URLs du Jour

2020-09-23

  • Our Getty Image du Jour refers to this story from my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, dealing with nefarious doin's: Rabbi’s high holiday services in Durham called zoning violation.

    Town officials issued a notice of violation to Rabbi Berel Slavaticki for holding what they contend were religious services at his home.

    Audrey Cline, the town’s code enforcement officer, sent a letter to Slavaticki, the rabbi for the Seacoast Chabad Jewish Center.

    “The town has received a number of complaints, that by all appearances, the activity this weekend constituted religious services held at your residence (in the faculty neighborhood),” Cline wrote in the notice of violation letter. “As I wrote previously, this use is not permitted in the residential district.”

    You might recall the very first words of the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". And the 14th Amendment allegedly prohibits state and local governments from doing the same.

    But apparently those Constitutional bets are off when zoning is involved.

    The Rabbi claims that it wasn't a service, just a gathering of "friends and family". But "concerned residents" complained. It's Durham, after all, where informing on your neighbors is an art form.

    And I'd guess that if it were just a plain old party, the "town officials" wouldn't have any grounds for complaint.

    But if there's praying going on? You in a heap of trouble there, Rabbi.


  • And the Free Beacon notes some behavior from my very own CongressCritter, who sent Email [seemingly] From Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Post-mortem. Which, depending on your inclination, you may find either creepy or hilarious.

    Democratic congressman Chris Pappas (N.H.) sent a fundraising email with the recently deceased justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the "sender" line, making it appear Ginsburg was sending the email from beyond the grave.

    "Like many of you, I'm devastated by the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last night," Pappas wrote in the bid for donations. "This is a crushing loss for our nation — we lost an icon, a hero, and champion for justice."

    Fundraising off of RBG's death does seem to cross the line into ghoulishness, but maybe Democrats find it acceptable.


  • Megan McArdle explains current events using game theory. It was a really good article when I read it, but the WaPo is getting pretty good a paywalling my attempts to go back and excerpt. So if you're better than I am at that, go check it out.


  • The Washington Examiner will welcome all comers, though. Becket Adams says The 1619 Project is a fraud.

    New York Times Magazine staffer Nikole Hannah-Jones accused me once of rank jealousy. She said my criticism for her flawed 1619 Project stems from the fact that, unlike her, I do not “have good ideas and the talent to execute them.”

    We apparently have different understandings of what constitutes a “good idea” and “talent.”

    New York Times Magazine editors have quietly removed controversial language from the online version of Hannah-Jones’s 1619 Project, a package of essays that argue chattel slavery defines America’s founding. Hannah-Jones herself also asserts now that the project’s core thesis is not what she and everyone else involved originally said it was.

    It “does not argue that 1619 is our true founding," she said on Friday. She declared elsewhere in July that it “doesn’t argue, for obvious reasons, that 1619 is our true founding.”

    This is a brazen lie. […]

    Like it did with Walter Duranty, the NYT racked up a Pulitzer for the 1619 Project. Continuing a fine tradition of misinforming its readers.


  • Scott Lincicome of the Dispatch has his tongue in cheek when he purports to be Documenting the Domination of Libertarian Economics.

    The New York Times recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of Milton Friedman’s influential New York Times Magazine essay, “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits” with a great idea: having Thought Leaders™ from across the political spectrum opine on the essay and its impact. The idea’s execution was, well, not as great. It honestly seemed like several people hadn’t even read the essay—or at least understood Friedman’s actual point—but that’s actually an issue for another time. Instead, I want to focus on the 3,000-word essay from Kurt Andersen that accompanied the NYT project—“How Liberals Opened the Door to Libertarian Economics”—because it hits on a theme that both the left and the right have recently embraced: the historical dominance of “libertarian economics” or, as Andersen puts it, “the full Friedmanization of our economy for the last four decades.”

    That’s right. In case you haven’t heard, my fellow libertarians and I run Washington and have done so since the 1970s. No, really, stop laughing: Seemingly everywhere you look these days, you’ll find politicians and pundits on the right and the left blaming libertarians for whatever problems you, dear reader/viewer/donor/voter, see in America. As I noted to Jonah on The Remnant last year, the concept is laughable—and not just on foreign policy—to anyone who has worked in D.C. over the last several decades, but it nevertheless persists and motivates a lot of populist arguments and proposals.

    It therefore deserves a more objective response, so that’s what we’re going to do today.

    And what follows is chart after chart showing the creeping statism of the past few decades. Milton would not approve.

    Yes, another garbage take by the New York Times.


  • Jacob Sullum at Reason claims (no doubt to the consternation of many): Partisan Poppycock Does Not Trump the Constitution on SCOTUS Picks.

    The process for filling a Supreme Court vacancy is straightforward: The president chooses a new justice "with the advice and consent of the Senate." Any other conditions, including those imagined by Republicans in 2016 or by Democrats now, are nothing but self-serving nonsense.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.), who has promised a vote on President Donald Trump's nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg by the end of the year, has been accused of forsaking the supposed norm he defended in 2016, when he blocked consideration of Merrick Garland, Barack Obama's choice to replace Antonin Scalia. Yet McConnell's position now is arguably consistent with the one he took then. That does not mean it makes any sense.

    "Consistently unprincipled" would be a truth-in-labeling badge for (um…) 90% of our elected representatives. Although that might be low.

Slightly Scarlet

[1.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Another entry in the 2020 Pun Salad NoirFest. It's pretty bad: lousy acting, ludicrous plot, loopy wooden dialog, unbelievable characters. But in color. And the sets are pretty amazing, 1950s garish. It's based on a James M. Cain novel, but not one of the good ones.

Arlene Dahl and Rhonda Fleming play sisters, one good, one bad and crazy. (I'm not sure which is which, and it doesn't matter.) As the movie opens, the bad/crazy one is getting out of jail, picked up by the good one, the tender scene being surreptitiously photographed by John Payne for some reason. (Again, it doesn't matter.)

There's election skullduggery, where a corrupt city administration is ousted, and the head cop is replaced by … oops, John Payne working behind the scenes, via his wooing of Good Sister, who works for the new mayor. He also has plans to replace the current mob boss, who he's fingered for the murder of a reform-minded political financier.

Meanwhile, Bad/Crazy Sister is giving in to her kleptomaniac urges. Also her nymphomaniac urges (which are depicted as clearly as you could in a 1950s movie). Can she stay out of jail? And out of the line of fire between John Payne and the mob boss?

I'm not quite sure how it turns out, because I fell asleep near the end. Still, I watched most of it, so it counts.

Glass

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

This 2019 movie turns out to be the final entry in M. Night Shyamalan's movie trilogy that started with Unbreakable (2000, 19 years previous) and Split (2016). This was teased in Split's final scene, where Bruce Willis's character (David Dunn) learns about James McAvoy's character (Kevin, plus his multiple personalities).

So it wouldn't hurt to maybe rewatch Unbreakable and Split before you tackle this one. Although we managed OK.

Anyway, Kevin (and his multiple personalities) are up to their old tricks, kidnapping cheerleaders for their usual demented purposes. David has been in the shadows since Unbreakable, occasionally doing some vigilante work, assisted by his superpowers; the cops want to catch him for this freelancing. (Philadelphia is apparently no place to be a superhero.) He's assisted by his son, Joseph. (Nice touch: Joseph is played by the young adult actor who played the same role, as a child, in Unbreakable.)

But soon enough, both Kevin and David wind up in custody, under the care of Dr. Ellie. Who seems determined to demonstrate that there's nothing superpowered going on here. Why? Well, that's eventually revealed. But also in the same facility is Elijah, the bad guy from Unbreakable, Samuel L. Jackson. He seems to have been drugged into catatonia, but come on, we know he's faking, and he's only waiting for the chance to cause some mayhem.

It's supremely silly, but also pretty watchable, at least for me. McAvoy's multiple-personality schtick is a lot of fun to watch, I like Bruce Willis no matter what, and Mr. Jackson always scares the crap out of me.


Last Modified 2020-09-23 7:06 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2020-09-22

[Amazon Link]

  • At Reason, Eric Boehm sees us heading for the rocks: America’s Debt Will be Twice the Size of the Economy by 2050.

    If you're getting tired of unrelentingly bad news about the national debt—well, I have some terrible news.

    Today the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a 30-year budget projection. By 2050, the number-crunching agency now says, the national debt will grow to 195 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). That's 45 percentage points higher than the CBO was projecting last year. What it couldn't foresee, of course, was the COVID-19 pandemic and the expensive federal response to it, which has pushed the national debt to nearly 100 percent of current GDP.

    Rising debt levels will "increase the risk of a fiscal crisis—that is, a situation in which investors lose confidence in the U.S. government's ability to service and repay its debt, causing interest rates to increase abruptly, inflation to spiral upward, or other disruptions," the CBO warns. "It would increase the likelihood of less abrupt, but still significant, negative effects, such as expectations of higher rates of inflation."

    In graphical terms: [Whoa.]

    As The Who said: "Hope I die before I get old."


  • Kevin D. Williamson brings a little welcome anti-hagiography. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Judicial Philosophy Was Wrong: Congress, Not Judges, Should Make Law.

    Ruth Bader Ginsburg did a great many interesting and impressive things in her life, but she never did the one thing she probably really should have done: run for office. Ruth Bader Ginsburg wasn’t an associate justice of the Supreme Court — not really: She was a legislator in judicial drag.

    You need not take my word on this: Ask her admirers. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a vision for America,” Linda Hirshman argues in the Washington Post. What was her vision? “To make America fairer, to make justice bigger.” That is not a job for a judge — that is a job for a legislator. The job of making law properly belongs to — some people find this part hard to handle — lawmakers. Making law is not the job of the judge. The job of the judge is to see that the law is followed and applied in a given case. It does not matter if the law is unfair or if the law is unjust — that is not the judge’s concern. If you have a vision for America, and desire to make the law more fair or more just, then there is a place for you: Congress. That is where the laws are made.

    If you haven't already done so, I encourage you to check the video of Senator Sasse I posted yesterday.


  • Hot Air posts a pretty good argument from WaPo's Matt Bai: Biden should choose the next Supreme Court justice. Now..

    Even Trump understands this. (And if he doesn’t, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell certainly does.) In the coming days, Trump will nominate another conservative judge, this time a woman, aimed squarely at the hearts of these straying voters.

    And then — mark my words — he will hold that judge up against some theoretical choice on the left: someone (or maybe a few someones) whose record offers plenty of evidence to suggest that the left is coming to eliminate free enterprise and tear down all the town-square statues.

    (There's a link to the full column at Hot Air, but the WaPo is being churlish this morning about letting me see it.)

    Unlike Bai, I can see practical pluses and minuses to Biden saying who he'd choose. Or providing a list. But wholly as a matter of fairness to voters, Biden should be as specific as Trump is apparently going to be.


  • But it appears that won't happen, according to the Federalist: Biden Backtracks On Promise To Release List Of Potential SCOTUS Picks.

    On Sunday, 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden reversed course on a summer pledge to release a list of names identifying potential candidates for the Supreme Court in the event of a vacancy under his presidency.

    “We can’t ignore the cherished system of checks and balances,” Biden said during a campaign speech in Philadelphia. “That includes this whole business of releasing a list of potential nominees I would put forward.”

    The announcement marks a clean-cut reversal from the former vice president’s pledge in June to unveil a list of black women as possible contenders.

    The campaign has (apparently) made the decision that transparency and honesty are things that will lose them more than gain.


  • Rich Lowry in the NYPost (the good Post): Democrats [sic] answer to anything they dislike is increasingly ‘Burn it all down’.

    Constitutional revolution is going mainstream. After delivering lectures about political norms for the entirety of the Trump era (often with good cause), much of the left is now threatening to kneecap an important institution of American government on a partisan vote in an act of ideological vengeance.

    If the Republican Senate confirms a Trump appointee to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat right before or after the election, progressives say Democrats, if they sweep in November, should retaliate by packing the high court.

    My state's senior Senator, Jeanne Shaheen, is running for re-election. Someone should get her position on court-packing.


  • OK, enough politics. Language Log shares some Autological Humor. What's that, you ask. Well, here are a few examples:

    • A verb walks into a bar, sees an attractive noun, and suggests they conjugate. The noun declines.
    • A dangling participle walks into a bar. Enjoying a cocktail and chatting with the bartender, the evening passes pleasantly.
    • A bar was walked into by the passive voice.
    • An oxymoron walked into a bar, and the silence was deafening.

    My contribution: "An autological joke walked into a bar and told this autological joke."

    I think that works.

URLs du Jour

2020-09-21

  • Our Eye Candy du Jour is a telling tweet:

    Do you need the Washington Post to tell you what to think? I don't.


  • But otherwise. I think Kevin D. Williamson hits one out of the park on Supreme Court Nomination Hypocrisy. His NR Corner post in its entirety:

    It is the case that during the Merrick Garland fight, a bunch of Republicans said we shouldn’t confirm a new Supreme Court justice before an election — and now say something else.

    It’s also the case that a bunch of Democrats at that time said we should confirm a new Supreme Court justice before an election — and now say something else.

    Why is only one of these developments considered hypocrisy?

    Either we can have a confirmation vote before an election, or we can’t — in which case, “Garland’s seat” was not “stolen,” as Democrats insist. You cannot have it both ways.

    It would be easier if we stopped pretending that this fight is about something other than straightforward power politics.

    People pretending to argue about this out of some deep transcendent principle they just discovered in the past 15 minutes… it was amusing for the first couple examples, now it's just boring as hell. (In fact, making me watch politicians nonstop on TV—that would be hell. Nobody tell Satan.)

    Example from the Free Beacon: Klobuchar Struggles to Defend 2016 Position on Filling Supreme Court Vacancy. Completely unsurprising, completely predictable, and I'm sure the blue side of the web is filled with the equivalent, equally boring, takes.


  • Glenn Reynolds makes a good point in USA Today, though. The headline: Ginsburg flap shows Supreme Court, justices are too important.

    Why does Justice Ginsburg’s replacement matter so much that even “respectable” media figures are calling for violence in the streets if President Trump tries to replace her? Because the Supreme Court has been narrowly balanced for a while, with first Justice Anthony Kennedy, and later Chief Justice John Roberts serving as a swing vote. Ginsburg’s replacement by a conservative will finally produce a long-heralded shift of the Supreme Court to a genuine conservative majority.  

    That shift matters because, for longer than I have been alive, all sorts of very important societal issues, from desegregation to abortion to presidential elections and state legislative districting — have gone to the Supreme Court for decision. Supreme Court nominations and confirmations didn’t used to mean much — Louis Brandeis was the first nominee to actually appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee — because the Court, while important, wasn’t the be-all and end-all of so many deeply felt and highly divisive issues. Now it very much is.

    It ain't healthy. Coincidentally, I listened to Jonah Goldberg's recent Remnant podcast with Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, and Jonah appended Sasse's opening remarks at the Kavanaugh hearing to the usual interview format. It's excellent, and makes me wish voters were sensible enough to elect 50-60 Sasse clones to the Senate and 300-320 to the US House. Here's the YouTube:


  • And the observant eye of Phil Magness watches an unsupportable claim vanish Down the 1619 Project’s Memory Hole.

    The history of the American Revolution isn’t the only thing the New York Times is revising through its 1619 Project. The “paper of record” has also taken to quietly altering the published text of the project itself after one of its claims came under intense criticism.

    When the 1619 Project went to print in August 2019 as a special edition of the New York Times Magazine, the newspaper put up an interactive version on its website. The original opening text stated:

    The 1619 project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative. [emphasis added]

    The passage, and in particular its description of the year 1619 as “our true founding,” quickly became a flashpoint for controversy around the project. Critics on both the Left and Right took issue with the paper’s declared intention of displacing 1776 with the alternative date—a point that was also emphasized in the magazine feature’s graphics, showing the date of American independence crossed out and replaced by the date of the first slave ship’s arrival in Jamestown, Virginia.

    Reminds me of a movie quote:

    Dr. Evil: [deep voice] Austin, I'm your father.

    Austin: Really?

    Dr. Evil: No, not really. I can't back that up.

Serenity

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Not to be confused with the 2005 Joss Whedon space movie with Nathan Fillion et. al.. And it may not be your cup of tea, as it was not the cup of tea with IMDB raters (see above). Also with a dismal Metacritic score. (But Richard Roeper says its "one of the most entertaining thrillers in recent years", right on the DVD box. So, it may be your cup of tea.)

And there's a lot of talent involved. Oscar winners Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway, for example. And I see they were nominated for this movie too: for "Worst Actor" and "Worst Actress Razzies.

It starts out as a pretty standard film noir in fact. Lots of booze, cigarettes, and hard-boiled dialog. Baker Dill (McConaughey) is a charter fishing boat captain obsessed with catching a specific tuna. His Ahab-like behavior is putting him in dire financial straits, but out of the blue comes ex-wife Karen (Hathaway) with one of those simple propositions: my new husband is brutalizing me and your son, he'll kill us if we try to leave him, could you please murder him, I'll give you $10 million.

As I said, it starts out in that honorable tradition. But things take an odd turn. Odd enough so that I'm not even tempted to spoil them. I'll say this though: the IMDB genre classification is "Drama, Mystery, Thriller", but a more honest description would add at least one more.

[OK, if you really want to know what's going on, click here.]

And here's an interesting coincidence: actor Djimon Hounsou is in this, and he was also in the 2005 Serenity! Producers, if you want to get Djimon in your movie, you know what you have to title it.

Sometimes Always Never

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

This might be a decent movie. But the DVD has an inexcusable flaw: no subtitling.

I hate to be a cranky old fart. But my hearing is not what it used to be. And my TV's sound system is … well, there's a reason that there's a decent market for soundbars. We don't have one, though.

And it's a Brit movie, with everyone talking with an accent of varying degrees of thickness. And sometimes they are whispering. Blimey.

But what I got was not bad. It's funny in a lot of places. The main character, Alan, is played by Bill Nighy, and he's excellent. I'm sure that if I'd heard a lot more dialog…

Anyway: Alan and his son Peter are on a grim mission: a corpse has been found, and they are asked to check to see if it's Michael, Alan's "prodigal" son who ditched the family over a Scabble dispute years ago. They meet up with another couple, Arthur and Margaret, who are performing the same task (for the same body). And Alan reveals himself as a Scrabble hustler. Causing strife between Arthur and Margaret.

Well, it's not Michael. But Margaret and Alan wind up having a fling…

Margaret is played by Jenny Agutter, by the way. Any red-blooded young man who watched An American Werewolf in London has had fantasies about being taken home by a sexy nurse looking like Ms. Agutter. Minus all the gore of course.

The Phony Campaign

2020-09-20 Update

Welp, old Joe Biden opened up another 0.3 percentage points in his betting market advantage. Good for him; in comparison, back on September 25, 2016, the previous iteration of this feature, I reported:

As I type, PredictWise puts Hillary at a 70% chance of winning in November, down 2 (two) percentage points from last week. Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight puts her probability significantly lower (58.1%, 57.5%, or 56.0%, depending on which methodology you like); that's down a few percentage points from last week.

(The PredictWise link has gone stale, perhaps out of embarrassment.)

But, back here in 2020, Our President still has a commanding phony-hit lead:

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
9/13
Phony
Results
Change
Since
9/13
Donald Trump 43.6% -0.1% 2,040,000 +110,000
Joe Biden 53.7% +0.2% 732,000 0
Jo Jorgensen 0.0% unch 120,000 +1,000
Howie Hawkins 0.0% unch 24,700 +6,300

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • At American Consequences, P. J. O'Rourke muses on Trump's 2nd Term Agenda.

    When it comes to choosing between presidential campaign platforms, what should be a matter of principle can turn into a matter of taste… How do you like your lies prepared and served?

    Oops, did I say “lies”?… Excuse me, I meant “promises.” Do you want an all-you-can-eat campaign platform buffet with its promises well-done to the point where even the romaine lettuce in the salad bar is burned to a crisp? In that case, I’m sure you found the Joe Biden platform delicious and filling.

    As I described in last month’s Letter From the Editor, Biden’s platform bill of fare is 564 pages long with every entrée so over-cooked that it seems as though Joe has accidentally left his mental oven on at 450 degrees since 1988.

    Or do you prefer a “tasting menu,” with little dibs of this and dabs of that, each dished up rare, not to say as raw as pork tartar and chicken sushi? If so, you’ll smack your lips over the four-page Donald Trump campaign platform with its 54 bite-sized promises. Never mind that some of what’s on offer contains nothing that could be considered an intellectual calorie.

    What follows is P. J.'s version of fisking, quoting Trump's platform with interspersed pin-in-balloon comments.


  • The Hill reports a Kinsley Gaffe from the Donald:

    President Trump defended his assertion that the novel coronavirus would “disappear” with or without a vaccine on Tuesday, saying the United States would develop what he called “herd mentality.”

    Don't all (non-libertarian) politicians wish for the populace to develop a herd mentality? I mean, how can you be called a leader, if you don't have a docile group of followers?

    We could wish for politicians as witty as Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin, who probably didn't say:

    There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.

    ("Why are some of my best quotes apocryphal?" -- Thomas Jefferson)


  • [Amazon Link]
    The late, great, William Goldman entitled one of his memoirs (Amazon link at your right) Which Lie Did I Tell?

    I'm not sure what brought that to mind, but…

    The Free Beacon reports this as if it were some kind of record, but I bet it's not: Biden Repeats Two Falsehoods in Less Than a Minute.

    Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden repeated two falsehoods in less than one minute Thursday night, first that he would be the first president that didn't go to an Ivy League school and then that he was the first person in his family to go to college.

    Neither of the claims are true—Ronald Reagan was the most recent U.S. president who did not attend an Ivy League university, but there were many others, including Harry Truman, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington. Biden also admitted to the New York Times back in 1987 that there were members of his mother's family who had attended college before him.

    Yes, you read that right. He was caught lying about this in 1987, part of the reason his presidential campaign crashed and burned. So is that Goldman title going through his mind? Which lie did I tell?


  • NRPlus members are entitled to view David Harsanyi's essay on The Secret Life of Joe Biden. Example of Joe's Mittyesque fantasies:

    It wasn’t long ago that Biden was telling a rapt audience at Dartmouth the story of a brave Navy captain who had rappelled down a steep ravine in the mountains of Kunar province in an unsuccessful bid to rescue his comrade. An unnamed general had implored the then-vice president to fly to Afghanistan and personally pin the Silver Star on this captain.

    “And everybody got concerned a vice president going up in the middle of this,” a fearless Biden recalled, “but we can lose a vice president; we can’t lose many more of these kids, not a joke.”

    Now, don’t fret. Biden is no stranger to peril. During a presidential primary debate in 2007, he told viewers about the time he had been “shot at” during a trip to the Green Zone in Iraq.

    In any event, the naval officer in question would not let Biden pin the medal on him. “God’s truth, my word as a Biden,” the former senator said. “He stood at attention, I went to pin him, he said: ‘Sir, I don’t want the damn thing. Do not pin it on me sir, please. Do not do that. He died. He died.’”

    The only problem with this moving tale was that Biden never visited Kunar province as vice president nor did he ever pin a silver star on any Navy captain, much less one who refused to accept the honor. Nor, incidentally, had Biden ever been “shot at” by anyone.

    Joe makes Hillary look like George Washington. The Parson Weems version.


  • In our "Can't We Blame the Russians For This" Department, Slashdot says: A Bug In Joe Biden's Campaign App Gave Anyone Access To Millions of Voter Files. Quoting a TechCrunch report:

    A privacy bug in Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s official campaign app allowed anyone to look up sensitive voter information on millions of Americans, a security researcher has found.

    The campaign app, Vote Joe, allows Biden supporters to encourage friends and family members to vote in the upcoming U.S. presidential election by uploading their phone’s contact lists to see if their friends and family members are registered to vote. The app uploads and matches the user’s contacts with voter data supplied from TargetSmart, a political marketing firm that claims to have files on more than 191 million Americans.

    Nobody affiliated with the campain was quoted as saying: "Oops, we were hoping we could get away with that."


  • And if you're interested in this stuff at all, you should be reading Geraghty's Morning Jolt. Nestled near the bottom of the linked article from Thursday:

    Have you noticed that to certain media voices, whatever traits the Democratic nominee has just happen to be what the country needs that year? In 2004, John Kerry’s military service was considered a great argument in favor of his election, but by 2008, John McCain’s service was nothing special. Remember how youth and being an outsider to Washington were considered really important when Barack Obama was running, but suddenly didn’t seem so important when Hillary Clinton was nominated — and they sure as heck aren’t seen as valuable traits now?

    Janan Ganesh of the Financial Times makes an accurate but convenient point: No one is all that excited about Joe Biden, and that’s something of a relief after dealing with the Obama messiah cult and the worship of Trump by the MAGA-cap-wearing diehard fans. The headline? “The welcome lack of enthusiasm for Joe Biden.

    “The US has had two consecutive presidents with messianic followings, and it is worse off for the 12-year surge of emotion,” Ganesh writes. “No democracy is riper for a period of tepid leadership.”

    The thing is, it took a Republican president with an impassioned fanbase and a Democratic nominee who’s pretty boring and cookie-cutter to see any public defense of boring national leaders.

    Still, I think it would make for a refreshingly honest slogan: “Joe Biden 2020: He’s pretty tepid as a leader.”

    Tepid leadership from a tepid IQ!

URLs du Jour

2020-09-19

[pirate keyboard]

  • It's "Talk Like a Pirate Day, and your go-to guy is Dave Barry. I've resurrected a 2011 pic as our Eye Candy du Jour.


  • So Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away yesterday. My condolences to her friends, family, and fans. I'm not a fan, for reasons Viking Pundit points out. But apparently she was besties with Antonin Scalia, which cuts in her favor.


  • To more mundane matters, Zach Greenberg of the James G. Martin Center notes the latest battle in the War Against Certain Pixel Arrangements: Censoring a Thousand Words.

    At the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, where I work, we focus on defending student and faculty free speech rights and encouraging universities to uphold those rights, even when it is difficult and unpopular to do so. With increasing frequency, we see colleges and universities failing to adhere to their free speech obligations.

    For example, just this summer, FIRE criticized Fordham University for punishing a student over an Instagram photo memorializing the Tiananmen Square massacre which featured the student holding a firearm. For this display of political expression, Fordham found the student responsible for violating university policies on “threats/intimidation,” earning the student disciplinary probation and a ban from campus, campus athletics, and leadership roles in student organizations. Fordham also required the student to take bias training and write a letter of apology.

    Conspicuous advocacy of liberty is disallowed at Fordham. Make a note of that, college-bound kids.


  • Power Line has a question and a suggestion: Want Tax Cuts for the Rich? Vote for Biden. He's pledged to sign any legislation he gets to end the cap on the State And Local Tax (SALT) deduction. The New York Times (of all things) is quoted:

    The House of Representatives has already passed legislation removing the cap, allowing the amount of the deduction to rise. If the Senate turns blue in November, Democrats have promised to return to the issue. “I want to tell you this,” Senator Schumer said in July, “If I become majority leader, one of the first things I will do is we will eliminate” the SALT cap “forever.” It “will be dead, gone and buried.” . . .

    By pushing for repeal of the cap, Democrats are leaving themselves wide open to criticisms of hypocrisy and opportunism. As Senator Michael Bennet, one of the few Democrats opposed to removing the SALT cap, pointed out to his Senate colleagues in October 2019: “We can say we are for a progressive tax code and for fighting inequality, or we can support the SALT deduction. But it is really hard to do both.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also voted against repeal.

    The Tax Policy Center offers this picture of who used the SALT deduction and for how much:

    [SALT]

    I am not an eat-the-rich class warrior, but I'm very much opposed to ordinary folks being asked to ameliorate the impact of high blue-state taxes.


  • At the WSJ, (Harvard Professor) Harvey C. Mansfield calls out The ‘Systemic Racism’ Dodge.

    Systemic racism, also known as institutional or structural racism, is a new phrase for a new situation. We live in a society where racism is not, and cannot be, openly professed. To do so not only is frowned upon but will get you into serious trouble, if not yet jail, in America. Yet even though this is impossible to miss and known to all, “systemic racism” supposedly persists. The phrase describes a society that is so little racist that no one can respectably advocate racism, yet so much racist that every part of it is soaked with racism. We live with the paradox of a racist society without racists.

    Systemic racism is unavowed and mostly unconscious, racist despite itself. Those who use the phrase, mostly whites, are consciously accusing their unconscious selves. To get a sense of what they mean, think of African-Americans as they are, freed of slavery and segregation but still somehow consigned to an inferior social position. Everywhere they look, they see black faces on show but white faces in charge. This is true even where they generally excel and surpass whites, as in sports and entertainment, and still more in business and academia, where they are fewer. White supremacy seems to be true in effect if not in intent. Look around and you will see it.

    Professor Mansfield notes the inherent dysfunctionality of the concept: "It tells blacks that they are quite OK, and that it is entirely up to whites to change their thinking and their behavior. This means that blacks must allow whites to hold their future for them."


  • On the same topic, Andrew C. McCarthy at National Review: Make Them Prove It.

    The “institutional racism” prattle would melt if it were ever subjected to the enlightened rationalism that is supposed to be the university’s reason for being. But that is Western culture, and out leaders don’t do Western culture anymore.

    What do they do? Marxism and voodoo, mainly. When you cannot cite hard evidence for the cosmic propositions you swear by, it can only be because we’re beset by “false consciousness” that prevents us from perceiving how whiteness and West-ness have corrupted us. All we can say for sure is what “disparate impact” theory tells us: We don’t have equality of outcomes, so that must mean we don’t have equality of opportunity, right? Because, you know, every one of us is a Mozart, an Einstein, a Jane Austen, a Bobby Fischer, or a LeBron just waiting to happen, if only there were a level playing field.

    Right.

    Not to say we're without problems. But "systemic racism" inherently means that the "system" can't fix those problems. Thus a convenient excuse for inaction.

URLs du Jour

2020-09-18

[Amazon Link]

  • The WSJ has it's annual College Ranking List. The dead-trees version did not have the University Near Here listed, but the online version confirms that it's down, way down. So far down that they put it in a 100-way tie for 501st place ("501-600").

    That's in a set of "nearly 800" US colleges and universities.

    Could be worse. Another college near here, the University of Southern Maine, is just in the ">600th"-place. When will they just give up?


  • Princeton, on the other hand, is in a very respectable seventh place overall, tied with Caltech. Which makes this story (as related by Jerry Coyne at Why Evolution is True) … well, let him tell it: Princeton hoist with its own petard: Admits systemic racism, investigated for it by the Department of Education, and then denies it.

    I have to say that I find this pretty amusing. After Princeton’s President (like officials of many other colleges) wrote a letter flagellating himself and his University for systemic racism, the U.S. Department of Education has begun investigating Princeton for violating Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The charge is taking federal money for years while purporting to abide by federal nondiscrimination and equal-opportunity standards. If Princeton is indeed rife with “systemic racism” that it hasn’t addressed, then surely they have violated that agreement.  An article in the Washington Examiner (below) says that this investigation is not politically motivated—that the Department of Education has a legal obligation to investigate possible violations of federal civil rights protections, even if that violation is revealed by the University itself.

    This is amusing because I don’t believe that Princeton is systemically racist, though there may be private instances of racism. And yet the University had to admit deep-seated racism to keep in tune with the Zeitgeist. By so doing, it got itself investigated. It’ll be interesting to see how Princeton plays this one, maintaining that it has a climate of systemic racism but yet doesn’t violate federal statues. They’ve responded already (see below), but they’re taking the mustelid path of Weasel Words.

    It would be refreshing if a university president simply said: "Yeah, that stuff we said about systemic racism was bullshit, but it seemed to work to shut up our students and faculty. Win."


  • At National Review, Michael Brendan Dougherty observes that The Left Bullies Social-Media Giant to Protect Itself, Not Democracy.

    Hillary Clinton is angry. “We can have democracy—or we can have social networks that allow the spread of weaponized disinformation about our elections,” she tweeted this week, while linking to a pressure campaign meant to “demand social media platforms protect democracy.” Bloomberg Businessweek, in a long and largely misleading piece on Facebook published yesterday, attempted to bully CEO Mark Zuckerberg into more aggressively disadvantaging Donald Trump and his supporters. Zuckerberg got an outsized portion of the blame for Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016, and he’s being warned that he’s in the firing line again.

    It’s not really Facebook’s algorithms that the forces behind such efforts detest, nor is it misinformation, nor the “manipulation” undertaken by shadowy groups such as the now-infamous Cambridge Analytica. Remember, it was just a decade ago that liberals believed social networks would, almost by themselves, create progressive revolutions across the globe. It was just eight years ago that the Obama campaign’s social-media operation — far larger than anything Cambridge Analytica ever managed — was hailed as the work of digital masterminds who boldly “blew through an alarm that [Facebook] engineers hadn’t planned for or knew about.”

    No, what bothers the Left about Facebook is that it is the most powerful media company in the world and it is a place conservative people can talk, and share ideas, with relatively less manipulation and guidance from progressive editors and censors.

    Hey, remember the IRS being weaponized to go after "right wing" non-profits? This is the same idea, except the lefties want to use Facebook as a proxy. Probably more legal.


  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum has an issue with CDC Director Robert Redfield: Suggesting That Face Masks Are More Effective Than Vaccines, the CDC’s Director Exemplifies the Propaganda That Discourages People From Wearing Them. Redfield stated that the face mask he was holding up (but not wearing) "is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine."

    Let's mercifully skip over what "more guaranteed" might mean. Something is either "guaranteed" or it's not. And face masks are not. And probably a vaccine won't be either. So? I suppose the issue is: which is more likely to spare you and the people you encounter from illness?

    The honest answer is that we don't really know, since that comparison depends on how effective cloth face masks actually are and how effective vaccines prove to be. But we don't actually have to choose between those two strategies, and in practice we are pursuing both. Face masks are a tool to reduce virus transmission, especially to people who face the greatest risk from COVID-19, while we wait for vaccines that we hope will work well enough to make such precautions unnecessary.

    Government officials tend to oversimplify science, ignoring nuances and glossing over uncertainty, in the interest of sending clear public health messages aimed at encouraging behavior they believe will reduce morbidity and mortality. But that approach can backfire when officials make statements that clearly go beyond what we actually know.

    It would be nice if "government officials" were as precise and honest as possible, including about their own uncertainties. Let the mainstream media distort what you say, that's their job.


  • Hey kids, what time is it? Randal O'Toole tells us at Cato: it's Time to Shut Down the DC Metro Rail.

    Highway traffic in the Washington DC metro area returned to 80 percent of its pre‐​pandemic levels in July, but DC transit carried only 16 percent as many riders as it did in July 2019. Metro’s own surveys have found that most of its riders don’t plan to return until and unless an effective COVID vaccine is found.

    Given this, there is no better time to simply shut down the Metro rail system, thus saving taxpayers billions of dollars. Conceived with racist assumptions and faulty financial projections, the system has proved to be a financial and operational disaster. The region would do better rely more on cars and, in some places, buses.

    Advice that won't be taken, but what else is new?


  • And my go-to source for the 21st-century American Progressive mindset, Wired, has some good news: Science Journals Are Purging Racist, Sexist Work. Finally.

    One paper from 2012 linked darker skin to aggression and sexuality in humans. Another from that year claimed to show that women with endometriosis are more attractive. A third, published last December, lamented physicians who posted casual pictures of themselves online—including some in which they’re wearing bikinis—as being unprofessional.

    All three of these articles have recently been retracted after outraged readers took to social media. In the past three months, at least four other articles, too, have been called out for both their content and their lack of scientific rigor, and then either flagged or withdrawn by their science publishers.

    I'm sure there are a lot of crap papers published. But it's clear that what Wired sees as a promising trend is the effort to de-publish anything that might run afoul of current dogma on issues of race, culture, and sex. The crap papers that reinforce that religion will be unaffected.