URLs du Jour

2021-10-15

  • Gas Station Samizdat seen at the pump this morning at the Somersworth NH Irving station:

    [Let's go, Brandon!]

    Arguably unfair. I don't care.

  • If you look around and you can't tell who the hostage is, it's you. The WSJ editorialists take an ex-President's bullshit to task: Donald Trump’s Hostage Politics.

    When Democrats complain that Donald Trump is plotting to suppress votes, they have a point—but fortunately for them, the votes he is plotting to suppress are those of his own supporters.

    That was evident in January this year in the two Georgia Senate runoffs. Turnout in Republican strongholds fell because Mr. Trump told his voters the election in November had been stolen and the state’s GOP officials were corrupt. Democrats narrowly won both seats in the conservative state, handing the party unified control of Congress and paving the way for an ideologically unleashed Biden Administration.

    Now the former President is threatening aloud that he might repeat this act of electoral sabotage in the next national elections. “If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented),” Mr. Trump said in a statement Wednesday, “Republicans will not be voting in ‘22 or ‘24. It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do.”

    You would think it would bother more Republicans that Trump is threatening what could possibly be electoral success next year. You would think they would say: "This guy is, and always was, a narcissistic asshole who's unconcerned with what his conspiratorial nonsense is doing to his party and his country. We should cut him loose."

    But no.


  • It's not very interesting when everybody's to blame for a problem. Scott Lincicome has a long article at Cato, observing that America’s Ports Problem Is Decades in the Making. But let's…

    Start with the Unions
    Perhaps most notable is the extreme influence that U.S. longshoreman unions—the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) out West and the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) basically everywhere else—have on port operations. The ILWU’s impact is particularly strong because it controls essentially all longshore labor for all West Coast ports (thus giving the union extreme leverage—strikes or slowdowns affect every port on the West Coast). Thus, contentious labor negotiations not only lead to occasional, economy‐crippling port stoppages (and other non‐economic harms), but also longer‐term labor contract provisions that intentionally decrease port productivity in several ways:

    First, as the Journal of Commerce columnist Peter Tirschwell laid out (and as indicated by last week’s news about additional LA/LB port hours), U.S. ports are open for fewer hours per week than many other ports around the world: “[B]erths in Asia work ships 24/7, or 168 total hours per week. Ships are worked 16 hours per day or only 112 hours per week at LA‐Long Beach, and terminal gates only operate 88 hours per week versus 24/7 operations in Asia.” Thus, U.S. ports create a “bottleneck” where “factories are working 24/7; the terminals in Asia are generally working 24/7” but North American ports aren’t. Much of this is dictated by union labor contracts, which expressly limit the number of hours that workers can work (total and per shift) and require overtime pay for unscheduled work, as well as any work on weekends and holidays. Compounding the issue is the fact that many ports’ Customs offices—required to clear and admit goods into the United States—are closed nights and weekends. (Customs at LA/Long Beach is open only Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)

    Other culprits Lincicome mentions: our trade policy; US shipping regulations (e.g., Jones Act). Resistance to reforming those obstacles involves powerful interests who are unprincipled about showering money on any politicians who'll maintain them.


  • The problem with that "-ocracy" part is… Kevin D. Williamson (NRPLus article) wonders about Meritocracy: Does It Exist?

    There are not many contemporary phenomena that have one-word explanations, and even fewer that have one-word explanations that are not “gravity” or “whiskey.” But if you want a one-word explanation for the ugly, stupid, vicious populism that has overtaken our politics, try this one: meritocracy.

    It should not surprise us that the people at the top believe very strongly in meritocracy. The well-off already enjoy the best of everything, and the feeling of virtue is one more exclusive pleasure for elite consumption. It is not enough to settle into a nice first-class seat and enjoy a glass of champagne — for the most exquisite satisfaction, one must also feel that one deserves it.

    The believers in meritocracy are in many cases very serious about the –ocracy part. They believe that they are entitled to rule, and they intend to act in the interests of the less-able classes whether the less-able classes like it or not. Their resentment by the intellectual proletariat is the radar screen upon which this can be most easily observed. Those on the populist left rail against billionaires and oligarchy, as though they’d be somehow better off if Jeff Bezos were worse off, and they are permanently committed to the belief that the ultra-rich are somehow putting one over on everybody else. Those on the populist right, in turn, seethe at elite institutions and, especially, at elite experts and credentialed expertise, most recently in the matter of epidemic control.

    Yet another reason you should sign up for NRPlus. Sorry to be such a shill. I've suggested that they do what Reason and some other sites do: bring your subscriber-only articles out from behind the paywall after some decent interval (2-4 weeks?).


  • Someone made their food too tasty, and now we all must be punished. Ronald Bailey notes the latest from Aunt Samantha: The FDA Wants To Take Your Salt Away.

    The Food and Drug Administration has issued voluntary guidance that aims to limit the amount of sodium that restaurants and grocery manufacturers put in the foods you buy so that you won't consume more than 3,000 milligrams per day (mg/day). Most of the sodium we consume comes from table salt. Currently, Americans consume about 3,400 mg/day of sodium. As justification for its guidance, the FDA points to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which advises individuals 14 years and older to limit their consumption to 2,300 mg/day. That amounts to a little over one teaspoon of salt per day.

    The FDA doesn't want to go quite that far. The agency explains:

    This guidance aims to help Americans reduce average sodium intake to 3,000 mg/day by encouraging food manufacturers, restaurants, and food service operations to gradually reduce sodium in foods over time. Although we recognize that a reduction to 3,000 mg/day still would be higher than the recommended sodium limit of 2,300 mg/day, the 2.5-year goals are intended to balance the need for broad and gradual reductions in sodium and what is publicly known about technical and market constraints on sodium reduction and reformulation.

    The ostensible goal of limiting salt consumption is to reduce the incidence of high blood pressure and heart disease in Americans. The FDA states that there is a consensus among nutrition researchers that such limits will achieve those goals. In fact, that "consensus" is a highly contested area of research which a great deal of recent data contradicts.

    Never mind the science! You just look like you're enjoying that Subway Spicy Italian too much!