first three weeks, first three months—you’re killing a developing human being.
Yes. I left a comment pointing to Kevin D. Williamson's article from last December making the same point slightly more tersely: "What we believe is that you don’t kill children who haven’t been born for the same reason you don’t kill children who have been born."
Something to show anyone who understands graphs. Speaking of Kevin D. Williamson, he brings up some bad news to go with that rosy jobs report from last week: Inflation Causing Real Wage Decline.[…] Americans’ real incomes (“real” is econo-speak for “adjusted for inflation”) have been declining significantly for some time.
Here's the embedded graph he references from the St. Louis Fed:
I'd say it's declining "alarmingly" instead of "significantly", but that's me.
Your Eye Candy du Jour… is from Reason video. Grammarly: Government Edition:
I want it.
At Cato, Chris Edwards takes a look at the "Inflation Reduction Act". (And didn't that get named by Grammarly: Government Edition?)
Inflation stems from too much money chasing too few goods. U.S. consumer inflation is running at 9 percent as too much government‐spawned money creation is coinciding with restrictions on the supply side of the economy.
The “Inflation Reduction Act” in front of the Senate is supposed to address inflation by reducing budget deficits with a combination of tax hikes and green subsidies. But despite its name, the Senate bill would not reduce inflation because it would damage the supply side and hardly affect deficits.
The budget modelers at Penn‐Wharton estimate that the Senate bill would reduce the deficit by $86 billion in 2031, at most. That would be just 4 percent of the projected deficit that year and just 0.2 percent of U.S. GDP. So the bill’s impact on inflation through reducing deficits and demand would be close to zero.
I can only imagine what variants of the "Cornhusker Kickback" were offered to Senators Manchin and Sinema to garner their support.
More from Mr. Edwards. Chris looks askance at the IRS Funding Hypocrisy contained in the bill.
The Senate’s Inflation Reduction Act includes an $80 billion increase in the Internal Revenue Service budget over a decade, which would roughly double the agency’s budget by 2031.
It’s nearly impossible for taxpayers to contact the IRS for timely answers to filing questions, but the Senate bill devotes just $3.2 billion of the new spending to “taxpayer services.” The lion’s share—$46 billion—goes toward jacking up IRS enforcement. The thrust of the bill is against the people, not for the people to understand the code and voluntarily comply.
Senators supporting the bill talk about “tax cheats” and “closing tax loopholes.” But this is a huge hypocrisy. The Senate bill itself creates new loopholes and tax breaks, and complicated breaks drive noncompliance with the tax system. The Senate bill would expand a slew of special‐interest credits and other breaks within a $370 billion orgy of green subsidies and corporate welfare.
He also provides this handy flow chart:
If you ain't disgusted, you ain't payin' attention, son.
Surprise: letting violent people avoid jail causes crime to increase. Hans Bader wrote a letter to the WSJ rebutting George Soros's op-ed titled ". It was heavily cut down, but he provides the whole darn thing at Liberty Unyielding. Sample:
In homicide crimes, “the offending rates for blacks were more than 7 times higher than the rates for whites” between 1976 and 2005, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. Due to this higher black crime rate, it is only natural that blacks will be incarcerated at a higher rate than whites.
Soros writes that “We need to acknowledge that black people in the U.S. are five times as likely to be sent to jail as white people. That is an injustice that undermines our democracy.”
But reducing black incarceration rates to the white rate would require releasing vast numbers of dangerous black criminals, most of whom preyed on other black people. That would harm innocent black people most. That’s because crime victims are overwhelmingly of the same race as their attacker. As the Bureau of Justice Statistics has explained, crimes are committed mostly between members of the same race, and that is true for “all types of violent crime except robbery.”
- New Orleans apparently has nailed down the title for highest murder rate among US cities for the first half of 2022; second-place Baltimore is way behind.
- But! NOLA's
July homicide count
was down 55% compared to July 2021. Only 17 corpses!
How did that happen?
[NOPD Supt. Shaun Ferguson] gives credit to the criminal justice system for doing a better job of keeping suspects in jail once they’re arrested.
But here's your Sunday Ray of Sunshine: Jim Treacher is one of the few substacks to which I subscribe. His response to this NYT tweet is pretty good.
Thousands of migrants have been arriving in Washington, D.C., on buses sent by the governors of Texas and Arizona. With nonprofits and volunteer groups overwhelmed, many have ended up in homeless shelters and on the streets. https://t.co/AN2iRCje1M— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 4, 2022
“GOP Governors Cause Havoc by Busing Migrants to East Coast.” Weird, huh? I thought the NYT wanted those poor downtrodden victims here. Now they’re blaming Republicans for helping these migrants make a life in their new home?
So much for “sanctuary cities.”
Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free… Just not, y’know, here.
As Einstein did not say: "Insanity Is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results". That didn't occur to me in time to compose my Snarky Tweet du Jour, in response to New Hampshire's senior senator, so I went with this instead:
When are you going to admit that what you're doing ain't working?— Paul Sand (@punsalad) August 5, 2022
I mean, seriously. You've been driving down the wrong road for years, every indication is that you're totally lost, and your only response is "let's keep going."
Giving Chanda Prescod-Weinstein some competition. The Newsroom page of the University Near Here has a "UNH in the News" box that (as near as I can tell) mindlessly throws up headlines of stories that some searchbot has found mentioning the school.
That occasionally gives some (um) interesting results. Like this recent headline from (I am not making this up) the World Socialist Web Site, run by the remaining fourteen Trotskyites on Earth: Top Trump officials at Department of Defense erased text messages following January 6 coup.
On Tuesday, CNN reported that top officials at the Department of Defense (DoD) and the US Army “wiped” text messages on their government issued phones following requests from Congressional committees and oversight groups to preserve records following Donald Trump’s failed coup on January 6, 2021.
So (arguably) they tried the strategy that worked for Hillary back in 2016. What's the UNH connection? Ah, here 'tis:
Seth Abramson, author of the Proof Substack blog, a lawyer, criminal investigator, Newsweek columnist and professor of journalism at the University of New Hampshire, tweeted on August 2 that the deletion of “critical evidence… continues to look like—at DHS, the Secret Service, and DoD—the biggest cover-up in American History.”
I have no idea how one measures bigness when looking at cover-ups, but I'm willing to claim that Professor Abramson provides the greatest example of hyperbole in the history of the entire world.
The bottom line from the WSWS casts a plague on everyone's house:
That the heads of these agencies were involved in Trump’s conspiracy underscores the advanced breakdown of American democracy, which has not lessened with the election of President Joe Biden and Democratic control of both houses of Congress.
The opposite is the case. The Democrats are overseeing a massive coverup and allowing Trump, the fascistic Republican Party and their allies in the military, police and intelligence apparatus, allied with far-right paramilitary groups, to advance their conspiracy to overthrow the Constitution and impose a brutal dictatorship.
Me neither. Freddie de Boer thinks he's been mischaracterized: It's Funny, I Don't Feel Fragile.
I’m supposed to feel fragile. I’m supposed to be beset with fears of feeling replaced and angered over a relative loss of social standing, at least as determined by my race and gender. After all, #MasculinitySoFragile, or so social media says, and America’s bestselling race expert Robin DiAngelo wrote a whole book about how white people are fragile. The racial upheaval of recent years and my relative loss of white privilege as people of color ascend are supposed to confuse and scare me. I’m supposed to feel that my grasp on manliness is slipping away as women make continued advances in the workplace, in political office, and in our education system. Masculinity is in crisis! Books say so. TV shows say so. Movies say so. Music says so. Documentaries say so. And white people are supposedly terrified of living in an increasingly-brown United States. (Whiteness’s value, to put it in actuarial terms, is depreciating.) So you’d expect me to feel the fragility I’m so often told I should feel.
But I don’t feel fragile. I mostly bumble along with my usual clueless cheeriness. Honestly, it never would even really occur to me to think in those terms, as an avatar of white maleness. When people talk about white male fragility explicitly and force me to think about it, the concept seems quite foreign to my lived experience. I know - that’s just what someone who’s fragile would say! Well, I can only tell you the truth, which is that I don’t feel as if my place in the world is threatened. I don’t feel like my privileges, in the more tangible and individual sense or the airier ideological sense, are in danger of slipping away. And both the constant insistence that I should feel fragile and the overstated consequences of those feelings reflect a 21st-century political environment in which vibes rule, to the detriment of change.
The remainder of the post is for paid subscribers, but just those paragraphs might get you to throw him some well-deserved shekels.
Best wishes. Nellie Bowles, as-I-type Bari Weiss's very pregnant wife, writes the weekly TGIF column for Common Sense. A lot of different topics, but this caught my eye:
→ Funny how that famous terrorist was just hanging out in Afghanistan: 9/11 key plotter and Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri was finally killed, 20 years after the Twin Towers came down. The big “surprise” here is that he was found in Afghanistan, where it seems the old gang is getting back together. It’s so crazy because I read a Taliban leader’s lovely essay in The New York Times—What We, the Taliban, Want—and there he told me they only want peace and harmony, so it was great for us to help them flourish again. The author promised us in the essay: “I am confident that, liberated from foreign domination and interference, we together will find a way to build an Islamic system in which all Afghans have equal rights, where the rights of women that are granted by Islam — from the right to education to the right to work.” Now it’s all women banned from schools and old 9/11 terrorists back having house parties. We at TGIF can’t believe the Taliban lied.
Just a reminder in these troubled times. Michael D. Farren cries out from the wilderness: Industrial Policy Stifles Progress.
The once-beleaguered CHIPS Act has finally passed and will soon receive President Joe Biden's enthusiastic signature. The big ticket item in that legislation is $52 billion worth of subsidies for computer chip manufacturers, but once the bill's passage looked inevitable, it was stuffed full of additional spending. The CHIPS and Science Act's cost has now ballooned to $280 billion. And emboldened Democrats have already moved on to another spending spree with the Inflation Reduction Act, a slimmed-down version of Biden's "build back better" initiative.
Both bills reflect a cross-party shift toward embracing industrial policy—the idea that the government should jump into the economy with both feet and have fun getting wet. Facetiousness aside, the neoliberal era from the late 1970s through the 1990s—when economic thinking carried more political sway and resulted in massive deregulation of airlines, railroads, and interstate trucking and the privatization of the internet—is far behind us.
As Adam Smith observed, there's a lot of ruin in a nation. But there's only a finite amount.
To accompany our Eye Candy du Jour… Harvard Econ Prof Mankiw quotes the Congressional Budget Office on The Inflation Impact of the Inflation Reduction Act.
In calendar year 2022, enacting the bill would have a negligible effect on inflation, in CBO’s assessment. In calendar year 2023, inflation would probably be between 0.1 percentage point lower and 0.1 percentage point higher under the bill than it would be under current law.
Some of those words might be too long for our CongressCritters to understand; I hope they'll contact someone who can help with that.
I'm sure than Republicans have their sock-puppet economists too, but… David Harsanyi names and shames: These 'Economists Say' Whatever Democrats Want Them To Say.
“Top economists say Democrats’ health care and climate package will put ‘downward pressure on inflation,’” CNN informs us. And really, who are you, a mere mortal, to question the decrees of top economists?
This kind of appeal to authority was popularized during the Obama years, when the then-president would say nonsensical things like, “Every economist from the left and the right has said, because of the Recovery Act, what we’ve started to see is at least a couple of million jobs that have either been created or would have been lost.” (Irritated italics mine.)
Hundreds of economists, three of them Nobel laureates — James Buchanan, Edward Prescott, and Vernon Smith — disagreed with Obama’s assessment of the stimulus. They were largely ignored by the media, just as economists who now maintain that the “Inflation Reduction Act” will do nothing for inflation or, more likely, worsen the problem will be today.
I clicked through to the CNN report which provided a link to the letter sent by those "top economists". I looked for signers from the University Near Here, and… whew, there's nobody.
- Democrats couldn't find anyone at UNH to sign on to this ludicrous letter.
- Or maybe they didn't ask.
- Because UNH has nobody who could be called a "top economist" with a straight face.
Feel free to come up with your own explanations.
By the way, Harsanyi's "nonsensical" second link is to a transcript of Obama's 2010 Groundhog Day visit to Nashua, New Hampshire. Even at the time, people (including this blogger) were posting images of Democrat's promises for their "recovery act":
And comparing them with reality:
Hey, I could be wrong! Maybe this time, Democrats will be right about their policy predictions!
Or maybe I'll just play the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" at high volume for the 12,527th time.
"Is that a good sign?" "It does the job!" Kevin D. Williamson is getting a tad irritated at Signs of the Times.
Ilive in one of those neighborhoods where every third house has a political sign of some kind in the yard: Lots of “Beto for Texas” signs advertising the sacrificial victim feckless Democrats are going to offer up to the maw of the Texas GOP machine this time around, scads and oodles of those prim, imbecilic “In This House” signs, that kind of thing. One of my neighbors kept up a big banner reading “Stop Killing Black People” for more than a year, but has now taken it down, so I guess that killing black people doesn’t matter three blocks over anymore, or maybe they got bored and wanted a change of scenery. They have added some nice planters.
I hate them all, of course — all the signs, I mean, not the neighbors.
Partly I hate them because they are such effective advertisements for the ignorance of the general electorate. One neighbor has a very large sign in her yard that demands we “say ‘no’ to demagogues” and blames our political troubles on “donors and special-interest lobbyists” — i.e., the sign criticizes demagoguery and then engages in the classic, textbook technique of American demagoguery, insisting that covert moneyed interests rather than genuine good-faith disagreements about values and priorities are behind our differences. You see that with demagogues targeting the National Rifle Association all the time: claims that So-and-So voted in favor of the Second Amendment because he got money from the NRA. The NRA is, in fact, a trivial player in the world of political money (946th in donations, 268th in lobbying outlays, 275th in outside spending), and the power it has it has because it represents a position that millions of Americans strongly endorse — not the tiny-but-loudmouthed share of Americans on Twitter, but Americans who vote. I am sure my neighbor’s heart is in the right place, but she is the kind of mark who makes demagoguery so effective and profitable.
KDW's bottom line: "the truth about those signs advertising diversity and toleration and open-mindedness is that all of them really say the same thing: 'No Trespassing.'"
[Headline reference: An underappreciated gag from the underappreciated Airplane II: The Sequel. I miss John Vernon.]
Why don't they invade the Capitol Building like respectable people? Thomas Sowell turned 92 a few weeks back, his output isn't what it used to be. But he tees one up for Creators Syndicate, his first column since June 2021: The Point of No Return.
This is an election year. But the issues this year are not about Democrats and Republicans. The big issue is whether this nation has degenerated to a point of no return — a point where we risk destroying ourselves, before our enemies can destroy us.
If there is one moment that symbolized our degeneration, it was when an enraged mob gathered in front of the Supreme Court and a leader of the United States Senate shouted threats against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, saying "You won't know what hit you!"
There have always been irresponsible demagogues. But there was once a time when anyone who shouted threats to a Supreme Court Justice would see the end of his own political career, and could not show his face in decent society again.
You either believe in laws or you believe in mob rule. It doesn't matter whether you agree with the law or agree with the mob on some particular issue. If threats of violence against judges — and publishing where a judge's children go to school — is the way to settle issues, then there is not much point in having elections or laws.
Best wishes and much respect to Mr. Sowell.
I'm sure someone will point out this National Review headline is racist. Because who do you circle the wagons against? Native Americans, that's who! But nevertheless it's an accurate metaphor for George Leef's observation: The Higher-Ed Establishment Circles the Wagons for 'Affirmative Action'.
One of the biggest cases the Supreme Court will hear this fall is the challenge to the legality of racial preferences by colleges and universities brought by Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA). As expected, the higher-education establishment is fighting tooth and nail to preserve its ability to use racial quotas to get student bodies that have the right racial mixture. (They don’t care about other student characteristics like religion, philosophy, musical preferences, etc.)
Commenting here on the spate of amicus briefs just submitted on the companion cases (one involving Harvard, the other UNC), Cornell law professor William Jacobson observes, “The statistics are shocking. As SFFA noted in its Harvard petition, ‘an Asian American in the fourth-lowest decile has virtually no chance of being admitted to Harvard (0.9%); but an African American in that decile has a higher chance of admission (12.8%) than an Asian American in the top decile (12.7%).’”
Federal law forbids racial discrimination by institutions receiving federal funds (including student aid money), but the schools say they don’t discriminate against Asians. They accept them — just not too many. They have come up with justifications for their obviously unfair admission policies. They Court has heard them before and (foolishly) deferred to the supposed expertise of the educators.
It's not just the higher-ed folks circling the wagons; it's also (as the WSJ recently reported):
Dozens of major companies have asked the Supreme Court to affirm the use of racial preferences in college admissions, arguing that more diversity on campuses contributes both to commercial innovation and business success.
“Empirical studies confirm that diverse groups make better decisions thanks to increased creativity, sharing of ideas, and accuracy. And diverse groups can better understand and serve the increasingly diverse population that uses their products and services,” more than 60 companies said in one friend-of-the court brief on Monday, citing a range of research. “These benefits are not simply intangible; they translate into businesses’ bottom lines.”
I'm open to the argument that true diversity can lead to better decisions. I'm just disgusted when race and other pigeonholes are used as proxies for "diversity".
I have a mild interest in this race. The New Hampshire Journal sponsored a debate for the Republicans looking to replace my current CongressCritter, Chris Pappas. Michael Graham evaluates: Solid Field Shines in NH-01 Debate, But Left Race Unshaken.
There is just one important takeaway from the New Hampshire Journal NH-01 debate on Thursday night: Matt Mowers won.
By not losing.
Can I vote for Matt Mowers? Given that it's been two years since he insulted my intelligence with this stupid mailer?:
Well, the Libertarian Party nominee is likely to be even more nuts that usual. And Mowers, if he wins, might occasionally vote better than Pappas. So…
A nice tribute. And it's from the WSJ's Jason Gay, on Vin Scully’s Perfect Baseball Melody. And I especially liked this bit:
When I met him in 2016, I asked him if he felt lucky to have arrived in baseball when he did. He shook the question off like a veteran fastballer.
“Oh, no, not lucky,” he said. “Lucky is too cheap a word. I really feel blessed. I truly believe God has given me these gifts. He gave it to me at a young age, and he’s allowed me to keep it all these years? That’s a gift. I say this because I believe it: I should spend a lot more time on my knees than I do.”
And that is a take-home lesson for us all.
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin last fall sharply and rightly criticized a bonus tax credit for union-made electric vehicles in the Build Back Better bill. “We shouldn’t use everyone’s tax dollars to pick winners and losers,” he said. Yet that’s exactly what his tax and climate deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer does.
The 725-page bill is riddled with green goodies that favor unions and projects located in specific regions. Most tax credits for renewable energy projects are five times more generous if contractors pay “prevailing wages”—that is, union-scale wages—and employ workers participating in apprenticeship programs. These are usually run by unions.
The new base tax credit for solar and wind production would be $5.2 per megawatt hour (MWh), which is less than the existing $26 MWh subsidy. However, investors in projects that meet the bill’s labor specification would be able to claim $26 MWh and $28.6 MWh if 100% of their steel is made in the U.S. Didn’t President Biden antagonize steel-exporting Canada enough by canceling the Keystone XL pipeline?
Tune in later this decade to find out how it all worked out. Poorly, I'd bet.
It's Thursday, so… it's a good day to link to Kevin D. Williamson's "Tuesday" column. At Some Point, You’ve Paid Enough Taxes. (You need to be NRPlus to RTWT, but as KDW says: "I think you’ll find it worth the modest expense.")
Senator Joe Manchin, in his wisdom, has decided to join the Biden administration and his fellow Democrats in Congress to — wait! what? — raise the gasoline tax.
In an underhanded way, of course.
You will recall that in the early summer, as gasoline prices were skyrocketing, President Joe Biden, the fearful little man in the White House, called for a three-month suspension of the federal sales tax on gasoline. A little somethin’-somethin’ to help out all them pickup-driving Joe Sixpack types out there in the great expansive hydrocarbon-powered boonies — you know, voters. It was a dumb idea on its own, and it was a dumb idea because it was offered as a substitute for the smart idea, i.e., getting Uncle Stupid’s big fat foot off the neck of the U.S. energy industry so that prosperity may emerge organically. It was a quintessentially political proposal, one that would create the impression of doing something and offer a synthetic sense of urgency — the sort of action that is to real policy as stevia is to sugar.
But there was a kind of reflexive economic truth to it: Policies that make gasoline more expensive make gasoline more expensive. And while Democrats do intend to make hydrocarbon energy not only more expensive but prohibitively expensive at some point in time, at that moment the rising price of fuel was politically inconvenient. Climate action can’t wait — except when it can.
Our state's fearful little woman in the US Senate, Maggie Hassan, is running re-election ads touting her (apparently moribund) effort to suspend the gas tax, also trying to "create the impression of doing a little somethin'-somethin'".
Because politicians are experts at … running airlines? Well, at least they're pretty good at demanding solutions to the problems they caused. Veronique de Rugy observes that More Congressional Meddling Won't Put More Planes in the Sky.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Alex Padilla, D-Calif., recently asked the Department of Transportation to fine airlines for delays and cancellations and prevent airline consolidation. The widespread delays and cancellations are indeed annoying, but the senators' demands won't help any more than Congress' last airline blunder did.
Remember the last airline bailouts? During the pandemic, politicians were fooled into handing out billions so that, among other things, airlines could keep their workers and be travel-ready when more passengers started flying again. Airlines got the money, passengers eventually returned, and somehow the airlines still weren't staffed and prepared.
The bailouts didn't cause the mess we are in, but they didn't prevent it. Recall just how much the airlines received. Throughout the pandemic, the 10 major passenger airlines pocketed direct payments of more than $54 billion (in rounds of $25 billion, $15 billion and $14 billion), plus another $25 billion in subsidized loans from the Treasury Department and a suspension of the 7.5% excise tax on domestic air travel. Also receiving handouts were airports and airport contractors.
I'd disagree slightly with Vero about the bailouts not causing "the mess we're in." The incentives implied by "we'll give you a bunch of money without worrying much about its effectiveness" are huge and obvious.
And why should they? Jacob Sullum notes the overwhelming majority of "assault rifle" owners are law-abiding. But Democrats Don't Care.
A week before the House of Representatives approved a ban on "assault weapons," a federal judge in Denver explained why such laws are unlikely to pass constitutional muster. House Democrats either were not paying attention or did not care because they view the Second Amendment as an outmoded provision that imposes no meaningful limits on gun control.
Unfortunately for them, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held otherwise, ruling that the government may not prohibit law-abiding Americans from keeping handguns at home or carrying them in public for self-defense. The Court also has said the Second Amendment covers bearable arms "in common use" for "lawful purposes," which presents a problem for Democrats who want to ban many of the most popular rifles sold in the United States.
NH's own CongressCritters not only voted for this blatantly unconstitutional legislation (violating their oath of office), they were cosponsors.
Another bad sequel to "How the Leopard Got His Spots" Andrey Mir describes How the Media Polarized Us.
Public trust in the media has hit an all-time low. Common explanations for this crisis of credibility include bias, polarization, and fake news, but these causes are themselves effects of the tectonic, and generally overlooked, shift in the media’s business model. Throughout the twentieth century, journalism relied for its funding predominantly on advertising. In the early 2010s, as ad money fled the industry, publications sought to earn revenue through subscriptions instead of advertising. In the process, they became dependent on digital audiences—especially their most vocal representatives. The shift from advertising to digital subscriptions invalidated old standards of journalism and led to the emergence of post-journalism.
Everything we once knew about journalism depended on the model of the ad-funded news media. Advertising accounted for most of the news industry’s revenue during the twentieth century.
This business model provided a selective advantage to certain kinds of media. Since the revenue from copy sales was not sufficient to maintain news production, news outlets needed to attract advertising. As a result, media that relied mostly on the reader’s penny, such as the formerly influential working-class press, eventually lost out in the marketplace. The mass media that oriented themselves around the “buying audience”—the affluent middle class—received money from growing advertising and thrived.
Blame Facebook, Twitter, "big tech" all you want. But the quick de-evolution of newspapers and TV channels into prior-belief enhancers were a major factor into getting us where we are today.
My Google News Alert rang for an invocation of my state's motto in an unexpected source: the Buenos Aires Times. Yes it's from that country way down in South America. The headline:
A forlorn fight to stop America’s gun factoriesAnd the subheadline:
Just over eight million handguns and rifles for domestic sale were produced in the state from 2015-2020 or about 17 percent of the national total, according to the most recent government figures.
And, yes, they're talking about my state, New Hampshire. It's nice to be noticed, I guess.
The date on the article is January 8 of this year, so it's hardly "news". And the article turns out to be a reprint found at a number of sites, like Raw Story, Newsbreak, Barron's, MYsinchew (Malaysia), IndoPremier (Indonesia), Macau Business (China), and even Breitbart (!) Mostly, the article is credited to Joshua Melvin of Agence France-Presse (AFP). (But I can't find it at the AFP website.) That's a lot of potential readership about our tiny state!
Unfortunately, the article is one of those undisguised advocacy pieces.
Clai Lasher-Sommers alternates between tears and fury over the flow of guns from the factories in her home state of New Hampshire, a top producer in the United States of America's multi-billion dollar firearms industry.
Speaking just miles from the house where an abusive stepfather shot her with a hunting rifle when she was 13, the survivor-turned-activist said she thinks about moving – just to get away from the gun makers.
"I don't want to be anywhere near them, and the damage that they perpetuate every day," she said. "I want them to close, but that's not going to happen."
I can't help but think that "abusive" adjective is a tad superfluous; shooting one's stepdaughter in the back… well, I got the point about abuse right there.
Well maybe I shouldn't be so flip. Maybe I'd feel differently if I had been shot in the back with a hunting rifle when I was 13.
Ms. Lasher-Sommers is taking her sweet time making her mind up about moving, though; via Rolling Stone, she was shot over 50 years ago. She claims "they never sent anyone in to talk to me about it" when she was in the hospital. Legal repercussions? This WMUR article from 2015 says the stepdad, Crosley Fletcher, was charged with "aggravated assault", but doesn't provide any more detail.
Ah well. Asking these kind of questions is rude, I guess.
The US state that produced and shipped out the most firearms since 2015, New Hampshire has funnelled millions of weapons into the already-flooded domestic market of a nation beset by a gun death epidemic.
What can I say, except "Thanks for your business" and "You're welcome."
And… ah, there it is:
The state with a motto of "Live free or die" has long been home to gun makers, as have other manufacturing hubs on America's eastern seaboard.
Indeed. Left out of the Argentinian story: the US is a pretty violent country, with an intentional homicide rate of 6.3 per 100K population. But that's not too much more than Argentina's: 5.3 per 100K. Is that enough of a difference to permit this hectoring? I mean, I don't want to get all biblical, but… take it, Jesus: Matthew 7:1-5.
And (as I've pointed out before) the Merchant of Death state of New Hampshire has a rate well under that: 0.9 per 100K (2020), the lowest in the country. (And that's not a statistical fluke: we had the lowest rate in 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.)
In comparison, Buenos Aires itself had a murder rate of 4.6 per 100K in 2020. About 5 times New Hampshire's. (But to be fair: much lower than Chicago's.)
Maybe Argentina shouldn't be lecturing New Hampshire? Just a thought.
Ackshyually… I've been seeing a Forbes article tweeted a lot.
Congratulations to the IRS on winning the $846.3 million Mega Millions Jackpot! pic.twitter.com/1pCJKNdLBJ— John W. Rich (Fake Tech Exec) (@Cokedupoptions) August 2, 2022
Some folks are cheering, some are moaning, but… wait a minute, does winning a huge lottery pile really put you in a 66% (1-433.7/1280) tax bracket? Show your work!
But (sigh) that's a screenshot, not a link back to Forbes, so [Google, Google, Google], ah, here it is.
Someone in Illinois bought the winning ticket, and if he or she does like most winners, they will take the lump sum, not the annuity. The $1.28 billion prize, which is the second-largest jackpot in Mega Millions lottery history, can be claimed in a lump sum or over time. The 1.28 billion is only if you take it over time, but if you want it all now, you get $747.2 million.
Ah. So the real hit is taking the lump-sum payment instead of the (thirty-year) annuity. Those numbers aren't strictly comparable, but that comes to a difference of nearly $500 million, about a 40% writeoff.
That's when the IRS comes for its 37% marginal rate (a mere $276,464,000) and (in the Forbes example) the Illinois taxers come for a further 4.95% (a minuscule $37 million).
But the more important lesson here is not how much your government claws back from your windfall; it's that According to the New York Daily News, 70 percent of lottery winners end up broke within seven years. Even worse, several winners have died horribly or witnessed those close to them suffer.
Do you like those odds, Bunkie?
A feelgood TechDirt headline! And it's from Mike Masnick (who I think of as the relatively sensible writer at that site): Without The Votes To Pass, Antitrust Bill Gets Delayed.
For the last few months we’ve been writing a lot about AICOA, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, being pushed for by Senator Amy Klobuchar. It’s an antitrust bill, but not an antitrust bill designed to fix the whole host of problems we have today with industrial consolidation and anticompetitive practices. No, it’s just a bill to target a few specific practices of a narrow slice of the tech industry. And, it only has bipartisan support (barely) for one reason, and one reason only: because Republicans believe that the vaguely worded law will be a tool they can use to batter companies for content moderation decisions they disagree with. This isn’t some conspiracy theory. This is literally what the Republicans themselves are saying. Out loud. Over and over again.
Klobuchar has had multiple chances to clarify the language in her bill to prevent this abuse. But she chose not to. The only changes she included were to make sure the bill really only targeted tech, by explicitly carving telcos and financial companies out of the bill.
For the last few months, cringe-inducingly called “hot antitrust summer” by supporters of this bill, we were told the bill needed to get a vote this summer. Chuck Schumer apparently promised a vote this summer. And, even John Oliver was coaxed into an unfortunately confused piece about the law encouraging his fans to urge Schumer to bring the law to a vote.
It was an odious, awful bill, and only odious, awful Republicans supported it. With all the other dreadful legislation coming down the pike, it's nice to see at least one stopped.
Well, in the dictionary… Pierre Lemieux takes on an idiotic slogan: People Before Profits or the Converse?.
To many people, no current slogan appears more self-obvious than “people before profits.” For the Nth time, I saw it repeated, a few days ago, in a bien pensant attack on social media’s freedom: “How Social Media Platforms Put Profits Before People,” Financial Times, July 28, 2022). I suggest that there are few incantations as simplistic or non-sensical as that one.
Profits go to people, not to animals or gods. So the slogan can only mean “some people before some people,” and it has to be explained why the redistribution or discrimination envisioned or intuited is better than some other among an infinity of possible ones. A priori, it makes no more sense to say “people before profits” than “profits before people.”
In contradistinction, classical liberalism and libertarianism aim for no discrimination among individuals. If the idea should be reduced to a slogan, it would be something like “no set of people before any other set of people” or, more properly, “no individual before any other individual,” because a set can contain only one element. The statement must of course be taken as calling for the formal equality (equality of rights, equal liberty) of all individuals because material equality would require constant redistributive meddling and, thus, the violation of the formal equality of those sent to the wrong side of the wicket. This idea can be found in the writings of all modern (classical) liberals, notably perhaps F.A. Hayek and Robert Nozick.
It should (but doesn't) go without saying that profits only happen after a company pays attention to what customers (i.e., people) want and pay their employees (also people) to provide it.
I'd say "Abolished" instead of "Reformed", but whatever. Joe Bishop-Henchman argues against an offensive feature of that nasty bit of legislation misnamed the "Inflation Reduction Act": The IRS Needs to Be Reformed, Not Showered with More Cash.
Contrary to claims that the agency is half-starved or hollowed out, its budget has stood between $12.5 billion and $14.5 billion a year in current dollars for the past decade. It is true that the IRS is woefully inefficient. Examples of that abound: Dozens of tractor-trailers sat outside the IRS main processing facility in Ogden, Utah, for months last year, containing tens of millions of unprocessed tax returns. Today the IRS is seven months behind on opening mail, only answers 11 percent of the calls it gets, and takes 350 days to respond to taxpayers reporting urgent identify theft.
However, these shortcomings are due to misallocation of resources, not insufficient money. The IRS has an enforcement-only mindset, viewing all taxpayers as cheats who deserve the full power of the agency used against them. To IRS personnel, there is no such thing as an honest mistake or taxpayers doing their best to navigate a confusing and often ambiguous tax code.
What else explains why the IRS refuses to adopt tax-return barcode technology already used by state tax agencies, which would cut millions of hours of error-prone keyboard entry by IRS employees? Why else would the IRS ignore the Treasury inspector general’s suggestion that it buy machines to catch paper checks in the mail, spending a million dollars to save $56 million in interest?
Speaking of misnaming, that last word of "Internal Revenue Service" refers the agency's service to the government. To taxpayers, not so much.
What could go wrong? Drew Cline of the Josiah Bartlett Center seems to think this is a problem: New Hampshire's chosen commuter rail partner has a dismal safety record.
If you planned to start a new enterprise and hire someone to run it, you’d probably avoid applicants who racked up disastrous safety records and massive financial deficits on their way to being investigated and placed under remedial safety orders by the feds.
The New Hampshire Department of Transportation, though, has tapped an operator with all of those problems to run its planned Manchester-Boston commuter rail line.
Despite steep declines in commuter rail ridership, the rise of remote work and the promise of driverless cars, the state is still moving forward with plans to build a commuter rail line to Boston. (The state in 2020 approved $5.4 million in federal funds to plan the line.) Those plans name the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) as the operator of the service.
Sure, the MBTA has decades of experience running commuter rail. But then, the U.S. Postal Service has decades of experience delivering mail, too.
Cline lists (only) about a dozen safety-impacting incidents the MBTA has experienced over the past year.
In other news, the MBTA is shutting down the Orange Line for a month. They're replacing it with bus service.
Hey, here's an idea: just do the bus thing in the first place!
Any fact-checkers out there? Greg Price provides our Tweet du Jour:
Jean-Pierre: "We are currently experiencing the fastest decline in gas prices in over a decade." pic.twitter.com/STunDXJxSo— Greg Price (@greg_price11) August 1, 2022
Reminiscent of Biden's "We reduced — my budget reduced the — the deficit by $350 billion".
I'm pretty sure it was only a few months ago that high gas prices were blamed on "greed" (did people get less greedy?) and "Putin" (did Putin withdraw from Ukraine?)
Meanwhile, another taxpayer ripoff continues. Emma Camp reviews the ongoing story: Student Loan Repayment Pause Is Costing Taxpayers Billions.
The Federal Student Loan Program is often criticized as a source of revenue for the federal government. But a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows that the present situation can't be further from the truth.
When the Federal Direct Student Loan Program began in 1994, the Department of Education estimated that it would generate $114 billion in revenue for the federal government. Almost 30 years later, the program is estimated to cost the government $197 billion, a staggering difference of over $300 billion. The Federal Student Loan Program has failed, and the cost of its failures will be shouldered by the American public.
Note that first link is from August 2016—just six years ago!—when both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton expressed outrage on their respective campaign trails that Uncle Stupid was making money off student loans. Well, I guess that problem got fixed.
I thought George Soros was smart. I was disabused of that notion when I read his recent op-ed in the WSJ: Why I Support Reform Prosecutors. Or at least I read up to the bit I bolded:
Americans desperately need a more thoughtful discussion about our response to crime. People have had enough of the demagoguery and divisive partisan attacks that dominate the debate and obscure the issues.
Like most of us, I’m concerned about crime. One of government’s most important roles is to ensure public safety. I have been involved in efforts to reform the criminal-justice system for the more than 30 years I have been a philanthropist.
Yet our system is rife with injustices that make us all less safe. The idea that we need to choose between justice and safety is false. They reinforce each other: If people trust the justice system, it will work. And if the system works, public safety will improve.
I've rarely seen a more egregious example of the Tinkerbell Fallacy. "All you have to do is wish real hard for my scheme to work, and it will!"
And also note the corollary: "If my scheme doesn't work, it's your fault, peons, for not believing in it! Not mine!"
Longest article ever? Rafael A. Mangual, braver than I, kept reading Soros's op-ed, and offers a more detailed rebuttal: What George Soros Gets Wrong on Criminal Justice.
Soros highlights the statistic that “black people in the U.S. are five times as likely to be sent to jail as white people.” This is, he says without explanation, “an injustice that undermines our democracy.” Such a contention is meant to persuade the reader that these incarcerations are mostly (if not overwhelmingly) illegitimate—the product of racial animus more than anything else. What else could it be? Well, how about disparate rates of criminal offending? A Bureau of Justice Statistics study of homicides between 1980 and 2008 found that blacks commit homicide offenses at a rate “almost eight times higher than the rate for whites.”
Presenting a disparity without any mention of what its causes might be is not a responsible way of arguing that “injustice” is afoot. That’s a serious charge, and, as we’ve seen over the last few years, many who believe it will push (often successfully) for serious policy changes couched in breezy phrases like “reimagining public safety.”
When relevant factors are taken into account, the disparities that Soros point to as obvious evidence of injustice shrink substantially, undercutting his claim. As a 2014 report on incarceration from the National Academies of Sciences shows: “Racial bias and discrimination are not the primary causes of disparities in sentencing decisions or rates of imprisonment. . . . Overall, when statistical controls are used to take account of offense characteristics, prior criminal records, and personal characteristics, black defendants are on average sentenced somewhat but not substantially more severely than whites.”
Mangual (Amazon link to his new book on the right) points out a factoid that Soros ("and his ilk") ignore: "In 2020—a year in which homicides rose nearly 30 percent across the U.S.—the share of white homicide victims actually declined by 2.4 percentage points relative to 2019, while the share of black and Hispanic victims increased by 2.2 percentage points."
I'd welcome any concrete indication that Soros ("and his ilk") had more sympathy for crime victims than perps.
Credit where it's due. I'm not sure if I've every uttered the slightest compliment to Nancy Pelosi in the 6365 days of Pun Salad's existence. But there's a first time for everything, and I'm in full agreement with Jim Geraghty: Pelosi Stands Up to the Bully in Beijing.
As of this writing, it appears House speaker Nancy Pelosi will travel to Taiwan, based on statements from unnamed U.S. and Taiwanese officials. But it is not confirmed.
Conservatives rarely applaud Pelosi, but her willingness to visit Taiwan — and to tell the Chinese government in Beijing to go pound sand if it doesn’t like her making the trip — is one of those rare times when they do. As the editors of NR put it:
Much as we disagree with the speaker on most issues, on this question she has been stalwart. Pelosi, by making this trip against the background of Chinese threats, would do a service to her country, Taiwan, and all nations with an interest in resisting a totalitarian party-state’s military aggression. She must go to Taiwan.
With some of the more hyperactive Chinese state-media propagandists talking up the possibility of the Chinese military shooting down her flight and the Chinese military promising live-fire exercises near the coast, Pelosi is demonstrating courage and accepting a certain amount of risk to life and limb by making the trip. The chances of the Chinese military deliberately or accidentally shooting down her flight are not high . . . but they are not zero, either.
So I hope that works out.
Happy August, all. If you want me, I'll be sitting over there right next to the air conditioner.
Chuck you, Joe. The WSJ editorialists opine on The Schumer-Manchin Tax Increase on Everyone.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants a Senate vote on his partisan tax deal with Joe Manchin as early as this week, and no wonder he wants to rush it through. The more Americans learn what’s in this tax-and-spend behemoth, the more they’ll dislike it.
Start with the authors’ central claim that the bill will reduce the deficit and thus inflation. The Penn Wharton Budget Model, which Sen. Manchin has been known to watch, examined the details of Schumer-Manchin and found that it doesn’t contain any net deficit reduction until 2027.
The $327 billion in new taxes could slow inflation if the economy falls into recession, and that may be the quiet expectation. The tax increases on business will discourage investment while the Federal Reserve is also raising business costs with higher interest rates. But tax policy should be working in the opposite direction to encourage investment when the Fed is tightening and the economy is close to recession.
Of course, Democrats can't simultaneously say (a) "the economy is doing great" and (b) "we have to raise taxes to stop this rampant inflation."
Not that anyone would notice if they did say that.
Looking for Mr. Goodunion. Kevin D. Williamson takes a look at The Democrats’ Unserious Climate-Change Deal.
The corporate-welfare “climate-change bill” that Joe Manchin and his Democratic colleagues in Congress wish to inflict upon the republic is a bad piece of legislation for any number of reasons. The obvious one is the economic reason — the combination of higher taxes and a rush of hundreds of billions of dollars in new federal spending lands on the wrong side of both parts of our don’t-call-it-a-recession stagflation, in which we are seeing declining economic output, declining real wages, and inflation above 9 percent overall — and above 40 percent in energy prices. More uncertainty is the last thing American businesses need.
Our progressive friends will tell us that a few hundred billion dollars is a reasonable price for a credible climate-change bill — but is it that?
The Manchin bill is, à la mode, a cowardly piece of legislation, in that it is all carrot, no stick. Its environmental program is mainly one of subsidies for politically connected business interests engaged in the so-called green-energy trade and handouts to upper-middle-class urban progressives who enjoy getting a $7,500 tax benefit when they buy a new Mercedes.
The usual suspects have lined up at the trough. See, for example, Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey: "I believe this proposal passes the climate test: including emissions reductions, good-paying union jobs, and investments in justice for disadvantaged communities."
Yes, nothing say "Inflation Reduction" like paying inflated union wages.
Here's hopin'. Jacob Sullum thinks the recent 'Assault Weapon' Ban Approved by House May Cost Democrats This Fall.
The House of Representatives today approved H.R 1808, which would ban the production and sale of "assault weapons," including semi-automatic rifles with features such as pistol grips, folding or adjustable stocks, barrel shrouds, and threaded barrels. It also would ban a long list of specific models by name.
The bill, which passed the House by a vote of 217 to 213, has no chance in the evenly divided Senate, where support from at least 10 Republicans would be required to overcome a filibuster. House approval of H.R. 1808 is therefore a symbolic act aimed at energizing Democrats and encouraging them to vote in this fall's elections. But several House Democrats, whose objections nearly derailed today's vote, worried that it would hurt their party's candidates more than it would help them. In the end, five Democrats joined all but two Republicans in voting against the bill.
You probably needn't ask, but: not only did NH Congresscritters Pappas and Kuster vote for HR 1808, they were cosponsors. (As were 210 of their colleagues.)
Jared Golden of Maine (however) was one of the only five Democrats voting Nay.
Politics and the English Language (Updating Orwell). Jonathan Turley notes the latest dictum from the Church of Woke: It’s not enough to be pro-choice now — you must be anti-pro-life.
With the Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade, it is no longer enough to be pro-choice. Indeed, the term “pro-choice” has been declared harmful by the now ironically named “Pro-Choice Caucus.” Today, it seems you must be anti-pro-life to be truly pro-choice — and, across the country, pro-life viewpoints are being declared virtual hate speech.
We have seen this pattern before.
With the rise of the racial justice movement on campuses across the country in 2020, a mantra emerged that it was no longer enough to not be a racist, you must be anti-racist. As National Public Radio’s media critic explained, “you’ve got to be continually working towards equality for all races, striving to undo racism in your mind, your personal environment and the wider world.”
Similarly, after the court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, it seems, you must be anti-pro-life and stop others from voicing their views.
On Sunday, almost half of the University of Michigan’s incoming medical school class walked out of a “White Coat Ceremony” to protest keynote speaker Dr. Kristin Collier. Collier was not planning to discuss abortion, but — because she holds pro-life views — students launched an unsuccessful campaign to block her from speaking.
Turley sums up the argument: "We support a diversity of viewpoints so long as we don’t have to hear any opposing views."
Mr. Ramirez updates The Shining for the upcoming 2024 horror season:
It's a tribute to Kubrick that you and I can make the connection to a forty-two year old movie from this single image, and know exactly what Ramirez is getting at. (See also: HAL's big red eye.)
I, Pun Salad. At the Foundation for Economic Education, Benjamin R. Dierker has a sequel to the famed essay "I, Pencil": I(nflation), Pencil: What a Simple Pencil Can Teach Us about Energy Prices and Inflation.
You may already know me. I am a simple yellow wood pencil. I have already recounted to you the wonder and amazement of my genealogy. From the mines of Sri Lanka to the forests of California, my lineage is anything but linear – it is instead a complex global collaboration to bring my constituent parts together. I trust you know this tale well and do not need me to restate it here today.
But I have been thinking about another lesson that may interest you. As I look back on all the hands that passed along my components, I could not help but recognize how much energy it took to bring me about.
Yes, even me, a small wooden pencil, required millions of barrels of crude oil, billions of cubic feet of natural gas, thousands of tons of coal, and even nuclear fission to be brought into existence. I want to take you through my journey just one more time to instruct you on the importance of energy and how it can lead to insidious price increases on everything you use – from me, a friendly desk implement, to the baked chicken you had for dinner last night.
Recommended, except you're likely to pop a few blood vessels the next time Biden shows up on your TV claiming his schemes are all about "lowering costs for the average family in America".
Demand to see the work. Arnold Kling has some interesting observations on The Carbon Calculation Problem.
Also fifty years ago, there was a concern that we would soon run out of fossil fuels. This motivated President Carter and Congress to create the Department of Energy, tasked with developing alternative energy sources in what Mr. Carter called a “moral equivalent of war.”
The global warming issue shifted the rationale for opposing gasoline and “smokestack” industries. The concern that fossil fuels were subject to scarcity was replaced by a worry that they are too abundant. When people arrive at the same policy recommendations but shift to the opposite rationale, it seems fair to doubt their objectivity.
Regardless of the rationale for hating fossil fuels, people have intuitively felt that all-electric vehicles, along with solar and wind power are cleaner. Consider this IGM Forum poll of leading economists, who are willing to support government provision of more charging stations for electric cars without doing anything like a Show Your Work calculation of whether this would, in the end, reduce carbon emissions. They go with simple intuition, but simple intuition is a poor guide for assessing complex processes.
Similarly, when politicians demand increased taxes, increased spending, increased regulation, and increased subsidies, no matter what the current state of the economy is… "it seems fair to doubt their objectivity."
And let's not forget increased spending on bureaucrats. Liz Wolfe is dubious about another feature of a recently-resuscitated legislative proposal: Supersizing the IRS Will Hurt the Working Rich, Not Fat-Cat Tax Evaders.
After months of acrimonious infighting, Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) have reached a deal on a spending bill, portrayed as a means of fighting inflation, that will devote federal money to climate change initiatives, clean energy, and reducing the deficit. The spending bill, called the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, will pay for its ambitious proposals in part by doubling the size of the IRS, empowering the agency to reach its grubby little hands into ever more people's pocketbooks.
But the bill also beefs up IRS enforcement capabilities, allowing our tax cops to audit far more people than before—including many working-professional high earners, while the richest continue to employ teams of accountants to take advantage of every possible loophole (as they darn well should). Is this really what Biden thinks the American people have been waiting for?
"Our major concern is that the IRS provisions of the bill contain no accountability provisions for the agency, no sort of significant oversight of its efforts to reform and improve its processes, not a ton of robust protections for taxpayers who have seen their privacy or the security of their information threatened," Andrew Lautz, director of federal policy at the nonpartisan National Taxpayers Union, tells Reason.
Drastically simplifying the tax code apparently wasn't on the table.
Not that the GOP will actually learn anything. Luther Ray Abel crafts a parable for Republican voters: What the GOP Can Learn from Mozzarella.
Republicans have a dazzling opportunity in November to win back the Senate and House, not to mention dominance in state legislatures and governors’ mansions: Joe Biden is polling below Earth’s mantle, Democrats are gleefully collaborating to send billions of dollars to climate interest groups during a recession (or recession-adjacent economic situation of sudden indecipherability), and Anthony Fauci has re-emerged like an uninvited bespectacled groundhog to announce he’d like to see kids back in masks.
And yet, I cannot shake the feeling that Republicans are going to screw this up — perhaps it’s attributable to whiffs of Eau de KDW–brand curmudgeon-ism wafting from Texas to Wisconsin — but the more likely explanation for my anhedonia is the multitude of close races between solid conservatives and loons — loons who will lose general elections and, even if they should win the odd race, will be useless as legislators.
But I’m a young guy and should stick to what he knows. Being a good Wisconsin lad, I know cheese, so allow me to offer an object lesson, arising from a kitchen mishap I once experienced.
(1) It appears to be a free link, so click over for some good, funny writing. (2) Glad to see I'm not the only one who refers to "KDW", assuming readers will get the reference.
Except, of course, for Klingons. Astronomy magazine explores the Rare Earth hypothesis: Why we might really be alone in the universe. The leading proponents are Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee, who published Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe back in 2003, Amazon link at your right.
The Rare Earth hypothesis focuses on numerous aspects of Earth and its environment that played a role in allowing complex life to develop. Some of the key factors Ward and Brownlee felt were critical to the formation of complex life included:
- A planet that exists in a favorable part of the right kind of galaxy, where significant amounts of heavy elements are available and sterilizing radiation sources are located far away.
- An orbit around a star that has a long lifetime (billions of years) but does not give off too much ultraviolet radiation.
- An orbital distance that allows liquid water to exist at or near the planet’s surface.
- An orbital distance that is far enough away to prevent the planet from becoming tidally locked to its host star.
- An orbit that is stable around its host star over cosmic timescales.
- A planetary tilt that allows for seasonal atmospheric changes to be mild, not severe.
- A solar system that includes gas giants capable of preventing debris from polluting the inner solar system, reducing the odds of major cosmic impacts and subsequent mass extinctions.
- A planetary mass large enough to both retain an atmosphere and allow for liquid oceans.
- A moon large enough to help stabilize the tilt of the planet’s axis.
- A molten planetary core that generates a significant global magnetic field, largely protecting the surface from solar radiation.
- The presence of oxygen, and the right amount of oxygen, at the right time for complex life to utilize it.
- The presence of plate tectonics, which build up land masses, create diverse ecosystems, cycle carbon into and out of the atmosphere, prevent a runaway greenhouse effect, and help stabilize the surface temperature worldwide.
With respect to that oxygen thing: the O2 level is due to the evolutionary invention of photosynthesis, aided by an enzyme that's not very smart or fast. But it helped put Earth into the Goldilocks Zone; what are the chances?
As far as I know, Ward and Brownlee stay away from the It-was-God Explanation.
But I note that a lot of scientists and science-popularizers really want life to exist elsewhere. As a matter of fact, they sometimes seem to have faith that life must exist elsewhere, despite lack of any positive evidence. That doesn't seem very scientific to me.