URLs du Jour

2021-11-12

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  • Hey kids, what time is it? According to Steven E, Koonin, It’s time to cancel the climate crisis.

    After two weeks of continuously pressing the panic button in Glasgow, the climate-alarmed departed the 26th UN climate conference (better known as COP26), despondent at missing the latest “last best chance” to save the planet.

    While the apocalyptic rhetoric used by politicians and activists to describe the changing climate has outpaced reality, there is some good news: First, science tells us that there is no crisis and we have ample time to respond to a changing climate. Second, terms such as “existential threat,” “climate catastrophe,” or “climate disaster” aren’t found anywhere in the most recent UN assessment of the science. The phrase “climate crisis” does appear, once — not as scientific finding, but as a description of how the media have increased the alarm.

    Don't panic. Build more nuclear plants. Open up Yucca Mountain.


  • Things that should be easy are getting hard, things that should be hard are getting soft. Scott Lincicome writes at the Dispatch on American Sclerosis. Unfortunately subscriber-only, but here's an excerpt to (perhaps) suck you in to shelling out to Jonah Goldberg and his merry gang:

    As you’ll recall, back in September I explained that, while pandemic-related supply and demand factors were the superficial cause of the current supply chain mess, various trade, labor, and other policies were exacerbating the situation by limiting system-wide efficiency and flexibility. Since then, we’ve discovered that other policies are also playing a role. At the federal level, for example, the “worker shortage” that experts in the field have routinely cited as hurting U.S. trucking, warehouse, and related industries has been amplified by two federal policies

    • First, continued restrictions on immigration have removed at least 1 million potential (and lawful) workers from the U.S. labor market, putting acute pressure on labor-intensive industries like warehousing. (And backed-up warehouses make it more difficult to clear containers that are stacked up at various ports.) 

    • Second, the United States has effectively barred Mexican trucking companies from operating on U.S. roads, thus keeping “the largest and closest supply of potential US truck drivers” out of the country and reducing the number of American trucks available for inland work because they’re picking up cargo at the border from Mexican truckers who have to drop it there. (In case you’re wondering, multiple U.S. government pilot programs have found the few Mexican trucks that were allowed to operate here to be safe and clean, in part because they all have to comply with U.S. regulations.) These restrictions have long violated our commitments under the North American Free Trade Agreement, yet President Trump actually tightened them in his NAFTA update, the USMCA.

    Adding insult to injury, we learn from the same report that Canada has national and provincial initiatives to help foreigners immigrate and work in its trucking industry, alleviating some of the pressure there. (They’re always sticking it to us on immigration!)

    Those Mexican truckers aren't gonna go on welfare up here, folks. (They will piss off Teamsters, though.)


  • "Follow the science" became "Lie about the science" pretty quickly at the CDC. Jacob Sullum has more on the misinformation from "Rochelle, Rochelle" Walensky: The CDC's Director Implies That Face Masks Are More Effective Than Vaccines at Preventing COVID-19 Infection

    "The evidence is clear," Walensky says in the 37-second video, which she posted on Twitter last Friday. "Masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by reducing your chance of infection by more than 80 percent, whether it's an infection from the flu, from the coronavirus, or even just the common cold. In combination with other steps like getting your vaccination, hand washing, and keeping physical distance, wearing your mask is an important step you can take to keep us all healthy."

    If wearing a mask reduced your risk of infection by "more than 80 percent," as Walensky seems to be saying, that safeguard would be amazingly effective. Such a risk reduction would be higher than the effectiveness rates found in several real-world studies of mRNA vaccines. In six studies conducted when the delta variant was dominant, vaccination was associated with infection reductions ranging from 54 percent to 85 percent. The effectiveness rate was 80 percent or less in five of those studies, although the reductions in symptomatic cases, severe disease, and hospitalization were bigger (an important point to keep in mind when assessing the benefits of vaccination).

    Jacob asked the CDC for the source of Rochelle's claim, and received a belated response "that did not cite any specific research".

    I'll note the weaselly wording of the claim. Rochelle could plead, "I didn't say it would reduce your infection risk by more than 80%! I said it would help!"


  • Least surprising news du jour. Philip Klein notes debunking Biden Breaks Tax Pledge, Analysis Shows.

    President Biden has repeatedly claimed that his plans would not raise taxes on anybody making under $400,000 a year. But a new analysis from the Tax Policy Center — hardly a conservative source — finds that his signature Build Back Better plan would do just that.

    “Taking into account all major tax provisions, roughly 20 percent to 30 percent of middle-income households would pay more in taxes in 2022,” according to the analysis. True, the analysis finds that the increases would be relatively small. “Among those with a tax increase, low- and middle-income households would pay an additional $100 or less on average. Those making $200,000-$500,000 would pay an average of about $230 more,” it reads.

    Also from the study (as described by John McCormack): in its current formulation, the legislation "would provide Americans earning between $500,000 and $1 million an average tax cut of about $6,000" by raising the "SALT cap".

    "Just kidding about making the rich pay their 'fair share', suckers!"


  • As promised, here's Matthew Yglesisas's "Critical Race Theory" and actual education policy, part two. The usual disclaimer: Yglesisas is a lefty, and (as a result) there's a lot of claptrap therein. But:

    Even though it’s true, as Democrats say, that teachers are not “teaching Critical Race Theory in school,” it’s also true that Critical Race Theory has become influential in graduate schools of education and in left-wing thinking on education policy. Ishimaru, for example, frequently draws on CRT concepts or directly invokes them in her work. And as I learned when I read Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic’s primer “Critical Race Theory: An Introduction,” CRT scholars are very critical of test-best measurements of student learning, questioning the validity of the SAT, LSAT, and other tests.

    And again if you read these scholars — or more popular writers like Ibram Kendi — they are not making narrow critiques of the sort you hear all the time from normal people like “I wish they didn’t do so much testing in my daughter’s school” or “high-stakes testing narrows the curriculum.” They are making the extremely strong claim that the whole enterprise is invalid. And that to me is antithetical to the important policy goal of making schools better in general and, in particular, of making them more effective at serving marginalized students.

    Kendi, et. al., simply do not want to hear anything that might contradict their narrative.


  • And now for something completely different. You hear a lot of negative stuff about Hungary's Viktor Orban. It's all true, probably! Astral Codex Ten makes some points you don't hear about: Highlights From The Comments On Orban

    The arguments about Orban cheating in elections might be totally true. I dunno. But that's sort of irrelevant. Neutral opinion polls nobody disputes show he would have gotten 2/3 under almost any system.

    And then goes on to a more general observation:

    This gets at the problem with "democracy" as a concept. Hungary is undeniably Democratic: there is widespread public support for the regime, which is selected by elections, the results of which are a decent approximation of trustworthy and neutral opinion polls. But I think it's still possibly reasonable to call Orban a dictator. He wields enormous *personal* power, there are few checks on his power, and he uses power to create a *personal* clique of supporters to perpetuate that power and enfeeble the competition.

    But this is the point: Democracy and dictatorship aren't opposites. In fact, they are natural companions! So much so that before the 20th century, "democracy" was often used *literally as a synonym* for "authoritarian and demagogic rule"! Orban is a great example of why the word "democracy" came into ill repute in the past: because it was widely understood that "the people" (often pejoratively "the mob") will often vote for a strongman to stomp his boot on the face of disliked others. That's not so much a disagreement with @slatestarcodex as just a comment where I think the modern western liberal mindset obscures understanding the phenomenon of populist leadership.

    Bold added. That's the kind of thing that would freak out the "Democracy dies in darkness" crowd.