URLs du Jour

2022-05-23

  • Perhaps the Tweet of the Year. Via Instapundit, the Tweet du Jour.

    We really have a hodgepodge today.


  • Be a do-gooder instead of a talk-gooder. Kay S. Hymowitz has a suggestion about How Really to Be an Antiracist. Specifically, start teaching black kids how to read.

    A significant number of American students are reading fluently and with understanding and are well on their way to becoming literate adults. But they are a minority. As of 2019, according to the National Association of Education Progress (NAEP), sometimes called the Nation’s Report Card, 35 percent of fourth-graders were reading at or above proficiency levels; that means, to spell it out, that a strong majority—65 percent, to be exact—were less than proficient. In fact, 34 percent were reading, if you can call it that, below a basic level, barely able to decipher material suitable for kids their age. Eighth-graders don’t do much better. Only 34 percent of them are proficient; 27 percent were below-basic readers. Worse, those eighth-grade numbers represent a decline from 2017 for 31 states.

    As is always the case in our crazy-quilt, multiracial, multicultural country, the picture varies, depending on which kids you’re looking at. If you categorize by states, the lowest scores can be found in Alabama and New Mexico, with just 21 percent of eighth-graders reading proficiently. The best thing to say about these results is that they make the highest-scoring state—Massachusetts, with 47 percent of students proficient—look like a success story rather than the mediocrity it is.

    The findings that should really push antiracist educators to rethink their pedagogical assumptions are those for the nation’s black schoolchildren. Nationwide, 52 percent of black children read below basic in fourth grade. (Hispanics, at 45 percent, and Native Americans, at 50 percent, do almost as badly, but I’ll concentrate here on black students, since antiracism clearly centers on the plight of African-Americans.) The numbers in the nation’s majority-black cities are so low that they flirt with zero. In Baltimore, where 80 percent of the student body is black, 61 percent of these students are below basic; only 9 percent of fourth-graders and 10 percent of eighth-graders are reading proficiently. (The few white fourth-graders attending Charm City’s public schools score 36 points higher than their black classmates.) Detroit, the American city with the highest percentage of black residents, has the nation’s lowest fourth-grade reading scores; only 5 percent of Detroit fourth-graders scored at or above proficient. (Cleveland’s schools, also majority black, are only a few points ahead.)

    It's not overstating things to say education malpractice is kneecapping these kids for life. Ms. Hymowitz gets to phonics later in the article.

    On a related note, the NYT has an infuriating story: In the Fight Over How to Teach Reading, This Guru Makes a Major Retreat. The "guru" is Ms. Lucy Calkins is identified as "a leading literacy expert". And her "retreat" is that she has "rewritten her curriculum to include a fuller embrace of phonics".

    She is 70 years old.

    It's nice to hear that people, even at that age, can come to realize the error of their ways. But it's way too late, and even the NYT thinks (quoting "critics") that it may be too little.


  • I keep reminding myself that he has nukes. Jeff Jacoby notes one feature of our, um, interesting times: For Putin, a self-own for the history books.

    Earlier this year, as Russia’s massive troop buildup on Ukraine’s borders grew steadily more ominous, there were suggestions that the only way for Ukraine to avoid being conquered by Moscow was to submit to “Finlandization.” That was a reference to Finland’s policy of abject neutrality during the Cold War, when Helsinki was barred from joining NATO or otherwise aligning itself with the West, scrupulously avoided any criticism of the Soviet Union, and deferred to Moscow on most major policy questions. In return, Soviet troops stayed on their side of the 830-mile border with Finland, and Finns kept their democratic form of government.

    Before Russia unleashed its war on Ukraine in February, a number of prominent figures, among them French President Emmanuel Macron and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, held out the prospect that a Finlandized Ukraine might satisfy Vladimir Putin and defuse the worsening crisis. “Wise Ukrainian leaders,” wrote former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, “should pursue a posture comparable to that of Finland.”

    But a funny thing happened on the way to Ukraine becoming Finlandized. Finland became Ukrainized.

    As Jacoby points out, this turn of events would have been unthinkable just a year ago.

    Also see Kevin D. Williamson: we should let Finland and Sweden into NATO, while simultaneously kicking Turkey out.


  • A prior bad choice: giving these people power. Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. chronicles a sad story: One Bad Choice and a Baby Formula Shortage.

    Baby formula is a target of shoplifting rings. Its supply has been disrupted by Covid lockdowns. Its pattern of demand has been thrown for a loop by pandemic-spawned changes in retailing and baby-making. Add the fact that half the U.S. supply is consumed by welfare recipients, who are limited by regulation to a choice of three manufacturers. Add federal rules that make it hard to relieve a domestic shortage by importing foreign-made supplies.

    And still the shocking baby formula crisis of 2022 is not an occasion for your perfect storm metaphors: The key factor that overwhelms all others is a government decision in February to force a factory shutdown and product recall on an Abbott Labs plant in Michigan.

    The four cases of Cronobacter sakazakii infection in infants that the government cited could not be traced to the factory’s products. No contaminated baby formula was found; Cronobacter was identified on the factory grounds but lacked a genetic match to samples from affected infants. A considered response might have been to keep the factory running and carefully check its output for contaminated formula, but that’s not the response the Food and Drug Administration chose and thereby hangs a tale.

    That's a free link, so click over for the tale.

    But, generally speaking, infant formula is one of the most highly regulated products in the country. The point of that regulation is to make sure that safe products are easily available.

    Why haven't people been fired? (And where does the buck stop, Joe?)


  • Another tale of "successful" regulation. Ronald Bailey chronicles an embarrassment: America's Nuclear Reluctance.

    On February 14, 2022, Oregon's NuScale Power signed an agreement with the Polish mining and processing firm KGHM to deploy NuScale's innovative small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) in Poland by 2029. At the U.N.'s Glasgow Climate Change Conference in November, NuScale contracted with a Romanian energy company to deploy its SMR technology in that country by 2028. NuScale has signed similar memoranda of understanding with electric power companies in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Ukraine.

    This kind of advanced energy technology will likely be powering homes and businesses in Europe before the first reactor is completed in the United States. That's because the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is in no hurry to help.

    NuScale's SMR technology did receive an NRC staff "standard design approval" in September 2020. But that happened largely because NuScale's -technology employs a smaller-scale version of the light-water reactors that the NRC -bureaucracy has been (over-)regulating for decades.

    Well, there's always my favorite panacea: nanotech-enhanced artificial photosynthesis. Maybe some bright kids in a garage will invent it before the Feds think to regulate it.


Last Modified 2022-05-23 2:21 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2022-05-22

[Shell Game]

  • Just a small reminder… From Michael Goodwin at the NYPost, about: Hillary Clinton's sordid legacy of lies.

    Proving that what’s old is new again, here is how the late William Safire began his New York Times column of Jan. 8, 1996:

    “Americans of all political persuasions are coming to the sad realization that our First Lady — a woman of undoubted talents who was a role model for many in her generation — is a congenital liar.

    “Drip by drip, like Whitewater torture, the case is being made that she is compelled to mislead, and to ensnare her subordinates and friends in a web of deceit.”

    Safire detailed a series of situations where Hillary Clinton was caught in obvious lies, and there is a straight line to the Hillary Clinton whose shadow hangs over the Michael Sussmann trial in Washington. Once again, Clinton is being exposed as “compelled to mislead” and ensnaring “her subordinates and friends in a web of deceit.”

    William Safire is sorely missed. Also Michael Kelly.


  • The strident and phony demand to "do something". The NR editors point to the latest example: Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act Is Sheer Politics.

    Anti-terrorism laws are supposed to be law-enforcement tools, not political stratagems. The so-called Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, which House Democrats began pushing after the January 6 riot and have now revived in the wake of the Buffalo massacre, is clearly a political stratagem.

    The point of the revived proposal, which House Democrats plan to push to the floor for a vote in coming days, is not to beef up the government’s capacity to investigate and prosecute acts of terrorism committed inside the United States. That would merely be superfluous. Federal and state law-enforcement agencies already have a rich arsenal of authorities that enable suspected terrorists to be monitored and, if they plot or carry out mass murder, to be prosecuted and punished severely.

    Instead, the Democrats’ proposal would actually create indefensible exceptions in terrorism law. It would narrow the scope of terrorist activity that existing statutes can reach — for the blatantly political purpose of labeling white supremacism, alone, as the nation’s urgent domestic security challenge. Toward that end, it would divert investigative resources from other terrorist threats. Democrats would then, we can be sure, demagogue conservative policy preferences — e.g., Second Amendment rights, free expression, opposition to progressive indoctrination in the schools and other institutions — as catalysts of white supremacism that must be monitored by the Justice Department.

    The workhorse/showhorse categorization for Congressional representatives has a long history. But now it seems like they are all showhorses.


  • Speaking of showhorses: Eric Boehm comments on the latest proposal from the Democrat side of the stable: Banning 'Unconscionable Excessive' Gas Prices Is Risky Economic Nonsense.

    Having failed to learn from history, Congress is apparently determined to force Americans to repeat it.

    Earlier this week, the House of Representatives passed a bill granting President Joe Biden, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and state attorneys wide-ranging and ill-defined powers to crack down on "unconscionably excessive" gas prices, supposedly in the name of protecting consumers.

    What counts as "unconscionably excessive," you might be wondering? That's in the eye of the beholder apparently, as the Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act contains no explanation or definition to limit the new executive powers over prices at the pump. Any seller deemed to be "exploiting the circumstances related to an energy emergency" can be targeted with civil penalties or forced to stop selling gasoline at whatever price the authorities have deemed to be excessive. The text of the bill allows the FTC to determine appropriate "benchmarks" for deciding whether some gas prices might be grossly excessive—a neat little trick that effectively allows the FTC to set prices if it chooses to do so.

    House Democrats voted in favor, 217-4 (NH Reps Pappas and Kuster were ayes); Republicans voted against 0-203.

    Don't worry, though. Republicans will come up with different risky economic nonsense pretty soon.


  • Wading through the cesspool. I don't encourage you to follow this link, but if you'd like to see for yourself how deranged a mass shooter can be, Michael Shermer's substack will get you there: A New Great Replacement.

    On May 14, 2022, a self-described white supremacist named Payton Gendron, donned in body armor, a military-grade helmet, and mistaken lethal ideology, unleashed a torrent of bullets from a modified Bushmaster XM-15 rifle at a Tops Friendly Markets store in a predominantly black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, killing ten and wounding three. Eleven of the victims were African American. “Zip code 14208 in Buffalo has the highest black percentage that is close enough to where I live” he wrote, adding “Top’s Market is an area in zip code 14208 where a high percentage and high density of blacks can be found.”

    The motivation for this bloodbath was Gendron’s belief in blood, literally and metaphorically. Here is his explanation on page 4 of his 180-page screed (“manifesto” is too lofty a descriptor) under the subhead “What do you want?”

    We must ensure the existence of our people and a future for white children.

    If these 14 words have a familiar ring to them it is because it is a copy-and-paste from the screed issued in 2019 by the Christchurch New Zealand mass murderer Brenton Harrison Tarrant (51 dead, dozens more wounded), who himself repeated the 14-word slogan originally coined by the white supremacist David Lane while in federal prison where he was serving a 190-year sentence for his role in the 1984 murder of the Jewish radio talk show host Alan Berg. Here are the original 14 words:

    We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.

    The reach and talismanic symbolism of the 14-word phrase may be seen when the number is rendered, as it sometimes is, as 14/88, with the 8s representing the eighth letter of the alphabet—H—and 88 or HH standing for Heil Hitler.

    It's very bad, with hatred and lies directed at blacks, Jews, Asians, and more.


  • Need a palate cleanser? Charles C. W. Cooke fesses up! A Confession: I Did, Indeed, Mock and Attack Nina Jankowicz and the DHS.

    Taylor Lorenz’s piece on the apparent demise of the Department of Homeland Security’s “disinformation board” prompts me to make a confession. Like many others, I did, indeed, “attack” the Department of Homeland Security, its stupid misinformation board, and its ridiculous nominee, Nina Jankowicz. I mocked it, and her, and I did so without compunction. I suggested that the DHS’s name was a bit “Russian.” I called its proposal a “Ministry of Truth.” And Jankowicz did, as charged, become “a primary target” of my words — which, if I recall correctly, included the claims that she was an “an extremely strange woman,” that “while she is certainly interested in disinformation, her passion is dressing up as Liza Minnelli,” that she had offered up “that pornographic twist on the Harry Potter books for which we’ve all been clamoring,” and that her online canon was “enough to test even the most committed civil libertarian in his opposition to casual waterboarding.” I also suggested that, while at work, she and her colleagues should at least be subject to “24/7 surveillance and closely monitored ankle bracelets.”

    Lorenz proposes that the aim Jankowicz’s critics had in mind was “discrediting and attacking” her and her bosses. This is true of me, certainly. She says that those who wrote about her “began mining Jankowicz’s past social media posts and publishing articles to generate controversy.” I did. She says that if the DHS tries to set up a similar board in the future, the next Jankowicz will be critiqued in the same way. This is true — and you can bet on it staying true going forward. The mockery will continue until the government cuts it out.

    As one who blogged CCWC's article when it was posted, I am equally guilty of being "far-right" and "right wing", in Lorenz's universe. (There are no "conservatives" or "libertarians" in that universe.)

URLs du Jour

2022-05-21

  • Well, this is pretty cool. I'm a fan of Mark J. Perry's animated charts, and here's the latest: World’s top ten billionaires, 2000 to 2022.

    Perry's "bottom line":

    Many of the world’s richest billionaires are successful self-made entrepreneurs who accumulated large fortunes by providing low-cost goods at brick-and-mortar retailers like Aldi, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, and Ikea, and through online retail e-commerce platforms like Amazon, and in the process have generated cost savings and value for consumers (especially low and middle-income households) in amounts that are collectively far in excess of their personal wealth. Other successful billionaires/entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Elon Musk created entire new industries that also generated value for consumers that far exceed the personal wealth of innovators like Gates and Musk. It could maybe be described as a kind of reverse/perverse, soak-the-rich Marxism that consumers have actually “exploited” the billionaires above by “extracting” more value, cost savings, and wealth collectively from those entrepreneurs than the value of their personal fortunes. And it’s arguably not even close — the wealth and value generated for society by successful entrepreneurial billionaires dwarf their personal fortunes, which were only made possible because they made the lives of millions of consumers, many of them living in low-income households, better off.

    Don't tell that to Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, or AOC; their heads might explode.


  • A surprising observation. Kevin D. Williamson finds that Even Our White Supremacists Aren't Very Interested in White Supremacy.

    One of the reasons the race entrepreneurs of the Left are forced to define white supremacy down (Subject-verb agreement is white supremacy! Algebra is white supremacy! Punctuality is white supremacy!) is the fact that actual white-supremacist ideology has so little purchase in American culture. White supremacy is mostly a hobby for miserable dweebs on the Internet.

    There is a reason these killers almost always act alone. Other than the occasional Leopold-and-Loeb flavor of a crime such as the massacre at Columbine, mass shooters almost always are solo — because they have no other choice. They do not have a big group of committed comrades ready to join them. They generally do not have many friends, as in the case of the Buffalo shooter, by his own telling.

    In the United States, even our white-supremacist organizations aren’t very interested in white supremacy. Think of the Aryan Brotherhood, which is one of the largest groups of its kind, with as many as 20,000 members, and which conducts extensive operations both inside the prison system and in the outside world. The Aryan Brotherhood is highly organized, it has access to money and guns and other resources, and its members are not shy about murder and other violent crimes. When was the last time you heard about the Aryan Brotherhood shooting up a black church or bombing a Holocaust museum? Outside of the requisites of prison life, the Aryan Brotherhood has almost no apparent interest in white supremacy, and its criminal activities are almost exclusively ordinary organized-crime enterprises: drug and gun trafficking, murder for hire, extortion, etc. — profit-oriented crime rather than ideologically inspired crime. There isn’t much profit in white supremacy.

    The people in charge of Doing Something About This will no doubt be offering proposals to Do Something About This.


  • But the interesting bit about "white supremacy"… is that it's only the latest instance of a Orwellian disease. Here's Seth Moskowitz on what happens When Words Lose Their Meanings.

    The past decade has been a bad one for clear and specific language. Since around 2014, when the political left pivoted to emphasizing identity and systemic oppression, redefining words has become an increasingly fundamental tool in political activism.

    Take the term “white supremacy.” For most people, white supremacy refers to a) the belief that white people constitute a superior race; and b) political and societal arrangements predicated on this explicitly racist idea. But this straightforward definition has gone out of style. Activists have found that there is little political incentive to maintain such a tight definition when, by loosening it a little, you can shame and humiliate your adversaries. And so activists loosened it. Now, standardized testing is white supremacy; criticizing identity-based politics is white supremacy; “worship of the written word” is white supremacy.

    Of course, not everyone on the left is acting in bad faith. Some activists truly believe that the traditional understanding of white supremacy should be broadened to explain how racism is woven into our society, norms, and institutions. Robin DiAngelo, a well-known diversity trainer and author, defines white supremacy as “the historical and current accumulation of structural power that privileges, centralizes, and elevates white people as a group.” But broad definitions like this one are incredibly vague: jargon like “structural power” and “elevate” is open to interpretation. Such ambiguity makes it all but certain that the term will be a source of confusion or used as a rhetorical trump card. When a widely circulated document claims that punctuality is white supremacy culture, and others insist it’s just good manners, constructive discussion on issues of race becomes unlikely.

    Indeed. Moskowitz has some good points. But is it a new phenomenon? It has been over 75 years since Orwell wrote his essay "Politics and the English Language". Containing the observation:

    The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’.

    … among many others.


  • Speaking of things that have been going on a long time… Chris Stirewalt has an amusing story and associated observations: Bear-ly Working.

    In politics, like most things, sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you. But unlike real life, in politics, you can hire a bear to be in your campaign ads.

    That’s what one House candidate did in Florida (naturally). Or, more precisely, she accepted an in-kind contribution of what may be the only instance in Federal Election Commission history of a “trained bear for campaign photo shoot” valued at $2,500 from the proprietor of Bearadise Ranch (again, naturally).

    A couple of thoughts: First, the ad missed the obvious opportunity to support the “right to arm bears” in addition to the “right to bear arms.” Second, it is much cheaper to rent a bear than I would have imagined. Consider this fair warning to my colleagues, golf partners, and anyone who invites me to weddings.

    I mention bear rentals as a reminder that the business of politics has a lot more in common with the entertainment industry than it does most with other ways that people make a living. In that way, politics is not so different from other kinds of marketing-oriented enterprises. 

    The marketing observation isn't new. The Selling of the President 1968 was published over a half-century ago, after all. But that's a great bear story.


  • General observation: People whose funding depends on managing crises will search for, and find, crises to manage. J.D. Tuccille suggests we all just calm down: The Traffic Death ‘Crisis’ Isn’t What Bureaucrats Claim.

    To the limited extent that there was an upside during the early days of the pandemic, empty roads and reduced enforcement of petty traffic laws made what driving was still to be done relatively stress-free. But now that life has returned to something closer to what passes for normal these days, cars are back on the roads and traffic fatalities are rising. That has the usual suspects screaming that we're in a "crisis" that necessitates government action. But they overstate the case and, if there is a problem, it was caused by the politicians and bureaucrats who present themselves as our saviors.

    "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration…projects that an estimated 42,915 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes last year, a 10.5% increase from the 38,824 fatalities in 2020," the federal agency announced this week. "The projection is the highest number of fatalities since 2005 and the largest annual percentage increase in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System's history."

    "We face a crisis on America's roadways that we must address together," commented U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. "With our National Roadway Safety Strategy and the President's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are taking critical steps to help reverse this devastating trend and save lives on our roadways."

    Really? Last year's infrastructure law was an expensive boondoggle, and the flood of money it served up might help make the roads a tad safer only as higher inflation renders fuel for vehicles less affordable (though that may not be what Buttigieg has in mind). For its part, the Transportation Department's National Roadway Safety Strategy is a marvel of control-freakery that emphasizes speed limits, technology mandates, and rule enforcement.

    Tuccille points out:

    Federal highway bureaucrats invoke constant measures only after that breathless language about "the largest annual percentage increase" in traffic fatalities (their figures slightly differ from those of the NSC). As it turns out, "the fatality rate for 2021 was 1.33 fatalities per 100 million VMT [vehicle miles traveled], marginally down from 1.34 fatalities in 2020. While the fatality rate continued to rise in the first quarter, it declined in the other three quarters of 2021, compared to 2020."

    So, it turns out that there was a big jump in the raw number of fatalities as people returned to the road after pandemic-related interruptions, but this jump represented a slight decline in the rate of traffic fatalities once you consider the number of miles driven. That's not what we were sold in the opening paragraphs of the press release, but it's not entirely good news since the rate was already elevated.

    He speculates that maybe the elevated rate just might have something to do with draconian Covid restrictions, already on the hook for increased levels of domestic violence, substance abuse, homicide…

URLs du Jour

2022-05-20

  • Political "humor" is seldom funny. Unless it's from Reason. Here's their latest: Democratic Disney vs. Republican Disney.

    Old man complaint: I've been watching Saturday Night Live since Season One. It's pretty funny these days, except for their political sketches. Which are tedious and predictable. The live audience is all in, though, producing copious amounts of "clapter", signalling that they prefer one-sided partisan pandering rather than … you know … comedy.

    Anyway, if Lorne Michaels were smarter, he'd hire the Reason guys to write SNL sketches. Also maybe Iowahawk.


  • Here's to government: the cause of, and the solution to, all of life's problems. The WSJ editorialists provide another data point: The Baby Formula Shortage Was Made in Washington.

    Politicians are scrambling to pacify mothers angry about the baby formula shortage, but the one thing they won’t do is look in the mirror. Fixing the shortage requires fixing the government policies that helped to create it.

    The shortage began after Abbott Laboratories shut down a plant in Michigan after four infants who consumed formula made at the facility fell seriously ill. Abbott controls about 42% of the U.S. market, and the other three large manufacturers (Perrigo, Nestle and Mead Johnson) haven’t been able to increase production fast enough to compensate. Ergo, empty shelves.

    Enter President Biden, who on Wednesday invoked the Defense Production Act. The Cold War-era law lets the federal government conscript private businesses to produce goods for national defense and to reorder supply chains, putting some customers ahead of others. Progressives think government is the solution to every problem, which is why the law has become their household remedy to every product shortage.

    (Classic quote adapted for this item's headline. Alternate snarkiness: "Hi, I'm from the government, and I'm here to solve the problems I caused, while causing others.")


  • If "raise taxes" is the answer, it must have been a stupid question. The NR editors take sides in the Biden-vs-Bezos debate: Jeff Bezos Is Right about Joe Biden and Inflation.

    Lowering the price of consumer goods by raising the cost of producing them — President Biden can be, to put it charitably, counterintuitive.

    The Biden administration is in an entertaining public spat with what we might as well call the “Bezos administration” (Amazon’s annual revenue exceeds the GDP of most European countries), and, while our faith in the man who publishes the Washington Post is something quite a bit less than total, in this case Jeff Bezos is unquestionably in the right — and not just because the Biden administration has an uncanny knack for being wrong on every economic question at every possible opportunity.

    Alternative headline: when the only tool you have in your economic playbook is "raise taxes", every economic problem looks like…


  • I should amend that. Another tool in the Progressive box-o'-panaceas is: make more people dependent on government for necessities. For example, health care. J.D. Tuccille takes on a perennial in that area: Medicare for All Would Be a Terrible Trade.

    If you ask, Americans tell you that health care costs too much. That opens a door, or so many politicians think, to dramatic "reforms" that would transform the provision of medicine in this country by putting the government in complete control. The catch, though, is that Americans want top-notch care, and for as close to free as possible. That runs up against the serious tradeoffs revealed most recently in last week's Senate hearings on the latest proposals for Medicare for All.

    "Political party affiliation has little bearing on Americans' attitudes about the current cost of care, with overwhelming majorities of Americans across party lines agreeing that the cost of healthcare in America is 'higher than it should be,'" Gallup reported last year of surveys finding that 94 percent of Americans agree. Almost half of respondents call healthcare costs a "major priority" when deciding how to vote.

    So, it's no surprise that politicians who favor a more active government jumped in with the Affordable Care Act a decade ago and now peddle the idea of implementing government-provided single-payer healthcare, usually in the guise of extending the generally popular Medicare program to the whole population. The public seems to like the idea, but only so long as it costs nothing.

    Let's see… Medicare is slated to run out of money in a few years. And their improper payment rate is somewhere north of 6%. (It has been as high as 12.7% in the past.)

    How about fixing all that first?


  • In a democracy, it's always ultimately the voters' fault. But Veronique de Rugy has a few intermediate goats to scape: Spread the Blame Around for Fed's Lack of Accountability.

    After presiding over the biggest Federal Reserve failure in 40 years and with inflation rating as the top concern among Americans, Jerome Powell's nomination to a second term as chairman was approved this past week by the Senate, 80 to 19.

    I know the usual arguments for ignoring the Fed's spectacular errors, even at a time when inflation is such an issue. Most common are that other candidates would be even worse or that we need continuity. Maybe. The truth, though, is that a good person facing bad incentives in that job will make poor choices. Add in a lack of accountability and you repeatedly get bad policies. That type of continuity is not that appealing to me.

    Me neither, Vero.

    The Senate confirmation vote had an interesting coaltion of NAYs: Cotton, Cruz, Hawley, Lee, Paul, Rubio. But also Sanders, Warren, Markey, Merkley, and Menendez.

    I don't know what that means.

URLs du Jour

2022-05-19

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • "Delusional, demented, and paranoid is no way to go through life, son." Charles C. W. Cooke says Plan A is doomed: Democrats Can’t Fix What’s Wrong with Joe Biden.

    Over at Politico, Jonathan Lemire offers his readers a hallucinatory missive, ordered direct from an alternate universe. It’s a good example of the sort of reported essay that begins to crop up ineluctably whenever it dawns upon the D.C. press corps that its personal hopes for the incumbent Democratic president are likely to be dashed. The problem with this president, Lemire suggests throughout, is not that he has attempted to govern in a manner unwarranted by his support in Congress and his popularity in the country at large, but that the “bygone era of D.C. may, indeed, be gone,” and that the White House is only just starting to recognize it. The solution? Going forward, Biden must be “less scripted and more on the offensive.” Out in the distance, one can hear Republican ad-makers popping the champagne.

    The assumptions that undergird Lemire’s report should be depressingly familiar to anyone who follows American politics. They are, in no particular order: that Democratic presidents should get whatever they want, and that if they don’t, something is broken; that the Republican and Democratic parties secretly agree on everything, but, for some reason, keep failing to put their agreement into action in the legislature; and that all Democratic presidents are kind, reserved, bipartisan, avuncular figures who, having lived unblemished lives of purity and goodwill, eventually become shocked by the coarseness and misanthropy of their opponents. “Biden,” Lemire reports, “has taken to telling aides that he no longer recognizes the GOP, which he now views as an existential threat to the nation’s democracy.” Raise your hand if you’ve heard this one before.

    So it's on to Plan B, Democrats: try to scare the crap out of people.


  • We won't have the DGB to kick around anymore. Well, it was fun while it lasted. But Robby Soave analyzes a post mortem apologia in the WaPo, demonstrating just how reality-impaired the Beltway Bubble is: Nina Jankowicz’s Faulty Record, Not Her Critics, Doomed the Disinformation Board.

    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has placed a "pause" on the newly-minted Disinformation Governance Board; its first executive director, Nina Jankowicz, has resigned.

    The board's existence, which was announced just three weeks ago, prompted serious concerns from many civil libertarians and inspired Ministry of Truth comparisons. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas tried—and largely failed—to address these concerns by noting that the board would serve in merely an advisory capacity and not have any actual power to police speech. That the Disinformation Governance Board did a bad job of communicating information about itself did not exactly instill confidence, and evidently DHS has now realized that the entire project is a bad idea.

    It's unclear whether plans for the board will be un-paused in the future; Jankowicz had initially decided to resign, reconsidered when she was told the pause might be temporary, and then ultimately left anyway.

    This news comes from an exclusive report by The Washington Post's Taylor Lorenz, whose scoop is buried underneath layers of pro-government verbiage. Lorenz's story excessively flatters Jankowicz—she is glamorized as "well-known" in the field, having "extensive experience," and "well-regarded" in just the first two paragraphs—while ignoring legitimate criticism of this so-called expert's track record. Indeed, there is zero mention, none whatsoever, of the fact that Jankowicz was flagrantly wrong about the pivotal "disinformation" episode of the 2020 election cycle: the Hunter Biden laptop story.

    Robby provides extensive quotes from Lorenz's tongue-bath of Jankowicz and the DGB. It very much brings to mind that old Scooby-Doo line: "And we'd have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those meddling right-wing attackers."

    Yes, the Taylor Lorenz article contains six occurrences of "right-wing" and three occurrences of "far-right". To put it mildly, it gives an inaccurate impression of the breadth of the DGB criticism. I mean, even the ACLU was a little queasy about the DGB.


  • Bryan Caplan, as always, clears away thick layers of bullshit. His latest Substack entry is a classic: Misinformation About Misinformation.

    “Nazis run Ukraine.” “Biden stole the election.” “You can cure Covid by injecting bleach.” “Lizardmen run the world.” These statements aren’t merely false; they are “misinformation” that endangers democracy and the world.

    Or so I keep hearing. My question: What exactly is the mechanism of misinformation supposed to be? For the critics, the story seems to be roughly:

    1. Self-conscious liars make up absurd lies to advance their agendas.

    2. Some listeners believe whatever they say.

    3. Some of these listeners repeat what they hear, sparking a cognitive contagion effect.

    4. Other listeners ignore the liars, but this sparks no contagion effect.

    5. The net effect, therefore, is to push public opinion in the desired direction. With strong contagion, the net effect is large.

    One obvious follow-up question is: “Can anyone do this?” If this is how the world of ideas really works, why does anyone bother with facts or logic? Or does misinformation require some unmentioned silent partner to succeed?

    Bryan goes to the heart of the problem with the "standard misinformation story":

    The story focuses exclusively on the flaws of speakers, without acknowledging the flaws of the listeners. Misinformation won’t work unless the listeners are themselves naive, dogmatic, emotional, or otherwise intellectually defective. In economic jargon, the problem is that the story mistakes an information problem for a rationality problem.

    It's not nice to blame the gullible for their gullibility, though.

    But as Herbie Spencer said: "The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools. "


  • Misinformation about misinformation leads to… As Scott Johnson observes: A grim milestone in grim milestones.

    We have reached a grim milestone in grim milestones. A Google search on the term “grim milestone” now returns more than 6,000,000 results. It is a “grim milestone” in the unstoppable progress of a brain-killing media cliché.

    The “grim milestones” retailed by the media always seem to have a political twist and the political twist always seems to be detrimental to Republicans. If it can’t be given a twist detrimental to Republicans, the “grim milestone” is likely to go unrecognized if possible.

    For example, the press has proclaimed no “grim milestone” in inflation under President Biden. Yet this week prices for gasoline climbed above $4.00 a gallon in every state for the first time in our history. If you had no aversion to clichés and were in the business of declaring “grim milestone,” you should have gone to work on it this week.

    As I type, Googling "grim milestone" is pretty much all Covid. And yes, one of the top results is "The role party affiliation played in getting US to grim new milestone of 1 million COVID deaths". Any guesses on the party they're talking about?

    But near the bottom of the first page of results is something differently grim. "Grim milestone: More than 500 Florida manatee deaths recorded so far in 2022"

    As near as I can tell, there's no effort to blame this on DeSantis. Give it time, though.


  • But I was told this panacea would work! Jacob Sullum explains: Why Background Checks Do Not Stymie Mass Shooters.

    A background check did not faze the man charged with murdering 10 people at a Buffalo grocery store on Saturday. The reason for that is straightforward: The shooter passed the background check that was completed when he bought the rifle used in the attack from a federally licensed dealer in Endicott, New York, because he did not have a disqualifying criminal or psychiatric record.

    That is typically true of mass shooters. According to a recent National Institute of Justice (NIJ) report on public mass shootings from 1966 through 2019, 77 percent of the perpetrators bought guns legally. In some cases, teenagers or young adults obtained guns from their families. Just 13 percent of mass shooters obtained firearms through illegal transactions. In other words, background checks would have been no obstacle in 87 percent of the cases.

    The Biden administration nevertheless "renewed its calls" to "expand national background checks in the wake of the attack in Buffalo," The New York Times reports, "as it has done time and again after mass shootings." Speaking to reporters today during President Joe Biden's trip to Buffalo, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, "We're going to continue to call on Congress to expand background checks." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) likewise urged "passage of federal legislation to expand gun background checks, which she said was a 'huge priority' for Democrats."

    Failure of existing laws? Obviously that means we need more laws!


  • You're not obeying the rules we just made up! A persecuted political minority speaks out in the NH Journal: Dartmouth Continues to Persecute Republicans on Campus.

    Motivated by bad faith, malice, and ill intent, the Dartmouth administration’s actions this year have revealed a pattern of egregious and discriminatory behavior toward the Dartmouth College Republicans. Our group has faced threats of violence from fellow students, has had a major event canceled by the Dartmouth administration, has been billed for thousands of dollars in security fees by the college, has been subjected to frivolous investigations, and now faces the threat of derecognition.

    A lot of recent history is described. But the latest is a corker:

    The college’s treatment of our group up to that point was disgraceful. However, the true breaking point came on May 5 when we received an email from the Council on Student Organizations (COSO), the student group that oversees clubs at Dartmouth and which is coincidentally led by Anna Hall, stating that our group was in violation of a number of its guidelines. In particular, it claimed our group had violated rules regarding logos, bylaws, and affiliation with a national organization. It was heavily implied at the end of this email that if we did not immediately comply with the demands, our group would face derecognition.

    To justify its decision, it linked us to a page of rules we’d never seen before! Sure enough, after a quick investigation, we found the page had only been created on April 27, a week after the James O’Keefe event and the confrontation in the hallway. In other words, they had made up rules specifically designed to target our club and retroactively punish us.

    That's impressive. Hope nobody at the University Near Here is taking notes.


Last Modified 2022-05-20 6:37 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2022-05-18

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Searching for scapegoats… Robby Soave notes the latest: New York Gov. Kathy Hochul Blames the Buffalo Shooting on Social Media.

    When a psychopath perpetrates a mass shooting, politicians often pick an industry, trend, or substance to blame for having caused the violence. Violent video games are a favorite target of both parties—Democratic senators pilloried them throughout the 1990s and early 00s, and former President Donald Trump went after them following the El Paso shooting in 2019—but so are psychiatric medications, Satanism, and of course, the Second Amendment.

    On Saturday, 18-year-old Payton Gendron—a white nationalist conspiracy theorist, according to his online manifesto—traveled to a supermarket in a majority-black area in Buffalo, New York, and killed 11 people, most of them African American. Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has responded to the horrific violence in Buffalo over the weekend with a familiar invective against guns. But she is also pinning the blame on social media. In a Sunday interview with NBC News' Chuck Todd, she faulted online platforms for not doing more to police extremism.

    "It's all induced by the internet," she said. "And the fact that platforms are willing to share this information, allow it to be posted, a manifesto that's been out there that describes in great detail how someone wants to have an execution of individuals in a community that's targeted because it's the highest black population within a geographic area, that's all out there. And also the fact that this can be livestreamed. How long was it livestreamed before someone paid attention?"

    There is an answer to her question: two minutes.

    Robby goes on to detail more wild disinformation emanating from Gov. Hochul. Could someone please report her to the DGB?


  • And then there's mythinformation. Ayaan Hirsi Ali takes to Unherd: Buffalo and the myth of racist America. Skipping to her bottom line:

    In Texas the day after the Buffalo attack, a shootout between five Hispanic men at a crowded flea market left two dead and three wounded. Roughly two hours later in California, a 68-year-old Asian gunman walked into a Taiwanese church and opened fire, killing one person and wounding five others. This is what crime looks like in America. It is chaotic, disordered and irreducible: the skin colour of its victims and perpetrators is far from fixed.

    Racism, then, is not the whole story. In fact, racism has never been the whole story. Yet faced with an election year and an uphill battle to retain the House and Senate this November, perhaps it is unsurprising that so many Democrats are keen to turn the Buffalo shooting into another George Floyd moment: an excuse to deflect difficult questions, and to turn politics into a binary realm of Good and Evil. Once again, we’re told, either you’re with us or you’re a racist — even if being on the side of Good means exploiting the misery of others.

    That California shooter reportedly is a Chinese man "driven by his life-long hatred of Taiwanese people". Which (to me) sounds as odd as a New Hampshire man "being driven by his lifelong hatred of Vermont people."


  • Oh good. We need more cowbell. We've been missing that. Kyle Smith comments on reports: Biden Calls for More Cowbell.

    Sharper elbows? Yeah, that’s what will rescue Joe Biden, according to Joe Biden. He and his staff think it’s time to get tough on the Republicans. So far, according to the legend they are telling themselves, he’s been notoriously conciliatory, bipartisan, and moderate.

    We learn these hilarious fantasies from a Politico piece in which Biden attributes to Republican fever his inability to get anything done despite enjoying unified Democratic Party control of the federal government. The highlight of the piece is this gem: “Privately, Biden has expressed frustration with media coverage of his administration and believes that the press — and Americans at large — have been too quick to gloss over the damage Trump did to the country.” Yes, remember how tempered and restrained the media were as they famously underplayed the actions of Donald J. Trump? Who among us has not thought, over the last few years, “Say, when are the media finally going to stop genuflecting before Trump?”

    Team Biden believes that they can deflect attention from his and their party’s failures by working up some new insult comedy. Here’s what they decided on: to try to make “Ultra-MAGA Republicans” a favorite catchphrase. It’s already come up so many times that it’s on the verge of becoming a national joke: Trying the same dumb thing over and over again to diminishing effect is making Biden the More Cowbell president.

    NRPlus, blah blah blah.


  • There are no controlled guns. There are only controlled people. David Gillette and Lauren Frazier look at Gun Control, States’ Rights, and Bernie Sanders. Numerous fun facts in this long paragraph:

    Stipulating that what works for some may not work for all, we turn to the state of Vermont as an example of responsible gun use and ownership due to its near-zero homicide rate. Other states such as Iowa, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington are close behind with 40 to 51 percent of these states’ population owning at least one firearm, yet each has a firearm death rate of 8.9-14.6 per 100,000 residents, below the 15.1 deaths per 100,000 national average. We cannot, however, attribute Vermont’s success to gun control measures. Vermont, a largely rural state with a Republican governor, has a gun ownership rate exceeding that of Texas. Public Choice Theory explains why Vermont’s representatives, in a state known for Phish, Woodstock, and Ben & Jerry’s, vote in accordance with the state’s many gun owners. Even Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders voted consistently for gun rights before aligning himself closer to the median Democratic voter’s views when he expanded his potential voting pool to a national level less supportive of gun rights than the state of Vermont. Vermont’s remarkable case of many guns and few gun deaths points to the possibility that both the gun control and gun rights camps’ values can live in harmony, but perhaps only on small scales where individual preferences are more likely to be homogenous. Elinor Ostrom finds that the most effective outcomes will occur at the state or local level. Peter Boettke summarizes Ostrom’s work in his book Living Economics by stating that “efficient administration was not a function of…centralized administration, but a by-product of…local communities competing for residents.” Each camp wants to reduce crime and deaths, but they diverge in the method of preventing such violence. Few murders in the presence of many weapons is an idyllic situation, but can we expect the same outcomes if we extrapolate Vermont’s gun legislation to the federal level? Vermont has several other factors that likely contribute to its unusually low rates of violence, including its lack of major metropolitan areas, high owner-occupied housing rates, and low population density. Policymakers do not face these same conditions in most of the country, thus making broad, effective, federal policy quite difficult.

    They argue against sweeping Federal legislation on guns as a "great injustice to American federalism."

    The article contains zero references to the Second Amendment; I'm afraid that makes gun control at least partially a Federal issue.


  • Put not your faith in demographics. Rich Lowry notes the latest instance of a general tactic: Dems advocate high immigration to gain political power — and smear Republicans when called on it.

    The horrific massacre in Buffalo has created a debate about great-replacement theory, the rancid idea that Jews are conspiring to destroy white America by importing non-white immigrants.

    The Buffalo shooter was in thrall to the theory, as have been other racist and anti-Semitic killers.

    The theory should be denounced by all people of good will, and indeed, it thrives only in the most sewerish precincts of the Internet.

    Yet there is an attempt to tar Republicans more broadly with the theory and somehow attribute responsibility for the horror in Buffalo to them on this basis. The argument is that the likes of Elise Stefanik, a Republican congresswoman from New York, have warned that the Democratic Party views immigration as a way to change the electorate in its favor and so are mainstreaming the hateful replacement ideology.

    This is a smear and especially perverse since Republicans sounding the alarm about this Democratic view have been unquestionably correct. There hasn’t been any secretive cabal at work — it’s all been out in the open, discussed by progressive political operatives and think-tank analysts and celebrated in the press.

    For more on that, see this Power Line post: The Replacements.

    But I don't buy the "replacement" theory. Demography is not destiny.

    Sit down kids, and let this grumpy old man tell you a story.

    Back in my youth, I was a fan of the Association, which Wikipedia classifies as a "sunshine pop" band. They were great vocalists, and sang mostly inoffensive songs of love and peace.

    But they also strayed into Social Commentary. For example, "Enter the Young", a paean to the imminent demographic takeover of left wing hippiedom:

    The Association was the opening act at the seminal 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, and "Enter the Young" was their opening number.

    And, kids, they were talking about us! Baby boomers! Who were going to lead us into The Greening of America!

    Yeah, didn't happen. And now, 55 years later, we Boomers are widely seen as The Problem, roadblocks on the path to green democratic socialism.

    I will be safely dead in another 55 years, so I'll make a bold prediction: we still won't have green democratic socialism, and the young 2077 left will blame old people for failing to implement it.

URLs du Jour

2022-05-17

  • Boy, Jeff Bezos is on a tear. This is his response to the Biden Administration's attempt to rebut his previous tweet about inflation:

    I need to go over to Amazon and buy some stuff when I'm done blogging today…


  • The only way to win is not to play. Kevin D. Williamson's Tuesday newsletter is, he says, firmly behind the NRPlus paywall, so I'll quote just a little from The Buffalo Blame Game.

    Before the blood was even dry in Buffalo, Democrats were asking the most important question:

    “How can we well-heeled white progressives most effectively use the murders of all these black people to our personal and political advantage?”

    The murderer in Buffalo didn’t kill anybody you’ve ever heard of, and so the first thing to do if you want to exploit the deaths of all these people — and that is what Democrats intend to do — is to connect the crime to some famous name or prominent institution. It doesn’t matter if there isn’t any actual connection: Just assert it, and that’s good enough for the newspapers and the cable-news cretins and the impotent rage-monkeys on Twitter. And so New York governor Kathy Hochul blames social-media platforms. Amanda Marcotte blames Tucker Carlson. Other hack Democrats blamed Donald Trump, the Republican Party, Fox News, the National Rifle Association, etc. The usual suspects.

    Democrats are looking for something — anything — to cling to politically at the moment, because they are terrified that they are going to get wiped out in the midterm elections. And they probably are going to take a beating: Never mind that the Republican Party doesn’t deserve to win — the Democrats deserve to lose, and that’s what matters at the polls. What can Democrats do about that besides pray that Marjorie Taylor Greene has an extra shot of espresso in her moonbat latte this morning? There are options, but they are tough, and apparently it has never crossed Governor Hochul’s mind (such as it is) to try a different approach: Rather than cheap demagoguery and shunting great streams of public money into her husband’s company, she might try competent governance and see how that works out.

    Apparently, that never occurred to her. Apparently, it never will.

    There's all kinds of deep thoughts about mental illness. No surprise that there's little talk about a one-word-shorter explanation: evil.

    Because we can (at least in our imaginations) "do something" about mental illness.

    Evil? That's a tougher problem.


  • There are no controlled guns. There are only controlled citizens. New York has a full set of "common sense gun control" laws on the books. So Jacob Sullum answers the obvious question: Why New York's 'Assault Weapon' Ban Didn't Stop the Buffalo Massacre.

    The suspect in the mass shooting that killed 10 people at a Buffalo grocery store on Saturday used a rifle that was widely described as an "assault weapon." With certain exceptions that don't apply here, that category of firearms is illegal in New York. Yet The New York Times reports that the shooter legally bought the rifle from a gun dealer in Endicott, New York. How is that possible?

    It turns out that the rifle, a Bushmaster XM-15 ES, was not an "assault weapon" at the time of the purchase, but it became an "assault weapon" after the shooter tinkered with it. The details of that transformation illustrate how arbitrary and ineffectual bans like New York's are.

    When your old laws fail, the only answer is… more laws.


  • Shoe size. What else? Kyle Smith tells us What They’re Not Telling You about the Buffalo Shooter.

    These efforts to make mass shooters sound like they’re ultra-violent op-ed writers is tiresome in the extreme. The Buffalo shooter is a despicable racist who should be executed, but the media are trying to mold him into an acolyte of a talk-show host they dislike.

    “In short, the manifesto is a rant from a 4chan addict, obsessed with ‘the Great Replacement,’ CRT and white grievance,” writes NBC News’s Ben Collins (He’s the “senior reporter, dystopia beat.”)

    It would also be true to note that the presumed shooter is, according to his online manifesto, an anti-conservative environmentalist who says, “We were born from our lands and our own culture was molded by these same lands. The protection and preservation of these lands is of the same importance as the protection and preservation of our own ideals and beliefs.” He says, “sure,” he’s a left-winger and maybe a socialist, “depending on the definition,” but explains that he rejects conservatism because it’s “corporatism in disguise.”

    That's not paywalled, so check it out.


  • Recycling is garbage. But could something be done about that? The Josiah Bartlett Center notes some unexpected opposition: Recycling more plastics is bad? Some activists say so.

    Companies have been working for years on new ways to recycle plastics, and they think they have a breakthrough concept: chemical, or “advanced,” recycling. If the technology is perfected, it has the potential to increase plastics recycling and decrease solid waste.

    Naturally, environmental activist groups hate it.

    In the Legislature this year, a popular, bipartisan bill to speed the development of advanced recycling in New Hampshire drew little opposition — except from some green activists.

    Why? They prefer to abolish the production of single-use plastics. It’s a classic case of the perfect being the enemy of the good.

    The bill reclassifies advanced recycling facilities as manufacturing, rather than solid waste disposal operations. The regulations on the former category are less onerous.

URLs du Jour

2022-05-16

  • This is your pilot babbling… It wasn’t me!. [It wasn't me!]


  • Loons can be dangerous. That's the lesson Glenn Greenwald has in the wake of the latest massacre in Buffalo: The Demented - and Selective - Game of Instantly Blaming Political Opponents For Mass Shootings. History backs up his thesis: "All ideologies spawn psychopaths who kill innocents in its name. Yet only some are blamed for their violent adherents: by opportunists cravenly exploiting corpses while they still lie on the ground."

    Interesting factoid about Payton Gendron, the Buffalo shooter:

    In that manifesto, Gendron described himself as a "left-wing authoritarian” and “populist” (“On the political compass I fall in the mild-moderate authoritarian left category, and I would prefer to be called a populist”). He heaped praise on an article in the socialist magazine Jacobin for its view that cryptocurrency and Bitcoin are fraudulent scams. He spoke passionately of the centrality and necessity of environmentalism, and lamented that “the state [has] long since heavily lost to its corporate backers.” He ranted against “corporate profits and the ever increasing wealth of the 1% that exploit the people for their own benefit.” And he not only vehemently rejected any admiration for political conservatism but made clear that he viewed it as an enemy to his agenda: “conservatism is corporatism in disguise, I want no part of it.”

    Compare and contrast, reader, with the Rolling Stone headline: "The Buffalo Shooter Isn’t a ‘Lone Wolf.’ He’s a Mainstream Republican".

    Actually, I think James T. Hodgkinson has a better argument for being a "mainstream Democrat" than Gendron has at being a "mainstream Republican".


  • In his defense, the demented boob doesn't know what he's doing. Hannah Cox observes that Biden Just Single-Handedly Made the Gas Crisis Worse.

    Americans are already struggling under the weight of crippling inflation, from skyrocketing gas prices to exorbitant grocery bills. And even if few Americans thought the Biden Administration had a plan to combat these things—especially considering the fact that their spending and regulatory problems directly created them—I’m betting most Americans didn’t think the President would take obvious actions to immediately make things worse either.

    Yet, that is what he did this week, canceling one of the most important oil and gas leases at the country’s disposal in the middle of the night. This action will halt the potential to drill for oil in over 1 million acres on the Cook Inlet in Alaska, marking a devastating loss for those trying to increase the oil supply in the country.

    Meanwhile, I have to restrain myself from throwing things at the TV when that ad for Maggie Hassan comes on touting her "suspend the gas tax" gimmick. She says she's "taking on members of my own party" and "pushing Joe Biden"!

    Is this fooling anyone?


  • It seems to be "Dump On Ladies Named Margaret Day" here at Pun Salad. Charles C. W. Cooke read it so we don't have to: Margaret Atwood Profoundly Embarrasses Herself in the Atlantic.

    The only explanation I can come up with for how something this profoundly illiterate was published in the pages of the Atlantic is that the editors wanted the byline “Margaret Atwood” so much that they were prepared to let the author embarrass herself to any degree in order to obtain it.

    Riffing off of the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade, Atwood asks:

    Theocratic dictatorships do not lie only in the distant past: There are a number of them on the planet today. What is to prevent the United States from becoming one of them?

    What is to prevent the United States from becoming “a theocratic dictatorship”? Nothing, I guess — other than that there’s no appetite for the United States to become a theocratic dictatorship; that the case against Roe is legal, not theological; that the case against abortion isn’t theological, either; and that the explicit text of the U.S. Constitution — not contrived, cynical, extraconstitutional nonsense cases such as Roe and Casey, but the explicit text of the U.S. Constitution — renders such a system illegal in every way imaginable. From separation of powers to free speech to due process to the establishment of religion to the guarantee of a republican form of government to the scheduling of elections to term limits, the Constitution flatly bars such an outcome. And nobody — nobody — on the Supreme Court has questioned a single one of the provisions that guarantee it.

    Students, if you want to fail your Constitutional Law course, plagiarizing Ms. Atwood's essay would get you pretty close to that goal.


  • In our "Worst Sequel" Department… Here's a proposed on to Kipling's How the Leopard Got His Spots, from Barton Swaim: How Disagreement Became ‘Disinformation’.

    The preoccupation with “misinformation” and “disinformation” on the part of America’s enlightened influencers last month reached the level of comedy. The Department of Homeland Security chose a partisan scold, Nina Jankowicz, to head its new Disinformation Governance Board despite her history of promoting false stories and repudiating valid ones—the sort of scenario only a team of bumblers or a gifted satirist could produce.

    Less funny but similarly paradoxical was Barack Obama’s April 21 address lamenting online disinformation, in which he propounded at least one easily disprovable assertion. Tech companies, the former president said, “should be working with, not always contrary to, those groups that are trying to prevent voter suppression [that] specifically has targeted black and brown communities.” There is no evidence of voter suppression in “black and brown communities” and plenty of evidence of the contrary, inasmuch as black and Latino voter participation reached record levels in the 2020 election.

    Swaim's article is long and thoughtful, and that's a free WSJ link, so go for it.


  • But there is something that government really excels at. As Jacob Sullum points out: A Record Number of Drug-Related Deaths Shows the Drug War Is Remarkably Effective at Killing People.

    Three years ago, President Donald Trump bragged that "we are making progress" in reducing drug-related deaths, citing a 4 percent drop between 2017 and 2018. That progress, a dubious accomplishment even then, proved fleeting. The upward trend in drug-related deaths, which began decades ago, resumed that very year, and 2020 saw both the largest increase and the largest number ever. That record was broken last year, according to preliminary data that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published this week.

    The CDC projects that the total for 2021 will be nearly 108,000 when the numbers are finalized, up 15 percent from 2020, when the number of deaths jumped by 30 percent. Two-thirds of last year's cases involved "synthetic opioids other than methadone," the category that includes fentanyl and its analogs. Those drugs showed up in nearly three-quarters of the cases involving opioids.

    It's pretty amazing that all the folks yammering about "Bans Off Our Bodies" aren't talking about the war on drugs.

URLs du Jour

2022-05-15

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • It keeps showing up in unexpected places. The NR editors discuss Barbarism in the Senate.

    On Wednesday, a majority of the U.S. Senate — all 50 GOP senators plus West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin — shot down a barbaric abortion bill that would enshrine in federal law a virtually unlimited right to abortion through all nine months of pregnancy in all 50 states. The deceptively named Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) would also wipe away nearly all state laws discouraging and regulating abortion — including many laws that have been permitted under Roe v. Wade.

    Democratic leaders openly admit they held their second failed vote on the same radical abortion bill in the span of ten weeks because they want to campaign this fall on support for Roe. But they desperately want to avoid any discussion of what their bill actually does.

    When Democrats in Washington speak of “codifying Roe,” what they mean in plain English is protecting a right to kill a baby through all nine months for virtually any reason. The WHPA creates an absolute right to abortion through the first five to six months of pregnancy, and it mandates legal abortion after viability until birth whenever a lone health-care provider — a term not limited to doctors — determines that the continuation of the pregnancy “would pose a risk” to the patient’s life or “health.” The WHPA’s chief sponsor in the Senate has acknowledged the legislation “doesn’t distinguish” between physical and mental health, and the text of the bill instructs the courts to “liberally construe” the provisions of the act. Courts would therefore look to the definition of “health” found in Roe’s companion case, Doe v. Bolton: “physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age. . . . All these factors may relate to health.”

    Our state's senators, Jeanne and Maggie, voted (apparently enthusiastically) for the bill.

    The editors go on to note that " … pro-life candidates and activists should expect no help from the mainstream media in explaining what Democrats really mean when they speak of codifying Roe." Confirming evidence for that arrived early this morn with a story in my local paper headlined "People speak up at Bans Off Our Bodies rally at Prescott Park". The Bodies were pictured and quoted extensively, no dissenting opinions recorded.

    As I've mentioned previously: my newspaper subscription expires at the end of the month. I'm not renewing.


  • In her defense, her degree was in speech pathology and audiology. Allison Schrager grades a neighboring state's senator's proposal pretty harshly: Elizabeth Warren’s Price-Gouging Bill Flunks Basic Economics.

    Senate Democrats, led by Elizabeth Warren, just released a bill that would make price-gouging unlawful. The proposal gives further life to price controls, one of the worst policy failures from the last period of high inflation, decades ago.

    According to the bill, “It shall be unlawful for a person to sell or offer for sale a good or service at an unconscionably excessive price during an exceptional market shock, regardless of the person’s position in a supply chain or distribution network.” What is an “unconscionably excessive” price? Presumably Warren knows it when she sees it. The punishment would be the lesser of a $25,000 fine or 5 percent of revenues.

    This bill flunks basic economics. Firms raise prices for two reasons: they face higher costs and must pass them on to the consumer, or they are seeing increased demand. Right now, both things are happening, though it’s often hard to separate the two. Costs are higher because of higher energy prices and problems with supply chains. Demand is hot because Americans have savings from the pandemic and the government, with respect to both fiscal and monetary policy, was too expansionary.

    Allison Schrager has a Ph.D. in economics from Columbia. If she says you're flunking basic econ, you probably are.


  • It seems to be "Dump on Lousy New England Lady Senators Day" here at Pun Salad. More on Liz Warren's bad bill from Liz Wolfe: Elizabeth Warren Introduces Price-Gouging Bill That Fails To Define What Qualifies as Price Gouging.

    "The prices Americans are paying for groceries and other essentials are at all-time highs. One of the reasons?" asked Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) on Wednesday via Twitter. "Giant corporations are price gouging & reaping record profits. We need to put a stop to corporate gouging that drives up prices for families."

    It couldn't be that runaway inflation—which has reached astonishing 40-year highs in recent weeks—is, according to Federal Reserve of San Francisco economists, partly attributable to President Joe Biden's mid-pandemic economic stimulus plans, which pumped money into the bank accounts of Americans with seemingly little thought given to what could result. In Warren's view of the world, it's corporate, not government, malfeasance that's leading to pocketbook pain for everyday Americans.

    Warren holds that such problems must be solved by the federal government in the form of a new bill that would limit the prices companies can charge consumers during times of "exceptional market shock." That includes times of war, public health emergency, or natural disaster—which would have encompassed all of the last two years, barring firms from raising their prices to adapt to difficult and fast-changing economic circumstances.

    Warren's bill, introduced with Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D–Wis.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D–Ill.), would empower the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate and penalize companies with "unconscionably excessive price increases," which is disturbingly defined nowhere in the legislation.

    Elizabeth Warren is just slightly older than me, and you'd think she'd have enough functional memory cells to remember the disastrous price controls of the 1970s.


  • Will censorship cure disinformation? Well, I bet you know the answer, but you might like to see the argument anyway. Here 'tis, from Jacob Mchangama and Nadine Strossen: Censorship won’t cure disinformation. Mchangama first:

    What do the Catholic Church, England under Henry VIII, The Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and the European Union have in common?

    Certainly not much in terms of ideology, ethics, or philosophy. However, for all their fundamental differences each of these states and institutions have prohibited various forms of false information.

    For centuries, the Catholic Church was preoccupied with stamping out heresy, which has its roots in the Greek word, “haíresis,” meaning “choice.” In the Middle Ages, heresy was defined as “an opinion chosen by human perception contrary to holy Scripture, publicly avowed and obstinately defended,” and could ultimately be punished by death. As late as 1832, Pope Gregory XVI warned that removing the restraints that keep men “on the narrow path of truth” was “a pestilence more deadly to the state than any other” and, therefore, the “evil” of “immoderate freedom of opinion, license of free speech, and desire for novelty” had to be countered at all costs.

    And Ms. Strossen:

    Multiple studies have concluded that the most fruitful anti-disinformation tool is accurate information that can check its spread and influence: targeted responses to specific disinformation, as well as preemptive general educational approaches, and enhancing critical media skills. Psychological research shows that even more effective than debunking disinformation after its dissemination is “prebunking”: inoculating people against disinformation before they are exposed to it.

    In contrast with censorship, these “counterspeech”/“more speech” strategies not only are more compatible with free speech and democracy; they are also more effective in promoting truth.

    People who want to "protect" the public from disinformation view citizens as easily-gulled idiots.

    Well, some are. Sure.

    But that attitude, when given censorship powers, rapidly becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: it produces more and more people who can't think critically because they don't get the practice.


  • Paul: That’s specious reasoning, Joe. Joe: Thank you, Paul. Bernard Lane takes on The White House’s Specious Gender Manifesto.

    On March 31st, Joe Biden’s White House issued a lengthy “fact sheet” claiming that science has spoken in favour of puberty-blocking drugs—lifelong synthetic hormones for young people who identify as transgender or non-binary and seek medicalised gender change. What used to be called “sex-reassignment” is now the more seductive “gender-affirming care.” We also have the leader of the free world boldly “confirming the positive impact of gender-affirming care on youth mental health.”

    “Confirming” is the new asserting, and the Biden-Harris administration is also “confirming that providing gender-affirming care is neither child maltreatment nor malpractice.” It’s a small step from confirming to enforcing, and so the federal Justice Department has written to state attorneys-general warning them that if they deny minors the benefits of gender-affirming medical science, they will fall afoul of constitutional and statutory guarantees of equality, not to mention funding rules tied to grants from Washington. The first state under federal fire is Alabama, where a new law would impose up to 10 years’ prison time on clinicians taking anyone under 19 on a medicalised gender journey. The White House is even taking the fight offshore, pledging to uphold trans health rights with its foreign policy and overseas aid programs.

    Amusing Amazon: it won't sell you When Harry Became Sally, by Ryan T. Anderson. But it will sell you Summary of When Harry Became Sally. (A 62 page summary of the original 272 page book.)

    (This item's headline adapted from a classic source.)

URLs du Jour

2022-05-14

  • Need a typographic laugh? xkcd provides:

    [Crêpe]

    For additional toilet-adjacent fun, moan at the mouseover: "A medicine that makes you put two dots over your letters more often is a diäretic."


  • All is forgiven, Jeff Bezos! Twitchy compiles reactions to a recent presidential lie, and one of the more diplomatically couched ones is:

    Bezos takes for granted the usual dishonesty, auto-translating Biden's euphemistic "[making] the wealthiest corporations pay their fair share" into "raising corp taxes". And he refrains from noting that tax increases on corporations are at least partially passed on to customers, which doesn't exactly help with inflation.

    Still, you can only do so much in a tweet. Bezos notes the non-sequiturioisity of it all, and makes fun of the DGB, so good for him.

    But it's fun to speculate on future presidential tweets. Like…


  • "Can't find baby formula? Let's make sure the FBI investigates school board protesters!"

    Well, President Biden hasn't tweeted that. Yet. Maybe he shouldn't talk at all about what James Freeman calls Biden’s Baby Formula Shortage.

    In the name of safety, the federal bureaucracy has turned a supply-chain challenge into a full-blown crisis. Few things are as disturbing as being a new parent and learning that your infant child is not thriving. For any number of reasons, some little ones need baby formula, and right now America doesn’t have enough of it. In this era it has sadly become common to see empty market shelves once occupied by various items. But this is not just any other product.

    Like many other goods in the era of lockdowns and Covid regulations, baby formula has been subject to supply constraints. But there is one specific event that created the current crisis. On Feb. 17 of this year, the FDA announced:

    Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it is investigating consumer complaints of Cronobacter sakazakii and Salmonella Newport infections. All of the cases are reported to have consumed powdered infant formula produced from Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis, Michigan facility. As a result of the ongoing investigation, along with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local partners, the FDA is alerting consumers to avoid purchasing or using certain powdered infant formula products produced at this facility. This is an ongoing investigation, and the firm is working with the FDA to initiate a voluntary recall of the potentially affected product.

    Ever since, while the plant has remained idle, various Washington officials have continued to insist on calling it a “voluntary recall.” But what choice did the manufacturer have after the FDA investigated and decided to warn consumers not to buy the product?

    Freeman notes that the evidence connecting the Abbot facility to baby illness is iffy at best.


  • Creating government lawyer jobs is a high priority. J.D. Tuccille looks at (yet another) cabinet department creating (yet another) odious offshoot: ‘Environmental Justice’ Is Guaranteed Employment for Government Lawyers.

    So far as government officials are concerned, there's no authority like amorphous authority. Even better when that amorphous authority is wielded against ill-defined crimes, so that the powers-that-be have carte blanche to ruin the day of whoever draws their attention. That's what we're looking at with the Department of Justice's new Office of Environmental Justice, which enacts a racialized vision of law and, importantly, hands officialdom a free hand in the process.

    "The Justice Department has three essential responsibilities: upholding the rule of law, keeping our country safe, and protecting civil rights. Seeking and securing justice for communities that are disproportionately burdened by environmental harms is a task demanded by all three of those responsibilities," Attorney General Merrick Garland insisted last week as he introduced the Justice Department's new Office of Environmental Justice and its underlying strategy.

    It's arguable, maybe even probable, that the well-connected have been likely to steer Earth-Day environmentalism toward "solving" problems experienced by the elite. Will dragging identity politics into the mix improve things? No, it will not.


  • Stand beside her and guide her. Through the night, with a light from a bulb. A bunch of people I like signed a document decrying America’s Crisis of Self-Doubt.

    We live in an age of increasing national self-doubt.

    The American project, as such, is under assault. Our history is the subject of a revisionist critique that is all-encompassing, unsparing, and very often flatly inaccurate. Our traditional heroes are under threat of being run out of the national pantheon. Our institutions, from elections to the job market to law enforcement, stand accused of perpetuating a systemic racism that is impossible to eradicate. Our educational system, from kindergarten through graduate school, is increasingly a forum for crude propagandizing. Our system of government is attacked as archaic, unfair, and racially biased. Our traditional values of fair play, free speech, and religious liberty are trampled by inflamed ideologues determined to impose their will by force and fear.

    The national mood resembles those of the 1930s and 1970s, when radical critiques of America got considerable traction and our national self-confidence often seemed to hang by a thread.

    It is in this context that we reclaim what once was a consensus view of America that has now become bitterly contested.

    It's both inspirational and aspirational. Check it out.


  • Not all inspirational quotes survive critical thinking. And Bryan Caplan does a fine job skewering Wilkins' Folly, a quote engraved in a prominent position at George Mason University:

    We have no hope of solving our problems without harnessing the diversity, the energy, and the creativity of all our people.

    That's from Roger Wilkins. Caplan is harsh but fair:

    1. No society in the entire history of the world has ever “harnessed the diversity, the energy, and the creativity” of all of its people. Not even close.

    2. Yet every society, no matter how dysfunctional, has solved some of its problems.

    3. To say “we have no hope” of doing something that every society has achieved is absurd.

    4. What if you interpret “solving our problems” as “solving all of our problems”? Then we have no hope of success regardless of what we harness, because the goal is just too hard.

    5. Plenty of “our people” plainly aren’t going to help us solve any problems. Most people simply aren’t creative - never have been, never will be. Many people, similarly, have bad attitudes. They’re not going to help solve problems, either. A few people even have crippling health problems that preclude them from contributing despite their fervent wish to help. How are people in comas supposed to help us solve anything?

    He goes on to observe that if you really want to "solve our problems", examining them with clear eyes is a must.


  • Fox41 in Yakima on the LFOD watch. Another Fox station on the other side of the country with another state comparison: Rulebreakers on the Road: States with the Most Reckless Drivers (2020). We barely make the top 10!

    9. New Hampshire

    Frequency of reckless drivers: 28 per 10K drivers
    Relative increase in driving since pandemic onset: 484%
    Population density: 151.9 people per square mile

    They may say “live free or die” in the ninth state on the list, and it seems like this laissez-faire attitude carries over to precautions on the road. New Hampshire’s rate of reckless driving is 36 percent higher than the national average. The Granite State has also experienced an astronomical increase in driving rates from the beginning of the pandemic until September: with a 484 percent relative increase, New Hampshire drivers returned to the roads in great droves. Unlike many of the other states on this list, New Hampshire’s population density, while lower than the national average, is not comparatively very low — it ranks 21st in the nation on population per square mile. As a repeat offender from 2019, it seems as though the driving norms in New Hampshire are less stringent — and result in more driving violations — than the rest of the country’s.

    We were beaten by Virginia, both Dakotas, Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, Washington, and South Carolina. But we knocked the stuffing out of Idaho, recklessly.