URLs du Jour

2020-08-04

  • Our Eye Candy du Jour is a fine video from Austin and Andrew at Reason: What Should Have Happened at the Big Tech Antitrust Hearing.

    Libertarians have humor on their side. Unfortunately, that's not enough for a working majority these days.


  • The WSJ editorialists note a mortal combat from which only one can emerge: Economists vs. Common Sense.

    Most Americans understand intuitively that if people make more money by not working, fewer people will work. Then there are politicians and economists who want to pass out more money while claiming that disincentives to work are irrelevant.

    The latest attempt to defy common sense is a study by Yale economists that purportedly finds the $600 federal enhancement to jobless benefits hasn’t affected the incentive to work. But the study offers limited evidence for this conclusion, which is contradicted by other data and real-world evidence.

    The Yale study analyzes how higher unemployment wage replacement rates affected employment at small businesses after the Cares Act passed in late March. Wage replacement rates vary by a worker’s state and prior earnings. Lower-income and part-time workers have the highest replacement rates. A California worker who previously made $300 per week would receive $150 in normal state benefits plus $600 for a total of $750. The same worker in Oregon would get $795.

    Of course, the Yale study was held up as definitive by (for example) Commie Radio (any my own local TV station).


  • Donald J. Boudreaux writes at AIER with his Covid Cri de Cœur.

    Sometimes one’s soul is best served by issuing a cri de cœur. I want to scream and protest against today’s unprecedented (in my adult lifetime) long spasm of irrationality and madness. “Why,” I ask myself, “are so many people content to be denied context, perspective, and completeness of pictures?”

    Even though this morning I was still far from being fully caffeinated when I visited the Washington Post website, I immediately grew highly agitated with frustration upon reading this headline: “Coronavirus threat rises across U.S.: ‘We just have to assume the monster is everywhere’.”

    This description of the coronavirus threat as a “monster” comes from Ohio’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine. The Post obviously regards this description as valid and important – as front-webpage headline-worthy. This was the lead story in Sunday’s print edition, under the headline ”Experts push for new tack on virus.”

    I don't have all the answers, and (like Professor Boudreaux) I am not an epidemiologist. But if I were forced to bet, I would say in five years or so, an honest assessment of our response will involve the phrase "Cargo cult science".


  • Jim Geraghty's Morning Jolt says: Hey.

    Hey, remember George Floyd? Didn’t all this start with a broad, bipartisan consensus in support of equal treatment under the law? The 14th Amendment has stated since 1868 that “no State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Didn’t we have a far-reaching agreement among whites, blacks, Latinos, Asians, and everyone of every race, creed, and color that it was time for America to live up to that requirement?

    Instead we’ve had Golden Girls reruns pulled from streaming services, changes to the depiction of fantasy races in Dungeons & Dragons, an end to the brands of “Eskimo pies,” “the Dixie Chicks” and “Lady Antebellum,” an all-black Mercedes Formula One car, and slogans on the backs of NBA players. We want a more just society, but instead we get headline-grabbing rebranding efforts.

    This would be "cargo cult racial justice".


  • An amusing take from Michael Fumento at Issues & Insights: The Two Horsemen Of The Apocalypse: Fauci And Redfield. Redfield is Director of the CDC, but here's some Fauci info:

    The left-wing publication Vox.com notes it was not coronavirus but, “an earlier crisis that shaped (Fauci’s) career — and that’s crucial to understanding his position today.” Indeed. Nobody did more to kick off the U.S. AIDS alarm than Fauci, who was sole author of a 1983 piece in the prestigious JAMA in which he declared the disease might be transmissible by “routine close contact, as within a family household.”

    He shortly thereafter ascended to the position he holds to this day. Long after it was established that AIDS was actually extremely hard to transmit, Fauci nonetheless continued to raise hue and cry. In 1987, columnist George Will asserted on national TV that the threat to heterosexuals was overstated. “That’s not correct,” Fauci protested, followed by a prediction that the percentage of AIDS cases contracted via heterosexual transmission (then at 4%) would rise to 10% by 1991. No, it never rose above 4%.

    He repeated the pattern during successive disease panics, such as when he declared 16 years ago that we’re “due” for “massive person-to-person” spread of Avian flu A/H5N1. How massive? While Fauci didn’t define the term, according to one estimate by a CDC modeler “even in the best-case scenarios” worldwide it would “cause 2 to 7 million deaths.”

    British epidemiologist Neil Ferguson (whose later prediction of 550,000 coronavirus deaths in Britain and 2 million in the U.S. would lead to economically ruinous nationwide lockdowns in both countries) scaled that back to “only” 200,000. As it turned out, the disease killed 440 worldwide.

    More recently, Fauci sounded alarm over the threat of the Zika virus, demanding billions more in taxpayer funds. It barely touched two U.S. states before burning out on its own.

    We looked at Zika and Fauci back in 2017. Ironically, the issue at the time was a UNH/Carsey School of Public Policy study that wondered "How Concerns About Scientists May Undermine Efforts to Combat the Pandemic". And they were talking about Zika.

    Do you think that past pandemic hoopla might have led the public to guess that authorities were overreacting to Covid?


  • The daily Morning Dispatch from the Goldberg/Hayes Media Empire is a pretty good stop. It's lengthy, but I just wanted to note this bit:

    In one of the toughest interviews to date of President Donald Trump, Axios correspondent Jonathan Swan spoke to the president about coronavirus, his re-election, Rep. John Lewis and other topics. Swan was polite but firm throughout, and Trump responded with several eyebrow-raising comments. When Swan asked whether Trump finds Rep. John Lewis “impressive,” the president initially responded, “I don't know ... I don't know John Lewis. He chose not to come to my inauguration.” And the two men clashed over Trump’s claim that the U.S. has outperformed other countries in its response to the coronavirus. The entire interview is well worth the time.

    Let's not pretend Trump isn't a narcissistic boor. A guy died, and the most important thing that jumped to Trump's brain? And jumped immediately from there to his mouth? Whether he came to his inauguration.


  • [Amazon Link]
    And our Google LFOD News Alert has been cluttered with references to Sean Hannity's new book. Which has that title. But also a pretentious Latin translation on the cover. Which turns out to be…

    “Live Free Or Die: America (and the World) on the Brink” is released [sic] Tuesday, and has already topped some best-selling lists.

    Its Amazon blurb characterises the book as a description of “America’s fight against those who would reverse our tradition of freedom,” and warns of “full-blown socialism” and economic collapse if President Donald Trump loses the 2020 presidential election.

    To top off its sense of urgency and tradition, the book cover includes a line of Latin underneath an image of a tattered US flag.

    However, the original version of the five-word motto was full of mistakes.

    Moral: don't rely on Google Translate for your English-to-Latin translation needs.


Last Modified 2020-08-12 9:16 AM EDT

Historical Impromptus

Notes, Reviews, and Responses on the British Experience and the Great Enrichment

[Amazon Link]

This is a grab-bag collection of articles, book reviews, and interviews from Deirdre McCloskey (DM), accumulated over decades. The Kindle version is mere $5 at Amazon, and since I am a DM fanboy, I snapped it up.

It covers decades, some bits going back to when Deirdre considered herself to be Donald. And (consumer note) a lot of this stuff is generally available on the web.

Let's be honest: some of the contents (I think it's fair to say) will be of limited interest to the dilettante reader. By which I mean: me. We get DM's side to some pretty wooly academic debates, mostly without any context or dissent. Much of DM's original research was on British economic history, and things get into the weeds pretty quickly on (for example) coal mining issues, the breadth and depth of seams dictating how practically they could be extracted. Also some stuff about swamp-draining… . Friends, I don't care and I don't feel a bit guilty about not caring. I gave long stretches of the book the looked-at-every-page treatment. I would not pass even a cursory quiz on the topics.

But everything else is good, driven by DM's punchy prose, unrivalled in my usual non-fiction reading. Specifically, DM's book reviews are fun and occasionally illuminating. Example: reviewed Thomas Friedman's 1999 book The Lexus and the Olive Tree for the Minnesota Journal of Global Trade, and she quotes him making a stunning prediction:

China's going to have freedom of the press Globulation will drive it. Oh, China's leaders don't know that yet, but they are being pushed straight in that direction.

Well, over 20 years later, and we're still waiting. Apparently the push wasn't as pushy as either Friedman or DM thought it would be.

So I won't be reading Tom Friedman soon. But DM's glowing review of Niall Ferguson's The Square and the Tower caused me to put it on my TTR list.

Once Were Brothers

Robbie Robertson and the Band

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A documentary about The Band. A group that I didn't "get" until they were almost over. And they haven't faded in my estimation, unlike some others. (The Eagles? Fleetwood Mac? They're OK, but not as great as I once thought they were.)

It is specifically Robbie Robertson's version of The Band's genesis and eventual demise. He's the only member shown in non-archival footage. Somewhat understandable: Rick Danko died, allegedly of heart failure, at age 55 in 1999. Richard Manuel committed suicide in 1986, age 43. Levon Helm died of cancer in 2012, age 71. That leaves Garth Hudson, but he's not here. Bob Dylan shows up a lot in old clips, but nothing filmed for this documentary.

Anyway, it's pretty much the standard story: scrappy beginnings, fortuitous early connections (in this case with Ronny Hawkins), a general recognition of musical genius, lots of booze and drug use, an ego-fueled breakup. The Band reformed for a while in the 1980s without Robbie, so it's easy to speculate that the other members couldn't stand him. That's left relatively unexplored.


Last Modified 2020-08-04 7:25 AM EDT