Not Fonda Hanoi Jane

Looking for someone on whom to bestow an accolade? Jeff Jacoby suggests someone to avoid: Not another accolade for Hanoi Jane.

IT WAS on April 30, 1975, that the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon surrendered to the invading forces of North Vietnam. That collapse ended the long Vietnam War, uniting both halves of Vietnam under a single communist dictatorship ruled from Hanoi — a dictatorship that remains to this day one of the world's most repressive. The fall of Saigon sent hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing for their lives in flimsy boats; many drowned at sea, or were captured or killed by pirates. To this day, April 30 is commemorated sorrowfully throughout the Vietnamese diaspora as Tháng Tư Đen, or "Black April."

When the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last month singled out April 30 as an annual day of recognition, however, it was not to ensure that the historical trauma of Vietnamese Americans would receive solemn and reverent attention. It was to honor Jane Fonda.

"Starting today," declared supervisors board chair Lindsey Horvath at a public ceremony, "we proudly proclaim April 30th each year as 'Jane Fonda Day' in Los Angeles County, in recognition of her incredible contributions to entertainment, environmental sustainability, gender equality, and social justice."

Could any proclamation have been more tone-deaf?! Of all the people to single out for honor on "Black April," none was more certain to provoke outrage in Vietnamese American circles than Fonda, who has been widely reviled as "Hanoi Jane" since 1972, when she traveled to Southeast Asia to make broadcasts for Radio Hanoi and promote the North Vietnamese war effort.

The Getty Images description for the picture du jour:

American actress and antiwar activist Jane Fonda looks though the scope of an anti-aircraft gun during her tour of the North Vietnamese capital. She arrived July 8 [1972] at the invitation of the Vietnam Committee for Solidarity with the American People.

I've made a half-hearted effort to boycott Jane over the past half-century, but I'm sure she hasn't noticed the resulting financial impact.

Also of note:

  • Mister, we could use an economist like Milton Friedman again. His son David posts some stories on his substack about MF. All good, here's an excerpt:

    When my parents got married, they decided that there were certain things that were difficult to say and should therefore be replaced by numbers. Only one survived in actual usage. In their family “number two” meant, in my family still means, “You were right and I was wrong.”

    One reason is that it is shorter, so easier to say. A second reason is that using the number reminds speaker and audience that admitting error is a difficult and virtuous thing to do, which makes it easier to do it. A third reason is that using a family code reminds the speaker that he is speaking to people who love him, so are unlikely to take advantage of the confession of error to put him down.

    My father used to be fond of the phrase “There is no such thing as a free lunch,” sometimes abbreviated TANSTAAFL. He eventually stopped using it on the grounds that it was not true, that both consumer and producer surplus are, in effect, free lunches. He replaced it with “Always look a gift horse in the mouth.”

    Phrases he continued to use included “A bad carpenter blames his tools,” “It is a capital mistake to make the best the enemy of the good” and Cromwell’s “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.” He referred to my carrying too many logs in from the woodshed to the fireplace in order to do it in fewer trips as a lazy man’s load.

  • He had it right the first time. Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) remembers When Bill Clinton Lost China.

    Thirty years ago Sunday, Bill Clinton lost China. On May 26, 1994, Mr. Clinton delinked human rights from China’s most-favored-nation trade status.

    In 1992 Gov. Clinton promised “an America that will not coddle tyrants, from Baghdad to Beijing.” After taking office in 1993, he issued an executive order that demanded human-rights improvements as a condition for continued MFN status. It called for “releasing and providing an acceptable accounting for Chinese citizens imprisoned or detained for the non-violent expression of their political and religious beliefs, including such expression of beliefs in connection with the Democracy Wall and Tiananmen Square movements.” None of that happened.

    In January 1994, midway through the executive order’s review period, I went to China armed with a letter signed by more than 100 members of Congress pledging to stand with Mr. Clinton. Virtually every Chinese official told me that the fix was in. Trade would be delinked from human rights. I didn’t believe them. On returning, I told Secretary of State Warren Christopher: “They think you’re bluffing!”

    They were right. Mr. Clinton abandoned the executive order, signaling to China that the U.S. cared only for trade and profit. I argued that Mr. Clinton was turning his back on the oppressed in China and that the Communist Party couldn’t be trusted. The party got rich and militarily powerful. The Chinese people, Americans and the world are paying the price.

    No surprise: doing Monica Lewinsky wasn't the only thing Bubba lied about.

  • Guess the GOP Governor. Here's Vodkapundit's headline: This GOP Governor Revealed the Truth About Newsom, Cuomo, and I Can't Stop Laughing.

    If you guessed this guy, congrats:

    You don't often hear much from Republican New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu but, after today's news, I'd sure like to hear more. Speaking at the Reagan Institute Summit on Education in D.C. on Thursday, the sometimes combative governor didn't mince words when asked how governors could "play a bigger role" in leading their states.

    "Lead by example" was Sununu's immediate response but, apparently, there's one current Democrat governor who isn't up to that part of the job — and Sununu says even fellow Democrats agree.

    "Almost all the governors get along," he continued. "In my eight years [as governor] I can honestly tell you there's only been two, maybe a third, but two real governors that really nobody likes, nobody cares for at all."

    "Would you say who they are?" the interviewer asked.

    "Do you really want me to? Yeah! [New York Gov.] Andrew Cuomo," Sununu said with a knowing shake of his head, "complete jacka**. No one likes him."

    But Cuomo is a disgraced former governor. C'mon, Gov. Sununu, give us the real dirt.

    "And I gotta be honest, no one cares for [Calif. Gov.] Gavin [Newsom]. Gavin's just a pr**k," Sununu admitted to laughs and cheers from the Republican audience. "It's really disappointing. I got along with him, all of us [governors], got along with him for a while. But even Democrats — they won't tell you out loud — but behind closed doors, they're like, 'Oh, God, look who's coming.' And they all roll their eyes."

    Expurgations in the original. I'm pretty sure the words were not 'jackals' and 'prank'.

  • Might as well try it. At Reason, Eric Boehm reports: Congress' Budget Process Is Broken. Here's One Idea for Fixing It. After detailing the well-known breakage:

    If Congress won't abide by the old budget rules, maybe what it needs are some new ones. That has to be better than the way things work now, argued Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, an entity that was also created by the 1974 budget act.

    "I think Congress should pass a budget process reform bill, and I don't care what's in it," Holtz-Eakin, now the president of the American Action Forum, said during a recent conversation with Santi Ruiz in his Statecraft newsletter.

    The process of writing and passing a new set of rules for the budget process would give current lawmakers a stronger obligation to actually follow those rules, Holtz-Eakin says.

    "Sounds crazy, but it just might work!"

Who's the more foolish? The fool, or the fool who follows him?

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David Bernstein had a good reply to Elizabeth Spiers, who wrote condescendingly in the NYT to people in my age group: Dear Boomers, the Student Protesters Are Not Idiots.

First, let me say that we Boomers were looked upon as the Great Progressive Hope back in the 1960s/70s. I won't duplicate what I wrote last year about this, but I'll link to it.

Here's how Ms. Spiers set Bernstein off:

High-profile public figures of all ideological stripes have varyingly called for the students to be kicked out of their institutions, made unemployable or sent to prison. They’ve floated implausible scenarios in which the protests turn deadly. Students brave enough to risk their financial aid and scholarships are derided as childish rather than principled. And though they are educated to participate in civic life, as soon as these students exercise their First Amendment rights, they are told that protecting private property is a more pressing public concern. It’s as though some older adults simply can’t wrap their heads around the idea that college students, who are old enough to marry, have families and risk their lives for their country, are capable of having well thought-out principles.

Bernstein's rebuttal tweet:

Oh, the irony of this piece by Elizabeth Spiers is delicious. She argues that the student pro-Hamas protestors aren't the moral and political idiots they seem to be. But then she shows off her own ignorance by contrasting the exercise of First Amendment right of freedom of speech with property rights. In fact, there is no conflict between the two. Exercise your First Amendment rights all you want, just don't engage in criminal activity while doing so. Don't trespass, don't threaten, don't vandalize, don't imprison, and so on. That's all the students had to do. I exercise my First Amendment rights all the time, as a writer, a teacher, a scholar, on X... and I somehow manage not to do any of these things. The problem I've seen when the students are interviewed is that the seem to believe that if they feel really, really strongly about something, that gives them rights that other people don't have. This is not just incorrect, but extremely immature, it's like a two year- old throwing a tantrum insisting that because HE *wants* that toy, everyone else's life should be put on hold until he gets it. And he'll show you how strongly he feels about it by having a meltdown. Most of us get over that by the time we are 18.

It's not just the callow youth that make this mistake. I turn (once again) to the five civil-disobediencers who got arrested for sitting-in at the Dover (NH) office of their (and my) CongressCritter, Chris Pappas. Can you detect the tantrum in their self-congratulatory op-ed:

Since our first visit in November, Congressman Pappas has refused to answer our call and defiantly voted for billions of dollars of deadly aid—aid that wins approval from lobbyists in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) but little satisfaction from constituents in his own district.

He didn't do what we wanted him to do! He defied our earnest demands!

There's a picture of the group at the link, please note that none of the participants have the excuse of being wet behind the ears.

Which brings me to my snarky tweets from yesterday, aimed at my state's senior Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who is also an elder boomer, born in 1947. She's upset with the Senate's failure to pass the Democrat-preferred "bipartisan border deal."

I maybe could have made my sarcasm a little more obvious in my first response:

But a couple hours later, she was at it again… so I was too:

I didn't pluck the $600 million figure out of thin air; it was in some news story I read yesterday that (sorry) I can't find now. Yes, it's a lot of money. But it's just a sliver of the overall trillions Uncle Stupid has dropped on the War on Drugs over the past half century.

Senator Jeanne seems to think that cash would make all the difference in keeping "drugs off of our streets" and "stop the flow of illicit drugs".

I somehow linked this up with Elizabeth Spiers' claim that "Student Protesters Are Not Idiots". It appears that the elderly Senator is either (a) an idiot; or (b) thinks people reading her tweets are idiots.

Also of note:

  • Moving. Presented without further comment:

  • All must bow to the official ideology. John Sailer notes the latest loyalty oath requirement: Yale Tells Hopeful Scientists: You Must Commit to DEI.

    Want to be a molecular biologist at Yale? Well, make sure you have a ten-step plan for dismantling systemic racism. When making hires at Yale’s department of molecular biophysics and biochemistry, faculty are told to place “DEI at the center of every decision,” according to a document tucked away on its website.

    Meanwhile, every job advertised on the site links to a DEI “rubric” that tests candidates’ “knowledge of DEI and commitment to promoting DEI,” their “past DEI experiences and activities,” and their “future DEI goals and plans.”

    Congratulations to Yale on their honesty, I guess.

  • To be honest, I had no notion of the "Appeal to Heaven" flag until a few hours ago. But I'm with Charles C. W. Cooke: You Can't Have That Flag, It's Mine.

    While I’m on the topic, here’s another thing that’s irritated me about this flag nonsense: the idea that if someone terrible decides to use a symbol you like, they automatically get to keep it. Screw that. There is, in fact, nothing wrong with the “Appeal to Heaven” flag; the whole thing is a deranged fantasy. But suppose that some weirdos at the margins had started using it to convey an ugly message in a concerted manner. In that case, am I supposed to just throw up my hands and say, “oh well”? Is that the designated approach now? To sigh impotently and lament that, because a small number of the two-bit ruffians who perpetrated the riots of January 6 flew a flag that was commissioned by George Washington, that flag is now dead forever? And, if so, how far does that go? A few years ago, a professor made Klan hoods out of an American flag. Should I take down the flag I have flying over my mailbox? Hell, Charles Manson liked the Beatles. Should I give up listening to their music, lest I be sullied by association?

    Because if that is the expectation, you can shove it. The “Appeal to Heaven” flag is terrific. I wish I had one. Until recently, I hadn’t noticed that a few people flew it on January 6 — or, for that matter, that a few people flew it during the BLM riots — but now that I know that, I still don’t care, because I’m not a ridiculous coward. That flag preexisted January 6 by 246 years. It preexisted America! Even if they wanted to, the people with whom Justice Alito is being disgracefully conflated do not get to erase those years, and they ought not to be aided in that pursuit by people who have the temerity to call themselves “liberals.” The correct reaction to the suggestion that something historically important has been stolen by those who disdain this country’s history and institutions is not “Damn it!” but “No, it bloody well has not.”

    There are a whole bunch of different versions at Amazon, if you're interested.

Biden to the Prudent: Pay Up, Suckers!

Via PowerLine, a couple telling tweets:


Not that it matters, but: Extra credit for the reporter in the audience who called out KJP when she talked about "folks who are in debt who are literally being crushed".

I'm with this guy on that: If People Literally Don’t Stop Saying Literally So Much, I’m Literally Going to Lose My Mind.

Also of note:

  • Bearing false witness is a sin, Rev. A couple days back, we looked at an op-ed from a group (including "The Rev." David Grishaw-Jones) who got arrested (and immediately released) for refusing to leave the local office of our mutual CongressCritter, Chris Pappas. I didn't excerpt this bit:

    Since our first visit in November, Congressman Pappas has refused to answer our call and defiantly voted for billions of dollars of deadly aid—aid that wins approval from lobbyists in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) but little satisfaction from constituents in his own district. [Emphasis added.]

    … basically accusing Pappas of dancing on the strings of AIPAC against the wishes of the NH-01 Congressional district voters. (As opposed to the wishes of the five Hamas-cheerleading op-edders.)

    A recent UNH Survey Center poll indicates it's not that simple:

    Most Granite State residents want a ceasefire in Gaza but majorities believe returning all Israeli hostages and Hamas being removed from power in Gaza should be required. Four in ten New Hampshire residents feel the United States is providing too much aid to Israel. With respect to that last datum: 47% of the poll respondents said either the US was providing "about the right amount" (22%) or "too little" (25%) aid.

    Goodness knows I'm not a Pappas fanboy, but he seems to be more or less in line with his constituents on this issue.

    Jerry Coyne reports on some nationwide polling results: Harvard/Harris Poll shows unexpectedly high sentiment for Israel (but some bad news for Biden)

    It’s “common knowledge” that in the current conflict between Hamas and Israel, younger Americans (say, below 30), tend to favor Palestine, while older ones favor Israel. And that’s what I’ve thought for a long time—until I saw this poll highlighted at the Elder of Ziyon site. The poll, taken by by Harvard’s Center for American Political Studies collaborating with the Harris organization, was done by legitimate organizations, and for me it paints a more optimistic picture of Americans’ views about Israel. And that even includes young people. There’s a lot of different questions asked that I haven’t discussed here, but I’ll concentrate on the news on Israel, throwing in a bit of polling on Biden and Trump.

    I'm old enough to remember Nixon talking about the "silent majority". It's easy to get distracted by, and get the wrong impression from, the noisemakers.

  • Nothing illustrates that more than… Noah Rothman notes: Joe Biden’s Anti-Israel Friends Prove More Trouble Than They’re Worth.

    The Biden administration has spent the last several months contorting itself into logical pretzels to communicate to observers that its post-10/7 dalliance with the Israeli government has come to an end.

    The administration established contradictory conditions for an Israeli incursion into Rafah that were unmeetable, which only make sense if they’re viewed as an effort to prevent Israel from executing an operation aimed at clearing Hamas from its final holdout in the Gaza Strip. It betrayed the Jewish State by allowing the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution calling for an “immediate ceasefire” while Hamas remains the nominal authority in Gaza. It castigated Israel for following its own advice, the result of which was to allow Hamas to reconstitute in the territories the Israel Defense Forces evacuated. Its officials have called on Israel to “get out of Gaza” even as it insists it has not abandoned support for our “shared objective to defeat Hamas.”

    Biden’s confused approach to maintaining America’s wartime relationship with Israel lacks strategic and moral clarity because it is driven not by battlefield conditions but domestic political concerns. The Biden team is alarmed by the polls that show the president losing to Donald Trump in November, and its members attribute their political misfortunes to the handful of left-wing malcontents who would prefer to see Israel lose its war of self-defense. It has made itself and U.S. national interests hostage to the shadows that danced across the walls of the impenetrable progressive bubble.

    And of course, everything else Biden touches is going swimmingly. For example, Gaza Pier: Food Aid to Gaza Is Getting Stolen as Fast as It Can Be Delivered.

  • Right here in River City. Thomas Winslow Hazlett says TikTok's Got Trouble.

    A social media app from China is said to seduce our teenagers in ways that American platforms can only dream of. Gen Z has already wasted half a young lifetime on videos of pranks, makeup tutorials, and babies dubbed to talk like old men. Now computer sorcerers employed by a hostile government allegedly have worse in store. Prohibit this "digital fentanyl," the argument goes, or the Republic may be lost.

    And so President Joe Biden signed the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act of 2024, which requires the China-based company ByteDance to either spin-off TikTok or watch it be banned. Separating the company from the app would supposedly solve the other problem frequently blamed on TikTok: the circle linking U.S. users' personal data to the Chinese Communist Party. The loop has already been cut, TikTok argues, because American users' data are now stored with Oracle in Texas. That's about as believable as those TikTok baby talk vignettes, retorts Congress.

    Like much really bad legislation, the bill had "broad bipartisan support" and was passed in an atmosphere of moral panic.

  • Why don't they just embezzle from the Federal Reserve, like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau? The WSJ editorialists note a violation of the Law of Holes: The IRS Money Hole Gets Deeper.

    The Internal Revenue Service can’t write its own checks, which means it has to ask Congress for funding like any other agency. But if lawmakers have been tracking its misspending, they’ll turn down the tax collectors’ new $104 billion budget request and demand an audit instead.

    Commissioner Danny Werfel appeared before the House Appropriations Committee recently and told legislators that the IRS faces financial collapse. “Resources are limited,” he said, and the agency “will likely use them entirely before the funding expires.” In other words, the IRS doesn’t think the $60 billion bonus it received from Congress in 2022 is enough, though it is supposed to last through 2031.

    The IRS has a brilliant solution for this cash burn: Add more to the pile. Instead of explaining where the money went, Mr. Werfel asked the House to look away and grant his team another massive funding boost, this time through 2034. The extended bonus he seeks would bring total supplementary funding to $104 billion over 10 years.

    I'd say "your tax dollars at work", except that it's more like: "Your previous tax dollars weren't at work, I'm sure we'll get it right this time."

Nevertheless, She Persisted

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James Freeman tells a tale of denial and irrelevance: Defeated by Big Sandwich, Sen. Warren Launches Attack on Big Salami.

Regular readers may know Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) for her rhetorical attacks on Big Pharma and Big Oil. Now she seems set to wage political war against Big Oil-and-Vinegar.

Having recently failed in a battle against people who own sandwich shops, the Bay State leftist is now targeting people who make and sell sandwich ingredients. Watch yourself, Big Salami. As high prices continue to afflict consumers, the senator seems to be finding culprits everywhere—except in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Warren says on X this week:

78% of Americans support taking action against giant food producers that engage in price fixing. I sent a letter to [President Joe Biden] urging the admin to create a task force to investigate grocery chains & giant food producers that raise prices to pad their profits.

The letter, which Ms. Warren signed along with socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders and a number of left-wing Democrats, is doubly depressing. As expected with any Sanders co-production, the point is to smear people engaged in all manner of market activity because he hates markets. But the letter is also discouraging because it suggests that the various signers assume that inflation is going to be haunting us for a while. Just like President Biden, the other pols probably wouldn’t spend much time shifting blame for inflation from the Beltway to the business world if they thought price hikes were about to disappear. The letter celebrates presidential scapegoating […]

Well, you can read the letter yourself. A whole bunch of legislators signed on, many from surrounding New England states, but I was (slightly) gladdened by the absence of Shaheen, Hassan, Pappas, and Kuster.

Also of note:

  • Kristi Noem is available for whatever shooting you think needs to be done. Mike Masnick on the latest Congressional attempt to Do Something: The Plan To Sunset Section 230 Is About A Rogue Congress Taking The Internet Hostage If It Doesn’t Get Its Way.

    If Congress doesn’t get Google and Meta to agree to Section 230 reforms, it’s going to destroy the rest of the open internet, while Google and Meta will be just fine. If that sounds stupidly counterproductive, well, welcome to today’s Congress.

    As we were just discussing, the House Energy and Commerce committee is holding a hearing on the possibility of sunsetting Section 230 at the end of next year. This follows an earlier hearing from last month where representatives heard such confusing nonsense about Section 230 that it was actively misrepresenting reality.

    So what do you expect from the Congressional Clown Car? Cute illustration at the link, summing up the state of play:

  • An interesting critique. I tend to be a sucker for this sort of thing: What Libertarianism Gets Wrong, by Jon Gabriel. It's a fair and thoughtful look, but let's skip down to…

    The primary flaw with libertarianism is its basis in scientific materialism, the belief that the physical world is the only thing that exists. It shares this flaw with communism, downgrading Homo sapiens into Homo economicus. Yes, each theory can be “proved mathematically,” but people are not equations to be solved.

    I'm not unsympathetic. But I think if you need to get into the woo-woo, you've lost the game.

    Instead, what's needed is a "middle way", a defense of traditional liberal virtues grounded in actual human nature. Something like C. S. Lewis called the Tao.

    That hasn't been accomplished, but we should keep trying.

  • Trump better hope debate moderators aren't reading the Dispatch. Specifically, I think he'd get in trouble if they took the suggestion of Kevin D. Williamson for The First Debate Question.

    The project of working the refs before the 2024 presidential debates is already underway, with self-abasing Trump sycophants such as Tim Scott insisting that “the moderators will run interference for Joe Biden.” The moderators should not allow themselves to be pushed around, and they should begin the first debate with the obvious question, the one Donald Trump is most eager to talk about:

    “Who won the 2020 presidential election?”

    Exercise for the reader: Come up with an equally simple, but devastating, query to be aimed at Biden.

  • Turning the demagoguery up to 11. The WSJ editorialists aren't impressed with a commencement address: Biden to Morehouse Graduates: America Hates You.

    The polls say President Biden has lost support among black Americans, and the White House appears to have settled on a strategy to win them back: spread more racial division. That’s the main message from the President’s dishonorable commencement address Sunday at storied Morehouse College in Atlanta.

    Mr. Biden naturally offered the 2024 graduates a list of what he sees as his accomplishments for black Americans. He indulged in his familiar gilded personal history as a civil-rights crusader. He gave the impression that the Delaware Democratic Party was a racist operation until Sen. Joe Biden came along. At least that’s the somewhat forgivable politics of self-aggrandizement.

    Less forgivable was the President’s attempt to stir resentment among the graduates on what should be a day to appreciate what they accomplished and to inspire hope for the future. Here’s what Mr. Biden said instead […]

    Lengthy quotes follow. My "favorite":

    “Today in Georgia, they won’t allow water to be available to you while you wait in line to vote in an election."

    That is, of course, a lie. One Politifact seems uninterested in pointing out.

  • Feel free to cut and paste. Jeff Maurer performs a public service, My DEI Statement Now that DEI Statements Are Falling Out of Favor.

    Dear Prospective Employer,

    I have to admit: I’m somewhat surprised that you asked me to write a diversity, equity, and inclusion statement. These statements are falling out of favor: MIT has scrapped them, academics seem to be turning against them, and The Washington Post editorial board calls them a recipe for “performative dishonesty”. DEI statements feel antiquated; it’s like you’re asking me to make a Vine that highlights my strengths, or to “list five ways that you, if hired, intend to get jiggy with it.”

    Nonetheless, I welcome this opportunity. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are values that I hold dear. If hired, I intend to make them an integral part of my work. And I plan to start by denouncing the shit-for-brains logic that has caused some people to imagine that DEI statements reduce racism.

    As they used to say: fish, barrel, smoking gun.

Actual Answer: "Because We Want You To Know How Virtuous We Are"

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An op-ed appeared in our local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat headlined Why we chose civil disobedience and arrest in Dover. Attributed to five "guest columnists": Amy Antonucci, Em Friedrichs, The Rev. David Grishaw-Jones, Janet Simmon, and Janet Zeller. It goes from Zero to Insufferable in the very first paragraphs:

On the Friday before Mothers’ Day, the five of us were arrested at Congressman Chris Pappas’ Dover office for refusing to leave when asked by the congressman’s staff. Our group included a farmer, two women in their 80s, an ally five-months pregnant, and a local pastor. We grounded our action—every breath, every request, every non-compliant choice—in the nonviolent practices of Martin Luther King, Jr., Desmond Tutu and Cesar Chavez. It was King himself who famously said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." Our Mothers’ Day action was our witness to justice and love—as tools of social change and peace.

It wasn’t our first visit to Congressman Pappas’ office. With the NH Coalition for a Just Peace in the Middle East, we had been there on ten previous occasions—twice a month since mid-November—asking our elected representative to support a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, humanitarian aid for the Palestinians who suffer there, and an end to lethal military aid for Israel. That aid has fueled catastrophic destruction in the last seven months alone: 35,303 Palestinians in Gaza dead; 79,261 injured; and an emerging crisis of starvation and disease across the Gaza Strip.

(If you click over, there's a picture of the group. Hint: the "ally five months pregnant" is the one with "PREGNANT" scrawled across her t-shirt.)

Could I suggest someone buy five of our Amazon Product du Jour and send out one each to Amy, Em, David, Janet, and the other Janet? I'm sure they'll be able to make room on their vehicle bumpers.

You may recognize some of these names; I noted Grishaw-Jones as the pastor of the Community Church of Durham (NH), which has been hostile to Israel for (apparently) decades.

They have a bone to pick with their, and my, CongressCritter, Chris Pappas. Who has been unabashedly pro-Israel; they list a litany of his sins. (Apparently they were unimpressed by his weaseling out of condemning Biden's "pause" in arms transfers to Israel.)

Is it just me, or can you just smell the combination of disappointment and smugness in this paragraph?:

In choosing to risk arrest, the five of us recognized that we would be inconvenienced and possibly treated roughly, and jailed for our action. As it happened, Dover police treated us fairly and carefully, cited us for trespassing and issued each a summons to appear in court next month. But our willingness to face the consequences of civil disobedience is a message to Congressman Pappas and his colleagues in Congress. If we can choose an uncomfortable path, a risky one, so can you. Often, the pursuit of justice means the sacrifice of a safer, politically expedient way. Sometimes, peacemaking means giving up on a relationship that ties you to a policy that is grim, deadly and no good for Palestine, Israel or New Hampshire.

Observation 1: Usually in these screeds, there's at least some perfunctory mention of the horrors of October 7. (Which you may remember occurred during the previous "ceasefire".) Even that is absent here.

Observation 2: It would be kind of neat if Amy, Em, David, Janet, and the other Janet got the same treatment the January 6 US Capitol invaders got.

Also of note:

  • Hey, kids, what time is it? Lawrence W. Reed wonders: Is It Time to Hold a Convention of the States to Address the Debt Bomb?

    “We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt,” warned Thomas Jefferson in 1816. To him, burdening ourselves and future generations with debt should be rare in frequency and minor in magnitude. It may be defensible for long-term capital projects like roads, but for little else.

    Massive, uncontrollable debt to finance current consumption spending was unthinkable to Jefferson. He would undoubtedly see it as a reflection of a nation’s moral and economic decline that could ultimately destroy our liberties.

    Reed's path to fiscal sanity is expressed in his headline: an Article-V specified Constitutional Convention. Bypassing Congress is fine, but any amendments generated still require three-fourths of state legislatures to ratify.

    It would be a lot less work just to elect CongressCritters dedicated to cutting spending. But that would be the job of … voters.

  • It's nice to dream. Kevin D. Williamson fantasizes: Back to the Debate Stage.

    All right, you maniacs, welcome to the 2024 presidential debates moderated by me, your favorite correspondent, Kevin D. Williamson of The Dispatch. You know the drill: The candidates have electrodes attached to their sensitive bits—thanks to Stormy Daniels for hooking those up—and every time one of them tries to pawn off the usual dishonest, stupid, cowardly bulls–t non-positions they retail to their low-rent, cheap-date partisans in our audience tonight, my wingman, Mitch Daniels is going to switch on the juice and those electrodes are going to light them up like Clark Griswold’s house at Christmas. Thanks to our sponsor, AmeriLectric Energy, for supplying 1,200 megawatts of clean, climate-friendly electricity from their just-opened nuclear facility here in Muleshoe, Texas.

    For some reason, the Democrats wanted President Joe Biden to do this before the Democratic convention in Chicago. I can’t imagine why. But paramedics are standing by. Yes, they’re drunk. No, they aren’t really paramedics. And I’m not Jake Tapper.

    No quarter, no mercy.

    I'd watch that.

    But my slightly more serious idea (I've mentioned this before) is a quiz show, roughly based on Jeopardy!, where the candidates are tested on their knowledge of history, science, economics, Constitutional law, and … rudimentary math. Like: "Our national debt is approaching $35 trillion. If a $100 bill is 0.0043 inches thick, and it is, how tall would a stack of $100 bills worth $35 trillion be? Calculators allowed."

    Mouse-select between the brackets to reveal the answer: [23,753 miles].

  • A Worthy Suggestion. And Samuel J. Abrams makes it at AEI: Let’s Remember David Foster Wallace.

    In this month of college and university graduations, I often like to revisit one commencement speech which struck a nerve many years ago. Back in 2005, the late David Foster Wallace spoke at Kenyon College and delivered an address entitled “This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life.” Today, I recommend all of my incoming first year students read or listen to his words at the start of, and throughout, their collegiate careers.

    Foster Wallace’s words are so critical today because he makes a centrally important point about human nature that many on campus often forget: We have choices about how we choose to react to the world around us. In his words, “. . . our [natural], default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth” is that we are “self-centred” and operate far often “on the automatic, unconscious belief that [we are] the centre of the world, and that [our] immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world’s priorities.” This leads people to “see and interpret everything through this lens of self” and, by extension, be habitually angry and aggressive toward others and the world around us. But, Foster Wallace argues, if we choose “to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting” of selfishness, we can find not only meaning in life but also connection to others by “being able truly to care about other people.”

    Foster Wallace argues that we as individuals have control over our reactions and behaviors; specifically, we can choose to become more empathetic and understanding of others. While this idea is not entirely new and, in fact, appears in many religious teachings, an increasing number of students claim no religious affiliation. Foster Wallace offers this idea outside of a traditional religious framework with the potential to serve a countless number of students. Yet, it is practiced by far too few.

    That link in the first paragraph goes to a page containing both transcript and audio of DFW's address. If I ever gave a commencement address, I'd steal DFW's. Maybe get ChatGPT to disguise it somehow…

  • Yes, those are handclap emojis. So I couldn't resist linking to Sarah Rose Siskind's Free Press article: Apply 👏 the 👏 Social 👏 Justice👏 Playbook👏 to 👏 Jews.

    Folks, it’s time to step up. It’s time’s up to do better. It’s not enough to “not be antisemitic.” We have to be actively anti-antisemitic. Anyone who is not actively anti-antisemitic is antisemitic.

    We’ve seen the stunning success of similar online campaigns for Women, Black People, and Trans Folk in completely eliminating all prejudice and elevating mental well-being. It’s time to apply the same social justice playbook to Jews. There are specific ways to perform your support that all Jews are guaranteed to appreciate since Jews, like all other marginalized groups, can be treated as a homogenous people who famously agree on everything.

    Here are ten ways to be an Ally to Jews:

    Support Jewish-Owned Businesses

    Forget DuckDuckGo: support businesses like “Google,” an impressive technology company based in Mountain View, California. Both founders of this quite large company are Jewish! Or financially empower companies like “Goldman Sachs,” an investment company founded by Jews 150 years ago. Can you say #ChaiAchiever?

    Don’t forget to support Jews in STEM! This past summer, Universal released a film celebrating the national Yid-spiration, J. Robert Oppenheimer. However, we have to call out the film for portraying this Jewish icon with a non-Jewish actor. The Jewish community famously hates that, given the critical failures of productions like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Maestro, Golda, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Life Is Beautiful.

    You don't have to be Jewish to laugh at this, but it would probably help.

Last Modified 2024-05-22 6:23 AM EDT

Can We Somehow Blame Trump For This?

That's probably what a lot of people are wondering in the White House. Maybe some are doing it out loud. A recent WSJ comparison by Greg Ip: Trump vs. Biden.

On a related note, Deirdre McCloskey is Talking Economics. Slightly reformatted from the original:

Economics is easy. Thinking like an economist can be reduced to easy and even obvious principles. Consider two of them:

  1. Much of what we want is scarce. Having one such thing means giving up another. President Millei, who is a professor of economics, is trying to teach this to the Argentinians, who have not believed it, especially since Juan Perón. Come to think of it, though, the Brazilians and the Yankees don’t believe it, either. Look at their national debts, or their personal debts, or the childish way they vote. “We can have everything.” Lula or Donald told us so.

    [Or Joe - ps]

  2. Every act in society has two sides, at least. If drug lords in Latin America are willing to sell heroin, some Yankees must be buying it. Who is to blame? If grocery stores charge more for meat during inflation, farmers must be selling it to the stores at a higher price, and customers must be willing to buy. Who benefits?

Good thinking. If you think like this you are “thinking like an economist,” which every professor of economics wants you to do. I do, for example. Milei does.

You can find multiple daily examples of ignorance about that second point in the news.

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

And now is as good a place as any to highlight Don Boudreaux's Quotation of the Day, from David Schmitz's Living Together (Amazon link at your right.)

One mark of adulthood is getting past thinking of oneself as the center of the universe. An adult conception of justice will be a conception of our place and our due, alongside a conception of what other people are due within a community that has a logic of its own.

And DB makes the connection to economic thinking:

[O]one too-frequent result of political decision-making is to encourage us to act as children.

The worker who doesn’t want to lose his job because fellow citizens no longer want to buy what he makes at prices that he finds acceptable convinces the government to obstruct fellow-citizens’ freedom to spend their money in whatever peaceful ways they choose. This worker ignores the unseen, and greater, costs to fellow citizens (as well as to foreigners) that protecting his existing job creates. Politicians and pundits pander to this worker, they baby him, assuring him that he is noble, good, and right to demand that countless other people suffer in order for him to avoid having to play by the rules of a market economy. ‘Other people – your fellow citizens – don’t count, or they don’t count as much as you do,’ is the ultimate message of the protectionist to this worker.

The protectionist politician or pundit continues: ‘Poor baby! We’ll protect you from having to adjust to the peaceful decisions of your fellow citizens. You’re too precious to be troubled to play by the rules of the market order. We will force your fellow citizens to absorb the costs that you prefer to be relieved of. You are special and deserve special treatment.

And maddeningly, the politicians and pundits who exempt this worker from the responsibility of playing by the rules of the market order have the gall to describe their efforts as ensuring that this worker leads a dignified life. Only those who do not know what true dignity is can possibly suppose that treating someone as a child – forcing others to pander to this someone’s wishes – is a means of bestowing dignity on that someone.

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
Yup. Let's throw in one from C. S. Lewis from The Abolition of Man:

We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.

Also of note:

  • Be skeptical about them. Bruce Yandle ("distinguished adjunct fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, dean emeritus of the Clemson College of Business and Behavioral Sciences, and a former executive director of the Federal Trade Commission") thinks AI Regulations Are Crony Capitalism in Action.

    In May 2023, OpenAI founder Sam Altman testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about ChatGPT. Altman demonstrated how his company's tool could massively reduce the cost of retrieving, processing, conveying, and perhaps even modifying the collective knowledge of mankind as stored in computer memories worldwide. A user with no special equipment or access can request a research report, story, poem, or visual presentation and receive in a matter of seconds a written response.

    Because of ChatGPT's seemingly vast powers, Altman called for government regulation to "mitigate the risks of increasingly powerful AI systems" and recommended that U.S. or global leaders form an agency that would license AI systems and have the authority to "take that license away and ensure compliance with safety standards." Major AI players around the world quickly roared approval of Altman's "I want to be regulated" clarion call.

    Welcome to the brave new world of AI and cozy crony capitalism, where industry players, interest groups, and government agents meet continuously to monitor and manage investor-owned firms.

    Yandle points to the classic "bootleggers and Baptists" issue, where two sides actually thought prohibition was just swell. For different reasons of course. And entertains the notion that Altman ("and his ilk") might plausibly be thought to have a foot in both camps when it comes to AI.

  • USPS delenda est. David Williams has the latest reason for wishing it would just go away: U.S. Postal Service Asking for Another Taxpayer Bailout.

    For an agency that claims it “generally receives no tax dollars for operating expenses,” the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) sure does like government subsidies. Despite receiving $120 billion in taxpayer-funded bailouts since 2020, the USPS is once again asking for more money. As Washington Post reporter Jacob Bogage notes in a recent article, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and mailing industry officials have “asked the White House to send the Postal Service $14 billion, which would come from what the agency says is decades of overpayments into the Civil Service Retirement System.” These appeals for more money ignore the real root of the USPS’ problems. The agency’s fiscal issues stem from a failed business model and lack of cost control. No amount of taxpayer dollars will fix the fiscal fiasco plaguing the USPS.

    America’s mail carrier is requesting that “Congress and other stakeholders…help support USPS in the implementation of key self-help initiatives outlined in the [Delivering for America] Plan that are critically necessary, and that will ultimately enable our operational and financial success.” The USPS fails to explain why $120 billion in taxpayer dollars and double-digit percentage increases in stamp costs haven’t facilitated this “self-help.”

    Another NHJournal article points out one source of the USPS woes: even their feeble efforts to economize get sidetracked by politicians looking to protect local jobs: NH Delegation Goes Postal Over Possible Closure of Manchester Facility.

  • Another good Big Bang Theory episode title. The NR editors remove their tinfoil hats and write on The Covid Comeuppance.

    One by one, the shibboleths that our public-health authorities put forward as reliable guidelines for behavior during the Covid-19 pandemic are being revealed as scientifically baseless health theater. The question is whether anyone will learn from this.

    The latest admission is found in the closed-door congressional testimony of former National Institutes of Health director Dr. Francis Collins, revealed by NR’s own James Lynch. In that testimony, Collins clarified that the origin of Covid — whether the disease emerged zoonotically, perhaps at a meat market, or from research at the Wuhan lab — remains unsettled science and that the lab-leak theory is not a conspiracy theory. Collins also clarified that the guidance for “social distancing” during the pandemic — the recommendation that people from separate households remain six feet apart from one another — had no firm basis in science.

    “Do you recall science or evidence that supported the six-feet distance?” the committee asked Collins. “I do not,” he replied. “Have you seen any evidence since then supporting six feet?” they asked. Collins: “No.”

    Not only did this behavior harm people during the pandemic, it will probably cause people to ignore pronouncements from public health figures in the future. Which might not be a good idea.

"A Man's Got To Know His Limitations."

President Dotard could have gone with a more appropriate Clint Eastwood tough-guy movie quote, but he picked the one from Sudden Impact:

In contrast, my headline quote is from Magnum Force, spoken just after Dirty Harry blowed up Hal Holbrook real good. Who, like Biden, didn't know his limitations.

Observation 1: Joe Biden "hasn't shown up for a debate" since 2020 either, has he?

Observation 2: That 14-second video has five cuts. Some sort of stylistic choice, or he just couldn't do the whole thing in one take?

My previous comments on debating here. Executive summary: You couldn't pay me to watch.

Nate Silver is a perceptive observer, and he tells us What Biden's debate gambit reveals.

In fact, the Trump campaign, after agreeing today to the two debates proposed by Biden, asked for two additional debates in July and August for a total of four. The White House refused, rather ridiculously citing the potential for “chaos” after they created chaos by blowing up original schedule just this morning:

The Biden campaign slammed the door on Donald Trump’s attempt to have more than two debates. “President Biden made his terms clear for two one-on-one debates, and Donald Trump accepted those terms,” said Jen O’Malley Dillon, the campaign’s chair. “No more games. No more chaos. No more debate about debates.”

So the White House unambiguously wants fewer debates rather than more. And that’s a bad sign for Biden — part of a pattern where the White House has continually tried to minimize his exposure to unscripted moments. I wouldn’t quite say they’ve done the bare minimum when it comes to media appearances. But they’ve done the bare minimum more than the bare minimum, trying to optimize some function of minimizing both their 81-year-old candidate’s exposure and media criticism about the lack of said exposure. And when they have done media appearances, it’s mostly been with friendly sources like Howard Stern and pointedly not with more adversarial ones like the New York Times or Washington Post.

Preferring fewer debates is particularly bad sign given that 1) Biden is trailing in the race and therefore should want more chaos and variance and 2) that the debates went well enough for him last time. In fact, Biden was judged the winner of both debates against Trump in post-debate polls in 2020 — something that’s been a consistent pattern for Democrats in recent years; Hillary Clinton also won all three debates against Trump in overnight polls, for instance. (Although given that Clinton lost outright and Biden badly underperformed his polls in November 2020, perhaps we should treat those overnight polls with more skepticism.)

To underline what Silver's saying, Jeffrey Blehar at NR: The NYT/Siena Poll Leaves Biden Holding Only Low Cards. And he strings out the poker metaphor.

My interpretation is this: This poll portends doom for Joe Biden. As things currently stand, he is facing worse prospects than Donald Trump did in 2016 against Hillary Clinton. Again, five months of campaigning (or rather, “campaigning”) remain, so ask me again in October. But these numbers cannot be waved away, and now point toward a Trump victory. The likely-voter screen does not save Biden anymore, and in any event the critical issue of what the likely-voter model in 2024 looks like is left unaddressed. (The standard metric is voter participation in the previous two cycles — but 2022 and 2020 were two of the most abnormal electoral cycles in living American memory.)

In 2016, from the surprisingly strong (albeit structurally weaker) position he was in, Trump had to pull an inside straight to win the presidency. Biden currently needs an inside straight-flush. Things may change — remember those pocket aces both parties believe themselves to be holding — but for now these numbers suggest to me that, were the election held today, Trump would win every single one of these states, Michigan and Wisconsin included.

Our usual look at how people betting their own money see the race:

Candidate EBO Win
Donald Trump 50.7% +4.3%
Joe Biden 40.5% -3.3%
Michelle Obama 2.3% -0.4%
Robert Kennedy Jr 2.2% -1.0%
Other 4.3% +0.4%

The punters seem to agree with Blehar: Trump's looking stronger. For now. As a reminder: I gave up making confident predictions on November 9, 2016.

Also of note:

  • Not in any way similar to a rose among the thorns. Jeff Jacoby imagines the upcoming scene: Trump among the libertarians.

    HERE IS a puzzle: Why would the Libertarian Party, which will be nominating a presidential candidate at its national convention in Washington this month, invite former president Donald Trump — the Republican Party's presumptive 2024 nominee — to be its keynote speaker?

    Four possible answers:

    1. Libertarians are uninhibited by ordinary political rules and inviting a rival to address their convention is just the sort of eccentric move that appeals to them.
    2. Party leaders, knowing Trump is more likely to be elected in November than their own nominee, want to encourage him to embrace libertarian ideals of shrinking government, expanding liberty, and curbing the welfare state.
    3. Libertarian Party leaders never expected Trump to accept their invitation, but will gladly exploit the publicity he brings them in order to promote their own issues and candidates.
    4. The Libertarian Party has been taken over by hardcore MAGA supporters who want to help Trump win.

    My money is on No. 4.

    As always, I suggest you read Jeff's argument. He points out that it's only been six years since the LP declared (still present on their website for now) that Trump is the opposite of a Libertarian.

  • Kamala's recent contribution to elevating the discourse.

    I'm pretty tired of anyone using the f-word lazily as a general intensifying adjective. Unless it's Jeff Maurer.

  • "Exaggrates" is a euphemism for "lies about". But I otherwise have no quibbles about Jacob Sullum's analysis: President Biden Exaggerates His Work To Reform Marijuana Policy.

    In a campaign video directed at "young voters" that she posted on X (formerly Twitter) in February, Vice President Kamala Harris bragged that "we changed federal marijuana policy, because nobody should have to go to jail just for smoking weed." During his State of the Union address in March, President Joe Biden said he was "expunging thousands of convictions for the mere possession [of marijuana], because no one should be jailed for simply using or have it on their record."

    Neither claim was accurate. It is not surprising that Biden and Harris would try to motivate younger voters, whose turnout could be crucial to their reelection, by highlighting their administration's "marijuana reform," since those voters overwhelmingly favor legalization. But the steps Biden has taken fall far short of that goal, and his description of them exaggerates what they accomplished.

    You need to go to Jacob Sullum and Reason to find this out, because (for example) Politifact won't do it.

  • Nor will the Washington "Democracy Dies in Darkness" Post. Jeff Jacoby (again: A cynical Washington Post tells Biden: Nothing matters more than beating Trump.

    Last week, the Post’s editorial board — which speaks with the institutional voice of the newspaper — declared that it regards President Biden’s reelection in November as a matter of such importance that it will not fault him for promoting misbegotten policies that are designed to attract votes. The president’s policies “clearly pander to core constituencies,” the editorial board conceded, and “some of these policies are quite bad — even dangerous.” Other pandering by the White House may be “less obviously dangerous but still violates common sense and principle.”

    For example, the Post cites the president’s refusal to approve a ban on menthol cigarettes. The editorial board has strongly supported such a ban, which it maintains would save tens of thousands of mostly Black lives. But as a political matter, it knows that if the White House were to issue the ban, the Democrats would lose a significant number of voters “whom Mr. Biden can ill afford to alienate in this close election.” And since “Mr. Trump’s reelection is the kind of nightmare scenario any responsible politician would go to great lengths to prevent,” the Post concludes that it is responsible, or at least acceptable, for Biden to let those deaths occur rather than weaken his odds of reelection. “Democrats are scrapping for every vote,” the editorial asserts, so this is no time to be fastidious about matters of principle, or about right and wrong.

    Next week the Post's editorial board will wonder why so many people don't trust major newspapers. It's a mystery!

Recently on the book blog:

Hayek Weeps

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Google's AI summarizes Hayek's views about the "price system":

[A] free price system is essential for communicating information and coordinating transactions.

Yeah, I suspected that. Cato has brought out a book edited by Ryan Bourne, our Amazon Product du Jour, that details the many ways government interferes with that communication. Bourne's contribution is a defense of a sliver of that price system, junk fees. They're unpopular! But: "Junk Fees" Typically Serve an Important Purpose.

Charging extra for specific preferences, such as a seat selection on a flight, enables lower basic prices, increasing access to no-frills options for lower-income customers, while allowing businesses to customize their services to individual customers’ preferences. Airlines unbundle in-flight food and checked bags, for example, leading to more profit opportunities and lower base fares. Yes, “price discrimination”—charging various customers different amounts for the same product—can sometimes be harmful to customers on net. But banning such unbundling when consumers put wildly different values on certain services can price out poorer consumers and compel others to pay for services they neither want nor need.

Likewise, overdraft fees from banks help disincentivize costly behavior. Banks incur costs and face heightened risks when customers overdraw their accounts. Overdraft charges help deter this behavior in a well-targeted way, by imposing charges on those customers whose accounts become overdrawn. Capping or constraining overdraft fees doesn’t eliminate these costs and risks; it just means someone else must be charged for them in a different way. Banning overdraft charges thus means higher prices for some other subset of a bank’s customers.

Pretty sensible, right? And yet…

Under the Biden administration, the government has launched an all‐​out “war on junk fees.” This “war” has covered fees charged by airlines, concert venues, and much more. It has even spread to financial services. For instance, Senator Sherrod Brown (D‑OH) has said, “Credit card late fees are the most costly and frequently applied junk fee.”

Yet the administration has been curiously silent on all of the fees charged by the government itself. From the Internal Revenue Service to local libraries, there is no shortage of fees charged by the government. To get a better sense of these fees, the table below features 101 different late fees charged by the government. Rather than jump to restrict the freedoms of the private Americans trying to operate businesses, the administration should take some time to reflect on its own activities.

That's from a blog post at Cato from Nicholas Anthony: 101 Late Fees Charged by the Government. I believe he might live in Southampton, NY, because numbers 89-101 of the tabulated gotcha-fees are exacted by that town's government on its citizenry.

For the record, the Portsmouth (NH) Public Library does not charge late fees. I'd imagine they get pretty naggy if you keep a book at home for more than a few days, though.

Also of note:

  • "Consumer Reports Jettisons Objectivity on       " has been a fill-in-the-blank headline for years. E. Calvin Beisner and David R. Legates do the honors at AIEr: ‘Consumer Reports’ Jettisons Objectivity on Climate Change.

    Consumer Reports. You probably have heard of it, as it has been around since 1936. Since then, it has offered valuable information to assess the safety and performance of many products and services, and has come to be widely trusted. So, you can understand why we were intrigued when it issued a blurb in one of its latest newsletters about…climate change. Wait…what?

    Consumer Reports maintains credibility by conducting its own evaluations based on its in-house testing laboratory and survey research center. It is lauded because its website and magazine accept no advertising, and it buys all the products it tests. As a non-profit organization, it has no shareholders to be beholden to. In summary, it is completely independent of the industries it investigates, so its evaluations are not affected by anyone or any product it reviews.

    In fact, I'd have to say that Beisner and Legates go too easy on CR in the above. Before I let my subscription lapse, I noticed that their "evaluations" were based more often on reports from their readers, filling out surveys. Also

    • Back in 2007, they were copacetic with government regulations for clothes washers that left your clothes dirty.
    • In 2008, I noticed they used marketing gimmicks that they would scorn corporations for using.
    • In 2009, they owned up that they'd misdirected their subscribers about low-phosphate dishwasher detergents.
    • They shilled dishonestly for Obamacare. (Also see William Jacobsen.)
    • In 2018 they took a similar anti-consumer stand, cheering for dishwasher regulations that made getting your dishes clean "more difficult, time-consuming and expensive."
    • And the same year, they came out with an obviously dishonest anti-consumer argument for stringent fuel economy standards.
    • And also that same year, I noticed they charged their paid subscribers extra for full access to information on their website that they didn't put in their magazine.
    • And in 2019, I noticed they went "full Orwell" with an article headline "Pushing for EV Choices". Which actually favored reducing consumers' choices by mandating a minimum quota for EVs as a fraction of total vehicles sold.
    • Also in 2019 they came out against tipping (and more or less advocated government abolish it.)

    So it is unsurprising news that Consumer Reports is taking a "climate change" stand that Joe Consumer will experience as higher costs and lousier products.

  • Speaking of anti-consumer moves… Here's something that an actual consumer advocacy organization would oppose, as reported by David Harsanyi: Biden's tariffs will make us pay more for cars we don't want, but are forced to buy.

    Not long ago, President Biden promised to transform the American auto industry — “first with carrots, now with sticks” is the analogy The Washington Post used.

    Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I’d trust the president to drive my car, much less dictate the future of industrial policy.

    Yet Biden implemented draconian emissions limits for all vehicles, ensuring that within nine years 67% of all new passenger cars and trucks will be electric.

    In the old days, a centralized state controlling manufacturing and commerce, production, prices, wages and conditions in our biggest sectors would be called “fascist.”

    Today, we simply refer to it as the Green New Deal.

    I find the one-sentence-per-paragraph style irritating (it's the New York Post), but Harsanyi makes sense.

Nice Internet You Have Here. It'd Be a Shame If…

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Back on Monday, the WSJ published an op-ed by CongressCritters Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R) and Frank Pallone Jr. (D). It was a plug for their proposal to "sunset" what our Amazon Product du Jour called "the twenty-six words that created the Internet": Sunset of Section 230 Would Force Big Tech’s Hand

The opening is unpromising:

The internet’s [sic] original promise was to help people and businesses connect, innovate and share information. Congress passed the Communications Decency Act in 1996 to realize those goals. It was an overwhelming success. Section 230 of the act helped shepherd the internet [sic again] from the “you’ve got mail” era into today’s global nexus of communication and commerce.

I'm old enough to remember that the Communications Decency Act was not meant to "help people and businesses connect, innovate and share information." In fact, it was the result of a "for the children" moral panic about Internet porn. And it was far from an "overwhelming success": it was blatantly unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court quickly and unanimously struck most of it down.

But Section 230 survived:

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

Well, you can read the rest of the McMorris Rodgers/Pallone op-ed for yourself. But I'll recommend some counterpoints too, for example:

And if you prefer your counterpoints unTwittered, Elizabeth Nolan Brown has you covered, dubbing the proposal: The Worst Section 230 Bill Yet.

("There's an old saying that goes, 'How do you know when a politician is lying? His lips are moving.' These days, one can ask, 'How do you know when Section 230 is being misunderstood?' and answer, 'A politician is talking about it,'" Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression lawyer Robert Corn-Revere aptly wrote in Reason last year.)

McMorris Rodgers and Pallone go on to spew a litany of modern moral panics about tech companies. Big Tech is "refusing to strengthen their platforms' protections against predators, drug dealers, sex traffickers, extortioners and cyberbullies," they write, accusing Section 230 of making this possible.

But every big tech company has massive teams and tools devoted to stopping criminal and otherwise objectionable content on their platforms. Failing to do so can result in not only reputational harm and loss of advertising revenue but also potential criminal liability, as in the case of Backpage. Every incentive aligns for them to work hard to block "predators, drug dealers, sex traffickers," etc. The fact that they can't entirely end bad actors from using their platforms isn't proof of Section 230's flaws but the fact that we live in reality. In the digital world as much as off of it, some bad actors will find a way to do harm, no matter folks' best intentions.

ENB embeds a 2020 Reason video in her article, and so shall I:

Also of note:

  • About time. Christian Britschgi reports that, long after the damage was widely recognized by nearly everyone else: Biden Administration Strips Federal Funding From Nonprofit at Center of COVID Lab Leak Controversy.

    Today, the Biden administration suspended federal funding to the scientific nonprofit whose research is at the center of credible theories that the COVID-19 pandemic was started via a lab leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

    This morning, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it was immediately suspending three grants provided to the New York-based nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance (EHA) as it starts the process of debarring the organization from receiving any federal funds.

    "The immediate suspension of [EcoHealth Alliance] is necessary to protect the public interest and due to a cause of so serious or compelling a nature that it affects EHA's present responsibility," wrote HHS Deputy Secretary for Acquisitions Henrietta Brisbon in a memorandum signed this morning.

    The lab-leak hypothesis: not just for the tinfoil-hatted any more.

  • They don't really care if it's true or not. Robert Graboyes looks at the Hamas-UN Bullshit Blood Libel.

    Hamas can’t or won’t produce water, electricity, food, jobs, or prosperity, but the terrorist organization is adept at producing bullshit statistics and contorted logic for antisemitic, gullible, and/or servile Westerners. In fact, Hamas propagandists aren’t very competent with statistical science, but the United Nations has always been happy to validate the output and share it with earth’s least discriminating audience.

    Sometimes, however, the burden of complicity becomes a bit much, so on May 8, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) acknowledged without adornment, apology, or explanation that their casualty statistics since October 7 have been grossly exaggerated. OCHA revised the number of children killed to less than half the numbers previously circulated. UN spokesman Farhan Haq offered a breezy, oops-a-daisy, coulda-happened-to-anyone non-explanation:

    “The revisions are taken … you know, of course, in the fog of war, it’s difficult to come up with numbers … We get numbers from different sources on the ground, and then we try to cross check them. As we cross check them, we update the numbers, and we’ll continue to do that as that progresses.”

    In fact, OCHA obtains its data primarily from the Gaza Ministry of Health, which is run by Hamas and from the Government Media Office, which is run by Hamas. The Ministry, in turn, obtains its data from “independent media sources” in Gaza, which are run by Hamas. From there, OCHA acts as wholesale distributor to retail outlets like UNICEF, whose director, Catherine Russell (a former advisor to Presidents Obama and Biden) made the now-discredited numbers a centerpiece of her public analysis:

    “We haven’t seen that rate of death among children in almost any other conflict in the world.”

    The point is to advance the anti-Israel narrative. As long as that happens, truth, accuracy, and fairness are way down on their list of concerns.

  • Just to point out another long-running lie… NHJournal, to its credit, occasionally offers its pages to advocates taking different sides of a contentious issue. Such an issue is "school choice". Corey DeAngelis is a longtime proponent, and his short advocacy piece is Point: Parents Must End the Teachers Unions’ Stranglehold on Education.

    The opposing view is provided by Josh Cowen, "professor of education policy at Michigan State University", dedicated choice foe: Counterpoint: Vouchers Are Not the 'Civil Rights Issue of Our Time'.

    You can read the back-and-forth, and (you don't need my permission, but here it is anyway) make up your own mind. I just want to point out this bullshit in Cowen's piece:

    Beyond the data, it’s important to note that many of the same people pushing the claim that vouchers are a civil rights issue, are also those who want to ban teaching about racial inequality in public schools. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who signed the nation’s largest voucher bill last year, has also repeatedly insisted that slavery had some benefits for African Americans.

    Well, first, it's a lousy argument that says (in effect) position X is awful because "many of the same people" who favor Position X also (allegedly) adhere to Position Y and have asserted self-evidently abhorrent Position Z!

    But Cowen is referring to a minor issue from last July, the controversy over Florida’s State Academic Standards – Social Studies, 2023, which, on page 6 of its 216 pages, contains: "Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit."

    This happens to be true.

    Last July, I linked to an article by Charles C. W. Cooke, who analyzed the Veep's efforts to turn this into demagogic gold: Kamala Harris Is Lying about Florida’s Slavery Curriculum.

    NBC reports that Kamala Harris intends to visit Florida today to criticize its new school curriculum:

    In remarks Thursday, Harris blasted efforts in some states to ban books and “push forward revisionist history.”

    “Just yesterday in the state of Florida, they decided middle school students will be taught that enslaved people benefited from slavery,” she said at a convention for the traditionally Black sorority Delta Sigma Theta Inc. “They insult us in an attempt to gaslight us, and we will not stand for it.”

    This is a brazen lie. It’s an astonishing lie. It’s an evil lie. It is so untrue — so deliberately and cynically misleading — that, in a sensible political culture, Harris would be obligated to issue an apology. Instead, NBC confirms that she will repeat the lie today during a speech in Jacksonville.

    Everything CCWC says about Kamala applies equally to Cowen.

Would Calling Them "Lies" Have Made the Headline Too Short?

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

I don't know how many people will break out laughing when seeing our Amazon Product du Jour. Note that it specifically refers to this election year.

James Freeman at the WSJ has a more accurate take: The Falsehoods Biden Keeps Telling.

Give President Joe Biden credit for consistency. For the entirety of his term he has relentlessly and falsely claimed that the economy was a shambles when he took office. His latest deceptions portray the raging inflation he did so much to inflict on Americans as a pre-existing condition. “For the second time in less than a week, President Joe Biden falsely claimed Tuesday that the inflation rate was 9% when he began his presidency,” writes CNN’s Daniel Dale. He adds:

Biden’s claim that the inflation rate was 9% when he became president is not close to true. The year-over-year inflation rate in January 2021, the month of his inauguration, was about 1.4%.The Biden-era inflation rate did peak at about 9.1% – but that peak occurred in June 2022, after Biden had been president for more than 16 months.

Not close to true is an apt description of the Biden economic message. Over the years some media folk have tried to portray Mr. Biden’s tall tales as evidence of grandfatherly charm. Folksy or not, he has been remarkably consistent in making false claims about the state of the economy when he took office.

I hate to disagree with Freeman, but "not close to true" is inapt, a much too euphemistic and wordy way to say "false".

More stuff they're lying about, according to the National Review editors: Biden’s Nonsensical China Tariffs.

Joe Biden’s announcement of new China tariffs is only the latest example of two trends in the Biden administration: talking tough on China but not following it up with meaningful policy, and bending over backward to appease organized labor.

Taxes will increase on imported steel, semiconductors, and electric vehicles and battery materials from China. The tariffs are being justified under the federal law that allows the president to respond to other countries’ unfair trade practices.

The White House says the tariffs will cover $18 billion worth of goods combined. That’s not nothing, but for perspective, $18 billion is equal to 4 percent of total U.S. imports of goods from China last year. Biden’s claims to be protecting American workers and businesses in general with such actions are hard to take seriously.

United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai tried to make a coherent case for imposing tariffs and managed to make the claim that the link between raising tariffs and increasing prices for the tariffed goods "has been largely debunked." Don Boudreaux is incredulous, and writes her an open letter:

This news is astonishing! It overturns 250 years of economic theory and evidence. You should immediately alert literally every author of economic textbooks – including the Nobel-laureate international-trade economist Paul Krugman – to inform them that their analyses of tariffs are wholly mistaken, because in all of these textbooks tariffs are shown to protect domestic producers only by raising the prices of protected goods and services.

Or she could have been lying.

Of course, much of this could be avoided with an informed electorate. What we have instead is… something else. Jeff Maurer notes the underlying problem: Voters Are Furious About Inflation, Demand Measures That Would Make Inflation Worse.

To make things worse: Both Trump and Biden are driving up the price of certain goods with tariffs largely because protectionism is popular. Biden just announced big tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles, semiconductors, and other products, which is the type of move that Joe Biden used to (rightly) criticize. To be fair, there are non-economic factors at play — this is being done partly to gain strategic advantage over China. But to also be fair: The main economic impact on Americans will be higher prices and less consumer choice. Trump is also promising big, new tariffs, and so is the brain worm that controls RFK Junior. American politics now resembles an episode of Love Island, in that just when you think “that is the dumbest person I’ve ever seen,” a new competitor shows up to blow your conceptions of what levels of dumb are possible out of the water.

Pollsters simply report what people say. It’s not their job to say “Respectfully, Jim from Flagstaff: You seem to lack the brains that God gave a bucket of pig dicks.” They’re just telling us what people think, and these polls probably accurately reflect what people really believe. And that’s the problem: The things that people say they care about and the solutions that people say they want don’t match.

Jeff goes on to claim "Biden is almost certainly the better choice for anyone who has inflation as their top priority." But, really, that's a stretch.

Also of note:

  • And yet, it's a gulag to which some people willingly consign themselves. Gary Saul Morson claims Marxism Is a Gulag of the Mind.

    The Marxist impulse is always to accuse your opponent of what you are doing or plan to do. It resembles what Freudians call “projection,” except that in Freudian theory projection happens outside the person’s awareness and is governed by an unconscious desire not to recognize one’s own intentions. For the leaders of Marxist and quasi-Marxist movements, the technique of accusing others of one’s own aggressive plans is entirely conscious. Call it “the political projection principle.”

    This principle is easiest to apply when the target really does seem unsavory, like Donald Trump. When he makes outrageous comments, spoils for a fight with his childish name-calling, or attracts attention by offensive suggestions and obnoxious exaggerations, Mr. Trump provokes people to approve of unprecedented tactics they never approved of before.

    The test of whether a person really believes in freedom is the readiness to protect the freedom of opponents. It’s easy to do when the opponent is mild and honorable, but what Democrat will rise to defend Mr. Trump? They accuse him of harboring authoritarian designs as they prosecute him in several courts so that he can’t campaign, must spend his money defending himself, and may find himself in prison before the voting starts. Arresting potential challengers is what former KGB operative Vladimir Putin routinely does. In Maine and Colorado, Democrats tried to keep the presumptive Republican nominee off the ballot entirely. Who exactly is undermining democracy?

    Morson also notes the, um, "phenomenon" of Keffiyehed Kollege Kids accusing Israel of "genocide", while leaving unmentioned the fact that the "Hamas charter explicitly calls for killing all Jews."

  • It provides myth comfort. Michael Cannon writes at Cato on The Myth of the Free-Market US Health Sector.

    Rena Conti, Richard Frank, and David Cutler recently published a very useful piece in the New England Journal of Medicine under the title, “The Myth of the Free Market for Pharmaceuticals.” Conti, Frank, and Cutler shatter the common myths that the United States has “largely unregulated prices” for medical care (Los Angeles Times) or is “one of the only developed countries where health care is left mostly to the free market” (The Economist).

    The authors detail multiple ways that government intervenes in and distorts the pharmaceutical market and conclude, “The net effect of these deviations from the free‐market ideal is that prices are high.” When drug manufacturers like Merck claim, “Congress has long been committed to a free‐market approach based on market‐driven prices,” these producers are merely trying to protect the government interventions that let them charge higher prices than would prevail in a free market.

    This problem is not unique to the pharmaceutical industry but pervades the entire US health sector. In the new Cato Institute book The War on Prices (release date May 14), I contribute a chapter with the title, “Government Price Fixing Is the Rule in U.S. Health Care.” I explain that—contrary to industry propaganda that holds government price controls only result in inefficiently low prices—US medical prices are often high because government controls them. For example, “studies conducted in the USA generally conclude that price setting by a regulator…improved hospital financial stability.”

    Remember that the next time the hospital lobby comes calling.

    I promise.

  • Anonymously yours. An interesting point/counterpoint works itself out in the pages of Caltech's student newspaper, on the topic of whether to reinstate the SAT/ACT requirement for undergrad applicants. An anonymous contributor (apparently an ex-student) chides the signers of a recent petition advocating for reinstatement: You Can and Should Do Better, Faculty Members.

    No excerpt, just wanted to point it out. I think it's clear who has the better argument.