URLs du Jour


  • Senator Karen is divorced. From reality. I assume she's still getting along with her husband, though. At issue is this tweet:

    Joe Lancaster analyzes at Reason: Elizabeth Warren Blames High Food Prices on Grocery Chains' 'Record' 1 Percent Profit Margins.

    But Warren could hardly have picked a worse industry to use as an example: Grocery stores consistently have among the lowest profit margins of any economic sector. According to data compiled this month by New York University finance professor Aswath Damodaran, the entire retail grocery industry currently averages barely more than 1 percent in net profit. In its most recent quarter, Kroger reported a profit margin of 0.75 percent, during a time in which Warren claims that the chain was "expanding profits" due to its "market dominance."

    In actuality, for much of the last year, grocery stores have seen enormous boosts in revenue, but not increased profitability, for the simple reason that everything has been costing more: not just products, but transportation, employee compensation, and all the extra logistical steps needed to adapt to shopping during a pandemic. Couple that with persistent inflation—which Warren also recently blamed on "price gouging"—and it is no wonder that things seem a bit out of balance.

    It's also worth pointing out that Kroger, cited by Warren, is hardly dominant. It's market share is 10.1%. That's good for second place behind Walmart (26%).

    Well, it's actually third place. "Others" is 42.9%.

    Who needs horror movies? Whenever I want to frighten myself to bits, I simply recall that Elizabeth Warren has power, and that a large number of people take her seriously.

  • As I journey on the trail of life, I wish to acknowledge… the courage of Stuart Reges, Computer Science instructor at the Univesity of Washington (UW). Who recently took a stand Against Land Acknowledgements.

    Regular readers of Quillette may recall my 2018 article “Why Women Don’t Code,” which led to another describing how I was “Demoted and Placed on Probation.” After a year of probation, I was reappointed for a three-year term, only to entangle myself in a new controversy over indigenous land acknowledgments. These are sombre declarations intended to acknowledge that land now used for some event or purpose was once inhabited by indigenous tribes (some acknowledgements add that the land was unjustly taken). They are rather like ritual acts of expiatory prayer, usually recited by rote from a standardized text. It doesn’t seem to matter much whether or not the speaker actually agrees with the sentiments expressed; what’s important is that the required words are spoken.

    Reges notes the UW diversicrats issued a "best practices" recommended an "inclusive" addition to course syllabi:

    The University of Washington acknowledges the Coast Salish peoples of this land, the land which touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Suquamish, Tulalip and Muckleshoot nations.

    Here's what Reges put in his course syllabus:

    I acknowledge that by the labor theory of property the Coast Salish people can claim historical ownership of almost none of the land currently occupied by the University of Washington.

    The reference is to John Locke. Reges himself claims to be a follower of Henry George.

    As you might expect (and there's no need to euphemize this), shit hit the fan. Read the whole thing. And here is the article from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education on the matter. Their take:

    If professors at the University of Washington want to include a statement of land acknowledgment on their syllabi, they must parrot the administration’s viewpoint or shut up.

    As I always wonder when stuff like this happens: what about the University Near Here? They (of course) have an official "Land, Water, and Life Acknowledgement":

    As we all journey on the trail of life, we wish to acknowledge the spiritual and physical connection the Pennacook, Abenaki, and Wabanaki Peoples have maintained to N’dakinna (homeland) and the aki (land), nebi (water), olakwika (flora), and awaasak (fauna) which the University of New Hampshire community is honored to steward today. We also acknowledge the hardships they continue to endure after the loss of unceded homelands and champion the university’s responsibility to foster relationships and opportunities that strengthen the well-being of the Indigenous People who carry forward the traditions of their ancestors.

    I should have put a trigger warning up there about readers' eyes rolling clean out of their heads. Sorry.

    I (however) don't see any requirement or suggestion that instructors stick this into their syllabi.

    And, in somewhat related news, there doesn't seem to be any new activity around the Durham Post Office "Controversial Mural" depicting the 1694 Oyster River Massacre.

  • As usual, Betteridge's Law of Headlines applies. Paul Mirengoff wonders: Is ensuring election integrity anti-democratic?

    Of course not. Yet Democrats and their media allies insist that it is.

    Take for example, the lead article in the Washington Post’s Sunday Outlook section. It’s by Sam Rosenfeld, an associate professor at Colgate University. Rosenfeld claims that democracy is “on the brink of disaster” in America. As evidence, he moans that “in 2021, Republican state legislatures passed new restrictions on voting access.”

    But these restrictions tend to ensure election integrity, a sine qua non of a well-functioning democracy. Rosenfeld fails to show otherwise. He doesn’t even address the measures in question.

    Mirengoff points to this Imprimis article by John Lott for a more reasonable take. Among the factoids Lott mentions: "Of the 47 countries in Europe today, 46 of them currently require government-issued photo IDs to vote." And yet, many of them are considered to be democracies.

  • Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, Biden's gotta demagogue. The National Review editors were unimpressed: Joe Biden’s Disgraceful Voting Speech.

    Joe Biden has had a long career of careless pronouncements and demagogic speeches, but he outdid himself with his cynical rant in Georgia on Tuesday afternoon.

    In a push to pass two sweeping Democratic voting bills federalizing a swath of election rules, Biden took a rhetorical sledgehammer to the legitimacy of America’s elections and identified opponents of the bills as domestic “enemies” on par with some of the most reprehensible figures in U.S. history.

    It was a disgraceful performance, witless and sloppy even by Joe Biden’s standards.

    There's a lot of commentary out there on Biden's speech, and we'll probably bring a couple of items to your attention tomorrow.

  • Note: not the "nuke-u-lar" option. Kevin D. Williamson has a long and (as usual) factual and insightful discussion of electricity generation: The Nuclear Option.

    The most important question in almost every public-policy debate is: Compared to what? And so it is with nuclear energy and, to a lesser extent, with natural gas, both of which are likely to receive more liberal regulatory and financial treatment in the European Union under a recently proposed policy change. This raises important questions for the European Union, of course, but also for the United States, India, and even China, all of which have growing power needs that come with environmental complications attached.

    One of the concepts that comes up often in the discussion of environmental policy is externalities. An externality is an effect created by some economic activity, one that is incidental to the activity itself and that has some consequence for a third party that is not accounted for in the price of the good or service. There are both positive and negative externalities, but, when it comes to regulation, we usually are worried about negative externalities. Externalities often involve damage to public goods, and the textbook case is air pollution. None of the parties involved in producing and consuming diesel pays in a direct way for the air pollution caused by diesel engines and, because in most circumstances nobody has a property right in ambient air quality, nobody has standing to sue or to demand relief, even assuming that a meaningfully responsible party could be identified. (Some very cranky libertarians will tell you that there is no such thing as an externality, only a problem of insufficiently defined property rights, which may be a valid philosophical point but one that is of very little practical use in policy-making.) We can’t say, “Let the market take care of it,” because there is no market mechanism for taking care of it (though it is possible to create market mechanisms through regulation, as in cap-and-trade schemes), we can’t let the courts sort the question out as a policy dispute, and so we turn to lawmakers and regulators to address the issue.

    Need I add: open Yucca Mountain.

  • Good news and bad. The Josiah Bartlett Center reports on N.H. business tax revenues' stunning surge.

    Since the start of the fiscal year in July, business tax revenues are $109.5 million (27.9%) above the prior fiscal year and $72.7 million (16.9%) above budget.

    Add this to the total from FY 2012-2021, and business tax revenues have come in over budget by $722.3 million since FY 2012.

    Add this to the total from FY 2012-2021, and business tax revenues have come in over budget by $722.3 million since FY 2012.

    As a libertarian crank, I don't consider it an unalloyed good to learn that the state has extracted hundreds of millions more than it budgeted for over the years. But it's nice to learn that the folks who prophesied fiscal doom because of past rate cuts (cough Maggie Hassan cough) were wrong, wrong, wrong.