URLs du Jour

Halloween 2021

[Halloween, the Biden Plan]

  • Alternate definition of "shambles": "a place where animals are brought to be slaughtered". And that's kind of appropriate for Andrew Stuttaford's column: The Omnishambles.

    Nevertheless, a term connoting a “situation of total disorder” seems appropriate for the situation in which the U.S. now finds itself as tax proposals come, and tax proposals go, and the administration gives every impression of just wanting to get something done. Although those somethings vary, they do have one thing in common: They are unlikely to be helpful to the operation of a free-market system.

    In the case of the (discarded) wealth tax on billionaires — and that is what it was, however much Janet Yellen attempted to dodge that constitutionally and politically tricky term by claiming, oh Janet, Janet, that it was merely “a tax on unrealized capital gains of exceptionally wealthy individuals”— the agenda was something more ambitious, a return to the premodern. As I have argued in the past:

    A wealth tax is a sophisticated, lighter touch derivative of feudalism, but the core of it is the same: The state (“the king”) has, theoretically, a call on everything you own.

    Progressives tend to believe that the arc of history moves in a certain (progressive, surprisingly) direction. The idea is nonsense (history is chaotic, to bowdlerize a famous line, “just one thing after another”), but it is bleakly entertaining to read that progressives now appear to believe that that arc is headed toward . . . feudalism, even if that’s not how they would describe it. Lenin, however, would have understood.

    So did Hayek.

    I was struck last week by how frantic the Democrats were to come up with "something". Preferably something they can shove through reconciliation before people can think too much about it.

  • Just 10?! At Cato, Chris Edwards presents 10 Downsides to the Democratic Spending Plan. Here's a couple:

    States Can Do It. Much of the proposed spending is for activities that states can fund themselves. Expanding subsidy programs is a bad idea, but such programs are even more inefficient when imposed top‐down by Washington. If West Virginia or Arizona want to subsidize housing, preschool, or renewable energy, they can do so with their own state revenues. There is no need for aid from the federal government, especially when it is running large budget deficits while West Virginia, Arizona, and other states have large surpluses. State and local tax revenues are currently up 11 percent over pre‐pandemic levels.

    Private Sector Can Do It. Some proposed spending is for activities that the private sector is already doing, so there is no need for new subsidies. The plan would increase subsidies for electric vehicles even though EV sales are already booming. In other cases, the plan would subsidize activities that the private sector would address by itself if governments got out of the way. The plan, for example, includes $150 billion in housing subsidies, but governments are causing the affordable housing problem by restricting supply with excessively tight zoning and building regulations.

    Eight, count 'em, eight more at the link.

  • I'm too tired to be outraged. Liz Wolfe notices something: If You Think Facebook Is Full of Dubious Outrage-Bait, Wait Til You See the Company's Critics.

    Imagine a business model where people's outrage is exploited for clicks, where emotions like affection and anger are valuable to tease out, and where, if people seem uninterested, you know you've done your job poorly.

    Of course, this describes both Facebook and the news media criticizing it. Journalists, foaming at the mouth from so-called whistleblower Frances Haugen's innocuous revelations, want you to believe that this model is unique to social media sites, gripped by the pursuit of the profit that accompanies expansion. The Washington Post, for example, published a report this week on how Facebook's algorithms classify "angry" react emojis as more valuable than regular old "likes." This pushes "more emotional and provocative content into users' news feeds":

    Starting in 2017, Facebook's ranking algorithm treated emoji reactions as five times more valuable than "likes," internal documents reveal. The theory was simple: Posts that prompted lots of reaction emoji tended to keep users more engaged, and keeping users engaged was the key to Facebook's business.

    But what the Post and others fail to emphasize is that Facebook algorithms also rank the "love" emoji as more important than the "like" emoji when determining which content other users see. "Love" reacts were used far more commonly than "angry" reacts (11 billion clicks per week vs. 429 million). The algorithm, which assigns each post in a given feed a score, translating to placement in the news feed, was built to value people expressing strong emotions and show that type of content to others.

    Again, I'm disappointed in the sainted Wall Street Journal for joining the bash-Facebook mob. But (good news) they don't seem to be in it for the outrage-bait.

URLs du Jour


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  • Sigh. Back in my day, only photons were polarized. Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff wrote The Coddling of the American Mind, a book that (among tough competition) was one of my Top Ten Nonfiction Books read in 2019. They are bringing out a new edition next year, and have updated their thoughts in a series of freely-available essays. Here's one at Persuasion: The Polarization Spiral.

    As probably will surprise no one, the polarization spiral between the left and the right has only gotten more intense in the last three years. Most alarming is the growing acceptance of political violence as a justifiable method for achieving political goals. A survey in 2019 found that approximately one-fifth of partisans in both parties believed that violence against the opposing party would be at least “a little” justified if their party lost the 2020 election. Between 2020 and 2021 the share of students surveyed who said violent protest was “never acceptable” dropped from 82% to 76% and at most elite schools it was even lower.

    We now know a lot more about the polarization spiral and who is driving it. The Hidden Tribes study, published in 2018 by the UK-based group More In Common, surveyed 8,000 Americans in December 2017 and used a statistical technique to identify groups of people who had similar core beliefs. They found seven groups. The one furthest to the right they labeled the “Devoted Conservatives.” This group makes up 6% of the population. Its members are “deeply engaged with politics” and hold “strident, uncompromising views.” Devoted conservatives see themselves as the last defenders of traditional values that are under threat from the far left. This group was clearly overrepresented in the attack on the US Capitol in January 2021.

    The group furthest to the left were the “Progressive Activists.” This group, which makes up 8% of the population, is “highly sensitive to issues of fairness and equity, particularly with regards to race, gender and other minority group identities.” Progressive Activists talk frequently about “power structures” and how they cause and maintain inequality. They are the most active of all groups on social media. This group is clearly overrepresented in campus protests and in mass marches for progressive causes.

    Comment: I took the quiz at the Hidden Tribes site linked above, and they pigeonholed me with the "Traditional Liberals". Well, if and only if you consider "traditional" to be equivalent to "classical". (I find the quote from the example "73-year-old woman, Texas, Traditional Liberal" to be kind of irritating.) I think they did a poor job at recognizing libertarians.

    But (of course) Haidt and Lukianoff are good at diagnosing the problem of the fringes seemingly attracting more devotees, and viewing the others as existential villains.

  • Also seizing, lashing out, attacking, slamming, accusing, … Ed Morrisey nails it: The real issue in this lousy economy is all the Republican pouncing to come, you know. Quoting Politico's Megan Cassella:

    The U.S. economy is growing at its slowest pace since the recovery began. Faster inflation is likely to linger well into next year. Millions remain unemployed even as small businesses struggle to hire workers.

    And Republicans are readying attacks on President Joe Biden over all of it.

    GOP lawmakers and strategists are seizing on news Thursday that the economy expanded at an anemic pace in the third quarter to slam Biden and the Democrats, accusing them of bungling the recovery from the pandemic recession and then piling on trillions of dollars in spending programs.


    Seizing! Readying attacks! Cassella leaves out the word “pounce,” but the principle here is clear. The issue isn’t that the economy has actually slowed to a crawl in Q3 (-0.1% in final sales of domestic product). It’s not that the inflation that Republicans warned would happen in the debate over the COVID-19 relief packages and unemployment bonuses has actually materialized. The news isn’t that Democrats want to actually pile trillions of more dollars in spending programs in off-budget projects that will help fuel even more inflation.

    To be fair, the GOP kind of handed Democrats a live grenade in 2020. Who knew they were going to bungle it so badly?

  • As we get older and stop making sense… Or: Who took the money away? Eric Boehm is doing a pretty good job subbing for new parent Elizabeth Nolan Brown on the Reason Roundup. He notes, sadly shaking his head, that: Biden's New Spending Framework Promises To Do Everything but Still Cost Nothing. That Doesn't Make Sense. After summing up the current state of play, and the accounting gimmicks still in the slimmed-down legislation:

    All in all, the "new" framework suffers from many of the same problems that have plagued Biden's "Build Back Better" plan since the president first trotted it out in March. It's a Schrödinger's cat of a proposal—one that promises "transformative investments" in everything from child care to green energy, but one that costs nothing at the same time. It can't be both, of course, no matter how many gimmicks you might deploy.

    The very existence of this new, slimmed-down spending plan should raise some questions. For months, Biden and his allies have been framing the $3.5 trillion spending bill as essential to combatting climate change, countering China, creating jobs, reducing income inequality, and a host of other vaguely defined goals. Some Democrats said even $3.5 trillion wasn't enough to achieve those things.

    Now, after cutting the bill in half, Biden says his new framework will "create millions of jobs, grow the economy, invest in our nation and our people, turn the climate crisis into an opportunity, and put us on a path not only to compete but to win the economic competition for the 21st century against China and every other major country in the world."

    So what about the other $1.7 trillion that got cut? Was that really essential or could we have accomplished the same things all along with a smaller bill? Something doesn't quite add up.

    (Classical reference in headline.)

  • Hurt feelings do not make you a victim of violence. Dorian Abbot takes to the pages of the WSJ: The Views That Made Me Persona Non Grata at MIT.

    I believe that every human being should be treated as an individual worthy of dignity and respect. In an academic context, that means evaluating people for positions based on their individual qualities, not on membership in favored or disfavored groups. It also means allowing them to present their ideas and perspectives freely, even when we disagree with them.

    I care for all of my students equally. None of them are overrepresented or underrepresented to me: They represent themselves. Their grades are based on a process that I define at the beginning of the quarter. That process treats each student fairly and equally. I hold office hours for students who would like extra help so that everyone has the opportunity to improve his or her grade through hard work and discipline.

    Similarly, I believe that admissions and faculty hiring at universities are best focused on academic merit, with the goal of producing intellectual excellence. We should not penalize hard-working students and faculty applicants simply because they have been classified as belonging to the wrong group. It is true that not everyone has had the same educational opportunities. The solution is improving K-12 education, not introducing discrimination at late stages.

    More at the link, all very heretical for devotees to the woke religion.

  • Speaking of heresy… Some advice from Elliot Axelman at the Liberty Block: Stop Saying The Pledge of Allegiance If You Believe In Freedom.

    It's in response to a Laconia Daily Sun LTE condemning legislators for sponsoring a constitutional amendment that would establish a referendum asking the state's voters if they want to secede from the United States.

    Now, I think that's silly. But it's arguably in the spirit of our state's Constitution, particularly articles 7 and 10. Never mind that, though:

    The panicking statist goes on to say that Now, when each of us says: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands,” we must think of these traitors in our midst. They would succeed where our foreign enemies have failed. They would break up these United States of America. They would trample on the graves of service men and women who died to preserve our one nation under God.”

    Axelman points out the problematic parts of the Pledge:

    But the most ridiculous part of the letter is his accusation of ‘violating the pledge of allegiance’. It is almost too insane to take seriously. The pledge was written by Francis Bellamy, an avowed socialist, in 1892. Ironically, Bellamy did not include ‘under God’ in the pledge, despite being a minister. Perhaps even more ironic was that this socialist was really a capitalist, because he went around the united states selling his American flags and magazines to schools. Weirdly ironic was that Bellamy and his partners at the magazine instructed children to raise their right arms outstretched towards the flag while reciting their pledge of allegiance to the US government. 

    Bellamy and the owners of the Youth’s Companion magazine wished to sell a flag and a magazine subscription to every school in the united states. That was their primary goal; the pledge, the flags, and the patriotism were just sales tactics. 

    But politicians loved it. They took the gift of increasing worship of the government and ran with it. In June of 1942, the US Congress officially adopted the Pledge into the US Flag Code. Six months later, Congress officially abandoned the Bellamy Salute in 1942 once they realized that Hitler ruined it. They replaced the Nazi salute with the instructions to place the hand over the heart, to demonstrate true devotion to the government. In 1954, Eisenhower added ‘under God’ to the Pledge. Today, nearly every governmental event and many private events begin with all members pledging their lives to their Lords in DC. All government schools must have their students recite the pledge daily, except for California, Hawaii, Wyoming, and Vermont. 

    The Pledge is creepy state idolatry. But see Axelman's article for the even creepier Bellamy salute that went along with it until 1942, "until Hitler ruined it."

  • And speaking of creepy… I'm thinking about getting out of the house to go see the new Dune. One of the burning questions I had: who's playing Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam? Because they need someone very creepy in that role.

    Ah, never fear. She's being played by Charlotte Rampling. A perfect choice. I never saw her in 1974's The Night Porter (Nazi porn or daring arthouse eroticism?), but I read about it and saw some stills. And I'm pretty sure I thought at the time: Man, in about 47 years, she'll be a perfect choice for playing Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam in a Dune movie!

URLs du Jour


  • It's way past time for America's pastime to get even more woke. Thanks to the Daily Wire I can share the next step: PETA Calls On MLB To Replace ‘Bullpen’ With ‘Arm Barn’

    While we're at it, what about Fenway's Green Monster? Isn't that a little hurtful? A little judgy? Maybe that big wall is just misunderstood! You'd feel a little monstrous too if Ted Williams kept hitting baseballs off you.

  • Can't he just go away? So yesterday the WSJ printed an LTE from someone of whom you might have heard: President Trump Responds on Pennsylvania’s 2020 Election.

    Today, the editorialists rebutted: The Facts on Trump’s Fraud Letter.

    Here's a claim by Trump:

    • 25,000 ballots were requested from nursing homes at the exact same time.

    As they say: big if true. But it's not, as the editorialists detail:

    Mr. Trump says that “25,000 ballots were requested from nursing homes at the exact same time.” His citation for this—no kidding—is a Nov. 9 cable-TV hit by Sen. Lindsey Graham. Mr. Trump is alleging 25,000 fake votes in Pennsylvania, based on a stray remark by someone from South Carolina. Breaking news: A politician on TV repeated a rumor. We emailed to follow up, and Mr. Graham’s office tells us this was “an allegation, one of many others,” but it now “can be laid to rest.”

    Other examples at the links. Trump is an ongoing delusional embarrassment to Republicans and (more generally) Americans.

  • It's about time we got around to plugging Kevin D. Williamson's "The Tuesday" column, now that it's Friday. He writes on Our Narcissistic Politics. (It's appropriate, therefore, that the article's picture features Senator Elizabeth Warren speaking to the press.) After a longish quote from Freud:

    Narcissism — by which I do not mean a specific psychiatric diagnosis but the bundle of attitudes and behaviors to which the diagnosis refers, the common moral failings that are magically transmuted into a medical condition — is a basic ingredient in democracy. You can’t make a democracy without narcissism for the same reason you can’t make banana pudding without bananas — it’s not the only ingredient, but it’s the ingredient that makes the thing exactly what it is. Freud’s detection of a father’s own dormant ambitions and latent desires in his hope for his children is confirmed by commonplace (though by no means universal) experience: If you have in your circle of friends a former quarterback whose life peaked on the varsity football team with a teenage son who also plays football, then you have seen this at work. (My Manhattan readers may think of stage mothers, with “mothers” in that expression having embraced members of both sexes long before it was fashionable to do so.) That is a situation which has only two possible outcomes, neither of them desirable: failure and disappointment or success and envy.

    A politics of narcissism is a politics of envy. Narcissism and envy are not the same thing, but each is mixed up in the other. But the Freudian point absolutely stands here: When such specimens as Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez lament “inequality” and spend their days dreaming up ways to make the wealthy less wealthy, they do not really do so on behalf of the class of people who work as waitresses at Denny’s or stock Walmart warehouses — they do so on behalf of the class of people who make comfortable six-figure salaries teaching at Harvard or park their Teslas in front of the Whole Foods while on one of those endless errands of “public service.” As Megan McArdle once put it, in Washington, “very rich” means “just above the level a top-notch journalist in a two-earner couple could be expected to pull down.” Barack Obama, one in a long line of Rolex-wearing class warriors, once promised not to raise taxes on people making $200,000 a year or less. Joe Biden, his senescent epigone (and another Rolex aficionado), has raised that to $400,000 a year — times are very good, indeed, for the power-adjacent class.

    KDW describes this as "infantilization", which I get. But I think a better term is "thuggery." No pretense: "You got it. I want it. And I've got the guns. So gimme."

  • It was down in ol' New Hampshire, 'bout 1400 miles from Texarkana, in them old cotton fields back home. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein made the College Fix news: U. New Hampshire physics prof gives talk on the ‘Plantation Politics in STEM’.

    A black woman who has “engaged in activism for equality in science and in Black feminist scientific research throughout her career,” Prescod-Weinstein claims white supremacy is “embedded in scientific practice.” She scoffs at many university diversity efforts, calling them “cheap substitutes” for actually doing something concrete.

    “The problem with diversity and inclusion discourse is that it asks us to live in a box where people are still getting killed,” Prescod-Weinstein said. “Talking about diversity and inclusion will not prevent another Tamir Rice from being murdered in the park. It will not prevent another Aiyana Stanley-Jones from being murdered on her couch.”

    I have no idea if CPW would be at UNH in the absence of "diversity efforts".

    [Tamir Rice was killed in 2014, Aiyana Stanley-Jones in 2010. No doubt: sad and tragic. Meanwhile over last weekend three people were killed and 26 wounded in Chicago.]

  • Maybe we should stop calling them "schools". Arnold Kling looks at the dismal results reported in the latest "National Assessment of Educational Progress" report from the Department of Education. And they may have to change the name of that report, because there's no progress. In fact, the phrase "unprecedented declines in both reading and math" is used. And this was pre-pandemic.


    The fact that the United States has much higher health care spending than other countries but no higher life expectancy is frequently talked about in left-wing circles. But the fact that the more we spend on K-12 education the less we get in terms of better test scores is never mentioned. Conventional wisdom is that we need to spend less on (private-sector providers of) health care and more on (government-run) schools. Even the Niskanen Center paper on “cost-disease socialism,” while it has an entire 5-page section decrying the bloated expense of higher education, only mentions K-12 education in a couple of relatively innocuous paragraphs.

    Perhaps the strongest indictment of K-12 education is the movement to get rid of SAT scores as a requirement for college applications. Would this idea have gotten anywhere if test scores for minorities were improving rather than getting worse?

    Maybe we should also change the name of the Department of "Education"?

  • Ask your doctor if Joe Bob Briggs is right for you. He watches a lot of TV, and is really pretty on target about a subset of ads: Gimme Some Meds, Doc . . . I Saw This Commercial . . .

    Along about 1 a.m. people start showing up on my tv with incurable, often life-threatening, ailments—frightening medical conditions that I usually haven’t even heard of—confiding in me with “end of my rope” stories while beautiful soft-focus camerawork illustrates their predicament in generic kitchens, offices, schools and public parks, followed by someone telling them about Humira, or Rybelsus, or Dupixent, or Skyrizi, or Ozempic, or Trulicity, after which they “talk to my doctor” and end up kayaking with their grandchildren at sunset and playing the bongos on the beach.

    There’s a lot of kayaking in these commercials. I don’t know why they all go kayaking, but apparently any powerful pharmaceutical has the side effect of compulsive kayak rental.

    A typical 60 seconds goes like this:

    “It was tough living with Double-Intractable Reverse Non-Symptomatic Catatonia. Some days it seemed like it wasn’t worth going to the office, even with partial symptom relief from Cludenza and Generic Mephistola.”

    Joe Bob experiences these at 1AM, but I tend to see them during Jeopardy! if I'm watching it live. No surprise: It was reported back in 2011 that Jeopardy! viewers' median age was 65.

URLs du Jour


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  • It's (mostly) Facebook Day! I'm not a Facebook addict, but I use it mostly to keep up with goings on in my town, my high school class, my college house, and stuff like that. I unfollow friends who post intelligence-insulting political bullshit, which makes me less likely to post ill-tempered responses. All in all, I consider it a minor win.

    So I've been a little bemused by the recent anti-Facebook agitation, and the efforts to get government regulation involved. Bad idea.

    So, first up today is Glenn Greenwald, claiming that Pierre Omidyar's Financing of the Facebook "Whistleblower" Campaign Reveals a Great Deal. (If you're like me, you're wondering: "Who the hell is Pierre Omidyar? Read on.)

    It is completely unsurprising to learn, as Politico reported last Wednesday, that the major financial supporter of Facebook "whistleblower” Frances Haugen's sprawling P.R. and legal network coordinating her public campaign is the billionaire founder of EBay, Pierre Omidyar. The Haugen Show continues today as a consortium of carefully cultivated news outlets (including those who have been most devoted to agitating for online censorship: the New York Times’ "tech” unit and NBC News's “disinformation” team) began publishing the trove of archives she took from Facebook under the self-important title "The Facebook Papers,” while the star herself has traveled to London to testify today to British lawmakers considering a bill to criminally punish tech companies that allow “foul content” or “extremism” — whatever that means — to be published.

    On Sunday, Haugen told The New York Times that her own personal Bitcoin wealth means she is relying on “help from nonprofit groups backed by Mr. Omidyar only for travel and similar expenses.” But the paper also confirmed that the firm masterminding Haugen's public campaign roll-out and complex media strategy, a group "founded by the former Barack Obama aide Bill Burton,” is “being paid by donors, including the nonprofit groups backed by Mr. Omidyar." He is also a major donor to a shady new group calling itself “Whistleblower Aid” — bizarrely led by anti-Trump lawyer and social media #Resistance star Mark Zaid, who has been one of the most vocal critics of actual whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, both of whose imprisonment he has long demanded — that is now featuring Haugen as its star client.

    If such a coordinated campaign were launched for conservative/libertarian purposes, the MSM would be all over the funding details, looking for evidence of the Kochtopus or some other shadowy puppeteer working behind the scenes.

    Greenwald's article is also interesting for his old outlet's connections with Omidyar.

  • The only good encryption is end-to-end encryption. Scott Shackford has a bone to pick with Ms Haguen, too: Whistleblower Absurdly Attacks Facebook’s Privacy-Protecting Encryption Efforts.

    Frances Haugen, widely known as "the Facebook whistleblower," surprised opponents of government surveillance over the weekend by speaking skeptically of end-to-end encryption in an interview with the London Telegraph.

    Haugen is testifying today before a committee of the British Parliament, as lawmakers there hammer out an online "safety" bill intended to tell online platforms what content the government will and will not allow.

    Haugen has come forward with internal Facebook documents she believes show a lack of concern with the safety and welfare of platform's users. One might think, then, that Haugen would be happy to see Facebook implementing end-to-end encryption on its private messaging. End-to-end encryption helps protect users from predatory hackers and corrupt governments by making it much harder for them to secretly access your data.

    This is a long standing bugaboo of mine. Back in the early days, when I was working as a sysadmin at the University Near Here, the bosses wanted to know how to make email "secure" against snooping. The answer then (and now, I'm pretty sure): you and your correspondent learn how to use encryption tools, generate keypairs, exchange public keys, and … just do it. The problem: it's a hassle, there's a learning curve, and I'm not sure if anyone used it besides me.

    If Facebook has figured out how to extend this to the masses, good on them.

  • I'd like two bacon nothingburgers to go, please. Robby Soave is unimpressed with the latest hoopla too: The Facebook Papers Are a Big Fat Nothingburger.

    More than a dozen mainstream media organizations published reports today on the so-called Facebook Papers, a trove of internal company documents obtained and released by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen. The headlines promised dramatic revelations and damning indictments.

    "Insiders say Facebook's CEO chose growth over safety," reports The Washington Post. For Axios, the Facebook Papers paint the social media company as "a brutish corporate actor that prioritizes its business over safety." Bloomberg News tweets that the documents provide "rare, vivid insight into ways Facebook has faltered in its mission."

    The gap between those sensational claims and what actually appears in the articles is stark. If this is the best The New York Times, the Associated Press, etc., could do, then the Facebook Papers are a nothingburger.

    Robby (I call him Robby) makes the obvious point: people with political clout are really upset that Facebook isn't making the choices they want. And "journalists" see it as a too-successful competitor. (I'm sad that my beloved WSJ is part of that.)

    Furthermore, Robby says, Facebook is losing popularity with the youngs. (Certainly they're not represented in the folks I encounter there.) So government might be (as usual) "solving" a problem that's quickly becoming irrelevant.

  • Hey kids, what time is it? Jonah Goldberg knows: It’s Time to Go Nuclear on Climate Change.

    World leaders are heading to Glasgow to come up with yet another plan to tackle climate change. Joe Biden had hoped to have a stack of climate-related legislative accomplishments to brag about. But they’re being held up and threatened in the fight over the price tag of the Build Back Better reconciliation bill. 

    The stakes, we’re constantly told, couldn’t be higher. If Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and the Republicans succeed in stripping just the proposed Clean Energy Performance Program alone it will “destroy the world,” according to Gizmodo. Joe Biden doesn’t go that far. But recently, at a CNN town hall, he repeated his oft-cited claim that climate change poses an “existential threat to humanity.

    Such rhetoric isn’t merely wrong—humanity can survive climate change—it’s also counterproductive. The fight against climate change will be long and messy, and implying otherwise will make it longer and messier. For 30 years, activists and politicians have said before these periodic climate confabs that this is our “last chance” to act or to save the planet.

    Normally, if you miss your last chance to do something—catch a flight, see a movie, etc.—you stop trying. If you think climate change should be the moral equivalent of war, then you should manage expectations like a wartime leader does. You don’t say, “We’ll lose the war if we lose this one battle”—unless it’s true. 

    Asking Joe to moderate his rhetoric, or even bring it more in line with reality… well, you should really look to do something with a larger probability of success.

  • But never mind working on that so-called "existential crisis"; we've gotta strategize our genders! The NR editors are not kind to Biden's Absurd Gender Strategy.

    Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have no clue how to deal with the many crises their administration has created, exacerbated, or failed to get under control, but as of last Friday they now have a 42-page gender strategy. Gender strategy?

    Yes, the “National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality,” the first-ever such declaration because in the near-quarter millennium of this country’s existence no one ever thought we needed one, lays out a list of goals and aspirations and solutions to alleged problems whose existence keeps being asserted without evidence. “Health care,” for instance, is a strange action item to list as a gender crisis when women outlive men in this country by 5.7 years and that gap has been growing over the past decade. But of course the “women’s health” issue that most excites the imagination of progressives is the continued right to exterminate the unborn. By the progressive definition of “equity,” in which disparate outcomes are proof of unfair treatment, national gender equity would mean curtailing women’s lifespans and/or increasing men’s.

    "Oh. We didn't mean that kind of equity."

  • It's dead, Jim. At least I hope so. Because as Ira Stoll details: Democrats' Proposed 'Billionaire Tax' Is Definitely a Wealth Tax, and It May Be Unconstitutional.

    President Joe Biden got himself elected partly by opposing the billionaires' wealth tax proposed during the primary campaign by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.). Now, in a reversal, Biden is preparing to embrace the idea.

    It wouldn't be the first time that a presidential candidate's plans changed after getting elected. The shamelessness of the way that Biden has shifted on the issue, though, is something else. It risks undercutting Biden's claim to being a voice of moderation. It also may reinforce voter cynicism. How's democracy supposed to work if a politician, once elected, brazenly abandons one of the policy positions that won him the job?

    Biden told wealthy donors during the campaign that they shouldn't expect a tax cut from him. "But! No punishment, either," he said.

    In all fairness to President Wheezy, he probably forgot that promise about 10 seconds after he made it.

URLs du Jour


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  • How badly could this go wrong? Jeff Jacoby maintains that A free press doesn’t take government handouts. At issue:

    The newspaper business has been in a bad way for years. Can taxpayer bailouts cure what ails it?

    Quite a few lawmakers appear to think so. Tucked into the massive spending and tax legislation currently before Congress is a trio of tax subsidies, collectively dubbed the Local Journalism Sustainability Act. Sponsored by more than 70 senators and representatives from both parties, they are intended to give a financial boost to local newspapers and other media outlets.

    One of the tax breaks is a credit of up to $5,000 for businesses that advertise in a local paper. A second would let individuals who pay for a newspaper subscription lop as much as $250 from their tax bill. The third and most lucrative would give publishers a hefty tax break for each journalist on their payroll. The credit, worth $25,000 in the first year and $15,000 annually thereafter, would be refundable, meaning that a publisher who owed less in taxes than the credit was worth would receive the difference from the Internal Revenue Service in the form of a refund check.

    Jeff (I call him Jeff) works for the Boston Globe, a probable beneficiary of the legislation, but he realizes that this is only a specific example of a general disease: a special interest demanding subsidies.

    Subsidies nearly always amount to confiscating money from the many in order to redistribute it to the few. Those who advocate funneling funds to local newspapers via tax breaks for publishers, advertisers, and subscribers are really saying that if people won’t support local journalism voluntarily, the government should make them do so involuntarily by manipulating the tax code. If you ask me, every family ought to subscribe to one or two newspapers and read them faithfully. Others might feel just as strongly about the importance of music lessons, sending kids to summer camp, filling a house with books, or mastering a foreign language. They’re all worthy activities. But that’s no justification for propping them up with tax breaks.

    Yes, the American system of democratic self-government is strengthened by honest and diligent journalism. But government subsidies, almost by definition, are antithetical to the spirit of an independent press and the First Amendment. A newspaper that takes money from the government is apt to pull its punches when it covers that government — especially if it grows addicted to tax breaks that will have to be renewed every few years.

    Our local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, is pretty lousy. It won't get better if they get subsidized by Uncle Stupid.

  • China kinda sus. The MSM huzzahed (sample) over China's recent announcement that it would stop building new coal-fired power projects abroad. Even the normally level-headed site UnHerd features a tongue-bath article: How President Xi can save the planet.

    Save us, President Xi! You've done such a swell job with Hong Kong and the Uighurs!

    Matt Ridley is properly wary: China is using the climate as a bargaining chip.

    China’s President Xi Jinping has apparently not yet decided whether to travel to Glasgow next month for the big climate conference known as COP26. That is no doubt partly because he’s heard about the weather in Glasgow in November, and partly because he knows the whole thing will be a waste of his time. After all, the fact that it is the 26th such meeting and none of the previous 25 solved the problem they set out to solve suggests the odds are that the event will be the flop on the Clyde.

    But another reason he is hesitating was stated pretty explicitly by his Foreign Minister, Wang Yi: ‘Climate cooperation cannot be separated from the general environment of China-US relations.’ Roughly translated, this reads: we will go along with your climate posturing if you stop talking about the possibility that Covid-19 started in a Wuhan laboratory, about our lack of cooperation investigating that origin, or about what we are doing to Hong Kong or the Uighur people.

    The Chinese Communist Party is using the COP as a bargaining chip. To keep us keen, Xi announced last month that China would stop funding coal-fired power stations abroad. ‘I welcome President Xi’s commitment to stop building new coal projects abroad — a key topic of my discussions during my visit to China,’ enthused Alok Sharma, the president of COP26. ‘A great contribution,’ said John Kerry, the United States climate envoy.

    In truth, Xi is throwing us a pretty flimsy bone. He did not say when he would stop funding overseas coal or whether projects in the pipeline would be affected, so the impact on the world’s coal consumption will be minimal. And the gigantic expansion of coal burning in China itself continues. It already has more than 1,000 gigawatts of coal power, and has another 105 gigawatts in the pipeline. (Britain’s entire electricity generational capacity is about 75 gigawatts.)

    I wonder if you can read Pun Salad in China?

  • Rationales? We don't need no stinking rationales! Steve Landsburg wonders about Tax Policy. His complete post:

    I thought the whole rationale for taxing capital gains in the first place was that we want to discourage inefficiently frequent trading.

    If you buy that rationale, then the last thing you want to do is tax unrealized gains. If you don’t buy that rationale, then why tax any gains?

    Unless, of course, you’re more into thuggery than rationales….

    Yeah, thuggery explains a lot.

  • Also Stratego and Monopoly. Ben Shapiro says what needs to be said: Risk Is Necessary for a Healthy Civilization.

    A large percentage of the country believes in nearly religious fashion that all risk can be mitigated, so long as we grant the authorities and experts absolute power. We have been told that we need no longer face health risks, so long as we give the government power to mandate vaccines, mask our children, and lock down our businesses—even without solid evidence that such measures are effective.

    We have been told that we ought to delegate all of our economic policymaking to unelected centralized bureaucracies, which serve as the source of both our monetary and fiscal policy, and that this will insulate us against the possibility of financial difficulty. We have been told that individually planning for the future, which entails risk—delayed gratification is always a risk—should be foregone in favor of a cradle-to-grave government safety net.

    To mitigate risks to myself, the easiest measure is to create an authority that controls everyone. Risk itself is the enemy: someone else might undertake risks, and those risks might have indirect effects that harm me. Better to live in the warm embrace of control by experts than in the chaotic world of individual decision-makers.

    This is the road to authoritarianism.

    Everyone knows (deep down) that a risk-free life is an illusion. What people don't appreciate sufficiently is that individuals vary widely in their risk preference. That makes it very difficult for top-down decrees mandating "safety". (We closely regulate automobile safety features to "save lives", but still allow people to ride motorcycles.)

    I still am willing (sorta) to grant that some level of risk mitigation is appropriate for governments to undertake. (Please do see that my next door neighbor isn't preparing mutant anthrax spores in his basement lab.) But I'm at a loss as where that stops being appropriate. (Please don't legislate that I must wear day-glo attire while walking my dog.)

  • Standing up to academic bullying. Three loud cheers to Trent Colbert, Yale law student, who got called on the carpet for using the term "trap house" in a party invitation to members of the Native American Law Students Association. Here's his story: Why I Didn’t Apologize For That Yale Law School Email.

    Barely twelve hours after I sent the invitation, two discrimination and harassment resource coordinators from the Law School’s Office of Student Affairs scheduled a meeting with me. In that discussion, Ellen Cosgrove, the Associate Dean, and Yaseen Eldik, the Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, repeatedly urged me to issue a public apology.

    I told them I did not want to send out a generic statement and would rather have individual conversations with anybody offended. I was told that things might “escalate” if I failed to apologize. I was told that an apology would be more likely to make the situation “go away,” and it was implied that there would be lingering impacts to my reputation because the “legal community is a small one.” The subtext behind the meetings that followed became increasingly clear: Apologize or risk the consequences.

    They even went so far as to draft an apology for me directed to the Black Law Students Association […] which I declined to use.

    Colbert's invitation and the apology that was written for him at the link. A few days ago I called Colbert's story Kafkaesque. Now I'm edging toward "Orwellian", as in O'Brien's rat mask.

    Anyway, my vote goes to the first 2024 Presidential candidate who pledges to put Trent Colbert on the Supreme Court. I know he doesn't have a lot of experience, but he seems like a quick learner; I'm sure he'll get up to speed with alacrity.

  • New Dr. Seuss book: How the Nimbies Stole Christmas. The great Virginia Postrel documents the collateral damage when America’s Supply Chain Collides With California’s Nimbyism. After an eyes-open tour of the Long Beach Port which noticed fewer than a dozen freight containers get unloaded in a three-hour span…

    It turned out that the main problem wasn’t an absolute space constraint but a local zoning regulation. Long Beach prohibits companies from stacking off-loaded containers more than two high. The law is not a safety regulation but an aesthetic one. City officials decided that stacks of containers more than eight feet high were too ugly to tolerate.

    The situation exemplifies why the formerly can-do state of California has become such a difficult place to build anything, including an upwardly mobile life. In the name of protecting local vistas, a seemingly minor rule got enacted that exacted enormous aggregate costs far beyond the immediate area. The voters in Long Beach gained a modest improvement in the view while the entire national — indeed global — economy suffered from less efficient shipping. (The Port of Los Angeles is two nautical miles from the Port of Long Beach, and the two account for about 40% of U.S. container traffic.)

    It’s a classic example of a well-recognized issue in political economy. The benefits of the policy are concentrated while the costs are dispersed, spread out among tens of thousands of businesses and millions of consumers. Under ordinary circumstances, most of those hurt have no idea what’s happening. Only in a crisis does anyone beyond a few industry insiders recognize the harm.

    Nimbyism: it's all fun and games until someone loses a Christmas.

Last Modified 2021-10-27 9:56 AM EST

Kathryn vs. the "Eugenicists"

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I've recently finished reading a new book by Kathryn Paige Harden, The Genetic Lottery. I was not impressed. But I was a bit outraged by her unfair (and, I suspect, dishonest) portrayal of Charles Murray, specifically his writings on her field of genetics. You can read my general report on the book here. This post concentrates on her treatment of Murray.

Consumer note: I'm a long-time Murray fan. I have eight of his books on my shelves, two on my Kindle. If you want to dismiss me for that reason, stop reading now. But you might also consider that I may know a little more about Murray's thoughts and opinions than average.

I'm almost certain I know more about them than does Kathryn Paige Harden.

Her book describes the importance of one's genes to the development of (for example) one's cognitive skills. Which, in turn, influences educational attainment and eventual economic success. Fine. But Harden is a (self-described) "full-throated egalitarian" and she feels it necessary to distinguish her views from those she describes as "eugenicists". (Generally speaking, those who claim that genes determine the general superiority/inferiority of individuals, groups, and often races.) And she puts Murray in those crosshairs at a number of points. Her contempt is palpable. For example, she pigeonholes him (p. 134) as a "conservative provocateur". (In contrast, Ibram X. Kendi is described simply, and more respectably (p.209) as a "historian".)

Murray, of course, co-authored The Bell Curve back in 1994 with Richard Herrnstein, a Harvard psychology professor. And Harden is pretty desperate to distinguish her views from those in The Bell Curve. But how? Ah, she finds her smoking eugenicist gun on page 533:

The Bell Curve, with its fleeting reference to Rawlsian ideas, pointed faintly at a new way of talking about genetics and social equality. But after their tantalizing half-page dalliance with egalitarianism, Herrnstein and Murray retreat to a profound inegalitarianism, complaining that "it has become objectionable to say that some people are superior to other people… We are comfortable with the idea that some things are better than others–not just according to our subjective point of view but according to enduring standards of merit and inferiority (emphasis added). After 500 pages, it's clear what sort of things—and what type of people—they consider better. According to them, to score higher on IQ tests is to be superior; to be White is to be superior; to be higher class is to be superior. Indeed, they describe economic productivity ("putting more into the world than [one] take[s] out") as "basic to human dignity."

I encourage any reader to pick up a copy of The Bell Curve, turn to the chapter in question (titled: "A Place for Everyone") and judge for yourself how fair this description is. (One danger signal: that ellipsis Harden inserts skips over multiple paragraphs.)

The first part of the quote is pretty clearly discussing the moral and cultural relativism imposed by "egalitarian tyrannies", not genetics as Harden implies. Here's a more complete snippet:

The same [tyrannical] atmosphere prevails on a smaller scale wherever "equality" comes to serve as the basis for a diffuse moral outlook Consider the many small tyrannies in America's contemporary universities, where it has become objectionable to say that some people are superior to other people in any way that is relevant to life in society. Nor is this outlook confined to judgments about people. In art, literature, ethics, and cultural norms, differences are not to be judged. Such relativism has become the moral high ground for many modern commentators on life and culture.

The second part of the quote (p. 534) continues the discussion of how relativism blurs judgment. Again restoring some of the context Harden has ignored:

Our views on all these issues are decidedly traditional. We think that rights are embedded in our freedom to act, not in the obligations we may impose on others to act; that equality of rights is crucial while equality of outcome is not; that concepts such as virtue, excellence, beauty, and truth should be reintroduced into moral discourse. We are comfortable with the idea that some things are better than others—not just according to our subjective point of view but according to enduring standards of merit and inferiority—and at the same time reject the thought that we (or anyone else) should have the right to impose those standards. We are enthusiastic about diversity—the rich, unending diversity that free human beings generate as a matter of course, not the imposed diversity of group quotas.

And that "economic productivity" bit that Harden finds troublesome is all the way back on page 520, where Herrnstein and Murray voice their concern about future trends for the less cognitively gifted:

In economic terms and barring a profound change in direction for our society, many people will be unable to perform that function so basic to human dignity: putting more into the world than they take out.

To translate for the non-economically gifted: they won't be hired for productive jobs.

Harden ignores this valid concern in order to shore up her "see, they're eugenicists" claims. (Does she agree? Disagree? Doesn't matter when you're slandering people!)

These are just a few paragraphs, but it's amazing how clumsily Harden employs a rhetorical funhouse mirror to turn them into some kind of eugenic rant.

Futhermore, it's clear that Harden is flummoxed by what she calls the "fleeting reference to Rawlsian ideas" in The Bell Curve. But instead of worrying that she didn't understand the point Herrnstein and Murray were making, she seems to conclude ah, they didn't really mean it.

On page 89, Harden claims Herrnstein and Murray "blithely presented their hypothesis that at least part of the reason that Black and Hispanic people in America had lower average IQ test scores than White people was because of the genetic differences between them. Their actual position:

If the reader is now convinced that either the genetic or environmental explanation has won out to the exclusion of the other, we have not done a sufficiently good job of presenting one side or the other. It seems highly likely to us that both genes and environment have something to do with racial differences. What might the mix be? We are resolutely agnostic on that issue; as far as we can determine, the evidence does not yet justify an estimate.

But that agnosticism is apparently not good enough. (Harden herself shies away from the issue with a complex argument.)

Murray has been even more explicit about his views. His current pinned tweet thread:

(I should add that painting Murray as some sort of white supremacist because of his concentration on cognitive skills and IQ testing is kind of weird. Because he rather consistently points to Asians as having even higher IQ averages than whites. It's a funny kind of "white supremacy" that cedes an even higher status to Asians.)

In summary: Harden's treatment of Murray makes him a cartoonish villain to be lumped in with famous (actual) eugenicists of history, e.g. Madison Grant. She either knows better, or she doesn't; either way, it's a despicable slander.

And it's a shame, really. She fails to recognize that Murray (and folks on Team Murray, like me) really do share at least some of her purported goals: for decent people to live valuable, respectable, productive, happy lives no matter what their genes say about them. There could be an honest discussion, and perhaps some shared policy positions. Unfortunately, it appears we'll have to do that with someone more fair and open-minded than Harden.

Last Modified 2021-10-26 4:07 PM EST

The Genetic Lottery

Why DNA Matters for Social Equality

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

This sounded like a good book to read that would be out of my usual conservative/libertarian comfort zone. It turned out to be more irritating than illuminating, full of strawmen and facile/flawed arguments.

The "straw" thing outraged me enough to write about it in a separate post, published in my "default" blog feed.

The author, Kathryn Paige Harden, is a professor of clinical psychology at the Austin campus of the University of Texas. She is an active researcher in human genetics. I assume the science she explicates here is accurate. The problem she proposes to tackle is how the diversity arising from sexual dice-tossing can be dealt with if you are, as Harden claims to be, a "full-throated egalitarian" (not to be confused with a white-throated sparrow).

The argument here is pretty simple: Your genes are a matter of luck, and that luck can be good, bad, or indifferent. In any case, you can't be said to have "deserved" whatever benefits (or lack thereof) your genes have provided you in life. Harden concentrates on cognitive skills, and how they play out for one's educational attainment and eventual economic benefit.

Some argue that it's inherently evil to study the impact of genetics on (say) one's cognitive talent; Harden contends those folks are simply sticking their heads in the sand.

On the other hand, Harden disdains those nasty eugenicists who argue that genetics proves that some people are simply better than others.

She attempts to chart a middle course, one where genetic analysis can be used as a tool for good, mostly along the lines John Rawls outlined in A Theory of Justice, fifty years ago: design a society where inequalities of outcome are allowed if and only if such inequalities work to the relative advantage of the least well-off.

The flawed arguments start early. On page 5, she refers to a 2014 paper that claims "In the past forty years, the top 0.1 percent of Americans have seen their incomes increase by more than 400 percent, but men without a college degree haven't seen any increase in real wages since the 1960s." In case, you missed that, she repeats and italicizes: "The 1960s". And in case you missed that: "… in all that time, American men who didn't get past high school haven't gotten a raise."

This is a pretty obvious fallacy, one I assume Harden would have noticed if someone in her own field had committed it: populations are dynamic. The "American men without a college degree" in 1960 are not the same people as those in 2021. (Ditto for "the top 0.1 percent".) It's a mistake to speak of them as if they were a static group.

No question, we'd like to see people do well economically. But Harden's comment that these folks "haven't gotten a raise" is like observing that the average tree height in a forest hasn't changed in 50 years, and then claiming that implies trees in that forest aren't growing at all.

But Harden is correct on her overall (completely obvious) point: people can't be said to "deserve" their genetic inheritance. So? Harden sketches out what she calls her "anti-eugenic" prescriptions in a final chapter, making (I think) an implicit parallel with Ibram X. Kendi's "anti-racist" agenda. She contrasts her recommendations with "eugenic" policies (uniformly cartoonish) and "genome-blind" policies (derided, analogous to "color-blind" approaches to race). Basically, she advocates using genetic testing as a tool for Good, not Evil. (Gee, that was easy.) For example, identifying kids with low cognitive polygentic indices at an early age who might need extra help. Again, being a good Rawlsian demands this. Other than dragging genetic tools into the argument, there's not that much new here.

Harden ignores the multiple rebuttals to Rawlsian concept of "justice" that have cropped up over the past decades. Here's an obvious one: it's true enough that you don't "deserve" the benefits you derive from your "good" genes. Guess what? Nobody else does either.

Here's Richard Epstein making a similar point in a Cafe Hayek Quotation of the Day from a few weeks back:

Even though talent, circumstance, and luck play a role in human behavior, we all are spared an enormous administrative burden if we mutually renounce any claim to these assets of others. A rule of self-ownership, far better than any of its alternatives, allows us to move on with the business of life. A rule of self-ownership selects the single person to be the owner of each person’s natural talent, and picks that person who in the vast majority of cases tends to value those assets the most: each obtains control over his or her own body. At least for adults (and there are, of course, qualifications for children), the rule offers the shortest path from initial entitlement to productive human activity.

Bottom line: I think Professor Harden should have stuck to the science.

Last Modified 2021-10-26 8:53 AM EST

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Emerson College Kinda Sus. Techdirt (in its "highly-educated-but-apparently-low-on-common-sense" department) notes the latest imbroglio on Boylston Street: Massachusetts College Decides Criticizing The Chinese Government Is Hate Speech, Suspends Conservative Student Group. The writer quotes and notes Emerson's official fealty to freedom of expression. Which got memory-holed pretty quickly:

    Truly inspiring. And Emerson College truly respects this right. Except when it doesn't.

    Emerson College suspended a campus chapter of conservative student group Turning Point USA on Oct. 1 after members passed out stickers critical of China’s government.

    The "conservative group" was Turning Point USA, one created and led by unfortunate human being Charlie Kirk and supported by people who think Charlie Kirk actually has anything useful to offer anyone.

    Here's the sticker:

    [Emerson Kinda Sus]

    Techdirt further comments:

    Notably it does not say "Chinese people are sus" or "Orientals are sus" or anything else that suggests this sticker refers to anything but the country and, by extension, its government.

    Is China kinda sus? You be the judge. It refuses to recognize Taiwan as a country, has turned Hong Kong's government into an extension of its own following months of pro-democracy protests, subjects its citizens to intrusive, omnipresent surveillance, censors its citizens and companies providing internet services, and is engaged in the ongoing persecution of certain minorities. That's all pretty "sus."

    Yet, the college chose to believe this was actually an offensive thing to say and bypassed its own stated support for protecting First Amendment rights to limit TPUSA's activities on campus.

    Needless to say, cowardly college administrators are prone to completely forget their institution's high-minded devotion to free expression when irate students demand action. Their first impulse: How can I make these people shut up and go away? I've got a lunch reservation at the Capital Grille at noon!

    [Blognote: grep counts 24 occurrences of the word "imbroglio" at Pun Salad over the years. Above makes 25; I think I'm in love with that word.]

  • But hype works. John Tierney weighs in at City Journal on the latest Pixel Panic: Anti-Instagram Case Built on Hype, Not Science.

    Contrary to what you’ve heard from the press and Congress, the internal documents leaked by former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen do not prove that that the company’s Instagram platform is psychologically scarring teenagers. But the current furor does clearly demonstrate another psychological phenomenon: the Fredric Wertham effect, named for a New York psychiatrist who, like Haugen, starred at a nationally televised Senate hearing about a toxic new media menace to America’s youth.

    Wertham testified in 1954 about his book, Seduction of the Innocent, which he described as the result of “painstaking, laborious clinical study.” After reciting his scientific credentials, Wertham declared: “It is my opinion, without any reasonable doubt and without any reservation, that comic books are an important contributing factor in many cases of juvenile delinquency.”

    The hearing made the front page of the New York Times, one of many publications (including The New Yorker) to give Wertham’s book a glowing review. Others featured his warnings under headlines like “Depravity for Children” and “Horror in the Nursery.” During the great comic book scare, as the historian David Hajdu calls it, churches and the American Legion organized events across the country where schoolchildren tossed comics into bonfires. Wertham’s recommendation “to legislate these books off the newsstands and out of the candy stores” inspired dozens of state and municipal laws banning or regulating comic books, and many people in the industry lost their jobs.

    Unfortunately, as Tierney notes, even the sainted Wall Street Journal got sucked in.

  • If it weren't for double standards… the media would have no standards at all. Summary: Steven Hayward has a longer memory than (apparently) WaPo fact-checker Glenn Kessler. Media Vapors Over “Let’s Go Brandon”

    The Washington Post‘s “fact checker” (use your best Austin Powers scare quotes pronunciation here) Glenn Kessler has his knickers in a wad today about the “increasingly vulgar taunts” being delivered at Resident Biden:

    [WaPo headline: "Biden’s critics hurl increasingly vulgar taunts"]

    During the 2020 presidential campaign, one of Biden’s political superpowers was his sheer inoffensiveness, the way he often managed to embody — even to those who didn’t like him — the innocuous grandfather, the bumbling uncle, the leader who could make America calm, steady, even boring again after four years of Donald Trump.

    Hayward pulls out a number of equally vulgar examples aimed at President Bone Spurs, I'm pretty sure none of which were noted, let alone bemoaned, by Mr. Kessler.

  • But there's still room for improvement. David Harsanyi looks at the facts and concludes: America Is the Most Tolerant Place on Earth.

    By any genuine measurement, America is the most tolerant place on earth. This is an easy fact to forget for those who experience it. And these days, it’s also an unfashionable thing to say. But the level of peaceful cooperation between people of truly diverse backgrounds, faiths, and creeds — or anything even approaching it — is wholly unprecedented in human history.

    Though the European Union was conceived to maintain peace on the Continent and compete with the United States, it has never come close to replicating the comity of American life. No single country in Europe has come close to replicating it. Certainly not in the past, and definitely not today. Despite perceptions, minorities in Europe are worse off. Anti-Semitism is reaching dangerous levels — again. European policies have made it nearly impossible for immigrants to assimilate successfully. In nearly every Western European nation, as well as many Eastern and Central European ones, these problems have sparked ugly nativist reactions.

    None of this is to contend that prejudice doesn’t exist in America. Such a claim would be preposterous. Still, many Americans live under the false notion that the United States is — by its nature, its founding, its destiny — an inherently racist and xenophobic enterprise. And so do many Europeans.

    I think he's right.

A Gentleman in Moscow

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Wow, what an impressive novel. Topnotch. I've occasionally read the odd Russian novel (Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn, Bulgakov); they have a certain cadence in translation, and while reading this I was thinking: this guy must be Russian. Because he had that same style.

But no. The back jacket flap says Amor Towles was "born and raised in the Boston area." May have eaten a lot of borscht as a kid, perhaps.

It's the story of Count Alexander Rostov, Russian aristocrat, who has returned to Russia after a period of self-imposed exile during the Russian Revolution. The opening is a transcript of his 1922 trial before the "Emergency Committee of the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs". AKA, the thugs in charge of shooting ex-aristocrats. But thanks to a pre-Revolution poem attributed to him, mercy is shown: he's simply sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol Hotel, an island of relative opulence in otherwise dreary Bolshevik Moscow.

It's not a perfect situation. He is booted from his luxurious suite on the third floor up to a tiny area in the hotel attic. But (see the title) Rostov is every inch the gentleman, and he adapts. He finds his niche, making many friends, and a few adversaries. There's a lot of humor, some pathos, many surprises and twists, and (as it turns out) a very suspenseful, action-filled finish.

Here's something I didn't notice while reading, from Towles' website: "From the day of the Count’s house arrest, the chapters advance by a doubling principal: one day after arrest, two days after, five days, ten days, three weeks, six weeks, three months, six months, one year, two years, four years, eight years, and sixteen years after arrest. At this midpoint, a halving principal is initiated with the narrative leaping to eight years until the Count’s escape, four years until, two years, one year, six months, three months, six weeks, three weeks, ten days, five days, two days, one day and finally, the turn of the revolving door."

That's so nerdy! I'm even more impressed.

I see they're planning on making a miniseries of this, with Kenneth Branagh starring. It's aimed at Apple TV, probably, and this may cause me to subscribe.

URLs du Jour


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  • A conspiracy theory that's not just for dingbats any more. The NR editors weigh in on The Wuhan Lab Cover-Up.

    We still don’t know if a lab accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology caused the COVID-19 global pandemic. But now we do know for certain that there was a cover-up — and that private organizations and the U.S. government either hid information or misled the public regarding several key details about the kinds of research that the U.S. taxpayers were indirectly funding at the Wuhan labs.

    Lawrence Tabak, the principal deputy director of the National Institutes of Health and the deputy ethics counselor of the agency, wrote to Congress this week informing it that NIH had indeed funded “gain of function” research on coronaviruses found in bats, through grants to the private research group EcoHealth Alliance. Gain-of-function research takes existing viruses and makes them either more virulent or dangerous, more contagious, or both, toward the end of learning how to fight them. Quite a few virologists question whether the reward is worth the risk of deliberately engineering viruses that are more hazardous to human beings and could accidentally escape the laboratory and set off a pandemic.

    It's a cliché to say "the cover-up is worse than the crime", but that won't stop me. It beggars belief that this has been simply overlooked for the past year and a half. I suspect the only reason NIH admits it now is that it was about to come out from some other source, and NIH is trying desperately to control the narrative about it.

    As previously discussed, this means that Fauci's statements under oath to Senator Rand Paul were (um) "not quite accurate".

    For the record, I thought Fauci was a slithering creature of the healthocracy back in March 2020 when the Hill reported his comments on the (death-causing) delay of testing kits:

    "It was a complicated series of multiple things that conflated that just, you know, went the wrong way. One of them was a technical glitch that slowed things down in the beginning. Nobody’s fault. There wasn’t any bad guys there. It just happened," Fauci said.

    His gut instincts are to protect the bureaucracy at the cost of public health. He won't let anything get in the way of the narrative: (1) the State's job is to protect us all, and (2) it's "nobody's fault" when it fails to do that.

  • Feeling cheerful? I'll fix that. Reason's Eric Boehm "celebrates" 40 Years of Trillion-Dollar Debt.

    On October 22, 1981—exactly 40 years ago today—America's national debt hit $1 trillion for the first time.

    "If we, as a nation, need a warning," President Ronald Reagan said in a televised address a few weeks before the country surpassed the 13-figure debt threshold, "let that be it."

    Today, the national debt exceeds $28 trillion. In the fiscal year that concluded at the end of last month, the country added another $2.77 trillion to the pile, the Treasury Department announced just this morning. The Congressional Budget Office anticipates that the country will add at least another $1 trillion to the deficit for just about every year in the foreseeable future—and that's even without any new spending.

    To my fellow baby boomers: when you see kids under 20 out and about, make sure to be nice to them. After we're gone, they will need any reason at all to remember us kindly.

  • Decent Docents Despicably Defenestrated. In case you haven't heard, the Art Institute of Chicago unceremoniosly dumped 82 of its volunteer docents for the crime of insufficient diversity. You can read about that at Jerry Coyne's blog, who covers it from a media-critic perspective: At long last, the NYT covers the Art Institute of Chicago’s DocentGate. It's unconscionable, of course, but I really enjoyed the NYT headline:

    Art Institute of Chicago Ends a Docent Program, and Sets Off a Backlash

    Ah, a new angle on the venerable "Republicans Pounce" approach. The real story is that mean and nasty backlash.

  • Also dangerous nonsense. Jonah Goldberg looks at the Serious Nonsense emitted from one Phoebe Cohen, a paleontologist and an associate professor in geosciences at Williams College. Phoebe's remark was in defense of MIT's disinvitation of geophysicist Dorian Abbot on the grounds of his opposition to "diversity, equity, and inclusion" efforts in higher ed.

    She said:

    This idea of intellectual debate and rigor as the pinnacle of intellectualism comes from a world in which white men dominated.


    Whoa. That sounds like a serious thing a serious person would say about a serious topic. And while it is a serious problem that people like Cohen believe this is an intellectually serious thing to believe, it’s sillier than a remake of War and Peace with an all-basset-hound cast. I’d call it nonsense on stilts, but Jeremy Bentham used that phrase about a very serious argument he disagreed with. This is nonsense on shrooms.

    Where to begin?  

    First, I think it’s worth noting there was a time when a lot of racist white men agreed with her to one extent or another. There was a time when elite universities—like the ones Cohen attended—believed that intellectual debate and rigor were the pinnacle of intellectualism, and that such intellectualism was reserved as the sole provenance of white, Christian (mostly Protestant) men. That’s why Harvard went so long without black, female, or Jewish students. The argument against admitting blacks and women was that they couldn’t hack it. The argument against Jews was that they were too good at it (and that the Protestant students didn’t like them).

    More at the link, recommended of course.

    You know, the "Reductio ad Hitlerum" fallacy has its own Wikipedia page. Maybe it's time for a fancy Latin term for the sort of argument Phoebe resorts to. Reductio ad Homme Blanc, I think.

  • It's a trap! At the Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf takes A Worrisome Peek Inside Yale Law’s Diversity Bureaucracy.

    Have you ever wondered what deans of diversity do behind closed doors? Until last week, the public had little visibility into their methods. Then covertly recorded audio emerged of Yaseen Eldik, Yale Law School’s director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and Ellen Cosgrove, an associate dean, pressuring a student to issue a written apology for emailing out a party invitation that offended some of his classmates.

    The Yale Law student in question, Trent Colbert, belongs to two student groups, the Native American Law Students Association, or NALSA, and the conservative Federalist Society. He emailed members of the former group that “we will be christening our very own (soon to be) world-renowned NALSA Trap House … by throwing a Constitution Day Bash in collaboration with FedSoc,” adding that refreshments would include “Popeye’s chicken, basic-bitch-American-themed snacks (like apple pie, etc.),” and various beverages. That is what offended some of Colbert’s peers, including the president of the Black Law Students Association, who reportedly likened Colbert’s references to “Trap House” and Popeyes to blackface.

    Things got very Kafkaesque very quickly.

  • I'm sorry, what? David Boaz is bemused by the spin New York Times reporter Shira Ovide puts on the latest news from Your Federal Government: Hearing Aids, the FDA, and Henry David Thoreau. Ovide writes of the potential of over-the-counter hearing aids, brought to you by "government and tech companies at their best" thanks to the "opportunity that the government created".

    What opportunity?

    1. The government has banned OTC hearing aids for 40 years.
    2. Congress authorized OTC hearing aids in 2017.
    3. Biden asked the FDA to authorize OTC hearing aids back in July.
    4. And now the FDA has issued a "proposed rule".
    5. Which means they might get around to issuing an actual rule… someday.

    David summarizes:

    So for more than 40 years, a period of tremendous medical and technological progress, Americans have only been able to get hearing aids from licensed providers, almost certainly raising the price. Indeed some experts say that hearing aids might become available for only a few hundred dollars. And after more than 40 years, Congress authorized over‐​the‐​counter hearing aids. Four years later President Biden told the FDA to get on it. And now the FDA is starting the process.

    So the “best efforts of government” that Ms. Ovide applauds are to stop blocking Americans from buying hearing aids. And once the government allows this “new market opportunity” to exist, we can hope for “new inventions from companies like Bose, Best Buy and Apple.” The way government and tech companies are going to work together is that the government is going to stop preventing the emergence of a broad market that tech companies may rush to serve.

    I am reminded of Thoreau’s comment in his essay “Civil Disobedience”: “This government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way.”

    Me too. Although not being able to hear can be a blessing when a politician is talking.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I said yesterday that the University Near Here "doesn't require [Covid] vaccinations". That was based on their FAQ, last updated back in August. President James "Don't Call Me Jimmy" Dean issued an October 15 memo notifying employees (faculty and staff) that, due to new "Biden Administration" rules probably there will be a requirement. Details to follow (someday).

This American Council on Education article indicates this will apply to student employees and "are likely to apply to many students who are not employees."

  • Fetch … the comfy chair! As if we didn't have other stuff to worry about, Jason Hart finds another disaster coming over the horizon: Everyone expects the New Right Inquisition. I've said nice things about Christopher F. Rufo in the past, but apparently he's taking the "Cardinal Biggles" role in the new version of the sketch. And this guy seems to be Cardinal Ximinez:

    On Wednesday, Sohrab Ahmari – a “conservative” ally Rufo mentioned the day before – wrote a blog post for the Claremont Institute that was aptly summarized by its title, “Save America– Reject Libertarianism.”

    Ahmari fumed:

    My generation of right-wingers has a clear task, and it is to follow Klingenstein’s call to sideline right-liberalism and libertarianism—more than that, to bury their sclerotic institutions, abandon their illusions, and expose the ugly material realities churning behind their tired watchwords and slogans.

    Daydreaming about theocracy is a common theme for Ahmari, and affiliation with Claremont is a common thread in the New Right’s agitation for bigger government to own the libs. Rufo, for example, is a former Claremont fellow.

    I'll continue to link to Rufo when he's making sense. I'll just be extra careful to make sure he's not gonna poke me with the soft cushions.

    (You do recognize all these Monty Python references, don't you? If you don't, youngster, go Google appropriately. I'll wait here.)

  • Oh, good, you're back. Veronique expands on this topic with some sage advice: You Can’t Fight Campus Illiberalism With More Illiberalism.

    As my eldest daughter just started college, I've found myself worrying that academic freedom and viewpoint diversity are now in jeopardy. The deterioration of the culture of free speech is documented by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt in their 2015 book, The Coddling of the American Mind. They explain how students, who not too long ago had to be protected from speech codes on campus, are now asking administrators to protect them from speech they don't want to hear. They believe that words that don't conform to their constantly shifting standards are a form of violence. As a result, incidents on college campuses have multiplied, leaving many students and faculty terrified of saying the wrong thing.

    Sadly, some conservatives are fighting this left-wing illiberalism with their own illiberalism. Some even argue that liberal democracy's time has passed. They embrace nationalists like former President Donald Trump and Hungarian strongman Prime Minister Viktor Orban as role models in the hope of rescuing America from what they see as the degenerate culture of the left. In response to abusive mask mandates, they impose anti-mask mandates extending to the private sector, and they fight the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 schools with problematic and illiberal bans of their own.

    No matter who wins this illiberal arm wrestling, our liberal culture will be lost. Unfortunately, this illiberalism also limits the production of knowledge in academia and in public policy. The sum of it all means that my daughters, with all of us, will be worse off.

    I'm just a spectator these days, and I try to keep a safe distance from the fray.

  • Speaking of illiberalism… Bari Weiss hosts Leighton Woodhouse at her substack, and he is looking at The Reality of 'Anti-Racism' Across America.

    The dogma of “anti-racism” began with an incontrovertible reality: For centuries, black Americans have been the victims of structural and often violent discrimination — slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, and attitudes and norms that, to this day, exacerbate poverty and racial disparity. Where anti-racism made its radical departure was in its view about how to fix this knotty problem. 

    The proposed solution was no longer what Martin Luther King and Thurgood Marshall taught: that all human beings are created equal and therefore any kind of discrimination is evil. Instead, it was, explicitly, to embrace discrimination, but this time as a tool of “equity.” In practice, this meant racial discrimination against white and Asian people.

    This vision of anti-racism, as imagined by Ibram X. Kendi and others, is no longer confined to universities and academic journals. It has long since escaped the confines of the quad and has seeped into so many corners of American life. And rather than eradicating racism, it has re-racialized the people and the places it has touched.

    Woodhouse details a number of current examples of "anti-racist" policies, some promulgated by the Biden Administration. If you feel like you've been too cheerful lately, it's a good remedy.

  • Protectionism's umbrella does not cover taxpayers, consumers, or (probably) you, peasant. At Cato, Colin Grabow describes what should be a scandal, but is really just business as usual: DC Metro Overpays for Defective Cars Thanks to Buy American Protectionism.

    Commutes in the Washington, DC area—already among the country’s worst—became even more frustrating this week when the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) announced it was pulling roughly 60 percent of its subway cars from service. Instead of trains running every few minutes during the peak of rush hour, most lines will have service only twice per hour. Suffice to say, lengthy waits inside a subway station (“Metro station” in the local parlance) isn’t time well spent.

    The service slowdown comes after inspections of subway cars following a recent derailment uncovered defects in the wheel and axle assembly. Delays are slated to last the remainder of the week, and some observers fear that ultimately resolving the issue could take years.

    Overlooked in this whole mess, however, is that WMATA didn’t just buy apparently defective railcars but paid artificially inflated prices for them. Thanks to the use of federal funding, their purchase was subject to Buy American laws requiring at least 60 percent (since raised to 70 percent) of the railcar’s components to be U.S.-manufactured and that its final assembly take place domestically. Which is how it came to be that railcars sold by Japanese company Kawasaki were assembled in Lincoln, Nebraska.

    At least Metro didn't kill anyone … this time.

  • The least insurrectional insurrection ever. Glenn Greenwald writes about the ongoing inquisition. He is not impressed. Feeding the Liberal Flock: The Real Reasons for the Congressional 1/6 Committee.

    This congressional committee is designed to be cathartic theater for liberals, and a political drama for the rest of the country. They know Republicans will object to their deliberately unconstitutional inquisitions, and they intend to exploit those objections to darkly insinuate to the country that Republicans are driven by a desire to protect the violent traitors so that they can deploy them as an insurrectionary army for future coups. They have staffed the committee with their most flamboyant and dishonest drama queens, knowing that Adam Schiff will spend most of his days on CNN with Chris Cuomo comparing 1/6 to Pearl Harbor and the Holocaust; Liz Cheney will equate Republicans with Al Qaeda and the Capitol riot to the destruction of the World Trade Center; and Adam Kinzinger will cry on cue as he reminds everyone over and over that he served in the U.S. military only to find himself distraught and traumatized that the real terrorists are not those he was sent to fight overseas but those at home, in his own party.

    But the manipulative political design of this spectacle should not obscure how threatening it nonetheless is to core civil liberties. Democrats in politics and media have whipped themselves into such a manic frenzy ever since 1/6 — indeed, they have been doing little else ever since Trump descended the Trump Tower escalator in 2015 — that they have become the worst kinds of fanatics: the ones who really believe their own lies. Many genuinely believe that they are on the front lines of an epic historical battle against the New Hitler (Trump) and his band of deplorable fascist followers bent on a coup against the democratic order. In their cable-and-Twitter-stimulated imaginations, shortly following this right-wing coup will be the installation of every crypto-fascist bell and whistle from concentration camps for racial and ethnic minorities to death or prison for courageous #Resistance dissidents. At some point, the line between actually believing this and being paid to pretend to believe it, or feeling coerced by cultural and friendship circles to feign belief in it, erodes, fostering actual collective conviction and mania.

    Instead of Donald Trump and his enablers being frog-marched off to Guantanamo, we're getting some pathetic losers being sent to prison for a few months each.

  • A palate cleanser. Paul Graham thinks "intelligence" is overrated: Beyond Smart.

    If you asked people what was special about Einstein, most would say that he was really smart. Even the ones who tried to give you a more sophisticated-sounding answer would probably think this first. Till a few years ago I would have given the same answer myself. But that wasn't what was special about Einstein. What was special about him was that he had important new ideas. Being very smart was a necessary precondition for having those ideas, but the two are not identical.

    It may seem a hair-splitting distinction to point out that intelligence and its consequences are not identical, but it isn't. There's a big gap between them. Anyone who's spent time around universities and research labs knows how big. There are a lot of genuinely smart people who don't achieve very much.

    I grew up thinking that being smart was the thing most to be desired. Perhaps you did too. But I bet it's not what you really want. Imagine you had a choice between being really smart but discovering nothing new, and being less smart but discovering lots of new ideas. Surely you'd take the latter. I would. The choice makes me uncomfortable, but when you see the two options laid out explicitly like that, it's obvious which is better.

    I like to think I'm a little smart, but I'm not really good at all at the "new ideas" thing. But maybe you recognize yourself in Graham's description? Check it out.

URLs du Jour


[Broken Supply Chain]

  • They are supposed to be the smart ones. Dominic Pino says we live in a time When Universities Are Incapable of Learning.

    ‘Covid-19 Precautions Prompt Backlash on College Campuses” reads an October 16 headline in the Wall Street Journal.

    It’s about time. For far too long, college students have been far too submissive in the face of the completely unjustified COVID regulations issued by their university administrations.

    This isn’t a matter of vaccine mandates. Over 1,000 colleges have required COVID vaccination for students. Universities already require vaccines against other illnesses, so requiring a COVID vaccine is reasonable. The vaccines work, and, as we have said many times on this website, people should get them. Thankfully, on college campuses, people have gotten them: Many universities now have vaccination rates over 95 percent.

    Yet campuses continue to have some of the most stringent COVID restrictions in the country…

    The WSJ quotes, as a bad example, USC's Covid policy which requires vaccination, and weekly testing, and mandatory indoor masking even for the vaccinated.

    Surely things must be different for the University Near Here in the Live Free or Die state!

    Well (as I type) …

    All students, faculty and staff are required to participate in regular testing through the fall semester.

    Masks are required in all indoor campus spaces except when eating, in private offices or in personal residence hall rooms. The requirement applies to everyone, vaccinated and unvaccinated. This includes classrooms, hallways, elevators, restrooms, break rooms, entries and exits to buildings, laboratories, meeting rooms, shared offices and work areas.

    UNH doesn't require vaccinations. [Update: they are probably going to real soon now.] But testing and masking are still mandatory if you are vaccinated. Healthy young people might wonder why they should bother getting jabbed if nothing changes?

  • Playing It Safe Is The Most Dangerous Thing You Can Do. Hans Bader reminds us of an inconvenient truth: Federal safety regulations kill thousands of people.

    “Good headlights can reduce your likelihood of having a crash at night by up to 20%,” notes Will Rinehart. “Why aren’t they available here in the US? Because adaptive beams don’t have dedicated, separate high and low beams, they violate” a federal transportation regulation, FMVSS 108.

    As a web site explains,

    if these ADB beams can make nighttime driving safer, why aren’t they available here in the U.S.? The reason is basic bureaucracy. In 1967, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety developed a regulation (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108), which specified that road-legal vehicles must have a dedicated high beam and a dedicated low beam. Because adaptive beams don’t have dedicated, separate high and low beams, they violate this regulation. Adaptive beams can adjust brightness and illumination area, but they do all of it using the same LED lights….Clearly, the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108 was written before anyone at National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) conceived of headlights that could respond to external stimuli and selectively alter luminescence based on environment. But it’s still a regulatory blind spot, if you will, that has prevented safer technology from being fully utilized in the U.S.

    An automaker petitioned NHTSA to permit ADB technology in U.S. vehicles in 2018. But the technology still isn’t available in the U.S.

    Bader provides plenty of additional examples. And he doesn't even mention Covid. Which is interesting because…

  • Your tax dollars at work. Ronald Bailey looks at More Evidence Emerges that the NIH Funded Coronavirus Gain-of-Function Research in China.

    In a letter yesterday to Rep. James Comer (R–Ky.), National Institutes of Health (NIH) Principal Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak tepidly acknowledged that his agency funded coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The money, channeled through the EcoHealth Alliance, supported scientists who modified bat coronaviruses so that they were "capable of binding to the human ACE2 receptor in a mouse model."

    Basically, the Chinese researchers modified the spike protein of a relatively harmless coronavirus so that it would function as a key enabling the virus to open and invade cells in humanized mice. As it happens, the coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic chiefly infects people by binding to our ACE2 receptors.

    This is precisely the sort of thing that Fauci denied happening under questioning by Rand Paul. I wonder if Cantabrigians have started taking down their "In Fauci We Trust" yard signs yet?

  • Meanwhile, in Washington … Wrangling continues to get something out of Congress. The debate seems to be over how best to spin a colossal ($2 trillion) waste of taxpayer money. Hey, maybe by emphasizing that it's less than the previously-demanded gargantuan ($3.5 trillion) waste of taxpayer money?

    It doesn't matter. Both the past number and the new number are bogus, say the WSJ editorialists: The $2 Trillion Is Phony Too.

    Democrats say they’re working hard to pare back their $3.5 trillion tax and spending bill to $2 trillion to please House and Senate dissenters, but don’t believe it. What they’re really doing is working hard to pack $4 trillion in new programs into a $2 trillion disguise that sounds less radical than it is.

    That’s the message from news reports that the White House on Tuesday offered Congressional Democrats a plan that retains nearly all of the entitlement programs they originally proposed. Instead of reducing this vast expansion of the welfare state, Democrats are merely increasing their use of budget gimmicks to pretend to fit them into a 10-year budget window. It’s still a mammoth fiscal confidence trick.

    The main gimmick is to pretend that new entitlements will go away after a few years. Everybody knows this, including (I would hope) our state's Congressional delegation. But, as near as I can tell, they are all willing to go meekly along with the dangerous, dishonest charade.

  • Checking on the fact checkers… Ann Althouse looks at the dismal results of a recent WaPo attempt to award Pinocchios: "The initial version of the Democrats’ proposal would have required financial institutions to provide the IRS with two new figures every year..."

    "... the total inflows and outflows for any bank account with more than $600 in annual deposits or withdrawals, 'with a breakdown for physical cash, transactions with a foreign account, and transfers to and from another account with the same owner.' The requirement would apply to all business and personal accounts at financial institutions. After Republicans raised concerns that the $600 minimum would sweep up almost all Americans, Democrats raised the proposed threshold to $10,000.... Republican senators including Crapo and Kennedy claimed that under the Democrats’ tax enforcement plan, the IRS would be snooping on the sensitive financial details contained in Americans’ bank records. The burden of proof is on the speaker, as we like to remind our readers, but in this case, no proof was supplied. In reality, the proposal is to monitor the total amount of money going in and out of any bank account with more than $10,000 of transactions in a given year, not the blow-by-blow of where and when people spend their money. And just before this GOP news conference, Democrats had curtailed their proposal to cover fewer Americans and to exempt all wages and federal benefits from the new requirements. These claims earn Three Pinocchios."

    From "No, Biden isn’t proposing that the IRS spy on bank records" by WaPo Fact Checker Salvador Rizzo.

    I don't see how you get "Pinocchios" when your criticism is undermined by causing your adversary to change their proposal! And I don't see why you get "Pinocchios" for failing to supply proof. The Fact Checker ought to come up with proof that the statement-makers knowingly said something false before assigning all those "Pinocchios." >

    By the way, that headline screams partisan politics. When I clicked on that headline, I didn't think I was going to end up at a Fact Checker column. But they got my click, and I'm sure they got lots of other clicks, so I should expect more of this sort of thing in the future.

    I also expect that. The WaPo used to occasionally throw the flag on nonsense from the left, but I don't know (or, frankly, care much) about whether they still do.

  • Also checking on that fact checking… is Patterico.

    Another day, another silly partisan “fact-check” from the Washington Post. I almost don’t care about the substance of the fact-check (although I will say I few words about it below) because I became distracted by this absolutely awesome parenthetical in the piece, which amply illustrates the snickering, smug, absolutely bonkers desperation to label Republicans liars:

    Kennedy, who once served as secretary of the Louisiana Department of Revenue, repeatedly said Americans’ “intimate financial details” would be collected, and he called it a “squid-brained idea.” (Scientists say squids and octopuses are the smartest invertebrates.)

    (ACKSHALLY squids are super smart SENATOR)

    You tell 'em, WaPo fact checker!

Last Modified 2021-10-23 11:55 AM EST

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Our Amazon Product du Jour is a symbol of what Philip Greenspun calls "our new religion". There is an amazing array of merch at Amazon featuring the motto/creed, but this one is the most appropriate for the True Believers.

  • Instapundit seems to be… going downhill. Stephen "Should Know Better" Green is inordinately impressed with a statistical factoid:

    I’VE SEEN THE LOCKDOWNS AND THE DAMAGE DONE: Goodbye Middle Class: 50 Percent Of All U.S. Workers Made $34,612.04 Or Less Last Year.

    Income for the lower 50% was sharply up under Trump, which is a solid indicator of an incumbent president winning reelection.

    The lockdowns changed that — even more more [sic] sharply — which, as far as I’m concerned, explains the lockdowns.

    Well, that's garbage.

    Clicking the link brings you to one of those "Aieee, we're dooomed!" articles, by a guy named Michael Snyder. My impression is that he's kind of a self-promoting religious nut, attempting to make a buck off people who like to buy the latest forecast of imminent apocalypse.

    It all began with a very unusual series of dreams. Night after night, Michael Snyder kept having the same extremely vivid dream about the future, but at first he had no idea what those dreams meant. In a search for answers, Michael was led down some very deep rabbit holes which resulted in a chain of discoveries which will absolutely shock Christians all over the world.

    That's fine, this is America, people have been doing this a long time.

    Going a bit further down this "rabbit hole": the $34,612.04 statistic is from the Social Security Administration. From Green's description, you'd expect this to have been a drastic decline from previous years.

    Guess what? It isn't. It's up about a percent from 2019, and it's at the highest level ever. (Caveat: the SSA says it's "estimated". Which doesn't stop them from reporting it down to the penny.)

    This is not to say that American citizens don't have Real Big Financial Problems. We'd all like that number to be higher, and growing more strongly. (Inflation for 2020 (CPI-U) was a tad more than that (1.4%).)

    But you won't get much insight by highlighting out-of-context numbers from religious nuts. Do better, Instapundit.

  • But how are we going to careen down the Road to Serfdom without it? Ronald Bailey notes at Reason that Biden’s ‘Climate-Resilient Economy’ Roadmap Is Largely Superfluous.

    The Biden administration believes that private companies and markets are not effectively pricing into their calculations the effects of man-made climate change on housing, stocks and bonds, physical assets, crop yields, and fire risks. Consequently, President Joe Biden has issued Executive Order 14030 on Climate-Related Financial Risk.

    Pursuant to that executive order, Biden's National Economic Council published A Roadmap to Build a Climate-Resilient Economy. The Roadmap is necessary, asserts the council, because "Wall Street financial models and investment portfolios that manage the assets of millions of Americans continue to rely on the basic assumption that climate will be stable." The report outlines a "climate risk accountability framework" with the aim of "safeguarding the U.S. financial system against climate-related financial risk by holding financial institutions accountable for properly measuring, disclosing, managing, and mitigating climate-related financial risks." That emphasis is in the original.

    But are Wall Street and other investors blithely assuming a stable climate? Actually, no. There is plenty of evidence that portfolio managers, bond markets, businesses, farmers, and shareholders are taking the effects of climate change into account when planning their investments. On the other hand, government interference in markets is slowing financial and infrastructure adaptation to the risks of climate change.

    It's part of the general progressive ideology that governments will be able to spend dollars more wisely than the private sector; that's how they justify sucking more taxes from private pockets into their own.

    Don't bother asking for evidence. It's a faith-based belief.

  • Weren't we just talking about rabbit holes? According to Charles C. W. Cooke, our President has gone down one: Biden in Wonderland.

    ‘If I had a world of my own,” said Alice, “everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrariwise, what it is, it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”

    Rumor has it that Alice is preparing to apply for a job in the White House press office.

    And not a moment too soon, either, for, having offered himself up as the savior of the American way, President Biden now finds himself in something of a pickle. The jobs reports are lackluster. The border is a mess. Gas prices are sky-high. Our supply chains are broken. Inflation, which was supposed to be “transitory,” looks more persistent by the day. Americans remain stranded in Afghanistan. China’s testing space-nukes. COVID is not only still with us; it’s making its way into the Good States. And, despite its having been given a jolly, catchy name — the “Build Back Better agenda” — all the public seems to know about the president’s gargantuan spending plan is that it will cost trillions upon trillions of dollars.

    Down the rabbit hole, though, everything is still peachy. Indeed, insofar as America has any problems to speak of, they’re held to be either non-existent, inconsequential, or somehow your fault. You may think you watched in horror a few months ago as a generational debacle unfolded in Kabul, but what you actually saw was “the largest U.S. airlift in history.” Hurrah! You may believe that the southern border has been in a perpetual state of crisis from the moment President Biden took office, but this is merely the sort of quotidian “circumstance” that could have happened under any president and is only happening now due to the inexplicable vagaries of climate change. How unfair! On first glance, you might think it more than a little startling that the Chinese Communist Party has managed to contrive a cache of hypersonic nuclear weapons that, if deployed correctly, would zip right past our defenses, but what you’re for some reason missing is that when it comes to the prospect of a nuclear apocalypse, “stiff competition” between nations is “welcome.” Natch.

    It's an NRPLUS article, and I encourage you to subscribe.

  • A stunningly good example of skepticism, honesty, and curiousity… is provided at Astral Codex Ten: Chilling Effects.

    On the recent global warming post, a commenter argued that at least fewer people would die of cold. I was prepared to dismiss this on the grounds that it couldn’t possibly be enough people to matter, but, um:

    … and goes on to quote a study. found via Googling:

    The study found that extreme heat and cold killed 5.08 million people on an average every year from 2000-2019. Of this, 4.6 million deaths on an average occurred annually due to extreme cold while 0.48 million deaths occurred due to extreme heat. This means close to nine out of every 100 deaths in the world in this period were due to cold temperatures, according to the study.

    Astral goes on to muse: "That sounds…extremely untrue, right?"

    Maybe. What follows is Scott's attempt to chase down the truth on his own. It's impressive, check it out.

  • Breaking news from … well, probably centuries past. Jonah Goldberg has the data on his side: People Love Big Spending Packages. Until They Have to Pay for Them.

    In 2016, Vox polled Bernie Sanders’ proposals for nationalized health care and free college tuition. They didn’t poll the general public; they polled Bernie Sanders’ own supporters. Not surprisingly, respondents favored single-payer health care. But when asked if they’d be willing to personally pay more for it, support dropped. Two-thirds said the most they’d be willing to pay in additional taxes for “free” health care was $1,000 per year, about $83 per month. This number includes the 8 percent of Sanders supporters who said they wouldn’t be willing to pay anything for universal health care.

    Cheap socialists aren’t the story here. Americans in general don’t want to pay much of anything—out of their own pocket—for the stuff progressives constantly say America is demanding.

    A Washington Post poll in 2019 found that 68 percent of Americans supported taxing “wealthy families” to pay for fighting climate change. But when asked if they would agree to pay an extra $2 a month on their electric bills, support fell to less than 47 percent. That same year, an AP-NORC poll asked people if they’d be willing to spend $10 more a month on their energy bills to fight climate change. Some 68 percent of respondents said nope.

    The only way they can sell this is by promulgating the myth that higher government spending can come out of some despised minority's pockets (the ones not "paying their fair share").

  • Euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. That was Orwell's famous description. of political language. George F. Will discusses recent confirming trends:

    In June, when Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra testified to a Senate committee about “birthing people,” a.k.a. mothers, he was already falling behind the swift evolution of progressive nomenclature. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine’s revised “lactation-related language” respects mothers by identifying them as “human milk-feeding individuals.”

    Almost nothing infuriates people as much as inflation — government’s failure to preserve the currency as a store of value. Even more infuriating, however, is a pervasive sense of arrogance and disorder, which now includes public officials and others propounding aggressively, insultingly strange vocabularies. Next November, there might be a cymbal-crash response to all this.

    Saying "stop the madness" can work. Unfortunately, it's been bringing us simply a different breed of madness.

Last Modified 2021-10-22 6:04 AM EST

URLs du Jour


  • How can we miss him when he won't go away? A Tweet reminds us of what we lost:

    Of course, there's a lot of that going around:

    Classy guy Rick Wilson is co-founder of "The Lincoln Project".

    Why am I reminded of that Season Three episode of Star Trek, "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"? Is there some way we could beam Trump and Wilson to the devastated planet Cheron to continue their battle to the death, and never hear from either one again?

    (Yeah, I watched "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield", back when it originally aired in 1969. I thought it was heavy-handedly stupid even back then. But still.)

    (Boy, I'm glad that they brought back Khan for Star Trek II instead of Bele and Lokai.)

  • Also to be beamed to planet Cheron… Kevin D. Williamson identifies them for us: The Pillage Party and the Freakshow Party.

    Wheezy Joe is a proud member of the former:

    The Pillage Party goes all the way back to Andrew Jackson, and its platform has always been precisely the same: transfer as much money as possible to constituents from non-constituents. Old Hickory and Lyndon Johnson would tell you that was all about helping out the poor folks down on the farm and in the forgotten corners of America, but you and I know that is pure bullsh**. Democrats are perfectly happy to run with something you might think of as a more naturally Republican position if it puts money in the pockets of their partisans: Removing the cap on state and local tax deductions is a Democratic issue, not a Republican one, even though it means tax cuts for the rich, and especially for rich people with expensive houses in expensive neighborhoods. Silicon Valley and Wall Street may vote for Democrats for largely cultural reasons, but Elizabeth Warren’s nice progressive neighbors up in Cambridge are feeling the pinch of paying for all that progressivism out of their own progressive pockets. College-loan forgiveness is not exactly No. 1 on the agenda of desperately poor Americans in Democrat-run cities such as St. Louis or Cleveland, where the put-upon proletariat is worried about keeping the heat on this winter, not paying off the tab at Oberlin. Social Security, that epitome of the New Deal, transfers wealth from African Americans and Latinos to whites and, especially, from unmarried African Americans and Latinos to married whites — because Ward and June always get theirs.

    And as for the other faction…

    The Freakshow Party has been on the progressive scene for a long time, and if the Pillage Party is The Grapes of Wrath, the Freakshow Party is Last Exit to Brooklyn. It’s the “Shout Your Abortion and Show Me Your Pronouns!” party. The three legs of that wobbly stool are the Jew-Hating Weirdo Left (Sharpton, Farrakhan, Omar, Occupy types, etc.), the Loopy White People Left (NPR, vegan bakeries, college towns — everywhere you see a Subaru covered in bumper stickers), and 2SLGTBQIA+ (which I really hope is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s email password). Its natural occupation is that of hall monitor.

    And what of the GOP? Kevin: "there’s only the one Republican Party still standing: the Putz Party."

  • Also good candidates for transport to planet Cheron. Ira Stoll has a modest proposal: Put the Whole Department of Transportation on Paternity Leave.

    The U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, "has actually been on paid leave since mid-August to spend time with his husband, Chasten, and their two newborn babies," Politico reported on October 14.

    What's mildly humorous about this is that, until the Politico report, no one much noticed that Buttigieg had been missing.

    The Department of Transportation website has a section for speeches by Buttigieg. The most recent one listed was on August 9.

    Washington has a well-earned reputation for shutting down for a vacation of nearly European proportions during the month of August, leaving summer interns to finish out their stays unsupervised amid the capital city's staggering humidity. Stretching that late-summer break stealthily into mid-October raises the question: If the rest of the Transportation Department's nearly 55,000 employees disappeared along with Mayor Pete, would anyone miss them?

  • Government screws everything up, including things literally underfoot. Megan McArdle lives in Washington D. C., the metropolitan area with (by far) the highest per capita income in the USA. She reports on their transportation woes:

    On Oct. 12, near Arlington Cemetery, a Metro subway car partially derailed, forcing about 200 passengers to walk about 600 yards through a tunnel to reach the station exit. At that, we got off lightly, for the accident was the train’s third derailment of the day, according to National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy. Moreover, it stemmed from a problem with the wheel assemblies that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has known about for years. Those problems, Homendy said, could have led to a “catastrophic event.”

    Metro has since pulled the problematic 7000-series cars from service, leaving the system operating at drastically reduced capacity. Most lines will run one six-car train every 30 minutes. WMATA has said that the service reduction will last at least through this coming Sunday, which actually comes as good news, since it leaves alarmed Washingtonians some hope that the inconvenience will be temporary.

    Yet hope mingles with despair, because the gesture toward Sunday is hardly a guarantee, and also hardly the first time we have seen a prolonged service outage due to problems long ignored. Worse still, it has happened during a national ridership crisis for public transit — a fact that may yet turn a minor derailment into a true catastrophe for Washington’s subway system.

    Metro's money-sink mismanagement style coming soon to a state near you.

  • Saying the quiet part out loud. Ed Morrissey writes on K-K-K-Katie Couric on running interference for RBG: Hey, the national media do that all the time. Ed considers Couric's floundering answers to Savannah Guthrie's questioning of her "journalistic ethics" to be facile at best.

    Couric’s explanation here magnifies the hypocrisy rather than mitigating it. Why did Couric ask Ginsburg about Kaepernick and the kneeling controversy at all? She wanted to make the interview even more pop-culture relevant, clearly. But when Ginsburg apparently surprised her by being harshly critical of Kaepernick, suddenly Couric wasn’t interested at all in Ginsburg’s response to the question Couric herself raised. Would Couric have cut that answer out of an interview she conducted with Samuel Alito, or even more to the point Clarence Thomas, who likely shares Ginsburg’s contempt for the anthem protests? The answer to that question isn’t just no but hell no.

    Ironically, Couric herself has a “blind spot” about media consumers. People realize all too well that media outlets “make editorial decisions like that all the time.” It’s called editorial bias, and it’s a constant in the national media. “Republicans pounce!®” is an ongoing feature of editorial bias, and so is the national media’s tendency to soft-focus progressives while harshly scrutinizing conservatives. That’s exactly what Couric did in running interference on Ginsburg’s behalf after the justice crossed her up on the Kaepernick controversy.

    I'm glad she won't be hosting Jeopardy! Dodged a bullet there, they did.

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  • Our emperors have no clothes masks. The Amazon Product du Jour is based on a story from earlier this month where it was reported that Congresscritter Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich) told an attendee at an event in Detroit that she was only wearing a mask "because I've got a Republican tracker here."

    Some prominent politicians are dumber than Tlaib. As Robby Soave reports: President Biden Doesn’t Follow D.C.’s Absurd Mask Rules for Restaurants. Click for the deets, but here's the bottom line:

    And that's what should really irritate people about Biden failing to mask up while making a quick exit. He isn't worried about his health during those few seconds; he probably knows that it's pointless to require masking under some circumstances while groups of unmasked people are eating, drinking, and talking for hours. The government's strict mask policies are so stupid that everyone who can get away with ignoring them already does so, yet they remain in place. Not for safety, or because of the science, but because our elected leaders can't be bothered to tweak the rules.

    Also caught maskless: D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser; San Francisco Mayor London Breed; and (I love this Free Beacon headline) Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot Shuns Mask Mandate at Surprisingly Crowded WNBA Game.

    The Democrat posted a photo of herself celebrating the Chicago Sky's championship-clinching victory over the Phoenix Mercury in game four of the WNBA Finals. Unlike the vast majority of attendees, Lightfoot was not wearing a face mask, a reckless decision that endangered the lives of her fellow citizens.

    The Wintrust Arena website states that the venue "is following all state and local mandates which require guests to wear masks indoors at all times, except when eating or drinking." There is no known exception for political photo-ops. Lightfoot, who was not eating or drinking in the photograph, appeared to be posing for the camera.

    Mayor Lori also made news for threatening Chicago cops with insubordination charges if they refused to obey her mandatory vaccination orders.

  • A revolutionary stance. From Drew Cline at the Josiah Bartlett Center: N.H. should let the market sort out private-sector vaccine policies.

    When New Hampshire Republicans start asking the state to regulate private businesses, something’s stopped making sense.

    GOP Executive Councilors Joe Kenney and Dave Wheeler last week suggested the state should forbid private businesses from requiring employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

    Florida and Texas have passed such big-government dictates, and Montana adopted a similar one in May.

    But most of the 12 states that have passed some form of restriction on vaccine mandates have prohibited only government entities, not private ones, from requiring proof of vaccination. (New Hampshire is one of those.)

    The reason for the distinction is simple. While it’s undisputed that government can set its own policies for its own facilities, it’s generally accepted, in Republican and conservative circles at least, that government ought to have only the most limited authority to impose its will on private business.

    I'm not unsympathetic to people who don't want to get jabbed. But I'm even less sympathetic to politicians who want to dictate to employers how they should run their businesses.

  • Math is hard. But lying is easy. Allison Schrager spells it out at City Journal: Build Back Better Is Not Cost Free.

    What does it mean for a service or good to cost zero dollars? This was once a straightforward question: if you paid nothing for it, it was free. But “free” has apparently been redefined. In case you thought the days of triggering presidential tweets were behind us, the White House tweeted over the weekend: “The cost of the Build Back Better Agenda is $0. The President’s plan won’t add to our national deficit and no one making under $400,000 per year will see their taxes go up a single penny. It’s fully paid for by ensuring big corporations and the very wealthy pay their fair share.”

    The argument here, such as it is, is that Democrats’ ambitious reconciliation bill, originally slated to contain $3.5 trillion in federal spending over ten years, won’t cost anything—because it will be paid for with taxes on high earners and corporations and by taking money from other places in the budget. This is absurd: if you buy a car with cash instead of a loan, it still costs more than zero. Money spent on free community college is money not being spent somewhere else; low interest rates or not, we still live in a world of finite resources.

    I'm a peaceful guy, but I kind of want to punch something when I see the phrase "… pay their fair share."

    Here's Harvard Econ Prof Greg Mankiw. from last April on that:

    Yesterday, President Biden said, "I will not impose any tax increase on people making less than $400,000. But it’s time for corporate America and the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans to just begin to pay their fair share....But I will not add a tax burden, additional tax burden on the middle class of this country. They’re already paying enough."

    According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the middle class (defined here as the middle quintile of the income distribution) now pays about 13 percent of its income in federal taxes. The top 1 percent pays about 30 percent of its income in federal taxes.

    I wonder: What constitutes a "fair share" in President Biden's eyes? On what basis does he conclude that the current distribution of the tax burden is not fair?

    It's mind-bendingly dishonest phrasing, and it's long past time for the watchdog fact-checkers to call it out for the lie it is.

  • And now for something completely different. James Lileks wrote about his doggie in yesterday's Bleat, and captured this so well:

    Saturday came and went without errands or any trip outside the house. Just didn’t feel like it. The world is busy with people running errands, and I’ve no interest in fighting the amateurs at the grocery store. The people who leave their cart in the middle of the aisle while they grapple with the myriad manifestations of pasta. Just sat in the back yard with the dog, occasionally tussling over a rope, enjoying the day.

    Why does the dog decide ROPE NOW? He’s splayed in the grass, basking in the waning warmth. He hears, he stirs, bolts up, looks around, sees the rope, and AH HAH, engage. Always the conundrum: please throw it so I can chase it I love to chase it also hell no I’m not letting this go. You look into the face of a dog holding on to his end of the rope, and you see the black pools of madness. Primal strife, to the death. But scritches first.

    Same thing at my house. Except we don't call it ROPE. Here it is TUG.

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  • Regulatory capture: it's real and it's spectacular. J.D. Tuccille notes (I've probably said this before) a large corporation running a play from a decades-old playbook: Facebook’s Blacklists Are Another Way To Constrain Competition.

    … [L]ike other large companies in the past, Facebook has recently found a new affection for increased regulation, such as repeal or modification of Section 230 legal protections for online platforms from liability for user-generated content.

    "Section 230 was vital to Facebook's creation, and its growth," Jeff Kosseff, a cybersecurity law professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, told Reason earlier this week. "But now that it's a trillion-dollar company, Section 230 is perhaps a bit less important to Facebook, but it is far more important to smaller sites. Facebook can handle defending a bunch of defamation cases on the merits much more than a site like Yelp or Glassdoor."

    That's why supposed "whistleblower" Frances Haugen's demands that Facebook engage in more content moderation and be subject to increased government oversight play to the tech giant's strengths. Large firms and small businesses compete on a level playing field when it comes to free speech. But regulatory compliance and content moderation give the advantage to established companies with lawyers and resources to spare. If Facebook hasn't paid Haugen a bonus for her congressional testimony, Mark Zuckerberg should at least send her a nice card for the holidays.

    Soon enough, Facebook will be slapping muzzles on whatever "domestic terrorists" the politicians claim need to be silenced.

    Somebody needs to say: Dude, they're just pixels.

  • When you tire of panicking about Facebook, there's always 1/6. Glenn Greenwald has a keen eye for dangerous absurdities: Civil Liberties Are Being Trampled by Exploiting "Insurrection" Fears. Congress's 1/6 Committee May Be the Worst Abuse Yet. Sample:

    With more than 600 people now charged in connection with the events of 1/6, not one person has been charged with conspiracy to overthrow the government, incite insurrection, conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping of public officials, or any of the other fantastical claims that rained down on them from media narratives. No one has been charged with treason or sedition. Perhaps that is because, as Reuters reported in August, “the FBI has found scant evidence that the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was the result of an organized plot to overturn the presidential election result.” Yet these defendants are being treated as if they were guilty of these grave crimes of which nobody has been formally accused, with the exact type of prosecutorial and judicial overreach that criminal defense lawyers and justice reform advocates have long railed against.

    Dozens of the 1/6 defendants have been denied bail, thus being imprisoned for months without having been found guilty of anything. Many are being held in unusually harsh and bizarrely cruel conditions, causing a federal judge on Wednesday to hold “the warden of the D.C. jail and director of the D.C. Department of Corrections in contempt of court,” and then calling on the Justice Department "to investigate whether the jail is violating the civil rights of dozens of detained Jan. 6 defendants.” Some of the pre-trial prison protocols have been so punitive that even Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) — who calls the 1/6 protesters "domestic terrorists” — denounced their treatment as abusive: “Solitary confinement is a form of punishment that is cruel and psychologically damaging,” Warren said, adding: “And we’re talking about people who haven’t been convicted of anything yet.” Warren also said she is "worried that law enforcement officials are deploying it to 'punish' the Jan. 6 defendants or to 'break them so that they will cooperate.”

    Elizabeth Warren makes sense. Insert stopped clock metaphor here.

  • A remedy for polarization? I'm not going all in on the nostrum Patterico recommends here: What About a *Moderate* Third Party? But I think he makes a decent argument.

    As crazy as the Republican party seems these days, I'm not sure that the Republican party, on the ground, is made up overwhelmingly of anti-vaxxers, nutjobs who think Biden stole the election from Trump, lovers of the Trumpiest Trumpy candidates, etc. There are plenty of people, I think, who will go along with that crowd if they think that's what they have to do to win. There are plenty of politicians who will pander to that crowd if that’s what they think will get them elected. But I don't think most members of the party are that extreme in their heart of hearts.

    Similarly, I'm not sure that the Democrat party, on the ground, is full of people who resemble the Most Online Democrats, who love them some Ilhan Omar and Bernie and AOC. Conservatives can't be the only ones worried about the extremes taking over. There were enough moderate voters on the left to elect Joe Biden—who, although he has governed like an extreme leftist, won the election by portraying himself as a far more moderate alternative to crazy socialist Bernie.

    Even if there were a "moderate" candidate in the mix against a Trumpist Republican and a Sanders Democrat, I'd probably still vote for whatever lunatic the Libertarian Party manages to get on the ballot. But that's me.

  • Our state's Congressional delegation is probably silently thanking her. Chris Stirewalt notes that Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema is Saving Seats of Silent Dems. For example, Mark Kelly, who's up for reelection next year:

    So far, progressive activists seem content to leave the obstinately opaque Kelly alone. And that’s even as he’s built a very impressive war chest with money from some of the same sources that are now used to call Sinema’s loyalties into doubt. But Kelly has gotten better at hiding than an elf owl in the arms of a saguaro cactus. It’s a good strategy, too. Republicans have only just begun the work of damaging one another in the primary. Tech bro Peter Theil is gushing money into the GOP primary on behalf of one of his lieutenants, Blake Masters, while frontrunner Attorney General Mark Brnovich is engaging in a very weird flex. With no real primary challenge, Kelly is free to save his money and wait for the general.

    But Sinema is part of Kelly’s strategy, too. And he’s not the only one. Kelly is just one of many Democratic senators who are happy to stand silent while Sinema and Manchin take the heat for opposing what will be a massively unpopular spending measure. The refusal of his home-state colleague and Manchin obviates any further discussion on the subject. Without all 50 Senate Democrats, there’s no need for Kelly to even take a vote on the $3.5 trillion package. There’s no question that Kelly would be better off not having to vote on the Sanders-backed bill. Sinema may make that possible.

    I can't help but think that our state's junior Senator, Maggie Hassan, is roughly in the same spot as Kelly. And she isn't even a former astronaut.

    (She isn't, is she? I think I would have noticed.)

  • Michael Bay turns out to have been right all along. Gizmodo brings the welcome news: Nuking an Incoming Asteroid Could Actually Work, Study Suggests. Follow the science:

    The simulation demonstrated the effects of a one megaton bomb that ignited near the surface of a 328-foot-long (100-meter) asteroid. The scientists ran the simulation multiple times, with asteroids traveling along five distinct orbits.

    The results were very encouraging. For all asteroids tested, nuclear strikes performed months in advance of an impact served to significantly reduce the volume of incoming material.

    Plus which, about half the Earth gets to see a pretty neat fireworks show.

Last Modified 2021-10-18 10:14 AM EST

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  • Gosh, it's almost if they're lying about their true intentions. Matt Welch detects a mismatch between stated goals and proposed means. Dems Want to Soak the Rich by Snooping on the Poor.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) snapped when asked Tuesday if the proposal to dramatically increase the surveillance capabilities of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) would remain in the trillion-dollar social spending bill currently being negotiated among Democrats on Capitol Hill.

    "Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes," the speaker said. Then she waved aside the questioner's accurate comment that banks have reported customer concerns about the idea that the IRS would scrutinize accounts with inflows and outflows as low as $600.

    "With all due respect, the plural of anecdote is not data," Pelosi said, disrespectfully. "Yes, there are concerns that some people have. But if people are breaking the law and not paying their taxes, one way to track them is through the banking measure. I think 600—well, that's a negotiation that will go on as to what the amount is. But yes."

    Confession: when I read the words, "Nancy Pelosi snapped…", my mind went immediately to: "Bound to happen, sooner or later."

  • Sorely in need of counter-revolution. Orwell's essay Politics and the English Language is a fertile source for wise quotes. Like:

    A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.

    It's easy, especially these days, to omit the next sentence: "The point is that the process is reversible."

    Daniel B. Klein looks at an example of what he calls The Semantic Revolution. He was discomfited when a video lecturer he watched during exercise repeatedly referred to the “liberal” revolutions of 1848.

    I accept that a historian today might use “liberal” to describe people and causes that did not call themselves liberal. Our discourse is undertaken today, not in the historical past. We speak to people today. It is natural that we project our own semantic practice back into history. Everyone does it.

    The word liberal took on a political meaning for the first time in the 1770s. Liberalism 1.0 had arrived. I use the word liberal in that original sense—classical liberalism. Erik Matson explains how the original political meaning built on pre-political meanings of liberal.

    Nonetheless, when referring to pre-1770 figures such as Montaigne, Grotius, or Locke, I might speak of their liberal political tendency, even though they didn’t use “liberal” that way.

    Still, as I pedaled my bicycle and watched the lecture, I wondered whether any of the 1848 revolutionaries in fact called themselves “liberal.”

    Short answer: they didn't. And they were not.

    Daniel does a fine job of tracing (with graphs!) how the "new" meaning of "liberal" came to pass.

    Suggestion: find your own way to reclaim the word "liberal" from the statists.

  • For example, what would liberals think about today's government schooling? They might shake their heads in wonder than anyone could possibly disagree with George Will in thinking that, when it comes to kids' education, parents have rights.

    Ninety-six years. And the news has still not trickled down to Terry McAuliffe.

    The Democrats’ Virginia gubernatorial candidate is innocent of insubordination toward teachers unions. He opposes more charter schools — public schools operating without union supervision (Virginia has only seven, one for every 175,000 K-12 students) — or other enlargements of parents’ educational choices. Some Virginia parents have vociferously berated local school boards for infusing public school curricula with “anti-racist” indoctrination favored by many unionized teachers. So, McAuliffe says: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

    In the words from a Ring Lardner story, “Shut up he explained.” In the Supreme Court’s words, however, parents have rights.

    The court, in 1925, struck down an Oregon law requiring children to be educated in public schools. The ruling says: “The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments of this Union rest excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only.” Oregon’s law was “an unreasonable interference” with parents’ liberty “to direct the upbringing of the children.”

    You would think this would discourage anyone from voting for McAuliffe for governor. According to RCP, the race is a squeaker.

  • Uff Da! John Gustavsson (he's Swedish) explains to us Why the Nordic Model Wouldn’t Work in the U.S. Skipping down a bit, he punctures the fantasy that the Rest Of Us can swim in government goodies that "the rich" pay for:

    Sweden doesn’t really tax the millionaires and billionaires—it taxes the poor. In Sweden, it is possible to avoid virtually all capital gains taxes through an investment savings account, which obviously mostly benefits the rich. What about wealth taxes? The Nordic countries have long since moved past them: Denmark abolished its wealth tax in 1997, Finland in 2005, and Sweden In 2007. It’s not about ideological opposition to taxing the rich.  It’s that the wealth tax was completely counterproductive and caused capital to flee these countries. In the U.S., the wealth tax is a novel idea. In the Nordics, it’s the 56k modem of taxation.

    Instead, the big difference between the U.S. and Sweden, taxation-wise, is how the poor are taxed. Americans who make less than $12,000 per year pay no federal income taxes.  Many who make more than that still end up paying a net zero in taxes once deductions are accounted for. In Sweden, the equivalent is about $2,300. On any money you make above that threshold, you pay a tax rate of about 30 percent, plus payroll taxes. What about deductions? In the US, the average tax refund last year was $2,707. In Sweden, it was $821. On top of this, Sweden has a national sales tax of 25 percent on almost everything you buy. As the poor spend a greater share of their income, this tax disproportionally hurts them.

    The kind of taxes that the poor are forced to pay in the Nordic countries would be completely unacceptable to the majority of the American public. It does not matter whether polls claim Americans support Nordic welfare programs—it’s utterly meaningless unless you also agree to pay them the only way they can be paid for: By taxing the average citizen. 

    And you have to be fully invested in progressive trickle-down fallacy: that the government can take everyone's money, then give more back to them.

  • Think of Zuck as Emperor Palpatine, cackling as each user is successfully tempted to the Dark Side. Professor Huemer discourses on The Anger Merchants.

    In the news: This former Facebook employee, Frances Haugen, is blowing the whistle on Facebook for sowing discord, anger, and other negative emotions in societies around the world: https://youtu.be/_Lx5VmAdZSI.

    How is FB doing that? Because FB’s algorithms favor content that maximizes users’ engagement, and it turns out that hateful, outrage-mongering, or panic-inspiring content gets the most engagement.

    Everybody already knows that, though, so I’m not entirely sure what the big news is here.


    The regular media has been doing something similar for about as long as they’ve existed, albeit less skillfully than modern social media platforms. They didn’t focus as much on outrage, possibly because they hadn’t yet figured out that outrage works better than anything else (except perhaps porn, which apparently is more disreputable than hate-mongering), but they strove to stoke the passions in order to maximize engagement. This is why we have the phrase “yellow journalism”.

    Media outlets regularly sensationalize the news and try to make everything more dramatic. This video from the Weather Channel is an excellent metaphor for the entire media: https://youtu.be/tocuyJ1Fu7U. (Summary: reporter pretends to be barely able to stand due to the high winds. Two guys appear and walk behind him casually, showing no difficulty standing.)

    To quote another old movie: "A strange game. The only winning move is not to play."

Last Modified 2021-10-18 6:38 AM EST

No Time to Die

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I kind of miss the ludicrous demises of villains in old James Bond movies. Oddjob getting electrocuted by his hat. Goldfinger getting squoze out the airplane window. Inflated Kananga. Mr. Kidd en fuego. Etc. There's some of that here, but it's mostly people getting shot in the face.

The opening scene has a (very) young Madeleine Swann in peril from a killer in a Noh mask. She does quite a bit of damage, and only survives due to luck and unexplained mercy. Flash forward to years later when she's taken up with James Bond (it helps to be able to remember the details of their relationship in the previous movie, Spectre). At one point, Bond tells her "We have all the time in the world."

Aw, man. As viewers/readers of the movie/book On Her Majesty's Secret Service may remember, that's a line that doesn't bode well for a long-lasting relationship.

But in any case, their relationship is complicated by their mutual secret-keeping. It gets a little worse when Bond gets targeted by an army of assassins. He prevails (it's the beginning of the movie, after all), but is a little nonplussed that the bad guys were able to find him so easily, when only he and Madeleine knew they were going to be there. He suspects betrayal, and sends her off to Dumpsville on a train.

Jump to five years later, Bond is living the retired-spy life in Jamaica. When his old buddy Felix shows up asking for some help with tracking down a rogue bio-warfare researcher. Who's previously been shown to be in cahoots with bad guys. And…

Well, there's a lot going on. No further spoilers. I liked it OK. Very long, so plan your urination appropriately if you see it in the movies.

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  • As the Amazon Product du Jour says, it's a choice. Bari Weiss writes at Commentary, and I'm thinking I really should subscribe: We Got Here Because of Cowardice. We Get Out With Courage.

    A lot of people want to convince you that you need a Ph.D. or a law degree or dozens of hours of free time to read dense texts about critical theory to understand the woke movement and its worldview. You do not. You simply need to believe your own eyes and ears.

    Let me offer the briefest overview of the core beliefs of the Woke Revolution, which are abundantly clear to anyone willing to look past the hashtags and the jargon.

    It begins by stipulating that the forces of justice and progress are in a war against backwardness and tyranny. And in a war, the normal rules of the game must be suspended. Indeed, this ideology would argue that those rules are not just obstacles to justice, but tools of oppression. They are the master’s tools. And the master’s tools cannot dismantle the master’s house.

    So the tools themselves are not just replaced but repudiated. And in so doing, persuasion—the purpose of argument—is replaced with public shaming. Moral complexity is replaced with moral certainty. Facts are replaced with feelings.

    Ideas are replaced with identity. Forgiveness is replaced with punishment. Debate is replaced with de-platforming. Diversity is replaced with homogeneity of thought. Inclusion, with exclusion.

    In this ideology, speech is violence. But violence, when carried out by the right people in pursuit of a just cause, is not violence at all. In this ideology, bullying is wrong, unless you are bullying the right people, in which case it’s very, very good. In this ideology, education is not about teaching people how to think, it’s about reeducating them in what to think. In this ideology, the need to feel safe trumps the need to speak truthfully.

    Last month, I got into a comment-debate at Granite Grok with (since deleted) commenter Bruce Currie, who called Bari Weiss a "sanctimonious hack". Fine, we need more sanctimonious hacks.

  • But I was assured that trade wars were easy to win. Veronique de Rugy at Reason: Trump’s Tariffs Didn’t Work. Biden’s Won’t Work Either.

    The United States is known as the land of the free, but it has become a place where the government decides whom we are allowed to buy from and sell to. For instance, when denied the freedom to trade without paying an expensive import tax, many Americans will find themselves begging our trade overlords for an exemption. This is, I believe, a fair description of the Biden administration's decision to not only maintain ineffective import taxes—also called tariffs—but to re-up the listless exemption process.

    After a monthslong review by her agency, United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai recently announced that the tariffs imposed by the Trump administration in order to make the Chinese government change its ways have failed. Yet the administration's prescription seems to be more of the same.

    It's a shame. By staying with the tariffs, the administration continues to signal a belief that when it comes to trade, Uncle Sam always knows best. While tariffs are pitched to the public as a way to help domestic workers or boost U.S. competitiveness, they always penalize domestic consumers through fewer choices and higher prices. Many of these consumers are themselves domestic producers trying to secure the goods they need to make and sell fundamentally American products.

    Unsurprisingly, the people that do the best under a tariff regime are those with the deepest pockets and connections to whatever friendly pols are in charge. (Headline reference.)

  • Milton, Thou Shouldst be Living at This Hour. Friedman, that is. Richard McKenzie writes at EconLog of his timeless insight responding to past follies: Milton Friedman and "Zero Cost" Expanded Government.

    President Joe Biden has declared that his proposed $3.5 (or is it $5.5?) trillion “Build Back Better” social agenda will have a “zero” cost—as in $0.00! Why?  Because the added expenditures will be covered by increased revenues drawn from businesses and the “rich.”

    The President and other progressive Democrats, who have parroted the Biden claim, should reflect on the wisdom of the late Milton Friedman, who had a knack for crystallizing stark economic truths.

    During the early 1980s, when supply-side economics was the rage, Reagan Republicans promoted tax-rate cuts as a means of reviving the economy (because the cuts would increase people’s incentives to work, save, and invest), which Friedman believed distracted them from concern about what was happening to government outlays, which continued to rise throughout the decade.

    Friedman framed the fiscal issues of the day differently, and with far greater clarity than anyone else. He admonished everyone (including President Reagan’s advisors), to “Keep your eye on one thing and one thing only: how much government is spending, because that’s the true tax. . . If you’re not paying for it in the form of explicit taxes, you’re paying for it indirectly in the form of inflation or in the form of borrowing.”

    He is sorely missed. His bi-weekly Newsweek column was practically the only reason to subscribe to the magazine. There's no equivalent today, is there?

  • They really should have made a movie with that title. Jonah Goldberg's G-File is headlined "Fatal Distraction." He is obsessed these days with trying to find a path forward for principled conservatism. Democrats are not an option there, of course. But a Trump-addled GOP is hardly better.

    Jonah's Big Idea was to start an explicitly conservative third party. which would endorse acceptably GOP candidates, but run their own against Trumpist loons (like, for example, J. D. Vance).

    Even though I'm registered Republican, I usually vote Libertarian, when that's an option. But I recognize that can seem like an unacceptably wacky option to more conventional voters.

    Anyway, Jonah is here discussing Trump's recent recommendation to his tribe:

    If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented), Republicans will not be voting in ‘22 or ‘24. It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do.


    I love this statement so much it makes me want to take off my wedding ring, suck in my stomach, and ask it to go to Bermuda with me.

    All week I’ve been hearing from people—smart people, dumb people, sincere people, performative Twitter jackass people—that it’s bad, wrong, traitorous, stupid, misguided, or insane for me to actively try to hurt the GOP because of my personal obsessions. “Don’t you understand,” friends and foes alike ask, “that you’ll single-handedly give total power to the Democrats and they’ll print a whole roll of trillion-dollar coins, invoke prima nocta in red states, mandate that face masks be surgically sewn into our faces (causing the starvation of millions), make skim almond milk the only legal form of dairy, and give nuclear weapons to the Taliban? Is that what you want you RINO cuck TDS-besotted jackass? Is it?” 

    Okay, I’m paraphrasing and exaggerating just a bit for effect, but you get the point. In all of this, I’m the one who needs to compromise with the “freedom flu” crowd for the greater good; I’m the one who needs to stop relitigating the past; I’m the one putting my concerns ahead of the real issues that affect real Americans; I’m the one who needs to be a sober-eyed grown-up about politics.

    I don't think the third party idea is tactically sound, but I'm in agreement with Jonah that the GOP will be ill-served by listening to Trump.

  • Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue. David Zucker writes at the NYPost: 'Airplane!' creator slams joy-killing threat: 'Twitter 9 percent'

    Last year marked the 40th anniversary of the release of “Airplane!,” the comedy I wrote and directed with my brother Jerry and our friend Jim Abrahams. Just before the world shut down, Paramount held a screening at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, followed by a Q&A in which an audience member asked a question we never used to receive: “Could you make ‘Airplane!’ today?” 

    My response: “Of course, we could. Just without the jokes.”

    They weren't all great jokes. They weren't all good jokes. But the team knew that if you threw enough of them, the movie would be net hilarious.

URLs du Jour


  • Gas Station Samizdat seen at the pump this morning at the Somersworth NH Irving station:

    [Let's go, Brandon!]

    Arguably unfair. I don't care.

  • If you look around and you can't tell who the hostage is, it's you. The WSJ editorialists take an ex-President's bullshit to task: Donald Trump’s Hostage Politics.

    When Democrats complain that Donald Trump is plotting to suppress votes, they have a point—but fortunately for them, the votes he is plotting to suppress are those of his own supporters.

    That was evident in January this year in the two Georgia Senate runoffs. Turnout in Republican strongholds fell because Mr. Trump told his voters the election in November had been stolen and the state’s GOP officials were corrupt. Democrats narrowly won both seats in the conservative state, handing the party unified control of Congress and paving the way for an ideologically unleashed Biden Administration.

    Now the former President is threatening aloud that he might repeat this act of electoral sabotage in the next national elections. “If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented),” Mr. Trump said in a statement Wednesday, “Republicans will not be voting in ‘22 or ‘24. It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do.”

    You would think it would bother more Republicans that Trump is threatening what could possibly be electoral success next year. You would think they would say: "This guy is, and always was, a narcissistic asshole who's unconcerned with what his conspiratorial nonsense is doing to his party and his country. We should cut him loose."

    But no.

  • It's not very interesting when everybody's to blame for a problem. Scott Lincicome has a long article at Cato, observing that America’s Ports Problem Is Decades in the Making. But let's…

    Start with the Unions
    Perhaps most notable is the extreme influence that U.S. longshoreman unions—the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) out West and the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) basically everywhere else—have on port operations. The ILWU’s impact is particularly strong because it controls essentially all longshore labor for all West Coast ports (thus giving the union extreme leverage—strikes or slowdowns affect every port on the West Coast). Thus, contentious labor negotiations not only lead to occasional, economy‐crippling port stoppages (and other non‐economic harms), but also longer‐term labor contract provisions that intentionally decrease port productivity in several ways:

    First, as the Journal of Commerce columnist Peter Tirschwell laid out (and as indicated by last week’s news about additional LA/LB port hours), U.S. ports are open for fewer hours per week than many other ports around the world: “[B]erths in Asia work ships 24/7, or 168 total hours per week. Ships are worked 16 hours per day or only 112 hours per week at LA‐Long Beach, and terminal gates only operate 88 hours per week versus 24/7 operations in Asia.” Thus, U.S. ports create a “bottleneck” where “factories are working 24/7; the terminals in Asia are generally working 24/7” but North American ports aren’t. Much of this is dictated by union labor contracts, which expressly limit the number of hours that workers can work (total and per shift) and require overtime pay for unscheduled work, as well as any work on weekends and holidays. Compounding the issue is the fact that many ports’ Customs offices—required to clear and admit goods into the United States—are closed nights and weekends. (Customs at LA/Long Beach is open only Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)

    Other culprits Lincicome mentions: our trade policy; US shipping regulations (e.g., Jones Act). Resistance to reforming those obstacles involves powerful interests who are unprincipled about showering money on any politicians who'll maintain them.

  • The problem with that "-ocracy" part is… Kevin D. Williamson (NRPLus article) wonders about Meritocracy: Does It Exist?

    There are not many contemporary phenomena that have one-word explanations, and even fewer that have one-word explanations that are not “gravity” or “whiskey.” But if you want a one-word explanation for the ugly, stupid, vicious populism that has overtaken our politics, try this one: meritocracy.

    It should not surprise us that the people at the top believe very strongly in meritocracy. The well-off already enjoy the best of everything, and the feeling of virtue is one more exclusive pleasure for elite consumption. It is not enough to settle into a nice first-class seat and enjoy a glass of champagne — for the most exquisite satisfaction, one must also feel that one deserves it.

    The believers in meritocracy are in many cases very serious about the –ocracy part. They believe that they are entitled to rule, and they intend to act in the interests of the less-able classes whether the less-able classes like it or not. Their resentment by the intellectual proletariat is the radar screen upon which this can be most easily observed. Those on the populist left rail against billionaires and oligarchy, as though they’d be somehow better off if Jeff Bezos were worse off, and they are permanently committed to the belief that the ultra-rich are somehow putting one over on everybody else. Those on the populist right, in turn, seethe at elite institutions and, especially, at elite experts and credentialed expertise, most recently in the matter of epidemic control.

    Yet another reason you should sign up for NRPlus. Sorry to be such a shill. I've suggested that they do what Reason and some other sites do: bring your subscriber-only articles out from behind the paywall after some decent interval (2-4 weeks?).

  • Someone made their food too tasty, and now we all must be punished. Ronald Bailey notes the latest from Aunt Samantha: The FDA Wants To Take Your Salt Away.

    The Food and Drug Administration has issued voluntary guidance that aims to limit the amount of sodium that restaurants and grocery manufacturers put in the foods you buy so that you won't consume more than 3,000 milligrams per day (mg/day). Most of the sodium we consume comes from table salt. Currently, Americans consume about 3,400 mg/day of sodium. As justification for its guidance, the FDA points to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which advises individuals 14 years and older to limit their consumption to 2,300 mg/day. That amounts to a little over one teaspoon of salt per day.

    The FDA doesn't want to go quite that far. The agency explains:

    This guidance aims to help Americans reduce average sodium intake to 3,000 mg/day by encouraging food manufacturers, restaurants, and food service operations to gradually reduce sodium in foods over time. Although we recognize that a reduction to 3,000 mg/day still would be higher than the recommended sodium limit of 2,300 mg/day, the 2.5-year goals are intended to balance the need for broad and gradual reductions in sodium and what is publicly known about technical and market constraints on sodium reduction and reformulation.

    The ostensible goal of limiting salt consumption is to reduce the incidence of high blood pressure and heart disease in Americans. The FDA states that there is a consensus among nutrition researchers that such limits will achieve those goals. In fact, that "consensus" is a highly contested area of research which a great deal of recent data contradicts.

    Never mind the science! You just look like you're enjoying that Subway Spicy Italian too much!

URLs du Jour


[Golden Bull]

  • Excellent Advice. Econlib contributors Leonid Sirota and Akshaya Kamalnath urge us to Make Spaceships, Not Slogans.

    The accelerating and increasingly successful effort of private enterprise to bring humans to space are often derisively described as a “billionaires’ space race”. News of Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos’ flights demonstrating the capabilities of their respective spacecraft triggered much discussion about (i) tax-avoiding practices of the rich; (ii) how money should be spent on charity instead; (iii) whether private space flight was ethical in the face of inequality, climate crisis, etc; and (iv) whether we should even care.

    Contrast this with the excitement and fascination with which, say, the Met Gala, at which the rich and famous fundraise for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, is routinely met. Such events are, as Megan McArdle has rightly pointed out, one of those tax-avoidance practices, of course. We doubt, moreover, that the Costume Institute—to which we mean no slight—is quite the sort of charitable endeavour that the critics of the spacefaring billionaires have in mind as an appropriate recipient of the 1%’s largesse.

    Tne authors go on to point out that I have a far better chance of going into space (especially if I live as long as William Shatner) than I have of being invited to the Met Gala.

  • Apparently a Perennial Question. Wilfred Reilly asks at the City Journal: What Is Critical Race Theory, Really? (What, Christopher Rufo is on vacation?)

    It’s all CRT these days.

    I’m teasing a bit here, but only a bit. As the debate over the teaching of various critical theories in U.S. public schools has heated up, major papers have published wave after wave of articles denying that critical race theory is taught much at all outside law schools, while other writers have drawn the most technical of distinctions between “CRT” and other academic specialties like critical theory, whiteness studies, critical pedagogy, intersectionality, white fragility, white privilege theory, and so on.

    This debate over semantics might provide an interesting basis for a panel at a scholarly conference, but it’s of little use or interest for parents concerned that their children are being taught partisan nonsense. While technical differences exist between the various critical paradigms, virtually all of them share three baseline assumptions: that racism is “everywhere,” and supposedly neutral systems, such as policing or standardized tests, are set up to oppress minorities; that to prove the existence of this oppression one need only note that large groups perform at different levels; and that the solution to this problem is equity—or proportional representation of all groups across all endeavors.

    Not bad for a one-paragraph summary. I continue to recommend Cathy Young's recent article on "Wokeness" for more detail.

  • Although she is, sadly, done with the Internet. Bari Weiss hosts author Kat Rosenfield who has something interesting to say about a recent homicide victim you may have heard about: The Internet Isn't Done With Gabby Petito.

    She’s dancing on a gulf shore beach, toeing the place where the surf meets the sand.

    She’s smiling with one foot forward, a 1990s throwback in Vans and a t-shirt, framed by a mural of angel's wings on a wall the color of cotton candy.

    She’s laughing into the camera, backlit and blonde and beautiful without makeup, stuck inside a tent whose sides are threatening to cave in from the rain.

    So relatable. So authentic. So real that you could be her, or at least be friends with her. The screen on which she appears isn't a barrier but a window, one she's opened wide to invite you in. You could reach right through and touch her, you could climb bodily into her wild, inspirational life.

    And then you remember: she’s dead.

    I didn't know she was an "influencer", sorta famous even previous. But now…

    There’s a macabre joke to be made about how many influencers would die to reach the million-follower benchmark, but this is quite literally what happened with Petito. Of the 1.3 million people who now follow her account, fully 1.2 million of them didn't show up until she was already gone. All of them, all of us, gawking at her digital remains like rubberneckers slowing down to peer into the twisted wreckage of a crashed car, squinting to see if there's any blood left behind.

  • Katie Couric is an unusually honest journalist. Although you wouldn't know it from David Harsanyi's headline: RBG Criticized National-Anthem Protests, and Katie Couric Covered It Up.

    In her newly released memoir, Going There, Katie Couric writes that she edited out comments from Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in which the Supreme Court justice accused those who kneel during the national anthem of showing “contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life.” Couric, the Daily Mail reports, claims that she believed the 83-year-old justice was “elderly and probably didn’t fully understand the question.” Couric, who fashions herself an intrepid journalist, says she was “protecting” the “Notorious RGB” — a woman who until her last days was offering decisions on the most important legal questions in the nation and celebrated widely by the Left — from political backlash.

    Interviews are often edited for length and clarity, of course, but in this case, there’s no excuse for leaving out the interaction. If RBG was genuinely unable to answer a simple question regarding flag protests, as her friend New York Times columnist David Brooks suggested to Couric, any genuine journalist would have immediately sensed the interaction as newsworthy. If RBG understood the question — which it seems to me is the case as she offers a completely coherent and normal answer about spoiled athletes disrespecting the American flag — it would also have been newsworthy. This was the year Colin Kaepernick began his protests. Couric included RGB’s describing the protests as “dumb and disrespectful” because, in our warped discourse, it is far less incendiary than pointing out protesters are bequeathed “decent lives” by their nation.

    Katie's unusually honest. Or stupid. Or both. Because she admitted what she did, albeit a few years late. I would wager that for every incident of the media "protecting" one of their "heroes" that comes to our attention, there's a hundred that do not.

    And, sorry, to point out the obvious: if Katie (et. al.) managed to get a non-"hero" to utter an impolitic remark, it would be trumpeted from the skies.

  • Thus has it always been, thus shall it ever be. Joe Lancaster notes a high-tech company taking a page from an old playbook: Facebook Welcomes Regulations, Specifically Those That Hurt Its Competition.

    Nick Clegg, Facebook's head of global affairs and communications, appeared on CNN's State of the Union Sunday after a harrowing week for the company. Last week a whistleblower, Frances Haugen, testified before the Senate on a number of topics relating to Facebook's lack of transparency and the potentially deleterious effects on its users. However, Clegg's answer to a question about Section 230, the clause within the Communications Decency Act which generally shields platforms from liability for user-generated content posted to their sites, was perplexing.

    When asked by host Dana Bash if he supported "amending Section 230" in order to "hold companies like [Facebook] liable" for certain posts made on their sites, Clegg responded that he did, and recommended "mak[ing] that protection…contingent on them applying…their policies as they're supposed to, and if they fail to do that, they would then have that liability protection removed."


URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

So good for William Shatner, one of the latest crop of official astronauts.

I bounced between CNN and Fox News. Both seemed congenitally unable to mention his name without adding "Captain Kirk himself".

I am sad for the disrespect shown to his excellent work on T. J. Hooker.

  • Challenge accepted. So there was a guy at Vox who wondered:

    Cathy Young took on that daunting task, and it looks pretty good to me: Defining "Wokeness". It's long, but shows a careful attention to detail. Here's one of the "core tenets" according to Cathy:

    Language plays a key role in perpetuating oppression, and must be reformed and controlled to achieve equality. Speech as well as writing, art, entertainment, and other forms of expression constantly “reinscribe” values, attitudes, and beliefs that validate or support oppressive systems and marginalize oppressed groups; thus, they must be constantly “interrogated,” and even the most innocent verbal transgression can cause serious harm.

    What I find irritating is the woke resort to its in-group language. Examples above: "reinscribe", "interrogated".

    "What's that mean, exactly?"

    "It's not my job to educate you."

  • For a more concrete example… George Will looks at a case study. The woke mob runs into a college teacher who’s fighting back.

    Enforced conformity in the name of “diversity.” Exclusion of intellectual heterodoxy to make campuses “inclusive.” Orwellian language is spoken in academia. At the UCLA Anderson School of Management, a debacle began with a Kafkaesque touch, an antecedentless pronoun: “we.”

    The first words of a June 2, 2020, email, signed by one student, were: “We are writing to express our tremendous concern. . . .” The writer, who is not Black, was tremendously concerned that the upcoming final exam in lecturer Gordon Klein’s class would injure “the mental and physical health of our Black classmates.” The writer said that “traumatic circumstances” — e.g., the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis — placed Black students at an “academic disadvantage.” So, for Black students, Klein’s final exam should count only if it elevated a student’s grade.

    Klein, who has taught at Anderson for 40 years, consistently receiving fine reviews by students, as well as earning merit-based raises, considered the proposal patronizing toward Blacks, and illegal. (He is a lawyer.) Klein responded, however, by mildly posing Socratic questions for the writer of the email: How do I identify Black students taking my entirely online class? What about students with racially mixed parentage? How can there be a “no harm” final exam when this exam completely determines a student’s grade?


    It will not surprise those who have been paying attention that Klein's dean kowtowed to the mob, and maligned Klein by name in a public announcement. Klein is fighting back with a lawsuit; if there's any justice, he'll win.

  • The scandal is not what's illegal; the scandal is what is legal. William Doyle writes at the Federalist: The 2020 Election Wasn't Stolen, It Was Bought By Mark Zuckerberg.

    During the 2020 election, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent hundreds of millions of dollars to turn out likely Democratic voters. But this wasn’t traditional political spending. He funded a targeted, private takeover of government election operations by nominally non-partisan — but demonstrably ideological — non-profit organizations.

    Analysis conducted by our team demonstrates this money significantly increased Joe Biden’s vote margin in key swing states. This unprecedented merger of public election offices with private resources and personnel is an acute threat to our republic, and should be the focus of electoral reform efforts moving forward.

    It's a story of two inoffensively-named organizations, The Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL) and The Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR), onto which Zuck dropped nearly half a billion dollars. During the 2020 election they were deployed (ahem) asymmetrically to boost votes in Democrat-friendly areas.

    I don't know if Doyle is telling a straight story or not, but if he is, it's pretty disturbing. My guess is this effort caught the GOP with its pants down.

  • It's Wednesday, So it must be a good day to read Kevin D. Williamson's Tuesday column. After a lengthy quote from Orwell's classic essay "Politics and the English Language":

    As I have argued elsewhere (and at book length), a great deal of our political discourse — most of it, in fact — is not an effort to talk about things but a programmatic way of not talking about things. You see this in the tepid language that so irritated Orwell, as horrifying euphemisms such as “ethnic cleansing” become part of the ordinary vocabulary. And this tendency is not limited to language: It is present in data and data-collection as well. I have written from time to time about the persistent tendency of police departments to produce not only occasional criminals but full-blown organized-crime rings, and one of the things that is most striking about the scholarship in this field is that there is . . . not very much of it. There is no reliable data-collection on the subject of how often the ladies and gentlemen we entrust with badges and guns abuse those instruments in deliberate and sustained criminal enterprises; such information as we have is mostly journalistic, along with a few desultory scholarly efforts to aggregate news reports. You can learn a great deal about a society by understanding what is not talked about and what cannot be talked about.

    One of the things that is studiously not talked about is the fact that our criminal-justice system works on a worst-of-both-worlds model: It is simultaneously cruel and ineffective. Some of us might be inclined to tolerate a liberal but underperforming system, and a great many Americans would defend a vicious and cruel system if it were effective. Each of those models has its problems. But who could defend the system we have? Our criminal-justice regime ranges from the petty (reincarcerating paroled offenders over minor noncompliance) to the monstrous (effectively turning many prisons over to gangs, weaponizing rape) while failing to protect our cities and other communities from criminal violence of a sort experienced in few if any other advanced countries. (This includes advanced countries with relatively widespread gun ownership, such as Canada, Finland, Austria, and Switzerland.) Conservatives sometimes whisper among ourselves that this is not talked about because of the relative prominence of African Americans among criminal offenders. But it is, I think, much more the case that we do not talk much about the facts of the case because those facts inconvenience some very powerful actors: police departments and penal systems, the vast bureaucracies of parole and probation, the vast workforce employed in our 2,000 state and federal prisons, our 1,700 juvenile jails, our 3,000 local lockups, and our hundreds of other incarceration facilities, along with countless parole offices, drug-testing centers, grant-dependent “social services” agencies that function as ATMs for the politically connected and the corrupt, etc.

    Careful, Kevin. That kind of talk can get you investigated by the FBI.

  • LFOD doesn't yet extend to housing. The Josiah Bartlett Center has released a report formalizing what everyone knew already (but it's nice to have evidence): Local building regulations drive N.H. housing shortage, Bartlett study shows.

    Why have house prices and rents increased so much in New Hampshire? A new Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy study finds that residential building regulations, mostly at the local level, are a major cause.

    Examples of local regulations that prevent people from building homes include: minimum lot sizes, frontages and setbacks, single-family-only requirements, bureaucratic requirements for accessory dwelling units, maximum heights and densities, minimum parking requirements, historic and village district requirements, municipal land ownership, subdivision regulations, impact fees, and simply the unwillingness of zoning boards to issue variances.

    Widely available measures show that New Hampshire is one of the most restrictive states in the country for residential development. By suppressing building, land-use regulations drive up the price of housing as demand rises. Removing or relaxing these regulations would allow prices to rise more gradually.

    Worst town in this regard: New Castle. (I believe they have signs at the city limits: "You must be this rich to live here."

Last Modified 2021-10-14 7:48 AM EST

Extra Life

A Short History of Living Longer

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I listened to Nick Gillespie interview the author, Steven Johnson, about this book on his Reason Podcast. I must have been impressed enough to put it on my get-at-library list. I have been generally both favorable and unfavorable to Johnson's work in the past. This one gets an "OK for history, not great on policy" grade.

It's the story of how we (as in: First World Humanity) went from (in the UK) about 35 years of life expectancy at birth back at the turn of the 18th century, to nearly 80 years now. It's a great story, but Johnson's answer turns out to be: a lot of things (listed, for our convenience, on pp xxviii-xxix), from "AIDS cocktail" to (generally) "Vaccines". There's a PBS Documentary, if you prefer getting history that way.

The book's chapters each concentrate (roughly) on a single threat to human life and how that threat was (at least partially) solved: smallpox, cholera, raw/adulterated milk, bogus elixirs and medicines, bacterial infection, unsafe cars, famine. Johnson is a good, punchy writer and his relating of history is grabbing.

But he's way too moon-eyed about government regulation. Heroic efforts by the FDA, CDC, WHO, etc. are fawningly described. The white-knight bureaucrats ride over the hill to save us! But he wrote the book as Covid was in full swing; he could have (but did not) go into the bungling, foot-dragging, and "for your own good" nanny statism that probably cost lives in the US and abroad. That would complicate his story, sure. But it feels like this omission was probably intentional for that reason.

When reviewing his list of "life-saving innovations" he bemoans "how few of them originated in the private sector." Um, fine. But all of them were developed in rich countries with (I'm being redundant here) a thriving private sector. You don't get innovation from socialist countries, and you don't get it from poor countries (again, quite a bit of overlap there.) Johnson could have, but didn't, explore that.

And then, in his concluding chapter, Johnson speculates on radical life extension, using clever gene engineering to turn off the cell-level aging process in humans. Oh, oh, says Johnson: "Is it right to allow some people to live forever, while condemning others to death and the slow decline of aging, based solely on how much money they have in the bank?" (Emphasis added.)


Geez, Steve. Read Heinlein's Methuselah's Children and notice how much you sound like the bad guys here.

I can't imagine a world where you can't have life-extending medical intervention unless everyone else is provided with it at the same time. That logic would prevent every one of the innovations Johnson describes. I'm not sure he's thought that through, and his cheap demagogic point about "money in the bank" is a sure sign that he hasn't.

Last Modified 2021-10-13 6:17 AM EST

Project Hail Mary

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Somewhere around page 10, I thought to myself: This is like reading about playing a video game.

Then on page 32, the narrator says: "This is like being in a video game."

I'm not usually that perceptive.

The narrator wakes up, weak and confused, in a featureless room. Barely able to speak, he doesn't remember his own name, or why he's there. But there are two dessicated corpses in there with him. And a dumber-than-Alexa computer to talk to. And (fortunately) he's still got a firm grasp of kinematics, which leads to his first shocking conclusion!

(No spoiler on that, but if you want to remain as clueless as the narrator, I recommend that you not read the plot blurb on the dust jacket, and you might also want to avoid the picture after the title page.)

As he explores his environment, his memory gradually returns and his purpose is revealed. (Ok, small spoiler: he's supposed to save the world from disaster.)

Nice style detail: flashbacks are in past tense, the present in, duh, present tense.

This is by Andy Weir, and it's his usual so-hard-you-can-count-the-rivets science fiction yarn. Much like his first book, The Martian, the narrator needs to "science the shit" out of his situation. Solve a lot of problems endagering his mission, and his personal safety.

The prose, especially the dialog, is more than a little clunky. (As if Weir was thinking "This line will get laughs in the movie.") But the plot is compelling, the science is ingenious, the main character is likeable, and the pages kept turning. It's full of "I did not see that coming" stuff. (OK, I knew something had to be coming to get us to page 476—a bunch of things, actually—but I never expected the details.) And a totally unexpected and gratifying climax/ending.

Final fun detail: it's full of offhand pop culture references. One I especially chuckled at on page 92, where the narrator is led through "a maze of twisty little passages, all alike". (Classical reference explained here.)

Last Modified 2021-10-13 6:19 AM EST

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Amazon Product du Jour is via Instapundit. You probably know the story, but if you don't, check out the relevant totally unbiased BBC article.

    In case you were wondering, the story uses "obscene" twice, "obscenity" once, "vulgar" twice, "swearing" once. We are told that the FYB chants "reflect the raw frustration" of a "political movement" now in the "wilderness". It's "a way for conservatives to thumb their noses at what they see as liberal bias in the mainstream media."

    Gee, I wonder where they got that idea? Couldn't be from the thinly-disguised contempt in articles from, for example, the BBC, could it?

  • Depends on what you mean by "worked". David Harsanyi claims (in an NRPlus member article): Hate-Speech Laws Have Never Worked.

    Anti-Semitism has exploded in Europe. Not only in Eastern and Central Europe, where few Jews still reside, but in allegedly enlightened liberal democracies of Western Europe, where violent attacks against Jews — often linked to “anti-Zionism” — aren’t merely rampant, they often go unpunished.

    If you only read establishment media, you might be under the impression that this trend is primarily the work of angry authoritarian ethnonationalists. And certainly, they’re part of the problem. But, as one EU study found, among the most serious incidents of anti-Semitic harassment in the EU, 31 percent include someone the victim did not know, and 30 percent were perpetrated by someone with extremist Muslim views; 21 percent were by someone who held left-wing political views, and only 13 percent were by someone with known right-wing views. A few years ago, France, which has the largest Jewish community in Europe, was impelled to send 10,000 troops across the country to protect hundreds of Jewish sites. French soldiers patrol streets in places such as Sarcelles to protect Jews from rampant “anti-Zionist” Islamic violence.

    David goes on to demonstrate that "hate-speech legislation fails to accomplish the thing its champions purport it does." I'd say that's true, but the key word there is "purport". I strongly suspect the actual goal is something else.

  • Math is hard. A three-author article at Persuasion suggests How to Fix Our Broken Relationship With COVID Math.

    Throughout the pandemic, Americans have grappled with, and largely failed to make sense of, COVID-19 statistics. One major reason for this failure is that the public has found itself at the mercy of commentators who simultaneously report and interpret the math for them. Too often, these interpretations are skewed to support a narrative that resonates with their audiences, either painting a drastic scenario about the risks (school is dangerous for children!) or one that minimizes these same risks (COVID-19 is just another flu!).

    It is essential that we use better, more thoughtful COVID-19 math so we can get an accurate idea of the real risks of COVID-19, and of the potential downsides of interventions. Nearly two years into this pandemic, we are still estimating risk as though it were March 2020. We are failing to acknowledge that we have a sizable amount of data telling us what the actual risks are and who is least and most at risk—if we would just do the math. For example, quarantine policies have removed thousands of “exposed” children and staff from school, even though very few—63 out of 30,000 quarantined, in recent data from Los Angeles United School District—subsequently tested positive. This is not a good way to balance harms and benefits.

    The article has good and useful suggestions for reporters, and it's safe to assume those suggestions will be ignored. As usual, you'll have to dig out reliable and credible sources on your own, citizen.

    Generally speaking, your TV newspeople did not go into the field because they coin-flipped between "journalism" and "rocket science".

    But I wish every news organization would print out, in large type, the article's final paragraph and display it prominently in their workplaces:

    Research has shown that people will make rational decisions when they have the right information. Cutting through the barrage of misinformation around vaccination, and understanding clearly who is and is not at high risk from COVID-19, will remain difficult unless we can do a better job at helping people get a handle on COVID math.

  • It's almost as if he doesn't believe his own blather. Christian Britschgi notes some incoherent behavior: Joe Biden Wants To Spend Trillions on Infrastructure. His Environmental Reforms Ensure He’ll Have To.

    President Joe Biden has ambitious plans to "Build Back Better" by spending trillions more on a broad array of infrastructure projects. At the same time, his administration wants to reverse regulatory reforms that tried to speed up the delivery of those projects.

    Late last week, the White House's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) announced that it intends to undo the prior president's changes to the regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

    Passed in 1969, NEPA requires federal agencies to study the environmental impacts of actions they take, whether that's funding a new highway or approving a new pipeline. Over the decades, the burden imposed by NEPA has grown: The environmental reviews it mandates take years on average to complete and can run hundreds if not thousands of pages.

    Donald Trump's administration tried to streamline things a bit by limiting the environmental effects that agencies had to examine and by putting definitive time and page limits on NEPA reviews.

    In summary, Biden's policy is: (a) these massively expensive infrastructure projects are desperately needed ASAP in order to save the country; (b) we are making sure they first have to go through more lengthy, also expensive, unnecessary, bureaucratic hoops.

  • Did you say "Free Cuba" or "Flee Cuba"? I didn't know about this until I read Mary Anastasia O’Grady in the WSJ: Why the Future of Cuban Baseball Defected.

    Cuban baseball set a new record in recent weeks when half of its under-23 national team—12 members—defected in Mexico during a World Cup tournament. According to the Miami daily El Nuevo Herald, the previous record was set in 1996 when five Cuban players, also competing in Mexico, opted not to return home.

    In other news from the island, the Free Cuban Medical Guild reports that 76 Cuban healthcare workers—mostly doctors—who received one of Cuba’s three-dose Covid-19 vaccines have died of the disease. Judging by that data alone, the much-ballyhooed Cuban biomedical industry appears to be, shall we say, a bit overrated.

    But, as Michael Moore and Bernie Sanders tell us, Cuban medical care is free.

  • Our Google LFOD News Alert rang for this Union Leader story republished at Yahoo: Now safe in Manchester, Jade Cheng endured seven months in a Chinese jail.

    After he moved to the Boston area six years ago, Jade Cheng and his wife traveled north one day to scout places to live.

    He recalled his wife reading aloud the Welcome to New Hampshire sign, along with the state's legendary motto. Unjustly imprisoned for seven months in his native China, Cheng was immediately drawn to the immortal words "Live Free or Die."

    "I said, 'Oh my God, That's what I am. That fits my story, that fits my spirit. This is our place,'" said Cheng, who now lives in downtown Manchester.

    The article goes on to detail Cheng's ongoing legal struggles with Hewlett-Packard, which (allegedly) did him dirty while he was trying to do business with them in China. Also a good reminder of the horrors of an actual carceral state.

URLs du Jour


  • Hello, life. Goodbye, Columbus!

    [Goodbye, Columbus]

    According to the University Near Here, it's not Columbus Day today; just IP Day. Welcome to the UNH Memory Hole, Chris.

  • Are we sure she's not card-carrying? Liz Wolfe checks her out: Banks and Trade Groups Reject Saule Omarova, Biden’s New Currency Comptroller Pick.

    Some people who survived the Soviet Union took its failures as lessons learned the hard way, not worth replicating. But not Saule Omarova, President Joe Biden's pick to serve as currency comptroller.

    Born in the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, Omarova is someone you might expect to be wary of the ways state power can distort markets at consumers' peril. Instead, the Cornell law professor tweets things like "Say what you will about old USSR, there was no gender pay gap there. Market doesn't always 'know best.'" She defended that claim by noting that salaries were set by the state and that maternity benefits were always generous.

    How nice that communism can degrade both genders equally! Preventing people from being compensated for quality work across 11 timezones does not seem like a recipe for a productive, developed economy, and indeed it wasn't. But that gaffe wasn't an outlier. Omarova really does want to greatly expand state power, even if not to fully Soviet levels.

    Not immediately, anyway. Only when that expansion of state power doesn't "work." Obviously, that's only because there was not enough state power.

  • This is the day of the expanding man. Another reason to spring for NRPlus: Kevin D. Williamson's article, Expanding IRS Investigation Power a Terrible Idea.

    When it comes to combined malice and incompetence, it is tough to beat the IRS — and the Biden administration, working from its own rich stores of malice and incompetence, now wants to give the taxman even more power to snoop on Americans, a proposal that has even congressional Democrats walking sideways away from it.

    The Biden administration has proposed commanding U.S. banks to monitor and report to the IRS all inflows to and outflows from bank accounts with $600 or more in them. The administration insists that the IRS would not be keeping files on individual transactions but demanding only “high level” information, such as total account activity. But as we have seen demonstrated a thousand times over, such aggregating ends up incorporating a great deal of private information, which can be extracted in unforeseen ways. Given the way the IRS has maliciously abused taxpayer information, it is not difficult to imagine its doing as bad or worse through mere negligence. The IRS is basically run by a bunch of guys whose account passwords are all “password.”


    KDW recalls a couple decades back to the Patriot Act debates, when "a great many Democrats spent months running around with their dresses over their heads, weeping and gnashing their teeth and warning that Dick Cheney was going to be sneaking a peek at Americans’ library cards — a possibility that seemed to terrify most of all Americans who had never used a library card and were never going to." Yet those same folks are pretty copacetic about giving the IRS more snooping powers.

  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

    A provocative title. At UnHerd, Matti Friedman explains Why people love dead Jews. It's a commentary/review of the new book People Love Dead Jews, link at your right. Sample:

    Horn skirts close [to the topic of Israel] in one moving essay about a group of Yiddish actors and writers in the Soviet Union of the 1940s who were exploited for propaganda, then killed when they were no longer useful. The communists could tolerate Jews, she writes, “provided they weren’t practising the Jewish religion, studying traditional Jewish texts, using Hebrew, or supporting Zionism” — meaning that nearly all of Jewish life was out of bounds. “The Soviet Union thus pioneered a versatile gaslighting slogan, which it later spread through its client states in the developing world and which remains popular today: it was not anti-Semitic, merely anti-Zionist.”

    This differentiation, which outlived the Soviets and is increasingly popular on the Western Left today, is largely lost on the plurality of Jews who are Israelis, and on the vast majority who think a Jewish state is a good idea. Older people here in Israel still remember how in the Yom Kippur War of 1973, just 28 years after the concentration camps closed, the same liberal countries of Europe that were expressing pious regret for the recent extermination of their Jews wouldn’t allow desperately needed American resupply flights to land in their territory en route to Israel, which had just been attacked by two Arab clients of the Soviets and was struggling to recover.

    I watched the recent Dave Chapelle comedy special on Netflix. Pretty funny, although I was taken aback by a couple jokes, both with the punchline "Space Jews". (Google if desired).

    I guess I have a low trigger threshold for anti-semitism. But it made me wonder if I was being hypocritical for laughing at that other stuff about LBTGQetc folks. Maybe. Thinking about that on dog walks.

  • How about them Red Sox? I was about to write off this season after they lost Thursday's game. But now I'm a fan again!

    In honor of their comeback, let's check out Matt Welch's article, How Government Devastated Minor League Baseball.

    It's family Sunday FunDay here at Coney Island's Maimonides Park, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones. For the low price of $18, enjoy the up-close views of future New York Mets stars and between-innings fan contests involving potato sacks. If the kids don't wilt in the mid-July swelter, they can run the bases on the field after the game. It's minor league baseball at its corny, affordable best.

    Seven miles away as the seagull flies over the mouth of New York Harbor, the scene at Richmond County Bank Ballpark is considerably bleaker. Gawky weeds shoot up through the neglected infield dirt and mangy outfield grass where the Staten Island Yankees once roamed. Just over the chain-link fence in right field sits an overflowing dumpster. The sliver of real estate past left field was supposed to be a walkway to a billion-dollar Ferris wheel; now it's a shady homeless camp dotted with flattened cardboard. "Let's not eat here," a mom says to her picnic-impatient 6-year-old.

    The divergent fate of New York City's two minor league ballparks, like too much of life in the five boroughs, is a cautionary tale about what happens when government and business promiscuously canoodle. The city spent $71 million on a picturesque stadium on the Staten Island waterfront (Maimonides cost $55 million) that after a two-decade run now stands empty, and it's reacting to that calamity by throwing a fresh new $8 million toward cleanup costs in the hopes of luring baseball back.

    Baseball-lovin' Matt gets extra points for correct use of the term "canoodle".

URLs du Jour


  • Eye Candy du Jour from those bright sassy guys at Reason: Libertarian James Bond.

    Andrew Heaton does a pretty good British accent. Guest (non-singing, alas) appearance by Remy.

    Pun Son and I are going to see No Time to Die at some point in the near future.

  • Fundamental incoherence helps with this. Ayaan Hirsi Ali examines Critical Race Theory's new disguise.

    Does “critical race theory” (CRT) really exist? Not according to Ralph Northam, the Governor of Virginia. CRT, he recently told The New York Times, “is a dog whistle that the Republicans are using to frighten people. What I’m interested in is equity.”

    But rather than convince anyone about the non-existence of CRT, his comments merely confirmed something else: namely, CRT’s remarkable ability to shape-shift into whatever form its advocates choose. For Northam, CRT might not exist — but that’s only because it has undergone a rebranding.

    Indeed, while many on the Right have obsessed over the rise of CRT in the past year, a different abbreviation has quickly become entrenched in America’s schools and colleges: “diversity, equity and inclusion” (DEI).

    The University Near Here is all in on this strategy. DEIncluding my former employer, the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. It's not a good time to be a dissenter from Woke Theology at UNH.

    Or, for that matter, at the Massachusetts Bay Colony Institute of Technologickal Arts:

    Dorian Abbot is a geophysicist at the University of Chicago. In recognition of his research on climate change, MIT invited him to deliver the John Carlson Lecture, which takes place every year at a large venue in the Boston area and is meant to “communicate exciting new results in climate science to the general public.”

    Then the campaign to cancel Abbot’s lecture began. On Twitter, some students and professors called on the university to retract its invitation. And, sure enough, MIT buckled, becoming yet another major institution in American life to demonstrate that the commitment to free speech it trumpets on its website evaporates the moment some loud voices on social media call for a speaker’s head.

    Yes, he was Excluded at MIT. Abbot's heresy was to question and criticize. what we oldsters used to call "affirmative action", now DEI, at Newsweek.

  • Even accidental heresy must be punished. Robby Soave notes the pitchforks and torches deployed against a Wicked Witch of the Midwest: Michigan Students Accuse Celebrated Music Professor of Racism for Screening Othello.

    Bright Sheng is a professor of composition at the University of Michigan. He was born in China in 1955; when he was a child, the Red Guards took away his family piano. Nevertheless, he grew up to become a widely celebrated musician: He received a MacArthur "genius" Fellowship in 2001, and has twice been a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize in music.

    His undergraduate students should certainly count themselves lucky to be able to learn from him. Instead, they are demanding the university fire him for rendering the classroom an unsafe space. The administration is looking into the matter, and Sheng has stepped down from teaching the class for the time being. He has apologized profusely for making his students feel wronged, though many have loudly rejected his apology.

    What was Sheng's transgression? He screened the 1965 version of Shakespeare's Othello in class as part of a lesson about how the play was adapted for the opera. This version stars Laurence Olivier, a white actor, who wore blackface to portray the protagonist Othello, a Moor. The choice was controversial even at the time, and today, the portrayal is considered by many to be akin to a racial caricature.

    Also commenting on the matter is Patterico (with more on the spineless kowtowing of Sheng's colleagues to the mob): A Survivor of the Chinese Cultural Revolution Falls Victim to the Cancel Cultural Revolution.

    In the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the people were told that they must adhere to a particular set of beliefs, which emphasized the newly elevated nature of a formerly oppressed group. Meanwhile, the citizenry was told to despise all members of the former ruling class—including many who were hardly elites, but who could be argued to have some distant relative who might tenuously be labeled elite in some way. The belief system was in many ways bizarre and at odds with common sense, but that didn’t matter. The citizens were told to believe it, or else. Children were told to report to the authorities any adults failing to conform. Suspected offenders were hauled before secret tribunals and harangued until they were forced to confess to offenses that in many cases they had not committed. They were told that the confessions would save them from ruin, but in most cases the confessions actually cemented their removal from society. The atmosphere in the air was thick and oppressive—filled with the paranoia of those who never know when their own time will come.

    Does any of that sound . . . familiar?

    On odd-numbered days, I think institutions of higher education need to be reformed. On even-numbered days, I think they should be burned to the ground and replaced.

    (Just kidding on that last bit. I think.)

  • As Joey Tribbiani used to say: How you dune? Kyle Smith looks at the new movie Dune.

    Watching Denis Villeneuve’s film of Frank Herbert’s Dune filled me with admiration — not for Villeneuve or Herbert, but for George Lucas. Of the three big-name directors who immersed themselves in Herbert’s sci-fi tale, Lucas was the one who understood exactly what to do with it: strip it for parts, combine those parts with some other burgled bits (from Flash Gordon), and add plenty of whimsy and lightheartedness. Villeneuve’s Dune is light as lead.

    It’s well worth seeing (in a theater, as I’ll explain) and I certainly hope the second half gets made. But it’s a slog. Gorgeous and eerie, it drifts along when it should be charging ahead. It’s a film of painterly vistas, haunting music, and woozy reveries, defined by stiff dialogue.

    Kyle says it's worth seeing in a theater, but most of his review is telling me I shouldn't spend time and money doing so.

    I like his description of melange, aka spice: "a drug/health supplement/navigational aide/dessert topping/floor wax."

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Our Amazon Product du Jour was brought to my attention by Instapundit.

    (By the way, if you can't see it, it's probably due to your ad blocker. It's safe to whitelist punsalad.com on your ad blocker; I only host picture-links to Amazon products. Technically ads, sure, but their main purpose is cheap illustrations.) (However, if you click and buy I do get a cut, so…)

  • The Old Gray Mare Lady, She Ain't What She Used To Be. There's an inordinate amount of amusement to be had by perusing the corrections appended to a New York Times article: Covid Vaccines and Children: Is One Dose Better Than Two?

    An article on Thursday about recommended single doses of the coronavirus vaccine for children in some countries described incorrectly the actions taken by regulators in Sweden and Denmark. They have halted use of the Moderna vaccine in children; they have not begun offering single doses. The article also misstated the number of Covid hospitalizations in U.S. children. It is more than 63,000 from August 2020 to October 2021, not 900,000 since the beginning of the pandemic. In addition, the article misstated the timing of an F.D.A. meeting on authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children. It is later this month, not next week.

    Emphasis added. Alan Jacobs comments on that, asking you to imagine the following NYT corrections:

    The article also misstated the typical speed limit on American Interstate highways. It is 70 miles per hour, not 1,000 miles per hour.


    The article also misstated the highest number of points ever scored by one player in an NBA game. It is 100, not 1,428.

    The point being that those errors are all in the same approximate ratio. Glenn Greenwald makes a less mathy tweet:

    In not-unrelated news, the headline on yesterday's Reason Roundup: Trust in Media and Elected Officials Near Record Lows in Gallup Poll.

  • Surprisingly, he's not talking about me. Matt Taibbi explores The Cult of the Vaccine Neurotic.

    Yesterday, I ran a story that had nothing to do with vaccines, about the seeming delay of the development of a drug called molnupiravir […]. In the time it took to report and write that piece, conventional wisdom turned against the drug, which is now suspected of ivermectinism and other deviationist, anti-vax tendencies, in the latest iteration of our most recent collective national mania — the Cult of the Vaccine.

    The speed of the change was incredible. Just a week ago, on October 1st, the pharmaceutical giant Merck issued a terse announcement that quickly became big news. Molnupiravir, an experimental antiviral drug, “reduced the risk of hospitalization or death” of Covid-19 patients by as much as 50%, according to a study.


    Since the start of the Trump years, we’ve been introduced to a new kind of news story, which assumes adults can’t handle multiple ideas at once, and has reporters frantically wrapping facts deemed dangerous, unorthodox, or even just insufficiently obvious in layers of disclaimers. The fear of uncontrolled audience brain-drift is now so great that even offhand references must come swaddled in these journalistic Surgeon General’s warnings, which is why whenever we read anything now, we almost always end up fighting through nests of phrases like “the debunked conspiracy theory that COVID-19 was created in a lab” in order to get to whatever the author’s main point might be.

    I think Taibbi makes a good and important point here. Again note that Gallup Poll mentioned above. Media, do you want to regain some trust? Start treating your customers as rational beings. Paste Taibbi's article into your writers' stylebooks.

  • You don't have to be Japanese to note the obvious, but it (apparently) helps. Jim Geraghty reads the news from abroad: Japanese Publication Accuses Biden of Bowing to China on COVID.

    The Japan Times notices what the American media do not. President Biden ordered the U.S. intelligence community to investigate the origins of COVID-19 more thoroughly, but after 90 days, that review offered almost nothing; just a publicly released summary that was barely a page and a half. But Biden didn’t seem to mind, and the lack of follow-up from the Biden administration worked out exceptionally well for Xi Jinping and the Chinese government.

    The Japan Times sees this as Biden making a deliberate effort to placate Beijing by choosing to lose interest in tracking down how the pandemic started:

    Biden appeared to bow to another Chinese demand — that the U.S. stop tracing the origins of the COVID-19 virus, even though the world has a right to know if China caused the worst disaster of our time that has already killed more than 4.5 million people worldwide. Biden announced on Aug. 27 — 12 days after Kabul’s fall — that the intelligence inquiry he initiated had ended, despite the fact that it failed to uncover the genesis of the pandemic.

    Xi’s regime, involved in perhaps one of the greatest cover-ups ever seen, doesn’t appear to want the truth to come out. After all, if China’s alleged negligence or complicity spawned the world’s worst public-health catastrophe in more than a century, it would constitute a crime against humanity. Biden should have ordered the U.S. intelligence community to keep searching for the true origins of the virus until a definitive conclusion could be reached. By not extending the inquiry’s 90-day deadline, Biden in effect gave the Chinese what they wanted.

    Autumn is here, which means that we are approaching the two-year anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Way back in January 2020, the medical journal The Lancet dated the onset of symptoms in the first patient to December 1, 2019. One study analyzed the DNA of the virus and calculated the mutation rate, and estimated that the range of possible dates for the “origin” of SARS-CoV-2 runs from October 6, 2019, to December 11, 2019. Italian researchers have poured cold water on the theory that the virus was spreading around northern Italy starting in November 2019.

    It's almost as if they can't bring themselves to be honest.

  • It's only a short hop from "Socialism Works!" to… Eric Boehm notes an accelerating slide toward utter delusion: Bernie Sanders Thinks 48 Senators Make a Majority.

    There are 100 members of the United States Senate.

    Unlike in the House, where a simple majority rules everything, the math can get a little complicated in the Senate. There's that pesky cloture rule that effectively means you need 60 votes to avoid a filibuster for a lot of things. Other times, a mere 50–50 tie is good enough—as long as you've got the vice president on your side to cast the tie-breaking vote.

    But the one thing that you can never, ever do is pass legislation with 48 senators in support and 52 votes against. Because, again, there are 100 members of the United States Senate.

    These are basic facts with which a longtime member of the country's most prestigious legislative body should be well familiar. So when Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.), a member of the Senate since 2007, suggests that "two people" are somehow preventing 48 others from getting what they want, he's not only demonstrating a lack of basic math skills (which, given Sanders' role as the head of the Budget Committee, might explain a lot about America's fiscal situation).

    That "democratic" modifier on "Democratic Socialism" always seeemed a little phony to me. If you've got the keys to heaven on earth, why should you let anyone, let alone a majority, stop you from unlocking the gate and forcing everyone to march through? "For their own good", of course.


[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I read Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore back in 2013, and enjoyed it quite a bit. I (finally) noticed that he had a "new" book out (copyright 2017), so picked it up at Rollinsford Public Library. This one's a lot of fun as well.

The protagonist/narrator is Lois Clary, a bright young programmer, lured to a San Francisco robotics company. It's a high-pressure world, requiring her to minimize the amount of time she spends on bodily functions like eating. So she subsists on "Slurry", a nutritionally complete gel "rich with probiotics". Unsatisfying, so she decides on a whim to order from "Clement Street Soup and Sourdough". They deliver, and their food ("It is the food of the Mazg!") is wonderful. Lois is hooked. She becomes their "Number One Eater".

Unfortunately "Clement Street Soup and Sourdough" turns out to be two illegal-alien brothers, run out of their apartment. And they're forced to leave the country. But one of the brothers gifts Lois with their special sourdough starter in an earthenware crock. Baking is out of her wheelhouse, but she gives it a try, and her results are good. She practices. She gets better. She starts supplying her work cafeteria with loaves. And … things start snowballing from there.

Interestingly, the "Clement Street Starter" has unusual properties. For one thing, it works better if you play music to it. It makes happy little bubbles, and occasionally seems to sing along.

Lois is an extremely likeable character. The plot is fantastic, filled with humor and many colorful characters. I hope Robin Sloan comes out with more novels, which I will try to consume in a timely manner.

Long Range

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Yay! Only two books left on my C. J. Box catch-up project, Dark Sky (already on my Kindle) and Shadows Reel (coming out in March 2022). And this one is (of course) really good.

Joe Pickett is called in to investigate the shooting of the wife of a local judge. From Chapter One we know the bullet was fired from extreme long range, aimed at the judge himself. But he moved out of the way at the (literal) last second, and his wife was hit instead.

Unfortunately, the investigation is run by a new grandstanding sheriff, who ignores Joe's sage advice. The obvious suspects are those miscreants who bear a judge-grudge because of their harsh treatment. Joe suspects it's not that simple; he goes rogue, of course, and with his buddy Nate Romanowski, he makes slow and steady progress in tracking down the shooter.

In an independent plot thread, the Mexican drug cartel that Joe and Nate dealt with in the previous series book (Wolf Pack) is out for revenge; they send in one of their top professional killers to do the job, and things look pretty grim there for a while…

Also pretty grim: Missy, Joe's hellspawned mother-in-law, comes back into town. I thought Joe and Missy had a deal to prevent that, but that seems to have been memory-holed.

I think this is kind of unusual for Box: it's an actual mystery, and Joe is an actual detective. We only know what's going on pretty soon after Joe himself figures it out.

Last Modified 2021-10-09 7:18 AM EST

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Some? Veronique de Rugy points out the obvious: For Some Politicians, Enough Spending Will Never Be Enough.

    Back in 2005, I wrote that when it comes to spending, "Congressional Republicans Make French Socialists Look Like Ronald Reagan." Looking back now, from the perspective of fiscal prudence, those were the good old days. Yet, as irresponsible as Republicans have been with our finances since then, today's Democrats seem committed to making the spendaholic GOP look like Uncle Scrooge.

    Let's recap: The worst of the COVID-19 emergency is hopefully behind us, meaning the country should focus on recovery, fully reopening the economy and returning to work. Government should focus on scaling back emergency programs and reducing the deficit. It's not just the prudent thing to do, it's also what Americans want. According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, 72% of Americans view the federal budget deficit as a "very big" or "moderately big" problem. This concern is more pronounced than that surrounding any issues politicians are focusing on these days, including illegal immigration and crime.

    Let's not exempt the voters that elected these folks from blame.

  • Paying your fair share? How about paying what you owe? Neal McCluskey examines the latest Bidenesque legerdemain to tilt the financial tables in favor of our betters: Bypass the Constitution to Forgive the Debts of Our “Servants”?

    Today, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it will make sweeping changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which offers student loan cancellation for people who work in most nonprofit—especially government—jobs. The program is a sort of taxpayer thanks to “public servants,” whether taxpayers want to give thanks or not. It is based on the assumption that working for government or a nonprofit organization is a big sacrifice for the greater good. Indeed, it is so important that people holding degrees get their debts canceled that the Biden administration is violating the Constitution to get it done, bypassing Congress to de facto rewrite law. Not that federal student loans were ever constitutional.

    This is pen-and-phone lawmaking, subverting the legislative process to shower financial goodies on a Democrat-heavy sector. ("Other than that, though, it's fine.")

  • Amused by incoherence? Me too. Alan Reynolds describes How Lina Khan Debunked the DOJ Antitrust Case against Google.

    As a law student in 2017, Federal Trade Commission chairwoman Lina Khan quickly gained notoriety for a “note” in the Yale Law Journal titled, “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox.” Her focus was on protecting rivals from Amazon’s low — “predatory” — prices, suggesting that we either “forc[e] it to split up its retail and Marketplace operations” or hobble it with “public utility regulations and common carrier duties.” The article had only ancillary grumbles about Google and offered no suggestions that Facebook was a monopoly either. (Khan, however, has recently tried to make that case at the FTC without much success.)

    Yet just four pages into that 2017 essay, Ms. Khan stumbled on something important. She astutely observed that, “Close to half of all online buyers go directly to Amazon first to search for products.” Think about that for a minute: If half of all searches for consumer products start with Amazon, how can the Justice Department now claim, as it does, that “Google has accounted for almost 90 percent of all search queries in the United States”?

    Why, it's almost as if most savvy consumers have figured out how to use the Internet for their own benefit! But never fear: Lina will fix that.

  • And will soon be blaterhing about divisiveness. Matt Welch, in more sorrow than anger, notes the latest rhetoric. Biden to GOP: ‘Get Out of the Way, So You Don’t Destroy’ the Country.

    President Joe Biden Monday accused Republicans of wanting to "destroy" the country. No really, that's what he said, then tweeted out the video for emphasis:

    Such apocalyptic, condemnatory rhetoric has become increasingly common for a president whose inaugural-address theme was "unity, not division." Last month, for example, Biden accused Republican governors of "playing politics with the lives of their citizens, especially children," and "doing everything they can to undermine the public health requirements that keep people safe" from COVID-19.

    In contravention of his inaugural promise to "stop the shouting, and lower the temperature," the president this week is hyperbolizing his twin infrastructure/social-spending bills on Capitol Hill as nothing short of an "inflection point" in "world history," after which—if we don't choose correctly, and fast—America as we know it may soon be lapped by China and Russia.


    Biden's "mandate" was: don't be Trump. And that's all. Not a hard thing to do, but he's botching it.

    (To be fair, Trump's "mandate" was: don't be Hillary. Also botched.)

  • And don't get them started on the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Keene State Professor Emerita of Political Science Joan Roelofs pens a (I think it's fair to say) anti-military screed here: Addicted to Military Keynesianism: Why Can't Even Our Most Progressive Politicians Break with the Military Industrial Complex?

    New Hampshire, like many other states, is deeply penetrated by military culture, funding, and institutions. Yet its presence is hardly visible to many people. This is amazing, as the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about was a mere fragment of its scope today.

    Military contractor campaign donations, propaganda, and patriotism account for much of the support for our endless wars and preparation for them, costly in economic, environmental, and human ways. In addition, a multitude of interests sustains the military and its budget, and encourages silence about its wars of aggression and other activities.

    Well, that will give you the flavor of what's to come.

    Amusingly, I was directed to Prof Roelofs' article by a link on the "UNH in the news" section of the UNH Today web page (no longer available there). The UNH connection in Prof Roelofs' article:

    The University System of New Hampshire and Dartmouth participate in the DoD’s environmental research programs as well as others. Of the USNH contracts, one for nearly $2m, is to study “Seed dispersal networks and novel ecosystem functioning in Hawaii.” Dartmouth also receives grants for military medical research. The state’s universities and colleges are provided with tuition and fees for ROTC students.

    Seed dispersal in Hawaii! Ominous! Makes me want to bomb North Korea!

    Also amusingly, the article sits on a website calling itself CovertAction Magazine, which is pretty odd given its presence on the World Wide Web, kind of the opposite of "covert".

  • Time Zones? Yep, still stupid. Linux Weekly News has brought an article out from behind its paywall, and it's recommended for students of the free software movement, and how things can go dysfunctional all of a sudden: A fork for the time-zone database?

    A controversy about the handling of the Time Zone Database (tzdb) has been brewing since May, but has come to a head in recent weeks. Changes that were proposed to simplify the main database file have some consequences in terms of time-zone history and changes to the representation of some zones. Those changes have upset a number of users of the database—to the point where some have called for a fork. A September 25 release of tzdb with some, but not all, of the changes seems unlikely to resolve the conflict.

    The time-zone database is meant to track time-zone information worldwide for time periods starting at the Unix epoch of January 1, 1970. But, over the years, it has accumulated a lot of data on time zones and policies (e.g. daylight savings time) going back many years before the epoch. As with anything that governments and politicians get involved with, which time zone a country (or part of a larger country) is in, whether it participates in daylight savings time (DST), and when the DST switches are made, are arbitrary and subject to change, seemingly at whim. Tzdb has been keeping up with these changes so that computer programs can handle time correctly since 1986 or so, when it was often called the "Olson database" after its founder, Arthur David Olson.

    Key phrase: "seemingly at whim".

    Sample from last month's tzdb changelog.

    Rename Pacific/Enderbury to Pacific/Kanton. When we added Enderbury in 1993, we did not know that it is uninhabited and that Kanton (population two dozen) is the only inhabited location in that timezone. The old name is now a backward-compatility link.

    Well, disaster averted.

Last Modified 2021-10-09 7:55 AM EST

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • The third kind of lie. Don Boudreaux pulls back the curtain and reveals what's Behind Seemingly ‘Objective’ Statistics.

    As is well-known to all who regularly deal with statistics, it’s surprisingly easy to tell lies with data that are truthful. If, for example, a country lowers barriers that obstruct the ability of low-skilled immigrants to find work, more low-skilled immigrants will find work. These new workers – being low-skilled – will earn wages below the national average. Thus, this policy of liberalized immigration will soon result in a lowering of both the median and mean wage – a fact that is easily trumpeted as evidence that allowing more low-skilled immigrants into the workforce is bad for the economy, or at least bad for the average worker.

    But of course the fall, in this case, in the mean and median wage is a statistical artifact caused by expanding the size of the workforce by adding more low-skilled workers. While all too easy to do, it’s illegitimate to conclude from this statistic that the addition of low-skilled immigrants into the workforce caused the typical worker’s wage to fall. Only the most careful users of statistics will understand that the decline in the mean and median wage under these circumstances is consistent with every individual worker’s wages rising.

    For those of you who are skeptical, consider this mental experiment. Suppose that on January 1st, 2020, the Jones’s calculated the average height of their two children – 5-year-old Sarah and 2-year-old Seth – and found it to be 39 inches. Now suppose that the Joneses had a third child, Sam, on December 31st, 2020. On January 1st, 2021, mom and dad again measured the average height of their children, who now are three in number. Newborn Sam is only 21 inches tall. The average height of the Jones’s children on New Year’s Day 2021 was, at 33 inches, six inches less than it was one year earlier. Yet no one would conclude that in 2020 one or more of the Jones’s kids shrunk or even failed to grow!

    So beware of that. Lying with statistics is one of those things that all sides can do. (However, I'm sure my side—the one I'm on today, anyway—never indulges in that.)

    (Headline hint, if necessary.)

  • There's lying with statistics, and then there's just plain lying. You'd think that Democrats would have to chop out some of their more expensive spending proposals out of that multi-trillion-dollar legislation in order to make Senators Manchin and Sinema go along. But no. Brian Riedl warns of the inevitable: Democrats will resort to tricks to hide true cost of $3.5T spending bill.

    That is the approach that congressional Democrats are brazenly employing to make their spending bonanza appear smaller than it is. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) openly discussed their use of budget gimmicks over the weekend when she told CNN that “our idea now is to look at how you make them funded for a little bit of a shorter time.”

    Progressives have been abusing these gimmicks from the start. They began with a reconciliation proposal that would cost nearly $5 trillion over the decade. Then, in order to cut the bill’s “official” cost closer to $4 trillion, the bill’s authors included a December 2025 expiration of the $130 billion annual expansion of the child tax credit to $3,000 per child (or $3,600 for children under the age of 6). This made the 10-year cost of the proposal appear $750 billion smaller.

    Of course, no one believes that Congress will actually allow the child tax credit to be reduced at the end of 2025, and progressives have declared this policy one of the cornerstones of their long-term antipoverty agenda. In fact, Democrats purposely selected for “expiration” a popular middle-class benefit that they know even a future Republican Congress or president would not dare take away from voters. Congress already renews a small group of expiring tax policies each December, and this is expected to become an expensive addition to that list.

    Will this sort of thing put the legislation into the end zone? You'd think it would be too stupid a ploy to convince anyone but … you know … politicians.

  • There's nothing wrong with Facebook that government can't make worse. Or, for that matter, government threats. Glenn Greenwald looks at the latest PR campaign to get Facebook to do what government is prohibited from doing: Democrats and Media Do Not Want to Weaken Facebook, Just Commandeer its Power to Censor.

    Much is revealed by who is bestowed hero status by the corporate media. This week's anointed avatar of stunning courage is Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager being widely hailed as a "whistleblower” for providing internal corporate documents to the Wall Street Journal relating to the various harms which Facebook and its other platforms (Instagram and WhatsApp) are allegedly causing.

    The social media giant hurts America and the world, this narrative maintains, by permitting misinformation to spread (presumably more so than cable outlets and mainstream newspapers do virtually every week); fostering body image neurosis in young girls through Instagram (presumably more so than fashion magazines, Hollywood and the music industry do with their glorification of young and perfectly-sculpted bodies); promoting polarizing political content in order to keep the citizenry enraged, balkanized and resentful and therefore more eager to stay engaged (presumably in contrast to corporate media outlets, which would never do such a thing); and, worst of all, by failing to sufficiently censor political content that contradicts liberal orthodoxies and diverges from decreed liberal Truth. On Tuesday, Haugen's star turn took her to Washington, where she spent the day testifying before the Senate about Facebook's dangerous refusal to censor even more content and ban even more users than they already do.

    Nobody studies the harm done to young girls who read Teen Vogue.

  • The impossible dream. Kevin D. Williamson's goal in his Tuesday column is Making Sense of the Tax Debate. Good luck with that, Kevin.

    “We are going to tax the rich and make them pay their fair share!” Senator Manchin thunders the sentiment from his yacht, Senator Sanders from his lakeside dacha, Senator Warren from her gilded Cambridge retreat. Tesla-driving Met-gala debutante Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez insists that Democrats are going after the top 1 percent, not doctors, blissfully ignorant that doctors are more common among the top 1 percent than are members of any other occupation. Jonathan Chait, the dim and dishonest New York magazine typist, denounces the inconvenient facts about federal tax policy as — and I am not making this up — “deeply misleading” even though the figures in question are “literally true,” italics in original.

    Much of the stuff Kevin writes about will not surprise, I suspect, most of the readers of this blog. It's nice to have the issues summarized by a master stylist. I like this very much:

    Using the tax code to raise revenue for necessary government spending is different from using the tax code for social engineering and revenge.

  • And I assume the IRS is already on the case. Robby Soave observes the latest landmark in our slide down the slippery slope: A.G. Merrick Garland Tells FBI To Investigate Parents Who Yell at School Officials About Critical Race Theory.

    Taking note of a supposed "spike" in harassment and intimidating behavior directed at public school officials, Attorney General Merrick Garland has instructed the FBI to be on the lookout for angry parents demanding accountability at school board meetings.

    On Monday, Garland sent a memo to the federal law enforcement agency directing it to coordinate with the nation's 14,000 school districts. This action comes after the Biden administration received a plea from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) to protect schools from the "imminent threat" of parents sending "threatening letters and cyberbullying" school officials. The association considers such activities to be akin to "domestic terrorism."

    "As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes," wrote the NSBA.

    How long before next Ashli Babbitt incident?

  • For more on that… see Christopher F. Rufo at City Journal: Biden Criminalizes CRT Dissent.

    The school board association letter, however, is riddled with falsehoods, errors, and exaggerations. It begins with the claim that “critical race theory is not taught in public schools,” despite a vast body of evidence, including my own reporting, showing that the teaching of CRT is widespread in public schools. Even the national teachers’ union has admitted as much and called for CRT’s implementation in all 50 states.

    The NSBA deliberately misrepresents debates at school board meetings as “threats” and sometimes-vociferous and angry speech as “violence.” The letter refers to dozens of news stories alluding to “disruptions,” “shouts,” “argument,” and “mobs,” but, contrary to its core claim, cites only a single example of actual violence against a school official: a case of aggravated battery in Illinois, which is obviously condemnable, but hardly the justification for a national “domestic terrorism” investigation.

    The association even fabricated entire storylines to support its political objectives. For example, the NSBA claims that a Tennessee school board official named Jon White resigned due to “threats and acts of violence”; the linked source, however, reports that White resigned for “concerns about too much time away from his family,” with no mention of threats or violence. (In another local report, White complains about parents calling him a “child abuser” and other epithets, which, while harsh, are hardly the equivalent of an “act of violence.”)

    It's a holy war, government schoolers vs. the infidels. I'd say "pass the popcorn", except I kind of feel bad for the kids and the parents.

URLs du Jour

2021-10-06 (Sinema Edition)

[Potty Humor]

  • But Senator Sinema should tow the line! A tweet from a member of the media elite:

    Ms. Navarro-Cárdenas is apparently being considered for the token conservative spot on "The View". Which doesn't involve a spelling test, she hopes.

    But she has powerful backers, like Emily Jashinsky of the Federalist: An Unqualified Endorsement Of Ana Navarro For 'The View'

    Times like these call for clarity. It’s important to know exactly where the well-coiffed denizens of our chattering class stand. With democracy hanging in the balance, these so-called talking heads play a critical role in bringing the forgotten voices of people with personal drivers into the discourse. It’s in that spirit I’d like to formally endorse Ana Navarro as the new host of “The View.”

    Few pundits could dream of matching Navarro’s consistency as a clueless flack for the political establishment. When Mitt Romney lost in 2012, there was Navarro, haunting Harvard’s hallowed halls with prescient pre-Trump musings like, “I think you’re going to see voices in the Republican Party become more vocal, louder talking about inclusion, talking about diversity.” Fresh off a stint with Jon Huntsman, Navarro took on the human form of the RNC autopsy, nudging conservatives to moderate for the sake of political expediency.

    Come, swim in the gentle waters of cosmopolitan privilege, she beckoned, where the rosé flows as freely as the pablum, where nothing matters but book parties and superficial virtue. So long as you say something about civility or “inclusion” or “diversity,” you can casually promote the interests of corporatists who are bulldozing the country for profit. And you can do it with a blowout!

    I note that both Ana and Emily find it useful to accuse their targets of being corporate shills. Must resonate in the focus groups.

  • Welcome to the new normal, Charlie. Charles C. W. Cooke points out that according to the old, busted rules, Activists’ Confronting Senator in Bathroom Is Not Normal.

    [Sunday] afternoon, on the campus of Arizona State University, a cluster of left-wing political activists followed Democratic senator Kyrsten Sinema into a bathroom. They filmed her as she entered one of the stalls, filmed her while she occupied one of the stalls, and filmed her as she left the bathroom in shock. “We need to hold you accountable!” the activists maintained, to the sound of awkward flushing. “We can get you out of office if you don’t support what you promised us!”

    The condemnation was . . . well, non-existent. Reporting on the incident, Newsweek led with the fact that, as of last night, the video had “been viewed 4 million times on social media.” At the Washington Post, the key takeaway was that “frustration over Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s refusal to fall in line with other Senate Democrats and pass legislation central to President Biden’s agenda” had “boiled over.” On Twitter, meanwhile, the Daily Beast contended merely that Sinema had “locked herself in [the] bathroom to avoid young activists.”

    Charlie goes on to point out that if it had been right-wing troglodytes pursuing (say) Elizabeth Warren into the can… well, would have been entirely justified if security personnel had shot them dead.

  • From our "Uncannily Accurate Metaphor" Department. Jim Geraghty notes that it's just another canned play from the lefty menu: The Piranhas Come for Sinema.

    The progressive Left — represented not just by Democratic politicians but by activists, aligned groups, institutions, cultural figures, and certain journalists — operates on the mentality that anyone who stands in the way of it getting what it wants must be destroyed.

    Joe the Plumber. Brett Kavanaugh. The Little Sisters of the Poor. Brendan Eich.

    And right now, Kyrsten Sinema — who has never voted against the Biden administration’s position in the Senate — is the target of the progressive Left’s wrath. On Sunday morning Politico’s Playbook newsletter thought the biggest story of the day was that Saturday Night Live was making fun of Sinema:

    After everybody else is on board with investing in roads, Sinema: “I want no roads.” Biden: “Why?” Sinema: “Chaos.” [In reality, roads are one of the few things Sinema has made clear she wants.]

    After Sinema is asked what she actually likes: “Yellow Starbursts, the film ‘The Polar Express’ and when someone eats fish on an airplane. . . . As a wine-drinking, bisexual triathlete, I know what the average American wants.”

    Politico seemed convinced that this impression will shape how Americans feel about what’s going on in Washington. New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg cites the sketch this morning and fumes, “It sometimes seems as if what Sinema wants is for people to sit around wondering what Sinema wants.” Oh, those silly women, never knowing what they want! Even Freud was baffled by it! Goldberg wishes Sinema were more like John McCain and concludes that, “There’s a difference, it turns out, between being a maverick and being a narcissist.”

    I'm pretty sure this is standard Alinsky.

    I'm unlikely to agree with Senator Sinema about much, but I note that our New Hampshire Senators, Jeanne and Maggie, are unlikely to show a tenth of her backbone.

  • Not irrelevant at all to my theme today. Professor Jacobs quotes David French and adds a comment.

    David French:

    We cannot be empathetic only to our allies. We cannot allow fear of law enforcement excess to deprive fellow citizens of the protection they need. And we have to recognize both that threats and harassment are always wrong and that in our present moment they’re especially dangerous. Our nation is playing with fire. It’s imperative that it stop now, or the angry and the cruel will ignite a blaze that we cannot contain.

    The whole post is good and important. Always remember: there are people out there — the professional media and social media are dominated by them — who want us to hate one another, who make bank when we hate one another. Flee those people as you would flee the plague, because they are a plague. Don’t threaten them; don’t attack them; just get away from them. Don’t feed their fire with the oxygen of your attention, or else, as David says, we’re not gonna be able to extinguish those flames. 

    That's not an excerpt, that's the whole thing. You're welcome.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • And that price is: continuing to see Fauci on the TV. J.D. Tuccille notes the cause and effect: Public Health Officials Blew Up Their Credibility, and We’re Paying the Price.

    With COVID-19 still sickening and killing people even though effective vaccines have been widely available for all since the spring, it's frustrating to see vaccination rates creep up only slowly against a head-wind of widespread resistance. It's even more frustrating that much of that resistance can be attributed to self-inflicted wounds on the part of public health experts and government officials. Having effectively discarded their own credibility since the beginning of the pandemic, the powers-that-be find that much of the population no longer places faith in what they have to say.

    "Why aren't tens of millions of eligible Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19?" The Economist and YouGov asked in a recent poll. "Most who haven't started the vaccination process say it's a matter of trust."

    "Americans who are sure they will not get the vaccine are especially likely to say their lack of trust in the government is their major reason for rejecting the vaccine," the polling firm adds, with 22 percent of respondents giving that as their reason for refusing vaccination, second to concerns about side effects.

    Critics are certain to wave off the findings as the unfounded concerns of low-information knuckle-draggers who need to be poked and prodded into compliance. But, while such dismissal may confer a warm and fuzzy feeling of superiority, it doesn't explain why health professionals also have lost faith in public-health officials.

    Public health officials deserve much of the blame, but let's not exempt the pols who turned this into a political issue. Nor the media who deemed some gatherings as "super-spreader events" while near-simultaneously blessing BLM protests/riots.

  • I'm still a RINO, but… Robert Tracinski has three cheers for those who have bailed on the two parties: Independents Get the Job Done. About the current arguments promulgated by partisan cheerleaders:

    It is as if everyone has embraced the logic of a classic parody of political partisanship in which we are all herded into voting for “my side” by the horrifying specter of the “other side.” This sort of thing proliferates because it works. Consider a recent focus group of hesitant 2020 Trump voters, most of whom were convinced to pull the trigger by their fear of the excesses of the far left. They were convinced that it was a binary choice.

    I recently came across this argument in a particularly interesting variant, by way of the Manhattan Institute’s anti-woke crusader Chris Rufo, who specifically offered this challenge to unaligned voters—centrists and independents and, of course, the real targets here: libertarians and Never Trumpers.

    The reality is that we have a two-party, partisan political system that will not change in our lifetime. If you want to advance your agenda, you have to make choices within it—imagining oneself a centrist-transcender is a narcissistic evasion and an abdication of responsibility.

    The point seems to be that making choices within the two-party system necessarily means choosing one of the major parties—and doing so irrevocably, because otherwise, if you bounce back and forth, you’re just another smug, narcissistic evader who regards himself above party loyalty.

    I like Rufo's anti-woke work just fine, but I'm in Tracinski's corner here. I'll still maintain my GOP registration, though. Even though I'm disgusted with them at times, there's still a chance they could field a good candidate I'd like to vote for.


  • The downside of being a Republican, even in Name Only, is that you have guys like Ken in your tribe. Michael Graham notes the latest: GOP's Weyler Pushing Conspiracy Theory About "Creature with Tentacles" in Vax.

    New Hampshire House Finance Committee Chair Rep. Ken Weyler (R-Kingston) distributed a discredited conspiracy theory manifesto to his fellow committee members Monday, inspiring groans from the GOP and outrage from Democrats.

    “Detached from reality” was Gov. Chris Sununu’s take, while Democrats demanded yet again that the 80-year-0ld legislator be removed from the Finance and Joint Fiscal Committee he chairs. But House GOP leaders are, for the moment, defending Weyler’s odd behavior.

    Weyler’s document, with the understated title “The Vaccine Death Report,” falsely claims “millions of people have died, and hundreds of millions of serious adverse events have occurred, after injections with the experimental mRNA gene therapy.”

    And, the authors add, “We also reveal the real risk of an unprecedented genocide.”

    The 52-page manifesto makes many false and irrational claims about the vaccine and other topics. For example, the authors say governments will “steal our very own thoughts and feelings through 5G,” and claim that in addition to the Pope, the Catholic Church has spawned an evil “Black Pope” and a “Grey Pope.”

    I had to stop excerpting, but you will want to click through to read about the tentacle porn. I don't think Michael Graham links to the "Vaccine Death Report" itself, but here you go.

    The only thing I wasted time doing: the report refers to "world-renowned biophysicist Andreas Klecker". They probably mean "Andreas Kalcker". He has been credibly deemed a quack.

  • Ah, well, that's enough GOP-bashing. Let's look at the garbage emanating from the other side, as recounted by Dominic Pino: Debt Blame-Shifting from Democrats.

    If you listen to the president, not only will $3.5 trillion cost nothing, but Republicans are obligated to raise the debt limit even though they don’t control Congress and don’t support new spending.

    Two new graphics went up today on the president’s Twitter account. One shows the debt increase for President Trump at $7.8 trillion, while the debt increase under Biden is only $678 billion. The second shows that President Trump is responsible for 28 percent of the debt in American history, while Biden would be responsible for only 2 percent. “The reason we have to raise the debt limit is—in part—because of the reckless tax and spend policies of the last Administration,” the tweet says.

    “In part” is doing a lot of work in that sentence.

    First things first: Nobody is saying that Donald Trump was a fiscal conservative. Donald Trump wouldn’t say that Donald Trump was a fiscal conservative. He did add $7.8 trillion to the debt while he was president, more than any previous president, and $7.8 trillion is 28 percent of the total debt this country has accumulated. He ruled out reforming the driver of the debt — mandatory entitlement spending — on the campaign trail and kept that promise while in office (it’s significantly easier to keep your word when you promise to not make hard decisions).

    Before Donald Trump, Barack Obama added more to the debt than any previous president, and George W. Bush added more to the debt than any president before him. Both parties have been spending like drunken sailors for quite some time.

    But ask yourself: Would the debt be higher or lower today if Democrats controlled Congress and the White House the past four years?

    Well, to ask that question is to answer it. But to be fair, it's like asking whether the Titanic would have sunk faster if it had just rammed the iceberg head-on.

  • I'm not usually one to look for Commies under the bed, but… The WSJ editorialists look at the latest loon appointed to a position of authority, who has dreams of being Comptroller of the Economy.

    President Biden checked off another progressive identity box last week by nominating Saule Omarova as Comptroller of the Currency. Some Trump appointees were ridiculed for having supported the elimination of their agencies. Ms. Omarova wants to eliminate the banks she’s being appointed to regulate.

    The Cornell University law school professor’s radical ideas might make even Bernie Sanders blush. She graduated from Moscow State University in 1989 on the Lenin Personal Academic Scholarship. Thirty years later, she still believes the Soviet economic system was superior, and that U.S. banking should be remade in the Gosbank’s image.

    “Until I came to the US, I couldn’t imagine that things like gender pay gap still existed in today’s world. Say what you will about old USSR, there was no gender pay gap there. Market doesn’t always ‘know best,’” she tweeted in 2019. After Twitter users criticized her ignorance, she added a caveat: “I never claimed women and men were treated absolutely equally in every facet of Soviet life. But people’s salaries were set (by the state) in a gender-blind manner. And all women got very generous maternity benefits. Both things are still a pipe dream in our society!”

    Sure, there was a Gulag, and no private property, but maternity benefits!

    Why, it's almost as if the parties started believing the other side's worst cariacatures of them, and decided to double down.

URLs du Jour


[Taking the Plunge]

  • Following the science until it leads somewhere other than where you want to go… is the FDA, as reported by (who else) Jacob Sullum: The FDA Is Determined To Ignore the Decline in Underage Vaping Because It Weakens the Case for New Restrictions.

    According to the latest results from the National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), 11 percent of high school students qualified as "current" electronic cigarette users this year, meaning they reported vaping in the previous month. That's down from nearly 20 percent in 2020 and nearly 28 percent in 2019—a 60 percent drop over two years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which conducts the survey, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates "electronic nicotine delivery systems," both welcomed this evidence that the "epidemic" of underage vaping is abating.

    Just kidding. Since acknowledging the sharp decline in e-cigarette use by teenagers would undermine the case for new restrictions on vaping products, including a ban on the e-liquid flavors that former smokers overwhelmingly prefer, the CDC and the FDA prefer to ignore that downward trend.

    Usual disclaimer: I don't smoke or vape anything. If federal, state, and local regulations on vaping ever made sense, it must have been very brief, and years ago.

  • Anything ending in 'mania' is probably bad. But Jonathan Haidt is concentrating on only one of them: Monomania Is Illiberal and Stupefying.

    The “prestige economy” is the network of values and meanings within which people compete for status. In monomaniacal groups, the prestige economy rewards those who are most committed to the object of devotion, which has two major illiberal effects. The first is the “expansion imperative”—the pressure to apply the one true lens ever more widely. For example, one can gain points by interpreting glacier research and dog parks as manifestations of power structures. The insistence that the lens applies everywhere means that the preferred remedies must be implemented everywhere. This expansion imperative can explain the otherwise astonishing statement on page 18 of Ibram Kendi’s book “How to Be an Antiracist”:

    There is no such thing as a nonracist or race-neutral policy. Every policy in every institution in every community in every nation is producing or sustaining either racial inequity or equity between racial groups.

    In other words, if a high school teaches chemistry without discussing race, it is not “nonracist,” it is racist. True believers exert pressure on the leadership of the school to bring race into every part of the curriculum, and anyone who expresses doubt or raises concerns risks being publicly shamed and possibly fired. Monomanics sometimes demand that their focal value be installed as the telos of every organization. 

    For further reading, the University Near Here, via its UNH Today publication, brings us its reporting on Racism In Science, a good example of the kind of thing Haidt is talking about.

  • How debunkery should be done. An excellent example performed by "Patterico" (Patrick Frey) at his substack: David French Cites Weak Evidence to Show Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System.

    It's long, because Frey argues in good faith, with respect, and with meticulous attention to detail.

    I read David French’s missive from The Dispatch this past Sunday and, as often happens when I read his pieces about crime and/or race, I found myself questioning some of his claims—and in particular the evidence he cited to support them.

    I spent some time following some of the links he provided to underpin his assertions about institutional racism in the criminal justice system, and I found much of the supporting evidence to be partisan, lazy, and biased.

    It's difficult to excerpt, I encourage you to RTWT. I repeat: this is how it should be done. It's difficult, but vital.

  • Who is Michael Huemer? In The Randian Critique, he outlines one issue on which Ayn Rand was particularly insightful: her take on socialism.

    The system rewards those who are behaving badly according to the values of the socialists themselves, and punishes those who are behaving rightly according to those same values. That is the core problem that Rand saw with socialism.

    That is partly a consequentialist problem, and partly a problem of justice: One cannot hope to promote some set of values by punishing anyone who acts according to those values and rewarding the opposite behavior. That is just not going to work out. It’s also obviously, paradigmatically unjust, if you think those are the correct values.

    Now, why describe socialism in this way?

    First, what are the values of the socialists? Marx’s famous dictum is a fair summary of a core socialist ideal: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” I.e., people should contribute to society in proportion to their ability to produce value for society; and people should receive resources from society in proportion to how much they need.

    This sounds nice. But it contains within it the problem described above. The problem is that people have some degree of control over their own abilities and needs—and, even more so, over the abilities and needs that they appear to others to have. The people who are behaving well according to the socialist ideal are the people who are contributing to society as best they can. They will be developing their productive capacities, and revealing those capacities through their actual contributions.

    These people are not going to be rewarded under the socialist system. They will just be expected to keep contributing, which would not be expected if they hadn’t made the mistake of revealing their ability, and they won’t get any reward for that.

    The people who are behaving badly are those who are creating greater needs for themselves, or making themselves appear to have greater needs. They are behaving badly since they are putting greater burdens on society. But they will be in effect rewarded for this by the system—more resources will go to them because they appear to need more.

    Huemer shows how Rand illustrated. this gotcha in Atlas Shrugged. It's pretty good, but I'd think so, wouldn't I?

URLs du Jour


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  • And compliance, J.D.. Don't forget compliance. J.D. Tuccille notes that water is wet, and (in case you haven't noticed) Universities Are Teaching Intolerance.

    Do colleges and universities educate or indoctrinate? That question has been a sure-fire way to start an argument for many years as the cost of higher education escalates even as data shows elite institutions becoming increasingly ideologically monolithic and intolerant of dissent. Whether or not traditional higher education equips graduates for the working world, it doesn't seem to be preparing them for life in an open and diverse society.

    "Our results indicate that higher education liberalizes moral concerns for most students, but it also departs from the standard liberal profile by promoting moral absolutism rather than relativism," write the University of Toronto's Milos Brocic and Andrew Miles in a recent paper published in American Sociological Review.

    To play that broken record one more time, the UNH Lecturers United are still apparently United in their insistence that their job is to "foster belief" in the University's official theology of "Anti-Racism".

  • An evergreen headline. Christian Britschgi reports the latest from an actual monopoly: USPS Implements New Business Plan of Higher Prices and Worse Service.

    Beginning this month, the United States Postal Service (USPS) is implementing "new" service standards and prices. That is to say, costs are going up and delivery times are getting longer.

    In the halcyon days of September 2021, the postal service had promised to get all first-class mail and periodicals sent within the lower 48 states to their destinations in three days.

    That three-day guarantee will be replaced by new distance-based standards. Mail traveling upwards of 930 miles will now be considered on time if it gets to its intended recipient within four days. Anything sent to destinations over 1,907 miles away will now have a five-day delivery target.

    I like my local USPS personnel just fine. But (along with newspaper delivery) their performance is getting worse and worse over time.

  • Hain’t we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain’t that a big enough majority in any town? Jonah Goldberg writes on Ratifying the Idiocracy. Long, insightful, but the bit I want to excerpt is about Little Marco Rubio:

    “The $3.5 trillion Biden plan isn’t socialism, it’s [M]arxism,” the Florida senator declared yesterday. Rubio spelled “Marxism” with a lowercase “M.” I know that sort of thing is allowed on Twitter. Indeed, trolling “elites” into correcting usage and grammar is now a time-honored tactic. “Haw, haw! You care about grammar!”


    Regardless, I think Rubio’s trolling is a shame—and shameful—for a bunch of reasons. First, I’m just sick of politicians, on the left and right, thinking this sort of thing is a clever, legitimate or worthwhile use of their platforms. Second, there’s a problem with calling stuff you disagree with “socialism” or “Marxism.” And the problem isn’t just the lack of accuracy or honesty. Lots of stuff Democrats want to do is popular. If you tell people that, say, 12 weeks of paid parental leave is “socialism,” a lot of people will respond by saying, “More socialism, please.” If you think paid parental leave is bad—or good, but too expensive, or not the role of the federal government to mandate—it’s better to make the argument than to simply use a word to anathematize stuff without making the argument. Demonizing labels work only among people who already buy into your definition of the demonic.

    Finally, Rubio knows better. He is among the best critics of what he regularly dubs “the Marxist Cuban regime.” If he convinces people that the grab bag of entitlements and welfare state giveaways in the Biden plan is “Marxist,” he’s not only undermining his indictment of Cuba, he’s actually making in a roundabout way the left’s argument in defense of Cuba. For a lot of leftists, Cuba is just an enlightened regime that takes care of its people. They’re wrong. But Rubio does his cause no favors by blurring the distinctions between an actual Marxist regime and a bloated spending spree.

    I'm pulling for Nikki Haley. Because I haven't noticed her saying anything this stupid lately. (Could be because I'm not paying attention, but…)

  • Mercy, mercy me. Alan Jacobs makes a good point about all the "screw the unvaccinated" folks: Christians and the biopolitical. He is discussing the views of Matthew Loftus.

    Responding to claims by some doctors that we should ration Covid care to favor the vaccinated and disfavor the unvaccinated, Loftus, himself a physician, says,

    I think it is a matter of justice not to ration care away from the unvaccinated, because to do so, I think, is to pass a judgment on someone’s other personal health decisions that we would never apply in any other case. All health care is a mixture of trying to provide justice while also being merciful to others. It’s impossible to be a good health-care worker and not be willing to be merciful with people who, quite frankly, got themselves into the trouble that they’re in and had many opportunities not to do so. But it’s also a matter of justice in giving that person what they need to survive or, if not to survive, to die in a way that honors the person they are. 

    Loftus is pointing here to a version of what Scott Alexander, in one of the more useful ethical essays I have read in the past decade, calls “isolated demands for rigor.” When doctors treat people for health problems that arise from obesity, they don’t withhold care until they learn whether those people have some kind of genetic predisposition to obesity or are fat because they eat at McDonald’s every day — they just treat the patients. Oncologists don’t give better treatment to lung cancer patients who smoke less or don’t smoke at all. We only think to subject the unvaccinated-against-Covid to that kind of strict scrutiny because the discourse around Covid has become so pathologically tribalized and moralized. 

    But Christians in particular have a very strong reason not to employ such strict scrutiny: We believe in a God who sought out and saved “people who, quite frankly, got themselves into the trouble that they’re in.” In an earlier reflection on this general subject, I mentioned Eve Tushnet’s wise comment that “mercy to the guilty is the only kind of mercy there is.” The rationing of medical care away from the unvaccinated is structural mercilessness. It is anti-shalom

    That linked essay from Scott Alexander is pretty good too.

    And despite my very weak Christianity, I was all ready to sign up. You don't have to be Christian to recognize the value of mercy.

    But then I read…

  • Sometimes, it turns out the quality of mercy is strained. Daniel J. Mitchell on a Biden Administration policy shift: Curtailing Destructive Subsidies for Flood Insurance. Quoting a WaPo story:

    …8 million Americans…moved to counties along the U.S. coast between 2000 and 2017, lured by the sun, the sea and heavily subsidized government flood insurance that made the cost of protecting their homes much less expensive, despite the risk of living in a flood zone near a vast body of water. …the Federal Emergency Management Agency will incorporate climate risk into the cost of flood insurance for the first time, dramatically increasing the price for some new home buyers.

    Next April, most current policyholders will see their premiums go up and continue to rise by 18 percent per year for the next 20 years. …wealthy customers with high-value homes will see their costs skyrocket by as much as $14,400 for one year. About 3,200 property owners — mostly in Florida, Texas, New Jersey and New York — fall in that category. …Homeowners in inland states such as Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska, where creeks, streams and rivers overflow during heavy rains, will also see price increases in their government-backed flood insurance. …“It is now going to say if you’re in a risky place, you’re going to get charged more for it, and other people aren’t footing the bill,” VinZant said. …As of last year, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) run by FEMA was $20 billion in debt from massive payouts to customers.

    I'm with Dan here. Even discounting the class-warfare aspect. ("Let's screw those rich folks with beachfront property!")

    But am I guilty of an "isolated demand for rigor"? Perhaps. I've been steeped in a nearly-unquestioned anti-market view of healthcare. Roughly, everyone should have "access" regardless of their ability to pay; everyone should be "covered". And no moral approbation for unhealthy lifestyles or risky decisions should affect those egalitarian views.

    But how is that different for people choosing to own property in risky locations? Shouldn't they have the same "coverage" as people living in safer places?

    Hm. Work on your answer. I'll think on mine.

Last Modified 2021-10-04 5:14 AM EST

URLs du Jour


  • Letting people make up their own minds? Cue ominous voiceover… Charles C. W. Cooke on Twitter:

    I'll point out that on the New York Times Covid stat-summary page, New Hampshire's average daily new case rate is 35 per 100K. Florida's is 25 per 100K. Maybe Governor Sununu could call up Governor DeSantis for some tips.

  • If it quacks like… Michael Brendan Dougherty opines about New York's new chief executive: Governor Kathy Hochul Is One Weird Duck.

    It’s as if she’s still trying to master the ways of Earthlings. While at a church in Brooklyn, she said, “Yes, I know you’re vaccinated. You’re the smart ones, but you know, there are people out there who aren’t listening to God and what God wants. You know this. You know who they are.” Then she said, “I need you to be my apostles.” She held up her necklace, which adverts her status as a person vaccinated against COVID-19. Because normal people routinely commemorate their immunizations with gold jewelry. Later she explained that the National Guard would take the place of the unvaccinated nurses who would be fired in a few hours.

    You know, normal stuff for Earthlings. I’ve discharged your health-care workers and replaced them with the military.

    If a red-stater such as Greg Abbott, Ron DeSantis, or Bill Lee had asked worshippers to be their apostles, and to make their neighbors listen to God, there wouldn’t be enough helicopters east of the Mississippi to carry in the lawyers from the ACLU, or the hysterical reporters from the Atlantic to talk about the dawn of theocratic fascism. But in New York, from a New York governor, the statement is illegible. Is this how Governor Hochul speaks? Or is this how she imagines religious people speak all the time, with a kind of breezily insistent form of overfamiliarity and personal authority?

    With all of Governor Sununu's foibles, he has never asked anyone to be his apostle. I'm sure I would have heard about it if he had.

  • OK, one more Covid thing. Sorry. Glenn Greenwald hosts Jeremy Beckham at the Outside Voices substack, with a bit of MSM debunkery: The NYT's Partisan Tale about COVID and the Unvaccinated is Rife with Sloppy Data Analysis.

    A widely shared article recently appeared in The New York Times’ “The Morning” newsletter titled “Red Covid,” authored by David Leonhardt. This article, presented as news reporting and not an opinion piece, argues that deaths from COVID-19 are “showing a partisan pattern,” with the worst impacts of the disease “increasingly concentrated in red America.” Given that this narrative perfectly flatters a liberal sense of superiority, it has predictably gained substantial traction on MSNBC and on Twitter

    One particular claim in the Times' article caught my attention: that there is a clear and strong association on a county level between COVID deaths and support for Donald Trump in the 2020 election. Specifically, the article alleged that those counties which voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump had more than a four-fold greater mortality rate than those counties which decisively voted against Trump. If true, that would indeed be a striking observation.

    But, as is often the case with epidemiological observations, the question is more complicated than two variables. There are three analytic errors that can lead someone to make false conclusions from what appears to be a meaningful association between two variables: bias, confounding variables, and random statistical error. In this case, the Times’ analysis failed to discuss significant confounding variables.

    Specifically, age. Does that shaky correlation still hold if you control for the fact that those "red" areas are also areas where people are old?

    Now, it so happens that there's an apparent overlap between vaccine skepticism and Trump-loving in one of the websites I've long been a fan of. Sigh, love 'em anyway.

    But that's not much of a knock-down argument either. We've seen plenty of anti-vax sentiment in the Black Lives Matter crowd and NYC teachers. Neither well-known for being Trumpers.

  • From our "Construct the Modus Tollens" Department… Veronique de Rugy implicitly poses one of those if-then conditionals in her headline: If Democrats Truly Wanted To Level the Playing Field, They’d End Crony Corporate Handouts.

    How to best ensure substantial long-run economic growth should be a question on everyone's mind. Its benefits can't be overstated, and it's undeniable that the lack of growth is a root contributor to many seemingly disconnected economic and social problems. That's the central theme of a recent podcast discussion between The New York Times' Ezra Klein and George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen.

    They both expressed support for reforms to make government less bureaucratic and more agile. For example, Cowen cited the Food and Drug Administration's recent failure to approve COVID-19 treatments quickly enough, while also getting in the way of COVID-19 tests' development and distribution. In an ideal world, Cowen's sensible observation should lead to serious reform of the FDA along with other alphabet agencies that fail the American people through slow and counterproductive processes. During ordinary times these bureaucratic problems loom large enough; during a pandemic they're devastating.

    My issue, however, is with Klein's suggestion that changing the status quo requires conservatives and libertarians to stop denouncing Uncle Sam for big fiascoes like Solyndra, the solar company that infamously went under shortly after receiving a $538 million loan guarantee from a green-energy program under the Obama administration. Denouncing such waste, Klein insists, only serves to embarrass the government for its failures, thus prompting it to be more cautious. As such, Klein would like "to somehow quiet these players looking to point out every failure."

    That's wrong. Klein misunderstands why I and other free-market proponents fight against private companies receiving government-granted privileges—which is called "cronyism." It's not the wasteful spending that I mostly focus on; it's the unfairness.

    Good point. But on the other hand, the wasteful spending is pretty bad too.

  • Time zones: threat or menace? Well, there's plenty of evidence that they were just a bad idea. One more is the current slap fight: tz database community up in arms over time zone merges.

    The time zone database hosted at the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) has been updated following threats, earlier this year, of a fork over a proposal to merge time zones.

    The update, the 2021b release of the tz code and date, was published over the weekend and omits some, but not all, of the issues that have caused concern in the project's mailing list.

    The tz database is a hugely important resource that contains information on the world's time zones. It also attempts to keep track of historical changes since 1970. Its usage is relatively straightforward; a time zone has an offset from UTC and a set of rules governing daylight saving time (should it apply).

    tz is "hugely important" only because of our insistence that our local clocks must roughly correspond to daily light/dark cycles.

    Nevertheless, tz is a mess, because politicians keep dinking zone boundaries and rules. The maintainer decided to simplify things by ignoring some of the meddling that occurred over 50 years ago. (Example in the linked article: Berlin and Oslo have been using the same zone since 1970. But before that, not.)

Last Modified 2021-10-03 6:07 AM EST

URLs du Jour


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  • As usual, Betteridge's Law of Headlines applies. Tyler Cowen wonders Is Biden’s Economic Plan Actually a Good Idea?

    Well, that's the headline. But his actual point is something else.

    If the biggest news is what’s not being talked about, then my candidate for the most neglected story would be President Joe Biden’s plan for $3.5 trillion in new government spending. Crazy as my hypothesis may seem, given all the stuff about Biden’s agenda on the internet, there has been remarkably little policy debate about it, and remarkably little attempt to persuade the American public that this spending is a good idea.

    It’s not just that no one knows yet what exactly will be in the bill(s), which seem to be a combined effort of the White House and congressional Democrats. It’s that America’s intellectual and pundit class isn’t paying full attention. There was more passionate debate about AOC’s “Tax the Rich” dress.

    My colleague Arnold Kling put it well: “With the reconciliation bill, there is no attempt to convince the public that it is desirable to enact an enormous child tax credit or to mandate ending use of fossil fuels in a decade. Instead, what we read is that if you’re on the blue team you want the number to be 3.5, but a few Democrats are holding out for something lower.”

    What really matters—and to some the only thing that matters is what team you're on. You don't have to think! Or read! Just care about your side winning.

  • North of a dozen, I think. But who's counting? Charles C. W. Cooke tabulates some of The Many Lies That Built the Reconciliation Bill.

    In the beginning, President Biden created a $3.5 trillion spending bill. And the bill was without form, and void; and debt was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of common sense moved upon the face of the country. And so Biden said, let there be lies. And there were lies. And Biden saw that the lies were good. And Biden called up down, and the left he called right, and the trillions he called zero. And Biden made the beasts of the press repeat his lies, made every thing that creepeth upon the Sunday shows follow his lies; and Biden saw that it was good.

    Everyone else was just baffled.

    From the moment the Democrats’ plan was conceived, the party has lied about it with abandon. Telegraphing the approach to come, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand contended back in April that the glint in Bernie Sanders’s eye did not represent dramatic or transformational change, but mere “infrastructure.” Trying desperately to counter rumors that Sanders was working on a $6 trillion sequel to the New Deal, Gillibrand maintained that whatever the package ended up containing should be regarded in the same way as, say, a new bridge. “Paid leave is infrastructure,” Gillibrand proposed. “Child care is infrastructure. Caregiving is infrastructure.” Presumably, mendacity is, too.

    It will cost zero. It will "take the pressure off inflation." Companies will pay more taxes without passing those costs on to customers. And I own the Brooklyn Bridge.

    [Fact Check: Pun Salad does not own the Brooklyn Bridge.]

    As I type, things are still up in the air. I hope they fall to the ground in a mighty explosive crash, but we'll see.

  • More in sorrow than in anger… Peter Suderman writes (as if surprised): Democrats Are Denying Basic Economics.

    The simplest way to understand economics is that it is a reckoning with unavoidable tradeoffs. If you spend money on something, you may obtain something in return—but you lose the ability to use those resources on something else. In the world of politics, economics helps us weigh the merits of those tradeoffs. It answers the question: Do the benefits of a policy outweigh the costs? Sometimes the benefits are larger. Sometimes they are meager or even nonexistent. But there are always costs. To acknowledge this is merely to acknowledge reality.

    Under President Joe Biden, however, Democrats in Washington have decided that they can simply wish those tradeoffs away by declaring that they do not exist. Over and over again, they have argued that their policies do not or should not have any costs whatsoever.

    Just this week, for example, White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to a question about the tax impact of the $3.5 trillion spending plan now working its way through Congress by declaring that "there are some…who argue that in the past companies have passed on these costs to consumers…we feel that that's unfair and absurd and the American people would not stand for that."

    Suderman is an adult, unlike way too many of our elected representatives.

  • And, oh, by the way… Jim Geraghty remembers a policy change Wheezy Joe announced three weeks ago. Vitally important for saving lives! Or so we were told. Say, Where Is That Biden Regulation on Vaccine Mandates?

    Seven days ago, this newsletter noted that President Biden’s vaccine mandate for employers had not yet been issued by OSHA, two weeks after Biden announced the new policy.

    A week later, not only has OSHA not issued the rule, but the Biden administration apparently has no idea when the federal agency will issue the new regulations. Yesterday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to offer any timeline:

    Q: About the OSHA rule —

    PSAKI: Yeah.

    Q: On mandates. You had said it would be a few weeks just now. When it was announced a few weeks ago, it was going to take a few weeks. So, are you signaling a delay of any kind of that rule?

    PSAKI: No, we never gave an exact timeline, so — maybe we should have been more specific at the time. Obviously, it takes some time. And we want to make sure when we put these out, they’re clear and they provide guidance necessary to businesses.

    Q: So, how many weeks, then, are you expecting it to take?

    PSAKI: I can’t give you a timeline. OSHA is working on them. But obviously — hopefully, we’ll know more in the coming weeks.

    Of course. It wasn't that important after all. The important thing was for President Dodder to appear to be on the ball, doing something.

  • Always a good idea to get to the point. Helen Pluckrose's article is from July (I missed seeing it back then) but it's interesting and important: Demystifying Critical Race Theory so We Can Get to the Point.

    What Critical Race Theory (or CRT) is and isn’t, who understands it and who doesn’t, and what people’s motivations are for defending or criticising it seem to be the issues dominating the culture wars right now. It is a good thing that we’re talking about contemporary critical theories of race. This particular approach to addressing racism is something we desperately need to have serious discussions about. The problem is that we are largely not having serious discussions about it. Instead, people are quibbling over terms, accusing each other of ignorance or malice and generally talking past each other without engaging the point in any kind of productive way.

    The first hindrance to discussing Critical Race Theory is that the discussion generally fails to get past the accusation that the other person doesn’t understand what Critical Race Theory actually is. Often these accusations are correct. Many of the people advocating for CRT seem to believe it is any historically literate understanding of racial history in the USA, how horrendously it oppressed black Americans, why this was bad and how its aftermath is still felt today. Some even seem to think that CRT just means ‘talking about racism.’ Of course, if you believe that this is what CRT is, you will believe that anybody who opposes it is, at best, trying to gloss over a shameful history and, at worst, indifferent to or even supportive of racism. Meanwhile, some opponents of CRT believe it is essentially racism against white people and centred around the belief that all white people are racist, bigoted, and personally responsible for the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade. If you understand CRT as the belief that white people are evil and generally inferior, you are going to believe that anyone who advocates it is, at best, a profoundly misguided conspiracy theorist and, at worst, a racist.

    Ms. Pluckrose does a fine job of making relevant distinctions between various forms of CRT, and advocates for not getting bogged down with that label. The better to deal with various assertions and alleged remedies on their merits.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

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Yep, that's the actual edition I own over there on your right. Cost me a whopping 95¢ back in 1968 or so. Currently out of stock at Amazon, but the in-print paperback goes for $15.99. (Kindle version only $12.99.) It's probably one of those books that set me on my current cranky-libertarian ideological hobby-horse. Thanks, Bob! And it also won the Hugo for best SF novel.

And this leaves 17 books to go on my reread-Heinlein project. Wish me luck, I think I'll need it.

The narrator here is Mannie O'Kelly-Davis, computer technologist on the Moon. One day he discovers that the large computer he's been maintaining has crossed the threshold into sentience. Cool! Mannie keeps this a secret, dubs his AI friend "Mycroft" (Mike for short), and together they arrange for periodic glitches so they can get together and chat. (Yes, Mike can converse. Not surprising in this day of Alexa/Siri/Cortana. Big deal when the book was written.)

The late 21st-century Moon is a penal colony, inhabited by a few million prisoners, and their descendants, ruled by the Earth-appointed "Warden" and his "Lunar Authority" thugs. Luna is also an exporter of lunar-grown grain to Earth. (Not the most stable of situations, and the economics are suspect, but go with it.) Always-curious Mike asks Mannie to go to an anti-government meeting, where gripes are aired, the thugs crack down, violence occurs. Mannie barely escapes with beautiful Wyoming Knott, and Professor Bernardo de la Paz; both are well-known agitators.

Mannie gets roped into an unlikely scheme to throw off the shackles of Earth domination, and establish an independent Luna. Even more unlikely (or is it?), Mike joins them as an ally. We are taken into the nuts and bolts of revolution of the plucky downtrodden against oppressors with vastly more resources at their disposal. Heinlein obviously thought a lot about the details here.

I think Heinlein was the first writer to speculate on computers becoming conscious. (Although Asimov's R. Daneel Olivaw was pretty close.) It's pretty much a staple these days, but I think it was mind-blowing at the time.