Memorial Day 2023

Our yearly reminder: with whatever fun we're having today, let's all not forget to remember.

[Memorial Day]

Story about the picture here.

Still on Hiatus, But…

An important reminder of what all the best people were saying back then:

Hiatus II

For personal reasons, I'm taking an indefinite suspension of normal ("Default") Pun Salad blogging. It will probably be on the order of months.

I will still post as warranted in the other views: Books, Movies, and perhaps even Geekery.

Thanks for reading. Best wishes to all.

Sure, Why Not?

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Jim I. Geraghty asks the burning question: Could Joe Manchin Become the H. Ross Perot of 2024? And Susan Collins become the Admiral Stockdale?

After noting that Trump is a big fan of (fellow loser) Kari Lake…

Needless to say, plenty of Americans would cringe at the choice of Biden-Harris or Trump-Lake. Meanwhile, the organization No Labels aims to get on the ballot in all 50 states and is expected to have at least $70 million to fund a major independent bid for the presidency.

And West Virginia senator Joe Manchin keeps refusing to rule out a presidential bid. He faces challenging odds in his Senate reelection. Earlier this year, Manchin and GOP senator Susan Collins of Maine headlined a No Labels event. (Obvious joke: How should you describe a No Labels event?)

Our Amazon Product du Jour is a mere $1.99 on Kindle. It was published back in 2014, and its introductory essay was by… Senator Joe Manchin! Followed by a couple ditties from … Jon Huntsman! Remember him?

"No Labels" is heavy on anodyne feel-good messaging. For example, the word "commonsense"—they like spelling it that way—appears four times on their front page.

Also of note:

  • A WIRED tongue bath. Virginia Heffernan provides one for the Secretary of Transportation: Pete Buttigieg Loves God, Beer, and His Electric Mustang. The needle on the sycophancy meter is in the red from the start:

    The curious mind of Pete Buttigieg holds much of its functionality in reserve. Even as he discusses railroads and airlines, down to the pointillist data that is his current stock-in-trade, the US secretary of transportation comes off like a Mensa black card holder who might have a secret Go habit or a three-second Rubik’s Cube solution or a knack for supplying, off the top of his head, the day of the week for a random date in 1404, along with a non-condescending history of the Julian and Gregorian calendars.

    As Secretary Buttigieg and I talked in his underfurnished corner office one afternoon in early spring, I slowly became aware that his cabinet job requires only a modest portion of his cognitive powers. Other mental facilities, no kidding, are apportioned to the Iliad, Puritan historiography, and Knausgaard’s Spring—though not in the original Norwegian (slacker). Fortunately, he was willing to devote yet another apse in his cathedral mind to making his ideas about three mighty themes—neoliberalism, masculinity, and Christianity—intelligible to me.

    Oh my. Oh dear. This reads like a parody. So bad, it inspired commentary by David Harsanyi: Let’s Probe The Beautiful, Voluminous, And Transcendent Mind Of The World’s Most Remarkable Human Being, Pete Buttigieg

    When Heffernan asks our hero whether “Republicans really want to be dragged into a bigger far-right project, including the renunciation of democracy, modernity, civil rights, human rights,” the greatest mind of our generation — perhaps any — treats readers to his fresh, incisive perspective. The “two greatest pillars of the mainstream right” destroying “democracy, modernity, civil rights, human rights,” says Mayor Pete, are GOP’s efforts to limit abortion and “lower taxes for the wealthy.”

    I bet you dummies are pretty mad you never thought of that, right? But, to top it off, Mayor Pete drops these words on us:

    “They’re now the dog that caught the car. And, to switch metaphors, they rode a tiger to get there. They made a lot of distasteful bargains in order to get there.”

    Who can argue? The man who once told us that the “shape of our democracy is the issue that affects every other issue,” also illuminates our understanding Christianity. “When you’re making public policy,” the political left’s go-to man on faith notes, “you’re often asking yourself, ‘How does this choice help people who would have the least going for them?’” Help the poor? Finally, a new concept for Christians to ponder!

    And (no surprise) it also inspired wicked, albeit easy, parody, for example, from Charles C. W. Cooke: A Profile: I Love Pete Buttigieg.

    We chit-chat for a while about minutiae — Fermat, musical counterpoint, the known origins of the umlaut — and then, unbidden, he opens up about his personal life. “I like water,” he tells me, effervescently. “I drink it often — sometimes cold.” “Tell me more,” I ask girlishly, sensing that he has more to give. “I like pizza, too,” he adds. “I have a pizza oven at home. We use it on Saturdays.”

    I don’t mind admitting it, but I’m transfixed. The man’s mind is a cathedral, and I, a mere congregant, have been invited into its inner sanctum. “I also have a car,” he offers. “It has batteries in it instead of gasoline. Electric!”

    It is.

    “Do you have any questions?” he asks me. “Yes,” I say. “Which of these do you find the most enchanting: Helicopters, barges, or monorails?”

    The answer to parody-Heffernan's query may surprise you!

  • Authoritarians want you to forget a great many things. (Stephanie) Slade lists one at the top of the list: Post-Liberal Authoritarians Want You To Forget That Private Companies Have Rights

    On Wednesday night, Sen. J.D. Vance (R–Ohio) took the stage at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and declared—to the astonishment of many who subsequently read the quote online—that "there is no meaningful distinction between the public and the private sector in the American regime."

    The remark came during a panel discussion about Regime Change, a new book by the "post-liberal" Notre Dame political scientist Patrick Deneen, in which Deneen argues that classical liberals and left-progressives are all pushing the same agenda and need to be "replaced" by a new conservative elite.Reason.)

    I really liked Vance's book Hillbilly Elegy. I didn't like some of the things he said during his election campaign, but I hoped he'd get better in office. Guess not.

  • Just in case you were in doubt. Eli Lake has his take on the Durham Report: The FBI Didn’t Persecute Hillary. It Protected Her

    If the Durham report shows anything, it is that the FBI leadership bent over backward to protect Clinton’s campaign while launching a full investigation into Trump’s campaign on the thinnest of pretexts. In other words, the FBI was not really the Clinton campaign’s persecutor, as so many insisted over the past few years, as much as its protector.

    “The speed and manner in which the FBI opened and investigated Crossfire Hurricane during the presidential election season based on raw, unanalyzed, and uncorroborated intelligence,” the Durham report observes, referring to the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign, “reflected a noticeable departure from how it approached prior matters involving possible attempted foreign election interference plans aimed at the Clinton campaign.”

    Consider the bureau’s approach to Clinton.

    The Durham report notes that, in early 2016, a confidential FBI source arranged for a sizable donation to Clinton’s campaign from a foreign country. Instead of taking steps to learn what might be in the works, the bureau eventually instructed the source to stay away from the Clinton campaign. Then, it offered Clinton’s lawyers what is known as a defensive briefing, so Clinton was aware of the foreign country’s efforts to help her.

    … which was something they never "offered" to Trump. More at the link, but the bottom line:

    All of this is a black eye for the FBI. The bureau is supposed to be above politics. Its leaders are supposed to show fidelity to the law and act without partisan favor. Comey, McCabe, and their deputies were guilty of a confirmation bias so severe it led them to embrace partisan falsehoods to get their man, and the republic is still paying the price for their failures. To this day, millions of loyal MSNBC viewers and most Democrats in Congress still act like it’s 2017, and Donald Trump is a Kremlin agent.

    It was a hoax six years ago. It’s a farce today.

Last Modified 2023-05-30 7:42 PM EDT

The Right Minimum Wage: $0.00

[zero point zero] That was the headline on the lead editorial in the New York Times on January 14, 1987. Alas, the Twin Cities didn't heed that advice, thanks to (as Philip Greenspun points out) PhD-level thinking in economics. Quoting a MinnPost article:

The push to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in both Minneapolis and St. Paul has successfully boosted the average worker’s hourly pay in both cities, but it has also led to sharp drops in the numbers of available jobs and hours worked, new research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has found.

(Links to the FRB's studies added.)

I'm bemused by the seemingly tautological claim that the minimum wage increase "boosted the average worker’s hourly pay". Well, yeah: if you chop off the lower tail of the hourly wage distribution, the average of what's left of the distribution will necessarily be higher.

But it seems clear that the primary effects of legislatively destroying the bottom rungs of the economic ladder were negative.

PhilG also notes the cavalier attitude of that "PhD-level" thinker quoted by the MinnPost:

“Somebody who loses their job because of a minimum wage increase is going to find another job,” said UC Berkeley economist Michael Reich. “Probably not right away, they’re going to work fewer weeks per year — but they’re not going to be permanently unemployed.”

Let them eat welfare in the meantime. I added a "fun fact" comment to PhilG's post: the quoted “UC Berkeley economist Michael Reich” is one of the founders of the Union for Radical Political Economics, self-described as “an alternative professional organization for left political economists and an intellectual home for academics, policy-makers, and activists who are interested in participating in a left intellectual debate on theoretical and policy issues.”

I guess that’s where you have to go to find an economist willing to defend, however lamely, minimum wage laws.

Coincidentally, Cafe Hayek's Quotation of the Day is from Thomas Sowell:

Minimum wage laws play Russian roulette with people who need jobs and the work experience that will enable them to rise to higher pay levels.

Also of note:

  • Since we're talking about employement… Robert F. Graboyes provides 20 Job Tips for 2020s 20-Somethings. A small sample:

    1. Jobs that can be done in Cheyenne, Des Moines and Sarasota have potent advantages over those that can be done only in New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

    2. For now, college degrees are important, but high tuition and opportunity costs, combined with often less-than-stellar returns, are reviving the notion that the workplace is often a better educational venue than a university.

    3. Maybe Ivy League graduates making photocopies for congressmen shouldn’t look down on plumbers who own beach homes.

    That last tip has a footnote that you will not want to miss.

  • Water is still wet, and… David Harsanyi notes that AR-15 Bans Are (Still) Unconstitutional.

    Gun control advocates have become so dependent on emotional arguments they often seem incapable of offering rational ones. So, I was eager to read a new Bloomberg column (via The Washington Post) headlined, “The Second Amendment Allows a Ban on the AR-15.”

    The piece doesn’t get off to a promising start, as author Noah Feldman props up a familiar straw man:

    If we each have the right to bear arms, is there a constitutional right to a military-style semiautomatic rifle like an AR-15? What about a rocket-propelled grenade launcher? A small tank?

    Notice how he jumps from the oxymoronic “military-style semiautomatic rifle” — not a real thing — to a small tank. Anyway, the proposition is that we should not have access to military-grade armaments. (Feldman is unaware that owning a small tank is legal.) But we’ll get back to that in a moment.

    Harsanyi proceeds to a robust discussion of SCOTUS jurisprudence, concentrating (as Feldman does) the United States v. Miller decision, rebutting Feldman's claims about its holding. Then proceeding on to good old Heller.

  • In case you haven't read Hayek recently… Bruce Yandle will brush you up, using a convenient foil: Biden's Experience Doesn't Mean He Can Plan an Economy.

    In a recent interview with MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle, President Biden responded to a question regarding his age (80 years old) and how that might affect his performance should he have a second term in office. "I have acquired a hell of a lot of wisdom and know more than the vast majority of people," Biden said, "And I'm more experienced than anybody that's ever run for the office."

    This was a positive response to a tough question, but one that deserves more examination. No presidency, especially one so active with industrial policy and economic planning, can get by on this answer.

    We all recognize that a person who's lived 80 years will have had more life experiences than one who has trod the planet for 70, 60 or 50 years. And it's easy to see that Mr. Biden, who has devoted his entire adult life to politics, is armed with countless stories and lessons learned about the nation's political economy. But granting this does not support the idea that Biden knows more than the vast majority of us, all topics considered. Nor does any of this matter much if his administration consistently fails to account for the vast majority of the people's knowledge taken together.

    Yandle notes that he's about to turn 90 himself. And, you know, I'd much prefer him as president. He's smart enough to know what he doesn't, and can't, know.

  • But Biden's not the only fool on the hill. Veronique de Rugy has a couple questions. What is 'Common Good Capitalism,' and Why Are Some Conservatives So Enamored?.

    "Common-good capitalism" is all the rage these days with national conservatives. But what exactly is it, you may ask? That's a good question. As far as I can tell, it's a lovely sounding name for imposing one's preferred economic and social policies on Americans while pretending to be "improving" capitalism. If common-good capitalism's criticisms of the free-market and prescriptions for its improvement were ice cream, it would be identical in all but its serving container to what much of the Left has been dishing up for decades.

    The wider adoption of the term Common-Good Capitalism (CGC) can be traced back to a speech given by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., at Catholic University in 2019. While there are different strains of common-good capitalism, they all have in common the goal of producing a more balanced and stable economy that better serves the nation and its people.

    The common good is, of course, a vague and subjective concept, the details of which are hard to pin down. Its advocates claim it's an alternative form of conservative governance meant to promote things like tradition, workers' dignity, religion, order and families, rather than the singular free-market focus of personal liberties and economic freedom. How exactly government policies will be used to mold capitalism into achieving these goals — many of which go further than economics — is unclear. This haziness explains why those defending common-good capitalism usually do so only by listing what they see as wrong with the free market, rather than by giving their audiences specific details.

    As we've said before: the "common good" modifier in "common good capitalism" should be understood to mean "not really".

Last Modified 2023-05-30 7:42 PM EDT

But What Really Matters is January 6

The WSJ explains Why the Durham Report Matters to Democracy.

Two special counsels, several inspector general reports and six years later, the country finally has a more complete account of the FBI’s Russia collusion probe of the 2016 Donald Trump campaign. Special counsel John Durham’s final report makes clear that a partisan FBI became a funnel for disinformation from the Hillary Clinton campaign through a secret investigation the bureau never should have launched.

The 306-page Durham report released Monday afternoon is far more comprehensive than anything issued by original special counsel Robert Mueller. Mr. Durham had already unfurled some of the narrative with his prosecutions of Russian national Igor Danchenko and Democratic lawyer Michael Sussmann. He lost those cases, though the indictments laid out how the Clinton campaign used foreign nationals, an oppo-research outfit, and political insiders to feed the FBI and the media lies about Trump collusion.

It's tempting to advocate a massive shakeup of the FBI (and the CIA, while we're at it). Durham's report doesn't recommend such "wholesale changes" because this travesty was primarily due to the lack of integrity of people at the top. If you have political hacks in charge, no amount of "shakeup" will prevent future perversions.

Also of note:

  • Or, as Yoda would say, "Much to learn about free speech you have." Kevin D. Williamson's syntax is down-to-earth, though: Elon, You Have Much To Learn About Free Speech.

    Hey, Elon. Big fan, albeit one of those who believed (and still believes) that your talents are a lot better suited to building cool cars and rockets and stuff than running Twitter, that great open sewer of contemporary public life. I’m not looking for a job—the last time I went to work for a jumped-up media dilettante enthroned atop a vast heap of Silicon Valley money, it went poorly—but, buddy, you need a tutor.

    If you’re going to be in the free-speech business, then you need to learn a little bit about free speech. You’re not in South Africa anymore—hell, you’re not in Canada anymore.

    In defending your decision to bend the knee to Turkish caudillo Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, you wrote: “By ‘free speech,’ I simply mean that which matches the law. I am against censorship that goes beyond the law. If people want less free speech, they will ask government to pass laws to that effect. Therefore, going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people.”

    That may have been the dumbest thing published on Twitter during that particular 24-hour period—no mean feat—or maybe just the most childish, as my colleague Nick Catoggio wrote recently. It even made me rethink my conviction that you are poorly suited to run Twitter: If you really believe that the limit on free speech is whatever the “will of the people” says it is, then Twitter, with its ochlocratic mob mentality, is just the right place for you—which is just about the worst thing you can say about someone, I’m afraid.

    Elon's hand on the Twitter tiller is pretty shaky. My third grade teacher, Mrs. Merklein, would have said: "Better, still much room for improvement."

  • We're living in a state-besotted world. Michael Munger provides a response to people who "rebut" his libertarian notions with variations on "You Use the Roads, Don’t You?"

    For some reason, a lot of folks think this is a knock-down argument against classical liberalism, because in their view we all just want to “free ride” (literally, in this case) by enjoying things paid for by others without contributing any of our own income as taxes.

    Since we all run into this (dumb) argument all the time, I asked my usual question. I have worked to get it down to the fewest words possible, because it has more impact that way. My question is this: “If the slave eats the food provided by the master, does that mean the slave consents to slavery?”

    Munger's point is not that we're all slaves. Instead, it's a realization that we live in a far-from-perfect world, and we're obligated to maneuver in the system that exists, not the one we know would be better, surviving and prospering as we can.

  • Neither can his mind be thought to be in tune, whose words doe jarre; nor his reason in frame, whose sentence is preposterous.. Ben Jonson said that back in 1641 or so, and that was the motto of the late, very lamented, Underground Grammarian. And it came to mind when reading through a recent article on the new-to-me substack, Bastiat's Window: Advancing Health Obsequity. The author, Robert F. Graboyes, looks at a small bit of a 54-page report, Advancing Health Equity: A Guide to Language, Narrative and Concepts, from the American Medical Association.

    AHE’s Table 5 is titled “Contrasting Conventional (Well-intentioned) Phrasing with Equity-focused Language that Acknowledges Root Causes of Inequities.” Borrowed from a National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) document, it offers the following sentence as “Conventional” phrasing:

    “Low-income people have the highest level of coronary artery disease in the United States.”

    In place of this straightforward, 15-word, 27-syllable sentence, AHE (via NACCHO) recommends the following 39-word, 78-syllable pilgrimage, which it labels “Equity-focused Language that Acknowledges Root Causes of Inequities”:

    “People underpaid and forced into poverty as a result of banking policies, real estate developers gentrifying neighborhoods, and corporations weakening the
    power of labor movements, among others, have the highest level of coronary artery disease in the United States.”

    Do you remember diagramming sentences? (How old are you anyway?) Graboyes diagrams both phrasings, and shows how the latter "takes the reader on an extended stream-of-consciousness side journey—effectively shutting down many questions that clinicians and researchers might want to ask." It's an alliterative journey into "victimhood, villainy, violations, and vertigo."

  • And to think it all happened by molecules bumping together at random. Howard Lee describes The complicated history of how the Earth’s atmosphere became breathable.

    For almost half of our planet's existence—the entire time before the Great Oxygenation Event, or GOE—Earth was effectively an alien planet. Apart from the obvious (the air was unbreathable), the oceans also lacked oxygen and were full of dissolved iron, while land was lethally irradiated by ultraviolet light, as the atmosphere lacked an ozone layer. Even the color palette was alien: Land lacked the reddish hues of dirt and the greens of vegetation, while the sky was pinkish-orange due to high methane levels.

    Life began in that alien environment, and at some point between 3.2 and 2.8 billion years ago, cyanobacteria began to use sunlight to split hydrogen from water, discarding oxygen as waste. That was a whopping 400 million to 800 million years before the GOE, roughly the same time that separates the present from the dawn of complex life.

    Bottom line: a lot of things had to happen, an interplay of chemistry, geology, and biology. And in the right order, at the right time.

    And that's just to get oxygen into the atmosphere. The processes that produce Dunkin' Donuts drive-thrus were even more complex.

Last Modified 2023-05-30 7:42 PM EDT

Narrator: Stalin Sent Actual Rebel Girls Straight to the Gulag

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Our Amazon Product du Jour is part of a publishing empire. I didn't count, but many products can be purchased to be read by your local pre-teen person currently identifying as female.

I see one of the 25 "powerful women" in the book is Melinda Gates. Whose route to power and (I guess) rebelliousness was solely due to getting married to, and divorced from, Bill. Truly an inspirational route for your little girl to follow!

But here in New Hampshire, Damien Fisher says: Goodbye Rebel Girl! Concord's Communist Marker Removed.

The historic marker in Concord commemorating unrepentant Communist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn got sent to the ash heap of history as the Sununu administration finally stepped up and removed it from state property.

People griped, of course.

If you were intrigued by my headline above, there's a website: Women of the GULAG.

Also of note:

  • Today's versions of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. Mary Anastasia O’Grady describes How Americans Betray the Cuban People.

    The New York Times report on Cuba’s attempt at a Covid-19 vaccine was laughable. Toilet paper is scarce in the socialist paradise. But in February 2021 the Times breathlessly hyped—in language dripping with contempt for the U.S.—the Havana line that a breakthrough was looming. “The vaccine heading for a final phase of trials is called Sovereign 2, in a nod to the pride the island takes in its autonomy, despite decades of hostility from its neighbor to the north. Already, Cuba is floating the idea of enticing tourists to its shores with the irresistible cocktail of sun, sand and a shot of Sovereign 2.”

    Lots of Cubans were given a shot, but who knows what was in it? In August 2022, the Economist tallied excess-mortality data on the island to estimate the Covid-19 death toll per capita. It found Cuba’s rate to be “among the 20 worst” across the globe and far above the country average in the region.

    Cuba’s revolutionary pact was that the regime would guarantee food and medicine and, in return, Cubans would surrender their liberty. Now that they have none of the above, they’re angry.

    Are the ghosts of Walter Duranty and Herbert Matthews guiding the NYT coverage of Cuba?

  • Embracing the malarkey. The NR editors seem disdainful of Joe Biden’s 14th Amendment Folly.

    Joe Biden is musing aloud about violating his oath of office and seizing powers not granted him by the Constitution in order to avoid negotiating with the House of Representatives. This is a shameful way for the president of a constitutional republic to act.

    The so-called 14th Amendment option — to have the president issue debt not approved by Congress — doesn’t actually exist. Until 2023, nobody in the executive branch has ever pretended that it does. “I have talked to my lawyers,” Barack Obama said in 2011, and “they are not persuaded that that is a winning argument.” Left-leaning legal scholars such as Laurence Tribe once agreed. Nothing has changed but the intensity of partisanship.

    The Constitution is quite explicit: Congress, and only Congress, has the power “to borrow Money on the credit of the United States.” Congress, and only Congress, has the power to raise revenue, and all bills to do so must start in the House. The Framers were quite open in designing this system to give Congress the power of the purse so that it could bring the executive to heel.

    I want to ask my CongressCritter (Democrat Chris Pappas): If you don't think this would be grounds for impeachment, what would?

  • I didn't miss it, but in case you did: Jon Miltimore points out The Moral Lesson in ‘Office Space' Everyone Misses. If you haven't seen the movie: (a) what's wrong with you? (b) go and watch it, then come back.

    This is what Peter Gibbons ultimately learns: how to take control of his own life and stop blaming his unhappiness on [his boss Bill] Lumbergh and [employer] Initech.

    This is the lesson many people, particularly younger ones who see America as a “capitalist hellscape,” can take from Office Space. It’s not that Lumbergh and Initech weren’t awful. But the truth is, you’re going to encounter awful people in life. What’s important is to not give one’s power and agency over to others by seeing oneself as a victim of external forces beyond one’s control.

    "Capitalist hellscapes". A phrase used by folks never having lived in a socialist hellscape.

  • I was intrigued by the headline. It's from WIRED's Rose Eveleth: The Fanfic Sex Trope That Caught a Plundering AI Red-Handed.

    These days, so-called generative AI can (allegedly) make art, write books, and compose poetry. Systems like Stable Diffusion, Midjourney, and ChatGPT are seemingly quite good at it. But for some artists, this creates problems. Namely, determining what legal rights they have when their work is scraped by these tools.

    Faced by the rise in these systems, authors and artists are pushing back. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) is striking in part over the potential use of AI to write scripts, referring to such systems as “plagiarism machines.” Visual artists have penned open letters denouncing the use of AI to replace illustrators, calling it “the greatest art heist in history.” Getty sued Stability AI in January for copyright infringement.

    But what if your work exists in a kind of in-between space—not work that you make a living doing, but still something you spent hours crafting, in a community that you care deeply about? And what if, within that community, there was a specific sex trope that would inadvertently unmask how models like ChatGPT scrape the web—and how that scraping impacts the writers who created it.

    You forgot to copyright your "specific sex trope". Tsk.

Last Modified 2023-05-30 7:42 PM EDT

I'll Take "Things That Make Zero Sense" for $1000, Mayim

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] David Harsanyi points out that the emperor has no clothes, and also that The Democrats' Debt Ceiling Position Makes Zero Sense.

“If you buy a car,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre explained the other day, “you are expected to pay the monthly payment. … It’s that simple.”

Is it? Now, obviously, those who argue that the president can cancel millions of student loans by decree aren’t in a position to offer lessons on personal responsibility. The deeper problem with Jean-Pierre’s analogy, though, is that there isn’t a bank on Earth that’s going to keep lines of credit open when a person is compounding unsustainable debt year after year.

Speaking of which, the federal government has already hit the debt limit. The Treasury Department is now relying on “extraordinary measures” that will sputter out by June, at which time we will all be forced to forage for food and barter for medicine. The only thing that can save us from this dystopian hellscape, Jean-Pierre explains, is for Congress to do its “job” and return to regular order.

Note to readers: If I notice that an article uses "dystopian hellscape" somewhere, I'm probably gonna link to it.

Also of note:

  • Also taking David Byrne's advice too literally… Jeff Maurer notes The "Rules" About Which Actors Can Play Who Never Made Sense. (Subhed: "There were never even actually rules")

    Netflix is embroiled in a controversy over its new Jada Pinkett Smith-produced show, Queen Cleopatra. In the “documentary series” (their words), Cleopatra is played by Adele James, who is Black. I wouldn’t normally note an actor’s race, but the people who made Queen Cleopatra made it clear that James’ race is a key part of the show: Queen Cleopatra is part of a series called “African Queens”; Pinkett Smith explained “We don’t often get to see or hear stories about Black queens, and that was really important for me.”

    This casting choice has caused a firestorm on social media, but hey: What doesn’t cause a firestorm on social media? More notable is the fact that many Egyptians are unhappy. Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities declared the show a “falsification of Egyptian history”, and an Egyptian lawyer filed a suit seeking to shut down Netflix in Egypt. Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef — seen here being lauded by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show in 2012 — accused Netflix of trying to “take over our Egyptian culture.” In short, Netflix is being accused of “Blackwashing”, an inversion of the “whitewashing” accusation frequently levied against Hollywood.

    On its face, Queen Cleopatra would appear to be an egregious violation of Hollywood’s norms about which actors can play which roles. The subject is a historical figure whose lineage is largely know (detailed discussion of Cleopatra’s ancestry to follow) played by an actor whose lineage is decidedly different. The people who claim that figure as part of their history are loudly objecting to the portrayal. We might expect Netflix to be in full damage-control mode; we might expect a groveling statement in which they vow to “do better”, paired with a sizable donation to…I don’t know. Somebody.

    That hasn’t happened. And that’s largely because the rules about which actors can play who are an incoherent bunch of nonsense. They’re not even really “rules”; they’re a disjointed series of notions enforced by internet mobs. If we want to address the real problem of insensitive racial portrayals in media, then we should try to tease out some principles about which actors can play which roles.

    Related: Paul Tassi at Forbes claims Netflix’s ‘Queen Cleopatra’ Appears To Have The Worst Audience Score In TV History.

    Heckuva job, Jada!

  • Also not making sense. Ahmed Rehan Nasir at Game Rant: Naruto: Why the Substitution Jutsu Makes No Sense.

    No, I have no idea what that means. But certainly the lead paragraph will clear things up…

    The Naruto series features an extensive lineup of distinct jutsu and techniques, with most varying in strength and power. However, not all techniques align with the concept of ninjutsu set within the series, thereby pushing the boundaries of preexisting narratives. The Substitution Jutsu is one such technique, which, despite being relatively simple, breaks the preset notion of chakra and ninjutsu.

    Nope. Just made things worse.

  • Also not making sense, especially in the "Live Free or Die" state: Drew Cline reports that NH Zoning Atlas offers groundbreaking insight into local building restrictions. It's published by the Center for Ethics in Society at Saint Anselm College, and you can read it here. But here's the eyebrow-raising bit:

    The atlas shows that single-family homes are allowed by right on 90% of New Hampshire’s buildable land, and by public hearing on another 6%. Sounds good, right?

    A closer look, though reveals that single family homes on lots of less than one acre are illegal—yes, literally illegal—on most of that property. It is legal to build a home on less than one acre in only 16% of the state’s buildable land.

    You might think of zoning as “allowing” certain types of property uses. In reality, zoning is a prohibition. It carves communities into areas in which most uses of private property are outlawed. Large minimum lot size requirements are the perfect example of a regulation that outlaws a once common housing preference. The result is a nearly statewide prohibition on the construction of affordable starter homes.

    Back in the day, I was assured that zoning was the only barrier to having someone construct an oil refinery next door.

  • Happy (Belated) Birthday to Israel. Oy! You don't look a day over 74!

    But someone pointed out this two-year-old Babylon Bee article, and as usual the entire "joke" is in the headline: Tensions Rise In Middle East As One Side Wants To Kill Jews And The Other Side Are Jews Who Don't Want To Die And Neither Will Compromise. But I'll excerpt anyway:

    JERUSALEM - Israel has tried to get along with Palestine and other neighboring countries, but a core disagreement between the two groups has increased tensions and made peace seem impossible. For many in the Middle East, what they want most of all is to kill Jews -- which they see as a reasonable request. But a majority of Israel is made up of Jews who, first and foremost, do not want to be killed. And neither side is willing to compromise on these desires.

    I called this a "joke" above, but…

Last Modified 2023-05-30 7:42 PM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2023-05-14 Update

So Donald Trump came up to New Hampshire for a CNN "Town Hall" last week and…

No, that's a "parody". Anderson Cooper did not actually say that. But, yes, Trump actually did repost that phony video.

Donald Trump's pilling on CNN in the wake of his town hall by posting a doctored clip of Anderson Cooper saying Trump owned CNN during the event ... but with far more colorful language.

Trump is clearly relishing the fact CNN is getting tons of blowback from the left for giving him a platform -- and he spiked the football with this fake video of Anderson reacting to the end of the town hall. As the crowd roars for Trump, you see Anderson say "That was President Donald J. Trump ripping us a new ass****."

Put politics aside, for just a moment, and the clip is pretty hilarious. However, it's also a stark reminder of just how petty and self-congratulatory Trump can be.


There are no changes to our phony lineup this week, and only one minor change in the standings: RFK Jr and Michelle Obama switched places:

Candidate EBO Win
Hit Count
Ron DeSantis 14.1% unch 8,390,000 +920,000
Donald Trump 26.9% +0.3% 1,060,000 -30,000
Joe Biden 36.6% +1.6% 368,000 +13,000
Robert Kennedy Jr 4.5% +0.4% 193,000 +16,000
Michelle Obama 2.7% unch 161,000 -18,000
Kamala Harris 2.3% -0.5% 107,000 +4,000
Other 12.9% -1.8% --- ---

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • Although new assholes were not actually ripped… Jim Geraghty scores the bout: Trump’s TKO against CNN.

    Last night’s “town-hall meeting” turned into a nationally televised live Trump rally, with intermittent questions from moderator Kaitlan Collins that the former president brushed off, mocked, and ignored. Instead, Trump offered the live audience and those at home an auditory version of his Truth Social rants, bulldozing over Collins’s objections.

    Meridith McGraw of Politico reported that the audience “was mostly made up of Republicans who offered cheers and a standing ovation to Trump tonight. Last week, CNN invited the New Hampshire GOP and other state groups to help fill the audience per an email that was passed along.”

    The result was an extremely pro-Trump audience at Saint Anselm College. Trump won the New Hampshire primary back in 2016 by almost 20 percentage points more than the second-place finisher, son of a mailman John Kasich. In 2020, 365,654 New Hampshire voters cast their ballots for the incumbent, and the people who showed up last night appeared to rank among Trump’s most ardent fans in the state. I suppose if you’re skeptical or not a fan of Donald Trump, you don’t drive somewhere on a Wednesday night to watch him answer questions for an hour.

    Our state's governor, Chris Sununu, didn't appreciate Trump's derogatory references to E. Jean Carroll:

    “It was embarrassing,” Sununu told MSNBC’s Jen Psaki in an interview set to air Sunday.

    “The audience was absolutely filled with Trump supporters, so I wasn’t surprised to hear the support,” he said. “But when you’re talking about a serious issue like that, and laughter and mocking and all that, it’s completely inappropriate, without a doubt.”

    The interview will be on MSNBC at noon today, for you masochists.

  • Poor Michelle. If Michelle actually decided to run for president, she'd be a very credible candidate, despite her lack of actual experience. Unlike some other candidates, she's not obviously crazy or demented, she's relatively young, and the mainstream media love her. In fact, we have to go back to 2020 to find the question Kyle Smith asked, and we're still wondering about: What Does Michelle Obama Have to Complain About?.

    There’s a curious joy deficit in Michelle Obama’s video memoir Becoming, the Netflix documentary produced by her and her husband. As she glides from one beautiful space to another, surrounded by beautiful and famous people, with beautiful daughters and a beautiful bank account and much else to be grateful for, the viewer keeps waiting for her Flounder moment: Oh, boy, is this great!

    Instead, the tone is mostly dour, pained, even somber. I suspect (and hope!) that, off-camera, the Obamas are a bit more full of joie de vivre than Michelle Obama is in this film, which is largely a litany of complaint. She says she felt so much pressure to be perfect for eight years in the White House that when it was over she let the dam burst by crying for half an hour (half an hour?) when she and her husband departed on Air Force One. She talks about the various times she feels she was targeted by racism, exaggerating what actually happened. She walks us through her press coverage, which she finds indescribably unfair and hurtful.

    She is, however, so bereft of examples of nasty media attention to cite that two of the examples she shows us are ironic, i.e. the joke is on her detractors. One of them is a cover story in the (left-wing) magazine Radar that asked, wryly, “What’s So Scary about Michelle Obama?” (The underlying story, by Ana Marie Cox, made it clear that there was nothing scary about Michelle Obama.) Another is the famous New Yorker cartoon cover that depicted Barack Obama in traditional Muslim dress and put Michelle Obama in an Afro, with an assault rifle and a bandoleer on her chest, as an American flag burned in the fireplace. The Obamas complained about this at the time and many pointed out that a) The New Yorker has always been a vociferous supporter of the Obamas and b) the cartoon was portraying an obviously fanciful image of the Obamas that existed solely in the fever dreams of right-wingers. The New Yorker itself hastened to explain the joke at the time, which must have been painful for that institution.

    She thinks of herself as a victim. Not an attractive quality in someone who's lived a more privileged life than (at least) 99% of Americans of any race.

  • Also: Bats. Bonkers. Daft. Loco. Unhinged. Just a reminder from John Hinderaker: RFK, Jr. Is Crazy. Quoting the NYPost:

    Robert F. Kennedy Jr. doubled down Monday night on his claim that the Central Intelligence Agency was behind the assassination of his uncle, President John F. Kennedy.

    The Democratic presidential candidate appeared on Fox News’ “Hannity” and discussed the 1963 murder of the 35th president.

    “There’s millions of pages of documents — of, uh, CIA documents, of, uh, transcripts, of recorded conversations from, uh, the Cuban embassy in, in Mexico City, from — it’s hard to summarize the evidence,” Kennedy, 69, told host Sean Hannity.

    Comments Hinderaker:

    Yes, there are millions of pages of documents. And they contain not a shred of support for the Left’s conspiracy theories. There are recorded conversations from the Cuban embassy in Mexico City because Lee Oswald, a Communist who thought the USSR had gone soft, went there in an attempt to contact his hero Fidel Castro.

    It almost makes me wish for Junior to become president so we can witness the pitched battle between the White House and the CIA over this.

    Not for the first time, I'll remind us that presidential candidates are likely to be several sigma off the mean on any number of psychological/personality traits. It's a judgment call on how/whether some combination thereof will wander into Crazytown.

  • Among other things. Jim Geraghty [again, sorry] sounds a little peeved at having to point this out: Joe Biden Lies About the National Debt, and Everybody Yawns.

    President Biden, offering an update on the debt ceiling negotiations, [May 8]: “I might note parenthetically: In my first two years, I reduced the debt by $1.7 trillion.  No president has ever done that.”

    As you likely know, this is not even close to true. When Biden took office January 20, 2021, the national debt was $28.4 trillion. The national debt is now $31.4 trillion, an increase of $3 trillion.

    Biden has made similar false boasts and claims during his presidency with metronomic frequency. And it may surprise you that almost every fact-checker has, at least once, called Biden out for these false boasts about reducing the debt. CNN, Newsweek, the Washington Post,, PolitiFact — Biden repeats these inaccurate numbers often enough that just about all of those fact-checkers have felt obligated to come out at one point or another and say, “no, Biden does not have his numbers correct.”

    Geraghty's observation: "Why do politicians lie so much? Because most of the time, there’s no discernable negative consequence."

Last Modified 2023-05-14 10:00 AM EDT

Do You Feel Protected Yet?


I understand this is even better if you're a Beastie Boys fan.

OK, for serious commentary, go to Cato, and read their policy analysis: The Jones Act: A Burden America Can No Longer Bear.

For nearly 100 years, a federal law known as the Jones Act has restricted water transportation of cargo between U.S. ports to ships that are U.S.-owned, U.S.-crewed, U.S.-registered, and U.S.-built. Justified on national security grounds as a means to bolster the U.S. maritime industry, the unsurprising result of this law has been to impose significant costs on the U.S. economy while providing few of the promised benefits.

"Other than that, though, it's fine."

I should point out that that article is from June 2018, so America has been able to "bear" the Jones Act for the nearly five years since. As Adam Smith pointed out, there's a lot of ruin in a nation. (These days, I'd like to think he'd add "But not an infinite amount, so knock it off.")

On a slightly less serious note, but still at Cato: their 2023 Protectionist Madness Tournament. It's over now, but you can make your own calls as to which lousy policy out of the original 32 competitors might win.

Oh, heck: it was the Jones Act. A lot of stupid things there, though.

And if you ain't depressed enough about the Land of the Sorta-Free, Dan Mitchell has a link-filled article, pointing to a study Ranking Trade Freedom.

Ranking 88 countries best-to-worst for trade freedom, where do you think the United States finished? Go ahead, pick a number between 1 and 88, then click over. Small spoiler: my guess is that you'll pick a too-low number.

Also of note:

  • Sometimes you have to rant to get people to pay attention. And I paid attention to Jerry Coyne, who was paying attention to… Glenn Loury rants, McWhorter apparently agrees. Loury has given up walking on eggshells, at least temporarily. In fact, he's stomping on them. Coyne quotes from Loury's substack:

    Sometimes, when trying to articulate my views on the show, I go into rant mode. This one, from a discussion of the social dysfunction plaguing black America, got away from me a little. I had to admit in the end: I overdid it a bit.

    Still, I stand by the substance of my remarks. I see in the crime statistics and in the rioting and looting perpetrated by black American youth a failure to raise our kids properly. Regardless of the complex historical reasons that led to this failure, we urgently need to do something about it instead of finding new ways to excuse it. History may have gotten us here, but we can no longer afford to let it define us.

    I gave up reading Andrew Sullivan when he went on the Sarah Palin Uterus Patrol. But Coyne liberally quotes from his (paywalled) reaction., and it's sane:

    . . . On the most serious violent crime, murder, the stats are also staggering: in 2021, of all murderers in America whose race was known, a full 60.4 percent were black — overwhelmingly male and young. So if you narrow it down to young black men, around 3 percent of the population is responsible for well over half the murders in America. In Minnesota, African-American males make up 3.2 percent of the population and commit 76 percent of the homicides and 87 percent of the burglaries. That’s a ratio that is resilient and persistent.

    . . . Biden’s woke Department of Justice actually wants to bar law enforcement from using any of these racially specific crime statistics in “making decisions about where and how to focus their activities.” The aim is deliberately to ignore the 3 percent committing over half the murders in the country, and focus randomly on the 97 percent (including the vast majority of African-Americans) who don’t. It’s insane — the kind of racial equity for criminals that leads to grotesque racial inequity for victims. African-Americans are 13 percent of the population and make up more murder victims than every other race combined. In Chicago, for example, 79 percent of murder victims are black.

    The constant fetishistic prattle about "gun violence" is convenient, and uttering it won't get you tarred with a "racist" brush. But just maybe the prattlers should look at the low-hanging fruit. And feed that low-hanging fruit to the elephant in the room.

  • I hate Illinois Nazis. And I'm not fond of New York Commies. Jay Nordlinger's "Impromptus" covers a range of topics, but (given our state's ongoing imbroglio about honoring Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, American Communist), I thought I'd quote this bit:

    Harry Belafonte has been an American icon for a long time. All of my life, certainly. He died the week before last, at 96. Belafonte was an actor, a singer, an activist. He was also one of the handsomest men in America. I saw him in Carnegie Hall once, in his later years — sitting in the audience. I can’t remember who was performing. Belafonte still looked like Belafonte.

    I know a lady who lived in the same building as he in about 1960. She had come from Central America. “Guapo?” I asked her. (“Was he handsome?”) She answered, “Guapissimo.”

    But he had some ugly views and did some ugly things.

    Along with righteous ones. He campaigned for civil rights in America. He aided the King family, financially. Decades after that, he promoted educational efforts in Africa.

    But he was a friend and champion of Fidel Castro, and a friend and champion of that dictatorship. He was a fan of Hugo Chávez. (Lot of that goin’ around.) During a meeting with Chávez in 2005, he called President George W. Bush “the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world.”

    You should judge a life in its totality, if you have to judge it at all. We all make mistakes. None of us can ’scape whipping. But for Belafonte’s Castroism alone . . .

    I mean, I think of all the political prisoners, some of whom I have known personally. I think of all those who were killed.

    It’s hard to get beyond that.

    Don't get me started on Carole King.