It's No Way To Go Through Life

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

And, really, it shouldn't be a plus in a candidate for high office. Jim Geraghty notes we got two guys who, in reality, would be flunking the job interview badly: Our Oblivious Presidential Candidates.

This presidential election is a battle between two candidates and campaigns whose primary concerns and worries are light-years away from those of the majority of the electorate.

Joe Biden would love for this year’s election to be about forgiving student loans, union jobs, climate change, gun control, abortion, those oh-so-plausible tales of him saving six people from drowning as a lifeguard, how he was arrested for standing with a black family during protests of desegregation, and how he was “runner-up in state scoring” in football . . . until his teenage asthma kept him out of the draft for Vietnam.

Donald Trump wants this election to be about how unfairly he’s been treated and how he’s being persecuted for his political views, how he was the real winner in the 2020 presidential election, and how he embodies “retribution” for his supporters.

Meanwhile, the average American voter is desperately yearning for a candidate who would just focus on fighting inflation and getting the cost of living under control. Yes, American voters have other priorities, but that is the most-often-mentioned priority by a wide margin.

Consumer note: you really get a lot of weird results when you search Amazon for "oblivious".

Also of note:

  • Speaking of weirdness… Someone named Yanis Varoufakis observes that we are living in The Age of Cloud Capital.

    I have no idea what he's talking about, but he persuaded the gatekeepers at Persuasion that his thesis was insightful enough to publish:

    Capitalism is now dead, in the sense that its dynamics no longer govern our economies. In that role it has been replaced by something fundamentally different, which I call technofeudalism. At the heart of my thesis is an irony that may sound confusing at first but which I contend makes perfect sense: the thing that has killed capitalism is… capital itself. Not capital as we have known it since the dawn of the industrial era, but a new form of capital, a mutation of it that has arisen in the last two decades, so much more powerful than its predecessor that like a stupid, overzealous virus it has killed off its host. What caused this to happen? Two main developments: the privatization of the internet by America’s and China’s Big Tech. And the manner in which Western governments and central banks responded to the 2008 great financial crisis.

    And it just gets loopier from there.

    If capitalism were dead, or even seriously ill, you'd think that would have shown up in my investment portfolio. So I'm dubious. Or maybe oblivious (see above).

    Still, for a guy I had never heard of, Yanis is actually pretty famous.

  • A good idea? Clyde Wayne Crews has a decent proposal: Subsidy-free capitalism may require a constitutional amendment.

    As I described over at Forbes, the absence of subsidies among the enumerated powers of the federal Constitution hasn’t deterred their rise to a dangerous prominence. Despite evidence showing the shortcomings of economic and social engineering subsidies, market interventionism remains popular and unabated much to the chagrin of free enterprise advocates who have yet to persuade policymakers—who often know better—to reject them.

    Subsidies famously privatize profits while socializing losses. They distort markets and steer talent into unproductive ventures; they can hinder genuine regulation by shielding actors from liability. Moreover, subsidies are accompanied by regulatory strings and chains, which in Biden’s America means the coercive promotion of progressive policies and an expansion of the administrative state’s reach.

    The history of state-level subsidies offers valuable lessons, as described in an important Mercatus Center paper called “Outlawing Favoritism: The Economics, History, and Law of Anti-Aid Provisions in State Constitutions.” While most 19th-century state constitutions contained or added clauses to prohibit private aid, loopholes emerged, leading to a resurgence of subsidies.

    I would very much like to see "subsidy-free capitalism". But Crews' proposal for a constitutional amendment? Summary: you need two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress, plus three-fourths of state legislatures to say yes.

    If you've got that kind of political support for an amendment, you have way more than enough support to just repeal existing subsidies and not enact new ones. Problem solved, with a lot less fuss.

  • The FDA wants to get back into the business of killing people. Okay, maybe that's a tad overblown, but … no, it's pretty much what's going on, as described by Ron Bailey: FDA Once Again Stands Athwart Biomedical Innovation, Yelling 'Stop!'.

    As earlier threatened, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just issued new rules that will significantly slow down the development of new diagnostic tests. Specifically, the agency requires that all laboratory-developed tests (LDTs) be submitted to its regulators before the tests can be offered to patients and physicians. As I explained earlier, LDTs are in vitro diagnostic (IVD) tests for clinical use that are designed, manufactured, and performed by individual laboratories. They can diagnose illnesses and guide treatments by detecting relevant biomarkers in saliva, blood, or tissues; the tests can identify small molecules, proteins, RNA, DNA, cells, and pathogens. For example, some assess the risks of developing Alzheimer's disease or guide the treatment of breast cancer.

    Until now, the FDA had not sought to exercise regulatory control over the development and deployment of such tests.

    "LDTs are being used more widely than ever before—for use in newborn screening, to help predict a person's risk of cancer, or aid in diagnosing heart disease and Alzheimer's. The agency cannot stand by while Americans continue to rely on results of these tests without assurance that they work," said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf in a press release.

    The bureaucratic delay and expense involved in getting tests approved under the proposed rules guarantees stifled innovation, which means… yup, more people not getting diagnosed, which means… more corpses. Sad!

    But, as Bastiat would observe, if he were around: those dead folks are "unseen"; what's "seen" is only the FDA, working diligently to "protect" us.

  • It's a funny business. If you are a book reader, you might be surprised to learn: No one buys books. Elle Griffin did the research, and …

    In 2022, Penguin Random House wanted to buy Simon & Schuster. The two publishing houses made up 37 percent and 11 percent of the market share, according to the filing, and combined they would have condensed the Big Five publishing houses into the Big Four. But the government intervened and brought an antitrust case against Penguin to determine whether that would create a monopoly.

    The judge ultimately ruled that the merger would create a monopoly and blocked the $2.2 billion purchase. But during the trial, the head of every major publishing house and literary agency got up on the stand to speak about the publishing industry and give numbers, giving us an eye-opening account of the industry from the inside. All of the transcripts from the trial were compiled into a book called The Trial. It took me a year to read, but I’ve finally summarized my findings and pulled out all the compelling highlights.

    I think I can sum up what I’ve learned like this: The Big Five publishing houses spend most of their money on book advances for big celebrities like Britney Spears and franchise authors like James Patterson and this is the bulk of their business. They also sell a lot of Bibles, repeat best sellers like Lord of the Rings, and children’s books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar. These two market categories (celebrity books and repeat bestsellers from the backlist) make up the entirety of the publishing industry and even fund their vanity project: publishing all the rest of the books we think about when we think about book publishing (which make no money at all and typically sell less than 1,000 copies).

    It's a long, but interesting, read. Not book-length.

Snarky-Tweets-Я-Us II

For some reason, I still follow my ex-CongressCritter (and all-time toothache) Carol Shea-Porter. And I felt this demanded a reply:

Don't recognize the reference? Reader, you got yourself some movie-watchin' to do.

Also of note:

  • Where is Nina Jankowicz on this? Scott Johnson notes revisionist disinformation on one of the "major" networks: Rathergate: 100 proof fraud.

    The Daily Beast’s John Fiallo reports that Dan Rather returns to CBS News today 18 years after his involuntary departure. Fiallo writes (emphasis added):

    The former CBS News anchor Dan Rather will make a brief return to the network Sunday, appearing in a live interview 18 years after his controversial exit. Rather, 92, is slated to be profiled on CBS News Sunday Morning through an interview with correspondent Lee Cowan, the network announced. The segment will, in part, promote the soon-to-be released documentary Rather, which chronicles the legendary newsman’s “rise to prominence, his sudden and dramatic public downfall, and his redemption and re-emergence as a voice of reason to a new generation,” the doc’s producers wrote in a statement. Rather’s falling out with CBS began with his 2004 60 Minutes II report about George W. Bush’s National Guard record that relied on documents CBS failed to authenticate—something the then-president skewered the network for. The incident shattered Rather’s reputation, despite the documents never being proven to be forgeries. The controversy, which was dubbed “Rathergate,” was dramatized in the 2015 film Truth. Rather’s return to CBS will air at 9 a.m. EST on Sunday.

    The documents “were never proven to be forgeries” in roughly the same sense that Alger Hiss was never proven to be a Communist spy. Fiallo to the contrary notwithstanding, the proof is overwhelming. Indeed, there is no proof to support the authenticity of the documents. None. Zero. Nada.

    What follows is a recap of the largely blog-driven debunking of CBS's effort to smear Bush with a pre-election hit piece. It's a great story, long, and worth your while. The effort to rehabilitate Dan Rather and the other shoddy journalists involved in the sham is pathetic and disgusting.

    So I'm not kidding, Nina Jankowicz! Your "American Sunlight Project" mission statement promises to "Expose deceptive information practices and the networks and money that drive them." Who's behind this effort to deceive the American people?

    Of course, it could be that you're a partisan hack, Nina. Gee, I hope not.

  • Specifically, the kind that's funny, and doesn't involve mass murder. Andy Kessler notes the increasing relevance of The Other Kind of Marxism.

    Today’s politicians are steeped in Marxism. Not Karl, but Groucho, who is supposed to have said: “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them . . . well, I have others.”

    On Jan. 22, 2021, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said of Donald Trump’s second impeachment: “Make no mistake, a trial will be held in the United States Senate and there will be a vote whether to convict the president.” Fast forward to a week ago, when articles of impeachment were delivered to the Senate against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Mr. Schumer said: “Impeachment Article 1 does not allege conduct that rises to the level of high crime or misdemeanor . . . and is therefore unconstitutional.” No trial. No vote.

    This tossing of principles can be found everywhere. In 2020 President Trump tried to ban social-media app TikTok over national-security concerns. Now Mr. Trump is against a ban, writing last month on Truth Social: “If you get rid of TikTok, Facebook and Zuckerschmuck will double their business. I don’t want Facebook, who cheated in the last Election, doing better.”

    In August 2020, Joe Biden told ABC’s David Muir, referring to Covid: “I would shut it down. I would listen to the scientists.” By October 2020, Mr. Biden insisted, “I’m not going to shut down the country, I’m going to shut down the virus.” Lockdowns continued.

    Kessler is correct that Groucho is "supposed to have said" that quote. The Quote Investigator is on the case, and finds the evidence inconclusive.

  • Better stay away from those that carry around a fire hose. Jeffrey Blehar demonstrates the increasing relevance of a song written nearly sixty years ago: You Don't Need to Be a Weatherman to Know Which Way The Wind's Blowing at Columbia.

    If you have a heart, then it is tough to sit in the position that I do and savage dumb college kids all day without at least a twinge of guilt. They are kids, after all — the one thing they definitively lack, especially en masse, is maturity. And those of us lucky enough to be born and raised before the iPhone era will never fully understand how the advent of “everything now” infinite content, panopticon online peer pressure, and the status opportunities afforded by public performance on social media have permanently warped the younger generation.

    Bluntly put, subjecting young people to these conditions is a great way to sow the seeds of narcissistic sociopathy. So should we be surprised that we’ve now reaped a harvest of elite college youths who, from our older perspective, come across like uniquely narcissistic sociopaths? What commands the most attention about the campus protests against Israel is not the vehemence of the hatred on display, but the ultimate vapidity of the majority of students involved.

    These students may not necessarily know what they want, but they certainly enjoy the social frisson of what they’re doing. They are led only by their all-conquering personal need for psychological validation. But that does not make them any less of a civic threat — their belief in their innate virtue rather than in any political principle other than the cause of the moment makes them easily molded clay for people with actual agendas.

    Futher advice: Don't follow leaders, watch the parking meters.

  • On the Oppressor/Oppressed axis… John Hinderaker describes The Power of Weakness.

    Modern liberals have distilled the true essence of Marxism, which is the idea that every human relationship is exploitative. Lenin summed it up as “who/whom”–who is doing what to whom?

    Of course this idea is ridiculous. Most human relationships, whether personal or economic, are not exploitative. But Marx’s idea has a perennial appeal to the discontented, and is endlessly malleable to suit the neuroses of the day. Thus, modern Marxists have no interest in the purported oppression of the “proletariat.” Far from it! But the Marxist model can easily be made to fit other preoccupations.

    He embeds a couple of perceptive Elon tweets, here's one of them:

    It sounds as if Elon might have read Arnold Kling's The Three Languages of Politics, which observed that progressives hammer controversies into an "oppressor-oppressed" heuristic. The Kindle version is a mere $3.99, and it's money well spent.

  • That's right, he said zero. Articles from the new dead-trees issue of Reason, which has an AI theme, are coming out from behind the paywall, and this one by Andrew Mayne is wonderfully contrarian: In the AI Economy, There Will Be Zero Percent Unemployment

    I'm an AI developer and consultant, and when OpenAI released a preview in February of its text-to-video model Sora—an AI capable of generating cinema-quality videos—I started getting urgent requests from the entertainment industry and from investment firms. You could divide the calls into two groups. Group A was concerned about how quickly AI was going to disrupt a current business model. Group B wanted to know if there was an opportunity to get a piece of the disruptive action.

    Counterintuitively, the venture capitalists and showbiz people were equally split across the groups. Hollywood producers who were publicly decrying the threat of AI were quietly looking for ways to capitalize on it. Tech startups that thought they had an inside track to disrupting Hollywood were suddenly concerned that they were about to be disrupted by a technical advance they didn't see coming.

    This is the new normal: Even the disruptors are afraid they're about to be disrupted. We're headed for continuous disruption, both for old industries and new ones. But we're also headed for the longest period of economic growth and lowest unemployment in history—provided we don't screw it up.

    If you needs some palate-clearing optimism, this is a good choice.

Recently on the book blog:

The Possibility of Life

Science, Imagination, and Our Quest for Kinship in the Cosmos

(paid link)

Back in ancient times, the speaker at my college graduation (1973) was the school's president (and kind of a real-life Sheldon Cooper), Harold Brown. No offense, but he was a less-than-stellar speaker.

If only I had flunked a few courses, I could have graduated a year later, and the speaker at that ceremony was Richard Feynman. The topic of his speech was "Cargo Cult Science". And it is the source of one of his more famous quotes about science:

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.

(Twelve years later, he wrote "Personal Observations on Reliability of Shuttle" as an appendix to the Rogers Commission Report on the Challenger disaster. His overall theme was that NASA had, indeed, fooled itself.)

Feynman's observations kept coming to mind as I read this book, which is about the search for extraterrestrial life. The subtitle refers to "our quest for kinship", which implies (to me) that we're not talking about a dispassionate search for truth. A lot of people really want it to be true; that's a perilous attitude for non-cultish science.

To her great credit, the author, Jaime Green, alludes to this attitude. Example: the hype around the Allan Hills 84001 meteorite. Initially thought to contain evidence of Martian life, then-President Clinton gave a short TV speech, rhapsodizing: "Today, rock 84001 speaks to us across all those billions of years and millions of miles. It speaks of the possibility of life."

Eventually, we all sobered up. 84001 is pretty neat, but not proof of life.

Green's book is wide-ranging. She not only looks at the science involved, but spends a lot of pages on how science fiction deals with the topic. There's Star Trek, of course, Carl Sagan's Contact (book and movie versions), but a lot of more serious, literary SF: Lem, Leguin, L'Engle, … and that's just the L's.

Fiction raises a lot of questions and issues, but so does actual science. Even restricting ourselves to our planet, We don't have a real solid answer for which arrangements of atoms and molecules constitute "life" and which do not. Would we even recognize off-planet life if we saw it?

Green discusses SETI research, and the hurdles involved there. Again, is it likely we'd recognize signals emitted by some alien intelligence? Can we look for Dyson Spheres?

But all in all, the book was significantly more touchy-feely than I would have liked, more about us than them. The Fermi Paradox, for some reason, does not rate an index entry.

Who Am I? Why Am I Here?

President Dotard's increasing signs of unawareness and detachment from reality don't seem to have hurt him with the bettors:

Warning: Google hit counts are bogus.

Candidate EBO Win
Hit Count
Joe Biden 45.6% +0.1% 616,000 +185,000
Donald Trump 43.8% +0.2% 3,660,000 +1,120,000
Robert Kennedy Jr 3.6% unch 29,700 +9,000
Michelle Obama 3.2% +0.2% 170,000 +67,000
Other 3.8% -0.5% --- ---

Fun fact: the Stossel/Lott betting-odds site also tracks the bets placed on the GOP VP nominee. If you really want to see a precipitous drop in probability, check what's happened to Kristi Noem's odds in the past few days.

What is it with politicians and dogs, anyway?

Also of note:

  • Equal time. We've been pretty hard on President Wheezy recently. So just a reminder that the Other Guy is no prize either. Jeff Maurer brings us The Trump Trial Opening Arguments, But With Jokes. (Subhed: "'Trump's just sleazy' is the DEFENSE")

    [The prosecution's] starting point was a 2015 meeting between Trump, Michael Cohen, and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, who has the porn-y-est name in this story despite the fact that it involves an actual porn star. In that meeting, the trio allegedly discussed how the Enquirer might help Trump, which provided the trial’s first bombshell: The National Enquirer might not be a trustworthy source of news. This was a shocking charge against the august publication that broke landmark stories like The 20 Worst Beach Bods of 2009 and I’m Being Haunted By Lucille Ball’s Ghost. In much the same way that Watergate testimony shed light on unsavory aspects of the Nixon White House, this trial has revealed that the publication that tried to tie Ted Cruz to the JFK assassination might be politically motivated.

    The prosecution alleges that the trio discussed a “catch-and-kill” system that worked like this: If someone claimed to have dirt on Trump, the Enquirer would buy the story, not publish it, and Trump would pay them back. It’s like when a movie studio buys a script from a talented writer, doesn’t produce it, and instead makes Harry and the Hendersons 2: Squatch in the City. But this plan would have a nefarious purpose: It would seek to keep voters from thinking that Trump is a lecherous, philandering pervert. Even though that’s exactly how Trump portrayed himself for 30 years prior to the meeting.

    The alleged plan worked well at first: Pecker is said to have squashed a story from a doorman who said that Trump fathered a child out of wedlock. That story could have been damning to Trump, because if he has an unknown child, then why does he keep running duds like Don Junior and Eric in front of the camera? The plan eventually faltered, though, because Pecker failed to account for the fact that Donald Trump is the cheapest bastard who ever walked God’s green Earth. After Pecker secured the rights to Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story for $150,000, Trump didn’t pay him back. The catch-and-kill plan floundered, though it would still prove to be by far the most effective program of Trump’s political life.

    You know who would have paid back Pecker? Nikki Haley, that's who.

  • They call me Mister Kevin D. Williamson has a bone to pick with titles: Mr. Trump in Court.

    Todd Blanche, one of the unhappy attorneys defending Donald Trump in one of the criminal actions against him, insisted this week the former president deserves to continue to be called “President Trump” out of respect, that this is something the former game-show host and quondam pornographer “has earned.” That is pure drivel, of course, but Trump, who has a thing about titles, has insisted for years that employees and sycophants continue calling him “President Trump.”

    The continued use of the title “president” before Trump’s name is, of course, a violation of republican norms. We do not have aristocratic titles in the United States—we have job titles, and we have only one president at a time. (Goodness knows one is enough.) Trump isn’t the first ex-president to cling pathetically to the title, though Trump’s insistence takes on a special valence because he also insists that he is the rightfully elected president and attempted to stage a coup d’état in 2021 to hold onto the office. So there is more at work here than etiquette.

    Perhaps most hurtful of all:

    Nikki Haley is still “ambassador,” as though she were an envoy from some faraway planet where Republicans didn’t suck quite so badly.

    (Classic movie quote here.)

  • We used to call this a "reality distortion field". Charles C. W. Cooke observes, sagely: Donald Trump Is Now Whomever His Critics and Backers Need Him to Be. I'm out of gifted NR links this month, so read what you can, or, better, subscribe:

    It is fitting, perhaps, that a man who launched his reelection campaign by transmuting himself into a series of gaudy nonfungible tokens would eventually be transformed into an avatar. Donald Trump has long served as a Rorschach Test, but, as he heads undeterred into his third bid for the presidency, he has become something more protean besides. At this stage, there are thousands of Trumps, each tailored to the predilections of the observer. Trump is a myth, an archetype, an emblem. How can it be that a country full of people who speak the same language cannot agree on the elementary facts that attach to the man? Simple: Because each involved in the debate has pulled a different trading card from an increasingly extensive pack.

    Take the question of Trump’s involvement in the recent bill that provided $60 billion in military aid to Ukraine. There, the plain details are these: Rather than emphatically oppose further funding for Ukraine, Donald Trump submitted that “Ukrainian survival and strength . . . is also important to us”; rather than attempt to sink it behind the scenes, Trump contrived the idea that the aid should be cast as a “loan” — an idea that was adopted, and that proved crucial to its passage; rather than criticize Speaker Mike Johnson for his role in shepherding the package through the House, Trump said publicly that Johnson is a “good person” and “a good man,” who is “trying very hard.” Given his previous rhetoric, it is unclear precisely why Trump did and said these things, but do and say them he most decidedly, indisputably, unequivocally did.

    Or, at least, the real Donald Trump mostly decidedly, indisputably, unequivocally did. The fictionalized versions of Trump did whatever those writing about him needed him to do. Thus far, two fabricated variations of the man have emerged. One, as contrived by his enemies, fought desperately against more help for Ukraine. The other, as contrived by his fans, did nothing worthy of critique. And never the twain shall meet.

    CCWC notes, amusingly, that a Bill Kristol commentary on Trump "made no attempt to hide that it had been written backwards from its foreordained conclusion". I read a lot of stuff like that, the light only slowly dawning on me that I've been wasting my time.

  • Getting back to phoniness… Yes, I used to call this Sunday feature "The Phony Campaign". But now phoniness is the water we goldfish swim in, so it's not so much a revelation any more.

    But here's a WSJ commentary of a pol who vanished from our radar last month. Kenneth L. Khachigian wonders: What Ever Happened to Gavin Newsom?

    ‘Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?” If Simon & Garfunkel were political pundits they might ask: Where have you gone, Gavin Newsom? When Joe Biden’s stumbling, mumbling fortunes seemed to slip away, the left crowned Mr. Newsom as the obvious heir to the throne. It was near impossible to click on a link or touch the remote without seeing him romp across America, preaching California’s acceptance of abortion or flying off to China to shake hands with Xi Jinping.

    But Mr. Newsom never knew where to draw the line on primping. When he hired a portrait photographer to accompany him to China and take pictures of him at the Great Wall, even the left-leaning Politico magazine couldn’t refrain from lampooning his portrait, as he attempted to look presidential at a faux Asian summit.

    The staged visit exposed the governor’s most fatal political flaw—his lack of authenticity. That phony factor is one he can’t escape and was summarized in a recent exposé by the nonprofit news organization CalMatters: “Governor Newsom has long touted his baseball career, including that he played at Santa Clara University. But he was never on the roster, among other misperceptions of his accomplishments. Newsom hasn’t corrected his record.”

    And, given the competition, why should he?

Recently on the book blog:

Last Modified 2024-04-28 6:18 PM EDT

Cahokia Jazz

(paid link)

I didn't pay a lot of attention during US History classes, but I'm pretty sure the teacher didn't tell us about Cahokia; for me, my awareness of this onetime great Native American city had to wait until I read Before the Revolution, a fine history book by Daniel K. Richter. Cahokia was located across the Mississippi from where St. Louis is today; at its 12th-century peak,it might have had more residents than either London or Paris at the same time. It was abandoned pre-1491, and today it's just mounds and archeological digs.

Also: I read Francis Spufford's previous novel, Light Perpetual, and liked it fine. When I saw a WSJ review of this book, it was a must-get.

It's a wonderful combination of speculative alternate history, mystery, and thriller. Spufford doesn't reveal the cause of his novel's alternative timeline until the end, so I won't either. It's set in 1922, and a map at the front of the book reveals a significantly different USA, with a significantly stronger Native presence.

The hero, Joe Barrow, is a detective with the Cahokia police; he is summoned with his partner, Finn Drummond, to a gory scene: atop one of the downtown skyscrapers a corpse has been found on a skylight, throat slashed, and—ick!—chest opened, heart removed. Obsidian flakes in the cavity! How very Aztec! Or is that what we're supposed to think?

It turns out that the murder has much to do with Cahokia's power structure, superstition, the Ku Klux Klan (and other racists), and much more. Barrow (it turns out) is a talented jazz pianist, and his old bandmates really want him to quit his cop job and get back with the group. In addition to this conflict, Barrow undergoes a lot of torment: physical, mental, and (even) romantic.

My report on Light Perpetual called Spufford's prose "beautifully ornate" at times, and that continues here. But there are also a number of pulse-pounding action scenes. There are also some sly nods to figures from our timeline; an archived report of a disastrous US Army mission against the Natives is written by Captain Robert E. Lee. Barrow's investigation takes him across the Mississippi River at one point, landing him in St. Louis; in this timeline, it's a dinky town, merely the proverbial wide-spot-in-the-road.

She's Baaack!

Robby Soave is among those noticing: Nina Jankowicz, Disinformation Czar, Is Back in Action.

In a recent newsletter, I fretted that disinformation experts keep failing upward into ever greater positions of prominence, even when their underlying research comes under serious scrutiny. This week, The New York Times commented on—and contributed to—the most compelling example of this phenomenon: Nina Jankowicz, who has returned from exile to launch a new disinformation-tracking organization called the American Sunlight Project.

Jankowicz, readers will recall, was hired by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2022 to head its short-lived Disinformation Governance Board. The dystopian nature of that agency's title caused widespread public criticism, followed by hasty reassurances from the feds that the board would have no authority to actually police speech. Nevertheless, Jankowicz became the subject of considerable scrutiny. Just who was this singsong academic entrusted by the federal government to distinguish truth from lies?

The American Sunlight Project has a mission page that includes "three areas" on which they promise to "focus" their activities:

  1. Expose deceptive information practices and the networks and money that drive them.

  2. Educate the public about the threats we face and the effects of disinformation on society.

  3. Engage with policymakers to return truth to our national discourse.

Alliterative! The mark of serious Effort!

But they haven't done any of that as yet. Their "Welcome" page is (as expected) full of Nina's self-promotion, dubious claims about the past, partisan gripes about the present (extremists!), and apocalyptic visions of the future. And there's the Project's "Letter to Congress" which is actually addressed to three GOP Congresscritters (Jordan, Comer, Bishop) from Nina and "Co-founder and Chief Communications Officer" but also (according to the Google search page) a movie actor. It's an insult-filled demand that the relevant congressional committees release "unedited transcripts and video recordings" of interviews and depositions. Uh, fine.

I strongly suspect George Soros is heavily funding the American Sunlight Project. Sunlight does not extend that far, though: according to the NYT story, it's a 501(c)(3) organization and "does not have to disclose its donors, which Ms. Jankowicz declined to do".

Previous Pun Salad mentions of Ms. Jankowicz: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here here, and here. She really was the gift that kept on giving, and I'm glad she's trying again.

Also of note:

  • But speaking of overrated… (and we were) George Will takes a look and likes (some of) what he sees: The leakage of universities’ prestige amid protests is most welcome.

    Do not emulate the Chicago politician who said he would not “cast asparagus” at opponents. Do cast aspersions at “elite” (just a synonym for “expensive”) institutions of what is still called, despite an ocean of contrary evidence, higher (than what?) education.

    Parents paying $89,000 for a child’s year at Columbia University might be nonplussed about the university’s explanation of its recourse to remote learning: “Safety is our highest priority.” Clearly education is not.

    Otherwise, the university, instead of flinching from firm measures to make the campus conducive to learning, would have expelled all students participating in the antisemitic encampment that panicked Columbia into prioritizing “safety.” Imagine how stern the institutional responses would be, nationwide, if the antisemitic and anti-American disruptors of education were violating really important norms by, say, using inappropriate pronouns.

    You will want to read to the very end, because the three last words in GFW's column are:

    … emotional support rabbit.

Ku Klux Kollege Kids @ UNH

NHJournal has the video you won't see on the local TV news:

Yes, the enthusiastic (but small) crowd enjoyed mindlessly repeating the catchy chant: “It is right to rebel / U.S., Israel, go to hell!”

It's part of Michael Graham's report: 'U.S., Israel, Go to Hell!': Pro-Palestine Activists Bring Campus Protests to UNH.

One speaker, a member of the UNH faculty, told the crowd that “the genocide” isn’t going to end “from us going and asking these people over and over again, ‘Please, please stop.’ They don’t care. So we should answer back, ‘We’re sick of this [expletive], and we’re not going to take it anymore.'”

Then, indicating an American flag nearby, the speaker added, “The lives of the people of Palestine are more important than that dirty rag!” The crowd cheered. The same speaker also referred to the Stars and Stripes as “this Nazi flag.”

Regrettably, Graham doesn't identify the UNH facule.

The protester's demands: an "immediate ceasefire", of course, a demand made only of Israel. Nothing about hostages.

The headline on the WMUR report linked above is:

Protesters demand University of New Hampshire divest from Israel-based companies

But laater in the same story:

[Protesters} are calling for leadership at UNH to divest from companies that support Israel.

WMUR, those are two different things. But, fortunately, UNH is likely to do neither.

In related news, Jeff Maurer asks us: We're All Noticing the Hypocrisy, Right?.

Campus protests have sparked a culture war flare up, which are not typically America’s best moments. Culture war fights are the trash TV of politics: They’re pulpy and inane, and they cut our collective IQ roughly in half. They typically end like an episode of Baywatch, in that there’s a forced “what did we learn?” moment that should probably just say: “Honestly, none of us learned jack shit.”

But let’s see if we can learn something in spite of ourselves. I propose this: Let’s take a moment to note the constant, egregious, eye-watering hypocrisy that’s emerged from all sides during this episode. Many people are loudly espousing principles that they recently denounced; it’s as if Richard Dawkins decided to become a priest, or if Princess Di had started a company that makes landmines. To even attempt these feats of duplicity implies a belief that perhaps nobody will notice, so: Let’s notice. Let’s take a moment to register the gobsmacking hypocrisy that’s everywhere right now.

For example: It’s fucking incredible that some leftists have the nerve to suddenly make appeals to free speech. For years, many leftists mocked free speech as nothing but a fig leaf for bigots. They coined the snarky “freeze peach” meme and responded forcefully when my former podcast co-host T Chatty Dubstep (as he likes to be called) organized a pro-free speech letter. The apotheosis of this duplicity occurred a few months ago when university administrators used free speech principles to justify their light treatment of protesters. As many noted at the time: Their arguments weren’t actually wrong — the problem was that their schools had spent the past several years imposing restrictions on speech that make a Trappist monastery seem like a coke party. To spend years policing milquetoast non-racism, and then turn on a dime and cite free speech in defense of blatant anti semitism requires balls that should truly be on display in the Smithsonian.

I was previously unaware that episodes of Baywatch ended like that. I'm pretty sure I never watched one the whole way through.

But, reader, be aware that Maurer's next paragraph begins: "Meanwhile, right-wingers have gone the other way." We've seen that here in New Hampshire recently.

Also of note:

  • What could go wrong? Plenty. Joe Lancaster notes some busy regulatory bee-buzzing: FCC Set To Reinstate Net Neutrality Rules That Seem More Unnecessary Than Ever.

    Of all the modern technological advances, the internet is certainly one of the most impressive. For most consumers, it went from an inscrutable concept to a ubiquitous presence within a quarter of a century.

    We owe much of that explosive growth to the freedom and openness that early internet adopters enjoyed thanks to minimal government regulation.

    This week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will likely reinstate net neutrality rules to promote fairness in internet access. But these rules seem less and less necessary all the time, while threatening the very openness that built the internet in the first place.

    If we're lucky, the damage will be mostly in wasted time and resources by lawyers for the government and the affected businesses, reflected in your cable or cell bill.

  • "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." Veronique de Rugy is sick and tired, and has her own demand: Stop the 'Emergency Spending' Charade Already.

    This week, Congress moved closer to passing four separate bills with $95 billion in funding for Ukraine, Israel, Indo-Pacific allies and the domestic submarine industrial base. This funding has been debated for months, with much of it intended for wars that have been going on — and likely will continue — for a while. In other words, it's not new or surprising. Yet once again, it will be labeled "emergency spending," a tool allowing legislators to double down on their fiscal irresponsibility.

    Before I explain my objection to their behavior, I would like to make two points. The first one might be the most important: I don't want you readers to get the impression that Congress is only irresponsible when using the emergency label to spend money. Congress is irresponsible all the time. Legislators have accumulated $34 trillion in debt without any real collective thinking about how to pay for it. The deficit is at 5.6% in a time when America is at peace and the economy is growing. They have done much of this deficit spending outside of the emergency process.

    Second, there's nothing wrong with using the emergency label to pay for truly unexpected spending. When an unexpected catastrophe hits, legislators should have a way to appropriate money quickly without having to wait for the next budget to be passed. That's what, in theory, supplemental bills are for. The emergency label provides Congress with some legroom. Legislators should not have to think through where every dollar will come from while a short-term crisis is underway.

    The label is used for the worst reason: it allows Congress to avoid the spending rules it made for itself.

  • An argument against interest. I'm a patron of the Portsmouth (NH) Public Library, and shell out $90/year for that since I don't live in Portsmouth. I estimate that works out to $1.00-$1.50 per checked-out book for me, a pretty good deal. So my eyebrows raised a bit by Marc Joffe's hey-kids-what-time-is-it headline at Cato: It’s Time to Take a Hard Look at Public Libraries.

    Like mom and apple pie, the public library seems so intrinsically good that it should be beyond criticism. But like any institution that consumes millions of tax dollars, public libraries should not be free from scrutiny. And the facts are that neighborhood libraries have largely outlived their usefulness and no longer provide value for the public money spent on them.


    The public library’s historical functions of lending physical books and enabling patrons to view reference materials are being made obsolete by digital technology. An increasing proportion of adults are consuming e‑books and audiobooks in addition to or instead of printed books, with younger adults more likely to use these alternative formats.

    Well, lame response: many libraries, including PPL do offer audiobooks and e-books for checkout.

    Joffe makes other arguments too. But the real argument is one Joffe doesn't make explicitly: public libraries represent a net subsidy from non-readers to readers. Which, given well-known correlations, almost certainly means an income transfer to the well-off (I include myself) from the not-quite-as-well-off.

Message: I Care

You may have seen this elsewhere:

I'm old enough to remember Jonah Goldberg's classic column where he meditated on Republicans reading their stage directions. His classic example was George H. W. Bush during the 1992 campaign in Exeter, New Hampshire, where he actually uttered the three words in today's headline.

But, yeah: President Dotard doubled down on that.

There's even a TVTropes page about this malady; their lead example is from Friends, featuring Joey's clueless audition for a role:

Joey: I can't. Oh, I want to, long pause, but I can't.

Leonard: I'm sorry, sorry. You're not supposed to say "long pause".

Joey: Oh, oh, I thought that was your character's name, you know, I thought you were like an Indian or something.

Friends, "The One with the Mugging"

Even more amusing, the official White House transcript transcribes "Pause" as "(inaudible)".

Also of note:

  • So who had "Illegal FTC Power Grab" on their Biden impeachment bingo card? Get your dauber out. Eric Boehm notes, at Reason: Ban on Noncompete Agreements Is an Illegal Power Grab by the FTC.

    More than 30 million Americans have signed employment contracts that limit their ability to switch jobs to a competing company, and those contracts are regulated by laws in 47 states.

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) swept all of that aside in one fell swoop this week, as the commission voted down party lines to ban future noncompete agreements and to block the enforcement of many of those existing contracts. (The retroactive ban on noncompete agreements does not apply to senior-level employees.) Even for an agency that has sought in recent years to stretch its regulatory reach, the new FTC rule banning noncompete agreements is a stunning expansion of federal power—one that courts almost certainly will be asked to rein in.

    Banning noncompete agreements is "not only unlawful but also a blatant power grab," said Suzanne P. Clark, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a statement. "This decision sets a dangerous precedent for government micromanagement of business and can harm employers, workers, and our economy."

    "Other than that, though, it's peachy keen."

  • If only Nate Silver had been around 55 years ago. I might have followed his advice:

    He expands on that at his substack: Go to a state school.

    Wait, was I serious about this one? Yeah, more or less. If I were advising a friend’s son or daughter facing Decision Day, I’d tell them to pass on the Ivy League and go to a high-quality state school instead under some conditions. Let me articulate some exceptions:

    And the exceptions are amusing:

    • If the student’s identity were deeply tied up into being a Princeton Man or a Cornell Woman or whatever, then I’d think that was a little weird — but by all means I’d tell them to go, I’m not here to kink-shame.

    • I’d also tell them to go with the elite private college if (i) they had a high degree of confidence in what they wanted to do with their degree and (ii) it was in a field like law that regards the credential as particularly valuable.

    • And I’d tell them to strongly consider going if they came from an economically disadvantaged background and had been offered a golden ticket to join the elite. I’m not super familiar with the literature on the selective college wage premium, but it’s among this group of disadvantaged students where the benefits seem to be concentrated.

    I should note that neither the University of Nebraska (where I lived as a high schooler), nor the University of New Hampshire appears on that list of "high quality state schools".

  • Some people forget that due process is a civil right. But not KC Johnson, so he calls it like it is: Biden’s Civil Rights Rollback.

    Last Friday, the Biden administration followed through on a promise: to roll back civil rights for college students accused of sexual misconduct. The new regulations come under Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education. Set to go into effect in August, they will restore some of the worst excesses introduced when Biden was vice president under Obama.

    One of the most concerning is the return of the “single-investigator” model that was barred under Trump. This means “one administrator can act as detective, prosecutor, judge, and jury on a Title IX complaint.”


    The new rules damage due process in more ways than one:

    • Accused students will lose the right to have access to all evidence gathered in the university’s Title IX investigation;

    • They will lose the right to have a live hearing to adjudicate the claim against them;

    • They will no longer be able to have an adviser or attorney cross-examine adverse witnesses;

    • And the Biden administration has voided the basic requirement that any investigation open with a written complaint.

    It's a return to the bad old days of college star chambers.

  • If only Ayjay had posted this last year… Alan Jacobs on making rational choices about what books not to read:

    My own strategy for deciding what to read arises from these facts: Literary fiction in America has become a monoculture in which the writers and the editors are overwhelmingly products of the same few top-ranked universities and the same few top-ranked MFA programs — we’re still in The Program Era — and work in a moment that prizes above all else ideological uniformity. Such people tend also to live in the same tiny handful of places. And it is virtually impossible for anything really interesting, surprising, or provocative to emerge from an intellectual monoculture.

    With these facts in mind I have developed a three-strike system to help me decide whether to read contemporary fiction, with the following features:

    • The book is set in Brooklyn: Three strikes, you’re out
    • The author lives in Brooklyn: Three strikes, you’re out
    • The book is set anywhere else in New York City: Two strikes
    • The book is set in San Francisco: Two strikes
    • The book’s protagonist is a writer or artist or would-be writer or would-be artist: Two strikes
    • The author attended an Ivy League or Ivy-adjacent university or college: Two strikes
    • The book is set in Los Angeles: One strike
    • The author lives in San Francisco: One strike. 
    • The author has an MFA: One strike
    • The book is set in the present day: One strike

    I am not saying that any book that racks up three strikes cannot be good. I am saying that the odds against said book being good are enormous. It is vanishingly unlikely that a book that gets three strikes in my system will be worth reading, because any such book is overwhelmingly likely to reaffirm the views of its monoculture — to be a kind of comfort food for its readers. Even books as horrific as Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life — a novel I wish I had never read, and one of the key books that made me settle on this system — is comforting in the sense that we always know precisely whom we are to sympathize with and whom to hate. Daniel Mendelsohn is correct: “Yanagihara’s book sometimes feels less like a novel than like a seven-hundred-page-long pamphlet.” I would delete “sometimes.” 

    I read A Little Life last year, because it was on the New York Times Best Books of the Past 125 Years. Like Professor Jacobs, I found it to be not my cup of tea. (It gets "at least five strikes" under his system.)

Ah, But It's Not a Federal Crime to Feed This Unopened Envelope Right to the Shredder

I was tempted to do that, but … nah, let's see who's trying to scare their mailing list. "Read this in the next 5 days, or go to the Federal pen. Your choice."

It's FreedomWorks, as it turns out. I've said nice things about them in the past. In 2015 they were useful in quantifying then-Senator Kelly Ayotte's drift away from economic freedom. (A drift that was worse than useless in keeping her seat in the 2016 election.) I liked what their chairman at the time, Dick Armey, had to say in 2008 about some misbegotten privacy-invading legislation.

But Armey quit in disgust back in 2012. And since… meh.

Let them explain (some formatting altered):

Why Your Survey Is Important

Dear Paul Sand:

Thank you for taking a few minutes of your valuable time to…

  2. Sign your PLEDGE TO VOTE in 2024.
  3. And complete this survey of American taxpayers.

Missing is

4. Send us some money.

Yes, of course they get around to asking for that.

So now it's off to the shredder!

Also of note:

  • Further hint: if you can't spot the sucker at the table, it's you. Phil Gramm and Mike Solon take to the WSJ opinion pages to offer some fiscal guidance: Who Pays Corporate Taxes? Look in the Mirror.

    In his call for Congress to repeal the 2017 tax cuts and increase corporate tax rates, President Biden asked: “Are we going to continue with an economy where the overwhelming share of the benefits go to big corporations and the very wealthy?” Rep. Richard Neal, ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, said that extending the tax cuts will do nothing but fill “the pockets of venture capitalists and some business owners.” President Obama’s top economist, Austan Goolsbee, said that debates over who pays the corporate tax are “an argument about whether making corporations pay more income taxes would trickle down into lower workers’ wages.”

    Further on, Phil and Mike note:

    Corporate tax rates, which were the driving force behind the permanent part of the 2017 tax cuts, receive less attention than individual income-tax rates only because Americans don’t understand that corporations don’t pay taxes. A corporate entity is a “pass through” legal structure—a piece of paper in a Delaware filing cabinet. When the corporate tax rate increases, corporations try to pass the cost on to consumers. To the degree that the entire cost of the tax increase can’t be passed on to consumers, those costs are borne by employees and investors. Most economic studies conclude that 50% to 70% of a corporate tax increase not passed on in higher prices is borne by workers, while 30% to 50% is borne by investors.

    If you consume, you pay the corporate tax. If you consume and work for a corporation, you pay the corporate tax twice. If you consume, work and invest your retirement funds in corporate equities, the corporate tax rate hits you three times. Democrats call up the image of the greedy robber baron as a personification of big corporations, but when you pull back the curtain, it isn’t the wizard or the robber baron you see but yourself as a consumer, worker and pensioner.

    I'm retired, so I'm only hit on the "consume" and "invest" punching bags. The "genius" of the Biden strategy is that the plunder out of my pocket is so indirect.

  • Among the many things that should not be funded by taxpayers… Michael Chapman of Cato goes after a recent target of criticism: NPR Should Not Be Subsidized by Taxpayers. But that's not all, folks:

    If NPR were private, receiving no taxpayer funds, like The Nation or NBC News, its coverage and “less diverse” audience would likely raise little concern. NPR could be as woke as it wants or as conservative as it wants. The bottom line is that there is no reason why taxpayers should be forced to fund news organizations.

    In the Cato Handbook for Policymakers (9th Edition), scholars at the Cato Institute write, “In a society that constitutionally limits the powers of government and maximizes individual liberty, there is no justification for the forcible transfer of money from taxpayers to artists, scholars, and broadcasters. … Moreover, the power to subsidize art, scholarship, and broadcasting cannot be found within the powers enumerated and delegated to the federal government under the Constitution.”

    The same chapter says “Congress should eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts; eliminate the National Endowment for the Humanities; and defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.” (CPB’s FY2024 operation budget is $535 million.)

    For radio and TV, “the selection process is inherently political,” reads the Cato Handbook. “Why are taxpayers in a free society compelled to support news coverage, particularly when it is inclined in a statist direction?”

    Why indeed?

  • Not a replacement for "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman". Andrew C. McCarthy is no Trump fan, but he is merciless on one of Trump's many legal nemeses: Alvin Bragg, Election Denier. An excerpt from one of his (many) articles:

    We have spent much time on the manifold flaws in Bragg’s prosecution, including:

    • A business-records-falsification indictment against Trump that Bragg, the paragon progressive prosecutor, would bring against no one but a political enemy.
    • The impropriety that Bragg, a state prosecutor, is purporting to enforce federal campaign law — without a peep of protest from the collusive Biden Justice Department, naturally — in a matter that both DOJ and the Federal Election Commission (the federal agencies with actual jurisdiction over the matter) decided not to pursue against Trump.
    • The fact that Bragg is accomplishing this by making up his own version of what federal law requires, again, without any pushback from the feds — although you can only imagine the howling we’d be hearing if this were being done to a Democrat.
    • And the fact that this criminal case, mirroring New York attorney general Letitia James’s outrageous civil fraud case against Trump, involves an alleged fraud scheme in which the state can prove no fraud victims — i.e., Trump is charged with falsifying his records with fraudulent intent, but the state is not claiming that anything or anyone, including the state itself, lost a penny.

    Any one of these infirmities — and I’ve just hit the main ones — should be enough to explode Bragg’s prosecution, to say nothing of all of them in concert. But in focusing on the trees, we miss the forest: Alvin Bragg is an election denier.

    That’s what this case is about. It is an elected progressive Democratic district attorney’s version of “stop the steal” — the fraud that Democrats claim leaves “our democracy” hanging by a thread. Don’t take my word for it. Just read the Statement of Facts, so-called, that Bragg published in conjunction with the indictment.

    The classified-document case is probably the strongest against Trump. Bragg is an enthusiastic Trump-hater with unfortunate power.

  • I'm proud to be a cultural appropriator. And so is Martin Gurri, as he writes In Praise of Anglo-Saxons.

    This being an age of social justice, I want to recognize the achievements of today’s most ruthlessly marginalized and stereotyped ethnicity: the Anglo-Saxons. In film, television and the news media, the mandatory depiction of the Anglo-Saxon is either as a plutocrat or a hillbilly. The little Monopoly guy with the top hat and the monocle? He’s an Anglo-Saxon. The inbred yokel in “Deliverance” who kills anyone not married to his own sister? An Anglo-Saxon of the worst kind.

    By Anglo-Saxon I mean everyone originally from the island of Britain, including Scots, Welsh, Cornish and other assorted Celts who for centuries have roosted on the branches of the vast English tree. Let’s face it: To us non-Anglo-Saxons, from a distance, they all look alike. I also include the Scotch-Irish, who are really Scots who lived in Ireland before they left to improve their lives in Appalachia. But I most certainly do not include the actual Irish: If I were to call the Irish Anglo-Saxons, soon after, I’m certain, the Irish Republican Army would be knocking on my door.

    It’s true that the Anglo-Saxons are plutocrats and hillbillies—but they are so much more! Start with sports, the activity that best exemplifies the Anglo-Saxon ethos. Now, it is an irresistible impulse of the human animal to pick up sticks, spheres or both, and play games with them. This has been so in all continents and cultures, from the beginning of time. But only to the Anglo-Saxons did it occur to legislate a game into a sport. They accomplished this by mandating a bunch of arbitrary but unyielding rules (“three strikes and you’re out”) and the usage of words that were sometimes vaguely moralistic (“error,” “penalty”), sometimes weirdly suggestive (“love” for a tied score) and suddenly you had modern tennis, baseball, basketball, cricket, golf, hockey and football, both of the American and the lesser kind.

    It's awe-inspring, ackshually.

Recently on the book blog, one that some regular readers might find of interest:

The New Deal’s War on the Bill of Rights

The Untold Story of FDR’s Concentration Camps, Censorship, and Mass Surveillance

(paid link)

The author, David T. Beito, is a history professor emeritus at the University of Alabama.

A random thought I had while reading this book: You know how New Hampshire's motto, "Live Free or Die" was borrowed from its French Revolution counterpart, "Vivre Libre ou Mourir"? Maybe the USA's motto should be similarly derived from "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose". Or "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

That would be tough to fit on a penny, though. We'll probably stick with "In God We Trust".

This book is good antidote to more hagiographic depictions of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It's not really a "warts and all" history; it's just warts, concentrating on FDR-era abuses of civil liberties. But (see the subtitle) it's an "untold story" in the sense that none of this is secret, FDR's participation and acquiescence in the abuses is just neglected. And—plus ça change—I was struck by how many of those abuses have their counterparts in more modern controversies.

The biggie, of course, is the WWII roundup of west-coast Japanese and their relocation to inland concentration camps. Beito notes the cognitively-dissonant treatment by FDR-sympathetic historians: "Over and over again, they leave the impression of two very distinct Roosevelts. The first was the Roosevelt of the New Deal and World War II foreign policy: decisive, bold, humane, and dedicated to advancing the four freedoms. The second was the Roosevelt of internment: a passive and reactive, and somewhat clueless, prisoner of events." Not a particularly accurate, or even coherent, potrayal, and Beito provides some needed corrections.

Other chapters concentrate on different aspects of how FDR's minions in Congress, regulatory agencies, and local political machines cracked down on opponents of the New Deal, court-packing proposals, and pre-WWII foreign policy. Telegrams were mass-snooped in fishing expeditions. A bill was proposed to felonize newspapers who printed as "fact anything known to the publisher … to be false". (Disinformation! Fake news!) Mailing permits were arbitrarily yanked from publications.

The relatively new technology of broadcast radio had been socialized, unfortunately, by Herbert Hoover, with the permission of Calvin Coolidge; this allowed the Feds to demand that the frequencies be used in the "public interest", i.e., uncritical of the state. (Many broadcasters were, of course, were complaisant.) Administration critics were silenced. (To be fair, one of them was the disgusting lunatic Father Coughlin. Although he didn't get into serious trouble until he turned against FDR.)

Democrat-controlled congressional committees dragged in political dissidents for intrusive and unfair "investigations". (It's clear that Joe McCarthy learned his tricks by observing such Democrats.)

For a lot of these attacks, the ACLU, whose upper ranks were filled with New Dealers, was conspicuous in its reticence; many left-leaning opinion magazines remained quiet, or gave encouragement.

Reader, Beito does not even touch FDR's neglect of European Jewry and his associated anti-Semitism. To be fair, that's a little outside the scope of the book. But, once again, plus ça change

Pun Salad PG13 Policy Continues to Erode

but in Hebrew, so it's OK.

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Jeff Maurer points out the underlying context: The Groups Protesting on College Campuses Don't Think Israel Should Exist.

In the official request for divestment filed by Columbia University Apartheid Divest, the group said that the Israeli occupation of Palestine had caused “immeasurable violence” to the Palestinian people for 75 years. That number — 75 years — dates the “occupation” to 1948, the establishment of Israel. It cannot be a reference to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, which began in 1967. The reference to 75 years is not buried deep in the document — it’s in the second sentence. This letter that considers the very existence of Israel to be an occupation was signed by 89 student groups on December 1.

It's not just the Ku Klux Kollege Kids. Just last week, we mentioned the Action Alerts page of the Community Church of Durham (NH); their lead item demands "Justice for Palestine-Israel" and traces back the real problem to:

For over 73 years, Israel has created and maintained laws, policies, and practices that deliberately oppress Palestinians.

As Maurer says, this number is not arrived at by accident. The "problem", according to this Christian church, is linked to the mere existence of the Jewish state.

One more bit from Maurer:

Is calling for the elimination of Israel automatically antisemitic? I don’t know. But it is definitely a call for something bad to happen to the almost seven million Jews who live there (plus I wouldn’t assume that everything would be lollipops and rainbows for the more than two million non-Jewish Israelis). Affirming Israel’s right to exist is usually the starting point for any discussion of Israel-Palestine in American politics. Every member of The Squad except for Rashida Tlaib voted for a resolution affirming Israel’s right to exist, and AOC recently joined a statement affirming Israel’s right to self-defense. Debates about the bounds of antisemitism usually rest on questions that are subjective and unknowable, which is why I’m not addressing them. Instead, I’m focusing on the plain fact that the groups protesting at Columbia and elsewhere have adopted positions that not even the fringiest left-wing figures in American politics support.

Maurer is more charitable toward the "peace activists" than I am. Should they get their way, God forbid, Jews would be violently purged "from the river to the sea". The activists, safe in America, would shrug and smugly say: "well, I wasn't in favor of that, although Israel was asking for it"… and proceed to their next crusade.

Also of note:

  • For those who think otherwise… or if you just want some rhetorical ammo to provide to those asserting otherwise: Israel Is Not Committing ‘Genocide’ in Gaza. (My last gifted NR link for this month.)

    Has Israel erred in service of its aims? Absolutely. The recent accidental killing of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers is a tragedy, and those who played a role have rightly been held accountable. But such is the reality of all war; miscalculations are made, the wrong people get killed. And that is especially true in a war against an enemy that strategically embeds itself within civilian sites for the express purpose of maximizing death tolls among its own people. Yet that hasn’t stopped widespread accusations against Israel of systematically targeting civilians. And while some may be ignorant of the relevant statutes, the Geneva Conventions and other elements of international humanitarian law are clear: The standard for the death of civilians is the word “willful.” No credible source has presented evidence of Israel’s willful targeting of Palestinian civilians.

    These distinctions matter for putting genocide charges into the context of antisemitism. The term “genocide” was coined for the specific purpose of naming the systematic, state-sponsored persecution of the Jewish people during the Holocaust. Recognition of the special nature of Jewish suffering has given way to frequent accusations that Jews seek to benefit from an exclusive claim on victimhood, that they have weaponized the Holocaust as a way to insulate Israel from all criticism and moral obligation, and have turned the Nazi genocide into a get-out-of-jail free card. This manipulation of the Holocaust and the concept of genocide is textbook antisemitism, according to the widely adopted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition. That it is being used by, among others, deniers of the Holocaust only deepens the irony.

    The world must not ignore the sadistic pleasure taken by those charging Israel with genocide. It is an attempt to neuter Jewish trauma in order to wage political war against Israel. By positing a moral equivalency between what was done to Jews then and what the Jewish state is now doing in its defensive war against Hamas, the atrocities of the Holocaust are delegitimized, and Jews can no longer reap the supposed illicit advantages granted by their history. Indeed, the false charge of “genocide” is what has allowed critics to continue excusing Hamas’s terrorism as a justifiable act of resistance, desecrating Jewish storefronts with swastikas and slurs, or holding signs saying “Hitler would be proud” with total impunity.

    A similarly-weaponized word from Israel-haters: "apartheid".

  • Not exactly "contempt" in my case, but… Louis Markos asserts at the Federalist: Contempt For Ordinary Voters Undermines Opposition To Trump.

    A complaint I hear increasingly leveled at contemporary American politicians is that they are out of touch with voters, if not downright contemptuous of them. On a number of core issues, politicians seem less concerned with pursuing policies that are deeply unpopular with ordinary Americans than with upholding the ideologies and self-interests of the ruling elite. Two dramatic examples of this political disconnect with average citizens are the refusal of urban governments to prosecute violent criminals, which has caused a surge in crime, and the White House’s tolerance of mass immigration, which threatens jobs, security, and the rule of law.

    As I survey the current political and intellectual landscape, I cannot help but see a resurgence of the arrogance and disdain of the 18th-century French revolutionaries for those they considered to be incapable of rational thought and moral behavior. But I am moving too fast. Let me slow down and give some historical background.

    Not to kvetch, but I really think the headline should be "underlies", not "undermines".

    Markos's thesis is that today's progressives echo the attitude of Diderot toward the "multitude", which he thought was shot through with "wickedness, stupidity, inhumanity, unreason, and prejudice".

    I am a mild-mannered Trump opponent myself. And I don't get all misty-eyed about the voting public; see my reports on Bryan Caplan's The Myth of the Rational Voter, Jason Brennan's Against Democracy, and Garett Jones' 10% Less Democracy.

  • A KDW article outside the Dispatch paywall! So check it out: Pinching Pennies for Putin.

    There is a William F. Buckley Jr. line for every occasion, and the one for Sen. J.D. Vance is: “I won’t insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe what you just said.”

    Vance came to his heartland populism via an education at Yale Law School, Peter Thiel’s money, Hollywood, and the New York Times bestseller list. A venture capital man who once denounced Donald Trump as unfit for the presidency and who currently is so intimately and uncomfortably attached to Trump that it is impossible to distinguish him from a hemorrhoid, Vance has decided to be the clown prince of a very small kingdom: the realm of people who feel very strongly that the U.S. government should accommodate Vladimir Putin’s imperial project in Ukraine and beyond. Vance is not stupid, and he has seen how far a clown prince can go in Washington. He even has some reason to hope that he is 1,659 days away from being elected president of these United States after serving as Donald Trump’s vice president and riding that lame duck as far as he will waddle.

    It is difficult to feel much other than contempt for what Vance has become and pity for the way he became it. My own background is similar to his in the worst ways, and I sympathize when it comes to the temptation to say to the world, as Vance has, “Tell me what sort of man you want me to be, and I’ll pretend to be that sort of man.” I can understand it, and even forgive it. (Eventually.) But you can never trust a man who has decided to be the Tom Ripley of American politics.

    I liked Vance's book Hillbilly Elegy. Now I wonder how honest he was being there.

It Wasn't Enough, It Isn't Enough, It Will Never Be Enough

An amusing comment on a recent speech by Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation, Monica Tibbits-Nutt:

Chip Goines is not some right-winger: his Twitter blurb admits that he "turned out voters" for Ayanna Pressley's "historic 2018 campaign". His real gripe with Monica seems to be her excessive plain-talk honesty about her goals, values, and plans. Which all seem to involve getting more money from the citizenry.

Monica came to my attention via my Google LFOD news alert pointing me to this Boston Herald story: Massachusetts border tolls idea another way to 'unnecessarily' take money, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu says.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu is not taking kindly to the idea of tolling drivers entering Massachusetts at the state border, a proposal that was floated last week by Bay State Transportation Secretary Monica Tibbits-Nutt during an advocacy event.

Tibbits-Nutt said a group tasked with developing recommendations for a long-term, sustainable transportation finance plan was discussing charging drivers at the state border in an effort to support road, rail, and transit systems throughout Massachusetts.

The concept has since drawn criticism from conservatives.

“Looks like Massachusetts has found yet another way to unnecessarily take your money,” Sununu, a Republican, said in a statement to the Herald on Friday.

“All the more reason for more Massachusetts residents to make the permanent move to New Hampshire,” the Granite State governor added. “The Live Free or Die state continues to be the place to be.”

Howie Carr is a right-winger, and is pretty gleeful: Massachusetts' Secretary of Transportation Monica Tibbits-Nutt is quite nutty.

Monica Tibbits-Nutt, Gov. Maura Healey’s crewcut Secretary of Transportation, is a real nutjob.

In case you’re not familiar with this latest $196,551-a-year local poster gal for leftist lunacy, this Nutt is nuttier than a fruitcake.

“We are going after all the people,” she said recently at a public gathering of her fellow tree huggers and climate cultists, “who should be giving us money to make our transportation better.”

To elaborate, she said she is “basically going after everyone who has money.”

No, not really. Nutty Nutt makes it very clear she only fantasizes about going after everyone who works for a living. Exempt from the apparatchiks’ diktats would be the non-working classes. Aren’t they always?

Yes, Howie, pretty much always.

Relegated to the Memory Hole: the 'millionaires tax' Massachusetts voters OKd all the way back in… 2022. I recall the incessant TV ads in favor. It was of course billed as the "Fair Share Amendment". And it was promised to bring in "billions in yearly support for transportation and public education."

Guess what? Given Monica's demands, it really should have been dubbed the "We'll Be Back For More in a Couple Years Amendment".

Meanwhile, the Boston Globe—yes, even the Boston Globe—reports on the inevitable result of treating your citizens as targets for plunder: People are leaving Massachusetts in droves. Who are they?

Throughout the pandemic, policy makers and labor economists sounded the alarm over the increasing number of people fleeing Massachusetts for other states — and what their exodus could mean for the future.

Now, a new report has shed some light on who, exactly, these runaways are. And it probably does not bode well for the state’s long-term economic competitiveness.

Boston Indicators, the research arm of the Boston Foundation, published an analysis exploring trends in so-called domestic outmigration in Massachusetts, or people leaving for elsewhere in the United States. Looking at a two-year average across 2021 and 2022, the analysis found that the people moving out of Massachusetts were predominantly white, middle- and high-income earners, and college-educated.

In related news: Boston faces $1.5 billion shortfall from declining commercial property taxes, report warns. Covid knocked down the idea of people commuting into the city to work in office, and many did did not return.

All this punctures a big hole in the arguments New Hampshire Democrats have been making for extending MBTA commuter rail up to Manchester. Ridership projections were always too rosy, and now are even more divorced from reality.

And Monica wants your money, commuters.

Also of note:

  • What "anti-Zionism" really means. Bari Weiss has a couple of examples: They Were Assaulted on Campus for Being Jews.

    For a second, imagine that black students at Columbia were taunted: Go back to Africa. Or imagine that a gay student was surrounded by homophobic protesters and hit with a stick at Yale University. Or imagine if a campus imam told Muslim students that they ought to head home for Ramadan because campus public safety could not guarantee their security.

    There would be relentless fury from our media and condemnation from our politicians.

    Just remember the righteous—and rightful—outrage over the white supremacist “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, where neo-Nazis chanted “The Jews will not replace us.”

    This weekend at Columbia and Yale, student demonstrators did all of the above—only it was directed at Jews. They told Columbia students to “go back to Poland.” A Jewish woman at Yale was assaulted with a Palestinian flag. And an Orthodox rabbi at Columbia told students to go home for their safety.

    Bari's Free Press has both stories.

  • Who's afraid of due process protections? The Biden Administration, as it turns out. Emma Camp reports: Biden's New Title IX Rules Erase Due Process Protections in Campus Sexual Assault Cases.

    On Friday, the Biden administration unveiled final Title IX regulations, nearly two years after the administration proposed dramatic changes to how colleges handle sexual assault allegations. The new rules largely mirror proposed regulations released last year and will effectively reversing Trump-era due process reforms.

    According to the final regulations, accused students will lose their right to a guaranteed live hearing with the opportunity to have a representative cross-examine their accuser. This is accompanied by a return to the "single-investigator model," which allows a single administrator to investigate and decide the outcome of a case.

    Further, under the new rules, most schools will be required to use the "preponderance of the evidence" standard, which directs administrators to find a student responsible if just 51 percent of the evidence points to their guilt. Schools are also no longer required to provide accused students with the full content of the evidence against them. Instead, universities are only bound to provide students with a description of the "relevant evidence," which may be provided "orally" rather than in writing.

    Not good. It seems we are going back to the Bad Old Days of 2011. Thirteen years ago, Joe Biden came up to the University Near Here to announce the Obama Administration's similar travesty. I reported on the visit at the time, and I was way too charitable about it. (In my defense, Biden's description of the rule changes was fuzzy and anodyne.)

  • For more on that… Let me gift you a link to Madeleine Kearns' take on the topic: Biden’s Outrageous Title IX Rewrite.

    On Friday, the Department of Education announced its final Title IX regulations, broadening the definition of sex-based discrimination to include “gender identity.” This effectively prohibits all educational entities in receipt of federal funds from acknowledging biological reality when individuals dispute it. As well as undermining free speech and due-process rights, the new rule will have sweeping and disastrous consequences for women and girls, the very people Title IX was supposed to protect.

    The Biden administration is framing the final rule as a delivery of a campaign promise to better protect LGBTQ students from harassment “just because of who they are” and to restore Obama-era kangaroo courts for sexual misconduct on college campuses, which the Trump Department of Education (DOE), under Betsy DeVos, reformed to protect due-process rights and investigatory integrity.

    So: worse than 2011.

  • Just say no to Jimmy Wales. Spurred by current events, Emil O. W. Kirkegaard looks at The Wikipedia fundraising scam.

    Wikipedia, and its parent organization Wikimedia, has been making the rounds on Twitter. This seems to be because Chris Rufo is attacking the new CEO of NPR (US public 'radio'), Katherine Maher. It turns out that Maher previously served as the CEO of Wikimedia. This got a lot of people looking into her behavior there, and this brought up the Wikipedia fundraising scam into the limelight. In the interest of making this information more publicly known, I provide a summary of it here as well. Many of the sources I draw on are published by minor accounts and writers, who clearly deserve a bigger audience.

    Kirkegaard has accumulated some impressive numbers, effectively debunking any claim that you need to send Wikipedia money in order to keep the server farm up and running. Instead, you'd be funding the Wikimedia Foundation. Which (in turn) heavily funds woke bullshit. Example:

    The Wikimedia Foundation defines racial equity as shifting away from US and Eurocentricity, White-male-imperialist-patriarchal supremacy, superiority, power and privilege to create an environment that is inclusive and reflects the experiences of communities of color worldwide. These modes of privilege mentioned above function as setting the dominant social, political, legal, policy-oriented, and cultural norms around the world.

    Hey, I just want to know about cannibalism in Papua New Guinea.

A Suggestion for a New Guinea National Anthem

Key lyric: "Once upon a time there were cannibals; Now there are no cannibals anymore".

But that may not be enough to mollify the hurt feelings, as reported by the Guardian: ‘Lost for words’: Joe Biden’s tale about cannibals bemuses Papua New Guinea residents. (Subhed: "President’s suggestion that his ‘Uncle Bosie’ was eaten by cannibals harms US efforts to build Pacific ties, say local experts")

Joe Biden’s suggestion that his uncle may have been eaten by cannibals in Papua New Guinea during world war two has been met with a mixture of bemusement and criticism in the country.

Biden spoke about his uncle, 2nd Lt Ambrose J Finnegan Jr, while campaigning in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, describing how “Uncle Bosie” had flown single engine planes as reconnaissance flights during the war. Biden said he “got shot down in New Guinea”, adding “they never found the body because there used to be a lot of cannibals, for real, in that part of New Guinea.”

Official war records say Finnegan was killed when a plane on which he was a passenger experienced engine failure and crashed into the Pacific Ocean. The records do not mention cannibalism or state that the plane was shot down.

Analysts in Papua New Guinea who were shown his comments described the claims as unsubstantiated and poorly judged, pointing out that they come at a time when US has been seeking to strengthen its ties with the country, and counter Chinese influence in the Pacific region.

But, as Mark Knopfler says…

“The Melanesian group of people, who Papua New Guinea is part of, are a very proud people,” said Michael Kabuni, a lecturer in political science at the University of Papua New Guinea. “And they would find this kind of categorisation very offensive. Not because someone says ‘oh there used to be cannibalism in PNG’ – yes, we know that, that’s a fact.

Why does this remind me of a Monty Python sketch?

May I take this opportunity of emphasizing that there is no cannibalism in the British Navy, absolutely none. And when I say none, I mean there is a certain amount, more than I personally admit. But, all new Ratings are warned that if they wake up in the morning and find any toothmarks at all anywhere on their bodies, they are to tell me immediately so that I can immediately take every measure to hush the whole thing up. And finally, necrophilia is right out.

Which brings us to our usual Sunday look at the betting odds and candidate phoniness:

Warning: Google hit counts are bogus.

Candidate EBO Win
Hit Count
Joe Biden 45.5% +0.5% 431,000 -69,000
Donald Trump 43.6% -0.4% 2,540,000 +330,000
Robert Kennedy Jr 3.6% unch 20,700 -24,900
Michelle Obama 3.0% +0.5% 103,000 -163,000
Other 4.3% +1.4% --- ---

If anything, President Wheezy's delusional gory fantasies seem to have helped him with the punters, gaining nearly a full percentage point edge on Bone Spurs.

And Kamala's odds have dropped below our 2% inclusion threshold. Who knows, an actuarial event could bring her back pretty quickly.

Also of note:

  • Dueling observations from Power Line's Hinderaker. I admit I'm slightly puzzled by the headlines: Why Biden Can’t Win and Why Trump Might Win. In the former, he looks at the polling:

    How can Biden win when, apart from his other defects, 57% think he is simply too old for the job? And that perception is not going to weaken between now and November. Biden has signaled that he does not intend to debate Donald Trump. I don’t think he can. He isn’t up to it. The Democrats will try to sell the absurd idea that Biden isn’t afraid to debate, he just doesn’t want to “legitimize” Trump by sharing a stage with him. Right. When Biden refuses to debate Trump, it will seal the conclusion in just about every voter’s mind that he simply isn’t up to the job.

    And in the latter:

    Well, he gets to run against Joe Biden. That is the main reason. But one of the extraordinary features of this year’s race is the Democrats’ lawfare. In a series of civil cases and criminal prosecutions, they are trying to bleed Trump’s financial assets and, more important, convict him of a “felony” to convince voters not to vote for him. The prosecutions range from selective (Trump’s handling of classified information) to idiotic (the Georgia RICO case and the case in New York that is now in trial).

    Good points all.

Recently on the movie blog:

Civil War

[3.5 stars] [IMDB Link]

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Our paid link will take you to Amazon's Blu-ray offering. Consumer note: I do not remember the Statue of Liberty being in the actual movie.

But Pun Son and I went to see it at BarnZ's in Barrington, on a less-than-large screen. Summary: It was a little bit better than OK.

The movie opens with the titular War being fought out in the streets of Brooklyn, with local authorities trying to keep a lid on a street demonstration, which eventually turns into carnage. It also throws together young aspiring photojournalist Jessie (Cailee Spaeny) with jaded photojournalist Lee (Kirsten Dunst) and her co-worker Joel (Wagner Moura). Brooklyn, they decide, is not where the real action is; they head down to D.C. to witness the final battle, as the insurgent "Western Forces" close in on the White House. Also tagging along with them is Sammy (Stephen McKinley Henderson), an aged and cynical veteran correspondent.

On the way, they encounter plenty of violent anarchy. Which side is which? Who's shooting who? It becomes pretty clear that it doesn't matter. Lots of people are using the chaos to go on sprees of torture and murder.

But don't worry: once we get to D. C., the murders will be perpetrated by people with military equipment and uniforms.

I might as well point out that reactions to this movie are mixed. Spoilers abound in Tyler Cowens' look at the movie's politics; spoilers as well in Instapundit's aggregation of negative takes.

Newsflash: Kirsten Dunst looks a little haggard here. Understandable, given the context. But it's been nearly 30 years since she was in Jumanji, 22 years since Spider-Man, and … I guess we're all getting Up There. (She'll be 42 at the end of this month.)

But Let's Bomb Those New Guinea Cannibals Back to the Stone Age

Matthew Continetti states the obvious: Israel Is Right to Reject Biden’s Bad Advice.

News broke Thursday evening of an Israeli strike inside Iran. In doing so, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the advice President Biden had given him after Iran’s April 13 drone and missile attack on the Jewish state. At the time, Biden told Netanyahu not to escalate. “You got a win,” Biden said to Bibi. “Take the win.”

Israel demurred. And was absolutely right to. Whatever happens next, it is worth reflecting on the idiocy of Biden’s comments.

Not only do Biden’s words capture the mindset responsible for the chaos that has engulfed the world during his presidency. His comments also raise the question of what a “win” against Iran would really look like — and why America has not pursued that goal.

The architects of our Afghanistan debacle should be extremely modest in making suggestions about how other countries should defend themselves.

On a related note, Biden may not be trying to appease Iran as much as he's trying to appease the Israel-haters inside his own party. John Hinderaker notes a big reason why that's misguided: Joe, It Isn’t About Israel.

The evil that is now running rampant across our country is ostensibly directed at Israel, but Israel is only the pretext, a target of convenience. We have seen in recent months that “anti-Zionism” is merely a cover for anti-Semitism. If Israel disappeared tomorrow, the anti-Semites here, in Western Europe and elsewhere, wouldn’t miss a beat.

But it doesn’t stop there. In Iranian and al Qaeda ideology, Israel is only the Little Satan. America is the Great Satan.

Hinderaker includes a tweeted video of some brave souls who took some American flags to a "pro-Palestine protest" in New York. The results (vandalism, theft, threats) tend to confirm Hinderaker's thesis. Data point:

Under new K-12 Social Studies standards adopted in January 2024, public school students in Minnesota will be told that the great evil of world history is “settler colonialism.” And it turns out that, despite the countless instances of invasion and migration through human history, there have been only two instances of “settler colonialism.” Imagine that! The two instances are, of course, Israel and the United States.

So, if you thought that the Ayatollah Khomeini and Osama bin Laden were hopeless cranks whose ideas could never catch on, think again. They are accepted by mobs in New York City, at MIT, at Harvard, at Columbia, at Penn, and so on. Worse, in some states at least, they are accepted by the liberals who run the public schools.


By the way: mystified by today's headline? See the USA Today story: Was Joe Biden's uncle eaten by cannibals during World War II? (Betteridge's Law of Headlines applies: nope.)

And then you can be amused by USA Today's semi-dismissal of this yarn as just one of Biden's "long history of embellishing stories".

Not Biden's "long history of lies and delusions".

Also of note:

  • Suggestion: Ask her to name more than two examples of "settler colonialism". Damien Fisher profiles two brave souls who have ensconced themselves into the local white supremacist patriarchy: 'Pro-Hoe' Activists and BLM Leaders Bring DEI to NH Public Schools. They are both tedious, but I'll concentrate on Rachael Blansett, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Justice Director at Oyster River School District (Durham/Lee/Madbury NH), salary $95-105K.

    Blansett, who never worked as a regular classroom teacher before getting the Oyster River job, is responsible for “work(ing) with teachers, administrators, and students to integrate DEIJ throughout the district. (Blansett) will lead trainings for teachers, revise curriculums so they align with district values of equity and inclusion, and act as a resource for anyone in the Oyster River community to ask questions about DEIJ taught in a classroom,” according to the district.

    Blansett's LinkedIn page — what she chooses to share with the world — contains a couple of presentations she's apparently authored or co-authored: "Are You Down With the Cause" and "White Tears in the Classroom". In the former, she identifies herself (because it's important!) as a "Black/biracial, queer femme"). In the latter (subtitle: "Examining how whiteness & white supremacy presents within the classroom"), Robin DiAngelo is approvingly quoted on "white fragility":

    I've had people tell the term itself is offensive…which is classic white fragility.

    Why would anyone send their kids to Oyster River schools?

  • He's probably right. Jesse Walker is tired. It's Another Day, Another Doomed Plan To Defund NPR.

    Rep. Jim Banks (R–Ind.) announced yesterday that he will introduce a bill to defund National Public Radio (NPR). Marsha Blackburn (R–Tenn.) has said she hopes to do the same in the Senate. We live in strange times, anything can happen in politics, and there may be no faster route to looking like a fool than to issue a prediction. With that throat-clearing out of the way: No, of course Congress isn't about to defund NPR.

    This latest wave of Defund NPR! sentiment follows an article by Uri Berliner in The Free Press, in which the NPR editor and reporter—make that former NPR editor and reporter, since he has since resigned—argues that the network "lost America's trust" by shutting out opinions disfavored by the center-left hivemind. I think Berliner's piece wavers between claiming too much (it would have been more accurate, though probably less SEO-friendly, to replace "lost America's trust" with "saw its niche grow somewhat smaller") and claiming too little (it ends with a plea not to defund public radio, since Berliner believes there's "a need for a public institution where stories are told and viewpoints exchanged in good faith"). But at this point the specifics of his essay are almost beside the point, since the debate it has unleashed goes far beyond what the article says. The proof is that people have been using it as a springboard to call for cutting off NPR's federal dollars even though Berliner goes out of his way to stress that that's not the result he wants.

    Walker provides three reasons why NPR-resistance is futile: (1) Biden would veto a defunding bill; (2) NPR's government-funding network is a tangled web that would be difficult to extract from "the rest of the public-broadcasting ecosystem"; and (3) come on, "most of the GOP has no serious interest in defunding public broadcasting."

    I've said this before: NPR is great to listen to, if you enjoy people who are unaware of how much they sound like Titania McGrath.

  • She was pretty good on Saturday Night Live. Kevin D. Williamson does a reality check: Caitlin Clark’s Salary Isn’t an Injustice.

    There is, however, an economic answer to the question of why Caitlin Clark, the University of Iowa standout and first overall pick in Monday’s WNBA draft, will make an annual salary of only around $77,000 compared to the $12.1 million or so that Victor Wembanyama, the first overall pick in last year’s NBA draft, made this season. That reason is the number 4,067, which is the average attendance at games hosted by Clark’s new team, the Indiana Fever, and the number 40, which is how many games the Indiana Fever will play during the upcoming WNBA regular season. For Wembanyama and his San Antonio Spurs, those numbers are 18,110 and 82, respectively—with average ticket prices far greater than the $41 Fever fans paid in 2021. Add in the fact that the NBA is reportedly poised to sign a TV rights deal this summer worth between $60 billion and $72 billion over a multi-year period and the reason for the discrepancy becomes even clearer.

    Total WNBA revenue in the coming season is projected to be around $200 million, which is a nice bit of money—but NBA revenue is 52.5 times that, about $10.5 billion. For comparison, consider: The most successful car salesman in Poughkeepsie makes a pretty good living, but the most successful car salesman in Los Angeles has private-jet money—not because he is necessarily a better car salesman, or because he has an Ivy League MBA, or because he puts in more hours, but because he is at the top of a much bigger market. A pretty good actor in Hollywood makes a heck of a lot more money than the best actor in Copenhagen, which is why we have all those people named Mikkelsen and Mortensen running around in the California sunshine to which Danes must adapt with some difficulty. As it happens, there isn’t technically any rule that says Caitlin Clark has to play in the WNBA instead of the NBA. She could always go take Nikola Jokic’s job.

    Since I mentioned it:

    See? Told you.

  • Not exactly unexpected. Jerry Coyne reports: Dickey Betts died. He was 80, so it's somewhat surprising that he made it that far.

    Jerry has a number of videos, and if you want to see/hear some amazing guitar playing, check them out. He also protests the "bizarre" Rolling Stone list of the "250 greatest guitarists of all time", which has Betts at #145. I agree with Jerry: that's remarkably insane..

Kathy's the Gift That Keeps On Giving

We'll probably get tired of reading/posting about Katherine Maher and Commie Radio at some point, but we have not reached that point today.

First up is Reason's Robby Soave, who observes, accurately, that NPR's Uri Berliner Has Shown That DEI Is About Punishing Heresy.

"I cannot work in a newsroom where I am disparaged by a new CEO whose divisive views confirm the very problems at NPR I cite in my Free Press essay," he said, referencing statements made by NPR CEO Katherine Maher—whose considerable history of tweeting woke nonsense is now under public scrutiny as well.

And he is quite correct. Berliner's article for Weiss concludes with this thought: "What's notable is the extent to which people at every level of NPR have comfortably coalesced around the progressive worldview. And this, I believe, is the most damaging development at NPR: the absence of viewpoint diversity."

Berliner cited Russiagate, the Hunter Biden laptop story, and coverage of the lab leak theory of COVID-19's origins as coverage areas where NPR's bias in favor of the progressive, establishment Democratic Party perspective led the outlet astray. A media company that did not completely dismiss non-progressive opinions out of hands might have fared better.

The absence of viewpoint diversity at NPR should be no surprise, however, when its CEO apparently believes that ideological diversity is a "dog whistle for anti-feminist, anti-POC stories." For Maher, diversity involves "race, ethnicity, gender, class, ability, geography"—everything except diversity of thought.

I'm old enough to remember one of the cardinal justifications for affirmative action was that it would automagically bring diverse viewpoints to too-stodgy academia and business. Kathy's not down with that:

In other unsurprising news, Tristan Justice digs out a story that you might have thought would worry our Official Civil Libertarians: New NPR CEO Took Wikipedia Censorship Orders From Feds. Quoting a clip excavated by Christopher Rufo:

This is (as we have seen a lot lately) government censorship via a complaisant proxy.

Meanwhile Rufo interviewed a semi-famous Wikipedia co-founder, now a severe critic: Larry Sanger Speaks Out .

Christopher Rufo: What are you thinking as you’re watching these statements from former Wikipedia CEO Katherine Maher, who is now the CEO of NPR?

Larry Sanger: I’ve been following your tweets. You’ve kind of shocked me. The bias of Wikipedia, the fact that certain points of view have been systematically silenced, is nothing new. I’ve written about it myself. But I did not know just how radical-sounding Katherine Maher is. For the ex-CEO of Wikipedia to say that it was somehow a mistake for Wikipedia to be “free and open,” that it led to bad consequences—my jaw is on the floor. I can’t say I’m terribly surprised that she thinks it, but I am surprised that she would say it.

Rufo: In another clip, she says explicitly that she worked with governments to suppress “misinformation” on Wikipedia.

Sanger: Yes, but how did she do that in the Wikipedia system? Because I don’t understand it myself. We know that there is a lot of backchannel communication and I think it has to be the case that the Wikimedia Foundation now, probably governments, probably the CIA, have accounts that they control, in which they actually exert their influence.

And it’s fantastic, in a bad way, that she actually comes out against the system for being “free and open.” When she says that she’s worked with government to shut down what they consider “misinformation,” that, in itself, means that it’s no longer free and open.

But the thing is—I’m using the words carefully here—the Wikimedia Foundation doesn’t have an authority in the Wikipedia system: the website, its talk pages, the various bureaucratic structures. It just doesn’t have the authority to shut things down. So, if Big Pharma or their government representatives want to shut down a description of their research of a Covid-critical biochemist, I want to know how that happens. And I think the other people who are at work on Wikipedia, we want to know how that happens.

Yeah, I'd think Wikipedia contributors would like to know that.

But the lady herself takes to the pages of Jeff Maurer's substack to explain, in a guest column. And asks the musical question: Who the Fuck Did You THINK Ran NPR?

As CEO of National Public Radio, I expect to be scrutinized. So, I wasn’t surprised this week when conservative activists started circulating various tweets and other things I’ve said over the years. They are really going after me — I’m Public Enemy Number One on conservative Twitter! I’m being portrayed as an uber-progressive resistance liberal who works in privileged white woman cringe the way that Michelangelo worked in marble. My critics have seized on past statements like “America is addicted to white supremacy” and “I’m so done with late-stage capitalism” to hold me up as an avatar for midwit coastal elite groupthink.

I have to say: I’m surprised by the uproar. I expect scrutiny, but I did not expect to become the subject of a multi-day media frenzy. And please keep in mind: I’m not accused of wrongdoing — I’m accused of being extremely progressive in an obnoxious way. And I feel compelled to ask: Who the fuck did you think was running NPR, you fucking morons? Wasn’t it definitely going to be someone with my behaviors and opinions? Are you truly shocked that I’m basically the “Ruthkanda forever” girl grown up and in charge of a major media outlet?

Sounds totally legit.

Also, sounds like Pun Salad has entirely abandoned its keep-it-PG13 language stance. Ah well.

Also of note:

  • [Amazon Link]
    (paid link)

    I can't recommend our Amazon Product du Jour. Nor can I recommend its use on Hamas-loving college students. But I can understand. As the Free Beacon reports: Columbia Students Claimed They Were Sprayed With an Israeli Chemical Weapon. It Was Actually Fart Spray Purchased on Amazon, New Lawsuit Says.

    Chemical weapons are typically associated with Middle Eastern warzones, not Ivy League colleges. So when one of them was allegedly deployed at Columbia University, it ignited a media frenzy.

    Pro-Palestinian protesters told the Columbia Spectator they had been sprayed with "skunk," a crowd-control chemical developed by the Israeli Defense Forces, at a rally in January. Mainstream media amplified the allegations, and Columbia suspended a student involved in the "attack"—who had previously served in IDF—within days.

    The narrative was a progressive fever dream: At one of the best universities in the country, an Israeli student had deployed chemical weapons against peaceful student protesters for challenging the alleged depredations of the Jewish state.

    Columbia president Minouche Shafik repeated this claim at a meeting of the university’s senate. "Demonstrators," she said, "were sprayed with a toxic chemical."

    It now appears that the "toxic chemical" was a harmless fart spray purchased on Amazon for $26.11.

    According to a lawsuit filed against Columbia on Tuesday, the suspended student had in fact dispersed "Liquid Ass"—a "gag gift for adults and kids," per its product description—at an unsanctioned pro-Palestinian rally. He sprayed the substance in the air, not at any particular individual, in what the lawsuit describes as a "harmless expression of speech." The result was a swift suspension for which the student is now suing, alleging that the university "rushed to silence Plaintiff and brand him as a criminal" through "biased misconduct proceedings."

    Let me just say that searching for "Liquid Ass" on Amazon brings up a disquietingly large selection of items.

Unlike Kamala, He Hasn't Studied the Maps

Sure, that's sort of funny. It's all fun and games, until, as David Harsanyi notes, The World Is Paying A Deadly Price For Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy.

If a belligerent state launched 186 explosive drones, 36 cruise missiles, and 110 surface-to-surface missiles from three fronts against civilian targets within the United States, would Joe Biden call it a “win”?

Would the president tell us that the best thing we can do now is show “restraint”? What if that same terror state’s proxy armies had recently helped murder, rape, and kidnap more than 1,000 American men, women, and children? What if this terror state were trying to obtain nuclear weapons so it could continue to agitate without any consequences?

This is what Joe Biden and the Barack Obama acolytes, Iranian dupes, and Israel antagonists he’s surrounded himself with demand of [the] Jewish State.

And as long as he's making demands: Hands off Haifa, Bibi!

What does it say that I've found Jeff Maurer to be the most honest commentator on this? His streak is kept alive: The Israel/Iran Situation, But With Jokes.

Israel is the worst country in the world according to your niece. Iran is a country whose government has a bold vision for the seventh century. Their simmering conflict has the terrifying potential to pre-empt NBA playoff games. Leaders around the world are concerned that a war could hurt their favorable/unfavorable rating by as much as a point, and also cause a bunch of people to die or whatever. The situation is volatile, and right now, only one thing seems certain: The outcome will be bad for children in Gaza, because everything somehow always is.

The Iranian attack involved more than 300 missiles and drones. Many were low-tech models that took hours to get to Israel, especially the ones that had to layover in Atlanta, and fucking everything lays over in Atlanta. The drones solved the “takes too long to get to Israel” problem by being shot down in other countries or failing in crashes that Boeing executives called “Not our fault for once.” Iran did manage to land one righteous blow against the mortal enemy of Muslims everywhere: Seven year-old Bedouin girls. One was injured by shrapnel. Despite that mighty blow to the Infidel, the Iranian regime may be embarrassed that they failed to inflict casualties that exceed your average Philadelphia Eagles watch party.

A pungent observation:

The [Iranian] government was outraged by the Damascus embassy attack and argued that embassies are sacrosanct, though they implored people not to google “Iranian embassy attack”.

Also of note:

  • I'm old enough to remember… … the outrage when the Dubya Administration was threatening to comb through our phone records and library lending histories. A "chilling intrusion"!

    Well, guess what? Trump's onetime Attorney General noticed that The Securities and Exchange Commission Is Watching You.

    The Securities and Exchange Commission is deploying a massive government database—the Consolidated Audit Trail, or CAT—that monitors in real time the identity, transactions and investment portfolio of everyone who invests in the stock market. As SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce describes it, by allowing the commission to “watch investors’ every move in real time,” CAT will make it easier to investigate insider trading or market manipulation.

    But as a lawsuit being filed Tuesday in Texas federal court makes clear, CAT crosses a constitutional red line. Accepting this sweeping surveillance would eviscerate fundamental privacy protections. That a few bad apples might engage in misconduct doesn’t justify mass surveillance of everyone’s private affairs.

    The SEC conceived of CAT during the Obama administration. Now, without congressional authorization and under the radar of most Americans, the commission is trying to impose it by executive fiat. CAT will reportedly be the single largest government database targeting the private activities of American citizens.

    The lawsuit-filing good guys: the New Civil Liberties Alliance, identified here as a "conservative think tank". I guess you have to be a conservative these days to stand up for civil liberties.

  • Worst theme park ride ever. George F. WIll says Whee! The nation flies past another trillion-dollar milestone.

    This nation, tobogganing swiftly down a steep slope of fiscal irresponsibility, barely notices a blur of alarming milestones. Last week, we sped past this one: A $1.1 trillion deficit in the first six months of fiscal year 2024 that began Oct. 1 resulted in almost as many dollars spent on debt service ($429 billion) as on defense ($433 billion).

    This, at the most menacing geopolitical moment since 1945, makes one hope that JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon was radically wrong in saying recently that interest rates could reach 8 percent or more in coming years. If they do, deficits will explode even before the Social Security and Medicare trust funds are exhausted, within 10 years.

    FWIW, gold hit an all-time high of $2,408/oz earlier today. (It's dropped back a bit since, to $2396/oz, as I type.)

  • Pun Salad agrees. The NR editorialists come around to my position: Defund NPR.

    National Public Radio has every right to operate as a left-wing propaganda outlet masquerading as a legitimate news organization. But it is not entitled to pursue this goal with taxpayer money. The latest revelations about the ideological rot at NPR have only made this case stronger.

    Before his resignation on Wednesday, Uri Berliner had worked at NPR for 25 years, most recently as a senior editor. But after being suspended for last week writing a long essay for the Free Press criticizing the organization for its bias, Berliner decided to resign, saying he could no longer work there comfortably.

    In his essay, Berliner argued that while NPR always had “a liberal bent,” in the past, it at least attempted to provide some balance. These days, he wrote, “those who listen to NPR or read its coverage online find something different: the distilled worldview of a very small segment of the U.S. population.”

    Sigh. I remember when, at least, NPR could be funny. (That link is from 2006.

  • AI can do some jobs better. Josh Fruhlinger runs the Comics Curmudgeon blog, in which he appends acerbic commentary to newspaper comic strips. Like yesterday's Blondie:

    Josh did something unusual: he asked ChatGPT to

    Write a description of a three-panel Blondie comic strip on the theme of "there should be an app for loading the dishes!"

    Reader, ChatGPT came up with something much funnier than the allegedly-human-written comic above. Check it out.

A Random Thought I Had That Everyone Else Had Years Ago

And that random thought occurred to me when I looked at the picture of Joe Biden illustrating Jim Geraghty's NR Corner post: Excuses for Joe Biden Skipping Debates Start to Pile Up: Gee, Biden looks more like that ventriloquist's puppet every day.

Now, who was that guy? Google, google, google…

Oh, right. The ventriloquist was Jeff Dunham. And I was thinking of his cranky geezer puppet Walter. And‥

I discovered that Dunham was way ahead of me:

Cheap shots, but funny ones.

But (ahem) getting back to that Geraghty post:

Over at the Atlantic, David Frum argues that Joe Biden should decline to debate Donald Trump this autumn, urging the president and his team to issue a statement declaring: “The Constitution is not debatable. The president does not participate in forums with a person under criminal indictment for his attempt to overthrow the Constitution.”

Frum contends that the networks are urging the debates to go on as scheduled because they expect a ratings bonanza and cannot distinguish their financial interest from the national interest. And he is absolutely convinced that it is in the national interest that Biden and Trump never appear on a debate stage together. Frum is echoing the thoughts of Senators Dick Durbin of Illinois and Chris Coons of Delaware, who suggested that Biden shouldn’t debate Trump because it would “elevate” his opponent.

Biden is free to make any decision he likes, but those who oppose Trump shouldn’t fool themselves about the way many voters will interpret a decision like that. If the 81-year-old Biden refuses to participate in debates later this year, many Americans will conclude that it’s because he’s too old and that either he or his staff fears what Biden would say, or how he would appear, over the course of three 90-minute presidential debates. Yes, Biden looked fired up in his most recent State of the Union address, but in the end, all Biden had to do was read off a teleprompter and pause for applause. Debates are much tougher, and the opportunities for gaffes and unflattering moments are plentiful.

Even if one or more Trump-Biden debates come off, you couldn't pay me to watch.

Well, you couldn't. Or at least wouldn't. Nor would I expect you to. Sorry, didn't mean to imply otherwise.

We are left to wonder what debate-evading excuses Frum, Durbin, and Coons would have made up if Nikki Haley had been the GOP nominee.

Also of note:

  • Commie Radio goes full Stalin. Never go full Stalin. But at least NPR has the story: NPR suspends veteran editor as it grapples with his public criticism.

    (No, I'm not kidding. That link goes to the NPR story.)

    NPR has formally punished Uri Berliner, the senior editor who publicly argued a week ago that the network had "lost America's trust" by approaching news stories with a rigidly progressive mindset.

    Berliner's five-day suspension without pay, which began last Friday, has not been previously reported.

    Yet the public radio network is grappling in other ways with the fallout from Berliner's essay for the online news site The Free Press. It angered many of his colleagues, led NPR leaders to announce monthly internal reviews of the network's coverage, and gave fresh ammunition to conservative and partisan Republican critics of NPR, including former President Donald Trump.

    Indeed, Trump reacted with his usual caps-lock subtlety:

    Can't have that!

    At the NR Corner, Jeffrey Blehar has an interesting take on the essay: Uri Berliner Burned His Bridges at NPR, Then Set the House Ablaze.

    When I read it, I had two reactions, one to the text and one to the subtext. The text of Berliner’s piece was of course an eloquent and sensitively written exposé of the accelerating editorial rot behind the scenes at NPR. Berliner’s argument is not about bias — NPR’s liberal tilt is structurally unavoidable given the kind of people who want to work there — as much as it is about the complete internal corruption of journalistic ethics. (To wit, his discussion of the Hunter Biden laptop scandal is the ultimate confirmation of priors for suspicious conservatives: “I listened as one of NPR’s best and most fair-minded journalists said it was good we weren’t following the laptop story because it could help Trump.”)

    The subtext of the piece, however, was clear: “Now that I’ve aired our dirty laundry, I dare you to fire me before I eventually resign.” This was, for all its eloquence, functionally a career-terminating act. The various official responses from NPR, including a defensive rebuttal from NPR’s standards & practices editor and a five-day suspension without pay for “freelancing without permission,” indicate clearly that he is now persona non grata. To be fair, Berliner either certainly expected this or should have. As Phoebe Maltz Bovy aptly asks, “How many jobs are there where you could write a big essay about your beef with your workplace and keep your job?” Berliner was clearly dismayed enough about the situation at NPR that he was prepared to leave, and since as an NPR liberal he is more genteel than Homer Simpson, he chose to burn his bridges publicly and rhetorically, rather than literally.

    That last link goes to…

    Blehar also notes Berliner's references to NPR's new CEO, Katherine Maher. Who is described as the "Kwisatz Haderach of white wokeness, presumably bred through generations of careful genetic selection to be the supernaturally perfect embodiment of Affluent White Female Liberalism."

    Overstated? Well, for additional information on that, Matt Taibbi provides New NPR Chief Katherine Maher's Guide to the Holidays. (Only partially free, but enough.)

    Dumb old me didn't realize that one of Maher's previous gigs was at the Wikimedia Foundation. Where, if you responded cash-wise to one of Jimmy Wales' Wikipedia beg-a-thons, you were mostly funding a lot of tedious wokism.

Hey, Parishoners! Let's Boycott the Freest Country in the Middle East!

I was tempted to do a full fisking of a recent column appearing in Sunday's local paper. It's by the pastor of the Community Church of Durham (NH), one Rev. David Grishaw-Jones, pictured at your right. He asks the musical question: Should New Hampshire really penalize nonviolence?

You're expected to say "Gee, of course not" at this point.

Let's find out what the Rev is actually talking about:

Again the New Hampshire House is considering a bill to penalize businesses that participate in boycott and divestment campaigns aimed at ending Israel’s illegal campaign of occupation and apartheid in Palestine. For hundreds of years, Americans have valued economic activism as protected first amendment speech (and an important nonviolent tool) in protesting injustice at home and abroad.

More recently, Palestinian activists—with Israeli allies—have insisted that boycotts and divestment represent an important sign of hope for meaningful change in their beleaguered homeland. With SB 439 however, our legislature considers banning participating businesses from receiving state funds and contracts, thereby codifying in NH law an executive order signed by Governor Chris Sununu in July 2023. If you care, says this law, and if you act in a principled way on that concern, the state will make you pay.

We'll ignore the question-begging assertions about Israel. I just want to point out that the legislation is also nonviolent. It's very nature is tit-for-tat: you refuse to do business with Israel, New Hampshire refuses to do business with you.

Governor Sununu's executive order last year made New Hampshire the 37th state to act in opposition to the so-called "Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions" (BDS) movement.

I count 18 sponsors of SB439 in the NH Senate. (And there are only 24 senators.) The Rev tries to paint this as an insidious plot, sourced from "extreme right wing think tanks (such as the American Legislative Executive Council)". A check of that sponsor list should debunk the relevance of the bill's provenance; it includes (for example) Democrats David Watters and Debra Altschiller. Are they unwitting pawns of the Great Right-Wing Jewish Conspiracy?

It goes without saying that the BDS effort is entirely aimed at Israel. The Middle East is full of dreary little despotisms. The only one that is rated "Free" by Freedom House is, that's right, Israel.

Rev, if you want to target citizen oppression, there are more likely targets.

The Rev's church is very (um) socially involved. They have a Action Alerts page letting people know where they stand on eight issues. Number One: "Justice for Palestine-Israel". What do you make of this?

For over 73 years, Israel has created and maintained laws, policies, and practices that deliberately oppress Palestinians.

Over 73 years. Why I do believe they are referring to 1948, the year Israel was created.

It appears the Rev's church isn't just opposed to Israel's policies; they are, instead, opposed to the idea of a Jewish state. Real river-to-the-sea advocates. Lets make the entire Middle East unfree!

If that happened, of course, the Rev and his allies might spend a few minutes tsk-tsking about all the violence. (But not without explaining that Israel had it coming.)

Also of note:

  • A backbone of Jello. Eric Boehm explains that Bone Spurs ain't going to make it into an updated edition of Profiles in Courage, describing Donald Trump's Cowardice Over Warrantless Spying.

    In a social media post on Wednesday afternoon, former President Donald Trump delivered an all-caps message to members of Congress. "KILL FISA," he wrote. "IT WAS ILLEGALLY USED AGAINST ME, AND MANY OTHERS."

    Trump was referring to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows intelligence services to scoop up electronic communications between Americans and individuals overseas. Those communications are stored in a massive database—the true extent of which is unknown and perhaps unquantifiable—that is routinely queried by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, giving them a back door to spy on Americans' communications without a warrant.

    Trump is right to be mad about how Section 702 has been used, and he's also right that he is far from the only target. In 2021, for example, the FBI used its FISA powers to run more than 3.3 million queries through the Section 702 database. A Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court report unsealed in May showed that the FBI improperly used its warrantless search powers more than 278,000 times during 2021—targeting "crime victims, January 6th riot suspects, people arrested at a protest in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in 2020," and donors to congressional candidates.

    Last week, as Congress was considering the periodic renewal of Section 702, some lawmakers (including some of Trump's closest allies in the House) were pushing for a requirement that law enforcement agencies get a warrant before trolling through the FISA database. That effort failed, 212–212, with Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R–La.) casting the tie-breaking vote.

    And how did Trump react to all that?

    "I'm not a big fan of FISA," the former president reiterated to reporters after meeting with Johnson at Mar-a-Lago on Friday night. "But I told everybody, 'Do what you want.'"

    I don't know what Nikki Haley's position on FISA reauthorization was, but whatever it was, I bet it lasted more than a few hours.

  • An insightful take. And it's from Jeff Maurer: Comedy Has Gotten More Political Partly Because Opinions are Easy and Jokes are Hard. He recalls the good old days of Conan O'Brien being funny. (Click over to see "Awesome Dave’s Counting Channel" video.

    The reasons why networks can’t or won’t make a Conan-style show are many and varied. I’ve written a lot about how comedy has changed, and I’ll probably write more. But because I’m so definitively in the political/comedy space,1 I can say something that non-political-comedians are usually too polite to say: Writing jokes is a lot harder than writing opinions. And one reason why there’s a lot of political comedy out there is that it’s simply easier.

    Political comedy has been my full-time job for a decade. I’ve had lot of time to think about what hits, what doesn’t, and why. I find there are basically two things that people respond to. One is humor — some of my most popular pieces are goofy things that are barely political at all. And the other thing that people like is — you’ll love how obnoxiously pretentious this is — a statement. Generously interpreted, “a statement” means “a trenchant analysis of important matters.” Less-generously interpreted, it means “some shit people agree with.” But probably the most accurate interpretation is: “a cynical regurgitation of your audience’s beliefs that flatters their self-image, which creates a fucked-up relationship based on mutual puffery that — somehow, some way — ends in you getting money.”


    Not for nothing, there's a Wikipedia page for clapter.

Recently on the book blog:
Recently on the movie blog:

All the Sinners Bleed

(paid link)

I really liked two previously-read S. A. Cosby novels, Blacktop Wasteland and Razorblade Tears. This is, unsurprisingly, another page turner.

The protagonist is Titus Crown, Black sheriff of a Virginia county where a lot of white residents haven't gotten over the results of the Civil War. He's returned home to his widower father and sorta-criminal brother after a promising FBI career ended in bloody disaster. (We don't get the gory details on that right away.)

Titus's job is tough enough, with all the simmering racial resentment. But then things get very bad, when what starts out as one of those school shootings turns out to be something else entirely: a falling-out between two participants in serial killing, involving the torture and murder of Black children. Those two are dead by page 20, but that leaves the "Lone Wolf", the dangerous evil mastermind behind the killings. Who happens to enjoy taunting Titus, and threatening his loved ones.

So it's pretty good. Cosby's portrayal of the local white racists lacks any complexity or sympathy, and verges on the cartoonish. If they had mustaches, they'd be twirling them. At one point, Titus, while verbally jousting with one of them, refers approvingly to the "white folks who don't carry water for Robert E. Lee or worship at the shrine of Ronald Reagan". Hey, S. A., I liked Reagan a lot, and I don't appreciate being lumped in with Confederacy-lovers.

Orphans of the Sky

(paid link)

Another one down on my "Reread Heinlein" project. Four left to go!

It was originally published in Astounding, in two parts, five months apart, in 1941. It's a masterpiece of plopping the reader into a bizarre tech/social setting, and only eventually revealing "what's really going on".

But I'll tell you, stop reading if you object:

A slower-than-light starship, designed to travel to a distant star system over a couple generations, has gone horribly wrong. A mutiny has killed most of the crew, leaving the worst in charge. Over the years, the survivors breed, some of them mutated. The cylindrical ship still rotates, providing "gravity" to the inhabitants. "Lower" high-gravity levels are occupied by the non-mutated. The "higher" levels hold the "muties". Conflict is common, and cannibalism is practiced. The origin and purpose of the ship gets lost in mythology. The world is the ship.

Into this comes Hugh, a wannabe "scientist". He's captured by the muties, and one of their clan, a two-headed "twin" named Joe-Jim, takes him to the Captain's Veranda, where he can see the stars. Gasp! And so starts a plan to fulfill the ship's mission. But there's a lot of bloodshed along the way. (This may be Heinlein's most violent book.)

According to the Wikipedia page, Heinlein revealed the ship's ultimate fate in Time Enough for Love. So I'm looking forward to that.

Please Don't Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain

[3 stars] [IMDB Link]

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

I think it's fair to classify: this is a 92-minute high-budget Saturday Night Live sketch, except with a lot of words you can't say on TV. The movie's protagonists (played by Martin Herlihy, John Higgins, and Ben Marshall) are SNL writers, and they occasionally have small, bizarre, bits on the show. Cast members Bowen Yang (a major role) and Chloe Troast (minor role) appear in the movie.

The plot is (roughly) that three disrespected losers realize that, back in their youth, they discovered an artifact that contained a vital clue to locating the titular treasure, worth millions. But they only realize that in their adulthood. And they proceed to try to track it down. Along the way, they encounter two quirky park rangers, a weird cult led by a not-particularly-charismatic leader (that's Bowen Yang), and a creepy hawk. The skills they've accumulated over the course of their misspent lives occasionally turn out to be useful.

I admit: I laughed along the way. I mean:

"What's your favorite bagel?"

"Everything bagel with the stuff shaken off!"

Oh, God, I can't fight it. You're perfect, girl."

I'm not proud, but I stayed awake all the way through, and that's an accomplishment these days.

This Post is for Mature Audiences Only

Via Power Line, some rough language:

Okay, you ready to learn about the six lessons? Here you go, from Clint Smith: The 6 lessons of Ludwig Von Mises.

And he proceeds to itemize seven lessons. Oh well, give or take. They are (1) Methodological Individualism; (2) Subjective Value; (3) Praxeology; (4) Spontaneous Order; (5) Business Cycle Theory; (6) Economic Calculation Problem; and (7) Critique of Interventionism.

That last one may be a bonus. Perhaps produced by spontaneous order.

Also of note:

  • Unwarranted Optimism Department. Kevin D. Williamson has some unsolicited advice for the Biden campaign: Democrats think that simply not being Trump is enough to beat him — but it won’t be.

    Democrats seem to have lost one of the most basic of all political skills: asking those who are not already committed supporters for their votes.

    It is an elementary thing, but, as with many other elementary things, Joe Biden does not seem quite up to it.

    If he wants to win, he should figure that out.

    I am not sure that there is such a thing as a “Nikki Haley Republican,” but the former South Carolina governor beat Donald Trump in the Vermont and DC Republican primaries, took about 40% of the vote in New Hampshire and South Carolina, and finished up her campaign having won more than 20% of the vote in the races she contested.

    That’s not nothing.

    True, that support wasn’t nearly enough for Nikki Haley to beat Donald Trump in a Republican primary.

    But it would be more than enough for Joe Biden to beat Donald Trump in a general election.

    The share of alienated Republicans who don’t want to vote for Trump isn’t 40% — it isn’t even 20%.

    And it doesn’t have to be.

    Well less than half that would do it for Biden — if he would lift a pinky finger to try to win those votes.

    Note KDW seamlessly adapting the New York Post editorial style of one-sentence paragraphs.

    He doesn't do that in any other forum, as far as I can tell.

    But as to his main point: I'm not sure what Biden could do to win my vote in November.

    That's just not in the cards, Joe.

  • The windmills of his mind. James Lileks has an amazing essay at Discourse: Art That’s Just for Me.

    I’m working on a book celebrating the work of a commercial artist, Chester Gallsworth Dahleigh—“Chet” to his friends. He signed his most personal work “Petey,” so I suppose Chet G. “Petey” Dahleigh is the proper term. This summer, I plan to release an online collection of his most striking work, an examination of the works he did not for paying corporate clients, but instead rendered in his sleep.

    There are hundreds of such works, and they all express a peculiarly cheerful nightmare about American culture in the 1950s.

    Some say they’re a result of his wife’s long effort to poison her husband with various herbs and mushrooms from the family garden—a theory bolstered, no doubt, by her conviction for murdering her husband by poison in 1960—but others insist that Dahleigh’s daytime work painting anodyne scenes of commercial joy posed an affront to his talent and soul, and he would rise at night to explore the id of the American dream in the 1950s. In his work, there is always joy:

    Eventually, Lileks confesses: "Chet G. Petey Dahleigh" is actually Chat-GPT Dall-E. And those illustrations (seven at the link) were AI-generated, and they are, indeed, cheerful nightmares. Check 'em out.

And as Nathan Hale said, "All Things Considered, I'd Rather Be in Schnecksville"

Brought to my attention by Jonah Goldberg:

For the record, Schnecksville, an actual place, is about 40 miles away from Valley Forge, about 100 miles away from Gettysburg, and about 50 miles away from where Washington crossed the Delaware.

Well, he's not running for American History Professor, I guess.

Meanwhile, President Wheezy and Bone Spurs were tied at the EBO site last week. This week, Wheezy has opened up a slight lead:

Warning: Google hit counts are bogus.

Candidate EBO Win
Hit Count
Joe Biden 45.0% +0.5% 500,000 +93,000
Donald Trump 44.0% -0.5% 2,210,000 +310,000
Robert Kennedy Jr 3.6% +0.1% 45,600 +3,400
Michelle Obama 2.5% +0.3% 266,000 +2,000
Kamala Harris 2.0% -0.1% 112,000 -8,000
Other 2.9% -0.3% --- ---

Trump's still in a near-unassailable, over 4-to-1 lead in phony hit counts, though.

Also of note:

  • Hey, kids, what time is it? Well, according to Kurt Schlichter, it's Time to Rethink Your Never Trumpism. Ah, finally. Someone to present me with a set of rational arguments why I should, for the first time, vote for Trump.

    You'd think. But no:

    Okay, my Trump-shy friends, it’s time to put aside your fussy principles about how icky Donald Trump is. This is serious, and we need all hands on deck to throw Biden overboard before he gets a whole lot more Americans killed. I get that you don’t like Trump. Let’s agree that he’s icky for the purposes of this discussion. Let’s agree that his tweets are mean, that he’s not a conservative ideologue, that he says dumb things and gets into useless fights, and that he does many other unseemly and annoying things. Let’s agree that this is all true. Let’s concede that in normal times, one might want to forgo supporting a guy like that. But these aren’t normal times.

    So my principles are "fussy". I think Trump is "icky". And later:

    So, this is for you guys who are having difficulty making that leap and backing Trump 2.0. I’m assuming that you are susceptible to reason. Some of you might not be. Let’s face it: A little bit of ego is involved here. There’s a performative aspect to not backing Donald Trump. You dug in against him, and digging yourself out and publicly changing your mind is tough. I get it. But when facts change, choices need to change. And boy, have the facts changed.

    Thanks for that head-shrinking, Kurt.

    So (to summarize), Kurt is accusing me of prissyness ("fussy"), childishness ("icky"), and moral posturing ("ego"/"performative").

    Kurt, this is not an effective way to convince people.

    Other than that, it's just a recycled Flight 93, storm-the-cockpit rant. Trying to scare me into supporting Trump.

    Sorry, Kurt, that's also a non starter.

    Kurt talks a lot about Israel and Gaza. Ukraine is unmentioned.

    Not that it matters, but the Flight 93 crash site is about 200 miles from Schnecksville. I don't know if Trump mentioned that.

  • A more accurate adjective than "icky". And it's supplied by Kevin D. Williamson: Trump’s Toxic Touch. Analyzing Trump's recent announcement of his abortion position:

    The Dobbs decision returned abortion to the states, and if Donald Trump sounds indifferent about how that plays out in the states, it is not because he is indifferent, exactly, much less possessed of “disinterest” as Jamelle Bouie put it with perfect wrongness (subsequently edited away) in the New York Times—it is because he subordinates the abortion issue, like every other issue, to his own narrow self-interest. Trump was, recall, a self-described “pro-choice” Manhattan playboy and reality-television grotesque who made occasional cameos in pornographic films before he decided that he wanted to chase the Republican presidential nomination. As with the Second Amendment, traditional marriage (ho, ho!), and much else, Trump lurches from position to position, precisely as one would expect a man with no moral anchor to do.

    Trump has long been to the left of the longstanding Republican consensus on many issues: abortion, gun control, taxes, entitlements, marriage and family—almost every issue other than immigration, in fact, though even on immigration he has at times been an amnesty supporter and a “path to citizenship” advocate, when he thought it would benefit him. For a different kind of politician, that discongruity might have a moderating effect and provide some basis for seeking broader and deeper political compromises than American politics has produced in recent years. But Donald Trump suffers from a particularly toxic combination of character defects—laziness, stupidity, arrogance, insecurity, and profound personal cowardice—that make such an outcome impossible. 

    Too much? No: Laziness, because Trump’s stand is the one that requires the least work; stupidity, because he doesn’t understand that “Let the states decide” is a dodge that works under Roe but not under Dobbs, when the states are, in fact, deciding; arrogance, because he has good reason to believe this will be enough for the rubes who are going to support him no matter what; insecurity, because a better kind of man (with a lead in the polls) might do some good by making the case forthrightly, but Trump is an inferior kind of man and knows it; profound personal cowardice, because Trump fears losing something he wants more than he fears being on the wrong side of a question when wrong equates to millions of dead children.

    See, Kurt, it's a little bit more serious than just finding DJT to be "icky".

    (By the way, KDW's Jamelle Bouie aside reflects the NYT's stealth-editing his print-edition words:

    Trump’s fundamental disinterest in the truth value of his words is the only context that matters…

    into the online:

    Trump’s fundamental lack of interest in the truth value of his words is the only context that matters…

    This is the sort of thing that KDW views with minor contempt.

  • Oh, and by the way… Steven Greenhut has the standard libertarian take on "disinformation" at Reason: Combat Disinformation With Better Norms, Not More Laws. Setting a bad example:

    In a typically unhinged social-media post last month, Donald Trump expressed the desire to jail former U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R–Wyo.) and the members of the select congressional committee investigating the January 6 riot or insurrection or peaceful demonstration or FBI false-flag operation (pick your narrative). It's one in a long series of posts in which the former president and 2024 GOP nominee has touted tactics usually reserved for third-world strongmen.

    More recently, the judge in the case involving Trump's hush-money payments to adult-actress Stormy Daniels slapped a gag order on him "after repeatedly targeting the judge's daughter in social media posts," per USA Today. Not long ago, Trump said he would tell Russia to do "whatever the hell they want" to NATO member countries that don't pay their bills. And, of course, he continues to falsely claim the 2020 election was stolen.

    And I hear you asking: Did Trump really …? Sure did:

    Hey, Kurt? Greenhut could have called this "icky", but he chose a more accurate adjective: "unhinged".

  • We used to rail against the "Imperial Presidency". But now… … it's just "the presidency". Andy Kessler at the WSJ: The Presidency, I’m Against It. He advocates a path for a Trump presidency that almost certainly will not be taken:

    Expectations for a second Trump term include mass deportations, threats against allies, and huge tariffs on Chinese products. But what will be Mr. Trump’s legacy? Let’s face it, someone who splashes his name on tall buildings across the country cares about legacy. How does Mr. Trump change his legacy from authoritarian blowhard to transformative president? Simple. Go rogue. Do something no one ever thought he would do. Like Nixon going to China. Or “Bedtime for Bonzo” Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan becoming a free-market, Soviet-busting genius.

    How? Reduce the power of the executive branch. Mr. Trump told Sean Hannity he plans to be a dictator for only a day. Fine, close the border, end DEI, get NATO partners to pay, cancel Mr. Biden’s executive orders, and reverse his industrial strategies, er, policies. But then pull the ladder up behind you so no future president can repeat the Biden administration’s power grabs.

    That would be neat.

  • Here's how to do it right, Kurt. Power Line hosts Daniel B. Klein, writing on Libertarians and Civic Virtue.

    An interview between two libertarians provides an opportunity to think about how libertarians need to raise their game. David Boaz of the Cato Institute is interviewed by Nick Gillespie of Reason magazine. Among other things, they discuss the 2024 presidential election. The conversation exemplifies a failure in civic virtue among some libertarians.

    I say ‘some’ libertarians, because others are more like Milton Friedman. In a 2005 interview, Friedman said: “I always say I am Republican with a capital ‘R’ and libertarian with a small ‘l’.”

    More than 50 years earlier, in 1953, Milton Friedman wrote: “I see no objection to his [the economist’s] saying, ‘In my opinion…A is the best policy to achieve our agreed objectives. However, if you do not like A for political or other reasons, B is the next best policy,’ and so forth.”

    That is, Friedman urges the classical liberal to be comfortable saying, “I favor classical liberalism but in a choice between two less-good options, I think that B is the one that is less less-good.”

    If the choice between two less-good options is a salient and important choice for people at large, civic virtue calls on one who pronounces on public issues to speak to that choice—plainly, calmly, and fairly, like Milton Friedman. I agree with Friedman that the Republicans are the lesser evil, and I don’t think Donald Trump is an exception.

    It's an argument Klein puts forth with respect to his audience. I'm not all-the-way convinced, but he puts together a rational case, not one based on name-calling and fear.

Betteridge's Law of Headlines Applies…

… to this headline on Andrew Heaton's (very funny) (but also sad) (and also anger-inducing) video: Is Greed Causing Shrinkflation?.

But if you would prefer print to standup-comic videos, Dan McLaughlin has you covered, with a general observartion: Elizabeth Warren Isn't Actually Very Smart. (A gifted link.)

I’m a great believer in the “show, don’t tell” school of political commentary, and I try to discipline myself against the cheap temptation to insult political opponents instead of taking on their arguments. Liberals and progressives have a particular addiction to insisting that all of their opponents are dumb. But sometimes, you have to draw the conclusions out loud. This week’s flap over Warren’s comments on Israel and Gaza is the latest proof of something that’s been clear for quite some time: Warren isn’t a smart person with wrong ideas; she’s consistently incapable of logical reasoning.

That’s not her image, of course. Warren was an Ivy League law professor (she taught at UPenn and Harvard), carries herself like a teacher, and brands herself as the person who always “has a plan for that.” If you asked a lot of Democratic voters which current officeholder was the intellectual leader of their party, I suspect Warren would be the top vote-getter.

Warren may be glib, but her arguments are routinely shot through with transparent logical fallacies. This goes back to how she first made her national reputation, with academic research claiming that medical debts were a major driver of bankruptcy because lots of people who filed for bankruptcy had medical debts. Her original 2005 paper claimed that “more than 40 percent of all bankruptcies in America were a result of medical problems.” In 2009, with the Obamacare debate ramping up, Warren and her co-authors “updated that research with an even more startling number: Medical bills were responsible for more than 62 percent of all American bankruptcies.”

Massachusetts has a proud history of sending dim bulbs to the US Senate. Warren replaced Teddy Kennedy, no Mensan himself. In the other seat, Ed Markey is routinely dubbed an thuggish idiot. And he replaced John Kerry. 'Nuff said.

Also of note:

  • Where's your Messiah now, Moses? Jonah Goldberg writes on The Messianic Temptation.

    So back in the Obama years, I had great fun with the idea that Barack Obama was the messiah. 

    No really, this was a thing, and some cynics suspected he encouraged it. The New York Times reported that Obama’s volunteers were instructed at “Camp Obama” not to discuss issues when proselytizing for their leader, but instead to “testify” about how they “came to Obama” the same way Christians testify about how they came to Jesus. Michelle Obama played into it too, promising that her husband would mend America’s “broken souls.” And of course, Obama himself leaned into the Messianic hype. “We are the hope of the future. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek,” he proclaimed at the conclusion of the Democratic primary. “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

    The admittedly ironic website “Is Barack Obama the Messiah?” is still up, and it’s still a fun compendium. Some people, uncomfortable with the—duh—formally religious connotation of the word “messiah” opted instead to call him a “lightworker” or “secular redeemer.” Oprah fell back on simply calling him The One, while Deepak Chopra dubbed him a “quantum leap in American consciousness.” Ezra Klein wrote:

    Obama’s finest speeches do not excite. They do not inform. They don’t even really inspire. They elevate. They enmesh you in a grander moment, as if history has stopped flowing passively by, and, just for an instant, contracted around you, made you aware of its presence, and your role in it. He is not the Word made flesh, but the triumph of word over flesh, over color, over despair.

    And Eve Konstantine, the leadership guru, assured us that “Barack Obama is our collective representation of our purest hopes, our highest visions and our deepest knowings. … He’s our product out of the all-knowing quantum field of intelligence.” 

    But these days, as Jonah shares…

    This is why the kids find "SMH" to be such a useful acronym.

  • Sophie goes to the car dealer. George Will isn't impressed with Biden’s impossible dream: Any car you want, as long as it’s an EV.

    Government’s language often radiates contempt for the governed, as when the Environmental Protection Agency recently said limits on automobile emissions in model years 2027-2032 will “give drivers more clean vehicle choices.” The regulations are, of course, explicitly intended to restrict consumers’ choices by forcing manufacturers to produce fewer cars that have tailpipe emissions. Drivers will be able to choose any vehicle they want — from the “clean” category government prefers. As Henry Ford reportedly said, the Model T would be available in “any color” the customer wants, “as long as it’s black.”

    The Biden administration’s costly and coercive crusade to replace internal combustion vehicles (ICVs) with electric vehicles (EVs) is disproportionate to its minuscule climate impact. The American Enterprise Institute’s Benjamin Zycher says the EPA’s own assumptions project that the new regulations will mitigate global warming by 0.023 degrees Celsius by 2100. Because the standard deviation of the Earth’s surface temperature record is 0.11 degrees Celsius, “that effect would not be detectable.”

    As Maggie Thatcher didn't actually observe: At a certain point, you run out of people willing to demonstrate their moral superiority.

  • The Juice has no excuse. I checked, and I've only made some glancing references to O. J. Simpson over the years. Jeff Maurer provides: O.J.'s Obituary, But With Jokes.

    O.J. Simpson, the last comedy reference that everyone got, died yesterday at the age of 76. The cause was Norm Macdonald’s mean, mean jokes.

    Orenthal Jazzhands Simpson was born in a blighted part of San Francisco back when blighted parts of San Francisco were unusual. He wore leg braces as a child but eventually became a powerful runner, making him sort of a Forrest Gump figure if Forrest Gump had an EXTREMELY different third act. Mr. Simpson attended the University of Southern California and decided to play football when he could no longer tolerate his classmates’ shitty student films. He won Chekhov’s Heisman Trophy, which is awarded to the college football player who most needs a totem that can be revoked later in life to symbolize his downfall.

    Mr. Simpson was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in what would turn out to be the worst punishment of his life. He broke records, including becoming the first running back to amass 2,000 venereal diseases in a single season. Blessed with good looks and a warm smile, he earned endorsements and no-bullshit had more movie roles in the ‘80s than Sidney Poitier (look it up!). And the important thing to process here is: People liked this guy. He was practically the last person who would be the victim of a wide-ranging conspiracy. If I said “the police are out to get Paul Rudd,” would that make sense to you? Just file that away.

    I did get a chance to review some of those Norm Macdonald jokes.

Brother, Can You Spare an Intel Core i7-10700 CPU?

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Bruce Andrews, Intel's Corporate Vice President and Chief Government Affairs Officer recently penned a letter, appearing in Wednesday's WSJ. Andrews took exception to the editorial we quoted with approval back on April 5.

Andrews leaps to Intel's defense against allegations that it is a corporate welfare queen:

It is essential to recognize the premise of the Chips and Science Act. Semiconductors are the foundation of modern economic and strategic power, critical to every industry and process that matters in the 21st century.

U.S. policy has always recognized the centrality of sectors such as food and energy to our security and prosperity. But domestic chipmaking capacity has been declining for decades, while other countries have invested in and encouraged their own semiconductor industries. The Chips Act is a monumental step in leveling the playing field and unleashing hundreds of billions of dollars in investment in America.

And more in that vein. To paraphrase: that dumb old free market isn't good enough for Intel.

Don Boudreaux replies to Andrews at Cafe Hayek with his own letter (as yet unpublished): Rent-Seeking Is A Dirty Business.

Attempting to justify government subsidization of his firm, Intel lobbyist Bruce Andrews writes that “domestic chipmaking capacity has been declining for decades” (Letters, April 10). This claim is a half-truth. What has shrunk is the share of global chip-making capacity located in the U.S. – from 37 percent in 1990 to 12 percent today. But this trend is due to increasing chip production abroad rather than to any absolute decline in U.S. production capacity. According to the Semiconductor Industry Association, between 2000 and 2018 America’s capacity to produce wafers domestically rose by more than 50 percent, and that capacity is still rising.

Mr. Andrews will insist nevertheless that the relative fall in U.S. chip-making capacity is reason enough for the government to shower his firm with taxpayer dollars. What he’ll not reveal, however, is that Intel and other US-based chip producers own and operate chip-making facilities in Japan and other foreign countries, resulting in U.S.-based chip-producers’ share of the global semiconductor market being (in 2019) 47 percent – much more than double the sales share of the number two country, Korea, and nearly ten times greater than China’s share of these sales.

Even putting aside the immorality of forcing taxpayers to subsidize producers, the purely utilitarian case for semiconductor subsidies is a sham.

Hear, hear.

For the record, the desktop machine on which I'm typing… has Intel inside. Intel, stop making me ashamed to admit this.

Also of note:

  • Of course they did. NHJournal reports on seven local politicians who think they have the expertise to lecture Israel on how to deal with terror: Dover City Council Passes 'Ceasefire' Resolution in 7-1 Vote.

    The debate over Israel’s war against Hamas came to Dover Wednesday night when city councilors passed a “ceasefire” resolution in a 7-1 vote.

    However, rather than holding a recorded roll call vote, the council passed the resolution by a show of hands.

    The sole “no” vote came from Ward 6 Councilor Fergus Cullen, who tried to have the resolution removed from the meeting’s agenda as non-germane to their duties.

    “I have publicly announced and informed my colleagues that, at the top of tonight’s [city council] meeting, I’m going to move that we remove this item from the agenda,” Cullen told NHJournal beforehand. “This is the Dover City Council, not the United Nations.”

    However, Cullen’s motion to remove failed to get a second, and the council proceeded with discussion and a vote.

    Most of the people who showed up for the council meeting supported the resolution, and many were openly anti-Israel.

    Moral posturing from a very safe distance is not an attractive look.

  • In our Stopped Clock Department, we offer… Jacob Sullum looking at a recent, widely derided, pronunciamento: Trump's Abortion Stance Is Convenient, but That Does Not Mean He's Wrong.

    "On abortion," The New York Times claims, former President Donald Trump "chose politics over principles." In reality, Trump's recent clarification of his abortion position is one of those rare instances when political expedience coincides with constitutional principles.

    In a Truth Social video posted on Monday, Trump said each state should be free to regulate abortion as its legislators and voters see fit. The result, he conceded, would be a wide range of policies, including liberal regimes that allow nearly all abortions as well as strict bans.

    Through his Supreme Court appointments, Trump bragged, "I was proudly the person responsible for the ending of" Roe v. Wade, which for half a century overrode state policy choices by ruling out most abortion restrictions. With that obstacle removed, he said, "the will of the people" should prevail in each state.

    It's to be expected that Democrats (and the MSM, but I repeat myself) would excoriate Trump for partisan reasons. And I guess a lot of pro-lifers were disappointed too. But I'm with Sullum here: Trump's position is entirely defensible. (And you know I wouldn't say that unless I actually thought so.)

  • Commie Radio gotta commie. A lot of people are pointing out this article by Uri Berliner (a "business editor and reporter" at National Public Radio). With good reason: I’ve Been at NPR for 25 Years. Here’s How We Lost America’s Trust. A snippet:

    There’s an unspoken consensus about the stories we should pursue and how they should be framed. It’s frictionless—one story after another about instances of supposed racism, transphobia, signs of the climate apocalypse, Israel doing something bad, and the dire threat of Republican policies. It’s almost like an assembly line.

    The mindset prevails in choices about language. In a document called NPR Transgender Coverage Guidance—disseminated by news management—we’re asked to avoid the term biological sex. (The editorial guidance was prepared with the help of a former staffer of the National Center for Transgender Equality.) The mindset animates bizarre stories—on how The Beatles and bird names are racially problematic, and others that are alarmingly divisive; justifying looting, with claims that fears about crime are racist; and suggesting that Asian Americans who oppose affirmative action have been manipulated by white conservatives.

    More recently, we have approached the Israel-Hamas war and its spillover onto streets and campuses through the “intersectional” lens that has jumped from the faculty lounge to newsrooms. Oppressor versus oppressed. That’s meant highlighting the suffering of Palestinians at almost every turn while downplaying the atrocities of October 7, overlooking how Hamas intentionally puts Palestinian civilians in peril, and giving little weight to the explosion of antisemitic hate around the world.

    Did Berliner raise issues inside NPR? Sure. But:

    When I suggested we had a diversity problem with a score of 87 Democrats and zero Republicans, the response wasn’t hostile. It was worse. It was met with profound indifference.

    If I get tired of listening to my iPod, I'll occasionally put on NPR in the car. I don't even get mad at it any more, it's become nearly a self-parody, an SNL skit where the players don't know how ridiculous they sound.

  • Good advice. Michael Munger pushes back on those predicting capitalism's demise: Look With Two Is.

    Capitalism is a system for organizing, directing, and motivating large groups of people who have never met. Remarkably, capitalism also gives people reasons to act as if they knew and cared about one another. As a result, the scope and success of commercial systems over the past century has produced prosperity, and reduced poverty worldwide, on a scale that is without precedent in human history.

    Yet self-appointed experts in politics and academics routinely pronounce the end of capitalism, and they advocate for largely imaginary alternatives. As I have written elsewhere, such unicorn alternative systems actually “exist” in the sense that if we close our eyes, we all see much the same thing. The problem is that the imaginary alternatives do not exist if we look, with two eyes, at the world we actually live in.

    To open his presentation at Davos in 2020, Marc Benioff said “Capitalism as we have known it is dead.” He then shared his unicorn vision — “stakeholder capitalism” — for an hour of new age psychobabble. No part of that claim is true, however: capitalism is expanding, not shrinking, and the corruption of “stakeholders” who have tried to impose DEI or ESG by force, and moralistic hectoring, is rapidly being forced to retreat back into its fortified academic redoubt.

    How can we “look with two eyes”? It takes two fundamental concepts: the first “I” is information; the second is incentives.

    Munger does Free Market 101 very well.

  • And finally… Arnold Kling does the link-recommending thing, much like I do. But I liked this quote of his a lot:

    The government role in health care is generally to subsidize demand, restrict supply, and try to control prices. I am not optimistic about how that will turn out.

    Nor am I, and nor should anyone.

On the LFOD Beat…

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

The Google News Alert rang for a column by one Chuck Collins in an online "newspaper", the Brattleboro (VT) Reformer. Collins attempts to explain: Why some high-income Vermonters say 'raise my taxes'. Lets see how he does!

As the Vermont State Legislature debates how to pay for housing solutions – and Governor Scott laments "there just isn't any money" – a group of 35 high-income Vermonters have suggested a path forward: raise their taxes.

In a public letter to Vermont state legislators (, they write, "as Vermonters who have economically prospered in our state, we believe in contributing our fair share to build a state that works for all people who live here." They support a tax proposal that will increase taxes on the highest-income Vermonters, which would raise $74 million each year. On Friday, March 29, the proposal was passed by the Vermont House with this revenue being directed to address Vermont's housing crisis.

I hear you asking: did Ben and Jerry sign the letter? Reader, of course they did. Ben is the first signer, Jerry is a bit further down in position six.

Collins is billed as the "co-editor" of an eat-the-rich site, He's a fan. The letter is hosted at a site called (wince) "Fair Share for Vermont". They also (quelle surprise) support a tax on unrealized capital gains.

And, as usual with these folks, "Fair Share" just means "More". With a subtext of "Never Enough".

Where does LFOD come in? Ah, here it is:

You will hear the fear that higher taxes may drive affluent Vermonters away. But this notion of the fleeing millionaire is a myth. Like all Vermonters, our wealthy neighbors appreciate the quality of life and public investments in the state. And frankly, if someone's decision about where to live were dictated by income taxes, they probably would have moved to the "live free or die" state a long time ago.

You can almost hear what Collins was muttering when he typed that last bit: "and I say good riddance to them!"

Some random observations:

  • By any measure, Vermonters are currently heavily taxed. The Tax Foundation has a one-stop state tax data resource. Vermont has the fourth-highest state tax collections per capita, behind only California, Hawaii, and North Dakota. (In comparison, New Hampshire's in position #50, aka last place.)

  • Vermont's top marginal income tax rate is 8.75%, and it kicks in at $229,550. They also hit their unlucky citizenry up for a 6% sales tax (7% in some locations, on some items). They also have a 16% inheritance tax—one of the highest rates—which kicks in at $5,000,000. Their "Property Taxes Paid as a Percentage of Owner-Occupied Housing Value" is the fifth-highest at 1.56%. (Only slightly less than New Hampshire's 1.61%)

  • Overall, the Tax Foundation calculates Vermont's state and local tax burden to be 13.6%. The only states with higher burdens: New York, Connecticut, and Hawaii.

  • I know, math is hard, but: Collins claims the income tax surcharge will raise $74 million/year. The Vermont governor's budget proposal for FY2025 is $8.6 billion, with no proposals for increased taxes or fees.

    Dividing the first number by the second gives 0.86%. I.e., it's a smidgen of what the state currently spends.

    Reader, if Vermont can't solve the "housing crisis" with $8.6 billion, do you think they're going to do it with $8.674 billion?

  • For a contrary take, see the Tax Foundation's article, Vermont Lawmakers Consider Harmful Taxes on the Wealthy.

My answer to the headline, "Why some high-income Vermonters say 'raise my taxes'": because they are deluded fools.

All in all, despite Collins' assurances, I assume treating high-income and high-worth people as easy targets for legal plunder will cause some of them to wise up and move out. Some will hop the Connecticut River into New Hampshire. I welcome them with open arms and a free copy of the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again", which they will be required to listen to daily.

Do You Even Know How Impeachment Works, Bro?

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

About our Amazon Product du Jour: If Biden were impeached and convicted tomorrow, we'd suddenly find ourselves with … well, I'm sure anyone reading this knows what the Constitution dictates.

But still. President Kamala might be chastened in her activism. For example, she might give up on "student loan" forgiveness. It's full speed ahead for President Wheezy, though. Despite being court-rejected once, his motto seems to be Try, Try Again. From Liz Wolfe's news roundup:

Handouts to voters: Though his first attempt at student loan forgiveness was struck down by the Supreme Court in June of last year (Biden v. Nebraska), President Joe Biden apparently feels called to try again. If this attempt went through, it would—to his mind—not only lift the shackles of decades of debt from a chunk of the voting public, but also possibly compel people, filled with newly grateful spirits, to vote for him. So you can understand why he'd be so persistent.

That doesn't make it good policy. The new plan, which would affect roughly 30 million, uses a different mechanism than last time—it expands programs that already exist, and targets those who have high loan balances due to interest—but it would still be to our collective detriment.

"First, the plan takes aim at borrowers who have seen their balances climb due to unpaid interest, seeking to cancel up to $20,000 of accrued interest for all borrowers," reports Reason's Emma Camp. "For borrowers enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan (IDR) making up to $120,000 a year, or $240,000 a year for couples, the Education Department plans to forgive all accrued interest."

The WSJ Editorial Board also is laughing (perhaps to keep from crying) about Biden’s Student Loan Howlers. See if you get a chuckle from:

But the White House economists say even more debt relief is needed because the wage premium for workers with degrees hasn’t increased commensurately with college sticker prices. “Rapid and unforeseeable rises in prices and declines in college wage premia have contributed to decades of ‘unlucky’ college-entry cohorts,” the report says.

So students who chose expensive degrees that haven’t led to gainful employment are merely “unlucky.” And because employers don’t appropriately value their degrees, the government must subsidize these poor graduates.

And, eventually, those subsidies will, on net be borne by taxpayers who didn't get subsidized.

But—hey!—maybe they'll qualify for a different subsidy!

That's supposed to be a joke right there. After all, didn't Bastiat claim that “Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else"?

I'm sure that Biden, deep down, believes that, and believes it to be a good thing.

But it's not just tame White House economists emitting the howlers. At AEI, Beth Akers calls out an equally-tame MSNBC analyst: Maddow Spreads Misinformation on Student Loan Cancellation.

Last night, progressive television pundit Rachel Maddow took jabs at Republicans concerned with President Biden’s latest effort to cancel student debt. But her jabs were actually sucker punches. She took advantage of the public’s being uninformed on the issue of student debt to spread misinformation, aimed at scoring partisan points and defending Biden’s indefensible vote-buying scheme by disguising it as compassionate policy.

In a bombastic rant against the potential legal challenges to Biden’s plan, Maddow argued that

Republicans are suing to make sure that Americans have to pay more in student loans, to make sure that you have to pay more interest to banks on your student loans. That is what they are offering America in this election year. Isn’t that what America most needs? For banks to make more money off people who took out loans to go to college?

The truth is that nobody is profiting off these loans. The reforms made to the program over the last decade have let borrowers off the hook to such an extent that the portfolio of loans is now a huge loser. And the banks have absolutely nothing to do with it. It’s the taxpayers who finance these loans to students and it’s the taxpayers who are on the hook when lawmakers like President Biden let them off the hook to repay them. 

Akers thinks Maddow is looking for a likely scapegoat. I'm doubtful she's that smart.

Also of note:

  • Peter J. Wallison looks at a too-likely outcome: Trump’s Ukraine Sellout.

    So why does Trump oppose US support for Ukraine? He has said nothing specific enough to call a plan, but the statements he has made would effectively end the policy that the United States has followed toward the Russia since the end of WWII. That policy is to oppose Russia’s expansion into Europe, even under implicit Soviet, and later Russian, threats of nuclear war. Every president, Democrat and Republican, from Truman through Kennedy, Reagan, the two Bushes, Clinton, and Biden has made this clear. Donald Trump is the first person with a shot at the presidency who has offered the opportunity for Russian territorial expansion—and this essentially for nothing.

    Trump has said that he would end the Ukraine War in one day. That, of course, is the usual empty Trumpian boast, but it’s feasible only if the US stops all military assistance to Ukraine, and Ukraine gives up much of its traditional territory it has now reclaimed from Russia. In other words, Trump would allow the military weakening of Ukraine—to such an extent that it would have to surrender at least some of its territory.

    Moreover, this policy of weakness toward Russian aggression will send a signal to others that the United States—the world’s principal advocate for territorial integrity since WWII—cannot be relied upon for support against another country’s turning a territorial dispute into an armed invasion.

    Well, good luck with that.

  • Why so glum, chum? We are beset with MSM claims about Joe Biden's rosy economy. Jim Geraghty drops some truth bombs, describing How Joe Biden Lost the War on Inflation and the Broader Economy.

    You don’t have to look far to find columnists who are absolutely befuddled that Americans rate the economy — and President Biden’s economic record — so poorly despite data that, at first glance, suggest the U.S. economy is sitting pretty. Gallup, Pew, CNN, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal — they’re all asking variations of the same question: “Why isn’t the growing economy helping public perception of Biden?”

    Readers of this newsletter know that part of the answer is that the president is older than dirt and we’ve had a policy of de facto open borders for three years, which shapes voters’ perceptions that Biden is hapless and ineffective. But on the economy, I think it’s obvious that lots of Americans feel like they get bad news every time they go to the grocery store. Or when they see lots of part-time-job opportunities, but fewer options for full-time jobs with benefits. Or when they fill up their gas tank. And maybe even their statements for their 401(k) or retirement accounts don’t seem as bright and cheery after a long bout of runaway inflation.

    Economic problem one: Grocery bills.

    Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal looked at how inflation has changed the price of groceries since 2019 — our pre-pandemic sense of “normal” prices for food and household staples.

    There's more at the link. Including: declining full-time work, gasoline prices. Geraghty also points out that the rising stock market is great, it doesn't matter much when you sell some stock to buy groceries, only to discover…

  • [Amazon Link]
    (paid link)

    The great Haidt debate continues. We've looked at Jonathan Haidt's recent claims and recommendations in his new book, The Anxious Generation here, here, and here. Today, he retreats to his substack to defend his claims: Yes, Social Media Really Is a Cause of the Epidemic of Teenage Mental Illness.

    For centuries, adults have worried about whatever “kids these days” are doing. From novels in the 18th century to the bicycle in the 19th and through comic books, rock and roll, marijuana, and violent video games in the 20th century, there are always those who ring alarms, and there are always those who are skeptics of those alarms. So far, the skeptics have been right more often than not, and when they are right, they earn the right to call the alarm ringers “alarmists” who have fomented a groundless moral panic, usually through sensational but rare (or non-existent) horror stories trumpeted by irresponsible media.

    But the skeptics are not always right. I think it is a very good thing that alarms were rung about teen smoking, teen pregnancy, drunk driving, and the exposure of children to sex and violence on TV. The lesson of The Boy Who Cried Wolf is not that after two false alarms we should disconnect the alarm system. In that story, the wolf does eventually come.

    Counterpoint comes from Haidt's friend and onetime co-author, Greg Lukianoff, who describes My First Amendment concerns with ‘The Anxious Generation’. Amidst much praise:

    While his proposals appear on the surface to be aimed only at minors, in reality, they would implicate the rights of adults, too. What’s more, minors do have free speech rights, even if the breadth of those rights aren’t exactly the same as those of adults. I also think broad government interventions often create more problems than they solve and have a tendency to start in a sphere that seems limited but then expands. Lastly, I believe a good rule of thumb is to try the options that pose the least potential for abuse first.

    I think Lukianoff is correct here. General rule: there's are few social problems that government regulation can't make worse. But see what you think.

A Reminder That Chris Pappas is an Airhead

Saying things that literally nobody disagrees with is supposed to be profound commentary?

Of course, he's trying to suck up to Israel-haters, who have maintained (with no evidence whatsoever) that Israel is deliberately targeting civilians. He's neither brave nor foolish enough to say that outright.

Also of note:

  • I did not fly my Learjet to Nova Scotia. But I did drive my Impreza up to Lancaster, NH, to see the total eclipse of the sun yesterday. I was accompanied by Pun Son and loyal pup. (Pup pictured in the righthand column above.)

    It was (and I use this word extremely literally) awesome. Weather was perfect.

    Hey, what did you think about that Big Booming Voice threatening America with imminent destruction, unless… Oh, that didn't happen where you were? … What, that was just me hearing it? Never mind.

    [Sorry, couldn't resist recycling my lame joke from 2017.]

    But traffic was dreadful, in both directions. Northern New Hampshire roads are simply not designed to handle the influx/outflux of that many vehicles in a single day.

    I am not eloquent on this, or anything else. But if eloquence you seek, let me point you to Robert Graboyes: Son, Sun, Kronos, Kairos.

    Across my 70 years, two memories stand out above all others. Both are of mystical, magical, miraculous events that lasted only a few minutes. Each was preceded by long hours of anticipation and followed by a lifetime of contemplation and near-disbelief. The most intense memory is that of watching the birth of my son in 1986. A close second was watching a total eclipse of the sun in 1970. The Universe was kind enough to allow me to witness two of the most unlikely physical occurrences imaginable. Each time, that same Universe whispered in my ear, “Enjoy the sights of this journey, but do not think for a moment that I am within your comprehension.”


    Throughout my life, my religious views have rested easily on humble ignorance. Perhaps a higher power designed the Universe, or perhaps it’s all just the result of happenstance and insentient physical processes. Perhaps a higher power made the Universe and then stepped away, or perhaps that higher power intervenes in minute, meticulous ways. I just don’t know, and, paradoxically, my ignorance of such matters gives me comfort. But on that afternoon in March 1970, I watched as the moon precisely blotted out the face of the sun and thought with near-certainty, “I don’t think this is accidental.”

    A passing thought at that moment (which amused me even at the time) was the notion that the Universe might be merely an illusion, created specifically for my personal benefit and entertainment. (Or, less solipsistically, created for all humanity’s collective benefit). If one day, my Maker tells me face-to-face that that the world and the Universe were all just a simulation, I expect my response will be, “Yeah, I kind of figured that out on a Saturday afternoon in 1970.”

    Graboyes' article rates a 9.8 on the Pun Salad RTWTometer.

  • Check your Biden Impeachment Bingo Cards for… Biden’s Latest Lawless Student Loan Forgiveness. Take it away WSJ Editorial Board:

    The Supreme Court last year blocked the Biden Administration's $430 billion student loan write-off, but who do the Justices think they are? King Joseph showed them on Monday by waving his royal scepter again and canceling debt for some 30 million borrowers.

    “President Biden will use every tool available to cancel student loan debt for as many borrowers as possible,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declared. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona added: “When the Supreme Court struck down the President’s boldest student debt relief plan, within hours, we said, ‘We won’t be deterred.’” That’s for sure.

    Outraged yet? How about…

  • A bold claim. And it's from Stephen Moore, what he deems the Biggest Corporate Welfare Scam of All Time.

    President Joe Biden keeps lecturing corporate America to "pay your fair share" of taxes. It turns out he's right that some companies really are getting away scot-free from paying taxes.

    But it isn't Big Tech companies in Silicon Valley or the Wall Street financial company "fat cats" or big banks or Walmart. They pay billions in taxes.

    The culprits here are the very companies that Biden is in bed with: green energy firms.

    It turns out that despite all the promises over the past decade about how renewable energy is the future of power production in America, by far the biggest tax dodgers in the country are the wind and solar power industries. Over the past several decades, the green energy lobby -- what I call the climate-change-industrial complex -- isn't paying its fair share. That's because the vast majority of these companies pay nearly ZERO income taxes.

    Moore is billed as a "senior economic advisor" to Donald Trump, but don't hold that against him. He quotes Cato's Adam Michel:

    Biden administration estimates show that the US government could spend more than $1.8 trillion over ten years on energy tax subsidies, if they are made permanent. These costs could increase even further as new regulations, such as the recently finalized tailpipe emissions rule and proposed power plant rule, force greater adoption of tax credit‐​eligible technologies.

    Biden loves giveaways to his faves, while griping about the non-favored who ain't payin' their "fair share".

  • On the LFOD watch. You might know that our state's motto is of French origin ("vivre libre ou mourir"). And if you didn't, well, now you do. And they still use it over there, for example: France's Macron launches season of WWII commemorative events.

    Macron paid tribute to the diversity of the 465 maquisards: "Teachers, farmers, public figures, Jews and Catholics, communists, Socialists and Gaullists, anarchists, French and foreign officers united in the same fight against Nazism", he said.

    Quoting the resistance fighters’ motto: "Live free or die", he alluded to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

    “This war must end", he insisted.

    Wish we had a president who'd invoke LFOD every now and again. Coulda done without including the commies, but what are you gonna do? It's France.

Also Day-Appropriate

An oldie but a goodie.

"I guess that means he just flipped me the bird." I laugh every time.

Happy Eclipse Day

xkcd: Eclipse Coolness:

[Eclipse Coolness]

Mouseover: "A partial eclipse is like a cool sunset. A total eclipse is like someone broke the sky."

I'm headed north, readers. Fingers crossed.

"They Were Separated in Both Space and Time!"

Sorry for getting all Einsteinian on you there.

Our weekly phoniness feature:

Warning: Google hit counts are bogus.

Candidate EBO Win
Hit Count
Joe Biden 44.5% +2.6% 407,000 -27,000
Donald Trump 44.5% -0.7% 1,900,000 -570,000
Robert Kennedy Jr 3.5% +0.7% 42,200 -600
Michelle Obama 2.2% -0.4% 264,000 -16,000
Kamala Harris 2.1% -0.1% 120,000 0
Other 3.2% -2.1% --- ---

That's right: as I type, the EBO folks calculate that the bettors they sample consider the race to be a coin-flip between Bone Spurs and Wheezy.

Don't want to say I told you so. But I told you so.

Also of note:

  • It's a joke. Isn't it?

    Reason's Eric Boehm has the story: Meet 'Literally Anybody Else,' the Presidential Candidate That 2024 Demands.

    Like most Americans, Dustin Ebey is unhappy with the prospect of an electoral rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.

    Unlike most of us, however, he's decided to do something about it.

    The 35-year-old Texan became a viral sensation this week after legally changing his name to Literally Anybody Else and declaring his candidacy for the White House. The goal, he told Reason on Thursday, is "giving a unified voice to the idea that we deserve better."

    His website needs some work, I notice. But he's a real possibility for me.

  • Appropriately. Matt Welch looks at another failed effort to at least look sane: No Labels Abandons 2024 Presidential Campaign Effort.

    After years of heavy-breathing hints about giving polarization-fatigued Americans a bipartisan presidential choice, and months of painstakingly obtaining ballot access in nearly two dozen states, the 14-year-old centrist nonprofit No Labels has decided to not act like a political party after all.

    "Americans remain more open to an independent presidential run and hungrier for unifying national leadership than ever before," founding CEO Nancy Jacobson said in a press release Thursday afternoon. "But No Labels has always said we would only offer our ballot line to a ticket if we could identify candidates with a credible path to winning the White House. No such candidates emerged, so the responsible course of action is for us to stand down."

    I assume when they looked at the polling, they didn't think they could compete against Literally Anybody Else.

  • If only more MSM outlets were (eventually) this honest. Now it can be told: Sage Steele did a phony interview with President Dotard.

    What do you call an interview where the interviewer cannot ask spontaneous follow-up questions?

    Not an “interview,” that’s for sure.

    But that’s apparently what we got in 2021 when former ESPN host Sage Steele “interviewed” President Biden, according to none other than Steele herself.

    “That was an interesting experience in its own right because it was so structured,” she said recently in an interview with Fox News Digital. “And I was told, ‘You will say every word that we write out, you will not deviate from the script and go.’”

    ESPN? I assume they were softball questions. (Heh.)

Recently on the book blog:

Last Modified 2024-05-20 6:17 AM EDT

A Canticle for Leibowitz

(paid link)

I was inspired to put this on my to-read list thanks to a couple books by Derek B. Miller, The Curse of Pietro Houdini and Radio Life. Both acknowledged a debt to A Canticle for Leibowitz as an inspiration.

Which makes sense. Like Radio Life, this book drops us into a dystopic Earth, with human civilization nearly wiped out, without much explanation. And, like Curse, the action centers around a monastery. (The author, Walter M. Miller, Jr., no relation to Derek, participated in the bombing of the Italian monastery at Monte Cassino in WWII.)

I've had this book (a 75¢ Bantam paperback) since 1968 or so. Guilty admission: I can't remember if I previously read it. I might have a dim recollection of a certain character who, um, wanders throughout the book, but that's about it. (I may be confusing him with a continuing character from Neal Stephenson novels, but—hey, is he the same guy?)

The novel stitches together and revises three novellas that Miller wrote for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in the 1950s. It won the Hugo Award for best novel in 1961. The three sections are spaced centuries apart.

In the first, young Francis is on a desert vigil when (with the assistance of that wanderer) he discovers an ancient shelter containing lost technological knowledge, the "Memorabilia", saved from the anti-technological post-apocalypse jihad by "Saint" Leibowitz. Things don't work out well for him.

In the second part, hundreds of years later, the budding scientists and engineers of the day are analyzing the Memorabilia, making some crude progress toward generating electricity; it's a time of political intrigue as well.

And in the last part, another few centuries on, mankind has re-developed technology in full, with starships. And nukes. The monastery searches for some way to preserve the church in the face of another Armageddon.

My paperback's front cover quotes the Chicago Tribune review, which calls the book "terrifyingly grim". I see their point, but there's also some funny stuff, especially in the early going. But, on the whole, it's kind of a downer. A good, well-written downer, but still.

As Usual, the Entire Joke is in the Headline

But here's an excerpt anyway:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Biden threatened to end U.S. aid to Israel unless the IDF complies with a new demand to fight the rest of the war against Gaza armed with only Nerf guns.

"It's Nerf or nothin'!" Biden exclaimed during a brief call to Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "You can attack Hamas with the old school revolver, the bow and arrow, heck you can use a gatling gun -- so long as all the bullets are Nerf! You hear me, Bibi?!"

Netanyahu reportedly laughed in response.

The reality, as described by Noah Rothman at NR, is somewhat grimmer: Democratic Politics Shift Toward the View That Hamas Should Win

Not even six full months have passed since the October 7 massacre, and already that act of unspeakable barbarity has been reduced to a passing aside in Democratic rhetorical assaults on Israeli perfidy — that is, when it is mentioned at all.

“Of course,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken began in remarks before reporters on Thursday, “what happened after October 7 could have ended immediately if Hamas had stopped hiding behind civilians, released the hostages, and put down its weapons.” Indeed. At any point in the war Hamas inaugurated, including the present moment, the conflict would end and a brighter day for the Palestinian people would dawn. Nothing else needed to be said. But Blinken continued.

Following a throat-clearing digression about the importance of drawing distinctions between Israeli democracy and a “terrorist organization,” he proceeded to mute those distinctions. “As has been said, whoever saves a life, saves the entire world. That’s our strength,” America’s chief diplomat mused wistfully. “It’s what distinguishes us from terrorists like Hamas. If we lose that reverence for human life, we risk becoming indistinguishable from those we confront.”

The implication in this poetic digression is that it will be Israel’s fault when those who lack elementary powers of discretion discern no difference between the Jewish state and a nihilistic death cult that murdered, raped, and burned alive as many Jews as it could — including Americans. As a matter of fact, the observational deficiencies that would lead someone to endorse this hopeless moral equivalency are the observer’s problem. But the myopia Blinken described is increasingly endemic among his fellow Democrats.

That's my first "gifted" NR link for April, so take advantage.

Disgust mixed with incredulity is reflected in the query posed by the NYPost editorialists: Since when did Jill Biden dictate America's Israel policy?.

Our president lies like a rug to please his audience, so it’s tricky to parse the news that he told guests at this week’s White House Ramadan dinner that the first lady has told him that Israel’s war on Hamas “has got to stop.”

We don’t doubt he announced that, though exact accounts vary slightly: “Stop it. Stop it now,” were the Joe-said-Jill-said words, recalled a different attendee.

And the White House is backing that up, insisting (as it must) that the first couple see eye-to-eye while also stating: “Just like the president, the First Lady is heartbroken over the attacks on aid workers and the on-going loss of innocent lives in Gaza.”

I'm old enough to remember people outraged by Nancy Reagan's alleged influence on Ron. We won't see equivalent treatment in this case.

Also with scathing commentary is Matthew Continetti, who gets it right: Biden Loses the Plot on Israel.

Six months. That's how long it took for President Biden to call for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas terrorists who killed some 1,200 people, raped women, tortured and murdered children, and took more than 200 captives, including American citizens, into the maze of tunnels, spider holes, and underground bunkers known as the Gaza Metro on October 7.

According to the White House, Biden on Thursday called for an "immediate ceasefire" and told Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu that "strikes on humanitarian workers" and "the overall humanitarian situation" are "unacceptable." Biden went on to say that "U.S. policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel's immediate action" and on steps to "address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers."

This is a demand that Israel appease Hamas at the negotiating table. This is a threat to condition military assistance to Israel based on absolutely no evidence and grounded in a ridiculous and unachievable standard of conduct. The move is cynical, opportunistic, and counterproductive. Biden has lost the plot.

Continetti praises Senator John Fetterman, who hasn't lost the plot, or his mind.

Also of note:

  • "We lied. So?" The lead story on Liz Wolfe's news roundup at Reason concerns the: Promise-Breaking IRS.

    Liar, liar: Back in August 2022, when some of us were fresh-faced and naive, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) assured us that their $80 billion infusion of cash (over the course of a decade, so they could hire some 87,000 new workers, including but not limited to men with guns) would actually be a means of targeting millionaire and billionaire scofflaws, not ordinary middle-class earners.

    At the time, I voiced skepticism: Correspondence audits and other audits on low- and middle-income earners are simply the easiest to conduct. The IRS has historically spent an awful lot of time targeting these groups, not monied tax dodgers who can hire teams of accountants, so why would this time be different?

    Vindicated: "The Internal Revenue Service got an audit of its own in time for Tax Day, and two irregularities jump out," reports The Wall Street Journal, having labored through the latest Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) reports. "President Biden's plan to hire a new army of tax collectors is falling flat, and the agents already at work are targeting the middle class."

    I also feel vindicated, since I blogged a lot about this giveaway. Including this August 2022 post that noted the WSJ deeming it "doubling down on incompetence".

    Liz better make sure her tax return is squeaky clean this year. Also the WSJ editorialists. Oh, and I guess me too.

  • [Amazon Link]
    (paid link)

    Like so many other things… George F. Will looks at Jonathan Haidt's new book, and says, hold on: Fighting the phone-warping of Gen Z doesn’t require government intrusion.

    Haidt’s data demonstrating a correlation (the arrivals of smartphones and of increased mental disorders) suggest causation, but remember: Moral panics about new cultural phenomena — from automobiles (sex in the back seats) to comic books (really) to television to video games to the internet — are features of this excitable age.

    Although Haidt is always humane and mostly convincing, his argument does not constitute a case for government trying to do what parents and schools can do. They can emulate Shane Voss.

    In Durango, a city in southwest Colorado, Voss, head of Mountain Middle School, acted early, and decisively. In 2012, he banned access to smartphones during the school day. The results, Haidt writes, were “transformative”:

    “Students no longer sat next to each other, scrolling while waiting for homeroom or class to start. They talked to each other or the teacher. Voss says that when he walks into a school without a phone ban, ‘It’s kind of like the zombie apocalypse and you have all these kids on the hallways not talking to each other.’”

    Soon Voss’s school reached Colorado’s highest academic rating. This local experience constitutes a recommendation to the nation. Recognize the potentially constructive power of negation: Just say no.

    If you still feel the need to read the Haidt book (and, like GFW, I'm sure there's a lot of good stuff in it), Amazon paid link at your right.

Last Modified 2024-04-07 7:04 AM EDT

It's For Your Own Good, Dammit!

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Matt Taibbi deemed a comment from "Joe" to be the weekly "Nailed It" winner. Which seems unfair, since it's nearly entirely a quote from C. S. Lewis. Here is an expanded version:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.

On a (very) related note, David R. Henderson quotes a Hill article ("Biden faces menthol ban lawsuit after missing deadline"), and so will I:

The White House has missed its deadline to publish a rule banning menthol cigarettes, raising ire among public health advocates that the policy will be indefinitely delayed by election year politics.

In an effort to force the administration to act, three anti-tobacco public health groups on Tuesday sued the Food and Drug Administration and its parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Because of Defendants’ inaction, tobacco companies have continued to use menthol cigarettes to target youth, women, and the Black community — all to the detriment of public health,” the groups said in their complaint, which was filed in the Northern District of California.

So, they're waiting until after the election to deprive people of their smokes of choice? Not exactly deserving of a Profiles in Courage chapter, is it?

Also of note:

  • Who had this on their Biden impeachment bingo card? In a print-Reason article, Fiona Harrigan wonders: Are U.S. Strikes on Pro-Hamas Houthis in Yemen Constitutional?

    Since January, the United States and its allies have been conducting strikes against the Houthis, a Yemen-based Islamist militant organization that has been attacking commercial ships in the Red Sea. These attacks, the Houthis claim, are a gesture of support for Hamas in its war against Israel. There have been no American casualties so far, but the attacks have caused major disruptions for one of the world's most important shipping routes.

    "These attacks have endangered U.S. personnel, civilian mariners, and our partners, jeopardized trade, and threatened freedom of navigation," President Joe Biden declared in a January 11 statement. "I will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary."

    Biden notified Congress of the strikes beforehand, but he didn't ask for authorization as Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution mandates. By ignoring this procedural requirement in the name of a broadly defined national interest, the president risks engaging the U.S. in a slow-burning, long-lasting conflict with little accountability and the looming possibility of escalation.

    If you can't read it today, I think it will escape the paywall this coming Monday, April 8.

  • But it's not as if things done with Congressional approval are good, either. The WSJ editorialists examine Intel and Industrial Policy in Action.

    Shares of Intel Corp. hit the skids Wednesday after it reported growing losses on its semiconductor foundry business. Politicians of both parties tout the U.S. chip maker as a national champion, but these days it looks more like an emblem of dubious government industrial policy.

    Investors are getting their first close look at Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger’s ambitions to compete with TSMC and Samsung in chip manufacturing. They apparently didn’t like what they see. The Silicon Valley giant disclosed in a securities filing that it lost $7 billion on its foundry unit last year on $18.9 billion in sales, following roughly $5 billion in losses in each of the prior two years.

    I'm no corporation-basher, but this is odious:

    It’s a shame to see Intel, a legendary U.S. company, being captured by government like this. All told, Intel could pocket some $50 billion in federal subsidies. Yet Mr. Gelsinger wants more. American chip manufacturing “doesn’t get fixed in one three- to five-year program,” the CEO said last month. “I do think we’ll need at least a CHIPS 2 to finish that job.”

    Intel turned into a corporate welfare queen pretty fast, didn't it?

  • Even the National Organization for Women thought this might be an absurdly bad look for them. "Eliza Mondegreen" reports at Unherd:

    On 31 March — the new Transgender Day of Visibility — the National Organization for Women (NOW) tweeted, “Repeat after us: Weaponizing womenhood [sic] against other women is white supremacist patriarchy at work. Making people believe there isn’t enough space for trans women in sports is white supremacist patriarchy at work.”

    Don't bother clicking on that "tweeted" link, NOW apparently deleted that tweet. Amusing!

    But also amusing on that topic is Jeff Maurer, looking at one of the co-conspirators among the white male supremacist patriarchy schemers and her demand that the coppers come get her: The JK Rowling/Scottish Hate Crimes Law Kerfuffle, But With Jokes.

    JK Rowling is the author of stories about a little demon boy who has the magical power to keep Warner Brothers Pictures afloat via endless sequels and spinoffs. Long an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, in recent years, Rowling has criticized the encroachment of trans women into certain women-only spaces. Basically, she has spent her 50s the way most people do: Fighting with strangers online. She just happens to have 14 million followers and has had more influence on Gen Y than their parents and ABC’s Friday night lineup combined.

    Scotland is the country from Trainspotting. It is sort of Britain’s Maine, in that it’s way the fuck up there, cold, and they speak a language that sounds a bit like English but isn’t. They recently passed a law targeting hate speech that supporters tout as a powerful weapon against verbal abuse and also a minor little law that will hardly ever be used so everyone just chillax. It went into effect this week, and it’s already caused more Scottish uproar than a controversial late penalty in a match between Kilmarnock FC and St. Cowldenrock Strathclyde-McRenfnrenrewfrickshire.

    Rowling used her prominence to force the Scottish government to interpret the law. In an April 1 post on X — dead name “Twitter” — Rowling referred to 10 trans women as “men”. They were not ten randomly chosen trans women: The people Rowling highlighted had either committed a heinous crime, taken a role reserved for a woman, or been resoundingly shitty in some way. The first person highlighted by Rowling was activist Beth Douglas (below), who might not be the best mouthpiece for a law that outlaws “threatening or abusive behaviour”:

    Good for Rowling, good for Maurer, and good for NOW for its transitory self-beclowning.

  • Hot or not? I read all the way through this NYPost article: Joy Behar offers bizarre take on 'SNL' 'hot women' controversy, claims 'model-level' like Gisele Bündchen 'not funny'. Allegedly, the 81-year-old claimed:

    “I’m not saying that every single woman who has been a cast member on ‘SNL’ is ugly,” she said. “It’s just that none of them have ever been, like, hot.”

    I'm not that much younger than Ms. Behar, but, even among the current cast:

    Ego Nwodim is hot.

    Heidi Gardner is hot.

    Two Chloes, Fineman and Troast, also seem pretty hot.

    OK, Punkie Johnson, Sarah Sherman, and Molly Kearney are arguably non-hot. But they are funny.

    And (let us not forget), the past cast has included Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Maya Rudolph, Vanessa Bayer, Cecily Strong, Nasim Pedrad, …

    And Tina Fey. Her hotness rivals that of a thousand suns.

Last Modified 2024-04-06 5:28 AM EDT

Science is Real? Well…

A video from Reason's Aaron Brown: Jonathan Haidt's Anti-Social Media Crusade Marred By Bad Science.

Text of the video is at the link, but you'll miss a Thomas Sowell cameo.

In his 1996 book, The Vision of the Anointed, economist Thomas Sowell sketched out a pattern that many of the "crusading movements" of the 20th century have followed. First, they identify a "great danger" to society, followed by an "urgent need" for government action "to avert impending catastrophe."

A new book by psychologist and author Jonathan Haidt, The Anxious Generation, argues that the government must regulate social media because it's causing a teen mental health crisis. Haidt is, in many ways, a model researcher because of his rigor, transparency, and openness to dissent. On this issue, however, he fits neatly into Sowell's framework.

Those best equipped to get attention from the government and the media are the most "articulate" people, Sowell observes, and they often reference opaque studies without explaining them. And Haidt is certainly articulate—his book is well-written and filled with compelling insights. But he claims far too much certainty for his views, based on research that is mostly junk. And he advocates for restrictive government policies without doing the simple tests that might support or disprove their value.

Brown provides a number of reasons to take Haidt with a grain of salt or two. Haidt has been a Pun Salad favorite over the years; I grep 39 references. I reported on books he's written or co-written here, here, and here. I don't know about The Anxious Generation.

Also of note:

  • Hey, kids! What time is it? Writing in the Harvard Crimson, Professor Randall Kennedy says pull the plug: Mandatory DEI Statements Are Ideological Pledges of Allegiance. Time to Abandon Them.

    On a posting for a position as an assistant professor in international and comparative education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, applicants are required to submit a CV, a cover letter, a research statement, three letters of reference, three or more writing samples, and a statement of teaching philosophy that includes a description of their “orientation toward diversity, equity, and inclusion practices.”

    At Harvard and elsewhere, hiring for academic jobs increasingly requires these so-called diversity statements, which Harvard’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning describes as being “about your commitment to furthering EDIB within the context of institutions of higher education.”

    By requiring academics to profess — and flaunt — faith in DEI, the proliferation of diversity statements poses a profound challenge to academic freedom.

    So, he's one of those right-wing baddies, looking to entrench white supremacy? Well, no. Check any bio. His bottom line:

    It would be hard to overstate the degree to which many academics at Harvard and beyond feel intense and growing resentment against the DEI enterprise because of features that are perhaps most evident in the demand for DEI statements. I am a scholar on the left committed to struggles for social justice. The realities surrounding mandatory DEI statements, however, make me wince. The practice of demanding them ought to be abandoned, both at Harvard and beyond.

    The DEI Empire has no clothes?

  • A new collective noun is proposed. Jonah Goldberg looks at our presidential candidates and groups them into A Gerontocracy of Blowhards.

    What got me thinking about this was an interview with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on CNN Monday night. RFK Jr. said (emphasis mine):

    Listen, I can make the argument that President Biden is a much worse threat to democracy.

    And the reason for that is President Biden is the first candidate in history, the first president in history that has used the federal agencies to censor political speech, so to censor his opponent. I can say that because I just won a case in the federal Court of Appeals and now before the Supreme Court that shows that he started censoring not just me—37 hours after he took the oath of office, he was censoring me.

    No president in the country has ever done that. The greatest threat to democracy is not somebody who questions election returns, but a president of the United States who uses the power of his office to force the social media companies, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter to open a portal and give access to that portal to the FBI, to the CIA, to the IRS, to CISA, to NIH to censor his political critics.

    President Biden, the first president in history, used the Secret—his power over the Secret Service to deny Secret Service protection to one of his political opponents for political reasons. He’s weaponizing the federal agencies.

    Ohmigod, don't get Jonah started on… too late.

    Eugene V. Debs ran for president five times, in 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1920. On his fifth bid for the presidency, he ran from prison because that’s where the Woodrow Wilson administration put him. Debs was hardly the only critic or opponent sent to prison. Under the Espionage and Sedition Acts, the Wilson administration prosecuted more than 2,000 people for criticizing Wilson and the war (I’ve seen higher estimates, and there were thousands more arrests at the local level, but you get the point). At least 1,000 people were thrown in jail. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure some of them deserved it. But a lot didn’t.

    As for censorship, Wilson declared war on “disloyal” publications, particularly—but not exclusively—German-language newspapers. Nearly half of German-language publications folded during the war. This was in part because the Wilson administration refused to let them use the postal system. The radical magazine The Masses was crushed by the Wilson administration, in part for publishing a cartoon saying the war was “making the world safe for capitalism.” From Liberal Fascism:

    Over four hundred publications had been denied privileges by May 1918. The Nation had been suppressed for criticizing Samuel Gompers. The journal Public had been smacked for suggesting that the war should be paid for by taxes rather than loans, and the Freeman’s Journal and Catholic Register for reprinting Thomas Jefferson’s views that Ireland should be a republic. Even the pro-war New Republic wasn’t safe. It was twice warned that it would be banned from the mail if it continued to run the National Civil Liberties Bureau’s ads asking for donations and volunteers.

    And that's not all. Unfortunately, it's behind the Dispatch paywall, so … subscribe.

War Zones are Dangerous Places

In our "That Was Then, This is Now" Department:

I'm not minimizing the dreadfulness of the recent news. But Matthew Hennessey of the WSJ has a relevant observation: Israel Takes Responsibility. Who Else Does?

War is hell. Everyone knows that. Bullets don’t discriminate. No bomb is smarter than the person who dispatches it. When the skies are full of lead, accidents are bound to happen, and when they do, political spinmeisters step forward to deny, deflect, delay and distract.

Not here. Israel has taken responsibility. What a concept.

And what a contrast with its adversary. The only thing Hamas takes responsibility for is doing what it loves: spreading terror and delivering death. When a bomb goes off in a marketplace, it claims responsibility. When a crazed maniac knifes random people on a bus, it claims responsibility. But when the subject is its failure to give Gazans a better life, Hamas throws up its arms. It didn’t take responsibility for the lies it told about the misfired terrorist rocket that hit Gaza City’s Al-Shifa hospital in October, or for that matter for using the hospital as a command center. It doesn’t take responsibility for the human calamity it has unleashed on its people with the unspeakable atrocities of Oct. 7.

Also of note:

  • I admit that a certain two-word phrase is ticking me off. And Scott Johnson is also in that club: The mystery of your “fair share”. He looks at Biden's SOTU usage (as I did). And further comments:

    What is your fair share? They never do tell us.

    Why so shy? We we can never quit worrying about their coming back for more. There is a reason they never tell us what our “fair share” is.

    Modern American leftism is anchored in a deep hostility to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. As R.J. Pestritto has demonstrated, the intellectual roots of modern liberalism lie in an assault on the ideas of natural rights and limited government. They eventuate in an administrative state and rule by supposed experts. Thus, to take a recent example, the EPA rule mandating the replacement of cars, trucks, and buses as we know them with electric simulacra in the name of controlling the climate.

    Johnson goes on to cite William Voegeli’s excellent book, Never Enough, which I reported on here.

    Another member of the "Fair Share Haters Club", Joakim Book, steps up at AIER, Eating The Rich Won’t Feed the Beast.

    But the rich don’t pay their fair share, you might say. On the contrary, any serious investigation reveals that they pay everyone’s share. Some one-fifth of federal tax revenue already comes directly from the incomes of the richest one million American households. The incomes of the highest-earning 20 percent of households more or less bankroll the federal government. he Congressional Budget Office in its “The Distribution of Household Income” report notes:

    High-income households generally pay a larger share of federal taxes. In 2020, for example, households in the highest income quintile received about 56 percent of all income and paid 81 percent of federal taxes.

    But income inequality is a runaway train, you might say. On the contrary, any serious investigation shows that the pre-tax income of the top 1 percent in America has been roughly flat for twenty years. Counting after-tax income instead, as a share of total income the super-rich today lay claim to about the same share (9 percent) they did in the 1960s. In the UK, income inequality is the same today as when Thatcher left office, and globally speaking inequality is probably lower than it’s been in 150 years.

    Sure, it won't work. Keeping the beast unfed is part of Democrat rhetorical strategy. How do you keep your base riled up unless you keep going back to the well of cheap populist demagoguery?

  • We won't get fooled again. John Tierney is talking about his generation the World Health Organization: The WHO’s Power Grab.

    The response to Covid was the greatest mistake in the history of the public-health profession, but the officials responsible for it are determined to do even worse. With the support of the Biden administration, the World Health Organization (WHO) is seeking unprecedented powers to impose its policies on the United States and the rest of the world during the next pandemic.

    It was bad enough that America and other countries voluntarily followed WHO bureaucrats’ disastrous pandemic advice instead of heeding the scientists who had presciently warned, long before 2020, that lockdowns, school closures, and mandates for masks and vaccines would be futile, destructive, and unethical. It was bad enough that U.S. officials and the corporate media parroted the WHO’s false claims and ludicrous praise of China’s response. But now the WHO wants new authority to make its bureaucrats’ whims mandatory—and to censor those who disagree with their version of “the science.”

    The WHO hopes to begin this power grab in May at its annual assembly in Geneva, where members will vote on proposed changes in international health regulations and a new treaty governing pandemics. Pamela Hamamoto, the State Department official representing the U.S. in negotiations, has already declared that America is committed to signing a pandemic treaty that will “build a stronger global health architecture,” which is precisely what we don’t need.

    A treaty has to be Senate-ratified to go into effect, doesn't it? Or has the Biden Administration decided to ignore that little detail? (Tierney sort of talks about this.)

  • We're still doing something right. Michael Graham reports some good news about my state: NH Has Second Lowest Tax Burden in U.S., New Analysis Shows.

    Just two weeks after being ranked number one in the nation for best taxpayer return on investment, a new analysis found New Hampshire has the second-lowest overall tax burden. Only Alaska, with its vast oil revenues subsidizing government expenses, had a lower tax burden.

    And New Hampshire ranked number one for lowest total sales and excise taxes as a percentage of personal income.

    The Granite State’s performance is even more notable when compared to its New England neighbors. All five of the other states in the region are ranked in the top 20 for tax burden, with Maine ranked 4th highest and Vermont number three.

    It would be an excellent idea to disbelieve any candidate who promises "property tax relief". Ask them if their "relief" involves increasing the total tax burden.

Recently on the book blog:

Last Modified 2024-04-03 6:15 PM EDT

A City on Mars

Can we settle space, should we settle space, and have we really thought this through?

(paid link)

I enjoy reading Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, Zach Weinersmith's online comic. He also illustrated Bryan Caplan's book Open Borders, his defense of, well, open borders. And I also liked Soonish, Zach's 2017 collaboration with his wife, Kelly, on possible future technologies.

And so this was a must-read too. Another Zach/Kelly effort. And, although they don't mention it, it might just solve the Fermi Paradox: where are all the intelligent aliens that should have visited us by now?

Reader, it could be that their species had their own Zach/Kelly writers point out that space is an incredibly hostile environment, it's extremely difficult to exploit for riches, self-sufficient settlements are problematic, mere curiosity isn't an adequate excuse for the massive expense involved, and … well, there are a lot of downsides. Or (alternative explanation) the aliens might have, accidentally or on purpose, sent a local asteroid crashing into their home planet.

I know, all that's kind of a downer, especially if you (like me, and also like Zach and Kelly) have been caught up in the romance and excitement of exploring and living on other worlds. But they have done their homework. The technical issues are explored, areas of our ignorance (there are a lot of those) are revealed, and it's all pretty interesting. Even the poisonous Martian dirt.

The only weak spot in the book for me was their lengthy discussion of the legalities involved in space colonization. The authors look at existing treaties governing the use of outer space, and also (sorta) analogous situations on Earth (seabed mining, Antarctica). This seems to work against everything else in the book: space is way different, and I'd think it would require way different legal and political arrangements. There's an entire chapter, for example, on "company towns", and how they might work on the Moon or Mars.

Reader, company towns are pretty much over on Earth; the problems they were designed to solve were solved, and we've moved on. And lunar/Martian "towns" wouldn't look like that anyway.

Also Zach and Kelly aren't the least bit skeptical about involving the United Nations in coming up with treaties and governance. One look at the membership of the UN Human Rights Council, which includes Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, … might argue that a different approach might be called for.

That aside, though, the book is thorough and accessible. And full of humorous asides. And some PG-13 speculation on, um, reproductive issues in space. Not at all titillating, because once you work out the, um, kinks of the procreative act, things we don't know about space obstetrics would fill an even bigger book than this one.

Good Luck, Progressive Activists!

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Our Amazon Product du Jour says it's a "Stop Corporate Welfare T-Shirt For Progressive Activists". Do you have to present your official "Progressive Activist" credentials in order to buy it? Maybe someone could try it and let me know for sure.

One thing for sure: it's unclear where President Dotard stands on the issue. As reported by Chris Edwards: Biden Hikes Corporate Tax Expenditures 92%.

Politicians often say one thing but do another. President Biden rails against tax breaks for big corporations, and the White House boasts that Biden “has fought to build a fairer tax system that … asks big corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share; and requires all Americans to play by the same rules.”

But Biden has signed into law three bills with vast subsidies and narrow tax breaks for big corporations. These were not across‐the‐board tax cuts that simplified the tax code, but rather a mess of complex loopholes with special rules for favored industries.

Biden is large, he contains multitudes. Or he could just be a lying demagogue. Your call.

I ranted and raved about Biden's use of "fair share" in his SOTU address last months. But at least he didn't commit the dishonesty seen in the White House press release linked above:

"And he believes that any extensions should be paid for by asking big corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share."

"Since taking office, President Biden has fought to build a fairer tax system that rewards work, not wealth; asks big corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share; and requires all Americans to play by the same rules and pay the taxes they owe."

Yes, this usage of "ask" really gets my goat.

Trust me, if Biden's wishes are enacted, the IRS will not be "asking" for more money. They will be demanding it. And that, like all government demands, will be backed up by coercion and (ultimately, if necessary) violence.

To be fair, the headline on that press release is slightly more honest, referring to "Making Big Corporations and the Wealthy Pay Their Fair Share".

But control-F tells me the release contains fourteen occurrences of that weaselly "fair share". Which is eight more than Biden used in the SOTU.

Also of note:

  • Might be, but not because of me. Jeff Maurer's substack is named "I Might Be Wrong". It's fun to read, even when he is wrong. "A Two-State Solution is Impossible! (Because of Me)"

    Yesterday, the New York Times ran an op-ed by Tareq Baconi — the head of a pro-Palestinian think tank — called “The Two State Solution Is an Unjust, Impossible Fantasy”. I thought the op-ed was terrific in the same way that I thought the 1999 Sarah Michelle Gellar rom-com “Simply Irresistible” was terrific, which is to say: It was terrible. As regular readers of this blog know, my soul died in a blimp crash in 2016, so I can only derive pleasure by ironically enjoying awful things. And Baconi’s piece truly made my day because it was a delectable smorgasbord of absolute shit.

    If you switched around some specifics, Baconi’s op-ed could double as a screed by the most right-wing member of Netanyahu’s cabinet. It was all there: The litany of grievances (that don’t change the reality on the ground), the cherry-picked historical events (that don’t change the reality on the ground), and the complaints about Western behavior (that don’t change the reality on the ground). I hope psychologists one day unpack the link between chauvinist politics and a fixation on history (which Vladimir Putin recently demonstrated so vividly). You know you’re talking to a zealot when they bring up the 1161 Treaty Of Artlenburg or the Kingdom Of The Five Eunuchs or whatever the fuck — the farther back in history a person reaches to justify their views, the more one-sided their views are likely to be.

    I get what Maurer's trying to say: hey, a "two-state solution" might be possible sometime in the future.

    But it almost certainly won't happen if one of those states remains dedicated to the destruction of the other one. (And you know which is which.) To his credit, Maurer admits that he would "bet against it happening in my lifetime," And he is much younger than I.

  • The "Science is Real" folks seem to be silent on this. Ronald Bailey reports news that is probably unrelated to Claudia Gay's resignation as Harvard's president: Harvard Global Cooling Geoengineering Experiment Halted.

    Last year was the hottest year in the global instrumental temperature record. Since 1960, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has risen from 315 to 425 parts per million, largely as a result of emissions from burning fossil fuels. Some researchers argue that the pace of global warming is increasing.

    Given these trends, it would be a good idea to do some research on an emergency backup cooling system for the planet. Unfortunately, activists have pulled the plug on a preliminary solar radiation management (SRM) experiment. The aim of SRM is to lower average global temperatures by injecting tiny particles high in the stratosphere, where they would reflect a small percentage of sunlight. This would mimic the effect of Mount Pinatubo's 1991 volcanic injection of 17 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, which cooled the planet by about 1 degree Fahrenheit for a year.

    Bailey claims, plausibly enough, that anti-geoengineering advocates oppose research, not because of some imagined risk, but because "they fear it will in fact be cheap and work well."

  • "Misanthropy Springs" would be a neat book or movie title. Richard Gunderman looks at the works of H. G. Wells and discovers: Misanthropy Springs from the Lust for Power.

    Best known today for science fiction novels such as The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells was in his own day widely regarded as a prophet. Trained in science, he predicted the wireless telephone, directed energy weapons such as the laser, and the production of human-animal chimeras through genetic engineering. Yet Wells’ prognostications did not stop with science and technology. His imagination also ventured into the socio-political realm, where he predicted the development of a rational world government that would give rise to perpetual peace. Wells believed that if only the fate of the world could be placed in the hands of truly enlightened individuals cast in the mold of Wells himself, humankind could be saved from itself, averting disasters such as famine and war and ushering in a new era of human felicity. Yet many observers, particularly those with a strong fondness for liberty, would find Wells’ prescriptions less utopian than dystopian. Peer deeply enough, and Wells’ seemingly benevolent vision turns out to be misanthropic in the extreme.

    Wells starts all sweet and reasonable, then starts saying stuff like:

    The men of the New Republic will not be squeamish either in facing or inflicting death, because they will have a fuller sense of the possibilities of life than we possess. They will have an ideal that will make killing worth the while, like Abraham they will have the faith to kill, and they will have no superstitions about death.

    Sounds quite Morlockian.

  • On the Elizabeth Gurley Flynn watch. Damien Fisher reports the latest: 'Long Live the Revolution!' Activists Keep Legal Fight Over Rebel Girl Marker Alive.

    Historical figures of New Hampshire, unite! You have nothing to lose but your state-funded highway markers.

    The sponsors of a since-removed Historical Highway Marker honoring Concord-born Communist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn are appealing the dismissal of their lawsuit against the state. They argue no person from the Granite State’s past is safe from having their legacy erased from the public record — a common practice in Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union.

    I recently read American Anarchy by Brandeis history prof Michael Willrich, a history of our country's lefty anarchists in the early 20th century. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was a relatively minor character therein; certainly her ideological odyssey to full-bore Stalinism was kinda the opposite of anarchy. Unfortunately, Willrich didn't cover it.

No Foolin', It's a Miscellaneous Monday

We are not even close to a theme today. But we'll start off with our favorite musician:

I will (of course) point out that American commercial air travel is extremely safe. Safer than being a night-shift maintenance worker on a Baltimore bridge.

It’s hard to pick the scariest part: the phones and teddy bears dropping from the sky, the shirt getting ripped off a teenager’s body or the massive hole in the side of the plane.

The harrowing story of the Alaska Airlines flight that narrowly avoided disaster at 16,000 feet is petrifying enough to make you never set foot on a plane again.

But there’s another way to look at one of the most dangerous aviation events in recent American history: How did hurtling through the sky in a giant metal tube become this safe?

The biggest U.S. commercial airlines have now gone nearly 15 years without a fatal crash, which is something of a miracle itself, as there have been more than 100 million flights and 10 billion passengers since then.

It's still a funny video though. Get it together, Boeing!

Also of note:

  • And the result was a Weeping Woman. Kat Rosenfield may not be weeping, but she seems, at best, dismayed: America's censors have committed their Guernica.

    America’s cultural mood calls to mind a bunch of people tentatively peering out from their hiding places in the aftermath of a torrential hailstorm. Is it over? Can we come out now? Are we still cancelling each other to death, or has the vibe finally shifted?

    In recent months, people who lost their jobs amid this or that spasm of ideological intolerance have begun to reappear in places where they would have been previously blackballed, telling stories that sound like modern-day versions of The Crucible, except much stupider. The memoir of #MeToo hero Christine Blasey Ford was released last week to surprisingly little fanfare, while a NYMag exposé of womanising podcaster Andrew Huberman — which only a few years ago might have resulted in the boycotting and deplatforming of the man in question — made barely a dent in the discourse. Brands that went all in on social justice are now quietly — and in some cases, desperately — distancing themselves from the excesses of the era. Even the painfully hip young progressives who run Biden’s social-media channels have stopped using inane terms like Latinx, and resumed posting like normal people, or close enough.

    And yet, there is also a sense that we cannot pull back from the edge, particularly in the rarefied spaces where high culture is made. Consider this month’s imbroglio at the literary journal Guernica, which lost virtually all its volunteer staff in a wave of mass resignations following the publication of an essay by writer and translator Joanna Chen. Titled “From the Edges of a Broken World”, it described Chen’s complicated and conflicted relationship with her adopted country of Israel — to which she immigrated at the age of 16 after the death of her brother — in the wake of the October 7 attacks that left 1,400 people dead, and the retaliatory bombing by Israel which augmented that number by tens of thousands more. Within days of the essay’s publication, Guernica‘s co-publisher and nearly a dozen editors announced that they were resigning in objection, accusing Chen of trying to “soften the violence of colonialism and genocide”. The magazine unpublished the essay with apologies, although apologies for what remains unclear; a “more fulsome explanation” for the retraction was promised but has yet to appear, and the magazine’s website has not been updated in weeks.

    Guernica is well outside my normal reading range, and it looks as if it will remain there. Looking forward to Ms. Rosenfield's next book though.

  • Well, it wouldn't be the GOP if it didn't do something stupid every so often. Tom Knighton, writing at Bearing Arms claims: New Hampshire Republicans Make Massive Mistake on Guns. Quoting a New Hampshire Bulletin article ("Gun-rights Republicans split, pass bill adding mental health records to gun checks"):

    Gun rights advocates who are usually unified on gun legislation split Thursday on a bill that would add some mental health records to gun background checks. New Hampshire is one of several states that does not report that information to the federal background database, though federal law prohibits individuals who’ve been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility from purchasing or possessing firearms.

    House Bill 1711, brought in response to the fatal shooting of state hospital security officer Bradley Haas by a former patient in November, passed 204 to 149, with 25 Republicans joining Democrats in supporting it.


    For me, the big thing is the fact that a lot of people may well avoid getting necessary treatment because they're concerned their mental health provider will put their records into the background check system, barring them from buying guns.

    It's hard enough to seek help. Far too many people are terrified to get it, afraid of what people might think or afraid of the stigma about getting treatment for their problems. How do these people benefit by giving them yet another concern about getting help? How is society benefited from something like that? How are people safer when mentally ill people don't seek help?

    They're not, and this shouldn't have happened.

    Live free [or] die ....unless you're depressed. In that case, screw you.

    We'll see if the bill gets by the Senate and Governor Sununu.

  • But how much brains do you need? The Washington Examiner quotes a former Trump insider giving us all less reason to worry come next year: John Bolton suggests Trump ‘hasn’t got the brains’ to be a dictator.

    Former national security adviser John Bolton attempted to pacify concerns about presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump becoming a dictator by attacking his lack of “brains.”

    Bolton discussed his former boss in an interview with the French outlet Le Figaro published Thursday. Trump’s 2024 opponent, President Joe Biden, is making a mistake, according to Bolton, by constantly referring to the former president as a threat to democracy.

    “People don’t believe [Biden],” Bolton explained. “Neither do I, because it’s not true! Firstly, regarding the possibility of overthrowing the [American)]republic, let’s be clear: Donald Trump is not Julius Caesar. The American Constitution and its institutions are strong. Trump attacked them by trying to call into question the result of the elections, and he failed. If he wasn’t able to steal the election when he was in the Oval Office, it’s not going to happen in November from Mar-a-Lago. The Constitution is very clear, there will be no third term.”

    The reporter pushed, asking Bolton if Trump had any dictatorial tendencies like Caesar. Trump has teased the idea of being a dictator only on “day one.”

    “He hasn’t got the brains,” Bolton said. “He’s a property developer, for God’s sake!”

    I'm not seeing a lot of zeal either, another sine qua non. He just wants to "be President" again.

  • Somebody should ask him about this. J.D. Tuccille points out: Biden Is Against Corporate Welfare Except When He’s for It.

    Not that many Americans expect politicians to be truthful, but for the sake of naïfs walking among us at this late date, let's point out that, when President Joe Biden rails against giveaways to big business, it means a lot of money is on its way to favored corporations. To the extent the president is serious about the anti-business animus in his speeches, it's directed only at private enterprises that go their own way; entities that follow government direction are recipients of all sorts of privileges and largesse.

    "I want to talk about the future of possibilities that we can build together — a future where the days of trickle-down economics are over and the wealthy and the biggest corporations no longer get the — all the tax breaks," President Biden huffed during this year's State of the Union address.

    Tuccille points out the recent $8.5 billion helicopter drop of cash onto that plucky little startup, Intel.

Recently on the book blog: