URLs du Jour

2021-09-03

  • Eye Candy du Jour. Michael P. Ramirez looks at the latest manifestation of Cancel Culture.

    [Caesar is in Jeopardy]

    To be fair, the (um) insensitive podcast remarks that got Mike Richards pushed out were "only" seven years old.


  • She blinded masked me with Science! Jacob Sullum is one of the dwindling group of sources I trust to play it straight on Covid. Here's a recent analysis from him on a contentious topic: The New York Times Assumes a Scientific Consensus on School Mask Mandates That Its Own Reporting Shows Does Not Exist.

    The Department of Education this week announced investigations of five states that have told public schools they may not force students to wear face masks as a safeguard against COVID-19. Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended "universal masking" [including Klingons? - PS] in K–12 schools, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona says, those states may be violating federal laws that ban discrimination against people with disabilities. Among other things, that argument assumes a nonexistent scientific consensus that mask mandates in schools are a minimum requirement for resuming in-person instruction.

    If you are a regular reader of The New York Times, you could be forgiven for thinking that resistance to mask mandates is irrational at best and crassly partisan at worst, sacrificing the safety of children to score cheap political points. "Many states have urged localities to return to in-person schooling while promoting policies that conflict with the goal of educating young people in safety," the paper lamented in a recent editorial. "As of early August, only 29 states had recommended that students wear masks—down from the 44 states that did so last fall—and nine states had banned masking requirements." The Times commended President Joe Biden for taking "the right approach" by using the Education Department's "broad authority" to "deter the states from barring universal masking in classrooms."

    Jacob notes that the Gray Lady has also reported on the much less draconian school mask policy in Britain, with no apparent associated disasters.


  • It's not just for stellar interiors any more. Matt Ridley reports on some potential good news: The radical potential of nuclear fusion.

    In a key milestone on the road to harnessing fusion power, Lawrence Livermore laboratory announced this week that it had extracted energy from an object the size of a lemon pip at the rate of 10 quadrillion watts (joules per second), albeit for only 100 trillionths of a second. That’s roughly 500 times faster than the entire human population consumes energy.

    The experiment is a reminder that the energy density achieved when atoms merge is vastly greater than anything in a lump of coal, let alone a puff of wind. It is also far bigger than can be achieved by nuclear fission and much safer too: no risk of meltdown and with much less high-level radioactive waste. 

    The problem, of course, is that reliable fusion power stations were 50 years away in 1950, and were still 50 years away in 2000, so milestones on the road to fusion are greeted with sceptical yawns. But almost everybody in the industry now thinks that jibe is out of date: the stopwatch has started, as one insider put it to me. We are probably less than 15 years away from seeing a fusion power station begin to contribute to the grid. 

    The extremely good news is that fusion power produces helium as its waste gas, which can be utilized for talking funny. (And, um, it's also not a "greenouse gas".) As Glenn Reynolds is wont to say: "Faster, please."


  • Scam alert! Vivek Ramaswamy, guest-posting at Bari Weiss's substack, reveals: Stakeholder Capitalism Is a Trojan Horse for China.

    There is nothing more important to progressives today than to apologize: Antiracists apologizing for being racist. Electric-vehicle drivers apologizing for having polluted the planet. And devotees of “stakeholder capitalism” saying sorry for, well, capitalism.

    Joe Biden has called conventional, or shareholder, capitalism a “farce,” saying corporations “have a responsibility to their workers, their community, to their country.” Elizabeth Warren’s “accountable capitalism” calls for higher wages, and greater employee involvement in selecting boards of directors and making political contributions. Al Gore has said that, as the value of socially conscious capitalism gains traction, “investors who fail to take it into account may be at risk of violating their fiduciary duty to their clients” — and, presumably, vulnerable to a lawsuit.

    Nor is stakeholder capitalism limited to politicians or progressive activists: America’s most powerful CEOs have embraced it. In late 2019, the Business Roundtable, a lobbying group representing the country’s biggest corporations, announced it was revising its statement of purpose with an eye toward “stakeholders.” Jamie Dimon, the chairman and CEO of JPMorgan and the chairman of the Business Roundtable, wrote in a follow-up article in Time: “Capitalism has been the most successful economic system in history. But we can improve upon it to help solve society’s problems and lift up more people.”

    Here's what “stakeholder capitalists” miss: Once corporations become vehicles to further an agenda other than shareholder value, they become vehicles to advance any agenda, including those of foreign adversaries. 

    Case in point: In recent years, the Chinese Communist Party has become a key stakeholder of many American multinationals — from Nike to Visa to BlackRock. It’s now flexing its muscle in ways that — no surprise — strengthens China’s interests at the expense of American ones.

    Let's take a moment to appreciate the diversity going on here: a Jewish lesbian hosting an Indian writing about Chinese scheming, using a metaphor where Greeks used trickery to take over a Turkish city. Only in America!


  • Train wreck coming, nobody's worried. Well, almost nobody. Daniel J. Mitchell calls the alarm: The Real (and Growing) Problem with Social Security.

    In an ideal world, Americans would have personal retirement accounts, just like workers in Australia, Sweden, Chile, Hong Kong, Israel, Switzerland, and a few dozen other nations.

    But we’re not in that ideal world. We are forced to participate in a Ponzi Scheme known as Social Security.

    By the way, that’s not necessarily a disparaging description. A Ponzi Scheme can work if there are always enough new people in the system to pay off the old people.

    But because of demographic changes (increasing lifespans and decreasing birthrates), that’s not what we have in the United States.

    And this is why Social Security faces serious long-run problems.

    The occasion is the (belated) release of the annual Trustee's Report. It shows (as Dan says) serious long-run problems. But as Eric Boehm notes, there's also kind of a short-run problem: Social Security Will Be Insolvent in 12 Years.

    The fiscal crisis looming over Social Security is no longer a distant threat. The national pension system will be insolvent by the time workers now in their mid-50s are ready to retire.

    The annual report to Congress from the Social Security Trustees, released this week, paints a grim picture of an entitlement program that was already veering towards insolvency before the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated that trend. The Trustees now estimate that Social Security will be unable to pay the full amount of promised benefits by 2033, one year sooner than the same report estimated last year. Absent any policy changes, beneficiaries will receive just 78 percent of what they've been promised starting in 2034.

    Fixes are currently not under discussion. Instead we're debating on how much more money-we-don't-have Uncle Stupid will be spending. And the longer we dawdle, the more painful the fixes will be.