The Phony Campaign

2019-06-30 Update

[Amazon Link]

So last week I wondered whether the two-night Democrat "debate" would shake things up in the prediction markets. Boy, did it ever.

The first thing you'll notice is that Beto! is (finally) gone, having dropped below our 2% WinProb threshold.

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
6/23
Phony
Results
Change
Since
6/23
Donald Trump 45.7% +0.5% 2,200,000 +80,000
Bernie Sanders 4.9% -1.8% 1,400,000 -10,000
Joe Biden 8.0% -6.7% 1,310,000 +310,000
Pete Buttigieg 5.5% -0.9% 886,000 -334,000
Elizabeth Warren 8.3% +1.0% 181,000 -25,000
Kamala Harris 11.5% +5.2% 106,000 +12,000
Andrew Yang 3.1% -0.1% 28,000 +7,100

"WinProb" calculation described here. Google result counts are bogus.

Wheezy Joe was clearly the big loser over the week, the Betfair gamblers dropping his odds from "obvious front-runner" to "still a credible candidate". Senator Kamala impressed a lot of easily-impressed people, and suddenly she's the front-runner.

Go figure. In phoniness, however, President Trump remains supreme, with Bernie nipping at his heels.

  • Dave Barry provided his debate analysis, and you really should read the whole thing, but here's his take on a candidate to whom we don't really pay enough attention.

    Does any Democratic candidate really “stand out” from the crowd? I would say yes, one does: Andrew Yang. I am not making Andrew Yang up: He’s an actual candidate, appearing in the Thursday night debate group, and to my knowledge he is the only candidate who is tackling what I think we can all agree is the single greatest menace to America today: robo-callers. According to Yang’s website, as president he would set up a special number where you could report unwanted robo-calls; if a robo-call company generated enough complaints, the federal government would “issue significant fines.”

    I think that’s a great policy. My only suggestion would be to change the words “issue significant fines” to “drop the robo-call people from helicopters.” But my point is, Andrew Yang is somebody you might want to take a hard look at.

    Andrew also (when he managed to get a word in edgewise) claimed to be the candidate who is "drawing thousands of disaffected Trump voters, conservatives, independents, libertarians, as well as Democrats and progressives." OK, my ears pricked up a bit at "libertarians". Then flopped back down again when I remembered his willingness to have the government regulate political speech.


  • The p-word showed up in the debates, most notably as reported at The Week: Bernie Sanders' plan for beating Trump? 'We expose him for the fraud that he is'.

    Perhaps no one landed a sharper blow [at Trump] in the early moments of the debate than Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who was asked for his response to critics who might claim that nominating a democratic-socialist would result in re-electing Trump.

    "The American people understand that Trump is a phony, that Trump is a pathological liar and a racist, and that he lied to the American people during his campaign," Sanders said. "He said he was going to stand up for working families. Well, President Trump, you're not standing up for working families when you try to throw 32 million people off the healthcare that they have and that 83 percent of your tax benefits go to the top 1 percent."

    To roaring applause, Sanders concluded: "That's how we beat Trump. We expose him for the fraud that he is."

    Lordy! Note at least some of the "roaring applause" was coming from not-exactly-poor people, as the Miami Herald tracked down the pricing:

    For $4,500, a sponsor gets two tickets to a pre-debate reception on June 26 and two tickets to both debate nights. For $3,000, a sponsor will get the two tickets to the reception and two tickets for one of the debate nights, though it is unclear if the person gets to pick which night. A $1,750 donation to the party covers one ticket to the reception and one ticket for a single debate night.


  • Michael Ramirez commented on Bernie Sanders and endless free stuff.

    [Bernie Panders]


  • At Vox, Matthew Yglesias had an amusing take on the first night of the debates: Elizabeth Warren won on June 26. Fine, but why? It was her "artful dodge" of a straightforward question:

    Moderator Chuck Todd launched the second half of the debate with an effort to bait Warren into taking an unpopular position on guns, trying to get her to say it would be a good idea for the government to confiscate firearms that Americans already own.

    Warren didn’t deny Todd’s (obviously correct) premise that in some sense, the existing stock of dangerous weapons is at least as big a problem as any future flow of new sales. But she also didn’t bite. She reiterated Democrats’ poll-tested question that we need to “do the things that are sensible and do the universal background checks and ban the weapons of war.”

    Then she said “we can double down on the research and find out what really works,” which isn’t really something I’m used to hearing in the gun debate but sounds like the kind of thing a smart professor would say. We need to find out “where it is that we can make the differences at the margins that will keep our children safe. We need to treat this like the virus that’s killing our children.” That sounded tough on guns. She wants to treat them like a virus!

    But Todd saw she was trying to dodge him. He wanted to make news by getting her to issue a call for the government to take away Americans’ guns. He pressed again, “Do you think the federal government needs to figure out a way to get the guns out there?”

    Warren ducked and weaved, reiterating her call for research and conveying how seriously she takes the issue both intellectually and morally but without falling into Todd’s trap:

    What I think we need to do is treat it like a serious research problem, which we have have not done. Guns in the hands of a collector who had them for decades who never fired them and takes safety seriously, that’s very different from guns that are sold and turned over quickly. We can’t treat this as an across-the-board problem. We have to treat it like a public health emergency, and that means bring data to bear and make real change in this country whether it’s politically popular or not. We need to fight for our children.
    In short, she finessed the issue.

    "Finessed" here means what, class?

    Note (of course) that Yglesias approves of dishonest obfuscation and rhetorical fog when it serves the overall goal of getting political power. It's been a long-held position for him.


  • At the Washington Examiner, Jerry Dunleavy notes one of Wheezy Joe's shifting stories: From 'Don't go' to 'Go': Joe Biden has told opposite stories about his advice on Osama bin Laden raid.

    Joe Biden has offered two starkly different and contradictory accounts of his role in the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

    After initially saying that he opposed the operation and told President Barack Obama not to do it, the 2020 Democratic front-runner changed his account to say he hedged in front of other officials but privately told Obama to go ahead.

    Every other account of the decision-making process indicates that the former vice president's first version was true and his later accounts were not. In 2012, he said his advice was, 'Don’t go.' By 2015, he had settled on saying he'd privately told Obama to 'go.'

    I also told Obama to go. It was very private.


  • At Reason, Shikha Dalmia (who is, let it be noted, an open borders advocate) describes Joe Biden’s Immigration Hypocrisy.

    Recently, I predicted that former Vice President Joe Biden would quietly move away from his longstanding flirtation with restrictionist policies and tilt in a pro-immigration direction. The Democratic presidential contenders in general are scrambling to be seen as more friendly towards immigration, and given that Biden has made a career out of swinging with the wind like a "rusty weather vane", as Reason Editor at Large Matt Welch put it, it was only a matter of time before he "creak[ed] in the direction of prevailing winds."

    That time arrived yesterday: Biden penned an op-ed in the Miami Herald positioning himself as a champion of immigrants whose polices will reflect "American values." But look past the highfalutin rhetoric and what you find is rank hypocrisy combined with the lamest reform agenda.

    Yes, another issue on which Biden is walking away from his past record in order to pander to Democratic primary voters.


  • And Kirsten Gillibrand has long been absent from our phony table. Currently, Betfair puts the probability of President Gillibrand at 0.31%. Which is more likely that President Marianne Williamson, but…

    Anyway, we cannot ignore the Power Line analysis of Kirsten Gillibrand’s total lack of authenticity.

    Gillibrand has made a strong run in the phoniness sweepstakes, though. Indeed, she looks to be running away with that prize. This is no mean feat considering that Sens. Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren are in the race.

    Perhaps the starkest example of Gillibrand’s lack of authenticity is her flip on gun control. As a congresswoman from upstate New York, she was pro-gun and a favorite of the NRA. As soon as she become a Senator with a much different constituency, she changed her position.

    How does Gillibrand explain her flip? She says it happened at Nazareth Regional High School in Brooklyn where she went to console Jennifer Pryear, a mother whose deceased daughter was a victim of gun violence.

    In other words: Gillibrand uses a horrible tragedy to attempt to disguise her unprincipled pandering. That's impressive phoniness! Matthew Yglesias would give two thumbs up!

URLs du Jour

2019-06-29

[Amazon Link]

  • Power Line notes an Associated Press Correction: The Segregationists Were Democrats.

    In a story June 27 about the Democratic presidential debate, The Associated Press reported erroneously in some versions that former Vice President Joe Biden worked with Republican segregationist senators. In fact, the senators were Democrats.

    I looked and… yup, page A6 of the June 28 Foster's Daily Democrat, my local newspaper:

    The Democratic Party’s early front-runner, 76-yearold former Vice President Joe Biden, was forced to defend his record on race in the face of tough questions from California Sen. Kamala Harris, the only African American on stage. That was only after he defended his age after jabs from one of two millennial candidates in the prime-time clash.

    “I do not believe you are a racist,” Harris said, though she described Biden’s record of working with Republican segregationist senators on non-race issues as “hurtful.”

    Harris was referring to Biden's specifically mentioning his civil relationships with Senators Talmadge and Eastman, two lifelong Democrats. But the magic of AP reportage transmogrified them into Republicans.

    Unlike Power Line, I don't believe this is intentionally malicious, since it's so easily debunked. But it's a sorry demonstration of the historical ignorance of news reporters/editors and their (apparently) automatic willingness to assign all racial sinfulness to the GOP.

    As near as I can tell, Foster's doesn't I sent a terse, polite note to Foster's requesting a correction. We'll see what happens.


  • And it's tough for me to buy all the crocodile tears over Biden's footsie with his party's racists, while nobody's mentioning Bernie Sanders' 1988 Soviet Union honeymoon. Quoting George Will:

    [Sanders] had chosen, surely as an ideological gesture, to spend his honeymoon in the Soviet Union in 1988. Gulags still functioned, probably including some of the ‘cold Auschwitzes’ in Siberia, described in Conquest’s ‘Kolyma.’ The honeymooner did not mind that in 1988 political prisoners were — as may still be the case — being tortured in psychiatric ‘hospitals.’ … [The] Soviet Union now is such a receding memory that Bernie Sanders’s moral obtuseness — the obverse of Conquest’s character — is considered an amusing eccentricity.

    The link goes to Politifact, so they tend to excuse Bernie's trip. But note that earlier this year, Bernie refused to attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference, presumably because he found them to be more objectionable than the 1988 Soviets.


  • A pretty eye-opening report from Heterodox Academy: Research on the Partisan 'Perception Gap'. Key findings include:

    • Democrats and Republicans significantly overestimate how many people on the ‘other side’ hold extreme views. Typically, their estimates are roughly double the actual numbers for a given issue.  
    • Greater partisanship is associated with holding more exaggerated views of one’s political opponents.
    • The Perception Gap is strongest on both “Wings” (America’s more politically partisan groups).
    • Consumption of most forms of media, including talk radio, newspapers, social media, and local news, is associated with a wider Perception Gap.
    • Education seems to increase, rather than mitigate, the Perception Gap (just as increased education has found to track with increased ideological prejudice). College education results in an especially distorted view of Republicans among liberals in particular.
    • The wider people’s Perception Gap, the more likely they are to attribute negative personal qualities (like ‘hateful’ or ‘brainwashed’) to their political opponents.

    Stop me if I exhibit any of those symptoms, OK?


  • Let me quote my own Tweet.


  • Which brings me to this. And the Daily Wire redeems itself somewhat via this observation from Matt Walsh: The Horrible Line That People Are Stupidly Applauding From Last Night's Debate.

    [… Kamala] Harris had two attention-grabbing moments last night. The second was when she accused former Vice President Joe Biden of racism without accusing him of racism. She launched into her smear by stipulating that "I don't believe you are a racist" and then immediately transitioned into explaining why he is a racist. The first moment was a line she obviously came to the debate hoping to use. Interrupting some squabbling between the other candidates, she declared: "Hey, guys, you know what? America does not want to witness a food fight. They want to know how we're going to put food on their table." Raucous applause followed.

    And comments:

    These people see us, the average citizens, as blind and helpless baby birds, chirping for the government to come and regurgitate into our mouths. And the sad reality is that many Americans are indeed helpless baby birds. The goal of the Democratic Party — and the reason behind all of their desperate promises to give us free health care, free college, debt forgiveness, etc. — is to inculcate that sort of dependence in all people. They want an entire population of blind, scared, and flightless little birds waiting for mommy bird to come with a couple of worms to hold us over. Kamala Harris made that clear last night.

    Couldn't have said it better. So I didn't.


URLs du Jour

2019-06-28

[Amazon Link]

  • I added the Daily Wire to my reading list awhile back, but… this article is an example of why I'm rethinking that: Where Does Joe Biden Stand On The Issues? Here’s Everything You Need To Know.. It's by a guy named Josh Hammer, who seems to be doing this for all the major Democratic presidential candidates.

    Here's the problem:

    In 1988, Biden ran for president, although his campaign proved short-lived after allegations of perjury surfaced.

    Well, of course not. In 1988, Biden's habitual plagiarism was the issue. And "allegations"? No, more like admitted fact.

    It irks me when I read things more carefully than they've been written. I can hear a tiny voice from the Daily Wire: <voice imitation="nelson_muntz">Ha ha! Wasted your time and insulted your intelligence!</voice>

    And this is strike two for the Daily Wire. (Strike one described here.) One more and they're out?


  • I know it's not obvious, unless you notice little hints here and there, but I'm a solid baby boomer. It was fun while it lasted but people (like Lyman Stone at the Atlantic) are beginning to notice: The Boomers Ruined Everything. Sorry!

    That sounds like a hyperbolic claim, but it’s one way to state what I found as I tried to solve a riddle. American society is going through a strange set of shifts: Even as cultural values are in rapid flux, political institutions seem frozen in time. The average U.S. state constitution is more than 100 years old. We are in the third-longest period without a constitutional amendment in American history: The longest such period ended in the Civil War. So what’s to blame for this institutional aging?

    One possibility is simply that Americans got older. The average American was 32 years old in 2000, and 37 in 2018. The retiree share of the population is booming, while birth rates are plummeting. When a society gets older, its politics change. Older voters have different interests than younger voters: Cuts to retiree-focused benefits are scarier, while long-term problems such as excessive student debt, climate change, and low birth rates are more easily ignored.

    But it’s not just aging. In a variety of different areas, the Baby Boom generation created, advanced, or preserved policies that made American institutions less dynamic. In a recent report for the American Enterprise Institute, I looked at issues including housing, work rules, higher education, law enforcement, and public budgeting, and found a consistent pattern: The political ascendancy of the Boomers brought with it tightening control and stricter regulation, making it harder to succeed in America. This lack of dynamism largely hasn’t hurt Boomers, but the mistakes of the past are fast becoming a crisis for younger Americans.

    Cheer up, kids. We'll be dead soon, then you can fix all that stuff.

    You're smart, right?

    Oh, wait, you're not.


  • At City Journal, Myron Magnet has a modest usage proposal: We Should Stop Using “Progressive” As A Synonym For Political-Leftists.

    Political Leftists call themselves “progressives” as a form of self-praise, an assertion that their politics represent a higher consciousness than the prejudices of the mob of unthinking deplorables and will lead mankind to a sunny upland where human nature will transcend its baser impulses, and peace and harmony will reign. Conservatives should not indulge them in this self-deception. We should stop using “progressive” as a synonym for the noun “Lefty” or the adjective “left-wing.”

    Myron has a point, but I'm not sure that left/right terminology originally used to describe the seating patterns in the French National Assembly more than a couple centuries ago is particularly appropriate either. "Statist" works for me.

    When I need to use a broad-brush label, that is. I am trying to get away from that; as I would declined to be labeled, the Golden Rule says I should decline to label others.


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson has something with which nearly everyone will partially agree: policy on Immigration Borders on Madness.

    The United States is not good at incarceration — strange, given that we get so much practice at it. Whether it is roasting homeless veterans to death in Rikers Island or the systematic rape and abuse that characterizes our prison system, Americans are among the world’s most incompetent and dangerous jailers.

    Part of that is the familiar deficiency of American public administration — American prisons are what happen when you create a hermetically sealed society with the DMV lady as dictator-for-life — and part of that is our sick culture: We view rape and abuse as a motivating, and at least wincingly tolerated, part of the penitential mix. We make feature-length comedy films that consist of little more than prison-rape jokes. We think the answer to terrorism is electing the guy who promises to be “very hard on the families.”

    Sooner or later it all comes back to the voters (a goodly fraction of whom are boomers): we elect the people who set the policies.


  • I'll have some notes about the debates over the weekend, but Billy Binion at Reason notes the Candidate Who Would Be Queen was all-too-predictable: Kamala Harris Can’t Stop Promising To Do Things Via Executive Order. Immigration decrees, of course. But also:

    Harris also threatened to use executive action to curb gun use if Congress does not act within the first 100 days of her presidency. An executive order would be put in place to establish a "comprehensive background check policy," she said, and she would also require the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives "to take the licenses of gun dealers who violate the law." Another executive order would ban imports on assault weapons, she said. Such measures have failed to pass Congress for years.

    Harris' rhetoric on Thursday night matches her past statements expressing support for executive action on both guns and immigration.

    Is this something we can somehow blame on the baby boomers? Or is it just the voters generally?


  • Veronique de Rugy speaks Truth to Power, at least to those in power who would argue otherwise: Markets, Not Politicians, Control the Law of Supply and Demand.

    The prices that emerge in [the health care] "market" aren't the result of supply and demand, influenced by innovation and competition. Instead, they're the product of a bunch of legislators who want to create a system where anyone but the consumers pay the costs of health care. To achieve that goal, politicians distort the market process with regulations, restrictions and price controls. At the same time, they placate providers, doctors, hospitals and drugs manufacturers with goodies of their own to help providers swallow this command-and-control pill.

    The most recent example of politicians trying to force others to pay for your health care is a piece of legislation introduced by Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas. His statute would lift the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program (MDRP) cap. Three decades ago, Congress created the rebate in response to the pressure that rising prescription drug prices put on Medicaid. It required drug manufacturers that want any of their drugs covered by other federal programs, like Medicare Part B or the Veterans Affairs health care system, to rebate Medicaid costs to the government based on a complicated formula.

    It would be nice if there were a serious proposal out there to move health care even incrementally toward an actual market, but that doesn't seem to be on any pol's wishlist. It's probably the boomers' fault.

Complexity

A Guided Tour

[Amazon Link]

I can't remember why I put this 2009 book on my get-at-library list. Nevertheless, I did, and I did. And it's pretty good! It's roughly at the smart-STEM-undergrad level. The author, Melanie Mitchell, is a CS professor at Portland State, and an "External Professor" at the Santa Fe Institute, which is "dedicated to the study of complex adaptive systems."

To call the book wide-ranging would be an understatement. Because (to be flippant) pretty much any scientific field can get complex, if you want to go that way. Specifically, real-world systems have "emergent" properties, neither predictable nor (even) explainable by analysis of their simpler constituent parts.

So here's a partial sampling of what shows up: logistic maps; gene expression; insect colonies; statistical thermodynamics; cellular automata; networks; evolution; genetic algorithms; self-reproducing computer programs; analogy-generation (Mitchell's own research contribution). All clearly (and sometimes humorously) described, and she's not above showing you some math.

I had a "Wow" moment when Mitchell described the discovery of the Feigenbaum Constant; its value (4.6692016…) shows up in some pretty conceptually-simple math underpinning chaotic systems and deserves a spot along (say) π or e. Or maybe Euler's constant.

Mitchell also gives space to the critics of complex systems research. Are there really underlying principles governing the general behavior of complexity? Sort of a unified field theory? Mitchell admits that they aren't there yet. Amusingly, she points to a Scientific American article debunking complexity, in which she was quoted, she says unfairly. Given Scientific American's record on other issues, I'm inclined to take her side.

URLs du Jour

2019-06-27

[Amazon Link]

  • The Daily Wire profiles Dan Bolduc, who's thrown his camo cap into the ring: Retired U.S. General Announces U.S. Senate Run As A Republican In This State. With "this state" being New Hampshire. General Dan would like to run against Jeanne Shaheen. From his quoted announcement:

    During my time of service, I have been in three-quarters of the countries in the world, which included 10 tours of duty in Afghanistan. But regardless of which continent I was on, I never forgot my roots in the Granite State, because no matter where I was, when foreign or tribal leaders would ask where I was from, I would tell them that I’m from New Hampshire. Now, these folks couldn’t point out New Hampshire on a map – but they always responded: “Live Free or Die.” …

    I am impressed with the state motto knowledge of "foreign or tribal leaders". If they meet a general from Maryland, do they respond "Fatti maschi, parole femmine"?

    General Bolduc's positions "on the issures" is here. They aren't bad. But frankly, he had my vote with the implicit "I am not Jeanne Shaheen."


  • The WSJ provides a reminder that Your Federal Government is incompetent: Federal Job-Training Programs ‘Largely Ineffective,’ Trump’s Advisers Find.

    “Government job-training programs appear to be largely ineffective and fail to produce sufficient benefits for workers to justify the costs,” said Tomas Philipson, a member of the Council of Economic Advisers, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

    Most federal job-training programs produced insufficient data to be clearly evaluated, and the ones that were studied weren’t producing the desired results, White House advisers said in a paper released Monday, an overview of previously completed evaluations of training programs.

    There were more than 40 federal worker-training programs spread across nine different agencies serving more than 10 million Americans in the 2017 fiscal year, according to the White House.

    From the report: "Aggregate spending on these programs totaled $18.9 billion in 2019 alone." For some reason, that didn't make it into the WSJ article, odd for a newspaper that likes to put dollar signs on things.


  • Jacob Sullum makes an obvious observation at Reason: Democrats Reveal Their Hostility to the Second Amendment.

    The New York Times recently asked 21 Democratic presidential contenders a question about firearms, and none of them advocated gun control. Instead they called for "common-sense gun safety," a euphemism that reflects a general caginess about how far they would go in restricting the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

    "In an ideal world," the Times asked, "would anyone own handguns?" Many of the answers reinforce the impression that the Democratic Party is increasingly hostile to the Second Amendment.

    Although Jacob concentrates on the (dreadful and stupid) answers, I find the question's prelude more interesting. "In an ideal world…"

    It's as if the question was written by someone who'd listened to John Lennon's "Imagine" one too many times. Or maybe 937 too many times.

    "In an ideal world, would we need government?" Ask that question, New York Times.


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson takes on a recent NYT op-ed by one Eli Broad. Wealth Taxes and Income Inequality, and Buffoonery.

    Broad writes: “I’ve come to realize that no amount of philanthropic commitment will compensate for the deep inequities preventing most Americans — the factory workers and farmers, entrepreneurs and electricians, teachers, nurses and small-business owners — from the basic prosperity we call the American dream.” There’s a word missing from that sentence, also some thought: Do you know what factory workers, teachers, electricians, and farmers all have in common? Above-average incomes. Perhaps those suffering from the cruelty of inequality are those . . . entrepreneurs and business owners he cites, but I doubt it. If you go back and look at the big bite the Great Recession took out of median household incomes, the chart pretty strongly suggests the problem wasn’t being a farmer (median income $68,000 a year) but being unemployed.

    The title on Broad's op-ed is "I’m in the 1 Percent. Please, Raise My Taxes." And he's solidly in the 1%: Forbes ranks him as #78 on its list of wealthiest Americans. His net worth is pegged (as I type) at $6.7 Billion.

    Which would, if Your Federal Government just took it all, run its "largely ineffective" job training programs for about 18 weeks (see above).


  • At Power Line, Paul Mirengoff asks and answers: Socialism in five countries? Not really.. In response to the likes of Bernie and AOC pointing to Nordic countries as exemplars of "democratic socialism", a report from Michael Cembelast at J. P. Morgan is cited:

    Some point to Nordic countries as democratic socialism in action, but some Nordics object to this, such as Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen: "Some in the US associate the Nordic model with some sort of socialism. Therefore, I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy". Our models back him up: while Nordic countries have higher taxes and greater redistribution of wealth, Nordics are just as business-friendly as the US if not more so. Examples include greater business freedoms, freer trade, more oligopolies and less of an impact on competition from state control over the economy. And […] while Nordics raise more taxes than the US, the gap usually results from regressive VAT/consumption taxes and Social Security taxes rather than from progressive income taxes.

    If I'd have to guess, the Nordic governments are pretty good at taking your money, giving it back to you (after taking their cut), and making you believe they've done you a favor.


Last Modified 2019-06-27 7:00 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2019-06-26

[Amazon Link]

  • At Reason, Eric Boehm writes for our "Everybody Knows, Nobody Cares Enough To Do Anything" department: Man, This CBO Report About ‘Unprecedented’ Debt Levels Is a Bummer.

    The national debt will hit "unprecedented levels" in the coming decades, soaring well above the record highs set during World War II and reaching nearly one-and-a-half times the size of the entire U.S. economy by 2049, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected in a report released Tuesday.

    And that's the optimistic view.

    The CBO says the national debt will hit 144 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), a rough estimate for the overall size of a country's economic output, within 30 years, even if planned spending cuts materialize next year and even if Congress repeals the 2017 tax cuts in 2026, as planned. Neither of those developments should be treated as a sure bet—and, indeed, Republicans have admitted that the planned expiration of those tax cuts was nothing more than a gimmick designed to favorably influence the CBO's analysis of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

    Want to be depressed further? Click on through, kid.


  • Speaking truth to powerful socialists is David Harsanyi in the Federalist: Bernie's #CancelStudentDebt Is A Dangerous Scam. You probably know that already, but Bernie has a powerful advocate/accomplice on his campaign staff:

    […] around two-thirds of American in the workforce have no college degree. Some Americans have no interest in higher education. Many don’t need university degrees for the vocations they pursue. They can, I suppose, go to college and earn a useless degree in journalism or comparative literature for kicks. Or, maybe, they could enter the workforce and start subsidizing people like Heather Gautney.

    “I am $180k in debt. I have a PHD and am a tenured professor — my students are in the same boat, sinking in debt,” Gautney, a senior policy advisor for Sanders, tweeted. “I pay $1100/month in student loan debt, half of my rent. We MUST #CancelStudentDebt.”

    Prof Gautney's Ph. D. is in sociology from the City University of New York. She is currently "on leave" from Fordham U. due to her Sanders-advising work. No idea how much she makes. Also no idea how you rack up $180 thousand in college debt; CUNY's tuition is $4820/semester for full-time PhD students. Was she enrolled for 37 semesters?

    Financial details aside, I would ask the professor: how do you justify demanding that other people cough up money for your poor life choices?


  • Jonah Goldberg asks a tough question: Why doesn't Trump's tough talk on China extend to Uighur persecution?.

    Given the recent fight over whether U.S. refugee detention centers are in fact “concentration camps,” the Trump administration might want to borrow a page from the Chinese and simply call them “vocational skills education training centers.” That way, no one would really care at all.

    That’s what the Chinese call their gulag archipelago of internment and reeducation camps in Xinjiang province, where an estimated million ethnic Uighurs and other Turkic people are being held. The Uighurs are a traditionally Muslim minority, and Beijing says they pose a major threat because of Islamic terrorism. The reality is that the Chinese fear separatist movements, Islamic or otherwise, in a resource-rich region three times the size of France.

    Realpolitik often demands that countries hold their noses about unsavoriness in other countries. I'm not sure how that applies here.

    What really galls me is companies going into boycott-fests over US states passing anti-abortion legislation while at the same time doing big business with China.


  • I've known ubergeek Eric Raymond since our mutual Usenet days … a long time ago. He'd like to offer a course correction to the default libertarian position on immigration, open borders: A libertarian rethinks immigration. Why he changed his mind:

    I started with the usual libertarian disposition in favor of open borders. I also started with – I’m now ashamed to admit – the usual Blue-Tribe presumption that opposition to unrestricted immigration is at best vulgar and plebeian, at worst narrow-minded if not actually racist.

    I should have listened more and reflected the class prejudices of my birth SES less. I now understand that the core complaint of the anti-immigration Trump voters isn’t even about illegals low-balling them out of jobs, although that’s certainly a factor. It’s “I want to keep the high level of social trust I grew up with, and I see mass immigration – especially mass illegal immigration – eroding that.” They think the political elites of both parties, and corporations profit-taking in the labor market, are throwing away that intangible asset to plump up a bit more power and profit.

    I now think that is a serious – and justified – complaint.

    He's not afraid to Go There on IQ issues, either. But the bottom line is much like Reihan Salam's: have a preference for high-skilled immigrants.

    I was going to offer a comment on Eric's post, but (as I type) there are already over 100. (Many well thought out, others… not.)


  • At National Review, David French has bad news about America's most educated and engaged citizens. Friends, America's Most Educated, Engaged Americans Are Making Politics Worse.

    The More in Common project has just released the results of its latest deep dive into American polarization, and they make for a deeply discouraging read.

    It turns out that most Americans have fundamentally mistaken notions about their political opponents, consistently believing that they are substantially more extreme than they really are. For example, Democrats are far less likely to support open borders, far more likely to support private ownership of firearms, and far more friendly to police than Republicans believe they are. Republicans support controlled immigration far more than Democrats believe, and an overwhelming majority believe that racism and sexism still exist in the United States.

    At one level, these conclusions are hardly surprising. After all, previous research has shown that Democrats and Republicans have wildly false notions of the demographic make-up of the opposing party. Democrats think Republicans are older, richer, and more Evangelical than they really are. Republicans think Democrats are more secular, black, and gay than they really are.

    Very much in line with the Arthur Brooks thesis that we've forgotten how to talk to people with different political views.


  • And WalletHub has one of those state rankings that I am a sucker for, and this one more than most: 2019’s Most Patriotic States in America.

    Expressions of American patriotism come in many forms — from setting off fireworks during Fourth of July and buying American-made goods to paying taxes and serving in the armed forces. But some states are better than others at showing their national pride.

    So in order to determine where Americans bleed the most red, white and blue, WalletHub compared the states across 13 key indicators of patriotism. Our data set ranges from share of enlisted military population to share of adults who voted in the 2016 presidential election to AmeriCorps volunteers per capita.

    They make embed code available, so…

    Source: WalletHub

    Yep, we're number one. As I have long suspected.

    Least patriotic state: New Jersey. OK, so you might have guessed that. But Texas ranking number 46? I'd be tempted to question their methodology, if it weren't for my confirmation bias.


Last Modified 2019-06-27 5:00 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2019-06-25

[Amazon Link]

The (so far) last book in the New Hampshire Pulp Fiction Series is our Amazon Product du Jour. Nothing says "New Hampshire" than … dragons?

  • I'm (so far) a devotee of the "marketplace of ideas" concept. At Quillette, Mohamed Ali offers up What Defenders and Critics Get Wrong about the 'Marketplace of Ideas'.

    In his book How Fascism Works, Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley exposes the weakness in the most common argument for free speech. According to this argument, which can be traced back to liberal thinkers such as John Stuart Mill, free speech leads to a “marketplace of ideas” in which the truth prevails and falsehoods are widely rejected.

    Stanley argues that the recent proliferation of conspiracy theories and dog-whistles refute the premise that “reason always wins out in the public square of liberal democracy.” He is primarily concerned about conspiracy theories, such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which serve to spread fascistic worldviews. This type of speech, he concludes, cannot be effectively countered through a free exchange of ideas.

    Stanley's book, Ali contends, doesn't explicitly advocate censorship of dangerous conspiracy theories and dog-whistles, but the implication is clear.

    Ali notes, correctly, that you can't tell that a particular view is incorrect unless you get to hear and evaluate it. Will the truth always win out in a free and open "marketplace"? There are no guarantees, and it means we'll always have to put up with loons and liars. Still, the problems of liberty are invariably less than the problems of prohibiiton.


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson rebuts a recent "very silly" NYTop-ed by Cory Doctorow Lobbying Is Not the Decoder Ring of American Politics. Doctorow advocates "antimonopoly" enforcement against Big Tech in order to give them "less lobbying capital". But:

    There are many people who believe that the world of politics looks the way it does because of spending on lobbying. But that is not the case. Apple, for example, spends almost nothing on lobbying: less than $7 million in 2018. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, by way of comparison, spent almost $95 million. Relatively big-spending Alphabet, the only of the Internet giants among the top-ten lobbying spenders last year, spent about $21 million. Facebook spent $12.6 million. Add those three firms up and you end up with just a little over half of what the National Association of Realtors spent on lobbying in the same year.

    The tech firms would have to up the spending quite a bit before catching up to George Soros’s Open Society Policy Center or the American Hospital Association.

    You'd think I'd like Cory Doctorow; he's a three-time winner of the Prometheus Award for "libertarian fiction". But I read Little Brother back in 2010 and I thought it was awful. Haven't bothered with him since. And I no longer take the Prometheus Award as a reading recommendation.


  • Cato's Russell Rhine looks at the latest effort by a Democrat presidential candidate to buy his way to office (with other peoples' money) by promising (in this case) student loan forgiveness: Senator Sanders’ Not So Great Free College Proposal. A good point not made often enough:

    If student loans are forgiven, those who borrowed—in some cases irresponsibly—are rewarded, whereas those who paid for their education by making sacrifices are punished. If anything, this would cause resentment and may discourage future responsible financial behavior. If Americans believe that debt is something that can magically be eliminated by government, why not maximize mortgages, car loans, and credit card debt?

    "Indeed".


  • But almost as bad as Bernie's vote-buying is the media reporting of it. At Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux shares his letter to the WSJ about its headline: “Sanders Proposes to Wipe Out All Student Debt With Funds Raised From Wall Street." [Emphasis added.] Don lets 'em have it: Raise the Alarm.

    Sen. Bernie Sanders doesn’t propose to retire all student debt with money raised from Wall Street; he proposes to retire this debt with money taken from Wall Street.

    An entrepreneur raises money when she entices venture capitalists voluntarily to risk their own money to back her business plan. A business raises money when it motivates investors voluntarily to buy its shares issued in an IPO. A development officer raises money when he persuades generous souls voluntarily to contribute funds to an institution or cause that the generous souls support. Government, in contrast, doesn’t raise money; it takes money.

    Unlike people who actually raise money, Sanders doesn’t have to creatively present those with money with a win-win proposal. No. Like a thug well-armed, he simply and uncreatively – and with a motivation utterly primitive – seizes other people’s money.

    Don's letter didn't make it into today's WSJ, I just looked.


  • And, speaking of the marketplace of ideas, there are some ideas that you better not mention while kitting. Because (Robby Soave at Reason): Knitting Website Ravelry Bans All Pro-Trump Content.

    Ravelry, a website and forum for the knitting community, announced Sunday that it would no longer allow users to show support for President Trump and his administration, either by speaking in favor of Trump, or by designing Trump-inspired patterns.

    "We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy," wrote Ravelry's site administrators. "Support of the Trump administration is undeniably support for white supremacy."

    Undeniably, huh? Convenient, that. Attempts to deny will get you dropped from the site faster than a bad knitter can drop a stich.

    This is an absurd position to take—no, not everyone who supports Trump is a white supremacist—though the site is free to take it. Ravelry is a privately-owned space, and is within its rights to enforce all kinds of restraints on its users behavior. Anyone who doesn't like this should go find a rival knitting community, or start their own.

    I note that Ravelry's announcement credits a similar announcement from RPGNet, a role-playing game discussion site.

    You'll see a lot of complaints in victimhood culture about "erasure". This is actual erasure.

URLs du Jour

2019-06-24

[Amazon Link]

Apparently volume 4 of the New Hampshire Pulp Fiction Series, titled Love Free or Die, is unavailable at Amazon. So we skip forward to volume 5 for our Product du Jour. There's one more, released earlier this year, so drop back tomorrow.

Or you could hone your Google skills and look it up yourself if you can't wait. Your call, because LFOD.

  • Baylen Linnekin provides solid dietary advice at Reason: Don’t Let Food Nationalism Spoil Your Meal.

    Earlier this month, Vytenis Andriukaitis, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, slammed what he dubbed "the 'political use' of food safety concerns and country of origin labeling" by nationalist and right-wing politicians in the European Union.

    While I believe that many food safety regulations work only to stifle competition and protect large, incumbent food producers, reasonable people can and do differ when it comes to determining the proper scope of food safety regulations. I've also heard palatable arguments in favor of mandatory country-of-origin labeling, even if I disagree with those arguments.

    Baylen notes the scare tactics used to discourage, or prohibit, citizens of Country X from consuming food sourced in Country Y (or produced by immigrants from Country Y), for varying values of X and Y.

    One of Baylen's links is worth checking out on its own: an article in the Conversation, A backlash against 'mixed' foods led to the demise of a classic American dish, by Helen Zoe Veit. And you won't believe what that classic American dish was!

    Sorry, too clickbaity. It's pudding.


  • Jeff Jacoby notes a worrisome campaign trend: Would-be presidents can't wait to rule by fiat.

    'After four years of Donald Trump," declared Senator Amy Klobuchar in a statement on Tuesday, "a new president can't wait for a bunch of congressional hearings to act." To that end, the Minnesota Democrat, who hopes to become the new president in January 2021, issued a 16-page list of all the "concrete steps she will take in her first 100 days" if she is elected to the White House.

    Some of Klobuchar's promises are wholly conventional ("Visit our troops") or matters of routine management ("Reduce State Department vacancies"). A few are about as noteworthy as calling water wet ("Fill judicial vacancies").

    Many, however, would represent real shifts in US policy. Klobuchar's pledges include the immediate importation of prescription drugs, a boost in the hourly minimum wage for federal contractors to $15, an end to the trade embargo on Cuba, the addition of transgender identity as a protected civil rights category, and a return to the Iran nuclear deal. Those aren't modest adjustments; they would significantly change the way the federal government currently operates. Obviously that's Klobuchar's objective — and for many voters, the undoing of President Trump's work can't begin soon enough.

    Jeff notes that Klobuchar is far from the only wannabe decree-issuer. And ("as you know", he said condescendingly) rule by Presidential fiat has been on the bipartisan increase over the past decades.

    Aided by political tribalism: when our guy does it, it's great. When their guy does it, it's tyrannical.


  • Chuck DeVore helpfully provides charts and numbers at Forbes to show that Low-Tax States Are Adding Jobs 80% Faster Than High-Tax States Due To Trump's Tax Cut & SALT Cap.

    Prior to the tax reform’s enactment, annualized private sector job growth was 1.9% in the low-tax states from January 2016 to December 2017 compared to 1.4% in the high-tax states, giving the low-tax jurisdictions a comparatively modest advantage of 35% more rapid job growth over the 23-month period.

    Now, 17 months of federal jobs data suggest that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has increased the competitive advantage of 27 low-tax states where the average SALT deduction was under $10,000 in 2016 as compared to 23 high-tax taxes with average SALT deductions greater than $10,000. Private sector job growth is now running 80% faster in the low-tax states, 2% annualized compared to 1.1%, up from just a 35% advantage in the prior 23 months.

    Democrats never tire of characterizing Trump's tax cut as a "giveaway to the rich". So the amusing part of all this is that Democrat governors, like Andrew Cuomo, demanding that the $10,000 cap be repealed. Which would disproportionately benefit… yup, the rich.


  • Who is Bernie Sanders? According to George Will: Bernie Sanders is FDR’s unimaginative echo.

    That the Democrats’ two evenings of dueling oratory snippets next week are called “debates” validates Finley Peter Dunne’s prediction that “when we Americans are through with the English language, it will look as if it had been run over by a musical comedy.” Already a linguistic casualty of the campaign is the noun “socialism.” So, quickly, before Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) campaign sinks, like darling Clementine, beneath the foaming brine, consider his struggle to convince Americans that socialism deserves to be the wave of their future.

    One European explanation of America’s puzzling (to many European intellectuals) resistance to socialism was given in 1906 by the German economist Werner Sombart: “All socialist utopias came to nothing on roast beef and apple pie.” Recently, however, Sanders delivered a Washington speech explaining, in effect, that socialism is as American as a piece of frozen apple pie with a slice of processed cheese. Doing so, however, he demonstrated that “socialism” is a classification that no longer classifies.

    Yeah, noticed that myself. Also in danger of being a classification that no longer classifies: "capitalist". As in, when Elizabeth Warren says she is a “capitalist to my bones.”


  • And the Google LFOD alert rang for a Keene Sentinel editorial: Choosing to die: Maine's new law raises a topic the Granite State ought to be discussing.

    Does the libertarian ethos of New Hampshire’s motto “Live Free or Die” include the right to choose the time and manner of one’s own death?

    Lawmakers have historically put off having to answer that question, but the time may be coming when they will have to take a stand on the issue of physician-assisted suicide.

    Why must there be a legislated bias for physician assisted suicide? It would seem that this could be a new separate profession, to avoid difficulties with that whole Hippocratic Oath thing. Call them "Grim Reapers". It's a career path for people … who like to kill other people. And Reapers wouldn't need to undergo all that rigorous, expensive training doctors get in not killing people.

    At last glance, New Hampshire's suicide rate was well above the national average, so we seem to be doing OK on the offing-ourselves front without further assistance, ThankYouVeryMuch.

The Phony Campaign

2019-06-23 Update

[Amazon Link]

The wise punters at Betfair have sorted the Democratic candidates into four tiers: (1) Joe, the putative favorite (WinProb 14.7%); (2) contenders Fauxcohantas, Bernie, Mayor Pete, Kamala (WinProbs 6.3-7.3%); longshots Beto! and Andrew Yang (2.1-3.2%); (4) everyone else (less than 2%).

Hey, maybe the debates this coming Wednesday and Thursday will shake things up! The Bezos Bulletin reports: Democrats try for a ratings blockbuster during two nights of presidential campaign debates. Oooh, blockbuster. Which, let us recall, was originally a synonym for "big ass bomb".

The rules seem stacked against fun:

The candidates will not be allowed opening statements, props or prepared notes onstage, but there will be 45-second closing statements, according to debate rules circulated by moderator NBC News. The candidates will get timing lights, water to drink and pens and paper, as well as a chance to use the bathroom during longer commercial breaks. NBC has refused to rule out the possibility of a lightning round, according to multiple campaigns.

Zzz. What I want to see is a Jeopardy!-style test of current events, science, economics, and basic civics. That would be interesting, a real-life Saturday Night Live skit. But it's not in the cards. And nobody's paying me extravagant sums of money to watch, so I will not.

In phony standings, Bernie got an impressive bump this week, moving into a solid second place:

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
6/16
Phony
Results
Change
Since
6/16
Donald Trump 45.2% -1.3% 2,120,000 -50,000
Bernie Sanders 6.7% +0.1% 1,410,000 +570,000
Pete Buttigieg 6.4% -0.4% 1,220,000 -580,000
Joe Biden 14.7% -1.8% 1,000,000 +319,000
Elizabeth Warren 7.3% +0.2% 206,000 -17,000
Kamala Harris 6.3% +1.0% 94,000 +4,000
Beto O'Rourke 2.1% -0.1% 70,100 +3,500
Andrew Yang 3.2% +0.5% 20,900 -2,800

"WinProb" calculation described here. Google result counts are bogus.

  • At National Review Kevin D. Williamson reported on Joe and the Segs. (NRPLUS article, I don't know what that means for peon-visibility).

    Joe Biden has stepped in it, good and deep.

    Biden, if he has any hope of ever being elected president, will be dependent on residual goodwill among African Americans from his time as Barack Obama’s loyal and deferential vice president — so deferential, in fact, that he stood aside for Herself in 2016 even though this was obviously against his wishes.

    This makes his recent sentimental reminiscing about his cordial relations with Democratic segregationists in the Senate particularly ill-advised. He was not really wrong in anything he said — and it is not often you get to write that about Joe Biden — but in our time politics is less about ideas and policy and more about . . . cooties. Senator Biden sometimes went to lunch with Senator Talmadge, a Georgia Democrat and a committed segregationist. For the modern progressive, that is an unforgivable sin — the correct reaction, they believe, is to point at the other guy and shriek like Donald Sutherland at the end of Invasion of the Body-Snatchers.

    If you can see it, Kevin provides a good ideological/political history of the Democratic Party's "frank and energetic racism".


  • Jonah Goldberg notes that, when it comes to getting re-elected, Trump's Personality Is His Biggest Obstacle.

    “What’s your pitch to the swing voter on the fence?” ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked President Trump on Sunday.

    Comment: Stephanopoulos was perhaps trying for the coveted "Most Muddled Metaphor" prize with that question. Very "inside baseball"!

    Trump’s initial answer started off following the standard script. He got four words off that must have had his political advisors cheering, “Safety, security, great economy.”

    Ideally, this is where Trump should have stopped talking.

    But the president kept going, boasting that he won 52% of the women’s vote in 2016 — he didn’t, that was the white woman vote; he got 41% of women overall. Then Trump talked some more about how the economy would help him with minorities.

    “So,” Stephanopoulos asked, “that’s the pitch?”

    Trump briefly got back on message. “No, I have no pitch. You know what I have? The economy is phenomenal. We've rebuilt our military. We're taking care of our vets. We're doing the best job that anybody's done probably as a first-term president … .”

    This was another good place to stop. But he was only getting warmed up: “I have a phony witch hunt, which is just a phony pile of stuff. Mueller comes out. There's no collusion. And essentially a ruling that no obstruction.”

    As Jonah notes, Donald Trump wants the election to be about what Donald Trump considers to be the most important issue. Which is: Donald Trump.

    And if he's successful in doing that, he will lose. Because if there is one issue on which a large majority of the voting population agree, it is: Donald Trump is not a good person.


  • At Reason, Scott Shackford notes that, Apparently, Bernie Sanders Doesn’t Know the Difference Between Revenue and Profit. And, well, the evidence Tweets for itself:

    In the tweet, Sanders confuses "revenue" with "profit." This is not an insignificant mistake, but it's one that is common in reporting about large American corporations. All too often, reporters talk about how much money a company takes in without offering any analysis of that company's expenses. Amazon, for example, despite massive revenues has only recently begun making an actual profit. In the Time story that Sanders links to, writer Alana Semuels similarly fails to differentiate between revenue and profit when covering the efforts to organize.

    Scott notes that Bernie has a "long history of failing to grasp the basics of market economics." Belaboring the obvious, but it's a good idea to remind people of that.


  • The Daily Beacon reports on some of the candidates' responses to the query posed by the NYT: Does anyone deserve to have a billion dollars? O'Rourke: 'I Don't Know That Anybody Deserves to Have a Billion Dollars'.

    "I don't know that anyone deserves to have a billion dollars," O'Rourke told the Times when asked if anyone deserves to have that much money.

    It is unclear if O'Rourke thinks his father-in-law, who is estimated to be worth $500 million, deserves his money.

    Modest proposal: The New York Times should ask more specific questions, like: "Does Carlos Slim, the largest single shareholder of The New York Times Company, deserve to have a net worth of $63.1 billion?"


  • Back to Joe Biden for our last item, from Politico: Biden appears to be softening his stance on the death penalty.

    Joe Biden said in a 1992 speech that criminal justice legislation he was pushing was so strict that “we do everything but hang people for jaywalking.” Two years later, his signature crime bill made dozens of additional offenses punishable by death.

    But in a little-noticed remark earlier this month in New Hampshire, the Democratic presidential front-runner seemed to offer a decidedly different stance on the death penalty.

    Fielding a question from a voter aligned with the American Civil Liberties Union about how he’d reduce the federal prison population, Biden gave a long and winding answer: He defended his crime bill, advocated for reforms to the criminal justice system involving nonviolent and drug offenders, and said he was proud of his work with President Barack Obama to cut the federal prison population by 3,800.

    Then, unprompted, Biden added: “By the way, congratulations to ya’ll ending the death penalty here.”

    Ya'll? Well, first, that's wrong, Politico.

    And: geez, Joe. Where did you think you were, South Carolina? If you're gonna condescend to Granite State Democrats, try something like:

    "Ayuh, as I told my wife, Dr. Jill Biden, while we were having a coupla Hoodsie cups, New Hampsha repealing that death penalty thing was wicked pissah."

URLs du Jour

2019-06-22

[Amazon Link]

  • A provocative essay from Jeff Spross at The Week: No one should be a billionaire. It's a response, sort of, to the question posed by the NYT to the Democratic presidential candidates: "Does anyone deserve to have a billion dollars?"

    More to say on this tomorrow, probably, but here's Jeff:

    Defenders of the capitalist order will point out that anyone can be a farmworker or a dishwasher. These jobs are easily replaceable, which is why they are paid poorly. Not everyone can be CEO of Apple, thus the position pays more. It's just a consequence of supply and demand. But that is not the question. A better thing to ask ourselves is: Does anyone need to be CEO of Apple? That company is staffed by thousands of workers and software engineers and more. They're all perfectly intelligent people. Under a different arrangement, a form of worker-elected committee could run the company just fine. (Some oddball worker co-ops already operate this way.) Does anyone really think that Apple could not possibly function without Tim Cook, or some other individual of similar oligarchical baring [sic], at its head?

    Okay, well first: "similar oligarchical baring"? Doesn't The Week employ copy editors, or can they not afford them, thanks to their CEO's grossly inflated salary?

    Just kidding. Sort of.

    But (furthermore): Tim Cook isn't a billionaire, at least not the last time anyone checked. In 2017, Time said he was worth about $625 million. Most of that was Apple stock, though. It's gone up, but (by my back-of-the-envelope calculation) not nearly enough to put him over a gigabuck. Why pick on Tim?

    Quibbles aside, Mr. Spross imagines a "different arrangement" like a "worker-elected committee" would work out "just fine" for Apple. The easiest refutation of that idea, of course, is its lack of acceptance beyond "oddball worker co-ops". In the economic ecosystem, "different arrangements" aren't major competitors.

    And, as someone once said about someone else, Jeff Spross has never run anything except his own mouth.


  • Continuing the onslaught of criticism against a bad idea, David French at National Review: Josh Hawley’s Internet Censorship Bill [is] Unconstitutional and Unwise.

    It’s often the case in Washington that the title of a bill communicates the exact opposite of its content or effect. Think, for example of the Affordable Care Act — a title that seemed almost laughable in the face of skyrocketing insurance premiums. Now we have the Republican version of a deceptively named bill, Missouri senator Josh Hawley’s Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act.

    In reality, it’s a bill that would inject the federal government directly into the private social-media business and grant it enormous power over social-media content. It would enable public censorship in the name of limiting private control.

    David notes the bill as written is extremely vague and broad, hence offensive to the Constitution.


  • At Reason, Robby Soave invites us to Watch the Media Manufacture a Dumb Story About Bernie Sanders and Sexism.

    Reasons to be critical of Sanders are numerous: He was an apologist for the brutal, rapacious communist regimes in places like the Soviet Union and Cuba; he's called open borders a "right-wing Koch brothers proposal" and opposes it because he perceives that high levels of immigration would threaten his Medicare for All schemes; he wants to fight poverty in all the wrong ways. Indeed, it appears that he doesn't even understand the difference between revenue and profit. These are significant flaws—there's no need to invent a fake sexism narrative.

    Three years later, some media organizations are still pushing the idea that Sanders has a problem with women. This week, both Vanity Fair and Jezebel lashed out at Sanders for suggesting that he was losing ground to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) because some voters would prefer to elect a female president. "Sanders: Warren Is Surging Because She's Got Ovaries," was the Vanity Fair headline.

    Instead, as Robby documents, Bernie was guilty of making the (perfectly obvious and true) observation that "there are a certain number of people who would like to see a woman elected".

    We may have to start up a new Pun Salad department: "Sites You Can't Trust To Report Candidates' Words Honestly". Problem is that we might not be able to do anything else.


  • Greg Mankiw is a lonely voice at the New York Times: The National Debt Is Still a Problem. Even Keynesians don't think we should be in this state when the economy is behaving well.

    What is to be done? Perhaps the wisest words on this topic come from an old New Yorker cartoon. In it, the president’s advisers are huddled around his desk. They summarize the situation this way: “Our deficit-reduction plan is simple, but it will require a great deal of money.”

    If we are not going to saddle future generations with ever-increasing government debt, we need to find a great deal of money. That means either spending less or taxing more.

    I would prefer to curb spending. For example, to prevent Social Security’s funding shortfall from enlarging the government debt, we could slowly increase the age of eligibility. The government would still provide a safety net for the very old, but others would have to keep working or use their savings to pay for an earlier retirement.

    Greg goes on to note that that might not sit well with "the body politic". So taxes might need to go up. And he notes that much of that (of course) will need be imposed on "the body politic".

    He bemoans the current deficit at 3.9% of GDP, when it's averaged 2.1% of GDP over the previous 70 years. Unfortunately, he doesn't provide the same percent-of-GDP figures for outlays and revenues. Exercise for the reader, I guess.


  • At Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux has A Question About the First Amendment (or a Question About Logical Consistency).

    If the First amendment is violated when federal taxpayer funds are channeled to schools operated by churches – channeled with no intention by the state (or anyone else) either to give any religion an advantage or to deny the people of any religion the freedom to worship as they please – why is the First amendment not violated when federal taxpayer funds are channeled to organizations that are part of “the press”?

    Specifically, how can Your Federal Government justify funding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting?

URLs du Jour

2019-06-21

[Amazon Link]

  • John Tierney (writing at American Consequences) wonders: is Artificial Intelligence coming to get you?

    Spoiler: he's a debunker of various forms of that idea. For example: will Vernor Vinge's "singularity" occur, with AIs quickly bootstrapping themselves into near-infinite smarts, and … not so much "take over", but ignore humanity as irrelevant?

    Vinge predicted that this singularity would occur by 2030. With all due respect to Amazon’s Alexa, today that possibility doesn’t look much more likely than it did in 1993, and many cognitive and AI scientists doubt that it will ever occur. While computers will do more and more tasks better than humans, whether they’ll ever become truly intelligent – and achieve consciousness – is still very much in doubt.

    But let’s assume that it happens someday. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that they became so smart and powerful that they could conquer us…

    Why would they want to?

    Good question. Mr. Tierney grabs much of his argument here from Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now, which you should already have read.


  • OK, we've read our Hayek, so we know that central planning is unworkable. We also know (deep down) that it's fundamentally immoral to enlist individuals involuntarily into some sort of collectively-determined goal they may not share, or even support. But Veronique de Rugy, in her syndicated column, points out another drawback: Central Planning Is Poisonous to Innovation. It's in response to "a proposal by Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., to create a new federal agency called the National Institute of Manufacturing."

    U.S. industrial policies launched in response to the rise of Japan in the 1980s and the USSR before that failed, not because American policy mavens weren't smart enough to do things right. The real problem with industrial policy, economic development strategy, central planning or whatever you want to call these interventions is that government officials are inescapably plagued by ignorance of localized knowledge. Government officials cannot outperform the wisdom of the market at picking winners. In fact, government intervention in any sector creates distortions, misdirects investments toward politically favored companies and hinders the ability of unsubsidized competitors to offer better alternatives. Central planning in all forms is poisonous to innovation.

    As Peters notes, "If you go on the factory floor in Michigan, it's not your father's or grandfather's factory." Indeed! American companies are in fact fantastically innovative and productive on their own. They have evolved to produce more of what consumers want at lower costs — most of them without a central planner directing them from Washington. Old ideas that have never worked are no way to foster more innovation. Lighter regulations, a better tax code, more immigrants and freedom to do what they do best are what entrepreneurs need.

    Veronique also notes that US manufacturing output is at an all-time high; we just do it with fewer workers than we used to. And despite all the doomsayers: that's a good thing.


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson (once again) has something smart to say. Specifically, that Party Establishments, Lobbyists, Interest Groups [are] The Wrong Political Bogeymen. A sobering bottom line at the real villains, after debunking the groups named in the headline:

    But these bogeymen provide welcome distraction from the real enemy. Who’s that? It’s the special-interest group that demands higher spending, lower taxes, and a balanced budget.

    You know: Americans.

    We'll engage in multiple mental contortions to avoid that simple truth.


  • At the Technology Liberation Front, Adam Thierer describes How Conservatives Came to Favor the Fairness Doctrine & Net Neutrality. It is mostly a look at Sen. Josh Howley's bad idea, his “Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act”.

    Under the bill, the FTC must evaluate whether platforms have engaged in “politically biased moderation,” which is defined as moderation practices that are supposedly, “designed to negatively affect” or “disproportionately restricts or promote access to … a political party, political candidate, or political viewpoint.” As Blake Reid of the University of Colorado Law School rightly asks, “How, exactly, is the FTC supposed to figure out what the baseline is for ‘disproportionately restricting or promoting’? How much access or availability to information about political parties, candidates, or viewpoints is enough, or not enough, or too much?”

    There is no Goldilocks formula for getting things just right when it comes to content moderation. It’s a trial-and-error process that is nightmarishly difficult because of the endless eye-of-the-beholder problems associated with constructing acceptable use policies for large speech platforms. We struggled with the same issues in the broadcast and cable era, but they have been magnified a million-fold in the era of the global Internet with the endless tsunami of new content that hits our screens and devices every day. “Do we want less moderation?” asks Sec, 230 guru Jeff Kosseff. “I think we need to look at that question hard.  Because we’re seeing two competing criticisms of Section 230,” he notes. “Some argue that there is too much moderation, others argue that there is not enough.”

    The only liberty-compatible strategy to getting Facebook, Google, Twitter, et. al. to behave is to shine a bright light on their unfairness, opacity, and arbitrariness. And exercise your right to leave, boycott their advertisers, patronize their competitors, and so on.


  • We know that General Stark is credited as the proximate source of New Hampshire's motto. But the Bennington Banner reproduces the text of the 1809 letter in which he provided it: John Stark on liberty and foreign influence.

    You well know, gentlemen, that at the time of the event you celebrate, there was a powerful British faction in the country (called Tories), and a material part of the force we had to contend with was [at Bennington, Hoosick] Tories. This faction was rankling in our councils, till they had laid the foundation for the subversion of our liberties. But by good sentinels at our outposts, we were apprised of our danger: and the Sons of Freedom beat the alarm, — and, as at Bennington, "They came, they saw, they conquered." But again the faction has rallied to the charge, and again they have been beaten.

    It is my orders now, and will be my last orders to all volunteers, to look well to their sentries; for there is a dangerous British party in this country, lurking in their hiding places, more dangerous than all our foreign enemies. And whenever they shall appear openly, to render the same account of them that was given at Bennington, let them assume what name they will: not doubting that the ladies will be as patriotic, in furnishing every aid, as they were at Bennington in '77, who even dismantled their beds to furnish cords to secure and lead them off.

    The General was no fan of Brits, or British sympathizers. The latter were made prisoners, apparently "led off" from their homes down to Boston. A lot of them, I understand, became Canadians.

URLs du Jour

2019-06-20

[Amazon Link]

I was unaware of the New Hampshire Pulp Fiction Anthology Series until now. Or maybe I just forgot about it; that happens too. But their first volume, from 2010, is our Amazon Product du Jour, and I may do the rest, because they appear to be kind of a hoot.

  • In our occasional "Things Pun Salad is Completely Unsurprised About" department, the Federalist's Tristan Justice observes: Democratic 2020 Hopefuls Lack Plans To Save Social Security.

    Meaningful discussion of entitlement reform is completely absent among Democrats running for president, aside from loud promises to dramatically expand existing programs such as Medicare to provide “Medicare for All” and most recently, “Medicaid for All.” While candidates ignore Social Security, the outlook of the country’s largest welfare program is getting darker.

    An April report from the Committee for a Responsible Budget reveals that the so-called Social Security Trust Fund that Congress has been plundering for years will be finally exhausted by 2035, in just 16 years. Once the fund is depleted, beneficiaries will begin to see 20 percent cuts across-the-board unless Congress fixes the program, and the year 2035 is also just an estimate. If there is a recession, future retirees can expect cuts to come much sooner, depending on the severity of the economic decline.

    Of course, the Republican hopeful also lacks a plan.

    The Reason podcast folks spent a few minutes on this earlier this week in the midst of a general discussion of how wacky things are in politics these days. The consensus seems to be that we'll wait until catastrophe is almost upon us (a legally-mandated cut in Social Security payouts) and then come up with some must-pass bad solution (eliminate the "cap" on the payroll tax).


  • The good folks at TechFreedom react to the latest Bad Idea from Republicans: Hawley Proposes a Fairness Doctrine for the Internet.

    Today, Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) introduced legislation (press release), “Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act,” that would make popular social networks responsible for third party content — unless they receive certification from the Federal Trade Commission of their political “neutrality.” Companies would have to reapply every two years after receiving an external audit of how they moderate and prioritize user content, and re-certification would require the votes of four of five FTC Commissioners.

    “Hawley’s proposal would revive the Fairness Doctrine, an idea that Republicans have opposed since the Truman administration,” said Berin Szóka, President of TechFreedom. “For the first time, Internet services would effectively need a license issued by the U.S. government to operate. That would make them utterly dependent upon the goodwill of FTC Commissioners, and in turn, the White House. Any two Commissioners could block recertification. While the original Fairness Doctrine clearly skewed broadcast programming, actual showdowns were exceedingly rare: licenses were almost never canceled, broadcasters could rely on an expectation of renewal of their licenses every eight years, and the FCC at least tried to hide its partisan agenda. Hawley’s bill would set up a partisan bloodmatch every other year, with the FTC having to take a public vote on each social network’s political ‘neutrality,’ and companies having to prove themselves innocent each time. In short, the bill would give politicians a gigantic regulatory hammer to use against Big Tech — and transform the FTC overnight into the most politicized regulatory body in Washington. Sadly, that seems to be the point.”

    Geez, I still think that whole "free market in ideas" thing is something to defend and strive for. It's getting to be a pretty lonely position.


  • Power Line points to a provocative essay from Ted Nordhaus in Issues in Science and Technology: The Empty Radicalism of the Climate Apocalypse.

    If one believed that the climate crisis was already under way and that the world had only a decade or so not only to stop the growth of emissions but to slash them deeply, an emergency mobilization to rapidly cut carbon dioxide emissions would seemingly be the only sane response. But the apocalyptic rhetoric, endless demands for binding global temperature targets, and radical-sounding condemnations of neoliberalism, consumption, and corporations only conceal how feeble the environmental climate agenda actually is. The vagueness and modesty of the Green New Deal is not proof that progressives and environmentalists are closet socialists. It is, rather, evidence that most climate advocates, though no doubt alarmed, don’t actually see climate change as the immediate and existential threat they suggest it is.

    I really suggest you click through for the whole thing, which includes an imaginary Jay Inslee presidency scenario that really does tackle climate change as an existential threat.

    I'm afraid I'm less charitable than Nordhaus: for nearly all "green" politicians, it's just another issue they can use to scare the bubbas into voting for them. They are only "alarmed" by being out of political power.


  • Cato contributes to our "Eminently Predictable" department: Costs Skyrocket for NASA Launch System. It's based on reports concerning the latest GAO Report that tsks-tsks the space agency for paying tens of millions of dollars in “award fees” to Boeing despite cost overruns and multi-year delays.

    America’s moon landing 50 years ago was a brilliant achievement. But taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for another manned lunar visit because robots are more efficient at exploration these days and private enterprise is the future for people in space.

    From JFK's famed moon speech in 1961 to Apollo 11: about 8 years. From NASA's SLS design selection in 2011 until now: about 8 years, and we ain't close to getting it.


  • At American Consequences, P. J. O'Rourke writes on Schumpeter’s Creative Destruction.

    The amazing thing about free-market capitalism is that it gets rid of stuff that doesn’t work. You say, “Amazing? When stuff doesn’t work, of course you get rid of it!”

    If you’ve got a washing machine and – no matter how many times the supposedly lonely Maytag Man has been to your house – it just can’t be fixed… do you keep piling dirty clothes into it? You’ll run out of things to wear.

    No, you haul the old appliance to the dump and acquire a new one. This is what free-market capitalism does with businesses. When a business is no longer profitable, investors dispose of it and put their investment capital into another business that does (or will, investors hope) make a profit.

    As Peej points out, that's the sensible thing to do. And it's the way government doesn't work: "When the government has a broken washing machine, it breaks the dryer to ensure job security for the Maytag Man, then funds a grant program for free clean t-shirts."


  • Pun Salad long ago suggested the crackpot idea that the right number of time zones is zero. Now at last, some smart Norwegians (but I repeat myself) are doing something like that: Norway island of Sommarøy wants to be world's first time-free zone.

    Don't you wish those long summer days could last forever? An island in northern Norway is campaigning to do just that.

    With the Northern Hemisphere's summer solstice just around the corner on June 21, Sommarøy -- meaning "Summer Island" -- wants to swap its watches for flower garlands and declare itself the world's first time-free zone.

    It makes a certain amount of non-crackpot sense, because Sommarøy is about 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and we all remember what that means from geography class.

    Ordinarily, they're on GMT+2. But hopefully, they'll come to notice that they could go to GMT, and it would make no difference whatsoever to the way they live their lives.


  • And science has spoken: Dogs developed muscles to make 'puppy dog eyes' at humans, study finds.

    If you've ever fallen for the old 'puppy dog eyes' trick, don't feel bad. A new study has found dogs evolved new facial muscles specifically to tug at your heartstrings over the course of thousands of years of domestication.

    Unlike wolves, dogs have a muscle responsible for raising the inner eyebrow "specifically for facial communication with humans," according to research published in the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Monday. 

    Yeah. It works, too.


Last Modified 2019-06-21 7:33 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2019-06-19

[Amazon Link]

  • Kevin D. Williamson at National Review wonders ‘Moral Relativism’: Do Conservatives Really Object?. (And you'll wonder: does Betteridge's Law of Headlines apply here?)

    The Right has always been comfortable with moral ambiguity, most plainly in the matter of foreign policy. That was especially true in the Cold War, when conservatives went to great lengths — often too far, and sometimes far too far — defending such characters as Francisco Franco and Augusto Pinochet as bulwarks against Communism. F. A. Hayek’s overwhelming admiration for the Chilean dictator was sufficient to inspire a chiding letter from Margaret Thatcher, who described the general’s methods as “quite unacceptable.” Nelson Mandela was the leader of a revolutionary Communist movement and refused to foreswear political violence, but what he was up against was not a Madisonian republic. Perhaps it was the demands of political rhetoric, but conservatives have from time to time failed to cleave to the knowledge that necessary evil is evil.

    My two-sentence summary: Trade-offs are unavoidable in the real world. Pretending that the "lesser of two evils" is therefore good is a fallacy.


  • Peter Suderman notes at Reason that Deficit Politics May Have Gone Away, but Debt and Deficits Are Worse Than Ever.

    For most of the Obama era, the federal deficit—and, by extension, the debt—was a crisis.

    This was a bipartisan belief, held, or at least paid respectful lip service, by the Tea Party radicals and top administration aides as well as by President Obama himself. Hence the battles over the debt limit; the imposition of sequestration cuts that, fully implemented, were intended to reduce spending by more than $1 trillion over a decade; the concurrent increase in tax rates on high earners; the creation of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, better known as the Supercommittee; and the Simpson-Bowles debt-reduction proposal to which it led.

    In the end, that plan was rejected by party leaders on both sides. But the idea, that trillion dollar deficits and the pile-up of debt they incur represented a problem, remained alive and powerful to the end. Even President Trump campaigned on (fanciful and mostly incoherent) promises to eliminate the federal debt. The federal budget was an emergency or at least a looming threat. Something had to be done.

    But two and a half years into the Trump administration, neither party acts as if there's a crisis.

    Indeed. For my sin of being a registered Republican, I occasionally get fundraising appeals from the party, often attached to a phony we-want-to-know-what-you-think poll. The latest one invited me to name my most important issue. and helpfully listed my choices. I believe they were issues like illegal immigration; taxes; "unfair" trade; opioids.

    Unmentioned: out-of-control federal spending. I helpfully wrote that in, along with my donation of $0.00. Had to waste a stamp, and probably nobody's listening at the other end, but … at least I got that off my chest.


  • Bjørn Lomborg injects a note of sanity into the latest environmental issue at the Globe and Mail: Sorry, banning plastic bags won’t save our planet. Some interesting factoids:

    Research from 2015 shows that less than 5 per cent of land-based plastic waste going into the ocean comes from OECD countries, with half coming from just four countries: China, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam. While China already in 2008 banned thin plastic bags and put a tax on thicker ones, it is estimated to contribute more than 27 per cent of all marine plastic pollution originating from land.

    Moreover, banning plastic bags can have unexpected, inconvenient results. A new study shows California’s ban eliminates 40 million pounds of plastic annually. However, many banned bags would have been reused for trash, so consumption of trash bags went up by 12 million pounds, reducing the benefit. It also increased consumption of paper bags by twice the saved amount of plastic – 83 million pounds. This will lead to much larger emissions of CO₂.

    The current bag/straw brouhaha only makes sense when viewed as a combination of moral posturing and hectoring one's fellow citizens for their insufficiently virtuous behavior. (My favorite example of the latter here.)


  • Could you resist being tempted to Grab a drink with Elizabeth Warren? This is a trick I recall seeing from Hillary's past campaigns.

    Why, yes, I would enjoy sitting down with Elizabeth Warren and asking her some pointed questions.

    Now, it's a campaign contribution scheme. But (as I believe they are legally obligated to) they provide an entry form where you don't need to donate. I'm sure the odds of winning are long, but that's OK.

URLs du Jour

2019-06-18

[Amazon Link]

Woo, thanks to whoever bought our Amazon Product du Jour (Leick Recliner Wedge End Table, Medium Oak) via Pun Salad! It about paid our hosting invoice for the month!

  • I've been reading the Daily Wire for a while, but this (from Ryan Saavedra) is fake news: Biden Suggests Starting ‘Physical Revolution’ To Deal With Republicans.

    Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden appeared to suggest using violence against Republicans on Monday in response to a question about how he as president would deal with opposition to his agenda in the Senate from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

    Biden, currently the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, made the remarks at the Moral Action Congress of the Poor People's Campaign in Washington, D.C.

    MSNBC's Joy Reid asked Biden: "How would you get past either a majority Republican Senate in which Mitch McConnell was determined to kill all of these ideas or even a Mitch McConnell in the minority who repeated the consistent filibustering when you were vice president and anything that came from the Obama-Biden administration Mitch McConnell considered dead on arrival?"

    "Joy, I know you're one of the ones who thinks it's naive to think we have to work together," Biden responded. "The fact of the matter is if we can't get a consensus, nothing happens except the abuse of power by the executive."

    "There are certain things where it just takes a brass knuckle fight," Biden continued, later adding: "Let’s start a real physical revolution if you’re talking about it."

    I looked at the video, and I think it's pretty clear from the context that he's arguing against those pushing for "physical revolution." Now, true enough, his comments are typical stream-of-unconsciousness semi-coherent Biden-babble. And the video provided by the Daily Wire snips some stuff out. But here's the C-SPAN transcript:

    The fact of the matter is we cannot get a consensus and nothing happens but the abuse of power by the executive, number one. There are certain things that take a brass knuckle fight. When they say we are not going to support you, we do what i did last time. I campaigned in 22 states. not blue states. not blue areas. And guess what? Remember when I said we are going to win back the house and win over 40 votes? We got ready votes back. We beat back Republicans with mainstream Democrats. You have to go out and beat these folks. If they don't agree with you, by making your case. That's what presidents are supposed to do, persuade the public. Last point i will make. The Affordable Care Act. Everything that landed on Obama's desk was a locust at the time. He had no time to explain it. Once it started taking off, we got calls from all of those boys saying I'm for health care, I don't want to take away pre-existing conditions, et cetera. You go out and you beat them. You make a case. You make an explicit case, just like we did for the House. I think we can do the same thing for the Senate. You have to make it clear to Republicans that on some things there is a rationale for compromise. For example, when we did the recovery act. 89 billion dollars, done without any waste or fraud, 2% waste, fraud, abuse. What happened? We didn't have the votes initially. I went out and changed three republican votes. It doesn't mean you can do it all the time, but it kept us from going into a new depression. If you start off with the notion that there is nothing you can do, why don't you go home? Let's start a real physical revolution if you are talking about it. We have to change what we are doing in our system because we talk about we the people who hold these truths self-evident. We have not lived up to that standard, but we have never fully abandoned it. The moment we abandon it, we lose everything we stand for nationally and internationally in terms of the power of persuasion. The reason we are economically secure is not because we have the largest military in the world, but because we not only lead by military power but because of the power of our example and you can change people to do things the right way.

    Now, that's about 85% pure bullshit, but it's pretty clear he's arguing for the "power of persuasion", the "brass knuckle fight" is a clunky metaphor, and the "real physical revolution" tactic is for people who've given up hope on persuasion.

    I've left a comment at the Daily Wire, but it's one of over 450, so I'm not hopeful that it will stop this particular bit of (mis|mal)interpretation.

    And none of this should be construed to mean that I think that Biden isn't an unprincipled weasel. He is.


  • At the Federalist, Adam Mill notes the standards of Ellen L. Weintraub, head of the Federal Election Commission: Clinton Can Get Info From Foreigners, But How Dare Trump Think About It. Ms. Weintraub alleged: "It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election." This obviously in response to President Trump admitting to being open to getting dirt on his opponent from … anywhere, really.

    Now there's the double standard at work. Ms. Weintraub once worked at Perkins Cole, the law firm Hillary's campaign hired to get dirt on Trump from (yes) foreign nationals.

    But Adam Hill also quotes the heroic Eugene Volokh, no Trump fan:

    It would raise obvious First Amendment problems: First, noncitizens, and likely even non-permanent-residents, in the United States have broad First Amendment rights. See Bridges v. Wixon, 326 U.S. 135 (1945) (“freedom of speech and of press is accorded aliens residing in this country”); Underwager v. Channel 9 Australia, 69 F.3d 361 (9th Cir. 1995) (“We conclude that the speech protections of the First Amendment at a minimum apply to all persons legally within our borders,” including ones who are not permanent residents).

    Second, Americans have the right to receive information even from speakers who are entirely abroad. See Lamont v. Postmaster General, 381 U.S. 301 (1965). Can Americans — whether political candidates or anyone else — really be barred from asking questions of foreigners, just because the answers might be especially important to voters?

    I'm pretty sure peoples' panties are in a bunch about this for entirely particular reasons: looking for something bad about Trump.


  • [Amazon Link]
    Reason writer Robby Soave has a new book out (Amazon link at right) and there was an excerpt in the current magazine, which is now on the web, and worth your while either as an introduction or brush-up on what those wacky college kids are smoking, ideology-wise: Intersectionality 101. Taking as a starting point the Women's March in DC back in 2017, and the displeasure it caused to many activists:

    Intersectionality is the operating system for the modern left. Understanding what it means and where it comes from is essential for comprehending the current state of activism on college campuses, at protests in major cities, and elsewhere.

    Put simply, the idea is that various kinds of oppression—racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, economic inequality, and others—are simultaneously distinct from each other and inherently linked. They are distinct in the sense that they stack: A black woman suffers from two kinds of oppression (racism and sexism), whereas a white woman suffers from just one (sexism). But they are also interrelated, in that they are all forms of oppression that should be opposed with equal fervor. For instance, a feminist who isn't sufficiently worked up about the rights of the gay community is at odds with the tenets of intersectionality. She is a feminist, but she is not an intersectional feminist.

    From my right-wing-geezer perspective: the only good thing about intersectionality is its inherent ability to repel reasonable people.


  • As another reminder, this one from Kevin D. Williamson at National Review: 'Brainwashing': A Literary and Cinematic Device, Not a Real Thing. But that's not all:

    There is no such thing as brainwashing. There is no such thing as a cult. At least not as those terms are commonly used. But there are many imaginary things that have played a large and important role in our culture and politics. There is no such thing as a “recovered memory,” but people have been put in prison on “recovered memory” evidence. There is no such thing as “multiple-personality disorder,” but many people believe there is, thanks to the popular film based on the 1973 book Sybil, written by the psychiatrist Cornelia B. Wilbur and journalist Flora Rheta Schreiber, much of which was fabricated. The term “multiple personality disorder” is no longer used, and there is no psychiatric consensus about whether the rebranded “disassociative identity disorder” exists. Some psychiatrists believe that it is therapeutically induced, and that some patients are especially susceptible to hypnotic suggestion. The problem with that theory is that hypnosis does not exist, either. There is no scientific evidence that a hypnotic state exists. To the extent that the word “hypnosis” refers to an actual phenomenon, it is simply role-playing.

    That is a lot of debunking. As always, click through for the whole thing, including the MSM buying into narratives that are unsupported by science.


  • And this was cool in a geeky sense, Chris Smith writing at BGR: Genius hid a Morse code message in song lyrics to prove Google was copying them.

    To catch Google, Genius watermarked lyrics with the help of apostrophes, alternating between straight and curly single-quote marks in exactly the same sequence for every song. When turned into dots and dashes, the apostrophes spell the words Red Handed, which is a smart trick.

    This via Language Log, which noted: "Hard-to-see Unicode variation in things like quote curlytude are the source of infinitely annoying text-processing bugs, so it's nice to see someone getting some use out of it."


  • And I'm not sure how I feel about this Tweet.

    But is the cousin mad? Sad? Or does she now realize that her celebrity obsession should be replaced by an honest appreciation for groundbreaking scientific advancement?


Last Modified 2019-06-19 5:37 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2019-06-17

[Amazon Link]

  • At National Review, Wesley J. Smith notes the news from across the Salmon Falls River: Maine Governor Comes out Pro-Suicide.

    Maine Governor Janet Mills (D) just signed a bill legalizing assisted suicide. That means she is pro, at least some, suicides.

    But her statement justifying her signing goes even further, and in my view, crosses the line to full-bore pro-suicide advocacy. From the Courthouse News Service story:

    “It is not up to the government to decide who may die and who may live, when they shall die or how long they shall live,” Mills said in a statement. “While I do not agree that the right of the individual is so absolute, I do believe it is a right that should be protected in law…

    That’s a very opened-ended statement.  If government has no right to decide who may die and who may live, when they shall die or how long they shall live, we might as well kiss government-sponsored suicide-prevention programs goodbye. We should tell cops not to pull people off bridge precipices. And no more forced hospitalizations for treatment of those found beyond a reasonable doubt to be a danger to their own lives.

    Since I am sometimes a bad person, I envisioned a cop going up on a bridge tower and "assisting" the distraught person at the top by …

    "Here ya go, fella!"

    "Aiee ee ee ee…"

    "You're welcome! Always happy to assist!"


  • The next time some lefty attempts to slander your favorite ideology as being anti-science, you might want to dig out this American Interest article from Tara Isabella Burton: The Rise of Progressive Occultism.

    Back in March 2019, an elected government representative shared something personal about her spiritual identity. Not a preferred Bible verse or a conversion story. Rather, progressive New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shared her birth-time with a self-described psychic and astrologer, Arthur Lipp-Bonewits, who in turn shared her entire birth chart with what can only be described as Astrology Twitter.

    Astrology Twitter went wild. So did the mainstream media, with outlets from Vox to The Cut to Allure speculating about what Ocasio-Cortez’s astrological chart could tell us about her fitness for political office. “AOC’s Aries Moon indicates that she’s emotionally fed by a certain amount of independence, self-determination, and spontaneity,” concluded Allure’s Jeanna Kadlec. “But that independence always finds a way home.” Meanwhile, Lipp-Bonewits told The Cut’s Madeleine Aggeler that the stars predicted that Ocasio-Cortez’s “career in politics is likely to last the rest of her life.”

    A fascinating illustration of that quote that Chesterton didn't say: when you stop believing in God, you'll believe anything.


  • [Amazon Link]
    Good advice from J.D. Tuccille at Reason: Stop Treating Government With Respect.

    The government in the United States has increasingly become a powerful weapon that two warring tribes repeatedly seize control of and then use against each other. For those of us who are averse to being smashed, it's long past time to consider the machinery of the state as nothing more than a bludgeon in the hands of dangerous maniacs.

    Dangerous? Indeed. It's hard to beat the insight into the malicious heart of government offered by Rep. Ted Lieu on CNN in December.

    "I would love to be able to regulate the content of speech," the California Democrat told CNN's Brianna Keilar. "The First Amendment prevents me from doing so, and that's simply a function of the First Amendment."

    Lieu obviously takes it for granted that many politicians would muzzle their enemies if it were permitted and that only meddlesome legal strictures prevent them from enacting their dark desires.

    J.D. recommends checking out Jason Brennan's latest book When All Else Fails: The Ethics of Resistance to State Injustice (Amazon link at right). It's on my get-at-library list, but I might move it to my "buy" list.


  • I'm not quite there yet, but my ears pricked up for Andrew Ferguson at the Atlantic: Tyranny of the 70-Somethings.

    Why have national Democrats and not national Republicans fallen under the tyranny of the 70-somethings? It seems so contrary to common expectation. Democrats are, as they often remind us, the party of progress and the future. The question seems to rival those enduring, unanswerable mysteries such as “What happens when you die?” and “Why did Mick Taylor quit the Rolling Stones?”

    People in their mid-to-late 70s are thick on the ground nowadays, while in an earlier era, of course, you’d have been more likely to find them under it. This is especially true in the urban centers of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, according to a recent survey of census data by the Associated Press–NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. In particular, the Washington, D.C., area is a leader in “senior labor force participation,” by which the researchers mean the region is loaded with people who have passed the age of retirement yet somehow neglected to retire.

    Yeah. Those guys are jerks. Interesting factoid, because Andrew gets around to politics pretty quickly: "Infamously, the three leading Democrats in the House are 79, 78, and 79, for a staggering combined age of 236, making the Democratic leadership team older, in aggregate, than the Constitution itself."


  • And Storyline is a very neat game you can play right here:

    Test your knowledge (or ability to make reasonable estimates)! I suggest you do it by your lonesome to avoid embarrassment!


Last Modified 2019-06-17 4:47 PM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2019-06-16 Update

[Amazon Link]

Ah, all is once again right with the world. Donald Trump is on top of our phony candidates' Google hit counts:

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
6/9
Phony
Results
Change
Since
6/9
Donald Trump 46.5% unch 2,170,000 +320,000
Pete Buttigieg 6.8% -1.2% 1,800,000 -370,000
Bernie Sanders 6.6% -1.7% 840,000 +376,000
Joe Biden 16.5% +1.1% 681,000 +406,000
Elizabeth Warren 7.1% +2.0% 223,000 +22,000
Kamala Harris 5.3% -1.0% 90,000 -12,000
Beto O'Rourke 2.2% +0.1% 66,600 +500
Andrew Yang 2.7% +0.4% 23,700 +2,100

"WinProb" calculation described here. Google result counts are bogus.

The Betfair bettors seem to have bought into a Strange New Respect for Elizabeth Warren. She now has better winning odds than any other Democrat not named Joe. It was only a few weeks ago that she seemed to be circling the drain. Now it's Beto! who seems to be on his way to dipping below our 2% WinProb inclusion criterion.

The Democrats announced their debate lineups for later this month, with twenty phonies meeting their inclusion criteria. That's thirteen candidates not in the table above. Specifically: Michael Bennet ( Betfair-derived WinProb: 0.26%); Eric Swalwell (0.40%); Kirsten Gillibrand (0.40%); John Hickenlooper (0.48%); Cory Booker (0.77%); Amy Klobuchar (0.77%); John Delaney (0.27%); Tulsi Gabbard (1.54%); Julian Castro (0.50%); Tim Ryan (0.71%); Bill de Blasio (0.22%); and Jay Inslee (0.31%).

Oh, and also Marianne Willamson, who Betfair doesn't even bother to include. Notice that they do include folks like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Oprah Winfrey, Kanye West, Oscar De La Hoya, and other unlikely winners. That has to hurt a little, Marianne.

In last week's phony news:

  • The Washington Examiner reported: Cory Booker says elementary school yoga can help end the ‘school-to-prison pipeline’.

    Cory Booker endorsed an elementary school program that sends children that cause disruptions to yoga classes instead of detention.

    Fort Worthington Elementary School in Baltimore hired an instructor to teach children meditation and yoga. Instead of punishing children that cause problems with detention, teachers send the children to yoga class, according to a viral video posted by NowThis on Monday.

    "This is amazing. When we talk about ending the school-to-prison pipeline, this is exactly the kind of thoughtful, innovative and commonsense practice to we need to adopt," Booker, a Democratic candidate for president, tweeted Tuesday.

    Hire more yoga teachers, problem solved! It's obvious when you think about it for a few seconds!

    "Commonsense" takes on an entirely different meaning when uttered by politicians, doesn't it?


  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown writes at Reason, and Kamala Harris really sticks in her craw, in an amusing way: Kamala Harris Tries (Again) to Rewrite Her History as a Prosecutor of Petty Crimes.

    Sen. Kamala Harris (D–Calif.) is "leaning into" her history as a prosecutor, some observers noted after the 2020 presidential candidate gave a speech Saturday in South Carolina. Rewriting her history would be more accurate.

    "In this election, regarding my background as a prosecutor, there have been those who have questioned my motivations, my beliefs, and what I have done," Harris said at an event organized by the South Carolina NAACP. "But my mother used to say, you don't let people tell you who you are. You tell them who you are. Let me be clear, self-appointed political commentators do not get to define who we are and what we believe."

    But if we're to rely on Harris' own words and writing about who she is and what she believes, we're left with a whole lot of contradictions and all sorts of major gaps—as I note in Reason's latest print issue. Throughout her political career, Harris has been prone to playing up her progressive bona fides when it suits her and her carceral-centric side at other times. But her actions as a prosecutor almost always fell in the latter camp.

    Perhaps, as David French notes at National Review, Kamala is running for Queen.


  • In our occasional "If We Didn't Have Double Standards, They'd Have No Standards At All" Department, Legal Insurrection notes: Media Declares Speculation About Biden's Health Off-Limits After Speculating About Trump's Mental Health. Specifically, quoting a finger-shaking Daily Beast article on occasional Fox News conjectures about Wheezy Joe:

    In the news business, it is considered irresponsible to spread baseless, potentially damaging rumors about public figures.

    LI points out, among many examples, a 2018 Daily Beast article headlined "How Close Is Donald Trump to a Psychiatric Breakdown?"


  • Speaking of irresponsibility, it would be irresponsible if we didn't note Authenticity when it's observed, as it was by the Daily Wire: Joe Biden Didn’t Campaign In Iowa Last Weekend. His Reason Why Is The Most Authentic Thing He’s Said This Election..

    At a fundraiser Monday night in Washington, DC, Biden said, “I got criticism from one of my competitors because I didn't show up in Iowa to speak for five minutes with 19 people," according to the Associated Press.

    New York Times reporter Katie Glueck tweeted Monday night that a pool reporter said Biden continued, “My granddaughter was graduating. It was my daughter’s birthday. I would skip inauguration for that.”

    The AP reported Biden actually said “I would skip the damn inauguration for that.” (Emphasis added.)

    One cheer for Joe. But one can only hope he'll be skipping the damn inauguration for some other good reason. Specifically, losing.


  • … because it was right back to phoniness after that brief outbreak of honesty. As reported by Jim Geraghty at the NR Corner: Joe Biden Promises He Will Cure Cancer if Elected.

    Yesterday in Iowa Joe Biden declared, “I’ve worked so hard in my career that, I promise you, if I’m elected president, you’re going to see the single most important thing that changes America: We’re going to cure cancer.”

    Geraghty goes on to recall VP candidate John Edwards promising in 2004 that the Kerry/Edwards Administration would use stem cells to insure that "people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair and walk again."

    And now Joe says that all we have to do to cure cancer is to elect him. Perhaps via yoga classes.



Last Modified 2019-06-17 3:10 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2019-06-15

[Amazon Link]

  • I believe there may be sarcastic content in Drew Cline's post at the Josiah Bartlett Center: Our legislators must be scientific super geniuses.

    For years, legislators have been on a relentless quest to raise electricity rates for Granite Staters. Because unlike the rest of us, they are geniuses.

    None of us knows exactly what New Hampshire’s energy mix should be. None of us could say precisely how much of the state’s energy should come from solar or biomass.

    But they know.

    Bottom line: consider our high electric bills to be "the price we pay for living under the benevolent guidance of brilliant elites who know best how to spend the money we earn."


  • At Reason, Peter Suderman reports: Democrats Are Fighting Over Socialism, and the Socialists Are Winning.

    On Wednesday, Bernie Sanders, the independent senator and a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, delivered a major speech on socialism. Titled, "How Democratic Socialism Is the Only Way to Defeat Oligarchy and Authoritarianism," the speech sought to give us Sanders' own definition of socialism. But the address left enough lingering questions that it might better be understood as a declaration simply that Sanders is a socialist, whatever that is.

    Socialism—what it is, whether it's any good, and who counts as a socialist—has become a major divide in the Democratic primary and is likely to play a role in the 2020 general election, no matter who is on the ticket.

    As others have pointed out: the difference between Sanders and Warren and Biden and O'Rourke and … are not so much in their (invariably statist, expensive, prosperity-destroying) policy proposals, but in the (invariably dishonest) labels they use to describe themselves.


  • Jim Geraghty's Morning Jolt newsletter is usually an entertaining hodgepodge of stuff, and yesterday's was no exception, but I especially liked this bit, about President Trump's latest "outrageous" statement:

    […] why is there surprise that Trump said he would accept opposition research or dirt from a foreign government if offered in the 2020 cycle? He never apologizes. He never admits mistakes. In his mind, something or someone who helps him is good, regardless of all other factors, and something or someone who criticizes him is bad, regardless of all other factors. This is why he keeps talking about how nice those letters from Kim Jong Un are. He cannot assess the quality of someone or something outside of the context of self-interest.

    Trump will say whatever pops into his head in response to any question, and he’s demonstrated time and time again that he does not care where he is — whether it is in front of the wall of stars at CIA headquarters or whether he’s sitting in front of the graves at Normandy.

    He is who he is, he will not change, he will not modify or adapt, and most of us figured that out a long time ago. This is why the “You won’t believe what Trump said” coverage gets tuned out after a while. Yes, we will believe it.

    As Paul Hollywood occasionally comments when a brilliant contestant has committed some sort of baking blunder: "It's a shame, really."


  • The Google LFOD News Alert brings us The Day columnist Steve Fagin advising us: Don’t be a loser on the trail. After relating the embarrassing (and expensive) rescues of wannabe outdoorsmen, he notes that we do it different here in New Hampshire:

    The Granite State is one of few to demand reimbursement from hikers, hunters and others whose negligence resulted in a need for rescue services. This gives new meaning to the state motto, "Live Free or Die."

    Steve advertises our state's Hike Safe Card, a revenue-raising scheme for NH's Fish & Game Department. It's a mere $25 for individuals, and your rescue is free even if you "acted negligently" in getting into that situation.

    Unless (this gets complicated) you've "done any of the actions in RSA 153-A:24, I: being Under the Influence; take one or more people hostage; threaten yourself or others; create a said situation "Recklessly or intentionally".

    Just to be safe, you might want to take printed copies of the RSAs and the State Constituion on your next hike.


  • I went to see Neal Stephenson at the Music Hall Loft in Portsmouth last night. Got a personally-signed copy of his latest novel Fall, and exchanged a few words about Iowa, our common state of origin. He's got a very dry sense of humor.

    But our LFOD alert was triggered by this story in our local paper's "EDGE" entertainment guide: Lucette [Lauren Gillis] to the Music Hall Loft June 15. It's an interview:

    EDGE: You’re heading to New Hampshire for a gig at the Music Hall Loft on Saturday, June 15th. What are you most looking forward to when you visit us here?

    Gillis: I have played at the Loft a few times! It’s always such an enjoyable venue with great people.

    What else am I looking forward to? Honestly, eating seafood. I go to Row 34 every time I’m there and get a lobster roll, usually for breakfast. It’s a definite splurge, but I always look forward to it. I also love the state motto “Live free or die.” It sounds like a song (laughs).

    Well, it is a song.

    Well, I'm doin' ten to twenty
    In the frozen granite state
    And every day I go to work
    To stamp out license plates
    Everyday I got to work
    And every night I cry
    Cause every license plate I make tells me to
    Live Free or Die
    
    [Chorus]
    Live free or die
    Oh Lord tell me why
    Can't they say seat belts fastened
    Or Oklahoma is okay
    Vacation land sounds mighty great
    I wouldn't mind stampin' out the Garden State
    It's enough to make me cry
    Live free or die
    
    Well I didn't mean to shoot that man
    Why the gun just went off in my hand
    I caught him with my wife
    And it cost that man his life
    I'd just got home from the factory
    And that man was sittin' where I'm supposed to be
    Now he's up there in the sky and I'm stuck with
    Live free or die
    
    [Chorus]
    
    So let this be a lesson
    To all you married men out there
    That patience is a virtue
    So make your plans with care
    So if you catch your wife with another man
    It's best to hold off as long as you can
    Then shoot him in another state where they got
    A different license plate
    

    That is… kinda brilliant.

URLs du Jour

2019-06-14

[Amazon Link]

Administrative note: Readers may have noticed that I occasionally embed the genius cartooning of Michael P. Ramirez, using one of two methods: (1) the 'embed.ly' service; (2) embedding the tweet that Mr. Ramirez composes.

Neither is that great. The embed.ly method clips the cartoons, and (worse) occasionally fails altogether. And the tweet method displays a lot of extra junk.

So I'm going back and redoing things, rewriting a few embeds each day. I'm uploading the cartoons to my Google Drive and embedding from there. It's a little tedious, but the result seems more reliable and looks better.

Hope I don't get sued.

  • At the Library of Economics and Liberty, Dan Klein writes on how members of a small, unimportant, impotent fraction of the political scene should refer to themselves: Classical Liberal > Libertarian?.

    Increasingly, the political left is being accused of being illiberal. Meanwhile, “classical liberal” gains usage (see 1, 2). Some of those who call themselves classical liberal are quick to distinguish that from “libertarian” (for example, Stephen Davies here, Charles Cooke here).

    The rise of “classical liberal” might be built on putting down “libertarian.”

    What’s the difference? And what about conservatives? Can they be classical liberals?

    An interesting taxonomic discussion. I'm not a fan of labels, because you'll invariably wind up sharing your label with some people with whom you'd rather not be 100% associated.


  • National Review's Kevin D. Williamson takes on a recent Nicolas Kristof column in which he contrasted Guatemalan immiseration with (specifically) the $295 hamburger you can get at a trendy NYC restaurant. Kevin asks the relevant question: But Why Is Guatemala Hungry?.

    Kristof never gets around to saying what he believes to be the relationship between the $295 hamburger and the hungry kids in Guatemala. All he offers is: “Something’s wrong with this picture,” i.e., cheap moralizing. Guatemala’s hungry children deserve more than posturing.

    The lesson we usually are meant to take from these juxtapositions is that the luxury of the rich causes the deprivation of the poor, that we should “live simply that others may simply live.” But that does not really stand up to five seconds’ critical thinking: Do you know what they do not have very much of in Guatemala? Restaurants selling $295 hamburgers. And do you know what they do not have very much of on the Upper East Side? Children stunted from starvation.

    There is a lesson in there.

    If there's the slightest doubt in your mind about the lesson, or even if there isn't, click on through.


  • In our occasional 'You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means' department, Billy Binion reports at Reason: Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders Claims to Love ‘Economic Freedom’.

    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) made his case for democratic socialism yesterday in a speech at George Washington University and an interview on CNN's Anderson 360. Among other things, he called for a "21st Century Economic Bill of Rights" that guarantees "a decent job that pays a living wage," "quality health care," "a complete education," "affordable housing," "a clean environment," and "a secure retirement."

    Sanders, who is vying for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, pitched his policies as the only means to "achieving political and economic freedom in every community."

    Yes, Bernie's "freedom" involves the government giving you stuff, getting other people to pay for it. If you're lucky.


  • In our "Aieee, we're all gonna die" department, CBS News reports on a recent Taurid swarm study: Earth is approaching the same "meteor swarm" that may have caused Tunguska impact in 1908, when entire forest in Russia exploded.

    A swarm of meteors heading toward Earth could have the potential to cause a catastrophic impact, a new study from Western Ontario University says. The so-called Taurid swarm is a recurring event that some scientists believe could have played a role in the biggest Earth impact of modern times, in 1908, when a space rock slammed into Siberia with enough force to destroy an entire forest.

    What has become known as the Tunguska explosion of 1908 was so powerful that the blast leveled 80 million trees over an 800-square-mile area. It's considered to be a one-in-1,000-year event, according to Western Ontario University. But while the Tunguska explosion occurred just over a century ago, another such phenomenon could occur much sooner than its 1,000-year expectancy, the researchers say. That's why they're focusing new attention on the Taurid swarm.

    If you would prefer to read something a little less breathless and a little more science-based, (my old classmate) Kelly Beatty at Sky & Telescope has you covered.


  • So meteor swarms are (potentially) hazardous to your planet. Is that the reason we never see aliens? Maybe, but that's not the only possible explanation! Science Alert reports that A Physicist Has Proposed a Pretty Depressing Explanation For Why We Never See Aliens.

    The Universe is so unimaginably big, and it's positively teeming with an almost infinite supply of potentially life-giving worlds. So where the heck is everybody?

    At its heart, this is what's called the Fermi Paradox: the perplexing scientific anomaly that despite there being billions of stars in our Milky Way galaxy – let alone outside it – we've never encountered any signs of an advanced alien civilisation, and why not?

    The new "depressing" explanation is a two-parter: (1) "the first life that reaches interstellar travel capability necessarily eradicates all competition to fuel its own expansion" and (2) that's probably us.

    Why is this seen as "depressing"? It's science. Nobody finds Ohm's Law depressing.


Last Modified 2019-06-15 5:09 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2019-06-13

[Amazon Link]

  • Bleeding Heart Libertarian contributor Roderick Long writes on a philosophical conflict of which I, and maybe you, were unaware: Randians vs. Stoics.

    Stoicism is undergoing a bit of a renaissance today, both in academic philosophy (partly because it’s seen as a way of mediating between the eudaimonistic, virtue-ethical Aristotelean approach and the deontological Kantian approach; partly because of Foucault’s role, in his later works, of reviving the “care of the self” tradition in ethics) and in works of popular psychology. (There’s also a striking similarity between the Stoic theory of the emotions and that of Sartre, though I’m not aware that anyone besides myself has commented on this.)

    Primarily in response to the popular-psychology use of Stoicism, Randian scholar Aaron Smith has an article up today warning against the perilous influence of the Stoa and urging the preferability of the Randian alternative.

    Interesting! Part of the conflict, of course, is due to Randians adopting the default position: "anything that isn't Objectivism sucks." Following the style of Ms. Rand.


  • Why, yes, I am old enough to remember the Fairness Doctrine. And I'm in agreement with Paul Matzko at Cato: The Fairness Doctrine Was Terrible for Broadcasting and It Would Be Terrible for the Internet.

    Skepticism of big tech companies is surging on both sides of the political spectrum, from Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren calling for breaking up Amazon to Republican Senator Josh Hawley advocating rules that would prohibit online viewpoint discrimination. This wave of techno-progressivism finds its latest expression in Slate journalist April Glaser’s article, “Bring Back the Golden Age of Broadcast Regulation.”

    Glaser argues that the problems of internet discourse—eg hate speech, haphazard content moderation, and conspiracy peddling—are so trenchant that government intervention is warranted. She calls for applying the rules that once governed mid-twentieth century radio and television broadcasting to the internet, the most important of which was the mandate that broadcasting be done in the “public interest, convenience, and necessity” as laid out in the 1934 Communications Act. Inspired by that mandate, reform-minded progressives at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enacted the Fairness Doctrine in 1949, which required broadcasters to provide multiple points of view when discussing political disagreements.

    The usually unspoken premise of calls for "fairness" is that the American people are too stupid and/or unsophisticated to shop the marketplace of ideas and make up their own minds about the quality and correctness of the views they encounter.

    I suppose that could be right. But that's kind of an argument against letting them vote, too.


  • Are NASA's human spaceflight priorities correct? Robert Zubrin, writing at National Review, argues, nay, NASA's Human Spaceflight Priorities Are Wrong.

    The Trump administration has proposed a bold new initiative, dubbed the Artemis Program, that will send astronauts to the Moon by 2024 and Mars by 2033. As detailed by NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine in a presentation on May 23, the program will include some 37 launches by 2028, kicked off by the maiden launch of the agency’s new Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift booster in October 2020.

    Unfortunately, the program as currently conceived is very unlikely to succeed, as it appears to be designed primarily as a mechanism for distributing funds, rather than for accomplishing goals in space. This was made clear when Bridenstine said that a baseline condition for the program would be that all piloted missions would use the SLS booster and the Orion crew capsule, neither of which has yet flown, rather than much cheaper alternatives that have flown. Furthermore, at 26 tons the Orion is so heavy that the SLS cannot deliver it to low lunar orbit with enough propellant for it to fly home. So rather than using a SpaceX Dragon (which at 10 tons is still 50 percent larger than the Apollo crew capsule), which either SLS or the already operational and vastly cheaper ($150 million per launch, compared to over $1 billion for SLS) Falcon Heavy could readily deliver, NASA is proposing to build a new space station, called the Deep Space Gateway, in a high orbit around the Moon, as a halfway house accessible to Orion.

    Yes, unfortunately. NASA's plans seem to whipsaw with each new administration, never actually settling on any scheme long enough to actually accomplish anything. And the financing seems to be modeled on that of California High-Speed Rail. ("It's gonna cost more than we said, take much longer to build, and it's not gonna do what we promised.")


  • At Reason, Veronique de Rugy spells it out: Trump’s Tariffs Hurt American Freedom and Prosperity.

    The air always swirls with popular myths that, when repeated constantly, are taken by some to be indisputably true. One such myth today is that President Donald Trump is unique among presidents in standing up firmly to the Chinese and other foreigners to stop them from harming us economically with their import restrictions, export subsidies, and illegal immigration. According to that theory, the tariffs he uses to counter these foreign practices are to our benefit. As such, we should purportedly welcome them with gratitude.

    Trump is indeed unique among modern presidents in his eagerness to use tariffs. But his vaunted "toughness" in using them is nothing for us Americans to applaud: We should instead condemn their use. Trump's so-called standing up to foreigners is more like stomping on Americans' freedom and prosperity.

    The only upside: Trump has turned Democrats into free-trade advocates! Because Orange Man Bad! (But will they maintain their newfound wisdom once Trump is gone? Ha.)


  • New Hampshire Commie Public Radio triggered our LFOD Alert with a local story: Sununu Promises to Veto State Budget If It Keeps Democrats' Plan for Paid Family Leave. This is amusing:

    Democrats in the House and Senate want a paid family leave program funded by a mandatory payroll deduction, which the Governor calls an income tax. Democrats also want to freeze business taxes at current rates, reversing yet-to-take effect tax cuts favored by Republicans.

    Yeah, it's pretty outrageous that the Governor calls a mandatory payroll deduction an income tax. How dare he de-euphemize like that?!

    And, worse, he invokes LFOD:

    "With an income tax it will be vetoed," Sununu said. "That's an income tax in New Hampshire. I mean let's remember what New Hampshire is all about. Let’s remember what 'live free or die' is all about. Let's remember, ‘Why do we have opportunity today that other states don't?’"

    Which reminds me, I have to send in this quarter's estimated payment on NH's Interest & Dividends tax. Which is not an Income Tax, because… never mind.


Last Modified 2019-06-13 1:04 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2019-06-12

[Amazon Link]

  • At National Review, Alexandra DeSanctis notes a strange, but convenient, disconnect in the rhetoric of our progressive friends. Abortion Politics: Progressives Use Corporate Influence.

    In the wake of outrage over abortion restrictions, corporations can be people once again. Afraid of losing access to “reproductive rights,” progressives have rediscovered their fondness for using corporate influence to cow their moral inferiors into submission.

    The latest culprit in need of chastisement is the pro-life movement, which after decades of persistent work has sustained several consecutive months of policy success, passing legislation in state after state to limit the killing of unborn human beings.

    There's a strange silence of the use of corporate money to influence political questions, when the questions are being influenced by the correct corporations in the correct way.


  • At the Free Beacon, Jeffrey Cimmino describes the vacuum chamber between the ears of a presidential candidate: Gillibrand Compares Pro-Life Viewpoint to Racism, Suggests Pro-Life Beliefs Are 'Not Acceptable'.

    Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) compared pro-life beliefs to racism and suggested the pro-life viewpoint is "not acceptable" during an interview with the Des Moines Register.

    Gillibrand's comments came in response to a question about if having a litmus test for judicial nominees would threaten judicial independence. The senator has promised to only appoint justices who would uphold Roe v. Wade.

    "I think there's some issues that have such moral clarity that we have as a society decided that the other side is not acceptable. Imagine saying that it's okay to appoint a judge who's racist or anti-Semitic or homophobic. Asking someone to appoint someone who takes away basic human rights of any group of people in America—I don't think that those are political issues anymore," Gillibrand said.

    Conversations and discussions with people who view baby-killing as one of the "basic human rights" cannot be had.


  • Reason's Nick Gillespie describes the latest outrage committed in Bill DeBlasio's domain: New York City Landmarks Historic Bookstore The Strand Over Owner’s Objections.

    New York City's Landmarks Preservation Committee (LPC) just wouldn't take no for an answer. The group has conferred landmark status on the 119-year-old building at 826 Broadway, which has housed The Strand Bookstore since 1956. The owners of The Strand bought the building in the late 1990s and the third-generation owner of the store, Nancy Bass Wyden, opposed the action, telling Reason earlier this year:

    The Strand is not going anywhere. There's no need to protect it. Our family's been a great steward of the building. Landmarking would add another component of government. You add bureaucracy, you add committees, you add people having opinions about what we should do inside the store as well as outside the store. And that does not allow me the flexibility to change with the retail book environment and to serve our customers.

    Were I running Reason's website I would have been sorely tempted to put the word "owner" in sneer quotes in the headline. When the government can take over important decisions about your property, you don't really "own" it as much as you used to.

    (If you can't get to 826 Broadway, you can nevertheless fake it by ordering our Amazon Product du Jour.)


  • Scott Rasmussen reports on poll results at the Daily Wire: Will YouTube Censor Opposing Political Views?. You may not care about the poll results, but there's a valuable summary of the latest:

    Last week, YouTube announced sweeping changes to how it handles user content that it deems "supremacist," "hateful," or "harmful" to the community — and very few voters are confident that the platform will end up applying its new rules fairly.

    "YouTube has always had rules of the road, including a longstanding policy against hate speech," the company announced in a statement last week. "Today, we're taking another step in our hate speech policy by specifically prohibiting videos alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status."

    The announcement came the same day that YouTube revealed that it had officially demonetized all of the videos produced by conservative comedian and commentator Steven Crowder because of what appears to be a new interpretation of its Community Guidelines that takes into account "harms" to the "broader community."

    "Even if a creator's content doesn't violate our community guidelines, we will take a look at the broader context and impact, and if their behavior is egregious and harms the broader community, we may take action," YouTube explained in a statement Wednesday. "In the case of Crowder's channel, a thorough review over the weekend found that individually, the flagged videos did not violate our Community Guidelines. However, in the subsequent days, we saw the widespread harm to the YouTube community resulting from the ongoing pattern of egregious behavior, took a deeper look, and made the decision to suspend monetization. In order to be considered for reinstatement, all relevant issues with the channel need to be addressed, including any videos that violate our policies, as well as things like offensive merchandise."

    You would be hard pressed to find a more weaselly-worded statement. I would have gone with a more honest: "Never mind our 'guidelines'. We'll do whatever we feel like doing."


  • My local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, reports on the important area news: Free the Nipple volunteer earns President's Award.

    Maggie Fisher works daily toward her goal of bringing equality to women who desire to go topless in public places like the beach, the same as men.

    In essence, she is working to Free the Nipple, the name of the organization she volunteers for in New Hampshire.

    With FTN NH, Fisher logged 536 volunteer hours in the past year, and she has been awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Gold Medal Award. Many of her volunteer hours were spent engaging with the public on social media platforms by communicating with those who agree and disagree with FTN’s views on female toplessness in public as well as those who aren’t sure at what to think.

    That's President Trump issuing the award, folks.

    And yes, you can count as "volunteer hours" doing your "social media".


  • And finally, Mr. Ramirez cartoons on the Silicon Valley Monopoly.

    Silicon Valley Monopoly

    I'm OK with Google, but Ramirez is brilliant.


Last Modified 2019-06-13 10:16 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2019-06-11

[Amazon Link]

  • At NR Sam Sweeney has advice for those concerned about Social Media and Censorship: Close Your Accounts (NRPLUS article).

    My advice: Delete your Facebook, yesterday. Don’t get your news from Twitter. The issues of free speech on social media will no longer matter to you. They don’t matter to me. I’ve made a decision not to subjugate myself to the whims of our new overlords. They can open their platform to everyone from neo-Nazis to Kim Jong-un, or they can have a litmus test that includes denouncing Donald Trump or the pope at regular intervals — a sort of school-bathroom pass fitting for our generation’s extended adolescence in which Mark Zuckerberg plays the schoolmarm. It won’t affect my life either way. In my own mind at least, I am free because these things no longer define my life. I am happier as a result. I can still read a book of some length, an ability I see dropping off sharply among my peers.

    Not having Facebook is the 21st-century equivalent of becoming a cloistered monk. If I can just stop opening Twitter, I will feel like I’ve replaced Saint Simeon on his pillar. Monastic jokes aside, let me tell you: Life doesn’t end when you close your social-media accounts. In fact, the day you close them is the day your life truly begins again.

    Might be good advice. I'm not ready to take it yet, but…


  • Nick Gillespie discusses a related topic at Reason: Are Google and YouTube Evil? No, But Don’t Let That Get in the Way of Your Feelings.. (Note that Nick proactively and efficiently confirms the validity of Betteridge's Law of Headlines in the headline itself.)

    By now, you probably know that YouTube is pure evil. Or maybe just dumber than a box of rocks. Either way, get ready for major political and regulatory action against Google, which has owned the video platform since 2006, and is now the target of a Department of Justice antitrust investigation and a congressional investigation along the same lines. Earlier today in an interview with CNBC, President Donald Trump praised the more-than-$9-billion in fines levied against the internet giant by the European Union since 2017 and declared, "Obviously, there's something going on in terms of monopoly."

    These days, whether you're a right-wing free-marketer or a left-wing democratic socialist, whether you're Tucker Carlson or Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.), you probably worry more about Big Tech than Islamic terrorism and agree that all or most of the so-called FAANG companies (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google) need to be broken up, hemmed in, or regulated as public utilities. Hell, even the leaders of those companies are calling for regulation. A month ago, Google's CEO Sundar Pichai took to the op-ed pages of The New York Times to plead with Congress to pass "comprehensive privacy legislation" similar to the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that would cover all online businesses. Ironically—or maybe strategically—Pichai didn't mention that a year after the GDPR's implementation, Google's marketshare had grown.

    My own feelings: they ain't evil, but they are neither trustworthy nor particularly admirable. And I kind of miss the days when Microsoft was the Great Satan.


  • If you've been wondering how much of the New York Times' 'Making Of A YouTube Radical' piece is dishonest, Michael Knowles of the Daily Wire will let you know: Everything About The NYT 'Making Of A YouTube Radical' Piece Is Dishonest.

    On Saturday, The New York Times published a nearly 5,000-word article featured at the top of its website on “the making of a YouTube radical.” The fact-free and defamatory rant smeared some of the most mainstream voices in political commentary and in many cases proved precisely the opposite of the points it purported to make.

    “Caleb Cain was a college dropout looking for direction,” writes Times columnist Kevin Roose. “He turned to YouTube. Soon, he was pulled into a far-right universe, watching thousands of videos filled with conspiracy theories, misogyny and racism.” Which YouTubers does the article identify as “far-right,” conspiratorial, misogynist, and racist? One photo featured the Daily Wire’s own Ben Shapiro, a nationally syndicated radio host and one of the most popular podcasters in the country. Another photo depicted Dave Rubin, a gay, self-described liberal whose centrist interview show offers a platform for voices on the Right and Left of the political aisle. Bewilderingly, the editors placed in the center of the cover photo montage an image of Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist who spent much of the 1970s and ‘80s explaining basic economic concepts to live audiences on camera.

    Milton Friedman! Still perverting young minds!

    As is well known, reading Friedman is a gateway to even stronger stuff: Hayek, Mises, Sowell, McCloskey, Bastiat,…

    At least that's how it worked for me.


  • I've occasionally referred here to the late Richard Mitchell, the self-described "Assistant Circulation Manager" of the typeset-by-hand newsletter The Underground Grammarian. I was a dedicated subscriber from 1983 until the last issue in 1991. I also own Mr. Mitchell's books.

    At some point, an even more dedicated fan, Mark Andre Alexander, took advantage of Mr. Mitchell's laissez-faire attitude toward copyright, and put nearly the entire oeuvre on the web here.

    Mark tells his story at Quillette: How the 'Underground Grammarian' Taught Me to Tell Reason from Rubbish. He provides a number of pungent UG quotes, for example:

    Words never fail. We hear them, we read them; they enter into the mind and become part of us for as long as we shall live. Who speaks reason to his fellow men bestows it upon them. Who mouths inanity disorders thought for all who listen. There must be some minimum allowable dose of inanity beyond which the mind cannot remain reasonable. Irrationality, like buried chemical waste, sooner or later must seep into all the tissues of thought.

    Mr. Mitchell is sorely missed.


  • The Concord Monitor's "Granite Geek" is rightfully proud of… Finally, a historical marker that talks about something important.

    It took 10 months to get it done, but the Granite State is now officially a Geeky State: The latest New Hampshire Historical Highway Marker, celebrating the creation of the BASIC computer language at Dartmouth in 1964, has officially been installed.

    Everybody who has ever typed a GOTO command can feel proud.

    Indeed. BASIC wasn't my first computer language (that honor goes to a very obscure language called ALPS, developed at the University of Oklahoma for the refrigerator-sized Bendix G-15). But, yeah, I did a lot of stuff in the 1970s and early 1980s in various BASIC dialects.

    Tried to avoid GOTOs though.

The Door Into Summer

[Amazon Link]

Continuing on the reread-Heinlein project. This one is a favorite. Short, and simple. Or, as simple as a time-travel tale can be.

First published in 1956, it opens in the far future of … 1970. The hero and narrator, Daniel Boone Davis, is a genius engineer/inventor, working in partnership with his trusted pal Miles, in love with their robotics company's secretary, Belle.

This turns out to be a mistake, as Miles and Belle successfully conspire to wrest control of the firm from him. And when he credibly threatens to raise a stink, they dispose of him neatly, by putting him in "cold sleep", until the unimaginably distant future of … the year 2000.

Awakening in 2000, Dan is flummoxed by the incredible advances. But when he tries to get back into his engineering profession, he can't help but notice that some bright boy has long since stolen the ideas that only existed in his head. What's going on?

Nobody's made this into a movie, unfortunately, but you'll notice its sci-fi DNA percolating into a lot of other time-travel yarns, like Back to the Future and Futurama.

An Economist Walks into a Brothel

And Other Unexpected Places to Understand Risk

[Amazon Link]

I put this book on my "get at library" list thanks to a Reason podcast interview with the author, Allison Schrager. And it came in via Interlibrary Loan from Trinity College (the one in Hartford, not Dublin).

It's a look at a topic I've been interested in for a while, risk. It mainly centers around financial risk—that's Allison's professional home base—but it occasionally slops over into risks of death or injury as well. The approach is suitable for a dabbler (like me), and Allison's writing style is jauntily accessible.

She describes what risk is, why some degree of risk is inevitable, how to maintain a rational attitude toward risk, and the various strategies people use to mitigate or avoid risk: diversification, hedging, insurance, etc. And (last but not least) the recognition of uncertainty; you can't, nearly by definition, prepare for the unpredictable. The best you can do is stay flexible and willing to adjust your strategies.

She discusses (but doesn't write down) the Black-Scholes formula for option pricing. A worked-through example would have been appreciated, but I can see that some readers closing the book, saying "I was told there would be no math."

All that could have been pretty dry, but Allison had the bright idea of illustrating her topics with real-life examples from high-risk fields. Exemplified by the book's title: she visited a (legal) cathouse in Nevada, and discusses the trade-offs involved in working in that relatively safe environment vs. freelancing in other situations.

Further chapters visit horse breeders, magicians, professional poker players, movie financiers, and more. (The chapter on horse breeding is actually more explicit than the one with the brothel.)

Good book.

URLs du Jour

2019-06-10

[Amazon Link]

  • Kevin D. Williamson at NR notes a presidential candidate going Full Mussolini: Senator Warren Embraces Economic Nationalism.

    In a Democratic field that includes dingbat socialist Bernie Sanders, callow ward heeler Corey Booker, and eternal sophomore-class president Kirsten Gillibrand, it was perhaps inevitable that Elizabeth Warren would come to be known as the smart one. And yet, that reputation turns out to be unearned. She may walk tall with the dwarves, but in the great sprawling zany Disney World of American politics, she still isn’t tall enough to ride Space Mountain.

    Every couple of years, the Democratic party goes full national socialist and begins to lecture the nation on “economic patriotism” — creepily fascistic language at the best of times, but worrisome indeed for a party that has drifted into tolerating open anti-Semitism. “Economic patriotism” is what the Democrats talk about when they want to out-Trump Trump. That ridiculous dope Ted Strickland, once the governor of godforsaken Ohio, bellowed on the theme in 2012, giving a Democratic National Convention speech about “economic patriotism” and Mitt Romney’s alleged lack of it. (That was about five minutes after the last Democratic lecture about how questioning the patriotism of our political opponents is a crime against humanity.) Barack Obama, chin tilted up at 60 degrees in his trademark Mussolini pose, delivered a homily about “economic patriotism” in Georgetown in 2014 and was hectoring Americans about the virtues of nationalism just a few years before Democrats began denouncing Donald Trump as a Nazi for using the term.

    Warren's proposals, Kevin notes, include "a truly massive campaign of new corporate-welfare spending accompanied by a great deal of foot-stamping/first-pumping anti-corporation rhetoric."

    And she's the smart one.


  • At Reason, Nick Gillespie looks at the latest internecinity (not a common word, but should be): The Fight Conservatives Are Having Over Theocracy and Classical Liberalism Obscures How Beaten Their Movement Is.

    Watching an ugly, name-calling rift on the right between theocratic Catholics on the one hand and classical-liberalish evangelicals on the other, you could be forgiven for thinking that the conservative movement still has some intellectual life left in it. In the scant week since New York Post op-ed editor Sohrab Ahmari attacked what he called "David French-ism" in a bilious article for First Things, the internet has exploded with dozens of pieces on the matter, including a long column in The New York Times by Ross Douthat, a detailed explainer in Vox by Jane Coaston, and an hour-long discussion of the stakes on a recent Reason podcast featuring Katherine Mangu-Ward, Peter Suderman, Matt Welch, and me.

    But the deeper effect of the ideological slap fight is to underscore how social conservatives have lost essentially every culture-war battle they have prosecuted since the modern conservative movement got started with the launch of National Review in 1955. Whether they want to use power of the state to compel or restrict certain behaviors (as Ahmari argues) or believe they can win debates in a noncoercive marketplace of ideas (as National Review's David French, the specific target of Ahmari's ire, posits), both sides have wanted the same basic social and cultural outcomes over the past several decades, including a rejection of marriage equality, a ban on abortion except to save the life of the mother, the continued prohibition of most or all currently illicit drugs, an end to no-fault divorce, restrictions on the number and variety of immigrants, tighter controls on whatever they deem to be obscenity and pornography, a bigger role for religion in the public square, and an embrace of what they consider to be traditional sexual mores, marriage conventions, and gender roles.

    Eh, I dunno. I remember R. Emmett Tyrelly writing (our Amazon Product du Jour) The Conservative Crack-Up back in 1992, over a quarter-century ago. And somehow conservatives are still around. Current reports of their demise are at best premature.


  • Jonah Goldberg writes on the same topic in his column: Does Reality Change Ideas, or Vice Versa?.

    That's effectively two headline questions. I feel it's my duty to point out that Betteridge's Law of Headlines implies the answer to both is "No".

    It’s axiomatic that intellectuals like to deal with ideas. Ideas are to the intellectual what paint is to the painter and stone is to the mason. And ideas are supremely important. As the late Irving Kristol said, “What rules the world is ideas, because ideas define the way reality is perceived.”

    I believe that. But reality — i.e., the physical realm we live in — is often what brings new ideas to the fore. We certainly understand this in the world of science. Newton, Einstein, and Edison had ideas, and those ideas changed reality in ways that changed our ideas.

    Ever since the word “conservative” has had any meaning, conservatives have complained about moral licentiousness. Where they once complained about rising hemlines, they now complain about widespread pornography or celebrity sex tapes. As a conservative myself, I share some of those complaints. But what’s often left out of the conversation is the role technology plays in changing how we think about such things.

    A lot, as you might imagine. But discussions on both left and right seem to be stuck back decades, or even centuries.


  • [Amazon Link]
    And our Google LFOD News Alert rang for (of all places) a Los Angeles Review of Books article: One Feels a Malady: On Robert N. Watson’s “Cultural Evolution and its Discontents”. A new hardcover (link at right) will set you back a cool $91 at Amazon! I think this means it's a college textbook. Let's skip right to the goofy LFOD reference:

    But it turns out that culture, according to Watson, can easily reproduce the wrong mistakes, at least the wrong mistakes for the human beings who comprise the members of a culture, since the wrong mistakes are parasites within memeplexes, and we humans are their hosts. We use antibacterial soap, which makes us more vulnerable to disease because a wrong mistake has seized our imaginations — with the help of memeplex-like corporations defending and increasing their profits. We believe what cultural structures give us room to believe, and those structures defend themselves by making us believe in them in the manner of the three big religions or, to take an example that Watson recurs to, the religion of capitalism. (He also sees Soviet communism as a memeplex: the difference between capitalism and communism as memeplexes being, for Watson, that capitalism pretends it is the natural order of things, whereas communism presents itself as an intensely interventionist administrative system.) These are the discontents evolved by culture, “discontents” used in this way itself being a meme invented by Freud’s translator Joan Riviere. To quote Wallace Stevens, whom Watson loves to quote, they are why “[o]ne has a malady, here, a malady. One feels a malady.” The malady is the human experience of the downsides of the culture (Freud’s original word) or civilization or memeplex, which is our somewhat self-deluding compromise with reality. For Freud, these discontents come about because of the repression or redirection of our sexual drives. For Watson, they come about through the connivance of structures of power seeking to defend themselves by making us fear taxes, for example, or having us subscribe to slogans like “Better dead than red” or “Live free or die,” the New Hampshire state motto, about which Watson comments: “It matters, of course, who gets to define freedom.” If the National Rifle Association defines it, a more accurate motto might be “Live free and die.”

    I left a comment at the site objecting to the drive-by slam of our state motto. But I'm kind of boggled by the faux profundity. "Live free and die". Woohoo, that's supposed to be clever?

The Phony Campaign

2019-06-09 Update

It's been a couple weeks since our last phony update. And phoniness did not go on hiatus during that time. Let's open with a fine … nay, brilliant video from those wacky folks at Reason:

Uncomfortably verisimilar!

Our candidate lineup has remained unchanged since March. Beto! remains on deathwatch, however, flirting with our 2% inclusion threshold. The most likely candidate to appear… remains Tulsi Gabbard.

Mayor Pete maintains a slight lead in phony hit counts this week. Will President Orange regain his rightful lead soon? Stay tuned!

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
5/26
Phony
Results
Change
Since
5/26
Pete Buttigieg 8.0% +3.1% 2,170,000 -2,730,000
Donald Trump 46.5% -0.4% 1,850,000 -510,000
Bernie Sanders 8.3% -1.2% 464,000 +57,000
Joe Biden 15.4% +1.3% 275,000 -38,000
Elizabeth Warren 5.1% +1.4% 201,000 -78,000
Kamala Harris 6.3% -0.2% 102,000 +8,100
Beto O'Rourke 2.1% -0.3% 66,100 -6,700
Andrew Yang 2.3% -0.5% 21,600 -400

"WinProb" calculation described here. Google result counts are bogus.

It was really tough to avoid making this week's update exclusively about Joe Biden. Don't let the bogus Google hit count deceive you: Biden's phoniness over the past few days has been unmatched by any other candidate.

  • It's been less than a couple weeks since Paul Mirengoff wondered: Where’s Joe?. In reference to a WaPo story by Annie Linskey and Chelsea Janes documenting Biden's absence from campaign events:

    Why is Biden limiting his exposure so sharply? Linskey and Janes are too diplomatic, or partisan, to discuss the obvious reason — he’s a gaffe machine. Instead, they note that he has plenty of name recognition and leads in the polls. But if Biden were confident in his ability to face public scrutiny, he would be pressing home his advantage instead of avoiding the public.

    Biden’s backers say that the public has no doubt about where their man stands on the issues of the day. That statement is laughable, though Linskey and Janes don’t challenge it. Biden has stood on both sides of many important issues.

    Biden keeping himself out of the news? Ah, good times. (That link goes to the wannabe guillotine operators at Jacobin by the way.)


  • An old plagiarizer finds the habit hard to break, as reported by Business Insider: Joe Biden climate plan copies language from other organizations.

    Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden released on Tuesday a comprehensive proposal to combat global climate change, adding to the mix of candidates who have made rolling back dangerous emissions a central tenet of their campaigns.

    But multiple sentences in Biden's proposal appear to lift passages from letters and websites for different organizations. The copied sentences are particularly notable because of Biden's past history of plagiarism, which played a major role in tanking his 1988 presidential campaign.

    Biden's campaign says "oops, inadvertent, sorry." But CNN said, hey, what's the big deal? What would Democrats do without the MSM making excuses for them?


  • Of course, the big Biden phoniness, was, in comparison, an attempted triple Lutz ending with a facedown into a pile of zamboni shavings. Alexandra DeSanctis at NR observes the obvious. Joe Biden & Hyde Amendment Opposition: Former Vice President Was Never Pro-Life.

    In a catastrophic failure of moral and political judgment, Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden has buckled under pressure from abortion-rights activists and stated his newfound opposition to the Hyde amendment, a bipartisan rider that has prevented the direct public funding of abortion for decades.

    It is no great shock that the leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination would feel obliged to uphold his party’s platform, which in 2016 was rewritten to formally reject the Hyde amendment as an unconscionable restriction of a woman’s right to abortion. (Arguing that a lack of federal funding to enable the exercise of a right is an unconstitutional limitation on that right likely would draw objections from Democrats if it were applied to, say, the Second Amendment.)

    Congratulations, Joe. You've won a spot on the phony all-star team. That's quite an accomplishment.


  • And going from dishonest, to stupid, to pathetic

    Stephen Miller commented: "Biden is the 15 year old kid who can’t take a hint that his bestest friend Barrry has moved on to chicks now that he’s a sophomore."


  • But speaking of the Hyde Amendment: Politico encourages us to Guess who else voted against federal funding for abortion?. (Written when Biden was FOR the Hyde Amendment.)

    THE THING ABOUT THE HYDE AMENDMENT … Over the last day, there’s been a pile-on on JOE BIDEN -- Beto O’Rourke, Elizabeth Warren and others have ganged up against the former VP over his support of the Hyde Amendment, language that prohibits most federal funding for abortion.

    BUT … If you are or have been a member of Congress -- 15 people in this field -- and you’ve voted for big spending packages, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve also voted for the amendment. OF COURSE, Biden is actively supporting it, and that’s a bit unique. But this language has been a part of a lot of funding bills and gotten plenty of votes from Democrats over the years.

    AN EXAMPLE: ELIZABETH WARREN SAYS SHE DOESN’T LIKE THE HYDE AMENDMENT … Warren told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on Wednesday night that “we do not pass laws that take away the freedom from the women who are most vulnerable.” Her team tweeted: “I will not support any effort to take rights away from women who are the most vulnerable. It’s time for Hyde to go. #WarrenTownHall”

    … BUT, OF COURSE, SHE’S VOTED FOR IT! It doesn’t take long to find an example of Warren voting for the Hyde Amendment. Take this bill, which funded a big chunk of the government last year.

    IT INCLUDED this language: “(a) None of the funds appropriated in this Act, and none of the funds in any trust fund to which funds are appropriated in this Act, shall be expended for any abortion. (b) None of the funds appropriated in this Act, and none of the funds in any trust fund to which funds are appropriated in this Act, shall be expended for health benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion.”

    WARREN voted for this bill twice. So did Michael Bennet, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Eric Swalwell and others. Bernie Sanders voted no. President DONALD TRUMP signed it into law.

    A long excerpt, but worthwhile. Note that the presidential role in federal funding of abortion is pretty much indirect, limited to what he or she will veto. If those Congresscritters and Senators really thought getting rid of Hyde was important, they'd stay in the legislative branch and vote appropriately.

    But they don't. Not really. It's all posturing and appeasement to the baby-killing mob.


  • Michael Graham of Inside Sources notes, and asks: Joe Biden's Draft Record Looks a Lot Like Donald Trump's. Do Democrats Care?.

    He was 6 feet tall and had an athlete’s build. He played football in high school and was active in sports throughout college. He spent one summer as a lifeguard at a local pool.

    But after he graduated college in the spring of 1968 and became eligible for the draft and —possibly — combat duty in Vietnam, he received a diagnosis that let him avoid military service.

    No, not bone spurs. Asthma.

    And his name was Joe Biden.

    Hint: Betteridge's Law of Headlines applies to Michael's question. Candidataes Buttigieg and Moulton have been playing up their own military service, denigrating Trump's lack thereof, and have been (as near as anyone can tell) silent on Wheezy Joe.


  • And it's been a long time since New York's junior Senator has appeared in our standings. Because, as I type, the Betfair bettors judge her to have a 0.24% shot at becoming our next president. (People with better odds than she: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson; Oprah Winfrey; Stacey Abrams; Nikki Haley; and many more.)

    But this is (nonetheless) on target, from Politico: NRA takes a dig at Gillibrand: 'She'll say anything' to get ahead.

    The National Rifle Association hit back at Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Monday, calling her out for changing her stance on gun policy and claiming "she'll say anything" to get ahead in the Democratic presidential primary.

    The tweet comes after the presidential hopeful's remarks on the NRA at a Sunday Fox News town hall in which she called the group "the worst organization in the country."

    "Gillibrand called us the worst org in the country, but when she represented NY20, she wrote us: 'I appreciate the work that the NRA does to protect gun owners rights, and I look forward to working with you for many years,'" the NRA tweeted. "Now that she’s looking to crack 1%, she’ll say anything."

    Darnit, I suspect Kirsten's showing in the polls would improve if she just said: "I will say anything to get elected. Please tell me what I should say."


  • And a nod to our current phony leader from Benjamin Horvath at the Federalist: Pete Buttigieg Has Nothing To Recommend Him Except Identity Politics.

    Also part of [Buttigieg's] schtick is to label himself a foil to Pence, a supposed bogeyman of LGBT people. Buttigieg announced his sexual orientation a few months before his re-election bid, just after huge public backlash to then-governor Pence’s signing of a statewide religious liberty law (that Pence quickly reversed). It was also right before the Supreme Court’s landmark Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which legalized same-sex marriage across all 50 states.

    Buttigieg speaks of the public announcement of his sexual orientation as if it were politically risky. One has to be naïve or ignorant of American politics to believe there was anything but upside to be gained by this timely announcement.

    The timing of his announcement allowed for a prepackaged media narrative: gay mayor wins landslide reelection in Pence’s deep-red Indiana. Predictably, the media has run with this narrative, with nary a mention that a Republican hasn’t won a mayor’s race in this city since Richard Nixon was elected president.

    Is it just me, or are people getting tired of Buttigieg already?



Last Modified 2019-06-10 5:45 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2019-06-08

[Amazon Link]

  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson looks at YouTube vs. Steven Crowder: Conservative Comedian's Suppression Hurts Democratic Discourse. Skipping to the bottom line:

    While I myself am a free-speech absolutist and do not support the censorship engaged in by many European governments (and some governments elsewhere), one can understand, even if one does not condone, outlawing national-socialist political parties in Germany in the 1940s. The possibility of a revanchist Nazi movement coming to power was not unthinkable at the time. But the American context is rather different. Steven Crowder’s mocking Carlos Maza as a “lisping queer” is ugly and stupid. It is not violence, near to violence, or even rhetorically violent. And the protestations of Mark Zuckerberg and his fellow technology titans notwithstanding, suppressing that kind of speech has nothing to do with “public safety.” It has to do with Carlos Maza’s stated desire to “humiliate” and, if possible, to silence those who see the world in a different way. That Google and Twitter and Facebook and other companies choose to make themselves a party to that is shameful, and a disservice to democratic discourse.

    The winking complicity of Big Tech with the leftist mobs will not end well for anyone.


  • Another data point on the same theme: At AEI, Timothy P. Carney confirms Betteridge's Law of Headlines: Does an illiberal Left call for an illiberal Right?. ("No.") He's great on the symptoms:

    Just a few years ago, as the Left moved from “let us live our lives how we want” to “you must live as we say,” it began to cloak its own intolerance in rhetoric about bigotry. They suddenly asserted or pretended that everyone who opposed gay marriage was a bigot. They stated that bigotry has no rights, and therefore it was fine to force all dissenters out of business as bakers or wedding photographers.

    Then it went further: The Democrats joined with the very biggest companies to declare it unacceptable for states to even allow individual small businessmen the freedom of conscience. Not only was traditional Christian (and Muslim) teaching on sexuality deplorable, but even mere tolerance of it was bigotry.

    Bottom line: Tim thinks the right answer is to "smash what’s big, whether it be government or business." Presumably using antitrust law. For the business part, anyway. I'm not for that, but it's on my lengthening list of "Things I Wouldn't Get Overly Upset About."


  • Chris Edwards updates the data, and finds the Postal Service [still] in Crisis.

    Mail volumes are falling and the U.S. Postal Service is losing billions of dollars a year while accumulating large liabilities.

    The USPS has partly offset declining mail revenues with growth in package revenues. But the company’s finances look pretty bleak overall.

    Note that there's an environmental problem:

    Marketing mail has become by far the largest type of mail by volume. Thus we have a vast fleet of trucks driving around the country, burning gas and creating pollution, and the main thing being delivered is junk mail.

    I can confirm that on most days, it's most efficient to stop at the paper recycling bin immediately after picking up the mail.


  • Drew Cline, writing at the Josiah Bartlett Center, notes New Hampshire lawmakers' Orwellian efforts to paint a smiley face on their efforts to kill prosperity: Legislators vote to raise business taxes, not 'repeal future tax cuts'.

    The Senate this week joined the House passing tax increases on New Hampshire businesses. Some reports give the impression that the House and Senate budgets would not raise taxes, but would repeal future tax cuts. Here we explain why that is not correct and the budgets raise business taxes, including the rates that businesses will pay this year.

    Under current law, the business profits tax rate is 7.7 percent and the business enterprise tax rate is 0.6 percent for “taxable periods” that end “on or after December 31, 2019.”

    Both the House and Senate budgets would repeal those rates and replace them with rates of 7.9 percent and 0.675 percent, respectively.

    Here's hoping Governor Sununu has a lot of ink in his veto pen.


  • At the Library of Economics and Liberty, Bryan Caplan has a post to which those of us who are Getting Up There might want to pay attention: The Backwards Induction of Aging.

    If you’re lucky, you’ll be old one day.  Your mental faculties will deteriorate, especially your memory and your ability to adapt to new conditions.  Your personality, however, is likely to stay about the same.  Which raises a serious question: What will life be like for someone who has (a) poor memory, (b) low flexibility, and (c) your personality?

    Before sorrow overwhelms you, remember: You’ll probably have younger people around to help you.  Which raises a more specific question: How will younger people treat someone who has (a) poor memory, (b) low flexibility, and (c) your personality?

    Bryan's good advice: make appropriate course changes in your personality before it's too late. (Which raises the question: what if it's already too late? Hm.)

URLs du Jour

2019-06-07

[Amazon Link]

  • John Hawkins compiles his list of The 30 Best Quotes From Jonah Goldberg. John's a Goldbergian fanboy, so am I. I'm not sure I could hold my list to 30, but he's done a pretty good job. Let's skip down to number 25:

    Fascism is a religion of the state. It assumes the organic unity of the body politic and longs for a national leader attuned to the will of the people. It is totalitarian in that it views everything as political and holds that any action by the state is justified to achieve the common goal. It takes responsibility for all aspects of life, including our health and well-being, and seeks to impose uniformity of thought and action, whether by force or through regulation and social pressure. Everything, including economy and religion, must be aligned with its objectives. Any rival identity is part of the 'problem' and therefore defined as the enemy. I will argue that contemporary American liberalism embodies all of these aspects of fascism.

    That's from page 23 of Liberal Fascism. Which is now over 10 years old, but you can see it echoing in every demand for overturning Citizens United, legal harrassment of bakers and nuns, the Green New Deal, or "asking the rich to pay their fair share", or…


  • … Or the notion that there's a huge need to have a massive federal intervention into the housing market. For an example of that, let Robert VerBruggen tell you why Cory Booker's Rent-Subsidy Proposal Is Hilariously Bad. Quoting from Booker's Medium page:

    Anyone paying more than 30 percent of their before-tax income would be eligible for the credit, which would cover the difference between 30 percent of a beneficiary’s income and their rent (capped at the neighborhood fair market rent). According to researchers at Columbia University, the impact would be sweeping: the credit would benefit more than 57 million people, including nearly 17 million children, and lift 9.4 million Americans out of poverty. The median credit for a benefitting family would equal $4,800.

    Just the beginning of Robert's merciless takedown:

    Booker writes that almost half” of all renters pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent, which seems to roughly align with the 57 million individuals benefiting in the Columbia research (which his post does not provide). So almost half of renters would have the option of moving to whatever neighborhood they wanted throughout the country, no matter how expensive, while paying exactly 30 percent of their income in rent, so long as they picked a place at the neighborhood fair market rent.

    Gee, I wonder if eliminating these renters’ price sensitivity might have some unintended consequences. I wonder if the median credit might end up being more than $4,800. And I wonder what problems would result from the new 30 percent marginal tax rate — given that every time someone earned an extra $100, his rent subsidy would fall $30 to keep his rent payments at 30 percent of his income.

    Maybe Pun Salad should have a new category: "Campaign Proposals Whose Sole Purpose is to Get the Votes of Stupid People".


  • Our Google LFOD News Alert Rang for an article from Trish Regan at Fox Business: Joe Biden denies reality while China tries to rewrite history.

    [Biden] doubled down on his pro-China rhetoric today, going a little more general in his reference to Asia, telling an audience in Berlin, New Hampshire, “our workers are literally three times as productive as workers in the Far East, I mean -- excuse me, in Asia. And they are three times productive. And so, what are we worried about?”

    I strongly suspect that "pro-China rhetoric" means that Biden's opposed to Trump's anti-China tariffs. I've not dug through news reports to be sure, however.

    But what of LFOD? Ah, here:

    A bit of advice to Mr. Biden: That kind of talk isn’t going to fly in Berlin, New Hampshire where he was today. I grew up in the “live free or die” state. Berlin is a former manufacturing town, full of logging and paper mills but it is now a shadow of its former self thanks, in part, to too many presidents and too many administrations that thought a little like Joe Biden.

    Berlin's doubtlessly in bad shape, but is it in bad shape because of "in part, to too many presidents and too many administrations that thought a little like Joe Biden"? That's an assertion vaguely hedged enough ("in part", "too many", "a little") to be uncheckable.

    Trish, here's something closer to the truth: Times change. Berlin didn't change with them.


  • At the American Council on Science and Health, Josh Bloom discusses a micro-marginal decrease in scaremongering: In California Coffee Is No Longer Carcinogenic. Was It Ever?.

    California's Proposition 65, which began its miserable life as The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, now has little to do with safe water or safe anything else. It's a bad joke to scientists, a plague on California businesses, and a goldmine for attorneys. Why? Because if a shoe manufacturer is selling shoes that are not marked with a cancer warning label then the company owners can be (and were) sued for failing to warn consumers about the presence of a Prop 65 chemical  You can't be too careful because we all know about the "shoe cancer crisis." 

    Anyway, California coffee had a "may cause cancer" label, and now it doesn't. But California hasn't yet realized that mandating warning labels to which no sane person pays attention is a very bad idea.


  • Ann Althouse quotes anti-[New England] Patriot Congressman Peter King: "There's only one 'Tom Terrific,' and that's Tom Seaver.". This is in response to Tom Brady requesting a trademark on "Tom Terrific".

    Well that only goes to show how silly trademarks can be. But Ann remembers (as I do) the original "Tom Terrific", an awful cartoon on Captain Kangaroo's show back in the 1950s, that I dearly loved.

    But there's interesting lexicography involved too:

    By the way, "terrific" originally meant causing terror. In "Paradise Lost," there's "The Serpent... with brazen Eyes And hairie Main terrific." "Terrific" became "an enthusiastic term of commendation" in the late 19th century. (I'm quoting the unlinkable OED.)

    I almost never use the word. I associate it with FDR, whose last words were, "I have a terrific headache." I can't say I've never used the word. I once said a cartoonist had "a terrific drawing style," and I've blogged about other people using the word, notably: 1. the woman who was thrown clear of the car wreck that killed Jackson Pollock, who wrote that she and Andy Warhol had "a terrific crush on each other," and 2. the WaPo columnist who wrote in 2013, "Barack Obama has what it takes to be a terrific law student. It’s less clear those are the ingredients of a successful president."

    Which inspired geeky/anal me to check out my own usage. Only once on my own, pointing to "a terrific pair of posts" by… Ann Althouse.

URLs du Jour

2019-06-06

  • For the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we'll go with Michael Ramirez's illustration of the Generation Gap.

    Generation Gap

    Sorry if that stings a little, kids.


  • At National Review, Kyle Smith tells us about slightly more recent history: a mere 35 years ago, How Bruce Springsteen Helped Reelect Ronald Reagan. He recalls George Will's reaction to the Boss's 1984 album, "a grand cheerful affirmation: 'Born in the U.S.A.!'"

    Ronald Reagan, running for reelection, picked up on Will’s theme six days later while campaigning in Hammonton, N.J.: “America’s future,” he said, “rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts. It rests in the message of hope in the songs of a man so many young Americans admire—New Jersey’s own, Bruce Springsteen.”

    It's a near-cliché that "Born in the U.S.A." features a classic mismatch between its downer lyrics and upbeat everything-else.

    The non-political song "Dancing in the Dark" had the same incongruity. Even though I'd been a Springsteen fanboy for decades, I literally did not get what "Dancing in the Dark" was about until I heard Mary Chapin Carpenter's version:

    Anyway, thanks for helping to re-elect Ronnie, Bruce.


  • Speaking of my fanboyism: Landing on my doorstep with a thud the other day was Neal Stephenson's new 800+ page tome, Fall. Just as soon as I finish Heinlein's The Door Into Summer, I'll be starting on that. At Reason, Peter Suderman asks the musical question: If We Told You Neal Stephenson Invented Bitcoin, Would You Be Surprised?. (And Betteridge's law of headlines applies.)

    Consider the possibility that Neal Stephenson is Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous inventor of Bitcoin.

    If he is, it would hardly be his only accomplishment: Stephenson is the author of some of the most prescient and beloved science fiction of the last 30 years, including Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, and Seveneves. He has been both disciple and muse to the most powerful men in tech—the inventors of the internet and the iPad, for starters. He was an early employee at Blue Origin, the private space firm founded by Jeff Bezos, and has worked with the Long Now Foundation to promote optimistic science fiction designed to lead to actual technological innovation. He is the sort of writer whose novels include descriptions of vast nanotech defense systems, as well as of incredibly elaborate methods for eating Cap'n Crunch, complete with a special spoon. He keeps his head shaved and wears a gray-streaked goatee, a look that is part heavy metal wizard, part monk.  

    He's dropping by Portsmouth on his book tour next week, and I'll be in the audience.


  • At Minding the Campus, Allen Farrington writes on When Radical Ideologies Corrupt Universities. It's full of good stuff, but I liked this especially:

    Premchand Brian, a friend of mine from Singapore, was until recently studying for a Ph.D. in neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh. By his own account, he joined the UoE’s Black and Minority Ethnic Liberation Group but was ejected within a couple of months for wrong-think. “I said that ‘cultural appropriation’ is an invalid concept,” he told me, “because 1) nobody can own a culture, 2) even if ‘stolen’ the original owners still have it, and 3) cultural exchange was historically important in human progress and still helps combat bigotry. I was told my ideas were ‘triggering,’ ‘offensive,’ and ‘making people of color feel ‘unsafe,’ so I was told to retract them. I refused and got kicked out.”

    Getting kicked out of a club with "Liberation" in its name can be … liberating. Is that irony? I can never tell.


  • And the latest and greatest optical illusion is The Perpetual Diamond. That link goes to an academic explanation (recommended), but here's a taste of the moving object that doesn't actually move:

    Spooky. And a reminder that your brain isn't always trustworthy.


Last Modified 2019-06-13 11:14 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2019-06-05

[Amazon Link]

Still in catch-up mode… My goodness, you'd think people would have the common courtesy to refrain from putting content on the Web while I was out of town.

Still we have some good URLs, if not all are exactly "du Jour":

  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson makes an excellent point about Elizabeth Warren's Corporatism.

    Corporatism is a concept closely associated with the fascist government of Benito Mussolini. The word “fascism” surely has earned the stink attached to it, but it, too, is widely misunderstood as a body of policies. As George Orwell wrote back when fascism was still something of a going concern, the word “fascist” is used as very little more than a term of denigration.

    But the corporazioni of the Italian fascist model were not the profit-oriented private concerns we now call “corporations.” They were something closer to consultative associations, in which the interests of business owners, workers and workers’ organizations, and the Italian state were, in theory, all represented. The concept, which is a variation on socialist central planning, was that privately owned businesses were entitled to a profit, but not too much profit; that the workers were entitled to as much compensation and to such working conditions as were consistent with the overall health of the Italian economy and state; and that the state was entitled to coordinate these calculations and negotiate the related interests, and also entitled to have its interests trump those of either the business owners or the workers.

    Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism wasn't meant to be a how-to! But Senator Warren's ideas are straight out of Mussolini's playbook.


  • Looking for some reason to be encouraged about the future? At the Daily Signal, Daniel Davis offers a reason Why Conservatives Should Take Heart Despite Socialist Upsurge.

    As it turns out, Americans define “socialism” in quite different ways. Traditionally, socialism has meant government ownership of the means of production—businesses, factories, etc. But today, only 17% of Americans hold that definition, according to Gallup. Meanwhile, 23% equate socialism with vague notions of social equality. Another 23% have no opinion on the matter.

    So, the public meaning of “socialism” today is indeterminate, meaning that public opinion toward “socialism” doesn’t tell us very much about people’s policy preferences.

    You may derive some comfort from an argument that claims Americans have incoherent and contradictory ideas about what socialism entails. I'm less than impressed.


  • At Real Clear Politics, David Harsanyi offers comfort of a different kind: Sorry, Democrats, There Is No Climate Chaos. You've heard the dire warnings, if you've been unfortunate enough to sit for more than a few minutes in an airport terminal with CNN on the overhead TVs. But:

    Even if we pretend that passing a bazillion-dollar authoritarian Green New Deal would do anything to change the climate, there is no real-world evidence that today's weather is increasingly threatening to human lives. By every quantifiable measure, in fact, we're much safer despite the cataclysmal framing of every weather-related event.

    How many of those taken in by alarmism realize that deaths from extreme weather have dropped somewhere around 99.9 percent since the 1920s? Heat and cold can still be killer, but thanks to increasingly reliable and affordable heating and cooling systems, and others luxuries of the age, the vast majority of Americans will never have to fear the climate in any genuine way.

    Good news, everyone! Fiscal disaster will strike long before climate disaster! Oh, wait, that's not good news.


  • While I was away, the long-simmering dust-up between National Review conservatives and First Things conservatives escalated a few notches. At the Bulwark, Robert Tracinski has a good introduction: Sohrab Ahmari and the Futile Rage of the Illiberal Conservatives.

    The right-of-center Internet has been lit up for the last few days because of an assault by Sohrab Ahmari on David French and something Ahmari improbably calls “David French-ism.”

    Supposedly, this is about how French, a lawyer and senior writer at National Review, is too weak-kneed and polite because he is interested in using persuasion to try to promote his political views. Ahmari, on the other hand, has taken up the Trumpian “But He Fights” credo and declares that “there is no polite, David French-ian third way around the cultural civil war.”

    There is actually a much deeper rift here, and it isn’t about politeness or civility. What looks like a debate over how we fight for our political goals is actually a fight over what our political goals should be. Ahmari is advocating the purging of advocates of freedom from the right, in favor of a conservatism that consists of—well, what it consists of is not entirely clear, but it seems to be a new program for vaguely collectivist coercion in the name of religious values.

    Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover Frank S. Meyer again.


  • So my state's junior senator jumped on the latest horror:

    Which irritated me enough to suggest that she read Jacob Sullum's latest: Mass Shooting Delusions. (Sub-headline: "We must act now" is not a gun control policy, let alone an argument.)

    If you are the sort of person who feels compelled to demand new gun control laws after a mass shooting, you have several options. You can keep your recommendations vague, letting your audience fill in the blanks; push the policies you always push, regardless of whether they have anything to do with the latest outrage; or latch onto a detail of that crime, inflating its importance to support a seemingly germane solution.

    All three of those strategies were on display after a gunman murdered 12 people at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center on Friday. None of them reflected well on the persuasive powers of leading gun control advocates, who long ago abandoned logic in favor of emotional appeals and moral posturing.

    Maggie's all about emotional appeals and moral posturing.


  • And Mr. Ramirez does it again:

    [Cheers]

    Is that an eye roll I see there, elephants?

    Only quibble: a lot of—too many—elephants are cheering along with the Donald.


Last Modified 2019-06-14 6:31 AM EDT

The Social Media Upheaval

[Amazon Link]

I bought the Kindle version of this short book after listening to Nick Gillespie's podcast interview with the author, Instapundit and Blogfather Glenn Reynolds. Glenn's a good guy. So's Nick.

Let me come into it this way: one of the core principles of classical liberal democracy is that the populace is best served by a robust climate of free expression. The more the merrier! People can use their reasoning faculties to evaluate outside ideas, concepts, and values. And (generally) make decent decisions about political questions: the scope and powers of government, qualities they desire in their representatives, and the like.

But what if that is becoming less true? Glenn analogizes to the very earliest cities, which sprang up and subsequently self-destructed, because "we" didn't know how easily illnesses can spread in an urban environment.

Glenn argues that the current environment is exhibiting signs of increasing mental illness (or at least dysfunction): increased suicide rates, substance abuse, alienation, and general lack of bonhomie. (A theme echoed in recent books by Jonah Goldberg, Ben Sasse, Arthur C. Brooks, and many others.) He blames, primarily social media for this, specifically Twitter, Facebook, and Google. (I think he leaves Amazon out.)

As a result, we're headed for a sad crack-up of the foundations of American political life, probably presaging a future of authoritarianism and immiseration.

He could be right, of course. I'm not so sure.

His argument is not typically libertarian: use existing antitrust laws to break up those nasty companies. To his libertarian credit, he neatly debunks other regulatory solutions. I don't know whether a breakup would solve anything, though, and it seems like it would involve a lot of wealth destruction.

It's a very short book, and a very quick read. I got the Kindle version; Amazon claims the print version is 68 pages. I think the type must be large and the margins wide.

Misery Bay

[Amazon Link]

After a brief hiatus, Steve Hamilton returned to his Alex McKnight series in 2011 with this entry. Alex remains an ex-ballplayer, ex-cop, ex-PI… But wait a minute! As it turns out, he didn't actually let his private eye license expire. And so…

He's still morose, understandably so, about the events in the previous book. (He's usually morose, this just adds on.) But his sometime-nemesis, Police Chief Roy Maven, asks for a favor: would Alex please investigate the suicide of the son of Maven's friend and ex-partner from the Michigan State Police? It happened up in (see title) Misery Bay an actual place in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Which might be nice in mid-summer, or what passes for summer in the UP, but this is in the bleak midwinter, and it's cold, lonely, and … well, bleak.

Alex finds out some stuff, but things seem off. He can't put his finger on it. But when he returns to report back his findings, he discovers a grisly murder. Coincidence? I think not. And there's more on the way.

A good page-turner. Alex remains morose throughout, and (eventually) finds himself in deadly peril, but he does meet an attractive lady FBI agent. I'm betting she'll return in the next book. Which is on the way from Amazon.

Consumer note: I don't think the scene depicted on the cover has any counterpart in the book.

URLs du Jour

2019-06-04

[Amazon Link]

I should maybe note that I went to my 50-year class reunion in Omaha over the past weekend. Which was nice, but I had a huge backlog of web-reading when I returned (very) early Monday morning. So I've been in catch-up mode since.

What this means: the links below are not the freshest. But still worth your while, I promise.

  • If I thought it would do any good, I'd buy the Amazon Product du Jour (a mere $7.47) for every last Senator. But it's too late for this year, as reported by Eric Boehm at Reason: Bipartisan Senate Effort Predictably Kills Rand Paul’s Plan to Balance the Federal Budget.

    This year, Sen. Rand Paul's (R–Ky.) effort to balance the federal budget didn't even get a floor vote in the Republican-controlled Senate.

    Paul's so-called "Pennies Plan" failed a procedural vote on Monday evening when only 22 senators voted in favor of a cloture motion that would have brought the bill to a final vote. A majority of Republicans and all Democrats voted against proceeding to a floor vote on the bill. It's another sign that fiscal responsibility is all but dead in Congress, even as the national debt heads toward record highs and the budget deficit approaches $1 trillion this year.

    OK, I'm disgusted.


  • At the Federalist, Ryan Cleckner lists 6 Gun Lies (And One Truth) Obama Told In Brazil. A dazzling display of dishonesty:

    During a conversation with a host on stage during the digital innovation event, Obama took the opportunity to speak negatively about U.S. gun laws. He said, “Our gun laws in the United States don’t make much sense. Anybody can buy any weapon, any time, without much, if any, regulation. They can buy [guns] over the internet, they can buy machine guns.”

    I expect most readers will be able to spot the lies, but: What was the truth Obama told? Easy: "Our gun laws in the United States don’t make much sense."


  • At NR, Robert Bryce explores Democrats’ Curious Disdain for Nuclear Power.

    Climate change is the No. 1 issue for Democrats, with a recent poll showing 82 percent of Democratic voters listed it as their top priority. To appeal to those voters, contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination routinely call climate change an “existential threat” to the nation and the world. But amid all their rhetoric and promises of massively expensive plans to tackle the problem, these same Democrats — with the notable exception of Senator Cory Booker — steadfastly refuse to utter two critical words: nuclear power.

    The Democrats’ disdain for nuclear energy deserves attention, because there is no credible pathway toward large-scale decarbonization that doesn’t include lots of it. That fact was reinforced Tuesday, when the International Energy Agency published a report declaring that without more nuclear energy, global carbon dioxide emissions will surge and “efforts to transition to a cleaner energy system will become drastically harder and more costly.”

    Why, it's almost as if Democrats are far more interested in gaining power and control over the economy and the citizenry than in forging workable policy.


  • Caltech research physicist Sean Carroll writes in the NYT about the late Murray Gell-Mann, aka The Physicist Who Made Sense of the Universe. You can read about the physics stuff, but also:

    [Gell-Mann] was also infamously cantankerous. At a workshop celebrating the centenary of the birth of Enrico Fermi, the great physicist, a series of speakers told fond stories with the common subtext of how they thought they were so smart until they first met Fermi. The one exception was Dr. Gell-Mann, who said it was the other way round: It was Fermi who thought he was so smart — until he met Dr. Gell-Mann. He was fond of referring to people he didn’t think highly of as “ignoramuses.” He was the kind of language maven who would correct people on the pronunciation of their own names, and complain to servers at French and Spanish restaurants about misspellings on their menus.

    Never met him when I was at Caltech, which probably a good thing given my fragile ego.


  • I've heard of Encryption Lava Lamps, but the Atlas Obscura article gives the geeky deets.

    Cloudflare covers about 10 percent of international web traffic, including the websites for Uber, OKCupid, or FitBit, for instance. And the colorful wall of lava lamps in the company’s San Francisco headquarters might be what’s generating the random code. The wall features over 100 lava lamps, spanning a variety of colors, and its random patterns deter hackers from accessing data.

    As the lava lamps bubble and swirl, a video camera on the ceiling monitors their unpredictable changes and connects the footage to a computer, which converts the randomness into a virtually unhackable code.

    Cloudflare welcomes visitors, because their interaction with the lamp environment throws in a few more bits of randomness.


  • And Mr Ramirez comments on the recent kerfuffle in Japan with the USS John S. McCain.

    [USS Blunder]

    What a bunch of maroons.


Last Modified 2019-06-13 4:28 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2019-06-03

[Amazon Link]

  • Jacob Sullum writes at Reason on an important topic: Double Standards Endanger Press Freedom.

    The day after the federal government indicted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on 18 charges related to his publication of secret Pentagon and State Department documents, San Francisco's police chief apologized for raiding the home of freelance videographer Bryan Carmody because he had obtained a report he was not supposed to have. The two cases reveal widespread confusion about who counts as a journalist and whether it matters.

    Declaring that Assange is "no journalist," a Justice Department official assured reporters that the DOJ appreciates "the role of journalists in our democracy," saying "it is not and has never been the department's policy to target them for reporting." Yet almost all of the federal felonies described in the Assange indictment involve obtaining and disclosing "national defense information"—crimes that reporters who cover national security routinely commit.

    Both sides of this "no journalist" argument are objectionable: You don't get extra Constitutional reights when you belong to some profession; and not belonging to some profession doesn't take away any Constitutional right. Tell it, Jacob:

    There is no federal shield law. But there is the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of the press. Contrary to what the Justice Department wants us to believe, that freedom is not a special privilege that belongs only to officially recognized journalists. It applies to all of us when we use technologies of mass communication.

    Or at least that's the way it should work. I'm not sure this is settled law.


  • At AIER, Don Boudreaux pinpoints yet more Flimsy Justifications to Restrict Your Freedom. Specifically, three of them, and here's one:

    When I was a boy my mother and father often put to me a version of a question that parents throughout the ages have put to their children: “If everybody jumped off of the Mississippi River Bridge, would you jump too?”

    Of course, I was asked this rhetorical question whenever I took some inadvisable course of action and sought to excuse it on the grounds that “all my friends did it.”

    Even a young child understands, without need of further elaboration, that no action is rendered acceptable simply because lots of other people do it.

    This vital piece of wisdom, however, is often forgotten by adults when the discussion turns to public policy. A common justification for destructive government interventions such as minimum wages, mandated paid leave, protectionism, export subsidies, and government-run health care is the indisputable fact that most other governments intervene in these ways.

    While awareness of the frequency or infrequency of some practice is relevant when judging the wisdom of that practice, such awareness is never sufficient. Human experience is filled with common practices that are inadvisable. And because governments, unlike individuals, are in the business of compulsion rather than persuasion, we should be especially reluctant to jump from the observation that some government practice is widespread to the conclusion that the benefits of that practice exceed its costs.

    Which for some reason reminds me of an quote from an old movie, Catch-22:

    Dobbs: Look Yossarian, suppose, I mean just suppose everyone thought the same way you do.

    Yossarian: Then I'd be a damn fool to think any different.

    I'm not sure if that supports Don's point or not; I just like the quote.


  • At the Daily Wire, Amanda Prestigiacomo relates a new service for ladies of pallor: This Outrageous ‘Race2Dinner’ Service Helps You 'Smash' Your 'White Fragility'.

    Racial activists Regina Jackson and Saira Rao are offering white women an opportunity to “smash” their “white fragility” by hiring women of color to attend dinner with and guilt trip them for all the alleged suffering they have caused them by virtue of the color of their white skin. This über progressive program has been aptly dubbed “Race2Dinner.”

    “Dear white women, you have caused immeasurable pain and damage to Brown and Black women. We are here to sit down with you to candidly explain how you caused this pain and damage,” a note from Jackson and Rao reads on the program’s website.

    Apparantly not a fiendish parody! (Although I'm not 100% sure of that, so tread lightly.)


  • George F. Will diagnoses and classifies: Protectionism Is Iatrogenic Government. (You don't have to look up "iatrogenic". GFW explains it.)

    The cascading effects of U.S. protectionism on U.S. producers and consumers constitute an ongoing tutorial about what Daniel Patrick Moynihan called “iatrogenic government.” In medicine, an iatrogenic ailment is one inadvertently caused by a physician or medicine. Iatrogenic government — except the damage it currently is doing is not inadvertent — was on display last week.

    The Trump administration unveiled a plan to disburse $16 billion to farmers as balm for wounds — predictable and predicted — from the retaliation of other nations, especially China, against U.S. exports in response to the administration’s tariffs. The $16 billion does not need to be approved by Congress because not much that presidents do nowadays needs to be. The president said the sum will be paid for by the billions of dollars the Treasury takes in from China. The evident sincerity of his frequently reiterated belief that exporters to the United States pay the tariffs that U.S. importers and consumers pay is more alarming than mere meretriciousness would be.

    Congress should not waste its time with impeachment; instead it should yank the tariff power away from the Executive Branch.


  • And… well, it's Don Boudreaux again. I don't usually blog people twice in one day but his Quotation of the Day.... is from Bastiat, and it's excellent, but Don's followup is even better:

    Each of us in modern society swims daily in a magnificent ocean of capitalism’s marvels – marvels now so commonplace that we take them for granted and assume, when we think of the matter at all, that they are somehow ‘natural.’ We are so fabulously rich that we have the luxury of asking ‘What causes poverty?’, oblivious to the reality that poverty is humanity’s default mode, and that what must be caused is wealth.

    Some people even write much-praised books that have among their premises the fantastic notion that, except in the most extreme circumstances, the value of capital – the tools used not only to keep filled, but to expand, this magnificent ocean of capitalism’s marvels – grows automatically, independently of human agency, ideas, effort, creativity, risk-taking, and institutions.

    Other people win political power by playing on the false belief that those whose glasses are ‘only’ 95 percent full are impoverished victims of those whose glasses are 99 percent full. “You’re poor because he’s rich” is today false in two ways. First, you’re not poor. Second, in almost all cases, not only did his riches not make you less-rich, his riches are a result of him making you richer than you would have been otherwise.

    "Indeed."


  • And I love this cartoon from Michael Ramirez.

    [The Muellerescher Report]


Last Modified 2019-06-13 4:41 PM EDT

The Scary Campaign

(Even More Google Hit Bogosities)

[Amazon Link]

So we've done phoniness. And craziness. How about scariness? (Cue spooky music.) What liberty-loving American can help from being a … little apprehensive looking over the field of presidential candidates? Can any of them be trusted near the nuclear football? Or even a legislation-signing pen?

Once again, the leader in our poll is not surprising. And, again, (roughly speaking) the more likely the candidate is to win, according to Betfair, the more scary Google hits they accumulate.

That makes total sense to me.

Candidate WinProb Scary
Hit Count
Donald Trump 46.9% 55,000,000
Joe Biden 14.9% 26,400,000
Pete Buttigieg 4.9% 8,250,000
Bernie Sanders 9.1% 2,900,000
Kamala Harris 6.5% 891,000
Beto O'Rourke 2.5% 648,000
Elizabeth Warren 4.2% 538,000
Andrew Yang 2.4% 291,000

"WinProb" calculation described here. Google result counts are bogus.

  • Back in January, Mark Weinberg wrote a CNN opinion piece that would seem to be right up our alley: What really makes the Trump presidency scary. Oooh, what?

    And so it continues. With no end in sight to the government shutdown, President Donald Trump, who rightly said a government shutdown should be blamed on the White House, now seems unwilling to accept responsibility.

    As a result, hundreds of thousands of innocent government workers -- Democrats, Republicans and Independents -- are being forced to go without the paychecks they need to feed, house and clothe their families. (These are government workers who, by the way, Trump decided will not receive any pay raise in 2019.) And millions of citizens nationwide are being forced to go without some of the government services on which they may depend.

    Ah, yes. The Great Government Shutdown. It went on for weeks after that. And, yet, somehow the nation survived.

    Can't we do better than that, scary-wise?


  • Well, there's always Joe Biden. His wife, Dr. Jill, has gone on Comedy Central to calm the nation's fears: Jill Biden Promises ‘Daily Show’s’ Trevor Noah Joe Biden’s Creepy Behavior ‘Won’t Happen Again’. After some of the softballs you expect:

    Then Noah broached what has been the clearest obstacle to Biden achieving that goal to date: as he put it, “the story of him just being too massage-y with people.” He asked Jill Biden if she thinks it’s “strange or fair” that she has been asked to speak to these issues on behalf of her husband or if it’s “part of the game.”

    “No, I think that’s part of it,” she answered. “And look, it took a lot of courage for women to step forward and say you know, you’re in my space and Joe heard that. And it just won’t happen again. He heard what they were saying.”

    "Massage-y". Nice euphemism. Nevertheless, the date on that article is yesterday (May 30). Two days before that Joe Biden Made This Creepy Statement to a Ten-Year-Old Girl. Quoting an NYT story:

    Mr. Biden did have one interaction that raised some eyebrows among online commentators: After a 10-year-old girl asked him a question about the divided state of the country, Mr. Biden gave a lengthy answer that touched on the importance of immigration to the nation’s fabric, before remarking to the young questioner, “I’ll bet you’re as bright as you are good-looking.” She told him that her favorite subject was journalism, so Mr. Biden proceeded to bring her to the back of the room, where journalists and TV cameras were congregated, and put his hands on her shoulders.

    It's just Joe being Joe. That is to say, scary and creepy.


  • At the New Republic, Bob Moser reveals Why the Religious Right Is Terrified of Pete Buttigieg. Examining Mayor Pete's trashing of Mike Pence and the reaction thereto:

    A gay and devoutly Christian president would represent one more great stripping-away of the dehumanizing myths so long, and so successfully, propagated by the religious right: In this case, the notion that the gays (much like the communists, the atheists, the feminists, the blacks—name your pariahs) want to “take over,” with the ultimate aim of destroying traditionalist Christianity and all its fine values.

    When Buttigieg made it emphatically clear, on Sunday in Washington, that he was not going to make nice—that he would use his newly powerful platform to call out the bigotry behind the religious right’s “love”—he sent a bone-chilling message to all the Erick Ericksons out there. The very basis of their faith, after all, is fear: fear of God, fear of sin, fear of difference. By liberating himself from his own fears—both personal and political—Buttigieg has evolved into a dangerous figure for the champions of American intolerance as he prepares to formally announce his candidacy this coming Sunday. He’s demonstrating a level of blessed assurance that his detractors are showing they lack. His strength is laying bare their weakness. Of course they’re furious—and scared.

    Eeek!


  • Hey, but how about this Vox article from Emily Stewart: Elizabeth Warren 2020 has Wall Street very afraid. Does she really?

    As president, she would almost certainly promote a bigger corporate clampdown. In August, she unveiled the Accountable Capitalism Act, which as Vox’s Matt Yglesias explained would “redistribute trillions of dollars from rich executives and shareholders to the middle class” by requiring corporations to consider the interests of not only shareholders but also consumers, employees, and their communities when making decisions. She has also proposed a wealth tax on Americans with more than $50 million in wealth.

    Beyond her legislative proposals — which, depending on which party is in control of Congress, might have a hard time getting through — Warren would also be able to exert control through executive branch appointees and what is likely to be a regulatory push that moves in the opposite direction of what Trump has done. She would be able to appoint the heads of entities such as the CFPB, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Justice Department’s antitrust division, and the Treasury Department, for example. Those individuals would likely be in line with her hardline stance on financial regulation and corporate interests.

    I'm pretty sure that a President with the power to “redistribute trillions of dollars" is scary all by itself, and not just to Wall Street.


  • And then, of course, there's Bernie. In the NYT, columnist Thomas B. Edsall notes: Bernie Sanders Scares a Lot of People, and Quite a Few of Them Are Democrats. After that promising headline, it turns out the scariest thing about Sanders is… that Trump might beat him.

    At a more subjective level, Sanders’s rhetorical tone of righteous indignation has served him well with Democratic voters, but it remains untested among the independent and swing voters who cast ballots only in the general election.

    Democrats are banking on making the 2020 election a referendum on Trump. How likely are the more controversial aspects of Sanders’s politics to blunt that strategy and turn the contest into a referendum on both Trump and Sanders?

    If there were only some way Democrats could nominate "Not Trump" instead of an actual human being!



Last Modified 2019-06-04 1:03 PM EDT

The Crazy Campaign

(Or: More Google Hit Bogosities)

[Amazon Link]

We've long been interested in the perceived authenticity of our crop of presidential candidates (or lack thereof). We use a totally bogus metric for that: the Google hit count when we search for the candidate's name and "phony".

Well, phoniness isn't the only interesting thing about how a candidate is perceived. Especially in these days of modern times when wild accusations and insults are flung with impunity. What about…

Well, politicians are crazy. Or, to use less loaded language: their brains seem to operate in significantly different ways from those found in your typical American. They have personality traits which are several sigma off the mean.

Or, to return to loaded language: they're nuts. Cuckoo. Off the deep end. Screwy.

So let's look at our current crop of credible candidates and find out how wacko the Web thinks each one is. The results may surprise you! Or not, because the number one crazy candidate by far is…

Candidate WinProb Crazy
Hit Count
Donald Trump 46.9% 72,900,000
Joe Biden 15.4% 14,500,000
Bernie Sanders 9.3% 8,410,000
Pete Buttigieg 4.9% 6,560,000
Elizabeth Warren 4.1% 2,040,000
Kamala Harris 6.5% 997,000
Beto O'Rourke 2.3% 854,000
Andrew Yang 2.6% 373,000

"WinProb" calculation described here. Google result counts are bogus.

… but he's still, also by far, the most likely 2020 winner. Go figure. In fact, the candidates' "crazy" hit counts correlate pretty well with Betfair's estimate of their winning probability. Hm. Not sure what to think about that.

A sampling of those links:

  • The New York Times' Maureen Dowd takes us on a tour of her own psyche: Crazy Is as Crazy Does.

    Pete Buttigieg and Nancy Pelosi have both mastered the art of puncturing Trump — far better than his Republican primary debate rivals did.

    “I don’t have a problem standing up to somebody who was working on Season 7 of ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ when I was packing my bags for Afghanistan,” Buttigieg told The Post’s Robert Costa, saying he took a dim view of Trump’s bone-spurs excuse to get out of serving in Vietnam.

    Pelosi winds Trump up when she drips condescension worthy of a Jane Austen grande dame, saying she will pray for the president or pleading for someone to stage an intervention with the poor soul.

    After Pelosi remarked that the president was engaged in a cover-up, Trump dynamited his own meeting with “Crazy Nancy,” as he called her. His I’m not crazy, you’re crazy rebuttal to Pelosi echoed his I’m not a puppet, you’re a puppet line to Hillary Clinton during the debate.

    Maureen finds it "exhausting to find the vocabulary to keep explaining, over and over, how beyond the pale and out of the norm the 45th president is." Fortunately, she's being paid to do that, much better than your average blogger, for example.


  • One symptom of looniness is the increased likelihood of babbling incoherently. Which brings us to, naturally enough: 'I am a gaffe machine': a history of Joe Biden's biggest blunders from the Guardian. An example, classified under "Crazy ‘Uncle Joe’":

    As troubling as some of his misstatements might be, and as serious some of the concerns people have about Biden’s retrograde positioning among a new crop of progressive candidates, a sizable percentage of the US electorate finds the often goofy Biden charming.

    It didn’t hurt matters that Obama often reacted to them with bemusement. “I don’t remember exactly what Joe was referring to, not surprisingly,” Obama quipped after a typically confusing statement from Biden about the passage of a stimulus package in 2010.

    The reference is to a Biden remark more generally applicable to big government: "If we do everything right, if we do it with absolute certainty, there's still a 30% chance we're going to get it wrong."

    This is obviously irrational raving; the actual probability would be closer to 90-95%.


  • Of course, it's possible to spin mental dysfunction as a positive. T. A. Frank tries that at Vanity Fair: “A Bit of Crazy Wouldn’t Hurt”: How Bernie Sanders Could Go Full Trump in 2020.

    Much will come down to the economy. An economic expansion that kept going through 2020 would carry Trump—just barely—back into office. Trump’s gift for ugly nicknaming is overrated in significance, but, for Sanders, “Crazy Bernie” is a decent one. It exploits Bernie’s quirks—stooped posture, unruly white hair, wagging finger, socialist affiliation—and stokes the ordinary voter’s suspicions. They’ll go with the familiar devil.

    But signs are already strong that a recession is nigh, and Trump never looks weaker than when fulminating about developments he can’t control. Very few Americans like Trump’s antics. They tolerate them. And that’s provided there’s a payoff. Absent that, they’ll look elsewhere. For all the strengths of “Crazy Bernie” as an insult, its coinage also shows its limits. Trump doesn’t project complete sanity himself, and yet here we are. If extreme discontent is in the air, voters are likely to decide, once more, that a bit of crazy wouldn’t hurt.

    Let me repeat that: "a bit of crazy wouldn't hurt." Because that's the state of desperate political thinking in late May 2019.


  • Mayor Pete Buttigieg likens Trump to a 'crazy uncle'. I wouldn't know how that works; all my uncles were pretty sane. But:

    “It’s almost like a sort of crazy uncle management,” the Democratic primary candidate said. “Like, he’s there. You’re not going to disrespect his humanity. But he thinks what he thinks. There’s not much you can do about it.”

    Or it could be like that old saying. If you look around the family reunion and you can't find the crazy uncle… then you're the crazy uncle.


  • Are Russkies still a thing? If so, probably one of their efforts is this Facebook page: Elizabeth Warren is Batsh#t Crazy. But it's not just Liz:

    I officially disapprove of such substance-free insults. Immediately after I get a small chuckle from them.



Last Modified 2019-06-03 7:05 AM EDT