The Phony Campaign

2019-02-24 Update

[Amazon Link]

Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy this week, and the Betfair betting market rewarded him by doubling his win probability. (Tying him with Uncle Joe Biden, who also did well at Betfair this week without, as near as I can tell, doing anything at all.) Also improving enough to hit our 2% inclusion criterion were Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, and Cory Booker.

But with all those people doing better in the prediction market, someone had to do worse. It's like a law or something. So we bid farewell to Hawaii's own Tulsi Gabbard. For now, at least.

Despite losing a third of her phony Google hits over the week (see disclaimer below table), Kamala Harris continues her commanding (nearly 6-fold) phony lead over President Trump.

And I can't help but think Cory Booker is much phonier than his Google hit counts would indicate.

Candidate WinProb Change
Kamala Harris 13.7% -0.4% 14,800,000 -7,300,000
Donald Trump 32.0% unch 2,470,000 -30,000
Beto O'Rourke 5.9% -1.2% 1,030,000 -3,840,000
Nikki Haley 2.3% --- 658,000 ---
Amy Klobuchar 3.6% -0.9% 442,000 -73,000
Michael Bloomberg 3.8% +0.7% 421,000 -203,000
Bernie Sanders 10.2% +5.1% 378,000 -142,000
Joe Biden 10.2% +2.2% 197,000 -7,000
Elizabeth Warren 3.6% -1.7% 186,000 +21,000
Sherrod Brown 2.9% -0.4% 145,000 -31,000
Mike Pence 2.0% --- 139,000 ---
Cory Booker 2.6% --- 76,800 ---

Standard disclaimer: Google result counts are bogus.

  • President Trump has gotten off lightly these past few weeks, but he threatens to make up for it. At Reason, Jacob Sullum Trump’s Phony Yet Legal Border Emergency.

    Members of Congress who are dismayed by Donald Trump's invocation of emergency powers to build his border wall are like the dog owner who leaves the gate open and is then surprised to find his Labradoodle bounding around the neighborhood. He might have hoped the dog would stay in the yard without external restraint, but it was not a reasonable expectation.

    A lawsuit filed by California and 15 other states on Monday argues that there is "no objective basis for President Trump's Emergency Declaration" and that "by the President's own admission, an emergency declaration is not necessary." Even while declaring a border-related national emergency on Friday, the complaint notes, Trump conceded that "I didn't need to do this," since "I could do the wall over a longer period of time." But he added that "I'd rather do it much faster."

    Although an emergency that is not urgent may seem like a contradiction in terms, that does not mean it is illegal. Under the National Emergencies Act, a 1976 law that was supposed to constrain the president's exercise of extraordinary powers, an emergency is whatever the president says it is. It need not be sudden, pressing, harmful, or of limited duration.

    I'd hope that, like the line-item veto, the Supremes will rule that Congress's ceding this non-emergency emergency power to the President was an unconstutional surrender of its responsibility. That will undo a lot of other mischief as well.

    And voters: if you want a stupid wall, vote for representatives that will fund it.

  • Also at Reason, Peter Suderman gives us reason to speculate that there's (at least) one candidate who's not as smart as you'd expect an ex-Harvard faculty member to be: Elizabeth Warren's Fake Wonkery.

    Warren's penchant for wonkery […] has been vastly overstated. Although she is probably more familiar with the mechanics of economic policy that many of her 2020 rivals, she is also prone to relying on dubious, and arguably dishonest, methodology in order to support the progressive policies she favors.

    Just yesterday, for example, Warren released a proposal calling for a vast new program to federally fund child care. The program would make childcare free for families earning up to about $50,000 a year and would subsidize care for families earning more. The program would be expensive; Warren puts the cost at about $700 billion over the course of a decade. She says would pay for the program using revenues from her wealth tax, pointing to estimates from UC Berkeley economists that the tax would raise $2.75 trillion over the same time—more than enough to offset the cost of the program.

    Problem (fleshed out by Suderman): her cost estimate relies on dynamic analysis, assuming that child care subsidies would allow more parents into the workforce, boosting the economy.

    But her revenue estimate ("we'll pay for it with a wealth tax") is based on static analysis, assuming no behavioral changes whatsoever in the taxpayers she is proposing to fleece.

    Incompetent, or dishonest? I slightly favor the latter.

  • Ah, but what about good old Bernie? At National Review, Mr. Geraghty points out: Bernie Sanders 2020 Run Is Proof that You Can't Teach an Old Dog New Tricks.

    Bernie Sanders is pretty much the exact same guy that he was four decades ago, running on the same platform. He’s making the same arguments for the same ideas about how America needs a socialist revolution that puts an end to millionaires and billionaires and private hospitals and moves social services from charities to government institutions. He’s always been friendly to leftist critics of America overseas and radicals eager to tear down the existing order and has been at best skeptical of U.S. military actions abroad (except during the Clinton administration) and U.S. intelligence agencies. Becoming a millionaire didn’t prompt him to revise his relentless demonization of millionaires as greedy. The collapse of the Soviet Union, several American economic booms, innovative technological revolutions, the fracking and energy boom, the alleviation of poverty around the world through global trade over the past two generations — none of them prompted him to change much of what he thinks about economics, politics, international relations, or society.

    No government management scandal of the past four decades — vets dying while waiting for care at the Department of Veterans Affairs, vast sums on nonfunctional web sites, lavish conferences at the General Services Administration, IRS abuses, Fast and Furious, substandard conditions for wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, endless allegations of cronyism, favoritism, and incompetence — has shaken Sanders’s faith that the federal government is equipped and ready to handle huge new programs that would exercise much more control over the daily lives of Americans.

    No country’s experience with socialism, or countries that call themselves socialist, has prompted him to rethink whether the concepts work as well as the advocates insist.

    How stupid can Democrat voters be? If we start saying "President Sanders" on January 20, 2021, we'll have a concrete answer: stupider than ever.

  • Even though Tulsi Gabbard has vanished from our table, we must link to Mr. Geraghty (again) for Twenty Things You Probably Didn’t Know about the senator. It's all interesting, and, phony-wise, we should note her, um, "evolving" positions on gay rights and abortion. But here's something different:

    Fifteen: In 2015, the second-term congresswoman was declared “young, hip and beautiful” by . . . er, National Review. American Enterprise Institute president Arthur Brooks told NR’s correspondents, “I like her thinking a lot,” and that year Gabbard attended AEI’s private annual retreat at Sea Island, Georgia.

    Many conservatives swooned when she criticized President Obama’s reluctance to label groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda “Islamist” during an interview with Fox News’s Neil Cavuto: “You’re not identifying the fact that they are not fueled by a materialistic motivation, it’s actually a theological — this radical Islamic ideology that is allowing them to continue to recruit, that is allowing them to continue to grow in strength and that’s really fueling these horrific terrorist activities around the world.”

    I think Trump would have a difficult time running against her. But I also don't see her credible path to the nomination.

  • But let's give a nod to our phony leader, who was in-state this week. Michael Graham of Inside Sources notes that she's not above scaremongering above and beyond what science demands: Harris to NH: "In a Relatively Short Time, Portsmouth Will Be Underwater".

    During a speech at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics on Tuesday, California Senator–and Green New Deal supporter– Kamala Harris had a dire warning for the Granite State: The city of Portsmouth will soon be underwater due to climate change.

    “I was in Portsmouth yesterday. If you look at the rates and the tables in terms of the decline, because we are talking about decline, within a relatively short period of time, it will be underwater. This is a real issue,” Harris said.

    Quoted in rebuttal: Judith Curry, Bjorn Lomborg, Fred Singer. None of whom matter, because this is the sort of thing that "fact checkers" never check.


Why We Hate Each Other--and How to Heal

[Amazon Link]

Ben Sasse is (you probably know) a US Senator from Nebraska. I speculate that, against his 99 colleagues, he is the brightest, funniest, best-read, and most insightful. I'm not sure who even comes close.

This book is his diagnosis of the social illnesses in the early 21st-century US. The litany is well-known, pretty much, but the book's subtitle ("Why We Hate Each Other") is an incomplete summary. At the root of things, Sasse claims, is loneliness: the increasing fraction of people who lack deep, thick roots into their communities. Various symptoms: people living alone, or far away from their extended families. Declining chuch attendance. Declining importance of civic organizations. Increasing urbanization. Lack of dependable long-term employment. And on, and on.

So nasty spats between political tribes are at best a secondary symptom of our underlying institutional decay. When the non-governmental institutions dry up, the only thing left is, for better or worse (and it's usually for worse) is politics. Choose a tribe, and go to no-holds-barred war with the infidels.

[Amazon Link]

A possibly-unfair observation: one of the more important books of the last few decades was The Future and Its Enemies by Virginia Postrel. At a number of spots, Sasse sounds like … one of the enemies.

Sasse has a number of recommendations, but they're aimed at the reader: wherever you live, join with good people doing good works. Take time for your family. Limit your tech time. (I think he recommends unfollowing your politics-obsessed social media buddies! That's something, hm, I could see doing myself.

Hey, he could be right, and the trends our country are mindlessly riding might take us right into the ditch. I would bet on us muddling through, as usual. Mainly because I remember the 1960s vividly—literally before Sasse was born—and the social fabric was in much worse shape then.

Sasse's prose is super-accessible; anyone at a middle-school level or above would have no problem whizzing through the book. I sometimes call this USA Today-ese: "We're eating more kale then ever before." That's not a slam, Sasse wants to appeal to the broadest audience.

So I had some problems with the book, but I recommend it to anyone concerned about the long term future of our culture. And I wish that somehow, magically, we could install a bunch of Sasse clones in our Federal, State, and local legislative bodies.