URLs du Jour

2022-01-21

[Mandate, Segregate, Subjugate] As promised, the final poster in the D. C. Street Art series. Good job, whoever you are.

  • If the poster seems a little overwrought to you… maybe you should check out the recent polling cited in the Elizabeth Nolan Brown piece we linked to yesterday; it's from Rasmussen: Democratic Voters Support Harsh Measures Against Unvaccinated. A couple of amazing results:

    – Nearly half (48%) of Democratic voters think federal and state governments should be able to fine or imprison individuals who publicly question the efficacy of the existing COVID-19 vaccines on social media, television, radio, or in online or digital publications. Only 27% of all voters – including just 14% of Republicans and 18% of unaffiliated voters – favor criminal punishment of vaccine critics.

    – Forty-five percent (45%) of Democrats would favor governments requiring citizens to temporarily live in designated facilities or locations if they refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Such a policy would be opposed by a strong majority (71%) of all voters, with 78% of Republicans and 64% of unaffiliated voters saying they would Strongly Oppose putting the unvaccinated in “designated facilities.”

    This is the sort of thing ENB means when she notes creeping fascism an "illiberal value shift" in this country and worldwide.


  • And fails to accept responsibility for things he should. Speaking of Elizabeth Nolan Brown, her "roundup" for yesterday reveals: Biden Takes Credit for Things He Shouldn’t at Marathon Wednesday Press Conference

    Dubious claims from President Joe Biden's press conference. In a televised press conference yesterday, the president talked about a wide-ranging set of issues, from the failure of Democrats' voting bill to America's withdrawal from Afghanistan to his own mental fitness. Over the course of the nearly two-hour event (which you can watch in full here, if you're a masochist), Biden spewed a lot of his typical half-truths and exaggerations. Fact-checkers have taken Biden to task for comments he made about the pandemic, economic growth, and other subjects.

    For instance, Biden made the dubious claims that his "Build Back Better" plan wouldn't "raise a single penny in taxes on people making under $400,000 a year"—a proposition that folks at the Tax Foundation dispute—and that it would cut the deficit. However, the Congressional Budget Office says the version passed by the House of Representatives would actually raise the deficit by $158 billion over 10 years.

    ENB is even-handed; she likes the Afghanistan withdrawal a lot better than I; it was a poorly-managed debacle that sent a message that America is a fickle ally.


  • "Normalcy." You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Historian Tevi Troy takes to the Discourse site to look at another broken promise: Presidential Rhetoric and the Return to Normalcy

    President Joe Biden recently used surprisingly incendiary language in advocating for his voting bill, asking, “Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?” This language generated a great deal of blowback, with even mainstream media figures and prominent Democrats typically loath to criticize Biden wondering if he went too far.

    It is certainly true that Biden’s comparison of racist historical figures with his current opponents was outrageous and offensive. But the primary reason Biden’s statement was so surprising was that it was by far the most flagrant example of the president breaking his “return to normalcy” promise.

    Throughout his campaign, and in the early stages of his presidency, Biden sold himself as a unifier who could bring Americans together after the elevated partisan discord of the last few years. In his inaugural address, for example, he said, “We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature. For without unity there is no peace, only bitterness and fury. No progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward.” In that same address, Biden promised to “be a president for all Americans. I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.” Calling people with whom you disagree “Bull Connor” and “Jefferson Davis” seems contrary to the concept of fighting hard for those who did not support you.

    Of course, it could be that Biden—I think I've said this before—will simply read anything that his speechwriters throw up on his teleprompter.


  • Worried about your plane falling out of the sky because somebody used a 5G phone to call Grandma from the airport? You probably should worry about other things instead, like whether that TSA agent is gonna get way too handsy. Karl Bode writes at Techdirt: Airline CEOs Freak Out Over 5G Despite Limited Evidence Of Real World Harm

    We'd already noted that the FAA had been pushing to impose limits on 5G deployments in certain bands due to safety concerns. The problem: the FCC, the agency with the expertise in spectrum interference, has repeatedly stated those concerns are unfounded based on the FCC's own research. The whole feud has been fairly bizarre, with the FAA refusing to transparently "show its math" at several points, but taking the time to leak its scary claims to select press outlets.

    More specifically: the FAA (and a big chunk of the airline industry) claims that deploying 5G in the 3.7 to 3.98 GHz "C-Band" will cause interference with certain radio altimeters. But the FCC has shown that more than 40 countries have deployed 5G in this band with no evidence of harm if you implement some fairly basic safety precautions (like limiting deployments immediately around airports, and utilizing a 220 MHz guard band that will remain unused as a buffer to prevent this theoretical interference).

    Bode does a good job of convincing me that "the real problem is FAA procrastination, hubris and incompetence."

    I continue to recommend Pun Salad Reform Proposal #43: terminate any Federal agency that has a three-letter acronym starting with "F".


  • So were a lot of us, Matt. I wonder how many public health bureaucrats are muttering under their breath what Otter said to Flounder in Animal House. Anyway, Matt Ridley channels his inner Flounder: I was duped by the Covid lab leak deniers

    Inch by painful inch, the truth is being dragged out about how this pandemic started. It is just about understandable, if not forgivable, that Chinese scientists have obfuscated vital information about early cases and their work with similar viruses in Wuhan’s laboratories: they were subject to fierce edicts from a ruthless, totalitarian regime.

    It is more shocking to discover in emails released this week that some western scientists were also saying different things in public from what they thought in private. The emails were exchanged over the first weekend of February 2020 between senior virologists on both sides of the Atlantic following a meeting arranged by Sir Jeremy Farrar, head of the Wellcome Trust, with America’s two top biologists, Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, and Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

    Some enterprising journalist should get Biden on the record about this.


  • Your heartworming story du jour. Via Dave Barry: Stranded dog saved from rising tide after rescuers attach sausage to drone

    As the tide rose, it began to look perilous for Millie the jack russell-whippet cross, who had defied the efforts of police, firefighters and coastguards to pluck her from treacherous mudflats.

    So the rescuers had to think imaginatively, and came up with the idea of attaching a sausage to a drone and hoping the scent of the treat would tempt Millie to safety. It worked gloriously and Millie has been reunited with her grateful owner after following the dangling sausage to higher, safer ground.

    Chris Taylor, the chair of the Denmead Drone Search and Rescue team, is quoted: "I think they were from Aldi." The sausages, that is.

URLs du Jour

2022-01-20

  • Only one year? Seems lots longer. I know I promised another D. C. street art poster today, but it's the one-year anniversary of President Wheezy's inauguration, and Mr. Ramirez is wondering: Three more years of this?

    [Only One Year]

    Well, "we" asked for it.


  • What did you expect, honestly? Water is wet, space is deep, and as Peter Suderman notes: Joe Biden’s Presidency Is Failing Just About Everyone. He notes the essential split personalities at work: Biden the Healing Moderate vs. Biden the Captive of the Increasingly Radical Democratic Party.

    This explains the Biden administration's unwillingness, so far, to meaningfully prioritize among the component parts of his spending bill, preferring to give a little bit to each of the party's issue activists. It helps explain his quixotic support for both a doomed voting rights bill and divisive Senate procedural reforms that won't take effect. And it also helps explain why under Biden, Democrats have consistently acted as if they have a commanding majority, and a mandate for radical change, despite their incredibly slim, almost-didn't-happen holds on the House and the Senate, and why Democratic defections from the party line have sometimes been treated as acts of defiance against a majority, as if Republicans simply didn't exist. Biden views himself as a moderate, period, but he is better understood as a moderate within the Democratic Party, and his lifelong inability to distinguish between the party and the country means that he is mostly focused on trying to unite the party—but not the country as a whole.

    And this, in turn, sheds light on why Biden has so far been unable to serve the voters who went for him in 2020 because they wanted a return to normalcy and all that entailed—primarily a tolerable economy and a pandemic that no longer disrupted everyday life, but also less apocalypticism in Washington and less political rancor.

    Those less partisan, less engaged voters—the kind who supported Biden mostly because he wasn't Trump—are the sort of voters who, by and large, determine the success or failure of a presidency. And for them, Biden the president is failing to deliver on the promises of Biden the candidate. Ironically, Biden is also failing to deliver the sort of big-ticket policy change demanded by the progressive base. On its current trajectory, it won't be long before Biden's presidency moves from "is failing" to "has failed."

    Suderman's article gives an air of inevitability to what happened to Wheezy. Matt Welch's characterization of him as a "rusty weathervane" explains a lot.


  • And in other "Water is Wet" news… Brian Reidl catches some usual unsurprising antics: Mainstream Media Boost Dishonest Anti-billionaire Screed

    Being a left-wing institution certainly comes with privileges. Because such organizations’ research often serves the mainstream media’s preferred narratives, their new studies and reports can become news events in ways that comparable right-wing research wouldn’t. And for the same reason, media outlets often don’t bother to check their work before making it news.

    So it is that in the past few days, CNN, CBS News, ABC News, Yahoo, and others have run breathless articles highlighting a new Oxfam report on inequality that claims that “since the start of the pandemic . . . billionaires have seen their wealth increase by $5 trillion.” Unsurprisingly, these “news” articles read like fawning press releases and did not cite a single critic of the Oxfam report or of the general argument that the existence of billionaires is harmful.

    Yet five minutes of research would expose the $5 trillion figure as flatly false. Oxfam’s report measured billionaire wealth in large part by rising stock values. But instead of measuring the change in stock values from the beginning of the pandemic, they simply ignored the initial 28 percent stock-market decline and measured from the bottom of the trough to the present.

    Oxfam (of course) favors plunder: “A 99% one-off windfall tax on the COVID-19 wealth gains of the 10 richest men alone.”


  • You don't want money from this guy. Michael Graham searches the FEC database and finds the totally-expected news: NBA Billionaire Who Dissed Uyghur Genocide is NH Dem Donor

    Tech billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya, in the headlines for dismissing China’s ongoing genocide against their Uyghur Muslim population as not worth caring about, is also a donor to the New Hampshire Democratic Party (NHDP).

    Palihapitiya, a part-owner of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, sparked outrage during a podcast interview last weekend by saying he didn’t care about the Communist Chinese government’s treatment of its Uyghur minority.

    “Nobody cares about it. Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs,” Palihapitiya said. “I’m telling you a very hard, ugly truth, okay? Of all the things that I care about, yes, it is below my line, okay?”

    I'd bet that the NHDP will do something like what the Wisconsin Democratic Party did: give $10K to a Uighur-supporting charity.

    Over at HotAir, Allahpundit has an analysis of Palihapitiya's "apology": Warriors co-owner who doesn't care about Uighurs: I should have pretended to care.


  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Could we have a crisis vacay? Please? Tal Fortgang writes on Rahm Emanuel's single greatest contribution to political philosophy: not Letting Crisis Go to Waste.

    Many progressives tend to see moments of disorder—sudden, dramatic breaks from life as we knew it—as opportunities for positive change. The crowning achievement of American progressivism, the establishment of the American welfare state by FDR’s New Deal, would have been impossible without the Great Depression. Decades later, in the aftermath of the Great Recession, Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel famously repeated his mantra that Democrats should “never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” Most recently, the Biden Administration has adopted a mantra of its own, appended to the title of its enormous post-pandemic spending proposal: Build Back Better. The implicit message is clear: the pandemic has exposed our country’s weaknesses—in physical and digital infrastructure, disaster preparedness, and so on—and laid bare those areas Americans cannot afford to leave unchanged.  

    Such thinking is perfectly logical within a progressive mind frame. Because progressives generally think that society’s usual order entrenches power at the top and prevents the upward mobility of those with fewer resources, it follows that disorder should break the habit of routine quiescence and help rally the masses towards realizing their group interests. Citizens may be newly amenable to taking stock of the political shortcomings that brought them to the brink of crisis, and lawmakers, even conservative ones, likely feel pressure to do something to show they are on the case. Clear breaks from routine, from structure, from the expectation that we all go about doing what we do from 9-to-5 every day thus present the tantalizing prospect of equalizing society in various ways.

    Robert Higgs' Crisis and Leviathan was not intended to be a how-to manual! (But Amazon link is at your right.)


  • Mann oh Mann. Ann Althouse riffs on an unearthed quote from Thomas Mann: “Let me tell you the whole truth: if ever Fascism should come to America, it will come in the name of ‘freedom.’ ”

    Ooh, scare/sneer quotes around "freedom". Ann does some Googling "to see if today's anti-freedom leftists had used it against conservatives."

    Looking for Mann, I got Ronald Reagan: "If fascism ever comes to America, it will come in the name of liberalism." 

    But it would be a mistake to think Reagan nicked it from Mann and that Mann was the originator of the "if fascism comes to America" clause. In the 1935 Sinclair Lewis book, “It Can’t Happen Here,” there's: “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying the cross.” 

    You get the picture. There's a lot of If fascism ever comes to America, it will look like my opponents.

    Also appearing in Ann's research: Jonah Goldberg, George Carlin. A comment I left at Ann's site:

    "The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’." George Orwell wrote that back in 1946, and gee it hasn't gotten any less true in 75 years, has it?

    But if you really want to get worried, check out yesterday's Reason Roundup from Elizabeth Nolan Brown: Voters Around the World Are Cooling on Populists, Gravitating Toward Technocrats. The word "fascism" doesn't appear, but the more specific (and more accurate) phrase "illiberal value shift" does.


  • Daniel Lyons looks at proposals for Section 230 "reform". And there's nothing but Flawed arguments and unintended consequences as far as the eye can see. Excerpt:

    Attempts to control the flow of information online can also create unintended consequences. As students of broadcast history know, the Federal Communications Commission once enforced a Fairness Doctrine, requiring that if broadcasters presented one side of an issue, they must give equal time to speakers on the other side. The idea was to make sure public opinion was not swayed by broadcasters’ control of information. But in reality, broadcasters often steered clear of controversial, important topics entirely for fear of triggering equal-time requirements.

    Similar consequences may flow from bills that remove Section 230 protection for landmark statutes such as civil rights claims. If a platform lacks Section 230 protection for communication about or involving protected groups, it may reduce services to those groups to limit its overall liability, which would be a loss to society and particularly harmful to those the law is designed to protect.

    As I've said over and over and over and over… well, I guess one more time won't hurt: There's nothing wrong with Big Tech that Big Government can't make much worse.

URLs du Jour

2022-01-19

[Pun Salad is OSHA Compliant] Another poster from the "D. C. Street Art" series is our Eye Candy du Jour. One more to go tomorrow. I hope the samizdat artist will keep up the good work.

  • Something much on my mind. My libertarian instincts are confirmed multiple times every day when the phone rings with the Caller ID displaying some town in Montana; without answering, I know that it's some slimeball trying to extend my car warranty or "Amazon" informing me of a fraudulent charge on my account.

    This is illegal. Yet it continues. Your Federal Government, despite having trillions of taxpayer dollars to play with, is unable to stop it.

    Why should we trust Uncle Stupid to do anything more complex?

    But that's my uninformed raving. For some informed raving, check out Karl Bode at Techdirt, for his explanation of Why U.S. Robocall Hell Seemingly Never Ends.

    According to the YouMail Robocall Index, there were 3.6 billion U.S. robocalls placed last December, or 115 million robocalls placed every single day. That's 4.8 million calls placed every hour. Despite the periodic grumble, it's wholly bizarre that we've just come to accept the fact that essential communications platforms have been hijacked by conmen, salesmen, and debt collectors, and we're somehow incapable of doing anything about it.

    Every 6-12 months or so the federal government comes out with a "new plan to finally tackle robocalls," yet the efforts only frequently make a small dent in the problem. One reason why is that each time the federal government unveils a new plan, it focuses exclusively on scammers. Said plan (and therefore the entire press coverage of said plan) discusses robocalls as if it's only something velour track suit clad dudes in Florida strip malls are engaging in.

    As you can maybe tell from that excerpt, Bode's article thinks robocalls from "legitimate companies" are a major part of the problem. That's not been my experience. He thinks government's exclusive focus on scammers is a mistake; I think that would be great if it worked. But it clearly does not.

    This goes with Techdirt's usual tedious anti-corporate leftism. But there are some technical details and practical suggestions in the article you might find of interest.


  • If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever. And that future is today at your institutions of higher education! At Cato, Thomas A. Berry says Orwellian "Bias Response Teams" Stifle Free Expression.

    Virginia Tech has instituted a “bias‐related incidents” policy, under which students may be referred to a “Bias Response Team.” Under the policy, students can be referred for violating a standard as vague as “words or actions that contradict the spirit of the Principles of Community.” Students can also run afoul of the policy for “unwelcome jokes” – or even being present when jokes are made and failing to report them. Students are encouraged to report each other while speculating on the “bias” that may have motivated their peers’ opinions. The school has given itself jurisdiction over activities and speech both on and off campus, as well as on students’ social media and other digital platforms.

    Speech First sued Virginia Tech on behalf of several current Tech students, arguing that this policy chilled their freedom to express sincere but controversial views and thus violated the First Amendment. Yet a federal district court declined to enjoin the policy, holding that the students did not suffer any First Amendment injury because the bias response teams could not themselves impose formal discipline. Speech First has now appealed that decision to the Fourth Circuit, and Cato has been invited by the Liberty Justice Center to join an amicus brief supporting Speech First and the students.

    The University Near Here (whose speech code, to its credit, has a Green Light Rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) has recently revamped its all-purpose reporting process. I assume this is a partial response to recent ill-mannered protests about UNH's perceived inability to deal with "sexual violence".

    So there's a new form you can fill out. Yay. What's it for?

    This IRF is to be used for the reporting of all incidents of (1) discrimination and discriminatory harassment, (2) bias and/or hate crime, (3) retaliation, and (4) sexual harassment and/or violence that involves any member of the UNH community.

    I kind of wince that the same form is to be used for both reporting crimes and things that are not crimes. Is that really a good idea?

    I also wince at the "hate crimes" thing. Apropos of that:

    Well, that got off-topic quickly.


  • But where? The National Review editors have a demand: Fauci Must Go.

    It is past time for public-health policy to shift to acknowledging that Covid-19 is an endemic disease and, for the most part, a risk for individuals to manage. Fauci stands in the way of executing that shift and communicating it to the public.

    Fauci’s own behavior has undermined public trust in the response to the pandemic: by sitting for celebrity puff profiles and documentaries, by stifling public debate about the origins of Covid-19 and the proper response to it, by responding in lawyerly and evasive fashion to questions about NIH research dollars supporting work at the Wuhan lab. In his nasty spats with Senator Rand Paul and other officeholders, he hasn’t simply parried criticisms but tried to land political blows himself.

    Sure. But the government health bureaucracy will simply cough up someone equally as mendacious to take his place. Maybe it's better to have a known liar in that position.


  • We're not just mandating masks, but also tinfoil hats. Drew Cline points out that Impeding the expansion of new telecom technologies would hurt New Hampshire

    A House bill considered in committee this week would deny much of New Hampshire access to the most advanced telecommunications technologies.

    House Bill 1644 would require “telecommunications antennas” to be placed “at least 1,640 feet from residentially zoned areas, parks, playgrounds, hospitals, nursing homes, day care centers, and schools.”

    The bill’s stated purpose is to protect people from the “significant public health risk associated with the cumulative effects of radio frequency radiation which is growing every day with the proliferation of cell tower transmitters.”

    The weight of scientific evidence doesn't show any harm from 5G technology. However, in interest of equal time, I'll note that the legislation refers to a 2020 report from the "Commission to Study The Environmental and Health Effects of Evolving 5G Technology", which disagreed with that consensus. One of the participants was Kent Chamberlin, who's currently chairing the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University Near Here. Maybe he's become a crank, maybe not.

URLs du Jour

2022-01-18

[Trust the Scientism]

Our Eye Candy du Jour is another poster in the "D. C. Street Art" series. I've seen allegations that it was torn down soon after it was put up. That's OK, many more eyes will see it on the Internet than on the streets.

  • A constant worry that can shrink but never goes away. Bari Weiss writes movingly on Being Jewish in an Unraveling America.

    What I now see is this: In America captured by tribalism and dehumanization, in an America swept up by ideologies that pit us against one another in a zero-sum game, in an America enthralled with the poisonous idea that some groups matter more than others, not all Jews—and not all Jewish victims—are treated equally. What seems to matter most to media pundits and politicians is not the Jews themselves, but the identities of their attackers.

    And it scares me.

    The attack in Texas, the reaction to it, and the widespread willingness in our culture to judge violent acts based on their political utility, augurs a darkening reality for the six million Jews living in what the Founders insisted was a new Jerusalem. And for that new Jerusalem itself.

    I'm not Jewish. Maybe you aren't either. But read Ms. Weiss's article and see if you don't get why she's worried and angry.

    I would only quibble with her characterization of our current ideological conflict as a "zero-sum game". It is, in fact, a negative-sum game. As that computer said in War Games, the only way to win is not to play.


  • For more on that… Eddie Scarry wonders at the Federalist: Why Aren't Corporate Media Concerned About Rising Antisemitism In The Biden Era?

    Is no one in the national media concerned about the very scary brush with antisemitism that occurred on President Biden’s watch this weekend?

    I was watching MSNBC all day on Monday and didn’t see it mentioned once. Come to think of it, almost no one at MSNBC or CNN or in the administration or in the offices of Democrats in Congress seemed to think it was a big deal at all by the start of the week.

    The number of tweets that President Biden’s FBI sent out this weekend related to a Muslim extremist who held up hostages at a Texas synagogue on Saturday: zero.

    The number of tweets that Biden’s FBI sent out this weekend seeking information on random men and women photographed at the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, an incident from more than a year ago: five.

    Many people commented on the official reluctance to point to antisemitism as a possible factor in the targeting of a synagogue. Had it happened a couple years ago, there would have been many enthusiastic attempts to find some way to blame it on Trump.


  • I generally find myself on Team Cynic. But I get what Abigail Shrier is saying here: Who Will Win America: The Cynics or The Believers?

    “Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uighurs, okay?” cryptobillionaire, NBA team owner, and former Facebook executive, Chamath Palihapitiya said this weekend in an interview with The All-In Podcast. “You bring it up because you really care, and I think that’s nice that you care. The rest of us don’t care. I’m telling you a very hard, ugly truth. Of all the things that I care about, yes, it is below my line.”

    It’s a chilling statement, casually thrown off, by one of America’s richest titans: We just don’t care about the genocide occurring in China. And it represents a newly prominent voice in our political discourse: The American Cynic.

    Last week, Rep. Warren Davidson, Republican Congressman from Ohio’s Eighth District repeatedly likened vaccine passports to efforts by the Nazis to dehumanize and degrade Jews before murdering them. And Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried said to NPR on Friday, “I’m sorry, I’m a student of history too. I saw the rise of Hitler.” “Are you comparing [Governor Ron] DeSantis to Hitler?” her interviewer asked. “In a lot of ways, yes,” she said.

    In full disclosure, I'm in pretty strong agreement with whoever it was who said: "I don't believe in anything you have to believe in."

    When Ms Shrier talks about "believers", she specifically means those who are devoted to "our bedrock constitutional liberties". And I'm all in favor! But I don't believe in them. I cherish them because of their (self-evident) truth, well-grounded in fact and rational argument.

    And I'm not cynical at all about them.

    What I'm cynical about is politicians.


  • And the play was lousy too. Elle Reynolds thinks she has a smoking gun: CDC Finally Admits Cloth Masks Were Always Political Theater.

    When The Federalist ran the headline “Many Studies Find That Cloth Masks Do Not Stop Viruses Like COVID” in November 2020, Lead Stories attempted to “fact-check” the piece, slapping a red “masks work” label over a screenshot of the original article.

    The “fact-check” even cited data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the effectiveness of masks against COVID-19, where the CDC insisted, “Cloth masks not only effectively block most large droplets (i.e., 20-30 microns and larger), but they can also block the exhalation of fine droplets and particles,” and “cloth mask materials can also reduce wearers’ exposure to infectious droplets through filtration.”

    Yet the same CDC quietly admitted on Friday that the thin cloth masks the agency and its corporate media allies spent the last two years cheering actually “provide the least protection” against COVID-19. It was “the first time the C.D.C. has explicitly addressed” the relative ineffectiveness of cloth masks, according to The New York Times.

    To be clear, the CDC didn't say cloth masks were worthless; it's just that they (finally) said:

    While all masks and respirators provide some level of protection, properly fitted respirators provide the highest level of protection. Wearing a highly protective mask or respirator may be most important for certain higher risk situations, or by some people at increased risk for severe disease.

    So, not theater, probably better than nothing, but if you're really worried about it, you can up your game. Like that guy in the Eliquis commercial.

    The point being: the CDC is only just now saying this publicly. They (of course) knew it all along.


  • I have no 2022 predictions. But James Lileks provides his take in a paywalled National Review article: The Year to Come, in Retrospect

    Well, that was a heck of a year. Yessir, 2022 was one for the books. As we tie a bow around the 52-week-thick slab of events, shove it down the trash compactor, and prepare to welcome in 2023, let’s cast our eyes back to what happened.

    The Russia invaded The Ukraine. When The Russian Federation flag flew over all The Ukrainian government buildings, Rachel Maddow said, “Well, Trump finally got what he wanted.” President Biden responded by shutting down three American pipelines and pressuring allies to announce that the next time the G-8 meets, Putin would sit on a chair that wobbled slightly and get served dessert last.

    A woman was arrested for hate speech in San Francisco when she said, “Let’s go, Brandon!” The phrase had been declared “unprotected speech” in January under the city’s “Hurtful Euphemism Act,” which also prohibited making air quotes when saying “President Biden.” A challenge to the law failed in the Ninth Circuit, where the judges noted that there must be limitations on gestures. “One cannot say ‘Fire’ in sign language in a dark, crowded theater.”

    The woman who was arrested defended her actions, insisting she had actually said, “We must endeavor, Brandon, to perambulate with alacrity in a timely manner,” because a San Francisco resident was advancing on her and her son, Brandon, with a machete. A San Francisco prosecutor, who was later revealed to be one of 147 clones of George Soros grown in an Argentinian facility, noted that the rephrasing of the hate-speech expression was indefensible, as the woman was still engaged in harmful euphemistic utterances, and had a duty to rename her child to avoid such situations. Witnesses testified that the woman sometimes referred to her child as “sweetheart,” indicating that she was aware of additional options when trying to get away from the man with the machete.

    Well, that might not get me nailed for copyright infringement.

URLs du Jour

2022-01-17

[And good kids are compliant kids] Our Eye Candy du Jour is (allegedly) street art from Washington D. C. Seen in the Conspiracy subreddit, which probably means you shouldn't click over and look around, lest you start toting your AR-15 into your local pizza joint.

  • My favorite morons are oxymorons. And here's one of the best, as Robert E. Wright reports: The Government Scientific Agency Oxymoron.

    If the Covid policy crisis has done anything, it is to make clear that “government scientific agency” is as much of an oxymoron as military intelligence, jumbo shrimp, or Marxist economist. Government bureaucracies cannot “do” science because their incentives are all wrong. Science flourishes only in a competitive environment.

    In fact, science properly understood pits against each other competing hypotheses formulated to explain as many real world observations (RWOs) as possible. Scientists worthy of the name prefer the hypothesis that gives them the best chance of predicting the future, be it the structural integrity of a new bridge design or the course of a pandemic or inflationary spiral.

    Since I have just finished reading Unsettled by Steven E. Koonin, I'd kick in "climate change" as another bit of evidence that government has perverted the scientific process.


  • For this cynical conservative/libertarian, Biden's speech is the gift that keeps on giving. David Harsanyi wrotes at the Daily Signal on Biden's Big Elections Lie.

    Biden’s argument is predicated on the idea that anyone who continues to support the legislative filibuster—a Senate rule the president defended for nearly 50 years—or voter ID laws, or time restrictions on mail-in ballots, or consistent hours for early voting, or bans on ballot harvesting, is no better than Bull Connor. “Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace?” was the false choice offered by a man who repeatedly praised Wallace, and other segregationists, early in his career.

    The president suggested that anyone opposing the Democrats’ voting rights bill was not only a bigot but a seditious “domestic” enemy of the United States—a designation that now probably includes six Democratic senators, if not more. The president pronounced the Senate a “shell of its former self,” lamenting that the GOP had used the filibuster over 100 times in the past year, skipping the inconvenient fact that Democrats had done so over 300 times the preceding four years. Biden, “the institutionalist,” then unloaded a litany of completely misleading contentions about voting laws to justify his abandonment of principle.

    And the reason Biden is compelled to lie about virtually every aspect of the Georgia voting law is that the specifics are actually quite popular and do not inhibit a citizen from casting a ballot. Most of the requirements Biden contends are now compulsory for democracy to properly function had only been instituted in the past few years — many of them only during the last election. Biden’s comparing Jim Crow to contemporary voter integrity laws is detestable. One was a violent suppression of the minority vote; the other was giving voters only 11 weeks before an election to request a ballot and declining to keep expanding voting into the weekend.

    The phrase "mendacious ravings of a demagogue" also appears, so you'll want to check that out.


  • In case you need an overall summary… Jim Geraghty has an (admittedly incomplete) list of the myriad ways that Joe Biden Is in over His Head.

    I don’t want to write versions of the same column over and over again, but every day, there is some new example of, “Wow, Joe Biden is just completely screwing this up.” There’s an off-color meme that begins, “Our expectations for you were low, but . . .”

    Just look at his wreckage, er, his record:

    • Biden promised that he was going to “shut down the virus.” But he hasn’t.
    • Biden promised that, “This winter, you’ll be able to test for free in the comfort of your home and have some peace of mind.” But you couldn’t.
    • Biden promised that he was going to make Covid treatments widely available. But he hasn’t.

    Friends, those are just the first three items on an 11-item list. And the next paragraph contains "… this isn’t even counting …". But at some point you just have to stop typing.

    To (blasphemously) adapt John 21:25: "Joe screwed up many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written."


  • A little talk.politics.theory. That's a USENET newsgroup I used to frequent. In a perfect world devoid of trolls and idiots, Jonah Goldberg's G-File would be right at home there: Rites About Rights

    It's a long (and I think pretty close to correct) discussion about where our rights come from. And since this seems to be dump-on-Joe day here at Pun Salad, Jonah quotes a recent speech…

    Biden said that “the fundamental right to vote is the right from which all other rights flow.” This is a common view, and one that Biden has subscribed to for a while. As vice president in 2015, he issued a statement on the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act: “Voting is the engine that drives all civil rights, all human rights, and all economic rights in this country. It’s the right from which all other rights flow.” Robert Kennedy said the same thing a half-century ago.

    So that's a common (but incorrect) view that Jonah goes on to demolish. But then he goes on to resurrect a snippet from a Biden speech from only a few months back:

    On May 28, he told American service members: “None of you get your rights from your government; you get your rights merely because you’re a child of God. The government is there to protect those God-given rights. No other government has been based on that notion. No one can defeat us except us.”

    Close to correct, although I'd be somewhat more secular about it.

    But the important point is: these two quotes are blatantly contradictory.

    Could there be any clearer evidence that Biden simply reads whatever is plopped up on his teleprompter? Saying whatever he—or his speechwriters—think will sway his audience? And has no deeply-held principles, other than acquiring and maintaining his own political power?


  • The country's in jeopardy! And Jeopardy! is also in jeopardy! Tom Nichols did very well as a Jeopardy! contestant a few years back. But now, he notes, the show has changed significantly, and It Might Be Time to Retire 'Jeopardy'.

    But Jeopardy has lost the spirit that made it an American institution. I am not the first to notice that the show, like other formerly amateur pursuits in America, has become professionalized and mostly closed to the casual player. It is no longer a show that celebrates the smarts of the average citizen; it is now a showcase for people who prep and practice, who enter the studio determined not to shine for a day or even a week but to beat the game itself.

    This, combined with the abolition back in 2003 of the long-standing rule that you must retire after five wins, has created long streaks where a few players over time crush the daylights out of the sacrificial lambs who have no real chance of beating the reigning champ without either a dash of luck or an unforced error.

    I'll keep watching until either the show ends or (gulp) I do. But Tom makes some excellent points, and if you didn't know about the clickers the contestants use to ring in, he'll tell you more than you may want to know.


  • This just in. KDW has a Muppet News Flash at the NR Corner, and I usually excerpt, but here's the Whole Thing:

    The Democratic Agenda May Be Dead,” reads the Slate headline.

    In other news, the pope is rumored to be Catholic (though some conservative sources dispute this), and you don’t even want to know what bears do in the woods.

    Here's hopin'.


Last Modified 2022-01-18 4:11 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2022-01-16

  • It's almost as if the DOJ said "Hey, maybe we should indict some of those January 6 guys with serious crimes." It took them over a year, but they managed to come up with something. Here's the Department of Justice press release: Leader of Oath Keepers and 10 Other Individuals Indicted in Federal Court for Seditious Conspiracy and Other Offenses Related to U.S. Capitol Breach. Excerpt:

    The seditious conspiracy indictment alleges that, following the Nov. 3, 2020, presidential election, [Oath Keepers leader Stewart] Rhodes conspired with his co-defendants and others to oppose by force the execution of the laws governing the transfer of presidential power by Jan. 20, 2021. Beginning in late December 2020, via encrypted and private communications applications, Rhodes and various co-conspirators coordinated and planned to travel to Washington, D.C., on or around Jan. 6, 2021, the date of the certification of the electoral college vote, the indictment alleges. Rhodes and several co-conspirators made plans to bring weapons to the area to support the operation. The co-conspirators then traveled across the country to the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area in early January 2021.

    According to the seditious conspiracy indictment, the defendants conspired through a variety of manners and means, including: organizing into teams that were prepared and willing to use force and to transport firearms and ammunition into Washington, D.C.; recruiting members and affiliates to participate in the conspiracy; organizing trainings to teach and learn paramilitary combat tactics; bringing and contributing paramilitary gear, weapons and supplies – including knives, batons, camouflaged combat uniforms, tactical vests with plates, helmets, eye protection and radio equipment – to the Capitol grounds; breaching and attempting to take control of the Capitol grounds and building on Jan. 6, 2021, in an effort to prevent, hinder and delay the certification of the electoral college vote; using force against law enforcement officers while inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021; continuing to plot, after Jan. 6, 2021, to oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power, and using websites, social media, text messaging and encrypted messaging applications to communicate with co-conspirators and others.

    Well, that sounds serious. Since I've mentioned in the past (accurately at the time) that nobody had been charged with sedition in connection with January 6, … well, there you go. That's no longer the case.


  • Byron York is dismissive. From his perch at the Washington Examiner, he dubs it The LARP rebellion.

    What to make of it all? First, the Oath Keepers really were a gang of idiots. What were they thinking? In what fantasy world did they, unarmed and careening in golf carts, plan to install the next President of the United States? Reading the indictment, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that it all was an elaborate bit of LARPing — that is, live-action role-playing. The indictment is filled with page after page of fantasy talk.

    But of course, the group did discuss interfering with the transfer of power. They talked about civil war. They brought guns to the Washington area, although, careful to observe local gun laws, they did not use them or even bring them into the District of Columbia. They were part of the mob that entered the Capitol, although it does not appear that any of them engaged in any violence. And now, for it all, they have been charged with seditious conspiracy.

    The indictment raises questions about whether it is correct to refer to the Capitol riot as an "insurrection" or "sedition." Obviously, the investigation has given rise to an indictment for seditious conspiracy. But can the actions of a group of 11 LARPers accurately describe the motives and actions of the hundreds of people at the Capitol, and thousands more in the area, who had no connection with the Oath Keepers? A recent poll showed that many Americans view the Capitol riot seriously, but as a protest that got out of hand. The new indictment will probably not change their minds.

    Were they a gang of idiots, or is that just a retrospective judgment of history? (See this description of the 1775 Continental Army: "a drunken, canting, lying, praying, hypocritical rabble, without order, subjection, discipline, or cleanliness". Contemporaneous impressions can sometimes disagree with ultimate outcomes.


  • But for a legal take… let's go to Andy McCarthy at National Review who has experience in prosecuting bad guys. In fact, he "prosecuted the last major, successful case of this kind." And he's thinking this: Seditious Conspiracy Charge Wrong.

    Seditious conspiracy is the rare criminal offense in which motive matters. In most crimes, prosecutors need establish only knowledge and intent — meaning, the defendant did not act by mistake. If you embezzle funds from a federal agency, for example, it makes no difference that you needed money to feed your starving family; you knew the funds were not yours, and you stole them on purpose, case closed.

    Why the accused acted is, however, a core question in seditious-conspiracy prosecutions. It must be proved that force was directed at government facilities and agents because they instantiated the government’s execution of its lawful authority. Or it must be shown that the defendant was trying to wage war against the American people: The purpose of attacking civilian infrastructure, for example, must be to coerce the United States into surrendering, changing policy, or taking some other national action. To the contrary, while blowing up a building in order to collect on the insurance is a heinous act, and one who does it should face a severe sentence, it’s not seditious conspiracy.

    As I hope is obvious, I go through these legal niceties not to defend people, such as Capitol rioters, who violently stormed the seat of our government and assaulted police. They should be prosecuted aggressively and incarcerated accordingly.

    p>

    It's an NRPLUS article, which means (I assume) that non-subscribers will be unable to Read The Whole Thing. So it's (yet another) reason you should go ahead and subscribe.


  • Betteridge's Law of Headlines, surprisingly, fails to hold for Michael Huemer's question: Can Teaching the Truth Be Racist?. It's a thought experiment about the Critical Race Theory debate:

    It’s a simple point. Suppose you learned that there was a school staffed mainly by right-leaning teachers and administrators. And at this school, an oddly large number of lessons touch upon, or perhaps center on, bad things that have been done by Jews throughout history. None of the lessons are factually false – all the incidents related are things that genuinely happened and all were actually done by Jewish people. For example, murders that Jews committed, times when Jews started wars, times when Jews robbed or exploited people. (I assume that you know that it’s possible to fill up quite a lot of lessons with bad things done by members of whatever ethnic group you pick.) The lessons for some reason omit or downplay good things done by Jews, and omit bad things done by other (non-Jewish) people. What would you think about this school?

    I hope you agree with me that this is a story of a blatantly racist and shitty school. It would be fair to describe the school as promoting hatred toward Jewish people, even if none of the lessons explicitly stated that one should hate Jews. I hope you also agree that no parent or voter should tolerate a public school that operated like this.

    Now, what if the school’s right-wing defenders explained that there was actually nothing the slightest bit racist or otherwise objectionable about the school, because it was only teaching facts of history? All these things happened. You don’t want to lie or cover up the history, do you?

    I hope you agree with me that this would be a pathetic defense.

    If your CRT-defending reaction is "Well, this is different!", Huemer has that covered too. Click through.


  • I had not, actually, been wondering about this. Clayton Cramer (for some reason) has the answer, just in case: Did You Ever Wonder What Happens to neo-Nazis Discredited by Being Children of Holocaust Survivors?

    List of nearly 20 books at the link, nearly all wacky. Well, only one title seems vaguely non-wacky: Mussolini's War: Fascist Italy’s Military Struggles from Africa and Western Europe to the Mediterranean and Soviet Union 1935-45. The Amazon page shows it to be Mussolini-philic, claiming that "New York City escaped an atomic attack [from WWII Italy] by margins more narrow than previously understood." Yeah, I don't think so.

    Clayton doesn't mention what landed Collin in jail: it wasn't for being a Nazi jerk, but instead a child molester.

URLs du Jour

2022-01-15

  • You want snark? I got it right here. In my snarky Tweet du Jour replying to my state's junior senator:

    In Senator Maggie's modest defense, she was one of only six Democrat senators to vote to stop filibustering Ted Cruz's bill to impose sanctions on Russian pipeline company Nord Stream 2.

    But that wasn't enough; the remainder of the Democrats voted to use the "Jim Crow tactic" to thwart the bill.


  • A persistent irritant. Way back in my Usenet days, I wrote a post griping about the exact same thing Veronique de Rugy is griping about today: the overuse/abuse of the first-person plural in political debate. And she does not except herself!

    "The most dangerous pronoun discourse has nothing to do with gender identity. It's the undefined 'we' in public policy debates that's the problem." These are the words of Richard Morrison, a research fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Morrison identified "the fallacy of we," and I'm often guilty of committing it.

    I frequently say things like, "If we increase spending on this or that, it will cause some economic distortions." Who exactly is this "we"? Certainly not me or most of you. Politicians propose and vote for additional spending, and the president signs new spending bills into law.

    The problem also appears when I write things like "In 2021, we have increased the debt to $24 trillion." Yet, neither the borrowing nor the spending was done by you and me. It was done by some politicians in Congress, aided by the president, and with the assistance of some bureaucrats at the Department of the Treasury.

    Just pick up a newspaper or listen to politicians, or even to people like me, and you'll soon realize that this "we" is everywhere: "We must protect our children by keeping the schools closed (or open)!"; "We need (or don't need) a national industrial policy!"; "We must invest in infrastructure (or something else)!"

    I've been too sloppy about that too. At least I think I have; I'm too apprehensive to go back and check.


  • I'm from the government, and I'm stepping in to make this problem much worse. Kevin D. Williamson (NRPLUS) observes, correctly, that The New York Rent-Policy Debate Is Too Damn Stupid.

    There is almost no subject — not even Modern Monetary Theory! — that inspires toxic stupidity quite like the subject of rental properties.

    The New York Times has brought its subscribers a video (because some things are, in fact, too blisteringly stupid for print) about a so-called tenants’-rights bill under consideration in the state of New York, a daft little sliver of propaganda put together by Jeff Seal, “a comedian, visual journalist and member of the Lower Manhattan chapter of Democratic Socialists of America,” as the Times puts it. That description is just terrific — no Upper West Side socialists here, comrade, we only want to hear from the socialists in Tribeca and Greenwich Village! Socialist comedians must perforce work with some pretty edgy material: “A funny thing happened on the way to the gulag . . .”

    The bill would effectively impose rent control on all properties, capping rent increases at 3 percent per year or 150 percent of the increase in the Consumer Price Index, whichever is greater. It would forbid landlords from evicting tenants for most reasons other than nonpayment of rent, and would also forbid evicting tenants for nonpayment of rent in the case of a rent increase exceeding the cap. That is old-fashioned stupidity, of course, the defects of price controls being very understood in the economics literature.

    The new law also prevents owners from failing to renew leases for "reasons having to do with business". Like wanting to renovate and improve the property. Gee, can you foresee any problems there?


  • Calling people ignorant hicks is funny. Matt Taibbi notes the latest in that vein: Vaccine Aristocrats Strike Again

    Jimmy Kimmel Live, fast becoming Leonid Brezhnev’s never-realized dream of a Soviet Tonight Show, just put out a high-effort gag called “Anti-Vax Barbie.” It’s impressively on-message:

    [Taibbi's description of the bit elided. Assuming you've watched:]

    Mocking the hayseeds is always fun, but what a bonus, when you can jack off some of TV’s biggest advertisers at the same time!

    Kimmel’s riff came as Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik ran a piece entitled, “Mocking anti-vaxxers’ COVID deaths is ghoulish, yes — but may be necessary.” The priceless part about Hiltzik’s column: he makes a whole range of arguments about why mockery may be “necessary,” but never gets around to saying that laughing at dead anti-vaxxers is actually funny. These people have such shit instincts for humor, they can only embrace it as political necessity. They’re like Putinites who have to chant, “Remember the mammoths!” to get young people to have sex.

    It's a paid-subscriber-only post but there's a long segment before the paywall cuts in.


  • More on Reges. Previously discussed here. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education notes a welcome outbreak of common sense the same old crap on the Left Coast: University of Washington administrator doubles down on censorship and compelled speech in land acknowledgment debacle.

    Almost 48 hours after FIRE called out the University of Washington for its requirement that faculty syllabi include the university’s land acknowledgment on their syllabi or remain silent on this issue, the administrator who created the rule is already digging her institution a bigger First Amendment hole.

    In statements to media outlets, UW’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering Director Magdalena Balazinska claims that a “syllabus for an intro to computer programming course” is “not the appropriate place or manner for a debate about land acknowledgements” or “to express personal views unrelated to the course[.]” If that’s so, why does she require faculty to choose between silence on this topic or the university’s equally-irrelevant land acknowledgment statement?

    According to Balazinska, the university’s land acknowledgment statement is allowed on course syllabi, even though it is purportedly a political issue irrelevant to course material, solely because the university’s administration agrees with it. Professors have a choice: Toe the party line or shut up. Got it.

    Another feel-good post. Specifically an "I feel good that I'm not a university instructor any more" post.


  • And a personal note. I have succumbed:

    Wordle 210 3/6
    
    ⬜⬜⬜⬜⬜
    🟩⬜⬜🟨⬜
    🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩
    	

    I think I'm getting the hang of it!

URLs du Jour

2022-01-14

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • As promised/threatened yesterday… we have more observations about Biden's speech in Georgia. Starting out with James Freeman's puckish suggestion that it's Time for Harris to Cut Biden Loose. It's funny, but what I want to excerpt is his quoting of a Senate floor speech from Mitch "Yertle the Turtle" McConnell:

    Twelve months ago, a newly-inaugurated President Biden stood on the West Front of the Capitol and said this: “My whole soul is in this: bringing America together, uniting our people, and uniting our nation.” Yesterday, the same man delivered a deliberately divisive speech that was designed to pull our country farther apart.

    Twelve months ago, this President said we should “see each other not as adversaries, but as neighbors.” Yesterday, he called millions of Americans his domestic “enemies.”

    I don't usually quote politicians approvingly; with few exceptions, they are a disreputable, dishonorable bunch with no devotion to truth. But the stopped-clock rule applies: Senator Yertle is exactly right.


  • For more About That Speech, see Jonah Goldberg. He gives President Wheezy's substantive claims withering analysis. And comes off pretty much in the same place as Senator Yertle:

    Biden’s speech yesterday, and this whole project, is shameful, dangerous, stupid, and profoundly hypocritical.

    Because the wheels are coming off his presidency, Biden has decided to divide Americans in ways he vowed he would not. Now, I don’t have any problem per se with politicians “dividing Americans.” Democracy is about disagreement, not unity. Unity is Biden’s bag and, as I pointed out at the time, I thought Biden’s unity schtick was clichéd nonsense. I’ve spent the better part of two decades ranting about the “cult of unity.”

    But I do have a problem with a president dividing Americans by casting people he disagrees with as evil racists bent on destroying democracy—particularly when it’s not true (and when Biden himself played footsie with the very segregationists he’s now associating with his political opponents). Even worse, his lies are intended to sow even more distrust in our elections purely for partisan gain.

    But that's not all…


  • Come on, Kyle, tell us what you really think. Kyle Smith (in an NRPLUS article) sums up Biden's speech in a headline: Old Man Yells at Cloud.

    “That’s not hyperbole,” Biden thundered, as he offered one ludicrous chunk of overstatement after another. “Will we choose democracy or autocracy?” he asked, as though the issue in Georgia is a czarist movement rather than an ID requirement for absentee voting. “I’m TIRED OF BEING QUIET!” he shouted, slapping the lectern, making everyone sigh who voted for him on a “maybe he’ll restore calm” theory. Reeling off names from the Civil Rights Hall of Fame, he added, “I’m so damn old, I was there as well!”

    Unless “there” means “the Sixties,” this was meaningless tosh, because he sure wasn’t among the Freedom Riders, nor at Selma. “Ya think I’m kiddin,’ man seems like yesterday, the first time I got arrested.” So our Pop-Pop of the Potomac is under the impression he was arrested more than once in civil-rights protests? Somebody should refresh him with the truth. He was AWOL from the civil-rights battles and was still bragging about earning the blessing of George Wallace as late as 1987. Good thing Biden’s reputation as a liar is one of the best-established facts in Washington, or people might have started to wonder whether maybe Joe had lost a step.

    But about that "arrested" thing: Glenn Kessler awards that Four Big Pinocchios: Biden claims yet another arrest for which there’s little evidence.


  • We'll give the last word … on this topic to (yes) another senator, Nebraska's Ben Sasse: Sasse Blasts Biden’s ‘Senile’ Demagoguery.

    Nebraska GOP senator Ben Sasse went to the Senate floor on Thursday afternoon to defend the filibuster and blast President Biden’s speech earlier this week that likened the opponents of Democratic voting legislation to George Wallace and Bull Connor.

    “The president of the United States called half the country a bunch of racist bigots,” Sasse said. “He doesn’t believe that. This was a senile comment of a man who read whatever was loaded into his teleprompter.”

    And yet, he won.


  • Time for a change of pace. Drew Cline of the Josiah Bartlett Center noticed an inconvenient fact: The case for commuter rail in N.H. got worse, not better, in the last seven years.

    The case for taxpayer-subsidized commuter rail from Manchester to Boston has grown weaker, not stronger, in the seven years since the state released its major study of the proposed Capitol Corridor project.

    The New Hampshire Department of Transportation’s December, 2014, report on the Capitol Corridor project projected that a commuter rail line from Manchester to Boston would attract 3,120 riders per weekday. It predicted also that demand for commuter rail would grow as highway traffic increased in the coming years.

    In November of 2021, the department released an updated analysis of the Capitol Corridor project. It projects a peak ridership of 2,866 passengers per weekday, which is an 8% decline from the 2014 report.

    It's worth pointing out that choo-choo enthusiasts invariably inflate predictions of ridership; even those bleak ridership numbers are likely to be optimistic. And (as Drew points out) costs and necessary subsidies are routinely lowballed.


  • And furthermore… Cato's Chris Edwards does a reasonable Randal O'Toole impression when he observes: Amtrak Slower Than Buses on Many Routes.

    My daughters have gone to college in Pittsburgh and Poughkeepsie, NY. As they will be traveling back and forth to D.C., we have compared transportation options. For Pittsburgh, the best option is Megabus. For Poughkeepsie, it is Amtrak.

    For Pittsburgh, we were surprised to find that rail is much slower than bus. Because of the mountains between D.C. and Pittsburgh, trains need to zig zag more than highways as elevation changes. Amtrak’s trip between D.C. and Pittsburgh is 7 hours 43 mins, while Greyhound’s (with a stop in Baltimore) is 6 hours 15 mins. Even better, Megabus provides 5‑hour service direct between D.C. and Pittsburgh college campuses on high‐demand days.

    `

    Which got me wondering: our next-door city, Dover NH, has both train and bus service to Boston. How do the times compare?

    There are five "Downeaster" trains on the timetable today (2022-01-14). Four are scheduled to take 93 minutes for the trip; one (leaving at 12:47pm) takes 20 minutes longer, 113 minutes.

    Five "C&J" buses are on the weekday schedule from Dover to Boston, and they take (respectively) 120 minutes, 120 minutes, 105 minutes, 105 minutes, 100 minutes.

    So it's pretty close. You have to factor in (of course) the convenience of the departure and arrival points, parking availability, schedule constraints,…

URLs du Jour

2022-01-13

  • Senator Karen is divorced. From reality. I assume she's still getting along with her husband, though. At issue is this tweet:

    Joe Lancaster analyzes at Reason: Elizabeth Warren Blames High Food Prices on Grocery Chains' 'Record' 1 Percent Profit Margins.

    But Warren could hardly have picked a worse industry to use as an example: Grocery stores consistently have among the lowest profit margins of any economic sector. According to data compiled this month by New York University finance professor Aswath Damodaran, the entire retail grocery industry currently averages barely more than 1 percent in net profit. In its most recent quarter, Kroger reported a profit margin of 0.75 percent, during a time in which Warren claims that the chain was "expanding profits" due to its "market dominance."

    In actuality, for much of the last year, grocery stores have seen enormous boosts in revenue, but not increased profitability, for the simple reason that everything has been costing more: not just products, but transportation, employee compensation, and all the extra logistical steps needed to adapt to shopping during a pandemic. Couple that with persistent inflation—which Warren also recently blamed on "price gouging"—and it is no wonder that things seem a bit out of balance.

    It's also worth pointing out that Kroger, cited by Warren, is hardly dominant. It's market share is 10.1%. That's good for second place behind Walmart (26%).

    Well, it's actually third place. "Others" is 42.9%.

    Who needs horror movies? Whenever I want to frighten myself to bits, I simply recall that Elizabeth Warren has power, and that a large number of people take her seriously.


  • As I journey on the trail of life, I wish to acknowledge… the courage of Stuart Reges, Computer Science instructor at the Univesity of Washington (UW). Who recently took a stand Against Land Acknowledgements.

    Regular readers of Quillette may recall my 2018 article “Why Women Don’t Code,” which led to another describing how I was “Demoted and Placed on Probation.” After a year of probation, I was reappointed for a three-year term, only to entangle myself in a new controversy over indigenous land acknowledgments. These are sombre declarations intended to acknowledge that land now used for some event or purpose was once inhabited by indigenous tribes (some acknowledgements add that the land was unjustly taken). They are rather like ritual acts of expiatory prayer, usually recited by rote from a standardized text. It doesn’t seem to matter much whether or not the speaker actually agrees with the sentiments expressed; what’s important is that the required words are spoken.

    Reges notes the UW diversicrats issued a "best practices" recommended an "inclusive" addition to course syllabi:

    The University of Washington acknowledges the Coast Salish peoples of this land, the land which touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Suquamish, Tulalip and Muckleshoot nations.

    Here's what Reges put in his course syllabus:

    I acknowledge that by the labor theory of property the Coast Salish people can claim historical ownership of almost none of the land currently occupied by the University of Washington.

    The reference is to John Locke. Reges himself claims to be a follower of Henry George.

    As you might expect (and there's no need to euphemize this), shit hit the fan. Read the whole thing. And here is the article from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education on the matter. Their take:

    If professors at the University of Washington want to include a statement of land acknowledgment on their syllabi, they must parrot the administration’s viewpoint or shut up.

    As I always wonder when stuff like this happens: what about the University Near Here? They (of course) have an official "Land, Water, and Life Acknowledgement":

    As we all journey on the trail of life, we wish to acknowledge the spiritual and physical connection the Pennacook, Abenaki, and Wabanaki Peoples have maintained to N’dakinna (homeland) and the aki (land), nebi (water), olakwika (flora), and awaasak (fauna) which the University of New Hampshire community is honored to steward today. We also acknowledge the hardships they continue to endure after the loss of unceded homelands and champion the university’s responsibility to foster relationships and opportunities that strengthen the well-being of the Indigenous People who carry forward the traditions of their ancestors.

    I should have put a trigger warning up there about readers' eyes rolling clean out of their heads. Sorry.

    I (however) don't see any requirement or suggestion that instructors stick this into their syllabi.

    And, in somewhat related news, there doesn't seem to be any new activity around the Durham Post Office "Controversial Mural" depicting the 1694 Oyster River Massacre.


  • As usual, Betteridge's Law of Headlines applies. Paul Mirengoff wonders: Is ensuring election integrity anti-democratic?

    Of course not. Yet Democrats and their media allies insist that it is.

    Take for example, the lead article in the Washington Post’s Sunday Outlook section. It’s by Sam Rosenfeld, an associate professor at Colgate University. Rosenfeld claims that democracy is “on the brink of disaster” in America. As evidence, he moans that “in 2021, Republican state legislatures passed new restrictions on voting access.”

    But these restrictions tend to ensure election integrity, a sine qua non of a well-functioning democracy. Rosenfeld fails to show otherwise. He doesn’t even address the measures in question.

    Mirengoff points to this Imprimis article by John Lott for a more reasonable take. Among the factoids Lott mentions: "Of the 47 countries in Europe today, 46 of them currently require government-issued photo IDs to vote." And yet, many of them are considered to be democracies.


  • Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, Biden's gotta demagogue. The National Review editors were unimpressed: Joe Biden’s Disgraceful Voting Speech.

    Joe Biden has had a long career of careless pronouncements and demagogic speeches, but he outdid himself with his cynical rant in Georgia on Tuesday afternoon.

    In a push to pass two sweeping Democratic voting bills federalizing a swath of election rules, Biden took a rhetorical sledgehammer to the legitimacy of America’s elections and identified opponents of the bills as domestic “enemies” on par with some of the most reprehensible figures in U.S. history.

    It was a disgraceful performance, witless and sloppy even by Joe Biden’s standards.

    There's a lot of commentary out there on Biden's speech, and we'll probably bring a couple of items to your attention tomorrow.


  • Note: not the "nuke-u-lar" option. Kevin D. Williamson has a long and (as usual) factual and insightful discussion of electricity generation: The Nuclear Option.

    The most important question in almost every public-policy debate is: Compared to what? And so it is with nuclear energy and, to a lesser extent, with natural gas, both of which are likely to receive more liberal regulatory and financial treatment in the European Union under a recently proposed policy change. This raises important questions for the European Union, of course, but also for the United States, India, and even China, all of which have growing power needs that come with environmental complications attached.

    One of the concepts that comes up often in the discussion of environmental policy is externalities. An externality is an effect created by some economic activity, one that is incidental to the activity itself and that has some consequence for a third party that is not accounted for in the price of the good or service. There are both positive and negative externalities, but, when it comes to regulation, we usually are worried about negative externalities. Externalities often involve damage to public goods, and the textbook case is air pollution. None of the parties involved in producing and consuming diesel pays in a direct way for the air pollution caused by diesel engines and, because in most circumstances nobody has a property right in ambient air quality, nobody has standing to sue or to demand relief, even assuming that a meaningfully responsible party could be identified. (Some very cranky libertarians will tell you that there is no such thing as an externality, only a problem of insufficiently defined property rights, which may be a valid philosophical point but one that is of very little practical use in policy-making.) We can’t say, “Let the market take care of it,” because there is no market mechanism for taking care of it (though it is possible to create market mechanisms through regulation, as in cap-and-trade schemes), we can’t let the courts sort the question out as a policy dispute, and so we turn to lawmakers and regulators to address the issue.

    Need I add: open Yucca Mountain.


  • Good news and bad. The Josiah Bartlett Center reports on N.H. business tax revenues' stunning surge.

    Since the start of the fiscal year in July, business tax revenues are $109.5 million (27.9%) above the prior fiscal year and $72.7 million (16.9%) above budget.

    Add this to the total from FY 2012-2021, and business tax revenues have come in over budget by $722.3 million since FY 2012.

    Add this to the total from FY 2012-2021, and business tax revenues have come in over budget by $722.3 million since FY 2012.

    As a libertarian crank, I don't consider it an unalloyed good to learn that the state has extracted hundreds of millions more than it budgeted for over the years. But it's nice to learn that the folks who prophesied fiscal doom because of past rate cuts (cough Maggie Hassan cough) were wrong, wrong, wrong.

URLs du Jour

2022-01-12

  • Bubbleheads interviewing bureaucrats, what could go wrong? Allahpundit has more information about the fake news you might have briefly believed: Here's what the CDC chief actually told ABC about COVID deaths and comorbidities.

    ABC is partly to blame for the confusion about this yesterday. Only partly, let me stress: Anti-vaxxers and the media ecosystem that caters to them seized on the clip in bad faith because it seemed that Rochelle Walensky had confirmed all of their suspicions about the pandemic, appearing to say that only those who were already at death’s door with four or more comorbidities are at any risk of dying from COVID. The RNC’s cut of the interview, for instance, omitted all context by not even including the question Walensky was responding to:

    [Tweet elided]

    But ABC screwed up too — and they quietly erased the evidence of that screw-up overnight by replacing the video of their interview with Walensky (which happened last Friday) with a new, updated video that now includes her entire answer. […]

    Click for the video, and see if it aligns with your reality. Also on that topic is the Dispatch Fact Checker, Alec Dent. I found his last paragraph had interesting information:

    The latest provisional data from the CDC shows that 95 percent of individuals with COVID listed on their death certificate had at least one underlying risk factor. [Kathleen Conley, a spokesperson for Walensky] did not respond to a request for information on what percent of the general and unvaccinated population who passed away had four or more comorbidities. 

    Did not respond? Don't you think that might be good to know?


  • Do you think it might be a good idea to have at-home COVID-19 tests cheaper and easier to find? If you're a libertarian, you probably saw this coming, as detailed by Elizabeth Nolan Brown: Biden's Plan To Make At-Home COVID-19 Tests More Expensive and Harder To Find

    Seriously? With a new plan for at-home COVID-19 testing, the U.S. continues to embrace the most convoluted and costly approach to health care. On Monday, the Biden administration announced that health insurance plans must cover at least eight at-home tests per member per month.

    In some countries, COVID-19 test approval has been swift and many companies have been allowed to make tests, spurring robust competition and driving down prices while ensuring there are plenty of tests to go around. Other countries have made free tests available directly from government sources—a plan not exactly desirable from a fiscal or free market standpoint, but at least theoretically capable of making sure people actually have access to tests.

    In contrast, the U.S. has chosen the worst of all worlds, in effect making COVID-19 tests both limited and expensive. While at-home rapid tests in many countries are plentiful and cost as little as a few dollars per test, here they remain hard to find and about $24 or more for a two-pack. Why? Because our government was slow, overcautious, and obscenely selective when approving tests for market, making companies jump through complicated and costly hoops to be allowed to sell tests here and thus ensuring that those allowed are expensive and scarce. The U.S. has faced serious issues with testing since the start of the pandemic and—two years in—demand for tests continues to drastically outpace supply.

    This is, of course, government's first instinct: we need to be perceived to be "doing something". Letting the market work does not accomplish that goal.


  • Finding it tough to wade through a bunch of tedious new movies looking for gems? There might be a reason for that. Bari Weiss hosts Peter Kiefer and Peter Savodnik, who detail Hollywood's New Rules.

    A few years ago, the editor-in-chief of The Hollywood Reporter pitched a story to the newsroom. He had just come back from lunch with a well-known agent, who had suggested the paper take a look at the unintended consequences of Hollywood’s efforts to diversify. Those white men who had spent decades writing scripts—which had been turned into blockbuster movies and hit television shows—were no longer getting hired. 

    The newsroom blew up. The reporters, especially the younger ones, mocked the idea that white men were on the outs. The editor-in-chief, normally self-assured, immediately backtracked. He looked rattled.

    It was a missed opportunity. The story wasn’t just about white guys not getting jobs. Nor was it really about the economics of Hollywood. It was about the stories Hollywood told and distributed and streamed on screens around the globe every day. It was about this massively lucrative industry that had been birthed by outsiders and emerged, out of lemon groves, into a glamorous, glitzy mosh pit teeming with chutzpah and broken hearts and unbelievable success stories that had made the American Dream a real, pulsating thing—for Americans and billions of other people who thought that if you could imagine something, anything, you could will it into being. It was a story about who we aspired to be.

    After the meeting, a reporter approached another editor about pursuing it. The editor told the reporter to drop it. No one, he said, at The Hollywood Reporter—one of a handful of trade publications that covers the ins and outs of the entertainment industry—was going to risk blowing up their career over this. 

    Well, there's always old Cary Grant flicks.


  • Railroaded? Arnold Kling has an interesting take on the recently convicted Elizabeth Holmes

    The WSJ reports,

    jurors in the trial of Elizabeth Holmes seized on what one juror described as two “smoking guns” that sealed the fate of the Theranos Inc. founder.

    …a report Theranos gave investors that Ms. Holmes altered to make it look like it was an endorsement from Pfizer Inc. For Ms. Stefanek, the second was a document of financial projections. . .

    The 2014 document projected $40 million in annual revenue from drug companies, though jurors had heard from government witnesses that Theranos had no such contracts at the time.

    I’ve invested in some start-ups as an angel investor. I was told much worse lies than those.

    I can’t think of a single founder who could not have been convicted of fraud by this jury’s standards. Founders always make outlandish financial projections. They always exaggerate intangible assets, such as having an “inside track” with a major potential customer.

    So maybe she was railroaded by getting caught in the media spotlight? Plausible.


  • Thanks a lot, Jim. James Freeman writes on the fifth(!) anniversary: James Comey and Our Poisoned Politics.

    This week marks the fifth anniversary of perhaps the greatest media scandal of our age. Outlets like CNN and BuzzFeed flogged a bogus dossier of salacious claims funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign, even while admitting they didn’t know whether the dossier’s allegations against Donald Trump were true or false. It wasn’t necessarily that reporters had mistaken fake news for the real stuff—they simply didn’t care or acknowledge that they had an obligation to vet anti-Trump claims before disseminating them.

    The pathetic media excuse for running with the story was that important people in the government were talking about it. And no one wanted to talk about it more than the FBI’s then-director, James Comey. He kept talking about it even after his department had failed to corroborate it, and even though the CIA viewed it as mere “Internet rumor.”

    Goodness knows, I was no Trump fan. I'm still not a Trump fan. But imagine a world where Comey and the media were more circumspect about circulating "Internet rumors". Would Trump have acted as outrageous as he did, if not being investigated based on made-up disinformation? Maybe, maybe not.