But It's Still Funny

[Misspelled Paleolithic]

Ackshually, Paleolithic folks were pretty sharp.

Briefly noted:

  • A Democrat's in the White House, so it's once again time to weaponize the IRS against enemies of the state. From the WSJ: The IRS Makes a Strange House Call on Matt Taibbi.

    Democrats are denouncing the House GOP investigation into the weaponization of government, but maybe that’s because Republicans are getting somewhere. That includes new evidence that the Internal Revenue Service may be targeting a journalist who testified before the weaponization committee.

    House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan sent a letter Monday to IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen seeking an explanation for why journalist Matt Taibbi received an unannounced home visit from an IRS agent. We’ve seen the letter, and both the circumstances and timing of the IRS focus on this journalist raise serious questions.

    One of Nikki Haley's applause lines in her Monday night Town Hall was to fire those extra 87,000 IRS agents.

  • But speaking of Nikki, she expands on her linkage of the drug war and immigration policy at National Review: Ending the Fentanyl Crisis Starts by Securing the Border. And there's a mention of…

    New Hampshire families are reeling from fentanyl. More than 400 people have died from drug overdoses in New Hampshire almost every year for the past decade. In 2022, that number was 434 people — and two-thirds died from fentanyl. It’s heartbreaking, and it’s far from over. Many more men, women, and children have been exposed to this deadly drug. Even now, dealers are peddling it across the state.

    So many people I’ve talked to in New Hampshire know someone who died from a fentanyl overdose. And every single one of them knows that if we want to save more mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters from this horrible fate, we have to get the southern border under control.

    The fentanyl that goes through towns such as Lawrence into states such as New Hampshire overwhelmingly comes from China and Mexico. Chemicals are manufactured in China, then sent to Mexico. Mexico mass-produces liquid fentanyl and fentanyl powder that’s mixed into fake prescription drugs. Drug cartels push the fentanyl across the border and sell their goods to drug traffickers. From there, it makes its way to our families and friends.

    There is (sorry, Nikki) little reason to suspect that you can "secure the border" well enough to stop drug smuggling. Didn't work for pot, didn't work for heroin, won't work for fentanyl. (There might be other reasons to "secure the border", but that's not one of them.)

    The real problem, of course, is demand. But that would involve blaming Americans for their own unwise substance use. Nikki says that fentanyl "mixed into fake prescription drugs" is a problem, and maybe it is. But why the hell are people buying fake prescription drugs?

  • Kevin D. Williamson writes on the weapon that became a "powerful cultural symbol" for both sides of the gun control debate: Under the Black Flag.

    In a report published Monday—a generally incompetent one; more on that below—the [Washington] Post forwards the claim that the AR-type rifle is “overkill for home defense,” which is not really true (and certainly is not a widely held opinion among knowledgeable shooters). But it is overkill for the particular kind of enormity with which the rifle is associated in the minds of many people: massacres such as the one perpetrated Monday at a Presbyterian school in Nashville, Tennessee, in which three 9-year-olds and three unarmed adults were murdered. That is a crime that can be committed with an ordinary revolver, but the role of the black rifle is cultural and aesthetic.

    As I have noted here on previous occasions, the AR-type rifle isn’t particularly powerful. It is generally chambered for the 5.56mm NATO cartridge, which is much less powerful than the rounds fired by many common hunting rifles. (The 5.56mm cartridge is, in fact, too small to legally hunt deer with in some states.) Nor is the AR unusual in its rate of fire (it is semiautomatic, meaning that it fires once per pull of the trigger). And it is not unique in its capacity to be outfitted with 30- or 50-round (or 100-round) magazines that can be quickly replaced. Almost any semiautomatic rifle or pistol with a detachable magazine (meaning most firearms) can be similarly outfitted. It is, functionally speaking, just another gun.

    I also found this parenthetical note:

    (Incidentally, I was going to link to a “SOCOM” example above, but I am at the moment working from the cafe of a Whole Foods Market, which apparently employs a digital nanny that blocks U.S. gun-manufacturer websites. The link to the Communist Party of China works just fine. It’s a funny old world.)

    It surely is.

  • Not depressed enough? J.D. Tuccille has a downer article for ya, bunkie: This Year’s Farm Bill Threatens To Be a Bigger Monster Than Ever.

    In many ways, the farm bill up for consideration this year in Congress embodies all that is wrong with American lawmaking. It's a massive piece of legislation, combining unrelated matters to commit the U.S. government to spending mind-bending amounts of money at a single go. Passed roughly every five years, farm bills are less about legislating in any deliberative sense than they are about lawmakers packaging a trillion-plus dollars of goodies and committing taxpayers to fund them for years to come—and then doing it over and over again.

    J.D. notes the unholy alliance in the "Farm Bill" between agriculture subsidies and food stamps, making sensible reform incredibly difficult.

I Went To Nikki Haley's Town Hall in Dover Last Night…


and all I got was a souvenir sign, photographic evidence above. That's OK, it's one sign more than I was expecting.

It was nice, and the crowd filled up the auditorium of Dover's "Restoration Church" (used to be McIntosh College). Failed 2022 senatorial candidate Don Bolduc was on hand (with his doggie Victor), and he did the opening speech and introduction honors. Then Nikki took over, and gave her stemwinding speech, followed by a Q&A session, which ended after three Qs. And I decided not to join in the crush looking to get up close and personal with Nikki, and just headed out.

What, you were expecting a summary of Nikki's presentation? As it turns out, National Review's Brittany Bernstein was also on hand. (I said hello to her on the way out, identifying myself as a subscriber.) She filed two reports, here here. You should read those for details.

Some good stuff: she called out Republicans for running up the national debt when they had control of legislative and executive branches. And also for meekly going along with returning budget earmarks to the already-disgraceful appropriations process. She mentioned entitlement reform, specifically raising the retirement age for younger folks, using a more realistic inflation measure for calculating benefit increases, and (somehow) means-testing payments. (That last bit could be tricky.) She had a big thumbs up for school choice. But see the comment about federalism below.

So-so stuff: she talked about improving school security in the wake of yesterday's mass shooting in Nashville. Also improving mental health care. She pledged to reinstate (I think) Trump policy at the southern border (but I'm pretty sure didn't mention a big beautiful wall).

Unfortunate stuff: her answer to the fentanyl-overdose epidemic seemed to involve turning the War on Drugs up to 11. Or probably past 11. That's a failed strategy. She seems to be a fan of industrial policy (pointing to her South Carolina record of "creating jobs"). Mandatory e-Verify. Banning TikTok. All very bad ideas.

She said school kiddos should recite the Pledge of Allegiance, although it was unclear how much coercion she'd be willing to use to impose that. Generally, she seemed willing to ignore a lot of restraints that good federalists would impose.

As I type, it's still 350 days before the New Hampshire Primary (which could move). If it were to happen today, I'd vote for her.

Briefly noted:

  • Jim Geraghty thinks We Have Bigger Problems Than ‘Digital Blackface’. I agree! And I didn't even know what "digital blackface" was until this very morning! And Nikki Haley didn't mention it last night!

    But she did talk TikTok, and the Indispensable One has thoughts there:

    TikTok, and perhaps social media as a whole, have created an entire incentive structure to spotlight the most abnormal behavior people can imagine, particularly among young people. If you do the things you’re supposed to do in life — love your family, be a good friend, work hard, play by the rules, help others when they need it — the TikTok algorithm just isn’t that interested. Maybe once in a while, your social-media algorithms will serve up something heartwarming, like those two toddlers who were so overjoyed to see to each other on the sidewalk. But by and large, your social-media feed is there to tell you, “This stinks, that stinks, look at this freak, look at what this weirdo is doing, aren’t human beings just the worst, we’re all doomed, the world is going to heck in a handbasket.” No wonder people think social media causes depression.

    Now, look, it’s your life, and you’re free to pick whatever entertainment and news sources you like. (And hey, thanks for reading this newsletter.) A few years back, Tom Nichols was quite irked to learn some people enjoy watching other people play video games. My sense was and is that there isn’t that much difference between paying to watch people play electronic versions of stuff and paying to watch a CGI-filled movie, and that the world is always going to have people who choose to spend their disposable income and free time in ways you find dumb, wasteful, boring, or inane. If they’re not harming others or themselves, let them be.

    But your attention is a valuable thing. Your time and attentiveness are finite, and each thing you read or watch is a choice. You might even think of it as a resource to be invested. Those social-media algorithms are designed to steer you in a particular direction. Contemplate whether you want to go down the path that the algorithms prefer.

    A lot of wisdom there.

  • And I wish Nikki would have read Jeffrey A. Singer before doubling down on the dumb drug way: To Reduce Overdose Deaths, Lawmakers Must Look beyond the News Headlines.

    Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Hill reported on March 26 that teen overdose deaths doubled from 2018 to 2021, mainly due to fentanyl. This alarming and disturbing fact was announced with the headline, “Teen overdose deaths have doubled in three years. Blame fentanyl.”

    Blaming overdose deaths on fentanyl is like blaming gun violence on guns. Readers who glance at headlines but don’t take the time to read the entire article might conclude, as many members of Congress apparently do, that fentanyl is some evil pathogen launched into our country by Mexican drug cartels, aided by the Chinese who supply the cartels with the raw materials to make the drug. Once fentanyl crosses our southern border, it seeks out hosts to infect, addict, and kill, like a deadly virus.

    But, as I explained to the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Federal Government Surveillance earlier this month:

    Leaders and commentators often refer to the fentanyl overdose crisis as an “epidemic” or an “invasion.” But these are inappropriate metaphors. Fentanyl is not a viral pathogen that jumps from host to host or a hunter seeking defenseless prey. The influx of fentanyl is a response to market demand.

    But more crucially, fentanyl is just the latest manifestation of what drug policy analysts call “the iron law of prohibition.” A variant of what economists call the Alchian‐​Allen Effect, the shorthand version of the iron law states, “the harder the law enforcement, the harder the drug.” Enforcing prohibition incentivizes those who market prohibited substances to develop more potent forms that are easier to smuggle in smaller sizes and can be subdivided into more units to sell.

    Not for the first time I'll point out that what Singer is talking about is a form of fetishism: imputing magical powers to an object (e.g. guns) or substance (e.g. fentanyl). Once you see it, you can't not see it; it's an effort to shift responsibility from humans and put it on things.

  • Have you ever wondered: How Bad Are Your State’s Occupational Licensing Requirements?. J.D. Tuccille points to a new report that has up to date info.

    If you work in a licensed trade or know somebody who does, you understand the enormous expense and hassle occupational licensing represents, creating barriers to making a living and to moving across state lines where you might have to jump through hoops all over again. Of course, some people like those barriers since they limit the competition they face, but those folks are part of the problem. Reasonable people recognize licensing as a deterrent to prosperity and mobility and so encourage reform around the country. Now, a new report compares state licensing regimes so we can see who is making progress and who needs to try harder.

    New Hampshire, the Live Free or Die state, ranks right in the middle of the rankings, #23. Unexpectedly, the People's Republic of Vermont is much better in this area, close to the best. Arkansas has the worst licensing burden in the nation, Kansas the best. (I guess that "Ar" makes a big difference.)

    Nikki Haley did not mention occupational licensure in her speech.

  • And an omen of the end times, noted by Jordan Boyd: ESPN 'Celebrates' Women By Denying Their Existence.

    There are hundreds of thousands of talented female college and professional athletes in the U.S. who deserve recognition for their hard work, skill, and talent — but ESPN chose to celebrate this year’s Women’s History Month by boosting the resume of a man.

    Over the weekend, ESPN ran a special segment recognizing Lia Thomas, a male swimmer who invaded women’s sports in 2021. What did Thomas do to land a spot as poster child for ESPN’s supposedly pro-woman campaign? He was the first man to clench [sic] an NCAA Division I women’s championship.

    One of Yesterday's items pointed to a WIRED article claiming that the GOP was attacking "the rights of transgender people". Just to be clear, one of those "rights" is "the right to claim you're a girl and steal some easy athletic victories away from actual girls."

Those Other Qualities Listed on Our Amazon Product du Jour Might Be Good For Journalism Too

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Jeff Jacoby notes a lonely voice: Marty Baron, in dissent, rises in defense of objective journalism. Jeff's "old enough to remember" when his employer, the Boston Globe, had posted workplace signs stating "Accuracy is the Cornerstone of Our Business."

Is accuracy still the cornerstone of the news business? Or has that also been left behind?

Marty Baron, the former editor of the Globe, the Miami Herald, and, most recently, The Washington Post, was in town this month to discuss that very issue. In a lecture at Brandeis University, he announced his intention "to do something terribly unpopular in my profession these days" — namely, to defend the principle of objectivity in journalism. He described himself as belonging to a "diminishing minority" of journalists who still believe news should be reported without an ideological bias or partisan agenda, and lamented the "misguided and ultimately self-destructive direction" in which most of the media have veered.

In January, two grandees of the news industry — Leonard Downie, one of Baron's predecessors as editor of The Washington Post, and Andrew Heyward, a former president of CBS News — issued a report titled "Beyond Objectivity," which they compiled after interviewing scores of "news leaders, journalists, and other experts." On the first page, Downie and Heyward, who now teach at Arizona State University, describe objectivity in journalism as "outmoded." On the last page, they call it "a journalistic concept that has lost its relevance." On page after page in between, they quote editors, reporters, and journalism professors who say much the same thing.

Well, that certainly explains a lot. Since Jeff is strongly implying the Globe might find objectivity "outmoded" as well, this is a pretty brave stance.

(I should note that all of the newspapers that employed Baron were widely viewed as left-slanted during his tenure. Apparently, he thinks they've gotten worse.)

Briefly noted:

  • Well, good for WIRED author Thor Benson, who has the guts to point out The Uniquely American Future of US Authoritarianism.

    The US Republican Party has become increasingly authoritarian and extreme in recent years, and it doesn’t seem likely to moderate that in the foreseeable future. Despite performing poorly in the 2022 midterms after running many candidates the public saw as too extreme, the GOP has decided to elevate and empower far-right lawmakers like representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz.

    In Florida, books have been removed from school shelves as governor Ron DeSantis tries to reshape the public education system in his own image. Republican lawmakers around the US have passed abortion bans that put pregnant women’s lives in danger. The rights of transgender people are under attack throughout the country.

    I am not a fan of authoritarianism. I like neither Gaetz nor Greene. But Benson seems to be willfully blind to left-side authoritarianism. Were the brownshirts shouting down Judge Kyle Duncan actually closet Republicans? Are the folks busy rewriting books by Roald Dahl, Ian Fleming, and (now) Agatha Christie part of the vast right-wing conspiracy?

    Don't even get me started on Covid authoritarianism, gun control, tobacco, …

  • … and, for that matter, dietary choices, as described by John Hinderaker: Beware of Liberals Bearing Bugs.

    When I tell people that liberals are working on substituting insects for meat, they often think I am imagining things. But it is true. The beachhead is “flour.” You can dry insects, turn them into powder, and put the powder into foods. This is actually starting to become common. Thus, from Italy, “Italy bans insect flour from its pasta despite the eco buzz.”

    I'm not quite as panicky about eating bugs, since I enoy lobster every so often. And if you see a red-colored product in your kitchen, check it for carmine, cochineal extract, or natural red 4,

    But, yes, food nannyism, backed by the iron fist of government, has long been a lefty domain…

  • … and, for that matter, DEI bureaucrats at institutions of higher education. Their function must not be questions, lest ye be burned at the stake! Jennifer Kabbany reports A debate on DEI will be held at MIT. The university’s DEI deans refuse to participate..

    A debate on diversity, equity and inclusion is scheduled to soon take place at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    An esteemed panel of scholars will tackle the question: “Should academic DEI programs be abolished?”

    One group of individuals who will not be defending DEI at the upcoming event is the phalanx of highly paid diversity, equity and inclusion deans at MIT.

    They were asked. They declined.

    Apparently, these doyennes of diversity were all of the same opinion; they were unwilling to defend the vital importance of their phony baloney jobs. Once again, the relevant movie clip:

  • And should you be wondering if you have free will or not, Michael Huemer has A Proof of Free Will. That should settle the matter.

    The intuitive idea goes back to Epicurus (as I discovered long after I’d thought of the argument):

    “The man who says that all things come to pass by necessity cannot criticize one who denies that all things come to pass by necessity: for he admits that this too happens of necessity.”

    J.R. Lucas argued similarly:

    “Determinism … cannot be true, because if it was, we should not take the determinists’ arguments as being really arguments, but as being only conditioned reflexes. Their statements should not be regarded as really claiming to be true, but only as seeking to cause us to respond in some way desired by them.”

    The intuitive idea is that determinism is self-defeating when you apply it to beliefs about the subject of free will and determinism itself. Per Epicurus, it implies that you can’t criticize anyone for believing in free will, nor (presumably) can you say that anyone should believe determinism. In its most common (physicalistic) forms, per Lucas, determinism implies that good reasons play no role in explaining why one believes determinism itself. So the determinist couldn’t hold that he himself knows determinism to be true. (My interpretation/modification of Lucas.)

    My idea was related to these. It was that in thinking about any issue, one always presupposes certain norms governing belief. E.g., that you should avoid falsehood, or that you should base beliefs on evidence. But any such norm, I think, is incompatible with the truth of determinism. So if you think determinism is true, you’re in an inherently self-defeating position: You’re committed to rejecting norms that you are implicitly presupposing.

    I think he has something there.

    I've always wondered about the folks who argue against free will. As I'm sure I've said before: doesn't the mere fact they are "arguing" presuppose that listeners are free to consider the argument, weigh the evidence presented, and either accept or reject the conclusion?

    And you'd think they'd be able to come up with an argument I would have to accept, because I would have, literally, no choice.

The Phony Campaign

2023-03-26 Update

Via Power Line, the latest installment of the Washington Free Beacon series Veep thoughts with Kamala Harris:

As the Power Line blogger, Scott Johnson observes, she finds herself a source of great amusement.

We bid farewell, at least for now, to Nikki Haley in this week's phony polling, since she's dropped below our 2% probability threshold at Election Betting Odds.

Nevertheless, I'm going to …

Might be my last chance to see her.

(For the record, the previous presidential candidate event I attended was Rand Paul's back in 2015; he wound up dropping out of the race before the NH Primary. Before that,… was it Fred Thompson? Jon Huntsman? I forget.)

As I type, Nikki's at 1.7% which makes her a longer shot than … Michelle Obama, who's at 1.8%.

Not that I'd vote for Michelle, but I totally get why she'd be a formidable candidate. Compared with (say) Hillary Clinton, who (let us not forget) almost won back in 2016:

  • Michelle's got less experience in elected office, but Donald Trump showed that's not necessarily an obstacle.
  • Michelle's husband was less scandal-plagued and more honest than Bill Clinton.
  • Unlike Hillary, Michelle doesn't have a documented history of lying through her teeth.

On to this week's results:

Candidate EBO Win
Hit Count
Ron DeSantis 19.3% -2.7% 11,500,000 +5,530,000
Pete Buttigieg 2.1% unch 2,070,000 +40,000
Donald Trump 24.5% +3.6% 1,230,000 +130,000
Kamala Harris 2.8% -0.2% 720,000 -2,000
Joe Biden 31.9% +1.9% 388,000 +36,000
Other 19.4% -0.4% --- ---

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

Pete and Kamala are still hanging in there, I assume their presence indicates folks (essentially) betting that Biden won't make it for one reason or another. (If he starts scampering around naked in the Rose Garden, singing "Come On-A My House", for example.)

Same for Michelle, for that matter.

  • Kevin D. Williamson backs a candidate who has yet to appear in our standings: Joe Exotic for President: Why Not?.

    In case you were wondering: He’s in.

    I mean, of course, newly announced 2024 presidential contender Joseph Allen Maldonado, a.k.a. Joe Exotic, a.k.a. the Tiger King, a.k.a. the reality-television grotesque who actually had the No. 1 show in the nation, with truly unbelievable ratings: Tiger King had more than 34 million viewers in its first 10 days, nearly five times the average viewership of Celebrity Apprentice in its 2014-15 season. If ratings are what matters, then Joe Exotic is surely the best-qualified presidential candidate since Dwight Eisenhower: D-Day got great ratings.

    No? Okay, then.

    Why not Joe Exotic?

    Isn’t being a reality-television star a presidential qualification? There are enough Americans who believe that to elect a president, are there not? Are we doing the democracy thing or aren’t we?

    And the relevant Mencken quotes:

    "Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance."

    "Democracy is also a form of worship. It is the worship of jackals by jackasses."

    "Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage."

    "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."

  • There's that old story about the lady or the tiger. Or this updated one from Charles C. W. Cooke. Pick One: Conservatism or Trump.

    Conservative Americans must choose. Do they want Donald Trump to play a central role in Republican politics, or do they want to win elections and achieve the policy outcomes that supposedly inspired them to get involved in politics in the first instance? My question is literal, not rhetorical. Conservatives must choose. They cannot have both of these things. They must pick only one.

    As president, Donald Trump delivered some welcome conservative victories. He is not going to do so again. In fact, the opposite is true. If Trump is allowed to stick around, he will remain what he has already become: a massive drag on the fortunes and the efficacy of the political Right. Electorally, Trump is a bust. Ideologically, he is a mess. And as an agent of persuasion . . . well, let’s just say that, at this point, the GOP might be better off asking Charles Manson to serve as the chief representative of its brand. A Republican Party that features Trump as its star attraction is a Republican Party that will stay at the margins of federal office and watch impotently as progressives continue to accrete power. The bureaucracy will grow. Taxes will increase. Entitlement spending will spiral. The border will remain porous. The Supreme Court will be flipped back. That, and not the handful of salutary reforms that were achieved between 2017 and 2021, will be Trump’s legacy.

    Trump is not going to win elections going forward. He won in 2016 because he ran against Hillary Clinton — and, even then, he secured only 46.1 percent of the vote. In 2018, he was a drag on the Republican ticket. In 2020, he lost reelection by 7 million votes. In 2022, he almost single-handedly demolished the GOP’s chance to retake the Senate. If Trump is nominated in 2024, he will lose once again. The same goes for 2028, 2032, 2036, and every election season in between. Trump is a poor candidate; he has become worse, not better, over time; and his time in the wilderness has turned him into King Lear.

    Ayup. And we hate to be repetitive, but CCWC has another obeservational article: Donald Trump’s Self-Serving Florida Slander Is Nonsense.

    Those on the American right who continue to doubt that Donald Trump will happily burn down anything that stands between himself and his desire to lose yet another election for the GOP would do well to note that, despite being engaged at present in nothing more consequential than a nascent shadow primary, he has already reached the point at which he is willing to sully the reputation of his home state of Florida in exchange for a mess of pottage. In a wildly misleading Truth Social post, published this morning, Trump cast Florida as being among “the worst in the Country” for “crime,” “Education,” “Health & Safety,” “Education & Childcare,” “Affordability,” and “COVID-19 Deaths.” “HARDLY GREATNESS THERE!” he concluded.

    Charlie doesn't seem to be a fan.

Last Modified 2023-03-27 6:31 AM EDT

Outgassing Hydrogen

Could it be a Simpler Answer to All Our Problems?

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Well, probably not. But Ars Technica reveals that it's a simpler answer to ‘Oumuamua’s weird orbit.

In late 2017, our Solar System received its very first known interstellar visitor: a bizarre cigar-shaped object hurtling past at 44 kilometers per second, dubbed 'Oumuamua (Hawaiian for "messenger from afar arriving first"). Was it a comet? An asteroid? A piece of alien technology? Scientists have been puzzling over the origin and unusual characteristics of 'Oumuamua ever since, most notably its strange orbit, and suggesting various models to account for them.

But perhaps the answer is much simpler than previously thought. That's the conclusion of a new paper published in the journal Nature. The authors suggest that 'Oumuamua's odd behavior results from the outgassing of hydrogen as the icy body warmed in the vicinity of the Sun—a simple mechanism common among icy comets.

Note that you should not buy our Amazon Product du Jour before reading the reviews. And maybe not after either.

Briefly noted:

  • Our "Live Free or Die" state is singing out of tune with our neighbors, as reported by the Josiah Bartlett Center: N.H. could become first New England state to license music therapists.

    As Gov. Chris Sununu moves to undo the state’s overly burdensome occupational licensing regime, legislators are trying to add more licenses.

    On Wednesday, March 22, the House voted 210-166 to require a state license for the practice of music therapy.

    Why? Health insurance.

    Supporters said New Hampshire needs to license music therapists to ensure that patients can be reimbursed by their health insurer when they purchase music therapy treatment.

    If you need a reminder of why occupational licensing is a bad idea, Cato has you covered. Here's hoping we get a Sununu veto.

    And if you click over to the JBC article, you'll see an AI-generated pic of "a woman listening to music in a therapist’s office." And (even better) "no artist’s license was required."

  • NewsBusters reports on a well-known commentator's reaction to a Commie New Hampshire Public Radio story: Tucker Slams NPR for Only Supporting Gun Ownership for Trans People.

    Fox News host Tucker Carlson opened his popular show Tucker Carlson Tonight by ridiculing National Public Radio (NPR) for their clownish new double standard on the Second Amendment rights of Americans. Apparently, only the LGBTQ alphabet mob is permitted to own firearms, according to U.S. state media outlet. Carlson called them out using sarcastic humor and ridicule in a way only he can pull off.

    Setting the stage, Carlson narrated: “[T]he other day, we’re driving through Cambridge in the old hybrid Subaru, adjusting our surgical masks to cover both nose and mouth and listening needless to say to National Public Radio, the voice of menopausal liberalism. And as we're listening we hear this.”

    Carlson then cut to an audio clip of a segment that aired on New Hampshire Public Radio:  

    EYDER PERALTA (NPR HOST): Mass shootings targeting LGBTQ spaces, and a rise in anti-trans rhetoric, have inspired some queer people to take up arms. New Hampshire Public Radio’s Todd Bookman joined a monthly gathering of a gun group that sees firearms as key to their own self-defense. And as you might imagine, this story does include the sound of gunfire. 

    TODD BOOKMAN: On a recent Sunday morning, the parking lot of Pawtuckaway State Park in southeastern New Hampshire is filling up with hikers. There’s also a different crew packing up warm clothes and weapons. 

    FIN SMITH: Thank you all for coming to Rainbow Reload. 

    When that laughably hypocritical segment ended, Carlson returned and laughed at the taxpayer-funded propagandists he just heard suddenly support gun rights after spending decades railing against them.

    “Your anti-trans rhetoric makes the trans community carry guns,” Carlson said sarcastically. “Rainbow Reload!! They’re packing heat, they’ll be appendix carrying in more ways than one, watch out.”

    Did Carlson really say "they'll be appendix carrying"? I watched the video, and that's what it sounds like. And "more ways than one"? I can't even think of one.

    I'm all for people arming themselves for self-defense. As long as they don't think lethal force is justified against someone using incorrect pronouns.

  • Charles C. W. Cooke notes the latest development on DEI vs. the First Amendment out at Stanford: Tirien Steinbach Doesn't Get to Decide If 'the Juice Is Worth the Squeeze'.

    In the Wall Street Journal, Tirien Steinbach — the woman who is paid by Stanford University Law School to undermine the free-speech policies at Stanford University Law School — has confirmed that she will continue to undermine the free-speech policies at Stanford University Law School until she is fired.

    I noted recently that “DEI” people talk like liberals but act like Pol Pot, and Steinbach is a nice example of this trend. “Free speech isn’t easy or comfortable,” she says, but “it’s necessary for democracy, and I was glad it was happening at our law school.” But, quite obviously, she wasn’t. And she still isn’t — as is made abundantly clear by her repeated attempt to convince those reading that the real problem at Stanford was that Judge Duncan wanted to talk in the first place:

    At one point during the event, I asked Judge Duncan, “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” I was referring to the responsibility that comes with freedom of speech: to consider not only the benefit of our words but also the consequences. It isn’t a rhetorical question. I believe that we would be better served by leaders who ask themselves, “Is the juice (what we are doing) worth the squeeze (the intended and unintended consequences and costs)?” I will certainly continue to ask this question myself.

    That Steinbach will “continue to ask this question” is precisely the problem at hand. In context, “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” means, “Is it worth your trying to hold your meeting when an angry mob might come in and ruin it?” “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” is, quite literally, a defense of the heckler’s veto. “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” is an invitation to shut up. I would like to write here that Steinbach is wrong to believe that her job is to decide whether each person who might be invited to speak at Stanford meets her definitions of “responsibility” or “benefit,” and to encourage the throngs accordingly. But, actually she’s not wrong to believe that, because that’s her job. That’s what DEI is. When Steinbach writes that her “role was to observe and, if needed, de-escalate,” she means that her role was to help rile up the mob, and, when it got out of hand, to tell them she understood their behavior and wasn’t sure why the speaker wanted to keep going anyway. She’s a blocker, a tackler, a guard — a hired arbiter of taste working to stamp out any dissent from the fringe ideology she represents.

    Obviously, I hope Steinbach won't prevail. But (on the other hand) she's providing an ongoing learning experience for onlookers.

Maybe Check the Sofa Cushions

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Or maybe buy a copy of our Amazon Product du Jour?

Ars Technica tells the sad story: Ford will lose $3 billion on electric vehicles in 2023, it says.

There's no doubt that Ford is embracing electrification. It was first to market with an electric pickup truck for the US market, and a darn good one at that. It has a solid midsize electric crossover that's becoming more and more common on the road, even if it does still upset the occasional Mustangophile. And there's an electric Transit van for the trades. But its electric vehicle division will lose $3 billion this year as it continues to build new factories and buy raw materials.

I wonder if there's another four-letter English verb that has so many different shades of meaning than lose. Merriam-Webster lists twelve definitions for the transitive and three for the intransitive.

Giving many opportunities for cheap linguistic amusement:

"Oh, man, I lost my lunch."

"Dude, no you didn't. It's right here on the bathroom floor."

Anyway, one of those definitions applies to Ford's $3 billion loss, and it's not the same one that applies to losing the keys to your F-150. ("I swear I had them right here in my hand!")

Fortunately, WSJ editorialists, probable native English speakers, explain Why Ford Can Afford to Lose Billions on EVs.

Ford attributes the losses to the growing pains of what is says is a start-up business in the venerable company. The auto maker said it still expects to earn between $9 billion and $11 billion in operating profit this year, though that’s owing to the sales of its traditional gas-powered vehicles. Its gas-guzzling F-Series pickup trucks are especially popular and profitable. Fossil fuels are essentially underwriting Ford’s green business, much as they do in the electric-power industry.

Ford said it will keep investing in EVs and expects to reach an operating-profit margin of 8% by the end of 2026. That will require dramatic changes in consumer tastes as well as whatever efficiencies Ford can engineer in its production process.

Ford can sustain losses on EVs in part because it is benefiting, directly or indirectly, from subsidies up and down the EV supply, production and service chain: battery production, sales to consumers, charging stations and more. The entire point of last year’s Inflation Reduction Act is to make EV production too big to fail. If consumers don’t want to buy EVs, for whatever reason, the government will keep subsidizing or mandating EVs until they do.

I get the EV appeal, I really do. But I'm also pretty sure the electrons they use won't be reliably sourced from zero-carbon emitters anytime soon.

Briefly noted:

  • Peter Suderman notes upcoming woes: Biden's 'Economic Plan' Is Industrial Policy That Will Be Terrible For Everyone.

    A sitting U.S. president called it the "eighth wonder of the world." It was a massive factory, to be sited in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, that would make high-end LCD panels. The price tag would come to about $10 billion; local taxpayers would kick in about $4 billion in subsidies over a decade. In return, Wisconsinites were promised 13,000 good-paying jobs and a boost to the state's economy of about $3.4 billion annually.

    In a groundbreaking speech at the new factory, the president singled out a union member he said the new plant would help. He said the facility would be built with American concrete and steel. And it heralded a return to manufacturing in the United States. "We're also reclaiming our country's proud manufacturing legacy," the president said, insisting on the importance of protecting domestic steel mills. "We need that for purposes of defense. We need that for purposes of legacy. We're restoring America's industrial might."

    Yet three years after the speech, the facility still wasn't completed. The company, Chinese manufacturing giant Foxconn, admitted it would never create 13,000 jobs; the total would be closer to 1,450. State officials recovered billions in subsidies and put the company on what amounted to a performance plan, where it would receive far less government backing, and only on proof of results.

    The village of Mount Pleasant, however, would not make a full recovery. To make way for the facility, developers had bulldozed dozens of homes, some of which were taken via eminent domain. At the end of 2022, having spent some hundreds of millions on land and infrastructure for the never-built factory, the municipality was left with debts larger than the entirety of its operating budget, a representative for a community watchdog told Wisconsin Public Radio. The eighth wonder of the world turned out to be little more than dashed dreams, demolished homes, and empty public coffers.

    That "sitting U.S. president" was, of course, Donald Trump. "Industrial policy" is one of those bad ideas that keeps failing to deliver on promises, but politicians love the up-front photo ops it provides.

  • Veronique de Rugy updates Robert Higgs: Government Grows on Crisis.

    Economist Robert Higgs is well known for his work on the “ratchet effect.” As he explained in Crisis and Leviathan, governments expand during crises. But, when a crisis ends, the size and scope of government doesn’t revert to where it was prior to it.

    I’ll add to this analysis the snowball effect. I think people can guess what it means. “Bad policy begets worse policy.” Put the two effects together and you can see how we ended up in the mess we are in today.

    During the Great Recession, the Federal Reserve engaged in a major policy shift that deployed new tactics seen as necessary at the time. We became familiar with terms such as “Fed tools” and “quantitative easing.” Yet when the crisis ended, the Federal Reserve kept its permanently enlarged balance sheet in part by replacing the mortgages that people paid off with Treasuries. Rates also stayed low because of Fed policy and because of the market, which grew too afraid to lend to anyone who wasn’t “safe” (the safest borrowers, of course, are governments or entities backstopped by governments). Inflation never came, and we got used to the growth in the Federal Reserve’s influence on the economy.

    [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] I hate to be a doomsayer. I still have the 35-year-old book pictured at right on my shelf. It's a reminder that doomsaying is always in style. And yet, my streets remained blood-free.

    But, geez, things seem worse now

  • Here are some numbers, thanks to Cato's Chris Edwards: Federal Spending Up 40 Percent Since 2019.

    Federal spending jumped from $4.45 trillion in 2019 to $6.21 trillion in 2023, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That is a 40 percent increase in four years. The pandemic supercharged the federal budget, and spending and deficits are expected to continue rising unless policymakers pursue major reforms.

    What is all the new spending since 2019? The answer is surprising […]. The main drivers of the recent increases have not been the largest three programs—Social Security, Medicare, and defense—but rather rapid growth in numerous other programs. […] The largest increases have been nondefense discretionary, Medicaid, veterans, food stamps, health tax credits, welfare, school food programs, and interest.

    Tables with even more numbers at the link. One eye-catching stat: "Net interest" went from $376 billion in FY2019 to $640 billion in FY2023, a 70% increase. It turns out that putting all that past spending on the taxpayer credit card is pretty expensive.

It's an Easy Mistake to Make …

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] … if you're a neo-Brandeisian, I guess. Mark Jamison observes that Neo-Brandeisians Confuse Authoritarian Rule with Liberty.

The neo-Brandeisian (NB) movement has always been about using the government to control others. Its primary strategy is to use antitrust to limit what consumers and businesses can do, but the movement is also interested in using economic regulation, control of property rights, and public ownership of businesses to impose its will on the economy. Now, this authoritarian bent is prompting some to grab power by bypassing governmental checks and balances. If they are successful, it won’t be good for democracy.

Jamison quotes his rogue's gallery, devotees of a guy born 167 years ago.

[Federal Trade Commission Chairperson Lina] Khan explained in 2018 that the movement seeks to use government controls to limit the size and scope of individual businesses. In a 2014 article with Zephyr Teachout, Khan added that NBs prefer “an economy populated by many small businesses” to one where consumers choose to buy from large companies. [Open Markets Institute Director Barry] Lynn is more specific. He explains that NBs want the government to “reengineer” and “reorganize” US industries, including “intentionally structuring corporations and markets.”

Not only do the NBs want to control how many customers a business can serve, but they also want to design businesses’ products. Khan gained fame advocating that the government should redesign Amazon’s e-commerce platform, making it like eBay, as Lynn explained. Wu launched the net neutrality craze in 2003 with the proposition that governments should dictate that broadband be uniform and featureless (i.e., neutral).

The relevant Wikipedia article reminds us that the movement is also called "hipster antitrust". But only "by its detractors". So, count me in that merry band. I've previously used that term a couple years back, here and here. It's still a lousy idea. A road to serfdom? More like a six-lane superhighway.

Briefly noted:

  • Jacob Sullum has a current events question: Is Alvin Bragg Upholding or Flouting the Rule of Law by Prosecuting Trump?.

    The expected criminal charges against former President Donald Trump in New York reportedly hinge on a violation of federal election law with which Trump was never charged. That fact in itself suggests how dubious the case against Trump is: To convert a state misdemeanor involving falsification of business records into a felony, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, is relying on the theory that Trump was trying to cover up another crime. But federal prosecutors apparently did not think the evidence of that second crime was strong enough to charge Trump.

    The New York case is based on a 2016 hush payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims she had a sexual affair with Trump in 2006, when he was married to his current wife, former First Lady Melania Trump. Although Trump denies the affair, his lawyer at the time, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 to keep the story out of the press. While that payment was not inherently criminal, federal prosecutors viewed it as an illegal campaign contribution because, they said, its "principal purpose" was "influencing [the] election," as opposed to avoiding personal embarrassment for Trump or sparing his wife's feelings.

    I'm not a lawyer, and some actual lawyers think Bragg is justified. See, for example, Patterico's Pontifications.

  • A great essay from Astral Codex Ten about Half An Hour Before Dawn In San Francisco.

    I could have stayed in Michigan. There were forests and lakes and homes with little gardens. Instead I’m here. We pay rents that would bankrupt a medieval principality to get front-row seats for the hinge of history. It will be the best investment we ever make. Imagine living when the first lungfish crawled out of the primordial ooze, and missing it because the tidepool down the way had cheaper housing. Imagine living on Earth in 65,000,000 BC, and being anywhere except Chicxulub.

    Everyone here thinks the world will end soon. Climate change for the Democrats, social decay for the GOP, AI if you’re a techbro. Everyone here is complicit in their chosen ending - plane flights, porn, $20/month GPT-4 subscriptions. “We have walked this path for too long, and everything else has faded away. We have to continue in wicked deeds [...] or we would have to deny ourselves.”

    Well, I guess I won't be doing that Frisco trip anytime soon.

  • Leo Kim writes at WIRED, and I'm not sure if it's profound or brain-damaged: The End of ‘Life’ As You Know It.

    In 1947, Claude Beck used the defibrillator to undo what was once deemed irreversible: the cessation of the human heart. Only a few years later, the first mass-produced mechanical ventilator began supporting inert bodies through heavy steel lungs. For the first time, the heart and the breath, those ancient signs of life, could be outsourced to mechanical devices—and seemingly overnight, the boundary between life and death shifted under our feet.

    Today’s debates on standards of brain versus bodily death continue the dialog inaugurated by these apparatuses, but the conversation’s scope has grown as technical innovations create new limit cases to challenge our intuitions on life. As scientists sustained embryos in artificial wombs for increasing periods of time, stem cell research was forced to confront the ambiguity of when a human life, with its corollary rights, begins. More recently, digital tech—like artificial intelligence or its more experimental corollary, artificial life—has raised further questions as to whether inorganic beings might count among the court of the living.

    And at some point this turns into…

    As we attempt to build a more equitable politics that extends past the human (toward the nonhuman animals, future generations, new technologies, and ecosystems that make up the tapestry of our world), …

    So I'm leaning toward brain-damaged, but see what you think.

A Disturbing Number of Amazon Titles…

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] … pop up when you search for "Grand Unified Theory". Of which our Product du Jour is perhaps the most provocative.

But Christian Britschgi is relatively modest. His GUT tells hem that The Zoning Theory of Everything explains the entirety of US politics.

The words zoning policy probably conjure thoughts of dull board meetings and interminable debates about setbacks, parking requirements, and seemingly small architectural details. Most Americans probably consider zoning about as dry as an unlicked envelope. Yet somehow, during a presidential election unfolding amid a deadly pandemic, divisive lockdowns, raucous protests and riots, mass unemployment, and spiking crime, zoning politics managed to show up center stage.

Looked at one way, it was another strange turn in an already bizarre election year. Looked at another way, it was yet another demonstration that zoning rules have become central to American life and politics, almost entirely to deleterious effect.

Zoning regulations control what kinds of buildings can be constructed where, and then what activity can happen inside them. They effectively socialize private property while controlling even the most mundane features of our physical environment and daily routines. Zoning rules flip property rights on their head, curtailing the owners' ability to do what they wish on their land. In exchange, they sometimes give people near–veto power over what happens on their neighbors' property.

It's a very good article, from the print edition, now out from behind the paywall.

Briefly noted:

  • So if you could press a button to make zoning regulations vanish, would you press it? I don't think it comes up in Don Boudreaux's article, but he lists Some Buttons That I’d Not Push, and Some That I Would Push.

    My confidence in free markets is so high, and my faith (for faith is required) in government is so low, that my presumption is that nearly all government interventions into the economy are, on net, unjustified and harmful. This presumption fuels my instinct that these interventions should be eliminated pronto. But I’m also sufficiently influenced by the works of Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Lord Acton, and F.A. Hayek to understand that large, sudden changes to an economy or society can be dangerously disruptive, even when such changes involve reversing policies that should never have existed in the first place.

    So even if I had the power to eliminate all government interventions that I believe are harmful, I would not press a button to eliminate all of them. For example, I’m convinced that the welfare state corrodes welfare-recipients’ willingness to assume full responsibility for themselves and their children. One result is a draining away of recipients’ dignity, and the creation of a caste system of citizens who work and pay, alongside citizens who are largely idle and on the dole. The welfare state corrodes society.

    Yet, even if there were no chance that sudden elimination of the welfare state would prompt recipients and their champions to cause havoc by rioting or by disrupting ‘ordinary’ politics until welfare payments are restored, I would not press a button to immediately eliminate the welfare state. The disruption for the recipients would be too great. Millions of people, sadly, rely on various forms of government-dispensed welfare payments. Suddenly severing this reliance would impose on welfare recipients too great and unjust a burden.

    Other buttons Don wouldn't push: one to "end the Fed"; one to transform our foreign/defense policies to emulate (say) Switzerland.

    But ones he would push: eliminate minimum wage laws; enhance school choice for lower- and middle-income parents; get rid of all non-national-defense-related trade restrictions and subsidies."

    Those are pretty big. I'd press smaller buttons to get rid of the National Endowment for the Arts, privatize Amtrak and the Postal Service, wind down the Selective Service, … Just off the top of my head, mind you.

  • Noah Rothman looks at the Woke Word Wars, and is optimistic: How We Know That ‘Woke’ Is Losing.

    We find ourselves in the middle of an exhaustingly familiar spectacle in which the American Left and its allies in media pretend that a word with an all but universally understood definition is all of a sudden incomprehensible. Today, that word is “woke.”

    A campaign consisting of straight reporting, survey data, and contrived “viral” moments all contribute to the desired impression that those who wield the term don’t know what it means, especially if they use it as a pejorative. But even polling purporting to show that more Americans believe the term describes only positive attributes also finds that the public sees it as an epithet more than a compliment.

    It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that what’s driving the campaign is that “woke” is now a political liability for those who once proudly embraced it. These periodic crusades against shorthand bubble up from the partisan depths when the Left is losing a political conflict. Rather than change their tactics, they change the language.

    Noah notes that this happened with the phrase "gun control"; that became a too-obvious euphemism for people control. So now it's all about "gun safety". Other examples abound.

    There are always people who want to speed up the euphemism treadmill.

  • But if you live in fear that some rogue interviewer should demand that you provide a definition, hoping to catch a brainfreeze on video, I'd suggest you print out a copy of James Lindsay's entry in his lexicon for Woke/Wokeness.

    In brief, “woke” means having awakened to having a particular type of “critical consciousness,” as these are understood within Critical Social Justice. To first approximation, being woke means viewing society through various critical lenses, as defined by various critical theories bent in service of an ideology most people currently call “Social Justice.” That is, being woke means having taken on the worldview of Critical Social Justice, which sees the world only in terms of unjust power dynamics and the need to dismantle problematic systems. That is, it means having adopted Theory and the worldview it conceptualizes.

    Alternate strategy: hand the interviewer a copy of Lindsay's and Helen Pluckrose's book Cynical Theories, say "Here. It's not my job to educate you."

Doubling Down on Dumb

Power Line notes that President Wheezy continues to tout The three percent fabrication. As seen at Twitter (and rebutted by Elon Musk):

… and if you go to Twitter, you'll see "added context", providing links to Politifact (from July 2022), Factcheck (from February 16), and (even) CNN (February 17) debunkings.

In other words, Biden has been lying about this for a long time, and he plans on keeping it up.

Briefly noted:

  • Kevin D. Williamson looks at someone even more Deplorable than Biden:

    Donald Trump says he is going to be arrested on Tuesday. Maybe. Probably not. There are two things we know for certain about Donald Trump: The first is that he is the sort of irritating New York neurotic who believes that he ceases to exist when attention is not being paid to him, and the second is that he is constitutionally incapable of producing three consecutive sentences without a lie in one of them. A lie that brings him attention must be as irresistible as a well-seasoned hunk of porn-star jerky who pays him postcoital hush money rather than his usual arrangement, which goes the other way around. If you cannot see the hand of divine judgment at work in the prospect of this ailing republic being convulsed over an episode that, by the account of one of the intimately involved parties, had all of the impact of a Vienna sausage landing in a catcher’s mitt, then you have no religious imagination at all.

    A few hours after Trump’s claim—in all-caps, of course, from the great sobbing kindergartner of American politics—that he “WILL BE ARRESTED ON TUESDAY OF NEXT WEEK,” a Trump spokesman almost immediately “issued a statement clarifying that Mr. Trump had not written his post with direct knowledge of the timing of any arrest,” as the New York Times gently put it. The spokesman says “there has been no notification,” and people close to the case say that a Tuesday arrest is unlikely, So, more bulls—t from the bulls—t factory. Trump is, of course, calling for protests, as he did leading up to the riot of January 6, 2021, the street-theater complement to the coup d’état he was attempting to orchestrate through various implausible attempts at legal and institutional chicanery.

    It's not Tuesday yet, but it's a safe bet that, whether Trump is arrested or not, stupidity will reign.

  • Emma Camp explains it: Christopher Rufo Wants To Shut Down 'Activist' Academic Departments. Here's Why He's Wrong..

    In an essay published this week in City Journal, conservative activist Christopher Rufo argued that universities—or rather, the state legislatures governing these universities—should shut down "activist" academic departments. But rather than protecting higher education, forcibly shutting down left-wing academic departments would be nothing more than routine censorship.

    The rebuttal:

    "The argument is incorrect. Professors are not mouthpieces for the government. For decades, the Supreme Court of the United States has defended professors' academic freedom from governmental intrusion," Joe Cohn, legislative and policy director at the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), tells Reason. "As the Supreme Court wrote in Keyishian v. Board of Regents: 'Our Nation is deeply committed to safeguarding academic freedom, which is of transcendent value to all of us and not merely to the teachers concerned. That freedom is therefore a special concern of the First Amendment, which does not tolerate laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom.'"

    Rufo also fails to consider how easily his ideas could backfire. "Political winds can change and the targets of censorship predictably change with them," says Cohn. "As FIRE has long warned, do not fall in love with the club that will be used to beat you over the head."

    This is the kind of thing that happens when Our Side puts "winning" ahead of principle.

  • Christian Britschgi notes the news in the latest edition of the "Twitter Files": Researchers Pressured Twitter To Treat COVID-19 Facts as 'Misinformation'.

    Researchers at Stanford University—in partnership with several nonprofits that have received government funding—worked with social media platforms to flag and suppress commentary on COVID vaccines, science, and policy that contradicted public health officials' stances, even when that commentary was true.

    This new information comes from yet another Twitter Files entry of screenshotted emails and reports from independent journalist Matt Taibbi that reveals the back and forth between the Stanford-led Virality Project and receptive Twitter executives about policing alleged COVID misinformation on its platform.

    Boy, Stanford has really gone downhill, hasn't it?

    In local news, NHJournal has an interview with Jim ("Don't Call Me Jimmy") Dean, President of the University Near Here. Speaking of the recent brouhaha at Stanford Law School, Dean says: "You’d have to give Stanford an F minus on this one."

  • Worried about AI killing us all? Read Steven Pinker on Alignment and Intelligence as a "Magical Potion".

    There’s a recurring fallacy in AI-existential-threat speculations to treat intelligence as a kind of magical pixie dust, a miracle elixir that, if a system only had enough of it, would grant it omniscience and omnipotence and the ability to instantly accomplish any outcome we can imagine. This is in contrast to what intelligence really is: a gadget that can compute particular outputs that are useful in particular worlds.

    Pinker has thought hard about this stuff, about a hundred times harder than the alarmists.

Last Modified 2023-03-22 6:03 AM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2023-03-19 Update

Let's lead off this week with Jack Butler's description of Coach Kamala's Cringe Catastrophe. Made available in a tweet:

Ye Gods. I really can't improve on Jack's take:

This is not just another politician trying — and spectacularly failing — to show an affinity for sports. (I’m looking at you, Mayor Pureval.) It is some weapons-grade cringe. Howard University’s basketball team may take months to recover from exposure to it. Teams in the vicinity likely had their motivations reduced in the fallout. Indeed, it may have transcended the space–time continuum and canceled out some of history’s greatest locker-room pep talks. One hopes that readers and other innocent bystanders are spared from its deleterious effects.

And you just might want to click over to watch "40 Inspirational Speeches in 2 Minutes".

On to the phony standings. We bid farewell this week to Governor Gavin Newsom, who (according to EBO) has fallen below our 2% inclusion threshold. Nikki Haley's still hanging in there, though:

Candidate EBO Win
Hit Count
Ron DeSantis 22.0% +0.4% 5,970,000 +320,000
Pete Buttigieg 2.1% -0.5% 2030000 +380,000
Donald Trump 20.9% -1.7% 1,100,000 +70,000
Kamala Harris 3.0% +0.1% 722,000 +633,400
Joe Biden 30.0% +0.2% 352,000 +33,000
Nikki Haley 2.2% +0.1% 124,000 +8,000
Other 19.8% +3.4% ---- ----

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

Note that I've added an "Other" line, showing the betting market's accumulated (and cash-backed) wisdom that, surely, someone else will ride over the horizon on a white horse, declare their candidacy, and be lifted onto the collective shoulders of a grateful and relieved electorate, and sent into the White House on January 20, 2025.

Hey, it could happen.

Details on that, if you care: "Other" is just obtained by subtracting the shown probabilities from 100%, So that number includes

  • people shown at EBO with a less than 2% probability (e.g, Pence, Pompeo, Newsom, Noem, …)
  • people unlisted at EBO, but being bet on nonetheless (Youngkin, Kanye, Williamson, even Sununu, …)

In other phony news:

  • There's more Kamala news! American Thinker's Monica Showalter describes When love congeals: Kamala Harris not returning Elizabeth Warren's phone calls.

    Once upon a time, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren were the best of buddies, the gushiest of pals, Ginger and Maryann, Laverne and Shirley, Thelma and Louise, their very own two-phony mutual admirational society.

    Now Harris isn't taking Warren's phone calls, according to CNN:

    Elizabeth Warren has called twice to apologize. Over a month later, Kamala Harris hasn’t called back.


    Well, Kamala's been busy, composing locker room speeches.

    Not that it matters, but at EBO, Elizabeth Warren is one of those listed "Others", coming in with a 0.2% chance at the presidency. That likelihood is nowhere near low enough to calm my nerves.

  • Goodness knows, I am no Trump fan, and neither is Andrew C. McCarthy. But he's all in a lather about Progressive Democrat Bragg’s Motivation in Nakedly Political Indictment of Trump.

    Progressive prosecutor Alvin Bragg’s impending criminal prosecution of Donald Trump is a disgrace, as a matter of due process and good governance. Rich is right that it’s good for Trump’s political fortunes, at least in the short term. We shouldn’t lose sight, though, that it is good for Democratic political fortunes in the long term.

    Obviously, Trump does not merit immunity from prosecution just because he is a former president, a current presidential candidate, and an influential political figure with a devoted base of millions. Yet no former president and substantial candidate should be the target of a criminal prosecution, especially by the opposition party, unless the matter is truly serious — unless it would be treated as felony conduct if it were committed by anyone.

    Besides Bragg’s investigation, we have carefully covered the pending probes of the former president in connection with his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and his illegal possession of classified documents. Those are extraordinarily serious matters. We can agree or disagree about the legal theories that prosecutors may pursue; and we should watch carefully whether, on the classified documents, Trump is afforded equal protection of the law given that President Biden and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, among others, have engaged in similar conduct with (so far) impunity. Nevertheless, if Trump were indicted for, say, obstructing Congress on January 6, 2021, or obstructing the grand-jury investigation of his hoarding of secret intelligence at Mar-a-Lago, no one could credibly claim that these were (pardon the pun) trumped-up cases, even if the decision to charge them is politically fraught.

    Not so with the Stormy Daniels caper.

    Also see McCarthy's pouring of cold water on the eagerly anticipated Tuesday "arrest" of the Donald. His claim: Trump’s Claim of Tuesday ‘Arrest’ Is Highly Unlikely. Okay, we'll see. Whatever happens, I'm stocked up on popcorn.

  • As reported by Karen Townsend at Hot Air: Biden's first interview on ‘Daily Show’ set to air - he comes prepared with a phony story about gay men.

    Biden went into storytelling mode. “I can remember exactly when my epiphany was…” he began. He said he was a senior in high school. His father was dropping him off at school. He said that while sitting in the car, he looked to his right and saw two well-dressed men in suits kiss each other goodbye as they headed in opposite directions to work. He said he looked at his father and his father said, “Joey, it’s simple. They love each other.” Then he said, “I’m not joking” to [Daily Show interviewer Kal] Penn. That’s the giveaway. That is a Biden tell. When he is off in fantasyland and telling a whopper about a life experience, he always says, “I’m not joking.”

    It has to be a whopper. When Biden was a senior in high school, if he was an 18-year-old senior, the year was 1961. Were two gay men openly kissing in Delaware in 1961? I doubt it. The way Biden told the story, it wasn’t a quick peck of a kiss. It was a KISS. The Stonewall Riots weren’t until June 1969 and that time has been called the catalyst for the gay rights movement. Penn, an alum of the Obama administration, just took Biden’s story as the truth, he didn’t ask any questions to challenge him on his epiphany.

    Sheesh, I remember when Kal Penn was on House. He was good, until the writers had him commit suicide. Now he's doing softball questions on a not-funny comedy news show?

  • I'm pretty sure Jonah Goldberg was never on House, and he has no shot at interviewing Biden, but he has interesting observations nonetheless: The Mind’s Lies. An incomplete list:

    While I think Donald Trump consciously lies more than any public figure in my lifetime, I think Biden unconsciously lies more than any public figure I’ve ever seen. Some are just old man stories, like his claim that in the second congressional baseball game he showed major league promise when he hit a 368 foot single.

    But other stories are weirder and more significant. He’s claimed, many times, that he was arrested in South Africa along with Andrew Young and Nelson Mandela. It never happened. As Young told the New York Times, “I was never arrested and I don’t think [Biden] was, either.”

    More than once, he’s insisted that he was arrested marching with civil rights protesters in the 1960s. Last year he told an audience in Atlanta, “I did not walk in the shoes of generations of students who walked these grounds. But I walked other grounds. Because I’m so damn old, I was there as well. You think I’m kidding, man. It seems like yesterday the first time I got arrested.”


    He frequently claims he went to a black church during the civil rights era and organized marches. Almost surely, nah-ah. He’s said he did legal work for the Black Panthers and fought to desegregate movie theaters. Not true.

    And more, including The Tale of Uncle Frank's Purple Heart. Jonah wonders at the psychology involved.

  • We've never had a president named "Mike", and it looks like two of them are thinking about running. One of them draws Jonah Goldberg's (yes, again) fire for phoniness: Pence Tries to Have It Both Ways Regarding January 6.

    On Saturday night, Mike Pence unleashed his anger at Donald Trump.

    “History will hold Donald Trump accountable for January 6,” Pence declared at the Gridiron Dinner, a normally jovial event for prominent journalists. “Make no mistake about it: What happened that day was a disgrace, and it mocks decency to portray it in any other way. President Trump was wrong. His reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day.”

    Now, Pence is right to be angry about January 6. Trump put his exceedingly loyal vice president in a horrible position: Be faithful to the president and his base or be loyal to the Constitution and the country.

    This was, no doubt, a painful choice for Pence. And Pence did the right thing by refusing to play along with Trump’s scheme. But it’s worth remembering that Pence’s decision on January 6 was shocking to a lot of people because he spent four years being a loyal cheerleader for Trump, through the president’s countless scandals.

    It’s also worth remembering that, really, it was the least Pence could do.

    Jonah winds up with: "Shouldn’t someone running for president be able to tell the truth—and vent his anger—without so much hemming and hawing and political calculation?"

    And, as always, it's worth asking "Compared to who?"

Last Modified 2023-03-20 8:43 AM EDT