Kathryn vs. the "Eugenicists"

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I've recently finished reading a new book by Kathryn Paige Harden, The Genetic Lottery. I was not impressed. But I was a bit outraged by her unfair (and, I suspect, dishonest) portrayal of Charles Murray, specifically his writings on her field of genetics. You can read my general report on the book here. This post concentrates on her treatment of Murray.

Consumer note: I'm a long-time Murray fan. I have eight of his books on my shelves, two on my Kindle. If you want to dismiss me for that reason, stop reading now. But you might also consider that I may know a little more about Murray's thoughts and opinions than average.

I'm almost certain I know more about them than does Kathryn Paige Harden.

Her book describes the importance of one's genes to the development of (for example) one's cognitive skills. Which, in turn, influences educational attainment and eventual economic success. Fine. But Harden is a (self-described) "full-throated egalitarian" and she feels it necessary to distinguish her views from those she describes as "eugenicists". (Generally speaking, those who claim that genes determine the general superiority/inferiority of individuals, groups, and often races.) And she puts Murray in those crosshairs at a number of points. Her contempt is palpable. For example, she pigeonholes him (p. 134) as a "conservative provocateur". (In contrast, Ibram X. Kendi is described simply, and more respectably (p.209) as a "historian".)

Murray, of course, co-authored The Bell Curve back in 1994 with Richard Herrnstein, a Harvard psychology professor. And Harden is pretty desperate to distinguish her views from those in The Bell Curve. But how? Ah, she finds her smoking eugenicist gun on page 533:

The Bell Curve, with its fleeting reference to Rawlsian ideas, pointed faintly at a new way of talking about genetics and social equality. But after their tantalizing half-page dalliance with egalitarianism, Herrnstein and Murray retreat to a profound inegalitarianism, complaining that "it has become objectionable to say that some people are superior to other people… We are comfortable with the idea that some things are better than others–not just according to our subjective point of view but according to enduring standards of merit and inferiority (emphasis added). After 500 pages, it's clear what sort of things—and what type of people—they consider better. According to them, to score higher on IQ tests is to be superior; to be White is to be superior; to be higher class is to be superior. Indeed, they describe economic productivity ("putting more into the world than [one] take[s] out") as "basic to human dignity."

I encourage any reader to pick up a copy of The Bell Curve, turn to the chapter in question (titled: "A Place for Everyone") and judge for yourself how fair this description is. (One danger signal: that ellipsis Harden inserts skips over multiple paragraphs.)

The first part of the quote is pretty clearly discussing the moral and cultural relativism imposed by "egalitarian tyrannies", not genetics as Harden implies. Here's a more complete snippet:

The same [tyrannical] atmosphere prevails on a smaller scale wherever "equality" comes to serve as the basis for a diffuse moral outlook Consider the many small tyrannies in America's contemporary universities, where it has become objectionable to say that some people are superior to other people in any way that is relevant to life in society. Nor is this outlook confined to judgments about people. In art, literature, ethics, and cultural norms, differences are not to be judged. Such relativism has become the moral high ground for many modern commentators on life and culture.

The second part of the quote (p. 534) continues the discussion of how relativism blurs judgment. Again restoring some of the context Harden has ignored:

Our views on all these issues are decidedly traditional. We think that rights are embedded in our freedom to act, not in the obligations we may impose on others to act; that equality of rights is crucial while equality of outcome is not; that concepts such as virtue, excellence, beauty, and truth should be reintroduced into moral discourse. We are comfortable with the idea that some things are better than others—not just according to our subjective point of view but according to enduring standards of merit and inferiority—and at the same time reject the thought that we (or anyone else) should have the right to impose those standards. We are enthusiastic about diversity—the rich, unending diversity that free human beings generate as a matter of course, not the imposed diversity of group quotas.

And that "economic productivity" bit that Harden finds troublesome is all the way back on page 520, where Herrnstein and Murray voice there concern about future trends for the less cognitively gifted:

In economic terms and barring a profound change in direction for our society, many people will be able to perform that function so basic to human dignity: putting more into the world than they take out.

Harden ignores this valid concern in order to shore up her "see, they're eugenicists" claims. (Does she agree? Disagree? Doesn't matter when you're slandering people!)

These are just a few paragraphs, but it's amazing how clumsily Harden employs a rhetorical funhouse mirror to turn it into some kind of eugenic rant.

Futhermore, it's clear that Harden is flummoxed by what she calls the "fleeting reference to Rawlsian ideas" in The Bell Curve. But instead of worrying that she didn't understand the point Herrnstein and Murray were making, she seems to conclude ah, they didn't really mean it.

On page 89, Harden claims Herrnstein and Murray "blithely presented their hypothesis that at least part of the reason that Black and Hispanic people in America had lower average IQ test scores than White people was because of the genetic differences between them. Their actual position:

If the reader is now convinced that either the genetic or environmental explanation has won out to the exclusion of the other, we have not done a sufficiently good job of presenting one side or the other. It seems highly likely to us that both genes and environment have something to do with racial differences. What might the mix be? We are resolutely agnostic on that issue; as far as we can determine, the evidence does not yet justify an estimate.

But that agnosticism is apparently not good enough. (Harden herself shies away from the issue with a complex argument.)

Murray has been even more explicit about his views. His current pinned tweet thread:

(I should add that painting Murray as some sort of white supremacist because of his concentration on cognitive skills and IQ testing is kind of weird. Because he rather consistently points to Asians as having even higher IQ averages than whites. It's a funny kind of "white supremacy" that cedes an even higher status to Asians.)

In summary: Harden's treatment of Murray makes him a cartoonish villain to be lumped in with famous (actual) eugenicists of history, e.g. Madison Grant. She either knows better, or she doesn't; either way, it's a despicable slander.

And it's a shame, really. She fails to recognize that Murray (and folks on Team Murray, like me) really do share at least some of her purported goals: for decent people to live valuable, respectable, productive, happy lives no matter what their genes say about them. There could be an honest discussion, and perhaps some shared policy positions. Unfortunately, it appears we'll have to do that with someone more fair and open-minded than Harden.

URLs du Jour


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  • Emerson College Kinda Sus. Techdirt (in its "highly-educated-but-apparently-low-on-common-sense" department) notes the latest imbroglio on Boylston Street: Massachusetts College Decides Criticizing The Chinese Government Is Hate Speech, Suspends Conservative Student Group. The writer quotes and notes Emerson's official fealty to freedom of expression. Which got memory-holed pretty quickly:

    Truly inspiring. And Emerson College truly respects this right. Except when it doesn't.

    Emerson College suspended a campus chapter of conservative student group Turning Point USA on Oct. 1 after members passed out stickers critical of China’s government.

    The "conservative group" was Turning Point USA, one created and led by unfortunate human being Charlie Kirk and supported by people who think Charlie Kirk actually has anything useful to offer anyone.

    Here's the sticker:

    [Emerson Kinda Sus]

    Techdirt further comments:

    Notably it does not say "Chinese people are sus" or "Orientals are sus" or anything else that suggests this sticker refers to anything but the country and, by extension, its government.

    Is China kinda sus? You be the judge. It refuses to recognize Taiwan as a country, has turned Hong Kong's government into an extension of its own following months of pro-democracy protests, subjects its citizens to intrusive, omnipresent surveillance, censors its citizens and companies providing internet services, and is engaged in the ongoing persecution of certain minorities. That's all pretty "sus."

    Yet, the college chose to believe this was actually an offensive thing to say and bypassed its own stated support for protecting First Amendment rights to limit TPUSA's activities on campus.

    Needless to say, cowardly college administrators are prone to completely forget their institution's high-minded devotion to free expression when irate students demand action. Their first impulse: How can I make these people shut up and go away? I've got a lunch reservation at the Capital Grille at noon!

    [Blognote: grep counts 24 occurrences of the word "imbroglio" at Pun Salad over the years. Above makes 25; I think I'm in love with that word.]

  • But hype works. John Tierney weighs in at City Journal on the latest Pixel Panic: Anti-Instagram Case Built on Hype, Not Science.

    Contrary to what you’ve heard from the press and Congress, the internal documents leaked by former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen do not prove that that the company’s Instagram platform is psychologically scarring teenagers. But the current furor does clearly demonstrate another psychological phenomenon: the Fredric Wertham effect, named for a New York psychiatrist who, like Haugen, starred at a nationally televised Senate hearing about a toxic new media menace to America’s youth.

    Wertham testified in 1954 about his book, Seduction of the Innocent, which he described as the result of “painstaking, laborious clinical study.” After reciting his scientific credentials, Wertham declared: “It is my opinion, without any reasonable doubt and without any reservation, that comic books are an important contributing factor in many cases of juvenile delinquency.”

    The hearing made the front page of the New York Times, one of many publications (including The New Yorker) to give Wertham’s book a glowing review. Others featured his warnings under headlines like “Depravity for Children” and “Horror in the Nursery.” During the great comic book scare, as the historian David Hajdu calls it, churches and the American Legion organized events across the country where schoolchildren tossed comics into bonfires. Wertham’s recommendation “to legislate these books off the newsstands and out of the candy stores” inspired dozens of state and municipal laws banning or regulating comic books, and many people in the industry lost their jobs.

    Unfortunately, as Tierney notes, even the sainted Wall Street Journal got sucked in.

  • If it weren't for double standards… the media would have no standards at all. Summary: Steven Hayward has a longer memory than (apparently) WaPo fact-checker Glenn Kessler. Media Vapors Over “Let’s Go Brandon”

    The Washington Post‘s “fact checker” (use your best Austin Powers scare quotes pronunciation here) Glenn Kessler has his knickers in a wad today about the “increasingly vulgar taunts” being delivered at Resident Biden:

    [WaPo headline: "Biden’s critics hurl increasingly vulgar taunts"]

    During the 2020 presidential campaign, one of Biden’s political superpowers was his sheer inoffensiveness, the way he often managed to embody — even to those who didn’t like him — the innocuous grandfather, the bumbling uncle, the leader who could make America calm, steady, even boring again after four years of Donald Trump.

    Hayward pulls out a number of equally vulgar examples aimed at President Bone Spurs, I'm pretty sure none of which were noted, let alone bemoaned, by Mr. Kessler.

  • But there's still room for improvement. David Harsanyi looks at the facts and concludes: America Is the Most Tolerant Place on Earth.

    By any genuine measurement, America is the most tolerant place on earth. This is an easy fact to forget for those who experience it. And these days, it’s also an unfashionable thing to say. But the level of peaceful cooperation between people of truly diverse backgrounds, faiths, and creeds — or anything even approaching it — is wholly unprecedented in human history.

    Though the European Union was conceived to maintain peace on the Continent and compete with the United States, it has never come close to replicating the comity of American life. No single country in Europe has come close to replicating it. Certainly not in the past, and definitely not today. Despite perceptions, minorities in Europe are worse off. Anti-Semitism is reaching dangerous levels — again. European policies have made it nearly impossible for immigrants to assimilate successfully. In nearly every Western European nation, as well as many Eastern and Central European ones, these problems have sparked ugly nativist reactions.

    None of this is to contend that prejudice doesn’t exist in America. Such a claim would be preposterous. Still, many Americans live under the false notion that the United States is — by its nature, its founding, its destiny — an inherently racist and xenophobic enterprise. And so do many Europeans.

    I think he's right.

URLs du Jour


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  • A conspiracy theory that's not just for dingbats any more. The NR editors weigh in on The Wuhan Lab Cover-Up.

    We still don’t know if a lab accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology caused the COVID-19 global pandemic. But now we do know for certain that there was a cover-up — and that private organizations and the U.S. government either hid information or misled the public regarding several key details about the kinds of research that the U.S. taxpayers were indirectly funding at the Wuhan labs.

    Lawrence Tabak, the principal deputy director of the National Institutes of Health and the deputy ethics counselor of the agency, wrote to Congress this week informing it that NIH had indeed funded “gain of function” research on coronaviruses found in bats, through grants to the private research group EcoHealth Alliance. Gain-of-function research takes existing viruses and makes them either more virulent or dangerous, more contagious, or both, toward the end of learning how to fight them. Quite a few virologists question whether the reward is worth the risk of deliberately engineering viruses that are more hazardous to human beings and could accidentally escape the laboratory and set off a pandemic.

    It's a cliché to say "the cover-up is worse than the crime", but that won't stop me. It beggars belief that this has been simply overlooked for the past year and a half. I suspect the only reason NIH admits it now is that it was about to come out from some other source, and NIH is trying desperately to control the narrative about it.

    As previously discussed, this means that Fauci's statements under oath to Senator Rand Paul were (um) "not quite accurate".

    For the record, I thought Fauci was a slithering creature of the healthocracy back in March 2020 when the Hill reported his comments on the (death-causing) delay of testing kits:

    "It was a complicated series of multiple things that conflated that just, you know, went the wrong way. One of them was a technical glitch that slowed things down in the beginning. Nobody’s fault. There wasn’t any bad guys there. It just happened," Fauci said.

    His gut instincts are to protect the bureaucracy at the cost of public health. He won't let anything get in the way of the narrative: (1) the State's job is to protect us all, and (2) it's "nobody's fault" when it fails to do that.

  • Feeling cheerful? I'll fix that. Reason's Eric Boehm "celebrates" 40 Years of Trillion-Dollar Debt.

    On October 22, 1981—exactly 40 years ago today—America's national debt hit $1 trillion for the first time.

    "If we, as a nation, need a warning," President Ronald Reagan said in a televised address a few weeks before the country surpassed the 13-figure debt threshold, "let that be it."

    Today, the national debt exceeds $28 trillion. In the fiscal year that concluded at the end of last month, the country added another $2.77 trillion to the pile, the Treasury Department announced just this morning. The Congressional Budget Office anticipates that the country will add at least another $1 trillion to the deficit for just about every year in the foreseeable future—and that's even without any new spending.

    To my fellow baby boomers: when you see kids under 20 out and about, make sure to be nice to them. After we're gone, they will need any reason at all to remember us kindly.

  • Decent Docents Despicably Defenestrated. In case you haven't heard, the Art Institute of Chicago unceremoniosly dumped 82 of its volunteer docents for the crime of insufficient diversity. You can read about that at Jerry Coyne's blog, who covers it from a media-critic perspective: At long last, the NYT covers the Art Institute of Chicago’s DocentGate. It's unconscionable, of course, but I really enjoyed the NYT headline:

    Art Institute of Chicago Ends a Docent Program, and Sets Off a Backlash

    Ah, a new angle on the venerable "Republicans Pounce" approach. The real story is that mean and nasty backlash.

  • Also dangerous nonsense. Jonah Goldberg looks at the Serious Nonsense emitted from one Phoebe Cohen, a paleontologist and an associate professor in geosciences at Williams College. Phoebe's remark was in defense of MIT's disinvitation of geophysicist Dorian Abbot on the grounds of his opposition to "diversity, equity, and inclusion" efforts in higher ed.

    She said:

    This idea of intellectual debate and rigor as the pinnacle of intellectualism comes from a world in which white men dominated.


    Whoa. That sounds like a serious thing a serious person would say about a serious topic. And while it is a serious problem that people like Cohen believe this is an intellectually serious thing to believe, it’s sillier than a remake of War and Peace with an all-basset-hound cast. I’d call it nonsense on stilts, but Jeremy Bentham used that phrase about a very serious argument he disagreed with. This is nonsense on shrooms.

    Where to begin?  

    First, I think it’s worth noting there was a time when a lot of racist white men agreed with her to one extent or another. There was a time when elite universities—like the ones Cohen attended—believed that intellectual debate and rigor were the pinnacle of intellectualism, and that such intellectualism was reserved as the sole provenance of white, Christian (mostly Protestant) men. That’s why Harvard went so long without black, female, or Jewish students. The argument against admitting blacks and women was that they couldn’t hack it. The argument against Jews was that they were too good at it (and that the Protestant students didn’t like them).

    More at the link, recommended of course.

    You know, the "Reductio ad Hitlerum" fallacy has its own Wikipedia page. Maybe it's time for a fancy Latin term for the sort of argument Phoebe resorts to. Reductio ad Homme Blanc, I think.

  • It's a trap! At the Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf takes A Worrisome Peek Inside Yale Law’s Diversity Bureaucracy.

    Have you ever wondered what deans of diversity do behind closed doors? Until last week, the public had little visibility into their methods. Then covertly recorded audio emerged of Yaseen Eldik, Yale Law School’s director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and Ellen Cosgrove, an associate dean, pressuring a student to issue a written apology for emailing out a party invitation that offended some of his classmates.

    The Yale Law student in question, Trent Colbert, belongs to two student groups, the Native American Law Students Association, or NALSA, and the conservative Federalist Society. He emailed members of the former group that “we will be christening our very own (soon to be) world-renowned NALSA Trap House … by throwing a Constitution Day Bash in collaboration with FedSoc,” adding that refreshments would include “Popeye’s chicken, basic-bitch-American-themed snacks (like apple pie, etc.),” and various beverages. That is what offended some of Colbert’s peers, including the president of the Black Law Students Association, who reportedly likened Colbert’s references to “Trap House” and Popeyes to blackface.

    Things got very Kafkaesque very quickly.

  • I'm sorry, what? David Boaz is bemused by the spin New York Times reporter Shira Ovide puts on the latest news from Your Federal Government: Hearing Aids, the FDA, and Henry David Thoreau. Ovide writes of the potential of over-the-counter hearing aids, brought to you by "government and tech companies at their best" thanks to the "opportunity that the government created".

    What opportunity?

    1. The government has banned OTC hearing aids for 40 years.
    2. Congress authorized OTC hearing aids in 2017.
    3. Biden asked the FDA to authorize OTC hearing aids back in July.
    4. And now the FDA has issued a "proposed rule".
    5. Which means they might get around to issuing an actual rule… someday.

    David summarizes:

    So for more than 40 years, a period of tremendous medical and technological progress, Americans have only been able to get hearing aids from licensed providers, almost certainly raising the price. Indeed some experts say that hearing aids might become available for only a few hundred dollars. And after more than 40 years, Congress authorized over‐​the‐​counter hearing aids. Four years later President Biden told the FDA to get on it. And now the FDA is starting the process.

    So the “best efforts of government” that Ms. Ovide applauds are to stop blocking Americans from buying hearing aids. And once the government allows this “new market opportunity” to exist, we can hope for “new inventions from companies like Bose, Best Buy and Apple.” The way government and tech companies are going to work together is that the government is going to stop preventing the emergence of a broad market that tech companies may rush to serve.

    I am reminded of Thoreau’s comment in his essay “Civil Disobedience”: “This government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way.”

    Me too. Although not being able to hear can be a blessing when a politician is talking.

URLs du Jour


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I said yesterday that the University Near Here "doesn't require [Covid] vaccinations". That was based on their FAQ, last updated back in August. President James "Don't Call Me Jimmy" Dean issued an October 15 memo notifying employees (faculty and staff) that, due to new "Biden Administration" rules probably there will be a requirement. Details to follow (someday).

This American Council on Education article indicates this will apply to student employees and "are likely to apply to many students who are not employees."

  • Fetch … the comfy chair! As if we didn't have other stuff to worry about, Jason Hart finds another disaster coming over the horizon: Everyone expects the New Right Inquisition. I've said nice things about Christopher F. Rufo in the past, but apparently he's taking the "Cardinal Biggles" role in the new version of the sketch. And this guy seems to be Cardinal Ximinez:

    On Wednesday, Sohrab Ahmari – a “conservative” ally Rufo mentioned the day before – wrote a blog post for the Claremont Institute that was aptly summarized by its title, “Save America– Reject Libertarianism.”

    Ahmari fumed:

    My generation of right-wingers has a clear task, and it is to follow Klingenstein’s call to sideline right-liberalism and libertarianism—more than that, to bury their sclerotic institutions, abandon their illusions, and expose the ugly material realities churning behind their tired watchwords and slogans.

    Daydreaming about theocracy is a common theme for Ahmari, and affiliation with Claremont is a common thread in the New Right’s agitation for bigger government to own the libs. Rufo, for example, is a former Claremont fellow.

    I'll continue to link to Rufo when he's making sense. I'll just be extra careful to make sure he's not gonna poke me with the soft cushions.

    (You do recognize all these Monty Python references, don't you? If you don't, youngster, go Google appropriately. I'll wait here.)

  • Oh, good, you're back. Veronique expands on this topic with some sage advice: You Can’t Fight Campus Illiberalism With More Illiberalism.

    As my eldest daughter just started college, I've found myself worrying that academic freedom and viewpoint diversity are now in jeopardy. The deterioration of the culture of free speech is documented by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt in their 2015 book, The Coddling of the American Mind. They explain how students, who not too long ago had to be protected from speech codes on campus, are now asking administrators to protect them from speech they don't want to hear. They believe that words that don't conform to their constantly shifting standards are a form of violence. As a result, incidents on college campuses have multiplied, leaving many students and faculty terrified of saying the wrong thing.

    Sadly, some conservatives are fighting this left-wing illiberalism with their own illiberalism. Some even argue that liberal democracy's time has passed. They embrace nationalists like former President Donald Trump and Hungarian strongman Prime Minister Viktor Orban as role models in the hope of rescuing America from what they see as the degenerate culture of the left. In response to abusive mask mandates, they impose anti-mask mandates extending to the private sector, and they fight the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 schools with problematic and illiberal bans of their own.

    No matter who wins this illiberal arm wrestling, our liberal culture will be lost. Unfortunately, this illiberalism also limits the production of knowledge in academia and in public policy. The sum of it all means that my daughters, with all of us, will be worse off.

    I'm just a spectator these days, and I try to keep a safe distance from the fray.

  • Speaking of illiberalism… Bari Weiss hosts Leighton Woodhouse at her substack, and he is looking at The Reality of 'Anti-Racism' Across America.

    The dogma of “anti-racism” began with an incontrovertible reality: For centuries, black Americans have been the victims of structural and often violent discrimination — slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, and attitudes and norms that, to this day, exacerbate poverty and racial disparity. Where anti-racism made its radical departure was in its view about how to fix this knotty problem. 

    The proposed solution was no longer what Martin Luther King and Thurgood Marshall taught: that all human beings are created equal and therefore any kind of discrimination is evil. Instead, it was, explicitly, to embrace discrimination, but this time as a tool of “equity.” In practice, this meant racial discrimination against white and Asian people.

    This vision of anti-racism, as imagined by Ibram X. Kendi and others, is no longer confined to universities and academic journals. It has long since escaped the confines of the quad and has seeped into so many corners of American life. And rather than eradicating racism, it has re-racialized the people and the places it has touched.

    Woodhouse details a number of current examples of "anti-racist" policies, some promulgated by the Biden Administration. If you feel like you've been too cheerful lately, it's a good remedy.

  • Protectionism's umbrella does not cover taxpayers, consumers, or (probably) you, peasant. At Cato, Colin Grabow describes what should be a scandal, but is really just business as usual: DC Metro Overpays for Defective Cars Thanks to Buy American Protectionism.

    Commutes in the Washington, DC area—already among the country’s worst—became even more frustrating this week when the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) announced it was pulling roughly 60 percent of its subway cars from service. Instead of trains running every few minutes during the peak of rush hour, most lines will have service only twice per hour. Suffice to say, lengthy waits inside a subway station (“Metro station” in the local parlance) isn’t time well spent.

    The service slowdown comes after inspections of subway cars following a recent derailment uncovered defects in the wheel and axle assembly. Delays are slated to last the remainder of the week, and some observers fear that ultimately resolving the issue could take years.

    Overlooked in this whole mess, however, is that WMATA didn’t just buy apparently defective railcars but paid artificially inflated prices for them. Thanks to the use of federal funding, their purchase was subject to Buy American laws requiring at least 60 percent (since raised to 70 percent) of the railcar’s components to be U.S.-manufactured and that its final assembly take place domestically. Which is how it came to be that railcars sold by Japanese company Kawasaki were assembled in Lincoln, Nebraska.

    At least Metro didn't kill anyone … this time.

  • The least insurrectional insurrection ever. Glenn Greenwald writes about the ongoing inquisition. He is not impressed. Feeding the Liberal Flock: The Real Reasons for the Congressional 1/6 Committee.

    This congressional committee is designed to be cathartic theater for liberals, and a political drama for the rest of the country. They know Republicans will object to their deliberately unconstitutional inquisitions, and they intend to exploit those objections to darkly insinuate to the country that Republicans are driven by a desire to protect the violent traitors so that they can deploy them as an insurrectionary army for future coups. They have staffed the committee with their most flamboyant and dishonest drama queens, knowing that Adam Schiff will spend most of his days on CNN with Chris Cuomo comparing 1/6 to Pearl Harbor and the Holocaust; Liz Cheney will equate Republicans with Al Qaeda and the Capitol riot to the destruction of the World Trade Center; and Adam Kinzinger will cry on cue as he reminds everyone over and over that he served in the U.S. military only to find himself distraught and traumatized that the real terrorists are not those he was sent to fight overseas but those at home, in his own party.

    But the manipulative political design of this spectacle should not obscure how threatening it nonetheless is to core civil liberties. Democrats in politics and media have whipped themselves into such a manic frenzy ever since 1/6 — indeed, they have been doing little else ever since Trump descended the Trump Tower escalator in 2015 — that they have become the worst kinds of fanatics: the ones who really believe their own lies. Many genuinely believe that they are on the front lines of an epic historical battle against the New Hitler (Trump) and his band of deplorable fascist followers bent on a coup against the democratic order. In their cable-and-Twitter-stimulated imaginations, shortly following this right-wing coup will be the installation of every crypto-fascist bell and whistle from concentration camps for racial and ethnic minorities to death or prison for courageous #Resistance dissidents. At some point, the line between actually believing this and being paid to pretend to believe it, or feeling coerced by cultural and friendship circles to feign belief in it, erodes, fostering actual collective conviction and mania.

    Instead of Donald Trump and his enablers being frog-marched off to Guantanamo, we're getting some pathetic losers being sent to prison for a few months each.

  • A palate cleanser. Paul Graham thinks "intelligence" is overrated: Beyond Smart.

    If you asked people what was special about Einstein, most would say that he was really smart. Even the ones who tried to give you a more sophisticated-sounding answer would probably think this first. Till a few years ago I would have given the same answer myself. But that wasn't what was special about Einstein. What was special about him was that he had important new ideas. Being very smart was a necessary precondition for having those ideas, but the two are not identical.

    It may seem a hair-splitting distinction to point out that intelligence and its consequences are not identical, but it isn't. There's a big gap between them. Anyone who's spent time around universities and research labs knows how big. There are a lot of genuinely smart people who don't achieve very much.

    I grew up thinking that being smart was the thing most to be desired. Perhaps you did too. But I bet it's not what you really want. Imagine you had a choice between being really smart but discovering nothing new, and being less smart but discovering lots of new ideas. Surely you'd take the latter. I would. The choice makes me uncomfortable, but when you see the two options laid out explicitly like that, it's obvious which is better.

    I like to think I'm a little smart, but I'm not really good at all at the "new ideas" thing. But maybe you recognize yourself in Graham's description? Check it out.

URLs du Jour


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Well (as I type) …

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

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

    UNH doesn't require vaccinations. [Update: they are probably going to real soon now.] But testing and masking are still mandatory if you are vaccinated. Healthy young people might wonder why they should bother getting jabbed if nothing changes?

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

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

    As a web site explains,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Also checking on that fact checking… is Patterico.

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

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

    (ACKSHALLY squids are super smart SENATOR)

    You tell 'em, WaPo fact checker!

Last Modified 2021-10-23 11:55 AM EDT

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

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

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

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

    Well, that's garbage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

URLs du Jour


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Wheezy Joe is a proud member of the former:

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

    And as for the other faction…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

URLs du Jour


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

URLs du Jour


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Elizabeth Warren makes sense. Insert stopped clock metaphor here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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