URLs du Jour


Proverbs 19:15 takes on the sluggards once again:

15 Laziness brings on deep sleep,
    and the shiftless go hungry.

In 21st Century America, that last bit is not generally applicable.

■ At Reason, Jacob Sullum requests that you Behold the Work of Russia's Evil Advertising Geniuses. If you detect some sarcasm there, congratulations on being a sentient being.

Today members of the House Intelligence Committee released some of the election-related ads placed on Facebook and Instagram by accounts linked to the Russian government. The sampling published by Politico seems inconsistent with the way politicians and journalists generally portray "Russian disinformation," which they describe as a plot to "reshape U.S. politics" and undermine our electoral process by sophisticated operatives who know how to manipulate American voters. In fact, the ads are so lame that I initially thought the Politico story was a prank.

As Sullum notes, the utter lameness of the ads "suggest that the ability of Russian propagandists to destroy American democracy may have been exaggerated."

Fine, but I also hear the counterargument: The ads are stupid, yes, but who's to say that they didn't swing significant numbers of stupid people?

And the counter-counterargument: there were also a lot of dishonest and intelligence-insulting ads being funded by Americans: Democrats, Republicans, PACs, activists. And, by all measures, the volume of those dwarfed the Russian ones.

■ At the Washington Free Beacon, an insightful headline inspired by the overheated rhetoric in a Congressional hearing: Feinstein Blasts Tech Companies for Failing to Do Obama’s Job.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) blasted American tech companies on Wednesday for not doing what the Obama administration's intelligence community failed to do over the previous eight years: face down Russia and defend against cyber warfare.

If it's war, Senator, it's pretty much Your Federal Government that failed to Provide for the Common Defence. Does the "buck stop here", or not?

■ Making some depressing news is Cato's recent polling on American attitudes and opinions vis-a-vis free speech. Emily Ekins asked the question (which should have an obvious answer): Is Supporting Racists’ Free Speech Rights the Same as Being a Racist?.

First, nearly half (49%) of current college and graduate students believe that “supporting someone’s right to say racist things is as bad as holding racist views yourself.” This share rises to nearly two-thirds among African Americans (65%) and Latinos (61%) who agree. Far fewer white Americans (34%) share this view.

All those numbers are sorrow-inducing. At a certain point, it will not matter what the Constitution says: if citizens don't value their liberties, those liberties will be successfully eroded or eventually eliminated.

■ I hope you will be able to evade the WSJ paywall to read James Freeman's essay on Alexandria, Virginia's Christ Church: Where Washington Is Not Welcome.

George Washington risked his life and his fortune to create our country. He also helped build Alexandria, Virginia’s Christ Church. But the folks who now run the place claim that the name of America’s first President on a plaque makes some people feel “unsafe or unwelcome.” So church leaders are removing his plaque from the sanctuary and relocating it to a destination to be named later. Given what’s happened to Christ Church since Washington was a parishioner, perhaps he’d be grateful that his name will no longer be associated with it.

Mark Tooley is quoted too:

This kind of church invariably attracts a demographic that is nearly all middle and upper class, educated, socially liberal urban white people. Churches that stress their welcome-welcome-welcome message of inclusion over a firm orthodox theological message typically are, whether realizing it or not, actually welcoming some and discouraging others. In my visits to Christ Church I have noticed the well-dressed congregation is not very diverse.

No surprise: some people go to church to have their moral superiority confirmed and their Progressive ideology stroked, bathed in the fellowship of the like-minded. Christ Church provides that.

On the other hand, if you're looking for religion, people pretty much have to go elsewhere. (And they are: the article notes that attendance is down 25% in the past decade.)

■ Veronique de Rugy advocates something that should be GOP Econ 101: Tax Reform Should Encourage More Saving, Not Less.

Republicans want tax reform, but their refusal to cut spending forces them to look into all sorts of revenue raisers. Some are good, such as eliminating the deductions for state and local taxes. Others are counterproductive, such as the threat to significantly decrease the tax deduction on 401(k) accounts, potentially reducing the overall levels of savings for the millions of Americans using them.

The Salad household 403(b) accounts (the non-profit version of 401(k) accounts) are the main reason we went into retirement not shivering with financial insecurity. So maybe I'm biased, but, like VdR, I think messing with them is a lousy idea. (The GOP gutlessness on cutting spending doubles the lousiness.)

The article is also recommended for its discussion of Universal Savings Accounts, or USAs: contributions are from your post-tax income, but withdrawals may be made any time, for any reason, and are untaxed (like Roth IRAs).