Snarko Ergo Sum

(I Snark, Therefore I Am)

My former CongressCritter, and continuing toothache, Carol Shea-Porter, was briefly on fire yesterday afternoon in the wake of Biden's pullout announcement. Her bright idea, expressed in multiple tweets was… well, here it is, just one example, with my snarky response:

This struck me as nutty, even for Carol. But I suppose that's why I still follow her, for the entertainment.

Also of note:

  • Let's hope there aren't any bad dudes out there who see this as an opportunity. Maybe President Dotard should take the advice of the NR editorialists: Joe Biden Should Resign Presidency.

    Joe Biden did the right thing in ending the charade of asking the American public to believe that he was capable of serving another four years as president.

    This was preposterous, and the public, as the polling has consistently shown for a long time, didn’t believe it.

    Now, Biden has issued a statement dropping out of the race and has endorsed his vice president Kamala Harris.

    Biden should take the next logical step and resign the presidency. It’s possible to imagine a president not being able to campaign but still being capable of carrying out his official duties — say, if he had a serious physical impairment. And it is even possible to imagine a president who could serve for another six months but not another four and a half years. But such scenarios do not apply to Biden.

    Biden's withdrawal statement said his motive was "in the best interest of my party and the country".

    We'll ignore the significance of putting "party" before "country".

    Also, why "the country"? Why not "my country"?

    Ah well. The point is: if he really wants to do what's best for our country, he should transfer power to Kamala. That would still suck, but it would make the next few months less worrisome.

  • Let's not let the GOP off the hook. Jack Butler read the Republican platform, and he's kind of cheesed off about GOP’s Latest Obamacare Surrender.

    Beneath the placid surface of this year’s largely successful Republican National Convention, some discontent has lurked. Occasionally, it has come into public view. Consider the new Republican Party platform. The platform heavily bears the imprint of Donald Trump, now firmly ensconced as the party’s leader, even down to its bullet points and serial capitalizations.

    But it’s a Trumpian platform in more than just style. The substance also reflects his vision for the party. Conservatives have already noticed its moderation on abortion and marriage versus past platforms. Less remarked upon is the lack of any mention of a government program that conservatives had opposed since the early years of the Obama presidency, before it was even passed: the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. The apparent absence of official opposition to Obamacare comes as the program continues to distort our health-care system and serve the Left in the culture war. It also raises the worrying possibility that Republican concern for limited government and traditional values will atrophy in tandem.

    Butler notices that Obamacare has never worked as promised, and it's getting worse.

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Last Modified 2024-07-22 11:17 AM EDT

Hiring Captain Obvious Would be a Good Idea for the Secret Service

UPDATE: As I mentioned below as a possibility, this post went partially out of date about 1 hour and 43 minutes after it went up:

"But otherwise it seems to hold up well." Except the first sentence below really should follow the headline above.

Alas, we can only imagine via Mr. Ramirez:

I don't want to overuse the word "volatile" but it has been a … well, crazy week with the election betting odds folks. Here is an as-I-type snapshot:

Candidate EBO Win
Donald Trump 63.4% -2.3%
Kamala Harris 18.1% +8.9%
Joe Biden 9.5% -6.9%
Michelle Obama 2.4% -0.2%
Gavin Newsom 2.2% -0.6%
Hillary Clinton 2.1% ---
Other 2.3% -1.0%

I was shocked and stunned by the reappearance of Hillary! This reeks of desperation. (As does everything else in that dismal D list, but especially Hillary.)

And I emphasize: it all could be different by the time you read this. In fact, this post could be out of date before I actually post it.

Also of note:

  • It's difficult to imagine what inspires the modern Democrat. Jeff Maurer wonders Will Biden's "Bite Me, It's Too Late" Message Inspire Democrats?

    Democrats want Biden off the ticket. Democratic voters want him off the ticket by a margin of two to one, and most Democratic office holders see Biden’s campaign as an asteroid hurtling towards their careers. Biden needs a miracle to win back his party’s support. And the message that he seems to have settled on to achieve that miracle is: “Lick my hairy balls, I’m the nominee and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

    Maurer posted that on July 18, three whole days ago, but it's still relatively not-inaccurate. Plus, I like quoting his imaginative salty humor, which, given Scranton Joe's legendary gutter mouth, is probably not that different from what he's actually saying.

  • You got trouble right here in River City. Dan McLaughlin, I think, is hitting it on the head here: Donald Trump & The Music Man’s Last Act.

    I was going to quip that while everybody wants American politics to be Hamilton or 1776, what’s really going on in mid-2024 is that one party is staging a production of The Music Man while the other one is staging King Lear. But mulling it over, I came back to a point I observed on the liveblog during Thursday night’s interminable Trump acceptance speech, particularly Donald Trump’s affecting tribute to fallen supporter Corey Comperatore and his insistence on doing a full Trump rally speech instead of a more focused speech pitched to a general election audience. Maybe the Music Man analogy is more apt than I realized.

    Recall the story of The Music Man, the 1957 Broadway musical that was made into a 1962 film starring Robert Preston and a 2003 film starring Matthew Broderick. “Professor” Harold Hill is a con artist who has managed to be run out of Illinois (this is how you can tell the show is set over a century ago), and he shows up in the sleepy Middle America town of River City, Iowa. He claims — in a falsehood that turns out to be provable — to have graduated from a music conservatory in Gary, Indiana. He actually knows very little about music, but he is remarkably persuasive and talks the townspeople into making him a youth bandleader. It will be good for the moral fiber of the boys of this heartland town, he tells them. It’s actually a scheme to collect money to buy band uniforms and then skip town with the cash. The con is not just what he does; it’s who he is.


    But a funny thing happens along the way: He becomes a mark for his own fraud. He falls in love with a local woman. He gets emotionally attached to the boys in the band who look up to him. Then, it all catches up to him, and he gets caught and arrested. But the fake band is real. The townspeople decide that Harold Hill is what he pretended to be all along, even though they know he’s a phony — and he decides to be what he pretended. In the end, they spring him from jail and put him at the head of a surprisingly adequate marching band.

    Could the Baseball Crank have it right? I don't know; I went to see Twisters last night, and I'm pretty sure I can't hammer out a better political analogy from that source. But stay tuned, I might try.

  • Just a reminder. And it's from Ilya Somin, blogging at the Volokh Conspiracy. GOP VP Nominee J. D. Vance is an Enemy of Free Markets.

    Ohio Senator J.D. Vance just became Donald Trump's running mate. If you care about free markets and liberty generally, he's just about the worst person the Republicans could have chosen, among those who got serious consideration.

    Since being elected to the Senate in 2022, Vance has become one of the GOP's leading champions of protectionism, economic regulation and planning through "industrial policy," restrictions on foreign investment, and—of course—immigration restrictions. As Alex Nowrasteh and I explained in our article "The Case Against Nationalism," these right-wing forms of central planning have most of the same weaknesses as their socialist counterparts. These policies create terrible incentives, and predictably make the nation poorer and less innovative.

    This won't bother at least one of the folks at Granite Grok who is fond of referring those favoring economic liberty as "fwee-marketeers".

    It does kinda bother me. Given Trump's age and propensity to draw gunfire, a President Vance could do some serious damage.

  • This ain't the dawning of the age of Aquarius. What we got here, according to Christian Britschgi, is the year of The Chaos Election. After summarizing the campaign so far:

    It seems increasingly likely then that this election will be determined as much by a slight turn of Trump's head and a few misfiring neurons in Biden's as it will be by either man's record in office or plans for a second term.

    The takeaway from the 2024 election being the chaos election isn't that nothing matters. Rather, it's that the result should matter a lot less.

    If the next president isn't the person who won the argument, assembled a die-hard coalition, or forged a new consensus for governing the country, it stands to reason that that next president should command a lot less control over the government and individual citizens.

    If, as [NYT columnist Ross] Douthat muses, "there is no obvious next political stage for a civilization's development," then maybe the next president should give up on trying to impose whatever that next civilizational stage might be.

    To be sure, chaotic, random politics doesn't equal libertarianism or even suggest growing support for libertarian ideas. Seemingly the opposite is true.

    But it does mean people will quickly come to reject and resent the next administration's efforts to govern the country and control their lives, regardless of whether that attempted control comes from Team Red or Team Blue.

    I don't have a dog in this fight. As long as the argument is over who gets to torment their enemies, Barney and I are tapping out.

Recently on the book blog:

Last Modified 2024-07-21 4:53 PM EDT

It Needs To Be Said, Apparently

And Kevin D. Williamson is the right person to do it: Government Isn’t Your Mamaw.

You knew J.D. Vance was going to make it all about Mamaw.

America is a funny old place. Not many people know J.D. Vance’s grandmother, the person. A lot of them know Mamaw the literary character, and a whole lot more know Mamaw the movie character, played by Glenn Close. In his convention speech, vice presidential nominee Vance credited his success in life to his Mamaw. That was smart: J.D. is about the fourth-most-interesting character in Hillbilly Elegy, and Mamaw is the crowd-pleaser. As the noted philosopher Darrell Royal once said, “You’ve gotta dance with them what brung ya.”

There is a problem with Vance’s odd political and social position. He wants to talk about how America doesn’t work, but he personifies how beautifully it does work. One of the things America is awfully good at is locating bright, intellectually inclined young people in modest circumstances and helping them along. Terrible, dysfunctional families can make that a lot harder—I know whereof I write—but three cheers for our institutions of higher education and our ruthlessly efficient labor market.

Okay, I'll quote one more paragraph…

Vance had a grandmother who encouraged him—and, perhaps equally important, discouraged him—in the right ways. And Vance did what poor white trash types who do not wish to remain poor white trash do: He got out, in his case by joining the Marine Corps, one of the great exemplars of American meritocracy. He went to a good state college and an Ivy League law school, he married a woman from an immigrant family with values superior to the ones exhibited by the Real Americans™ who brought him into the world, took a job that paid a lot of money, and made the kind of social and economic connections that give a man options in life. He rails against multinational corporations and “woke” colleges and then goes home to his wife, a lawyer whose clients have included the Walt Disney Co. and the University of California; he himself is a former Silicon Valley venture capitalist, not a small-town hardware-shop owner. He rails against self-interested billionaires while Peter Thiel scratches him behind the ear.

I encourage you to read the whole thing, even if that involves you subscribing to the Dispatch.

Also of note:

  • At least he didn't say 'needs to be shot in the face.' Greg Lukianoff wants something terminated with extreme prejudice: Why the ‘words are violence’ argument needs to die. Just a snippet:

    Equating words and violence is a rhetorical escalation designed to protect an all-too-human preference which Nat Hentoff, a dearly departed friend and a great defender of freedom of speech in the 20th century, used to call “Free speech for me, but not for thee.”

    Under this logic, my speech — even if sharp, brutal, and filled with invective — is still simply speech. Indeed, it might be commendable, righteous rage. But their speech, even if it’s similarly sharp and brutal, is violence — and I am therefore allowed to respond with violence. It is the kind of bad idea that can only be generated in an environment of low viewpoint diversity and highly moralistic ideological rigidity, which of course we see in too many corners of campus today.

    It's a long and thoughtful essay, with examples of Lukianoff's experience with actual violence. And makes the further point that equating speech with violence shows a profound disrespect to victims of actual violence.

  • Fortunately, it's a metaphor. J.D. Tuccille echoes a complaint I've made myself: Libertarians Are More Politically Homeless Than Ever.

    For libertarians, modern American politics makes for a lonely place. Lonelier than usual, that is. Democrats are doubling down on their longtime taste for government control of the economy while replacing vestigial civil liberties concerns with a mania for policing political discourse. Republicans want to close the doors of the land of opportunity so they can dole out jobs to supporters in the not-very free economy they plan to manipulate for their own purposes. The major parties strongly agree on one point: State power should be enhanced and wielded for their own ends.

    That leaves little room for free minds and free markets.

    And if you're thinking "But what about…?"

    Normally, I would drop in a mention here that at least we can park our votes with the Libertarian Party. But that column of smoke you see in the distance is the dumpster fire it has become after an influx of populist trolls. Oh, well, it was nice-ish, and often amusing, while it lasted.

  • Also a little depressed about the options is… George Will, who observes: This election is Democratic progressivism vs. GOP progressivism-lite. Alas.

    (Yes, that "alas" is in his headline. Does he write his own headlines? Sounds like him.)

    The consensus that the nation is politically polarized is indisputable only because it is undisputed. Granted, there is cultural polarization about this and that — pronouns, bathrooms, indoctrination masquerading as education, etc. Politically, however — regarding government’s proper scope and actual competence — there is deepening bipartisan agreement. Unfortunately.

    Concerning the broad contours of public policy, there is a disturbing convergence. Programmatically, the parties are more aligned than they have been since the 1950s, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower caused Republicans to accept the permanency of the New Deal’s legacy: a transfer-payment state (Social Security, soon to include Medicare and much more) and federal supervision of the economy. The Republicans’ 1964 nominee, Barry Goldwater, expressed a growing exasperation with ideological homogenization, promising “A choice, not an echo.” He initiated an epochal divergence between the parties, which culminated 16 years later.

    Today, beneath the frothy partisanship, Republican progressivism echoes the Democrats’. Both parties favor significant expansions of government’s control of economic activity and the distribution of wealth. Both promise to leave unchanged the transfer-payment programs (Social Security, Medicare) that are plunging toward insolvency, and driving unsustainable national indebtedness.

    But at least there's a chance we'll live long enough to say: "Told you so."

Recently on the book blog:

Bye, Bob

Well, sad news. Bob Newhart passed away. Sharing a video that I haven't seen anyone else share yet:

And, even though I've seen it many times, I laughed once more.

Back in 2005 (19 years ago!) Cathy Seipp wrote a column celebrating Bob's 76th (!) birthday: No Sideshow Bob. (Gee, Bob was older then than I am now.)

Opening paragraph:

“One of the things you learn when you go on the nightclub floor is never show fear, because then you’re dead meat,” said Bob Newhart, recalling his almost overnight transformation from Chicago accountant to successful stand-up comedian. “So I’ve just pretended for the last 45 years I knew what I was doing.”

And speaking of great talents no longer with us, National Review provides a Cathy Seipp archive.

Also of note:

  • As Bob would say: "Stop it!" Robby Soave has a demand: Stop Blaming the Attempted Assassination on Heated Anti-Trump Rhetoric.

    A consensus is swiftly forming among Republican politicians, activists, and media figures that the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump can be blamed on the heated, occasionally violent anti-Trump rhetoric deployed by President Joe Biden, leading Democrats, and mainstream media pundits.

    This is a deeply cynical and misguided tactic—and Republicans are well aware of it, since they have rightly criticized their political opponents for doing the exact same thing.

    Soave has plenty of examples. And notes that people aren't making the (fair and valid) point about there being a double standard at play. But these guys (Republicans these days) aren't objecting to the double standard; they're wallowing in it.

    However, I don't think he'll go so far as to threaten pols with being buried alive in a box.

  • "Let's refute something you never claimed." It's a bizarre debating tactic, but Politifact tries it anyway. Ramesh Ponnuru looks at Politifact’s Latest Logic- and Evidence-Free ‘Fact Check’ on Abortion.

    Politifact pulls the same old bait-and-switch on J. D. Vance.

    “Donald Trump is running against a Joe Biden president who wants taxpayer-funded abortions up until the moment of birth,” Vance said.

    This is False and misleads about how rarely abortions are performed later in pregnancy.

    Vance supposedly misled people about the frequency of abortions late in pregnancy by . . . not saying one word about the frequency of abortions later in pregnancy.

    I've noticed people, mainly pols, doing this. I'm only slightly more surprised seeing it coming from "unbiased" Politifact.

  • Live by the DEI hire, die by the DEI hire. The Daily Caller is one of many noticing this: Biden Calls His Defense Secretary ‘The Black Man’ After Appearing To Forget His Name.

    President Joe Biden appeared to call U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin “the black man” after forgetting his name during an interview Tuesday with Black Entertainment Television (BET).

    The now-viral clip shows Biden preaching about how best to treat others.

    “And so, it’s all about, it’s all about treating people with dignity. And it’s about making sure that — look, I mean, for example — look at [the heat I’m getting] because I named a, uh, the secretary of defense, the black man,” Biden says, though part of his statement sounded garbled.

    “I named Ketanji Brown, I mean, because of the people I’ve named,” Biden continued. It is unclear who was referring to when he made the accusation above.

    The clip in question:

    Biden can't even do racial condescension coherently any more.

  • Gold-plated anyway. Robert Graboyes reminds us: The Economics Nobel Is a Gold Disk, Not a Crystal Ball.

    For those who trust markets, businesses, and individuals more than government, there’s plenty to dislike in the economic policies of both Joe Biden and Donald Trump. That said, the most unhelpful piece of campaign literature this year is from the Biden side, not so much for its content, but rather because it undermines the scientific reputation of economics and the integrity of its highest honor—the Economics Nobel. It’s a letter from sixteen Nobelists arguing that, “Joe Biden’s economic agenda is vastly superior to Donald Trump’s.” The letter offers ideologically skewed ad hockery as economics and commandeers the Nobel’s prestige. (The letter is here.)

    The letter says Biden would bring Americans lower inflation, stronger growth, and greater stability than Trump. Biden repeatedly whispers of his endorsement by “Sixteen NOBEL prizewinning economists … … SIXXTEEEN.” His reverential tone recalls some clergyman proclaiming, “The Bible refers to God by SIXXTEEEN different names,” and the press plays the role of enraptured congregants.

    The Nobelists’ letter deserves no more attention than would a similar letter from sixteen winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, or sixteen dentists, or sixteen poets at a kombucha bar in Greenwich Village. I say that as one who has the highest respect possible for the Economics Nobel and confidence that all sixteen signatories deserved their prizes.

    Graboyes (who owns an Econ PhD) explains this shocking assertion, and convinces me that I'd rather get my political recommendations from those kombucha bar poets. At least they might rhyme.

    Fun facts about the Nobel disk:

    Up to 1980 the “Swedish” medals, each weighing approximately 200 g and with a diameter of 66 mm, were made of 23 carat gold. Since then they have been made of 18 carat recycled gold. The weight is set to 175 g for all medals, except for the medal for economic sciences. Its weight is set to 185 g.

    Another reason to go into econ instead of physics: an extra 10 grams on your Nobel!

Last Modified 2024-07-19 5:42 PM EDT

It Wasn't Even a Slippery Slope

Sounds as if Iowahawk has seen In the Line of Fire. (Great movie.)

I haven't seen Kim Cheatle's sloped-roof excuse clarified or corrected anywhere.

For additional amusement, the Secret Service came up in Lester Holt's interview with President Biden. From NBC's transcript:

LESTER HOLT: Do you have — are you — are you — you have confidence in the Secret Service? Do you feel safe?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I feel safe with the Secret Service. But look, you saw the — what we did see was the Secret Service who responded risked their lives responding. They were ready to give their lives for the president. The question is should they have anticipated what happened. Should they have done what they needed to do to prevent this from happening? That’s the question that’s — that’s an open question.

LESTER HOLT: Is it acceptable that you have still not heard, at least publicly, from the Secret Service director?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Oh, I’ve heard from him. I — I’ve —

LESTER HOLT: But have you heard from her publicly?

This is the difference between me and Lester Holt. That last question from me would have been something like

PUN SALAD: Him? You do realize that Kim Cheatle is a woman, right?

That said, it seems the best thing we can say about Secret Service protective service is: you're probably safer with it than without. A pretty low bar.

For folks who want to wallow in Secret Service incompetence, though: Power Line is a pretty good mudhole. I'll just say that Kim Cheatle is no Sam Campagna . And, fortunately, Thomas Crooks was no Mitch Leary. This time.

Also of note:

  • I'm open to that characterization. Jeff Maurer feels that J.D. Vance Might Be a Straight-Up Policy Moron.

    When I worked in a congressional office, we would get faxes (yes, faxes — I am 97 years old). It turns out that there are self-styled geniuses across the country who will fax in “solutions” to intractable problems; we’d get detailed plans for balancing the budget, restructuring health care, or achieving Middle East peace. Most of these plans were — to be polite — nonsensical garbage from self-important loons. I suspect that many of these people had seen the movie Dave, in which a small-town accountant balances the budget with some common sense and a TI-81 graphing calculator, and thought: “That’s probably how stuff really works.”

    I was thinking about those faxes when reading about J.D. Vance’s economic vision. Vance — whose background is in law, not economics — thinks that he sees something in economic policy that all the ivory tower eggheads have missed. He told Ross Douthat:

    “…I think the economics profession is fundamentally wrong about both immigration and about tariffs. Yes, tariffs can apply upward pricing pressure on various things — though I think it’s massively overstated — but when you are forced to do more with your domestic labor force, you have all of these positive dynamic effects.”

    This is just part of an economic vision Vance spells out in that article and several others. It’s a vision that people are giving credence, probably because Vance seems like a smart guy. And I agree that Vance does seem smart — he’s articulate and wrote a book that he tricked a bunch of big-city liberals into buying, which is something that I hope to do someday. Of course, being smart is not the same as knowing what the fuck you’re talking about. And from where I’m sitting, Vance’s economic vision is small-minded gibberish that I’d expect to find in an all-caps fax titled “A COMMON-SENSE PLAN TO QUADRUPLE GDP AND END UNEMPLOYMENT!!!”

    I, for one, can't wait to be ruled by a set of people with different crackpot ideas than the ones we're getting now.

  • In "these people's" defense, sometimes it's "Racism", "Misogyny", "Flat-Eartherism", … But Rich Lowry has the right question otherwise: Why Is It Always ‘Fascism’ and ‘Theocracy’ with These People? Sampling:

    The debate about the extent to which the Heritage Foundation–crafted agenda speaks for Donald Trump aside, the attacks on it are hilariously irrational and unhinged.

    California representative Jared Huffman, creator of the Stop Project 2025 Task Force, calls the agenda “a dystopian plot” and “an unprecedented embrace of extremism, fascism, and religious nationalism.”

    According to the New Republic, Project 2025 sets out a “Christian nationalist vision of the United States,” and, if implemented, centers of government power “would all be marshaled to ensure our acquiescence in this dictatorial male supremacist society.”

    Rachel Laser, president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, has fulfilled her professional obligation to warn that, via Project 2025, “Christian Nationalists will trample the wall of church-state separation and upend our democracy.”

    No less an authority than Seth Meyers warned, “Donald Trump and his allies have a deeply deranged plan for a far-right authoritarian government that will jail opponents, wage a full-scale war on reproductive rights, and dismantle American democracy.”

    I've been jousting a bit with a Facebook friend who keeps posting wild charges about what P2025 says. Just responses containing the relevant paragraphs from the actual P2025 playbook.

  • A voice of sanity, that will be ignored. And it belongs to Veronique de Rugy, who has some ideas on How to Pay for Trump's Tax Cuts.

    Considering that there seems to be general bipartisan agreement on keeping a majority of the tax cuts and maintaining growth, let's focus on the deficit question. I firmly believe that any new costs or extensions of current policies must be paid for. We simply cannot afford to keep adding to our debt without considering the long-term consequences.

    A sensible place to start is by examining the myriad tax expenditures that have turned our tax code into Swiss cheese. According to the Treasury Department, there are 165 tax expenditures (think revenue losses due to tax carveouts), which is up from 53 in 1970.

    We should start by eliminating the ones that distort economic decision-making. The goal is a neutral tax system that doesn't favor certain activities or industries over others. That's one reason tax expenditures aimed at social engineering should be on the chopping block. Tax expenditures that add complexity to the tax code should be prime candidates for elimination too. Simpler tax systems reduce compliance costs and are more transparent.

    Click through for the deets. Summary: dump the mortgage interest deduction, state and local tax deduction, tax-free municipal bonds, tax exemptions for non-wage employee compensation, many business subsidies.

    (Disclaimer: I've got a chunk of my investment portfolio in tax-free bonds, so … I'd be willing to sacrifice if we got the other stuff too.)

  • Why are we in this mess? A perennial question. Jacob Sullum provided a large piece of the answer in the current print Reason: Congress 'Can Regulate Virtually Anything' by Abusing the Commerce Clause. Part of the judicial history:

    In 1941, an Ohio farmer named Roscoe Filburn violated federal law by growing too much wheat. Specifically, Filburn sowed 23 acres of winter wheat, a dozen more acres than he had been allotted under the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938. The penalty was 49 cents for each of 239 unauthorized bushels, totaling $117.11 (about $2,500 in current dollars).

    Filburn refused to pay. The recalcitrant farmer argued that Congress had exceeded its constitutional authority by telling him how much wheat he could grow, especially for his own use on his own property. Since he used the extra wheat to feed his family and his livestock, he said, it never left his farm and therefore was never part of interstate commerce.

    According to the Supreme Court, that didn't matter. Five years before, the justices had narrowly upheld the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, ruling that the Commerce Clause reached economic activities, such as hiring and firing practices, that were "intrastate in character when separately considered" if they had "such a close and substantial relation to interstate commerce that their control is essential or appropriate to protect that commerce from burdens and obstructions." The Court extended that logic in the wheat case, Wickard v. Filburn.

    And since then… In these reality-challenged times, it is (apparently) enough for legislation to claim that it's related somehow to interstate/foreign commerce in order to get a green light from the judicial branch.

Recently on the book blog:

Keep Scrolling

Our Eye Candy du Jour is the graphic that was one part of the spectacular fold-out cover in the current Reason:

(Full size, it's 871x2560 pixels, so please feel free to embiggen, and get even more depressed.)

The associated article is by Brian Riedl, who poses the musical question: Why Did Americans Stop Caring About the National Debt?.

When President Joe Biden delivered his 2023 State of the Union address, Washington was drowning in a sea of red ink. The annual budget deficit was in the process of doubling from $1 trillion to $2 trillion in a single year due to some student-debt cancellation shenanigans. That year's budget deficit would become the largest share of gross domestic product (GDP) in American history outside of wars and recessions. Economists at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and across the political spectrum warned that continuing to ignore the escalating Social Security and Medicare shortfalls while also opposing new broad-based taxes was unsustainable and could bring a painful debt crisis.

How did the nation's highest elected officials respond to this economic challenge? Biden promised that "if anyone tries to cut Social Security [or] Medicare, I'll stop them. I'll veto it." He also accused congressional Republicans of plotting to reform these programs—prompting outraged shouts from Republicans who resented the accusation of caring about the looming insolvency of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. When the president triumphantly taunted that such boos reveal a new bipartisan consensus to do nothing about Social Security and Medicare shortfalls, both Republicans and Democrats leaped to their feet with thunderous cheers. For good measure, both parties endorsed Biden's prohibition on any new taxes for 95 percent of families. Washington's dangerous borrowing spree would continue with enthusiastic bipartisan support.

Riedl says the only solution is one everybody will hate: spending restraint and tax increases. And that probably won't happen until after a painful fiscal crisis leaves us with no choice.

Sorry to darken your day.

Also of note:

  • Ignorance of economics is no excuse.

    Election-season "do something" cards played by demagogues.

  • But, hey, what about that J.D. Vance? Kyle Smith sums it up in a short tweet:

    If you'd prefer a slightly longer-winded analysis, let's hand the mic to Kevin D. Williamson: The Infinitely Plastic J.D. Vance.

    Whatever one makes of Vance as a potential future president, he is nonpareil as a candidate for the vice presidency. He has no legislative record to speak of, and—if we can set aside the fact that he once very publicly held the view that Donald Trump is an amoral lunatic utterly unfit for office—his rhetorical record isn’t much trouble, either. Not that he hasn’t said a lot of outrageous and stupid things. Vance is a Putinist social-media troll who described entitlement reform as a plot to “throw our grandparents into poverty … so that one of Zelensky’s ministers can buy a bigger yacht.” But nobody takes anything he says seriously—he is so transparently a man who will say whatever his betters require him to say to get what he wants from them. Telling people with money and power what they want to hear is the only consistent throughline in his career, from Hillbilly Elegy to the present day. Once an appendage of Peter Thiel’s, now he is an appendage of Donald Trump’s after a long and bitter apprenticeship of sycophancy.

    As another warning signal, Elizabeth Nolan Brown notes that J.D. Vance Thinks Lina Khan Is Doing a Great Job.

    Under President Joe Biden, the FTC—headed by Lina Khan—has aggressively pursued an anti-innovation, anti-tech, anti-big business, and anti-consumer agenda. Khan and her allies in the Biden administration think the consumer welfare standard that has guided antitrust law for decades needs to go. Rather than focus on whether a company's actions or a particular merger will raise prices for consumers, they think antitrust regulators should be concerned with some amorphous concept of "competition," with making sure businesses don't get bigger, and with helping competitors to big businesses (especially big tech companies) get a leg up.

    Khan's is a profoundly anti-free markets agenda, punctuated by attempts to bypass Congress and the legislative process and simply set policies administratively. Her vision seems to be of an all-powerful FTC able to target business practices and private companies based on partisan political goals, instead of the neutral arbiter of business that it is supposed to be.

    J.D. Vance loves it.

    "I guess I look at Lina Khan as one of the few people in the Biden administration that I think is doing a pretty good job," Vance said in February.

    In the likely event you've not been paying attention to what I've posted about Lina over the past few years, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here,… Oh, heck, that's a lot, and I only grepped pre-2023. I am not a Khan fan.

    But speaking of non-fans Donald Boudreaux has his collection of Vance barbs from George Will, Stephanie Slade, the WSJ editorialists, and Phil Magness. (The latter seems unavailable, unfortunately.)

  • Feelgood LFOD du Jour. reports some impressive local news: A N.H. motorcyclist was clocked at 158 mph, with a passenger on the back, police say.

    A 21-year-old Farmington, New Hampshire, man is facing a slew of charges after allegedly driving his motorcycle in the Live Free or Die state at speeds up to 158 mph Sunday, and fleeing from police in the process.

    Zachary Dionne was eventually arrested after stopping at a gas station off Portsmouth’s Exit 3 on Interstate 95. He was charged with felony reckless conduct — deadly weapon, reckless driving, making an unsafe lane change, disobeying an officer, resisting arrest, failing to display plates, and having an unregistered vehicle, State Police said.

    To quote Mr. David Barry: soon we will have no constitutional rights left.

Recently on the book blog:

Zut Alors!

Our Eye Candy du Jour is provided by those Reason cutups with the latest episode of Great Moments in Unintended Consequences.

In a departure from the usual: no US-based politicians are lampooned. I await episode 17.

Also of note:

  • Still got a bee in my bonnet about "student loan forgiveness". Fresh off yesterday's fisking of a semi-literate reality-challenged advocacy, we have Peter Jacobsen's analysis of the latest orchestral manoeuvres in the dark: Student Loan Payment Freeze, Debt Forgiveness Becoming Permanent. He's been following the labyrinthine schemes to shift debt from the debtors to oblivious taxpayers, and has the latest:

    […] we’re seeing another sign of the permanent shift caused by the pandemic payment freeze. Just this month, Biden’s Department of Education froze loan payments for millions of borrowers while the department continues to recalculate their payments to be only 5 percent of their income. This is down from 10 percent.

    That’s right, the generous SAVE plan just got even more generous, which means that the future taxpayer will be responsible for picking up the slack of higher tax payments when interest income falls.

    Why do the payments need to be frozen while the recalculation is processed? Why not have all borrowers make their payments up until the new payment amounts are calculated? Because temporary Covid policies instituted during the Trump administration have become the permanent norm for the Department of Education.

    And note that all this jiggery-pokery was originally invoked as an emergency temporary measure to deal with hardships caused by the pandemic. Which Biden has proclaimed that he saved us all from. As Jacobsen notes, it's an instance of Milton Friedman's general rule: “Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.”

  • When you believe the rabble can be easily swayed by seductive verbiage. Paul D. Miller describes The Problem With Blaming Words for Political Violence.

    Blaming words for the violence that follows sets a bad precedent. This would become an all-encompassing tool of censorship. If any criticism is the moral equivalent of incitement, we have no free speech. We’re obligated to self-censor; we sacrifice speech to eliminate even the smallest possibility that violence might follow from the extremists and the unstable among us.

    Of course, criticism is allowed, and the assassination attempt on Trump does not inoculate him against criticism any more than the pipe bombs inoculated Obama. Trump is a threat to democracy and we shouldn’t stop ourselves from saying so. We shouldn’t let the threat of terrorist violence have a heckler’s veto over our speech. Trump’s brush with an assassin’s bullet does not turn him into a saint or a hero.

    Disclaimer: unlike Miller, I don't think Trump is much of a threat to democracy. But (warning: possible gun imagery ahead) he's on target when he points out that we shouldn't refrain from criticism because it might set off some lunatic. Like that mythical Brazilian butterfly causing a Texas tornado.

  • A useful explanation. Kat Rosenfield has a credible one: How Culture Got Stupid. A key point blames:

    The tenets of the new cultural criticism were as follows:

    • All art was political, and always had been;

    • Art with the wrong politics caused harm, especially to women and people of color;

    • And all art must be analyzed through the lens of power, privilege, and progressive pieties.

    The whole thing had a frantically performative vibe that bordered on the evangelical—with journalists in the role of the youth pastor palpably desperate to keep you going to church. “It’s fun to think about this stuff,” pleaded one representative essay at the viral trend site Uproxx, begging readers to devote themselves to woke critique with the same enthusiasm with which they once debated the bloodlines of the Targaryen dynasty. “Are you telling me that it’s cool to argue for hours about who Azor Ahai is, but a ten-minute discussion of race, gender, and shifting sensibilities before rewatching an ’80s classic is somehow wasted time? Get out of here.”

    Ms. Rosenfield's essay is wide-ranging and insight-filled. Also, she has recommendations for us media-consumers. (I really have to watch Ricky Stanicky, I guess.)

Dumbest Thing Seen on Facebook Yesterday

It was this, posted in all serious earnestness:

I was sorely tempted to snark at this on FB. Unfortunately, it was posted by a wonderful lady I went to high school with, and had a major (unrequited) crush on back then, over a half-century ago.

In fact, I still kind of have a crush on her. I don't want to hurt her feelings.

So I'll retreat to snarking here. I'm pretty sure she doesn't read Pun Salad. I'll use my Fisking template: The dumbness is reproduced in its entirety on the left with a lovely #EEFFFF background color; my remarks are on the right.

There's not actually money being spent to wipe away student loans.

True, in a sense. That money was "spent" when it went into the coffers of higher education institutions.

Now, the only question is: who's gonna pay it back?

A student has $20,000 college debt and has paid $250/ month for 10 years. They have paid $30,000, but still have an outstanding balance of $15,000 on the school loans, due to the way the loans are written.

Um, yes. That's the way loans work.

But the numbers caused me to seek out this loan calculator. If you are paying $250/month on an initial balance of $20K, and only manage to work your balance down to $15K after 10 years, that seems to imply an interest rate of 13.83% or so.

That's, um, reality-challenged. Actual student loan interest rates (current and historical) aren't, and never have been, that high. (Data here.)

The loan relief is saying - you've paid $10,000 more than your loan value, so we're discharging that remaining balance.

That may be what they're saying—I have no idea. But what they are doing (or attempting to do) is a transfer of loan debt from the borrower to US taxpayers, present and future. This shouldn't be hard to understand.

The loaner of the $ already received their loan amount, plus interest.

The "loaner" is the buyer of US government debt: t-bonds, t-notes, and t-bills. They would not (and should not be expected to) get less than the promised return on their investment. They expect to be paid back in full, in real money.

In fact, if the government did try to stiff its creditors, that would be a default. There would be headlines. And the whole government financial scheme would teeter. And…

Well, it wouldn't be pretty.

And 18 yr old old bowerers are ill prepared to understand the long term ranifications of these high interest loans.

Gee, I always kind of suspected it was a mistake to let these kids vote. If "bowerers" can't understand "ranifications" of their freely-chosen financial obligations, what are the chances they'll make wise choices in the voting booth? Worse than a coin-flip, I'd bet.

Better to forgive the remaining balance to allow their spending to help the economy.

… which ignores the money taxpayers will be shelling out to cover the "discharged" debts of student borrowers. That's money those taxpayers will not be "spending to help the economy."

Recommended reading: That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen, by Frédéric Bastiat.

Like we did with banks.

Yeah, that was a bad idea too. But at least (at the time) people were making the argument that it was necessary to prevent the US financial system from collapsing. That is not the case with student loan bailouts. It's just naked vote-buying, and nobody's bothering to pretend differently.

And at least the bank bailout was (more or less) OKd by Congress. That's not the case with student loan bailouts either. The shift (both proposed and enacted) of debt burden from borrowers to taxpayers is carried out via executive decree.

I'm currently reading C. Bradley Thompson's America's Revolutionary Mind, an examination of the political theory behind the Declaration of Independence. The Americans of that time would not have hesitated to call this "taxation without representation". And an instance of tyranny.

Sadly, we live in more docile times.

Who's More Dangerous, Who's More Endangered?

Disclaimer: Lacking a reliable crystal ball, I don't know the answer to either question posed in today's headline. Sounds as if Trump had a pretty good claim to "more endangered" yesterday, though. I'll get to that, but first, via Ann Althouse, Maureen Dowd took to her NYT perch to urge President Dotard to hang it up:

At a moment when Joe Biden should be getting hosannas for his good work and becoming the party paterfamilias, his team is sniping at Democratic luminaries like Barack Obama and George Clooney.

The Biden crew is hectoring journalists to leave the president alone and explain how awful Donald Trump is. I have used every damning word in the thesaurus, thrice, about Trump. And I’ll invent some new ones if I have to. (Suggestions welcome.) But it is not my fault if 2016 Hillary Clinton and 2024 Biden are unable to prosecute the case against a candidate with as many psychoses and felonies as Trump. It’s theirs.

Ms. Dowd had experience dealing with her aging mother, movingly told.

Our weekly look at the betting odds, and calling them "volatile" is an understatement:

Candidate EBO Win
Donald Trump 65.7% +7.2%
Joe Biden 16.4% +1.5%
Kamala Harris 9.2% -5.4%
Gavin Newsom 2.8% -0.7%
Michelle Obama 2.6% -2.1%
Other 3.3% -0.5%

Deskchair analysis: Biden's intransigence about staying in the race caused him to improve his odds vis-à-vis the other Democrats. Getting shot (or at least getting shot at) was a big boost for Trump.

So what about that shooting. Well, the WaPo had a "Republicans Pounce" article about it pretty quick: Trump allies immediately blame Biden, Democrats for their rhetoric.

Top allies of Donald Trump quickly accused President Biden and his supporters of using rhetoric that led to a shooting and potential assassination attempt Saturday at a Trump campaign rally in Butler, Pa., even as Biden condemned the attack and called on the nation to unite against political violence.

Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), a potential Trump running mate, said in a statement on social media that the shooting was “not just some isolated incident.”

“The central premise of the Biden campaign is that President Donald Trump is an authoritarian fascist who must be stopped at all costs,” Vance wrote. “That rhetoric led directly to President Trump’s attempted assassination.”

Yeah, maybe, J.D. You have to go down a few paragraphs to find some perhaps-inciting rhetoric straight from the horse's … um, mouth:

[Trump advisor Chris] LaCivita’s [now-deleted social media] message pointed to words Biden had used earlier in the week when he told a group of donors about shifting his campaign to attack Trump’s policy record, including his record on abortion and Project 2025, a policy document drafted by some former Trump advisers. “So, we’re done talking about the debate, it’s time to put Trump in a bull’s eye,” Biden had told donors in the private call, which was reported publicly.

Which brought to mind the famed effort by the NYT editors to blame Sarah Palin for the 2011 shooting of Gabby Giffords. A 2017 look back from the WaPo Fact Checker: The bogus claim that a map of crosshairs by Sarah Palin’s PAC incited Rep. Gabby Giffords’s shooting.

“Was this attack evidence of how vicious American politics has become? Probably. In 2011, Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl. At the time, we and others were sharply critical of the heated political rhetoric on the right. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs. But in that case no connection to the shooting was ever established.”
New York Times editorial board, June 14

This quote is from a corrected version of a New York Times editorial that had falsely claimed that the gunman in the 2011 Giffords shooting was politically incited by Palin’s political action committee. Many readers asked about the uncorrected version, which initially claimed “the link to political incitement was clear” between the gunman’s actions and the map portraying crosshairs, including one over Giffords’s congressional district in Southern Arizona.

On Jan. 11, 2011 — three days after the shooting — The Fact Checker called this charge “bogus.” Alas, this debunked talking point still exists.

Note: that was from 2017, in response to the softball-field shooting of GOP Congressman Scalise. The NYT editorial led to a defamation lawsuit from Palin against the NYT which is apparently still ongoing, despite Palin's loss in U.S. District Court in 2022.

I suppose "Flight 93" storm-the-cockpit rhetoric will continue to come at us from all sides. I'm dubious that it causes dangerous wackos to grab guns, but maybe.

Also of note:

  • A pretty good title for a bad science fiction novel. Martin Gurri reflects on Joe Biden and a Tear in the Fabric of Things.

    Joe Biden entered the Senate in 1973, at the tender age of 30. He looked like a president, he felt like a president and he fully expected to rise to the top. His formula for success was that of every ambitious politician deprived by nature of directing principles or opinions: Find the meandering mainstream of his party’s establishment, where the big fish swim, then wade in and drift. Biden was in turn strongly against and stridently for abortion, a righteous Vietnam dove and then a stern Iraq hawk, a friend of racist Democratic senators before becoming a promoter of compensatory quotas for racial minorities.

    Virtually every time a vacancy arose, Biden, by his own admission, considered running for the presidency. In 1988, at the age of 46, he actually did so—and failed. Biden may look and feel like a president, but he has never sounded like one. Long before old age turned him into a bleary-eyed mutterer, he tended to get lost in his own verbiage. He told fantastic stories about his personal life that could be easily disproven. He plagiarized bits from Bobby Kennedy and an entire speech by British Labour leader Neil Kinnock. Biden, it seems, was as needy as he was ambitious. His campaign resembled a prolonged pratfall. He dropped out before the first primary.

    Gurri's take on history and current events (pre-assassination attempt, at least) is well worth a read.

  • A very bad title for a bad political novel. Kerry Jackson, writing at the Pacific Research Institute says that one of the guys in the betting table has, perhaps, overestimated odds: President Newsom, For The Power And The Glory

    Biden’s troubling performance in the June 27 CNN debate fueled the ongoing discussions of who could and should replace him as the Democratic candidate. Of course every list included Newsom, who was a Biden surrogate at the debate and obviously has his eye on the White House even as he pretends to avert his gaze every time he’s asked about it.

    The numbers, however, indicate that he’d be a poor choice. A CNN poll taken three days after the debate showed Trump by five points over Newsom. A Data for Progress poll taken the day after had Trump up by three.

    Multiple polls have Trump also beating Vice President Kamala Harris, though the gaps are closer and in some cases within the margin of error. Interestingly, the gamblers like Harris, who is extraordinarily unpopular, over Newsom. The RealClearPolitics betting odds average shows Trump at 56 percent, Harris at 15.7 percent, Biden at 12.2 and Newsom at 4.7.

    The explanation is pretty simple:

    It was under Newsom and no other governor that California lost population. The same goes for the loss of a congressional seat. That happened on his watch. It’s no mere coincidence that the human flight from the state corresponded with some of the most harsh, pointless, counterproductive and we’re-just-guessing pandemic lockdown policies in the country.

    … and more.

  • Maybe the assassination attempt will change him, but… as of a few days ago, Jonah Goldberg was on target (or is that too assassin-encouraging now?): Trump Is Loyal Only to His Own Ambition.

    Trump has always wanted the party to be his pool of Narcissus, reflecting his personal glory and dominance. That’s why he supported candidates who hewed to his lie that the 2020 election was stolen, preferring that the party lose with loyalists than win with truth-tellers. That’s why he no longer cares about the Federalist Society, which produced judges who rejected his false election claims. Oh, and last month, the guy who infamously called for a ban on Muslim immigration said he wants to give every foreign-born graduate of a U.S. college a green card.

    The problem with the search for an intellectually serious Trumpism is that Trump has no use for ideas except as expedients of his ambition. The instrumentalism that paved the way for Trump sought to make him the right’s tool. Instead, it made a lot of right-wingers look like tools.

    Sorry, Donald. But I earnestly hope you get better soon. In all senses of that term.

Please Don't Call This Trickle-Down

Stolen from Josiah Bartlett:

Man, this really makes me wish I got up to speed on one of those AI image generators. It illustrates Mitchell Scacchi's article chronicling the latest bit of pork arriving in our state: Feds devote another $19 million to save declining Manchester bus service.

Our state's junior senator claims a bit of credit for that (click through for what the other pols have to say):

But here's Scacchi's relentless refutation:

From 2013–2022, the Manchester Transit Authority (MTA) increased spending by more than a third and rapidly expanded service offerings to try to increase ridership. It was a colossal failure, as we highlighted in April. Instead of acknowledging the failure and changing course, the federal government this week announced a massive infusion of additional resources.

Washington has committed $19.9 million to build a new city transit center (after the original closed due to a shortage of riders) in an effort to reverse the government’s previous failure to induce ridership through additional spending.

New Hampshire’s congressional delegation announced Tuesday that the money would be used “for the construction of a new transit center which will replace the city’s outdated facility and enable an expansion of transit services in the region,” according to reporting from Manchester Ink Link.

The University Near Here is getting $2.7 million "to replace diesel-powered buses with compressed natural gas buses for its Wildcat Transit service." This is for a service that (at last report) had yet to recover to pre-pandemic ridership. (And last year was forced to terminate its service to neighboring Newmarket,)

Also of note:

  • Bad news for the looters. Noah Smith says There's not that much wealth in the world. It's a tutorial on wealth vs. income, and why taxing the former is such a lousy idea. He approvingly quotes:

    Freiman is correct. The wealth of America’s billionaires was estimated at around $5.2 trillion in 2023, while federal government spending was about $6.4 trillion. Confiscating every last penny from Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and all the other billionaires wouldn’t fund the U.S. government for one year. And of course you could only do it once.

    Something to remember when folks like Joe Biden (a) confuse income and wealth; and (b) demand that the rich "pay their fair share."

  • You're out of control! Greg Lukianoff and Adam Goldstein take on that awful NYT op-ed by Tim Wu: The First Amendment ISN'T out of control.

    Professor Wu's recent piece, “The First Amendment Is Out of Control,” was in this troubling tradition of free-speech catastrophizing. He opened the article by arguing that "[n]early any law that has to do with the movement of information can be attacked in the name of the First Amendment."

    Well, yeah. Fear of government power over the free flow of information was a big part of the reason why "Congress shall make no law."

    Indeed, that's also a big part of why the founders included "the press" in the First Amendment. And by “the press,” they didn't mean institutional journalism (although the First Amendment clearly protects that as well) — they meant the literal biggest information moving technology of the day: the printing press.

    When people like Wu gripe that the 1A is "out of control", read for the obvious implication: people are out of control.

  • A surprising bit of good news. I'm a non-fan of "national conservatism", so didn't have much to say about their recent convention. But Stephanie Slade was paying attention to this ray of sunshine: Vivek Ramaswamy Debuts 'National Libertarianism' at NatCon 4.

    "I think it's been decided, as obviously as it possibly can be, that America First is the future direction of the Republican Party," former presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy tells me.

    Given the close association of "America First" with tariffs, industrial policy, and calls to close the borders, even to legal immigration, this might not seem to augur promising things for libertarians. But Ramaswamy sees two distinct live possibilities for what the phrase should actually mean. "From where I sit," he says, "the most important debate for the country to have is the intra–Republican Party and even intra–America First debate between the national protectionist and national libertarian wings."

    During an evening keynote at the fourth National Conservative Conference in Washington, D.C., this week, Ramaswamy laid out these alternatives in some detail—and gently made the case that attendees of the nationalist event should rethink their indulgence in protectionism.

    And I really liked this bit:

    "I don't care to replace a left-wing nanny state with a right-wing nanny state," Ramaswamy declared at NatCon. Or as he puts it during our follow-up conversation: "I think that's a mistake the left has long made, using the administrative state as a way to coddle certain groups of Americans. And I don't think we're going to beat the left by becoming the left."

    At some point in the last year Vivek said some stuff that irked me. It's possible I may need to forgive him.

Last Modified 2024-07-14 5:14 AM EDT