My Questions For the Candidates

I may have mentioned that I only subscribe to the Sunday edition of my local paper any more, mostly for the coupons and the crossword puzzles (from the New York Times and LA Times, one week old). But their editorial this Sunday got my interest. They plan on posing queries to the presidential candidates, and shared their top five. They are (to be charitable) a mixed bag:

  1. Arguments over impeaching President Trump are just the latest example of our sharply divided nation. Why are you the best candidate to break the partisan gridlock and unite the country?

  2. Life expectancy in the United States has declined for three straight years and New Hampshire saw the greatest rise in mortality at 23.3% for people aged 25-64. An American Medical Association study cites the cause as “drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, suicides, and a diverse list of organ system diseases.” As president, how would you address this troubling trend?

  3. With tens of millions of Americans uninsured or under-insured, and even those who are insured faced with charges they didn’t expect and prescription medications they cannot afford, what is your plan to contain health care costs while maintaining quality of care?

  4. Where in your list of priorities is climate change? If it is a high priority, what would you do and how would you engage people from the other side of the political aisle to pass meaningful legislation, while being mindful of the impact on consumers and the economy?

  5. Is it possible to put the nation on a better track in terms of its trillion-dollar budget deficits, a record setting national debt and the resulting generational burden? How can it be done while also sustaining Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security?

But then what to my wondering eyes did appear:

Before sending these questions to the candidates we’d like to invite you, our readers, to join our editorial board process and let us know if there’s an issue you think is critical that we’ve missed.

If you like our questions, would you rephrase them in any way to make them sharper? Attached to the end of this editorial is a Google form for you to tell us and through us the candidates, what’s most important to you. We’ll collect your responses for a week and then send the questions out to all the candidates, including President Donald Trump, and publish their responses as soon as we receive them. When the candidates come in for their meetings with the editorial board we’ll dig deeper into these issues based on their responses. And we plan to livestream all our editorial board meetings with candidates from this point forward to increase community access.

Well, shoot. I've had questions in the back of my mind for literally years. And so here's what I proposed, off the top of my head:

Two questions:

(1) The Office of Management and Budget (https://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/historical-tables/ Table 1.2) says that in the most recent fiscal year, 2018, Federal Government receipts were 16.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and its outlays were 20.3% of GDP.

Average receipts from 1946 to 2018 were 17.2% of GDP; average outlays were 19.4% of GDP.

What would your administration propose those numbers look like instead?

(2) A lot of candidates promise to make the "rich pay their fair share of taxes". The Tax Foundation (https://taxfoundation.org/summary-latest-federal-income-tax-data-2018-update/), summarizing IRS data, says the top 1% of income earners earned 19.7% of all reported adjusted gross income. They paid 37.3% of all Federal individual income tax receipts.

What would that percentage have to be for you to call it "fair"?

They only ask for the question; no names, e-mail addresses, phone, etc. So I don't know if my questions will actually make it to the candidates.

The Phony Campaign

2019-12-08 Update

The big odds-improver this week is Our President Donald J. Bone Spurs, whose winning probability improved by 3 percentage points.

Biggest loser: Pete Buttigieg, losing nearly 2 percentage points. And Senator Liz continues to droop among the oddsmakers. Will she rebound next week? Ever? Stay tuned.

And we say farewell, for now, to the plucky Andrew Yang who dipped ever-so-slightly below our 2% inclusion threshold. But maybe he'll be back at some point. I am not one to pigeonhole people by their genes, but our current lineup is pretty pale.

The Google seems to have decided that Mayor Pete is not that phony after all, and after a few weeks with a solid lead, he lost over 70% of his phony hits over the past seven days. And now POTUS is in front once again. (AKA, "His rightful place".)

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
12/1
Phony
Results
Change
Since
12/1
Donald Trump 44.8% +3.0% 1,970,000 -10,000
Pete Buttigieg 8.3% -1.8% 1,770,000 -4,350,000
Hillary Clinton 2.5% -0.2% 840,000 -52,000
Bernie Sanders 8.5% +0.7% 592,000 -71,000
Joe Biden 11.8% -0.2% 449,000 -7,000
Elizabeth Warren 7.3% -0.2% 288,000 -56,000
Michael Bloomberg 5.1% +0.2% 132,000 -26,000

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • Hot Air excerpts a WaPo column by Marc A. Thiessen, who is honest about candidate dishonesty: Biden and Buttigieg say you can keep your health-care plan. They’re lying — just like Obama..

    Biden’s case for the public option uses almost the very same words that Obama used when he lied to the American people a decade earlier: “If you like your employer-based plan, you can keep it. If in fact you have private insurance, you can keep it,” he says. In a new ad, Buttigieg also channels his inner Obama, declaring “If you prefer a public plan like Medicare, like I think most Americans will, you can choose it. But if you prefer to keep your private insurance, you can.”

    Just like Obama’s false promise 10 years ago, the Biden-Buttigieg promise that you can keep your plan is a lie. As Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, has explained, “the public option is a Trojan horse with single-payer hiding inside.” Verma points out that private insurance pays hospitals 75 percent more than Medicare for the same services. In 2017, for example, Medicare underpaid hospitals by $54 billion. They make up the lost revenue by charging private insurers more — which means private plans are essentially subsidizing Medicare for seniors.

    Put that old Who song, "Won't Get Fooled Again" on the Victrola and… get depressed, because it's clear the American voting public wants to get fooled again. That's what the polls say, anyway.


  • Speaking of polls, PJ Media's Tyler O'Neil reports on a poll that showing that some voters are not only willing to be Fooled Again, they're also eager to embrace their inner Xi Jinping: Fans of Bernie Sanders and Warren Want Speech Bans With Jail Time.

    When asked, "Should federal or state governments ban speech by individuals that a majority of Americans believes to be offensive, including speech considered to be racist or sexist," most likely voters (50 percent) said "no," while 27 percent said "yes," and 24 percent said they were "not sure."

    Yet a full 51 percent of likely voters who said they have a "very favorable" view of Bernie Sanders said governments should ban "offensive" speech. Thirty-six percent of those with a "somewhat favorable" view of Sanders agreed. Similarly, 49 percent of those who had a "very favorable" view of Elizabeth Warren also supported speech bans, as did 37 percent of those with a "somewhat favorable" view of her.

    If a likely voter said he or she would support such a speech ban, the pollsters asked him or her, "Should those who violate such bans against offensive speech be punished with jail time?" Of the 27 percent of voters who supported speech bans, 48 percent said people who violate these bans should be punished with jail time.

    🙄 Good luck, America.


  • Do you need any more mood deflators? Well, here you go. At National Review, Kyle Smith reports: Hillary Is Still Thinking about Running in 2020.

    Yet the only people who want Hillary to run are comics, Republicans, Republican comics . . . . people like me. Democrats realize she blew it. Democratic fundraisers are furious with her for being such a poor candidate that she created the Trump presidency. There was an open path to the White House, she had a huge fundraising advantage, she had only token opposition from a batty old socialist in the primary, she had Barack Obama’s blessing, and she lost against a total novice because people just can’t stand her. Her token opposition turned into the siege of Leningrad. Her convention speech underwhelmed. She did not and indeed could not explain the clandestine means she set up for removing her communications from public scrutiny, committing the felony of taking classified information out of secure channels in the process. She did not and indeed could not offer a better rationale for her candidacy than a combination of “I deserve this” and “Trump is worse.”

    See the table above: some people betting their own money think she has a better shot of winning than do Amy Klobuchar, Tulsi Gabbard, Cory Booker, Julian Castro, and whoever else is still in.

    I think there's no chance. But you know who else I thought had no chance of being president? Right up until the early morning of November 9, 2016?

    Right.


  • Corey A. DeAngelis is director of school choice at Reason Foundation, which makes him a good choice to look at Elizabeth Warren’s School Choice Blunder.

    Elizabeth Warren came out swinging against school choice when she released her education plan on October 21. The Massachusetts senator and Democratic presidential candidate called for ending federal funding for public charter schools, banning for-profit charter schools, increasing regulations for all charter schools, and making it more difficult to start new charter schools. She also said she wanted to stop private school choice programs.

    Warren then started tweeting that she was "#PublicSchoolProud" and that "we must stop the privatization of public schools." She also bragged about how she attended and taught at public schools.

    But the senator remained silent about where she sent her children to school. She'd been silent on the subject for a while, in fact, having failed to respond when Education Week asked where her children went to school. If Warren was so loud and proud about public schools, wouldn't she be more than happy to tell everyone that she sent her two kids, Alex and Amelia, to public schools? Of course she would.

    Unless, that is, she had the privilege to send her own kids to private schools while fighting against extending similar options to the less fortunate.

    … which is exactly the case, as Cory discovered.


  • Another one of Senator Liz's Big Ideas: Warren Plans to End Electoral College by 2024 (as reported by the Washington Free Beacon).

    Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said she plans to be the last person elected president by the Electoral College.

    "I want to get rid of it," Warren said during an Iowa campaign event on Sunday. "So here's my goal: my goal is to get elected and then to be the last American president elected by the Electoral College. I want the second term to be that I got elected by direct vote."

    As I never tire of pointing out, Pun Salad tries to follow the Elvis Costello advice: "I used to be disgusted, Now I try to be amused." But Liz makes it hard.

    1. Getting rid of the Electoral College would require a Constitutional amendment.
    2. The President's involvement in the amendment process: none whatsoever.
    3. Liz would have much more clout into the amendment process if she remained a senator.
    4. Which is probably what will happen, but
    5. I would bet she'll find other things to do.


  • As befits its proud status as a progressive rag, Wired magazine reports this with a straight face: Bernie Sanders Says Internet Service Should be a Human Right.

    In August, presidential candidate and senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) proposed spending $85 billion to expand high-speed internet access in rural America and other underserved communities. Senator and rival presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) thinks that's not enough. Friday, he offered his own $150 billion broadband plan that goes far beyond connecting rural communities to the internet.

    Sanders wants to break up large media and telecommunications giants, force companies to make internet services more accessible to people with disabilities, and regulate broadband prices to ensure affordability. He says he will treat internet service as a human right.

    Bernie believes in one overall right: the right of the state to tell people what products and services they may buy and sell, at whatever price it decrees.


  • At Reason, Matt Welch reports on Michael Bloomberg and the Imperious Presidency.

    If Donald Trump could shoot somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue and get away with it, what bit of brazenness might we expect from his fellow septuagenarian Manhattanite presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg?

    The then-mayoral candidate gave us a glimpse back in 2001, when he was dumping his first tranche of $74 million into a late-in-life political career and a reporter asked him whether he had ever smoked marijuana. "You bet I did," the media mogul enthused, at a time when politicians tended to be much more reticent about such things. "And I enjoyed it."

    Talk about do as I say, not as I did. During Bloomberg's three terms as mayor, the Big Apple became the marijuana arrest capital of the world, thanks to the notorious stop-and-frisk searches in neighborhoods where billionaires rarely venture.

    Bottom line: if you loved Trump's exercises of arbitrary power, you'll love… well, you probably won't love it when President Bloomberg does the same. But you won't have a lot of standing to complain.

URLs du Jour

2019-12-07

  • At the New York Times, David Brooks confesses and repents: I Was Once a Socialist. Then I Saw How It Worked. Here's his inspiring end:

    Capitalism is not a religion. It won’t save your soul or fulfill the yearnings of your heart. But somehow it will arouse your energies, it will lift your sights, it will put you on a lifelong learning journey to know, to improve, to dare and to dare again.

    Last Sunday I attended a service with a young friend at a church that has quickly become a home for her. There were several hundred congregants. Ninety percent were under 30. Ninety percent were Latino. The service was two hours of joy and exultation — glow sticks and song and balloons.

    They weren’t worshiping capitalism, but something higher. But still their work lives came into view. “Look how far we’ve come! Look how far we’ve come!” different people kept saying. I saw my own family’s Jewish immigration history being re-enacted right in front of me. We, like they, started out as butchers and seamstresses and tailors, self-employed capitalists because it can be hard for immigrants to get corporate jobs. The opportunity explosion my family experienced and your family probably experienced is happening still, made possible by the ever-expanding pie that capitalism provides.

    The theme that day was hope, transcendent hope and more immediate hope. “Move and miracles happen!” a young Latino woman sang. Every year, hundreds of millions of people march with their feet to capitalism.

    Today, the real argument is not between capitalism and socialism. We ran that social experiment for 100 years and capitalism won. It’s between a version of democratic capitalism, found in the U.S., Canada and Denmark, and forms of authoritarian capitalism, found in China and Russia. Our job is to make it the widest and fairest version of capitalism it can possibly be.

    Me mostly likey, but David is too quick to praise Sweden et alia for their massive welfare states that operate in tandem with a mostly-free economy. I think that's a recipe for permanent mediocrity, but… see the next item.


  • Via Philip Greenspun, an article at the Foundation for Economic Education by Antony Davies and James R. Harrigan makes an interesting distinction: Transferism, Not Socialism, Is the Drug Americans Are Hooked On. "Socialism" polls alarmingly well recently in the US, but…

    It appears that what Americans really have in mind when they think about socialism is not an economic system but particular economic outcomes. And their thoughts seem to focus most often on the question of what people should have. The answer they arrive at most often? More than people typically get in a system based on the pursuit of profit. Capitalism, they believe, is immoral because it is a system in which some do without while others have more than they could hope to use in multiple lifetimes.

    These four in ten Americans, and the politicians who speak for them most vocally, are not advocating socialism at all; they are advocating what we should really call “transferism.” Transferism is a system in which one group of people forces a second group to pay for things that the people believe they, or some third group, should have. Transferism isn’t about controlling the means of production. It is about the forced redistribution of what’s produced.

    This seems (to me) is what Sweden et alia have been (at least for now) pursuing: (1) taking huge amounts of taxes; (2) giving it back to the citizenry (after taking their cut) in varied "services" and free stuff, and (3) making people believe they've done them a favor.

    Step (3) is bemusing, and it's hard to see how they get away with it, but lots of cultures can survive on myths, I suppose.


  • Hanoi Jane Fonda recently wrote in the New York Times that "the fossil fuel industry has hijacked our political system" by spending $218 million on lobbying in 2018 and 2019, and donating 27 million to Senate and House candidates and party committees in the 2020 election cycle.

    At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson offers Some Facts about Money and Politics in response.

    About $100 million a year in lobbying is a lot of money, but it hardly puts the oil-and-gas guys at the top. There are other industries that are much bigger spenders — for example, Jane Fonda’s industry, which so far this year has spent about 40 percent more on lobbying than the entire energy sector combined and about 350 percent of what the oil-and-gas industry has spent. Does that mean that “entertainment interests are subverting our democracy?”

    It is, of course, difficult to put a price on the political value of the entertainment industry’s most valuable asset: celebrity itself. Half-literate boobs who are not famous have a considerably harder time getting this kind of undigested piffle into the New York Times. It’s not like she has a Nobel Prize!

    The top spenders on lobbying for 2019 can be found here. You will not see a lot of oil and gas on that list, which begins with: 1. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce; 2. The National Association of Realtors; 3. The Open Society Policy Center (cue spooky Theremin music); 4. The pharmaceuticals lobby; 5. The American Hospital Association; 6. Blue Cross Blue Shield; 7. The American Medical Association; 8. Amazon; 9. Facebook; 10. The Business Roundtable.

    Click through to discover the major campaign contributors. The fossil fuel folks are pretty far down the list there too. Kevin's bottom line (which I will unexpurgate):

    Big money isn’t subverting our democracy. Bullshit is.

    Yep.


  • Drew Cline of the Josiah Bartlett Center notes some good local news: USNH schools rank high for free speech.

    For the second year in a row, all undergraduate campuses of the University System of New Hampshire were nationally recognized for their commitment to freedom of speech.

    In its just-released “Speech Codes 2020” report, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) gave the University of New Hampshire, Plymouth State University and Keene state College “green light” ratings. A green light signifies “that the institution does not maintain any written policies that imperil free expression.”

    By contrast, the state’s lone Ivy League institution, Dartmouth College, received a “red light” for having “at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech.”

    We ridicule the University Near Here a lot, because they usually deserve it. But this is good continued news. If you are trying to steer your college-bound kiddos to a First Amendment-respecting institution, the FIRE report is here.


  • And the academics at Language Log have some fun with a recent headline on the website of New Hampshire Commie Public Radio:

    N.H. Defends Laconia Law Barring Female Nudity In U.S. Supreme Court Appeal

    Language Logger Mark Liberman explains the joke:

    Or with lower attachment of the prepositional phrase (yes, that's what it's called), you'd have the vexed constitutional question of whether a municipal ordinance could impose a dress code on the U.S. Supreme Court, even for the representatives of its own state.

    They provide a screenshot, a common practice when a site has made a blunder likely to be corrected. But, as I type, NHPR has not corrected.

URLs du Jour

2019-12-06

  • David Henderson writes at the Hoover Institution on The Assault On Wealth. He's against it. The assault, that is. RTWT, of course, but he hits one of my own bugaboos near the end:

    One final note. I know that politicians of all stripes lie, but one highly misleading line that Warren likes to use is that she’s asking the very wealthy to “pitch in two cents” line. I’ll put aside the fact that she really means two percent. She knows that and, hopefully, the vast majority of her audience knows that. My big problem is the word “asking.” She’s not asking; that’s not how the IRS operates. Warren is threatening to use force on those who don’t comply […]

    Note that the Warren campaign lingo also calls for her Medicare For All scheme to be partially paid for by an employer "contribution" for each employee. The Orwellian doublespeak is strong with this one.


  • At the Daily Caller, James Bovard exposes The College Hunger Hoax.

    “Nearly half our college students are going hungry,” presidential candidate Bernie Sanders proclaimed on Saturday. Sanders’ tweet went viral, spurring more than 20,000 retweets and likes. Starving college students are a new rallying cry for social justice warriors, spurring demands for new federal handouts and maybe even a college student meal program modeled after school lunches.

    I occasionally walk my dog on the well-maintained sidewalks of the University Near Here, and I can report no visible emaciation. What's the hoax?

    In reality, the College Hunger Hoax is largely the result of a bait-and-switch by social scientists. Rather than seeking to measure actual hunger, questionnaires ask about the vaporous topic of “food security.” Surveys rely on sentiments and opinions, not actual food consumption. If someone fears missing a single meal, they can be categorized as “food insecure,” regardless of how much they ate. And if someone desired to consume better quality or more expensive cuisine (attention Whole Foods shoppers), they can join the ranks of the “food insecure.”

    Why, it's almost as if the questions are designed to maximize the "problem", so that Bernie and his ilk can propagandize.

    [I should point to UNH's Swipe It Forward page that allows compassionate parties to donate free meals in the dining halls, which are all-you-can-eat.]


  • I'm a sucker for these state comparisons, and the security site Safehome.org has done one for telling us Which Americans Are the Smartest?. There's the Lake Wobegon Effect:

    There’s a well-known phenomenon in psychology where people tend to think they are smarter than the average person. For Americans, that belief may approach certainty. A 2018 study found that 65% of Americans believe they have above-average intelligence.

    In addition to about 2 in 3 Americans saying they are smarter than most other people, the study found that certainty of one’s superior intellect increased with income and education but decreased with age.

    OK, that's boring. Skip down, how did our state do…

    Well, that's also boring. New Hampshire is near the mediocre middle (#22). At least we ain't Idaho (#51, they included D.C.)

    Number one on the smart parade: New Jersey. Which makes me want to ask: if those folks are so smart, why do they live in New Jersey?.


  • And Atlas Obscura dinged our LFOD bell with its report on Old Man of the Mountain Profiler Plaza.

    The state of New Hampshire is known for its “Live Free or Die” mentality (it is, in fact, the state’s motto) and beautiful foliage, so tourists and newcomers may be confused to see the profile of a rather chiseled-looking man adorning the state’s highway signs, license plates, driver’s licenses, and even the state’s coin. Few are aware that this man was once one of the most-visited attractions in all of the northeastern United States—and that it’s not really a man at all.

    The OMotM has been gone since 2003, but the plaza remains, and if you stand just right the state has arranged some of the old support hardware to "create the illusion of the Old Man of the Mountain, sitting high above Franconia Notch once again."

URLs du Jour

2019-12-05

  • Among the items in Jim Geraghty's Morning Jolt is a rejoinder to University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt, who claimed under Judiciary Committee oath that the acts of President Donald J. Trump were "worse than the misconduct of any prior president": I Guess American History Began in 2017, Huh?.

    Dude. Dude. Eight of our presidents owned slaves while serving in the White House. Franklin Roosevelt forcibly imprisoned tens of thousands of law-abiding American citizens for four years because of their ancestry. Woodrow Wilson re-segregated the federal government, wrote that the races were unequal, and threw a black civil rights leader out of the Oval Office. If we want to expand it to vice presidents, Aaron Burr straight-up murdered the old Treasury Secretary by shooting him in the chest.

    Worse than Lyndon Johnson telling America that that we were winning the Vietnam War when we weren’t? That one proved a lot more consequential in the lives of Americans.

    How much better or worse is the effort to strongarm the Ukrainian government than Jimmy Carter’s irritated pledge, “if I get back in, I’m going to f*** the Jews”?

    A book I'm currently reading also notes that Woodrow Wilson was an opponent of female suffrage as late as 1912; by the end of his term he came around to favor passage of the 19th Amendment.

    But he probably was always steadfastly against African-Americans voting. Can he be retroactively impeached?


  • Andrew Wilford writes at the Bulwark on Senator Liz Warren’s Hidden, Destructive Tax Proposal: The Head Tax.

    After weeks of pressure to explain how she would fund her Medicare for All plan without raising taxes on the middle class, presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) recently relented. Kind of. The presidential candidate unveiled a set of tax hikes that still produce only about half of the $34 trillion needed to fund her healthcare proposals. Yet, despite her attempts to focus on favorite tax targets—corporations and the wealthy—many of these proposed taxes would in fact harm the middle-class. Perhaps the worst of the tax hikes is her proposal for a type of employee “head tax.” 

    Making up just over half of the $17 trillion in tax increases under Warren’s plan to fund Medicare for All is an “Employer Medicare Contribution.” This would require businesses with 50 or more employees to calculate their average per-employee spending on health insurance coverage “over the last few years,” adjust for inflation, multiply that by their number of employees, then send 98 percent of that number to Uncle Sam as their Employer Medicare Contribution.

    Note the Orwellian language: "contribution". Try not making the "contribution", Mr. Employer, and see what happens.

    As Andrew points out: (1) it's a truism that taxing something gets you less of it; and (2) this is a tax on jobs.


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson notes that (like many things that aren't computers) Impeachment Isn’t Binary.

    The Trump movement is very much a personality cult, and personality cults are largely immune to rational argument. But, even so, the Democratic strategy here is the wrong one for reaching out to those who might be reached. Trump’s partisans are not going to dump him because people who read the New York Times think he is a boob, a boor, a doofus, etc. Trump’s bumptiousness and his willingness to show his ass to what passes for polite society between Boston and Washington is part of the charm for many of his supporters — as is his willingness to play fast and loose (and worse) with the rules. Remember that for Bill Clinton’s most abject apologists, “Slick Willie” was a term of endearment, not one of reproach.

    Trump’s people believe what Elizabeth Warren’s people believe and what Bernie Sanders’s people believe: that the system is rigged, that it is corrupt, that our elites are complicit in selling out their interests, etc. Senator Warren’s people enthusiastically support her patently unconstitutional proposals, the more vindictive the better. Senator Sanders’s people endorse his irresponsible calls for “revolution” and his old-fashioned class-warfare rhetoric. Trump’s people resonate on a different cultural frequency, but the right-wing populists’ fundamental assumptions about what ails the country are very much like those of the left-wing populists.

    I am practicing my penmanship so that I can write in "Dave Barry" as legibly as possible on my GOP primary ballot.


  • Jonah Goldberg says fiddlesticks to goopy young people who prefer the fresh young faces of Bernie Sanders and Liz Warren: Voters don't like Joe Biden's nostalgia? That's malarkey.

    I like the word malarkey, consarn it. It’s the bee’s knees. Sure, the youngsters might say, “OK, Boomer” on hearing Joe Biden utter the word, but if you think he’s all wet for using it, you can take your phonus bolonus and tell it to Sweeney.

    Joe Biden has never really been my cup of tea. There’s always seemed like a bit of flimflam behind that gigglemug of his. And for a guy who uses the word malarkey more than any politician since the 19th century — and has now emblazoned the slogan “no malarkey” on his campaign bus — he’s peddled a lot of it over the years. But he remains popular among a lot of Democrats for the same reason people like the word malarkey: nostalgia, which can be a powerful force in an election.

    You can get a lesson in obscure archaic terms just by clicking on Jonah's links.


  • At Reason, Ronald Bailey contributes to the Pun Salad "Department of Duh": Private Flood Insurers Chastised for Not Insuring Houses Likely To Be Flooded.

    "Insurers cherry-pick homes, leave flooded ones for the Feds," runs a very odd headline over at E&E News. The article goes on to explain, "Taxpayers could be forced to spend billions of dollars to bail out the federal government's flood program as private-sector insurers begin covering homes with little risk of flooding while clustering peril-prone properties in the indebted public program." Well, yes.

    Decades of government intervention tend to obscure what once needed no explanation: unless forced, insurance companies won't bet against (their best estimate of) the odds.


  • And this is a fascinating Road and Track article on illegal activity: Cross-Country Cannonball Record Broken — 27 Hours 25 Minutes.

    After leaving the Red Ball garage on the east side of Manhattan at 12:57 a.m. on November 10, it took Toman, Tabbutt and Chadwick 27 hours and 25 minutes to reach the Portofino Hotel in Redondo Beach, in L.A.'s South Bay. In a car. If number crunching isn't your thing, allow me to break that down for you. Taking the northern route—I-80 through Nebraska, I-76 down to Denver, I-70 to the middle of Utah and I-15 down into L.A.'s spiderweb of interstates for a total of 2825 miles—Toman and Tabbutt were able to maintain an overall average speed of 103 mph. That's including stops for fuel, which they managed to keep down to a blindingly fast 22 and a half minutes total. And that's in a country where the speed limit on interstate highways is usually 70 mph, and never higher than 80 on the roads they were traveling.

    Let me repeat: average speed of 103 mph. I might be able to hit 103 in my Impreza. If I drove off a high enough cliff.

    [OK, can't resist. If I remember my high-school physics, I'd need about a 360-foot freefall to hit 103 mph, neglecting air resistance.]

URLs du Jour

2019-12-04

  • Indispensible Geraghty notes in yesterday's Morning Jolt that Impeachment Is a Drag. Everyone is bored. And I thought this to be an insightful observation:

    Chad Pergram, a Fox News reporter on Capitol Hill, reported, “a member of Pelosi’s leadership team today told Fox that the backlog of bills up this month in the House ‘works against’ a December impeachment vote. And the Democrat noted that impeachment ‘doesn’t fit the holiday spirit.’ That means impeachment could wait until 2020.”

    First, if Trump is this law-breaking menace to the Constitution, who is such a clear and proven threat to American values and the processes of our government that this cannot be left to voters . . . why is he getting a reprieve for Christmas?

    The House pushed back its holiday vacation from December 12 to December 20. Right now, it isn’t scheduled to reconvene until January 7, 2020.

    Why, it's almost as if Democrats don't believe their own rhetoric.


  • A glum story in the New York Times: ‘It Just Isn’t Working’: PISA Test Scores Cast Doubt on U.S. Education Efforts.

    The performance of American teenagers in reading and math has been stagnant since 2000, according to the latest results of a rigorous international exam, despite a decades-long effort to raise standards and help students compete with peers across the globe.

    And the achievement gap in reading between high and low performers is widening. Although the top quarter of American students have improved their performance on the exam since 2012, the bottom 10th percentile lost ground, according to an analysis by the National Center for Education Statistics, a federal agency.

    Almost needless to say: this, after "No Child Left Behind", "Race to the Top", "Common Core", "Every Student Succeeds" and the accompanying billions of taxpayer dollars.

    All pretty much a waste.


  • Rational Optimist Matt Ridley lays out The plot against fracking. It's not just greenies, who don't like anything that once might have been a dinosaur fart. It's…

    The Russians also lobbied behind the scenes against shale gas, worried about losing their grip on the world’s gas supplies. Unlike most conspiracy theories about Russian meddling in Western politics, this one is out there in plain sight. The head of Nato, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said the Russians, as part of a sophisticated disinformation operation, “engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organisations — environmental organisations working against shale gas — to maintain Europe’s dependence on imported Russian gas”.

    The Centre for European Studies found that the Russian government has invested $95 million in NGOs campaigning against shale gas. Russia Today television ran endless anti-fracking stories, including one that “frackers are the moral equivalent of paedophiles”. The US Director of National Intelligence stated that “RT runs anti-fracking programming … reflective of the Russian Government’s concern about the impact of fracking and US natural gas production on the global energy market and the potential challenges to Gazprom’s profitability.” Pro-Russian politicians such as Lord Truscott (married to a Russian army colonel’s daughter) made speeches in parliament against fracking.

    How much fracking opposition in the US is funded behind the scenes by Putin?


  • The Bulwark takes a break from its relentless anti-Trumpism, and looks at a popular Democrat freestuff campaign pledge: "Free College" Isn’t About Free College.

    College is, as a sector, broken. This isn’t an opinion. It’s just a fact.

    If you bought a car in 1985, you probably paid about $27,000 (that is, in 2016 dollars). If you bought a new car in 2016, you probably paid about $27,000 (also in 2016 dollars). In the intervening 30 years, the real price of cars moved around a bit, increasing and decreasing. And the average price for light trucks mostly increased. But not by all that much, relatively. [Graphic elided]

    And over that period, the cars got a lot better. Cars in 2016 are more fuel-efficient, more reliable, less expensive to own in total cost, and much, much safer.

    Now let’s do college. If you went to a public college in 1985, you paid about $8,000 a year (again, we’re using 2016 dollars). If you went to a public college in 2016, you paid about $17,000 a year. That’s a real-dollar increase of more than 100 percent.

    And was your college degree “better” in 2016? Probably not. For one thing, it became more common. For another, over that period there was a proliferation of soft majors resulting in degrees that don’t really help you in the job market. I mean, have you been in a college classroom recently?

    Both my kids recently volunteered, unprompted, that they found college to be much easier than high school.

    I didn't say anything, but if I had it would have been something like: "That's because you went to a challenging high school, and chose a unchallenging university/major."

    It's OK, they turned out fine. But…


  • Good old Wired battles those politically incorrect algorithms: Senators Protest a Health Algorithm Biased Against Black People.

    In October, a bombshell academic study questioned whether widely used software could cause racial bias in US health care. It found that an algorithm some providers use to prioritize access to extra help with conditions such as diabetes systematically favors white patients’ needs over those of black patients. Democratic presidential candidate and senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Senate colleague Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) are now demanding answers.

    I'm not saying it's true in this case, but I wonder if describing an algorithm as "biased" is shorthand for "gave results that didn't comport with our ideology."

    No problem. If you don't like what your algorithm does, it's easy to change (as Google demonstrates). So what if people die as a result?

URLs du Jour

2019-12-03

  • A brief personal yarn. Our local Sunday paper finally showed up this morning. The only reasons we continue to subscribe: (1) coupons; (2) week-old crossword puzzles from the New York Times and Los Angeles Times.

    So I was doing the NYT crossword puzzle, and one across clue was:

    Number in an office?

    Seven letters, and the only way I got it was figuring out the down answers for each letter. I'll put the answer here in white type, mouse-highlight to see it:

    DENTIST

    My reaction: "I don't get this. I don't get this. I don't … Oh, I get it." And an audible moan.

    See if you do better.

  • At Reason (donate to their webathon while you're there), Jacob Sullum tells the story of a current Supreme Court case: New York City, Which Defended Its Onerous Gun Transport Restrictions As Necessary for Public Safety, Concedes They Weren’t.

    For decades, New York City enforced uniquely onerous regulations that effectively prohibited licensed pistol and revolver owners from taking their weapons outside their homes, even when they were unloaded and stored in a locked container, unless they were traveling to or from one of seven gun ranges in the five boroughs. When several gun owners challenged those regulations, the city successfully defended their constitutionality for five years, obtaining favorable rulings from a federal judge and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. But after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal of that decision, the city rewrote its rules, backed a state law that eased restrictions on transporting guns, and urged the Court to drop the case, arguing that the regulatory and statutory changes made it moot. During oral arguments today in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York, several justices seemed skeptical of that claim, which is transparently aimed at avoiding a Supreme Court decision that could clarify the contours of the Second Amendment.

    It would be nice to get some clarity from the Supremes on Second Amendment stuff. Avoiding the mootness issue and ruling on the onerous restrictions would be a great start.


  • Matt Ridley, the Rational Optimist, gives the good news in the headline: GM Crops Like Golden Rice Will Save the Lives of Hundreds of Thousands of Children. But there are some green weenies that say nay:

    Given the scale of human suffering Golden Rice could address, there may be no better example of a purely philanthropic project in the whole of human history. Yet some misguided environmental activists still oppose Golden Rice to this day.

    Prominent among these is Greenpeace, the environmental lobby group which now has annual revenues of nearly $300m and a highly-paid chief executive overseeing a sophisticated fund-raising operation. Greenpeace lobbied to set very strict rules on the use of genetically-engineered crops which had the effect, whether intended or not, of making life difficult for Potrykus and Beyer. In January 2000, the same month that the development of Golden Rice was announced to the world in Science magazine, there was a meeting in Montreal of delegates from 170 countries working to come up with an international protocol on the regulation of biotechnology. This process had been started the year before in Cartagena, Colombia. Greenpeace was there, both protesting in the streets (“Life before profits!”) and working behind the scenes to draft rules for the delegates.

    And you can be sure all the Greenpeaceniks were well-fed.

    It always sets my teeth on edge when I notice one of those smug "NonGMO Certified" labels on a jar, box, or carton of something we've purchased. It means we've sent a small market signal that we are ignorant science-illiterate idiots.


  • At Cato, Alan Reynolds examines the nonsense emitted by one of Senator Liz's tame economists: Simon Johnson Claims the Warren Health Plan is a Gift to U.S. Businesses. A sample:

    "The health-care burden hurts American business," says Johnson, due to "the onerous contribution most companies are required to make through employer-sponsored insurance." Would the Warren plan end that "onerous contribution"? Of course not. They're counting on it to pay 43% of the cost of the plan. 

    Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler explains: "Instead of employers continuing to give that money to insurance companies, Warren proposes that businesses direct 98 percent to the federal government [$8.8 trillion] and keep 2 percent for themselves. . . "

    Would the Warren plan prohibit the next government from requiring employers to pay a vastly more "onerous contribution" in the future? Of course not. The Warren plan would also raise taxes on corporations and their investors by some $6.3 trillion, according to Kessler, so any ephemeral promise of reducing companies' insurance premiums by 2% for a year or two is hardly great news for American business.

    A successful Democratic candidate will have to hire better flim-flammers than Simon Johnson.


  • At the (maybe paywalled) WSJ, William McGurn wonders: Will Bloomberg Buy the Election?.

    If Joe Biden falters, the received wisdom runs, nominating Michael Bloomberg to head the Democratic ticket would boost the party’s chances next November by pitting a strong, credible moderate against Donald Trump. It’s possible. But the former mayor of New York could do his party an even bigger favor just by losing.

    The reason has to do with the Supreme Court’s 2010 landmark ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Instead of hailing the decision as a welcome victory for the First Amendment—it overturned an FEC ban that had prohibited airing a documentary critical of Hillary Clinton right before the 2008 Democratic primaries—today’s Democratic orthodoxy holds that Citizens United has left American democracy for sale to the highest bidder.

    Sen. Bernie Sanders puts it this way: “We do not believe that billionaires have the right to buy elections, and that is why we are going to overturn Citizens United, that is why multibillionaires like Mr. Bloomberg are not going to get very far in this election.”

    McGurn goes on to argue that if Bloomberg can't buy his way into the White House, that would persuade would-be Citizens United overturners that their premises were mistaken.

    I'm doubtful. Among the faithful, that is a belief somewhat impervious to evidence.


  • On a related note, Iowahawk reacts to Zuck's latest:

    I encourage you to click over to Twitter and RTWThread.

URLs du Jour

2019-12-02

[Amazon Link]

  • So a sad story for the Welfare Queens, Dairy Queen edition: The Nation’s Biggest Dairy Is Failing Despite Relentless Government Intervention. As reported by Baylen Linnekin at Reason:

    In early November, Dean Foods, the nation's largest dairy producer, filed for bankruptcy protection. The company, which has secured nearly a billion dollars in debtor financing to keep it afloat temporarily, is looking to sell off some or all of its assets as it attempts to reorganize and survive.

    How did the government "help"?

    "USDA dairy marketing orders set minimum dairy prices, while the [agency's dairy] checkoff program takes money from dairy farmers to promote milk and other dairy products," I detail in my book Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable. "Taxpayers have the dairy checkoff program to thank, for example, for the ubiquitous 'milk mustache' advertising campaign. If there are any benefits to be had from either program, they aren't likely to be enjoyed by your local farmer, creamery, or dairy."

    There's an obvious joke in here somewhere about getting off the government teat, but I'll let you make one up and laugh at it.


  • Issues & Insights has an economic bone to pick with a young CongressCritter: AOC’s ‘Free Stuff’ As ‘Public Goods’ Is An Old Socialist Game.

    The political left has long tried to hide its true intentions and character through the use of euphemisms. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has learned to play the game as well as anyone. She has demanded that taxpayer-funded handouts be considered “public goods.” It’s a convenient justification for taking the property of productive Americans and giving it to those who have more political favor.

    “People like to say, ‘Oh, this is about free stuff,'” the New York Democrat said at a Bronx town hall meeting over the weekend, before Thanksgiving. But “this is not about free stuff,” she said.

    As (even) I know, economists define a public good as non-rivalrous (I can consume it without there being less for you) and non-excludable (By its nature, one can't restrict provision of the good to people who have paid for it.) The classic example is national defense.

    Giveaway programs don't qualify on either count.

    And yet AOC graduated from BU with an econ major. So either she's forgotten what she learned or BU did a poor and incomplete job teaching her.


  • And the great Titania McGrath notes that some progressives are stealing her ideas without proper attribution.

    Guilty confession: I excused and myself left the Thanksgiving table when one of our guests started to spout off politically. (It was after the meal, though.)

The Phony Campaign

2019-12-01 Update

[Amazon Link]

Another big phony week for Mayor Pete, as he expands his lead in phony Google hits over President Bone Spurs.

And the big loser again this week among the Betfair punters: Senator Liz. Who is now behind both Wheezy Joe and Senator Bernie.

Did she have a plan for that?

Her plummet has been one for the history books. As recently as mid-October she was at 27.6%. Was she too honest about how she was planning to get the money to give back to all of us? Or too dishonest? Or did people actually listen to her and were turned off by her grating tone?

It's anyone's guess.

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
11/24
Phony
Results
Change
Since
11/24
Pete Buttigieg 10.1% +1.2% 6,120,000 +390,000
Donald Trump 41.8% +1.3% 1,980,000 -260,000
Hillary Clinton 2.7% -0.1% 892,000 -38,000
Bernie Sanders 7.8% unch 663,000 +69,000
Joe Biden 12.0% -0.7% 456,000 -41,000
Elizabeth Warren 7.5% -2.0% 344,000 +32,000
Michael Bloomberg 4.9% +0.1% 158,000 +34,000
Andrew Yang 2.0% unch 51,600 +4,700

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • Real Donald Trump gets some phony hits the old-fashioned way Tweeting the word himself, which everyone talks about.

    Calling a hoax "phony" is a redundancy. I assume. Or is this one of Trump's famous 3-D chess moves, where a phony hoax is actually… something real!


  • Man, I really liked John Cusack in the movie Better Off Dead. But nowadays he's reduced to complaining that some people appearing on MSNBC say negative, hurtful things about his longtime favorite:

    Warning: the video is rated "PL" for "Pretty Lame." I'll continue my MSNBC boycott, which has been going on for roughly 8,539 days.


  • Over on Fox News, we have Co-founder of Home Depot and Billionaire Ken Langone calls Elizabeth Warren a 'phony and a liar,' wants to see her donations to charity.

    Presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is a "phony and a liar" looking to paint wealthy people as the enemy, said billionaire and GOP donor Ken Langone on "Fox & Friends" Thursday, before calling on her to make her charitable donations public.

    "They can call me whatever they want. I still go to work every day... What I am is a grateful American," he said. "What happened to me in my life only happened because my grandparents came to America. She can call me whatever she wants. She's phony. She's a liar, we know that. We know she's a liar, a horrible liar."

    Ken, I may be going to Home Depot later today to get some shear pins for my snowblower. I know that money won't go directly into your pocket any more, but it's the thought that counts.


  • But it's not just rapacious capitalist pigs that find Senator Liz less than authentic. Writing in the Guardian, Nathan Robinson warns: Progressives, trust your gut: Elizabeth Warren is not one of us.

    But lately, Warren has finally begun to make her true feelings clear, and progressives no longer need to wonder whether she’s with us or not. She’s not. Warren released a Medicare for All plan that called it a “long-term” plan, which leftwing political analyst Ben Studebaker pointed out is “code to rich people for ‘this is all pretend’”.

    A few weeks later, Warren confirmed that while in theory she supported single-payer healthcare, it would not be one of her primary initiatives, and she would initially push for a more moderate proposal similar to those advocated by Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg. Political analysts quickly saw Warren’s statement for what it was: an admission that she did not really intend to pass single-payer at all. Doug Henwood noted that Barclays bank put out an analysis assuring Wall Street that Warren’s plan to put off Medicare for All until late in the first term “decreases the likelihood that this plan comes to fruition”. So much for big structural change.

    Aw darn. You mean she's a normal politician, unwilling to hang onto ideas that poll poorly? Fetch me the smelling salts!


  • Norman Rogers writes at American Thinker, and here's what he's been thinking about: Why Joe Biden seems so different. Specifically, his eyes were opened by "Frank", apparently a denizen of Chicago's Michigan Ave.:

    [Frank]

    Norman comments:

    Quite obviously Biden is the Russian Manchurian Candidate. In the 2004 movie version a candidate for vice president is discovered to have an implant connected to his brain. So, rather than substituting an impersonator, the Russians may have surgically altered the real Biden to obey their commands.

    The picture is from 2011, so it's possible that Frank has been taken out by the KGB since then. That's what would have happened in a decent movie anyway.


  • And what's behind Mayor Pete's perceived phoniness? Well, it may be that he's a soul whose intentions are good, but oh Lord maybe a little misunderstood. Take it away, Jim Downs at Slate: Pete Buttigieg’s gay best little boy archetype needs to be better understood..

    As Pete Buttigieg rises in the polls in early caucus and primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire, criticism of the candidate has mounted, particularly around his personality. Since entering the field, initial appreciation for the South Bend, Indiana, mayor’s relative youth and rolled-sleeves Midwestern energy has given way to a sense in certain incredulous quarters that he is robotic, overly polished, McKinsey-calculating, somehow fake. A related discontent has emerged in some corners of the LGBTQ community around Buttigieg’s relationship to his own gay identity. Here, too, he can come off as strangely circumspect, seemingly distant from gay culture and history—despite making it as the first serious openly gay presidential candidate. The privileges of race, class, and gender presentation that allow for his “pioneer” status relative to other sorts of queer people (and Buttigieg’s tepid acknowledgement of these) is another sore point.

    Article summary: he's no Liberace. But that should be OK.

URLs du Jour

2019-11-30

  • OK, just one today, but it's a goodie. Mark J. Perry's Animated chart of the day.

    Impressive. Then scary. Click through for Mark's commentary, in case you need to be even more scared.