URLs du Jour

2021-10-22

[Broken Supply Chain]

  • They are supposed to be the smart ones. Dominic Pino says we live in a time When Universities Are Incapable of Learning.

    ‘Covid-19 Precautions Prompt Backlash on College Campuses” reads an October 16 headline in the Wall Street Journal.

    It’s about time. For far too long, college students have been far too submissive in the face of the completely unjustified COVID regulations issued by their university administrations.

    This isn’t a matter of vaccine mandates. Over 1,000 colleges have required COVID vaccination for students. Universities already require vaccines against other illnesses, so requiring a COVID vaccine is reasonable. The vaccines work, and, as we have said many times on this website, people should get them. Thankfully, on college campuses, people have gotten them: Many universities now have vaccination rates over 95 percent.

    Yet campuses continue to have some of the most stringent COVID restrictions in the country…

    The WSJ quotes, as a bad example, USC's Covid policy which requires vaccination, and weekly testing, and mandatory indoor masking even for the vaccinated.

    Surely things must be different for the University Near Here in the Live Free or Die state!

    Well (as I type) …

    All students, faculty and staff are required to participate in regular testing through the fall semester.

    Masks are required in all indoor campus spaces except when eating, in private offices or in personal residence hall rooms. The requirement applies to everyone, vaccinated and unvaccinated. This includes classrooms, hallways, elevators, restrooms, break rooms, entries and exits to buildings, laboratories, meeting rooms, shared offices and work areas.

    UNH doesn't require vaccinations. But testing and masking are still mandatory if you are vaccinated. Healthy young people might wonder why they should bother getting jabbed if nothing changes?


  • Playing It Safe Is The Most Dangerous Thing You Can Do. Hans Bader reminds us of an inconvenient truth: Federal safety regulations kill thousands of people.

    “Good headlights can reduce your likelihood of having a crash at night by up to 20%,” notes Will Rinehart. “Why aren’t they available here in the US? Because adaptive beams don’t have dedicated, separate high and low beams, they violate” a federal transportation regulation, FMVSS 108.

    As a web site explains,

    if these ADB beams can make nighttime driving safer, why aren’t they available here in the U.S.? The reason is basic bureaucracy. In 1967, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety developed a regulation (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108), which specified that road-legal vehicles must have a dedicated high beam and a dedicated low beam. Because adaptive beams don’t have dedicated, separate high and low beams, they violate this regulation. Adaptive beams can adjust brightness and illumination area, but they do all of it using the same LED lights….Clearly, the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108 was written before anyone at National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) conceived of headlights that could respond to external stimuli and selectively alter luminescence based on environment. But it’s still a regulatory blind spot, if you will, that has prevented safer technology from being fully utilized in the U.S.

    An automaker petitioned NHTSA to permit ADB technology in U.S. vehicles in 2018. But the technology still isn’t available in the U.S.

    Bader provides plenty of additional examples. And he doesn't even mention Covid. Which is interesting because…


  • Your tax dollars at work. Ronald Bailey looks at More Evidence Emerges that the NIH Funded Coronavirus Gain-of-Function Research in China.

    In a letter yesterday to Rep. James Comer (R–Ky.), National Institutes of Health (NIH) Principal Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak tepidly acknowledged that his agency funded coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The money, channeled through the EcoHealth Alliance, supported scientists who modified bat coronaviruses so that they were "capable of binding to the human ACE2 receptor in a mouse model."

    Basically, the Chinese researchers modified the spike protein of a relatively harmless coronavirus so that it would function as a key enabling the virus to open and invade cells in humanized mice. As it happens, the coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic chiefly infects people by binding to our ACE2 receptors.

    This is precisely the sort of thing that Fauci denied happening under questioning by Rand Paul. I wonder if Cantabrigians have started taking down their "In Fauci We Trust" yard signs yet?


  • Meanwhile, in Washington … Wrangling continues to get something out of Congress. The debate seems to be over how best to spin a colossal ($2 trillion) waste of taxpayer money. Hey, maybe by emphasizing that it's less than the previously-demanded gargantuan ($3.5 trillion) waste of taxpayer money?

    It doesn't matter. Both the past number and the new number are bogus, say the WSJ editorialists: The $2 Trillion Is Phony Too.

    Democrats say they’re working hard to pare back their $3.5 trillion tax and spending bill to $2 trillion to please House and Senate dissenters, but don’t believe it. What they’re really doing is working hard to pack $4 trillion in new programs into a $2 trillion disguise that sounds less radical than it is.

    That’s the message from news reports that the White House on Tuesday offered Congressional Democrats a plan that retains nearly all of the entitlement programs they originally proposed. Instead of reducing this vast expansion of the welfare state, Democrats are merely increasing their use of budget gimmicks to pretend to fit them into a 10-year budget window. It’s still a mammoth fiscal confidence trick.

    The main gimmick is to pretend that new entitlements will go away after a few years. Everybody knows this, including (I would hope) our state's Congressional delegation. But, as near as I can tell, they are all willing to go meekly along with the dangerous, dishonest charade.


  • Checking on the fact checkers… Ann Althouse looks at the dismal results of a recent WaPo attempt to award Pinocchios: "The initial version of the Democrats’ proposal would have required financial institutions to provide the IRS with two new figures every year..."

    "... the total inflows and outflows for any bank account with more than $600 in annual deposits or withdrawals, 'with a breakdown for physical cash, transactions with a foreign account, and transfers to and from another account with the same owner.' The requirement would apply to all business and personal accounts at financial institutions. After Republicans raised concerns that the $600 minimum would sweep up almost all Americans, Democrats raised the proposed threshold to $10,000.... Republican senators including Crapo and Kennedy claimed that under the Democrats’ tax enforcement plan, the IRS would be snooping on the sensitive financial details contained in Americans’ bank records. The burden of proof is on the speaker, as we like to remind our readers, but in this case, no proof was supplied. In reality, the proposal is to monitor the total amount of money going in and out of any bank account with more than $10,000 of transactions in a given year, not the blow-by-blow of where and when people spend their money. And just before this GOP news conference, Democrats had curtailed their proposal to cover fewer Americans and to exempt all wages and federal benefits from the new requirements. These claims earn Three Pinocchios."

    From "No, Biden isn’t proposing that the IRS spy on bank records" by WaPo Fact Checker Salvador Rizzo.

    I don't see how you get "Pinocchios" when your criticism is undermined by causing your adversary to change their proposal! And I don't see why you get "Pinocchios" for failing to supply proof. The Fact Checker ought to come up with proof that the statement-makers knowingly said something false before assigning all those "Pinocchios." >

    By the way, that headline screams partisan politics. When I clicked on that headline, I didn't think I was going to end up at a Fact Checker column. But they got my click, and I'm sure they got lots of other clicks, so I should expect more of this sort of thing in the future.

    I also expect that. The WaPo used to occasionally throw the flag on nonsense from the left, but I don't know (or, frankly, care much) about whether they still do.


  • Also checking on that fact checking… is Patterico.

    Another day, another silly partisan “fact-check” from the Washington Post. I almost don’t care about the substance of the fact-check (although I will say I few words about it below) because I became distracted by this absolutely awesome parenthetical in the piece, which amply illustrates the snickering, smug, absolutely bonkers desperation to label Republicans liars:

    Kennedy, who once served as secretary of the Louisiana Department of Revenue, repeatedly said Americans’ “intimate financial details” would be collected, and he called it a “squid-brained idea.” (Scientists say squids and octopuses are the smartest invertebrates.)

    (ACKSHALLY squids are super smart SENATOR)

    You tell 'em, WaPo fact checker!

URLs du Jour

2021-10-21

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Our Amazon Product du Jour is a symbol of what Philip Greenspun calls "our new religion". There is an amazing array of merch at Amazon featuring the motto/creed, but this one is the most appropriate for the True Believers.

  • Instapundit seems to be… going downhill. Stephen "Should Know Better" Green is inordinately impressed with a statistical factoid:

    I’VE SEEN THE LOCKDOWNS AND THE DAMAGE DONE: Goodbye Middle Class: 50 Percent Of All U.S. Workers Made $34,612.04 Or Less Last Year.

    Income for the lower 50% was sharply up under Trump, which is a solid indicator of an incumbent president winning reelection.

    The lockdowns changed that — even more more [sic] sharply — which, as far as I’m concerned, explains the lockdowns.

    Well, that's garbage.

    Clicking the link brings you to one of those "Aieee, we're dooomed!" articles, by a guy named Michael Snyder. My impression is that he's kind of a self-promoting religious nut, attempting to make a buck off people who like to buy the latest forecast of imminent apocalypse.

    It all began with a very unusual series of dreams. Night after night, Michael Snyder kept having the same extremely vivid dream about the future, but at first he had no idea what those dreams meant. In a search for answers, Michael was led down some very deep rabbit holes which resulted in a chain of discoveries which will absolutely shock Christians all over the world.

    That's fine, this is America, people have been doing this a long time.

    Going a bit further down this "rabbit hole": the $34,612.04 statistic is from the Social Security Administration. From Green's description, you'd expect this to have been a drastic decline from previous years.

    Guess what? It isn't. It's up about a percent from 2019, and it's at the highest level ever. (Caveat: the SSA says it's "estimated". Which doesn't stop them from reporting it down to the penny.)

    This is not to say that American citizens don't have Real Big Financial Problems. We'd all like that number to be higher, and growing more strongly. (Inflation for 2020 (CPI-U) was a tad more than that (1.4%).)

    But you won't get much insight by highlighting out-of-context numbers from religious nuts. Do better, Instapundit.


  • But how are we going to careen down the Road to Serfdom without it? Ronald Bailey notes at Reason that Biden’s ‘Climate-Resilient Economy’ Roadmap Is Largely Superfluous.

    The Biden administration believes that private companies and markets are not effectively pricing into their calculations the effects of man-made climate change on housing, stocks and bonds, physical assets, crop yields, and fire risks. Consequently, President Joe Biden has issued Executive Order 14030 on Climate-Related Financial Risk.

    Pursuant to that executive order, Biden's National Economic Council published A Roadmap to Build a Climate-Resilient Economy. The Roadmap is necessary, asserts the council, because "Wall Street financial models and investment portfolios that manage the assets of millions of Americans continue to rely on the basic assumption that climate will be stable." The report outlines a "climate risk accountability framework" with the aim of "safeguarding the U.S. financial system against climate-related financial risk by holding financial institutions accountable for properly measuring, disclosing, managing, and mitigating climate-related financial risks." That emphasis is in the original.

    But are Wall Street and other investors blithely assuming a stable climate? Actually, no. There is plenty of evidence that portfolio managers, bond markets, businesses, farmers, and shareholders are taking the effects of climate change into account when planning their investments. On the other hand, government interference in markets is slowing financial and infrastructure adaptation to the risks of climate change.

    It's part of the general progressive ideology that governments will be able to spend dollars more wisely than the private sector; that's how they justify sucking more taxes from private pockets into their own.

    Don't bother asking for evidence. It's a faith-based belief.


  • Weren't we just talking about rabbit holes? According to Charles C. W. Cooke, our President has gone down one: Biden in Wonderland.

    ‘If I had a world of my own,” said Alice, “everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrariwise, what it is, it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”

    Rumor has it that Alice is preparing to apply for a job in the White House press office.

    And not a moment too soon, either, for, having offered himself up as the savior of the American way, President Biden now finds himself in something of a pickle. The jobs reports are lackluster. The border is a mess. Gas prices are sky-high. Our supply chains are broken. Inflation, which was supposed to be “transitory,” looks more persistent by the day. Americans remain stranded in Afghanistan. China’s testing space-nukes. COVID is not only still with us; it’s making its way into the Good States. And, despite its having been given a jolly, catchy name — the “Build Back Better agenda” — all the public seems to know about the president’s gargantuan spending plan is that it will cost trillions upon trillions of dollars.

    Down the rabbit hole, though, everything is still peachy. Indeed, insofar as America has any problems to speak of, they’re held to be either non-existent, inconsequential, or somehow your fault. You may think you watched in horror a few months ago as a generational debacle unfolded in Kabul, but what you actually saw was “the largest U.S. airlift in history.” Hurrah! You may believe that the southern border has been in a perpetual state of crisis from the moment President Biden took office, but this is merely the sort of quotidian “circumstance” that could have happened under any president and is only happening now due to the inexplicable vagaries of climate change. How unfair! On first glance, you might think it more than a little startling that the Chinese Communist Party has managed to contrive a cache of hypersonic nuclear weapons that, if deployed correctly, would zip right past our defenses, but what you’re for some reason missing is that when it comes to the prospect of a nuclear apocalypse, “stiff competition” between nations is “welcome.” Natch.

    It's an NRPLUS article, and I encourage you to subscribe.


  • A stunningly good example of skepticism, honesty, and curiousity… is provided at Astral Codex Ten: Chilling Effects.

    On the recent global warming post, a commenter argued that at least fewer people would die of cold. I was prepared to dismiss this on the grounds that it couldn’t possibly be enough people to matter, but, um:

    … and goes on to quote a study. found via Googling:

    The study found that extreme heat and cold killed 5.08 million people on an average every year from 2000-2019. Of this, 4.6 million deaths on an average occurred annually due to extreme cold while 0.48 million deaths occurred due to extreme heat. This means close to nine out of every 100 deaths in the world in this period were due to cold temperatures, according to the study.

    Astral goes on to muse: "That sounds…extremely untrue, right?"

    Maybe. What follows is Scott's attempt to chase down the truth on his own. It's impressive, check it out.


  • Breaking news from … well, probably centuries past. Jonah Goldberg has the data on his side: People Love Big Spending Packages. Until They Have to Pay for Them.

    In 2016, Vox polled Bernie Sanders’ proposals for nationalized health care and free college tuition. They didn’t poll the general public; they polled Bernie Sanders’ own supporters. Not surprisingly, respondents favored single-payer health care. But when asked if they’d be willing to personally pay more for it, support dropped. Two-thirds said the most they’d be willing to pay in additional taxes for “free” health care was $1,000 per year, about $83 per month. This number includes the 8 percent of Sanders supporters who said they wouldn’t be willing to pay anything for universal health care.

    Cheap socialists aren’t the story here. Americans in general don’t want to pay much of anything—out of their own pocket—for the stuff progressives constantly say America is demanding.

    A Washington Post poll in 2019 found that 68 percent of Americans supported taxing “wealthy families” to pay for fighting climate change. But when asked if they would agree to pay an extra $2 a month on their electric bills, support fell to less than 47 percent. That same year, an AP-NORC poll asked people if they’d be willing to spend $10 more a month on their energy bills to fight climate change. Some 68 percent of respondents said nope.

    The only way they can sell this is by promulgating the myth that higher government spending can come out of some despised minority's pockets (the ones not "paying their fair share").


  • Euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. That was Orwell's famous description. of political language. George F. Will discusses recent confirming trends:

    In June, when Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra testified to a Senate committee about “birthing people,” a.k.a. mothers, he was already falling behind the swift evolution of progressive nomenclature. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine’s revised “lactation-related language” respects mothers by identifying them as “human milk-feeding individuals.”

    Almost nothing infuriates people as much as inflation — government’s failure to preserve the currency as a store of value. Even more infuriating, however, is a pervasive sense of arrogance and disorder, which now includes public officials and others propounding aggressively, insultingly strange vocabularies. Next November, there might be a cymbal-crash response to all this.

    Saying "stop the madness" can work. Unfortunately, it's been bringing us simply a different breed of madness.


Last Modified 2021-10-22 6:04 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-10-20

  • How can we miss him when he won't go away? A Tweet reminds us of what we lost:

    Of course, there's a lot of that going around:

    Classy guy Rick Wilson is co-founder of "The Lincoln Project".

    Why am I reminded of that Season Three episode of Star Trek, "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"? Is there some way we could beam Trump and Wilson to the devastated planet Cheron to continue their battle to the death, and never hear from either one again?

    (Yeah, I watched "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield", back when it originally aired in 1969. I thought it was heavy-handedly stupid even back then. But still.)

    (Boy, I'm glad that they brought back Khan for Star Trek II instead of Bele and Lokai.)


  • Also to be beamed to planet Cheron… Kevin D. Williamson identifies them for us: The Pillage Party and the Freakshow Party.

    Wheezy Joe is a proud member of the former:

    The Pillage Party goes all the way back to Andrew Jackson, and its platform has always been precisely the same: transfer as much money as possible to constituents from non-constituents. Old Hickory and Lyndon Johnson would tell you that was all about helping out the poor folks down on the farm and in the forgotten corners of America, but you and I know that is pure bullsh**. Democrats are perfectly happy to run with something you might think of as a more naturally Republican position if it puts money in the pockets of their partisans: Removing the cap on state and local tax deductions is a Democratic issue, not a Republican one, even though it means tax cuts for the rich, and especially for rich people with expensive houses in expensive neighborhoods. Silicon Valley and Wall Street may vote for Democrats for largely cultural reasons, but Elizabeth Warren’s nice progressive neighbors up in Cambridge are feeling the pinch of paying for all that progressivism out of their own progressive pockets. College-loan forgiveness is not exactly No. 1 on the agenda of desperately poor Americans in Democrat-run cities such as St. Louis or Cleveland, where the put-upon proletariat is worried about keeping the heat on this winter, not paying off the tab at Oberlin. Social Security, that epitome of the New Deal, transfers wealth from African Americans and Latinos to whites and, especially, from unmarried African Americans and Latinos to married whites — because Ward and June always get theirs.

    And as for the other faction…

    The Freakshow Party has been on the progressive scene for a long time, and if the Pillage Party is The Grapes of Wrath, the Freakshow Party is Last Exit to Brooklyn. It’s the “Shout Your Abortion and Show Me Your Pronouns!” party. The three legs of that wobbly stool are the Jew-Hating Weirdo Left (Sharpton, Farrakhan, Omar, Occupy types, etc.), the Loopy White People Left (NPR, vegan bakeries, college towns — everywhere you see a Subaru covered in bumper stickers), and 2SLGTBQIA+ (which I really hope is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s email password). Its natural occupation is that of hall monitor.

    And what of the GOP? Kevin: "there’s only the one Republican Party still standing: the Putz Party."


  • Also good candidates for transport to planet Cheron. Ira Stoll has a modest proposal: Put the Whole Department of Transportation on Paternity Leave.

    The U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, "has actually been on paid leave since mid-August to spend time with his husband, Chasten, and their two newborn babies," Politico reported on October 14.

    What's mildly humorous about this is that, until the Politico report, no one much noticed that Buttigieg had been missing.

    The Department of Transportation website has a section for speeches by Buttigieg. The most recent one listed was on August 9.

    Washington has a well-earned reputation for shutting down for a vacation of nearly European proportions during the month of August, leaving summer interns to finish out their stays unsupervised amid the capital city's staggering humidity. Stretching that late-summer break stealthily into mid-October raises the question: If the rest of the Transportation Department's nearly 55,000 employees disappeared along with Mayor Pete, would anyone miss them?


  • Government screws everything up, including things literally underfoot. Megan McArdle lives in Washington D. C., the metropolitan area with (by far) the highest per capita income in the USA. She reports on their transportation woes:

    On Oct. 12, near Arlington Cemetery, a Metro subway car partially derailed, forcing about 200 passengers to walk about 600 yards through a tunnel to reach the station exit. At that, we got off lightly, for the accident was the train’s third derailment of the day, according to National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy. Moreover, it stemmed from a problem with the wheel assemblies that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has known about for years. Those problems, Homendy said, could have led to a “catastrophic event.”

    Metro has since pulled the problematic 7000-series cars from service, leaving the system operating at drastically reduced capacity. Most lines will run one six-car train every 30 minutes. WMATA has said that the service reduction will last at least through this coming Sunday, which actually comes as good news, since it leaves alarmed Washingtonians some hope that the inconvenience will be temporary.

    Yet hope mingles with despair, because the gesture toward Sunday is hardly a guarantee, and also hardly the first time we have seen a prolonged service outage due to problems long ignored. Worse still, it has happened during a national ridership crisis for public transit — a fact that may yet turn a minor derailment into a true catastrophe for Washington’s subway system.

    Metro's money-sink mismanagement style coming soon to a state near you.


  • Saying the quiet part out loud. Ed Morrissey writes on K-K-K-Katie Couric on running interference for RBG: Hey, the national media do that all the time. Ed considers Couric's floundering answers to Savannah Guthrie's questioning of her "journalistic ethics" to be facile at best.

    Couric’s explanation here magnifies the hypocrisy rather than mitigating it. Why did Couric ask Ginsburg about Kaepernick and the kneeling controversy at all? She wanted to make the interview even more pop-culture relevant, clearly. But when Ginsburg apparently surprised her by being harshly critical of Kaepernick, suddenly Couric wasn’t interested at all in Ginsburg’s response to the question Couric herself raised. Would Couric have cut that answer out of an interview she conducted with Samuel Alito, or even more to the point Clarence Thomas, who likely shares Ginsburg’s contempt for the anthem protests? The answer to that question isn’t just no but hell no.

    Ironically, Couric herself has a “blind spot” about media consumers. People realize all too well that media outlets “make editorial decisions like that all the time.” It’s called editorial bias, and it’s a constant in the national media. “Republicans pounce!®” is an ongoing feature of editorial bias, and so is the national media’s tendency to soft-focus progressives while harshly scrutinizing conservatives. That’s exactly what Couric did in running interference on Ginsburg’s behalf after the justice crossed her up on the Kaepernick controversy.

    I'm glad she won't be hosting Jeopardy! Dodged a bullet there, they did.

URLs du Jour

2021-10-19

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  • Our emperors have no clothes masks. The Amazon Product du Jour is based on a story from earlier this month where it was reported that Congresscritter Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich) told an attendee at an event in Detroit that she was only wearing a mask "because I've got a Republican tracker here."

    Some prominent politicians are dumber than Tlaib. As Robby Soave reports: President Biden Doesn’t Follow D.C.’s Absurd Mask Rules for Restaurants. Click for the deets, but here's the bottom line:

    And that's what should really irritate people about Biden failing to mask up while making a quick exit. He isn't worried about his health during those few seconds; he probably knows that it's pointless to require masking under some circumstances while groups of unmasked people are eating, drinking, and talking for hours. The government's strict mask policies are so stupid that everyone who can get away with ignoring them already does so, yet they remain in place. Not for safety, or because of the science, but because our elected leaders can't be bothered to tweak the rules.

    Also caught maskless: D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser; San Francisco Mayor London Breed; and (I love this Free Beacon headline) Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot Shuns Mask Mandate at Surprisingly Crowded WNBA Game.

    The Democrat posted a photo of herself celebrating the Chicago Sky's championship-clinching victory over the Phoenix Mercury in game four of the WNBA Finals. Unlike the vast majority of attendees, Lightfoot was not wearing a face mask, a reckless decision that endangered the lives of her fellow citizens.

    The Wintrust Arena website states that the venue "is following all state and local mandates which require guests to wear masks indoors at all times, except when eating or drinking." There is no known exception for political photo-ops. Lightfoot, who was not eating or drinking in the photograph, appeared to be posing for the camera.

    Mayor Lori also made news for threatening Chicago cops with insubordination charges if they refused to obey her mandatory vaccination orders.


  • A revolutionary stance. From Drew Cline at the Josiah Bartlett Center: N.H. should let the market sort out private-sector vaccine policies.

    When New Hampshire Republicans start asking the state to regulate private businesses, something’s stopped making sense.

    GOP Executive Councilors Joe Kenney and Dave Wheeler last week suggested the state should forbid private businesses from requiring employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

    Florida and Texas have passed such big-government dictates, and Montana adopted a similar one in May.

    But most of the 12 states that have passed some form of restriction on vaccine mandates have prohibited only government entities, not private ones, from requiring proof of vaccination. (New Hampshire is one of those.)

    The reason for the distinction is simple. While it’s undisputed that government can set its own policies for its own facilities, it’s generally accepted, in Republican and conservative circles at least, that government ought to have only the most limited authority to impose its will on private business.

    I'm not unsympathetic to people who don't want to get jabbed. But I'm even less sympathetic to politicians who want to dictate to employers how they should run their businesses.


  • Math is hard. But lying is easy. Allison Schrager spells it out at City Journal: Build Back Better Is Not Cost Free.

    What does it mean for a service or good to cost zero dollars? This was once a straightforward question: if you paid nothing for it, it was free. But “free” has apparently been redefined. In case you thought the days of triggering presidential tweets were behind us, the White House tweeted over the weekend: “The cost of the Build Back Better Agenda is $0. The President’s plan won’t add to our national deficit and no one making under $400,000 per year will see their taxes go up a single penny. It’s fully paid for by ensuring big corporations and the very wealthy pay their fair share.”

    The argument here, such as it is, is that Democrats’ ambitious reconciliation bill, originally slated to contain $3.5 trillion in federal spending over ten years, won’t cost anything—because it will be paid for with taxes on high earners and corporations and by taking money from other places in the budget. This is absurd: if you buy a car with cash instead of a loan, it still costs more than zero. Money spent on free community college is money not being spent somewhere else; low interest rates or not, we still live in a world of finite resources.

    I'm a peaceful guy, but I kind of want to punch something when I see the phrase "… pay their fair share."

    Here's Harvard Econ Prof Greg Mankiw. from last April on that:

    Yesterday, President Biden said, "I will not impose any tax increase on people making less than $400,000. But it’s time for corporate America and the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans to just begin to pay their fair share....But I will not add a tax burden, additional tax burden on the middle class of this country. They’re already paying enough."

    According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the middle class (defined here as the middle quintile of the income distribution) now pays about 13 percent of its income in federal taxes. The top 1 percent pays about 30 percent of its income in federal taxes.

    I wonder: What constitutes a "fair share" in President Biden's eyes? On what basis does he conclude that the current distribution of the tax burden is not fair?

    It's mind-bendingly dishonest phrasing, and it's long past time for the watchdog fact-checkers to call it out for the lie it is.


  • And now for something completely different. James Lileks wrote about his doggie in yesterday's Bleat, and captured this so well:

    Saturday came and went without errands or any trip outside the house. Just didn’t feel like it. The world is busy with people running errands, and I’ve no interest in fighting the amateurs at the grocery store. The people who leave their cart in the middle of the aisle while they grapple with the myriad manifestations of pasta. Just sat in the back yard with the dog, occasionally tussling over a rope, enjoying the day.

    Why does the dog decide ROPE NOW? He’s splayed in the grass, basking in the waning warmth. He hears, he stirs, bolts up, looks around, sees the rope, and AH HAH, engage. Always the conundrum: please throw it so I can chase it I love to chase it also hell no I’m not letting this go. You look into the face of a dog holding on to his end of the rope, and you see the black pools of madness. Primal strife, to the death. But scritches first.

    Same thing at my house. Except we don't call it ROPE. Here it is TUG.

URLs du Jour

2021-10-18

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  • Regulatory capture: it's real and it's spectacular. J.D. Tuccille notes (I've probably said this before) a large corporation running a play from a decades-old playbook: Facebook’s Blacklists Are Another Way To Constrain Competition.

    … [L]ike other large companies in the past, Facebook has recently found a new affection for increased regulation, such as repeal or modification of Section 230 legal protections for online platforms from liability for user-generated content.

    "Section 230 was vital to Facebook's creation, and its growth," Jeff Kosseff, a cybersecurity law professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, told Reason earlier this week. "But now that it's a trillion-dollar company, Section 230 is perhaps a bit less important to Facebook, but it is far more important to smaller sites. Facebook can handle defending a bunch of defamation cases on the merits much more than a site like Yelp or Glassdoor."

    That's why supposed "whistleblower" Frances Haugen's demands that Facebook engage in more content moderation and be subject to increased government oversight play to the tech giant's strengths. Large firms and small businesses compete on a level playing field when it comes to free speech. But regulatory compliance and content moderation give the advantage to established companies with lawyers and resources to spare. If Facebook hasn't paid Haugen a bonus for her congressional testimony, Mark Zuckerberg should at least send her a nice card for the holidays.

    Soon enough, Facebook will be slapping muzzles on whatever "domestic terrorists" the politicians claim need to be silenced.

    Somebody needs to say: Dude, they're just pixels.


  • When you tire of panicking about Facebook, there's always 1/6. Glenn Greenwald has a keen eye for dangerous absurdities: Civil Liberties Are Being Trampled by Exploiting "Insurrection" Fears. Congress's 1/6 Committee May Be the Worst Abuse Yet. Sample:

    With more than 600 people now charged in connection with the events of 1/6, not one person has been charged with conspiracy to overthrow the government, incite insurrection, conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping of public officials, or any of the other fantastical claims that rained down on them from media narratives. No one has been charged with treason or sedition. Perhaps that is because, as Reuters reported in August, “the FBI has found scant evidence that the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was the result of an organized plot to overturn the presidential election result.” Yet these defendants are being treated as if they were guilty of these grave crimes of which nobody has been formally accused, with the exact type of prosecutorial and judicial overreach that criminal defense lawyers and justice reform advocates have long railed against.

    Dozens of the 1/6 defendants have been denied bail, thus being imprisoned for months without having been found guilty of anything. Many are being held in unusually harsh and bizarrely cruel conditions, causing a federal judge on Wednesday to hold “the warden of the D.C. jail and director of the D.C. Department of Corrections in contempt of court,” and then calling on the Justice Department "to investigate whether the jail is violating the civil rights of dozens of detained Jan. 6 defendants.” Some of the pre-trial prison protocols have been so punitive that even Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) — who calls the 1/6 protesters "domestic terrorists” — denounced their treatment as abusive: “Solitary confinement is a form of punishment that is cruel and psychologically damaging,” Warren said, adding: “And we’re talking about people who haven’t been convicted of anything yet.” Warren also said she is "worried that law enforcement officials are deploying it to 'punish' the Jan. 6 defendants or to 'break them so that they will cooperate.”

    Elizabeth Warren makes sense. Insert stopped clock metaphor here.


  • A remedy for polarization? I'm not going all in on the nostrum Patterico recommends here: What About a *Moderate* Third Party? But I think he makes a decent argument.

    As crazy as the Republican party seems these days, I'm not sure that the Republican party, on the ground, is made up overwhelmingly of anti-vaxxers, nutjobs who think Biden stole the election from Trump, lovers of the Trumpiest Trumpy candidates, etc. There are plenty of people, I think, who will go along with that crowd if they think that's what they have to do to win. There are plenty of politicians who will pander to that crowd if that’s what they think will get them elected. But I don't think most members of the party are that extreme in their heart of hearts.

    Similarly, I'm not sure that the Democrat party, on the ground, is full of people who resemble the Most Online Democrats, who love them some Ilhan Omar and Bernie and AOC. Conservatives can't be the only ones worried about the extremes taking over. There were enough moderate voters on the left to elect Joe Biden—who, although he has governed like an extreme leftist, won the election by portraying himself as a far more moderate alternative to crazy socialist Bernie.

    Even if there were a "moderate" candidate in the mix against a Trumpist Republican and a Sanders Democrat, I'd probably still vote for whatever lunatic the Libertarian Party manages to get on the ballot. But that's me.


  • Our state's Congressional delegation is probably silently thanking her. Chris Stirewalt notes that Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema is Saving Seats of Silent Dems. For example, Mark Kelly, who's up for reelection next year:

    So far, progressive activists seem content to leave the obstinately opaque Kelly alone. And that’s even as he’s built a very impressive war chest with money from some of the same sources that are now used to call Sinema’s loyalties into doubt. But Kelly has gotten better at hiding than an elf owl in the arms of a saguaro cactus. It’s a good strategy, too. Republicans have only just begun the work of damaging one another in the primary. Tech bro Peter Theil is gushing money into the GOP primary on behalf of one of his lieutenants, Blake Masters, while frontrunner Attorney General Mark Brnovich is engaging in a very weird flex. With no real primary challenge, Kelly is free to save his money and wait for the general.

    But Sinema is part of Kelly’s strategy, too. And he’s not the only one. Kelly is just one of many Democratic senators who are happy to stand silent while Sinema and Manchin take the heat for opposing what will be a massively unpopular spending measure. The refusal of his home-state colleague and Manchin obviates any further discussion on the subject. Without all 50 Senate Democrats, there’s no need for Kelly to even take a vote on the $3.5 trillion package. There’s no question that Kelly would be better off not having to vote on the Sanders-backed bill. Sinema may make that possible.

    I can't help but think that our state's junior Senator, Maggie Hassan, is roughly in the same spot as Kelly. And she isn't even a former astronaut.

    (She isn't, is she? I think I would have noticed.)


  • Michael Bay turns out to have been right all along. Gizmodo brings the welcome news: Nuking an Incoming Asteroid Could Actually Work, Study Suggests. Follow the science:

    The simulation demonstrated the effects of a one megaton bomb that ignited near the surface of a 328-foot-long (100-meter) asteroid. The scientists ran the simulation multiple times, with asteroids traveling along five distinct orbits.

    The results were very encouraging. For all asteroids tested, nuclear strikes performed months in advance of an impact served to significantly reduce the volume of incoming material.

    Plus which, about half the Earth gets to see a pretty neat fireworks show.


Last Modified 2021-10-18 10:14 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-10-17

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  • Gosh, it's almost if they're lying about their true intentions. Matt Welch detects a mismatch between stated goals and proposed means. Dems Want to Soak the Rich by Snooping on the Poor.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) snapped when asked Tuesday if the proposal to dramatically increase the surveillance capabilities of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) would remain in the trillion-dollar social spending bill currently being negotiated among Democrats on Capitol Hill.

    "Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes," the speaker said. Then she waved aside the questioner's accurate comment that banks have reported customer concerns about the idea that the IRS would scrutinize accounts with inflows and outflows as low as $600.

    "With all due respect, the plural of anecdote is not data," Pelosi said, disrespectfully. "Yes, there are concerns that some people have. But if people are breaking the law and not paying their taxes, one way to track them is through the banking measure. I think 600—well, that's a negotiation that will go on as to what the amount is. But yes."

    Confession: when I read the words, "Nancy Pelosi snapped…", my mind went immediately to: "Bound to happen, sooner or later."


  • Sorely in need of counter-revolution. Orwell's essay Politics and the English Language is a fertile source for wise quotes. Like:

    A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.

    It's easy, especially these days, to omit the next sentence: "The point is that the process is reversible."

    Daniel B. Klein looks at an example of what he calls The Semantic Revolution. He was discomfited when a video lecturer he watched during exercise repeatedly referred to the “liberal” revolutions of 1848.

    I accept that a historian today might use “liberal” to describe people and causes that did not call themselves liberal. Our discourse is undertaken today, not in the historical past. We speak to people today. It is natural that we project our own semantic practice back into history. Everyone does it.

    The word liberal took on a political meaning for the first time in the 1770s. Liberalism 1.0 had arrived. I use the word liberal in that original sense—classical liberalism. Erik Matson explains how the original political meaning built on pre-political meanings of liberal.

    Nonetheless, when referring to pre-1770 figures such as Montaigne, Grotius, or Locke, I might speak of their liberal political tendency, even though they didn’t use “liberal” that way.

    Still, as I pedaled my bicycle and watched the lecture, I wondered whether any of the 1848 revolutionaries in fact called themselves “liberal.”

    Short answer: they didn't. And they were not.

    Daniel does a fine job of tracing (with graphs!) how the "new" meaning of "liberal" came to pass.

    Suggestion: find your own way to reclaim the word "liberal" from the statists.


  • For example, what would liberals think about today's government schooling? They might shake their heads in wonder than anyone could possibly disagree with George Will in thinking that, when it comes to kids' education, parents have rights.

    Ninety-six years. And the news has still not trickled down to Terry McAuliffe.

    The Democrats’ Virginia gubernatorial candidate is innocent of insubordination toward teachers unions. He opposes more charter schools — public schools operating without union supervision (Virginia has only seven, one for every 175,000 K-12 students) — or other enlargements of parents’ educational choices. Some Virginia parents have vociferously berated local school boards for infusing public school curricula with “anti-racist” indoctrination favored by many unionized teachers. So, McAuliffe says: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

    In the words from a Ring Lardner story, “Shut up he explained.” In the Supreme Court’s words, however, parents have rights.

    The court, in 1925, struck down an Oregon law requiring children to be educated in public schools. The ruling says: “The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments of this Union rest excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only.” Oregon’s law was “an unreasonable interference” with parents’ liberty “to direct the upbringing of the children.”

    You would think this would discourage anyone from voting for McAuliffe for governor. According to RCP, the race is a squeaker.


  • Uff Da! John Gustavsson (he's Swedish) explains to us Why the Nordic Model Wouldn’t Work in the U.S. Skipping down a bit, he punctures the fantasy that the Rest Of Us can swim in government goodies that "the rich" pay for:

    Sweden doesn’t really tax the millionaires and billionaires—it taxes the poor. In Sweden, it is possible to avoid virtually all capital gains taxes through an investment savings account, which obviously mostly benefits the rich. What about wealth taxes? The Nordic countries have long since moved past them: Denmark abolished its wealth tax in 1997, Finland in 2005, and Sweden In 2007. It’s not about ideological opposition to taxing the rich.  It’s that the wealth tax was completely counterproductive and caused capital to flee these countries. In the U.S., the wealth tax is a novel idea. In the Nordics, it’s the 56k modem of taxation.

    Instead, the big difference between the U.S. and Sweden, taxation-wise, is how the poor are taxed. Americans who make less than $12,000 per year pay no federal income taxes.  Many who make more than that still end up paying a net zero in taxes once deductions are accounted for. In Sweden, the equivalent is about $2,300. On any money you make above that threshold, you pay a tax rate of about 30 percent, plus payroll taxes. What about deductions? In the US, the average tax refund last year was $2,707. In Sweden, it was $821. On top of this, Sweden has a national sales tax of 25 percent on almost everything you buy. As the poor spend a greater share of their income, this tax disproportionally hurts them.

    The kind of taxes that the poor are forced to pay in the Nordic countries would be completely unacceptable to the majority of the American public. It does not matter whether polls claim Americans support Nordic welfare programs—it’s utterly meaningless unless you also agree to pay them the only way they can be paid for: By taxing the average citizen. 

    And you have to be fully invested in progressive trickle-down fallacy: that the government can take everyone's money, then give more back to them.


  • Think of Zuck as Emperor Palpatine, cackling as each user is successfully tempted to the Dark Side. Professor Huemer discourses on The Anger Merchants.

    In the news: This former Facebook employee, Frances Haugen, is blowing the whistle on Facebook for sowing discord, anger, and other negative emotions in societies around the world: https://youtu.be/_Lx5VmAdZSI.

    How is FB doing that? Because FB’s algorithms favor content that maximizes users’ engagement, and it turns out that hateful, outrage-mongering, or panic-inspiring content gets the most engagement.

    Everybody already knows that, though, so I’m not entirely sure what the big news is here.

    […]

    The regular media has been doing something similar for about as long as they’ve existed, albeit less skillfully than modern social media platforms. They didn’t focus as much on outrage, possibly because they hadn’t yet figured out that outrage works better than anything else (except perhaps porn, which apparently is more disreputable than hate-mongering), but they strove to stoke the passions in order to maximize engagement. This is why we have the phrase “yellow journalism”.

    Media outlets regularly sensationalize the news and try to make everything more dramatic. This video from the Weather Channel is an excellent metaphor for the entire media: https://youtu.be/tocuyJ1Fu7U. (Summary: reporter pretends to be barely able to stand due to the high winds. Two guys appear and walk behind him casually, showing no difficulty standing.)

    To quote another old movie: "A strange game. The only winning move is not to play."


Last Modified 2021-10-18 6:38 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2021-10-16

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • As the Amazon Product du Jour says, it's a choice. Bari Weiss writes at Commentary, and I'm thinking I really should subscribe: We Got Here Because of Cowardice. We Get Out With Courage.

    A lot of people want to convince you that you need a Ph.D. or a law degree or dozens of hours of free time to read dense texts about critical theory to understand the woke movement and its worldview. You do not. You simply need to believe your own eyes and ears.

    Let me offer the briefest overview of the core beliefs of the Woke Revolution, which are abundantly clear to anyone willing to look past the hashtags and the jargon.

    It begins by stipulating that the forces of justice and progress are in a war against backwardness and tyranny. And in a war, the normal rules of the game must be suspended. Indeed, this ideology would argue that those rules are not just obstacles to justice, but tools of oppression. They are the master’s tools. And the master’s tools cannot dismantle the master’s house.

    So the tools themselves are not just replaced but repudiated. And in so doing, persuasion—the purpose of argument—is replaced with public shaming. Moral complexity is replaced with moral certainty. Facts are replaced with feelings.

    Ideas are replaced with identity. Forgiveness is replaced with punishment. Debate is replaced with de-platforming. Diversity is replaced with homogeneity of thought. Inclusion, with exclusion.

    In this ideology, speech is violence. But violence, when carried out by the right people in pursuit of a just cause, is not violence at all. In this ideology, bullying is wrong, unless you are bullying the right people, in which case it’s very, very good. In this ideology, education is not about teaching people how to think, it’s about reeducating them in what to think. In this ideology, the need to feel safe trumps the need to speak truthfully.

    Last month, I got into a comment-debate at Granite Grok with (since deleted) commenter Bruce Currie, who called Bari Weiss a "sanctimonious hack". Fine, we need more sanctimonious hacks.


  • But I was assured that trade wars were easy to win. Veronique de Rugy at Reason: Trump’s Tariffs Didn’t Work. Biden’s Won’t Work Either.

    The United States is known as the land of the free, but it has become a place where the government decides whom we are allowed to buy from and sell to. For instance, when denied the freedom to trade without paying an expensive import tax, many Americans will find themselves begging our trade overlords for an exemption. This is, I believe, a fair description of the Biden administration's decision to not only maintain ineffective import taxes—also called tariffs—but to re-up the listless exemption process.

    After a monthslong review by her agency, United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai recently announced that the tariffs imposed by the Trump administration in order to make the Chinese government change its ways have failed. Yet the administration's prescription seems to be more of the same.

    It's a shame. By staying with the tariffs, the administration continues to signal a belief that when it comes to trade, Uncle Sam always knows best. While tariffs are pitched to the public as a way to help domestic workers or boost U.S. competitiveness, they always penalize domestic consumers through fewer choices and higher prices. Many of these consumers are themselves domestic producers trying to secure the goods they need to make and sell fundamentally American products.

    Unsurprisingly, the people that do the best under a tariff regime are those with the deepest pockets and connections to whatever friendly pols are in charge. (Headline reference.)


  • Milton, Thou Shouldst be Living at This Hour. Friedman, that is. Richard McKenzie writes at EconLog of his timeless insight responding to past follies: Milton Friedman and "Zero Cost" Expanded Government.

    President Joe Biden has declared that his proposed $3.5 (or is it $5.5?) trillion “Build Back Better” social agenda will have a “zero” cost—as in $0.00! Why?  Because the added expenditures will be covered by increased revenues drawn from businesses and the “rich.”

    The President and other progressive Democrats, who have parroted the Biden claim, should reflect on the wisdom of the late Milton Friedman, who had a knack for crystallizing stark economic truths.

    During the early 1980s, when supply-side economics was the rage, Reagan Republicans promoted tax-rate cuts as a means of reviving the economy (because the cuts would increase people’s incentives to work, save, and invest), which Friedman believed distracted them from concern about what was happening to government outlays, which continued to rise throughout the decade.

    Friedman framed the fiscal issues of the day differently, and with far greater clarity than anyone else. He admonished everyone (including President Reagan’s advisors), to “Keep your eye on one thing and one thing only: how much government is spending, because that’s the true tax. . . If you’re not paying for it in the form of explicit taxes, you’re paying for it indirectly in the form of inflation or in the form of borrowing.”

    He is sorely missed. His bi-weekly Newsweek column was practically the only reason to subscribe to the magazine. There's no equivalent today, is there?


  • They really should have made a movie with that title. Jonah Goldberg's G-File is headlined "Fatal Distraction." He is obsessed these days with trying to find a path forward for principled conservatism. Democrats are not an option there, of course. But a Trump-addled GOP is hardly better.

    Jonah's Big Idea was to start an explicitly conservative third party. which would endorse acceptably GOP candidates, but run their own against Trumpist loons (like, for example, J. D. Vance).

    Even though I'm registered Republican, I usually vote Libertarian, when that's an option. But I recognize that can seem like an unacceptably wacky option to more conventional voters.

    Anyway, Jonah is here discussing Trump's recent recommendation to his tribe:

    If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented), Republicans will not be voting in ‘22 or ‘24. It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do.

    Jonah:

    I love this statement so much it makes me want to take off my wedding ring, suck in my stomach, and ask it to go to Bermuda with me.

    All week I’ve been hearing from people—smart people, dumb people, sincere people, performative Twitter jackass people—that it’s bad, wrong, traitorous, stupid, misguided, or insane for me to actively try to hurt the GOP because of my personal obsessions. “Don’t you understand,” friends and foes alike ask, “that you’ll single-handedly give total power to the Democrats and they’ll print a whole roll of trillion-dollar coins, invoke prima nocta in red states, mandate that face masks be surgically sewn into our faces (causing the starvation of millions), make skim almond milk the only legal form of dairy, and give nuclear weapons to the Taliban? Is that what you want you RINO cuck TDS-besotted jackass? Is it?” 

    Okay, I’m paraphrasing and exaggerating just a bit for effect, but you get the point. In all of this, I’m the one who needs to compromise with the “freedom flu” crowd for the greater good; I’m the one who needs to stop relitigating the past; I’m the one putting my concerns ahead of the real issues that affect real Americans; I’m the one who needs to be a sober-eyed grown-up about politics.

    I don't think the third party idea is tactically sound, but I'm in agreement with Jonah that the GOP will be ill-served by listening to Trump.


  • Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue. David Zucker writes at the NYPost: 'Airplane!' creator slams joy-killing threat: 'Twitter 9 percent'

    Last year marked the 40th anniversary of the release of “Airplane!,” the comedy I wrote and directed with my brother Jerry and our friend Jim Abrahams. Just before the world shut down, Paramount held a screening at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, followed by a Q&A in which an audience member asked a question we never used to receive: “Could you make ‘Airplane!’ today?” 

    My response: “Of course, we could. Just without the jokes.”

    They weren't all great jokes. They weren't all good jokes. But the team knew that if you threw enough of them, the movie would be net hilarious.

URLs du Jour

2021-10-15

  • Gas Station Samizdat seen at the pump this morning at the Somersworth NH Irving station:

    [Let's go, Brandon!]

    Arguably unfair. I don't care.

  • If you look around and you can't tell who the hostage is, it's you. The WSJ editorialists take an ex-President's bullshit to task: Donald Trump’s Hostage Politics.

    When Democrats complain that Donald Trump is plotting to suppress votes, they have a point—but fortunately for them, the votes he is plotting to suppress are those of his own supporters.

    That was evident in January this year in the two Georgia Senate runoffs. Turnout in Republican strongholds fell because Mr. Trump told his voters the election in November had been stolen and the state’s GOP officials were corrupt. Democrats narrowly won both seats in the conservative state, handing the party unified control of Congress and paving the way for an ideologically unleashed Biden Administration.

    Now the former President is threatening aloud that he might repeat this act of electoral sabotage in the next national elections. “If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented),” Mr. Trump said in a statement Wednesday, “Republicans will not be voting in ‘22 or ‘24. It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do.”

    You would think it would bother more Republicans that Trump is threatening what could possibly be electoral success next year. You would think they would say: "This guy is, and always was, a narcissistic asshole who's unconcerned with what his conspiratorial nonsense is doing to his party and his country. We should cut him loose."

    But no.


  • It's not very interesting when everybody's to blame for a problem. Scott Lincicome has a long article at Cato, observing that America’s Ports Problem Is Decades in the Making. But let's…

    Start with the Unions
    Perhaps most notable is the extreme influence that U.S. longshoreman unions—the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) out West and the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) basically everywhere else—have on port operations. The ILWU’s impact is particularly strong because it controls essentially all longshore labor for all West Coast ports (thus giving the union extreme leverage—strikes or slowdowns affect every port on the West Coast). Thus, contentious labor negotiations not only lead to occasional, economy‐crippling port stoppages (and other non‐economic harms), but also longer‐term labor contract provisions that intentionally decrease port productivity in several ways:

    First, as the Journal of Commerce columnist Peter Tirschwell laid out (and as indicated by last week’s news about additional LA/LB port hours), U.S. ports are open for fewer hours per week than many other ports around the world: “[B]erths in Asia work ships 24/7, or 168 total hours per week. Ships are worked 16 hours per day or only 112 hours per week at LA‐Long Beach, and terminal gates only operate 88 hours per week versus 24/7 operations in Asia.” Thus, U.S. ports create a “bottleneck” where “factories are working 24/7; the terminals in Asia are generally working 24/7” but North American ports aren’t. Much of this is dictated by union labor contracts, which expressly limit the number of hours that workers can work (total and per shift) and require overtime pay for unscheduled work, as well as any work on weekends and holidays. Compounding the issue is the fact that many ports’ Customs offices—required to clear and admit goods into the United States—are closed nights and weekends. (Customs at LA/Long Beach is open only Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)

    Other culprits Lincicome mentions: our trade policy; US shipping regulations (e.g., Jones Act). Resistance to reforming those obstacles involves powerful interests who are unprincipled about showering money on any politicians who'll maintain them.


  • The problem with that "-ocracy" part is… Kevin D. Williamson (NRPLus article) wonders about Meritocracy: Does It Exist?

    There are not many contemporary phenomena that have one-word explanations, and even fewer that have one-word explanations that are not “gravity” or “whiskey.” But if you want a one-word explanation for the ugly, stupid, vicious populism that has overtaken our politics, try this one: meritocracy.

    It should not surprise us that the people at the top believe very strongly in meritocracy. The well-off already enjoy the best of everything, and the feeling of virtue is one more exclusive pleasure for elite consumption. It is not enough to settle into a nice first-class seat and enjoy a glass of champagne — for the most exquisite satisfaction, one must also feel that one deserves it.

    The believers in meritocracy are in many cases very serious about the –ocracy part. They believe that they are entitled to rule, and they intend to act in the interests of the less-able classes whether the less-able classes like it or not. Their resentment by the intellectual proletariat is the radar screen upon which this can be most easily observed. Those on the populist left rail against billionaires and oligarchy, as though they’d be somehow better off if Jeff Bezos were worse off, and they are permanently committed to the belief that the ultra-rich are somehow putting one over on everybody else. Those on the populist right, in turn, seethe at elite institutions and, especially, at elite experts and credentialed expertise, most recently in the matter of epidemic control.

    Yet another reason you should sign up for NRPlus. Sorry to be such a shill. I've suggested that they do what Reason and some other sites do: bring your subscriber-only articles out from behind the paywall after some decent interval (2-4 weeks?).


  • Someone made their food too tasty, and now we all must be punished. Ronald Bailey notes the latest from Aunt Samantha: The FDA Wants To Take Your Salt Away.

    The Food and Drug Administration has issued voluntary guidance that aims to limit the amount of sodium that restaurants and grocery manufacturers put in the foods you buy so that you won't consume more than 3,000 milligrams per day (mg/day). Most of the sodium we consume comes from table salt. Currently, Americans consume about 3,400 mg/day of sodium. As justification for its guidance, the FDA points to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which advises individuals 14 years and older to limit their consumption to 2,300 mg/day. That amounts to a little over one teaspoon of salt per day.

    The FDA doesn't want to go quite that far. The agency explains:

    This guidance aims to help Americans reduce average sodium intake to 3,000 mg/day by encouraging food manufacturers, restaurants, and food service operations to gradually reduce sodium in foods over time. Although we recognize that a reduction to 3,000 mg/day still would be higher than the recommended sodium limit of 2,300 mg/day, the 2.5-year goals are intended to balance the need for broad and gradual reductions in sodium and what is publicly known about technical and market constraints on sodium reduction and reformulation.

    The ostensible goal of limiting salt consumption is to reduce the incidence of high blood pressure and heart disease in Americans. The FDA states that there is a consensus among nutrition researchers that such limits will achieve those goals. In fact, that "consensus" is a highly contested area of research which a great deal of recent data contradicts.

    Never mind the science! You just look like you're enjoying that Subway Spicy Italian too much!

URLs du Jour

2021-10-14

[Golden Bull]

  • Excellent Advice. Econlib contributors Leonid Sirota and Akshaya Kamalnath urge us to Make Spaceships, Not Slogans.

    The accelerating and increasingly successful effort of private enterprise to bring humans to space are often derisively described as a “billionaires’ space race”. News of Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos’ flights demonstrating the capabilities of their respective spacecraft triggered much discussion about (i) tax-avoiding practices of the rich; (ii) how money should be spent on charity instead; (iii) whether private space flight was ethical in the face of inequality, climate crisis, etc; and (iv) whether we should even care.

    Contrast this with the excitement and fascination with which, say, the Met Gala, at which the rich and famous fundraise for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, is routinely met. Such events are, as Megan McArdle has rightly pointed out, one of those tax-avoidance practices, of course. We doubt, moreover, that the Costume Institute—to which we mean no slight—is quite the sort of charitable endeavour that the critics of the spacefaring billionaires have in mind as an appropriate recipient of the 1%’s largesse.

    Tne authors go on to point out that I have a far better chance of going into space (especially if I live as long as William Shatner) than I have of being invited to the Met Gala.


  • Apparently a Perennial Question. Wilfred Reilly asks at the City Journal: What Is Critical Race Theory, Really? (What, Christopher Rufo is on vacation?)

    It’s all CRT these days.

    I’m teasing a bit here, but only a bit. As the debate over the teaching of various critical theories in U.S. public schools has heated up, major papers have published wave after wave of articles denying that critical race theory is taught much at all outside law schools, while other writers have drawn the most technical of distinctions between “CRT” and other academic specialties like critical theory, whiteness studies, critical pedagogy, intersectionality, white fragility, white privilege theory, and so on.

    This debate over semantics might provide an interesting basis for a panel at a scholarly conference, but it’s of little use or interest for parents concerned that their children are being taught partisan nonsense. While technical differences exist between the various critical paradigms, virtually all of them share three baseline assumptions: that racism is “everywhere,” and supposedly neutral systems, such as policing or standardized tests, are set up to oppress minorities; that to prove the existence of this oppression one need only note that large groups perform at different levels; and that the solution to this problem is equity—or proportional representation of all groups across all endeavors.

    Not bad for a one-paragraph summary. I continue to recommend Cathy Young's recent article on "Wokeness" for more detail.


  • Although she is, sadly, done with the Internet. Bari Weiss hosts author Kat Rosenfield who has something interesting to say about a recent homicide victim you may have heard about: The Internet Isn't Done With Gabby Petito.

    She’s dancing on a gulf shore beach, toeing the place where the surf meets the sand.

    She’s smiling with one foot forward, a 1990s throwback in Vans and a t-shirt, framed by a mural of angel's wings on a wall the color of cotton candy.

    She’s laughing into the camera, backlit and blonde and beautiful without makeup, stuck inside a tent whose sides are threatening to cave in from the rain.

    So relatable. So authentic. So real that you could be her, or at least be friends with her. The screen on which she appears isn't a barrier but a window, one she's opened wide to invite you in. You could reach right through and touch her, you could climb bodily into her wild, inspirational life.

    And then you remember: she’s dead.

    I didn't know she was an "influencer", sorta famous even previous. But now…

    There’s a macabre joke to be made about how many influencers would die to reach the million-follower benchmark, but this is quite literally what happened with Petito. Of the 1.3 million people who now follow her account, fully 1.2 million of them didn't show up until she was already gone. All of them, all of us, gawking at her digital remains like rubberneckers slowing down to peer into the twisted wreckage of a crashed car, squinting to see if there's any blood left behind.


  • Katie Couric is an unusually honest journalist. Although you wouldn't know it from David Harsanyi's headline: RBG Criticized National-Anthem Protests, and Katie Couric Covered It Up.

    In her newly released memoir, Going There, Katie Couric writes that she edited out comments from Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in which the Supreme Court justice accused those who kneel during the national anthem of showing “contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life.” Couric, the Daily Mail reports, claims that she believed the 83-year-old justice was “elderly and probably didn’t fully understand the question.” Couric, who fashions herself an intrepid journalist, says she was “protecting” the “Notorious RGB” — a woman who until her last days was offering decisions on the most important legal questions in the nation and celebrated widely by the Left — from political backlash.

    Interviews are often edited for length and clarity, of course, but in this case, there’s no excuse for leaving out the interaction. If RBG was genuinely unable to answer a simple question regarding flag protests, as her friend New York Times columnist David Brooks suggested to Couric, any genuine journalist would have immediately sensed the interaction as newsworthy. If RBG understood the question — which it seems to me is the case as she offers a completely coherent and normal answer about spoiled athletes disrespecting the American flag — it would also have been newsworthy. This was the year Colin Kaepernick began his protests. Couric included RGB’s describing the protests as “dumb and disrespectful” because, in our warped discourse, it is far less incendiary than pointing out protesters are bequeathed “decent lives” by their nation.

    Katie's unusually honest. Or stupid. Or both. Because she admitted what she did, albeit a few years late. I would wager that for every incident of the media "protecting" one of their "heroes" that comes to our attention, there's a hundred that do not.

    And, sorry, to point out the obvious: if Katie (et. al.) managed to get a non-"hero" to utter an impolitic remark, it would be trumpeted from the skies.


  • Thus has it always been, thus shall it ever be. Joe Lancaster notes a high-tech company taking a page from an old playbook: Facebook Welcomes Regulations, Specifically Those That Hurt Its Competition.

    Nick Clegg, Facebook's head of global affairs and communications, appeared on CNN's State of the Union Sunday after a harrowing week for the company. Last week a whistleblower, Frances Haugen, testified before the Senate on a number of topics relating to Facebook's lack of transparency and the potentially deleterious effects on its users. However, Clegg's answer to a question about Section 230, the clause within the Communications Decency Act which generally shields platforms from liability for user-generated content posted to their sites, was perplexing.

    When asked by host Dana Bash if he supported "amending Section 230" in order to "hold companies like [Facebook] liable" for certain posts made on their sites, Clegg responded that he did, and recommended "mak[ing] that protection…contingent on them applying…their policies as they're supposed to, and if they fail to do that, they would then have that liability protection removed."

    Unsurprisingly.

URLs du Jour

2021-10-13

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

So good for William Shatner, one of the latest crop of official astronauts.

I bounced between CNN and Fox News. Both seemed congenitally unable to mention his name without adding "Captain Kirk himself".

I am sad for the disrespect shown to his excellent work on T. J. Hooker.

  • Challenge accepted. So there was a guy at Vox who wondered:

    Cathy Young took on that daunting task, and it looks pretty good to me: Defining "Wokeness". It's long, but shows a careful attention to detail. Here's one of the "core tenets" according to Cathy:

    Language plays a key role in perpetuating oppression, and must be reformed and controlled to achieve equality. Speech as well as writing, art, entertainment, and other forms of expression constantly “reinscribe” values, attitudes, and beliefs that validate or support oppressive systems and marginalize oppressed groups; thus, they must be constantly “interrogated,” and even the most innocent verbal transgression can cause serious harm.

    What I find irritating is the woke resort to its in-group language. Examples above: "reinscribe", "interrogated".

    "What's that mean, exactly?"

    "It's not my job to educate you."


  • For a more concrete example… George Will looks at a case study. The woke mob runs into a college teacher who’s fighting back.

    Enforced conformity in the name of “diversity.” Exclusion of intellectual heterodoxy to make campuses “inclusive.” Orwellian language is spoken in academia. At the UCLA Anderson School of Management, a debacle began with a Kafkaesque touch, an antecedentless pronoun: “we.”

    The first words of a June 2, 2020, email, signed by one student, were: “We are writing to express our tremendous concern. . . .” The writer, who is not Black, was tremendously concerned that the upcoming final exam in lecturer Gordon Klein’s class would injure “the mental and physical health of our Black classmates.” The writer said that “traumatic circumstances” — e.g., the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis — placed Black students at an “academic disadvantage.” So, for Black students, Klein’s final exam should count only if it elevated a student’s grade.

    Klein, who has taught at Anderson for 40 years, consistently receiving fine reviews by students, as well as earning merit-based raises, considered the proposal patronizing toward Blacks, and illegal. (He is a lawyer.) Klein responded, however, by mildly posing Socratic questions for the writer of the email: How do I identify Black students taking my entirely online class? What about students with racially mixed parentage? How can there be a “no harm” final exam when this exam completely determines a student’s grade?

    `

    It will not surprise those who have been paying attention that Klein's dean kowtowed to the mob, and maligned Klein by name in a public announcement. Klein is fighting back with a lawsuit; if there's any justice, he'll win.


  • The scandal is not what's illegal; the scandal is what is legal. William Doyle writes at the Federalist: The 2020 Election Wasn't Stolen, It Was Bought By Mark Zuckerberg.

    During the 2020 election, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent hundreds of millions of dollars to turn out likely Democratic voters. But this wasn’t traditional political spending. He funded a targeted, private takeover of government election operations by nominally non-partisan — but demonstrably ideological — non-profit organizations.

    Analysis conducted by our team demonstrates this money significantly increased Joe Biden’s vote margin in key swing states. This unprecedented merger of public election offices with private resources and personnel is an acute threat to our republic, and should be the focus of electoral reform efforts moving forward.

    It's a story of two inoffensively-named organizations, The Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL) and The Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR), onto which Zuck dropped nearly half a billion dollars. During the 2020 election they were deployed (ahem) asymmetrically to boost votes in Democrat-friendly areas.

    I don't know if Doyle is telling a straight story or not, but if he is, it's pretty disturbing. My guess is this effort caught the GOP with its pants down.


  • It's Wednesday, So it must be a good day to read Kevin D. Williamson's Tuesday column. After a lengthy quote from Orwell's classic essay "Politics and the English Language":

    As I have argued elsewhere (and at book length), a great deal of our political discourse — most of it, in fact — is not an effort to talk about things but a programmatic way of not talking about things. You see this in the tepid language that so irritated Orwell, as horrifying euphemisms such as “ethnic cleansing” become part of the ordinary vocabulary. And this tendency is not limited to language: It is present in data and data-collection as well. I have written from time to time about the persistent tendency of police departments to produce not only occasional criminals but full-blown organized-crime rings, and one of the things that is most striking about the scholarship in this field is that there is . . . not very much of it. There is no reliable data-collection on the subject of how often the ladies and gentlemen we entrust with badges and guns abuse those instruments in deliberate and sustained criminal enterprises; such information as we have is mostly journalistic, along with a few desultory scholarly efforts to aggregate news reports. You can learn a great deal about a society by understanding what is not talked about and what cannot be talked about.

    One of the things that is studiously not talked about is the fact that our criminal-justice system works on a worst-of-both-worlds model: It is simultaneously cruel and ineffective. Some of us might be inclined to tolerate a liberal but underperforming system, and a great many Americans would defend a vicious and cruel system if it were effective. Each of those models has its problems. But who could defend the system we have? Our criminal-justice regime ranges from the petty (reincarcerating paroled offenders over minor noncompliance) to the monstrous (effectively turning many prisons over to gangs, weaponizing rape) while failing to protect our cities and other communities from criminal violence of a sort experienced in few if any other advanced countries. (This includes advanced countries with relatively widespread gun ownership, such as Canada, Finland, Austria, and Switzerland.) Conservatives sometimes whisper among ourselves that this is not talked about because of the relative prominence of African Americans among criminal offenders. But it is, I think, much more the case that we do not talk much about the facts of the case because those facts inconvenience some very powerful actors: police departments and penal systems, the vast bureaucracies of parole and probation, the vast workforce employed in our 2,000 state and federal prisons, our 1,700 juvenile jails, our 3,000 local lockups, and our hundreds of other incarceration facilities, along with countless parole offices, drug-testing centers, grant-dependent “social services” agencies that function as ATMs for the politically connected and the corrupt, etc.

    Careful, Kevin. That kind of talk can get you investigated by the FBI.


  • LFOD doesn't yet extend to housing. The Josiah Bartlett Center has released a report formalizing what everyone knew already (but it's nice to have evidence): Local building regulations drive N.H. housing shortage, Bartlett study shows.

    Why have house prices and rents increased so much in New Hampshire? A new Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy study finds that residential building regulations, mostly at the local level, are a major cause.

    Examples of local regulations that prevent people from building homes include: minimum lot sizes, frontages and setbacks, single-family-only requirements, bureaucratic requirements for accessory dwelling units, maximum heights and densities, minimum parking requirements, historic and village district requirements, municipal land ownership, subdivision regulations, impact fees, and simply the unwillingness of zoning boards to issue variances.

    Widely available measures show that New Hampshire is one of the most restrictive states in the country for residential development. By suppressing building, land-use regulations drive up the price of housing as demand rises. Removing or relaxing these regulations would allow prices to rise more gradually.

    Worst town in this regard: New Castle. (I believe they have signs at the city limits: "You must be this rich to live here."


Last Modified 2021-10-14 7:48 AM EDT