Smarter Than They Look, I Guess

Today's musical question posed by Andrew Heaton: Why Are We Funding Harvard? If you're like me, you'll greet this Reason video from Andrew Heaton with a Costellovian mixture of disgust and amusement:

Some text:

Harvard's endowment grows faster than its annual tuition costs every year. It literally has enough money to cover the tuition for every student forever, without any financial assistance from taxpayers. So why are we taking tax dollars away from the 99 percent of Americans who never went to an Ivy League college and giving it to the incubation chamber of tomorrow's trust-fund tycoons?

Heaton strikes a very good balance between outrage and hilarity.

Also of note:

  • A belated Father's Day link. Kevin D. Williamson goes unexpectedly heartwarming in the NYPost: Four babies in two years makes a very special Father's Day.

    On Father’s Day of 2022, I didn’t have any children. On Father’s Day 2024, I have four little boys.

    We had been expecting the first boy in 2022 — the identical triplets, born earlier this year, were a surprise.

    When you tell people you have triplets, the first thing they ask is whether you underwent IVF.

    For the record, you can engineer fraternal twins or triplets via IVF — you just insert two or three embryos at once.

    Identical triplets just happen.

    Identicals are what happen when you and your wife talk about how you wish you’d met earlier in life so you could have had a bigger family, and God, who listens and has a sense of humor, says: “All right, big shot — let’s see how you do.”

    Pictures at the link, and if you don't go Awwww, I'm not sure I want you reading my blog.

  • One more belated Father's Day link. But no more after this, I swear. If you weren't irked by the Andrew Heaton video above, maybe this will do it. Eric Boehm reports: The Federal Government Is Funding Dad Jokes.

    "Did you hear the one about the world's greatest watch thief? He stole all the time."

    But even that guy might be impressed by the sticky fingers of the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC), a tiny corner of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that managed to pilfer nearly $75 million in taxpayer money last year to maintain, among other things, an official government repository of "dad jokes."

    It's funny—but not in a good way.

    The agency's website is the source of the cringey joke above, along with other forehead-slappers such as "Why don't you ever see elephants hiding in trees? Because they are really good at it," and "Have you seen the new type of broom? It's sweeping the nation."

    To be honest, these jokes are better than the ones on the back pages of the AARP Bulletin.

  • Hey kids, what time is it? According to Joanna Williams at Spiked, it's Time to retire the ‘far right’ slur.

    As the EU establishment struggles to make sense of last week’s revolt in the European elections, one thing is clear: our outdated vocabulary is not up to the task of describing today’s political landscape.

    Gains for France’s National Rally, Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy and the Alternative for Germany (AfD) have been described as a ‘far-right surge’ in newspapers and TV reports, not just across Europe but around the world. Even before the election results came in, labels like far right and extreme right were bouncing off commentators’ keyboards. All agree that the far right is on the rise and ordinary people need to worry. This is Europe’s ‘Trump moment’, explained Politico. Some go further. Marine Le Pen’s National Rally is described as ‘neo-fascist’, while academics calmly ask if the AfD is the new Nazi Party. ‘Fascism has arrived’, declared French author Emilia Roig when the election results became clear. Yet with almost a quarter of Europe’s voters having backed a party branded ‘far right’, it is worth asking how accurate this label is and what purpose it now serves.

    The article has a European tilt, but (come on) it's clear the same thing is happening in the US, with the MSM deeming "far right" as, roughly, anyone more conservative than Susan Collins.

  • Well, this is sad. I've been an Eric Clapton fan since I first heard Layla. I have a lot of his music. (Even his clunker, "August".)

    But now, in this article from Ed Driscoll: Strange Brew: Eric Clapton’s Anti-Israeli Turn. It's a history of his, um, controversial remarks, starting with his substance-fueled Enoch Powell appreciation in the 1970s. And his anti-vax stuff more recently. But now, quoting "David Lange of the Israellycool blog":

    But now Clapton has outdone himself when it comes to displaying his own antisemitism, moral bankruptcy and hypocrisy. In an interview with The Real Music Observer YouTube channel, he criticizes the Senate hearings into antisemitism on US college campuses, while stating that Israel is running the world (a clear antisemitic trope). At the same time, he fawns over Putin, Russia, and China – who he claims are all unfairly demonized – while expressing the desire to play there with his “brother” Roger Waters:

    [Instagram embed elided]

    There is little doubt in my mind that Clapton is a raging antisemite, much like “brother” Roger. Besides the clear antisemitic trope, his love of human rights violators Russia and China and his characterization of them as “‘unfairly attacked” reveals a great deal about the double standards by which he judges the world’s only Jewish state. Heck, he even shows tacit support for Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, which is not nearly as justified as Israel’s actions in Gaza now.

    If only Clapton took his own advice when it comes to Russia and China and actually visited Israel in order to get an accurate picture of the situation – not that I think it would make a difference to someone with this much prejudice against Jews.

    I won't be deleting the Clapton tracks from my iTunes library, but I'm pretty sure I won't be throwing any more dollars his way.

Like Sands Through the Hourglass

So Are the Days of Our Lives

If you prefer words to go with that, Mr. Ramirez suggests Byron York's column in the Jewish World Review: The Biden issue that won't go away

On Monday evening, the president attended a Juneteenth concert on the White House lawn. It wasn't a complicated event, as presidential appearances go. All President Joe Biden had to do was walk out of the White House, join the crowd listening to the music, and make some brief remarks.

It didn't go well. As the music played, Biden took his place on a front row that included Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, actor Billy Porter (wearing a "rainbow sequined caftan … accessorized with bedazzled ankle boots," according to Women's Wear Daily), and, next to Biden, Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd.

It didn't go well. As the music played, Biden took his place on a front row that included Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, actor Billy Porter (wearing a "rainbow sequined caftan … accessorized with bedazzled ankle boots," according to Women's Wear Daily), and, next to Biden, Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd.

Everyone was standing and swaying and clapping to singer Kirk Franklin's performance. Everyone, that is, except Biden. As the scene unfolded around him, the president stood still and absolutely motionless, his hands hanging by his side. His face had a frozen expression, and his eyes seemed fixed, staring straight ahead. This went on for about a minute.

Look at your watch or phone and set it for a minute. It's a long time. Biden was briefly engaged by Floyd, then resumed staring. Finally, he seemed to come out of it, ending the episode.

And the video in question:

I have to confess, I somewhat sympathize with Frozen Joe. I'd probably not want to embarrass myself by pretending to boogie either.

And in our weekly look at Election Betting Odds, there's finally some movement at the bottom: RFKJr has dropped below our 2% inclusion threshold, but Kamala and Gavin have risen above:

Candidate EBO Win
Donald Trump 54.4% +1.8%
Joe Biden 35.5% -2.3%
Michelle Obama 3.2% -0.4%
Gavin Newsom 2.7% ---
Kamala Harris 2.2% ---
Other 2.0% -2.0%

And Bone Spurs opened up an additional 4.1 percentage points in his probability lead over President Wheezy.

And yes, that's as exciting as Sunday mornings get around here at Pun Salad Manor.

Also of note:

  • Useful questions followed by depressing answers. George Will has some Questions for the Biden-Trump ‘debate’ that might be useful. Number One:

    The Social Security Trust Fund will be exhausted by 2033. Under current law, benefits then will be reduced 21 percent. The Biden-Trump consensus includes vowing not to diminish the entitlements (Social Security, Medicare) that are producing deficits that just added $1 trillion to the national debt in eight months. Would you favor a multitrillion-dollar tweak: infusing Social Security with more borrowing, meaning debt? (Tax revenue is insufficient to cover the other government expenditures.) If not that solution, what?

    Other topics: protectionism, Constitutional fidelity, Taiwan, Ukraine, the filibuster, illegal immigrants, DC statehood, Israel's war tactics, military enlistment, tax cuts, the SALT deduction, threats to democracy. Check it out, imagine the likely answers, try not to do anything unhealthy as a result.

  • Another reminder of my political homelessness. Coming from Rikki Schlott in the NYPost: We’re libertarians who refuse to vote for the party’s ridiculous presidential candidate.

    I’m a libertarian, but I’m totally turned off by the party. And I’m not alone, especially now that Chase Oliver is its 2024 candidate.

    Although libertarian ideology has mass appeal, the party has consistently alienated voters with outlandish antics and out-of-touch nominees, and this election cycle is no exception.

    Since Oliver won the Libertarian primary late last month, the former Georgia Senate candidate has been going viral for some of his more lefty stances.

    In resurfaced clips, the 38-year-old has been dragged for publicly advocating for defunding the police “until [they] restore trust with the people,” describing drag queen story hours as “performance art,” advocating for open borders and defending gender-affirming care for transgender kids as “the status quo.”

    And in other news… well, actually kinda the same news … our local party finds Oliver has failed their ideological purity test:

    You know what they say: when you've lost the LPNH, you've … just lost the LPNH.

  • Attention must be paid. Ann Althouse claims a new record has been set: This is the stupidest thing I've ever seen in The New York Times.

    I'm reading "A Hollywood Heavyweight Is Biden’s Secret Weapon Against Trump/The longtime movie mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg always sought scary villains for his films. Now he has found what he considers a real-life one in Donald J. Trump."

    Trim and wiry, intense but amiable, Mr. Katzenberg at age 73 still exudes a kind of ambitious, animal energy as if he were one of his movie protagonists. He is famous around Hollywood, and now Washington, for rising at 5 a.m. and riding an exercise bicycle for 90 minutes while simultaneously reading four newspapers before taking as many as three breakfast meetings — and waffles or eggs-and-extra-crispy-bacon breakfasts, not the leafy California kind. “The guy eats like a horse and he doesn’t gain any weight,” his close friend Casey Wasserman, the sports, music and entertainment mogul, groused good-naturedly.

    Are Biden supporters in such deep delusion that they would take comfort from this "secret weapon"? This inane filler says: Time to panic!

    Apparently the idea is to have Katzenberg engineer the Biden campaign as if it were a Disney movie. (One of the good ones, not Lightyear or The BFG!) Putting Donald J. Trump into the villain role, like Jafar or Ursula, or…

    Or something. Problem is putting Biden in a hero role. Do you see him as Aladdin? Or more like Pinocchio? Or maybe Dumbo?

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

Hit Man

[3.5 stars] [IMDB Link] [Hit Man]

This Netflix movie got an intriguing review from Peter Suderman at Reason, so (as they say) why not? It is genre-icized at IMDB as "Action, Comedy, Crime", but I'd add the caveat that the comedy is pretty dark.

Glen Powell plays Gary Johnson, an affable instructor at the local college. But he moonlights as the technical guy for a small squad of cops with a unique specialty: one of them poses as a hired assassin, then when money changes hands, the team swoops in to arrest the "customer".

Apparently it's illegal to even hire a hit man, even a pretend one. Go figure.

Anyway, one day an unexpected emergency occurs, and Gary is enlisted to play the fake hit man. It turns out he's good at it! So good that he becomes the regular fake, and the previous one gets relegated to backup status. Causing some hard feelings.

Further complication: one customer turns out to be a beautiful woman, Madison. And while discussing things with Gary, she displays ambivalence. Gary talks her out of the deal, but… oops, it seems he's got himself romantically involved. And then things get really complicated. It's a screwball comedy, except with killing.

For a slightly more sophisticated analysis of what's going on, see the Suderman review linked above. I have to admit being disappointed in the ending.

The Hunter

(paid link)

Tana French's sequel of sorts to The Searcher, which I read back in 2021. Three years ago! And I've never been good about retaining plot/character details in my head, and this is something that hasn't improved with age.

It continues the saga of Cal, an ex-cop from Chicago who's settled down in small-town Ireland for his retirement. He's got a girlfriend, and he's also grown attached to Trey, a troubled teenager. The mystery of what happened to her older brother was resolved to everyone else's semi-satisfaction in the previous book, but not to hers.

Into this unstable situation comes Trey's estranged father, Johnny, who's in league with an (alleged) English millionaire. They've come (they claim) to track down rumors of gold in the area. They attempt to enlist the aid of the locals; the locals see it as an opportunity to put one over on the millionaire.

And it takes a long time before someone finally turns up dead, which brings in a detective from the Dublin Murder Squad named Nealon. (I don't remember him from previous books, but—see above—I probably wouldn't.)

I might be wrong about this too: Ms. French has never been particularly funny in her past books, but I thought there were some pretty amusing scenes and dialog in this one, especially in the early going. Fair play to her.

Why I Subscribe to the Wall Street Journal

You may have seen some version of the Pope Francis/President Joe picture from the G-7 Summit. (Getty version at your right.) The WSJ had it at the top of page one this morning, and the associated headline was

In a G-7 First, Heads of State Meet

You laughed, right? The below-pic caption was also pretty good:

SKULL SESSION: Pope Francis and President Biden, a Catholic, talk Friday as leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations met in Savelletri, Italy. Francis became the first pontiff to address a G-7 summit, warning of the risks of artificial intelligence.

"Skull session". Ha!

If you'd like to read the WSJ's serious article on the doings, here's a gifted link: G-7 Nations Criticize Chinese Subsidies, High-Tech Exports.

Or instead, check out the Bablyon Bee's headline: Biden Disappointed After Huge Scoop Of Vanilla Ice Cream Turns Out To Be Pope Francis. You can click over for the article, but as usual for the Bee, 90% of the laughs are in the headline.

Also of note:

  • Unexpectedly! Dominic Pino, subbing for Audrey Fahlberg, who is subbing for Jim Geraghty, reports some good news: Affordable Connectivity Program: Web Welfare Expired, and the Sky Hasn’t Fallen.

    The impossible has happened: A welfare program ended. Congress created a web-welfare program on an “emergency” basis during the Covid pandemic, and, in classic Washington form, politicians tried to make it permanent. They rebranded it the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and gave it billions in extra funding. The program provided subsidies of up to $30 per month to qualifying households for broadband-internet service.

    It began providing benefits in May 2021 and accumulated over 20 million enrollees. Congress did not give it more funding, though, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which was responsible for administering it, stopped accepting new enrollees in February of this year. The ACP paid its last benefits on May 31, and all funding for it has been exhausted.

    Are millions of people losing internet access? No. We knew that wouldn’t happen, even though ACP supporters were fearmongering that it would.

    Pino also points out the program was fraud-ridden. And (like the local example I talked about yesterday, it was billed as "emergency" pandemic relief. Even though there was no emergency. And nobody got any subsidies until after the pandemic was on the way out.

  • Fauci is getting grouchy. Jon Miltimore notes that there probably was no "The Buck Stops Here" sign in his office: Fauci’s ‘Don’t Blame Me’ Testimony and the Government Accountability Problem.

    Dr. Anthony Fauci was at the Capitol recently following revelations that his top adviser, Dr. David Morens, and other National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases officials took active steps to avoid Freedom of Information Act requests, including destroying records and intentionally misspelling names to avoid searches.

    Fauci conceded that mistakes were made, just not by him.

    “That was wrong and inappropriate and violated policy,” Fauci said of Morens’s scheme to “disappear” problematic emails. “He should not have done that.”

    Fauci’s chief of staff was in on the scheme. Emails show that Gregory Folkers intentionally misspelled the name of Kristian Andersen, a tactic Morens suggested to avoid FOIA, after Andersen received an $8.9 million NIAID grant, which came two months after he authored a paper arguing that it was “improbable” that COVID-19 had a lab origin.

    This is why the adjective you seem to see preceding "bureaucrat" most often is "unaccountable".

    But speaking of appropriate adjectives…

  • I might have said "ignorant" instead. But Eric Boehm used a slightly milder adjective: J.D. Vance's Incoherent Argument for Higher Minimum Wages. Quoting from Vance's NYT interview, Boehm's emphasis: :

    The populist vision, at least as it exists in my head, is an inversion of [the postwar American order of globalization]: applying as much upward pressure on wages and as much downward pressure on the services that the people use as possible. We've had far too little innovation over the last 40 years, and far too much labor substitution. This is why I think the economics profession is fundamentally wrong about both immigration and about tariffs. Yes, tariffs can apply upward pricing pressure on various things—though I think it's massively overstated—but when you are forced to do more with your domestic labor force, you have all of these positive dynamic effects.

    It's a classic formulation: You raise the minimum wage to $20 an hour, and you will sometimes hear libertarians say this is a bad thing. "Well, isn't McDonald's just going to replace some of the workers with kiosks?" That's a good thing, because then the workers who are still there are going to make higher wages; the kiosks will perform a useful function; and that's the kind of rising tide that actually lifts all boats. What is not good is you replace the McDonald's worker from Middletown, Ohio, who makes $17 an hour with an immigrant who makes $15 an hour. And that is, I think, the main thrust of elite liberalism, whether people acknowledge it or not.


    The basic fallacy here is one that President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump, and plenty of other politicians make regularly: They talk as though America is made up of one group of people who are "workers" and another group who are "consumers."

    If this was so, you could focus on policies that raise wages for one group—the workers—at the expense of the other. But since most people are sometimes a worker and other times a consumer, policies that artificially apply "upward pressure on wages" also apply upward pressure on the prices consumers pay (because those wages have to come from somewhere). If you want to see how this plays out in reality, just look at California's experience with a $20 minimum wage. Prices have skyrocketed and jobs are being lost.

    I am no longer a "worker", just a "consumer", but I see his point.

  • The Day of the Censor. Larry Taunton has a really interesting article about a classy older gent: How Novelist Frederick Forsyth Learned He'd Been 'Bowdlerized'. Specifically, his 1084 novel, The Fourth Protocol:

    The Fourth Protocol is a political thriller in which the Soviets attempt to detonate a nuclear device next to an American military base in Britain. The novel contains fictitious letters from the very real English traitor Kim Philby — and still very much alive at the time of the book’s publication — to the general secretary of the Communist Party. A former MI6 operative and one of the infamous “Cambridge Five” in real life, the fictitious Philby, now in exile in Moscow, explains to his communist hosts how British democracy might be subverted from within via a classic “march through the institutions”:

    …all history teaches that soundly based democracies can only be toppled by mass action in the streets when the police and armed forces have been sufficiently penetrated by the revolutionaries that large numbers of them can be expected to refuse to obey the orders of their officers and side instead with the demonstrators….

    Our friends have done what they can. Since taking control of numerous large metropolitan authorities, through the press and the media, at every level high and low, they have either themselves, or using wild young people of the Trotskyite [i.e., communist] splinter factions as shock troops, carried out an unrelenting campaign to denigrate, vilify and undermine the British police. The aim, of course, is to vitiate or destroy the confidence of the British public in their police, which unfortunately remains the most affable and disciplined in the world….

    I have narrated all of this only to substantiate one argument … that the path [to socialism] now lies though … the largely successful campaign of the Hard Left to take over the Labour Party from inside…

    Paragraphs like these, numerous and detailing Marxist strategy, jolted me from the work of cutting hay for my horses. This was not merely fiction. It was a road map for the overthrow of Western governments. More than that, it was precisely what we were seeing taking place in America’s streets in the carefully orchestrated riots of Antifa, BLM, and the whole “Defund the Police” agenda.

    And these paragraphs have been removed from later printings of The Fourth Protocol. Without Forsyth's knowledge apparently.

    I await the outcry from the folks who are incessantly incensed about the "book banners". But I'm not holding my breath.

Campaign Signs Going Up Early

Snapped on South Street in Rollinsford during my dog walk yesterday morning:

Once again, the DC Shuffle in action:

  1. Uncle Stupid takes our tax dollars;
  2. Sends some of it back to us;
  3. Acts like he's done us a favor.

In this case, it's replacement of some antiquated water lines, so it's pretty close to literal trickle-down economics. The funding is specifically credited to the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which dumped $1.9 trillion-with-a-t of Federal Funny Money on us. It was billed as a response to the pandemic. Despite the sign claiming "bipartisan", I don't think a single Republican voted in favor.

Specifically naming "President Joe Biden" on the sign is a nice touch, though. Which brings us to Christian Schneider's recent observation: Joe Biden Is a Weird Liar. Recent example:

On Tuesday, shortly after his son Hunter was found guilty of breaking federal gun laws, Joe Biden stood in front of a pro-gun-control group, buttressing his anti-gun position with phony credentials.

“When I was no longer the vice president, I became a professor at the University of Pennsylvania,” Biden said, adding that he had previously “taught the Second Amendment” in a constitutional-law class.

Of course, Biden was a “professor” at Penn in the same way a powdered beef-flavored ramen noodle packet contains filet mignon. Biden — evidently unaware this information is available on the internet — was paid nearly a million dollars to be a “professor” but never taught any classes; he was effectively there as a figurehead to attract donors. In fact, with his degree from the Wharton School of Business, Donald Trump has seen four more years’ worth of Penn classrooms than Biden has. (In fairness, Biden did spend years teaching a constitutional-law class, but it was at Widener University. On Tuesday, he was clearly trying to get some of that Ivy League shine.)

Schneider notes that, like many politicians, "Biden lies about things that benefit him politically." Not admirable, but that sort of, at least, makes sense.

But most of the time, Biden’s lies are about weird, creepy things for which he actually has no reason to lie. Things that don’t help him with voters but that he seems to think make him more interesting.

The cannibalized uncle. Corn Pop. Semi driver. Rule of thumb. Etc.

Also of note:

  • Speaking of bipartisanship, maybe he could get dog-handling advice from Kristi Noem? In the too-good-to-check department: Biden repeatedly watched his dog attack Secret Service as staff wished each other ‘safe shift’.

    President Biden repeatedly watched his German shepherd Commander attack Secret Service members, who wished each other a “safe shift” as the number of incidents mounted — with one exasperated workplace safety professional urging the use of a muzzle, agency records show.

    The number of dog attacks involving Commander, who the White House said in February was given away after more than two years of terrorizing professionals assigned to protect Biden; and former first dog Major, who was rehomed in 2021 after also attacking personnel; could top three dozen, the newly surfaced records suggest.

    The 81-year-old president reportedly accused a Secret Service member of lying about being attacked by Major during his first year in office, but was present for at least three separate attacks involving Commander, files released to Judicial Watch under Freedom of Information Act litigation show.

    Maybe the Secret Service should stop wearing the Pup-Peroni flavored pants.

  • Tell the truth, go to jail. The NR editors weigh in: DOJ Persecuting Trans-Medicine Whistleblower Eithan Haim.

    Following pressure from GOP state officials, in March 2022, Texas Children’s Hospital publicly announced that it would no longer be offering transgender drugs and surgeries to minors. This was a lie. Behind closed doors — and away from public scrutiny — the hospital continued its medically dubious regimen.

    We know this thanks to Eithan Haim, a courageous resident surgeon who leaked evidence of the hospital’s subterfuge to City Journal’s Christopher Rufo. In a matter of days, Haim’s whistleblower testimony prompted Republican state legislators to pass a bill outlawing the use of transgender drugs and surgeries in pediatric medicine.

    Not everyone was grateful for this public service.

    In June 2023, the day Haim was set to graduate from the hospital’s residency program, two federal agents showed up at his home and informed him that he was a potential target in a criminal investigation relating to medical documents. Concerned that he was being targeted for political reasons, Haim came forward with his identity and the Biden administration’s investigation of him.

    There is, I suppose, reason to be cautious, because we're only hearing one side. But…

  • I'm pretty sure Hunter Biden has no sympathy for Kevin D. Williamson. But KDW has Sympathy for Hunter Biden.

    The Bible tells us we are supposed to pray for our enemies—even the worst of them. Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden—there isn’t an asterisk that says, “… unless they’re really bad, in which case, never mind.” I myself have a hard time not wishing ill on people who use speakerphones in public—or, you know, resisting the urge to take active measures

    Hunter Biden isn’t even my enemy. He’s just a garden-variety dumbass with a very famous father. But it still isn’t easy to be sympathetic. Not for me, anyway. 

    That isn’t something to be proud of. Whatever the madding crowd may try to convince you in 2024, hatred is not a marker of moral seriousness, clarity, or urgency. It’s just a natural itch that it feels good to scratch, and we happen to live in a society that feels the need to moralize its pleasures.

    It's a good lesson, and I hope it isn't paywalled.

  • But I suspect they are not hiding in Washington D. C. A provocative hypothesis from Smart People University: Harvard Scientists Say There May Be an Unknown, Technologically Advanced Civilization Hiding on Earth.

    What if — stick with us here — an unknown technological civilization is hiding right here on Earth, sheltering in bases deep underground and possibly even emerging with UFOs or disguised as everyday humans?

    In a new paper that's bound to raise eyebrows in the scientific community, a team of researchers from Harvard and Montana Technological University speculates that sightings of "Unidentified Anomalous Phemonemona" (UAP) — bureaucracy-speak for UFOs, basically — "may reflect activities of intelligent beings concealed in stealth here on Earth (e.g., underground), and/or its near environs (e.g., the Moon), and/or even 'walking among us' (e.g., passing as humans)."

    Yes, that's a direct quote from the paper. Needless to say, the researchers admit, this idea of hidden "crypoterrestrials" is a highly exotic hypothesis that's "likely to be regarded skeptically by most scientists." Nonetheless, they argue, the theory "deserves genuine consideration in a spirit of epistemic humility and openness."

    There's a link to the "new paper" in the article, but it doesn't work for me.

    Could the cover-up alreadly be in place?

Last Modified 2024-06-15 1:50 PM EDT

"That Guy. Over There. It's His Fault."

Veronique de Rugy points out a recurring theme: Biden Points the Bill (and the Blame) Elsewhere.

Government overspending, an activity the Biden administration has taken to a new level, has sent the country into an inflationary spiral. Through trillions of dollars in COVID-19 relief programs, infrastructure spending, vote-buying student loan forgiveness programs and a political "Build Back Better Agenda," the White House has flooded the economy and decimated consumers' purchasing power. We're paying more and getting less for everything from energy to food.

According to the House Budget Committee, the average family of four is paying around $1,143 more each month than it was in early 2021 for the same goods and services; this includes increased gasoline costs. Rather than reversing course, President Joe Biden is telling voters the private sector is to blame and that he has the answers. He's doubling down by proposing more stifling, job-killing regulations to "fix" the problem — regulations which will inevitably send inflation to new heights.

That's the way I'd bet too.

Also of note:

  • Wimps. Just last month, our local Hamas cheerleaders congratulated themselves in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, for getting arrested for trespassing after refusing to leave the office of their (and my) CongressCritter, Chris Pappas.

    At the time, they proudly trumpeted their "willingness to face the consequences of civil disobedience".

    But now‥ not so much: Five plead not guilty to trespassing as they press Rep. Pappas in Dover on war in Gaza.

    Five people arrested at U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas’ Dover office in May after a protest against the war in Gaza have pleaded not guilty to criminal trespass and are scheduled to head to trial in the fall.

    The trial is scheduled for October. So they might be willing to face the consequences, but not soon, and not without a fight.

  • Thank your local mogul. Michael R. Strain writes In Defense of Billionaires,

    Billionaires should not exist,” argues Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who has long described himself as a democratic socialist. Indeed, “every billionaire is a policy failure” is a relatively common slogan among American progressives.

    To demonstrate the horseshoe nature of the political spectrum, Strain points out another example…


    Billionaire innovators create enormous value for society. In a 2004 paper, the Nobel laureate economist William D. Nordhaus found “that only a minuscule fraction” – about 2.2% – “of the social returns from technological advances” accrued to innovators themselves. The rest of the benefits (which is to say, almost all of them) went to consumers.

    According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is worth $170 billion. Extrapolating from Nordhaus’s findings, one could conclude that Bezos has created over $8 trillion – more than one-third of the United States’ annual GDP – in value for society. For example, Amazon has reduced the price of many consumer goods and freed up an enormous amount of time for millions of Americans by eliminating the need to visit brick-and-mortar retailers. Bezos, meanwhile, has received only a tiny slice of those social benefits.

    I understand why political types like Sanders and Bannon despise billionaires: because billionaires provide ordinary people, directly or indirectly, with goods and services that they actually want, as demonstrated by their willingness to open their wallets.

    Government, on the other hand, will only give you what it thinks you should have. And make you pay for it.

  • It helped that Hunter is a blithering idiot. Andrew C. McCarthy disdains The DOJ’s Undeserved Victory Lap over Hunter’s Convictions.

    In the wake of Hunter Biden’s conviction on three slam-dunk felony firearm charges, we’ve now had a victory-lap press conference by so-called special counsel David Weiss, and the predictable chest-beating by Biden apologists about how the president’s Justice Department courageously prosecuted the president’s son without fear or favor.

    Astonishing chutzpah, even from this crowd.

    The crimes found by the jury were committed on October 12, 2018, and were fully known to law enforcement within less than two weeks when the gun was recovered after the defendant’s then-girlfriend — the wife of his late brother, whom he’d also gotten hooked on crack — took the Colt Cobra .38, which he’d illegally purchased while lying on the required federal form, and recklessly discarded it in a trash bin near a school, out of fear that in his drug-addled state he’d hurt himself or others. If the defendant’s name had been Robert Hunter Smith, any normal federal prosecutor would have prosecuted him for these crimes by early 2019, if not sooner — and there’d have been no concerns about the Secret Service mysteriously intervening to make the damning evidence disappear.

    But the defendant was named Robert Hunter Biden and the federal prosecutor was the abnormally political David Weiss, so the prosecution took six years — and if Weiss and the Biden Justice Department had had their way, it wouldn’t have happened at all.

    Not a gifted link, sorry.

  • But I was assured… Speaking of long-delayed justice, Jazz Shaw relates: Connecticut Dems Arrested After Voter Fraud Debacle.

    The wheels of justice turn slowly, as the saying goes. That seems to be particularly true in Connecticut. As you may recall, the mayoral election in Bridgeport, Connecticut last year was so riddled with election fraud involving mass mail-in voting that a judge ordered both the primary and general elections to be rerun. That wasn't the city's first run-in with that sort of cheating. During the 2019 elections, other allegations of "mishandling" absentee ballots were raised, leading to a police investigation. But this week, long after the dust had allegedly settled, arrests were finally made in these cases. Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee Vice Chair Wanda Geter-Pataky and City Council Member Alfredo Castillo were charged with unlawful possession of absentee ballots and other election law violations. Two campaign workers - also Democrats - were also charged.

    It might have gone unnoticed, but the alleged perpetrators seem to have been extremely inept.

    The problem with "easy" voting is that it makes fraud easy too. It's claimed there's "no evidence" of widespread voter fraud, but that's because the system is designed to not detect fraud.

Caption This

"If we jump into that limo and floor it, we can be in Mexico by tomorrow morning!" "Wha?"

But let's be serious, by linking to a serious article by Jacob Sullum: Hunter Biden's Gun Conviction Does Not Resolve a Constitutional Dispute That Pits Him Against His Father.

A federal jury in Delaware today found Hunter Biden guilty of three felonies based on his purchase of a revolver from a Wilmington gun shop in October 2018. That outcome is not surprising, since Biden had publicly admitted that he was a regular crack cocaine user around the time of the transaction. But Biden can still challenge the verdict by arguing that his prosecution violated the Second Amendment—a claim that pits him against his own father.

I don't recall seeing this scenario played out on The West Wing. But that may be because I never watched The West Wing.

Ah, but wait a minute, how about 24? Ah, this is much closer.

During Day 1, a political scandal broke out surrounding Keith Palmer's alleged murder of Lyle Gibson. Keith's father, Senator David Palmer, was running for the Democratic Party nomination at the time this scandal broke out. A collective of businessmen responsible for much of the funding of the David Palmer presidential campaign—known as the Latham Group—feared this scandal would ruin Palmer's chances of becoming president. They went so far as to commit blackmail and murder in order to cover it up. Palmer, however, eventually came forward with the truth himself and exposed the conspirators.

Jack Bauer could have cleared things up by shooting a few people in the leg, but apparently that wasn't necessary.

Also of note:

  • Don't believe the some polls. Nate Silver provides his latest Pollster ratings. There's a large table, but I jumped down — way down — to find the Survey Center hosted by the University Near Here.

    Spoiler: the Survey Center is in 291st place, and was awarded a mediocre grade of C+. Interestingly, Nate calculates their "Mean-Reverted Bias" to be 1.9 percentage points toward the Ds.

  • But the Department of Justice isn't politicized. Emily Yoffe with a sign of the times: A Doctor Told the Truth. The Feds Showed Up at His Door.

    Eithan Haim, 34, is at the beginning of his career as a surgeon. He and his wife are expecting their first child in the fall. And now he is facing a four-count federal felony indictment for blowing the whistle on Texas Children’s Hospital, where he worked while a resident.

    At TCH, he discovered the hospital was secretly continuing gender transition treatments on minors—including hormonal intervention on patients as young as 11 years old—after publicly declaring, in March of 2022, it would no longer provide such services.

    The hospital unwillingly backed away from the treatments under pressure from the Texas governor and attorney general. But Haim found not only were the treatments continuing—the program appeared to be expanding. He recorded several online presentations by medical staff encouraging the transition of children—one social worker described how she deliberately did not make note of such treatment in the medical charts of patients to avoid leaving a paper trail. Haim told me, “They were talking publicly about how they were concealing what they were doing. You can’t take care of your patient without trust. For me as a doctor, to not do something about this was unconscionable.”

    HIPAA violations are alleged, but Haim claims to have redacted names and other identifying data from the documents he provided to Christopher Rufo, the reporter covering the story for the City Journal.

  • Also in the censorious eye. James Taranto notes a desperate attempt to make something out of nothing: Justice Alito Stands Falsely Accused of Candor.

    Justice Samuel Alito began the week facing an accusation of excessive candor. Although the charge was leveled by Rolling Stone magazine, it seemed plausible because he is unusually outspoken for a sitting jurist. But it’s a bum rap. In this instance, what Justice Alito had to say was about as interesting as a seminar on real-estate law.

    The magazine claims that Justice Alito “spoke candidly about the ideological battle between the left and the right—discussing the difficulty of living ‘peacefully’ with ideological opponents in the face of ‘fundamental’ differences that ‘can’t be compromised.’ ”

    The “interlocutor,” Lauren Windsor, turned out to be lying to Justice Alito. Rolling Stone describes her as “a liberal documentary filmmaker” who “asked questions of the justice as though she were a religious conservative.” She met him by joining the Supreme Court Historical Society and buying a ticket to its annual dinner last week (and also in 2023), where she surreptitiously recorded the conversations. She posted the audio recordings to Twitter.

    Free legal advice: Ms. Windsor would be in trouble if she tried that in New Hampshire.

Blunt But Accurate

Jeff Maurer takes down a progressive fantasy in exactly 25 words:

Fair play to him. (Sorry, I'm in the middle of reading Tana French's latest.)

Also of note:

  • Blame it on the Bossa Nova. Megan McArdle requests that we point our shaky fingers elsewhere: Don’t blame the Supreme Court for universities’ stunning reversal on DEI.

    After a decade of ever-escalating commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion, elite campuses are reversing course.

    Many Ivy League admissions offices reinstated SAT requirements, even though doing so will make it harder to evade stricter Supreme Court scrutiny of racial preferences. MIT rescinded its requirement that aspiring faculty provide DEI statements explaining how they would advance its principles. Harvard’s faculty of arts and sciences soon followed, and the rest of the Ivy League will likely come trailing behind. Harvard also announced it would no longer be taking positions on matters outside the core functions of the university, while Stanford’s faculty voted to reaffirm principles of academic freedom and exercise restraint on institutional pronouncements.

    It's amazing to watch such an abrupt volte-face. What’s even more amazing is how far things went beforehand and how long the correction took to arrive.

    Ms. McArdle oh-so-gently notes that DEI was built on well-meaning prevarication; but as time went on, the lies took on their usual sitcom course, snowballing until the whole rickety structure became unsupportable.

    Classical reference. Why don't they ever play that song in my supermarket? Probably because people would be dancing in the aisles.

  • Why make up conspiracy theories about the Deep State, when the simple truth is so outrageous? James Taranto writes at the WSJ on The Deep State vs. Taxpayers. Quoting a Washington Times story:

    The IRS is struggling to get its employees back to work in person at least 50% of the time, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the agency’s labor union is the chief hurdle.

    In striking testimony to Congress, Ms. Yellen suggested that the department may have to renegotiate contracts to get those employees back to their desks more often.

    “Some of the employees are covered by collective bargaining agreements. They are members of a union, and to enforce those rules requires an agreement with the union,” she told the Senate Appropriations Committee last week.

    Apparently, Federal "workers" have been allowed to unionize since the Jimmy Carter administration. That, to put it mildly, was a mistake.

  • Really trying to win Michiganistan, I guess. John Podhoretz writes of four "clarifying moments" that occurred recently: Heroism and the Biden Brainless Trust.

    It was a clarifying weekend both in the Middle East and in Washington. Clarifying in the first place because Israel got some of its mojo back in the staggering rescue of the four hostages in broad daylight from separate buildings in the Nuseirat refugee camp—which is technically under UN control, let us not forget. And one of those buildings was an UN refugee school. In other words, the UN was being used as a hostage prison. So we had four Israelis being used as slaves and household workers in territory controlled by the the world’s “peacekeepers.”

    Those of us who have long advocated literally blowing up the UN buildings in Turtle Bay in Manhattan—one of the first covers of the long-defunct magazine Insight, which I edited beginning in 1985, depicted the UN tower being dismantled, so that’s how long ago this idea has been percolating—now have renewed reason to press our case. The UN pays no taxes. Tear it down and there’s a huge development site in the most desirable spot in the city that could return billions in lost revenue. Meanwhile, the UN could be relocated to someplace that could use its commerce and doesn’t mind how it sheds blood and treasure in the name of Israel-hatred, like Lagos or South Sudan, and where there are no boutiques for the wives of monstrous dictators to buy stuff marked up especially for them. Rid my city of this organization that employs out-and-out neo-Nazis like UN “special rapporteur” Francesca Albanese, a person (I hesitate even to call her a person) whose views on Israel might cause Josef Goebbels to say, “Well, now you go a little far.” Not to mention one of the world’s greatest villains at the moment, UN General Secretary Guterres, a man who demonstrates the way in which a lifelong commitment to socialism now practically requires all-but-open Jew-hatred to maintain its purity as an ideological calling.

    You'll have to click over for the other clarifying moments. JPod's on fire.

  • Confirmed. At Power Line, Steven Hayward notes Facebook Censoring Climate Dissent Again.

    We’ve often cited the work of Roger Pielke, Jr. of the University of Colorado, who science Substack, The Honest Broker, is essential reading. What you should know about Roger (whom I know quite well) is that he is a centrist-liberal Democrat, believes climate change is a genuine future risk, and supports a carbon tax and other measures to fight it. But he also calls bull—- on a lot of climate extremism and exaggeration. His work has been cited by the “official” “consensus” scientific reports of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and he even forced Al Gore to change some of the claims Gore used to make about thermageddon.

    Hayward requested readers to make a normal FB post pointing to Pielke's Substack article, Climate Science is About to Make a Huge Mistake. That "huge mistake"? Pushing "an outdated extreme emissions scenario called RCP8.5" as the proper one to guide international policy.

    Reader, there is nothing outrageous or dangerous in Pielke's article; check for yourself.

    But, yup, within a few seconds of my posting a link to the article, it got taken down. I have appealed.

Recently on the book blog:

Last Modified 2024-06-12 7:34 AM EDT

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

(paid link)

This is the penultimate book in my project to read (or have read) all the titles on the New York Times 2021 list of the best books of the past 125 years. Like many of the books there, I don't know if it would be on my list of best books, but I liked it OK. For some reason, I'd mentally pigeonholed it as a sentimental book for non-adults.

I am pretty sure the titular "tree" refers to the young heroine, Francie Nolan. (Although there are some literal trees mentioned too, if you're of that bent.) At the turn of the twentieth century, she's born into a relatively poor family living in Williamsburg, then a slum area of (yes) Brooklyn. We get to know her as she grows into young womanhood. And her extended family, who are lovingly and colorfully described.

Along the way, there's plenty of color, humor, tragedy, drama, heartbreak, love, death, betrayal, … and even a little gunplay. It's kind of a soap opera, to be honest. But I enjoyed it quite a bit. Francie's an incredibly likeable character, and she remains a believable one as the book follows her over the years.

The 1943 novel was a massive best-seller, and became a 1945 movie. I haven't seen it, but it would be interesting to see how they handled some of the more, um, adult themes.

The remaining book on the list is Ulysses by James Joyce. That is gonna be a project in itself, I think.


A Science of Life without Free Will

(paid link)

I'm a believer in free will. And (as I've said before) I use the term "believer" because (sigh) I don't have any solid knock-down evidence to throw up against the (so-called) "determinists". Like the author of this book, Robert M. Sapolsky.

Let me quote from page four; I've added some bolding, you'll see why:

As a central point of this book, [biological and environmental interactions] are all variables that you had little or no control over. You cannot decide all the sensory stimuli in your environment, your hormone levels this morning, whether something traumatic happened to you in the past, the socioeconomic status of your parents, your fetal environment, your genes, whether your ancestors were farmers or herders. Let me state this more broadly, probably at this point too broadly for most readers: we are nothing more or less that the cumulative biological and environmental luck, over which we had no control, that has brought us to any moment. You're going to be able to recite this sentence in your irritated sleep by the time we're done.

See the problem? Is it "little or no control" or "no control"? I'm pretty sure that free-willers don't deny the effect of hormones, genes, past history, etc. on our decisions. But they also argue that we have some control over our actions; if Sapolsky is admitting that we have "little" control, then fine, we're reduced to arguing about how much is "some" or "little", not the existence of free will itself.

To be fair, Sapolsky is pretty consistent elsewhere in the book in seeming to argue for "no control whatsoever". Which makes his page-four wording simply sloppy. But there's also a pronoun problem: when he asserts "you" (or "we") have no control, what is "you" referring to? I'd say "our conscious selves", but Sapolsky disposes of that notion in a couple pages. (Starting on page 31, where he says "I don't understand what consciousness is, can't define it.")

But anyway, whatever he's talking about when he says "you" have no control, "you" are most like a toy boat, tossed helplessly around on the vast ocean of your neurons, brain physiology, environment, and history.

For the record, I liked the informal definition of "free will" tentatively offered by Kevin J. Mitchell in his recent book Free Agents: "the capacity for conscious, rational, control of our actions".

Rationality, the accumulation and evaluation of evidence, learning, adjustment of beliefs, application of logic, … all those associated concepts are more or less ignored by Sapolsky. Instead, when he looks at "the science", it is invariably constrained to arbitrary button-pushing and unconscious/subconscious reactions to those "stimuli" he mentions. A typical example: Disgusting smells cause decreased liking of gay men.

Sapolsky is far from alone in concentrating on all the myriad ways our mental processes can fail, or be fooled. But (as he mentions at some point) the existence of optical illusions doesn't mean that you can never trust what you see. Unfortunately, this insight is underutilized.

Sapolsky rebuts various non-supernatural attempts to reconcile "free will" with science. He (correctly, I think) says you don't get free will from quantum indeterminacy or chaos theory. He agrees that this makes human behavior difficult, probably impossible, to predict. But unpredictability is not indeterminacy. He also considers the notion that free will is an "emergent property" of sufficiently complex brains and nervous systems. Much like "life" can emerge by fortuitous arrangements of molecules that area not themselves alive. I think his discussion here we perfunctory and dismissive.

I liked his answer to the challenge: if everything is determined, how does anything ever change? (Specifically, how is reading this book supposed to make me stop believing in free will?)

The answer is that we don't change our minds, Our minds, which are the end products of all the biological moments that came before are changed by circumstances around us.

High marks for this moment of clarity. Sapolsky didn't come to his free-will disbelief by his own rational decision based on evidence; it was caused by the circumstances he happened to encounter. He had no choice.

The latter part of the book is devoted to how this applies to criminal justice. It is strident, repetitive, and overlong. Sapolsky argues that criminals (including the ones committing the vilest acts) are products of the (previously mentioned) brain malfunctions, environment, history, etc.: all factors over which they had no control. It probably makes sense to "quarantine" the violent and dishonest for periods so they can't cause further damage, but the idea of retributive punishment is fundamentally flawed. Moral judgment is off the table, especially if it leads to the death penalty.

It is somewhat amusing to note that while Sapolsky exempts violent criminals from moral judgment, he's perfectly OK with judging other (less violent) folks. People used to have non-biological explanations for schizophrenia; Sapolsky calls those people "psychoanalytic scumbags" (page 329). Bruno Bettelheim was a "sick, sadistic fuck" (page 338 footnote). This is far more moralistic mudslinging than anything Sapolsky aims at Ted Bundy, Anders Breivik, or Timothy McVeigh.

Bottom line: if the anti-free-willers are correct, then there should be an argument out there that would jangle my neurons in precisely the right way to force my agreement; I would literally have no choice but to agree. But that argument is not provided here.

Last Modified 2024-06-11 7:27 AM EDT

Pun Salad Dietary Advice: Don't Eat Anything You Wouldn't Kill Yourself

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

There are some surprising answers to the question posed at Our World in Data by Hannah Ritchie: What are the trade-offs between animal welfare and the environmental impact of meat?. It's an article full of Fun Facts, and here are some of the Funnest (footnotes elided):

Swap a beef burger for a chicken one, and you’ll cut the carbon footprint of your dinner by around 80%. The problem, however, is that you’ll need to kill 200 times as many chickens as cows to get the same amount of meat. An average chicken might produce around 1.7 kilograms of meat, while a cow produces around 360 kilograms.

This is true for other types of livestock, too. In the chart below, I’ve shown each type of meat’s carbon footprint on the right and the number of animals killed to produce one tonne on the left. You can see the trade-off. Bigger animals — cows, pigs, and lambs — emit more greenhouse gases but produce much more meat per animal. Chicken and fish might have a low carbon footprint but are killed in much higher numbers.

The consequence is that many more smaller animals — chickens and fish — are slaughtered. As my colleague, Max Roser shows in another article, every day 200 million chickens and hundreds of millions of fish are killed, compared to several million pigs and sheep, and about 900,000 cows daily.

To give these figures some context, the average person in the European Union consumes around 80 kilograms of meat per year. If all of this came from chicken meat, about 40 chickens would have to be killed per person. From beef, it would be less than one-sixth of a cow. That’s one cow every 6 or 7 years.

But it’s not just the number of lives that matters. The life of an average chicken is likely much worse than a cow's. Nearly all of the world’s chickens are factory-farmed. I’ve written about the painful conditions that many chickens experience throughout their lives. While it is certainly the case that some cattle will also experience poor standards of care, they’re more likely, on average, to have higher levels of welfare.

It is difficult to navigate this tradeoff. Swapping beef for chicken and fish will reduce your environmental footprint but at the cost of more animals living more painful lives.

Hannah has gone vegan, an admirable choice. I've been evaluating my dietary options lately. This article didn't make things easier for me.

Also of note:

  • Irony alert. Exercise for the reader: construct the the Venn diagram showing the intersection of (a) people who shriek about "book bans" when parents gripe about school libraries with copies of Gender Queer; and (b) people who think this sort of thing is just great: The Olympics Create List Of Banned Words For Journalists Regarding "Trans" Athletes. Victory Girls Blog quotes the Daily Mail:

    In a new 33-page document, the International Olympic Committee warned the media against using terms such as ‘born male’, ‘born female’, ‘biologically male’ and ‘biologically female’, which they claim is ‘problematic language’.

    The IOC also urges the press to avoid ‘sex change’, ‘post-operative surgery’ and ‘transsexual’. They said these phrases ‘can be dehumanising and inaccurate’ when describing transgender sportspeople and athletes with sex variations.

    The IOC's document doesn't seem to use the word "ban". I'm not sure what they would do if some renegade journalist committed an act of honesty.

  • Well, that's good news. Andrew McCarthy says Steve Bannon’s Remand Is Consistent with the Law. Ah, but there's a catch.

    There is gnashing of teeth over the federal court order on Thursday that former Trump White House aide Steve Bannon surrender on July 1 to begin serving, finally, the four-month sentence imposed on him nearly two years ago by Judge Carl Nichols. Naturally, much of the caterwauling comes from Bannon himself, who, as our Zach Kessel reports, claimed that the ruling by Nichols — a Trump appointee — was “about shutting down the MAGA movement, shutting down grassroots conservatives, shutting down President Trump.”

    While I am chagrined to see Bannon confined, just as I was to see him prosecuted, there is nothing untoward about Judge Nichols’s directive.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Bannon was guilty of obstructing Congress . . . just as I think Attorney General Eric Holder was guilty of obstructing Congress. The difference is that, in their Trump-deranged norm-breaking, the Democrat-controlled House January 6 Committee — which was rigged to exclude members tapped to serve on it by Republican leadership — referred Bannon to the Biden Justice Department, which dutifully prosecuted him; by contrast, the Obama Justice Department (shock, shock!) chose not to prosecute Holder, Obama’s attorney general, when he provided false information (in connection with the Fast and Furious fiasco) to the then-Republican-controlled House.

    That's a gifted link, so RTWT.

Wallace Stanley Sayre! Thou Shouldst Be Living at This Hour!

Because "Sayre's Law" has never been so relevant.

Sayre is credited with the quip: "Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low." The Wikipedia entry generalizes: "In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake."

That is what (sort of) came to mind while watching this Reason video from Zach Weissmueller:

Or you can read the transcript, if you prefer: A Power Struggle Consumes the Libertarian Party.

How did the Libertarian Party Convention become a campaign stop for candidates with wildly anti-libertarian views? This year's speakers included Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who once called for jailing so-called climate deniers, and former president Donald Trump, a rabid opponent of free trade who added $8 trillion to the U.S. debt.

It's part of a strategy to transform the Libertarian Party (L.P.) into a major force in American politics that's largely the brainchild of political strategist Michael Heise, who viewed the 2016 presidential candidacy of Gary Johnson and Bill Weld as a colossal failure.

"Gary Johnson, 4.3 million votes, highest vote total ever, no lasting movement, no return on investment on those votes," Heise told Reason in 2022 during the party's convention in Reno. "[Gary Johnson voters] didn't stay because they weren't what you might call 'true believers.' They didn't feel it in their bones. It didn't have that same animation to it [as did] the Ron Paul [movement]."

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
I guess I'd point to Heise's invocation of "true believers" as a good thing as the actual problem here. It's as if he read Eric Hoffer's The True Believer and treated it as a how-to manual. (I finally got around to reading it myself last year. And you should too. Amazon link at your right.)

So, anyway, Sayre's Law definitely applies, as witness the bitter LP infighting. But a different saying would apply to Heise's efforts to turn the LP into a Hofferian "mass movement": actual libertarians, instinctively individualistic, flinch away from that sort of thing. A different, probably Marxist, saying applies: "I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member."

Our regular Sunday look at the betting odds unsurprisingly fails to include Chase Oliver, the LP presidential candidate:

Candidate EBO Win
Donald Trump 52.6% +1.8%
Joe Biden 37.8% -2.9%
Michelle Obama 3.6% +0.8%
Robert Kennedy Jr 2.0% -0.2%
Other 4.0% +0.5%

Observation: Trump leads Biden in the betting probability by 14.8 percentage points, which is bigger than his lead on the Sunday just before he got convicted of 34 felonies. Funny.

And Michelle continues to impress some of the punters, who, I assume, are actually wagering on an actuarial event.

Also of note:

  • Finally. I was long dismayed by the wild and wacky conspiracy theorizing about the 2020 election. (Example.) But Steven Calabresi has some valid criticism at the Volokh Conspiracy here (but also see here).

    Using the the Covid pandemic as an excuse, the Left in 2020 massively changed the way presidential elections are held in this country. Whereas previously the secret ballot and same day voting was the norm, and one needed an excuse to get an absentee ballot, suddenly the Left declared it was essential to switch to mail in voting, for any reason at all, over a period of many weeks.

    Swarms of Democratic vote canvassers knocked on the doors of thousands of people who had not yet voted "by mail" and offered to "help" them "make their vote count". Ballots were filled in by voters at home. possibly with canvassers or family members, "observing" how each person voted. Canvassers then "offered" to deliver the "harvested ballots" to "drop boxes" saving voters the trouble of turning them in themselves. The net result was that Donald Trump got more votes in Pennsylvania in 2020 than Barack Obama had in either 2008 or in 2012, but he still fell 80,555 votes short of Joe Biden because "mail-in" voting with no secret ballot and canvassers conveying your ballot for you to the polls or a drop box was such a hit.

    Absentee ballots are probably necessary for the bedridden and voters currently out of state. (In fact, I'd prefer, for example, that UNH students paying out-of-state tuition get absentee ballots from their own localities.) But Calabresi makes a compelling argument that routine mail-in voting opens up too much room for intimidation and fraud.

  • She likes the bad boys. Ann Althouse looks at a WaPo article about the GOP Veepstakes: "In recent weeks, Trump has repeatedly talked about Rubio, Vance and Burgum, according to people familiar with his remarks...."

    But, hey, what about Nikki? Ann quotes from the article:

    “She’s a very disloyal person,” Trump said, according to attendees [at a recent fundraiser]. He then complained that she backed Marco Rubio in 2016 even after he asked for her endorsement and that she had been disloyal repeatedly to him since. “You have to like the person you’re running with, and I don’t like her. I don’t like her.

    Trump said he was not worried about her voters leaving him, according to attendees. “All those people are going to come vote for us anyway. Who are they going to vote for? … I think if I picked Nikki Haley, it would look like such a weak decision.”

    The primary thing Trump cares about is "loyalty". To him. How deeply do they bend the knee, how much spittle do they leave behind when kissing the ring?

  • A bad day's when I lie in bed and think of things that might have been. Matthew Continetti thinks President Dotard is Slip Slidin’ Away.

    President Biden “shows signs of slipping,” the Wall Street Journal reported this week. Journalists Annie Linskey and Siobhan Hughes — no conservatives — spoke to 45 people who have met with the president and noticed his mental and physical decline. They recount, in detail, several meetings over the past year where Biden has been forgetful, confused, and out of it. The president, Linskey and Hughes report, “appears slower now, someone who has both good moments and bad ones.”

    No kidding.

    You don’t need the Journal to tell you that Biden is diminished. You need only to open your eyes. Go over special counsel Robert Hur’s report into Biden’s unauthorized removal of classified documents. Review Biden’s Oval Office meltdown after Hur released his findings. Watch Biden try to sit at a D-Day commemoration in France on Thursday.

    We're only about two and a half weeks away from the first scheduled Trump/Biden debate. A good evening to binge WKRP in Cincinnati episodes.

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

The Capitalist Manifesto

Why the Global Free Market Will Save the World

(paid link)

I continue to keep the Interlibrary Loan staff at the University Near Here employed while other departments are ruthlessly cut. This book came up from UConn. The author, Johan Norberg, is Swedish. But he's affiliated with Cato, and his English is pretty good. This book is (more or less) a followup to his In Defense of Global Capitalism, which came out about 20 years previous.

Free-market capitalism can always use defenders, but I admit Norberg was pushing on an open door in my case. In each chapter, he takes on an anti-capitalist canard and rebuts it ably.

Has life under capitalism become "savage", as Naomi Klein claims? Is it only designed to help the "rich get richer"? No, in fact, it's been the gateway out of poverty for billions.

Well, does it (um) make rich countries like the US poorer, as politicians on all sides like to claim, and have done so for decades?

Begin aside.

And they invariably use a very tired phrase.

Ross Perot, 1992: "We've shipped millions of jobs overseas".

CongressCritters Sykes, Pascrell, and Deluzio, just last month: "For too long, American companies have shipped jobs overseas […]"

Republican Kari Lake, back in March: "When I’m in the Senate, There will be no more shipping American jobs overseas".

And if you'd like more examples, here are some I gathered in 2010, and here are some I gathered in 2012.

You'll notice that those American jobs are always "shipped" overseas. They never take planes.

End aside.

Ahem. Well, anyway, that's inaccurate as well.

Is income/wealth inequality a huge problem? No.

How about monopolies? Also not an issue.

But the wise hands of government are uniquely qualified to guide us to the future, via industrial policy, right? Nope; other than funding basic research, those hands should keep to themselves.

How about China? They're in the process of stumbling off their once promising path of free markets.

How about climate change? Don't we need government to put us on the path to net-zero carbon emissions via mandates, subsidies, etc.? Here I am a little more skeptical than Norberg about the crisis. But he firmly opposes the green de-growth advocates, who would condemn large swaths of the planet to miserable poverty, forever. Instead he favors a simple, revenue-neutral carbon tax. Arguable!

So there's nothing really surprising or new here, but there's a lot to like. Norberg digs out this bit from Aristophanes' Ecclesiazusae from 391 BC, where an early progressive says the quiet part out loud:

Proxagoras: I shall begin by making land, money, everything that is private property, common to all. Then we shall live on this common wealth.

Blepyrus: But who will till the soil?

Proxagoras: The slaves.

(I think Norberg's excerpt differs slightly from other translations)

Godzilla Minus One

[2 stars] [IMDB Link]

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

I really wanted to like this movie. It got couple thumbs up from Reason stalwarts Peter Suderman and Eric Boehm. They (understandably) were attracted to the movie's libertarian subtext. On the other hand, I found it to be a literal snoozefest; I kept falling asleep and missing long swaths of the narrative.

The Zilla-effects are impressive (also Oscar-winning) and they are kept at a below-overkill level. When the beast throws around naval warships and commuter trains, my inner 13-year-old couldn't help but go "Whoa!". The carnage is spectacular; when a post-attack news report puts the casualties in a small city at 30,000, I said "That few?"

But the plot: things kick off when Shikishima, our hero, a kamikaze pilot at the end of WW2, flies to the small island of Odo, complaining to the support crew there of his plane's mechanical failure. This fools nobody; Shikishima has made the sensible, but dishonorable, choice to not sacrifice his life in a futile gesture of loyalty to Japan.

Unfortunately, Odo is also the home to that big titular lizard; he's a youngster, but still very destructive. During the fight, Shikishima is ordered to get into his plane and fire its guns at the beast. Similarly to the kamikaze mission, he realizes this would be (a) futile and (b) suicidal, so he bails. And is one of the only survivors.

A guilt-filled, disgraced Shikishima returns to a postwar Japan in ruins. He acquires a makeshift family of sorts, and ekes out a living clearing mines from the waters around Honshu. But (apparently) A-bomb tests have put Mr. G. Z. on a growth spurt, and made him even more homicidal. So their paths are destined to cross again. Will Shikishima redeem himself? Not without a lot of overacting, unfortunately.

Libertarians like that the final battle is carried out by a semi-private force of volunteers. I was somewhat surprised at how cynical the movie was toward the Japanese government. (For example, a character observes "Come to think of it this country has treated life far too cheaply.") The US bombed the country into rubble, some of it radioactive, but … fine.

Netflix has the option to either watch with original Japanese or dubbed English dialog. I recommend the former; some of the dialog is pretty stupid and overwrought, and you only have to read it, not listen to it too.

Last Modified 2024-06-09 4:27 AM EDT

Why, Sometimes I've Believed As Many As Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Jacob Sullum notes possible evidence for presidential time travel: Laurence Tribe Bizarrely Claims Trump Won in 2016 by Falsifying Records in 2017.

"In 2016," Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe writes, "Donald Trump seemed to pull an inside straight by narrowly winning" Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin "while losing the popular vote by 3 million. We now know Trump committed 34 felonies to win that election. Without these crimes, he seems almost certain to have lost to Hillary Clinton. She would have been sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017. She would have filled two Supreme Court vacancies and enacted her legislative agenda."

Since those 34 felonies involved falsified business records that were produced in 2017, Tribe's claim is logically impossible. Yet his gloss on the former president's New York conviction echoes similarly puzzling claims by many smart and ostensibly well-informed observers. In their eagerness to embrace the prosecution's dubious "election fraud" narrative, they nonsensically assert that Trump retroactively ensured his 2016 victory by disguising a 2017 hush-money reimbursement as payment for legal services.

Sullum provides other examples of this temporal paradox promoted by historian Douglas Brinkley, the WaPo, the NYT, Al Jazeera, NPR, and (of course) the prosecution. And expresses surprise "that so many people who should know better have described the verdict in a way that could not possibly be true."

Which inspired today's headline, brought to you courtesy of Lewis Carroll. Some people have gone Through the Looking Glass, and live there now.

Also of note:

  • Among the many things Biden's forgotten… Nikki Haley takes to the NYPost to point out an important one Joe Biden has forgotten what happened on Oct. 7 — but Israelis can’t.

    It’s crucial that Israel finish the job in Gaza, defeat Hamas and return every hostage back home to their families.

    That includes the eight Americans who are still hostages in Gaza, five of whom are known to be alive.

    Yet instead of supporting Israel against the terrorists who pledge Death to Israel and Death to America, President Biden and some members of Congress are withholding weapons, punishing Israel diplomatically and economically and dictating what they want politically instead of what Israel needs for security.

    Worst of all, they’re demanding a cease-fire.

    A cease-fire is the same as defeat.

    It would give the terrorists time and resources to complete their mission, which is the total destruction of Israel.

    True dat. Which caused me to check out the latest newsletter from our local Hamas cheerleaders, the Community Church of Durham. And … yup:

    Any parishoners who have not quit the church in disgust are encouraged to "Join Our Vigil for a Permanent Ceasefire"

    Join us in Dover, outside the office of Senator Jeanne Shaheen in Henry Law Park. Join us for a silent vigil for all who are suffering violence, displacement, terror, and grief in Palestine and Israel. We will implore Sen. Shaheen to join the call for a permanent ceasefire, an end to the Israeli bombardment and blockade of Gaza, and an end to US military aid to Israel.

    The "permanent" bit is certainly irritating, but it (of course) mirrors current Hamas demands.

    And, unless you're a fool, the Hamas definition of "permanent ceasefire" simply means "until we gear up for more atrocities."

  • And going bust. Steven Greenhut notes the recent folly: California Is Doubling Down on Banning Plastic Bags.

    You know those scenes from old Western movies (or Bugs Bunny) where an outlaw fires his gun near someone's feet. The goal isn't to harm the target, but to make him dance to miss the bullets in an effort to frighten, humiliate or exert dominance. Think about those scenes as you consider a set of new pointless plastic-bag-related laws that seem destined just to make Californians "dance."

    Remember all the hoopla in 2014 when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a "groundbreaking" law that would dramatically reduce solid waste by forbidding grocery stores from providing "single-use" plastic bags? It's been a decade since that law turned the grocery-checkout process into a grinding routine as clerks ask consumers how many bags they want to buy and cheapskate shoppers drag out bacteria-laden reusable cotton ones.

    That law's backroom negotiations offer hilarious lessons in legislative sausage-making, as unions, stores, and environmentalists jockeyed for special privileges. A key compromise allowed stores to sell thicker "reusable" plastic bags, which seemed bizarre to me. The "single-use" bags actually had multiple uses. They were so thin I'd keep them to pick up dog poo and line bathroom trash cans.

    Greenhut goes on to note that the state is on trajectory to make things worse.

    Pun Salad has been a plastic bag cheerleader for years: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

  • Professor Pinker provides a free speech tutorial. In an interview with the Harvard Political Review on Time, Place, and Manner. He hits this softball question out of the park:

    HPR: ​In the past, you have criticized Harvard for not doing more to uphold the First Amendment, and you have argued against criminalizing “deplorable speech” such as hate speech. However, you have also written that Harvard should have shut down the pro-Palestinian encampment, which encampment organizers defended as a peaceful exercise of free speech. How do you reconcile those two viewpoints?

    SP: Oh, because free speech doesn’t mean that I get to break into your apartment and spray graffiti on your walls, or to stand outside your apartment with a sound truck blaring propaganda at 3 a.m. First Amendment jurisprudence has long recognized that free speech is not a license to use force to break the law nor to infringe on other people’s rights. And so restrictions on time, place, and manner have always been tightly interwoven into defenses of free speech, otherwise they could collapse in absurdity. For example, if a professor offered to trade grades for sex to a student, he would not be able to defend himself on the grounds of free speech. Or if someone threatens to kill someone, that too would not be protected under the First Amendment or any reasonable definition of free speech. So both crimes are inherently committed through speech, like extortion and harassment.

    Reasonable restrictions on time, place, and manner, have always been a part of defenses of free speech. Now, restrictions on time, place, and manner themselves have to be carefully delineated and defended; otherwise, they could be a pretext for suppressing speech. And the usual threefold test is: Are they content-neutral? That is, do they apply regardless of what the protesters are actually saying? Are there alternative means by which those opinions can be expressed? And is there a rationale for the restrictions? That is, do the restrictions serve some legitimate institutional purpose? In the case of the encampment, the argument for shutting it down passes all three time, place, and manner restrictions. Namely, it has nothing to do with the content of what the protesters are saying, although I think the content is deplorable, but that’s not by itself a reason to shut it down.

    … and there's more at the link.

Snarky-Tweets-Я-Us III

I try to hit my state's senior senator with a clue bat:

I see many other replies to her in the same vein, which is encouraging. Not that she pays the slightest bit of attention.

Also of note:

  • Probably already marked off on your impeachment bingo card. George Will points out: On immigration, the too-little-too-late president strikes again.

    Polls have concentrated Biden’s mind. On Tuesday, he announced that he will faithfully execute his executive order intended to contain the wreckage wrought by his refusal to perform his core constitutional duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” New restrictions will take effect when illegal crossings exceed 2,500 a day. The arithmetic is: 912,500 (approximately the population of Biden’s Delaware) in a year could melt into the nation, as under today’s system. Regarding border security, as when combating inflation or aiding Ukraine, Biden is a too-little-too-late president.

    Presidents from both parties have become geysers of executive orders, imposing tariffs, essentially banning internal combustion vehicles, forgiving student debts, altering the legal status of millions of immigrants, etc. What fun.

    Until it isn’t. Until the public, taught by presidential highhandedness that presidents can do whatever they please, blames them for whatever problems persist. This is both unfair and richly deserved. Today’s Congress, which has been well-described as cable television’s largest green room, escapes blame for the immigration disaster because the public, fixated on the presidency, knows that, for Congress, governance is a spectator sport.

    Biden must have zoned out during that "laws be faithfully executed" part of his oath.

  • I'm not sure they even pay lip service to "fiscal responsibility" any more. But nevertheless, Veronique de Rugy is old enough to remember: The GOP Once Claimed To Be the Party of 'Fiscal Responsibility.' So Why Not Reform Social Security?

    She notes that Democrats would dearly love to delay until the "Trust Fund" almost goes bust, automatic benefit cuts are just around the corner, and force the "reform" they prefer in an atmosphere of panic and demagoguery.

    If Republicans, for much of their history the self-styled party of fiscal responsibility, fail to advocate for and implement meaningful reform before the Trust Fund dries out—or even if they wait until the last minute—they leave the door wide open for Democrats to address the problem in their preferred manner. Historically, Democrats have favored maintaining or even expanding Social Security. Their solution will likely involve raising taxes and increasing government debt.

    Higher taxes could come in various forms, such as increased payroll taxes, higher income taxes, or new taxes targeting wealthier individuals. While this approach might sustain benefits in the short term, it will also very likely slow economic growth by reducing incentives for work, entrepreneurship, and investment.

    Another possible scenario is covering Social Security's shortfalls with yet more government debt. This would mean issuing more government bonds, which the government would eventually need to pay back with interest. Higher national debt levels can lead to higher interest rates, crowding out private investment and potentially fueling inflation. Moreover, the burden of this debt would fall on future taxpayers, exacerbating intergenerational inequity.

    Donald Trump, by echoing Biden's position on Social Security, certainly ain't helping.

  • On the LFOD watch. New Hampshire Bulletin notes some legislation you might have missed, concerning Kangaroo ownership, rodent traps, brass knuckles.

    You can continue pronouncing Concord however you like and use adhesive rodent traps, but brass knuckles remain illegal and you’ll still need a permit to adopt a kangaroo.

    We will soon have to change our state's motto to "You can have my brass knuckles when you remove them from my cold, dead, actual knuckles."

    But (for your own reference), that pronunciation bill would have legislated "New Hampshire" be pronounced ("in accordance with the International Phonetic Alphabet") /nu:'hæmpʃər/ and "Concord" as /'kɒŋkərd/.

    The proposal didn't mention the fun ones: Berlin, Chocorua, Contoocook, Coos, Haverhill, Milan, Piscataqua, Plaistow, Sanbornton, … Some you have to drive to, and ask some old codger "Where am I?"

Talking About Two Different Generations

Recycling Mr. Ramirez's art from five years ago:

Generation Gap

As I said five years ago: "Sorry if that stings a little, kids."

Today, I'd add: "Kids, it's not your fault, and on balance a good thing, that we don't live in times that demand you go off to distant lands and have people try to kill you, while you are trying to kill them."

Still, there may be downsides. Michael Munger points out one of them at AIER: Our Kids Have No Economic Immune Systems. He discusses the "hygiene hypothesis", which contends "humans need environmental adversity for our immune systems to mature and function normally." Could that apply to…

There is some evidence that this “hygiene hypothesis” explains much of the dissatisfaction many young people have with capitalism.  While it’s true that America’s education establishment has been taken over by economically illiterate ideologues, something in the mindset of young people of the past two generations has made them think that capitalism is not (just) immoral, but terrifyingly dangerous.

The odd thing is that our children are the among the richest people who have ever turned 5 years old. Since the mid-1990s, with a stumble in 2007-2012 for the “Great Recession,” median family income rose steadily until the government-mandated shutdown of the economy in March 2020. In fact, so-called Millennials stand to become by far “the richest generation” ever.  Millennials and Gen Z have never known anything except prosperity, in terms of the level of their income, and their access to things — cell phones, the internet, streaming music and movies on demand, improvements in auto safety — that as recently as 1990 could not be had at any price.

This seems paradoxical. The commercial system has delivered, consistently and broadly shared across the population. Yet having to participate in a system where one plans, saves, invests, and designs an individual “pursuit of happiness” is overwhelming the very people who should be grabbing all the new opportunities that the system has revealed to them.

I'm not sure I completely buy Munger's thesis, but it's worth thinking about.

Also of note:

  • Once you've watched The Manchurian Candidate, it's hard to resist deploying this quote. (I should know, I did it myself back in April.)

    We would also have accepted: "Who ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?"

    But if you'd like your criticism in slightly less snarky form, Charles C. W. Cooke has you covered, while casting a plague upon sycophants on the Other Side: Nobody Believes That.

    Lest anyone think I’m picking on Biden — or Scarborough — I should note that there is a perfect equivalent of this on the right, in which acolytes of Donald Trump insist that the man is a moral paragon; a devout Christian; a faithful husband; an example to our nation and its children; a constitutional stickler; a man without sin who, like Jesus, has been persecuted for his divinity. I don’t hear this every time Trump’s character is raised — some of Trump’s fans have the good sense to say, “he’s a disaster, but he’s preferable” — but I do hear it more often than I’d expect. And every time I do, I look around for the hidden camera. Surely, it’s a bit? Surely, nobody actually thinks that, right? And, more important, surely nobody expects me to go along with it? When its performative — or defensive — I can grasp its purpose. When it’s sincere, I am utterly baffled. Donald Trump is one of the worst people in America. I can comprehend the argument for voting him nevertheless; I cannot comprehend pretending that he is a good person while doing so.

    And Biden? Biden is senile. Forget “behind closed doors.” Forget “slipping.” The guy is manifestly too old to be president. He slurs. He rambles. He becomes confused about where he is or what he’s doing. He mixes up key details. He makes up stories, and, having done so, he then forgets which lies he’s told before. I can see this. You can see this. The American public can see this, which is why more of them believe that Joe Biden is too old to be president than support Social Security. Robert Hur could see it, too, which is why he concluded that Biden was too old and forgetful to be prosecuted. It stands to reason that, far from being magically improved, Joe Biden is far, far, far worse when he is out of the public eye than he is within it. But even if he’s precisely the same, he is still unfit. When Joe Scarborough insists otherwise — as he does semi-regularly — he is making a fool of himself in exactly the same way as the Trumpies do when they pretend that the only problem with Trump’s conduct in office was that he sent “mean tweets.” Who believes this garbage? Honestly.

    The funny part (for sufficiently small values of "funny") is how we wound up with these guys as the putative major-party nominees for the highest office in the land.

  • As the Firesign Theater foretold: "Everything You Know Is Wrong". Noah Smith wonders: How many of our "facts" about society, health, and the economy are fake?

    Remember the maternal mortality crisis? In 2022 and 2023, a lot of people were wringing their hands about how American mothers were dying at skyrocketing rates. Here’s what the Commonwealth Fund, a health-care-focused think tank that’s generally regarded as one of the top sources of public information on the U.S. health system, told us in 2022:

    The maternal mortality rate in the United States has for many years exceeded that of other high-income countries…The U.S. maternal mortality rate has been on the rise since 2000 and has spiked in recent years.

    And in 2023, the Wall Street Journal declared that U.S. maternal mortality was the highest it had been since 1965. These were only two of many outlets that reported on the trend. Politicians took note. Social media shouters declared one more piece of evidence of America’s rapid decline as a nation.

    There’s just one problem: The U.S. maternal mortality increase was fake. It was a thing that never happened.

    Click over for the depressing details. Including Smith's observation of a more general problem: "[E]xperts will sometimes lie to the public in order to further what they see as the greater good." His further examples, about "falling geographic mobility" and "the teen mental health crisis" are, unfortunately, for paid subscribers only.

  • This may explain why people are shying away from the DEI acronym. Yesterday, I mentioned a couple universities that used non-standard acronyms to tout their wokeness. Could be that "DEI" is (as John Tierney says) too easily thought to stand for "Didn’t Earn It."

    George Orwell despaired at the linguistic atrocities of propagandists, but he did offer one bit of hope in his famous essay, “Politics and the English Language.” While lamenting that “political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible,” he noted that some abuses of the language were vulnerable to “jeers” from a few critics. “Silly words and expressions have often disappeared,” he wrote, “not through any evolutionary process but owing to the conscious action of a minority.”

    So perhaps a jeering minority will rid us of today’s most egregiously indefensible phrase: “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.” It’s a textbook example of doublespeak, the term inspired by Orwell’s 1984 dystopia in which the Newspeak language enables citizens to engage in “doublethink”—simultaneously holding two contradictory beliefs. The words in DEI sound like admirable goals, but the officials mouthing them are working to do just the opposite, as Florida governor Ron DeSantis observed when he banned DEI initiatives at public universities. What DEI really stands for, DeSantis said, is “Discrimination, Exclusion and Indoctrination.”

    That formulation hasn’t caught on, but another one has: “Didn’t Earn It.” It went viral this spring after Ian Miles Cheong, a conservative journalist, and Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist, tweeted it to their 2 million followers on X. Adams, who had fearlessly predicted in 2015—six months before the first Republican primary—that Donald Trump would be elected president because of his skill as a “master persuader,” tweeted another forecast: “Whoever came up with ‘Didn’t Earn It’ as the description of DEI might have saved the world. Normally, the clever alternative names people use to mock the other side’s policy are nothing but grin-worthy. This one could collapse the whole racist system. It’s that strong.”

    Tierney points to one indicator of "Didn't Earn It"'s success: Media Matters has issued a research/study purporting to show it's racist.

I Hear They Have Some Smart People There

no political litmus tests

We can only hope that this is a sign of things to come, as reported by John Sailer at the Free Press: Harvard Rolls Back DEI.

Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS)—the largest school within the university, comprising half of all Harvard students—will no longer require “diversity, inclusion, and belonging” statements for faculty hiring. The news, first reported by The Boston Globe, is the latest indicator that elite universities are moving away from the ideological litmus tests that have come to dominate campus.

This follows the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s decision to end the controversial policy entirely, which I first reported on last month. It also comes after Harvard reinstated standardized testing in admissions in April.

A bit of acronymic trivia: although the FP's headline refers to "DEI", Harvard prefers "DIB" for its TLA, "Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging". Aw, belonging! Sounds a little Hallmark-cardish, doesn't it?

In the meantime, the University Near Here sometimes, inconsistently, sticks an extra A into the basic acronym: DEAI, for "Diversity, Equity, Access & Inclusion". And their web page pictures three students, one in a wheelchair, so there.

But never mind that digression. Greg Lukianoff and Angel Eduardo are adopting a "fine, but…" attitude: Dropping DEI statements is a great start, but ideological litmus tests are the real issue. (And I've swiped their image for the Eye Candy du Jour above.)

However, we want to be very clear that although DEI statements (and the larger DEI bureaucracy on campus) are absolutely threats to free speech, our primary objection is to the larger issue of political litmus tests — and those can come in a variety of flavors and forms. Florida’s “Stop WOKE Act,” for example, was anti-DEI but still a plainly ideological attempt to restrict what students or faculty can say, which is why we sued (and won).

What we need are policies that go after the root of the problem: ideological conformity and pressure that threatens free speech and academic freedom on campus. FIRE drafted model legislation called the Intellectual Freedom Protection Act, which the state of Kansas has already adopted, that singles out political or ideological litmus tests regardless of whether they’re from the right or the left. We’re hopeful that more and more states will come to adopt it, as universities continue to recognize how hamstrung the existing policies have made them in pursuit of their primary mission: fostering an environment where ideas can be voiced, explored, and challenged in search of truth.

And speaking of that, there’s a lot more universities can do to ensure colleges stay on mission — beginning with students.

DEI statements haven’t just been a tool for faculty hiring in recent years. They also play a large role in student admissions for universities. If these schools want to get serious about being oases of free thought, they will have to make some changes to the way they cultivate their student bodies.

The University Near Here uses the Common App for incoming student applications. According to this site ("Writing the Diversity Essay"), its request is pretty anodyne:

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

I can only recommend cribbing Navin Johnson's opening soliloquy from The Jerk:

My story? Okay. It was never easy for me. I was born a poor black child. I remember the days, sittin' on the porch with my family, singin' and dancin' down in Mississippi...

Also of note:

  • What's a small-l libertarian to do? Specifically, in the voting booth come November. We commented on Walter Block's WSJ op-ed last week; now comes Pierre Lemieux, writing at EconLib on Walter Block's “Distance” Recommendation. Block advocated that "swing state" libertarian voters go for Trump. But:

    […] we must not lose sight of a simple but often ignored reality: the tiny probability that an individual vote will be decisive, that it will “swing” anything. It never happened in a presidential election and is unlikely to ever happen. A rational individual will not vote with the intention to change the election’s result. Even if Block’s WSJ piece persuaded 1,000 “swing” libertarians to vote for Trump, any one of them will know that his vote only reduces the hypothesized 1,000-member decisive group to 999. He may prefer to spend his time milking the cows or watching the New York skyline.

    The best a rational voter can do is to vote (or not vote or spoil his ballot) in order to express a moral opinion in favor of the candidate, if there is one, with whom he shares important moral values. (See Geoffrey Brennan and Loren Lomasky, Democracy and Decision [Cambridge University Press, 1993].) For a libertarian, these values will be those conducive to the maintenance of a free society. Moral congruence may not look easier to evaluate than issue distance, but at least it chases a real rabbit. This suggests that the best a libertarian voter can do is to vote for the candidate, if there is one, who shows the moral character most representative of what a politician in a truly free society would be (while of course remaining a generally self-interested human being). We should leave some room for reasonable compromise but, at the limit, we may think of the required moral character for a royal president as modeled on the ideal of the head of state in Anthony de Jasay’s “capitalist state.” The less radical might look at the ethics defended by James Buchanan in Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative.

    In this perspective, whoever is a candidate with an acceptable libertarian moral character, if there is one, it is not Donald Trump.

    Succinctly: you may live in a swing state, but you ain't a swing voter.

  • Punish the monkey and let the organ grinder go. David Harsanyi recommends a course of action: Merrick Garland Shouldn't Be Praised. He Should Be Impeached.

    It’s no accident that The Wall Street Journal ran an “exclusive” hagiographic piece on Merrick Garland’s “by-the-book, play-no-favorites approach” the day the attorney general is set to be grilled by Congress. The administration wants to paint the AG as a fair-minded dispenser of justice.

    In truth, while Garland might occasionally — only when faced with no real options — put the Biden administration in an uncomfortable political position, he has regularly weaponized the agency to target the president’s political enemies, from pro-life protesters to concerned parents to presidential candidates.

    Even as I write this, Garland is refusing to hand over audio recordings of Joe Biden’s interviews with former Special Counsel Robert Hur, despite a congressional subpoena. Even as the DOJ stonewalls Congress, it is prosecuting the Republican Party’s presidential candidate for crimes for which the Hur tape supposedly “exonerates” Biden.

    Garland’s claims of executive privilege are risible. If Biden’s audio can be withheld from the public simply because someone somewhere might manipulate the tape using AI, then any audio of any president can be denied the public.

    Harsanyi provides a long list of Garland's other offenses.

    And, in case you're not a Knopfler fan: Headline reference.

  • Ya think? While we're going after misbehaving government employees, Christian Britschgi has one in his sights: Anthony Fauci Gives Misleading, Evasive Answers About NIH-Funded Research at Wuhan Lab.

    In a now-infamous 2021 exchange with Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.), Anthony Fauci—the former longtime head of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and former chief medical advisor to the president—said that the National Institutes of Health (which oversees NIAID) "has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology."

    We now know this is not true.

    A treasure trove of documents uncovered by congressional investigators and dogged investigative journalists has established that the NIAID was funding gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan Lab via a grant to the scandal-plagued nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance (which the Biden administration just debarred from receiving federal funding).

    These revelations lead to the inescapable conclusion that Fauci was being misleading at best (and dishonest at worst) about the NIH-funded research at Wuhan. It also has fueled eminently reasonable speculation that that research precipitated a lab leak at Wuhan which caused the COVID-19 pandemic.

    To quote Hawaii CongressCritter Jill Tokuda: "Thank you for your science."

    She apparently did not add: "Can you science me harder?"

  • Counterpoint alert! Speaking of Covid stuff, yesterday we commented favorably on Alina Chan's NYT article Why the Pandemic Probably Started in a Lab, in 5 Key Points. So I should probably give equal time to Scott Sumner, who accuses Chan of Bad reasoning.

    A recent NYT article provides an almost textbook example of how bad reasoning can fuel conspiracy theories. The author claims to provide five pieces of evidence suggesting that Covid escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China. In fact, none of the pieces of evidence are at all persuasive, and some are factually inaccurate. Here I’ll focus on the first piece of evidence cited, the inferences that we should draw from the fact that Covid happened in Wuhan.

    The article shows a graph of the “hundreds of large cities” within about 1500 miles of the bat caves where Covid is thought to have originated […]

    Then we are led to believe that it would be an amazing coincidence if Covid were to naturally emerge in the one city in this region that just happened to have a major virology lab.  But is this claim true?

    Sumner goes on to point out that Wuhan is not just a "large city"; it's a megacity. There are far fewer of those.

    Anyway, see what you think.

Mister, We Could Use a Scientist Like Trofim Lysenko Again

From the relevant Wikipedia article:

In 1940, Lysenko became director of the Institute of Genetics of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, and he used his political influence and power to suppress dissenting opinions and discredit, marginalize, and imprison his critics, elevating his anti-Mendelian theories to state-sanctioned doctrine

And, the article goes on to note, "Lysenko's ideas and practices contributed to the famines that killed millions of Soviet people", not to mention tens of millions Chinese people.

So, gee, maybe it wouldn't be good to have a scientist like Trofim Lysenko. Sorry about the headline.

Oh, wait. We have a scientist like Trofim Lysenko. And, as reported by Joe Nocera at the Free Press, he still has his defenders in positions of power: “Thank You For Your Science:” Democrats Fail to Challenge Tony Fauci.

But Trofim's Tony's detractors were on hand as well, with their "obsession":

As for the Republicans, they have had one obsession for years: to show that Covid-19 was the result of a lab leak. Republicans have long accused Fauci of using government funds to help pay for research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology that could have led to the creation of the virus. And he has long denied it, including at yesterday’s hearing.

Remarkably, though, Fauci maintained that he had always kept an “open mind” about the origins of the virus causing Covid-19 and that he never attempted to censor or discredit opposing voices on the policies he spearheaded during the pandemic. This is laughable. Until the hearing, Fauci had consistently dismissed the lab leak hypothesis. And as for those opposing voices, after three dissident scientists published the Great Barrington Declaration, calling for a strategy of protecting the vulnerable and letting life resume otherwise, Fauci compared them to the doctors in the 1980s who claimed HIV didn’t cause AIDS.

One of those three dissident scientists, Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, an epidemiologist and professor of health policy at Stanford University, told The Free Press that Fauci is “incapable of intellectual honesty” and of “honest engagement with his critics.”

Among those in thrall to the "obsession": the New York Times, which published yesterday an explanation of Why the Pandemic Probably Started in a Lab, in 5 Key Points. The online version is fancy, interactive, JavaScript-intense, and "updated to reflect news developments."

On Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci returned to the halls of Congress and testified before the House subcommittee investigating the Covid-19 pandemic. He was questioned about several topics related to the government’s handling of Covid-19, including how the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which he directed until retiring in 2022, supported risky virus work at a Chinese institute whose research may have caused the pandemic.

For more than four years, reflexive partisan politics have derailed the search for the truth about a catastrophe that has touched us all. It has been estimated that at least 25 million people around the world have died because of Covid-19, with over a million of those deaths in the United States.

Although how the pandemic started has been hotly debated, a growing volume of evidence — gleaned from public records released under the Freedom of Information Act, digital sleuthing through online databases, scientific papers analyzing the virus and its spread, and leaks from within the U.S. government — suggests that the pandemic most likely occurred because a virus escaped from a research lab in Wuhan, China. If so, it would be the most costly accident in the history of science.

The article is by Alina Chan, not a tinfoil-hatted conspiracy theorist, but "a molecular biologist at the Broad Institute of M.I.T. and Harvard."

Let's give a shout out to Jim Geraghty, who first pointed out the odd coincidence of the initial outbreak occurring in the hometown of the Wuhan Institute of Virology back in 2020, only a few months into the pandemic. He noted the Lab-Leak Hypothesis Goes Mainstream in January 2021.

And, years later, the NYT has leapt onto that wacky theory. "Welcome to the party, pal!"

We are left to wonder what the NYT will be getting around to noticing in 2028. How about: "Gee, that Trump prosecution was a really dangerous case of politicized justice."

Also of note:

  • Why didn't Nixon Biden just order the tapes to be erased? OK, I have to admit the source is iffy, but:

    Burning question: in these days of modern times, they still use audio tapes?

    But never mind the media format. Pravda Associated Press reports, with a straight face, the official DOJ rationale for the coverup claim of executive privilege: Justice Department’s ‘deepfake’ concerns over Biden interview audio highlights AI misuse worries.

    Releasing an audio recording of a special counsel’s interview with President Joe Biden could spur deepfakes and disinformation that trick Americans, the Justice Department said, conceding the U.S. government could not stop the misuse of artificial intelligence ahead of this year’s election.

    A senior Justice Department official raised the concerns in a court filing on Friday that sought to justify keeping the recording under wraps. The Biden administration is seeking to convince a judge to prevent the release of the recording of the president’s interview, which focused on his handling of classified documents.

    Of course, if some AI wiz wanted to generate a deepfake of President Dotard, there are probably petabytes of easily available video and audio data he could use for sources. I assume they were serving red herring in the DOJ cafeteria yesterday.

  • And what kind of fool am I? Kevin D. Williamson wonders: What Sort of Man Is Donald Trump? Excerpt:

    About the underlying facts of Alvin Bragg’s case, there was never any serious question. Trump conducted a sexual liaison with the woman known professionally as Stormy Daniels—at the time a pornographic performer looking to move beyond sex videos into another kind of entertainment career—while his wife Melania, the future third lady, was at home tending to their newborn son, Barron, who is named after the imaginary friend Trump invented to lie to the New York Post about his sex life. (This is something totally normal and mentally well-adjusted people do all the time: invent imaginary friends to falsely inform the tabloid-reading public that one is dating, say, Carla Bruni.)

    Trump’s history with women is of course a weird and creepy one. He has a habit of getting involved with women with whom he has a financial relationship, and, as ABC News put it, Stormy Daniels says their “relationship ended when Trump told her she would not be cast on The Apprentice.” Trump mixes up his money problems with his women problems—he is one of those guys who every now and then slams his dick in the cash register. Melania Trump—who a few years ago won a defamation case against the Daily Mail that had claimed she worked as a high-end escort before her marriage to Trump—posed for skin-magazine photographs that might charitably be described as lesbian-porn adjacent—and, indeed, Trump himself has made cameo appearances in three pornographic films produced by Playboy Enterprises. Melania was an employee of Trump’s dodgy and now-defunct modeling agency, which, according to several former employees, employed illegal immigrants and serially abused the H1-B visa program.

    Trump’s transparent attempts to buy women often have gone spectacularly wrong: One of his many stupid vanity projects was his acquisition of the Plaza Hotel in New York, a bad plan he made worse by putting his then-wife, Ivana, in charge of the project as president of the company. The couple drove New York’s most famous hotel into a state of financial ruination, and Trump ultimately was bailed out by Saudi princeling Al Waleed bin Talal. The politician and the princeling later got into a Twitter spat—because this is Donald Trump we’re talking about—and the Saudi tycoon mocked Trump, noting that he had bailed him out twice (he had bought a yacht from Trump to provide a much-needed cash infusion when he was in the middle of an earlier business crisis, because Trump was pretty much always in a business crisis) and suggested that there might be a third time.

    I'm a little surprised that KDW got the word "dick" in that context past the Dispatch editors.

  • I've always been a fan. My mom used to recall the time that I, at two years of age, bounced on a hotel bed in Norway, rhapsodizing about how I missed Ritz Crackers and Welch's Grape Juice. No doubt that this set me on my free-market fandom, because as Jake Klein reports: The Story of the Ritz Cracker Is the Story of Capitalism.

    When you last visited the supermarket, you likely walked past a box you’ve seen many times before. The Ritz Cracker has been a staple on American store shelves for 90 years, yet today the snack is often looked down upon; its mass-produced, corporate, and carb-heavy nature has fallen out of favor in an era preferring craft-made, local, and gluten-free foods.

    But the Ritz Cracker is worth taking a second look at. There’s more to this simple snack than you might think.

    When the Invisible Hand offers you a Ritz, just say yes.

Last Modified 2024-06-04 6:12 PM EDT

Rose and Jack Could Have Fit on That Door

But that's not important right now:

Also of note:

  • Maybe they'll learn something? Katherine Mangu-Ward observes a recent trend in higher education: SWAT Goes to College

    A gray-haired Dartmouth professor was tackled, zip-tied, and detained on May 1 along with about 90 other protesters. "I've been teaching here for 34 years," Annelise Orleck told The New York Times after video of the arrest went viral. "There have been many protests, but I've never, ever seen riot police called to the green."

    Much of the debate about the campus protests sparked by the Israel-Hamas war has centered—quite reasonably—on
questions around free speech, civil disobedience, and violence. When do chants become threats? When does blocking access to a building become the use of force? Less attention has been paid to the role of policing. But even as Americans have become numb to the militarization of police in other contexts, there's something shocking about the sight of cops in riot gear on college campuses.

    I get that, I do. Certainly our local news media hastened to point out that the cops who broke up the attempted "encampment" at the University Near Here back in May were adorned in "riot gear".

    But that leaves the question: what is the proper attire when you're dealing with activists who "peaceably" refuse to adhere to a university's time/place/manner restrictions? Who set up a arm-linked human fence to prevent law enforcement from doing their job?

  • I don't want to know what my spirit animal is. But Kat Rosenfield has done her homework, and finds: Trump is Hillary Clinton's spirit animal. RTWT, but here's an excerpt:

    It’s hard not to see the current state of the discourse as an obvious outgrowth of an earlier phenomenon that Vox writer Emmet Rensin termed the “smug style” in American liberalism, “predicated on the belief that American life is not divided by moral difference or policy divergence — not really — but by the failure of half the country to know what’s good for them”.

    It is also hard not to find Hillary’s armchair quarterbacking of the upcoming election a bit rich, considering the source, and particularly when her own smug style is at least partly to blame for getting us into this mess. We all have that highlight reel of cringeworthy moments that runs through our head when we’re awake and anxious at 3am: the verbal fumbles, the jokes that didn’t land, that time a waiter said, “Enjoy your linguini”, and you, an idiot, replied: “You, too!” If I were Hillary Clinton, I would be lying awake at night, wondering how different my life — all our lives — would be, had I never uttered the words, “basket of deplorables”.

    But that’s me; the former candidate, on the other hand, seems disinclined toward accepting any culpability for the current state of affairs. Rather, she imagines herself as Cassandra, standing athwart the ignorant public and the ideologically blinkered members of her own party alike, a grandiose notion that appears to have only intensified in the wake of Trump’s conviction. About five minutes after the verdict came in, Hillary took to Instagram to announce the addition of a new product to her merch store: a mug emblazoned with her likeness and the words, “TURNS OUT SHE WAS RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING.”

    How can we miss her if she won't go away?

  • The odds were in my favor, I had 'em five to one. Jeff Jacoby has an excellent question: If you can wager on the price of orange juice, why not on elections? Considerable time is spent on the antics of Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy in Trading Places, which you should watch if you haven't, great cast. But:

    Last month […] the Commodity Futures Trading Commission voted 3-2 for a new rule forbidding the use of event contracts for betting on national elections. Its purpose, The Wall Street Journal reported, was "to clarify the boundaries between gambling and financial markets." The proposal — still preliminary — would prevent [prediction market] Kalshi from expanding its business into political wagers. It would also force PredictIt, an exchange that does offer markets on the outcome of elections, to shut down that part of its operation.

    According to Rostin Behnam, the CFTC chairman, political betting markets must be suppressed because they threaten "election integrity and the democratic process." If wagering on politics is allowed to continue, the commission could find itself obliged to investigate charges of election fraud — an especially unwelcome prospect for a Wall Street regulator given the degree of American polarization. Two activists who agree with him — Dennis Kelleher of Better Markets and Lisa Gilbert of Public Citizen — argued in the Los Angeles Times last week that "to allow betting on elections through the commodities market . . . could unleash a torrent of misinformation" and "create powerful new incentives for bad actors to influence voters and manipulate the results to favor their bets."

    But there is little or no evidence to substantiate such fears. To be sure, misinformation has always been a feature of political campaigns and will continue to be with or without political futures contracts. As for inducing "bad actors" to manipulate the results — such vote-tampering is already illegal and would be subject to prosecution. In any case, to shift the outcome of a national election would require a daunting level of coordinated corruption, something far beyond the scope of a crooked county official or polling-place judge.

    The line between "investing" and "betting" is pretty fuzzy, and a lot depends on the psychology of the investor/bettor.

Mister, We Could Use a Procurator General like Andrey Vyshinsky Again

Andrey Vyshinsky is credibly cited as the originator of the famous Stalin-era quote: "Give me the man and I will give you the case against him." (Alternates: Beria or Stalin himself.) A quote that's been making the rounds thanks to a recent American legal proceeding.

That's the short version. For the long version, read Andy McCarthy in this gifted link: In Memory of Justice

The country we love has become unlovely.

It pains me to say that. But I can’t help but feel the same anguish written on the faces of friends who, like me, grew up in the justice system. Friends who couldn’t care less about Donald Trump, who won’t vote for him, who look at the cynical circus that just closed down in lower Manhattan as still more confirmation of his appalling judgment and character . . . but who remember what American law enforcement was at its imperfect best. Friends who verge on weeping openly over what’s happened to it.

Our system embodied the rule of law, the sturdy undercarriage of a free, prosperous, pluralistic society. Now, on its good days, it’s a clown show. On the bad days — there are far too many of those — it’s a political weapon.

If you enact laws that reflect civic virtue, and you enforce them without fear or favor, and if you work really hard at it because it’s no easy thing, you can have liberty in all its feisty splendor. But as the rule of law degrades into the rule of partisan lawyers, a constitutional republic inexorably decays into a banana republic. And it won’t take long.

Our system embodied the rule of law, the sturdy undercarriage of a free, prosperous, pluralistic society. Now, on its good days, it’s a clown show. On the bad days — there are far too many of those — it’s a political weapon.

Again, this isn’t about Trump. He is just the floor model. Don’t mistake him for the phenomenon itself.

If you've not been following McCarthy's ongoing commentary on the case, this article is an excellent (if depressing) overview.

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
Let me link to an article from Stephen Holmes in the London Review of Books that also mentions the Vyshinsky/Beria/Stalin quote: Give me the man.

Surprise! That article is a quarter-century old! And one of the books Holmes is reviewing is from a famous lawyer who's also been commenting on the current case, Alan Dershowitz. (Amazon link at your right.) Sample:

To put Starr’s prosecutorial style in the proper historical perspective, Dershowitz cites Lavrenti Beria: ‘give me the man, and I will find the crime.’ In non-Stalinist systems, prosecutors usually start with a crime (the body of a murder victim, for instance), and then try to discover the culprit. Notoriously, Starr began with a man and spent more than 40 million taxpayers’ dollars on a fishing expedition trying to uncover any and every infraction his target might possibly have committed over a political lifetime. To shift from a Soviet to an American analogy, Starr used ‘means more typically associated with attempts to prosecute mafia dons, rather than political figures’. That was not exactly the purpose of the Independent Counsel Act and it is not what most Americans expect from the rule of law.

Older readers are invited to read the article and cast their minds back to the legal woes of a different sleazeball president, and recall what his defenders and antagonists were saying at the time. Of course, there are differences. But…

Never mind that. Let's "move on" (dot org) to our weekly look at how all this momentous, historical news affected the oddsmakers:

Candidate EBO Win
Donald Trump 50.8% -2.0%
Joe Biden 40.7% +2.2%
Michelle Obama 2.8% unch
Robert Kennedy Jr 2.2% unch
Other 3.5% -0.2%

Executive summary: Trump took a hit with the punters, but he's still the favorite by over ten percentage points.

(Parenthetical note: The MoveOn organization I linked to above was originally founded to urge Congress to "Censure President Clinton and Move On to Pressing Issues Facing the Nation" instead of impeachment. If you click over, you'll see they aren't in any mood to extend similar advice to Trump's opponents, either when impeachment was going on, or now.)

Also of note:

A couple of Dispatch articles, probably paywalled, sorry, but expressing the depressing alternatives likely to be available at the polls in November.

First up is Matthew J. Franck, who advocates Choosing Not to Choose.

Eight years ago, I published an essay for Public Discourse about why I could not vote for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. “Vote as if your ballot determines nothing whatsoever—except the shape of your own character,” the piece concluded. “Vote as if the public consequences of your action weigh nothing next to the private consequences. The country will go whither it will go, when all the votes are counted. What should matter the most to you is whither you will go, on and after this November’s election day.”

There is nothing in what I said then that I would now retract. I rejected the idea that I, as one individual, must treat my choice as confined to the binary of Clinton versus Trump, as though the weight of the outcome were on me alone. It is frequently the case that we vote for one major-party presidential candidate principally because we are against the other one—usually because we find “our guy” a less than optimal choice but “the other guy” strongly repellent. But when we conclude that both of them are wholly unfit for office, our habitual partisan commitments, and our fond hope that the one representing “our side” will be normal, or guided by normal people, do not compel us to cast a vote in that direction. What we must consider, I argued, is not our role in the outcome of the election (which is negligible, and unknown to us when voting), but the effect on our conscience and character of joining our will to a bad cause.

His depressing recommendation:

In an election year that features Cornel West and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as off-brand fringe choices, writing in a name, skipping the presidential line on the ballot, or just staying home looks pretty good.

And let's add Chase Oliver to that list of fringe choices!

But Franck's way is not the way of fellow-Dispatcher Nick Catoggio, who advocates Choosing to Choose.

The question isn’t “Biden or Trump?” so much as it’s “Should we continue with the constitutional order as we’ve known it or try something radically different?”

I’ll guarantee here and now that if Trump becomes president again and remains in good health he’ll try to extend his term in office past 2029. I won’t guarantee that he’ll succeed, but the attempt will be made as surely as you’re reading this. Trump is less a person than a personality type and his type is compelled to pursue its own interests remorselessly above all things. I think he’d honestly find it hard to comprehend why someone in his position shouldn’t try to extend their time in power.

Biden won’t do that if reelected. (And not just because he might be catatonic by 2029.) He won’t defy court orders. He won’t stock the leadership of the Justice Department with fanatics who have sworn an oath of allegiance to him personally. He won’t call the military out into the streets to confront people protesting him. And, contra Franck, I don’t believe he’ll claim a “mandate” if he wins, since he’s all but certain to do so with fewer electoral votes than he received in 2020 and with a Republican takeover of the Senate.

I think Franck has the better argument here. But let me make my usual recommendation: read both, subscribing if necessary, and (you don't need my permission but) make up your own mind.

The Imaginary Piggy Bank Turns Out To Be Empty, Anyway

Veronique de Rugy notices what the politicians are trying to ignore: The Congressional Budget Office Gives Dire Alternative Economic Futures.

Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections provide valuable insights into how a big chunk of your income is being spent and reveal the long-term consequences of our government's current fiscal policies—you may endure them, and your children most certainly will. Yet, like most other projections looking into our future, these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. So should claims that CBO projections validate anyone's fiscal track record.

So much can and likely will happen to make projections moot and our fiscal outlook much grimmer. Unforeseen events, economic changes, and policy decisions render them less accurate over time. The CBO knows this and recently released alternative scenarios based on different sets of assumptions, and it doesn't look good. It remains a wonder that more politicians, now given a more realistic range of possibilities, aren't behaving like it.

First, let's recap what the situation looks like under the usual rosy growth, inflation, and interest rate assumptions. Due to continued overspending, this year's deficit will be at least $1.6 trillion, rising to $2.6 trillion by 2034. Debt held by the public equals roughly 99 percent of our economy—measured by gross domestic product (GDP)—annually, heading to 116 percent in 2034.

To emphasize: that's the fabled Rosy Scenario.

You can read the CBO report for yourself here. Try to find anyone out there talking about it besides Vero. And now me, I guess.

Also of note:

  • Spock is arching a disapproving eyebrow. Jacob Sullum thinks he's detected a rip in the space/time continuum: The Prosecution's Story About Trump Featured Several Logically Impossible Claims.

    Last January, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg summed up his case against Donald Trump this way: "We allege falsification of business records to the end of keeping information away from the electorate. It's an election interference case."

    That gloss made no sense, because the records at the center of the case—11 invoices, 11 checks, and 12 ledger entries that allegedly were aimed at disguising a hush-money reimbursement as payment for legal services—were produced after the 2016 presidential election. At that point, Michael Cohen, Trump's lawyer, had already paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep her from talking about her alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Trump, and Trump had already been elected. The prosecution's case against Trump, which a jury found persuasive enough to convict him on all 34 counts yesterday, was peppered with temporal puzzles like this one.

    If there's a legal analysis that resolves these "temporal puzzles", I'd like to see it. (I tried looking at the article's comment section at Reason, but it's a cesspool.)

  • But as Tina pointed out, we don't need another one. Noah Rothman thinks this would make a lousy Mad Max movie anyway: There Are No Heroes Here

    Much the same could be said for the pallid morality play to which heavy-breathing partisans insist we are all now privy. Among committed Democrats and their allies, Donald Trump’s conviction in a Manhattan courtroom is “justice done.” They appear to believe we should be grateful to them for the unprecedented actions they took to get at Trump however they could, unleashing unknowable forces in the process, forces that our generation and those that come after us must now contend with. Thanks so much.

    Likewise, the American Right seems inclined to beatify Trump — a man possessed of such incomprehensible venality and recklessness that he would put the country through his personal drama. He must be made into, if not a paragon of virtue, at least a sympathetic victim. What twaddle. It’s possible to believe, as I do, that Trump was railroaded on charges for which no one else would be prosecuted — much less in the sordid way it was prosecuted, which is why we have appellate courts in the first place — and still deny him the role of savior. On the right, however, that appears to be a minority viewpoint.

    That's an NR "gifted" link, my first of the month, so click away. I think Rothman has it exactly right.

  • [Amazon Link]
    (paid link)
    For some reason, the title is unavailable at Amazon. Maybe Rich Lowry's article is a little too timely a tale: EV fail exposes Pete Buttigieg as the little cabinet secretary who couldn’t.

    Rarely has a cabinet secretary done so little with such vast resources.

    On the CBS show “Face the Nation,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had to defend the Biden administration’s woeful record of building new electric vehicle charging stations that are key to unlocking its hoped-for EV nirvana.

    Host Margaret Brennan asked how it could be that, with $7.5 billion allocated for this purpose two years ago, the administration has managed to build eight.

    Not 8,000, or even 80. Eight.

    I'm impressed that a CBS news show actually posed such tough questioning.