URLs du Jour


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  • Gosh, it's almost if they're lying about their true intentions. Matt Welch detects a mismatch between stated goals and proposed means. Dems Want to Soak the Rich by Snooping on the Poor.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) snapped when asked Tuesday if the proposal to dramatically increase the surveillance capabilities of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) would remain in the trillion-dollar social spending bill currently being negotiated among Democrats on Capitol Hill.

    "Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes," the speaker said. Then she waved aside the questioner's accurate comment that banks have reported customer concerns about the idea that the IRS would scrutinize accounts with inflows and outflows as low as $600.

    "With all due respect, the plural of anecdote is not data," Pelosi said, disrespectfully. "Yes, there are concerns that some people have. But if people are breaking the law and not paying their taxes, one way to track them is through the banking measure. I think 600—well, that's a negotiation that will go on as to what the amount is. But yes."

    Confession: when I read the words, "Nancy Pelosi snapped…", my mind went immediately to: "Bound to happen, sooner or later."

  • Sorely in need of counter-revolution. Orwell's essay Politics and the English Language is a fertile source for wise quotes. Like:

    A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.

    It's easy, especially these days, to omit the next sentence: "The point is that the process is reversible."

    Daniel B. Klein looks at an example of what he calls The Semantic Revolution. He was discomfited when a video lecturer he watched during exercise repeatedly referred to the “liberal” revolutions of 1848.

    I accept that a historian today might use “liberal” to describe people and causes that did not call themselves liberal. Our discourse is undertaken today, not in the historical past. We speak to people today. It is natural that we project our own semantic practice back into history. Everyone does it.

    The word liberal took on a political meaning for the first time in the 1770s. Liberalism 1.0 had arrived. I use the word liberal in that original sense—classical liberalism. Erik Matson explains how the original political meaning built on pre-political meanings of liberal.

    Nonetheless, when referring to pre-1770 figures such as Montaigne, Grotius, or Locke, I might speak of their liberal political tendency, even though they didn’t use “liberal” that way.

    Still, as I pedaled my bicycle and watched the lecture, I wondered whether any of the 1848 revolutionaries in fact called themselves “liberal.”

    Short answer: they didn't. And they were not.

    Daniel does a fine job of tracing (with graphs!) how the "new" meaning of "liberal" came to pass.

    Suggestion: find your own way to reclaim the word "liberal" from the statists.

  • For example, what would liberals think about today's government schooling? They might shake their heads in wonder than anyone could possibly disagree with George Will in thinking that, when it comes to kids' education, parents have rights.

    Ninety-six years. And the news has still not trickled down to Terry McAuliffe.

    The Democrats’ Virginia gubernatorial candidate is innocent of insubordination toward teachers unions. He opposes more charter schools — public schools operating without union supervision (Virginia has only seven, one for every 175,000 K-12 students) — or other enlargements of parents’ educational choices. Some Virginia parents have vociferously berated local school boards for infusing public school curricula with “anti-racist” indoctrination favored by many unionized teachers. So, McAuliffe says: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

    In the words from a Ring Lardner story, “Shut up he explained.” In the Supreme Court’s words, however, parents have rights.

    The court, in 1925, struck down an Oregon law requiring children to be educated in public schools. The ruling says: “The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments of this Union rest excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only.” Oregon’s law was “an unreasonable interference” with parents’ liberty “to direct the upbringing of the children.”

    You would think this would discourage anyone from voting for McAuliffe for governor. According to RCP, the race is a squeaker.

  • Uff Da! John Gustavsson (he's Swedish) explains to us Why the Nordic Model Wouldn’t Work in the U.S. Skipping down a bit, he punctures the fantasy that the Rest Of Us can swim in government goodies that "the rich" pay for:

    Sweden doesn’t really tax the millionaires and billionaires—it taxes the poor. In Sweden, it is possible to avoid virtually all capital gains taxes through an investment savings account, which obviously mostly benefits the rich. What about wealth taxes? The Nordic countries have long since moved past them: Denmark abolished its wealth tax in 1997, Finland in 2005, and Sweden In 2007. It’s not about ideological opposition to taxing the rich.  It’s that the wealth tax was completely counterproductive and caused capital to flee these countries. In the U.S., the wealth tax is a novel idea. In the Nordics, it’s the 56k modem of taxation.

    Instead, the big difference between the U.S. and Sweden, taxation-wise, is how the poor are taxed. Americans who make less than $12,000 per year pay no federal income taxes.  Many who make more than that still end up paying a net zero in taxes once deductions are accounted for. In Sweden, the equivalent is about $2,300. On any money you make above that threshold, you pay a tax rate of about 30 percent, plus payroll taxes. What about deductions? In the US, the average tax refund last year was $2,707. In Sweden, it was $821. On top of this, Sweden has a national sales tax of 25 percent on almost everything you buy. As the poor spend a greater share of their income, this tax disproportionally hurts them.

    The kind of taxes that the poor are forced to pay in the Nordic countries would be completely unacceptable to the majority of the American public. It does not matter whether polls claim Americans support Nordic welfare programs—it’s utterly meaningless unless you also agree to pay them the only way they can be paid for: By taxing the average citizen. 

    And you have to be fully invested in progressive trickle-down fallacy: that the government can take everyone's money, then give more back to them.

  • Think of Zuck as Emperor Palpatine, cackling as each user is successfully tempted to the Dark Side. Professor Huemer discourses on The Anger Merchants.

    In the news: This former Facebook employee, Frances Haugen, is blowing the whistle on Facebook for sowing discord, anger, and other negative emotions in societies around the world: https://youtu.be/_Lx5VmAdZSI.

    How is FB doing that? Because FB’s algorithms favor content that maximizes users’ engagement, and it turns out that hateful, outrage-mongering, or panic-inspiring content gets the most engagement.

    Everybody already knows that, though, so I’m not entirely sure what the big news is here.


    The regular media has been doing something similar for about as long as they’ve existed, albeit less skillfully than modern social media platforms. They didn’t focus as much on outrage, possibly because they hadn’t yet figured out that outrage works better than anything else (except perhaps porn, which apparently is more disreputable than hate-mongering), but they strove to stoke the passions in order to maximize engagement. This is why we have the phrase “yellow journalism”.

    Media outlets regularly sensationalize the news and try to make everything more dramatic. This video from the Weather Channel is an excellent metaphor for the entire media: https://youtu.be/tocuyJ1Fu7U. (Summary: reporter pretends to be barely able to stand due to the high winds. Two guys appear and walk behind him casually, showing no difficulty standing.)

    To quote another old movie: "A strange game. The only winning move is not to play."

Last Modified 2021-10-18 6:38 AM EST

No Time to Die

[4.0 stars] [IMDB Link] [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I kind of miss the ludicrous demises of villains in old James Bond movies. Oddjob getting electrocuted by his hat. Goldfinger getting squoze out the airplane window. Inflated Kananga. Mr. Kidd en fuego. Etc. There's some of that here, but it's mostly people getting shot in the face.

The opening scene has a (very) young Madeleine Swann in peril from a killer in a Noh mask. She does quite a bit of damage, and only survives due to luck and unexplained mercy. Flash forward to years later when she's taken up with James Bond (it helps to be able to remember the details of their relationship in the previous movie, Spectre). At one point, Bond tells her "We have all the time in the world."

Aw, man. As viewers/readers of the movie/book On Her Majesty's Secret Service may remember, that's a line that doesn't bode well for a long-lasting relationship.

But in any case, their relationship is complicated by their mutual secret-keeping. It gets a little worse when Bond gets targeted by an army of assassins. He prevails (it's the beginning of the movie, after all), but is a little nonplussed that the bad guys were able to find him so easily, when only he and Madeleine knew they were going to be there. He suspects betrayal, and sends her off to Dumpsville on a train.

Jump to five years later, Bond is living the retired-spy life in Jamaica. When his old buddy Felix shows up asking for some help with tracking down a rogue bio-warfare researcher. Who's previously been shown to be in cahoots with bad guys. And…

Well, there's a lot going on. No further spoilers. I liked it OK. Very long, so plan your urination appropriately if you see it in the movies.