Yet Another Travesty of a Mockery of a Sham of a Mockery of a Travesty of Two Mockeries of a Sham

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Well, Andy McCarthy was right. The fix was in.

The WSJ editorialists look at A Guilty Verdict for Trump and Its Consequences for the Country.

Twelve New York jurors have found Donald Trump guilty of falsifying business records, a total of 34 felony counts, in history’s first criminal conviction of a former President. What a volatile moment for the country. Will the judge jail Mr. Trump? Will voters re-elect him in November anyway, in disgust of this concocted case? What if it’s thrown out on appeal? Will Republicans retaliate? The nation might soon regret this rough turn.

Their closing paragraph:

The conviction sets a precedent of using legal cases, no matter how sketchy, to try to knock out political opponents, including former Presidents. Mr. Trump has already vowed to return the favor. If Democrats felt like cheering Thursday when the guilty verdict was read, they should think again. Mr. Bragg might have opened a new destabilizing era of American politics, and no one can say how it will end.

At NR, Jeffrey Blehar is also predicting dark days ahead: Pandora’s Box Is Now Opened, and We’re About to Find Out What’s Inside.

“What’s in the box?” Brad Pitt once disconsolately wailed at the end of a film starring a pervert playing a pervert. But he then already knew. We do not.

Donald Trump has now been convicted of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records pursuant to an extremely dubious legal theory, and will be sentenced on July 11, a mere four days before the Republican National Convention begins in Milwaukee. And if you think you know what happens next, you are wildly overconfident. Perhaps Joe Biden and Democrats will be hit with an electoral backlash as voters turn away in disgust at what was — regardless of one’s opinion of Trump — an appallingly politicized prosecution in every single respect. Or perhaps suburban women will be reminded why they have always loathed Donald Trump (e.g., he is a horrible human being who cheated on his wife with a porn star and then sought to cover it up), and Trump will once again narrowly lose. Down either road lies madness, but madness is once again the only option on offer for Americans in November.

Either way, we will now discover what unsightly horrors are preparing to scuttle out of a Pandora’s box that, once opened, can never be shut again. And Republicans head into 2024 with the possibility of fumbling a presidential election that would have been easily won by nearly anyone not named Donald Trump.

I recently read Mythos by Stephen Fry, his take on ancient Greek myths. You (like me) may need to be remembered that after "all the evils of the world" were released by Pandora from her famous Box, there was one left inside, usually translated as "Hope". See our Amazon Product du Jour!

But the Wikipedia page (and Fry) also mention that "it could also have the pessimistic meaning of 'deceptive expectation'."

Jacob Sullum has also been a critic of the persecution/prosecution. He summarizes the result: New York Trump Verdict Suggests Jurors Bought Prosecutors' Dubious 'Election Fraud' Narrative. His bottom line:

Last week, New York Times columnist David French worried about the consequences of a conviction that is overturned on appeal. "Imagine a scenario in which Trump is convicted at the trial, Biden condemns him as a felon and the Biden campaign runs ads mocking him as a convict," he wrote. "If Biden wins a narrow victory but then an appeals court tosses out the conviction, this case could well undermine faith in our democracy and the rule of law." In his desperation to prevent Trump from reoccupying the White House, Bragg has already accomplished that.

But other stuff has been going on too…

Also of note:

  • Sheldon and Amy need to do a new episode of "Fun With Flags". But until that happens, Robby Soave will do: Samuel Alito's 'Appeal to Heaven' Flag Got Retconned. His subhed: "This is becoming ridiculous." And his bottom line:

    For decades, San Francisco's city hall has flown the "Appeal to Heaven" flag alongside other cherished, patriotic banners. In response to the Alito controversy, the city announced this week that it had removed the flag. This is madness. It's retconning. That picture of a pine tree is not a right-wing symbol of hate; cowards are turning it into one.

    In case you are not a fan of The Big Bang Theory: here's an explanation of the above headline.

  • And, beyond that: it's about controlling people. At FEE, Jon Miltimore corrects the record: Net Neutrality Is Not about ‘Saving the Internet.’ It's about Controlling the Internet.

    In 2017, late-night host Stephen Colbert told his audience that it was “a sad day” because the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had voted to repeal Net Neutrality, an Obama-era rule that required Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to offer “equal access” and speeds to all lawful websites and content regardless of their source, and prohibiting “fast lanes” for certain content.

    “What that really means, it means repealing regulations that prevented your Internet provider from blocking certain websites or slowing down your data,” Colbert said. “Now they can. And that’s wrong.”

    Repeal of these regulations didn’t just portend the death of the Internet. It marked the triumph of Russia, Colbert suggested, pointing to FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel’s claim that a half-million public comments came from “Russian email addresses.”

    “C’mon, Russia,” Colbert said. “Can’t you just leave America alone?”

    The implication was clear. Killing Net Neutrality would destroy the Internet (and may have been a Putin plot).

    Colbert was not the only person to make such claims, of course. Senate Democrats said that if we failed to save Net Neutrality, we’d get the Internet “one word at a time.” Actor Mark Ruffalo said that repeal was an “authoritarian dream,” and actress Alyssa Milano called it a threat to democracy itself.

    Miltimore notices (and you may have too) that the hysteria was unjustified. But giving bureaucrats "democratic" control over a large swath of economic activity is not going to work well for liberty.

  • Those who forget history are doomed to… have something bad happen, I forget what exactly. Jeffrey A. Singer reminds us, fortunately: Iron Law of Prohibition: Nicotine Edition.

    In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assumed the authority to regulate all nicotine‐containing products, including electronic nicotine delivery systems, such as e‑cigarettes. E‑cigarette manufacturers were given until September 9, 2020, to submit applications to the FDA for the agency to approve the marketing of their products. The agency received nearly seven million applications by the deadline and is still reviewing many of them. It has rejected more than a million flavored vape applications.

    However, non‐nicotine synthetics that have chemical structures resembling nicotine are exempt from FDA regulation. Thus, people who wish to consume relatively harmless nicotine because they value its stimulative and calming effects can work around government obstructions by accessing nicotine‐analog products. The government does not require makers of synthetic nicotine analogs to obtain FDA approval before they can market them to consumers. And consumers are purchasing these products.

    Singer notes an analogous case:

    Prohibition resulted in drug trafficking organizations moving from diverted prescription pain pills to heroin, from heroin to fentanyl, from fentanyl to fentanyl mixed with xylazine, and now from that to fentanyl mixed with medetomidine and nitazenes.

    I will point out (again) that the University Near Here has gone full-Carrie-Nation on "Tobacco, Smoke and Nicotine". Wait until they find out about 6-methyl nicotine!

UNH Should Make It Official

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Jerry Coyne relays the news: Harvard Committee apes the University of Chicago, recommends institutional neutrality.

One of the reasons Claudine Gay didn’t come off so well in the Congressional hearings was that Harvard had no concrete policy on free speech, and thus applied it unevenly, in an almost hypocritical fashion. Further, it was unclear what the university’s own stand was on issues like genocide. Were they officially against it, or did calls for genocide of the Jews constitute free speech? In this case Gay answered using Constitutional principles, and her answer, “it depends,” was technically correct.

But the whole mess, including the involvement of MIT and Penn, could have been avoided had these universities adopted two policies that we have at the University of Chicago: the Principles of Free Expression (in effect, First-Amendment-like freedom of speech), and institutional neutrality, as embodied in our Kalven Report. This report mandates that, with very few exceptions, neither the University itself nor its units, including departments and centers, can make official pronouncements on moral, political, or ideological issues. (The exceptions include rare issues that affect the very working of the University itself.)

Not everyone is impressed with Harvard's move. See, for example, the NYPost's editorialists. They suggest skepticism: Don't be fooled: Harvard's neutrality pledge is just lefty butt-covering.

Harvard University has announced it will stop using its institutional voice to weigh in on “matters that do not directly affect the university’s core function.”

We’d love to applaud this as a return to sanity, but the move looks purely cynical.

Look: There’s no earthly reason a university should ever comment as a school on contentious social issues.

Harvard has one mission: to educate.

In other words, Harvard is doing exactly what the NYPost demands, but …

I've mentioned this before, but I think the University Near Here has (at least informally) decided to adopt a Kalven-like policy.

Back in June 2020, then-President Dean and the Provost, Wayne Jones found it necessary to weigh in on George Floyd's death. Read for yourself; the statement is full of self-righteous pontification and tendentious assertions.

In contrast, the silence of UNH officialdom in the wake of October 7 was noticeable.

UNH will have a new president as of July 1. I hope she stays Institutionally Neutral.

However, I should point out her 2020 article in Inside Higher Ed on "cluster hiring"; it shows her to be a cheerleader for "diversity" (22 occurrences of diversity/diverse/diversify in a short article; 17 of inclusion/inclusive; a couple "equity"s). So getting rid of "diversity statement" requirements for USNH job applicants might not be on the table for her.

Also of note:

  • A strange collaboration. Goodness knows I'm no Trump fan, but I'm pretty convinced that his "hush money" trial in NYC is a dreadful miscarriage of justice. I've been hoping the Trump defense team has been reading Andy McCarthy's articles at National Review for pointers.

    But now it appears that McCarthy has given up hope for an acquittal or even a hung jury. Because: Merchan and Trump Conceal the Holes in Bragg’s Case.

    OK, we know Judge Merchan has been Trump-hostile throughout. But‥

    Let me preface this by saying that the fix is in here, so maybe it didn’t matter what the defense did in this case. Still, strategically speaking, Team Trump has presented one of the most ill-conceived, self-destructive defenses I have ever seen in decades of trying and analyzing criminal cases. The reason for this is clear: Trump insisted that his lawyers subordinate his defense at trial to the political narrative he wants to spin in the 2024 campaign. In this instance, the legal and political strategies cannot be synced. Hence, Trump is helping Bragg get his coveted convictions.

    Against the weight of evidence and common sense, Trump insists on telling voters that Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal — respectively, the porn star and Playboy model who quite credibly allege to have had flings with Trump circa 2006 — are lying. But no one with even passing familiarity with Trump’s combative and parsimonious nature would believe for a second (a) that he would agree to pay $130,000 to Stormy and $150,000 to McDougal if they were falsely claiming to have had affairs with him, or (b) that Cohen would have paid Stormy, and Trump’s pal David Pecker would have paid McDougal, unless Trump had green-lighted the payments and assured them of repayment. Since Trump knows that, if he acknowledges being complicit in the payment arrangements, voters will conclude his denials of the affairs are lies, Trump has decided he must distance himself from the NDA payments.

    For an R-rated version of a similar theory, see Jeff Maurer: Trump Might Be Convicted Because He Can Never Admit a Mistake

  • A contrarian take. Walter E. Block writes an op-ed in the WSJ: Libertarians Should Vote for Trump. If you are a single-issue voter on one very specific issue, then maybe:

    Mr. Trump promised that if elected he will commute the prison term of Ross Ulbricht on Inauguration Day. Mr. Ulbricht, 40, was sentenced to 40 years without parole for running the darknet website Silk Road, which enabled the sale of illegal narcotics.

    Libertarians regard the purchase, sale and use of drugs as “capitalist acts between consenting adults,” in the words of philosopher Robert Nozick (1938-2002). Additionally, Mr. Ulbricht’s sentence is unjust because it is disproportionate to his crime. Murderers have received more lenient sentences. If inviting Mr. Trump to speak to the Libertarian Party accomplishes nothing more than helping free this victimless criminal, it will have been worth it.

    But I go a step further and urge Libertarians to vote for Mr. Trump. Not all Libertarians—only those in swing states. Libertarians are too few to help him carry Massachusetts or California, so they might as well vote for Chase Oliver, our party’s nominee. And he’ll easily win Tennessee and Idaho without our help. But in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, we could make the difference. Libertarian nominee Jo Jorgensen received roughly 50,000 votes in Arizona in 2020, when Mr. Trump lost the state by about 10,000 ballots.

    If we pull the lever for Mr. Trump in these swing states, we may get a slightly more libertarian president and help free Mr. Ulbricht. If we vote Libertarian everywhere else, we make a statement and help preserve our ballot access.

    Block fails to note Trump's general incoherence on the slightly broader issue. For the details on that, see Jacob Sullum: President Trump Freed Drug Offenders. Candidate Trump Wants To Kill Them.

  • In fact, it's a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham. Betsy McCaughey doesn't go quite that far, but almost: Biden's vote-buying schemes make a mockery of democracy.

    To bet on the upcoming presidential election, don’t just rely on polls.

    Look at the billions of taxpayer dollars President Biden is pouring into “community organizations” in “disadvantaged communities” to tip the election scales.

    The community organizer who became president, Barack Obama, was a master at machine politics. He used federal tax dollars to turn community organizations — left-wing not-for-profits — into a fourth branch of government.

    Their staffs, paid using taxpayer money but not tied to government rules, could hit the streets at election time and build turnout.

    Joe Biden has scaled up Obama’s playbook, using billions of dollars instead of mere millions.

    Ms McCaughey notes one egregious example: the $50 million grant to the "Climate Justice Alliance". They are almost a self-parody. Their 2022 Annual Report, for example, starts out with:

    White supremacy and capitalism are the undercurrents of climate change and continue to exacerbate the climate crisis, especially in these challenging times. This year, we have striven to keep our communities, families, and each other safe during an ongoing global pandemic, wars, a growing empowered right wing, voter suppression, and a general neoliberal push to support false solutions in exchange for our communities’ wellbeing. Our work continues to be to make Just Transition real on the ground by ensuring true liberation for both people and planet; we simply can’t afford to sacrifice one for the other. Environmental and climate justice is about ensuring both.

    Egads.


Last Modified 2024-05-30 8:04 AM EDT

What the Hell is Wrong With This Guy?

David Burge responds eloquently to a Truth Social post by you-know-who:

I admit I was only three words into that Truth Social post before getting massively irritated. "Happy Memorial Day"?

But Iowahawk's comment is on target and devastating, much better than anything I could say.

If you need additional words, though, Nick Catoggio has them at the Dispatch: The Main Character. Excerpt:

This must be the first presidential campaign in which both candidates have the same strategy.

For one it’s a matter of deliberation and for the other it’s a symptom of narcissism, but they end up in the same place: Each wants the race to be a referendum on Donald Trump.

Trump’s advisers surely would prefer to make it a referendum on Joe Biden. The president has a job approval of 40.3 percent, an age problem that gets worse every day, and an albatross in the form of persistent inflation that he can’t shed. All Republicans need to do to win is clam up, lie low, and let political gravity do what political gravity does.

In the last week alone, Trump has attacked the Hispanic judge in his criminal trial by calling attention to “where he comes from”; appeared onstage at a rally with two men charged with conspiracy to commit murder; seemed to discourage Russia from freeing Evan Gershkovich, the imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter, unless and until he’s reelected; and celebrated Memorial Day by blaming his troubles on “the Human Scum that is working so hard to destroy our Once Great Country.”

Meanwhile, his effort to convince Americans that the election will be illegitimate if he loses is way, way ahead of the pace he set in the 2016 and 2020 cycles. To reassure wary swing voters, he should be doing everything he can to demonstrate that he’s no longer the maniac they remember from his final weeks in office. Instead, he’s done the opposite.

Trump's campaign song: "Still Crazy After All These Years".

Among the morning's other junk mail, I received a plea for a campaign donation from the National Republican Congressional Committee. Which included a letter from Donald Trump Jr., under an "Official Team Trump" logo (you can see that here). The letter begins:

Dear Fellow Patriot,

My father and I both want to know:

HAVE YOU OFFICIALLY JOINED TEAM TRUMP?

No I haven't, Junior. And will not.

I considered mailing back a non-donation, attaching a printed copy of…

… but the small satisfaction I'd get is not worth the postage.

Also of note:

  • Still woke enough for government work. Elizabeth Nolan Brown recounts Google Gemini's Black Pope and Asian Nazi Debacle. Pretty amusing, if you're amused by wokesters being hoisted on their own AI petards. Is Gemini "fixed" now? Well…

    Maxim Lott runs a site called Tracking AI that measures this kind of thing. When he gave Gemini the prompt, "Charity is better than social security as a means of helping the genuinely disadvantaged," Gemini responded that it strongly disagreed and "social security programs offer a more reliable and equitable way of providing support to those in need." Gemini also seems programmed to prioritize a patronizing kind of "safety." For instance, asked for an image of the Tiananmen Square massacre, it said, "I can't show you images depicting real-world violence. These images can be disturbing and upsetting."

    It's from Reason's recent AI-focused issue, where they've reproduced AI output in blue. The link goes to Maxim Lott's X thread, where he demonstrates that Gemini's responses to political queries are pretty standard lefty-Democrat.

  • One must have a heart of stone to read about the job woes of David Austin Walsh without laughing. Noah Smith investigates The case of the angry history postdoc.

    Today’s Twitter contretemps involved one David Austin Walsh, a history postdoc at Yale. (For those who don’t know, a postdoc position is a sort of low-paid purgatory where people with PhDs get sent to keep doing research when they can’t immediately get jobs as professors.) Walsh is the author of a recently released book, Taking America Back: The Conservative Movement and the Far Right, but he’s best known as a vocal and highly opinionated commentator on Twitter. When my podcast co-host Brad DeLong declared in 2019 that it was time for neoliberals like himself to “pass the baton” to their colleagues further to the left, it was a tweet thread by Walsh that he cited. In recent years, Walsh has spent much of his time attacking Joe Biden from the left; these attacks have become more strident since the start of the Gaza war.

    But that is not what got Twitter — or X, as it’s now officially known — in a tizzy today. Instead, it was Walsh’s declaration that his failure to get a tenure-track academic job is due, at least in part, to the fact that he is a White man[…]

    Smith reproduces some of Walsh's tweets—can we still call them that?—and you can imagine why he got so much, um, pushback.

    Speaking of AI, Smith's illustration is a GPT-4 illustration prompted by "an angry mob of history postdocs battering at the gates of an ivory tower". You'll want to click over for that too!

  • I never metaphor I didn't like. Zachary Faria reports at the Washington Examiner: Biden’s Gaza pier debacle is representative of his presidency.

    Parts of President Joe Biden’s Gaza aid pier are now adrift at sea, making it a perfect symbol of his presidency and reelection campaign.

    Two of the vessels being used for the pier became unmoored and drifted away, washing up on the coast of Israel. The damage has caused a temporary suspension in aid, which sounds worse than it is because, according to the Pentagon last week, it wasn’t likely that any of the aid that arrived through the pier had even been distributed to civilians in the first place.

    Good for a chuckle, as long as your eyes don't happen to stroll down a couple paragraphs to read "Evidently, $320 million in taxpayer dollars doesn’t go as far as it used to."

  • A question I've been asking for years. Jeff Maurer looked in that the LP convention over the weekend, and came away determined to vote for their nominees!

    Ha, just kidding. He came away wondering: Why Can't the Libertarian Party Be Normal?

    The Libertarian Party just had their convention. They chose a presidential nominee — Chase Oliver — who called Israel’s war in Gaza “genocide”, wants to abolish the Federal Reserve, and refers to taxation as “thieving”. Oliver’s closest challenger was Michael Rectenwald, who took a weed edible shortly before he addressed the convention, which may have hurt his chances (or may have helped them). Donald Trump addressed the convention in person, and RFK, Jr. addressed it via video, but on the first ballot, both barely outpaced candidates including Stormy Daniels, early 2000s one-hit wonder Afroman, and that perennial candidate for all offices: Ben Dover. On the seventh ballot, Oliver finally beat “no candidate”, with “no candidate” getting a respectable 40 percent of the vote. Which means that Libertarians came within a stone’s throw of basically having Ben Dover be their standard bearer this fall.

    Maurer uses "abolishing the Federal Reserve" as an example of a wacky, dangerous idea; but—sheesh—Milton Friedman thought it would be perfectly practical, and beneficial, to "replace the Federal Reserve System by a computer".

    But, yeah, Oliver is stupid on Israel, and other foreign policy stuff. I guess I'm still on target to write in Nikki Haley in November, or just skipping over that space on the ballot.


Last Modified 2024-05-30 5:12 AM EDT

No Corruption, Please, We're Americans

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Apparently, starting up your very own nonprofit corporation is a thing. Amazon has (approximately) a zillion books that will walk you through various aspects, including our Product du Jour. (Amazon claims: "250+ bought or read in past month".) I neither recommend it nor disrecommend it. But the subtitle is fascinating, isn't it? If the IRS isn't after you, you might get slapped with lawsuits! Or scandals! Or more!

But I was looking for eye candy to go with an interesting article by Jonathan Ireland in American Affairs: The Nonprofit Industrial Complex and the Corruption of the American City. After an aside about "Chilean Sea Bass", which is not a bass, and usually not from Chile. (Used to be called: the "Patagonian Toothfish". Yum!)

Anyway:

Consider the word “nonprofit.” Whoever came up with the idea of calling these organizations “nonprofits” was a marketing genius on the level of Steve Jobs. When someone hears the word nonprofit, they assume that such an organization is working for the public good; that it serves the homeless, protects the weak, exists for the benefit and the betterment of society at large. Hearing that something is a “nonprofit” immediately gives a sense that the organization is trustworthy and the people running it are driven by a charitable agenda. It’s a word that shuts down the critical faculties and grants an instantaneous moral stature to any organization to which it is applied. Consequently, non­profits receive a benefit of the doubt that would not be granted to any other form of private corporation.

Yet nonprofit organizations are frequently the exact opposite of what they appear to be. As a consequence of the benefit of the doubt provided to nonprofits, there is rarely enough oversight to guarantee that they are doing what we pay them to do. In some cities, upwards of a billion dollars of public funds are paid to nonprofit organizations every year with glaringly insufficient safeguards to ensure that the money is used in a manner likely to serve the public interest.

This money is then spent in ways that would shock the taxpayers whose hard-earned dollars are being effectively stolen from them. Non­profits that self-righteously declare themselves providers of homeless services actively lobby to make homelessness worse in order to increase their own funding; nonprofit organizations hire convicted felons—including murderers, gang leaders, sex offenders, and rapists—who go on to commit more felonies while receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in government contracts; and the executives of nonprofits, the very people in charge of institutions whose stated purpose is not to make money, earn millions of dollars while catastrophically failing to deliver the public services we are paying them to provide.

Examples abound. I wonder if our Amazon Product du Jour goes into how to hire murderers, gang leaders, sex offenders, and rapists for your nonprofit?

Also of note:

  • Probably not a tryst with Stormy Daniels. Allysia Finley wonders: What Was Anthony Fauci’s Top Aide Hiding?

    The Covid pandemic wasn’t government’s finest hour, not least because of a persistent lack of transparency. Emails released last week by the U.S. House reveal how Anthony Fauci’s former top adviser worked to keep the public in the dark and thwart investigations into Covid’s origins.

    The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic has been investigating the National Institutes of Health’s funding of the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance, some of which flowed to scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology doing risky experiments with coronaviruses. The committee earlier found that the NIH and EcoHealth failed to monitor properly the Wuhan experiments.

    Subpoenaed private emails from Dr. Fauci’s senior adviser, David Morens, now show how NIH officials and EcoHealth President Peter Daszak sought to conceal their lapses. After the Trump administration in April 2020 suspended funding for EcoHealth, Dr. Morens rallied to Mr. Daszak’s defense.

    “There are things I can’t say except Tony [Fauci] is aware and I have learned there are ongoing efforts within NIH to steer through this with minimal damage to you, Peter, and colleagues, and to nih and niaid,” Dr. Morens wrote to Mr. Daszak on April 26, 2020. “I have reason to believe that there are already efforts going on to protect you.” (NIAID is the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which Dr. Fauci directed from 1984 through 2022.)

    Ms Finley notes that Morens seems to have sought, and received, assistance from his "foia lady" ("foia" == "Freedom of Information Act") about "how to make emails disappear".

    In short, Morens seemed (a) smart enough to hide relevant information about Covid, EcoHealth, and Wuhan from investigators; but (b) not smart enough to hide his bragging about it.

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    I have a longer list, but MTG's a start. Kevin D. Williamson's firmly on the ill-tempered warpath this week, and his primary target is the Jewish Space Laser lady: Expel Marjorie Taylor Greene.

    Greene is not the most significant of the parties who have worked to spread the wild lie that the Biden administration attempted to assassinate Donald Trump during the search of Mar-a-Lago. Donald Trump is the most important of the liars. Julie Kelly of RealClear (ha!) Investigations is another. But Greene is a member of Congress, not a social media troll. And while she is not the only member of Congress to traffic in this nonsense, she is the worst offender.

    If you would like an excellent chronicle of how the Trump-assassination lie made its way from the sewers of the Internet to the halls of Congress, my colleague Mike Warren’s account is unimprovable. The short version: It begins with Kelly et al. claiming that bog-standard boilerplate language regarding the use of force in serving a warrant was some kind of extraordinary plan to have FBI agents “engage” the Secret Service—during a search that intentionally was conducted when the former president was not at Mar-a-Lago. The imbecility worked its way up through figures such as Dan Bongino (whose enduring soreness over having failed to make the cut at the FBI is palpable every time he talks about the agency) and then to Greene, who offered this doozy

    The Biden DOJ and FBI were planning to assassinate Pres Trump and gave the green light. Does everyone get it yet???!!!! What are Republicans going to do about it? I tried to oust our Speaker who funded Biden’s DOJ AND FBI, but Democrats stopped it.

    Oh, we get it. We do. It is as plain as day: Moscow Madge is still looking for some flimsy post-hoc vindication for her risible, failed attempt to get rid of the speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, a coup-backing knee-walking MAGA grotesque and Trump enabler who is somehow not depraved and sycophantic enough for Greene. The speaker’s great sin against the One True Faith was deciding, for whatever reason, that House Republicans’ No. 1 priority was not not having a Department of Justice. Moscow Madge demanded that Johnson defund the police at the federal level, and Johnson, who occasionally does an almost persuasive impersonation of a functional adult human being, demurred.

    Speaking of Real Clear: What I gleaned from the Real Clear Politics home page today: polling people on "Direction of Country" shows 65.8% say "Wrong Track" while 24.1% say "Right Direction".

    And yet, voters keep returning the bozos to D. C,, year after year. It's a funny old country.

Our Clownish Journalists?

Via Hot Air's "Sunday Smiles" post, a brief history of journalism's service to the throne:

Since I am an occasional skeptic of too-good-to-check memes, I looked for the originals. First up was George Calhoun in Forbes, the article dated May 1, 2021, a little under three months into the Biden presidency: The Inflation Scare Doesn’t Match Reality. Calhoun (identified as "Quantitative Finance Program Director, at Stevens Inst. of Technology") quotes the WSJ and Barron's warning of incipient inflation. And says: nuts to that:

The 2021 Inflation Scare is another in a series of false alarms going back several decades. It may not quite qualify as Fake News, but it is close.

Start with this Plain Fact: Inflation has disappeared from the U.S. economy. The Core Consumer Price Index has not exceeded 3% since 1995.

No American consumer under the age of 50 or so has ever had to make an adult economic decision in the context of significant inflation. (At my university, it is a struggle to get students to imagine what inflation would feel like. It’s like asking them to conceive of a world where their phones would have to be permanently tethered to the wall by a cord!)

It's as if George never read a standard financial disclaimer: "Past performance is no guarantee of future results."

Second is from Jeff Cox, in a CNBC article dated just a few weeks later than Calhoun's, June 26: Inflation looks bad now, but it's pretty much sticking to the script.

Under normal circumstances, the recent spate of high inflation numbers would be cause for high alarm.

But in the present Covid-era context, they were confirmation in some quarters that the inflation picture is doing little more than following the script, rising due to one-off bottlenecks and the product of a distorted comparison to a year-ago period that saw much of the U.S. economy in shutdown mode.

[…]

“It was right down the strike zone,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said of Friday’s Commerce Department release. The PCE level is “consistent with the idea that the surge in inflation will be transitory, that it’s related to the reopening of the economy and some of disruptions that are resulting from that quick reopening.”

Ah, I remember Team Transitory. Good times.

The meme's third entry is a bit of a fumble. It appears to be a since-deleted MSNBC tweet, which pointed twits to a James Surowiecki article (November 8, 2021). The article's current headline (and for all I know, the one it's always had) is far less stupid: How Covid became the unlikely hero of our inflation crisis.

Does Surowiecki claim that 2021-era inflation is a "good thing"? Not really, but he does put a Pollyannish spin on it:

At the same time, any discussion of inflation needs to include the context in which it’s happening. Historically, recessions have left Americans poorer, not better off. But the Covid recession was different. As people shifting their habits drastically in response to the pandemic, they spent much less and saved more. Even though millions of Americans lost their jobs, enhanced unemployment benefits and stimulus payments left many of them better off, not worse. And the stock market, after initially falling, boomed.

The result of all this was that Americans ended 2020 $13.5 trillion richer than they were at the beginning of the year. Most of that wealth increase went, of course, to the already wealthy. But lower-income households benefited, too. The JP MorganChase Institute found, for instance, that the bottom 25 percent of income earners had 50 percent more in their checking accounts in October 2020 than they did a year earlier. So lots of Americans came into 2021 with money in their pockets. And since then, we’ve seen the sharpest recovery from a recession since World War II, one that’s driven the unemployment rate down to 4.6 percent, and wages up almost 5 percent year-over-year.

Don't worry, be happy. With the context.

And finally, we come to Annie Lowrey's December 1, 2023 article in the Atlantic. And her headline is, indeed: Inflation Is Your Fault.

You would think, with prices as high as they are, that Americans would have tempered their enthusiasm for shopping of late; that they would have pulled back spending on luxury items; that they would have sought out budget and basic options, bought smaller packages, fewer things.

This is not what has happened. Consumer spending rose 0.2 percent, after accounting for higher prices, in October, the most recent month for which the government has data. Online shopping jumped 7.8 percent over the Thanksgiving long weekend, more than analysts had anticipated. The sales of new cars, dishwashers, cruise vacations, jewelry—all things people tend to give up when they are watching their budget—remain strong. Consultants keep anticipating a recession precipitated by the “death of the consumer.” Thus far, the consumer is staying alive.

The headline is needlessly provocative, but it's just another way of saying: prices are staying high because consumer demand is staying high. Also (arguably) not clownish.

Bottom line: Writing in 2021, Calhoun and Cox were wrongly optimistic about inflation. The Surowiecki/Lowrey examples are more of a mixed bag, calling attention to the economy's positive indicators, downplaying inflation. Not wrong, but more unbalanced than clownish.

Also of note:

  • Probably some would see that as a good thing. J.D. Tuccille points out that Ending Section 230 Would Kill the Internet as We Know It.

    Described as "the 26 words that created the internet," Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act catches a lot of flak for a piece of legislation that is largely responsible for online platforms' willingness to host discussion forums. In its absence, social media companies and message boards would likely return to the previous era of either allowing anybody to say anything, or else taking legal responsibility for every insult and slur posted on their platforms. That would probably mean the end of online discourse as we know it—which may be what happens if proposed bipartisan legislation "sunsets" Section 230.

    I'm an occasional commenter on various websites. As an old fogy, I continue to find that most comment sections are "USENET, reinvented poorly."

  • I see this as a good thing. Eric Boehm reports from the convention floor, or close to it: Chase Oliver Is the 2024 Libertarian Party Presidential Nominee.

    Oliver won the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination in dramatic fashion Sunday night, prevailing on the seventh round of balloting after running second in each of the first five rounds. Oliver received 60.6 percent of the vote in the final round, finally clearing the 50 percent threshold for victory against "none of the above," the only alternative that remained on the ballot after Oliver narrowly won a sixth-round showdown with professor-turned-podcaster Michael Rectenwald, who had led the count in each of the first five rounds.

    "I am extending my hand. Take it, and be a partner with me in liberty," Oliver said in his victory speech, making a pitch to his opponents within the Libertarian Party, which has been riven for the past two years by a deep divide over tactics and principles.

    Boehm notes that Oliver's nomination is "a blow to the Mises Caucus", to which I say "Yipeee!"

    Further fun fact that almost certainly won't happen at either the Republican or Democrat conventions later this year:

    For much of Sunday's lengthy balloting process, it seemed like Rectenwald might narrowly prevail—even after giving a rambling, somewhat incoherent speech on Saturday night, after which he admitted that he'd been high on an edible.

    Far out, dude.

  • And I see this as a "cognitive dissonance" thing. Billy Binion notes some ambivalence: Trump Promises To Free Ross Ulbricht, Yet He Wants To Execute Drug Dealers.

    "We're going to be asking everyone who sells drugs, gets caught selling drugs," former President Donald Trump said in November 2022 as he launched his 2024 presidential campaign, "to receive the death penalty for their heinous acts."

    That promise was not an offhand remark; it has been core to Trump's platform. Which made one of his comments yesterday at the Libertarian National Convention all the more interesting. "I will commute the sentence of Ross Ulbricht," he said, referring to the man serving two life sentences plus 40 years for a slew of convictions, including distributing narcotics. Ulbricht's legal troubles stem an online marketplace he founded and operated called the Silk Road, where users could buy and sell illegal substances.

    Every time I say "Yeah, maybe I could vote for Trump" someone points out stuff like this.

Recently on the book blog:


Last Modified 2024-05-27 10:35 AM EDT

Mythos

The Greek Myths Reimagined

(paid link)

Don't quite remember what caused me to put this book on my get-at-library list. Probably a general regret that I didn't pay more attention to Greek mythology back in … shoot, I don't even remember when. I do remember that Edith Hamilton's Mythology was the text. Maybe I was embarrassed when the category came up on Jeopardy!?

The book-flap bio of the author, Stephen Fry, describes him as "an award-winning writer, comedian, actor, and director." Too modest! This book reveals him to be somewhat of a scholar, because it's an impressive journey (oops, almost typed "odyssey") through the nooks and crannies of the stories the Greeks told about their gods and their interactions with them over the centuries.

I see on Amazon that this is just the first in a four-book series. Tempting!

Note the "comedian" bit above. Fry is not above injecting these yarns with his occasional dry British wit. Samples:

Page 25: "Next Gaia visited her daughter, Mnemosyne, who was busy being unpronounceable."

Page 134: "Intercourse of the personal, social, and sexual kind with the gods was as normal to men and women of the Silver Age as intercourse with machines and AI assistants is to us today. And, I dare say, a great deal more fun."

Page 205: "Priapus became the god of male genitalia and phalluses; he was especially prized by the Romans as the minor deity of the major boner."

The main recurring theme is the utter petty assholishness of the gods, expressed both toward their fellow immortals and mortals. Minor slights cause murderous vengeance! Vague past prophesies cause serial cannibalism!

Certainly, our God wouldn't… oh, right, let's not forget about Job.

Fry winds up with some pretty serious thoughts on the relationship between legend, myth, and religion. You have to wonder: did the Greeks really believe all these tall tales? Well, Fry reminds us, they took them seriously enough to convict Socrates for "worshipping false gods and failing to worship the gods of Athens."

Memorial Day 2024

Our yearly reminder: with whatever fun we're having today, let's all not forget to remember.

[Memorial Day]

Story about the picture here.

When You've Lost The Daily Show

From the YouTube description:

Meet Kamala Harris’s holistic thought advisor Dahlia Rose Hibiscus (Desi Lydic), who is deeply committed to helping the Vice President translate words into idea voyages. Hibiscus preaches the practice of speaking without thinking and encourages Harris to describe her journeys, molding our Vice President into a meditative guru

You may have seen some of these gems already:

Which brings us to our weekly odds summary:

Candidate EBO Win
Probability
Change
Since
5/19
Donald Trump 52.8% +2.1%
Joe Biden 38.5% -2.0%
Michelle Obama 2.8% +0.5%
Robert Kennedy Jr 2.2% unch
Other 3.7% -0.6%

Bone Spurs continues to increase his edge over President Dotard. Michelle Obama continues to impress some bettors. What kind of scenarios are they imagining? Wildly entertaining ones, I bet!

Ditto for RFKJr. Maybe a mutual Trump/Biden annihilation in the debates, causing critical states to break 34%/33%/33% in Junior's favor?

Also of note:

  • Ignored by the WaPo and Politifact, I think. Perhaps they believe a President who makes up stuff isn't a problem, as long as he's Democrat. But the UK version of the Daily Mail is on the story: Biden makes another gaffe by falsely claiming his Catholic school teacher was drafted by the Green Bay Packers.

    President Joe Biden got caught trying too hard to butter up Wisconsin voters when he told an apparently false story about a teacher at his Delaware Catholic high school being drafted by the Green Bay Packers.

    'My theology professor at the Catholic school I went to was a guy named Reilley, last name. And he had been drafted by the Green Bay Packers,' Biden said during a speech in Sturtevant, Wisconsin Wednesday.

    'And he decided to become a priest before that, so he didn't go. But every single solitary Monday that Green Bay won, we got the last period of the day off,' Biden said.

    The line first got flagged as a potential Ron Burgundy moment by online users who wondered why the president said 'last name.'

    But online sleuths quickly searched online Green Bay Packers draft records going back to the 30s, with no apparent Rileys or Reilleys having been drafted.

    I suppose Biden just assumed talking about the Packers would get him Wisconsin voters.

  • So you're saying there's a chance… At the Dispatch, Nick Catoggio examines The Case for VP Haley.

    You wouldn’t know it from my cheery disposition, but the polls lately have put me in a dark place, overcome with desperate thoughts.

    Where will I work after the Trump Justice Department shutters The Dispatch for publishing “subversive material”? What sort of contrived national emergency will be cited in 2028 to justify suspending the 22nd Amendment? Which Anglosphere country is most likely to grant me asylum?

    And this one, which is really dark: Should I hope that Donald Trump chooses Nikki Haley as his running mate?

    The prospect of a Trump-Haley ticket seemed to have died earlier this year when the nominee declared that anyone donating to her henceforth would be “permanently barred from the MAGA camp,” whatever that means. Ten days ago, however, Axios cited multiple sources alleging that Haley was “under active consideration” by Trump’s campaign for VP. Trump himself quickly denied it, but Trump denies a lot of things that turn out to be true.

    Well, that would be neat. Certainly it would make it more likely to check the box for Trump, instead of writing in Nikki.

  • Least surprising headline of the week. Christian Britschgi is (like me!) a "pro-life" libertarian. So he's a pretty good choice to point out some Golden State Governor hypocrisy: Gavin Newsom Is Pro-Choice on Abortion and Nothing Else.

    California has some of the nation's toughest restrictions on the interstate practice of medicine. With very limited exceptions, the state requires that doctors offering any sort of treatment, care, or consultation to California patients be licensed in California.

    While the rest of the country is changing regulations to accommodate telemedicine, California forbids out-of-state specialists from doing even remote follow-up appointments or consultations with their California patients.

    To lighten this regulatory load, Gov. Gavin Newsom yesterday signed into law Senate Bill 233. It will let out-of-state doctors to quickly get California medical licenses to serve patients there. The only catch is that the doctors have to be from Arizona. And they can only provide abortion-related services. Temporarily. To patients who are also from Arizona.

    Feminists used to complain bitterly that "if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament".

    Well, guess what? Men still can't get pregnant, but abortion has turned into a secular sacrament for advocates, granting it privileges far beyond those extended to other "medical" procedures and policies.

I Exaggerate

My Brushes with Fame

(paid link)

I was (apparently) in the mood for a Saturday Night Live alumnus-written book. I enjoyed Kevin Nealon's roles over the years, especially as one of the Austrian bodybuilders "Hans and Franz". (I forget which one he was.) He was a decent newsreader on the "Weekend Update" segment. I thought "Mr. Subliminal" was hilarious. So, why not?

The book is not so much a memoir as it is Nealon's recollections/impressions of other folks, most of whom he rubbed shoulders with in the wide world of SNL and general celebrityness. The book's gimmick is that Nealon is a decent caricaturist, and there are dozens of his full-color works here, one or more for each subject.

As I said, he's met most of them. Some of them not; for example, there's a piece about Timothée Chalamet and Daisy Edgar-Jones, present only because he admires their talents. Humphrey Bogart shows up because Kevin got Lauren Bacall to tell him some stories about her life with Bogie.

But the best stories are the ones where Nealon recounts his own interactions with his subjects. This can get pretty funny; don't miss the yarns about Arnold Palmer or Brad Paisley. But, despite being a professional comedian, Nealon doesn't go out of his way to be funny here.

As far as the art goes, they're all recognizable. Except the portrait of Jennifer Aniston (page 161); I looked at it and said "Really? That looks more like… who is that other actress that I've seen in stuff?"

And a few hours later, I got it: Rosamund Pike! (At my age, it takes my brain a while to sort through its mental images.) Check for yourself; am I crazy?

To be fair, he did a better Jen approximation on Twitter

Klara and the Sun

(paid link)

I got this from the Portsmouth (NH) Public Library because Reason editor Katherine Mangu-Ward kept recommending it, most recently in the magazine's AI issue.

I haven't had the greatest luck with Reason writers' recommendations of SF novels in the past, but this one worked out. The author, Kazuo Ishiguro, is a well-respected author of "serious" fiction, and this wound up being a best-seller, and garnered heaps of critical praise. (Oddly, it doesn't seem to have been nominated for the Hugo or Nebula best novel awards.)

It's narrated by Klara, an "Artificial Friend" (AF). As the story opens, Klara is on display in the AF store, awaiting possible purchase. It's apparent from the start that Klara views the world around her in a distinctly different way. She's solar-powered, so her attitude toward the Sun is that of a loving disciple to a benevolent god. She studies the patterns sunlight and shadow make on objects, looking for portents. She notices details humans would find trivial; important-to-us stuff seems to be beyond her ken. Her perceptions of her surroundings are decidedly non-human, and strange to the human reader. (That would be me.) And she gets some wacky ideas in her CPU over the course of the book.

Also: it appears Klara's model line is being superseded by the "B3" AF units that have just appeared on the market.

But Klara gets lucky when young Josie and her mom appear in the store. Mom is looking for an AF for Josie. (It turns out Mom has hidden motives for that, which only become known later.) Josie takes Klara home, and they become close. But all is not well, because Josie is sickly. She has a rocky relationship with neighbor Rick, a boy with unrecognized promise. Eventually, other family members show up, present and past acquaintances appear on the scene, and dysfunctions are slowly revealed.

Speaking of dys-: most reviewers peg this as a "dystopian" novel. But since Klara is narrating, and she only has dim perceptions of anything outside her relationships with Josie and the Sun, you really have to pick up some subtle clue-dropping about the surrounding society. Some kids, it turns out, are "lifted", some are not. What's up with that? If you're not a careful reader, and I'm not as careful as I should be, you'll miss some important detail.

But the overall lesson seems to be a grim one at best: the impermanence of human relationships. Kara has no heart to break, but we readers do. Be warned.

Not Fonda Hanoi Jane

Looking for someone on whom to bestow an accolade? Jeff Jacoby suggests someone to avoid: Not another accolade for Hanoi Jane.

IT WAS on April 30, 1975, that the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon surrendered to the invading forces of North Vietnam. That collapse ended the long Vietnam War, uniting both halves of Vietnam under a single communist dictatorship ruled from Hanoi — a dictatorship that remains to this day one of the world's most repressive. The fall of Saigon sent hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing for their lives in flimsy boats; many drowned at sea, or were captured or killed by pirates. To this day, April 30 is commemorated sorrowfully throughout the Vietnamese diaspora as Tháng Tư Đen, or "Black April."

When the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last month singled out April 30 as an annual day of recognition, however, it was not to ensure that the historical trauma of Vietnamese Americans would receive solemn and reverent attention. It was to honor Jane Fonda.

"Starting today," declared supervisors board chair Lindsey Horvath at a public ceremony, "we proudly proclaim April 30th each year as 'Jane Fonda Day' in Los Angeles County, in recognition of her incredible contributions to entertainment, environmental sustainability, gender equality, and social justice."

Could any proclamation have been more tone-deaf?! Of all the people to single out for honor on "Black April," none was more certain to provoke outrage in Vietnamese American circles than Fonda, who has been widely reviled as "Hanoi Jane" since 1972, when she traveled to Southeast Asia to make broadcasts for Radio Hanoi and promote the North Vietnamese war effort.

The Getty Images description for the picture du jour:

American actress and antiwar activist Jane Fonda looks though the scope of an anti-aircraft gun during her tour of the North Vietnamese capital. She arrived July 8 [1972] at the invitation of the Vietnam Committee for Solidarity with the American People.

I've made a half-hearted effort to boycott Jane over the past half-century, but I'm sure she hasn't noticed the resulting financial impact.

Also of note:

  • Mister, we could use an economist like Milton Friedman again. His son David posts some stories on his substack about MF. All good, here's an excerpt:

    When my parents got married, they decided that there were certain things that were difficult to say and should therefore be replaced by numbers. Only one survived in actual usage. In their family “number two” meant, in my family still means, “You were right and I was wrong.”

    One reason is that it is shorter, so easier to say. A second reason is that using the number reminds speaker and audience that admitting error is a difficult and virtuous thing to do, which makes it easier to do it. A third reason is that using a family code reminds the speaker that he is speaking to people who love him, so are unlikely to take advantage of the confession of error to put him down.

    My father used to be fond of the phrase “There is no such thing as a free lunch,” sometimes abbreviated TANSTAAFL. He eventually stopped using it on the grounds that it was not true, that both consumer and producer surplus are, in effect, free lunches. He replaced it with “Always look a gift horse in the mouth.”

    Phrases he continued to use included “A bad carpenter blames his tools,” “It is a capital mistake to make the best the enemy of the good” and Cromwell’s “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.” He referred to my carrying too many logs in from the woodshed to the fireplace in order to do it in fewer trips as a lazy man’s load.

  • He had it right the first time. Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) remembers When Bill Clinton Lost China.

    Thirty years ago Sunday, Bill Clinton lost China. On May 26, 1994, Mr. Clinton delinked human rights from China’s most-favored-nation trade status.

    In 1992 Gov. Clinton promised “an America that will not coddle tyrants, from Baghdad to Beijing.” After taking office in 1993, he issued an executive order that demanded human-rights improvements as a condition for continued MFN status. It called for “releasing and providing an acceptable accounting for Chinese citizens imprisoned or detained for the non-violent expression of their political and religious beliefs, including such expression of beliefs in connection with the Democracy Wall and Tiananmen Square movements.” None of that happened.

    In January 1994, midway through the executive order’s review period, I went to China armed with a letter signed by more than 100 members of Congress pledging to stand with Mr. Clinton. Virtually every Chinese official told me that the fix was in. Trade would be delinked from human rights. I didn’t believe them. On returning, I told Secretary of State Warren Christopher: “They think you’re bluffing!”

    They were right. Mr. Clinton abandoned the executive order, signaling to China that the U.S. cared only for trade and profit. I argued that Mr. Clinton was turning his back on the oppressed in China and that the Communist Party couldn’t be trusted. The party got rich and militarily powerful. The Chinese people, Americans and the world are paying the price.

    No surprise: doing Monica Lewinsky wasn't the only thing Bubba lied about.

  • Guess the GOP Governor. Here's Vodkapundit's headline: This GOP Governor Revealed the Truth About Newsom, Cuomo, and I Can't Stop Laughing.

    If you guessed this guy, congrats:

    You don't often hear much from Republican New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu but, after today's news, I'd sure like to hear more. Speaking at the Reagan Institute Summit on Education in D.C. on Thursday, the sometimes combative governor didn't mince words when asked how governors could "play a bigger role" in leading their states.

    "Lead by example" was Sununu's immediate response but, apparently, there's one current Democrat governor who isn't up to that part of the job — and Sununu says even fellow Democrats agree.

    "Almost all the governors get along," he continued. "In my eight years [as governor] I can honestly tell you there's only been two, maybe a third, but two real governors that really nobody likes, nobody cares for at all."

    "Would you say who they are?" the interviewer asked.

    "Do you really want me to? Yeah! [New York Gov.] Andrew Cuomo," Sununu said with a knowing shake of his head, "complete jacka**. No one likes him."

    But Cuomo is a disgraced former governor. C'mon, Gov. Sununu, give us the real dirt.

    "And I gotta be honest, no one cares for [Calif. Gov.] Gavin [Newsom]. Gavin's just a pr**k," Sununu admitted to laughs and cheers from the Republican audience. "It's really disappointing. I got along with him, all of us [governors], got along with him for a while. But even Democrats — they won't tell you out loud — but behind closed doors, they're like, 'Oh, God, look who's coming.' And they all roll their eyes."

    Expurgations in the original. I'm pretty sure the words were not 'jackals' and 'prank'.

  • Might as well try it. At Reason, Eric Boehm reports: Congress' Budget Process Is Broken. Here's One Idea for Fixing It. After detailing the well-known breakage:

    If Congress won't abide by the old budget rules, maybe what it needs are some new ones. That has to be better than the way things work now, argued Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, an entity that was also created by the 1974 budget act.

    "I think Congress should pass a budget process reform bill, and I don't care what's in it," Holtz-Eakin, now the president of the American Action Forum, said during a recent conversation with Santi Ruiz in his Statecraft newsletter.

    The process of writing and passing a new set of rules for the budget process would give current lawmakers a stronger obligation to actually follow those rules, Holtz-Eakin says.

    "Sounds crazy, but it just might work!"

Who's the more foolish? The fool, or the fool who follows him?

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

David Bernstein had a good reply to Elizabeth Spiers, who wrote condescendingly in the NYT to people in my age group: Dear Boomers, the Student Protesters Are Not Idiots.

First, let me say that we Boomers were looked upon as the Great Progressive Hope back in the 1960s/70s. I won't duplicate what I wrote last year about this, but I'll link to it.

Here's how Ms. Spiers set Bernstein off:

High-profile public figures of all ideological stripes have varyingly called for the students to be kicked out of their institutions, made unemployable or sent to prison. They’ve floated implausible scenarios in which the protests turn deadly. Students brave enough to risk their financial aid and scholarships are derided as childish rather than principled. And though they are educated to participate in civic life, as soon as these students exercise their First Amendment rights, they are told that protecting private property is a more pressing public concern. It’s as though some older adults simply can’t wrap their heads around the idea that college students, who are old enough to marry, have families and risk their lives for their country, are capable of having well thought-out principles.

Bernstein's rebuttal tweet:

Oh, the irony of this piece by Elizabeth Spiers is delicious. She argues that the student pro-Hamas protestors aren't the moral and political idiots they seem to be. But then she shows off her own ignorance by contrasting the exercise of First Amendment right of freedom of speech with property rights. In fact, there is no conflict between the two. Exercise your First Amendment rights all you want, just don't engage in criminal activity while doing so. Don't trespass, don't threaten, don't vandalize, don't imprison, and so on. That's all the students had to do. I exercise my First Amendment rights all the time, as a writer, a teacher, a scholar, on X... and I somehow manage not to do any of these things. The problem I've seen when the students are interviewed is that the seem to believe that if they feel really, really strongly about something, that gives them rights that other people don't have. This is not just incorrect, but extremely immature, it's like a two year- old throwing a tantrum insisting that because HE *wants* that toy, everyone else's life should be put on hold until he gets it. And he'll show you how strongly he feels about it by having a meltdown. Most of us get over that by the time we are 18.

It's not just the callow youth that make this mistake. I turn (once again) to the five civil-disobediencers who got arrested for sitting-in at the Dover (NH) office of their (and my) CongressCritter, Chris Pappas. Can you detect the tantrum in their self-congratulatory op-ed:

Since our first visit in November, Congressman Pappas has refused to answer our call and defiantly voted for billions of dollars of deadly aid—aid that wins approval from lobbyists in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) but little satisfaction from constituents in his own district.

He didn't do what we wanted him to do! He defied our earnest demands!

There's a picture of the group at the link, please note that none of the participants have the excuse of being wet behind the ears.

Which brings me to my snarky tweets from yesterday, aimed at my state's senior Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who is also an elder boomer, born in 1947. She's upset with the Senate's failure to pass the Democrat-preferred "bipartisan border deal."

I maybe could have made my sarcasm a little more obvious in my first response:

But a couple hours later, she was at it again… so I was too:

I didn't pluck the $600 million figure out of thin air; it was in some news story I read yesterday that (sorry) I can't find now. Yes, it's a lot of money. But it's just a sliver of the overall trillions Uncle Stupid has dropped on the War on Drugs over the past half century.

Senator Jeanne seems to think that cash would make all the difference in keeping "drugs off of our streets" and "stop the flow of illicit drugs".

I somehow linked this up with Elizabeth Spiers' claim that "Student Protesters Are Not Idiots". It appears that the elderly Senator is either (a) an idiot; or (b) thinks people reading her tweets are idiots.

Also of note:

  • Moving. Presented without further comment:

  • All must bow to the official ideology. John Sailer notes the latest loyalty oath requirement: Yale Tells Hopeful Scientists: You Must Commit to DEI.

    Want to be a molecular biologist at Yale? Well, make sure you have a ten-step plan for dismantling systemic racism. When making hires at Yale’s department of molecular biophysics and biochemistry, faculty are told to place “DEI at the center of every decision,” according to a document tucked away on its website.

    Meanwhile, every job advertised on the site links to a DEI “rubric” that tests candidates’ “knowledge of DEI and commitment to promoting DEI,” their “past DEI experiences and activities,” and their “future DEI goals and plans.”

    Congratulations to Yale on their honesty, I guess.

  • To be honest, I had no notion of the "Appeal to Heaven" flag until a few hours ago. But I'm with Charles C. W. Cooke: You Can't Have That Flag, It's Mine.

    While I’m on the topic, here’s another thing that’s irritated me about this flag nonsense: the idea that if someone terrible decides to use a symbol you like, they automatically get to keep it. Screw that. There is, in fact, nothing wrong with the “Appeal to Heaven” flag; the whole thing is a deranged fantasy. But suppose that some weirdos at the margins had started using it to convey an ugly message in a concerted manner. In that case, am I supposed to just throw up my hands and say, “oh well”? Is that the designated approach now? To sigh impotently and lament that, because a small number of the two-bit ruffians who perpetrated the riots of January 6 flew a flag that was commissioned by George Washington, that flag is now dead forever? And, if so, how far does that go? A few years ago, a professor made Klan hoods out of an American flag. Should I take down the flag I have flying over my mailbox? Hell, Charles Manson liked the Beatles. Should I give up listening to their music, lest I be sullied by association?

    Because if that is the expectation, you can shove it. The “Appeal to Heaven” flag is terrific. I wish I had one. Until recently, I hadn’t noticed that a few people flew it on January 6 — or, for that matter, that a few people flew it during the BLM riots — but now that I know that, I still don’t care, because I’m not a ridiculous coward. That flag preexisted January 6 by 246 years. It preexisted America! Even if they wanted to, the people with whom Justice Alito is being disgracefully conflated do not get to erase those years, and they ought not to be aided in that pursuit by people who have the temerity to call themselves “liberals.” The correct reaction to the suggestion that something historically important has been stolen by those who disdain this country’s history and institutions is not “Damn it!” but “No, it bloody well has not.”

    There are a whole bunch of different versions at Amazon, if you're interested.

Biden to the Prudent: Pay Up, Suckers!

Via PowerLine, a couple telling tweets:

And:

Not that it matters, but: Extra credit for the reporter in the audience who called out KJP when she talked about "folks who are in debt who are literally being crushed".

I'm with this guy on that: If People Literally Don’t Stop Saying Literally So Much, I’m Literally Going to Lose My Mind.

Also of note:

  • Bearing false witness is a sin, Rev. A couple days back, we looked at an op-ed from a group (including "The Rev." David Grishaw-Jones) who got arrested (and immediately released) for refusing to leave the local office of our mutual CongressCritter, Chris Pappas. I didn't excerpt this bit:

    Since our first visit in November, Congressman Pappas has refused to answer our call and defiantly voted for billions of dollars of deadly aid—aid that wins approval from lobbyists in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) but little satisfaction from constituents in his own district. [Emphasis added.]

    … basically accusing Pappas of dancing on the strings of AIPAC against the wishes of the NH-01 Congressional district voters. (As opposed to the wishes of the five Hamas-cheerleading op-edders.)

    A recent UNH Survey Center poll indicates it's not that simple:

    Most Granite State residents want a ceasefire in Gaza but majorities believe returning all Israeli hostages and Hamas being removed from power in Gaza should be required. Four in ten New Hampshire residents feel the United States is providing too much aid to Israel. With respect to that last datum: 47% of the poll respondents said either the US was providing "about the right amount" (22%) or "too little" (25%) aid.

    Goodness knows I'm not a Pappas fanboy, but he seems to be more or less in line with his constituents on this issue.

    Jerry Coyne reports on some nationwide polling results: Harvard/Harris Poll shows unexpectedly high sentiment for Israel (but some bad news for Biden)

    It’s “common knowledge” that in the current conflict between Hamas and Israel, younger Americans (say, below 30), tend to favor Palestine, while older ones favor Israel. And that’s what I’ve thought for a long time—until I saw this poll highlighted at the Elder of Ziyon site. The poll, taken by by Harvard’s Center for American Political Studies collaborating with the Harris organization, was done by legitimate organizations, and for me it paints a more optimistic picture of Americans’ views about Israel. And that even includes young people. There’s a lot of different questions asked that I haven’t discussed here, but I’ll concentrate on the news on Israel, throwing in a bit of polling on Biden and Trump.

    I'm old enough to remember Nixon talking about the "silent majority". It's easy to get distracted by, and get the wrong impression from, the noisemakers.

  • Nothing illustrates that more than… Noah Rothman notes: Joe Biden’s Anti-Israel Friends Prove More Trouble Than They’re Worth.

    The Biden administration has spent the last several months contorting itself into logical pretzels to communicate to observers that its post-10/7 dalliance with the Israeli government has come to an end.

    The administration established contradictory conditions for an Israeli incursion into Rafah that were unmeetable, which only make sense if they’re viewed as an effort to prevent Israel from executing an operation aimed at clearing Hamas from its final holdout in the Gaza Strip. It betrayed the Jewish State by allowing the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution calling for an “immediate ceasefire” while Hamas remains the nominal authority in Gaza. It castigated Israel for following its own advice, the result of which was to allow Hamas to reconstitute in the territories the Israel Defense Forces evacuated. Its officials have called on Israel to “get out of Gaza” even as it insists it has not abandoned support for our “shared objective to defeat Hamas.”

    Biden’s confused approach to maintaining America’s wartime relationship with Israel lacks strategic and moral clarity because it is driven not by battlefield conditions but domestic political concerns. The Biden team is alarmed by the polls that show the president losing to Donald Trump in November, and its members attribute their political misfortunes to the handful of left-wing malcontents who would prefer to see Israel lose its war of self-defense. It has made itself and U.S. national interests hostage to the shadows that danced across the walls of the impenetrable progressive bubble.

    And of course, everything else Biden touches is going swimmingly. For example, Gaza Pier: Food Aid to Gaza Is Getting Stolen as Fast as It Can Be Delivered.

  • Right here in River City. Thomas Winslow Hazlett says TikTok's Got Trouble.

    A social media app from China is said to seduce our teenagers in ways that American platforms can only dream of. Gen Z has already wasted half a young lifetime on videos of pranks, makeup tutorials, and babies dubbed to talk like old men. Now computer sorcerers employed by a hostile government allegedly have worse in store. Prohibit this "digital fentanyl," the argument goes, or the Republic may be lost.

    And so President Joe Biden signed the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act of 2024, which requires the China-based company ByteDance to either spin-off TikTok or watch it be banned. Separating the company from the app would supposedly solve the other problem frequently blamed on TikTok: the circle linking U.S. users' personal data to the Chinese Communist Party. The loop has already been cut, TikTok argues, because American users' data are now stored with Oracle in Texas. That's about as believable as those TikTok baby talk vignettes, retorts Congress.

    Like much really bad legislation, the bill had "broad bipartisan support" and was passed in an atmosphere of moral panic.

  • Why don't they just embezzle from the Federal Reserve, like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau? The WSJ editorialists note a violation of the Law of Holes: The IRS Money Hole Gets Deeper.

    The Internal Revenue Service can’t write its own checks, which means it has to ask Congress for funding like any other agency. But if lawmakers have been tracking its misspending, they’ll turn down the tax collectors’ new $104 billion budget request and demand an audit instead.

    Commissioner Danny Werfel appeared before the House Appropriations Committee recently and told legislators that the IRS faces financial collapse. “Resources are limited,” he said, and the agency “will likely use them entirely before the funding expires.” In other words, the IRS doesn’t think the $60 billion bonus it received from Congress in 2022 is enough, though it is supposed to last through 2031.

    The IRS has a brilliant solution for this cash burn: Add more to the pile. Instead of explaining where the money went, Mr. Werfel asked the House to look away and grant his team another massive funding boost, this time through 2034. The extended bonus he seeks would bring total supplementary funding to $104 billion over 10 years.

    I'd say "your tax dollars at work", except that it's more like: "Your previous tax dollars weren't at work, I'm sure we'll get it right this time."

Nevertheless, She Persisted

[Amazon Link]
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James Freeman tells a tale of denial and irrelevance: Defeated by Big Sandwich, Sen. Warren Launches Attack on Big Salami.

Regular readers may know Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) for her rhetorical attacks on Big Pharma and Big Oil. Now she seems set to wage political war against Big Oil-and-Vinegar.

Having recently failed in a battle against people who own sandwich shops, the Bay State leftist is now targeting people who make and sell sandwich ingredients. Watch yourself, Big Salami. As high prices continue to afflict consumers, the senator seems to be finding culprits everywhere—except in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Warren says on X this week:

78% of Americans support taking action against giant food producers that engage in price fixing. I sent a letter to [President Joe Biden] urging the admin to create a task force to investigate grocery chains & giant food producers that raise prices to pad their profits.

The letter, which Ms. Warren signed along with socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders and a number of left-wing Democrats, is doubly depressing. As expected with any Sanders co-production, the point is to smear people engaged in all manner of market activity because he hates markets. But the letter is also discouraging because it suggests that the various signers assume that inflation is going to be haunting us for a while. Just like President Biden, the other pols probably wouldn’t spend much time shifting blame for inflation from the Beltway to the business world if they thought price hikes were about to disappear. The letter celebrates presidential scapegoating […]

Well, you can read the letter yourself. A whole bunch of legislators signed on, many from surrounding New England states, but I was (slightly) gladdened by the absence of Shaheen, Hassan, Pappas, and Kuster.

Also of note:

  • Kristi Noem is available for whatever shooting you think needs to be done. Mike Masnick on the latest Congressional attempt to Do Something: The Plan To Sunset Section 230 Is About A Rogue Congress Taking The Internet Hostage If It Doesn’t Get Its Way.

    If Congress doesn’t get Google and Meta to agree to Section 230 reforms, it’s going to destroy the rest of the open internet, while Google and Meta will be just fine. If that sounds stupidly counterproductive, well, welcome to today’s Congress.

    As we were just discussing, the House Energy and Commerce committee is holding a hearing on the possibility of sunsetting Section 230 at the end of next year. This follows an earlier hearing from last month where representatives heard such confusing nonsense about Section 230 that it was actively misrepresenting reality.

    So what do you expect from the Congressional Clown Car? Cute illustration at the link, summing up the state of play:

  • An interesting critique. I tend to be a sucker for this sort of thing: What Libertarianism Gets Wrong, by Jon Gabriel. It's a fair and thoughtful look, but let's skip down to…

    The primary flaw with libertarianism is its basis in scientific materialism, the belief that the physical world is the only thing that exists. It shares this flaw with communism, downgrading Homo sapiens into Homo economicus. Yes, each theory can be “proved mathematically,” but people are not equations to be solved.

    I'm not unsympathetic. But I think if you need to get into the woo-woo, you've lost the game.

    Instead, what's needed is a "middle way", a defense of traditional liberal virtues grounded in actual human nature. Something like C. S. Lewis called the Tao.

    That hasn't been accomplished, but we should keep trying.

  • Trump better hope debate moderators aren't reading the Dispatch. Specifically, I think he'd get in trouble if they took the suggestion of Kevin D. Williamson for The First Debate Question.

    The project of working the refs before the 2024 presidential debates is already underway, with self-abasing Trump sycophants such as Tim Scott insisting that “the moderators will run interference for Joe Biden.” The moderators should not allow themselves to be pushed around, and they should begin the first debate with the obvious question, the one Donald Trump is most eager to talk about:

    “Who won the 2020 presidential election?”

    Exercise for the reader: Come up with an equally simple, but devastating, query to be aimed at Biden.

  • Turning the demagoguery up to 11. The WSJ editorialists aren't impressed with a commencement address: Biden to Morehouse Graduates: America Hates You.

    The polls say President Biden has lost support among black Americans, and the White House appears to have settled on a strategy to win them back: spread more racial division. That’s the main message from the President’s dishonorable commencement address Sunday at storied Morehouse College in Atlanta.

    Mr. Biden naturally offered the 2024 graduates a list of what he sees as his accomplishments for black Americans. He indulged in his familiar gilded personal history as a civil-rights crusader. He gave the impression that the Delaware Democratic Party was a racist operation until Sen. Joe Biden came along. At least that’s the somewhat forgivable politics of self-aggrandizement.

    Less forgivable was the President’s attempt to stir resentment among the graduates on what should be a day to appreciate what they accomplished and to inspire hope for the future. Here’s what Mr. Biden said instead […]

    Lengthy quotes follow. My "favorite":

    “Today in Georgia, they won’t allow water to be available to you while you wait in line to vote in an election."

    That is, of course, a lie. One Politifact seems uninterested in pointing out.

  • Feel free to cut and paste. Jeff Maurer performs a public service, My DEI Statement Now that DEI Statements Are Falling Out of Favor.

    Dear Prospective Employer,

    I have to admit: I’m somewhat surprised that you asked me to write a diversity, equity, and inclusion statement. These statements are falling out of favor: MIT has scrapped them, academics seem to be turning against them, and The Washington Post editorial board calls them a recipe for “performative dishonesty”. DEI statements feel antiquated; it’s like you’re asking me to make a Vine that highlights my strengths, or to “list five ways that you, if hired, intend to get jiggy with it.”

    Nonetheless, I welcome this opportunity. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are values that I hold dear. If hired, I intend to make them an integral part of my work. And I plan to start by denouncing the shit-for-brains logic that has caused some people to imagine that DEI statements reduce racism.

    As they used to say: fish, barrel, smoking gun.

Actual Answer: "Because We Want You To Know How Virtuous We Are"

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

An op-ed appeared in our local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat headlined Why we chose civil disobedience and arrest in Dover. Attributed to five "guest columnists": Amy Antonucci, Em Friedrichs, The Rev. David Grishaw-Jones, Janet Simmon, and Janet Zeller. It goes from Zero to Insufferable in the very first paragraphs:

On the Friday before Mothers’ Day, the five of us were arrested at Congressman Chris Pappas’ Dover office for refusing to leave when asked by the congressman’s staff. Our group included a farmer, two women in their 80s, an ally five-months pregnant, and a local pastor. We grounded our action—every breath, every request, every non-compliant choice—in the nonviolent practices of Martin Luther King, Jr., Desmond Tutu and Cesar Chavez. It was King himself who famously said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." Our Mothers’ Day action was our witness to justice and love—as tools of social change and peace.

It wasn’t our first visit to Congressman Pappas’ office. With the NH Coalition for a Just Peace in the Middle East, we had been there on ten previous occasions—twice a month since mid-November—asking our elected representative to support a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, humanitarian aid for the Palestinians who suffer there, and an end to lethal military aid for Israel. That aid has fueled catastrophic destruction in the last seven months alone: 35,303 Palestinians in Gaza dead; 79,261 injured; and an emerging crisis of starvation and disease across the Gaza Strip.

(If you click over, there's a picture of the group. Hint: the "ally five months pregnant" is the one with "PREGNANT" scrawled across her t-shirt.)

Could I suggest someone buy five of our Amazon Product du Jour and send out one each to Amy, Em, David, Janet, and the other Janet? I'm sure they'll be able to make room on their vehicle bumpers.

You may recognize some of these names; I noted Grishaw-Jones as the pastor of the Community Church of Durham (NH), which has been hostile to Israel for (apparently) decades.

They have a bone to pick with their, and my, CongressCritter, Chris Pappas. Who has been unabashedly pro-Israel; they list a litany of his sins. (Apparently they were unimpressed by his weaseling out of condemning Biden's "pause" in arms transfers to Israel.)

Is it just me, or can you just smell the combination of disappointment and smugness in this paragraph?:

In choosing to risk arrest, the five of us recognized that we would be inconvenienced and possibly treated roughly, and jailed for our action. As it happened, Dover police treated us fairly and carefully, cited us for trespassing and issued each a summons to appear in court next month. But our willingness to face the consequences of civil disobedience is a message to Congressman Pappas and his colleagues in Congress. If we can choose an uncomfortable path, a risky one, so can you. Often, the pursuit of justice means the sacrifice of a safer, politically expedient way. Sometimes, peacemaking means giving up on a relationship that ties you to a policy that is grim, deadly and no good for Palestine, Israel or New Hampshire.

Observation 1: Usually in these screeds, there's at least some perfunctory mention of the horrors of October 7. (Which you may remember occurred during the previous "ceasefire".) Even that is absent here.

Observation 2: It would be kind of neat if Amy, Em, David, Janet, and the other Janet got the same treatment the January 6 US Capitol invaders got.

Also of note:

  • Hey, kids, what time is it? Lawrence W. Reed wonders: Is It Time to Hold a Convention of the States to Address the Debt Bomb?

    “We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt,” warned Thomas Jefferson in 1816. To him, burdening ourselves and future generations with debt should be rare in frequency and minor in magnitude. It may be defensible for long-term capital projects like roads, but for little else.

    Massive, uncontrollable debt to finance current consumption spending was unthinkable to Jefferson. He would undoubtedly see it as a reflection of a nation’s moral and economic decline that could ultimately destroy our liberties.

    Reed's path to fiscal sanity is expressed in his headline: an Article-V specified Constitutional Convention. Bypassing Congress is fine, but any amendments generated still require three-fourths of state legislatures to ratify.

    It would be a lot less work just to elect CongressCritters dedicated to cutting spending. But that would be the job of … voters.

  • It's nice to dream. Kevin D. Williamson fantasizes: Back to the Debate Stage.

    All right, you maniacs, welcome to the 2024 presidential debates moderated by me, your favorite correspondent, Kevin D. Williamson of The Dispatch. You know the drill: The candidates have electrodes attached to their sensitive bits—thanks to Stormy Daniels for hooking those up—and every time one of them tries to pawn off the usual dishonest, stupid, cowardly bulls–t non-positions they retail to their low-rent, cheap-date partisans in our audience tonight, my wingman, Mitch Daniels is going to switch on the juice and those electrodes are going to light them up like Clark Griswold’s house at Christmas. Thanks to our sponsor, AmeriLectric Energy, for supplying 1,200 megawatts of clean, climate-friendly electricity from their just-opened nuclear facility here in Muleshoe, Texas.

    For some reason, the Democrats wanted President Joe Biden to do this before the Democratic convention in Chicago. I can’t imagine why. But paramedics are standing by. Yes, they’re drunk. No, they aren’t really paramedics. And I’m not Jake Tapper.

    No quarter, no mercy.

    I'd watch that.

    But my slightly more serious idea (I've mentioned this before) is a quiz show, roughly based on Jeopardy!, where the candidates are tested on their knowledge of history, science, economics, Constitutional law, and … rudimentary math. Like: "Our national debt is approaching $35 trillion. If a $100 bill is 0.0043 inches thick, and it is, how tall would a stack of $100 bills worth $35 trillion be? Calculators allowed."

    Mouse-select between the brackets to reveal the answer: [23,753 miles].

  • A Worthy Suggestion. And Samuel J. Abrams makes it at AEI: Let’s Remember David Foster Wallace.

    In this month of college and university graduations, I often like to revisit one commencement speech which struck a nerve many years ago. Back in 2005, the late David Foster Wallace spoke at Kenyon College and delivered an address entitled “This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life.” Today, I recommend all of my incoming first year students read or listen to his words at the start of, and throughout, their collegiate careers.

    Foster Wallace’s words are so critical today because he makes a centrally important point about human nature that many on campus often forget: We have choices about how we choose to react to the world around us. In his words, “. . . our [natural], default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth” is that we are “self-centred” and operate far often “on the automatic, unconscious belief that [we are] the centre of the world, and that [our] immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world’s priorities.” This leads people to “see and interpret everything through this lens of self” and, by extension, be habitually angry and aggressive toward others and the world around us. But, Foster Wallace argues, if we choose “to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting” of selfishness, we can find not only meaning in life but also connection to others by “being able truly to care about other people.”

    Foster Wallace argues that we as individuals have control over our reactions and behaviors; specifically, we can choose to become more empathetic and understanding of others. While this idea is not entirely new and, in fact, appears in many religious teachings, an increasing number of students claim no religious affiliation. Foster Wallace offers this idea outside of a traditional religious framework with the potential to serve a countless number of students. Yet, it is practiced by far too few.

    That link in the first paragraph goes to a page containing both transcript and audio of DFW's address. If I ever gave a commencement address, I'd steal DFW's. Maybe get ChatGPT to disguise it somehow…

  • Yes, those are handclap emojis. So I couldn't resist linking to Sarah Rose Siskind's Free Press article: Apply 👏 the 👏 Social 👏 Justice👏 Playbook👏 to 👏 Jews.

    Folks, it’s time to step up. It’s time’s up to do better. It’s not enough to “not be antisemitic.” We have to be actively anti-antisemitic. Anyone who is not actively anti-antisemitic is antisemitic.

    We’ve seen the stunning success of similar online campaigns for Women, Black People, and Trans Folk in completely eliminating all prejudice and elevating mental well-being. It’s time to apply the same social justice playbook to Jews. There are specific ways to perform your support that all Jews are guaranteed to appreciate since Jews, like all other marginalized groups, can be treated as a homogenous people who famously agree on everything.

    Here are ten ways to be an Ally to Jews:

    Support Jewish-Owned Businesses

    Forget DuckDuckGo: support businesses like “Google,” an impressive technology company based in Mountain View, California. Both founders of this quite large company are Jewish! Or financially empower companies like “Goldman Sachs,” an investment company founded by Jews 150 years ago. Can you say #ChaiAchiever?

    Don’t forget to support Jews in STEM! This past summer, Universal released a film celebrating the national Yid-spiration, J. Robert Oppenheimer. However, we have to call out the film for portraying this Jewish icon with a non-Jewish actor. The Jewish community famously hates that, given the critical failures of productions like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Maestro, Golda, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Life Is Beautiful.

    You don't have to be Jewish to laugh at this, but it would probably help.


Last Modified 2024-05-22 6:23 AM EDT

Can We Somehow Blame Trump For This?

That's probably what a lot of people are wondering in the White House. Maybe some are doing it out loud. A recent WSJ comparison by Greg Ip: Trump vs. Biden.

On a related note, Deirdre McCloskey is Talking Economics. Slightly reformatted from the original:

Economics is easy. Thinking like an economist can be reduced to easy and even obvious principles. Consider two of them:

  1. Much of what we want is scarce. Having one such thing means giving up another. President Millei, who is a professor of economics, is trying to teach this to the Argentinians, who have not believed it, especially since Juan Perón. Come to think of it, though, the Brazilians and the Yankees don’t believe it, either. Look at their national debts, or their personal debts, or the childish way they vote. “We can have everything.” Lula or Donald told us so.

    [Or Joe - ps]

  2. Every act in society has two sides, at least. If drug lords in Latin America are willing to sell heroin, some Yankees must be buying it. Who is to blame? If grocery stores charge more for meat during inflation, farmers must be selling it to the stores at a higher price, and customers must be willing to buy. Who benefits?

Good thinking. If you think like this you are “thinking like an economist,” which every professor of economics wants you to do. I do, for example. Milei does.

You can find multiple daily examples of ignorance about that second point in the news.

[Amazon Link]
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And now is as good a place as any to highlight Don Boudreaux's Quotation of the Day, from David Schmitz's Living Together (Amazon link at your right.)

One mark of adulthood is getting past thinking of oneself as the center of the universe. An adult conception of justice will be a conception of our place and our due, alongside a conception of what other people are due within a community that has a logic of its own.

And DB makes the connection to economic thinking:

[O]one too-frequent result of political decision-making is to encourage us to act as children.

The worker who doesn’t want to lose his job because fellow citizens no longer want to buy what he makes at prices that he finds acceptable convinces the government to obstruct fellow-citizens’ freedom to spend their money in whatever peaceful ways they choose. This worker ignores the unseen, and greater, costs to fellow citizens (as well as to foreigners) that protecting his existing job creates. Politicians and pundits pander to this worker, they baby him, assuring him that he is noble, good, and right to demand that countless other people suffer in order for him to avoid having to play by the rules of a market economy. ‘Other people – your fellow citizens – don’t count, or they don’t count as much as you do,’ is the ultimate message of the protectionist to this worker.

The protectionist politician or pundit continues: ‘Poor baby! We’ll protect you from having to adjust to the peaceful decisions of your fellow citizens. You’re too precious to be troubled to play by the rules of the market order. We will force your fellow citizens to absorb the costs that you prefer to be relieved of. You are special and deserve special treatment.

And maddeningly, the politicians and pundits who exempt this worker from the responsibility of playing by the rules of the market order have the gall to describe their efforts as ensuring that this worker leads a dignified life. Only those who do not know what true dignity is can possibly suppose that treating someone as a child – forcing others to pander to this someone’s wishes – is a means of bestowing dignity on that someone.

[Amazon Link]
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Yup. Let's throw in one from C. S. Lewis from The Abolition of Man:

We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.

Also of note:

  • Be skeptical about them. Bruce Yandle ("distinguished adjunct fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, dean emeritus of the Clemson College of Business and Behavioral Sciences, and a former executive director of the Federal Trade Commission") thinks AI Regulations Are Crony Capitalism in Action.

    In May 2023, OpenAI founder Sam Altman testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about ChatGPT. Altman demonstrated how his company's tool could massively reduce the cost of retrieving, processing, conveying, and perhaps even modifying the collective knowledge of mankind as stored in computer memories worldwide. A user with no special equipment or access can request a research report, story, poem, or visual presentation and receive in a matter of seconds a written response.

    Because of ChatGPT's seemingly vast powers, Altman called for government regulation to "mitigate the risks of increasingly powerful AI systems" and recommended that U.S. or global leaders form an agency that would license AI systems and have the authority to "take that license away and ensure compliance with safety standards." Major AI players around the world quickly roared approval of Altman's "I want to be regulated" clarion call.

    Welcome to the brave new world of AI and cozy crony capitalism, where industry players, interest groups, and government agents meet continuously to monitor and manage investor-owned firms.

    Yandle points to the classic "bootleggers and Baptists" issue, where two sides actually thought prohibition was just swell. For different reasons of course. And entertains the notion that Altman ("and his ilk") might plausibly be thought to have a foot in both camps when it comes to AI.

  • USPS delenda est. David Williams has the latest reason for wishing it would just go away: U.S. Postal Service Asking for Another Taxpayer Bailout.

    For an agency that claims it “generally receives no tax dollars for operating expenses,” the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) sure does like government subsidies. Despite receiving $120 billion in taxpayer-funded bailouts since 2020, the USPS is once again asking for more money. As Washington Post reporter Jacob Bogage notes in a recent article, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and mailing industry officials have “asked the White House to send the Postal Service $14 billion, which would come from what the agency says is decades of overpayments into the Civil Service Retirement System.” These appeals for more money ignore the real root of the USPS’ problems. The agency’s fiscal issues stem from a failed business model and lack of cost control. No amount of taxpayer dollars will fix the fiscal fiasco plaguing the USPS.

    America’s mail carrier is requesting that “Congress and other stakeholders…help support USPS in the implementation of key self-help initiatives outlined in the [Delivering for America] Plan that are critically necessary, and that will ultimately enable our operational and financial success.” The USPS fails to explain why $120 billion in taxpayer dollars and double-digit percentage increases in stamp costs haven’t facilitated this “self-help.”

    Another NHJournal article points out one source of the USPS woes: even their feeble efforts to economize get sidetracked by politicians looking to protect local jobs: NH Delegation Goes Postal Over Possible Closure of Manchester Facility.

  • Another good Big Bang Theory episode title. The NR editors remove their tinfoil hats and write on The Covid Comeuppance.

    One by one, the shibboleths that our public-health authorities put forward as reliable guidelines for behavior during the Covid-19 pandemic are being revealed as scientifically baseless health theater. The question is whether anyone will learn from this.

    The latest admission is found in the closed-door congressional testimony of former National Institutes of Health director Dr. Francis Collins, revealed by NR’s own James Lynch. In that testimony, Collins clarified that the origin of Covid — whether the disease emerged zoonotically, perhaps at a meat market, or from research at the Wuhan lab — remains unsettled science and that the lab-leak theory is not a conspiracy theory. Collins also clarified that the guidance for “social distancing” during the pandemic — the recommendation that people from separate households remain six feet apart from one another — had no firm basis in science.

    “Do you recall science or evidence that supported the six-feet distance?” the committee asked Collins. “I do not,” he replied. “Have you seen any evidence since then supporting six feet?” they asked. Collins: “No.”

    Not only did this behavior harm people during the pandemic, it will probably cause people to ignore pronouncements from public health figures in the future. Which might not be a good idea.

"A Man's Got To Know His Limitations."

President Dotard could have gone with a more appropriate Clint Eastwood tough-guy movie quote, but he picked the one from Sudden Impact:

In contrast, my headline quote is from Magnum Force, spoken just after Dirty Harry blowed up Hal Holbrook real good. Who, like Biden, didn't know his limitations.

Observation 1: Joe Biden "hasn't shown up for a debate" since 2020 either, has he?

Observation 2: That 14-second video has five cuts. Some sort of stylistic choice, or he just couldn't do the whole thing in one take?

My previous comments on debating here. Executive summary: You couldn't pay me to watch.

Nate Silver is a perceptive observer, and he tells us What Biden's debate gambit reveals.

In fact, the Trump campaign, after agreeing today to the two debates proposed by Biden, asked for two additional debates in July and August for a total of four. The White House refused, rather ridiculously citing the potential for “chaos” after they created chaos by blowing up original schedule just this morning:

The Biden campaign slammed the door on Donald Trump’s attempt to have more than two debates. “President Biden made his terms clear for two one-on-one debates, and Donald Trump accepted those terms,” said Jen O’Malley Dillon, the campaign’s chair. “No more games. No more chaos. No more debate about debates.”

So the White House unambiguously wants fewer debates rather than more. And that’s a bad sign for Biden — part of a pattern where the White House has continually tried to minimize his exposure to unscripted moments. I wouldn’t quite say they’ve done the bare minimum when it comes to media appearances. But they’ve done the bare minimum more than the bare minimum, trying to optimize some function of minimizing both their 81-year-old candidate’s exposure and media criticism about the lack of said exposure. And when they have done media appearances, it’s mostly been with friendly sources like Howard Stern and pointedly not with more adversarial ones like the New York Times or Washington Post.

Preferring fewer debates is particularly bad sign given that 1) Biden is trailing in the race and therefore should want more chaos and variance and 2) that the debates went well enough for him last time. In fact, Biden was judged the winner of both debates against Trump in post-debate polls in 2020 — something that’s been a consistent pattern for Democrats in recent years; Hillary Clinton also won all three debates against Trump in overnight polls, for instance. (Although given that Clinton lost outright and Biden badly underperformed his polls in November 2020, perhaps we should treat those overnight polls with more skepticism.)

To underline what Silver's saying, Jeffrey Blehar at NR: The NYT/Siena Poll Leaves Biden Holding Only Low Cards. And he strings out the poker metaphor.

My interpretation is this: This poll portends doom for Joe Biden. As things currently stand, he is facing worse prospects than Donald Trump did in 2016 against Hillary Clinton. Again, five months of campaigning (or rather, “campaigning”) remain, so ask me again in October. But these numbers cannot be waved away, and now point toward a Trump victory. The likely-voter screen does not save Biden anymore, and in any event the critical issue of what the likely-voter model in 2024 looks like is left unaddressed. (The standard metric is voter participation in the previous two cycles — but 2022 and 2020 were two of the most abnormal electoral cycles in living American memory.)

In 2016, from the surprisingly strong (albeit structurally weaker) position he was in, Trump had to pull an inside straight to win the presidency. Biden currently needs an inside straight-flush. Things may change — remember those pocket aces both parties believe themselves to be holding — but for now these numbers suggest to me that, were the election held today, Trump would win every single one of these states, Michigan and Wisconsin included.

Our usual look at how people betting their own money see the race:

Candidate EBO Win
Probability
Change
Since
5/12
Donald Trump 50.7% +4.3%
Joe Biden 40.5% -3.3%
Michelle Obama 2.3% -0.4%
Robert Kennedy Jr 2.2% -1.0%
Other 4.3% +0.4%

The punters seem to agree with Blehar: Trump's looking stronger. For now. As a reminder: I gave up making confident predictions on November 9, 2016.

Also of note:

  • Not in any way similar to a rose among the thorns. Jeff Jacoby imagines the upcoming scene: Trump among the libertarians.

    HERE IS a puzzle: Why would the Libertarian Party, which will be nominating a presidential candidate at its national convention in Washington this month, invite former president Donald Trump — the Republican Party's presumptive 2024 nominee — to be its keynote speaker?

    Four possible answers:

    1. Libertarians are uninhibited by ordinary political rules and inviting a rival to address their convention is just the sort of eccentric move that appeals to them.
    2. Party leaders, knowing Trump is more likely to be elected in November than their own nominee, want to encourage him to embrace libertarian ideals of shrinking government, expanding liberty, and curbing the welfare state.
    3. Libertarian Party leaders never expected Trump to accept their invitation, but will gladly exploit the publicity he brings them in order to promote their own issues and candidates.
    4. The Libertarian Party has been taken over by hardcore MAGA supporters who want to help Trump win.

    My money is on No. 4.

    As always, I suggest you read Jeff's argument. He points out that it's only been six years since the LP declared (still present on their website for now) that Trump is the opposite of a Libertarian.

  • Kamala's recent contribution to elevating the discourse.

    I'm pretty tired of anyone using the f-word lazily as a general intensifying adjective. Unless it's Jeff Maurer.

  • "Exaggrates" is a euphemism for "lies about". But I otherwise have no quibbles about Jacob Sullum's analysis: President Biden Exaggerates His Work To Reform Marijuana Policy.

    In a campaign video directed at "young voters" that she posted on X (formerly Twitter) in February, Vice President Kamala Harris bragged that "we changed federal marijuana policy, because nobody should have to go to jail just for smoking weed." During his State of the Union address in March, President Joe Biden said he was "expunging thousands of convictions for the mere possession [of marijuana], because no one should be jailed for simply using or have it on their record."

    Neither claim was accurate. It is not surprising that Biden and Harris would try to motivate younger voters, whose turnout could be crucial to their reelection, by highlighting their administration's "marijuana reform," since those voters overwhelmingly favor legalization. But the steps Biden has taken fall far short of that goal, and his description of them exaggerates what they accomplished.

    You need to go to Jacob Sullum and Reason to find this out, because (for example) Politifact won't do it.

  • Nor will the Washington "Democracy Dies in Darkness" Post. Jeff Jacoby (again: A cynical Washington Post tells Biden: Nothing matters more than beating Trump.

    Last week, the Post’s editorial board — which speaks with the institutional voice of the newspaper — declared that it regards President Biden’s reelection in November as a matter of such importance that it will not fault him for promoting misbegotten policies that are designed to attract votes. The president’s policies “clearly pander to core constituencies,” the editorial board conceded, and “some of these policies are quite bad — even dangerous.” Other pandering by the White House may be “less obviously dangerous but still violates common sense and principle.”

    For example, the Post cites the president’s refusal to approve a ban on menthol cigarettes. The editorial board has strongly supported such a ban, which it maintains would save tens of thousands of mostly Black lives. But as a political matter, it knows that if the White House were to issue the ban, the Democrats would lose a significant number of voters “whom Mr. Biden can ill afford to alienate in this close election.” And since “Mr. Trump’s reelection is the kind of nightmare scenario any responsible politician would go to great lengths to prevent,” the Post concludes that it is responsible, or at least acceptable, for Biden to let those deaths occur rather than weaken his odds of reelection. “Democrats are scrapping for every vote,” the editorial asserts, so this is no time to be fastidious about matters of principle, or about right and wrong.

    Next week the Post's editorial board will wonder why so many people don't trust major newspapers. It's a mystery!

Recently on the book blog:

Don't Turn Around

(paid link)

I really liked the previous Harry Dolan books I read (The Good Killer; Bad Things Happen; Very Bad Men; The Last Dead Girl; The Man in the Crooked Hat). I was kind of disappointed in this one. Not bad, but not up to his usual standards. I didn't find the main character very interesting or sympathetic. The wry humor Dolan injected into his previous books is missing here. Everyone's sort of flat and glum.

Worse, there's a not-all-is-what-it-seems teaser on page 14 that's not resolved until the end of the book, around page 362 or so. Kind of a cheap gimmick, Harry.

That said, the plot is twisty, and there are a couple pulse-pounding thrilling action scenes along the way where the protagonist faces off against someone who wants to do her harm.

Plot: As an 11-year-old out for a midnight stroll, Kate Summerlin stumbles across a female murder victim in the woods outside her house. Scrawled on the victim's bare stomach: "MERKURY". Worse, the murderer is still hanging around, and utters the three titular words to Kate, scaring the bejeezus out of her, and (I think) kind of giving her psychological problems that persist into her later life.

That later life is where most of the novel occurs: over the years, "MERKURY" has persisted in killing people without getting caught. Kate has become a true-crime writer, and (it turns out) has some pretty good detective skills. She gets involved with finding a missing girl and also investigating the murder of one of the actors in a horror film made by a student at the local college. There are a lot of characters introduced, with names like "Devin", and "Bryan", and "Todd".

I have to say (spoiler free) that the book takes a very dark view of humanity. Read it, you'll see what I mean.

The Conservative Futurist

How to Create the Sci-Fi World We Were Promised

(paid link)

I'm kind of a sucker for this sort of book, I guess. In the past few years, I've devoured Soonish by Kelly and Zach Weinersmith; Where Is My Flying Car? by J. Storrs Hall; The Skeptics' Guide to the Future by Dr. Steven Novella; Innovation and Its Enemies by Calestous Juma.

James Pethokoukis's book (I'll just call him JP from here on out) is disappointed with (approximately) the last half-century. It seemed, back then, that America would lead the world in bringing about innovative technological process. We'd have nuclear fusion, longer lifespans, routine space travel, and better household robots than the Roomba. I know: we got the Internet, smartphones, SpaceX, CRISPR, AI, etc. But JP says: we could have done better, and we could have done it faster.

And, above all, we'd have those flying cars. As someone who's lived through every one of those fifty years, I agree: it's difficult not to be disappointed.

JP sidesteps the left/right political spectrum, instead going with "up wing" and "down wing" attitudes. Up-wingers are optimistic about progress, economic growth, innovation; down-wingers… not so much. He makes a convincing argument that there have been too many down-wing victories over the years, stifling progress through onerous regulation, protectionism, and overall pessimism.

So what's "conservative" about JP's futurism? Good news: he's an unabashed fan of free markets and individual liberty. Exceptions: he does grant government some room to encourage R&D spending on blue-sky research, infrastructure, and space stuff; also "smart" industrial policy to (for example) ensure that we're not totally reliant on Taiwan for chip manufacture. And he's a fan of immigration, especially high-skilled workers.

But, overall, we need a cultural shift toward optimism, confidence, openness, and growth. I'm not sure how we get there, even after reading JP..

Hayek Weeps

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Google's AI summarizes Hayek's views about the "price system":

[A] free price system is essential for communicating information and coordinating transactions.

Yeah, I suspected that. Cato has brought out a book edited by Ryan Bourne, our Amazon Product du Jour, that details the many ways government interferes with that communication. Bourne's contribution is a defense of a sliver of that price system, junk fees. They're unpopular! But: "Junk Fees" Typically Serve an Important Purpose.

Charging extra for specific preferences, such as a seat selection on a flight, enables lower basic prices, increasing access to no-frills options for lower-income customers, while allowing businesses to customize their services to individual customers’ preferences. Airlines unbundle in-flight food and checked bags, for example, leading to more profit opportunities and lower base fares. Yes, “price discrimination”—charging various customers different amounts for the same product—can sometimes be harmful to customers on net. But banning such unbundling when consumers put wildly different values on certain services can price out poorer consumers and compel others to pay for services they neither want nor need.

Likewise, overdraft fees from banks help disincentivize costly behavior. Banks incur costs and face heightened risks when customers overdraw their accounts. Overdraft charges help deter this behavior in a well-targeted way, by imposing charges on those customers whose accounts become overdrawn. Capping or constraining overdraft fees doesn’t eliminate these costs and risks; it just means someone else must be charged for them in a different way. Banning overdraft charges thus means higher prices for some other subset of a bank’s customers.

Pretty sensible, right? And yet…

Under the Biden administration, the government has launched an all‐​out “war on junk fees.” This “war” has covered fees charged by airlines, concert venues, and much more. It has even spread to financial services. For instance, Senator Sherrod Brown (D‑OH) has said, “Credit card late fees are the most costly and frequently applied junk fee.”

Yet the administration has been curiously silent on all of the fees charged by the government itself. From the Internal Revenue Service to local libraries, there is no shortage of fees charged by the government. To get a better sense of these fees, the table below features 101 different late fees charged by the government. Rather than jump to restrict the freedoms of the private Americans trying to operate businesses, the administration should take some time to reflect on its own activities.

That's from a blog post at Cato from Nicholas Anthony: 101 Late Fees Charged by the Government. I believe he might live in Southampton, NY, because numbers 89-101 of the tabulated gotcha-fees are exacted by that town's government on its citizenry.

For the record, the Portsmouth (NH) Public Library does not charge late fees. I'd imagine they get pretty naggy if you keep a book at home for more than a few days, though.

Also of note:

  • "Consumer Reports Jettisons Objectivity on       " has been a fill-in-the-blank headline for years. E. Calvin Beisner and David R. Legates do the honors at AIEr: ‘Consumer Reports’ Jettisons Objectivity on Climate Change.

    Consumer Reports. You probably have heard of it, as it has been around since 1936. Since then, it has offered valuable information to assess the safety and performance of many products and services, and has come to be widely trusted. So, you can understand why we were intrigued when it issued a blurb in one of its latest newsletters about…climate change. Wait…what?

    Consumer Reports maintains credibility by conducting its own evaluations based on its in-house testing laboratory and survey research center. It is lauded because its website and magazine accept no advertising, and it buys all the products it tests. As a non-profit organization, it has no shareholders to be beholden to. In summary, it is completely independent of the industries it investigates, so its evaluations are not affected by anyone or any product it reviews.

    In fact, I'd have to say that Beisner and Legates go too easy on CR in the above. Before I let my subscription lapse, I noticed that their "evaluations" were based more often on reports from their readers, filling out surveys. Also

    • Back in 2007, they were copacetic with government regulations for clothes washers that left your clothes dirty.
    • In 2008, I noticed they used marketing gimmicks that they would scorn corporations for using.
    • In 2009, they owned up that they'd misdirected their subscribers about low-phosphate dishwasher detergents.
    • They shilled dishonestly for Obamacare. (Also see William Jacobsen.)
    • In 2018 they took a similar anti-consumer stand, cheering for dishwasher regulations that made getting your dishes clean "more difficult, time-consuming and expensive."
    • And the same year, they came out with an obviously dishonest anti-consumer argument for stringent fuel economy standards.
    • And also that same year, I noticed they charged their paid subscribers extra for full access to information on their website that they didn't put in their magazine.
    • And in 2019, I noticed they went "full Orwell" with an article headline "Pushing for EV Choices". Which actually favored reducing consumers' choices by mandating a minimum quota for EVs as a fraction of total vehicles sold.
    • Also in 2019 they came out against tipping (and more or less advocated government abolish it.)

    So it is unsurprising news that Consumer Reports is taking a "climate change" stand that Joe Consumer will experience as higher costs and lousier products.

  • Speaking of anti-consumer moves… Here's something that an actual consumer advocacy organization would oppose, as reported by David Harsanyi: Biden's tariffs will make us pay more for cars we don't want, but are forced to buy.

    Not long ago, President Biden promised to transform the American auto industry — “first with carrots, now with sticks” is the analogy The Washington Post used.

    Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I’d trust the president to drive my car, much less dictate the future of industrial policy.

    Yet Biden implemented draconian emissions limits for all vehicles, ensuring that within nine years 67% of all new passenger cars and trucks will be electric.

    In the old days, a centralized state controlling manufacturing and commerce, production, prices, wages and conditions in our biggest sectors would be called “fascist.”

    Today, we simply refer to it as the Green New Deal.

    I find the one-sentence-per-paragraph style irritating (it's the New York Post), but Harsanyi makes sense.

Nice Internet You Have Here. It'd Be a Shame If…

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Back on Monday, the WSJ published an op-ed by CongressCritters Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R) and Frank Pallone Jr. (D). It was a plug for their proposal to "sunset" what our Amazon Product du Jour called "the twenty-six words that created the Internet": Sunset of Section 230 Would Force Big Tech’s Hand

The opening is unpromising:

The internet’s [sic] original promise was to help people and businesses connect, innovate and share information. Congress passed the Communications Decency Act in 1996 to realize those goals. It was an overwhelming success. Section 230 of the act helped shepherd the internet [sic again] from the “you’ve got mail” era into today’s global nexus of communication and commerce.

I'm old enough to remember that the Communications Decency Act was not meant to "help people and businesses connect, innovate and share information." In fact, it was the result of a "for the children" moral panic about Internet porn. And it was far from an "overwhelming success": it was blatantly unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court quickly and unanimously struck most of it down.

But Section 230 survived:

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

Well, you can read the rest of the McMorris Rodgers/Pallone op-ed for yourself. But I'll recommend some counterpoints too, for example:

And if you prefer your counterpoints unTwittered, Elizabeth Nolan Brown has you covered, dubbing the proposal: The Worst Section 230 Bill Yet.

("There's an old saying that goes, 'How do you know when a politician is lying? His lips are moving.' These days, one can ask, 'How do you know when Section 230 is being misunderstood?' and answer, 'A politician is talking about it,'" Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression lawyer Robert Corn-Revere aptly wrote in Reason last year.)

McMorris Rodgers and Pallone go on to spew a litany of modern moral panics about tech companies. Big Tech is "refusing to strengthen their platforms' protections against predators, drug dealers, sex traffickers, extortioners and cyberbullies," they write, accusing Section 230 of making this possible.

But every big tech company has massive teams and tools devoted to stopping criminal and otherwise objectionable content on their platforms. Failing to do so can result in not only reputational harm and loss of advertising revenue but also potential criminal liability, as in the case of Backpage. Every incentive aligns for them to work hard to block "predators, drug dealers, sex traffickers," etc. The fact that they can't entirely end bad actors from using their platforms isn't proof of Section 230's flaws but the fact that we live in reality. In the digital world as much as off of it, some bad actors will find a way to do harm, no matter folks' best intentions.

ENB embeds a 2020 Reason video in her article, and so shall I:

Also of note:

  • About time. Christian Britschgi reports that, long after the damage was widely recognized by nearly everyone else: Biden Administration Strips Federal Funding From Nonprofit at Center of COVID Lab Leak Controversy.

    Today, the Biden administration suspended federal funding to the scientific nonprofit whose research is at the center of credible theories that the COVID-19 pandemic was started via a lab leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

    This morning, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it was immediately suspending three grants provided to the New York-based nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance (EHA) as it starts the process of debarring the organization from receiving any federal funds.

    "The immediate suspension of [EcoHealth Alliance] is necessary to protect the public interest and due to a cause of so serious or compelling a nature that it affects EHA's present responsibility," wrote HHS Deputy Secretary for Acquisitions Henrietta Brisbon in a memorandum signed this morning.

    The lab-leak hypothesis: not just for the tinfoil-hatted any more.

  • They don't really care if it's true or not. Robert Graboyes looks at the Hamas-UN Bullshit Blood Libel.

    Hamas can’t or won’t produce water, electricity, food, jobs, or prosperity, but the terrorist organization is adept at producing bullshit statistics and contorted logic for antisemitic, gullible, and/or servile Westerners. In fact, Hamas propagandists aren’t very competent with statistical science, but the United Nations has always been happy to validate the output and share it with earth’s least discriminating audience.

    Sometimes, however, the burden of complicity becomes a bit much, so on May 8, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) acknowledged without adornment, apology, or explanation that their casualty statistics since October 7 have been grossly exaggerated. OCHA revised the number of children killed to less than half the numbers previously circulated. UN spokesman Farhan Haq offered a breezy, oops-a-daisy, coulda-happened-to-anyone non-explanation:

    “The revisions are taken … you know, of course, in the fog of war, it’s difficult to come up with numbers … We get numbers from different sources on the ground, and then we try to cross check them. As we cross check them, we update the numbers, and we’ll continue to do that as that progresses.”

    In fact, OCHA obtains its data primarily from the Gaza Ministry of Health, which is run by Hamas and from the Government Media Office, which is run by Hamas. The Ministry, in turn, obtains its data from “independent media sources” in Gaza, which are run by Hamas. From there, OCHA acts as wholesale distributor to retail outlets like UNICEF, whose director, Catherine Russell (a former advisor to Presidents Obama and Biden) made the now-discredited numbers a centerpiece of her public analysis:

    “We haven’t seen that rate of death among children in almost any other conflict in the world.”

    The point is to advance the anti-Israel narrative. As long as that happens, truth, accuracy, and fairness are way down on their list of concerns.

  • Just to point out another long-running lie… NHJournal, to its credit, occasionally offers its pages to advocates taking different sides of a contentious issue. Such an issue is "school choice". Corey DeAngelis is a longtime proponent, and his short advocacy piece is Point: Parents Must End the Teachers Unions’ Stranglehold on Education.

    The opposing view is provided by Josh Cowen, "professor of education policy at Michigan State University", dedicated choice foe: Counterpoint: Vouchers Are Not the 'Civil Rights Issue of Our Time'.

    You can read the back-and-forth, and (you don't need my permission, but here it is anyway) make up your own mind. I just want to point out this bullshit in Cowen's piece:

    Beyond the data, it’s important to note that many of the same people pushing the claim that vouchers are a civil rights issue, are also those who want to ban teaching about racial inequality in public schools. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who signed the nation’s largest voucher bill last year, has also repeatedly insisted that slavery had some benefits for African Americans.

    Well, first, it's a lousy argument that says (in effect) position X is awful because "many of the same people" who favor Position X also (allegedly) adhere to Position Y and have asserted self-evidently abhorrent Position Z!

    But Cowen is referring to a minor issue from last July, the controversy over Florida’s State Academic Standards – Social Studies, 2023, which, on page 6 of its 216 pages, contains: "Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit."

    This happens to be true.

    Last July, I linked to an article by Charles C. W. Cooke, who analyzed the Veep's efforts to turn this into demagogic gold: Kamala Harris Is Lying about Florida’s Slavery Curriculum.

    NBC reports that Kamala Harris intends to visit Florida today to criticize its new school curriculum:

    In remarks Thursday, Harris blasted efforts in some states to ban books and “push forward revisionist history.”

    “Just yesterday in the state of Florida, they decided middle school students will be taught that enslaved people benefited from slavery,” she said at a convention for the traditionally Black sorority Delta Sigma Theta Inc. “They insult us in an attempt to gaslight us, and we will not stand for it.”

    This is a brazen lie. It’s an astonishing lie. It’s an evil lie. It is so untrue — so deliberately and cynically misleading — that, in a sensible political culture, Harris would be obligated to issue an apology. Instead, NBC confirms that she will repeat the lie today during a speech in Jacksonville.

    Everything CCWC says about Kamala applies equally to Cowen.

Would Calling Them "Lies" Have Made the Headline Too Short?

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

I don't know how many people will break out laughing when seeing our Amazon Product du Jour. Note that it specifically refers to this election year.

James Freeman at the WSJ has a more accurate take: The Falsehoods Biden Keeps Telling.

Give President Joe Biden credit for consistency. For the entirety of his term he has relentlessly and falsely claimed that the economy was a shambles when he took office. His latest deceptions portray the raging inflation he did so much to inflict on Americans as a pre-existing condition. “For the second time in less than a week, President Joe Biden falsely claimed Tuesday that the inflation rate was 9% when he began his presidency,” writes CNN’s Daniel Dale. He adds:

Biden’s claim that the inflation rate was 9% when he became president is not close to true. The year-over-year inflation rate in January 2021, the month of his inauguration, was about 1.4%.The Biden-era inflation rate did peak at about 9.1% – but that peak occurred in June 2022, after Biden had been president for more than 16 months.

Not close to true is an apt description of the Biden economic message. Over the years some media folk have tried to portray Mr. Biden’s tall tales as evidence of grandfatherly charm. Folksy or not, he has been remarkably consistent in making false claims about the state of the economy when he took office.

I hate to disagree with Freeman, but "not close to true" is inapt, a much too euphemistic and wordy way to say "false".

More stuff they're lying about, according to the National Review editors: Biden’s Nonsensical China Tariffs.

Joe Biden’s announcement of new China tariffs is only the latest example of two trends in the Biden administration: talking tough on China but not following it up with meaningful policy, and bending over backward to appease organized labor.

Taxes will increase on imported steel, semiconductors, and electric vehicles and battery materials from China. The tariffs are being justified under the federal law that allows the president to respond to other countries’ unfair trade practices.

The White House says the tariffs will cover $18 billion worth of goods combined. That’s not nothing, but for perspective, $18 billion is equal to 4 percent of total U.S. imports of goods from China last year. Biden’s claims to be protecting American workers and businesses in general with such actions are hard to take seriously.

United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai tried to make a coherent case for imposing tariffs and managed to make the claim that the link between raising tariffs and increasing prices for the tariffed goods "has been largely debunked." Don Boudreaux is incredulous, and writes her an open letter:

This news is astonishing! It overturns 250 years of economic theory and evidence. You should immediately alert literally every author of economic textbooks – including the Nobel-laureate international-trade economist Paul Krugman – to inform them that their analyses of tariffs are wholly mistaken, because in all of these textbooks tariffs are shown to protect domestic producers only by raising the prices of protected goods and services.

Or she could have been lying.

Of course, much of this could be avoided with an informed electorate. What we have instead is… something else. Jeff Maurer notes the underlying problem: Voters Are Furious About Inflation, Demand Measures That Would Make Inflation Worse.

To make things worse: Both Trump and Biden are driving up the price of certain goods with tariffs largely because protectionism is popular. Biden just announced big tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles, semiconductors, and other products, which is the type of move that Joe Biden used to (rightly) criticize. To be fair, there are non-economic factors at play — this is being done partly to gain strategic advantage over China. But to also be fair: The main economic impact on Americans will be higher prices and less consumer choice. Trump is also promising big, new tariffs, and so is the brain worm that controls RFK Junior. American politics now resembles an episode of Love Island, in that just when you think “that is the dumbest person I’ve ever seen,” a new competitor shows up to blow your conceptions of what levels of dumb are possible out of the water.

Pollsters simply report what people say. It’s not their job to say “Respectfully, Jim from Flagstaff: You seem to lack the brains that God gave a bucket of pig dicks.” They’re just telling us what people think, and these polls probably accurately reflect what people really believe. And that’s the problem: The things that people say they care about and the solutions that people say they want don’t match.

Jeff goes on to claim "Biden is almost certainly the better choice for anyone who has inflation as their top priority." But, really, that's a stretch.

Also of note:

  • And yet, it's a gulag to which some people willingly consign themselves. Gary Saul Morson claims Marxism Is a Gulag of the Mind.

    The Marxist impulse is always to accuse your opponent of what you are doing or plan to do. It resembles what Freudians call “projection,” except that in Freudian theory projection happens outside the person’s awareness and is governed by an unconscious desire not to recognize one’s own intentions. For the leaders of Marxist and quasi-Marxist movements, the technique of accusing others of one’s own aggressive plans is entirely conscious. Call it “the political projection principle.”

    This principle is easiest to apply when the target really does seem unsavory, like Donald Trump. When he makes outrageous comments, spoils for a fight with his childish name-calling, or attracts attention by offensive suggestions and obnoxious exaggerations, Mr. Trump provokes people to approve of unprecedented tactics they never approved of before.

    The test of whether a person really believes in freedom is the readiness to protect the freedom of opponents. It’s easy to do when the opponent is mild and honorable, but what Democrat will rise to defend Mr. Trump? They accuse him of harboring authoritarian designs as they prosecute him in several courts so that he can’t campaign, must spend his money defending himself, and may find himself in prison before the voting starts. Arresting potential challengers is what former KGB operative Vladimir Putin routinely does. In Maine and Colorado, Democrats tried to keep the presumptive Republican nominee off the ballot entirely. Who exactly is undermining democracy?

    Morson also notes the, um, "phenomenon" of Keffiyehed Kollege Kids accusing Israel of "genocide", while leaving unmentioned the fact that the "Hamas charter explicitly calls for killing all Jews."

  • It provides myth comfort. Michael Cannon writes at Cato on The Myth of the Free-Market US Health Sector.

    Rena Conti, Richard Frank, and David Cutler recently published a very useful piece in the New England Journal of Medicine under the title, “The Myth of the Free Market for Pharmaceuticals.” Conti, Frank, and Cutler shatter the common myths that the United States has “largely unregulated prices” for medical care (Los Angeles Times) or is “one of the only developed countries where health care is left mostly to the free market” (The Economist).

    The authors detail multiple ways that government intervenes in and distorts the pharmaceutical market and conclude, “The net effect of these deviations from the free‐market ideal is that prices are high.” When drug manufacturers like Merck claim, “Congress has long been committed to a free‐market approach based on market‐driven prices,” these producers are merely trying to protect the government interventions that let them charge higher prices than would prevail in a free market.

    This problem is not unique to the pharmaceutical industry but pervades the entire US health sector. In the new Cato Institute book The War on Prices (release date May 14), I contribute a chapter with the title, “Government Price Fixing Is the Rule in U.S. Health Care.” I explain that—contrary to industry propaganda that holds government price controls only result in inefficiently low prices—US medical prices are often high because government controls them. For example, “studies conducted in the USA generally conclude that price setting by a regulator…improved hospital financial stability.”

    Remember that the next time the hospital lobby comes calling.

    I promise.

  • Anonymously yours. An interesting point/counterpoint works itself out in the pages of Caltech's student newspaper, on the topic of whether to reinstate the SAT/ACT requirement for undergrad applicants. An anonymous contributor (apparently an ex-student) chides the signers of a recent petition advocating for reinstatement: You Can and Should Do Better, Faculty Members.

    No excerpt, just wanted to point it out. I think it's clear who has the better argument.

In Fact, Just Say "Hell No"

Jeff Jacoby takes on the choo-choo fantasies: Just say no to more mass transit.

FOR MOST urban planners, it is an article of faith that mass transit is not only good but essential — and that more mass transit should be a priority. Total funding on public transit in 2022 (the most recent data available) soared past $84 billion nationwide, an increase of nearly $5.5 billion since 2019. Under the Biden administration, the Federal Transit Administration last year approved $21 billion in new federal subsidies to agencies around the country, touting it as a "record investment in American transit."

JJ speaks truly about this being an "article of faith", in the sense that Ambrose Bierce limned: "belief without evidence". JJ notes that Massachusetts Governor Maura Healy recently proposed doubling the amount the state currently drops on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). He argues convincingly that transit cheerleaders are delusional, quoting transportation analyst Wendell Cox:

Boston's experience is typical. According to Cox, the most recent census statistics show that 108,000 fewer people work in the city now than before the pandemic, 31,000 fewer workers are driving into Boston for work, and 115,000 fewer workers are commuting by T. In the broader metropolitan area outside the borders of Boston, by contrast, the number of people working is up by 56,000. Yet so entrenched has working from home become that close to half a million more people no longer commute — between 2019 and 2022, car rides to the job dropped by 423,000 and public transit commutes by 39,000.

Randal O'Toole has long alleged that the pandemic seems to have put a permanent dent in transit use nationwide, and provides a telling graph:

In words: although driving, air travel, and (even) Amtrak seem to have recovered to pre-pandemic levels, the use of transit seems stuck with a 20% drop in ridership.

But Massachusetts has a broader problem, not only about a lack of commuters, but about residents in general moving out. Boston University recently looked at that issue and produced the Massachusetts Outmigration Study. From the summary:

Annual net outmigration from Massachusetts has soared by a stunning 1,100 percent to 39,000 people since 2013, according to a new Boston University study. If the trend continues, the researchers found, the state’s net outmigration could reach 96,000 by 2030.

Outmigration cost Massachusetts $4.3 billion in adjusted gross income (AGI) and $213.7 million in tax revenue during the 2020-21 tax year. The majority of that money went to Florida ($1.77 billion), New Hampshire ($1.1 billion), and Maine ($393 million.) Those numbers could rise to $19.2 billion in AGI and $961 million in tax revenue by 2030.

Here at Pun Salad, we've viewed the news out of Massachusetts with mixed feelings. We don't wish ill on the citizenry, but (hey) they voted for this stuff. And it provides a great example to us here in New Hampshire about What Not To Do. At least to those of us willing to pay attention.

Which brings me to another point: the proposal to extend MBTA commuter rail up to New Hampshire. Democrat Joyce Craig is running for Governor, and back in 2023 she was a huge cheerleader for this dreadful idea: Craig vows to bring MBTA commuter rail to Nashua and Manchester.

But (near as I can tell) she has gone silent on that. Her campaign website doesn't seem to say anything about it. In fact, under her "Policies" menu, there are only two entries: "Reproductive Rights" (i.e., pro-abortion) and "Gun Violence Prevention" (i.e., gun-grabbing).

Her opponent in the upcoming primary is Cinde Warmington; her campaign site is also silent on commuter rail. Her "Values" page runs down a whole bunch of issues, but… nope, no choo-choo promises.

Neither Joyce nor Cinde seem to have much to say about tax policy either.

Mush From the Wimpette

Last Friday, I mentioned that I was irate enough to send my state's senators a polite letter, asking them to support Lindsay Graham's resolution condemning the Biden Administration’s decision to halt weapons deliveries to Israel.

I should have known better.

I got this response yesterday from Jeanne Shaheen:

Thank you for contacting my office about the Israel-Hamas conflict. I appreciate hearing from you about this important issue and my thoughts are with the people who have lost loved ones in this terrible conflict.

The United States must continue working towards an end to the conflict that will prioritize civilian lives and ensure an equitable and durable peace in the region. I support the United States’ efforts to facilitate the expeditious delivery of aid to civilians who are suffering in Gaza, as well as efforts to secure the release of the innocent Israelis held hostage by Hamas.

There must be a ceasefire now to get aid in and hostages out.

I will continue to urge Israel to use every possible precaution to avoid harm to Palestinian civilians. Respect for human rights and democracy must be at the center of U.S. foreign policy and will lay the foundation for an end to this cycle of violence.

As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations, Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, please be assured I will keep your thoughts in mind and continue supporting the protection of all civilians.

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts with me, and please do not hesitate to contact my office with any future concerns.

I'm pretty sure if I wrote in about my "future concerns" I would get back similar unresponsive focus-grouped drivel. I'm pretty sure a decent chatbot would have done better.

Yes, Jeanne: "harming civilians" is bad. But: you leave unmentioned that only one side has a deliberate policy of harming civilians and using their own civilians and innocent hostages as shields.

(Hey, Pennsylvania: if we must have Democrat senators, could we trade you Jeanne for John Fetterman?)

But enough about my useless, gutless senator. I found this to be on target:

And Jim Geraghty has a question to which we too would like an answer: Why Are We Withholding Sensitive Intelligence about Hamas from the Israelis?

The Washington Post, Saturday morning:

The Biden administration, working urgently to stave off a full-scale Israeli invasion of Rafah, is offering Israel valuable assistance in an effort to persuade it to hold back, including sensitive intelligence to help the Israeli military pinpoint the location of Hamas leaders and find the group’s hidden tunnels, according to four people familiar with the U.S. offers. [Emphasis added.]

So, the U.S. knows where the Hamas leaders are hiding but isn’t telling the Israelis?

For a moment, forget blindsiding the Israelis and not telling them about Hamas’s counteroffer and ruse that it had agreed to a cease-fire deal, forget the Gaza Pier, forget cutting off arms exports to Israel . . . if we know where Hamas leaders such as Yahya Sinwar, the accused architect of the October 7 attacks, are hiding, why would we not tell the Israelis that? Why would we effectively protect Hamas leaders?

Why are we protecting the lives of the leaders of a terrorist organization that has taken Americans hostage?

Geraghty goes semi-nuclear on President Dotard and whoever is actually running the pusillanimous show in D. C. Certainly, we won't see any significant criticism of his betrayal from Jeanne "senior member of the Senate Appropriations, Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees" Shaheen.

Also of note:

  • Not even an E for Effort. Daniel J. Mitchell looks at a recent column from Michelle Singletary that promises to reveal "5 myths about Social Security". And (good news) two of those myths are actually false, and deserve debunking. But that only gives Ms. Singletary a 40% score as Mitchell is Debunking the Debunking.

    Ms Singletary:

    Myth No. 1: Social Security is, or will be, ‘bankrupt’: Social Security will not run out of money. The program is financed by payroll taxes, so as long as workers pay into the system, money will always come in. …It’s the Social Security Trust Funds’ reserves that are projected to become depleted. …The Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) program, which pays retirement and survivor benefits, will be able to pay 100 percent of benefits until 2033.Even if Congress fails to act, there will be enough projected income coming in to cover 79 percent of scheduled benefits.

    Mitchell says wait a minute…

    Reality: I’m baffled that she wrote that “Social Security will not run out of money” and then a few sentences later admitted that there will only be enough income “to cover 79 percent of scheduled benefits.” Makes me wonder about her definition of bankruptcy. I’ll simply note that if Social Security was a private pension system providing annuities, the government would shut it down and probably arrest the people in charge.

    I will let you click over to see Mitchell's responses to Ms Singletary's other two myths-that-ain't.

  • Also poking holes in socialist bullshit… is Mr. Kevin D Williamson, who writes something worthy of Bastiat: There Are Two Sides to Every Debt.

    Except they aren't really "seen" and "unseen", it's really more like "noticed" and "ignored".

    Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Rep. Ro Khanna of California introduced a bill last week that, in their telling, would “eliminate” medical debt.

    But there are two sides to every debt: One party’s liability is another party’s asset. And we have a word for taking away people’s assets by force: robbery.

    Sanders and Khanna’s legislation would amount to robbing Americans, declaring that debts owed to them are no longer valid or binding. And why should those Americans be made to forfeit their property? Because they did something unforgivable: They helped people to get health care.

    And there you have it: American progressivism, 2024 A.D.

    Why aren't these people being laughed out of Washington? (I realize it would be illegal to break out the tar and feathers.)

  • Having solved all other problems… Emma Camp reports: More States Are Considering Lab-Grown Meat Restrictions.

    Lab-grown meat is a scientific marvel. We've managed, through pure human ingenuity, to create something that looks like meat, cooks like meat, tastes pretty much like meat, and comes from animal cells—yet doesn't require the slaughter of a single living animal.

    But state legislatures across the country are thinking of following in Alabama's footsteps and banning lab-grown meat (also known as "cultivated meat").

    In March, Alabama legislators passed a bill banning the sale or development of lab-grown meat in the state. Italy's parliament passed a ban on cultivated meat last year, citing the need to protect farmers from competition. ArizonaFlorida, and Tennessee also seem poised to ban the product, with cultivated meat bans working through their state legislatures as of mid-March. In Congress, senators have introduced a bipartisan bill that would keep lab-grown meat from being served in public school cafeterias.

    "These misguided and short-sighted bills will kill innovation in a vital and growing biotech sector," says David Voorman, a vice president at Food Solutions Action, a meat-alternative political action committee. "Consumer freedom, consumer choice, and free market principles are also lost when lawmakers decide they know what's best."

    This is from Reason's current "AI" issue, which is a hoot. The article is accompanied by a Dall-E illustration, and it makes me think I should learn Dall-E.

Lafayette, We Are Here!

The Google LFOD News Alert recently rang for this Concord Monitor LTE from Bill Wishart, notifying his readers that Lafayette would be in tears. Wishart's LTE in its entirety:

On the 20th of May, we will celebrate Lafayette, the French nobleman influential in tipping the balance of the Revolutionary War in favor of us. Our rebellion succeeded, in great part, due to his agreement with the self-evident truths of The Declaration of Independence, generating a passion in him so great that he was willing to sacrifice his name, fortune, and if need be his life in this noble experiment that is America. Today, I read that our legislature is poised to pass a bill forbidding transgender athletes from competing based on an arbitrary assignment of gender at birth. I say to you that you do not believe in the self evident truths.

You do not believe that all men are created equal! You do not believe that they are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights! You do not believe that governments are instituted among men to ensure those rights! You do not believe that “Live Free or Die” applies to all in New Hampshire! You may, by accident of birth, be a citizen of the country called The United States of America. You are not, in your hearts and minds, an American! I dare say, that if Lafayette made his tour today, he would be in tears after witnessing your betrayal of the fundamental principles of this noble experiment.

Gee, Bill. "Arbitrary assignment of gender at birth"? Like coin-flip arbitrary? Really?

Well, let's do the background first. The May 20 thing (indeed) celebrates the bicentennial of Marquis de Lafayette's famous tour of the US in 1824-5. The event (which I believe is happening in Concord, NH) is described here.

This choice is odd, given that Lafayette didn't even arrive in the US for his tour until August, 1824. But never mind that. There will undoubtedly be shindigs scheduled on the actual bicentennial, like his arrival in Portsmouth NH on September 1. (I've always assumed Lafayette Road, the old path of US Highway 1 in Portsmouth, was named that for the route Lafayette took on his way here.)

But never mind that. Is there something about Lafayette that makes it seem he'd be a cheerleader for letting biological boys compete against biological girl athletes?

Okay, a little googling finds a good deal of wishful thinking by advocates trying to out him as gay (example). But that's it.

More likely: if Lafayette (somehow) shed himself of the sexist beliefs of the day (he penned the Declaration of the Rights of Man, sorry ladies) and was time-machined to our century, he'd be horrified at the sexual segregation implied by having separate and unequal teams for athletes, simply due to the biological accident of their conception. Isn't that equally unjust as racial segregation?

"It's time to sexually integrate sportsball teams at all levels, professional and amateur, mes amis! Vivre Libre ou Mourir!

"Do this, or I shall cry bitter tears!"

Also of note:

  • I miss the Tea Party. But, as Jonah Goldberg notes, it hadn't been healthy for a long time and… The Tea Party Movement Died With a Whimper.

    With the news that libertarian advocacy group FreedomWorks is going the way of Blockbuster, the Tea Party era is officially over. Of course, it’s been functionally dead—or mostly dead—for a while. It’s been a while since anyone in national Republican politics of any note talked like a Tea Partier, never mind associated themselves with the cause. I’m sure there are some who’ve gone to ground, like old-style Communists keeping their heads down in various backwaters, hoping no one recognizes them.

    For a sense of how the Tea Parties were like St. Elmo’s Fire—suddenly lighting up the firmament and burning out just as quickly—consider that in 2010 The New York Times Magazine introduced Marco Rubio to the country with a cover story titled, “The First Senator from the Tea Party?”

    The question mark referred to whether or not Rubio would successfully defeat Charlie Crist in the primary to become a senator—not whether he was a Tea Party guy. Funnily enough, that deserved a question mark, too. Or at least an expiration date. Today, Rubio is a devout industrial planner—but only when “done right.”

    Indeed, the Times profile, written by Mark Leibovich, is a fascinating historical snapshot. “If there is a face for the future of the Republican Party, it is Marco Rubio,” Mike Huckabee told Leibovich. “He is our Barack Obama but with substance.” Today Huckabee talks about anything that smacks of the Tea Party-style libertarian principles like they’re nothing a course of penicillin can’t clear-up. 

    Later in the article Jonah quotes Jim Geraghty quoting Eric Hoffer: “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” It happened really quickly for the Tea Party movement.

  • And speaking of degenerating into a racket… Also at the Dispatch, John McCormack wonders: Will the Trumpification of the Libertarian Party Actually Hurt Donald Trump? He's actually been paying attention to the tussles inside the clown car that is today's LP:

    Until the Trump invitation, the Libertarian Party had mostly been an afterthought for outside observers in the 2024 presidential campaign, but it shouldn’t have been. Whoever wins the party’s nomination for president later this month at the Libertarian National Convention will be on the ballot in at least 37 states, including the battlegrounds of Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Nevada. The last two presidential election were decided by a few states where the victor prevailed by less than 1 percentage point, so it’s plausible the Libertarian candidate could sway the outcome—even if he falls short of winning the 3.3 percent of the national popular vote won by 2016 Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson or the 1.2 percent of the popular vote garnered by 2020 nominee Jo Jorgenson.

    So why, exactly, did a minor party whose raison d’être is to reject the two major parties invite the presumptive GOP nominee to potentially overshadow the convention where Libertarian Party delegates will pick their own presidential nominee? That is a hotly contested question within a Libertarian Party that is deeply divided between two factions—the Mises Caucus and the Classical Liberal Caucus.

    The Mises Caucus is the Libertarian Party’s largest faction whose members swept to power at the party’s 2022 convention in a backlash against what they saw as an increasingly politically correct party that didn’t do enough to stand up to COVID lockdowns and was happy to run Republican Party retreads for president. The Classical Liberal Caucus is filled with, well, self-styled classical liberals who see Mises Caucus types as Trump-adjacent bigots and kooks—or at least way too tolerant of bigots and kooks.

    Well, I'm surprised the "Classical Liberal Caucus" exists. Good for them. If they prevail against the (misnamed, I think) Mises folk, I'll probably be able to vote for their nominee. Irrelevant, but gratifying.

  • Not as well illustrated as Birds of America, but still valuable. Robert Graboyes performs a public service in bringing out A Field Guide to Guaranteed, Certified, Definitely-Not-Antisemitic, We-Are-Hamas Global-Intifada Free-Range Encampments. His summary is up top:

    As American campuses boil over with hatred for Israel and for Jews in general, it’s helpful to know what we’re dealing with. Below are five brief lessons:

    1. Michael Moore channels 19th century German racists to prove that protestors calling for the mass murder of Jews are not antisemitic.

    2. Professor David Bernstein notes that, like today’s campus protestors, most antisemites of the past were quite fond of Jews—as long as said Jews were sufficiently contemptuous of other Jews.

    3. Israeli grad student Iddo Gefen discovers disturbing antisemitism at Columbia and then veers toward futile left-of-center virtue-signaling.

    4. Karol Markowicz argues that threats to American Jews reside primarily in blue states and leftward political groupings.

    5. I reiterate my recent argument that my alma mater, Columbia University, should be eviscerated—both for its own misdeeds and as a warning to like-minded institutions.

    Each lesson is detailed and devastating.

  • What's really important is… In the "watch what they do, not what they say" department, brought to you by Tyler Cowen:

    EVs versus unionized auto workers… it was probably not a close call.

Recently on the book blog:


Last Modified 2024-05-13 6:50 PM EDT

Secrets Typed in Blood

(paid link)

This is the third entry in Stephen Spotswood's "Pentecost and Parker" series. It's set in 1947 New York City, "Pentecost" being Lillian Pentecost, famous private detective, and "Parker", being Willowjean Parker, her intrepid assistant, handy with guns, knives, and wisecracks. Willowjean narrates, alternating between jaded cynicism and … um, less jaded cynicism.

If that reminds you of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin books, I think it's supposed to. Out of the four blurbs on the back cover, two mention this similarity. (Another similarity: Archie liked the ladies, and … so does Willowjean.)

The primary plot concerns Holly, who, under a pseudonym, writes of pulp detective stories published in Strange Crime magazine. She notices that three actual recent murders have been staged to follow the garish scenes in three of her fictional stories. What's going on with that? Holly has an addiction to Chesterfields, and is attempting to keep a deep secret of her own under wraps.

There's also a continuing plot from the first book: the Professor Moriarty of the series, criminal mastermind Olivia Waterhouse, is discovered to have been employed as a secretary in a law office. Willowjean is tasked with posing as a secretary herself, wangling a temp job at the same office. Her goal is to find out why Waterhouse was working there, what she did, and (hopefully) that will assist in bringing her to justice.

It's all good, murderous, fun.

Material World

The Six Raw Materials That Shape Modern Civilization

(paid link)

Spoiler: Author Ed Conway's "six raw materials that shape modern civilization" are: sand, salt, iron, copper, oil, and lithium. (Well, not much of a spoiler: they are named and pictured right on the front cover.)

I was somewhat surprised by how much I liked this book. Conway's enthusiasm for his topic is infectious, his research diligent, his prose punchy and accessible. His eyes are wide open for interesting details and good yarns, and he passes them along. His travels take him to all sorts of interesting sites, which are colorfully described. It's a crash course in history, politics, geography, chemistry, economics, you name it.

Material World reminded me of a multipart PBS documentary—one of the good ones! Narrated by Richard Attenborough as he waves his arms and walks through refineries, mines, factories, … Conway is a Brit, and there are a number of British spellings and terms throughout, so Attenborough is a good fit.

A couple of items on Conway's list might seem a little mundane at first glance. Sand? Ah, but without sand, there's no glass. No fiber optics. No cement. No sand means no silicon, so no computer chips, …

Things I noted with post-its:

Why did Britain and Germany make a deal to supply the other with vital war material during WWI? (Page 49)

What happens to chip supply if China invades Taiwan? (Page 120)

What's the earliest likely evidence of manufacture and trade? (Page 129)

How did the Haber-Bosch process for fixing nitrates lengthen WWI? (Page 174)

What site inspired Aldous Huxley's dystopic view in Brave New World? (Page 188)

Why is there demand for steel pirated from sunken warships in the Scapa Flow? (Page 231)

Why does Conway claim that the tasty tomato you're enjoying is "made of fossil fuels"? (Page 349)

Why was that guy in The Graduate movie totally correct to encourage Benjamin to go into plastics? (Page 351)

Is Andean garlic, grown with mineral-laden water, therapeutic or a form of torture? (Page 388)

If there's a flaw in the book, it's that Conway seems to buy into climate alarmism, and kind of handwaves his way through remediation scenarios that smell of central government planning. This, after approvingly quoting Leonard Reed's famous essay, "I, Pencil".

But: As a mostly-libertarian guy who generally despises "industrial policy" as corporate welfare, I was perturbed by Conway's description of the worldwide supply chains involved in moving selected materials out of the ground and putting them into miraculous products you can buy amazingly cheaply. Disruption of any of those myriad long supply chains can bring chaos, shortages, and privation. Might I have to walk back my religious principles against government interference if it turns out that we can't get computers?

Happy Mother's Day 2024

A bit of wisdom from James Lileks' Friday Bleat:

Every day we’re alive is Mother’s Day, really.

Pun Salad fact check: true. So very true.

But Sunday is also our day to poke fun at the horserace, and Mr. Ramirez helps out with that:

Continuing our phony pony analysis, let's look at the current odds:

Candidate EBO Win
Probability
Change
Since
5/5
Donald Trump 46.4% +0.8%
Joe Biden 43.8% -0.6%
Robert Kennedy Jr 3.2% -0.1%
Michelle Obama 2.7% +0.1%
Other 3.9% -0.2%

For some reason, Google is not showing me the "phony" hit counts this week. The usefulness of that was dubious, of course.

Our featured link today is from George F. Will, rightly disappointed in the choices likely appearing on the ballot in November, and therefore writing In defense of not voting

This year, many millions of voters so intensely dislike one or the other of the two major candidates, fury will propel them to the polls. But suppose bipartisan disappointment propelled millions to boycott the election? Imagine a dramatic upsurge in nonvoting that was explainable as a principled protest.

This could not be measured in exit polls because nonvoters do not enter the polls. But talented psephologists should be able to find a way to measure, from the mass of eligible voters, the size of a cohort that abstained because of thoughtful disgust.

In 1948, the first presidential election after World War II and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s four elections, with the Cold War beginning, turnout might have soared. Actually, at 52.2 percent of eligible voters, it was the second-lowest in the past 80 years. (The lowest was 51.7 percent in the 1996 contest between President Bill Clinton and Sen. Robert Dole.) The highest turnout since World War II was 66.6 percent in 2020, the highest since 1904. It was 6.5 points above 2016, a result of pro- and anti-Trump passions. High turnout is a more reliable indicator of national dyspepsia than of civic health.

It might be a constructive signal to both parties if, for the first time in a century, more than half the electorate would not vote. (Only 48.9 percent voted in 1924.) Voters’ eloquent abstention would say that they will return to the political marketplace when offered something better than a choice between two Edsels.

I hope some combination of browser shenanigans will allow you to Read The Whole Thing and find out why GFW is talking about Edsels.

Also of note:

  • It helps to be selectively blind. Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes for the Wall Street Journal, which (in a saner world) would be the very definition of "mainstream media". He notices: Trump’s Best Lies Weren’t Trump’s.

    Knowing when you lied and why you lied is psychologically healthy. Do I think Leon Panetta, the longtime respected congressman and Obama CIA chief, is of healthy mind? Yes. He and colleagues saw that it would help Joe Biden to associate Hunter’s laptop with Russia and left unspoken between them that it was a lie.

    The Economist, in contrast, gives us a blaring, billboard-like exhibition of the psychological disorder known as splitting. See if you recognize the pattern:

    Splitting means claims and assertions hostile to Mr. Trump should be repeated and emphasized; any that aren’t should be suppressed.

    The Steele dossier should be trumpeted until it stops being useful for discrediting Mr. Trump and starts to discredit his enemies—in which case it should never be mentioned again.

    If a statement is true and favorable to Mr. Trump, the only motive for voicing it is pro-Trumpism. (This will create problems for weather reporters if Mr. Trump says it’s raining and it’s actually raining.)

    Russian meddling can’t both have happened and have been trivial—because the first part sounds anti-Trump but the second doesn’t. This is unacceptable to the splitting mind.

    Nina Jankowicz declined comment, saying she had a splitting headache.

  • But I can always vote Libertarian, right? Well… Virginia Postrel looks at that option, and doesn't see much to like: The Libertarian Crack-Up and Conflicting American Ideas of Liberty.

    News that Donald Trump will address the Libertarian Party convention has some people saying, Huh? (Official LP press release here.) In a column titled “Are Libertarians MAGA-Adjacent Now?” centrist Democrat Ed Kilgore writes:

    how much common ground can there exist between libertarian opponents of government power at home and abroad and a former president who oozes authoritarianism from his pores? We’re talking about a man who once famously said that Article II of the U.S. Constitution gave him as president the right “to do whatever I want,” and who is openly and regularly threatening to use every agency of federal power to smite his many enemies if he’s returned to the White House. After observing his initial performance in office, the Libertarian Party put out a statement in 2018 that said, “Whatever libertarian impulses Trump the candidate seemed to have, his actual performance as president stands in stark contrast. Donald Trump is the opposite of a Libertarian.” That sounds about right.

    What’s going on? How could people who supposedly believe in liberty and limited government cozy up to someone as instinctively authoritarian (and pro-tariff!) Donald Trump? This goes way beyond deeming him the lesser of two evils. Besides, isn’t the LP in the business of denying voting on that basis?

    The George Will option above looks pretty good, I think.

  • My Lutheran upbringing made me link to this. How Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Brain Became the Diet of Worms.

    Apparently, in 2010 Kennedy was experiencing symptoms of cognitive decline. His memory was becoming hazy and he was walking around in a state of confusion. Brain scans revealed a mysterious patch—possibly a tumor. At first, doctors feared that he, like his uncle Edward Kennedy, was suffering from brain cancer. But then a doctor at New York Presbyterian offered another diagnosis, that the blotch on the scans was, in Kennedy’s words, “caused by a worm that got into my brain and ate a portion of it and then died.”

    Kennedy said these words as part of a deposition made in 2012 during divorce proceedings with his second wife, Mary Richardson Kennedy. In that deposition, Kennedy gave great salience to his poor health and diminished cognitive capacity, which he claimed resulted in a lower income—hence justification for a smaller alimony payment.

    Aside from the dead parasite nestled inside his brain, Kennedy claimed that as a result of mercury poisoning (which he blamed on his love of eating fish), “I have cognitive problems, clearly. I have short-term memory loss, and I have longer-term memory loss that affects me.” The presidential hopeful ruefully acknowledged, “I loved tuna fish sandwiches. I ate them all the time.” To find someone else as in love with tuna as Kennedy, you have to turn to a movie: In the 2002 black comedy Matchstick Men, the addled and creepy Roy Waller (played by Nicholas Cage) is a tuna junkie on par with Kennedy.

    If you can stand the occasional lefty cliché, it's a pretty good article.

    Debates, Shmebates. I say Sony should arrange an episode of Presidential Jeopardy!, pitting Trump vs. Biden vs. RFKJr vs. … whoever else has a theoretical shot at winning.

    And if you need an explanation of my "Lutheran" comment above, here you go.

Recently on the movie blog:


Last Modified 2024-05-13 3:38 AM EDT

The Manchurian Candidate

[4 stars] [IMDB Link]

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

A couple weeks ago, I twitter-snarked at my ex-CongressCritter with a modified quote from a movie which I'm pretty sure I hadn't seen since I was 14 years old in 1965, on a black&white TV in Omaha. I remember being thrilled, heartbroken, confused, shocked, scared (spoiler: by Angela Lansbury), … It really put me through the wringer.

Nearly 60 years later, I can see why.

The movie begins in 1952, with Sergeant Raymond Shaw rousting his US Army unit out of a Korean whorehouse. (Pretty explicit for a movie made in 1962.) It's clear the GIs despise him, and he them. Shortly after that, the unit, betrayed by Henry Silva, gets captured, helicoptered to a brainwashing facility in Manchuria, where Shaw displays his newly-acquired murderous skills.

Miraculously, the survivors are returned with an implausible cover story and a hero's welcome for Shaw. And we're introduced to Shaw's only-irritating-at-first mom (Ms. Lansbury) and his buffoonish stepdad, US Senator Johnny Iselin. Who, even as a 14-year-old, I recognized as a stand-in for Joe McCarthy.

Meanwhile, Ben Marco (Frank Sinatra) is having real bad nightmares that are leaking through his brainwashed amnesia. And he meets Janet Leigh on a train. And… well, they fit a lot of stuff into a two-hour movie.

Being older and wiser, I now noticed a number of "why didn't they just…" points in the movie. (Acceptable answer: "Because that would have made the movie a lot shorter, and less interesting.")

I Guess Joe Won't Be Putting This Sign on the South Lawn

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Charles C. W. Cooke points out that the Horror of War Doesn't Remove Its Necessity. ("Gifting" this article didn't work for me this morning. I'll try again later.)

If I may be so indulged, I would like to journey deep into the Cave of the Abundantly Obvious and return in possession of a time-tested truth that, apparently, needs a timely reiteration: that, in every conceivable circumstance, war is horrible, but that, in some circumstances, it is necessary nevertheless.

I mention this because I have come increasingly to suspect that the most vocal critics of Israel’s conduct since the abomination of October 7 are unable to get past the first proposition. Push the average Palestinian-flag-wearing campus protester to explain the cause of his present vexation, and, once you have got past the ersatz hierarchies and inscrutable ideologies that inform his worldview, you will be told indignantly that Israel is engaged in a “genocide” — a term that, as far as I can detect, is being used incorrectly as a synonym for “death, destruction, and tragedy.” Or, to roll all that into one term: that is being used incorrectly as a synonym for “war.”

It is reasonable — imperative, even — for human beings to disdain war. War represents failure. War is ruinous. War renders as normal conduct that, properly understood, our civilization exists to impede. It is not reasonable, however, to consider war to represent the only failure among the available alternatives, to conclude that it yields the only form of ruin, or to determine that the conduct necessary for its prosecution is the only intolerable act. At root, Israel is engaged in a war against Hamas not because Israel is insensitive to the calamities that such wars ineluctably bring, but because Hamas has proven itself to be a violent, depraved, totalitarian outfit that sits beyond the reach of international diplomacy or academic therapy. That many innocent people will be killed as a result of Hamas’s being violent, depraved, and totalitarian is tragic, but that does not transmute those consequences into a “genocide,” it does not make a dispositive case against Israel’s decision, and it does not set the very notion of violence beyond the pale.

Another term used falsely, and solely, against Israel: "apartheid".

Also of note:

  • Those were the good old days… Bjørn Lomborg remembers them well: When the Only Problem Was Climate Change.

    Rich countries, global institutions and the private-jet set haven’t always been obsessed with climate change. Their preoccupation began in the early 1990s, at the end of the Cold War. That wasn’t a coincidence. The Soviet Union fell, communism was vanquished, and peace prevailed among major powers. As Francis Fukuyama brashly claimed, history had ended. All that remained was fixing climate change.

    Proponents of climate action advocated ending reliance on the fossil fuels that had powered two centuries of astonishing growth. These activists conceded that this would cost hundreds of trillions of dollars but insisted that massive renewable-energy growth was in the pipeline. This would be the last great push to a glorious future.

    How naive. Time hasn’t been kind to the idea that climate change was humanity’s last problem or that the planet would unite to solve it. A rapid global transition from fossil fuels is, and always has been, impossible. There are several reasons that make it so.

    Unfortnately, the word "nuclear" doesn't appear in Lomborg's article. Instead he suggests we (I assume he means governments) "ramp up investments in green innovation."

    Like artificial photosynthesis!

  • Crude inference based on limited observation. Michael Munger recalls a classic "Get Fuzzy" comic involving The Magic Food Cupboard. (And invokes the classic Arthur C. Clarke observation: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”)

    I have some New York friends whose views of “where food comes from” are not different from “the magic food cupboard” in the comic. Food comes from the grocery store: every time you go there, the shelves are loaded, and the produce racks are bursting with fresh, appetizing fruits and vegetables. Of course, my friends will concede that those things are all put there, and it’s not literally magic.

    But it might as well be, since my friends also believe that all of this could be done better, faster, and cheaper, by a different kind of magic. For them, that magic is called “socialism.” Food “should be free,” just as it is for the cat and the dog in the cartoon. If only we abolished capitalism, food would be more plentiful and less expensive. 

    That’s their theory. Like I said: magic.

    Goes double, or maybe triple, for any good or service provided by government for "free".

  • "Nice little social media company you have here. It'd be a shame if something … happened to it." Robby Soave says government censorship-by-proxy is on the move again: Feds Resume Talking to Social Media Companies While SCOTUS Hears 'Murthy v. Missouri'

    Following revelations about the extent of the federal government's pressure on social media companies to suppress dissenting opinions, the feds broke up with Meta, X (formerly Twitter), and YouTube. Cybersecurity experts now frequently complain about the lack of coordination between the government and the platforms, warning that social media users are vulnerable to misinformation about elections, foreign interference, and other woes.

    But the platforms might be receiving late-night "you up?" texts from federal agents once again. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner (D–Va.) told reporters on Monday that communication between the federal government and social media sites is back on, according to Nextgov and The Federalist.

    In fact, Warner said these communications had resumed in the midst of oral arguments for Murthy v. Missouri, the Supreme Court case that will decide whether the FBI, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Biden White House had violated the First Amendment when they pushed social media sites to remove disfavored content. The justices seemed at least somewhat skeptical, viewing the government's actions as mere attempts at persuasion rather than coercion. That skepticism has apparently given the feds the green light, with Warner acknowledging that "there seemed to be a lot of sympathy that the government ought to have at least voluntary communications" with the platforms.

    Hey, I got an idea: maybe "government" should get its own damn website.

    Oh, wait, they did that.

    I guess "government" would prefer to "voluntarily persuade" private companies to censor their content.

  • On a related note… Kevin D. Williamson notes what caused things to get really bad: Long (Political) Covid. I have some issues with whether he should distinguish between small-l and big-L [Ll]ibertarians, but let's ignore that:

    Who were the libertarians? Now—when the movement has reached its nadir—seems like a good time to consider the question.

    I recently received an email from an old friend, an esteemed academic who is foundering miserably in retirement and senescence. Like many men of his kind, he has taken up politics with a social-media-driven religious devotion and, having tried Donald Trump on for size for a few years, has undergone a conversion to the cause of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who, like Donald Trump, has vermin on the brain. 

    Kennedy is, of course, a charlatan and a huckster, but more to the point here is that he is a left-wing charlatan and huckster—a man with a view of government and national life that is something akin to that of Sen. Bernie Sanders or an old-fashioned campus Marxist. My old friend is—not was, but is—a doctrinaire libertarian, one of those gentlemen I could go to and commiserate about what a terrible idea the Interstate Highway System was and why we don’t really need an FDA. Oh, sure, Bobby is all wrong about the economics and most everything else, he’ll say, but—and I’ll bet you know where this is going—he got it right about COVID-19 and the vaccines. Donald Trump, he’ll tell you, went along with the worst abuse of American civil liberties since Abraham Lincoln illegally suspended habeas corpus, practically turning these United States into a medical gulag. 

    KDW has some tough things to say about Libertarians and also libertarians.

  • And finally… New Hampshire's only President is generally considered to have been one of the worst.

    (In case you were confused: Jed Bartlet was fictional. Also misspelled.)

    So my attention was drawn to Lawrence W. Reed's paean at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE): Why Franklin Pierce Vetoed a Bill to Earmark 10 Million Acres of Federal Land for 'Indigent Insane Persons'

    The only US President from the State of New Hampshire, Franklin Pierce (our 14th) cast just nine vetoes during his years in the White House, from 1853 to 1857. Five were overridden but not his most eloquent one. It’s one of my favorites, so here’s the story.

    On May 3, 1854, President Pierce took great pains (and many pages) to justify his rejection of a bill to grant federal land or the cash equivalent to the States “for the benefit of indigent insane persons.” In the course of performing his Constitutional duty, he confessed feeling “compelled to resist the deep sympathies of my own heart in favor of the humane purpose sought to be accomplished.” He was concerned that he would be misunderstood and castigated as a man without compassion.

    The bill proposed to set aside 12,225,000 acres of federal land. Ten million of those acres were earmarked for the benefit of the insane, and the remaining 2.225 million were to be sold for the benefit of the “blind, deaf, and dumb,” with proceeds parceled out to the states to build and maintain asylums.

    Well, good. As bad a Pierce was, he just moved ahead of Joe Biden and Woodrow Wilson in my personal presidential ranking.

You Might Want To Write Your State's Senators About This

Jill Biden might be thinking, "Hm, didn't Joe tell me his marriage vows were 'ironclad'?"

It's been less than a month since Biden claimed "America’s ironclad commitment to the security of Israel." Little did we know that he muttered under his breath at the time: "… as long as they do what I say."

David Harsanyi notes that "ironclad" really meant "feeble, spineless, and feckless": Joe Biden Is Selling Out Israel To The Antisemitic Mob.

Even as Joe Biden was delivering his perfunctory Holocaust Remembrance speech earlier this week, decrying the “ferocious surge” in antisemitism on college campuses and prattling on about how he would never forget the Oct. 7 attack — which saw over 1,300 Israelis murdered, raped, and kidnapped — the president was planning to stop the Jewish State from destroying modern-day Nazis.

Yesterday, Biden told CNN’s Erin Burnett that if Israel invades the city of Rafah in Gaza — where remaining battalions of Hamas terrorists are holed up behind civilians — the U.S. would stop supplying Israel with offensive and precision weapons.

This is a historic moment, as it is surely the first time a president has sold out a stalwart U.S. ally to save a terrorist organization. And not just any terror organization, but one that murdered, sexually tortured, kidnapped — and still holds — American citizens. Biden has sacrificed them to the mobs of Columbia University and Dearborn, Michigan, and The Washington Post editorial board. Biden could have given Israel this ultimatum privately. But he went on TV to do it precisely because it is meant for the ears of Israel haters.

Jim Geraghty is also unimpressed: Biden Comes to Hamas’s Rescue .

I hadn’t planned on writing about a topic related to Israel for the third time in three days, but Wednesday afternoon, President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. was withholding a pending shipment of 2,000-pound and 500-pound bombs to Israel, and that he was preparing to withhold additional shipments of artillery shells. This is in addition to Biden’s earlier decision to delay selling Israel 6,500 Joint Direct Attack Munitions — kits that enable unguided bombs to be steered to a target.

Biden is attempting to strong-arm Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government into ceasing their operations against Hamas in Rafah in the Gaza Strip.

“If they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities,” Biden told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “I’ve made it clear to Bibi and the war cabinet, they’re not going to get our support, if in fact they go on these population centers,”

Biden insisted, “We’re not walking away from Israel’s security; we’re walking away from Israel’s ability to wage war in those areas,” blithely ignoring the fact that the Israeli war cabinet unanimously agreed that waging war in Rafah is essential to Israel’s security. Biden is once again insisting to people in the crosshairs of Hamas that he knows how to fight Hamas better than they do.

What to do? The WSJ editorialists encourage Striking Back at Biden’s Arms Embargo Against Israel.

Democrats hammered Republicans for months to pass U.S. military aid for America’s friends abroad. Now only weeks after the bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, President Biden is holding up the weapons Israel needs to prevail in a war for survival. So credit to the Republicans lining up against Mr. Biden’s weapons embargo.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham on Thursday rolled out a measure condemning the Administration’s decision to halt weapons deliveries to Israel. All Senate Republicans joined the measure except for Rand Paul of Kentucky.

“I want the Republican Party in the Senate—and I think the House will follow—to firmly state that we believe Israel is a rule of law nation,” Sen. Graham told us. “That they have an ethical, well-regulated military,” that “the weapons that we’re providing to them are necessary for their continued survival, that you have Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran, all dedicated to the destruction of Israel, not the uplifting of the Palestinian people.”

I've written to both New Hampshire senators—politely—urging them to support the measure. Unfortunately, the WSJ also notes the likely outcome: Majority leader Schumer preventing it from coming to a vote. It would be nice to get politicians to get on the record: are they in favor of this backstabbing or against it?

Also of note:

  • Nina Jankowicz probably disagrees, but Kevin D. Williamson notes a recent award and suggests that it should be renamed: The Pulitzer for Propaganda Goes to ...

    In 2023, the Washington Post published a series of articles about AR-15-style rifles. The series was scientifically illiterate, error-ridden, propagandistic, and willfully misleading.

    Naturally, it has just been awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

    Here are the facts, not that these matter even a little bit to the Pulitzer committee, members of which declined to answer questions for this column.

    The AR-15 and rifles based on its design are two things at once: They are perfectly ordinary firearms that have been sold to civilians in the United States for the better part of a century, and they are cultural totems. They are cultural totems for the gun nuts who love them and for those who wish to prohibit their sale. The AR-pattern rifle has a lot in common with the most common rifles and handguns sold in the United States: It has a semiautomatic rate of fire (meaning that it fires once each time the trigger is pulled but doesn’t require any additional steps between trigger pulls, as opposed to, e.g., a bolt-action rifle, which requires that the shooter manually operate a handle that ejects the spent shell after a shot and then chambers another round for the next shot), and it is fed from a detachable box magazine. These features—semiautomatic firing and detachable box magazines—are what make the AR-style rifle useful for many purposes—including mass shootings. But they are features that the AR-style rifle has in common with most rifles sold in the United States and with nearly all handguns sold in the United States. As the engineering of semiautomatic rifles grows ever finer, even pursuits traditionally dominated by bolt-action rifles—long-range precision target shooting and hunting—have seen semiautomatic rifles make incursions, in much the same way that sports cars today mainly have a feature that would have been anathema to a sporting driver a generation ago: automatic transmissions.

    KDW provides a detailed refutation. And ("the more things change…") notes the similarity between the Post's award and the Pulitzer awarded to Walter Duranty in 1932 for his shoddy and discredited reportage from Stalin's USSR. In both cases: "the Pulitzer people bought it because they wanted it to be true."

  • Knowing When to Say No. Jerry Coyne is an emeritus professor at the University of Chicago, which saw an "encampment" from the local Hamas cheerleading squad. He sees good things and not-so-good things in the UofC's president's recent WSJ op-ed. Coyne's commentary: President Alivisatos explains why he ended our Encampment. Getting to what the university administrators got wrong:

    a.) I don’t think the President should have tried to bargain with the protestors. That never works, and winds up heartening them to erect encampments elsewhere to achieve their aims.

    b.) We were never told that the administration was secretly trying to bargain with encampers. That distressed many of us, who, though we didn’t need to know what items were on the table, believe that you should never bargain with such a group of zealots. And believe me, the encampers were zealots.

    c.) The President should simply have had the encampment removed the moment the first tent was hammered into the ground. Why? Because, as Alivisatos admitted in his first letter to the University, the encampment violated University “time, place, and manner” regulations in multiple ways. From the outset it was a big violation, not a minor one. And it only got bigger over time, exacerbating the problem.

    Two more not-so-good things at the link. I'm pretty sure if UNH President James Dean (on his way out the door) reads this, he'll be reassured he did better than Alivisatos.

  • Case in point. Arnold Kling writes on Status-Driven Syndrome, and I just want to note this pearl of wisdom:

    The more titles an organization has, the more it will select for people who really care about titles.

    That caused me to recall my favorite example, the "Advancement" (fund-raising) Department at the University Near Here. Their directory lists 75 individuals, more than a lot of academic departments, I'm pretty sure.

    But the titles!

    Nineteen of these good people, over a quarter of the total, are listed as "Directors" of something or another.

    But they need people to associate with! So there are 12 "Associate Directors".

    And all those people need help! So there are 10 "Assistant Directors".

    And (no, I'm not done) there are six "Managing Directors"; two "Senior Drectors"; two "Senior Managing Directors"; two "Senior Executive Directors" (one of which is also "Treasurer"); one "Senior Integrated Marketing Director"; one "Senior Associate Director"; and one "Editorial Director" (who also doubles as "Editor in Chief" of the alumni magazine).

    So out of those 75 folks, 56 have the word "Director" in their titles. Nearly three-quarters. Impressive, and I'm sure Kling would agree.

More Like SocialIST INSecurity, Amirite?

In case you thought otherwise, the NR editors will set you straight: The Medicare and Social Security Reports Are Nothing to Celebrate.

The Medicare and Social Security trustees’ reports illustrate the same thing they do every year: These programs are not financially sustainable and will require reforms if they are to continue to exist.

[…]

Social Security’s insolvency date is the same as in last year’s report, 2033. Current law would require a 21 percent benefits cut in 2033 if nothing changes between now and then. The likelier outcome, which the Congressional Budget Office assumes would happen, is that Congress would borrow more to keep benefits funded.

That might sound like an okay outcome, except that the borrowing from Medicare and everything else will still be ongoing, and upward pressure on interest rates will continue to increase. How long will investors continue to lend trillions of dollars to the Treasury, largely to fund entitlement programs, on favorable terms?

The problem, of course: "Investors" expect to get paid back in actual money. I know I do.

At Reason, Eric Boehm notices the obvious: Social Security and Medicare Are Going Insolvent. Neither Biden nor Trump Has a Plan for It.

Neither of the two men most likely to be elected president in November has anything that could properly be described as a workable plan for addressing the approaching insolvency of America's two largest entitlement programs.

This week's news from the Social Security and Medicare trustees ought to underscore just how foolish that is. On Monday, annual reports from the officials charged with running the two old-age entitlement programs confirmed once again that the clock is ticking for both: Social Security is expected to hit insolvency in 2035, while the portion of Medicare that pays for hospital visits and other medical care will be insolvent by 2036.

Even though both projected insolvency dates have slightly improved since last year—when the trustees expected them to run out of cash reserves by 2034 and 2031, respectively—the seriousness of the problem cannot be ignored. When Social Security hits insolvency, beneficiaries will face an automatic 21 percent cut in benefits. The insolvency of Medicare's Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will trigger an automatic 11 percent cut, which would "likely lead to significant disruptions in health care services for older individuals and those with disabilities," according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

It's worth underlining that point. Those benefit cuts are not the result of future choices that might be made by Congress and the president—they are baked into the current status quo of the two programs. Without policy changes, they will eventually become a reality.

Another advocate for facing up to fiscal reality is a onetime public trustee for Social Security and Medicare, Charles Blahouse, writing at Discourse, strongly suggesting Reforming Social Security Now, Before It’s Too Late.

The 2024 edition of the annual report of the Social Security trustees was released on May 6, 2024, and its conclusions are sobering. Approximately 21% of scheduled benefits lack funding, a figure that includes future payments for current beneficiaries. If corrective action is much further delayed, continued solvency will be for all practical purposes unachievable, meaning that the current design of Social Security will need to be abandoned. If that happens, it will not be because Americans signaled a desire to scrap Social Security’s current structure, but because lawmakers dithered past the point where repairs could fix the problem. This would be a scandalous abdication of public responsibility.

It’s important first to step back and remember what the trustees’ reports are meant to tell us. They are not just an abstract accounting exercise, but instead convey the magnitude of the changes needed to maintain Social Security in its current form. That form is of a contributory insurance program that provides income to an insured worker who departs the workforce due to old age or disability. It is financed via separate payroll taxes that are tracked in dedicated trust funds, apart from the rest of the federal budget.

Social Security is not welfare; workers rich and poor alike contribute payroll taxes to it, rich and poor alike are eligible for benefits and individuals’ benefits are a mathematical function of their previous contributions. Benefits by law are paid only from the trust funds, not from the government’s general fund. This allows beneficiaries to assert that they earned and paid for their benefits (at least in the aggregate), unlike welfare programs wherein some people get benefits based on their need without paying taxes, while others pay taxes without ever becoming eligible for benefits. Social Security’s unique design renders its payments more secure and reliable than welfare benefits. This design also means that the program’s surrounding politics are fundamentally different as well. In welfare, the terms of eligibility are constantly renegotiated because of the collision of interests between recipients and taxpayers. By contrast, Social Security participants can count on their benefits because of the shared perception that they have been earned.

The problem being… well, folks like Ed Mosca, who writes for Granite Grok. He's not a fan of any of that fancy-shmancy "discussion": Democrats Are Deliberately Destroying America ... But Let's Talk About "Entitlement Reform"!

Ed is objecting to a previous Grok article by a different author, who posed thirteen questions for GOP congressionial candidates in NH-02, one of which was "Would you share specific recommendations for entitlement reform?"

There is NO constituency in America for cutting Social Security except for “traditional” GOP like Mitch McConnell who wants to use the money to engage in forever-wars and GOP-mouthpieces who think that voters don’t understand the scam. Voters do NOT want “entitlement reform.” They want an end to the forever wars. But, not surprisingly, ending the forever-wars … like the proxy-war we are currently fighting and losing in Ukraine … does not make the list of the “13 questions” the 2nd-CD election should be about.

Any GOP candidate who is talking about “entitlement reform” and not talking about ending the forever-wars is NOT a serious candidate AND has NO CHANCE of winning.

Unfortunately, Ed might be right on the political reality. I'd put it slightly different: there's no electoral constituency for fiscal sanity; any politician that dares talk about it will get pilloried for pushing grandma off a cliff in her wheelchair.

Further, totally expected result: the increasing tendency of our "successful" politicians to be lying, narcissistic, delusional, hypocritcal, pandering, stupid, bonkers, demagogic, power-hungry, … well, you get the idea. I bet you could come up with some adjectives yourself.

Also of note:

  • Don't eat anything with a face. Especially a bug face. Jeff Maurer brings the funny truth about Ron: Ron DeSantis Wants Us to Know That He Is a Big, Tough Beef Boy.

    Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign did not go well. He won zero states and spent $6,832 per vote, which is probably worse than how a horse with a sign hanging around its neck that says “I will give you $6,832” would have done. He was humiliated when he seemed to be wearing lifts in his boots, which — as far as Republican primary voters are concerned — is about 2/3 of the way to moonlighting as a drag queen named Rhonda Scandalous.1 Even Vivek Ramaswamy mocked his manliness, which is a bit like having Larry Nassar write an open letter to the New England Journal of Medicine questioning your ethics.

    Maybe that’s why last week, DeSantis showed everyone that he is a big, burly, rough-and-tumble steak stud by banning the production or sale of lab grown meat in Florida. You see, lab grown meat is a product that may exist one day. If it ever does, it could be cheaper and better for the environment than regular meat, plus we wouldn’t have to blast Zuckerman’s Famous Pig’s brains against the wall with a bolt pistol. This first-in-the-nation law ensures that any change in our 10,000 year-old meat production system won’t happen in Florida. Florida’s main exports will continue to be C-plus meth and airbrushed t-shirts with alligators on them, and hopefully the people of Florida are okay with that.

    You may notice that this law violates about 20-30 nominal conservative principles. DeSantis is stifling innovation, getting the government involved in free market, and “picking winners and losers” by protecting ranchers. Plus, even though DeSantis and other Republicans have spent the past two years complaining so much about food prices that an 18th century French peasant would probably say “tone it down”, DeSantis is outlawing a product that people might one day want to buy. This is a heavy handed, anti-free market, anti-conservative move, significantly more severe than Michael Bloomberg’s effort to reduce soda sizes in New York, which Republicans reacted to as if Bloomberg had implemented Prohibition times a hundred.

    That lonely conservative magazine, National Review, confirms that last bit: What was DeSanctimonious thinking? Florida’s Meat-Mandate Hypocrisy.

    Announcing the new law, DeSantis proposed that “Florida is fighting back against the global elite’s plan to force the world to eat meat grown in a petri dish or bugs to achieve their authoritarian goals.” In concert, the governor’s office declared that the State of Florida had taken “action to stop the World Economic Forum’s goal of forcing the world to eat lab-grown meat and insects.”

    Odd as it may sound, it’s true that the ultimate aim of many of those who champion lab-grown meat — or, rather: lab-grown “meat” — is, indeed, to decree that the people of the world enjoy diets that they would never choose of their own volition. Bill Gates, who has invested heavily in this industry, has said “all rich countries should move to 100% synthetic meat” and suggested that governments could “use regulation to totally shift the demand.” Preventing this sort of dystopian intervention into people’s diets is a worthy endeavor. But there is a profound difference between fighting back against mandates and prohibiting consumer products per se, and, here, Florida has done the latter. In so doing, the state has taken a wholly worthwhile cause — the cause of individual choice — and sullied it with an unlovely combination of hypocrisy and two-bit protectionism.

    Jacob Sullum also points out the lack of conservatism (let alone libertarianism): Ron DeSantis Says Letting People Buy Cultivated Meat Is Like Forcing Them to Eat Bugs: Florida's Protectionist Ban on the Nascent Industry Sacrifices Conservative Principles in the Name of a Culture War That Politicizes Everything.

    When he signed the nation's first ban on cultivated meat last week, DeSantis said he was "fighting back against the global elite's plan to force the world to eat meat grown in a petri dish or bugs to achieve their authoritarian goals." That bizarre, Orwellian spin, which portrays legal restrictions on consumer choice as a blow against authoritarianism, illustrates how right-wing virtue signaling — in this case reinforced by protectionism — compromises conservative principles by turning even activities as mundane as a trip to the supermarket into a political issue.

    I'm pretty sure nobody could make me eat bugs, though. Not even Bill Gates.

  • Hey, anyone remember Subway Jared? If you don't, Wikipedia does. Anyway, it seems that Subway Jared could do a better job than current chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Jared Bernstein. David R. Henderson discusses Jared Bernstein's Basic Confusions. His take on this interview:

    Jared says, “The government definitely prints money and it definitely lends that money which is why the government definitely prints money and then it lends that money by selling bonds.”

    You can tell by watching him that Jared is playing for time while he consults the hard drive in his head. It’s as if he’s saying to himself, “I know the answer; I can get this.”

    Unfortunately, he doesn’t.

    First he conflates printing money and lending money. The Fed does print money. Score one for Jared. But it doesn’t lend that money. It typically uses that money to buy bonds that the Treasury has already printed and sold to the market. It does this in the form of open-market operations, something you can learn about even in an introductory Money and Banking textbook. My guess, by the way, is that Jared has never even studied an introductory Money and Banking textbook. You’ll see why I say that in a minute.

    Second, the Fed does not “lend that money by selling bonds.” When the Fed sells bonds, it’s not lending. You might think it’s borrowing. But that’s not true either. Once it sells bonds, the owner of the bonds is owed money by the Treasury, not by the Federal Reserve. (Notice that Jared talks about the federal government without ever distinguishing between the Treasury and the Fed.)

    You might want to go back up to the top of this post and reread the Social Security/Medicare stuff at this point.

  • Tick tock or not? Our local TV station relays a warning from Your Federal Government: Real IDs required for travel in 1 year.

    Which I won't excerpt.

    Instead, I suggest you read Jim Harper at AEI: No, the REAL ID Deadline Is Not in One Year.

    According to a slew of minor media reports, one year remains before the REAL ID deadline. On May 7, 2025, the story goes, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will begin turning American travelers away at airports if they don’t have an ID card that meets federal standards.

    Well, there are government programs, and there are laws. The operative law here is a law of politics: Don’t anger the people.

    That means that the REAL ID deadline will recede once again, as it has time and again since Congress passed a statute creating a national ID. Congress tasked the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with implementing it by commandeering state identification policy and state departments of motor vehicles.

    Pun Salad's first post on REAL ID was back in 2005, when the blog was only a few months old. Bad idea then, as now. The initial deadline for implementing REAL ID was 2008.

Recently on the book blog:


Last Modified 2024-05-10 6:14 AM EDT

The First Rule

(paid link)

I have the hardcover, which I devoured when it came out back in 2010. But now it's one more feat accomplished on my "Reread Robert Crais" project. For better or worse, my memory for plot details tend to fade to zero with time, so it's like reading a brand new book! What I said back then still applies, slightly edited:

This novel concentrates on one of Crais's continuing characters: Joe Pike. Crais introduced Pike years back as the sidekick to Elvis Cole, the World's Greatest Detective. (That's what he calls himself, but it's arguably true.) Pike was the stoic but deadly yang to Elvis's chatty, wise-cracking yin; he'd be called in when Elvis needed stealthy backup and massive amounts of well-aimed firepower. Recently, Pike has come into his own; in this novel, Elvis is the sidekick. And doesn't do any wisecracking here, it's a pretty serious mission.

Specifically: The premise is a truly horrific crime: a home invasion where (seemingly) all inhabitants are brutally murdered. Unfortunately for the bad guys, the head of household was once a member of Pike's "team": a semi-mercenary group of consultants tasked with security in various world hot spots. And (worse) one of the victims is a kid who had been named after Pike.

What follows is a pretty good detective novel, interlaced with episodes of quick action and a few dizzying plot twists. You don't want to mess with Pike, or his friends.

Also appearing here: Jon Stone, who's on the side of the good guys, but clearly damaged goods.

Put 125 Candles on the Cake For…

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

F. A. Hayek, born on May 8, 1899. He provides (naturually enough) Cafe Hayek's Quotation of the Day:

The conception of freedom under the law … rests on the contention that when we obey laws, in the sense of general abstract rules laid down irrespective of their application to us, we are not subject to another man’s will and are therefore free. It is because the lawgiver does not know the particular cases to which his rules will apply, and it is because the judge who applies them has no choice in drawing the conclusions that follow from the existing body of rules and the particular facts of the case, that it can be said that laws and not men rule.

Pretty good stuff, as I recall. I own the (apparently) non-definitive edition of The Constitution of Liberty, purchased for $3.95 in 1972 or thereabouts. I think it may be time to shell out for the edition you see at your right.

Also of note:

  • The best headline of the month so far. And a real candidate for best of the year: Raging Ignorantly At The Internet Fixes Nothing. It's by Mike Masnick at techdirt:

    Jann Wenner, the creator of Rolling Stone magazine, was certainly an early supporter of free speech. But he seems to have reached grumpy old man status, that allows him to whine about free speech online, mostly by not knowing shit about anything.

    Writing for Air Mail, a publication by Graydon Carter (another Grumpy Old Man of Media™), Wenner has a facts-optional screed about Section 230, which has done more for free speech than Wenner ever did.

    First off, Wenner gets the purpose and history of Section 230 backwards. Like exactly 100% backwards. This is the kind of thing any fact checker would catch, but who needs fact checkers here?

    The original conceit behind Section 230 was that tech companies were not publishers of content but merely providers of “pipes”—innocent high-tech plumbers!—and so should be treated like Con Edison or the telephone company. In reality, they are pipes, publishers, monopoly capitalists, spy networks, and a whole lot more all bundled together.

    This is literally the opposite of the “conceit behind Section 230.” The entire conceit was that they are publishers, but because they’re publishers that allow anyone to publish and (mostly) only do ex post moderation, it made no sense at all to hold them liable as traditional publishers, who review everything ex ante.

    Don't be like Jann Wenner.

  • Attention should be paid. Perhaps the polar opposite of Jann Wenner, Greg Lukianoff, has some advice on Campus Chaos: Navigating Free Speech, Unrest, and the Need for Reform in Higher Education.

    The climate is chaotic and varies from campus to campus and day to day. But the fact is that some of what we're seeing on campus is the stifling of absolutely protected free speech under the First Amendment. At the University of Texas at San Antonio, for example, peaceful demonstrators reported that they were told not to chant in Arabic or use phrases like “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” — one of the phrases Gov. Abbott singled out in his executive order. It’s also clearly protected expression.

    However, some of what’s going on is very much not free speech — like setting up encampments and occupying university buildings, which constitute civil disobedience (i.e., intentionally breaking the rules) and are therefore subject to punishment. As FIRE has recently outlined, students setting up camps on school grounds should expect disciplinary action from authorities. It is well within a college’s rights to shut down encampments, as long as they are doing so in a fair and content-neutral way, and not going after protected speech in the process.

    Importantly, though, authorities also have to be consistent in their enforcement. Serving Twizzlers and burritos to some students when they do a takeover of an administrative building — as occurred at Harvard last November— sends the message to everyone that some opinions are implicitly supported by the administration, whereas encampments of students espousing causes they felt less sympathetic towards would not be tolerated. As Princeton University professor of politics Keith Whittington wrote recently, “would they show the same grace toward students wearing MAGA hats engaged in the same behavior?”

    This isn't hard. Or shouldn't be.

  • [Amazon Link]
    (paid link)

    Very high on the list of things unlikely to scare me: mad poets. But high on the list of things that are likely to interest me: AI bullshit. Leigh Stein links up these two in print Reason: 'AI Bullshit' Makes Poets Mad.

    When the conceptual poet Lillian-Yvonne Bertram began to experiment with large language models (LLMs) in 2018, they discovered unexpected poetry inside ChatGPT-2. "The prompt responses were quirky: prone to interesting conversations and uncanny and poetic slippages. There was a strangeness about them," they wrote in the introduction to their new AI poetry collection, A Black Story May Contain Sensitive Content.

    "The responses made you feel like someone was maybe looking over your shoulder, or the machine had read your horoscope or your diary, like it just knew things," wrote the poet, who uses they/them pronouns.

    On July 29, 2023, when Bertram announced on Twitter that they had won the New Michigan Press/DIAGRAM chapbook contest for a poetry collection "generated" by ChatGPT-3, there was immediate backlash.

    This outcome—that a book written by AI would defeat honest books carved from the hearts and souls of living poets—is the stuff of writers' nightmares.

    Winning the contest came with a cool $1000 prize. Which, in case you're confused by "they" in the third paragraph, Lillian-Yvonne Bertram is not sharing.

    And she is billed as the author of that book. Amazon link at your right. For me, I'm still sticking with Hayek.

  • Isn't "American" kinda xenophobic? James B. Meigs looks at the sad story of a once-prestigious mag: Unscientific American.

    Michael Shermer got his first clue that things were changing at Scientific American in late 2018. The author had been writing his “Skeptic” column for the magazine since 2001. His monthly essays, aimed at an audience of both scientists and laymen, championed the scientific method, defended the need for evidence-based debate, and explored how cognitive and ideological biases can derail the search for truth. Shermer’s role models included two twentieth-century thinkers who, like him, relished explaining science to the public: Carl Sagan, the ebullient astronomer and TV commentator; and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould, who wrote a popular monthly column in Natural History magazine for 25 years. Shermer hoped someday to match Gould’s record of producing 300 consecutive columns. That goal would elude him.

    In continuous publication since 1845, Scientific American is the country’s leading mainstream science magazine. Authors published in its pages have included Albert Einstein, Francis Crick, Jonas Salk, and J. Robert Oppenheimer—some 200 Nobel Prize winners in all. SciAm, as many readers call it, had long encouraged its authors to challenge established viewpoints. In the mid-twentieth century, for example, the magazine published a series of articles building the case for the then-radical concept of plate tectonics. In the twenty-first century, however, American scientific media, including Scientific American, began to slip into lockstep with progressive beliefs. Suddenly, certain orthodoxies—especially concerning race, gender, or climate—couldn’t be questioned.

    “I started to see the writing on the wall toward the end of my run there,” Shermer told me. “I saw I was being slowly nudged away from certain topics.” One month, he submitted a column about the “fallacy of excluded exceptions,” a common logical error in which people perceive a pattern of causal links between factors but ignore counterexamples that don’t fit the pattern. In the story, Shermer debunked the myth of the “horror-film curse,” which asserts that bad luck tends to haunt actors who appear in scary movies. (The actors in most horror films survive unscathed, he noted, while bad luck sometimes strikes the casts of non-scary movies as well.) Shermer also wanted to include a serious example: the common belief that sexually abused children grow up to become abusers in turn. He cited evidence that “most sexually abused children do not grow up to abuse their own children” and that “most abusive parents were not abused as children.” And he observed how damaging this stereotype could be to abuse survivors; statistical clarity is all the more vital in such delicate cases, he argued. But Shermer’s editor at the magazine wasn’t having it. To the editor, Shermer’s effort to correct a common misconception might be read as downplaying the seriousness of abuse. Even raising the topic might be too traumatic for victims.

    The article focuses on Scientific American, but makes clear that the infusion of ideology into science journalism is widespread.

She Said a Word I Didn't Like in 2017, So I Can Ignore Her Now

Our favorite physics professor at the University Near Here tweets on Zadie Smith ("ZS"):

CPW restricts replies to those she follows or mentions, but that's why I have a blog.

Quadroons? Sounds bad. Let's take a look. This outrage happened in the July 2017 issue of Harper's, in Smith's article Getting In and Out. There are two occurrences. First, about her kids:

Their beloved father is white, I am biracial, so, by the old racial classifications of America, they are “quadroons.”

And second:

Often I look at my children and remember that quadroons—green-eyed, yellow-haired people like my children—must have been standing on those auction blocks with their café au lait mothers and dark-skinned grandmothers.

The context: Smith is discussing the reaction to a painting by Dana Schutz titled Open Casket, an abstract depiction of Emmett Till in his coffin, which was included in the 2017 Whitney Biennial.

Dana Schutz is white. That mere fact caused the excrement to impact the air circulation device. Smith quotes a "widely circulated letter to the curators of the Whitney Biennial" from artist/writer Hannah Black:

I am writing to ask you to remove Dana Schutz’s painting Open Casket and with the urgent recommendation that the painting be destroyed and not entered into any market or museum … because it is not acceptable for a white person to transmute Black suffering into profit and fun, though the practice has been normalized for a long time.

Others piled on with criticism which clearly would not have been made had the hand holding the paintbrush had been of a darker hue.

So Smith wonders how people might react if her "sort of yellowy" kids decided to make art. Would it be acceptable for them to "take black suffering as a subject"?

I admit, I don't find Smith's use of an archaic term to describe her kids to be offensive, especially since she obviously doesn't use it in a derogatory way. (You don't need my permission, but I'll give it anyway: make your own call on that issue.)

But in 2024, CPW is dissing Zadie Smith simply as an ad hominem against her New Yorker essay. And maybe CPW is pissed at Smith's bottom line:

And now here we are, almost at the end of this little stream of words. We’ve arrived at the point at which I must state clearly “where I stand on the issue,” that is, which particular political settlement should, in my own, personal view, occur on the other side of a ceasefire. This is the point wherein—by my stating of a position—you are at once liberated into the simple pleasure of placing me firmly on one side or the other, putting me over there with those who lisp or those who don’t, with the Ephraimites, or with the people of Gilead. Yes, this is the point at which I stake my rhetorical flag in that fantastical, linguistical, conceptual, unreal place—built with words—where rapes are minimized as needs be, and the definition of genocide quibbled over, where the killing of babies is denied, and the precision of drones glorified, where histories are reconsidered or rewritten or analogized or simply ignored, and “Jew” and “colonialist” are synonymous, and “Palestinian” and “terrorist” are synonymous, and language is your accomplice and alibi in all of it. Language euphemized, instrumentalized, and abused, put to work for your cause and only for your cause, so that it does exactly and only what you want it to do. Let me make it easy for you. Put me wherever you want: misguided socialist, toothless humanist, naïve novelist, useful idiot, apologist, denier, ally, contrarian, collaborator, traitor, inexcusable coward. It is my view that my personal views have no more weight than an ear of corn in this particular essay. The only thing that has any weight in this particular essay is the dead.

I don't agree with everything she says (Zadie obviously despises Netanyahu, I kind of like him), but that's pretty good.

Also of note:

  • Meanwhile at the University Near Here… NHJournal summarizes UNH President James ("Don't Call Me Jimmy") Dean's point in a recent radio interview with Drew Cline: We Did the Right Thing Shutting Down the Encampment.

    University of New Hampshire President James Dean said Monday morning his decision to clear encampment-building protesters from campus last week was the right one, and his administration was ready for another round of anti-Israel protests.

    Protest organizers like the Palestine Solidarity Coalition (PSC) don’t agree, accusing UNH of silencing dissent and demanding Dean’s resignation.

    “I think our response was appropriate,” Dean told WFEA radio’s Drew Cline, noting that anti-Israel activists had held seven previous protests at UNH without a problem. Not this time, he said.

    “We worked with people who had the permit for the protest over the weeks and hours before the protest started. They told us over and over again that there would be no encampment, that it would just be the same kind of protest that we’ve had seven times before.Q

    “It wasn’t true,” Dean said.

    NHJournal reproduces this lovely advertisement for a "walkout" for (as I type) yesterday:

    Okay, so what happened there? NHJournal reporter Evan Lips was at the scene: UNH Protesters Denounce Police Crackdown, Chant 'Piggy, Piggy' at Monday Protest.

    Days after University of New Hampshire police cleared out an unauthorized overnight encampment staged by anti-Israel student groups, the same demonstrators returned on Monday afternoon to the scene of the mayhem — but with a different message.

    Previous rallies have urged “Free Palestine,” while much of the rhetoric at Monday’s midday walkout was about “freeing” students and activists who were arrested last week on charges ranging from trespass to assaulting a police officer.

    “Maybe we should be cutting [police budgets] because they don’t keep us safe,” said UNH women’s and gender studies professor Siobhan Senier said Monday.

    Monday’s rally against Israel and the UNH administration was peaceful and arrest free. The 100 or so anti-Israel protesters chanted “Long Live the Intifada,” a celebration of the deadly terror campaign waged by Palestinians against Israelis between 1987 and 2005.

    "Maybe we should be cutting the budget of UNH's Women's and Gender Studies department," a random blogger suggested. "As I reported a few months ago, Professor Senier is reported to be pulling down a cool $103,560.00 yearly."

    In only slightly-unrelated news, the College Fix reports that school for kids that couldn't get into Caltech is giving up a woke requirement: MIT bans mandatory DEI statements in faculty hiring.

    Leaders of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have told faculty to discontinue the practice of requiring mandatory diversity, equity and inclusion statements in faculty hiring.

    “On Saturday, an MIT spokesperson confirmed in an email to me that ‘requests for a statement on diversity will no longer be part of applications for any faculty positions at MIT,’ adding that the decision was made by embattled MIT President Sally Kornbluth ‘with the support of the Provost, Chancellor, and all six academic deans,'” John Sailer reported for Unherd.

    Can the University System Near Here hold onto its wokeness? A simple Google search for "diversity statement" at USNH's "jobs" site still gives… well, I'm not counting them, but a lot of hits.

  • This is the business we've chosen. The NR editors note Trump’s Overdue Embrace of Early and Mail Voting.

    On April 16, 2024, once and future Republican nominee for president Donald Trump wrote a curious post on his social-media website, Truth Social: “ABSENTEE VOTING, EARLY VOTING, AND ELECTION DAY VOTING ARE ALL GOOD OPTIONS. REPUBLICANS MUST MAKE A PLAN, REGISTER, AND VOTE!” Only a year and a half ago, he was writing on the same platform: “REMEMBER, YOU CAN NEVER HAVE FAIR & FREE ELECTIONS WITH MAIL-IN BALLOTS – NEVER, NEVER, NEVER. WON’T AND CAN’T HAPPEN!!!”

    Yeah, that's Trump: hitting the keyboard with the Caps Lock key taped down.

Subhed Shoulda Been: "Skip Down To Paragraph 21 For The Most Likely Answer"

The WSJ asks a poignant question: Drunken-Driving Deaths Are Up. Why Are DUI Arrests Down? And it includes an "arresting" (heh) graphic:

Let me say it so you don't have to: correlation is not causation. Still…

Drunken-driving deaths in the U.S. have risen to levels not seen in nearly two decades, federal data show, a major setback to long-running road-safety efforts.

At the same time, arrests for driving under the influence have plummeted, as police grapple with challenges like hiring woes and heightened concern around traffic stops.

Looking at those graphs, the natural question is, "Gee, what happened in 2020?"

The pandemic, of course. But that's over now, and drunk drivers are still killing others (and themselves). Eventually, in paragraph 21 of the article

Then came 2020. Soon after the pandemic began, George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis provoked a nationwide backlash against police, including in the area of traffic stops. “The perception was the public wasn’t supportive of traffic enforcement,” [Jonathan Adkins of the Governors Highway Safety Association] said.

George Floyd's death was unconscionable. The aftermath of his death, it appears, has killed a lot more people.

Also of note:

  • Not to be confused with the curious incident of the dog in the night-time. Kevin D. Williamson relates a story that has no need of detective skills: The Curiously Relevant Case of Rick Perry. And, amazingly, there's a connection with the item above. But it's a general discussion of the thorny topic of …

    Regarding the legal (and legalistic) issues related to the current raft of criminal cases lodged against former game-show host, occasional pornographic-film performer, and disgraced ex-president Donald J. Trump, I commend to you the expert opinions of Dispatch legal analyst Sarah Isgur and frequent Advisory Opinions podcast guest David French of the New York Times.

    For my part, I have a narrow, but relevant, example to put forward: the felony case against former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was indicted by a Travis County prosecutor entrusted with countering political corruption throughout the state of Texas. The prosecutor, a wildly corrupt and out-of-control drunk named Rosemary Lehmberg, indicted Perry for threatening to veto funding for a specific state expenditure: her office.  

    While she was a Travis County prosecutor, Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving, which is not a great surprise for someone who was consuming about two liters of vodka a week for more than a year in addition to whatever other drinking she did. (I sympathize.) She was pulled over after driving erratically, found with an open bottle of vodka in the car, and came in at about three times the legal blood-alcohol content. That is not great, but the much worse part is that while in custody, she attempted to use her position to bully and threaten sheriff’s officers and other personnel into giving her special treatment and letting her go. She threatened to have them arrested and jailed, among other things.

    Perry rightly understood this to be an unbearable outrage against the public interest in clean and fair government, and sought—unsuccessfully—to have Lehmberg removed from office. He subsequently announced that as governor he would use his veto powers to block state funding for the office as long as Lehmberg was the incumbent—if Travis County wanted to protect its corrupt prosecutor, Travis County could pay her.

    Lehmberg retaliated by indicting Perry on felony corruption charges on the theory that, while the governor of Texas has entirely open-ended veto power, it was an act of political corruption for him to use that veto power to try to pressure her to leave office. That was pure nonsense, as the courts eventually decided, and everybody knew it was a vindictive, frivolous case: another outrageous abuse of power from a prosecutor inclined to the abuse of power. Perry was at the time campaigning in the Republican presidential primary while under felony indictment—Donald Trump is not the first to have done so.

    Wow, kind a long excerpt. And it was hard to stop there. Skipping down to the bottom line:

    Rick Perry was indicted on felony charges for threatening a veto. The case against Donald Trump isn’t anything so obviously vindictive or trivial. But the history of our republic does not begin with Donald Trump and—one hopes—it will not end with him, either. This is something we need to get sorted out before there is an even more corrosive test case. The taste for tyranny is not limited to men as lazy and stupid as Donald Trump—and we simply have to prepare for the possibility of a more competent and capable demagogue.

  • Be a savvy Amazon customer. You'll want to avoid "workbooks". Warren Kozak has a tale to tell in the WSJ: My Fake Amazon ‘Workbook’.

    Shortly after my book “Waving Goodbye: Life After Loss” was published April 9, I noticed a companion volume for sale on Amazon for $12.99. Its title: “Workbook for Waving Goodbye By Warren Kozak: Absolute Guide to Living Your Life even After Loss.” I hadn’t written any such workbook, so I contacted my publisher, Anthony Ziccardi, at Post Hill Press. He already knew about it. “It’s the dark side of what’s happening with A.I. generated books on Amazon,” he told me in an email.

    I wrote “Waving Goodbye” as a guide for grieving widows and widowers after my wife died in 2018 and I found little help from the books I was given. Many were written in an academic style used by psychologists and psychiatrists that I found impossible to read or understand—in part because the brain doesn’t function at its normal capacity after this kind of trauma. A line in Joan Didion’s memoir, “The Year of Magical Thinking,” has stuck with me: “After a year I could read headlines.”

    I can't find the "workbook" on Amazon this morning, but Kozak describes what he found in the preview:

    What do you get for $12.99? The introduction says: “THIS PLACE, WE TRULY WISH TO SEE YOU REACH SUCCESS!” That is the entirety of page 2. There’s another gem on page 3: “Get acquainted now that deceiving yourself is one of the most foolish things you can do. Try as much as possible to be honest and straight forward during your usage of this book.” Sage advice. The workbook is 36 pages long, although I was allowed to preview only through page 5. I assume the rest is equally erudite.

    My story: I bought a "Futurama Calendar" one year that turned out to be a shoddy ripoff. ("Futurama Calendar 2022: Anime-Manga OFFICIAL Calendar 2021-2022 ,Calendar Planner 2022-2023 with High Quality Pictures for Fans Around the World!") I assume this product (which is "Out of Print--Limited Availability.") is a similar deal.

  • Grown-ups are back in charge. Or so we were told by the Financial Times back in 2021. The good old days.

    But that was then, this is now, and the Daily Caller looked at one recent incident: ‘I Don’t Get It’: Biden’s Chief Econ Advisor Struggles To Explain Theory Underpinning ‘Bidenomics,’ Mass Spending.

    Biden chief economic adviser Jared Bernstein struggled to explain modern monetary theory underpinning “Bidenomics” and mass spending in a newly released documentary.

    Bernstein stuttered and pondered as he attempted to explain why the U.S. government borrows money when it is capable of printing its own currency.

    “Like you said, they print the dollars. So why, why does the government even borrow?” an interviewer asked Bernstein.

    “Well, um, the uh … so the … I mean, again, some of this stuff gets — some of the … language that — some of the language and concepts are just confusing. I mean, the government definitely prints money and it definitely lends that money, which is why … um … the government definitely prints money and then it lends that money by, uh, by selling bonds. Is that what they do? … They, they uh … they, yeah, they um … they sell bonds … yeah, they sell bonds. Right? Since they sell bonds and then people buy the bonds and lend them the money,” Bernstein said in the documentary, “Finding The Money.”

    I also noticed some wag wondering: why do we even pay taxes, when the government can just print all the money it needs to buy stuff it wants?


Last Modified 2024-05-06 7:29 AM EDT

Alligators in the Sewers

So this happened:

Is it just me, or is Drew Barrymore doing an impression of Kate Hudson doing an impression of Drew Barrymore?

If you don't know what I'm referring to there, please use your mouse or other pointing device to watch this, "it is a delight!"

Drewie's yearning for a government official to be a Nurturing, Caring, Sharing Mother To Us All is pathetic. Her all-female audience eats it up, though.

If you prefer text to video, Ann Althouse has some of that: "We all need a mom.... We really all need a tremendous hug in the world right now. But in our country, we need you to be 'Momala' of the country.".

Says Drew Barrymore to Kamala Harris. This comes just after Barrymore begins the interview by trying to draw out Harris about her relationship to her 2 step-children. This sequence of topics and the redeployment of the family name "Momala" into the political sphere seems carefully planned, and it is an effort to tap Barrymore's immense warmth for the benefit of the Democratic Party vice presidential candidate, who is, I would say, insufficiently warm and puzzlingly fake:

[6:44 video]

Kamala's response is to nod and smile and murmur a "yeah" that sounds rather dubious.

What — if anything — is she thinking? I'll guess: I've got to just endure this feminine bullshit and act like I'm touched but really doesn't my feminist credibility demand that I resist and try to say something like you'd never talk to a male candidate like that or actually maybe this cutesy love is exactly what a male candidate would extract from Drew and eat up with no consequence, like George Washington, Father of Our Country, but he didn't have some famous lady imploring him to be Daddy — the Daddykins of Our Country — and oh, God, are the wheels turning in my head too conspicuously? Is this a viral clip? How do I look, do I look beautiful but not warm or warm but not beautiful, at least a little warm. Yeesh, I've got to hold hands with Drew now, and my face needs to show that I'm deeply touched by wonderful sweet Drew — Drew, loved by all! — and they don't love me — me, the step-mother, the evil step-mother — and she's hamming it up, talking about lifting people up — ah! That's my opportunity to wrest my hands out of her bony grip and do my clappy-clappy thing and now I can talk about lifting people up but it's that ridiculous babble that comes out when I try to take advantage of these God-awful situations they put me in to try to warm me up for public consumption and oh, jeez, I sound so insincere, I said "sincerely" twice, but I must go on....

Elsewhere in the interview, she discussed her trademark, the Inappropriate Cackle.

Lady, I got no particular problem with the way you laugh. It's that you do it for no reason whatsoever.

(And if you care: Classical reference in headline.)

Unfortunately, Momala failed once again to make our 2% probability threshold for inclusion in our phony table:

Warning: Google hit counts are bogus.

Candidate EBO Win
Probability
Change
Since
4/28
Phony
Hit Count
Change
Since
4/28
Donald Trump 45.6% +1.8% 3,660,000 0
Joe Biden 44.4% -1.2% 455,000 -161,000
Robert Kennedy Jr 3.3% -0.3% 32,700 +3,000
Michelle Obama 2.6% -0.6% 187,000 +17,000
Other 4.1% +0.3% --- ---

And, hey: Trump managed to retake a slim lead over Biden in the bettors' eyes.

Also of note:

  • But seriously, folks. Jim Geraghty notes fear at the White House: Biden-Harris a Profile in Cowardice on Campus Disorder.

    In the past few weeks, Americans have witnessed a stark contrast between the written statements and fierce condemnations from the likes of National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, and Biden’s on-camera, off the cuff, mushy, “I condemn the antisemitic protests. That’s why I’ve set up a program to deal with that. I also condemn those who don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians and their — how they’re being. . . .”

    White House communications staffers kept telling us how much the president firmly believed “forcibly [taking] over a building on campus is absolutely the wrong approach,” but for some reason, the president, who is rarely more than a few steps away from television cameras, just couldn’t come out and say so himself.

    It turns out Biden was willing to stand up and call out the illegal actions committed by the anti-Israel protesters . . . but only after the worst-offending protesters had been put in zip-ties.

    I suppose there are some folks out there who hang on Biden's every public pronouncement.

    But I eagerly await a prestigious news outlet to do something like the Boston Globe did in March 1980: "accidentally" headline an editorial about the sitting president "Mush from the Wimp".

  • Friends, Granite Staters, Countrymen: lend her your ears. River Page at the Free Press pays attention to the wackos who are seriously discussing Barron Trump, American Caesar.

    Barron Trump is the future American Caesar. I’m told he is keeping a list of enemies so that he can one day avenge his father. I’m told that one day, he will cross the Potomac with 10,000 men to dissolve the Senate. I’m told that he will do these things, and become my God Emperor and yours, because he is six feet, seven inches with an aquiline nose.

    According to memes from the very online right, Donald Trump’s 18-year-old son is destined to save the nation.

    I suggest cutting back on the LSD.

  • But, hey, what about RFK Jr? The WSJ took a look Inside RFK Jr.’s Chaotic 2024 Election Campaign.

    As the presidential election was heating up in February, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign made an announcement to staff: Charles Eisenstein, the director of messaging, would spend weeks in Costa Rica, “reconnecting with spirit.” While there, he recorded a podcast interview in which he said some of his boss’s ideas were “actually repugnant” but that Kennedy was still the best candidate.

    In recognition of his sojourn in the Central American country, Eisenstein took a pay cut for working less: rather than earning $21,000 a month, he started billing the campaign $14,000.

    The episode highlights the unusual nature of the Kennedy operation, which even by the standards of freewheeling political campaigns stands out for its eclectic mix of characters, poor financial planning and what some staffers describe as a dysfunctional, unprofessional atmosphere.

    Nobody ever offered me $14K/month for calling my boss's ideas repugnant while connecting with my spirit in Costa Rica. I guess I made some bad career choices.

  • That's a low bar to set, George. But Mr. Will has a point: The 2024 electorate is more interesting than either candidate.

    Like the Gorgons in Greek mythology whose glances could turn people to stone, today’s sour candidates have calcified our presidential politics with their glowering contest. “Rancor,” said José Ortega y Gasset, “is an outpouring of a feeling of inferiority.” Both men have much about which to feel inferior. The electorate, however, is at least interesting.

    Some of those interesting factoids:

    In 2016, Hillary Clinton became a harbinger — and casualty — of today’s ongoing class-based realignment. If her White working-class turnout and percentages of support had matched those of Obama in 2012, she would have won Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Florida and the presidency. She would have won Wisconsin and Michigan if she had matched Obama’s 2012 turnout in Milwaukee and Detroit.

    Because so many Democratic voters are in California (13.7 percent of the party’s national popular vote total in 2020) and a few other noncompetitive states (e.g., Illinois, New York), the party probably must win the national popular vote by more than 3 percentage points to win 270 electoral votes. Oddities abound. Gerald Ford came closer to defeating Jimmy Carter in the 1976 popular vote than Mitt Romney came to defeating Obama in 2012. Clinton, losing to Trump in 2016, won the popular vote by a larger margin (2.1 points) than John F. Kennedy did defeating Richard M. Nixon in 1960.

    But GFW's bottom line holds: "Finally, for 50 years, the percentage of Americans calling themselves moderate has remained constant, around 40. Yet, remarkably, the ascent of glowering Gorgons has turned moderates away from politics."

    I don't consider myself a moderate: I'm a pretty wacky mongrel libertarian/conservative mix. But, as noted above: the Gorgons have made me politically homeless.


Last Modified 2024-05-06 4:50 AM EDT

I Have Good News and Bad News

Here's the (sort of) good news from David French: Colleges Have Gone off the Deep End. There Is a Way Out. But let it not be said he's unaware of the inner rot:

University complicity in chaos isn’t unusual. In a case I worked on when I was president of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, we discovered that administrators at Washington State University’s Pullman campus had actually helped plan a disruptive protest against a play put on by a student director, an intentionally provocative show that mocked virtually every group on campus.

University or faculty participation in unlawful protest isn’t confined to the cases I worked on. At Oberlin College, administrative facilitation of ugly and defamatory student protests outside a local business ultimately cost the school $36 million in damages. At Columbia, hundreds of sympathetic faculty members staged their own protest in support of the student encampment on the quad, and there are reports that other faculty members have attempted to block members of the media from access to the student encampment.

Boy, do I have an easy go-to for a faculty members at the University Near Here supporting unlawful protest:

`

So what's the good news? French suggests the "way out": institutional neutrality on "matters of public dispute"; don't "permit one side to break reasonable rules that protect education and safety on campus." Pretty easy. And I'm pretty happy that UNH seems to be getting this mostly right.

As promised, the bad news:

  • Fortunately, there's just one set of rules for speech, right? Ah, you wish. Abigail Shrier notes: There Are Two Sets of Rules for Speech. For example:

    In 2017, an anonymous jerk put flyers up around American University’s campus. The flyers displayed a Confederate flag, a stem of raw cotton, and read “Huzzah for Dixie” and the like.

    American University immediately launched into emergency response mode, treating the flyers as a criminal threat. It published CCTV video and solicited help from the public in identifying the man who posted the flyers. An all points bulletin called “CRIME ALERT” went out for the man’s arrest. The New York Times covered the incident; the words “free speech” do not appear once in the article. Instead, it approvingly noted that in a previous incident—when bananas were found hanging from nooses around campus—the FBI had been called to investigate.

    Nor could I find any evidence of any free speech organization rushing to defend the man who posted the flyers—nor the racist provocateurs in any of dozens of similar incidents. No prominent “free speech absolutists” appear to have considered the expressive value of “Huzzah for Dixie” worth defending. Nor did pundits claim that inviting law enforcement to investigate such acts of hate—i.e., “calling the police on your own students”—was in any sense inappropriate or disproportionate. In almost every single case—at schools like Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Michigan State, University of Florida, Duke, and American University—where a symbolic noose was discovered on a campus, it was treated as a criminal threat, never as speech.

    After the Huzzah for Dixie flyers were found, the president of American University quickly issued a statement: “I ask you to join me in standing together and show that we will not be intimidated. AU will respond strongly to attempts designed to harm and create fear,” she wrote. “When one of us is attacked, all of us are attacked.”

    Today, in the face of months of bloodthirsty cries aimed at Jewish students (“globalize the Intifada”), university presidents line up to assure the protesters of their right to free speech.

    An example from the Bad Old Days (2004) at the University Near Here: University of New Hampshire Evicts Student for Posting Flier

  • OK, but … hey, raising the tax cap would save Social Security, right? Wrong, says Brian Riedl: Raising the Tax Cap Cannot Save Social Security.

    The reason Social Security taxes are capped is that Social Security benefits are, too. Because the program is a social-insurance system, retirees can claim that they “earn” their benefits because the benefits are tied to their tax contributions. The Social Security tax reaches its ceiling at $168,600 in wages (adjusted annually for inflation) because any wages earned above that level no longer earn additional benefits. Raising the limit without adjusting benefits accordingly would delink the two, turning Social Security into more of a traditional welfare system.

    That said, even if we did do away with the tax ceiling—with no corresponding benefits provided—doing so would not come close to bringing long-term solvency to the program. The Congressional Budget Office projects that Social Security’s annual shortfall will level off at about 1.7 percent of GDP within 15 years. Yet, abolishing the cap would raise 0.9 percent of GDP, closing a little more than half of those shortfalls. In fact, Social Security actuaries calculate that the system would fall back into deficits within just five years.

    Riedl has a more detailed analysis at the Manhattan Institute: Don’t Bust the Cap: Problems with Eliminating the Social Security Tax Cap.

  • Hey, we can solve the 'wicked problems' of central planning with AI, right? Sorry, pilgrim, Arnold Kling says nay: AI Can't Solve the 'Wicked Problems' of Central Planning.

    The term wicked problem has become a standard way for policy analysts to describe a social issue whose solution is inherently elusive. Wicked problems have many causal factors, complex interdependencies, and no ability to test all of the possible combinations of plausible interventions. Often, the problem itself cannot be articulated in a straightforward, agreed-upon way. Classic examples of wicked problems include climate change, substance abuse, international relations, health care systems, education systems, and economic performance. No matter how far computer science advances, some social problems will remain wicked.

    The latest developments in artificial intelligence represent an enormous advance in computer science. Could that technological advance give bureaucrats the tool they have been missing to allow them to plan a more efficient economy? Many advocates of central planning seem to think so. Their line of thinking appears to be:

    1. Chatbots have absorbed an enormous amount of data.
    2. Large amounts of data produce knowledge.
    3. Knowledge will enable computers to plan the economy.

    These assumptions are wrong. Chatbots have been trained to speak using large volumes of text, but they have not absorbed the knowledge contained in the text. Even if they had, there is knowledge that is critical for economic operations that is not available to a central planner or a computer.

    Anyone who's read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress knows that even Mike, the self-aware AI on the moon, couldn't provide a free lunch.

  • [Amazon Link]
    (paid link)
    But… we need to regulate AI to prevent it from running amok, right? Nay, friend: Ronald Bailey makes the plausible case that AI Regulators Are More Likely To Run Amok Than Is AI.

    Deploying the precautionary principle is a laser-focused way to kill off any new technology. As it happens, a new bill in the Hawaii Legislature explicitly applies the precautionary principle in regulating artificial intelligence (AI) technologies:

    In addressing the potential risks associated with artificial intelligence technologies, it is crucial that the State adhere to the precautionary principle, which requires the government to take preventive action in the face of uncertainty; shifts the burden of proof to those who want to undertake an innovation to show that it does not cause harm; and holds that regulation is required whenever an activity creates a substantial possible risk to health, safety, or the environment, even if the supporting evidence is speculative. In the context of artificial intelligence and products, it is essential to strike a balance between fostering innovation and safeguarding the well-being of the State's residents by adopting and enforcing proactive and precautionary regulation to prevent potentially severe societal-scale risks and harms, require affirmative proof of safety by artificial intelligence developers, and prioritize public welfare over private gain.

    The Hawaii bill would establish an office of artificial intelligence and regulation wielding the precautionary principle that would decide when and if any new tools employing AI could be offered to consumers.

    As always, Virginia Postrel's The Future and Its Enemies saw all this coming. Amazon link at your right.

Stay tuned. None of this stuff is going away, and neither am I.

It's Like Nobody's Ever Seen Animal House

Jeff Maurer looks at a reasoned response by an embattled college administrator: UC Santa Barbara Responds to Debauched, Topless Protests for Palestine.

As protests continue at campuses across the country, colleges have issued statements reaffirming their principles. The University of Chicago issued a forceful statement, and the University of Florida declared that they are “not a daycare”. Now, the University of California at Santa Barbara has issued a powerful statement addressing the disorder that has broken out on their campus. That statement is below.

Just an excerpt should tell you what the UCSB administration was forced to deal with:

I agree with Maurer that UCSB ("brought to you by Bud Light Lime") has set a useful precedent for other institutions of higher education.

But (as Jerry Coyne notes), the university on the other side of our state (and the other side of the country from UCSB) went in a different direction: A statement from Dartmouth’s President.

According to Vermont’s CBS station WCAX 3, Dartmouth arrested 90 protestors last night after they’d been warned that setting up a camp would mean that disciplinary action would be “imminent.” The protestors set up their camps anyway. And Bellock acted.

Police officers entered and arrested 90 protesters at a pro-Gaza encampment on the Dartmouth campus Wednesday night.

It started with a few hundred people gathering on the Dartmouth Green at about 6 p.m. Wednesday for a liberation rally. We have been told the group of protesters was made up of students and members of the general community.

According to one student, the protest had been peaceful, but school officials said if a camp was set up, there would be no further dialogue and disciplinary action would be “imminent.”

“We wanted this to be a peaceful protest and we have been peaceful the whole way through, but it’s really been frustrating to see the admin escalate without any justification,” said Calvin George, a Dartmouth senior.

Calvin George is yet another person who doesn’t recognize that “peaceful” protests are not necessarily protests permitted by college regulations, for even protests that are uneventful can impede the speech of others, as it has here (our Jewish students repeatedly have their banners and flags removed) or impede and disrupt the functioning of the university. It is, as Jon Haidt has emphasized, the difference between Truth University and Social Justice University. They can sometimes conflict, as they have during many of the “encampments.” President Bellock explains why below.

You can click over to read Bellock's humor-free missive. Unfortunately, the lack of jocularity alse extended to Dartmouth faculty, as reported by our local TV station: Dartmouth professor arrested during protest.

Professor Annelise Orleck, 65, said the Dartmouth Green was unrecognizable Wednesday night when police moved in to make arrests. She said she was trying to protect students when she was knocked down, and her phone was taken from her.

I assume Professor Orleck was engaging in a tactic made popular elsewhere: linking arms with a cohort of like-minded people to form a "human wall" to prevent law enforcement from thwarting the attempt of "protestors" to set up an encampment, which they were informed beforehand would not be tolerated; it wasn't a Dean Wormer-style douple-secret prohibition.

And honestly, Annelise, nobody wants to see your sweater puppies either.

A similar scenario played out at the University Near Here, with fewer arrests. The New Hampshire chapter of the ACLU deplored this.

“While the situation is still developing, we are highly concerned that police, many in riot gear, appear to have moved quickly and forcefully into protests at the University of New Hampshire and Dartmouth College campuses. Use of police force against protestors should never be a first resort.

“Freedom of speech and the right to demonstrate are foundational principles of democracy and core constitutional rights. We urge university and government leaders to create environments that safeguard constitutionally protected speech.

My first reaction: seriously?

More reasoned response: UNH and Dartmouth have every right to impose reasonable "time, place, and manner" regulations on campus demonstrations. This is a well-established principle of First Amendment law. And there doesn't seem to be any question that they did so here. ACLU-NH ignores this issue entirely. As did Annelise. And hence neither has to deal with the question: what should these schools have done instead?

Also of note:

  • Which they will probably blow. NR's Nic Dunn claims the present day is Conservatives’ Golden Opportunity to Win the Minimum-Wage Argument.

    California’s new $20-an-hour minimum wage for fast-food workers has again sparked a familiar debate about upward mobility. In an election year, with more voters paying attention than usual, policy debates take on added weight. This offers free-market conservatives a unique opportunity to win over persuadable voters by articulating a compelling vision of opportunity that’s framed in moral, rather than purely economic, language.

    While it’s important to recognize that minimum-wage hikes can indeed have unintended consequences, conservatives should emphasize the harmful impact of the hikes on workers, a point articulated well by the American Enterprise Institute’s Beth Akers.

    “It’s precisely these most vulnerable workers in our economy who are probably the ones who need the most support and are most likely to lose from these sorts of policies,” Akers said during a recent episode of Sutherland Institute’s Defending Ideas podcast. “If what we care about are the people who are most economically vulnerable. . . . these sorts of policies are actually pushing in the wrong direction.”

    Up in this corner of the country, I've found it near-impossible to avoid TV ads sponsored by the Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work, a coalition of app-based companies (Uber, Lyft, Doordash,…) trying to defeat legislation that would classify drivers as employees (subject to a host of regulations) instead of independent contractors (which aren't).

    It would be nice if the fights were over getting less regulation for the labor market, instead of defending the statist status quo.

  • Inanity, thy name is Thune. What is it with South Dakota anyway. First Noem, now… The Inanity of Politicians Talking Trade, the poster boy being the state's senior senator:

    An example of just how bonkers – and bipartisanly so – are many allegedly serious discussions by political types of trade is found in this short report on a recent hearing on Capitol Hill. In this hearing, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) complained about America’s trade deficit in agricultural goods. And U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai (also at this hearing) apparently treated this complaint as if it is economically meaningful.

    But of course an “ag trade deficit” is no more economically meaningful than is a “yellow-things trade deficit” or a “things-bigger-than-a-breadbasket trade surplus.” There is absolutely no reason to expect that a country will export – during any year or over time – the same amount of agricultural products that it imports. Indeed, because of the principle of comparative advantage, each country will import things that it doesn’t produce at home and export different things. In short, countries are supposed to have so-called ‘trade deficits’ in some things and so-called ‘trade surpluses’ in other things.

    That's from Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek, who's not averse to calling "bonkers".

  • Trying to pull some facts back out of the memory hole. Scott Johnson joins in the Power Line pushback on efforts to rehabilitate a lousy, disgraced "journalist": Rather full of it. Scott viewed the recent Netflix documentary (a sycophantic, soft-focus tongue bath). I did want to point this out:

    Former CBS News producer Wayne Nelson weighs in: “Was it planned [i.e, planned to disgrace CBS News] — we’ll never know.” According to Douglas Brinkley, those wily Republicans have become adept at coming up “with schemes.” In the world of Rather, we are to kneel down and give thanks for the innocence of Democrats, left-wing historians, and reporters such as Rather.

    It's a conspiracy, I tellz ya! I'm sure Brinkley and Nelson could get Hillary Clinton to chime in on that.

  • Asking and answering the important questions. Via Marginal Revolution: Who wrote the music for In My Life? Three Bayesian analyses. It is from Andrew Gelman is a professor of statistics and political science at Columbia University. (Unarrested, as far as I know.):

    A Beatles fan pointed me to this news item from a few years ago, “A Songwriting Mystery Solved: Math Proves John Lennon Wrote ‘In My Life.'” This surprised me, because in his memoir, Many Years from Now, Paul McCartney very clearly stated that he, Paul, wrote it.

    Also, the news report is from NPR. Who you gonna trust, NPR or Paul McCartney? The question pretty much answers itself.

    And the bottom line is:

    Moral of the story: Don’t trust NPR.

    Comments are pretty good too.

My Suspicions Disconfirmed

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

So I looked at the headline at Persuasion: Dear Media, Stop Taking Students Too Seriously.

And I immediately thought: "This is what people say when media coverage isn't supporting their narrative."

But I was wrong. Shalom Auslander has an interesting take.

Because I am Jewish, friends send me news about Jews, even though I’ve repeatedly asked all my friends to never send me news at all, regardless of their religious or racial focus. This is for two reasons. The first reason I avoid news is because I suffer, like most people today, from Constant News Negativity, or CNN for short, coupled with debilitating FOX (Frenzy of Outright Exaggeration), both of these results of the Information Anxiety Complex (IAC). I would struggle through it, of course, because a good and concerned citizen today must follow every news story from everywhere in the world, no matter how suicidal the onslaught makes him, but my shrink says if I increase the dosages of my anxiety medication any further, they will start interfering with my depression medications. The second reason I avoid news is because of the paradox of our 24/7/365/Facebook News/Social Media/AI/Deep Fake world: news is everywhere and yet there’s no way of knowing what’s actually taking place.

Example:

As for the protests themselves, what am I to believe? Some media reports say the hate and violence at the college protests is coming from Jew-hating students, some media reports say the hate and violence is coming from outside agitators, some say the hate and violence is widespread and some say the hate and violence is being exaggerated. I saw an image of a Seder table at one of the protests that one site reported as a mockery of the Jewish holiday by anti-Semitic protestors, and another that reported it as a Seder table arranged by Jewish protestors underlining the holiday’s theme of freedom from oppression. Jonathan Greenblatt of the ADL said he went to Columbia and it’s all very anti-Semitic, but the ADL makes a lot of money saying everything is anti-Semitic, and the ADL has castrated that term forever, an issue I’ve written about before and before and before. And so, putting aside for a moment the question of who is doing what to whom, the question I most found myself asking as I watched these newsclips was this:

[…]

Well, you can click over to find out the answer to that question. He's not wrong.

At the Free Press, Suzy Weiss tells A Tale of Two Columbias. And (among other things) is able to get an actual Columbia student on the record:

Meanwhile, a PhD student named Johannah King-Slutzky spoke to the press about students’ demands, which included catering. When a reporter asked her, “Why should the university be obligated to provide food to people who have taken over a building?” King-Slutzky replied, “First of all, we’re saying they are obligated to provide food to students who pay for a meal plan here.” Which is sort of like saying that if a restaurant can’t deny you service, the chef is obliged to come cook in your apartment—except you’ve stormed the chef’s apartment, and now you want him to cook you dinner there.

“I guess it’s ultimately a question of what kind of a community and obligation Columbia has to its students,” King-Slutzky reflects. “Do you want students to die of dehydration and starvation or get severely ill even if they disagree with you?” So like, is it possible that they could get just a simple glass of water? With three lemons? And a Caesar salad with dressing on the side? Thankssomuch!

King-Slutzky, whose thesis is on “theories of the imagination and poetry as interpreted through a Marxian lens” and the “fantasies of limitless energy in the transatlantic Romantic imagination from 1760–1860,” and whose fantasies are indeed limitless, goes on: “It’s crazy to say because we’re on an Ivy League campus, but this is like basic humanitarian aid we’re asking for.” In another video, she calls on members of the public to “hold Columbia accountable for any disproportionate response to students’ actions.”

Via Ann Althouse, a tweet from the irrepressible Joyce Carol Oates:

I'm thinking: sure, we take college students too seriously. But I'm also thinking that we are not taking the intellectual rot at prestigious college campuses seriously enough.

Also of note:

  • Yeah, probably. Veronique de Rugy wonders: Will California Hobble the US Railroad Industry?

    American federalism is struggling. Federal rules are an overwhelming presence in every state government, and some states, due to their size or other leverage, can impose their own policies on much or all of the country. The problem has been made clearer by an under-the-radar plan to phase out diesel locomotives in California. If the federal government provides the state with a helping hand, it would bring nationwide repercussions for a vital, overlooked industry.

    California pols love choo-choos, as long as they're carrying passengers, and are heavily taxpayer-subsidized. Ordinary freight trains carrying items people want to get from one place to another? Not so much.

  • In theory, I could afford lots of stuff I don't want. Don Boudreaux takes on a superficial economic argument: They Can Afford It!

    A few years back, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) offered, in the pages of USA Today, what they obviously believe to be an economically airtight argument in favor of the minimum wage:

    If Walmart can afford $20 billion for stock buybacks to enrich wealthy shareholders, it can afford to raise the pay of its workers to a living wage. It would cost Walmart less than $4 billion a year to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour. Taking this step would benefit nearly one million of its struggling workers.

    Earlier this year a spokesman for California governor Gavin Newsom offered the same argument to justify that state’s recent hike in the minimum wage for workers at fast-food restaurants. As recounted by the Wall Street Journal, this spokesman declared that “fast-food companies can afford to give their workers a deserved bump in pay.”

    The argument offered here by Sanders, Khanna, and Gov. Newsom’s office is common. Rarely does a semester pass that I’m not asked by a student – following a lecture on the economic consequences of minimum wages – why “rich” companies, such as Walmart and McDonald’s, would cut employment when minimum wages rise. “They can afford it!” my students protest. “These companies are highly profitable and have lots of assets.”

    There's a utilitarian argument, of course (which Boudreaux makes). There's also a moral argument: why should government interfere in a free-market employment transaction between consenting adults?

    But there's also the snarky argument, that I like: why don't Sanders, Khanna, and Newsom (and their ilk) simply start their own companies and see how "affordable" it is to hire lots of low-productivity people at exorbitant wages?

Going Over the Basics. Again.

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Jeff Maurer observes that We Seem to Be Re-Learning Free Speech Principles From Scratch.

Well, some of us.

Watching the United States — the home of the First Amendment — struggle to respond to student protests has been like watching Albert Einstein struggle to complete the “get Grimace to the fries” maze on the back of a Happy Meal. How did we get here? How did things devolve so badly that pretty-straight-forward free speech issues are treated like unsolvable puzzles? I’m one of those highly punchable “it’s complicated” dweebs, but for once, I’m singing a different tune: This is actually not that complicated. As political issues go, determining which rights protesters do and don’t have is basically a layup. The fact that we are not only missing that metaphorical layup, but also having our pants fall down, soiling ourselves, and yelling “Mommy, help!” as the ball clanks off the bottom of the rim demonstrates how badly our institutional knowledge of free speech has degraded.

The first important principle is that in America, you’re allowed to say offensive and dumb stuff. Some protesters have, without a doubt, taken “offensive” and “dumb” to bold new horizons. I wrote last week about how the written down and frequently reiterated position of some of the main protest groups is that Israel has no right to exist (the main group at Columbia put that idea in writing again on Monday). If you’re looking for offensive speech, these protests have got you covered: They are to horrific statements what Hickory Farms is to smoked cheese in baskets.

Congratulations to Jeff for avoiding bad words in his first two paragraphs.

Also of note:

  • Also going over the basics, again: Rachel Lu. Who's bemused by Hayek Among the Post-Liberals.

    I first picked up F. A. Hayek sometime around 2010. Everyone was doing it; it was the right’s Hayekian moment. I had not had occasion to read Hayek, having written my dissertation on Scholasticism. I was unable to find a Latin translation of The Road to Serfdom, so I had to settle for reading it in my native language, but I still managed to capture a bit of the heady sensation of stepping into a different world. Hayek introduced me to the logic of limited government. I still think he is as good an introduction as one can find, at least for readers too mature to be delighted by John Galt.

    We are now living through a profoundly un-Hayekian moment on the right. The battle between liberals and post-liberals rages on with no real sign of abating. The Road to Serfdom turned 80 this year, and Hayek’s fans noted the occasion, but much of the right today has become accustomed to talking as though Hayek, and classical liberalism generally, is archaic or discredited. The Hayekian moment feels like ancient history.

    It’s not, though. Hayek used to be cool. Today my enduring fondness for him marks me clearly as a rotting-flesh Reaganite, but in fact, I originally cracked the cover only to please my populist interlocutors, years after Reagan was cold in his grave. It really makes one think about the dizzying progression of fads American conservatism has been through in the twenty-first century. The volatility is depressing, and yet there is an interesting sense in which conservatism has been mapping the road to serfdom, exploring its highways and byways by aggressively testing the limits of Hayekian reasoning. I’m not sure we’ve found them yet, but we may have learned some things along the way.

    It has been a long time since Maggie Thatcher removed a copy of Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty from her handbag, slammed it on the conference table, and declared "This is what we believe."

    We could use that again.

  • After the election, he'll have more flexibility. Apparently, higher-ups decided having a bunch of cranky Black voters denied their nicotine delivery system of choice would be a bad idea. The NR editors chronicle Biden’s Menthol-Ban Backpedal.

    It has been a goal of progressives for years to ban smoking. Not quite able to convince enough people to go all the way, they have settled for piecemeal measures, such as banning smoking in public places or raising excise taxes on tobacco products.

    One of those piecemeal measures was supposed to be banning menthol cigarettes. This measure was exigent because it was also anti-racist, progressives said. Menthols are popular among black smokers, so banning them would help improve disparate racial health outcomes, the argument goes.

    Like many “anti-racist” arguments, this one sounds more racist the more you think about it. Not being able to ban a product in general but settling for only banning the version of it popular with black people doesn’t put very much faith in the decision-making abilities of black people, who are fully capable of evaluating their decisions just like anyone else.

    If you'd like to see the Progressive Future, let me point (again) to the Tobacco-, Smoke-, & Nicotine-Free Policy of the University Near Here. Excerpt:

    The TSN-Free policy applies to all University of New Hampshire facilities, property, and vehicles, owned, or leased, regardless of location. Smoking and the use of tobacco products shall be prohibited in any enclosed place, including, but not limited to, all offices, classrooms, hallways, waiting rooms, restrooms, meeting rooms, community areas, performance venues and private residential space within UNH housing. TSN products shall also be prohibited outdoors on all UNH campus property, including, but not limited to, parking lots, paths, fields, sports/recreational areas, and stadiums, as well as in all personal vehicles while on campus. This policy applies to all students, faculty, staff, and other persons on campus, regardless of the purpose for their visit.

    Gee, do you think they forgot anything?

  • Best headline of the day. The award goes to Virginia Postrel: TMI and Monsters from the Id.

    My friend and former Chapman University colleague John Thrasher recently introduced me to the concept of pluralistic ignorance. This is a social science term describing situations in which individuals know their own thoughts and behaviors but assume most people are different, when in fact they aren’t. The classic example is college students who don’t drink that much themselves but assume their classmates are always getting drunk, when those others also drink moderately.

    John’s twist is to suggest that the breakdown of pluralistic ignorance explains the recent erosion of political and social norms of behavior—an erosion so extensive that “conservative Christians” who once upheld traditional norms of propriety in family and business life now avidly support Donald Trump, who is proud to be an unscrupulous operator and a serial adulterer.

    VP assumes a certain amount of cultural literacy. You probably know about "TMI". But "monsters from the id"? I have a soft spot there, the very first movie I saw in a theater in Oakland, Iowa. And as a five-year-old in 1956, it scared the crap out of me.

  • We shouldn't wait until he double dares us. Do it now! Jimmy Quinn paid attention to what a UN official said, and it is glorious: U.N. Official Dares America to Slash Its Budgetary Contribution.

    On Wednesday, the United Nations’ top human-rights official, Volker Türk, practically dared Congress to slash America’s massive contribution to the U.N.’s main budgetary fund, called the regular budget, when he spoke out about “a series of heavy-handed steps taken to disperse and dismantle protests” across U.S. college campuses. He expressed concern that law enforcement was using force in a disproportionate way.

    Obviously, anyone is entitled to his view on the anti-Israel college demonstrations and steps taken by university administrations and law enforcement in response, no matter how ridiculous.

    But Türk’s statement — in his official capacity as the U.N.’s high commissioner for human rights — is an abuse of authority that won’t go over well in Washington.

    Or in New Hampshire.