URLs du Jour


[Superficial Flagellance]

  • Chris Stirewalt is on a roll! Get it? Get it? … Hey, stop moaning. He sees Little Kaisers, Left and Right.

    Two of the most significant points of agreement between the nationalist right and the progressive left these days are that American democracy is at the brink of collapse and, relatedly, that citizens lack access to the reliable information needed to participate in that democracy.

    This is especially bad because while the troubles we’re having with elections and news are real, the efforts by the nationalists and progressives in these areas are very much at the heart of the problem. 

    While I don’t doubt the sincerity of the alarm of most on the left and the right, the appeal of this attitude must include the possibility of obtaining power and exercising it against one’s political enemies. If we could just get control away from the bad people who have power over elections and information now, not only could we throw off their own yoke, we could make sure that the bad people would never pose a threat again.

    No serious radical would ever think of compromise on matters so essential as elections and the flow of information, which is why the actions and strategies by the nationalists and progressives in these areas are far more serious dangers to the constitutional order than any of the threats, real or perceived, they claim to be combatting. 

    But what about the Kaisers? Stirewalt refers to Kaiser Willhelm II whose courtiers (in the words of Barbara Tuchman) "provid[ed] him with his own morning paper in a special imperial edition of one, made up of carefully excerpted items from the world press, printed in gold. Willhelm was interested in gold-plated news only.”

    Nowadays, we can do this on our own. And Stirewalt notes that some (not me!) have used this power to detach themselves into "a flattering surreality."

  • Oops, missed this. There's a Granite State connection in this Reason article from Eric Boehm from March: Earmarks Are Back, and They're Just as Sleazy and Secretive as Ever.

    After a decadelong ban on the practice, members of Congress are once again loading up legislation with pork-barrel spending that the rest of us have to pay for.


    Sen. Mike Braun (R–Ind.), an earmark opponent whose office has been tallying up the projects included in the omnibus bill, claims the final total is about $8 billion.

    That includes items like $3 million for a Palo Alto History Museum in California, according to a partial list of earmarks in the new legislation being compiled by Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative nonprofit. "The city is highly affluent and home to nine Forbes 400 billionaires," the group asks. "Why can't this be paid for with local or private dollars?"

    A fair question, and one that could be equally asked of just about any earmark. Do federal taxpayers need to fund $800,000 for "artist lofts" in Pomona, California? Is there no other way to raise $3 million for a museum dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi in Texas or $500,000 to build a new ski jump in New Hampshire or $1.6 million to ensure "equitable growth of shellfish aquaculture" in Rhode Island? (Actually, yeah, it might be tough to attract private funding for that last one.)

    The $500K is for the Big Nansen Ski Jump, originally built in the 1930s up in Milan, NH. (Way up there, north of Berlin.) It was abandoned in 1988, but restoration efforts have been underway for a few years. (So Boehm is off by describing it as a "new ski jump".) The earmark was inserted by Senator Jeanne Shaheen.

    It's "only" half a million dollars, but (like all those earmarks) it's nothing taxpayers across the country should have to pay for.

  • I can think of a couple off the top of my head. Greg Lukianoff and Talia Barnes provide Some Lessons from the Sorry History of Campus Speech Codes.

    Concern about the proliferation of hate speech motivates many who oppose the recent acquisition of Twitter by billionaire Elon Musk, who says he plans to turn the heavily moderated platform into a bastion for free speech. Sources ranging from writers at major news publications to CEOs have voiced fears that free-speech-friendly policies will make the platform a haven for “totally lawless hate, bigotry, and misogyny,” as actress Jameela Jamil put it in her farewell-to-Twitter tweet. 

    But those who take for granted that hate speech should be policed on Twitter would do well to learn the history of attempts to police hate speech on campuses in the United States. Some readers may be surprised to learn that American universities have attempted to regulate hate speech for four decades now: This real-world experiment has shown how subjective and nebulous restrictions chill speech in often-surprising ways. What began as an attempt to police hateful speech in the 1980s has resulted in ever-changing policies that do little to increase tolerance, but have ended the careers of many students and professors, chilled legitimate discourse, and—in the process—undermined public faith in the intellectual integrity of higher education.

    I think everyone bemoaning Elon Musk's efforts should be required to write a short essay entitled "Why I Think Twitter Was Right to Suspend the Babylon Bee."

  • Speaking of disinformation on Twitter… John Sexton looks at tweets from (the occasionally reality-based but not this time) Jonathan Chait: IRS targeting of Tea Party groups was 'imaginary'.

    Yesterday, Jonathan Chait was set off by something published at National Review and went into a Twitter thread about how the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups was an “imaginary” abuse invented by conservatives.

    But the remedy to bad speech is more speech. And Sexton provides it in spades, pointing out some not-at-all-imaginary facts: powerful Democrats from Obama on down complained bitterly about the tax-exempt status of Tea Party groups; some contacted the IRS directly to urge action. The IRS bureaucracy did, indeed, tilt their onerous regulatory demands toward groups with conservative-sounding titles. The appropriate Inspector General found that that effort was "incorrect, insensitive, and inappropriate." A number of IRS officials resigned/retired in the aftermath, including Lois Lerner, who famously invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when testifying to a House committee.

  • You may be wondering: Will canceling student debt fix the real injustice in higher education? As usual, David Bahnsen has an answer for you, bunkie: Canceling Student Debt Won’t Fix the Real Injustice in Higher Education.

    There is an “injustice”—loosely defined—in the present student debt fiasco, but it is not addressed by transferring the cost of the debt from those who took it on to those who did not (and worse, those who already paid their debt back). The injustice is the runaway inflation in the cost of higher education disproportionate to the benefits it provides. That dynamic is a direct result of the very existence of the loan market college administrators have so exploited. That subsidy has facilitated a reckless allocation of resources to the absurd and the indoctrinating—dormitory amenities for recruitment purposes, exorbitant “diversity” departments— but it has not facilitated a greater experience for college students. 

    If the administration wants to aid college students, it can start by admitting the problem is in the colleges itself. What students (and their parents) are paying for is an exponentially bigger problem than how it is being paid for. But the administration cannot say that, so it resorts to rank pandering to bribe a vote from a vulnerable demographic, and does this at the expense of its own alleged constituency (the most vulnerable).

    Unfortunately, the country is not being run by the sort of people who might listen to David Bahnsen. It is being run by people who think it's their job to shower taxpayer money on people who might vote for them as a result.

  • I'm uneasy and confused. Jay Nordlinger details the complex issues involved When Politics Invades Art. Jay's an extraordinarily decent fellow, and thinks seriously about when you should pull the plug on artists with politics you abhor, or (more relevantly) those who apologize for brutal regimes doing brutal things. His bottom line:

    I think you have to go case by case. Day by day. I could discuss a thousand cases (Russians, Chinese, Venezuelans, Americans . . . ). Some of these cases are black and white, some of them are gray. We’re talking about a big, multilayered, complicated issue. Once, A. M. Rosenthal was asked how he edited the New York Times. “With my stomach,” he said. I sympathize with this, completely. I don’t know what else to say.

    His essay is wide-ranging and deep; even though he doesn't come up with an easy answer, it's well worth your time.