URLs du Jour

2019-09-27

[Amazon Link]

Slim pickings today, sorry.

  • I'm having a tough time wading through the commentary on Trump/Ukraine; 90+% of it seems to be case studies in confirmation bias. Trump supporters see nothing wrong; Trump haters see their worst suspicions ratified.

    Fortunately, there's Kevin D. Williamson: Donald Trump & Impeachment: His Personal Flaws Led Him Here.

    L’etat, c’est moi,” the Sun King is supposed to have said, “I am the state.” Louis XIV was one of the architects of modern dictatorship, and President Donald Trump likes more about his style than merely his taste in armchairs. President Trump, in a fashion unbecoming the chief administrative officer of a republic — which is all he is — habitually confuses himself and the state.

    One example among many: President Trump, asked whether his trade war might hurt his standing among U.S. farmers, who are paying the price for it, answered: “They can’t be too upset, because I gave them $12 billion, and I gave them $16 billion this year.”

    Wait, now — who did what again? The president, of course, did not give anybody $12 billion, or twelve cents. The subsidies paid out to farmers to offset the damage from President Trump’s ill-advised trade war — “great, and easy to win!” if you’ll recall — are not personal largesse. This is not a mere figure of speech, the linguistic tic of an ordinary megalomaniac. It is how Donald Trump sees the presidency and how he sees the world.

    Which is a big part of why he is in the trouble he is in.

    Indeed. That's from the beginning of Kevin's article, and here's the end:

    Trump’s character is in fact a practical liability, one that has seriously impeded his ability to pursue his agenda. His egoism, laziness, arrogance, and above all his habitual dishonesty are crippling. That is why he has been most effective on ordinary Republican priorities such as taxes and judges, those areas in which he can deputize such old swamp-dwelling dinosaurs as Mitch McConnell and the ladies and gentlemen of the Federalist Society to actually get things done. Left to his own devices, he’s an ordinary Twitter troll and conspiracy nut with very little in the way of direction or a coherent policy agenda.

    He isn’t Richard the Lionheart, he’s Prince John, the phony king.

    And so that leaves at least one conservative simultaneously believing four things that are difficult to keep under the same hat:

    1) I am glad that Hillary Rodham Clinton is not the president;

    2) Based on what we know right now, I do not want to see Donald Trump impeached and removed from office;

    3) I do not want to see Elizabeth Warren being sworn in as president in January 2021;

    4) Donald Trump cannot be gone soon enough.

    Yeah, make that at least two conservatives.


  • Jacob Sullum at Reason asks a couple questions. Did Trump Commit a Crime by Seeking a Ukrainian Investigation of Joe Biden? And Does It Matter for Impeachment Purposes?. Spoiler: it's a double verification of Betteridge's law of headlines: no, and also no. For example, was it treason?

    This week, former Massachusetts governor William Weld, who is notionally challenging Trump for the Republican Party's 2020 presidential nomination, claimed Trump is guilty of "treason, pure and simple." He added that "the penalty for treason under the U.S. Code is death."

    The legal definition of treason requires waging war against the United States or "adher[ing]" to its enemies (defined as nations or organizations that are at war with it) by giving them "aid and comfort." Ukraine is a U.S. ally, not an enemy. It is not at war with the United States. (Neither is Russia, which may be the country Weld had in mind.) In any event, Trump's alleged aim was not to help Ukraine (or Russia) but to help himself by getting its government to dig up dirt on a man who wants to take his job away. Weld, who as a former U.S. attorney certainly should know better, also erroneously claimed death is "the only penalty" for treason. The possible penalties include prison and fines as well as execution.

    Weld is making Trump look good in comparison. That's impressive. (See the rest of Jacob's article for other possible crimes, and why it doesn't matter anyway.)


  • Christopher Ryan wonders at Wired Why Are Rich People So Mean?.

    No, honestly, that's the headline of the article. Subtitled: "Call it 'Rich Asshole Syndrome'—the tendency to distance yourself from people with whom you have a large wealth differential."

    You would expect Ryan's lead example to be, well, some rich asshole distancing himself from people with whom he has a large wealth differential. But instead:

    In 2007, Gary Rivlin wrote a New York Times feature profile of highly successful people in Silicon Valley. One of them, Hal Steger, lived with his wife in a million-dollar house overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Their net worth was about $3.5 million. Assuming a reasonable return of 5 percent, Steger and his wife were positioned to cash out, invest their capital, and glide through the rest of their lives on a passive income of around $175,000 per year after glorious year. Instead, Rivlin wrote, “Most mornings, [Steger] can be found at his desk by 7. He typically works 12 hours a day and logs an extra 10 hours over the weekend.” Steger, 51 at the time, was aware of the irony (sort of): “I know people looking in from the outside will ask why someone like me keeps working so hard,” he told Rivlin. “But a few million doesn’t go as far as it used to.”

    Yup: the "asshole" here is committing the crime of continuing to work hard, being a productive citizen, when he could kick back and (literally) join the idle rich.

    But basically, the article is a moralistic screed against those well-off folks who don't behave the way Christopher Ryan believes they should.

    Elsewhere on the Wired site, you can read a review of the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider which will set you back a cool $72,595. (There's even a "BUY NOW" button on the page.)