URLs du Jour

2019-07-31

[Amazon Link]

  • At the Library of Economics and Liberty, Bryan Caplan notes a new book (our Amazon Product du Jour): Socialism Sucks: Two Economists Drink Their Way Through the Unfree World.

    Do [the authors] Lawson and Powell really think that young self-styled American socialists are plotting mass murder?  Do I? My answer, at least, is, “I severely doubt it, but I shouldn’t have to wonder.”  When activists gush about the glories of socialism as if the Soviet Union never existed, all people of common decency should be horrified.  The right response to the slogan, “We want Sweden, not Venezuela” really is, “The Venezuelans didn’t want Venezuela either, but that’s what they got.”

    I've plopped Socialism Sucks right on my to-read list.


  • There's a slight amount of bullshit in the Federalist headline to a Chrissy Clark article: Left-Wing 'Fact-Checker' Snopes Is Trying To Deplatform Babylon Bee.

    Disclaimer: I find the Bee to be amusing. But:

    What Chrissy actually claims in her article: "Some pundits have even said Snopes is actively working to deplatform and delegitimize the Babylon Bee." Those pundits are unnamed, and that's the only place deplatforming appears in the article. That's way less drastic than the article's headline implies. Come on!

    Nevertheless, here's the argument:

    Thanks to the 2016 election cycle, Facebook has partnered with fact-checking websites such as Snopes to combat “fake news.” Snopes, however, categorizes Babylon Bee articles as “fake news.” This threatens the publications ability to share its content.

    While Facebook apologized for hiding Babylon Bee content in the past, another “fake news” review could leave the Babylon Bee without access to Facebook and threatens its ability to monetize.

    Yeah, maybe. But there's more:


  • David French, writing at National Review, urges: Hands Off the Babylon Bee.

    Snopes has fact-checked whether Democrats demanded that “Brett Kavanaugh submit to a DNA test to prove he’s not actually Hitler.” It’s fact-checked whether Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez repeatedly “guessed ‘free’ on TV show ‘The Price is Right,’” and whether Ilhan Omar actually asked, “If Israel is so innocent, then why do they insist on being Jews?” Perhaps my favorite (non-political) fact check was of the Bee’s “report” that VeggieTales had introduced a new character named “Cannabis Carl.” If you peruse Snopes’s many, many Babylon Bee fact-checks, you’ll find it’s quite diligent in policing hits on progressive politicians and far less concerned about the Bee’s many satirical swipes at Trump.

    Snopes' defense, such as it is: a lot of people see shared links on social media sites without suspecting that they're satire.

    Fine, if you want to get into that biz, do it with an even political hand. If you can't do that, don't bother.


  • Jeff Jacoby shows why it pays to be skeptical: A new study says? Don't believe it.

    A RECENT REPORT from the Thomson Reuters Foundation made headlines with its conclusion that the United States is one of the 10 worst countries on earth in which to be female. According to the authors of "The World's Most Dangerous Countries for Women," life in America is more violent, cruel, or unfair for women than it is in such grim places as Iran, North Korea, Myanmar, or Iraq.

    My first thought on seeing the report was that no one with a working brain could possibly take such a ludicrous conclusion seriously. American women are among the safest, wealthiest, healthiest, best-educated, longest-lived, and most fortunate members of their sex in all of human history. Hundreds of thousands of women from all over the world immigrate to the United States each year — and millions of additional women would like to.

    The "report" is from 2018, so not exactly breaking news. Still, it's awful. Yet some "news" organizations echoed the "findings" with nary a hint of skepticism. A further, dreadful, detail:

    Did no journalist at Fortune or the other news outlets that ran with the Thomson Reuters report think to question the authors about their methodology? If they had, they would have seen at once that "The World's Most Dangerous Countries for Women" doesn't even pretend to be objective or scientific. It is based on a "global perception poll" of several hundred "experts in women's issues." When Christina Hoff Sommers, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, tried to find out who those "experts" were, Thomson Reuters wouldn't say. In a letter to Sommers, the organization wrote: "We gave an assurance to the experts that their answers would be confidential to allow total honesty."

    As Sommers points out in a new video, part of her "Factual Feminist" series, that is a very strange reply. "Are they suggesting their experts might misrepresent the truth if they spoke on the record?" she asks. "Since when do professionals demand anonymity when giving expert opinion?"

    Where's Snopes when you need them? Too busy fact-checking the Babylon Bee, I suppose.


  • Jacob Sullum is a voice of sanity on other issues besides mind-altering chemistry. At Reason, he examines The Puny Reality of Russian Election Meddling.

    For years now, we've been hearing that Russia "meddled" in the 2016 presidential election. And as much as Donald Trump might want to deny it because of the implication that a foreign power helped him defeat Hillary Clinton, the evidence that Russian agents tried to influence the election, or at least the debate surrounding it, seems clear.

    Whether they succeeded in doing so is a different question. While we may never have a definitive answer, clear thinking about the issue requires distinguishing between different kinds of meddling, some of which are more troubling than others.

    There's:

    1. Efforts to alter vote tallies. That would be bad, there's evidence that the Russians probed some of our election systems, but none that vote totals were affected.
    2. Stealing data from political organizations. Also bad, but (on the other hand) some disturbing truths were revealed. So… mixed bag.
    3. Social media activity. Illegal. But (on the other hand) does it make a lot of difference who paid for the intelligence-insulting pixels that some folks ran across on Facebook back in 2016? Eh.


  • An obituary from Tyler Cowen: RIP, Rational Debate About the Federal Budget.

    Apparently, U.S. politics are now so polarized, rational conversation about the federal budget is no longer possible. Last week, the House of Representatives approved a two-year budget deal that stands to boost spending by $320 billion, significantly expanding the deficit. Yet commentators have not been able to articulate a coherent response — no matter which political side they’re on.

    Let's save a few bricks to throw at our self-praising democracy-dies-in-darkness watchdog press, which has also been snoring while the "bipartisan" agreement to shake trillions out of the pockets of future taxpayers was made.

    That's no excuse for voters not to be ignorant about the issue. Yet…


  • My buddies at Granite Grok apparently pay more attention to the local branch of Commie Radio than I do, and drew my attention to a story about the University Near Here, which apparently has an infinite amount of money: Former UNH President Continued to Earn Full Salary After Retirement.

    Former University of New Hampshire president Mark Huddleston continued to collect a $425,000 salary in the year after he retired from his position in June 2018. That put Huddleston slightly behind UNH’s current president, Jim Dean, who earns $455,000 a year since taking over for Huddleston last summer. 

    According to Huddleston’s employment contract, acquired by NHPR through a right-to-know request, he was eligible for 12 months of “transitional pay,” including benefits, after he retired. The pay for that year would be equal to Huddelston's base salary in his final year as UNH president. That contract says Huddleston’s transitional period was meant to be spent conducting research and other “professional development” activities.

    Mark seems to be a nice guy, but it's very unclear what he was doing for the past year to earn that $425K.

    (Worth pointing out: like Trump, the UNH president also gets a free house. And a (more or less) free car; he has to pay taxes in the "imputed income" based on milegage. So that salary goes a bit further than normal.)