URLs du Jour

2021-10-01

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • As usual, Betteridge's Law of Headlines applies. Tyler Cowen wonders Is Biden’s Economic Plan Actually a Good Idea?

    Well, that's the headline. But his actual point is something else.

    If the biggest news is what’s not being talked about, then my candidate for the most neglected story would be President Joe Biden’s plan for $3.5 trillion in new government spending. Crazy as my hypothesis may seem, given all the stuff about Biden’s agenda on the internet, there has been remarkably little policy debate about it, and remarkably little attempt to persuade the American public that this spending is a good idea.

    It’s not just that no one knows yet what exactly will be in the bill(s), which seem to be a combined effort of the White House and congressional Democrats. It’s that America’s intellectual and pundit class isn’t paying full attention. There was more passionate debate about AOC’s “Tax the Rich” dress.

    My colleague Arnold Kling put it well: “With the reconciliation bill, there is no attempt to convince the public that it is desirable to enact an enormous child tax credit or to mandate ending use of fossil fuels in a decade. Instead, what we read is that if you’re on the blue team you want the number to be 3.5, but a few Democrats are holding out for something lower.”

    What really matters—and to some the only thing that matters is what team you're on. You don't have to think! Or read! Just care about your side winning.


  • North of a dozen, I think. But who's counting? Charles C. W. Cooke tabulates some of The Many Lies That Built the Reconciliation Bill.

    In the beginning, President Biden created a $3.5 trillion spending bill. And the bill was without form, and void; and debt was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of common sense moved upon the face of the country. And so Biden said, let there be lies. And there were lies. And Biden saw that the lies were good. And Biden called up down, and the left he called right, and the trillions he called zero. And Biden made the beasts of the press repeat his lies, made every thing that creepeth upon the Sunday shows follow his lies; and Biden saw that it was good.

    Everyone else was just baffled.

    From the moment the Democrats’ plan was conceived, the party has lied about it with abandon. Telegraphing the approach to come, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand contended back in April that the glint in Bernie Sanders’s eye did not represent dramatic or transformational change, but mere “infrastructure.” Trying desperately to counter rumors that Sanders was working on a $6 trillion sequel to the New Deal, Gillibrand maintained that whatever the package ended up containing should be regarded in the same way as, say, a new bridge. “Paid leave is infrastructure,” Gillibrand proposed. “Child care is infrastructure. Caregiving is infrastructure.” Presumably, mendacity is, too.

    It will cost zero. It will "take the pressure off inflation." Companies will pay more taxes without passing those costs on to customers. And I own the Brooklyn Bridge.

    [Fact Check: Pun Salad does not own the Brooklyn Bridge.]

    As I type, things are still up in the air. I hope they fall to the ground in a mighty explosive crash, but we'll see.


  • More in sorrow than in anger… Peter Suderman writes (as if surprised): Democrats Are Denying Basic Economics.

    The simplest way to understand economics is that it is a reckoning with unavoidable tradeoffs. If you spend money on something, you may obtain something in return—but you lose the ability to use those resources on something else. In the world of politics, economics helps us weigh the merits of those tradeoffs. It answers the question: Do the benefits of a policy outweigh the costs? Sometimes the benefits are larger. Sometimes they are meager or even nonexistent. But there are always costs. To acknowledge this is merely to acknowledge reality.

    Under President Joe Biden, however, Democrats in Washington have decided that they can simply wish those tradeoffs away by declaring that they do not exist. Over and over again, they have argued that their policies do not or should not have any costs whatsoever.

    Just this week, for example, White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to a question about the tax impact of the $3.5 trillion spending plan now working its way through Congress by declaring that "there are some…who argue that in the past companies have passed on these costs to consumers…we feel that that's unfair and absurd and the American people would not stand for that."

    Suderman is an adult, unlike way too many of our elected representatives.


  • And, oh, by the way… Jim Geraghty remembers a policy change Wheezy Joe announced three weeks ago. Vitally important for saving lives! Or so we were told. Say, Where Is That Biden Regulation on Vaccine Mandates?

    Seven days ago, this newsletter noted that President Biden’s vaccine mandate for employers had not yet been issued by OSHA, two weeks after Biden announced the new policy.

    A week later, not only has OSHA not issued the rule, but the Biden administration apparently has no idea when the federal agency will issue the new regulations. Yesterday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to offer any timeline:

    Q: About the OSHA rule —

    PSAKI: Yeah.

    Q: On mandates. You had said it would be a few weeks just now. When it was announced a few weeks ago, it was going to take a few weeks. So, are you signaling a delay of any kind of that rule?

    PSAKI: No, we never gave an exact timeline, so — maybe we should have been more specific at the time. Obviously, it takes some time. And we want to make sure when we put these out, they’re clear and they provide guidance necessary to businesses.

    Q: So, how many weeks, then, are you expecting it to take?

    PSAKI: I can’t give you a timeline. OSHA is working on them. But obviously — hopefully, we’ll know more in the coming weeks.

    Of course. It wasn't that important after all. The important thing was for President Dodder to appear to be on the ball, doing something.


  • Always a good idea to get to the point. Helen Pluckrose's article is from July (I missed seeing it back then) but it's interesting and important: Demystifying Critical Race Theory so We Can Get to the Point.

    What Critical Race Theory (or CRT) is and isn’t, who understands it and who doesn’t, and what people’s motivations are for defending or criticising it seem to be the issues dominating the culture wars right now. It is a good thing that we’re talking about contemporary critical theories of race. This particular approach to addressing racism is something we desperately need to have serious discussions about. The problem is that we are largely not having serious discussions about it. Instead, people are quibbling over terms, accusing each other of ignorance or malice and generally talking past each other without engaging the point in any kind of productive way.

    The first hindrance to discussing Critical Race Theory is that the discussion generally fails to get past the accusation that the other person doesn’t understand what Critical Race Theory actually is. Often these accusations are correct. Many of the people advocating for CRT seem to believe it is any historically literate understanding of racial history in the USA, how horrendously it oppressed black Americans, why this was bad and how its aftermath is still felt today. Some even seem to think that CRT just means ‘talking about racism.’ Of course, if you believe that this is what CRT is, you will believe that anybody who opposes it is, at best, trying to gloss over a shameful history and, at worst, indifferent to or even supportive of racism. Meanwhile, some opponents of CRT believe it is essentially racism against white people and centred around the belief that all white people are racist, bigoted, and personally responsible for the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade. If you understand CRT as the belief that white people are evil and generally inferior, you are going to believe that anyone who advocates it is, at best, a profoundly misguided conspiracy theorist and, at worst, a racist.

    Ms. Pluckrose does a fine job of making relevant distinctions between various forms of CRT, and advocates for not getting bogged down with that label. The better to deal with various assertions and alleged remedies on their merits.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Yep, that's the actual edition I own over there on your right. Cost me a whopping 95¢ back in 1968 or so. Currently out of stock at Amazon, but the in-print paperback goes for $15.99. (Kindle version only $12.99.) It's probably one of those books that set me on my current cranky-libertarian ideological hobby-horse. Thanks, Bob! And it also won the Hugo for best SF novel.

And this leaves 17 books to go on my reread-Heinlein project. Wish me luck, I think I'll need it.

The narrator here is Mannie O'Kelly-Davis, computer technologist on the Moon. One day he discovers that the large computer he's been maintaining has crossed the threshold into sentience. Cool! Mannie keeps this a secret, dubs his AI friend "Mycroft" (Mike for short), and together they arrange for periodic glitches so they can get together and chat. (Yes, Mike can converse. Not surprising in this day of Alexa/Siri/Cortana. Big deal when the book was written.)

The late 21st-century Moon is a penal colony, inhabited by a few million prisoners, and their descendants, ruled by the Earth-appointed "Warden" and his "Lunar Authority" thugs. Luna is also an exporter of lunar-grown grain to Earth. (Not the most stable of situations, and the economics are suspect, but go with it.) Always-curious Mike asks Mannie to go to an anti-government meeting, where gripes are aired, the thugs crack down, violence occurs. Mannie barely escapes with beautiful Wyoming Knott, and Professor Bernardo de la Paz; both are well-known agitators.

Mannie gets roped into an unlikely scheme to throw off the shackles of Earth domination, and establish an independent Luna. Even more unlikely (or is it?), Mike joins them as an ally. We are taken into the nuts and bolts of revolution of the plucky downtrodden against oppressors with vastly more resources at their disposal. Heinlein obviously thought a lot about the details here.

I think Heinlein was the first writer to speculate on computers becoming conscious. (Although Asimov's R. Daneel Olivaw was pretty close.) It's pretty much a staple these days, but I think it was mind-blowing at the time.